Archive for November, 2009

 

Brigham’s

Friday, November 20th, 2009

So I read this article in the Globe about the demise of Brigham’s. It’s very sad. Basically, it looks like the last private equity owner decided that the value was in the grocery store ice cream brand, which they sold to Hood, but that the restaurants were a liability. So it would appear that they gave the restaurants away to a “private equity” firm located in Baltimore called Deal-Metrics. I put “private equity” in quotes because it really looks like a one-man shop, and doesn’t appear to have an actual fund that they manage.

The man is named Luke T. Cooper, and he really appears to have an active dislike for the chain he bought and the people who frequent it. Just look at some of these quotes, pulled from the article:

People “think I’m some kind of guy who saw an opportunity and took advantage of it, and to some degree I am that guy,’’ he said.

“The reality is that businesses go out of business all the time. Brigham’s is no different,’’ Cooper said.

“They’re angry that someone is taking away their clam chowder and taking away their frappes,’’ Cooper acknowledged in an interview

“They knew it had an expiration date,’’ he said.

“Bankruptcy court will ultimately decide what we owe our employees and other creditors,’’ he said. “If, in fact, there are obligations to them.’’

What a fucking asshole. What it looks like he did was buy the company, suck as much cash out of it while not paying vendors, and then abandon it to the bankruptcy courts. However, if I remember my bankruptcy law correctly, any payment made 90 days prior to filing for bankruptcy, including dividend payments to owners, can be forcibly reversed by the courts if deemed to have been inappropriate. I’m guessing we’ll see some of that in this case.

I think that the best hope for the brand is that somebody buys it out of bankruptcy court. I think it’s unlikely that a PE firm would emerge to do that, but either a wealthy New Englander might, or the remaining franchisees may want to band together to save the brand. Or maybe even Hood might be convinced to step in. Or a local chef like Barbara Lynch who just opened a high-end restaurant modeled on Brighams. Frankly, it’s nuts that the chain should be allowed to die like this.

Are there any takers to keep this thing alive?

UPDATE: I just wanted to let you all know that Luke T Cooper is on LinkedIn, where he reveals he’s registered as a Babson MBA student. I posted this info to the Babson boards on LinkedIn and someone responded to me that he’s listed in the Babson system as registered. I can’t imagine something more bizarre. If he’s CEO of a legitimate private equity firm, then why is he enrolled as a beginning student at Babson? And if Deal-Metrics isn’t a legitimate private equity firm, then how did Luke T Cooper manage to get possession of Brigham’s in the first place?

UPDATE2: The meme is taking off. Check out this rant on Baltimore Craigslist.

 
 

KSM and His “Fair Trial”

Friday, November 20th, 2009

When I saw Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) on Fox News Sunday explaining why the trial was a good idea, his logic went much like this, and my thought pattern mirrored Krauthammer’s below:

So why is Attorney General Eric Holder doing this? Ostensibly, to demonstrate to the world the superiority of our system where the rule of law and the fair trial reign.

Really? What happens if KSM (and his co-defendants) “do not get convicted,” asked Senate Judiciary Committee member Herb Kohl. “Failure is not an option,” replied Holder. Not an option? Doesn’t the presumption of innocence, er, presume that prosecutorial failure — acquittal, hung jury — is an option? By undermining that presumption, Holder is undermining the fairness of the trial, the demonstration of which is the alleged rationale for putting on this show in the first place.

We’re going to engage in a show trial to show how our trials aren’t show trials. Welcome to Obamaland.

Read Charles Krauthammer.

 
 

What?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

(via @jlgalley)

 
 

Why Hasn’t Anyone Followed Up With DMX?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Remember this interview with DMX, back in March 2008?

Are you following the presidential race?
Not at all.

You’re not? You know there’s a Black guy running, Barack Obama and then there’s Hillary Clinton.
His name is Barack?!

Barack Obama, yeah.
Barack?!

Barack.
What the **** is a Barack?! Barack Obama. Where he from, Africa?

Yeah, his dad is from Kenya.
Barack Obama?

Yeah.
What the ****?! That ain’t no ****in’ name, yo. That ain’t that nigga’s
name. You can’t be serious. Barack Obama. Get the **** outta here.

You’re telling me you haven’t heard about him before.
I ain’t really paying much attention.

I mean, it’s pretty big if a Black…
Wow, Barack! The nigga’s name is Barack. Barack? Nigga named Barack
Obama. What the ****, man?! Is he serious? That ain’t his ****in’ name.
Ima tell this nigga when I see him, “Stop that bullshit. Stop that
bullshit” [laughs] “That ain’t your ****in’ name.” Your momma ain’t
name you no damn Barack.

So you’re not following the race. You can’t vote right?
Nope.

Why hasn’t anybody in the press followed up with DMX to see if he’s aware that Obama got elected and has been the president for 3/4 of a year already? Aren’t you curious as to whether or not he knows? Seems like someone should ask DMX…

 
 

A Crazy Theory

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Obama knows that bringing KSM to trial in NYC will run into problems, namely, evidence obtained by means of waterboarding will have to be thrown out. My theory is that Obama is actually hoping for KSM to be declared not guilty, so that he can then say, “See, it’s Bush’s fault! If he just hadn’t waterboarded like we’d said KSM wouldn’t have slipped the noose on us…”

 
 

Fuck You, Hulu

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

And the rest of the entertainment industry as well.

So with our new TV setup in the house, we’ve taken to watching Hulu on the big screen. Overall, it’s pretty good. It’s been relatively fun to watch old shows from time to time, and we’ve even managed to catch some cable shows in there, like White Collar. But the show we have really come to enjoy is Lost.

Now Lost, for those unfamiliar, is a serial. Every show is dependent on every previous episode. So if you haven’t been watching from the beginning, the show really makes no sense. We hadn’t been watching from the beginning, and so when the show was airing, it made no sense. But people whose taste I trust watched the show, and so I used Hulu as an opportunity to get into it. And so we did.

Hulu had what appeared to be 5 seasons online, and so we started from the beginning, sometime over the summer, and watched them sequentially. The show is truly addictive, and each episode ends with lots of questions that the viewer is anxious to get answered. So watching on Hulu, we’d be motivated to watch several episodes in a clip. So far we’ve watched 100 episodes, clocking in at about 45 minutes each.

The most interesting thing about Hulu as a service is the ads. Hulu intersperses one advertisement at each breaking point in the show. You can pause the ad, but you cannot skip it. And because the ad is at most 60 seconds, you can’t effectively up and leave the room to do something else while the ad plays. Instead, you watch that ad. The best you can do to avoid this is to mute the television.

The Hulu advertising paradigm is distinctly different from broadcast television. On broadcast television, nobody watches ads anymore at all. Everyone has a DVR, on their cable box or as an add-on, and when the ad comes on, you pause the tv, get up to use the bathroom, grab a beer or what have you, and when you come back, you fast forward through the commercial. Commercials on regular TV don’t get watched, but on Hulu they do, which to me makes the ads much more valuable.

So it surprises me that Hulu apparently doesn’t charge more per viewer than broadcast. Reportedly, Hulu ad rates are at rock bottom. Hulu shows are filled with the same damn ad over and over again, often for non-profits and PSAs that must have been given away. I can only surmise that TV networks were lying about their viewership previously, thus driving down the ad rates on a per viewer basis, thus screwing themselves over when the number of viewers could be accurately measured (this is not dissimilar to what happened in the print business).

So in any event, there have been rumblings online about how Fox wants to charge for Hulu because they aren’t making any money off of it, and they’ve apparently been pulling shows off the service as well. This is, to say he least, mind-numbingly stupid, as Hulu should be able to generate more revenue per viewer than broadcast and cable can. To reiterate, nobody watches ads on regular TV, but you HAVE to watch them on Hulu. So whatever, maybe Hulu will get shut down in the near future. There’s no stopping the maniacal idiocy of Hollywood executives.

So back to Lost, we go to watch some episodes on Hulu on Friday night and it tells us that we have 4 days to finish watching, presumably a warning that these episodes are now being pulled from Hulu. An annoyance, yes, but we only had a few episodes left to watch, so we settle in to watch them on Friday and Saturday night. And that was when I noticed, they left off the last ten eight episodes.

So the final season of Lost, the season where all the mysteries will presumably be explained, where you’ll get the payoff for the almost 100 hours of time invested in watching, airs on ABC in January. And yet the TV executives decided that the right thing to do would be to air all but the last ten eight episodes on Hulu, and then pull ALL the episodes about a month and a half before the final season is about to air. Why? To leave people hanging? I don’t think so. I think it’s a hold-up.

The first thing I did after noticing that we were missing ten episodes was to go to iTunes and see what they were charging for the missing episodes. And what they were charging was $3/episode! What’s more is that my wife notices that the popularity indicator on the 5th season episodes suddenly spiked where the episodes were missing from Hulu (screenshot here). In other words, ABC or whomever was trying to hold us up for $30 $24 to get caught up on Lost.

Well, Hulu, FUCK YOU!

The show isn’t worth $30 $24. As good as it is, it’s light entertainment. And I’m not paying you $30 $24 for it. I was perfectly willing to watch the commercials on Hulu, commercials I saw over and over again because you don’t know how to fucking sell your fucking ad time properly. I watched Laura explain how she was a PC so many fucking times; I watched ads for Jon BonJovi’s new craptacular album and accompanying tour over and over and over; I watched pompous actors lecture me on how to “green my routine” on your “more you know” PSAs so many times my head fucking hurt, and NOW YOU WANT AN ADDITIONAL $30?!?!?!?!?!

Well, I’m not inclined to give in to a hold-up. So my options are threefold. I can just go onto Wikipedia and read plot summaries to get myself ready for the new season, I can go online and download a high quality bit torrent client and grab the episodes I want overnight (stealing), or I can just forget it altogether and not watch in January.

I’m not going to tell you which option I decided on, but I will tell you this: going online to steal episodes reminds me of getting a fake ID as a kid to grab a beer. It’s not like you want to cheat, but the system is rigged so as to preclude reasonable outcomes. I don’t want to buy ANY TV episodes. I just want to watch when I want, once, and I’m willing to watch a reasonable number of ads, or alternatively to pay a reasonable fee. There is nothing technologically standing in the way of this happening. In fact, it happened without a hitch for 100 episodes, for about 75 hours. But if your business model is to lure me into watching 75 hours of television with ads I can’t skip so as to try and hold me up for $30, well then you’ll excuse me for feeling that you’re a douchebag who isn’t worthy of my respect.

So long as the speed limits were set artificially low, people used fuzz busters. So long as the drinking age is set artificially high, kids will procure fake IDs. And so long as Hollywood is incapable of coming to terms with online viewing on demand, people will continue to use bit torrent.

On a final note, I’ll have you know that there are movies available on bit torrent that should have been available for rent on iTunes a long time ago. As a 37 year old man, I don’t want to sneak around with the online equivalent of a fuzz buster or a fake ID just to watch TV on demand. So can we fix all this already? Because I really do want to be legit.

 
 

The Meme Keeps Growing

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I never thought that this comment on an old post of mine would grow as large as it has, but it keeps going. Now it’s George Will who picks up on it:

One of the many television commercials exhorting viewers to buy gold says solemnly that it is an asset whose value “has never dropped to zero,” a boast that surely sets a record for minimalism. Still, the world’s appetite for gold as an investment option is intensifying.

Read George Will.

 
 

Channel 7 is now Channel 42???

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

So as you may remember, I now get all of my television from over the airwaves and via the Internet. No more cable tv or satellite for me. One of the interesting things I had noticed when I first did my set up was that channel 7 seemed to broadcast over two channels, 7 and 42. I made nothing of this at the time.

So yesterday, tuning into channel 7 on my television there was a message saying that channel 7 was going away, and you should now watch NBC through channel 42. None of this bothered me terribly, except for the fact that I now had to reprogram my DVR to record off of 42 instead of 7. But it also seems as if at the same time they made this announcement, they turned down the signal strength on channel 42, so that now it doesn’t come in smoothly like it used to, but cuts out periodically, making NBC basically unwatchable.

I know that virtually nobody else out there watches TV over the air like I do, but I thought I’d ask: Is anybody else having this problem? Does Channel 42 intend to increase its signal strength back to where it was? I have a giant honking antenna in the roof of my house in Belmont, so getting NBC over the airwaves really shouldn’t be a problem. Any help anybody can provide would be appreciated.

(typos corrected. I should really proofread before posting.)

 
 

Happy Berlin Wall Day

Monday, November 9th, 2009

20 years ago today the Berlin Wall came down. It downs on me that I’m 37, and so the wall has been down longer than it has been up for me. And yet it seemed like such a permanent fixture in the world, and the most concrete reminder of what communism was, and what separated us from the East.

Today, we still live with the repercussions of communism, but it is not our mortal enemy any longer. Mr. Reagan said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Gorbachev didn’t, of course, but he won the Nobel peace prize. Reagan’s efforts, however, are not forgotten in Eastern Europe today.

 
 

Chris Martenson, Monetarist Malthusian

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

So I’ve been reading Chris Martenson, who is an online financial prognosticator. He is a PhD who used to work in corporate America, before realizing that our current system of money is unsustainable and may lead to societal collapse. So he moved his family out to a rented farm, and developed a crash course to show people what it is that he sees as the structural problems in our society, particularly as concerns money and energy. He sells an online subscription as well in which he helps subscribers prepare for the coming apocalypse.

Martenson is what I would call a monetarist Malthusian. He is deeply concerned about our system of money, as am I, and he thinks that we are headed for an energy collapse as well. I am not a Malthusian, because I believe that in a free society, human ingenuity will always overcome resource impediments. If oil supplies are running low, humans will figure out new sources of energy, or alternatively ways of creating oil, but we’ll never just hit a brick wall in which large masses of humanity starve or are left without resources.

But thinking about Martenson, I have been forced to wonder if a system of fiat money and government interventions into the economy might not create a scenario whereby we may experience Malthusian symptoms for non-Malthusian reasons. Namely, if human ingenuity is what’s required to overcome say, a shortage of oil, then what happens when a society’s best and brightest are incented to not work as engineers discovering new sources of energy, but are instead incented to spend their days determining how to best make securities backed by mortgages that are bound to fail look safe? What if society’s best and brightest are incented to find clever ways to rip people off by means of Wall Street and the courts, rather than being inventors and engineers? We may find ourselves in a situation where we actually run out of resources because we misapplied our store of human ingenuity. I’m actually beginning to wonder if that might not be a real possibility.

In any event, I don’t subscribe to Martenson’s service, but maybe I should. This weekend, he predicted that CIT would be heading to bankruptcy court soon, and this morning, CIT filed for bankruptcy. Didn’t even have time to short shares on that piece of advice. I would also recommend taking the time to go through Martenson’s crash course. It’s interesting and informative, even if you don’t wind up agreeing with all of it.