Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, February 13, 2021

big red
Don’t go searching for the term “Flying Tomato” on Shaun White‘s personal website, because that Torino-born nickname is now dead to the Olympian:

“Apparently I resemble the drummer from the Muppets,” White said. “I guess I’m Shaun ‘The Animal’ White now. I’ve kind of outgrown ‘The Flying Tomato’. It’s kind of like going from old pants to new pants.”

Sorry to break this to White, but a basic rule about nicknames is that you don’t get to choose your own — everybody else does that for you. He’s made his disdain for “Flying Tomato” known before, so it’s no surprise that he’d want to ditch it, even for the dubious preference for a Muppet Show character. Frankly, latching onto that reference smacks of a manufactured attempt at re-branding.

The fact is that when he’s up in the air during his stunts, no one is thinking “Wow, look at that monster!”. They are thinking, “Wow, look at that big red… flying… tomato!” “Monster” is just too generic to stick.

All that said, if White were to change his nick, the other suggestion from a teammate, “Red Zeppelin”, would be a better choice. I could see that one catching on.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/13/2010 04:00pm
Category: Other Sports, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

It’s all well and good to be packing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” in your personal karaoke repertoire. But be sure your rendition is a flawless tribute to Old Blue Eyes before performing it in Manila:

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”

The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?

Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like [Rodolfo] Gregorio here in [the city of General Santos], are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.

Even accounting for the Chairman’s notoriously bare-knuckles lifestyle, I doubt he’d approve of the disproportional response to a few off-key notes. Although I’m thinking that if he weren’t already dead, Sid Vicious would be the latest victim of this cover-song slaughter rule, thanks to his famous turn at this Sinatra standard:

And yes, the Goodfellas placement of Vicious’ version is most apt in this instance. If Scorsese had to remake his film, he’d probably include a whack-job episode involving misuse of “the final curtain” lyrics.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/10/2021 09:01am
Category: Pop Culture, Society, True Crime
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Saturday, February 06, 2021

Once upon a time, the announcement of a new telephone area code was a big deal, especially in a major city like New York.

Now? Ho-hum. Between number overlays and location-independent cellphones, those first three digits don’t mean an awful lot anymore. Sure, a metropolitan-based telephone prefix certainly retains some luster, especially the iconic (212). But it’s a fading currency. The cultural impact of telephony protocol touches us less and less, it seems.

So the rollout of the new outer-borough (929) code later this year won’t change much. Other than giving rappers a new callout-combo for geo-rhyming. Or making bridge-and-tunnelers that much more self-conscious when slipping their phone numbers to new acquaintances.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/06/2021 03:10pm
Category: New Yorkin', Pop Culture, Tech
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Thursday, February 04, 2021

Here’s one man’s reaction to a sneak peek of a CGI-rendered Smurf, from the upcoming animated feature film:


A little extreme; I’d say the false sense of scale is making Prototype Smurf look abnormally large, and thus faux-monstrous. But anything that elicits such mock-horror doesn’t deserve any screentime around this blog, so I won’t inflict it on my audience. Let’s just hope the character designs are de-creepified by the time they hit the silver screen in 2011.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/04/2021 11:27pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture
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Saturday, January 30, 2021

It’s nearly a decade old now, but this techno-tuned song about Russian leader Vladimir Putin is still going strong:

How strong? In keeping with the cult-of-personality theme in Putin’s political career, consider the winning of hearts and minds via urban sing-a-longs:

It’s winter in Russia. At night, Muscovites crowd the clubs and request their karaoke favorite, “A Man Like Putin.” I want a man like Putin, who’s full of strength. I want a man like Putin, who doesn’t drink. I want a man like Putin, who won’t make me sad.

The techno-pop tune by the duo Singing Together first appeared mysteriously in 2002 and quickly topped the charts in Russia. It went on to become a Putin theme song, still played at his rallies. Catchy and ironic, this was a new kind of propaganda song.

Popular propaganda has morphed into pop-prop — certainly a long way, stylistically, from old-wave Soviet agitprop. And to underline that shift, it appears that “A Man Like Putin” was written and produced on the strength of a $300 bet, then later co-opted by pro-Putin boosters. I guess free-market sensibilities are verifiably ingrained in Mother Russia now…

Between this lyrical adulation and his feats-of-strength outdoorsman photos, one wonders if Putin didn’t engineer his rise to power just so he could pick up chicks easier. Sort of a Bill Clinton blueprint for political deftness.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/30/2010 06:07pm
Category: Celebrity, Creative, Political, Pop Culture
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Thursday, January 28, 2021

i'm alrightWhile it’s terribly predictable of PETA to capitalize on this upcoming Groundhog Day, it’s surprising that the organization proposed a constructive way to preserve the holiday:

Gemma Vaughan, Animals in Entertainment specialist for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a letter to organizers of the annual spectacle in Punxsutawney, PA, that groundhogs, which are normally shy and spend much of their time in burrows, “become stressed when they are exposed to large, screaming crowds; flashing lights from perhaps hundreds of cameras; and human handling.”

Vaughan suggests using “animatronic animals” instead.

A robotic critter to handle the hoopla of the February 2nd shadowcasting? A daft idea on the face of it. And yet, I have the perfect candidate, pictured here: The gopher from Caddyshack!

Hey, a ground-burrowing rodent is a ground-burrowing rodent. No need to quibble on specific species. It’s not like there’s an imminent sequel in the works that would occupy Mr. Gopher. A steady annual gig would probably be most welcome. He can throw in his gopher-dancing moves to really jazz up an otherwise staid event.

And to add another pop-cultural layer to all this, consider: Bill Murray, who shared screen time with the gopher on Caddyshack, also made his mark as the star in Groundhog Day. Given that connection, I’d say subbing in a gopher for a groundhog would fly.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/28/2010 08:54am
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The lyrics to Lady GaGa’s “Paparazzi” contain these lines:

It don’t have a price
Ready for those flashing lights

For some inexplicable reason, I keep expecting that bit to go thusly:

It don’t have a price
Ready for the paradise

Considering that the entire tune is photography-themed, “those flashing lights” makes eminent sense within the song’s context. So I can’t quite figure out why I’m mentally forcing the issue with my odd replacement wording.

But then, “ready for the paradise” does have a unique ring to it — almost like a rallying cry. And I see that it’s pretty much an unprecedented piece of phraseology.

So I’ve unexpectedly coined a new expression, much like I did only a couple of weeks ago. Only this time, I had inspirational help. I’ll take all I can get, so long as the result is something fresh.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/26/2010 08:58am
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Monday, January 25, 2021

leave it to beaver
As far as I know, the Canadian beaver is not an endangered species. Its print counterpart, on the other hand, is a goner, done in by a 1-2 punch of the schoolyard and the Internet:

To be more precise, the title ["The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine"] was doomed by a vulgar alternative meaning that causes Web filters at schools and junk mail filters in e-mail programs to block access to material containing the magazine’s name… The trouble went beyond Web pages. The magazine found that its attempts to e-mail classroom aids to teachers were thwarted by its name, as were attempts to contact many readers.

It’s a sincere shame that a venerable journal like this has to succumb to such crude slang. And how primitive is Canada’s IT infrastructure that it employs such hamhanded filtering technology? In the face of these challenges, I guess it’s right to be worried about The Beaver.

Although the Canucks aren’t helping matters any with events like The Great Canadian Beaver Eating Contest

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/25/2010 11:43pm
Category: History, Internet, Pop Culture, Publishing
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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Not to be outshined by the newly “Jersey Shore”-burnished guidos, New Englanders are coalescing into their own obnoxious subculture:

They’re called Massholes. Though there is some disagreement about what, exactly, constitutes a Masshole, there are several characteristics present in all definitions. A Masshole is a resident of Massachusetts — though sometimes Rhode Island, New Hampshire, or Maine — who possesses a nearly carnal love for the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins; operates motor vehicles in an aggressive fashion; drinks Sam Adams; and overuses the adjective “wicked.”

Coming soon to a reality show near you, presumably. The days of regionally-confined objectionableness are long behind us, it seems. I only hope that New York, being caught in the resulting geographic nexus, comes out intact.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/23/2010 05:05pm
Category: Pop Culture, RealiTV Check, Society
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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

open wide
Good to know that you can find made-to-order vampiric mouthware in the East Village/Alphabet City area. That’s where I cameraphoned this storefront-window sign the other day (closer to life-sized in embiggened Flickr version).

I won’t say where the “here” in that “Custom Vampire Fangs Made Here” is. Because I don’t want this little corner of Manhattan to get overrun by deep-end Twilight groupies who are looking for a thrill. Although given the neighborhood, it’d be fun to see those little fanboys/girls come face-to-face with the less-than-romantic urban vampires that’d frequent this literal body-shop…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/19/2010 11:31pm
Category: New Yorkin', Photography, Pop Culture
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Monday, January 18, 2021

The trend has definitely set in: This is the fourth time in a row that the iPod Random 5 updates during holiday time. My iTouch must have a thing for commemorative events.

As luck would have it though, none of the songs that spewed from my music player jibe in any particular way with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But I liked the sequence, regardless. So here’s the random shuffle-generated list, with the customary lyrical tease from each:

1. “No Time (Sh*t Robot Remix)”, The Juan MacLean - Saw you dancing with the human.

2. “My Love Is For Real”, Paula Abdul - Gave you excuses with each storyline.

3. “Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer) [Club Mix]“, Freemasons - Long as I’m moving it feels true.

4. “Play With Fire”, The Rolling Stones - Not in Knightsbridge anymore.

5. “Casey Jones”, Grateful Dead - Trouble ahead, trouble behind.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/18/2010 11:23pm
Category: Pop Culture, iPod Random Tracks
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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Not only did New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow make an overt comparison between Sarah Palin and Lady GaGa in the headline of his “Lady BlahBlah” piece today; he also weaved some GaGa-ness into the body of his writing:

I embedded as many of her song/cd titles as possible in my column. How many can you find?

I’m a sucker for word games! Especially pop-cultural ones. In descending order, starting from the top of the column, I find:

1. She’s never speechless.

2. And, she has one of the best poker faces in the game…

3. She continues to command the spotlight while they dance in the dark.

4. The race for the nomination may not be given to the slick or to the strong, but to this fame monster who seems to have the stamina to endure until the end.

Really not that many embeddings, even considering how short Blow’s column is. Overall, I prefer comparing Palin to G.I. Joe’s Baroness

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/16/2010 02:40pm
Category: Celebrity, Politics, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

For a long time now, I’ve been kicking around the following quote inside my head:

Make a peace within you.

I could’ve sworn such a message would have emanated from the works of Ghandi, or even the Buddha. My research doesn’t bear that out, though; in fact, I can’t find any outside reference to it.

If that means I’m the one who’s invented this mantra-like aphorism, I’ll gladly take the credit. I mean, it’s no “Serenity Now!”, but it’ll do.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/12/2021 06:33pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Whatever pangs of guilt I feel over carrying a couple of Lady GaGa songs on my iPod, at least I haven’t gone as gaga as these two GaGa medley-makers:

It is a rather spirited three minutes of musical tribute. I especially like the lyrical intertwining of “Poker Face” with “Paparazzi” — probably more than I like the songs. The gender mismatch in having a guy sing lyrics that were originally delivered by a woman contributes some awkwardness, but I suppose it’s worth it for the overall infectious effect.

This acoustic duo consists of Sam Tsui (voice) and Kurt Schneider (guitar). Since this little video of theirs has racked up one and a half million views as of this writing, it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing/hearing more from them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/10/2021 05:19pm
Category: Creative, Internet, Pop Culture
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Saturday, January 09, 2021

There’s a certain amount of irony in Mark Hamill having outgrown his Star Wars typecasting by establishing himself as a voiceover actor — and then, despite ample opportunities in the gaming industry, never applying those skills into a reprise of the Luke Skywalker role:

Hamill’s credited with a bevy of vocal performances in non-Star Wars games, most notably as The Joker in last year’s best-seller Batman: Arkham Asylum, but revealed why he’s never played Luke in a recent interview with PC Zone magazine.

“When I played Luke from 1977 to 1983, games were in their infancy,” Hamill told PC Zone. “I talked about turning a page and starting a new chapter. Those movies had a beginning, middle and end, and everyone sort of moved on… I don’t really know how to answer that, because I’ve never been asked to do it. That’s fine, though.”

“If you’re playing Luke the way he was in the films — from his late teens to mid-20s — I’ve outgrown the role. In the story, Luke is so boy-next-door farm boy, it’s like Dorothy in Oz. All the other characters that surround him are fantastic.”

“Outgrown the role”? We’re talking vocals, not visuals. Hamill’s voice hasn’t changed that much over the years — he still sounds like Luke Skywalker. I’d think the promotional opportunities in having the original Luke voicing a CGI Luke would be huge.

And it just happens to dovetail that way, given Hamill’s second career. It’s not like Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher would be good fits to do videogame voiceover work for their characters, even if they could be persuaded to do it. But since Hamill’s already working in the same proximity, it’s a natural.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/09/2021 04:48pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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key of springfield
Long-time fans of “The Simpsons” know this Homer-scripted jingle by heart:

Call Mr. Plow
That’s my name
That name again
Is Mr. Plow

Why mess with that simple perfection? Ask Moby, who feels compelled to apply his own spin(s) to that animated ditty:

If that song wound its way into your brain and parked itself there for nearly two decades, you’re not alone. In the documentary “The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: In 3-D! On Ice!”, which runs on Fox this Sunday, the musician Moby tells the filmmaker Morgan Spurlock he is so obsessed with the song that he created six different remixes of it.

And here’s one of those reworkings, the old-school hip-hop version, with clipped-up video:

The other mixes: Bossa nova, electro, Latin lounge, psychedelic and punk rock. The best I can say about them is that they’re all mercifully short. And while Moby is entitled to play around all he wants, I think he should find a different target for his musical obsessions. Maybe do a new, fresh-fly remix of “Do The Bartman”!

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/09/2021 02:54pm
Category: Comedy, Creative, Pop Culture, TV
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Thursday, January 07, 2021

As far as a medium-term cultural impact from Avatar, I believe that Bret Easton Ellis has, via tweet, nailed it on the head:

A lot of gays at Avatar at The Dome tonight. Well, now we know what the most popular Halloween costume in West Hollywood will be this year.

Running around half-naked and coated in blue body paint, validated by popular entertainment. It’s a no-brainer.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/07/2021 11:04pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture, Publishing
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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

My just-wrapped trip to Los Angeles was mostly business, but there’s one after-hours moment I won’t soon forget:

Sitting in Yamashiro Restaurant‘s main banquet room. Because, as you can tell almost immediately from the decor, it was the filming location for the Crazy 88s-versus-The-Bride scene from Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Almost as obvious was the central Japanese garden in the same room, which served as the outdoor winter scene from the same movie, when The Bride and O-Ren Ishii have their final showdown.

Actually, the banquet room came off as too small for all the action that took place in those two scenes. But that’s moviemaking magic for you. I haven’t bothered to verify that information — I was told of it upon entering the restaurant — but even if it’s somehow not true, I prefer to believe that it is. I happen to have just watched that movie again a couple of weeks ago, so the visuals were definitely fresh in my mind, and synced with my surroundings regardless.

Attached to that pop-cultural sensation — and weirdly extending it, even — is the impromptu spasm of song that gripped a tableful of my dining companions that night. Someone mentioned a weekend karaoke session, and next thing I knew, four or five of them started belting out their version of (what else?) Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, all around me. Acappella, of course. Which I found weird, even though it wouldn’t have been had the karaoke never been mentioned in the first place — it would have been just an ordinary sing-along.

Only had Quentin Tarantino sauntered by the table during the merriment, would the evening have been really complete. Maybe next time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/06/2021 04:37pm
Category: Comedy, Creative, Pop Culture
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It’s a little sad that, with a new active front opening in the War on Terror, the only thing most Americans know about Yemen is that Chandler Bing once fled there to avoid breaking up with a girl.

Leading to… “Friends” as a proto-al Qaeda sleeper cell? It’s not like those Central-Perky twits had anything else to occupy their fictional lives with. Discuss. Or, better yet, don’t.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/06/2021 09:39am
Category: Political, Pop Culture, TV
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Monday, January 04, 2021

It’s practically high heresy in the pop-cultural spheres that I frequent to admit that I don’t particularly care for The Big Lebowski. It’s not from lack of trying — I’ve sat down to watch the movie a half-dozen times, but never could attune myself to its rambling groove. Fact is, I’ve never watched more than the first half without bailing on it.

Maybe I need a study guide in the ways and means of His Dudeness, to get in the proper film-watching frame of mind. Toward that end, the academic world is now teeming with dissertations on the movie’s White Russian-fueled leitmotif.

Thankfully, some of those eggheads are showing restraint:

When putting the book ["The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies"] together, [Indiana University professor Edward P.] Comentale said, he and his co-editor “immediately cut out all the papers celebrating the Dude as a hippie hero in a postmodern landscape.” That’s a sober choice. Admirers of the Dude are already dangerously close to becoming Internet-age versions of Parrotheads, the weekend-warrior Jimmy Buffett fans who tip back margaritas — and embarrass their children — while wearing flip-flops, board shorts, Hawaiian shirts and coconut bras.

“Trying to impress your academic colleagues and also make a dent in the popular market, that’s a fine line to walk,” Mr. Comentale added. “We wanted these essays to press the connection between the goofy and the profound.”

I’m not sure The Dude would abide to this drill-down, but there’s no stopping intellectual exploration.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/04/2021 05:17pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Publishing
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Sunday, January 03, 2021

Is it hackneyed to be taking a copy of Bret Easton Ellis’ “The Informers” to read while flying to LA? Especially since I’ve already read all the stories in it about a dozen times?

Whatever, I’m toting it along anyway. It’s a 6-plus hour flight, ferchrissake. I need something fun to read along the way. My other choice was “Less Than Zero”; either way, my perception of Los Angeles during my stay would have been suitably warped.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/03/2021 02:45pm
Category: Pop Culture, Publishing
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