Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Coke vs. Coke.

I dig Coke Zero. My wife digs Coke Zero. Coke Zero is our favorite cola. It tastes more like a real cola than Diet Coke. It's delicious. It is Michael Bloomberg-compliant. Yes, it's Coke Zero for us.

So of course, Coke went and changed it.

This Coke Zero Sugar thing has a weird name, to begin. "Coke Zero" implies that it has zero calories; "Coke Zero Sugar" means... it's Coke Zero with sugar? Confusing. I think they'll get away with it because they're phasing out non-Coke Zero Sugar Coke Zero, which never had sugar. Does any of this make sense?

What makes even less sense to me is that I cannot taste the difference. Coke says that Coke Zero Sugar is "made with an even better-tasting recipe that delivers real Coca-Cola taste with zero sugar and zero calories." I tried it and thought initially that it might have a little more of the classic Coke vanilla taste, but I think I was just talking myself into it. I didn't think and still don't think there's any difference in flavor.

I was completely ready to call shenanigans on Coke. I thought they were full of crap over this. That belief intensified after I read their claim to have "broke the Internet with the news" of Coke Zero Sugar, which sounds like the kind of horse hockey marketers write when they have no ideas but want to be down with the young folk.

However, my wife claimed she could tell the two Cokes apart, and likes the new one better.

I had to put that to the test. She accepted the challenge.

I poured a small amount of Coke Zero into two identical plastic cups, and a small amount of Coke Zero Sugar into a third identical plastic cup. I challenged her select the cup with the Coke that was different from the other two. She didn't have to say whether it was Zero or Zero Sugar, just which of the three did not match the other two.

And son of a gun, she got it. Cup C had Coke Zero Sugar, and she nailed it right away.

But here's the thing: It wasn't the flavor, it was the fizz. She says Coke Zero Sugar is less fizzy, and doesn't make her burp.

So in a way, I was right -- the flavor change is so subtle as to be barely or completely nonexistent. But my wife, who has very sensitive palate for texture, picked up the difference: Less burping.

Now I'm thinking there's something Mentos-related to this. Like, everyone was so busy mixing Diet Coke and Mentos for the eruption that none of us discovered that Coke Zero weaponizes Mentos. Homeland Security did, and made Coke change the recipe for public safety: "Coke Zero and Mentos can blow a bank vault door off its hinges! You must change the recipe!"

I'm sticking with that story. It makes more sense than Coke doing a lot of hip-hooray and ballyhoo for nothing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dog test.

There's a family I know that recently got its first ever dog. I'm not sure it was a good idea. I don't think they were prepared and I don't think they've learned much since they got it. They never do anything with it. It just hangs around and gets walked in the yard once in a while. I think they're in over their heads.

And I know what I'm talking about. Longtime readers know I had a perpendicular learning curve when we got Tralfaz, the first dog. And it was really difficult. But my wife was always doing research, always working with him to teach him what he had to know, always stressing that we needed to have patience (even while she was losing her cool). She was an ideal of someone who loves dogs and is determined to learn to be a good pet mommy. 

Now the owner of two dogs with a combined weight of more than 200 pounds, I'm still no expert on dog rearing. I do know a few things that I learned the hard way, which is pretty much the only way I learn anything. If you're a novice dog owner, I hope I can teach you them the easy way. Some of these are pretty common tips. Even these bear repeating.

Note: This is an illustration
of a dog.

1) Know what kind of dog fits into your life.
If you work 20 hours a day and live alone, probably no dog is going to fit into your life. Dogs require time and care. If you are a super-active family, a lazy dog like an English bulldog may disappoint you. If you're a lazy family, don't get a dog bred to run amok, like a border collie. If you want a hunting dog, a pug might not do the trick. Be careful; an Australian shepherd, for example, is very different from an Australian cattle dog, although they're both energetic. You need to find a dog that fits your life. But your life is going to change anyway. 

2) You'd better like things dogs like. 
You and your dog will spend a lot of time together, so you had better share some interests. If your interests include playing with toys, eating treats, learning new things and teaching them, taking walks, playing in the yard, chasing cats, humping legs -- wait, skip that last stuff. Basically if your idea of hell is throwing a ball in the yard, or taking walks, or any of the other things dogs enjoy, you may not like having one. If you're just going to throw the dog in a crate at night and in the yard during the day, what's the point?

3) Children have to know that owning a dog is not like owning a toy, and they're not even good at owning toys.
Obviously that means that little kids who pull tails and stuff are too young to be responsible dog owners, but that also goes for older kids, like the one in the family I mentioned. You don't just put a dog in a box and take him out when you feel like playing. Teenagers seem to reach this stage pretty fast. And as I note, it's not like kids even take good care of their toys, unless someone makes them. I'm not big on treating a dog like a baby (well, not officially), but at least that gets the point across that the dog is a living thing and relies on you for necessities and attention.

4) Calculate how much you expect to spend on your dog. Then double it. 
Especially if you're a sucker for dog toys and novelty treats, like me. And consider pet insurance, if you can swing it. You don't want to have to lose your beloved pet because you just can't pay for treatment.

5) Calculate how much time it will take to train your dog. Then triple it. Then do it again.
Real dogs, unlike movie dogs, are not born knowing things. Worse, after they learn them, they will forget. They need training and reminders. I was under the impression that dogs naturally fetch toys and bring them back. Neither of mine will, and one even has retriever in his job description. Really, they don't know much when they're puppies. And if they're not taught, they won't know much when they're dogs.

6) Dog affection is not like in the movies.
Dogs are not always going to come over and give you a lick when you're down. Sometimes they seem baffled by all human emotion. Some breeds are especially attentive to moods, and some seem almost indifferent. It varies from dog to dog. Some dogs don't even seem to be particularly loyal. But plenty of them are affectionate, like Labs and Goldens and Old English Sheepdogs. Just remember, an affectionate dog will also want a lot of your attention. Two-way street.

7) People do fail at this.
Dog owning looks easy when you see other folks with their pets, let alone when you see them in movies or on TV, but it's not. Puppies have destructive impulses, disobedient streaks, and periods -- like the equivalent of teen years -- when even the nicest dog turns into a total pain in the ass. People often give up on dogs when they reach that stage; shelters are full of very nice dogs that outgrew the horrible stage after a family had just had enough and got rid of them. The failure to prepare for the dog and to know this stuff is coming is, as they say, a preparation to fail.

But sometimes there's nothing you can do. I know a person whose family had to give up a rescue dog because the pup could not (on vet's advice) be in a family environment. The dog would not stop eating and swallowing articles of clothing, and needed multiple surgeries to remove them. So even when people do all their due diligence, even when they have all the love and preparation they can muster, even then sometimes it's a failure. (The dog went to live in a permanent no-kill shelter, by the way, where there would be no socks or underwear around to eat. The family visits.)

8) It may not be the toughest job you'll ever love, but it will be among them. 
Compared to raising a child, raising a dog is easy. If you can stand the insanity for a couple of years, if you train and train again, odds are very good you'll have a good dog in the end. Kids? Who can say? And the worry and stress never stops. Still, raising a dog is hard work, and if you (and the dog) get through it, your life will have been enriched, I guarantee it. Not because of the affection from the dog; as I said above, you may not get that. But because you nurtured and taught a pretty smart creature and took on a responsibility for something outside yourself. That's how we develop our own character.

At least, that's been my experience. And I'm certainly a character. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Some movie sites really seem to care about the spoilers more than the movies. The juicy feeling of being the one to spill the beans is hard to resist, after all, although we used to have to restrict that to spreading malicious information about our dearest friends, family, and neighbors.

I don't like ruining stories for people--well, I would enjoy showing off how much I know and YOU DON'T, but I dislike having stories ruined for me. You'd probably take revenge at some point. That's just like you, isn't it?


So I decided to just reveal the spoilers for movies that don't exist. That way I get the pleasure of revealing secrets that I know and you don't!!! without actually being a jerk. Without further ado...


AberZombie & Fitch
The President of the United States is secretly a zombie!

Cannonball Run (remake)
Drew Carey and Wayne Brady are not really priests!

Orbit Ultimate
The aliens are friendly--the bad guys are the United States Army!

Squirrel Girl: The Motion Picture
Monkey Joe gets killed!

Vertigo II
She's still dead!

Tom Cruise discovers that Saturn is hollow--and the Earth is now inside it!

Dan Brown's Women Are from Venice
The Pope did it!

Zooey Deschanel picks Channing Tatum over Zach Galifianakis!

Plague Ball!
The horrible pandemic was part of a plot to seize power by the Vice-President of the United States!

Monkeys in My Pants
Jim Carrey's monkeys are granted "Earth Citizenship" by the United Nations!

Crimea the Century
Hercule Poirot (Cedric the Entertainer) solves the murder!

Phoenix Blues
The killer is old Detective Jack Jensen!

The Fluffernuttins
Rip Torn was just a hired stooge--Sofia Vergara is behind the plot to kidnap the sweet li'l Fluffernuttins!

The Scrapbook
You think Ryan Gosling's dead at the end--but he's not!

Boot Hill, Mountain High
The Cherokee had nothing to do with the attack; it was the United States Cavalry!

H. R. Pufnstuf: The Movie
Will Ferrell (H. R.) destroys Witchiepoo by turning her Evil Witchie Spell against her, saving Living Island, and is nearly killed himself--but Freddy the Magic Flute saves him at the last second!

Dog Day Afternoon (remake--following test audiences)
Sonny and Sal and Leon get away with the money!

Space Sierra Notebook
It turns out that the plot to contaminate the Earth from space was engineered by the United States Army under the command of the Vice-President of the United States, but Will Smith reveals it as his ship is plunging from orbit and burning up, and you think he's dead but the aliens who turned out to be friendly save him so he can be with Keira Knightly, while John Cusack leads the revolt that restores harmony and ecological balance to the Earth!

Saturday, September 16, 2017


As I noted early this year, we like a good animated film around these parts. We're not much for horror movies and we have the standard female/male disagreement over rom coms vs. shoot-'em-ups. But we both grew up enjoying Wile E. Coyote getting blown to charcoal, so we still have fondness for well-done animated films. Here one we finally got around to.

Moana is an interesting Disney princess movie in some regards, one being that it pokes fun at Disney princess movies. For example, the heroine has the most useless animal sidekick in probably all the Disney movies, including Flounder and Pascal, who never amounted to much. But Heihei the stupid rooster is my favorite character in the film, providing about 80% of the laughs. (The story of how the character Heihei wound up so stupid is told here.)

Heihei: Not too bright.

On the whole Moana is an entertaining film -- pirate coconuts could improve probably any film, including Easy Rider -- but I did have some complaints. Of course I did. I always do. I almost called this entry "Bitchin' and Moana" but I was afraid it wouldn't be clear what I meant by bitchin' -- I mean my complaining.

Much as I hate to object to the shining halo of St. Lin-Manuel Miranda, I didn't enjoy most of the songs. They quickly became a tiresome collection of "I'm Great" tunes, and the more serious they were the worse they were.

Don't believe me? Here are some of the numbers and what they're about:

  • "Where You Are" -- We are awesome
  • "How Far I'll Go" -- I am awesome
  • "You're Welcome" -- I am awesome
  • "Shiny" -- I am awesome
  • "We Know the Way" -- We are awesome

That's their entire function, telling about the awesomeness of the various singers. The best of these songs, THE best song in the movie, and in my mind the only good one, goes to Maui. "You're Welcome" is not only a catchy tune, it's also a hilarious number with excellent animation that establishes character and history in a terrific way. It says "I'm awesome" in a way that tells you "I am full of myself." Miranda wrote it, so big fishhooks up on that.

Moana's own song, "How Far I'll Go," by contrast, is annoying, repetitious, and completely self-centered but not in a funny way. Let's have a look at some princess songs of the past and what they told us about the characters:

  • Snow White, "Someday My Prince Will Come" -- I would love to find somebody worthy of my love
  • Pocahontas, "Colors of the Wind" -- I love this place and I love nature
  • Sleeping Beauty, "Once Upon a Dream" -- Love is wonderful and I sleep a lot
  • Belle, "Belle" -- I want to see the world
  • Tiana, "Almost There" -- I want to accomplish great things
  • Ariel, "Part of Your World" -- I would love to see this wonderful place you live in
  • Jasmine, "A Whole New World" -- What a wonderful world this is, and you're nice too
  • Rapunzel, "When Will My Life Begin?" -- I am going nuts in this tower
  • Elsa, "Let It Go" -- I'm gonna destroy everything with ice power

("Let It Go" doesn't actually count, as it was a queen's song, not a princess song, and Elsa is the villain of the movie, no matter what the girls think.)

These songs tend to be directed outward, not just a celebration of the wearisome Me. Tiana's and Belle's songs are close to Moana's, as they show a desire for adventure and recognition, but they also show the characters at their innocent stage; Belle and Tiana would find their dreams but become deeper, wiser people later. Even though they achieve their goals, they don't reprise the songs; they are more mature now. Moana does reprise her crummy song because she doesn't change at all. A little more gutsy and confident, sure, but while other characters may say "I've learned so much" she says "I was right all the time."

As for Tamatoa, the enormous monster crab who sings "Shiny," he's my other main objection to the film. He's not the big bad, but in a way he's worse. He's the only Disney villain I can recall that gave off a real molesterish vibe; anyone else catch that? There's something seriously icky going on that is too much for children's entertainment. Plus his song is dreary and annoying (Miranda co-wrote), the worst in the movie.

My biggest disappointment (spoiler coming!) is when Moana returns to her home island following her adventure. Her folks see the boat coming in. For a moment I hoped her father would point and say, "Wow! Will you look at that! Heihei's sailing that boat! Oh, wait, the kid's there too." But no, Moana gets all the adulation. The film really hits that girl-power wish-fulfillment a little too hard on the nose.

I feel bad for boys, whose heroes never get this treatment anymore. Boys wind up almost being sidekicks in their own adventures. Hermoine's smarter than Harry; Annabeth's smarter than Percy; the girls are always tougher and more driven in stories, even ones written specifically for boys. No wonder boys are growing up to be men who drop out of society. But that's a story for another time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The cultural police never sleep.

Cultural Police Blotter -- Friday, Sept. 15

08:20 -- A white man was seen wearing a gi in public; when questioned by CP officers he claimed he was going to judo class. Police took him to the station for further questioning, and he was released seven hours later with a stern warning. His clothing was confiscated.

09:35 -- Two white men were found at a statue of Abraham Lincoln that had been painted red with the word RACIST written multiple times around the base. The men, who carried soap and other cleansing agents, claimed to be cleaning up the graffiti. They were immediately arrested and charged with violating free speech.

10:15 -- A man in a black mask was detained by officers for throwing rocks through the windows of the Jewish temple off Oppressed Peoples Circle. The man was questioned, and he explained that he was not a Nazi fascist protesting the Jewish grip on the world economy, but rather an antifascist socialist protesting the racism of the Jews against Muslims. Under the circumstances, his rocks were returned to him and he was released.

12:00 -- CP officers maintained their usual position outside the municipal food court to ensure no cross-cultural cooking and serving would occur (Indian food must be prepared and sold by Indians, Thai food by Thais, etc.). A new supposedly Canadian food cart, Pretty Good Grub Eh?, was investigated and flagged for nonconformity pending further review.

14:08 -- A riot was reported on the campus of St. Jude University, with a request for help from CP Squad. The LT on duty discovered that the "riot" was actually 10,000 students in masks burning books, assaulting faculty, beheading religious statues, barricading doors, and burning cars on campus in response to a proposed visit from Sister Mary Anthony of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The LT instructed University officials to cancel the proposed visit and did not otherwise respond.

14:30 -- Two Caucasian girls from Mumia Abu-Jamal Middle School were observed on the street wearing anime T-shirts. CP officers covered them in standard issue blackout robes and escorted them home to change into something more race-appropriate.

16:10 -- A CP officer was fired upon by a female in a red Yugo. As the officer was only mildly wounded and the race of the assailant was undetermined, no arrest was made.

16:49 -- A white cisnormative male, an employee of  Dalton Whizner Media Corporation, was reported to have referred to a friendly African American male coworker as "brother." Following his dismissal from his position he was escorted out of the office by CP officers and warned to stay more than ten thousand yards away from the building for the rest of his life.

18:03 -- CP officers responded to a call claiming a white woman was preparing Chinese food for her family. Upon arrival at the scene the woman was identified as positively white, and her "chop suey" was examined. The woman was arrested; she was later fined $150 for unauthorized cultural appropriation and released with a warning.

20:30 -- CP officers were called in response to an altercation on Sumiteru Taniguchi Boulevard, where several Native Aboriginal Tribesmen were engaged in fisticuffs with some Guatemalan-born acitizenal residents. When officers established order they were informed that the Natives had accused the Guatemalans of being white, the latter having descended from Spaniards of Spain. The Guatemalan-born residents took offense and then violence broke out. Eighteen were wounded, eleven critically. No arrests were made.

22:45 -- CP officers were called to reports of a house party in progress at City College; white college students were found to be celebrating something they referred to as "Mehican Independence Day." Many sombreros, ponchos, fake mustaches, and tacos were in evidence. CP officers surrounded the house, placing all non-Mexican-descended students under arrest; they were taken to headquarters to wait arraignment in the morning. Evidence collected by police included sombreros, ponchos, fake mustaches, and especially the tacos.

23:30 -- Calls from passersby indicated sounds of shouting inside O'Murphy's Oirish Pubbe. Upon arrival, CP patrolpersons were informed that a non-Irish patron had entered the bar affecting an outrageous brogue and demanding a pint of Guinness and a potato. Upon investigation the CP officers discovered that the would-be patron was Italian, but transsexual. The bar was immediately closed down and all the micks arrested and thrown in the paddy wagon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Something to aim for.

Ask any guy who was around and was a guy in the 2000s about the flies in the Amsterdam airport and he will probably tell you that these were pictures of flies etched into the back of the urinals in the men's room. Men "shot at" the flies and "spillage" was reduced by 80%. Why? Because the men who used the facilities now had a target for their micturition. I don't know a guy who didn't find this news A) fascinating and B) obvious.

We'd been shooting at the little urinal cakes for decades. We wondered how many pees a urinal cake could take before a hole got worn through one. Bars where they threw old ice into the urinals as an auto-flush measure were always of great interest. How many cubes could one whiz melt? So this fly experiment seemed like one of those ideas that was so obvious that we were surprised no one had thought of it before.

It seems to be really catching on. The other day I was in one of those outlet shopping centers, like Disneyland for shopping (if that's not redundant), a place that had been remodeled extensively since the last time I'd been there. The men's room had gone from being "clean stadium" style to "fairly upscale restaurant." And check out the urinal:

The blue dot is little blue seashell, perfectly placed for target practice, courtesy of Sloan Valve Company.

It's a pretty good idea. For a generation that grew up on video games and staring at phones, there's a need for constant stimulation and activity, however dumb. Here's a game you can play while urinating, and it actually has a benefit for society at large! (Society is always benefited by having less pee all over it.)

Unfortunately the guys who promoted the Amsterdam fly experiment are also promoting something called "Nudge Economics" or "Behavioral Economics," using little manipulations (like the flies) to nudge people into the behavior their betters want them to demonstrate (such as urinating in the urinal and not on the floor). Now the jig is up, though, and we can be sure we'll start peeing on the floor again, metaphorically speaking -- humans being notoriously contrarian. Also, we don't like passive aggression from those who consider themselves superior. Anytime you think government is trying to "nudge" you to do what they want you to do, I suggest you do something completely opposite, just to confuse and frustrate them. To hell with them.

But I hope we don't actually start peeing on the floor again. Really, boys, the less pee all around the better.