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Sunday, February 10, 2021

To protest the de facto quota system imposed by newspaper comics-page editors upon minority-focused comic strips, a group of cartoonists have written and drawn essentially the same strip for today’s Sunday section to drive home the point.

Plans for the protest began with Cory Thomas, a Howard University grad whose strip, “Watch Your Head,” deals with college life at a predominantly African American university. Thomas, Trinidad-born and D.C.-bred, says he was frustrated by the number of times his strip was turned down by newspapers that didn’t feel the need to sign him up, because, well, they already had a black comic strip. Most editors, he says, only allow for one or two minority strips, viewing them all as interchangeable. Never mind that his strip is a world away in sensibility from the scathing sociopolitical musings of Darrin Bell’s “Candorville” or the family-focused fun of Stephen Bentley’s “Herb and Jamaal.”

So Thomas drew a strip addressing that, and then enlisted the help of Bell. From there, they got others to agree to participate: Bentley, Jerry Craft (”Mama’s Boyz”), Charlos Gary (”Cafe con Leche” and “Working It Out”), Steve Watkins (”Housebroken”), Keith Knight (”The K Chronicles”), Bill Murray (”The Golden Years”), Charles Boyce (”Compu-toon”) and editorial cartoonist Tim Jackson. Alcaraz, who says he found out too late to meet his deadline, will be chiming in on Feb. 11.

Ironically, that 1-2 minority strip allowance means that most readers won’t get the full effect of this protest — because they’ll only see one of the participating strips.

So here’s the online versions of each of the participating strips. The ones I could find, anyway. There could be more participating; I’m not going to scan hundreds of strips for verification. Also, despite being on the above list, and being acknowledged by strip artist Keith Knight, the K Chronicles strip that appears to be running today doesn’t match up with the rest of the group. But otherwise:

- Candorville’s take

- Herb and Jamaal’s take

- Watch Your Head’s take

- Compu-toon’s take

- Housebroken’s take

- Cafe con Leche’s take

- And Mama’s Boyz creator Jerry Craft provides a roundup of the rest.

Here’s the basic script (modified significantly in some strips, but with the same gist):

Old Guy: Bah! I hate this comic strip! It looks like another “Boondocks” rip-off! The newspaper got rid of the old goodies to bring in this tripe? It must be tokenism! This PC nonsense is out of control! They need to get back to the kinds of strips that everybody can relate to!

Person sitting next to Old Guy: “Everybody”, meaning you?

Old Guy: Ha ha. Oh, that Dagwood…

It’s funny how most (though not all) of the strips went with the same stereotypical gray-headed old man bitching about his favorite dinosaur ‘toon being displaced by something he can’t relate to. That gets to the heart of the matter, actually: Print newspaper readership is increasingly being reduced to older demographics, and they’re irrationally attached to comic strips that have been around for decades, regardless of whether or not those strips still have any gas left in them. From my past experience at the St. Petersburg Times (where, coincidentally, this event first got some traction, courtesy of Eric Deggans), making any changes to the comics page is guaranteed to bring a tidal wave of negative reader reaction.

So the upshot? I think it’s less a question of actively “balancing” minority respresentation on the comics page, than it is a situation where paralysis has set in. Declining readership forces the papers to be that much more responsive to their core customers, and ultimately it’s not worth trying to be innovative in an otherwise inconsequential section of the paper. The result is a patch of newsprint that’s perpetually hard to break into.

Personally, I don’t have a dog in this fight, as my paper of record doesn’t run any funny pages (other than a single avant-garde feature in the Sunday Magazine). I really thought I’d miss the strips more, but I don’t; probably speaks to the calcification of the medium.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/10/2021 03:42:40 PM
Category: Creative, Publishing, Society
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Friday, February 01, 2021

so real
Because the pre-loaded wallpaper images on the iPod Touch are all either boring or slightly feminine, I decided to import this 1958 Salvador Dali watercolor, “Allegorical Saint and Angels in Adoration of the Holy Spirit”, into mine. So now it shows up every time my iTouch gets prompted out of lock mode (which is often).

I’ve expressed before how much I like this piece. It holds up pretty well in shrunken, digitized format. I especially get a kick out of much Nirvana’s cover art for the “In Utero” album evokes “Allegorical”, and the almost side-by-side visual I get whenever one of those tracks ticks up on shuffle-play.

I’d still love to get a wall print of this painting. I’m heading down to Tampa Bay next week, so even though the Dali Museum doesn’t list this as being available in their giftshop in any form, I might luck out. At least see it in person one more time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/01/2021 04:44:08 PM
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Tech
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Tuesday, January 29, 2021

With a recession looming, a lot of people will be going to a lot of job interviews in the coming months. So why not monetize that experience?

That’s roughly the concept at play with NotchUp.com, a job-recruiting startup that’s facilitating company payout fees to prospective job candidates, just for showing up and interviewing.

The idea is that companies should strive to snag in-demand talent, which by their nature are hard to land:

“In every job I’ve had, I’ve had to, under time pressure, build a team of engineers. I learned years ago that the best people you want to hire are the people who aren’t in the job market,” said [co-founder Jim] Ambras, who was vice president of engineering at the search engine AltaVista.

So some enterprising serial interviewee could really make a cottage industry out of cup-of-coffee chats over where they see themselves in five years, etc.

Technically, the money’s not that easy. Participating companies — which, as hinted by the quote above, include tech-engineering hungry outfits like Google and Yahoo! — put the bid fee into escrow, and don’t authorize payment until after the interview, when they decide whether or not to take the process further (second interview, offer extension, etc.). So if someone goes into this flippantly, they’ll just wind up wasting their time (unless they get some live-interview practice out of it). Even someone who garners interest would presumably start raising red flags if s/he is tracked, via NotchUp, as continually turning down deeper interviews.

Overall, it seems like a relatively low-risk proposition for larger companies. They’d spend comparable or larger amounts in that $200-$500 per candidate range in recruiting efforts, so this serves as a reciprocal filter to hone the process early. It’s still a struggle to wrest a high-demand work talent out of their current gig, but this is another way to grease the wheel.

I do question the timing, though. Like I said, a recession seems likely, so the labor market will be flooded with candidates soon enough. Potential NotchUp.com client companies will feel less compelled to ante up meet-and-greet bonuses when they’re in a buyers’ market. In which case, NotchUp.com itself might have to start looking for interview-cash opps…

Just for fun, I plugged my particulars into the NotchUp build-your-bid calculator. My current marketing consultant gig, which I’ve been doing for two years now, yielded a suggested bid amount of $230. I think that’s on the low side, but honestly, I was expecting it to come in way less. At least I know where to login if I need an extra couple of hundred bucks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/29/2008 11:39:03 PM
Category: Business, Creative
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Saturday, January 26, 2021

Here’s something that promises to inspire much musical mashup mayhem: An mp3 isolated vocal track of David Lee Roth’s singing off of the Van Halen classic “Runnin’ With The Devil”.

I can’t wait to hear Diamond Dave’s vintage harmonizing set to reggae, electronica, etc.

Actually, hearing this Roth rendition was a bit unnerving. I never realized that he wasn’t joining in on the “runnin’ with the devil” chorus until hearing this stripped-away version. Not hearing the title refrain robs the song of a good bit of its essence.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/26/2008 06:46:26 PM
Category: Creative, Pop Culture
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Thursday, January 10, 2021

Tom McMahon has come up with a delightful list of ways in which a blog mirrors a television-series run.

I won’t poach any of his bullets. But I will contribute a couple of my own. Regrettably, one of his commenters already beat me to the obvious joke about jumping the shark

Anyway:

- Old posts/episodes can always be found in archives/reruns.

- A writers’ strike would have dire consequences.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/10/2021 09:44:48 PM
Category: Bloggin', Creative, TV
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Saturday, January 05, 2021

Forget about ethanol — hops and barley are the crop-based fuel alternatives to fill up on, as our Canuck neighbors ably demonstrate:

* The average Canadian walks 900 miles per year.
* The average Canadian drinks 22 gallons of beer per year.

Canadians have a right to be proud: they’re getting 41 miles to the gallon.

And just to keep kosher with official Dominion policy, here’s a metric version of that, uh, metric.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/05/2021 08:05:12 PM
Category: Comedy, Creative, Society
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Thursday, January 03, 2021

If Islam had never existed, would things be nice and cozy between East and West, Jew and Arab, Greek and Turk? Probably not, according to professor and CIA advisor Graham Fuller, who argues that economics and geopolitics trump religion:

Mr. Fuller ponders a litany of history’s major battles to drive home his message that while Islam might be a convenient culprit, global strife, past and present, can’t be blamed on any one religion. Europeans would still have wanted the spoils of the Middle East and launched the Crusades, he says, albeit under a different banner. The West still would have tried various ways to get control of oil-rich areas. The French would still have gone into Algeria for its farm lands. The creation of Israel would still have displaced Palestinians, no matter what their religion.

And so on.

It’s fun to speculate on alternate historical divergences. On this particular counterfactual, Harry Turtledove’s “Agent of Byzantium” series of novels posits Mohammed becoming a Christian monk instead of The Prophet, leading to a modern-day Byzantine Empire cold-warring against a high-tech Persian Empire.

The trouble with alternate history fiction with such a wide scope is that it loses plausibility with the stretch of time. Sure, you can weave a reasonable unfolding of events within a few decades of Islam’s non-emergence; but can you credibly speculate how the next millennium and change will turn out? Too many variables.

Still, here’s some off-the-cuff musings of a world without Islam, conveniently ignoring the role of Islamic civilization in preserving and advancing classical scientific knowledge during the Middle Ages (among other things):

- An Eastern Orthodox Christian cultural hearth extending from the Balkans down to Arabia, and perhaps westward from Egypt through to north Africa.

- A Zoroastrian Iran (the world’s only Zoroastrian Republic, ala today’s real-world Islamic Republic?), culturally conflicted with the Orthodox Christian Arabs on its western border; and perhaps isolated, unless it was able to export its faith into Pakistan, Afghanistan and other points north and east.

- Alternately (if that’s possible in an alternate-reality scenario), a Jewish homeland being established in Iran, which historically hosted one of the world’s larger diaspora communities.

- As for Europe, would there have been a markedly more tempered Protestant Reformation, given that the prior Catholic-Orthodox schism had already defined intra-Christian boundaries?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/03/2021 11:49:37 PM
Category: Creative, History, Political, Society
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Friday, December 28, 2020

I came across this little gem of a short film called “My Name Is Lisa” recently:

What’s so engaging about this Shelton Films production is the build-up: It starts off with all the looks of a typically nondescript YouTube jokey video log, but unfolds with deliberate purpose into a deeper and touching dramatic vignette.

It’s certainly not perfect. The music, while serving as a very useful indicator of the shifting timbre of the story, eventually becomes just a bit overbearing by film’s end. The acting is decent, but wouldn’t win any Oscar nods. But it all works well enough to earn a third-place showing in a recent YouTube Project: Direct competition.

One final tidbit: That passage that Lisa is reading at the end? It’s from Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”, which significance is hinted at earlier in the film.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/28/2007 07:41:42 PM
Category: Creative, Internet, Movies
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Wednesday, December 26, 2020

It’s a pretty obvious joke, to post about Pierre Bayard’s “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” while not having read it, nor having any intention of reading it.

But I’m gonna do it anyway.

Partly because this excerpt from the book’s introduction saves me from picking it up. And I’ll go one step further and boil down the intro to this most pertinent portion:

There is a tacit understanding in our culture that one must read a book in order to talk about it with any precision. In my experience, however, it’s totally possible to carry on an engaging conversation about a book you haven’t read — including, and perhaps especially, with someone else who hasn’t read it either. Moreover, as I will argue, it is sometimes easier to do justice to a book if you haven’t read it in its entirety — or even opened it. Throughout this book, I will insist on the risks of reading — so frequently underestimated — for anyone who intends to talk about books, and even more so for those who plan to review them.

A better understanding of a work through non-reading. I wish I could spurn this advice, except that I’m as pressured as the next average reader — always full of the best intentions, but rarely with the energy or time resources to actually crack open the desired book.

So I sometimes resort to faking it. I probably do it far more often with movies, although I readily admit to not having actually caught the flick — the preponderance of preview trailers and buzz make it a lot easier to fill in the blanks for silver screen offerings. And more to the point, there’s less stigma in not having taken the time to gawk at a moving-picture presentation than to have neglected the printed word; the former is more passive, even with serious flicks, while the latter is expected to demand more mental energy.

All that said, I’ve actually got my eye on a couple of tomes to digest over the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep the faking-it advice in reserve for future application.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/26/2007 08:46:57 AM
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Saturday, December 22, 2021

It’s a bit heavy on the agency jargon, but “A Few Good Creative Men” is a most apropos application of the parody-like quality of working within the belly of the ad-industry beast:

Along with the “bigger logo” quip, I really like that “sleeps under the blanket of creativity that I provide” line.

And I can’t think of a more suitable scene for skewering than this one from A Few Good Men. As iconic as it’s become, I actually find it almost comical — I just can’t buy that a political animal like that would lose his cool in such an incriminating way, extreme hubris or not. I’ve never been able to watch the entire movie more than the one viewing I took in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/22/2007 08:04:10 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Creative, Movies
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Saturday, December 08, 2021

Does anyone else see the irony in the warning message that greets visitors to the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation website?

The contents of this site are for personal and/or educational use only. Neither text nor photographs may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

This, for a body of work that’s essentially ripped off from the efforts of countless comic-book artists. It was okay for Lichtenstein to “repurpose” this imagery, but not for others to make further use of it?

It seems hypocritical, and it is. And the root of that attitude is in the way such acquisition art is defined:

[Lichtenstein] took images that had no aesthetic content. You could open a romance magazine if you were a teenage girl or a war comic if you were a teenage boy, or flip through the ads in the back of a New York tabloid and see images that your eye would just skip over. He took these images, copied them, at first rather crudely, but then with fabulous elegance, and made these images deserving of being scanned or attention paid to them equal to the art in museums. And he really broadened what we saw as and thought of as art.

In other words, Lichtenstein’s work is valid because it elevated non-art into high art — dismissing the idea that the comics artwork was deserving of consideration as art in its own right. Therefore, if someone were to do the same to Lichtenstein’s work… You guessed it: That would redefine Lichtenstein’s pieces as lower-grade raw material for the next iteration created from it. In effect, they would be downgraded.

It’s a vicious circle, in a way. Obviously, the Web is ground zero for today’s arguments over dissemination and repurposing of creative material; it touches everything from musical mashups to digitized books. A recent flareup involves renewed attention for Richard Prince and his photography presentations, many manipulated from mass-market advertisements.

Incidentally, I “borrowed” the dog image here from the rather extensive “Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein” webpage exhibit, which gives side-by-side comparisons of source material and artsified output. On a smaller scale, it’s a full-circle presentation.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/08/2021 08:01:22 PM
Category: Creative
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Thursday, December 06, 2021

The other day, I was so drawn to the new January issue of Vanity Fair, with cute little Katherine Heigl all dolled up on the cover, that I almost bought it as I was passing a newsstand.

Now that I know that one of the features is about a Middle East with borders re-drawn to skew more closely to socio-ethnic realities, I’ll have to plunk down some cash for a hard copy. It’s a more justifiable reason than covergirl cheesecake.

And more thought-provoking:

Vanity Fair’s four ad-hoc mapmakers — historian David Fromkin, diplomat Dennis Ross and Middle East scholars Kenneth Pollack and Daniel Byman — devised a new set of borders that restore some ancient kingdoms, and even create a new unoccupied zone known as the science-fiction-appropriate “Empty Quarter” on the Arabian peninsula.

It might sound like some kind of fly sci-fi, but the Empty Quarter (Ar-Rub al-Khali) has been an acknowledged geographical fact for ages. Defining it as a no-state’s-land is probably a fanciful exercise — the suspected oil reserves under that desert sand would compel surrounding states to stake their claims in short order.

- Some boundaries basically line up with today’s, as with Oman or Israel.

No Palestine in this “natural” order? Hmmm. I’m sure there’s an explanation in the full offline text; offhand, I’m guessing that Jordan would wind up being home to a Palestinian state. But that would still require big population movements.

- The Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam at the core of Saudi Arabia would have a homeland carved out of the core of the current nation called the Southern Tribal Area. Portions of Iraq would be combined with new territories constructed along religious and ethnic lines.

- The mountainous parts of Iran would join mountainous Yemen to form a mixed Sunni-Shiite kingdom that was called Arabia Felix in ancient times.

- Egypt would be limited to the Nile’s banks, split into an upper part of cities and commerce and a lower one of villages. The desert either side of the Nile would be named the Western Tribal Area – an Arab domain that would have more in common with the tribal areas across the Red Sea than its neighbors abutting the Nile.

- Not all the divisions would be religious. Kuwait and Qatar would be added to the United Arab Emirates to form a collective of mercantile Sunni sheikhdoms known simply as the Emirates.

- The Levant on the Mediterranean’s east coast would be defined by its traditionally cosmopolitan cities.

These more “natural” divisions were inspired by an uncovered 1918 map by legendary T.E. Lawrence that proposed much the same geopolitical landscape. Would it have avoided the region’s present-day strife? Nation-states based on near-homogeneous populations are no guarantee of peace. In any case, the black gold that lies below trumps any positioning of international dotted-lines.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/06/2021 11:50:31 PM
Category: Creative, History, Political
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Not to sound overly callous regarding a legitimate learning and comprehension disorder, but I now I know why so many businesspeople can’t write so much as a halfway-legible email:

The report, compiled by Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, found that more than a third of the entrepreneurs she had surveyed — 35 percent — identified themselves as dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to delegate authority, to excel in oral communication and problem solving and were twice as likely to own two or more businesses…

One reason that dyslexics are drawn to entrepreneurship, Professor Logan said, is that strategies they have used since childhood to offset their weaknesses in written communication and organizational ability — identifying trustworthy people and handing over major responsibilities to them — can be applied to businesses.

“The willingness to delegate authority gives them a significant advantage over nondyslexic entrepreneurs, who tend to view their business as their baby and like to be in total control,” she said.

Basically, dyslexia requires people to get creative in wriggling around everyday challenges, and that skill encourages them to take on ever-greater challenges. An upside to not being able to read, even if the rest of us have to muddle through the lack of communication.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/06/2021 11:25:48 PM
Category: Business, Creative
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Thursday, November 29, 2021

beep-boop bop
The idea of a symphony composed of the culled sound effects from the Atari 2600 and Nintendo NES sounds quirky enough to draw my interest.

That’s the premise of Blip Festival 2007, which started today at Eyebeam Gallery in Chelsea and runs through the weekend. I’ll have to find some time to check it out.

From the sound of it, it should be sensory overload, circa 1981:

Each night eight musicians will perform, accompanied by V.J.’s who will live-edit video onstage. Behind them will be a specially designed low-pixel screen that looks like a giant, moving version of Lite-Brite, the electric toy. The effect will be as lo-fi as a high-tech party can get.

Would it be inappropriate to bring along an iPod loaded with a vintage Pac-Man game? Playing a couple of rounds in such surroundings would be an experience unto itself.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/29/2007 11:15:25 PM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Videogames
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Wednesday, November 28, 2021

Ever sit through an office brainstorming session and think, “waste-o-time”? Harvard Business Review has your back by declaring that corporate “outside the box” ideation efforts are too free-form to be effective:

More often than not, pushy people dominate brainstorming sessions, while others remain silent. Empowered by the mantra that “there are no bad ideas,” the session produces random notions along the lines of “Let’s paint it blue!” “We can sell it in Germany!” “How about an upscale version?” and “The problem is the sales force.”

Few of these ideas end up being taken seriously by the participants, and few deserve to be. In their experience, the authors have found that managers are at their most creative when focused on specific, provocative questions. This brings out the best in people who are used to being creative within limits, while also keeping the ideas within the realm of the possible.

You can’t expect someone conditioned to think within proscribed strictures to suddenly become creatively unbound when the chains are lifted. Besides, everyone knows consultants are the way to go for fresh conceptualization (said the consultant ;) ).

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/28/2007 11:48:59 PM
Category: Business, Creative
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Monday, November 26, 2021

If you just can’t get enough of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” — and if so, who can blame you — then Ovation TV has your ticket punched: The artsy-fartsy channel is head-to-heading four different performance interpretations of the classic holiday ballet:

The contenders in the inaugural Battle of the Nutcrackers cover a wide range of styles, from the staidly classical to a kaleidoscopic hallucination. In the first category are a 1989 performance by the Bolshoi Ballet, featuring Irek Mukhamedov as the Nutcracker Prince, and the 1993 film “George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker,’” staged by Peter Martins and featuring Darci Kistler as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Macaulay Culkin as the Nutcracker. At the far-out end of the spectrum are “Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!,” a 2003 performance of the colorful fantasy that begins in a Dickensian orphanage, and “The Hard Nut,” a 1991 piece by the Mark Morris Dance Group, which uses the Tchaikovsky score but transports the setting to 1960s American suburbia.

Sight unseen, I’m going to have to go with that George Balanchine joint, only because the presence of Macaulay Culkin would give the production a definite Home Alone vibe. Although I admit The Hard Nut sounds appealing too.

Actually, I’m not high on any particular interpretation of ballet, conventional or not. But I do admire Ovation for staying true to its roots with this attention-getting programming stunt. Plus, I just wanted to use “Battle of the Nutcrackers” as a post title.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/26/2007 10:30:16 PM
Category: Creative, TV
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Tuesday, November 13, 2021

bite me
After reading about Damien Hirst’s latest dead-animal artistic display, I couldn’t help but make the trek uptown to see it with my own eyes.

So it is that I found myself in the lobby of Lever House this afternoon, gawking at tank after tank of formaldehyded livestock carcasses. Quite the sight.

Most might focus on the centerpiece of the installation: The giant-sized tank containing an armchair, birdcage with taxidermied dove, strings of sausages and — oh yeah — two complete sides of beef, all arranged in reminiscent homage to Francis Bacon’s “Painting”.

Me? I sought out the shark tank, which I camera-photoed above. It stood out because it was grouped with the 30 other tanks containing sheep carcasses with accompanying heads. Closer inspection revealed further distinctions: While each sheep tank was on a spotless metal gurney, all accompanied with identical glasses of water and a neat, small pile of sand, the shark’s gurney was overflowing with scattered bric-a-brac, and marked with splotches of what looked like dried blood. I guess the contrast was intentional.

The only other noteworthy thing about the sprawling installation was the use of the wall clocks: All were spinning at different speeds and in different directions (some clockwise, others counter). The cabinets filled with perfectly-lined medicine bottles provided some appropriate background context, but nothing more.

My conclusion? Hirst has a thing for sharks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/13/2007 10:06:37 PM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin'
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Sunday, November 11, 2021

It might smack of negative reinforcement, but the “Savings Bomb” piggy bank should nudge shame-averse Japanese to habitually save their yen:

[From] toy manufacturer TOMY Co Ltd., [the bank is] designed as a cartoon-style, ball-shaped black bomb with a skull and crossbones logo, [and] lights up, makes a noise, shakes violently and scatters coins if it is not topped up for a long time.

“Users must pick up and collect the scattered coins and reflect on their laziness,” the Japanese company said

That’s an explosion? Sounds more like a hissy-fit bomb. More of a bomb-blast detonation, resulting in some collateral damage inside the typical Japanese cramped living quarters, would make a bigger impression. But that would then require the offender to further deplete his/her savings by having to pay to clean up the damage — sort of a catch-22, I suppose.

Maybe instead of the insidious-sounding “Savings Bomb”, TOMY should have named this “Bank of Death”. Both because it’s geared toward encouraging Japanese to amass more individual savings (to lessen the state’s social-services burden as Japan’s population gets collectively older), and because it would make a perfect companion piece to the previously-released, positive-reinforcing “Bank of Life” fun-bank.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/11/2021 01:45:00 PM
Category: Creative, Tech
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fresh meat
I get the sense that artiste-provocateur Damien Hirst won’t be invited to any PETA rallies anytime soon. On the heels of having his dead-shark opus, “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hirst is unveiling another animal-carcass art installation in New York, this one specially-commissioned for the lobby of the landmark Lever House building at Park and 54th.

Yes, there’s a dead shark in this one, too. But that’s just the start:

Lining the entire lobby will be some 15 medicine cabinets (a past theme for Mr. Hirst) filled with thousands of empty boxes and bottles with labels for antidepressants, cough medicine and other drugs. The 30 sheep are lined up in rows of formaldehyde-filled tanks, evoking docile schoolchildren in a classroom.

Submerged in a 12-foot-tall tank are two sides of beef, a chair, a chain of sausages, an umbrella and a birdcage with a dead dove. Mr. Hirst describes it as an homage to Francis Bacon’s 1946 “Painting” at the Museum of Modern Art, which depicts cow carcasses suspended in a crucifix shape.

Mr. Hirst said the installation — which cost $1 million to assemble — is in fact a nod to a host of modern artists. “We’ve got everybody in here,” he said. There is Dan Flavin (the strips of fluorescent lighting); Warhol (the notion of repetition, as in the rows of dead sheep); Joseph Cornell (the boxes encasing the dead animals); Jannis Kounellis, who uses live birds in his work; and René Magritte, who painted an egg in a bird cage.

For the record, none of the critters were ritually slaughtered at the altar of Hirst; all the meat used was already butchered and destined for food when it was artistically detoured.

I really think Hirst should branch out a bit. He should buy one of those veggie party platters — jumbo-sized, of course — and try his hand at herbivorous arrangements. Try signifying nihilistic decay with a broccoli floret!

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/11/2021 11:51:09 AM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin'
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Wednesday, November 07, 2021

I wish I could say that I came across this Emily Dickinson quote via my leisure-time reading:

The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind

But that would imply I actually have some leisure time these days…

Fact is, I read it on the subway. I had to take the 1 Line last week to get part of the way home, and Barnes & Noble provided the poem, “Tell All The Truth But Tell It Slant”, on a sponsored patch of train interior.

So now I’m getting my poetry from subway ads. I can’t tell if that means I’m being dazzled or blinded.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/07/2021 11:18:30 PM
Category: Creative, History, New Yorkin'
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Tuesday, November 06, 2021

If you’re not acquainted with the social-mixer-cum-strategy-game that is Mafia (also known as Werewolf, although I disdain that scenario), you should be.

In addition to different options for scenarios, there are several variations on the specific playing parameters. I recently was introduced to the game at a party, and the house rules were fairly simplified:

1. Gather a fairly large group of players — ideally a dozen or more.

2. Designate one person (probably the host) as the Narrator, who’ll control the flow of action.

3. Narrator deals out a like number of playing cards face down, with a ratio of 3:1 between two different colors/suits of cards (for example, a game with 16 players would require 12 black cards and 4 red cards).

4. Everyone looks at their own cards. The resulting majority of players are Villagers, while the select minority are the Mafia.

5. The Narrator then announces that “night has fallen”, which is a cue for the players to all close their eyes.

6. Once everyone’s eyes are shut, the Narrator instructs the Mafioso to open their eyes and (silently) identify themselves to one another.

7. The Mafia then, through use of sign language and signals, pick out one of the Villagers to mark for “death”, i.e. expulsion from the game, and acknowledge to the Narrator that they’ve made their selection. They then close their eyes again and “blend in” with the rest of the Village.

8. The Narrator then announces “the sun is up”, and informs the marked Villager that s/he has been knocked off by the Mafia, and to leave the room.

9. The remaining Villagers (including the Mafia, in stealth mode) then start to debate who among them are Mafia, and decide collectively to exile a single suspected Mafioso in this round. (Note that this process doesn’t necessarily result in an actual Mafioso being exiled — innocent Villagers can be targeted by the rest.)

10. The exiled player then leaves the room, and the Narrator declares that “night has fallen” again.

11. Once again, the Mafia coordinate to select another Villager to knock off once the sun comes up again.

12. This goes on round by round, until either every Mafia member has been exiled, or else the number of Mafia exceeds the remaining number of Villagers.

It’s a basically simple game structure, but strategically, it can get socially complex. Especially at the outset, reads on body language, poker faces, etc. count for everything. Working against an enemy in the midst fosters an environment of paranoia — albeit a mild one — and encourages one-on-one alliances and other nuances. It’s like “Survivor” with hors d’oeuvres!

The underlying purpose is to get people acquainted (perhaps better so) with one another, and that actually seems to come more in the exiling/killed portion. I found that when people had to gather in the next room, away from the active gameplay, the socializing really began. There was a built-in ice-breaker, after all.

In order to get significant mileage out of Mafia, you really do need to have a big group. It won’t work with just 4-5 people. The more rounds that it takes, the more possibilities.

The only downside I can see is this leading to a life of crime. Or lycanthropy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/06/2021 11:55:17 PM
Category: Creative, Society
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