THE BIG PICTURE -- “Everything Is Awesome! Well, not everything. But America’s looking much better than you think,” by Michael Grunwald, Politico Magazine: “[T]he Dow just hit an all-time high and the uninsured rate is approaching an all-time low. Consumer confidence is soaring, inflation is low, gas prices are plunging, and the budget deficit is shrinking. ... [T]hings in the U.S. do look rather awesome. Mitt Romney promised to bring unemployment down to 6 percent in his first term; it’s already down to 5.8 percent ... Newt Gingrich promised $2.50 gas; it’s down to $2.38. Crime, abortion, teen pregnancy and oil imports are also way down, while renewable power is way up and the American auto industry is booming.” Good Friday morning from Oregon. It’s Boxing Day, and the first day of Kwanzaa. Story Continued Below STORY OF THE DAY – N.Y. Times A16 (National dress page) – “Volunteers Get License to Drive in Presidential Motorcade: Thrilling to Do, But Practice Is Also Seen as Unsound,” by Michael S. Schmidt in S.F.: “Shortly after President Obama landed here one fall day for fund-raisers, his motorcade pulled out of the airport and raced at 80 miles per hour down an empty freeway to his hotel in the city. At the front of the procession were bulletproof, black sport utility vehicles and limousines driven by Secret Service agents ... [But there] were several vans filled with White House staff members and journalists, being piloted by volunteers like Natalie Tyson, a 24-year-old Bay Area graduate student wearing fluorescent orange sunglasses. “Volunteers with no special training are a link in the middle of the fastest, and most high-profile, chain of vehicles in the country. They are cheaper than the Secret Service personnel or local police officers who surround them on the road. And their cargo of lowly staff members and reporters is apparently less Continue Reading

Sinister YouTube Remix of Coke’s Xmas Ad: What Happens to Tired Spots

Last Updated Dec 21, 2010 2:13 PM EST It's not news that Coca-Cola (KO) made one of the worst Christmas spots it's ever done this year, featuring an unlistenable custom track by the band Train. But a sinister and hilarious unauthorized remix of the spot demonstrates why consumers are often better at advertising than companies are, and why companies can no longer get away with tired old ideas -- YouTube is there to punish them. Before you watch it (below), make sure you've seen Coke's approved version. It's cloying stuff, even if you're the kind of person who can't wait to pull on a knitted reindeer sweater. The new ad, by YouTube user Railok, changes nothing except the music, borrowed from the movie Inception, and completely changes the tone of the ad. In Coke's ad, Santa was a genial old magic-maker bringing us together with a jolly shake of a snow globe. In the new one, titled "Mind Heist," he's an unseen but omnipotent superbeing controlling our lives without our knowledge, tossing unwitting humans around like so many toy dolls: Inception -- the remixed ad is a piece of parody genius. Why didn't Coke think of this in the first place? That's a serious question. It's not such a terrible idea for an ad (it ends happily, after all). Online reaction to the original Train commercial has been universally negative in the blogosphere:Brandfreak: I'm all for spreading the love. But why does it have to sound so awful? Adfreak: That horrible, horrible song. Written and performed by Train exclusively for the campaign. That song, which apparently fills sensible humans with a keen desire to claw their ears out and halt the pain. AgencySpy: Train, in short, is maybe the worst band ever. Stop advertising from pulling a Train: Tired of hearing "Hey Soul Sister" by Train in what seems like every other television ad, and every single place you turn? It's time to put a stop to it. To give you an idea of how consumers are often much better at playing advertisers at their own game, Continue Reading

Try detoxing in beautiful Phuket after your excessive Xmas binge

EVER the hardcore carnivore, Christmas is a time when I consume my normal vast quantities of turkey, ham and beef. Plus all the carbs and alcohol. Oh, and mince pies. So many mince pies . . . So when I was invited to Phuket Cleanse — a vegan detox, fitness and yoga retreat in Thailand — I’d be lying if I said I was excited. The retreat is in Rawai on the island’s south coast, in a beautiful village known for its long-tailed boats, fish markets and seafood restaurants. Dotted with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, it is the perfect place to relax with a pina colada or two. All types of sweets, crisps, chocolate and caffeine are banned. Sounds more like prison. The detox begins the moment you check in to your room, which is simple in design but has yellow ambient lighting to increase the body’s melatonin production, helping you sleep. Once rested, the first step on my journey began. This was an evening meeting with the retreat’s health and nutrition specialist, Kritika, who took my “before” measurements and explained what was in store for the week ahead. Guests get to choose from more than 20 classes a day, ranging from floating meditation and yoga to Muay Thai boxing. But it’s not all fitness. There are cooking classes, cycle clubs, sunrise walks and sunset breathing ceremonies to try. You can even learn to paddleboard across the warm waters of Nai Harn beach, which is beautifully framed with jungle-covered mountains. My first day began as most of Thailand’s partying backpackers were probably returning home — at 6am with a two-and-a-half mile trek up to Big Buddha. My weary-eyed group of 16 was made up of people from all walks of life. And it wasn’t long before our yawns turned to gasps as we passed elephants on our ascent to the 150ft monument. But by this point my legs were beginning to ache and I was in need of some food. The resort is all-inclusive but you Continue Reading

Best of 2017: The Omaha cocktail bars you should be drinking at right now

Old Man Drinker here, back to dazzle with my years of alcohol-soaked wisdom and enlighten you poor, poor souls who spend most of your time drinking stale Boulevard Wheat and wondering what year Nico closed. It doesn’t matter. It’s almost 2018. Time to pull it together, son. Time to button up your least-wrinkled shirt. Time to throw away those crap opinions about how whiskey or tequila or rum is gross — no they aren’t, not in the hands of the right bartender. Time to Uber or Lyft or have your great-aunt Thelma give you ride over to one of the following Omaha cocktail bars on this list. This is but one Old Man Drinker’s opinion, albeit an opinion earned by spending, oh, a dozen years now prowling the dark streets of Omaha Town in pursuit of tasty booze treats. I have consumed blue things in Bellevue, brown whiskey wonders in west Omaha, massive margaritas on South 24th. I’m practiced up. I’m wizened. I’m ready to be the Mr. Miyagi to your Daniel San. Except with booze instead of karate. Obviously. Anyway, without further ado, here is my 2017 List of Old Man Drinker’s Best 5 Cocktail Bars in Omaha. Just kidding! First, the Honorable Mention list. I think a couple of places deserve our rapt attention, but I haven’t been to them quite enough this year to place ‘em on the all-time top 5. They are: 10. Herbe Sainte in Aksarben 9 and 8. Trio and Inkwell in West Omaha 7. Kaitei in Benson 6. The Tavern in the Old Market Herbe Sainte will make you a mean, New Orleans-inspired cocktail, a Vieux Carre or a Corpse Reviver #2. Herbe Sainte often features barrel-aged drinks, which make the medicine good down really smooth, my friends. And come on, there are frozen daiquiris on tap here! I can’t believe this place didn’t make the top 5. Both Trio and Inkwell represent the first two true craft cocktail places I have discovered in west Omaha. Trio is run by the fantastic Matt Brown, Continue Reading

Story from Downtown Indy: How to have a fabulous holiday-themed date night

Looking for something fun and festive to do this holiday season with your significant other? Something more than the typical dinner and a movie? Look no further than Downtown Indy for all kinds of activities and holiday-themed events that are sure to turn date night into a night to remember. Here are some best bets for making merry this season—and while your out, be sure to plan a stop at the center of it all, the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Decked out with 4,784 colored LED lights on 52 garland strands, the monument and its decorated surroundings make the perfect backdrop for a romantic photo. Walk Through a Decorated ForestDiscover fabulously decked-out trees at the Indiana Historical Society’s Festival of Trees. Featuring 80 trees all with individual themes like “Santa’s Library,” “Making Smiles Bright” and “A Picture-Perfect Christmas,” the annual event is sure to inspire decorating ideas in everyone. And you get to vote for your favorite.Now through Jan. 6 | $5-9; children under 5 FREE | Roast S’moresExperience a brand-new holiday celebration this season at Newfields with Winterlights, a multi-sensory, outdoor light spectacle featuring more than one million lights. The experience includes music, weekly visits from Santa, fire pits for roasting s’mores, drink stations and more. You can also experience Winterlights with Christmas at the Lilly House. Come see the lawn sparkle with beautiful floral displays and holiday decor.Now through Jan. 7 | $12-25; 5 and under FREE | Shop a Holiday BazaarYelp’s Totally Bazaar at the Indianapolis Central Public Library is a one-of-a-kind holiday shopping extravaganza featuring over 150 venders offering everything from local food and drink to unique Hoosier-made gifts. Attendees must RSVP.Dec. 7 | FREE | Listen to a Grand ConcertThe Holly & The Ivy Holiday Concert, Indiana Landmarks annual Continue Reading

Fun and free events this weekend: Dec. 1-3

Friday, Dec. 1 Holiday Model Train at Main Library, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Main Library, 800 Vine St., Downtown. See Cincinnati Northern Model Railroad Club's holiday model train display. Train-related stories, crafts and activities for children 2-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, in atrium. 513-369-6900; Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Eden Park. Contemporary South African artist William Kentridge's powerful film installation encircles viewer with 7 screens as travelers pass across animated landscape accompanied by brass band. Through Jan. 28. 513-721-2787; by Seaplane, 5-7 p.m., Rising Sun Riverfront, Second and Front streets, Rising Sun. Santa arrives at Riverfront Park by Mac's Seaplane Service and walks to Pavilion to light Christmas tree. Photo opportunities, cookie decorating and hot cocoa and coffee at Pendleton Art Center afterward. 888-776-4786; Christmas Sweater Bar Crawl, 5:30 p.m., Braxton Brewing, 27 W. Seventh St., Covington. Braxton Brewing Co., Oskar Blues Brewery and New Belgium Brewery host. Prizes given at final stop. Proceeds from beer purchased at each stop goes to charity. Benefits Toys for Tots. Ages 21 and up. 859-462-0627; More:  Holiday TV guide: Movies, cartoons, music and 'Christmas Story' marathons More:  Things to do this week: Nov. 30-Dec. 3 More:  2017 holiday lights shows guideMovie Nights at Faith: Sing, 6-8:30 p.m., Faith Lutheran Church, 8265 Winton Road, Finneytown. Fellowship Hall. Free meal of hot dogs, pizza, fruit and drinks served buffet-style, followed by family-friendly, full length movie. Freshly made popcorn and candy for sale to benefit church youth programs. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. 513-931-6100; Truth, 8 Continue Reading

Katy Perry, Chainsmokers lead December concert roster

Holiday shows and New Year’s Eve parties are the name of the game this month, and Indianapolis has plenty of both to give you options.December is always when radio stations bring out representative acts to play a holiday show, and this year you have Night Ranger (‘80s rock!), Portugal. The Man (alt rock!), Spoon (indie rock!), and the Backstreet Boys (not rock!).Come Dec. 31, you can relive the early 2000s with tunes popularized by the Strokes or get fancy on a rooftop, and everything in between. "The Night Alt 103.3 Stole Xmas #1" 8 p.m. Dec. 2, the Palladium, 1 Center Green, Carmel, sold out,, (317) 843-3800.The first WOLT-FM (103.3) holiday show features rock band Evanescence (known for 2003 hits "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal") performing with a 28-member orchestra. We’d be remiss to say we weren’t excited to catch Amy Lee belting massive choruses with the full power of a orchestra behind her. The Revivalists 8 p.m. Dec. 6, Egyptian Room in Old National Centre, 502 N. New Jersey St., $29.50,, (800) 745-3000.New Orleans seven-man band the Revivalists aim to revive pure, soulful rock ‘n’ roll — nothing more, nothing less. The group ties in funk, folk, and R&B into a tasty, danceable package. The Revivalists' “Wish I Knew You” boogied down all over rock radio this year. "WJJK Not So Silent Night" 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, Murat Theatre in Old National Centre, $25 to $75,, (800) 745-3000.Holy ‘80s — the “Sister Christian” guys are back in town! Classic hits station WJJK-FM (104.5) calls its show "Not So Silent Night," and certainly there will be some headbanging to be had (which will no doubt peak during the guitar solo of “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”). Ax-slinger and “Kiss Me Deadly” singer Lita Ford will perform before Night Ranger. "The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show" 7:30 p.m. Continue Reading

11 prison movies to tide you over to season 4 of ‘Orange is the New Black’

The next season of “Orange is the New Black” probably won’t come out for another six months, but here are some prison-related viewing suggestions to fill the void for everyone who can’t wait to get back to Litchfield: “The Shawshank Redemption” Starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, this 1994 flick is about as good as it gets for prison movies. It’s based on a Stephen King novella, but the film became a classic in a way the book never could have. Set in the 1940s and 1950s, the movie follows the story of Andy Dufresne, a man wrongfully convicted of murder. Dufresne and fellow inmate Red become thick as thieves during their bid and ultimately find their redemption after escaping their caged hell in one of cinema’s most famous prison escapes. GOLDEN GLOBES 2016: THIS IS THE YEAR OF TRANSGENDER STORIES In fact, the escape was so well known that last summer two convicts in upstate New York decided to try it out in real life — with a considerably less successful outcome. When Richard Matt and David Sweat decided to tunnel out of Clinton Correctional Facility, instead of living happily ever after on a Mexican beach, one ended up dead and the other was recaptured. “The Green Mile” Mix death row with random supernatural stuff and you get “The Green Mile.” This revered prison flick is based on a Stephen King book of the same name and was released in 1996 with a star-studded cast, including Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan and James Cromwell. The film is both dark and fascinating, as it tells the tale of a wrongfully convicted death row inmate with a supernatural healing ability. With the main action set in the 1930s, the story is told as a flashback by Tom Hanks’ character, Paul Edgecomb, and it comes complete with a heartbreaking ending. “Cool Hand Luke” The Oscar-winning 1967 film features Continue Reading

How the Obamas, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga and other celebrities spent the holiday weekend

Celebrities got in the holiday spirit this past weekend - some opting for quiet weekends at home with the family, while others opted to spend the weekend engaged in the type of hijinks only the rich and famous can afford. Lady Gaga had a present Sunday for all her Little Monsters followers, posting a previously unreleased track, “Stuck on F--- You,” on Twitter that “was recorded live, in one take, on the tour bus.” Kim Kardashian put visions of sugar plums dancing in the heads of her admirers when she posted a festive shot of herself in “silk jammies....ready for bed!” on Twitter. The photo came from a Glamour magazine cover shoot earlier in 2011. The TV star’s 16-year-old half-sister, Kendall, also took to the Internet to show off her early Christmas present: a pair of adorable chocolate Labrador puppies. “OMG OMG OMG! Best Xmas present ever!!!!!!! 2 beautiful puppies!!!!!! Ahhhh thanks mom and dad!!!!,” she tweeted to her parents, Kris and Bruce Jenner. The First Family had a quieter - and more private - Christmas Eve in Hawaii with family and a few close friends during the Obamas' annual Kailua, Hawaii vacation. First Lady Michelle Obama answered calls from children around the U.S., asking how close Santa was to their homes, the White House said Saturday. Meanwhile, the President managed to squeeze in a round of golf. U2’s Bono showed some of the holiday spirit, singing for charity on the streets of downtown Dublin much to the excitement of last-minute Christmas Eve shoppers, London’s Daily Mail reported. Newly minted New Yorker Ashley Hebert and her fiance J.P. Rosenbaum, who got engaged at the end of last season’s “The Bachelorette,” spent the holidays learning about each other’s religion. “All of my friends in dental school are Jewish and they celebrated Hanukkuh, but I never did,” Hebert told People Magazine. Continue Reading

Everything you need to know about Jersey holiday shows

The holidays always seem to bring out the best in people.The holidays also bring out people to area arts venues, which are stocked once again with tidings of great joy."Sometimes the colder and yuckier weather adds to the holiday feeling," said Izzy Sackowitz, vice president of operations for the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.The Basie has developed a few in-house holiday traditions over the last few years, including their Phoenix Productions presentation of "A Christmas Story,"  Friday, Nov. 11, through Sunday, Nov. 20; the Darlene Love holiday show, this year with LaBamba and the Hubcaps on Dec. 16; local faves Brian Kirk and the Jirks' "Santa For..." concert on Dec. 17; the annual Holiday Express shows, Dec. 19 and 20; and the big Bobby Bandiera and Friends Hope Concert, which takes place Dec. 23."This is the ninth annual (Hope) concert and the shows have raised $2 million for local charities," Sackowitz said. "All the holiday concerts lead up to this one. It's the culmination of giving in the county." MORE: Kenny Rogers on duets, Phish and Christmas songs Expect lots of musical stars at the Hope show. Speaking of stars, Donny and Marie Osmond on Nov. 28 and Kenny Rogers on Dec. 21 bring holiday-themed shows to the Basie this year. The Rogers show is part of his farewell tour."He's a legend and we're honored that the tour is coming through," Sackowitz said.In New Brunswick, the holiday buzz is about the touring production of the Broadway hit "Elf the Musical" at the State Theatre."It's really cool for us to get a national tour like this right on the holiday season," said Tom Carto, president and CEO of the State Theatre. "It's serendipity and we have five performances (Dec. 2 to 4) and it's already selling very, very well."In other words, get your tickets quick. "Elf the Musical" is based on the 2003 Christmas comedy, "Elf," starring Will Farrell as Buddy, the orphaned human who grows up at the North Pole thinking he's an elf."It's quickly Continue Reading