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Tuesday, May 31, 2021

W. Mark Felt, the former No. 2 guy at the FBI, has revealed himself to be the Watergate’s Deep Throat. A Nixon snub over the directorship of the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover’s death appeared to play a big role in Felt turning snitch.

Take note of this little tidbit about The Throat’s subsequent career path:

Tim Noah: I think you have to remember the sorts of crimes Watergate entailed. Burglaries. Illegal break-ins. Obstruction of justice. That sort of criminality is unusual, or so I would like to believe. Ironically, though, Felt himself was subsequently convicted on charges that he OK’d illegal (warrantless) break-ins into the homes of suspected members of the Weather Underground during the Vietnam War. He was pardoned by Ronald Reagan.

Anyone wanna bet that, had Reagan and other conservatives seriously suspected Felt and Deep Throat were one and the same, he never would have gotten that pardon?

UPDATE, 6/1/05: Predictably, and right on cue, the former Nixon gang confirms my guess:

“If he possessed evidence of wrongdoing, he was honor-bound to take that to a grand jury and secure an indictment, not to selectively leak it to a single news source,” Liddy, now a popular conservative radio talk show host, told CNN television.

Having someone as supremely devoid of honor as Liddy speak of honor-bound duty is so comical, it comes with a built-in punchline.

These chumps would like to paint Felt as an irresponsible whistleblower who should have gone through proper channels to get the situation resolved. They conveniently gloss over the fact that Nixon’s administration was so corrupt that any attempt to “handle it” would have been suppressed, and Watergate would never have come to light. They know as much, since they were all in on it; but it doesn’t hurt to try to whitewash 30 years later.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/31/2005 09:31pm
Category: History, Political
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In Japan, vending machines dispense everything from beer to toilet paper. So it wouldn’t be surprising to find a machine that sells iPod Minis and Shuffles over there, too.

It is somewhat surprising to find such a machine stateside, though. And of all places, I’d never expect to see one at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, rather than, say, in San Francisco or New York.

One commenter on that photo wonders if the machine has an iTunes interface, so you could load up your new toy as soon as you buy it. It would make a lot of sense: Why buy an iPod at an airport, if you can’t get instant gratification by using it during your flight? Naturally, you’d need to charge it up by the same means — no big deal there.

Also, if you are able to buy iTunes content this way, there needs to be a way to transfer the files off the iPod and onto your home hard drive — something currently not possible without hacks.

(Via Whump.com More Like This)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/31/2005 09:04pm
Category: Tech, iPod
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Noticing that your favorite magazines are sporting new looks lately? It’s by design, a combination of more money and increased competition.

At the least, a redesign gives the title’s ad salespeople something new to talk about, both with existing advertisers and those who have passed on the title in the past. In media, as in the consumer world, new often translates to better, even when it isn’t.

In the end, it’s all about seeming to be one step ahead.

“It’s a constant process, but I also think that there is a new awareness that magazine publishers can’t rest on their laurels. They have to stay fresh,” says Peter Kreisky, principal of the Kreisky Media Consultancy of Boston.

Change is a natural impulse; you don’t want to keep the same look for more than a decade, lest your title starts blending into the background. Even if it’s wholly cosmetic, it gives a signal that the cards have been shuffled, and that there’s at least the promise of new meat to go along with the wrapping.

It’s a tip that websites large and small can pick up, too. Visual keys do a lot to keep eyeballs glued to the screen; a fresh coat of pixels can do wonders. The other extreme, of course, is the serial redesigns, where a new template goes up every couple of weeks (or a rotation of skins dominates).

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/31/2005 05:47pm
Category: Publishing
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3d specs optional
Your optically-induced headache of the day, courtesy Fiat Blog!. It’s certainly eye-melting catching.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/31/2005 05:28pm
Category: Bloggin'
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Monday, May 30, 2021

part of a pair
Could this be more darling? Paris Hilton is getting hitched, to a guy named Paris.

I applaud everybody’s favorite celebutant. I hope she’ll stick to this theme for her future husbands, too. My money’s on the next spouse’s name: Amsterdam. (Dark horse: University of Miami quarterback Brock Berlin; it’s a last-name permutation, but on the bright side, it would result in Paris Berlin.)

I know Paris Hilton was named after her parents’ favorite city. Since he’s Greek, I’ll assume her beau was named after Paris of Troy. I wonder if the Hilton hotel empire will now launch a war to rescue their heiress…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/30/2005 10:47pm
Category: Celebrity
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Just caught a TV spot for Ore-Ida frozen French fries. Inexplicably, it included an extensive plug for Heinz ketchup, delivering the message that only the finest of ketchups is worthy of these wonderful fries.

I figured there was a corporate connection. And sure enough, it turns out that H.J. Heinz Company owns the Ore-Ida brand.

It’s smart positioning for each product. Of course, for the minority that despises ketchup — which includes yours truly — it doesn’t persuade. For that matter, I’m not crazy about frozen fried taters, either.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/30/2005 07:15pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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I just lost a $1 bet with a coworker (yes, I’m a-working on Memorial Day) because there’s no listing in the phonebook for a “Joe Mama” in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

However, to my delight, there is a listing for a Yolanda Mama, in Jacksonville. Which I’m comfortable in shortening to Yo Mama.

Oh, to be 20 years younger. Then, I could dial the number, and brazenly ask, “Is Yo Mama there?” I’m pretty sure that would make me the official Insult Master.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/30/2005 01:47pm
Category: Florida Livin'
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When it comes to something as deeply personal as religious worship, you’d think you’d want to do in in your native language, right? Unless you’re Catholic, and in Boston, and the only church in the region that still performs Latin Mass is shutting down.

[Dan] Linnell’s wife introduced him to Holy Trinity in 1996, when they started dating, and he immediately “fell in love” with the Latin Mass, which features Roman Catholic rituals, including Gregorian chants, that date back more than 1,500 years.

“I started crying I was so moved,” the 41-year-old recalled as he entered the church with his three young children after an hourlong drive from Sandwich. “For me, it’s what Catholic worship is. It’s just beautiful, and it edifies the soul.”

Tradition is fine, but wouldn’t it be ideal to understand the holy words coming forth? I’m going to assume that most of the worshippers at this Latin Mass don’t speak Latin at all; and while they probably understand the gist of certain sections of the service, and the overall experience, they couldn’t comprehend the entire service.

But ultimately, that probably enhances the experience by taking it to another place, as parishoner Linnell above suggests. Having the Mass performed in a language you don’t understand gives it an other-worldliness, a mysteriousness, that makes it more spiritual. It allows you to bypass the normal route — comprehension through the brain — and opt for receiving it more on a gut level — i.e., comprehension through the soul. The rhythmic sound of the chanting especially delivers this feeling, encouraging a meditative or even trance-like state.

I have a little comparable insight to this: The Greek Orthodox Church — which, in a lot of ways, is a mirror to the Catholic Church — tends to be even more conservative when it comes to worship rites. The church I went to while growing up had its services in Greek and English, but the bulk of the Greek portion was performed in Medieval Greek, chanting and all. It’s different enough from modern Greek that the congregation couldn’t really understand it word-for-word, but it had the desired effect.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/30/2005 01:32pm
Category: Society
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Sunday, May 29, 2021

frozen over
You’d think New Jersey would be more appreciative of the only major-league team to bring championships to the Garden State. But instead, podunk Assemblyman Craig Stanley, a Baptist deacon, is pushing a bill linking the funding of a new arena for the NHL Devils to a name change for the team, citing Satanic symbolism.

“This is an age where symbolism is very important,” said Stanley, whose resolution to rename the team is to be introduced in the Assembly next month. “With the team coming to a new city, Newark, I thought it was a good time to do it.”

Not that it matters to a zealot like that, but of course, the Devils’ name isn’t derived from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic devil at all:

Legend has it that the Jersey Devil — with bat-like wings, a forked tail and oversized claws — terrorized Pine Barrens dwellers in the 18th-century after being born the 13th child to poor South Jerseyans and morphing into a dinosaur-like beast.

The team’s mascot is no beast, though. It’s a 7-foot-tall, red, cartoonish figure with horns and a goatee.

The NHL’s Devils acquired their name in a 1982 fan contest after a group of New Jersey investors brought the team east from Colorado, said Lamoriello. There is no chance that the name will change anytime soon, he said.

This issues comes up every so often. I seem to recall a move years ago — before the team became a consistent winner, and crowds were especially sparse — to ditch the Devils moniker and redub the team the “New Jersey Gulls”.

The Tampa Bay area has it’s own demon-reminiscent franchise, of course. And just as predictably, the holy rollers came out of the woodwork as soon as the Devil Rays were christened (pun intended) 10 years ago.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/29/2005 09:48pm
Category: Hockey
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So I’m curious: Why is MTV reuniting the cast of The Breakfast Club for the network’s Movie Awards this year?

I can’t imagine MTV is seriously trying to lure viewers who grew up watching that flick two decades ago. That’s not the demographic MTV courts — practically fossils compared to the 12-26 year olds who are their bread and butter. They might as well bring together the cast of The Big Chill, while they’re at it.

Could it be that The Breakfast Club still resonates with today’s teens? I’ve always liked it, but I caught it again recently, and it seems hopelessly dated now (a natural consequence of its hyper-timeliness back in ’85).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/29/2005 08:01pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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As someone who’s wrestled with depression — and lost more than one bout — reading about Dennis Ross’ breakdown, despite seemingly having everything going for him as a high-rolling Tampa Bay powerbroker, brought to me equal parts of empathy and dread.

As Ross demonstrated, depression forces you to become a terrific actor. In order to mask your insecurities, it’s essential that you put forth the outward appearance of stability, if not prosperousness. Ross overachieved because doing any less would have exposed his decay; as a result, his crash came as a complete surprise to even those who thought they knew him intimately.

Similarly, when I fell, I got the same reaction from friends and family: I had done such a great job of hiding my problems that no one even imagined I could do what I did. A deft combination of assurances and withdrawals did the job — until they couldn’t anymore.

The fragility of these balancing acts are apparent:

He had been seeing therapists for 15 years, ever since his son’s suicide. But he could talk intelligently for hours without revealing anything.

He never thought the shrinks could help him. He thought his view of himself as a failure was just objective reality. An overdue notice on his Visa bill might plunge him into despair. “I’m worthless,” he’d say. “I can’t even manage my own affairs.”

Now, he dove into intensive sessions of something called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. It forced him to pay attention to what triggered his black fits, to sever the connection between the late Visa bill and his conclusion that he was worthless.

It doesn’t take much of an event to trigger those thoughts. The “merciless calculus” that disregards all the positives in favor of a single, earth-shattering negative, irrational as it is, is exactly how depression works.

Like anything else, it takes time and work to undo the effects. The trick is staying upright the whole time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/29/2005 04:12pm
Category: Society
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Isaac Newton believed time was absolute, independent of the observer and perpetually forward-moving. Albert Einstein felt time was relative, dependent upon perception and prone to manipulation by other forces.

Now, maverick physicist Peter Lynds proposes the radical alternative: That time doesn’t even really exist, but rather is just an imagined concept.

The thrust of Lynds’ thinking appears to be the inability to conclusively prove that time, as a truly quantifiable force, exists. Since you can’t measure it apart from the effects upon other objects, it’s hard to extract it.

As with most thing physics, much of this is over my head. But it seems to resonate with an observation I made about the nature of time, years ago:

To me, it seems that time is a fundamentally physical, rather than conceptual, phenomenon. Think about it: The only way you can tell time has passed is in the outward, physical signs. You observe wear-and-tear upon people and things, and from that have the indication that time runs. But that’s all there is to it: physical growth and deterioration. The perceptual part — chiefly recollections — resides only in our minds. Without the physical proof, time doesn’t manifest itself to us.

Maybe this is the core of Lynds’ theories. I’m not sure why it would rattle so many cages, because is seems logical to me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/29/2005 03:52pm
Category: Science
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A while back, I noted that the ubiquity of mobile phones and other always-at-hand devices is eliminating the need to memorize phone numbers and other contact information.

The logical consequence of that is the erosion of the average person’s memory skills (maybe).

Freeing up brainspace by neglecting to commit some mundane data to memory is nothing new; it’s an evolving process. I seem to recall some anecdote about Albert Einstein that addresses this:

Einstein was speaking with someone he’d just met, and when the time came to part, the new acquaintance asked for Einstein’s phone number. The world’s biggest genius got up, went for the phone book, and looked up his own home phone number.

The other party was a bit stunned, and asked: “Dr. Einstein, you don’t know your telephone number?”

Einstein replied, “I don’t bother memorizing things I can easily look up.”

The point being, if one of history’s most brilliant minds didn’t think it was worthwhile to commit such things into the memory banks, then why should you?

Looking at it in a larger sense, I think this outsourcing of particular bits of personal data will lead to the strengthening of other mental capabilities. Nature abhors a vacuum, after all; if that section of the brain formerly occupied with massive memory storage is deprived of that task, it’ll just find something else to do. Moving from hunter/gatherer, to agrarian, to industrial societies, the resultant easing of tasks that used to occupy huge chunks of time opened the door to innovations. This could be the next step in that progression.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/29/2005 03:07pm
Category: Science, Tech
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Saturday, May 28, 2021

Despite the wealth of comedic raw material all around us — or, perhaps, because of it — the conventional narrative joke is dead, done in by the Nuclear Age, the Internet, the ascendancy of observational humor and generally shorter attention spans.

It’s not all bad, though:

One paradox about the death of the joke: It may result in more laughs. Joke tellers, after all, are limited by the number of jokes they can memorize, while observational wits never run out of material. And [William and Mary professor] Morreall said that because wits make no promise to be funny, the threshold for getting a laugh is lower for them than for joke tellers, who always battle high expectations.

“Jon Stewart just has to twist his eyebrows a little bit, and people laugh,” he said. “It’s a much easier medium.”

Personally, I relate to this. I’m a pretty funny guy, but it’s just about all based on one-liners, sarcastic quips and observational stuff. I have exactly two narrative jokes committed to memory — that’s it. I used to think I should learn more, just to have them at hand in the right situations. But they feel so artificial, and it’s true: When the more casual offhand style works so well, why bother?

I guess this atmosphere is why “Seinfeld” was (and, really, still is) such a smash success.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/28/2005 06:40pm
Category: Comedy
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a true playa
As attached as most iPod owners are to their devices, they might as well take the next step and anthropomorphize them. Enter iGuy, which gives the music player a distinctly Gumby-like appearance.

Whether or not this was inspired by the iPod Halloween costume, I can’t say.

Like most, I really get a kick out of the iGuy’s “sit-down” position while you dock your iPod.

It’s cute, but not 35 bucks worth of cute. I think if they drop the price to around $20, they could have a huge hit on their hands. I’m not holding my breath — the company pushing this doesn’t seem to be entirely top-shelf; I’m sure they’ll generate a little buzz off this for a couple of months, then fade into the background.

Anyway, all this is moot for me: I have an ancient first-generation iPod, so the iGuy probably won’t fit mine properly.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/28/2005 04:40pm
Category: iPod
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Friday, May 27, 2021

I don’t make note of celebrity deaths here very often. But I had to mention the death of Eddie Albert, because it coincides with today’s release of the remake of The Longest Yard.

Albert, of course, played the crooked Warden Hazen in the Burt Reynolds-helmed original. I’d rather remember him for that role, rather than his work opposite a pig.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/27/2005 08:25pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, TV
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My fellow Eckerd alum Richard (regular readers of this blog know him as “Hunk Oman”) tipped me off to this past Sunday’s commencement address at the old alma mater. It was delivered by none other than Dennis Lehane, Class of 1988.

Lehane is easily EC’s most famous graduate — probably the school’s only famous grad (excluding myself, of course). He’s the author of “Mystic River”, which was adapted into a much-acclaimed movie. Lehane’s often spoken highly of his time on campus, so it’s no surprise that he’d come back to visit.

According to Rich, the commencement remarks got some attending parents hot under the collar, to the point where there was much gesticulating and general huff-and-puffing. I’m guessing these choice passages did the trick:

There is an angry, loud and unfortunately popular contingent in this country that will have you believe empathy and mercy are for cowards. No, callousness and apathy are for cowards; empathy and mercy are the province of the brave. And even though this contingent’s loudest mouths all came from wealth, and the only bootstraps they ever pulled up were made of imported Italian leather, they will have you believe that the future of our country lies in the lack of a helping hand and the striking motion of an angry fist. This contingent has made themselves popular by feeding off our innate need for anger. They offer no solutions with the exception of placing more wealth in the hands of those who don’t need it. (To put it another way, I need another tax break like Brad Pitt needs help with dating.) Meanwhile they assail everything that’s good and intrinsically American and pure in this country - the right to free speech, the right to love whomever you choose, the privilege of helping others less fortunate than you, of educating our children, of ensuring a good life for our elderly, of caring for our sick. They want to privatize education and privatize Medicare and privatize Social Security and privatize you right out of the very things that make this country great. I know another word for “privatize” but I can’t use it because I’m in polite company. Make no mistake about it, these are the same people whose ancestors and ideological compatriots from eighty years ago were against Social Security, workers comp, disability insurance, affordable health care, pensions, the eight hour day, the forty hour week, the weekend, women’s right to vote, blacks’ right to vote, integration, and special benefits for veterans… all the while wrapping themselves in the flag and telling us what America is…

So the next time someone pulls the “libel-by-label” card and trots out tired, stale cliches about “the bleeding hearts,” ask them what they stand for. Not what they stand against. What they stand for. And if all they can come up with is some lame BS about a “family-values” world where the family is white and wealthy and the values are something you decree while driving your Hummer to the golf course, then ask them to please keep driving that Hummer over the Mexican border and out of our country because they, my friends, are un-American, not us. And if you ever think about demanding that someone pull himself up by his bootstraps? Ask yourself if you did. Or did you - maybe - have some help? From your parents? From friends? From this great institution?

I doubt many parentals took the advice on that road trip to Mexico (unless they already had reservations in Cabo). But if such direct language makes them that upset, it probably speaks more clearly to their true nature than anything else can.

Aside from the foregoing, I particularly liked Lehane’s comments on the nature of honor:

Honor isn’t Mother Theresa in Calcutta. That’s sainthood. Honor’s a day-to-to-day thing, a small gut-check. Honor is not doing what’s easy if doing so hurts a single soul. It’s the affirmative answer to one simple question you ask of yourself every day: Did I behave with dignity and respect toward all living things? That is the measure of honor and the measure of a human being.

If you’re cynical, you’ll say, “I wasn’t honorable today because the world was dishonorable toward me and I had to fight back.” Sorry. Wrong answer. The measure of a person lies not in what the world does to him, but rather in how he responds to the world. When someone says, oh-so-jadedly, “The world is thus,” you must reply: “No. Thus, have we made the world.” Put another way, hell is not a pit of fire with horned demons jabbing at you or poor Kenny from South Park. Hell is not, as Sartre said, other people. Hell is you, after you’ve sold off your soul and realized it doesn’t have a twin.

Well crafted. Makes me wish I had met him while we were both campus-dwellers (Lehane graduated the year before I got there as a freshman).

If there really was any unusual amount of discord over these remarks, they weren’t noticable enough to warrant mention in the local paper’s account, which was more focused on the presence of the President of Liberia at the event.

An esteemed novelist and a foreign head of state at little old Eckerd’s graduation party. I don’t think my commencement, a dozen years ago, had that kind of star power.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/27/2005 08:06pm
Category: Celebrity, College Years, Publishing
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Just when you thought it was a-okay to pop as many of those little purple blue pellets* as you wanted, Viagra use is suspected of causing blindness.

I guess your mother was right: Diddling with your dick will indeed make you go blind — whether your use your hand, or a pill.

What is it with the tragi-comic side effects these types of male-targeted drugs cause? In a similar vein, those anti-baldness treatments might work, but by the way, they’ll also make you impotent. Talk about the laughter of the gods! (Do women have to contend with these pharmaceutical ironies?)

*Corrected 5/30/05; shows you how much I know about the penis pill…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/27/2005 02:00pm
Category: Science
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Thursday, May 26, 2021

Free-range filming? Orange is something like that: A proposed 3D animated short film to be made collaboratively and with the use of open source software, chiefly Blender. What’s more, it will be released sans traditional copyright, free for anyone to download, watch and pass on.

So, should Hollywood (or, at least Pixar) start sweating hard?

Well, no. It’ll be impressive if Orange bears real fruit (certainly, the Netherlands Media Art Institute believes in it). But there’s a big chasm between this sort of experiment and producing a feature-length film. It’s not like those multimillion-dollar movie budgets are all bloat: It does take real money, and real resources, to make a real movie. No matter how good or bad Orange turns out, I have a feeling it’ll prove that out.

(Via Digital Musings)

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/26/2005 09:22pm
Category: Movies, Tech
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typical blogger
Feel The Hulk’s pain at his blog (also known as Hulk’s Diary That Is On The Internet).

I wonder how he can type with those gargantuan green fingers? With all the angsty stuff he writes, I can only imagine how overwrought he frequently gets, leading to many a smashed keyboard.

A personal note to Hulk: Notice the nice green decor on this site, big guy. You’re welcome to chill out here anytime. And don’t worry: Other Hulk is nowhere to be found.

(Via Let Me Make My Point(e))

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/26/2005 08:54pm
Category: Bloggin', Comedy, Pop Culture
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You’ve probably seen the above FedEx logo a million times. It’s one of the more familiar corporate markers in the U.S., and probably worldwide.

But have you ever looked really closely at this seemingly simple logo? Look close enough, and you’ll spot the arrow embedded in it. (Hint: Focus on the tail end of it.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/26/2005 08:18pm
Category: Advert./Mktg.
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