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John Eby: Burger King bows out, avoids grilled cheese mania

Published 11:58pm Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The King is dead — perhaps his big plastic head melted — and I don’t mean Elvis, the King of Pop or that other guy at large in the Tripoli tunnels.

While Muammar Gaddafi’s noggin flaps in the wind like a sand-filled balloon on Time’s cover and Moammar Gadhafi’s hair unravels like a tangled ball of twine in an editorial cartoon, and the world imagines Libya liberated from 42 years as his personal playground, Burger King scrapped its creepy manic monarch who has been appearing in fast-food commercials since 2004.

The chain promises its new marketing approach will be more “food-centric.”

In getting the royal heave-ho, the King lands on the heap with such has-beens as Hamburglar, the Taco Bell Chihuahua and Arby’s Oven Mitt.

It’s a strange time and, as Hunter Thompson would say, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro (while TV itself became The Weather Channel).

Who thought Michael Jackson milking five No. 1 singles off one album, as he did with 1987’s Bad, would be matched by the likes of Katy Perry with Teenage Dream?

Or that Nabisco’s new snack would be “the Big Mac of cookies?” Triple Double Oreos team three cookies with two layers of creme, one chocolate and one vanilla.

Who thought the FCC could abolish the Fairness Doctrine Aug. 22 with so little notice?

I wasn’t surprised to see Time’s spread on grilled-cheese sandwiches and how the hot fad is a childhood staple comfort food for these uncertain days because that was all over the Dealer a couple of years ago.

Cleveland has three Melt locations.

But I was surprised at the turn it took when the story turned up on CNN the very next day during a lull while all the correspondents scouted new flood water for their shots.

The premise of The Melt, the high-tech restaurant chain specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches, is that customers order with a smart-phone app and the sandwich is ready in 60 seconds thanks to a gadget that simultaneously sears the bread and melts the cheese.

CNN is where I heard Melt creator Jonathan Kaplan say grilled cheese “just makes people happy.”

Plus, everyone’s out of ideas, from the kitchen to Congress to entertainment.

Kaplan invented the Flip camcorder I have been issued for the video age.

I could be a YouTube sensation right now had it occurred to me to go to film school.

Quips, quotes and qulunkers: “Officials in the Northeast are not used to tropical weather.”

— An Associated Press understatement in an Aug. 27 article on Hurricane Irene, which also spawned tornadoes

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“The artistic imperative to be original is giving away to unreflective, omnivorous nostalgia.”

— Simon Reynolds, author of Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past

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“Of the 10 top-grossing films so far this year, only Bridesmaids is neither a sequel nor based on a long-running comic book, toy line or amusement-park ride. Every one of last year’s 10 best-selling video games was a sequel, including a remake of 1985’s Super Mario Bros. Amazon’s most pre-ordered albums for this fall include 20th-anniversary commemorations of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, archival live albums by Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead and just-like-old-times recordings by George Strait and Tony Bennett. When the backward-looking wave reaches science fiction — the place where pop culture tries to anticipate tomorrow — then we’re really in trouble.”

— Douglas Wolk reviewing Ernest Cline’s first novel, the sci-fi thriller Ready Player One, which references such ’80s touchstones as Max Headroom, Blade Runner, Family Ties and Pac-Man. For his book tour, Cline’s traveling in a 1982 DeLorean a la

Back to the Future.

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New low: 12 percent approve of Congress, down from 21 percent in June, before the deficit deal debacle, according to an Aug. 18-22 Associated Press-GfK poll. Sixty-five percent of independents say they want their own House representative tossed out in 2012.

Unfavorable views of the Tea Party increased 10 percentage points since November and the Republican resurgence. Now 32 percent have a deeply unfavorable impression of the movement and just a fourth consider themselves supporters.

Obviously, this is not Japan, where Prime Minister Naoto Kan Aug. 26 announced his resignation after just 15 months because of approval ratings battered by his government’s handling of the tsunami/nuclear crisis.

Biggest beer drinkers: Czechs, 42 gallons per capita in 2010; Germany, 29 gallons; Britain, 23 gallons; and Americans, 21 gallons.

20 funerals a day: Arlington National Cemetery’s 620 acres may be full and closed to more burials in 14 years.

Who knew we had 131 national cemeteries?

Tip ignored: Four months before the gunman went on his killing spree in Norway, a global organization that monitors the bomb-making materials trade warned he purchased chemicals from a Polish company, but police did not act on the information because it was a legal transaction; 77 died July 22 in an Oslo bombing and a shooting rampage on a nearby island.

Illinois residents who repeatedly make open-records requests to their towns, school districts and counties could face new restrictions that would keep them from getting information quickly under legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed Aug. 26.

For the first time, local governments could characterize anyone who files more than seven Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in a week or more than 15 in a month as a “recurrent requester,” giving public bodies unlimited time to provide documents.

Media, academics and researchers are exempt.

Current law gave those governments five business days to answer a records request, with the option of an additional five-day extension (Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 27).

In other Gov. Quinn news: Illinois lawmakers want him to sign off on new casinos in Chicago and four other locations (Time magazine, Sept. 5). State lawmakers are turning to casino gambling to create new revenue streams, such as Massachusetts’ plan to sell licenses for three new casinos and a slots parlor.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is studying a constitutional amendment to allow non-Indian casino gaming. Last year, Delaware and Pennsylvania legalized games like blackjack and roulette. Maryland opened its first casino.

Nevada legalized gambling 80 years ago in 1931 because of the Great Depression, then the 1970s drove Atlantic City into the fold. There are almost 500 commercial casinos in 22 states delivering $7.6 billion in tax revenue, according to the American Gaming Association.

Target in Granger, Ind., is pictured in Time as an example of Brian Ulrich’s artistry. Captioned “Retail therapy,” the magazine said when Americans were urged to bolster the economy by shopping, he began photographing big-box stores. Ten years later, his “Copia” project, including more recent shots of thrift stores, boarded-up shops and dead malls, is done. I wasn’t surprised to see that his finished project can be seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art until Jan. 16. Speaking of shopping, spectators at the 2012 London Olympics will enter through a shopping mall.

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