Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, November 27, 2021

As I intended, I hit the movie theater this weekend to catch Rent.

I wasn’t particularly impressed. Despite the hype about how infectious the songs were supposed to be, they didn’t stick with me as being very memorable, only two days later. In fact, I found the more pivotal ones, like “Take Me Or Leave Me”, to be pretty weak.

Not only did it fall flat for me as a musical — which isn’t hard to do, as I’m not much for the genre anyway — I don’t think it does well plot-wise, either. I never got much of a feel for the characters, even for Marc, who was supposed to be the emotional center of the story. And as a vehicle for portraying the effects of the AIDS crisis on New Yorkers, it’s trumped by the superior Longtime Companion.

Assuming that the film’s not radically divergent from the play, all this means I’m pretty indifferent to the phenomenon that is Rent. Which, I guess, puts me in the same boat as those who can’t understand how anyone, let alone a generation of twenty-somethings, can identify with it.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/27/2005 11:35:03 PM
Category: Movies | Permalink | Feedback

The WMD ruse and resultant Iraq situation. The Harriet Meirs debacle. Plamegate. None of these hot-button issues seems to have enough oomph to really ignite the fringe movement to impeach George W. Bush.

The problem is the lack of prurient appeal. This is America, after all; you can’t motivate the electorate unless there’s something tabloid-worthy going on (thus challenging the general public’s mock morality, as it applies to pop culture and politics).

So, adhering to the standards set by the last impeachment procedure, the key to getting Dubya on trial — aside from stacking Congress with Demmycrats — is to employ an… oral catalyst:

“Would someone please give him a blowjob already so we can impeach him?”

Something tells me the intern corps in today’s White House provides rather slim pickings for such an endeavor.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/27/2005 05:33:27 PM
Category: Politics | Permalink | Feedback (1)

When is Dumpster-diving not Dumpster-diving? When Greenwich Village bo-hos do it, and couch the practice in an anti-consumerist philosophy dubbed Freeganism.

“We find more food than we could ever possibly eat,” said Adam Weissman. Just 24 hours before the dinner party, he found a hefty stash outside a gourmet supermarket in Manhattan: bags of salad nearing the sell-by date, dozens of sandwiches, boxes of Ritz crackers, some nice looking squash and loaves of still-crisp baguettes.

Although not all freegans are vegans, they all eat for free. Weissman said that with few exceptions, he has not eaten store-bought food — either at home, in a restaurant or as guest of a friend — in more than 10 years.

This is all oddly reminiscent of George Costanza’s antics on a particular “Seinfeld” episode. Do freegans adhere to the “above the rim” rule?

I actually do have a thing about preparing an overabundance of food, during the holidays or any other time. Regardless of how cheap or obtainable food may be, tossing out perfectly edible food just strikes me as pointlessly wasteful. (Stashing said food in the refrigerator for weeks until it becomes inedible, which I’ve done too many times to count, yields the same results; but I digress.) It’s not that much of an effort to plan out a realistic amount of food, instead of going for overkill.

That said, once it’s trashed, it’s trashed. At that point, you’re in bum territory, elaborate justifications aside.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/27/2005 05:17:58 PM
Category: Food, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Predictably, the recent deal between Venezuelan state-owned Citgo and the state of Massachusetts to provide discounted heating oil for the poor is being viewed less as a humanitarian gesture, and more as a politically ulterior maneuver.

Um, duh.

What’s curious is why mainstream U.S. opinion holds onto the fantasy that only perceived “rogue” regimes operate this way. The fact is, Washington — and every other country — dispenses foreign aid toward the same purposes: As an instrument of foreign policy, fulfilling both political and economic aims. Aid is just as much an example of von Clausewitz’s “continuation of state policy with other means” as war is; all these approaches are arrows out of the same quiver.

Whether they’re applied benignly or maliciously is variable, and ultimately, not relevant. National self-interest is the overriding goal; if it feeds and clothes people short-term, that’s the incidental benefit.

I know it’s a somewhat complex concept for the average citizen to grasp. It’s especially confusing when raw numbers are tossed about: A billion to Egypt, another billion to Israel, another billion to a country you never even heard of, etc. The details offer a truer representation: That U.S. foreign aid consists of one-half of one percent of the Federal budget, and that the aid is delivered not in the form of flexible cash/currency, but rather as export credits, spendable only with certain vendors and designed to establish and foster customer relationships. Political considerations factor in as well, but just about always are balanced by economic elements.

An partly-theoretical illustration might help:

The U.S. recently gave Mongolia $11 million in aid to go toward counter-terrorism and democracy-bulding efforts in that country. On the face of this, most Americans assume that Mongolia will get exactly that: 11 million bucks, if not as a check then in some form of currency.

In fact, most (if not all) of that aid package is going to be in the form of export credits, redeemable only with U.S. government contractors. So in the case of counter-terrorism goods and services, it’s reasonable to assume that defense equipment contractors are going to be selling their wares to the Mongolian government under this program. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and the like are going to supply the firearms, surveillance equipment, training programs, etc.

The key is, this creates a situation that extends beyond a one-shot deal. Equipment wears out and requires maintenance, training methods require updates as time goes on. When that happens, Mongolia likely will go back to the original vendor, rather than junk the existing gear and start over with, say, French suppliers. The client relationship that’s established with this initial aid package creates, by design, a market for U.S. companies.

This applies to any flavor of aid: In agricultural assistance, John Deere tractors and Archer Daniels Midland fertilizers establish the market, and spare parts and crop rotations perpetuate the business.

Not to sound overly Marxist, but it’s no surprise: The state functions to help carry out the goals of commerce. To cast aspersions on any country (including the U.S.) for doing so it naive.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/27/2005 01:06:08 PM
Category: Political, Business | Permalink | Feedback

You too can guzzle vast amounts of vodka, just like a real Russian. The key is taking shots instead of sips, along with a steady intake of boiled potatoes, lemon slices, olive oil, and raw eggs.

I think I’d rather just have the hangover…

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/27/2005 10:08:47 AM
Category: Food | Permalink | Feedback (4)