Saturday, May 10, 2003
why is doing almost nothing so difficult?
took a private lesson today with the intense carl horowitz. he is another of these "do little" yoga teachers. we really did do very little, almost nothing, and laughed the whole time.
so why was it one of the most difficult yoga classes i have ever taken? i can't tell you what carl's tricks are. we did these simple little tiny vinyasas -- say, lay down for locust pose but with your arms to side, lift up in a t-shape, breathe 5 breaths, come down, do it 5 times, as slowly as possible -- yikes!
surprisingly difficult! then we did those funny little ball exercises. try doing boat pose on a ball. with the ball under your lower back, your head on the floor, bring your legs to your chest and then as slowly as possible move into boat. hold for 5 breaths, then slowly bring your legs back to your chest. do this 5 times, and try not to weep. don't fall off the ball either. . .
while we're on this subject, i also ordered a book on kashmir shaivism after reading an article in namarupa. it should be very interesting; can't wait until it arrives.
Friday, May 09, 2003
absolute must read!
long-time readers know i buy most of my coffee over the 'net, and i assume most of you do too, since not everyone is lucky enough to have a artisan roaster/coffeehouse nearby.
finally coffee guru ken davids has reviewed several popular 'net roasters. this article is a must read.
i'm surprised at his choice of online roasters -- meinl? -- and the absence of many internet favorites. in fact, the only roaster he mentions that i've tried is supreme bean/joe to go. ken notes the coffee had some "musty" tones, but still seems to like it.
heck, i didn't. long-time readers may remember that i gave this coffee away; i had to get it out of my house. . .
Thursday, May 08, 2003
chocolate chocolate chocolate
even tho' i have half a case of bernard castelain 70% macaibo and a good chunk of my beloved el rey bucare here with me, i find my mind drifting to that utter heroin of chocolate, the slitti lattenero.
is it completely decadent to gaze at the chocolate bounty before me and still contemplate ordering a case of the slitti? these are the moral dilemmas of the chocoholic, dear readers.
montaigne surely must have written an essay about this kind of thing. . .he would tell me that fortune can sometimes be reasonable!
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
mr. coffee in; coke out?
much to my surprise, it appears as if coca-cola may be abandoning its hot coffee efforts. its product was being tested in coke's home town of atlanta, but it seems that has been abruptly cancelled, even tho' it appeared to be fairly popular.
perhaps the name was an issue: viaa cafe. thaat extraa "a" does look aa little odd, no? i have to say that i thought coke could kill in the coffee sector. guess i shouldn't launch my own "lifestyle beverage" anytime soon. . .
as one mega-corp bails, however, another jumps in: the dreaded mr. coffee has launched its own line of ground coffee products. wasn't this an obvious move years and years ago. . .
it will apparently debut this summer. maybe they should have re-thought the timing on this one? still, hey, as above, i obviously know nothing of mass marketing. . .
at least we can cast a forlorn hope into the stratosphere that they will be using sustainable specialty coffee. . .i doubt it tho'. it will probably be even worse than the supermarket cans. . .
but in all fairness to mr. coffee, they do have a nice, plain-english overview section that introduces coffee origins in a nice way. give 'em credit for trying.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
consolations for a prince
many coffee lovers on the 'net know vancouver's mark "coffeekid" prince through his participation in alt.coffee, as well as his web sites, coffeegeek and coffeekid.
he's also been a leader in the drive to create and expand the scaa e-member program, to help better connect the average coffee lover to the coffee pros in a joint effort to increase coffee education, appreciation, and quality.
less than 48 hours ago, mark posted what seem to me to be nothing less than a cri de coeur. clearly, he needs some consolation, a sweet americano for the soul.
therefore i step in to offer mine for each of his points:
- the used car salesmen phenom: i personally did not see this at the recent scaa convention myself. but there's no doubt it exists in all walks of life -- there are people who sell solely for the thrill of exerting power over other people's money, not because they have a quality product, or love the culture of coffee. for these types we offer the law of karma: what goes around comes around. but that law exists for you too mark; the love you're making in the coffee world will bear cherry and come back to you.
- starbucks: yes, perhaps they could be more ethical. and if we see ethical problems, we have to tell the truth about them, since no endeavor is well served by lies. "the truth has power," as a pal of mine likes to say,"it's the most powerful thing." but take heart, mark -- you yourself know that there are people inside of starbucks striving to make difference. we need to connect with those people and help them make the positive changes. let's give these people the support they need; they are already aware of the criticism.
- the italians: true, they are not going to be focused on the home coffee lover. they believe that american fast-food culture -- whereby people crumble candy bars into 1 oz. of coffee, add 17 oz. of cream and call it an espresso drink -- is unbeatable. their own culture is not a coffee-in-the-home culture either. they will never see the home as the focus of the present food revolution that's happening in north america unless we tell them about it, demonstrate it to them, and offer to share it with them. as with the starbucks executives we need to connect with them. "only connect," as e.m. forster said.
- arrogance: again, only a loving-kindness meditation on our own passion for coffee can successfully confront this human tendency. when we go out into the world determined to gently give others the little we have, we all learn. we all benefit. and we melt this arrogance back into a new commitment to quality. i personally felt some of that at the altie reverse panel at the monday session of the recent scaa boston convention.
- scaa politics: the charm and the bane of the specialty coffee industry we currently know and love is that it's stodgy and old-fashioned. it's collegial, consensual, deferential, familial. again, we should love this culture and be patient with it. no doubt some things have to change; they have to make more use of the web; they need perhaps to be a tad more solvent. but we coffee lovers have nowhere else to go. those charmers at the scaa -- with whom both of us mark fell in love at boston -- are the only home we have. and they do reciprocate our feelings mark. again, the work of reform proceeds. you'll be an important part of it and we just need to stay with it, focused, patient.
- the nca and the big four: the reality of the national coffee association cannot be denied. the truth is out there, and it's not pretty. the sad practices of the four global coffee roasters pushing us the supermarket cans -- sara lee, nestle, kraft, p&g -- are well-known. but again, we can make a difference. we simply need to search relentlessly for points where we can either locate or ourselves be agents of change. in one respect, we coffee lovers, the scaa and the nca have one common, over-riding goal: to increase demand. frankly what the nca has that we need is the money to seed the coffee revolution.
there was a time when all cheese in america was velveeta. now they sell fine chevre even in grocery stores in kansas. and so we need now to state our differences with the nca and then stow them, to see where we can move on together. if we can start the culture towards the tipping point, the nca will slowly follow. it will be hard; and it will sometimes feel to ourselves like we're on the verge of selling out. but all we can do is -- here's the totality of my message -- connect with loving-kindness. if only you could come to new york city, mark! the first thing we need to do to kick off this coffee revolution is to have lunch with beelzebub, robert nelson himself.
- the coffee crisis: globalization is a mighty force; and sometimes it seems almost as if there is almost a law of nature causing the price of commodities, like coffee, to descend over time. but we can't give up on the struggling coffee farmers. we have to remember that the market is not a natural force; it is a social structure capable of reform.
unlike many recipients of charity, the coffee workers are not removed from us; they are not far away; they are sitting at our elbows in our cars, kitchen tables, computer keyboards. they actually created that cup themselves and have brought it to us.
we are lucky that we have organizations like coffee kids. but we also have help in other groups, like usaid, and the coffee corps. we need to attack this problem both on the micro-level, as coffee kids does; on the macro-level, as usaid can do; in the global business community, as the ico can do; and also from within the coffee trading sector itself.
recently i spoke to a coffee merchant about possible reforms to the coffee market. he said, "market reform has to come from within -- there needs to be a grassroots campaign to make a difference --" and mark, you and i along with chipper harris at coffeekids, are that grassroots campaign. we are making the difference, and again our love will not be in vain. but this means we will have to carry that love to the traders themselves.
- brasil: again this is an issue of market reforms, of changing economic structures. brasil will soon be a world power and will have moved beyond this stage. in the meantime, we can support change in the coffee sector by actively creating a market for sustainable, organic, shade-grown, bird-friendly etc. coffee of the highest quality. the glass jar of spare change we keep around for coffee is at this time one of the most powerful forces we have. we ourselves must simply use it, while helping others learn to do so as well.
- the old boys club: this too must pass, for the very reason that the boys are in fact old. but they have so much wisdom and a beautiful tradition to share with us. their hearts are not stone; they recognize the light of passion in our eyes. at bottom, they too love coffee and want to pass the true appreciation of fine coffee on to us all. i feel like i'm repeating myself: only by engaging with them in truth and joy will change occur. but once we learn how to do this, the change will be unstoppable.
in the meantime, mark, these are the beliefs to which we must hold with patience, and dare i say, a kind of prayer. . .
Monday, May 05, 2003
the rigourous demands of authentic pizza-making are now taking their toll, even on italians. the 4-week training. the tests. the apprenticeship. the low wages and long hours. . .
thus we here at bccy can't be surprised to read that the true neapolitan pizzaioli are leaving home or abandoning their art. however, it does fill me with deep regret. once italy loses this heritage, it won't be brought back.
the situation is so dire that employment agencies can no longer find adequately certified pizza-makers, and the jobs go begging. all we can hope is that some of these wandering craftsmen make it the u.s.a., where they can open upscale places, make their traditional pizza, and be adequately rewarded for it.
'cuz heaven knows, yuppies will pay. . .
Sunday, May 04, 2003
categories of indian thought
long-time readers and yoga lovers are doing themselves a great disservice if they don't check out the new magazine namarupa.
it's subtitled "categories of indian thought," and while it does contain some weighty pieces of serious yoga philosophy, it also offers beautiful pictorials of the indian culture and landscape. yoga journal it's not -- not that there's anything wrong with yoga journal!
namarupa means "name and form." i think the entire point of the magazine is to show the unity of yoga despite seeming differences in well, name and form. but you don't need a ph.d. in indology to appreciate it.
however it will remind you that your yoga practice is a serious enterprise, one that offers deep ways of considering the world. many people still hold the idea that yoga is no more than fuzzy new-age, feel-good gymnastics.
namarupa wants to remind everyone that yoga is a worldview worthy of respect and study, one that offers useful alternatives to so many ideas currently accepted in the marketplace.
it can only enhance your understanding of your daily physical practice, to my mind. so run on over to namarupa. i was particularly intrigued by the article on swami lakshmanjoo. . .