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Monday, October 11, 2021

Last night’s “MoneyBart” episode of “The Simpsons” likely won’t be remembered as anything more than yet another latter-day edition of a series well past its prime. On the other hand, its opening-credits “couch gag” sequence might overshadow it, thanks to the participation of British graffiti artist Banksy:

The minute-long opening sequence begins almost as usual, but with Banksy’s tag being sprayed across Springfield monuments, and a masked Bart writing “I must not write all over the walls” over the walls of his schoolroom.

It then pans to a dark, dilapidated factory where dozens of workers animate sketches of the family. Cats are shown being thrown into a wood chipper to create stuffing for merchandise such as Bart Simpson dolls. A unicorn, chained to the factory wall, is used to punch holes in DVDs.

The titles end with a grim image of the logo of the show’s owner, 20th Century Fox, guarded by searchlights, a watchtower and a barbed wire fence.

And let’s not forget the beast-of-burden panda being whipped, or the decapitated dolphin-head whose tongue was used to seal merchandise boxes. And this did actually air on network air.

It’s important to remember that such over-the-top imagery is traditionally par for the course for the series. All the online debate over a “message” being sent by Banksy is ill-founded — the absurdity of the politically-incorrect symbols exposes the inherent parody. And, as has been noted, if the FOX higher-ups signed off on this expression, just how “subversive” can it truly be?

Still, something memorable from the old animated warhorse. Almost makes up for the fumes the show has been running on for the past decade-plus.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/11/2021 11:23pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, TV
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Sunday, October 10, 2021

It’s hard to believe that the busiest man in comic books is an 87-year-old living legend. But that appears to be the case, based on Stan Lee‘s recently-announced projects:

- “The Seekers”, a digitally-delivered superhero/”high concept” series he’s developing for MTV’s Geek website;

- “The Guardian Project”, a superhero series featuring characters that represent each of the 30 National Hockey League franchises.

Good to see Lee still going strong, decades after his Marvel heyday. Also curious to consider that some media/entertainment entities think the superheroic genre is still relevant enough to reach younger audiences, especially via words-and-pictures borne media. But hey, as long as they’re buying, Lee might as well be selling.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/10/2021 05:31pm
Category: Celebrity, Internet, Media, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

It’s a well-known practice for Hollywood’s movie and TV productions to stretch their budgets by shooting in Toronto and Vancouver. Science fiction vehicles, in particular, seem to gravitate north of the border, and the location seems to have permeated the entire final product:

[Producer] Brad Wright suggests that the success of the franchise might actually have something to do with its Canadian content. “Maybe this is blowing our own horn a little bit,” he says, “but one of the reasons our show does so well overseas is because it’s not written from a completely American sensibility. Granted, it is American funded and the characters on “SG-1″ were American military people, and I’m not denying that for a second. But the voices writing the show somehow made Stargate more attractive to British, French, Italian and German viewers. For some reason, we do very well over there, and maybe that’s because it’s from a Canadian voice.”

Is our televised sci-fi consumption being informed by Canuck sensibilities? I suppose the seeds for this Great White Northification were sown back in the ’60s, when the role of James Tiberius Kirk was filled by a Montreal native

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/05/2021 10:44pm
Category: Pop Culture, TV
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Monday, October 04, 2021

shuffling forth
The title of this post alludes to the six-month gap since the last edition of my iPod/iPhone’s shuffled-up music track output. No particular reason for the lapse — the randomized nature of the source also extends to my desire to actually document it here.

That said, here are the last five numbers to play on my earbuds, with lyrical snippet for each:

1. “Month of May”, Arcade Fire - The violent wind blew the wires away.

2. “Candy Perfume Girl”, Madonna - Speak delicious fires.

3. “Vasoline”, Stone Temple Pilots - One time a thing occurred to me.

4. “Frisky Girl (Michael Conway Remix)”, Thee-O & D’Morse - Close your eyes.

5. “Pray”, M.C. Hammer - Just to make it today.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/04/2021 09:28am
Category: Pop Culture, iPod Random Tracks
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Saturday, October 02, 2021

If you’ve been itching to realize the tax write-off benefits from that donation you dropped on your neighborhood Druid, good news: Druidry is now an officially-recognized religion in the UK.

“There is a sufficient belief in a supreme being or entity to constitute a religion for the purposes of charity law,” declared the Charity Commission for England and Wales in response to the Druid Network’s application.

The decision will give the religion, known for its worship at Stonehenge and other sites, tax advantages and is expected to lead to broader acceptance.

“This has been a long hard struggle taking over five years to complete,” said the Druid Network, which is based in England, in a statement on its website.

And if these trees-and-rocks worshiping types can get the British seal of approval, then the Jedis can reasonably expect equal time:

“It will damn fine if that shizzle happens,” said Sam L Windu, Grand Jedi Master, “This is exactly the kind of news we have been waiting for. Yoda and I have been working on this for a long time.”

Grand Master Yoda agrees: “A long time have we on this worked,” stated the mini Midi-chlorian manipulatist in his inimitable slack bang way. “If Druidry religion is, then Jedi soon will follow. The way of The Force this is.”

I’m sold. Tomorrow I’ll be investing in a lightsabre and a gnarled wooden staff. Oh, and a hoodie, to join these two silly faiths together.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/02/2021 07:55pm
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture, Society
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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Tonight, I deleted every single song by The Hives that was on my hard drive/iTunes library (and, by extension, my iPhone and iTouch).

I’m treating this development as a sign of unexpected maturity. Let’s go with that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/28/2010 07:39pm
Category: Pop Culture, iPhone, iPod
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Saturday, September 25, 2021

b before cLet the pop-cultural record show that Shakira‘s last big hit single was “Loba” (or “She Wolf” in English).

Her new song release is “Loca”, or “Crazy” in translation.

“Loba”, then “Loca”. Was that similarity planned? Then naturally, the alphabetical progression calls for her next release to be entitled “Loda”. Not that that’s a real word in Spanish or English, but a pattern is a pattern. And really, since it’s Shakira, I’ll listen to just about anything she puts out, since it’ll sound good regardless of meaning.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/25/2010 11:44am
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Women
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Thursday, September 23, 2021

While Katy Perry applied the requisite Kidz Bop re-lyricism to her song “Hot N Cold” for a duet with Elmo on “Sesame Street”, she neglected to clean up the rest of her act:

After the clip hit YouTube Monday, Gawker ran a story that called attention to the video and Katy’s look. Parents checking out the video began leaving critical comments like, “Couldn’t she wear something that was more. oh idk. APPROPRIATE” and “I DO NOT want my five year old lookin at [that]!” But, as TMZ notes, Perry wasn’t actually half-naked — her outfit featured a flesh-colored mesh top that went all the way up to her neck, like a figure-skating costume.

Sesame Workshop, the company that produces the show, responded to the controversy this morning by announcing that producers have decided to pull the song from the broadcast version of the program. The clip will remain online at KatyPerry.com, however, so the singer’s more mature fans can watch it.

And here’s that “mature” performance, boobies and all:

As usual, a lot of huffing-puffing outrage from parents who are projecting their own hang-ups onto their children. Although I admit that Perry should have thought twice before donning anything flesh-colored for a children’s television appearance. Or did she think she would be performing with the infamous rogue Elmo from Times Square?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/23/2010 11:25pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, TV, Women
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Sunday, September 19, 2021

She: I just… think… we’re all overdue… for a reinvention, y’know?
Me: How do you mean?
She: It’s like… cultural, man. Y’know? Like, see that kid with the KISS tshirt?
Me: Yeah?
She: That’s… what I mean… Like, how old… is that, anyway? Like from the ’70s? He’s like 12… where’s… the new stuff, y’know?
Me: So there’s too much old stuff… still in circulation?
She: Yeah… I mean, yeah. Isn’t there?
Me: I agree, actually.
She: It’s… yeah.
Me: I mean, how long can these bands, and movies, and all that, stay relevant?
She: That’s it, man. It’s… Relevant? No… just… time…
Me: Time… for a change? Somehow?
She: Yeah… I mean… you get it, right?
Me: Think so.
She: I’m making sense, right? Seventies, eighties… shouldn’t still be around, right?
Me: No. At least, not as much. I totally get it.
She: Totally… Change, a reinvention… a new… set of… point of reference.

Despite my companion’s spaced-out delivery, what she was saying struck home with me, because I’d been pondering that same sentiment myself, and for a long while. Rather than expound upon it, I’ll let the above exchange stand, as insubstantial as it is. And punctuate it with this Ernest Hemingway quote from “The Sun Also Rises”:

“How did you go bankrupt?”
“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

Because I have a feeling that this is just how this zeitgeist will work itself out.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/19/2010 09:42pm
Category: Pop Culture, Society
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Friday, September 10, 2021

comfortably nullAfter much anticipation, I tore through Bret Easton Ellis’ “Imperial Bedrooms”, the sequel to his very first novel, “Less Than Zero”.

Then, I read through it a second time, at a more languid pace.

Sure enough, I came away with the same feeling both times upon story conclusion: I wanted to throw up. But in a good way.

So, job well done, Mr. Ellis.

Actually, not so well done. I realize that there are impossible expectations in following up an iconic work like “Zero”, but still, “Bedrooms” has a distinctly incomplete feel to it. It’s generally a stripped-down narrative, mostly devoid of Ellis’ typical descriptive depth.

And portions of it seem disjointed, especially the opening convention: That the “Zero” book and movie were fictional constructs, based on the “real” Clay and his cohorts. It would have been an interesting premise, yet Ellis largely abandons it as soon as it’s introduced. What replaces it is a lot less satisfying: Clay’s obsession with a manipulative would-be starlet, which doesn’t feel authentic enough to motivate the book’s subsequent events.

Still, the author’s imprimatur is still present. A sense of dread hangs over the story as Clay’s true nature is revealed. His self-confessional in the book’s final paragraph brings it home, and makes clear that the boy from “Zero” grew up into a twisted cipher (not-so-subtly underlined by his lack of a last name, whereas other returning characters had acquired theirs).

There’s plenty here to satisfy fans of the original, right down to the “moving the game as you play it” veiled reference (from the opening pop cultural song lyric in “Zero”). “Bedrooms” is a welcome revisit to a terrain that you wish you could avoid, but have to explore despite your better judgment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/10/2021 10:47am
Category: Book Review, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Does “Bed Intruder Song” represent the future of popular music’s creative process?

The song’s source material could not have been more unlikely: A local TV news report from Huntsville, Ala., about an intruder who climbed into a woman’s bed and tried to assault her.

But with some clever editing and the use of software that can turn speech into singing, the Gregory Brothers, a quartet of musicians living in Brooklyn, transformed an animated and angry rant by the victim’s brother into something genuinely catchy.

The resulting track, “Bed Intruder Song,” has sold more than 91,000 copies on iTunes, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and last week it was at No. 39 on the iTunes singles chart. Its video has been viewed more than 16 million times on YouTube.

And to top it off, the song was No. 89 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for the week of Aug. 20, ranked among singles by Katy Perry and Usher. The chart takes into account sales and radio play as well as online streaming.

“It’s not easy to get on that chart,” said Silvio Pietroluongo, director of charts at Billboard. “There are plenty of decent radio songs that don’t reach the sales chart.”

I dunno. This feels like a fluke to me. It’s not the first time that current events inspired music of the moment, and it won’t be the last. I’m guessing this sound-modified, Internet-sourced raw material will peter out, much like other gimmick musical genres did in years past. Same goes for Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You” viral.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/07/2021 11:56pm
Category: Creative, Internet, Pop Culture
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Saturday, September 04, 2021

Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve seen enough reruns of “M*A*S*H” to have the following impromptu drinking song from the “Alcoholics Unanimous” episode seared onto my brain:

Come on in!
Take off your skin!
And rattle around in your bones!


I was always curious about the origin of this little ditty. It doesn’t seem that unique at first glance, but it’s a catchy little knee-slapping snippet, almost mantra-like.

A little research yielded a surprising background to these lyrics: They’re based on a 1920s dancehall number by Edgar Leslie and Walter Donaldson, that was later re-composed by Tom Waits. The original chorus:

‘Tain’t no sin
To take off your skin
And dance around in your bones

At root, a skeletal refrain. In which case, I’d rather rattle than dance…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/04/2021 07:12pm
Category: History, Pop Culture, TV
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Just in time for Halloween costume ideas: Take an extra-long and an extra-short tube sock or balloon, tie them together, place them strategically, and you’ve got Attila the Hung.

It’s taken almost twenty years, but I believe we’ve finally found a mock-pornstar name that beats George Costanza’s “Buck Naked”. And amazingly, it seems like not too many others have ever thought of it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/04/2021 01:51pm
Category: Comedy, History, Pop Culture, TV, Wordsmithing
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Friday, September 03, 2021

The twenty-four bucks I laid out this afternoon were well worth it, for no other reason than to receive the above sales receipt with the bare, context-absent words “JAPANESE CYCLOPS” printed on it. Hey, I’m easily amused (sometimes).

And just what is this mysteriously-named item that I purchased? Is it a Far Eastern version of the one-eyed Greek mythological monster, a beast that I get to keep in a cage?

Alas, no. What I picked up is one part American comic-book pop culture combined with Japanese kitsch, distilled in the form of a hipster t-shirt. A birthday gift for a friend, whose alley this should be right up. I only hope that he fits into an X-Large…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/03/2021 01:19pm
Category: Comedy, Fashion, Pop Culture
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Monday, August 30, 2021

Nobody likes a private investigation firm that rats out iffy occupants of rent-controlled/rent-stabilized apartments. But at least these hired snoops are good for the occasional false-identity anecdote:

[Investigator Shane] Williams chimed in about a building where the illegal tenant listed his apartment under the name O. B. Juan KNobi.

Could it be that George Lucas is surreptitiously subletting a pad in some pre-war building downtown? Talk about a disturbance in The Force…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/30/2010 05:55pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Thursday, August 19, 2021

scream, robotron, scream!
I suppose this is an inflection point in entertainment media: Hollywood’s favorite stock-sound effect, The Wilhelm Scream, is increasingly finding its way into today’s videogames.

Next thing you know, the gaming studios will get even more cinematic and start using the same newspaper prop over and over.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/19/2010 11:01pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The American Psychological Association apparently feels that we’re due for a Seduction of the Innocent Part Two, with modern-day movie superheroes as the corrupters of young boys.

“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday,” said psychologist Sharon Lamb, PhD, distinguished professor of mental health at University of Massachusetts-Boston. “Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns.”

The comic book heroes of the past did fight criminals, she said, “but these were heroes boys could look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes, they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities,” she said.

Somehow, I think that Stan Lee is eating this up.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/17/2010 11:25pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Publishing, Society
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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

dancin' man, just can't lose
Wondering: Is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees to most-translated pop song in existence?

I’m prompted to ask this because today, I heard a Hindi version of this classic disco tune — same distinctive instrumentals and rhyming pattern, but with translated lyrics. I have no idea how closely the translation, or transliteration, was to the original English song; but the surface impression was certainly there.

Furthermore, I can add this Hindi entrant to the handful of other foreign-language renditions I’ve come across over the years: German, Greek, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. That’s a wide linguistic range, and indicates to me that this tune has been adapted far and wide. Furthermore, there must be something universally appealing about it, to inspire so many reworks. Could this anthem to ’70s nightlife be so infectious to warrant so many native editions?

By the way, I realize that the above photo is not that of the actual Bee Gees. But it’s close enough, in my estimation.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/11/2021 11:27pm
Category: Pop Culture, Society, Wordsmithing
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Friday, August 06, 2021

Whenever I’m in public, and this song ticks up on my iPod’s shuffle play…

…I have to skip over it. Not because I’m not a fan of Oran ‘Juice’ Jones and his seminal only hit, “The Rain”; but because the spoken-word rap that takes up the second half is so laugh-out-loud funny:

Hey hey baby how you doin’? Come on in here
Got some hot chocolate on the stove waiting for you
Listen, first things first, let me hang up the coat

Yeah, how was your day today?
Did you miss me?
You did? Yeah? I missed you too
I missed you so much I followed you today
That’s right, now close your mouth
‘Cause you cold busted!

Now just sit down here, sit down here
I’m so upset with you I don’t know what to do

You know my first impulse was to run up on you
And do a Rambo
I was about to jam you and flat-blast both of you
But I didn’t wanna mess up this thirty-seven hundred dollar lynx coat
So instead, I chilled — that’s right, chilled

I called up the bank and took out every dime
Than I canceled all your credit cards, yeah
All your charge accounts, yeah

I stuck you up for every piece of jewelery I ever bought you
Yeah, that’s right, everything
No, don’t go lookin’ in that closet
‘Cause everything you came here with is packed up
And waiting for you in the guest room

What were you thinking?
You don’t mess with The Juice!

I gave you silk suits, blue diamonds and Gucci handbags
I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce!

But now I can’t give you nothing but advice.
‘Cause you’re still young, yeah, you’re young.
And you’re gonna find somebody like me one of these days

Until then, you know what you gotta do?
You gotta get on outta here with that
Hush-Puppy-shoe-wearing crumbcake I saw you with

‘Cause you dismissed!
That’s right, silly rabbit, tricks are made for kids, don’t you know that?
You without me is like corn flakes without the milk!
This is my world. You’re just a squirrel trying to get a nut!

Now get on outta here!
Don’t touch that coat!

I mean, I don’t know what the funniest snippet is: Jones declaring, “I’m so upset with you”? His threat to “do a Rambo”? His anticlimactic decision to “chill — that’s right, chill”? That he gave her “things you couldn’t even pronounce”?? The parting shot to “don’t touch that coat”, revealing his fixation on his own fur?? “Corn flakes without the milk”???

Actually, the funniest part is that entire rambling chorus. Because it renders the preceding first half of the song as practically pointless. The front end is a generic mid-’80s pop product, with bland lyrics and synthesized soundtrack; if it has a purpose, it’s only to lull you prior to the unexpected crack-up that it leads into. Structurally, it just doesn’t get any funnier.

I’ve heard this song so many times over the past twenty-odd years, and it still cracks me up. I’m looking forward to a few more decades of laughs from The Juice and this time capsule.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/06/2021 01:45pm
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Looking to challenge an unacceptable status quo, Wyclef Jean is seriously considering a run for president of his native Haiti.

And the former Fugee doesn’t even need to outline his campaign platform, because his body of song lyrics already does that.

Speaking of which, let’s hope that his previous presidential speculation doesn’t jump from melodic fantasy to grim reality:

If I was President

I’d get elected on Friday

Assassinated on Saturday

And buried on Sunday

That was semi-satiric musings from the pre-Obama era. Ironically, Jean really is more prone to experience that fate in the Haitian Presidential Palace, versus a highly improbable (make that impossible) ascent to the White House…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/04/2021 08:53am
Category: Celebrity, Political, Pop Culture
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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Bad news if you live your life on the assumption that the old “Killer in the Backseat” fable is true: Automaker Volvo is scrapping its seldom-used “intruder heartbeat detector system” from 2011 models.

The system, part of a $550 option package, allows drivers to use their key fob to remotely check for anyone lurking in the rear seat. The intruder in hiding is detected by their heartbeat…

Reviewers scoffed about the likelihood of ax murderers hanging out in unsuspecting motorists’ back seats from the start. “Has someone at Volvo been renting slasher thrillers from Netflix?” Motor Trend asked in July 2006. Reviewer Mark Phelan, writing in the Detroit Free Press, called the feature “spooky” and suggested Volvo should have called it the “Urban Myth Detector.”

In related news, phone companies throughout the land have canceled plans to roll out a “Line Extension Security Check” feature. Therefore, when a stranger calls from upstairs, the babysitter is on her own…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/22/2010 11:21pm
Category: Pop Culture, Society, Tech
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