Monthly Archives: August 2008

Friday Random 10: Future Food Edition

Pax Arcana

Grant Achatz is chef of Alinea and one of the big stars of contemporary cuisine. When you go to some fancy restaurant and see things like foam or smoke on the menu — or if the menu itself is made of edible paper — chances are the place is just knocking off one of Achatz’s culinary inventions.

Also, he can see into the future. When asked by a reporter what the dining experience will be like in 20 or 30 years, he responded thusly:

Nothing. Dining will become more and more virtual. The highest-end restaurants will use technology to produce dining experiences. False images of food will be projected onto tables and plates, and sights and sounds and other senses will be introduced to complete the experience.

I think he’s right. Nothing satisfies my craving for the unctuous, gooey earthiness of veal shank marrow spread over toasted spears of fresh baguette quite like a hologram and some sound effects. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take my jet pack in for maintenance.

The songs:

Atom — British Sea Power
Isis — Bob Dylan
Black Cadillacs — Modest Mouse
Milk Thistle — Conor Oberst
Versace — Bettie Serveert
Girl Sailor — The Shins
Various Stages — Great Lake Swimmners (Live)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door — Guns N Roses (yeah that’s right)
Suicide Girl — Bi-Polar Baby
Canary — Liz Phair

Bonus Video:

Tiger Mountain Peasant Song — Fleet Foxes (Live in London)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Inventory Purposes

Pax Arcana

Here’s a sign I spotted on the window of the Dunkin’ Donuts on the VFW parkway near the Dedham Mall (the one next to Burger King, not the one directly across the street from Burger King):

The sign does more than simply confound us. Verily, it expands our comprehension of the axis between economics, marketing, supply chain theory, environmental science, and the English language as a whole. Never has something said so much while at the same time saying so little.

My hat is off to you, Dunkin Donuts. I sit humbled and in awe of your awesome power to call upon the theater of the absurd to explain your policies, when a simple explanation would have sufficed. Within this simple 8.5″ by 11″ rectangle, the seemingly intractable rules of logic and order are sucked into a vortex in which neither light nor gravity can escape. Also, kudos for the inventive capitalization.

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David Duchovny wants to do it

Pax Arcana

“Hey Scully.”

“Yeah, Mulder. What is it?”

“I think I really saw one this time. An alien.”

“Maybe you did.”


“Hey Scully.”

“Yeah, Mulder.”

“I wanna fuck it.”


“The alien. I wanna fuck it.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“You don’t think it’s hot?”

“I didn’t even see it.”

“But if you did, do you think you would think it was hot?”

“Are you on drugs, Mulder?”

“No, I’m just saying that if you saw what I think I saw, then maybe you wouldn’t be so dead set against the idea that the alien was fuckable.”

“Um, OK.”


“Hey Scully.”

“Oh God, what now?”

“You know that little taco stand on Vine Street, across from the bowling alley?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“They have awesome pico de gallo.”

“Yeah, they do.”

“I wanna fuck it.”

David Duchovny Enters Rehab for Sex Addiction [US Magazine]


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Olive Garden arrives in Sioux City and holy hell is the local paper excited about it

Pax Arcana

Like the denizens of Pax Arcana, the residents of Sioux City, Iowa, consider themselves connoisseurs of fine dining. At least according to the Sioux City Journal.

That’s why those residents are so excited for the arrival of the town’s very first Olive Garden restaurant.

Wait. You mean like the Olive Garden? The chain restaurant with those awful TV commercials and horrendous knock-off Italian food?

Yes. Yes they do.

Gawker says the following is the most Onion-like newspaper article in history. I say it is simply the greatest newspaper story ever written in the history of mankind and the whole wide universe.

In fact, we may need to break this one down FJM-style:

Olive Garden arrives

A martini is not a martini without an olive.

That, at least, is the thinking of a true connoisseur.

Or anyone who’s ever actually had a martini. Go on…

And to Siouxland residents, many of whom consider themselves connoisseurs of fine food, a city is not a city without an Olive Garden. So as of Monday, Sioux City becomes a real city.

Or a suburb of Baltimore. Or Oklahoma City. Or Trenton. Or anywhere else.

What for years has been a local obsession — the OG’s manicotti formaggio, chicken vino bianco and zuppa toscana driving Siouxlanders to Omaha and Sioux Falls — has become a reality.

Two things:

1) I didn’t know there were such a thing as Siouxlanders. Are they Iroquois or Banshee?

2) In the whole history of the United States of Goddamn America, has no actual Italian person ever moved to Sioux City and opened a restaurant?

Olive Garden officially opens its newest restaurant at 4 p.m. Monday at 4930 Sergeant Road in Lakeport Commons.

Summon the riot squad! Secure the avenues and streets! Hide your Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates!

The OG yearning was best expressed by an anxious woman in a big white car who stopped this reporter as he was leaving the new restaurant last week. She rolled down her window and asked if it was open, then looked heartbroken when told that it wasn’t, that the parking lot was simply filled with the vehicles of Olive Garden staff members in training. “I’ve been watching it and marking my calendar until Dec. 11,” she said, her brief hopes for an early Italian dinner quashed.

My prediction: December 11 will become an official new holiday for the residents of Sioux City, Iowa. Banks will close early. Children will stay home from school. Grain silos will go unattended. We’ll call it Mediocrity Day and celebrate by purchasing only the finest in extremely widely available products from the most watered-down sources possible. There will be joy that day, my friends.

That’s the reaction that excites general manager Jason Hagarty, 31, an Omaha native and bachelor with eight years of Olive Garden experience, most recently as general manager in Dubuque.

“I’m excited,” he said, noting the reaction of people in public when they find out who he is. “I think it’s going to be a good marriage — us and Sioux City. This is my seventh Olive Garden, and this is the one I’m most excited about.”

An Omaha native and a bachelor??? Ladies, start your engines!

One reason for his excitement is the ample parking available, more than at any other Olive Garden where he has worked, he said. It includes shared parking with adjacent businesses. The restaurant is just east of Gunderson’s Jewelers.

I’d be excited too. In fact I’ve got an ample parking boner right now.

The new restaurant, built in the company’s Tuscan-farmhouse design, is the second in the state, with a rustic stone exterior typical of the buildings in the Italian countryside, and an interior accented by Italian imports designed to make the Sioux City dining experience a tribute to the restaurant’s Italian inspiration, Hagarty said.

Most new Olive Garden restaurants have been build in the Tuscan-farmhouse design since 2000.

“The decor, the colors — we just want to make it feel as warm as possible,” he said. “Our glassware and plateware is imported from Italy. We want to make it as traditional as possible.”

Indeed, it is hard to enter any of the Olive Garden’s 600 locations without mistaking the clientele for the nobles of Siena.

“Why Contessa! So good to see you! Have you and the Marchese ever supped on such a delicioso bread stick?”

… Five more paragraphs on the decor …

The Olive Garden menu is famous for its variety, offering everything from spaghetti and meatballs to fettuccine alfredo, capellini pomodoro, shrimp primavera, lobster spaghetti, lasagna classico, sausage and peppers russica, a variety of pizzas and appetizers — and wines, of course, an important part of any Italian dining experience. There is also a full selection of beers, cordials and specialty drinks from the bar.

Shrimp is famous for its variety. They’s um, shrimp gumbo, shrimp stew, shrimp pot pie, shrimp salad, shrimp sandwich … and shrimp appetizers.

“Anything you like, we probably have,” Hagarty said. “We’re known for our soup and salad specials. We have three different kinds of soups. Soup and salad and breadsticks — that’s kind of our lunch staple. Everybody loves it, and they always rave about it.”

Apparently people in Sioux City only like three kinds of soup.

It is the same menu customers will find in each of Olive Garden’s 584 restaurants. With 70,000 employees and more than $2.6 billion in annual sales, Olive Garden remains the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc., the world’s largest casual dining company.

“So if you come here, you go to Omaha or you go anywhere else that has an Olive Garden, you should be able to sit down and have the same bowl of soup and have it taste the same,” Hagarty said.

Sameness is the ultimate food virtue. Nothing should ever taste different just because you’re in a different place. In fact, the Olive Garden’s next initiative is to make more of its food taste like other menu items. So whether you order the minestrone or the lobster spaghtetti, it won’t matter because it all tastes exactly the same. And that’s worth the drive into Sioux City.

As for Sioux City’s decidedly unMediterranean-like weather, he said he’s used to it. He is, after all, from Omaha. “We’ve been spoiled the last couple of weeks,” he said. “Actually, by the time people leave here, hopefully they’re warm enough inside they forget about the weather.”

To recognize Hagarty’s role as head of the Olive Garden family in Sioux City and to emphasize the importance the company places on its general managers, Olive Garden honored Hagarty by setting his name in stone. Travertine marble imported from Tuscany was chiseled with Hagarty’s name and placed prominently by the front door.

And here in Boston I just have this plastic nameplate on a cubicle wall.

Oh, and actual Italian food made by actual Italian people.

During the past week, the Air Force vet whipped his staff into shape, but without the whips, salutes or any military-style discipline.

They whip people in the Air Force? Did the rest of you know about this?

“We like to have a good time here,” he said. “My biggest thing is to keep my employees happy, make sure they’re having a good time. That way, I can make sure my guests are happy and having a good time.”

It must be working. One new employee when asked where Mr. Hagarty was, wasn’t sure who Mr. Hagerty was until she was told his first name. “Oh, Jason! Sure, just a minute.”

Jason Hagarty: “Hi, I’m Jason Hagarty. I’m your new boss here at the Olive Garden.”

New employee: “Wait. Slow down. Your name is what?”

Jason Hagarty: “Jason Hagarty.”

New employee: “Jason?”

Jason Hagarty: “Yes, that’s right. And I’m really glad to have you on board here at the Olive Garden.”

New employee: “The what?”

The weeklong training sessions benefitted from the presence of Olive Garden trainers — the “best of the best,” Hagarty calls them — who were flown in from around the country to supervise the training sessions. He is thrilled that Olive Garden takes the time and money to get people trained properly.

“We don’t want to open the doors until we’re ready,” he said. “I don’t want you to come in Monday night and not have the service you’re supposed to get, and have the food not tasting quite right.”

You know, like everything else.

Olive Garden arrives [Sioux City Journal]
Amazing [Gawker]


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Take off your bra

Pax Arcana

The Boston Herald has a story today about a California woman who was forced to take off her bra at the Oakland airport to pass through security. Apparently the underwire in her unmentionables tripped the thing and it was either that or submit to a full-body search:

“I felt I was being treated like a criminal,” said the Harvard-educated Kates, who was headed to Massachusetts to see her mother and vacation on the Cape.

“My underwear is not a security threat,” she added.

A TSA officially defended the organization thusly:

“Just because a passenger says they are wearing an underwire bra or they say they have a hip replacement that’s metal … we can’t take the word of the passenger unfortunately,” Melendez said.

I think Melendez is being politically correct. Everybody knows that most people with big boobies are, in fact, terrorists — or at least terrorist sympathizers. I fully support the TSA on this one.

I only hope they don’t start flagging people with steel-reinforced underpants. That could be bad news for me, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m sayin’ I have a huge weiner. It’s not true but I’m sayin’ it anyway.

Heavy metal: Underwire bra trips up airport cops [Herald]
Be Wary of Underwire Bras at the Airport [Bostonist]

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Democrats hate a winner

Pax Arcana

Via Universal Hub comes this hilarious nugget from the San Francisco Sentinel’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention last night. In case you missed it — while you were openly mocking Alex Rodriguez and the hilariously retarded children of George Steinbrenner — the Democrats officially nominated Barack Obama last night.

Here’s what happened when it was Massachusetts’ turn:

There were a few boos at one point — when Massachusetts cast its vote and gave a nod to its sports teams, the Red Sox and the Celtics, the current baseball and basketball champions.

Rumor has it those same boo-birds almost booed New York’s celebration of the Superbowl champion Giants, but stopped short when a dozen union chiefs lifted their index fingers to their lips in unison. It would be a shame if all of Iowa’s building permits were to, you know, get lost or something…

Booing the Great State of Massachusetts [Universal Hub]

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Shawne Merriman is a freaking genius

Pax Arcana

Shawne Merriman is famous for two things:

1) Being really good at football


2) Using steroids to get really good at football

I humbly submit that we add a third thing to this list:

Shawne Merriman is a freaking genius who is smarter than four doctors combined.

You might think Merriman must have been wearing his bad idea jeans when he told the Chargers he would play this season against the advice of four (FOUR!!) separate doctors who suggested he have career-saving surgery now and come back for the 2009 season. But Merriman, whose IQ far exceeds that of the typical bunched up piece of paper, wisely reckoned that at age 24, he is too old to not risk a multi-million dollar career on the 2008 season:

“I know what’s at stake,” Merriman said Wednesday. “But I had a goal with the team before the season started, and I’m sticking to it.”

When asked how sure he was about playing, Merriman replied, “100 percent.”

It is precisely this kind of insight that has served Merriman so well in the past. Like that time he promised to blast Tom Brady in the mouth before getting humiliated in the AFC Championship Game (hat tip: Fallen Angel). Or that time he invented the “Lights Out Dance.”

The good news is that football is not dangerous in any way:

Merriman to play despite 2 torn ligaments [Fox Sports]

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Is there nothing Google Earth cannot do?

Pax Arcana

Well here’s a bit of serendipidous news for you. Not only can Google Earth spot north-south facing bovines on the plains of Nebraska, but also it can win you a gold medal in the Olympics.

Cyclist Kristin Armstrong ventured to Beijing last December and rode the time trial course for her event wearing a GPS unit in order to track the course elevation metrics for training purposes. She then returned to the states and mapped the GPS data using several different technologies, including Google Earth. Then she went back to China and won the time trial in a stirring race that might have been on TV if not for NBC’s 4-hour block of Olympic Bouncing Sexy Asses.

On a Google blog, Armstrong describes how this process helped her train for the event:

I was then able to trace the entire course from the comfort of my home half a world away and find a similar route to train on back in Boise. This capability along with having the elevation profile proved invaluable in my preparation for my Gold Medal race. It was also very nice to be able to show family members and friends the course from the excellent satellite views presented by Google Earth.

By coincidence, last night I used Google Earth to show my friends and family where I trained to be an astronaut. The resolution wasn’t sharp enough to see all the details, but I know an abandoned refrigerator when I see one.

How Google Earth Helped Win a Gold Medal [TechCrunch]
From Google Maps to gold medal [Lat Long Blog]

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Cows will show you the way

Pax Arcana

If you’re lost on a giant farm, and the sun is obscured behind the clouds, you might despair that you’ll never be able to discern which direction you’re facing.

But according to this article from BBC News, cows have a strong tendency to align themselves facing north or south when grazing. So all you need to do is put a cow on your wrist and BANG — instant compass.

Wait. What?

How the F did you come up with this gem, scientists? Strap GPS units to cow asses and track their grazing patterns? Pay thousands of researchers to monitor cattle grazing patterns at sites across the globe?

I mean, it’s not like you just flipped open your laptop one day and goofed around until…

Uh oh:

The researchers surveyed Google Earth images of 8,510 grazing and resting cattle in 308 pasture plains across the globe.

“Sometimes it took hours and hours to find some pictures with good resolution,” said Dr Begall.

The scientists were unable to distinguish between the head and rear of the cattle, but could tell that the animals tended to face either north or south.

That right there is some good quality work.

Dr. Begall’s next scientific breakthrough — using Google earth to prove that many Australians lay out topless in their backyards to get a sun tan. Poor resolution means the topless Australians can’t be identified as male or female, but what does that matter when you’ve already got your pants around your ankles?

Cattle shown to align north-south [BBC News]

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Mr. Met will threaten you with decapitation

Pax Arcana

Via Deadspin comes this awesome video of Mr. Met — adorable mascot of the most awesomest team in baseball — giving some calzone-gobbling mongoloid Yankee fans the universal sign language gesture for “I will cut your fucking head off and store it with the rest of them.”

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