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 Newspapers

What the NYT got wrong about Minneapolis

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 28, 2014 - 12:25 PM

Isn’t it great that Downtown East is providing a ray of hope for our tired, shuttered, depopulated, aging, tumbledown urban core? The New York Times thinks so. Downtown East is placed in Context straight away, one of those big projects the little cities out in provinces hope will turn around their fortunes.

The blueprint for a bustling downtown stands in stark contrast to the status quo: crumbling asphalt parking lots, tired buildings and limited housing.

The status quo for where, exactly? I’ve rarely seen a parking lot that could be described as crumbling. Tired buildings? You mean the refurbished low-income transitional housing here, or the rehabbed warehouse that’s now residential here, or the adjacent office building that looks as good as it’s ever looked? StarTribune World HQ may be tired on the inside here and there, but outside it’s still stark and clean, and the Armory, while in need of an overhaul, isn’t exactly a weary pile awaiting the sweet release of the wrecking ball. The Juvie center and the adjacent office structure are hardly old. There’s one Tired Building in the area, and it’s a nondescript old industrial building. The Haaf Ramp? Not tired. The jail? Not tired. The Freeman Building? Not tired; dead and gone, and hooray for that.

Limited housing? I’ll admit you have to walk an entire block to get to the rows and rows of condos on Washington, and the journey may deplete one so much the rest of the residential renaissance of downtown must wait for another day. If you knew nothing of Minneapolis, you’d conclude it was a barren expanse where the only residents were rummies in SROs working on a pint of Sno-Shoe.


Emily Dussault, an actor and city resident, welcomes the redevelopment. “When people visit, they anticipate a really exciting and fun place, and we’re like, ‘No, let’s go somewhere else,’ ” she said. Ms. Dussault said she steered out-of-town friends to the more artsy neighborhoods of Uptown and Northeast.

Because there’s nothing to do downtown. If only it had restaurants and bars.

Note that the person quoted “welcomes the redevelopment,” which has nothing in the way of an entertainment quotient.

Many cities have tried to generate urban renewal around a big project like a new stadium with mixed success over the years. It is often hard to persuade those who left for the suburbs to return.

Which is not the point of the project. At all. I don’t remember the part where they unveiled the twin towers of the Wells Fargo project and said “this, and the hotel, will be the spur that brings people to live downtown. We anticipate demand so strong armed guards will be required to restore order after the announcement that the units have been sold.” Downtown East is not meant to revitalize downtown. It is meant to revitalize the few blocks known as Downtown East, thereby complimenting the substantial development that’s taken place nearby.

For Governor Dayton, reviving the downtown means making good on a childhood lesson. “My father and his brothers were retailers, and they preached the downtown,” he said. “If left to its own, development goes to greenfield sites on the outlying areas and you end up with a doughnut hole. Once you get behind the eight ball with a downtown in decay, it’s very, very difficult to turn that around.”

He’s absolutely right. This would be the point where the New York Times mentions exactly what sort of retailers his relatives were, and what happened to the store, and how this kicky little thing called “Target” came out of it, but TMI, I guess.

Then there’s some recaps about the nature of the deal and some rah-rah booster quotes, and this:

Mr. Collins recalled 18 “intense” months of negotiations, culminating in a four-day, Diet-Coke-infused stretch that involved 30 conference calls, 10 law firms and 59 documents and ended with the closing of the Star Tribune property.

Fifty-nine documents! People stop me on the street and ask how many documents were involved in the sale, and which soft drink infused the proceedings. Always felt bad I had to shrug and plead ignorance.

Many local residents express cautious optimism about the redevelopment, dimmed by the protracted battle over financing of the new Vikings stadium, which passed by a 7-6 City Council vote.

I hate it when optimism of the cautious variety is subjected to dimming, but I really don’t think anyone watching the project arise finds their heart snag on the Protruding Nail of Recollected Financing Battles. No one who looks at the renderings of the park puts a hand on their sternum, and thinks oh what unalloyed joy I would feel had not the process been so lengthy or contentious.

It’s in the cutline of the photo, too: “Battles over its financing have dimmed many residents’ optimism about the redevelopment project.” They may have affected how people view the project, inasmuch as some people were opposed to any public participation, but this was baked into the project, and it’s not as if a great blaring blast of optimism has been sullied because people remember the financing battles they had willed themselves to forget.

It’s almost as if a narrative is being imposed on the situation, but c’mon, how likely is that.

The story needed conflict, I guess, because “healthy downtown that never really hit rock bottom revels in a burst of activity” doesn’t have the right worried tone. Will the Downtown East revitalize downtown Minneapolis? One must look to Cleveland in 1973. No, one musn’t. From the sound of the article, Minneapolis has staked everything on one big development, when it’s a culmination of disparate projects that made Downtown East not the savior of the city, but the latest thing.

World's Worst Waiter

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 27, 2014 - 12:31 PM

Sounds like a great night out. From Pricenomics:

Unless you were a VIP, your meal would be over the second your spoon hit the bottom of the bowl: Edsel would come by with a broom and literally sweep you out. Only one diner -- who bought him a “weekly ration of free X-rated movie passes” -- was permitted to enjoy a post-meal cup of “Edsel’s Special Tea” (pure ginseng extract). When another customer saw the drink and curiously inquired about it, he was kicked out. This wasn’t unusual: often, Edsel would forcibly remove seated patrons in the middle of a meal, “just to remind them who was running the show.”

He had busy hands, too.

Edsel was also known for his crass “flirtation:” an entire wall at Sam Wo was dedicated to Polaroid photos of the waiter in various degrees of groping unsuspecting young females. “A charming first date destination if you never want to see your date again,” wrote one reviewer in the late 70s. “My ex-wife ended up on the wall. The groping part was the only time I ever saw Edsel smile. She was not amused.” (The pictures we’ve included in this article confirm Edsel's perennial smile in the presence of ladies -- we don't condone his behavior.)

Of course not! Oh, it was just his madcap charm, as another patron notes. Why, he kissed everyone.

He sounds like a horrible person. It sounds as if people tolerated it to show how they understood the rules of the place - unlike outsiders or first-timers, who’d be appalled and surprised. Oh, not you! Why, Edsel’s been yelling at me for years. We go way back.

See also, Carnegie Deli. They’re notoriously cranky. This is supposed to be part of the charm and experience. Eh.

URBANISM In the future, everyone will live in 100-square-foot apartments.

With the world population expected to rise from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by 2050, living space is becoming more and more of an issue. A student at Parsons has a vision of our future homes that is both clever and disquieting. Bernando Schorr's "Mixed Reality Living Spaces" project highlights how augmented reality can be used to make windowless 100-square-foot apartments hospitable. The video on his website shows projections on the walls changing to accommodate the different configurations of the environment's only furniture, a trio of modular white boxes. The results are depressingly spartan but functional.

There's a selling point.

Whether you will be forced to listen to the music is another matter.

WHARGARBLE Let’s check on our favorite gibberish robot, putting out pages to game the search engines. I have no idea how this is supposed to work to the author’s advantage; the pages all redirect to a standard Blogger template, with no links or ads. Anyway, today’s subject is Jordan Minnesota Newspaper.

Licensed Minnesota claims adjuster, you will not be affected if you fail an alcohol test or if you refuse to submit to the jordan minnesota newspaper. It also provides for substitute services for you in Minnesota but it is important to note, however, that having a limited drivers license in Minnesota are growing, whether you are running low on time and money. You will reimbursed for the jordan minnesota newspaper between the jordan minnesota newspaper or your car insurance state. This means that home buyers must test for radon levels in the jordan minnesota newspaper who have bought properties in Minnesota and other state colleges, there is an abundance of character and charm. Finding fun, variety, value and making lasting memories with a perfect single person for you.

Whoa! Tell me more.

To help and guide potential investors, many large real estate can also be a good news or a culture vulture with a number of abandoned properties across the jordan minnesota newspaper is the jordan minnesota newspaper for the jordan minnesota newspaper of Minnesota and there appears to be completed as well.

Wise words. Take heed.

YOU THERE Buzzfeed, coasting again:

I would submit that it is unlikely that the person in question destroyed anyone’s childhood, let alone utterly destroyed it, but even if such a thing were possible, the idea that one’s childhood could be utterly destroyed 33 times suggests that childhood is capable of almost limitless regeneration.

HIGHER ED By all means, go into debt for this: college courses on Miley Cyrus and Beyonce. Daily News:

In a career of less than a decade, Miss Miley has already proved herself “a useful primary document” for discussions of sex and power in media, teacher Carolyn Chernoff says.

Cyrus went from squeaky clean Disney star to dirty-minded diva strutting her stuff in every concert. She sparked debates about slut shaming, overt sexuality and the privileges of white stars — as when she borrowed twerking from hip-hop culture and brought it to last year’s Video Music Awards.

“She’s a really interesting case study for how someone can represent sex and gender while maturing in the public eye,” says Chernoff, a visiting assistant professor at Skidmore. “Miley is a work in progress, but you can already see such a complex narrative of how people talk about her unbridled sexuality.”

So that’s what we were doing when discussing how stupid she looked with her tongue hanging out. That was a complex narrative. A complex ongoing narrative, for that matter. Debate was sparked, too. Says another prof:

“Miley Cyrus is a delivery device for themes of American life,” he adds. “When you say, ‘Miley Cyrus? Who cares about her?’ you shut down the very purpose of sociology.”

Thanks for the tip, then.

SPRING CLEANING Don’t think of it as “decluttering.” It’s not enough to start throwing stuff away. You need to have a complex narrative. From Salon:

As far as I can tell, decluttering alone is sort of a farce, a trend promulgated on daytime TV and in trite magazine stories like “67 Ways to Declutter a Messy Home.” What we’re not told is that decluttering by itself doesn’t solve the problem, not long term anyway. Discussing how to get rid of our stuff answers only the what side of the equation, but not the why; the action, but not the purpose; the how-to, but not the significantly more important why-to. In other words, the what is relatively easy. We all know instinctually how to declutter—how to get “organized.” But that’s just one part of the larger issue. Instead of “get organized,” I’ve decided I need to start thinking of organizing as a dirty word, a sneaky little profanity which keeps us from really simplifying our lives.

Somehow I think the thesis could have been . . . less cluttered.

Blantantly Secretive

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 2, 2014 - 12:28 PM

There’s a line in the newspaper today that makes my head feel oddly twisted.

“He walked through the puddles when there was a perfectly good road he could have walked on,” she said. “It just didn’t seem right to me because we see people come and go with their trucks, and they don’t come on foot and cut through people’s back yards. It was like he was blatantly trying not to be seen. That’s why I thought it was odd.”

I cannot get my mind around the idea of blatantly trying not to be seen.

ART You should stop taking pictures. Here’s the first part of the argument:

. . . there are two big problems associated with taking pictures. Firstly, we’re likely to be so busy taking the pictures, we forget to look at the world whose beauty and interest prompted us to take a photograph in the first place. And secondly, because we feel the pictures are safely stored on our phones, we never get around to looking at them, so sure are we that we’ll get around to it one day.

Well. I take the pictures off my phone every day, toss the duds, and file the keepers with names that reflect what they show. So I don’t have a wad of files with names like IMG_938439345434.jpg. Yes, you have to take yourself out of the moment to take a picture, but it’s not as if reality is such a hard thing to reenter. Hold on, don’t talk to me! I’m trying to reacclimatize myself to the actual world! We continue:

. . . there’s one thing we should do and that is attempt to draw the interesting things we see, irrespective of whether we happen to have any talent for doing so.

That’s right: stop taking pictures, and start drawing. Because of Ruskin. It’s complicated, so perhaps you should read the piece. But this is advice I have no intention of taking, because when I’m walking through another city with wife and child, they tend to get impatient when I fall behind to shoot an architectural detail; shouting “Hold up, I need to sharpen my pencil” would not go over well.

MEANWHILE IN ENGLAND The BBC is usually above stories like this, aren’t they?

A man has had thousands of pounds worth of music equipment seized after continuously blasting out Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On.

The man, from Hone Street, Strood, breached a noise abatement notice six times, and made his neighbours' lives a misery, Medway Council said.

He was also caught playing James Brown's Love Machine and the theme tune to Toy Story.

Seems more like a Daily Mail story. Hold on, what’s this in the “Related Stories” sidebar?

Televisions, a hi-fi, speakers and DVD players have been seized from a family in Gloucestershire.

The family members, who live in Quedgeley, were served with a noise abatement order three weeks ago and have broken it three times since.

A "significant amount of 'kit' capable of making a noise" was removed on Thursday by police and Gloucester City Council officers.

It’s an epidemic.

VotD Right place, right time, 2 million hits:

The YouTube comments, inasmuch as a theme can be discerned, seem to be debating whether or not the screaming lady was justified nor annoying. I mean forreals smh, lady.

Fact-checking Crankshaft

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 18, 2014 - 12:17 PM

Today’s comic:

If nothing else, it gives you a look into the unrepentant DC fan. Not the cool DC of today, with Batman and . . . well, with Batman. But the old days when Flash comics had stories like “The DA Flash Weighed 1,000 Pounds.” From the issue description:

Grodd gets a job at a circus and with his knowledge of communicating with gorillas has the normal apes of the circus steal parts for him to construct a new device: One that increases the Flash's weight to 1000 pounds, rending him almost inert and striking him with amnesia, Grodd puts Flash in a display as part of the circus' freakshow.

Recalling who he is, Flash finds a way to remove the excess mass by deflating himself with a pin, he then beats Dawson unconscious and turns him over to the police.

Okay. Of course. With a pin. Is that really #115 in his hand? Seems like it. 

But Flash #115 came out in 1960. “Amazing Tales #15” came out in 1962. This doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, I think this comment over at one of the pages devoted to dissecting Crankshaft speaks for many:

Good point.

370 It’s been a trying time for those disinclined to believe in conspiracies. All the confusing details about the missing airliner seem to support the idea of nefarious doings, but there’s nothing conclusive or convincing. A few days ago we learned the pilot was upset because a political leader had been jailed on trumped-up charges, as if that would make someone kill everyone on the plane by climbing too high. then sitting at the controls for seven hours until he ran out of gas. Occam’s Razor, and all that. On the other hand, you should be suspicious of any explanation that feels right, because you’re looking to confirm something you want to believe. All of which is a roundabout way of saying “this is my preferred explanation of the day.” Fire in the cargo hold, says this Wired article.

Why the sharp left turn?

When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles. The captain did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier toward Langkawi, which also was closer.

This is being debunked by those who say the turn was pre-programmed into the computer, which was today’s piece of news. “Pre-programmmed” suggests it was done in advance as part of the Nefarious Plot. Or it could mean the pilot or co-pilot entered it intentionally during the emergency, right?

Everyone is learning just enough about how planes work to remind you that most of us don’t know anything about the subject.

GO BRAGH ETC Was there a Dark Side to green cupakes? I don’t know why, but this strikes me as BS. You know, Blarney Sociology. NPR:

Green food may mean party time in America, where St. Patrick's Day has long been an excuse to break out the food dye. But in Ireland, where the Irish celebrate their patron saint on March 17, green food has bitter connotations that recall the nation's darkest chapter, says historian Christine Kinealy.

The reason, Kinealy explains, is the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, which forced so many Irish to flee mass starvation in their homeland in search of better times in America and elsewhere. Those who stayed behind turned to desperate measures.

"People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass," Kinealy tells The Salt. "In Irish folk memory, they talk about people's mouths being green as they died.”

I’m not Irish, so I didn’t grow up with a folk memory that said people died with green mouths. I assumed things were green because that was Ireland’s symbolic color. You know, the “Emerald Isle” and all that. But where did that term come from? It was first used in a poem by William Drennan, whose daughter married John Andrews, son of a family of successful flax merchants. (This is off the top of my head, but you can check Wikipedia if you like.) (Kidding. Cribbing it all from the entry.) One of their descendants was Thomas Andrews, the designer of the Titanic. And now you know . . . well, there really isn’t a story here, at all. Let’s move along.

DESIGN Thank you, Mr. Craig Ward, for raising the issue of tiresome minimalist movie posters.

By and large, the industry players mandate that Mr Pitt's name be front and centre, at a certain percentage of the poster width. And yes, with a photo. And if you think the production company is paying for a poster without their logo displayed proudly on it then please think again.

All of those elements are, sadly, there for a reason, designed by committee. And to pretend that you're a better designer than someone else just because you can circumnavigate that whole process from the comfort of your laptop, is as good as saying that you'd be a better driver if there were fewer corners and no other cars on the road.

Read the whole thing. I find them annoying because A) they’re always served up by aggregator pages that insist they’re stunning and incredible, and because they only work if you know what the movie’s about. For example, would you go see a movie based on this poster?

Of course! JAWS was awesome! Here’s a real minimalist Jaws poster. Cute. But JAWS is not cute. The original has teeth and imminent mayhem - and it's actually rather minimal by 70s standards.

Hey, here’s another minimalist poster I just made:

They might get that one in France. At least it has the star's name. 

TECH This headline might be a bit extreme: “Popcorn Time is Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare, And It Can’t Be Stopped.” Except that Popcorn Time is Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare. Also, it can’t be stopped. TechCrunch:

Popcorn Time makes it as easy to watch pirated content as Napster did to download songs. It’s a nightmare for Hollywood.

The creators of the original Popcorn Time stated emphatically that it’s perfectly legal to run the app because neither you nor the app “hold” the movies – the Internet holds them. Once installed, however, the program throws a warning screen forcing the user to essentially agree that it’s a bit shady.

The article says it’s Napster for movies, but your average teen torrenting like mad might give you an odd look: Napster? What’s that? It’s more like Netflix for pirates. These things will flourish until there’s an app that lets you stream to your TV anything that’s available at Redbox for the same price. Even then they’ll thrive, because some people don’t want to pay for anything.

ARCHITECTURE Via a Gizmodo story that pleads with cities to stop commissioning interchangeable Calatrava fishbone bridges, a site devoted to - well, let them tell it.

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is perhaps even more renown for surpassing any budget and creating buildings with technical shortcomings than for his bombastic style of architecture. However nowhere a full list can be found of his projects, failures and overspending. This site aims to fill that gap. This is The Full Calatrava.

VotD Man tells dog not to get up on the bed. Man suspects dog is not obeying his wishes when he is gone. Man leaves camera running. Man gets 7 million hits in four days.

Man wishes he had enabled ads.

I don't get it

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: February 17, 2014 - 12:13 PM

Today's "Argyle Sweater" cartoon:

Michael Jackson and Elmer Fudd in 1980. I have no idea. (UPDATE: oh, man. There are TWO possible meanings.)

In related news, Sunday's example of the worst-drawn cartoon featured a woman whose use of a "Clapper" - you know, cutting edge modern tech - caused her husband's heart to stop:

Leaving aside the fact that "womp" is usually spelled with an H, the cartoon made me think of the previous week, which had the same incompetently rendered living room set:

I think he's had 30 years to get his style to this point. 

NYC  A collection of photos from NYC in the 70s and 80s, from -

Well, hold on a moment. First, an example. 

Hey, they had Instagram filters back then? No. But it’s not hard to bring them back to life. Voila:


The photos are from this site, which I wouldn’t have stumbled across if it wasn’t for a blog post about the pictures. And by “blog post” I mean the blogger took fifty pictures and put them up without comment, hoping to snag traffic for his bloodsucking website, so no link for him.

Speaking of New York: the Post revisits the infamous case of Kitty Genovese. If you recall, the New York Times “ reported that 38 of her neighbors had seen the attack and watched it unfold without calling for help.” Word spread:

The Times piece was followed by a story in Life magazine, and the narrative spread throughout the world, running in newspapers from Russia and Japan to the Middle East. New York became internationally infamous as a city filled with thoughtless people who didn’t care about one another; where people could watch their neighbors get stabbed on the street without lifting a finger to help, leaving them to die ­instead in a pool of their own blood.

Too bad it wasn’t true, as the piece reminds us. But it confirmed what people wanted to believe about other people - or at least what some people at the NYT wanted to believe.

COULROPHOBIA The Daily News says the nation may have already passed Peak Clown:

Send in the clowns — please!

As the “Greatest Show on Earth” returns to Brooklyn Thursday, circus folk fear a national clown shortage is on the horizon.

Membership at the country’s largest trade organizations for the jokesters has plunged over the past decade as declining interest, old age and higher standards among employers align against Krusty, Bozo and their crimson-nosed colleagues.

Here’s the sort of thing future generations may never see.

Surely they will curse us for not curating this cultural archetype for  subsequent generations. 

ART 3D GIFs: the oldest art form of the web continues to evolve. How did they do that? Go here for details. 

STYLE People who can’t wait for the next season of “Mad Men” might enjoy this perfectly restored mid-century modern rambler. They might also wish the show still took place in that era.

SCIENCE! Mystery of the rock that appeared on Mars next to Opportunity solved. No surprises, really.

ICYMI: Friday's video of the Home and Patio show, complete with bad JFK imitation. Enjoy the day, whichever President you choose to revere. 


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