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

Fleegle, Drooper, Snorky and Bingo

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 27, 2015 - 12:17 PM

It is not a law firm. Flashbak takes a look at six bad TV-show comic book adaptations. Only six? Here are two more. Oh, this horrid thing:

Hanna-Barbera gets admiration in some quarters for keeping animation going during a dry spell, but nearly everything they did after the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons was awful, unimaginative, witless dreck. Yes, that includes most of the Flintstones. Maybe most of the Jetsons too; aside from the credits, the "Jet Screamer" and "Uniblab" episodes, it was tiresome.

This isn't exactly a TV-show adaptation, but notable for its wincing attempt to insert Bob Hope into the groovy generation demographic:

Has it all, doesn't it? Groovy kids AND monsters. Why, when kids learned that BOB HOPE was part of the fun they couldn't slam their 12 cents down on the counter fast enough.

PUFFERY To add to my series of utterly arresting opening lines, I was googling around for information on Duncan OK hotel. It led to Ron Howard’s Twitter account where someone asked him if he knew the name of the mynah bird in the lobby. This led to Googling Ron Howard, as well as a Vanity Fair story about a murder in Duncan. (He grew there, and his grandparents ran the hotel.) The story looked good, but since I was doing other things the offer of an audio version seemed appealing. If I bookmarked it or sent it to Instapaper or Pocket or Reading List or any of the other bins into which you drop scraps, I’d never read it. Alas, it was five dollars. Here’s the reason I bring it up: Vanity Fair’s page contains the most chest-puffing description attempted by any magazine in the history of the medium.

Vanity Fair is a cultural filter, sparking the global conversation about the people and ideas that matter most. With a dedication to journalistic excellence and powerful storytelling, Vanity Fair is the first choice—often the only choice—for the world’s most influential and important audience. From print to social media, the big screen to the smartphone and now on audio, Vanity Fair is the arbiter of our era.

Hah! No. You have to love the assertion that the planet’s most Influential and important audience will not accept a story if it’s not in Vanity Fair.

And no, I didn't find out the name of the bird in the lobby of Ron Howard's grandparent's hotel.

WHAT A COINCIDENCE Here’s the comparison between the Sam Smith and Tom Petty songs. The court says Smith was sufficiently influenced; Petty gets 25% of the royalties.

I recommend listening and not looking at that picture; it's disturbing. 

The money, I suspect, will also go to the song's co-writer, whose style is all over that track. The opening notes and beat and the sort of space it inhabits, to be a bad pretentious rock critic, is all Jeff Lynne.

CHECK PLEASE Bad customer stories from restaurant servers are always a tonic, if you’ve been a waiter or waitress yourself. Here’s another batch from Kitchenette; judging from the title, Richard Lewis is editing the site now.They're all entertaining in their own mortifying way. It's like YouTube commenters come to life.

Additional Jell-O, Shaking

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 13, 2015 - 12:12 PM

Perhaps you resolved to get more organized this year. Perhaps you googled strategies for getting things done, and discovered that’s an actual concept. A way of life. GTD. I remember a few years back when GTD consisted of - warning, horrible word coming - “life hacks” that were simple enough. Little tricks and habits you could incorporate in your daily life. I tried a few. They seemed to create needs I did not have before. You start out carrying around index cards with highlighter colors on the top to indicate priority and purpose, and after a week you forget them, or run out of cards, or jot something down on a Post-It, and that’s that. I even tried using Evernote for everything, marveling at the ease at which I could save a webpage, and then realized I have no interest in saving web pages. If I wanted to, well, print to PDF.

Turns out I should have read a book. My Zite feed coughed up a page about GTD and Evernote, and I felt as if I was in a hotel ballroom with a program on my lap listening to a speaker talk about changing my life.

You can do both GTD and Evernote if: You read only chapters 1-3 of GTD, then

implement Evernote as your reference filing system,

don’t forget to install three Evernote add ons,

be well rested when you work (don’t sleep walk)

What? I read on, and discovered that the author wrote a book about GTD, and no doubt teaches seminars about it. There are phrases that mean something for people who’ve read the book, I assume. Such as:

Even unemployed people can’t implement GTD in three days, a week, or even a month. I’ve seen them try. Changing everything at once is too much “shaking the jello.”

Then there’s a YouTube video of Jello, shaking. The author continues:

For example:

Gathering work into a reduced number of inboxes = new jello … shaking.

pre-processing inboxes without doing the work simultaneously = new jello … shaking.

Setting up separate project and reference folders = new jello … shaking.

And in the middle of all this shaking GTD jello, you are becoming tired, overwhelmed while excited, so you are basically sleep walking, while continuing to read and continuing to decide to shake more jello because David Allen has given you hope.

Hope is something you have not had about organizing your work in say, 3 years. Hope at this point, inebriates.

So, you set up an Evernote account, downloaded Evernote, install Evernote, check that Evernote works. Evernote is (sleep walking) working!

Um. I just put everything in Dropbox and clean it out at the end of the day and put the relevant things into relevant folders. As opposed to this “workflow” chart. IT SHAKES MY JELLO. More:

Changing one organizing habit at a time, is a TON of work. 83% of people succumb to JerkBrain/GTD editor/RESISTANCE.

JerkBrain RESISTANCE sounds like a competitor to Anonymous. From the comments:

I read the beginning of GTD. Being on a bicycle means you won’t have the temptation to stop absorbing Allen’s bullion cube

That’s good to know.

TV Let me guess. Octogenarian lechery, set in Europe:

Amazon Studios has announced that it’s signed up Woody Allen to write and direct his first ever television show. The Untitled Woody Allen Project will be a half-hour series.

Imagine it’s 1985, and you just read that B. Dalton’s was producing a movie. This would make no sense. They sold books. But news like this isn’t surprising any more. If Amazon announced they were going into the airline business, people would nod and move along. After all, Virgin started out as a record label.

Allen also has a new collection of old stand-up routines coming out. According to the WSJ yesterday, he declined to be interviewed about the project, but other people say he has trouble listening to his old work, because it gives him pain. What doesn’t? Can you name any other public person known for humor who seems as joyless as Allen?

Here’s a clip from British TV, from his earlier, funnier days. As the alien said.

How to get fired over Macadamia Nut deployment

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 9, 2014 - 1:16 PM

Headline: Korean Air executive apologises for delaying plane after recieving nuts in a bag

Really? Well. In her defense, First Class status gives one certain expectations. You will get a drink before you take off. You will get a warm wet towel before you land. You will not get a sack of ceramic pretzels or a bag of simple legumes; you will get high-class nuts like Macadamia, and they won’t be stuffed in a sack the guest has to open, as if he was some savage slamming coconut on a rock to get the tender tasty insides. The nuts will be served on a plate.


Heather Cho, a vice-president of the airline, delayed the plane at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday after taking issue with a crew member's decision to serve macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate.

Korean Air has apologised for the incident and the 40-year-old daughter of the airline's chairman, Cho Yang-ho, has resigned from her position as head of in-flight services but will remain a vice president with the South Korean carrier.

More details:

Ms Cho was seated in first class when she took issue with a flight attendant who handed her macadamia nuts in a bag. She summoned the cabin crew chief to ask whether the flight attendant was following the in-flight service manual, and the crew chief could not answer promptly, the airline said.

The company said Ms Cho "took issue with the cabin crew chief's qualifications" and the plane was returned by the pilot to its gate to expel the crew chief.

Here’s the thing. It probably was SOP to serve them on a plate. It’s part of the first-class experience the customer expects, because some of them haven’t opened anything with their own hands for years, and probably have servants who scurry ahead to loosen bottles and lift toilet lids. These people live in a life that puts Louis IVX to shame, and they will complain all the way to the top if the nuts aren’t on a plate. The stewards should have known that.  

That said: if you complain about such a thing you are - whether exec or customer - a dreadful person, and we hope someone on their way back to steerage bumps your arm and dumps your orange juice in your lap. 

GEEK A while back I expressed enthusiasm for Star Trek Axanar, a fan-film that looks pretty nifty, and has Real Professional Actors. That helps. Here’s another one.

Star Trek - Horizon is a  film set during the time of Enterprise (the fifth Star Trek series). 

Good decision; there’s room to stretch out your plots without banging into a dozen pre-existing story arcs.

The Coalition of Planets, a young alliance of worlds led by Earth, is at war with the Romulan Empire. Desperate for a chance to gain the upper hand in the war, the Coalition forms an alliance with T'mar, a Romulan deserter, in the hopes that she can provide valuable intelligence on her former masters.

I don’t know why the Romulans wouldn’t have defeated Earth quickly, given the technological imbalances. Perhaps we got lots of upgraded weaponry from the Andorians. Anyway, here’s the trailer. This is what technology in the hands of ordinary folk leads to: astonishing visuals that exceed the source material by a factor of 10,000, coupled with acting that’s . . . well, let’s put Shatner and Stewart over here,and then let’s put the people with boundless enthusiasm and good intentions over . . . here.

The problem: space scenes look like this. Incredible:

Domestic scenes on Earth look like this.

Just doesn't say Star Trek to me. You hope we'll improve screen doors by then. Anyway, it is an accomplishment, and I look forward to seeing it. 

Speaking of horizons: we're getting close to Pluto exploration. 

New Horizons left Earth nearly 9 years ago, and the craft has spent almost two-thirds of that time in one of 18 hibernation periods designed to keep its systems operational. But even though wake-ups have become routine, this one was special: It's the last time the spacecraft needs to wake up before it gets to Pluto. And what will it find there? We just don't know, and that's the most exciting part.

Between this and the thundering glory of the Orion liftoff the other day - oh, and the last Mars robot drop, which is still a thing of beauty, AND the asteroid landing - it’s a heartening time for people who grew up expecting a Moon base by 2001. So we’re behind schedule a little.

Crankshaft is still depressing

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 8, 2014 - 12:17 PM

Crankshaft takes place about twenty years in the past, according to Wikipedia. When it suits the comic’s purposes it lurches into the modern world so we can chuckle along with the nasty old misanthropist’s attempt to comprehend technology. (Note: by “chuckle” we mean stare stone-faced at the drawing before moving on to Pearls Before Swine.) LAst week’s strips seem to be playing with the timeline, as the local movie house is forced to close because studios are switching entirely to digital projection.

The comic:

For one thing, you wonder why everyone’s sitting in the back row. For another, you roll the word “comic” around in your head and consider the vestigal associations with “mirth” and “humor,” and wonder if you’re missing something. No, there doesn’t seem to be any molecules of amusement detectable by modern methods. Perhaps it’s setting up a punchline for tomorrow! So let’s look at Friday:

Ah. Well. Laughter is involved, it seems, but only the empty, bitter bark of someone cursed to live while all around him perishes, and he must make his way alone in an unrecognizable,  indifferent world. 

Then there’s the matter of today’s “Zits,” which appears to have redesigned the main character while keeping everything else in the strip intact, but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if this was a one-off or a sign that the strip is about to tackle the subject of eating disorders.

LITERATURE Good news: undiscovered work of Raymond Chandler. Disappointing news: it’s a libretto.

The 48-page libretto to the comic opera The Princess and the Pedlar, with music by Julian Pascal, has hidden in plain sight at the library since its copyright was first registered on 29 August 1917.

The work, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian, was found in March by Kim Cooper, shortly after she published her debut novel, The Kept Girl, featuring a fictionalised Chandler in 1929 Los Angeles.

While looking for more information about Pascal, Cooper discovered a missing link between Chandler’s English boyhood and his detective fiction: a witty, Gilbert-and-Sullivan-inflected libretto for a fantasy-tinged romance between Porphyria, daughter to the King and Queen of the Arcadians, and Beautiful Jim, a “strolling Pedlar.”

Keep looking through the archives; maybe we'll find out why the car went off the dock into the water. 

PODCAST An interview with the parents of the subject of Serial, here in the Guardian. Does the mother listen to the podcast?

“After everybody goes to sleep,” she says. “Eleven, twelve o’clock, I lay down here on this sofa and I listen.” She says she sometimes plays just one part over and over. “It’s the bit at the beginning where the prison operator says, ‘This is a Global-Tel link prepaid call from …’ and Adnan says, ‘Adnan Syed.’”

“So sweet,” Shamim says. “I listen to that again and again and again.”

With the tinkly tip-toe caper music included, alas. The last episode of Serial didn’t say this, but anyone listening may have suspected the jury convinced Syed because they couldn’t stand his lawyer’s voice.

8-BIT ART Charming little gifs of life in modern Japan. More here. 

Did you miss it?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 3, 2014 - 12:46 PM

The holiday specials are starting to hit TV. You already missed the Charlie Brown Christmas, but if you care you probably own it already, and have made your kids watch it as well. Stop fidgeting. This is classic. I’ve no idea if modern tots enjoy the show the way their boomer parents or grandparents did; animation has changed, and the leisurely pace of the show may bore jangly kids. They may wonder why characters are leaning up against a brick wall in the middle of nowhere and sounding depressed. I still remember showing my daughter the Great Pumpkin special and watching her lose the plot when it turned into a dog flying on a house shooting things.

She would have loved this, but I missed it:

Dang. I love these characters, and the post-Andy shorts have ranged from amusing to incredible. (The Halloween special had some of the best animation in the entire TS series.) But this is not like missing Rudolph in 1967, which would have been THE MEANEST THING EVER, especially if you had to miss it because you had to go to your aunt’s house. This is the modern world, and if you miss it you don’t have to wait a year for it to roll around again. Probably up on iTunes right now!

But it’s not. There’s an audiobook version. That’s it. You’re out of luck, unless you want to torrent it, which of course you shouldn’t. Is it too much to ask that I could buy it now? Look! Over here! Guy waving credit card! It will be repeated Dec. 23rd, so if you missed it, you’ve one more chance.

Here’s the trailer.

7Gh$?Qd Google asks: Are you sure you’re not a robot?

. . . we figured it would be easier to just directly ask our users whether or not they are robots—so, we did! We’ve begun rolling out a new API that radically simplifies the reCAPTCHA experience. We’re calling it the “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” and this is how it looks:

That’s great. But if it keeps doing that it’ll drive people mad. It’s already bothering you, isn’t it?

Surely this isn’t the only way to tell if people are robots.

The Verge tells you more. It’ll take a while for this to eliminate CAPTCHA entirely, and there still be sites that force you to squint at box and decipher the smeared, distorted text. At least we don’t force you to go through that here, and so far so good. By the way, my mom made $958 on the internet I didn’t think it was possible but check it out you can too

Hold on, need to adjust the spam filters. Be right back.

In the meantime, head over here: an analysis of the typography of “Alien.” Brilliant AND hilarious.


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