Saturday, May 19, 2007


Chocolate has been my drug of choice for as long as I can remember needing one of those. I have standards, of course-- it has to be dark, it has to be smooth, and these days, it mostly has to be sugar-free. I have a less stable, on again, off again relationship with coffee. Nowadays, it's on again, mostly in the form of hazelnut lattes (sugar-free, again-- I am good PCOSer). Which is by way of saying that as of late, I have had in my possession a rather large number of Starbucks cups.

It seems that some time ago a marketing genius at Starbucks must've decided that there was entirely too much white space on the cups, that people's natural instinct when drinking coffee is to read something, and that people would indeed be so famished for that something! anything! to read that they would gladly read their own coffee cups. Thus, The Way I See It, a series of musings by people famous, semi-famous, and made only a tiny bit semi-famous by the appearance of their very saying in print, so to speak, was born. Interestingly, nobody thought that putting a bookshelf with some books for customers to read while at the shop was a good idea.

Anyway, I must admit that the marketing genius definitely earned his money's worth yesterday-- I went on the Starbucks website and read through every single way someone or other sees it. Oddly, these are numbered 198 to 253. There are also several two-digit numbers reserved for so-called featured authors, who, in addition to having their way of seeing it (summarized succinctly enough to fit on a coffee cup, of course), along with their photographs displayed on the website, also get a screen's worth of an interview. So I was basically that marketing genius's wet dream-- a customer who is hooked by the cup to peruse the website for a rather prolonged period of time.

Julie, she of Great Snark, has already contemplated the road these quips take might take from that fateful click of the mouse to your very own cup, so I shall leave that part alone. And perhaps, as she already so masterfully worked it over, I should leave the whole subject alone. But, as is so often the case with me, I can't.

Having wasted spent some time on the website, I concluded that while The Way I See It is not a newspaper, it is a fine example of what passes for journalism in these here United States. First, it apparently likes to show "both sides of the issue," and thus contains quotes from Dr. Laura (#205)and Randi Rhodes (#239), from Jonah Goldberg (#22) (we will be back to this one, I promise) and President Carter (#205), from Dr. Jonathan Wells (#224) and David Quammen (#220). Second, it apparently doesn't want to appear elitist, and thus contains quotes from both famous people and Starbucks customers, the latter presumably being their best approximation to the average Joe. And although I have resolved not to take the particular detour that leads into the discussion of why this approach to journalism is a bad idea, I will just say that there are topics that do not have a legitimate opposing opinion, such as, oh say, theory of evolution, and that not every Joe is possessed of profound yet folksy wisdom.

To wit, there's this gem, #236, from Joseph Palm, a Starbucks customer from Oshkosh, Wisconsin:

Scientists tell us we only use 5% of our brains. But if they only used 5% of their brains to reach that conclusion, then why should we believe them?

Do I even need to go into the explanation of the scientific process and the way we know what we know, or should I just stick with the way-too-easy quip about how some of us apparently use our 5% somewhat more efficiently than others? Yeah, I know you saw that one coming.

Of course, the ones that really raise my heart rate (don't tell my doctors, ok?) are the plain stupid ones. Let me show you a couple of examples, ok? First, I promised you we will get back to Jonah Goldberg, didn't I? So here goes, #22:

Everywhere, unthinking mobs of “independent thinkers” wield tired clichés like cudgels, pummeling those who dare question “enlightened” dogma. If “violence never solved anything,” cops wouldn’t have guns and slaves may never have been freed. If it’s better that 10 guilty men go free to spare one innocent, why not free 100 or 1,000,000? Clichés begin arguments, they don’t settle them.

I will leave the analysis of why it seems to be fashionable to celebrate the anti-intellectualism to those better qualified. I will personally stick with ranting--it's just more fun. See, Mr. Goldberg, he made a bet (scroll to the bottom two paragraphs) once, a bet about whose judgment is superior. As the measure of that judgment, he offered his prediction for the future of Iraq two years on from the date of the offer. The future of Iraq as a result of the war he didn't fight in, because, you know, he had a Very Lame Reason, but had no compunctions whatsoever about sending other people's children to die in-- that war. However, when history, sadly but predictably, proved that whereof he speaks, Mr. Goldberg knows not even a little, he didn't have the intestinal fortitude to own up. So I ask you, what do I care how the man with the truly pathetic judgement and no spine sees it? And shouldn't lack of either one of those attributes, not to mention both simultaneously, permanently bar him from that apparently coveted place on my coffee cup? Or, at the very least, from being a featured author, the title that allowed him to hurt my brain some more?

Look, I get that the company doesn't want to alienate consumers based on their political affiliation, but couldn't they at least pick someone not quite so full of his own bad self?

I have a couple more. Ready? Well, here they come anyway:

#204: Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. Never forget your Personal Legend. Never forget your dreams. Your silent heart will guide you. Be silent now. It is the possibility of a dream that makes life interesting. You can choose between being a victim of destiny or an adventurer who is fighting for something important. -- Paulo Coelho, Novelist.

So is it the fear of failure that makes some women have undetected ectopics and loose their tubes? Just asking...

#212: Patience is a virtue, life is a waiting game. Peace must be nurtured, and all the money in the world can buy you nothing. Let me tell you that. -- Corinne Bailey Rae, Musician.

Don't you just know that Miss Rae never needed money for an IVF? But hey, don't you know, if you are patient and relaxed, it will just happen? Of course it will.

#229: What is to be will be, sure to come true. -- Peter Frampton, Guitarist.

Do you know how much money Mr. Frampton just saved me? I don't have to take those stupid prenatal vitamins, or the PCOS meds, or even see a doctor-- it will happen if it's supposed to happen. Simple, see?

#238: Have you noticed that dogs are the new kids? You take a walk with your kid and your dog, but nobody says, “What a cute kid!” Instead they say, “What a cute dog! What’s his name? Is he a rescue?” Maybe if I put a collar and leash on my kid someone will notice her. -- Judy Gruen, Humorist and author of The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement.

If only, Judy, if only.

#251: A mature person is one who can say: My parents may have made some mistakes raising me, but they did the best they could: now it’s up to me. --Shannon Fry
Starbucks customer from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Some parents do much worse than the best they could. Glad you never met anyone like that, Shannon.

And here comes my favorite, the one that made me go to the website in the first place. This gem comes to us from Bill Scheel, Starbucks customer from London, Ontario. He describes himself as a "modern day nobody."

#247: Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.

For the sake of all that is holy, have people not hear of cancer? I get that most have not heard of child loss and think that infertility happens when evil career women put off childbirth too long, but cancer? Or can we cause that too?

All these quotes, what they have in common seems to be the inability to notice the exceptions, to acknowledge that generalizations can hurt people to whom they do not apply. This is what we are, the exceptions. Easy to miss, easy to hurt. Noticing us, acknowledging us, is not easy. And if you do, your quote may not fit on a coffee cup anymore. Maybe I should stop reading the coffee cups then. Maybe. But once is a while they can surprise you, kinda like so:

#246: Sometimes good art is simply creating an honest mess. -- Stacy D. Flood, Writer and Starbucks customer from Redmond, Washington.


Bon said...

hear, hear Julia. i had to read this twice just to really take in all that you're saying, all the fury and heartbreak and sense of invisibility and frustration fueling it...and all i am left with is, i know. i know. it makes me want to harm people sometimes, with their sunny little lives and their platitudes...makes me wish i could come bouncing up and burst their little bubble, hard.

you, however, seem to have taken a more mature path...making a case for why their delusions are fallacies. well put, all of it. i thank you for finding words for what i've never quite been able to.

we don't have a Starbucks here in the back ass of beyond...i think i'm suddenly just as glad.

Sara said...

Were you in my living room two nights ago, Julia? Josh and I were talking about marketing anti-intellectualism, but in reference to the book 1421 rather than Starbucks.

#229: What is to be will be, sure to come true. -- Peter Frampton, Guitarist.

Oh, that comment makes me more nauseas than the fertilizer smell emanating from my neighbor's yard today.

Shannon Fry - I must say I have been gifted with a great maturity for most of my life. Yes, my admiration for my parents' parenting efforts is all about me.

niobe said...

Thanks for reading all these cups so that we don't have to.

At the Starbucks I usually end up at, they do in fact have a bookshelf full of books for customers to read. I almost stole An Introduction to Urdu, but, at the last minute, I put it back.

Lori said...

It's amazing how pithy and wise something can sound until you have even a millisecond of life experience and you realize that nothing can be summed up that easily.

I actually love quotes in general, as evidenced by my frequent use of them on my blog, but even a lot of the ones I like I don't necessarily agree with. Funny.

Aurelia said...

Thank you Julia. As you know, I think Starbucks sucks, and of course, those cups! Yes, it IS possible to contain all of human knowledge in 15 words or less. *eyeroll*

wannabe mom said...

I am still cracking up! I was thinking of doing a deep dive into the Sbucks cups but I'm glad I waited to read it on your blog. :)

and i'm late...thank you, i think, for the tag...and have a wonderful trip.

Anonymous said...

You seem to have this bitter attitude towards life. I don't mean to be critical towards you, and I don't want to be criticized by you for writing this, but I just want to say that I am truly sorry...I'm sorry about the death and stillbirth of your son, but also of your outlook on life. These people, and I am taking the liberty to assume right now, do not believe these quotes apply to every life situation but you must admit, they CAN be good advice when it comes to CERTAIN situations...obviously they do not apply to yours, and many others. I do not think anyone thinks believing in these inspirational quotes can/will make life perfect, but you can't attack something as simple as "patience is a virtue" for it is a GOOD thing - no one is promising that it will cure every hardship. These quotes do make some sense if you look at them through a certain perspective. Have a good day :)

Aurelia said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'll bet $50 you work at Starbucks, and it shows. Next time, show some class and leave a real name and email. Otherwise, f^&* off and leave Julia alone!