Monday, May 02, 2016

The Platform Wars

Facebook and Twitter, Digiday reports, are now actively working to prevent publishers from using their platform to promote Snapchat—including disabling deep-linking and discouraging the use of "snapcodes" (scannable Snapchat icons) as their avatars.

Nothing new here, of course. (Remember when Twitter stopped allowing Instagram photos to appear in feeds?) But it does indicates that Snapchat has now started to reach scale beyond just a messaging platform. So I guess I've got to start Snapchatting now, too?

Friday, April 15, 2016

More Events Coming Up . . .

Southern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South has officially been published, and I'm putting together a series of signings, talks, and other events related to the book and food and beverage history in general. These include a launch party and signing at Edmund's Oast, a talk on gumbo and Southern food history at the University of Pennsylvania, and a mint julep and Sazerac seminar at the Rochester Cocktail Revival. Full details here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Takes More Than a Flood To Stop the Hogs for the Cause Block Party

Many believed that only an act of God could stop the Smoked Mullets from winning the barbecue cook-off at the 2nd installment of Hogs for the Cause Charleston. And it turns out they were right. The torrential rain and flooding back in October forced the organizers to cancel the event, robbing the Mullets (for whom I was slated to man the coveted midnight to six a.m. pit shift) of their otherwise-certain victory.

Even worse news was that the cancelation caused the Hogs for the Cause organization to lose valuable funds that would otherwise have gone to helping the families of children fighting pediatric brain cancer. So, Charleston's own Home Team BBQ is stepping up to help, organizing a Hogs for the Cause Block Party to be held down on the peninsula at their soon-to-open new downtown branch.

The Hogs for the Cause Block Party is now slated for Saturday, March 12, 2016 from noon to 4:00 at 1071 Morrison Drive, the parking area next to Edmund’s Oast and across from Home Team's new spot.

In addition to Home Team 'cue, there will be food from the Atlantic Room Restaurant at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House, Home Team BBQ,  Edmund’s Oast, and Lewis Barbecue. And there will be cocktails made with Cathead Vodka and Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, and beer from Revelry Brewing Co. and Coast Brewing Co.  Plus live music by Guilt Ridden Troubadour.

Tickets are $30 per person and include a food pass, and additional tickets will be sold for cocktails and beer. All of the food, beverages and entertainment has been donated to this event to raise funds for Hogs for the Cause. Kids under 12 are free. Tickets available through City Paper Tickets.

 No word yet whether the Home Team crew will be smoking mullet for the occasion, but I think they should.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

11 Things I Learned About Twitter This Weekend

Reading the flood of panicked tweets about Twitter's supposedly-soon-to-drop algorithmic feed this weekend, I have learned the following things about Twitter:

1. The people at Twitter don't use their own product

2. The people at Twitter don't understand their own product

3. The people at Twitter just want to turn it into Facebook

4. The only thing Twitter really needs is an edit button

5. Twitter is dead (#RIPTwitter)

6. Twitter is mostly young people and activists and creators who are not gonna stand for this Facebook algorithm shit

7. Twitter's real motivation with changing their feed is to censor content and control what people think

8. Twitter's real motivation with changing their feed is to inflict ads upon us and turn us into the zombie pawns of big corporations

9. Twitter is already using algorithms to control to the information we see, they just aren't telling us

10. If Twitter changes the timeline all the current Twitter users are going to up and go start using . . . well, something else

11. Change is bad

Saturday, February 06, 2016

And There Was Much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Twitter seems to be all a twitter this morning about Twitter's supposed plans to launch a new algorithmic feed.

I am one of those active Twitter users myself—I far prefer it to Facebook, Instagram, and anything else, and it's the place I turn first to see what's going on out in the world.  And I think this algorithmic feed might be a good idea, and the reason is simple: it's sort of how I use Twitter today anyway.

Which is to say that I use Tweetdeck, not the regular Twitter browser application, which lets you have multiple columns open at the same time with different filters and lists determining what tweets they show. In the left most column I have a list that's filtered to a select group of people I follow whose Tweets I don't miss, to the right of that my unfiltered "Home" feed (that is, all the tweets from everyone I follow unfiltered as they roll out into the world), and to the right of that multiple columns filtered to search for various terms I'm interested in.

I find it very useful to have an algorithm (albeit a very basic one I created myself) to filter tweets for me because that main feed is just too damn crowded and I'll miss the good stuff if I just read it. I read through  the "can't miss" list first, then once I read all those (and clear the column), I'll dip into the "main line" to sort of see serendipitously what the moment brings.

If what Twitter comes up with can replicate this experience—ensuring you see the tweets you don't want to miss while also maintaining the randomness and serendipity of the unfiltered chronological feed, then it might make Twitter appeal to more people.

Or it might be the end of the world as we know it and won't we all be sorry . . .

(By the way, does Facebook have an alternative application that power users use to interact with it? Plenty of 3rd party social media utilities, but I don't think Facebook actually owns one, do they?)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Would You Prefer Phone or No-Phone, Sir?

Someone on Twitter linked to this old (2011) New York Times piece by Pamela Paulon how no one calls people on the phone any more:

In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone — land line, mobile, voice mail and all. . . . Even in fields where workers of various stripes (publicists, agents, salespeople) traditionally conducted much of their business by phone, hoping to catch a coveted decision-maker off-guard or in a down moment, the phone stays on the hook. . . .Whereas people once received and made calls with friends on a regular basis, we now coordinate such events via e-mail or text. When college roommates used to call (at least two reunions ago), I would welcome their vaguely familiar voices. Now, were one of them to call on a Tuesday evening, my first reaction would be alarm. Phone calls from anyone other than immediate family tend to signal bad news.

My first reaction as I read was, yes, this describes me to a T: I almost never call anyone, and when I do I usually email first to make an appointment. Text and email have replaced the phone for most casual communications—making plans for dinner, asking a quick question. The whole world—or at least, all of America—is getting away from the telephone.

But the the more I thought about it, the more that struck me as not quite correct, for how else to explain the constant yammering on cell phones that I find myself subjected to—in restaurants, in grocery stores, and most of all, since I travel a lot, in airports and airport lounges and on airplanes. (Why is it it so much more annoying to listen to one person talking on a cellphone than two people having a conversation? Is it because the phone talker speaks louder, or is it because you can only hear one side of the conversation?)

No, I think it might be more accurate to say that Americans are starting to divide into two camps. One finds talking on the telephone tedious and time-wasting and prefer more asynchronous methods like email and text. The other loves nothing better than to pick up the phone and jaw away anytime they have a spare minute—and like jamming bizarre, space-age looking Bluetooth earpieces in their heads to maximize the amount of time they can spend on the phone.

And (as is reflected in my own mounting irritation for the continual-jabberers) these two camps seem to be becoming increasingly intolerant of each other. Witness the out-pouring of outrage and vitriol you can unleash just by raising the prospect that in the future cell phone calls will be allowed on planes. Our trains already have "quiet cars" where cellphone use is prohibited, and you're starting to see similar areas in airport clubs and other places where the texters and gabbers are forced together.

Perhaps in the not too distant future cellphone use will become like smoking was for the two decade period in the end of the 20th century before it started being banned from public altogether—segregating restaurants, waiting rooms, and transportation into phone and no-phone sections? It wouldn't surprise me.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Two Headlines

Scanning the news this morning, I was struck by two headlines, both reporting the same story.


Man, Chipotle is doomed.


Wait. It sounds like Chipotle is bouncing back.

That's all I got.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fall Events

Just looking over my calendar, and I've got a pretty busy fall coming up. Events in Charleston, Chapel Hill, and New Orleans, and a few others still in the planning stages. In addition to speaking or moderating panels, I'll have plenty of books on hand for signing.

Here's the most up to date list of events.  

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

No One Is Required to Eat Boiled Peanuts

Fun fact from my current research into the history of that Southern culinary icon, boiled peanuts. In 2006, the South Carolina Legislature declared boiled peanuts to be South Carolina’s official snack food. The only amendment to the original text of the bill was the addition of this caveat. “Nothing in this section requires or encourages any school district in this State to serve peanuts to students, especially students with food allergies.” 

Well, thank goodness we cleared that up.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Hot off the Presses: Barbecue Lover's Carolinas

Today is the official publication date of my next book, Barbecue Lover's Carolinas.

It's a guidebook to barbecue in North and South Carolina, covering the history of barbecue in the Carolinas and describing the different styles to be found in the region—Eastern North Carolina and the Pee Dee, the Piedmont, the Midlands and Lowcountry of South Carolina, and the Upstate and the Mountains. The heart of the book is a guide to some of the best and most representative restaurants in each region, plus recipes for some of the Carolina’s most iconic dishes and plenty of fun stories along the way.

It's got a lot of great color photos from some really talented photographers, too, including Robert Donovan, Denny Culbert, Nick McWhirter, and Jonathan Boncek. Check it out.