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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Strange. When I got home, I didn’t figure to have more than one blog post in me for tonight. But I ended up spittin’ out five of them (six if you count this one). Amazing what comes from priming the pump.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2004 11:28:05 PM
Category: Bloggin' | Permalink | Feedback

Ivan: Not only the latest destructive hurricane to roll through the Gulf of Mexico, but also a forceful demonstration of one of nature’s most prevalent patterns of occurence.

Everything in our universe, such as the shape of hurricanes, the way the trees grow, the way the petals are arranged in a flower and even the structure of the human skeleton are all arranged by the golden means…

You can simply recreate the Fibonacci numbers if we start with two small squares of size 1 next to each other. On top of both of these draw a square of size 2 (=1+1) and so on. You can draw a spiral in the squares, a quarter of a circle in each square. The spiral is not a true mathematical spiral but it is a good approximation to a kind of spiral that does appear often in nature.

It’s not a coincidence why business cards sized 8×5 cm look pleasant to the eye. It’s because the proportions are similar to everything in nature, that we are used to for the past hundred thousand years. You’ll be reminded about this important guiding principle everywhere in nature, art and design. For example Robert Bringhurst refers a lot to the golden mean in his must read book The Elements of Typographic Style.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2004 11:18:53 PM
Category: Weather, Creative | Permalink | Feedback

Today is both Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, and Mexican Independence Day (El Grito de Independencia).

So, if you happen to be a Mexican Jew, feel free to whack the crap out of a pinata stuffed with hallah and apples & honey.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2004 11:01:52 PM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Right on the heels of St. Pete’s Ovo Cafe shutting down, Tampa institution Malio’s Steak House is apparently on the way out.

In the 10+ years I’ve lived here, I think I’ve been to Malio’s once. I don’t really remember for sure; if I did go, I was less than impressed. It was probably overhyped to me, given its reputation as the local watering hole for native and visiting celebrities. I suppose I should make a point to visit it before it gets turned into an office building.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2004 10:47:37 PM
Category: Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (3)

office sushi
You may recall the death of my office betta Phil last week, and his prompt replacement. Pictured above is the replacement, dubbed Sushi.

He’s a feisty one. He’s less fun to feed than old man Phil was. Phil would have to be coaxed up to the surface half the time, and even after I dropped the food pellet in, he would scope it out for several seconds before finally poking his mouth forward to eat it. By contrast, Sushi’s so hyper that he’s always hovering near the surface, and the second I drop the pellet in, he nails it. A real killer.

He’s also taken a few bites at my finger. Betta bites don’t hurt; they can do each other plenty of damage, but their jaws are too small and weak to actually penetrate human skin. So it’s just funny to see him take on my finger.

He’s also managed to build himself a bubblenest. That’s a sign that he’s looking for a girlfriend. He won’t be getting one, but it’s good to see he’s ready for action.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2004 10:23:34 PM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (4)

President Bush better hope all his supporters aren’t this clueless: Lynne Gobbell of Moulton, Alabama was fired from her job for refusing to remove a John Kerry bumper sticker from her car, and was promptly hired by the Kerry campaign afterward.

Given the obvious jackass-like qualities displayed by Phil Geddes, the owner who did the firing, you’d think he’d the perfect Democratic mascot. Apparently, he needs to brush up on the Thirteenth Amendment, and disabuse himself of the notion that his cruddy little company is some sort of plantation.

This event did provide a golden opportunity for the Kerry campaign. Bush supporters come off as arrogant jerks, and Kerry gets to play hero by giving the injured party a real job. Yes, Geddes is an extreme case that doesn’t typify any rational business owner, and Gobbell is likely out of a job as soon as the election ends. But this is campaign season, and image is everything; you couldn’t have scripted this better.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/16/2004 08:29:48 PM
Category: Politics, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

In an obvious bid to dominate clothes retailing from cradle to grave, Gap has announced plans to launch a store concept for over-35 women.

I guess this explains why they tapped 39-year-old Sarah Jessica Parker for their latest ad campaign.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 11:35:48 PM
Category: Celebrity, Business | Permalink | Feedback

oprah mail
As she does for so many millions, Oprah has shown me the way. Her big-big giveaway of 276 Pontiac cars to her audience members to kick off her 19th season has inspired me to be just as giving.

Well, maybe not just as giving. After all, I don’t have a car company begging me to feature their product on this puny little blog. But I’ll do the scaled-down, Internet-oriented equivalent:

I’ve got four three [none, thanks for playing!] Gmail invitations to give out. First four commenters to this post, giving their first and last name along with a valid email address (all required by Google), get them. (Addition: I need your FIRST AND LAST NAME, AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. If you can’t figure that out, don’t waste my time begging.)

We’ll see if the invocation of Oprah is more effective than a joke contest

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 08:28:46 PM
Category: Internet, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback (5)

Tampa Bay, get ready to slurp up some Bad Ass Coffee.

I was going to include the logo of The Bad Ass Coffee Company of Hawaii (which is actually headquartered in Utah). But frankly, it’s a pretty lame logo, so I don’t want to waste my bandwith on it. The company itself looks pretty shifty as well, so I’m not counting on it putting Starbucks, or anyone else, out of business.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 08:17:49 PM
Category: Food, Business | Permalink | Feedback (2)

When an ugly old stereo speaker won’t do, Japanese-spawned Ka-on will turn your flowers and houseplants in magnetically-driven audio speakers.

The AP did a pretty poor job re-working this press release. Get the info, sure, but at least try to edit it into something less blatant.

What’ll happen to plants that have this juice coursing through them?

Not only does Ka-on deliver music, it keeps bugs off plants and helps cut flowers last longer, [company president Masumi] Gotoh claims.

‘’The plant is happy listening to music,” says Gotoh, showing off a rubber plant hooked up to Ka-on in his Tokyo office. ‘’Gerberas and sunflowers work especially well as speakers.”

Yeah right, I’m sure the plants won’t experience any stress from being used like this. Guarantee you you’ll have pot after pot of dead foliage from using this thing.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 08:11:35 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Coming soon to a theater near you: First Daughter, starring the delectable Katie Holmes and directed by, of all people, Forest Whitaker.

So why won’t this one flop just as bad as the identical Chasing Liberty did a few months ago? Does the studio think Holmes is that much cuter as a Presidential daughter than Mandy Moore?

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 08:01:41 PM
Category: Movies | Permalink | Feedback

on campus
My alma mater here in St. Pete inaugurated a bi-weekly film series last year, dubbed “International Cinema at Eckerd College”. I attended a few showings, mostly for the movies themselves, but partly just for an excuse to visit the old campus again.

International Cinema is kicking off a new season this coming Friday with a screening of Fahrenheit 9/11. I got the notice from the program director, Professor Nathan Andersen, last week, and didn’t think anything of it. (You might wonder how Michael Moore’s flick qualifies as international; that adjective was pretty loosely applied last year, with movies like Kill Bill: Vol. 1 making the cut. Since Eckerd’s student body is fairly international, I think American movies generally fit into the theme.)

Today, I got an email from Professor Andersen. Apparently, some people on the mailing list took some exception to Fahrenheit 9/11 being shown, particularly at this time and place. Enough people expressed concern that Andersen felt he needed to offer a general explanation.

With his permission, here’s Professor Andersen’s email on the subject:

What controversy? — A note from Nathan Andersen (program director, International Cinema at Eckerd College) on the selection of this film:

I often get feedback from enthusiastic audiences after the films I show in the series. But this time, I’ve received feedback beforehand. Several (more than three) have expressed the concern that at an institution of higher learning we should not be presenting what they describe as “biased” or “ideology” or “propaganda.” The worry was that there might be a political agenda in showing the film, and that the film does not represent the diversity of political opinion that exists on campus. Although I have responded to a few individuals expressing these concerns, I would also like to publish a version of that response here for anyone who may share similar (and quite understandable) concerns.

The first point I’d like to make is that the films shown in the series are in no way intended to represent the views of Eckerd College, or even of myself. They are not part of the college curriculum, and it is not a requirement for students to go to any of the films in the series — although there are students in film classes who are expected to attend some of the films, they in general have a choice in which films to attend. The film series is designed to be one among many possible extra-curricular events available to students on campus. Other extra-curricular events on campus include, for example, religious ceremonies and meetings, lectures that represent a range of convictions on a range of topics, political gatherings of all kinds, including meetings for the Young Republicans, parties, concerts, and other events on campus — and none of these are explicitly endorsed by the college as representative of views students should accept. The decision about which films are included in the film series are made by me, in consultation with other interested faculty members and students, and are emphatically not the result of an administrative or faculty-wide choice about curriculum.

The general guideline that I use in making decisions about what to air in the series is contained in the initial proposal that got it started. According to that proposal, International Cinema was designed to show “critically acclaimed and important films from around the world.” I am showing Fahrenheit 9/11 because I think that by any measure it fits that bill. Whatever anyone thinks about the merits of the views it espouses, it clearly did receive a lot of critical praise, including receiving what many take to be the highest honor bestowable on a film of “international appeal,” the Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. It is also important, as I take it, in a number of ways. It is important, for example, as the highest-grossing “documentary-style” film ever. What that means to me is that its appearance is a noteworthy event, something worth paying attention to and considering. Where better to reflect upon a film like this than on a college campus, where open discussion and critical but intelligent commentary are aspired to? What I personally like about Michael Moore’s films is not so much the views he presents, but that he presents them in such a way that the viewer cannot fail to have some kind of reaction. In that sense they present wonderful opportunities for discussion, which is exactly what I like to see on campus. I have shown a number of films in film classes where the political slant of the film, or the ideas suggested by the film, are distasteful or at least implausible to me. I think the key in presenting such a film intelligently is that it be introduced in advance by someone who is capable of putting it in context, and that there be a forum afterwards for open discussion of the film.

In the case of this film, I have asked Professor Tony Brunello from our political science department to introduce the film and lead an open discussion afterwards. Something he does regularly in his classes is discuss the nature of popular political communications, and encourages his students to recognize the biases inherent in films and other media forms that popularize political ideas. His introduction will encourage the same thing from the audience of the film, as preparation for an after film discussion. I want to emphasize that this is an open event, and the discussion after the film will be open-ended. Everyone who comes will be welcome to raise concerns or ask questions or present their own points of view (politely). This will definitely not be set up as an “anti-Bush” rally or anything of the sort. I intended it primarily as an occasion where a film that has current popularity and interest can be discussed in a thoughtful and critical manner by people whose viewpoints differ. This makes it different than, say, showing the film in an ordinary theater where there is no forum for such a discussion.

Another concern raised by some of those who have written to me or whose views have been conveyed to me has to do with timing. There are two considerations I had in mind when I set the date for this screening: the first is that in addition to showing occasional classics as part of the film series I also like to show “first run” films, to give people an opportunity to see them on the big screen before they have become widely available on television or DVD, etc. There is only a small window of time where this is possible with a film like this, that has only just become available for non-profit and non-theatrical screenings but will soon be available on DVD. The second timing consideration does have to do with the election, but not to convince people to vote for one candidate or the other, but rather to stimulate debates on campus at a time when it is important to have these debates. I do not believe that most people will change the way they planned to vote simply as a result of seeing this or any other film. But I do think that seeing this film will make those who believe strongly on either side want to voice their opinions, and I’d like to see that happen.

One final remark. It strikes me that what bothers many about this film is not the fact that it represents a view contrary to their own and they just happen to disagree, but that it is presented as a documentary, and that many interpret that to be a claim that it is presenting an objective version of indisputable facts. One of my primary educational objectives in showing the film, and in having Prof. Brunello introduce it, is to dispell this myth. The category “documentary” as studied by film theorists includes films that might be thought of as “personal essay” style films, as most of Moore’s films are described. Even Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” fits into the “documentary” genre as it is described in all of the film theory textbooks I have encountered; and I would not hesitate to show that film in a classroom — not, of course, because I condone or sympathize with Nazi propaganda, but because it is an important film that needs to be seen to be discussed and criticized and analyzed properly. For very different reasons, and in particular because this is a timely film that can and will stimulate political discussion among our students precisely when it is important for them to have this discussion, I have chosen to air this film.

I hope that these brief remarks help those who are interested to understand (and hopefully respect) my choice, and also to understand that it does not and is not intended to represent views of the college as a whole (or even of myself in particular). My decision merely reflects my own belief that one of the great opportunities of a film series (especially one that is not primarily driven by an interest in entertainment) is to get people thinking, and talking, about values and ideas outside of the classroom. I think that this film will help that to happen.

Respectfully yours,

Nathan Andersen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Program Director, International Cinema at Eckerd College

So, that’s the gist of it. I don’t know if all this is significant enough for the media to take note. Given the sort of news Eckerd’s been making lately, I think something like this would be a welcome change.

I wasn’t originally planning on attending the screening this Friday, mainly because I already caught Fahrenheit when it was in theaters. But now, I’m wondering if there’s enough possibility of extracurricular activity — of the protesting kind — before or after the showing to warrant a trip down there. EC is a liberal arts college, but that doesn’t mean the student body is uniformly leftist. Potential for sparks is there.

I imagine most people who wanted to see the movie have already seen it. But if anyone is interested in catching the Eckerd screening, let me know; it’ll probably be easier to get on campus with an alum in tow.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 07:45:22 PM
Category: Political, Movies | Permalink | Feedback (1)

on ice
Today’s the day. Barring a last-minute miracle, the National Hockey League will lock out its players, cutting into training camp and eventually slicing away chunks of the 2004-05 season. The worst-case scenario has the entire season being cancelled.

Some scattered thoughts on the impasse:

- The way things look now — and this is with the caveat that the external view doesn’t necessarily match what’s happening behind the scenes — the players will have to be the ones to blink first. And to avoid being totally fleeced, they can’t do that without at least a month being lost. If I had to guess, in order to get the owners to sign, the Players Association would have to accept one of the league’s don’t-call-it-a-cap “cost-certainty” proposals, most likely this one:

A player partnership payroll plan (P-4), which would involve individual player compensation being individually negotiated on the basis of “units” allocated for regular-season payrolls, supplemented by lucrative bonuses for team playoff performance.

The only gain the NHLPA could squeeze out of accepting this would be an elimination of the “groups” qualification levels for free agency, and lowering the age for unrestricted free agency to 28 for all players, regardless of experience or other factors. It would be a mostly hollow victory, given the built-in restrictions of the P-4 system, but it would be a longer-term gain to build upon some eight years from now, when the CBA after this coming one is up for discussion.

- Fans should keep in mind that the lockout is not a required action. The owners could allow the indefinite continuation of the the current CBA terms while they hammer out a new deal with the players. That means the owners are in the driver’s seat as far as training camps and the season starting on time. Naturally, from the owners’ perspective, this would rob them of leverage in negotiation, so there’s little incentive to do so. The only advantage is to foster goodwill with the players and, more importantly, the fans; but again, that won’t expedite a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, so there’s little point to it.

- As much as the owners think a cap will help them, it really won’t, because any system that locks in salaries will create an opportunity for a rival league to start poaching players. Aside from filling a geographic market need (think football’s old American Football League and it’s base in the unserved Western U.S.), competing sports leagues find short-term success by offering the players an expanded free market for their services.

Naturally, in order to appeal to players, an alternate league has to offer better salaries and on-ice opportunities than the NHL, and with the “cost-certainty” models the owners are pushing, that won’t be hard to do. What’s more, once the poaching begins, it’ll only drive up salaries in both leagues. That’s exactly what happened during the WHA era in the ’70s, when the formerly monopolistic NHL had to suddenly compete for players with the upstart league.

Right now, the relatively free market for player salaries in the NHL ensure that it’s the world’s premier hockey league. The sheer size of the North American sports entertainment market means there’s plenty of money to attract the best players. Leagues in other countries don’t have those resources; the only advantage they might have is the appeal of playing in a native country (thus avoiding culture shock for a player and his family). If the owners choose to limit how much of those resources are available to attracting and retaining players, the NHL loses that edge, and opens the door for a challenger.

What are the prospects for a challenge league? That’s where the NHL has an advantage. The league, along with the NFL and NBA, learned their lessons from past rival league experiences, and have maneuvered their franchises into positions where almost all of them own and/or control their arenas. With most metro regions having the infrastructure for only one hockey-friendly major-league venue (including all the revenue streams such a venue brings), that makes it extremely difficult for a start-up league to set up shop. Add to that the geographic saturation the NHL has achieved: There aren’t that many major-market cities that lack a team these days (efforts in Kansas City and Oklahoma City notwithstanding).

Still, there are possibilities (and I’m not talking about the phantom menace that is the resurrected WHA). The Russian league, in particular, has ownership that’s demonstrated a willingness to pay NHL-level salaries to attract talent. I imagine that Russian/European players would be the main ones siphoned away initially, and for provincial North American fans, there would be few tears shed. But if leagues in Russia and other European countries really start a talent rush for hockey players, it won’t be long before even Canadian and American players are lured overseas. At that point, NHL owners will have to open the pursestrings, cost-certainty be damned.

- In the midst of owners’ claims that you can’t make money in the current NHL, consider that two teams look to be in play: The Vancouver Canucks and their arena could change owners for $250 million (that might be in Canadian currency; if so, it would be something like $175 million U.S.), and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have three suitors, including Howard Baldwin, former owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hartford Whalers.

There are other clubs on the market, either actively or passively. But why would anyone want to buy into a league that’s about to shut down, and whose business model is allegedly so bad? Why would Baldwin, in particular, a former owner, want back in? He went through bankruptcy with the Penguins, which you’d presume would be the ultimate disincentive for owning a hockey team again. Why would the Vancouver group want to buy a team that, thanks to the currency exchange as it relates to player salaries, operates in a perpetual small-market environment?

Anticipation of a CBA that fixes player costs obviously creates a window of unique opportunity for potential team owners. But with that being far from a sure thing, these offers indicate that owning a club, even within the current business structure, ain’t a bad way to make a few bucks.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 10:52:47 AM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Who figures Donald Trump would be a germophobe?

That’s not the only surprising thing contained in this article. Aside from the various comparisons between what Trump claims about himself and what’s reality, there’s this:

Actually, it’s hard to know exactly what percent of Trump’s net worth is tied to the casino business because most of Trump’s portfolio is in privately held companies that don’t report earnings. He’s described himself as “a billionaire many times over,” but there are skeptics who believe Trump has $300 million, tops. And the guy has a reputation for, let’s say, shading the news in a light that reflects his enthusiasms.

Is The Donald less of a mogul than he puffs himself up to be? If so, it explains why he never continued with his professional sports ownership, started in the USFL (which brought him to prominence in the first place). Think about it: If he really was serious about pursuing an NFL team, he’d have to disclose his personal finances to the league. This would be an unacceptable level of transparency, given the persona he’s built. So he found other ways to promote Trump the Brand.

Ultimately, it’s been a winning strategy:

The larger point is the way Trump is viewed as a businessman. As a private developer, he’s gifted and relentless at crafting deals, winning allies, fighting enemies, exploiting legal loopholes, charming, bullying and making sure the cement is delivered on time. He knows his market, the upscale buyer seeking conspicuous luxury that is heavy on pink marble and gilt. His properties have always commanded a premium because of the marquee value of his brand.

But stock and bond markets view Trump as a bit of a joke, which is what happens when shares in a company you run plunge by 99 percent. So Trump is saddled with the paradox of life as highly public but erratically successful executive: The people who know the least about business admire him the most, and those who know the most about business admire him the least. Which irks the man who is forever complaining that his achievements as corporate rainmaker are overshadowed by his latest brand-name spinoff and his soap-opera love life.

This is a guy who nearly went bankrupt in the early ’90s, when his real estate holdings were so over-leveraged he needed a bank bailout to stay afloat and was forced to sell some of his most treasured assets. Anyone else might have retreated. Trump buffaloed his way back into the game and turned the fiasco into a best-selling book, The Art of the Comeback.

The beautiful part is that Trump the caricature and Trump the man are essentially the same person. This isn’t an act. He brings a genuinely unembarrassed joy to the role of high-rolling, model-squiring aristocrat, and he doesn’t know the meaning of “overexposed.”

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 10:29:17 PM
Category: Celebrity, Business | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Earlier this year, I wondered why Apple hadn’t joined in on the videogame console race. It turns out that ten years ago, they were ready to do just that, with a project code-named Pippen.

I wonder why it was aborted. Steve Jobs came back to Apple at right about the same time, so I’m assuming it’s one of the non-core efforts he eliminated (along with the Newton and the Power-PC clones). If anyone has the full story, or a hyperlink to it, I’d love to get it.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 10:05:47 PM
Category: Tech, Videogames | Permalink | Feedback (5)

last dance?
To show my appreciation for Tuomo Ruutu’s un-freakin’-believable goal in the second period of tonight’s Canada-Finland World Cup of Hockey final, I’m linking to his official website. And to his diary/blog.

It’s players like Ruutu that make me foolishly pick the Chicago Blackhawks to make some noise every year. They always make me look like a fool. This year, of course, they’ll have to wait until after the lockout ends to do that.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 08:57:43 PM
Category: Bloggin', Hockey | Permalink | Feedback

rave gal
I knew there was a good reason for adding Greedy Girl to my blogroll… She points me to D.Film Moviemaker, a fun utility that allows you to click away at creating your own shorty Flash movie!

Marvel at “Serendipity”, my tour-de-force cinematic effort, starring Rave Girl (pictured above) and Hunky Sumo in an old-fashioned love story. It’s no “Greedy Girl vs. Fabio”, but it’s the best I can do in a bleary-eyed-at-midnight state.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 08:22:32 PM
Category: Internet | Permalink | Feedback (1)

While we don’t have protesting Batmen gatecrashing royal palaces, the Tampa Bay area does have thousands of bats nesting in our bridges and overpasses. Scree.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 07:46:03 PM
Category: Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback

In a move that surprised few (if any), Federated Department Stores announced they’ll be retiring the regional Burdines, Rich’s, Goldsmith’s, Lazarus and Bon Marche store names, converting them all to the powerhouse Macy’s brand.

What I’m wondering is, why did they even bother with the now-pointless hyphenation strategy? Burdines, a longtime Florida chain, was morphed into Burdines-Macy’s. The other regional stores got the same treatment: Bon-Macy’s, Rich’s-Macy’s, Lazarus-Macy’s and Goldsmith’s-Macy’s. Pretty ugly, all. I’m guessing some sort of deadlock among Federated’s brass resulted in this half-assed solution: Retain the historic equity of the regional brands, but try to wring some magic out of the Macy’s name. Didn’t work, and the whole thing has the appearance now of being a failed marketing experiement.

What was especially dumb about it in Florida was that the state already had a number of Macy’s-branded stores, mainly in the Orlando area. This re-branding turned them into Burdine’s-Macy’s (although maybe only officially — the article implies that most stores never did change their major signage).

The other thing that makes this move seem odd is that, despite announcing the hyphenated names a couple of years ago, I don’t think they really pushed them in the Tampa Bay area until fairly recently. So it’s very much like they only started to trumpet “Burdine’s-Macy’s” before they prepare to ditch it.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 07:37:16 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Florida Livin', Business | Permalink | Feedback

So earlier today, Mikey at Electric Bugaloo lamented the loneliness of the courteous restaurant patron, sparking a somewhat wider discussion of rudeness in general.

As of this writing, my chime-in was the only one of the wise-ass variety. Hey, I thought it was funny. For the record, I’m among the apparent minority that says “please” and “thank you” while being served. I don’t ever recall being in a situation where my dining partners would ridicule me for that; that could be because I’ve known a good number of people who used to wait tables themselves.

But I found Cheeky Prof’s response to be curious:

I’m so tired of things like holding the door for someone and they ignore me so now I loudly say, “You’re welcome!” Sure, it’s juvenile, but it makes me feel better. I would never not say thank you! When did it become “wrong” to be polite?

“Sure, it’s juvenile, but it makes me feel better.” So, I guess the appropriate response to implicit rudeness is overt counter-rudeness? And not only that, but the intent is nothing more than self-satisfaction. Okay, then.

I don’t mean to pick on Cheeky Prof directly; no one’s obligated to politely educate boors. But acting like a boor in response doesn’t help, and when you come down to it, it just perpetuates a culture of rudeness. The better option would be to just ignore it.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 07:16:36 PM
Category: Bloggin', Society | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Monday, September 13, 2021

Is it soda? Is it pop? Is it Coke, even?

Far more demographic information than you’d ever want on the subject. Of course, despite the statistical jargon and academic allusions, the site collects its data via highly unscientific methods, so take it all with a heavy dash of salt.

Not to mention that the conclusion they come to is dead wrong: It’s soda, hands down. “Pop” is an idiotic Midwestern concept, and “Coke” for anything with bubbles in it is too provincial to take seriously.

(Via Follow Me Here…)

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/13/2004 10:30:07 PM
Category: Food, Society | Permalink | Feedback (6)

With the overload on treacherous weather in Florida over the past few weeks, some may have noticed the conspicuous lack of comment here on the latest hurricane du jour. That absence will continue, at least for a couple more days.

But just as you can’t escape the weather itself, it’s hard to avoid talk about the weather. So it was for me wth this story about contract meteorological services, for when the Weather Channel and Doppler-enhanced newscasts just aren’t sufficient.

Why pay a few hundred bucks a month for a weather report, when you can just flick on the TV or radio? Aside from personalized service, you get a possibly more accurate forecast:

But after 30 years of predicting weather, [Continental Weather Corp. owner Alan] Archer’s clients think his accuracy is pretty good. Bob Elek, a spokesman for Verizon, recalled sitting in his company’s headquarters in Tampa last month, watching TV forecasts that showed Hurricane Charley headed straight toward the Tampa Bay area.

That prediction conflicted with Archer, who had told them two days earlier that Charley would make landfall farther south.

“Alan would be the first one to tell you these things are very unpredictable,” said Elek, whose company has landline phone service in Polk, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee counties. “But because of his advice, we were not as frantic. And ultimately, he was pretty accurate.”

So my question is, if private weather forecasting is more on-the-mark, why are we hanging on these idiots‘ every word?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/13/2004 09:33:44 PM
Category: Weather | Permalink | Feedback

Inspired by The Paper (a mediocre flick, in my opinion), Connecticut-based Blue Chip Films is trying to sell some network on “Deadline @ The Philadelphia Inquirer”, a reality show set in the Philly newspaper’s newsroom.

At first blush, I can see why this would be such a hard sell: Who wants to watch a bunch of desk jockeys? But thinking more about it, a newsroom is a great potential setting for action, drama, conflict, and foibles on display. Plenty of yelling and tension, which is essential for reality TV. Not to mention the possibility of filming reporters as they work their beats.

Plus, with as little regard that the general public holds journalists these days, the maxim of loving what you hate plays out best on TV. Only a behind-the-scenes look inside a law office would be more popular; I seem to recall something like that being proposed, but I don’t know if confidentiality considerations allowed that to get off the ground.

Of course, “potential” is the key word. There are slow news days, and even those are filled with their own brand of excitement when you’re on the desk. I’m not sure how well that excitement would translate to the average viewer. But that’s what video-editing is for, and over the course of a couple of months, there’ll be plenty of deadline-busting nights. A prime candidate: Election night, with this November’s Presidential contest a perfect plotline. Especially if it’s another too-tight-to-call race.

From my own experience, you can’t beat the sports desk for nightly excitement, particularly in the fall. On a typical night, you’ve got college games, pro games, high school scores being called in, late results to wait on, photos to coordinate… It’s a splendid adrenaline rush to have to get everything in shape within a couple of hours.

Anyway, I’m expecting to see something about this from Steve Outing at Poynter, since the story also ran in his main gig, Editor & Publisher.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/13/2004 09:16:02 PM
Category: Reality Check, Publishing | Permalink | Feedback

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages! Behold the pocket bike, that latest roadway scourge from those darn kids.

I guess looking like a circus act for around $400 is a better value than dropping three grand on a Segway.

I heard about these little pocket-rockets a few months back, and actually saw one in action here in St. Pete, on 94th Avenue and MLK Street North. In fact, it looked exactly like the one pictured above. Maybe it was the same guy?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/13/2004 08:26:00 PM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback

A couple of developments over the past week had eerie parallels, in terms of keeping one’s memory alive:

- Aaron Hawkins of Uppity-Negro.com died. Judging from the feedback (over a hundred comments and trackbacks as of this writing), he’ll be sorely missed by many a blog-reader.

- Will Allen’s “Swords for Hire” is getting accolades as one of the year’s best new fantasy novels — a quarter-century after the first-time author’s death.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/13/2004 08:06:28 PM
Category: Bloggin', Publishing | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The business of America is business, as Calvin Coolidge (never) said. So it shouldn’t be surprising to find even non-business institutions in American society adopting businessworld approaches in their operations. At the top of the list: Branding and marketing, the only means to win the hearts and minds of a consumer-oriented public.

That’s the focus of “Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc. and Museumworld”, by James Twitchell. Twitchell looks at how churches, colleges/universities and museums have aimed marketing techniques toward upper-class demographics, creating highly-competitive markets.

Mark Albright writes a good review of the book, with an excellent overview of how all three institutions can credibly sell themselves as though they were burger joints or shampoos:

That’s exactly the conundrum faced by the three institutions Twitchell dissects. Church membership has been flat at 40 percent of the population for decades. Yet while the average congregation dwindled to 75 people, market share shifted dramatically. Today 12 percent of all churches have grown to claim more than half of the entire flock. Public higher education’s insatiable appetite for expanded enrollment has collided with government’s unwillingness to pay for it. To advance their cultural and economic appeal, American cities embarked on a museum-building binge that outpaced the quality of their collections. So to break even, high-minded cultural organizations take marketing advice from P.T. Barnum to draw a crowd.

In addition to a parade of $15-a-head blockbuster exhibitions, museums have made the gift shop an integral part of the experience. Exhibit space in existing museums grew 3 percent in the 1990s while gift store space grew 28 percent. Some museums even operate retail stores in malls that have the flimsiest link to their mission.

Needless to say, the choice to sell a brand comes with baggage beyond commercialism. Branding is about giving people what they think they want. So mass market techniques can mean democratization. The customer is in charge, so the elites must be crafty to maintain an upper hand.

It means high-minded academics, art snobs and rigid church hierarchies must loosen their grip to stay in the game.

Brand extension efforts readily welcome imitation, which creates a suddenly cutthroat atmosphere. That’s why colleges send recruiting officers by the dozens to target schools and merchandise the hell out of their sports mascots, and why the Mormons examine diaper-sales numbers to know which neighborhoods to target for young-family converts. Once you start actively selling yourself to a mass market, it’s hard to stop.

Some more good stuff on the marketing of higher academics:

The university development office has become as hands-off sacred as the athletic program in advancing the school brand. Research grants are seen as cash cows that can lead to future royalty payments. The Holy Grail: a decent write-up in the U.S. News and World Report ratings. So wooing top-rated high school students with amenities like rock climbing walls, travel discount clubs and free bike repairs has taken priority over teaching and what happens in the classroom in a time of feel-good grade inflation.

And on churches:

Discussing religion from a marketing perspective offers a way to avoid an emotional debate about beliefs. However, promoters of faith-based solutions to social problems may object to such congregation-building draws as day care, single parenting classes and 12-step self-help programs being described as marketing gimmicks.

But that is how the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago grew to 23,000 members. Its leaders do research, then tailor each part of their offering to the needs of the suburban middle class. They target men (who shy away from being religious in public) as the key to leading the entire family to church. Soft-sell pastor’s messages (not sermons) cover coping skills for long commutes, job stress and single parenting. The spoken word is available on tape or DVD at the door. Members’ social needs are addressed through sponsorship of bowling leagues, car repair clinics and a motorcycle club. The parking lot is Disney World efficient, the auditorium has plush stadium seating and a sound system worthy of Muvico. The sprawling campus is an entertainment center/mall complete with a food court, bookstore and Christian rock CD and video shop. Starbucks, it seems, lost its lease because rival Seattle’s Best Coffee offered a better deal.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/12/2021 10:35:27 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business | Permalink | Feedback

Somewhat surprisingly, downtown St. Pete’s Ovo Cafe shut down last week.

I seem to remember strolling past the Ovo last week — on the way to another restaurant further down Central Avenue. Which, I guess, says it all.

The Ovo was indeed a bright spot in downtown for a long while. It was the only refined-looking place for blocks. That said, it was probably a bit out of place. The last time I ate there was for a power lunch several months ago, and I noticed how empty it was. I can’t recall the last time I saw it even half-full, even on a Friday or Saturday night. You can run on fumes for only so long.

I guess I knew the Ovo location in Ybor had shut down a while back, but I can’t say I remember where it used to be on 7th Avenue. The Ybor spot predated the St. Pete, and probably the Sarasota one as well. Now they’re all gone.

It’s funny how eateries that you assume are local institutions manage to disappear so suddenly. I figured Ovo would be around for several more years.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/12/2021 10:03:51 PM
Category: Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (5)

They’re sending jobs overseas, so why not outsource online ad consumption as well?

A growing number of housewives, college graduates, and even working professionals across metropolitan cities are rushing to click paid Internet ads to make $100 to $200 (up to Rs 9,000) per month…

Traffic to click overseas Internet ads — from home loans to insurance — is spreading fast in India. “I have no interest in what appears when clicking an ad. I care only whether to pause 60 seconds or 90 seconds, as money is credited if you stay online for a fixed time,” says another user.

Here’s how it works: online advertisers in developed markets agree to pay hosting website each time an ad is clicked. With performance-based deals becoming dominant on the Internet, intermediaries have sprung up to “do the needful”. Why, type in ‘earn rupees clicking ads’ in Google — you get 25,000 results.

Keep this in mind the next time you see some report crowing about the “effectiveness” of online advertising, based on click-thrus. Between this chicanery and the countless number of accidental clickings, I’m thinking the entire online ad business is built upon sand and smoke.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/12/2021 11:12:45 AM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg. | Permalink | Feedback

I know everyone loves that Starbucks commercial featuring one-hit-wonder Survivor. So here it is, in QuickTime format (disclaimer: I wasn’t able to get it to play, on a fairly current version of QuickTime Player for Windows; use at your own risk).

I was skeptical that the band in the commercial was actually the authentic Survivor, but realized that it was indeed likely, if only because they all looked old enough. The consensus among a small sampling of fans confirms that it really is them.

Aside from the kitsch factor, I’d imagine the main reason they’re in it is because they wouldn’t give permission to use the “Eye of the Tiger” melody/parody unless they performed it. I’m sure they’re overlooking the humiliation factor, instead focusing on the springboard possibilities back into the bigtime! Maybe this will put them into prime position to do the soundtrack for the unfortunately green-lighted Rocky VI.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/12/2021 10:46:59 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback (11)

After seeing these celebrity PEZ-heads the other night on “The Graham Norton Effect”, I thought about having a few made for friends, for a unique gift.

But then I saw the price: $105! I think not. Cute is cute, and I’m sure the guy puts a lot of work into crafting those little heads. But it’s not worth a c-note.

On the bright side, this little Flash-operated PEZ dispenser (which looks vaguely like a pre-bearded Al Gore) provides some mild fun for free. I like to left-click in rapid succession, for maximum enjoyment.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/12/2021 10:32:51 AM
Category: Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, September 11, 2021

I mentioned the launch of the St. Pete Times’ new free weekly, tbt*, a couple of days ago. The paper hit the streets yesterday, and the Times has shed more light on what the newborn is all about: In today’s Times and on tbt* itself.

Basically, tbt* (or Tampa Bay Times) is going to recycle the most relevant news and features from the week’s worth of Times’ issues. This is key in keeping production costs down. They might use some additional content, either originally-produced or wire stuff; and they already are running things like alternate comics that would never see space in the Times. But basically, tbt* will be a condensed version of the mothership.

Given that, presentation and format is crucial. I like the grade of paper they’re using (I realize I’m among the minority that notices these things). It’s a slightly more durable newsprint. It’s not only whiter than regular newsprint, which provides a better canvas for what’s printed on it, but it’s also more durable, meaning it can be toted around and stuffed into bags with less likelihood of getting torn apart. That’s important, as you want the thing to be seen as often, and by as many eyeballs, as possible.

In some ways, tbt* is a re-introduction of the traditional Weekend section, which the Times used to publish in Friday’s paper but moved to Thursday years ago. It’s not the same, as tbt* is designed to penetrate a demographic that currently doesn’t read the paper regularly.

Also of note: It looks like tbt* has pretty much taken over the tampabay.com site. It’s a good move, as the Times never seemed to know what exactly to do with it. At one point, I was informed that tampabay.com was going to supplant the Times’ sptimes.com domain; this was when many papers were seeking out online brands that reflected their states/regions. That was never really carried out, and since then tampabay.com was just a dumping ground for the main newspaper site’s links — really, a prototype for tbt*.

I’ll be really interested to see how it does. First thing to do is to expand the fairly small distribution area/channels.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/11/2021 08:03:40 PM
Category: Publishing, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (2)

You don’t want to incur the wrath of the Shaq Diesel, baby. Because he’ll call you out on his next crappy rap number:

On You Not The Fightin’ Type, O’Neal sets out to even scores with several people: [Kobe] Bryant, who he believes got him traded from the Los Angeles Lakers; [Ben] Wallace, whose Pistons defeated the Lakers for this year’s NBA championship; and Skillz, whose rap The Champs is Here celebrated the Detroit victory.

“I heard your little interview and what Ben Wallace said. I ain’t got no response for spider-web head,” O’Neal raps.

“Even with wings you never as fly as me,” he continues. “You remind me of Kobe Bryant trying to be as high as me… but you can’t… even if you get me traded… wherever I’m at, I’m Puffy; you Mase and you’re still hated.”

Fightin’ words. We’ll see if he can back it up on the court versus Bryant and Wallace; as for Skillz, I don’t think he needs to lose any sleep.

Actually, I liked Shaquille’s earlier rap efforts, especially What’s Up, Doc? with Fu-Schnickens, about ten years ago.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/11/2021 06:43:19 PM
Category: Celebrity, Basketball | Permalink | Feedback

As a prelude to this year’s season start (which technically happened with Thursday’s entertainment extravaganza that incidentally included the Colts-Patriots game, and continued with today’s Hurricane Ivan-rescheduled Titans-Dolphins tilt; but come on, we all know it doesn’t really start until Sunday’s slate of games), the NFL took a look back. The league honored the 1964 NFL champion Cleveland Browns by “giving back” the trophy they ended up giving away.

I read the article twice, and still don’t quite understand the rectifying angle. Initially, it’s made to seem that the old Browns suffered some sort of indignity by giving the trophy to the Packers in 1965, and never having gotten it back. But that’s not the way it worked anyway:

Before there was a Super Bowl or a Vince Lombardi Trophy, the NFL gave its champions the Ed Thorp Trophy, an award named after an official who later made footballs for the league.

Like hockey’s Stanley Cup, the Thorp was inscribed with the winner’s name by the league and passed from champion to champion each year. When the Browns won in ‘64, they inherited it from the Chicago Bears, the 1963 titlists.

But when the Browns lost the 1965 NFL championship game to Green Bay, they handed the Thorp over to the Packers, who have kept it to this day in their Hall of Fame.

That’s because after the 1966 season, NFL champions got a new trophy each year. It was named the Lombardi Trophy in 1970 to honor the Green Bay coach.

So the Packers retired the Ed Thorp Trophy; so what? The Lombardi/Super Bowl trophy superseded it. The Browns wouldn’t have a claim to it anyway; they didn’t win in 1966. I don’t see why this whole ceremony was necessary. The ‘63 Bears should be just as deserving of a replica trophy, if this is the notion; hell, every previous Thorp winner is entitled.

Basically, I just wanted to preserve the information on the Ed Thorp Trophy, a bit of NFL history I was unaware of. I especially like the Stanley Cup emulation of carving the winning team’s names into it, and passing the single rendition of it from champ to champ.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/11/2021 04:58:21 PM
Category: Football | Permalink | Feedback

Good God, y’all! Stumblebee points the way to an online repository of relic 1980s TV commercials, all in Windows Media Video format.

All the toy commercials you’d expect, including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Smurfs, and Rainbow Brite, are on here. But there’s also a fair amount of non-children’s products represented, too, including Krazy Glue and The Clapper.

I’ll be busy for a little while…

(Via Very Big Blog)

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/11/2021 03:44:47 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., TV, Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, September 10, 2021

The sparkling Team USA win over Russia in the World Cup the other night inspired Liz to reminisce about a trip to an amusement park with a rollercoaster-shy Russian.

I thought her little story served as an apt analogy for the entire Cold War. And I said so.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/10/2021 09:04:15 PM
Category: Bloggin', Comedy | Permalink | Feedback

Is the bloom off the rose for the Fab Five? “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” is dipping in the ratings, not enough for imminent cancellation but enough to wonder if its days are numbered (and if its popularity wasn’t fad-based to begin with).

I think I lucked out with the first episode of “Queer Eye” I ever saw; I don’t think it’s been matched by any subsequent episode I ever saw. The funniest thing about that episode was the reaction of the boys when they got their first look at their subject’s girlfriend: She was a tacky-trashy borderline skank, decked out in cheap leather, including some gaudy knee-high boots. They all stared at the monitor with mouths agape, aghast that they put forth all their efforts to impress that, and one of them uttered, “I think some hooker in Trenton is looking for her missing streetwalking boots right now.”

That managed to hook me right away. The perfect mixture of cattiness and fashionista.

Alas, I don’t think I’ve seen another gold-medal moment from the show since. It seemed to get old real quick for me. The endless reruns don’t help, either; it seems that on those rare occasions when I’m in the mood to watch it, it winds up being one I’ve already seen, or have seen enough of to know that I don’t want to watch in its entirety.

More than anything, I’ve become more acutely aware of the blatant product placement that’s run rampant since the show hit it big. I’m not quibbling; I know it’s part of the game with a show like this. But when the food guy pushes a banal wine like Yellowtail, that’s only a notch above rotgut, it becomes pretty transparent. Of course, fashion guy Carson takes the cake as the main shill of the group; he’s got zero fashion sense, and is just draping his subjects in the highest bidder. Again, I know the score, but you can’t make it overly obvious.

Can they regain their forward momentum? Here’s a suggestion: Start a rumor that two of them are dating one another. I’d nominate Kyan and Jai. Make it reality, even.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/10/2021 08:53:23 PM
Category: TV | Permalink | Feedback

When Bill Gates made his much-ballyhooed announcement earlier this year about eradicating spam, I was skeptical. My reasons were twofold:

As for the ideas on countering spam, I’m not sure about the basic approach: Restricting email communication only to those addresses already in a person’s address book. Does that mean you can’t just give someone you meet your email address without first adding them to your address book ahead of time? What if a mutual friend/colleague gives your address to someone else? What about information requests, or just public inquiries? Not to mention that viruses get spread by using address book information, so any such email “protection” system that makes messages sent by recognized senders appear “trustworthy” would cause the average person to drop their guard against malicious attachments (typical of Microsoft to think of these things in compartmentalized fashion: “We solved spam, but how could we know it would have increased virus spread tenfold?”).

Basically, I thought the whole approach relied on a clumsy whitelist filter, and so would be doomed from the start. What’s more, it would only make things easier for virus writers (close enough parters with spammers).

It looks like my suspicions were justified: Spammers have already taken advantage of the brand new Send ID feature that MS is pushing, ironically helping junk email evade filters. So it’s making spam more pervasive, not less.

Is it obvious yet that Microsoft is just not organizationally equipped to solve problems like this? You didn’t need a crystal ball to anticipate this sort of misuse. When you approach problem-solving by ignoring big-picture ramifications, naturally you’re not only not going to solve the problem you’re targeting, but you’re also going to exacerbate other problem areas.

If this is the sort of ham-handed approach that Longhorn will be based upon, I think I’ll pass.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/10/2021 08:24:48 PM
Category: Internet | Permalink | Feedback

I was reading about blondelibrarian’s struggles with her lily-white skin, and how she would fare better had she been born a century or two ago. She nails it perfectly by noting that certain physical traits are deemed attractive based upon societal and class distinctions:

Once it was fashionable to have lily white skin because it was a sign of wealth and leisure. During that time it was the working class who had to be (i.e., work) outside and, as a result, ended up with tanned bodies. Obviously, for a person of leisure the thought of having to work outside was highly undesirable. Therefore, any sign that he or she did so (like tanned skin) was also unwelcome. Consequently, fair white skin was an indication that the person did not have to be outside or work.

Fast forward to the last half of 20th century. Suddenly working people had to spend the majority of their time indoors. Everyone* developed white skin per default. People wanted to be outside surfing, gardening, swimming, or a thousand other things that would, unsurprisingly, result in a tan during their hard-earned free-time. This shift to favoring a golden brown tan over lily white skin indicated not only that being outside was a good thing, but also communicated that the person in question had time and money to spend outside enjoying these things. And what better way to prove that you can spend time relaxing on the beach or smelling your well-groomed roses than with a tan?

I concurred by commenting:

Bingo! Class distinction underlies what’s defined as attractive and what’s not. The other example:

The Botticelli ideal of plump women was in vogue during a time when having several extra pounds was a sign that you were (very) well-fed — i.e., rich enough to be well-fed. In the 20th century, the spread of cheap starchy-based diets among lower-income populations meant that the poor tended to become overweight, because they can’t afford to eat right. In reaction, more affluent consumers could afford to indulge in leaner meats and low-cal foods; you literally had to be able to afford being able to starve yourself. Thin became in.

Upshot: The media’s not to blame for the ideal of beauty it presents. It’s only reflecting societal memes.

Discerning what is or isn’t attractive/desirable/beautiful, especially as it concerns women, is always a hot topic. Of late, Dean Esmay recently devoted some thought to it (discovered via Dustbury). Unfortunately, the track taken was the predictable one: That the popular imagery of models and actresses was false, and that “real” women — those too fat, too short, too flawed — should be celebrated.

As noted above, general perceptions don’t work that way. The basic law of supply and demand works for societal trends, too: Those who fit the ideal of perfection (or at least desirability) are always going to be in the minority, and “the rest” are going to be a dime a dozen. Scarcity creates value; that’s natural. If every boy and girl were drop-dead gorgeous, then ergo, nobody would be beautiful.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/10/2021 10:03:14 AM
Category: Media, Society | Permalink | Feedback (4)

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