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

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.

Puzzling Pickles, what’s a fun burger?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: May 5, 2014 - 12:31 PM

Cultural archeologists must have gotten a nice jolt out of the last episode of “Mad Men.” Burger Chef. Their signature burger: the Big Shef. Critics speculate that confusion about the spelling of the word “chef” eventually did the chain in, as people flocked to the simpler Burger King. (Burger Person was left in the dust by now, closing most of its 42,490 locations.) Wikipedia:

In 1968, the chain was purchased by the General Foods Corporation, which continued its rapid expansion. The chain's mascots were called Burger Chef (voiced by Paul Winchell) and Jeff (the chef's juvenile sidekick). In the early 1970s, the chain introduced first the Funburger, followed by the Funmeal, with specially-printed packaging that included stories about Burger Chef and Jeff's adventures and friends (including the magician Burgerini, vampire Count Fangburger, talking ape Burgerilla, and Cackleburger the witch), with riddles, puzzles, and small toys.

Sound familiar?

When McDonald's introduced their similarly themed Happy Meal in 1979, the chain sued McDonald's, but ultimately lost.

The entry says General Foods was “unable to support the company’s growth,” which suggests the company was out of its league when it came to restaurants. The company also bought Rax around this time.

They sold out to a company that converted them to Hardee’s, which made all the good will and brand loyalty evaporate. There’s still one, sort of - the name has changed but it’s kept all the Burger Chef memorabilia for nostalgists. If there are any. Nostalgia for 70s fast-food is probably nostalgia for your childhood, not the quality of lettuce.

BTW: There was a Rax in Uptown when I lived there. Looking at the wikipedia entry on Rax is the most bewildering thing you may encounter this afternoon. Ready?

Rax was originally known as JAX Roast Beef, founded by Jack Roschman in 1967, in Springfield, Ohio.In 1969, Roschman sold the chain to General Foods, who then changed the name of the restaurants to RIX Roast Beef.

General Foods ran the chain until 1978, when most of the restaurants closed down. The remaining 10 units were franchised units owned by the Restaurant Administration Corporation (RAC).

RAC purchased the remainder of RIX from General Foods, and returned the JAX name to the restaurants. RAC eventually decided to focus on the roast beef business, and began franchising the chain.

The JAX restaurants were renamed Rax to be more suitable for trademarking and franchising, with the first Rax branded franchise restaurant opening in Columbus, Ohio.

If that’s not confusing enough:

In December 2007, Rich Donohue, a franchise owner with restaurants in Ironton, Ohio and Ashland, Kentucky, purchased the Rax trademark. The new company, From Rax to Rich's Inc., purchased the name to bypass licensing costs.

Usually I’d say it’s bad news when a restaurant company goes with a pun, but, well.

A compilation of Burger Chef ads here.

I’m guessing Don didn’t land the account. Incrediburgible! Anyway, all those people who thought “Mad Men” would get around to the Tate murders were completely wrong.

It’s the Burger Chef Murders, that’s what’s coming.

SCIENCE! Horror and fascination: that’s what you get when you ask the question “What would it look like if Saturn slowed and fell into the Sun?” It would doom earth, but that’s the least of it. AHHHHHHHHH

While I don’t want the planet to be ripped apart by tidal forces, it would mean the end of fonts like this:

That’s like Hobo modified to be worse.

Anyway, Sploid found the video, so head over there to see it. Enjoy your Monday!

Worst restaurant idea in the history of mankind

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: April 8, 2014 - 12:05 PM

Headline: PETA wants to turn Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home into a vegan restaurant.

Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sent a letter dated Friday to the realty agent who has listed the Bath Township house for sale. In the letter, she asked about the listing and proposed making the house a vegan restaurant “to respond to the past with something positive.

Newkirk likened the way animals are slaughtered, processed and consumed to the way Dahmer treated his victims.

Menu items would include chipotle barbecue tofu kebabs and vegan creamy chicken casserole, made from mock chicken and dairy-free sour cream.

Lubinski, the listing agent, raised concerns about the zoning but said he’s willing to discuss a possible transaction with PETA.

The phrase “bad taste” comes to mind.

COMICS The ongoing revision of Archie has been an interesting project; I have no idea whether it expanded the audience, shrunk it down to a dozen, interested old fans, or made converts. I don’t know if the world was crying out for a socially relevant Archie. But now he’s going to DIE. CNN has the details. And only CNN! Exclusive!

Since 1941, comic book fans have followed the exploits of teenaged Archie Andrews and his friends. This July, they'll find out how he dies.

"Life With Archie" #36 hits stores on July 16, and CNN can reveal exclusively that it tells the story of how Archie sacrifices himself to save a friend.

Few details are known, but it seems fitting that Archie would go out a hero. The 37th issue one week later will end the series.

If you’re thinking “aww, that’s just an alternate timeline story. He’s not really going to die,” you’re correct. I remember the days when someone died in a comic, they stayed dead. They never came back. Dock Ock dumps a ton of bricks on Captain Stacy, and he’s not popping up six issues later explaining that was really his clone doiuble.

By the way, don't tell me Archie wasn't relevant in the past:

RIGHT ON, says Miss Grundy, fists balled! Fight the power! Or be the power! 

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON BEDBUGS Kids today are injecting crushed bed bugs. I repeat: Kids today are injecting crushed bed bugs.

SCIENCE! A rare sign in the sky. If you define the word to mean “almost commonplace.” USA TODAY:

Skywatchers will get a rare treat Tuesday night, when Mars, Earth and the sun will be arranged in a nearly-straight line.

Every two years, Mars reaches a point in its orbit called "opposition," when the planet lies directly opposite the sun in Earth's sky, according to Astronomy magazine.

This won’t happen again until 2016. Whoa! Question: if this happens every two years, then it happened in 2012, the year the world was supposed to end. I don’t remember Mars alignment being part of that nonsense; it’s possible that the alignment-apocalypse guys have been discredited and demoralized by all those grand line-ups that failed to rip the earth from its orbit or send the moon spinning off into the sun, or whatever they predicted.

WEB Controversy over an upcoming indie game, Luftrausers. Here’s the developers' response.

Earlier this week, several people on Twitter voiced their discomfort with what they perceived as Nazi imagery in LUFTRAUSERS, and the belief that you play as a Nazi pilot in our 2D dogfighting game.

We do have to accept that our game could make some people uncomfortable. We’re extremely sad about that, and we sincerely apologise for that discomfort.

The fact is that no interpretation of a game is ‘wrong’. When you create something, you leave certain implications of what you’re making. We can leave our idea of what it is in there, and for us, the game is about superweapons. We think everybody who plays LUFTRAUSERS can feel that.

Well, if you’re piloting an aircraft with the Stars and Stripes on the side, shooting down planes that bear swastikas, there’s not a lot of interpretation availalble, is there? It concludes:

We wouldn’t dare to fault people for finding the atrocities of the Second World War important. It is important. We agree it’s important, and there are important lessons for us in what happened. We need to remember what happened, we need to commemorate the victims and we need to ensure nothing even remotely like it occurs ever again.

Having been born and raised in the Netherlands, we are extremely aware of the awful things that happened, and we want to apologise to anybody who, through our game, is reminded of the cruelties that occurred during the war.

It looks like this. I’m not getting much of a pro-Nazi vibe here.

This site examines the developer’s explanation, and makes a point that really makes you despair, because it seems so bleeping obvious.

From there, Ismail goes on to explain why he disagrees with Dubbin and Simins, even while acknowledging their opinion is a valid interpretation. That line is so critically important to having a reasonable, nuanced dialogue about difficult subjects, and it’s the part we often miss out on.

It often feels people confuse “criticism” with “censorship” in a way that is never intended when those speaking up are explaining their views. 

Because the internet has degraded people's social skills and made the culture of constant outrage more likely to thin one's skin? I don’t know. But I can’t help wonder how they would have reacted to SWOTL.:

You got to play as a Luftwaffe pilot, IIRC. At the time I thought it was morally problematic, but this was the minority opinion.

VotD It’s beautiful, but as one of the comments says, it’s too short to be poignant.

Bibo from Anton Chistiakov on Vimeo.

Question: why does a robot need a wood fireplace? Another question: when you realize what’s going on, does it strike you as an idea that’s actually been fleshed out, so to speak, at great length elsewhere?

Also, why is 8 AM ice-cream time?

Million-dollar rot

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 26, 2014 - 12:39 PM

Remember this?

No? It’s the Million-dollar homepage. Matt of Mefi asked someone to see which links were still live, and this Quartz story says that 22% of the links are dead,. Random clicking around leads to lots of parked domains. Looks more like 50% are 404d for all practical purposes. Some of the URLs make you wonder what someone was thinking:

http://www.zobius.com/I_AM_BETTER_THAN_YOU_AND_I_AM_FILTHY_RICH--I_AM_A_JERK/

We’ll take your word for it. The Quartz piece examines the problem of link rot, which I suspect will be less of a problem once every link to GeoCities pages finally goes offline. 

TWENTY PERCENT Says this story: Tips go up if there’s an option in the app, or the merchant’s Square payment screen has a tip option. This leads to a “digital tip trap,” in which individual judgment and personal choice are wiped out by relentless mind-control beams streaming out of the electronic device, or something.

Wasn’t that an annoying sentence? I’m disappointed I wrote it. But that’s how you disagree with something without taking the arguments on their merits and refuting them one-by-one: mischaracterize with exaggeration, then say “or something” to indicate you kinda nailed it. Lazy 

So you should read the story. I tip at the coffee shop, but I don’t tip when I pick up the pizza. Delivery, yes. Handing it to me from the hot shelf? No. But there’s a line on the receipt that says TIP and I always feel a twinge of guilt when I leave nothing. It’s not a digital trap, but it nudges you, and for many that’s all it takes.

MEANWHILE IN ITALY I learned today that the Venetian Independence movement is not following me on Twitter. That’s always something of a letdown, isn’t it? You call up a twitter account and the app informs you right off the start that they’re not following you. Then again, if the Venetian Independence movement was following me, I’d be concerned. Why? What did I do to merit their attention? Anyway, Venice wants to secede from Italy, if you believe the recent non-binding plebiscite. They also want to join NATO. Well, perhaps they could be used to practice marine landings. Made you wonder what Google Street View looks like for a city with streams for roads:

Just kidding. The Atlantic article reminds you that . . .

The Most Serene Republic of Venice, as it was officially known, dominated the Mediterranean Sea during its thousand-year lifespan between the seventh and eighteenth centuries. At its height, the state's traders and merchants sailed from the lagoons of the northern Adriatic Sea to the shores of Syria and Lebanon, carrying spices and silks from Asia to Western markets.

It’s always spices with these guys. And silks. Seems like that was the bulk of economic activity for hundreds of years: moving pepper and saffron around. Well, no, not just spices. Rugs. The Wall Street Journal has a review of a new show in New York that looks at Oriental rugs in European paintings. “From Rugs to Riches.

This illustrates a poignant feature of the exhibition, a clash of civilizations: The paintings are eloquent of individual, identifiable lives, while the carpets stand mute, abstract, narrative-free.

I like narrative-free carpets, but that’s just me.

The WSJ also has a look at the new film about Vivian Maier, the incredible photographer who worked as a nanny for decades, never showed anyone her work - even when she worked for Phil Donahue. A fellow bought a box of her negatives at a flea market a few years ago, and brought her work to light. The film raises the question of whether it’s right to show the work of someone who obviously didn’t want anyone to see it - and apparently the answer is yes, since interest in her work hasn’t abated since it was discovered. This line was remarkable:

Buying up and cataloging the messy contents of her life, he found trunks full of negatives as well as undeveloped rolls of film. Unable to elicit interest from museums, he has paid to have her film developed and negatives scanned. He has previously sponsored two splendid books of her photographs and numerous exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad.

What curator in his or her right mind would turn this down? In favor of what?

Votd On-the-spot payback for grafitti, Brazilian-style. The original poster says it translates thus:

“Say sorry”

"Sorry sir, I will never paint the base of police again”

"Now get out before i change my idea."

You suspect the crime was not spraying graffiti, but spraying it on something related to the police.

Finally, here's something that's almost impossible to resist!

It's such a pity they ran out of time and couldn't tell us what the story was about! Amost makes you want to click and see the rest of the story.

If you do, let me know. I boycott these things. Lottery tickets pay off more often than these teasers.

Stop using this ad, please

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 5, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Everything melts in March, right? No. I think there was a March a few years back where it all went by the end, and the snow never came back. But it’s the norm to come back from Spring Break, if you are lucky to take such a thing, and find vestigial drifts still marring the land. It all depends on a memory that gets lodged and sets the standard - filing your taxes on the 15th and seeing the last remains of winter gurgle down the gutters on their way to the drains, for example. That seems too long to bear. The idea that there will be snow around for another month - well, snap that icicle off the eave and plunge it into my heard pls thnx. You realize that our current consolation is “the probable end of subzero temps” and you realize it’s not done. It’s not done at all.

On the other hand, Oreos are now available with pastel-hued filling, which is an undeniable sign of spring. It’s the little things that keep you going.

ADVERTISING BuzzFeed has another one of those “Sexist Ads from the Past” that remind you men were brutes and women were supposed to stay home and make food and perhaps pith themselves with a hatpin in case they felt they were getting “too smart” for their own good. It’s fun to play with old ads, but it helps if you can add commentary that’s something other than OMG WTF You guys/ Anyway, I guess I have to do this again. The last time someone did the Sexist Ads piece, they used this:

It doesn’t seem to occur to the people who post this picture that the words were added. The typeface, the space between the quote mark and “Don’t” - no alarm bells go off? Granted, it’s a paraphrase of what the original ad said. This is the real thing.

Granted, the sentiment is the same, but A) it's a joke, and B) it's part of a series of Schlitz ads based on compensating for domestic strife with beer. They were all bad and Schiltz never tried this approach again.  The percentage of ads that insulted women was quite low, because most ads in, say, Life magazine inthe 50s were aimed at women. They did most of the shopping. Didn't make sense to tell them they were hapless ninnies.

Please adjust your Pinterest pages accordingly.

ART A picture of a homeless man. It’s the source that makes this shot different.

It’s a screenshot from “Grand Theft Auto,” rejiggered in Photoshop. More here.

THE WEB Let it go, man, let it go:

After allegedly finding a cockroach in his sandwich at a Subway franchise in Sudbury, Ontario, Patrick Balfour took to Twitter to voice his complaints against the sandwich giant. He’s sparing no expense in the process: He even bought two anti-Subway promoted tweets for $90. His story is a testament to the power of social media to affect sweeping change—or the power of a near-obsessive-compulsive desire to shame a sandwich chain.

Twitter is good for things like this, but when you find yourself spending almost a hundred dollars to complain about a beastie in the hoagie, you might want to reconsider your life's goals. Never go full Ahab, man. 

Related: This piece asks why “we” keep “buying into” the “Franchise Dream.” Have you been buying into it recently? No? Me neither. Apparently owning one isn't a guarantee of riches, and the parent company can make you do things. And here I thought the contracts people signed said "Money will be delivered in large sacks every Tuesday, and feel free to change the name of the store to 'McDilland's,' if your fancy is thus suited."

Just checked the forecast: 43 on Sunday. The melt begins. Die, winter. Die. 

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