Counting Christmas’s Cost

Now that we’re well enough past Christmas (That’s it’s name. No matter its true origins. Get over it.) it has become time to look at what it cost. More to the point, all my gifts and what they cost.

  • Pads of Paper.

    Okay, you’re saying “What?” Well, in one of my first postings on this blog, I talked about some expensive pads of paper that nevertheless were perfect gifts for those who write. I ended up buying a grand total of 18 booklets (both Anvil almost-blanks and Oh Boy Lined) for those who appreciate good writing and good paper to write on. Easy giving for me, but costly.Cost: $200.00

  • The Muppet Show: Season One

    Two families with kids are able to appreciate the humor (although some of stuff I’ve seen in the first two selected episodes is actually rather racy. I mean, “Temptation” for a glee-club singalong? And what’s (an admittedly mild case of) cleavage doing on the Muppet Show ending?), and a third one for another friend for whom the Muppets were one of the fondest memories of a sad marriage.Cost: $100.00

  • A Camera.

    Okay, this was a regift. The reason this counts is because I’d bought a better camera, and instead of selling it, I chose to give it to my brother. The idea being he had complained about his needing a special battery and mine just needed regular AA’s.Cost: $180.00

Total cost: $480.00. About what I net for a week and a half of work. A sizable amount, actually, and probably way above what I should have done.


Pac-Man — The Movie??????

Movie Rights to Pac-Man Gobbled Up


I played Pac-Man as a teenager. Those who knew me then knew me as a Pac-Man wizard, as I worked hard and long and finally mastered a Ninth Key Pattern (For those of you wondering, that’s the hardest Pac-Man gets in the easy setting. Energizers only reverse the Ghosts (they DON’T turn blue), they run faster than your Pac-Man, and the Red Guy REALLY goes fast towards the end of the rack.) and was actually able to earn back some of the money spent on that game with “Free” Pizzas during college.

The thing about the game is, you do the same thing every rack: eat dots, avoid ghosts, eat prizes in middle of screen, eat energizers, eat ghosts (if you’re allowed to), finish last dots. There’s no stupid quest thing involved in it.

I’m sure I’ll have to see the film, if only to confirm my suspicions that it will suck so bad as to be unnoticeable. But I’m already severely down on the film, and it’s only in the conception stage.

That’s right, friends, not everything conceived should be brought to full term.

Is Oprah the new God?

Maybe it’s because David Letterman’s growing old.
Maybe it’s because of his quadruple bypass surgery.
Maybe because he’s grown too comfy in his “late night job.”
Maybe because he’s growing tired of fighting.
Maybe because people have found out his weak spots.

Or maybe now there’s a new God in town, and her name is Oprah.

Think of it: who else would make a struggling car company give away a bunch of oversized automobiles? Who else would show up at a store after it had closed and tar and feather the proprietor in front of National TV (and have him like it?) Who else COULD have Scientologists make fools of themsleves?

And who else would show up on David Letterman and say about a public feud: “There was no feud. THERE! WAS! NO! FEUD!”?

Only someone who won the feud and was remaking the event to further humiliate the defeated one.

Remember, this was the same woman who fully remade the bookselling market into what it is today: A haven for female writers and a few males who cater to pro-feminist beliefs. She took the Phil Donahue format and opened it up to everyone from Maury Povich to Jerry Springer to The View.

And now it seems that anyone who’s anyone in Hollywood either is a friend of Oprah (which explains the Scientologists making fools of themselves on her shows) or makes a point not to say anything about her. Seems she can’t do anything wrong, an image which has gone so far as to make the comics.

Meanwhile, L, Ron Hubbard is churning in his grave seeing someone take on the mantle of power he long wanted. Meanwhile, Miscivage’s favored son (??) has made a fool of himself. But then…maybe I’m the fool for thinking this; after all we’re talking America, where noise is more valued than content.

Peotone DOES Threaten Midway!

Sorry for the sodapop fans, more serious topics pick up here.

You have to really know your stuff to land at Midway

Midway airport is one of the tightest packed airport in the world. Major roads ring the airport on all four sides, and important rail lines surround it slightly further out. There’s a rail yard to the south, and an El line to the east; further compounding the ring around Midway. Even if you were to expand the airport by merely cannibalizing houses, you don’t get THAT MUCH breathing room. You’d have to move some rail lines to get enough space to make a safe zone around the airport.

That airport is so tightly packed in that airplanes have to hit these things called “Reverse Thrusters” to stop the planes within the airport layout. I’ve landed there a couple times, and at Midway do you feel pressed towards the front of the airplane as the plane strains to stop.

An airport out in Peotone would make more sense, especially if they targeted it towards the budget market Midway does now. While there would be no possibility of EL service to Peotone, the Metra Electric could run (complete with express service) between Peotone and Downtown with relatively little track work, and access to the newly-planned Star Line could be made for quick, freight-traffic-free access to Joliet and from there to suburban Chicagoland. Long, well-bordered runways would allow planes to land in a leisurely fashion, extending lifespan and easing stresses on the people. Plus a properly-designed airport would be the safest in the world outside of Israel (where they’ve done everything to make sure Terrorists can’t do their dirty work).

While it’s possible that Peotone could become a transfer-type airport, chances are that would take a lot of traffic from Midway (and O’Hare) simply by being a quick, easy, safe place for planes to land. While O’Hare would finally have enough breathing room to expand properly, Midway would have to readjust itself to the new status. And it may not do so. Considering that properly there’s only two directions a plane can safely land (O’Hare impinges on the other two directions) and the limits to safety development, maybe one can say Goodbye to Midway.

(Reagan National suffers from the same problems. Maybe that place can be closed, as well. And no, I don’t care if Mr. Dulles was the leader of the CIA, as I’m not suffering from what HE did. Reagan, on the other hand, harms me more today than ever, and his actions grow greater with time.)

A Closer Look At The “OK Manifesto”

Okay, so I thought I was done with the sodapop topic. But you know how things work out: try to get the mind off a topic, and sometimes it doesn’t want to get off.

Anyway, I felt the need to take a closer look at the “OK Manifesto” to see what (if anything) was OK about it. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. What’s the point of OK? Well, what’s the point of anything?
    Well, many things have points, and the points are often different. Political Parties have a point of overcoming the opposite side and instituting their view of things. A man on a date does things with the point of seducing a woman, whereas the woman does things with a point of judging whether a man is worth more than a few yards of wasted cloth. Some websites’s point is to persuade you to a point of view, whereas others are just to inform and still others try to make you laugh.       

    And OK Cola’s point would seem to merely level things out to an apathetic whole.

  2. OK Soda emphatically rejects anything that is not OK, and fully supports anything that is.
    I didn’t know a soda could act in that manner. Is your caffeinated bubbly sugar-water now alive? And what does it consider OK and NOT OK?       

    Needs clarity. Badly.  

  3. The better you understand something, the more OK it turns out to be.
    A definite lie. I can think of quite a few things not OK with me; the 2000 Presidential Election (Not only that Bush Jr. Won, but Gore chose losing the election over owing Blacks for an electoral victory), friends losing investments because of bad advice from people they trusted, the city of Gary (Every time I go through a neighborhood, I now look to see what’s burned down, what’s been stripped of stuff, and what’s been torn down). And the more I think of these things, the less OK they are.       

    So NO, not everything becomes okay with knowledge. Indeed, some things become LESS OK.

  4. OK Soda says, “Don’t be fooled into thinking there has to be a reason for everything.”
    I have to agree with that. And even if there was a reason for some of the stuff, it’s not always better to ask why.
  5. OK Soda reveals the surprising truth about people and situations.
    You know, if it did I’d hunt me down some remaining cases of this stuff, hunt down some women I had had crushes on in the past, and feed them this stuff. Who knows, I might find some woman who, having held an unrequited crush on me since I was an undeserving callow youth, is still willing to abandon her hubby, give herself to me and let me live off her for free. 😉       

    Of course one can dream…and in this case, that’s about all one should do.

  6. OK Soda does not subscribe to any religion, or endorse any political party, or do anything other than feel OK.
    So what if it doesn’t feel OK? What does it do to get back to feeling OK? Does it bow down to the God of OKness? Does it act in some odd way to regain OKness? Does it seek out some new beats to feel OK with? Or does it go back to the old beats that soothed it during its salad days?       

    Enquiring minds want to know. 

  7. There is no real secret to feeling OK.
    True, although getting to that feeling may be harder for some than others.
  8. OK Soda may be the preferred drink of other people such as yourself.
    May be. Maybe if there was a better, more stable flavor to the soda then maybe it could be a preferred drink for someone like me. After all, I DO like to mix Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper together.
  9. Never overestimate the remarkable abilities of “OK” brand soda.
    Can I underestimate the abilities?  

    Why would a soda want to be considered “Mediocre?” Maybe because mediocrity would have been a vast improvement in its actual abilities? Or maybe because it wants to hide. Remember, there are discussion boards and web sites dedicated to OK Soda being a successful attitude adjustment attempted by Neocons than a failed soda.

  10. Please wake up every morning knowing that things are going to be OK.
    Right. Let’s say you’re about to be kicked out, with all your stuff thrown out for the local leeches to pick over. You don’t have a safe haven to escape to, and you can see the eyes waiting for your stuff to be thrown out your door. Are things OK now? (this has happened to a friend of mine)  

    Let’s say you’ve suffered a stroke, and are in the hospital. You can’t even make your hand touch your nose, and you’re not sure what you’re going to do. Can you honestly say things will be OK?  

    You’re living in a trailer park that just got bought up by some development company, and you (with all your neighbors) have been kicked out. Nobody within one hundred miles of you is willing to take your trailer in, and you can’t sell that box. Is everything going to be OK now?

    I could add a few other situations. Situations that happen in real life. Even if they’re self-caused, they’re still not “OK” and it’s likely they’ll never be “OK” as they are.

    (And don’t take the Pollyanna view that “things work out in the end.” Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they work out in ways that make things worse.)

So we got two affirmatives, five negatives, and three items which yielded to smart-ass analysis. Not really that good, if you ask me.

When Sodas Jump The Shark

Okay, I’m going beyond useless, but here’s a listing (at least in my mind) of times certain sodas jumped the shark:

  • Coke: With this new “Coke Blak.” Coke and COFFEE?
  • Pepsi: Pepsi Half. A rush job, whereas Coke C2 actually looked at balancing the sweeteners with some sugar, Pepsi hung its hat on one artificial sweetener (with some sugar). Taste definitely suffered.
  • Dr Pepper: Cherry-Vanilla Dr. Pepper. New Clothes for an old failure.
  • RC Cola: Diet Right gains eighteen different flavors. All because it outlasted saccharine.

I’m sure there’s others…

It’s Xmas; in time I’ll start posting more “issue-oriented” items.

Surge, Vault, and MDX — Sodas in the News?

Save Surge Soda
Vault Kicks

Yes, friends, TWO (count them, two) web sites on some odd side soda in the Coca-Cola universe. One of them a (mostly) dead brand, the other a brand about to be released nationally.

I remember Surge. I actually liked it when it came out; as it was a less sweet version of Mountain Dew. Not only that, but the taste was a bit stronger. In fact, it has a slight peppery taste that popped up towards the back of the tongue. It wasn’t bitter, but it definitely had a spicy taste to it.

In the end, I believe it was that spicy taste (and the fact that people tend to look for what is familiar over what is new) that doomed Surge. And also its bizarre dayglo green color. After all, we’re talking about a soda that Coke thought well enough of that they had it sold at fountain sites (7-11 in Downtown East Lansing, amongst other places) and in One Liter sizes (one that is saved for high-sale products, like Colas, Mountain Dew and Dr Pepper). Then it failed.

Now we have Vault. It’s Surge, but with a better coloring (yellowish instead of dayglo green) and without that peppery back-taste. I’m looking forward to it, as I still love the Surge Taste and Vault Has it.

BTW…Mountain Dew MDX sucks! It’s “power pack” is definitely powerless. I’ve tried it, definitely did nothing to keep me from sleeping on my job.

OK Soda: So What WAS The Real Deal?

OK Soda was a strange soda. Test marketed on college campuses all over the nation, the resulting mix did not test well. Every review I read up on it talked about “Suicide Soda;” a concoction in which the average drinker would get any number of different sodas and, as they drank up their glasses, mix up what was left until what remained was a nondescript liquid of a nondescript color and low carbonation with a taste that could best be described as “nondescript” (you get the idea, I hope). I once joked (after doing the final mix of my favorite version of Suicide Soda involving Mello Yello, Fanta Orange, Fanta Cherry and Caffeine Free Coke. Don’t ask why, but only the Caffeine Free Coke would do.) that mixing all the stuff together would create some sort of superchemical that would destroy your brain, freeze your heart mid-beat and turn your testicles into a pair of oily puddles.

I remember liking the soda for the first two bottles, but after the fifth bottle I unable to finish the bottle. The unstable taste (You’d go from “nothing” to “yuck” to “most perfect soft drink ever” to “nothing” halfway through a twenty ounce bottle) eventually settled down on “yuck” and I’d eventually avoid the poor student employees trying to give out the stuff to others.

The soda disappeared from everywhere but the net soon after.

Good, you say? Maybe not…

Mr. Dolce (my guess: he’s probably gone on to a career in Middle Management by now) has it that the CIA hired Coca-Cola to try out a little experiment in behavior control. Throw out an odd soda with oddly hip graphics complete with text that worked with each other to instill a certain mind-set that was more congenial with a government out to control people’s actions, and maybe people will buy it. Even if the soda sucks — heck, maybe the soda was supposed to suck; disappear the soda before people figure out what’s going on and maybe the kids will change without them even thinking of what’s going on with them.

Joshua Glenn goes a bit further. In The Baffler, he creates a theory where William Kristol (Chief of Staff for Dan Quayle back in 1992) creates a soda whose sole purpose was to drug a generation staring down a barrel of reduced expectations into accepting that this was OK. The students would open the bottle or can, drink a couple of gulps down, read the generic piece of the “OK Manifesto” on the can or bottle, and as the stuff was drunk down their minds would be receptive to the words of OKness. Then, after a few weeks of tasting great, the stuff would suddenly become crappy and die a disgraceful death before entering the marketplace; while the ideas and beliefs would just find themselves embedded in one’s head, unable to be removed because one doesn’t believe them in the first place or know how they got there.

This would explain a few things:

  1. Like why the stuff varied at first, then turned yucky. Most sodas that die on the vine don’t suck (Pepsi Blue being the prime exception), but outstay their welcome. Those of us who like the pop eventually grow tired of the novel taste and eventually they go back to the old stalwarts. It’s rare that flavors change, never mind in such a disastrous way; but that’s what happened to OK soda.
  2. Why it only appeared on college campuses.
  3. Why it went through an extended “try me” period (with lots of free samples, let me add), only to disappear.

Then there is the “OK Manifesto:”

  1. What’s the point of OK? Well, what’s the point of anything?
  2. OK Soda emphatically rejects anything that is not OK, and fully supports anything that is.
  3. The better you understand something, the more OK it turns out to be.
  4. OK Soda says, “Don’t be fooled into thinking there has to be a reason for everything.”
  5. OK Soda reveals the surprising truth about people and situations.
  6. OK Soda does not subscribe to any religion, or endorse any political party, or do anything other than feel OK.
  7. There is no real secret to feeling OK.
  8. OK Soda may be the preferred drink of other people such as yourself.
  9. Never overestimate the remarkable abilities of “OK” brand soda.
  10. Please wake up every morning knowing that things are going to be OK.

Remember: all this for a soda that didn’t even make it to the marketplace.

Sodas That Sucked From The Beginning

As I’ve said before, usually when a new soda is introduced, it has a period of time when people will like it. Then, as time goes on, they’ll switch back to their favorites. You’ll try out the newest Orange soda, but eventually you’ll return to Sunkist, while the newest twist on the Coke franchise will bring you back to the original and Citra will forever live in the shadow of Squirt/Fresca.

But sometimes there will be a soda (like OK Soda) that basically sucks to high heaven almost immediately. You may not know it immediately, but in a few weeks you’ll actually find yourself unable to finish a bottle of the stuff.

One such soda is Pepsi Blue Fusion. Placed into stores as an attempt to expand the market for Pepsi, it failed miserably. This was one of the few sodas I’ve tried that I was unable to finish off a bottle of.

Dr Pepper Red Fusion is another soda like this. Almost a carbon copy of OK Soda (even down to the translucent appearance of the soda itself), my reaction to it was almost the same: Like, followed by a slow development of dislike. I never got to where I couldn’t finish a bottle, but then it’s not like I found free samples being given away by hapless students hoping to earn $7/hr giving out bubbly water. Another version of this soda is Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla Soda, which differs in the liquid being opaque.

So, what causes a soda to suck almost immediately? Simple: have it succeed in taste tests that focuses on immediate impressions to the point of ignoring the “drink this case” test, then market it nationwide on the bases of such a flawed testing.

Surely there must be a reason everyone uses such a flawed form of testing, right? More on that tomorrow, and what finally set things right.

Remember The Pepsi Challenge? I Do…

You know the whole story: Pepsi finds itself in a market that it’s outsold by store brands of cola. Pepsi, free of the “Brand X” advertisement rules that had ruled the airwaves until then, does a taste-test comparison between it and Coke. Lo and Behold, Pepsi beats Coke in the taste tests (complete with testimonials) both there (in Dr Pepper Country, let me add) and nationwide. Eventually, they stare Coke down and Coke changes its formula…only to find it has to return to the “old” formula which was getting beaten by Pepsi. But now the rules have changed: Pepsi can’t do their taste test anymore, and Coke goes on (as Coca-Cola Classic) to redevelop itself as America’s Cola.

Now, here’s the rest of the story:

  1. I remember finally doing the “Pepsi Taste Challenge” back one July 4th in the early eighties, when the Taste Challenge still had power. I also remember that the Pepsi had just come out of a cooler and the Coke was a few degrees above outdoor temperature. Needless to say, I chose Pepsi and thought nothing about that selection.I have to wonder how many others got a similar taste test: Cold Pepsi vs Lukewarm Coke? And how many people let themselves get snookered by this?
  2. I remember the reaction to the change with some distance, as I had started drinking a mix of Mountain Dew and Dr Pepper from a nearby Seven Eleven by that time. I thought it odd, after all it was just a soda pop.This in some ways because, having heard for a year and a half (and finally succumbing to the whining) about how we should boycott Coke to get them to divest from South Africa, I no longer drank Coke. I (and probably a lot of others) commented about how it would be picking one company over another, as everyone had probably invested in South Africa; soon we heard how Pepsi started divesting.

    Soon enough, Coke came up with a way of divesting directly in South Africa without losing the market — sell the company to the employees. Some of the more shrill boycotters declared the boycott not over, most of us stopped listening. After all, did Pepsi REALLY disinvest in South Africa? And besides, while there was some good done (ownership given to a wider group), it was an accidental benefit, not something intended.

  3. What the Coke Brouhaha did was expose what a farce the Taste test was. After all, if there was a nationwide rebellion against Coke “bettering their beverage,” then was it really that bad? And, more to the point, can you say Pepsi is even better than Coke?Of course, Pepsi fans will say “of course Pepsi is better than Coke” and Coke fans will say “Never! Coke is better than Pepsi always!” Thing is, there isn’t really enough of a difference to matter to most people.

    That’s right; most people pick pops because of other reasons.

    Maybe it’s because of Micheal Jackson shilling for Pepsi back in the early eighties (Pepsi Drinker). Mabye it’s because of what Michael Jackson became later on (Coke Drinker). Maybe it’s because it’s what you dad drank (Depends on him and his drink) Maybe because you thought their version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was better than the original (Mountain Dew). Maybe you like different labels every time you grab a pop (Jones Soda).

    Thing is, taste is not a major factor. Never will be.

Oh, so what was I drinking back then? A mix of Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew. Had what I thought was a better flavor than either Pepper or Dew. And besides, it’s not like anyone was about to try and reproduce that flavor.

Or so I thought…