thanks for a wonderful year

We'll keep seeing you all in 2012! Thanks for making us your home away from home!


Saving money...and cups

Did you know you get a 50 cent discount on your drink every time you visit by using a Modern Times/Politics & Prose mug? That means you can get our featured large single origin coffee from Guatemala for $1.5o, or a double latte using our house espresso for $2.75. They're on sale by the condiment stand. They also make great gifts!


america's sweetheart

From a recent episode of the The Simpsons, which includes among many other things: parodies of heist films and young adult fantasy novels, satirical commentary on the world of children's book publishing, and a guest appearance by Neil Gaiman(!!!):

Lisa Simpson, planning to write the next great teen novel series, opens up a laptop in Springfield's favorite local bookstore/coffeeshop "Bookaccino's".

"Sitting in a coffeeshop, I couldn't feel more like a real writer."

Sighs with satisfaction.

"Oh! Better set up with wi-fi, in case I need to do some research".

Stops to contemplate.

"But if I'm gonna use their free internet, I really should buy something."

Joins the line at the coffee bar.

"God, I love being a writer."


Hello Ceremony Coffee!

Our local coffee provider has changed their name. Caffe Pronto is now called Ceremony Coffee Roasters. They will continue to supply us (and you) fresh every week with espresso, coffee blends, and a fine selection of single origin varietals from around the world, craft roasted right down the road in Annapolis, Maryland. We love their coffee and are pleased to support a local, independent business that uses fair trade, direct trade, Rainforest Alliance, and certified organic products.


Price changes

Due to increasing global food, gas, and coffee prices, we have chosen to add a slight increase to some of our drinks and food selections. We held off as long as we could, but we can no longer continue to absorb the increased cost of our wholesale ingredients, especially dairy, bread, and coffee - which, when you think about it, comprise ninety percent of our menu. We will continue purchasing the best quality ingredients, sourcing from as many local vendors as possible, and preparing our food in-house.
We feel that our new price structure is comparable to similar businesses in the area. Plus, we have incorporated ways for you to save money (and produce less waste): if you purchase a travel mug from us, you will receive a 50 cent discount every time you buy a drink at the shop. You can also choose to bring your own mug and receive a 15 cent discount.
As always, we value your business and thank you for supporting your local independent coffeehouse.


The Only Constant is Change

The one thing I can say about the people whom with we choose to work is that they are strong-willed, dedicated, quality-oriented, over-worked, small-business owners, artisans, delivery people - sometimes all of these things at the same time.
So, we gave Cacao a try, or, really, they gave it a try. Their products made our collective mouth water and impressed us with their creations. However, Cacao could not find a way to keep up, grow, with our demand. A lifetime of baking skills can't be taught overnight, and they were more willing to lose daily revenue than to deliver sub-par pastries! For the moment they are eliminating the wholesale portion of their business and focusing on their retail stores. Good while it lasted.
Heller's Bakery also reached the end of its tenure here. Another example of people eager to please but, realistically, dragged down by the pressures of owning and running an already successful business without a good support staff. They had been with us from the beginning; I remember they were the only people willing to deliver pastries during one of the severe blizzards a couple of years ago. However, inconsistency in their delivery times and products forced us to make the decision to no longer carry their donuts and muffins. As disappointing for me as it is for you, believe me.
That brings us to this week, when we approached Patisserie Poupon. You might know them from their retail store in Georgetown. We're still getting to know them but what we've tried so far has impressed us. I've gotten the most raves about the almond croissants. My personal favorite has been the glazed apple turnover and, for late in the day, a mini chocolate eclair coupled with a macchiato can erase the chill from the air.
As always, let us know what you think! We want to continue providing the best in quality and service and sourcing pastries from only the best local bakers!



19th Century Secretary of the Smithsonian on the subject of Coffee

Samuel P. Langley (1834-1906), in a letter to his niece Mary, wrote about the preparation of the "best coffee in Carlsbad,"in Bohemia.
I imagine that the legend of figs used in the preparation of the coffee came about because of the blend, the combination of four different varieties of coffee and perhaps their unique roasting technique. It's not uncommon to find fruit notes, even mango and raspberry, in some cups of coffee.
If I could only travel through time....any historical figures with whom you could imagine sharing a cup at Modern Times?

(from the Smithsonian Air and Space blog)


Current Exhibit: History of Peirce Mill

An opening reception for this month's exhibit "Peirce Mill: 200 Years in the Nation's Capital" will be held from 6 to 8pm on Thursday, October 6 at Modern Times Coffeehouse. Complimentary food and drink will be provided to guests and wi-fi will be turned off during those hours. Please join us to learn more about this important landmark just around the bend from us in Rock Creek Park.

“Peirce Mill: 200 Years in the Nation’s Capital,” an historical exhibit featuring the works of Washington designers/artists Katherine Lenard and Mary Belcher. The exhibit tells the story of how a Quaker milling family became one of the largest landholders in Washington during the 19th century, and the later transformation of the Rock Creek Park mill into a beloved landmark operated by the National Park Service.

The show coincides with the re-opening of the mill after a 20-year shutdown. For more information on Friends of Peirce Mill, check out the website at http://peircemill-friends.org or their Facebook page.

Local Music Day

Listen Local First will host DC’s first ever Local Music Day. The purpose of Local Music Day is to promote LLF’s mission and develop partnerships between local musicians and businesses in order to create additional avenues for local music exploration.

On October 5th, 2011 local businesses across the city will partner with Listen Local First and stream a playlist featuring the albums of 8 local artists all day.

You can also listen from home on a webstream by clicking here.

Thank you for supporting your local artists and musicians, AND your locally owned coffeehouse!


Lance on Kojo

Yesterday, our arts and events coordinator, Lance Kramer, appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show to discuss the role of his company, Meridian Hill Pictures, in the production of the documentary, "Life as Collage," directed by students at the Sitar Arts Center. We're so very proud of Lance and his students and always admire his commitment to and involvement with the DC arts and social education community!

listen here (skip to about 41min32sec).


Caffenol - finally, a good use for instant coffee

UPDATE 9/4: couple of scanned negatives developed with caffenol. My mistakes are a result of overestimating developing time and not loading the film into the developing spool properly, but that's half the fun.

basic ingredients are instant coffee, vitamin c and washing soda!



Current Art Show/Sale Extended! Matthew Scott Davis!

For this new series of multi-medium screen prints, local artist (and beloved MTC employee) Matthew Scott Davis will donate a portion of proceeds from show sales to support the non-profit organization Partners In Health (PIH). It is a continuation of the “We’re All Human Beings” series from May and will be focused on the simple solutions to “Stupid Deaths” in poor communities and countries.

The prints speak to major issues these countries and communities face that have simple solutions— issues such as HIV/AIDS, access to water and food, curable diseases, and the cost of drugs.

UPDATE: Matthew's prints will remain on our walls through September/October and most are still available for sale as Matt and his family make the move from Washington across the ocean to another continent! For questions or purchases, please contact MatthewScottDesigns{at}gmail.com Subject line: “Stupid Deaths show"


Welcome, CACAO

The free samples have been, well... sampled; the crumbs wiped off our shirts and the votes have been cast. The pastries baked by Jacques Poulain of CACAO were an immediate hit with our expert panel of tasters. The croissant and pain au chocolat share that flakey exterior and airey buttery-ness found in expertly baked patisserie. The peach danish was so delicious that I forgot how to share; I'm looking forward to the other seasonal fruits they will be locally sourcing. The biggest surprise and staff favorite was the beignet - fried dough coated in sugar - a perfect accompaniment to our upcoming single origin coffee, the Brazil Cerrado Gold. If you're looking for something smaller, look for a selection of their macarons on the counter; we're expecting mango, chocolate, and raspberry tomorrow.

I'm so happy to have found passionate individuals like Jacques and Vili, welcome them, and introduce you to their work - that is, if you haven't had it already: Jacques bakes out of the Cleveland Park location just a few block south on Connecticut Ave.

Hope you appreciate the hard work that is sampling pastries; we'll do anything for you!


Meet P&P's new owners and be active in planning its future and that of Modern Times

A message from P&P's website:

Friday, July 22, 4 - 6 p.m.
Customer Focus Group
This will be the first of several small focus groups with customers intended to elicit your ideas and suggestions for the store. (Sign up required at the information desk or by phoning 202-364-1919 – first come, first serve)


Documentary Appreciation Salon

7:30 pm, Thursday, July 21 @ the Coffeehouse
Docs in Progress presents
Documentary Appreciation Salon:
Documentary's Impact on and Influence from Reality TV

This salon series brings together filmmakers and documentary film aficionados to discuss and debate great issues in documentary cinema. Each salon will focus around a particular sub-genre of documentary and use clips from documentary films and questions from the moderator to spur reflection and discussion. As a way to encourage greater discourse on documentary film, this series is free to the public although donations are always welcome.

This month's topic will focus on how documentary has influenced and is influenced by "reality" television. Now an almost default setting for mainstream entertainment, Reality TV emerged in the early 1970s as a highly experimental and controversial mode of documentary expression.This salon focuses on Reality TV’s intersections with different trends in documentary filmmaking, how the mode has shifted over the past four decades, and its current place in the broadcast industry. Groundbreaking programs such as PBS’s An American Family (1973) will be central to the discussion.

We are pleased to welcome guest facilitator, Josh Glick. He is a PhD candidate at Yale University in the departments of Film Studies and American Studies. His research and teaching interests are focused on the history and theory of American documentary film, Hollywood, and race and representation in popular media.

Although this is a free event, because of limited seating (of no more than 15 participants), advance registration is highly recommended. Wi-fi will be disabled during the event. For more information, visit www.docsinprogress.org


Coffee Granita

This is a great way to use up stale coffee beans or leftover coffee. Brew it up strong and then sweeten and freeze. From The Flavors of Sicily, by Anna Tasca Lanza.

Granita di Caffé/Coffee Granita

3/4 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 + 1/4 c. strong coffee

Dissolve sugar in water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Boil for about 5 minutes until reduced to a light syrup. Stir in the coffee and let cool.

Pour the mixture into a shallow metal pan or ice cube trays and freeze for 2 or more hours. Every 30 minutes use a fork to break up the ice crystals.

Chip the granita into cups or mugs that have been chilled in the freezer. Top with whipped cream, cream, or milk.


desperately seeking pastries

We're sorry to say that we will no longer be getting croissants, danishes, or focaccia from Farid Fellag for reasons beyond our control. We are currently searching for an adequate replacement and would appreciate your suggestions and recommendations.

send us an email:
coffeehouse (at) moderntimescoffeehouse.com
javier (at) moderntimescoffeehouse.com

or leave your comments below.

(Again, we're really sorry. We're pretty bummed here at the shop as well, but have gotten some good leads thanks to some of you.)


June Art Exhibit EXTENDED

Note: This photo show has been extended until July 14, 2011. In addition, all photographs are on sale for reduced prices. Please contact the artist directly to arrange purchase. (Business cards can be picked up at the cafe counter). An online gallery of "Tidal Ways" can be found here.

Rick Crockett’s “Tidal Ways”, currently on display at Modern Times Coffeehouse, is an ongoing series of photographic images whose ultimate purpose is to capture and chronicle the accidental artistry created by the sea as it interacts with the natural elements and debris its tides deposit along the coastlines of North America. Not a single component is ever added, removed, or rearranged during the process of photographing what not only emerge as works of art that can be simultaneously beautiful, humorous, and haunting, but may also upon deeper reflection cause one to feel as if they are participating in a Rorschach test that has been intricately etched into a canvas of sand.

Intrigued by the idea of celebrating a world seen only through his own viewfinder, Mr. Crockett became a serious photographer within moments of taking his first camera out for a test run on the back streets of San Francisco more than 25 years ago. Since that day he has created a body of work that encompasses a wide range of subject matter and themes, all driven by the simple principle that anything visually and emotionally compelling is worth the effort to memorialize that experience as an image that could outlive the person who captured it -- himself. To that end, Mr. Crockett has taken pictures of musicians, magicians, politicians, chimpanzees, children, Caribbean sunsets, Scottish ruins, urban demise, lobster shacks, and coastal life on opposite sides of America, as well as having lent his eye to innumerable public and private events in his capacity as a professional photographer.

In addition t
o his photographic efforts, Rick Crockett is the author of four books of poetry. His latest collection, MOSES STUTTERED (Musings on Love, Faith & Other Tricks of Light), features several images from his “Tidal Ways” series. Mr. Crockett is also the creator of “Lines on the Face of Portland,”a framed exhibit of six impressionistic "wall poems” commemorating the 350th birthday of Maine’s largest city. His work has drawn high praise from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, an American poet whose A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND still remains the most popular book of poetry ever sold in the U.S. Current projects include “Beyond the Call of Beauty,” a compilation of images exploring the inevitable, slow-motion deterioration of physical and natural matter as it is observed in the real-time world around us. Rick Crockett is also working on his next collection of poems, tentatively titled, TALKING IN MY SLEEP.


Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Colombia

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall runs this weekend and next weekend. One of the featured countries/cultures is Colombia. There are a number of coffee related sessions including:

Coffee culture
Coffee basketry
Coffee growers and Juan Valdez
Coffee cuisine

Check their website for complete schedule and more information and do let us know if you go!


parallel evolution?

While visiting Istanbul's Sahaflar Çarşısı (Old Book Bazaar) last month, I came across some beautiful examples of Ebru, or Turkish Paper Marbling. What struck me initially was the similarity between the various marbling designs (mainly flowers and hearts) with our own "folk art" practiced in the coffeehouse - latte art. Upon returning from my trip, I found videos online showcasing some of the techniques used in creating such intricate, dazzling patterns.

We owe the emergence of the coffeehouse to Istanbul's dynamic history. Now I can say that we also share kinship in the creation of intricate designs using the simplest of materials (although ours is inherently ephemeral in order to be enjoyed fully).


New Ownership Announced for Politics & Prose *UPDATE*

The owners of the Politics & Prose Bookstore, Barbara Meade and David Cohen, have announced plans to sell the company to two Washington journalism and public policy veterans, Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, who will become the store’s new owners later on this spring. Read the official announcement on the P&P website.

For more info:

Listen to the WAMU story.

Read Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine's op-ed in The Washington Post.

Read the Washington CityPaper cover story from last October.

* It's official! Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine have assumed full ownership of Politics and Prose Bookstore. Read their welcome message on P&P's website.

I am looking forward to sharing a long and prosperous relationship with them, and want to express my never-ending love, gratitude, and admiration for Barbara Meade and David Cohen - true mentors and good friends. - Javier Rivas *


Overheard at the Coffeehouse

"When the coffeehouse section was first added to Politics and Prose [1993], Carla Cohen offered a $100 gift certificate to the person who came up with the best name for the downstairs space. The winning entry was 'Best Cellar Coffee;' however, it never stuck and continued to be know as, simply, 'The Coffeehouse at Politics and Prose.'"

Can anyone corroborate this story? Do you want to share any stories, memories, or photos(!) from Coffeehouses past? We would love to hear from you.


Bring Capital Bikeshare to the neighborhood

Capital Bikeshare is a project of the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) that allows users to rent bikes from stations across Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA. Bikes may be rented for any length of time and returned to any station. Many of our staff members and patrons use Capital Bikeshare; unfortunately, the closest bike depot is located at the Van Ness/UDC Metro.
The corner of Nebraska and Connecticut is a finalist for DDOT’s planned expansion of 25 new Bikeshare stations.

We would love to offer this additional form of transportation to our staff, friends, and patrons who are looking for a convenient and reliable way to travel to and from our store and the neighborhood. You can read more about the Capital Bikeshare expansion here.

DDOT is interested in resident feedback about proposed stations. Please send an email to ddot.bikeshare@dc.gov to say that you support a Bikeshare station at Nebraska and Connecticut!


April youth art show: "Critical Exposure"

Modern Times Coffeehouse is proud to present our new April art show, featuring photographs from youth in Critical Exposure's education programs.

Some background info on Critical Exposure: we teach youth how to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change. Through partnerships with youth programs and community organizations, we seek to create a connection between art and advocacy using a three-pronged approach that focuses on:

1. Youth Empowerment – Provide students with training in documentary photography, leadership, and advocacy; teach them how to document issues that impact their lives; and help them to use their images and voices to advocate for positive solutions to those issues.

2. Public Engagement – Inform and engage the public by using students’ photographs and writing to create traveling exhibits that can be shown in galleries, coffee shops, and other public spaces to build awareness of the issues facing young people.

3. Policy Change – Partner with advocacy and community organizations to implement creative strategies that use youth photography and voices to strengthen campaigns to improve
our schools and our communities.

For more information on Critical Exposure, visit www.criticalexposure.org


"black coffee. freshly ground, fully packed"

An ode to black coffee, strength and independence:

From the 1972 Ike & Tina Turner LP "Feel Good."


Coffee prices on the rise

We've been hearing about this for some time now. Read a discussion on coffee production, consumption, commodification and culture at The New York Times "Coffee, the New Shaky Commodity".


"coffee gives you the time to dream it"

If David Bowie, Cicely Tyson, and Kurt Vonnegut are doing it, then count me in.


March 2011 art show: "A Blended Family"

For our March art show, Modern Times Coffeehouse is excited to present a unique family collaboration. The show features paintings by Tanya Renne, illustration by Rose Jaffe and writings by Cindy Morgan-Jaffe.
The show is dedicated the journey of becoming a blended family over the past ten years, with the work of family who have experienced some of the toughest times now presenting side by side.

Tanya and Cindy have been together for twelve years. Before that, Cindy was married and had three girls named Anna (now 24), Rose (now 22) and Claire (now 19) who grew up in Chevy Chase DC and attended Lafayette Elementary. A set of twins, Paul and Olivia now 9, joined the mix along with two dogs, a cat, and a swirl of guppies under their roof across the Park in 16th St. Heights. The household has been one of many comings and goings both physically and emotionally — juggling split households, two (not just one expected) babies, a start up software company run by both Tanya and Cindy and new relationships. Luckily, a passion for art is shared by all, but particularly Tanya and Rose, who are the most active visual artists in the family. As viewers of the art on display will see, each brings a different style and personality to their work and to life. The writings by Cindy add a literal voice to the mix.


Tanya’s description of her art is that it is “exploration of color and texture. Period.” She was an art and women’s study major at Colorado College where she graduated in 1992. Her broad range of art skills include pottery, printing making, etching, and technical illustration. In addition to her art, Tanya runs a software company, is a mom, enjoys exercise, gardening, cooking, and if often seen working here at the Modern Times Café.

Email Tanya [at] orchidconnect.com to learn more about her work and to arrange a purchase.

Rose grew up in Washington DC with a passion for drawing. This spring, she will graduate from the School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan where she has focused her work primarily on pen and ink media. Rose likes to explore all aspects of the human body with a concentration on the face and head. Her subjects come in a variety of shapes and sizes, often squeezed, stretched or pinched, pushing the definition of caricature to a new level. She has created illustrations for the show as well as a coloring book and handmade magnet sets. To contact Rose email her at jaffe.rose [at] gmail.com.

Cindy grew up in Wyoming in a family of five girls where arts and crafts were a common pastime. She migrated to the East where she graduated from Hampshire College and then found her way to Washington, D.C. and eventually became a mother, graphic designer and internship maven. Along the way, she has expressed her love of words and her family through writing, and especially poetry. “I enjoy the meanings, sounds, rhythms and visual nature of words."
The writings here are from her personal collection.


it's our 5th birthday!

Ring in another year for us! Many thanks and much love!

I'm so proud of our little shop and so thankful that you've been here to experience our evolution. What's next? New coffees, great new art and events and the best staff, always!

What do you wish to see happen in Modern Times in the upcoming years?


patterns and process

This reminded me of some of the patterns our baristas create out of simple materials: milk and espresso. Living paint! Art in everything!


Beans of Change

I am happy to announce that, starting this week, we have decided to start carrying coffee roasted by the fine people of Caffe Pronto. With a roasting facility in Annapolis, they can provide fresh and delicious tasting coffees sourced from the best current crops in over 15 countries worldwide. I can't tell you how exciting this is for us; I've been consistently blown away by their Vincente espresso blend - overflowing with sweetness and chocolate tones - and look forward to sampling all of their varietals (currently stocking a Sigri Estate Papua New Guinea). Try it! Tell us what you think. Thanks for being with us as we take another step in Modern Times evolution.


Feb 2011 art show: Nathaniel Pearlman's 'Timeplots' and paintings by Nicole Bourgea

This month, we're pleased to present the work of two unique local artists: Nathaniel Pearlman and Nicole Bourgea.

Nathaniel Pearlman is an information artist who resides just a few blocks from Politics and Prose. Pearlman studied at Yale College with Edward Tufte, renowned guru of the art of visually displaying quantitative information. Pearlman works in a tradition that seeks to communicate a high density of data honestly and elegantly.

Pearlman’s first five “Timeplots” are political because Pearlman has long been involved with American politics. He began his career building political technology applications for redistricting and campaigns. Then in 1997, in the attic of his home, Pearlman started a political software company. From a one-man operation, that company grew to a 130+ person firm, now called NGP VAN, Inc. NGP VAN’s software powers most of the fundraising, compliance and field organization of the Democratic Party and its candidates, including President Barack Obama. NGP’s success allowed Pearlman to step away from the day-to-day leadership of that company and pursue his enthusiasm for information art.

The complete process for creating each print takes many months and involves multiple phases: brainstorming, data collection and research, programming, and design. And many redesigns.

Though aided by a range of design and programming tools, all of the Timeplots are fundamentally hand-crafted, with every pixel and data point placement reflecting painstaking
attention to detail. Pearlman hopes that the Timeplots celebrate and communicate culturally, socially and political significant information and histories — while simultaneously producing art that challenges the viewer to see details, facts, figures, data and knowledge in a new way. Pearlman's work resides in the collections of Supreme Court justices and politicians, but is intended for anyone interested in the subject matter.

The five political prints now on display at Modern Times Coffeehouse during the month of February offer the newcomer to information art a new way to learn about political history and niche info art. For more information, or to purchase a print, visit www.timeplots.com


Nicole Bourgea is a third generation artist and resident of the greater Washington, DC area. She enjoys the challenge of applying her artistic vision to projects ranging from individual portraits and home portraits, to larger projects for schools, offices and interior designers. In all of these cases, her contemporary expressionistic paintings are concerned with microcosms that suggest a whole larger than the sum of its parts.

Bourgea is currently working on a series of large-scale portrait installations exploring the protective psychological instincts surrounding the experience of being noticed. For more information on Nicole's work, visit: www.nicolebourgea.com


Sounds of Modern Times

One of our little joys of working within the coffeehouse is our freedom to play whatever music we find most suitable as we make you your drinks and food and, thankfully, it seems that a sizable amount of you all seem to agree with us. There's always a steady flow of questions - namely, "I like this, who is it?" - about the different types of music we play so we'll be periodically posting little pieces on these albums and the bands behind them. Having said all of that, on to the muzak:

Recommended by James
I have a special affection for the music of a woman named Zoe Keating who plays the beautiful, looping cello that you'll hear almost every day if you come in before 10:00A.M. I first heard of Zoe on the (single best) radio program out there, Radiolab. In an interview on the show, she describes her methods of layering her own recordings over each other to create weird, enchanting melodies and extra-long notes that blend perfectly with her knocks on the cello itself that give the music a percussive element that keeps it all moving along. You can download the Radiolab short featuring Zoe on iTunes for free or stream it from the Radiolab website- it's called Quantum Cello and is well worth your time, along with every other episode.

Recommended by Anna
On Fire, album from late 80's/early 90's band Galaxie 500. Shoegazers before their time, this three-piece band released three albums and developed a signature minimalist sound that you simply either like or you don't. After singer/guitarist Dean Wareham left the band to form Luna, and then Dean & Britta; bassist Naomi Yang and drummer Damon Krukowski played under the name Damon & Naomi and recorded a fantastic collaboration with the Japanese psychedelic band Ghost. The two bonus tracks at the end of On Fire-- and the ones that most people tend to hear and ask who is on the speakers-- are actually covers: a sparse version of George Harrison's lovely Isn't It A Pity; and a searing, reverb-y rendition of the bittersweet New Order/Joy Division single Ceremony.

Recommended by Alex (MTC Emeritus)
For fans of The Replacements, Bruce Springsteen and 80's style garage rock and punk. This album showcases some incredibly catchy and impressive guitar work and the lyrics and their reverb-drenched delivery are perfect for the type of anxiety that only a cup of black coffee can induce. A must-have for anyone who considers his/her self to be a fan of rock'n'roll.

Recommended by Javier
Lately, the album that I have gotten the most questions about while at the shop is Chancha Via Circuito's Rio Arriba, a beautiful blend of South American Nueva Cancion samples, cumbia, psychedelic swirls and endless echoing electronic beats. Sounds of a decaying city-jungle dream.

Speaking of Nueva Cancion, I recently discovered Victor Jara's body of work. His mournful voice, a perfect medium for folk songs and stories of love, oppression, war and social justice, was silenced in September 15, 1973 during the Chilean military coup.

What about you? What kinds of music do you like to listen to while you're here?


We're open!

YES! We have the power!


New art show featuring the work of James O'Gara

Modern Times Coffeehouse is pleased to present a new art show by local photographer James O'Gara, which will run through the month of January. For more information or to purchase prints, contact: james [at] ogaraphoto.com. All photos are © James O'Gara.

Notes from the artist:

Commonly seen as a locus of menace, the Arab ”street” is in fact neither menacing nor the monolithic location implied by the term ”street” so much as a collection of unique societies held together by little more than a common language. The photographs in this exhibit were taken over the past decade in Egypt and Yemen, two Arab countries that share remarkable histories and relative poverty.

Yemen in particular is one of the most beautiful places imaginable for a photographer. The air is clear, the light is even and pure, and the average adult male is more distinguished looking than Alec Guinness. Yemenis are remarkably hospitable, and fairly laid back about photography, but there are limits. There will be no photographs of women, who are almost universally veiled (with the niqab: just a slit for the eyes). When a woman passes by, the proper move is to ostentatiously point one’s camera at the ground, as we all learned to do in summer camp when the archery instructor was out fiddling with the targets.

Other limits include a visitor being warned by a friendly Yemeni Army enlisted man not to photograph the large State Security building (known to locals as the “fingernail factory”). Similarly, a German tourist with no knowledge of Arabic is said to have been arrested for photographing an ornate Arabic graffito outside the Great Mosque that turns out to have been an obscene reference to the buttocks of a woman named Afra.

The ability to connect favors the photographer who has the time, inclination, patience, and ideally the language skills to engage with his subjects, preferably long enough that they become bored and revert to their normal way of acting and interacting. This reversion to normalcy, every bit as much as the time after sunrise and before sunset, is the photographer’s golden hour. Photographing people at work or at play dramatically speeds up this process: you can’t let yourself be distracted by some guy with a camera if you are in the backgammon fight of your life, or are this close to making a sale.

This ready intimacy can also crumble surprisingly abruptly. In Egypt, where four wars have left a degree of security consciousness verging on paranoia, the crumbling happens when a bystander shares his view that there is something suspicious about a visitor who is photographing ordinary people rather than extraordinary pyramids.

Closing in on three decades in power, the regime of Hosni Mubarak is totally out of gas. But Egypt, a slender, densely populated ribbon tracing the Nile, is nothing if not governable from the center, the opposite of Pakistan’s North and South Waziristan in every way imaginable.

Cairo’s insane overcrowding reaches its worst in the city’s Manshiet Nasr neighborhood, an old dump largely reclaimed by Christian migrant workers, and cut off from the rest of the city by a highway. The garbage workers, or zabaleen, have created a system of 16 types of trash, from paper to glass to cloth.

Eking out a living in the collapsing splendor of Cairo is no mean feat; more remarkable still is the way illiterate peasant migrants from the countryside have found steady work in sorting, cleaning, melting, and otherwise recycling garbage, all done with machinery that would cause an OSHA inspector to faint. The worst jobs, such as culling the slop for the quarter’s pigs, pay among the best, and they are jobs only the low-born would consider.

The government basically stays out of the ecosystem that is Manshiet Nasr, with rare but tragic exceptions as in 2009, when public fear of swine flu was translated into a campaign, unsupported by the science, to slaughter the city’s 350,000 pigs and pay their owners below-market rates.

Egypt and Yemen are two of the poorest countries in the Middle East, yet in neither country is life unremitting misery, as family life is strong and the calendar is punctuated by numerous religiously inspired festivals (called moulids), and these too are a subject of my photography. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in his Nobel Prize lecture, on art: “Ours is a world where some weep inconsolate tears and others dance to a light-hearted musical.”

Notes on the Gear

I use a mix of 120 and 35mm film cameras and full-frame digital equipment, and output my work on an Epson large-format archival pigment inkjet printer that is the size of a stove. I shoot almost all of my subjects with a fast 28mm or 85mm lens, and most of my landscapes with a 20mm lens.

The Middle Eastern sun is harsh and directional, a fine environment for black and white film but a challenge to the dynamic range limitations of digital sensors, as are the odd wavelengths thrown off at night by fluorescent light bulbs, ubiquitous in the Middle East. Much of my outdoor and night photography are therefore shot in black and white, while I typically turn to the digital sensors for low-light images and images of colorful subjects.

For more information or to purchase prints, contact: james [at] ogaraphoto.com.
All photos are © James O'Gara.