Few companies have a rivalry as fierce and longstanding as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola and in their never ending battle for the soda market dominance, each company has gone to some spectacular lengths to screw over the other.
Arguably the most fiendishly genius move of all was one made by Coca-Cola in the early 1990s- a move that basically involved intentionally releasing a terrible product purely to try to screw over by association a similar product released by Pepsi.
The genesis for this tale began in the early 1990s during what is referred to in the marketing world as the “Clear Craze”. In a nutshell, for whatever reason, many companies began releasing clear versions of their products, using marketing buzzwords like “pure” and “clean” to advertise them to the public.
A company recognised as the industry leader in this regard was the soap giant, Ivory, who, among other things, released a clear version of their dish soap in the early 1990s. Ivory Clear was advertised with rather questionably accurate slogans like “Ivory attacks the grease, not the natural oils in your skin”.The idea of clear products was quickly used in diverse and eclectic range of products including Zima Clearmalt (a clear citrus beer), Mennen Crystal Clean deodorant, and, perhaps most bizarre of all, Amoco Crystal Clear gasoline.
As you might have guessed given the lack of ubiquitous see-through products on your local super market shelves, most of these products either failed miserably or quietly faded into obscurity when the Clear Craze went full meta and disappeared.
This brings us to Crystal Pepsi, which was devised by then COO of PepsiCo, David Novak, in 1992. The soda was virtually identical in composition to their flagship product, sans the caramel coloring used to give so many sodas their distinctive brown hue.
Novak’s idea was to market the soda like other products released during the Clear Craze and hope consumers would equate it being clear with “purity” and, thus, assume that it was a healthier alternative to regular Pepsi.
Of course, as sodas are wont to be, Crystal Pepsi was still terrible for you. For example, a single 20 oz bottle of Crystal Pepsi still contained around 69 grams of sugar, or about 16 teaspoons worth- the same as normal Pepsi.Taste wise, Crystal Pepsi is extremely similar to regular Pepsi, however, fans of the product claimed they could still tell the difference, though how much of this was just in their heads isn’t clear.
Nevertheless, the slight taste difference was brought up during the product’s design phase, with one bottler at a Pepsi plant telling Novak: “David, it’s a great idea, and we think we can make it great, but it needs to taste more like Pepsi.
If you call it Pepsi, people will expect it to taste like Pepsi. ”Novak decided to ignore these concerns, and presumably also ignored the fact that by saying Crystal Pepsi was better because it wasn’t brown they were literally advertising that all their brown drinks weren’t good for you.
Despite all this, Crystal Pepsi was rushed into production.I nitially it seemed that Novak’s gut feeling was correct and trials in cities like Denver and Dallas in early 1992 garnered positive feedback from customers. Encouraged by this, PepsiCo eventually began rolling out the product nationwide in early 1993.
Pope Formosus and Stephen VI – The Cadaver Synod of 897 by Jean Paul Laurens, 1870. (via Wikimedia Commons).
In 897, the Vatican saw one of the most bizarre episodes in history: The corpse of a pope was put on trial by his living successor. Pope Formosus, dead for a few months, was hardly qualified to defend himself in a court of law. Nonetheless,
Pope Stephen VI had the body disinterred, dressed in its ecclesiastical robes, and propped up on the papal throne to stand trial. He even appointed a deacon to speak on the corpse’s behalf.
While Stephen VI hurled accusations at Formosus, the accused remained stoically silent, as might be expected of a corpse. In the words of the historian George Ives, “The old man’s body, like a monstrous doll, might nod and bend while the attendants supported it, or collapse in a ghastly bundle if they left it alone, but it made no sound; and the deacon would probably be wary in his defence, for there were dark holes nearby, other than sepulchres.
”In this era, being elected pope was a little like being diagnosed with a deadly disease.
In the middle of the trial, an earthquake shook the room. A clear sign from God, according to the embellishments of later commentators: For the stones themselves, execrating such a monstrosity, then cried out with their own voice by knocking against each other, that they would more willingly suffer spontaneous ruin, than that the Roman Church should remain depressed by so great a scandal. But if the stones cried out, Stephen VI paid them no mind.
He persisted with his case, and the dead pope was found guilty of usurping the papacy.
Stephen VI declared all his acts as pope null and void: all consecrations, all appointments, all ordinations were undone. Formosus’ body was stripped of its rich garments and dressed in rags.
Three of his fingers—the fingers of the benediction, with which, in life, he had given blessings—were cut off, and his body was cast into the Tiber River.
Stephen’s victory didn’t last long, however. Within a few months, he was imprisoned and then strangled to death. His reign lasted a little over a year.
Illustrations from Vaught’s Practical Character Reader, a book on phrenology* by L. A. Vaught published in 1902.
As he confidently states in his Preface:
The purpose of this book is to acquaint all with the elements of human nature and enable them to read these elements in all men, women and children in all countries. At least fifty thousand careful examinations have been made to prove the truthfulness of the nature and location of these elements.
More than a million observations have been made to confirm the examinations.
Therefore, it is given the world to be depended upon. Taken in its entirety it is absolutely reliable. Its facts can be completely demonstrated by all who will take the unprejudiced pains to do so.
It is ready for use. It is practical. Use it.
The theory that one can ascertain a person’s character by the shape of their features is disturbing to say the least.
Phrenology is the study of the structure of the skull to determine a person’s character and mental capacity.
This pseudoscience is based on the false assumption that mental faculties are located in brain “organs” on the surface of the brain and can be detected by visible inspection of the skull.
In the late 19th century, the most startling, erotic thing you could do as a stage performer is let down your Rapunzel-esque floor-length hair.
In fact, according to their biographer, the first real celebrity models in the United States were known as the Seven Sutherland Sisters, who had 37 feet of hair among them. Sarah, Victoria, Isabella, Grace, Naomi, Dora, and Mary Sutherland sang and played instruments—but no one really cared about that.
No, the crowd came to ogle their magical, mythical, uber-feminine hair.
Flaunting all that awesome hair onstage wasn’t quite enough to launch the Sutherlands from abject poverty to riches, so the sisters’ father, the Rev. Fletcher Sutherland, concocted a patent hair-growing tonic.
Because Victorian women coveted the sister’s luscious locks, the cash came flooding in.
The family grew rich beyond its wildest imaginations, as the sisters knocked serious political issues off the newspapers’ front page with their outrageous celebrity antics.
By the mid-1880s, none of the sisters could walk down the street, their flowing tresses dragging behind them like dress trains, without being mobbed by starstruck fans.
The Landes region of southwestern France, bordering the Bay of Biscay, is covered by a large pine forest. In fact, it’s the largest ‘maritime pine’ forest in Europe—’maritime pine’ is a species native to the Mediterranean region.
But a hundred years ago, the landscape looked very different. Instead of forests, there was a great level of plain that stretched from horizon to horizon.
This plain was covered with stunted bushes and dry heath that were periodically burned off by the local population to create grazing land for sheep. Around the middle of the 19th century, there were an estimated one million sheep in this area.
The sheep were managed by shepherds who moved around on long stilts. Using stilts had several advantages. It extended their field of vision allowing them to survey distant flocks of sheep.
Tall stilts also increased their stride allowing them to cover long distances in less time. Most importantly, it allowed them to traverse the soft, marshy ground that the plains became after the slightest rainfall.
As a matter of fact, practically the entire population of Landes walked on slits to avoid the soggy ground during rainy days. This system of locomotion was so effective that men on stilts could keep up with horses at full trot.
The stilts made of wood are about five feet high and are provided with a shoulder and strap to support the foot. The upper part of the wood is flattened and rests against the leg, where it is held by a strong strap.
The lower part which rests upon the earth is enlarged and is sometimes strengthened with a sheep’s bone.
The shepherd carries a staff which he uses as a point of support for getting on to the stilts, and also as a crook for directing his flocks. The stilt is so stable and comfortable that the shepherd, perched upon the high seat, would often knit to pass his time. Habituated from their childhood by this sort of exercise many shepherds developed extraordinary skills of acrobatism and maneuverability.
They can pick up a pebble from the ground, pluck a flower, simulate a fall and quickly recover, run on one foot, and so on.
In 1808, when the Empress Josephine went to Bayonne to meet Napoleon I, the municipality sent an escort of young Landese stilt walkers to accompany and amuse the ladies of the court.
The ladies took delight in making the stilt walkers race, or threw coins upon the ground and watched them scramble sometimes resulting in falls. Stilt races were also an essential part of any merry-makings in the villages of Gascony.
The young people vied with each other in speed and agility, and even the young girls, who were as skillful with stilts as the men, took part in the contests.
A notable demonstration of silt walking was made by Sylvain Dornon in 1891 when he walked from Paris to Moscow —a distance of more than 2,800 km— on stilts in just 58 days.
Stilt walking gradually died out in the Landes starting from the middle of the 19th century with the systematic development of large pine plantations that transformed the landscape and the local economy.
The disappearance of the moors, because of the expansion of the pine plantations, brought about the end of sheep herding, and with it the iconic image of shepherds on stilts disappeared as well.