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

Elvis Wept

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 17, 2015 - 3:05 PM

Yes, a very late lunch. Was in St. Paul at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the only such event that stops and backs up because people come up to the paraders to chat. Present was the one and only . . .

Actually, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There is another Irish Elvis on the internet and possibly dozens more. Well, this is ours, and he has the moves. And the glasses. The crowd loved him. There is also a Swedish Elvis, in case you're curious: Eilert Pilarm. His page says “Sweden's and probably the world's most original interpreter of songs made famous by Elvis Presley, Eilert Pilarm has stunned and entertained the public in equal doses for a couple of years now."

I think the ratio of “stunned” to “entertained” may not be as equal as they think.

An ugly thing you're supposed to admire

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 9, 2015 - 12:09 PM

. . . and a forgotten building you should. First: The head-scratching conundrum of Brutalist architecture: it seems as if the bigger the building, the more the public didn’t like it. Isn’t that just odd? And it had a theory behind it, too. But don’t take it from me.

 . . . few ideas suffered a more tragic death than the nascent school of brutalism. A late addition to the modernist repertoire, it was vivisected in its prime by critics and the public alike for its perceived coldness and inhumanity. In a particularly cruel twist, its downfall was triggered not by its oversights but by the unpopularity of its strengths. The greatest masterpieces of North American brutalism—Kallmann, McKinnel & Knowles’ Boston City Hall, Murphy’s J. Edgar Hoover Building, Rudolph’s Art & Architecture Building, Pereira’s Library at UCSD—became its greatest liabilities.

In the derogating full-frontal assault on brutalist teleology, it seemed as if the higher the profile a building attained, and the further it pushed against the boundaries of the familiar, the harder it fell when the chair of social disapproval was pulled out from underneath.

This wasn’t tragic, unless your heart sings at the sight of dead concrete pressing its grey boot on the face of the city in perpetutity. There’s a reason the Chair of Social Disapproval was yanked out: the people who lived in the cities weren’t asked if these monsters should be invited to sit with the rest of the family.

The author discusses the Robarts Library at the University of Toronto. It wasn’t going to abide by your uptight rules, pop; it was going its own triangular way. Dig?

Breaking free of the prescriptive Cartesian grid that had become ubiquitous throughout the previous half century of architecture, the design was guided instead by an isometric grid derived from the sixty-degree angle. Right angles are all but abandoned in the plan, which takes the shape of an equilateral triangle with smaller, triangular masses protruding from its sides. The three main profiles of the library, each one hundred meters long, assert a jarring interjection into the rectangular street plan of the university campus[.]

Some people just love it when buildings disrupt the grid, particularly if such a thing can be seen as a blow against Cartesian prescriptions. But if you like your library to remind people of a guard house and a crematorium, this is your baby.

Hail! The watchers have seen our Queen Insect approach! Make ready!

Pictures from Google Street View. Now, elsewere in modern ideas, here’s something that looks equally blunt, but has a rich and glorious past.

View Larger Map

And what’s that, you ask, and who cares? Let’s take another look. It curves:

Brutalism didn't curve. The Philly Ink architecture critic explains:

For many years, I also wondered what the peculiar, blank-faced behemoth at 1020 Market St. was used for. Because it has no windows, I thought it might have started life as a movie theater. It wasn't until 2013, when the building made the Preservation Alliance's endangered properties list, that I discovered its impressive pedigree. Thanks to the Alliance's Ben Leech, we now know that an older building at that address was taken over by Robinson department store in 1946. The new store was designed by Victor Gruen, a prominent Viennese architect who fled the Nazis in 1938 and ended up becoming the father of the American shopping mall.

That's one of Vic's? Indeed:

Before Gruen (originally, Grunbaum) rocketed to fame for the Northland Mall outside Detroit, he toiled away in traditional downtowns, giving modernist face-lifts to dowdy commercial buildings.

Northland Center opened before Southdale, but it wasn’t enclosed. That came later. This year Target moved out and Macy’s said it was giving up the ghost as well; this page says it’s closing for good in March. Anyway, the article notes that the blank facade once held an illuminated sign, and man, did it ever. A detail from this Flickr page:

Detail from here. The last days of downtown . . . before Gruen's work gave people another place to go. If only his Dayton's building in St. Paul had been so alive.

Odds and Ends

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 6, 2015 - 12:44 PM

Cleaning up the links I didn't post earlier in the week. 

This article begins “You may be trying to forget this is real and happening, but indeed, a release date has been set.” Toy Story 4. Lasseter says it’s a romantic comedy and has no ties to the first three. The Playlist notes:

It looks like the focus is turning strictly to the toys, which makes sense — more opportunities for corporate synergy with other toymakers (and I would not be shocked if a "Star Wars" character somehow comes into the fold given this era of franchise cross-breeding). But the interaction and importance of the human characters to the toys is what gave the original "Toy Story" movies emotional heft, so it's a curious move.

Not really. They’ve wrung every possible tear out of the Poignancy of Childhood angle, and in the recent shorts the characters have been acting on their own, interacting less with their owner. (Except for “Toy Story of Terror,” which we’ll ignore because it ruins my conclusion.) Better to go off in a toy-centric direction.

Elsewhere in Hollywood: Of course there’s a remake of “IT,” because . . . I don’t know why. Some details from CinemaBlend:

Knowing that Stephen King's It is headed to the big screen, fans of the book are left to wonder whether the feature adaptation will maintain the timeline of the novel, or if the time periods will be adjusted to modernize or drastically alter the story. From what director Cary Fukunaga reportedly said in a recent interview, it sounds like the time period could be different.

Before we get to what was said, it needs to be noted that this information was passed from a reader to Bloody Disgusting from a Brazilian newspaper called O Globo. It was translated by the reader, so there's a chance the context shifted through that process. 

Other than that, take it to the bank.

The book is set in the 50s and 80s; if they make it modern, and the adults who return to the town to beat IT have smartphones, it’ll change everything. Instead of seeing Pennywise down the sewer, he’ll pop up on their lockscreen.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun game they had in arcades back in the early 60s:

MEEP Hollywood Reporter surfaces an ancient holy text: the rules governing the Road Runner cartoon.

Try as hard as he might, Wile E. Coyote could never quite catch the Road Runner. Now, the nine rules set for the series by the creator behind the Looney Tunes classic, which stacked the deck against the character, have caused much social media buzz. 

No surprises, but fun to see it codified.

UNFOLLOW How to tell a writer is just getting lazy. Verge: “Rand Paul swiped his new logo from Tinder.”

The silver lining in giving Tinder a monopoly on the two-pronged flame symbol is that you can say things like "Rand Paul stole his new logo from Tinder.”

This is the Tinder logo:

This is Paul’s logo:

Oh, totally swiped it. Criminey. 

BENEVOLENT MURDER As BoingBoing puts it:

In the latest episode of a podcast called The Bittersweet Life, we hear from a young girl named Gabi who started feeding a group of crows, and her feathered friends started bringing her delightfully shiny presents in return, including earrings, paper clips, and even a light bulb.

I don’t know if they’re bowing down to the Raven Queen who will eventually use them to bring woe on her tormentors, or whether the crows are softening her up so she’ll help them commit some nefarious deed. Either way, if I was a parent, and crows took an interest in my child, I would move three states away.

No good can come of this.


Posted by: James Lileks Updated: February 27, 2015 - 12:01 PM

As a fan when the show ran in prime time, of course, I had to buy it. It had deep poetry! The other side of Spock.



And I had the album. Highly illogical!

He made it long enough to add that late-stage Spock twinkly gravitas to the reboot. Of course he will be missed; of course he will be long remembered. 

Speaking of movies:  If you’re a frequent visitor to imdb, you’re used to the logo.



And now it's different. I just noticed the change today, and since I hit the site a lot, I suspect this happened this morning.



I've no idea what this is supposed to mean. 

Gerbil Plague

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: February 25, 2015 - 12:32 PM

You hope they made it. Daily Mail:

A piece of graffiti featuring the names of three young sisters who may have fallen victim to the 1515 plague has been discovered on the wall of a medieval church.

The names of Cateryn, Jane and Amee Maddyngley were found scrawled near the front door of All Saint's and St Andrew's Church in Kingston, near Cambridge, by amateur archaeologists.

The writing, which features their names and date, shows they left their mark on the village church in 1515 – as the country was hit by an outbreak of the bubonic plague.

Now some researchers suspect gerbils spread the plague, not rats. Gerbils. Anyway, take a look at the article, and tell me that “witch mark” isn’t a dead ringer for the Mac’s Command key, aka the Clover, aka the Splat.

YOU THERE For the entirely of its existence this blog has been noting, with clenched teeth, the hectoring, bullying tone of bad internet headlines that insist YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Monday I came across a piece about “16 Things You Should Stop Buying and Make Yourself,” the first being ketchup. Twenty years ago such an article would be titled “Easy Home-made Replacements - Cheaper, and better!” and you’d want to read it. Now someone has to lean over and breathe in your face and tell you why you’re morally and intellectually inferior to the author. Here’s today’s example:

Really. Me? The description would seem to belie the headline, but perhaps the author just wanted to make everyone annoyed enough to click and complain in the comments. Well, here, in 12 succinct seconds, is my response.

ART Instant cultural literacy test, right here:

If you know what they are, you have basic cultural literacy. More here.


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters