Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Just in case you didn't get the memo, I'm moving my blog to a new home. With the recent economic situation I've found a nice cheap place over at Wordpress. 

Here is my new address:

Sorry Blogger, it's nothing personal. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Battle of the Basic Cable Stars

If you've been paying any sort of attention to any media within the last few days you've probably heard of this feud between CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramer and Comedy Central The Daily Show host Jon Stewart. From what I can gather it all started with this little clip. The entire staff of CNBC seemed to balk afterwards, with this retort as Jim Cramer sheepishly stood by.  Well the entire event escalated into a showdown between the two last night (3/12/09) on the regularly scheduled The Daily Show (which you can watch in its unedited version here, here, and here). After watching the pinnacle of this week long debate, I walked away feeling both parties had good points, and I couldn't help but feel that in the end there was not much more than a stale mate. But before entering into my own comments I want to try to sum up the argument of each opposing side. 

It seems to me that Jon Stewart's main point is that CNBC should act like the resource it is built to be. A news station, aimed at informing the viewer in all things economic. Shows like "Mad Money", "Fast Money", etc... serve to "sell snake oil" to it's viewers, all while disguising itself as "news". He also wags a stiff finger at the network, accusing them of manipulating the economic environment from behind the scenes, all while hiding the works from the public. 

From the Cramer perspective he seems to sheepishly admit that he, and other financial analysts make a mistakes. They try to stay away from making mistakes, but even the best of the best couldn't have foreseen what has happened in the last few months. He also points out that it's part of human nature to want to make quick money. And as long as there is an audience for show like Mad Money, there will be entertainers such as him selling to them. 

My first problem is the argument that CNBC should be a clear cut financial news source. No television station is ever going to be a completely objective source of information. From the interviewee, to the reporter, to the writer, to the producer, to the viewer; there are too many hands a source of information passes through, and therefore can never truly be objective. People tune into The Daily Show for entertainment and receive a side dose of news, and on that same token people tune into CNBC for financial news, but will inevitably receive a side dose of entertainment. That's the stone cold truth about television, it's a vehicle for ads sales, and therefore will always try to attract an audience anyway possible. So in conclusion I agree with Jon Stewart in the sense that CNBC should stop advertising itself as the financial experts, and advertise themselves for what they truly are: entertainment. 

Secondly, I think Jon Stewart puts too much blame on Cramer for brainwashing his viewers in their stock picks. My Dad always says that investing is more or less gambling. You're putting money into a horse that you think will win. Even the best brains on Wallstreet lose from time to time. The stock exchange isn't a sure bet by any means. But I think this argument is much like blaming McDonalds for the obesity in our society: you can only carry the blame so far. If you advertise the investing game as "fast money", you're being insincere. But ultimately it's the 
investor's responsibility to gather information on the company, and the financial environment he/she is placing their money into, not some news anchor "throwing cows through his legs." 

So in the end I think both parties have good points. The stock market is a rough sea to be traversed, and it's completely unpredictable. But at the same time, news stations should not  pretend that they can give superlative maritime charts for any laymen to use. Or as Jon Stewart summed up at the end of his show,  "... maybe we could remove the 'Finace Expert' and 'In Cramer we Trust' and get back to the fundamentals of reporting as well, and I can go back to making fart noises and funny faces."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream during a Recession

Friends often ask me if I see the effects of the recession here in LA. My answer before was, "Not really." More recently I can answer an astounding "yes." All around my neighborhood there are apartments going for rent, houses for sale, and businesses shutting down. Most recently I've noticed the Videohut on my street has been shut down. Bad for them, good for any investor wanting to start a business. As far as commercial space goes, the spot is ideal. It's right off Vermont, and right in the heart of Los Feliz. I think it would be an ideal spot for anyone with a solid business plan. 

While I'm in no place to start a business of my own, I can't help but brain-storm what kind of business would work well there. At first I thought a new coffee shop would do well. It's tough because the resident coffee-shop (Pyshco-Babble) is right next door. But in all honesty I think any coffee shop could put them out of business. Their service sucks, the menu is extremely limited, and the seating is shabby at best(even with newly purchased couches). I'll admit I go there frequently, but only out of convenience. 

I thought a bar or restaurant would do well. But the area is extremely saturated with those services already, and while a few genres of food are missing from the area, I think it'd be way to risky to compete on such a busy street. 

As far as retail stores go, the area is missing a music store, tech store (like an apple store), and a world export/antique type store. But I think opening any type of retail based industry would be an awful idea in a recession/borderline depression. 

I also thought about a gym type service: martial arts studio, yoga gym, boxing gym, etc... But I think the demographic is not quite right for that type of place.

Which leads me to my last idea, which is a great one if I do say so myself: an old school ice cream shop. Brilliant eh? Firstly, it's hot in LA. People are always looking for something to cool down. Secondly, there are tons of yogurt stands and froo-froo smoothie stands, but no good whole calorie artisan ice cream places. Services  like Burger King and Carl's Jr. still compete with their healthier counterparts like Subways and, ummmm, McDonalds? Thirdly, you can use the space for a coffee-shop-type space as well. Los Angeles has more writers than anywhere, and they're always looking for hip-places to congregate and work. Congregating people=business. Just make sure you have some nice coffee to serve. Fourthly, it's a family friendly concept. Build anything that attracts a family atmosphere and you instantly open up your demographic two-fold. It's why G rated movies do so well. Lastly, you could remodel. Place a wall right under the loft, and you'd have space for the register and ice-cream makers. It works perfectly. And my favorite part of the whole thing? Me getting to make up ice-cream flavors...

Adobe Delight- A long time ago my Mom actually won a silent auction prize that enabled us to come up with an ice cream flavor (an owner of an ice cream shop was the father of a kind in my class). This is what we came up with: Coffee ice cream, swirls of caramel, and chunks of cookie crust. Just think mud pie in ice cream form.

Tahitian Vanilla- Everybody loves vanilla. Cause it's vanilla. Just make sure you get high quality vanilla, and add a little of that bean in there. Yum. 

Peppermint- Just take some vanilla and through in some peppermint in there. I had a homemade version of this on an ice cream cake and it was delicious. Plus the way the mint and coldness of the ice cream play on your tongue is wonderful. 

Berkshire Blackberry- There was an ice cream story in Lenox called Bev's that we would often stop at after school. My Mom's favorite flavor there was this blackberry ice cream. It was delicious. And it's a flavor you don't see too often, so I think it would do well. 

Fat Dad- Ok, so this is a poor rip off of Ben and Jerry's 'Chubby Hubby'. But it's one of the best flavors I can think of: vanilla ice cream, peanut butter swirl, and chocolate covered pretzels. If heaven was an ice cream that is what it would be. I think to add a twist I would try putting in crunchy peanut butter. 

Maple Pecan- Something about maple syrup ice cream sounds delicious. And with toasted pecan pralines? yum. 

Bailey's Mint Chip- Why don't they make Bailey's Irish cream anymore? I'd throw some mint chips in there. Who doesn't love mint in ice cream?

Lastly, I would totally offer root-beer floats, served in cool looking soda fountain style long cups, and with long spoons. Or any soda float you want for that matter. Hmm, all this ice cream talk is making me hungry...

What flavors would you make? 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

R.I.P. Molly Madison

I just learned today that our family dog, Molly, was put down. She lived a happy thirteen or so years, and was very loved by everyone who she encountered. 

Dogs show us so much about ourselves. They show us the qualities of the best possible human beings we could ever be. They're loyal, affectionate, trusting, and go out of their way to please others. And in the last days of their life they never bemoan or show regret of any sort. Instead they continue to keep their heads high, regardless of how pained by old age. 

When I was home over the winter I remember hearing Molly whimpering by the two wide stairs that lead to the hallway in our house. While the drop is not very large, her arthritis made even menial tasks too painful to accomplish. I was confused why she wanted to leave her bed when it was so late, but I couldn't neglect an old lady's requests. So I picked her up and helped her onto the hallway floor. She then limped over to the bottom of the stairs by my parent's room. While she could not make it up the large flight, she made sure to protect the bottom of the stairway. It was the most she could do, and nothing could prevent her from doing that. We outlive most of our pets by decades, but their microcosm of a life-time we see the same flighting emotions, moments, and milestones that we encounter in our own life. They show us that life is fleeting, but that it shouldn't stop us from being the best we can be. 

I can remember my first encounter with death. It was when I was maybe four or five. Our family's dog, Margot, passed away. I can't recall if it was old age, or we put her down, but I do remember my mother coming to me and my brother and explaining Margot was no longer with us. We were all very sad. She had been the first dog my parents had (their first "kid") and for my brother and I our first dog. But while we all mourned her departure, my Mom asked us all to write a list of all of the things we loved about her, and the things we would miss. 

Here are my favorite memories of Molly:
  • Even in her old age when she couldn't run to the door to check out domicile infiltrators, she would always bark, and try her best to do her part in protection.
  • Her mad love with the tennis ball. I can remember playing fetch with her for hours with that slimy sphere of yellow felt. 
  • I remember when my Mom and I were making Tiramisu, and we gave her the lady fingers soaked in Kahlua. She got tipsy off them, and walked sideways into the counter top. 
  • Even though we all made fun of her appetite (she often never chewed, and swallowed food in one big bird-like gulp), there was never a better dish-wash-helper.
  • I remember her as a puppy. She would boldly bump into our eldest dog Max, and try to play with him.
  • I remember her tug-of-war games with Mikey. Even though she was not as strong or as energetic, she would stubbornly bite onto the rope, and never give in. 
  • When her arthritis was bad enough that she couldn't take walks in the woods anymore my Dad would place her in the front seat with him so that she could still get the fresh damp air in her face. 
  • She was a kissing fiend. If you gave her any part of your face she would kiss it. I remember holding my brother down, and having Molly lick his face non-stop. 
  • She couldn't walk far from the house to go to the bathroom, so she just went outside on our patio. She would go to the door and bark, and then bark again when she wanted to come in. Seven years earlier we probably would have scolded her for being a "bad dog". But at that point she knew she earned it. She lived a full and happy life, and knew we would understand.