I drink Mountain Dew and people are always acting like I’m getting an intravenous injection of caffeine each time I drink a can. Does Mountain Dew really contain that much caffeine? For a frame of reference, how much caffeine is contained in a normal cup of coffee? –Dave Jones, Madison, Wisconsin

Mountain Dew’s jolt is exaggerated. The FDA reported a while back that Dew had 54 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can–more than Pepsi (38.4) and Coke (45.6), but less than Sugar-Free Mr. Pibb (58.8). And it’s a lot less than a 5-ounce cup of coffee, the caffeine content of which can range from 60 to 180 milligrams, average 115–ounce for ounce, five times as much caffeine as Mountain Dew.


I don’t care if you’re tired of this. I’m writing this column, and I find this topic a source of never-ending fascination. Just the other day I was thinking to myself, you know, there is the stuff of tragedy in this smiley face thing. As usual, I was right. Word comes that the city of Seattle has been rocked (well, jiggled) by a smiley face scandal.

For many years Seattle adman David Stern has been taking (or at least not refusing) credit for inventing the smiley face, saying he cooked it up for a local savings and loan in 1967. This column reported some weeks ago that, whatever David Stern may have done for the savings and loan, he was not the originator of the smiley face–the honor, if you want to call it that, rightly belongs to Harvey R. Ball of Worcester, Massachusetts, who drew the smiley we know today in 1963.

Now we learn that the citizens of Seattle, figuring that the inventor of the symbol for brain-dead optimism was the ideal candidate to lead them into the brave new world of the 90s, voted for Stern in sufficient numbers to make him one of the two contenders in that city’s upcoming mayoral runoff. But the sordid truth was not long in coming out. This column’s column revealing the smiley’s actual origins circulated in samizdat in the Pacific Northwest, eventually coming to the attention of reporter Bruce Barcott of the Seattle Weekly. Seeing a Pulitzer in it, Barcott jumped on the story with both feet. In a searing expose, he revealed to shocked Seattleites not only that

The smiley campaign Stern came up with for University Federal Savings & Loan in 1967 did not single-handedly boost that institution from one office and $40 million in assets to 23 offices and $1 billion in assets, as a Stern campaign ad somewhat disingenuously suggested. Furthermore:

Stern did not personally invent the name and concept for the Egghead Software retail chain. (He invented the character Professor Egghead; somebody else came up with the idea for a chain of software stores.)

Needless to say, these revelations have rocked The City That Bill Gates Lives Not Far Away From. Stern has already written an affronted letter to the Seattle Weekly. (He asks: What about “my plans to manage crime, the homeless, graffiti and litter, revitalize downtown,” etc? Don’t distract us with side issues, Dave.) Will Stern be hounded from office, or platform, or whatever it is that mayoral candidates are houndable from? Will the Seattle Election Commission award the mayoral runoff spot to Harvey R. Ball, who has promised to name me Commissar of Human Knowledge? You better believe you’ll read about it here.

One more thing. (What, you thought we were done?) Cecil has learned that a smiley museum, of all things, has been established by Mark Sachs of Silver Spring, Maryland. The theme park and gardens not having been completed yet, right now the museum is in Mark’s house. Mark has had the temerity to ask if I will donate my collection of smileys to his museum, saying he is “more than happy to reimburse you for postage and handling.” Postage and handling! Mark, you cur, these things have incalculable sentimental value. But make it a hundred bucks and I’ll give it some thought.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.