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Things I Love About America

#27. Not adopting the metric system [because we can]

Being the richest, most bad ass country in the world is kind of like being the captain of the high school football team: There are certain privileges that come with the position.

In the case of high school, that means not having to lug heavy equipment around and getting the hottest (and often dimmest) dates to prom. In the case of the United States it means that we don’t have to adopt sissy global conventions like the Metric System of measurement just because everyone else does.

I’ll have more on the Metric—or Communist—system of measurement in the next day or two. Until then I’d like to leave you with this map of countries that have refused to capitulate to Napoleon’s yard stick. The grey countries use the Metric System.

Yeah, we’re pretty bad ass.

[map via Wikipedia]

Three ways hamburgers are like America [guest post]

Best Burger NeonHamburgers are perhaps the most American of foods.  They combine cheap meat with a bun made from subsidized grain and can often be bought for very little money. Thanks to the good folks at McDonald’s, they can be had pretty much anywhere you’d want to go in the world too.

Now being an American, I like burgers as much as the next guy. But my friend Max loves hamburgers and he eats a lot of them—usually plane. If you ask Max, he will tell you that adding cheese, mayo or whatnot to a burger just detracts from its burgerness.

Max likes burgers so much so that he has started a blog, appropriately titled “The Burger Blog,” chronicling his search for the best burger in Metro Detroit. It is a great read.

The other day I asked Max if he’d be willing to write a guest post talking about the Americanness of burgers for the blog. Here is what he has to say:

Cow, ground up, passed over a grill, then placed on baked processed flour doesn’t sound like the most appetizing meal.  But every red blooded American who has eaten a hamburger knows the tasty joys they entail.  That incredible, unique flavor is what motivated me start a blog dedicated to hamburgers. As I was thinking about it, I realized that three of the things that make the Hamburger such a great food are also things that make America a great country.  Here’s the list:

1. MAKING THE BEST FROM THE REST: Who exactly took the old Hamburg Steak and turned it into the modern hamburger is disputed, but in every telling it’s a familiar American story.  The best ideas from the rest of the world came to America, where they were synthesized into something new, then perfected.  This also happened with punk rock (the Ramones, in the 70’s), representative democracy (James Madison, in the 1770’s), and Free Refills readers (your parents, about 9 months before you were born).

2. INFINITE VARIETY, INFINITE CHOICE:  The American experience can be whatever you want it to be.  The same can be said for hamburgers.  The only limitation on your hamburger is your own imagination.  Haven’t you ever had a hamburger with maple syrup?  You don’t know what you’re missing!  (I can tell you: not much).

3. GOOD STUFF NOW, CONSEQUENCES LATER: Your ‘doctor’ will try to convince you that burgers are high in ‘cholesterol.’ He’ll tell you that if you keep eating them, you’ll ‘die.’  But this is America, the land of the subprime mortgage.  Why should the possibility of future unhealth stop you from enjoying present tastiness?  The fact is they’ll have a cure for high cholesterol before it affects you, and if they don’t, well, what’s the likelihood that it was one extra burger that did you in?

So next time you sink your teeth into a half pound of ground round on an enriched flour bun, remember, you’re not just eating a hamburger, you’re eating America!

#26. Green Beer

Green BeerNow that you’re all sobered up, let’s talk about Green Beer.

I’m not sure who first invented Green Beer (Budweiser + food dye), but it’s probably safe to assume he wasn’t Irish—or even Irish-American. And that is fine and dandy, because St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about Ireland or Irishness anymore. It is an American Holiday to celebrate drinking.

There is nothing wrong with this. Rather it is just another great example of the American ability to absorb a foreign culture and develop a new, better, Americanized version of it.

Most often we do this with food. When the Italians came to America they brought their pizza. Trouble was it was thin, crispy and not very filling. We took that and invented Deep-Dish, Delivery and the $5 Hot-N-Ready.  We took the general idea of Chinese food and invented Stir Fry, General Tso’s and Almond Boneless Chicken—not to mention fortune cookies and those cute white carryout containers.

With the Irish, we just took a holiday. Lacking a proper drinking holiday ourselves, we simply took the Patron Saint of Ireland’s day and distilled it down to the core of any good holiday: drinking and merriment.* The new American version is far superior to Irish version, as there is no church or national remembrance component, only parades, drinking and the marketing of beer.

Which of course brings us back to Green Beer—I’m not sure who invented it. But anything this gimmicky could only have been dreamt up by a great American.

America go Brách!

*I’ve never understood why people bother with fasting holidays.

Denny’s introduces free refills on fries, pancakes [progress]

Denny's Is LordTheir Grand Slam breakfasts are excellent. They’re open 24/7 and their refills are free. How could Denny’s possibly get any better? (aside from giving us all another round of free Grand Slams).

By offering free refills of pancakes and fires, that’s how.

A corporate press release has the details:

Starting now and continuing through the end of March, Denny’s is offering unlimited free refills of two of America’s favorites, French fries and pancakes, at participating locations nationwide. Valid 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the offer applies to any order of French fries or pancakes served with an entrée, including both original buttermilk pancakes and Denny’s Hearty Wheat pancakes, for a limited time.

“Clearly times are still hard and everyday we’re all looking for ways to stretch hard-earned dollars farther and farther,” said John Dillon, Vice President Marketing, Denny’s Corporation. “By offering unlimited refills on not just one but two favorite items, we are able to provide even more everyday value on items our guests love. Who doesn’t want seconds of pancakes and fries… especially when they’re free?”

Free refills on pancakes and fries, available 24/7 from coast to coast? Amazing. Now if we could only get Denny’s to expand overseas…*

*No, the handful of Canadian locations don’t count as overseas as Canada is pretty much part of America anyway.

Here is one way to boost newspaper sales

I used this picture before in my post on the wonders of credit cards and chargebacks, but with all of the talk of the decline of print journalism, I thought it was worth running again. After all, it is a uniquely American solution to problem of not having enough change for the newspaper box.

Newspaper stand accepts credit cards

I’m not sure what is better, this or putting a credit card reader on a vending machine.

God Bless America!

Raising morale [ads]

In honor of the Commercial Bowl, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the wonderful ability of Madison Ave. to not only sell us products, but also lift our national spirits and restore faith in the American dream as well. The NASDAQ Visionaries ads were quite good, but no one does it better than Allstate.

E-mail subscribers may need to click-through to see the video.

The world the way it should be…

Sometimes all it takes is a picture to remind us that progress is still possible.

Coke accepts Credit Cards

A Coke machine that takes credit cards

God Bless America!

Best attack ad ever? [video]

Negative campaigning is one of the great things about America. And thanks to the Internet and an increasingly competitive economic environment, we are seeing more negative ads than ever targeting both politicians and companies.

A friend sent me a link to this ad out of the Orleans Parish Coroner’s race (I think Coroner is one step up from Dog Catcher). It is pretty fantastic, but I’m not sure if it is better than the Agnew for VP ad.

What do you think?

(RSS & E-mail subscribers may have to click through to see the video)

Flowers: any hour of the day or night [Open 24/7]

IMG_018124/7 Technology is one of the things that make America Great.

Some things—like drug stores, coffee shops and diners—are just meant to be open 24-hours. It is expected that the drug store will be open when you need it and that the diner will always have a light on for you. And when they don’t, it is deeply disappointing.

But this being America, there are a whole class of other establishments where the owners have decided to keep them open all night even though you wouldn’t expect them to be.  Examples include your 24-hour car-washes, all-night hair salons and mechanic shops.

I thought I had heard of every kind of 24-hour establishment, but the other day while walking through the East Village I stumbled on another one I had never seen before: a 24-hour florist.

It is a testament to the American entrepreneurial spirit—and a remarkable business insight—that someone had the audacity to open a all-night florist. But on reflection, it makes perfect sense. Domestic disputes don’t only occur from 9-5. If you have a falling out in the middle of the night and need to get off the couch, sometimes the only solution is stopping by a florist at 3 AM.

Thankfully in America, that is possible.

God Bless America!

(Hat tip: Roberta)

#25. Delivery

You can order pizza online!

The French—and professional food whiners like Michael Pollan—might have the time to enjoy an organic, locally-grown, slow-food lifestyle. But for the rest of us,  shopping at the farmers’ market all day and slaving over a stove all night is simply out of the question.

We don’t have time to chop vegetables, marinade meat or sit around the table with our families. And even if we did, we probably wouldn’t want too. After all, there are a lot of demands on our time, like facebook, video games and NBC’s new lineup. And—let’s be honest here—no one’s family dinner conversation is more stimulating than The Office.

The truth is that at the end of the day we Americans are exhausted. Too exhausted to go to a restaurant, too exhausted to cook, too exhausted, even, to go pickup some carryout. But since starvation isn’t an option, we invented delivery. (For our European readers, “Delivery” is like going to a restaurant, except the waiter brings your meal to your house.)

Delivery technology may have been popularized by suburban pizza joints, but these days the dedicated couch potato can get just about anything brought right to the front door. Hot meals, dry-cleaning and groceries, you name it. In big cities like New York, you can even order your purchases with same-day delivery.

And thanks to the internet, the delivery experience is still rapidly improving. Earlier today I ordered two medium pizzas through the Dominos website. Much to my surprise, the system worked! Thirty minutes after placing my order two relatively hot pizzas arrived at my door. And thanks to the online ordering, I didn’t even have to talk to anyone on the phone.

If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

God Bless America!

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