Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Friday, March 17, 2021

I do like me some wordplay, with an especially soft spot for puns. So I’m down with “Word Fugitives: In Pursuit of Wanted Words”, Barbara Wallraff’s compendium of necessitated verbage for a modern age.

Some examples:

Reader Allan Crossman, of Oakland, Calif., asked: “I’m looking for a term that describes the momentary confusion experienced by everyone in the vicinity when a cell phone rings and no one is sure if it is his/hers or not.”

Wallraff say that with ring tones, “you’d think that that would be history even by now. But no, people still experience ‘pandephonium.’” Or is it ringchronicity, ringxiety — or even fauxcellarm?…

“I’d like a word for that feeling that you always arrive after the heyday, the boom, or the free ride. For example, when I started college, the drinking age was raised; when I graduated from law school, the job market disappeared. Now I am trying to buy a house, and prices are soaring. This is more than disappointment. It’s about missing a departure when you’ve never been advised of the schedule.”
- Catherine Mehno, Weehawken, N.J.

More than a few people thinking about this word fugitive make a generational association, and take the matter personally. For instance, Yvonne deReynier, of Seattle, admitted, “It’s a feeling I’m familiar with myself,” and suggested the term GenXasperation. Popular suggestions of the same type include buster and late boomer.

I’m feeling a bout of GenXasperation right about now, actually…

This is veering into too-cutesy territory. Like anything, it’s easy to overload on inside references, to the point where the cleverness cache is exahausted, and/or the inside info is so reliant that too many people miss the meaning. But introduced sparingly into the vernacular wild, it’s cool.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 07:15:40 PM
Category: Publishing, Creative | Permalink | Feedback

I was just watching an old episode of “All in the Family”. As always, I have the closed captioning enabled (I’m not deaf, but I like having text accompaniment, in case I mishear something).

At one point, Archie Bunker is yelling his head off, talking about the “banana oil” he’s being fed. But on the closed captions, that slang term is spelled out as “banana royale”.

I don’t know if the person(s) doing the captions thought Archie was referring to a plant or ice cream. Or maybe they were taking a too-literal definintion of banana oil into account.

Whatever it was, it was weird to read “banana royale” on the screen.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 06:39:08 PM
Category: TV, Comedy, Food | Permalink | Feedback

Katherine Harris is doggedly keeping her floundering U.S. Senate bid alive by injecting $10 million of her own money (inherited from her recently-departed father) into the campaign.

This, despite polls showing her trailing Democratic Senator Bill Nelson by 20 percentage points — basically the same deficit she’s been running against the incumbent this whole time. Not to mention her own party is doing everything it can to replace her with a more viable candidate.

What happens from here is fairly predictable: Harris will lose big to Nelson, and she’ll blame Florida Republicans for undercutting her and the media for sliming her. She’ll still hold onto her Sarasota U.S. House seat for as long as she wants it (see the comments, below) — they love her there, regardless of how incompetent she is — but her role as a major player in the GOP will be finished.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 06:22:18 PM
Category: Politics, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (2)

I couldn’t let the holiday pass without indulging in a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. Small size, but still full of minty-green goodness.

Much like the shamrock motif present in today’s AdSense units, I wish I could get Shamrock Shakes every day of the year. Not to the point where I’d get Sinn Fein about it, though.

Incidentally, this is my fourth (and last) St. Patrick’s post of the day, which is a fourfold increase over last year’s solitary entry. Some years you’re inspired, others not.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 05:54:35 PM
Category: Comedy, Food | Permalink | Feedback

As this year’s 150,000-strong St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts rumbling down 5th Avenue, I’m sitting here watching coverage on Channel 4. It’s too damned cold, and I’m not much for parades anyway, regardless of the occasion.

I can wait until nightfall (when it’ll probably be colder out, but more bearable because I won’t be standing on the street exposed) to celebrate the holiday. In the meantime, I’ll step out for lunch and a couple of errands, along with some work.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 11:06:23 AM
Category: New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (3)

If you’re going to tipple in honor of St. Patrick today — and I know I will — be mindful of which brand of Irish booze you choose. Depending on how oldschool the pub is, a certain whiskey might be pointedly off the menu:

Distilled in County Antrim, in Ireland’s north, Bushmills has been derided by some as “that Protestant whiskey.” As Jameson comes from County Cork, in the heart of the Republic, it’s no surprise that some Catholics refuse to drink anything but.

“I know people that prefer one over the other, just for taste,” says George Clancy, a bartender at Patrick Kavanagh’s on Third Avenue. “But some would ask for Jameson, knowing what it stands for. Sometimes people will tell you why they’re drinking it, because they want to let you know they know what the difference is.”

It’s not as big a deal anymore, especially in terms of business: Until recently, both Jameson and Bushmills had the same corporate parent in Pernod-Ricard (Bushmills was sold to Diageo last summer).

But you never know. At the very least, you might find yourself bellying up to a bar, next to some old guy from Dublin, and get an earful as soon as you ask for a dram of “that Protestant whiskey”.

Or, I suppose, you could avoid the issue altogether and stick to the ubiquitous green beer. (Yuck.)

Personally, I’ve drank far more Jamesons than Bushmills. It’s not a preference, it’s just based on availability — seems like Jamesons is more common in bars. To be fair, I’ll doubledip tonight, where possible.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 10:34:43 AM
Category: Food, History | Permalink | Feedback

It’s St. Patty’s Day. I think today’s Google AdSense themed ads, displaying subtle background images of shamrocks, accents this blog’s green theme quite nicely. Almost makes me want to keep them year-round, regardless of whether or not they’ll boost clickthrus.

And speaking of shamrocks and Saint Patrick, there’s an interesting legend about how he made instructive use of their shape:

The story was first recorded in 1726 in a book about the wild flowers of Ireland written by an English dissenting (protestant) cleric, Dr Caleb Threlkeld, who recorded that

This Plant [white clover] is worn by the People in their Hats upon the 17. Day of March yearly (which is called St. Patrick’s Day.) it being a Current Tradition, that by this Three Leafed Grass, he emblematically set forth to them the Mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Which brings up an interesting point: If the common three-leafed clover symbolizes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then what does the sought-after four-leafed sprout symbolize? And why should such a blatant departure from Christian symbolism be considered lucky? Theologicially speaking, it should be a shunned pagan offshoot.

So, you heard it here first: If you wear a four-leafed shamrock today, you’re probably going to Hell. Who’s lucky now, hmm?

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/17/2006 10:01:34 AM
Category: History | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Thursday, March 16, 2021

I guess I can admit that I dig the beach-blanket bingo stylin’ Old Navy commercial for this Spring’s stripes collection.

But I can’t help feeling somewhat dirty over it.

Still, it’s damned infectious. The video has the typically frenetic Old Navy feel, and the song, “Clap! Shake! Jump!” by Andrea Revel (featuring Behavior) has undeniable rhythm:

Blue, blue, the sky is blue.
The grass is green and your heart is true.
You got more colors than I ever seen.
Pink and yellow and in between.
Let’s clap, clap Daddy-o. Daddy-o!

I still wouldn’t buy a thing there, at The Gap’s bastard corporate cousin. But I’ve got the clip saved to my hard drive.

(Thanks to PromoGuy dot Net for the links and lyrics)

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/16/2006 09:29:33 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., TV | Permalink | Feedback (8)

Given that I’m edging up on my 35th year, and that it already feels like I’ve been here forever, the prospect of medical advances that would push life expectancy to 150 is mindboggling.

And really, not particularly desirable. For all the talk about how the senior demographic is better off, physically and financially, than previous generations, quality of life is still a big issue. In terms of the general environment, how likely is the world to adapt to an abundance of centarians-plus?

Socially, you’d think the youth culture would be supplanted due to sheer numbers; but really, the history of the 20th Century argues just the opposite. As lifespans stretched, younger tastes and sensibilities came to define the zeitgeist. No reason to think that’s going to change.

Maybe I should start enjoying my retirement now.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/16/2006 08:25:46 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Ah, the Danes. When they’re not too busy pissing off all of Muslimdom with cartoons, they find time to illustrate how a stick-shift blowjob can drive home the need for new glasses.

And that’s just the commercials. Can’t imagine what the sitcoms are like.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/16/2006 08:02:23 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy | Permalink | Feedback

In Oregon, Portland’s Wapato Facility took $59 million and two years to build. But now, despite rampant crime and a severe shortage of prison space, the 525-bed jail sits unused thanks to lack of money to staff it.

Actually, if the public money’s not there, perhaps Portland can emulate Oklahoma and start importing other States’ convicts, at a profit. Maybe the contracting fees could subsidize the whole operation.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/16/2006 07:50:07 PM
Category: Politics, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, March 15, 2021

Evolutionary biologist David Haig wonders about the womb:

“Pregnancy is absolutely central to reproduction, and yet pregnancy doesn’t seem to work very well,” he said. “If you think about the heart or the kidney, they’re wonderful bits of engineering that work day in and day out for years and years. But pregnancy is associated with all sorts of medical problems. What’s the difference?”

The difference is that the heart and the kidney belong to a single individual, while pregnancy is a two-person operation. And this operation does not run in perfect harmony. Instead, Dr. Haig argues, a mother and her unborn child engage in an unconscious struggle over the nutrients she will provide it…

A fetus does not sit passively in its mother’s womb and wait to be fed. Its placenta aggressively sprouts blood vessels that invade its mother’s tissues to extract nutrients.

A lot of this, especially the genetic and micro-nutritional details, flies right over my head. But another symptom of mother-fetus competition is somewhat familiar to me:

In a 1993 paper, Dr. Haig first predicted that many complications of pregnancy would turn out to be produced by this conflict. One of the most common complications is pre-eclampsia, in which women experience dangerously high blood pressure late in pregnancy. For decades scientists have puzzled over pre-eclampsia, which occurs in about 6 percent of pregnancies.

Dr. Haig proposed that pre-eclampsia was just an extreme form of a strategy used by all fetuses. The fetuses somehow raised the blood pressure of their mothers so as to drive more blood into the relatively low-pressure placenta. Dr. Haig suggested that pre-eclampsia would be associated with some substance that fetuses injected into their mothers’ bloodstreams. Pre-eclampsia happened when fetuses injected too much of the stuff, perhaps if they were having trouble getting enough nourishment.

I don’t know if it was indeed pre-eclampsia, but I have a friend who experienced dangerously high blood pressure during her one and only pregnancy. It was so serious that she’s likely not going to have another child, mainly because of this health concern.

I guess it’s a sign of the times that, while reading about all this, the culture wars involving evolution and Intelligent Design came to mind. Mainly, I figured IDers would read all sorts conspiratorial cues into a theory that basically presented reproduction as an imperfect biological conflict.

Dr. Haig has enjoyed watching his theory mature and inspire other scientists. But he has also had to cope with a fair amount of hate mail. It comes from across the political spectrum, from abortion opponents to feminists who accuse him of trying to force patriarchy into biology.

“People seem to think, ‘He must have a political agenda,’ ” Dr. Haig said. “But I’m not talking at all about conscious behaviors. I’m just interested in these mechanisms and why they evolved.”

I guess I’m not the only one. In a way, it means the nutjobs have done their jobs.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/15/2006 11:44:05 PM
Category: Science | Permalink | Feedback

swap spotThis Friday, Manhattanites can know the joys of Sake Wasabi Mustard and Sliced Papaya in White Grape Juice. Cult-funky grocery Trader Joe’s is coming to town.

I always think of Joe’s as a California-confined chain, probably because of that “Two-Buck Chuck” wine thing from the past couple of years. Plus, despite a geographic spread throughout 20 States, there’s nary a store in Florida (surprisingly so — I’d think the Sunshine State would be fertile ground for this type of retail environment), and so I wouldn’t have detected the fever. But now, I guess it’s gonna be in my face.

And if the stuff on the shelves isn’t enough to entice New Yorkers, maybe the swingin’ singles scene it fosters elsewhere will take hold and make the spot kitty-corner from Union Square a social hotspot. (Or does that sort of thing happen only in cities where there aren’t bars on every other street?)

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/15/2006 10:47:14 PM
Category: Food, Business, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Schaller Consulting today released its annual New York City Taxicab Fact Book, containing all the facts and figures you could ever want to know about urban livery racket.

Aside from confirming the immigrant image of your average Big Apple hack — 91 percent of drivers are foreign-born, and the Indian subcontinent supplies most of those — the report found an interesting historical metric:

As a result of the fare increase, drivers’ inflation-adjusted cash incomes now exceed the cash incomes of cab drivers in 1929 - for the first time since the Stock Market Crash of that year.

Hmm… Cab drivers raking it in (if you can call $158 per 10-12 hour shift a rake) as the calm before the financial storm? Should we be calling our brokers?

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/15/2006 09:21:27 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

A year ago, screenwriter Robert Harling envisioned a movie adaptation of “Dallas” that would take the Ewings on quite a trip:

“It’s reinventing the Ewing family as if they existed now in 2006 when the movie comes out,” he said. “In this story Bobby and Pam meet, fall in love and get married, J.R. and Sue Ellen are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and we have the patriarch Jock and the matriarch Miss Ellie. These characters are outrageous - one of things I told the studio is I’d like to do ‘Dallas on acid’,” Harling said.

Let me just say: That is how every single television-to-movie remake ought to be done. Pull that ripchord, baby!

And if the proposed casting of John Travolta and Jennifer Lopez as J.R. and Sue Ellen comes off, I’d say the freak-out would be well underway.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/15/2006 08:34:53 PM
Category: TV, Celebrity, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, March 14, 2021

the new style
Wow. The way my day started, I never would have guessed I’d have ended it in such a giddy mood.

And the reason for my giddiness? Today I received my sparkling new 30-gig iPod with video, a few days earlier than the delivery estimate I got from Amazon, where I bought it.

Why did I splurge for this new toy? My trusty old 2nd generation 10-gig iPod was giving out on me. It still played songs and such, but it refused to play with iTunes; it would either freeze up the computer or else not sync up with the program. After a couple of firmware updates, restores and various other tweaks, I concluded that it just wasn’t going to work. I was a bit put off — I had actually gotten the thing repaired not that long ago — but I quickly decided that I should just cut my losses and finally get current with my portable media player.

So I gave the old one to my brother (not sure what he’s going to do with it; he may end up just giving it back to me), and ordered my new one. I went for the cheaper 30-gig one instead of the 60-gig model; I never came close to filling up the 10-gigger, so hard drive wasn’t an issue. But I was looking forward to all the other features, including the color screen, on-the-go playlists, extra games, and of course the video playback. And of course, I had to go with the classic, iconic white version.

I’ve spent about half the day playing it (luckily, it shipped with the battery just about fully charged). It’s going to take some getting used to the design of it; it’s ridiculously streamlined compared to the old model, and just lays differently in my hand. It’s hard to believe something so flat can hold so much stuff. Not that I’m going to max out those 30 gigs any time soon: The 800-odd songs and half-dozen videos I’ve got on there are taking up only 4 gigs.

I’ll definitely be getting a lot of use out of this baby. I am in New York now, after all; having an earbud-tethered iPod on you every walking moment is practically a prerequisite.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:42:43 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Well, up my nose with a rubber hose. “Welcome Back, Kotter”, the show that unleashed John Travolta upon the world, is going to be remade as a movie, with Ice Cube starring as Mr. Kah-tear.

Ice Cube? What in the name of Gabe Kaplan is going on here?

Gabe Kaplan, who played Kotter in the original 1975-79 series, also created the show with partner Alan Sacks and retained the rights. He said that despite heavy interest from studios over the years, they held out on adapting Kotter until the right pitch came along.

“We were skeptical about selling Kotter because making a great movie from a TV show can be challenging,” Kaplan said. “After meeting with the Weinsteins [Harvey and Bob Weinstein run Dimension], we knew they were the right ones to bring this project to the screen.”

I’m not sure there even is a “right team” for something like this. Who are they going to get to play the Sweathogs — the surviving members of NWA?

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I almost wish that, if an old Gabe Kaplan vehicle had to be remade, that Fast Break would have been it instead.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:21:34 PM
Category: TV, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

A couple of days ago, I was watching an old episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. One scene took place on a fictional nighttime talk show. Even though it was made up, I noticed something odd about the way the talk show set was arranged:

The host and his desk were positioned on the left-hand side, while the guest chair was to the right.

This is the opposite of the setup you’ll see on every other latenight talk show host’s digs, past and present. Letterman, Leno, Carson, O’Brien, Kimmel — none of them vary from the standard guests on the left, and host on the right (from the camera/audience perspective, of course; for those on the stage, the positions are reoriented, so that the guest is looking to his/her left and the host to his right).

I’m wondering if there isn’t some sort of TV science behind this template. It could be as simple as institutionalized imitation — Carson or Jack Paar started it, and no one’s ever questioned it. Or, like many other details of television mechanics, someone at some point actually researched this and found that it was a key to success.

A quick Web search didn’t yield anything but others wondering about the same thing. But during my surfing, I was suddenly reminded of Andy Kaufman’s wonderful spoof, “The Andy Kaufman Show”, which included jabs like a preposterously elevated host’s desk to mock the heightening that Carson and Letterman allegedly used/use. I have a feeling the answer lies somewhere in there, if I look hard enough.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:05:43 PM
Category: TV, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback (2)

from l to x
This here blog doesn’t get too many visits from Amazon.com. So when it did today, I took a peek at the referral log.

One thing stood out: The OS running that Amazon computer was Linux. I found that highly unusual. Linux is a rarity among the general public; in corporate environments, it’s practically non-existent (with the exception of behind-the-scenes server functions).

Turns out that Amazon has been transitioning its entire computer system to Linux for the past six years, and has become a case study for the cost-effectiveness of such a move for big companies.

Whatever it takes to ship me my books on time…

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 10:28:30 PM
Category: Bloggin', Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback

rose by any other name
During the OLN broadcast of tonight’s Buffalo-Washington game, the announcers focused briefly on Sabres right wing Mike Grier. They mentioned Grier’s family football heritage: His father, Bobby, is a pro scout for the Houston Texans, and his brother Chris is a college scout for the Miami Dolphins.

The first thing I thought of was, why didn’t they mention NFL great Rosey Grier, who I always thought was Mike Grier’s uncle?

But then, when I did a little digging tonight, I couldn’t find any confirmation for this. None of the Grier bios mention a connection to Rosey/Roosevelt; even if Mike didn’t want to highlight the relation, I’d think it would be standard backgrounder information for football guys Bobby and Chris.

So, I wonder if I’ve been under a false impression all this time. I thought I’d read that Mike was Rosey’s nephew around the time he broke into the NHL; either I’m remembering that wrong, or whatever I was reading was wrong.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 10:09:44 PM
Category: Hockey, Football | Permalink | Feedback

I’m sure Vermont has its share of a criminal element. But it’s hard to imagine that such a seemingly sedate State would have enough of a surplus of convicts to necessitate shipping them out to contracted jailspace in Oklahoma.

Could be worse. They could have gotten sent to India to work in some callcenter.

The only way this would be more fitting would be if their destination were Georgia, due to that State’s penal colony roots.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 07:44:39 PM
Category: Political, Society | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Ever have one of those mornings that just seems to drag?

Of course you have. Odds are, you’re having one right now, or else you wouldn’t be reading this.

For some reason, this morning’s 60-minute span from 10AM to 11AM couldn’t have passed by any slower than it did for me. Now, it’s not even noon yet, and I already feel like I’ve exhausted myself through the entire day.

Perhaps making things worse, I had three mugfuls of tea this morning. I can’t remember the last time I downed that much caffeine in so short a period. It’s giving me a charge, but it’s nervous energy — enough to get me slightly jittery, but not enough to do anything particularly productive. (I suspect the one cup of black currant might have knocked me off-balance.)

I think I need to get a job. (Now I know I’m off-kilter.)

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:51:42 AM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Monday, March 13, 2021

Media companies are looking to buy their way into all the hot online spots, but the acquisition terrain isn’t looking particularly promising, with midsized Web properties unavailable or valued too nebulously to buy up.

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind any and all media M&A sniffers that this here website is perpetually and unashamedly For Sale, for the right price. Make me an offer, yo.

Of course, I might have to build up a bit more of an audience first:

For a Web site to pique the interest of mass-market advertisers, it needs to have at least a million unique visitors a month; to be considered a major takeover candidate, it needs to have five million unique visitors, said Sharon Wienbar, a managing director with BA Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley venture firm that invests in Internet content companies…

[Tribe Networks’ Mark] Pincus noted that to reach a narrowly defined audience, the cost for having an advertisement seen 1,000 times, an advertising industry standard measure, was $20 to $50. An example, he said, would be visitors to a major portal’s finance page.

He said that to reach broader audiences with specific interests — like the people who visit a job search site — ads command $4 to $10 per thousand impressions, a “huge jump” from $1 or $2 just two years ago.

To reach general audiences, like the masses who use Myspace.com on a regular basis, he said the price has jumped to $1 or $2 per thousand impressions, from pennies.

Maybe I should start giving away iPods or something…

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 10:44:53 PM
Category: Internet, Business | Permalink | Feedback

hello, children
Spoofs needling Mormons, Jews and Muslims were okay. But pick on Scientologists, and Chef is outta there.

Normally, I’d reserve judgement on this sort of thing, until things were truly final. But from the rhetoric coming out, I’d say it’s pretty much final:

“This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology,” [“South Park” co-creator Trey] Stone told the Associated Press. “He has no problem — and he’s cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians.”…

Past episodes of South Park have skewered Catholics, Jews and Mormons, among others. However, according to Stone, he and Parker “never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology.

“He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin,” Stone told the Associated Press…

In January 2006, [Isaac] Hayes told the New York Daily News that he loved the “humor in it, the audacity of Matt and Trey.”

“Nobody is exempt from their humor,” he said. “They’re equal-opportunity offenders. Don’t be offended by it. If you take it too seriously, you have problems.”

It seems the silky-voiced crooner may have neglected to take his own advice.

It’s too bad “South Park” currently sucks, as most television shows tend to do so far into their runs. Maybe they can parody themselves over this mess. We can only guess: Are they going to find a new voice for Chef, or else somehow eliminate the character?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 09:28:13 PM
Category: TV, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback (6)

Under Odysseus is a humorous warblog as written by an anonymous soldier from Greek antiquity. Plenty of cameos by Hector, Agamemnon, and the wandering General himself.

No telling if it’s a bit of fun by a history hobbyist, or a stealth marketing piece for 300, the upcoming movie adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel. Then again, there’s already a production blog for the flick…

Aside from the obvious tip of the hat to current Iraq War miliblogs, this reminds me of that specific subset of blogs out there: Faux journals as written by historical figures. I remember years ago, when blogging was just catching on, I read about some blog that was written by Julius Caesar as he chronicled his campaigns in Gaul. I never did find that one. But these types of applications of the blogging format go a long way toward properly eroding the concept of “blog” as a genre.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 06:15:43 PM
Category: Bloggin', Publishing, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

Today’s sale of Knight-Ridder to McClatchy will involve the sale and/or shuttering of 12 of KR’s newspapers. And remember: A deal with McClatchy was the best-case scenario, because the alternative would have been acquisition by private equity vultures who probably would have gutted the company to the barest of bones.

This is a continuation of a decades-long trend, recently accelerated by the mushrooming of online media outlets. As a report from NYU’s Project for Excellence in Journalism illustrates, the irony is that as the news-dissemination landscape grows, the critical newsgathering infrastructure erodes.

The study depicts the media in an interregnum — with the reach of print, radio and television reduced, but the promise of an egalitarian online “citizen journalism” unfulfilled.

“It’s probably glib and even naive to say simply that more platforms equal more choices,” project Director Tom Rosenstiel said. “The content has to come from somewhere, and as older news-gathering media decline, some of the strengths they offer in monitoring the powerful and verifying the facts may be weakening as well.”

Who’s going to fill the void of the dedicated investigative reporter, who actually digs up information that otherwise wouldn’t appear on a website or in a press release? Probably no one. For all the criticism over biased and soft reporting, newspapers tend to be the main originators of original news content, doing the dirty work that supplies other outlets. When newsroom staffs get reduced, the effect is felt through the media landscape.

But there’s always citizen reporting via blogs, right? Wrong:

The study’s review of content across the media found that radio stations put few reporters in the field and Internet bloggers tended to offer opinions rather than new information. The study found original reporting in just 5% of blog postings it reviewed.

No surprise there, even though the number of people who rely on blogs as their prime news source increases. I’ve always said that blogs are valuable in terms of punditry and supplemental information on news items, but weak vehicles for news origination. The echo chamber effect give the illusion that a lot of news is being generated, but its just a lot of opinion, of varying quality, being bandied about endlessly. It’s this quality of the blogosphere that compels PR assaults like Edelman’s recent Wal-Mart rehabilitation campaign to target blogs — they’re easy, unfiltered pickings.

Plenty of bloggers think they can do journalism by gluing themselves to their mouse and monitors for a couple of hours a night, but the fact is, it’s not a hobbyist pursuit. It’s a job, and without enough resources, it’s a near-impossible job to fulfill.

The PEJ study suggests that this is a transitionary phase, that old media’s buckling business model is creating a vacuum that the new media inheritors aren’t able to effectively fill just yet. Presumably, an increasingly logged-in society will create a more monetized online media model that will make possible rigorous newsgathering, fulfilling the role of the fourth estate. Until then?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 11:25:26 AM
Category: Internet, Bloggin', Media | Permalink | Feedback

I was just getting used to seeing North Fork Bank branches on every corner, and now the New York regional bank is being snapped up by Capital One for $14.6 billion.

Coming from that banking colony known as Florida, it’s a familiar pattern: A small community bank builds up some size, and the second it becomes a ghost of a blip asset-wise, a Bank of America or Wachovia swallows it up. I wonder how the acquired banks’ customers feel when that happens; many of them very likely gravitated toward smaller operations specifically because of bad experiences with megabanks.

Then again, Capital One’s move is a complementary one, since their main business is corporate and credit. And Hiberia National Bank, CapOne’s previous toe-dip into retail banking, has retained its brand identity. So at least for the short term, it appears North Fork will keep its name and colors.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 09:58:17 AM
Category: Business, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)

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 (1)

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 (1)

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 (3)

Saturday, March 11, 2021

modern stone-age habit
Long ago sacrificed to the gods of syndication, the Winston Cigarettes opening credits and promo spots that were incorporated into the original network broadcasts of “The Flintstones” are now available for viewing on YouTube, in all their black-and-white glory.

It’s funny to watch Fred and Barney lazing around with a couple of ciggies in their mouths, as well as hearing Fred sing the “Winston tastes good, like a (click-click) cigarette should” jingle. And what’s with the too-large depiction of the product, in relation to the characters? It almost looks like the boys are smoking a couple of Jamaican extra-large special blunts.

Watch the spot while it lasts, as AdLand’s Dabitch thinks corporate lawyers will send cease-and-desist letters soon enough.

I’m amused that this particular submission of the video (there are multiple identical ones) was entitled “Big Tobacco would NEVER try to appeal to kids”. Because that assumption is false. For one thing, such tightly-integrated sponsor branding was routine in television during the ’40s through the ’60s; the practice was just ending by the times “The Flintstones” hit the air. The rest of the faulty thinking: That “The Flintstones” was kids’ programming, which it certainly wasn’t when it was originally broadcast in primetime. It was certainly a family show, but just about everything on the tube was back then. It’s the usual mistaking of animated fare automatically being intended only for children.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/11/2021 05:33:31 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., TV | Permalink | Feedback (6)

If you think the Rolling Stones only went ultracommercial as they eased into old age, think again: This originally-composed “milk-a-licious” Rice Krispies commercial from 1964 show that Mick and the boys were sellouts from the very start.

(Via AdLand)

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/11/2021 02:02:07 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback

There’s a bizarre little TV spot currently running for Milky Way. It involves a guy getting the door shut in his face after a date, him slumping back into car, and reaching into the glove compartment for his comforting Milky Way bar.

When he rips off the top of the wrapper, there’s a miniature woman in place of the chocolate bar. She coos to him, “Why so blue, panda-bear?”

And he dejectedly responds with, “Whatev.”

And for some strange reason, that is what ruins my suspension of disbelief. Not the emergence of a tiny, exotic-looking and -sounding (is that a French accent? Spanish?) hottie from the Milky Way wrapper. Not her declaration that the guy is a “buffet of manliness”. Not his over-the-top goofy reaction to this affirmation, or his subsequent bite of the candy bar.

No, for me, the part that rings untrue is that this schlub, who looks to be in his mid-30s, with a vaguely Gabe Kaplan-sans-afro look, would be hip enough to use the slang “whatev” instead of the standard “whatever”. That’s what loses it for me.

And yet, I still want a Milky Way right now.

UPDATE, 3/17/2006: I’ve caught a couple of instances recently of this commercial running, and the guy is re-dubbed actually saying “whatever” instead of the offending “whatev”. It’s not consistent — the original version with “whatev” is still running, I’d guess more often than not. Maybe I struck a chord with someone at the ad agency, and now they’re experimenting…

UPDATE, 3/28/2006: By popular request, here’s the video.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/11/2021 01:13:18 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food | Permalink | Feedback (35)

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