Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, October 06, 2021

march away
Four years ago, I predicted that Berkeley Breathed would keep cranking out his current strip, “Opus”, for “as long as he’s interested enough to keep doing it”.

I admit I wrote that facetiously, and figured the mercurial cartoonist would probably pack it in within a year or so from that time. Turns out he kept the penguin alive and kicking — until now. Breathed is ending the strip — and, allegedly, the character itself — for good on November 2nd:

Breathed worries that the U.S. is heading toward some “difficult times in the next few years — politically,” and he says he wanted to leave Opus on a sweeter note — before he could get possibly corrupted.

We’ve heard this before, of course, notably in the way that his last strip, “Outland”, evolved back into a “Bloom County” rehash. And despite whatever he does to the character, anyone familiar with the ebb and flow of comic books/strips knows that death is rarely ever permanent. I can easily see Breathed coming around in a couple of years, declaring that things are quite as bleak as he had predicted, and then hauling his flightless bird out of storage once again. So we’ll see.

Meanwhile, in recognition of this retirement, it’s a good time to revisit the highlights of Opus’ history.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/06/2021 10:51:05 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Publishing
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A few weeks ago, I got an out-of-the-blue email from Kelly Leonard, the executive director of online marketing at Hachette Book Group USA. The last time I had contact with Kelly was when I interviewed her about blog-based marketing efforts in the book publishing biz, way back in ‘04.

A lot had changed since then, including Kelly’s publishing house changing hands from Time Warner to Hachette Filipacchi, and my own relocation from Florida to New York. Since we were both in the same neighborhood (generally speaking) now, I offered to come visit her in her offices in Midtown.

And so I did. I thanked her for the time she spent with me, outlining the intensive online efforts she’d undertaking these days as the book promotional game shifts more and more toward Web and user-generated channels. Blogs are a big part of Hachette’s outreach for title exposure, as are a whole bunch of Twitter trails for the publisher’s various imprints. Fascinating to see the strategy evolve, especially as more and more authors buy into the online component of book publishing, including the use of dedicated websites as story supplements.

As an added bonus, I got a bird’s-eye view of the shelf-full of trinket toys Kelly has displayed in her office, including a load of obscure PEZ dispensers (more notable for having been manufactured in some now-defunct Eastern European countries!).

We didn’t go into too much detail on whether or not I would be working for Kelly at some point; I certainly would like to expand my publishing track record by getting into the book biz. If this does come to pass, rest assured I’ll be referring to the experience in the punny-est way possible: As a “Hachette job”.

Anyway, it could hardly have been a complete visit without me coming away with some literary spoils, in the form of review copies of a couple of Hachette’s latest releases. To wit:

Brad Meltzer’s “The Book of Lies” is a current-release Biblical historical thriller that I’d taken note of because of its Superman connection. I practically requested this one from Kelly, in fact, because I was so intrigued by the backstory. I’m partway into it, and while it’s more thriller-ish than I care for, it’s intriguing enough, and a quick read. The cinematically-styled trailer is a prime example of current video promotional techniques in the publishing world.

Robert J. Mrazek’s “A Dawn Like Thunder” is a sneak-peek read for me, as it’s not scheduled to drop until December. This one is historical non-fiction, about Torpedo Squadron Eight, a World War II flying band of brothers who provided key aerial support in Pacific Theater battles at Midway and Guadalcanal. This feeds my interest in history, although in an area where I don’t delve into too deeply.

I plan to post reviews of both tomes in the near future, with “Lies” coming first. Always good when a meet-and-greet nets reading material.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/06/2021 01:16:33 PM
Category: Book Review, Business, Internet
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Power editrix Tina Brown did a soft-launch unveiling this morning of her latest project, The Daily Beast.

This is an online-only beast, pretty much designed to be a more editorially-refined version of Huffington Post. Chief way to have that concept shine through is to have Brown herself blogging on the site (although by her own admission she won’t be posting on a too-frequent schedule).

It’s a slick-looking production, as it should be considering IAC is fronting the money. I don’t have much use for any online news aggregators, but I could see making this one a regular destination. If for no other reason than the Evelyn Waugh inspiration for the site’s name.

One thing, though: Perusing though it, I don’t see a sports section. Maybe it’s laughable to suggest that a Tina Brown production include something as low-brow as primetime athletics, but hey, it would pull in another audience segment. Besides, it’s no more frivolous than the requisite celebrity-watch. I’ll put a call out to Ms. Brown now, since I wasn’t invited to the big Empire Diner staff-formation meeting: I’m available to serve as inaugural Beast Sports Editor! Hit me up, babe.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/06/2021 12:08:25 PM
Category: Bloggin', Celebrity, Media, Sports
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I was kinda hoping to not have to post the above image. But with an ignominious sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, those Chicago Cubs managed to hit triple-digits on the World Series drought-o-meter, i.e. from 1908 to the present year.

And so, the tearful cubbie laments. It might help northside Chicago fans to frame the past hundred baseball seasons as just one bad century; could happen to any team, right?

(Via Tom McMahon)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/06/2021 11:13:05 AM
Category: Baseball, History
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If you’re an Animal House fan, then you’re well aware of what happened to one Douglas Neidermeyer after he left old Faber.

You might not be aware that it happened (sorta) in a whole other movie:

[Animal House] concludes by describing each character’s fate. Niedermeyer was “killed in Vietnam by his own troops.” In director John Landis’ segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), some soldiers are overheard discussing “fragging Niedermeyer.”

“Fragging”, of course, being the appropriate term for taking out an unpopular command leader.

No word if any of those troops were Delta Tau Chi brothers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/06/2021 10:52:31 AM
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, TV
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