Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, November 30, 2021

I had figured the Beacon backlash would prompt Facebook to overhaul its new Social Ads system within days, and that’s just what happened, as the social network has now implemented greater user controls for opting-in.

What’s more, the company’s braintrust explicitly acknowledged the hot-button issue that made an otherwise-theoretical privacy concern real for their users:

Some users have already complained about inadvertently finding out about gifts bought for them for Christmas and Hanukkah after Beacon shared information from Overstock.com. Other users say they were unnerved when they discovered their friends had found out what movies they were watching through purchases made on Fandango…

“We’re sorry if we spoiled some of your holiday gift-giving plans,” Facebook’s Paul Janzer wrote in a posting addressed to Beacon’s critics. “We are really trying to provide you with new meaningful ways, like Beacon, to help you connect and share information with your friends.” Janzer also acknowledged Beacon “can be kind of confusing.”

That’s what it came down to: Putting a crimp in consumers’ precious shopping experience. Hey, whatever works; high principles sometimes come along for the ride as incidental benefits.

I’m most interested in what this means in terms of Facebook’s trajectory as a growing concern. This was a fairly boneheaded move, and I’m surprised more users didn’t acknowledge it as a naked money-grab, implemented ham-handedly. On the business side, the failure of this revenue-generation attempt puts founder Mark Zuckerberg on even shakier ground (given his general inexperience in strategic leadership), and I wouldn’t be surprised if his days were already numbered.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/30/2007 08:15:07 AM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg., Business
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Thursday, November 29, 2021

beep-boop bop
The idea of a symphony composed of the culled sound effects from the Atari 2600 and Nintendo NES sounds quirky enough to draw my interest.

That’s the premise of Blip Festival 2007, which started today at Eyebeam Gallery in Chelsea and runs through the weekend. I’ll have to find some time to check it out.

From the sound of it, it should be sensory overload, circa 1981:

Each night eight musicians will perform, accompanied by V.J.’s who will live-edit video onstage. Behind them will be a specially designed low-pixel screen that looks like a giant, moving version of Lite-Brite, the electric toy. The effect will be as lo-fi as a high-tech party can get.

Would it be inappropriate to bring along an iPod loaded with a vintage Pac-Man game? Playing a couple of rounds in such surroundings would be an experience unto itself.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/29/2007 11:15:25 PM
Category: Videogames, Creative, New Yorkin'
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Would anyone care to guess as to why the NHL Powered by Reebok flagship store in New York is completely devoid of even a single trace of Hartford Whalers merchandise?

Yes, the Whalers are long gone, now a decade into their reincarnation as the Carolina Hurricanes. So why should the official league retail outlet stock anything emblazoned with the defunct team logo?

But that’s the weird thing: Plenty of other oldschool and dearly-departed historical teams are represented in the store. You’ll easily find vintage t-shirts and caps featuring:

- Minnesota North Stars
- New York Americans
- Kansas City Scouts
- Atlanta Flames
- Montreal Maroons

That’s all just off the top of my head, and displays a wide range of NHL eras. And, most pertinently, the Whalers’ old World Hockey Association sister franchises that joined Hartford in the NHL merger are all there, logo-wise: Winnipeg and Quebec items are all over the place. And the Oilers, obviously.

But not a stitch of Hartford Whalers blue-green-white. Not even a keychain.

This is all the more puzzling because Manhattan isn’t all that far from the former Whalers home territory. Fact is, you’ll still see the occasional Hartford jersey or t-shirt at Madison Square Garden. If any legacy team was going to be promoted in the New York store, I’d think it would be the ol’ Whale.

Note, this isn’t all that pertinent to me; I was never a Whalers fan. But I’m expecting a visit from my friend Tom next week, and he’s a Hartford native. I stopped by the NHL store today on the chance that some Whale items were stocked for the holiday season (because I actually noticed the omission during the grand opening last month).

So, anybody have any theories, conspiratorial or otherwise? Could current ‘Canes owner Peter Karamanos be kiboshing the resurrection of Whalers sentiment? Let your imagination run wild…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/29/2007 10:41:11 PM
Category: Hockey, New Yorkin'
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Wednesday, November 28, 2021

Ever sit through an office brainstorming session and think, “waste-o-time”? Harvard Business Review has your back by declaring that corporate “outside the box” ideation efforts are too free-form to be effective:

More often than not, pushy people dominate brainstorming sessions, while others remain silent. Empowered by the mantra that “there are no bad ideas,” the session produces random notions along the lines of “Let’s paint it blue!” “We can sell it in Germany!” “How about an upscale version?” and “The problem is the sales force.”

Few of these ideas end up being taken seriously by the participants, and few deserve to be. In their experience, the authors have found that managers are at their most creative when focused on specific, provocative questions. This brings out the best in people who are used to being creative within limits, while also keeping the ideas within the realm of the possible.

You can’t expect someone conditioned to think within proscribed strictures to suddenly become creatively unbound when the chains are lifted. Besides, everyone knows consultants are the way to go for fresh conceptualization (said the consultant ;) ).

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/28/2007 11:48:59 PM
Category: Business, Creative
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feel the heat
When I originally posted this handy reference to optimal webpage ad-placement, I did so with the intention of easily calling it back up via an archive search of this here blog.

That hasn’t turned out to be the case. Apparently, my choice of verbiage in that post has been impregnable to keyword search. It’s mildly pissed me off that I need to guess several times to track down what should be an easily-identifiable snippet of information.

In hindsight, calling this a “clickzone graphic” was a dumb move. I should have tagged it as a heat map for Web advertising, showing the “hot zones” on various portions of the average website page. Much more intuitive and searchable language.

So, I’ve decided to repost here, with those shoulda-been keywords inserted. And trackbacked to the original 2005 post, naturally. Let’s see this little bugger hide from me now!

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/28/2007 11:22:35 PM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg.
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power eggerI guess Britney Spears set the baby-belly-baring bar last year, so naturally Christina Aguilera couldn’t help but respond in kind, smack on the front of the upcoming January issue of Marie Claire.

Which one is the pop-tartiest? Dead heat, I say. As always, it’s the children who ultimately suffer.

Speaking of which, I have an inkling of Baby Aguilera’s name-to-be:

“We were planning on starting to try after the tour. And so, I had gone off the Pill to prepare my body, because I didn’t know how much time it would take. You’ve heard it takes some time — except with Power Egg and Super Sperm here,” she says. “… I’m like, `Oh my god, can you believe it just happened?’”

Power Egg and Super Sperm. I like it — sounds like some kind of superhero tandem. And if you make an acronym out of it, you get Pess. Which is no goofier a celebr-baby name than Apple, Shiloh, Suri, etc.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/28/2007 10:39:24 PM
Category: Publishing, Celebrity, Women
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Tuesday, November 27, 2021

I was led to Russian fashion designer Denis Simachev’s website via this article about how he’s making Soviet symbolic iconography retro-chic.

Which reminds me of a storyline element out of the old “American Flagg” comic series. But I digress.

What I find more interesting is the layout of Simachev’s website. Instead of the standard vertical top-to-bottom arrangement of content on webages, each page scrolls horizontally — i.e., you use the scrollbar at the bottom of your browser window to navigate the complete page.

I’ve seen very rare instances of this. I remember David Bowie’s very first website presence, circa 1997, employed this same unconventional design arrangement. It certainly stood out for me.

A shame more sites don’t go this route. I’ve even toyed with doing it myself, if not here at PopStat then on another site. Not sure I can justify it for a largely text-driven content well, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/27/2007 11:32:39 PM
Category: Internet, Fashion
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oh what a gnileef
Not too long ago, Will Truman was thrown off-kilter by an encounter with a bunch of dyslexic Toyota trucks.

The vehicle pictured above was not one of them. But it is my first spotting of the elusive Atoyot truck, straight out of the video for The B-52’s “Roam” (it appears right near the end, at the 3:40 mark).

I was befuddled for a couple of minutes too, some twenty years ago. Then I marveled at how the symmetry of letters in the automaker’s name can produce that mirror-image alterna-brand. Ever since, I haven’t been able to look at a Toyota and not be reminded of its backward moniker.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/27/2007 10:58:18 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Comedy
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Monday, November 26, 2021

It’s as made-up as a holiday can get:

So what’s up with this Cyber Monday idea? A little bit of reality and a whole lot of savvy marketing. It turns out that Shop.org, an association for retailers that sell online, dreamed up the term just days before putting out a Nov. 21 press release touting Cyber Monday as “one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.”

The idea was born when a few people at the organization were brainstorming about how to promote online shopping, says Shop.org Executive Director Scott Silverman. They quickly discarded suggestions such as Black Monday (too much like Black Friday), Blue Monday (not very cheery), and Green Monday (too environmentalist), and settled on Cyber Monday. “It’s not the biggest day,” Silverman concedes. “But it was an opportunity to create some consumer excitement.”

But now, the joke is on all of us, as enough buzz germinated over the past two years to make Cyber Monday all too real:

“When something’s pushed down your throat continuously and the Internet becomes more part of your life, the customs of the Internet become more part of your life,” [Ice.com Marketing EVP Pinny] Gniwisch said. “So they finally got a holiday for the Internet.”

I still think the underlying premise — that loads of people are e-shopping from the office because of faster connections than their home computers — is bullshit. In fact, most broadband households probably have faster Internet hookups than business endusers, both because of more optimized equipment and dedicated connections. And really, “cyber”? That qualifier reeks of InterWeb circa 1997.

Even with that debunkage, it’s not surprising that Cyber Monday would become embraced into reality. Another excuse for buying trinkets, with free shipping thrown in? Nothing more American than that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/26/2007 11:31:48 PM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg., Business
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We all endure it: Subscribing to a total package of 800-odd cable/satellite channels, just to get access to the half-dozen or so that you ever actually watch. It’s a rip-off, right?

Yes and no. The familiar bundling of tiers of channels is actually, due to the economics of television advertising, a cost-saving measure for consumers that the pick-your-own-channels alternative couldn’t match:

True, if you decide to take only one or two channels, à la carte pricing will save you money. But how many people are going to limit themselves to one or two channels? In fact, even if you pick as few as a dozen channels, à la carte will almost surely cost more than your current “exorbitant” cable bill.

The reason is that unmoored from the cable bundle, individual networks would have to charge vastly more money per subscriber. Under the current system, in which cable companies like Comcast pay the networks for carriage — and then pass on the cost to their customers — networks get to charge on the basis of everyone who subscribes to cable television, whether they watch the network or not. The system has the effect of generating more money than a network “deserves” based purely on viewership. Networks also get to charge more for advertising than they would if they were not part of the bundle.

Take, for instance, ESPN, which charges the highest amount of any cable network: $3 per subscriber per month. (I’m borrowing this example from a recent research note by Craig Moffett, the Sanford C. Bernstein cable analyst.) Suppose in an à la carte world, 25 percent of the nation’s cable subscribers take ESPN. If that were the case, the network would have to charge each subscriber not $3, but $12 a month to keep its revenue the same. (And don’t forget: with its $1.1 billion annual bill to the National Football League alone, ESPN is hardly in a position to tolerate declining revenues.)

And that’s one of the most popular channels on cable. What percentage of cable subscribers would take Discovery, or the Food Network, or Oxygen, or Hallmark — or the many, many more obscure networks that you can now find up and down your cable box? Five percent? Ten percent? According to Mr. Moffett’s analysis, if every African-American family in the country subscribed to the Black Entertainment Network, it would still have to raise its fees by 588 percent. He adds, “If just half opted in — still a wildly optimistic scenario — the price would rise by 1,200 percent.”

Ironically, the free-for-all under an a la carte system sounds awfully like the Web — a decentralized media outlet filled with mostly isolated content aggregations (channels/websites). Such a fragmented environment poses challenges for both building audiences and, subsequently, attracting serious ad money — thus the jacked-up subscriber fees. The counteracting solution would be an overarching advertising syndicate for the a la carte television universe, ala Google AdSense (which has actually made the Web advertising viable, for a change).

The big difference is that, while it can cost next to nothing to maintain a website, it costs tons to keep the lights on at a television network. One effect might be tightly-focused programming for each network, just like ESPN for sports (or perhaps more likely, single-purpose channels for each sport, etc.); but they’d have to have pretty large audiences to stay afloat, with high premiums per pair of eyeballs for ad placement. Pretty soon, the dollars simply don’t make sense.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/26/2007 11:06:58 PM
Category: TV, Business
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If you just can’t get enough of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” — and if so, who can blame you — then Ovation TV has your ticket punched: The artsy-fartsy channel is head-to-heading four different performance interpretations of the classic holiday ballet:

The contenders in the inaugural Battle of the Nutcrackers cover a wide range of styles, from the staidly classical to a kaleidoscopic hallucination. In the first category are a 1989 performance by the Bolshoi Ballet, featuring Irek Mukhamedov as the Nutcracker Prince, and the 1993 film “George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker,’” staged by Peter Martins and featuring Darci Kistler as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Macaulay Culkin as the Nutcracker. At the far-out end of the spectrum are “Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!,” a 2003 performance of the colorful fantasy that begins in a Dickensian orphanage, and “The Hard Nut,” a 1991 piece by the Mark Morris Dance Group, which uses the Tchaikovsky score but transports the setting to 1960s American suburbia.

Sight unseen, I’m going to have to go with that George Balanchine joint, only because the presence of Macaulay Culkin would give the production a definite Home Alone vibe. Although I admit The Hard Nut sounds appealing too.

Actually, I’m not high on any particular interpretation of ballet, conventional or not. But I do admire Ovation for staying true to its roots with this attention-getting programming stunt. Plus, I just wanted to use “Battle of the Nutcrackers” as a post title.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/26/2007 10:30:16 PM
Category: TV, Creative
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Sunday, November 25, 2021

wrong number
Without fail, whenever I whip out my iPod Touch in public, those interested enough to comment invariably compliment me on owning… An iPhone.

Which is a reasonable mistake. Even on close inspection, the visual differences between the Touch and the iPhone are few: The iPhone is slightly thicker and taller thanks to its integrated earpiece and camera, both of which are absent on the latest-generation iPod. That, plus a few other minor design details (and a more icon-heavy default start screen, although that’s adjustable via hacks), is the only way to get a quick read on which Apple gadget one is packing. If you’re not overly familiar with one or the other, you’re not going to be able to tell right off the bat.

Beyond that, it seems the iPhone got loads more hype leading up to its release; by now, the popular consciousness is familiar enough with the iconic visual of an ultra-slim handheld that most can safely assume the item in question is the iPhone. By contrast, despite a standout television commercial, the iPod Touch hasn’t received nearly as much exposure. In fact, I think the Touch has been pretty much lost amid the lingering buzz over the iPhone.

I actually take advantage of this fuzziness by using the common shorthand for describing the Touch: It’s an iPhone without the phone part. Essentially true, but it undermines the device by defining it in terms of another, too-similar device (albeit not a competing one).

Anyway, I’m not scoring too many points off being a faux-iPhoner (iFaux?). Once I clear up the matter, it usually leads to a nice, if brief, chat on how cool our modern-day tech toys are.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/25/2007 08:58:14 PM
Category: Tech
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In case the hype surrounding Black Friday hasn’t stressed the broader impact of this year’s holiday shopping madness, Fortune Magazine frames the make-or-break stakes in terms of a final straw for a teetering U.S. economy:

With consumer spending accounting for about three-quarters of U.S. economic activity, some economists say it is inevitable that the economy will stop growing at some point in the coming year, for the first time since the mild recession of 2001. “Right now, the question is how bad it’s going to get,” said David Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “The question is one of magnitude.”

And that’s the bright-side view, although the ultra-pessimistic take has a Cassandra-like quality to it:

Others are more direct. Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University who has been predicting the collapse of the housing bubble for years, wrote recently that not only is a recession inevitable, he also sees “the risk of a severe and worsening liquidity and credit crunch leading to a generalized meltdown of the financial system of a severity and magnitude like we have never observed before.”

Note that “predicting the collapse of the housing bubble for years” part. In other words, Roubini has been issuing doom-and-gloom housing forecasts every six months, and has dumb-lucked into being right after a string of wrong calls — the “even a broken clock is right twice a day” approach to economic analysis. So I’m thinking he’s not the most accurate barometer.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/25/2007 07:52:21 PM
Category: Business, Society
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9 time
Not since Tomas Sandstrom led the roster in scoring has a New York Rangers game been broadcast on local NYC television. But that streaked ended today, as WWOR-Channel 9 aired today’s Dallas Stars at Rangers tilt, the first National Hockey League game on the venerable New York channel since 1989.

What took so long?

The reason for no local-broadcast partner is clear: MSG Network is owned by Cablevision, and the cable operator wants to use the games as a chip to get as many people as possible to subscribe to its system. Also, Cablevision wants to extract high subscriber fees from the other cable and satellite providers operating in and around New York that carry MSG.

Nonetheless, MSG’s Lydia Murphy-Stephans said the deal is “on strategy for increasing the exposure of our content and making our games available to a broader audience.”

For WWOR, the move could serve as a promotional platform for its MyNetworkTV prime-time fare. That network is bleeding money, and has yet to find even a minor hit two years in.

What’s not mentioned: Cablevision also owns the Rangers (and the New York Knicks, who are in the same boat), and uses that leverage to populate MSG Network. So that “our content” comment is true is every sense.

As for WWOR/My9, the lack of impact is truly glaring. They rolled out a bunch of nighttime-soap schlockfests last year to kick off the MyNetworkTV format, and it completely bombed. At this point, the once-quirky independent institution out of Secaucus is nothing but an overflow outlet for its sister FOX affiliate, WNYW-Channel 5.

Of course I watched the Stars take down the Blueshirts 3-2 this afternoon, even up against NFL action. I’ll take an afternoon NHL contest over the putrid G-Men. I also expect to watch the other WWOR Rangers game this season, three Sundays from now on December 16 versus the Phoenix Coyotes at 5PM.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/25/2007 04:36:02 PM
Category: TV, Hockey, New Yorkin'
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Saturday, November 24, 2021

No matter how well-intentioned, the concept of giving a friend or loved one “energy gift certificates”, to be redeemed on the monthly utility bill, seems sure to inflict grave insult.

[Orange & Rockland Utilities spokesperson Guy] Peifer said the certificates were a good idea for people who were difficult to buy gifts for, since they already “had everything,” as well as senior citizens and others.

“It’s a thoughtful and practical gift for a friend or loved one on a tight budget or living on a fixed income,” Peifer said.

Basically, you’re telling the recipient that you know that they need help paying the bills, so your gift to them is to cover the lights and heating for the winter. Nice. No awkwardness there!

If you’re going to do that, you might was well just pay the bill directly and not bother with the actual paper certificates. They don’t accomplish what gift certificates/cards are supposed to do, anyway: Encourage the recipient to spend the value of the gift amount plus more (which is not possible — you can’t tack on an impulse purchase to the monthly gas/electric bill).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/24/2007 04:33:02 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin'
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Friday, November 23, 2021

While economic analysts predict a disappointing 2007 holiday season due to U.S. recession fears, retail is getting a compensatory boost from across the borders on the official kickoff of the annual post-Thanksgiving shopping spree. Thanks to a weak dollar, today’s Friday is the new black for foreign visitors hitting the malls:

But for those who are enjoying the strength of the euro, pound, yen and other currencies against the moribund dollar, Black Friday provides an added reason to go on a shopping binge. Tourists not only get more bang for their buck, so to speak, but also get to buy things at the steep discounts for which Black Friday is known…

Whether or not increased sales to shoppers from outside the U.S. will be enough to make Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season a success, in light of all the concerns about the health of the U.S. consumer, remains to be seen.

But retailers certainly should be prepared to say “gracias,” “danke,” “arigato” and thanks in many other languages if fourth quarter sales turn out to be better than expected.

In addition to the cheeky translations for “Black Friday” — Vendredi Noir (French), Schwarzer Freitag (German), Viernes Negro (Spanish) — let me contribute the Greek version: Μαύρη Παρασκευή. That’s on behalf of that smattering of Helenes tossing down their Euros, most likely in Manhattan somewhere.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/23/2007 08:21:45 PM
Category: Business
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Thursday, November 22, 2021

This has nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving. But it’s a remaindered YouTube search result from my recent “Sesame Street” post, and I cannot get enough of it.

So, by way of Martin Scorsese’s “Casino”, here’s Ernie (as Joe Pesci) giving Bert (as Robert De Niro) an expletive-filled earful:

The best part is definitely toward the wrap-up, when Ernie/Joe leads off with “you Jew motherfucker, you” and starts poking his fingers all over Bert/Robert’s face, with coincidental extreme closeup on Bert, and wrapping up with an appropos “you motherfucker you” lobbed at Bert as he walks offstage. Gets me every time.

Actually, although I thoroughly appreciate the abundant cursing, I don’t buy Joe Pesci’s sounds coming out of Ernie’s mouth. But Bert channeling De Niro? That totally works. I think it’s the surprisingly-expressive monobrow. Maybe the v-neck sweater, too.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/22/2007 10:46:55 AM
Category: TV, Movies, Comedy
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In a clever color-coordination designation with Black Friday, the widening trend of Thanksgiving Day retail openings is being dubbed “Gray Thursday”.

I like it. Especially the implication that the preceding days of the year are somehow pure/white, with the impending blackness of hardcore consumerism seeping in on Turkey Day to create some preemptive dinginess.

I should point out, though, that while the “gray” syncs well with the “black” syntax-wise, it veers off the true ledger-book definition. The “black” in Black Friday refers to traditional accounting terminology, where black ink was used for profits while red ink was used for losses. The underlying theory behind Black Friday is that it’s the first day of the year that retail businesses get in the clear of deficit or break-even, and make their annual profit — out of the red and into the black (hopefully).

So based on this — a blending of red and black, instead of white and black — I guess the proper color to signify a big-sale Thanksgiving Thursday should… Some sort of dark red? Maroon Thursday? Let’s stick with “gray” instead…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/22/2007 09:56:39 AM
Category: Business, Wordsmithing
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Wednesday, November 21, 2021

On the Metro North train ride up this evening, I had the misfortune of being well within smelling distance of a heavily-cologned passenger.

Given the holiday, I figured someone made like a clean-shaven jive turkey and basted himself in the unmistakably pungent scent of Old Spice. Welcome to Thanksgiving 1977…

I wasn’t bothered for long. Either he moved on at some point, or else my nose got acclimated to it, because I didn’t notice it after a while. The olfactory time-warp ended.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/21/2007 10:27:33 PM
Category: General
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Tis the season for turducken!

It is a chicken stuffed inside a duck which is then stuffed inside a turkey. The term turducken comes from the combination of tur(key), duck, and (chick)en. It is fast becoming a popular recipe for Thanksgiving. Each slice contains portions of chicken, duck, and turkey with stuffing in between the layers.

I dunno how “fast” that popularity is spreading. I suggested this unholy trinity of poultry for my familial Thanksgiving, but was quickly shouted down (yes, literally… and no, I’m not being serious). My godbrother is reportedly serving it up, though, so I might have to visit there for some of their leftovers.

The concoction of the name “turducken” is clever enough. But is it the right moniker? A ladyfriend of mine named Angela, upon my informing her of this dish, thought “chuckey” was more appropriate: Reversing the word-meld order of ch(icken), (d)uck, and (turk)ey. In other words, looking at the Frankenbird from the inside-out, instead of the turducken-ed outside-in.

Unfortunately for Angela, I think “turducken” is here to stay. But maybe people can start dubbing their main course with the friendlier “chuckey”, just before commencing the carve.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/21/2007 10:11:22 PM
Category: Food, Wordsmithing
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When it was pointed out how Facebook’s new Social Ads program likely is playing fast-and-loose with users’ privacy and consent, I considered the issue to be, ultimately, too abstract to faze the majority of Facebookers. As long as it didn’t detract from user experience, the behind-the-scenes swapping of sensitive demographic info between Facebook and other companies wouldn’t register.

Well, it turns out the process isn’t so behind-the-scenes, thanks to a marketing-feed app called Beacon:

The new program lets companies tap ongoing conversations by alerting users about friends’ activities through the feeds. About 40 Web sites have decided to embed a free tool from Facebook, known as a Beacon, to enable the marketing feeds.

The idea is that if users see a friend buy or do something, they’d take that action as an endorsement for a movie, a band or a soft drink.

But it also raises privacy concerns.

Mike Mayer, for instance, saw a feed item saying his boyfriend, Adam Sofen, just bought tickets to “No Country For Old Men” from movie-ticket vendor Fandango.

“What if I was seeing ‘Fred Claus’?” said Sofen, 28. “That would have been much more embarrassing. At least this was a prestigious movie.”

Embarrassment is one thing. But I’m betting these social-network butterflies would get even more peeved at the prospect of a spoiled surprise:

“People should be given much more of a notice, much more of an alert,” said Matthew Helfgott, 20, a college student who discovered his girlfriend just bought him black leather gloves from Overstock for Hanukkah. “She said she had no idea [information would be shared]. She said it invaded her privacy.”

This is what it’ll come down to: Dead-simple practical examples of what happens when your online persona is tracked. If Facebookers find out they can’t buy something — a present, a book, whatever — and not have their online friends find out indiscriminately, then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they’re going to start leaving the site.

I figured the online generation knew no boundaries in their disregard for personal disclosure, but this episode looks to be the virtual brick wall. Facebook is practically sabotaging itself out of relevance by sticking with this format, and I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t move quickly (i.e., the next few days) to start implementing opt-outs to quell this.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/21/2007 09:42:59 PM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg., Business
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