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

I don’t know about anyone else, but I get a strange sense of juxtaposition reading about the Democrats’ chances for a broad Congressional victory in this election year, and a poli-comic novel about the exhumation (literally) of long-dead American Socialist Upton Sinclair.

Of course, sensing its big chance to seize the center, it’s not at all likely that today’s Democratic Party would blow that by deigning to take in Sinclair as a forefather. Still, an ideological dive for the grave gives me a warm fuzzy.

And incidentally: Is it just me, or does the depiction of Sinclair on the cover of Chris Bachelder’s “U.S.! A Novel” (which I plan to pick up) look for all the world like Harry Connick Jr.? I’d accuse the publisher of movie adaptation pre-marketing, except for the unlikelihood of such a book ever making it onto the screen.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 11:46:53 PM
Category: Publishing, Politics, Comedy | Permalink | Feedback

I already knew that Alan Moore was trashing V for Vendetta, the film adaptation of his graphic novel. So the New York Times lowdown merely filled in some details for me.

Still, it was a worthwhile read, thanks to Moore’s succinct self-portrait:

Today, he resides in the sort of home that every gothic adolescent dreams of, one furnished with a library of rare books, antique gold-adorned wands and a painting of the mystical Enochian tables used by Dr. John Dee, the court astrologer of Queen Elizabeth I. He shuns comic-book conventions, never travels outside England and is a firm believer in magic as a “science of consciousness.” “I am what Harry Potter grew up into,” he said, “and it’s not a pretty sight.”

Not since the theory of the cast of “Calvin and Hobbes” growing up to become Fight Club have I been so chilled by the concept of childhood lost.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 10:50:25 PM
Category: Publishing, Pop Culture, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

alley backDismissed as a dotbomb-cratered dead zone only a couple of years ago, New York’s Silicon Alley tech-business community has seen a rebirth, minus the pie-in-the-sky headiness of the dotcom boom.

In fact, it seems the key to success in Valley 2.0 is in cutting all expenses to the marrow:

But perhaps the biggest change on the Alley has been the shift from a culture of profligacy to one of financial discipline. While first-generation Web entrepreneurs once boasted of mountains of venture capital, massages for staff and Aeron office chairs for all, the current crop of Alley executives can’t let a conversation go by without pointing out how utterly miserly they are.

“I was crazy cheap,” said Dany Levy, the founder and editor in chief of Daily Candy, explaining how she built her business. She said she has long urged employees to print on both sides of a sheet of paper, and that she bought candy for her company’s media kits in bulk from Duane Reade just after Halloween, when it was on sale.

In the SoHo offices of Thrillist.com, a three-man start-up that aims to be a kind of Daily Candy for men, Ben Lerer, 24, one of its founders, said his business plan “is all about saving every possible penny.” He said he and his partner, Adam Rich, 25, pay their sole employee, a writer named David Blend, “beer money,” a claim Mr. Blend disputed.

“Actually it’s half my beer money,” Mr. Blend said.

Hmm. In my ongoing job search, I wouldn’t mind hooking up with one of New York’s techiest. But if they’re going to pay peanuts, I might just as well start up my own gig. Easier said than done, of course.

Here are 18 of the 19 companies marked on the New York Times’ accompanying Googlemap, in more-or-less north-to-south geographic order. I can’t figure out which company is represented by the open-bordered black box at the top; it is somewhat reminiscent of the logo art here at Population Statistic — but as this is less a business and more of a hobby, and nowhere near my actual address, I’ll assume it ain’t me:

- Cool Hunting
- del.icio.us
- Double Agent
- Eyeblaster
- DailyCandy
- Meetup
- Homethinking
- Thrillist
- Huffington Post
- flavorpill
- Nerve.com
- Gawker Media
- Treehugger (who also got a kick out of this map)
- CollegeHumor
- Gothamist
- PubSub
- New York Software Industry Association Incubator

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 06:31:04 PM
Category: Internet, Business, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Personal workspace is now extending into the sensory realm, as more employees are drowning out workplace noise with their iPod earbuds:

About 80% of technical and creative employees — programmers, engineers and graphics designers, for instance — listen to music for more than 20% of their working hours, said Tom Nolle of CIMI Corp., a New Jersey-based research and consulting firm.

“It’s only been within the last 15 months or so that MP3 players have become the main source of workplace music,” Nolle said.

The technology is ushering in new social conventions at such companies as Chicago’s Closerlook Inc., a strategic communications firm where 35 employees work in loft-like spaces.

Wearing ear buds or headphones telegraphs the message ” ‘Unless it’s urgent, please do not disturb,’ ” said David Ormesher, the firm’s founder and chief executive. “It’s almost like you’re in an office and you have a closed door or an open door. There’s new sensibilities around when you can interrupt and when you can’t.”

Obviously, this simply doesn’t work in most vocations. A factory worker, salesperson, or customer service rep can’t deafen him/herself on a consistent basis and still do the job (at least, not for long). So this phenomenon is mostly confined to the classic backroom cubicle rats, who almost never have to deal directly with the customers or be on the phone very much. (I’m guessing these iPod-heads can’t make a habit of missing too many incoming calls.)

To me, this is not the ideal workspace. You’re isolating yourself from your surroundings, and I don’t think it’s really for the purposes of focus. It conveys a preference that no one bug you, and that you’d just as soon not be in the office in the first place.

I’ve used my iPod in the office to provide a workday soundtrack. But I’d never used the earbuds in those instances — I’d hook the iPod to my Mac and play the songs through the computer’s speakers, and at a volume where I wasn’t inflicting my sounds on others (which wasn’t always an issue anyway, on weekends or in my private office). I didn’t mistake my office for my home, which is more or less what’s going on in some offices.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 03:04:52 PM
Category: Tech, Society | Permalink | Feedback

While living in Florida, I appreciated the ability to maintain my tan almost year-round. That didn’t mean I was able to soak up sun every day — aside from genuinely chilly winters, basic work and lifestyle precluded the ability to devote regular time, even over the weekends, to ultraviolet burning. But I was usually able to get enough in to keep myself looking the way I wanted to.

With the move to New York, I’m dreading the inevitable fade. I’m fooling myself into thinking I can hold onto the luster just from incidental sun exposure and such, with my natural Mediterranean complexion retaining the burn. But one look at my pasty-skinned brother, who probably hasn’t seen a beach in years, tells me it’ll be a tough row to hoe.

There’s always the tanning salons. The local outlets, of which there are myriad, really have stepped up their marketing here in the Northeast, in accordance to the end of winter. And if the nascent franchisor consolidation in the tanning industry takes hold, they might bombard my senses to the point that I would actually consider paying for my skin glow for the first time ever.

Many of these new tanning tycoons come from the movie-rental business. They see similarities between their industry and video stores before Blockbuster Inc., which offered better selections at reasonable prices.

“The tanning business is dominated by independents, and many of them are single-store owners. They’re not in good locations. They still use handmade signs in the windows,” says Steven Berkman, a former Blockbuster executive who is now vice president of franchising for Palm Beach Tan Inc. “There’s an opportunity here for a great retail brand, just like the video industry in the ’80s.”…

Other large chains include Planet Beach Tan, based in Marrero, La., with 300 stores; Hollywood Tan of Mt. Laurel, N.J., with about 225; and L.A. Tan of Lincolnwood, Ill., with 140.

The jury’s out on this scheme. The video rental model is probably the right way to approach it; despite the video store’s current wane in the face of Netflix and digital content (both legal and not), the rise of that business was an unqualified success during the ’80s and ’90s. However, you don’t need exclusive distribution pipelines to get your skin colored. Tanning boutiques are like beauty salons and hair stylists — personalized touches count for more than a recognizable brandname.

Aside from that, the corporate names are so freakin’ lame. “Planet Beach Tan”? “Hollywood Tan”? Please. I wouldn’t be caught dead in such a dorkily-named shop. It screams of aspirations to be somewhere it’s not.

Still, if these guys really want to make a go of it, I have a suggestion: Instead of presenting the UV and spray tanning techniques as the client’s little secret, accentuate the artificiality of it. These tanning spas should put little tanning stickers, shaped with the company’s logo, on customer’s skins that will leave intentional tanline-like/tattoo marks. They could be placed somewhere semi-discreet but visible when necessary, like the forearm or shoulder. Instead of this being a stigma, it could be spun as a consumerist mark of pride, much like designer clothing labels (which used to be frowned upon until the advent of logo-ized jeans, shoes, etc. came along). There’d be no more effective calling card for a tanning chain, I think.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 01:08:49 PM
Category: Business, Society | Permalink | Feedback (2)