The Quick 10: Happy Birthday, Coca-Cola!

I am deeply thankful to Dr. John Pemberton, who invented Coca-Cola this week back in 1886. To celebrate this great creation (speaking as a Diet Coke addict, that is), today's Q10 is dedicated to the delightful product. And if any Coke executives are reading this and want to reward me with a lifetime supply, you can contact Jason English for my address. No? Oh well. It was worth a shot.

1. The original intent of Coca-Cola, as you probably know, was a health drink. It was sold for five cents at soda fountains (a dollar or so in today's money) because people thought carbonated beverages would increase their wellness. Pemberton's company also sold Pemberton's Indian Queen Hair Dye and Pemberton's Globe Flower Cough Syrup.
2. If it wasn't for prohibition, it's possible that we wouldn't be enjoying the good Dr. Pemberton's invention today. Before peddling Coca Cola at soda foundations, Pemberton was hawking "Pemberton's French Wine Coca," a nerve tonic, stimulant and headache remedy. In response to an Atlanta Prohibition law passed in 1886, Pemberton replaced the wine with sugar and Coca-Cola was born. The law was repealed in 1887, and Coca-Cola was sold to Asa Candler so Pemberton could refocus on his French Wine Coca.

3. Dr. Pemberton didn't live to see the commercial success of his product, nor did he get to see it as anything other than a health drink. He died in 1888, just five months after he had filed to incorporate Coca-Cola Co.

4. It's true: Coca-Cola did once contain cocaine. It was back in the day when heroin was a pain reliever sold by Bayer, so this isn't nearly as shocking as it sounds. But it's not like people drank the beverage to get a buzz (at least, not that kind of a buzz) "“ although we can't account for the amount of coke in Coke in the really early days, we do know that by 1902, 1/400th of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup was used. And by 1929 it had been eliminated altogether.

5. The name of the drink comes from its main ingredients at the time it was first produced: the coca leaf and the kola nut. The only reason we don't drink Coca-Kola is because Pemberton's business partner, Frank Robinson, thought the double C's would "look well in advertising." He was right, of course"¦ just ask Coco Chanel. Robinson was also responsible for Coke's script-y (Spencerian is the actual term) font.

6. Have you ever heard the myth that only two people in the entire world know the formula for Coke? Supposedly, two executives at Coca-Cola each know half of the recipe, ensuring that no one will ever know the whole thing and be able to sell the recipe. It's a nice story, but it's not true. The entire formula is kept in a bank vault in Atlanta, and more than two employees are familiar with it. They have to sign nondisclosure agreements before the secret is revealed to them, however.
7. This is one of those rare urban legends that turned out to be true "“ a risqué message was hidden in a Coke advertisement in the "˜80s, unbeknownst to the company. The artist hired to create the poster managed to sneak in an image of a woman's head precariously close to a penis. Thousands of posters had been distributed before some astute Australian noticed the image on the side of a Coca-Cola truck and reported it to the red-faced company, who claimed they were merely victims of an irresponsible practical joke. All "artwork" was recalled and the company promptly sued the artist. You can read about the whole thing (and see the picture) on Snopes.

8. Maybe it's not too surprising that Coca-Cola was the first-ever commercial sponsor of the Olympic games. The famous logo first showed up at the 1928 games in Amsterdam and has been there ever since.

9. Ever wonder what the difference really is between Coke and Pepsi? The basic answer is that Pepsi is sweeter, which is why people tend to prefer Pepsi in a blind taste test. But we have the details here.

10. How big of a flop was New Coke? Actually, not as big as you would think. People really did prefer the taste of New Coke "“ it was the whole idea of changing such a classic drink that the public was upset about. After all, Coke had used the same formula for 99 years. You don't mess with longevity like that, apparently, because the backlash was immediate and furious. New Coke was replaced by the original formula, now called "Coke Classic," just 79 days after its debut. The chairman and CEO of Coke at the time, Robert Goizueta, refused to admit that New Coke tasted bad, even after receiving a letter addressed to "Chief Dodo, The Coca-Cola Company." Goizueta acquiesced to the public's demands, of course, but he himself continued to drink New Coke until his death. He even held a company celebration for the 10-year anniversary of the drink.

So "“ are you as thankful for Dr. Pemberton as I am? Or are you a Pepsi person? Maybe you agree with Mr. Goizueta and his assessment that New Coke was the best invention ever. Let us know your preferences in the comments!

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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