Feeling down? Does your homework sizzle your brain like a bubbling glob of cottage cheese tossed carelessly onto a frying pan?
You need a good laugh. You need to attend The Institute of Official Cheer, where the past is brought back to life, and promptly beaten to death again.
The Institute has many valuable courses of study, all based on James Lileks' historical research:
- The Story of Bread, an old pamphlet from Sunbeam that teaches the history of our favorite carbohydrate from the perspective of kilt-wearing cannibal brewers, violinists, and Betty Grable's evil child twin.
- The Gallery of Regrettable Food, The Institute's largest collection, features Eleanor Roosevel'ts treatise on the joys of hot dogs and a cookbook called More Fun With Coffeefrom our friends at the Pan-American Coffee Bureau (can you say Coffee Jello?). Other cookbooks contain delicious entries like magic Motor-Oil Baste-o-Roast, and Aspic Klingon Forehead.
This is just a taste of Lilek's hilarious pop culture commentary on the insane Twentieth Century. But I'll leave you to discover for yourself the joys of Mr. Coffee Nerves, the engraveyard, the grooviest motel in Wisconsin, and the collection of the Worst Comics Ever.
James Lileks also covers serious topics. In other areas of the site, he posts old photographs and architectural/cultural studies. Lileks reminds us to keep our eyes open, that we might learn something about the past from our present surroundings. And perhaps, we might even learn something from that past. In the end, Lileks mocks the past because he respects it so much.
And it works. I've personally come to notice and respect history much more as a result of his careful, insightful website.