Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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 07:14 PM
Category: Creative, Movies, Wordsmithing
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The good news: People still love the printed book. The bad news: They don’t want to pay for it.

Fiction is the most commonly poached genre at St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village of Manhattan; the titles that continually disappear are moved to the X-Case, safely ensconced behind the counter. This library of temptation includes books by Martin Amis, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo and Jack Kerouac, among others. Sometimes the staff isn’t sure whether an author is still popular to swipe until they return their books to the main floor. “Amis went out and came right back,” Michael Russo, the manager, told me…

Although there’s no hard statistical evidence on most-stolen titles, The Telegraph of London reported last year that Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel “The Virgin Suicides” was said to be “the most shoplifted book of modern times.” Eugenides had heard this for many years. “I just assumed that the book appealed to the young and sticky-fingered to a certain extent,” he told me, with some amusement. Years ago, Eugenides was at a literary conference with Paul Auster, another top choice among literary thieves. “Paul and I argued about whose book was stolen more,” Eugenides said. “He claimed he was stolen a lot, I claimed I was stolen a lot. Back and forth. It was one of those deep intellectual conversations.”

So much for the hipster literary shoplifters, and the curious badge of honor they give to their favored authors. What’s the most-boosted book amongst the mainstream?

“The Bible,” [Austin bookstore owner Steve Bercu] said, without pausing.

Apparently the thieves have not yet read the “Thou shalt not steal” part — or maybe they believe that Bibles don’t need to be paid for. “Some people think the word of God should be free,” Bercu said. As it turns out, Bibles are snatched even at the Parable Christian Store in Springfield, Ore., the manager told me, despite the fact that if a person asks for a Bible, they’ll be given a copy without charge.

The pleasures of purloined paper-and-ink…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/20/2009 04:53 PM
Category: Publishing, Society, True Crime
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…Well, “plunge” is a real stretch. But I’m invoking alliterative license — four P’s in a row, zing! — to headline the news that the number of inmates in America looks to go down this year, for the first time since 1972.

Not surprisingly, it’s not because there are fewer crimes being committed:

Instead, the economic crisis forced states to reconsider who they put behind bars and how long they kept them there, said Kim English, research director for the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

In Texas, parole rates were once among the lowest in the nation, with as few as 15 percent of inmates being granted release as recently as five years ago. Now, the parole rate is more than 30 percent after Texas began identifying low-risk candidates for parole.

In Mississippi, a truth-in-sentencing law required drug offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentences. That’s been reduced to less than 25 percent.

California’s budget problems are expected to result in the release of 37,000 inmates in the next two years. The state also is under a federal court order to shed 40,000 inmates because its prisons are so overcrowded that they are no longer constitutional, [prison-issues advisor James] Austin said.

Not that a sub-one-percent drop in incarcerations is going to dent the U.S.’s distinction in having the largest prisoner population among the world’s nations — some 1.6 million people behind bars in Federal and State institutions. And I’m sure a re-crackdown on crime will gain steam as soon as recovery-fattened tax rolls are able to pay for it.

Still, it seems counter-intuitive that a slow economy would lead to fewer jailings. When business is bad, it gets bad all over, it seems.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/20/2009 03:23 PM
Category: Politics, Society, True Crime
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