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Starbucks: my corporate coffee habit | Ana Marie Cox December 10, 2011

I’m not even defensive about it anymore: I love Starbucks. It’s not that I don’t appreciate mom-and-pop stores, or quirky local specialities, or that I like long stretches of American highways morphing into indistinguishable blurs of chain restaurants and big-box stores. I just want a good latte. Especially around this time of year, when it can be a gingerbread latte.

Comment’s advent calendar of goodwill

  1. Who or what will be praised in this season of goodwill? Each morning till Christmas Eve, Guardian and Observer columnists reveal their choices – prepare to be surprised …

No, it’s more than that: I want a good (perhaps seasonal) latte, a clean bathroom, the opportunity to purchase a low-fat muffin, and background music that has been scientifically engineered to appeal to my exact age and demographic. (They sell copies of the handmade T-shirt that Kurt Cobain wore on Saturday Night Live at a discount chain; I have given up on the notion that my taste preferences can outpace unironic co-optation.) I want all that, and I am willing to pay the price in cash as opposed to spending the time to find the perfect mom-and-pop coffee shop with mismatched mugs, a store cat, and daily trivia contests.

Also, I grew up in the midwest: I know better than most how hard those places are to find.

I have a vague notion Starbucks practises a form of corporate responsibility (oxymoron, right? Or maybe simply a very low bar) – something about rainforests and recycled tissue paper, I’m guessing. I think maybe it’s an OK place to work? But I’ve been around the progressive movement long enough to know that 1) no corporation does as much good as they say they are doing, and 2) whatever it is they’re doing wrong I will probably not find about until it’s too late.

I used to try to justify my corporate coffee habit with a calculus based on how coffee made me a more productive writer, and my writing, surely, my writing is a fist in the face of capitalism! Then, at some point in the past 10 years, I started tweeting about my pets and my pants and using my journalism salary to buy shoes unsuitable for medium-distance strolls, much less marches. My writing sometimes points a very accusing finger at things that are upsetting to liberals, except when I look in the mirror.

Starbucks showed up in the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, actually. The New York Times reported that reporters, protesters and cops brushed shoulders in a store located near Zuccotti Park. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz went on record concerned about America having “either lost our conscience, or lost our soul”. And apparently the nutcracker on the new holiday cup looks a lot like it’s wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. This is fantastic news for anarchists and avant garde children’s ballet directors looking for a twist on their Tchaikovsky. I just wonder if it comes in a venti.

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Election ennui already | Ana Marie Cox December 2, 2011

Maybe we were spoiled by such an exciting and tumultuous early race, and maybe it’s just me (it is often “just me”), but I’m having trouble finding a new way to talk about the current state of the GOP contest.

Newt is arrogant and corrupt; Cain in is flustered and philandering; Perry continues to set records for how many marbles he can hold in his mouth; and Mitt … Mitt is downloading his new firmware.

Outside of the GOP, the topics are only a little less tired. Occupy Wall Street contracts into a slogan; Republicans cling to the notion that not raising taxes on the richest folks is somehow a winning platform; and people in authority turn out to have dark and troubling secrets.

My cynicism is showing, it’s true, but I’m open to suggestions: given the reruns on my computer screen now, what else should I be watching?

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