The Frappuccino – A Glorified Milkshake

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Yes, this is another blog about Starbucks. I must be intrigued. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve finished reading the book, Starbucked, by Taylor Clark, and yet there is so much that still resonates with me. I want to dislike Starbucks for its ubiquitous nature alone, and for taking away the unique character of every town in this country, or more accurately, the world. There aren’t many places you can step off a plane, walk out of an airport, and not find a Starbucks within a twenty-mile radius (chances are a Starbucks, or two, will be inside the airport).

But to be fair, Starbucks isn’t the only American corporation plopping its banal stores across multiple culturally-diverse nations. This blog isn’t to rag on Starbucks (maybe) or rant about why we should consciously buy Fair Trade coffee over non-Fair Trade coffee. The debate about how the free market has created a huge surplus of coffee beans, causing the price to plummet so low that coffee growers have burned millions of pounds of their own product because they can’t make a living selling what takes them years to grow, will not happen here – at least not now.

I’m dedicating this blog to the Frappuccino.

Do you know how the Frappuccinno was created? I didn’t know either until I read this book. First, what is a Frappuccino? After some research it seems that a Frappuccino is nothing more than a glorified milkshake, but as of 2007 data, Starbucks makes more than a billion dollars from the Frappuccino alone.

Damn, those people who invented the “Frap” must be raking in the dough, right? Um…sadly, they’re not.

The Frappuccino was invented in a Southern California Starbucks store in 1994. Two managers of a Santa Monica Starbucks wanted to do something to put bodies in their establishment that found itself mostly empty by the afternoon. Apparently, not many people favored sipping on hot coffee under the midday blistering sun. So managers, Anne Ewing and Greg Rogers, began experimenting with a blender and concocted a drink made up of half and half, regular sugar, espresso, ice, vanilla powder, and chocolate powder – all ingredients lying around the store.

It didn’t even take a special delivery to create a billion-dollar plus drink.

Only months after they began serving this sweetened-chilled chocolate potion to their sweaty customers, it was making up thirty-percent of the store’s sales. Starbucks added to the blend and then presented it to all its stores in April 1995 – and sales took off.

How did Starbucks express their gratitude to the original creators of the drink that was boosting company profits to astronomical levels? By giving them a $5,000 bonus, a President’s Award glass statue, and a Rolex.

What!!!?? Five grand? Seriously?? A bonus no less than six-figures would have been the least the company should have offered. I know. I know. The managers received a Rolex, but that Rolex came only after complaints. Which means those greedy bastards at Starbucks thought $5,000 and a $ucking glass statue was a sufficient enough exchange for a billion dollar-generating drink. And this from a company who charges four dollars for a cup of coffee that costs pennies to make.  $uck you, Starbucks.

I’d be pissed and bitter too, even after that Rolex. There’s a story where one of the original creators was in a store and he pointed to a bottled pack of Frappuccino for sale and told the stranger next to him that he invented that drink. She laughed in his face and walked away. Maybe she did this thinking it was the lamest pick-up line in history (which it would have been if it weren’t true). Or maybe she couldn’t believe that the man behind the invention of one of the world’s most famous drinks was wearing such cheap shoes.

That guy stopped telling strangers about an achievement he should have been very proud of ….and that’s very sad.

Just so that this post isn’t a complete rag on Starbucks, one nice thing about the company is they offer insurance and stock options to part-time employees working twenty hours a week. This is practically unheard of in the retail sector – of course the employee first has to meet these hourly requirements consistently for six months and there have been accusations of Starbucks deliberately cutting employee hours (Wal-Mart style) to avoid coverage. Sigh. I tried to make you the good guy Starbucks. I really did. But these kind of shenanigans make it very hard.

Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Rainbow Book Reviews

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Thank you, Rainbow Book Reviews, for a wonderful review of my book. I appreciate you having me on your site, as well as for the kind words.

The review below was written by JJ.

Thank you, JJ.

–This is a remarkably imaginative story. I was so touched that I more than found myself laughing with the main character, crying with her, obfuscating with her, and trying to make sense of the phenomenal gift she is given even though it came with as many pains as amazing highs. I was so moved by her dreams…their possible meaning and their potential insights stay with me till this moment. This book is full of passion and love. Plus, I felt myself filled with powerful feelings penetrating my soul. Outstanding!

Madison or Maddy is not in a really good space. She is fast racing towards her fortieth birthday and her life has not gone the way she wanted. She has not met the woman she could love for forever and be loved in return. Her mother passed away recently, her father is devastated, her sister and brother seem to be where they hoped to be. However, Maddy has this job that is a bit of a grind, friends and temporary lovers who possibly should be committed, and a growing fear that life is passing her by. Then she starts having these continuing, greater than life dreams on a nightly basis where all her hopes and desires seem to be actually happening. No one wants to hear Maddy expound on these dreams anymore, her family and closest friend thinks she needs therapeutic help, and she is simply caught in between. However for Maddy, there is unquestionably something very real going on in this astonishing, episodic piece of paradise. Enchanting!

Maddie does not get to know the name of the woman in her dreams till near the end of this story in a core-piercing, breath-losing, and time-halting kind of way. Yet, this woman is clearly the other most important person in this novella. In the beginning there are snippets. Later on, there is a rather long and cathartic path to the big truth about the origin of the dreams. It was intensely illuminating. Maddy gets to see with such clarity how a hypothetically much bigger life story unfolds possibly simultaneously with the life she actually walks through each day, each year. To my surprise, this part of the story totally stopped me in my tracks. Jaw-dropping, eye-popping, heart melting I simply cried an ocean of tears and had my heart burst wide open with joy. Phew! However, I felt that both stories had actually unfolded and blossomed around Maddie as her eternal love lit up the universe. After my initial and cathartically tearful reaction, I felt born again with a sense of the larger picture. Astounding!

I completely recommend this with the proviso that you might shed some tears from joy, from loss, or from bewilderment. Ever since I was introduced to the possibility of alternative worlds, I have tried to be open to such beautiful stories. This one is presented with such darn good insight into such an extraordinary though sometimes difficult to imagine potential. Supremely satisfying! –

If your curiosity has been piqued, you can purchase my book at http://www.amazon.com/

It is only $2.99!

Thank you!

Also, if you’d like to read more reviews of your favorite gay and lesbian books, please visit http://www.rainbowbookreviews.com

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Every Lesbian Needs a Gay Man in her Life.

Not all lesbians are fashionably challenged, but many are, and I’m no exception. We wear clothes as a necessary comfort, not to make a statement, except to say, “Yes, I threw on the first thing I saw in my closet without much consideration.” I wear clothes because it’s illegal to mosey around naked, and also because I don’t have the body that wears “naked” very well.

I can’t understand how anyone who knew me as a child (mom, siblings) were as surprised as they seemed to be when I came out. Since I was a little girl I hated wearing dresses. I have distinct memories of standing in the middle of my kitchen, begging my mother to let me wear my holey jeans.

“They have holes in them. And they’re dirty!” she’d scream.

Dirty, holey jeans were my preference of attire (and this was before they were trendy and stores didn’t sell pre-torn jeans). In the mid-eighties, ripped jeans were for burnouts with long hair, who smoked and listened to loud guitar-thrashing hard rock music.

I loved my holey jeans.

While I had no qualms with being messy, my brother (my twin) would change his outfit if one drop of anything – including innocuous water – touched a single thread of anything he wore. Pants, shirts, and shorts popped up all over the house. On the kitchen floor, across the stairwell, behind bathroom doors, or tucked between the couch cushions.

“Joey!” mom would scream. “Did you change your clothes again!”

Yep, mom. He sure did.

Though she never admitted it, I’m positive having a daughter eager to wear the same worn clothes over and over was a welcomed relief to the scavenger hunt of missing trousers my brother had tirelessly put her through each day, but one thing is clear. There was a mix-up somewhere in the womb because my other half (literally) got the girl genes and to me, befell the genes that to this day make me recoil at the sight of department store make-up counters, and to the perky saleswomen with their overly painted-on faces standing under those bright, shiny lights.

Thank Christ grunge was all the rage when I was a teenager. Flannel shirts, baggy jeans, sandals with socks – it was fashionable in 1993 to dress like a lesbian – and I loved every second of it.

I was twenty-years old when I crept into my first Gay and Lesbian support group where I met my friend Tony. My fashion disaster ways were still prevalent and every lesbian needs a fashionably sensitive gay man in her life to tell her it’s time to tweeze those eyebrows.

“Eyebrows are supposed to have an arch, Alicia,” he’d say. “And there’s supposed to be two of ’em.”

Goodbye uni-brow. Hello shapely new, separated eyebrows!

But it did’t stop there. He also gently persuaded me to dump my white leather fringe jacket and ditch the blue eyeliner and bright-red blush.

Farewell rosy cheeks, it was time for a more subdued look because the year was 1996, not ’86.

Eighteen years later, Tony is still my fashion confidant, but he’s also a dear friend – a friend who listens without judgement and has the uncanny way of knowing exactly what I need to hear during my most vulnerable moments. A friend who constantly reminded me I was a writer, even when I didn’t feel like one. His support helped me to never give up on my dream. When my first book was published, he was as happy for me as if his own dream had come true.

He helped me pass bookmarks out in a predominately lesbian neighborhood to promote my book. Over lunch he gushed about how talented a writer I am and then told me to burn the jeans I was wearing as soon as I get home.

Honest friends aren’t always good for your ego, but thank God for them because I shudder to think what I’d look like if Tony wasn’t in my life.

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Starbucked…Again

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the book, Starbucked, written by Taylor Clark after reading one chapter. I’ve since finished the book, and with close to three hundred pages, writing a full synopsis of this piece would go way beyond the suitable length for a blog, but there is much to say/debate about the cultural issues and business practices that arise when Starbucks invades your neighborhood. Yes, “invades” because Starbucks travels in packs, never alone. When you have one, you will soon (emphasis on soon) have another. And another.

Starbucks is everywhere. The gourmet coffee craze has taken over the world.

Paris, France, the city known for its essence of cultural snobbery, has twenty-three stores (and more coming) of this ubiquitous American company wrapped within its famously charming and romantic streets and landmarks. Oman, Qatar, Chile, and Cyrpus are also places Starbucks calls home. Along with, Seoul, South Africa, London (Britons now consume more coffee than tea. What? No more spots of tea?), and Saudi Arabia.

Starbucks even made it into Beijing’s Forbidden City, the “political and cultural heart of imperial China” for over five hundred years. That’s a lot of culture, but still, when a “Forbidden City” opens a Starbucks, it loses much of its mystique. Now I’m walking into that “forbidden” town as though I own it, “Billy the Kid style blazing through Dodge” because there’s nothing less ominous than a store with a mermaid logo and employees bouncing behind a counter donning green aprons and khakis while lame remakes of Bee Gee songs play in the background.

Forbidden City, you need to be a little more forbidding.

There are so many Starbucks locations in this world, it would probably takes less time to list the cities and countries where they’re not.

*Note – there were more fun facts and not so fun facts I learned about Starbucks that I will share in a later blog.

*2nd Note – this book was written in 2007 – so when I write that a city has twenty-three Starbucks, seven years later, that city most likely has two-thousand, three hundred and fifty-nine stores now.

Please Don’t Steal My Book

The first time I saw my book illegally downloaded on the Internet I wanted to cry – but not before punching in the face those six hundred-plus people who stole my book. Yes, stole. They didn’t pay for it, so it’s stealing. I had a discussion today with my sister about this issue. She knows a person who sells pirated-DVD copies of movies – new movies – movies less than a week in the theater new. She makes six hundred dollars cash a week. That didn’t sit well with me.

I told my sister this person was making money off someone else’s hard work. A writer’s words. A director’s vision. An actor’s passion. A costume designer’s sore, over-pricked fingers.

“She’s s single mom,” my sister responded. “Maybe I’d do that too if I needed the money. Would you rather have me work as a stripper and give lap dances?”

Please get over yourself, sister. You don’t have the boobs to be a stripper, but if you did, then yes. Yes, I’d rather you be a stripper giving lonely guys lap dances in dark rooms because at least that’s your hard work you’d be getting paid for. I had to explain it to my sister the way I explained it to my ten-year old niece that buying pirated movies is the same as walking into a store and shoving a DVD under your shirt and leaving.

“But we’re paying for it,” my niece said to me.

“Yes, but to people who stole it,” I responded.

The digital world has made books, movies, and music so conveniently available to us (on our phones, our computers, our Ipads) that it gives the delusion that we own the product before we even buy the product.

I know this didn’t just begin with my book. This type of theft has been going on for a long time. I remember Napster, but I never downloaded music I didn’t pay for, and that goes for books as well.

Authors don’t get paid much, especially authors of e-books that sell for three dollars. The price of a coffee. The price of my book. I didn’t become an author for the money because I knew long before the digital world came around that the writing business was tough. Not many people can make a living doing it, and those who do are probably not living the high-life, but merely scraping by (unless your last name is King, Grisham, Patterson, or Rowling).

Since I’m not here for the money, I admit, I got a little excited when I saw that over six-hundred people had downloaded my book. The prospect of over six-hundred people reading my book was thrilling, thieves and all. Recently, I’d been notified by my publisher about another piracy site. I checked it out and found that my book hadn’t been downloaded at all – not even once. I was relieved, but then quickly thought, “What the ^uck? People don’t even want to read my book for free?”

As a writer I think I’ll always be stoked when people read my work, but is it too much to ask them to pay for it, too?

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

“Her Name” by Alicia Joseph

I’d like to share an excerpt of my lesbian romance novella, Her Name.

Her Name
Her Name

I was on my knees washing the floor when I heard her call out my name. I immediately stopped. This wasn’t just a holler for more pillows or another blanket. This was an urgent “I need you!” scream.

I ran to our room. I found her in our bathroom, sitting on the toilet, hunched over with her arms pressed against her stomach. Blood trailed over the edge of the seat. I couldn’t move. With a scared expression on her face, she whispered, “The baby.”

I hurried to her and wrapped her head in my arms. The toilet was filled with blood, and when I moved to flush it, she stopped me.

“Don’t! Not yet.”

I fell to my knees and cried beside her. She gripped my hand tightly. It was hard to comprehend what had just happened. Even as I had washed the toilet, evidence to what had been so brutally taken from us was right in my face, yet, I couldn’t believe it. It happened so quickly. Everything changed in less than two minutes.

She was lying in bed when I got off the phone with the doctor. She needed to rest, and we were to see him early the following week. I walked into the dimly lit room, carrying a washcloth in my hand, and pulled back the covers. I held her shaking body in my arms.

Her cries were violent. I wanted her to stop, but knew she couldn’t. I knew there wasn’t anything I could say to ease the agony of having a life die inside you, but I wanted to take that pain from her and wear it like a tattoo across my heart. I’d bear all the suffering so she wouldn’t have to, but no matter how badly I wanted to, I couldn’t take it away. She held her sorrow too close to her.

“I let my baby die!” she screamed.

“No, you didn’t. Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that,” I said and kissed the side of her face. “There was nothing you could do. Please believe that,” I begged.

She didn’t say anything, and I stopped talking, knowing she wouldn’t hear anything over her bawling. I held her tightly for as long as she needed me to. Her deep sobs slowed to a quiet whimper. Her body finally found some peace as she fell asleep under the protective covers of our bed. I lay beside her, holding a cool wet washcloth across her forehead.

Alicia Joseph

Please check out my Author Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alicia-Joseph/1444411879162094?ref=hl

http://www.amazon.com/Her-Name-Alicia-Joseph-ebook/dp/B00LPIAGB4

You can also connect with me on Twitter @JosephJody76