Saturday, July 05, 2008

Post number 560

I've been home for a week or so and catching up on the all the bits and pieces of life that when you do them don't rate a remark, but when you're away as often as I am tend to pile up and take far more time than you expect. My job is time consuming but I've been trying to fit it in around my life rather than vice versa which is the usual state of affairs. I'm home for the next week exactly, and due to the usual last minute "stuff", the next month looks to be hectic starting with a long haul trip next Saturday. As it may change 3 or 4 times before then (I'm not kidding) I'll let you know as and when.
As you can see I had a great day with my kid this sunny Saturday.
It all started off wet and threatening weather wise, so we went to see "Kung-Fu Panda" to kick things off.
The balance of our time was McDonalds, new running shoes, the toy store and a long earnest conversation about being nice to people "you don't necessarily like ".
My little girl is growing up.
On the way back I stopped and took a picture of the radio telescope which sits outside Cambridge. I did it because its always represented a sort of talisman to me: whether coming back from Jess or Heathrow or Luton, it means I'll be home soon. The picture doesn't really do it justice as my first sight is as I come over a long winding rise in the road and it dominates the vista.
I'm not good enough a shutter bug to convey that sort of thing so you'll have to make do with the pic below and take my word for it. What else?
Well there were a couple of odd things in the news today:
AFP - 5 minutes ago
VATICAN CITY (AFP) - A man posing as a priest was prevented from taking confessions in St Peter's Basilica, Vatican judge Gianluigi Marrone said in an interview published on Saturday.
"He was caught in the basilica when he was trying to take up position in a confessional," Marrone told the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, saying the incident occurred "some time ago."
"He was wearing a priest's uniform, but our personnel's expert eye didn't take long to perceive some strange behaviour," said Marrone, the sole judge of the Vatican City state.
The man's papers appeared in order, but he "wasn't convincing," Marrone said, adding that "a crosscheck with the Italian authorities" revealed that he had attempted the same ruse in Italy.
You have to admire his balls if nothing else; If you're going to do it, do it in Papa- Smurf Central.
I pinched this story from my friend Chris' site.
Apparently 600 Starbucks are going to be closed down world wide.
Read about it here.
I have a love- hate thing with the place.
I first "discovered" Starbucks about 20 years ago on a trip to Vancouver. I didn't really pick up on the whole "vibe" thing it was to develop into later, but I loved the coffee. The BLACK FILTER COFFEE.
Back then it wasn't anything like it is now. Simple coffee wasn't $4.00 a cup for one thing.
Since then I've begun to loathe the place.
It's become a bit of a lifestyle statement.
Why does a coffee shop think that it's compilation CD's should set trends in helping people (right minded people of course) make life style choices?
Kind of hipster light for aspirational housewives and techno geeks.
Tortured artists and bookclub housewives with their duelling sneers.
Its become a sort of SUV/designer kid trolley/ vs. black eyeliner/torn jeans/gay angst stand off.
I just like the simple coffee.
If I never hear someone order a "skinny soya latte" again it will be too soon.
I even had a friend order a "SUPER LIGHT, Skinny Soya Latte.
Translation: A cup full of frothy air with a tiny shot of coffee lurking at the bottom.
The other thing is that the place was springing up everywhere, though walking around NYC, you'd swear they'd all disappeared when you actually WANT a coffee.
Otherwise they're on every corner.
All over the world, they're EVERYWHERE.
I even had a coffee in the Forbidden City in Beijing, though that has since closed.
This IKEA of hot drinks wasn't quite the same everywhere mind you.
The "Seattle" sense of cool doesn't always translate though there are places which do aspire to that.
In many foreign countries Starbucks represented something fun and cool and (but just as self -consciously silly) as it's become in North America. Kids go there to socialise, surf the net and hang out. In the US it feels like people go to be"publicly" be seen to "write" on their Mac. All the while appearing wistful or surly.
I once watched a rather earnest girl in Brooklyn, talk loudly on her cell about the writer's block that was just killing her .
In some countries ( the ones where the anti tobacco Nazis have yet to dominate), you can still smoke in Starbucks.
The roll ups, clutched between fingers tapping away at the keyboard adds to the whole budding (and oh soooo misunderstood) Artist thing.
Those who can do.
Those who can't go to Starbucks and pretend to do it.
The exception is India.
Its quite likely the girl in the corner IS writing the next Great English Novel.
Call me a cynical old bugger.
Go ahead.
In other countries (like here in the UK) it's a place where mummies take their 3 year olds to feel less anchored by the debris of toys spread all over the living room (and snoring husbands still sleeping off last nights wine ) on a Saturday morning.
Whatever your persective, clearly Starbucks isn't the same sort of homogenising force of a McDonalds.
Nor does it encourage clearing of huge swaths of rainforests to establish cattle farms.
It has been accused of exploiting the poor juan valdez's of the world.
Coffee values at an all time low.
Starbucks prices verging on ridiculous.
The response was all of this "free trade" coffee for sale.
Except the stuff on offer isnt' EXCLUSIVELY FAIR TRADE.
So you choose: Free trade or "exploitive, stick it to the peasent, brew cause you KNOW it tastes better".
They taste exactly the same and are priced exactly the same.
So....what's the difference?
Pure marketing.
Well like all runaway trains, this one has finally come into the station.
Rejoice or grieve.
Your own perspective will rule on this one.
That's it for today. I'm only posting to let you know I'm still alive.
And cause I had a good day with Jess.
Be good


sarah_500 said...

I think you will find that a Saturday morning Starbucks is usually filled with fathers coping with their under 3's while nobly giving the "wife" the much needed lie-in!

The next time the curriculum demands a debate on the issues of Fair Trade with my 'A' Level students I will give you a call.

Anonymous said...

I hate starbucks i love Costa coffee , full milk and lots of sugar , and nice sofa's to sit on ,i have had some very nice dates in ours :) talking of dates i still think we should meet up :) lol well a girls got to try !! x

Anonymous said...

your daughter is so lovely.. got sick earlier... thats what i get for drinking a couple "brews" in the morning...