Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Monday, March 31, 2021

When Ask.com recently decided to retool into a women-centric search engine, I derided the move as “a solution in search of a problem”.

I still think that’s the case, as far as Web search goes. But as Yahoo!’s new Shine site demonstrates, the underserved online female demographic is a concept that’s definitely running through the Web media world, and informing business decisions:

Yahoo developed Shine after it studied the market extensively and found that women want content that helps them manage their busy lives and ways to maximize the online time they have, Amy Iorio, the vice president of Yahoo Lifestyles and now publisher of Shine, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Women said, one, that they want a one-stop for everything so they can maximize their time, and two, that they’re always doing for other people, so it’s nice for them to have someone focused on thinking about their needs,” Iorio said.

I guess we’ll be seeing a lot more Web content targeting the double-X chromosome in the coming months.

As for Shine itself, it’s drawing on some solid publishing channels:

Yahoo plans to set the site apart from others in the market such as iVillage with its three-tiered content strategy, which will include original and repurposed editorial from magazines such as Glamour, Self, Bon Appetit, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Prevention and Women’s Health; original content from Yahoo’s team of 10 editors; and user content.

“Women are blogging more than men now,” Iorio noted. “There’s been a real explosion in that over the past six months. We’re already hearing from women who are excited about that opportunity to have their posts appearing alongside that professional content.”

And in fact, Shine’s page layout mirrors that of many glamor websites. In particular, the footer of Shine, with that bleed-edge black background, is a close relative of Style.com‘s design. The folks in Sunnyvale are going full-bore with this venture.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/31/2008 10:57pm
Category: Internet, Media, Women
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I’m sure many a corporate notebook-computing jockey is tittering over the idea of “going topless” — with “topless” in this case meaning laptop-less, referring to an effort among Silicon Valley companies to make face-to-face meetings more productive via elimination of distracting portable monitors.

And actually, since I just used the suggestive “tittering” when describing a term suggestive of exposed breasts, I guess I’m part of the problem.

But at least I’m not part of this problem:

It’s not exactly attention deficit. Linda Stone, a software executive who worked for Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., calls it “continuous partial attention.” It stems from an intense desire to connect and be connected all of the time, or, in her words, to be “a live node on the network.”

Etiquette has suffered in the process. “Face-to-face meetings have become a low priority because they’re constantly being interrupted by technology, and many people can’t figure out what to do,” said Sue Fox, author of “Business Etiquette for Dummies.” “What’s more important — the gadget or the person, or people, you’re with?”

I’ve said before that we live in the Age of Distraction. Having an interactive source of constant distraction in your pocket makes it official.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/31/2008 09:40pm
Category: Business, Tech, Wordsmithing
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Sunday, March 30, 2021

As intrigued as I was about “Ladies & Gents”, the offbeat theatrical production being staged in Central Park‘s public restrooms, I doubted that I’d be able to find a date willing to share the experience.

Well, luckily I did, and we got to see the show a couple of nights ago. And luckily for her — and for me, come to think of it — the bathrooms weren’t nearly as stinky as I imagined they could be.

Neither, for that matter, was the play itself. It had a unique structure: Two acts, which were played out simultaneously in the separate Ladies and Mens “conveniences” (Irish idiom for restrooms). Accordingly, the audience was split into separate halves, which were then filed into each bathroom to watch their particular segment of the story. At intermission, the two groups filed out and then switched restrooms, to see their concluding half of the play (which, given the nature of this narrative, isn’t properly the “second” part).

Just my luck, my date and I were separated into the two separate groups for the duration of this performance. But that actually turned out okay, because:

Given the cramped conditions, audience arrangement took the form of standing up against the walls, forming a rough circle around the “stage” where the actors did their things. It was the ultimate in intimate, and lent a real unnerving feel to the whole show. But it also meant that there was no opportunity for comparing notes with one another, because even the faintest whisper was impossible to disguise. So there would be no advantage to being paired up during the performance. That’s if it would even have been possible: The staff herded us in brusquely (I even said “Gestapo tactics” out loud), and “assigned” us our standing spots without any regard to preference.

And in fact, we ended up having more to compare and contrast about afterward because of this. We realized that we were experiencing the same story but in a different sequence, so we retraced how that affected our perception of the events. It turned out to be not so much, but I’m not sure it would have come so readily to us if we’d been watching the same sequence at the same time.

You’ll notice I’m being very light on the narrative specifics. You could say that I was more captivated by the format then by the creative content itself. The cloak-and-dagger noir setting in 1950s Dublin was satisfying, but nothing groundbreaking. The story moved along at a rapid-fire pace; combined with the staging elements, it just worked.

I’m not sure if I’m waiting for the next toilet-bowl production. My companion came up with the idea — prior to the night’s actual audience separation — of dividing the showgoers according to gender, thereby having all-women attending the Ladies room portion and all-men in the Gents facility. Maybe some enterprising playwright can work on that concept.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/30/2008 11:12pm
Category: Creative, Media, New Yorkin'
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Baseball’s Washington Nationals are starting this season in brand-spanking-new Nationals Park — and in this age of stadium naming rights, that kind of default facility name is bad news.

If, for no other reason, the depreciative effect:

Had a deal been in place already, the corporate sponsor would be identified with the park from its first day of existence — just as CitiBank will be identified with the New York Mets’ still-to-come Citi Field, just as telecommunications behemoth MCI was linked to Washington’s MCI Center two years before it opened. Some experts believe a relationship that begins on Opening Day — or, in some cases, years in advance — means the fan base will permanently link the corporation with the team.

“With every day that passes once the ballpark is open, the value of that rights deal could very well decrease,” said David Carter, the executive director of the University of Southern California’s Sports Business Institute. “There’s so much upfront media attention and buzz, and that impacts how the name would be received by the public… The opening weekend is a tremendous amount of positive publicity, and that could have a halo effect to a sponsor if one was in place.”

It’s strange to think that a phantom facility is more valuable, marketing-wise, than an already-existing brick-and-mortar structure. But it’s true, and I’ve noted that mindshare has an awful lot to do with it:

The chief reason why the naming-rights prices are super-sizing is that they’re being applied to brand-spanking-new buildings. That’s key. Instead of slapping a new name onto an old building — that comes with an entrenched name and tradition that, sometimes, never gets completely supplanted — the naming-rights holder gets virgin territory. So there’s no chance of Prudential Center being referred to by its “old” name, because there is no old name for the stubborn voices to hang onto.

In a way, things have come full-circle in the stadium naming game: Corporate branding of an events edifice has gone from a crass rarity to an essential element. And as the DC situation illustrates, it’s now even a top-of-list priority.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/30/2008 09:57pm
Category: Baseball, SportsBiz
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There’s a strange dichotomy going on in wedding-gown fashions today:

- On the one hand, body-conscious modern brides are opting for downright risqué outfits, designed to show off well-toned and well-tanned skin (and tattoos, even):

[Natasha] DaSilva is typical of a growing number of brides flouting convention by flaunting their curves. More vamp than virgin, many are selecting gowns that bare a generous expanse of cleavage, midsection, lower back or thigh, temptress styles that may be better suited to a gala or boudoir than to a church or ballroom…

Determined to look torrid on their wedding day, they are picking dresses modeled, say, on the one worn by Christina Aguilera, who was married in 2005 in a gown with a plummeting neckline and ruffled fishtail hem. Or maybe the hope is to emulate Sarah Jessica Parker, who, in the forthcoming film version of “Sex and the City,” spills out of the front of her wedding dress.

- At the opposite end of the blushing-bride presentation is Disney Bridal, which lets a girl walk down the aisle in as snow white a state as possible without being animated. (I’m guessing the groom who marries a Belle wannabe will have to endure Beauty and the Beast jokes all through the reception.)

Both ceremony options are fueled by a particular pop-cultural fantasy. I can’t say one is any more grown-up than the other.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/30/2008 09:19pm
Category: Fashion, Pop Culture, Society, Women
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Dane Cook likes to call it a relationshit. (That must be why he’s so “edgy”.)

Me, I think a better description of a relationship gone sour is… a relationshipwreck.

True, it takes the effort of mouthing an extra syllable, but I think it’s worth it to get the point across.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/30/2008 08:36pm
Category: Comedy, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, March 29, 2021

Perhaps acknowledging that Earth Day has devolved into a passive naval-gazing session for eco-slackers, the World Wildlife Federation has launched Earth Hour, which requires an active lights-out global effort to raise awareness.

Starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Christchurch, New Zealand, citizens from around the world will shut off their lights for an hour, to draw attention to the connection between energy use and climate change. From New Zealand, the event will move westward with the sun to Australia, Manila, Dubai, Dublin, New York, Chicago and finally end in San Francisco, where both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge will go dark for an hour.

And there’s no better way to raise awareness than this:

Earth Hour won’t suffer for a lack of gimmicks. Servers wearing glow-in-the-dark necklaces will sell eco-tinis at bars and restaurants in Phoenix. A local yoga house in Michigan will offer sessions by lamplight, and the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago will have check-in by candlelight.

I guess I’ll see what it’s like in a couple of hours. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I would have noticed if I hadn’t gotten early word of it.

UPDATE, EARTH HOUR PLUS 24: Looks like NYC took a pass on this little green-fest. I saw no evidence of a municipal-wide lights-out; a few corporate advertisers shut down their Times Square mega-watt billboards for the 60 minutes, but no coordinated observance. Most people I talked to had never even heard of the thing. Maybe momentum will be stronger next year.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/29/2008 04:55pm
Category: Science, Society
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all rights reserved
In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got $130 (roughly $1,800 in today’s dollars, per this historical inflation calculator) in exchange for selling all rights to a little character by the name of Superman.

Seventy years later, their heirs have legally reclaimed part of the copyright to the world’s more famous (and marketable) superhero, potentially complicating Time Warner’s use of the character in films and other media.

Compensation to the Siegels would be limited to any work created after their 1999 termination date. Income from the 1978 “Superman” film, or the three sequels that followed in the 1980s, are not at issue. But a “Superman Returns” sequel being planned with the filmmaker Bryan Singer (who has also directed “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men”) might require payments to the Siegels, should they prevail in a demand that the studio’s income, not just that of the comics unit, be subject to a court-ordered accounting.

What this recounting fails to mention: If the ruling stands, it opens a can of worms. Practically every iconic comics and pop-culture character is probably covered under this precedent: Batman, Spider-Man, Bugs Bunny and hundreds others. The intellectual property held by companies like Time Warner are consistently undervalued; a flood of legal claims not only would rightfully revert rights back to the creators and their families, it might also bring to light just how much money their creations bring to corporate bottom-lines.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/29/2008 04:26pm
Category: Business, Pop Culture, Publishing
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Friday, March 28, 2021

black and white in color
Much as Monday Night Football and Terrell Owens taught us almost four years ago, you simply cannot put a black man and white woman together in American media and not have people go (pardon the pun) apeshit.

But the image is stirring up controversy, with some commentators decrying the photo as perpetuating racial stereotypes. [LeBron] James strikes what some see as a gorilla-like pose, baring his teeth, with one hand dribbling a ball and the other around [Gisele] Bundchen’s tiny waist.

It’s an image some have likened to King Kong and Fay Wray.

“It conjures up this idea of a dangerous black man,” said Tamara Walker, 29, of Philadelphia.

And in fact, some think that photographer Annie Leibovitz, who shot this April 2008 cover of Vogue, took her inspiration from the semi-famous “Destroy This Mad Brute” World War I propaganda poster, which predates King Kong.

As always, image is everything.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/28/2008 03:37pm
Category: Basketball, Fashion, Photography, Publishing
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David Pogue ponders why more companies don’t embrace the transparency of corporate blogs, podcasts, Facebook pages and other public-facing interactive communications.

And he inadvertently hits the nail on the head with this observation:

Now then. We all know, intellectually, that no matter what image a corporation tries to project, it’s made up of ordinary people with personalities, insecurities and lives. But because the marketing and P.R. teams work so hard to scrub, control and package a company’s image, the public ordinarily sees none of that human side.

And all that scrubbing toward uniformity is exactly why you don’t see more penetration of Web 2.0 techniques. Corporate imagemakers are paid for version control — maintaining a buttoned-up storefront that conveys a “serious” company. The idea is that anyone who wants to do business, especially in terms of swapping real money, won’t do so with a bunch of clowns who are goofing around on MySpace on company time.

That’s typically not the marketing wonks pushing such an agenda. Ultimately, the company chieftains are the ones who yea or nay the approach, and since they usually become immersed in fairly rigid corporate cultures (especially when the money becomes larger), they are less comfortable with informality in their brand messaging.

So is a Web 2.0 approach the key to unshackling this closed loop?

When a company embraces the possibilities of Web 2.0, though, it makes contact with its public in a more casual, less sanitized way that, as a result, is accepted with much less cynicism. Web 2.0 offers a direct, more trusted line of communications than anything that came before it.

Well. Anything can be managed at the source. There are plenty of examples of corporate blogs that are ill-maintained, becoming little more than token permalinks filled with press-release text. I don’t think Web-based techniques are inherently purer than any other marketing collateral; maybe their relative newness triggers more trust from public audiences, but that will wear thin as traditional corporate communications techniques get channeled through them.

Ultimately, Web 2.0 gimmicks work only as long as quality content inform them. When they come in contact with corporate America, the quality becomes more restrictive the larger a company gets, and that includes once-spunky Web operations like Google (despite internal efforts to preserve the loose atmosphere). Doing business unfortunately leads to the narrowing of paths.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/28/2008 02:40pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Social Media Online
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Thursday, March 27, 2021

Since no one seems to be buying them for everyday use, Segway is repurposing its namesake hi-tech scooter for niche uses. First up: The X2 Golf model, a sort of golfcart replacement.

Like its siblings, it’s a personal mobility machine, but it sits on big, soft turf tires and offers a golf-bag carrier on one side and a handlebar-mounted scorecard holder.

They forgot to include a cupholder, for the inevitable beercan-cradling…

As if golf could get any dorkier. No telling if this helps or hinders the efforts to reinvigorate participation in the sport.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/27/2008 10:54pm
Category: Other Sports, Society, Tech
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Last year, Lumberton, New Jersey was anointed the most active eBaying community in America. No word on if that’s boosted civic fortunes for the Philadelphia suburban community.

But now, Lumberton has a sister city north of the border. Belle River, Ontario has been datamined-determined to be the eBaying-est town in Canada, primarily due to its residents’ trade in auto parts and hockey cards.

I now realize that eBay is splicing its data this way in order to shine a light on small dink-towns, in the hopes that they’ll run with it and make noise over the distinction. Big cities like Toronto and San Francisco, which both probably come out on top in terms of volume of eBay users, would likely just shrug this “honor” off. I’m not sure it’s working, though; I’m guessing this will be abandoned inside of two more years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/27/2008 10:43pm
Category: Internet, Society
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Wednesday, March 26, 2021

I ran into a lawyer recently, and we somehow got around to talking about drinking and hangovers. He told me about his strategy for carefree imbibing while never having to worry about the after-effects:

He’s sold on this hangover-prevention pill called Cheers. I thought he meant Chaser, which I’m only aware of because I’ve seen advertising for that product; but no, apparently Cheers is even more powerful at blocking the boozed-up blotto effect.

So he’s basically laced his life with on-hand supplies of Cheers tablets: He’s bought God-knows-how-many and stashed them in his coat pockets, his girlfriend’s purses, his office desk, his car, etc. All for the purpose of ensuring that, should the sudden impulse to knock back a few hit no matter where, he can drug up beforehand to prevent a hangover from setting in.

While I admire all the diligent pre-planning in the name of spontaneous merriment, I had to note that maybe, just maybe, this guy’s got bigger problems than experiencing the throb of a hangover…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/26/2008 11:53am
Category: Science, Society
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Tuesday, March 25, 2021

If you’re thinking about visiting Europe, now’s the time to start planning: The open skies agreement, set to go into effect on March 30, will eliminate archaic locked-in carrier/country route agreements, leading to more direct-destination flights from the States and, eventually, lower fares.

Of course, the way the dollar keeps tanking versus the euro, it’ll wind up being a wash once you deplane and start spending money. But every little bit helps, I suppose.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/25/2008 11:11pm
Category: General
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Business in the front, party in the back — the elegant(?) design of the mullet is serving as a blueprint for websites that want to balance user contributions with advertiser appeal:

User generated content is all the rage but most of it totally sucks. That is why sites like YouTube, MySpace, CNN, and HuffPost are all embracing the mullet strategy. They let users party, argue, and vent on the secondary pages, but professional editors keep the front page looking sharp. The mullet strategy is here to stay because the best way for web companies to grow traffic is to let the users have control, but the best way to sell advertising is a slick, pretty front page where corporate sponsors can wistfully admire their brands.

Pretty genius, actually. The entryway makes that unshakable first impression, so it should be buttoned-up; after a visitor is engaged enough to click deeper into the site, it can be anything-goes.

So what would be the opposite of mullet-optimized web design? Are there examples of, say, bouffant websites, where the front page is a mess but a myriad of slick presentations lie beneath?

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/25/2008 10:56pm
Category: Internet, Media
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Monday, March 24, 2021

I’ve concocted a new personal timeframe: Starting today and ending April 26th, I’m living “between the Easters”.

Yes, there’s another Easter observance coming next month, and I’m one of the Orthodox Christians who’ll be observing it. Since the gap between the twin holidays is so large in 2008 (five weeks, much longer than most years), I figure it’s a significant enough chunk of time that I can signify it.

Not that I’m going to go hog-wild with this. Just something else to brand. If it resonates with others, I’ll be shocked.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/24/2008 10:45pm
Category: Creative, Society
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Sunday, March 23, 2021

With the appeal of first-release theatrical movies waning — as audiences know the cable and DVD release for the same flick will follow in mere weeks — more cineplexes are using their screens and seats for simulcasting live sports matches, concerts and other big-ticket events as a way to expand both revenue streams and audience access.

Why has this idea, which clearly fills a need and seems like a natural fit for moviehouses’ small-crowd configurations, not caught on? Probably because the words “movie” and “theater” are too-closely wed:

Marketing is the biggest puzzle that operators need to figure out, said Jeffrey B. Logsdon, an entertainment analyst at BMO Capital Markets. Trying to contain costs, most have relied on advertising on their Web sites and in movie listings. Still, most people do not think to seek this kind of content at the movies, he said.

Consumer psychology, Mr. Logsdon says, plays as big a role in the shift as economics. Operators want people to think of theaters as vibrant, busy places. But when weekends account for 70 percent of movie ticket sales, multiplex parking lots spend a lot of time sitting empty.

“At the movies” is the heart of the problem. Nobody considers their town or neighborhood theaters as anything other than a place to catch a movie. Decades of reinforcing this linkage served the movie business well, before box-office declines became the norm in recent years. Now, that extreme tailoring by exhibitors to just one content stream — movies — is the classic situation of putting all the eggs in one basket, and sinking or swimming correspondingly.

It’s not out of the question for theaters to remake themselves into multiple-offering venues. After all, motion picture showings started in old vaudeville theaters that were dominated by live entertainment. Even well after films established themselves in “movie palaces”, they often shared space with other modes of entertainment. A congregation of seating is inherently flexible, and that silver screen can be rigged to show just about anything.

The trick is convincing people that there’s enough of a tradeoff between watching at home, on a smaller but cozier home theater, and sharing a gigantic screen and surround-sound experience with dozens of strangers. The event will go a long way toward selling the experience.

The key is in playing with the definition of “live”. Live simulcasts certainly don’t have the same vibe, but the exclusivity of the situation would still count for something. It certainly needs some marketing finesse — consumers resent an obvious attempt to be suckered into a “live” event when it’s really video. But presented for what it is, with the benefits emphasized, it can be sold.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/23/2008 10:15pm
Category: Business, Movies
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Developed as an accidental side-effect to a cardiovascular/blood pressure treatment, Viagra debuted 10 years ago this week, forever changing the prospects of limp-dickedness:

Since Viagra went on the market it has been used by 35 million men around the globe, and it took impotence off the taboo list, making it infinitely easier to treat.

Urologists’ waiting rooms became busier as news got round that the condition, which was rechristened with a new, scientific name — erectile dysfunction, or ED — could be treated with a triangular blue pill.

Personally, this decade-long journey has meant that I now can’t remember what National Football League game broadcasts were like before the torrent of penis-pill TV ads started dominating commercial breaks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/23/2008 09:26pm
Category: Football, Science, Society
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Today was the Easter holiday for most of Christendom — but not all of it.

And since I’m aligned with that other Church, this Sunday was just another free day for me. No familial obligations to fulfill (they were pointedly avoided, in fact, in what amounts to a silent signification of the Eastern Orthodox divergence on this holiday), so I took advantage by getting out of the house and wandering the streets, with nothing particularly pressing to drive me.

Frankly, o counter-Christians, I’m not impressed with this late March observation of Jesus’ comeback. Resurrection is supposed to coincide with Spring, renewal and all that; and while the calendar might align that way, the day’s weather sure didn’t. Temperatures in the mid-40s in midtown Manhattan don’t jibe with rejuvenation, either spiritual or physical.

I’m thinking that Orthodox Easter, scheduled for April 27th, is going to be a lot more Springlike around here, provided we don’t get a freak extension of Winter weather (you never know, in this age of global weirding). So for once, the “other” Easter will seem more appropriate, at least climate-wise. I’ll take it, on style points.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/23/2008 08:49pm
Category: New Yorkin', Society, Weather
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Saturday, March 22, 2021

I guess there’s just not enough celebrity dirt to go around. What seemed like a slam-dunk print-to-Web migration turned out to not make financial sense, as the New York Post was forced to shutter PageSix.com merely three months after launching it.

PageSix.com started in December as an addition to the print and online versions of Page Six, the New York Post’s highly influential gossip column.

But the site encountered heavy competition for readers from popular gossip Web sites such as TMZ.com, which is owned by AOL, a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.

How sour could ad sales have been? I can’t believe they couldn’t scrape up enough eyeballs, even if only among New Yorkers most familiar with the Post’s tongue-wagging format.

The only thing I can think of is that they didn’t open up commenting on the site, which to me seems like the most engaging part of other online gossip rags. Unfortunately, there’s no archive to look at yet, so I can only guess.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/22/2008 06:34pm
Category: Internet, Media, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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making a face
Cute presentation, no? This serving of fried rice was set down in front of a lunch companion yesterday at Chai Restaurant, and I couldn’t resist taking a quick cellphone picture.

I think it’s obvious that the two cucumbers with plum tomatoes, accompanied by wedge of lime, represents a face. That wasn’t apparent to a third lunchmate, who thought the arrangement looked like “boobies”, with no accounting for the lime.

Said lunchmate obviously is swimming against the tide of cognitive human visual language, which allows us to see two dots and a half-moon and interpret the visual representation of a face.

On the other hand, I kinda envy the ability to conjure up images of female breasts. Maybe a cultural re-education is in order — to the extent that our desensitized society hasn’t already done the job.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/22/2008 06:05pm
Category: Food, Media, New Yorkin', Science
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