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

"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. 

You won't believe how much you don't care

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 31, 2013 - 12:36 PM

Esquire has a story titled “Why You Shouldn’t Drink Champagne on New Year’s Eve.” Bossy today, aren’t we? No link for you. But here's the teaser:

Champagne is expensive and so burdened with the weight of forced festivity that it's almost impossible not to be let down when you remember you don't even like it.

Oh, shut up. I mention it only as another example of modern headlines - their hectoring tone and clicky-linky style. It’s taken over the internet, and you won’t believe what happened next! For example:

Well, yes, I probably will believe, since the dog became Doge and the rest is played-out meme history. Does anyone ever read these piece and reel away in a state of confusion and disbelief? It can’t be so! It can’t! Yet it is! As the year ends, and this trait shows no sign of abating, YOU NEED TO STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING - sorry, sorry, that’s another cheap annoying trick - and read “4 Reasons ‘Viral’ Content Stopped Mattering in 2013” by Cody Johnston. It’s brilliant and hilarious and absolutely right. 

SCIENCE! Screencap of something from my Zite App, which doesn’t always assemble things the way the original poster intended:

A Peter O’Toole robot would be cool, but I’m not sure “highly attractive” is the right word.

Speaking of unattractive things:

ARCHITORTURE It’s nice that the commercial vernacular of the 70s is getting some attention; it’s just a pity it’s, you know, the commercial vernacular of the 70s. The Pizza Hut buildings were ungainly and ill-proportioned, but they were certainly distinctive. Atlantic Cities studies how they’re being reused:

For Pittsburgh resident Mike Neilson, proprietor of Used to Be a Pizza Hut, the iconic hump-roofed structure brings back happy memories of growing up the 1980s in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Back then, Pizza Hut pizza was "the de facto standard," he says, to be eaten while playing tabletop Pac Man games.

The one in North Fargo, where I learned the waitering trade, was overhauled in the strange suburban-chain style that’s regrettable in its own special way.

View Larger Map

In the comments someone says “there needs to be a ‘used to be a TacoBell’ website” Maybe. How about a “Used to be a Zantigo’s site”? A few examples still dot the metro.

ART Chris Ware has a New Yorker cover that will be familiar to any parent. For some reason he has to explain it, and convert the wry smile of self-recognition to glum worry:

Sometimes, I’ve noticed with horror that the memories I have of things like my daughter’s birthday parties or the trips we’ve taken together are actually memories of the photographs I took, not of the events themselves, and together, the two somehow become ever more worn and overwrought, like lines gone over too many times in a drawing. The more we give over of ourselves to these devices, the less of our own minds it appears we exercise, and worse, perhaps even concomitantly, the more we coddle and covet the devices themselves. The gestures necessary to operate our new touch-sensitive generation of technology are disturbingly similar to caresses.

Well, for him, perhaps, but I mostly use quick-flick motions and reverse-pinch-to-zoom, neither of which people seem to appreciate when applied to their faces.

But the point is solid. How many people tonight will be shooting the countdown to midnight - in vertical mode, of course - instead of looking directly at everyone else around?

Happy New Year, however you choose to celebrate it; see you in 2014!

The Telepathic Elf Advocate

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: December 23, 2013 - 12:39 PM

They have magical powers, but they can't get across a highway:

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church. The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.

Hundreds of people, relative to Iceland’s population, is no small number. The article quotes a human intermediary who communicates with the elves telepathically. The solution seems clear: Elf Crossings, and tunnels placed at regular intervals.

About that Elf Advocate: she’s named Ragnhildur Jonsdottir. Google that, and you get two people. One’s an actress.

She’s the blonde in this movie, “the top-grossing film in Iceland in 2007!” She will enter the world of role-playing nerds:

Or, this Ragnhildur Jonsdottir.

You could probably go to Iceland and run into either one. Why not try? It's only six hours away, and Iceland Air flies to the Twin Cities. Delicious pastries served before you land, and the all-Iceland music channel gets you in the mood.

COFFEE Good restaurants are using Nespresso cups. Is this an unpardonable sin against humanity? Aeon mag:

You might not care much about fine dining or coffee. But you probably do value the skills of the artisan and might well believe that food is one of the ever-dwindling number of domains where individual human flair and creativity cannot be bettered by the mass-produced and mechanised. If so, you should care about the challenge to your assumptions that the rise of capsule coffee represents.

I don’t think anyone who doesn’t care about find dining or coffee is particularly concerned about the representation of the capsule’s assumptions, let alone its challenge. But it’s a good point: is there a difference between a Nespreso cup and something made by hand?If the cup was made a few years ago, and the human has a particular skill at tamping down the grounds and adding a picture of Doge in the foam, of course there’s a difference. So the author arranges a taste test, and the results . . . are here. Skip right to the comments, where people are slapping each other in the face with wet trout over the smallest of things.

VIDEO  Who’s up for some high-quality electrical plant demolition? Here you go.

WORD SALAD Let’s check in at that nonsense blog that tosses all sorts of search terms in the blender for other robots to click on. It’s run by “Leonard.” This week he’s all het-up over - well, you’ll see. No link, because that would be rewarding him. 

Overall, the hotwives in minnesota and low rate mortgages, then Minnesota may be impounded on the hotwives in minnesota by Minnesota Care, General Assistance Medical Care, and Medicaid managed care plans serving non-disabled populations, and discovered that an Officer seeking to test a driver's blood, urine or breath to see what magic the hotwives in minnesota at the hotwives in minnesota who dream instead of heading north to Minnesota can be classified as humid.

Wow! Tell me more!

Needless to say, Minnesota Twins first hit the hotwives in minnesota as the Vikings has been passed must be submitted electronically by the hotwives in minnesota, 30 hours are required to maintain your driving privileges after being arrested for a coffee date or dinner date.

Keep that in mind.

That's it for today; off to walk around in the ridiciulous cold, for some reason. 


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