Thursday, June 29, 2006

Music for the Masses

I've always believed that the music critics for the Westword represented a threshold. A cosmological constant, like the speed of light, beyond which it was impossible to be more pretentious. The field of theoretical physics was dealt a mighty blow yesterday when the weekly paper arrived on newsstands. Two readers, presumedly independent of one another, wrote in to bemoan the Westword's lack of relevance. One writer went so far as to attack a picture of a local record label producer who dared to wear an Oasis t-shirt (gasp!). Then he heroically lashed out at the restaurant critic's taste in sushi.

Of course, neither one of these nitwits brought up exactly what us serfs should be listening to. (neo-Goth hip hop? industrial bluegrass? samples of flatulent cats, looped over an African drum beat?) But why would they... if we get our un-worthy hands on their favorite music, we'll suck it like a black hole into our dimension, instantly making it not as cool as it was "back when" they were listening to it.

Man, it's hard out here for a hipster.

Not that I'd know. I listen to Erasure on cassette tape while munching California Rolls from Tokyo Joe's.


Music is on my mind. This blog is meant to be a virtual manifestation of the coffee house which currently resides only in my noggin, with all the inane conversation and wacky regulars that implies. To further enhance the atmosphere, I've added some of my favorite music over on the right hand side of the page. If your internet connection is up to speed, I cannot recommend Pandora enough. Unlike most free internet radio there are NO COMMERCIALS, and they have an exhaustive library with which to cross-reference your musical tastes. The only problem is that, rather than finding new music based on other users profiles, Pandora uses the so-called "genetics" of your favorite music (i.e., melody, harmony, rhythm, etc.) If you're an electronic music fan, like me, that means that occasionally it'll dig up some Club Disney techno-crap. Luckily, they also have a pretty liberal policy as far as how many songs you can skip in a given amount of time.

I've made two brilliant musical discoveries for my imaginary cafe (which is a little like saying Ed Sullivan "discovered" the Beatles; I'm admittedly a little behind the times with these things) Gnarls Barkley is just funky enough for the pre-club rush of scenesters, looking for a caffeine fix, and Zero 7 is the sort of music you want to hear after hours, when you're sitting on the couch sipping a capuccino with the complete stranger you're about to take home and get intimate with.

Of course, my ideal coffee house is a democracy (okay, mostly - no enormous selection of pretentious herbal teas for you!) and I'm always looking for suggestions for new music to play. Any requests?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Coffee Science Theater 3000 PART DUEX !

As any frequent blogger has no doubt experienced by now, blogspot is running SSSSSsssssslllllllooooowwwww. I'm begining to suspect, however, that the problem isn't limited solely to our gracious web-host. To wit; I'm having about a 50 percent success rate logging into my yahoo email account, and my broadband connections, both at work and at home, are running slower than usual.

Has my obsessive compulsive quest for clips from Mexican wrestling movies and information about the nature of warp drive finally caused the world wide web to seize up? Have I broken the internet?

If you're one of the lucky ones who can still abuse your internet privliges at work, you should definitely check out the following clips...

I find it interesting that the Japanese have the same pavlovian response to strangely familiar green labels and ubiquitous references to Washington state as we here in the US do. I like to think that I myself am above such knee jerk reactions to television advertising, but I gotta tell ya, if Jodie Foster circa the mid-1990's tells me to put something in my mouth... boy, I'll do whatever she says. RRROWR!

... Here we have a true anomoly; a commercial directed by that most un-commercial of directors - Mr. David Lynch(!) When I first came across this, I had to comb the internets to convince myself this was truly his, and not just a parody of his work. I've never been a fan (which, I realize, strips me of many layers of indy/arty street cred)... but seeing as "Georgia" is essentially Coca Cola Blak with different packaging - I believe the product and the artist were made for each other!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

arts and culture and coffee ... OH MY!

I absolutely live for the summer. Though anyone who knows me, who's seen me up close and experienced my lily white, nearly translucent skin knows that I don't spend it poolside, worshiping the sunlight. In truth, the weather is murder on my delicate pate. And while I'm an avid hiker and a dedicated city bicyclist, I'm no sort of weekend warrior.

No, my free days in the summer are all about coffeeshop patios and arts and culture festivals; people watching and smack-talking about the assorted mutants and Capitol Hillbillies who turn out for just that sort of free entertainment.

On Saturday, kids in tow, I headed downtown to take in the Italian flavored "Plaza De Arte" chalk drawing festival in Larimer Square. I found some princess parking right by the Japanese micro-district of Sakura Square - only to discover that the Cherry Blossom festival was in full effect. Truly, this was my lucky day - for the freak flag waves triumphantly above this annual event. Buddha groupies and sci-fi goth geeks are out in force, cloaked defiantly in black against the oppressive 90 degree heat. Anime is to the Cherry Blossom Festival as "Lord of the Rings" is to the Renaissance Faire / bondage scene. Pirate video dealers hawk their wares to the fanboys while little old Asian ladies look on beguiled, just wanting to listen in peace to the warbling pop-opera being performed on stage.

"You rang?"

Freak-cred was further established by the fact that I had the pleasure of bumping into fellow bloggers Josh and Cassie, who were nice enough to share their pink-Chinese-foodstuff-bun with my 1 year old daughter, only to have it rudely spat back down onto their table.

One of my favorite things about these events is how all the big companies send out "Street Teams" to shill their products like so many turn of the century carnival barkers; twenty-something college girls who convince themselves this'll look great on their resume once they finish their marketing degree. Watching the sheer volume of free Blak that was handed out, I could just imagine the high-level meetings going on at Coca Cola HQ, deep 'neath the earth's crust - "People blow 4$ a day at Starbucks... why the hell can't we move this stuff off the shelves?" If they had just consulted with little ol' high school dropout, freelance cool hunter me, I could have told them that until 7-11 starts hiring tattooed hipster girls in cat-eye glasses and chunky soled shoes, this stuff will never get a market share.

While I did take a few bottles away from the Cherry Blossom festival for further research, there's really only one ice cold caffeinated drink I want when I'm out pretending to be cultured and urbane. The first entry I ever wrote on this blog had to do with iced coffee; how to make it and where to go get it made that way. Since then, Scooter Joe's, featured in that first entry, stopped making their iced coffee Toddy-style. There are a handfull of other places that keep insisting they make it that way - but the only place that I find I can get a consistent iced coffee, one that leaves well rounded, almost chocolatey tones ringing on my palate is at The Market in Larimer Square. (SML, though, gets honorable mention for their cold-brewed French press variation)

The Market is another of those Denver institutions that you'll find me pontificating about for hours on end. In the 90's, if you needed a cuppa between your shift at the espresso bar in the morning and hanging out at Paris on the Platte all night, this is where you went. And if it's become something of a tourist attraction, you can hardly blame the owners, who have kept the same formula since it's inception; well made coffee, good food (only slightly more pricey than it's worth), and freaky-as-they-ever-were baristas. Hell, some of the baristas have been there for the last 12 years - which makes me happy with where I'm at in my life professionally. But also kinda sad at the same time.

The Plaza de Arte was definitely my 5 year old son's favorite of the two festivals. "Pop"-and-"High" art mingled amongst one another the way they always do on Larimer Square. Starbucks, not to be outdone by Coke's attempt to get in on the coffee biz, had their minions out sampling a new "Banana Frappuccino", which doesn't have a single coffee bean in it.

As long as I can stroll across the street over to the Market and pick up the "real thing", that's a-okay with me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Coffee with Xenu

Last week, I watched my son on his last day of school, a yearbook and a hug from his teacher marking the end of another eventful year, filled with letters and numbers and cup-stacking, and important life lessons, like how you shouldn't pee in the sink in the boys room. It occurred to me how, for the first 18-24 years of life for the all 'merican youth, the slow, steady crawl of the mercury up the thermometer in May signals the promise of new adventures. Camping trips and vacations, afternoons in a chilly movie theater watching square jawed heroes swashing their buckles and blowing up Death Stars, and seemingly endless reserves of sunlight shining until the evening on coffee house and bar patios, where innocent flirting holds the potential for summer romance.

Then, without warning, comes adulthood, with it's perpetual barrage of responsibilities and deadlines. Sequestered in your cubicle of despair, the unchecked case of spring fever develops into a full-blown case of summertime blues. There's an epidemic spreading throughout the city, and it seems as if everyone I know has contracted it.

Me... I'm stressed. Work's getting busy again, and I haven't had as much time for blogging - my creative release. It's nothing I can't handle, of course. But it's certainly enough that you would think it would register on any ol' standard issue, electronic stress-readout doo-hickey.

So imagine my delight - no, no - my absolute mirth, when I went to Mile High Coffee the other night, only to find those alien busting do-gooders, the Scientologists, offering a free stress test outside the front door. That's right, free - and if you know anything about the exorbitant amounts of money that people pay these cats in order to reach spiritual freedom - free is a bargain. And these friendly folks are just absolutely rabid to help. I was barely out of my car before The Auditor, a middle aged man looking more like a community college professor than a cult member, sprung from his seat and offered me the test.

So I got my coffee, sat down, took the "electrodes" in my hands, and let the healing begin! The Auditor asked me a question, something about the first thought that came into my mind. But here's the thing - sitting along side me, also holding a set of "L-Ron's Cans of Destiny", was this hot young alterna-cutie. Voyeur that I am, I cleared my mind in order to focus on her answers. Before I could even register The Auditor's question, he pointed at the quivering needle on his machine, yelping "there it is!". I tried to explain that my mind was as blank as Tom Cruise's during straight sex (and he's an OT VIII!), but he wasn't having it. The e-meter had proved it - I Am Stressed!

After asking a few more entirely generic questions (seriously, your average high schooler with a deck of Tarot cards is more perceptive than this guy), The Auditor made a clumsy segue to his sales pitch: "Have you ever seen this book before?" I told him, politely, that I've thumbed through a beaten up copy of Dianetics at Stella's Coffeehaus, and meekly offered up a review of (ahem) "interesting". After all, I was looking for an interesting antecdote for my blog... not a fight.

"You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese on the Psychlo home world?"

The Auditor then helpfully offered up what he thought is the most important passage in the book. In the introduction (jeez, dude, even I made it further than that) L-Ron explains that its vital to not skip over any word you don't understand. At this point, my Spidey Sense began tingling; my entirely secular, completely reliable, internal needle was registering off the charts - The Auditor was patronizing me.

Like the follower of any guru, The Auditor knows that anyone who thinks he's full of it just isn't at his "level of consciousness". This guy has drank the Kool Aid and seen the glory of the Emporor's New Clothes. I told him that L, with his convoluted rape of the English language, was at least as much to blame for any misunderstanding of his work. The Auditor snapped back that it was important for L to create new words, so his work wouldn't be confused with psychiatry, which has been "drugging the world for the last century".

And there it was.

Look, do I think that the medical profession has a tendency to over-medicate? Sure. Do I believe that religion can be beneficial to some people? I suppose it's happened at some point in the last few thousand years. Do I think that human beings evolved from clams and are infested with alien spirits? Hell, no! - and no amount of "gnosis-it-all" attitude is going to change my mind.

Our "session" ended as amicably as it could. I think what gets on my nerves most of all is that it didn't occur to him that he was delivering his anti-drug sermon on the front steps of my crack-house (though to be fair, irony isn't any religion's strong suit). Worse than the fact that the shop owners let this guy do his thing there is the fact that my coffee wasn't very good. Mile High is the closest independent place to me, and I'd like to treat them right. They use the right beans, and the folks behind the counter are cool. But every time I go in there, either the hot coffee's cold, or the iced coffee is just plain wrong. A coffee shop is my church... where I go reflect, and to put my "stress" into context.

Hey, you can believe whatever ridiculousness you want... but bad coffee? That's just a sin.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


"Coffee should be black as hell; strong as death, and sweet as love. "

Turkish Proverb

Is that treacly-sincere co-worker not sitting in her cubicle today? You know - the one who passes out the inappropriately religious Christmas cards every year, and always sneaks "bless you" into every conversation, even when you haven't sneezed? Who's desk is covered with equal parts anti-vampire arsenal and "Winnie the Pooh" paraphenalia?

Well, maybe she just happened to call in sick to work today... but take a close look at your "Dilbert" desk calendar. Maybe, just maybe, she's been taken up by the rapture, while we here on Earth will have to deal with... "The Tribulation"! ROAR!

If so... why not sit back and enjoy a nice, hearty cup of joe. Or, as the 16th century Catholic church called it "Satan's Drink". After all, being "Left Behind" is just another way of saying "left alone".

And, baby, I'm left behind and feelin' fine! Bwah ha ha ha!

Oh, wait. There she is.

Bah, humbug.