Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, February 12, 2021

I used to carry heavy disdain for any rap music that originated outside of New York City. Because I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, my childhood coincided with the emergence and development of rap, and the epicenter was undeniably in Harlem and the Bronx. It was wholly a local phenomenon — back then, I was even under the impression that it wasn’t getting any farther than the tri-state area.

Even though I remain a fan of rap music, I have a hard time embracing versions that originate in other parts of the world. West Coast gangsta, Dirty South — they all seem like inferior strains to the New York sound, especially of the oldschool cut-and-scratch.

Yes, I’m a geezer when it comes to urban music. So I guess I’d be a perfect customer for Hush Tours, a tour bus and walking tour outfit that takes you on stops throughout the upper-borough area that were pivotal in shaping the sound that’s come around. Among the tour operators are oldschool legends like Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Caz — a surreal experience.

Of course, having an interest in the history of hip-hop makes me atypical among Americans. A greater appreciation of rap’s roots and classic practitioners can be found beyond these borders:

Artists like Grandmaster Flash tour regularly overseas, where they draw far bigger audiences, and [Hush Tours founder Debra] Harris estimated that 80 percent of Hush Tours’ patrons are “international visitors.” Sure enough, a recent tour included just four Americans, along with tourists from England, France, Germany, Australia and Kenya. In this respect, old-school rappers and D.J.’s have in recent years become similar to jazz musicians, who have long experienced rapturous receptions in Europe and Japan while struggling at home to find respect and decent-paying gigs.

I guess this is reflected in, among other things, British enthusiasm for electro.

What is it about American neglect for certain homegrown creative fields? Comic books, jazz… probably more (can’t think of specifics at the moment). And now rap. I guess a veneer of exoticness, gained by overseas export, helps build appeal in foreign circles.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/12/2021 11:23 PM
Category: History, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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show me the money
Everybody loves a baby panda, as the furor over the recent birth of a cub at Washington’s National Zoo demonstrated.

You’d think the black-and-white critters would be the most coveted free-agent players in the zoo business. But in reality, pandas, being leased items from the People’s Republic of China, cost lots of money to import and maintain, and the return on investment isn’t guaranteed.

Zoos say they can break even on pandas, but only for the first few years.

“Year three is your break-even year,” Mr. Brady said. The Memphis Zoo expects to lose about $300,000 per year on the pandas it leased in 2003. “After that, attendance drops off, and you start losing vast amounts of money. There is a resurgence in attendance when babies are born.”

Because they have had cubs born, the San Diego Zoo and the National Zoo have fared better financially than Zoo Atlanta and the Memphis Zoo, which still have not had luck with their breeding programs.

I wonder if the popular video pandacams can be thrown into the revenue mix, with ads bringing in some money?

The headline for this New York Times article caught my eye: “Eats Shoots, Leaves and Much of Zoos’ Budgets”. It was obviously inspired by Lynne Truss’ “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation”. And here’s the story behind that one:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes toward the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/12/2021 01:19 PM
Category: Business
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Be careful of what you wish for, I suppose.

I’m seeing plenty of snow today, along with the rest of the Northeast. The Nor’easter that came through last night has dumped an average of a foot of snow through the area. It’s on pace to be the second-heaviest snowfall on record.

Does Roomba make a snowblower?

Actually, from my vantage point, this storm’s really not looking all that terrible. Yes, there’s a lot of white stuff coming down. But the wind doesn’t seem too vicious, aside from brief gusts every 15 minutes. And I’m not seeing any damage being done — no power outages or tree damage. It’d be a challenge to drive anywhere today, but as I’m not planning on going anyplace on this Sunday, I don’t see a problem with staying cocooned indoors.

It’s kind of funny. When the storm tracking began Friday night, I detected a certain dread in the air. People headed to the grocery stores for drinking water and other supplies, events were being cancelled… Could it be? It was very reminiscent of the familiar hurricane pre-panic that I’d gotten so sick of in Tampa Bay, except ratcheted down several notches. I guess you can’t escape weather anxiety no matter where you go.

Anyway, nothing to do but ride this one out. Meanwhile, I’ve got a nice view of the continuing accumulation, with a couple of little ponds icing over. Could be worse.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/12/2021 11:44 AM
Category: New Yorkin', Weather
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