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Saturday, October 31, 2021

It’s a testament to Caprice Crane’s writing chops that I cannot get this Halloween-appropriate tweet of her’s out of my mind:

Kids’ first experience with Orwellian language comes when they see those tiny candy bars entitled: “Fun Size.”

No better way to instill Newspeak into the head than by going through the stomach (by way of the sweet tooth). Trick-or-treat totalitarianism! I’m sure Orwell, as well as Big Brother himself, would concur.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/31/2009 04:29 PM
Category: Comedy, Food, Wordsmithing
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I don’t know why this joke from an old episode of “The Honeymooners” came to mind today, as it’s been months since I’ve seen a rerun. Regardless, it’s still funny, more than 50 years after the telling:

Norton: Ralph?

Ralph: What?!

Norton: You mind if I smoke?

Ralph: [acidly] I don’t care if you burn.

I suppose that’s an apt retort to the smokers in your life. At least, for the ones who bother to ask for permission before lighting up.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/31/2009 03:45 PM
Category: Comedy, TV
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Friday, October 30, 2021

Bleeding cash from a lower volume of hard-copy message deliveries, the U.S. Postal Service is, paradoxically, doubling-down on paper: Post offices have started selling Hallmark greeting cards.

Of the 7 billion cards [sold in the U.S. annually], about 4 billion are mailed, accounting for about 2 percent of total mail volume, said Robert F. Bernstock, president of mailing and shipping services for the Postal Service.

“If we can get some energy behind greeting cards, which are incredibly linked to the mail, what better place to sell them and merchandise them than at our post offices?” Bernstock said.

A Postal Service study confirmed that customers think selling greeting cards at post offices is appropriate and that they would buy them there, Bernstock said. The goal is for the cards to help boost postal retail sales by 30 to 40 percent.

This is actually a very good idea, completely synergizing complimentary goods and services. I’m surprised that it took this long to happen. I do think a 30-40 percent revenue amp is highly optimistic, though. For that to happen, people will have to think of the post office as a destination for holiday/event shopping, i.e. making a one-stop trip to buy a card, personalize it, address it, and mail it off. Not sure anyone behaves that way — they’re more likely to head to the post office for the usual shipping purposes, and then impulse-buy a birthday card or two for later use.

All that’s assuming you don’t just shoot off an e-card instead.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/30/2009 09:14 AM
Category: Business, Creative, Society
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Thursday, October 29, 2021

yanked and filledBenjamin Franklin’s assessment of New Jersey as “a barrel tapped at both ends” was never more true than now, with the Yankees-Phillies World Series highlighting the State’s traditional caught-in-the-middle schism:

“New Jersey has a city like Newark (population 281,000), but it’s like these enormous cities are giant magnets with tremendous pull on the state,” says Richard Veit, who teaches the state’s history at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, on the Jersey Shore. “We tend to see ourselves in relation to either New York City or Philadelphia.”

“We are talking about the World Series in class, and students from the North and the South are about to come to blows. They love the debate. They love the argument.”

On the one hand, New Jerseyans can hang their hats on the nickname granted upon this year’s October Classic: The Turnpike Series. On the other hand, that descriptor only reinforces the concept of the Garden State as baseball’s equivalent of flyover country — something to get through, rather than identify with.

The irony: By trying to co-opt the identities of two neighboring metropolises, New Jersey ends up with no true identity of its own. In other words, no matter which baseball team wins the World Series, New Jersey is still full of losers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/29/2009 11:02 PM
Category: Baseball, New Yorkin'
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Ryan Star’s song “Breathe” may be as sappy and throw-away as any soft rock single, but at least it’s doing someone some good:.

What [Star's] done to help is feature real unemployed professionals in the music video for his new single “Breathe,” and in the process he’s blended music marketing with recruiting. The website, breathe4jobs.com, is clearly there to sell the single, but it also acts as a very public posting board for a dozen real job-seekers, from software consultant and restaurant manager to balloon artist and digital-marketing specialist. People viewing the video who are interested in hiring them can send an e-mail through the site, which has already drawn a nibble for at least one hopeful less than a week since its posting.

Nice feel-good story. I won’t even point out that Star and his recording company could’ve paid these job-seekers for time in front of the cameras, thus, y’know, directly employing them for a short spell.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/29/2009 10:23 PM
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Society
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I’m sure it doesn’t really measure up with the Vietnam-era look of haunting trauma. But I swear, the one-on-one disinterested scrutiny that I was subjected to last night was bad enough. I hope she walked away satisfied, because I sure wasn’t.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/29/2009 08:08 AM
Category: Women, Wordsmithing
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Wednesday, October 28, 2021

There is a spectre haunting your supermarket aisle — the spectre of “simple”:

The new marketing code word being used to boast about fewer ingredients: simple. From 2005 to 2008, there’s been a 64.7% increase in new products using the words “simple” or “simply” in the product or brand name, reports researcher Datamonitor.

In 2010, products that tout simplified labels will be more sought after than those clinging to the formerly hot buzzwords “organic” or “natural,” says [trends guru Lynn] Dornblaser.

At its simplest, simple sells.

“The food business has always been ingenious at turning any criticism into a new way to sell food to us,” says Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. The best-selling book popularized the notion of buying only foods with five or fewer ingredients. “As soon as you stress fewer ingredients, you’re implying that the food is healthy.”

Strength in fewer numbers, so to speak. There’s also the sense of transparency in your foodstuff. The typical run-on sentence of chemical additives found in processed foods is countered by this stripped-down simplicity.

But what good is it? Plenty of fatty foods are just as “simple”, and no less unhealthy due to the lack of preservatives. As usual, it’s purely perceptional:

At [a consumer focus group] gathering in San Francisco, one of Häagen-Dazs’ strongest markets, a panelist mentioned that when he shopped recently, he found himself comparing a bag of potato chips that had 20 ingredients with a bag that had three. He said the bag with the short list was the obvious choice.

Just another trend. Although I’m intrigued by how the further deconstruction of our munchies will manifest next. Will we soon be buying bags of mixed-together protein strands and vitamins? Bring it on…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/28/2009 11:03 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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A couple of days ago, I picked up a new flavor of tea: A maté-citrus black tea blend. It’s labeled as “energizing”, presumably moreso than regular caffeine-chocked black tea.

I have to say I haven’t felt the energizing burst, despite drinking at least one cup of this brew every day for nearly a week. It certainly wakes me up, but no more so than any other black tea. The flavor variety alone is worth the switch-up, but beyond that, I’m not feeling any added zip.

Mentioning this, someone told me that the maté rush comes only if you drink it every day for a prolonged period, so I simply haven’t been drinking it long enough yet. I’m pretty sure that’s nonsense. What’s more, I know how that notion came about: Because maté drinkers tend to be fanatical about the beverage, they wind up drinking it all the time. In South American countries, it’s the national drink, so it’s a virtual water substitute. So the theory sprouted up that copious intake was the only way maté’s effects worked, because that’s how regular drinkers take it anyway.

As for me, I’ll certainly finish this box that I bought. No rush to replenish it after that, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/28/2009 09:10 AM
Category: Food, Society
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Tuesday, October 27, 2021

just don't bite it
Remember when I railed against the overload of vampire motifs in today’s pop culture? I do believe we’ve reached the tipping point.

Yes, that’s the Succu Dry pictured above. For those who can’t get off on the anonymous vaginality of the Fleshlight, this “sex in a can” product adds that undead toothsome touch to a simulated blowjob.

I will give them props for the creative punnery at work here: Succu Dry being a play on the plural form of succubus. And talk about going the extra yard in supernatural selling points:

Succu Dry’s unique Vampire mouth opening isn’t for the faint of heart. This exclusive Undead pale sleeve color is made from the same patented Real Feel Super Skin material that’s made Fleshlight the #1 selling male sex toy in the world. The amazingly detailed vampire mouth and fangs beg you to drive your wooden stake deep inside.

And let’s hope this debauched level of cultural penetration finally puts a stake in the heart of the current vampire-chic craze. Hopefully with a minimum of bite marks…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/27/2009 11:43 PM
Category: Pop Culture
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fiving
At this point, this whole randomly-generated playlisting off my iTouch is becoming a monthly feature around here. Once every 30-ish days might not sound like a regular schedule to you, but to me, it reeks of an unwanted consistency.

And with that… The last five shuffled-up songs that emitted out of my earbuds. With brief lyrical sample, naturally:

1. “The Simple Life”, The Juan MacLean - I lost you to oblivion.

2. “Mama Said Knock You Out”, LL Cool J - Don’t call it a comeback.

3. “Metropolis (The Twelves Remix)”, Cicada - I would.

4. “Enter the Newground”, DJ Kentaro - Continue.

5. “The MC”, KRS-One - I black out and wake up to catastrophe.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/27/2009 08:55 AM
Category: Pop Culture, iPod Random Tracks
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Monday, October 26, 2021

just effin' and essin'
In many ways, the above screenshot represents the quintessential Simpsonsesque type of humor: A visual that lingers only for the few seconds necessary to implant itself in your mind’s eye, later to explode like a mental timebomb and blow your little mind.

I’m assuming that’s what happened to Chaz:

I remember watching the episode of The Simpsons in which it appeared, staring in disbelief, rewinding the tape just a smidgen, and staring in disbelief again, followed by “Oh. My. GOD.” It was another ten minutes before I could resume viewing.

Like Lileks, I’m not going to spell out the joke for you, either. But if this post’s title isn’t enough to clue you in, here’s another tip: Like Sneed, Chuck also ran an F&S storefront in this same location. But no, it was neither feed nor seed that the former rural-store proprietor was peddling.

Got it now? Good.

Definitely a classic. Although for my money, it doesn’t compare to this spoken exchange from the “Treehouse of Horror III” episode:

Mr. Burns: [Taking Marge on an expedition] What do you think, Smithers?
Smithers: I think women and sea-men don’t mix.
Mr. Burns: We know what you think.

Good thing the television censors are immune to subtlety.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/26/2009 11:36 PM
Category: Comedy, TV, Wordsmithing
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gather 'round
It’s Halloween time again, and once again, I’m ill-prepared. I don’t have a costume picked out, and I’m not feeling a quickie expedition to one of the pop-up novelty shops to scrounge up some leftover or bare-bones outfit.

But I can’t feel too bad, because I’ve dug up the above photo, which charmed me so much last year at this time. There’s something about those ground-spiked white-sheet ghosts, seemingly clasped at the hands, that makes me smile. The ring they’re forming around that tree is surely a seance, and I maintain that they’re trying to coax some spirit-form out of that wooden encasement.

That’s my theory, anyway. The original Flickr photo page is silent on these spooks’ intent. Just as well — what’s a Halloween display without a hint of mystery?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/26/2009 10:28 PM
Category: Creative, Photography
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Sunday, October 25, 2021

Weekend warriors imbued with more GPS-forged bravery than common sense are becoming a big headache for search-and-rescue teams:

Technology has made calling for help instantaneous even in the most remote places. Because would-be adventurers can send GPS coordinates to rescuers with the touch of a button, some are exploring terrain they do not have the experience, knowledge or endurance to tackle.

Rescue officials are deciding whether to start keeping statistics on the problem, but the incidents have become so frequent that the head of California’s Search and Rescue operation has a name for the devices: Yuppie 911.

“Now you can go into the back country and take a risk you might not normally have taken,” says Matt Scharper, who coordinates a rescue every day in a state with wilderness so rugged even crashed planes can take decades to find. “With the Yuppie 911, you send a message to a satellite and the government pulls your butt out of something you shouldn’t have been in in the first place.”

The genie’s not going back in the bottle, so here’s the solution: Make it clear that the first time the panic button is pushed will be the last time. In other words, invoking a rescue crew via a GPS signal means that you get rescued, and that your excursion is over. The crew pulls you out of there, and then sends you on your way home. It doesn’t matter how serious or how trivial the purpose of the call was — calling for help means you’re giving up and getting your butt hauled out of there, so that you can’t do any more damage to yourself or to the people risking their tails to help you. That way, the rescue signal isn’t used more than once, and doesn’t mobilized a response more than that one time (which is how it should be anyway).

I think the prospects of a weekend trip cut short will be sufficient deterrent against frequent and casual SOS calls for things like an overly-salty bottle of water. Require every manufacturer to put a sticker with this stipulation on their devices, so that even the densest yuppie can’t miss it. Hopefully, they’ll skip the outback hike and go rent a Segway instead…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/25/2009 08:07 PM
Category: Society, Tech
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Saturday, October 24, 2021

block-by-blockNothing says “girly geek” quite like this homemade dress, no doubt inspired by countless hours of Tetris-playing. Frenetic block-dropping never looked so fashionable!

(Via dustbury, who I’m betting saw the same tweet that I did on this)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/24/2009 07:20 PM
Category: Creative, Fashion, Videogames, Women
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We’re fairly infested with ladybugs around here. I don’t mind one or two crawling about, but no joke, I’m running across groups of them everyday.

I’ve found that the best way to dispose of them is to vacuum them up with a Dustbuster, with the proper narrow-slotted attachment. That way, you avoid having to swat them or scoop them up, which necessitates having to touch them, which means you wind up with their foul-smelling, defense-mechanism odor on you.

What’s the deal with such a stench coming out of a such daintily-named insect, anyway? Seems incongruous. I had suspected that this was an instance of contradictory naming: Giving an appealing name to something that’s otherwise repellent, along the lines of the Iceland-Greenland historical misnomering.

For that to be the case, there’d have to be a corresponding nice-smelling bug with an odious name. I instantly thought of the stinkbug as the likeliest candidate. But no such luck — turns out that that critter is appropriately named for the smelly secretions it emits.

But not the ladybug. I guess it lucked out in the zoological PR game.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/24/2009 05:23 PM
Category: History, Science, Wordsmithing
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If you subjected your newborn to hours of Disney’s “Baby Einstein” videos, and years later wound up with a straight-C student, you’re due for some money back:

Last year, lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004. “The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said, calling those claims “false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children.”

The letter cited estimates from The Washington Post and BusinessWeek that Baby Einstein controlled 90 percent of the baby media market, and sold $200 million worth of products annually.

The letter also described studies showing that television exposure at ages 1 through 3 is associated with attention problems at age 7.

In response, the Baby Einstein company will refund $15.99 for up to four “Baby Einstein” DVDs per household, bought between June 5, 2004, and Sept. 5, 2009, and returned to the company.

Sixteen bucks? I’m sure parents were counting on all that video exposure paying itself back when Junior earned a full-ride scholarship to college. Therefore, I say that Disney pony up the cash equivalent of a four-year tuition bill to some Ivy League school. Call it a “genius grant” settlement. It’ll end up being the smartest move those brain-dead parents ever made…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/24/2009 04:44 PM
Category: Business, Society, TV
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Friday, October 23, 2021

If you’re attending a Halloween party in Brooklyn next week, and a Chewbacca walks in, lugging an in-pieces C3PO ala the scene from The Empire Strikes Back… Well, there’s a chance that that won’t be just an inanimate prop strapped to his back:

Need an amputee to complete my Halloween costume (Brooklyn)

So this might seem strange and really offensive to some but hopefully someone will reply. I have always loved the scene in Empire Strikes Back where Chewbacca has to carry around a half reconstructed C3PO in a backpack because he hasn’t reattached his lower body yet. For Halloween I would love to dress up like this. I am big enough and strong enough to both pull off the Chewbacca look and to carry around a lot of weight for the night.

So basically I am looking for a double amputee (someone missing both legs - preferably at the hip) to accompany me as C3PO for the evening. We should meet ahead of time so that we can work out the backpack/harness system. There are a few parties that I want to hit and I think we will be the hit of any event we attend. Anyone up for this?

Oh yes, this was a Craigslist ad (now apparently flagged and pulled). I’m not sure if this proposal is less fetishistic than soliciting amputee sex, or more so.

What could be creepier? I suppose a reenactment of Han Solo’s Tauntaun belly-burrow would trump this — especially if that came together via online collaboration…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/23/2009 08:30 AM
Category: Internet, Movies, New Yorkin', Pop Culture, Society
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Thursday, October 22, 2021

I can’t attend this Thursday’s Halloween-eve Ted & Amy Supper Club gathering, so I’m recording the holiday-themed menu as a way to experience it vicariously:

Zombie Brains
(pan-fried calf brains served with lemon aioli)

Headless Horseman Soup
(pumpkin soup topped with cloves and honey)

Skeleton Bones
(roasted bone marrow with parsley salad)

Creature from the Black Lagoon
(grilled calamari over squid ink linguine)

The Devil’s Food Cake
(individual chocolate-caramel cakes served warm with whipped cream)

Cocktail: Red Rum

Selection of Wine

I tell you, the fried brains would definitely send me running for the hills of Fort Greene. The Black Lagoon course, on the other hand, I could devour like an eater possessed.

Too bad I can’t make it. Aside from the fun of wandering around Brooklyn in pre-Halloween costume, I could contribute to the wine selection with a Vampire Merlot and a black cat German white.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/22/2009 10:44 PM
Category: Creative, Food, New Yorkin'
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Apparently aghast at the idea of their tunes aiding and abetting Gitmo-style interrogations, pop musicians have filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the playlists used by the CIA during their loud-music torture sessions.

And just what musical medley do government spooks find most effective in making prisoners crack?

[Suzanne] Cusick, the NYU music professor, has interviewed a number of former detainees about their experiences and says the music they most often described hearing was heavy metal, rap and country. Specific songs mentioned include Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and “March of the Pigs” by industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails.

Another former prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, told Human Rights Watch that he had been forced to listen to the rapper Eminem’s song “The Real Slim Shady” for 20 days.

The cynic in me says that the artists are mainly concerned with having their songs identified as preferred torture implements, with all the punchlines accruing from that association: “His/her music is CIA-certified weapons-grade in the War on Terror!”. Or maybe someone’s looking for Federally-funded royalties from all those repeat playbacks?

Presumably, other less-torturous uses of those same bland melodies — such as wedding songs, workout beats, and commercial jingles — are A-OK.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/22/2009 09:17 AM
Category: Political, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, October 21, 2021

The jig is up for us political scientists (my BA says I’m one, thanks very much): Congress is debating cutting National Science Foundation funding for a discipline that can’t decide just how “scientific” it is (or isn’t):

“The danger is that political science is moving in the direction of saying more and more about less and less,” said Joseph Nye, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, whose work has been particularly influential among American policy makers. “There are parts of the academy which, in the effort to be scientific, feel we should stay away from policy,” Mr. Nye said, that “it interferes with the science.”

In his view statistical techniques too often determine what kind of research political scientists do, pushing them further into narrow specializations cut off from real-world concerns. The motivation to be precise, Mr. Nye warned, has overtaken the impulse to be relevant.

Reminds me of the joke one of my professors tossed off regarding the very same conjecture. The gist was that, as above, a segment of the discipline’s practitioners wanted to amp up the pure statistical focus, thus emphasizing the “sci” part of poli-sci. To which Prof, decidedly on the softer social-trending side of the debate, haughtily scoffed, “The fools!”

He got a big laugh from the class, because none of us fancied ourselves as the scientist type, either in labcoats or somewhere crunching numbers. Indeed, for undergrads, you’re a political science major either because it’s the most in-line prep for pre-law and law school; or else, like me, you have an affinity for the combination of history and applied social processes.

Trying to forge a hard science out of that soup seems like a tall order, despite Congressional preference for NSF money going into pharmaceuticals and the like. Quantifying the body politic would be a lot easier if human beings, with their quirks and general irrationalities, weren’t involved.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/21/2009 10:31 PM
Category: College Years, Political, Science
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go joe, you betcha
Here’s an interpretation of the lovely Sienna Miller’s recent work in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra that I hadn’t picked up on:

For half the movie she’s the Baroness, a brainwashed villain in glasses and dark hair who looks unnervingly like Sarah Palin.

What’s the official backstory on The Baroness? Does she happen to be descended from a clan of exiled Russian royalty who have a centuries-old estate in — wait for it — Alaska?

Otherwise, the character’s long dark hair and rimless sunglasses certainly do evoke everyone’s favorite former Alaskan governor. I’m sure this is just an outcropping of the New York Times’ stealth bias against the fringe Republican sweetheart. Still, I feel a bit unclean now, since Miller as a brunette badass in skintight leather actually made me consider going to see the flick.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/21/2009 09:03 AM
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Politics, Pop Culture
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