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

In defense of dinner

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 6, 2014 - 12:11 PM

Not this stuff again. First, the author sets the table:

. . . the superpower that I really want – the one I actually daydream about, wasting time that I don’t have – is the ability to create an extra day or two for myself each week. As the clock strikes midnight between Monday and Tuesday, a private portal would open up: an extra day, just for me. While everyone else sleeps, I write, read, send emails, and maybe even clean the oven, before going to bed and waking up on Tuesday, rested and refreshed just like everyone else, but with everything done.

If you could manipulate time and space at will, that’s a superpower, but creating a day just for one’s self between Monday and Tuesday isn’t useful for humanity at large. You’re not going to get an invite for the Avengers over that one. They might call you if they need you to run an errand on that extra private day, but at most you’d be temporarily deputized.

Anyway, it’s another article about how much time people spend on food - procuring, producing, prepartng,

consuming. What could we do with all that time if we just drank Soylent?

Yes, it’s that stuff again. We have to pretend to care that some people who have little interest in food are drinking Ensure for Nerds. Why, what will they do with all that time?

Will we see a new Renaissance: a Soylent-fuelled flowering of novels, art or, at the very least, apps? It is perhaps too early to tell, but early signs are mixed. Rhinehart has ploughed his 90 minutes a day into launching his company, and says he still has ‘a long reading list, a long online course list, a lot of personal projects I’d like to do’. He is not against using the time for relaxation, of course, and tells me that he’s heard from other early adopters that they spend an extra hour and a half watching TV, hanging out with friends and family, or just catching up on our pervasive national sleep deficit.

It is nice to know that the inventor of the goop that satisfies your base nutritional needs does not mind if you use the extra time to watch television. Thank you. Thank you very much. But doesn’t the end of the meal mean less time together as a family? DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF HUMAN

The end of the meal is not a source of concern for Rhinehart at all – and perhaps rightly so. After all, as he pointed out to me, regular meals ‘were an invention in the first place’. As the historian Abigail Carroll wrote in her book Three Squares (2013), the US family dinner, despite its sacred role in contemporary culture, is only 150 years old.

Ah, this old syllogism. Here’s a social construct that’s been in place for a while, and is taken for granted. I am bored and like to pick apart cultural traditions like wings off flies, and since it’s interesting and fun to dismantle traditions, confident something new and better will take its place because Progress!,  then let’s point out that the tradition’s acceptance in our culture has false or misleading narratives. Why, we’ve only had family dinners for 150 years. Ergo we were doing something else before, and humanity survived. Why privilege the family dinner?

She notes that, like Rhinehart, the majority of 17th-century Virginia households had no table. Bowls and utensils were also in short supply before the 19th century, meaning that family members often ate in sequence rather than together.

So really, Soylent enables a return to the carefree days of the 1600s, with a little bit of the madcap bowl-and-spoon-free 1700s tossed in.

Meanwhile, Carroll ascribes the rise of the family dinner to the Industrial Revolution. Once the urban 9-to-5 replaced the agricultural schedule, she explains, ‘evening became the only significant portion of the workday when siblings and parents could reconnect, dinner became special, and it still is’.

If you’re still wondering why anyone should even have to make the case for the family dinner, you’re not alone, but let’s push on.

With Carroll’s context in mind, it is hard not to side with Rhinehart on this one: the tradition of three meals a day is a relatively recent one, enforced by the changing demands of work rather than essential to our humanity, and seemingly on its way out anyway, according to headlines such as ‘Snacking Could Be the Future of Eating’ (2012) in Food Processing.

No doubt an unbiased source.

The author later confesses that real food is better, but the descriptions of eating seem quite solitary. The pleasures and importance of the family meal might seem mysterious to someone who fetishizes food to the point where it’s necessary to note that the salt is sea salt and has a special brand name, but doesn’t seem to be sharing the experience with anyone except the remote and incorporeal internet audience.

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

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