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 Restaurants

Letting Strangers Wake You Up

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: September 8, 2014 - 12:29 PM

And I don't mean being kicked as you slump in a doorway, sleeping off a binge. Meet Wakie, the app that lets strangers call you and tell you it's time to get out of bed. NextWeb:

To use Wakie, you have to be prepared to sign in using your phone number. Wakie promises that your number will remain ‘safe and anonymous’.

Wakie’s community consists of Wakies (callers) and Sleepyheads (yup). If you want an alarm call, you just set an alarm time through the app, and when the wake-up time arrives, you’ll be connected to a Wakie of a similar age and the opposite gender. With that condition enforced, Wakie suddenly meanders on a slightly different trajectory, but we digress.

No, can’t see any opportunity for mischief there. Screenshot from The Next Web:

It got $1 million in the latest fundraising round. As one of the comments notes, apps are turning into concept art.

LITERATURE This Guardian piece is . . . beautiful. 

Seemingly unembarrassed by the incongruity of mounting a vehement defence of a detective story in which all the characters are teddy bears, Harper initially penned a series of comments (many of them over a single night between 1am and 4am) in which he quoted passages from the book, hoping to persuade Cohen that his criticisms of its "workmanlike" prose or "juvenile" plot were unjustified.

The author, in his defense, quotes his book extensively, insisting it has the lyricism of Keats and Fitzgerald. The thread - which is seven miles long - ends with the site’s editor closing comments because he said the author drew in details about people in (the critic’s) personal life.” Over an ebook. About detectives. Who are stuffed animals.

YOU HOGS You should not go to Food Festivals and you are a boorish drunk glutton if you do. Slate

Looking down from the relative safety of a balcony at the L.A. House of Blues, where I was researching a blog post for L.A. Weekly last year, I was reminded of the end of Nathanael West’s short 1939 novel The Day of the Locust, in which a horde of spiritually famished L.A. grotesques, urged on by a gleeful barker, turns violent and destructive at a movie premiere. A celebration of eating turns strange and a little horrific when the overeaters-next-door are so caught up in their pursuit of porky goodness that they eschew manners and propriety, stirred by a barker’s exhortations and emboldened by their anonymity.

Except that there wasn’t a riot at the food festival, and the “Locust” riot was caused when a character stomps on a child, and then everyone turns on the killer, but on the other hand, the character was named Homer Simpson, and Homer liked pork, so it almost fits.

Related fit of disapproval: NYT reports that a town turned into itself a setting for an ad.

Workers have been busy in this bucolic, out-of-the-way ski town: The streets have been painted blue, as have the light poles. Blue props and fencing have been hauled in, rendering the place almost unrecognizable. And as final preparations take place for a three-day party, many residents are fuming, cursing the town for approving a clandestine deal to let a giant beer company turn it into a living advertisement in exchange for $500,000.

“This is a mistake,” said David Rothman, 55, who moved to Crested Butte 20 years ago, of the decision to let Anheuser-Busch take over the town to film a beer commercial. “Frankly, it’s vulgar and it’s cheap.”

Probably. It’s also temporary. A half-million dollars to be a backdrop for an ad seems like a lot of money. The situation was described thus in the Paris Review:

If you’re looking to become productively, righteously, vindictively angry, read this piece in the Times about Crested Butte, Colorado, a town that will become, this weekend, an advertisement for Bud Light.

Oh, for heaven’s sake. Save your productive righteous vindictive anger for something that contains actual harm.

One can react only with scorn, and then one must trot out that shopworn but ever more vital statement of Philip Roth’s, from 1961:

No, one mustn’t. One might, and one probably will.

“The American writer … has his hands full in trying to understand, describe and then make credible much of American reality … It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one’s own meager imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents.”

They painted a town for a commercial and then they cleaned it up and went away. If it had been for something other than a beer ad - say, if the town had been gussied up to look like a Library, or sold for a festival whose objectives and philosophy matched or flattered the town’s self-image - there would be no hysterics. No Roth quotes.

NO SIGNAL Here’s a novel idea.

While being glued to a mobile device has become a dangerously common part of 2014 life, a couple in Vermont has reaped financial rewards by rejecting 21st-century technology at their bakery, August First.

Wife-and-husband team Jodi Whalen and Phil Merrick banned laptops and tablets from their Burlington-based bakery earlier this year, after determining that laptop patrons spent much more time, and much less money, at the eatery than the average customer.

The fun begins in the comments, where some people believe that they have a claim on a restaurant’s table that exceeds the needs of the owner to cover the costs of doing business.

HISTORY If you’re unfamiliar with the nomenclature or history of the Danish Kings of England, this is a good places to start: ancient Ring Fort discovered.

. . . some historians contend the fortresses were constructed by his son Sweyn Forkbeard, the first Danish King of England, as a military training camp or barracks from which to launch his invasions of England. Sweyn Forkbeard seized London in 1013 and was declared King of England on Christmas Day of that year.

Didn’t last long, alas. Forkbeard is an interesting name, but his father had one that was more enduring. Yes, it’s named after him. But what did it mean?

Wikipedia has this:

Harald's nickname "Bluetooth" first documented appearance is in the Chronicon Roskildense from 1140.[13] The usual explanation is that Harold must have had a conspicuous bad tooth that has been "blue" (i.e. black, as "blue" meant dark).

Another explanation, is that he was called Thegn in England (corrupted to "tan" when the name came back into Old Norse) — in England, Thane meant chief. Since blue meant "dark", his nickname was really "dark chieftain.”

A third theory, according to curator at the Royal Jelling Hans Ole Mathiesen, was that Harald went about clothed in blue. The blue color was in fact the most expensive, so by walking in blue Harald underlined his royal dignity.

The icon for Bluetooth, by the way, are the runes for HB. And now you know. 

What do dogs really want from you?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: September 5, 2014 - 12:23 PM

The Far Side cartoon is correct; blahblahblah is pretty much all they hear, and they couldn’t care less. Here’s what they want, says i09.. Besides steak.

MOVIES Behind the scenes of Fritz Lang’s “M”, which is better for its visuals than anything else, if you ask me. It’s a great early talkie that would have made a finer silent movie. (Imagine “Metropolis” as a talkie: it would be ruined.) The weakest part of the movie is also its most harrowing; Lorre’s performance is so frightening that his protestation about his helplessness over his urges is almost sympathetic, but it’s self-serving. Of course he could help it, or he would have kidnapped children in front of a cop.

TV Here’s an argument for removing “the stigma that follows Ken Burns.” To which one asks: there’s a stigma?

HISTORY Ancient Roman jewelry found in Britain; it was stuffed under the floorboards during the siege of Colchester, led by Queen Boudicca. The Romans took a pasting, but came back and then some.

DESIGN A place to waste hours and hours: a huge collection of restaurant menus at the New York Public Library, including many from Minneapolis. From the Hotel Nicollet:

1949. I'm just beginning to raid the collection - the stuff from the 40s and 50s is incredible. 

World's Worst Waiter

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 27, 2014 - 12:31 PM

Sounds like a great night out. From Pricenomics:

Unless you were a VIP, your meal would be over the second your spoon hit the bottom of the bowl: Edsel would come by with a broom and literally sweep you out. Only one diner -- who bought him a “weekly ration of free X-rated movie passes” -- was permitted to enjoy a post-meal cup of “Edsel’s Special Tea” (pure ginseng extract). When another customer saw the drink and curiously inquired about it, he was kicked out. This wasn’t unusual: often, Edsel would forcibly remove seated patrons in the middle of a meal, “just to remind them who was running the show.”

He had busy hands, too.

Edsel was also known for his crass “flirtation:” an entire wall at Sam Wo was dedicated to Polaroid photos of the waiter in various degrees of groping unsuspecting young females. “A charming first date destination if you never want to see your date again,” wrote one reviewer in the late 70s. “My ex-wife ended up on the wall. The groping part was the only time I ever saw Edsel smile. She was not amused.” (The pictures we’ve included in this article confirm Edsel's perennial smile in the presence of ladies -- we don't condone his behavior.)

Of course not! Oh, it was just his madcap charm, as another patron notes. Why, he kissed everyone.

He sounds like a horrible person. It sounds as if people tolerated it to show how they understood the rules of the place - unlike outsiders or first-timers, who’d be appalled and surprised. Oh, not you! Why, Edsel’s been yelling at me for years. We go way back.

See also, Carnegie Deli. They’re notoriously cranky. This is supposed to be part of the charm and experience. Eh.

URBANISM In the future, everyone will live in 100-square-foot apartments.

With the world population expected to rise from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by 2050, living space is becoming more and more of an issue. A student at Parsons has a vision of our future homes that is both clever and disquieting. Bernando Schorr's "Mixed Reality Living Spaces" project highlights how augmented reality can be used to make windowless 100-square-foot apartments hospitable. The video on his website shows projections on the walls changing to accommodate the different configurations of the environment's only furniture, a trio of modular white boxes. The results are depressingly spartan but functional.

There's a selling point.

Whether you will be forced to listen to the music is another matter.

WHARGARBLE Let’s check on our favorite gibberish robot, putting out pages to game the search engines. I have no idea how this is supposed to work to the author’s advantage; the pages all redirect to a standard Blogger template, with no links or ads. Anyway, today’s subject is Jordan Minnesota Newspaper.

Licensed Minnesota claims adjuster, you will not be affected if you fail an alcohol test or if you refuse to submit to the jordan minnesota newspaper. It also provides for substitute services for you in Minnesota but it is important to note, however, that having a limited drivers license in Minnesota are growing, whether you are running low on time and money. You will reimbursed for the jordan minnesota newspaper between the jordan minnesota newspaper or your car insurance state. This means that home buyers must test for radon levels in the jordan minnesota newspaper who have bought properties in Minnesota and other state colleges, there is an abundance of character and charm. Finding fun, variety, value and making lasting memories with a perfect single person for you.

Whoa! Tell me more.

To help and guide potential investors, many large real estate can also be a good news or a culture vulture with a number of abandoned properties across the jordan minnesota newspaper is the jordan minnesota newspaper for the jordan minnesota newspaper of Minnesota and there appears to be completed as well.

Wise words. Take heed.

YOU THERE Buzzfeed, coasting again:

I would submit that it is unlikely that the person in question destroyed anyone’s childhood, let alone utterly destroyed it, but even if such a thing were possible, the idea that one’s childhood could be utterly destroyed 33 times suggests that childhood is capable of almost limitless regeneration.

HIGHER ED By all means, go into debt for this: college courses on Miley Cyrus and Beyonce. Daily News:

In a career of less than a decade, Miss Miley has already proved herself “a useful primary document” for discussions of sex and power in media, teacher Carolyn Chernoff says.

Cyrus went from squeaky clean Disney star to dirty-minded diva strutting her stuff in every concert. She sparked debates about slut shaming, overt sexuality and the privileges of white stars — as when she borrowed twerking from hip-hop culture and brought it to last year’s Video Music Awards.

“She’s a really interesting case study for how someone can represent sex and gender while maturing in the public eye,” says Chernoff, a visiting assistant professor at Skidmore. “Miley is a work in progress, but you can already see such a complex narrative of how people talk about her unbridled sexuality.”

So that’s what we were doing when discussing how stupid she looked with her tongue hanging out. That was a complex narrative. A complex ongoing narrative, for that matter. Debate was sparked, too. Says another prof:

“Miley Cyrus is a delivery device for themes of American life,” he adds. “When you say, ‘Miley Cyrus? Who cares about her?’ you shut down the very purpose of sociology.”

Thanks for the tip, then.

SPRING CLEANING Don’t think of it as “decluttering.” It’s not enough to start throwing stuff away. You need to have a complex narrative. From Salon:

As far as I can tell, decluttering alone is sort of a farce, a trend promulgated on daytime TV and in trite magazine stories like “67 Ways to Declutter a Messy Home.” What we’re not told is that decluttering by itself doesn’t solve the problem, not long term anyway. Discussing how to get rid of our stuff answers only the what side of the equation, but not the why; the action, but not the purpose; the how-to, but not the significantly more important why-to. In other words, the what is relatively easy. We all know instinctually how to declutter—how to get “organized.” But that’s just one part of the larger issue. Instead of “get organized,” I’ve decided I need to start thinking of organizing as a dirty word, a sneaky little profanity which keeps us from really simplifying our lives.

Somehow I think the thesis could have been . . . less cluttered.

A Glitch in the (Netflix) Matrix

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 21, 2014 - 12:11 PM

This is not a movie, but it should be:

Come with me if you want to chew:

From Summarybug, which posts oddly mangled movie summations. 

VINTAGE You may have finished watching Sunday’s “Mad Men” and thought “interesting fast-food restaurant interior; what did it look like before they dressed the set?” I did. Not right away. Later. It didn't seem likely they found a real Burger Chef. But then I went to bed and gave it no more thought  - until this story popped up in a feed: the original location of the Burger Chef used in the closing scene. It was a Burger Chef, albeit a decommissioned one. Yelp has a picture of the interior before it was re-spiffified, here.

It has one vote for being “Very Helpful.”

LASAGNA WAS EVERYWHERE Lasagna was everywhere! Lasagna was everywhere. (via lasagnawaseverywhere)

NO ESCAPE Ugh, no. 9to5Mac:

Those who expressed concern about Google’s acquisition of Nest may have have been right: the company has told the Securities and Exchange Commission that it may choose to serve ads on “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

There might be some backlash to this. Imagine the conversation in the store:

“This is the latest Nest model; it learns your habits and sets the temperature accordingly.

Great. Nice. But does it have ads?

”There’s an content-supply system built into the main display.”

So that’s a yes. What kind of ads?

”This model integrates into your Google account, so, if you’ve been looking for gazebo roof replacements, it’ll alert you to new deals posted since your last search.”

How? With a chime?

”That’s customizable. You can silence it from any device logged into your Google account.”

Why do I want my thermostat to alert me to a lower price on gazebo root replacements?

”You can opt out any time. But it’s part of the integrated information package - if your fridge is Google-aware, you can transfer the alerts to the front-panel display. Or your phone. Or your TV through your Chrome dongle."

What do I look like, a Sorayama drawing? I don’t have a Chrome dongle. How can you honestly say I want ads on my thermostat?

”Well, the fact that you’re here in the store instead of buying online tells me you’re not particularly tech-savvy, and we’re hoping you just install it and get used to the ads and never figure out how to turn it off. You’ll get used to having interesting, useful ads piped to your house on every device, but if you like, I can teach you one weird trick for making the ads reduce in frequency and duration.”

HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY Update on that roundly reviled McDonald’s mascot: it’s been in the works for years. Daily Dot found a 2012 page that shows Happy in many guises, and some of them made me realize what’s irksome about the character. The eyes, those teeth - tt's like an Aardman character without the soul.

Votd Hmm. Well.

Only possible response:

Does that need explaining? Sigh. Okay

Please explain this Grimm cartoon

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 6, 2014 - 12:25 PM

I don’t get it. I can’t begin to figure out what I should be getting.

I cannot possibly imagine a sequence of events that would lead a hit man staffing an ice-cream counter to conclude that the customer had requested the leg of a dead man in a bucket.

MOVIES A Telegraph blogger asks a question about horrible movies set in ancient times, and he’s quite serious:

But why do they go on making these awful, stagey films with the same faults that continue from decade to decade – hammed-up dialogue, the same gladiator fights, the same lightly-oiled slave girls, the same beefcakes with tridents?

Can’t possibly imagine why.

Nevertheless, he makes a good point; from all accounts “Pompeii,” the subject of his plaintive cry, was awful, and a missed opportunity. I’ll still see it, because the subject is fascinating, but it’ll be mixed with annoyance because it means they won’t do another Pompeii movie for 15 years. That one will be IMAX immersive holographic 3D, with stones and ash falling all around you. Which actually sounds really unpleasant, now that I think about it. So I’ll wait for it to come out for home streaming.

DESTRUCTION Forgot to post this yesterday: from Saturday’s demolition of the ugly Strib Brick Dullard.

YUM A few months ago I mentioned the fellow who thought food was a waste of time, and came up with a nutritious slurry that replaced the tedium of preparing and consuming meals. The inventor actually calls it Soylent. If it suits his needs, great. Bottoms up. But the number of people who will follow is example is quite small, because people like to eat.

Now it’s the New Yorker’s turn to pretend this is important, or a trend, or possibly both.

Soylent has been heralded by the press as “the end of food,” which is a somewhat bleak prospect. It conjures up visions of a world devoid of pizza parlors and taco stands—our kitchens stocked with beige powder instead of banana bread, our spaghetti nights and ice-cream socials replaced by evenings sipping sludge. But, Rhinehart says, that’s not exactly his vision. “Most of people’s meals are forgotten,” he told me. He imagines that, in the future, “we’ll see a separation between our meals for utility and function, and our meals for experience and socialization.”

No, we won’t. At least not any more than we have now, when the sandwich-at-the-desk keeps you going through noon if you’ve lots of work to do. Provided you’re not distracted by the roller-coaster emotions brought on by insufficient mayo - but more on that in a moment.

The headline is actually “Could Soylent Replace Food?” It could, in the sense that shoes could replace mittens, but it’s not likely. More:

People tend to find the taste of Soylent to be familiar: the predominant sensation is one of doughiness. The liquid is smooth but grainy in your mouth, and it has a yeasty, comforting blandness about it.

Put down that Sriracha, America: we’ve got a food replacement whose blandness isn’t just comforting, but yeasty.

As the writer explores the Soylent lifestyle, disenchantment sets in.

You begin to realize how much of your day revolves around food. Meals provide punctuation to our lives: we’re constantly recovering from them, anticipating them, riding the emotional ups and downs of a good or a bad sandwich.

I have never cried at my desk because of sandwich disappointment, nor felt like bursting into song because the lettuce was crisp.

With a bottle of Soylent on your desk, time stretches before you, featureless and a little sad. On Saturday, I woke up and sipped a glass of Soylent. What to do? Breakfast wasn’t an issue. Neither was lunch. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to do it, so I went out for coffee.

This is the point where one realizes how silly this is, right? Where the writer comes to her senses and runs into a bakery and has three cronuts, right?

On the way there, I passed my neighborhood bagel place, where I saw someone ordering my usual breakfast: a bagel with butter. I watched with envy. I wasn’t hungry, and I knew that I was better off than the bagel eater: the Soylent was cheaper, and it had provided me with fewer empty calories and much better nutrition. Buttered bagels aren’t even that great; I shouldn’t be eating them. But Soylent makes you realize how many daily indulgences we allow ourselves in the name of sustenance.

It’s called “Being a sentient creature at the top of the food chain in a developed industrial society with a functioning economy.” It turns the chore of subsistence into civilized pleasures. It's still worth a read, thoughm and note the end: Soylent literally is people.

VotDThere are days I want to drive a scooter; thank heavens there are videos like this to dissuade me. Unlikely this would happen to me. Unlikely it’ll ever happen to anyone again.

China, supposedly. In accordance with the laws of cartoons, he popped out of a hole in Kansas.

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