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Lileks @ Lunch

James Lileks writes about everything - except sports and gardening

Abandoned worlds with gnomes in them

Bored of people who obsess over vinyl? Tired of misplaced nostalgia for cassettes? Get ready for people who want to save the CD. Rolling Stone:

I know it sounds insane at this point in time, but it wasn't that long ago – two decades, more or less – that many of us actually lauded the arrival of those shiny round discs.

Actually, that was a long time ago.

Yes, a CD cost more than an LP did in the late Eighties and early Nineties, and those soon-dispatched cardboard longboxes were a massive waste of paper.

I'd forgotten about those. When CDs first came out the record bins were sized for LPs, so CDs were sold in tall thin boxes. It had the potential to be an artform, just like LP cover art, but it never happened. Anyway, that's not why the authot wants to save CDs; you'll have to read the article to find out why. It's a doomed quest. The CD was an attempt to translate the concept of an "album" to a new medium, but the internet demolished the album. There's just the single now. We're back to 78s.

In related news: A few weeks ago I wrote about a tween hang-out game; I can't remember if it was shutting down, or had a milestone anniversary, or was just the subject of a sad, ruminative piece that said goodbye to childhood. These essays will only grow in number as the internet generation ages. This week's example: a pean to Runescape. Digg:

Before the ubiquity of Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, games like RuneScape — with its open chat rooms and virtual meeting places — let kids who had access to a computer, but not a car, hang out with friends and, sometimes, make new ones. The game’s various quests and gameplay forced you to play and interact with these friends and strangers. The subsequent mayhem that would result, virtual or not, was just an entertaining way to spend time with other humans — silly and open ended but almost always consequence free.

These games spawn large, strange cultures, each with their own quirks and history. The Runescape Wiki keeps track of the game's history:

The Pay to Pk Riot occurred primarily in World 66, although there were many other riots occurring at the same time or soon after, some of the more significant including the Mod Hasmo Riot in World 18 and the Unbalanced Trade Riot in World 1. It should also be noted that the riot's name is somewhat misleading, and that many other subjects were brought up besides pking.

The riot turned into a mass purchase of pink gnome robes, if you're wondering how things turned out.

Like other online games with significant amount of history, this means a lot of people are growing up with shared memories about things that didn't happen. Except they did. Except they didn't.

A line from the Runescape piece:

It’s an early wave of aughts nostalgia from those who are always the first to idealize an era: those who were going through puberty at the time.

That makes complicates the arguments for the preservation of these environments. It's kid stuff, and the older it gets, the less likely there's anyone who'll want to pay to play, let alone pay to keep it around for history's sake. See this Atlantic piece on the difficulty of saving digital cities, and lament again how much is lost. VR, when it's good, will create more many more places, and people will remember them more clearly than a family vacation they experienced as a toddler. One day the format will change and the places will go away. We might even have pictures in the sense that we have pictures of old games. It's hard to screenshot a world.

VotD Well, not the video of the day, but a video. The description says: "A Semi Truck Caught with UFO near Area 51 Stuck taking corner draws attention. Is it coincidence that this UFO sighting was seen near the infamous Area 51? With the topic of UFO MotherShips and mysterious UFO sightings in the news on a regular basis, it makes one wonder." Oh, it certainly does.

This logo means nothing

If it ain't broke, don't rebrand it. Maybe Uber had some super-secret data that said people hated its logo, and were confused because the big U could stand for an app that delivers Underwear. Even so, this seems an odd choice.

That says absolutely nothing. On the other hand, there's animation when you open the app! No more throwing your phone on the ground because you wanted to order a car but THERE WASN'T ANY ANIMATION FIRST. Wired has the whole story here, and I mean "whole story." It's interminable. 

GADGETS Coffee-pod sales are down. WaPo:

On Monday, Keurig, which dominates the U.S. market for both coffee pods and coffee pod machines, announced that it sold 7 percent fewer machines during the holidays than it had the year before, the sixth straight quarter in which unit sales fell. The news was particularly disappointing given how crucial the holiday season is for the company.

Possible reasons: like tablets, people like the one they have and there's no reason to replace it, because it isn't broken. The article notes that people hated Keurig's 2.0 machines, which forbade second-party pods. (They changed their mind last May.)

The article cites the recession as the reason pod sales had been up, and says our "fatter wallets" are the reason sales are down now. Did anyone ever think "I feel less economically secure than before. I'll buy this $12 box of single-serv coffee pods"?

WORKIf you ever did a stint as a pearl diver you know it's hot, damp, disgusting work. It's one thing to look at all those plates of mangled food; it's another thing to touch them. Even oven mitts would feel too thin. Well, now an IKEA dishwasher has come forward to blow the lid off working conditions. The article's title: Being a Dishwasher at IKEA Is Everyone’s Worst Nightmare. Vice:

I don’t look back at my working days in college with a smile on my face. It’s quite the opposite: They invoke feelings of horror and dread. Until last year, I washed dishes two days a week for four years in the dish pit at IKEA. When I worked two days, or 18 hours, I sometimes worked ten-hour shifts, which included an hour-long break. It wasn’t too bad, because in two days, I made the same amount that most of my friends had to work four days of work for. We weren’t always open on Sundays, but when we were, my wage was doubled all day long.

The horror. It gets worse.

When I first started the job, I tried to have some fun by spraying co-workers with water from the sinks, or starting up food fights. Those Swedish meatballs have the perfect size and shape for throwing. I noticed very quickly that the dish pit is where fun goes to die.

Two days a week in which one earned a week's wage but had to deal with dead fun. However did they compensate? "One thing we did to escape the endless boredom was smoking weed." Oh.

Reminder: "Being a Dishwasher at IKEA Is Everyone’s Worst Nightmare."

WEB Warning: We're running out of useless "viral content" site names.

VotD Not every country's building codes requires handrails, it seems.

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