2002 by Nick Montfort and William Gillespie

A week or so ago, I got my copy of 2002. 2002 is a collaboratively authored narrative 2002 world long palindrome. In terms of raw length, it passed George Perec’s 1500+ word palindrome by quite a margin. My French really isn’t up to the task of making a serious evaluation of Perec’s work but my sense is that the quality of his palindrome is, on the whole, a bit better. That said, 2002 is in English and has some really fantastic moments, tells a largely coherent story and and is a 2002 word long palindrome.

You can read the palindrome online at the publisher’s website. You also buy the very small but beautifully illustrated book for $16. I did and was pleased when it arrived in a floppy disk mailer.

There is a cute little set of computer (even UNIX) references in there I think my audience might appreciate:

Type it, Bob; abuse vi and—"Abracadabra! Cabala!" Nitro terminal, .EXEs. Bob, nose Mandelbrot codes! A coder.

Here is the middle and the point of symmetry in the story. The X in "sexes" marks the exact middle. This bit is also about sex, which is fun:

Job? Mocha dude? Non! No. Works at node, wades on. Idée fixe snows Bob’s ass all under.

Pure …

Eligible Babs: flesh self’s eros revolts, rubs. Babs, looted under Bob, seXes Bob. Red, nude tools. Babs: "Burst, lover! Sores. Flesh self’s Babel big. I leer up." Red, null ass, as Bob’s won sex: "I feed; I nosed awe!" (Don’t ask.) Row on, none dud. Ah! Combo joy.

I highly recommend the whole thing.

The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices

When I was in ninth grade, I somehow managed to pick up a copy of the Encyclopedia of Usual Sex Practices on a school field trip. I can’t remember where the field trip took us. The book has just about everything in there. It has the standard "unusual" practices like bestiality and pedophilia and a few that are not unusual at all like masturbation. It also had loads of things you have never imagined involving power tools, stretching, burning, costumes and much, much more. Unfortunately the definitions were often complete with little line drawings for those that did not care to use their imagination.

It’s not completely unlike browsing through certain subsections of USENET although the form makes it accessible to a larger audience. In any case, I got tired of the book pretty quickly but because the book was a real hit at parties, I kept it around and even took it to college with me.

When I moved back to Seattle from college, I packed everything in six large duffle bags. My sister and my mother flew out from Seattle to my graduation with only carry-on bags. The idea was that we would each take 2 checked bags on the airplane and I could avoid having to pay to get my stuff shipped cross-country. Having packed up everything, a friend, who was also packing up their stuff and had borrowed the book, came by to return the encyclopedia. Having already shipped my books that week before, I opened a large duffle bag containing my stereo and some computer parts, wrapped in foam and my bedding, stuck the book directly on top of the blankets and zipped the bag back up.

The next day we split up the bags randomly at the airport and my mother took bag with the stereo. Our flight left from Providence which meant that the security teams would scan the checked baggage in the main lobby of the airport right in front of the check-in counters before loading it on the planes. Seeing the amplifier on the X-Ray, the security staff decided that they needed to open up the bag. They asked who owned the bag and my mother raised her hand. We then all watched them as they unzipped the bag revealing the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices delicately placed — apparently by my mother — on top of a blanket. The security agent read the title and you should see his eyes get large. Not so discretely, he called over the other security workers. The looked at the book, looked at my mother, and then looked at the book again to reconfirm. My mother, remembering how I packed the book the night before, turned red and looked the other direction.

They zipped the bag up again without moving or examining a thing inside and sent us all on our way.

Flying Without Fear by Duane Brown

Mika hates admitting she was wrong or beaten. She also hates failure. Who doesn’t? Maybe the only other thing she really hates is flying on airplanes. While I don’t particularly enjoy being squashed in like a sardine in any situation, I’ve never minded flying in particular and Mika and I have had a number of good-natured arguments about her fear of flying. Since she makes a number of international and transcontinental flights each year, it’s a pretty annoying fear.

When I found Flying Without Fear by Duane Brown for a dollar, I snatched it up and then pressured Mika until she started to read it.

Unfortunately, the second page of the book included this paragraph:

If you are trying to overcome your fear because [somebody] is pressuring you to do so, as opposed to wanting to rid yourself of a burdensome fear, you are likely to fail. Why? Because in your heart you believe that airplanes are unsafe. Moreover, you have probably been in arguments with the person or persons who are pressuring you, and to overcome your fear would be to admit that you are wrong and perhaps have been wrong for a long time.

Damn. Thwarted.

Hot Property by Pat Choate

In the last two months, I’m managed to pick up three review copies of books on IP at the Strand. Review copies are basically available for any books that you might see reviewed in places like the New York Book Review and are always published by big mass-market (i.e., non-academic) publishing houses. The first two that I got to were Kembrew McLeod’s Freedom of Expression and David Bollier’s Brand Name Bullies. Both were alright. I like Bollier’s much more and would recommend strongly although it was not a whole lot of new information for me.

Having heard that Knopf had put out a more entertainment and publishing industry friendly book, I descended into Strand’s basement and picked up a review copy of Pat Choate’s Hot Property: The Stealing of Information In an Age of Globalization. Choate is a economist and D.C. think-tanker who is probably most well known for writing a handful of books with Ross Perot and running as his V.P. in 1996.

The book’s description of the German patent strategy before, during, and after the second world war and how that model is being applied by other countries today was both well written and illuminating as were other parts of the book. One chapter pulled heavily from Drahos and Braithwaite’s Information Feudalism which I am convinced is the best and most underappreciated book on IP written in years.

Like Perot, Choate’s position is not as simple as high-protectionist or low-protectionist — right or left. On the one hand, he cries out about how IP piracy, especially on an international scale, is threatening our ways of life and our lives themselves in some cases. He claims that strong IP protection and iron-fist enforcement is the only way out. On the other hand, he is very critical about the role of large corporations in manipulating IP to screw over the little guys.

Basically, he seems to have listened to everything that the industry says about IP promoting art and science, Romantic conceptions of authorship, stories of the self-made inventor working through the patent system and, while critical of the way that corporates are abusing this system, Choate completely buys into the underlying arguments that the industry has create and employs to prop up their behavior. In this sense, I think Choate is well intentioned but a bit naive.

If naivete was Hot Property’s greatest sin, it might be excusable. It’s not. Particularly in the introduction, the way that Choate argues for stronger IP enforcement (although notably, not really for strong IP protection) is through scaremongering that, while justified in some cases, degenerates into tactics that are unnecessary and in some cases dishonest.

In one section, Choate talks about baby formula and about how counterfeit baby formula is putting our children at risk. He lists quite a few stories. The most egregious of these involved counterfeiters taking normal or substandard dairy-based formula and putting labels on it for a more expensive brand of dairy-free powder. The effect of this formula on lactose intolerant infants could be sickness or worse. Choate implies that we risk paying the price for trademark infringement with our children’s lives.

While Choate is correct that the relabeling of this formula is an act of counterfeiting and trademark infringement, there’s also a lot of other things wrong and criminal with it. Cleary, the actions of these counterfeiters constitutes fraud. It probably also boils down to criminal neglect, reckless endangerment, and potentially to attempted or actual homicide. We do not need trademark law to prosecute these sorts of crimes except it to add it the end of a long list of other, more egregious, charges. If punishment for trademark infringement is the best or only way to punish people who lie to make a buck and end up killing our children, our legal system has bigger problems than weak IP protection. While the presentation of the baby food issue is misguided, I do not think that it is necessarily dishonest.

However, Choate crossed that line with the way he conflated trademark infringement with other types of business fraud to basically use scaremongering to drive his point home. Choate points out that one frequent cause of plane crashes is "bogus parts." One would imagine that he would have examples of trademark violations at the root of these parts but these examples are nowhere to be found. Instead, he lists a handful of examples of companies who misrepresent the quality or age of their own parts. Choate describes how companies have sold cable to airlines that they knew were substandard or hoses that companies knew would deteriorate under high pressure.

These companies cannot infringing on their own trademark and they are not infringing on anyone else’s. They are acting fraudulently and and are putting people’s lives in danger in the process. This is already criminal and it has absolutely nothing to do with IP. Choate ends his sections on airplanes with this:

Now imagine this. You are on an airplane six or seven miles up in the sky with your seat reclined, happily reading a book or watching a movie, when the pilot comes on the loudspeaker and announces:

You attention please. We are experiencing some flight difficulties because (a) one of the cables needed to the fly the plane has snapped; (b) an essential [fuel, oil, hydraulic] hose has ruptured; or (c) a key structural part has just broken in two. Our flight crew will help you prepare for an emergency landing. Please stay calm.

Then, an emergency oxygen mask drops from the ceiling and you just hope that yours is not one of those contaminated hoses sold by Air-Pro. At such a moment, pirating, counterfeiting and bogus goods take on an entirely new importance.

None of the example he alluded in that passage had anything to do with pirated or counterfeit goods and the bogus goods had nothing to do with IP violations of any sort. In the context of a call for IP enforcement and protection, this is sneaky, dishonest, and wrong.

Choate may have some good points. However, packaged and presented as disengeniously as they are here, it was hard for me to get past the first chapter..

Media Unlimited

Today I got about half-way through Media Unlimited: How The Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives by Todd Gitlin. It reminds me a little bit of Roszak’s Cult of Information which is not meant to be a glowing complement. Roszak self-identifies as a neo-Luddite and, while I applaud his attempt to deflate the unchecked and unrealistic enthusiasm that sounds many people involved in the information technology industry, is overly cynical in my opinion.

Unlike Luddites and neo-Luddites, I am excited about the increasing and increasingly cheap and uninhibited flow of information and positive social impact that this might have. The negative impact of the overwhelming amount of information and the overwhelming ways that it is distributed are important but I don’t believe it is inherently bad. Gitlin is more cynical than I am but more reasonable than Roszak. He is not as unexcited as Roszak but is concerned. He does a very nice job of connecting the problems associated with the massive surge in media with the nature of the information that people are being barraged with.

Gitlin is a good read and it does a good deal of synthesis of a widely varying line-up of thinkers and writers.

I also pleased with the unintended pun in the title. I know many people that can speak to the overwhelming effect that a wholly different type of torrents have in providing highly connected people with more images and sounds than they can easily consume.

Sir Thomas Urquhart

So I’ve known about Sir Thomas Urquhart for a while and read a few bits and pieces of his Rabelais translation in college. Recently though, I reminded of him while reading through a book on eccentricity and I found this excerpt from Urquhart’s introduction to his The Jewel (please feel free to skip the bottom as soon as you get the point):

I could truly have enlarged this discourse with a choicer variety of phrase, and made it overflow the field of the reader’s understanding with an inundation of greater eloquence; and that one way, tropologetically, by metonymical, ironical, metaphorical, and synecdochical instruments of elocution, in all their several kinds, artificially effected, according to the nature of the subject, with emphatical expressions in things of greater concernment, with catachrestical in matters of meaner moment; attended on each side respectively with an epiplectic and exegetic modification; with hyperbolical, either epitatically or hypocoristically, as the purpose required to be elated or extenuated, with qualifying metaphors, and accompanied by apostrophes; and lastly, with allegories of all sorts, whether apologal, affabulatory, parabolary, aenigmatic, or paraemial. And on the other part, schematologetically adorning the proposed theme with the most especial and chief flowers of the garden or rhetoric and omitting no figure either of diction or sentence, that might contribute to the ear’s enchantment, or persuasion of the hearer. I could have introduced, in case of obscurity, synonymal, exargastic, palilogetic elucidations; for sweetness of phrase, antimetathetic commutations of epithets; for the vehement excitation of a matter, exclamation in the front and epiphonemas in the rear. I could have used, for the promptlier stirring up of passion, apostrophal and prosopopoeial diversions; and, for the appeasing and settling of them, some epanorthotic revocations, and aposiopetic restraints. I could have inserted dialogisms, displaying their interrogatory part with communicatively psymatic and sustenative flourishes; or proleptically, with the refutative schemes of anticipation and subjection, and that part which concerns the responsary, with the figures of permission and concession. Speeches extending a matter beyond what is, auxetically, digressively, transitiously, by ratiocination, aetiology, circumlocution, and other ways, I could have made use of; as likewise with words diminishing the worth of a thing; tapinotically, periphrastically, by rejection, translation, and other means, I could have served myself.

Lets ignore the 100+ words sentences. Let’s ignore the Mojo Jojo-esque redundancy. A teacher in high school once told me to not use a one dollar word when a fifty cent word will do. Urquhart employs long strings of five dollar words for things that don’t really need be said at all. While the result may be nearly incomprehensible, Urquhart is a master of the form. I absolutely love it and I just bought two of his books.

In addition to writing on a large number of subjects (a sample of which is here; I recommend the section on Scottish bankers), Urquhart created a universal language called Logopandecteision with, "eleven genders, seven moods, four voices, ten cases, besides the nominative, and twelve parts of speech; every word signifieth as well backwards as forwards." Of course, the prose is so complex that it’s hard to tell he’s even talking about a language at many points. I’m still trying to find out what most of those 11 genders are.

I love the idea of an incomprehensibly complex language defined only in a massive tome of incomprehensibly complex prose. I hope to complete a similarly expansive and internally consistent masterwork in my life.

The Most Photographed Barn in America

White Noise by Don DeLillo includes one of my favorite vignettes. The characters in the book go on a small tourist trip to an ordinary barn in America had become, through constant photography, the most photographed barn in America. People photograph the barn because it is, after all, the most photographed barn in America. Here’s a short expert:

"No one sees the barn," he said finally.

A long silence followed.

"Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

"We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura."

You can read here for the full excerpt.

In the last few days in Colombia, where my talk on Ubuntu and Debian put me on the front page of an important newspapers and lots of people have turned their cameras toward me, I empathize a little bit with the barn.

Do Snakes Have Legs?

Recently, I found out about a book called Do Snakes Have Legs? by Bert Cunningham (1937). I’ve been looking for a copy but haven’t found been able to find one yet. It seems that the book is on axial bifurcations in serpents which slightly disappoints me. So far, most books with fun names like this, like the Encyclopaedia of Medical Ignorance, have been something other than what their catchy titles imply to me. I suspect Cunningham takes longer to answer the question about snakes’ legs than I would.

I think it would be fun to do an art project where I make a series of nice books — leather or cloth bound — that answer seemingly obvious questions. My books will be straight and to the point and will give simple answers to the simple questions posed in their titles.

They will have title pages and publishing information, perhaps even a rambling introduction, but when it comes time to answer the question, they will not be evasive. In my answer to Cunningham’s book, the first and only chapter will be one word long: "No."

I suspect that my books will be either very short or have many blank pages.

Law 49: Never Live With Folks Who Buy This Book

I once lived in a rather dysfunctional apartment. One of my roommates kept the "National Bestseller," The 48 Laws of Power in the bathroom to read while he was on the toilet. During my shift in the loo, I would look over the book as well and it provided a lot of insight into its owner’s personality. The book dispenses ideas from Machiavelli, Henry Kissinger, Louis XIV and other wells of wisdom and gives advice on how to be more "powerful" in your daily life with such aphorisms as, "never put too much trust in friends," "crush your enemies completely," and "discover each man’s thumbscrew."

The book is complete crap. I always found it somewhat humorous — in that "it would much funnier if I didn’t have to actually live with the person reading this book" sort of way — that my 21 year old roommate thought that advice given to a monarch half a millennia ago on the virtues of totally crushing ones’ enemies was highly relevant and applicable information.

I think that my roommate liked the book because it helped him rationalize being nasty to other people as a strategically important move in a bid for power. People seem to like books that explain why their faults are, in fact, strengths. If being petty and cruel is among you’re faults and you’re not itching to change, this may be the book for you.

Last time I was in a bookstore with friends and came across this book, my friend suggested that the rules sounded a lot like the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition from the Star Trek television series. I don’t have a TV but I’ll betray my geekiness and admit that I’ve certainly watched my share of Star Trek anyway. For those that don’t know, the Rules of Acquisition are the religious or societal underpinnings of an alien race that is basically Star Trek writers’ imaginative rendition of a people who have made greed, selfishness and pettiness their raison d’etre. I went ahead and looked up the rules and it’s true.

Here are three pairs of laws/rules:

  • Robert Greene and Joost Elffers say: "Law 1: never outshine the master."
  • Ferengis say: "Rule 33: It never hurts to suck up to the boss."
  • Robert Greene and Joost Elffers say: "Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends."
  • Ferengis say: "Rule 99: Trust is the biggest liability of all."
  • Robert Greene and Joost Elffers say: "Law 19: know who you’re dealing with — do not offend the wrong person."
  • Ferengis say: "Rule 194: It’s always good business to know about new customers before they walk in your door."

It’s uncanny; you can find a match for basically every "Law" in the book.

It’s a bit depressing when you find pillars of fictional dystopias being reproduced by folks with a straight-face in your own bathroom and on the New York Times bestseller list.

Scott Rice’s “Son of ‘It Was a Dark and Stormy Night'”

New York City, land of the $1 used books on the street, has been good to me so far. Last week, I picked up Son of "It was a Dark and Stormy Night" which is compiled by Scott Rice from entries to the Bulwer-Lytton Contest. For those that have missed the annual mentions in newspapers and on radio programs, the Bulwer-Lytton contest is named after Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the Victorian novelist who opened his novel Paul Clifford with what has become the ultimate cliche opening: "It was a dark and storm night." The competition is a yearly one that challenges authors to come up with the worst opening line to a potential novel.

I enjoy reading the finalists each year as they make it into the press. You might think that too much of a so-good-it’s-bad thing is bad. I am pleased to report that while the pieces are bad, too much of this so-good-it’s bad thing is so good.

This book was published in 1986 so it includes some of the early gems that got the contest off and running. To set the tone, here is the winner from 1985:

The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desirée, the female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakeably — the first of many such advances during would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career.

—Martha Simpson, Glastonbury, Connecticut

What I’ve found hearing the winners each year is that a certain type of bad opening line tends to win every year. They tend to be long, convoluted, and slightly bizarre without being totally outlandish and confusing. They tend to use extremely bad, but not completely puzzling metaphors. What I like about this book is that it highlights a greater range of the types of bad writing submitting to the Bulwer-Lytton contest. Here is one that I enjoyed particularly:

Her breasts lept like lizards from high cliffs as fear welled up from her chest and danced a rhumba in her throat.

—Lucinda Ryan, Alameda, California

I also enjoyed this one:

The rather well-nourished buxomly matron waddled through the pulsating pedestrian traffic of Hong Kong, pensively meditating on the problems of being a big-breasted, broad-butted, broad broad abroad.

—Michael A. O’Neill, Rohnert Park, California

I think this one is my personal favorite:

With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.

—Alice A. Hall, Fort Wayne, Indiana

There are many more that I would love to list but that for reasons of space cannot. According to the BL website, there are the following collections published by Penguin:

  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
  • Son of "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night"
  • Bride of Dark and Stormy
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The Final Conflict
  • Dark and Stormy Rules Again

Unfortunately, all of these are out of print so Bookfinder or AddALL are the most reasonable choices if your local used book stores don’t have a copy. The other good news is that there is apparently another book ready but, the author(s) are having trouble finding someone to publish it. Check out the Bulwer-Lytton homepage for information.

I’m working on my own entry for next years contest. I think if I put my mind to it, I have a chance.

Anthony Ashton’s “Harmonograph”

At OSCON this year the organizers gave us a discount coupon at Powell’s technical bookstore. By the time I got there the technical books that were of most interest to me had been raided pretty thoroughly (I must have good taste). So I was forced to be a little more creative.

Among my favorite finds from the day was a little book called Harmonograph: A Visual Introduction to Harmony by Anthony Ashton. The book is part math book, part shop book, part art book, and part music book.

A harmonograph is a simple instrument invented in the mid nineteenth century and that reached some sort of in vogue status before the beginning of the twentieth.. There are a number of different types of harmonographs but the simplest model has two pendulums suspended through holes in a table that are swinging at right angles to each other. One of those pendulums has a piece of paper attached to its top and the other one has a pen.

Now, Pythagoras found that musical harmony to appear when the ratio of the frequencies (or wavelengths) of the sounds being produced consist of certain ratios consisting of small numbers: like 1:1, 2:1, 3:2 (these would correspond to unison, an octave, and a fifth).

The book gives a crash course in the physics and math involved, the process of building a harmonograph, and idea of musical harmony. The rest is pretty pictures like this one:

A sample harmonograph image.

It’s very interesting to see the visual representation of certain harmonies which are very easy — non-challenging — to grasp audibly (unison and an octave) and to see that the harmonographs are equally easy to grasp visually. As we move to more complex and dissonant sounds, you can see the patterns getting more complex and the form getting lost in the "noise."

Ashton is really into harmonographs and has obviously devoted a large amount of his life to playing with and building and improving his toys2. I’m not so motivated to follow his lead but the book was interesting and fun. I read it one sitting on a Sunny day.

I’d love to see some way to create a computerized harmonograph that instead of just mapping individual harmonies, could actually work over time. It would be cool to, at a glance, be able to compare the harmonic make-up of a piece by Bach with a piece by Bartók.

If you’re interested, you can buy the book at your local bookshop or you can do it online at Powell’s.

Joe Wenderoth’s “Letters to Wendy’s”

I’ve recently picked up Letters to Wendy’s for what must be the third of fourth time. When I first found this book, I ordered it from one of the libraries in my college’s library system. When I went to the pick up the book, the person behind the counter was reading it. She’d liked it so much she had put in a recall for it — before I’d even picked it up! The library’s somewhat bizarre "the second person has precedence" system cut my checkout time down to two weeks and nearly forced a recall war between the two of us. It’s that good.

Letters to Wendy’s is written by Joe Wenderoth and is published by Verse Press (a small press publisher out of Northampton, Massachusetts). It’s pitched as a collection of prose poetry written on Wendy’s [1] comment cards: one-a-day for a little more than a year.

The pieces are often descriptions and reflections on Wenderoth’s experiences dining at Wendy’s. Here’s one example:

November 15, 1996

A beautiful women with a Biggie. Nothing else — just a Biggie. She sat alone; she seemed like she was waiting for someone. What lucky soul could make a beautiful woman with a Biggie wait? Who has that kind of power? What person would a beautiful woman with a Biggie find attractive? Only one answer made sense to me: another beautiful woman with a Biggie.

Another good example in the same vein is this:

February 3, 1997

I tried to order a Biggie coffee today. It couldn’t be done. I felt sort of childish asking, like my request betrayed my ignorance in the matter. Ironically, nothing could be further from the truth; I know — believe me I do — how wrong it is to have a coffee of that size (I know too that I would never have gone through with it). It’s sort of scary, but the truth is: I don’t know why I asked.

Other pieces are more reflections on life that span the gamit from profound to bizarre to mundane to obscene — and any combinations of the above. These reflections tend to be prompted by or refelecting on Wendy’s in some way. A good example would be:

May 20, 1997

I’d like to have my muscles removed. Resume the inanimate. Wendy’s allows me to extract myself from the retarded narcissism of animal thrivings. I sit still in a warm booth and get thought. All movement wants, in the end is stillness. The animate is just the failure of movement to get what it wants — one sleeping body. The road to heaven is paved with meat: the road to meat is not paved at all.

My personal favorites are the ones that are actually suggestions. Some of his suggestions I like more than others. Perhaps my favorite suggestion is this one:

December 26, 1996

A sort of hell-garden would be useful. Often, after a meal, I feel inclined to lay myself out in the elements, as though dead, to be picked apart by birds and dogs. It is surprisingly difficult to find a suitable space. The garden I have in mind would be a simple concrete square right off the dining room, and would offer several boulders which one could drape oneself over and feel properly exposed.

Since I read this two years ago, I’ve found myself gorged with food and wishing for a hell-garden on several occasions.

Many of the pieces are quite raunchy and many make me laugh out loud. Most can communicate to the endeavoring readers one more than one level. Of course, there’s no reason to read more into it than you want. The book is off-the-wall and a lot of fun. I recommend it highly. You can grab it, in a number of forms at the links below.

[1] For those who are fortunate enough to be out of the loop, Wendy’s is a fast food restaurant not unlike McDonald’s. As far as I can tell, they’re famous for square hamburgers and their somewhat ridiculously named Biggie® drinks and fries and a thick drink they serve called a Frosty.