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 Minnesota History

Unbuilt Minneapolis: the Horrors

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 25, 2014 - 12:23 PM

You’re not a hoarder. You’re an archivist! That’s why some people don’t throw away those old Do you have VHS and Betamax tapes in the basement They may be the only copy of an old cable-access show or a 1985 commercial or a news anchor’s brief appearance filling in for the top dog. You could digitize them yourself, which of course you won’t, or donate them to an organization that will. The Internet Archive is uploading 40,000 tapes to the Internet - and it’s one person’s collection. Fast Company:

When Trevor von Stein first heard the story of a woman named Marion Stokes who spent decades recording television news, tape-by-tape, in her home, something resonated with him. "I just sort of tingled," he says. "I understood this woman a little bit." Von Stein also had something akin to a hoarding impulse, though most of what he kept--a large music library, his photos--was digital. And he believed in Stokes’s mission. “From one kindred spirit to another," he says, "I thought we had to do it justice.”

Soon after he learned about Stokes, von Stein became a volunteer at the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization that plans to digitize and make public the 40,000 tapes Stokes left behind when she passed away in 2012.

More here.

COOL Says io9: “We love staring at posters for our favorite movies for hours and hours. And you know what makes it even better? When those posters move." Agreed. Some of these you might have seen before, and not all are animated GIFs; some on this page are in Flash form, so don't bother if you're on an iPad or iPhone. 

Here’s one you haven’t seen, because I just made it:

(In case you’re curious: 15 frame grabs, with the right side of the poster pasted on each with the layer set to “lighten,” then compiled in GIFbrewery.)

URBANISM Another piece on unbuilt cities - in this case LA, which attracted so many utopian schemes. But Minneapolis had its share of unrealized projects as well, and in each case we are very, very lucky they didn’t follow through. The soulless complex originally pitched for the Government Center:

Instant Big Downtown, I guess, but deadly dull. That wasn’t the only scheme for the idea: there was something called the Short Megaplan, which would have built a massive complex between 3rd and 4th avenue South, from City Hall to the freeway. Good Lord:

For perspective: that’s the Foshay.

It would have brought the barren and brutal concrete aesthetic of Cedar Square to downtown.

Say hello to this brute, which would have stood where the Opus Towers on 5th rise gracefully today:

That’s how it looks in the drawing: ready to fall over.

Not all the plans were bad: there's no denying the beauty of the 1917 Plan, even though it was generic French-City style. 

Should they have made the entire downtown look like that? No. A few blocks? Yes.


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AAAEEEEIIIII Bruce Wayne nods approvingly: Andrew Rossig, Marco Markovich, and Kyle Hartwell B.A.S.E. jumped off the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower in September 2013, landed safely, and escaped capture. They also filmed it. That they did. B.A.S.E., btw, stands for Buildings, Antennae, Span, and Earth.

Wikipedia notes that this pastime has a long history: n 1912, Franz Reichelt, tailor, jumped from the first deck of the Eiffel Tower testing his invention, the coat parachute. He died.

There’s film of that, too.

VotD This is going around the internet like a brush fire today; everyone’s linking to it. Who am I to be different? The ultimate Generic Brand Video. (Has a cuss word.)

This Is a Generic Brand Video from Dissolve on Vimeo.

Copy-protected Coffee Pods?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 24, 2014 - 1:21 PM

Yes. A coffee-maker has decided to model its next-generation devices after another piece of tech everyone loves: printers. Ars Technica on the new Keurig:

it makes sense to look at another analog product with its own rights management and interoperability issues—printer ink/toner cartridges. Each printer company jealously guards its model of cartridges, doing everything it can to make them proprietary and unrefillable, because, of course, the real money in printing is in selling the ink/toner at a large profit . . . 

When asked how Keurig might do this with a coffee pod, Stoltz speculated that the pod and the coffee machine would have to perform a handshake similar to that of Lexmark's printers and cartridges. "I imagine you could do this with the equivalent of the RFID chip they put in subway tickets," said Stoltz. "My guess is that a chip that could do this could be very small and very cheap.”

I think they’re underestimating the potential for customers to desert the brand entirely. Look for the term “massive write-off” to appear in future stories about the project.

HISTORY It’s an old page, but I found it yesterday and hence assume it’s new to everyone else in the world: a tour of Minnesota small-town movie theaters. You can spend some time on Google Street View finding contemporary images in context.


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That’s a Leibenberg and Kaplan, like all the great movie theaters of Minneapolis. A complete list of their work is here - Google away!

ART Many different takes on the works of Stephen King, including some icons that may take a while to figure out. Any guesses?

Langoliers, I believe. 

VotD Boom!

Don Draper is Looking at Something

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 21, 2014 - 12:42 PM

AV Club asks us all to “overanalyze another vague ‘Mad Men’ trailer.

Pete’s picking up a ticket and the sign by his head says “To Street” with an arrow! This means he’s going to be fired!

”Mad Men” resumes next month, takes a break halfway through the season, and concludes in 2017, when each episode will be shown in 5 minute servings, letting AMC draw the last season out through 2019.

Related: The world’s most INCREDIBLE abandoned airports! You’ll have to go elsewhere to read about the world’s most banal, utterly believable abandoned airports. The deserted passenger lounge in Cyprus is the best one. What do

VotD “That was an astonishing illusion. I must now consume this brand of caffeinated brown liquid.”

NERRRRRRDS Perhaps the most authoritative assembly of pictures of “white guys wearing Oculus Rift” gear.

They really do make you look odd. I want one so badly.

HISTORY The Valspar renovation has uncovered some Ghost Signs, old painted remnants of the company’s early years. Photos of its original state here. Quite amazing, really: they were painted over, and survived the removal of the murals put up decades ago. Then again, the company made paint, so they probably used the really good stuff. 

Have a grand weekend! See you here Monday.

"Incredibles 2" is ON

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 19, 2014 - 12:50 PM

Happy news:

Twitters are less impressed with more Cars, but they’re probably not the target market - i.e., boys who have Lightning McQueen bedsheets. Not to say the second one was bad; it was just . . . I don’t know. The first was a rather sweet love letter to small-town America, and you wish they’d left it there.

Oh, by the way: if this doesn’t say Easter, nothing does:

Elsewhere in entertainment:

Related: here’s the trailer for “Fargo,” the TV series. Can’t hurt. I mean, if it’s bad, it’s not as if it makes the original movie evaporate. Still wish it was set in, you know,  Fargo.

URBAN STUDIES This piece on the Nicollet Mall redesign starts thus:

When Minneapolis tried to wipe out its Depression-era skid row in the Gateway District, planners thought of downtown as the Central Business District—a serious place where men did business, women shopped at the elegant Dayton’s and Young-Quinlan Department Store, and virtually no one lived at all.

I’m not sure “Depression-era” is the right way to characterize it; most of the buildings were put up long before the 30s. Which provides us with a good excuse to run some Library of Congress photos of the old Gateway. Such as:

Unrecognizable today. There’s nothing in that picture that’s left except the fountain, and it was moved to the Rose Garden. Another shot, this time of Washington Avenue:

It all looks careworn and dusty, but who wouldn't give anything to spend a day walking around the old Gateway?

Meanwhile, this piece is going around the web today, defending New York and mocking those who have a romantic notion of the place.

Complaining is the only right you have as a New Yorker. To complain is to tell the truth. People who refuse to complain, and insist on having a positive outlook, are monsters. Their optimism is a poison. If given the chance they will sell you out.

New York will kick you in the hole, but it will never stab you in the back. It will, however, stab you multiple times right in your face. 

I’d like to read what he writes when he really starts to hate New York.

That’s it; have to go interview some people about Beagles. See you around.

The Future of GIFs

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 7, 2014 - 11:54 AM

As far as I know this is the only video of the destruction of the Merchants building. Even worse: it’s not a video but a GIF. On the other hand, they’re very compact. As videos, they weighed in at half an MB, tops; as a GIF with no compression they waddled in at 13 MB. Thanks to Gfycat, they’re down to half an MB again.

If you can see it, then it works. The Merchant building was next to the Rand Tower; there’s a parking ramp on the space today. The site also included the Thorpe Building:

Both buildings are long forgotten. If you're curious what the block looked like: 

The little bank in the middle survives as a facade on the ramp; it was the Marquette Bank, which chose an Egyptian style because people were just nuts about all things Tut at the time it was built in the 20s. Odd choice, but a nice addition to downtown. 

Anyway, GFYcat drastically compresses GIFs and saves the world untold gigs of bandwidth. It’s free and you don’t have to sign up. They not only compress your GIFs into versions that can be slowed down or paused or reversed, they host them.

What nice folks!

What's in it for them, you wonder?  

GAMING This game review makes it sound like a bowl of spinach, no? “ENCOURAGES PLAYERS TO LEARN ABOUT TYPE BY EXPLORING A WORLD OF FONTS, MARIO-STYLE.” Another review has a warning: “The game freezes if you try to read a recently captured asterisk entry while in the process of dying.” So it’s ultra-realistic! Hard to describe, really - you’re pushing two dots along a landscape made up of letters while atmospheric music lends an otherworldly air. I’ve never liked side-scrolling games that make you jump. I love this thing. You can get it here.  I got it free from a Starbucks promotion; you'll have to pay $3 or see if Starbucks still has cards left with a free code. 

In related news - art and architecture, that is - here are some buildings made to look like the work of famous artists. For some reason. This one's easy:

This one's a bit more challenging.

Many many more, here.

FOLLOW-UP Wednesday I put up that Schlitz ad to show the difference between the real thing and the one going around the Internet. I was paging through an old Life from the same era, and found another from the series that shows a guy screwing up as well. In fact, "beer as compensation for screwing up" was the point of the entire campaign. So:

See? Guys in beer ads were stupid too. 

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