- Dr. Seuss
1. A Colorado coffee shop, located in an housing development for the homeless, is attempting to help the people around them as well as change their community's perspective on the capabilities of homeless people.
"People don't know who's behind the counter when they stop here," Kelly Kelley said. "It could be any one of us in that low-income or homeless category. We want to make a positive experience for people."
2. 10 reason why fair-trade coffee doesn't do what it claims, and plenty of pushback in the comments. "Fairtrade is not a one time, cure-all, it provides a framework. It's a tool and if applied well, producers move up the value chain, negotiate better terms, and strengthen their communities."
I remember a coffee roaster saying he saw little value in fair trade certification, because he knew a farm received certification on only half of its crop because they couldn't afford the price. No difference in the coffee they grew. They just could not afford to pay for the fair trade label for the second half of what they produced.
3. Costa Coffee, United Kingdom's largest coffee chain, has replaced its club card for an app.
4. Starbucks has gone to Colombia, and the Colombian national chain Juan Valdez is expanding in response. "In downtown Miami, a new Juan Valdez cafe feels like a slice of Colombia: traditional floor tiling, warm wood details, woven baskets, fresh arepas, and pictures of Colombia and its coffee. A poster of a smiling coffee farmer hangs near the entrance, greeting customers with the company’s key new message: 'Carlos is one of the 500,000 coffee growers who owns this coffee shop.'" Leaning on their history has proven profitable so far.
5. A young Lauren Bacall with coffee. (I believe this photo would be rated PG-13 because it depicts smoking. Steel yourself.)Read the rest of this entry . . .
"It’s voguish to say poems are about the making of poems, but the good ones normally engage something out there in the big bad world beyond the classroom," write Patrick Kurp.
In the last post, we linked to Fast Company's Danielle Sacks' piece on third wave coffee producers. Food Republic asks her about her experience researching that article, whether her drinking tastes have changed, and how she believes Starbucks will respond to this bit of competition.
As I write in the story, Starbucks doesn't like anybody infringing on its turf. They want it both ways — they'll do as little as possible to gain street cred in the third wave coffee community, but they still want to appeal to the masses, which is the much bigger market. On one hand Starbucks is increasingly pushing its single origin "Reserve" line (brewed on Clover single cup precision brewers), yet its investments and acquisitions of late feel like a coffee company that's leaning more towards fast food (fizzy drinks, drive-thrus). At the end of the day, if they felt like third wave was a gnat worth swatting, they could just purchase Stumptown or Blue Bottle, both of which have investors that will want to monetize their investment at some point. It'll be interesting to see which of these players might end up part of the big green giant.
A third wave of coffee connoisseurs is washing over America. Artisan coffee producers, such as Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture and Blue Bottle, have pored over their beans, roasts, and brews to steep the most awesomest coffee drink you will ever taste. Fast Company's Danielle Sacks describes the reaction some coffee evangelists received somewhere in New York.
Staffers begin wandering over to taste coffees with names like Brazil Samambaia and Three Africans. A few are coffee snobs, and for them it is a moment of vindication. A thirtysomething in a chambray shirt expresses delight at the prospect that his company might ditch the pods in the office kitchen in favor of Stumptown, which he brews at home. For others, the experience is more like an awakening, when they taste the refined brew for the first time. "I'm a coffee guy," declares a silver-haired exec in khakis. "I drink Dunkin', Starbucks, Tim Hortons--not the deli stuff," he says, echoing the sentiments of many of America's 100 million coffee drinkers. The woman from Joyride hands him something he never orders: a cup of black coffee. "It's pretty smooth," he says, surprised by how good a naked cup of coffee can taste when it's made with artisanal care. "This is really good," he confesses, taking another swig, "even without milk."I believe I almost had a great cup of coffee like this once, but I didn't want to spend the money on it. This article says these wonderful coffee lovers want us to spend $7/drink. It may be awesome, but they aren't going to knock out K-cups at that price. (They probably wouldn't approve of my home brewing anyway.)
What if you're stuck at a hotel around Minneapolis, and the only thing around you are Caribou Coffee joints (and you hate Caribou Coffee), and there's no way you could trudge through the driving snow to some salt-of-the-earth independent cafe for thermal mug of heavenly darkness? All you have is the hotel's nasty Mr. Drips Coffeemaker from 1978. The grounds look vintage too.
Well, Ole, you could try to this French Press concept from Josh Campbell. All you need it a coffee filter (I hear nylons will work), a wire clothes hanger (if your hotel has only plastic hangers, you could try ripping the wire liner out of your suitcase), and a glass or mug.
Of course, you still have to use the vintage coffee grounds from your cheap hotel, but if the magic of this DIY project hits you, maybe you will forget about the grounds part (until you take your first sip).
I believe I tasted espresso for the first time shortly after college. I bought it at Barnie's Coffee and Tea in Hamilton Place Mall, and I remember two things. First, I didn't know what a real espresso was before then. I was surprised at my drink's smallness and lack of milk-like substances. Second, it tasted as if someone had drowned a cigarette in my cup.
I loved it.
You may find a similar earthy flavor in your regular joe, if you buy one of several major brands of ground coffee, not because you oversteeped it or got espresso mixed into your light roast breakfast blend, but because it actually has dirt in it. If not the stuff of earth, then perhaps some coffee byproducts like husks, stems, or leaves.
Researchers at State University of Londrina in Brazil has developed a test for filler material in coffee grounds. "With our test, it is now possible to know with 95 percent accuracy if coffee is pure or has been tampered with, either with corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar or starch syrup," states Dr. Suzana Lucy Nixdorf. She and her team are concerned that Brazilian coffee shortages could inspire impure coffee grounds. She doesn't say whether someone with an allergy to one of these fillers would reject to the substances in their cup, but if Maxwell House ever looks into stretching their coffee, I hope they investigate that angle thoroughly.
I hope we aren't also at risk for finding sheep dung in our coffee, now that sensible laws, such as the U.K.'s Adulteration Of Coffee Act 1718, have been repealed. We shouldn't assume old folk remedies are wise because they are old and folk, so no dung coffee or tea for me, thank you. (via Dave Lull)
(As best I can figure out, we're close to releasing my next novel, Death's Doors. To whet your appetite, here's a snippet. lw)
We have no use for barns anymore, but are ashamed to tear them down. So the lofted sheds stand here and there across the land on derelict farmsteads, redundant, their backs swayed like old horses’.
The woman tossed her cigarette away. It arced like comet spit in the dark. She went into the ruined barn through a dutch door, pulling open first the upper panel, then the lower. The granulated hinges screamed and the bottom scraped an arc in the earth. She was afraid the noise would wake the baby she cradled in her left arm, but it did not. Such a good baby.
The law said she could be rid of a baby up to the age of eight weeks. She would never have let this one go except for something like this – something terribly, cosmically important.
Her flashlight showed her a low-ceilinged side-shed with animal stalls along its inside wall, its dividers and wooden posts scaly with brown flakes of ancient, petrified manure.
The old woman she’d come to see sat so still that she overshot her with the flashlight beam and had to back it up. Once fixed by the beam, the old woman smiled – a smile of radiant beauty that brought to mind a Renaissance Madonna gone wrinkled and white-haired.
“You – you’re the one I was to meet?” the younger woman asked. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Scandinavians are so culturally identified with coffee that one of America's foremost brands actually made a Scandinavian (of unspecified nationality) their spokeswoman for more than twenty years, a period of time popularly known as "our long national caffeine-induced nightmare."
From 1965 to 1986, Virginia Christine, an actress of Swedish extraction, played "Mrs. Olson" in one of the longest-lived commercial campaigns in history. Throughout those years this diabolical old harridan, obviously unhappily married herself, insinuated herself into other people's domestic problems, like this.
According to her Wikipedia page, Ms. Christine spent her declining years as a Planned Parenthood volunteer, which explains a lot, it seems to me. Clearly she was slipping contraceptive drugs into these people's coffee. Which obviously accounts for the dropping birth rates that characterized the '60s, '70s, and '80s.
Coffee. A clear and present danger to the republic.
Angel Sarkela-Saur and Andrew Saur have been painting with coffee for years. This video introduces them and their artwork. They mention sending their work to the U.S. Embassy to Malawi in the video. Now they are sending three pieces "Drained,” Dabble,” and “Voyage to Valhalla” to our ambassador to Columbia for a three year stay.
With all the coffee choices we have now, are coffee farmers making more money or expanding their markets like they could not 20 years ago? It doesn't appear so. Oscar Abello writes about the pitfalls of Fair Trade certification and the clash between what professes to do and reality.
If Fair Trade certified coffee is intended to be sold at a fair price to give workers a fair wage, then why are farms larger than 10 acres allowed to be certified, when they can afford to pay their workers better than small farms.
When Aida Batlle she took over her family’s 38-acre farm in El Salvador in 2002, it was too large for fair-trade certification, even though Batlle claims to pay her workers three times what everyone else is paying, plus transportation and food. After winning El Salvador’s inaugural Cup of Excellence competition in 2003, Aida became something of a celebrity in the “Third Wave” movement of coffee, even getting her own profile in the New Yorker.Maybe certification is merely another way to pay bureaucrats for the privilege to say what they want us to say.
One of Batlle’s longest-running buyers is Counter Culture Coffee, founded in 1995 in Durham, N.C. Ten years ago, Counter Culture was still mostly a smaller regional roasting company, trying to get a market foothold by handing out samples in grocery stores. Customers would ask why one coffee from Nicaragua was certified fair-trade and this other one from El Salvador (the coffee from Batlle’s farm) wasn't. In reality, Batlle's workers were among the highest paid of all of Counter Culture’s suppliers.
"The idea that this was somehow unfair because there’s no certification on it, no seal, was just maddening,” says Counter Culture Kim Elena Ionescu.
In other news, Dunkin Donuts now offers a coffee-flavored doughnut, which makes me ask why they didn't have this before. Particularly since DD is known for their coffee, I assumed they already had a coffee-flavored doughnut, just as I would assume they zip up their pants. When you notice you point it out like a mistake, not a new idea.
Coffee week, huh? That's what I get for being gracious, in a moment of weakness.
Getting into the spirit of the thing, I want to recommend to you Mark Helprin's masterful novel, Memoir From Antproof Case. It's a moving story about a man who goes into violent rages whenever he smells coffee, or sees anyone drinking it. Needless to say, he's a sympathetic character.
I wanted to re-post my review, but it seems to be on the old blog, where I can't search.
Also, on another note, I want to thank Loren Eaton for giving me a mention in his latest review. I have trouble commenting over there, so I'll say it here.
Now get some sleep. Helpful hint: It helps if you lay off the caffeine.
It's coffee week here on Brandywine Books. Come back everyday for wonderful posts and links to coffee-related information bound to bless your taste buds and have you leaping like Arabian goats.
Are you looking for new roasts to try? Startup company Craft Coffee already has a large database in pursuit of their goal to become the Pandora of coffee flavors. Fill out their survey, try their service, and they will apply their algorithms to your tastes to help you find a cup of coffee you love to death.
Benjamin Obler has collected ten scenes or lines which include coffee, like this one from Muriel Spark's The Comforters.
"Tell me about the voices," he said. "I heard nothing myself. From what direction did they come?"
"Over there, beside the fireplace," she answered.
"Would you like some tea? I think there is tea."
"Oh, coffee. Could I have some coffee? I don't think I'm likely to sleep."
Isn't it terribly English of the Baron to offer tea to Caroline, who's just fled a religious centre (not a nunnery, not a retreat), has separated from her husband, and is now suffering delusions - hearing the clacks of typewriter keys and a voice narrating her very thoughts! Take comfort in tea. It is in character of the Baron to think so: he's a man of affected intellectualism, calling the sections of his bookshop "Histor-ay, Biograph-ay, Theolog-ay," and addressing everyone as "my dear". But only coffee is up for the job. This is coffee as antidote to madness. What else to clear her head in this fix? They've already had Curaçao - that didn't help. Coffee as realignment. Coffee to reconnect with your own synapses, to reset the senses and solidify reality in the forefront.
Coffee has been a subject of some uneasiness on this blog from the time I climbed on. There used to be a mission statement around here somewhere that said (I quote from memory), “Book reviews, creative culture, and coffee.” It’s no secret to any fair-minded reader that Phil has discriminated against me constantly because I don’t consume the vile stuff.
My isolation is increased by the importance of coffee in Norwegian-American culture. If I had a nickel for every time somebody has said to me, “What kind of Norwegian are you? You don’t drink coffee!” I’d be able to afford… a cup of coffee, I guess, because they cost a lot of nickels these days. But how did coffee get to be so important to Norwegians? I now know the answer, thanks to a book I’m reading.
I was recently given, as a birthday present, an interesting work by Kathleen Stokker, Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land. It’s mostly about the superstitious – but sometimes scientifically valid – remedies Norwegians have used through history, and the sometimes celebrated, sometimes persecuted, but always feared people who practiced them.
One of the subjects covered is the use of brennevin (distilled spirits), which held an important place in folk medicine. That touches on the subject of the general use of alcoholic beverages in Norwegian history. The Norwegians, like all Europeans, were drinkers from the earliest times. But they mostly drank beer, and often quite weak beer. Later brennevin appeared, but its use was generally restricted to medicine and celebrations. But in 1817 a law was passed giving every Norwegian farmer the right to distill as much liquor as he liked whenever he wanted.
The result was disastrous. Celebrations became drunken brawls, ending in injury and death. Accidents increased. Productivity decreased. More and more individuals became hopeless slaves to drink.
By the mid-19th Century, people were forming temperance and abstention organizations, and the distillery law was repealed. One of the substitutes suggested to people who wanted to kick the brennevin habit was coffee: Read the rest of this entry . . .
Lauren Bacall wrote three memoirs over the years. The last one was released in 2005. She said of loving Bogart, "I'd suddenly had this fairy-tale life, at such a young age, who would have thought something like that could happen?"
"Writing a book is the most complete experience I've ever had," she said.
Whit Stillman's next work will be on Amazon.com. A TV pilot episode for a potential series, "The Comopolitans," will be available through Amazon Studios on August 28. See a cute preview here.
“This has elements of all three of the first films,” he tells Vanity Fair, referring to his 1990 debut, 1994’s Barcelona and 1998’s The Last Days of Disco. “It’s very much like the fourth film, of those three.” He says one has to earn a living, and TV is where one can do it.
He also says he doesn't watch TV with violence and sex, "so it knocks out almost everything." Others say he only watches TV on airplanes.
Job's Tormenters, by William Blake, 1793.
Thought thunk today: The Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, one of the oldest books in the world.
What does it say about humanity that in the 8,000 years since, we haven't managed to surpass it in terms of wisdom?
Update: Ori, tedious pedant that he is, pointed out that my numbers are off by slight margin of maybe 5,000 years.
I wish I were surprised. I'm always doing that with numbers. A counselor once told me that the problem wasn't in my brain, but in my emotions. Somewhere along the line I developed a fear of numbers that blossomed into functional innumeracy.
But with education, support, and billions of tax dollars you can make a difference. Give today through the United Fund.
Or just buy one of my books. Or double that and buy three.
"This summer on my way to work," writes The Public Humanist at The Valley Advocate, "I found something just for me in a box of cast-off books on a sidewalk in downtown Northampton . . . a yellowed and fragile New York Times Book Review clipping, from April 2, 1978: a list of the books that Tolstoy was most impressed by, organized by the age at which he read them."
The list was written in 1891 and includes selections such as Puskin’s poems: Napoleon, Gogol’s Overcoat, The Two Ivans, Nevsky Prospect, Rousseau's Confessions, all of Trollope's novels, and all of the Gospels in Greek. (via Open Culture)
Robin Williams greets the troops on a USO tour.
You’ve probably already heard the news that Robin Williams is dead at the age of 63. I sat thinking about which of his movies I’ve seen, and I realized I’ve only seen one – Popeye, a film of which I am, as far as I know, the only fan in the world (it helps to appreciate it if you know about the original comic strip, not the animated cartoons).
But the man had an unquestionable gift. Nobody ever did “off the wall” improvisational, stream of consciousness comedy like he did. He always admired Jonathan Winters, but he was better than Winters. He hit the bullseye more often.
Reports are that he died by his own hand, having struggled with depression and substance abuse for many years. One always suspected that he needed artificial stimulation to maintain that manic comic delivery. But he also seemed to be able to work just fine when he had dried out. Still, we don’t know the pressures he was under. I can speak from experience about the pain of depression. Someone like me can always tell himself that if we achieved this or that we’d feel better. What do you do when you’ve reached the top and still don’t feel good about yourself?
I had always assumed – stereotypically – that Robin Williams was Jewish. But his Wikipedia page says he was raised Episcopalian, and remained a member of that church.
We sacramentalists put great faith in the keeping power of God’s grace in baptism and holy communion. Let us pray that Robin Williams has found his long-sought peace in the grace of the Lord Jesus.
The Amazon.com dispute with Hachette continues with full page ads in the New York Times and emails aplenty. Hachette's Michael Pietsch writes, “This dispute started because Amazon is seeking a lot more profit and even more market share, at the expense of authors, bricks and mortar bookstores, and ourselves.
“Both Hachette and Amazon are big businesses and neither should claim a monopoly on enlightenment, but we do believe in a book industry where talent is respected and choice continues to be offered to the reading public.”
Many authors are throwing their weight into the fray. "As writers--most of us not published by Hachette--we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want." Amazon argues that when paperbacks came out, publishers hated them just like cheap ebooks.
In related news, Amazon is disputing its contract with Disney and withholding pre-orders on select movies.
You know, when you find everyone around you acts like a jerk, the reason could be the common denominator--you.
James K.A. Smith sets up the next issue of Comment by asking, "What if secularism is loudest precisely because it is a final cry before it is unveiled as implausible and unsustainable? Doesn't the emperor shout loudest about the beauty of his raiment precisely when he least believes it himself?"
I am given to understand that the Minnesota Vikings pre-season game tonight will feature a new attraction: Viking reenactors in authentic costumes doing... something or other between plays.
These reenactors will in fact be members of my own group, the Viking Age Club and Society of the Sons of Norway. We've been discussing this deal for some time, but I didn't want to announce it before I had definite confirmation.
However hard you look, however, you won't see me. My mobility problems, plus my looming study schedule in the future, make it imprudent.
Still, just so you know, these are my friends. Maybe when they're rich and famous they'll remember me.
Yale now offers a digital edition of the works of Samuel Johnson, which include this prayer recorded in 1752:
"BEFORE ANY NEW STUDY.
"NOVEMBER. Almighty God, in whose hands are all the powers of man; who givest understanding, and takest it away; who, as it seemeth good unto Thee, enlightenest the thoughts of the simple, and darkenest the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my studies and enquiries.
"Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life which Thou hast given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain searches after things which thou hast hidden from me.
"Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit, so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which Thou hast allotted me; and so further with thy help that labour which, without thy help, must be ineffectual, that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen." (via Thomas Kidd)
I've been keeping a secret from you. We plan, God willing, to release a new novel of mine within the near future. This is a draft of the cover, with a lovely painting by our friend Jeremiah Humphries, and cover design by our own Phil Wade.
How is this possible, you ask, when I keep complaining of having no writing time because of graduate school? Well, this is a book that's been pretty much finished for some time, except for a couple plot problems. I took my brief study hiatus this summer to work on those holes, and now I think she's ready for launch.
The novel, entitled (obviously) Death's Doors, is sort of a sequel to Wolf Time, but not what you'd call a close sequel. The location is the same, the town of Epsom, Minnesota, but a few years later, and with only a couple of the same characters showing up. In the world of Death's Doors, assisted suicide has become a constitutional right. The main character, Tom Galloway, is trying to keep his depressed daughter from exercising that right, with no help from the authorities. On top of that pressure, a stranger drops into his life -- the Viking nobleman Jarl Haakon (whom you may remember from The Year of the Warrior), who has passed through a door in time.
What we're asking of you, at this point, is just your opinion on the cover above. Phil isn't sure he's satisfied, and would appreciate your input.
Thank you for your support.
Nick Pirog’s Thomas Prescott novels are worth reading just to watch a writer learning his craft. The first book in the series, Unforeseen, is even admitted by the author, in his introduction, to be a freshman effort. Still (I’m not sure why) he offers the Kindle edition without alteration. And yet… in spite of its faults I liked it enough to read the sequels, which show considerable progress and offer many rewards.
At the start of Unforeseen, Thomas Prescott, former cop, former FBI consultant, and current criminology professor and millionaire, is living in Maine with his sister Lacy, an artist with Multiple Sclerosis, and their narcoleptic pet pug, Baxter. Thomas is recovering, physically and emotionally, from a struggle with a serial killer which ended in a fall off a cliff into the ocean. Everyone thinks the killer is dead except for Thomas. Sure enough, soon identical murders begin to occur, and all the victims are women with whom Thomas has been, or is now, associated.
The story is lively, though there are improbable elements, but the big problems are Pirog’s occasional bad diction (“The building was large, gray, and projected a cadence of death”), and a problem with the main character. Pirog’s trying to write a thriller with comic relief here, but he seems to think the formula for such a work is equal parts dramatic tension and jokes. Too many jokes, especially when innocent people are suffering, just comes off as callousness.
Still, I was intrigued enough to move on to the next book, Gray Matter. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Yvonne Zipp says Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land reminds her of Lewis' The Last Battle while remaining original.
“I bet it’s because of heresy like that that the world is ending. Your earthy, irreverent sense of humor has doomed us all,” King Josh tells Queen Janet. (If Peter was “The Magnificent,” and Edmund was “The Just,” in Narnia, Janet of Fillory should just be known as “The Awesome.”)
If that’s not enough of a selling point, The Magician’s Land also features a motto that should be emblazoned on T-shirts, embroidered on pillows, and hung on walls in dorm rooms everywhere: “Give a nerd enough time and a door he can close and he can figure out pretty much anything.”
"When Truman Capote called In Cold Blood a 'nonfiction novel,' he meant something very specific: that the book used the techniques of fiction but was completely factual," explains Ben Yagoda, but today many people appear willing to talk of fiction or nonfiction "novels" as if that word means a bound work of any form. In high school, this usage is everywhere, and it's prevalent in college too. Have you ever done it or seen it done? (via Mark Bertrand)
I took the past week off from work, and spent it at home, “pottering,” as they say, though no pots were in fact potted. I expected to blog more than I did (sorry about that), but relaxation is a demanding discipline. I spent a lot of time watching English and Irish mystery series on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Descriptions follow.
I had intended to watch the modern cop series Whitechapel, which had been recommended to me, but after one episode I realized I’d started with the second season instead of the first, and the end of the first season had been spoiled. I decide to leave it for a while, until my memory of it fades, which my memories are wont to do.
So I turned, without high expectations, to a series set in the same neighborhood but a different age – Ripper Street, a BBC series about policemen working in the wake of the Jack the Ripper scare. Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew McFadyen) is an inspector recently returned to work after a steam ship accident in which his daughter was lost. Her body was never found, and he’s convinced she’s still alive, though he can’t find a clue as to her whereabouts. He’s assisted by Sgt. Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn) a sort of Little John character, not especially bright but strong and brave, and soft at heart. Also an American doctor, Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), formerly of the Pinkertons, who serves as Inspector Reid’s forensic expert.
There’s a lot more action than you usually expect in a British mystery series – in fact you might call it an English western. There’s a lot of talk about the poverty of Whitechapel, and so some leftist themes come in, but they didn’t drive me away. I found it a lot of fun. Cautions for language, themes, and brief nudity. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Amazon owes 2/3 of the eBook market in part because they have followed their dreams to reach the unreachable star. Now we all may get burned.
Fantasy author Brent Weeks says the reality for many readers is that if they don't see a book on Amazon, they assume it isn't available. With eBooks, they may not know where to else to go to buy them. Amazon is also attracting authors as a publisher, not just a distributor. with promises of high royalty percentages. This and other factors are hurting big and small publishers alike.
“We're at the point now where the publishing houses are being undercut by the river of indie publishing, and at some point in time the front porch is going to drop in the river. At that point maybe they'll have to acknowledge it, but right now they just don't want to,” attorney David Vandagriff said.