Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, July 02, 2021

Not so long ago, I lodged the following complaint against the post-modern vampire, as personified in Twilight and the like:

Meaning enough already — what used to be fresh and inventive is now the tired norm. The romanticization of the dreamy nosferatu should signal the end of the line for this fantasy-fiction aesthetic. I don’t know that future vampire tales need to revert back to the Bram Stoker trappings, but a fresh reinvention is in order.

Naturally, my plea was roundly ignored, as the realms of fashion and pop culture continue to chug along on the fanged-undead kick:

“The vampire is the new James Dean,” said Julie Plec, the writer and executive producer of “The Vampire Diaries,” a forthcoming series on the CW network based on the popular L. J. Smith novels about high school femmes and hommes fatales. “There is something so still and sexy about these young erotic predators,” she said.

This generation of undead prowls high school hallways and dimly lighted dance clubs as menacing — and as seductive — as they have ever been. The June premiere of the second season of “True Blood,” in which Sookie, played by Anna Paquin, is reunited with her imperious fanged suitor, drew 3.4 million viewers, making it HBO’s most-watched program since the “Sopranos” finale in 2007.

Charlaine Harris has just published “Dead and Gone,” the ninth novel in her Sookie Stackhouse series, variations on Southern Gothic fiction on which “True Blood” is based. The publishing world has been intrigued by “The Strain,” a first installment in a planned trilogy written by the film director Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, about bloodthirsty predators run amok in Manhattan.

The style world, too, has come under the vampire’s spell, in the shape of the gorgeous leather- and lace-clad night crawlers who have crept into the pages of fashion glossies.

As silly as the vampirific trend is in books, movies, and TV, it’s doubly ludicrous when applied to fashion — and that’s an industry built upon the sublimely outlandish. To me, it comes off as nothing more than goth revisited, with maybe a hint of blood-red color. It’s ironically anemic in concept.

I guess this meme will have to run its course via overkill. But even without actually directly intaking any of its manifestations, the marketing osmosis I experience from this movement has already stricken me with bloodsucker fatigue. Somebody drain me, quick…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/02/2021 07:59pm
Category: Fashion, Pop Culture
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Yesterday was the commencement of the formal free-agency signing period in the National Hockey League, and it went off with a bang: A record number of players switched teams, with the usual long-term dollars committed with an eye toward salary-cap impact.

The detailed rundown is available from here to ESPN.com. Here are a few of the more notable player- and team-based developments from the first day of “Free Agent Frenzy”:

- Perhaps reflecting their state government’s fiscal paralysis, all three California clubs were unusually quiet. Not counting the Ducks and Sharks re-signing a couple of their own restricted and unrestricted free agents (notably Scott Niedermayer for Anaheim, along with their previous Draft-day trading of Chris Pronger to Philadelphia), those teams and the Kings made no moves at all. The inactivity was especially puzzling for LA and San Jose, who were both expected to revamp their rosters after disappointing 2008-09 seasons. Both teams are rumored trade-partner possibilities for disguntled Ottawa winger Dany Heatley, but otherwise, it looks like they’ll be picking from the second-wave UFA crop.

- The Habs made waves with their signings and trades, basically foregoing size for skill. This has set up Montreal for considerable ridicule for assembling a forward corps that averages something like 5′9″/170lbs (exaggeration, but not by much). I’d like to take an early stab at nicknaming this shrimpy group of Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, and Brian Gionta: The Smurfs, hearkening to the common term for short-but-steady NFL receivers.

- Based on recent performance, it seems like the Oilers have upgraded in goal with Nik Khabibulin. However, his history indicates that he doesn’t elevate his game unless he’s got serious competition from his backup: That was the case last season in Chicago with Cristobal Huet, and similarly during his Tampa Bay tenure when John Grahame pushed him. Will youngster Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers be able to challenge for the starter’s role enough to keep Khabi on his toes? For four years? Doubtful.

- And speaking of the goaltenders… I’m really surprised that Scott Clemmensen couldn’t capitalize on his stellar substitute stint with New Jersey this year — to me, it validated his starter status. In fact, I was expecting Colorado to nab him and slide him into their vacant No. 1 slot. Instead, the Avs picked up journeyman Craig Anderson, and Clemmensen ended up replacing Anderson as Florida’s new backup behind Tomas Vokoun.

- There was a lot of grousing over several injury-prone players landing multi-year contract. In particular, Minnesota got flack for replacing one fragile winger — Marian Gaborik — with another in Martin Havlat. I would add that the nature of those long-term deals means that many of these players are going to become injury-prone if they’re not already. In addition, the Lightning seemed to get a free pass on this issue when they picked up Mattias Ohlund, who’s spent significant time on the IR during his career.

- On the local NHL front: The Rangers obviously made the most noise, with the preliminary salary-shedding of Scott Gomez to Montreal setting them up for the $37.5-million landing of Gaborik. Adding brawler Donald Brashear will also amp the excitement level at MSG. Comparatively, the Devils and Islanders laid low, notwithstanding New Jersey’s significant re-signing of their incumbent d-men Johnny Oduya and Andy Greene.

- Finally, I’m a little irked over the loose talk about the “cap hit” for each announced signing. In most cases, the dollar figures cited by TSN, Puck Daddy, et al are nothing but the simple per-year average of a contract, arrived at by simple arithmetic. Problem is, most of these big-money deals are either front-loaded or back-loaded, so the true cap hit in any given year is far away from the per-year average.

For instance, Marian Hossa’s trumpeted 12-year, $62.8-million contract with Chicago averages out to $5.23 million — except that it doesn’t. The reported front-loaded deal pays Hossa $7.9 million each season from 2009 through 2016, with declining annual salaries after that (making the older Hossa easier to trade or buy out by that point). Obviously, the Blackhawks carry a significantly higher salary cap figure for the winger in the immediate term than if the total sixty-two mil were more equitably spread out over the contract term. That’s sports biz!

So much for Day 1. From here until October, it’s fill-in-the-blanks time with the remnant free agents, a process interesting in its own right.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/02/2021 11:16am
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz
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