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Friday, October 31, 2021

Here’s a fun New York kinda Halloween activity:

Walk down 14th Street, toward the West Village Halloween Parade lineup. As you pass by all the freaky-looking people around you, try to guess who’s (intentionally) in costume, and who’s not.

If that sounds easy to you, then you’re not from around here…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/31/2008 05:41:08 PM
Category: New Yorkin'
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Will Strike.TV, a Hollywood-driven online filmed-entertainment site with a professional sheen, succeed against the oceans of user-generated Web video ala YouTube?

Probably. Even with the multitudes of options, the most popular media clips consistently feature celebrity-starring content from television, movies, recording labels, etc. So if the industry makes a full-bore Internet foray with original material, the same mass preferences should win out. Funny or Die is based upon the same principal; migrating “Saturday Night Live” talent to the third screen has already proven to draw the eyeballs.

Besides, I like the attitude Strike.TV is taking vis-a-vis content creation on the Web:

“It takes a professional writer to monetize this medium,” says [Strike.TV CEO Peter] Hyoguchi. “Without a writer, this medium is a trinket, it’s just a mechanism. And you cannot monetize a trinket. This medium was built for storytelling and it was built for professional storytelling.”

As a semi-creative type myself, this is music to my ears. Not that I expect to start scripting webisodes of some online series, but it’ll be refreshing to see something other than half-baked curiosities populate the cyber-ether.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/31/2008 10:17:19 AM
Category: Creative, Internet, TV
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I like to say that we’re living in the midst of a great Age of Distraction, characterized by constant and incessant sensory input. Judging from all the creature-comfort crap they’re building into our automobiles, the buzz isn’t going to subside anytime soon.

Not even in a cheap ride:

Ford has embraced what it calls the “democratization” of new technology, meaning the company plans to make its latest features available in all models, not just the most expensive.

The company’s voice-activated Sync system, a communication and entertainment network for mobile phones and digital music players, was introduced on the Ford Focus, a lower-priced compact sedan, and then rolled out on more expensive models.

How does the onboard entertainment system, beverage cooler, etc. jibe with fuel efficiency? I know that keeping the AC running all the time degrades mileage per gallon; I have to believe that maintaining a living room on wheels multiplies that effect. Of course, with oil prices tanking, I guess no one’s going to care much about that soon.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/31/2008 10:02:21 AM
Category: Business, Society, Tech
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Thursday, October 30, 2021

The financial meltdown’s epicenter was Wall Street, but the ripple effects are already being felt in all strata of professional life in New York.

Including, of all things, the annual West Village Halloween Parade. The show will still go on tomorrow, but without seven major corporate sponsors, leaving the event to run at a deficit.

Thankfully, no indication that the in-parade spectacle that will be Project Bueller is affected by the economic turmoil. It’s set to go, with its very own float and everything. I’ll be there to see it, but I won’t be dancing.

To complete the atmosphere, even Matthew Broderick has been invited, via a note taped to his door. Classy! Like I said, if Ferris himself makes it out for this, it’ll truly gain higher meaning.
shake it up baby

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/30/2008 10:45:28 PM
Category: Business, Creative, Movies, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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boo
In honor of tomorrow’s Halloween merriment, I decided to cobble together a playlist of the spookiest songs I could find on my iTouch. Some might seem like a stretch — and they are — but rather than edit this down or overthink it, I’ve decided to post as is. Enjoy. Or not.

(No, strictly this doesn’t belong under the iPod Random Tracks category, since the list wasn’t Shuffled into existence. But I’m not starting a new category just for ghosts-and-ghouls season, so this’ll have to do…)

1. “And This Is What The Devil Does”, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. Techno dance beat with gothic undertones, and interspersed with cheesy horror movie screams and soundclips. Solid.

2. “Ghosts (Toxic Avenger mix)”, Ladytron. Probably the least-spooky remix of this track. Still, the amped-up synth in this one lends a punch in the head to the haunting vocals from the original version.

3. “Black Cat”, Ladytron. Not particularly scary, but the title provides all the Halloweeniness necessary.

4. “Sympathy For The Devil (Who Killed The Kennedys Mix)”, Laibach. Spirited techno cover of the Rolling Stones standard. Actually some of the other Laibach remixes of this one would do better, because they feature growling demonic vocals; but this Kennedys mix has always been my favorite because of the disconcerting effect that a female lead vocalist brings.

5. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, Tom Petty. Seasonally mournful in tone and narrative.

6. “Rain on the Scarecrow”, John Cougar Mellencamp. Probably too serious in subject matter for Halloween hijinks, but the scarecrow image is just too perfect to not include.

7. “Peace Frog”, The Doors. With those trademark eerie keyboard sections, there are plenty of Doors standards you could conjure up for Halloween. But this one, with the persistent use of blood imagery, fits my bill.

8. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (MTV Unplugged session)”, Nirvana. Cobain’s cracking voice near the end puts a cherry on top of this musical horror sundae. Or something like that.

9. “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, Blue Oyster Cult. Come on baby.

10. “Torture”, KMFDM. The deep-throated vocals paired with the manic electro-chop instrumentals send a shiver down the spine.

11. “The Creeps (Fedde Le Grand Remix)”, Camille Jones. Whisper-staccato lyrics override the spritely beat.

12. “Armagideon Time”, The Clash. A lotta people running and a’hiding tonight.

13. “Run Through The Jungle”, Creedence Clearwater Revival. A gritty, creepy tone throughout, in vocals and instrumentals.

14. “Holiday in Cambodia”, Dead Kennedys. Despair set to California surf rock.

15. “All Along The Watchtower”, Jimi Hendrix. Baleful guitar licks match too perfectly with foreboding lyrics.

16. “I’m Your Boogie Man”, KC & The Sunshine Band. I realize the Rob Zombie cover remake is more scare-riffic, but I defer to disco. Besides, this one has a subtle creepiness to it.

17. “Turkish Song of the Damned”, The Pogues. Nothing like a scary sea chanty.

18. “Zero”, Smashing Pumpkins. Gloom and doom, and the band’s named after the Halloween gourd. Mark it.

19. “Psycho Killer”, Talking Heads. “Burning Down the House” might do too. In any case, can’t have a mix-list without my favorite band on it.

20. “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, Velvet Underground. This beats out “Herion” by a hair as the Velvets representation to this party, mainly thanks to Nico’s haunting vocals.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/30/2008 01:50:02 PM
Category: Creative, iPod Random Tracks
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The latest airline merger, between Delta and Northwest, means not only fewer birds in the air but also, as with any industry consolidation, a constriction of competition resulting in fewer cheap tickets.

But at least those still flying will have more room to roam around their arrival and departure gates, because airports around the U.S. are paradoxically expanding capacity.

The biggest miscalculations in new construction occurred in hub cities where airports spent billions to meet the needs of a single carrier, only to see the airline drastically shrink its presence.

In St. Louis, the airport authority spent $1.1 billion on a new runway that opened in 2006, even though traffic is down 53.9 percent since 2000. American Airlines dropped many flights following its acquisition of Trans World Airlines, which had been the main carrier there.

This oddly-timed phenomenon is the end result of advanced infrastructure planning:

Despite the ups and downs of the industry and individual carriers, airports need to keep modernizing, said Todd Hauptli, an executive vice president for the American Association of Airport Executives, a trade group.

“Terminal buildings are often 10-, 12-, 15-year projects,” he said. “You can’t turn the spigot on and off. You have to look out a little farther than the airlines have to, or are able to. The airport’s mission is to process the passengers and think about not just next week or next month but next year and next decade,” he said.

Granted, transportation authorities can’t predict the future. But bottom line, all that extra empty space costs money. The solution will be to repurpose that new indoor and outdoor acreage into something else, if existing and new airlines can’t fill the void. Not much else can be done with the additional runways, other than open them up to private aircraft. As for the space inside the airports: New retail opportunities, meeting spaces, etc. The air authority security hangups would be a challenge to overcome before such sites could become high-traffic areas for non-flyers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/30/2008 11:45:33 AM
Category: Business
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Wednesday, October 29, 2021

I never realized before how in sync my thinking was with Politico.

Because when I considered Barack Obama’s “American Promises” 30-minute infomercial, outlining his economic plan, airing tonight on the networks, I wondered if it wasn’t an unnecessary overexposure move by the Democrat that could potentially backfire. Especially in battleground states where those crucial few votes could swing bunches of Electoral College votes one way or the other.

Sure enough, Politico’s Jeanne Cummings posited the same concern about Obama overkill.

Maybe it’s unfounded, given that this is political season. As Ken Goldstein of the Wisconsin Advertising Project notes:

“Campaigns tend not to worry about overkill,” he says. “Campaigns, by definition, are overkill.”

Touche.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/29/2008 05:36:54 PM
Category: Politics, TV
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behold
In this article about the oddities of mixing science projects with kitchen recipes was accompanied by the above googly-eyed concoction, a melange of noodles, cheese, and malted milk balls.

Damned if it doesn’t look like the fabled Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The resemblance is intentional, and the New York Times’ editors simply didn’t catch the Web-cultural reference. The Church of the FSM needs to pump up its missionary efforts; maybe not rely solely upon infrequent flare-ups of creationism disputes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/29/2008 12:14:04 PM
Category: Comedy, Creative, Food
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The 100-year-old Christian Science Monitor isn’t the first high-profile newspaper to abandon its printing press in favor of Web-only publication. And it’s not going to be the last:

The paper is currently published Monday through Friday, and will move to online only in April, although it will also introduce a [print] weekend magazine. John Yemma, The Monitor’s editor, said that moving to a Web focus will mean it can keep its eight foreign bureaus open.

“We have the luxury — the opportunity — of making a leap that most newspapers will have to make in the next five years,” Mr. Yemma said.

The problem is that the move to all-digital is purely a defensive move: It’s the only way to cost-cut without eviscerating the actual newsgathering operation. That’s a good thing, but it eliminates the industry’s more effective advertising channel. Simply put, print advertising works better than Web advertising. Online ads are profitable for broad-based syndicates like Google AdSense, but far less so for publishers running anything bigger than one-person shops. That might change by necessity: As the print medium fades, advertisers that want more targeted exposure than AdSense’s keyword-based stew but can’t swing television/radio might have no better option than geographically-based newspaper sites, and rates could rise accordingly.

What’s the longer-term solution? Non-profit journalism, which is the Monitor’s business model, might become the default for the Web-only news business over the next decade. That would run parallel with news operations that are part of larger media companies with broadcast components, which can still offer a robust advertising platform.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/29/2008 10:06:15 AM
Category: Business, Internet, Publishing
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Tuesday, October 28, 2021

great and small
A month ago, when I originally posted this giant-pumpkin photo (here and on Flickr, biggie-sized), I quipped that I couldn’t wait for the next annual showing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” to roll around.

And tonight, only a couple of days before Halloween, I stumble upon that animated holiday classic on ABC. Just finished watching it.

It was a nice little surprise, as it’s been a crappy day weather-wise and I’ve been cooped up inside practically all day. I’ll take it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/28/2008 08:44:07 PM
Category: Pop Culture, TV
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The upcoming New York Times Play Magazine feature on the resurgence of Russian big-league sports is, predictably, heavy on the hockey. That would be Kontinental Hockey League, the state-sponsored and petro-fueled pucks concern that’s gunning for NHL-like greatness.

And beyond, in fact. That’s according to Hall of Famer Slava Fetisov, who, as newly-installed chairman of the KHL, has some wild ideas for where icing and offsides can be exported:

“I warned Gary Bettman five years ago,” [Fetisov] tells me, referring to the N.H.L. commissioner. “You’ve got your business model, but if you take the best players out of Europe and Russia for cheap — you’ll kill the game, and your own market.” North America, Fetisov argues, is “a small hockey market.” He continues: “For years I’ve tried to tell the Americans to think big. Look beyond Russia and Europe. What about Asia? China? Even in India they play field hockey. Why can’t the N.H.L. see it? They’re afraid. They want to preserve their market. Now it’s too late. We’re gonna take our market share. And you’ll see, it’ll be good for the game.”

I’m sure Canadians are howling over being referred to as “a small hockey market” — and not even separately, but as part of the greater North American whole.

I can’t wait to see the forthcoming rink action out of New Delhi and Mumbai.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/28/2008 05:34:48 PM
Category: Hockey
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it is writtenI saw this accompanying ad, featuring self-proclaimed “Jesus Freak” Kirk Franklin, and similar ones around New York months ago. Thanks to the dramatic use of lyrics, color, and font, it’s how I became aware of Gospel Music Channel, even though it’s been on my Time Warner Cable lineup for a long while now.

Mission accomplished for a campaign to help this upstart cable music channel stand out in an already-crowded television universe.

The campaign that appeared last spring, aimed at the buyers at media agencies, featured singers seen on the Gospel Music Channel like Mr. Franklin and [Amy] Grant along with groups like Jars of Clay. Each ad started with the words “The gospel according to” and continued with lyrics from their songs.

Strong bet on mixing the musical genres beyond traditional church-choir music and into Christian rock, country, rap, etc. There’s probably stronger identification among this brand of music fan, so the advertising dollar goes even longer when spent on GMC.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/28/2008 11:35:45 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture, TV
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The touchiest part of all the governmental remedies being applied to the ongoing financial crisis is the not-wholly-intended negative consequences. Such as the solvency solution applied to the now-former Wall Street investment banks/prime brokers:

This contraction in loans provided through prime brokers was the inevitable consequence of the collapse of Lehman, but also - far more importantly - of the recent conversion into banks of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman are - by far - the biggest prime brokers, with Morgan Stanley the number one.

But as banks, they’re prevented by regulators from lending as much relative to their capital resources as they had been as securities firms.

So the US authorities should have known - and presumably did know - that by allowing Morgan Stanley and Goldman to become banks they were in effect forcing a serious contraction in the hedge-fund industry, which in turn would lead to sales of all manner of assets held by hedge funds and precipitate turmoil throughout the financial economy.

So did the Feds intentionally hasten the tightening of large-scale credit, with the predictable domino effect both upstream (bailouts of whole countries like Iceland and Ukraine) and downstream (consumer credit crunches for car loans and such)? Maybe, although it might have made little difference no matter what Washington did:

It might be the case that the total amount [the brokers] lent out to hedge funds has declined, even if their client count is rising. And I’m sure that there’s been a lot of pressure both internally and externally for those shops to derisk and deleverage.

But the fact is that as soon as the investment banks started getting access to the Fed’s money, they were bound to become much more tightly regulated — whether they became banks or not. Has that process been sped up by their move to become banks? Frankly, I doubt it — no one at Treasury or at the SEC is interested in giving Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs a hard time right now over the fact that they don’t immediately conform to all the requirements of banks. These things take a certain amount of time, and everybody understands that.

Bottom line: As much as the powers-that-be think they can control the market forces now at play, they’re simply crossing their fingers and taking stabs. Fixes for immediate problems will provide short-term relief, but the larger, systemic turmoil will continue. In a lot of ways, we’re simply moving from stage to stage, with nudges along the way.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/28/2008 10:09:03 AM
Category: Business, Political
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Monday, October 27, 2021

Here’s the headline from yesterday’s AP Presidential campaign status report:

McCain and Obama spar from afar in final stretch

I really like that rhyming wordplay: “Spar from afar”. So I can’t figure out why the wire hed was later tempered to “Candidates spar with 9 days to go” — it’s so much blander, and doesn’t convey the fact that McCain and Obama were tossing verbal jabs at one another long-distance from their campaign trails.

Spar from Afar. Sounds like a legendary Don King-produced “lost bout” from Muhammad Ali’s boxing career, in line with “Rumble in the Jungle”, “Thrilla in Manila”, and “Drama in the Bahamas”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/27/2008 05:49:23 PM
Category: Media, Other Sports, Politics, Wordsmithing
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so say we
I don’t know why it took me so long to recognize the visual similarities between the logo of Apple’s App Store, and that of Freemasonry, aka the Free and Accepted Masons.

Hopefully, this won’t compel me to ponder joining the Brotherhood.

So, is this a sign that Steve Jobs is a closet Mason? Further, since I’ve made a couple of purchases from the App Store, am I now initiated by default? I’d hate to think that my iPod Touch got me shanghaied into a secret society…

UPDATE: I was only kidding about Jobs, but Steve Wozniak, Apple’s “other Steve” co-founder, allegedly is on record as being a third-degree Freemason. Did The Woz have a hand in designing the App Store? The plot thickens (or thins, maybe)…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/27/2008 10:38:27 AM
Category: Creative, History, iPod
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Sunday, October 26, 2021


If you want to keep warm this winter while sporting that timeless Franciscan monk look, then the Snuggie, aka “the blanket with sleeves” is right up your alley.

Some things to consider from this “as seen on TV” commercial spectacle:

- The rhyming in the beginning that quickly gets dropped.
- The fact that your hands get caught in a blanket.
- This is available in three colors, but everyone in the ad is wearing the burgundy.
- Which of course causes everyone to look like they’re in a cult.
- Especially when outside roasting marshmallows (and preparing to sacrifice a virgin?)
- Even more especially when enjoying the outdoor sporting event.

And to think I’ve lived my entire life to this point with sleeveless blankets.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/26/2008 05:07:24 PM
Category: Comedy, TV
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The preemptive blame-game within the McCain-Palin campaign has begun, with Sarah Palin deeming the best defense to be a good offense:

“She’s lost confidence in most of the people on the plane,” said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to “go rogue” in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

“I think she’d like to go more rogue,” he said.

The emergence of a Palin faction comes as Republicans gird for a battle over the future of their party: Some see her as a charismatic, hawkish conservative leader with the potential, still unrealized, to cross over to attract moderate voters. Anger among Republicans who see Palin as a star and as a potential future leader has boiled over because, they say, they see other senior McCain aides preparing to blame her in the event he is defeated.

Indeed, hints of that rogue factor manifested last week, when she visibly broke with McCain over policy points. As I said then, all of this points to Palin basically giving up on hopes of getting to the White House, and instead salvaging her reputation, at least within conservative circles.

I guess my fascination stems from how one of the two major parties could find themselves in such high-profile dysfunction. Especially the Republicans, who are allegedly more solidified than the Democrats when it comes to party discipline. I guess the late economic upheaval is enough to throw even the best-organized politicos into disarray.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/26/2008 03:33:29 PM
Category: Politics
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There’s a bit of irony in the Museum of Natural History — note that “natural” part — setting up an ice-skating rink filled with synthetic ice, instead of frozen water.

Nevertheless, it sounds like it’ll be pretty cool when it opens next month:

The Museum’s new Polar Rink… is located on the Arthur Ross Terrace, with magnificent views of the glowing Rose Center for Earth and Space and the surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park. Skaters will glide around a 17-foot-tall polar bear made of openwork stainless steel festooned with pine boughs and twinkling lights.

It’ll be worth the trip to the Upper West Side just to see what fake ice looks/feels like. If it doesn’t measure up, there’s always the other traditional rinks around Manhattan, including The Pond at Bryant Park, which I noticed going up for the past week.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/26/2008 02:49:48 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Other Sports, Weather
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Germophobes can run quick from their bathrooms to their kitchens on this advice: Regularly microwaving your toothbrush to kill lingering bacteria and other dental nasties.

Should this procedure somehow become commonplace, get ready for near-future reports of widespread radioactive mouth tumors. (Or has that already come about, thanks to hypochondriac reactions to those overblown oral cancer ads?)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/26/2008 12:38:46 PM
Category: Science
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Saturday, October 25, 2021

say cheesy
Check out these proposed new bottle designs for Pepsi. They’re based upon a subtle visual communication involving the beverage’s familiar logo:

The white band in the middle of the logo will now loosely form a series of smiles. A “smile” will characterize brand Pepsi, while a “grin” is used for Diet Pepsi and a “laugh” is used for Pepsi Max.

Here’s the thing: When I think of “soda” and “smile” at the same time, I come up with Coca-Cola’s classic “Have a Coke and a Smile” slogan.

Kinda ironic that Pepsi would co-opt its rival’s old advertising message, since this makeover is supposed to convey a more cutting-edge futuristic look. Maybe the agency behind this reboot, Arnell Group, is a stealth Coke client.

The funny thing is, Pepsi routinely delivers inept marketing pitches like this one’s bound to be; but they never really suffer for it. They’re still a close No. 2 behind Coke in a broad category of beverages, and instant bombs like “Brown and Bubbly” don’t seem to damage that. It’s uncanny.

(Via BuzzFeed)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/25/2008 02:02:50 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Food, Pop Culture
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break the ice
Maybe they were right: Hockey and politics don’t mix.

They certainly didn’t a couple of weeks ago, when the Philadelphia Flyers invited Sarah Palin to drop the ceremonial first puck, and then promptly lost to the Rangers. But at least they didn’t lose a starting goaltender, like the St. Louis Blues did after they hosted the Republican VP candidate in their barn last night:

Before the game, Blues goalie Manny Legace tripped on a carpet laid out for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to drop the ceremonial first puck.

“I went to go step on the ice and the [Scottrade Center security] guy goes, ‘Watch the carpet,’ and he had his foot there holding it, so I figured it would be safe to step on,” Legace said. “If he’s holding it and I figured the other end’s pretty much secure, I was just worrying about the carpet slipping [forward]. As soon as I went to step down, he took his foot off the carpet. As soon as I stepped on the carpet, the carpet just shot out and my leg kept going and my other one was still on the bench. I felt it pull right away.”

Legace played the first period but the left hip flexor injury obviously affected his play. He gave up two goals on 12 shots and was replaced by St. Louis native Ben Bishop at the start of the second period.

So now, the Palin Curse has a body count. And the Blues did lose the game, 4-0. Considering that Missouri is, indeed, a swing state (why else would Palin make this pitstop?), the GOP better hope the pissed-off hockey fan demographic isn’t enough to throw those Electoral College votes into the Obama column.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/25/2008 01:03:55 PM
Category: Hockey, Politics
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