Burb Rocking
Sunday, April 30, 2006
  BlaK Ops

Tree's back! The blog is back!

That's my excuse, by the way, for the previous two endless entries (and this one): Making up for lost time. Over two months and no posts?

This is all part of the master plan to bring the blog back from the brink. Check Google. Check Yahoo. Plug in "BlaK" and you won't see any of these posts for miles. I didn't run out to page 100 on Google, but these last couple of posts may be the reason why the word "google" was invented (often misspelled in popular culture - and, yes, guilty as charged). We're talking a very large number of pages back.

It has been suggested to me that Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell (mentioned in the previous post) may have been too oblique a reference. So, an overdue bulletin from the folks at the Pointing Out the Obvious Department: marriage of heaven and hell = marriage of coffee and Coca-Cola? (Okay, admittedly: not so obvious.) Nothing against Coca-Cola BlāK intended there, though I confess to disappointment over their choice of sweeteners and the reduction of the coffee extract. Some reassurance for anyone concerned: This should be Lokabrenna's last post on Coke BlaK. And it is with a triumphal "Ah-hah!" that I encourage a quick visit to Coca-Cola BlãK's index page, where "BlãK" does have a tilde (of course, just to keep the confusion going, the home page still insists on the long "a.") Go ahead and try to find on the Web an image of the bottle or can with the tilde - I dare ya!

Of course, when Coca-Cola uses that symbol in "BlãK," it is no more a tilde than "BlãK" is black. The truth is that it's really Coca-Cola's patented dynamic wave symbol, or dynamic ribbon, turned on its side over the "a." My friend Jim, who began his adult life as a Communications major at the university we both attended, but later transferred to St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore to receive training from the Sulpicians, unlocked this mystery. He often sees what others miss. And he noticed the dynamic wave ribbon bisects the fluid droplet symbol on the bottle. For my part, I speculated the split droplet symbolizes the union of coffee and cola in a single fluid. And that's when I saw that the tilde over the "a" wasn't really a tilde at all. The dynamic wave apparently derives from the natural shape of the cacao seed pod, adopted as a model for the distinctive Coca-Cola bottle design:

All this stuff connects, of course. See the mermaid at the top, so reminiscent of the Starbucks maiden of the waves (whimsical tribute to Moby Dick, whence comes the coffee chain's name, but that's another tangent). The mermaid shown here is pulled from Saint-Sulpice (Fougères Office de Tourisme). She is Notre Dame des Marais - Our Lady of the Marshes. Saint-Sulpice is in France, where we spent a week in February (see, it's that full-circle thing again), where my friend Jim is going in just a few weeks. He'll be checking out Brittany and that church as he and others make their way across northern France. Check this out - in spite of oft-stated American sentiments to the contrary, the French are cool.

Everyone will be hearing more about Saint-Sulpice soon enough - this time L'Église Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Featured prominently in the upcoming Da Vinci Code movie (there are tours!). We were never there, but we were here:

Part of the Ipswich Tour!

This would be a great place to introduce Moby Dick, whose symbology of nature and the divine might apply, whose context of ocean-going trade would definitely apply. In comes the mermaid, Starbucks, the Boston Tea Party, the whole history of coffee (which takes a momentous turn in the American Revolution), but you've probably already stopped reading. So back to Coca-Cola BlāK. Futilely ego-surfing for my own posts on BlaK, I came across Jiggle the Handle and was immediately won over.

In our house, a long battle has been fought to get everyone trained to jiggle the handle. Otherwise, the toilet runs all day and night, hiking our water bill. In the family in question there are two beautiful young girls, and one of these immediately learned to jiggle the handle of the toilet after use. It's taken about 6-7 years for others in the household to master this challenging skill.

I love J.D. Arnold's site. The title sucked me in, but the content kept me there. Such as the introductory quote at the top of the page:

"We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true." - Wilensky

On that subject, check out his Quote-alicious section, where can be found such gems as: "An expert is a person who avoids small error as he sweeps on to the grand fallacy" (Benjamin Stolberg); "Now I know what a statesman is; he's a dead politician - we need more statesmen" (Bob Edwards); "Reminds me of my safari in Africa: Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water" (W. C. Fields). Obviously, to paraphrase Mr. Edwards, our world has too many politicians and experts and not enough W. C. Fields. Possibly in appreciation of Fields, the blog opens with drink recipes. And, nearly two-thirds of the way down, the write-up Blak & Kahlua and First the Money waits in the Drinks of the Week section.

France, Coke BlāK, The Da Vinci Code, the Order of Saint Sulpice, Melville and mermaids, art, toilet-handles which require jiggling. It comes back to the-French-are-cool, I guess. If the French version of BlaK were being sold in the US, it just might have a chance. But, just as Vanilla Coke was taken off the shelves to make room for Coke BlāK, it seems safe to predict Coke BlāK will in turn be pulled (to make room for good ole Coca-Cola "Classic" again, corn syrup and all?). And about those two beautiful girls who recently visited France (one of whom swiftly mastered how to jiggle the handle), they're of Irish descent, not French, but still quite cool.

I've always thought Irish girls would make the best mermaids. (Rent or buy The Secret of Roan Inish sometime, if you want to see what I mean.)

That concludes these too-long BlaK posts. So: Box-cutters; Uranium-235; anthrax; anti-tank RPG-7s; corn syrup.
  Back, not Blak!

The Internets Cracks me UP!

I think it is more operator error.

Thank you, Maurinsky.
Friday, April 28, 2006
  Worlds of BlāK
Yep, Coca-Cola BlãK returns as promised (spelling it the way it appears on the bottles at the store - for now). Time to throw out some links - easily found on Google or Yahoo, of course, but I'm doing the work for the Dear Reader, which is a major point of blogging in the first place. Here's link Number One: Syrup (Amazon.com). Read it for a laugh. If I've learned anything in my several decades on this planet, it's that we could all use a laugh.

Yes, this book by Max Barry (infamous in the gaming world for his black comedy starring the title character, heroine Jennifer Government, soon to be a movie - really!) well predates Coca-Cola BlãK. So much of this crap we see happening in the world boils down to markets and marketing. Which, of course, really means money.

Does anybody remember when they got rid of the original Coca-Cola to introduce New Coke?

As should be obvious from the afore-mentioned several decades on this planet, I, for one, remember. A Coke addict at the time (anyone at the FBI reading this?), I saved a few bottles of original Coke and rationed it out after the original stuff went off the market (gave one 2-liter bottle away as a gift at a wedding - yes, I really did). After the New Coke fiasco ended and "Coca-Cola Classic" came on-line, I compared the two. (Remember, I used to be a participant on a site called Conspiracy Theory.) Only after tasting it and noticing a difference. The ingredients had been changed. Original Coca-Cola contained sugar. Coca-Cola Classic contained corn syrup. There were no other differences that I can recall.

Sugar costs money. It has to come here from other countries. So it has been steadily replaced by the cheaper alternative. America's current corn syrup addiction helps keep the corn industry going. On the plus side, it helps farmers (though, increasingly, that really means large corporate farming operations, as opposed to smaller independent family-run farms). On the minus side of the equation, however, corn syrup may be the leading contributor to America's obesity problem.

Though I've done absolutely no research other than to compare the ingredients on the side of a can of original Coca-Cola to those on the side of a can of Coca-Cola Classic, my conclusion is this: The New Coke fiasco was engineered so the producers of the most popular product of all time could switch out sugar and replace it with corn syrup. Result? America (and the rest of the world's Coke-drinking population) got fukked by the switch. Now check out the Amazon link supplied above, whose text begins like this:

Lampooning corporate "ethics," sexual politics and the marketing and film industries, this clever debut satire by 25-year-old Australian writer Barry will have readers nodding in agreement and quoting it to their friends. Ingenuous new marketing graduate Scat (he feels that his full name, Michael George Holloway, just won't do for a career in marketing) moves to L.A. hoping to become rich and famous. After he gets a million-dollar idea for a new cola product, cheeky and arrogant Scat approaches a beautiful, ruthless marketing manager named 6 at Coca-Cola. The new product's name is, hilariously, a "dirty" word, spelled unconventionally and in stylish font on a black can...

(By the way, I believe the Coke BlãK-Coke [expletive deleted] connection first popped up on BrainFuel - this insight does not originate with Yours Truly.)

The same sweetener issue plagues BlãK (see Consumer Reports' Taste Test: Coke Blak). The French version really is better, as hinted in the previous post.

The Coca-Cola Company isn't pioneering into new territory here. Try Answers.com and you'll see Pepsi got there first. Three times. Perhaps most famously with Pepsi Kona, now a collectible on eBay. (My favorite part of the eBay link? "This drink is not consumable.") Now might be a good time to lay up a stockpile of Coke BlãK - just in case. That, at least, is the opinion of BevNET.

Getting back to the people at BrainFuel, very likely brought together by a mutual love of Starbucks (from the Pointing Out the Obvious Department: "brain fuel"), here's one of their favorite books: Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. Having that having-come-full-circle feeling? Or maybe just the this-rambling-about-Coca-Cola BlāK-has-been-going-on-too-long feeling? Okay, time to get to "Worlds of BlāK."

So far: gaming world (honorable mention); marketing world (overindulgence in this syrupy stuff); literary world (2-book foray). What about the mystical world of artist-poet William Blake? If that's a macron appearing in the name of Coke's new product, then that's a long "ā" and the rules of free association permit - perhaps even require - introducing this English genius. To some, that logic may sound unconvincing, but check this out:


(If you want more, a couple of places to try: Magister - Art of William Blake; Ferret Image Repository: ENGL - Blake Collection.)

Case not overstated. William Blake may be the best artist England ever produced; he was certainly a visionary, seeing with a consciousness that was of his time while also being well beyond it. Which is one reason the second image was chosen. There stands Los, opening a door into the otherworld, his right eye on what is behind him (the Past, the Reader, the Material World), while the corner of his left eye glimpses the uncreated world ahead (the Future, the Creator, the Spiritual Realm). (See Web Gallery of Art, Los Entering the Grave for a better and more in-depth appraisal.) Blake, whether he knew it or not (and, mystic that he was, he probably knew it), was in pursuit of the Grail, a story of redemption, of second chances, of opposites united in the name of a greater whole rather than hurled against one another in the name of all-out annihilation. Healing. Blake was rebelling, not with destructive violence, but with constructive creativity, against the repressive times in which he lived. (A glimpse of his critique of England, aka Albion: Web Gallery of Art, Los Resting from His Labours.) Why should experience and the senses be bad? Why should Heaven and Hell be at war? No surprise, therefore, that his works include Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Here is an image of redemption as good as anything offered by Danté: Reunion.

On the subject of Hell, is it time to address murder in Hollywood? The dark side, which is why all I'm providing is the link.

There's really no way to bring this back around to coffee and Coca-Cola BlāK. So, instead, here's a poem about the dark energy of creation, and I'll leave you to guess the author:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
  Back in BlãK

Does anyone remember this headline from 5 years ago? Starbucks To Begin Sinister 'Phase Two' Of Operation? At the time, I (in this case, Lokabrenna) was a member of an MSNBC-sponsored proto-blog (MSN Group) known as Conspiracy Theory. (Okay, it's actually even worse than that - I was a moderator of said site.) Generally, I reserve my stock exclusively for political or economic conspiracies (i.e., collusion to dominate markets and governments according to a monopolistic model). For fun, however, on one occasion I drove a thread based on The Onion's Starbucks spoof with heavy posts about the history of coffee. At first, it seemed to others that I had just lost my mind (when in fact that had happened many years earlier). But all I was really doing was riffing on The Onion's clever humor. The price paid for a few laughs was my learning a great deal of the lore of coffee.

A long, interesting and sweeping story stands behind America's Number One wake-up beverage. For masochists out there who can't get enough of my long-winded writings, perhaps someday I'll attempt to recover all that lost lore (the Starbucks thread no longer exists on the old site). But for now...

First things first. Priorities count, after all. The tilde in this post's title is what is shown on the side of the 8 oz. bottle in front of me. But the good people at Coca-Cola have an official site for this product and call it Coca-Cola BlāK. Which means this Coke isn't "black" - instead it's "blake"?

Non sequitur follows:

During the last two weeks of February, Maurinsky, myself and two stunningly beautiful young girls went on what will be remembered as our version of a trip of a lifetime. We were aiming for Ireland, a place I've wanted to see for most of my life, but an unbelievably cheap flight lured us to Paris instead, and from there we were able to take Ryanair to Ireland. Our two-week vacation became a trip to two countries instead of one: Ireland and France. In Ireland we were blessed with excellent hospitality, and weather to match. In France we were blessed with the kind of weather one usually associates with the word "February," but also enjoyed one or two days of nice weather. We discovered some interesting things about the rest of the world this way. For instance, on our first day in France, we experienced this view:

But a few days later we discovered the first view (already posted above). Non sequitur ends...

Yes, Coca-Cola BlāK debuted in France. We saw it in vending machines at train stations and (once in awhile) in grocery stores (and one time at a restaurant). Hmm, I'm running out of time (must go to work) and haven't said a damn thing about Coke's new drink other than to talk about the silly accent mark over the "a." Looks like this was actually an excuse to talk about our trip and blather on about nothing in particular. But I'm going to hit the "Publish Post" button all the same.

In two minutes.

First, though, the Coca-Cola BlāK we tried in Paris tasted different from what they're selling over here. French food products rarely (if ever) resort to corn syrup. I like that. And the BlāK in Paris was sweetened with sugar instead. It also came with more of a coffee flavor, a bit less of the Coca-Cola. Still, there is a bottle of the stuff shipped from Georgia right here in front of me. It is interesting, it is different, and it does have its appeal.

The rest of this post - about such diverse topics as this new Coke drink, William Blake, and murder in Beverly Hills - must wait for another time. Meanwhile, to make sure this gets the attention it deserves: President; bomb; assassinate; Hamas; terrorists; Iraq; revolution; nuclear device. That should do it.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Why am I not shocked by this news?

So if you ever sleep over here and hear some kind of loud noise from my bedroom, blame my father.

When we were in Ireland in February, we brought up Mike Shea to Aunt Maureen & Uncle Paddy, and the one thing *everyone* remembered about Mike Shea was his mighty snore - T, you must remember. I think you could actually feel the house shaking from his snores.

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