Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Thursday, December 31, 2020

oh, ten
The stats don’t lie: This here blog has been getting a distinct uptick in Web traffic over the past couple of days. And the tracking confirms that the reason is the odd little photo above, which I first used on New Year’s Day 2009.

That year-old post pondered the upcoming chronologically-delivered demise of these goofy double-zero party specs. Based on all the Internet searches landing here, I guess party people aren’t ready to give up the ghost on these glasses just yet.

I hope everyone looking for these oh-10 accoutrements finds a source. Obviously, I’m not selling any — heck, I have serious doubts that the photo on display here is even Photoshopped-free. But at least I can provide a point of reference.

And with that, and with the strategically-set timestamp at the foot of this post (think 24-hour time), I’d say it’s time to usher in the new year-slash-decade…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/31/2009 08:10pm
Category: Bloggin', Creative, Fashion
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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

I’m sure it’s a good omen that 2010 will ring in with a rare blue moon, or second full moon within a calendar month.

What’s more interesting is how the popular term “blue moon” came about:

The popular definition of blue moon came about after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946 misinterpreted the Maine Farmer’s Almanac and labeled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons, not the usual three. Though Sky & Telescope corrected the error decades later, the definition caught on.

Thus born out of error, it really should be called a “blew moon”. At least then we all wouldn’t be straining out necks to see the non-existent bluish hue that you’d expect.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/30/2009 11:28pm
Category: Science, Weather, Wordsmithing
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da-legion
It’s a shame that upcoming new release Legion is such an apparent piece of crap, because I’m partial to angel imagery. Something about the wings. And the rich history of Judeo-Christian-Muslim mythology that those wings represent.

Probably the most distasteful part of this movie is the obvious copycatting of zombie, vampires, and other cinematic supernatural creepies. The freaky shape-shifting exhibited by these scary seraphs makes them nothing more than second-rate horror glyphs, interchangeable with any other movie monster. They could have subbed in space aliens without missing a beat, the Biblical reference to the Legion demon aside.

Oh well. I can always turn to one of my favorite angelic works of art: Salvador Dali’s “Allegorical Saint and Angels in Adoration of the Holy Spirit”, pictured above. Those bold, single brush-strokes that form each wing convey a stark energy worthy of the symbolism on display.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/30/2009 11:04pm
Category: Creative, Movies
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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

In the wake of the attempted Christmas Day plane bombing in Detroit, the predictable (and largely pointless) overreaction has made flying that much more laborious in these United States.

And, as luck would have it, I’m due for some cross-country travel in the next few days. So, from a purely selfish perspective, that wannabe al-Qaeda jerk has really put a crimp in my schedule. And not solely through delays that everyone else on the boarding calls will get, but also because past experience tells me I’ll likely get extra-special “security” scrutiny, thanks to rough profiling.

I’ll reiterate my objections from nearly five years ago, because the logic-illogic swirl still applies:

On the one hand, I understand the need for vigilance. On the other hand, it’s happening to me. And it’s happened enough times now that I’ve gotten past seeing any bright sides to the process. Instead, I do a look-through of the rest of the boarding party and wonder, for instance, why the red-headed pasty-white fellow didn’t have to endure the same treatment I got — because after all, he looks Irish, so there’s a chance he could be IRA. (That the Irish Republican Army is unlikely to carry out operations against American targets is beside the point.)

What especially aggravates me is the hollowness of the whole procedure. It’s not going to prevent a single terrorist who’s worth his skills from getting on a plane. It’s just about entirely cosmetic: Other passengers see someone who fits an ethnic profile, so having that person pulled aside and cleared (or not) is designed to put everyone else’s mind at ease.

At least this time, it’s a late-afternoon flight, so I’ll have plenty of time to burn if needed. I don’t suppose a blogged pre-admission of no guilt would save both me and the TSA some time, would it? Didn’t think so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/29/2009 06:44pm
Category: Politics, Society
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Monday, December 28, 2020

swoon riverOver the past couple of weeks, it’s slowly dawned on me that many a modern-day woman has a thing for the late Audrey Hepburn.

And why not? A half-century after her iconic turn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hepburn remains an ideal of simple elegance, eminently approachable and attainable. She evokes a sensibility composed of both sophistication and innocence — a combination that’s considered practically oxymoronic in our more jaded times.

What I can’t figure out, though, is the desire by women to emulate the classic Audrey look, even when it’s not necessarily a natural fit. In separate instances, I’ve been told by female acquaintances (including one via tweet) that they were sold on a dress, hairstyle, etc. because it gave them that Audrey Hepburn quality. In each case, the women in question had physical features that were decidedly unlike Hepburn’s, i.e. curvy, blonde, or olive-skinned. That such a diverse representation of femininity would all aspire to be Audrey says something about the idealization at play.

Along with the real-life examples, I have Penelope Cruz’s recent turn in Broken Embraces on my mind, too. Cruz plays a film-within-a-film role in this movie that’s consciously a Hepburn clone. While she pulls it off nicely, I was reminded that Cruz ordinarily doesn’t come across as Audrey type.

So, what is it? Why does Audrey Hepburn command such devotion among female fans? What’s with all these latter-day Audrey “girl crushes”? My Y chromosome wants to know…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/28/2009 11:53pm
Category: Celebrity, Fashion, Movies, Pop Culture, Women
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pop the cork
The debate rages over Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell’s decision to basically tank the game yesterday and lose to the Jets 29-15, thus forgoing the Colts’ chance to go 16-0 this season. Ascribe the reason to rest Indy’s starters in the third quarter to anything from over-cautiousness to arrogance, from the elimination of a mostly-symbolic distraction to the naivete of a rookie head coach on how rare such an undefeated run in the NFL is.

All I know is that the ultimate boomerang effect looms: A possible postseason rematch with the Jets — who wouldn’t have even gotten to the playoffs if not for Indy’s virtual forfeit — and an upset win by New York. That’ll teach future juggernauts to bypass a perfect season on the way to a Super Bowl shot.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/28/2009 10:24pm
Category: Football
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Sunday, December 27, 2020

As alluded to when we learned that U.S. prison populations are poised for their first-ever drop, it seems that this Great Recession has been accompanied by a counter-intuitive drop in crime rates.

With more people out of work, why wouldn’t at least a small percentage get desperate enough to turn to criminal activities? There are some interesting theories:

Another possible factor is that with more people home from work, it is harder for burglars to break into a home or apartment unnoticed by neighbors, [University of Missouri-St. Louis sociologist Richard] Rosenfeld said.

So downsized idleness helps the neighborhood watch? Conversely, that would mean that all those workaholic habits, which led to long hours of empty household, contributed to previous high-crime rates. So we might not be making any money, but at least the dwindling amount we still have is safe from thievery.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/27/2009 11:56pm
Category: Society, True Crime
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love and money
In the video for her latest hit, “Bad Romance”, Lady GaGa has upped the ante for pop-music product placement:

Lady GaGa is so beyond any kind of embarrassment that she’s made mercantilism its own aesthetic. In her previous video for “LoveGame,” a street tough swigs from a bottle of Campari as he watches Lady rut and grind (Campari, for when your evening plans call for rough sex on the subway). In the video for mega-hit “Poker Face,” the card table is emblazoned with the logo for Bwin.com. She quaffs Neuro sports drink in the “Paparazzi” video; sports a Baby G watch in “Eh Eh (Nothing I Can Say)”; and wears Beat headphones by Dr. Dre (including a version of her own design) in at least a couple of videos.

All was prelude, however, to the “Bad Romance” video, which features placements for no less than 10 products: a black iPod; Philippe Starck Parrot wireless speakers; Nemiroff vodka; GaGa-designed Heartbeats earphones (via Dr. Dre); Carrera sunglasses; Nintendo Wii handsets; Hewlett-Packard Envy computers; a Burberry coat; those crazy, hobbling Alexander McQueen hyper-heels; and enough La Perla lingerie to choke an ox.

This isn’t a music video so much as the QVC Channel you can dance to.

Of course, rap music has been in the for-sale lyric-dropping business for years, so Lady G isn’t blazing any trails here. Except perhaps in breaking down the double-standard that such music commercializing deals have carried: Urban acts get a pass for the seeming sell-out, while traditional pop/rock artists get a harder time over sullying the fabric of their songs with overt pay-for-play elements.

And yet, there is a subtle distinction with Lady GaGa: All the “Bad Romance” product placements are visuals, inserted into the music video. None of that exists in the song itself — the lyrics are generic enough, lacking any name-brand mentions. So if you don’t catch the video, and instead just hear the song on the radio or on your iPod, you aren’t aware of the overt selling job.

Does this mean it’s more acceptable for mainstream artists to sell advertising space within certain zones — the videos, concert sponsorships, etc. — as long as they keep the songs, i.e. the core products, “pure”? From a segmenting perspective, is there more value in exposing ad messaging to video viewers than to track listeners? Is there still a double-standard at play after all?

Lots to think about. I’ll do just that while I’m listening to the “Bad Romance (Chew Fu H1N1 Fix)” remix for the 31st time. Should be easy without all the in-video ads to dazzle my eyes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/27/2009 10:40am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Celebrity, Pop Culture
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Saturday, December 26, 2020

I came across the final episode of “Monty Python: Almost the Truth - The Lawyers Cut” a few weeks back. It contained a quote by John Cleese that I haven’t been able to shake loose from my mind:

“As you get older, you laugh less, because you’ve heard all the jokes,” says Cleese. “It’s the real stuff that makes me laugh [now].”

It’s a somber outlook on the prospect of aging. Who wants to reach 80 or 90 with a diminishing supply of chuckles? Especially when it’s due to lifelong repetition.

Cleese’s observation sticks with me because, despite being several decades younger than him, I’m experiencing that same been-there-done-that dynamic. Not so much with comedy — I still enjoy a healthy amount of laughs, both through presentational comedy and the “real stuff” everyday interactions. But in a wider cultural sense, I certainly get the sensation that advertising, movies, TV, sports, politics, and a range of other interfaces are serving up the same themes I’ve seen earlier in my life.

It’s occurred to me that this is, in fact, by design — there really is a finite amount of truly original ideas out there, and it’s just a matter of repackaging them. The killer is that they just get aimed at a whole new generation of audiences/ consumers/ constituents, who are experiencing those things for the first time. The subtext, of course, is that the older generations who recognize the rerunning don’t count as much in terms of the reactions — again, a somber realization that aging comes with not only less original stimulation, but also with increasing irrelevance.

I suppose I should cherish the jokes that tickle my funnybone, while they still are hitting that target. As for the real stuff, there’ll be no shortage of that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/26/2009 11:26am
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Media, Society
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Christmas gathering with the extended family yesterday inspired a semi-clever quip by yours truly. It was triggered by my little nephews, who were busy clobbering themselves in a weird four-man version of Monkey In The Middle. After watching them all chaotically dive for the ball one time too many, I blurted out:

“Monkey in the middle? You’re all monkeys, and there is no middle!”

Not bad; even tweetable. I’d say it applies to society in general, in fact. Not to get overly philosophical during the holiday season…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/26/2009 09:10am
Category: Comedy, Wordsmithing
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Friday, December 25, 2020

i find tinsel distracting
I’ve hardly made a habit of mentioning Festivus around here. But maybe I should. Because more than a decade after the airing of the famed Seinfeld episode that ushered the fake holiday into popular consciousness, Festivus has taken on a real-life life of its own:

The Festivus faithful have gathered across the globe and have come together in places as various as seedy bars, campus squares and corporate boardrooms. Citizens, with varied degrees of success, have petitioned to raise Festivus poles beside public nativity scenes. Social networking sites and holiday-specific venues — like festivusbook.com and festivusweb.com — are go-to places for those who want to share the cheer, or jeers.

For at least eight years, Julianne Donovan, 35, has been hosting Festivus parties in the Kansas City, Missouri, area. The graphic designer and illustrator said she was drawn to the holiday when her then-company department, which included people of various faiths, decided to trade in the traditional Christmas party for something more inclusive.

“It went over well except for one person who thought it was blasphemous and tried to knock over our Festivus pole,” she said. “He refused to come to the potluck, was forced to, came, ate all the food and left without saying thank you. Grievances were aired about him.”

Chances are good that Ms. Donovan was employed at either Vandelay Industries or Kramerica. Because if any companies out there are going to observe Festivus, those would be the locks.

Frank Costanza would be proud of the spread of his brainchild. He even would have challenged that recalcitrant employee to the Feats of Strength, just to instill the true Festivus-for-the-rest-of-us spirit into the non-believer.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/25/2009 09:27am
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture, TV
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Forget that tired old “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas” shouting match. Advent Conspiracy is turning things on their heads by reframing the whole debate:

In many ways, Advent Conspiracy has appropriated some of the traditional arguments of the conservative Christians who see themselves as defenders of Christmas. A popular rallying cry of the foot soldiers in the war on Christmas is “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Often, however, it seems that being able to score a half-price Nintendo DSi and a “Merry Christmas” from the checkout clerk is the real prize. The Religious Right has spent decades casting secular culture as the enemy. And yet instead of critiquing the values of the consumer marketplace, many conservative Christians have embraced it as the battleground they seek to reclaim.

A movement like Advent Conspiracy is countercultural on two fronts — fighting the secular idea that Christmas is a monthlong shopping and decorating ritual and also the powerful conservative notion that the holiday requires acknowledgement from the nation’s retailers to be truly meaningful. It’s not easy, says a youth pastor whose church supports Advent Conspiracy. “When you start jacking with people’s idea of what Christmas is and you start to go against this $450 billion machine of materialism and consumerism, it really messes with people,” he explains. “It takes a lot of patience to say there’s a different way — Christmas doesn’t have to be like this.”

Of course this de-commercialization of Christmas won’t fly with the family-values crowd. Getting everyone and everything in their myopic line-of-sight to conform to their beliefs is their idea of validation. Talk about not getting the reason for the season…

Maybe the ultimate result of all this X-marks-the-mas battling will be a de-emphasis of Christmas altogether, and a shift to Easter as the highest of Christan holy days. That’d make more sense theologically, anyway.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/25/2009 09:17am
Category: Society
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Thursday, December 24, 2021

street cred
Nearly a week after all the blizzard-like conditions, there’s still ample amounts of snow and slush in the streets of New York, and I’m still bitching about it.

But at least someone has a sense of whimsy about the lingering cold-and-wet stuff that’s impeding us pedestrians. I snapped the above photo today on Park Avenue, around 38th Street (bigger version on Flickr). Not even in a residential neighborhood, which was the biggest surprise of all. I’m sure it was quite a task to roll up the remnant sidewalk snow into an entire (if short) snowman, but the result was well worth it.

Judging from the melty halo surrounding him, I doubt this urban snowman will last more than a couple more days. Considering he’s fairly displaced in midtown Manhattan anyway, that he sprung up at all is remarkable enough.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/24/2009 08:14pm
Category: New Yorkin', Photography, Weather
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After teetering on the brink of collapse a year ago, the big banks are suddenly coming up with billions of dollars to put toward TARP repayments.

And it’s not hard to figure out why:

Look what’s happened in the past two weeks. First, Bank of America agreed to pay back $45 billion in TARP funds. Bank of America found that the pay restrictions were complicating the search for a new boss to replace Ken Lewis. It raised $20 billion from the public and agreed to sell $3 billion in assets. The smaller, leaner, better-capitalized bank was able to hire a new CEO on Wednesday.

Citigroup, which is keeping its CEO but which wants to retain its legions of highly paid investment bankers, also sprang into action. Earlier this week, it announced it would pay back $20 billion in TARP funds and terminate an agreement under which taxpayers were guaranteeing losses on a big chunk of its loans. Citi raised $20.5 billion of capital, said it would give employees $1.7 billion in stock rather than cash for bonuses. Once the money was paid back to the Treasury, Citi noted, “it will no longer be deemed to be a beneficiary of “exceptional financial assistance” under TARP beginning in 2010.” Translation: [TARP executive pay czar] Ken Feinberg won’t be allowed to tell us how much to pay our folks.

In other words, the megabanks are paying back in order to pay out. That’s one way to maneuver around a salary cap — and it doesn’t even involve getting mired in some sort of messy financial-world caponomics.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/24/2009 10:27am
Category: Business, Politics
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I don’t know why the unremarkable square-blocked text logo for Bible Crusade caught my eye on the subway this morning. But it did, to the point that I’m compelled to jot down the three-line wording:

BIBLE CRUSADE
with Pastor Ock Soo Park
featuring Gracias Choir

It’s the seeming multiculturalness of the elements here: A Korean holy man with a Spanish-themed singing group in tow. Although it appears that the Gracias Choir is, improbably enough, composed of Korean singers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/24/2009 09:26am
Category: Creative
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Wednesday, December 23, 2021

Don’t think that it escaped my attention that, in the latter half of this year, there were three big-time box office productions that used the number 9 as their motif/title:

- Science fiction thriller District 9

- Post-apocalyptic animated fantasy 9

- Romantic musical Nine

Yes, Hollywood does seem to have a one-track mind. The year probably had something to do with this nonatological fixation. I guess Nine is partially excused because that title was inspired by Fellini’s 8½.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/23/2009 09:43am
Category: Movies
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Tuesday, December 22, 2021

shuffling along
Once again, this latest posting of my latest iTouch shuffled-up output occurs on a monthly schedule. And once again, it comes just ahead of a holiday.

None of which is particularly germane to the particular songs that make up this Random Tracks lineup. But in lieu of a unifying theme amongst the following tracks, the backstory will have to do. Besides, the pre-Yuletide timing is rich enough context.

And with that, the most recent music to hit my earbuds, with accompanying lyrical snippets:

1. “Ghosts (Toxic Avenger mix)”, Ladytron - Doesn’t mean I’m sorry.

2. “My Love Sees You”, Beni - Sees you.

3. “Prophets Of Rage”, Public Enemy - But I’m past the days of yes-y’allin’.

4. “Paris Four Hundred (Etienne De CrĂ©cy Remix)”, Mylo - [instrumental]

5. “She Wolf (David Zafra Dance Mix)”, Shakira - This is lycanthropy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/22/2009 11:25pm
Category: Pop Culture, iPod Random Tracks
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Like a lot of current fashion, my new(ish) winter coat boasts of being optimized for modern-day personal tech, thusly:

One of the interior pockets has a built-in slit, designed to reign in those ever-present iPod/phone headphone cords. Run the cord through that tiny opening, drop the device into said pocket, and no more tangled-up hassles.

Good idea. So why did this coatmaker put a largely decorative button right near this cord-concealing action? It’s right there, on the outer shell of the pocket, in a perfect spot to catch the little bit of wire that’s still exposed. And yes, you guessed it — the earbuds cord connecting my head with my iTouch gets snagged on a regular basis. It’s maybe a little more organized than my usual shirt-pocket placement, but not much.

So much for forward-functional fashion. My search for the ideal ipod-cket continues…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/22/2009 10:13pm
Category: Fashion, Tech, iPod
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Monday, December 21, 2021

Speaking of wintry weather, I guess this is as good a time as any to present this corny scene from W.C. Fields‘ classic short film, The Fatal Glass of Beer:

That hoary vaudeville joke, “And it ain’t a fit night out… for maaaan nor beast!”, followed by the on-cue shot of (fake) snow right in the mush, never gets old.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/21/2009 11:37pm
Category: Comedy, Weather
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So, two days after the Blizzard of ‘09 — which was so gosh-darn big that it was notably visible from outer space — I found my day’s pedestrian commute to be strewn with extended patches of snow and ice.

And I can’t figure out a justifiable reason for that. Yeah, it was a “blizzard”, but the brunt of it hit the southern end of the metro area. Manhattan got a fair amount of inches dumped upon it, but it was a benign dumping — no swirling winds and heavy snowfall to make cleanup extra difficult. I don’t understand why the sidewalks should still be treacherously slippery after more than a full day of cleanup opportunity.

Maybe all the build-up over impending “blizzard conditions” instilled a defeatist attitude in the area’s public works employees. They were expecting a knock-you-out storm, and even when that didn’t quite happen, they reacted as though it had. And since the public was just as pre-conditioned to the preemptive panic, no one’s raising the fuss that they should over the half-assed job that’s taking place. It could be the same dynamic I experienced all too often during Floridian hurricane panic-season. Oversaturated coverage of atmospheric conditions leads to irrational reactions.

Or maybe I’m just engaging in my usual wintry-weather bitching. It’s all relative.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/21/2009 10:50pm
Category: New Yorkin', Society, Weather
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Sunday, December 20, 2021

Part of the production-prep for this weekend’s blockbuster release of Avatar was the commissioned creation of a full-fledged language for the film’s aliens. And indeed, with the movie now out in theaters, the analytical dissection of Na’vi has heated up.

As with the similar fascination in developing science-fictional tongues like Klingon, I really shake my head at these linguistic exercises. Fill these massive code-sets with all the vocabulary you want, and get as many geeks as you can to speak/write it — that doesn’t change the fundamental fact that they remain fake languages. They don’t exist in any meaningful context, other than a few hours and/or pages of escapist fantasy. It amounts to a lot of intellectual energy expended upon very little.

In fact, in the case of Avatar, which is just getting off the ground as a sci-fi franchise (assuming it will take off as such), this early promotion of the in-film language comes off to me as little more than an overdeveloped marketing stunt. Hardly an inspiring foundation for building a mode of interpersonal communication.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/20/2009 07:14pm
Category: Creative, Movies, Wordsmithing
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