Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Monday, February 28, 2021

the dolphins made me cry
In the world of blogging, there is such a thing as being Instalanched.

It’s not as potent as a Glenn Reynolds link-a-long, but now, I’ve discovered another way to juice your blog traffic: A Hootielanch.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been getting beaucoup hits over the past couple of days, thanks to my post on the Darius Rucker-starring Burger King commercial. Last night, it was good for 1,200-odd hits, which, since that topped my previous traffic high, I figured for a very good showing.

That was nothing.

Today’s total came to roughly 3,650, triple yesterday’s take. Boom. That, obviously, is a new record for me — by a loooooong shot.

Who would have figured something so silly would have brought so many visitors? I mean, come on: Hootie? Can that many people be so interested in what Hootie is doing, post-Blowfish?

I’ll take it, for as long as it lasts. The added bandwith is costing me some cash, but what’s money, after all. Maybe I should ask Crispin Porter + Bogusky for some subsidization action — after all, I’m helping to spread their word.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/28/2005 11:51:13 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin'
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pardon e moi!
For this week’s Media Monday joyfulness, I’m going to dip into the “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ store of musical humor. And aren’t you glad that I did?

From the hoser-skewering classic episode featuring The Final Sacrifice experiment, I give you Tom Servo singing his paean to the Great White North (which goes horribly wrong). Please remember, it’s not my intent to fan anti-Canadian sentiment with this offering; but it’s damn funny, nonetheless.

MST3K: “Back In Old Canada” - .mp3, 1.8MB - Time’s up! Check the Media Monday archive for the latest edition.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/28/2005 11:23:38 PM
Category: Media Mondays
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During the Q&A period following Saturday night’s screening of CSA, director Kevin Willmott commented that he wanted his film to get across the idea that the South truly did wind up winning the Civil War, both in his fictional world and in our real one.

What it couldn’t manage militarily, it accomplished politically and socially: For a hundred years after Appomattox, segregation and Jim Crow managed to spread well beyond the borders of the old Confederacy, thus establishing a Southern sensibility to the national character. Even today, the vestiges of those attitudes persist.

Willmott’s argument seems timely, as there are other, varied, indicators of the resurgence of the traditional South of late:

- The growing population base in the Sunbelt is making the region even more of a national power broker:

Today’s regional relations remind some historians of the War of 1812. New Englanders protested against the war, and it took Andrew Jackson to end it at New Orleans with a trouncing of the British by the Louisiana artillery. Witness the last presidential election, which revolved around the president’s decision to invade Iraq and his muscular response to Islamist terrorism. The ideological “red-blue” borders almost perfectly traced the regional sentiments of the mid-19th century, with Ohio to this day in play.

“Why bother about this talk of separateness when you’re arguably in a position - the South is - to dominate the Union as [Confederate unionist] Alexander Stephens envisioned it before the Civil War: the South in a political alliance with the West,” says Jim Langcuster of Alabama, a moderate proponent of Southern heritage.

- Linguistically, the sprawl of the “y’all” expression is a sign of changing perceptions of the South:

“The rise of all these Inland Southern cultural manifestations to national prominence is also due in part to the population shift toward the Sunbelt,” said John G. Fought, an independent linguist and scholar.

During the 20th century, the major Northern dialect groups lost about 20 percent of their national share, he points out, while the Southern and Western dialect groups gained 20 percent. In fact, the South — stretching from Maryland to Texas as defined by the census — now contains over one-third of the nation’s total population. Partly because of the Sunbelt’s population explosion, Fought argues, Inland Southern has become the dominant dialect of the military services (except perhaps the Navy), and of such cultural manifestations as NASCAR and country music.

- Finally, I’m reminded that my own home state of Florida is the site for points of contact between the Northern and Southern identities.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/28/2005 10:57:35 PM
Category: History, Society
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to the idiotmobile!
Yup, I’m convinced: These idiots are ably demonstrating how they’d be great fathers to their kids.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/28/2005 10:05:28 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Society
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The Sesame Street Encyclopedia has pictures and brief bios of all the Muppets on the show, great and small, past and present. Brought to you by the letter “E”, of course.

And of course, such a collection wouldn’t be complete without the one and only Roosevelt Mother#!$%ing Franklin, one of the rare banned Muppets.

It’s hard to conjure up 30-year-old memories of a PBS program, but I think I recall Roosevelt. But I sure don’t remember his mom.

(Via Hooray for Captain Spaulding)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/28/2005 09:04:16 PM
Category: Pop Culture
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Sunday, February 27, 2021

dixie moon
Last night I got to catch CSA: Confederate States of America. It was being screened as part of Eckerd College’s Environmental Film Festival (an odd fit for this flick, but no quibbles here); always good to visit the old alma mater. The EC show was the Florida premiere for the movie, which has signed on Spike Lee and IFC Films ahead of a Summer 2005 nationwide arthouse release.

This is my second viewing of CSA. I first got to see it a couple of years ago, shortly after its Sundance premiere. My brother got his hands on a review tape, and, knowing my enthusiasm for alternate history/reality fiction, sent it on to me. That tape’s video and audio quality was fairly poor; it was watchable, but just barely so. But I liked what I saw, overall, and I was happy to get the chance to see a clean copy, on the big screen, and (presumably) improved from a storytelling aspect.

You can get a synopsis of the plot from the official movie site, but briefly: The movie is presented as a televised “fake documentary” (in the words of director Kevin Willmott) or mockumentary, set in an alternate reality where the South won the Civil War, slavery persists into the present day and is the foundation of American sociopolitical life. A secondary plot revolves around a political scion’s rise to Presidential contention, while carrying a potentially earth-shattering secret.

The highlight of the film is the insertion of fictional commercials into the film (remembering that this is being presented as a televised documentary). These spots are reminiscent of our “real world” commercials, but twisted to show the predominance of racist mindsets in a triumphant Confederacy. I particularly liked the spot for a TV show in this world called “Runaway”, a “Cops”-style production where runaway slave hunts are broadcast for public entertainment (appealing to the same base impulses that makes “Cops” so popular).

There are two ways to take in CSA: As strict historical fiction, and as social satire. On the first count, it probably misses more than it hits. On the second, it’s quite effective (and really, is the basis upon which it will judged).

Like I mentioned, I’m a fan of alternate history. I find it both entertaining and intellectually challenging: I like puzzle posed by divergences in history caused by, for instance, whether or not the Schlieffen Plan would have worked had the Germans adhered to it in 1914. The Civil War has been fertile ground for this fiction subgenre, going back to Winston Churchill’s essay “If Lee had not Won the Battle of Gettysburg”, and before. So I’ve read a lot in this sphere.

My overwhelming preference for these divergence scenarios is plausibility: Once the theory that the historical actor decided to take a left turn instead of the factual right, that all consequent events flow from there in as likely a manner as possible. Thus, in the case of a Southern victory in the Civil War, Virginia-born Woodrow Wilson does not grow up to become President of the United States, but rather more likely becomes President in Richmond of the Confederate States (if he goes into politics at all).

In the interests of presenting CSA’s fictional world as a dark mirror to our reality, Willmott makes a lot of reaches in the development of American and world history in this alternate timeline. The chief one: That a Confederate victory led to a reunited North and South under the Dixie flag. This is probably my least-favorite alternate history outcome, simply because it’s practically impossible (the primary reason the South seceded was to disassociate from the North completely, echoed in Jefferson Davis’ famous proclamation “to be left alone”).

A lot of interesting scenarios are detailed stemming from that, some plausible, some not; but looking at it as an alternate history purist, the faultiness of the foundational premise makes it harder to accept. In my opinion, putting forth a scenario where an independent CSA, composed of the South, building this nightmarish society in competition with a free-(er) United States at its border would have done as good a job, in a less-simplistic manner. Harry Turtledove’s Great War series is a good template for this sort of treatment (not that Turtledove’s series is without its flaws).

Again, if you approach this movie strictly from the angle of alternate-historical likelihood, you’ll be turned off. That would be a shame, because you’d miss out on the broader insights it gives.

Willmott’s strengths shine with the tone of the movie, which demonstrates how eerily parallel a slave-based society is to modern American life. He manages to do this with a healthy dose of humor: The faux commercials are cheesy only because they monkey the advertising messages we see everyday, for what we think are more benign wares. Somewhat more seriously, the development of a Cold War environment in this world, with a latter-day expatriate abolitionist movement based in Canada as the enemy other, is a great way of looking at the roots of sociopolitical dynamics, and how they work independently of intent.

From a technical standpoint, the movie’s flow is not a completely smooth affair: I felt the editing could have used some work, especially in the early going. The story of the Presidential candidate was also something of an awkward placement, and I half-think it might be a stronger film if that part was removed altogether, or at least strongly underplayed. But it’s got its strengths: The mockumentary format engages the audience like nothing else could, and is probably the most streamlined way of presenting the concept (Willmott’s main inspiration was Ken Burns’ “The Civil War”, down to the dueling historian monologues).

I’m not sure how this movie will play in wide release. Audiences can be quite dense and unsophisticated when presented with storylines like this; even an arthouse crowd will likely have trouble wrapping their minds around it. During the question-and-answer session after the screening, one student mentioned how she felt America was ready for a film like this; I had to keep from audibly guffawing.

I managed to shake hands with Willmott on the way out, and got his email address from him. I pitched the notion of interviewing him here; if successful (assuming I haven’t scared him off with this rambling review), I’ll post.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/27/2005 11:42:36 PM
Category: History, Movies, Society
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Edward L. Bernays, the acknowledged father of modern public-relations practice, formulated a theory called “engineering of consent” to explain his craft:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society,” Bernays argued. “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country… In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

Bernays had a special resource for looking into the workings of the mass mindset: His uncle and mentor was Sigmund Freud. Thus we see the earliest intersection of the sciences of psychology and propaganda.

Bernays was definitely on to something by digging into the brain: “Neuromarketing” studies are showing that advertising and marketing efforts interact with braincells in such a way that they actually mold mental processes over time, creating “branded brains”.

Inside the brain of the 54-year-old male volunteer, the sight of a desirable product triggered an involuntary surge of synapses in the motor cerebellum that ordinarily orchestrate the movement of a hand.

Without his mind being aware of it, his brain had started to reach out.

Deconstructing the anatomy of choice, the researchers are also probing the pliable neural circuits of reasoning and problem-solving — the last of the brain’s regions to evolve, the last to mature during childhood, and the most susceptible to outside influences.

They have begun to obtain the first direct glimpses of how marketing can affect the structures of the brain.

It turns out the marketers have always been right: You want their crap, and it’s their job to let you know that you want it. It’s the engineering of consent at the microscopic level.

This all applies not only to the cola wars and blue-light specials, but also to political campaigns:

In a series of unpublished experiments conducted during the recent presidential campaign, UCLA neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni detected intriguing differences in how political brains react. It was the first time brain scanning had been used to study a political question, several experts said.

To 13 volunteers screened for political expertise and party loyalty, Iacoboni showed pictures of Sen. John F. Kerry, President Bush and Ralph Nader while recording their neural activity. He then screened footage for them from Republican and Democratic campaign ads.

Afterward, he recorded how their neural responses changed when they were shown the same faces a second time.

Not surprisingly, Iacoboni found that people watching their favored candidate responded with a surge of activity in the reward circuits of the brain.

Republican die-hards, however, seemed to have a strong positive emotional response to any prominent leader.

But those Republican brain patterns changed when exposed to Bush campaign ads, which stimulated activity in areas involved in more rational deliberation, Iacoboni said.

Shown campaign advertising that touched on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Republicans and Democrats again had different responses.

“The Democrats had a big response in the amygdala — the anxiety threat detector and bell-ringer in the brain,” said UCLA psychiatrist Joshua Freedman, who helped organize the experiment. “Republicans did not have a statistically significant response to that, for whatever reason.”

These findings do seem to jibe with theories about linear thinking, or lack thereof, indicating political inclination. Regardless, red state or blue state, it’s all in the sell job.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/27/2005 05:30:15 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Politics, Science
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big-rock candyin'
I figured things like naked pictures of big-breasted babes were the only sure-fire way to goose blogsite traffic.

What a fool I was. All you need is some musing on Darius Rucker, aka Hootie, doing a fanciful Burger King commercial. The hits are blowin’ up all over around here, and that’s a welcomed thing.

Of course, there may be something to that breast connection.

Anyhow, be sure to check the comments on my previous post for speculation on a “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” lineage, and whether or not Paris Hilton might be spotted in the background.

I’ve watched the commercial a few more times since then, and I like it even more now. There seems to be two versions of it, a long and a short. The longer one has a cameo by Subservient Chicken, further underscoring the Crispin Porter + Bogusky involvement. Plus, the long version clips out the “Come and get it!” closing line by Brooke Burke (although she’s still swinging toward the screen with Tendercrisp sandwich in hand). Pity — it was easily her finest acting performance.

UPDATE: Yup, “Hootie and the BK”’s pimp hand is most strong. Just before midnight Sunday, my hit counter has ticked up close to 1,250 visitors. That shatters my previous one-day record.

This isn’t meant to be bragging, just a record of a noteworthy milestone for me. And, perhaps, something to present to Burger King and/or CP+B, in hopes of getting some nice swag for helping to spread word about the spot. :)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/27/2005 04:25:04 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture
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still for sale
There’s no season this year, and no guarantee that the next one will start on time, but billionaire Henry Samueli is buying into the NHL anyway, picking up the Mighty Ducks from Disney.

Let’s see: Hockey owners claim to be bleeding cash year after year, in the millions — and this guy want to join in. He must be real stupid, huh?

Not that this will change most people’s perceptions. The story will be spun as Disney getting out of failing sport, further proof of the NHL’s falling fortunes, blah blah blah. Not as an arena operator acquiring another securing another booking event in whole and thus maximizing his business.

Samueli said he fully intends to keep the team at the Pond, and that he won’t be changing the name to Los Angeles Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Arte Moreno, who bought the Angels from Disney in 2003, recently caused a stir by changing the team’s name from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Yes, I missed the chance to riff on the one-city-Angels-of-another-city marketing ploy. If the Ducks or any other team (hello, football Giants and Jets?) join in, then I can sit back and marvel.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/27/2005 01:52:12 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz
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Saturday, February 26, 2021

The Academy Awards folks can bank on Chris Rock’s hosting chops all they want. But if the stinko ratings dinged up by this year’s Grammys are a bellweather — and despite the inexact parallels, I think they are — we can prepare to see low, low numbers for this year’s Oscar-fest. Maybe even record lows.

I haven’t watched the Oscars in years upon years. I don’t watch any awards ceremonies — they’re silly. I understand the marketing potential they generate (which is rock-solid, despite most people’s insistence that the number of trophies doesn’t sway them), but I see no need to actually watch the staged showing. If they did it in a private ceremony, it’d have the same impact.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/26/2005 06:31:46 PM
Category: Celebrity, Movies
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Friday, February 25, 2021

Reminder to self: Don’t have a kid.

Because really, I don’t think I can handle the workload. My friend Kirby came over this evening with his little daughter in tow. She proceeded to run me ragged for about three hours, and she wasn’t even running on full speed. Everything from the back-and-forth running to the wild mood swings just drained me.

I was already tired — it’s been a trying week — but still. I can’t imagine having these play sessions every day. And it’s not like it gets any easier as the kid gets older. She’s already a handful-and-a-half at age 2; I can’t imagine what she’ll be like in another 3 years.

Thus, I’m ready to pack it in near midnight on a Friday. I didn’t have anything in particular planned anyway, but it still don’t seem right.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/25/2005 11:38:08 PM
Category: General
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Yes, that was indeed Darius Rucker, of Hootie & The Blowfish fame, donned in a rhinestone cowboy suit for a surreal Burger King Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch commercial.

Angsty Hootie fans might deplore it, but I loved the spot, despite watching it but once. I instantly recognized the jingle as a parody of “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, which is one of my favorite folk songs; I guess that helped endear the commercial to me. The overall cheesiness, and inclusion of various b-list starlets/models, took it the rest of the way.

As usual, Crispin Porter + Bogusky served up this quirky work, continuing a series of work that’s distinguishing BK’s advertising/marketing campaign.

UPDATE: In case the Pingback below isn’t obvious enough, the video clip of this commercial is now available for download.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/25/2005 11:17:04 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture
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Who notices the number of “o”s in Google? Or even Gooooooogle’s AdSense?

Somebody has, and thinks the steadily-decreasing number of donuts in that “Ads by Goooooogle” is a sign. A countdown, if you will, to the much-rumored Google browser offering.

I can’t swear to it, but I think I remember a similar speculation a couple of years ago over the same thing. It turned out to be a countdown to nothing. Google was just having some random fun.

Still, it’s a testament to just how much fannish enthusiasm Google inspires. It’s really remarkable. Personally, I think a lot of Google’s rollouts are overhyped — whoever does their PR must work overtime — but no denying, they get the desired effect. I daresay only Apple gets the same level of devotion.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/25/2005 09:32:25 PM
Category: Internet
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Thursday, February 24, 2021

I never was able to get tickets to this past Tuesday’s engagement at Poynter Institute with New York Times chief Arthur Sulzberger. It’s just as well, as I wound up burning a little midnight oil at the office that night (if you can consider 8PM to be midnight-oil time).

Fortunately, Poynter’s providing a Flash-powered collection of video clips from Sulzberger’s Q&A session. And Robert Trigaux offers a good writeup, with lots of background info.

Check out the roster of NYT-owned Florida newspapers:

In addition to the New York Times, Sulzberger’s company owns the Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune and eight TV stations. And it obviously likes the growth prospects in Florida, since it owns the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Ledger in Lakeland, the Gainesville Sun and the Star-Banner in Ocala. Of its 15 regional newspapers, all but two are in the Southeast.

Notice that the St. Petersburg Times isn’t on that list. Maybe that will kill off the rumors that the St. Pete paper is owned by the Grey Lady — rumors so widespread that the publisher of one cut-rate freebie put his foot in his mouth a couple of weeks ago by making that claim in an editorial.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/24/2005 10:39:59 PM
Category: Media
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Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen” is now playing at Gorilla Theatre in Tampa.

I’m there.

I find this story so compelling that I bought the book of the stage script (which I loved), and watched the PBS movie production (which I found only so-so). I think a small, intimate space like the Gorilla’s stage would be ideal for an intensely character-driven play.

I’m sure most people wouldn’t imagine a years-long interaction between Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Bohr’s wife Margrethe, centering around discussions on quantum physics, to be the stuff of dramatic captivation. Throw in intrigue with the Nazi atomic bomb program and complex interpersonal relationships, though, and you’ve got one of the best-crafted plays I’ve ever had to pleasure to take in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/24/2005 10:12:49 PM
Category: History, Media, Science
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Because pretty much every single person I spoke with today was agog over this story of a 6-foot African rock python appearing in a St. Petersburg toilet, I’m linking to it.

Aside from taking it as a reminder to always leave the lid down — which I do anyway, a combination of growing up with a housepet and feng-shui luck/chi loss-prevention practice — I didn’t find it particularly interesting.

I am, however, waiting for the rampant publicity to inspire some entrepreneur to come out with a special toilet-protection system that guards your exposed ass from the wayward critter that finds its way up the pipes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/24/2005 09:23:19 PM
Category: Florida Livin'
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Are bloggers the new-media equivalents of rappers?

Rap music and blogging are populist, low-cost-of-entry communication forms that reward self-obsessed types who love writing in first person. Maybe that’s why both won so many converts so quickly. If you want to become MC I’m Good at Rapping, all you have to do is rustle up a microphone and a sampler. If you want to blog as AngryVeganCatholicGOPMom, bring a computer, an Internet connection, a working knowledge of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, and a whole lot of spare time.

Although bloggers and rappers are free to write about whatever they damn well please, they mostly talk to each other and about each other. That’s partly because it’s so easy to communicate with your fellow working professionals. If Nas disses you for not having a moustache, it’s easy enough to come right back and tell him you slept with the mother of his child. When Markos from Daily Kos offhandedly admits that he doesn’t read many books, Little Green Footballs steps up to hammer the softball.

Oh, I can sense all the tired “Levin-whistling-past-the-graveyard” rebuttals forming right now, probably in tandem with condemnation of NYT executive editor Bill Keller’s characterization of blogs as “one man circle jerks”.

Never mind that both men are, essentially, right in their assessments: Most bloggers are very much self-involved, and that comes through in their output. Not that there’s any one definition of blogging, but the single-person production aspect of most blogs is what appeals to both bloggers and readers in the first place. No sense in getting huffy because of the messenger (i.e., mainstream media) or the tone.

If this rap theorum holds true, I’m cornering the market on the most-deffest MC handle on the World Wide Wizzie right now: Call me Big Poppin’ Stat-Stat. For, um, shizzle.

I would have crafted some dope rhymin’ for this, but Saint Nate’s a step ahead of me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/24/2005 09:08:45 PM
Category: Bloggin', Comedy, Pop Culture
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We’ve all heard about people getting fired for blogging (even working at Google doesn’t protect you).

Losing a job is small potatoes compared to the dilemma of Alex Crionas. Because he set up a website to help locate a kidney donor for himself, he’s been denied a much-needed transplant by kidney-donor center LifeLink.

I guess LifeLink automatically sees such a website as a front for organ-trafficking activity. And the kicker: Alex wasn’t even blogging on his site. He has, however, set up a blog since then.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/24/2005 08:52:57 PM
Category: Internet, Society
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The near-permanent organizational rift between the worldwide Anglican Church and its American and Canadian branches over homosexuality (the North American side is actually the liberal one, for once) is, I’m sure, of grave importance to those faithful.

Personally, I’m just getting a kick out of the heavy peppering of the term “primate” in the article. Like:

“In the meantime, we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public rites of blessing for same-sex unions and on the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage.”

I’m just picturing a bunch of monkeys, milling about and debating same-sex marriage.

Of course, there’s more than one definition of “primate”:

The term “primate” means senior archbishop or presiding bishop of a province in the Anglican Communion. In some provinces the primate is also called Archbishop and/or Metropolitan, while in others the term Presiding Bishop — or as in Scotland, Primus — is preferred. In some provinces the term is translated to their own language, such as Obispo Primado in the Province of the Southern Cone (South America).

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/24/2005 07:28:54 PM
Category: Society
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Wednesday, February 23, 2021

I’m not sure why this just occurred to me, but:

Could Michael Jackson’s current legal problems be stemming from the hair-on-fire accident he suffered during the filming of a Pepsi commercial 21 years ago?

As far as I can recall, Michael presented a fairly normal (for a celebrity) public face prior to the head-burning. But it seemed that things started going downhill for him shortly thereafter.

Just a thought.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/23/2005 10:24:57 PM
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture
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our sea
The company cafeteria announced a tease to a theme offering scheduled for a couple of weeks hence: “Taste of the Central Mediterranean”.

I’m nothing if not well-read, and I have to say, I’ve never heard of the term “Central Mediterranean”, in gastronomic, historic, cultural or political terms.

Referencing the map above, I’d judge this Central Mediterranean to be, simply, Italy. And so I wondered: Was the cafeteria just going to serve up Italian food, and try to pass it off as something more exotic by tagging it with a new label?

Then I considered that this designation could include the southern portion of the Mediterranean, i.e. Libya and Tunisia. I’m not terribly familiar with North African cuisine, but I’d imagine it would include hummus and couscous. That would be a weird amalgam of dishes: Spaghetti and hummus?

I asked a few people today about what came to mind when I posed the term “Central Mediterranean” to them. To my surprise, they all cited Greece. This might have been because I was the messenger… But I always considered Greece to be Eastern Mediterranean; and indeed, the old geopolitical designator “Near East” used to include Greece and the rest of the Balkans (that’s no longer the case), thus reinforcing the “easternness” of that country.

But actually, referring again to the map, I guess I could see how Greece could be placed into a “central” grouping. I think Italy isn’t considered that way due to the persistence of Cold War thinking: Italy was on the right side of the Iron Curtain, so subconscious political thought would continue to place it more alongside France and Spain than with the other side of the Mediterranean. (Of course Greece was also with the West during the Cold War, but I digress.)

I originally thought using “Central Mediterranean” as a descriptor was a dumb move. But, as I’ve obviously put far too much thought into this, it’s turned out to be an inspired action, because it got my attention like nothing else could have. Now, I’m extremely curious to find out what food they’re going to be serving up to fit into this label (maybe they’ll be especially daring and include some southern French bouillabaisse in the mix). It doesn’t mean I’ll actually eat the stuff, but my interest is certainly piqued.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/23/2005 10:05:47 PM
Category: Food, History
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