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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

I’m irrationally skeptical of mobile banking, but a new breed of check-scanning iPhone apps definitely could sway me:

Earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase updated its iPhone app to let customers electronically deposit checks. To make a deposit, customers photograph the front and back of the check with the phone’s built-in camera, then transmit the image to their account.

I’ve managed to minimize the paper-based payments amongst my accounts receivable, but I still have to run out and deposit the occasional check. Not that that’s a hassle, as practically every street corner around here has a full-service ATM that accepts paper checks for deposit.

In short, I probably don’t really need to snap photos on my iPhone to drop funds into my account. But the concept is so neat that, well, I just wanna. So this is all it takes to throw e-fiscal overcautiousness to the wind…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/13/2010 10:19pm
Category: Business, Tech, iPhone
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I spent the better part of today getting my Jeep Cherokee repaired, registered, and on the road. I’m not going to go into any detail, because I’m pretty ambivalent to be, once again, a car owner. I’ll just signify the occasion by making note of it in this space.

There is one tidbit of automotive ritual that came up during this process, which I’d never encountered before: Car coining.

In New Jersey and New York, people often practice ‘car coining’, where they toss a few coins onto the floor of a newly-purchased car, as a sign of good luck. This practice originated as a practical one, linked to toll roads. The New York area has many toll roads, and as a result, many drivers would carry change in their cars. The friends and family of the new car owner would throw coins onto the floor of the new car, so if the driver ever ran out of money, they could reach down and find some extra money on the floor!

I did, indeed, have some coinage tossed into my Cherokee today. It certainly felt like a christening of a newborn (ignoring the fact that this 4×4 is over ten years old). I didn’t bother to count it, but I figure there’s a couple of bucks’ worth of spare change in the Cherokee now, just waiting for me to come upon a money-scraping catastrophe.

Like I said, I’d never heard of this odd little practice before, and I grew up in the tri-state area. It has to be kinda old, as loose change generally won’t cut it for the tolls around the metro area nowadays — you need paper currency (or an E-ZPass) to get through the booths. And lemme tell ya, if someone wants to drop a few $5 and $10 bills onto my floormats, my befuddlement over this heretofore-unknown tradition will quickly pass…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/13/2010 09:30pm
Category: New Yorkin', Society
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Monday, July 12, 2021

Short-branding comes to the organization formerly known as the Young Men’s Christian Association. From here on out, it’s simply “The Y”:

The Y’s new name coincides with its efforts to emphasize the impact its programs have on youth, healthy living and communities. Its affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, for instance, is working to change zoning regulations to promote sidewalks, which it hopes will encourage more people to walk. In Louisville, Ky., the local Y is trying to increase the distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables through bodegas. In low-income housing complexes in Houston, landlords have given the affiliate apartments for an after-school program to reduce vandalism by teenagers.

“We’re trying to simplify how we tell the story of what we do, and the name represents that,” said Neil Nicoll, president and chief executive of the organization, whose membership peaked in 2007 and has remained flat.

But let’s focus on who this really impacts: The Village People, who will remain unreconstructed YMCAers by sticking with the old acronym when performing their signature song.

The People do have an out-clause to draw on, as the mothership is maintaining one exception:

The Y said in a note to editors that affiliates collectively should be referred to by the new name, but a specific branch should still be referred to as, say, the Y.M.C.A. of Greater Seattle.

So, nostalgia concerts will henceforth be location-specific? “It’s fun to stay at the — Y-M-C-A-of-Mil-wau-kee-ay!” has a different vibe to it. As long as it’s brand-accurate, I guess.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/12/2021 10:51pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture, Society
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For companies wary of employee-stock packages that dilute overall corporate shares, phantom stocks — a promise to pay a cash bonus that is directly tied to the value of a company’s stock — are the new incentivization option.

Because it turns out that the worker ants aren’t particularly interested in equity anyway:

Research has also shown that employees who are rewarded with actual shares tend to sell it shortly after they take hold of them. Companies, as a result, have less of a need to pay employees with stock if their workers aren’t holding on to the shares.

Not surprising, in this post-crash volatile market, that they’d want cold hard cash instead of company paper that (sadly) could be worth pennies tomorrow. A win-win all around.

The corporate world could always up the ante in this fiscal nebulousness: Instead of tying bonuses to actual stock prices, peg it to the company’s shadow revenue. Phantoms thrive in the shadow realms, after all.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/12/2021 02:39pm
Category: Business
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Sunday, July 11, 2021

form of, a diety!
The Hypostatic Union is the theological term for the reconciliation of the holy and the mortal within Jesus Christ — in short, “that in Christ one person subsists in two [distinct] natures, the Divine and the human”.

That duality — which allowed Jesus to suffer and die in a manner identical with any other person, while also giving Him heavenly awareness — may be too complex to grasp for some people. For them, Philip Pullman’s satiric novel “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ” simplifies things, albeit sacrilegiously: By rending that union of Jesus and Christ, literally.

The makers of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” dared only to propose that a very naughty boy had been born at the same time as Jesus in a stable adjoining his. Pullman outbids Python in profanity by having the Virgin Mary give birth to twins. One of these, Jesus, shows little gift for scholarship but exhibits charismatic talents. The other is full of scriptural knowledge and guile, and is his mother’s favorite on account of his sickliness. She gives him an ordinary name (not specified) for public purposes but to herself calls him by the pet name of “Christ,” meaning Messiah in Greek.

Life of Brian is one of my favorites, so Pullman’s book might be up my alley. Although the concept of twin Nazarene godheads is a little out there, even in a comic-novel setting. Why didn’t the author go all the way and give them a pet monkey?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/11/2021 09:04pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Publishing
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The following statement intrigued me enough that I copied and saved it shortly after coming across it online recently:

“The oil wells dried up in the Middle East, new ones popped up in China. Islam got real soft after that. Everyone did, actually.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t bother to take note of the source of this enigmatic quote. And it turns out to be yet another example of the ephemeral nature of the Web: There’s no trace of it, or even fragments of its text, online. I’m guessing I came across it either on or via Twitter, but there’s no sign of that now.

I’m guessing that whoever originally jotted this down took it offline, for whatever reason. Probably wasn’t counting on me preserving it for (some measure of) posterity. But a succinct description of geopolitical futurescapes is darn hard for me to resist, so there you have it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/11/2021 04:44pm
Category: Creative, Political
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Saturday, July 10, 2021

It’s not just my imagination that I’m noticing more and more women on the streets of Manhattan back-packing rolled-up yoga mats like they were de rigueur urban accessories. Hard times call for a yogi regimen:

Since the recession went from painful to disastrous in September 2008, yoga studios throughout the country have reported increased traffic. Irene Narissi, a New York City yoga instructor, says her business has jumped 10% to 15% over the past seven months. The feedback from new clients: they are either unemployed and want to maintain their mental health or insecure about their current job status and want to maintain their mental health. “The meditative aspects of yoga,” Narissi says, “satisfy the need to chill out.”

Again, strictly from my perspective, it’s looking like the converts around here are exclusively women; I’ve yet to see a man toting around a $100 personal yoga mat. And, this being New York, a serious stretching session is probably going to come with a walk up and down a flight of stairs.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/10/2021 07:33pm
Category: New Yorkin', Other Sports, Society, Women
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RentAFriend.com offers non-sexual companionship services for an hourly fee. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the platonic-supply business is booming:

“I wish I had more to tell you,” [RentAFriend member Christopher] said, shouting into his cellphone as a city bus roared by. “But not one person has called me since I signed up five months ago.”

Next I called Sabine. She’s 51, from Germany, and charges $30 an hour for her friendship. That’s also her rate for her regular job: pet-sitting exotic animals, namely reptiles (she has 45 of her own at home, including a python). She joined RentAFriend because she “thought it was a great concept,” though, like Christopher, she’s been a member for several months and no one’s called her…

The next 10 or so people I left messages with never called me back, maybe because they’re working overtime in hot-air balloons.

One qualifier: The above sampling took place in Los Angeles. And as we already know, the definition of “friendship” is different in LA:

…When people talk about ‘friends’ they often aren’t really claiming to know that person socially, or that they see them on the weekends, or have their home number. They would even be surprised if you made that assumption. To them, when they say ‘friend’ they mean it, and expect it to be understood by the listener as, ’someone I know’.

So, at least in Southern California, it makes little sense to pay for a relationship status that you can claim merely by bumping into someone a couple of times. As for other areas, those friending rates are probably high enough that it actually makes more sense to just ask someone out for a date — with the same ultimate dollar figure, and at least the possibility of a more intimate conclusion.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/10/2021 06:17pm
Category: Internet, Society
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If you couldn’t already tell that DateBritishGuys.com was a cut-rate dating operation just from the sight of the site, finding a stack of cheap-looking, URL-emblazoned business cards next to a grocery store register ought to confirm the shoe-string budget.

Although they’re on the right track, by advertising near food. They just need to make the association more explicit — namely, take a stack of those calling-cards and place them in the citrus section.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/10/2021 05:38pm
Category: Food, Society, Women
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Friday, July 09, 2021

Riding a career-revival hot streak that includes a much-hyped “Saturday Night Live” host slot and a starring role in a new sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland”, Betty White is moving on to time-sensitive wall hangings:

It’s true. The 88-year-old actress is posing for her own 2011 calendar. Some of the photos are archival, others are Betty with animals and more than one month features Betty posing with shirtless, beefcake-type men.

Not to be unduly morbid, but let’s face it — White is 88. There’s a reasonable chance that she may not make it through the rest of this year, let alone next. So it’s entirely possible that this calendar could outlast her. If so, this merchandise would become an instant collector’s item, if ghoulishly so. Very much of a tempting-fate air to all this…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/09/2021 08:17am
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, TV
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Thursday, July 08, 2021

More than a year ago, we were expecting future sports-transaction news to be delivered directly from the players, via social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

But when you’re LeBron James, and you’re the preeminent free agent of this 2010 National Basketball Association offseason… Well, why settle for a measly Twitter account when ESPN will give you an hour of airtime to announce “The Decision”?

Sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that representatives for James contacted the network, proposing the idea of a dedicated special. The sources said James’ representatives requested they be allowed to sell sponsorship for the broadcast, and ESPN agreed.

“Due to the unprecedented attention and interest surrounding LeBron’s decision, we have decided to make this announcement on national television,” James’ business manager, Maverick Carter, said on lebronjames.com.

Old media trumps new media once again, when it comes to the monumental events. And indeed, James announced his choice of the Miami Heat tonight, a moment that was blunted only slightly by the leaks earlier that indicated he had decided on south Florida.

Considering how commoditized other aspects of sports business have become, having a marquee player build a television special (really, an advertising vehicle) around his contract signing is a natural. The NFL Draft is a major offseason viewing event, and “free agent frenzy” coverage is a major staple in all major-pro sports media (including college signing days and the like). Since the audience interest continues to grow, we can expect future dedicated event coverage like this, stemming from the players or the teams/leagues. It’s a significant step in that a player like James now commands enough clout to control the message so thoroughly, and on an enviable national-broadcasting stage.

The only thing, regarding James’ @kingjames Twitter handle: Typical of many celebrity accounts, he’s amassed a few hundred thousand followers while following nobody. A deft move, simultaneous with James’ live announcement on ESPN, would have been that zero-following changing to a 1 — with that one being the team he finally chose. Perfect orchestration, and a nod to the online fanbase. Maybe for the next mega-free agent circus, next NBA offseason.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/08/2021 11:54pm
Category: Basketball, Social Media Online, SportsBiz, TV
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It’s been two weeks since I overheard this exchange, and I still can’t get the humor of it out of my head:

“I take the Staten Island Ferry.” “Where does that go?”

To be fair, the Ferry does go to two places: Staten Island, and Manhattan. Roundtrip deal, to be most precise.

More esoterically — but no less true to the Wu — you could say that this boat ferries you to the streets of Shao-Lin and back. And for free, even. Way to represent!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 07/08/2021 02:47pm
Category: Comedy, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Paisley Park’s own Prince has roused the online rabble by declaring that he’s done with the Web:

Unlike most other rock stars, he has banned YouTube and iTunes from using any of his music and has even closed down his own official website.

He says: “The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.

“The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”

Quite the Luddite approach to modern media. I’m sure someone else, somewhere, has referenced Prince’s classic “1999″ as a reference point, as in His Royal Badness wishing that the InterWebz would revert to that year, when MP3 downloads were an iffy affair on dialup speeds. If not, I’m doing it here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/07/2021 11:56pm
Category: Celebrity, Internet, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, July 06, 2021

CBS is rebooting classic cop show “Hawaii Five-O” for a Fall 2010 revival. But, according to the network, this latter-day “Five-O” carries an alphanumeric distinction:

Yep, in what the Eye has billed its “shortest press release in history,” the network has informed journos that it’s not the capital letter “O” but instead, the number “0,” in the show title “Hawaii Five-0.”

But yet, that zero is still pronounced “O.” As in “Oh.” As in, “Oh, we’re just effing with you.”

There must be a tongue-in-cheek spirit behind that pronouncement. Because if the Internet Movie Database counts for anything, it clearly lists both old and new series as “Hawaii Five-O”, as in the letter “o”. (Curiously, though, there’s an in-development feature film listed on IMDb that does, indeed, carry the title Hawaii Five-0, as in the number zero. What to make of that?)

In any case, it’d be hard to for CBS to undo decades of ingrained pop-cultural reference. I’m guessing there’s a couple of generations who’ve never seen a trace of the old Jack Lord TV series. Yet “five-o” is common West Coast urban slang for the police, and that distinctive instrumental theme song is instantly recognizable. Especially if you hang out with me, as I’ve been known to use it as my cellphone ringtone.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/06/2021 11:03pm
Category: Pop Culture, TV, True Crime
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If you’re from California, the slang-term “hella” is probably an unlikely candidate for use as a formal unit of scientific measure, i.e. 10 to the 27th power, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000:

“Hella,” a term many Southern Californians find as irritating as teary-eyed renditions of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” is used mainly to make adjectives more intense, as in: “This lentil pizza is hella healthful!” It also can convey simple exuberance: “That party at Sunshine’s house? Hella!”

“Hella” probably derived from “helluva” and, for reasons unknown, morphed into “hella” in the Bay Area before taking wing in the 1990s. In 2001, Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt — out of Orange County — took it national with their mega-hit “Hella Good.”

“A lot of people around the U.S. know it comes from Northern California, where there have been so many contributions to science at Davis, Berkeley, Stanford and Lawrence Livermore,” [physics student Austin] Sendek says of “hella.” “It would be a really good way to immortalize this part of the state.”

I don’t know that “mega-hit” applies to that No Doubt song. Personally, I first came across “hella” in the 1998 “Spooky Fish” episode of “South Park”, wherein Cartman used it incessantly, to the extreme annoyance of his pals (“Stop saying ‘hella’, fat-ass!!”). Given such pop-cultural linkage, I fully endorse its adoption as a mega-number prefix by the International System of Units.

Besides, we need some sort of shorthand for things like the theoretical diameter of the universe, which, according to “hella” proponent Sendek, is 1.4 hellameters. I mean, how have we gone this long without it, right?

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 07/06/2021 10:12pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Science, Wordsmithing
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Monday, July 05, 2021

Long the punching bag of urban-centric cognoscenti, the suburbs are making a bid for an image makeover:

Robert Lang, a University Nevada-Las Vegas sociology professor who studies suburban life, blames excessive familiarity for the suburbs’ second-class status. Since suburbs constitute “the background noise of our lives,” they’re easier to ignore or dismiss, he said.

Doing so is nothing less than rejecting inquiry into the American psyche, he suggested.

“The United States is the first suburban nation,” he said. “In the end, these are the places… where we are going to live, not matter what.”

I’m wondering on the timing of this serious consideration. True, half of Americans now live in areas traditionally defined as suburban. But what are “suburbs” nowadays? Fact is, the immediate metro areas have already morphed to become more urban than not. And demographically, the population is less white than during the mid-20th Century, thanks to immigrants bypassing city centers in favor of immediate entry to suburbs.

So what exactly is this reappraisal looking at? If anything, it sound to me like the exurbs, as the new extra-urban destination for upper-class migration, would be the focus of this popular-consciousness reworking.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/05/2021 10:25pm
Category: Society
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If you think that tagging sugarwater and snack chips with “extreme” labels in their names is a silly, wholly marketing-driven gimmick, consider the experience of Hosmer Mountain Soda. This locally-focused Connecticut softdrink bottler stumbled upon the public’s attraction to potentially wild food rides:

Hosmer’s ["Dangerous" Ginger Beer] is another new release. Its pepperiness inspired [co-manager Bill] Potvin to apply the word “dangerous” to the sandwich board promoting it in front of the Hosmer soda shack in Manchester. The result: “People were whipping in — ‘What’s this dangerous drink?’ — and I realized that just having that adjective on the beverage was enough to create interest,” Mr. Potvin said.

Simply including a strong descriptor as part of the product name — as hokey as it seems — will rope in customers. I’d say it’s due to the appearance of added legitimacy: Subconsciously, you rationalize that if this drink’s “dangerous” quality is so potent that it merits this sort of permanent enshrinement, the it must be legit. It’s somewhat on par with naming rights for sports stadia and similar branding tactics.

This particular tactic that I’m sure will run its course eventually, but for now it’s a strong magnet for thrill-seeking consumers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/05/2021 02:48pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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Sunday, July 04, 2021

Leave it to six-time hot-dog eating champ Takeru Kobayashi to lend some actual drama to this year’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Thanks to his contract dispute with Major League Eating, “The Tsunami” found himself gatecrashing the event:

Kobayashi, wearing a black T-shirt that said “Free Kobi,” mingled with the crowd watching the contest, standing inside a police-barricaded pen just under the stage. When the eating ended, he slipped up the stage stairs.

Then, several security officers appeared and tried to usher him off. He grabbed a metal police barricade with both hands, holding on tightly as the officers pulled at him. Finally, they dragged him down the stairs, with Kobayashi resisting vehemently.

He was under arrest Sunday afternoon, charged with resisting arrest, trespass and obstructing governmental administration.

I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing: Getting arrested for attempting to upstage a celebration of competitive gluttony, or actually participating in a contest that demonstrates what a frankfurter-inhaling pig you are.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/04/2021 10:45pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin', Other Sports, True Crime
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Until recently, a “sugary beverage tax” of one-penny-per-ounce seemed destined to become law in New York State. But apparently, counter-lobbying by the American Beverage Association killed the proposed bill, and supposedly more persuasive advocacy by the industry turned the tide:

Next, this TV ad from New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes, a name calculated to make the blood boil. A mother unpacks groceries in the kitchen as her son mixes a powdered lemonade, one of the drinks that would be taxed. “Tell Albany to trim their budget fat and leave our groceries alone,” the mother says…

It is too early for a final tally of the money spent on advertising and lobbying by either side in New York. But by most accounts, the beverage industry has outspent the pro-tax side and has succeeded in painting the soda tax as a naked money grab cleverly disguised as a health policy.

I question how convincing the ABA’s advertising was, at least with the general public. I caught their commercials a few times; frankly, I wouldn’t have been aware of the tax if hadn’t. I found the ads — including the one referenced above — to be particularly grating and transparently self-serving. In fact, I came away from them more in favor of the tax, just because the industry opposition was so blunt. I think this is more a case of the state legislators getting swayed by their corporate constituents, prompting the burial of this bill. Democracy at work, right?

I guess that’s just me, though. I don’t froth at the mouth every time a new tax is proposed. Plus, I don’t consume all that many soft drinks. So that makes me the silent minority in this arena.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/04/2021 12:06pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Food, New Yorkin', Politics
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Saturday, July 03, 2021

Because that extra-big-iris, doe-eyed anime look is just so dead-sexy, illegal “circle lenses” contacts are making the round amongst fashion-forward ladies:

Now that circle lenses have gone mainstream in Japan, Singapore and South Korea, they are turning up in American high schools and on college campuses. “In the past year, there’s been a sharp increase in interest here in the U.S.,” said Joyce Kim, a founder of Soompi.com, an Asian pop fan site with a forum devoted to circle lenses. “Once early adopters have adequately posted about it, discussed it and reviewed them, it’s now available to everyone.”

Ms. Kim, who lives in San Francisco and is 31, said that some friends her age wear circle lenses almost every day. “It’s like wearing mascara or eyeliner,” she said.

This doesn’t seem all that different from the now-standard colored contact lenses, that went through a fad-fade a couple of decades ago. The accessorizing reminds me of similarly-odd cosmetic trends: Years ago, I knew a group of girls who kept a couple of high-end wigs as part of their wardrobe, because certain outfits they owned didn’t look “right” with their natural hair.

The Japanimation, and even manga, inspiration behind this big-eyed look is telling. It’s too bad the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip just bit the dust; some creative revitalization-marketing there could have inspired a counter pupil-less eyeball look…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/03/2021 08:26pm
Category: Fashion, Pop Culture, Women
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This funny quip has been making the rounds on Twitter this week, and I can’t think of a more apt summation of The Twilight Saga than this:

Dear Confused Teen Girls: Someone who sparkles and won’t have sex with you isn’t a vampire; it’s a gay guy.

Disheartening to realize that that dreamy bloodsucker is really a something-else-sucker. But on the bright side, those teenage girls can emulate their sexless fantasies with the nearest available gayboy.

On another tack, here’s another interpretation of Team Edward versus Team Jacob:

In the war between Team Necrophilia and Team Bestiality, I am Sweden.

Funny how a whole new pop-cultural perspective can be gained in a mere 140 characters.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/03/2021 12:02pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Social Media Online
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