Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, April 16, 2021

I was going to spend a good chunk of tomorrow morning in Queens, taking in a behind-the-scenes tour of the Mets’ just-opened Citi Field baseball barn. And yes, I was planning to live-Twitter about it via my iTouch (provided that there was a freely-accessible wi-fi connection, which I have to assume a brand-new state-of-the-art stadium would have).

Alas, it’s not to be. I got word late today that the Mets canceled the tour. They’re giving a raincheck for later this season, with the real possibility of free game tickets being thrown into the rescheduling. If so, hooray anyway!

And as it turns out, tomorrow probably won’t be an ideal day for substantive tweeting anyway. Because all indications are that Oprah herself will be sending her very first tweet, live on the Friday edition of her TV show (with help from guest-Twitterer Ashton Kutcher, of course — of course!). Given that Twitter already creaks under the strain of its existing user activity, chances are very good that the resulting onslaught of Oprah acolytes will crash the site before the weekend commences.

And that, naturally, will be but the first step toward Twitter’s eventual celebrity-induced destruction.

So, it looks like the Twitterati wouldn’t have gotten my report from Citi Field anyway. And perhaps it never will. Good thing I got this here blog.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/16/2009 09:22:41 PM
Category: Baseball, Celebrity, Internet, New Yorkin', TV
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Recently Hachette Book Group provided me with an advance review copy of “The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection” by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, a historical nonfiction hardcover due to be released on April 27th. Thanks go to Valerie Russo for sending me the book. Below is my review.

“Crimes” is an expansive look at the evolution of French society from the mid-19th Century to the end of the Belle Époque, with particular focus upon the shifting mores in Paris toward authority and class structures. The culture of lawlessness during this period, and the state’s ongoing attempts to quell new breeds of criminals, get special attention throughout. The Hooblers offer up several examples of sensationalist crimes from this period that foreshadow 20th- and 21st-Century standards: The first bank-robbery getaway car, mentally-deranged serial killers, public-spectacle crimes of passion, etc. Accompanying this luridness is the counterbalance of the development of professionalized police detective methods that pioneered modern crime-solving, with legendary figures like Alphonse Bertillon and Francois-Eugene Vidocq showcasing France’s contribution to worldwide law enforcement methodology.

The husband-and-wife authors dedicated a lot of research to this broad sketch of France’s sociopolitical climate. Unfortunately, they felt the need to fixate their study around a single noteworthy event: The 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. That crime did indeed take on epic proportions in its day, but the Hooblers try to position it as a culmination of the previous half-century of French societal criminality.

Frankly, it’s a strained argument, especially when the details and background of the theft’s mastermind are revealed. Using the Mona Lisa as the centerpiece to this historical narrative smacks of an attempt to locate a center of gravity for what can otherwise be a too-tangential collection of episodes: Everything from the Dreyfus Affair, to Sherlock Holmes, to the prevailing popular penny-dreadfuls are tossed in as background. Even the name-dropping of Pablo Picasso as a onetime suspect in the Mona Lisa heist comes off as gratuitous.

I suspect the motivation for this structuring was driven by marketing concerns more than anything else. The promotional copy is concentrated upon the Mona Lisa angle, giving the impression that the bulk of the content would be about this single crime (”crime” singular, unlike the book’s title). That extends to the book’s physical presentation: When I showed a colleague the jacket cover, she instantly thought it looked like a novel, and was surprised when I told her that it was actually a nonfiction. This is all calculated to draw in readers, but I’m thinking it’ll result in considerable disappointment among the mis-targeted audience.

Approach “Crimes” as a collection of true-crime vignettes, and you’ll find the read rewarding. Look at it as a famous-painting thriller, and you’ll feel short-changed. And consider yourself lucky to have that choice.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/16/2009 12:49:10 PM
Category: Book Review, History, True Crime
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I can’t say why this improbable concept of a superhero stuck in my mind for more than 20 years:

If you’re at the big super hero party, and Ulterior Motive Man asks you what your power is, and you answer “water breathing”, you’re going to be wearing a fishbowl the rest of the night.

I suppose I just like the idea of someone who’s only superpowers are connivance and mental subterfuge, capped with forced realization. You know, an everyday hero for the rest of us.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/16/2009 10:50:35 AM
Category: Comedy, Creative
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