Archive for the ‘“News”’ Category

The gourmet cupcake trend is dying. What will replace it?

July 10, 2013

Cupcake mania first gripped the United States of America sometime in the early-to-mid 00’s, catapulted to prominence by the curly-haired likes of Carrie Bradshaw and Andy Samberg. Both of them extolled the virtues of Magnolia cupcakes, just the first of a soon-gleaming infrastructure of cupcakeries: Crumbs, Sprinkles, and so many more, each with a name somehow more precious than the last. Whatever gourmet snack trend had dominated the culture before (Ben & Jerry’s?) was crushed under the heel of Big Cupcake.

A decade later, the whole sugary firmament may be collapsing. Earlier this spring, New York-based cupcake chain Crumbs reported a major drop in share price — from a 2011 high of $13/share down to just $1.70. Magnolia now earns less than half of its profits from cupcakes. And I don’t know if you’ve been in an elementary school classroom lately, but birthdays aren’t exactly being celebrated the way they used to be. It’s all quinoa, and veggie loafs. Birthdays are terrible now!

Why this sea-change in our snacking habits? Maybe it’s the emergence of gluten as our greatest-ever nutritional enemy. Or it could just be the thing none of us want to admit: that we are just BURNT OUT on cupcakes, and ready for a new snack craze to glom onto. Not just anything will do. The cupcake resonated for meeting some very specific metrics: portability, eating efficiency, potential for quirky store name, to list a few. With that in mind, we had some ideas as to what could rise from the cupcake ashes…

Keep reading!

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In Russia, ambulances are taxis and opportunity is everywhere

March 27, 2013

ambulance-in-russia

MOSCOW, Russia — Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur trying to make it in Moscow. You drive the city streets everyday, motoring from one gig to another. You marvel at the congestion you see: the traffic, at a standstill. The commuters, aggravated at delays creating unwanted friction in their offices and home lives. These streets you drive are paved with frustration, yes. But maybe they’re also paved…with opportunity?

Enter: AMBULANCE-TAXI. For just about 6,000 rubles (or $200) an hour, wealthy Russians looking to sidestep the misery of their daily commute can hail a cab of a very different make and, aided by the handy siren system and normal citizens’ reaction to what they perceive as an emergency, get to work on time. And in style!

One of these vehicles, spotted by law enforcement on a recent patrol, was described as having an interior “fitted out like a high-class limousine.” Imagine the care that went into that job! First the ambulance had to be bought, probably from a friend of your cousin. Then retrofitted with plush leather and bulk variety packs of Fritos chips. Top it off with a classy website (I couldn’t find one) and you’ve got an operation of stealth and refinement to put the KGB to shame.

You never escape the question “what would you do if you had unlimited money?” As a kid, the answer’s easy: a pool made of ice cream, maybe a 300″ TV that plays only episodes of Spongebob. Later, more altruistic, you imagine buying every family in the world their own water filtration system. But then you get to be asshole-rich, actually achieving some modified version of unlimited money. And you use it to fool Russia’s lower classes into thinking you’re being hospitalized while you get to work quicker than usual.

Don’t ever change, Russia. You’re the beating heart of my idealized comedy world.

Fake Suburban Prison Makes Us All Feel Like We’re in a Much Larger, Existential Prison

April 16, 2012
Photo by Andy Holzman, Los Angeles Daily News

In the West Hills area of Los Angeles right now stands a house surrounded by chain link fence and razor wire, a makeshift guard tower on the premises, looking to all passersby like a prison. A man in an orange jumpsuit often pumps iron in the yard, attended by guards. Signs warn of electric shocks to those who touch the fence. There have even been protests outside, some broken up by police. The scene has all the trappings of an honest-to-God penal institution.

But wait a second — home-owned and/or -converted prisons don’t yet exist! That’s not a thing! I’m starting to wonder if this is more like-

Keep reading!

What is Urban Hiking?

April 6, 2012

A down-and-dirty guide to the recession-friendly pseudo-sport that’s sweeping 1-2 apartments in Santa Monica, California the nation.

In the city of Los Angeles, driving is king. If you work more than 5 minutes from home, it’s an absolute necessity. It’s also the primary way you’ll experience the city. You drive through Beverly Hills. Navigate Century City. Even the most famous sites, like Hollywood Blvd., most of us only see through a car window. (Unless your friend is taking classes at Improv Olympics, in which case you’ve been there twice.)

Walking is a crime. No to the point where you’d go to jail, maybe, but certainly of the “fashion crime” variety: it’s tacky and you DON’T DO IT, because your parents taught you better than that. What, can you not afford a Prius? Even taking the bus, to many a great sin, holds more appeal to Los Angelenos than extended pavement time.

So it’s topsy-turvy out here, an inversion of the natural order. Yet only out of these ashes could something like the Urban Hike take shape.

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The McCrazy Files: The Hamburglar of Augusta, ME

March 27, 2012

You know what I’m going to miss most about Lifting Fog? Beautiful crap like this.

Just before dusk on Sunday evening, the sun shedding its last rays on what had been a stunning spring day, a family pulled into the drive-thru of an Augusta McDonald’s. They were eager for burgers and fries and maybe Shamrock Shakes, too, if the kids had done especially well at their soccer game. (“We’ll see!” Dad responded when they all pleaded from the backseat.) Fast food was a fun treat, a once-in-a-while meal. What the hey — it had been a great afternoon.

The family was hungry, and ordered quickly. Dad drove to the next window. “What do you think might happen on ‘Once Upon a Time’ tonight?” Mom asked. They had a few minutes before the dedicated kitchen staff would have everything ready. But before that final transaction could take place…before McNuggets could be placed in appropriate hand…CHAOS.

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The McCrazy Files: Burger King Done Changed the Game

January 18, 2012

With everybody all “#SOPA” this and “#PIPA” that and killing middle-schoolers’ history essays, no one seems to be paying attention to the day’s BIGGER story: that Burger King, quietly testing a new delivery service these past few months, has supposedly mastered the “proprietary thermal packaging technology” that has long stymied advocates of burger transportation reform. Once upon a time the ability to move a flame-grilled Whopper from the kitchens of BK to your dining room table was practically non-existent, the loss of condiment crispness and patty heat TOO MUCH to overcome. But no longer. Harnessing all the powers of modern science, BK is once more leading Americans of discriminating taste to the Promised Land of freshness. They told us this day would never come. Their shortsightedness will one day be written of alongside that of King George and the Hindenburg engineers.

The real question, of course, is HOW WILL IT WORK? No one really knows! As Megan Garber at The Atlantic points out,

It’d have to lock in enough moisture, microwave-style, to ensure that the food it contains doesn’t dry out; it’d have to release enough, though, to prevent those contents from steaming. It’d have to, ostensibly, include some kind of mechanism that prevents the “fresh” ingredients on the burger — the lettuce, the tomato — from cooking while the other ingredients are kept warm.

That’s a lot of masters to serve! The sheer number of variables at play — dry/wet dynamics, veggie moisture, bun integrity — makes cracking the code here at least a Calc 4-level problem. But if BK’s top scientists can make this work…I mean, what is there left to accomplish? We won.

But that’s beside the point. Succeed, fail, or fall woefully somewhere in-between, your efforts at changing the Game are admirable and worthy of recognition. So here’s to you, Burger King — the Hertz Rental of burgers, forever trying harder. What did you do today, Carl’s Jr.?

…On the Other Hand, We All Need a Major Time-Out

November 29, 2011

The holiday shopping season (as distinct from the shopping-less “holiday season,” which is about stupid things like “family”) has two faces. One is the wacky, Schwarzenegger-punching-a-reindeer side:

And then there’s this:

Across the country last Friday, competitive shoppers of all stripes braved cold, sleep deprivation, and any sense of personal pride to bust down the doors of big box commerce. In this case “bust down” can be used literally, as Friday was BLACK Friday: the one day a year where doors are obstacles, shopping carts weapons, and your only allegiance to an Old Testament, dual-core processor God. It’s a fun party!

That is until an older man dies of a heart attack and a crazy lady pepper-sprays 20 people in the faceAt most parties you dread the moment the cops arrive, but on Black Friday you keep asking when they’ll show up. You’re down on Wall Street and on college campuses roughing up peaceful activists? We could REALLY USE YOU IN ALL THE WAL-MARTS.

Keep reading!

What’s the Deal with Chick-fil-A?

September 23, 2011

While our up-to-the-minute fast food coverage at Lifting Fog is usually burger-focused — with a special eye toward “consumer insanity” — every so often we like to put down the beef and examine some other industry staples, i.e. tacos or chicken. Today’s story is not about tacos.

On Thursday morning a brand new Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in Hollywood, USA — only the seventh franchise in the Los Angeles area, and a gleaming beacon of hope to chicken lovers who also happen to be Lakers fans. Coupons good for a year’s worth of free chicken sweetened the deal for the nearly 200 people waiting in line, who started camping out Wednesday morning. Asked what they would do with 365 days of chicken sandwiches, customers could only point to the nearest hospital and say “food.” It was that kind of crowd.

But back to the question at hand: why’s everyone losing their freakin’ minds? The coupon component makes sense — they’re coupons; it’s free food. Understood! But the sandwiches themselves…I mean correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t they sell the same basic item at McDonald’s? Wendy’s? Etc.? Five Guys is a chain to go nuts over. WAWA is a chain to go nuts over. But Chick-fil-A seems an underwhelming star to hitch your wagon to.

…And that’s forgetting entirely about the SECOND reading of the question, which is that lost in all the chicken excitement is some pretty unsavory news: Chick-fil-A, for whatever reason, is REALLY NOT A FAN OF GAYS.

Keep reading!

“Coning”: A National Concern

September 15, 2011

I’ll take it as inconclusive proof of having maybe growed my ass up that I was unaware until just a few minutes ago of this latest prank craze to squeeze through the American youth pipeline, “Coning,” which entails 1) buying a drive-through ice cream cone from McDonald’s then 2) grabbing the dessert by the ice cream, not the cone, while 3) the employee handing it to you stands there befuddled. If it sounds like something your Philly Blunts-smoking cousin who’s big into car modding might do, that’s because it is.

What?! It doesn’t even make sense as a prank. YOU’RE the one out an ice cream cone. YOU’RE the one with sticky fingers. Maybe the cashier gives you that “whuuuh?” look you clearly crave, but you’re just as likely to have the poor employee (rightfully) yell at you for being such an annoying ass. If a prank’s object is pulling one over on the other party, then coning barely satisfies the not-that-stringent requirements of the word! You guys are doing it ALL WRONG.

Keep reading!

You’ve Got Mail 2: You Don’t Got Mail

September 8, 2011

So the US Postal Service is on the verge of default. Have you seen this? Have you heard about this? With $5.5 billion owed to various pension funds and an ever-decreasing mail volume only making things worse, those dog-hating shorts-wearing deliverers of good and bad news are facing a pretty epic crisis. The White House is proposing a plan that would give USPS another three months to get their house in order, but no matter what the eventual outcome — jobs cut, Saturday service eliminated, the whole thing just shut down — it won’t be anything but a dramatic overhaul for a longstanding, indispensable American institution.

In some ways the (maybe) death of traditional mail was always bound to happen. Letters, for all their charm and sincerity, take time and effort to compose that today’s harried businessperson has NO TIME FOR. At this point many of us, especially those of us named DJ Steve, have adjusted to digital newspapers and magazines. Then you’ve got bills. Why pay them with pens and stamps and…licking when you can accomplish the same goal with a few keystrokes? Just like mp3s have all but killed physical music, so too did the dawn of email signal the end for its stamped-and-addressed cousin. All things must die. Cue the music!

…Of course it’s highly likely that, in true Congressional nail-biter fashion, the mail system will be saved or at least put on life support at the last minute and we won’t need to convert our mailboxes to compost bins. Which would be nice, because mail is nice. Has anyone in the history of ever (focus on years 1993-present) complained that they like the hand-written note and all, but it would have been a lot better in email form? Doubtful! And if they did, that person’s one of those deliberately contrarian jerks and what are you doing even writing him anyway? Get a better pen pal!

IN SUMMATION: the future is now and the world is changing but hopefully we can hold onto some standbys from the past, because not everything needs to be Back to the Future self-lacing shoes and Dippin’ Dots.