Oct 30, 2012

Flo The Barista

   What is your limit? How much are you willing to spend on a coffee drink? Vente whatevers are as high as five bucks and a organic, sustainable, shade grown, biodynamically farmed, Rainforest Alliance accredited cup-o-joe can run you about $2.50. Would you pay seven, eight or nine bucks for your favorite coffee beverage? Everyone is racing to the top, but what happened to the American standard cafe coffee served by Flo? Does the 50¢ bottomless cup of coffee exist? Maybe not, but we can keep the coffee shop alive. Flo and her Bunn coffee maker  have evolved and we are now served by baristas slinging siphon brewed luxury coffee drinks. On a core level, the coffee shop itself is alive and well  - a variety of folks belly up to the counter swilling coffee drinks getting ready for the day, taking a break or visiting with friends. Make time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee in a coffee shop. Just sit. And chat up your barista. Along with other simple pleasures, our busy lives threaten the extinction of the coffee shop. Slow down and take time to enjoy the simple pleasures.


Oct 29, 2012

Latte Art

   I have been served a coffee drink with art on top a grand total of one time. It's not that I don't appreciate the artistry, I just don't drink lattes or any other froth topped wonder fuels. However, I did recently have a cortado complete with latte art while in Minneapolis. The place and the timing were so right I was enchanted to point of weighing out what exactly it would take to remain there. Relocating and finding a new job seemed like too much so I enjoyed the moment to the best of by abilities. The one thing on my mind in that moment was that coffee. Ahhhhhh, presence of mind.
   Seeing a cortado offered on a menu is rare and I only know the drink from brief travels in Spain. Of the two items on my agenda while in Minneapolis, one was to go to a snobby coffee joint. I wanted to understand the hype. And it was mostly hype until I had that cortado. Strong, delicious and beautiful to look at, I "got" it. Typically a latte will be roughly eight parts steamed milk to one part espresso - pretty thin. A cortado is in the same steamed milk and coffee mix family, but a one to one ratio of milk to espresso. It's a smallish drink, but enough to get you revved while looking stylish. And, if you're lucky enough to be served by a loving barista, you get latte art.
   Part of my new found love of the cortado is only loosely associated with coffee. More than anything, it is the singular focus coffee brings. Focusing and enjoying a single thing is the real pleasure, not necessarily the coffee. OK, coffee can be damn fine too.
   During my travels in Minnesota I also enjoyed what was probably the worse coffee I've ever had. Thin, decaffeinated and only warm to the point where it could be sipped with a straw. But the straw sipping octogenarian company was good. I had the privilege of joining my grandmother and her friends for three o'clock coffee in their assisted living cafeteria. I listened, laughed and my fear of my grandmother in a nursing home was eased. Slightly. Later it was reported that I was such a good sport and that I was such a hit because I talked so much. I have never, ever been described as talkative. This turns out to be as rare as coffee art on top of coffee drink and just as enjoyable.


Oct 21, 2012

Toe Pull

So genius. So simple. The face of public restrooms was forever changed by my friend Renato. I'm not much of a germaphobe, but the implanted mental picture replays every time I use the men's room in a public space. Again, I warn you. If you don't want to know, or are germaphobic, stop reading. Renato shouted in his Guatemaleness "hey man, don't touch that doorknob, man. Holy shit, now you just touched the last guy's dick, man!" Toe Pull claims that 70% of public restroom users don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. With that in mind, the last thing in the hand of 30% of users was their genitals. Dick to handle, or vajayjay to handle all day long. Introducing - TOE PULL! A revolutionary way to open the restroom hands free! So genius. So simple. Such a relief. "Eliminate 100% of handle to hand germ transfer."


Lay Lady Lay

   SPOILER ALERT: If you love "Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan you may want to stop reading. Consider yourself warned - you may or may not find this destructive. Or, maybe you know. It wouldn't be the first time the world knew what I thought to be secret or sacred. Since I have a sole follower I feel like I can speak freely so I'll let it rip assuming that the public at large knows. Lady was Bob Dylan's fucking dog. Crushing.
   Curiosity is a dangerous thing, delving too deeply can shatter blissful ignorance. Peer into the depths below the surface of the golden pond and the luster may be tarnished or the choir might just stop singing. Lance Armstrong has been dethroned and yet another glittery icon is not gold. But even more surprising and more unnerving, the source of the iconic artwork for Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" album has been revealed - see video below. Go ahead, it's a great piece and not entirely destructive. In fact, it has enhanced the legend the way Heart of Darkness enhanced Apocalypse Now. This has made me think about exactly what this symbol means to myself and how it has stood the test of time. The artwork, the band, the songs and all of the associated memories are still golden to me. Unharmed and forever safe. Hold your simple pleasures close to your heart and reflect on what they mean to you. Never let them tarnish and be careful not to unravel.


 

Oct 13, 2012

Perspective

I just had a terrible restaurant experience and I loved every minute of it. A matter of perspective. And Company. Oh, Judge Reinhold did sit across from us. And I did learn a new saying in Serbian.

Oct 11, 2012

Serendipitous

Serendipitous. From that one word you can write the story. This video hit me hard.

Favorite Music Video

   I won't even get started on "what happened to MTV", but can testify that it has changed since the early days when MTV first aired The Buggles "Video Killed The Radio Star". Ohhhh, the irony - to think that video, in the end, killed MTV. "Have you seen that new song?" is acceptable grammar. Music and video are forever entwined. Many of our mental pictures of a song have been reworked in our brains the way seeing a movie after reading a book re-writes our image of what we thought characters looked like or what scenes look like. Our own imaginings replaced with the producers vision. It has ruined many songs for me and has made many mediocre songs tolerable.
   I have passed countless hours "watching" my stereo absorbing the music, reading liner notes, inspecting LP covers and treasuring cryptic notes hand etched into vinyl next to the label. My copy of Out of Step has scratched into the A side "Why did the punk cross the road?" - side B reads "Because Ian told him to." Rich stuff, and something that as lost with the compact disc. The one exception to music videos, the one that allows room to imagine the song as I see it, is the video for Bastards of Young. This video gets it right for me - underproduced and underwhelming but lets the music hit like a ton of bricks. Get back to enjoying watching the stereo, enjoy.

World Turned Music Video

   If you listen to music frequently enough it happens. A song inadvertently becomes soundtrack to the real world and creates the most beautiful music video imaginable. Few actual music videos have the same feel or impact. Maybe it's the timing - the right song mashed with the right imagery for the right moment. Driving home last night I was listening to The Black Angels, one of my new favorites, was the perfect soundtrack for a nighttime drive though a very sleepy, slightly foggy Little Rock. The shine on the streets reflected street lights creating double image similar to squinting. There is a certain simple beauty created by squinting at the world. The fine details disappear leaving lights and darks, rich colors and elemental composition. It's a very painterly view - maybe Claude Monet was a squinter? Maybe music videos should be shot as though the viewer is squinting.
   The Black Angels came courtesy of my musically minded friend Charles who is like my personal music shopper. He only ever suggests the bands he knows I will love, knows ALL bands and has his own Pandora-like skills with his own mental music genome reference library. Black Angels have a sludgy psychedelic, Jefferson Airplane vibe - dark tones, lyrical depth and layers upon layers of guitar effects with a vocalist channeling a very mellow Grace Slick. Simple and a little fuzzy, the music matched the view and my personal music video was made. Single take perfection - no edits, just raw visual and soundtrack.

The visual:

The soundtrack:

Oct 7, 2012

Solitude

   Imagine solitude. How alone are you in your imagined solitude? How challenged are you?Alone at the coffee shop for an hour or alone in Antarctica for 59 days? Everyone has there own sense of being alone. Some are out there on the edge of sanity willing themselves along an unknown route on the edge of peril. Some are able to get lost in a song driving through the city at night. So which is better or more rewarding? There is no telling, no way to put a value on any point in the spectrum of solitude. I read through an account of what must be one of the outer limits - see link below. What I imagine as solitude has ben redefined.
   Over the last year I have been working on a project alone in my workshop. My shop is within feet of my house and yet I can be utterly lost. No heat and no air alone with tools and my project. Music plays, hours pass. Personally, if successful, it will be one of my greatest endeavors. I'm not trying to fly to the moon or trying to write an saga, but I can say that my project has been a series of high and lows - challenges, triumphs and failures miniature in stature, but enough to test my resolve. Even the sense of secrecy is a new challenge. This is born from the fear of failure. I don't want to be the guy that spouts off and is later asked "hey, whatever happened to that thing you said you were making?" - having nothing to show other than a portrait of personal disappointment. Naturally, if I arrive on the other side of what currently feels like a huge, solitary expanse filled with uncertainty, I will bask in glory here on my blogspot which is now one subscriber strong.
   Solitude has many faces. For me, it is a positive word and more of a mental state than a physical condition - a positive sensation bound in a personal challenge. Walking on the edge of sanity, utterly alone and frozen for 59 days is more solitude than I would sign up for, but imagining it and reading an account of it amazes me. Imagine facing crushing despair every hour, could you press on? Will yourself to go forward? Endlessly lift yourself up? Imagine arriving on the "other side" of the chasm of solitude, there would be nothing that you could not do. Everyone has the potential to cross their personal expanse and arrive "scarred and hard" with a sense of newness and appreciation of their world. I applaud anyone who has embraced solitude, crossed their personal chasm and can reflect on the feat.


LINK: First woman to cross Antarctic solo - I've never felt so alone


 

Oct 4, 2012

Spoken Word

   A man walks on stage, grabs the microphone and attacks. It's Henry Rollins. Plain black t-shirt, well worn but clean black Dickies and boots - SWAT looking boots. The pace is set high and within in minutes Henry has performed a coup with military-like precision and tactics. He looks military, or mercenary, with closely cropped hair, tuned physique and the jawline of a staff sergeant. The attacker has taken over the audience by force. There is no escape and no desire to flee. Everyone is riveted. Slashing away with the keen blade of the English language, he channels his thoughts and experiences into stories that are parts and pieces of a bigger story which circles back around, "like a snake eating its tail" as he puts it, two and a half hours later never once breaking his stance or intensity. His SWAT boots rarely moved and his microphone arm remained cocked with sweat dripping off his elbow.
   "Spoken word" is a phrase the feels at though it should be muttered with a Shakespearean grumble. It feels highbrow and artsy. Poetry slam, open mic, stand up, spoken word - they all feel very drama club. But there is a rawness that amazes. No hype-man, no band, no warm-up, no net and no light show or fog machine. A performer, a microphone, a spot light and the audience. Its a high wire act, fail and you die a horrible death. If you pull-off the double back flip the audience is yours. But your tricks have to be original, clever, creative and flawless. Spoken word is exactly that - words spoken. The artistry comes by way of original thought and view of the world, presentation, passion and a masterful use of the English language. It's all you, do or die.
   30 years has passed since I last shook Henry Rollins hand. Great to see him yet again, great to have witnessed him performing again, great to know he is "going up the road" building on his experiences and thoughts and great to see that he continues hone his keen blade.