Saturday, July 28, 2007

No End in Sight

I'll be running to the theater to see this documentary. Unlike other films that are critical of the Bush administration's handling of just about anything this decade, "No End in Sight" was directed by a former political science professor -- probably one that knows a fair amount about the world in which we live. The trailer is pretty stunning:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Baseball and Politics

I have to say that I wasn't surprised to see that the Yankee-Red Sox game tuned in almost twice as many viewers on Sunday night than the Democratic national debate on CNN. When it comes to things that are authentically American, it doesn't get much more
purely nationalistic than baseball and politics. And baseball, it seems, will always win.

Thinking along these terms, imagine what would happen if Election Day were held on the same day as Game 7 of the World Series. I actually think the rise of nationalistic pride might actually increase voter turnout. Well, most likely not, but it'd be an interesting situation to watch unfold. Or, god forbid, you vote from the ballparks!

The fact that the debates were only Democrats in the thick of an early primary race contributed to the low viewership. If it was an open debate that included Republicans as well I imagine the numbers would have been a bit higher. However...
Democrats need not be completely discouraged. Ratings for the debate were up from the previous one in South Carolina and telecast on MSNBC. That one was seen in 1.68 million homes and attracted 2.26 million viewers on April 26.
And of course the post-debate analysis wasn't going to hold up to "The Sopranos" one of the most successful cable shows of our time.

Of course it'd be great if more Americans were tuning into the debates and the political world in general. Afterall, our democracy is rooted on the idea of strong civic participation -- unfortunately, most folks only make time to vote once every four years and watch a few last minute news conferences to make their decision. And, why? Well, because in the end it doesn't really matter to most people. I think the average person doesn't feel the effects of whomever is elected to the White House. In the end, its just another position that doesn't really impact my everyday life.

But is it? It is not just the President you are electing when you vote every four years. You're also electing (via the President's decision) a cabinet full of dedicated people that work in specific sectors of our government, economy and culture. You're also electing everyone that they the end you're adding your voice and opinion to a position that's power trickles down into all of our lives. On the surface it may look meaningless and unconnected to your daily life but it indirectly affects everything we do. And, yes it's what keeps some power in the hands of the people of this country -- that alone is enough to drive me to the polls for even the most local election.

But baseball rules. It is part of our national identity. One of my favorite quotes from George F. Will sums it up nicely:
Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.
Go Sox.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beautiful San Francisco - 1971

For those of us who have been in San Francisco and can appreciate the changes over the is a great panorama circa 1971.

More money for crappy coffee

Starbucks announced today that they'll be raising coffee prices again -- this time about 9 cents a cup. The reason is purportedly due to the price hikes in the dairy sector. Apparently milk and cream are no longer so cheap. But, the larger discussion here is about whether Starbucks is starting to tank:
The widely anticipated move marks Starbucks' second price increase in less than a year and comes a month after the coffee shop chain's chief financial officer warned it would be "very challenging" for Starbucks to meet the high end of its 2007 earnings forecast, in part because of rising dairy prices.

Some drinks might have a more dramatic change in price than others but overall it shouldn't be too much of a "shock" to the caffeinated faithful.

As I always do when I hear about anything Starbucks-related, I have to speak to the other Starbucks problem: the beans are burned! People don't really realize it but we're all drinking sweetened ash. What makes Starbucks have its "distinctive" flavor is the fact that they cook the beans all the same way -- that is they burn the hell out of them. People who have been roasting their own coffee beans for years will be the first to tell you this, and if you try making your own coffee from raw beans you'll notice an immediate difference in flavor and taste -- basically, that it tastes fuller.

But the Starbux faithful don't seem to mind -- whether its burned beans or flavored ash it all tastes the same and as long as you're willing to pay way more than the average price (because you THINK you're getting something of extreme value) they'll continue to sell it.

I'm off the 'bucks. Its been 2 years. I couldn't feel better about my coffee experience. Here's to no more "tall, skinny, shot-of-vanilla, no-whip, extra chocolate" fairy-tale drinks.

On a funnier note: i actually went into a Starbucks last year to prove a point: that you could make up your own Starbucks drink on the spot. I asked the barristers for a "coal-fired" mocha. They looked puzzled, even amused. "Haven't heard of it...did you say, 'coal-fired?'" I told them it meant they should throw an extra shot of chocolate in the mocha and add some chocolate "smokestack" sprinkles over the whip cream. "It's big in New York," I said (I was in San Francisco). "Oh, ok man that sounds cool. Yeah, coming right up."

And there you have it: a coal fired mocha was born. Too bad it was mixed in with burned beans.