Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, May 14, 2021

If Tokyo’s customary barrage of audio-visual sensory assault isn’t enough for you, “media immersion pods” allow you to consume massive amounts of media for hours on end — alone or in pairs:

According to Mr. Isshow, Japan’s “petit iede,” or little runaways, come for downtime, free lattes and smoothies, and, at some branches, showers. They use the places as trial separations from home — staying a few hours, overnight or a few days, long enough to scare their parents. (A “night pack” allows use of the pod from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. for about $10; some places sell toothbrushes and underwear too.) Periodically the management will remind a customer that the cafe is not a hotel, but above all Bagus respects people’s privacy.

On a recent afternoon, at around 5:30, I visited the Gran Cyber Café in the Shinjuku neighborhood for the first time, to read e-mail and visit a news site or two. Checking in, I was assigned to pod 16-A.

I loved 16-A the instant I saw it. I closed the door, slipped into a low-slung leatherette seat and surveyed the all-you-can-eat tech feast, which includes VHS and DVD players, satellite and regular television on a Toshiba set, PlayStation 2, Lineage II and a Compaq computer loaded with software, all the relevant downloads and hyperspeedy Internet. In the nearby library were thousands of comic books, magazines and novels. On the desk was a menu of oddball snacks, like boiled egg curry and hot sandwich tuna.

The atmosphere is airless and hot, with a permanent cloud of cigarette smoke. Over all the effect is of a low-wattage, low-oxygen casino.

Dude. I’d better never visit Tokyo. Being a hopeless media-overload junkie (example: I’m currently typing this, checking out other websites, watching a hockey game on TV, glancing at both the New York Times and Daily News, and browsing through the iTunes Music Store), I’d probably just touch down at the airport and then make a beeline toward the nearest Bagus Gran Cyber Café.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/14/2006 09:11:59 PM
Category: Media, Tech, Society | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Steve McQueen’s last two movies were The Hunter and Tom Horn. Both were released in 1980, the year of his death.

Now, a quarter-century later, his dream film project may finally make it onto the screen. “Yucatan” is the recently re-discovered action-adventure storyboard outline that McQueen was never able to make happen, but is now making the Hollywood rounds.

McQueen envisioned it as a cross between The Great Escape and Bullitt, but with motorcycles. (Does that sound like a prototypical pitch-session description, or what?)

What [producer Lance Sloane] found when he got the trunks to his office floored him: 1,700 pages of hand-typed material, written by Steve McQueen over a two-year period from 1969 to 1970. It amounted to a proto-PowerPoint presentation for a finished film, in which an archaeologist from the Museum of London enlists a renegade Navy diver, who works for the oil companies and races motorcycles on the “shores of the Mojave,” in a plan to explore the cenotes, caves in the Yucatan jungle that reveal underground lakes. Here, a millennium before, Mayan priests sacrificed virgins covered in gold and precious jewels, a fortune rumored to still adorn their skeletons at the bottom of these sacred wells.

The writing is filled with a reverence for nature and sympathy to the class struggle in Mexico, and there is a motorcycle chase spelled out in illustrated storyboards that McQueen planned as the most elaborate ever committed to film. In William F. Nolan’s biography “McQueen,” the actor describes the film as follows: “Our story will center on a guy who takes his cycle into the Mexican wilds on a personal treasure hunt. Naturally, I’ll play the guy on the cycle.”

There’ll be a posthumous writing credit for the King of Cool, naturally. Maybe even a vintage version of the choppers he used to love riding.

It’ll be interesting to see who assumes his starring role, should this ever get off the ground. Hopefully, Torque didn’t poison the well for future motorcycle-centric feature films.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/14/2006 08:33:25 PM
Category: Movies | Permalink | Feedback

it's a sign!
No, I haven’t opened up a bottling company — nor a greasy spoon diner.

If you lived in the Northeast from the 1950s through the ’80s, you probably came across a regional variety of brews called Costa Sodas, with that simple but distinctive logo. Costa Beverages was based in Newburgh, NY, and kept chugging for decades until shutting down in 1988.

Growing up in Newburgh in the ’70s and ’80s, my parents would often stock up on the Costa bottles of sugarwater. Naturally, I’d get a slight thrill out of going down into the basement and seeing a couple of rows of glass bottles, all festooned with my first name. (It’s not like I’d come across it in too many other commercial products or media.)

I snapped the above picture this morning, in Newburgh on Washington Street. How is it that a 20- or 30-year-old storefront sign is still in view? This sign is located in Newburgh’s ‘hood, where there are plenty of dilapidated buildings and run-down neighborhoods. Fact is, my old hometown, located fifty miles north of Manhattan, has been in a decades-long decline. While there are some nice areas, the inner city has prompted unfavorable comparisons to the South Bronx and other blighted areas. So it’s no surprise that a long-vacant building serves as an artifact to a company that’s been out of business for years.

While I’m not thrilled about seeing the town never-endingly mired, I’m glad I caught sight of this minor piece of nostalgia.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/14/2006 01:29:48 PM
Category: Food, History, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (4)