Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, October 29, 2021

In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx famously dropped a quip about “the idiocy of rural life”.

It turns out that “idiocy” is a mistranslation; he actually was referring to a repressive socioeconomic feudal regime, and used an outdated academic term for it. But I have a feeling that, had Marx spent any time dealing with building contractors in upstate New York, he would have unambiguously gone with “idiocy”, because nothing else fits.

I’ve spent this entire month attempting to get someone in Orange County to do a few repairs on my mother’s house: A leaky roof, a blacktop driveway paving, etc. I’m doing it long distance, which means phone calls. Which means a lot of voicemails that never get returned, and addresses that get garbled, and so on.

What gets me is how often I simply never hear back from any of these schmucks. I don’t know if they’re scared off by my area code, or the house’s location, or if they’re somehow so busy that they can afford to blow off new work (ha!). Whatever the reason, the upshot is that days are wasted because of lack of communication, and ultimately nothing gets done.

I’m somewhat surprised by this ordeal, but not much. I grew up in this environment, so I ought to be well-acquainted with the lackadaisical attitude. I used to defend it as small-town charm; now, I recognize it for the ingrained incompetence that it is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/29/2010 10:16am
Category: New Yorkin', Political Theory, Society
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Monday, February 23, 2021

He’s not the first to point out the relationship between grandiose urban landscapes and oppressive governments, but Slate’s Matthew Polly turns a nice descriptive trick when summing up the beauty that is Russia’s St. Petersburg:

Nowhere is that more true than on Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main thoroughfare and most famous street. (Gogol again: “What splendors does this street not know!”) Driving down it was like a flashback to Architecture 101′s final exam. Hmm, let’s see: Neoclassical, Style Moderne, Baroque, Neoclassical, Neoclassical, Baroque.

Say this about absolute monarchies: While living under them is awful (tens if not hundreds of thousands died building St. Petersburg, their bodies laid into the foundation), they do leave behind magnificent cities. Democracies, while far more pleasant, leave behind places like Phoenix.

Maybe more apt a democratic example would be Florida’s St. Petersburg, which is not only the original St. Pete‘s sister city, but was also my home for a good decade-and-a-half. Much like Phoenix or any other Sunbelt town, it’s fairly flattened out, and while it’s got its share of modest architectural charms, the stripmall remains the most distinguishing structural landmark.

But true, at least no one got killed while building the American version. Although, I could conjure up the old “God’s Waiting Room” nickname and assign the Gulf Coast city its own body count.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/23/2009 08:18pm
Category: Florida Livin', History, Political Theory, Society
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Thursday, January 29, 2021

One concept of the meaning of freedom:

Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.

- Rosa Luxemburg, in “The Russian Revolution”

Implying that anyone in-line with the mainstream is, by definition, not free. Under this model, the freedom of the other is the only freedom that counts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/29/2009 10:44pm
Category: History, Political Theory, Society
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Tuesday, August 26, 2021

The intent of self-proclaimed anarchists to orchestrate street demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention prompts some kind of joke about the compatibility of anarchy with large-scale mobilization.

And here is that joke:

If anarchists organize other anarchists to promote anarchism in some choreographed form, will the world explode?

Not much chance of that, if the haplessness of Denver’s generally clueless anarcho-loiterists is any indication:

“No pictures!” shouted an officer from behind a perimeter fence.

“Why not?,” asked Chas Robles, of Ridgecrest, Calif.

“Because the Secret Service says so,” the officer replied.

“That’s not right. You’re not my mom,” Robles said.

“Then go home to your mommy,” the officer retorted.

Robles, who leads a conservation crew in the Mojave Desert, and his compatriots moved on.

“Where are we going guys?” asked Brendan, a Norman, Okla., resident who asked that his last name not be used so he can’t be identified. “I’ve been antsy to see something all day, and we haven’t seen anything.”

“You’re not my mom”?? Some revolutionary cry of defiance that is. It’s less a metaphor against statism than it is a Freudian slip.

All in all, Denver’s looking like a piss-poor showcase for the political system of anarchism. These jokers remind me of standard-issue libertarians — perhaps not surprisingly, since their avowed political goals are actually pretty close (libertarians still want a state, just a bare-bones one). But in both cases, the labels wind up being co-opted by malcontents who simply want any outlet at all for their agendas, which often have nothing at all to do with the ideology with which they’re supposedly aligned.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/26/2008 11:35pm
Category: Political Theory, Politics
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Monday, August 18, 2021

I’d never had occasion to visit the intersection of Lafayette and Worth Streets in Manhattan before skating past it during the City’s Summer Streets event two Saturdays ago (as well as this past Saturday).

When I did, I immediately noticed the ceremonial name attached to this stretch of Worth: Avenue of the Strongest.

Who are these “strongest”? They are, of all things, New York’s sanitation workers, and were bestowed this honorific back in 1996.

I’ve got no particular quibbles with giving these civil servants a street to call their own. But “avenue of the strongest”? I’m sure strength is a laudable virtue of the garbage collector, but to exalt to this degree seems extreme. The name comes off as vaguely totalitarian, like something that you’d come across in a history of Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany.

[image credit]

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/18/2008 10:53pm
Category: New Yorkin', Political Theory
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Sunday, August 13, 2021

cold war
Thanks to the impasse between Russia and the IIHF over agreement on an NHL player-transfer agreement, projected superstar forward and Pittsburgh Penguins first-rounder Evgeni Malkin is apparently taking the undercover route to play hockey in North America this season.

“The players, coaching staff are very upset because for four days Malkin was training with the team and suddenly he is gone without saying a word to anyone,” club head Gennady Velichkin told Reuters on Sunday.

Malkin, who was drafted second overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2004, was with the team in Finland for training camp when he disappeared with his belongings and passport on Saturday.

This is hauntingly reminiscent of the Cold War SOP of smuggling Soviet draft picks from behind the Iron Curtain. Is this how it’s going to be — effectively forcing young Russian players to “defect” in order to join their National Hockey League clubs?

Next thing you know, even the most highly-touted talents in Russia will be passed over until the later rounds of the Entry Draft, simply because the chances of getting them to North America will be so iffy. That was the case in the ’80s, when the likes of Slava Fetisov and Alexander Mogliny weren’t picked until the late, despite their high ratings. Another Cold War, indeed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/13/2006 03:35pm
Category: Hockey, Political Theory
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Sunday, February 19, 2021

Francis Fukuyama is hardly the first author to have his concepts co-opted by unexpected circles. Still, despite his earlier disassociation with the neocons, I have to believe that his latest repudiation of the movement is as harsh as he can make it:

“The End of History,” in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like [William] Kristol and [Robert] Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

Regardless of the relative ideological neutrality of Leninism (its methods can be applied independently of economic system, as the Nazis and scores of other far-right regimes demonstrated), presenting a comparison with communism is enough to make the likes of Kristol and Kagan see, er, red. Even couched in Fukuyama’s clinic analysis, I’d say the gloves are fully off.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/19/2006 10:29pm
Category: Political Theory
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Sunday, March 06, 2021

Marxism points to the theory of alienation as a damaging condition of living as a worker in a capitalist society.

Silly leftists! I guess their historical dialectic didn’t foresee that industrial-themed musical productions are the perfect corporate tonic for any feelings of extreme separation from the products of one’s own labor. Spending ten hours in a canning factory is a breeze as long as you have a toe-tapping revue to look forward to at the next company meeting!

Not to get too carried away with the sociological significance of these audio artifacts, but [industrial musical collector Steve] Young believes that the recording of industrial musicals helps shed some light on the inner workings of modern-day corporations.

“They say things at these shows that they don’t say in public,” Young said.

Among the “sinister corporate chatter” Young has detected is a lyric in a 1979 Coca-Cola bottlers show that talks about sending “the OSHA guys straight to hell.” And a 1957 Ford show predicted that, in the sales realm at least, “we’ll beat the hell out of Chevy!”

Bygone corporate culture to a three-quarters beat. I love it! In fact, I think it would behoove today’s corporations to adopt this all-singin’ all-dancin’ human-resource approach. Here are some motivational song proposals, appropriate to each company:

Microsoft: “Fire That Fox“, “Pluck That Penguin“.

Halliburton: “We Know Dick“, “That Petrol Emotion”.

Wal-Mart: “Big-Box Stores, Big-Box Hearts”, “Zoning-Board Blues”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/06/2021 03:02pm
Category: Business, Creative, Political Theory
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