Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, September 24, 2021

Someone’s gotta be Number One — to the chagrin of Cleveland, which topped out the list of the U.S. most poverty-stricken large cities.

What I found interesting was the reason why most observers were so surprised:

The unwanted distinction is the latest in a litany of struggles for Cleveland, which appeared to be on the rebound over the past decade, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Browns Stadium, Jacobs Field and Gund Arena.

The much-publicized and promoted addition of these (nominally) publicly-owned venues had the desired effect: It gave a veneer of robustness to the city, when there really wasn’t one. Unfortunately, their construction was more flash than anything else. It shows how much noise big-ticket projects like this make, while the nitty-gritty of hard socio-economic data tends to get ignored. It’s not jjust the layman that gets blinded, either:

“I guess I am a little surprised, because my sense was that Cleveland was a city on the rebound,” said Tom Kaplan, the associate director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If Kaplan, who’s job it is to have a better idea of these things, was fooled by what Cleveland’s civic boosters were selling, it’s a testament to the marketing effectiveness of these high-profile works.

On another level, Cleveland’s high poverty rate, despite all that investment into that concrete and glass, seems to debunk the chief arguments for indulging in these types of projects. Every metro area gets pitched a program of boosted revenue streams by virtue of having the newest and shiniest arena/concert hall/whatever. They’re supposed to attract or retain major league sports, headlining concerts, tourism events and the like. Along with that, the halo effect would be the creation of grass-roots economic activity: Jobs at the venue, restaurants and other businesses around it, etc. These predictions are key to securing public funds for facilities that are used by private enterprises.

But despite playing the arena game as deftly as any other metro area, Cleveland has an anemic local economy to show for it. So why should any city or region sink public dollars into these things? Status is nice, but if it doesn’t pay off for the local economy, the justification disappears.

These findings should be a nice bit of ammunition for future public initiatives. I’ll keep an eye out for it the next time one rolls through Tampa Bay.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/24/2004 08:00:27 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society, SportsBiz
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It’s campaign season in a Presidential election year, so voter mobilization is popping up all over, including through a rejuvinated political movement in rap.

Rodney Thrash did a good job with looking at the roots of enlightenment within rap music, and makes an especially good point as to why it tapered off:

[Vibe’s Erik] Parker refers to the late 1980s as the golden era of hip-hop.

[Ex-Source editor Bakari] Kitwana says it was a time when “many of the record labels were independent.”

That independence allowed artists “a lot more diversity and range in terms of the content of hip-hop,” he said.

It didn’t last long.

Kitwana calls it “the formula.”

“The corporatization of the music industry and the consolidation of rap labels under five main distributors limited the range and the content of the music to one main theme: gangstas, playas, b-es and ho’s,” he said…

The formula worked, even penetrating a demographic far removed from the experiences described in the lyrics: white suburban teens.

Whereas most hip-hop albums in the 1980s went gold (sales of 500,000 or more) or platinum (sales of 1-million), the gangsta rap and sexually explicit themes of the 1990s garnered hip-hop artists multiplatinum sales. N.W.A’s Efil4zaggin sold nearly 1-million records in weeks and became the first gangsta rap album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Two years later, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic sold 4-million copies.

Because of that success, the content of hip-hop lyrics has not changed in more than a decade, Kitwana said.

Money talks. When competition narrows, output becomes more and more lowest-common-denominator. I’d argue this dynamic has extended throughout the entire music industry. So it’s not your imagination: Most music today really does suck.

There is, of course, a long history of using music to motivate younger people to get political. Folk music is almost synonymous with activism. The various musician-promoted voter drives (from “Rock the Vote” to P. Diddy’s current “Vote or Die”) have taken advantage of popular music’s pipeline to young minds who otherwise might never visit a ballot box.

Whether or not it’s the right medium for conveying the message is questionable. I tend to think it does lead toward a faddish impulse, without a truly lasting impression. But if the aim is to just get out the vote for the current election, long-term results aren’t necessarily important (not any more so than any other segment of the population). And indeed, despite some expectations of taking on this role, no musician is bound to take up the call (and given the critiques that outspoken artists get, there’s reason to hesitate).

That can change as the audience gets older, as well as the genre itself:

But there’s another influence besides the 2000 election: Hip-hop is getting old. This month marks 25 years since the release of the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, which eventually entered the Billboard Top 40, the first time a rap song achieved that feat. The pioneers of the genre are now fathers, mothers, husbands and wives. What may have mattered to them as teenagers and young adults - cars, money, jewelry, clothes and women - matters less as 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds. They want what is best for their families: access to good schools, good jobs and a good quality of life. The person sitting in the Oval Office determines if access is granted and more, Parker said.

A notable omission from the citations of politically-charged albums of late is “To the 5 Boroughs” from the veteran Beastie Boys. It hasn’t been marketed as an overtly political disc, but the lyrics throughout are unmistakably anti-Bush. Between them and Public Enemy, oldschool artists are well-represented here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/24/2004 07:31:22 PM
Category: Politics, Pop Culture
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A blast from the past in today’s sports transactions:

Kalamazoo Wings (UHL) - Signed defenseman Zarley Zalapski to a one-year contract.

Yes, one of the greatest hockey names — and the guy it’s attached to — is back in North American hockey. Just what we need during this lockout malaise.

Of course, it’s been a while since Zarley played in the NHL, so I think even the UHL would be a challenge for him at this stage. Honestly, when I first saw the tranny item, I wondered if it wasn’t a son of the NHL great.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/24/2004 06:53:16 PM
Category: Hockey
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I already knew about The Goatbelt.

Now, I know of Richard Newman, Holy Goat. I even know why he calls himself that.

Is there some sort of arcane goat-worshipping movement among bloggers? Does it include feta cheese? Are other livestock involved? (I don’t want to know the answer to any of that, really, especially if there’s even a hint of truth.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/24/2004 09:30:28 AM
Category: Bloggin'
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