Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, March 14, 2021

the new style
Wow. The way my day started, I never would have guessed I’d have ended it in such a giddy mood.

And the reason for my giddiness? Today I received my sparkling new 30-gig iPod with video, a few days earlier than the delivery estimate I got from Amazon, where I bought it.

Why did I splurge for this new toy? My trusty old 2nd generation 10-gig iPod was giving out on me. It still played songs and such, but it refused to play with iTunes; it would either freeze up the computer or else not sync up with the program. After a couple of firmware updates, restores and various other tweaks, I concluded that it just wasn’t going to work. I was a bit put off — I had actually gotten the thing repaired not that long ago — but I quickly decided that I should just cut my losses and finally get current with my portable media player.

So I gave the old one to my brother (not sure what he’s going to do with it; he may end up just giving it back to me), and ordered my new one. I went for the cheaper 30-gig one instead of the 60-gig model; I never came close to filling up the 10-gigger, so hard drive wasn’t an issue. But I was looking forward to all the other features, including the color screen, on-the-go playlists, extra games, and of course the video playback. And of course, I had to go with the classic, iconic white version.

I’ve spent about half the day playing it (luckily, it shipped with the battery just about fully charged). It’s going to take some getting used to the design of it; it’s ridiculously streamlined compared to the old model, and just lays differently in my hand. It’s hard to believe something so flat can hold so much stuff. Not that I’m going to max out those 30 gigs any time soon: The 800-odd songs and half-dozen videos I’ve got on there are taking up only 4 gigs.

I’ll definitely be getting a lot of use out of this baby. I am in New York now, after all; having an earbud-tethered iPod on you every walking moment is practically a prerequisite.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:42:43 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Well, up my nose with a rubber hose. “Welcome Back, Kotter”, the show that unleashed John Travolta upon the world, is going to be remade as a movie, with Ice Cube starring as Mr. Kah-tear.

Ice Cube? What in the name of Gabe Kaplan is going on here?

Gabe Kaplan, who played Kotter in the original 1975-79 series, also created the show with partner Alan Sacks and retained the rights. He said that despite heavy interest from studios over the years, they held out on adapting Kotter until the right pitch came along.

“We were skeptical about selling Kotter because making a great movie from a TV show can be challenging,” Kaplan said. “After meeting with the Weinsteins [Harvey and Bob Weinstein run Dimension], we knew they were the right ones to bring this project to the screen.”

I’m not sure there even is a “right team” for something like this. Who are they going to get to play the Sweathogs — the surving members of NWA?

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I almost wish that, if an old Gabe Kaplan vehicle had to be remade, that Fast Break would have been it instead.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:21:34 PM
Category: TV, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

A couple of days ago, I was watching an old episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. One scene took place on a fictional nighttime talk show. Even though it was made up, I noticed something odd about the way the talk show set was arranged:

The host and his desk were positioned on the left-hand side, while the guest chair was to the right.

This is the opposite of the setup you’ll see on every other latenight talk show host’s digs, past and present. Letterman, Leno, Carson, O’Brien, Kimmel — none of them vary from the standard guests on the left, and host on the right (from the camera/audience perspective, of course; for those on the stage, the positions are reoriented, so that the guest is looking to his/her left and the host to his right).

I’m wondering if there isn’t some sort of TV science behind this template. It could be as simple as institutionalized imitation — Carson or Jack Paar started it, and no one’s ever questioned it. Or, like many other details of television mechanics, someone at some point actually researched this and found that it was a key to success.

A quick Web search didn’t yield anything but others wondering about the same thing. But during my surfing, I was suddenly reminded of Andy Kaufman’s wonderful spoof, “The Andy Kaufman Show”, which included jabs like a preposterously elevated host’s desk to mock the heightening that Carson and Letterman allegedly used/use. I have a feeling the answer lies somewhere in there, if I look hard enough.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:05:43 PM
Category: TV, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback

from l to x
This here blog doesn’t get too many visits from Amazon.com. So when it did today, I took a peek at the referral log.

One thing stood out: The OS running that Amazon computer was Linux. I found that highly unusual. Linux is a rarity among the general public; in corporate environments, it’s practically non-existent (with the exception of behind-the-scenes server functions).

Turns out that Amazon has been transitioning its entire computer system to Linux for the past six years, and has become a case study for the cost-effectiveness of such a move for big companies.

Whatever it takes to ship me my books on time…

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 10:28:30 PM
Category: Bloggin', Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback

rose by any other name
During the OLN broadcast of tonight’s Buffalo-Washington game, the announcers focused briefly on Sabres right wing Mike Grier. They mentioned Grier’s family football heritage: His father, Bobby, is a pro scout for the Houston Texans, and his brother Chris is a college scout for the Miami Dolphins.

The first thing I thought of was, why didn’t they mention NFL great Rosey Grier, who I always thought was Mike Grier’s uncle?

But then, when I did a little digging tonight, I couldn’t find any confirmation for this. None of the Grier bios mention a connection to Rosey/Roosevelt; even if Mike didn’t want to highlight the relation, I’d think it would be standard backgrounder information for football guys Bobby and Chris.

So, I wonder if I’ve been under a false impression all this time. I thought I’d read that Mike was Rosey’s nephew around the time he broke into the NHL; either I’m remembering that wrong, or whatever I was reading was wrong.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 10:09:44 PM
Category: Hockey, Football | Permalink | Feedback

I’m sure Vermont has its share of a criminal element. But it’s hard to imagine that such a seemingly sedate State would have enough of a surplus of convicts to necessitate shipping them out to contracted jailspace in Oklahoma.

Could be worse. They could have gotten sent to India to work in some callcenter.

The only way this would be more fitting would be if their destination were Georgia, due to that State’s penal colony roots.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 07:44:39 PM
Category: Political, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Ever have one of those mornings that just seems to drag?

Of course you have. Odds are, you’re having one right now, or else you wouldn’t be reading this.

For some reason, this morning’s 60-minute span from 10AM to 11AM couldn’t have passed by any slower than it did for me. Now, it’s not even noon yet, and I already feel like I’ve exhausted myself through the entire day.

Perhaps making things worse, I had three mugfuls of tea this morning. I can’t remember the last time I downed that much caffeine in so short a period. It’s giving me a charge, but it’s nervous energy — enough to get me slightly jittery, but not enough to do anything particularly productive. (I suspect the one cup of black currant might have knocked me off-balance.)

I think I need to get a job. (Now I know I’m off-kilter.)

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/14/2006 11:51:42 AM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Monday, March 13, 2021

Media companies are looking to buy their way into all the hot online spots, but the acquisition terrain isn’t looking particularly promising, with midsized Web properties unavailable or valued too nebulously to buy up.

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind any and all media M&A sniffers that this here website is perpetually and unashamedly For Sale, for the right price. Make me an offer, yo.

Of course, I might have to build up a bit more of an audience first:

For a Web site to pique the interest of mass-market advertisers, it needs to have at least a million unique visitors a month; to be considered a major takeover candidate, it needs to have five million unique visitors, said Sharon Wienbar, a managing director with BA Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley venture firm that invests in Internet content companies…

[Tribe Networks’ Mark] Pincus noted that to reach a narrowly defined audience, the cost for having an advertisement seen 1,000 times, an advertising industry standard measure, was $20 to $50. An example, he said, would be visitors to a major portal’s finance page.

He said that to reach broader audiences with specific interests — like the people who visit a job search site — ads command $4 to $10 per thousand impressions, a “huge jump” from $1 or $2 just two years ago.

To reach general audiences, like the masses who use Myspace.com on a regular basis, he said the price has jumped to $1 or $2 per thousand impressions, from pennies.

Maybe I should start giving away iPods or something…

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 10:44:53 PM
Category: Internet, Business | Permalink | Feedback

hello, children
Spoofs needling Mormons, Jews and Muslims were okay. But pick on Scientologists, and Chef is outta there.

Normally, I’d reserve judgement on this sort of thing, until things were truly final. But from the rhetoric coming out, I’d say it’s pretty much final:

“This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology,” [“South Park” co-creator Trey] Stone told the Associated Press. “He has no problem — and he’s cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians.”…

Past episodes of South Park have skewered Catholics, Jews and Mormons, among others. However, according to Stone, he and Parker “never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology.

“He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin,” Stone told the Associated Press…

In January 2006, [Isaac] Hayes told the New York Daily News that he loved the “humor in it, the audacity of Matt and Trey.”

“Nobody is exempt from their humor,” he said. “They’re equal-opportunity offenders. Don’t be offended by it. If you take it too seriously, you have problems.”

It seems the silky-voiced crooner may have neglected to take his own advice.

It’s too bad “South Park” currently sucks, as most television shows tend to do so far into their runs. Maybe they can parody themselves over this mess. We can only guess: Are they going to find a new voice for Chef, or else somehow eliminate the character?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 09:28:13 PM
Category: TV, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback (4)

Under Odysseus is a humorous warblog as written by an anonymous soldier from Greek antiquity. Plenty of cameos by Hector, Agamemnon, and the wandering General himself.

No telling if it’s a bit of fun by a history hobbyist, or a stealth marketing piece for 300, the upcoming movie adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel. Then again, there’s already a production blog for the flick…

Aside from the obvious tip of the hat to current Iraq War miliblogs, this reminds me of that specific subset of blogs out there: Faux journals as written by historical figures. I remember years ago, when blogging was just catching on, I read about some blog that was written by Julius Caesar as he chronicled his campaigns in Gaul. I never did find that one. But these types of applications of the blogging format go a long way toward properly eroding the concept of “blog” as a genre.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 06:15:43 PM
Category: Bloggin', Publishing, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

Today’s sale of Knight-Ridder to McClatchy will involve the sale and/or shuttering of 12 of KR’s newspapers. And remember: A deal with McClatchy was the best-case scenario, because the alternative would have been acquisition by private equity vultures who probably would have gutted the company to the barest of bones.

This is a continuation of a decades-long trend, recently accelerated by the mushrooming of online media outlets. As a report from NYU’s Project for Excellence in Journalism illustrates, the irony is that as the news-dissemination landscape grows, the critical newsgathering infrastructure erodes.

The study depicts the media in an interregnum — with the reach of print, radio and television reduced, but the promise of an egalitarian online “citizen journalism” unfulfilled.

“It’s probably glib and even naive to say simply that more platforms equal more choices,” project Director Tom Rosenstiel said. “The content has to come from somewhere, and as older news-gathering media decline, some of the strengths they offer in monitoring the powerful and verifying the facts may be weakening as well.”

Who’s going to fill the void of the dedicated investigative reporter, who actually digs up information that otherwise wouldn’t appear on a website or in a press release? Probably no one. For all the criticism over biased and soft reporting, newspapers tend to be the main originators of original news content, doing the dirty work that supplies other outlets. When newsroom staffs get reduced, the effect is felt through the media landscape.

But there’s always citizen reporting via blogs, right? Wrong:

The study’s review of content across the media found that radio stations put few reporters in the field and Internet bloggers tended to offer opinions rather than new information. The study found original reporting in just 5% of blog postings it reviewed.

No surprise there, even though the number of people who rely on blogs as their prime news source increases. I’ve always said that blogs are valuable in terms of punditry and supplemental information on news items, but weak vehicles for news origination. The echo chamber effect give the illusion that a lot of news is being generated, but its just a lot of opinion, of varying quality, being bandied about endlessly. It’s this quality of the blogosphere that compels PR assaults like Edelman’s recent Wal-Mart rehabilitation campaign to target blogs — they’re easy, unfiltered pickings.

Plenty of bloggers think they can do journalism by gluing themselves to their mouse and monitors for a couple of hours a night, but the fact is, it’s not a hobbyist pursuit. It’s a job, and without enough resources, it’s a near-impossible job to fulfill.

The PEJ study suggests that this is a transitionary phase, that old media’s buckling business model is creating a vacuum that the new media inheritors aren’t able to effectively fill just yet. Presumably, an increasingly logged-in society will create a more monetized online media model that will make possible rigorous newsgathering, fulfilling the role of the fourth estate. Until then?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 11:25:26 AM
Category: Internet, Bloggin', Media | Permalink | Feedback

I was just getting used to seeing North Fork Bank branches on every corner, and now the New York regional bank is being snapped up by Capital One for $14.6 billion.

Coming from that banking colony known as Florida, it’s a familiar pattern: A small community bank builds up some size, and the second it becomes a ghost of a blip asset-wise, a Bank of America or Wachovia swallows it up. I wonder how the acquired banks’ customers feel when that happens; many of them very likely gravitated toward smaller operations specifically because of bad experiences with megabanks.

Then again, Capital One’s move is a complementary one, since their main business is corporate and credit. And Hiberia National Bank, CapOne’s previous toe-dip into retail banking, has retained its brand identity. So at least for the short term, it appears North Fork will keep its name and colors.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/13/2006 09:58:17 AM
Category: Business, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, March 12, 2021

I don’t know about anyone else, but I get a strange sense of juxtaposition reading about the Democrats’ chances for a broad Congressional victory in this election year, and a poli-comic novel about the exhumation (literally) of long-dead American Socialist Upton Sinclair.

Of course, sensing its big chance to seize the center, it’s not at all likely that today’s Democratic Party would blow that by deigning to take in Sinclair as a forefather. Still, an ideological dive for the grave gives me a warm fuzzy.

And incidentally: Is it just me, or does the depiction of Sinclair on the cover of Chris Bachelder’s “U.S.! A Novel” (which I plan to pick up) look for all the world like Harry Connick Jr.? I’d accuse the publisher of movie adaptation pre-marketing, except for the unlikelihood of such a book ever making it onto the screen.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 11:46:53 PM
Category: Publishing, Politics, Comedy | Permalink | Feedback

I already knew that Alan Moore was trashing V for Vendetta, the film adaptation of his graphic novel. So the New York Times lowdown merely filled in some details for me.

Still, it was a worthwhile read, thanks to Moore’s succinct self-portrait:

Today, he resides in the sort of home that every gothic adolescent dreams of, one furnished with a library of rare books, antique gold-adorned wands and a painting of the mystical Enochian tables used by Dr. John Dee, the court astrologer of Queen Elizabeth I. He shuns comic-book conventions, never travels outside England and is a firm believer in magic as a “science of consciousness.” “I am what Harry Potter grew up into,” he said, “and it’s not a pretty sight.”

Not since the theory of the cast of “Calvin and Hobbes” growing up to become Fight Club have I been so chilled by the concept of childhood lost.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 10:50:25 PM
Category: Publishing, Pop Culture, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

alley backDismissed as a dotbomb-cratered dead zone only a couple of years ago, New York’s Silicon Alley tech-business community has seen a rebirth, minus the pie-in-the-sky headiness of the dotcom boom.

In fact, it seems the key to success in Valley 2.0 is in cutting all expenses to the marrow:

But perhaps the biggest change on the Alley has been the shift from a culture of profligacy to one of financial discipline. While first-generation Web entrepreneurs once boasted of mountains of venture capital, massages for staff and Aeron office chairs for all, the current crop of Alley executives can’t let a conversation go by without pointing out how utterly miserly they are.

“I was crazy cheap,” said Dany Levy, the founder and editor in chief of Daily Candy, explaining how she built her business. She said she has long urged employees to print on both sides of a sheet of paper, and that she bought candy for her company’s media kits in bulk from Duane Reade just after Halloween, when it was on sale.

In the SoHo offices of Thrillist.com, a three-man start-up that aims to be a kind of Daily Candy for men, Ben Lerer, 24, one of its founders, said his business plan “is all about saving every possible penny.” He said he and his partner, Adam Rich, 25, pay their sole employee, a writer named David Blend, “beer money,” a claim Mr. Blend disputed.

“Actually it’s half my beer money,” Mr. Blend said.

Hmm. In my ongoing job search, I wouldn’t mind hooking up with one of New York’s techiest. But if they’re going to pay peanuts, I might just as well start up my own gig. Easier said than done, of course.

Here are 18 of the 19 companies marked on the New York Times’ accompanying Googlemap, in more-or-less north-to-south geographic order. I can’t figure out which company is represented by the open-bordered black box at the top; it is somewhat reminiscent of the logo art here at Population Statistic — but as this is less a business and more of a hobby, and nowhere near my actual address, I’ll assume it ain’t me:

- Cool Hunting
- del.icio.us
- Double Agent
- Eyeblaster
- DailyCandy
- Meetup
- Homethinking
- Thrillist
- Huffington Post
- flavorpill
- Nerve.com
- Gawker Media
- Treehugger (who also got a kick out of this map)
- CollegeHumor
- Gothamist
- PubSub
- New York Software Industry Association Incubator

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 06:31:04 PM
Category: Internet, Business, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Personal workspace is now extending into the sensory realm, as more employees are drowning out workplace noise with their iPod earbuds:

About 80% of technical and creative employees — programmers, engineers and graphics designers, for instance — listen to music for more than 20% of their working hours, said Tom Nolle of CIMI Corp., a New Jersey-based research and consulting firm.

“It’s only been within the last 15 months or so that MP3 players have become the main source of workplace music,” Nolle said.

The technology is ushering in new social conventions at such companies as Chicago’s Closerlook Inc., a strategic communications firm where 35 employees work in loft-like spaces.

Wearing ear buds or headphones telegraphs the message ” ‘Unless it’s urgent, please do not disturb,’ ” said David Ormesher, the firm’s founder and chief executive. “It’s almost like you’re in an office and you have a closed door or an open door. There’s new sensibilities around when you can interrupt and when you can’t.”

Obviously, this simply doesn’t work in most vocations. A factory worker, salesperson, or customer service rep can’t deafen him/herself on a consistent basis and still do the job (at least, not for long). So this phenomenon is mostly confined to the classic backroom cubicle rats, who almost never have to deal directly with the customers or be on the phone very much. (I’m guessing these iPod-heads can’t make a habit of missing too many incoming calls.)

To me, this is not the ideal workspace. You’re isolating yourself from your surroundings, and I don’t think it’s really for the purposes of focus. It conveys a preference that no one bug you, and that you’d just as soon not be in the office in the first place.

I’ve used my iPod in the office to provide a workday soundtrack. But I’d never used the earbuds in those instances — I’d hook the iPod to my Mac and play the songs through the computer’s speakers, and at a volume where I wasn’t inflicting my sounds on others (which wasn’t always an issue anyway, on weekends or in my private office). I didn’t mistake my office for my home, which is more or less what’s going on in some offices.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 03:04:52 PM
Category: Tech, Society | Permalink | Feedback

While living in Florida, I appreciated the ability to maintain my tan almost year-round. That didn’t mean I was able to soak up sun every day — aside from genuinely chilly winters, basic work and lifestyle precluded the ability to devote regular time, even over the weekends, to ultraviolet burning. But I was usually able to get enough in to keep myself looking the way I wanted to.

With the move to New York, I’m dreading the inevitable fade. I’m fooling myself into thinking I can hold onto the luster just from incidental sun exposure and such, with my natural Mediterranean complexion retaining the burn. But one look at my pasty-skinned brother, who probably hasn’t seen a beach in years, tells me it’ll be a tough row to hoe.

There’s always the tanning salons. The local outlets, of which there are myriad, really have stepped up their marketing here in the Northeast, in accordance to the end of winter. And if the nascent franchisor consolidation in the tanning industry takes hold, they might bombard my senses to the point that I would actually consider paying for my skin glow for the first time ever.

Many of these new tanning tycoons come from the movie-rental business. They see similarities between their industry and video stores before Blockbuster Inc., which offered better selections at reasonable prices.

“The tanning business is dominated by independents, and many of them are single-store owners. They’re not in good locations. They still use handmade signs in the windows,” says Steven Berkman, a former Blockbuster executive who is now vice president of franchising for Palm Beach Tan Inc. “There’s an opportunity here for a great retail brand, just like the video industry in the ’80s.”…

Other large chains include Planet Beach Tan, based in Marrero, La., with 300 stores; Hollywood Tan of Mt. Laurel, N.J., with about 225; and L.A. Tan of Lincolnwood, Ill., with 140.

The jury’s out on this scheme. The video rental model is probably the right way to approach it; despite the video store’s current wane in the face of Netflix and digital content (both legal and not), the rise of that business was an unqualified success during the ’80s and ’90s. However, you don’t need exclusive distribution pipelines to get your skin colored. Tanning boutiques are like beauty salons and hair stylists — personalized touches count for more than a recognizable brandname.

Aside from that, the corporate names are so freakin’ lame. “Planet Beach Tan”? “Hollywood Tan”? Please. I wouldn’t be caught dead in such a dorkily-named shop. It screams of aspirations to be somewhere it’s not.

Still, if these guys really want to make a go of it, I have a suggestion: Instead of presenting the UV and spray tanning techniques as the client’s little secret, accentuate the artificiality of it. These tanning spas should put little tanning stickers, shaped with the company’s logo, on customer’s skins that will leave intentional tanline-like/tattoo marks. They could be placed somewhere semi-discreet but visible when necessary, like the forearm or shoulder. Instead of this being a stigma, it could be spun as a consumerist mark of pride, much like designer clothing labels (which used to be frowned upon until the advent of logo-ized jeans, shoes, etc. came along). There’d be no more effective calling card for a tanning chain, I think.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/12/2021 01:08:49 PM
Category: Business, Society | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Saturday, March 11, 2021

modern stone-age habit
Long ago sacrificed to the gods of syndication, the Winston Cigarettes opening credits and promo spots that were incorporated into the original network broadcasts of “The Flintstones” are now available for viewing on YouTube, in all their black-and-white glory.

It’s funny to watch Fred and Barney lazing around with a couple of ciggies in their mouths, as well as hearing Fred sing the “Winston tastes good, like a (click-click) cigarette should” jingle. And what’s with the too-large depiction of the product, in relation to the characters? It almost looks like the boys are smoking a couple of Jamaican extra-large special blunts.

Watch the spot while it lasts, as AdLand’s Dabitch thinks corporate lawyers will send cease-and-desist letters soon enough.

I’m amused that this particular submission of the video (there are multiple identical ones) was entitled “Big Tobacco would NEVER try to appeal to kids”. Because that assumption is false. For one thing, such tightly-integrated sponsor branding was routine in television during the ’40s through the ’60s; the practice was just ending by the times “The Flintstones” hit the air. The rest of the faulty thinking: That “The Flintstones” was kids’ programming, which it certainly wasn’t when it was originally broadcast in primetime. It was certainly a family show, but just about everything on the tube was back then. It’s the usual mistaking of animated fare automatically being intended only for children.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/11/2021 05:33:31 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., TV | Permalink | Feedback (6)

If you think the Rolling Stones only went ultracommercial as they eased into old age, think again: This originally-composed “milk-a-licious” Rice Krispies commercial from 1964 show that Mick and the boys were sellouts from the very start.

(Via AdLand)

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/11/2021 02:02:07 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback

There’s a bizarre little TV spot currently running for Milky Way. It involves a guy getting the door shut in his face after a date, him slumping back into car, and reaching into the glove compartment for his comforting Milky Way bar.

When he rips off the top of the wrapper, there’s a miniature woman in place of the chocolate bar. She coos to him, “Why so blue, panda-bear?”

And he dejectedly responds with, “Whatev.”

And for some strange reason, that is what ruins my suspension of disbelief. Not the emergence of a tiny, exotic-looking and -sounding (is that a French accent? Spanish?) hottie from the Milky Way wrapper. Not her declaration that the guy is a “buffet of manliness”. Not his over-the-top goofy reaction to this affirmation, or his subsequent bite of the candy bar.

No, for me, the part that rings untrue is that this schlub, who looks to be in his mid-30s, with a vaguely Gabe Kaplan-sans-afro look, would be hip enough to use the slang “whatev” instead of the standard “whatever”. That’s what loses it for me.

And yet, I still want a Milky Way right now.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/11/2021 01:13:18 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Friday, March 10, 2021

The rise of nationalism has made Christopher Columbus’ legacy a peculiar political football. Two modern states — Spain and Italy — claim the Admiral of the Ocean Sea as their native son, despite neither existing as a recognizable political domain during Columbus’ lifetime.

But those two claimants are just the tip of the iceberg. Modern DNA testing on Columbus’ remains and prospective descendants hint at several more ethnic candidacies:

Debate about origins and final resting place of Columbus has raged for over a century, with historians questioning the traditional theory that he hails from Genoa, Italy. Some say he was a Spanish Jew, a Greek, a Basque or Portuguese.

Such was the state of Europe half a millenium ago that no one could decisively trace even a notable figure’s origins. So it is with someone whose life’s pursuits changed a continent’s destiny.

Thanks to my own background, I have a little info about the Greek theory. Timing is critical in this speculation: In 1453, the Byzantine Empire finally fell to the Ottoman Turks (a geopolitical shift that helped spur westward exploration, in fact). Constantinople’s fall led to an exodus of Greeks from the Balkans to the Western Mediterranean, mostly to the Italian states. Because of the murkiness of Columbus’ background, someone suggested that one or both of his parents could have been Greek refugees. Thus, the explorer is granted a Greek heritage — and by extension, the practical discovery of America (as distinguished from the actual discoveries by the Norse and others) is framed as one last flowering of Hellenicism.

There may or may not be some solid academic rigor behind this theory, but I’m not familiar with it. I’m sure there’s some backbone to the Basque, Jewish and other guesses, as well.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 09:47:32 PM
Category: History | Permalink | Feedback (2)

As an NFL fan, I’m glad that a new collective bargaining agreement was struck, averting turbulence over the next couple of years (even though I thought the panic over staying with the old CBA to be overblown).

As an NHL fan, I kinda wish the football world had imploded, just so another sporting realm could have gotten a taste of what hockey fans went through over the past couple of years.

In any case, for mostly my own reference, I’m going to record the key provisions of the new CBA:

DURATION: 2006-2011, six years in all, replacing the contract that would have expired in 2008.

SALARY CAP: $102 million for 2006; $109 million for 2007. To be determined in future years by revenue. Owners’ contribution to salary pool starts at just under 60%.

RATIFICATION: Union proposal approved by owners 30-2 (Bills and Bengals dissented). Must still be formally ratified by players and approved by U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis, who still has jurisdiction over the antitrust suit filed by players following the 1987 strike.

REVENUE SHARING: Top 15 revenue-generating teams contribute, with the top five teams giving the most. The bottom 17 teams don’t contribute to the pool, expected to add $850 million-$900 million over the life of the contract.

ROOKIES: Players drafted in the first round of the draft can sign contracts longer than five years. Those drafted in rounds 2-7 can sign only four-year deals, to prevent teams from locking up players who prove to be worth more.

FRANCHISE PLAYERS: Discontinues the practice of some teams of protecting a player with the ‘’franchise'’ tag for more than two years. In the third year, ‘’franchise'’ player becomes ‘’transition'’ player, making it easier to leave.

OTHER: Player benefits will be substantially improved, including expanded post-career medical coverage. There will be continued support from the union for stadium construction, youth football, NFL Europe League and other initiatives.

As far as how this deal shakes out, I see a lot of wiggle room in the revenue-sharing component, which was the main sticking point. I’m not sure how the contributions are going to realistically keep track of total revenue generated by all team operations. But I guess that’s something to wrestle over again in 2011 or thereabouts.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 09:09:12 PM
Category: Football | Permalink | Feedback (1)

One of the arguments used by Intelligent Design advocates is that they’re simply pitting one theory against another, which thus gives them equal weight. Because evolution is an unproven, it’s driven by a faith that its precepts work the way Darwin and others speculated. Therefore, ID, with its reliance on an intelligence agent effecting life formation and other phenomena, has a grounding no less valid than any other scientific theory.

But there are different foundations for faith, not just as it pertains to the spiritual but also to the secular. In “What We Believe but Cannot Prove:
Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty”
, that’s exactly what scientific theorists set out to illustrate.

An excerpt from astrophysicist Martin Rees brings home this perspective for me:

There’s an unthinking tendency to imagine that humans will be around in 6 billion years to watch the sun flare up and die. But the forms of life and intelligence that have by then emerged will surely be as different from us as we are from a bacterium. That conclusion would follow even if future evolution proceeded at the rate at which new species have emerged over the past 3.5 or 4 billion years. But posthuman evolution (whether of organic species or artifacts) will proceed far faster than the changes that led to human emergence, because it will be intelligently directed rather than the gradual outcome of Darwinian natural selection. Changes will drastically accelerate in the present century — through intentional genetic modifications, targeted drugs, perhaps even silicon implants in the brain. Humanity may not persist as a single species for longer than a few more centuries, especially if communities have by then become established away from Earth.

But a few centuries is still just a millionth of the sun’s future lifetime — and the universe probably has a much longer future. The remote future is squarely in the realm of science fiction. Advanced intelligences billions of years hence might even create new universes. Perhaps they’ll be able to choose what physical laws prevail in their creations. Perhaps these beings could achieve the computational ability to simulate a universe as complex as the one we perceive ourselves to be in.

Rees concedes that his speculation relies on far too many present-day constants to be a decisive prediction. In fact, he describes it as a “substitute for religious belief”, invested with his simple hope that it’s correct.

So what’s the difference between this brand of faith and a Biblically-based one? Scientific theory has elements that can be tested and, to a large degree, proven. Based on past behavior, it’s reasonable to extrapolate a future pattern. Religious faith doesn’t rely on testable criteria — at least, not replicatible criteria. Faith in this instance works overtime to fill in all the blanks.

I realize it’s not as cut and dried as this. Questions about tangible proof of the existence of God elicits polar opposite responses among disbelievers and believers: Atheists will look at all of creation and declare there’s no evidence of a Creator, while the faithful will look at the same things and can’t fathom how you can’t see all that as proof-positive of a God. But for me, it’s the difference between reasoned faith and blind faith.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/10/2021 08:35:20 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Thursday, March 09, 2021

Not that MetroStars was such a hot name, but if I were a soccer fan, I’d prefer that to New York Red Bulls. The manufacturer of the supercharged sugar water bought the MLS New York franchise today and shamelessly rebranded the organization “Red Bull New York”.

In light of this, I think we can drop the “Major” from Major League Soccer. If this isn’t the mark of minor-leaguedom, I don’t know what is.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/09/2021 10:23:08 PM
Category: Other Sports, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Wednesday, March 08, 2021

Now that I’m in New York, I ought to go check out Woodlawn, an improbably Irish neighborhood tucked into the far northern edge of the Bronx (practically in Yonkers).

It is getting close to St. Patrick’s Day, after all. And if I don’t go now, there’s a chance that all the Irish will be gone soon:

But in one of the unexpected effects of Sept. 11, Irish immigrants are leaving the United States in waves; they say the crackdown on illegal immigration, coupled with a booming Irish economy, has eliminated the advantages that drew them here.

Ten years from now, say activists pushing for immigration reform, there won’t be Irish neighborhoods left in New York.

In which case, we can always rent Gangs of New York.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 11:16:09 PM
Category: Society, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Is the New York advertising industry too white-bread? City Councilman Larry Seabrook thinks so, and is ready to call agency heads in to grill them about the dearth of women and minorities in Madison Avenue workplaces.

“Based on those who are in the industry, I was told that the lack of diversity is unbelievable,” said Seabrook, a Bronx Democrat. “A secretary or custodian job is basically the limits of what African-Americans and Latinos have as employment.”

Seabrook’s call for a public hearing comes during an ongoing probe by the city’s Human Rights Commission into the employment practices of more than a dozen ad agencies in the city.

“Subpoenas have been issued,” commission Chairwoman Patricia Gatling told Council members at a Civil Rights Committee meeting last month. “We’re still gathering information, and it appears as if this is one of the last vestiges of industry that refused to diversify.”

Does an old-boys’ network mentality persist in the advertising and marketing game? It’s a field I’ve been toying with breaking into for a long while now. I’m a white male, so if this is true, I guess I’d have an inside track. But I don’t think I’d want it.

There’s the macro-social angle to consider, too. While the ad industry isn’t as tightly concentrated in New York City as it might have been half a century ago, Madison Avenue is still where a disproportionate amount of the action is. As the source of so much creative development and implementation for marketing media, is this lack of diversity reflected in the advertising messages we encounter every day? It’s the concept of a fairly homogeneous vanguard of ideamen, formulating concepts based on their own narrow sets of experiences and inputs.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 10:40:32 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

I think I’ve found the next primetime event for the X Games:


That would be kite-flying as practiced on the Indian subcontinent, where aerial duels involve “fighter kites” that are tethered by taut, razor-like strings coated with crushed glass or metal.

Death from the skies! Actually, often literally:

Every year, Pakistani media report dozens of deaths and injuries caused by kite flying, mainly of children and motorcyclists whose throats are sometimes cut by metal or glass-coated string.

“It is a matter of concern that a healthy sport is being turned into a game of death,” the official APP news agency quoted Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi as saying Tuesday.

Elahi said a crackdown had been launched against the sale of sharp kite string and threatened a permanent ban on kite-flying if deaths continued.

“Action under the Anti-Terrorism Act would be taken in case of deaths due to … dangerous kite-flying string,” he was quoted as saying.

This actually provides an explanation to a long-ago strange new item out of Afghanistan, when it was still under Taliban rule. The government banned all kite-flying, and that edict was reported in the West without what must have been this regional context.

Now, it makes sense. But at the time, it was presented as just another irrational action by an ultra-extreme, backward regime. It did lead to a funny quip by Jerry Seinfeld, when he heard about the kite-flying ban:

“What are they afraid of? That someone might discover electricity?”

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 02:20:00 PM
Category: Other Sports, Comedy | Permalink | Feedback (2)

The saga of the dual-named stretch of Interstate 275 that runs through St. Petersburg has run into a recently-uncovered snag: The highway already had a memorialized name.

Not that anyone was in on it:

Thirty-seven years ago the Legislature and Gov. Claude Kirk designated the interstate through Pinellas the American Legion Memorial Highway.

But few knew it.

“I had to look it up,” said FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson. “It’s true.”

“This is the first I’ve ever heard of it,” said St. Petersburg City Councilman John Bryan. “It’s true, huh? I didn’t know.”

Which pretty much underlines why it’s pointless to tack on names to a road that everyone will continue to refer to as “I-275″. Much snappier than “St. Petersburg Parkway/William C. Cramer Memorial Highway/American Legion Memorial Freeway”, or whatever the final silly compromise will be.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 01:42:20 PM
Category: Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback

for real
It seems like every blogger in creation has linked to the video clip of a live-action recreation of “The Simpsons” opening sequence. Many have marveled at the attention to detail in what’s presumably an Internet-borne labor of love.

There’s a reason why it’s so detailed: It’s a professional job, commissioned by Fox itself. The network got UK ad agency Devilfish to make the short as a TV promo for British audiences, and News Corp. marketers released it on the Web as a viral campaign. (There already was a tipoff that it came from the other side of the Atlantic: The Marge and Maggie driving sequence curiously featured a car with a right-side steering wheel.)

Would the wide appreciation the short’s received be diminished had people known it was a corporate product? I don’t think so. It’s still a clever homage to the animated series. And there’s no better parody than self-parody!

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 11:52:53 AM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg., TV | Permalink | Feedback

this is the big one
If there’s any semblance of balance in the cosmos, the sound guy at St. Louis’ Savvis Center should be playing the instantly-recognizable theme music from “Sanford and Son” during home games when Blues starting goaltender Curtis Sanford is in net.

If you need more justification than the obvious, consider that Redd Foxx, and his character Fred Sanford, both called St. Louis their hometown. Plus, Foxx’s birth name really was Sanford. And there’s Foxx’s recurring joke from the show about the “G” in “Fred G. Sanford” standing for whatever he felt like at that moment — in this instance, it might as well be for “goalie”. On top of all that, it’d be just plain crowd-pleasing.

If none of those reasons are good enough, then perhaps this little Mark Evanier-related anecdote involving the show’s theme and Foxx’s infamous lounge act will convince:

This took place at the Hacienda Hotel on a rainy Sunday night. Vegas was sparsely-peopled that evening and Redd had a lot of empty seats at his early show. When the time came to start the 11:00 performance, there were only ten bodies in the audience.

Opening the show was Slappy White, another veteran performer who had made much the same, hard climb as Mr. Foxx, reaching a slightly lower rung. Slappy did his twenty minutes, then a voice intoned, “Ladies and gentlemen… the star of Sanford and Son, Mister Redd Foxx -!”

The small band on the stage struck up the Sanford and Son theme: “Yum ta da-da, yum ta da-da da-da-dum, yum ta da-da…” Redd Foxx, resplendent in a tuxedo, his Norelco-shaved head gleaming in the follow-spot, strutted out on stage. He reached the microphone and peered out in the house. Then, after a moment or two, he screamed out -


Then he turned and marched off the stage. The band struck up his theme again: “Yum ta da-da, yum ta da-da da-da-dum, yum ta da-da…”

The lights came up, the waiters passed through the place distributing refunds… and the show was over.

I don’t know why but I just love that… especially the image of the band playing him off with his theme song, just as if he’d finished a normal performance. I’d have gladly paid the full cover charge (plus two-drink minimum) to have been there that evening.

If that doesn’t sell you, St. Louis Blues fans, then nothing will.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 11:01:48 AM
Category: TV, Hockey | Permalink | Feedback