the glorious future

The Right Coffeemaker for your '70s Style Orgy. Trust Me.

Today, a Tassimo coffeemaker arrived in the mail. I don't know how we ended up with it. Schmutzie knows, and periodically reminds me why we have it, but there's no room in my brain for those kinds of facts. So once again, thirty minutes after finding out the whole back story on this machine, I am befuddled by the Tassimo. Which is serving us delicious coffee and creating its own landfill of waste with every cup.

The Tassimo came in three boxes. First, a featureless cardboard box containing packing materials and another featureless cardboard box, which fit snugly around the proper Tassimo box. Our kitchen is littered with boxes, which now contain alert and curious cats.

Anyway, here's our new Tassimo, with a little plastic soldier in a wine glass for scale.

If you don't know what a Tassimo is, it can best be described as a coffeemaker for people who are insufficiently impressed with their current state of home coffee technology. Filter drips? Auto shut-off timers? Indicator lights? Screw all that. With its barcode scanner, mode dial and 'T Discs' of ground coffee/ tea leaves/ powdered milk/ hot chocolate/ beagle snouts, the Tassimo is a brave new step in the wrong direction for kitchen gadgetry.

The Tassimo is an impressive device that mildly resembles an espresso machine in form and function. Hot water is forced through a portion of coffee grounds, which comes in a dedicated packet called a T Disc. The T Disc has a barcode that provides your machine with instructions to produce the desired cup of coffee. It's a coffeemaker that encoded a barista.*

Tassimo doesn't produce a good, great, or even the best cup of coffee. It makes optimal coffee. Actually, it brews your optimal drink. The entire concept behind the Tassimo is embedded and readable in that one phrase: your optimal drink. Why does it have a built-in water filtration system? Because hard water can interfere with the brewing of your optimal drink. Why does it have a descaling program? So as not to screw with your optimal drink. Why does Tassimo produce more waste than any other coffee brewing device I know of? It's all got to do with that drink of yours and how it should be optimal.

Over the last decade or so, kitchen implements have taken a turn for the artisanal. Sure, there's some fancy tech in your toaster, and maybe your gas range shuts down and calls the police if it detects a hot-knifing in progress, but the thrill in kitchen tools has rested in their Luddite flair, their cast-iron will to simmer, their alchemy of metal and precision curvature. The balance of each implement, the way in which that ice cream scoop just slides right in to that frozen block or that hand held grater is just so damn geared to that block of Parmesan, bespeaks the expertise of its maker. Good kitchen tools provide a pretentious but satisfying experience, a sense of connection to old traditions. Even if you grew up eating casseroles from recipes off the back of a Bisquick box.

Tassimo gives you precision, but the thrill comes from the other end of the field. There's a utopian guilelessness about the machine, a promise that the classy world of cafés and bistros can be yours at the press of a button. It's going for that European classiness (even though it reminds me most of those automatic coffee machines in Australia that spit out flat whites on demand). It's like a Star Trek replicator in a Kitchen of Tomorrow. Except the kitchen is straight out of 1972, and the Bistromatic2000 One-Button Coffee Brewer is right next to the fondue pot and the electric wine muller, and the first guests are just about to arrive for a sophisticated evening of melted cheese and mutual groping. Get Your Orgy Started The Optimal Way, With Tassimo!

I recommend the little Starbucks T Discs. That is one smooth, erotic brew.

*And now that barista is trapped in the electronic landscape of the Tassimo, forced to battle light cycles on an infinite neon grid.

gene roddenberry has doomed us all

Around fifteen years ago someone alerted me to the Star Trek Universe paradox - namely, that the history of Earth in the world of Star Trek resembles our own in every particular, except for that fact that the Star Trek television show could never have existed. Also, we didn't get involved in the Eugenics War and Ricardo Montalban never conquered Asia, but whatever.

Think about it for a second. Why would a fictional universe include in its fictive history a piece of pop culture that foretells the future? It would be the most earthshaking thing to have a series of shows, movies, novels and role-playing games that turned out to constitute a body of prophecy. It would be somewhere on par with finding a medieval manuscript that rated all the restaurants in New York in 1957. But if Star Trek as a cultural phenomenon appeared in the historical annals of the Starfleet Academy, nobody's talking about it. Maybe the horror of predestination caused them to expunge all records? I don't think so.

This evening, as I was watching Pretty In Pink with Schmutzie and Saviabella, the obverse face of this paradox presented itself to me - that the human race is doomed to extinction, or at best, to a ragged barbarism on par with that stupid Yangs vs. Coms episode* from the orginal series. And we have Star Trek to thank for it.

According to Star Trek lore, the discovery of warp power saved the Earth from collapse by initiating contact with a whole universe of habitable planets, living gods and different foreheads. But the existence of Star Trek effectively reduces that chance to nil, because what are the odds of a sci-fi movie starring a bunch of cheesy, technobabbling prigs being replicated precisely in the real world? Exactly. The discovery of warp power by a guy who looks like James Cromwell, the next leap forward for humanity, just isn't going to happen. It's been narrated right out of existence. I'm pretty sure Borgs are in the cards, but as for the rest of it, no way.

*This is my favourite Trek episode, because there is nothing funnier than watching William Shatner berate a roomful of cavemen for their terrible grammar and pronunciation of the US constitution.

predictions for the next century

If current trends continue as they are, we will see wonders in abundance. For example:

1)The internet

In the next century, the internet will be available in every home on Earth and the Inner System of Confederated Planets. Still no wi-fi in the Oort Cloud. Despite its reach, the internet will no longer be used by ordinary people. Instead, genetically modified howler monkeys will IM each other all day long, upload amateur porn and hurl insults at each other, which will allow the rest of us to lead productive lives.

2)Food

All food will, of course, be available from home replicators for pennies a month. In most countries, though, dining out will be mandatory, and exclusive use of the replicator for a 24 hour period will entail punitive loss of orgones.

3)Insects

There will be no goddamned insects. You hear me? Enough with that shit. But you can expect a sharp uptick in man-eating spiders.

4)Orthography

In one hundred years' time, no one will know the meaning of the word 'orthography'. The future marks the return of the Golden Age of Spelling, with lots of unnecessary e's and plenty of double consonants thrown in. This will be all Geoffrey Chaucer's fault (see below).

5)Baby boomers

Yes, they'll still be around. Anti-aging therapies will create a race of mummified gerontocrats who continue to wrestle popular culture into submission. From beneath the hollowed-out caverns of Colorado the Immortal Council of 12 will legislate all matters of taste. Their motto: "Take It Easy".

6)Religion

There will be only one official religion, the Church of Classic Hits And The Best of Today. Although services will traditionally fall on a Sunday, congregations are encouraged to “tune in” and “sing along” any old time, especially while driving down the boulevard in a snazzy convertible. This informal worship will be called “the snazz”. The Catholic Church will be reduced to a bunch of homeless men hanging around industrial parks.

7)Women

There will be no women in the 22nd century. In January of 2072, all the men will wake up to find a note on the fridge saying “Take care”. Every six months a glittering alien spaceship will descend from the Oort Cloud and deposit a few thousand male infants, who will stare wordlessly and make mewling noises instead of human cries. An expeditionary force to find the putative Planet of Women will be launched in 2101. For all the men of 2107 know, the members of the expedition have located the Planet but elected to stay there.

8)Geoffrey Chaucer

The invention of a working time machine in 2009 will turn out to be the most decisive event of the future, even though it will have taken only one round trip to the 1300s before being destroyed within seconds of its return. The instigator of the destruction will be the time-travelling stowaway Geoffrey Chaucer, sometime medieval poet and tyrannical genius able to work his will on the minds of men by means of alien technology. After the decade-long battle with the Immortal Council of 12, a peace treaty will be struck in which the Council rule on matters of taste and Chaucer become Official Head of the Inner System of Confederated Planets And The Principality of the Oort Cloud (ISCPPOC, or Iskapok). Chaucer will then declare all history between 1400 and 2009 a dead zone, “a vaste Marshelande withoute Croppes, that is yclept a Middenne”. When greeted with the news of the 2072 departure of the women, he will say, “Lo, my nosethirles waxe wood”. His reign will never end.