Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tom Petty Dragging Stevie Nicks Around

This is pretty cool. Stevie Nicks is joining the first eight shows of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers "Highway Companion" tour this summer - she'll come onstage with the band to sing "a handful of songs each night." I can only guess this means live versions of "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" and maybe even the version of "Apartment Song" that appears on the Playback boxed set.

Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks go way back. The two sang the duet "Insider," on Petty's Hard Promises album, and "Needles and Pins" on the live album Pack Up The Plantation. Nicks also covered "Free Fallin" for the soundtrack of the TV show "Party of Five."

These are the shows Stevie Nicks will appear at:

June 9 - Charlotte, N.C. (Verizon Amphitheatre)
June 10 - Bristow, VA (Nissan Pavillion)
June 12 - Portsmouth, VA (Ntelos Pavillion)
June 14 - Columbus, OH (Germain Ampitheater)
June 16 - Manchester, TN (Bonaroo)
June 17 - St. Louis, MO (UMB Bank Pavillion)
June 20 - New York, NY (Madison Square Garden)
June 21 - Mansfield, MA (Tweeter Center
June 21 show at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, Mass.

Monday, May 29, 2006

More TV Commercials From The Grave

I remember that when I was a young kid, there were these weird commercials for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. One person would be eating peanut butter out of a jar for some reason, out in public like at a movie theatre, and another person would be eating a chocolate bar. Something would happen, and the chocolate bar would wind up in the peanut butter. This would agitate both people - "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!"; "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" until both people would realize they'd created a marvelous new combination.

I was thinking about that old ad thsi weekend, and I was wondering if Reese's ran these ads to convince people that this combination of the two ingredients was a good idea. Were chocolate and peanut butter desserts uncommon before these commercials ran? If so, they have really taken off in the last 25 years. At my company last month there was a bake-off and at least three entries were peanut butter and chocolate pies.

I decided to look into it. I went to the Reese's homepage and see that they've reprised the commerical I remember to promote the new Caramel Reese's cup. This time race-car drivers Kevin Harvick and Tony Kanaan bump into each other. Harvick is walking down the street eating a Reeses cup, and Kanaan is moseying along with a jar of caramel. They collide, and magic ensues. This means I'm not the only one to remember the old ad, but doesn't really answer my question.

Wikipedia says that the Reese's Peanut Butter cup was created in 1928 by an employee of Milton Hershey. 1928! I can tell you I was not around in 1928 to see television commercials - the ads I remember ran in the late 70's. Since the candies had been around for about 50 years by the time those commercials ran, I wonder why the creators decided they needed to emphasize the point that this combination was a good idea, and furthermore act like this was some kind of "new" idea.

I'm hungry.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Funny LL Cool J Lyrics

I was listening to some LL Cool J on my iPod this weekend, and this rhyme had me cracking up in the car:

as I turn the corner,
starin' in your cornea
you're gettin' hornier and hornier

Too funny.

By the way, that lyric comes from "Back Seat"

TV Commercials From The Grave

Hey, remember it wasn't that long ago that you couldn't turn on the television without seeing a commerical for one of those 10-10 dial around services? Carrot Top, Alf, Mike Piazza, Dennis Miller, John Stamos and other "celebrities" all were hocking these services where you dialed 10-10, three other digits and then whatever long distance number you were trying to reach, and for about a dollar, you could talk for twenty minutes. Now, you never see or hear those ads anymore. Weird.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In Effort To Thwart Scalpers, Tom Petty Cancels 1200 Concert Tickets

Approximately 800 tickets to a June 20th Madison Square Garden concert were invalidated by Tom Petty, and have been put up for resale to members of his fan club. A large block of tickets had originally been set aside for a pre-sale exclusively available to members of the club, but Petty worked with Ticketmaster and MSG to identify those which had either been resold or acquired by scalpers, violating the club membership agreement.

Another 460 tickets for concerts in St. Paul, Minnesota were also invalidated when they were found to have been acquired by scalpers. In addition to refunding the money to the original buyers, the fan club memberships of those who illegally tried to resell tickets were also cancelled. In cases where fans bought tickets from a scalper, they must try and get their money back from the scalper.

The fan club, "Highway Companions" was set up, in part, to give fan club members access to the best tickets for shows, and help minimize scalping.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mets Vs. Yankees Tonight!

It's times like this I feel like I'm a million miles from New York. The Mets are going head to head against The Evil Empire, The Junkees, The Friggin Yankees! So where's the excitement?

Tonight is the first game of the "Subway Series," and the only word I've heard about it today is from a couple of Braves fans who are hoping the Mets lose at least two out of three this weekend so Atlanta can pick up a game or two. I'm missing out on the baseball mania up in New York! I am missing out on the boasting and proclamations of sweeps in either direction. There's no one here I can harass.

Instead, I'll boast a little bit right here:

The Mets record is 24-16, second-best in the National League.

The Mets are in FIRST PLACE, two games up over the Phillies, and three-and-a-half over Atlanta.

Despite the pitching dilemma, the Mets have the 4th-best ERA in baseball, and opposing batters have the lowest batting average against Mets pitching than any other team.

Lets Go Mets!

The pitching matchups for this weekend:
5/19 Jeremi Gonzalez (0-0, 5.40) vs. Randy Johnson ( 5-4, 5.13)
5/20 Pedro Martinez (5-0, 3.19 ERA) vs. Mike Mussina (6-1, 2.56 ERA)
5/21 Tom Glavine (6-2, 2.43 ERA) vs. Shawn Chacon (4-1, 5.21 ERA)

Tonight's pitcher, Jeremi Gonzalez, has a lifetime record against the Yankees of 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA . The Yankees have Randy Johnson starting tonight against the Mets. In the last three seasons, Randy Johnson has gone 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA against the Mets. In Johnson's last four starts this year he's allowed 22 runs - 17 earned - in just 21 1/3 innings.

Since I don't get WPIX (Channel 11) down here in North Carolina, I'll be watching the game on DirecTV, on the YES Network. Hopefully I can stomach the announcers - I may have to listen on the computer instead. Things will be better tomorrow, when the games are on the national FOX and ESPN broadcasts.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What Happened on Lost Last Night?

I totally missed Lost last night. My wife was watching teh season finale of Amazing Race, and I took it for granted that TiVo would record Lost for me. I completely forgot that the two shows would overlap. Aaargh! Luckily, is streaming complete episodes right now on, and I plan on catching up tonight. Just go here. They also are streaming episodes of Desperate Housewives and Alias. Season finale of Lost is next week!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Buzz: The Da Vinci Code Movie Stinks!

The DaVinci Code premiered yesterday at the Cannes film festival (how do you pronounce that again?), and the word on the scene is that the reaction from the crowd was less than favorable. And, while this movie is supposed to be a Hollywood blockbuster, and not necessarily a work of high art, it surprises me that Ron Howard was unable to capture the suspense and drama of Dan Brown's novel. After all, when I orginally read the book, I often felt as though I was reading a screenplay. The book seemed made to be turned into a film. I'm still curious, as I'm sure many, many people are to see the film, but the panning of the movie at Cannes will undoubtedly hurt DaVinci's box-office numbers.

More Good Press For Alabama

When I told my friends I was moving to The South, I heard a lot of jokes about rednecks and whatnot. There is a perception that there is a lot of deep-rooted racism in this region, and 50 years after the civil rights movement, this perception about the South continues to be pervasive.

The irony of this generalization is that I have more minority neighbors now in Greensboro than I ever did on highly-segregated Long Island. In fact, a study was done that found Long Island was the most segregated suburb in the United States.

As a region, the South has an uphill battle when it comes to erasing perceptions about Southerners. And now there is a politician in Alabama whose political views won't help matters at all. Larry Darby is the Democratic candidate for the position of Alabama Attorney General, and among other controversial viewpoints, he denies the Holocaust occurred. "There was no systematic extermination of Jews. There's no evidence of that at all." said Darby.

He spoke this past weekend in New Jersey for National Vanguard, an organization that claims the United states can become "a clean, orderly, progressive, safe, and incomparably richer and more beautiful nation if it becomes a proud White nation again." Darby says that "It's time to stop pushing down the white man. We've been discriminated against too long,"

There are racists and bigots everywhere, but the most startling angle to this story comes from a recent poll about the race for Alabama Attorney General. The survey showed 21 percent favored Tyson to 12 percent for Darby, but 68 percent of respondents were undecided. It's quite sad to me that nearly 80 percent of those polled are considering voting for Darby, considering the statements he's made.

All of this reminded me of Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd's song battle "Southern Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama," both of which focused on the generalization that Southerners are racist. Thrashers Wheat, a Neil Young fansite, does an excellent job of chronicling the history of the two songs here.

Neil Young (from Southern Man):

Southern man
better keep your head
Don't forget
what your good book said
Southern change
gonna come at last
Now your crosses
are burning fast

Lynyrd Skynyrd (Sweet Home Alabama):

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

7up Claims To Be All Natural? Dubious, At Best.

7up has launched a new ad campaign, claiming that 7up is now made up of only all natural ingredients. Five simple, 100% natural ingredients to be precise. An all natural soda? Could this be true, or is it a lie? If someone were to ask me what the five ingredients of an all natural lemon-lime soda would be, I would guess: water, sugar, lemon juice, lime juice and perhaps salt, only because I know that salt is sometimes used in beverages where you wouldn't expect them.

Well, let's take a look at the five ingredients in 100% natural 7up:

Filtered carbonated water
High fructose corn syrup
Natural citric acid
Natural flavors
Natural potassium citrate

Let's take these one at a time. What's the difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup? Well, for one thing, corn syrup is a lot cheaper, partially because corn is subsidized by the U.S. government. Many people will tell you that a soda made with sugar tastes better than with corn syrup. If you go to the Dr. Pepper museum in Waco, TX you can taste Dr. Pepper made with real cane sugar. Coca-Cola imported from Mexico in glass bottle has become popular because the soda is made with cane sugar there. But back to the original question at hand: Is corn syrup "100% natural"? This is how corn syrup is made:

Stainless steel steep tanks hold about 3,000 bushels of corn for 30 to 40 hours of soaking in 50 degree water. During steeping, the kernels absorb water, increasing their moisture levels from 15 percent to 45 percent and more than doubling in size... As the corn swells and softens, the mild acidity of the steepwater begins to loosen the gluten bonds within the corn and release the starch... starch, suspended in water, is liquified in the presence of acid and/or enzymes which convert the starch to a low-dextrose solution. Treatment with another enzyme continues the conversion process. Throughout the process, refiners can halt acid or enzyme actions at key points to produce the right mixture of sugars like dextrose and maltose for syrups to meet different needs. In some syrups, the conversion of starch to sugars is halted at an early stage to produce low-to-medium sweetness syrups. In others, the conversion is allowed to proceed until the syrup is nearly all dextrose. The syrup is refined in filters, centrifuges and ion-exchange columns, and excess water is evaporated. Syrups are sold directly, crystallized into pure dextrose, or processed further to create high fructose corn syrup. For more, check out this link.

Enzymes, acids, maltodextrin, and dextrose? Doesn't exactly sound 100% natural to me, but I'm not a lawyer. I'm sure 7up paid a lot of lawyers very well to cover their asses on that. But here's another lovely fact about high fructose corn syrup, according to Wikipedia:

A University of Minnesota study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000 found that fructose "produced significantly higher fasting plasma triacylglycerol values than did the glucose diet in men". The researchers, led by J.P Bantle, concluded that "If plasma triacylglycerols are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, then diets high in fructose may be undesirable.

Let's move on to natural citric acid. This is a preservative found in citrus fruits, and 7up seems pretty clean on this ingredient.

As for "natural flavors," well things are a little dicey here. According to wikipedia

According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, a natural flavor is "the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."
An excerpt from the excellent book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser:

For the past twenty years food processors have tried hard to use only "natural flavors" in their products. According to the FDA, these must be derived entirely from natural sources -- from herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, beef, chicken, yeast, bark, roots, and so forth. Consumers prefer to see natural flavors on a label, out of a belief that they are more healthful. Distinctions between artificial and natural flavors can be arbitrary and somewhat absurd, based more on how the flavor has been made than on what it actually contains.

"A natural flavor," says Terry Acree, a professor of food science at Cornell University, "is a flavor that's been derived with an out-of-date technology." Natural flavors and artificial flavors sometimes contain exactly the same chemicals, produced through different methods. Amyl acetate, for example, provides the dominant note of banana flavor. When it is distilled from bananas with a solvent, amyl acetate is a natural flavor. When it is produced by mixing vinegar with amyl alcohol and adding sulfuric acid as a catalyst, amyl acetate is an artificial flavor. Either way it smells and tastes the same. "Natural flavor" is now listed among the ingredients of everything from Health Valley Blueberry Granola Bars to Taco Bell Hot Taco Sauce.

A natural flavor is not necessarily more healthful or purer than an artificial one. When almond flavor -- benzaldehyde -- is derived from natural sources, such as peach and apricot pits, it contains traces of hydrogen cyanide, a deadly poison. Benzaldehyde derived by mixing oil of clove and amyl acetate does not contain any cyanide. Nevertheless, it is legally considered an artificial flavor and sells at a much lower price. Natural and artificial flavors are now manufactured at the same chemical plants, places that few people would associate with Mother Nature.

So what exactly is "natural potassium citrate"? Again we look to wikipedia:

A white, slightly hygroscopic crystalline powder. It is odourless with a saline taste. Uses: Potassium Citrate is rapidly absorbed when given by mouth and is excreted in the urine as the Carbonate. It is... [as a medication] chiefly employed as a non-irritating diuretic (any drug that elevates the rate of bodily urine excretion).
???!!!????! Why is this in the soda?? According to many sites, potassium citrate is sold as a supplement to help those with high blood pressure, and this legal document lists potassium citrate as a "flavor enhancer" and says it is used most often for pH control. It also says that potassium citrate is "synthesized from a concentrated solution of citric acid and potassium hydrogen carbonate." Okey dokey.

So, how do the ingredients in 7up compare to the ingredients in Sprite?

Carbonated water
High fructose corn syrup and/or sucrose
Natural flavors
Citric acid
Sodium citrate
Sodium benzoate

Sucrose is common table sugar. I'd like to give Sprite a bunch of credit for this, but the phrase "and/or" makes it seem like they are not even sure if it is actually in the product. So we'll move on to the other two ingredients that are different from 7up:

Sodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid, has a sour and salty taste (sour salt), and is used as a food additive as a preservative and to give drinks a sour taste.

Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and is produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid.

It doesn't really seem like 7up is all that different from Sprite, or any other sodas, now does it?

Here's a tip - if you're concerned about only drinking all-natural beverages, choose water, coffee, tea, or juice. If you're picking a mass-market, commercially produced soda for it's health benefits, you've got some problems. I've got nothing against soda - I love a good Dr. Pepper - but the point here is to not be misled by some ridiculous ad campaign. 7up is as high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden as it's been for years.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

E-Mail Forward Of The Day - Cool Illusion

Most e-mail forwards are decidedly uninteresting, at best. I got one today that was actually pretty cool, so I'm posting it here. Feel free to start your own email chain by sending people to this post!

If you watch the above images from your seat in front
of the computer, Mr.Angry is on the left, and Mrs.Calm
is on the right.

Get up from your seat, and move back 12 feet,
and PRESTO! they switch places!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Eating in New York

What a great day in New York! I'm attending a three day seminar in the Big Apple and made the most of my time there. This morning I got up early so I could grab some coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. Ahhhh, sweet nectar of the gods...

For lunch I dropped into a deli and had a great sandwich. Feel free to recreate the sandwich at home. They key is getting high-quality cold cuts, and a true bagel. Nothing from your local supermarket, Panera Bread, or Breugers, okay?

Here's the sam'ich:

Black Forest Ham
Brie Cheese
Thin-sliced green apple
Honey Mustard

Ahhhh... delicious!

For dinner I had a terrible sandwich and soft pretzel at Shea Stadium, but the Mets won, so the great day was complete!

Monday, May 01, 2006