Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Along with bringing down the economy, we have another thing to thank the housing bubble for: Underwater mortgages that prevent people from moving to where new jobs are.

The labor migration rate is down sharply since the start of the economic downturn in 2007 and is just half the rate of a decade earlier, according to William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who has analyzed Internal Revenue Service and census data.

“Overall, interstate migration has reached its lowest point since World War II,” Frey said.

Being locked into a house was my biggest fear during the hard-sell portion of the residential boom, and this makes me glad that I never did take the plunge. If I had, I might not have left Florida for New York, and definitely would have been the worst for it professionally. Consider me one of the unscathed survivors of the late great Ownership Society.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/31/2010 01:25pm
Category: Business, Society
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Player cut-downs are a common part of National Football League training camps. Now, thanks to looming logistics after the current collective bargaining agreement expires, training camps themselves probably will get cut down:

If the proposal to essentially turn the last two preseason games into regular-season contests becomes reality, teams could just start practicing two weeks earlier, right? Well, maybe not. Players worry a longer regular season would increase injuries, and NFL leaders have suggested they might cut back on training camp as a concession.

Note that the money-making possibilities are driving this move — not player safety concerns, or even the decades-outmoded notion that extended camps are needed for players to get into shape. But regardless of why, it’s a welcomed move. Especially since, in my opinion, training camps aren’t particularly effective anyway:

Brett Favre’s late August [2009] signing with the Vikings, and instant installment as their starting QB, invalidates the fundamental purpose of preseason. Team cohesiveness and playbook preparation are supposed to be paramount goals before the regular season commences. How true is that when a team’s most pivotal position is reshuffled barely a week before games start to count? Even accounting for Favre’s experience and unique star power, Minnesota basically threw out their entire gameplan when they brought him in, demonstrating how disposable those weeks of preparation are.

On top of that example, the first two weeks of NFL action produced tons of penalties by both winning and losing teams. That’s a yearly occurrence, and it’s driven me crazy for as long as I can remember. You’d think players would be particularly sharp coming right out of preseason, especially after having survived roster cut-downs and everything else. And yet, in Week 1, you see enough offsides and other boneheaded fouls to make you wonder just how much intensity teams generate in August.

Tightening up the preparation period will only help — players will be more focused, and fans won’t have to wait forever for kickoffs that count. An all-around win.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/31/2010 12:39pm
Category: Football
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Friday, July 30, 2021

Metro Washington has suffered without a streetcred-worthy nickname for long enough, so hipsters in the District and its Maryland-Virginia environs are promoting “the DMV”:

Sleek, succinct and inclusive, the name has been in common use for several years among the area’s — ahem, the DMV’s — hip-hop and go-go music crowd. It’s familiar to listeners of black-oriented radio stations such as WKYS-FM and WPGC-FM, whose DJs decorate their patter with mentions of it. It also pops up as geographical shorthand (“DMV man seeks woman”) on Craigslist.

Hate to break this to them, but here in New York, “the DMV” is instantly-recognizable shorthand for the Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s been the case for decades, and it’s not going to change easily. I know that not every state shares that designator for its driver’s license clearinghouse, but most in the Northeast do — including DC.

Adopting the widely-known mark of a perpetually unpopular bureaucracy as a civic tag? At first I thought it was a weak ploy. But, we are talking about Red Tape Central here. So I guess it’s perfect.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/30/2010 08:15am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Society
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Thursday, July 29, 2021

It’s been exactly 15 years since the release of controversial film Kids, which offered up this grit-core imagery of misspent Manhattan youth:

The plot seems inconsequential compared to some of the set pieces: the opening shots of the ‘Virgin Surgeon’ Telly deflowering an impossibly young looking girl; Caspar beating a man twice his age with his skateboard; Harold Hunter slapping his penis between his thighs in a public pool. It was crude, yet compelling — Kids felt authentic and thus gained importance because of its perceived authenticity. The lives these 13-to-17-year-olds lived seemed real. Janet Maslin of the then particularly dreary New York Times called it a “wake up call to the world”—this was then touted in the trailer.

“Seemed real” was key. Even though it was obviously a scripted movie, the mannerisms and body language of many of the young players were enough to lull you into thinking you were catching snippets of a demented documentary. The devouring of doomed children theme was, of course, provocative enough.

And maybe, toward the end of New York City socio-cultural nadir, that realism was too much to bear:

It seems that in many ways the city seems to have forgotten the film, just as many of those involved in the film also seem happy to forget it. Some might expect some sort of celebration of the 15th anniversary of the film, but few seem to be talking. ([Director] Larry Clark’s agent did not respond to inquiries.) [Writer] Harmony Korine has moved away from the realism of that film’s concept and execution, settling most recently on a bizarre faux-realism in his faux-documentary Trash Humpers. “It was not a movie I was dying to tell,” he has said of Kids. And our “Sassy” intern, Chloe Sevigny, has since said that she can’t bear to watch the film, and that she doesn’t like the movie much.

It was a landmark film, but I’m not sure what’s to be gained from a retrospective right now. It works well as a period piece, its shock value intact; in that way, it speaks for itself. The movie itself is teen-aged right now, and that’s enough. Maybe another 15 years of perspective is needed for a substantial look back.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/29/2010 11:35pm
Category: Movies, New Yorkin', Society
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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Is it a sign of continuing lean times when your shoe-cobbling services take twice as long as normal?

Back in May, I took a pair of Allen Edmond shoes back to the store for repairs. They have this Recrafting service, where they ship the footwear back to their warehouse in Wisconsin for a redo of the sole, heel, etc. It’s a bit of a pain waiting weeks for the turnaround, but I’ve done it before, and have been more than satisfied with the results. It’s also one of the few ways in which I exercise frugality where fashion is concerned.

Normally, the turnaround time is about a month. Like I said, a pain, but bearable. This particular time, though, it took a solid two months. I found that to be a bit excessive. When I called to check up on them (and confirm that they hadn’t lost the shoes, or dogged it on shipping them out in the first place), one of the offhand excuses I was given was that the central warehouse was “backed up”.

That got me thinking: It makes sense that, so close to the major economic downturn that was/is the Great Recession, more people would extend the life of their dress shoes rather than chuck them for new pairs. So more shoes get shipped back to Allen Edmond’s mothership for Recrafting, for a third of the cost of new kicks. That creates a backlog, and it takes longer to get those worked-upon shoes back.

Regardless of the reason, I wasn’t happy to be waiting eight weeks to get my brown lace-ups back. I did finally get them today, and my inconvenience was assuaged a bit by the inclusion of a $35 giftcard — which I fully expect to use, as I was planning on getting a new pair of Allen Edmonds anyway (although probably not at the same midtown location, all things considered). I don’t know if this in-store discount apology offering validates or dashes my theory of greater economic forces at play; but I’m sticking with it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/28/2010 11:41pm
Category: Business, Fashion, Society
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The tail end of July must be perpetually uneventful, if the following “This Day In History” blurb from my Excite homepage is any indication:

Jul 28, 1865: The American Dental Association proposed its first code of ethics.

Earth-shaking development, in the midst of the concurrent (and, let’s face it, comparatively minor) Civil War. Because you absolutely need ethical guidelines while sticking your hands in some stranger’s mouth.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/28/2010 09:33am
Category: History, Internet
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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The following message was taped to the office refrigerator today, at a client site that will not be named:

To whoever continues to take the boiled egg from my Snack Pack:

This is at least the 3rd time this has happened. I put that pack this morning around 8:30 am, it is now 10:13 am and you have already ruined the entire pack for me. This is NOT your food, this is my food. If you didn’t bring and put the food in the fridge, then IT IS NOT YOURS TO EAT.

[name redacted]

Not to say that the injured party isn’t justified in her outrage, and is well within her rights to air her displeasure thusly. Still, it’s a situation where, since it’s not happening to me, it’s funny. The funniest part being that the theft of the egg results in “ruining the entire pack for me”. Who figures that an egg is so vital to a mid-morning snack?

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/27/2010 11:45pm
Category: Comedy, Food, Society
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Monday, July 26, 2021

Based on my modest attempt at retail therapy this weekend, I’ve concluded that there’s no treatment to be found for me at the cash register.

Because I’m already experiencing buyer’s remorse. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that the purchases are too minor for me to care about them to any regretful extent:

I bought an umbrella and a wallet. The umbrella eventually will be lost; the wallet, hopefully not (at least not while it’s full of my cash and cards). Both necessary items. It’s just that I’m now looking them over, and wondering if they were worth the 50 bucks, and hour of my shopping time, they cost.

Ultimately, not a major problem. But noted that I need to do a better job of gaining gratification out of my conspicuous consumption.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/26/2010 08:07pm
Category: General
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Sunday, July 25, 2021

It’s true: When you massage the written word for a living, there’s no happy ending.

The job has its perks — an accumulation of random knowledge, for instance — but it also has its side effects when you unintentionally drink the copy Kool-Aid. Once you train yourself to spot errors, you can’t not spot them. You can’t simply shut off the careful reading when you leave the office. You notice typos in novels, missing words in other magazines, incorrect punctuation on billboards. You have nightmares that your oversight turned Mayor Bloomberg into a “pubic” figure. You walk by a beauty salon the morning after you had sex for the first time with a guy you’ve been seeing and point out that there’s no such thing as “lazer” hair removal, realizing that this may not be the best way to get to have sex with him again.

I’ve never consciously let grammar-policing get in the way of personal relationships. The closest I’ve come is in playing the spoiler to those early-Internet chain emails which contained the usual crackpot urban myths. Friends and family would inexplicably get mad at me for debunking nonsense like the Oliver North “warning” about Osama bin Laden back in 1987, and subsequently exclude me from the forward-message fun. (So I guess my compulsiveness paid off!)

Even though copyediting isn’t my primary gig anymore, I find the auto-editing switch in my brain never has turned off. In fact, it’s gone beyond bulls-eyeing mere typos — hardly a sporting pursuit since the advent of the filter-less Web. I now find it hard to read, watch, or listen to any lengthy piece, and not critique its overall structure: How it could have been shortened here, reworked in that section, and so on. I can’t decide if it’s a real problem for me or not. In some ways, it’s gratifying (on a strictly personal, internal level).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/25/2010 05:23pm
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Saturday, July 24, 2021

all manner of fruit
I’m not above triggering an online meme based around images of some anonymous hot chick. And so:

The above two ads have been making the rounds on websites I routinely visit. Nothing particularly special about them — one’s pushing the acai berry fad, while the other claims to hook you up with Apple gadgets for low-low prices. Nothing shady there, I’m sure.

But obviously, the common thread is that tanned blonde woman, posing as some kind of investigative reporter in both instances. She must have a fairly free-formed beat if she’s covering “breaking news” on both superfoods and iPads. Reportage versatility is highly valued…

Obviously, she serves as an eye-catching prop in both ads. It probably works too, to the tune of an extra percentage-point or two in clickthrus. I’m just wondering who she is, and what possible connection there is. Is she actually behind both ventures, as a sort of scammer-girl of all trades? Or simply a stock-photo model, whose image was procured by separate ripoff operations? From such are online mysteries born…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/24/2010 08:26pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet, Women
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Friday, July 23, 2021

Who better than Franz Kafka — or, at least, his legacy — to get caught up in a courtroom-setting morass over ownership of the author’s personal papers?

A protracted legal battle over the contents of four safe-deposit boxes in a Swiss bank, believed by some to contain unpublished works by Franz Kafka or other material shedding light on his life, came to an end on Wednesday when an Israeli judge ruled that the papers should be made public. The decision follows the opening earlier this week of a vault at a UBS bank in Zurich, where the documents were stashed in 2008 by two Israeli sisters who had fought for two years to keep the papers private.

The first find is a handwritten, unpublished short story. If the trademark Kafka quirkiness holds, it should be about the alienation stemming from having your correspondence rifled through after your death — and be fittingly unfinished…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/23/2010 05:45pm
Category: History, Publishing, True Crime
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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Bad news if you live your life on the assumption that the old “Killer in the Backseat” fable is true: Automaker Volvo is scrapping its seldom-used “intruder heartbeat detector system” from 2011 models.

The system, part of a $550 option package, allows drivers to use their key fob to remotely check for anyone lurking in the rear seat. The intruder in hiding is detected by their heartbeat…

Reviewers scoffed about the likelihood of ax murderers hanging out in unsuspecting motorists’ back seats from the start. “Has someone at Volvo been renting slasher thrillers from Netflix?” Motor Trend asked in July 2006. Reviewer Mark Phelan, writing in the Detroit Free Press, called the feature “spooky” and suggested Volvo should have called it the “Urban Myth Detector.”

In related news, phone companies throughout the land have canceled plans to roll out a “Line Extension Security Check” feature. Therefore, when a stranger calls from upstairs, the babysitter is on her own…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/22/2010 11:21pm
Category: Pop Culture, Society, Tech
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Online dating gains some offline hard-copy tactics in Cheek’d, a service that kicks off connections via hand-delivered notes:

Users receive calling cards to dole out to alluring strangers they encounter in their everyday lives, be it in a club or in a subway on their morning commute. Recipients of the cards can use the identification code printed on them to log onto Cheekd.com and send a message to their admirer. A pack of 50 cards and a month’s subscription to Cheek’d, where users can receive messages and post information about themselves, is $25. There is no fee for those who receive cards to communicate with an admirer through the site.

Each Cheek’d card has a sassy phrase like “I am totally cooler than your date,” or, for those with no regard for subtlety: “I’m hitting on you.” [Site founder Lori] Cheek is dreaming up specialized card sets, too. One for New York City singles will have lines like “I live below 14th Street” and “I hope my five-story walkup won’t be a problem.”

This definitely restores something to the Web-dating dynamic. While the stigma of online dating has largely faded, there’s still something antiseptic and chore-like in scanning through Match.com profiles. At least this way, you get out from in front of the screen and encounter real flesh-and-blood prospects; the awkwardness of face-to-face communication is alleviated by the hand-held written word.

I’m looking forward to some cute brunette slipping me one of these cards while I’m zoning out on the subway, or some other anonymously-crowded venue. Although I’ll point out that the ladies are late to the game with this technique, as guys have been using their business cards as pickup tools for years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/22/2010 10:40pm
Category: New Yorkin', Society, Women
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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The alleged demands of SEO started taking a toll on online news headline-crafting years ago, and now we see the bland results:

Newspapers still have headlines, of course, but they don’t seem to strive for greatness or to risk flopping anymore, because editors know that when the stories arrive on the Web, even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That’s because, on the Web, headlines aren’t designed to catch readers’ eyes. They are designed for “search engine optimization,” meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted “eyeball.” Putting well-known names in headlines is considered shrewd, even if creativity suffers.

Early this year, the print edition of The Washington Post had this great headline on a story about Conan O’Brien’s decision to quit rather than accept a later time slot: “Better never than late.” Online, it was changed to “Conan O’Brien won’t give up ‘Tonight Show’ time slot to make room for Jay Leno.”

I still question why such pun-filled blurb creativity needs to be sacrificed. I can’t believe that Google or any other content-crawler would penalize a page that’s otherwise chock-full of pertinent keywords, just because the headline doesn’t precisely jibe. In fact, I’d think that a unique hed would make an article link stand out from the surrounding vanilla descriptions. As in the above example: After scanning line after line of “Conan-Tonight-Leno-etc.”, wouldn’t the clever wordplay of “Better Never Than Late” lure more eyeballs, just out of curiosity? I’d like to think so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/21/2010 08:10am
Category: Internet, Publishing
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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

I had thought that the model in that York Peppermint Pattie commercial looked familiar: It’s Alexi from IMBOYCRAZY.COM!

And this is that commercial, spliced together with Requiem for a Dream:

I think the extreme closeup on the pupil in both video-works was the inspirational hook. How else to draw a line between mint-flavoring and heroin? And the chop-quick cut scenes complete the parallels. Well done.

Not that Alexi endorses the smack habit. But she does encourage you to tan it, in the event that you can’t tone it. Yeah.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/20/2010 11:37pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Movies, Women
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Monday, July 19, 2021

It may seem morose to dwell on the following passage out of Bret Easton Ellis’ “The Informers”, but it’s been in my head for the past few days, so I might as well share it. From the end of the story/chapter “On The Beach”:

I walk away from Mona. I know what the word gone means. I know what the word dead means. You deal with it, you mellow out, you head back to town… “I know what the word dead means,” I whisper to myself as softly as I can because it sounds like an omen.

Mortality and nihilism, tied up in a tidy package of misery. Does the job.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/19/2010 10:41pm
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Sunday, July 18, 2021

If the prick of the flu vaccine keeps you from going through with inoculation, a few hundred tiny microneedles on a medicated patch might be more palatable:

The business side of the patch feels like fine sandpaper, [Georgia Tech researcher Mark Prausnitz] said. In tests of microneedles without vaccine, people rated the discomfort at one-tenth to one-twentieth that of getting a standard injection, he said. Nearly everyone said it was painless.

Some medications are already delivered by patches, such as nicotine patches for people trying to quit smoking. That’s simply absorbed through the skin. But attempts to develop patches with the flu vaccine absorbed through the skin have not been successful so far.

In the Georgia Tech work, the vaccine is still injected. But the needles are so small that they don’t hurt and it doesn’t take any special training to use this kind of patch.

Ingenious. But a micro-pricking is still a pricking, and so some selling might need doing:

Asked if the term “microneedle” might still frighten some folks averse to shots, Prausnitz said he was confident that marketers would come up with a better term before any sales began.

Leave it to the marketers to sugarcoat the medicine. How about “friction patch”?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/18/2010 09:12pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Science
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I guess I have to applaud the symmetrical creativity in the atheistic rite of de-baptism:

In a type of mock ceremony that’s now been performed in at least four states, a robed “priest” used a hairdryer marked “reason” in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all. Several dozen participants then fed on a “de-sacrament” (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had “freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition.”

Fighting ritual with ritual? It may be cathartic for some, but it’s fundamentally silly. Especially if the ultra-religious, rather than regarding this blasphemousness with outrage, regard it merely as the Biblical baptism by fire carried out by other means…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/18/2010 02:35pm
Category: Comedy, Creative, Society
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Saturday, July 17, 2021

“There’s a whole bowl of granola over there, dude,” he conspiratorially whispered to me.

That’s what I get for going to Deity, a self-styled underground nightclub in Brooklyn, for a meet-and-greet a couple of nights ago. You’d have thought that the crunchy-munchy party favor was manna from some hipster version of heaven. It was mighty tasty, though — and paired surprisingly well with a vodka tonic.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/17/2010 03:48pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin'
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There are fantasy camps, and then there are kid-lit fantasy camps:

Children have always sought to act out elements of their favorite books, becoming part of the worlds that the works create. Now, organized role-playing literary camps, like the weeklong Camp Half-Blood in Brooklyn, are sprouting up around the nation.

Some take their inspiration from the Harry Potter books, like the wizardry camp run by the Brandywine Learning Center in Chester Springs, Pa., which simulates the experience of attending Hogwarts, the school from the novels.

Bookstores have joined in, organizing day camps structured around children’s books, like “The Double-Daring Book for Girls” and the “Ranger’s Apprentice” series. But the biggest buzz has recently been around Camp Half-Blood, based on the popular “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series.

Total immersion in a day-camp setting. Although I have a feeling this is gateway recreation for future Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. fanboys…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/17/2010 03:25pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Publishing
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Friday, July 16, 2021

life and the game
How much narrative can you discern from even the most thought-out gaming franchises? That’s what “Theater of the Arcade” in Brooklyn aims to find out, in the form of stage-play vignettes:

What if Pac-Man is really a gluttonous German burgher out to gorge himself while dodging the ghosts of those he has so callously wronged, à la Dickens?

What if the pilots in Asteroids are merely profane technicians existentially trapped within a corporation that knows nothing more than to send them into the void to shoot rocks, until they become smaller rocks and smaller rocks, until they become nothing?

I liken this in-depth re-imagination to the box art on the old Atari 2600 videogames from the 1970s and ’80s: Visualizations of the game action that were far more fully-formed than the primitive pixelation that the game cartridges actually contained. In fact, those box-art interpretations often bore only marginal resemblance to their game themes. Funny how decades later, these stage productions play off the same narrative-thin videogaming base..

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/16/2010 05:18pm
Category: Creative, Videogames
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