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

Congressional gridlock leads to more privacy for pandas

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 1, 2013 - 12:29 PM

The PandaCam is part of the non-essential government services, and has gone dark while the nation descends into its Hobbesian nightmare. But there’s a note on the page: “Sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund.”

It would be amusing to go back in time, sit down with Henry Ford, and explain how some day his company’s philanthropy would be directed to let people watch pandas on an “electronic window” on their desk. Probably not an outcome he expected when he was tinkering with his first engine. If this goes well, no one in the world will be more than a few simple steps away from glimpsing playful, monochrome ursinity. Anyway, it looks like this now. AKA, the same as it does at night, right?

HIGHWAY FRACAS Here’s the LiveLeak description:

A black Range Rover ran over a group of bikers in New York City during an annual street ride. After running over multiple people at the :50 second mark, he takes off only to run over another person at the 5:00 minute mark.

That’s one way of introducing the video. If that’s all one read, you might conclude it’s a case of Evil SUV vs. bikers out exercising their right to share the road. But! The note adds an update about additional info, which goes to this Daily Mail story: The driver who was chased and beaten up in front of his wife and child by a pack of motorcyclists after trying to run over them in his SUV

This automatically discredits the information in the eyes of some people, since the Daily Fail - ha ha, get it - cannot be trusted any more than Faux News. I’ll grant that the Mail’s piece is borderline illiterate:

Alexian Lien's Range Rover was the man attacked by motorcyclists after he accidentally hit a biker
Lien, 33, then crash through the mob in his vehicle, fearing for the safety of his wife Rosalyn Ng, and their 5-month-old child

But that seems to be what happened. Here’s the Daily News tale, which seems to be different today than it was yesterday:

Wealthy couple attacked by wild pack of motorcyclists after harrowing 4-mile chase on the West Side Highway following fender bender turned hit-and-run — driver fled after running over biker.

What difference does his income make? Are we supposed to feel a little better, knowing that his income did not insulate him from random violence, or that his income level had produced the requisite callousness that enabled him to “flee” after striking another biker? I seem to remember that this was the original tone of the headline yesterday:

A dad out for a Sunday drive on his first wedding anniversary was beaten and slashed by a vicious mob of motorcyclists in upper Manhattan who dragged him from his SUV in front of his wife and 2-year-old child.

Bit different, isn’t it?

As for the cyclists:

The commissioner said police had been monitoring the ride — loosely organized by a group that calls itself Hollywood Stuntz. He said about 1,000 riders caused chaos in Times Square last year when they showed up out of nowhere and disrupted traffic.

Jalopnik has a video of the “Stuntz” in 2011, and asks Did Hollywood Stuntz Attack This Prius Driver in 2011? Marvelous lads.

LIFE IMITATES SIM CITY That’s all I’ll say. Either you’ll get it or you never played the game, which is certainly possible. I bought a bundle yesterday that had Civ V; it marks the third version of Civilization I’ve bought in a bundle, and I’ve never launched one of them. Speaking of games:

DUKE NUKEM SYNDROME This is the best video you’ll see today! No, it’s not. It was the best video I saw yesterday. I have no idea what you’ll see and no desire to set your standards for you. 

Via Kaching.

While I’m on those irritating YOU headlines, here’s one from Daily Dot: “Now 10 years old, 4chan is the most important site you never visit.” Nah. It's not. 

Enough! It’s a perfect day; nice work, October. We’re on your side. Keep it up, and we’ll have a nice Fall Happiness Season.

You did know it was Fall Happiness Season, right? Let’s enjoy every moment of it! That’s what the full ad said. It was a campaign run by movie theaters to make you go to movies and be happy. In the fall.

Today's worst comic is . . .

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 12, 2013 - 12:23 PM

It’s debatable. There are so many choices. Some strips have gone on so long, for no apparent reason other than they’re bolted in place with some sort of cultural superglue, and can’t be pried loose. Mother Goose and Grimm comes to mind. Today’s punchline:


Yes, that’s our bid for getting those younger readers! Nixon references!

OOPS Two years later, everyone who lived in the building had the most amazing legs ever seen in Spain:

The builders of the InTempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain, what was supposed to be a striking symbol of prosperity amid the country's financial crisis, forgot to include a working elevator.

It had been slated to be the tallest residential block in the European Union.

El País reported the 47-story building has been plagued by construction and economic woes since the project began, calling InTempo "an incompetence of high stature."

Gizmodo explains how this happened, although you really can’t:

The original design obviously included specifications for an elevator big enough for a 20-storey building. In the process of scaling things up, however, nobody thought to redesign the elevator system—and, naturally, a 47-storey building requires more space for its lifts and motor equipment. Sadly, that space doesn't exist.

It would seem to be the sort of thing that would become obvious rather quickly, no? Of course it was. Yet everyone went on building up and up it as if somehow the shafts would materialize. The architects responsible probably stayed in their offices and let the calls go to voicemail.

It looks like this, if you're curious. Interesting building. 


What did the architect do after he ran to another country to start a new life? Got a job as a crane driver, I guess.




PEACE AND QUIET This sounds like hell for some:

The town of Bomont outlawed dancing in the movie Footloose, but the kids in Green Bank, West Virginia live with much worse: no electronics.

That's because the small town of 149 people lies in the middle of the 13,000-square mile National Radio Quiet Zone.

Scientists use this space to project satellites into space for research, and they can't have waves from personal electronic devices interrupting their signals. That means no radio,  TV, WiFi, cellphones or bluetooth.

Okay, well, I suppose you like it or you move. I was on vacation for the last two weeks, and the vessel had internet that made you long for the blazingly fast days of dial-up 300 baud modems. I have to think it’s faster on the bridge. Otherwise they’d do better to get weather information by carrier pigeon. My daughter won a raffle for 100 free minutes the first day, and she used it all Instagramming pictures to her friends. I think she managed to upload one. I had my phone turned off, lest you get a a $9386 roaming charge. Didn’t miss a thing. It’s a good lesson. When we got home the DSL had gone out, and wasn’t repaired for two days; I could use my phone for internet, but I’d gotten out of the habit of checking EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME, and found myself reading a book, writing more.

Highly recommended. 

NO, NO NO For some reason the NYT did a piece on that notorious reel of nightmare fuel, “Foodfight.” I don’t know what’s better in the trailer: the announcement that Charlie Sheen plays the hero, or the line “it’s a battle between the world’s most beloved brands and the forces of darkness.” The article doesn’t have the clip. Really, this is all you need to know.


He hit a bus. Then it gets worse

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 23, 2013 - 12:36 PM

This has a payoff that’s all better for the element of surprise and the quantity of incompetence that preceded it. Look in the upper-middle area to find the scooter-driver who collided with a car, then follow the worst minute of his life.

It is critical that you watch to the very end.



YOU THERE I hate to keep banging this gong - well, not really; I rather enjoy it - but this grates on me almost as much as LOL, Today’s utterly irritating second-person headline is from the Daily Dot: 9 Foods you’re totally eating wrong. As if they know. “Nine Clever Ways to Eat Food” would suffice, no? When did the internet become such a bossy clod?

Ever since the rise of the phrase “You’re doing it wrong,” that’s when. That was nine years ago, according to

The earliest known reference of “You’re Doing It Wrong” can be found in the domain name[1] registered on January 21st, 2004; however, there are no archives or records regarding the content of the site.

The first known instance of the “You’re Doing it Wrong” image macro series was created by Sabastien Grillmaier, who uploaded the image onto the Something Awful forum in August 2004.

Google Trends notes that the phrase started to take off in 2007.

So now YOU know.

 SO YOU'RE READING A BLOG POST Recall those Simpsons episodes in which someone reads a pamphlet, and it's titled "So You're Going to Become Morbidly Obese," or something like that. I think there was one in the waiting room in "Beetlejuice" - "So You're Dead," perhaps. There's a reason for the cliche: that's how pamphlets were titled.


It's an employee hand book from 1949. Or "employe," to use the curious spelling of the day. A sample from the section explaining how things work:


Bender's great-great-great (X100) grandtather, perhaps. Here's what really stuck out. Medical benefits were a bit simpler then.



A hundred bucks for a baby: that about covered it. There are various ways of calculating what $100 would be today, but this site suggests it's about $963. Which, today, would cover the cost of the paperwork for admission.




Name this old Dayton's Location!

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 27, 2013 - 12:13 PM

Can you identify this location?



I found it in a 1947 newspaper. I had no idea Dayton’s set up shop there.  Answer at the bottom.

 In related Strib news:



 That’s from an ad the Star-Tribune’s “What Makes a Newspaper Great?” series, which ran nationally for four years. One of the things that made us Great was the Minnesota Poll, which found all sorts of interesting facts:


13% of Minnesotans weren't happy they were born? Wonder what it's like now. I'd bet you get 96% on that question answering "Glad." Why, otherwise the world would be deprived of wonderful Us.

I’m digitizing the whole series, so expect a few more from time to time. They ran in Time, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, and other national publications.

I’ve no idea why.


WHOA NPR posts this video of a light pole lancing a Chinese bus, and says “Don't click on the videos we're writing about here unless you're prepared to be scared.”

How do you prepare to be scared, exactly? Doesn’t the act of pre-fright prep diminish the amount of scaring you’ll receive? It’s as if NPR is making a legal disclaimer in case someone complains in the comments.





Of course, what idiot would complain in the comments about the secondary effects of a YouTube video? For example: this remarkable video has gotten 2 million hits, because people cannot believe there are people who have decided to wear Superman Emulation Machines and dive from the sky into skyscraper crevasses.




The comment section is a scrolling encomium to human ingenuity and bravery, as well as the marvels of the modern age that permit ordinary folk to have extraordinary moments - and share them with millions of people! Just kidding; the comments start out like this:

I flagged this video for promoting dangerous acts.. My 6 year old tried to jumped off the roof yesterday thinking he can do this ****.. You stupid ****ers want to do this great but don;t post it where kids can watch it

That’s right: it’s the fault of YouTube and the uploaders for this woman’s six-year-old jumping off the roof. Well, let’s take a look at the author's channel, where she posts Poser 8 recreations of the “Exorcist” movie. Just because. Why, look at what happens right here.

 You didn’t know the Exorcist took place in a Manhattan skyscraper, did you?

Back to NPR. They ran another scary video about a piece of wood going through a car window. The preface:


Whether it actually is or isn't the "scariest car crash ever caught on video," as says, this is a truly frightening thing to watch — even if you know it's coming and that the driver wasn't hurt. So, be warned: This clip is only 40 seconds long and at the 32-second mark a board comes flying into the windshield. Please don't press play if you aren't sure you want to watch.

What sort of tender souls does NPR believe visits its pages?


SPRING BREAK Disneyworld update, in case you’re heading to Florida:

It is another cool one in Central Florida, and as a result, Disney will not be opening Blizzard Beach today. Typhoon Lagoon will be open however. Temperatures today are forecast to be in the 60s, with lows in the 40s.

I sigh with fellow-feeling for anyone who's there and wants warmth. Also, the Magic Kingdom hit capacity around noon and started turning away people who just showed up without tickets. It’ll reopen later, as it did yesterday, but a reminder: PLAN AHEAD.

 In a few years, there will be a new attraction - or rather an old one, redesigned. Disney Springs. It’s an overhaul of Downtown Disney, doubling the number of shops, restaurants, and other attractions. Looks great. You’d hope that the greater number of restaurants means they’ll increase capacity, but it’ll probably mean the usual Disney wait. Last time we were at Downtown Disney we ate at a fish-and-chips joint made to look like a real Irish place based on Real Irish Place. After I’d ordered I got a number on a stick. 97. I watched the kitchen to see what was coming out.


There were seventy-six orders in front of ours. And it was 8:00 PM. I think it was 8:30 before we got our cod-slabs. Which managed to be cold.

The drawings look like it’ll be more “retro” than the current version, which is starting to look like a 80s “power center” outdoor mall. Can’t wait, realy.


ARCHITECTURE The most brutal review of a building I’ve read in some time. Then again, the author appears to be in favor of buildings that “dramatically unsettle” the occupant, so perhaps he’s annoyed the museum spaces aren’t claustrophobic warrens with Caligari-style perspective.

It’s the Perot Museum of Science, by the way, and from this story it does seem to offer inadvertent finger removal. Which would be dramatically unsettling. WARNING! Story has picture of a hand without a finger. Brace yourself. Do not click. In fact turn off the computer and go walk into a closet and stay there until the crisis has passed and the internet is over.

The architecture firm’s site is intriguing; I think I disklike about everything they do. Like this.  I have nightmares about things like that. With hair on the top, no less. Says the explanation:

Drawing on the power of parametric scripting, the design of the Phare Tower gathers disparate programmatic, physical, and infrastructural elements from the requirements of the building and its surrounding context, and synthesizes these into a form that seamlessly integrates the building into the idiosyncrasies of its site while expressing multiple flows of movement.

Uh huh. I’m sure it does. They’re also quite proud of this:


View Larger Map



ANSWER: Of course, that's the space beneath the ramp that goes up to the Grandstand. It's unused now; the Pioneer Press had it for a few years, and I remember doing some booth work there. People came for the cool shade; people left because of the musty dankness. All that concrete holds the memories of decades of rain.

Only six months until the Fair!

Dennis Rodman is in Best Korea for some reason

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: February 26, 2013 - 12:46 PM

We’ll get to that. Bear with me; the blog software is acting up, refusing to load images, kicking me to the login page, and generally making a mockery of the fact that I spent the morning writing with the thought - the mad, baseless thought - that it would end up on the web. Grrr.

First, conceptual art at its finest. In these photos, you’re supposed to infer the power of celebrity from its absence, or its implied presence, or something like that. Pictures of celebrities, hiding.

In essence, Buck plays a game of hide-and-seek with his famous subjects, inviting them to hide for 30 seconds while he takes the portrait. Buck shot about 75 percent of the images in Presence piggybacking on assignments and asking the celebrity if they would be interested in being part of the project.

Take a look at the pictures, and see if you can find the celebrity. You can’t. But they’re there. So he says. Of course, there’s always one way to find out.



The article's URL  says the art  "examines the way we look at celebrities' photos." If you say so.

Okay, hold on; I'm going to try to load the next entry.

Worked! Let's try another.


RIP Former Surgeon General C. Edward Koop has died, and for many of us, it was a question of remembering A) his service, B) his trademark beard, or C) this moment from “The Be Sharps.”



Answer for me was “C.”

Now let's try to load an image. That seems to be the problem today . . Nope. Well. We'll carry on without images, then. 

ARCHITECTURE Houses built just to spite someone else. This is a different category from “houses someone didn’t want to see to a developer, requiring the entire building to be redesigned. Like this one.  That’s the Gilsey Building down there in the bottom. Couldn’t come to terms with old man Gilsey, it seems.


THE WORLD The first Instagram from North Korea. Filters? That’s probably the real color. It reminded me that it had been some time since I visited the parallel world of the North Korean news agency. Let’s take a look at today’s top story, shall we?

The dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, issued an order to conduct an artillery firing drill in order to examine the capability of artillery units to fight an actual war and guided it on the spot.

He learned about the training program and the deployment of firepower units from the commander of the exercise before ordering its start.

 At that moment, an endless barrage of shells were fired by artillery pieces on the "enemy's positions," their roar rocking heaven and earth, and all of them were enveloped in flames.

Feasting his eyes at the "enemy positions" in flames, he was satisfied with the shells accurately hitting the targets.

He noted that if the drill leads to an actual battle, the enemies will be hit so hard by the retaliatory strikes of the infuriated powerful revolutionary army of Mt. Paektu that they would not be able to raise their heads again.

I’ve been reading that site off and on since the late 90s, and the flavor of crazy never varies. 

Oh: Dennis Rodman is in North Korea.   

TECH I like this idea: for a five bucks a month, these guys will pick up you mail, scan it, and put it online so you need never go to the postal box again. If you want a particular piece, they’ll deliver it.

If you wonder what sort of person can’t be bothered with their own mail, the company provides a handy example. She’s quirky!


Laura the Biscotti Chef - Living Smarter, Modern Lives from Outbox on Vimeo.


This would appeal to those who get their mail somewhere else than work or home, I guess. I cannot imagine paying someone to drive to my house, clean out the mailbox, scan it, and email me a link. It’s not like the mailbox is a mile away on the other side of a minefield.


MEDIA The International Herald Tribune will be renamed the International New York Times. To which people said, for the most part: okay. If you have any interest in newspaper culture, it’s sad - the old name was the last vestige of a long-lamented Gotham daily which died in the great strike of the 60s. It was founded in 1835 by a cross-eyed Scot named James Gordon Bennett; his son took it over in 1866, and carried on a spirited rivalry with Horace Greeley’s Tribune. The Herald bankrolled explorer Morton Stanley to go to Africa, where he supposedly said “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” - a famous quote no one parodies anymore. Bennett Jr. was quite the rake:

Bennett moved permanently to Paris in 1877 following a scandal in New York: the publisher, arriving drunk at a party in the mansion of his fiancee's parents, reportedly urinated in the fireplace or the piano (the exact location differed in witnesses' memories). The engagement was broken off, and Bennett remained a bachelor into his 70s.

Took him ten years, but eventually Bennett founded the international edition.

Greeley  was a different sort. Famous for saying “Go West, Young Man.” (Sort of.) He ran for President, failed, and went mad. Richard Kluger’s “The Paper,” an account of the newspaper’s history from start to finish, is the best book ever written about a newspaper - out of print, alas. The only vestige of the old journal might be “New York” magazine - begun as a Sunday magazine, back when papers did such things.

That'll do for the day - I could tell you how a new theory says Dark Matter doesn't exist, but let's let our belief systems stay intact for at least another day. Now I'm going to go kick the server. 



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