Kurt Cobain Doc; the End of an Era?

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When Kurt Cobain took his own life in April of 1994, its one of those moments that I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out.  Looking back on it, its pretty odd to have that memory about a 27 year old musician.  Its not like it was the President being killed or something like the space shuttle explosion.  That said, there was something about Cobain that still resonates with many people from my generation.  The first time I heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, I knew it was way different than the hair bands of the 80s and music was transitioning into a new era.  That it did, not only did it a new genre of music come about, but a fashion and more so even a lifestyle which took the name of grunge.

I finally found the time to watch the amazing HBO documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck over the weekend.  It was great, confusing, sad, scary, and something in between.  I’m a big fan of biographies, and I’ve probably read eight to ten books on Nirvana or Cobain specifically over the years.  Whether it was Michael Azerrad’s awesome book about the arc of the band or even books claiming that his wife, Courtney Love killed Cobain rather than him dying of an overdose.

Therefore I went into the film thinking the majority of it would be rehashed things I’ve read in the past.  Not to mention, we are talking about someone who took his own life over 21 years ago, how much much are you going to learn from a documentary in 2015?  Boy was I wrong.  While the film was outstanding, and I would recommend anyone see it whether or not you are a fan of Cobain or not, I took away something else from watching it.  It felt like I was watching something that I would never see again.  The film’s director Brett Morgen had access to a treasure drove of old notebooks containing writings as well as drawings.  Not only that, he was handed private home movies from Cobain’s birth all the way right up to his death.  There were also loads of cassette tapes where Cobain recorded his thoughts, songs, and musings.

The way the film was put together was nothing short of amazing, but with the technology of today, I’m not sure we will ever have a chance again to look at someone in this light.  To see the images in Cobain’s notebook as he goes through potential band names and scratches one out for the next was powerful.  Today, someone would just type it into the computer.  It made me reminisce about a simpler time, not that long ago, where we sat with our own thoughts and drew, or wrote in a journal.  Today, kids are glued to their phone or buried in their laptop.  Times change of course, but for the sake of this complex young man who tragically decided to leave a wife and daughter behind, they story was one hundred times more intimate because of his writings, artwork, and audio tapes.  To tell this same story with YouTube videos and tweets just wouldn’t be nearly the same.

The Future of Television?

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I don’t watch much television these days, but with the monumental shifts in technology over the last ten years, you have to wonder what the next ten years hold.  Each time I look at my DirecTV bill it seems to be growing.  In order to watch ‘House of Cards’ I have to go to Netflix.  In order to watch Wrestlemania, I had to use the AppleTV to find the WWE Network.  Right there is three different television services required to watch the shows that I am interested in.  I also ordered the Mayweather/Pacquio fight this month.  When you take a step back and look at it, its quite a bit of money to spend on a monthly basis, especially when I average about 5-8 hours of tv per week.

One would have to imagine that in the coming years, we could be able to purchase every channel or maybe even every show a la carte?  Its an interesting premise, and there is so much money out there to be made, it could make sense.  Of the 500 channels I have on DirecTV, I probably watch five or six.  Whereas LifeTime Movies might be right up the alley for some demographics, I’ve never laid eyes on the channel, but still pay for it each month.

Even if you look at something like Sunday Ticket for the NFL, where people put down hundreds of dollars each year to watch all of the NFL games.  Wouldn’t it be nice, and maybe even make sense to be able to order that on a week to week basis?  I don’t know about you, but its not exactly easy to to carve out nine hours each Sunday for 17 weeks to watch football.  I actually may go outside, or head out of town.  That said, some weekends, I could be home for the games, and it would be great to watch.

Another thought process is to have each person who watches the TV have to ‘login’ to some extent so you could see suggested shows based on past viewing habits.  Another and far more lucrative idea would be to serve commercials based on the perceived demographic of the person viewing the television at the time.  Let’s face it, the person who is watching CNBC, Fox News and the Golf Channel is most likely a different demographic that a person watching SpongeBob and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Of course there are already targeted commercials based on the network, but you would think if television was more a la carte and with viewing history you could serve up far more targeted spots even than we have now.

The tv landscape is becoming so cluttered with devices, streaming services, watching shows on a mobile device and additional channels in your cable package that you have to wonder if we are reaching a tipping point.  People don’t want to have 12 devices to watch their shows.  Its anyone’s guess as to what the future holds in regards to television but you would have to imagine that there has to be some form of consolidation down the road.  Well at least my wallet hopes so.

The Bill Simmons Story

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I tend to do quite a bit of commuting, so I’m always looking for something to do to pass the time.  It had to have now been almost eight years ago when someone tipped me off to the idea of podcasts, and I started listening to ESPN’s Bill Simmons on his podcast, the B.S. Report.  I wasn’t quite sure if the podcast genre was a passing fad or if it would work, but now seems to be gaining a lot of steam.  Someone like Adam Carolla has an independent free podcast that supposedly turns upwards of $2M per year in profit.  You also have the podcast Serial that became a bit of a phenomenon over the last year or so.  I absolutely love the format, in which I can listen at my leisure, and have no commercials.

Bill Simmons is an acquired taste.  He got his break at ESPN by actually writing a column that eviscerated the ESPY’s, a yearly award show put on by ESPN.  He was a sportswriter writing from the point of view of the fan itself.  Both his podcasts and columns intertwine both sports and pop culture.  Over the last eight years, he has been instrumental in helping ESPN launch their critically acclaimed documentary series 30 for 30, and a few years ago was given the green light to launch a spinoff website of sorts at Grantland.com.

While I don’t even come close to agreeing with everything that comes out of Simmons mouth, or computer keyboard, I enjoy listening and reading him.  After that many years, his style feels like you really know him, and that kind of sucks you in to a certain extent.

On Thursday of last week word broke from the New York Times that ESPN had decided to not renew Simmons’ contract when it comes up for renewal in September.  Frankly, I was pretty shocked by this, and have to admit that I have been obsessed with the story since it broke.  It is being reported that Simmons has a yearly salary with ESPN of nearly $5M.  He has been with the company for nearly 15 years, and is their most high profile personality.

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ESPN has every right to decide to not review his contract.  What I can’t figure out for the life of me is why they had to announce that in May, when they have another four months until that contract comes up.  Not only that, but Simmons wasn’t even told that they would not renew his contract, but rather found out via Twitter.  For that to take place, something pretty drastic must have gone down.

I’m writing this on May 13, and as of now, Simmons hasn’t released any sort of statement on the situation.  His name and articles still appear at Grantland.com, but there hasn’t been any new content created since Tuesday.  Without getting too deep into the details, Simmons was suspended for three weeks last Fall for derogatory remarks he made about the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  Frankly, I didn’t see the remarks as anything too inflammatory, but ESPN is a major partner with the NFL, so it seems as if they had to punish him in some way to keep that relationship with the NFL in tact.  Just last week, Simmons went on Dan Patrick’s radio show (Dan no longer works for ESPN) and said some additional things about Goodell that again weren’t all that bad, but it appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak and the head of ESPN, John Skipper had had enough.

What I find most fascinating from a business perspective is how this whole saga will he handled with the Grantland.com website?  Simmons himself went out and recruited some forty writers to make up the website.  Obviously the site was under the ESPN umbrella, but seemed at bit entrepreneurial in that he built it from scratch.  Now, after one tweet, the whole staff finds out their boss is gone, most likely immediately, and who knows really what the future hold for them as well as the website.  I’m sure Simmons will land on his feet, someone will write him a hefty check to be part of their organization, and I’m sure I will still listen to his podcasts and read his columns.  That said, the most interesting part of this sage, for me at least, will be to see how things play out for the talented writers at Grantland, who followed Bill Simmons to this new venture, and now see their boss ousted in an extremely strange manner…only time will tell.

So Much for ‘Fight of the Century’

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Last week I wrote how excited I was to watch the big fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on May 2.  Turned out it was more of a ‘love tap fest’ than a real boxing match.

I’ve watched Mayweather fight for at least ten years, and without question, he is a defensive genius.  He is probably one of the best ever at making his opponent miss, and then punishing him in return.  For that reason, I was shocked after the fight when people were calling him a ‘coward‘ and accusing him of not coming to fight.  I felt the blame should have gone the other way, towards Pacquiao, who never really came on the offensive against Floyd.  It was obvious to just about everyone watching that Mayweather won the first few rounds, and Manny would have to turn on the aggression in order to get back in to the fight, but that never happened.  When it was all said and done, it was yet another easy win for Mayweather easily protecting himself while picking away at his opponent.  The fight had basically zero drama, other than what celebrities could be seen in the stands.  When I went to bed late that night, I chalked it up to Floyd confusing yet another opponent almost into submission.

What we learned in the coming days, was just about absurd.  Pacquiao injured himself in training camp just a little over two weeks prior to the match.  That said, he neglected to report the injury, and now was having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and would be out of the sport for 9-12 months.  These two men were due to split somewhere in the neighborhood of $400M for this fight, and millions upon millions of dollars were gambled on them in Las Vegas, only to find out that the integrity of the fight is now in question because one of the men was fighting with one arm?  Many people were outraged, including some fight fans who have now filed a class action lawsuit against Manny Pacquiao for not disclosing the injury.  Boxers are required under Nevada law to disclose any injuries going into a fight, and Pacquiao did not disclose this.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

On the other side, Floyd Mayweather has been adamant that he would be be fighting one more time in September, and then retiring.  He even made those statements after the fight on Saturday night.  With the huge amounts of money out there for him to continue fighting, I was actually surprised that he would be willing to ride off into the sunset so to speak.  Let’s just stay that those thoughts didn’t last very long.  Mayweather sent a text to ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith telling him that he would be willing to give Pacquiao a rematch in a year when he is healed from his surgeries.

First we had a one sided, boring fight, record pay-per-view numbers coming in, then a sore shoulder, then a surgery that will cause the boxer to be out close to one year, then the thought of a rematch with healthy old boxers another year older.  I fear they may have actually done a good enough job of tricking us to pay another $100 to watch these guys next year!  The worst part is that I’m sure I will in front of that television once more.

Last ‘Fight of the Century’?

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This weekend we will finally see the undefeated Floyd Mayweather take on Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas.  While this fight should have taken place at least five years ago, and both of the boxers are past their prime, it should still be an amazing spectacle.  I’ve been lucky enough to see Mike Tyson fight in person, and also Vladamir Klitschko fight in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden.  There is nothing like a big fight in terms of emotion and anticipation.  The problem is that this may be the last big fight in the history of boxing.

I have always loved to watch boxing, and even though he is before my time Muhmmad Ali could be the most transcendent athlete in all of American history.  Watching Iron Mike Tyson come up with his ferocity, as well as his downfall was something to see.  Unfortunately now, the sport is dying.  75 years ago, the three biggest sports in this country were boxing, baseball and horse racing.  Today, all three of those sports seem to be trending downward.  While I completely respect our advances in medical technology and diagnosing concussions, it seems that people detest the violence of boxing, while professional football now dwarfs all of the other sports in our country.

Watching two brave men come into a ring and test their mental and physical strength is amazing to watch, there are no teammates to rely on, no instant replays, just man vs. man.  Not to mention there aren’t too many sports that can end at any moment with just one punch.

The money that the fight is set to generate this weekend is nothing short of breathtaking.  Floyd Mayweather, as of today, is projected to make over $180M for one night of work.  Its difficult to wrap your brain around the sheer insanity of that.  That said, what is even more insane is that there isn’t a single other fight out there that could make 10% of that amount.  Maybe people say the best American heavyweight boxers are now playing linebacker in the NFL.  You have to wonder if young athletes out there will be watching this week and seeing the mind blowing money and spectacle of this event, and potentially think about getting into the sport.

I know I will be glued to the television Saturday night.  While paying $99.99 for a Pay-Per-View boxing match may seem a bit extreme, its difficult to say how many more of these mega fights will take place in my lifetime.  While without question, this is the biggest fight of the 21st century, I don’t have much confidence that there will be any big boxing matches taking place not just in the 22nd century, but even just 15 years from now.  That is why I want to bask in the glow of this last big fight.

Apple Watch…Does it Make Sense Yet?

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Yes, I use a MacBook pro, have an iPhone 6+, read my iPad mini before I go to bed, and have my house set up on Apple WiFi.  All of that said, I don’t think I’m onboard with the Apple Watch in its present form.  That is actually hard for me to say, and I’m sure this was a big deal for Tim Cook on his first brand new product since the death of Steve Jobs, but at least to me, it doesn’t seem like Apple has packed enough features in the initial product to justify the value or the price tag.  I used the Nike Fuel Band for over a year, and enjoyed it, also used plenty of heart rate monitors, golf GPS systems, a fit bit, and thought the Apple Watch would be the consolidation answer.  I could have one product on my wrist that could take care of all of those things and more.  However, after spending a couple of hours reading the reviews and specs on the product, it seems to fall short on features.

First off, there is no GPS device in the watch.  This seems hard to believe, as the market for running watches with Garmin and other brands is huge.  People love to track their exercise, see how far they ran, what routes, what splits, etc.  While this is possible on the Apple Watch, you will have to carry your phone with you to make this happen.  I was under the impression you could do this on your own.  The same premise is true for golf.  There are plenty of $400 watches, whose sole purpose is to utilize the GPS in the watch to tell you your distance from the pin.  Again, you can use a feature of this nature, but have to be within 30 feet of your phone in order to do so.  Also, when I play golf, I like to put my phone in my bag so I don’t even think about checking emails while out on the course, so needing your phone for the watch to work is annoying in this application.

The battery life is set to be roughly 18 hours, which would mean that you have to charge the watch each and every night.  Companies like FitBit market their devices to monitor your sleeping patterns to see how many times you toss and turn throughout the evening and the quality of sleep you are getting.  Its going to be rather difficult to do that when the watch is on the charger.

The Apple Watch is set to monitor your heartbeat roughly every ten minutes.  While that may make sense 95% of the day, if you are in the middle of a strenuous workout, you will want that information much more often.

At the end of the day, I really want to like the watch.  I wear a watch all day anyway, so having a smart device would be fun.  Apple has always come through, they are the most valuable company in the USA, and for good reason.  They make products that people swear by, and I am one of them.  I can just about guarantee that I will own an Apple Watch at some point, but I will not be a first adopter, I’m going to need some additional features to make that purchase.

Attempting a New Hobby

I’ve always been a fan of technology.  Whether it was my first walkman, an Apple 2GS, a tower full of CDs, or smart thermostats, its fun to watch technology brings us next.  I’ve also loved photography, not that I’ve ever been exactly skilled with taking pictures, but I’ve had an appreciation for interesting vantage points that photographers take.  Therefore, I’m trying to combine the two and see if I can get the skills and repetitions together to fly a drone to take arial photos.  The way I look at it, I’m too old to drive a remote control car, and especially don’t want to end up like this guy.  So a drone could be seen as an expensive flying camera and not a ‘toy’.  At least that is what I’m trying to tell myself.

From everything I have read, the worst thing you can do is go out and buy an expensive drone off the bat, and crash it before you know what you are doing.  Therefore, I did a little research and purchased little guy from Amazon last week for around $50.

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The weight on the U818A is less than a pound, so if there is any wind at all, this thing can get blown off course in a hurry.  Thus far, I’ve only crashed it roughly 37 times, so quite glad I didn’t go out and buy something nice right away.  I’ve had to replace a prop after flying it into a tree,  but other than that, this little bird is pretty darn tough.  One downside is that the battery only lasts roughly 6-7 minutes of flight time, so I picked up an extra battery.  I have to say, its been a lot of fun to fool around with.  For some reason, when I plug it into my Macbook, I’m unable to view the photos and videos I have taken with it.  What I found out is that I should get a mirco SD to SD card adapter so I can put the card directly into the computer.  I ordered that, so hopefully by the end of week I can check out the videos I recorded, even though the camera is said to be shaky at best.

I’ve decided if I can truly get the hang of this thing over the next 60 days, I’m going to step up my game and buy a nice flying machine.  I have my eye on the Parrot Bebop, which based on this video is incredible.

The controller for the Bebop, integrated with an iPad looks to be great.  You can also program the copter using GPS, which would come in handy for flying to destinations and taking video.  Another feature that is amazing is the “return home” option.  If your drone gets in a rough situation, you can hit the return home button and it will immediately begin flying your way and hovering eight feet in the air from where it took off.  If used properly, I’m sure this guy can take some amazing photos and video.  That said, with a price tag of nearly $900, one better be darn sure they are comfortable flying a drone before stepping it up to something like this.  I will be sure to check back in when the Bebop takes her first flight!

Choice Home Warranty Voted Top Home Warranty Company By Top 10

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We were thrilled this week to find out that the users of Top10 voted us the top home warranty company in the industry with a 9.9 rating.  It is not only a testament to the offerings we have, but more so it is the tremendous effort put in by our entire team to satisfy our customers.  Let’s face it, when something goes wrong in terms of the appliances or your heating an air conditioning it is a stressful and frustrating time.  Our customer service staff is constantly working to put people’s minds at ease by having the proper technicians out to their home, to diagnose and repair the problem.

Whether it is our brand new call center, great rating from the Better Business Bureau, or our 1,550 five star ratings from Consumer Affairs, 2015 is shaping up to be a to be a great year for Choice Home Warranty, so congratulations to our entire team for helping along the way.

-Vic

Spring Break Is Here

 

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There is nothing quite like the snow finally melting away, and the thought that there will soon be leaves on the trees and flowers blooming.  Since we aren’t there just yet, I’ve decided to take a trip next week to a bit of a warmer climate.

The destination is somewhere I’ve never been before, but its a quick 90 minute flight from JFK.  I’m heading to Anna Maria Island, Florida.  You actually fly into Sarasota, and from what I’ve heard, have a beautiful 30 minute drive along the Gulf of Mexico before arriving on the island.  Ironically the island is roughly the size of Manhattan, but as you can imagine, quite a few less people.  Since the spot is on the west coast of Florida, or the gulf of Mexico, the water looks incredible.  The island was actually voted the third best island in the United States last year.

From my research, it appears that there is some sort of ordinance on the island in which no property can be built higher than the tallest palm tree.  This leads to absolutely no high rises of condos, and in reality not much commercialization either.  There also is only one chain restaurant on the entire island, a Subway.  Other than that, it appears each and every place simply serves the local seafood in an unpretentious fashion.

On restaurant that I am going to be sure to visit is the Rod & Reel restaurant.  As you can see in the above photo, the water is spectacular and on a clear day, I’m told you can see Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays play all the way out in St. Petersberg.

Things are going better than ever at Choice Home Warranty, but everyone needs time away, and I’m looking forward to a little rest and relaxation.  I’ve also done some reading and discovered that there is a free trolley that goes across the entire island.  I love the idea of never having to get in the car.  While this area, like many places in Florida, was hurt by the economic downturn in 2008, there seems to be plenty of construction and updated restaurants.  I’ve been told it is considered a ‘hidden gem’, and what ‘Old Florida’ used to look like.  The weather forecast looks to be just about perfect, and while I’m sure it could be a little annoying to hear about the warm weather right now, while we are sitting in 40 degree rainy weather, I couldn’t be more excited about my trip and look forward to reporting back.

A Treacherous Precedent in Music

I’ve written here before, that music is one of the passions of my life, and waking up this morning to hear the news that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke are being forced by the courts to pay the estate of Marvin Gaye over $7.4M in damages for their song “Blurred Lines”.  A jury found that Williams and Thicke stole the song from a 1971 hit of Marvin Gay titled “Got to Give it Up” after being sued by Gaye’s children.

There is little to no question that Blurred Lines was the biggest hit of 2013.  Matter of fact, the YouTube video has over 370 million views.  On top of that, you have the supreme hit of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and Pharrell’s work on NBC’s the voice, has put him near the top of the list of songwriters who have proven that they can produce one chart topping hit after another.  There is no question that being found guilty will not only take a toll on Pharrell’s wallet, but sadly his reputation as well.

Here are both songs if you would like to see the similarities.

I’m no expert, I can hear some similarities between the two songs, but in my opinion, there isn’t enough there to hand down a judgment in copyright infringement.  Humans have been writing music for hundreds of years.  There are only so many notes on a piano, guitar, etc.  Millions of new songs are created each year, and with a victory in a suit like this, it could be a very bad sign for artists in the future.  When you sit down, let your juices of creativity flow, and construct what you feel is an outstanding piece of music, how are you going to be able to confirm that another artist didn’t already use those combination of chords or notes?

It was just last month that Sam Smith settled out of court after being accused of copyright infringement with his Grammy winning Song of the Year, “Stay With Me” was just about an exact ripoff of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”.  After listening to those two songs, its readily apparent that they are about the same song from verse to bridge to chorus.

Those two occurrences illustrate exactly what makes items like this so difficult to determine as to what was done maliciously and what was not.  We hear music all the times in our day to day life.  Whether it is a commercial on television, the background music in an elevator, or at our own doing.  Our ears and even are subconscious are constantly taking in information, and I have a hard time punishing someone for a creation.  Pharrell has even said, that Marvin Gaye has always been an influence on his writing style.  I share Pharrell’s belief that anything he would have done would have been in homage to Gaye, and not trying to take anything a way from him.  Its just a shame that the courts have to get involved to settle something like this, and sincerely hope it doesn’t curb creativity going forward.