Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

November 2004

GeneralTuesday, November 30th, 2004, (11:32 am)

It seems that $5.3 billion mega-coffee-corp Starbucks has managed to land itself in hot water, so to speak, with its new Starbucks-branded premium coffee liqueur product that’s currently being test-marketed in Denver and Austin, Texas.

It seems that out of the few who know about the new alcoholic Starbucks drink, some are more than a little annoyed at the Seattle based Coffee giant for getting into a liquor market, even if it is just a liqueur.

According to the Rocky Mountain News, one such person is 46-year-old Zach Mann who owns a pizza place in the mountain outpost of Paonia. Mann feel that Starbucks should not be in the liquor business, as the brand is heavily aimed at the lucrative coffee-sipping youth market. He says “This is the equivalent of McDonald’s putting a beer stand in front of their playground.”

Mann goes on to say “I have no problem with alcohol, I have trouble with irresponsible use of alcohol, and so, irresponsible marketing of alcohol.” And it would appear that he isn’t short of passion. Along with others opposed to the new drink, Mann spent $5,000 renting a vacant lot near a Starbucks then filling it with more than 2,400 crosses to represent youths aged 15 to 20 killed in auto accidents across America in 2003 due to underage drinking. He has also set up a website to further his protest at

Starbucks themselves rebut the claims made by Mann, stating that the liqueur cannot be purchased in Starbucks stores and won’t be advertised there either. Speaking for the company Audrey Lincoff said “It [the liqueur] is clearly directed toward a mature consumer.”

The premium coffee liqueur product will be available for sale at licensed establishments, such as restaurants, bars, and retail outlets where premium distilled spirits are sold. The product will not be sold in Starbucks retail stores.

“Extending the Starbucks brand into new channels is part of our long-term growth strategy,” said Orin Smith, Starbucks president and CEO. “Many of our customers already enjoy coffee liqueur and would consider a Starbucks-branded coffee liqueur to be best-of-class.”

The Jim Bean Starbucks-branded liqueur is set to be launched across America in March 2005 if the current market tests are successful.

FOOTNOTE: As per the Pulp Fiction “Royale with Cheese” quote, it’s worth noting that across Europe (though not in the UK) McDonald’s do actually sell beer with their combo-meals. As yet no studies have proved that Euro-kids are any more likely to become ‘fall down drunks’ than American kids. The legal age to purchase alcohol across Europe is also far lower than America (from 16 – 18 years old).

Starbucks Coffee
Zach Mann’s
Marin Insititute
Rocky Mountain news article

PoliticalSunday, November 28th, 2004, (4:19 am)

As America tucked into its Thanksgiving turkey on Thursday many of the residents of Falluja in occupied Iraq began returning to what remains of their family homes. Much of the city has been reduced to rubble as US troops carried out air-raids and combed the streets raiding every building, looking for so called “Insurgents”.

Of course operations continue in the area which is still regarded by the military as a rebel stronghold, and as fighting continues the news of casualty numbers remains smudged by all sides. As a recent BBC news report explains, some Iraqis praise what they see as swift, resolute action by the US-led forces against the rebels, others are condemning the huge loss of life.

Of course, as good as I feel the BBC are at reporting the news, I sometimes feel that with military reporting restrictions, and possibly political motives playing a part, the news we see in England (and especially the news shown on American networks) may in actual fact be ‘watering down’ the true horror of this war that was initially fought under the claims that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

To that end I decided to occasionally review the coverage of this war from a Middle Eastern perspective through the regions biggest and most influential news network, Aljazeera. Their coverage is often far more gritty and graphic but not as unbalanced as I, for some reason, initially thought it would be.

In their special report on Falluja 2004, Aljazeera publish pictures that I am quite sure would provoke outrage amongst British and American people if those same pictures were to adorn the front pages of our newspapers and news websites. That outrage would come from two entirely different directions. One from a revulsion at the horror of the result of the US-led assault, and another from the fact that people don’t want to be confronted by these terrible images vividly depicting death and destruction.

As I read about the Iraq war and see it on TV, I can’t help but think about the innocent people who are seeing their lives ruined, their homes levelled by bombs, their friends and loved ones killed and labelled as ‘collateral damage.’ Their misery is so far away from me that it is quite incomprehensible. Media coverage alone does little to make the reality of this terrible war anything other than just another news story that has little, if any, effect on my day to day life.

Then I saw a picture of an American soldier using a hand-held metal detector on a little girl as she stood at a roadside checkpoint. With her arms outstretched for the search she looks at the soldier with the eyes of an innocence that is surely being eroded by the upheaval taking place in her life. Another picture shows two young boys looking at an American soldiers machine gun. Divided by their age, and their culture, these two little boys now stand behind another dividing line made of barbed wire that lies between them and their supposed liberator.

I can’t even begin to imagine what childhood must be like for these children who must already be tragically familiar with sights most of us wish never to see for ourselves. I can only hope that some semblance of normality will return to Iraq quickly, but this war that the President of the United States declared to be over some 18 months ago, looks like it still has a long way to go. And even after the bombs have stopped exploding, and the bullets have stop flying, Iraq will most likely take many years to fully recover from the devastating effects of such a bitter conflict. Certainly for the countries children now, a ‘normal’ childhood will never be a reality. War has stolen their years of innocence, and time will never be able to give them back.

Aljazeera : Special report : Falluja 2004
Aljazeera : Iraq under occupation
BBC : What do Iraqis think about Falluja
BBC : US ‘alienating’ world’s Muslims
BBC : Pictures of Falluja under siege

MusicWednesday, November 24th, 2004, (2:50 pm)

I got U2’s latest album with a name so silly I can’t bring myself to write it. My first impressions is that the album is “bloody excellent!” But then being in my early 30’s it’s something of a given that the chances are I would be in to U2. But it seems I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this album, plenty of other people are singing its praises too.

However, earlier today i was made to feel old by a 17 year old girl who I was giving a ride to. She’s the apprentice from the hairdressers downstairs, a sweet girl who is always up on the latest fashions and fads. Pretty typical of a 17 year old I would have thought.

I began telling her how much I am enjoying the latest U2 album and she asked “U who?”
“U2.” I said.
“U what?”
“Is that a band or something?” She replied.
I shot a look across at her to check and see if she was just winding me up, but no, her face said she was dead serious. She honestly had no idea who U2 were.
“Hello, U2, only like the biggest rock band in the world. You know Bono, Edge etc etc.”
“Boney?” She said with a puzzled tone.
“No, Bono. You know… Bono!” I said with the hint of disbelief of her ignorance in my voice.
“Is Bono a band?” She asked.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could anyone in the western world not know who Bono is.
“No, Bono is the lead singer of U2.” I explained
“Bono is his name? Err. Hello… Stupid name alert.” Came the sarcastic response of a person who was making me feel very old.
“Yeah, kuz Eminem is such a great name isn’t it.” It wasn’t the best retort, but you have to understand I was somewhat bowled over.
She snatched back with a sharp voiced response.
“It’s better than Boney 2!” And with that where could I go. I was sitting in the car with a girl who thought that one of the worlds most successful rock bands was called ‘Boney 2’.

It reminded me of a similar situation when I was a similar age to her. I was being given a ride home by my boss who was tapping his fingers to some music that I brashly labelled as “utter rubbish.” it turns out that the music was that of Led Zepplin. “I though a Led Zepplin was a motorbike” I said in all seriousness.

The next day I was given three Led Zepplin tapes made the previous night by my boss. He instructed me to go into the back room and listen to all three of them back to back in order to “redress the imbalance and give me some perspective.”

I never became a fan of Led Zepplin and never really appreciated my then bosses enthusiasm for their, as I thought, “dreary” music. In the same way I doubt that 17 year old Lucy will rush out and buy the latest U2 CD. Instead she is more likely to download some hip hop that has all the content and merit of a musical McChicken nasty produced by the same factory that has just released the comically titled ‘very best of Britney Spears’ as if that were at all possible.

I guess if ever I needed a reminder of the fact that I was 17 a long time ago, that was it.

U2’s website
U2 log
The complete U2 on iTunes

GeneralTuesday, November 23rd, 2004, (4:10 pm)

I just want to say that I truly do love my life. I am so fortunate to have a great deal of freedom and flexibility in my work, allowing me to pick and choose when to work, and when to live life.

This afternoon I found myself not far from the beach as the sun began to set shortly before four o’clock. I was about to drive back to the studio and work when I decided to forego that in order to go to the beach and watch the sunset instead.

I’ve written about that before of course, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that this is one of my most treasured ways to watch time go by. This evenings sunset was deeply atmospheric. The usually quiet beach was completely deserted and the cold crisp air was motionless allowing me to hear the seagulls chatter in the distance.

I sat on the hood of my car and lit one of the cigars I have in my car specifically for moments such as these. I don’t smoke ordinarily, but these are what I call ‘cigar moments’, where you allow time to wash over you slowly, bathing in each passing minute as if in a warm relaxing bath, simply enjoy the moment for what it is.

A plane traced its way across the sky heading over the Irish Sea, Ireland and out toward the vast stretch of Atlantic Ocean. I gave it a little wave and said “Have a good trip… no, have a great trip.”

And as the sun disappeared with the biting cold snapping at its heals, I wandered back to the warmth of my car enjoying the last few wisps of smoke from my cigar. I would continue the day having just seen what could have been a secret sunset, revealed to me, the only person on the beach at that moment.


A little movie I made after watching a sunset one evening
Another movie of similarly caught moments by me

Found on the webMonday, November 22nd, 2004, (6:13 pm)

She’s just what a red blooded male might want from a bar steward, or whatever the latest politically correct term is for a barmaid.’s virtual bartender is female, blonde, smiling with shiny white teeth that are almost as big as her womanhoods hidden under a tight white T-shirt.

But perhaps unlike so many of the bartenders us males might want to ask to make wishes come true, she actually will take instructions and carry out ‘tasks’. For example ask her for a beer and she’ll bring you one. As her to dance on the bar and she’ll do just that. As her to pout and she’ll do that too. however, those might be some of the last things that the male population ask her to do, and she’s quite accommodating in all kinds of ways.

So far we’ve managed to have her lap-dance, work out, fights, kiss us, pillow fight with another girl and even kiss that girl too! It’s all in the name of fun but would probably be enough to blow the gasket of George Bush’s loyal supporters.

Now if only I could get the girls at the bar I sometimes work in to do the same… oh, hang on… ;-)

Click here to see the virtual bartender.

MusicFriday, November 19th, 2004, (2:21 pm)

Can’t ugly people sing? You’d think not if you survived on a diet of MTV and pulp radio. It seems these days in order to ensure your place in the musical limelight, you need to slap on the make-up, whip of your clobber and pout like a porn-queen. At that stage it really doesn’t matter if you can sing or if you can’t because no one is really listening anyway, there simply goggling your jiggly bits (which hopefully don’t have excess jiggle).

Anastasia, Kylie, Madonna, Christina Augiuarialiarioai (or however it is you say her name), and loads of others have been patching into that old adage that ‘sex sells’. But can they really sing? Well, yes. But are they where they are simply because they have a great butt or nice set of silicones? If they weren’t doing things to guitars that guitars weren’t invented for would someone else with less sex appeal and more talent be there instead?

There is plenty of evidence that this epidemic of hard bodied nearly naked (or completely naked) ‘singers’ is something new. In bygone years anyone with a good voice could release a record, because in truth you weren’t likely to know what they looked like because you would only ever hear them on the radio. The first you would ever see of them was when you bought their record, and even then only if they had a picture of themselves it. At this point they could be as ugly as sin but you wouldn’t care because you were buying their music based upon nothing more than just that, the music.

Then MTV came along and spoiled everything for those with bad hair and double chins. Somehow it’s hard to imagine the likes of ‘Country Crunch’ in some Jacko style choreographed dance video, crutch thrusting their way into the top 40. With MTV came the need to have ‘an image’. And these days image is a big business. You can bet that Christina Awgoolmaleria didn’t come up with that ‘I’ll get my kit off’ idea all on her own. No sir! Someone somewhere is earning boat loads of money getting these pop stars naked. I’m not saying that the beautiful people have no talent and can’t sing. But wouldn’t it be good if there was a little less dross to sand to sift through before you found the gems.

Tonight I am going to Manchester to see one of music less beautiful people play live. No-one could say that my ‘chum’ Josh Ritter has his looks to thank for his success. A series of lucky breaks launched Josh to relative stardom, albeit not to the same heady altitudes of Christina Ooogliareailia. His latest record, Hello Starling, continues to enjoy critical acclaim around the world which he is now seeing thanks to it’s success.

They’ll be no Jacko style crutch thrusting, or shirt ripping moments. But the beer will be in full flow which will loosen up the vocal chords of those in attendance I’m sure. And should I feel that I am in need of the sight of flesh, there’s always MTV when I get back home.

Josh Ritter’s ‘Hello Starling’ on
Josh Ritter’s ‘Hello Starling’ on iTunes
Josh’s website
AUDIO : NPR reviews Josh Ritter’s music.

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