The Late Movies: A Sushi's-Eye View

Kaiten-zushi is better known in the US as "conveyer-belt sushi" or a "sushi train." Sushi is placed on small plates, and the plates on a conveyer belt that runs around the restaurant. Patrons sit at a bar or in booths along the belt's path, picking off plates as they go by. Plates are generally priced according to a color scheme (at my local joint, light green is $1, orange is $1.50, then there's the dreaded and rare dark blue at $3!). At the end of the meal, plates are totaled up to calculate a bill. It's a fun way to eat sushi on a budget -- and a great way to overload your brain by dully staring at zillions of sushi plates constantly going by.

Tonight, we look not at the sushi as it goes by; we look at the people, from the sushi's perspective, as cameras sit on the conveyer belt. Watch as restaurant patrons interact with the camera, ignore it, move it, and ultimately a helpful restaurant worker removes it from the line. I wrote about a similar video in 2009 (video on that page is now dead), including a description of the Plate Champion competition in Portland, Oregon. Spoiler alert: I am still not a Plate Champion.

Osaka, Japan

Helpful patrons reorient the camera as it travels. Sushi winner: the kid at 2:11, who is mystified by the camera.

Kawasaki, Tokyo

A serene trip around the restaurant. Sushi winners: the nice older couple at the beginning, who calmly watch the camera, as if posing for a portrait.

Shibuya, Tokyo

This one goes off the rails in the middle, as a kitchen staffer removes the camera. Fortunately for us he puts it back and it proceeds. Looks to me like he's seen this happen before. That makes him, according to my arbitrary rules, sushi loser in this video. Sorry, dude.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Mute the annoying music and enjoy the lonely perspective of the mostly-empty conveyer belt in a mostly-empty restaurant. Sushi winners: the girls around 2:44 who block the camera, clearly not seeking YouTube fame.

Daegu, Korea

Only three minutes of this is actual camera movement, but it's quite nice. Sushi winners: the couple around 2:40 who are playing with each others' faces until they see the camera and act all innocent.

Unspecified Location

It's not clear where this is from. If this is your location sushi joint, speak up! Sushi winner: the man at 0:45 who smiles and waves. Cute.

Unspecified Location #2

Slightly annoying music; looks like a US place to me (at one point a sign reading "All Sushi $3.00" is visible). Sushi winners: the brigade, visible starting around 3:15, making the sushi.

Understanding Kaiten-zushi

A view from the patron's perspective, explaining the process and some typical dishes. You may also benefit from the transcript (below the video on the YouTube page).

How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

TAKWest, Youtube
Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]


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