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Quipsologies
~ Vol. 51 ~

We dare you… no, we double-dare you to enjoy this edition of Quipsologies.

~ ARMIN ~

When typography attacks.

~

The Paulagiarisms™ continue: This time in Italy. [Thanks to Paula for the link, and Julia and Lenny for the journalistic report].

~

A couple of events that were meant to be posted in the News & Events section but will probably not:

Alphabet: An Exhibition of Hand-Drawn Lettering and Experimental Typography is currently showing, until March 31, at the Workhorse Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.

&

London-based Don’t Panic will be holding an exhibition of their famed posters —�by the likes of Banksy, Pentagram, Neville Brody and Shepard Fairey — from March 30 to April 29, at the Aram Gallery in London. For more information, download this PDF.

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Intermittent Speak Up contributor, David Stairs, has taken blogging into his own hands with Design Altruism Project

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And Debbie sends a quick quip: Suprematism.org.

~ BRYONY ~
Attack of the fake Starbucks
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Londoners… wake me up stickers, anyone?

~ M. KINGSLEY ~

Website for a current exposition at the Biblioth�que nationale de France — Torah, Bible, Coran. Even if you don’t read French, there are many wonderful images from the history of writing; including the above example of late 15th century marginalia and collaged Koranic commentary from central Asia.

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Maybe the problem between designers and clients is that we always forget the happy ending.

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As a follow-up to Debbie Millman’s post on Intelligent Design: Dr. Barbara Forrest, a member of the reality-based community; interviewed at Daily Kos.

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Ralph Steadman, an appreciation.

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A composer’s take on “If everybody’s a designer, what separates us from the pack?”

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“…if you strive to teach yourself the lost art of storytelling, you are going to suffer, and, as you work and age, you may look around you and say, “Why bother?” And the answer is you must bother if you are selected to bother, and if not, then not.”

Kyle Gann has posted an excerpt from David Mamet’s Writing in Restaurants — which should be considered when one complains about “those damn suits.”

~

I finally saw these the other day, and they’re quite striking: MoMA’s dynamic signage observed.

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Oh well, we might as well join in the clusterlink to yet another collection of bad album covers.

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In the spirit of Speak Up’s patented logo dogpiles, we direct you to web pages that suck.

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My college art history text has been revised. Congratulations to Beth Tondreau Design for their future influence of tomorrow’s visual artists.

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As an update to a previous post on the black power salute, the University of California Berkeley Library hosts Lincoln Cushing’s A brief history of the “clenched fist” image.

~

In 1987 the great literary critic Harold Bloom shortlisted Charlie Parker’s “I Remember You” and “Parker’s Mood” in his canon of the 20th-century American Sublime. Yesterday marked the 51st anniversary of Parker’s death in Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter’s room at the Stanhope Hotel, across the street from the Metropolitan Museum. I suspect one of the few times New York hipsters can be counted on to say a silent prayer is as they descend the Met’s staircase and glance across Fifth Avenue. And yes, I know this quip seems as if it has nothing to do with design; but in my heart, it has everything to do with design. Because without knowledge of the sublime, or it’s experience of exstasis, we appeal to our audience in vain.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2559 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Mar.13.2006 BY The Speak Up Authors
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Tan’s comment is:

Fine, I'll bite first.

The Starbucks thing is interesting. But to be fair, Starbucks ain't exactly the first to use a circle emblem. Beer and other beverage labels have used similar emblems and crests for decades. It can be argued that Starbucks leveraged the look in the first place, and now it's trying to own the appropriation.

Sounds like a CSA flim-flam to me.

But if we're going to talk about fake Starbucks, I think the most blatant culprit is actually the Barnes & Noble Cafes. Their stores look like Starbucks down to the menu boards and uniforms. They even put a Starbucks emblem on the wall, but you have to read the small type that says "Served here" underneath. You don't know you've been duped until the cashier rings your order, and it's a buck more than you're used to paying at the real thing. You meekishly ask if the order was rung correctly, but then realize the deception that's taken place.

I know that some Barnes and Noble really do have legit Starbucks, but most don't. It surprises me that Starbucks allows B&N to be so deceptive in their own stores.

On Mar.14.2006 at 01:02 PM
Chris Dixon’s comment is:

Tan,

Interesting that you refer to Starbucks as “the real thing”. I guess it is understandable in the context of this particular discussion.

In the city where I live, without any vocal campaign, people have generally rejected the Starbucks phenomenon in favour of what I would call “real” coffee shops. It’s generally only tourists and exchange students who regularly patronise the franchise. It hasn’t seemed to get the foot-hold here that it has elsewhere. However, some of those small independents have felt the urge to copy the logo.

On Mar.14.2006 at 09:30 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Believe it or not Chris, in Seattle, independent coffee shops still exist and thrive — right alongside the corner Starbucks. There are Italian cafes that serve gelato, NY-style cafes that make deli sandwiches, and little mom and pop espresso stands everywhere. We can't seem to get enough coffee it seems.

But in my opinion, at the end of the day, Starbucks still consistently serves the best all-around coffee with the most consistently high level of service. Their barista training program rivals the FBI. I rarely, if ever, get a burned or incorrectly made latte. I can't say the same with smaller independent stands.

I'm all for supporting underdog businesses, but only up to a certain point. I still want and expect a certain level of quality for my $4 cup of joe.

On Mar.14.2006 at 11:25 PM
Brian Alter’s comment is:

I call 'em Charbucks, Starsucks — but they do use that Silk soy milk I love so much... Good in a pinch, like, say, Phoenix, AZ at 630am before a 14-hour meeting.

Tan, it's no Vivace!

On Mar.15.2006 at 02:36 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

What a difference a continent makes. I can't get a proper cafe latte at any Starbucks in the tri-state area. They're more like cappuccinos: too much foam. The company has also swapped out the machines which allowed ristretto or lungo for pre-programmed, unified product.

Here in New York, the explosive growth of Starbucks has transformed the employees from coffee evangelists to zombified factory workers who emit the same vibe that I find on my annual visits to a Wendy's or a Burger King. Their brand managers may try, but the passion — no, the love — that I once felt walking into a Starbucks, way back in the day when coming across a franchise was like finding an oasis of genteel civiliity, has been replaced with a flat, hot cup of goo poured by someone way too removed from the sources of origin: the moment in 1981 when Howard Schultz met Gordon Bowker and Jerry Baldwin and found his enthusiasm (from the Greek theopneustos "to be breathed into by God") for coffee, or the 1983 buying trip to Italy where he realized that espresso could be part of the fabric of a thoughtful lifestyle — think la passeggiata or la dolce vita rather than meetings, schedules or soccer practice.

No! Mon cri de coeur! Mergers, distribution deals and the diffusion of candied coffee drinks targeting an American public out of touch with the profound mystery of Food — may God damn you all, Archer Daniels Midland bastards! — have transformed the Starbucks' potential from agent of transformation into agent of �hange.

Coffee is a sensual ritual where we reverently touch sacred cups of the divine brew to our lips; a symbolic kiss to Mother Earth in appreciation for life, for mind and for sex. Yes, friends, sex. Reptilian mind sex where we step outside our intellect and celebrate the being-ness of just be-ing. But just as Starbucks has transformed the symbol of the siren — the mythological (and topless) creature that would seduce 'em, screw 'em, then kill 'em; a double-tailed siren at that, nudge, nudge — into a safe, meaningless (and boob-less) Queen of Commerce; so have they taken the piss and vinegar out of a ritual of Community and sped up the contemplative life to the ingestive life.

There's a smidgen of irony that the Starbucks branding juggernaut is so possesive about its logo. The company is named after the coffee-loving first mate in Moby Dick and the terminus a quo of finding a singular experience — Starbuck's — converts to the terminus ad quem of multiplicity and scale. While I can understand and appreciate the corporate drive to distinction, my sentiment (sediment?) lies with the occasional scofflaw. They help define Starbucks.

Close but not is still not.

Thank God it's not.

Amen.

On Mar.15.2006 at 03:28 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I dunno, everytime I walk into a Starbucks, it seem to always be filled with people languishing on puffy chairs, reading, conversing, or contemplating their day as precious minutes pass. In fact, I hear that's one of the most common complaint — that there aren't enough seating. The community you speak of seems to be fine and dandy if you ask me.

And while the old espresso machines may be less idiot proof, it was always prone to more idiot mistakes — drinks were never consistent, and often, you ended up getting the settings and residuals of the order before you.

I think you're all romanticizing independent espresso cafes more than they deserve. Most are cramped, dark, always slightly filthy hole in the walls where service is slow or served with an attitude and a dirty spoon. Am I right or not? So what's so great about that?

Let's not even talk about the East Coast plebeians who prefer Dunkin Donuts coffee.

On Mar.15.2006 at 09:15 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Part of what makes New York Starbucks less appealing than in other cities — and perhaps one of the reasons why employees are less than thrilled most of the time — is because they have become public urinals. Step into the Starbucks next to the Empire State Building, the one in Union Square, or the one in front of Cooper Union and the lines to the restroom are longer than the lines for ordering. Starbucks is nice enough to let people pee without buying and I think that affects the experience.

Also, most Starbucks here are small and crowded, they are more a grab-your-coffe-and-run than a grab-your-coffeee-and-relax. So, as much as the Baristas aren't uber-friendly, neither are New Yorkers when it comes to getting coffee: We want the coffee and we want to get out. In other cities, where Starbucks are bigger and quieter, that coffee-house feeling is very well achieved and quite pleasant. I was recently in Dallas and went to this huge (like, HUGE) Starbucks with lots of open space, large windows, sofas, tables, stools, etc., it was a completely different space than any Starbucks here.

And unlike Mark, I find that whenever I'm in a place where I have never been and I see a Starbucks I know everything will be okay.

On Mar.15.2006 at 09:39 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

I'm around the corner from one of the best tapas bars in New York. There, a girl named Meryl makes a wonderful espresso lungo. It's never bitter and always has a perfect crema. She's an actress and I fear the day when her lovely personality takes her and her coffee skills away.

At the Italian food shop in Chelsea Market, there's a self-effacing man who makes perfect espresso. Whenever I compliment him, he just shrugs and gives the credit to the machine; to which I reply, "No, it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools."

On the first floor of the Sony building at 55th and Madison, until recently, Carol pulled good espressos. She used to be an au pair in France (I practiced my French with her) and used Illy beans and equipment. Sadly, she and her pastry chef husband no longer run the shop.

My point is that food is a means for personal connection. It can't be branded and unified. People change, they come and go, restaurants open and close. The joy is in the search.

But... whenever I find myself on the wrong side of the Hudson River, yes, I'll go to a Starbucks — unless I'm in a city that I go to often and have personal ties to: L'Express in Montreal can pull a good long espresso, as can pretty much everyone else in that city; there are a couple decent spots along Elmwood in Buffalo, as well as Park Ave. in Rochester; etc.

Remember that Starbucks is a 7 BILLION dollar company. And in May, they're launching a new line of banana-flavored Frappuccinos. According to yesterday's NY Post: "The flavor caters to customer who don't necessarily want to drink coffee."

(insert spit-take graphic here)

This company now loves money over coffee.

One of the things that I love about being a designer, besides the black turtlenecks and fancy facial hair, is that I'm paid to be judgmental. If ya can't be ultra-picky about yer daily brew, how can you be trusted to art direct that photo shoot? Granted, it takes a hell of a lot of energy, but every experience can be a designed one.

On Mar.15.2006 at 11:15 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Mark, are you actually trying to convince Tan that something independent can be better than something corporate? That's like trying to convince the average American that real food is not manufactured but that it grows in the form of plants and animals, and that if it is grown right it actually comes with its own flavour.

On Mar.15.2006 at 11:40 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I agree, people connect with food and vice-versa.

There's an upscale Italian café near my office that has the prettiest barista working there. She's charming, always slightly burns my soy lattes — but I never say anything.

I make the same connections w/ a Starbucks crew down the street. They're real people as well — two girls are college students, one guy is a painter, and the 2nd guy I'm convinced is just one step ahead of the law. But they're all characters that make up the tapestry of my neighborhood.

Just because Starbucks is working hard to be smart and innovative, and yes, to make money — doesn't mean that they have lost their soul. It just means that they're growing. Is it the money or the idea that they're a corporation that bothers you?

Of all people Mark, I didn't peg you as an anti-establishment groupie.

On Mar.15.2006 at 11:52 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Jeff, tell me you didn't just throw smack-talk my way. Trust me, my expatriate friend, this is not how you want to start your Thursday.

On Mar.15.2006 at 11:57 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

It's more of a smart remark tossed over my shoulder as I leave the room. My Thursday's already over, and I'm off to eat some real food.

On Mar.15.2006 at 12:20 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Btw, it's only Wednesday. It's been a long week.

Bon appetit, though with English food....

On Mar.15.2006 at 01:16 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Such a long week.

-

Sort on the subject:

To illustrate the difference between American & European ideas about food, take a look at a bag of flour. It has an ingredients list. Not here in the UK. Why? Because it is made out of ground wheat. That's it. No bloody fortification. The more expensive brands of commonly available flour here actually Taste Nice. You can take a pinch of plain white flour and taste it and it has a lovely wheaty flavour. Imagine! A couple years ago I tried tasting the most expensive flour I could find a normal grocery store in the States: dust and B vitamins. And it made lousy bread.

Of course it's not all sunshine and glory. Finding a decent pizza is well nigh impossible.

On Mar.15.2006 at 02:07 PM
Su’s comment is:

You don't boil pizza!

Bill Hicks had a lot to teach us.

On Mar.15.2006 at 02:54 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

> Of all people Mark, I didn't peg you as an anti-establishment groupie.

No, either overly opinionated or just a drama queen. When a large company gets it right, I'm happy to sing its praises. Problem is, when it starts making lots of money and begins to grow, different economies of scale kick in. That's why we use Quark, but hate their customer relations; drink Australian wines, but never Yellowtail; and eat steak, but never at Outback.

On Mar.15.2006 at 03:23 PM
David E.’s comment is:

…I see a Starbucks I know everything will be okay.

I feel the same, and I'm not even a big coffee drinker. There have been so many times that I've needed either something to drink, something to eat, or (I admit) needed a place to pee — and there was Starbucks like a little oasis. There are worse things than getting your needs met, relaxing and being surrounded by good design.

I hate to see people knocking Starbucks for being agressive (I was in a little mall in Seattle about the size of one square block, and there was a Starbucks on both floors! I thought that was brilliant).

Starbucks has raised the bar. They've created more demand for independant coffee houses by educating the average person as to what good coffee is. Even my Folger's drinking parents know what good coffee is now. Of course there's better (Pete's for example), but Starbucks is good. Sometimes good is good enough.

On Mar.15.2006 at 05:47 PM
Chris Dixon’s comment is:

One possible positive that seems to be emerging is that, despite multi-nationals appearing ubiquitously, the feared homogenisation hasn’t necessarilly happened. Starbucks in Texas is obviously different to Starbucks in Manhattan, and Starbucks in Australia — all of which is good. But, as mentioned, when economies of scale kick in, places like Starbucks will always choose the option of having their staff press a button rather than train them to make a coffee. What has always bothered me is that Starbucks in particular have utilised the kind of strategies which eliminate competition. So I don’t mind having the option of Starbucks, as long as it isn’t my only option.

I visited New York last year and LOVED it, but didn’t get a decent coffee the whole time I was there. Because I didn’t have enough time to get off the beaten track and find my own little coffee shop, I was left with, pretty much two choices — Starbucks (I’m not a fan) and Dunkin (formerly) Donuts (umm, no). Even at the Statue of Liberty it was Starbucks or nothing — not really what I expected at the Westren Hemisphere’s symbol of Freedom and Liberty.

On Mar.15.2006 at 06:06 PM
Chris Dixon’s comment is:

...by the way, that comment was, in no way meant as a critisism of the US or it’s various liberties or freedoms. Just pointing out the irony...

On Mar.15.2006 at 06:37 PM
Chris Bowden’s comment is:

And to think, I live in a city of more than 1.5 million people in the Western world that does not have a single Starbucks.....

On Mar.16.2006 at 01:04 AM
Keith Harper’s comment is:

Starbucks is like the Wal-Mart of coffee…�there is no way they even come close to the quality of independent coffee shops and roasters in Seattle. Sorry Tan but I have to lay the smack down on your $4 espresso; Starbucks coffee is bitter and doesn't come close to Cafe Vita, Ladro, and All-City in my opinion! Starbucks is a great company and the fact that they give their employees healthcare after only like 20hrs/week is amazing.

But the independent cafes and roasters in Seattle are the best!

On Mar.16.2006 at 01:40 AM
Tan’s comment is:

There's a Lladro is my neighborhood — good coffee, though they can't seem to get the soy quite right. Vita is great, though I've gotten more burned cups there than other places. I also love Zeitgeist and the new Umbria in Pioneer Square. Umbria is run by the son of the former owner of the Terrafozione or something like that. There's a connection there, which I think is great.

Like I said, I frequent the local stands as often as Starbucks. But for every Vita, Lladro, and Umbria, there are many others that aren't as good as Starbucks. In many ways, they serve as a standard where none existed before.

On Mar.16.2006 at 03:27 AM
Ryan Peterson’s comment is:

Maybe this was already posted, I haven't been on in a while, but I found it amusing. What would iPod packaging look like if it had been done by Microsoft? Heres the answer.

Link

Or if that didn't work

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=36099539665548298&q=microsoft+ipod

On Mar.17.2006 at 01:51 PM
Ryan Peterson’s comment is:

Maybe this was already posted, I haven't been on in a while, but I found it amusing. What would iPod packaging look like if it had been done by Microsoft? Heres the answer.

Link

Or if that didn't work

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=36099539665548298&q=microsoft+ipod

On Mar.17.2006 at 01:52 PM
John Stephenson’s comment is:

To illustrate the difference between American & European ideas about food, take a look at a bag of flour. It has an ingredients list. Not here in the UK. Why? Because it is made out of ground wheat. That's it. No bloody fortification.

Jeff, this reminds me of when I first arrived in the US from the UK, and was looked at askance when I asked for "a cup of coffee" in Starbucks or somesuch place. It takes forever to explain I want a cup of the most ordinary coffee, no froth, soy milk, bits of chocolate, flavoured syrup etc. Plus I refuse to use daft words like "tall" and "grande."

On Mar.17.2006 at 01:56 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:

Oh, don't be such an Antiventi.

On Mar.17.2006 at 02:29 PM