Sunday, November 28, 2010

Early Release from Theatres to TV

In the olden days, like the fifties through  the seventies, if you missed a film at the theatre, you’d have to wait a year or two until the studios released it to TV. 

That's if you don't count Gone with the Wind.
The film debuted in 1939 and was finally aired on HBO in June, 1976.   That was 37 years later, almost four decades.  Millions died in the meantime.

Today studios release a new flick in four months, and I bet everyone knows someone who hasn’t sat their fanny in a large dark room with a candy counter just steps away for many many years.

But I like the movies.  In fact, love them.

I like getting away from ringing phones, paperwork, and dryers beeping, so I’m wondering if these very early releases will be good.  I personally don't like it.  In fact I think it stinks.

But during a cable industry convention last May, Time Warner made a pitch to the studios about releasing films to TV in just 30 days.  30?  Who'd ever bother traipsing to a show?   Besides, this new luxury, if it's ever accepted, is a moneymaker, and it could cost twenty to forty bucks a pop to watch a film from your family room.

Even the concept seems insane.

A couple of years ago, the studios would’ve booted the cable companies out to Sarah Palin land, and though their profits are up 10%, thanks to 3D films, their DVD sales have slumped lower than my opinion of Lady Gaga after she modeled a dress of red meat.

The angriest folks against early release are the theatre owners.  They need the four months to make money.  If you cut their time, you cut their profits, simple as that.

And the studios, too, need time.  They maximize revenues by staggering the months between the dates the film is released to theatres and when it’s released to DVD and TV.

ticket taker
So why are they considering early release?  Because DVD sales are slow, and they could use a wallop of cash.

As of now, nobody's doing anything, and the studios know they'll have to jump through lots of hoops before signing the dotted line.  It might be a convenience to the consumer, but it won't come cheap.   

Yet who needs to sit home when you got neurotics like me, who can’t wait to see them the minute they open to the public?

Everyone knows the studios save their best for this time of year.  If I had to wait a month, I couldn't guess the Oscar winners until after the holidays, until after the buzz is gone.  It's like a gift with no wrapping; it's like turkey without stuffing or pumpkin pie without a hint of whipped cream. 

So as long as Gone With the Wind has had its turn, I can wait four months to view the few things I missed at multiplex. 

For the rest I'll wait in line.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gates, Buffett Goad Friends to Give

Bill Gates
It’s nice to know that in this season of giving, billionaires are growing big hearts.

Warren Buffett
  Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have called on their very rich friends to donate half of their fortunes during their lifetimes, or after they die.

(Guess I must've miss their call that day, and my answering machine choked on the message).

But it's gratifying to learn that people are driven to wipe out diseases, overcome starvation, provide clean water, startup money for small businesses, and promote education.  As for Buffett and Gates, this flood of money stems from a series of dinners they held asking others like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, investor Ron Perelman, and David Rockefeller to commit to a Giving Pledge.

The pledge asks for half their assets.
While several attendees have signed it, many others have already committed their fortunes to charitable causes.

This is an incredible feat.

The basic goal is not only to give but that society will come to expect that the very wealthy will donate much of their money to the world while also creating a peer group that can offer advice on philanthropy.

“It’s really to help people get started on their own in whatever it is they want to do,” said Melinda Gates. “One of the most important things about philanthropy is that people do what they are passionate about.  They won’t do it otherwise.”

Marc Benioff, founder of, a software company, has donated $100 million to a children’s hospital in San Francisco.  David Rockefeller, George Soros, and Gerry Lenfest are also among those who signed the pledge.

David Rockefeller
Rockefeller pledged to give away $1 billion at his death to charitable causes.
In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg gave $254 million to nearly 1,400 nonprofit organizations.

“I am a big believer,” he said, “in giving it all away and have always said that the best financial planning ends with bouncing the check to the undertaker.”

Michael Bloomberg
Some are giving away 70% of their wealth, a few even more.  

Because of the recession, this year marks the second year in a row that philanthropy experienced its deepest decline ever recorded, so yeah for the big guys for coming through.

We need that kind of thinking. The West can't afford to allow the third world to wither and die.  And they won't go quietly.  We must make sure they not only survive but thrive. 
Due to the recession, the need in our country is also overwhelming and even hunger is becoming a desperate situation for thousands, who never considered it a problem before.

So maybe we can all learn a little from the guys who know how to make the most.  Though times are leaner, we can look around and squeeze out just a little bit more.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why We Spend What We DO

Economists used to think that people rationally purchased what they needed.

For heaven sakes, we all knew that’s a crock, but of course those guys didn't consider human nature-- until they ran a series of tests. 

They did, and lo and behold, the results came out showing that people were hardly rational. In fact they were wacky, shaking like a Slinky on slippery steps.  Better yet, they discovered some cool information.

Did you know that clenching our muscles can actually boost our willingness to avoid a bad transaction?

According to Gregory Karp from the Orlando Sentinel, if you’re in a store facing something tempting that you know you shouldn’t buy, firming your fists, calves, biceps, any muscle all, should help you resist.

Great news you say!  I do too.  But other researchers found that people have a limited reservoir of willpower.

That means if you resist one transaction earlier in the day, you might not be able to resist it later...

Another study discovered that “Keeping up with the Joneses fuels spending.”

Well I kind of guessed that, didn’t you?  I don't actually know anyone named Jones or anyone else that I want to copy, but someone must've influenced me. 

I know I didn't come up with tearing down wallpaper and hiring a painter all by myself.  Maybe I just saw it everywhere but the place where I lived.

Now this next one will blow your mind.  What’s the psychology of spending on ourselves vs. others?

Researchers found that people, who feel more powerful when they’re buying, spend more on themselves and less on others.

That sounds about right.   High powered people are more self-centered, but this isn't the mind blowing part.

 The next half is:                                                                

Though these high-powered people spend more on themselves, they were happier spending on others.

So powerful human beings ultimately find contentment in giving, just like Scrooge did in “The Christmas Carol.” 

Who knew Dickens already figured this out?

And ONE more thing while we're discussing consumers.        

Scientists also discovered that ovulating women buy sexier clothes during those few days of the month than at any other time.  And the sexier they became, the sexier other women, who were also ovulating, dressed around them.

It seems the entire group got so excited, they're all out hunting for tight, revealing clothes.
How’s that for a reason to shop?

Maybe that’s why Macy’s has their annual sale every weekend?
Shhh, don’t tell them.  They don’t know we figured this out.

And now that we learned that we no longer buy what we need and that selfish people are happier purchasing for others, scientists created all kinds of reasons to grab that plastic and head out the door.

Maybe the easiest way is finding a good excuse. 

I can pretend I'm one of those passengers on that nightmarish Carnival Cruise.  I just got off the boat, traveled home, showered, and devoured a hot meal. 
What I'm now clenching is that hot little refund check in my hand.

Suddenly I'm one of the Joneses, ordered to go forth in the world, bring home the goods, and make the rest of you wannabes spend.

Oh, I see you're clenching.  All of you.  But I'll be back next week.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Old Apples and the Election

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson planted two rows of Newtown Pippin apples at his Monticello home in Virginia. From Paris he wrote that they had nothing there to compare to it.
In 1838, Queen Victoria was presented with two barrels of them.  She liked them so much, she lifted an English export tax on the imported fruit.

The Newton Pippin thrived in Britain until after WWI when the government reinstated the import tax.  And it wasn't until after WWII in America, when the red delicious apple was introduced, that it finally eclipsed many of the historical varieties.

Newtown Pippins, Roxbury Russets, Cornish Gilliflowers, Arkansas Blacks, and Winesaps were just some of the names of the Heirloom or Heritage fruit common on American tables back in Colonial times into the twentieth century.  

Farmers planted them everywhere, growing varieties suitable to the regional conditions—the nutty flavor of the Roxbury Russet, the dense, crisp bite of the Ralls Genet, or one of the best tasting, the Esopus Spitzenberg.
But with the mass production of the1950’s, farmers discovered they could consolidate most of the orchards into Washington and New York states.  The heirlooms with their distinctive flavors became virtually extinct.

I've never tasted any of them, and now I read they’re making a comeback.  With their freckles, stripes, and other visual peculiarities--they don’t look like apples today--the old are beginning to make a comeback.
I can't wait to taste something new that's been old, just because it's been around, just because it used to be valued for its goodness alone.

People want something they can grasp and feel with its own significant texture, flavor, history, and depth--like getting past the skin of the person and discovering his or her genuine emotions, and maybe a bit of the soul. 

Sound familiar?

I guess that’s what I was trying to do with this election, get past the bull and understand why each candidate had made a commitment to run.   But the contests became so vile, so beyond party lines or even issues, that it finally boiled down to an IQ test—which of the liars could score a 100, an average result, on a standard exam.

By the end I applauded the candidate who barely tipped an 80.  I figured they could at least spell their name.    So how did Rand Paul come out on top?  I have no idea, but other thank yous are deserved.

I thank the people who defeated the witch from Delaware.  Or maybe she isn't one.  Maybe she's just a big old dope without a clue to the world around her.

And I thank the voters of Nevada who defeated Sharron Angle.  Do they have rubber rooms out West?  Better get one ready and shove a copy of the constitution inside.

At least now we can all breathe free.  The election is history, congress is still a mess, and I just discovered that I'm going to have a chance to taste some real Colonial fruit.  The question is:  How can the Colonists grow so many nourishing things, while we, with all our technology, nurture dummies and shove them in front of cameras?

Can the Republicans blame that on Obama too?

Of course.  Give ‘em time.