Statistics Saturday: Some Shapes Which You Ought Not Use As Dinner Plates For Your Trendy Restaurant


  • Triangle-base pyramids
  • Whole spheres
  • Saddle curves
  • Vertical walls
  • Great Stellated Dodecahedrons (unless you are serving a food that can be usefully jabbed on spikes, such as pancakes or lumps of cheese ripped out of a whole)
  • Square-base pyramids
  • Sierpiński sieves (that triangle-with-interior-triangles cut out thing, as while it’s a great shape it actually has no surface area, so it can only hold food by way of surface tension)
  • Bipyramids
  • Doughnut-shaped toruses (unless it is an edible container, like those soup-in-a-loaf meals, itself containing many small doughnuts within, in which case I would like to invest in your restaurant)
  • The Great Rhombicosidodecahedron not because no food could be placed atop it but because when word gets out you have Great Rhombicosidodecahedrons in your restaurant the health department will begin an inquiry which will ultimately clear you but which will generate needless amounts of bad press in the meanwhile.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose two points on reports that someone saw a pair of mice snuggled up against each other sleeping and one opened its eye just enough to yawn and doesn’t that sound adorable? We thought it was adorable.

124

New In Town


Here’s some of the new openings in town.

Four Flats. This newly opened concept bar charges a flat four dollars, serving up just as much volume as your four dollars is worth. This simplifies the problem of working out what you can afford but complicates the problem of how large a glass you’re going to get. Fair selection balanced by more variable-sized glasses than you can possibly imagine. Tour groups are admitted to the stock room for two hours before the open of business every day. Do not ask for the complimentary water as that’s just delivered by fire hose. 4 pm – 2 am except Sundays we think. 118 E Quarrel St.

The Can Trader. Just the spot for the beer fancier looking for something new and unexpected: before the bartender fills your order any other patron is allowed to swap your order for hers or his. The trading doesn’t stop there as in the ten minutes leading up to the hour anyone is allowed to swap their drink with someone else’s yet again. Add to that the lack of labels and you could easily spend a night having some fantastic pale ale or IPA or something you never heard of before and never have the faintest idea what the heck you’re drinking. Opens 2 pm daily, closes after the brawl. 44 Upper Pridmore’s Swamp Road.

Newscaster Karaoke Brew Pub. Taking the karaoke-bar concept up just that one extra notch this spot lets patrons sit at a real working news desk. They can try to work their way through the local, state, and national news, then on to weather, sports, human interest features, Mister Food’s Recipes For People Who Guess They Like Food As A Concept, a recap of weather, and the humane society’s adoptable pet of the day in-between batter-dipped mushrooms and $2 PBR’s. 3 pm to 2 am except between 6:00 and 6:30 and 11:00 and 11:35, or any time the security guard is noticed down the hall. Channel 6 broadcast studios, back door, password “Chris Kapostasy sent me”.

Molecubrew. You know that Carl Sagan quote about making an apple pie by starting with a universe? People who can’t get enough of that are believed responsible for this new experience in being surrounded by test tubes. No brand names, but patrons get to pick quantities and amounts from over 4,500 flavor compounds. And, gads, yes, you have to tell them you want ethanol and water and carbon dioxide and good lord. Though it’s been going only a month they’ve got a thriving community going on Telegram with all sorts of recipes that range from “kind of PBR-ish, if I have to pick something” through “an experience you probably will admit you had” and on to “Diet Pibb Xtra”. Act cool. Best menu item: fried stringy things most of which are potatoes, although if you get one that is an actual fried shoestring your entire tab is free. An evening here will let you know which of your friends think it’s the height of hilarity to speak of “dihydrogen monoxide”, so you won’t have to spend time with them anymore after that. If they start talking about the hazards of dihydrogen monoxide you can shove them under the safety shower and flee. 12 noon – 12 midnight except Mondays. Gibbs Alley, Science and Educational Store District.

The Introverted Turtle. This charming former abandoned laundromat has joined the city’s growing Introvert Chic movement. Its concept, perfect for the country’s newest self-identified self-satisfied community, lets one spend the night hanging out with almost no social interaction. Patrons, bartenders, and kitchen staff alike spend their experiences hiding underneath the cloth-draped tables and never speak to any other person out loud. Submit orders by crumpled-up pieces of paper tossed in the general direction of the bar without looking or by Twitter direct-message to an account they swear no living person is monitoring. Instead of attaching a name to your order list the name of your table’s mythical South Seas island. Hours not listed because the staff kept whimpering whenever we asked them. Sorry. 2250 Lower Plank Lake Road, Upper Level.

A Space. A combination sports bar and live-action roleplaying experience, this newest addition to the Shops That Used To Be Part Of Muckle’s Department Store has the look of a partly-open-plan office floor for one of those companies where nobody really knows what they’re doing or why. Settle in pretending to be part of the sales, marketing, IT, administrative support, or janitorial sections, and enjoy a different selection of food, drinks, prices, and of course programming on the highly realistic computer or TV screens at every desk or corners of “break” rooms. An extra feature described as “Orwellian” and “a nightmarish intrusion on privacy but also strangely comforting” is that the TVs in the bathrooms show footage of the most recent employee to use the bathroom, proving they did indeed wash their hands before resuming service. 10 percent discount if the maitre d’ can guess your actual job. Must bring W-4 for verification to collect. 11 am – 1 am, 111 Canal Street, Lunch Entrance.

Curious about a new place? Contact us care of some office for more!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index stayed at 105 today as none of the surrounding numbers looked any good at all.

105

The First Of 2017


I want people not to think I’m starting the year lazy or timid. Not so much as, say, I want people not to think I’m running one of those mail-order scams where you send in some money every week for a year and then finally I send an associate over to spit in your nostrils. Just the idea of that makes me woozy. But starting the year lazy or timid is on the list of things I want people not to think about me. I also don’t want them starting the year trying to copy-edit that sentence. I want it to be a better sentence too, but there’s no doing it. All that even the best copy editor could do with that sentence is drag it across a mile of pavement and shoot it. I’ve tried. You can see where it left a trail of abraded participles down past the Blimpie’s and everything.

It’s a problem I have every new year. A new year offers the best chance for a new start that you can hope for without abandoning your identity completely and setting up shop under a new name in a new city in a new state in possibly a different time zone and using a transparently fake accent. That’s too much work for anybody, especially when they don’t want to lose their whole DVR queue. But you can at least start off the year doing things a little bit different and see if that delays how imminent the doom feels.

Like there’s this thing where it’s good luck to say “rabbit, rabbit” first thing the first day of the month. Probably that’s extra good to say first thing the first day of the year. I guess after waking up the next morning. If you aren’t going to say that then you want to say something that’s going to set the year on a positive tone. For me that ended up “what the heck are the people in the next room doing?” Because they had some low-level rattling noise going from about 8 am and you don’t want to hear someone practicing their small drum in the hotel. If we discount that on the grounds I fell right back asleep then my first words would be something like “the hotel Internet still isn’t working,” which didn’t get the year off on any better footing. It’s enough to make me wonder if I’d be better off starting the year with my mouth taped shut until I’m quite sure I have something worthwhile to say.

It would not, because I’d need lunch. And where to have the first lunch of the New Year? Home? Where’s the fun in that? The bagel place while reading the alt-weekly to see how its crossword puzzle has gone wrong this week? Great except the place is apparently closed for the holiday? Maybe I could wait until later in the week to eat? How about to the Obviously Used To Be An Arthur Treacher’s Fish And Chips That’s Carrying On Without The Arthur Treacher’s Name And Still Looks Like It’s 1989 Inside? That’s tempting but who can be sure they’re open on a holiday, or any other day? The sign out front might be rotating, but we’re pretty sure that’s just because it’s a breezy day. There’s the Kewpie Doll restaurant but we’re pretty sure that’s always closed. Once again, paralysis.

Or there’s just being online. Someone could start the year off right by saying just the right thing in the right social hangout. Here’s a thread arguing how on Star Trek: Voyager it’s just absurdly implausible that a Vulcan could have black skin instead of dark green skin. I check the calendar. No, it does say it’s 2017. Possibly everybody is confused on the point. I would understand, since 2016 gave us all the experience of living in a year whose every book about will be subtitled Twelve Months That Changed The World. But we do have to be going on to 2017. The alternative is taking a gap year between 2016 and 2018. I admit there’s some appeal to that. But it’ll leave us with something like twelve months of our feet dangling loose and we can’t do that either for some reason. Probably having to do with parliamentary procedure. Well, this could be just the right flame war to kick off the 2017 Pointless Online Arguments Season. Oh, the thread’s locked.

So there’s my paralysis. Get the new year off to any decent start? I can’t figure a way to do it. If you have any please write, care of some department. Use the right typeface! Meanwhile I’ll be in here, not doing anything because there’s no starting. Send help, if you can even.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped two points and fears it’ll never get out of the Philadelphia airport. It would like to, and it’s been following signs to the exit, but somehow the signs always end, no longer pointing to anything, without giving any hint how to get out of anything. It’s kind of eerie and suggests that traders are caught in some fairy tale about the futility of trying or something like that.

109

Um.


From the top-of-the-town readers choice guide in the local alt-weekly.

Top Five Dining Guide: Top 4 Chinese Restaurants
Insult to injury, one of the four is PF Chang’s. I’m not saying you can’t have a fine dinner at PF Chang’s although I’ve never tried, it’s just that you know where you can get a fine dinner at PF Chang’s? At literally any PF Chang’s that exists anywhere in the United States and at least thirteen other nations is where. I just think top-of-the-area surveys like this should display some bias towards local expressions of the concept of purchasing lumps of matter which can be put into your mouth when you think that wise.

No, really, the metro area has more than four Chinese restaurants. Way more. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were eight or even ten of them. I sense the surprise closure of the House Of Ing earlier this year behind all this even though the place has a spinoff chain of fast-food outlets called Ing!credible with local TV advertisements that are twelve percent more twee than you imagine.

I haven’t mentioned it the last couple of weeks because of boring reasons, but my mathematics blog is still going on and did some comics yesterday. Should do some comics tomorrow, if you’re still reading by then, but I don’t have a URL for that yet.

On Richard Thompson


I first saw Richard Thompson’s cartoons as the occasional illustrations in Joel Achenbach’s Why Things Are books. They were these complicated, scribbly, not-exactly-attractive but still compelling sketches to go along with Achenbach’s Cecil-Adams-esque essays. But Achenbach went on to other things, and I didn’t pay attention to the artist, who went on to other things himself. Mostly that was illustrating for Washington Post features which, since I didn’t live in or near Washington, I’d never see.

Last decade he started the comic strip Cul de Sac, which just everybody I knew who cared about comic strips got to praising. My natural contrariness and memories of past times I was burned left me skeptical. But as sometimes happens everyone was right. It was a fantastic comic strip. The art was no less … weird, honestly. It took time to warm up to it. But it’s … well, here. Let me put up a link that always goes to today’s rerun of the comic strip. I’ll say this confidently: the art is funny to look at. It’s expressive. Every face is showing an emotion, a clear and strongly-drawn one. The stuff that isn’t the focus of the panel’s action is drawn funny too. The more you study the lines the more you realize it’s tricky to draw like that.

Cul de Sac was, by 2010, ready to be the savior of the comics page. The strip just had everything. Expressive artwork. Characters who, by being so outrageously implausible, become intimate familiars. Dialogue that’s logical yet surreal. The small-kid perspective by which everything in the world is a bit magical. And hyperbole. It isn’t enough that one kid’s mother is scrapbooking everything he does. It’s that she has twenty-eight (or something) scrapbooks just for the current month. Tall tales are part of the foundation of the American humorous voice, and Thompson captured that perfectly.

And then just as Cul de Sac was escaping from the notice of comic strip fans into the wider world, where it might be spoken of with the delighted reverence we use for Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts, it was struck down. Thompson suffered from Parkinson’s disease, and had reached the point he couldn’t do the strip anymore. The comics page has been the poorer since then. There are many fine comics out there, but I haven’t seen anything that shows the apparently-easy genius that Cul de Sac did, or the promise of it.

Thompson died late last month, complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Gocomics.com reruns his Cul de Sac comics as well as the Richard’s Poor Almanac feature, which if I understand right was mostly quarter- or full-page features for Washington Post Sundays. Those haven’t got the recurring characters of Cul de Sac, but they have got the same vibrant imagination and sharp attention to detail. I recommend both comics. There’s things you’ll be sorry you missed. They will likely include jokes about restaurants.

Buffet Restaurant Scandal!


So last week the local alt weekly published their annual Top Of The Town reader-survey winners, and this week it apologized about the Best Asian Buffet winner. According to the retraction, the Ukai Habachi Grill and Sushi Bar despite being generally quite good and having apparently lots of name recognition, doesn’t have a buffet. They explained they get a lot of reader-submitted entries, which is fair. They have somewhere around 620 categories for the Top of the Town contest. This includes two separate categories for Best Coffee Shop, which isn’t even my joke[1]. But they can’t vet every place nominated for every category. They have a hard enough time rolling their eyes at every politician someone can name being nominated for “Best Comedian” which, again, isn’t even my joke.

They don’t exactly say who told them that Ukai doesn’t have a buffet. The article says the restaurant said people have stopped by asking for the buffet, which suggests the restaurant asked them to do something about people. But it doesn’t quite say that. It might’ve just been someone sidling up to the newspaper office and whispering an awkward, “Um … you know … I don’t want to embarrass you … but … like … before you do next year … uh … ” and never getting to the point.

The most wonderful thing about this? They admit it happened before. Apparently once the Knight Cap, a steakhouse, won for Best Pizza. The Knight Cap rolled with it, briefly adding pizza to their menu. I like to think they got it from Ukai.

[1] Best Coffee Shop is divided between Best Biggby and Best Not-Biggby shop. Biggby is a local chain that’s omnipresent in the same way jokes about Starbuck’s being everywhere used to be. They’re called Biggby because the place used to be called Beaner’s, and they wanted to expand like crazy, and found out there’s places that’s a racial slur so they figured better to fix that problem now rather than later, and they already had a lot of stuff with large B logos.

When The Sauces Run Dry


There’s this burrito place. We don’t go there often, maybe once a year. They had a selection of fourteen kinds of sauce, ranging from “hot enough that it cannot be held in the bottle that contains it” down to “is not quite so spicy as cake frosting”. Last year there were “retired” stickers over two of the bottles. This weekend there were “retired” stickers over three of them. Apparently they don’t get much new selectable-sauce signage in.

Also, what of the future? Will there come a time they run out of all their sauces, perhaps one at a time, perhaps in clusters? Will they look at the day they’re down to their last sauce and ponder how long they have before they must turn the lights out, lock the door, unlock the door so they can get outside, lock the door again, and walk out never to set foot in the strip mall again? Or will they manage a desperate last-minute campaign, striking out to find new viscous fluids that can be dropped on top of food? Keep sending people to the drive-through at Skyline Chili and asking for extra hot sauce until they’re caught? Will they strike out to the Tim Horton’s and come back with barrels full of maple syrup, producing a burrito that’s disastrously bad but in a way that sounds kind of interesting, really?

I don’t know. Based on past trends we’ll find out perhaps as early as the year 2026 so watch this space!

And Then At The Chinese New Year Event


The mall hosted a Chinese New Year event this weekend, much as it does every Chinese New Year that I’ve been tracking. They had some lucky-draw giveaways. Last year my love and I came achingly close to winning something. We had a block of maybe six tickets and they called the number before our block. The number after our block. The numbers ten less and ten more than ones in our block. This guy next to us was amazed by our near luck. He didn’t win either.

We didn’t get so close to winning anything this year. But that’s all right because the raffle prizes seemed to be from a restaurant’s surplus sale. Some of the prize items were slow cookers. One, a mystery item in a huge box, was three slow cookers. Not just a tower of three slow cookers, but a huge box that contained three slow cookers together. You know, for people who realize they need to buy three of them at once and want a huge, unwieldy package instead of an unwieldy pile of packages.

Besides giving away hundreds if not thousands of slow cookers, they were giving away deep fryers. Lots of deep fryers. And I realized, a deep fryer is almost the precise opposite of a slow cooker. This must be why the pile of slow cookers and the pile of deep fryers were on opposite sides of the stage. You wouldn’t want the appliances to start fighting.

There were some non-cooking-appliance things given away. Please picture this scene: a kid maybe half the age of our pet rabbit finds out she has a winning ticket. She runs on stage. She picks one of the wrapped-up mystery gifts. Inside is what every kid most hopes to win: a heating pad. The kid had the same expression you see from a dog who was expecting a burnt sausage and instead got asked a calculus question. So this was all worth it, as we got to live-roleplay Jim’s Journal.

Now Starring … Food


I got to thinking more about Olive Garden’s big plans for Fiscal Year 2015, for which I fully expect to be thanked by the powers at Olive Garden Master Command. Like their PowerPoint slide says, they’re figuring on getting “new plateware that lets the food be the star”. The picture makes it look like the food being the star means the food has to be much closer to the eye. That’s easy enough to attain in photographing, given how starved so many cameras are for fast casual food, but how do you get the same effect in restaurants?

The new plate ware will feature being much closer to the food so it looks bigger.

The obvious way is to keep the patrons’ heads closer to the plates. The simplest way to do that, like I realized, is to take on staff who’ll keep going around and pushing heads closer to the plates. But I’ve realized this can’t work, because incidents will arise when the patrons remember they have access to knives and forks, unless Olive Garden decides to do without cutlery altogether. Perhaps they have, since their PowerPoint slide distinctly spoke about getting new plateware and many people, if you call them and ask if they think forks are plates, will answer, “What? Who are you? How did you get this number?”

Anyway, if Olive Garden is taking this course then I think it’s safe to rule out that they’re going to chopstick-based services because those still allow for a lot of poking. It implies by the end of Fiscal Year 2015 Olive Garden patrons are just going to be tearing their Chicken Somethingorother apart with their hands and chewing it down while hoping the waiter won’t rap them on the back of their necks for sitting too straight.

But that’s madness, because if Olive Garden were to hire a bunch of people to push patrons’ head closer to the plates then they’d have to start paying the employees, and there’s no place in modern business for hiring people that you have to keep paying. The solution has to be technology, because investors are always excited in buying devices and gadgets and other kinds of infrastructure, because those wear out and they can buy new ones later on.

The cheapest thing to do is to have Olive Garden go around and replace all their tables with ones that are taller. Maybe one foot taller, maybe two; it’s going to take maybe the rest of Fiscal Year 2014 to figure out how tall their tables and their customers are, and maybe a couple weeks to go back and double-check when they realize they forgot to write down which measurement was which. This is a promising approach because you just know there are going to be customers who won’t get into the spirit of the thing, and they’ll try bringing yellow pages to serve as a booster seat.

This would be profitable for the yellow pages industry, which right now has to go around stuffing phone books into the dusty spaces underneath the furniture you never move until you’re getting ready to sell the house. But the Strategic Action Plan doesn’t say a word about Olive Garden getting into the yellow page industry, so I have to conclude they either aren’t going the higher-table route or they’re hoping to get into the yellow pages market before anyone else catches on. So I guess I just spoiled it.

Affixing to each plate one of those book-magnifying type plates, I mean the kind you see through instead of eating on, seems like a good way to make the food bigger. But that’s got the objection that they’ll just encourage people to practice their sneezing. Also there’s a chance kids might eat there and there’s the obvious issues of sibling cudgeling.

So I conclude that this is going to require getting new chairs, ones with backs that arch steeply forward. By this simple act of encouraging people to lean forward faces will be that much closer to the plates, and the food will look that much bigger, and the only operating cost is in developing new ways to stack chairs. This will also solve the problem of people swinging their chairs around backwards to sit, which is a major problem, according to people called at random who thought they were finally going to get to use their answers to that plateware question.

Better Eating for 2015


I don’t think I’m saying anything too outrageous if I assert that Olive Garden is a restaurant which exists and has some definite traits in addition to its existence. I wouldn’t make many more strong assertions about it because I can’t really work up the energy to, but that might change come Fiscal Year 2015. According to the Strategic Acton Plan put forth by Olive Garden corporate overlords Darden, Olive Garden has a Strategic Action plan to put forward, and it’s easily the most gripping Strategic Action Plan I’ve read in hours. Among other things their Holistic Core Menu and Promotion Plan (page 21) says they hope to offer “New Culinary-Forward Platforms”, with a side serving of “Simple, Compelling Price-Pointed Promotions,” for which I think everyone who’s struggled to chew down the old, bland, price-unpointed promotion will be grateful.

The new plate ware will feature being much closer to the food so it looks bigger.

I also appreciate that, according to page 23, Fiscal Year 2015 will see “New Plateware That Lets The Food Be The Star”, as opposed to the current plateware, which upstages the food by pulling all those first-year drama student tricks like standing upstage and dropping props and coughing during key moments in the food’s monologue. But I also appreciate the preview from the Strategic Action Plan since, as the picture indicates, apparently the major breakthrough in Olive Garden plateware is that they’re finally using their digital cameras’ Macro feature. Either that or the plan is to have newly-trained staff keep pressing patron’s heads closer to the table, at least until they admit the stardom of their “Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich” or “Pappardelle Pescatore”. Either way, it’s going to be exciting.

And now I just wonder when the Olive Garden Fiscal Year starts, and I bet you weren’t thinking at all about that question when you got up this morning (Olive Garden financial affairs experts excluded from this bet). Also “plateware” is a thing that’s not just dishes and cutlery, I guess?

I Should Have Gone To Burger King


Oh, no. No. She noticed me, didn’t she? She saw.

But it’s so nice to eat in a restaurant now and then. It’s warmer than a fast food place, the furniture is cozier, there’s something more generous in it being trusted you will pay when you’re done than putting your money up front. It’s so much less likely there’ll be the guy rambling about Iraq and the Federal Reserve to the baffled university student who can’t find a graceful way out of this and doesn’t want to just bolt for the door.

But she saw me.

I just tapped my glass. It wasn’t on purpose, I was just fiddling around because the hand wasn’t needed for the book and it has to do something and it’s either fiddle with the cutlery or touch the glass. But the glass was almost empty, just soda-stained ice and the straw left, and now … yes, she’s come. What if she thinks I’m beckoning her over to demand a refill?

She dips her head and smiles and I just know she’s thinking I think she’s there to jump to my whims. Diet Coke isn’t much of a whim, but it’s the contextually appropriate one. I don’t want to be one of those customers. I want to just fade into the background and someday, eventually, pay my check. I can’t save the situation. “Thank you,” I say, before she opens her mouth. One.

“Would you like a refill?”

“Thank you,” I say, fumbling the first word so it comes out in three syllables. Two. She grins and takes the glass and I’m panic-stricken that she doesn’t remember it’s diet I was drinking. “Er, that’s Diet Coke,” I say as she recedes, marking myself as someone who beckons the waiter over and barks out refinements of my demands. Why oh why did restaurants stop putting slices of lemon in diet soda? It saves so much agony in making sure the waiters remember who the freaks are who care about the difference. “Thank you,” I pitch after that, whether she hears it or not. Three.

I shouldn’t have said anything. She surely remembers. There’s just me at the table, there’s no complicated ordering going on. I wouldn’t dream of it. I didn’t change soda mid-meal, unless now she thinks I did because I specified and now what must she think of me? At this point she’s got to have figured my only saving grace being that I didn’t demand things be sent back to the kitchen, and is working up such a sarcastic blog post about me that’ll go up on the Internet somewhere I won’t even see. Good heavens. Why don’t I flee? No, that would be worse, clearly worse.

I see her again. She’s got the soda. Maybe it’s diet. Maybe not. “Thank you,” I say, as she gets near the table, and she nods. Four. Does she mean the nod? Is she just putting up with me? Does she suspect how this is all a horrible mistake? Is she aware how much less tense I’d be if she just hadn’t noticed me? How much I wouldn’t have felt under-served? How I could’ve paid and been on my way to have something embarrassing happen at the video store instead? I can’t explain any of it, that’d just take up her time and it’s not like she can un-pour the soda.

“Thank you,” I say again, as she walks off to patrons who she hasn’t got every reason to hate. Five. I said “thank you” five times for a soda I had no reason to care about getting until it was too fraught with emotion to not get. I have to do something with it. I take a sip, and then a longer one. If she looked back at my table then she knows the soda was used for its intended purpose. The crisis is passed. I can wait a decent time and then hope she brings the check.

“Oh, you are thirsty,” she says, taking me by surprise. “Would you like another?” Something has stolen ten minutes and two-thirds of the soda, and my hands are resting on it again.

“No, thank you,” I say, and realize I forgot to say the “no” part out loud.

The Big McDonald’s Ketchup Transition


I understand that McDonald’s is dumping Heinz as its ketchup supplier. The BBC News article about this says that McDonald’s is working with Heinz “to ensure a smooth and orderly transition of the McDonald’s restaurant business” to some other brand. I suppose it’s better for the investors that way but I am kind of sad we won’t see a disorderly transition. It could be a period of fertile experimentation as people run around their local McDonald’ses, examining various things and evaluating whether they are in fact viscous liquids that might be applied to French fries.

“Could this be it?” screams one customer who’s holding up a jar of maple syrup. “No, this,” cries out her husband, who’s found some lavender paint. “I have it!” shouts a person holding up molten Chapstik, while his rival for the big promotion at the ketchup factory has snuck in some horsey sauce from Arby’s. In comes a child with a bucket full of coal slurry, only to be upstaged by someone with that butter-inspired liquid gel they have at the movie theaters and the fry cook who’s got some of that liquid metal used to make Terminator 1000’s. Tensions are high when someone spots the guy refilling the Coke Freestyle machine with Fanta Zero syrup. He’s swiftly ringed by desperate people wielding McNuggets, and then someone — protestors blame the police, the police blame Occupy Ho-Ho-Kus New Jersey — tosses the first brick. By the time the scene clears people have run off and got toasted artichoke sandwiches.

Me, I don’t really care much for ketchup.

It’s Lovable, But Is It Parkable?


Well, here’s another investment prospect I’m not sure about. It purports to solve one of the big problems of cities, that there’s nowhere to park except for parking garages. But nobody likes parking garages, because they look like parking garages, and once you’re past the age where you’re struck with wonder at how you drive around one way and you’re going up the decks and you drive the other way and you’re going down and somehow it doesn’t look like you’re going over the same decks you don’t even look at them with childlike wonder anymore. So, this company’s figuring to make parking decks that don’t look like parking decks: outside they may look like a giant roller skate (as one that they installed in Albany, New York, while the city council wasn’t looking does), and inside they might look like safari theme restaurants (to use an example from Des Moines, but not that Des Moines; it was just one of Dese Moines). They figure growth prospects are good as long as people keep needing cars and they don’t get taken over by a performance art troupe. Must consider.

Fred Allen: Correcting Alphabet Soup


Fred Allen is a comedian I didn’t discover, outside his famous quips about how committees work and about television, until I was well grown and listening to a lot of old time radio. He’s not remembered as well as his rival Jack Benny, and if you wish to point out Jack Benny isn’t well remembered I’ll come over there and spit on your driveway. Besides, Fred Allen did get a cameo in an autographed photo on 30 Rock last season.

Most of his writing defies quotability, as he liked to be very timely, and enjoyed commenting on the other comedians of the day, and so he has to be flanked by footnotes. But some bits carry through, such as this one from the Salad Bowl Revue of October 6, 1933, which is available on archive.org as part of their old time radio collection, and which I believe to be out of copyright. I can’t convey Allen’s voice in print, and unfortunately there aren’t even any good cartoons that parodied him, but he came from Boston so take your guesses and this really is what YouTube is for.


Announcer:

And now Mr Allen’s help and advice on etiquette:

Good night, ladies and gentlemen. Well, our etiquette department is going like a blacksmith’s clientele in a one-horse town, and a postcard tonight comes from Professor Merrill G Clark of Detroit, Michigan.

Professor Clark says, quote, “I am an English professor at a local college and always have trouble eating alphabet soup in restaurants. Invariably the waiter serves me a plate of alphabet soup containing grammatical errors which he expects me to swallow. I have taught English for so long that a grammatical error even in this form upsets me internally. What should I do?” Unquote.

Alphabet soup has always been a problem to grammarians, Professor Clark. Many professors finding errors correct the soup and send it back to the chef, giving him some homework besides. Other teachers send for soup censors supplied by the makers of the illiterate broth. The censors will gladly remove any objectionable words that may have formed in your soup; but generally, by the time the censor leaves your soup is cold and, while you may enjoy a grammatical triumph, gastronomically you are defeated.

The best thing to do is to order your alphabet soup with the H’s dropped and eat it as English mutton broth. Since fully sixty percent of the soup consumed in this country ends up on men’s vests anyway, you are really swallowing nothing but your pride and forty percent of the liquid insult.

If you, too, have a problem in etiquette lying unsolved in your dumbwaiter, ladies and gentlemen, why not send me the spare parts of a possible faux pas and I shall be glad to spank my mind in an effort to help you as I know I have helped Professor Clark tonight?


A bit of Internet searching reveals to me there was a Canadian diplomat named Merrill G Clark, but I can’t figure out when he lived, or if there were any reason that Allen might have heard such a name, or whether he just made up something that sounded plausible and not distracting.