Friday, March 28, 2008

HA ha!

Best Hair on a TV Personality — Male (2008)
Leland Vittert Channel 31

"How do the managers at Denver's Fox affiliate keep finding so many on-air dudes with great 'dos? Could they have a deal with the devil — or maybe Paul Mitchell? Whatever the case, Leland Vittert displays hair heroics in the glorious tradition of such predecessors as Phil Keating and Jeremy Hubbard, sporting a pillowy coiffure that floats over his cranium like the sort of brown cloud not even the Environmental Protection Agency would dare oppose. And while his hair looks soft and pliable, it stays put no matter the climactic condition — as if the gods themselves wouldn't dare mess with such perfection. Hmm, maybe Fox does have a deal with the devil."

From 2008 Westword - Best of Denver

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Yes, We Better.

So, this morning, surfing the tubes, I learned that Dunkin Donuts drinkers support Hillary Clinton, and Starbucks drinkers support Barack Obama. Isn’t the free press great?

This, to me, goes so far beyond whether the media is “liberal” or “conservative”: it’s an example of why the news media is pretty much completely irrelevant. I mean, yeah, I know this isn’t something that turned up on the front page, but, come ON! This is the sort of half hearted post I’d do on my blog after I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. Even if there are folks who fall squarely into one of these two categories, even if they’re playing for snark, isn’t such a premise pretty ill-concieved?

What about all the repentant Nader voters, sitting at Bauhaus in Seattle, who would sooner toss a chair through Starbucks’ window than drink one of their coffees? For that matter, what about my career-military, uber-religious cousin, who won’t ingest any beverage NOT in a cup with a little green mermaid on it? Doesn’t this just regurgitate the tired meme that Democrats are lazy welfare queens - until, of course, we have some extra cash in our pockets, at which point we become Frappacinno-huffing Hollywood starlets, with no sympathy for the common man?

I’m not particularly a political guy, and in so far as I am at all, I’m not terribly vocal about my politics. But the average two-time Bush voter makes me have to be political, and like the proverbial snake asleep on a rock, poked with a stick by a bunch of redneck campers, it pisses me Right. The Hell. Off.

I’m not adverse to a careful, thoughtful approach toward “welfare reform” (particularly as it relates to, y’know, large corporations that expect the feds to bail them out when the de-regulation they’ve fought so hard for doesn’t work out for them) and I (like - say it with me now - EVERY OTHER PERSON living on the planet today) believe in the ideal of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” (especially as it relates to C students becoming Presidents of the United States, based solely upon their connections). Yeah, just call me a “fiscal conservative”. I’m a hard core social (but not political) libertarian who laughs, hard, when a political party that wins elections based on stirring up a bunch of religious zealots mentions “Republican” in the same breath as “libertarianism”. I firmly hold that my wife of 11 years and I have the right to decide for ourselves whether or not we want to conceive, gestate, and be responsible-for any more children, thankyouverymuch. I’m against “special rights” (to marry, to raise children, to worship as they like without being chastised mercilessly by the media for it) for straight, white Christians who rail obsessively about perceived special rights every chance they get. While I’d like to believe that America could simply write off any and all oppressive regimes; countries that don’t hold our ideals in how they treat their workers and citizens, I know that the world is too small and it’s resources too few for us to hide behind the Rodenberrian ideal of the “Prime Directive”. I feel if the country INSISTS on some racist, hard-line approach to illegal aliens, we should give the death penalty to anyone guilty of employing them, thusly eliminating the “demand” rather than the “supply”. I’m not a gun owner, but I mostly think a responsible person should be able to make that decision for themselves (regardless of how I feel about the paranoid maniac whose vote at the ballot box is based solely upon “My guns! My guns! EVERYBODY’S TRYING TO TAKE AWAY MY GUNS!”) As a person who doesn’t need a lot of clutter in his life, I nevertheless think people should be able to decide for themselves how much is “enough”, insofar as it doesn’t cause excessive harm to our planet - and I find it the absolute pinacle of irony that a bunch of “Book of Revelation” groupies with a collective boner for the end-of-the-world scoff at the very idea that mankind could be responsible for causing just such an event.
And, oh yeah - I’m open to ANY workable solution which would allow me to search for work without being bootstrapped to the promise of a health insurance plan that can be modified at my employer’s whim.

In our two party system (and, yes, it is) I voted twice for Bill Clinton (enthusiastically) once for Gore (begrudgingly – this was the defective, no “oomph” year 2000 model, after all) and once for Kerry (pinching my nose at the ballot box). I was entirely smitten this year with John Edwards, after I saw him give a nothing-to-lose interview, where he said he completely fought against Kerry’s non-handling of the Swift Boat liars. But alas, his honesty was no match for the collective rockstar personalities of Hillary and Barack.

While I’m consistently annoyed with Clinton for her Kerry-like need to appear “moderate” to a bunch of people who will never, ever vote for her. I will nevertheless vote for her if she somehow winds up on the ballot, regardless of how she gets there. I won’t be HAPPY, but there are bigger things at stake. Nothing is more important than preventing Bush’s third term in the man of John McCain. That joke just isn’t funny anymore.

Which brings me to Obama. The Senator from Illinois had my initial, enthusiastic support – right up until he allowed some ignorant gospel singer at one of his events to drone on about being “cured” of his gayness. I won’t give this claptrap any more words than it deserves, other than to say I was sorely, deeply disappointed and offended.

Since then, Obama’s gone a long way toward regaining my trust, and in effect, my support. Particularly between the two remaining candidates; he being, as they say, the “lesser of two evils”. I was in no way obsessive in my support, but I was proud of "my candidate".

But now, the “Reverend Wright” controversy – as it’s displayed all over the news stations, with all the high-res graphics of a Superbowl commercial for Cool Ranch Doritos – has changed all that. I have sipped of the cool-aid, I have taken the oath – I have a deep, profound amount of man-love for Barack Obama, and I will follow this brilliant, strong, even visionary man into the next era of this country.

Every day in the last eight years, my head has been rife with thoughts every bit as negative, and even - yeah, I admit - hateful as the garbage that pours from the likes of Rush and Ann. Some may even think my words above are a reflection of that, but trust me, what goes through my sinister little noggin is much, much worse, which is why I generally keep my trap shut. But with his speech yesterday, Obama didn’t just move forward, he hurdled – gracefully – above the fray, in a way that other democrats seem inexplicably incapable of doing. He could have thrown his pastor over the rails like some political liability; he didn’t. He could have (rightfully, and, of course, in vein) pointed to the fire and brimstone preachers who are actually part of the other candidates campaign (nope). He could have ignored the mess for the sort of diversionary, and ultimately racist, attack that it was (nada).

Instead – he delivered a speech that HE wrote (he, him, himself. Barrack Obama) telling NO ONE to “get over it”, but challenging EVERYONE to “move above it”. He spoke with honesty and candor about the fears of the very people who are confused enough to try and derail his campaign. And in effect, he raised an even bigger challenge to his most ardent supporters – a challenge to view our enemies with respect, as fellow human beings.

Whether or not they drink Starbucks.

Will it be hard? ...

… Does John Hagee hate Catholics? (HA ha!)

But watching the next leader of the free world in action – yeah, I got the "hope".

Friday, March 07, 2008


Just Awesomeness.

That is All.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


The first coffee job I ever had was at a kiosk in the Tabor Center, operating under the completely generic name “Espresso Cup”. Sort of an antiquated idea, the espresso cart, now that there’s any number of corporate chains conveniently ghettoed on every corner. It’s kind of like how the net café was made obsolete by the laptops on every table at those same coffee shops, or CDs being replaced by MP3 players, or cargo pants being edged out by those super-skinny girl jeans that all the hipsters wear. (I’m still bitter about that last one.)

Every day I came in at 7 am and - between reading books bought with the “tips” I got for giving away free drinks, and eating all the éclairs that our baker brought us – I made RIDICULOUSLY over-priced, absolute crap espresso drinks on a machine that was nothing more than a high-end home model. There are still folks in Denver who swear by their Folgers Crystals, due to the milk-scalded nastiness I had the audacity to serve under the auspices of “latte”. I was an angsty, directionless 19 year-old, too fat (what with all those éclairs) for it to even come off cool and disaffected.

Tired of dealing with all of the passive aggressive street people and other assorted loons who wandered in off the 16th street mall, I eventually displaced my anger onto the unfortunate Pacific Northwesterners who found themselves in our fair city, just looking for a serviceable cup of joe. I eventually went so far as to put a message on our menu board which read “The Espresso Cup Guarantee: Our Coffees Will Always Cost Less Than a Plane Ticket to Seattle.” Har-dee-har. What a prick.

A few of those folks braved my ire, pissing me off even more for the fact that it was obvious they wouldn’t get anything better, and were clearly just spoiling for a fight. And every single one of them, to a man, had one word on their lips, spoken with the reverence of Charles Foster Kane, longing for the innocence he lost along with his beloved sled, Rosebud:


"Starbucks is coming”

“Starbucks will show Denver The Way”

“Starbucks will make you a ligit, world class city, and people from the coasts will never taunt you and your bumpkin ways again!!”

My point here is to illustrate the fact that there was a time, back before all the Safeway and Target locations, before Frappuccinos and breakfast sandwiches, that the little green label was viewed with respect and admiration by even the most discerning Javaheads. I saw an old post on William Gibson’s blog the other day, about how he can count on Starbucks for at least a decent cup of coffee, when he’s travelling through Podunk towns on a book tour. The guy certainly has a point; I remember on my honeymoon, it was the best cup I could find in Las Vegas, not exactly a bastion of coffee culture (or any other kind of culture, for that matter) and even in San Francisco last year, I found myself drinking more bad cappuccinos than good.

So last week, after my initial eye-rolling at the news about Starbucks closing every store in the country early in order to re-train their baristas, I have to admit I was intrigued. Aside from being a brazen (albeit brilliant) marketing meme that would naturally coast it’s way across the blogosphere, I couldn’t help but wonder: are the flat, too-hot drinks served from the Drive-up window in the last few years just the result of poorly trained employees, and not because of the much maligned, fully automatic espresso machines?

On the Wednesday morning after the training, I went to the Starbucks across the street from my work. I walked through the door, past the corporate approved sign reading “The Neighborhood’s Best Espresso” (gag). I must say, the employee I asked about the training at least gets points for attitude: she was sincerely excited about the push to become a respected brand again, and hopeful for the future. 30.2 seconds later (or however long the training manual deems appropriate) I was drinking my dopio from a porcelain demitasse.

The Verdict? It landed somewhere between ok (lower case) and good. Just short of the syrupy consistency of a great shot, and not quite strong enough - a shock, seeing as they roast the sweet bejeesus out of their beans. But it was at least the level of quality that Cayce Pollard would be happy to count on, after a transatlantic flight to Paris, or London, or Tokyo.

Contrast this, though, with the Mountain Regional Barista Competition last weekend. Bean Jockeys and Italian-Soda Jerks from all over Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho came together in Thornton (which heretofore shall be referred to as “Ground Zero in the Coming Javapocolips!”) to display and hone their skills.

After their slot was up, competitors manned an espresso machine off in the corner. I got a fantastic macchiato made by a barista from Salt Lake City, who informed me she was disqualified for taking too much time. I can’t speak directly to her experience, since I wasn’t at the event for very long (I was with my 7 year old son, who I’m sure viewed somebody making coffee for a panel of judges as being only slightly more exciting than the “Galactic Senate” sequences in The Phantom Menace) – but I was a little put off by that. In a world where the most recognizable coffee brand in the world is trying to make the best espresso they can from a machine whose primary function is maximum efficiency - I'm more than happy to wait a few extra minutes for something truly special. If there's any readers out there who participated in the event, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

In the end, watching these folks do their thing and seeing them root for their peers was truly exciting – it made me remember why I started this blog in the first place (hint: it wasn’t to talk about Starbucks). I have to admit that I felt pangs of jealously for the outright camaraderie these professionals showed for one another, and the passion they had for their craft. And while I was a little disappointed to see that nobody from Denver slid into any of the top three spots (two of which went to Heidi Bickelhaudt from Trident and Nolan Dutton from Conscious Coffee - both Boulder shops) I think it's awesome that the guy who took first place is kickin' out wicked shots and stickin' it to the man from the back of a conversion truck.

Hm. Maybe the coffee cart isn't such an obsolete idea after all.