Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, May 16, 2021

Anyone seen Lollipop Girl, of “Grand Theft Auto IV” fame, around lately?

Because she’s somewhat elusive during gameplay within Liberty City itself. Which is ironic, considering that the character is quite prominent in advertising around New York City, and so presumably is a drawing card for selling the game. It’s like one of those top-billed actors who wind up making a five-minute cameo in a movie…

On top of that, a few nights back I was chatting with a woman in some Upper West Side bar who claimed to have been the flesh-and-blood inspiration for Miss Lollipopper. That’s not her pictured above, but the girl I was talking to certainly held a resemblance. I’m not sure I believed the claim — simply because the ad imagery has been plastered all over town, I figured it might just be a convenient and relatable source of small-talk material. Plus, in the game Lollipop Girl apparently has been IDed as a hooker named Lola Del Rio — a dubious star from whom to draw a rep.

Then again, GTA publisher Take-Two and Rockstar Games are based here in NYC, so who knows? Maybe the programmers did have a real-life model to pixelate.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/16/2008 08:45:11 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Videogames, Women
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Like Brian Morrissey at AdFreak, I’m not a big fan of tag clouds (or “weighted lists”, to use a description from my visual-design past). Whatever their utility as navigation tools, they’re usually ugly as sin, especially when applied to a blog/site that devotes 90 percent of its content to one or two topics (obviating the need for this sort of filtering in the first place).

But take away the navigation aspect, and apply the size-weighting of fonts to mindshare concepts, and you’ve got something. Specifically, you’ve got Brand Tags, an experiment of name-brand products and services with word-association.

Above is a sampling for Tropicana, with a pretty typical lineup related to juice products. Not all brands fare as well or predictably, though: American Airlines ominously tags high for 9/11, while Jagermeister embarrassingly (for a liquor product) registers a strong false-postive as a beer product.

It’s intriguing, although I’m not sure how much faith you can put into an anonymous and limited sampling. Definitely worth a gander, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/16/2008 07:18:50 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Internet
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Thursday, May 15, 2021

The mass adoption of cellphones as the only household phones people use began three years ago. The trending continues apace: A combined 29 percent of Americans either have only cellphones, or else pair them with a landline phone which they never use for talk.

The reasons for this aren’t surprising, but the source of the latest research is:

Such families often either have their landline hooked exclusively to a computer or rely so heavily on their cells that they ignore landline calls because they are probably from telephone solicitors, said Stephen Blumberg, senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an author of the report.

Um, the CDC? The disease people? Why exactly they were commissioned to looking into telephone usage pattern is a mystery. Will the decline of a landline housephone lead to a lessening of germ transference via dirty earpiece/receiver? One can only hope.

As for viewing the landline as a junk-call magnet, I can relate to that. When I still had a landline phone myself (three years ago now), it had devolved into exactly that: A number that I never gave out, so I could always be assured that any incoming calls on it were ones I didn’t want to take. A relatively expensive filter, but its function was reflective of the state of personal telecommunications by this point.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/15/2008 09:00:24 PM
Category: Society, Tech
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While CBS will be getting a robust and sprawling Web media operation in its $1.8 billion acquisition of CNET Networks, in my mind there are two chief reasons for the deal:

- News.com

- TV.com

It just about begins and ends there. Both those sites — or, more properly, their browser addresses — make synergistic sense under CBS’ umbrella. Everything else — the long-established audiences, the physical Silicon Valley hub — is incidental, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see chunks of CNET eventually get jettisoned by the new corporate parent.

CNET has occupied that valuable news.com URL real estate for more than a decade. I always thought it was peculiar that such a fundamental brand/concept should take you to a narrow slice of news, instead of a more-general news portal; but that’s CNET’s reward for cornering that domain so early. Having news.com resolve to CBS News would confer an almost default status to the network for online news consumption, simply by virtue of the easily-input Web address.

Meanwhile, the TV.com domain came under CNET’s control more recently. Just nurturing its existing community-building formula will pay off for the short term; further out, it could be used to cement CBS’ position in televised media even further.

Yes, I’m characterizing this deal as essentially another dollars-for-domains transaction. Unlike other instances, though, this one actually makes sense. There’s no other way to establish the kind of mindshare that two dead-simple dot-com addresses bring. Having these two roads lead to CBS online properties will count big, with overall brand-building and online revenue generation via ads and other channels.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/15/2008 01:35:28 PM
Category: Business, Internet, TV
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Speaking of Tom Sachs, he’s a multi-media kinda pop-cultural artist, as evidenced by his collection of short films.

They look to be mostly stop-motion animation pieces with funky soundtracks/voiceovers attached. Sachs collaborated with the Neistat Brothers on these, and the influence definitely shows.

My favorites from this group are: “McDonald’s Teaser”, musically accompanied by the late Wesley Willis’ “Rock and Roll McDonald’s”; and “Bitches and Money”, a 1/25th-scale tour through a ghetto, backed appropriately by NWA’s “Gangsta Gangsta”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/15/2008 12:56:18 PM
Category: Comedy, Creative, Internet, Movies, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, May 14, 2021

In a decided 180-degree from its previous display of Damien Hirst-arranged animal carcasses, Park Avenue’s Lever House is now hosting giant-sized sculptures of Hello Kitty characters.

Why? Because sculpture artist Tom Sachs considers the cutesy Japanese feline to be his pop-cultural muse, worthy of extensive bronze-working, topped with white-paint finishing.

I wandered into this public art display by chance this afternoon. I was heading toward Lexington and wasn’t even aware that I was on 53rd Street until I reached Lever and took a peek. It was a pleasantly jarring surprise to come upon a lunchtime scene festooned with these oversized white beasties. Some of them were working water fountains, which adds a whimsical touch to the overall scene.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/14/2008 09:51:17 PM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Tuesday, May 13, 2021

If you’re packing a Y-chromosome, you’re (almost literally) a marked man lately, because there’s a gender divide characterizing the onset of this softening economy:

From last November through this April, American women aged 20 and up gained nearly 300,000 jobs, according to the household survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the same time, American men lost nearly 700,000 jobs. You might even say American men are in recession, and American women are not.

What’s going on? Simply put, men have the misfortune of being concentrated in the two sectors that are doing the worst: manufacturing and construction. Women are concentrated in sectors that are still growing, such as education and health care.

Based on this trending, it might be time for us guys to get in touch with our feminine sides — purely for vocational reasons.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/13/2008 11:07:40 PM
Category: Business, Society
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Sue Simmons is a bona fide institution in New York City local news media, second only to her co-anchor Chuck Scarborough. Personally, I can’t remember when they weren’t occupying Channel 4; they were a firm part of my childhood channel-surfing.

Which is what makes her live-TV “What the fuck are you doing??” flub today all the more shocking (in a fun way!):

The shit hit the fan, of course, prompting an obligatory apology from Sue. Order is restored at the local NBC flagship affiliate.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/13/2008 10:45:58 PM
Category: Celebrity, New Yorkin', TV
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Way to cash in, Moldy Peaches.

It was only a few months ago when you were compelled to reunite as part of the soundtrack for indieflick-hit Juno. Having gotten a taste of that — which included mass-audience gawking via “The View” — you’ve now lent your signature song, “Anyone Else But You”, to Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island for their latest TV commercial.

And probably worse, it’s not even the original song, but rather the melody with some reworked, marketing-specific lyrics grafted on. Selling out doesn’t get any more customized. I’d say the indie cred has flown right out the window…

I wish I could find the commercial online; I guess it’s too new to have been YouTubed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/13/2008 12:14:18 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Movies, Pop Culture
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Monday, May 12, 2021

A bumper sticker I spied not too long ago, upstate (I snapped a cameraphone photo of it, but it came out too crappy to use):


Yup, “there”, instead of “they’re”. No better way to sabotage an otherwise bold statement than via a boneheaded misspelling.

I would attribute this to a recent rash of mad-as-hell grammatical challenges, except that it appears this doofus has been displaying his cluelessness for a couple of years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/12/2021 11:04:06 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Political, Wordsmithing
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There are two ways of looking at Cablevision’s $650 million purchase of Newsday from Tribune Co.:

1. Underlying the apparent mismatch between a dominant cable provider and an entrenched but struggling newspaper is a potentially lucrative synergy:

But even if the prospective deal has an element of vanity to it, Cablevision could make the following argument. It has roughly three million cable subscribers in Long Island, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, while Newsday has about 300,000 subscribers. Cablevision’s customer relationships could help it sell more subscriptions, while overlapping ad sales forces at the two companies could result in cost savings. And Cablevision owns a 24-hour local news channel in Long Island, which could use the news gathering capacity of Newsday — and in theory cut costs.

This makes the acquisition of Newsday the equivalent of securing an established and dedicated advertising channel for Cablevision. Nassau County is prime demographic territory, so any additional inroads a media company can make and present to ad clients is extremely valuable.

2. In order to extract the maximum value out of its unwanted asset, Tribune owner Sam Zell orchestrated an elaborate competition among Newsday’s suitors:

The trick was for Zell to turn this into a bidding war. That was difficult at first. The three interested parties acted as if they had the upper hand. Cablevision did some tire kicking, but the Dolans didn’t make an offer. [New York Daily News owner Mort] Zuckerman reportedly made a lowball bid.

Zell turned up the heat by entering into negotiations with News Corp. to accept $580 million for a majority stake in Newsday. [Rupert] Murdoch clearly felt he had the inside track. He began courting Long Island’s political leaders whose support he would surely need to get the deal approved by the FCC in Washington. That’s because News Corp. already owns the [New York] Post and two New York City television stations.

It now appears Zell was using News Corp.’s offer to establish a floor for the bidding. Zuckerman soon matched News Corp.’s offer. Then Cablevision did what non-strategic bidders often do in such situations. It offered to pay a higher price than either newspaper publisher.

And viola, Newsday becomes a hot property. Where it goes from here under the Dolans’ stewardship remains to be seen.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/12/2021 10:41:13 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin', Publishing, TV
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From one of my most fave-o-reet episodes of “The Simpsons”, I present “Skinner & the Superintendent”, or (as I prefer) “Steamed Hams”:

And for good measure, the key exchange:

Superintendent Chalmers: I thought we were having steamed clams.
Seymour Skinner: Oh, no, I said steamed hams. That’s what I call hamburgers.
Superintendent Chalmers: You call hamburgers steamed hams?
Seymour Skinner: Yes, it’s a regional dialect.
Superintendent Chalmers: Uh-huh. What region?
Seymour Skinner: Uhh… Upstate New York.
Superintendent Chalmers: Really? Well, I’m from Utica, and I’ve never heard anyone use the phrase ’steamed hams.’
Seymour Skinner: Oh, not in Utica. No, it’s an Albany expression.
Superintendent Chalmers: I see.
[Chalmers bites into a steamed ham.]
Superintendent Chalmers: You know, these hamburgers are quite similar to the ones they have at Krusty Burger.
Seymour Skinner: Oh ho ho, no. Patented Skinner burgers. Old family recipe.
Superintendent Chalmers: For steamed hams…
Seymour Skinner: Yes…
Superintendent Chalmers: Yes, and you call them steamed hams despite the fact that they are obviously grilled.

One last tidbit: Along with the obvious allusions to Pulp Fiction throughout, this episode also owes its title — “22 Short Films About Springfield” — to Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. The title and structure of which, in turn, was inspired by the 32 pieces that comprise Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/12/2021 08:05:14 PM
Category: Comedy, Creative, Movies, New Yorkin', TV
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Sunday, May 11, 2021

What you see pictured above (snapped by me, with my cameraphone in Times Square) is but one outcropping of an epidemic that’s overtaken New York City: The spread of knockoff baseball caps emblazoned with “NY” logos, designed to look just enough like official Yankees or Mets gear to pass the glance test.

Seriously, I’ve seen these hats all over the place — subways, on the street, in clubs… Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to be seen wearing one. They’re downright shoddy-looking.

I’m guessing the only reason Major League Baseball (and any other sports league) isn’t filing infringement lawsuits is that those chunky-fonted logos are just distinguishable enough to not be considered credible copies of their obvious inspirations. But come on — there’s no mistaking their appeal, funky colors and patterns aside. They’re faux team colors for $5 off the street, versus the $20-and-up for the real deal.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/11/2021 03:43:19 PM
Category: Baseball, Fashion, New Yorkin'
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The above is a crop from a bus-shelter ad I cameraphone-snapped a month ago, somewhere in midtown Manhattan. I like the composition, in that it used the familiar symbol signs for the human form to get its point across about the alienating effect of social phobia.

Not to mention that I have a touch of that particular anxiety myself. So I really identify with that black standalone glyph — much as I’d prefer to be one of those multicolored in-the-crowd types.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/11/2021 02:07:54 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin', Society
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Saturday, May 10, 2021

Consider these assessments by playwright Yasmina Reza of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, gleaned from her yearlong stint as insider on his 2007 campaign trail:

“One of the things that I liked about him — there are many things, but this really seduced me — was his insolence,” she recalled. “But he has not understood that power is itself insolent and that he could not continue with his habitual insolences. During the campaign his insolence seemed like an expression of freedom, frankness. But in office he has not curbed it, he has misjudged its effect.”…

Ms. Reza was not surprised when Mr. Sarkozy was next seen dating the former model Carla Bruni, whom he married in February. “He’s the kind of man who is incapable of being alone,” she said. “I don’t think he can spend a night alone, an evening alone. There may be passing affairs, but he needs someone real. So quickly someone serious entered his life.”…

“I think he is a tragic personality, a man bent on self-destruction,” she said. “It wasn’t clear during the campaign, but I am convinced that he has a powerful faculty for self-destruction.”

With all that in mind, let me throw this out there:

Is Sarkozy just France’s version of Bill Clinton, appropriately amped up for a Gallic political culture? Both men came into office as establishment-challenging reformers, after all. And as far as spotlight moments: Imagine the Monica Lewinsky scandal culminating not in impeachment, but rather in a divorce and remarriage… And you’ve got the Carla Bruni episode.

If all this holds, I guess we’ll be seeing a meltdown from the Presidential Palace in Paris before all’s done.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/10/2021 06:52:59 PM
Category: Celebrity, Politics
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Something out of my current fiction-reading that rings true for me:

“…I’ve always found the minute portraiture of nineteenth-century fiction fairly useless. For me, those precise descriptions of the hero’s nose/mouth/eyes/moles/forehead never come together as an actual face. Maybe it’s a failure of synthetic imagination on my part, but in my mind they always end up jumbled, like a portrait in the analytic cubist mode. It’s always easier to visualize the minor characters, with their bestial analogues, done in the broad stroke of caricature — Mr. Fox, Mr. Rat, Miss Sheep. Then, too, as a reader I like to take a certain amount of responsibility for filling in the details.”

- Connor McKnight, protagonist from Jay McInerney’s “Model Behavior”

I’ve always experienced a similar shortcoming whenever trying to mentally reconstruct a detailed description of some literary character. It never gets to the “cubist mode” stage for me, though — I simply don’t bother to connect the intended dots, and the visages just remain vague.

For that reason, I avoid prose that goes into such exacting detail, because it does nothing for me, and in facts bogs down the flow. I prefer a sacrifice in that area in favor of better-paced plot and dialogue. And I guess I take that “responsibility for filling in the details” to heart — give me enough of the framework, for character and even setting, and I’ll come up with the construct.

(Yes, my “current” reading material is a decade old. What can I say, I’ve been pretty disappointed by the new releases I’ve sampled lately, and so have gone back to the well, author-wise. And actually, there’s a lot of McInerney that I’ve never read before, including this novel.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/10/2021 04:38:20 PM
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Friday, May 09, 2021

Funny thing. It was a miserably rainy day the last time I was inspired to post an iPod Random 8 list, and so it is again today. Must be a trend.

Anyway, here’s the latest shuffle-determined string of output from my iPod Touch (or “iTouch”, if you prefer). Length of said string synced to 8trk, which I’m told is progressing nicely.

1. “Let Me Think About It (club mix)”, Ida Corr vs. Fedde Le Grand - That I am the true way towards ecstasy.

2. “F-cking Boyfriend (Peaches Remix)”, The Bird And The Bee - When you lay down with me, you never slept that night.

3. “Mysterious Ways”, Angelique Kidjo - She sees the man inside the child.

4. “Mer du Japon (Remix by Kris Menace)”, AIR - J’en perds la raison (I lost my mind).

5. “Relaxation Spa Treatment”, Dan the Automator - [instrumental, no lyrics]

6. “Good Love”, Isaac Hayes (as Chef from “South Park”) - You’ll recommend me to your mother, your sisters, your aunts and your nieces.

7. “Let’s Stay Together”, Al Green - Loving you whether, whether.

8. “Colours”, Donovan - Freedom is a word I rarely use.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/09/2021 04:46:20 PM
Category: 8trk, Pop Culture, Tech, Weather
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For several years, the gaming industry has kept up a steady drumbeat about how, based on sales figures, videogames are now a more significant part of the entertainment-media world than the former king of the hill, movies.

Note that “based on sales figures” part, because it’s an obvious reason why the argument doesn’t hold up:

Software publisher Take-Two Interactive bandied the behemoth sales figures [of more than $500 million, for new release “Grand Theft Auto IV”] on Wednesday, days after “Iron Man” vaunted an unexpectedly huge opening weekend box office [of $200 million]. The eye-popping digits left many wondering how such a blockbuster could be so soundly trounced by a controverisal video game.

The simple answer: “GTA IV” costs more to buy…

The standard edition of “GTA IV” is $59.99, while a special edition goes for $89.99 and comes with a soundtrack, art book, duffel bag and safety deposit box. Either way, every time a copy of the game is rung up, what’s added to the week’s tally is significantly more than the $7 average ticket price to see a movie in the U.S.

It’s not hard to figure it out: If Product A costs some nine times more than Product B, naturally a dollar-for-dollar comparison will favor the higher-ticket product, even when unit sales are much lower. Bottom line, there are a lot fewer people buying game discs than there are people waiting in lines outside multiplexes. And as far as what influences the popular consciousness, that’s what counts — movies trump videogames in everyday parlance.

This would seem to be intuitive — except somehow, it’s not. I guess it’s fueled by gamer fervor more than anything else — a desire to deflect the persistent characterization of gaming (especially console videogames) as strictly niche. When Take-Two announced the $500 million-plus opening-week sales of “GTA IV”, it made sure to couch it in language that stacked it against other media: “Breaks Entertainment Launch Records” according to the headline. That’s technically true, and because three-quarters of news-scanners won’t read any further for clarification, a meme is born that videogames have gotten “bigger” than movies and everything else — whatever that means.

In any case, I give AP reporter Derrik J. Lang some credit for bothering to dissect the obvious. It won’t dispel the common misconceptions floating around, but at least it’s out there for the record.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/09/2021 04:11:19 PM
Category: Movies, Videogames
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It’s official: Isabella Rossellini has gone crazy.

Or “buggy”, which would be more in line with the theme behind her “Green Porno” series of insect-sex (”insext”?) short films for Sundance Channel. I mean, it’s one thing to produce nature documentaries on the same reproductive topic — that give it a veneer of scientificness. But to (sorta) dress up as a spider, a dragonfly, etc. and act out the wild wiggling? Cute, but way out there, man.

Although, maybe she’s on the crest of a trend. Perhaps Jerry Seinfeld cracked open the door with Bee Movie, with everyone else just now catching on.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/09/2021 02:06:38 PM
Category: Creative, Movies, Science, TV
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Thursday, May 08, 2021

The latest and greatest addicting online timewaster from the Flash gamemasters at Pixeljam: Dino Run (probably have more luck loading the game from the mirror site):

A giant asteroid has crash landed and extinction may just be inevitable. You are a Velociraptor — and you should probably start running for your life! Run, jump, catch a ride with a Pterodactyl, eat power-up plants & other things, save all the dino eggs you can!

Jump into the multiplayer and test your speed against your fellow dinos as you race for glory — and to avoid extinction!

It’s dead simple as far as gameplay: Just keep your finger pressed down on the right-arrow key at all costs. Unless you want to experience the Big Black Wall of Doom coming from the left. Which, actually, you should do, just once — it’s as fearsome as a retro-pixelated disaster scene gets.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/08/2021 11:24:32 PM
Category: Internet, Videogames
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It was cruel, but admittedly novel as far as Web vandalism goes: The forums section of the Epilepsy Foundation of America was hacked recently, with hundreds of seizure-inducing blink-animated images, and links to such images, being planted on the forum pages.

This reminds me: I’m thinking that MySpace, in general, would be off-limits to epileptics. Considering that design atrocities like this (adjust volume accordingly before clicking) are allowed to roam freely in that online garden.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/08/2021 10:55:30 PM
Category: Internet, True Crime
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