Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, August 20, 2021

Twenty years ago today, mail carrier Patrick Henry Sherrill killed 14 people and himself in an Edmond, Oklahoma post office, an event that sparked a handful of copycat incidents and gave rise to the term and perception “going postal”.

The media spotlight exaggerated the emphasis on postal workers being particularly susceptible to work-induced hysteria:

In 1998, the Postal Service created an independent commission to assess workplace violence and make postal facilities safe and secure.

The commission found that postal workers were no more likely to resort to workplace violence than workers in other jobs. It found 0.26 workplace homicides per 100,000 postal workers from 1992 to 1998. By comparison the rate was 2.10 per 100,000 for retail workers, 1.66 in public administration, 1.32 for transportation and 0.50 for private delivery services.

“Violence is purely unpredictable. It is a part of our society,” [USPS official Larry] Flener said. “Terms ‘going postal’ and those things have taken on a life that is totally unfair.”

But does that term “going postal” still resonate? It’s been over a decade since the last mailman massacre of note grabbed the national headlines; the public perception of Postal Service employees being dangerously high-strung probably has passed. (I might throw in something here about how email has lessened the crush of work that may have unnerved Post Office employees; but I believe the latest numbers will show the flow of letters and parcels to be higher than ever, so that theory goes out the window.)

I ask because, coincidentally, this term came up for me a few weeks ago. I dropped it on a woman who’s around my age; she gave me a blank look, and I had to explain it to her. The caveat is that she admitted she’s been pretty current events-ignorant since she was a kid. Still, it occurred to me then that the phrase “going postal” might indeed have outlived its relevancy.

Any opinions on this? Do you hear “going postal” much these days?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/20/2006 09:31:58 PM
Category: History, Society, Wordsmithing
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The good news: Snakes on a Plane was No. 1 in this weekend’s box office (counting late Thursday night receipts — without that, it slips to No. 2).

The bad news: It made only $15.3 million, an anemic showing that says the Internet hype didn’t translate into paying customers.

And for a horror film, the $30 million movie performed respectably. But analysts say that the movie’s failure to match its hype may dispel the notion of the Internet as a wellspring of untapped moviegoers. Instead, they say, Snakes’ performance demonstrates that cyberspace is simply another place to put movie ads.

“More people saw Samuel Jackson on David Letterman than read anything about this on the Internet,” says David Poland of moviecitynews.com. “The Internet was never going to make or break this movie.”

Another example of that tricky phenomenon: Objects on the Internet may appear larger than they actually are. The same phenomenon occurred with Howard Dean’s 2004 Presidential campaign. The Web, with its amplified online noise, lulls one into thinking it has more real-world heft than it really does.

In a lot of ways, there’s a distinct disconnect between what catches fire on the Web and what matters to broader pop-cultural sensibilities. Just shows you that not everyone is totally plugged in yet, and thus the Web as a medium is a long way from being truly as mainstream and ubiquitous as television.

Beyond that, this proves out the faulty reasoning behind thinking that Web cache translates to a willingness to fork over cash. Why pay for something that’s freely available from the comfort of home? In a way, Snakes‘ shortfall reminds me of the unexpected flop of The Real Cancun three years ago; the assumption that reality TV audiences would cough up for a slightly more risque edition of the usual crap didn’t hold up. The same has now held true for bits of Internet-disseminated whimsy, which is essentially what Snakes became online.

I’m scratching my head over the decision to bump up the rating from PG-13 to R. The R rating naturally constricts the potential audience pool, and in this case, I’m sure tons of teenagers would have been among the more enthusiastic participants for Snakes. (I realize kids can sneak into R movies with varying degrees of ease, but still, I’m sure it prevented more than a few kids from getting in.) I don’t think it would have added an awful lot to the box-office haul, but even a couple million more would have been welcomed. It obviously wasn’t worth it to add a few extra minutes of risque nudity and curse words, since that extra gratuitiousness was the result of Internet buzz that didn’t deliver the expected ticket sales.

In any case, tanking in the theaters doesn’t mean Snakes will ultimately wind up a failure. The DVD market for this piece of cheese should be more than respectable, providing an avenue for redemption.

Still, if nothing else, Chuck Klosterman’s mind is now at ease. As is mine, actually.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/20/2006 08:54:07 PM
Category: Internet, Movies, Pop Culture
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No big surprise here: Dennis Publishing Inc., publisher of Maxim Magazine, is suing Tampa-based Maxxim Men’s Club and Steakhouse for basically swiping their brandname.

The complaint also says that the big block letters in Maxxim’s matchbooks and other promotional materials “are intended to mimic the appearance of Maxim Magazine covers.” In radio advertisements, “the name Maxxim sounds exactly like plaintiff’s Maxim mark,” the demand says.

The Maxim trademark and DPI’s reputation have been tarnished by the defendants’ operation “as a ’strip club’ and by having female employees perform lewd and sexually explicit dances in ostensibly private areas of the club,” the demand says.

DPI found out about the men’s club in Tampa when a confused consumer brought it up in late July 2006. “He thought there was some type of affiliation between Maxim and the men’s club,” said John J. Lynch, an attorney with Jacobs deBrauwere LLP in New York.

In addition to that “confused consumer”, my traffic logs picked up a couple of Web visits from Dennis Publishing’s office to my predictive post on this situation. So, again, no surprise. And since those snarky comments on that post all came from the same source — the Tampa hucksters who run the cut-rate girly joint — I’m having a pretty good chuckle over this.

I’ll never get over how people think that even borderline trademark infringement would actually go unnoticed. In this case, it’s not even borderline — it’s blatant. The intent was clearly to fool people into thinking that Maxim had brought its show to Tampa, and the lame alibi would have been, “but we use an extra ‘x’, see?”. It’s an open-and-shut case.

UPDATE, 8/21/2006: I really need to ramp up my snark-o-meter, especially when presented with such a juicy topic as (faux) skin mag vs. (faux) skin joint. Then I could serve up as absurd a take on this as Gawker did.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/20/2006 01:15:19 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Publishing
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