Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, January 22, 2021

underground scene
You see them more often than not when you commute via NYC’s underground: Subway musicians, both official and unofficial. (I believe Bedford Station subway harp lady, above, is/was in the latter camp.)

I wonder, how often does such exposure lead to a big-time musical career? Is it a steppingstone to the top, or a dead end? Or a desperate last-gasp for attention?

The cause for my pondering was a recent couple of tweets from an aspiring band. They announced their impromptu performances on the Union Square platform, basically as a way to drum up attention for their paying gigs. For some reason, to me, this came off as a sign that they’re not doing too hot — resorting to the subway just to get noticed.

Fact is, this metro-musicality has been around for years, and to my knowledge, has yet to produce a breakout pop star. Probably not the best route to a career in the recording studio.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/22/2011 06:05pm
Category: Celebrity, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Tuesday, January 18, 2021

If your suburban lineage precludes you from ever setting foot in Williamsburg, then you and your newly-minted college degree should be singing the praises of Murray Hill:

A good lyrical summation of the current state of this lower-Upper East Side ‘hood. Although this sums it up even better:

Adam Greenberg, 23, knew when he moved into Windsor Court a month ago that he was already acquainted with more than 100 people in the neighborhood, many from the same high school (Wheatley on Long Island), sleepaway camp (Equinunk) and college (Syracuse University) he attended.

“Everyone knows everyone,” he said. “If I don’t know them, I’m sure I have a friend who knows them.”

Joshua Schwadron, who lived until recently in another of Murray Hill’s postgraduate hives, where he could claim Facebook friendships with half of the residents, put it this way: “You leave college and you think you’ll be nostalgic for your community, and you realize that the community never goes away — if you live in the right place.”

Amusingly enough, that prospect — of the same high-school people surrounding you in college, and so on going forward — was my worst nightmare as I entered early adulthood. My instincts compelled me to dodge that destiny by decamping to Florida for my baccalaureate work. Today’s graduates obviously follow different impulses.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/18/2011 10:08pm
Category: College Years, New Yorkin'
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Monday, January 17, 2021

take a spinI’m pretty sure I’ve seen this sort of contraption before, but never sitting on the curb awaiting trash pickup. Which is where I cameraphoned this one, on 14th Street as I approached Union Square (which is just about right, all told).

Yes, this is a wheel of fortune, as the garbageman out-of-frame informed me. But a jury-rigged one, built from an old bicycle wheel (note the old foot pedal, now used as a hand crank) with a deck of playing cards stuck into the spokes. My favorite touch: The inclusion of a couple of MetroCards in the circle-spinning rotation. A New York-style wildcard!

Wish I had been in on the casino night connected to this sidewalk artifact. The picture is enough, short of hauling the junk away myself.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/17/2011 08:27pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Photography
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Monday, January 03, 2021

There are a gazillion eateries surrounding New York’s theater district, but none of them have the distinctive ambiance of Joe Allen Restaurant. Said ambiance is delivered by The Flop Wall: A decades-old collection of theatrical posters from some of Broadway’s most spectacular/overhyped flops.

I’ll have to drop into Joe’s for lunch sometime, to see the wall art for myself. The online slideshow is fine, but not particularly user-friendly. It does include the poster for 1972′s “Via Galactica”, a seven-performance sci-fi musical flameout that seemed doomed from the start:

For a moment the show was to be called “Up,” but when posted next to the Uris [Theater] name on the marquee, it sent an unfortunate message. Once again, the title became “Via Galactica.”

Hopefully, Joe Allen’s has reserved some wall space for the next sure-bet addition to this rogues gallery, the body-count building spectacle that is “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/03/2021 08:57am
Category: Creative, Food, New Yorkin'
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Sunday, January 02, 2021

Let’s review a dictionary definition of the word “brunch”:

[noun] a meal eaten late in the morning, combining breakfast with lunch

Pretty straightforward, especially that “late in the morning” part. Heck, that in-between time, from about 10am until noon, is what underlies the portmanteau created from br(eakfast) and (l)unch.

So, to all you New York restaurants and patrons touting “brunch” well after 12pm, to as late as 3 or 4: Stop it. You’re not brunching by that preposterous hour of the day. I don’t care how many eggs benedict and mimosas you’re scarfing down — if the sun is starting to set, you’re either late-lunching or (God forbid) supping. And really need to get more of a move-on to your day, frankly, especially considering that brunch is already intended to be a leisurely ease-in to the day.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/02/2021 01:35pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin', Wordsmithing
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Friday, December 31, 2020

Maybe it’s a sign of my geographic self-centeredness, but I can’t look at today’s abbreviation “NYE” and not mentally process the first two letters as “New York”.

It might have something to do with that big-ass New Year’s Eve party they’re having in Times Square. Not that I’m attending it tonight, what with the crush of excessive crowds and the preponderance of post-blizzard street slush.

I guess I’m associating a universal event too closely with a local venue. Then again, why not? It’s more plausible to link the holiday with swingin’ Manhattan than, say, “North Yakima Eve”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/31/2010 11:14am
Category: New Yorkin', Weather
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Wednesday, December 29, 2020

pond-eringI knew that if I hung around Bryant Park long enough today, I would find something worth photographing.

This little snowman was an impromptu urban creation, built atop the piled-up snow drifts that surround The Pond ice-skating rink. His eyes are nothing but concentrated street-grime, his mouth a random ground-twig, and his arms a couple of drinking straws. The crowning touch, though — and what really prompted me to take the picture — is that green scarf, emblazoned with “BRYANT PARK” and actually a scrap of plastic caution tape left over from the hazard barricades for the park’s icy walkways. Truly a city snowman. And at least one good thing to come out of all this blizzard-snow.

Assuming he hasn’t already been cleared away, I think the Park should adopt this little guy as their seasonal mascot. Beats those green chairs! The crowds definitely took to him, as I saw bunches of people posing for a picture.

Speaking of which, the bigger Flickrized version of my cameraphone photo really shows off this snowman’s rinkside stature.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/29/2010 07:58pm
Category: New Yorkin', Photography, Weather
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Sunday, December 26, 2020

flakey weather
Mother Nature couldn’t let this year bow out without hitting the Northeast with a bona fide blizzard. As I type, the flakes are blowing past my window vertically, signifying the gusty winds that are accompanying the season’s first real snow.

If the predictions hold and we see a foot of snow tomorrow, I’m well-prepared to hole up for the next two days. The only thing I’m really concerned about is any disruption to the utilities, particularly the cable/Internet connection. I went through an extended wintry-walloped communications blackout last year, and have no desire to experience a repeat. (And there’s only so much I can do via my iPhone, assuming AT&T’s 3G network even weathers the storm.)

Regardless, I think it’s fitting that this seasonal disruption should come precisely in the annual dead-zone between Christmas and New Year’s. I think it’s generally acknowledged that it’s pretty much impossible to get anything significant accomplished between December 26th and December 31st, with everyone taking time off and generally in drain-the-calendar mode. Now, the elements are joining in to squash any hopes of year-end productivity. So be it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2010 02:43pm
Category: Business, New Yorkin', Weather
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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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Sunday, December 19, 2021

The most popular theatrical play that you’ve probably never heard of is “Almost, Maine”. Why is this quirky look at snowbound New England romance the rage of high-school and repertory stages across the land, when it flamed out years ago Off Broadway?

Maybe it was because the play — composed of nine vignettes — offered material that students could break off and perform at drama competitions and that professional actors could present at auditions. Or could the key to success be that the text can be performed by as few as 4 people or as many as 19?

“If you are a professional playwright looking to make it in New York, you write something with the smallest possible cast,” said Doug Rand, chairman of the licensing company Playscripts Inc. “Amateur theater groups want to have as big a cast as possible. New York really hasn’t generated that kind of work in decades. So, when you come across that work, it’s like water in the desert.”

Curious creative economics. Although there must be something to it, as I prefer plays that are as focused and stripped-down as possible, including a tight cast of less than a half-dozen characters. Consequently, I doubt that “Almost” would be to my liking, at least not past the first couple of vignettes.

As for the play’s backdrop, Maine’s national profile probably hasn’t benefited this much since that ship blew up in Havana harbor.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/19/2010 01:49pm
Category: Creative, History, New Yorkin'
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Monday, December 13, 2021

caged heet
Those weird floor-to-ceiling turnstiles you sometimes encounter in New York’s underground? They’re known to swipe an extra MetroCard swipe:

“These are the biggest robbers down here,” one transit worker said as he repaired a high entrance-exit turnstile, or HEET, in the Union Square station.

Here’s what happens. A confused or distracted rider steps into the wrong opening of a revolving-door turnstile after paying. From that position, slightly left of center, the turnstile will rotate in the correct, counterclockwise direction — for a few feet. It then locks again.

The rider is still on the outside looking in. The turnstile won’t budge unless fed another $2.25.

“It happens all the time,” another turnstile repairman said. “Most of the time it’s tourists, but sometimes it even happens to people who live here. Nobody knows. There’s no signs or information.”

Funny thing that this “exposé” is reported today. Just this morning, I’m pretty sure one of these HEETs robbed me of the last swipe off my MetroCard.

I didn’t blame the gate, though. I’d been having trouble with this new MetroCard ever since I was forced to buy it a couple of months ago — the one I had been using was declared soon-to-expire by an auto-kiosk, which wouldn’t give me a refill unless I transferred my remaining balance to a new card. Ever since, I’ve had trouble with it not being read, by regular low-height turnstiles as well. This morning was the last straw, as I tossed the damn card into the trash as soon as I saw it was down to like 50 cents. I bought a new card and already can tell this one is more readable by the MTA scanner-slots.

I’ll still avoid the HEET gates as much as possible. There’s no problem in using them to exit, naturally. But then, that’s where the trouble starts, when you’re exiting while someone on the other side is trying to enter. When it come to paying for entry, it’s worth the extra few steps to avoid getting fleeced.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/13/2010 10:51pm
Category: New Yorkin'
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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Talk about instant karma, or near enough:

Last month, DecorMyEyes.com owner Vitaly Borker bragged openly to the New York Times about how he aggressively cultivates negative feedback, which paradoxically boosts his eyewear business’ Google rankings and clickthru rate.

Today, we find out that those cultivation methods are criminally aggressive: Borker was arrested in Brooklyn on harassment and cyberbullying charges.

Online, his threats were “absolutely unspeakable” and “bone-chilling,” the prosecutor continued.

A pregnant woman was threatened with “physical and sexual violence” and a Colorado customer who complained was told: “I pee on your negative (comments). Now you lost your glasses b—h!”

Too bad Borker can’t claim to have been framed — pun intended…

It’s a measure of rough justice, assuming he gets what’s coming to him. There are scores of online con artists waiting to fill the void left by Borker, but so what — at least he’s out of the equation. (And yes, I halfway do expect to hear from Borker at some point over this very post, given his established Web acuity. So be it.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/07/2021 10:37pm
Category: Business, Internet, New Yorkin', True Crime
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Sunday, December 05, 2021

The attempt to give a name to the freelancer phenomenon of hours-long wi-fi workspacing in coffeeshops — “Laptopistan” — is exceedingly lame. But at least the article imparted the business strategy behind hosting such seemingly freeloading behavior:

While the people behind the screens spent a paltry $6 to $10 per day, their true value is as a draw for more profitable takeout customers, [Brooklyn-based Atlas Cafe co-owner Enrico] Lorenzetti said. From the moment the door opens at 7 a.m. until it closes at 9 p.m., the place is buzzing, a productive society, visible from the street through wraparound windows. “People come in to buy food and coffee to go, because they see a full crowd,” he said. “They think ‘Hey, this place must be good if I can’t even get a table.’”

I’ve logged my fair share of time on Starbucks‘ wireless network, notebook computer propped open the whole time. And I definitely didn’t break the bank during these work sessions: A cup of tea plus a bagel would last me for my requisite couple of hours (with a refill for which they might or might not charge a few cents). When you’re shuttling between clients all day, there’s no better mobile office setting.

However, I’ve never frequented a coffeeshop that was utterly dominated by this co-working presence. That is, it’s still unmistakenly a public place of business, and you have to “put up” with regular coffee-drinking patrons coming in, making noise, and otherwise not engaging in any sort of work-like quietude. I’m able to achieve some task-centric focus in this non-home-office, but I can’t rely on it as a fully-functioning workspace.

But again, it does the job for what it is. And if my occupying a space helps the store draw in crowd-seeking customers, it’s a win-win.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/05/2021 01:44pm
Category: Business, New Yorkin', Society, Wi-Fi
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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Is Facebook too behemoth-like for your friending tastes? Then maybe you should give Smiley a try.

Sure, Smiley. Why not? I know, it looks pretty cookie-cutter and amateurish. That’s because it is. I only found out about it from a subway-plastered flier, which consisted of nothing more than long run-on text in all-caps, exhorting anyone who bothered to read it to join up. Oh, and that this little site supported videochatting, pointing out that Facebook did not. As hokey (and even suspect) as the pitch was, I couldn’t help but be a little touched, and even more curious.

It’ll be the miracle of the century if Smiley ever grows to challenge Facebook. But who knows — with the do-it-yourself social networking sites and software services out there, the odds are that some homegrown walled garden will achieve some measure of success. Unless the concept of decentralized social networks is inherently unworkable — which it probably is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/01/2021 10:31pm
Category: New Yorkin', Social Media Online, Society
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Monday, November 29, 2021

When you attempt beekeeping in New York City, you have to expect the bees to pick up some less-than-natural local color:

A fellow beekeeper sent samples of the red substance that the bees were producing to an apiculturalist who works for New York State, and that expert, acting as a kind of forensic foodie, found the samples riddled with Red Dye No. 40, the same dye used in maraschino cherry juice.

No one knows for sure where the bees might have consumed the dye, but neighbors of [Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company factory on Dikeman Street in Red Hook] reported that bees in unusually high numbers were gathering nearby.

The result is red bees, living in red hives that are filled with a decidedly unhoneylike metallic-sickly-sweet red nectar. Kinda gross. But at least there’s an aesthetically pleasing side effect:

“When the sun is a bit down, they glow red in the evenings,” [beekeeper David Selig] said. “They were slightly fluorescent. And it was beautiful.”

I guess that visual showcase lessens the sting of failure.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/29/2010 11:19pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin', Science
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Monday, November 22, 2021

skin and bones
Last seen imposing his aesthetic on mainstream pop culture, a certain West Coast graffiti artist is currently laying down ink on Manhattan hotel-guest skins:

It was a scene that unfolds along low-rent commercial strips in towns big and small, but this was no storefront tattoo parlor, with neon signs in the windows and folding chairs in cramped quarters. Instead, it was the pop-up studio of Mister Cartoon — a tattooist who counts Eminem, Beyoncé and Mena Suvari as clients — at the Marcel at Gramercy, an upscale boutique hotel looking to distinguish itself from the pack.

As part of the hotel’s artist-in-residence series, Mister Cartoon, who is based in Los Angeles and usually has a three-to-six-month waiting list for appointments, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, has created original artwork that hangs in the lobby. And from Nov. 14 through Wednesday, he is offering his services out of a two-bedroom suite.

A tattoo artist-in-residence? Seems more properly a Chelsea Hotel thing, versus this celebrity-whoring boutique. As if to underline the clientele, the article features Tommy Hilfiger‘s rehabbed son booking a session with Cartoon.

I wonder if Hilfiger Jr., or anyone else, has requested the above sombrero-skull sample of Cartoon’s work? Despite my fondness for this detail, my revulsion of body ink ensures that I won’t be getting it seared onto my skin.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/22/2010 08:49pm
Category: Creative, Fashion, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

way westside
At present, the New York City subway system is contained within four of the City’s five boroughs. That might change if an extension of the No. 7 line into the Garden State takes off:

The plan envisions the No. 7 stretching from 34th Street on the Far West Side of Manhattan to Secaucus, N.J., where there is a connection to New Jersey Transit trains. It would extend the New York City subway outside the city for the first time, giving New Jersey commuters direct access to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Queens, and to almost every line in the system.

It’s a long way from conception to reality; this is basically a money-saving Plan B, after New Jersey has nixed the massive ARC rail tunnel project into Manhattan over cost concerns. Trenton could deem this alternative to be too expensive to bear as well.

But assuming this goes forward, I wonder how long it would take for the next natural step: Extending the City limits into New Jersey. Future projections routinely envision New York formally annexing adjacent Hudson and/or Bergen counties, mostly as efficiency measures. I think the 7 line would serve as a primer, both practical and psychological, for eventual assimilation into borough-hood.

If that works out, maybe the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can plan on extending lines into Connecticut, Westchester, Rockland… heck, all the way to Albany and beyond! Eventually subway tunnels will stretch all over the northeast, and a MetroCard swipe will take you from Plattsburgh to Atlantic City.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/17/2010 10:06pm
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Monday, November 15, 2021

Subway stealing is apparently no longer a young man’s game, as the NYPD says the City’s pickpocket threat is down to a small clique of 40-to-60-year-old veterans:

It once was common to come across teenagers as young as 13 learning the tricks of the trade from professionals — an urban apprenticeship of sorts for aspiring city criminals…

At some point, junior crooks decided picking pockets in the subways didn’t pay — at least not enough for the risk involved. A pick with a record can expect two years in prison if convicted of grand larceny, one undercover said. Young guys now just want to deal drugs, old-timer pickpockets have griped to police.

Hard to believe the ROI on thievery has fallen off so much. People have been pickpocketing for centuries, and sardine-can crowds like those underground seem ideal for the trade. The generational gap hints at no honor among thieves, indeed.

Still, I’m going to continue being acutely aware of where my wallet and other valuables are while I ride my daily trains, just as I have since childhood. Just because there’s a talent drought in the finger-felony business doesn’t mean it’s safe to let your guard down.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/15/2010 11:41pm
Category: New Yorkin', Society, True Crime
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Friday, November 12, 2021

While you can’t get off at the decommissioned subway station under City Hall, you can pass through for a look-see:

Still, although it’s not open to the general public, there’s a way in-the-know New York subway riders can still see this famous and beautiful architectural glimpse at the city’s past. The 6 train used to make all passengers leave the train at the Brooklyn Bridge stop, but no longer. If you have a little extra time, you can stay on the train and view the City Hall Station as the train makes its turnaround.

Where’s the secret here? I’m betting a few dozen 6 train snoozers per day wind up making this tour by oversleeping and missing their downtown stop. No biggie.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/12/2021 08:44am
Category: New Yorkin'
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Monday, November 08, 2021

For some reason, the notable thing I saw on today’s E Train wasn’t the Rastafarian’s video-playing iPad, nor his Rasta-colored Skullcandy headphones, nor his indescribably-dyed dreads.

No, it was the beer-bottle-like container of saké, hanging from his pant pocket, that caught my interest.

Call me clueless, but I didn’t realize they even sold recreational single-serve bottles of rice wine. Only in New York! Oh, and I’m guessing all of Japan, too.

I tried to get a cameraphone photo of this scene, if for nothing else to snag a clearer image of the bottle’s label. Unfortunately, the frame I surreptitiously snapped was way too pixelated/blurry to make out. Now, I’ll never know what brand saké is favored by New York’s Jamaican tippler community…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/08/2021 10:58pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin'
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Sunday, October 31, 2021

in the dark
I’m unabashedly swiping this photo of a goblin-green lit Empire State Building taken by @PRCog this past Friday. Because I kind of fell in love with it.

As for the rest of my All Hallow’s Eve? This gothic-style cameraphonephoto is probably the extent of it. I was planning to roam about, catching at least part of the Village Halloween Parade, and gawking at the street-displayed costumes. But, it’s already bitterly cold this afternoon, and it’s looking like near-freezing weather with winds tonight. So I’ll pass. At least I’ll have some Halloween candy to supplement my football-watching.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/31/2010 04:28pm
Category: New Yorkin', Photography, Social Media Online
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