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    Entries in art (16)


    Fairey was here - street art in PDX

    Yesterday, around Northeast 20th and Sandy, this caught my eye:

    Obey the Giant

    Fans of the 2010 documentary, Exit through the Gift Shop, will recognize the image as a rendering of Andre the Giant, created by street artist Shepard Fairey. The film, nominated for an Academy Award, takes a close look at the world of street art. It tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a compulsive videographer living in Los Angeles, who finds himself so intrigued by street artists that he begins following them around, collecting hundreds of hours of footage as they create their art. Fairey is of the artists Guetta captures on video. 

    Produced by legendary street artist Banksy, the film is mystifying. By the end, you are left wondering if is just a documentary, or if it is something more. Did Banksy, who was accused of selling out (for selling his art), create it just to sell more art? The viewer is left to contemplate that question, and two years later, there is still no definitive answer.

    Whether or not you believe street art is a legitimate form of art, there is no question the film is entertaining and forces you to think about the ownership of public spaces. If it were my ad on Sandy that had been painted over and replaced by Fairey’s image, I would be mad. But, since it wasn’t, I can just appreciate the audacity of these artists to challenge us to think differently about the world.  


    Espresso presentation

    It's always nice to receive good service when you visit a café.  This is how the barista served my espreso (at the table, no less!) when I visited the Arbor Lodge yesterday (read about an earlier visit is here). I thought the presentation matched the service. Nice work!


    The Sensuality of Great Coffee

    It is no surprise that people love to drink coffee. The café experience touches all of the five senses, deeply.


    We are attracted to beautiful things, and coffee is no exception. A great café encounter begins with an opening glance. Upon entering a shop, our eyes inform us of the quality of the coffee that is to come.

    Seated at a corner table, we observe the café surrounding us. A skilled barista works efficiently behind the bar, her hands moving deftly between machine, milk and cup. She gently sways the milk pitcher as she pours its contents into the espresso, casting delicate sepia-toned rosettes on the surface of a latte. Velvety foam rests on top of a cappuccino, blanketing the drink like a down comforter on a cold winter morning. The thick, brown crema on the surface of an espresso glistens with the flavor oils trapped inside it.

    On the pour-over bar, steady-handed baristas pour delicate, even streams of water in smooth spiral patterns, coaxing out the complex flavors contained in the mahogany-colored grounds. At one end of the bar, a vacuum pot sits on top of the counter, a throwback to an earlier time in this modern setting. Brought to life by a brilliant orange infrared lamp, tiny bubbles cling to the side of the pot as the water heats up, glowing in the neon light. When the temperature breaks the boiling point, the pot transforms into a cauldron of angry lava, bubbling and bursting on the surface.  The vacuum pot mesmerizes all who gaze upon it and curious customers cannot help but stare in awe.   


    Coffee has a bouquet of fragrances that attract people to it, and a good café delights your olfactory senses with the smell of freshly-ground coffee. The aroma is sweet and fruity, smoky and earthy. When the barista grinds a new batch of beans for the brewer, a wave of aroma washes out across the café. The smell envelopes you, enticing your taste buds in anticipation of the first sip of a freshly-brewed cup.


    Beans rasp loudly as they fall from brown paper bags into the grinders’ hoppers. The grinder whirrs aggressively, growling out the fresh coffee into the basket below it. A loud thud reverberates through the café as the barista knocks spent espresso out of the portafilter Steam bursts out of the wand into the milk with a thump, then hisses and whooshes as it whips the milk into a cloud of frenzied bubbles.

    Nearby, a miniature metal spoon scrapes the side of a ceramic cup, clinking softly as it mixes sugar into espresso. In some cafés, the din of a bulky black roaster dominates, and customers must raise their voices to be heard by the people across the table from them. Lovers longing to whisper secrets or engage in quiet conversation content themselves to communicate with their eyes and expressions. Coffee beans pop and crackle as they flow out of the roaster’s drum, each bean still burning inside. They calm quickly, as fresh air pulled by powerful fans is drawn across them.


    Your hands gently cradle a cup that is too hot to hold securely. The crema of an expertly-poured shot of espresso is silky smooth, lightly coating your mouth with a delicate film of flavor that keeps the memory of the coffee on the tip of your tongue. When you lift a cappuccino to your mouth, your lips note the warm smoothness of the ceramic mug, followed by the billowy softness of the milk. It is like burying your face in the soft, warm crook of a lover’s neck. The flavors of a full-bodied French press coffee swell inside the mouth, continuing to expand even after the coffee has long since disappeared.


    The climax of the coffee experience is the moment when the coffee finally reaches your mouth. Single-origin coffees can be refreshingly simple, with notes of stone fruits or berries or citrus. Blends are more complex, defined by the regions from which they came. Certain coffees are earthy, like the leaves that cover the ground in the fall. Other coffees are chocolaty and luscious. Some remind you of nothing more than coffee, but the flavor brings back something from your past, perhaps time spent with an old friend. Great coffee, whether it is brewed, poured or combined with milk delights the taste buds, sends them into ecstasy.

    Sensory and sensual—both words describe the ideal café experience. Coffee satisfies the craving that began when you walked into the café, or perhaps when you rolled out of bed with coffee on your mind. It stimulates your senses and sometimes, even your soul.


    A study in cappuccino art

    This was the cappuccino that the artist at Case Study made me today. It was so beautiful I wanted to share it with you. 

    Made with lots of care

    The espresso was a single-origin from the Duromina region of Ethiopia. It was ‘juicy’ (citrusy), and even with the milk, the acidity came through. Overall, quite nice.


    Coffee(ish) Links for July8

    It’s been a slow week around here for posting articles. I have had my head buried in a couple other projects, including learning everything I can about cold coffee, a summertime favorite.

    Speaking of summer, it came and left this week. Hope you enjoyed it.

    The biggest coffee news of the week in the Portland area was the fireworks-caused fire that caused thousands of dollars of damage to Barista (the café) on Alberta Street. The fire didn’t keep the shop closed for long, thanks to Stumptown, who loaned Barista its mobile coffee cart until the café is repaired (photo here).

    This New York Times article discusses the growing market for iced coffee. Stumptown gets a mention for its new “stubbies”.

    Investors in the stock market know the difficulties of trying to pick the correct companies for investing. An article from CNBC yesterday presents the arguments for and against buying Starbucks stock. One of the analysts interviewed was quoted as saying that “Starbucks needs to clearly define their long-term vision ‘to become a food conglomerate rather than merely coffee.’” Hmm...

    Is the use of the internet for news taking us back in time? The Economist compares interactive online news with the coffee shops of the 18th and 19th centuries.

    When you go to a coffee shop, do you notice the art on the walls? Apparently, some coffee shop art in San Francisco has stirred quite a debate over what should and should not go up on the walls of a café.

    Speaking of coffee shop art, I saw this not too long ago on a café wall around town. Rubber chicken art.

    Let the debate commence.


    #Trust30 Day 11 – Imitation is what?

    [To find out why I am writing all these #Trust30 posts, click here]

    Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours?” –Fabian Kruse (the Friendly Anarchist)


    Emerson’s quote is a pretty absolute statement. By trying to be someone else, you lose yourself, and you might as well no longer be alive. The great ones know this. They are inimitable, with a style that sets them apart. As soon as Elvis opens his mouth to sing, you know who it is.

    The concept reminds me of learning to play the guitar. At one time in my life, I aspired to be a musician. I spent hours trying to play songs in the same way that Eric Clapton and others did. I grew frustrated when I couldn’t reproduce the sounds I heard. My fingers moved too slowly, my tone was not clean enough and eventually I gave up trying.

    Looking back, I would approach music very differently.

    Click to read more ...


    Welcome to the #Trust30 Challenge

    This evening I accepted the Trust Yourself Writing Challenge that was sent out by Seth Godin’s Domino Project. It is a pledge to write or create something (and share it with people) every day for 30 days, based on a prompt sent out by a famous (or semi-famous) author. The challenge is in honor of the 208th birthday of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his book Self Reliance. Each day for the next month, I plan to create something and post it on this blog. Some days it will be short and others it will be long, but I will post something every day by midnight relating to the challenge. In addition, I will continue to write about coffee and art and other topics.

    Today’s prompt was this: “You just discovered you have 15 minutes to live. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write the story that needs to be written.”

    As soon as I clicked the I accept button for the challenge, I immediately had some doubts about my ability to complete the challenge. Why would I want to do something like this? Would I really be able to do it? What was I thinking? Then I told myself to shut up and get to work. There’s no time for doubt, only creating.

    I recently read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, an excellent book that I wish I would have read fifteen years earlier. Had I learned and applied the principles in the book, I am sure that I would have been able to be more successful in reaching my goals in life. The most memorable section for me was the part where Pressfield talks about becoming a professional. One of the things that Pressfield says about professionals is that they do not overidentify with their jobs, meaning that although what they do may be important to them, at the end of the day what they do is not who they are.

    When you identify too much with what you do (the amateur mentality), you become so invested in it that the fear of failing paralyzes you. Professionals look at what they do with a cool rationality and as a result, can focus on improving their craft, not worrying about how many failures they have along the way..

    I can see how the amateur’s attitude affected me when I used to play basketball. Basketball was so important to me that each missed shot during practice was a sign of a personal failure. Putting this type of pressure on myself to be perfect was counterproductive and led to a lot of self-doubt and negative thoughts. Had I taken more of a professional’s mentality, I would have looked at each practice session as an opportunity to improve my skills, instead of a judgment about how I was.

    Trying to be perfect and then getting upset when you are not is not going to make you successful. Working like hell to learn your craft, while continually learning from your mistakes is. This is a lesson I learned way later than I should have, so as I look forward to this 30-day challenge, the goal is not to be perfect, but instead to create something that I feel is worth creating and to improve my writing every day. There may be some hits and misses along the way, but come what may, I’m going to put it out there, because writing is something that I do, it is not who I am.

    This is the story that needed to be written today (though I admit it did take a little longer than 15 minutes to write).