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By John W. Schoen Senior Producer
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

Siberia is not a place ordinarily associated with sixties-era surfer music.

But an enterprising Moscow musician has taken a collection of Stalin-era tunes and re-invented them with a Jan and Dean sound, complete with mod cover art depicting the Premier wearing a lei made of skulls against a blazing red and yellow sun that is setting over barbed wire fencing and flanked by a pair of watch towers.

"No one has ever done this before, although the idea is lying on the surface,” the album's creator, Mikhail Antipov, told the Moscow Times. “It's an obvious thing."

The songs are performed without lyrics. But you can sing along if you know the words to Gulag favorites like “Uncle Ivan’s Cherry Garden,” “Pigeons Flying Over Our Jail,” and “Night Lights(Drunk Version).”

A second album of "Gulag Tunes" is due this fall, Antipov told the newspaper, but he’s not sure exactly when. Apparently, there are some copyright snags.

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Big Brother behind the bar

Bartenders are a notoriously empathic bunch, ready to lend an ear, help settle disputes, and, on occasion, offer up a drink “on the house” to a loyal patron. But if a small San Francisco-based company has its way, the complimentary cocktail may be going the way of lighting up a cigarette at the barstool.

Thanks to the magic of RFID technology, the Capton Beverage Tracker employs a wireless spout at the top of every bottle, which measures the flow of liquor precisely and sends the information to a software tracking system that logs the time, bottle and amount poured.

If widely adopted, the system could help the U.S. hospitality industry cut down on an estimated $7 billion in losses from “overpouring,” Capton’s CEO told RFID Journal. The company's Web site says the $10,000 to $20,000 investment will more than pay for itself by cutting liquor losses and boosting profits.

Perhaps. But putting Big Brother behind the bar could also chase away customers. Patrons of RFID-controlled taverns may have second thoughts about bellying up to a bar with a computer keeping track of every drink they take.

Those accustomed to the occasional freebie refill may just decide to patronize a more hospitable watering hole.

The folks at McDonald’s are always looking for ways to spice up the menu, but apparently they went a little overboard with their Hot ‘n’ Spicy McChicken sandwich.

After a six-month saturation ad campaign, company execs at headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., have decided to pull the combustible cuisine from the chain’s 13,700 U.S. restaurants. A tamer chicken wrap will replace the peppery offering, though a McDonald’s spokesman said the Hot ‘n Spicy McChicken sandwich had attracted enough of a following that it may return from time to time.

But apparently there just weren’t enough customers looking to toast their taste buds to keep the fiery fare in the fast-food franchise’s starting line-up.

On the other hand, maybe McDonald’s is just using the wrong spices. Archrival Wendy’s said Wednesday it’s going to turn up the heat on its 4-Alarm Spicy Chicken sandwich, which has been on the menu for a decade. A spokesman says its one of Wendy’s most popular offerings.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

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