In the midst of all the dire and horrifying news of the week, it's reassuring to know that the Concerned Women for America can still get their undies in a bunch over something trivial. The Seattle Times reports that the CWA's latest crusade is against Starbucks, which has the effrontery to feature a quotation from gay author Armistead Maupin on coffee cups. Maupin's quotation is one of many featured on the cups, which Starbucks intends to serve as conversation-starters among coffeeshop patrons (or some such hogwash).
The CWA is kindly asking Starbucks to stop being liberal, already, so as not to alienate conservative caffeine addicts everywhere. As for Starbucks, they claim not to be of any particular political persuasion, even though Buyblue.org gives them a 100% "dark blue" rating for their executives' political contributions.
Even if it weren't for that, Starbucks's spokesperson gives them away in the article, saying, "Embracing diversity and treating people with dignity is one of the guiding principles of our corporation." Aha! The D-word! A sure sign of liberal sympathies.
Well, if the CWA wants to encourage conservatives to avoid a tasty, incredibly healthy beverage like coffee, I guess that's their business.
Most of us are surely familiar with the experience of "mall glaze," the soporific feeling that comes over you after too much time spent in the climate-controlled, white-noise wash of a shopping mall. The Mall of America produces its own super-potent brand of mall glaze, which at least for me, seems to come on quicker and more intense than at other shopping centers. Well, help is on the way: an outfit called PowerNap Sleep Centers is about to open a store at MoA called MinneNAPolis, where, for a mere 70 cents a minute, exhausted shoppers can gets some rejuvenating rest.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether or not this is a worthwhile venture, I have to express both amusement and bemusement at the linked article's lengthy treatment of the supposed social prohibition against sleeping in public. Clearly the writer doesn't spend much time on college campuses, where people of all ages and descriptions frequently nap sprawled across benches, tables, floors, and (when the weather's halfway decent) lawns. Education seems to be a deeply tiring endeavor, whether you're student, faculty, or staff.
As to why people don't catch a little shuteye on mall benches, isn't the more obvious explanation that it's simply far too noisy to sleep, unless you're one of those lucky types who can sleep anywhere, under any circumstances? I can't even imagine trying to nap in midst of the chatter of shoppers, the roar of the air conditioning, the piped-in music, and the screams from Camp Snoopy. I have seen people napping in the Mall, though: just check out any of the lounge areas in the women's rooms of the department stores.
So will tired shoppers be willing to pony up $42 for an hour's rest? I'm guessing not, but I suppose it depends on how desperate you are for a little peace and quiet, something that's always in short supply at the Mall of America.
UPDATE: hey, DuVernois beat me to it -- and apparently has a similar sort of tribute in mind.
The Strib ran an interesting piece last Saturday by Mark Swed of the LA Times on the so-called Big Five American orchestras and the current state of major orchestras in the U.S. For those you not up on your orchestra culture, the "Big Five" comprise the Boston Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, and (my sentimental favorite) the Cleveland Orchestra. All five have long and venerable histories, involving any number of revered conductors and players, along with seemingly countless legendary recordings. Swed argues that the Big Five no longer dominate the orchestra scene in this country, since each has problems (or has recently emerged from a troubled or otherwise moribund period).
I don't think what Swed is identifying is a particularly recent phenomenon, but it is kinda cool that he mentions the Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vanska as one of the "hot conductors" of the moment. Another of Swed's conductors du jour is Robert Spano, under whom I had the privilege (and at times, the terror) of playing under when I was in college. Both Vanska and Spano deserve their reputations, based on my experiences as audience member and orchestra member.
I also appreciate Swed's acknowledgment that Cleveland is a spectacularly accomplished ensemble. I experienced almost constant musical enlightenment and eye-opening as an undergrad, but the only situations in which those "wow" moments happened consistently were Cleveland Orchestra performances.
I wish Minnesota had received the same kind of pat on the back that Swed offered Boston for adventurous programming: "The members are even willing to play, and audiences to endure, large amounts of the most difficult kind of new music. A program of two wintry Sibelius symphonies and a new work by the king of complexity, Milton Babbitt, given in Symphony Hall on a frigid January night proved a thrilling blaze of fire and empathy." First of all, a program of Sibelius (with a little Babbitt thrown in) doesn't strike me as especially adventurous in the grand scheme of things. And how is it exactly that Sibelius qualifies as "the most difficult kind of new music"? If that's true, then Minnesota's programming the last couple of seasons must have been alternately challenging and punishing audiences. I've heard more Sibelius (not to mention Nielsen) from Minnesota the last two years than I would ever have imagined from a major orchestra.
Finally ran across something frightening enough to make me break my silence. I'd love to provide a link to it, but it doesn't seem to be on the web. That's lucky for Parking and Transportation Services, because this is the most embarassingly, spectacularly dorky bit of marketing I've seen in quite some time.
What is it (I'm sure you're now dying to know)? It's a cute little piece of promotional literature that arrived in my snail-mailbox the other day, with the catchy title "A Blogger's Diary at the U." The purpose? To inform new U students of the myriad transportation options available to them as they begin their college journeys. Doc Dregs and I were fortunate enough to receive two copies of this gem, since we're both registered for classes this fall.
The title is enough of an eye-roller that I nearly chucked both of the pretty, four-color cards straight into the trash, but for some reason, I was compelled to open it and read what followed. The idea is that a new student blogger makes daily entries detailing his/her first week at the U -- with emphasis on all of the great means of transportation available on and around campus! The whole thing is both funny and painful to read; here are some choice excerpts:
Monday 9:05 p.m. My first day of classes at the U of M. Crazy, I tell ya! I had to ride the CAMPUS SHUTTLE buses to get from one class to the next. Not like high school at all! ... I tried to get over to St. Paul, but the East Bank circulator only circles that campus. I won't make that mistake again. ):-(
Wednesday 10:59 p.m. Dreary depressing rainy day. Bleh. It took some getting used to, but I experimented with the GOPHER WAY indoor tunnels and skyways. "Follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road..." well, I guess it's more of a maroon and gold route. LOL! ... One thing I noticed were all the videocameras in the tunnels. I wonder who watches those. :-I
Thursday 6:12 p.m. Cool news! I've made a friend in my Spanish class. We both kinda suck at oral exams. :-P -- oh well. We even live close to each other, so we plan to study together for our first test next week. Joe thought we should try to CARPOOL to campus ...
And so on, as the "blogger" discovers riding his BIKE, where to park if he has to DRIVE, and what a U-PASS is for. The whole thing is just so far beyond dorky that I almost wonder if it's that way on purpose. In this age of post-post-post-irony, surely no one at PTS could really think that incoming students would find this little piece of infomarketing genuinely cool or appealing? I fear that it isn't so, though -- the entire tone is just too earnest. There aren't any clever little nudges, winks, or kitschy insertions to demonstrate that the writers/marketers know how uncool their approach is. I'm certainly not down with college-student culture (I wasn't even when I was in college), but even I'm not far enough out of it to miss how embarassingly lame is this attempt to be current and hip.
Anyway, it's a small thing, and I'm sure that most students will probably do just what I started out to do -- toss it in the circular file. Still, I have to wonder what the marketing people over at PTS were thinking. If anyone from PTS happens to have stumbled upon this, I apologize for mocking your product (which actually is chock-full of useful information), but seriously -- why this? And more importantly, as long as you're going to pretend you're a "student blogger," why not plug UThink?
Got a couple of essays brewing, but my priorities have been with outdoor activities lately, so you'll all just have to wait a little while longer to receive my trenchant observations and pearls of wisdom.
In the meantime, consider this: a guy who's on a mission to visit every Starbucks in the world. Now, I like Starbucks probably a little more than the next person: I usually enjoy their coffee. I don't find it too strong, bitter, or overcaffeinated, as many do. And I don't think they're evil, as large corporations go. But this strikes me as a little bit crazy.
At least the guy seems to have some perspective. I couldn't put it better than he does: "Every time I reach a Starbucks I feel like I've accomplished something when actually I have accomplished nothing.''
Then there's the guy making a movie about Starbucks-visiting guy...
Yeah. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled surfing.