Category Archives: Social Commentary

Why Go Out To Eat?

Some thoughts.

Looking back, I used to go out primarily for entertainment value. I enjoyed being in a fancy space, developing a rapport with the wait staff, people watching, and dressing up for the occasion.


I hate that. It has a very low entertainment/annoyance ratio to me (I hate getting dressed up, for one thing).

I don’t go out to eat, generally, unless there is some compelling reason, because I don’t intrinsically enjoy it. I think that restaurants are intrinsically overpriced (not relative to their costs of doing business, but relative to their value to me compared to cooking at home), I don’t know for sure what’s in the food, and can’t get it exactly the way I like it, the portions are too large, particularly on the carbs (again, for economic reasons), and I really don’t enjoy other people serving or waiting on me, particularly when a tip is expected. I really prefer to do it myself (I have the same annoyance with luggage in hotels).

To me the only reasons to go out to eat are a) to eat something that I couldn’t make myself due to lack of time or ingredients (which is why I almost never go to a steak house), b) as a social occasion with others or c) I’m travelling away from home and have no other choice. But it’s not something about which I ever think, “Boy, I’d sure like to go out to eat in some fancy restaurant.”

[Update a few minutes later]

The very first commenter over at Al Dente has another big reason I don’t like going out:

Too many restaurant owners think that noise = fun, and they actively try to keep the noise level over 90 db. I hate big chain restaurants with concrete walls and floors that have conversations bouncing and echoing off them until they turn into a cacophonous din. I have gotten up with my wife and left restaurants before ordering because the noise was too oppressive. And just for the record, some music enhances the meal (Frank & Dino at an Italian place, etc.), and some music ruins it (I don’t want to have to shout to my dining companions to be heard over the latest blaring hip hop hit). The nadir had to be when I took my wife to a little bar/restaurant in Dallas for an after theater drink, and we were seated beneath a speaker that was blaring some rap song that sounded like a Tourette’s patient giving X-rated how-to instructions to an apprentice rapist.

Particularly when I’m out with friends, trying to have a conversation, I like to be able to hear them and talk to them without shouting. Planet Hollywood? Please. There is absolutely nothing about a place like that to appeal to me, and if I’m with other people who want to go, I do my best to dissuade.

I guess this gets into a broader issue. I am not a “party” person. Which is not to say that I’m not social, or that I don’t enjoy the company of others. I enjoy nothing better than getting together with a bunch of interesting people, but the point of getting together is to discuss interesting things, not to be pummelled with mindless noise shoulder-to-shoulder with a throng. This was true for me even in college. I’ve always hated that. But I have enough problems with going out to eat without having to be assaulted with noise. I don’t understand the attitude that “more volume” equals “more fun.” But apparently for many people, it is, or the places wouldn’t inflict on them what is to me a punishment.

What Movie?

…makes you laugh the hardest?

I don’t know how to answer that question, because I think it’s a time-dependent variable. I know what movies made me laugh hard in the past, though I couldn’t quantify it, but I’m not sure I’d find them as funny today, either because they would have lost something in rewatching, or because I’ve grown, or at least changed, over time, and have a different sense of humor. Obviously, something you might have found hilarious as a child might leave you cold today. On the other hand, you might have seen something as a child that your parents laughed at uproariously, but that you didn’t get. I think that a lot of young people miss a lot of humor in The Simpsons because they aren’t familiar with the cultural referents.

But just off the top of my head, I recall Blazing Saddles, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Dr. Strangelove, The Wrong Box and other Peter Sellers movies as side splitters at the time. Also Woody Allen and Steve Martin.

Logical Fallacy

In a review of a movie trailer (and a forties movie reviewer) by Lileks:

Let me just go on record as believing that it is not a good or necessary thing to make comedic action movies about 12-year-old girls who shoot people in the head. Because this is what I think of when I read a quote about the loss of dignity and importance – the way a culture, not individuals, loses its sense of dignity and importance by finding opportunities to leach the innocence from anything previously regarded as sacrosanct.

The comments on the HotAir thread are full of the usual scoff-talk – why, comics were once considered corrupting to children! Elvis was forbidden to be seen from the waist down! Piano legs were covered by Victorians! Christians chopped peeners off Roman statues! and so on. If there was once a standard now seen as silly and puritanical, it must mean our current standards are the same.

This is the same fallacy as that engaged by someone who, in response to a critique of his loony ideas cries, “They laughed at Einstein, too!” To which the rational rejoinder is, “They also laughed at Soupy Sales.” It’s an unjustified extrapolation, and a more robust defense is required.

Taking The Modern Age

for granted.

The engineers, the people who actually make this stuff work (not to denigrate the financiers, marketers, etc. whose efforts are also necessary to fund the engineers) are underappreciated in society. As is technology in general. As he points out, people are complaining about having twenty-minute delays on a trip that would have taken their ancestors (and not distant ancestors — great-great-grandparents) months.

Some New Year’s Resolutions

…from Frank J.:

While continuing to trust science, let’s make sure the scientists we’re getting it from aren’t douche nozzles.

I like science — we all like science — but if we’re going to throw a huge wrench into our economy, let’s make sure it’s not on the advice of scientists who treat data like a used-car salesman treats an old Chevy.

Next time we pick a leader, let’s make sure he has more qualifications than a bunch of empty slogans of the sort you’d use to sell carbonated beverages.

Yeah, we won’t get a chance in the next year, but let’s try and do that at least once this next decade. It’s hard, but we can do it. Yes we can.

If we have another economic crisis, let’s not hand a blank checkbook to a bunch of Democrats.

Politicians love spending money — Democrats especially. If we had a problem of having way too much money and needed to get rid of it quickly, you’d be a fool to elect anyone other than Democrats. But if the problem is that we’re running out of money, it may be a bad idea to put Democrats in charge, because their solution to having too little money will inevitably be to spend more money.

He has more.