This is all dull today; I’m sorry, but it can’t be helped.

Well, no, of course it could be helped. I could have done better. I could have condensed my thoughts or edited with out pity the chunks that are obvious to everyone or uninteresting to most. There’s lots I could have done. But I didn’t! And now you suffer. Crappy food - and such large portions!

Here, in compensation, is something you may not have thought about.

In the atrium today they were serving Nordic Waffles. They’re regular waffles, but pliable. Served with fillings. Also served with toppings. Those are two of the most important food groups: fillings and toppings. I didn’t try one, because I was walking through with a fresh piece of Lobby Pizza, Wednesday being Lobby Pizza day.

I’m one of those people who knows what he’ll have for lunch nine out of ten days, because I know what I like. Lunch is important and you don’t want to screw it up. In the elevator I saw a guy with a bag from Taco John’s, and I asked where there was a Taco John’s around these parts.

“It’s a hike,” he said. “I don’t know the names of the buildings? But you go there -“ he pointed, and I thought “The old Pillsbury Building.”

“Then you go across the street towards the Mall -“

Canadian Plaza, aka the old First Bank, I thought.

“And then through the building with the Potbellys?

“Rand Tower,” I said out loud, because c’mon, guy.

“And then to the left across the street, and through another building, it’s in there.”

“Ah! Well, thanks for the information.”

“No problem.”

No, I didn’t expect that it would be.

Later I thought: that’s the wrong route. You can go straight from our building - but he doesn’t know that, because the skyway ends in an escalator, then takes you to another food court, then there’s an escalator that takes you up. He went about four blocks out of the way.

If I see him again I’ll have to tell him. He may thank me.

I will tell him that it was not a problem.

The occasional Thursday round-up of various thought-pieces around the web, and why they annoyed me. Because everything’s a fargin’ problem, that’s why.

This article talks about fonts shape the culture war, about the effect the Nazis had on blackletter usage, how Germanic-looking busy 19th century typefaces are used by Neo-Nazis (the comments note that they’re also popular in Latin communities, where they have a different connotation.)

I’d Like to Leave You With a Mission:

The next time you go shopping, download an app or send an email, take a second to look at the typography in front of you. Don’t evaluate it. Don’t critique it. Just observe it. What does it say about you? What does it say about the world you live in?

The stakes are higher than you think. The next generation of fascists will not love geometric sans serifs as much as Mussolini did. They won’t be threatening journalists in blackletter.

So be careful to spot the next generation of fascists, because they will probably use Helvetica? I don’t know what he means, so let’s go back to those questions.

What does my font say about me? For body copy, it means I value a certain quantity of distinctiveness that doesn’t sacrifice legibility. For headlines and other graphic elements, the font should refer to a particular time when that style was ascendant. It doesn’t have to be from the era, but it should reflect it - and it should also reflect what the era looked like, not what we think it looked like.

But these rules only work for me, since I do websites about specific eras that aren’t forced to fit a site’s tight style. (I have a style, but it’s a template.)

What does it say about the world you live in? That it has the miraculous ability to fetch typefaces from distant servers and bring them to life on my page.

Of course he means which fonts are being used by the wrong people. If the wrong people start using san-serif rounded fonts that remind people of the 30s, it’ll be a nod to fascism, even though we’re just coming out of a ten-year phase when everything from the President’s political initiatives had a 30s feel. (Trump used Akzidenz, which is a manly sans-serif good for big broad statements. But I wonder if they sounded out aloud the name of the font they chose.)

Related: the fonts of Mr. Dwiggens. This one gave me, as they say and I hate to hear when they do, all the feelz:

I don’t like it, but not for aesthetic reasons. It just reeks of self-published stapled sci-fi zines sent out in 1963 by someone who was keeping the fan traditions going and never lived long enough to see the genre adapted by everyone in the world.

DWiggens understood the emotional power of fonts, and said this:

How are you going to get that kind of feeling into a type that looks like a power-lathe? We are still human, you know. And if you don’t get your type warm it will be just a smooth, commonplace, third-rate piece of good machine technique — no use at all for setting down warm human ideas — just a box full of rivets… By jickity, I’d like to make a type that fitted 1935 all right enough, but I’d like to make it warm — so full of blood and personality that it would jump at you.”

— W. A. Dwiggins, 2 Emblems & Electra, 1935.

By jickity. Let’s all use this now in our daily speech.

Elsewhere: We live in an age of educated stupidity - smart people overthinking things that are simple to make the simple seem wise. Did you know there was such a thing as post-tourism? Yes. It’s what sets you apart from ordinary tourists who stroll through the manicured centers of modern European centers. You go to the countryside for an extended stay, mix with the locals, and get the real experience.

Post tourism abides by narratives of self-righteous struggle, “tourist-shaming” those who continue to visit predictable tourist spots such as the Berlin Wall or the Eiffel Tower. Hence, post tourism is partly defined by an underlying sense of posturing where travelling is concerned.

In essence, post-tourists remain tourists in spite of their perceived differences from ordinary tourists. As Lisle noted:

It is not the case that only intrepid travellers can access the “real” while passive tourists are content with the “fake” – in the global theme park, there is no difference between the real and the fake, between the authentic and the staged, and indeed, between the tourist and the traveller.

After all, the post-tourist shares all the same attributes and insecurities as the ordinary tourist.

Their desire for “reality” is all the more troubling considering the limits to which any expat can realistically immerse themselves completely in “real” culture. Any traveller or tourist in another country inevitably remains an outsider.

Yes, I suppose. Who cares. The page links to something about social media, AirBnB, and the authenticity of tourism and also its ability to confront and surprise and so on.

We have exhausted our global architectural icons – they have been reduced to photogenic backdrops for our selfies. We want to be seen at these sites because they allow our audiences to instantly locate us. But, as cultural experiences, they have become empty and clichéd.

Speak for yourself. Both pieces use the Eiffel Tower as an example of something that’s now banal and empty and cliched - but that wasn’t my experience at all. I didn’t go to have my picture taken with the tower in the background because I don’t live my life to produce visual selfies intended to prop up some personal narrative. I went to the Eiffel tower because I wanted to see it. (Again. It had been forty years.) I wanted to look at its structure, marvel at the intricacies, appreciate its plain brute structure that nevertheless coheres into a thing of grace. Pictures aren’t the same.

Anyway, enter AirBnB, which has “reprogrammed” the “software” of the urban tourist experience:

Each year, governments around the world pour huge amounts of money into the anachronistic preservation and maintenance of historic city centres primarily for the tourist market. Has Airbnb burst the “Disneyland” bubble that has enveloped our historical centres, governing their image and operations for export?

Since Airbnb, the traditional spatial division between urban tourist and the suburban local has been ruptured.

What the author calls “the spatial division” might be put this way: we have three days in New York, so we’re not going to the mall in New Jersey. Or we have three days in Paris and we’re not going to the 15th arrondissement because there’s nothing much there that beats the Louvre or the Orsay. But of you use a rental property in a previously untrafficed part of town, you will experience what life is like there, and perhaps have a better trip.

I’d say that’s just about right - I got more out of Paris living in a tiny apartment, shopping in the grocery store, drinking at the local bar - than I would have gotten from a more centrally located hotel.

And again: so? Isn’t this rather obvious? What’s the problem? Because there has to be a problem.

The Airbnb brand is one built on everyday authenticity, and a sharing economy.

But the company’s recent acquisition of the tunnels in the Parisian Catacombs for €350,000 in time for Halloween suggests that it could be moving away from this pitch, towards something truly frightening. This brings the revelation that Airbnb is not simply operating as a platform for the publicity of our private spaces, but are also doing the exact opposite: privatising our public spaces.

The acquisition might provide a window into the future of our “tired” global architectural icons – their death and rebirth as part of a privatised, consolidated approach to attraction and accommodation.

Sweet Jickity Jeebus, they just rented the catacombs for a promotional event for one bloody night. When I was in Paris there were public spaces blocked off because they were setting up for a soccer party. The public space was consolidated and privatized!

1915: After yesterday's brief interlude, it's back to WAR WAR WAR.


Songs sung by the Jolly Tars everywhere on the bounding main! "Tom Bowling" was a song from the 1700s, composed by Charles Dibdin.

It's a song about a youth sailor who died. The story goes that Dibdin wrote it to memorialize someone he knew who was struck by lightning.

Of all the things to die from while in the Navy.


Finally: have fun.

I think Mom may have skidded down to the last line and left it at that.




Part Two. To repeat what the officials recently said about downtown: "Investor confidence in downtown remains strong.”

As I said last week, let's see how they're doing.

What do you think: old hotel, or office building?



The Hotel Iowa was built from 1912–1913 and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  The structure, which was designed by architect Guy C. Mariner   in the Chicago Commercial style, was built to house the workers who built Lock and Dam No. 19 on the Mississippi River. The eight-story structure became a commercial building known as the Pierce Building.

Do you want to guess what it is today?

You are correct. Senior Housing. This is so Midwestern, in so many ways.


Not everything's fixed up, though.

The tell-tale glue-daubs that held the porcelain or metal tiles.

Did the building on the right ever have a front door? It might explain the lack of customers.

Stan Laurel with his Robot Pal:



Stare at it and you'll see what I mean. That's one enthusiastic home-made sign, too.

If you don't know what this is, you really need to sit down and wonder how much else goes right over your head, never connecting, never lighting up the neurons responsible for understanding your environment.

It's the Roman Embassy, of course. Idiots.

It's the little doors on the sidewalk that make me wonder.

Actually, the whole thing makes me wonder. The faded add. The wrong color brick. The somber panels. It's not a welcoming sight, is it.

Go home, man, you're drunk.

At least he has a friend to lean on.

Buckaroo revival on the second floor; makes the building look hungover, and yelling at something.

The building on the right as an old, old awning - I'd put that at late 30s, up to the early 50s.


I believe this is the only example I've ever seen where the name engraved long ago on the portico is the same name the bank bears today.

The columns certainly have a way of reminding man of his insignificance.


Excuse me, but I'm new in town; where might I go for some Heritage?

I'll bet the building on the right looked like the one on the left, or hailed from the same architectural era. The peculiar thing about the Heritage Center isn't just the blinded second floor, it's the amount of space between the second and ground floor. Unless there was another floor in between - but the windows would have to be as big as the ones above, or it would look amateurish.

The guys who designed these things back then rarely made mistakes like that.

No, they made mistakes like this.

It's a big much, but maybve the client had certain demands. The new windows don't help; it would be lighter if the first floor hadn't added those damned panels.

GOD they loved to add those panels.

This one has some modern touches - rather broad strokes, actually - but the way the arch brushes up against the windows ought to have made everyone rethink the front.

You can never have too much decoration and ornamentation! Actually, yes, you can.


Finally: a ghost.

Someone in town knows what it means, and it's possible he or she hasn't thought about it for decades. It's back there in some neuron, locked, unsummoned - but ready if anyone asks.


You're wondering: where's the movie theater? There has to be a movie theater, even if it's gone. There is. Go find it. I've only shown you part of the town - there's much, much more.


And give my regards to Keokuk.

That'll do; see you around. Motels await!



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