February 4, 2008

13 Creatively Themed Bars and Restaurants

Recently, a restaurant in Taiwan has been making headlines because of its interesting marketing gimmick; at the eatery known as the Modern Toilet Diner, its customers sit on toilet chairs, eat from toilet-shaped dishes, and use toilet paper in place of napkins. While its theme may be extreme, it’s not the only restaurant or bar out there with an interesting gimmick.


  • Gogol: Located in an underground bunker, this restaurant uses an air raid siren to alert customers when their orders are ready to be picked up.
  • Petrovich: Decked out in Soviet memorabilia, this restaurant pays ironic homage to Stalinist Russia.
  • The Real McCoy: This club models itself after a prohibition-era speakeasy, complete with a hard-to-find entrance and 1930s design elements.
  • Shinok (Moscow): Shinok evokes rural Ukraine, circa 1600, with traditional food, music, costumes, and even real barnyard animals on display.


  • D.S. Music Restaurant: A restaurant with a hospital theme, visitors sit around “beds” while their drinks drip from IV tubes into their glasses.
  • The Jail: Keeping with the jail theme, diners here are served by waiters in black-and-white-striped prisoner garb.
  • Modern Toilet Diner: As strange as it may seem, customers are flocking to the Modern Toilet Diner and its toilet-based decor.


  • Alcatraz: Diners are led to their table in handcuffs and their food is delivered through a slot in the barred “cell” wall.
  • Alice in Wonderland: Customers go down the rabbit hole to this “Gothic and Lolita” style tribute to Lewis Carroll’s heroine.
  • Christon Cafe: There’s nothing sacrilegious about a Christian-themed restaurant decorated with crucifixes and featuring menu items such as the “Small Devil” cocktail, right?


  • Cereality: A restaurant devoted to cereal seems like a strange idea, but with its large menu of cereals, toppings, and cereal-related items like bars and smoothies, this chain of restaurants is taking off in the U.S.
  • Heart Attack Grill: This Phoenix, Arizona restaurant has its own resident “doctor,” whose prescription calls for the house special, the “Double Bypass Burger.”
  • Quark’s Bar and Restaurant: Part of the Las Vegas Hilton’s Star Trek Experience, Quark’s Bar serves drinks and food with names that would sound right at home on the Enterprise.

January 31, 2008

Seven Fresh Delicacies You Can Order Online

It seems like you can order pretty much anything online these days, and fresh food is no exception. With the ongoing improvement in modern shipping methods it is possible to order bagels from New York and receive them in San Francisco before they get stale. I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing (Slow Food proponents and locavores would have a field day), but for those very special occasions when nothing else will do, here are some of your online gourmet options.

  • Bagels: H & H Bagels in New York is justly famous for their chewy, fresh creations.

  • Cheesecake: It’s possible to have cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory sent directly to your home. Or join the Cheesecake of the Month Club and get one delivered every month.

  • Lobster: It may be hard to believe, but this company will send live lobsters to your home.

  • Oysters: Love fresh oysters but can’t get them where you live? This company will sell you two dozen live oysters to satisfy your craving.

  • Filet Mignon: Liven up your next dinner party with these tasty filet mignons.

  • Turkey: Don’t feel like roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving? If you order this whole basted turkey, you don’t even have to leave the house.

  • Truffles: It’s now fresh truffle season, so if you’re looking for this culinary treat, you’ll have to act fast.

November 10, 2007

29 Incongruent Christmas Ornaments

There are three main things you need to properly trim a Christmas tree: lights, garland, and ornaments. There’s only so much you can do with the first two, but there are literally thousands of options when it comes to choosing ornaments. Every year it seems ornament makers get more creative with their products; now you can make a statement about your favorite sports team, TV show character, or Hogwarts quidditch team. But do they go too far?

Anti-Santas When I think of Santa, usually considered a jolly sort of fellow, these characters aren’t the first to come to mind.

Armament Ornaments Nothing says “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All” quite like these ornaments.

Fabulous Foods Who needs eggnog and turkey?

Great Moments in Sci-Fi Ornaments “Khan” you feel the Christmas spirit?

Ornaments for the Holidays (other than Christmas) Why not multitask and celebrate as many holidays as possible at one time?

Santa in the Off-Season Making and delivering toys to all the children of the world can be a tough job. That’s why Santa needs his me-time.

October 28, 2007

18 Truly Scary Halloween Costumes for Kids

When I was a kid, our choice of Halloween costumes reflected those things that really scared us–like ghosts, goblins, and Ronald Reagan. These days, kids seem to be at risk of suffering from an increasing number of ailments, from the life-threatening to the merely irritating, and it seems like costume manufacturers have responded to these scary developments with a whole new set of costumes. Read on, if you dare, about the costumes that might really frighten kids (and their parents) if they thought about the threat behind them. Here is a great site for more Halloween costumes.

August 16, 2007

Six Depictions of Shakespeare Using Inanimate Objects

We’ve all heard about or seen creative takes on classic Shakespearean plays (e.g. A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in the Roaring 20s), but these videos take that creative impulse one step further. This is Shakespeare like you’ve never seen it.

Anakin Caesar: The climactic scene of the play Julius Caesar gains new inspiration when Star Wars action figures substitute for human actors. Plus, I think the voices provided by the kids who made this video are adorable.


Macbeth Act 1, Scene 1: I used to play with Playmobil toys when I was little, but I never reached the artistic heights shown in this video.


Richard III (with vegetables): A lime, a bulb of garlic, and a knife. What could go wrong?


Old Audition Notice: The character of Caliban from The Tempest is usually a bit intimidating, but this puppet version of the wild man is oddly engaging in this casting call.


The Scottish Play (Macbeth) Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets: The name of this clip pretty much says it all.


  • William Shakespeare’s Pingu: Imagines Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed penguins, of the stuffed animal variety (Sorry, embedding isn’t available for this clip).

August 8, 2007

Six Groups That Make Music with Unlikely Objects

It’s likely that early music making evolved from objects found in everyday life, natural materials like rock, animal bones, and wood, but the creation of instruments has gotten much more complex since then. Of course, a folk tradition of homemade instruments has continued, with instruments ranging from the jug, to the spoons, to various stringed contraptions. In the 20th century, composers and musicians refined the idea that music can be made with a variety of objects. The groups listed below take this idea to the extreme; using materials most of us wouldn’t think could produce musical sounds, they make us think differently about the objects we see everyday.

  • Bash the Trash: This group performs for kids and teaches them how to make musical instruments out of recycled materials.
  • Blue Man Group: A phenomenon around the world, this performance art group creates instruments out of PVC pipes and boat antennae.
  • Car Music Project: Founder Bill Milbrodt, with the help of various musical and mechanical experts, turned his 1982 Honda into a set of unique musical instruments, which include a bass made from the car’s gas tank, 55 percussion instruments, flutes made from tubes, a huge drum created from the trunk of the car, and an “air guitar” made from the car’s air cleaner.
  • Scrap Arts Music: Scrap Arts Music is a Vancouver-based group that makes music with instruments made from scrap metal.
  • Stomp: First started in the early 90’s in Brighton, England, the theatrical production Stomp has been popular ever since. Cast members perform intricate coordinated rhythms using objects such as garbage cans and lids, and matchboxes.
  • The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra: Using only fresh vegetables, this Austrian musical group creates unique sonic experiences for its audiences, and ends their performances with free helpings of vegetable soup.

August 6, 2007

Eight Coffee-Related Songs on iTunes

Starbucks recently announced that one of my favorite musicians, Joni Mitchell, would release a new album through its record label Hear Music. This announcement inspired me to come up with a list of songs I think would be well suited to a coffee drinking environment, all of which I found through the iTunes Music Store.

  • Black Coffee, Peggy Lee: This bluesy number from the soulful singer is a classic.
  • Café, Gipsy Kings: I love this upbeat tune from France’s flamenco favorites.
  • Java, Al Hirt: Master trumpeter Hirt shines in this fun and funky instrumental.
  • What I Want Is a Proper Cup of Coffee, Trout Fishing in America: Who doesn’t want a “proper cup of coffee, made in a proper copper coffee pot” (try saying that three times fast)?
  • Java Jive, The Ink Spots: The Manhattan Transfer also does a great version of this song, but I especially like the slow harmonizing of this legendary vocal group.
  • Afternoons and Coffeespoons, Crash Test Dummies: I’m a sucker for the lyrics of this song, based on T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
  • Coffee Mornin’, Duke Ellington: A classy and mellow tune from the Duke.
  • La java de Cézigue, Edith Piaf: I don’t know exactly what “Java” refers to in this song, but I love the Parisian vibe of this kicky chanson.

July 30, 2007

26 Unusual Gummy Candies You Can Buy Online

When I was a kid you could only get gummy (or gummi) candies in a few forms (like gummi bears), but now you can buy them in many different shapes and flavors. From the grotesque to the simply strange, here are just a few of your options:

Bodily Parts and Fluids:

Fast Food & Beer:

Cuts of Meat:

Creepy Crawling Critters:


July 23, 2007

Seven Alternate Spice Girls

A few weeks ago, the former members of the pop group the Spice Girls announced that they would reunite for a world tour this winter. I’m sure they’re all committed to this reunion tour, but I have a few suggestions for back-up members in case any of them get cold feet.

July 19, 2007

Three Titles for Die Hard/James Bond Crossover Movies (and then some)

I just got back from seeing Live Free or Die Hard (in France: Die Hard 4—Retour en Enfer), and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I can’t believe it’s been 19 years since the first Die Hard came out, with Alan Rickman as the excellent bad guy. But I also just finished reading Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale (book/movie), since I figured it was about time I got a taste of the literary James Bond and not just the cinematic one. So that got me thinking: what if the two franchises joined forces—John McClane and James Bond saving the world together? We could have:

  • Die Hard Another Day
  • Live and Let Die Hard
  • Tomorrow Never Dies Hard

But then, there are all sorts of other crossover possibilities too, if Bruce doesn’t want to share the spotlight with 007:

  • To Die Hard For
  • To Live and Die Hard in L.A.
  • Never Say Die Hard
  • A Kiss Before Dying Hard

I’m just saying, the whole not-dying thing could live on forever.

July 16, 2007

11 Well-Regarded British Actors Who Do Not Appear in the Harry Potter Films

The new Harry Potter movie has just been released, and as with the other films in the series, this one features an incredible cast of actors, most (all?) of them British. The newcomer in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton, who plays the by turns ferocious and sickly sweet Dolores Umbridge. In his review of the film, Globe and Mail movie critic Rick Groen comments on this bounty of acting talent and asks rhetorically, “…is there an admired British thespian who hasn’t toiled in Potter’s field?”

Although he makes a good point (and in a clever way), there are in fact many admired British actors who haven’t yet made an appearance in the Potter films. While there are obviously only a certain number of parts available, it is interesting to imagine other actors becoming part of the cinematic representation of J.K. Rowling’s world of magic.

In a 2005 poll conducted by the wine label Mouton Cadet, 6,000 people were asked who they considered to be the 10 greatest British actors and actresses of all time. Of these top 20, only three of the women and none of the men have appeared in the Harry Potter films. Of those who are living, here is a list of those yet to tapped to don wizard or witches’ clothing. (Note: The three actresses from the list who have appeared in the movies are Julie Walters/Mrs. Weasley (#2); Dame Maggie Smith/Minerva McGonagall (#4); and Emma Thompson/Sybil Trelawney (#7)).



June 25, 2007

16 Recent Competitive Eating Contests in the US

Every July 4th since 1916, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs has hosted its annual International July Fourth Hot Dog Eating contest in Coney Island, NY. This year promises to be exciting as six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi of Japan defends his title from last year’s second place winner, Joey Chestnut of California. While the Nathan’s contest is probably the best-known eating competition in the US, there are many other competitive eating events that take place every year. Here are just a few of the contests that took place in the year since the last Nathan’s competition.

  • Rhubarb Pie: Winner ate 7.9 pounds of rhubarb pie in eight minutes; North Dakota State Fair, July 2006
  • Horseshoe Sandwiches (Two pieces of toast topped with ham, French fries, and cheese sauce): Winner ate 6 pounds, 5 ounces of sandwiches in 10 minutes; Illinois State Fair, August 2006
  • Gyoza: Winner ate 212 gyoza; Nisei Week, Los Angeles, August 2006
  • Waffles: Winner ate 23 waffles in 12 minutes (7.5 pounds); Atlanta, GA, September 2006
  • Cannoli: Winner ate 26 cannoli in six minutes; 79th Annual Feast of San Gennaro, New York, NY, September 2006
  • Fried Okra: Winner ate 9.75 pounds in 10 minutes; Oklahoma State Fair, September 2006
  • Jalapeno Peppers: Winner ate 247 pickled jalapenos in eight minutes; State Fair of Texas, October 2006
  • Whole Turkey: Winner ate 4.8 pounds of turkey in 12 minutes; Artie’s Deli, New York, NY, November 2006
  • Meatballs: Winner ate 9.97 pounds of meatballs; Tropicana Hotel, Atlantic City, December 2006
  • Date Nut Bread and Cream Cheese Sandwiches: Winner ate 29 sandwiches in 10 minutes; Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, December 2006
  • Chili Cheese Fries: Winner ate 5.44 pounds of fries; Long Beach, CA, February 2007
  • Deep-fried asparagus: Stockton Asparagus Festival, April 2006
  • Corn on the cob: Winner ate 34 3/4 ears of corn in 12 minutes; 7th Annual Sweet Corn Fiesta, Palm Beach, FL, April 2007
  • Strawberry Shortcake: Winner ate 15.25 pounds of strawberry shortcake in eight minutes; Mattituck, NY, June 2007
  • Shoo-Fly Pie: Lancaster, PA, June 2007
  • Pigs’ Feet and Knuckles: New Jersey State Fair, June 2007

Source: International Federation of Competitive Eating

June 19, 2007

10 “Summer” Songs

The Summer Solstice will take place in a few days, and to get in the mood for summer, I’ve rounded up this list of “summer” songs.

  • Summertime: From the opera Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, first staged in 1935
  • Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer: A 1963 hit from Nat King Cole
  • Summer in the City: From The Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 album Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful
  • Hot Fun in the Summertime: A 1969 single from Sly and the Family Stone which was later included on their Greatest Hits album
  • In the Summertime: Mungo Jerry had a hit with this song in 1970
  • Summer Side of Life: The title track from Gordon Lightfoot’s 1971 album
  • Summer Nights: One of my favorite songs from the musical Grease
  • Boys of Summer: A classic summer song from Don Henley’s 1984 album Building the Perfect Beast
  • Summer of ’69: This enduring song by Bryan Adams’ first appeared on his 1984 album Reckless
  • Summer of Love: From the B-52’s 1986 album Bouncing Off the Satellites

June 11, 2007

11 Father-Related Movies

Father’s Day is around the corner, and to celebrate, I’ve compiled this list of movies that are somehow or other father-related.

  • Big Daddy: Adam Sandler stars as a self-absorbed man who pretends to adopt a kid to impress his girlfriend, but who ends up getting attached to his charge.
  • Daddy Day Care: A comedy featuring Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin as two guys who open a daycare center.
  • Father of the Bride: This classic movie from 1950 stars Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor as father and daughter, and was directed by Vincente Minnelli.
  • Father of the Bride: The 1991 remake of the original, starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.
  • Father of the Bride 2: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, and Martin Short once again appear in this sequel.
  • Father’s Day: Robin Williams and Billy Crystal star in this movie about two men searching for a boy who both believe to be their son.
  • Flags of Our Fathers: Clint Eastwood directed this Oscar-nominated film about the lives of the soldiers who raised the flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
  • Ghost Dad: This 1990 movie directed by Sidney Poitier stars Bill Cosby as a father who is, you guessed it, a ghost.
  • In the Name of the Father: Set in 1970s Ireland, in this film Daniel Day Lewis portrays a man wrongly imprisoned by the British government.
  • My Father the Hero: This comedy features Gérard Depardieu as the father of a mischievous teenager, played by Katherine Heigl (of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Knocked Up”).
  • The Courtship of Eddie’s Father: Ron Howard stars as a kid who tries to play matchmaker between his father (Glenn Ford) and their next-door-neighbor (Shirley Jones).

May 14, 2007

12 Mother-Related Movies

In honor of Mother’s Day (albeit a day late), I’ve compiled this list of “Mother”-related movies.

  • All About My Mother: This 1999 film from Spanish writer/director Pedro Almovodar features a transvestite father and Penélope Cruz as a nun.
  • Big Momma’s House: The first of the Big Momma’s House movies introduces Martin Lawrence as an FBI agent in drag.
  • Mommie Dearest: Based upon the book by Christina Crawford (adopted daughter of Joan Crawford), Mommie Dearest became a cult hit.
  • Mother: Debbie Reynolds stars as the eponymous mother in this 1996 film by Albert Brooks.
  • Mother, Jugs, & Speed: The “Mother” of the title is actually the name of Bill Cosby’s character, a highly competitive ambulance driver (the role of “Jugs” was played by Raquel Welch).
  • Mr. Mom: This ground-breaking 1983 comedy starred Michael Keaton as a stay-at-home dad, and Teri Garr as his wife.
  • My Stepmother Is an Alien: A geeky scientist (Dan Aykroyd) is romanced by a beautiful alien (Kim Basinger).
  • Stepmom: Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon square off in this 1998 tearjerker.
  • Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot: It’s hard to say who’s scarier: Sylvester Stallone, or Estelle Getty as his mother.
  • The Good Mother: Leonard Nimoy directs, and Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson star, in this courtroom drama.
  • Throw Momma From the Train: Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito lead the cast in this 1987 film.
  • Your Mother Wears Combat Boots: Barbara Eden (of “I Dream of Jeannie” fame) stars as a mother who follows her son (Hector Elizondo) into the Army.

May 10, 2007

Top 5 Superheroes Whose Secret Identities Are Introverts

After watching Spider-Man 3 last weekend, Morgen and I were discussing how Peter Parker is an introvert. And it occurred to me that this is true of most superheroes’ secret identities. In fact, that seems to be almost mandatory—more than glasses or an unfashionable haircut, an introverted demeanor can effectively deflect unwanted attention and help to disguise the superhero’s super nature. So here’s my list of the top five superheroes who, in my estimation, are introverts—at least until they slip on the old mask or cape, and sometimes afterwards too. (A disclaimer: I’m not a comic book guy, so my opinions were formed based on TV and film portrayals.)

  1. Batman: Not only is Bruce Wayne somewhat of an introvert, but Batman himself is arguably the most introverted superhero of all time. Unlike some, he stays out of the spotlight as much as possible, and is quick to return to the seclusion of the Bat Cave.
  2. The Hulk: Bruce Banner (especially as played by Bill Bixby in the 1970s TV series) is as quiet and reflective as any stereotypical scientist. And the Hulk? It’s just not easy being green.
  3. Superman: Two words: mild-mannered. No, wait…three words: Fortress of Solitude. Yep, Clark Kent is a solid introvert, and even Superman gets away from it all to recharge.
  4. Spider-Man: Although Peter Parker’s personality has undergone numerous changes, he always seems to like spending time alone, and obviously puts a lot of his energy into mental (as well as physical) gymnastics.
  5. Jean Gray: My favorite X-person, and not just because she’s hot and can levitate things. On second thought…no, that’s exactly why. But also: there’s clearly a lot more going on inside her head than she lets on outwardly.

May 7, 2007

Six Nicknames for French Presidents & Presidential Candidates

Yesterday’s presidential election in France featured two opponents who, despite their differences, actually have a few interesting things in common: both were born after World War II; neither previously held the office of prime minister or president (a first for a presidential candidate since the 1970s); and both have pithy and sound bite ready nicknames. The winner of the election, Nicolas Sarkozy, is often referred to in the media as “Sarko,” and his opponent, Ségolène Royal, was dubbed Sego (or Ségo).

It seems there is a bit of a tradition of giving French presidents and presidential candidates such hypocoristic (“endearing”) nicknames, as discussed in this fascinating post on the Language Log Web site.

  • Ségolène Royal: Sego/Ségo
  • Nicolas Sarkozy: Sarko
  • Jacques Chirac (Current President): Chichi; le Chi
  • François Mitterand (President, 1981-1995): Tonton
  • George Pompidou (President, 1969-1974): Pompon
  • General Charles de Gaulle (President, 1959-1969): le grand Charles; le grand Charlot

May 3, 2007

Eight Contemporary Novels Over 700 Pages in Length

A few weeks ago the online version of The Times ran an article describing a publishing company’s plans to release new editions of classic works of literature, minus a few hundred pages of prose. According to the Orion Group, publishers of the new Compact Editions series, classics such as Anna Karenina, David Copperfield, and Moby Dick will go under the knife, with their total page count reduced to around 400 pages. While the majority of new novels published these days are significantly shorter than these hefty tomes, there are some authors who continue to produce extremely long novels. Here are eight novels, all published within the last fifteen years, whose page counts (in their original hardcover version) exceed a whopping 700 pages.

  1. A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe: 744 pages
  2. Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon: 784 pages
  3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: 800 pages
  4. Europe Central by William T. Vollmann: 832 pages
  5. Until I Find You by John Irving: 848 pages
  6. Les Bienveillantes by Jonathan Littell: 912 pages
  7. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: 1088 pages
  8. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: 1349 pages

April 30, 2007

20 Cities and Towns with Dubious Claims to Fame

Many world capitals have distinctive and evocative nicknames; examples include Paris (The City of Lights), New York (The Big Apple), and Beijing (The Forbidden City). These nicknames may come about solely through a historical quirk, or may refer to something specific to that city. The same is true of smaller cities and towns, whose residents may find a source of pride in a local specialty. While most claims to fame are meant to impress those who are strangers to the town/city, some, like the ones below, may be difficult for outsiders to appreciate fully.

Sources: Wikipedia, Trivia Asylum, and Doug’s List of Lists

April 12, 2007

Five Video Clips of Royal de Luxe Performances on YouTube

I recently wrote about the French street theater group Royal de Luxe on Interesting Thing of the Day. Known for their large-scale productions featuring giant marionette figures, there are many videos of their performances available for viewing on YouTube. Here are just a few of them:

The Little Girl Giant: This video is very popular, having been watched by well over a million viewers. It shows a portion of the production, The Sultan’s Elephant, which ran for four days in May 2006 in London.


Royal de Luxe: Elephant: This video shows the movements of an enormous mechanical elephant, as it sprays the crowd with its trunk, trumpets loudly, and parades down the street.


Royal de luxe 2005 à Nantes: The Little Girl Giant and the Elephant meet in Nantes, France.


The Sultan’s Elephant. The Grande Finale: Video from the finale of The Sultan’s Elephant performance in London, which features a giant rocket ship.


The Little Girl Giant in Chile: In January 2007, the Little Girl Giant visited Santiago, Chile, as part of the production The Hidden Rhinoceros.