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Sunday, August 31, 2021

With Hurricane Gustav’s imminent landfall prompting the Republican Party to drastically alter its Convention schedule in St. Paul, I’m glad I’m not the only one who detected a political advantage for McCain as a result.

Specifically, an indisputable, and even graceful, way to disassociate from the current administration:

The looming storm ravaged convention plans, forcing Bush and Vice President Cheney to cancel live speeches, Monday’s schedule to largely be scrapped and the media to turn its focus to what could be another Hurricane Katrina or worse.

But, in cold political terms, this could be a very good thing for McCain. At the very least, it pulls an unpopular president and vice president away from here at a time when Democrats are ready to hit McCain with a barrage of ads and talking points linking him to Bush.

Aside from everything else — relief efforts going to Louisiana in lieu of speechifying in Minnesota, a do-over for the GOP on disaster response, etc. — the opportunity to get Bush and Cheney out of McCain’s spotlight is key. It would have been an awkward scene otherwise: You can’t disinvite the party’s current sitting President, and yet Bush’s unpopularity wouldn’t help McCain beyond the Republican core. This way, the decision is made for them by Mother Nature.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/31/2008 07:09:41 PM
Category: Politics, Weather
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Saturday, August 30, 2021

strong reception
Love him or hate him, the now-former Chad Johnson has backed up his conviction to his uniform number and nickname:

The Cincinnati Bengals receiver has legally changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco in Broward County, Fla., a switch that became official this week…

Two years ago, Johnson gave himself the moniker — a reference in Spanish to his No. 85 — and put it on the back of his uniform before a game. Quarterback Carson Palmer ripped it off before the kickoff. After the season, coach Marvin Lewis — who dislikes Johnson’s attention-getting stunts — referred to the receiver as “Ocho Psycho.”

So now, every play involving Chad will have to invoke the old Ocho Cinco, like it or not. Announcers have been saying it anyway, but now it’s official. For this reason alone, I’m now actually looking forward to catching the Bengals on NFL national broadcasts this season.

To be determined: What happens when he moves on from Cincinnati to another team. His decision-making process will have to take into account the availability of the No. 85 uniform number — that, or it’ll be another legal filing to christen “Chad Ocho Dos” or somesuch…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/30/2008 11:38:19 AM
Category: Football
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Is it slightly jarring to anyone else that the New York Times listing for the newly-released indie flick Young People Fucking spells out the complete title, sans the usual @#$%^ censoring?

Not that I’m offended, but I thought that the Times still copped to being a family newspaper. I am looking only at the online version; I presume the print edition is blanking out the “fucking” part. If so, it shows a clear division between online and offline editorial standards. Or, possibly, that the online listing is wholly feed-automated; no Times film critic reviewed this flick, which indicates the listing wasn’t editorially vetted.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/30/2008 11:19:07 AM
Category: Movies, Publishing
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Are you kidding me? There’s actually a real company called “Colonblow” selling health supplements that help with your digestive dysfunctions?

And yes, it is legit. I went so far as to call the company’s phone number to convince myself. I had to — the stuff on the website, from the “poop coach” mascot to the email address “flushtwice@colonblow.com” was screaming to me that this was some sort of elaborate joke. But no, it’s all too real.

Unlike the long-ago “Saturday Night Live” skit of the same name:

Coincidence? Surely not. I think this company owes something to the estate of Phil Hartman.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/30/2008 10:47:32 AM
Category: Business, Comedy, TV
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Friday, August 29, 2021

Whatever other constituencies newly-minted GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is supposed to attract come November — women, archconservatives, anti-abortionists — her pedigree as an Alaskan parent has already nailed one niche voting block:

“The idea of possibly having a hockey mom in the White House just blows my mind.”

Those are the words of Dayton Bombers owner Costa Papista, with whom I just spoke after watching a CNN shot of him presenting Bombers jerseys to both John McCain and VP candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a self-described “hockey mom”, after the GOP rally at Nutter Center — where the ECHL Bombers play.

So the amateur hockey followers presumably will cast their lot with McCain-Palin. That secures a nice zero-point-something percentage of the American electorate for the Republicans. (The Democrats should now probably redouble their efforts at snagging the warm-weather equivalent, and more societal standard-issue, soccer moms…)

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/29/2008 06:38:45 PM
Category: Hockey, Politics, Society
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With today’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as John McCain’s VP running mate, the American electorate will be sending an historic selection to the White House this Fall, regardless of which party wins:

- A Democratic victory means the first-ever African-American President in Barack Obama.

- A Republican victory means the first-ever woman in the Vice President post in Palin.

Ideologically irrelevant, but still, this minor shift away from old white men certainly took long enough.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/29/2008 05:50:17 PM
Category: Politics
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Thursday, August 28, 2021

say ahhhh
What can I say? I’m a sucker for sidewalk kitsch — especially when it presents itself overflowingly, in cartoony-lion statue form. As usual, an embiggened version of the super-widemouthed jungle cats is on Flickr.

The sidewalk in question is on 24th Street here in Manhattan, between 6th and 7th Avenues (in Chelsea). The store in question is Olde Good Things, an antique/furnishings store that bills itself as “the place of the architecturologists”. Which, I’m sorry, I can’t help but read as “architect urologists”…

As I walk by these statue stores, I often wonder just who buys these oddities. Somebody must be doing so, right? That, or else they’re being traded from store to store endlessly.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/28/2008 10:29:26 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Photography
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Is it good or bad that I’m pretty much in sync with comedian Lewis Black, regarding his take on how we consume water nowadays?

Not to transcribe the whole thing, but the highlights of which I’m most fond:

- “So now, we buy bottles of water from Pepsi and Coke. Because when I think clean water, oh yeah, I fuckin’ think Coke and Pepsi!”

- “And that’s the operative word. The word is, and has, and will always be, ‘thirsty’. Not ‘hydrate’ — they made that fucking word up!”

- “There are people who walk out of their apartments in New York City, every morning, of every work-week, carrying a liter-bottle of water in a sling. As if it was a little baby. They’re carrying a liter-bottle of water with them — AS IF THEY WERE CROSSING THE GODDAMNED MOJAVE! ‘WHAT IF I NEVER SEE WATER AGAIN?!’”

That last one resonates with me, because I see it all the time here in Manhattan. It kills me. Especially when I see runners in Central Park with little bottles of water strapped around their waists, like a belt, as I have the past few weekends. Honestly, they look like overgrown babies who are inseparable from their ba-ba. It really is okay to get a pang of thirst — and not immediately quench it. Believe me, you won’t damage your system if you have to go parched for a few minutes without liquid relief immediately at-hand.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/28/2008 12:13:05 PM
Category: Comedy, New Yorkin', Society
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Wednesday, August 27, 2021

dark kryptonite
By now, everyone’s familiar with Batman’s origin story: Witnessing his parents being murdered in cold blood by criminals sent Bruce Wayne into a lifelong war against crime, with the purpose of imposing order and justice onto an unjust, messy world.

That’s fiction. But it’s now been revealed that a real-life version of that crime story could have inspired the creation of the Man of Steel:

It was just a year after Mitchell Siegel’s death, 1933, that writer [Jerry] Siegel and artist [Joe] Shuster came up with “The Superman,” a grim, flying avenger they tried to sell to newspaper syndicates and publishers for five years. In the oldest surviving artwork, this early Superman, whom they call “the most astounding fiction character of all time,” flies to the rescue of a man who is being held up by a masked robber.

Was it Jerry’s alter-ego flying to rescue his helpless father?

“America did not get Superman from our greatest legends, but because a boy lost his father,” [author Brad] Meltzer says. “Superman came not out of our strength but out of our vulnerability.”

The more Meltzer looked, the more intriguing things became. A letter published in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer on June 3, 1932, the day after the robbery [of Mitchell Siegel’s clothing store], denounces the need for vigilantes in the harsh days of the Depression. The letter is signed by an A.L. Luther.

“Is that where (Superman foe) Lex Luthor came from?” Meltzer says. “I almost had a heart attack right there. I thought, ‘You have to be kidding me!’”

Frankly, I’m surprised Meltzer and others haven’t made the Superman-Batman connection, in light of this. I don’t know how much collaboration there might have been between Siegel & Shuster and Batman’s creator, Bob Kane. Could Siegel have shared his personal history with Kane at some point? Kane certainly could have come up with the idea himself — revenge fantasy stemming from the loss of parents isn’t unique — but the DC Comics connection certainly makes you think.

This revelation is especially disconcerting because Superman has always been positioned as the bright-side yin to Batman’s grittier yang. Granted, both characters’ creators used their hardscrabble upbringing during the Great Depression as inspiration, and that source material was dark enough; but still.

It’s also worth noting that the referenced “grim avenger” incarnation of Superman wasn’t the only incarnation of the character that the Cleveland boys attempted. The best-known pre-superhero stab that Siegel & Shuster took was “The Reign of the Superman”, a pulp sci-fi yarn which features a “Superman” who’s bald, has “psionic” powers, and is a villain. It took a few drafts before today’s iconic character was developed.

And of course, with word that Warner Bros. is going to attempt a reboot of the Superman movie franchise, with a darker tone — again, hoping to parlay the huge success of the dystopian Batman/Dark Knight movies — this new angle may become more pertinent going forward.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/27/2008 12:28:27 PM
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, True Crime
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a few stops away
Far be it from me to advise as notable a New York City icon as Dr. Jonathan Zizmor.

I mean, yeah, everybody complains about his near-ubiquitous rainbow-garish “Beautiful Skin” subway ads, which practically overload the senses with their melange of type, graphics, and before/after photos. But they made him a household name in the five boroughs, and even scored him a writeup in the New Yorker.

Still. I think we all agree that it’s time to give his marketing campaign the equivalent of one of his refreshing chemical peels — for our sake more than his.

And here’s how: By dipping into NYC’s archive of kitsch and co-opting a now-gone but once-pervasive local retail presence. I’m talking about Nobody Beats The Wiz, of course. It might be alive online, but that’s a mere mirage: The brick-and-mortar original shut down years ago.

But the name and slogan still resonates with New Yorkers. So leverage that mindshare, Dr. Z:

NOBODY BEATS THE ZIZ!

Solid-gold logo redesign optional, but recommended. Anything to replace that miscolored rainbow.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/27/2008 11:28:12 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin'
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Tuesday, August 26, 2021

The intent of self-proclaimed anarchists to orchestrate street demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention prompts some kind of joke about the compatibility of anarchy with large-scale mobilization.

And here is that joke:

If anarchists organize other anarchists to promote anarchism in some choreographed form, will the world explode?

Not much chance of that, if the haplessness of Denver’s generally clueless anarcho-loiterists is any indication:

“No pictures!” shouted an officer from behind a perimeter fence.

“Why not?,” asked Chas Robles, of Ridgecrest, Calif.

“Because the Secret Service says so,” the officer replied.

“That’s not right. You’re not my mom,” Robles said.

“Then go home to your mommy,” the officer retorted.

Robles, who leads a conservation crew in the Mojave Desert, and his compatriots moved on.

“Where are we going guys?” asked Brendan, a Norman, Okla., resident who asked that his last name not be used so he can’t be identified. “I’ve been antsy to see something all day, and we haven’t seen anything.”

“You’re not my mom”?? Some revolutionary cry of defiance that is. It’s less a metaphor against statism than it is a Freudian slip.

All in all, Denver’s looking like a piss-poor showcase for the political system of anarchism. These jokers remind me of standard-issue libertarians — perhaps not surprisingly, since their avowed political goals are actually pretty close (libertarians still want a state, just a bare-bones one). But in both cases, the labels wind up being co-opted by malcontents who simply want any outlet at all for their agendas, which often have nothing at all to do with the ideology with which they’re supposedly aligned.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/26/2008 11:35:22 PM
Category: Political Theory, Politics
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what's the deal with computers
So we’ve all heard about Jerry Seinfeld’s upcoming new gig as pitchman for Microsoft, starting this fall.

And the built-in joke that comes from his now 10-year-dead eponymous TV series:

After all, it’s a Macintosh that’s seen in the background of his apartment on “Seinfeld.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that — especially in that instance. Fact is, that computer on the show was strictly a visual prop — there’s maybe two scenes out of the entire series that show Jerry actually sitting at the computer, plus another early episode where it was one of the items burglarized. In no instance was the thing ever specifically identified as a Mac, either. So overall, that’s not much of an issue.

Still, it’s fair to question why Microsoft and their agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky (with whom I’m well familiar from my Florida days, as they’re a Miami-based shop), would bet a $300-million campaign on the fading cachet of an aging sitcom. Toward that end, there are plenty of more contemporary alternatives for the face of MS and the Vista operating system.

Not that there’s much chance of Seinfeld losing this job. In fact, given his enthusiasm for salesmanship, I see this being the official start of his personal late-period prolific career as Shillmaster Supreme. Today it’s software, tomorrow it’ll be saltines, then life insurance, then fiber supplements… His famous rhetorical of “What’s the deal?” will eventually be superfluous.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/26/2008 08:55:13 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Celebrity, Comedy, TV, Tech
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The backlash over the proliferation of bottled water has been roiling for years now. The objections over the large resource costs that go into the product — chiefly the petroleum-derived plastic bottle, with the water procurement being somewhat secondary — are countered by the consumer preference for the packaging convenience (more than anything else, including water quality) that it offers.

I’m wondering why no one’s come up with a sensible solution: Packaging this water in aluminum cans.

It would eliminate the lack of biodegradability that the current bottles have. Cans aren’t quite as convenient to tote around and refill, but at least they’re familiar enough that they’d be readily accepted. Besides, a while back someone was developing aluminum beer bottles; if the ergonomics are that important, maybe that container experiment could be resurrected for the ol’ agua.

Aluminum is not a wholly “clean” ecological solution either, but as far as I know, it’s easier to recycle than plastic. And there are already so many beverage cans out there now, so it’s just supplementing the current supply.

All sorts of beverages are already available in can form, carbonated and non-carbonated (lemonades, sports drinks, juices, etc.). I think water is a natural fit.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/26/2008 08:17:27 AM
Category: Business, Food, Science
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Monday, August 25, 2021

In what amounts to a cast-chemistry change, reality show standard “American Idol” will add a fourth face to the judging table, with professional songwriter Kara DioGuardi joining the familiar trio.

I guess this is the reality TV equivalent of jumping the shark. Specifically, this would fall under the “New Kid in Town” category, ala “The Brady Bunch” and Cousin Oliver. Randy, Simon, and (especially, given the added shot of estrogen Kara brings) Paula are no longer as cute as they were when this abomination began, so it’s time to import some fresh blood. Hopefully, it’s a sign that the end is neigh for this reality greybeard.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/25/2008 06:35:24 PM
Category: Reality Check, TV
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the elusive markings
Does anyone else find it curious that, more than two weeks after hostilities began, the Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps views of Georgia are still, essentially, blank?

As of this writing, Google’s map shows absolutely no detail within the country — no roads, internal boundaries, or even cities. Meanwhile, surrounding territories in Turkey, Russia and elsewhere are festooned with such information. Yahoo! at least marks out the major cities on its maps site, but nothing more. Georgia is essentially a geographical dead zone as far as these two Web giants are concerned.

Now, I realize that dispatching a goofy-looking mapping car into a warzone isn’t the smartest move. But there’s no need for on-the-ground accuracy right now — all that’s required is drawing a few lines on the map, from established sources, to help viewers identify where the action is. With the latest news of Russian recognition of independence for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, you’d think Google and Yahoo! would accommodate something that’s bringing some extra traffic to their sites.

For myself, I swiped the above map inset, with fairly good detail on the boundaries for Abkhazia (in northwestern Georgia) and all of Ossetia (in north-central Georgia, including the North region across the border in Russia), from the BBC’s coverage site. Nice to see someone’s thinking about these things.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/25/2008 11:34:34 AM
Category: Internet, Political
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Sunday, August 24, 2021

The notion of salary transparency among peers, first broached back in April, is picking up steam, with advocates suggesting it’s inevitably going to be SOP in the workplace.

All theoretical, until it gets down to the actual dollars:

But some people are already defying the taboo. [software company owner Ann] Price, for one, was happy to tell me that her salary is $300,000. Her project managers earn $80,000.

But when I asked [Glassdoor.com CEO Robert] Hohman, he stammered, then answered: “$200,000.” Later, he sent an e-mail message to say he had done something he had been procrastinating about: post his salary on his own Web site.

Compare this to David’s original assessment of this open-salary phenomenon, with which I agreed: That it’s easy to give full disclosure when everyone in your professional/social group is making peanuts, but once someone starts making significantly more, the peer relationships get strained and discretion becomes the wiser option. I suspect that Hohman falls into this situation; as for Price, she probably hangs with a crowd that makes about the same as she does, and therefore, doesn’t have to deal with disparities among her peers.

In market terms, it’s indeed advantageous for individuals to know the landscape within their own professions. When that principle moves into social circles, it’s more fraught with peril. I’d say for all this talk of transparency, it’s moving toward a fairly limited form of it: Within industries, basically as a walled-garden approach.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/24/2008 10:59:51 PM
Category: Business, Society
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I somehow got the yen to do some cooking today. As unlikely as that was, it was accompanied by a specific desire for soup.

But since a) I’m lazy and b) it’s still hot-sticky summer, I zeroed in on this epicurious.com recipe for Chilled Mango and Cucumber Soup. Perfect for me, because there’s no real “cooking” involved — just mixing together the ingredients and cooling it all down. And even more perfect, not only are there very few ingredients to it, but each of those ingredients was something I liked.

The only part that hamstrung me: All that “fine chopping” of the mango, cucumber, and red onion. That’s for the birds. If I didn’t have a little handy-chopper utensil to help that along, I might have abandoned the effort.

I took heed of the reader reviews and ignored the addition of all that water to the mix; in fact, all that chop-chop-chopping fairly liquified the mango and cucumber (both of which are mostly water anyway). The end result was quite good, with a nice, thick consistency. It’s definitely on my list for future summertime meals.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/24/2008 08:32:28 PM
Category: Food
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In the past couple of days, I’ve spotted two different young women — coincidentally, but not pertinently, on the subway — sporting two different shades of nail polish: One for the fingernails, and a different one for the toenails.

It’s not like I’ve never seen that phenomenon before. But in both cases, the colors were so opposed to one another — they both had a bright-pinkish polish down below, and a dark/black one up top — that it was grabbed my attention. I ascribed the first instance to simple laziness: She didn’t bother to either redo the unmatched set of nails, or to wear shoes that would at least cover up the mismatch. But in the second case, I noticed that she was spending a fair amount of time examining the color jobs on both her hands and feet; so she was certainly paying enough attention to her look.

Is this a new fashion trend? Sure enough, Elle Magazine is advocating creative detours away from the “unwritten rule” of matching nail polish for all twenty digits. But from perusing those examples, they mostly seem to pair up just variations on the same hue, like dark-red/dark-pink, etc. To me, those match. The live-action displays I saw, not so much.

But I guess that with the genie now out of the makeup bottle, there’ll soon be no restrictions on the mixing-and-matching colors the ladies will be sporting on their cuticles. Probably have to wait until next summer, when toes are more often on full display, to see the effect.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/24/2008 07:45:01 PM
Category: Fashion, Women
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Saturday, August 23, 2021

tower target
What to make of Douglas Edric Stanley’s 9/11-themed re-interpretation of videogame classic Space Invaders on its 30th anniversary?

As you might expect, the reaction in New York is less than welcoming. And Taito, the owner of the original space-shooter, apparently is contemplating a lawsuit.

Beyond that? The twin-tower backdrop, combined with typical oldschool gameplay, makes a political statement:

The towers will always fall, along with dozens of its anonymous inhabitants. No matter how quickly you’ll attack the air with movement, the alien invaders will always cause enough destruction to the World Trade Center towers to make them fall. In addition to raining down bullets, suicide UFOs will occasionally crash into the towers. You’ll always fail, as clearing a screen full of invaders will simply be followed by a freshly restocked swarm.

Not much on subtlety, but point made.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/23/2008 09:11:54 AM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Politics, Videogames
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Friday, August 22, 2021

school's in
At the risk of enabling in-classroom distraction, colleges and universities are supplying incoming students with iPod Touches and/or iPhones for use as wi-fi learning tools.

This isn’t too surprising, as the higher-ed institutions have been enamored with Apple’s shiny pods for years: The pre-wireless iteration of the iPod was doled out at Duke University and elsewhere to provide audio instruction.

I do question why iPhones are even in the picture, though:

At each college, the students who choose to get an iPhone must pay for mobile phone service. Those service contracts include unlimited data use. Both the iPhones and the iPod Touch devices can connect to the Internet through campus wireless networks. With the iPhone, those networks may provide faster connections and longer battery life than AT&T’s data network. Many cellphones allow users to surf the Web, but only some newer ones have Wi-Fi capability.

Why saddle students who assuredly already have a cellphone with another phone plan, just to get a mobile device that can access the campus’ already-present wi-fi cloud? This is a situation where the iTouch is an ideal device: It’ll always have a strong connection to the Web — particularly in a classroom — and therefore no need for a built-in 3G or Edge signal. The only other thing missing would be a camera, which would be unnecessary in this setting. It makes no sense at all for the school to invest in iPhones when the iPod Touch will do the job.

On Apple’s part, while there’s probably more money to be make in snagging college iPhone customers, they can really position the iTouch as a learning tool. It is indeed a more preferable alternative, for both students and professors, to lugging a full-sized notebook computer around.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/22/2008 03:11:31 PM
Category: College Years, Wi-Fi, iPod
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I really hate to invoke the over-used phrase “only in New York”, but, well, where else could you make a living from being a professional line-sitter?

[William] Conklin, 32, has stood in line for free movie passes, a Gene Simmons book signing, and the first and second comings of the iPhone. Lately, he’s made a tidy sum off people too impatient or too busy to wait in line for free tickets to “Hair” at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

For $150, Mr. Conklin’s ad on Craig’s List promises, he will deliver two tickets at about 1:30 p.m. on the day of the show (the first 650 or so people in line outside the theater get up to two tickets each at 1 p.m.) Some days, Mr. Conklin gets so many requests that he has to turn people away, even though he subcontracts to other line-sitters. “The weekends are insane,” he said…

His business has not slowed down too much, since he also hires others to stand in line for him, splitting the $150 fee. He can handle perhaps a half-dozen clients a day.

Lots of hustle, obviously, and no guarantee of a steady income. Still, if your situation cleaves to it, there are worse occupations.

I was supposed to get in on a ticket for Public Theater’s production of “Hair” one of these weekends, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe we should have engaged Conklin’s squat-a-spot services.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/22/2008 12:42:05 PM
Category: New Yorkin'
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