Yeah, I’m still alive.  And no, the baby hasn’t come yet.  In the meantime, I work.

The Northeast Kingdom Music Festival was, once again.  An incredibly great time.  Wish you were there, as you should too.  Next time, I’d hope.

While my blogging habits  are, well, poor these days, here’s a few of the things I’m up reading and thinking about in the middle of the night:

-I’ve rallied at length in a number of posts about how the Wal-Mart of health food stores, Whole Foods, is evil and particularly their CEO John MacKey isn’t the great, enlightened progressive he sells himself and his business as.  Glad it’s now becoming popular to rail against themboth now.  Amazingly enough, MacKey and Whole Foods first started getting liberals, progressives and radicals alike annoyed by submarining the EFCA; now there’s a full-on boycott being called for his hard work at stopping single-payer health care.  Good.  Now lets figure out how to stop the planned Whole Foods for South Burlington.

-Speaking of liberal corporate giants, Starbucks now brings us the surest sign that yes, indeed, post-modernism is alive, well, and just fucking weird.  With sales dropping and the once hip (really?) ubiquitous franchised every-thing’s-the-same-in-every-store model that Starbucks embodies so perfectly increasingly understood as not good, not progressive, not as ‘feel good’ as once thought (by idiots, I guess), the Mermaid has a new plan: Starbuck stores that aren’t called Starbucks, and that look like thrown together DIY-style Bohemian coffeeshops (a la Langdon Street Cafe).  That’s right, anti-Starbucks Starbucks stores.  From Jim Hightowers’ piece:

With Starbucks’ sales declining as more and more caffine consumers reject the cookie-cutter corporate climate that the chain epitomizes, it is launching a new lineof stores that disappears its name. There’s no corporate signage on the new buildings, no logo stamped on every product inside and none of the generically bland ambiance that makes one Starbucks just like the other 16,000 in the chain.

Instead, the new shops strive to be the anti-Starbucks, dressing up as funky neighborhood coffeehouses with a cool, local vibe. A sort of rustic, thrift-shop decor screens the corporate presence, and such additions as live music and poetry readings are meant to lend an aura of down-home authenticity.

The first of these faux local outlets opened last month in Seattle under the nom de commerce of “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea,” taken from the name of its neighborhood. Future stores are also expected to appropriate the names of their neighborhoods all across the country in a corporate effort to convey a sense of belonging. The idea, as explained by the chain’s senior vice president of global design, is to give each of the coffeehouses “a community personality.”

What we have here, of course, is a willful attempt to commit consumer fraud. But it’s such a goofy fraud that it’s doomed to be an embarrassing failure.

Start with the fact that genuine neighborhood coffee shops genuinely have a “community personality.” It’s not something that can be faked or “given,” much less replicated into a chain of 16,000 outlets.

-My ol’ pal over at Broadsides has an enjoyable Hugo Chavez-related quote up:

“Golf is a bourgeois sport,” he said, repeating the word “bourgeois” as if he were swallowing castor oil. Then he went on, mocking the use of golf carts as a practice illustrating the sport’s laziness.

And while I appreciate the sentiment (I’ve never been able to find much interest in golf either), this is really just fire-belly sloganeering to fit a mold (Marxist revolutionary) rather than intelligent insight.  Golf is bourgeois ’cause the bourgeois own it; as far as recreation goes, it’s sold to the rich and priced for the rich.  But it’s not the fault of the people who can’t afford golf that they can’t afford it, so it can’t reallybe dislike only on these grounds.  Maybe golf is fun; I wouldn’t know, I can’t really afford it and it’s never something that I ever come in contact with, it’s not around me.  But we wouldn’t hate solar power because solar panels are all made by corporate giants, some of who may not engage in the most progressive and preferable business practices.  No, instead we should just want/work to see solar panels made by employee-run facilities or public electric coops or something…

-The funniest thing happened the other day:  as I was sitting on the deck drinking my morning coffee and thinking that I should have walked down to get the paper before perching myself so enjoyably, I noticed an elderly woman stop at my mailbox, give the ol’ look to the left, look to the right, and proceed to take the paper out of my mailbox and peruse through the thing.  She didn’t just skim the front page, either.  She stopped to ready pieces, at least the first bits of them, and she took the paper apart and checked the covers of the other sections.  She then put the whole thing nicely back together and left the paper in the box for me.  Don’t get me wrong: I have no real problem that she did this, since she left the paper for us to read ourselves.  But watching it all was thoroughly entertaining.

-Rest well, Les Paul.  The inventor of almost everything cool and important (electric guitar, rock n’ roll, multi-track recording…) passed away at the age of 94 on Thursday.  An old cassette tape of him playing that I had bought at a garage sale when I was 14 and just learning the guitar taught me almost instantaneous respect for the capabilities and power of music.

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