Good morning and greetings, Indian summer fans. Early last week, Dusty Springfield and I were wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’ and prayin’ that the morning dreariness along the coast would disappear like the Tea Party and that the air will be electrified with the warmth the crowd felt during Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Then Friday came along, and like yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. I no longer needed a place to hide away, as the weather pattern that comes along with living in a Mediterranean climate kicked in. What we weren’t lacking for along the coast was pelicans, as I saw more swan diving into the ocean than shots at the RNC about Obama’s economic programs. Throw in some dolphins, seals and Heidi Klum and it was a good week along West Cliff.
So after taking a steam with my rabbi the other day, he asked if I was better off now than I was four years ago? I replied, “Darn right. The Giants won the Super Bowl last year, the Lakers picked up Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the offseason and both Coke and Pepsi are going crazy trying to figure out ways to make soda into a health drink. Or as Bill Murray would say.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”
And that leads us into this week’s top and only news story. In an article written by Candice Choi for the Associated Press, Coke and Pepsi, like Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and Romney and Ryan, are reaching for the stars, going for the Olympic gold. Their goal is to develop a soda with no calories, no artificial sweeteners and no funny aftertaste along the sugary highway to anywhere.
These two soft drink giants hope that elusive trifecta will quiet down health concerns about the pleasant poison we call soda and reverse the decline in consumption of these wonderfly carbonated drinks. But such a formula, much like obliterating the Taliban, balancing the U.S. budget or eliminating concussions from pro football is years away. And let’s not forget that Pepsi is the choice of the new generation.
The key ingredient that makes soda taste so damn good is also what drives the obesity train and packs on the pounds: high-fructose corn syrup. Artificial sweeteners like Kim Kardashian and aspartame, that are used in diet drinks, come along without any calories but are seen as processed and fake. Just ask Kris Humphries. Plants that provide natural sweeteners give us the most promising alternative, but the white knights in the research departments haven’t figured out yet how to mask their metallic aftertaste that comes with an ACDC quality flavor. Because life should taste good.
There’s good reason why Coke and Pespi are working faster than Usain Bolt running the 100 meters to tweak their formulas. Once an American pastime, sodas are now number one on the hit list for America being the Woodstock nation of blimps and bulging waistlines, as two-thirds of the country’s adults are overweight, obese and overstocked at the beltline. But as you know, you’ve got a life to live and Pepsi’s got a lot to give.
Because of supersizing and the never ending variety of flavored water, sports drinks and antioxidant fruit shakes, consumption of soda has plummeted down 17 percent to about 1.3 cans a day since its peak in 1998, according to data from Beverage Digest, an industry tracker that also provides me with stock tips. So wherever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice-cold Coca-Cola.
Aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in drinks like Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, doesn’t have any calories, but most sweetners are still as unnatural as Joan Rivers. These concerns have led makers of Fresca, Mountain Dew and Mr. Pibb to search for natural, zero-calorie sweeteners, like stevia, which is derived from a South American shrub. Natural sweeteners have neither the calories of sugar nor the negative associations of artificial sweeteners but taste kind of crappy in colas, which is not good along the highway to anywhere.
Stevia is already used in Coke and Pepsi’s orange juice and bottled teas, but it’s striking out in cola. We want maximum taste with zero calories to go along with great taste and zero sugar. So the soft drink monoliths continue to search the world for other naturally occurring sweeteners, because when it comes to soda drinkers, there’s no rhyme or reason as thirst knows no season.
So I’m not going to get into the negatives effects of soda consumption, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, weight gain, water retention, increased blood pressure and uncontrolled fits of laughter. I’ll leave it up to Chris Rock to put the benefits of our friend soda pop into perspective. “I think all addiction starts with soda. Every junkie did soda first. But no one counts that. The soda connection is clear. Why isn’t a presidential commission looking into this. Or at least some guys from the National Carbonation Council?”
For our photo entourage we are heading back to the last Wednesday, the opening night of the NFL season. The clouds were spectacular all day, but when I went out at around 6 pm it didn’t look all that promising for any sunset action. I then got caught up in watching my New York Giants come out flat as pancakes until I was jolted by a call from field scout Kevin Deutsch, telling me the sky was blowing up.
Like Eli Manning on a rollout play, I grabbed my camera, raced outside and spotted a caravan of brightly-colored, puffy orange clouds. However, by the time I got to my shooting spot, the sky had called an audible and I had to settle for the sun dipping into the mountains over UCSC. This would have been a tremendous occasion to be shooting from the cliffs above Davenport, but like the Giants that night, you snooze, you lose.
On to some late night. “The Democratic Convention began tonight. What a difference four years makes. Last time the theme was ‘Hope and change.’ This year the theme is ‘Hope you don’t make a change.’ It is day two of the Democratic convention, and apparently they had a huge lighting problem in the convention hall today. They worked all day on it. They still couldn’t get President Obama out of Bill Clinton’s shadow. “President Obama’s re-election campaign said that this year they’ll knock on 150 percent more doors than they did in 2008. Well, of course they will. They have to. There’s so many foreclosures it’s tough to tell where people live.” –Jay Leno
“Today was the start of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. They’re going all out to make sure it tops last week’s Republican convention. In fact, I heard at this one they’re going to have Clint Eastwood yell at a couch.” –Jimmy Fallon “Mitt had to follow that. He’s a little stiff. He makes Al Gore look like James Brown at the Apollo. And for five minutes the crowd was chanting, ‘Bring back the chair!’ Ann Romney was telling details of their personal life. She said that when she and Mitt were young, ‘He was nice to my parents, but really glad when my parents weren’t around.’ And with his Medicare plan, they won’t be.” –Bill Maher
“First the good news: Louisiana, knee-deep in water, but this time, the levees held from the big hurricane. That’s good. However, Tampa, Florida this week nearly drowned in bulls**t.” Paul Ryan made a speech the other night, even a columnist for Fox News said it set a world record for the greatest number of lies in a single speech. To which Mitt Romney said, ‘Game on.’” –Bill Maher
“Michelle Obama said the first car Barack picked her up in was so old, you could see ground below them. Today, Ann Romney said the same thing about Mitt’s first helicopter.” –Conan O’Brien “I always like how the politicians show how that they’re just regular guys. Like Obama says he likes to have a beer with people. And Romney said, when it comes to shopping, he chooses Costco. In fact, last week, he bought three of them.” –Jay Leno “Outside it’s like 82 and cloudy – like Clint Eastwood.” –David Letterman
So those are my thoughts from the world where Coke, which is the pause that refreshes, joins with Pepsi, who’s got your taste for life. We’ll catch you watching everyone touchdown, fumble, interception and cheerleader cutaway shot on the NFL Network. Aloha, mahalo and later, NFL RedZone channel fans.