Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Other social network imports haven’t caught on in Japan like Twitter has, and it may have to do with the un-bird-like translation:

“It’s telling that Twitter was translated as ‘mumbling’ in Japanese,” [consultant Motohiko Tokuriki] said. “They love the idea of talking to themselves.”

I can’t imagine a “mumblr” catching on in the English-speaking world. Maybe the art of the mumble is more respected in East Asia.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/19/2010 06:44pm
Category: Social Media Online, Society
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run with the flow
You are looking at SkyMall’s exclusive Xlr8 athletic shoe. And yes, you are looking at a sperm-like logo on said sneaker.

I’m guessing the in-flight catalogue just presumes that its target customer is a member of the Mile High Club, and wants to show off that sexual bade of honor via footwear? This certainly beats Nike’s swoosh design, despite the less-than-perfect analogy:

So [sperms'] preferred sport is swimming; it doesn’t make them any less of a workout role model when you’re hitting the streets.

Well, the semen-sprinters might be role models, but I don’t know how much they can teach you about “hitting the streets”. To clear up the confusion, maybe SkyMall should start selling matching Speedos.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/19/2010 06:12pm
Category: Comedy, Fashion, Other Sports
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Friday, June 18, 2021

i need somebody
Being a child of the ’70s and ’80s, I was raised to Just Say No to drugs.

But you can make an exception when it’s over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, right? I never was crystal-clear on that whole concept. If so, I’m sure the free samples that Help Remedies just sent me pass muster.

Yep, on the strength of last month’s post about Help’s unique packaging and marketing presentation, the company sent me some freebies. An email from their CEO, Richard Fine, extended the offer and subsequently hooked me up. I had a choice in what to receive; since I don’t have any chronic ailments that need relief, I opted for Help’s preventative measures:

- The help, I’ve cut myself package of 12 large and small bandages

- The help, I have an aching body package of 16 ibuprofen pills

Better safe than sorry, right? I feel compelled to injure myself, just so I can make use of this first-aid windfall. But I’ll keep my self-destructive impulses in check, and likewise keep this minor stash in reserve.

I do appreciate the outreach by Help. Indeed, the unconventional packets are fun to hold and behold, and they conveniently take up minimal space in the medicine cabinet. I have every confidence that their contents will fix me up, whenever I need to crack open their biodegradable shells.

Included with the samples was a thin little booklet that details Help’s business-operating philosophy. I really wish a version of it was online, because it’s a real hoot: Quirky brand messaging that’s reminiscent, in tone, of 19th Century snake-oil medicine sales pitches. Only in Help’s case, it’s utilized to debunk the modern variations of those pitches. Here’s a prime passage:

In the world of drugs and pharmacies there are stories about technologically complicated pills that, after entering your body and gliding aerodynamically down your throat, proceed to detonate and break into thousands of pieces. Those pieces then proceed to seek out the various bodily organs they must attend to, like thousands of tiny intelligent tadpoles (see figure 5-1).

In fact, pills are composed entirely of non-thinking matter, so nothing like this could possibly happen. Our pills are as technologically complicated as a piece of bread.

It’s product language that’s consistent, and adorns Help’s packaging, making for a memorable product. I don’t know if Help really will change the way OTC drugs are marketed toward consumers, but they’re giving it a good go. I still expect to see these little pill-packs spread beyond New York (Help’s home turf, right out of their Broadway HQ), and into the Targets of the world.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/18/2010 08:17am
Category: Business, Creative, New Yorkin', Science
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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Today I turn 39. And the question before me is an unconventional one:

Just how many Caddyshack-inspired t-shirts should one man own?

I have my friend Kirby to thank for that puzzler. Last year, he sent me a nice little Bushwood Country Club tee, which I got a chuckle out of. Perhaps going with what works, this week he sent me, yes, another Bushwood-adorned short-sleever. Different color and logo, of course, but still, with “Bushwood” prominently displayed, along with the movie’s insider joke-tagline, “Some people just don’t belong”.

I appreciate the thought, of course. But really, two Caddyshack shirts for the summer wardrobe? People will start to talk. Not to mention that it’s a bit dated. Not everyone is familiar with a thirty-year-old movie, classic comedy though it may be — just ask any middle-aging corporate cog. To me, it looks to be easily taken out of context. So, really, I’m hesitant to wear this new shirt in public.

I’ll certainly not wear it to my birthday celebration dinner tonight, at NINJA New York. As gimmicky as that maze-adventure-as-restaurant is, showing up in a pop-culturally ironic t-shirt won’t aid anything.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/17/2010 09:02am
Category: Fashion, Movies, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

basic cable
Since it doesn’t play music videos anymore, MTV is prepping for the next generation of content-filtering talent: An officially-designated, in-house “Twitter jockey”, or TJ.

The recruitment effort, which is officially called “Follow Me: The Search for the First MTV T.J.,” is planning to announce its first 18 candidates this week, culled from viewers with strong Twitter and Facebook presences. Two additional candidates will be chosen through a Web site, tj.mtv.com, where viewers can nominate friends or — more likely — themselves. The candidates will then face off in a series of competitions starting in July, with a winner to be selected in a televised event on Aug. 8…

Stephen Friedman, the general manager of MTV, said in a telephone interview that the T.J. position was created partly because of the huge online spikes that MTV enjoys during broadcast events like, say, a new episode of “Jersey Shore,” or when Kanye West grabs Taylor Swift’s trophy at an awards presentation.

And they’re not skimping on the salary, either: $100K for a year of tweeting. I would nominate myself, except that I’m ridiculously too old for MTV (39 tomorrow!), and I’m probably not tapped into the proper pop-cultural zeitgeist to pull it off. Maybe if VH1 ever needs a “teej”…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/16/2010 11:52pm
Category: Pop Culture, Social Media Online, TV
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Is it a bad sign that this blog has outlived some of the most notable post-subjects on it? First, the Mercury Girl gets her walking papers; and now, southwest Ohio’s only six-story statue of Jesus Christ is no more, having just been struck by lightning and burned to oblivion.

The giant-sized Jesus didn’t go out alone, either:

“The heat coming off the statue singed the entire back wall of the amphitheater and burned through it,” [local Fire Capt. Richard] Mascarella said. “Portions of the roof are destroyed, so they will have to replace a large part of it.”

A pond surrounding the statue that used to be full of fish is now filled with remnants of the structure, made of fiber glass and foam. All the fish are either dead or dying, Mascarella said.

The real tragedy? This electrified Christ-crisping is but the latest instance of lightning assaults upon religious sculptures.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/16/2010 11:22pm
Category: Pop Culture, Society
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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

zero plus oneOne year after I learned about it, today was the release date for Bret Easton Ellis‘ latest opus, “Imperial Bedrooms”. It’s nothing less than a direct sequel to his groundbreaking debut novel, “Less Than Zero”.

And I scooped it up first thing this morning. Via the Amazon Kindle app for iPhone. This would be my very first ebook purchase (not counting a couple of freebie titles that I downloaded, mainly just to practice reading on the iPhone screen).

Why did I inaugurate my digital-literature collection with this title? One reason is that I’ve been craving a must-read book for a long while now. Nothing else I’ve come across in the past several months has come close to engaging me. Ellis’ body of work certainly delivers for me, so I gladly committed to a pre-order for his newest output. A revisiting of the nihilism of “Zero” is just the ticket.

The other reason is that, frankly, I resent having to shell out an inflated pricetag for a hardcover edition. Because I hate hardcovers. I vastly prefer paperback/softcover formats, sheerly for their easier portability and handling. I understand how the book publishing business works, and how the hardbacks generate the lion’s share of revenue. But I still don’t like it. So the opportunity to pick up the ebook edition, at a steep discount, was too good to pass up. My only reticence came with my level of comfort in reading a bona fide novel on a mobile device’s small screen; turns out that the Kindle app is a good reading medium. So, I’m set.

I’ve already knocked down the first couple of chapters (I’ve no illusions about stretching out this read — I fully expect to devour it within the week). It’s already immensely entertaining, with Ellis’ spare elegance providing a compelling narrative. Clay, Julian, Blair, et al are definitely being set up for a wild ride in the onset of their middle age, some 25 years after the events in “Zero”. One immediate distinction between then and now: Seemingly all those characters now have last names, implying that they’ve grown up to be more “real”.

Finally, it’s imminently appropriate that I’m reading “Imperial Bedrooms” on an iPhone. Because the ebook is sharing space with my Elvis Costello songs. The connection, of course, is Ellis’ seeming obsession with Costello’s oeuvre — to the extent that he named “Less Than Zero” and “Imperial Bedrooms” after a song and an album by the musician. Technology happily melds popular culture in the palm of my hand…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/15/2010 11:36pm
Category: Book Review, Pop Culture, Tech, iPhone
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Monday, June 14, 2021

tending goals
Once again, David Letterman nails it. Here, from tonight’s “Late Show”, is his pithy definition of why soccer has never caught on in the United States:

Because in this country, soccer is not a sport. It’s daycare.

Pretty effectively sums it up. Kids take to the game because it’s relatively simple to pick up and develop teamwork around. After you hit puberty, it wears off. The “world’s game” doesn’t grow up with American tykes, and hasn’t since the 1970s.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/14/2010 11:59pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Other Sports
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Scholarships collide with semantics in the Golden State, where colleges and universities officially don’t charge the natives with tuition, but rather “fees”:

The state’s renowned master plan for higher education, which in 1960 established separate roles for the University of California, California State University and the community colleges, also declared that the public institutions “shall be tuition free to all residents.” Since then, even as the amount students pay for their education has soared, campuses here have stubbornly insisted on using the word “fees” for the instructional charges that other states call tuition.

Now, however, a movement is underway to drop what many education experts consider an outdated, even dishonest term. It’s high time, they say, to adopt the “T-word” in registration bills and campus discussions.

For example, with UC’s basic undergraduate educational cost now topping $10,000 a year, three times more than a decade ago, “tuition” is the accurate term, they say. They also note that in 2009, California’s confusing terminology nearly kept the state’s veterans from receiving certain federal education benefits and financial aid.

I’m sure Mom and Dad will feel less of a sting now that their checks are going toward the “T-word”, versus the “F-word”. The “F-word” still being appropriate for when Junior winds up incurring dorm-damage charges…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/14/2010 11:39pm
Category: College Years, Politics, Society, Wordsmithing
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Sunday, June 13, 2021

It’s a fan-favorite plastic novelty trumpet called a vuvuzela, and it’s giving this year’s World Cup a headache:

Some 20 years after being introduced to the game in the early 1990s, the instrument came to prominence on the world stage during the [South Africa-hosted] 2009 Confederations Cup. TV stations were upset by the “goat being slaughtered” timbre, while players complained that they couldn’t hear themselves think over the din. “It doesn’t allow you to concentrate and it’s unbearable,” Spanish player Xabi Alonso said at the time. FIFA head honcho Sepp Blatter, however, pooh-poohed calls to ban the vuvuzela for World Cup 2010, insisting that we should not attempt to “Europeanize” the African tournament.

It’s not like arena noise is a new phenomenon. The issue is that South African soccer crowds blow their horns continuously, and without let-up — practically unrelated to the action on the field.

Oh, right — “action on the field” and “soccer” are practically mutually exclusive. So I guess I can’t blame the fans for taking it upon themselves to create a literal buzz during these drawn-out run-and-kick matches…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/13/2010 10:39pm
Category: Other Sports
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To get around the European Union’s ban on tobacco advertising, major Formula 1 sponsor Marlboro decided on a high-speed stealth presentation of its product colors:

In January, Ferrari presented the new Scuderia Marlboro F1 single-seater. (Ferrari is the only Formula One team with a tobacco brand in its formal title, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro.) At first glance the car is void of major sponsorship per the rules and has gone relatively unnoticed over the last four months. Now, however, 4 races into the year, the EU portion of the Formula One season is about to begin in Spain and the car’s livery is in the spotlight due to the team’s unique solution to the ban on advertising.

The livery (paint job) features a predominately red car with a number of associate sponsor logos: Shell Gasoline, Ferrari itself, Bridgestone and a few others. The most striking aspect of this design… is a red, black and white barcode-like design on the canopy of the vehicle, as well as on the uniforms of drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipa Massa. Up close it just looks like a cool aesthetic touch but from a distance (and possibly even more clearly when moving 200 mph) it appears to resemble the packaging of a certain cigarette manufacturer. Can you guess which one?

The barcode look is what’s prompting the “subliminal” charges (which is, historically, a recurring allegation against cigarette advertising). The digital-like design suggests some sinister neuro-marketing afoot. It’s primarily an optical-illusion presentation, if you want to split hairs — but definitely toward a subliminal placement of messaging.

So yes, it’s definitely sneaky. Also a sign that Marlboro and its parent company, Philip Morris, put a lot of stock in the brand’s red-white-and-black logo being recognizable enough to leave an impression in such an indirect presentation. They get credit for trying to loophole their way out of a tight situation.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/13/2010 06:52pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Other Sports
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Summertime has hit, which means it’s the season for your basic shaved ice/sno-kone treat.

In my neighborhood this weekend, I noticed something unusual among the little kids partaking in this slushy refreshment: About half of them would order theirs without any flavoring syrup. Just plain, straight shaved ice in a paper cone. This, despite the option of about a dozen sugary flavors from the sno-kone seller. I didn’t detect any pressure from the parents to skip the fruit-flavored additives, either — the kids were willingly going with unadorned ice-chips.

This is weird, isn’t it? It’s a good thing that youngsters who normally have extreme sweet-tooth tendencies would forgo the saccharine in this one instance. But why? Is this some kind of sugar-free snowcone trend? How refreshing can a little cone of melting ice-water be? You might as well go home and pull an icecube out of the freezer, and start sucking on that.

I guess the real winner here is the sno-kone vendor, who sees his usual 90 percent profit go even higher, since he saves on the syrup. Anywhere from a buck-fifty to two bucks for some ice shavings, plus the cost of the paper cone. Must be a goldmine.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/13/2010 04:55pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin'
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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Chelsea is a neighborhood known for a lot of things. But notable graffiti isn’t one of them.

That’s why I cameraphone-snapped the above example. For one, it’s fairly sky-high, at least 10 stories up; that means it was intended for a wide audience. At least, as wide as the car and foot traffic on 9th Avenue and 14th through about 18th Streets will allow. That simple three-word call-and-response — “Slang Who” “Who!” — doesn’t say much, but it’s cryptic enough to make for a unique cityscape scene.

As is usually the case when I photograph such a scene, there is a larger version on Flickr. But the detail above isn’t really clear in the larger scene. All you really get is a better overview of that lower part of 9th, including the landmark Prince Lumber storefront. So really, don’t even bother clicking through.

This marks my latest post concerning some specimen of New York City graffiti. I should smarten up and create a blog category for it. Although it doesn’t feel like I’ve yet attained critical mass for that…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/12/2021 07:06pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Photography
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If it’s not enough for your TinyURL or bit.ly shrink-link to be an effectively blind destination, then new URL shortener Trick.ly furthers the online obfuscation:

Trick.ly is a free service that shortens and password protects web links you want to share with select individuals on the internet. And rather than rope you and your contacts into a new social network, Trick.ly allows you to share with people on-the-fly.

If you want to protect secrets from the “merely curious”, Trick.ly lets you put a password on links with clues only your friends would get.

So instead of directly heading for the intended page, Trick.ly speedbumps you first for the password/security question. A short pause, and maybe an appreciated one — but a process that ultimately gums up the free-flow Web even further. Just what we need.

Still, this is a creative approach. It doesn’t look like it’s particularly secure; I’m sure you can crack most user-generated passwords with little effort, so top-secret links should go elsewhere (like, not on the Web in the first place). I suppose Trick.ly is no more inane than any other shortening service, so get as tricky as you want with those shortform links.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/12/2021 06:46pm
Category: Creative, Internet, Social Media Online
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Friday, June 11, 2021

I see that upcoming new release Grown Ups features Kevin James in the role of The Fat Guy (not really his character’s name, but it might as well be).

Meanwhile, the rest of this comedy’s main-character ensemble is: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider. Those four share a common history as former cast-members of “Saturday Night Live” — in fact, they were all on the show at roughly the same time.

That background makes James the odd-man-out. In more ways than one: I can’t look at this movie’s lineup and not think that another “SNL” alum from the same era, the late Chris Farley, would have slotted into this project perfectly. Farley is, in essence, the missing ingredient in this de facto “SNL” reunion.

Not that Farley, had he survived, would have made this flick look any less sucky than it now does. The domestication of former frat-boy comics is predictable enough, but it doesn’t guarantee any laughs. Not even with a substitute fat schlub.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/11/2021 11:12am
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Movies, TV
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Thursday, June 10, 2021

did you hear about this one
Practically live off the Web: Earlier tonight, someone landed on this blog from a Google search for this quote attributed to David Letterman:

“Sometimes, when you look in his eyes, you get the feeling that someone else is driving.”

The searcher presumably was looking for the object of Letterman’s assessment. And surprisingly, the scads of Web cruft don’t offer a clue as to who that is. Myriad sites reproduce the quote, and credit Letterman — but they offer absolutely no context. Just another example of the online echo chamber diffusing our collective ignorance…

If it helps anyone, I’m pretty sure I know who Letterman was referring to: The late Andy Kaufman. I can’t absolutely verify this at the moment, because, as I said, the Web is proving pretty useless in providing this information. But I recall the quotation pretty well, probably from some long-ago documentary on Kaufman’s life. Letterman would have uttered this sometime in the early ’80s, before Kaufman departed this mortal coil. I’m about 95 percent positive about this.

So, at least this website won’t be yet another dead end in the pursuit of the answer to Letterman’s pithy saying. At least, not anymore. And you’re welcome.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/10/2021 11:55pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy
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from a distance
There’s no way to make this any more absurd than to state it in plain fact: The owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers paid “six figures and even higher”, according to a team attorney, to a physicist-slash-faith-healer named Vladimir Shpunt for transmitting positive vibes in the direction of Chavez Ravine.

In the five years [Shpunt] worked for the Dodgers, he attended just one game. Instead, he watched them on television in his home more than 3,000 miles from Dodger Stadium, channeling his thoughts toward the team’s success.

Shpunt’s work was one of the best-kept secrets of the McCourt [ownership] era. The couple kept it hidden even from the team’s top executives. But from e-mails and interviews, a picture emerges of how the emigre physicist tried to use his long-distance energy to give the Dodgers an edge.

The McCourts, who are embroiled in a contentious divorce, declined to be interviewed about Shpunt. Through their representatives, Frank said it was Jamie’s idea to hire him and Jamie said it was Frank’s.

The power of positive scamming is alive and well. As rife with superstition as baseball is, I’d say this incident reveals a new level of mystic nonsense — and from the executive suite, to boot. The only way to top this is if some owner decides to start serving up sacrificial offerings to the baseball gods…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/10/2021 10:57pm
Category: Baseball
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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

After 49 years, Chicago gets a return visit by the Stanley Cup.

So ends the city’s drought, so ends Marian Hossa’s personal Finals drought, and so ends one of the most entertaining National Hockey League championship rounds in recent years. The Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t be more evenly matched, and it showed brilliantly on the ice. Right up until what had to be the most awkward game-winning goal I’ve ever seen:

Patrick Kane sneaked the puck past Michael Leighton 4:10 into overtime and stunned Philadelphia to lift the Blackhawks to a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 on Wednesday night for their first championship since 1961.

No one but the Blackhawks appeared to know what was going on for a few frozen moments. Kane and his linemates seemed the only players on the ice who knew the puck found the side of the net. The goal light never went on, but that didn’t stop most of the Blackhawks from storming the ice and mobbing each other in celebration.

This series had to end, and it’s just as well it did so on such a corker.

Now that 1961 has been exorcised (notably, that last Chicago Cup was the only time during the Original Six era that a team other than Montreal, Toronto, or Detroit had won the league title), we can move onto Toronto. Namely, to antagonize the Maple Leafs with an extra edge since they’re lugging the NHL’s now-longest championship drought. I can hear the “Nineteen-sixty-sev-en!” chants now…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/09/2021 11:58pm
Category: Hockey
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Both the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association are enjoying double-digit percentage-point increases in ratings this month, and there’s an interesting contributing factor:

Ratings for major sports events have been strong this year, including the record set for the most-watched Super Bowl. TV executives think it’s no coincidence the increases coincide with Americans’ rapid adoption of high definition television, which is very popular with sports fans.

An estimated 52 percent of American homes had HDTVs and were actively using them, according to a Nielsen study done in April. That compares with 33 percent a year earlier and 17 percent in 2008, Nielsen said.

A sharper picture yields a more engaged sports-fan audience, I guess. My own experience bears this out: I’d be watching sports anyway, but the HD coverage encourages me to watch more. And in instances where, for instance, there are multiple NHL games being broadcast in my area, I’ll opt for the HD broadcasts over the ones that are in standard-definition.

HD video is available online, so that alone doesn’t insulate television providers from Web competition. But it does reinforce sports programming as a key hook for customer retention.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/09/2021 11:37pm
Category: Basketball, Hockey, TV
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It’s pretty rainy and miserable in New York at the moment. Although the “miserable” part is relative:

A colleague tonight told me she wished she could step outside for just a few minutes, to dance in the rain. She grew up in India, where oft-oppressive heat made any rainfall a welcomed respite. She loves the feel of dampness in the air, and the accompanying smell of mud arising from the cooled-down earth.

As much as I appreciated her sentiments, I ruefully shared with her my polar-opposite attitude toward such weather. I really dislike getting wet by precipitation. I compare this aversion to that of a cat’s — even the briefest of rain-soakings leaves me in a miserable and foul mood. And I’ve had plenty of practice with the heat/cooldown cycle she described: I lived in Florida for 15 years. I never found the daily summer squalls in the Sunshine State to be refreshing; if anything, they’d leave things even more hot and muggy after their short downpour.

To bring me around, my colleague suggested I go to India with her during the next rainy season. I told her I’d think about it. If anthing could change my anti-rain attitude, a trip halfway around the globe with her might do it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/09/2021 06:04pm
Category: Weather
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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Have you blazed a wide swath of rotten credit? Rather than go through the unpleasantness of rebuilding your financial health, just have a kid or two and then leech off their virgin credit scores:

If a parent has a child’s social security number, they can do almost anything — no matter how young the child is — because a credit check does not reveal a person’s age, said Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com…

Because of the availability of personal information to close family members, more than half of identity theft cases are typically committed by parents, he said.

“Parents who are compromising their child’s identity are generally doing it because of a need, like a single mom whose electric bill is too high and the lights get turned off, so the path of least resistance is putting it under the baby’s name,” said Siciliano. “But then a light bulb goes off in her head and she opens a mobile phone account, and the next thing you know she has a credit card under her kid’s name or gets a car loan,” he said.

Way to start Junior off in life, with a subpar credit score before s/he is out of diapers. If this isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/08/2021 11:26pm
Category: Business, Society
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