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.
Not secret at all, but that’s how you write headlines these days.
How modern Halloween began, according to Fast Company:
Every Halloween, millions of surrogate zombies, vampires, and goblins take to the streets, looking to fill the fluorescent orange brainpans of their plastic pumpkins with individually wrapped, fun-sized candies. It seems like a custom immemorial, but trick-or-treating wasn't always an inseparable part of Halloween: in fact, little more than 60 years ago, many Americans had never even seen a trick-or-treater.
Indeed. Look at the old ads, and you won’t see Trick-or-Treaters rise until the 50s, but they’re not getting Halloween-specific candy. Cracker Jack in ordinary boxes. I don’t know how they coped.
While going door-to-door for candy may be a relatively new phenomenon, Halloween has always been about the things trick-or-treating represent: sugar and fear.
In the ritual of trick-or-treating itself, though, U.S. candy makers have discovered countless ways to make money marketing both sweets and terror, to the tune of over $2.3 billion a year in 2011 alone.Whether you're a kid who loves monsters and gore, or a parent terrified of being egged for running out of caramels (or worse, seeing your child poisoned), U.S. candy makers have always been quick to respond with a candy that is custom-tailored to both your cravings and your anxieties.
Meh. “Fear” and “anxiety” seem a bit overstated. But the article notes that “Brachs, for example, was advertising seasonal Halloween candy with jack o'lanterns and trick-or-treaters on the boxes as early as 1962,” and that’s about right. I found an example in Life:
Here’s what gave away before, in the 50s: CEREAL.
CHICAWGO Popped in at Pleasant Family Shopping, a site devoted to old grocery stores, and watched a rather discursive commercial from the 70s. It’s notable now because no one seems to have regional accents in commercials very much anymore:
The post went on to note that the chain is being phased our by its parent company. YouTube comment: “Mom & Pop stores are a thing of the past. All we have left are the big box stores. I wonder what went wrong ? Bad capitalism?” Well, we have lower prices, better quality, and wider selection, so there’s that. Never underestimate the power of grocery store nostalgia, though; if you tagged along with mom to a particular store when you were a kid, the brands have a powerful pull. The account of Dominick’s is here, with some fantastic pictures of old stores. Even the grainy video grabs bring back the 70s in a flash:
Smoked-glass red gourd-globes. Ah yes. By which I mean no, thanks, if anyone’s planning on bringing that 70s aesthetic back, but it’s nice to be reminded.
NOW THIS IS SCARY England had some wind this week. A landing at the Birmingham airport:
This is why you’d best not look out the window during a windy landing. The runway will line up eventually, but when you’re coming down and you see the runway pointing at 2 o’clock, you fear you’ll be in the terminal quicker than expected.
FORGOTTEN NO MORE Another favorite blog: “Daily Inspiration,” which looks at all the great illustrators of the 20th century. The latest entry concerns Ben Denison. There were so many of these artists, and it’s a shame they’re constantly eclipsed by modern painters whose fashionable abstraction is far less engaging. For some, anyway.
Have a fun and non-anxious Halloween.
Doomsday arrived on Oct. 30, 1938, when poisonous black gas crept through New Jersey, ray guns shot flames across New York City and killing machines from Mars took over the nation.
Or, that's what nearly 1 million radio listeners thought, at least.
No. A million people may have heard the show, but I’d bet the number who thought it was an actual broadcast numbered in the low dozens. If that. PBS disagrees:
PBS celebrated the milestone a day early with the premiere of War of the Worlds, a documentary presented by American Experience.
"This is the most famous media event in history," American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samel told Mashable.
“It showed us that fear can overcome even the most rational parts of our brains.”
Well, there’s something I never considered possible. Here’s Slate this week:
The supposed panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary in the PBS and NPR programs, almost nobody was fooled by Welles’ broadcast.
Far fewer people heard the broadcast—and fewer still panicked—than most people believe today. How do we know? The night the program aired, the C.E. Hooper ratings service telephoned 5,000 households for its national ratings survey. “To what program are you listening?” the service asked respondents. Only 2 percent answered a radio “play” or “the Orson Welles program,” or something similar indicating CBS. None said a “news broadcast,” according to a summary published in Broadcasting. In other words, 98 percent of those surveyed were listening to something else, or nothing at all, on Oct. 30, 1938.
This miniscule rating is not surprising. Welles’ program was scheduled against one of the most popular national programs at the time—ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s Chase and Sanborn Hour, a comedy-variety show.
Bergen was a ratings powerhouse. Welles’ show was . . . arty. Fancy-pants stuff. So how did the myth get started? Read the piece.
MORE NONSENSE Travel and Leisure’s website has named the U of M one of the country’s Ugliest Campuses.
Many great architects including Steven Holl and Frank Gehry have tried their hand at turning the commuter campus of the University of Minnesota from Brutalist to Pritzker Prize–worthy. It’s no small feat. Take, for example, the Coffman Memorial Building: the only feature that could make it look more industrial would be the addition of smokestacks. With more than 30,000 undergraduates all on one campus, the University of Minnesota is the one of the most populous in the country. “It’s simply too big,” complains one student on the Unigo.com message board.
Leaving aside the fact that the size of the campus has nothing to do with its aesthetic qualities, and that it confuses the Streamlined Moderne style of Coffman with industrial Brutalism, or that Gehry’s building is an anomalous interloper in the classically-detailed Mall region, the author is full of beans. Cass Gilbert’s Mall is a work of great Classical beauty, the very picture of the standard conception of a college, and the old campus is a handsome collection of buildings that incorporate the range of early 20th century architectural styles.
The article used a banal view from a local photographer’s Flickr stream, instead of this shot of the Auditorium. Wonder why? No link for them.
Oh, here's a Pritzker Prize winner:
We'll get to that in a moment. For now, stop the presses: Kotaku says there’s a building complex in China where the windows are painted on. Let’s go to the source and read the story, using the magic of Google’s translation wizard.
Recently, several friends broke the news, "Qingdao Yichang road, the fitness room turned out to be Yichang picture windows painted, lights are packed crooked", questioning the construction side cut corners. Allegedly painted on the windows is actually decorative. Official responded that not strict planning permission and services, has been ordered rectification. Construction of affordable housing and a lot of strange things, this "decorative said," is also quite novel, in the end the truth, subject to approval go into it.
You can see where that might be the case.
On the side of the three building body, neatly drew a lot of "window", but carefully a look, actually paintings by the public praise for the talented friends, is a contemporary "Magic Pen Ma Liang.”
There’s a confounding reference, eh? Wikipedia helps:
The story is based on a folklore story. In a village, there lived a boy called Ma Liang, whose family was so poor that he could not go to school. But he loved painting and worked very hard at it. One day, he got a brush, which had a magical power—if you draw anything with it, it will become reality.
It was made into a stop-motion movie in 1955, back in Mao times. A sample, here. (Janky computer issues today prohibit embedding, for some reason known only to Baal.)
CRIME Novel defense this fellow has. Trouble is, I can see it working.
Accused thief Radu Dogaru says he's a victim in the $24-million art heist that he perpetrated. Dogaru says the crime was too easy and that the Kunsthal Museum should be sued for negligence.
Dogaru and six other Romanians stole paintings by Picasso, Monet, and Gauguin from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum in only three minutes last October.
“I could not imagine that a museum would exhibit such valuable works with so little security,” said Dogaru during a Tuesday court hearing.
Then the judge stepped down from the bench, got out a big wet mackerel, slapped it across the defendant’s face, and resumed the trial as if nothing had happened.
BIG NEWS Whoa whoa HOLD ON:
McDonald's is ending its relationship of four decades with Heinz, citing "recent management changes." The ketchup maker recently installed as CEO a former top executive of rival Burger King.
The company said few people will notice the change, and they’re probably right. Get this:
"We only used Heinz in the Minneapolis and Pittsburgh markets in the U.S," said Becca Hary, McDonalds' director of global media relations. "Globally, Heinz represents a small percentage of McDonald's condiment and sauce business.”
Just us, and Pittsburgh. I wonder why.
OBIT There’s something about Lou Reed’s passing that brought out some bad writing and dubious conclusions. Perhaps the oldest fans feel obligated to write as though they’re 25, full of Rock and Roll Gospel. In the Daily Beast, Elizabeth Wurtzel:
Lou Reed had the most amazing life.
He cheated death many a time. So what if it finally stuck out its ugly foot and tripped him at age 71?
Reed did damn well for himself. He made the most coherent case yet for self-destruction as a lifestyle choice that was somehow more hopeful and rhapsodic than whatever they were selling under steeples.
He had a rock ‘n’ roll heart. He is still alive.
No, he’s not. Let’s look at that line again: He made the most coherent case yet for self-destruction as a lifestyle choice that was somehow more hopeful and rhapsodic than whatever they were selling under steeples. Here’s exhibit A in the “Rock and Roll as a Means of Self-Redemption” nonsense. Ah, to be a heroin-addicted hustler in New York in the 70s! Sweating in an unheated abandoned apartment, unable to hav a bowel movement - it's so romantic.
Reed was born in Brooklyn, back when it was still really a place where people lived. According to the song “Coney Island Baby,” he had to play football for the coach. Is that really possible? Hard to imagine. The song borders on gospel in its commitment, however, and boys will be boys, even future junkies of America.
That’s enough. Sally can’t dance, but she could probably write.
Look, Lou was Lou. He couldn't sing, and wasn't exactly Mr. BlazingHands on the guitar, but he had a certain uncompromising sense of cool that produced an interesting thing now and then. The only album I had was "Street Hassle," which had New Wave Cred when it came out, for some reason. It also had Bruce Springsteen doing a spoken introduction for the title tune, turning his "Tramps like us" like from "Born to Run" on its head. It's a nice little work. It has strings, of all things. But the album also has "Dirt," a song whose calamitous, drunken, stumbling incompetence stands as a glorious rebuke to all the polished, careful pop of the day. Without the chorus of Actual Singers chanting "Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap Uptown dirt," though, it wouldn't have cohered into anything, and when you consider that it's really about dressing down someone who's just Dirt - cheap, as noted, and also from Uptown - you think, well, Cole Porter it isn't.
Cole Porter he wasn't. But there wasn't anyone else in rock whose name would pop up, and you'd think, with amusement and affection: Lou! Still at it! Wonder what he's up to now? He was an original.
TECH Imagine this conversation, which surely happened somewhere along the line.
“Honey, I’m home!”
”How was work?
”Fine, but I’m troubled by this program we’re putting on the computers we rent out. It lets us turn on the webcam and watch people.”
”You have to be kidding me.’’
”No, it’s true. I’m really bothered. The sound isn't syncing like it should and the frame rate's lousy.’’
“Aren’t you bothered about the ethics of this?’’
”Explain what you mean about that.”
The FTC said that Aaron's (AAN), an Atlanta-based chain of about 2,000 company-owned and franchised rental stores, rented out computers installed with software known as Detective Mode. This allowed the company to track the renters' data through keystrokes, screen shots and webcam images, the commission said.
"Detective Mode's surreptitious capture of the private details of individual and family life -- including images of visitors, children, family interactions, partially undressed individuals, and people engaged in intimate conduct -- cause actual consumer harm," read the complaint that the FTC filed earlier this year.
VIDEO It’s titled “Karma Kutters.” Dashcam compilation of what befalls the drivers who try to pass on the shoulder. You can probably turn down the sound when the ersatz classical music begins.
Insert boilerplate text here that goes on the front page, and then when people click they see the rest of the sentence, which explains that I wrote that on purpose to make people think "ah hah, they screwed up." No, I just didn't want to have the main-page text say "short blog today, I'm finishing a column." But since you're here, well, short blog today. So:
URBAN STUDIES The question isn’t how they got so bad, it’s how they seem to have reached a state of perfect decay without getting completely trashed. Haunting photos of abandoned theaters.
DISNEY Everyone knows that the stretching room in the Haunted Mansion goes down in Disneyland and up in Disneyworld, right? I didn’t. More here.
INTERNET And a shiver of dismay just ran up and down the spines of a million teens:
The selling point of Snapchat is that potentially damning messages are destroyed almost instantly. But the company admitted this week that in the past its turned over about a dozen unopened messages to law enforcement.
In a recent blog post, Micah Schaffer, head of “trust and safety” at Snapchat, said that though messages are instantly deleted once they are opened by their intended recipient, the company is still able to retrieve unopened messages from its servers manually and look at them. The company does not do this regularly, according to Schaffer, unless extenuating circumstances come into play.
"Do we manually retrieve and look at Snaps under ordinary circumstances? No," Schaffer writes.
That’s from the Daily Dot; more here. I love the Orwellian Department of Trust and Safety, and the assurance that they don’t look at messages under “ordinary circumstances.” That’s a hard-and-fast distinction.
MOVIES Just in time for Halloween: Hell No, a horror movie built around sensible choices. Finally!
Also in movie news, and because the law says that every week has to have a story about Kubrick, here's indiewire:
Kubrick actually wanted had plans for a full trilogy following the deranged doctor. As The New York Times reported back in 2003, screenwriter Terry Southern's literary archives went to the New York Public Library, and among them? Notes and index cards outlining details for two sequels to "Dr. Strangelove." Titled ''Turgidson's Mother, or Into the Shaft!'' and ''Muffley Strikes Back." Exact plot details or concepts haven't yet surfaced (maybe time to visit the library?), but it's rather fascinating to realize Kubrick's vision for his satire was so far reaching.
They sound dreadful. The original works because there’s nothing left at the end. Strangelove crying out in joy to the ghost of Hitler as he rises from his chair as the world explodes seems like a definitive ending, wouldn’t you say? Anyone ever watch the credits and think “boy, I wonder what happened next”?
If so, maybe they ask “it would be great if that Monty Python animator directed the sequel, too.”
VIDEO Easy . . . easy . . . eeeeasy . . . oh, crap.
Eleven percent of everyone on the internet has put up a video, according to this Strib article. This now includes Larry King, who just did StarbucksDrakeHands for everyone in the world. This HuffPo roundup has other people doing StarbucksDrakeHands, and includes the ooky original. It’s a perfect example of a meme that isn’t really funny, but notable because other people are doing it. There should be a washed-up celeb whose participation in these things officially signals the end of the meme. It’s not Larry.
Yes, I'd love to include the Larry King Drakehands in this post, but embedding Instagram video is making the software fall down and hit its head on a corner of the table today.
TRADITION And so it begins: you knew it was only a matter of time before Black Friday leaked into every possible aspect of Thursday evening. People get bored sitting around the house digesting things. The best football’s over. It’s been hours since the plastic was slapped on the counter and a new bauble or garment was obtained. Well:
Macy's is breaking a 155 year old tradition of staying closed on Thanksgiving.
This year it will open some of its stores at 8:00 pm on the holiday.
The change will reportedly only effect locations in New York and Chicago.
Not here. Not yet. Give them a year.
BTW, when I first clicked the link I got a huge ad that showered paper on the screen, then tried to sell me a scanning app for the iPhone. It got my attention. It ended, as most of these things do, with click-to-dismiss. You have to look around for the little X-in-the-circle. Imagine being unable to continue reading a magazine until you’d punched a hole in the corner of the page with the X-in-the-circle. This is why magazine advertising is the best: it doesn’t fling itself at your head like the Alien facehuggers. It sits there inviting you to peruse, to study, to consider.
And then there’s those ads that lurk under innocent words, waiting to strike. You’re reading a story about, oh, ocelots, and the word “home” is underlined twice. Your mouse moves over it, and BANG its an ad, sometimes with video, for a mortgage. The most hated ads on the internet. Those little double-blue links are the equivalent of a biohazard logo.
UH . . . If ever you forget that BuzzFeed is written for children who can legally drink by children who can legally drink, it’ll remind you:
There’s also a list of phrases “Americans should keep to themselves,” written by a Brit; it consists of telling people in another country that their vernacular sounds odd to people from other cultures. Really. “Sneakers” should not be used, because we’re not Sneaking. But I’m with him on “Because ______” As in “Because feelings” or “Because reasons.” I’m just waiting for the day when someone who graduates from the BuzzFeed bullpen tries to get a job writing things longer than 17 words, and has a portfolio that consists of stories along the lines of “32 Pugs Who Totally Nailed Monday Because Pugs.”
ARCHITORTURE Demolition of the Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago began last week. There was wailing and gnashing and rending of garments, because it’s . . . iconic. It may be, for some; for others, it looks like the buildings used in movie to show a dystopian future.
Chicago preservationists are also seeking to save this structure , although I think most people would prefer we’d saved the cars. The exterior looks ordinary and oddly proportioned, but the shot of the interior banking hall is gorgeous. The modernism of this era dates well. The modernism of the later 60s and 70s has no, partly because they look like they were made possibly by a grand from the American Concrete Council.
The Guyon Building. Its history can be found here, and it’s a fascinating time capsule.
The Hotel Guyon was the brainchild of J. Louis Guyon, a French-Canadian dance instructor and promoter who made his reputation and fortune with Guyon's Paradise, a nightclub with a 4,000-person dance floor in the rooming-house district. (The Daily News archive has a photo of people thronging Guyon's, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Guyon). But it was no mere ballroom. It was "the most conservative ballroom in Chicago": no Charleston allowed there, nor even the one-step or the fox trot.
Because morals, as BuzzFeed might say.
Across the street, something no one will ever lift a finger to preserve.
It’s an old White Tower, a White-Castle competitor now forgotten. (Well, there’s one left.) This style spread throughout the country, and was a mainstay of the streets of big cities. You want iconic? That design said BURGERS to people in the 20s just as the Golden Arches do today.
VIDEO Finally, this. The driver suffered a broken arm.
About 1:01 is when the policeman who’s banging on the window is glad to have a partner.
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