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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 7/05/2001It's Bank Holiday, so nothing's happening. Apart from the sound of political pundits sharpening their pencils in election bunkers up and down the land, a comfortable silence settles in.

Monday
7/05/2001 It's Bank Holiday, so nothing's happening. Apart from the sound of political pundits sharpening their pencils in election bunkers up and down the land, a comfortable silence settles in. All is calm. Not so in the US, where a particularly cruel experiment is bringing a hint of a nightmare world to innocent, unsuspecting students. It was all the bright idea of Amherst College student Andrew Epstein. He had an art project to commit. Eschewing the normal, run-of-the-mill art student stuff -- post-modern analysis of the patterns of dog poo on campus, painting a ten foot Madonna using his own and others' sputum, that sort of thing -- he decided to ban coffee. After persuading the college's cafeteria to not sell the stuff for a day, he put up signs around the place saying that the evil substance was banned and opened a Caffeine Detox Centre. I'm no Cole Porter -- mere alcohol certainly thrills me at all -- but neither am I one of nature's addicts. A world without cigarettes is fine, and while I'd miss a decent pint of Landlord or a snifter of Laphroaig as much as the next man, I would survive. But coffee? Chief seasoning in life's feast? It's inhuman! I tried to give it up once, and it was by far the least successful of my attempts to give anything up -- including my eternal sins of inappropriate women and naked hang-gliding over Newcastle council estates. Unsurprisingly, some of the students at Amherst kicked up a fuss and a half. Just not that many... others shrugged and said "Ok, first cigarettes, now this...", which should strike fear and shame into the heart of a nation that self-mythologises mercilessly about its innate individualism. Epstein was very happy about it all, saying that it did its job: making people think about the implications of substance control. But if that had been me on campus I'd have spiked his mineral water with industrial quantities of Pro Plus and gone after him with a mouthful of Dracula dental work. Some things are sacred, art or no.