Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, September 04, 2021

Are big-time sports just a tool used by The Man to keep you down? That’s part of the argument in David Zirin’s “What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States”.

While Zirin ultimately sees major-pro sports as an accessible forum for substantive social debate (think Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Jackie Robinson), he cites sinister origins and corporatist-elite coopting of the games as having a corrosive effect upon the average person’s social consciousness:

The way that the games have been shaped by profit and patriotism has quite understandably led many people to conclude that sports are little more than a brutal reflection of the savage inequalities of our world. As even Noam Chomsky has written:

“Sports keeps people from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it’s striking to see the intelligence that’s used by ordinary people in sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in-they have the most exotic information and understanding about all kinds of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this…Sports is a major factor in controlling people. Workers have minds; they have to be involved in something and it’s important to make sure they’re involved in things that have absolutely no significance. So professional sports is perfect. It instills total passivity.”

Chomsky correctly highlights how people use sports as a balm to protect themselves from the harsh realities of the world. He is also right that the intelligence and analysis many of us invest in sports far outstrips our dissecting of the broader world. It is truly amazing how we can be moved to fits of fury by a missed call or a blown play, but remain too under-confident to raise our voices in anger when we are laid off, lose our healthcare, or suffer the slings and arrows of everyday life in the United States.

Thus is painted a modern-day version of Imperial Rome’s bread and circuses, with McDonald’s as the new common-man’s “bread”, and sports as the “circuses”.

It’s too bad the thrust of Zirin’s argument is cast in such blatant Marxist structures, because the basic arguments would greatly appeal to a wide audience otherwise. The average American has disdain for major sports for the usual cited reasons: “Too much” money involved, media oversaturation, and all the rest. And most agree that sports serve as a distraction from real-life issues.

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to lay it all on the playing fields, though. By extension, I’d say that all entertainment media — movies, television, books, etc. — are modes of escape for the average psyche. There are probably more reality TV fanatics, poring over countless arcane details over their favorite shows and characters to the neglect of more pertinent issues, than there are sports fans doing likewise. People will take their tonic wherever and however they can — it doesn’t take much force-feeding to do it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/04/2021 04:57pm
Category: Media, Political, Sports
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Now that the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist presents President Bush with a second, concurrent SCOTUS nomination (albiet at an inopportune time, clout-wise), I’ll get to see if my somewhat-crackpot theory about the John Roberts choice pans out. To wit:

The way I saw it, Bush could safely assume he’d have a chance to name more than one new Justice during his second term. Therefore, he could afford to put forth a stealth candidate like Roberts for the first vacancy: Someone who’s a quiet conservative, a strict constructionist (perhaps even in the mold of David Souter), not easy to pin down and nothing like the radical-right standardbearer most expected.

Roberts’ nomination process would be the setting for the broader left-right debate over the usual hot-button issues (abortion, civil rights, etc.). Once that spent itself — and resulted in Roberts becoming a Justice anyway — the path would be cleared for a more solid right-leaning candidate to fill in the expected second Court vacancy. Sensing little stomach on Capitol Hill or among the public for a rehashing of the same issues so recently debated, the second nomination would go even more smoothly than Roberts’, and the end result would be a conservative-majority Court.

If anything, Rehnquist’s death came a little early; ideally, Roberts would already be on the bench by the time the Chief Justice departed. But it’s not much of a derailment. I have a feeling things will run pretty much as I predicted.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/04/2021 04:17pm
Category: Politics
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en vogueI guess Conde Nast left enough trees standing after publishing their behemoth September issues to squeeze out a new offering: Men’s Vogue, aimed at the over-35/over-$100K male left orphaned by the ever-younger-skewing lad mags and their competitors.

Well, I’m close on the over-35 part. Not so much on the over-$100K part. So I’m not sure this mag is for me. Having George Clooney on the inaugural cover doesn’t help, either.

But this is only one part of the Vogue-ing of the newsstand:

The launch follows that of Teen Vogue, with reports that Vogue Living is also in the pipeline.

Is this brand extension, or overextension? One colleague scoffed at the idea that most hetero men would ever touch a magazine with “Vogue” incorporated into the title, citing the decades of strong association with female and fashion targeting. I guess that leaves metrosexuals and gay men as a fallback option…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/04/2021 03:56pm
Category: Publishing
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The dinosaur-bird connection is pretty much an accepted fact in the scientific community. So much so that some are now calling for an overhaul of the popular and educational visual depictions of dinosaurs, from the familiar reptilians to more feathery-avian creatures.

“The way these creatures are depicted can no longer be considered scientifically accurate,” he said. “All the evidence is that they looked more like birds than reptiles. Tyrannosaurs might have resembled giant chicks.”

The latest visualisation suggests that parts of Walking with Dinosaurs, the acclaimed BBC series, cannot be seen as scientifically valid. Similar criticisms might also be levelled at the Hollywood blockbuster Jurassic Park.

And yet, this is going to be a case where the popular image of dinosaurs, established for a century, is going to persist (at least for a couple of generations, until school texts make the more accurate look a given for people growing up). Let’s face it: Giant killer lizards are far more menacing than giant killer chicks. The innaccuracy is going to be just one more disconnect between the scientific and entertainment realms.

Related to this, I wonder if there’s any consideration being given to replacing the name “dinosaur”. After all, the literal Greek root of the word means “monstrous lizard”, and that’s no longer accurate either. Maybe a new name (“monstrous bird”?) can start to be used for scientific discussions, while “dinosaur” becomes consigned to a fantasy creature. That might aid in a popular adoption of this new image.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/04/2021 01:17pm
Category: Pop Culture, Science
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You just haven’t lived until you’ve experienced “You Can Count on Me”, the “Hawaii Five-O” theme song as sung by the late Sammy Davis Jr.:

If you get in trouble
Bring it home to me
Whether I am near you
Or acroooooooss the sea!

I will think of something to do
I’ll be on the lookout for you
And I’ll find you
You can count on me!

I can’t decide which lyrical interpretation of the famed instrumental TV theme I prefer: Davis’, or Don Ho’s tiki-lounge ballad.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/04/2021 11:40am
Category: Pop Culture, TV
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