Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Sunday, January 31, 2021

slap-appy
While it’s probably true that “there’s an app for that” — no matter what “that” calls for — it’s not surprising that most people stick to a tried-and-true handful of favorite icons:

The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting… The next generation of gadget users might prove different, but for now it is clear that people prefer fewer choices, and that they gravitate consistently toward the same small number of things that they like. Owners of iPhones are no different from cable TV subscribers with hundreds of channels to choose from who end up watching the same half-dozen.

For me and my iTouch, I figure I’m on the low end of that estimate. I play two games almost exclusively (although I’ve just picked up a new one, Bird Strike, that I anticipate will keep me occupied for a while), use Twitterrific pretty regularly, and fire up WifiTrak most days. Then there are the apps that come pre-loaded: I use Mail, Safari, Weather, Clock, and Notes all the time — but I’m not sure they count in this context.

When it comes to acquiring new apps, I do have a self-imposed restriction that keeps the additions low: They must be able to run while simultaneously allowing the iTouch’s music library to play uninterrupted. You’d think that would be a no-brainer, yet it seems like most apps — particularly games — don’t work this way. But since my primary use of the device is to listen to music, it’s a dealbreaker. Therefore, that simple requirement keeps me from overloading on page after page of apps.

But it’s nice to know that extra doo-dads are only a short download away. Even if I’ll never try, or even see, 99 percent of them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/31/2010 10:11 PM
Category: Videogames, iPod
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So, yeah: The iPad.

I can’t say I’m not tempted. In some ways, this was the type of device I was wishing for when I contemplated buying the first-rollout iPhone in 2007, just for the wireless Internet.

That was before Apple followed up with the iTouch shortly thereafter. I snapped up that gadget shortly after its debut, and haven’t regretted it. But the lack of always-present Web access has been a mixed blessing, which is why I think I’m finally going to pony up for an iPhone in a couple of months.

So given that, I can’t really justify laying out $600-800 for an iPad. The bigger screen size would certainly be nice, but I like having the pocket-sized portability that an iPhone/iTouch provides. Of course, I’m constantly lugging around my man-bag anyway, but that’s beside the point…

I have little doubt that the iPad will be a success, without my participation. In some ways, it is just an overgrown iTouch — although, crucially, the built-in 3G signal makes it a true mobile Web device. But the capabilities Apple is packing into it — notably, the reworked iWork productivity suite — hint at bigger aspirations. Frankly, given the prior examples of trendsetting advances, I figure that Apple is giving us a solid preview of what the standard personal computer is going to look like some 5-10 years from now. As it is, the iPhone platform is already considered a “30-percent computing solution” for some; the iPad starts the march toward something closer to 100 percent.

So, given that, I can wait until the iPad and its descendants become truly mainstream. Not that I won’t be drooling with envy in the meantime.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/31/2010 03:50 PM
Category: Tech, iPod
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Saturday, January 30, 2021

While Manhattan has just successfully spurned the potentially-disruptive Federal trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, my upstate hometown is ready to take the rebound as the new venue.

The offer is not driven by a sense of justice, so much:

“If they want to have it here, we’ve got the state-of-the-art courthouse,” [Newburgh, NY] Mayor Nicholas Valentine — a Republican — told radio host Curtis Sliwa this morning. “I’ll offer it to them, but there’s got to be money attached.”

He cited the figure of $200 million floated by New York City officials.

“Two hundred million and something dollars to Newburgh would completely change this city around. It would double my police force. It would pay off my debt,” Valentine said. “Maybe it’s just crazy enough that we could pull something like this off.”

Given the town’s previous brush with quasi-Islamic terrorism, I’d say the “crazy” rating is pretty high in this instance. A money-grab for hosting a media-circus public tribunal? I think we can slot this proposal under the “this is why the terrorists hate us” category.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/30/2010 08:13 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics, True Crime
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It’s nearly a decade old now, but this techno-tuned song about Russian leader Vladimir Putin is still going strong:

How strong? In keeping with the cult-of-personality theme in Putin’s political career, consider the winning of hearts and minds via urban sing-a-longs:

It’s winter in Russia. At night, Muscovites crowd the clubs and request their karaoke favorite, “A Man Like Putin.” I want a man like Putin, who’s full of strength. I want a man like Putin, who doesn’t drink. I want a man like Putin, who won’t make me sad.

The techno-pop tune by the duo Singing Together first appeared mysteriously in 2002 and quickly topped the charts in Russia. It went on to become a Putin theme song, still played at his rallies. Catchy and ironic, this was a new kind of propaganda song.

Popular propaganda has morphed into pop-prop — certainly a long way, stylistically, from old-wave Soviet agitprop. And to underline that shift, it appears that “A Man Like Putin” was written and produced on the strength of a $300 bet, then later co-opted by pro-Putin boosters. I guess free-market sensibilities are verifiably ingrained in Mother Russia now…

Between this lyrical adulation and his feats-of-strength outdoorsman photos, one wonders if Putin didn’t engineer his rise to power just so he could pick up chicks easier. Sort of a Bill Clinton blueprint for political deftness.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/30/2010 06:07 PM
Category: Celebrity, Creative, Political, Pop Culture
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Friday, January 29, 2021

qb handoff
Above is a typically clutter-ful Web ad, featuring Brett Favre holding a magic 8-ball — er, make that a 4-ball.

Er, make that, not really holding that ball. Because it couldn’t be more obvious that the hand in the foreground is utterly out of anatomical sync with Favre’s body in the background. Unless he’s just been mangled by a sack, there’s no way Favre’s arm is contorting in such a way to hold up that ball that way. Truly a poor example of Photoshop hackery.

And yet… This is far from a rare instance of the disembodied-hand look in visual advertising. I see it all the time. And so do others: Witness this fan-forum critique of Sophia Bush’s fake hand in a Flip video billboard. It’s rampant.

It’s easy to figure out how such a travesty happens: The directive is to highlight the primary visual element — the product, the celebrity, the gimmick — above all else. So the image gets subdivided against itself, with everything other than the focal point being relegated to mere background. Realism is sacrificed to the sell-job.

Still, I can’t figure out how this became such a widespread aesthetic. Is it assumed that the viewers “get” that this is supposed to be an unrealistic, collage-like presentation? Is there an attempt at subtle comedy in not finessing the off-position hand? Or are legions of art designers simply not up on human-body depictions? Whatever it is, it’s not a good trend.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/29/2010 08:57 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative
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Thursday, January 28, 2021

i'm alrightWhile it’s terribly predictable of PETA to capitalize on this upcoming Groundhog Day, it’s surprising that the organization proposed a constructive way to preserve the holiday:

Gemma Vaughan, Animals in Entertainment specialist for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a letter to organizers of the annual spectacle in Punxsutawney, PA, that groundhogs, which are normally shy and spend much of their time in burrows, “become stressed when they are exposed to large, screaming crowds; flashing lights from perhaps hundreds of cameras; and human handling.”

Vaughan suggests using “animatronic animals” instead.

A robotic critter to handle the hoopla of the February 2nd shadowcasting? A daft idea on the face of it. And yet, I have the perfect candidate, pictured here: The gopher from Caddyshack!

Hey, a ground-burrowing rodent is a ground-burrowing rodent. No need to quibble on specific species. It’s not like there’s an imminent sequel in the works that would occupy Mr. Gopher. A steady annual gig would probably be most welcome. He can throw in his gopher-dancing moves to really jazz up an otherwise staid event.

And to add another pop-cultural layer to all this, consider: Bill Murray, who shared screen time with the gopher on Caddyshack, also made his mark as the star in Groundhog Day. Given that connection, I’d say subbing in a gopher for a groundhog would fly.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/28/2010 08:54 AM
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

In the (regrettably) long history of book-banning, it’s a wonder why more literary crusaders haven’t bypassed the piecemeal approach of targeting single titles in favor of taking down the ultimate source of all those evil words:

The Menifee [California] Union School District is forming a committee to review whether dictionaries containing the definitions for sexual terms should be permanently banned from the district’s classrooms, a district official said Friday.

The 9,000-student K-8 district this week pulled all copies of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary after an Oak Meadows Elementary School parent complained about a child stumbling across definitions for “oral sex.”

I’m guessing this same parent will have a downright conniption the day Junior’s classroom learns about oral tradition

As original as you’d think it is to ban the language’s entire lexicon, in fact, it’s been done:

Joan Bertin, executive director of the New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship, whose members include the American Library Association, said dictionary bans have happened in the past, although none has been reported since the mid-1990s.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, there were efforts to ban the American Heritage dictionary at schools in Alaska, Indiana, Missouri and California, she said. The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary came under scrutiny in New Mexico in the mid-1990s.

“It’s rare but not unheard of,” Bertin said.

I guess the kids will have to pick up those sanctioned definitions of sexual acts on the streets now. Which, actually, seems more normal than looking them up in alphabetical order.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/27/2010 08:25 AM
Category: Publishing, Society, Wordsmithing
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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The lyrics to Lady GaGa’s “Paparazzi” contain these lines:

It don’t have a price
Ready for those flashing lights

For some inexplicable reason, I keep expecting that bit to go thusly:

It don’t have a price
Ready for the paradise

Considering that the entire tune is photography-themed, “those flashing lights” makes eminent sense within the song’s context. So I can’t quite figure out why I’m mentally forcing the issue with my odd replacement wording.

But then, “ready for the paradise” does have a unique ring to it — almost like a rallying cry. And I see that it’s pretty much an unprecedented piece of phraseology.

So I’ve unexpectedly coined a new expression, much like I did only a couple of weeks ago. Only this time, I had inspirational help. I’ll take all I can get, so long as the result is something fresh.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/26/2010 08:58 AM
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Monday, January 25, 2021

leave it to beaver
As far as I know, the Canadian beaver is not an endangered species. Its print counterpart, on the other hand, is a goner, done in by a 1-2 punch of the schoolyard and the Internet:

To be more precise, the title ["The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine"] was doomed by a vulgar alternative meaning that causes Web filters at schools and junk mail filters in e-mail programs to block access to material containing the magazine’s name… The trouble went beyond Web pages. The magazine found that its attempts to e-mail classroom aids to teachers were thwarted by its name, as were attempts to contact many readers.

It’s a sincere shame that a venerable journal like this has to succumb to such crude slang. And how primitive is Canada’s IT infrastructure that it employs such hamhanded filtering technology? In the face of these challenges, I guess it’s right to be worried about The Beaver.

Although the Canucks aren’t helping matters any with events like The Great Canadian Beaver Eating Contest

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/25/2010 11:43 PM
Category: History, Internet, Pop Culture, Publishing
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driveI was quite amused today to see a copy of Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue: An American Life” sitting on dashboard of my morning bus, obviously in possession of the bus driver.

Because it was all too obvious that he was practically brandishing the hardcover, making sure that every rider that got onboard had a good view of it. Between that, and the staredowns he was administering, I’m pretty sure the driver was daring someone, anyone, to challenge him on it. Given the well-known proclivities of a good cross-section of New Yorkers, I’d imagine the odds are good that he got into more than one verbal joust with various passengers during his shift.

All I can say is that, during my half-hour trip, no one took the bait. Not that you could tell the difference by the driver’s customarily crabby demeanor.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/25/2010 07:29 PM
Category: Celebrity, New Yorkin', Politics, Publishing
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Sunday, January 24, 2021

We already knew that pimpin’ ain’t easy. You’d think it would be somewhat easier in Nevada, what with that state’s longstanding legalized prostitution. But now, along comes America’s first-ever legal male sex worker, or “prostidude”, to draw fire from all conceivable quarters:

Funny thing is, Markus’ refusal to see male clients is earning him criticism from an entirely different group of industry insiders. A 22-year-old prostitute from Moore’s brothel says his women-only policy is sexist. “How can you just turn down services because of what someone’s preferences is? It comes with the territory. It comes with the business,” she told the AP. Well, that seems awfully unfair, considering that sex workers often draw personal boundaries that they do not cross. I wonder whether there’s a stereotype at play here — that of the straight male hooker who gets paid to do something he would happily do for free…

Look, you just can’t win. Cater to men and homophobes will freak; exclude male customers and you’ll be considered unprofessional. What’s a straight male gigolo to do? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

I don’t know what’s funnier here: That Licensed Fornication Inc. is worried about a supposed taint to their industry by allowing a Y-chromosome-for-hire; or that societal attitudes on man-on-man sex would be the catalyst for shutting down the brothel business altogether.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/24/2010 07:55 PM
Category: Society
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Maybe I’m not the one to criticize Demond Wilson when it comes to promoting “Second Banana”, his memoirs from his “Sanford and Son” years.

But if Wilson actually wanted this book to catch on, I think he should have gone with the far more obvious choice of title: “You Big Dummy!”. Having Redd Foxx’s signature catchphrase from the show front-and-center on the cover would bring the book instant pop-cultural recognition. Plus, the novelty factor alone would have ensured a few extra sold copies.

Alas, this lost opportunity seems like something that Lamont Sanford himself would have flubbed. Eliciting yet another “you big dummy!” from his Pop, Fred G. — perhaps followed by yet another in a series of “big one” heart attacks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/24/2010 12:50 PM
Category: Comedy, Publishing, TV
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Saturday, January 23, 2021

shades of expansion
I’d wager neither Malthus nor Moore envisioned that their theories on exponential growth over time could be applied to the implements of coloring-book art:

…“Crayola’s Law,” which states: The number of colors doubles every 28 years!

If the Law holds true, Crayola’s gonna need a bigger box, because by the year 2050, there’ll be 330 different crayons!

The accompanying visual aid above, formally titled Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010, draws from Crayola’s own corporate crayon-color chronology. I’m not sure how this accounts for retired and renamed hues — like when “flesh” was racially de-labeled into “peach” in 1962 — but I’ll accept the algorithm, in recognition of the sheer devotion required to uncover it.

As for what’s driving this multiplicity of color-sticks from the original 8 to the current 120? Maybe the world is getting more visually subtle. Or else Crayola just likes making up new color-names for marketing purposes, and simply tweaks existing shades to manufacture expansion. There goes the mathematics right out the window…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/23/2010 06:52 PM
Category: Creative, History
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Not to be outshined by the newly “Jersey Shore”-burnished guidos, New Englanders are coalescing into their own obnoxious subculture:

They’re called Massholes. Though there is some disagreement about what, exactly, constitutes a Masshole, there are several characteristics present in all definitions. A Masshole is a resident of Massachusetts — though sometimes Rhode Island, New Hampshire, or Maine — who possesses a nearly carnal love for the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins; operates motor vehicles in an aggressive fashion; drinks Sam Adams; and overuses the adjective “wicked.”

Coming soon to a reality show near you, presumably. The days of regionally-confined objectionableness are long behind us, it seems. I only hope that New York, being caught in the resulting geographic nexus, comes out intact.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/23/2010 05:05 PM
Category: Pop Culture, RealiTV Check, Society
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I totally get the point of getting a round tuit. Especially when it would, appropriately, take a good while to do so.

But, despite the apologetic note included, I really don’t see a need for getting a square tuit.

Get it? If not, you’ll come around to it…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/23/2010 02:27 PM
Category: Comedy, Wordsmithing
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Friday, January 22, 2021

jump!
It’s the end of an era — or the end of an error, depending on your outlook. “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” breathes its last breath tonight, bringing a close to a messy divorce between O’Brien and NBC over the network’s late-night talent shuffle.

The final show is definitely a must-see. I don’t know if we’ll see a Jack Paar-level of kiss-off from Conan, but a sendoff is a sendoff, regardless of the parting shots.

And with Conan out of the way, the battle between Letterman and Leno resumes. I’m curious to see if Leno’s audience is as portable as it’s been to date: Keep in mind that that 5-million viewership for “The Jay Leno Show” matched what he pulled in nightly when he was on “Tonight”. It’s not the same exact crowd watching him at 10:00 as at 11:30, but the bulk of it probably is. Does that mean Leno slides right back into the lead versus Letterman and CBS? Or has this episode damaged Leno’s appeal, as many critics speculate?

I’d bet that Leno will be back on top in short order. Ultimately, the audience doesn’t care about the off-camera machinations. Plus, Letterman’s been reluctant to make any necessary changes to his show, regardless of the competition — he won versus Conan through little action of his own. A sort of sick entropy will take hold over late-night, once again…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/22/2010 06:25 PM
Category: Business, Celebrity, TV
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Thursday, January 21, 2021

I have to say, I spend an inordinate amount of time playing both Sumo! and Saucelifter! on my iTouch. While listening to music, usually — multi-tasking in everything, of course.

The games can’t be much more different, in either theme or mechanics. Sumo! is strictly a tap-and-count board game, nicely ported for touchscreen but hardly reliant upon the iPhone/iTouch interface. Saucelifter!, on the other hand, makes good use of the accelerometer for navigation, to complement the touch controls for action. You’re body-slamming belly-to-belly in one, and laser-blasting military armor in the other — all for fun.

If I’m going to endorse any iTunes App, I guess these two would have to be the ones. Neither is free, but considering how many hours I’ve spent playing them, I’d say they’re well worth the purchase price.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/21/2010 11:44 PM
Category: Videogames, iPod
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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

With as much television advertising as I watch (and actually pay attention to), I’m surprised that I’ve never noticed this: The prominence of married women characters in TV commercials.

I have always believed that the biggest market for wedding rings is not among newlyweds but among the creators and producers of advertisements for prosaic consumer products. The need to nod to viewers who are part of mainstream households that the actor or actors in the commercials are meant to be married — just like you! — is the reason behind the proliferation of such rings.

That need is, of course, multiplied a million-fold if the spot shows a woman (or man) with a child or children. Offspring out of wedlock? Gasp, shudder! Never on Madison Avenue.

The idea being that, within that 30-second window, there’s no room for subtleties. So the visuals have to instantly convey that the talking head that’s talking to you is much like you, so you should listen. Single? Then you either aspire to be married, or else you don’t spend as much as a married woman anyway, so then who cares about you? The ring is the thing, clearly.

It’s a rather vicious set of mnemonic messaging if you’re single, though. Not only are you excluded from the pitch, you’re being told that the pretty woman on the screen is off-limits. That is, if the sanctity of advertising-imagery marriage means anything to you…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/20/2010 10:55 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society, Women
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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

open wide
Good to know that you can find made-to-order vampiric mouthware in the East Village/Alphabet City area. That’s where I cameraphoned this storefront-window sign the other day (closer to life-sized in embiggened Flickr version).

I won’t say where the “here” in that “Custom Vampire Fangs Made Here” is. Because I don’t want this little corner of Manhattan to get overrun by deep-end Twilight groupies who are looking for a thrill. Although given the neighborhood, it’d be fun to see those little fanboys/girls come face-to-face with the less-than-romantic urban vampires that’d frequent this literal body-shop…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/19/2010 11:31 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Photography, Pop Culture
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I’m sure I’m not the first to think of this, but I happen to be pondering it right now:

We hear reference to hard-and-fast rules, or the lack thereof, all the time. So why no “soft-and-slow” counterparts?

Predictably, a Google search on the subject yielded nothing but inane sex talk. Practically a hard-and-fast expectation when delving into the soft-and-slow hive-mind of the InterWebz…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/19/2010 09:51 PM
Category: Wordsmithing
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Monday, January 18, 2021

royal
The trend has definitely set in: This is the fourth time in a row that the iPod Random 5 updates during holiday time. My iTouch must have a thing for commemorative events.

As luck would have it though, none of the songs that spewed from my music player jibe in any particular way with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But I liked the sequence, regardless. So here’s the random shuffle-generated list, with the customary lyrical tease from each:

1. “No Time (Sh*t Robot Remix)”, The Juan MacLean - Saw you dancing with the human.

2. “My Love Is For Real”, Paula Abdul - Gave you excuses with each storyline.

3. “Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer) [Club Mix]“, Freemasons - Long as I’m moving it feels true.

4. “Play With Fire”, The Rolling Stones - Not in Knightsbridge anymore.

5. “Casey Jones”, Grateful Dead - Trouble ahead, trouble behind.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/18/2010 11:23 PM
Category: Pop Culture, iPod Random Tracks
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