Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2021

Will Eisner, the grandmaster of comic book art, died yesterday at the age of 87.

His work was a testament to the beauty of sequential-art craft and the elegance of graphic storytelling. He leaves behind a legacy that’ll be hard to match.

If the only “Eisner” you’ve ever heard of is Disney CEO Michael, then do yourself a favor and pick up one of Will’s graphic novels. Personally, I recommend “Life on Another Planet” (aka “Signal From Space”), “The Building”, “A Contract with God”, and “The Dreamer”. And you can’t go wrong with the Spirit collections.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/04/2021 11:00:28 PM
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Saturday, January 01, 2021

As it has for thirty years, Lake Superior State University has come out with its list of “banished words”, those pieces of English that have been judged to be overused and outplayed during the previous year.

Along with plenty of buzzed-up phrases like “wardrobe malfunction” and “enemy combatant”, the word “blog” made this unkindest of cuts:

BLOG — and its variations, including blogger, blogged, blogging, blogosphere. Many who nominated it were unsure of the meaning. Sounds like something your mother would slap you for saying.

“Sounds like a Viking’s drink that’s better than grog, or a technique to kill a frog.” - Teri Vaughn, Anaheim, Calif.

“Maybe it’s something that would be stuck in my toilet.” - Adrian Whittaker, Dundalk, Ontario.

“I think the words ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ need to come back.” - T. J. Allen, Shreveport, La.

So, what I’m feeling is that the list is compiled by a bunch of behind-the-curve luddites.

I wonder if this academic banishment will affect Merriam-Webster’s intent to add “blog” to its dictionary listings.

Before anyone gets all worked up, remember that a list like this is only as significant as you make it. Ranking things into a “Top XX” has its uses — take that from someone who creates them. But when it’s subjectively based like this, it’s just something for small-talk conversation.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/01/2021 04:56:15 PM
Category: Bloggin', Creative | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, December 23, 2021

shiny happy
You do a couple of book reviews, and you get season’s greetings in return. Kelly Leonard and the gang at Time Warner Book Group sent me a nice holiday card based on artwork from Todd Parr’s “The Peace Book”. From the looks of it, it would make a cute book for young and old.

This card marks the very first piece of postal mail I’ve received addressed to “Population Statistic” (even the review books I got earlier this year didn’t include the blog’s title on the address label). Handwritten, no less. It gives me a funny feeling to see it in an offline context; it makes it more “real”, in a sense.

Take note: By singling out this holiday card, I’m not dissing all the other cards and letters I’ve received and will receive from friends and family. They all rule.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/23/2004 05:03:53 PM
Category: Creative, Book Review | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, November 29, 2021

Inspired by “The O.C.” (is there anything that hip show can’t do?), it’s Chrismukkah!

Naturally, since it’s the spirit that counts, the spelling is relative:

Drop the T in Christmas, swap the N in Hanukkah for an M, and Voila! No one seems to agree on how to spell Hanukkah - Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, Channukah? Thus, Chrismukkah has multiple (mis)spellings too: Chrismukka, Chrismukah, Chrismuka, Chrismakka, Christmukkah, Christmukah, Christmakkah, Christmakah… even Hanumas.. we’ve seen them all. But we prefer the typographic elegance of Chrismukkah.

Actually, going by the origin story for this Christian/Jewish holiday amalgamation, it comes off like a marketing opportunity to sell greeting cards. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

That said, where’s the love for Ramadan/Eid ul-Fitr and Kwanzaa? Why not “Chrismukkahramakwan”? It just rolls right off the tongue.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/29/2004 07:21:52 PM
Category: Society, Creative | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Sunday, November 21, 2021

I never did make any further mention of the American Stage production of “Metamorphoses”, which I went to see this past Tuesday.

Part of the reason I didn’t write anything about it was because I shortsightedly left behind the play program, which contained the names of the actors and other helpful notes. I haven’t been able to get another copy, so I’m just going to have to wing it (and thus write not so much a review as a short synopsis of my impressions).

This staging of selected stories from Ovid’s poems followed Mary Zimmerman’s unconventional approach of mixing contemporary imagery alongside the traditional Roman motif. From this you get the god Mercury portrayed as flying leatherneck, complete with pilot’s goggles on top of his head; and King Midas dressed as a pomped-up businessman and strutting around to a disco “Solid Gold”-like beat. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast is milling around in togas. But as Marty Clear’s Times review notes, it manages to all mesh together very well.

The presentation of the stories flowed together pretty well, even though there was extensive narration direct to the audience (probably unavoidable). All the actors played multiple roles as they moved from vignette to vignette, which actually helped with the overall continuity. The overarching theme — that of transformation in some form as the result of the characters’ actions and destiny — served as a loose uniting theme.

I was especially taken with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, not the least because Eurydice is elevated from a prop in the original poem to a character who embraces her final fate, which I thought was a nice touch. The story of Phaeton, mentioned in the Times review, also stood out as a funny monologue delivered from an inflatable pool lounger. There was plenty of humor sprinkled throughout the other stories, which, while effective in their own right, tended to make the more poignant scenes stand out more.

The stagework was as impressive as billed. The stone courtyard facade made for a happy playground for the scenes to unfold. The much-hyped pool of water was not what I had envisioned: It was a good deal smaller and more integrated into the rest of the scenery than I thought (although considering the intimate confines of American Stage, I’m not sure I should have expected anything bigger). But it made for a unique stage environment, especially when the water was central to that particular storyline. I thought the periodic mopping up of the excess water splashing, integrated as parts of the stage action, was a clever throw-in for practicality’s sake.

The actors all did a great job. I don’t know if constantly splashing around in the centerpiece pool was more of a delight or a hassle for them, but they made it look good. The costumes and partially water-submerged performances were no doubt tricky, especially the love scenes; but all were memorable. Along with the actor who shined as Orpheus, I was very impressed by the redheaded actress who played (among others) Psyche.

So, in sum, I’d recommend “Metamorphoses” as a fun night of theatre. A short running time of 90 minutes prevents it from seeming overly long, and at the same time I didn’t feel like it was a rushed performance at all. There’s another pay-what-you-can night for the Tuesday, November 30th performance, so there’s a perfect opportunity to take this one in on the cheap(er). It’s worth it at full price as well.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/21/2004 05:31:33 PM
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Monday, November 15, 2021

morphed stage
When downtown St. Pete’s American Stage first started pimping it’s production of Mary Zimmerman’s directorial interpretation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, about four months ago, I made a mental note. I wondered if a small theater could pull off a pretty complex show like that.

Apparently, they did it with aplomb. Marty Clear’s review is so compelling that I’ve decided I’ll have to go see it tomorrow, if only for this:

The centerpiece for the set is a pool, maybe a couple of feet deep, that extends from underneath a walkway and out toward the audience…

[The] water is central to nearly everything that occurs during the play. It’s the setting for several near-drownings. An erotic scene is performed in, on and even under the water. Actors make entrances by appearing magically from beneath the water’s surface. Most of the performers are soaking wet, head to toe, through most play.

I’m so there. Besides, I’m a sucker for reinterpretive adaptions of classical literature (although given the choice, I’d take Greek over Roman any day).

The extra incentive? American Stage has a couple of “pay-what-you-can” nights each month, where instead of charging standard ticket prices, they ask for whatever you feel like paying for admission.

No, I’m not going to pay with loose change. But I’m not going to give up full price, either. They’re not going to go broke from me. Besides, the point of the promotion night is to hook people into coming back int the future, and they’ll probably get enough of that to more than recoup from the discounts they’ll give out.

The nicest feature about going to American Stage: I don’t have to drive there. It’s only a block away from my office, so I can stroll right on over after work (or maybe after a drink or two nearby).

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/15/2004 09:40:20 PM
Category: Media, Creative | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Thursday, November 04, 2021

This month’s issue of Wired Magazine has a special gimmick attached to it: A 16-song CD featuring songs from the Beastie Boys, Danger Mouse and others. You can listen to a stream of all the disc’s tracks here, courtesy of Tian. (Or just plunk down the four bucks and buy the issue.)

The purpose of the disc is to popularize the Creative Commons modified copyright system for creative works. Creative Commons has found favor in the online realm, especially among blogs and other web properties. I myself used one on my old blog.

I don’t use Creative Commons protection for this blog. Was I just too lazy to transfer it over? No, I just realized that, hipness factor aside, traditional copyright law automatically covers the original content being created here. So why reinvent the wheel?

Which leads to my impressions of the Wired CD: Nice idea, but good examples of just why Creative Commons isn’t going to inspire artists very much.

The most established acts on the disc are the Beastie Boys and David Byrne (I’d include Chuck D and Paul Westerberg too, but it’s not like either of them have produced much in recent years). The tracks from these two headliners leave something to be desired, considering their past output. The Beasties’ “Now Get Busy” is decent, but obviously an unfinished throwaway, probably leftover from their latest album. Byrne’s “My Fair Lady” is, at best, an experimental number. These two songs open the disc, and give it a definite b-side feel.

The rest of the disc ranges from slightly intriguing to mostly mediocre, with Danger Mouse’s “What U Sittin’ On?” flat-out sucking (I’d be suprised if he spent more than half an hour putting it together — another throwaway). The majority of the artists are largely unknown, at least to me.

Why such a lackluster offering? It is a freebie, so you can’t expect a polished album. But to me, the makeup of the disc is a perfect example of the marginal support the Creative Commons scheme can expect to receive. Major acts like the Beasties can afford to lend their support, because they’ve already made their money from their years of work in the “old” music business. Obscure and unsigned acts latch on strictly as a way to gain wider exposure and dissemination of their work.

Yet as a showcase, the Wired CD doesn’t show much. Tracks that wouldn’t make the final cut on moneymaker albums? It gives Creative Commons a poor image.

Those two extremes in the music biz, as represented on the Wired CD, represent the fringes of the industry. What about those in between, the effective “middle class”? They’ve got their production deals with the labels, they’re building their cred and working to get to the point in their careers when they can exert some significant control over their work. It’s hard to see why they’d chuck that for a different set of rules that wouldn’t advance them any further.

All in all, I’m not convinced about the viability of applying the Creative Commons tag toward any serious collection of works. Flexible rights protection seems to be fine for works you don’t care much about, but it doesn’t seem to merit serious consideration for more valuable stuff.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/04/2021 11:57:46 PM
Category: Media, Business, Creative | Permalink | Feedback (1)

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