Saturday, 2 April 2005

Daylight Savings Time

Tonight we here in the United States (except for a few select counties in Indiana) will move our clocks an hour forward as Daylight Savings Time goes into effect. Daylight Savings time has been the law of the land for the majority of my life. Even so, I still detest it.It takes me weeks to adjust to it. In fact, for the first few weeks of Daylight Savings Time, I often find myself feeling sleep deprived.

In theory, Daylight Savings Time is supposed to save energy. I have always tended to doubt this myself. True, according to the clock it stays light later of an evening, but then, according to the clock, it also stays dark later of a morning. That means that the electricity one saves by turning on their lights later of an evening is pretty much spent by turning them on earlier of a morning. It's like my boss says, "It's like cutting off one end of a blanket and sewing it to the other in an effort to make it longer."

This brings me to another point. Discounting solar batteries, it is impossible to save daylight. Regardless of what time clocks here in the United States say, there is going to be the same amount of daylight on April 4 regardless of whether Daylight Savings Time is in effect or not.

Beyond the possiblity that Daylight Savings Time probably doesn't result in much energy saved, the fact that many of us are sleep deprived after switching to Daylight Savings Time, and sheer impossibility of actually saving daylight, there is the sheer fact that, according to the clock, nightfall occurs later. Even though Daylight Savings Time has been around since I was a child, it just seems unnatural to me for the sun to be setting at 8:00 PM.

Anyhow, to me Daylight Savings Time hardly seems worth it. I very seriously doubt it saves much energy. Even if some energy is saved, it seems to me that the lost productivity due to sleep deprived people whose bodies have not yet adjusted to Daylight Savings Time would cost employers more than the energy supposedly saved by Daylight Savings Time. Anyhow, I am all for its repeal. Immediately.

Friday, 1 April 2005

Fantasy Films of the Eighties

It seems to me that, in the Eighties, the motion picture industry went through a cycle of fantasy movies. I am not sure, but I think that more fantasy films may have been made in the Eighties than any other time. It is possible that there may have been more fantasy films made in the late Fifties and the early Sixties, when such movies as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and the Hercules movies were released, although I tend to doubt it. Regardless, even if more fantasy films were made in the late Fifties and early Sixties, there were a good number of fantasy movies made in the Eighties.

The cycle began in 1981 when two major motion pictures in the fantasy genre were released. The first was Excalibur, directed by John Boorman. To this day Excalibur is considered the definitive movie about the Arthurian mythos. As such, it is most definitely a fantasy movie. Unlike some movies about King Arthur which downplay or even do away with the magical aspects of the legends, Excalibur played them up. Indeed, Merlin (Nicol Williamson) is very nearly the main character. The movie did well at the box office and maintains a loyal following to this day.

The second fantasy movie released in 1981 was Dragonslayer. Dragonslayer combined the classic dragon slaying motif with the idea of the sorcerer's apprentice. The result is a fairly original story with a few surprises. Dragonslayer also boasted some of the best special effects of its era. In fact, they hold up very well alongside today CGI creations and often look better.

Even then, when I was still an teenager, I thought it odd for two fantasy movies to be released in one year. After all, the motion picture industry can go literally years without even one film in the genre. It was a bit more surprising, then, when in 1982 Conan the Barbarian was released. Conan the Barbarian departed from Robert E. Howard's stories a good deal. And Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting left a little bit to be desired at this point in his career. Ultimately, Conan the Barbarian would do well at the box office and give a good boost to Schwarzenegger's career.

Of course, Conan the Barbarian was not the only fantasy film released in 1982. That same year saw the release of The Dark Crystal. The Dark Crystal is a unique movie in that no human beings appear in the entirety of the movie. Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and produced by Jim Henson Productions, every single role was played by Muppets. But these Muppets were a far cry from Kermit and Miss Piggy. The movie is set on another planet where the good Gelfings have been in a long conflict with the evil Skekses. The key to preventing the planet from falling under control of the Skekses forver is to repair the Dark Crystal, a magical artefact damaged long ago and capable of restoring order to the world. The Dark Crystal is some of the best work Henson Productions ever did, with well rounded characters and some very interesting visuals. Definitely a different sort of movie.

Nineteen eighty three saw the release of Krull, an ill fated attempt to blend fantasy and science fiction. In this movie the planet Krull, a world with medieval technology and magic, is attacked by an alien force. Both the special effects and makeup left a bit to be desired in Krull. This could perhaps be forgiven if it was not for the very poor script. Krull is perhaps one of the worst of the major motion pictures released in the fantasy genre in the Eighties.

Nineteen eighty five saw the release of two fantasy films. The first here in the United States was Legend. Directed by Ridley Scott, the director behind both Aliens and Blade Runner, the movie was highly anticipated by sci-fi and fantasy fans alike. Unfortunately, many of them would be disappointed. The movie was severely cut for release in the United States. As a result the characters seemed little more than cardboard cutouts. The music by Eric Allaman was also replaced by a score by Tangerine Dream, an ill fit for a fantasy movie set in a fairy tale world. I have yet to see the European version of the film, but I have heard it is very good from friends who have seen it. It is a shame it wasn't the version that was released here in the United States.

The second fantasy film to be released in the United States in 1985 was Ladyhawke. Directed by Richard Donner and starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer (both at the peak of their careers), LadyHawke drew upon medieval folk tales to create a tale about two lovers, the man cursed with being a wolf by night and the woman with being a hawk by day. LadyHawke has a little bit of everything for everyone. There is romance. There is action. And there is beautifully shot medieval settings. It also features what may well be the longest sword fight in cinematic history (I can't recall if the one in Scarmouche is longer or not). Besides Excalibur and Dragonslayer, it may well be one of the best fantasy mvoies of the Eighties.

By 1986 the cycle towards fantasy movies seems to have been winding down. That year saw only one major release. Labryrinth was another Henson Production, once more featuring Muppets (as well as David Bowie as the Goblin King). The story centred on a girl who wishes her little brother to the goblins and then must rescue him from the critters. Beyond featuring a number of fanciful characters (various Muppets very unlike Kermit or Miss Piggy), Labryrinth also differed from other fantasy movies in that it was set in the present day (most were set in some past, whether real or imagined). Like The Dark Crystal, Labryrinth was well done, with well developed characters and a great sense of humour.

Humour took the forefront in The Princess Bride, released in 1987. The Princess Bride is a unique blend of comedy, swashbuckler movies, and fairy tales. It is also set apart from other movies of the fantasy cycle in having a more of a Renaissance setting rather than a medieval one. The Princess Bride is quite simply a crowd pleaser, a likable movie with a good cast, a good script, and good direction. It is no wonder it is considered by some a classic.

By 1988 the fantasy cycle had pretty much come to an end. That year saw the release of the last major motion picture in the cycle, Willow. Willow has taken its share of criticism for apparently being inspired by both Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but ultimately it is simply a fun, well made movie. In the film, the dwarf Willow finds that he must protect an infant who will some day put an end to the reign of the evil Queen Bavmorda. As the plot unfolds there is plenty of action and excitement, and even a bit of romance. While Willow may not be of the same quality as Excalibur or LadyHawke, it is quite an enjoyable film that most genre fans can probably appreciate.

Of course, it must be kept in mind that the fantasy cycle of the Eighties did not entirely consist of big budget, major releases. In fact, low budget fantasy films may well have outnumbered the big budget ones. Just like the fantasy cycle of the late Fifties and early Sixties, Italian producers flooded the market with cheap, often poorly made fantasy movies. Ator the Fighting Eagle and a very bad remake of the Fifties movie Hercurles were among the legion of Italian fantasy movies released throughout the Eighties. The Italians were not the only ones producing cheap fantasy movies. One of the worst fantasy films of the era was a British movie based on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Sword of the Valiant wasted the talents of Sean Connery and everyone else in it.

It is difficult to say what caused the fantasy cycle of the Eighties. It is quite possible that the continued success of Tolkien's works may have a hand in creating the cycle. In 1966 Lord of the Rings became a veritable fad on college campuses. By the Seventies, the novel had become an institution. Throughout the Seventies, books about Tolkien's works, as well as previously unpublished Tolkien works, were published in droves. Movie producers probably noticed this success and sought to emulate it on film. Indeed, this seems to have occurred in the book industry, as more and more fantasy novels were being published at this time.

It must also be remembered that in the late Seventies and early Eighties, Dungeons and Dragons and other role playing games became a bit of a fad. Any producer keeping an eye on fads and trends may well have realised that fantasy movies would naturally appeal to the role playing set. Of course, the success of Excalibur, Dragonslayer (at least its success on video--Dragonslayer did not do well at the box office), and Conan the Barbarian undoubtably led to the production of more fantasy movies. In fact, the fantasy cycle of the Eighties could have owed its existence to one film--Star Wars. The space opera has its share of fantasy elemenets, including the mystical Force, Jedi Knights, and sword duels in the form of light sabre battles.

Since the Eighties only a handful of fantasy films have been released. Given the success of The Lord of the Rings movies, I have to wonder that this won't change. Indeed, the first book in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is being filmed even as I write this. If it is a hit, I have no doubt that another cycle towards fantasy movies might well take place.

Thursday, 31 March 2005

Television Cycles

From time to time in this blog I have discussed cycles in television. I've discussed the spy cycle of the Sixites and the Western cycle of the Fifties among others. For those of you who are wondering what a cycle is, it is basically a trend or direction; in the instance of television it is ususally a trend or direction in the genres or formats of TV shows. Here I must point out that television is not the only medium in which cycles take place. Motion pictures have had their fair share of cycles. There was the gangster cycle of the Thirties and the fantasy cycle of the Eighties. Comic books have had their fair share of cycles, too, the most obvious example being the Golden Age of comic books when superheroes were in vogue. I suppose another way of looking at cycles, whether they are in television, movies, music, or some other medium, are as fads of a sort. The primary difference between a cycle and a fad that I can see is that fads tend to have a lot shorter life span.

One thing that cycles do have in common with fads is that it is sometimes difficult to determine what causes them. In some cases, the cause may be fairly obvious. As I see it, the Western cycle of the Fifties was pretty much the result of at least three things. The first thing was the continued popularity of the Western in motion pictures, books, and comic books. From the Silent Era to the Fifties, Hollywood probably produced more Westerns than any other genre, even though the majority were admittedly B movies. Western authors, such as Max Brand, Zane Grey, and Louis L'Amour have always have large followings. It was perhaps inevitable that television would start making Westerns in large quantities. Second, 1952 and 1953 saw two major motion pictures in the Western genre top the box office--High Noon and Shane respectively. With two Westerns being fairly respectable hits at the box office, television producers and the networks might well look to the genre as a possible source of hit TV series. Third, there were three Westerns that debuted in 1955: Cheyenne, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp , and Gunsmoke. All three of these things perhaps led to the Western cycle of the Fifties, although I have to wonder if the third may have been the most pivotal in the creation of the cycle. Let's face it, if Cheyenne, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, and Gunsmoke had flopped, there would have been no Western cycle. While debut more shows of the same type as shows that have bombed?

In fact, I think more often than not cycles result from television producers and the networks rushing to create more series of the same type as the latest hit. There is perhaps no more obvious example than the police procedural cycle of the past few years. Law and Order and its spinoffs have performed relatively well over the years, and then in 200 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation debuted. The show became a hit and as a result the networks rushed to create yet more police procedurals. Another example is the reality show cycle of the past few years. Survivor was the hit of summer 2000. As a result, the networks debuted yet more and more reality series.

Of course, sometimes the cause of any given cycle may not be blatantly obvious. This seems to me to be true of the majority of medical show cycles in the history of television. It seems to me that cycles in medical shows simply spring out of thin air, with two or three series debuting at once. Unlike the Western cycle of the Fifties, there are no hit movies one can look to as a source of inspiration. Unlike the police procedural cycle of the Naughts, there is not one single hit show (in this case, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), that one can look to as having sparked the cycle. It seems to me medical shows cycles just spring up with no discernable cause. By way of example, both Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey debuted in 1961, even though there were no movies with a medical theme that had been hits at the box office. The fact that both of those shows were hits did create a small medical cycle in the early Sixties, although it produced no hits. In 1994 both E.R. and Chicago Hope (I think yet another medical show may have debuted that season as a mid-season replacement, although I may be wrong on that...), even though there was no apparent interest on the part of the public in medical shows. Again, both E.R. and Chicago Hope were hits and sparked a small cycle towards medical shows. I am sure that there was something that sparked both the medical show cycles of the Sixties and Nineties, but it is not one that seems to me to be blatantly obvious. I rather suspect figuring out the cause between both cycles could prove very difficult.

As to whether cycles in television are a good thing or not, that is difficult to say. On the one hand, there have been cycles that hae produced a number of classic series. The Western cycle of the Fifties, the spy cycle of the Sixties, and the imaginative sitcom cycle of the Sixties all produced their fair share of classic shows. On the other hand, cycles can force shows of other genres off the air until, in the end, the television schedule is dominated by shows of one single genre. This happened with the Western cycle of the Fifties. There were seasons during the Western cycle when there was virtually a Western TV show every night, but a noticeable lack of police or medical shows. The same was true to a lesser degree of the lawyer cycle of the Nineties. There were a lot of lawyer shows on the air, but very few sci-fi shows or mysteries. Worse yet, it seems to me that the lawyer shows of that time were largely derivative. As to whether any given cycle is good or bad, I suppose that depends on one's point of view. Obviuosly if one hates lawyer shows, then he or she will not like a cycle towards them.

It is difficult to say what cycles will arise in television in the coming years, although the success of Lost and Desperate Housewives may offer some clues. At any rate, as long as the public gets swept in various fads and crazes, I rather suspect the television industry will have cycles in programming. It seems to me that it is an established part of the television industry probably will never change.

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

Superheroes Coming to a Theatre Near You

It seems obvious to me that Hollywood is going through another cycle of superhero movies. Last year saw the release of Hellboy and Spider-Man II. This year will see the release of Batman Begins and The Fantastic Four. Next year will see the release of Superman Returns. And, believe it or not, more superheroes might make it to theatres.

Wonder Woman has been around since 1941, but she never has made it to the big screen. She has apparently held more appeal for the television industry than movie makers. William Dozier (producer of the Sixties Batman TV show) produced a pilot for a comedy featuring the Amazing Amazon. With regards to cartoons, she appeared on the various Superfriends cartoons of the Seventies, as well as a guest appearance on The Brady Kids (don't ask...). More recently she has been a regular on the Cartoon Network's Justice League cartoons. Of course, there was also the Seventies live action TV show featuring Lynda Carter in the role. But there has never been a major motion picture featuring Wonder Woman. Now it seems that there may well be. Warner Brothers has signed Joss Whedon (creator of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly) to write and direct a Wonder Woman feature film. Whedon has yet to determine the setting for the script. There has also been no one cast in the role of Wonder Woman yet. Rumours have had Jessica Biel, Charisma Carpenter, Eliza Dukshu, Rosario Dawson, and even Kim Basinger considered for the part.

My own thoughts on a Wonder Woman movie is that it should be set during World War II and remain somewhat loyal to creator William Moulton Marston's conception of the character. I have always thought Wonder Woman seemed out of place in modern times--she is just too much a product of the World War II era. Indeed, I think the TV show featuring Lynda Carter went way down hill when it moved to CBS and a 1970s setting. As to the casting, I favour either Charisma Carpenter or Eliza Dukshu. Definitely a brunette should be cast in the role. That pretty much leaves Kim Basinger out, who may well be too old for the part anyhow (I always pictured Wonder Woman has being twentyish).

To read more on the story go to Yahoo News.

In other news, it seems The Flash might make it to the big screen, too. Warner Brothers has signed David Goyer to write and direct a Flash feature film. Goyer has written such films as Dark City, the Blade movies and this summer's Batman Begins. Fittingly, he has also written comic books, most notably JSA (the current Justice Society of America title, in which the original Flash is a featured character).

Like Wonder Woman, The Flash is not a new character. The original, Golden Age Flash first appeared in 1939. Unfortunately, superheroes declined in popularity in the late Forties and The Flash's titles were cancelled or changed to different formats (Westerns, funny animals). He would make his last appearance for a nearly a decade in 1951, in the pages of All Star Comics (the original Justice Society of America title). In 1956 National Periodical Publications revived the "Flash" name with a new character, complete with a new costume and new secret identity. The first appearance of this Flash is generally accepted as the beginning of the Silver Age of comic books. And it was in the pages of the Silver Age Flash's magazine that the Golden Age Flash would reappear. The Silver Age Flash died in 1986 saving the world, where upon his sidekick, The Kid Flash, then became the newest Flash.

Also like Wonder Woman, The Flash has never appeared in a major motion picture. He appeared in the later seasons of the Superfriends cartoons. And he has been a regular on Cartoon Network's Justice League cartoons. During the 1990-1991 TV season there was a TV series based on the Silver Age Flash featuring John Wesley Shipp in the role.

For more on this story, go to E Online.

Beyond reading that David Goyer has been signed to direct and write The Flash movie, I have not heard anything else. I don't know which incarnation of The Flash will be featured in the film and I guess its possible that all three could. That having been said, I suspect that it will be based on the Silver Age Flash, who is admittedly the most famous of the three. While I am a fan of the Golden Age Flash, I can't say I would be displeased whichever Flash is featured. I love all of them.

At any rate, provided both movies are well done, I look forward to both of them. I was never a big fan of Wonder Woman (although I hate to admit I watched the Lynda Carter series regularly--hey, I was going through puberty...), but I can see how a feature film done properly could be interesting. As to The Flash, I've been a fan of all three incarnations of the character. A movie featuring any of them would be a movie I would go see. Now if they can only get a Green Lantern movie off the ground...

Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Instant Messengers

I recently tried to download ICQ 5. I say tried because it would not let me complete the download. ICQ 5 requires a minimum of 128 MB RAM to run and I only have 64 MB RAM. Now ICQ does still offer ICQ 2003b, but it has always crashed on my computer. Two thoughts occurred to me with regards to this. First, ICQ 5 must be overloaded with unneccesary features to need 128 MB RAM to run. All I require of an instant messenger is reliablity, an ability to send offline messages, a history in which to store past chats, the various statuses (Online, Invisible, Not Available, and so on), and the ability to send files. The first ICQ build I ever used had all of these and only needed 8 MB RAM on which to run. ICQ 5 must then have a lot of things an instant messenger does not even need.

My second thought is that ICQ must be abandoning many Windows 98 and Windows ME users. After all, most Windows 98 and Windows ME users I know only have 64 MB RAM. Those that can use ICQ 2003b probably will continue to do so. As for folks like me, well, I guess I'll continue to use Trillian to access ICQ.

The shame of all this is that I am a long time ICQ user. ICQ came out in 1997 and I started using it in 1998. It was a good way of keeping in touch with friends and family. And for the most part it has proven reliable for me. Over the years I have tried other instant messengers, but I have always come back to ICQ.

One of the instant messengers I have tried is Yahoo Messenger. In fact, I used to use it regulary a few years ago when I was active in a Justice Society of America Yahoo Club. I always liked Yahoo Messenger. It is reliable and has all of the features I want in an instant messenger. And I still know a lot of people who use it. In fact, I think it is second only in popularity to ICQ among my friends.

I never have liked AOL Instant Messenger, also known as AIM. The last time I used it, which was admittedly years ago, it did not even have the ability to send offline messages. I don't even think it had an Invisible Mode. Worse yet, it seemed a bit slow. Curiously, it is supposed to boast more users than any other instant messenger, even though I know of no one who uses it. I have to wonder if the statistics are not a bit over inflated. Consider this, every AOL user and every person who downloads the Netscape browser gets AIM whether they want it or not. Now every person on AOL automatically has an AIM account. It seems possible to me that every one of these people is being counted as an AIM user, even if they never, ever use AIM. It's either that or AIM simply isn't popular with my friends.

I never have used MSN Messenger. My brother did a few years ago and he wasn't really too impressed. His thought it was a good as a very basic instant messenger, but a bit too simplistic. He thought most people would prefer ICQ or Yahoo Messenger.

I guess I should mention Trillian as I have been using it ever since ICQ came out with the last few builds of ICQLite (whose message histories would not save whole chats). Trillian is a bit hard to describe. I suppose the best way to describe it is as a instant messaging client that can log into ICQ, Yahoo, AIM, and MSN (all at once if you want to). It can also log into IRC. Trillian is very stable (I have never had it crash) and it has all the features I want out of an instant messenger.

Anyhow, I am disappointed that ICQ's latest build is so bloated that it requires 128 MB RAM. I can't even see people with a good deal more RAM than that being pleased with an instant messenger that uses that much RAM. I have a feeling that they'll find many people either sticking to ICQ 2003b or using Trillian to access ICQ. I know I for one will be using Trillian..

Monday, 28 March 2005

Ray Bradbury

As a kid and a teenager I read a lot of science fiction. I cannot say that I liked everything I read. Too often the stories and novels were far too much science and too little character or too little action for my taste. I can honestly say that Asimov bored me. There were a few science fiction authors who kept my attention: Robert A. Heinlein, Roger Zelazney, and Larry Niven among them. Delving into sci-fi books did lead me to one, great discovery: the works of Ray Bradbury. Looking back this seems strange to me. While Ray Bradbury is often counted as a science fiction writer, he is probably better classed as a fantasist.

Indeed, most of Bradbury's works contain little to no science, and often a good deal of fantasy. Even The Martian Chronicles is probably better classed as fantasy than sci-fi. At the time Bradbury wrote the various short stories that would become the novel, it was already a certainty that there was no intelligent life on Mars. I think the fact that Bradbury is a fantasist rather than a sci-fi writer is much of the reason he still holds so much appeal for me.

Ray Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. His family would eventually move to Tuscon, Arizona and eventually Los Angeles, but Bradbury still regards Waukegan as his hometown. In fact, one can see the influence of small town life in much of Bradbury's work. I would say that the one thing Bradbury introduced to the fantasy and horror genres was the blending of American, small town life with fantastic elements. Long before Stephen King wrote any of his books, Bradbury had already set fantastic stories and novels in small town settings.

Bradbury was first published when he was very young. He was only 20 when his first story was published in Weird Tales. His first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published when he was only 27. Not only was Bradbury first published when he was fairly young, but he is also very prolific. He has published over 500 works of literature and written screenplays and teleplays on top of all that.

Although much of Bradbury's work is characterised by a blending of the fantastic and the ordinary, there is a good deal of variety in his work too. Fahrenheit 451, a novel set in a futuristic society where all books are banned, is the one of Bradbury's works that is clearly science fiction. The Martian Chronicles, although often classed as sci-fi, is perhaps better considered a futuristic fantasy. Bradbury's most famous novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, is a horror novel with strong fantasy elements. This variety can also be seen in his many short stories. "The Burning Man," in which two people on a drive through the country side encounter a raving, old man, is perhaps best considered horror. "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit," dealing with a suit that gives the wearer an extraordinary feeling for life, is clearly fantasy. "Zero Hour," dealing with the subject of alien invasion, is perhaps best considered sci-fi.

As mentioned earlier, Bradbury also wrote screenplays and teleplays. He wrote the screenplay for the 1953 version of Moby Dick. He also wrote the screenplays for Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland and The Halloween Tree. A proposed screenplay for Gene Kelly provided the basis for Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury also worked a good deal in television. He wrote two episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episodes for The Twlight Zone, and two episodes for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He served as the host for Ray Bradbury Theater and the series adapted many of his short stories. Many of his works have provided the basis for feature films, among them It Came From Outer Space, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

I honestly don't think too many writers from the 20th century will be remembered in times to come. In my humble opinion, Ray Bradbury will be one of them. He was one of the first writers to blend the ordinary and the fantastic. His writing style is lyrical, almost poetic, yet at the same time very easy to read. And he has written in a wide variety of genres, never sticking only to one. I do think Ray Bradbury's works will be read for centuries to come.

Sunday, 27 March 2005

Coca-Cola: the Real Thing

I have been a big fan of Coca-Cola ever since I was a child. I can't say that it was the first soft drink I ever drank, that would be Double Cola. It wasn't even the soft drink that I drank the most, that again would be Double Cola. But it was and still is my favourite soft drink.

Coca-Cola was a well established part of American society and American pop culture when I was born. Indeed, it was already a well established piece of Americana when my mother and father were born. Coke was invented in 1886 by Dr. John S. Pemberton. It was first served at the soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. While Pemberton invented the drink, he would not be the one who turn into a million dollar business. Ill in health, Pemberton started selling stock in the company. Among the buyers was one Asa Candler. It would not be long before Candler would have control of the company. It was under Candler that Coca-Cola Company was incorporated in 1892. It was also under Candler that Coca-Cola went from only being served at soda fountain to be sold at stores in bottles. It was also under Candler that Coca-Cola went from a regional drink to a national one. By 1908, it was difficult to go anywhere in the United States without seeing some sort of advertising for Coca-Cola.

Such success naturally created imitators. In fact, Coca-Cola company eventually found itself suing other soda drink manufacturers over the use of the word "cola." The company sued both Royal Crown and Pepsi for the use of the word. After literally years, Coca-Cola Company would lose the lawsuits on a technicality. Strangely enough, as jealous as of Coca-Cola Company was over the word "cola," for years they discouraged people from using the nickname "Coke" for their product. The company's objection to the nickname was simple; "coke" even then was a slang term for cocaine. Finally, in the Forties, Coca-Cola Company gave up and embraced the nickname they had once disliked.

Of course, part of Coca-Cola's success lie in the company's advertising. In fact, perhaps no other company has such a rich history of great advertising slogans. Its earliest slogan was a simple but effective "Drink Coca-Cola." By 1922 Coca-Cola ads would boast, "Thirst knows no season," but it was in 1929 that Coke's ad men developed one the soft drink's two quintessential slogans--"The pause that refreshes." One of the most successful advertising slogans of all time, it is still associated with the soft drink. The other quintessential slogan for Coca-Cola was developed in the late Sixties, although the phrase "the real thing" had been used as early as the Forties: "It's the real thing." Of course, Coca-Cola Company did not employ slogans alone to sell the soft drink. Some of the best art in the Twentieth Century was created simply to sell Coke. Gil Elvgren painted a bevy of lovely ladies for Coca-Cola advertisements. And Haddon Sundblom's paintings Santa Claus remain famous to this day. Of course, like nearly every other major product of the Twentieth Century, Coca-Cola used celebrities in their advertising. Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, Claudette Cobert, and Clark Gable all appeared in ads for Coke.

Coca-Cola has gone through many Golden Ages, but I would guess that I was born during one of them. In 1961 Coca-Cola received even more exposure in Billy Wilder's Comedy One, Two, Three. In 1961 the company introduced Sprite, which has gone onto become one of the more successful soft drinks out there. And the company had two very successful advertising campaigns. In 1963 ads for the soft drink boasted "Things go better with Coke." And, as mentioned above, the late Sixties saw the introduction of the slogan "It's the real thing." Nineteen seventy one may have marked a high point for Coke advertising. It was that year that the classic "I'd like to teach the world to sing" commercial aired on television.

One would think that as well established as Coca-Cola was, as much of part n of Americana as it was, as much of an icon as it was, that Coca-Cola Company would not want to meddle with the product. Amazingly enough, they did. In 1985 Coca-Cola Company introduced "New Coke." "New Coke" was intended to replace the original Coca-Cola, even though it was still the most successful soft drink in the world and even though it was clearly an American institution. The reaction of the public was, quite simply, outraged. Coca-Cola Company was flooded with phone calls and letters demanding the return of the original Coca-Cola. People (including myself) began hoarding the original product. Within three months Coca-Cola Company was forced to announce the return of the original Coca-Cola under the name "Coca-Cola Classic." As to New Coke, let's just say it is no longer being manufactured...

The reaction to New Coke taught Coca-Cola Company something that apparently everyone else knew. Coca-Cola is as much a part of America as baseball and apple pie. While there are those who favour Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or some other soft drink, it is Coca-Cola that has always sold the best. And it is Coca-Cola that figures the most in American pop culture, from songs ("Rum And Coca-Cola," being one example) to movies (the aforementioned One, Two, Three). Somehow I get the feeling that had Pepsico decided to replace their original product with "New Pepsi" in 1985, the reaction would not have been quite so extreme...