Caffeine’s Like Mething Around

Starbucks Awake TeaMost people are not aware that the United States tried to make caffeine illegal in the 1930s. They found that it was impossible. It was already in so many products and the United States of Commerce has a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations. But you didn’t need to know that to figure out that a drug’s danger had nothing to do with its legal status. According to the CDC, “Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.” This is far more than the number of people who die from all illegal drugs combined. But who cares? We’re talking profits!

I am not, as they say, a coffee achiever. Why people keep buying me Starbucks cards, I can’t say. But last Sunday, I went over to Starbucks. Normally, when I go there, I get their Earl Grey tea, because they don’t have English Breakfast. But this day, I decided to try their only other black tea: Awake. What a mistake! I had to rush home and hide under my bed while I waited for the effect to subside. After a few hours, I passed out either from the sudden disappearance of the caffeine or an anxiety overload. Thank you so much, Starbucks!

I am used to ingesting 50 mg of caffeine per day—up to 100 mg if I’m feeling cocky. I know what these levels of caffeine feel like and this was not what my Awake experience felt like. I figure there must have been 200 mg of caffeine in that damnable cup. But it’s strange. It is hard to find data. Starbucks proudly displays the number of calories on their pretend bagels. But they don’t provide caffeine content. You would think they would. What is it that they sell, anyway: caffeine.

According to, 12 oz. of Awake tea only has 100 mg of caffeine. Of course, they also claim that it has the same amount of caffeine as their Earl Grey tea. Sorry. When it comes to caffeine, I’m like one of those really expensive thermometers: very sensitive.

So all you coffee achievers out there: if you’re looking for a tea, Awake is for you. But you should know: that caffeine is killing you. Stress kills.

Speed kills: don’t meth around!

Lou Dobbs: Ignorant and Evil

Lou DobbsLou Dobbs (You know: the bigot!) was on The Daily Show last night. I frankly don’t understand why Jon Stewart gives vile people like Dobbs the platform. All he did on the show was defend Fox News and attack Obama. But that didn’t surprise me. It did, however, surprise me when he said this:

It’s a little like the way Obama goes after billionaires and millionaires when he wants to tax them, not understanding the order of magnitude different between a millionaire and a billionaire.

Last time I checked, that was three orders of magnitude. But ignorant in one thing, ignorant in all. You don’t get to Dobbs’ position without becoming completely divorced from reality.

Innumeracy in Rocky

XXXThe original Rocky is a great film. You probably find that strange because I’m such a pretentious arty kind of pedant. But that’s the whole point. You see, Rocky is not a boxing movie. The film has little to do with boxing. It is about a man who finally takes charge of his life. And this, perhaps more than anything else, is why the later film range from okay to horrible. Let’s see, if I had to order them from best to worst: II, V, VI, III, IV. [Note on Rocky VI]

Another thing that makes the film great is the love story between these two fragile, beaten souls. The seduction scene is the sweetest of its kind I’ve ever seen.

“I always knew you was pretty,” Rocky says.

“Don’t tease me,” Adrian says as if the thought had never occurred to her.

“I’m not teasing. I ain’t teasin’ ya,” he says, staring into her eyes. “I wanna kiss you. You don’t have to kiss me back if you don’t want. But I wanna kiss you.”

Dialog like that could go all wrong, of course. It is only because both characters are so clearly and deeply wounded by the world that we know these two are meant for each other, both objectively and in their minds.

It is best, however, not to watch the film too often. Because if you do, your mind will start to wander. Like after the opening fight scene where the fight promoter comes in the locker room to pay Rocky.

Balboa, you get winner’s share: six-five dollars. Less fifteen dollar locker and corner man, five dollar shower and towel, and seven percent tax comes to forty fifty-five.

Let’s see now: 65 minus 15 minus 5 equals 45. Seven percent of 45 is 70 cents times 4 plus 35 cents. That’s $3.15. So the total is $41.85. That can’t be right.

The 7% must be off the gross. So 7% of $65 is 70 cents times 6 plus 35 cents. That’s $4.55. So the total is $40.45. Ten cents too much!

There are three possibilities here. The best one is that Sylvester Stallone is such a great writer that he knew that the promoter of this little hole in the wall boxing joint would make such a mistake, and it was put there on purpose. It seems unlikely, but he wrote a great script, so it’s possible.

The second possibility is that Billy Sands, the actor who played the promoter, flubbed the line. Either no one noticed or the best take was the one with the wrong amount. “It’s just ten cents! Only a freak would notice that!” Indeed.

The third possibility is that Stallone did the calculation wrong when he was writing.

And yes, I am perfectly aware that none of this matters. But now that I’ve cleared up this issue, my mind is clear. Of course, there is that whole issue of math in Shakespeare in Love—although they got it right, but it is interesting. Stay tuned!

Note: After Rocky IV came out, Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki was so annoyed that he made a short film parody of it called Rocky VI. He said of the film, “My revenge on Mr Stallone, who I think is an asshole.” Enjoy!