March 09, 2014

Coca Cola Life ~ with Stevia

Coca Cola recently released a new ad in Argentina and Chile for Coke Life. The ad, made in Buenos Aires by an Argentinian ad agency, is getting rave reviews from viewers and advertising people alike. Set to a song produced in 1967 by the Bee Gees of all people, this ad is delicious in its warmth and humour, and in the celebration of life, which is exactly what the Coca Cola Company had in mind. Coca Cola Life is, in this ad, as natural as life itself.

About a year ago, we were nearing the end of almost three months in BA, and by this time we were accustomed to seeing soft drinks being sold everywhere, with large sections of mercados and kioskos devoted to the products of Pepsi and Coca Cola. It was not uncommon to see business people in finer restaurants drinking Coke with their meals.

Argentina aside, global sales of soft drinks have actually declined in recent years due to increasing concern about sugar consumption and obesity, and rather serious worries about artificial sweeteners like Aspartame. Both Pepsico and Coca Cola Company are desperate to turn things around with some sort of natural, healthy, low-calorie alternative to sugar, which is all rather odd as sugar itself can be both natural and healthy in limited amounts. We haven't yet come to terms with realizing that adding large amounts of sugar, or artificial sweeteners, and caffeine to coloured water might be the real problem. Nor have we been keen to look at the huge profits being made in selling coloured water, or in the sale of bottled municipally-produced tap water, especially in public spaces like schools, playgrounds and community centres where water fountains are being replaced by revenue generation platforms, aided of course by large transnational corporations. But I digress.

Rumours about a new Coke product being released to meet consumer concerns were making the rounds while we were in Argentina and in June 2013, Coca Cola Life was introduced. Coke Life was the first soft drink to use the Stevia extract as a substitute for sugar, and Argentina was the test, for both the product and its marketing. The extract comes from the leaves of the Stevia plant and is considered to be over 200 times sweeter than conventional sugar and without any kilojoules/calories. There are some taste and after-taste issues with Stevia, hence the need to keep some sugar in the mix. The first television ad for Coke Life in Argentina likened the new soft drink to a first kiss. The ad, and the product, became immensely popular in Argentina, but the newest ad is a global home run. The Bee Gees are probably happy too. And how could anyone knock "life" never mind the contents.

Coca Cola Life is expected to be introduced to North America sometime this year, probably sooner now that Pepsico has introduced Pepsi Next to Canada.

Coca Cola Life image from Coca Cola Argentina. Buenos Aires photo by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

February 23, 2014

Snow? Are you kidding me ... day two?

Another day. Another day of heavy, wet snow. A good day to stay home and read.

Which is what we did except for a walk around the Langara Golf Course, where we found a snow person complete with a carrot for a nose.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

Thomas Mulcair ~ at Kwantlen University in Richmond

It wasn't an Orange Wave, nor an Orange Crush, this thing that happened at work last week.

Through the halls of the Richmond Campus, my home campus, there wasn't much notice of "The President's Dialogue" though signs were up.

Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the federal New Democratic Party, and the Official Opposition, visited KPU Richmond this week. It was the first in a series of "dialogues" initiated by KPU President Alan Davis. We don't know who might be part of future "dialogues" but according to Davis, they will be notable and Tom Mulcair was only the first. His visit might possibly be due to the fact that one of Mr Mulcair's early supporters in his leadership bid, and a dedicated member at the executive level, is also an instructor at KPU: Heather Harrison.

The media were out for this event and it all speaks well for Mr Davis and KPU. Mr Davis would like to create a buzz around the University, and himself of course, and he might well be on to something.

Much of the hour was devoted to environmental issues, and Mr Mulcair spoke eloquently and with great substance on the topic. He was articulate and thoughtful in every response to the questions from Mr Davis. In fact, listening to Mr Mulcair I couldn't help but remember another leader from Quebec who spoke with just as much eloquence and with the same sort of intellectual intelligence: Pierre Trudeau.

Mr Mulcair was witty and charming, but most of all he was thoughtful and intelligent; there weren't any simple answers to complex questions, no matter how they were posed, and Mr Mulcair treated his audience with respect. Soundbites were hard to identify; this is not a politician of few words nor simple slogans, and that might be a problem.

At the very beginning, before the introductions and certainly before the media witnessed the event for us to view through their eyes, Tom Mulcair entered the room quietly and without fanfare. A crowd was seated in advance of the "dialogue" and Mr Mulcair walked down every row, introducing himself and shaking hands. Some would have us believe Mr Mulcair lacks charisma, and they might be right. But what is political charisma in a digital world? Is the physical touch still valid in a world where the virtual is the new reality? Where nothing happens unless someone twitters about it? Does style always trump substance, especially in a digital universe? In the case of Mr Mulcair and his message, that would be a shame.

It's going to be a long campaign.    
Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

February 22, 2014

Snow? Are you kidding me?

It doesn't snow often in Vancouver. Sometimes, maybe in December or January, but not often. Certainly not usually this late in season.

Still, this morning we awoke to a dusting of snow throughout the city and the wet flakes continued to fall into the afternoon. Crocus flowers struggled with their cold white blanket.

Paths at VanDusen Gardens were white when we walked through the park. It was quiet and there were only a few other walkers, though we did see two large coyotes roaming the gardens, perhaps as startled by us as were of them.

The rain will come tonight and the snow will disappear. Spring is coming.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

February 09, 2014

Beatlemania begins ~ February 09, 1964

The day after the screaming started we were all singing "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." The boys were playing air guitars and shaking their heads at appropriate moments, and the girls were imitating the screams they saw the night before. We were little kids caught up in something magical, wonderful and fun, and recess at Assiniboia School in Weyburn, in the snow and cold, was our perfect sound stage, little did it matter that the school, built in 1904, looked somewhat like a prison.

The night before we watched television with our parents. Watching television as a family was what we did then and the shows that mattered on Sunday night were all on the CBC. With only one television set in the house, and only a handful of channels at best, there wasn't much choice. We watched the Ed Sullivan Show every Sunday, usually after the regular Sunday night routine of roast chicken or beef. Eating as a family was what we did then and Sunday night was a ritual.

As a family we had been watching television together through the recent months of the American malaise after the murder of their president in Dallas. The American border was only 80 km away, yet it seemed light years distant with its violence and social upheaval. Little did we know that the political turmoil was just beginning.

That night's appearance by The Beatles seemed an antidote to the darkness of the previous two months. Something lifted, diverted our attention, and the American dream was alive again, even though it now came with a working class English accent.

It was an exciting time to be kids; our world was safe and prosperous, change was in the air and we were all so innocent. Within four years our world was noticeably less safe and prosperous, and by 1970 when The Beatles disbanded, our innocence was gone forever.

Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.