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Saturday, June 30, 2021

I’m curious:

Is it a coincidence that the real-life catering company used during production of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (as listed in the film’s closing credits) is called Edible Planet?

They’ve done other movie work, but I’d like to think they were just waiting for this moment to come along, given the Galactus planet-devouring connection. Wild.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/30/2007 01:00:40 PM
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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They were teased nearly a year ago, and now they’re here: T-Mobile’s HotSpot @Home wireless plan offers customers new Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) phones that can alternate between T-Mobile’s cellular network or a home wi-fi Internet connection.

This isn’t like having a cell phone that also happens to work as a cordless phone. You have the same number, whether you’re on Wi-Fi or cellular. And in an engineering feat, the new phones will hand over calls that are already in progress from Wi-Fi to the cellular network if you leave the hotspot, so you can start a call at home and then keep talking as you walk out.

My original concerns about wi-fi leeching being the basis for these for these types of phones seems unwarranted. It’ll be confined to a single wi-fi access point, presumably the customer’s home; anywhere else, T-Mobile’s standard connection takes over.

I’m thinking this will be a tough sell, simply because the concept will be difficult to accurately communicate to the average consumer. Positioning it as a supplement to spotty coverage is a good starting point. Maybe their “The Only Phone You Need” campaign will get it across, but I’m not sure it’ll completely resonate.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/30/2007 12:41:48 PM
Category: Tech, Wi-Fi
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While I haven’t been following the raging wildfire inferno in the Lake Tahoe region, I’ve certainly been aware of it.

Still, that didn’t prevent me from experiencing a space-cadet moment yesterday relating to it. I was absently watching a little video snippet of a Fox News report, live on the scene. The screen was dominated by a headline:

TAHOE BURNS

And above that hed, the roving reporter was facing the camera, speaking into the mic and doing his action-news thing.

The sound was off, so I couldn’t hear the report. And the way the scene looked, I mistook that hed as a sort of byline, and thought for a few seconds, that reporter’s name was Tahoe Burns, and what a loopy name that was.

I snapped out of it. But I still got a kick out of the name “Tahoe Burns”. I half expect to see someone in the entertainment industry adopt it. Appropriate for male or female. And it’s certainly worthy of inclusion in the Ron Mexico Name Generator database.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/30/2007 09:01:13 AM
Category: Comedy
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Friday, June 29, 2021

let it out
Intensity, thy name is Denis Leary. That’s the idea behind the ad campaign for the fourth season of “Rescue Me”, as manifested all over New York City’s outdoor adspace:

More than 1,000 posters of Leary, on everything from billboards to buses, have been up for weeks to promote the fourth season of “Rescue Me,” which stars Leary as a troubled firefighter.

“The inspiration behind that is the famous modern-art piece ‘The Scream,’” says Stephanie Gibbons, the network’s executive vice president of marketing. “The reason we liked it is because ‘Rescue Me’ is a very, very interesting piece of work. It exists right at the fulcrum of where tragedy meets comedy.”

Aside from the spazzed-out image of Leary, what struck me more about the ad was the way the show title is juxtaposed: In rather plain, sans-serif font, certainly apparent but very understated. The intent is that Leary is so closely associated with the show that people don’t even necessarily need to pay attention to the title, because what else could Leary be promoting? Very innovative, although I’m Fox would never try it with a mainstream show.

Nor is this ad blitz prompting me to ever watch the show. Not the first time an ad captivated me without actually selling me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/29/2007 01:58:33 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin', TV
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Thursday, June 28, 2021

play on
Because I’m a sucker for any iTunes-manipulating blog meme: The twenty-five songs in my digital music collection with the longest run time. As originated by David at Better Living Thru Blogging!.

Yep, there are some lengthy ones, especially the hour-plus beasts. A little bit of everything, from danceclub-quality mixes to classical. None of them are strung together by me — I acquired all these tracks in the single-file format they appear in here. They’re all music tracks — no comedy, spoken-word or any other anomalies.

The image above serves as some proof that I do, indeed, have these long-play files in my music collection. For better SEO presentation, here they are listed below:

1. “Voyage Into Trance”, Paul Oakenfold:
1hr, 12min, 39sec

2. “Just Another House Mix”, Florian Ehing:
1hr, 12min, 04sec

3. “The RoLLA HardHousemixx II”, DJ Precise:
1hr, 10min, 26sec

4. “The Cerulean Wavestation”, Cerulean Wavestation:
1hr, 07min, 41sec

5. “Bach, Goldberg Variations”, Glenn Gould:
51min, 18sec

6. “Club Trance Megamix”, DJ Berra:
25min, 34 sec

7. “Chris Liebing Trance - tribal techno”, Carl Cox, Frankie Bones, et al:
25min, 20 sec

8. “Alice’s Restaurant”, Arlo Guthrie:
18min, 46sec

9. “Released”, Tecknixia:
18min, 35sec

10. “Persian, Arabic, Turkish & Indian Dance Mix”, [no artist]:
15min, 55sec

11. “Rapper’s Delight”, Sugar Hill Gang:
14min, 37sec

12. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, Creedence Clearwater Revival:
11min, 06sec

13. “Memories of May (overdrive mix)”, Wintermute:
10min, 02sec

14. “Yar’s Revenge Parts 1-3″, Mister Hardcore:
9min, 55sec

15. “Master and Servant (Slavery whip mix)”, Depeche Mode:
9min, 40sec

16. “Discotecka (DJ Dove Remix)”, Starkillers:
9min, 30sec

17. “The Private Psychedelic Reel”, Chemical Brothers:
9min, 28sec

18. “Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain”, DJ Shadow:
9min, 23sec

19. “Stem/Long Stem ++Transmission 2″, DJ Shadow:
9min, 22sec

20. “Ojos Asi (Thunderpuss Remix)”, Shakira:
9min, 15sec

21. “Cyberchakra”, Doctor Strangelove:
9min, 12sec

22. “Salt Tank - Eugina 2000 (Progressive Summer Mix)”, Paul Oakenfold:
9min, 05sec

23. “We Know You Know It (Filthy Dukes Remix)”, Foreign Islands:
9min, 01sec

24. “Tainted Love (Full mix)”, Soft Cell:
8min, 58sec

25. “The Owls Go (Pandatronix remix)”, Architecture in Helsinki:
8min, 56sec

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/28/2007 10:07:43 PM
Category: Bloggin', Pop Culture, Tech
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Who is Jennifer Cole?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Well, that’s my question, anyway.

Yesterday, I received a Facebook invitation from one Jennifer Cole. This is the second Facebook invite I’ve gotten in the past week, the first one being from none other than David. Ever since the former college-only social network got a much-buzzed-about facelift, all the hip folk have been flocking to it, natch.

But not me. I politely declined David’s invite, on the basis of my general disregard for all such sites. I find this here blog to be more than sufficient for my online-engagement urges. (Not that I’m completely out of the join-in loop; I have a LinkedIn profile that, coincidentally, is just beginning to bear fruit.)

I’d like to decline Jennifer’s invitation as well, on those terms. But, since the auto-generated email came from the “invite@facebook.com” address, I can’t directly email her back and politely decline. Plus, even though the name is tantalizingly familiar, I simply can’t place her. I’m crossing my fingers that she’s not a close, personal friend… Or at least, not one of the many, many Jennifers in my past.

So, instead, I’m using this blog post to turn her down. Jennifer, if you’re out there, thanks but no thanks. And please, write me directly so I can figure out who you are.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/28/2007 10:09:51 AM
Category: Internet
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Wednesday, June 27, 2021

And you thought turf toe was a bogus sports-related injury. International competitive-eating superstar Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi will not be able to down another 50-plus hot dogs this year, due to jaw arthritis:

In an entry on his blog entitled “Occupational hazard,” Kobayashi said: “My jaw refused to fight any more.”

The injury occurred only a week after the slender 29-year-old started training to win his seventh straight title at the annual July 4 Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating event on New York’s Coney Island.

“I feel ashamed that I couldn’t notice the alarm bells set off by my own body,” he said. “But with the goal to win another title with a new record, I couldn’t stop my training so close to the competition.

“I was continuing my training and bearing with the pain but finally I destroyed my jaw.”

Let that be a lesson to you kids: Easy on the weiners. Especially you kids.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/27/2007 09:03:33 AM
Category: Food, Other Sports
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Tuesday, June 26, 2021

The iPhone fever pitch is as high as it’ll get, with Apple’s new talk-toy being released in just a couple of days. The major media reviews are in, and they all concur:

All of our reviewers laud the new phone as being groundbreaking. The [Wall Street] Journal calls the phone “on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer” while [New York Times'] Pogue praises it for being “revolutionary… It does things no phone has ever done before.” [USA Today's Edward] Baig calls it a “glitzy wunderkind…worth lusting after” and [Newsweek's Steven] Levy says, “one of the most hyped consumer products ever comes pretty close to justifying the bombast.”

Yet each also takes pains to find plenty of things to criticize. The WSJ says that while the virtual keyboard works OK, it wasn’t perfect: “…the error-correction system didn’t seem as clever as the one on the BlackBerry, and you have to switch to a different keyboard view to insert a period or comma, which is annoying.” Pogue says that, oddly, one of the phone’s greatest weaknesses is, er, as a phone: “Making a call, though, can take as many as six steps: wake the phone, unlock its buttons, summon the Home screen, open the Phone program, view the Recent Calls or speed-dial list, and select a name. Call quality is only average, and depends on the strength of your AT&T signal.”

So on balance, the pluses outweigh the minuses. Although too many of the pluses are married to the iPhone device itself, and too many of the minuses fall onto AT&T’s communication network — which to me doesn’t seem too promising for what’s supposed to be, first and foremost, a phone.

Personally, without actually touching the thing: I have a feeling the touchscreen-only interface is not going to fly with most people. There is a tactile familiarity with physical keys, even if they are tiny. Adjusting texting-conditioned fingers to deftly maneuver a smooth, flat, texture-less touchscreen for data entry is a tall order. On that alone — discounting any potential operational glitches — I have a sinking feeling about the initial acceptance rates for the iPhone. A Newton-like flameout is not out of the question.

That said, this boils down to a common cautionary approach for any tech bauble:

Of course, what virtually none of our reviews says outright is this: Unless you’re rich or have gadget-compulsive disorder, you’d be out of your Steve Jobs-addled, Reality-Distortion-Field-infected mind to buy one of these phones right now. These are strictly Version 1.0 — and there’s a lot that needs to be improved.

Guaranteed, within a year — I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually closer to six months, and the holidays) Apple will replace the iPhone with one that works on AT&T’s 3G network, already in 160 cities, which delivers real broadband, rather than this “pokey” throughput.

As it happens, my current Verizon Wireless contract expires in at right around the ETA for the improved version of iPhone and/or its network. I’ve bitched about my current phone before, so I’ll be more than ready for a handset upgrade by then.

However, I’m not ready to throw away VZW. It’s got the best coverage in New York City and environs hands-down, and I doubt AT&T is going to match it anytime soon. Bottom line, being able to connect pretty much anywhere I am trumps whatever the phone can do. And I say that despite the awfully tempting iPhone service rates from AT&T, which actually include unlimited Web access for only slightly more than what I’m currently paying per month.

I’m almost sorry I’ll be out of town on Friday, when Manhattan’s two Apple Stores should be overflowing with mobs clawing to get an iPhone. But I do know someone who’s pre-ordered one, so I’m looking forward to playing with hers. I’m sure it’ll only stoke my desire to get my own, months from now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/26/2007 11:26:32 PM
Category: Tech
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Yes, the irony is self-evident: Would-be eBay challenger/alternative MightyBids is throwing in the towel — by putting itself up for sale via eBay listing.

The owners are hoping the absurdity of the situation will net them some healthy scratch. But the experts are dubious, to say the least:

MightyBids is just one of many online auction sites that have arisen from discontent with eBay fees, said Rosalinda Baldwin, chief executive of The Auction Guild watchdog group.

Without looking at MightyBids’ site but taking into account its user base, she estimated the site wasn’t worth much more than the cost of registering its Internet address, or around $9.

That seems overly harsh, but maybe it’s the cold hard truth. Take into account Yahoo!’s recent decision to shutter its non-Asian auction sites, a radical move acknowledged as stemming from the futility of even other Web giants competing against eBay in the space. (I can’t locate a confirming source, but I believe Y! Auctions managed to carve out less than 1 percent market share in the U.S. — a truly pathetic showing that practically demanded a pull-out.)

I didn’t realize eBay was such a category-killer. I guess it’s done its job positioning itself as the first and last destination for Web auctions.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/26/2007 10:38:16 PM
Category: Internet
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Monday, June 25, 2021

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to find a reputable Piaget watch dealer on the Web?

Yeah, me too…

The reason is that purveyors of upscale goods and services have a holdover attitude toward ecommerce as the land of the chintzy/cheapo bargains grab-bag:

For one thing, luxury brands have long been concerned that an online presence cheapens their image. It’s a perception rooted in the early days of the Web, when bargains at retail sites like eBay and Amazon.com were the norm, said Matt Marcus, Gucci’s worldwide director of e-business.

“Luxury firms are afraid to provide that convenience online because they don’t think it’s a luxury experience,” added Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a research firm based in New York. “But what they don’t realize is that wealthy consumers don’t want the in-store experience, they want convenience.”

I don’t know that the idea of the Web discount is totally unwarranted; Amazon thrives on beating retail prices. But I doubt anyone’s going to think Prada will be marking down their hoity-toity wares just to encourage shop-and-click traffic. Long-term, it’ll pay off to open up the online sales channel.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/25/2007 11:18:01 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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unlike mike
A spectre is haunting the National Basketball Association — the spectre of Michael Jordan. Years after his glory days with the Bulls, His Airness still casts an overbearing shadow over the league:

The denigration goes on and on. A few years ago, it was determined that the solution to the NBA’s image problem was an age limit. The rationale that frequently surfaces: If Michael Jordan played in college for three years, so can these high school punks.

At about the same time, the dress code was instituted. Guess why? Michael Jordan wore suits to games and at news conferences, and everybody loved the league then.

No sport ever dragged itself through this long a period of mourning for a departed star. Baseball didn’t give up and start mocking succeeding players after Babe Ruth (or Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays or Reggie Jackson) retired. Football didn’t curse an entire generation of players after Johnny Unitas (or Walter Payton or Joe Montana or Jerry Rice) finished playing.

And let me add in my own fave sport: After Wayne Gretzky retired, no one started trashing the next generation of hockey stars. (Just doing my part to keep the NHL in that “big four” fraternity…)

Was Jordan’s superstardom too much of a good thing? It’s curious that the transcendence of talent/personality in the NBA seemed to come to a screeching halt after Jordan retired from Chicago (let’s ignore the Washington Wizards years — most everyone else did). Jordan didn’t emerged from a vacuum — he was part of the lineage that started with Karim Abdul-Jabbar, followed with Dr. J and extended to the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era. Before that, the league was a dodgey affair, with perpetual image problems. By the time Jordan came along and started racking up championships, pro basketball had seemingly established itself as primetime, challenging even the NFL for sports popularity.

And, as David Steele points out, that’s still mostly true. The perception now is running ahead of the reality. But that sort of perception can be self-fulfilling, which is the danger. As long as Jordan continues to be identified as the unattainable personification of the ideal state of the NBA, the danger is real.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/25/2007 10:50:14 PM
Category: Basketball
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ascent
The stereotypical Salvador Dali work of art features weird matter-bending visuals with vivid, nuanced colors — e.g., melting clocks and other firmly-entrenched pop-cultural imagery.

Probably as a rejection of that been-there-done-that aesthetic, this 1958 watercolor, “Allegorical Saint and Angels in Adoration of the Holy Spirit”, is my favorite Dali painting. It has a spare simplicity that comes across as very bold. A photo doesn’t do it justice, as the subtlety is lost unless you see the original in person. Of particular note: Each of those angelic wings was applied with what appear to be only one or two forceful brush-strokes, which leaves behind the impression of etherealness and rapid motion. Really outstanding.

I wish a print of this piece were available, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s worth a future visit to the Dali Museum just to see it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/25/2007 09:25:53 AM
Category: Creative, History
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Sunday, June 24, 2021

Last year’s Coney Island Mermaid Parade passed me by unawares. I regretted it, and made a mental note to catch it for 2007.

The note didn’t stick. This year’s 25th Anniversary edition went forth on Saturday, and I missed it. Thus passing up one hell of an afternoon’s worth of freaky photo ops; I particularly like the ghoulish-looking topless Starbucks maidens.

Not only wasn’t I doing anything special yesterday, but I was pretty well bored out of my mind for a good stretch of it. A jaunt out to Coney Island would have been the perfect tonic! So I’m really kicking myself.

Maybe if I make a note here, online, I’ll actually remember to keep an eye out for the 26th Annual edition. Here’s hoping!

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/24/2007 07:46:55 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Photography
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tomorrow the world
Judging from the mild buzz generated when the Chicago Blackhawks selected a Nigerian-born player in the second round of this past weekend’s NHL Entry Draft, you’d think the story would have been filed under a “news of the weird” header.

But being a black hockey player barely scratches the surface on Akim “The Dream” Aliu:

Here’s wishing the general public will take an interest in Aliu, the multilingual Sudbury Wolves right wing who considers himself more Russian than anything. He lists pierogies as his favorite food.

At the NHL Central Scouting combine, the Washington Capitals interviewed him in English, but not before they asked him to translate their session with Russian teenager Ruslan Bashkirov. “I got to see what kind of things I might be asked,” Aliu told the Toronto Sun. “I hope things work out for Bashkirov. He was a nice kid.” (He went four picks after Aliu, to the Ottawa Senators.)

Here is how things have worked out so far for Aliu: His father, Taiwo, traveled from Okene, Nigeria, to study geology in Ukraine. There, he met his future wife, Larissa. The couple settled in Nigeria, then went back to Ukraine when Akim was 9 months old. He learned to skate there, but he never played hockey until he was 10, after Taiwo moved Larissa and their two children to Canada for a high-tech job.

Nothing’s certain until/unless they make the roster, but it appears the Blackhawks cleaned up big in scooping up both Aliu and consensus No. 1 pick Patrick Kane. If they help turn around the team, then Chicago would be as big a sports stage as any to highlight two somewhat unconventional players: A smallish American-born winger with deft scoring touch, and a Nigerian/Ukrainian/Canadian power-forward prototype.

By the way: Believe it or not, Aliu won’t be the first-ever Nigerian native to make it to hockey’s big show. That honor went to Rumun Ndur, a bruising defenseman who played 69 NHL games with the Sabres, Rangers, and Thrashers. He was last seen in the league in 2000, but apparently is still playing in the UK.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/24/2007 06:54:29 PM
Category: Hockey
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Do Business.com owners Jake Winebaum and Sky Dayton seriously believe they can command $300-400 million for their company, based mostly on the URL?

It’s a pipe dream. What they call a paid-search advertising directory is basically nothing but a small pool of categorized listings — nice that they can get those companies to pay for playing, but there’s no true searching or vetting of the links involved. I’m sure plenty of clueless searchers assign authority to the site based just on the name, but any real money to be made in search-based advertising begins and ends with Google, with a little sliver left over for Yahoo! and Ask.com to scrap over.

The reality is that Winebaum and Dayton are hoping all the recent Web 2.0-inspired dealmaking will raise the tide for all boats in the Internet business. Having overplayed their hands the first time around, when they paid $7.5 million for the domain name in 1999 in hopes of flipping it shortly thereafter for multiples of that amount (the following dot-com crash killed that plan), they figure the window’s opened again for a silly-money deal to come around. If not, they can always hang on for a potential third round of online hyper-speculation.

While no one’s going to pay nine figures, in fact there may just be a market for the site. Not in its not-terribly-unique current form, for the reasons cited above. But not long ago, I mentioned a distinct void in online business media:

I’m trying to think of a MySpace portal for businesspeople, that’s full of registered users posting jobs, networking, commenting and distributing news, etc. A real must-join online hangout for hardcore business players. And really, I can’t think of one… There are elements of such a concept all over the Web… But I don’t know that one site has harnessed what’s supposed to be a community that rushes to the Web for their fix of targeted content.

What better content for a re-booted Business.com than an active social network, aimed at businesspeople? Think of the cache behind joining an online community that would assign you an email address like “[yourname]@business.com”, and a personal page that reads “[yourname].business.com”. Plus the MySpace-like tagging, friend/colleague connectivity, etc. And given the audience, so much of it can be monetized with nominal fees: Access to targeted contact lists, B2B products/services, etc. A goldmine with the most appropriate brandname ever.

Again, no one’s going to pay hundreds of millions of dollars just for a domain platform. Truth be told, a business-centric social network doesn’t absolutely need to be parked at business.com. But it’d be an ideal fit, and the site’s current owners could do a lot worse than cashing out for a few million now, rather than crossing their fingers on a possible future Internet land rush.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/24/2007 02:35:50 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Zengrrl takes exception with “cougar”, a recently-coined term for the open-for-business older female:

Why cougar? Because we older women are supposedly on the prowl? And while we’re at, what exactly is the criteria for being a cougar? Do we need to sharpen our nails? Do we need to carry a membership card? And if we’re “cougars,” why do we still need to shave our legs? I’m just sayin’…

There’s no shortage of definitions, and they all point to the same basic idea. It’s as derogatory as any other reductive label, just as “kitten” or “sex kitten” is to younger socially-active women — the opposite end of this spectrum, and undoubtedly the jumping-off point for concocting the whole feline simile.

On the other hand, as Zengrrl also points out, it’s somewhat of an improvement over MILF.

For myself, I’m at the age where a) uttering such college-age slang is laughably awkward, and b) the women available women in my age group are entering the cougar zone — chronologically, if not behaviorally.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/24/2007 12:26:49 PM
Category: Women, Wordsmithing
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During a meeting a few days ago, the main speaker dropped the phrase “from soup to nuts” into his spiel.

That brought about some confused looks from about half the attendees. Assuming this is representative of the general population, here’s the definition:

from beginning to end; all of the courses or parts
[Origin: 1935–40, Americanism]

Noting the timeframe, I’m guessing that at some point during the Great Depression, eating establishments in the U.S. would offer meals that started with a serving of soup and ended with… a selection of nuts as dessert? Who knew nuts ever occupied such an integral spot in the American meal structure?

I’d already heard of the phrase. Aside from various references in literature, television, and movies, it’s also the basis for the name of Soup2Nuts, the production company behind a couple of my favorite animated shows: “Home Movies” and “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/24/2007 11:31:18 AM
Category: TV, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, June 23, 2021

With Wal-Mart embarking upon a back-door approach toward eventual banking dominance, it’s about the right time to take a look at America’s unbanked:

They tend to be minority - Hispanic or blacks especially - as well as low income and young.

According to the Federal Reserve, about one in 12 families - 8.7 percent - does not have a bank account.

The number is higher for the poorest - nearly a quarter of families earning less than $18,900, the Fed said, citing 2004 data.

Why do they shun banks? Because they find them mystifying and fraught with hidden fees:

“I don’t understand about this bank stuff,” says Alvarez, 54, who lives in Texas. A nagging fear that she might make a mistake “if I don’t keep up with it right or something” keeps her from opening an account. She had one once, briefly. But she had trouble keeping track of her balance. She thinks that when the account closed, she owed the bank $12.

Carlos Maren, 25, a cook, is afraid that if he opens a bank account in the U.S., he will get hit with fees for not keeping in enough money or for taking out more money than he has.

“My uncle sometimes says that it’s expensive … because if you don’t have money in the account, (the bank) is going to be charging you,” Maren says.

The banking industry is almost working at cross-purposes. They’re keen to tap into the unbanked market, which represents some $510 billion in potential business. But the very thing that repels that market is the fee structures that have been such cash cows since the rise of megabanks like Bank of America and Wachovia.

The industry would love to alter mindshare in this regard, but practical business function practically prevents it. The best chance lies in increasing acceptance of non-cash forms of payment, and making them preferential for both consumer and merchant. It’s tough sledding, but it’s certainly trending that way.

I find it inconceivable to function without banking services. I use plastic everywhere I can, sock away what I can in savings, etc. It’s definitely a cultural thing, as my family financial habits revolved around regular banking; one of the first things I did when I left home was open a bank account. No compunction at all in handling my money that way, even with the nickel-and-diming fees.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/23/2007 08:07:20 PM
Category: Business, Society
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It’s a testament to the accelerating death of the CD that Apple’s iTunes Store became the third-largest music retailer in the U.S. last quarter:

ITunes had a 9.8 percent market share in the first quarter, ranking behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s 15.8 percent and Best Buy Co.’s 13.8 percent, according to The NPD Group. Online retailer Amazon.com’s share was 6.7 percent, slightly ahead of Target’s 6.6 percent, NPD said.

And questions about how exactly they’re measuring the rankings seem baseless, according to the survey methodology:

The firm counted every 12 tracks purchased online as equivalent to an album in compact disc format, said Russ Crupnick, NPD’s vice president.

NPD’s survey does not include mobile music sales, nor does it factor in revenues.

That’s significant, because it helps de-emphasize the apples-to-oranges comparative between predominant single-song sales on iTunes versus predominant whole-album sales in other outlets. If anything, Apple would come even stronger in a revenue comparison.

You can extrapolate from this how much music-buying has changed over the past decade, which has seen brick-and-mortar music stores become an endangered species. It’s also worth noting how much this convergence has helped hasten the adoption of broadband, the growth of social networking and other developments to the formerly narrow-band Internet. The relationship between music and the Web has been practically symbiotic.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/23/2007 06:33:06 PM
Category: Business, Pop Culture, Tech
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Friday, June 22, 2021

draft form
Yes, I’m watching the televised coverage of the 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft, on Versus.

Yes, I’m hopeless.

But it’s been entertaining, no doubt. Not so much the player selection so far — I’ve been familiar enough with the prospect buzz to expect Patrick Kane going No. 1 overall to the Chicago Blackhawks, along with a fairly predictable follow in the early first round. But as with Major League Baseball’s draft, this talent pool is mostly delayed gratification. Eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds generally aren’t ready to jump into the NHL; Kane and a handful of others will put on pro jerseys shortly, but the rest will take years to get to the show, if ever.

Still, Versus and TSN are putting on a good show, with the requisite scouting chatter. It’s dense hockey talk, which will be rare enough for the summer, so I’ll take it now.

Besides, the real action is taking place relationally to Draft Day — the big-time trades and other franchise transactions going down. Plenty of juicy stories:

- The Maple Leafs take yet another stab at scooping up a real starting goalie with the acquisition of Vesa Toskala from San Jose for a bushel of draft picks. Toskala and throw-in winger Mark Bell immediately go into the Toronto pressure-cooker, while the Sharks finally rid themselves of their years-long two-headed goalie controversy, with Evgeni Nabokov staying in teal.

- Florida also grabs a bona-fide starter in net, grabbing Tomas Vokoun from Nashville for picks. The Panthers come closer to replacing Roberto Luongo, and the Predators seemingly get closer to shedding more payroll in anticipation of franchise move to Hamilton, Ontario. Except that…

- In the biggest bombshell of the day, Craig Leipold has killed the deal to sell the Predators to Jim Balsillie, citing no finalized agreement and a distaste for the relocation plans. I’m sure Balsillie will try, try again, but at this stage, with the league clearly signaling that it won’t make a team move to Canada an easy process, I can’t believe any current owner will ever bother talking to the Blackberry king again; it’d be pointless.

Plenty of juice!

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/22/2007 08:37:08 PM
Category: Hockey
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down, with a sound
Know what I think when I see the above picture — or just about any picture — of Amy Winehouse?

I think that if they ever decide to create a Spice Girls version 2.0, and they decide to go white with Scary Spice this time, then they’ve got the perfect candidate right here.

The deal is doubly sealed if they’re looking for someone whose singing resembles the sounds of a wounded moose.

UPDATE: I was strictly kidding about a Spice Girls reformation, and yet it’s turning into a horrible truth. Amy Winehouse or no in the lineup, that’s a scary prospect.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/22/2007 08:49:03 AM
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Women
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