Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Monday, May 31, 2021

I never knew that there’s a acronym name for frivolously-bullying lawsuits filed by deep-pocketed organizations against individuals:

Some first amendment lawyers see the case differently. They consider the lawsuit an example of the latest incarnation of a decades-old legal maneuver known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or Slapp.

The label has traditionally referred to meritless defamation suits filed by businesses or government officials against citizens who speak out against them. The plaintiffs are not necessarily expecting to succeed — most do not — but rather to intimidate critics who are inclined to back down when confronted with the prospect of a long, expensive court battle.

Basically, litigation by attrition. Fortunately, a lot of states have anti-Slapp laws on the books. So depending on where you live, you can yelp and tweet your rants with wild abandon, without worrying about being dragged into court.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/31/2010 04:30pm
Category: Business, Internet, True Crime
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Sunday, May 30, 2021

Top Hat. Junk Shot. Top Kill.

I’m starting to suspect that British Petroleum* is purposely whiffing on these attempts to plug up its undersea Gulf of Mexico oil well leak, just so it can keep its code-name conjurers employed. What’s the next snappy failure-label, “Crude Hole”?

*Yes, I’m pointedly using the company’s official, xenophobia-inducing name, instead of the “BP” rebranding it’s been cultivating for the past couple of decades. The loss of brand identity is the least that this oil-igarch company should suffer as a result of this mess.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/30/2010 11:56pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Science, Wordsmithing
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Alex Tabarrok declares that dust in high-end restaurant food is evil:

Dust, not on the floor mind you, but on the food especially the desserts. The trend, for example, is to nestle ice cream in a bed of chocolate dust. Not chocolate chunks or even bits but a chocolate grit that ruins the elegant smoothness of the ice cream — like eating ice cream that has been dropped in the sand.

Not being much of gourmand myself, I can only guess that a dusting of some ingredient is easier to measure out and shape than other forms. I also notice that presentation becomes more elaborate with this format, as when you “draw” a pattern on a dusted-plate canvas. Chiefs probably find that the versatility trumps diners’ palate preferences. And the fancy restaurant landscape is just as much of a copycat environment as any other competitive field — one joint probably started dusting every dessert in sight, and then everyone else fell in line.

To put a stop to this gourmet granularness, I say patrons start pouring water over these dust-ups as soon as they hit the table. That chocolate-dusted dish will transform into “chocolate-muddled” — thus kicking off the next culinary trend…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/30/2010 09:40pm
Category: Food
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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Back in April, when the New York Times announced the opening of a Kansas City bureau, I thought it was a curious move. In an age of tanking revenues, it’s encouraging that the nation’s highest-profile newspaper would expand, versus contract, on-the-ground reportage. But — in Kansas City? Not internationally, not even in boomtown-areas like Florida or Texas — but in the sleepy Midwest? (Along with a sister-opening bureau in Phoenix, which at least makes a bit more sense as ground-zero of the illegal immigration debate.)

This week, the reason for a KC outpost becomes a bit clearer, with the appointment of A.G. Sulzberger as the new bureau’s chief.

Simply put, NYT opened a bureau in the middle of nowhere to serve as on-the-job training for Sulzberger. He’s the scion of the Times’ family ownership, and he needs experience in actually running a news operation (versus just beat reporting, which is what he’s been doing to this point). So the company’s set up, essentially, a franchise operation for the next generation of ownership to hone the family-business skills.

A curious justification for ramping up a satellite office. I’m sure KC’s pay scales and infrastructure are modest enough to make this a low-risk venture. Still, I can’t see a hotbed of news experience coming out of this setup.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/29/2010 07:11pm
Category: New Yorkin', Publishing
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Gary Coleman is now dead, but his “Avenue Q” character lives on:

“Avenue Q,” which won the Tony Award for best musical in 2004, as well as Tonys for [writer Jeff] Whitty and the composers, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, has included a character called Gary Coleman since its debut.

Introduced in the show’s opening number, “It Sucks to Be Me,” the character (who is played by a woman) identifies himself as the former child star who “made a lot of money that got stolen by my folks.”

Now he works as the superintendent in the tenement where the show’s puppet and human characters live, and he often reminds them that, as bad as their lives may seem, his is much worse. (“Try having people stopping you to ask you, ‘What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?’ ” he sings. “It gets old.”)

After some debate and a little tweaking, this character will remain on the stage. In pop-cultural terms, maybe that’s more of a sign of respect for the deceased. It’s certainly a case of diff’rent strokes for different folks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/29/2010 04:56pm
Category: Celebrity, New Yorkin', Pop Culture, TV
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Friday, May 28, 2021

up to batThis is New York, not Gotham City. But point made — with emphasis.

I took this photo today (Flickrized), but it appears that this “Fuck You, I’m Batman” meme has been around for at least a couple of years. Outdoor spaces seem to be the preferred target for this urban art/expression, as evidenced by this 2009 photo that’s nearly identical to mine.

Someone’s got a good supply of these stickers, so I’m sure we’ve not seen the last of this bad-ass mask-and-cowl messaging. Even superheroes need to set the record straight sometimes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/28/2010 08:03pm
Category: Comedy, New Yorkin', Photography, Pop Culture
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When we combine Starbucks with the National Hockey League, the word-mashup of “StarPucks” is an inevitable outcome.

Two possibilities come to my mind for using this puckishly-cute StarPucks label:

- As a cross-promotional campaign. Both entities like to position themselves as higher-end pursuits for discerning consumer bases (versus going after mass-market appeal, ala McDonalds or the NFL), so they’d find common ground in their audiences. Some sort of rewards program tied to city/team territories would strike marketing synergy.

- A potential name for a Seattle NHL franchise, perhaps the first blatant corporate branding of a franchise identity in North American major-pro team sports history. But only if an on-ice resurrection of the Seattle SuperSonics doesn’t work out.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/28/2010 01:29pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food, Hockey
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Thursday, May 27, 2021

fencerIn response to an investigative journalist moving in next door, Sarah Palin is walling off her Wasilla homestead:

“[Husband] Todd and his buddies started a fence yesterday and it’s looking good,” Palin said. “It’s about 14 feet high. That’s what we’re going to have to do this summer, I guess.”

The real tragedy here? The hit to Caribou Barbie’s foreign policy preparedness. Because with this fence in place, Palin obviously won’t be able to see Russia from her house anymore.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/27/2010 11:18pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Politics
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Caprice Crane hears tell of gourmet-ish airs at 7-Eleven, and calls them on it, Book of Revelation-style:

7-11 sells Four Cheese Pizza. The cheeses are: War, Pestilence, Famine and Death.

End-times delivered not on horseback, but on a hot-and-crispy bread crust. To which I can only tweet: Apoca-licious!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/27/2010 01:33pm
Category: Comedy, Food, Social Media Online
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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

If Fortune Magazine is to be believed, there’s a new drinking game sweeping the nation:

“Icing” — or “getting iced” — is a drinking game that’s rapidly gaining popularity amongst office workers, tech and media types, and college students. The rules are simple: If a person sees a Smirnoff Ice, he or she must get down on one knee and chug it, unless they happen to be carrying their own Smirnoff, in which case they can “ice block,” or refract the punishment back onto the attacker. In order to dupe people into stumbling across the beverage, participants have devised creative ways of presenting them with Ices, like strapping the bottles to the backs of dogs or burying them in vats of protein powder.

The trend first took hold on college campuses in the South, but it’s trickled up both coasts, where icings have been spotted at the offices of companies like Yelp! and IAC’s College Humor. Bankers, too, have embraced the fratty fad: An ice attack was recently reported at Goldman Sachs, and Fortune has learned of icings at Florida-based investment bank Raymond James and New York City hedge fund D.E. Shaw.

Smirnoff parent Diageo claims to not be behind this brand-specific recreation. It certainly does smack of corporate-guided viral/guerilla marketing, so it wouldn’t shock me if that turns out to be a lie. Then again, I can totally see this being a genuine grassroots effort. People — particularly the college-aged contingent behind this — love their vodka.

Then again, again: I’m not sure how much to make of this. A handful of frat boys in the finance industry are playing with liquor bottles — so what? I don’t see this taking hold on a wide scale.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/26/2010 11:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Food, Society
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While around town today, I saw at least three young women sporting what looked like ballpoint-pen markings on their hands and forearms. From my vantage point, these markings looked like random letter- and number-scribblings — not at all like tattoo or henna patterns, or anything else that might have stylish permanence.

Is this some new trend? I haven’t seen extensive pen-marks on skin since sometime in grade school. Hard to believe they could be making a comeback in this day and age, with so many other, more reliable (mainly digital) ways of recording random information. Maybe they’re emulating Sarah Palin?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/26/2010 10:51pm
Category: Fashion, Politics, Women
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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

This is apropos of absolutely nothing currently going on, but it’s occasionally rattled through my mind ever since I first read it a couple of months ago, and has yet to fail to make me smile. From Puck Daddy’s coverage of this past Winter Olympics:

Puck Buddy Comment of the Day: Jerk Store responding to Wysh’s mother-in-law thinking the name of [Team] Canada’s goaltender was Roberto “Ulongo”:

“its actually oberto ulongo. hes half samoan, half beef jerky.”

Somebody check Roberto Luongo’s locker at GM Place for packets of dried meat. It might explain the secret of his National Hockey League success (and shortcomings, to boot).

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/25/2010 11:58pm
Category: Bloggin', Comedy, Hockey
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Monday, May 24, 2021

for openers
This year’s National Hockey League Stanley Cup Final will have the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers. What it won’t have is a repeat of last year’s Saturday-Sunday scheduling of Games 1 and 2 on NBC. Instead, this Saturday’s Game 1 will be followed by Game 2 on Monday, setting the pattern for an every-other-day series.

I’m not sure why the Peacock Network is forgoing 2009’s Stanley Cup Weekend format. After all, it was a solid ratings success last year, and I thought it keyed viewership for that entire series:

You can debate how successful that would have been for NBC had it been, say, Columbus versus Florida. But I’m convinced that it’s the right way to kick off the showcase series of the playoffs: No opening-night pomp, followed by a day or two off for casual viewers to promptly forget about the whole thing. Saturday night served as the lead-in for a returning audience on Sunday, and the ratings momentum remained sustained from there, right through to Game 7’s breakthrough. So that two-game opener schedule will remain in place next year (and beyond).

So much for “remaining in place”. There’s nothing on NBC this Sunday in primetime that would prevent a hockey game from breaking out on network air. The only thing I can figure: Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Final is scheduled on another network. Perhaps the TV folks still aren’t confident that the NHL can top the hoopsters when going head-to-head.

Still, a Saturday night Game 1 between two of the more iconic American hockey cities should provide something of a boost. And Monday will still be part of the Memorial Day extended holiday weekend. So who knows? Maybe a ratings boost will fall into the league’s lap this year without the back-to-back backing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/24/2010 11:09pm
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz, TV
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I spent the past weekend in Florida, for an informal college reunion with a few of my old dormmates. It turned out to be a nicely-timed getaway for me, following a couple of weeks of a particularly hectic schedule that had left me drained. And along with the sun and sand, getting to see some members of the old gang again for the first time in nearly twenty(!) years was a good thing.

I suppose a standard part of these re-gatherings is discovering how little most people really change. Everyone has “grown up”, in the sense of being on-track with families, careers, and such. But the remarkable thing is that, as we all push toward 40, we’ve all retained most of the instantly-recognizable traits that we had when we were living together back in school. For the most part, we picked up right where we left off, despite the years in between.

That leads to my favorite moment of the weekend, courtesy of my old college pal Woody. The best compliment I received was when he said he was glad to see me again, because he had missed my “negative humor”. By which he means my usual dry, sardonic wit. I know he meant it, too, because every time I said something to him, he ended up laughing hysterically.

I’m glad I could lend the biting comedy to this overdue get-together. Like I said, some things really never do change.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/24/2010 08:55am
Category: College Years, Florida Livin', General
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Sunday, May 23, 2021

In journalistic jargon, a think-piece is defined thusly:

noun - an article analyzing and giving the background of a news event, often with the author’s opinions and forecast for the future.

There’s no shortage of such in-depth scribbling being produced nowadays; some of the best examples are curated at Longform.org and other sites. But I never hear the term “think-piece” used. The only time I’m ever reminded of the label is when it’s mentioned in a ’70s movie I’m watching. Probably because of that, it does strike me as a dated phrase, sort of retro-mod-newspeakish. Nevertheless, maybe it’s due for a revival, both in name and strict form.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/23/2010 01:17pm
Category: History, Publishing, Wordsmithing
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old lineIt somehow completely passed me by that “Jenn” from Versus’ sports-talk roundtable show “The Daily Line” is none other than Jenn Sterger. That’s the same Jenn Sterger who was thrust into fame four years ago, as the FSU Cowgirl.

She looks different nowadays. And not just because she tends to wear more clothes on Versus than she did at Seminoles games. She’s a lot more tan now, for one. I also think her face looks significantly different. It has been four years; some physical changes aren’t out of the question. Also keep in mind that Sterger hasn’t been shy about plastic surgery in the past, including breast enhancement and reduction. I don’t know if she’s moved onto facial reconstruction now, but it would explain why (to me) she doesn’t look like the same cowgirl of old.

None of which compels me to watch “Line”. No amount of host remodeling makes that talking-head noise any more palatable.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/23/2010 12:16pm
Category: Florida Livin', Sports, TV, Women
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Saturday, May 22, 2021

spell relief
While browsing through a Duane Reade last week, I noticed this odd-looking rack of wares on an end-aisle. The hanging unit invites you over with a simple exhortation: “What’s Wrong?”. The individual packets provide the guiding-tandem answer: “Help I have a headache”, “Help I can’t sleep”, “Help I’ve cut myself”, etc.

At the time, I wasn’t suffering from any of the addressed ailments. So I moved on. But I kept a mental note on the display, with its unconventionally simple and colorful packaging.

It’s the product of Help Remedies, a quirky little startup in generic pharmaceuticals. It’s a New York-based operation, which explains their Duane Reade placement (although the look-and-feel of their output put me more in mind of something you’d find in Target, so don’t be surprised to find Help products there soon enough). There’s a distinct philosophy at play here:

[Design firm] ChappsMalina was approached by Help Remedies, a New York City-based startup with a big idea: to revolutionize over-the-counter medication. The resulting line consists of 6 products that are designed to guide you through the medication aisle with ease and comfort. From “help, I have a headache” to “help, I can’t sleep”, instead of yelling “FAST ACTING!” and “EXTRA STRENGTH”, the brand whispers in lower case empathy.

The product approach was simple; keep it clean and minimal with enough coding to clearly articulate my needs in a moment of crisis as directly as possible. Instead of lab coats, ChappsMalina chose to communicate content through the soft topography of the packaging material, that is reminiscent of a soft white pillow. To reinforce the Help Remedies message of responsibility, we designed the packaging using a highly innovative combination of paper pulp and co-molded corn-based plastic, making it completely compostable and a first of its kind.

They’re not kidding about that compostable claim; in fact, they’re tracking the mold- and worm-filled bio-breakdown of the material online (and via Twitter, of course).

Help certainly got my attention, which is the primary point. Then again, I didn’t buy anything. Even if I had been in the market for some ibuprofen or bandages that day, the offbeat presentation struck me as just a little too un-drugstore. If I’m hurting, I appreciate the empathy, but also want the straightforward relief. I don’t get that by wondering what’s up with the kooky sales pitch.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/22/2010 12:36pm
Category: Business, Creative, Science
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Friday, May 21, 2021

Nearly thirty years after first seeing it, the “Saturday Night Live” 1984 skit “News Bar” still makes me chuckle. Especially the brief, My Fair Lady-like musical numbers:

Edwin Newman [singing]:
They read the news with foot in mouth, instead of tongue in cheek,
Why can’t the anchors learn to speak?

Brad Hall: “Iranians’ pains come mainly from Khomeini!”

Edwin Newman: I think he’s got it!

Tom Snyder: Alright, I’ll buy that.

Brad Hall: “Khomeini’s reign is mainly based on pain!”

Edwin Newman: Let’s try something a bit more difficult. Environmental pollution in the Northeast.

Brad Hall: Northeast… um… uh…
“Terrain in Maine is stained with acid rain!”

Edwin Newman as Henry Higgins. In a glam-news media commentary that, the ’80s topicalness aside, still is relevant today.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/21/2010 09:15am
Category: Comedy, History, TV
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Thursday, May 20, 2021

What’s the solution for all the extra housing inventory left over from the real estate market collapse? Simple: Build even more houses.

Land and labor costs have fallen significantly, so the newest homes are competitively priced. Some of the boom-era homes, meanwhile, are in developments that feel like ghost towns. And many Americans will always believe the latest model of something is their only option, an attitude builders are doing their utmost to reinforce.

In Phoenix, a billboard for Fulton Homes summed up the builders’ marketing approach. “Does your foreclosure have tenants?” it asks, next to a picture of a mammoth cockroach.

Brent Anderson, a marketing executive with another Southwest builder, Meritage Homes, said it bought 713 lots in stricken Arizona last year, and was on the verge of starting construction in a new Phoenix community called Lyon’s Gate.

“We’re building them because we’re selling them,” Mr. Anderson said. “Our customers wouldn’t care if there were 50 homes in an established neighborhood of 1980 or 1990 vintage, all foreclosed, empty and for sale at $10,000 less. They want new. And what are we going to do, let someone else build it?”

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, right? (Actually, it’s not, but let’s not get in the way of a good quip!)

It’s amusing that marketing is largely driving this impulse for the latest model of new-construction dwelling, similar to automobile buying patterns. Too bad houses aren’t designed to be as disposable; and that existing properties stand to be mired in depressed valuations for decades to come, thanks to this over-building binge.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/20/2010 11:47pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Society
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CBS added a prime-grade bit of corporate-speak to our lexicon yesterday:

The [schedule] changes, and the five new shows, are part of what Kelly Kahl, senior executive VP for CBS primetime, calls “aggressive stablity.”

“Every year the goal is to make the schedule stronger,” Kahl says. “To make the schedule stronger, you have to put new shows on the air. That usually means clearing out some space, some of the lower-hanging fruit. Most of the shows we canceled were either ones that had the biggest declines year to year or were simply the lowest-rated shows. It’s the network circle of life.”

“Aggressive stability”. Basically presented as a proactive strategy to stave off eventual decline, but really, it smacks of change just for the sake of change. With a dose of self-denial about it, to boot. Does this stuff actually make sense when it comes out of a suit’s mouth, or does it need to be repeated endlessly until any meaning is beside the point?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/20/2010 10:03am
Category: Business, TV, Wordsmithing
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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Well, that was quick. Less than a year after Twitter account @ShitMyDadSays was launched, it’s been turned into a network sitcom, set to debut this Fall on CBS.

Absorb that for a moment. Because here comes bombshell No. 2:

William Shatner himself is starring, as Dad. Yeah. (As always, I’m hoping some of the Shit He Says will be in Esperanto.)

The realization of this social-media-to-television deal only confirms my original suspicions:

Call me crackpot, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that SMDS was a false front from the start. Frankly, I’ve been suspicious of its authenticity all along — some of those quips come off as totally made-up. Maybe CBS launched the Twitter account months ahead of time to build a Web audience for a supposedly-real screwball family, as pre-marketing for developing the series that they were going to produce all along. Crazier things have happened.

I say this has been one big, elaborate set-up, designed to look like a grassroots effort. Not that it ultimately matters, since the officially-entitled “$#*! My Dad Says” probably will be canceled after one season. No amount of Shatner-ization will prevent that shit from happening.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/19/2010 11:03pm
Category: Celebrity, Social Media Online, TV
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