Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, August 22, 2021

I had a feeling that Comedy Central was showing inordinate number of celebrity roasts. Turns out they’re just following the money, as those roasts pull in “almost guaranteed huge ratings”.

And yeah, I watched the Pamela Anderson one. Like I can resist two hours of boob jokes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/22/2005 10:43pm
Category: Comedy, TV
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Does it seem like you’ve run across more movie ads on your favorite blogs lately? There’s a reason for that: Art-house flicks are opting for blogs as niche ad media, citing a desirable, higher-brow readership as an especially receptive audience.

Among the films going for blog exposure: The Constant Gardener and The Aristocrats.

I like the rationale behind The Aristocrats‘ online campaign:

ThinkFilm’s vice president for marketing, David Fenkel, said: “Some movies just lend themselves to online advertising. ‘The Aristocrats’ is dirty, it’s obscene and it’s unrated, which is sort of like the Internet itself.”

Beyond that, a combination of cost-effectiveness and audience-effectiveness is driving this blog rush:

Web advertisements will not eclipse print and broadcast ads anytime soon. But at a time when blanket ad purchases seem ready to decline in tandem with box office receipts, studios may look more and more to the Internet to find audiences. “It’s the opposite of buying a spread in a newspaper or a slew of 30-second slots on TV,” Mr. Jaffe said. “Studios need to stop trying to reach the most people and focus on reaching the best people.”

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/22/2005 10:32pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Movies
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After watching a couple of similarly-themed movies recently, something occurred to me:

- Brad Pitt, of British heritage, played Achilles in Troy.

- Colin Farrell, an Irishman, played the title role in Alexander.

Now, I realize that we’re all European, after all. Still, taking into consideration the two casting choices above, I can’t help but get a hint of what Paul Mooney feels:

“Hollywood is crazy… First, they had The Mexican with Brad Pitt, then The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. Well, I’ve written a movie, maybe they’ll produce it… It’s called The Last Nigger On Earth, starring Tom Hanks…”

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/22/2005 09:43pm
Category: Movies, Society
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We know East is East, and West is West, and all the rest of it. Now we know why: Researchers at the University of Michigan have determined that external sensory perception is processed differently by European-based and Asian-based cultures.

The key thing in Chinese culture is harmony, [lead researcher Richard] Nisbett said, while in the West the key is finding ways to get things done, paying less attention to others.

And that, he went on, goes back to the ecology and economy of times thousands of years ago.

In ancient China farmers developed a system of irrigated agriculture, Nisbett said. Rice farmers had to get along with each other to share water and make sure no one cheated.

Western attitudes, on the other hand, developed in ancient Greece where there were more people running individual farms, raising grapes and olives, and operating like individual businessmen.

So differences in perception go back at least 2,000 years, he said.

Aristotle, for example, focused on objects. A rock sank in water because it had the property of gravity, wood floated because it had the property of floating. He would not have mentioned the water. The Chinese, though, considered all actions related to the medium in which they occurred, so they understood tides, they understood magnetism, long before the West did.

So fundamental environmental factors shaped how whole civilizations, and their modes of conceptualizing the world, formed. Had water been scarcer in the Mediterranean, or the terrain been more fractured by mountains in China, or if both areas were deserts… I guess we wouldn’t be where we are today — or at least, not in a recognizable way.

Down to the testing:

[Nisbett] illustrated this with a test asking Japanese and Americans to look at pictures of underwater scenes and report what they saw.

The Americans would go straight for the brightest or most rapidly moving object, he said, such as three trout swimming. The Japanese were more likely to say they saw a stream, the water was green, there were rocks on bottom and then mention the fish.

The Japanese gave 60% more information on the background and twice as much about the relationship between background and foreground objects as Americans, he said.

In the latest test, the researchers tracked the eye movement of the Chinese and Americans as they looked at pictures.

The Americans looked at the object in the foreground sooner — a leopard in the jungle for example, and they looked at it longer. The Chinese had more eye movement, especially on the background and back and forth between the main object and the background, he said.

I think this phenomenon is exemplified in the use of negative space in visual media; certainly there’s ample use of it worldwide, but it’s traditionally been a hallmark of Chinese and Japanese artwork.

And just to prove that this is an ingrained cultural-perceptive phenomenon, instead of somehow being genetic:

Reinforcing the belief that the differences are cultural, he said, when Asians raised in North America were studied, they were intermediate between native Asians and European-Americans, and sometimes closer to Americans in the way they viewed scenes.

The study is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where you can get a gander at some of the actual photos and images used in the experiments. Wild stuff.

So does this mean there’s an intractable schism between the world’s two dominant cultural spheres? We’ve encountered it before: During the Japanophobia of the ’80s, there were constant complaints about business negotiations being bogged down over differing interpretations of the word “yes” (Westerners taking it as firm agreement, Easterners intending it merely as a conversation extender). If the two camps can’t see the same thing in the very same picture, where are the points of commonality? If anything, this sets the stage nicely for the expected U.S.-China faceoff this century.

But let’s not forget the rest of Kipling’s poem: “But there is neither East nor West… When two strong men stand face to face.” Maybe all it takes is the proper frame of reference.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/22/2005 09:17pm
Category: Science, Society
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