The year in ideas

From: Wade T.Smith (
Date: Sun 15 Dec 2002 - 18:05:00 GMT

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    Run, do not walk, and buy the Times today, and read the magazine's main article, The Year in Ideas. Fascinating stuff, almost all of it relevant to memetics.

    Here's one of 'em-

    Toxic-Colored Soda By JAIME WOLF

    So it has come to this. Time was, soda pop was made with natural flavorings. (Cola is, after all, a nut.) Even when new soft drinks began to achieve their unique flavor bouquets through the addition of man-made ingredients -- even then, even if nobody was being fooled -- realism remained the governing beverage aesthetic, the point still being to simulate the look of something a person might conceivably encounter at a juice bar. But suddenly it's as if an edict were issued requiring that the contents of the top shelf of your refrigerator be indistinguishable from that of the closet where you keep your cleaning fluids. This year there has been an explosion of soda drinks in Crayola mufti: fire-engine red (Mountain Dew Code Red, if you want to name names), radioactive chartreuse (dnL, the new drink from 7-Up) and, most startlingly, Pepsi Blue.

    Perhaps it was inevitable. We eat black pasta and purple ketchup. We drink green, yellow and pink vitamin-infused water. (Colored water! We drink colored water.) Decades ago psychologists conducted tests in which people offered food in garish, nonstandard colors (black milk, green eggs) exhibited a decrease in appetite. Clearly we have crossed some Rubicon: baroque artificiality has become the norm, and now a cola drink the same transparent aquamarine shade of Windex is flying off the shelves.

    What, precisely, is Pepsi Blue supposed to be? The label on the bottle identifies the flavor as ''Berry Cola Fusion.'' Blueberry? Raspberry? Who knows? The ingredients list no fruit or berries, just ''flavors.''

    Nonetheless, since its introduction in August, the 20-ounce size of Pepsi Blue has become one of the better-selling soft drinks in convenience stores. It looks like a hit. Common wisdom in the soft-drink business holds that a brand's success can't really be measured until it lasts an entire summer season, so the jury remains out as to whether this new Pepsi will last as long as its caramel-colored ancestor. Still, everyone is familiar with the old saw about imitation and flattery, and so perhaps all we really need to know is that Coca-Cola has moved to close the blue-beverage gap with Fanta Berry, its own unnervingly nonspecific ''berry''-flavored, swimming-pool-water-hued concoction. It's new. It's blue. Get used to it.

    Copyright The New York Times Company

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