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.
Watched “House of Cards.” One Ep. Didn’t gorge. I like to enjoy them at a leisurely pace - say, one expensive, lavishly produced episode per day, instead of hoovering up half one night and the rest the next. You feel both empty and bloated when it’s over. After one episode I knew I’d watch the whole thing, but the only reason was Kevin Spacey’s performance. I wonder if some people didn't watch because they couldn't find it - when I called up Netflix on the TV, I had to search for the show using the remote to click on letters, and even then it was the 3rd result after I'd finished HOUSE/
Yes, such problems. Anyway, here’s something that reminded you that you’re watching fiction, not a thinly-veiled docmentary. If you’re in the newspaper trade, you know when they get things wrong. (Of course, when you’re in any other trade, you know when newspapers get things wrong, but that’s another blog post.) This was amusing:
This is wrong. The headline would not look like that. The story wouldn’t be above the fold crowding out the inauguration photo; that’s something you run across all columns, and you certainly don’t cut it down to run a story about - are you ready for this earth-shattering scoop? - how the first draft of a bill on education reform was more liberal than the newly-elected President had portrayed himself to be. The first draft. Not the one presented to Congress; not the one that came out of reconciliation; the first draft. Which was done before inauguration, and before the new Congress was sworn in. Front page above the fold. Sure.
In the real world, the story about the President’s ringing calls for increased federal involvement in education would contain, in the 47th paragraph, a remark about the “point man” on the bill who was expected to lend “decades of experience” to crafting a bill that had a “vigorous” approach to Federal control over schools. The Washington Post simply wouldn’t do what the show depicted.
Oh, you say, it’s not the Washington Post, it’s the Washington Herald. Yes. “House of Cards” exists in a parallel universe where there is no Washington Post, which doesn’t exactly ground it in the here-and-now, but I had to smile at the way they revealed the name of the paper.
You didn’t see the Herald part, because it was obscured by . . . a POST.
The waif-with-a-burning-sense-of-ambition, by the way, is en route to a break room, where she will say she wants to blog more, and gets shut down by an older editor. There’s not a second of the scene that rings true. Internet? Blogging by underpaid reporters who want to provide online content? Oh get out of here with that.
As I said, I’ll keep watching for Spacey’s performance, but also to see what else they get wrong.
It’s based on a British show, which many say is superior. Makes you wonder if Netflix could do The Singing Detective” againwith songs from the 50s? I know, I know - there’s an American movie version with Robert Downey Jr, and you’d have to shoot off both my kneecaps before I agreed to watch it. Nothing against Downey, although if he does another fey quippy Tony Stark or Sherlock, I’m done with his version of the characters; it’s as if he’s invented an anti-gravitas machine. You cannot turn that story into a two hour movie, just as “Pennies From Heaven” was a spectacular misfire when they converted the long slog of Bob Hoskins’ itinerant song-peddlar into a sparkly, shiny, empty Steve Martin movie. I admire Martin for making the movie, but aside from Christopher Walken’s bartop tap-dance, no.
Feeling punky today - the usual post-Christmas let-down coupled with an adverse reaction to an excess of desserts plus a lack of sleep. Hope your day is much better. Not much on the web today - we’re getting to that point in the year where everyone’s busy writing Ten Best lists for the weekend. Anyway:
Goldman: Way, way back in the day, Newsweek commissioned the Maysles Brothers, who were famous documentary filmmakers, to do a promotional film for the magazine. They hung out with cameras around the offices, followed the whole editorial process. Toward the end of the film there was a scene of the Wallenda dinner, and the Wallies were just hammered. And they still used the film to promote the magazine. I was astonished.
Thomas: Eventually they moved the dinners indoors, up to Top of the Week [the Newsweek dining room], as a way of keeping everybody from getting drunk and disappearing into the night.
Hackett: It was also much cheaper.
Goldman: Russ Chapell was a Nation writer when I arrived in ‘62, not long pre-Graham. He was the best newsmagazine writer I think I’ve ever known. He told me something early in my career. “This is a great job,” he said. “You can do it drunk.” And a lot of Newsweek people did.
It’s a look at the lost culture of the “Mad Men” era, and your liver hurts just reading about it. Reminds me of my first few months working in DC, before Deborah Howell shook up the newsroom culture; some reporters would go to lunch, come back hammered, and type a few words before giving up for the rest of the day.
TECH Heaven forfend a moment goes uninterrupted by the sudden intrusion of a text: here’s a watch that relays your iPhone alerts.
After only a few days of use, it quickly became clear that a smart watch would change how we use our smartphones. Almost immediately, the annoying habit of needing to incessantly pull the phone out of your pocket faded away. Granted, that ritual found itself instead replaced by looking at the watch.
Granted. If it brings back watches, that’s not bad thing. Right now when I take out my phone to check the time, I feel like it’s the 19th century, and I’m pulling out a timepiece on gold chain.
The next step will be a smart earpiece that talks to your smart watch, which talks to your smart phone.
Then there’s this: you may have read the dire stories about Snapchat, which supposedly encourages sexting because its pictures self-destruct quickly. TechCrunch looked at the stories and the authors and the facts, and wrote:
There are two conclusions we can make. The first is that the same folks who serve you a round of tech news with your morning coffee and bagel are also in a Snapchat sexting ring. The second option is that the very same people who have repeatedly assumed that Snapchat is for sexting, and propagated that myth, don’t use Snapchat for sexting at all.
The idea that the self-destructing photo can’t be captured just means that some people will try very hard to work around it. This may bring back cameras, which have seen their popularity wither due to smart phones. In a year, then, the really hip people will have watches and cameras in addition to their smartphones. This will require fanny packs, but don’t worry: at first they will be used ironically in Brooklyn, and then Urban Outfitters will sell them as semi-ironic trend objects. Full-scale re-adaptation will continue nation-wide through 2015.
ART Some interesting “vintage” Radio Times seasonal covers. Another nice find from Brain Pickings, which has an unfortunate tendency to call everything “Stunning.” I mean, these are nice, but I'm not sitting here with my ears ringing, unable for form coherent thoughs.
TOASTY WARM From Smoko, purveyors of cute toast in many forms - really, they make USB sticks and pillows - comes heated typing gloves.
Put that down for next year’s gift list.
MOVIESThe list of rules for hacking movies. This is correct:
Hacking scenes will involve psychedelic user interfaces that look like something out of an early 1990s music video. Remember, hackers never use command lines. That is boring.
True. But the word “psychedelic” isn’t apt. Most movie that involve hacking usually feature some government GUI, which always has a shield and looks Official with lots of bevel-edge buttons. It’s never a standard prompt.
The list omits the cliche of every hacking movie: hacking is accomplished by typing very fast, and the success of the rapid typing is verified when the hacker says “we’re in.” Otherwise it is not a hacking movie.
Alright, I'm done. Time for another glug of Pepto-Bismol. Straight from the bottle.
Fifty-plus and rain. I’ll take it. The drizzle has bollixed up the 35W-94 exchange; on the way to the office traffic was backed up to the Iowa border, but that’s becoming the norm these days. I’m sure they’ll announce an overhaul sooner or later, and everyone will complain bitterly about the delays for three years, after which we’ll whiz through the area without delay, completely forgetting the previous aggravation and taking the clean broad road for granted. Anyway, it would be nice if the rain came in snow form some time this month. Hard to get into the holiday mood when it’s a damp early November day.
The app was initially hampered by technical problems . . .
Yes. It crashed. Open the app: loads, freezes, crashes. Repeat. It’s not as though the iPad was some device with so many wild variations developers couldn’t know what they might experience. If you release something for the iPad and it crashes on the iPad, you’re telling your audience “we’re just throwing this out there because we’re already late and its mostly stable and getting yelled at by the boss for the crashing is something we can put off until next week.”
. . . but the Daily’s key issue was a conceptual one. While the app boasted lots of digital bells and whistles, in the end it was very much a general interest newspaper that seemed to be geared toward people who didn’t really like newspapers. You can’t make that work no matter what kind of platform it uses.
Exactly. It felt like USA Today - something you find outside a hotel room or read at McDonald’s while you have breakfast because someone left it behind.
Meanwhile, in other tech news, Time says:
Redbox and Verizon’s streaming video service reportedly won’t have as many movies and shows as Netflix, but it may be $2 per month cheaper.
The so-called “Redbox Instant by Verizon” will cost $6 per month according to GigaOM’s Janko Roettgers, who discovered the details by looking through publicly available support documents. (The web pages in question now require a password to see.)
Like Netflix, the service will provide unlimited video streaming, but will also have some other optional perks. Subscribers can pay an extra $2 per month for four nights of DVD rentals through Redbox kiosks. (Rentals usually cost $1.20 per night.) The service will also offer on-demand rentals of newer movies, starting at $0.99, with offline access to those videos available on some devices.
Here’s the ad, the usual modern mish-mash aimed at people who actually use the term “bro” to refer to other men:
Who am I supposed to high five? Myself? A person sitting next to me? Verizon? Shouldn't I high-six someone, given the price?
UPDATE You may recall this:
Chinese guy refuses to let them demolish his house to build a road to the new business district. Well.
“Xiayangzhang village chief Chen Xuecai told The Associated Press the house was bulldozed on Saturday after its owners, duck farmer Luo Baogen and his wife, agreed to accept compensation of 260,000 yuan ($41,000).
Mr. Chen says Mr. Luo voluntarily consented to the deal.
Oh, I’m sure he did.
WOW Almost five hours of plane landings in San Diego, collected in one concentrated video.
That’s almost what it looked like at my house on 9/11, when they brought down all the commercial flights as quickly as possible.
TECH Good news! They’re deciding the future of the internet behind closed doors. That’ll go well for all of us. Wired says:
There’s a lot of sky-is-falling doomsday predictions about the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which opens Monday in Dubai with some 190-plus nations discussing the global internet’s future.
That’s because much of the accompanying proposals from the global community have been kept under lock and key, although some of the positions of nations have been leaked and published online.
I don’t know why anyone’s worried. This is the UN we’re talking about, right? Relax. If they don't have everyone's best interests at heart, I don't know who does.
Besides, here’s how attempts to regulate the internet generally end up:
GEEK Finally, a poster for an upcoming movie, with the name and tell-tale typeface removed. It should take you about 2 seconds to realize what it's for.
It’s been reported in several venues that Wal-Mart is seling T-shirts aimed at that rich, broad demographic known as Bronies, Equestria Daily notes that they didn’t quite get it right:
Perhaps because I have a young daughter, I can tell you what’s wrong with this. Wrong Ponies. Those are old, non-hip MLP design. The lettering is amusing; that’s the Iron Maiden font, which makes sense if they’re attempting to draw a line to the 80s MLP design, but there were no Bronies then. At least one can hope.
ADS This is cute, but man, it takes its time getting its point across.
Hats off to the owners of Angel Recording Studios in north London for allowing in 90 toddlers to play with assorted musical instruments and an audio recording kit during a two-day shoot for baby food company Cow & Gate. The end result, which broke in the U.K. on TV and online today, (October 9) is "Supergroup"--a commercial which, thanks to the supreme patience of its makers and judicious editing, is surely destined for both social and awards success (note: Watch the spot before reading further. You’ll appreciate the payoff a little more)
You may wince when the kid picks up the violin. But wait for it. The story regards this as having a “payoff,” but I think it may be the best argument against early childhood music lessons.
DOG This is starting to go viral, as they say of anything except viruses, thanks to a Reddit user. As the dyslexic skeptic said, can Dog make an object so large He cannot move it?
ART Short stories by Robert Bruce. Really short stories. Trust me: you can imagine a movie based on each sentence.
D’OH The Simpsons opening IRL. It’s a few months old, but it’s new to me. Am I just suffering an excess of morning coffee, or do you find yourself leaning forward, thinking: faster. Speed it up. FASTER.
COMICS This has to be the first time this has ever happened: in today's Strib Variety section, simultaneous side-by-side Easter Island references.
Zits, as usual, is better. It's a better-drawn strip, and usually funnier. (In the context of "comic page funny," anyway.) That Grimm thing has been going on for what, 40 years? Why did it start? Whats the point? We'll figure out the meaning of the Easter Island statues before that one's explained.
Have a find day; bundle up. See you around.
It’s freezing out there. That’s a sweater-wind out there. That’s the sharp breeze you get in September that says “oh, it’s over. It’s so over.” But let’s just pretend it’s an anomaly that has no portents for the future, and move along with some internet stuff. Short on content today; working on a column.
SCIENCE! This scrollable panorama of Mars is absolutely stunning, and I don’t use that word often. I hate how everything that looks good is “stunning.” This is stunning. The only problem: if I’m looking down on the lander and I don’t see a pole . . . where’s the camera? I’m sure people will seize on this to say the landing was fake. Yes, they wouldn’t have thought of that, if they’d faked it. Big whoops there in the set-design department.
C’mon. They’re don't have to fake anything when they are obviously capable of keeping it real.
LANCE LAWSON Here’s your mystery for today. Match wits with Minneapolis’ sharpest detective! Not only does he get a confession out of the guy in three panels without saying why he suspects the killer, the guy spills his motive. Downcast and abashed.As well he should be.
D’oh Yes, the second Simpsons post this week. It happens. It’s odd, since I stopped watching the show almost a decade ago, back when it lost its heart and started being “Homer chooses a new stupid thing to do, with guest star Elton John.” But Vulture notes:
According to the Simpsons Wikia, after 23 seasons there are now 1,612 characters in The Simpsons’ universe, from major to minor to celebrities just passing through for a voice cameo. When citing or quoting the show’s most memorable supporting figures, most fans tend to dwell on such iconic recurring Springfieldians as Comic Book Guy and Lenny and/or Carl, who have strutted (or, in the case of Disco Stu, danced) through the town on multiple occasions. But this gives short shrift to the more fleeting figures, those quick cameos who may have only been seen in one episode or even had just one line, but still made an impression on the show's obsessive fans.
Vulture polled current Simpsons writers to see which obscure characters they liked. I didn’t recognize the first three. The fourth is the security guard who busts Bart for getting the four-finger discount on what, Bonestorm? Was that the name of the game? Hard to believe that Bleeding Gums Murphy is a fleeting figure - he’s been in the credits since the show began, right? And while we all love Spider-Pig, c’mon. We only like him because of his song.
OOPS So you’re heading into choppy economic waters with an outdated business model, nimble competition and technological change that’s demolishing the very existence of your core product, what do you do? Why, load yourself up with debt, of course. You’ll have to hit the link to see which industry I mean.
LANCE SOLUTION Had the rope broken when he was pulling on it, the victim would have been hurled away from the bale!
Enjoy the rest of your day. And bundle up.
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