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Dec 03 2006

Public Cans of Austin: Café Caffeine

cafecaffeinecan.jpg
The exterior of the can at Café Caffeine poses a philosophic challenge to the connoisseur in juxtaposing a bleak and crummy frameless painting with ironic vintage deco signage, but the message is ultimately one of post-industrial alienation.

You know how when you’re driving along, whistling a happy tune, and you pass a business and the name of the business strikes you as pretentious or esoteric or obscure to the extent you have no idea what they’re selling, and even if you did you’d never be able to go in there because of the goofy name, so — and this is a law eternal — you turn to your sidekick and guffaw, “For the luva pete, what kind of gnarled brain came up with that howler”?

Well, daily, and for months now, I have passed this joint Café Caffeine while en route from the Twisty Bungalow to one of my usual glittering, spectacular destinations. Café Caffeine, Café Caffeine! Ignited by the devilish enigma of Café Caffeine, a spark of curiosity in my cold and empty brain began first to simmer, then to boil, until now, roaring past in slow motion, with Barber’s Adagio for Strings inexplicably playing, I cannot help but glance at its little strip mall storefront, curl my lip at the sign, and cry out, “What? What? What it is you sell in there?”

Next door is a place called “Moxie”, where they sell moxes. Nice ones, too.

unknowncaffeineaddict.jpg
The Café Caffeine aesthetic suffers, perhaps, from a superabundance of subtlety.

39 comments

  1. Forrison Hard

    Somewhat un-related, in Finland: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~eylon/soc2002/Images/15.jpg

    Well naturally it has nothing to do with THE KKK, they just sell stuff for your Kitchen, Kids, and taking in consideration the time of the year, I guess they´d have some church-ey stuff too.

  2. Forrison Hard

    I wouldn´t recommend it for getting your hanukkah merch from though, cause all they had were these cloth badges to promoto yo faith or whatever.

  3. jess

    “Let’s call this song exactly what it is
    (what it is, what it is).”

  4. scratchy888

    cOFFEE is sort of depressing and it makes you alert.

  5. B. Dagger Lee

    Here in NYC there’s a hair cutting salon named “Head Hoppers,” and I’m skeeved anew every time I pass by.

    Upstate, Miss Patsy and I saw a panel truck for a carpentry business called “the Wood Butcher.”

    Darn, I never have a pencil to write their numbers down!

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  6. Pony

    Just the ticket. He makes wood crosses. And moose.

    http://woodbutcher.hypermart.net/

  7. cranterp

    This goes on my list of failed advertising campaigns, like Burger King advertising some sort of breakfast food with the word “meatnormous,” which definitely does not sound like a word I want to put in my mouth. Also, in South Bend, “CyberKnife: a revolution robotic cancer care.”

  8. johnieb

    Pony, thanks for the link; it was cherce.

  9. rootlesscosmo

    Silver lining: the Samuel Barber. It’s overdone, but it’s a beautiful piece anyway.

  10. jc.

    It took me many years to finally, truly and unequivocally admit that the name “Kaiser Bil” (bil means car in swedish) on a car franchise that I passed regularily, was not a truly clever, obscure, whimsical swedish, WWI. pun business sign.
    Alas, like my belief in the existence of Santa, I was forced to admit that clever, obscure, whimsical, swedish, WWI. pun business signs do not exist.

  11. tuckova

    You would think, given the uranium mines to which the best Czech dissidents went, that mox was an easy thing to come by here, but it is not. I am delighted to hear that it is readily available in Texas, and that you can fuel your shaking fingers in one shop and your nuclear power plant in the other.

    I am going to bite my lips now until I can find a conversation into which I can drop “superabundance of subtlety”, because that is a lovely turn of phrase.

  12. kathy a

    twisty — hard job, but someone needs to taste the caffiene and check out the cans. i’d say the signage and artwork for this particular can is clear and on the classy side, considering. beats the universal skirt sign in a circle of blue plastic, or some if not most of the rest room signs that can be sighted in your great state, or mine.

    cranterp — cyberknife is unfortunately not a marketing tool limited to the south bend community. stupid shits. i’m complaining about the ones we heard here on the radio a few years back. who the hell advertises a “cutting edge” cancer treatment on radio, and why?

  13. CafeSiren

    I was once in a coffee shop where the restroom signs read “us” and “them” — peeing became a sort of psychological experiment. It still makes me smile.

  14. CannibalFemme

    I once worked in an establishment known as the ‘Chick-n-Chitlin’, which vended neither chicken nor chitlins, but rather job lots of Louisiana barbeque (which means pork). The proprietor apparently enjoyed the atmosphere generated by brash defiance of standard naming conventions, because she insisted upon being known by the tender sobriquet “Too Much Mama”, although she was maybe ninety pounds with her boots on.

    Of course, it didn’t really resonate for me at the time, but it was the 1970s and I was hitching cross-country and ran out of money, and that’s never a good time to be sensitive to the ironies of one’s environment. Too much other stuff going on.

    Nota bene: running barbecue in a Louisiana joint is really not the best way for a raised-vegetarian to gain exposure to meat culture. I’m lucky I didn’t kill anybody my first day.

    CafeSiren: I love ‘Us’ and ‘Them’! Now I’ll be on the lookout for a 3-can establishment so’s I can relabel them ‘This’, ‘That’, and ‘The Other’. Cool.

  15. MzNicky

    There’s a storefront here in town that bears the name “Ironic.” I went by once, thinking it had funky fun stuff. Actually, it’s mostly iron skillets and shit. No shit.

    P.S. — Hi johnnieb!

  16. deciduousfruit

    another astounding achievement

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/manchester/4468884.stm

    god save the queen

  17. femhist

    I must confess to being confused as to how the article described offers support to Twisty’s thesis. NOT, mind you, because I believe that anything is “hard-wired” into our brains (the use of metaphors in science writing is an endlessly fascinating subject, but we won’t go there just now) but because I don’t see how the existence of this ritual practice disproves (or proves, for that matter) that the need for ritual is learned, rather than instinctive. Perhaps I’m being obtuse. Could someone elaborate for the slow ones among us, like me?

  18. trystero49

    Hey Twisty, how is your foot? How is Bert’s secret-holes lawn art project working out?

    I hope you’re better, or at least ambulatory.

  19. KTal

    “Upstate, Miss Patsy and I saw a panel truck for a carpentry business called “the Wood Butcher.”

    Yeah, there are a lot of those around here, unfortunately they don’t advertise on their trucks. Their route to notoriety usually comes from the impact they leave in and on houses all over the area. I think its a secret club, one I don’t want to join.

    Femhist, I’ve been wondering exactly what is defined as ritual. Is ritualism confined to socially organized acts or can ritual be an isolated activity, constructed purely from one’s own needs or desires?

  20. scratchy888

    I don’t see how the existence of this ritual practice disproves (or proves, for that matter) that the need for ritual is learned, rather than instinctive. Perhaps I’m being obtuse. Could someone elaborate for the slow ones among us, like me?

    I suppose that if there is higher level thinking involved, as implied by the manipulation of the devotees by the attendant shaman, then ritual cannot be considered merely reflexive, and is therefore not entirely natural.

  21. Twisty

    Scratchy888 manages to put into words what I merely and imperfectly imply.

    Somebody up there — and I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t Mandos Mandos Mandos — observed that my argument (that the “need” for ritual is a learned behavior, and therefore is not really a “need” at all) hinges on a fallacy. That the condition of learned behavior and “deep need” are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This is of course correct, given that everything is “natural.”

    P.S. It would appear that these last few comments ought to have been appended to the Botswana-python-worship thread. Oh well.

  22. grrr kitty

    There used to be a restaurant in WeHo that went by the name of Beau Thai. Now, I like me some pad Thai as much as the next gal, but I couldn’t bear the shame of being seen in a place with such a name. And sunny northwestern Arkansas (just outside of Eureka Springs, I think) is the home of the Snake Museum, which a painstakingly hand-lettered sign advises passers-by is “Worth Seeing”. Indeed.

  23. johnieb

    Only if they handle ‘em in praise of baby Jezuz, grrr kitty; btw, where was that, around Green Forest? I got friends who vacation there.

  24. johnieb

    Oops, hell; hi, MzNicky!

  25. grrr kitty

    Yes, johnieb, close enough to Green Forest to bite. Arkansas is a culture shock of a place. My aunt nuncle relocated to the Lead Hill area after living in San Diego, and I have some happy, if peculiar, memories of family vacations there.

  26. femhist

    “P.S. It would appear that these last few comments ought to have been appended to the Botswana-python-worship thread. Oh well.”

    Indeed! I thought that was where I left my comment. Very strange. Sorry ’bout that!

  27. B. Dagger Lee

    My Python–Blessed Be His Name!–told me to confess to being a serial wood butcher and to tie this all up.

    yrs, BDL

  28. kathy a

    grrr kitty — people from san diego vacation in the greater lead hill area? ain’t life grand and weird?

    probably everyone else is light years ahead of me on reading strange and interesting stuff, but i recently stole my sister’s copy of sarah vowell’s book, “assasination vacation,” all about american history, dead presidents, and roping friends and relatives into visiting obscure historical landmarks. much funnier and odder than this pathetic review sounds.

    twisty needs that airstream and an expense account. much good work can be done from the bungalow and environs, but the twisty road-trip would be a masterpiece.

  29. Mandos

    “That the condition of learned behavior and “deep need” are not necessarily mutually exclusive.”

    Not merely “not mutually exclusive”, but quite possibly necessarily connected. That’s more than just saying that everything is “natural”.

  30. Ron Sullivan

    BDL: My Python–Blessed Be His Name!–told me to confess to being a serial wood butcher and to tie this all up.

    Must be something in the air. Shep’s been acting restless all day, which is odd for a nocturnal snake.

    I do recall a book about fine woodworking that made reference to “the woodbutcher’s art” — somebody having noticed that trees are alive, I suppose.

    M,M,M:Not merely “not mutually exclusive”, but quite possibly necessarily connected.

    Aw, now you’ve gone off into the vague end of abstraction. “Necessarily”?

    grrr kitty: Snake Museum

    How in hell did we miss that? All that rambling around Arkansas two years ago, and we didn’t see the Snake Museum? All right, time for another drive. I’m under considerable pressure to avoid Texas completely this time, but geez.

  31. cranterp

    The snake thing reminded me of a sign I saw in northern Ohio advertising Seneca Caverns (why it reminded me of this I have no idea). The slogan some PR genius has chosen to use is, “Seneca Caverns: The Earth’s Crack.” Doesn’t that make you all want to crawl right in and perhaps buy a lovely memento for your nearest and dearest?

  32. L2

    Yes, but you failed to answer the truly important question here. How’s the coffee??

  33. scratchy888

    Somebody up there — and I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t Mandos Mandos Mandos — observed that my argument (that the “need” for ritual is a learned behavior, and therefore is not really a “need” at all) hinges on a fallacy. That the condition of learned behavior and “deep need” are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This is of course correct, given that everything is “natural.”

    I think that might be known as the originative fallacy. Or maybe it isn’t. Yet there is a truth which requires to be acknowledged, that just because one has to learn something (for example, language) does not mean that it isn’t natural for humans to learn it. I would say that manipulation of others, however, does require the capacity to think about ‘natural’ as having at least two levels. It might be ‘natural’ to manipulate the others’ ‘natural’ gullibility.

  34. Otown

    What’s so bad about Beau Thai?

  35. Otown

    Ohhhhh. I said it out loud right *after* posting. Pretty much any other adjective-Thai combination would have sounded silly, though.

  36. grrr kitty

    Hey, Ron, the Snake Museum is right in the same neighborhood as where they stage the Ozark Passion Play Extravaganza. It’s along Route 62 at any rate. If you’re traveling west, it’ll be on your right.

    When you sit on the back porch of Aunt Pat’s house in the late afternoon and watch the shadows of the clouds moving over the mountains, it’s damn near paradisical, and almost enough to make you forget that the Grand Poohbah of the KKK lives on the next mountain over. Almost.

  37. josquin

    Ha ha! I love Otown for falling for the Beau Thai pun.
    It’s something I might have done, and bless her/him for beating me to it.
    I also scorn businesses who use a pun in the name which don’t even have anything to do with the nature of the business.
    It would be one thing if “bow tie” was the also the name of a Thai delicacy, but no, it was just a random pun.
    Mandos is on to something. Most behaviors/attitudes don’t fall neatly into “learned” and “innate” categories. They come about as a result of a weaving together of inborn templates and life experience. They build upon each other in a rather complex way with feedback loops etc.
    I could go on about this in regard to race descrimination, concepts of beauty, etc. but I won’t.

  38. josquin

    pls ignore the lack of agreement between the words ‘pun’ and “don’t’. Should be ‘doesn’t’.

    Dang I hate this little walk of shame we do when we spot typos right after we post!

  39. Ron Sullivan

    Thank you, grrr kitty. (Did I spell that right?I keep forgetting to count the “r”s.) We avoided the giant Jeebus thing as much as possible; guess that’s why we missed the snakes. Weirdly, we did go see the Thorncrown Chapel, because I’d heard about it from some architect or other. I do like it. It fits into its surroundings beautifully, by being practically invisible — mostly because the structural elements’ angles echo the branch angles of the little oaks in the forest around it. It’s the aesthetic antonym of that huge statue on the othe side of town.

    We spent a couple of weeks in Alma, near Van Buren, and ditto on the paradise thing.

    Beau Thai? See, I’d eat at a place called “Beau Thai” just for the sake of the awful pun. I buy Clover milk to support their ads. I have worse habits but they’re not fit for public exposure. No, that’s not one of them either.

    But shop names, yeesh. There’s a store right across from the Liquor Barn, I mean Bev’ Mo, or whatever it is this year, and its name is barely legible because its sign is so graphically clever. And it’s something so abstruse (I’ve forgotten it, it’s so abstruse) that I have no idea, after passing it for two years or so, what it sells. Somehow that doesn’t excite my normally intense windowshopper curiosity. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical. And caffeine is a great thing but if it isn’t No-Doz they’re selling, isn’t the selling point that it should taste good?

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