Some Monday Shorts

On March 26, 2007, in Culture, by psu

There was a break in the bleak weather and a small break in the workload at work, so we spent the weekend doing weekend things instead of surfing the web and finding some dork topic to spout off on. Instead, I have some short thoughts on things that are not worth a whole article.


Recently, Pittsburgh has joined a socioeconomic and culinary trend that has been sweeping through the neighborhoods of the intellectually less gifted. I refer, of course, to the foofy cupcake shop. Now, I am never one to critcize those who are willing to spend stupid amounts of either time or money in the pursuit of culinary delights. My problem with the foofy cupcake is not with the theory, but the practice. If I am going to pay $2.50 for a small confectionary pastry, it better have more going for it than half a pound of butter creme on top.

In Pittsburgh, there are two new local instantiations of this new way to separate those with too much money from some of their cash. I have tried the one in Shadyside that is of higher repute, at least among the people I know. What I have to say is, if you want to spend $2.50 on cake and butter creme, I suggest you go by your local Giant Eagle and pick up some butter creme Gobs. Not only is the cake better, so is the butter creme. We tried three or four different kinds of cakes. They were uniformly dry, crumbly, tasteless, and generally lacked anything to recommend them except for the fact that they each cost as much as two and a half songs from iTunes.

And, lest you think I’m just being a grump, even the Pittsburgh Post Gazette agrees with me. You have to feel bad for anyone who apsires to make fancy food and gets dumped on by the Post Gazette.

Note: my friend Francisco (or it could have been Ray) came up with the term “yupcake.” I could never think of something that funny on my own.

Grade Inflation

We went to our first PSO concert in a while. It was very enjoyable. However, the show did point out a strange behavior of the PSO audience. This particular night, the young piano soloist gave what appeared to be a spirited performance of a concerto by Robert Schumann. I am generally bored by Schumann, and the performance here was not strong enough to shake me of my convictions. The band itself didn’t seem all that excited by it either. But, reaching the end of the piece, the audience members sprang up roaring their approval, eventually making the soloist walk out four or five times.

This ritual standing ovation has always puzzled me. I think it is fine to express appreciation for a performance that is particularly momentous. But to stand up at the end of every show and make a big show out of giving a standing O for even pedestrian performances of the odd warhorse seems to me to just cheapen to the whole enterprise.

Of course, when I stood up after the Sibelius Fifth Symphony that ended the concert, the woman sitting behind me huffed a bit about how she liked the piano player better.

First Ride

Took my first bike ride of the year this weekend. It’s been too cold or wet or busy before now. After fifteen years of this I’ve finally learned the core lesson of the early season ride. Anyone, no matter how old or feeble, can use their legs to drive a bike at 15-17mph on a flat road with favorable wind. But don’t be fooled. The second you hit that little rise, you will not feel as good as you did last year. So if you want to avoid that sick dizzy feeling that you can get from working too hard, just suck it up and take the hills slowly.

With this lesson, I successfully avoided feeling like I had to puke for an hour after the ride.

Parking Denied

Streets with parallel parking on them make drivers dumber. I have proof. How often has this happened to you?

You are creeping up the road looking for parking. You see a spot near the curb. You line yourself up to back into said spot. Just at that moment, the mental midget in the car behind you decides that he needs to creep up your tailpipe so that the whole line of cars can make progress. The result is that you can’t park and you have to spend the next fifteen hours driving in circles looking for parking. What the hell?

Ad Sense

The people who program the nationally broadcast advertising time slots for sports events at the major networks seem to me to lack a reliable sense of time. Apparently, they think that three in the afternoon is actually in the middle of the night when the kiddies have all gone to bed. I say this because all through the football season I had to endure promos for the horror and crime fiction shows on CBS and NBC, flipping the TV off if the child was in the room.

Then, this weekend, the Pens were on TV. I haven’t seen the Pens since they got good, so I watched a bit. Lo and behold, a promo for some movie that tells the touching story of how Spartan warriors disembowel their enemies came over the wire in between periods. Speaking of Spartans, just few minutes later, there was an extended ad for God of War, showing everyone’s favorite pale Spartan doing those God of War things. I guess blood in the afternoon is the new thing for the kids who like to watch sports.

Good show TV networks. Well played.


Speaking of God of War, I caved, so it’s time for my nightly ritual slicing and dicing of faceless enemies. More thoughts on God of War later this week.


14 Responses to “Some Monday Shorts”

  1. Mahim says:

    I had the same problem with street parking as you, until I learned this trick: when you find a spot, turn on your turn signal and stop right next to the parking spot. Then, move forward into a convenient position for reversing, and reverse into the spot. Unless the driver behind you is a raving lunatic, she/he will get the hint and let you park in peace. So far, I haven’t run into such a raving lunatic. Even in Pittsburgh.

  2. jfb says:

    It’s even better when the dolt behind you actually tries to park in the spot that you have politely staked out by moving forward and turning on your turn signal. The last time I tried to park where I live (San Francisco) this happened to me, and I got so unreasonably angry and distraught that I got out of my car and ran up and down the street looking for a policeman. I am not proud.

    God Of War 2 should be rated “P” for puerile. Which is not to say that I haven’t spent the last three days playing the hell out of it; just that I am not proud.

  3. psu says:

    Mahim, we have done that and still been screwed by the raving lunatic.

  4. jfb says:

    I guess I should add that I don’t own a car; so it’s not like my ride is idling outside whilst I blow off steam by posting blog comments. I’m not that demented.

  5. zp says:

    You know there isn’t better cake on Murray Ave. I’m not buying the Giant Eagle recommendation either. Pure rhetoric. I sympathize with your principled position, etc, but Dozen is good and a fair deal on a small piece of cake made with quality ingredients.

  6. zp says:

    But you’re right on with the “grade inflation” at the symphony. Can’t I just clap sincerely and let the talented musicians call it a night?

  7. Nat says:

    I’ve had Dozen cupcakes. They aren’t inedible, but they sure aren’t worth $2.50 either.

    I’m not buying “a fair deal on a small piece of cake” at all here.

  8. Lorien says:

    I live far away from this dessert you speak of. Someone overnight me a “small piece of cake” and I will judge it.

    Do these boutiques sell other “fineries”, or is it just the cakes?

  9. Doug says:

    A while ago a friend and I had some music exchange. He took me to some modern experimental classical concerts, and I took him to see Einsturzende Neubauten, some good german industrial experimental. I think the industrial was better music (they have been doing it a while) because of the “give them standing ovations even if they suck” culture in anything orchestral. In their early years, if what Neubauten played stank, people let them know.

  10. peterb says:

    I stopped at Dozen today and had a couple of cupcakes, with some friends. Zp, I gotta disagree with you here. They had some interesting flavors, but the cake was dry and mealy and I had to mortgage my house to pay for them.

    If I was looking for baked goods on Murray, I would probably go to Allegro Hearth. They manage to consistently surprise me: the atmosphere in the place is funereal, and something about it always turns me off (specifically, it feels like a chain), but when I can get past that and actually go there, I always find that their baked goods are pretty good.

  11. zp says:

    Reasonable people, one of whom loves dry cake, will disagree.

  12. kim says:

    Dozen is hit and miss, in my experience. I’ve had bad cupcakes and really really good ones that I thought were worth the price. The Emily is great, as is the mint meltaway (which is $3). The bad ones I have had were either stale or not as advertised (no filling in an Elvis).

    Anyone know about the new French Tart pastry shop opening in Shadyside?

  13. kvd says:

    yes, alas, we’ve been to French Tart. It’s awful. Stale and tasteless and even more obscenely expensive than the yupcakes. Also, the bread is the wrong color.

    I’m hearing rumors from credible sources about a “real” French shop opening in the Strip “soon.” We’ll see.

  14. Jake says:

    With tongue firmly in cheek, I dispute your stated origin of the word yupcake. As you can clearly see from the linked post, it was coined in January 2007.

    Seriously, though, it’s funny that the word originated in Pittsburgh. The combination of the city’s blue-collar image and yearnings for upper-class pretentiousness is fertile ground for self-satire.