Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, July 01, 2021

John Cotey needs to lose some weight. And if he has his way, the whole world will be watching. Or, at least, about 330,000 St. Petersburg Times readers.

And yes, he’s going to blog about it. While I love the title of it — The Skinny — I really wish they had used something other than Blogger to manage it. No trackbacks, limited funcationality; should have gone with Typepad, at least.

I know plenty of blogs have been devoted to a weight-loss project (something that some of us don’t need, thanks — and don’t be hatin’). One such project even manifested itself right here, in the comments of a recent post. But having a mass-market media component puts a different spin on it; unlike an anonymous or obscure personal blog, this one really is in the public eye. So the scrutiny is more real. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/01/2021 10:44:31 AM
Category: Bloggin', Publishing, Food | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Last night, I attended one of CreativeTampaBay’s World Cafe Workshops, held locally at The Studio@620. Studio is a couple of blocks away from my office, so personal convenience had as much to do with it as anything else.

The subject du jour was social capital. Specifically, it was the search for social capital, as defined by Harvard University’s Robert Putnam in his book, “Bowling Alone”, in the Tampa Bay area. This session was the last one for the area, with previous ones having been held in Tampa and, more recently, in Clearwater.

CreativeTampaBay looks to attract the area’s dynamic professionals, to make headway against the disconnected commuter mentality that characterizes this region. Basically, the goal is to kickstart a grassroots attitude that fosters organizational participation in various groups and endeavors, which in turn causes people to make connections on personal and professional levels.

After some introductory words from CTB President Peter Kageyama, we broke up into groups of four to brainstorm about what organs already exist in the Tampa Bay area, and how they already bring people from all walks of life together. We later switched up groupings in an effort to cross-germinate ideas. Somehow, I got shanghaied elected as spokesperson for each of my groupings; I guess I was in a chatty mood last night.

It was somewhat thought-provoking. Beyond the initial go-around, I found it was hard to get people to stay focused on the actual questions at hand, like “What can you, personally, do to encourage the development of social capital?” Instead of giving concrete responses, like working at a food bank or whatever, people in my groups tended to meander with broader critiques about macro-social conditions that result in the area’s shortcomings. Which is fine, but is nothing that hadn’t been trod over countless times before, and is really kind of a copout from pledging personal solutions.

But still, we cobbled together a framework of ideas, which CTB will issue forth in a report at some point. And I know a few people wound up doing some networking and, often, reconnecting with people in the room. This workshop brought out a fairly varied group, albiet upper-middle class throughout. Among the notables: A lit professor at USF (who had taught at Eckerd in the early ’90s, when I was attending); the founder and organizer of Saturday Morning Market (who got a nice round of applause for that); and the owner of Wilson’s Book World (who I recognized, but couldn’t place at first; I used to go to his store all the time, but haven’t now for years).

Will anything come of this? My pessimism tells me no. I’m not against this coming together, even for the sake of coming together and meeting new people with likeminded interests. But what comes of it? If the idea is to develop a vanguard of forward-thinking creative types who drive the scene, I’m not sure it’s the right approach. Especially in Florida, people move on, find other interests, get complacent; you can criticize that all you want, but it’s the overriding dynamic. Those who remain true believers get frustrated because no replacements come in to make up for the defections (as might happen in larger cities). And so many things about life here are geared toward measured apartness — suburban-like neighborhoods, sprawled development, etc. — that it’s hard for a catalyst group to buck that tide. CTB’s sentiment is nice, but I’m not convinced it’ll generate anything but chat-clubs that will eventually fizzle.

Anyway, a few other highlights:

- A universally-cited example of a strong social capital source was the large number of festivals held on both sides of the Bay. Taste of Pinellas, PRIDE and dozens of others are always going on during any given weekend. I found out how generally accepted this was when I was talking to a friend later in the night, and unprompted, he mentioned festivals as part of this idea.

- Interestingly, the notion of churches and other centers of worship came up only briefly in most of the brainstorming groups. When you think about what sorts of things bring people together for a common cause, the traditional role of houses of worship should be top-of-mind. I wonder if the venue here, with an undertone of professionalism, didn’t discourage the idea of the spiritual element.

- One woman in one of my groups — Kathleen Jacobs, who works for The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast — saw my nametag and said she knew my brother. Only, it wasn’t my brother. My brother is Bill (or Basil, depending on who he’s talking to), and he lives in New York, and he runs the NewFest film festival. She knows this guy, who lives in Orlando and is no relation (that I know of).

- Another girl in one of my groups, Mary Thurman, is participating in the local chapter of Drinking Liberally, a social-political hybrid organization. I got an invite for Drinking Liberally a while back from Blunted. I haven’t gone; simply haven’t been able to swing it.

- I was pleased as punch that someone (it might have been Kathleen) invoked the old Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing to illustrate a point about local person-to-person connections. I think it struck a chord, because Kageyama referred back to it in his closing remarks.

- I got a couple of calls while in attendance, and I had had the foresight to put my phone on vibrate. Which I regretted, actually, because it deprived the workshop participants from hearing my hipster-cool Jeffersons ringtone.

- Although it’s to be expected, I disliked the grandstanding a couple of people did during their turn on the floor. One guy in particular, who’s a local artist, droned on for far too many minutes about his own art exhibits and such, basically piggybacking a plug for his own stuff into this setting. I really didn’t appreciate it… Just pass out your card and stay on-topic, please.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/01/2021 10:24:40 AM
Category: Florida Livin', Society | Permalink | Feedback (4)