Starbucks Moderne

Capitalism, despite the hollow claims of “efficiency” of its zealous devotees, has a tendency to create a crap ton of useless and/or ugly objects. Unless you’re cursed with some sort of art background you’ll likely spend your days in blissful ignorance of the details of these objects. But if you’re burdened with a few aesthetic bones in your body, you just can’t stop looking at them. Take, for instance, this forgettable paper coffee cup that Kelly noticed.

Our ancestors would have poured their beverages in a reusable ceramic, metal or wood mug. Some of them might have downed their mead in a blinged out drinking horn. Before that they would have just cupped their hands at the stream. For a moment, let’s let go of the obvious problem of the “externalities” caused by sending this single use object to a landfill and take a close look at the aesthetics of this paper coffee cup.

The style and color pallet is what I call “Starbucks Moderne.” Consider it the committee-driven, focus group vetted, corporate response to the Portlandia “Bad Art Good Walls” routine. You’ll find Starbucks Moderne in the thousands of soulless hotels, “upscale” hospital waiting rooms and bank lobbies that scar our degraded architectural landscape. You’re not supposed to pay attention to Starbucks Moderne but, instead, feel like a mini-Jeff Bezos, subliminally enveloped in a muted pseudo-luxury color palette.

But what’s up with that face? Was the artist not paid enough to bother drawing a face? Is this a stab at corporate cubism? Or is this a mask? Is this a self-portrait of the artist who portrayed themselves wearing a mask as a kind of plea for help or a way of saying, “don’t blame me for this ugly thing?” Kelly actually started drawing a copy of this masked figure in order to understand it but couldn’t figure out what it was about.

The 1990s era curly chair in the background means that this hapless artist is probably of my, largely forgotten and ignored, Generation X. We’re the last generation that can remember a time of lounging in curlycued, overstuffed post-modern furniture, a time before the gig-slave economy. Now we’re hunched over in misery contemplating eking by on Fiverr and Mechanical Turk while the fat-cat masked billionaires enjoy slices of pie and a cup of coffee on the way to their Eyes Wide Shut parties.

Further evidence of the age of the artist or, more likely, that the coffee cup company hasn’t updated its art in 30 years is that there’s a be-crowned figure reading a physical newspaper instead of gigging on Fiverr for pennies an hour on a phone or laptop.

Keep turning the cup and you’ll find more bargain-basement cubism, masked, hegemonic figures and another slice of pie.

Methinks things would change if we prioritized the arts in our schools and people woke up to the sheer horror and ugliness that surround us. That day may yet come. Perhaps the revolution will be led by our blessed ceramics teachers . . .

A Rogue Mariner on the Upper Thames

Roger Barnes describes himself as an architect, writer and artist. But, while he promises to get around to an architectural video someday, he fills his YouTube channel with advise on sailing and camping in a small dinghy. As one of the commenters sums it up, “The more stuff you have in your boat, the less room there is for fun.” Sounds like good, general life advice.

Thankful for the New Rain Garden

One day during a high school English class, here in Southern California where I grew up, it started raining. The entire class spontaneously got up and ran to the window to view the downpour. Our teacher, a transplant from the East Coast, having just lost control of her classroom, looked confused. A moment later I could see in her face that she realized she was dealing with a room full of kids to whom rain is a novelty, something worthy of news reports and, these days, hashtags. Regaining control of her classroom, she patiently explained to us that she came from a place where not only does rain fall from the sky more frequently but that there was something else called “snow.”

This past summer our landscaper, Laramee Haynes and crew installed a rain garden in our backyard and Kelly and I cant stop checking it now that the rainy season has returned. The garden takes the water from the back half of our roughly 1,000 square foot roof. Using this handy online rainfall harvesting calculator, in an average year we could send almost 6,000 gallons of water to our backyard.

We ran a pipe from the rain gutter way back into the yard along a fence. The pipe terminates at a simulated gravel filled stream bed that spills into the rain garden. Kelly has just started planting the wet lower part of the rain garden with native plants including water loving Douglas irises (Iris douglasiana). She planted the dry outer edges with desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), coyote mint (Monardella villosa) and assorted grasses.

Alas, my hopes of building a little boat in which to row back and forth across our new seasonal pond have been dashed by the fact that our soil drains quickly (which is a good thing). We’ll post periodic updates to let you know what worked and what we killed.

Saturday Linkages: Trash Panda Paradise

Jessie Newbery: embroidery as art

Reflections on Larry Korn’s Passing, the Preciousness of Elders, Friendship, Love, Kindness, Care

How to Say I Love You in Greenlandic An Arctic Alphabet

The Secret to a Perfect Hot Glue Mold

Planting the Natural Garden a new book by Piet Oudolf and Henk Gerritsen

Poor Man’s Quinoa

Bernie Sanders, filmstrip entrepreneur

This year, why not serve your turkey with green maraschino cherries and watery looking vegetable juice?

Simple American

Chicken of the Woods

Am I the only person confused by mushroom taxonomy? Root Simple friend, Brother Lee, let us in on a well kept secret stash of delicious Chicken of the Woods mushrooms growing out of a diseased carob tree in a easily accessible public location. Figuring out the scientific name of this particular mushroom has proven a lot more complicated than harvesting.

Chicken of the Woods is listed in Clyde Christensen’s 1943 “Foolproof Four,” easily identifiable edible mushrooms that lack poisonous look-alikes which also includes Puffballs, Morels and Shaggy Mane. Alas, life is more complex and this “foolproof” list has changed over the years as lookalikes were found and DNA testing complicated the mushroom family tree.

In the case of Chicken of the Woods it turns out that what was once considered one species, Laetiporus, might actually be five or six. From what I can tell on the interwebs all are edible but some are associated with nausea in some people. Some mushroom pundits caution against eating Laetiporus found growing on conifers or eucalyptus. The very same mushroom pundits suggest thoroughly cooking all Laetiporus. I can report having consumed a lot of the mushroom we foraged with no ill effects. It was, in fact, one of the most delicious mushrooms I’ve ever consumed. But one should not trust the musings of an aging urban homesteading blogger when foraging for mushrooms. Find yourself a local mushroom nerd or run it past your cats.

That said, don’t be too fearful either or you’ll miss out on a free source of gourmet food. Chicken of the Woods is distinctive and still considered one of the easier mushrooms to identify. And, yes, it really does taste like chicken.