Rhetorician

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Tacit Endorsement #3

Week of 08.25.13

A selection of things I consumed this week that didn’t fill me with rage.

1. A really tasty coffee at Ch’ava cafe. Cool space, serious coffee. For a good time, read the three Yelp reviews recounting an incident in which a customer, after being told it was impossible to get a quadruple decaf espresso to go, ordered it for here and then took it upon herself to pour the coffee into a paper cup. The barista was so scandalized that he could not stifle his snark: “Maybe you should go to Starbucks next time.”

Oh snap.

Yelp reviewers Lucy Y., Ciara G., and Corey M. were not amused. The owner has responded with an apology and an explanation of the shop’s philosophy: refusal to compromise quality product by capitulating to the paper-cup whims of an uninformed public. We should all admire Richard’s commitment to excellence in his craft, but of course service is as art as well, and the best coffee in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you’ve driven away the people who might drink it. I’ll certainly be back, but I doubt I’ll see Lucy, Ciara, and Corey. Bummer.

2. A bottle of Blue Paddle Pilsner from New Belgium Brewing.

3. You might think that “Couscous Confetti Salad” is a stupid name for a recipe. And you’re right, it is a stupid name. But if you make this stuff, you’ll discover that the name is far from inaccurate. With shreds of orange carrot, purple cabbage, green onion, and red pepper, this is a truly celebratory couscous confection. Packed with this, every lunchbox becomes a piñata, ready to party.

(Etymological aside: ‘confetti’ and ‘confection’? Same origin: coming to us by way of Italian sweets, from the Latin verb conficere - ‘put together’ - which makes the noun confectum - something prepared. ‘Couscous,’ on the other hand, is a French adaptation of the Arabic ‘kuskus,’ which apparently comes from a verb kaskasa - ‘to pound.’)

4. A four-mile sunset run in the park, set to a playlist of nothing but Nina Simone. Sultry and subversive.

5. Slowed-down Jolene. Wow. Turns out you can slow down Dolly Parton and produce something incredibly beautiful and haunting. Definitely worth a listen. And be sure to read this analysis of the viral vibrato at The New Yorker.

Indeed, it has been a big week for popular discourse about the idea of ‘the voice.’ Between MLK’s speechiversary, slowed-down Dolly, and the new movie about voiceover artists, In A World, it’s like we’ve all suddenly remembered that there’s something magical out there beyond the txts—the OL we long for with every LOL. (Further listening: this episode of NPR’sPop Culture Happy Hour is all about the voice).

6. This Panzanella. Because summer is delicious, and almost gone.

7. You know you’re training for a marathon when you quite unthinkingly start applying BodyGlide while getting dressed for work. That stuff is amazing, and habit-forming, apparently. The inadvertent application gave me a moment to appreciate just how fortunate I am that there is nearly no risk of nipple-chafing in my line of work.

8. A bottle of Ruedrich’s Red Seal Ale from North Coast Brewing Co.

9. Did I mention I’m training for a marathon? This week I picked up my third pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS running shoes. These are some nice shoes. And bonus: no leather. This meat-free-athlete is very pleased. Nevertheless, I hope someday to find a great running shoe that doesn’t appear to have borrowed so liberally in its styling from the visual landscape of tween fashion. Until then, the folks at Fleet Feet are happy to remind me that choosing the right shoe has nothing to do with choosing a color.  

10. The first two episodes of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. First impressions: it’s great. But you’ve heard that already. From everyone. And that’s what makes me suspicious. I can’t help but notice some subtle structural similarities to Netflix’s other hugely successful piece of original programming, House of Cards. I’m thinking about the incredibly sophisticated data Netflix, by virtue of being Netflix, has about how we watch—what we say we want to watch, what we actually watch, when we watch it, when we pause it, what parts we rewind and watch again, how long we wait before watching the next episode in a series—and wondering about the implications of intensely Big-Data-driven cultural production. Check out this exploration of the question at Salon: How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets. The article looks good, but I can’t read it right now; I’m jonesing for another episode of Orange.