Tuesday, December 19, 2006

10 Best/Worst Christmas Songs

Today's article is a reader submission. I was asked to write about what, I believe, are the 10 best/worst Christmas songs of all time. So, Kathy, this one is for you. If there is something you would like me to write about just drop me a line here. If it interests me and I decide to do it, you'll get credit for giving me the idea, just like I'm giving Kathy right now. Anywho, on with the article.

I love Christmas and along with that, I love Christmas songs. Especially the celebrity pop culture songs. Some of those Christmas songs can be so awful that you can't believe how absolutely awesome they are...or, as I call it, abso-awful (I just made that word up). The rest of the Christmas songs are so heinous that you'll claw out the inside of your ear with a rusty spoon to not have to hear them anymore. Here's my personal countdown of the 10 Best and 10 Worst Christmas Songs of all time. I'll also give you a little tidbit of why that song is where it is. You may look at these lists and be like, "Hey Pax, you are a ^$#$ genius, keep it up!" or you may look at it and say, "You are dead to me". Either way, I'm still an incredibly sexy beast (You know it's true. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful).

Let's start off with the 10 best Christmas songs in no particular order (I'm numbering them for my own sanity).

1. White Christmas (Bing Crosby) - This is, of course, a classic. When Bing wasn't beating the crap out of his kids, he was busy belting out some of the best songs of his day. This one comes from the equally awesome movie of the same name. Needs no explanation.
2. Mele Kalikimaka (Bing Crosby) - As to this song's origin, I imagine Bing bet some songwriter that he couldn't write a song about both Hawaii AND Christmas. Well, Unknown Songwriter 1 - Bing Crosby 0. Makes me think of that scene in Christmas Vacation where Clark is looking out the window at his soon to be swimming pool.
3. Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley) - You knew The King was going to be on this list. Here's his most famous. Pretty much everyone on Earth with a set of vocal cords and no shame has covered this song. Elvis makes you wonder why anyone even tries to sing anymore.
4. Santa's Coming to Town (Elvis Presley) - A lesser known Elvis song off one of his first Christmas albums (of which number in the lower millions). It's a bluesy, rock "version" of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I put "version" in "quotes" because a) Elvis' song is very different from the original and b) I'm extremely pretentious.
5. Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms) - Another classic. Fun version of the original Jingle Bells song. Because "jingle bell time is a swell time, to go riding in a one-horse sleigh". You know it and I know it.
6. Little Saint Nick (Beach Boys) - Seems weird putting a Beach Boys song on a Christmas list, right? Well, I already put a Hawaiian song on, so let's put the Boys on. Very catchy tune that makes me want to both celebrate Christmas and go to the beach to "hang 10".
7. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee) - Featured in pretty much every movie that ever had a passing mention of Christmas. Most notably, though, Home Alone.
8. Baby It's Cold Outside (Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel) - This is just a great song, but this particular version can be found on the Elf soundtrack. I LOVE this song.
9. Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry) - Any Chuck Berry Christmas song is bound to be good. This is no exception and, like the song 2 entries up, can be found in Home Alone.
10. Carol of the Bells (Any choir) - This isn't really a pop christmas song, but I love this so much I had to put it here. I learned to love it when my high school choir performed it at a Christmas event. Very pretty when sung by a choir.

You've seen the best, now let's see the worst. The songs that make you ashamed to be Christian and celebrating Christmas. Here are the 10 worst songs as viewed by me.

1. Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano) - I got into an argument with my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Butler, over who was the better guitarist; Jose Feliciano or Jimi Hendrix (I honestly am not making that up). To me, that was not even an argument as Jimi could play with his teeth and I maintain that teeth beats no teeth every time. I still hear this song in my sleep from when Steph and I put up our Christmas tree lights this year.
2. Little Drummer Boy (David Bowie/Bing Crosby) - See this awful, awful video here. Why must singers look soulfully into the distance when singing? Is there something off camera worth looking at? Why can't I see, too? This is actually considered a classic, but I think it's a classic piece of crap. Why, Bing, WHY?!
3. Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk this Christmas) (John Denver) - Is this song real? It sounds like a Weird Al parody. I could've written this song. Is it supposed to be funny, or poignant? Whatever it's supposed to be, it's entertaining, and not in a good way.
4. Silver Bells (Kathi Lee Gifford/Regis Philbin) - This song is every bit as bad as you think it is. Think Riker's Island penitentiary...but without all the sodomy. Actually, you'd probably welcome sodomy after hearing this song.
5. I'm Gonna Email Santa (Rosie O'Donnell) - Is it redundant to put Rosie O'Donnell on a Worst Christmas song list? This song is pretty much a commercial for Santa.com. Also, Rosie learned that she can't sing when she released her first Christmas album, so on the next album (which includes this song) her voice is so overproduced it doesn't even sound like her. Which is good cause it doesn't sound like her, but bad because the voice now sounds like Joshua from War Games. WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? Actually, that's kinda cool.....
6. Do You Hear What I Hear? (Rosie O'Donnell & Elmo) - It's like someone said, "How can we make listening to a song sung by Rosie O'Donnell worse? I know, let's have her sing with that irritating Muppet you tickle." Maybe for the next Rosie Christmas album she can hire someone to come in my house and punch me repeatedly in the testicles as I listen to her album. No, that would actually be better than this song.
7. Have a Rosie Christmas (Rosie O'Donnell) - If Rosie's goal by singing this was to give me the compulsion to first, kill her, then kill myself, all I have to say is......mission accomplished, Rosie......mission accomplished.
8. Dear Mr. Jesus (Faceless, Abused Child) - I know the intentions behind this song are noble, but, oh dear, sweet jesus, this song is flat out awful. It's sung by a sweet child, yet it's about another child who is physically abused by her parents. By the end I'm ready to either search out the abusive parents and string them up for all to see, or slit my own wrists. Since I'm lazy, it'll probably be the latter.
9. Jingle Bells (Jingle Dogs) - After listening to just one song off any of these stupid CDs, you too will believe in euthanasia for animals.
10. Do They Know It's Christmas Time At All? (Band Aid) - This one toes the line of being abso-awful and just plain awful, but, for me, it's just plain awful. Watching the music video is like watching the video yearbook of a drug rehab clinic circa 1982. It's poetic to see some of the wealthiest musicians of that time sing about awareness of the poor in Africa. Do people in Africa even celebrate Xmas?

Well, that's my list and I'm stickin' to it. By now you are either extolling the unlimited boundaries of my genius, or cursing me to an early grave. Hey, this is all subjective and only my opinion, except for the Rosie O'Donnell songs. Those are awful, and that's a fact supported by modern science.

Anywho, hope everyone has a great Christmas. I'm heading back home to Birmingham, AL on Saturday. Hope you all get what you want. Personally, I hope I'll be getting a Nintendo Wii. After this article, I'm sure Santa is going to give me the Kathy Lee Gifford album.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Festival of the Tree

Steph and I actually put up our tree last weekend. We didn't decorate it, but we at least had it up. So, after a week of letting the tree sit in our den pretty much naked as the day I was born, Steph and I finally got around to decorating it last Sunday. I love Christmas. You will see that as the weeks go on. I'm sure there will be a few blog articles on Christmas crap you can only buy in stores during the holidays. I do not, however, enjoy decorating the tree. AT ALL. Let me walk you through the 'comedy of horrors' I like to call...The Festival of the Tree.

First, we put on the digital music channel, Sounds of the Season, so we can listen to Christmas music while we work. Then I start unwinding the lights. They've been in these RubberMaid tubs all year and apparently were formed into one gi-normous knot not even the Boy Scouts could untangle. After that mess is handled, Steph takes the lead and starts twirling the lights around separate branches moving around the tree in a clockwise motion. I continue de-tangling the herculean knot and passing her the strand of lights. We continue around the tree for what feels like an hour. All the while Steph is telling me to hand her lights faster, then slower, then I'm slacking and I need to start moving faster. Man, how long is this #$&@ strand of lights? And didn't the music channel JUST play Feliz Navidad, or is it just me?

The Festival of the Tree has begun...

When the first strand is finally done, we plug in the lights to see if we missed any spots. Funny, the tree barely looks lit, WTF?! Maybe it's because half the strand is not lighting up. GREAT, we just got these lights. So we gotta unwind the flippin' lights and start again. FYI, if you value your marriage, plug in each strand before you string it. A Christmas tip from me to you.

So, we start again. Oh yes, people, I checked the strand this time. Daddy ain't no fool. So, things are going good, for what feels like an hour and a half. WTF?! There is no way this strand is longer than the last strand. They are from the same box. Maybe doing the tree was a huge mistake today. Is that Feliz Navidad...AGAIN?! Does this digital music channel only have like 3 songs on its playlist?! COME ON!! Finally, the end of the strand. We plug it in to see the fruits of our labor. Crap in a hat. There's a huge unlighted hole in the middle of the tree where Steph missed. I. WANT. TO. DIE. Maybe a glass of wine would help? Or a shotgun in my mouth?

So we unwind then begin again. By this point, Steph and I don't even consider us to be married to each other. We are two strangers who hate each other decorating the same tree, that we also hate. Idle chit-chat is at a low point, which sucks because the digital music channel is playing Feliz Navidad for the 30th time. And this strand is taking longer than the last three strands combined. I'm dying inside, our cat Presley is in the corner weeping and we still haven't finished stringing lights, much less putting on ornaments. We plug in the newest strand once it's finally on and the tree is only lit like half way. WTF?! We've been at this for what feels like days and the tree is only half done?! That's it, I'm prepared to call off Christmas and start celebrating Easter.

We are finally getting to the bottom and I keep thinking we are done. I tell Steph, "...one more strand" like twenty times. We keep putting on lights and the bottom never gets any closer. It's like the tree is a giant optical illusion. We are going to keep stringing up lights until we either run out of lights or we die, whichever comes first, and I'm betting on the latter. We finally finish the tree with a grand total of like 7 strands of lights. Seven strands of lights. SEVEN. We bought this tree like 3 or 4 years ago. It's fake. We don't water it, it doesn't grow. Explain to me why the number of strands it takes to light this ^&%$# tree goes up every year. The first year we had the tree I swear it only took 3 strands of lights. I've bought boxes of lights every year to put on the tree. Where do the lights go?! Is there some kind of Phantom Zone in our tree? Another dimension that sucks up lights, never to be seen again? Maybe this dimension is nothing but Christmas lights and orphaned socks from our washing machine.

Who knows, but the tree is finally lit and we get to start putting on the ornaments...queue Feliz Navidad...

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ninja Day!!

Today, December 5, is officially the Day of the Ninja.

Below is an orientation video for nonjas (or non-ninjas) about the origins of Ninja Day.

In light of the fact that it's the Day of the Ninja I want to reveal a secret I've long held from the people I love. I too am a part of the Dark Brotherhood (no, not the NAACP). I am ninja. I have never revealed this to anyone before.

After an assignment where I've killed 30 people with deadly efficiency who have no idea I'm even in the room, I want to be able to tell the people I care about. It's hard to kill like that. It takes serious concentration, nerves of steel and a little bit of duct tape.

Now that you know that I am ninja, many of you will be scared to talk to me. That's okay. I understand. Don't be intimidated by the fact that while talking to you, I've instantly come up with at least 75 ways to kill you where you stand using only my steely wits and a shrimp puff I got from the appetizer plate. It's just what I do. And don't be unnerved if I just disappear in the middle of a conversation, leaving no trace I was ever there. I've just taken a quick break to go kill someone. I'll be right back to finish whatever discussion we were having, unless, of course, it is you I plan on killing. When I do return, and you are not the one that is dead, ask no questions and pretend I never left. Also, when engaging me in conversation, it would be beneficial to not use any quick or threatening gestures. Sometimes my instincts will kick in and next thing you know I'm standing in a room full of bloody corpses not remembering the awesome, awesome ninja killing that just occurred. You want to talk about a buzz-kill?

It's just the risks of doing business with a ninja.

So when you see me, just act natural and you won't have to die.

So how can nonjas celebrate Ninja Day? It's easy, just act all sneaky and ninja-like. Creep up on a coworker, slit his throat with a paper clip. Maybe you could drop down silently from the ceiling and decapitate your manager. There's many things nonjas can do to celebrate the random and efficient killing of a ninja. Be creative.

Remember, we are watching.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Fun with my Camera Phone.....

Man, camera phones are the greatest. When I'm out and aboot during the day and I see something funny or strange, I can just quickly snap a pic of it to show people later. I've turned the sound off on the camera function so it doesn't even make that tell-tale camera clicking sound when I take a pic. Perfect for crowded areas. I thought I'd show you guys a few of the pics I've taken this week during my adventures. All of the below pics were taken by me on my cell phone, which, by the way, is a Razr V3 (seen left), hopefully to be upgraded to the Samsung Blackjack this spring.

FYI...I play games on my phone, mostly Pocket Yahtzee, so when going to the bathroom with your phone, keep a good grip on it. My phone went diving into the toilet like Greg Louganis yesterday. It even bumped the side of the bowl like Greg. Luckily, it was pre-squeeze cheese, so clean up was less messy than if it had been post-squeeze (you'd be surprised the amount of people that asked).

Anywho...on to the pics!!

Holy crap, what the hell is this guy compensating for? Either this is Paul Bunyon's sweet ride or the owner has the tiniest genitalia on the planet. And he parked it BACKWARDS. For a guy with such small genitalia, he's got some ego.

I was at the Big Lots by my office during lunch and right next door was this Chinese grocery (pictured left). I love fun and different types of supermarkets and groceries so I thought I'd drop in. Maybe I'd find some cool Chinese energy drinks or sodas. I thought it would be fun. I was wrong. As soon as I stepped into the place, I knew I was wrong. First of all, the smell. It was unearthly. At first, it smelled like some old guy's ass (not that I actually know what that smells like, but I can guess). The smell changed and morphed the longer I stayed in this unholy place. The smell was so bad, my entire olfactory system shut down. It was like Cherynobyl in my brain, a complete meltdown. My eyes were burning, I couldn't breathe, and I wanted to cry. I walked around very quickly trying to catch my breath and I noticed I was the only "westerner" in there. Everyone else is Chinese, and old. Not just old, but ANCIENT. We are talking hieroglyphics old. So, now I'm scared. I'm afraid the Akuza (they are Japanese, I know) are going to jump out and turn me into Today's Special. So I hightail it out of there. Walking out I noticed there was like one register open and the chick was doing her nails. So strange...yet wonderful. I will never set foot in this place again, but I will speak of it often.

Hogly Wogly?! Come on, dude. You can't do any better than Hogly Wogly? How about Cowsy Wowsy? Birdsy Wirdsy? Piggly Wiggly....wait.

This is a public service announcement. If you are going to mix absinthe and lemonade, be prepared for the very real possibility of a cross dressing transvestite waking you up in the middle of the French Quarter without your pants on.

Or so I've been told.

DEAD. SEXY. You know it, and I know it.

It's December already?! Can you believe it?! Time has FLOWN by. Holiday season is upon us. Have a great weekend everyone and get your Xmas shopping done.

Remember, I want a Samsung Blackjack.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My name is Pax, and I have lost all feeling in my legs....

Well, it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Everyone is prepping to wear their maternity pants tomorrow to stuff in the largest amount of food you can possibly eat in one sitting. Then, a few hours later, create leftovers and do it again. It's a ritual, and I love it.

In preparation for the food orgy to come, I went to my first spin class last night. For those that don't know what spin is, it's a class at the local gym where two midgets wearing Gene Simmons' spiked KISS boots jump up and down on your legs for an hour. No, I'm kidding that's not what it is, but it feels like it. It's like a bicycle sprint into Hell set to cheesy music. I've been running 3-4 miles every other day since February. I also do about 100 push ups every other day (on average). I thought I was in pretty good shape. It took maybe 10 minutes in the spin class to realize that I was mistaken.

Thanks to spin class, today, I'm a complete wreck. I am so sore. Everyone of my muscles is a useless slab of spent flesh. Sammy Sosa could come in here and start beating my legs with a baseball bat and I would just laugh at him. When I walk, I look like some kind of spasming, freak show. People throw coins at me when I walk by. I actually heard someone yell, "For the love of God, put it out of its misery!" when I was walking to the bathroom. Some people are so cruel.

Time to pop 6 Extra Strength Tylenols and make a visit to No Pain Town. Despite my grumbling, it was a great workout and I'll most definitely do it again.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

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Friday, November 17, 2006

My Compulsion to Collect

I have a weird compulsion to collect things. Nothing outlandish like naval lint, body parts or other people's souls, but things more under the pop culture umbrella. I've tried to collect things since I was a little kid. I remember having a bottle/can collection in our garage when I was 8 or 9. I was made to throw it away because my parents thought it was just "taking up space". What the hell does that mean anyway? Doesn't the car take up space? Or the hundred pounds of crap I push under my bed when I clean up my room? That takes up space, too. Hey, what do I know, I was just the innocent child permanently scarred by my uncaring parents (I see an episode of Oprah in my future). After that I collected Garbage Pail Kids for a few years. Those were AWESOME. I collected them in 5th and 6th grade. I think I still have them at my dad's, but they may have been thrown out because...that's right...taking up space.

In seventh grade I started my first big collection; comic books. From seventh grade through twelfth grade my friend Steve and I collected comics hardcore. We frequented this comic shop in Hoover called Curious George Comics and Arcana. It was run by this guy who I think is crazy, but I KNOW is a dirty hippie. I have no idea if his name was in fact, George, but Steve and I called him Curious George anyway. Years after his store closed I saw him at the mall. He was working as a telemarketer (surprise, surprise) and he was wearing a suit and tie carrying a briefcase....and he worked as a telemarketer. That's what I'm talking about. I still called him Curious George when I talked to him. What a wacko (him, not me). But I digress (I do that a lot), I still have my comic collection in my garage. I thumb through it every once in a while. Looking through my hundreds of comics takes me back to a simpler time, a time before I was married, with a mortgage, and a job, no cat and no car. Damn, it certainly WAS a simpler time, I didn't have anything.

Comic collecting faded for the most part when I went to college. Partly because I didn't have the time nor the room to do it (nor the money). The only thing I could say I collected in college was books. I frequented a used book store and bought a ton of used books very cheaply to read. That's the closest I came to a collection until my last year at Auburn; 1997. That is the year I started collecting Star Wars. That particular collection would consume me from 1997 until the end of 2004. I realize this may label me as a dork, but I'm sure I was labeled that before some of you knew this (haha). Many of you had seen my Star Wars Room back when I lived in Birmingham. It was a spectacular site, but it is no more. I stopped actively collecting Star Wars stuff when I moved to Jacksonville in Feb 2005.

So, what am I collecting now? Odds and ends. Kool aid packets and soda cans (stop laughing, that was serious). I enjoy finding oddball sodas you can't find in a lot of places. I have old cans of Pepsi Free, Crystal Pepsi, Mountain Dew Pitch Black and New Coke. I have a can of Russian Pepsi Ice Cream and Taiwanese can of Pepsi Gold. Crazy ass things like that. It's something to do. I'm weird, what can I say? I'm glad Steph married me when she did, I have her completely fooled (well, probably not). I'm also glad she puts up with it.

I'm a lucky man with a garage full of comic books and soda cans.

Have a good weekend everyone.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Decadence: Ice Cream Orgasms

Sooooooooooo, even though today is Thursday, I am taking tomorrow off, so you bitches can SUCK IT, today is my Friday. I think I'll spend today talking a little bit about indulgences. There are a few things my wife and I love to indulge in, ice cream being numero uno. Recently a flavor of Haagen Dazs was released that knocked a few of my planets out of orbit. It's called Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Like I just told you in the first paragraph, the wife and I adore ice cream. If we could, we would adopt a little ice cream baby and care for him and love him like the real thing. The only problem is, we'd only last so long before his ice-creamy goodness would lure us into eating him and then we'd be labeled cannibals, which would force us to go on the run. Authorities and bounty hunters would chase after us Fugitive-style until a violent and bloody shootout at an old abandoned warehouse ends the entire ordeal. Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Michael Hall would portray us in the TV movie and..........wait, where was I....oh, ice cream. As far as flavors, Steph loves chocolate (the more you can cram into the container the better). Me, I gravitate towards regular vanilla and it's variations (cherry vanilla, chocolate chip, etc).

Earlier this year, Steph and her mother saw a show on Food Network called Scoop which was a reality type show that had people developing the next great Haagen Dazs flavor. The winner turned out to be a British desert called Sticky Toffee Pudding. I was skeptical but Steph convinced me to try it. The verdict? Might be the best ice cream I've ever had. It's tied with Graeter's Chocolate Chip ice-cream at the top of my list of "Ice Creams to Kill Your Parents For" (Just kidding, Mom and Dad.........or am I?). This stuff is phenomenal. If they had it, I'd buy it in giant tubs. I'd purchase extra refrigerators just to be able to hold the giant tubs of Sticky Toffee Pudding I'd buy. My wife said she would bathe in it. I use it as cologne and bathroom spackle. IT'S THAT GOOD. Try it, you'll thank me. Pretty soon you'll be frequenting dark alleys looking for your next STP fix.

Welcome to my world.

Have a good weekend.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Seasonings Greetings

No, that title is not a typo. I got a random little entry today as I'm feeling a bit sassy and I thought I would take you along for the ride. Someone brought in donuts to work today and I had two, so I may be just in the midst of my sugar high, but let's see where I can steer this entry.

I've been thinking about my favorite food seasonings recently. Don't ask me why, it just happens. I don't question it, I just acknowledge and move on. Anyway, my family has always loved pouring extra seasonings onto food for flavoring. It doesn't matter if the food actually needs more flavoring, they do it anyway. You could have Emeril or Wolfgang Puck make the tastiest porkchops or top sirloin steaks and place them right in front of my dad. Without missing a beat, my dad will dumptruck on half a shaker of salt and six cups of seasoning salt. It's something that has been conditioned into me like Pavlov's dogs;

1. Place food in front of me
2. Apply copious amounts of seasoning salt
3. Taste food
4. Add more seasoning salt

In light of my familial brainwashing, there are two seasoning salts that get it done for me and I have used them since I was a kid. The first was introduced to me by my mother and its called Nature's Seasons by the Morton Salt company. This is used on lots of things but the best is to sprinkle this over cottage cheese as a side dish. I always thought it had a weird name though. Nature's Seasons. What's that supposed to mean? This seasoning salt consists of seasonings you can find in nature? Whatever. If one could find this bottle's kaleidescope of tastes in nature, I wouldn't need it in the first place. Maybe the title means that Mother Nature herself uses it on her own food? How awesome is that?

Seasoning number two is Lawry's Seasoning Salt. This one is the far more versatile salt of the two. I use it much more frequently. Like Nature's Seasons, it's also good on cottage cheese, but Lawry's can also be used on beef, veggies, chicken, pork, pizza, mac&cheese, squash, kittens, midgets, those rubber bouncy balls you can buy for a quarter, breakfast cereals, the French and, last but not least, deviled eggs. Lawry's didn't try to get too cute with their name like Morton. Lawry's Seasoning Salt. That's pretty much all you need. This stuff is so good that you could sprinkle a little bit on the table in front of me and I'd spend the next hour trying to lick every last speck off the tabletop. Yes, it's that good. Try it on popcorn, too. I didn't realize that this seasoning comes from an actual restaurant in Chicago. Click the Lawry's bottle to the right to go to the restaurant's website.

Anywhose, hope everyone has a good weekend. Enjoy the time off.


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Monday, October 30, 2006

Misunderstood: The Saga of New Coke Pt III

Happy Monday, people! Before I present to you the final engrossing chapter of New Coke, I thought I'd pass along a fun little news article about fried Coke (pictured left). Apparently an enterprising man by the name of Abel Gonzales, Jr. created a recipe that uses Coca-Cola syrup mixed into a funnel cake batter that's deep fried and served with syrup and cherries on top. Wow. Nice. My wife and I always talk about how, in the South, they fry everything, including the Iced Tea. Maybe we should amend that to Coke? A completely Southern idea, fried Coke brings us one step closer to this. Consider me in love.

Anywho, on to the matter at hand. If you missed Part I or Part II of this article just click the appropriate link. Otherwise continue reading and see the exciting conclusion to the New Coke story.

After the fallout from New Coke’s disastrous introduction, Coke had a big problem. How do they market two Cokes? Coke Classic didn’t need any marketing as the brand now sold itself, but what about New Coke? It could no longer use the slogan “The Best Just Got Better”, so, what to do? Coke decided to market New Coke to their lowest performing demographic, kids and teens. Ads for Coke included Max Headroom in fast talking commercials berating Pepsi for lack of originality. These ads did fairly well and were well recognized, but sales of New Coke couldn’t recover from the beating the drink got over the summer. The writing was on the wall for New Coke.

In 1992, New Coke was re-branded Coke II in hopes that it might refresh interest. It didn’t and by 2002, the drink was pretty much eliminated from all but the smallest markets. Supposedly, Coke II can still be found in stores and vending machines in smaller markets like Micronesia and American Samoa. Though New Coke is considered near dead, it will never truly die. CEO Goizueta still preferred New Coke so he continued to have it produced for his own consumption until right before his death. You only have to mention New Coke to somebody and they immediately know what you are talking about. It’s not just a drink anymore, New Coke refers to a mistake so disastrous, one may never recover. It’s part of the pop culture lexicon.

Years after New Coke’s birth and supposed death, urban legends continue to swirl around it. There are people that believe that Coke orchestrated the whole New Coke failure to breathe life back into Coca-Cola’s flagging sales. While the end result may have done just that, I think Coke President Donald Keough said it best when asked about that very scenario. His answer: “We're not that dumb, and we're not that smart”. Well said.

So, can one still find New Coke on today’s store shelves? While Coke II may be dead, is the formula hidden within another product? Coca-Cola C2, perhaps? Or maybe Coke Zero? While New Coke’s exact formula won’t be found, the closest drink you will find to it is, in fact, Diet Coke. Take a look at the Diet Coke can as it’s very similar to the New Coke can with the red/silver colors reversed. Diet Coke is marketed as Coke while other drinks are marketed as Coca-Cola. New Coke was actually derived from Diet Coke’s formula. As mentioned earlier, Diet Coke is not really a diet version of Coca-Cola Classic as its formula is completely different. Diet Coke could be renamed Diet New Coke, or Diet Coke II. The true diet versions of Coca-Cola Classic are Coca-Cola C2 and Coca-Cola Zero.

As for me, what do I prefer? To be perfectly honest, I am a Pepsi drinker. My favorite soda is Diet Pepsi. I prefer Pepsi to Coke Classic and I don’t really even like Diet Coke (though I’ve recently started drinking it). When this whole New Coke fiasco went down, I was 11 years old. I remember my dad and I preferred the taste of New Coke to the original (as we were Pepsi drinkers so we liked the sweeter taste). I remember buying the 2 liters of New Coke and getting strange looks from people. EVERYONE in my neighborhood hated it. I can’t remember one person who would admit to liking New Coke at the time. I sure kept it quiet for a while. Now though, I think memories have softened and people would admit it wasn’t the taste they didn’t like, it was the idea of Coke changing the formula at all. They may even admit that they liked the taste of New Coke. Maybe.

What do you think? I really want to know. Email me or comment on this article and let me know what you thought of New Coke and if your views have changed since then. Till then, drink what you like and like what you drink.

Fun Coke/Pepsi Commercials:

1. New Coke Commercial featuring Max Headroom

2. One of a series of Pepsi commercials from the '90s featuring Hallie Eisenberg and a member of the Sopranos cast

3. This is a Cherry 7-up commercial I remember from the early '90s starring Matt LeBlanc, pre-Friends

4. Another classic 7-up commercial -- Make 7 UP YOURS!!!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Misunderstood: The Saga of New Coke Pt II

Welcome to Part II of The Saga of New Coke. If you missed Part I, then just click here. When you are all caught up, then continue reading for the exciting second part of our story. Like last time, check out the classic soda commercials at the end of today's installment.

On April 23, 1985 the Coca-Cola Company announced its intentions to introduce a brand new, reformulated Coca-Cola to the American public, dubbed Coke, and the systematic phasing out of the original formula. The new slogan was, “The Best Just Got Better”. What should have been a glorious day about Coke came up flat, so to speak. Coca-Cola CEO Robert Goizueta was ill-prepared for an event like Coke’s giant press conference and didn’t handle the media’s probing questions very well. When asked about New Coke’s flavor, he simply responded, “[It's] smoother, uh, uh, yet, uh, rounder yet, uh, bolder ... it has a more harmonious flavor.” In reality, the formula change made original Coke taste more like Pepsi, and made it a true full-calorie version of Diet Coke. Due to Goizueta’s lack of poise, all who attended that press release left with much doubt about the prospects of Coke’s new flavor, which, not surprisingly, would affect the news stories written about New Coke in its first 30 days.

That New Coke was a complete failure from day one is the common misconception. By and large, people really liked the new formulation and continued buying Coke in their usual amounts. Where the discourse began was in the Southeast, where Coke was originally formulated and sold back in the late 1800s. People were reacting to the fact that Coke was changed, not to the bad taste of New Coke. Most of the protestors didn’t even drink soda, much less Coke; they just didn’t like the idea of Coke changing something that apparently meant something to them. The interesting thing is, if Coke, before the change, would have meant enough to these people to buy it, then the company wouldn’t have changed the formula in the first place. It’s your classic Catch-22. Due to the extremely vocal minority, it became “chic” to bash New Coke. Protestors were so vocal about not liking New Coke that anyone who did like the new formula would be scared to say so. These “coke crazies” as I call them, formed a group called Old Cola Drinkers of America which lobbied The Coca Cola Company to reintroduce the original formula. They even tried to levy a class action lawsuit against Coke (wha-huh?!) but the case was thrown out by a judge (sometimes the legal system works). People continued to be so outraged at the new formula that they were trying to obtain cases of original Coca-Cola from overseas as New Coke had not been introduced over there yet. The Coca-Cola Company was at a loss for the huge debacle they had created for themselves.

Despite the chaos in the Southeast, sales of New Coke everywhere else were doing very well...at first. After July, however, the sales starting leveling off. Coke executives were scared that peer pressure against New Coke was affecting the sales numbers. What to do? Well, naturally, they panicked and hastily set out to re-introduce the original formula of Coca-Cola. On July 10th, Peter Jennings broke into normal television to inform the world that Coke was bringing back the original flavor of Coke, now dubbed Coca-Cola Classic. The founders of Old Cola Drinkers of America were given the first cases.

At first, sales after the re-introduction of Coke Classic showed Pepsi gaining more market share, but by the end of the year, Coke Classic outsold New Coke and Pepsi. While Coke did reach number one again after re-introducing Coke Classic, recent research into sales that year have shown that the quiet introduction of Cherry Coke that same year was really the reason for Coke’s resurgence. Regardless, by the end of 1985, Coke was back on top of the cola wars.

The exciting conclusion to this story will be posted in the next few days. Stay tuned.

More Fun cola commercials:

1. The classic I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke commercial on the mountaintop.

2. Local TV News story from 1985 about the release of New Coke.

3. Classic Pepsi commercial with Cindy Crawford.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Misunderstood: The Saga of New Coke Part I

I love soda. I mean, I REALLY love soda. It’s almost an unnatural love…..a forbidden love, if you will. Due to this, I’ve been fascinated for years by the cola wars between Coke and Pepsi. My formative years were right in the middle of the ‘80s; the Vietnam of the cola wars. During the 1980s, Coke and Pepsi threw out more gimmicks than a used car salesman trying to hawk his wares during a “Sales Event”. It was a soda lovers’ nirvana (and I don’t mean the alternative rock band). One of the more infamous ploys of this period was the introduction of New Coke. Never has a company’s promotion and decision making been so thoroughly bitch-slapped by the American public. It was embarrassing, and, in my opinion, a complete over-reaction. In this three part article, we will look at the saga of New Coke, from inception all the way to the bloody aftermath and what Coke gained or lost by their gamble. I’ll even ponder if New Coke might actually still be on the shelves…but under a different name, and at the end of each article (including this one) I'll provide links to classic Coke and Pepsi commercials. So punch 1983 into the flux capacitor and let’s get this bitch up to 88 miles an hour because our story starts, not with New Coke…………but Diet Coke.

1983 was a tough year for Coca-Cola. For decades, Coca-Cola had been the preferred soft drink in America, but market research had proven that consumers in the early ‘80s preferred sodas with a sweeter taste than traditional Coca-Cola. Most sodas at this time were using aspartame or a similar, cheaper sweetener to flavor their drinks while Coke continued to use cane sugar or another sweetener very similar to cane sugar. Also at the time, diet drinks were becoming extremely popular as more and more people were becoming aware of the high amount of calories found in Coke, Pepsi and other soft drinks. Diet Pepsi was the current king of the low calorie, artificially sweetened soda. Years before, Coke released its own diet drink, TaB, but refused to market it as Coca-Cola because they did not want to dilute the Coca-Cola brand with more drinks, but, in essence, TaB was Diet Coke. No matter what Coke did, though, they continued to lose market share to Pepsi and they decided something had to be done about it.

In 1980 Roberto Goizueta (seen right) took over as CEO of the Coca-Cola Company. He let it be known that all traditions are “out the window” and it was time for Coke to “shake things up”. Seeing the success of Diet Pepsi and the relative obscurity of TaB, Goizueta used the market research mentioned earlier and decided to reformulate TaB using similar artificial sweeteners (i.e. aspartame) found in Diet Pepsi. Thus, the end product was formulated to be very similar to Diet Pepsi, and not really a diet version of Coca-Cola. Against company tradition the resulting product was branded as Diet Coca-Cola and released in 1983. Over the next few years, Diet Coke would outsell all of Coke’s other products by a wide margin. Not helping things, Pepsi’s enormously popular “Pepsi Challenge” further eroded Coke’s penetration into the soft drink market causing panic in the Atlanta based headquarters of Coca-Cola.

With Diet Coke siphoning sales from other Coke products and the Pepsi Challenge causing the buying public to lose faith in the Coke brand, CEO Roberto Goizueta thought it was time for more drastic measures. Having quietly tweaked Coke’s formula before in foreign markets to help drive up sales, Roberto had little qualms about altering the secret formula for Coca-Cola Proper here in the States. He believed the flavor change should be done with a huge marketing campaign and not kept secret from the public. So preparations were made to re-formulate Coca-Cola’s flavor to be more like Diet Coke and completely eliminate the current Coke product. After extensive formula research and market testing Coke finally stumbled on a concoction that tested through the roof with focus groups. The newer formula even bested Pepsi and Diet Pepsi in taste trials. It looked as though Coke had a winner. Goizueta had his marketing department work in absolute secrecy on a campaign, even going so far as having them work in another building after hours so nothing would leak to the press. The Coca-Cola Company planned on unveiling the new formula during their centennial year, 1985.

Don't miss Part 2 of this article on Wednesday or Thursday where you'll read about the introduction of New Coke and the initial public reaction.

Classic Coke/Pepsi commercials:

Jackson Street - One of my favorite Pepsi commercials of all time. Michael Jackson meets a young Alfonso Ribeiro from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for a dance off. I LOVE this commercial.

Mean Joe Green - The classic Coke ad with Mean Joe Green throwing his jersey to a kid. Still makes me tear up.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Coffee Flavored Soda: Something Wicked This Way Comes

The apocalypse, the end of the world. You might think this is foretold by simple things like locusts, oceans flowing red like blood and the sky turning black as a death shroud. I have a different, yet all the more deadly and horrific sign: coffee flavored soda. I am aghast at the mere mention of this unholy union, but being the purveyor of pop culture that I am, I have to try it. There are really only two I care about right now, and they are Coca-Cola Blak by Coke and Pepsi Cappuccino by, of course, Pepsi. Other smaller companies make a version of this deadly brew, but I am only going to try Coke and Pepsi’s offerings because that is my prerogative and I don’t actually think I have the testicular fortitude to try more than 2 bottles of this Death Juice (i.e. coffee flavored soda).

Before I get to the reviews, you should know that I LOVE soda. Love, love, LOVE it. Also, I HATE coffee. I hate the smell, I hate the taste. I hate coffee ice cream. This should be interesting.

I work for the corporate office of Winn-Dixie and they recently threw us an employee barbeque. Coca-Cola catered the drink portion of this event. They were giving away Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Coke Blak. Recently, Coke has been giving away bottles of this stuff all over the place trying to get people to taste it, but it has yet to really catch on. I have a guess why, but I’ll taste it first before I make any snap judgments.

I took my first sip, and after gagging and coughing for 10 minutes I thought that God hated me and that's why he created this drink. Then, being the connoisseur of cola that I am, I had to try to finish the bottle. During the torture session of finishing this bottle, I can only think of my cousin Mike as he recently tried to finish a tiny can of low sodium V8 juice. My face puckered, my fingers closing my nose and a look of absolute disgust on my face I soldiered on and had two more sips before nearly puking up my kidney and half my lung. Awful, nasty stuff. I asked a coffee drinker what he thought. He said, at first, the coffe/cola flavor is nice, but after multiple sips the taste somewhat sours in your mouth and you realize that your taste buds were pulling the long con on your brain.

Final Verdict: If you value your life and your sanity, stay away from this hateful, hateful drink.

You are probably not going to be able to find my second drink, Pepsi Cappuccino, in your local 7-11. This is really only marketed/sold in Europe and Russia. I was able to procure this can through much barting with overseas contacts. You don't want to know what it took to get it, but let me just say this, it involved 3 goats, a marriage proposal and a pair of Levis button-fly 501 jeans with the ass cheeks cut out. Oh yes, I just said that.

I haven't actually opened the can, so I'm doing it for the first time right now. After 2 rounds with the devil's urine above, I can only imagine what lies in wait in this can of Pepsi Cappuccino. The verdict is....hey, this isn't too bad. The hell? The taste is mostly Pepsi, but there is a subtle hint of chocolate. Now, since I hate coffee, I don't really know the difference between a cappuccino, an espresso or a latte. I would be interested in trying a cappuccino after trying this. I like that Pepsi doesn't hit you over the head with the coffee flavor. It's subtle. It's sexy. I like it. Holy crap. This article isn't ending the way I planned. This is a most unexpected development. Hooray for Pepsi! This is why I prefer Pepsi products over Coke.

One thing I will mention, Pepsi makes other coffee colas called Pepsi Kona (which was discontinued) and Pepsi Tarik. I'm not sure if both of these are the same thing and just named differently in different markets, but the logos are similar. I am still trying to procure one of these. It may be that Pepsi Tarik/Kona is actually closer to Coke Blak than Pepsi Cappuccino. When I get a can, I'll let you know.

So what have we learned? We have learned that Pepsi Cappuccino is actually a pretty tasty drink. We have also learned that if Coke Blak were a person, I'm pretty sure he'd beat his kids and cheat on his wife and maybe even drink Coke Blak. Maybe they should rename it "New Coke" because I think this drink is headed in the same direction as that fateful drink in 1985, directly for the pop culture trash bin.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

War Games 2 and Other Movie Sequels

I was perusing what the youngsters like to call “the net” the other day and came across this article on one of my favorite movie news sites. According to the article, Hollywood is apparently making a War Games 2. This got me thinking about movie sequels, good and bad, and what I think about them. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be interested in what I have to say, otherwise you’d be doing laundry or washing your car right now, so I thought I’d pass along some “nuggets” from my own noggin about movie sequels. Write them down, grasshopper, cause these nuggets are gold, I tell ya, GOLD.

First off, I am not patently against sequels. I don’t automatically think they are going to be awful. Being a movie whore gives me the wonderful freedom of thinking movies that should suck, are going to be awesome. It’s liberating. If I enjoyed the first movie and some or most of the original cast returns, then I’m willing to give it a try. But what sounds like a good idea on paper, may turn out to be box office poison. In light of this, let’s look at some of the factors that, I believe, will immediately count against the success of a sequel.

One type of sequel that I will immediately hate is the “in name only” sequels. You know the ones, more often than not they didn’t have a theatrical release. You see them sitting in Blockbuster and you’re like, “HOLY CRAP, THEY MADE A SEQUEL TO BAMBI?!” (yes they did). If these eyesores were released in theaters, there would be chaos in the streets, it would be the Kent State riots all over again. I ask you, how is the movie a sequel when not one person from the original movie appears? Even worse is when one of the characters in the sequel is the son/daughter/uncle/cousin of one of the characters in the original to make up for the fact that the studio was too much of a Scrooge to pay for the original actors. That’s the definition of cheap, people.

Let’s talk a bit about the aforementioned War Games: The Dead Game. First off, the title. They use the original title, but instead of putting a giant 2 in it, they give it some generic ominous sounding subtitle. You aren’t fooling me, MGM. Also, the odds are against Matthew Broderick coming back for this. Likewise for Ally Sheedy (is she still alive?) and Dabney Coleman. It’ll be all new people we’ve never heard of who look like they should be in a WB hour long drama doing something vaguely similar to the events in the first movie. Why even call it War Games, why not just The Dead Game? I’ll tell you why; to get people who wouldn’t normally go see a movie filled with nobodies to go see it. Even if Broderick gives a small cameo at some point (which would help), this is just lazy. War Games 2, to me, is Matthew Broderick as David Lightman, grown up, working for a software development company and he uncovers a plot by his company/the government/some random shmuck to take over the company/stock market/country/world. THAT is War Games 2. MGM, call me when it’s in the can.

Another example you ask? Of course, I answer. How about Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights? Another omission of the giant 2 and the addition of a sultry subtitle. In reality, this movie should have been called just…Havana Nights. There was absolutely NO need to tack on Dirty Dancing to the beginning except for the simple fact that no one would have seen it. Yes, I realize Patrick Swayze himself had a small part, but, come on, they didn’t even call him Johnny (his character in the original). He was credited as DANCE INSTRUCTOR. WTF?! WHY?! He’s in the movie, he has several scenes with the main characters, why couldn’t SOMEBODY call him Johnny?! ONCE?! Drove me up the wall. The movie wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t that great either. I kinda feel the same way about the original, too (Sorry, Steph). Moving on….

So you see what I mean about the “in name only” sequels. 9.9 times out of 10, they are going be a huge pile of dog ass. Let’s move on to another factor that will most definitely sink a sequel; recasting the main actors. I hate it when a sequel is announced and one of your favorite characters is recast. I would actually prefer the character is dropped than have another actor brought in. What usually winds up happening is the original actor left such an impression that the newer upstart is overshadowed, leaving you feeling like he’s just copying the original performance. One of the better examples of this is Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. While this movie could have stood on it’s own as a dumb high school comedy (maybe), the studio instead forces the actors to ape the characteristics of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Parts of this movie made me laugh, but parts were cringe-inducing. Another example is Major League 2. I really enjoyed all three of the Major League movies, but one of the main characters, Willie Mays Hayes, is recast. Originally played by Wesley Snipes, in part 2 Hayes is played by Omar Epps. Epps did a nice job, but he’s not Wesley Snipes. While Major League 2 did have a few other issues, this was one of the big ones (the original and Part 3 are the best of the trilogy). The last glaring example of recasting I'll bring to your attention is The Sting II. The original, starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, was a classic heist movie that helped launch Newman and Redford even further into superstardom. The sequel, using the same characters but different actors, barely deserves to be mentioned. The studio did get Jackie Gleason to take over the Paul Newman role, but, despite that, continue on your merry way.

These are just a few of the examples. How many other crappy sequels are out there? Did anyone see Starship Troopers 2? Son of the Mask? How about Hollow Man 2? American Psycho 2? What about the 15 or so “sequels” Disney churns out every year? Did the public at large really need 3 sequels to the Lion King? I mean really. There are tons of other titles that litter the Blockbuster shelves like a giant landfill. To be sure, sequels can be bad. Very bad. Like, genitals wired to a car battery bad, but they can be good, too. If not for sequels we wouldn’t have Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future II, Clerks II and Godfather Part II. But, then again, no sequels means no Godfather III, so it’s a double edged sword.

Personally, I like the idea of sequels because I love revisiting the characters I’ve grown to love in a movie. If you entertained me once, I’ll give a second movie a chance, but I’m prepared to be burned. Gigli 2, anyone?

Fun movie links:

1. Trailer for The Sting II

2. Trailer for Dumb & Dumber re-edited to look more like a drama

3. Hilarious MTV Parody of Star Wars Episode III starring Jimmy Fallon