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Many important figures have been assassinated throughout history: Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King. But no assassination is more infamous than the assassination of JFK. President John F. Kennedy came to Dallas 50 years ago today, only to be gunned down in front of thousands of onlookers. The blame for Kennedy’s death has fallen on many from Lee Harvey Oswald to the Mafia and the CIA. But unlike so many other assassinations, JFK’s death is blamed on an entire metropolis. 50 years later, his death still haunts the city of Dallas.
No one blames Washington, DC for the death of Lincoln, and no one blames Los Angeles for killing Robert F. Kennedy. But when it comes to Dallas, it’s as if the whole city’s to blame. It’s one of the first thing people think of when they hear the word “Dallas”. No other major city is so tied to one assassination. Why is this the case?
In 1963, the political climate of Dallas was very hostile to JFK. That was certainly a factor in the city taking the blame in the first place. But 50 years later, this should no longer be the case. Dallas is full of people who moved here from elsewhere. There are plenty of conservatives here, but also lots of liberals. It’s a full-fledged city with a diverse population. But even now, people blame the city. Last week I saw a Slate article with the headline “The City That Killed Kennedy“. Not “The City Where Kennedy Was Killed”. The headline is supposed to be provocative, but I still take offense at it. I consider myself a Dallasite, but I have nothing to do with the JFK assassination. I was born 17 years after it happened in a city 500 miles away. Why should I take the blame?
I think it comes down to the haziness of that infamous day. Half a century later, people still debate who killed JFK. Did Oswald work alone, or was someone else behind it. I’m not going to get into conspiracies here, but I will say this: people like unambiguous answers. When it comes to Kennedy, there are few things people agree on. Even with hundreds of eyewitnesses and millions of viewings of the Zapruder film, people still can’t agree on how many gunshots there were, let alone who was ultimately responsible. But there is one clear answer that stands above all the others: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed in Dallas. In a murder case with so many questions, the collective guilt of Dallas is the one clear answer.
As long as there are major doubts about the death of JFK (which will likely be forever), people will probably blame Dallas for his death. As someone who actually likes this city, I think that we can do nothing more than embrace our past and move into the future.
What makes a good coffee shop? Coffee, most obviously, but that’s not all. I know how to make good coffee at home. I go to the coffee shop for the atmosphere and the convenience. I’ve gone to an awful lot of coffee shops over the years, and I’ve noticed a few trends. Most coffee shops fit into a few simple categories. For example, some coffee shops are geared more to people “on the go”, whereas others cater to lingering hipsters and artists. Here are the five types of coffee shops I’ve noticed, ranked (in my opinion) from best to worst.
The Grab-and-Go Cafe
Seattle’s Best recently opened a series of drive-thru locations across Dallas. And though it’s Starbucks’ “discount” brand, the coffee is pretty damn good. The food’s not bad either. The downside is that there’s no seating, so it’s really only good if I’m getting a coffee on my way to work. But just because a coffee shop has seating, doesn’t mean it’s not a “Grab-and-Go” cafe. Most of the Starbucks you see along the side of the freeway are just drive-thru huts with a few chairs inside. That is to say, there’s not much of a “life” to the cafe. Even the people inside are just sitting for a minute. Otherwise, it’s just a “Grab-and-Go” kind of cafe.
The word “cafe” has a wide range if meanings. It can mean everything from a coffee house to a diner to a fancy bistro. So when you see a business with the word “cafe” in its name, you never quite know what to expect. I recently went yo a cafe with really good pancakes and pretty good coffee, but it wasn’t the kind of place where I could pull out my laptop and work. Still, the restaurant/cafe can be a good place to go with friends, as long as the staff aren’t too pushy about buying food.
The Hipster Hangout
A few weeks ago, I was at an upscale coffee shop in Austin when I realized that I’m not really a coffee snob. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate good coffee, but I couldn’t tell much of a difference between two different hand-roasted fair-trade espressos. Lately I’ve noticed a new crop of coffee houses (in both Dallas and Austin) where the baristas look down on me for wanting cream in my coffee. You can always tell these places when you walk in the door, because they look like the Apple Store: brightly lit and sparsely furnished, with very little color on the walls. I sometimes go to places like this, because the coffee’s good and the wifi’s fast, but for the most part, I prefer places that are a lot less pretentious.
The Corporate Store
When you hear “corporate store”, you’re probably thinking Starbucks. This is partially true, but there are plenty of indie cafes in the category as well. These types of stores are more colorful and homey than the hipster hangouts, but everything looks just a little too polished. Still, the coffee is decent enough, and depending on your location, these corporate stores can be great for people-watching, as they draw a wide variety of people. And since Dallas, unlike Austin, is a very Corporate-minded city, these are the kinds of coffee shops I patronize most.
The Old House
The first cafe I visited on my Austin trip was way too snooty, but the next day my friend Brian took me to a place down the street that I liked a whole lot better. This coffee shop was made from an old house, opened up with big windows and brightly painted walls. On the lawn there were picnic tables and umbrellas for shade. This is my favorite type of coffee shop. The best coffee shops feel like home, they may even be made from an old home. It’s weird, since I usually go to the coffee shop to get away from the distractions of home. But I love a place that feels comfortable, where I can meet other people who are comfortable as well. As long as the coffee is good, I’ll keep coming back.
What’s your favorite kind of coffee shop? Let me know in the comment section.
Branding is not an exact science. In fact, is much more of an art. The most successful brands, like Apple and Starbucks, rely on emotions, rather than rational thinking. And like a personal reputation, consumers love of a brand is easily damaged. Some short-term damage is inevitable now and then, but over the long term, popular brands can fall apart. This is an effect I call “brand decay”. Like tooth decay, it’s preventable.
The most common causes of brand decay comes from cutting costs. Now cutting costs isn’t always a bad thing; in fact, it’s an important part of running a business. But you can certainly cut costs so much that it hurts the reputation of your brand. This is akin to “death by a thousand paper cuts”. You make a cut here or there without too much harm, but over any years, it starts to add up. My favorite example of “Bean Counting” Brand Decay is the “honey sauce” packets from KFC. Somewhere in the company, someone sat down with a spreadsheet and realized that the company could save x number of dollars by switching to honey-flavored high fructose corn syrup. If this was the only change they made, it might be okay. But the honey sauce problem is just a symptom of a much larger disease. In all likelihood, every other ingredient has gone through the same speadsheet. Pretty soon, the overall quality has gone down, and the entire business has gone to hell. I don’t know what Colonel Sanders’ original fried chicken tasted like, but I doubt it was anything like the stuff they serve at KFC nowadays.
Brand decay occurs when the people in charge of the company get so focused on cutting costs that they fail to invest in the long term health of the brand. If you have any kind of passion for your business, don’t let brand decay happen to your company.