Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, July 14, 2021

Today I’m driving my mother from her upstate house to my cousin Adrianna’s slightly-more-downstate house, in preparation of their flight to Greece tomorrow. Mom will be gone for two months, and it’s her first trip back to the old country in almost thirty years. So it’s a pretty big deal, although I have to say that she’s anticipating it with uncommon calmness on her part (so far).

One thing that we’d been squabbling over was the amount of gift items that Mom wanted to take from here to her sisters, nieces, and others. A lot of these gifts are actually fairly practical items: Washcloths, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals like TUMS, etc. The “importing” of such American trinkets apparently was/is a common element of emigrant return visits:

It was wrong, yet easy, to feel that we did India a favor by coming home. We packed our suitcases with things they couldn’t get for themselves: Jif peanut butter, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Gap khakis. These imports sketched a subtle hierarchy in which they were the wanting relatives and we their benefactors.

Here’s the thing: Greece, like India, is no longer wanting for a lot of these common consumer items. True, the Euro equivalents for things like peanut butter might not be the same as the genuine U.S. article, and often taxes and currency rates make shopping Stateside less costly. But generally, Greece’s decades-long membership in the EU has resulted in a consumer marketplace (along with other economic opportunities) that’s more or less comparable to what we have here. In other words: Our relatives aren’t dependent upon us, their American family, to provide staples that they could buy in Hellenic supermarkets and malls.

So why is my mother practically smuggling such items in her suitcase? I think she’s got the same mindset that she had for her past visits: That she’s coming from the rich country, and so she’s obliged to bring over a few baubles. Never mind that she could just as easily buy those same or comparable items once she lands in Athens, and thus avoid potential check-in/weigh-in hassles at the airport. I don’t think it’s going to hit her how much things have truly changed until she gets there and sees it for herself; the regular phonecalls over the years, and other relatives’ visits there and back, apparently haven’t done that trick.

Anyway, she’s packed what she’s going to pack. Her bag is under the luggage-weight limit by a comfortable margin, after convincing her to cut back on some of the extras. Hopefully she won’t make the return trip laden down with a bunch of family “exports” in her bag.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/14/2009 03:37pm
Category: Society
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Using “The Simpsons” is a natural for Banksy, a semi-anonymous graffiti artists in the UK. His website is cluttered with similar pop-cultural icons, either as base elements for his artistic takeoffs or else as the inserted takeoffs themselves. Personally, I liked this oversized mural of a bloodshot Krusty The Clown (entitled “Caravan”), misspelling of “disapointment” and all.

And if you haven’t clicked through to that link above to Banksy’s website, please do. Because he employs that rare-but-distinctive horizontal-scrolling site design: Instead of the standard vertical top-to-bottom arrangement, the content scrolls horizontally — i.e., you use the scrollbar at the bottom of your browser window to navigate the complete page left-to-right.

A very simple, non-Flash way to give a website a unique spin. The only other memorable instance I’ve come across was for Russian fashion designer Denis Simachev’s online home, and that was two years ago. And before that:

I’ve seen very rare instances of this. I remember David Bowie’s very first website presence, circa 1997, employed this same unconventional design arrangement. It certainly stood out for me.

Obviously this Web layout aesthetic hasn’t caught on, and probably never will. I’m thinking both designers and audiences aren’t ready for such a fundamental shift in how a website “works”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/14/2009 02:10pm
Category: Creative, Internet, Pop Culture
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tweet withdrawal
I guess this is what Twitter was meant for: @TravelingAnna found herself trapped inside a bank branch while it was being robbed, and tweeted about the locked-down aftermath:

“my bank was just held up - with me in it. HSBC 34 and 8. also my whole trackball is GONE!!! im locked in the bank still.”

The commenters on the Gothamist writeup came after Anna pretty hard for turning to Twitter, versus making a phonecall to her boss, boyfriend, and whoever else. Some clarity: Her phone apparently was broken (that missing trackball), so the only communication option available was tweeting via mobile Web. Also, she was sending out her updates after the robbery went down, not during — apparently, it was a “clean” heist in that the robber got the money and ran, without most of the people around even aware of what was happening. The subsequent lockdown was standard police procedure for investigating any possible inside-man accomplices; boring stuff, so why not occupy yourself with sending out updates?

So I don’t have any problem with this on-the-spot crime scene tweeting. It turns out that I just started following Anna on the Twit-thang, so I got a kick out of reading her blow-by-blow account of the banal aftermath of knocking off a bank.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/14/2009 01:28pm
Category: New Yorkin', Social Media Online, Tech, True Crime
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