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Unusual Yelp reviews

For Gourmet, Todd Levin imagines the Yelp reviews for the world’s worst restaurant, Mama Mia That’s Italyen Authentic Food Cafรฉ.

I was planning on suing this restaurant but kept driving past it. Later, the mold in my ravioli also triggered a rare neurological disorder called “Geoagnosia.” It’s an inability to recognize or remember familiar places, like my home or office.


And Cormac McCarthy of all people has a Tumblr where he posts his Yelp reviews of places ranging from Taco Bell to Chez Panisse. Here’s his three-star review of a Cheesecake Factory in Houston, TX:

There were a variety of cakes and sweet things there. The desserts paraded by in their desperate decadence, at once a fading and colorless memory.

A Bavarian chocolate cake stood apart, on a simple plate. Like a rancher’s wife it was seasoned by hardships and nature’s brutal arithmetic. Flourless, it awaited a lonely fate.

A Tiramisu teetered like the oldest prostitute in a mining town, reeking of saccharine liqueur. The faint scent of virtue lost amid the hellish musk of ten thousand outrages.

A torte, covered in glistening fruit, a lie as old as memory. Its flavor joyless, a pyrrhic dessert atop a mountain of meaningless artifice. Hasn’t been real sugar in this torte since before the highway was built here. Since before the first settlers came through with bibles and Henry rifles. The slow mockery of corn syrup.

He reached for the Tiramisu with a hand that had been dried by the sun and wind and bathed in the steaming blood of another human being. All that now was behind him.

Update: Yelping With Cormac found its way into The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013.

How Conan’s Tonight Show ended

Todd Levin wrote for Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show; here’s Levin in GQ describing the job and those final few weeks of the “I’m with Coco” business.

So it wasn’t until my third day of work that I finally decided to slip past Conan โ€” hunched over his desk, busily doodling on that day’s script โ€” and join the other writers behind the couch. As I settled into my spot among three veteran writers and prayed for invisibility, Conan glanced over, sized us up, and mock sneered, “Look at you four, standing there. You’re like a Mount Rushmore of incompetence.” Then he chuckled and returned to his cartooning. It was a quality put-down, and I was honestly overjoyed to be included in it.

Charles Atlas exercise regimen

Eschewing all those newfangled diet and fitness trends, Todd Levin tries out Charles Atlas’ Dynamic-Tension fitness course, which Atlas began marketing in 1922.

One thing I definitely hadn’t counted on was Lesson 2: Nutrition. Here, Atlas outlines his mandatory dietary and lifestyle restrictions โ€” no caffeine; no refined sugar; no bleached flour; no white rice; no fatty meats; no pickles, mustards, vinegar or other acidic spices; no soft drinks, coffee or tea; no staying up past midnight, ever. Reading that chapter was like having Charles Atlas ask me to list all my favorite things in the world, then grab the list from my hands, crumple it up and toss it โ€” and some sand โ€” in my face. (Atlas does make one notable exception for candy: “If you must eat candy at times, be sure it is of the very highest quality.” Sounds like someone can’t live without his truffles.)

Neither did Levin exercise in the nude as Atlas advised.

Acronym jokes

Todd Levin on the non-funny of acronym jokes.

Ever find yourself in a room with a bunch of people, often at work, and you stumble across a mysterious acronym? Someone will recite the acronym and wonder, “what does that mean?” The instant this happens, a weird silence usually falls over the room as everyone revs up their minds, racing to be the first to construct a goofball interpretation of the acronym. Then someone will blurt one out, and soon all the remaining quickwits will follow with their own version. AND NONE OF THEM WILL BE FUNNY.

Todd Levin begins a series on video

Todd Levin begins a series on video game systems he has known. He starts off with a Radio Shack Pong knockoff and the Atari 2600. As you may remember, there were some differences between the arcade version of Pac-Man and and the Atari version:

But most disorienting of all was the hero: Pac-Man had been re-imagined as an octagon with a constantly chomping, greedy slot for a mouth, and designed so large he could scarcely squeeze through the maze. Because of Pac-Man’s macrocephalic condition, he was incapable of rounding corners, but Atari found a brilliant workaround: Pac-Man would always face west. When pushing the joystick to the right, Pac-Man simply backed into dots and energy blocks, his mouth still opening and closing rhythmically, as if crying in pain from shoving things into his rectum. Underscoring Atari Pac-Man’s overall cognitive disorder, the home game replaced the familiar rhythmic dot-munching soundtrack with a flat, repeating “bonk” note โ€” its own digital Tourrette’s bark.

Todd Levin takes the whiz out of

Todd Levin takes the whiz out of SXSW. “In addition to discussion panels, SXSW features an interesting mix of daily keynote speakers, including Sims and Spore game creator Will Wright; Phillip Torrone, the senior editor of Make magazine; and, of course, cyberpunk visionary Dan Rather. Who better to talk about emerging technology than the septuagenarian former broadcast news anchor who still refers to his (unused) computer as an ‘electronic pickle barrel’ and the internet as ‘the World Wide Possum Stew?’”

Tremble funnyman Todd Levin dons the Non-Expert’s

Tremble funnyman Todd Levin dons the Non-Expert’s hat over at The Morning News to explain how to buy wine. “FANCY SERIF FONT + PARCHMENT LABEL + SOMETHING YOU KIND OF REMEMBERED FROM THE MOVIE SIDEWAYS + $12-$16 PRICE TAG = SUCCESS”

Todd Levin on the busy modern world: “

Todd Levin on the busy modern world: “I’m doing so much more, and getting so much less done”.

The United States According to My Racist Aunt

The United States According to My Racist Aunt.

How to avoid the exhausting planning and

How to avoid the exhausting planning and preparation that goes into making a second date. “This means small talk like, ‘after 6 hits while locked in my room meditating, I basically blew a fuse,’ is not exactly the combination to the master vault at U.S. Pussy Savings & Loan.”