Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The New Coke Experience

Today I'm going to take you on a journey.  A journey involving music and advertising, brand loyalty, nightmares of late-stage capitalism, and, most of all, high-fructose corn syrup.  Lots of it.

Yes, friends, it is time to talk about New Coke!  Before I do, enjoy this traditional song of my people ("my people" being "people who were preteen girls in the '90's").  I have had it in my head all week and now you will too: 



I... might have to talk about this lesser-known Coke fiasco as well, so hold that thought.  In the meantime, have a somewhat more immediately relevant song from a Maurice Starr-involved group from Boston:



In one of the weirder cross-promotions in recent memory, to celebrate the upcoming third season of "Stranger Things", Coke has brought back the notorious 1985 New Coke recipe for a limited run.  Normally, if you want to try New Coke here in the future, you'll either have to order the stuff from their website or go to an event.  But recently, Dinosaur Dracula ran a contest to win one of the cans of New Coke.  I entered on a whim because hey, why not me?


And I won!  As I held the can in my hand, a can that had already been on a heck of an adventure, I could not help but feel a wondrous sense of destiny.  First, enjoy this documentary about the New Coke fiasco:



That was a Lot.  On the one hand, I couldn't help but wonder if this is where we, as a culture, learned that big corporations will bend to our will if we scream at them loud enough.  Which, let's be clear, is a terrible terrible thing.

Except in this one case.

See, imagine if, when Disney Presents Real People "Aladdin" was released last week, somehow all our copies of the animated "Aladdin" vanished.  Unbelievable, and that's essentially what Coke did.  The change lasted a couple months and was such a spectacular debacle that to this day, Coke cans must assure us that they have the "Original Taste".  Behold:


This of course gave me a chance to taste-test, uh, Not-New Coke.  Which brings me to the thing with me and New Coke.  I have read about it.  I have heard about it.  It has been a go-to “Hey, remember that weird thing that happened in the 80’s” reference nearly my entire life.

And it is one of the very rare generation-defining pop culture events that I completely missed out on.  To be fair, I was seven at the time.  New Coke wouldn't have registered to me because, well, everything was new to me.  I might have even drank it back then, I wouldn't know.  In any case, now was my chance as a (mostly) fully-aware adult person to taste New Coke.

Two things before I give my verdict.  First, and most important, if you were about to scream at me for cracking open a can of soda and drinking it instead of leaving it in a display case or preserving it in amber or something because it is a ~*~Limited Edition~*~ or whatever, please don't.  On the one hand, full soda cans don't preserve well as evidenced by my friend whose shelf was obliterated in an incident involving OK Soda.  Also, I (barely) survived Beanie Babies and the very idea of ~*~Limited Edition~*~ anything is, as the kids say, Maximum Cringe.

Second and more important, fellow long-time fans of Matt's writing will probably have already realized something amusing.  And it's that he would have had to send this dear little can of Coke deep in the heart of Pepsi territory:


(Sadly, the old X-Entertainment Bar Harbor adventure seems to be lost to the mists of time.  I didn't have any Pepsi to compare anyway.  Nor Moxie or Captain Eli for that matter.)

So, after all this, how did it taste?!?


Um, well, hmm...

It's... okay.  Not great, certainly not changing a hundred-year-old recipe for, but not the malted battery acid I had been left to expect all these years.  For the very curious, good luck in acquiring a can.  For the mildly curious, it's not worth it.

Now about the Coke-involving fiasco I do remember:



How cool would it be to pop open a can of soda and have money pop out instead?  Well, turns out this was a good idea in theory, because many of these Magic Cans malfunctioned.  You wouldn't know you had a winning can until you'd drank your Coke.  Which would be fine... if Coke had not decided, for reasons unknown, that foul-smelling chlorinated water was the right thing to fill these Magic Cans with.  And so the Magic Summer lasted about a month.  Would I have known about this, or even cared, if New Kids on the Block weren't involved?  Probably not.

Anyway, I think I'm going to drink some water.

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Art!  A little landscape.  Or Lake-scape.

5.25.19 - A Little Landscape

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