This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

Posts about Praise

Hotel fines guests for bad reviews

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: November 19, 2014 - 12:17 PM

CNN:

When a couple left scathing comments on a travel review website that a hotel in northern England they had stayed at was a "filthy, dirty rotten stinking hovel," they thought no more about it.

But Tony and Jan Jenkinson were shocked later to see an extra £100 ($156) added to their credit card bill. On investigating the couple found they had been fined by Broadway Hotel in the seaside resort of Blackpool, which reportedly told them its policy was to charge guests who had left bad reviews.

Thanks to the Streisand effect, the hotel is now “Ranked #858 of 894 Blackpool B&B and Inns.” Other reviews:

This place is filthy,it really needs closing down,bedroom full of mould no heater,no hot water,beds need throwing away,couldn't bear to eat breakfast staff drinking cans of strongbow while serving breakfast,could not wait to get out of this place and get home to bath.

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I would rather stay in Bates Motel than this joint.

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Trrible night, bed legs broken so slept on a slant. Next morning discovered mattress was ripped and spewing vile stuffing out. Went for a shower to wash the feeling of filth away. No hot water, cold water flooding out from under shower tray

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Breakfast had to ask waitress to clear table from previous diners. She moved one cup and a spoon, no attempt to clear spilled baked beans.

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a carpet that didn't meet the walls, wires hanging everywhere, and stains on every inch of the carpet. The window didn't lock properly letting in the cold. The net curtain was brown in muck, the mattress was a double lump of springs - 3 days on and I still have back ache. The bathroom was the worst bathroom I have ever seen. The toilet brush made me want to be sick. Mould on every wall, wall paper peeling off.

By the way, here’s the latest controversy about “Fawlty Towers,” which really isn’t fair to mention in the same breath as the Broadway Hotel. Say what you will about it, it was clean. Polly saw to that. Anyway: the classic ep about not offending the Germans has been reedited to remove offensive words. This comment on the Daily Mail nails it:

The point is that the major is a racist old bigot, incongruous with modern society – even in the Seventies. The audience isn’t supposed to agree with him, they’re supposed to laugh at him. The whole episode is about xenophobia in various forms – it’s social satire.

But not everyone might get the joke. So out it goes.

IMD Things like this make some writers nervous. It’s difficult to know precisely how to feel and how to act, because the potential for offense is enormous. Guardian writer Michael Kimmel bravely wades in:

Today is International Men’s Day. Are you celebrating? And if so, how? Well, what exactly are we celebrating? Is it “men”, just as they are? “Men” in opposition to women, who already have their International Women’s Day on 8 March? “Men” embracing new ways to be men?

I am celebrating his right not to read Guardian articles that can’t stop asking questions. Let’s pose our own: Will he come out against IMD early in the piece? Or later? Do you think the Guardian commissioned the piece to say something nice about men? Are you going to finish those fries? What’s the wifi password?

I think the title of International Men’s Day is so laden with the possibility for such confusion – is it for or against gender equality? Inspired by feminism or opposed to it? – that it is a too much of a political minefield to be navigated easily. Maybe it needs to be rethought.

Here’s the suggestion.

Perhaps we can replace International Men’s Day with something slightly different – and tailored especially for men and boys. A friend proposed calling it International Son Day. On one Sunday, every year, fathers can invite their sons into their own homes, so that they can learn how to clean, cook, vacuum, do laundry and childcare – skills that these boys will inevitably need.

These are fine skills. You can learn to vacuum in about 45 seconds, after you’ve figured out where the switch is. “Childcare” might be more difficult, if there are no small children in the house, but perhaps father and son can use a small pliant house pet.

I’m still stuck on the line “fathers can invite their sons into their own homes.” Is the author presuming that fathers and sons live apart? And isn’t this biased against non-fathers?

I realise that International Son Day, thus conceived, might exclude the fatherless or the son-less among us. But I’m sure we can find some community activities that men can engage in to promote greater equality at home and at work. Organise a toy drive for children whose mothers are in shelters for battered women. Cook and serve food for the homeless.

Perhaps not. Perhaps too ambitious. Still, without the explicit focus of IMD to engage men to further support gender equality, at home and at work, the day feels too reactive, too amorphous, too ripe for innocent misinterpretation or deliberate manipulation. I think I’ll sit it out.

You'll be missed, chap. Here’s how Digg ran the story, with a helpful suggestion:

Noted.

Monkey Punching

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: November 3, 2014 - 1:20 PM

An extraordinary accomplishment: the resurrection and distribution of an archaic form of art. And it was art. Not DaVinci, but it was a ubiquitous part of the American landscape for a decade, and it’s been replaced by hyperrealistic wonders that make these games look like inscrutible dabs of pixel paint.

From the archive.org page:

The Internet Arcade is a web-based library of arcade (coin-operated) video games from the 1970s through to the 1990s, emulated in JSMAME, part of the JSMESS software package. Containing hundreds of games ranging through many different genres and styles, the Arcade provides research, comparison, and entertainment in the realm of the Video Game Arcade.

 The game collection ranges from early "bronze-age" videogames, with black and white screens and simple sounds, through to large-scale games containing digitized voices, images and music.

Kangaroo, for example: you can detect the long shadow of Donkey Kong in the instructions.

Each of them consist of the mother kangaroo on the bottom floor trying to reach the top floor where her joey is being held captive by some monkeys. On each of the levels, there are monkeys who are throwing apples at Mother Kangaroo. Sometimes the apples are thrown so that she must jump over them and sometimes they are thrown so that she must duck. If she gets face to face with one of the monkeys, she can punch the monkey with a boxing glove.

MONKEY PUNCHING would have been a better title.

The monkey has a long reach, though. A long pink reach.

HISTORYThe world’s oldest secret code, says Siberian Times. Sorry: the world’s oldest secret code? That’s a way of saying “sort of, probably” without having to prove it. But it’s old.

The Idol is the oldest wooden statue in the world, estimated as having been constructed approximately 9,500 years ago, and preserved as if in a time capsule in a peat bog on the western fringe of Siberian. Expert Svetlana Savchenko, chief keeper of Shigir Idol, believes that the structure's faces carry encoded information from ancient man in the Mesolithic era of the Stone Age concerning their understanding of 'the creation of the world’.

It’s huge. And it’s a human figure. A spooky one. Ten thousand years is a blink of an eye in cosmic terms; makes you realize how far and fast we came.

You wonder if it’s really code, though. Whether they might dig up a Paul Bunyan statue in 25,000 years and think the checked pattern on his shirt represented a binary concept of reality that could be smashed and recombined using the totemic axe also found on the site. Presuming the statue survives. Quick! Dump it in a peat bog!

Being the dog vs. evil aliens

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 23, 2014 - 11:57 AM

Good lost TV and bad lost TV. By “lost”, of course, I mean “easily available to millions worldwide on YouTube." First: Benji the dog + aliens + 80s music that sounds like John Carpenter + Hasselhoff Hair = this, which was an actual TV show.

Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince. (via Coudal.)

The Dissolve explains:

Together, Zax, the most irritating alien this side of Jar Jar Binks, and Benji patrol the suspiciously empty streets of Anytown, U.S.A., one step ahead of the nefarious alien baddies in a Chevy van who are out to get between a space boy, his dog, and their wacky floating robot-alien comic relief. In a premiere episode that all but dares even the most easily entertained children to stick around past the first commercial break, let alone tune in next week for more sleepily paced, bizarrely convoluted adventures, these hunters chase Zax and Benji in hopes that they will bring him to the Prince, who is hiding out in a shed trying to repair his spaceship.

There are many episodes on YouTube. I don’t believe the show really exists. I think someone made the first five minutes out of old 80s footage, knowing no one would be able to watch any more.

The opening credits are worth watching. Obligatory Dark Tyrant who’s on the verge of galactic conquest, and dispatches Team Rocket to go find the kid. No doubt there’s an online petition somewhere to bring them all to DVD, because some people loved it when they were 11. The evil tyrant, by the way, is named Zanu, which might raise some eyebrows. 

PYTHON NEWS My brain hurts - from joy! RadioTimes:

The British Film Institute has said that the two episodes of At Last the 1948 Show – a sketch comedy with spoofs of different broadcasting formats - have been discovered in the archive of the late journalist Sir David Frost and will be shown for the first time since they were aired on ITV in 1967.

The discovery is being dubbed a major find for fans of the early flowering of surreal British television comedy which led to the creation of the Monty Python programmes two years after the series aired. “At Last the 1948 show” is famous for containing the first use of the phrase "And now for something completely different" which became a Python catchphrase and for showcasing the first outing of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.

Good news. But it’s still a sin that Rutland Weekend Television isn’t available in a clean DVD version. It’s really the lost season of “Python,” and shows how much of the show was due to Eric Idle’s sensibilities. Apparently he doesn’t want it re-released, because it “reminds him of an unhappy time in his life.” Too bad.

Machine-wrapped with butter? Machine wrapped with butter.

CIAO The Spectator has a sad and disheartening piece on the fate of Italy. The wounds are entirely self-inflicted. It begins:

The Rome Opera House sacked its entire orchestra and chorus the other day. Financed and managed by the state, and therefore crippled by debt, the opera house — like so much else in Italy — had been a jobs-for-life trade union fiefdom. Its honorary director, Riccardo Muti, became so fed up after dealing with six years of work-to-rule surrealism that he resigned. It’s hard to blame him.

The musicians at the opera house — the ‘professori’ — work a 28-hour week (nearly half taken up with ‘study’) and get paid 16 months’ salary a year, plus absurd perks such as double pay for performing in the open air because it is humid and therefore a health risk. Even so, in the summer, Muti was compelled to conduct a performance of La Bohème with only a pianist because the rest of the orchestra had gone on strike.

Read on; it seems that those were the only people fired from a job in Italy in the last 10 years. Also, the piece contains the line “Regardless of who is in charge in Italy, it is nearly always all mouth and no trousers,” which would appear to be the British version of “all hat and no cattle.” You learn something every day.

Last night's "Walking Dead"

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 20, 2014 - 12:02 PM

Lots of talking. Bob seems to be a cliche machine, but his sunny disposition can only mean one thing, you suspect. Oh look, a sanctuary that may have a Dark Secret. Rick has trust issues. Carl apparently needs instructions on being careful, as if he doesn’t look like he’d put a bullet through you if you sneezed. Is it wrong to have forgotten what exactly some people did that was so awful? Because I have. Is it wrong to freak out when a former parishioner, her nice church-lady glasses still somehow attached, come for you with mindless flesh-lust? I’m not really in a position to judge. Rating: B -.

MEANWHILE IN SWEDEN Quick, get the Fred Thompson pic. Foxtrotalpha:

Details remain sketchy, but something is clearly afoot off the coast of Stockholm Sweden, where a large search and intelligence operation is underway involving ships, from small riverine craft to stealthy Visby Class Corvettes, aircraft and over 200 operators. Something of great interest is under the water, and it may be a Russian submarine in trouble.

There's the Strib story, and lots more here. Harrison Ford may be wondering if it’s time for a K-19 sequel.

FAIL It’s J. Edgar H-Dog like you’ve never seen him before:

Bad bootleg covers, here. Speaking of covers: an appreciation of the art of Hipgnosis, the brilliant album-cover designers of the 70s and 80s.

MYSTERY Great piece in the Paris Review about the many deaths of Ambrose Bierce. Guy made Rasputin look like an amateur.

Speaking of covers: an appreciation of the art of Hipgnosis, the brilliant album-cover designers of the 70s and 80s.

UNSUNG GENIUSES Meet the man who invented the inflatable-tube guys who dance in front of tire shops and mattress vendors.

VotD What if Spaceballs was a dark Nolan movie? What would the trailer look like?

It would still look like Spaceballs. Hard to get the gritty gravitas when Barf is in the picture.

New Disney theme park?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 16, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Don't you have blog-post titles that end with a question mark? To say nothing of the first sentence in the post. At least it's not an exclamation point! Those always promise more than they provide. Anyway: Since it’s Fall Break for schools, more than a few families have decamped to Disneyworld. If they left yesterday they might get in all the parks . . . but comes 2021, that might take an extra day. WDW News Today, yesterday:

Just a few days ago we told you about the groundbreaking finally taking place at Flamingo Crossings and why that seems to be important and indicative of larger plans for Walt Disney World in the next 8-10 years. Well, it seems it might be a good sign that a 5th park is coming, especially with some recent land purchases made by Disney in the surrounding area.

What will the theme be? Can’t be all “Frozen,” since they’re building an attraction for that movie in Epcot. “Star Wars” is going into the Studios theme park, which is a natural place for future Pixar attractions - unless they go all-Pixar, which would be my guess. Think “Radiator Springs” on a massive scale, incorporating the non-Pixar “”Planes” spin-off. That’s a huge draw. They’ve sold enough “Cars” bedsheets for little boys to rival the GDP of developing nations.

The site also has this little character for their Twitter feed:

One of the most obscure Disney characters ever, at least before he was revived.

SCIENCE! The Mars colonists will have 67 days to enjoy humanity’s greatest adventure. After that they start to die. Telegraph:

Humans could only survive on Mars for 68 days according to a new study which throws doubt on ambitions to colonise the Red Planet.Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded that with current technology a permanent settlement on Mars is "not feasible".They analysed the Dutch-based Mars One project which is aiming to colonise the planet starting in 2024.

I suspect the people who’ve signed up for this have no intention of going. Wonder if the document is legally binding; it would be dispiriting to see the trip start with pictures of the colonists being shoved in the rocket, screaming, holding on to the door like a cat that doesn’t want to be put in a toilet.

It would seem wise to A) preposition a ton of supplies, and B) wait until we have a drive that can get to Mars faster. Seven months is a long trip, especially when there’s no way back and you’ll die. It’s like rowing across the ocean from Japan to Antarctica without a good coat.

RUINS From Atlas Obscura: The secret escape train for Presidents beneath the streets of New York.

VotD And I do mean "day." It's almost six hours long. It's the Desert Bus of airline commercials. 

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