Archive for March, 2007

Coke gets its Kosher on!

Posted in Coca Cola, holiday, pop culture, soda with tags , , , , on March 27, 2007 by Paxton

Sodapalooza

Ahh, it’s good to be back in the good ole US of A. I’ll regale you with tales from my trip to Paris another time (I’m writing an article about it). Today, however, I wanted to enlighten you about the Jewish holiday of Passover. Actually, I wanted to discuss a curious phenomenon that happens around Passover every year.

Passover

As everyone knows, Passover commemorates the Exodus and freedom of the Israelites from ancient Egypt. But Pax, how does this pertain to Coca-Cola? Patience, grasshopper, all will be revealed in due time. During passover, the only grain product that can be owned or eaten is one in which flour and water have not combined for more than 18-22 minutes. Due to this restriction, Jewish people can’t drink the sweetener used in non-diet sodas; High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Coke and other soft drink companies started switching over to this sweetener in the late ’70s/early ’80s as an alternative to beet or cane sugar due to sky rocketing sugar prices. This move still angers many soda enthusiasts as the taste is no longer the same as the drink’s inventors had wanted.

Coke LogoSo, during Passover, Coke began to notice the dip in sales during the months around the Jewish holiday. It obviously was a significant enough dip that Coke had to do something about it. In order to hold onto its important Jewish sales during Passover, Coke produces batches of its soda with sucrose (beet sugar and/or cane sugar) much like it did before the big switch to HFCS and the whole manufacturing process is lorded over by a Jewish representive. To soda enthusiasts, this means that Coke, Pepsi and Sprite, during the month of Passover, are available sweetened with pure sugar to those who go looking for it. And it can be a difficult search as the switch is not nationwide and centers mostly on large Jewish communities. This makes the few weeks before and the few weeks after Passover a large, geeky scavenger hunt for soda enthusiasts.

Cane SugarSo, how do you find it? Coke Classic, Sprite and Pepsi will have the largest showing. You supposedly can also find some of Dr. Brown’s sodas with cane sugar in them (I’d love to find a Black Cherry). 2 Liters of kosher soda will have yellow caps on them with Hebrew writing and a P stamped on the cap top. Cans, which are much harder to find, will have the Hebrew stamp on the bottom. Big cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco will have lots of it. Smaller towns will be harder to find unless you have a Jewish grocery somewhere near you. Passover this year begins on the morning of April 2 and lasts the whole week.

I’ll be on the lookout for it, will you?

UPDATE: After writing this article I went to the local supermarket and I found Kosher Coke.
Here are the pics:

Kosher Coke1Kosher Coke2

Notice the bright yellow cap. I don’t think you can see the Passover Hebrew stamp on top, but it’s there. I wasn’t able to find any Pepsi or Sprite, but I’ll try other places. Keep looking, it’s out there.

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Friday night before Paris

Posted in France, Paris, personal, roadtrip with tags , , on March 17, 2007 by Paxton

Paris by Night

Well, it’s about 10:40pm EST. My wife is dozing on the couch. We just finished watching the movie French Kiss. Sounds like a typical Friday night, and it would be, except when we get up Saturday morning we are going to the airport to fly to Paris, France. I. CAN’T. WAIT. We’ve been planning this trip for over a year, I can’t believe it’s finally here. Since I’m going to be a little busy, I’m probably not going to get an article out next week. I’ll try to post some pictures or something, but I guarantee nothing.

Hope everyone has a good weekend and week. I’ll see you on the other side.

The Real-Life Legend of the Cannonball Run

Posted in Cannonball Run, cars, movies, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , on March 13, 2007 by Paxton

Cannonball RunIf you’ve been watching American Idol the last few weeks you’ve no doubt noticed the numerous promos for a show called Drive. It’s an action series about a secret, illegal road race and the people that participate in it (some of them, possibly, under duress). The show starts on April 15 and is produced and written by Tim Minear (one of the main contributers to the tv shows Angel and Firefly). The promos are vague, but in my mind, it looks like a cross between Cannonball Run and Death Race 2000. These promos got me thinking about the Cannonball Run movies and how much I enjoyed them. It also got me thinking about how I heard those movies were based on a real race. Well, I did a little research, and this article is the result. So if you are at all curious about the origins of the movie Cannonball Run, then read on, dear sir, for the ride starts here.

The legend begins with Erwin George Baker. Baker was born in Indiana in 1882. Throughout the 1930s, he became an extremely popular motorcycle and automobile race driver. Cannonball BakerAmong the many accomplishments in his prestigious career; he won the first ever race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909, placed 11th in the 1922 Indianapolis 500 and became the first commissioner of NASCAR. However, he gained his greatest notoriety in 1915 after a New York to Los Angeles drive which took 11 days and 7 hours. It was this intercontinental drive that earned him the nickname “Cannonball” after the famous Illinois Central railway car, “The Cannonball”. In 1933 he would make the cross country trek again, but this time, he’d do it in only 53 hours and 30 minutes, a record that would stand for almost 40 years. “Cannonball” Baker would pass away in 1960 as one of the most revered and popular automobile and motorcycle drivers of all time. He was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

Brock YatesFast forward to 1968. Brock Yates is an executive editor for Car & Driver magazine. He writes a scathing article called “The Grosse Pointe Myopians”, which critiques the auto industry, its management and its products which makes him infamous within the auto industry. Then, in 1971, Yates, along with fellow Car & Driver editor Steve Smith, decides to create an unofficial, and illegal, intercontinental road race. Inspired by the travel records of Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, the race begins in New York and ends in Redondo Beach, CA. Officially dubbed the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, the race would serve as a celebration of the US national highway system and also a protest of the soon-to-be passed 55mph speed limit. Yates wanted to prove that careful drivers can safely navigate this country’s interstate system at high speeds in much the same way the Germans do with the Autobahn. Yates also believed that if Erwin Baker could complete the journey in a record time of 53 hours and 30 minutes over unfinished roads and horrible conditions, then a modern driver should have no problem doing it over the uninterrupted expanse of the national interstate system.

The first run of the Cannonball was made by Yates, his son and Steve Smith in May 1971. Since it was not widely publicized, no one else showed up. After that initial run, the Cannonball was held four more times throughout the ’70s. The race really gained some notoriety during the 1972 run, but after the 1975 run, Time Magazine published a series of articles describing the races thereby thrusting the event into the public consciousness. Although no accidents or serious injuries had been sustained in the five runs, Yates thought it was only a matter of time before the law of averages caught up to them as the number of participants grew with each race. Yates and Car & Driver decided to quietly discontinue the race in 1979. The record time amongst all five runs of the race was 32 hours and 51 minutes set by Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough in the final Cannonball in 1979.

CannonballAfter the dismantling of the race, Yates wrote about his experiences in a movie screenplay. Before he could get the film made, he was beat to the movie theaters by two movies; Cannonball! and The Gumball Rally. He would rework his screenplay into more of a slapstick comedy picture and have it made as the original Cannonball Run. Did you know that Steve McQueen was originally the favorite for the lead role that eventually went to Burt Reynolds? McQueen died right before filming, and Reynolds said yes because he was in need of a hit after several misfires. The original Cannonball Run movie did so well it had two sequels; Cannonball Run II and Speed Zone! Needless to say, Speed Zone! did not fair as well with critics…or audiences.

In 1984, Car & Driver would decide to re-instate the Cannonball Run, but they renamed it One Lap of America. This time, though, they instituted a speed limit rule which penalized drivers for arriving at the finish line too soon. This was done to avoid any accidents or problems with the law.

Since the original Cannonball was discontinued, many movies and tv shows have celebrated the idea of an underground auto race. In 1975, Death Race 2000 created a darker, comedic version of the race where points were awarded for killing people with your car. In 2001, Rat Race would continue the road race tradition with a star-studded ensemble cast. Also in 2001, Yates would officially allow the Cannonball Run moniker to be used for a reality show called, what else, butWacky Races “Cannonball Run 2001”. It would be the precursor to the currently popular Amazing Race. Suprisingly, there are many movies BEFORE Cannonball Run that included a cross country vehicle race. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963 would gather many tv/movie stars of the day and send them on a cross country search for treasure. Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines in 1965 would also include a star-filled cast but pit them in a wacky, international airplane race. In 1968 there was even a cartoon called Wacky Races that pitted many popular cartoon characters of the time in a large multi-vehicle, international race. It seems using the plot device of zany vehicle races has usually provided lots of fun filled plots for movies and tv shows.

This, of course, leads us to the show I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Drive. Check out an extended promo for the show here. It looks to be a more serious take on the Cannonball Run premise, whereas the participants are, for the most part, blackmailed into participating, oh, and they don’t know where the finish line is. It looks very intriguing and it has many actors I really like, so I can’t wait to catch it on Fox on April 15.

Well, there you have it. The story behind the Cannonball Run. Hope you found it as interesting as I did. I have to go back into training for the rest of the week so please pity me. Please.

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A Tragic few days…

Posted in personal with tags on March 2, 2007 by Paxton

It’s been a tough couple of days for my family.

If you’ve been watching the news then you know that Enterprise High School in Enterprise, AL was hit by a tornado on Thursday afternoon. So far, 17 people have been found dead.

Here’s a slide show of pictures of the aftermath.

My wife and her best friend, Kathy, graduated from Enterprise High School in 1995. Kathy’s parents and sister still live there. Kathy’s sister’s house was damaged by the tornado. It’s just surreal and sad the damage that can happen to people so close to home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone.

Another tragic bit of news came this afternoon. My Uncle Mike, diagnosed with Advanced Prostate Cancer last year, finally succumbed around 11:30am. You can see his picture on the lower right of this blog. He started the First Friday Foundation to raise awareness for Prostate Cancer. Here’s a better picture of the link:

Mike

The image above is a picture of him in high school. The image is linked to the website for First Friday Foundation. Take a look, and remember, 1 in 6 men will be stricken with Prostate Cancer, get your PSA Blood Levels checked when you turn 45.

My family is pretty close. My cousins Micheal & Megan and my brother and me were always really good friends. We loved going to Ohio to visit my Aunt and Uncle and just hanging out with them at their house playing board games and watching TV. Every year we used to go to Myrtle Beach for a week in the summer. It was some of the best times of my life. Life being the way it is, we haven’t been able to see them as much as I would like the last few years and I hope that changes. I love all of them and will thankfully see them soon. I know Uncle Mike is in a better place now.

I’ll miss you greatly, Mike. We all will. Tell Grandmother, “Hello”.