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Coffee and literature (reposted)

June 25th, 2003

The Harry Potter debate reminded my of Jonathan Franzen’s refusal to have his book The Corrections listed on Oprah’s Book Club. I thought I’d posted on this before and dug out this one from just before I left Canberra, which turned out to be mainly about coffee.

The house is all packed up except for the items we absolutely need for tonight and tomorrow – beds, a toaster and the Krups espresso machine. With a long trip ahead, a good cup of coffee will be even more vital than usual.

So I was fascinated to read this piece on a new image for “Mr. Coffee”, one of those 1970-vintage automatic coffee machines. In a nod to my favorite computer, they suggest calling it iCoffee, although there is no planned connection to the Internet.

This raises a couple of points. First, the problem is not the name but the mechanism. Given America’s status as the world’s leading consumer society, it’s startling that so few people there understand something as vital to civilisation as good coffee.

Second, as with anything about coffee in the US, the article can’t avoid mentioning Starbucks. The question I have is about the appropriate metaphor. Is Starbucks to coffee as Oprah Winfrey is to literature, a potential bridge from instant to the real thing. Or is Starbucks to coffee as Microsoft is to software, a ‘good enough’ monopolist that kills the competition and closes off the chance of anthing better?

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  1. June 25th, 2003 at 13:08 | #1

    See also “ground cover plant”.

  2. dg
    June 25th, 2003 at 16:18 | #2

    Can anyone recommend some good coffee?

  3. June 26th, 2003 at 14:11 | #3

    If people decide they like Starbucks rather than the nobler-than-thou opposition, then good riddance to the opposition.

  4. June 27th, 2003 at 00:45 | #4

    Was about to post a rant against the use consumerism as a justification for “dumbing down” but thought better of it. Someday, someday…

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