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 Outstate

How the Internet covered the West Bank Fire

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 2, 2014 - 12:29 PM

The ZITE app scrapes the web and assembles stories automatically - like Flipbook, without the sense that the pages never end and you’ll never read it all. You can scan articles, decide you want to read them later, shoot them to a read-it-later service, then ignore them until you delete them later. Anyway, the Minneapolis subhead was full of stores about the West Bank fire; here are a few.

Downtown? I don’t consider the West Bank to be “downtown,” but maybe that’s just me. The highway is like a moat, or the Miss - it defines downtown, contains it. Decades ago when the streets behind Cedar Square West (oh, all right, Riverside Plaza) connected with downtown, it might be considered the outskirts, but now? Looks odd. But then there’s this:

A “Minnesota” building. Well, better than “North American,” I suppose. From the Daily Mail in Northernmost Europe:

Now it's a house. Finally, the Free Republic:

Hint, hint, I guess. And it's not a complex. It's an old apartment building. The Complex is the thing behind it.

UPDATE In case anyone’s wondering about the Shia LaBeouf plagiarism tale, there’s this:

(Photo from his twitter feed, here.)

He hired a skywriter to say he was sorry. Too bad the object of the apology lives in another town. It’s almost as if it was meant for the public at large.

Bleeding Cool says they interviewed him, and the conversation is a masterpiece of pretentious drivel.

Richard Johnston: Tweeting with the voice of others. Is this art?

Shia LaBeouf: What does an artist do – they just point and say look at this.

RJ: No, that’s what a critic does.

This may be my favorite part - the interviewer asks if people who create things - like, oh, an illustrated novel - should be paid for their labors. Says LaBeouf:

“Authorship is censorship Should God sue me if I paint a river? Should we give people the death sentence for parking violations-You’ll not only have less parking violations but less DRIVERS.”

The interviewer gently notes that “God’s rights to rivers have entered into public domain now,” and says that you should pay your driving fines and refrain from parking on other people’s lawns, or stealing other people’s cars. In other words, he’s maneuvering the subject towards the subject of appropriating Daniel Clowes’ work. Here’s LaBeouf’s bold statement:

The word law is against my principles.
The problem begins with the legal fact that authorship is inextricably
bound up in the idea of ownership and the idea of language as
Intellectual property. Language and ideas flow freely between people
Despite the law. It’s not plagiarism in the digital age – it’s repurposing.
Copyright law has to give up on its obsession with "the copy"

The article’s update informs us that the last sentence is actually a quote from Lawrence Lessig. Follow it here, as people dig through the quotes to see if he said anything original. 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE INTERNET The New York Times had a long piece about the eternal search for non-sugar sweeteners. The first comment is by someone who should well a bell in public so you can avoid her.

Hahaha - wow! What a long-winded (but interesting in scan-mode) article on the exhaustive efforts by the poor beleaguered beverage companies to come up with a people-approved sweetener for diet soda and other manufactured drinks. Whew - just imagine what would happen if they (and other frivolous product manufacturers) put their efforts toward World Peace.... or Renewable Energy... or such.

Somehow I doubt that strife on earth could be eliminated if we refocused our efforts to develop non-caloric food additives.  

The Telepathic Elf Advocate

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 23, 2013 - 12:39 PM

They have magical powers, but they can't get across a highway:

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church. The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.

Hundreds of people, relative to Iceland’s population, is no small number. The article quotes a human intermediary who communicates with the elves telepathically. The solution seems clear: Elf Crossings, and tunnels placed at regular intervals.

About that Elf Advocate: she’s named Ragnhildur Jonsdottir. Google that, and you get two people. One’s an actress.

She’s the blonde in this movie, “the top-grossing film in Iceland in 2007!” She will enter the world of role-playing nerds:

Or, this Ragnhildur Jonsdottir.

You could probably go to Iceland and run into either one. Why not try? It's only six hours away, and Iceland Air flies to the Twin Cities. Delicious pastries served before you land, and the all-Iceland music channel gets you in the mood.

COFFEE Good restaurants are using Nespresso cups. Is this an unpardonable sin against humanity? Aeon mag:

You might not care much about fine dining or coffee. But you probably do value the skills of the artisan and might well believe that food is one of the ever-dwindling number of domains where individual human flair and creativity cannot be bettered by the mass-produced and mechanised. If so, you should care about the challenge to your assumptions that the rise of capsule coffee represents.

I don’t think anyone who doesn’t care about find dining or coffee is particularly concerned about the representation of the capsule’s assumptions, let alone its challenge. But it’s a good point: is there a difference between a Nespreso cup and something made by hand?If the cup was made a few years ago, and the human has a particular skill at tamping down the grounds and adding a picture of Doge in the foam, of course there’s a difference. So the author arranges a taste test, and the results . . . are here. Skip right to the comments, where people are slapping each other in the face with wet trout over the smallest of things.

VIDEO  Who’s up for some high-quality electrical plant demolition? Here you go.

WORD SALAD Let’s check in at that nonsense blog that tosses all sorts of search terms in the blender for other robots to click on. It’s run by “Leonard.” This week he’s all het-up over - well, you’ll see. No link, because that would be rewarding him. 

Overall, the hotwives in minnesota and low rate mortgages, then Minnesota may be impounded on the hotwives in minnesota by Minnesota Care, General Assistance Medical Care, and Medicaid managed care plans serving non-disabled populations, and discovered that an Officer seeking to test a driver's blood, urine or breath to see what magic the hotwives in minnesota at the hotwives in minnesota who dream instead of heading north to Minnesota can be classified as humid.

Wow! Tell me more!

Needless to say, Minnesota Twins first hit the hotwives in minnesota as the Vikings has been passed must be submitted electronically by the hotwives in minnesota, 30 hours are required to maintain your driving privileges after being arrested for a coffee date or dinner date.

Keep that in mind.

That's it for today; off to walk around in the ridiciulous cold, for some reason. 

North Korea denounced my dog

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 18, 2013 - 12:30 PM

At his age, he’s more of a hobbling-dog lackey:

PYONGYANG (KCNA) — In condemnation of a treacherous sycophant, the organizing committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly announced that Jasper the Dog will meet the serious punishment of history. Absolute is the trust of the army and people of the DPRK in its ability to vanquish Dog, the enemy of the party, revolution and people and heinous betrayer of the nation.

Generate your own thrice-cursed denunciations here at Boingboing.

MERRY MERRY Cartoon Brew has 23 Christmas cards by Ward Kimball, the marvelous Disney animator. such as this one from the hard early days of the war:

They get more and more abstract as the years pass. 

BOOKS Three more “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” books. Meh. Guardian:

Norstedts said on Tuesday that it had signed a contract with David Lagercrantz, ghost writer of I am Zlatan Ibrahimović, the autobiography of the Swedish footballer, for a new book about journalist Mikael Blomqvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander that is scheduled to be published in August 2015.

Count me out. I thought the first one was a good mystery, if predictable - an old rich family has secrets! The second started with a long sequence that had nothing to do with anything. and moved on to feature the dullest, most detailed IKEA shopping trip ever. Oh, and she can disable weightlifting Russian bodyguards with a single marial arts move, even though she supposedly has the physique of a hummingbird. Also, crazy hacking skills!

ART Lovely images of houses with Christmas lights, here. But make sure you note the DARK SIDE of this.

In these images everything is surprising. The shadows are full of menace. It is light outside, dark inside. What is threatening or scary about that? And who are we on this side of the image? That’s what decides their story: we tell the story inside our own minds. When the outer shell has been illuminated with bright colours, the interior looks even darker. Is it the grim reverse of the American dream that is lurking in the shadows and behind the curtains? The Christmas lights throw their shadows on the facades. The paint is flaking.

I think 80% of all reference to “The American Dream” in the last 30 years either posit that it doesn’t exist anymore, or must be understood primarily in the context of its Dark Side, as if the house with the white picket fence was sold by Sith Realty.

SIGNAGE Most roadside signs these days lack interest or character; the days bright neon and extraordinary typefaces blaring the name are long gone, and road trips are duller for it. But some things remain. Atlas Obscura Headline: “This abstract roadside poultry was saved from demolition by outraged drivers and pilots.” Here:

Constructed over Johnny Reb's Chick, Chuck, and Shake in 1963, the 56-foot chicken effigy was an attempt to capitalize on the newly built highway in the area. The chicken was made with moving eyes and beak which were so shoddily constructed that it would often break the restaurant's window when the mechanism was activated.

how, I’m not sure. But you have to appreciate the entrepreneurial zeal that went into this thing. People will want to sample my chicken if the sign has a movable beak. At least their kids will nag them to try it.


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Whether Johnny Reb’s Chick Chuck and Shake was connected to Johnny Reb’s Canteen I can’t say, but take a look at this gaudy facade. The ads for the restaurants said “Where you win the War Between the Steaks.” I had no idea hostilities had been formerly concluded, let alone begun.

Anyway, that’s not my point. Zoom in on this sign. which is up the road from the giant chicken:


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Probably wasn’t an insurance agency. But you should be able to guess what it was, and what the sign originally looked like.

SCIENCE! It’a come to this: a serious website dealing with particle physics has to put out headlines like this for traffic:

It has the basics - the number, which guarantees a format you can easily digest, the “You” which challenges the reader and makes an assumption the reader may want to disprove by reading the article. I don’t know. If they’d discovered dark matter and said “whoa, this explains a lot of things for which we had no answers,” it would be one thing. It’s another when they say “the most satisfying explanation for these mysteries is Substance X, for which we have no proof.” The article conflates the “discovery” of dark matter with the theory that posits its necessity. If the original discovery came from observation of a galaxy that should have flown apart because its mass was too small, why can’t the extra weight be ascribed to super-ultra-massive black holes?

The Verge says we're about to look closely at our own galaxy's super-huge black hole:

Astrophysicists think there's a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It's supposed to be four million times more massive than our Sun, but despite its stupendous size, we've never been able to see it. That might soon change. The European Research Council has given 14 million euros ($19.3 million) to the creators of BlackHoleCam, a project that will use radio telescopes and supercomputers to try to prove the existence of what Luciano Rezzolla, a principal investigator for BlackHoleCam, calls "one of the most cherished astrophysical objects.”

They’re looking to capture the event horizon. They’ve “seen” the black hole by other means.

DCVotD The things truck drivers have to put up with. You're just doing your job, and then suddenly you feel like someone ran up to you and put a baby in your arms.

Finally, today’s Plastic Santa: Sly Old Guy archetype.

Explain THAT comic to your kid

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 17, 2013 - 12:22 PM

Took a day, but Shia LaBeouf has apologized.

“In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation,” tweeted LaBeouf.

What’s this all about? Here’s Wired:

Shia LaBeouf’s critically acclaimed 2012 short HowardCantour.com was available online today — until people familiar with indie comics noticed its remarkable resemblance to Justin M. Damiano, a 2007 comic by Ghost World creator Dan Clowes.

By “remarkable,” we mean “lifted the words directly from the comic and used them without crediting the author.”

. . . both open with exactly the same monologue from their eponymous leads: “A critic is a warrior, and each of us on the battlefield have the means to glorify or demolish (whether a film, a career, or an entire philosophy) by influencing perception in ways that if heartfelt and truthful, can have far-reaching repercussions.”

And so on. The next scene is the same as the comic. And so on.

Don’t be too hard on Shia; it’s so easy to get lost in the creative process, put your name all over everything and forget the person whose work you hovoered up. Oh, there might be a nagging sensation you’re missing something, but heck, if it was important, you’d have remembered.

As for that apology, well, here’s BuzzFeed today:

LaBeouf claimed he wasn’t “copying” Clowes, but rather was “inspired” by him and “got lost in the creative process.” The first part of his apology is very similar to an entry on Yahoo! Answers written four years ago. A user named Lili wrote, “Merely copying isn’t particularly creative work, though it’s useful as training and practice. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work, and it may even revolutionalize [sic] the ‘stolen’ concept.”
LaBeouf wrote: “Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work.”

That it is. Let us know when that happens.

SANTAS PAST Six blog entries left until Christmas; here’s the first of a half-dozen vintage plastic Santa statues, found at Hunt & Gather.

Santa’s boiled.

COMICS Odd moment in “Heart of the City” today.

The readers who like the strip are not amused.

RANDOM INFORMATION While looking around for a picture of the Paul Bunyan Restaurant in Yreka, California, I was drawn to the large portion of the town’s wikipedia page called “LYNCHINGS.” There were two notorious examples, the second of which concerned Clyde Johnson and Robert Barr in 1935. After a robbery they were stopped by the cops; there was gunplay, and a beloved local cop and WWI vet, “Jack” Daw, was killed. Clyde was caught; Barr hopped a freight and got away. After Daw’s funeral, a mob showed up at the jail, removed Clyde, took him out in the woods and hung hum. This page on lynching quotes the California Attorney General, referring to the recently delayed execution of an accused murderer, stated that the "uncontrollable unrest" was a natural result of the "apathy of the Supreme Court of the United States."

That’s not why I bring up Yreka. The guy who got away:

The movie was “Rose Marie," a Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald film. He's not in the imdb listning, but do you know who is? Iron Eyes Cody, the guy in the famous Native-American-Sheds-A-Single-Tear anti-littering ad. 

Anyway, Proving that the world was a more curious place in the 30s, and that newspapers knew how to give people what they want, here's another story from the front page:

I’ve no idea if they’re true, but this is what newspapers used to consider front-page material. Which, of course, it was. 

Oh but there’s more, at least about Yreka.

A group of young men gained national media attention when, brandishing hunting rifles for dramatic effect, they stopped traffic on U.S. Route 99 south of Yreka, and handed out copies of a Proclamation of Independence, stating that the state of Jefferson was in "patriotic rebellion against the States of California and Oregon" and would continue to "secede every Thursday until further notice.”

That would be confusing.

Lest you think this happened recently: the desire to get out from under the thumb of the existing political order happened . . . .in 1941. Hope they weren’t intent on keeping the country out of WW2:

Coincidentally, the "state of Jefferson" was one of the few places in the continental USA to be the subject of an attack during World War II, when Japanese pilot Nobuo Fujita dropped bombs on the Oregon Coast near Brookings on September 9, 1942.

All that, a shotgunned ape, and an elephant legally executed by firing squad: the past is always stranger than you think.

She had Audrey Totter Eyes

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 16, 2013 - 12:32 PM

Audrey Totter has died at the age of 95. AP:

After landing a small part in "The Postman Always Rings Twice," Totter went on to a series of roles as tough-talking blondes.

Her breakthrough came with "Lady in the Lake," the 1947 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe detective tale. She also appeared in the thriller "The Unsuspected" and the boxing drama "The Set-Up." After retiring to raise a family, Totter later resurfaced on television.

She could stare down the camera like no one else. From “Lady in the Lake,” in handy GIF form:

GET. OUT.

There’s a reason “Totter Eyes” rhymes with “cauterize.”

OOPS Oh, just use any old stock art. Who’ll know? From Ahram Online:

Egypt's outgoing constitution-amending committee has repeatedly stressed that it has drafted a national charter that represents all Egyptians. The huge banner reading "All Egyptians Constitution" hanging in the background during Sunday's international press conference, however, barely reflected their assertion. Three out of the five people whose images were used on the banner appear to be foreigners.

The doc is from a site about getting rid of stretch marks. The fellow second from the right is from a story about Down Syndrome.

BEST KOREA More from the Potemkin Ski Resort:

Nothing but a stage set for the inner party. The picture of the little monster standing alone in the pathetic gift shop is particularly empty for Nork propaganda, which is saying something.

SCIENCE! Don’t panic, but the universe could collapse any second now.

Danish scientists say an expanding bubble of existential doom could crush the Universe into a tiny ball. And crazily, the odds of this collapse is higher than previously thought.

This theory isn't actually new. But the scientists who conducted the new study say previous calculations were incomplete. Their new, more precise calculations, now show that (1) the universe will probably collapse, and (2) a collapse is even more likely than the old calculations predicted.

The question is whether this has been foreseen by our lizardoid overlords, or whether they control it. In related news, the “Unanswered Mystery of 7,000-year-old Ubaid Lizardmen.” In statuary form. Tila Tequila is jumping all over the place right now saying “SEE? SEE?

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