Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, August 23, 2021

I had an uncharacteristically restless night of sleep last night. I couldn’t account for it, since I’d managed to avoid the typical desperation that colors most Saturday nights. But instead of the usual zonk-out as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was tossing and turning, and actually woke up at least once — practically unheard of.

Today at lunchtime, I called up my cousin Adrianna, who I hadn’t spoken with for a couple of weeks. She gave me some surprise news: Late last night, without warning, she fell seriously ill and ended up rushing to the hospital for emergency surgery. Luckily, the best-case scenario prevailed, in that it was routine surgery without complications, and she was discharged back home today for about a week’s worth of rest and recovery.

Can’t say I ever believed in extrasensory perception. Rationally, I can accept that my night of moderate unease, and Adrianna’s night of extreme (to say the least) unease, were completely coincidental.

Beyond the rational? I dunno. The corker, for me: While I can’t really put a label on whatever it was that wouldn’t let me sleep — was it anxiety, dread, nervousness, or some other emotion? — at one point during the night I did manage to crystallize my thoughts. For some reason, I fixated on the idea that my cousin Billy — Adrianna’s brother — had experienced some bodily harm. It was completely out of left field, as I haven’t talked to Billy in a long while either, and had no reason to think that anything had happened to him. If not for what I’d found out the next day, I doubt I’d even have remembered that notion.

Turns out my instincts were onto something, but had targeted the wrong cousin. Given that misfire, I guess I remain a psychic skeptic.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/23/2009 07:10:30 PM
Category: General
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It’s a wonder why this decidedly belligerent Elmo knockoff doesn’t get more local news coverage:

The dirty and creepy character demanded money from people and, when he didn’t get it, swore and jostled them.

“No picture. No picture. You have to tip Elmo. You have to tip Elmo or Elmo gets angry,” the imposter shouted as he stuck a filthy red paw over a Texas tourist’s camera lens.

“What the hell, Elmo? Keep your hands to yourself,” shouted Victoria Vought, 47, pulling away.

Wide-eyed at the loud to-do, Vought’s son, Dylan, 4, asked, “What’s wrong with Elmo, Mommy?”

“That’s not the real Elmo. That’s a bad Elmo,” she quickly explained.

I haven’t laid eyes on rogue Elmo in a long time. But when I used to frequent Midtown, I’d often catch sight of him, and not just in Times Square proper — I’ve seen him venture as far east as 5th Avenue. The costume was always on the shabby side. As for the creepiness factor, a woman once told me that, for several weeks, this furry freak regularly came by her street-level office window on 7th Avenue and lingered there for several minutes, seemingly staring directly at her. (Good thing she never attempted to snap a photo — although, since she was always braced against the threat of an indecent exposure, picture-taking would have been the last thing on her mind.)

I can only assume that someone applied the “tickle-me-Elmo” treatment on this character one too many times, and this street-shambling kook is the result. I may not know how to get to Sesame Street anymore, but it sure ain’t via 42nd.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/23/2009 05:27:16 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Pop Culture, True Crime
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How do you get rid of a naggingly-persistent song that get stuck inside your head, otherwise known (somewhat creepily so) as an earworm? By drowning it out with an alternate mental soundtrack:

When earworms become a problem, says [James Kellaris, marketing professor at the University of Cincinnati], “some people swear by ‘eraser tunes’; those that have a mystical ability to eat any other earworms. Singing the eraser tune rids one of an earworm but risks replacing it with the eraser song.” A friend of mine uses Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, though it can also become an earworm.

I don’t know what the neurobiology behind it is, but for me, earworms are linked to lyrics. Words always stick in my mind more than instrumentals, probably because they’re mnemonically easier to remember. The catchier a lyrical hook is, the more likely it is to burrow its way into my grey matter. Therefore, it follows that I find instrumental tracks to be most effective as eraser songs.

Toward that end, and owing to my background as a stereotypical ’70s-’80s child raised on television, my preferred all-purpose eraser song is “The Streetbeater”, AKA the theme song from “Sanford and Son”. I discovered the earworm-fighting power of this Quincy Jones-written tune years ago. No matter what’s musically occupying my mind, the familiar strains of that unmistakable sitcom-starter always chase the offending brainwaves away.

In fact, TV theme songs in general do the trick for me in driving out earworms. The all-instrumental themes to “Hawaii Five-O” and “The Cosby Show” work great. Even the ones with song lyrics, like “The Jeffersons theme “Movin’ On Up”, are preferable to some annoying sticky-song. Maybe it’s because those theme songs were, by nature, short and sweet, and served only as preludes to the main attraction. Also, it’s probably a direct demonstration of my personal preference for what was coming out of the TV, instead of what was coming out of the radio, while I was growing up.

So the key to combating the musical noises in your head is to watch more TV. For any other sounds that are rattling around inside your head, please — consult a physician.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/23/2009 04:30:37 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Society, TV
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