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

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:

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. 

"Ooops. That can happen."

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: February 10, 2014 - 12:27 PM

It can, and it does. What am I talking about? We'll get to that. First, some news in the paper today made me think of this:

I'd just scanned that for a site about downtown Minneapolis; Can you identify it? Good. Gold star. Now name this restaurant, shown elsewhere on the postcard:

Answers at the bottom.

NOT THE ONION You’d be forgiven for thinking it was.

Former McGruff the Crime Dog actor, John R. Morales, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison following his guilty plea three years after police seized 1,000 marijuana plants, 27 weapons – including a grenade launcher, and 9,000 rounds of ammunition from his home.

To be fair, I don’t think he was all the McGruffs, any more than all the Ronald McDonalds were Willard Scott. 

TECH The tablet is dead! All you people using a tablet during the day, put it down and move along with your lives. Tablets are over.

The tablet couldn’t possibly shoulder all the expectations people had for it. Not a replacement for your laptop or phone — but kinda. Something you kick back with in the living room, fire up at work and also carry with you everywhere — sort of. Yes, tablets have sold in large numbers, but rather than being a constant companion, like we envisioned, most tablets today sit idle on coffee tables and nightstands. Simply put, our love for them is dying.

Translation: the author uses his tablet less than he used to, and from this extrapolates broad trends so undeniable he feels confident in using the first-person plural. To continue:

Cue the sad music for the tablet we all loved, and that many still do. Except now as I glance over at my original iPad, iPad mini, Kindle Fire and Motorola Xoom, acting like paperweights, I realize I don’t miss them — especially when I am curled up with my five-inch phone fitting comfortably in one hand. Love is harsh, the pace of technology innovation is harsher, but the future certainly does look phabulous.

Prose is hard, the skill of writing good prose is harder, but the future will never embrace the word “phabulous,” let along “phablet.” The very word looks obese. As for the dying part, I use my tablet more than ever. Reading magazines on smaller devices is impossible; watching movies on an iPad mini on the plane is much better than squinting at a big phone. But if you like larger phones, so be it; I don't know why these things bother people, or they feel compelled to brand their own preference proof you're doing it wrong. Or will be doing it less. Or something. 

VotD he problem with labeling everything “iconic” is summed up perfectly in this 30-second spot: the Sistine Chapel and “Reservoir Dogs” are grouped together for the most simplistic reasons. On the other hand, it’s pretty cool. One continuous take.

ANSWERS The striped building, of course, was the Radisson, which A) suffered a regrettable modernization that gave it pinkish stripes, and B) was in the news today to announce that everything is going swimmingly with the chain. As for this:

It’s the logo for the old Brothers Deli chain. There’s still one downtown, and its website says: “Mike and Dora Burstein opened Mike's Cafe in 1935. In 1959, Mike's sons Leonard and Sam moved Mike's Cafe to 19 South 7th Street and renamed it the Brothers Deli. Leonard and Sam soon made the Brothers a successful chain, at one time including 16 restaurants around Minnesota and North Dakota.” That’s the 7th street restaurant above.

One last video, just for fun. People are gloating over this, because they find the runners irritating. Uproxx cites "hubris and condescending windbaggery." 

So, here you go:  today's Internet People Served Up for Pointing and Judging. 

"Actually, it's two"

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 24, 2014 - 12:09 PM

. . . is what you'd say when somoene remarks "Man, that's one ugly building."

While it’s great to see more development downtown, yikes:

Could be just an initial design, a concept, and the final result will be something that commands the site with authorit, yet varies the facade to delight the eye and provide an interesting detail to the skyline. Right now it looks like a humorless early 80s dullard, and the lighter-colored lines remind you of the white piping on the lapels of a disco-era tuxedo. What are they supposed to mean, other than “here’s some lines we stuck on to keep it from being a featureless expanse”? Is that a detachable section of the building that can be removed and placed elsewhere, if need be?

If you’re curious, here’s what used to stand on the site. The Temple Court.

You’re thinking, what’s so special about that? You’re right. Let’s fix it:

Ah. MUCH better.

GHOST SHIP UPDATE The Smithsonian debunks the cannibal-rat ghost cruise liner, and It also points to a blog whose sole reason for existence is tracking the ship. If you like what they’re doing and would like to contribute, they take Dogecoin.

That may be the oddest paragraph on today.

This Quartz piece looks at other ghost ships, and mentions a new book about the Joyita, another maritime mystery.

”At 5 a.m. on 3 October 1955 the MV Joyita, a 69-foot unsinkable wooden fishing boat, slipped out of the harbour at Apia, Western Samoa, heading for Fakaofo in the Tokelau Islands," it says. "There were 25 people on board, and the voyage should have taken just under 48 hours, but the Joyita never arrived at its destination.

Cue the Gilligan theme. Also: no one in charge of the boat called it unsinkable. Who would say such a stupid thing? You’re asking for an iceberg to show up when you come out of the Panama Canal.

SCIENCE! Here’s another headline from Quartz: “2014 can be the year you give up food forever.” Hey, could be the reason I bookmark the site for regular visits, too. Don’t expect either to happen. The piece is about Soylent, a food replacement for people who are opposed to food. Its maker sets forth a problem you may have previously not have encountered:

Food is the fossil fuel of human energy. It is an enormous market full of waste, regulation, and biased allocation with serious geo-political implications. And we're deeply dependent on it.

How did we get to the point where we’re deeply dependent on food? And how do we get out of this mess? Why, Soylent, a slurry of stuff that has everything you need to live without worring about biased allocation.

A description of Soylent:

There are no meats, fruits, vegetables, or breads here. Besides olive oil for fatty acids and table salt for sodium and chloride nothing is recognizable as food.

This is intended as one of its more impressive features, I guess. Elsewhere he defends his decision to give up Food as we know it:

Most meals involve little to no ritual or social experience.

You don’t know that, and because you don’t, I assume you’re young and single, and don’t understand the role of meals in family life.

Most meals will be forgotten.

Perhaps that was true before Instagram.

If we had an ultimate staple food replace these we would be much healthier and happier and not have to worry as much about the nutrition of the experiential meals we enjoy for pleasure.

There’s a perfect example of a proposition I have no interest in validating.

I do not enjoy grocery shopping, cooking, or cleaning dishes and I shouldn’t have to. I do not like to repeat myself and I do not like having things that I do not need. No one asks me to make my own clothes. Why should I be expected to make my own food? Of course I respect a good designer or chef, I just have other skills and hobbies. Food is great, but most of the time I find what is on my computer or in my books far more stimulating than what is in my refrigerator.

Again, whatever floats your rat-infested ghost cruise ship, but it really doesn’t rise to the level of a society-changing idea, especially since most people shrug at the idea and think “I like pizza. Whatever.”

Jenn May Have Been a Robot

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: January 14, 2014 - 12:15 PM

Today’s telemarketing scum-scam: GATOR FORD. Sounds legit, right? Hey, if there’s a gator in the name it’s probably from Florida, and I can’t see any reason to doubt the good intentions of a car dealership in Florida. Let’s answer!

I got “Jenn,” who said she was calling from the National Auto Warranty Something Something, and I told her that I was on the Do Not Call List, and had no prior relationship with the company, and that I should be taken off the list.

It’s almost touching, isn’t it? The faith one has in the power of words.

There was a pause, during which I could hear the room tone of the call center in the background, and then Jenn, confused, repeated the same line.

At this point I thought I might be dealing with a robot, and if so, I wanted to play. But if they had recorded voices queued up and ready to engage, did they add the sound of a telemarketing boiler-room to make it more authentic?

I’ll never know. After a pause Jenn said she would take my name off the list. Sure you will.

I clicked over to the Do Not Call Complaint Registry Page, where I submitted a complaint. This has the same effect as a peasant in pre-Revolution France sending a letter to the King complaining that the local nobility is keeping his infant son awake with their hunting parties.

Convicted telemarketer scam operators should have a big POUND SIGN tattooed on their forehead, and when you see them you can rap them smartly on the head with a metal baton. Oh, I’m sorry, are you on the Do Not Hit list? I’ll be sure to take you off.

Here is the attitude of telemarketing companies toward the consumer:

GLUG Finally: a life-sized Titanic Simuator. Guardian:

A life-sized replica of the Titanic will become the centrepiece of a landlocked theme park in China, featuring a museum and a shipwreck simulation to give visitors a harrowing sense of the 1912 disaster.
The Chinese version of "the unsinkable ship", with a price tag of 1bn yuan (£100m) and an expected opening date in 2016, will be built at least 930 miles from the nearest ocean in the central province of Sichuan.

I know what you’re asking: does the actor who played Captain Smith in the movie approves of the venture?

Bernard Hill, who played Captain Edward Smith in the movie and flew to Hong Kong to show his support for the Chinese replica, dismissed suggestions that building a theme park based on a tragedy was inappropriate. "It's been approached in a very delicate and a very sensitive way and they are very aware of the extent of the disaster in 1912," he said.

So if he’s okay with it, everyone should be fine.

VIDEO OF THE DAY Cartoon Brew says that CGI Charlie the Tuna is a thing the world did not need, and it’s hard not to agree:




Astonishing realism aside, the voice is all wrong. The original was Herschel Bernardi, of course, doing a New York sixties hipster back when that meant “black glasses, beret, reefer” and the like. It would have been out of character for Charlie to want to be accepted by Starkist, since that suggested his hipster identity was just a pose, and he really yearned for mainstream acceptance. Or he wanted to be speared with a hook, dragged from his element, asphyxiated and chopped up. Depends on how you read the character.

Go here for Brew’s collection of Chuck Jokes Charlie spots.

JAM THIS A writer goes in search of the origin of Artisanal Toast - yes, toast - and finds a small cafe in San Francisco:

If Trouble’s toast itself made instant sense to me, it was less clear how a willfully obscure coffee shop with barely any indoor seating in a cold, inconvenient neighborhood could have been such a successful launch pad for a food trend. In some ways, the shop seemed to make itself downright difficult to like: It serves no decaf, no non-fat milk, no large drinks, and no espressos to go. On Yelp, several reviewers report having been scolded by baristas for trying to take pictures inside the shop with their phones. (“I better not see that up on Instagram!” one reportedly shouted.)

Because that would spoil everything. The long search is here. It's just ridiculous.

Does look like good toast, though. 


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