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3 Things You Don’t Know About That Candy Snipe

  • Blog Post by: James Lileks
  • November 7, 2013 - 12:49 PM

The Beeb asks: “Is Google Autocomplete evil?

That’s easy. No. Genocide is evil. Child abuse is evil. Autocomplete is not evil. For that matter, I don’t know why anyone should have gone all gooey-knees in the early days when they learned Google’s unofficial motto was “Don’t be evil.” You’d like to think that goes without saying. But we continue:

The greatest danger, in fact, is the degree to which an instantaneous answer-generator has the power not only to reflect but also to remould what the world believes – and to do so beneath the level of conscious debate. Autocomplete is coming to be seen as a form of prophecy, complete with a self-fulfilling invitation to click and agree. Yet by letting an algorithm finish our thoughts, we contribute to a feedback loop that potentially reinforces untruths and misconceptions for future searchers.

The entire piece is here, and concerns the sexism reflected in some search results. Women in Saudi Arabia might be more worried about auto driving than autocomplete.

HEY YOU io9 says these abandoned toy factories will haunt YOUR dreams. Quite the assertion. Feel free to write them and tell them they were incorrect, and that the images, while occasionally unnerving, have not replaced the standard dream imagery at all, and they're confusing “dreams” with “sets from a cliched horror movie that use disembodied child-like voices and tinkly music boxes to impart a sense of dread we associate with imminent horror, thanks to other movies.

As long as we’re on the subject, here’s a New Republic headline:

One Man, 1.7 million Square Meters

My day in the world’s biggest building - a Chinese mall you’ve never heard of

As it happens, I have heard of it, so the author comes off as a cliche of a smug hipster before you’ve read one word. This is probably the work of an editor who’s trying to make the magazine fit the contemporary parameters of bossy, banal click-bait pronouncements.

YOU should still read the article, though, unless YOU already did.

The author likes the place, and it does sound interesting. But you have to wonder whether the article would be so kind if the mall was in, say, oh, Bloomington. The Mall of America is regarded by some as a blight, a symbol of misplaced priorities, a place where people put their faces into buckets of Cinnabon frosting before waddling off for more goods they don’t use, and so on. Imagine a travel writer eating at a Chinese restaurant at the Mall of America and writing something like this:

I kept my order simple: a garden salad and spaghetti with bacon and mushroom sauce. It wasn’t my most traumatic eating experience in China—that would be the bagel with lox I once ordered at a Howard Johnson’s in Shanghai, which instead of cream cheese had whipped cream—but between the mouth-scaldingly hot sauce and the human hair in the salad, it wasn’t untraumatizing.

A bad Chinese restaurant at the Mall of America would be emblematic of the homogenized, insular culture of the place. But I’m criticizing the author for something he didn’t write, like the defensive rubes we are up here. I’m not that crazy about the MOA myself, but only because its main function - distributing garments incrementally different from last year’s garments - is not of great interest. I’m interested to see what it looks like when they finish the expansion. We had a Japanese exchange student staying with us last month, and she was overwhelmed by the MOA. When I told her they were building more, and it would be two-times-bigger, she thought I was kidding. Such a thing was almost inconceivable.

The author of the Chinese Mall piece has many interesting pieces on China; anyone interested in urban design, alleyway culture, architecture and the grim business of Chinese Public Toilets will be interested in this.

MEANWHILE Yesterday we had bad behavior on Venezulean subways; today we take a trip to St. Petersburg.

“Nationalists,” if you believe the source. The subway stations, by the way, are museums of mid-century Soviet design, full of tendentious sculptures in buttery stone. They didn’t take down the hammer-and-sickles after the end of the Soviet era.

Clean your palate with KLIK’s retake on the old concessions reel. (via Cartoon Brew.)

The original:

Of course, it has a Wikipedia entry:

"Let's All Go to the Lobby" is a 1953 animated musical snipe played as an advertisement before the beginning of the main film. It featured a family of four talking concession stand products, singing "Let's all go to the lobby to get ourselves a treat" and walking to the concession stand. One shot from the film depicts the anthropomorphic gum, soda, popcorn, and candy walking behind the silhouettes of audience members in the foreground, creating an illusion of depth.

A snipe? “Any material before the feature presentation other than a trailer.” Now you know. As for the song:

It is uncertain who may have originally composed the melody, but it appears to be well known first as a French folk song called "Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre" ("Marlborough has left for the war") in the 18th century about John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.

Hence the title of this post. Sorry.

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