Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Sunday, January 23, 2021

I can’t tell you how surprised I am to find out that ripple, that supposedly generic ghetto libation often referenced in “Sanford and Son” and other 1970s sitcoms, was actually real:

Quite the marketing angle, placing this wine (product) “in the same crowd” as beer, while simultaneously showing upscale consumers imbibing the recreational rotgut. All white people, I might add.

I assume this was the last-gasp attempt to push Ripple-with-a-capital-R, before putting it out of its snub-nose-bottle misery. I’m guessing the modern-day E.&J. Gallo Winery is denying and disowning any association with this bygone beverage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/23/2011 07:19pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Comedy, Food, TV
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Wednesday, January 19, 2021

feed the kittyComic book and movie fandom was wetting itself over the news that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Catwoman in the next Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises.

Or was she?

Pay close attention to the wording in the official press release:

Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” She will be starring alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

In fact, the name “Catwoman” is not mentioned at all in the entire (brief) release. Meanwhile, Christian Bale is pointedly referred to as “Bruce Wayne/Batman”.

So, you have to figure that Hathaway is slated to play only alter-ego Selina Kyle in this film. The set-up for her transformation into Catwoman will probably be part of the story, with the cat-suit being donned in the fourth, Nolan-less installment. Hathaway will be wearing that costume, unless somebody pulls a two-faced move on her:

Billy Dee Williams took the role of Harvey Dent [in 1989's Batman] with the expectation that he would be brought back to play Two-Face and reportedly had a contract clause added reserving the role for him. During casting for Batman Forever (1995) Warner Bros. decided they would prefer Tommy Lee Jones and bought out Williams’ contract.

Let’s hope cinematic history doesn’t repeat itself. It’d be a real shame to miss out on Hathaway kicking ass in feline-inspired spandex.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/19/2011 10:03pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture
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Monday, January 17, 2021

It’s a given that an ad’s purpose is to pry money out of your pocket. So where better for a marketer to place an ad but right in your online wallet?

As banks test new ways to make money and attract customers, they are tucking ads onto the list of recent purchases on consumers’ online bank statements. The charge for your breakfast at McDonald’s, for example, might be followed with an offer for 10 percent cash back on your next meal at the Golden Arches. There’s no need to print a coupon — just click the link, and the chain will recognize your debit card the next time it is swiped.

“The one thing these debit programs have is a significant amount of transaction and behavioral data,” said Mark Johnson, president and chief executive of Loyalty 360, a trade group for marketers. “You’re going to see a big push to make that insight more sellable.”

Behavioral datamining at the source. Might as well direct-deposit your paycheck straight into your favorite retailers’ coffers. Unless you’re laboring under the delusion that you’re making a conscious choice most of the time…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/17/2011 09:19pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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Thursday, January 13, 2021

cooked
I miss having regularly-scheduled reruns of “The Odd Couple” on TV. For no other reason than the chance to re-experience this culinary exchange:

As Oscar serves up the mess, Felix asks in horror, “What do you call this mélange?”

Oscar says, “Well, I was going to call it Goop, but I like your name better. Goop Mélange.”

The recipe for Goop Melange died with the show, but I recall it contained some combination of sardines, pickles, sauce, and a potato-chip topping. And people kept asking Oscar if it was supposed to look the way it did. Bon appetit!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/13/2011 10:38pm
Category: Comedy, Food, TV, Wordsmithing
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Monday, January 10, 2021

This week, the people of southern Sudan are voting on a referendum that is fully expected to call for secession from the government in northern Khartoum, resulting in an eventual declaration of independence in July. By then, the Texas-sized (not to mention oil-rich) country hopefully will have decided on a new nation-name:

Some of the other names that have been discussed are Nilotia or Nilotland, which are names derived from the Nile river. Others prefer the Nile Republic, arguing that this name would put the country on the map and build an attractive image around a world-famous asset, the Nile river. The White branch of the river runs through the region and is considered to be the country’s most important geographic feature…

But one problem is that Southern Sudaneses are not the only Nilotic people in Africa (the Nile river waters crosses territories in Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya down to Tanzania). Additionally, not all Southern Sudanese peoples are of Nilotic origin, as there are many ethnic groups in the region with no relationship with the Nile or its ancient civilization whatsoever.

Finally, some express preference for Cushitia or Azania, which are two ethnic and geographic names that have been applied to various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, even if they are in disuse today.

Other contenders retain the parent country name with a qualifier: South or Southern Sudan, or New Sudan. The etymological argument is that “Sudan” means “land of black people” in Arabic — an imported term from the Arab-populated north, implying that the remnant Khartoum-controlled state ought to change its name, and bequeath the more accurate descriptor to the new kid on the African block. (The disadvantage is that, regardless of historical origin, “Sudan” is currently associated with a pariah regime, and so might not be so desirable for a proto-state.) A more distant option is extending the name of the capital city, Juba, to the entire territory.

Corporate naming rights, ala sports stadiums and such, are obviously out of the question. Although considering how poor the country will be, despite the petroleum resources, it wouldn’t be the worst idea. If, say, Archer Daniels Midland got to brand-christen this chunk of the global map, its payment should be in the form of generous food subsidies. Similar for a Nikeland and the resultant oasis of free footwear for all citizens. We can always dream.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/10/2021 09:16pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Political
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Sunday, January 09, 2021

Lately, everyone has been prodding me to catch The King’s Speech.

Don’t see it happening. Despite the actual historical basis, the dramatic chops of the cast, and the critical acclaim, the movie’s premise comes off as a stereotypically hackneyed Hollywood pitch: The story of an inbred blueblood and his courageous battle against… stuttering. All against a background of high-British accents and flowery orchestral music. Pass.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/09/2021 12:12pm
Category: History, Movies
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Thursday, January 06, 2021

hammer time
When it comes to ostentatious symbols of power, it’s hard to beat John Boehner’s choice of gavel, pictured above. He’s already taken some grief over its giant-sized resemblance to a polo mallet.

Or is it more like a hammer? Is it, in fact, more reminiscent of Mjollnir, the mythic magical hammer of Thor, the Norse god of thunder? The timing couldn’t be better, as Boehner takes the Congressional reins in the same year that Marvel Studios’ Thor hits movie theaters.

Does our new House Speaker have a god complex (albeit a lower-case one)? If some Capitol Hill page lets leak that Boehner has given a name to his legislative appendage, then I think we’ll have our answer. If Boehner winds up throwing that thing at some Democrat’s head, and it boomerangs back to his hand, then we’ll definitely have our answer…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/06/2021 08:40pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Politics, Pop Culture
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Sunday, January 02, 2021

priming the time
It could have been a disaster, but it turned out to be something of a ratings boon: The rain-threat rescheduling of the 2011 NHL Winter Classic from its original 1pm start time to 8pm later that same New Year’s Day resulted in a success, to the point where the league and the network are considering a permanent shift to primetime.

While that’s great for the National Hockey League, I have to ask: What does this last-minute shuffling say about the state of network television?

What was lost when the time change was announced is how little disruption it caused to NBC’s schedule. Essentially, the network admitted that its entire Saturday was wide open, with nothing else on its air that couldn’t be pushed out of the way in favor of this hockey showcase. That’s on a broadcast channel that’s available in pretty much every U.S. household — the most massive of mass media.

Such a situation would have been unimaginable even ten years ago. Primetime on network TV used to be rarefied territory, every day of the week. Some sort of original programming used to occupy those Saturday slots between 8pm and 11pm, and ad rates would reflect that. With that kind of investment in place, there’d be no way that any sporting event would easily be re-slotted that same day.

But the Winter Classic’s easy transition from afternoon to nighttime illustrates just how much things have changed. What did the hockey game supplant? Back-to-back-to-back reruns of “Law and Order”. In other words, no original programming at all. And NBC is far from alone in this Saturday dead zone: ABC and CBS also air junk fillers. Acknowledging that audiences don’t tune in on weekends — or, at best, just catch up on the week’s DVRed queue — the networks have abandoned any attempts at “must-see TV” on Fridays and Saturdays.

Like I said, this is great for hockey, which continues to gain ground in televised exposure. But it also calls into question the actual value of that televised coverage. If the airtime is so empty on a regular basis, is it really worth occupying? Maybe live events like sports or other entertainment options are ideal for network schedules during these times, but overall, it’s not a healthy indicator for the boob-tube business.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/02/2021 03:22pm
Category: Hockey, TV
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Saturday, January 01, 2021

indies
If nothing else, the year is off to a good start television-wise: IFC Channel is kicking off 2011 with a marathon of “The Larry Sanders Show” episodes!

Easily one of my favorite shows of all time, despite its definite datedness after nearly 20 years. Yeah, I’m sure I could gather up the video from various online sources, or even spring for the finally-available complete series on DVD. But I’ll take the option of having the random ep available on basic cable, whenever I click the television on at night.

It is too nice a New Year’s Day to remain cooped up watching TV. But for a little while at least, it’ll be no flipping and hey-now-ing…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/01/2021 11:37am
Category: Comedy, TV
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Thursday, December 30, 2020

While there’s no shortage of Nigeria-based web domains ending in the standard “.com.ng”, the present shortlink-craving environment is prompting the imminent availability of branding-friendly .ng top-level domains from the African country.

Whilst it will be great for companies within the country to advertise shorter domains and work with an easy suffix, the real value is going to come from internet startups and established internet services that which to turn their company names into verbs.

Oo Nwoye, a Nigerian entrepreneur, spotted the domain registration, proposing that companies like Facebook and Google will move quickly to register domains like Googli.ng and Facebooki.ng.

Good to know that the registration land-rush will predictably proceed. I’m sure that the established Nigerian association with the Internet won’t dissuade anyone from signing up for the online verbi-dot-ng…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/30/2010 10:36pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet, True Crime
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Sunday, December 26, 2020

Argentina is far from the only country to experience political and economic instability over the years. So there must be some other reason for the ingrained national obsession with psychoanalysis:

Buenos Aires is one of the world centres of psychoanalysis and has been since the earliest days of Freud’s work.

Unlike in many countries, where psychoanalysis was, and remains, a psychology for the rich, the practice took off in Argentina during the 1960s to the point where is is common for everyday folk to see an analyst. The Wall Street Journal cites a recent survey suggesting that 32% of Argentinians have seen an analyst at some point in their lives.

Indeed, there are more psychologists per capita in this South American country than anywhere else in the world. One big reason for that seems to be some doubling-up on therapy:

Meanwhile, on TV, a drama series called “Tratame Bien,” (“Treat Me Well”), focuses on the travails of José and Sofia, a husband and wife, each of whom has an analyst. Facing midlife crises, the two make a momentous decision: retaining a third analyst they can see together for couples’ therapy.

Argentine psychosis is obviously big business. They’re practically begging to be the backdrop for the next Woody Allen movie.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2010 01:04pm
Category: Movies, Science, Society
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Friday, December 24, 2020

It’s gone from a flickery 7-minute film loop in 1966 to high-defintion upgrade in 2004. So the next logical step for WPIX Channel 11′s traditional Yule Log is an on-demand 3-D TV rendition.

It’s ultimately underwhelming, actually:

When viewed properly, the 3-D yule log is quite good, the flames vivid but not quite as alarmingly feverish as those in the WPIX yule log in HD. It’s a cozy fire, not a conflagration. The background music, which can be muted, is an inoffensive offering of standards, from a jazz trio rendition of “O Tannenbaum” to a full orchestral version of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.”

After a while the yule log in 3-D is quite hypnotic. Until, of course, you turn to say as much to the person next to you and discover that you are both wearing dark glasses indoors, and then the spell is broken.

Some things are so inherently kitschy that they resist technological amplification. Leave the Yule Log to burn in its old flat-display glory…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/24/2010 01:47pm
Category: New Yorkin', TV
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Monday, December 20, 2021

Why would it suck to be a superhero? Because there’s always going to be more bad guys than good guys.

Think about it. Marvel and DC publish monthly comic titles starring individual superhero characters. While the lead character holds sway from issue to issue, s/he needs different opponents to tangle with each month. In no time at all, that rogues gallery adds up, and you’ve got a gross imbalance between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Periodical publishing is the ultimate aberrant force, it seems!

You’d think the supervillains would figure this out, band together, and overtake all the Batmans, Supermans, and X-Mens of the world. The numerical advantage is clearly theirs, after all. I guess that lack of organizational coordination is why they keep getting foiled…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/20/2010 11:31pm
Category: Pop Culture, Publishing
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Sunday, December 19, 2021

Recent Boston-based films like The Fighter and The Town — and even The Social Network — have featured female characters cut from the same unflattering cloth:

Why must the celluloid version of Massachusetts’ blue-collar babes be so harsh?

Not every woman in Lowell gets into a punching match on their front porch. Or drops the F-bomb from her second-story window within earshot of unsuspecting neighbors. They’re not all Parliament-sucking hos with bleachy, frizzed-out hair and baby-daddies doing six months at MCI Shirley.

But it seems each time I fork over $9.50 for a ticket at AMC Loews Boston Common, I’m being sold another sleazy, stupid Boston Area Broad.

Disparaging portrayals of the Bay State are more of a New York tradition, versus Hollywood. But the movies in question are Oscar-level material, so perhaps there’s a typical Los Angeles-style mixed-message dissing going on here: General acclaim, accompanied by a backhanded swipe to the local womanhood.

The other part of this trend I’ve noticed: These Southie characters are desirable vehicles for glam-girl actresses to change type. In the aforementioned movies, Amy Adams and Blake Lively each donned pretty-but-tough personas, letting the hairspray and curse-words fly in an attempt to “show range” in their acting abilities. It’s a convenient shorthand for expanding career options, but doesn’t particularly come off as convincing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/19/2010 07:37pm
Category: Movies, Society, Women
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Saturday, December 18, 2021

If you think that comic book geeks are an insufferable lot when it comes to film adaptations of their beloved characters, consider the wrath of those who sorta-kinda believe said characters are real. Thor, the next big-budget production coming from Marvel Studios, is facing a boycott from British white supremacists over the casting of a black actor as one of the Asgard crew:

The Council of Conservative Citizens is upset that London-born Idris Elba, star of The Wire and BBC detective series Luther as well as a number of Hollywood films, is to play deity Heimdall in the Marvel Studios feature. The group, which opposes inter-racial marriage and gay rights, has set up a website, boycott-thor.com to set out its opposition to what it sees as an example of leftwing social engineering…

“Now [Marvel] has taken it one further, casting a black man as a Norse deity in their new movie Thor. Marvel has now inserted social engineering into European mythology.”

Note that in the Norse chronicles, Heimdall is the watchman of Bifrost, the rainbow-colored bridge between Midgard (earth) and Asgard (heaven). Given that this Council has a thing against gays and blacks, it’s not surprising that this mythological juxtaposition — black guardian, rainbow-flag road — would have them protesting in favor of a whitewash.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/18/2010 08:00pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Society
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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

In northwestern Connecticut, the small-town Torrington Register Citizen is going the distance in public-collaborative online journalism:

Speaking of the paper’s 34-year-old publisher, Matt DeRienzo: “Matt’s taking his audience and making it a colleague. A building with open doors, with no walls, is the brick-and-mortar metaphor for how the Web works.”

So the idea of the cafe, public lounge and free Wi-Fi isn’t to make money on coffee. It’s to let the public see The Register Citizen as its space. The same thought underlies the public meetings and open newsroom, the opening of the company’s archives, the public spaces for bloggers and the meeting room that will host courses on blogging and journalism, so residents can write and link to the site. The company put together an advisory board of the most enthusiastically pro-digital industry thinkers and actually listened to them. All the printing and traditional nonnews operations like circulation are being outsourced.

Wonder what it’s like plugging away on deadline, while some random “collaborator” wanders through to ask what’s going on…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/15/2010 11:28pm
Category: Internet, Publishing
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Sunday, December 12, 2021

The International Boxing Hall of Fame created a bit of a stir last week with the announcement of its 2011 class — and it wasn’t because Mike Tyson was on the list:

The day’s shocker, though, was that the name Sylvester Stallone appeared alongside the boxing legends.

That’s right, Stallone is going into the BHOF for his contributions to the sport through film. Stallone gained worldwide fame between 1976-2006, playing the fictional character “Rocky Balboa” in six movies.

You can certainly make a solid argument for inducting non-participants in the actual sport. Still, this smacks of yet another wacky action from perhaps the wackiest of organized sports, and brings to my mind this quip from boxing journalist/historian Bert Sugar, on the scandal-plague Ring magazine:

“If Ring is the Bible of boxing,” Sugar cracked, “the sport needs a New Testament.”

But, hey. Maybe the professional pugilists are on to something. Why not honor the fictional ambassadors of any sport with enshrinement? With that in mind, here’s my slate of candidates for other hallowed halls:

Baseball: Kevin Costner, for Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and, um… Waterworld?

Basketball: The coach on “The White Shadow”. Sorry, the only one that stands out for me…

Football: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. C’mon, he’s due! Better than the obvious choice, that overachieving twerp Rudy.

Hockey: No-brainer on The Hanson Brothers, for Slap Shot. And why not — Paul Newman, posthumously.

Horseracing: Mister Ed. And that talking spokes-horse from Yonkers Raceway commercials, while we’re at it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/12/2021 12:10pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Sports
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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

I’m sure it’s been noted by others, but I find it interesting that, in the DVR era, a semantic shift has taken place when referring to “live television”. Here’s a handy example:

[Online advertising provider Say Media] found that almost 56 million Americans belong to a group that the study categorized as “Off the Grid” — they spend more time watching non-live videos (say a YouTube video, or a TV show recorded on DVR) than they spend watching live TV.

Essentially, “live TV” now refers to the broadcasted (or cable-casted) stream of programming. It doesn’t factor in whether that consists of a pre-recorded show or a true live-time telecast. Basically, if it’s coming at you in synchronous state, and you can’t control the playback — saving, pausing, rewinding, or otherwise time-shifting the experience — then it’s “live”.

Traditionally, only certain events like awards shows, sports, or news are considered truly “live” television. The spread of digital video recorders, DVDs, and Web video has redefined that designator. This has more to do with the level of viewer customization, than the actual state of the medium. Obviously, most of what’s on the air is pre-recorded fare; but in the context of active viewer experience, it’s all untamed content. That’s the mass perception that’s taking hold.

It might be more accurate to refer to the programming pumping out of the networks as “raw television” — raw-material media before it’s corralled via digital storage and manipulation. But DVR marketing has touted the ability to “pause live TV” and such, which undoubtedly is a relatable way to convey the functionality. So for better or worse, “live TV” has been redefined.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/07/2021 02:18pm
Category: Society, TV, Tech
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Monday, December 06, 2021

With so much of social media geared toward the shortest of short-form communication (status updates, tweets, etc.), it’s nice to see something like Figment inviting digitally-bred teenagers to expressively stretch out:

Figment.com will be… an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, both on their computers and on their cellphones. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site…

The young people on the site weren’t much interested in “friending” one another. What they did want, [founder Jacob Lewis] said, “was to read and write and discover new content, but around the content itself.”

It’s essentially a peer group centered around a common activity: Writing. As sociable a networking purpose as any — and better than most.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/06/2021 10:36pm
Category: Publishing, Social Media Online
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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Villainize that Comic Sans all you want, but it may have an educational-retention advantage over prettier typefaces:

[Princeton University] researchers found that, on average, those given the harder-to-read fonts actually recalled 14% more.

They believe that presenting information in a way that is hard to digest means a person has to concentrate more, and this leads to “deeper processing” and then “better retrieval” afterwards. It is an example of the positive effects of what scientists call “disfluency”.

“Disfluency is just a subjective feeling of difficulty associated with any mental task,” explained psychology professor Daniel Oppenheimer, one of the co-authors of the study. “So if something is hard to see or hear, it feels disfluent… We’d found that disfluency led people to think harder about things.

Along with Comic Sans, the other intense-comprehension fonts tested were Bodoni, Haettenschweiler, and Monotype Corsiva. All these were versus the “easy” Arial — admittedly, as generic a baseline font as there is.

The concept makes sense: If you expend more mental energy toward something, you’re likelier to remember it, just due to the effort. The biggest challenge is achieving balance — using a font that’s distinctive enough to stick in memory, but not so stylistically out-there that it’s an indecipherable chore to read.

And while this information delivery method is ideal for receptive learning, it’s not a good idea for other media messaging:

The traditional strategy is to design all of the information you’re presenting in a way that is as clear and easy to read as possible. This makes sense, I think, because most often designers are tasked with delivering information to an audience that is assumed to be at worst hostile and at best indifferent to the message. But this policy may be self-defeating in non-advertising contexts.

So if the message is meant to be rapid-fire and not particularly deep, then clean font design is the way to play it. For deeper mental penetration, the funkier designs work. I’m not sure all advertising needs to adhere to the former; you want the sales pitch to stick, after all. If anything, the “easy” fonts are best applied to video-based delivery, where just getting the exposure counts. Anything meant to be more lasting, like print and archived text, can go with the complex serifs/sans serifs.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/27/2010 05:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Science, Society
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Friday, November 19, 2021

I’ve been known to quote from Peter Gent’s “North Dallas Forty” on this blog. So here’s another snippet I’m posting — a succinct meditation on getting uncontrollably older, with the attendant psychological shifts:

I am a man who has learned that survival is the reason of life and that fear and hatred are the emotions. What you cannot overcome by hatred you must fear. And every day it is getting harder to hate and easier to fear.

It takes a lot of energy to hate, and eventually you run out of the mental fuel — from redundancy, if nothing else. The resultant vacuum is filled by lower-impact fear.

Amazing how much I can pick out of this novel, even after reading it for the dozenth-plus time. I guess that’s the treasure-hunting point of re-reading any book periodically.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/19/2010 12:12pm
Category: Football, Publishing
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