One more March Stock Madness

A couple weeks ago I posted on Stock Madness from Motley Fool.

It's a bit late to be of real use, but there is another bracket going on at CNBC.

One thing that makes it less valuable is that all the analysis seems to be done on air as opposed to online, but fun none the less.

Happiness :-)

I found this video interesting.

It's a presentation to a group of Google employees about finding happiness.


7.5 Minutes of Spiderman 3

I'm so looking forward to this movie.

By the way. If you are not an investor in Marvel (MVL). Now is a good time to consider it. They are moving from small stakes to big stakes and the potential can be huge. While they license Spiderman to Sony, next year, Iron Man and others are going to be produced solely by Marvel. This means that their upside will be much, much bigger. But with great reward, comes great risk - They will also stand to lose much more if a film tanks.

Additionally, as with any good superhero story there is a possibility that there are evil forces around (aka in this story as "lawsuits") There is a lot of focus right now about who owns some of the mission critical IP Marvel or another company. If it turns out to be that Marvel does not own this... well, let's just say that would be bad.

If we get past this rough patch, it's going to be a very smooth ride up. (knock on Wood) While Superman is a DC character and not owned by Marvel, his old tv tagline of "Up, up and away" is probably a good indication of where this could go.

Marvel and the Ah Alli Group also just announced a new theme park in Dubai (the new Hollywood in terms of the cool place to have a destination park) This opens up a whole new set of possibilities in terms of income as well. Personally, I'm looking for a lot of new revenue potential coming on from new ventures like this and the new film investments that will go straight to the bottom line.


The Zune Flopped?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on the Zune. Mentioning that I thought it has "flopped" My post was picked up by a couple Zune forums and web sites that seem to think that I was calling the race a bit too early. After careful consideration, I don't think I was. I still believe that my statement that the Zune "flopped" is accurate.

I didn't write that post to dog Microsoft or to blast the Zune. I wrote it because I believe that the Zune launch should have been much more powerful a force to deal with than it was. Think about it - there was massive groundswell and hype that surrounded the launch, it felt like you were waiting for an Apple product when you read about it. There was so much publicity that the Zune should have skyrocketed out of the gate.

Instead, Microsoft blew almost every chance they had. Too bad, because from all I've seen and heard, the Zune is not a bad machine - It's just not a machine that will unseat the iPod in terms of marketshare dominance anytime soon.

Of course, I could be wrong. Microsoft could react with a great "round 2" and fix some problems and introduce killer features - I just don't think they will.

But what if they do?

To be fair to the guys in the Zune Forums, I'll spend some effort in making a list of things that in my opinion might allow to Zune to take some market share:

1. Make it smaller than the iPod... and "simpler" looking - Ditch any extra buttons and lose the metal-looking frame on the screen and "control circle" area. They make the machine look a bit more complex than it should. Simple is better. Simpls is less threatening.

2. Sell it in colors that appeal to teenage girls. Pinks, greens, blues... lose the brown.

3. Let me buy songs via wi-fi.

4. All music should behave in the same way. What is this that I hear about only being able to "squirt" some of your music, and is it true that you don't know which music is "Squirtable" until you try to "Squirt" it?. (And why is it called "Squirting" again?)

5. All music should be sold the same way. Trust me... .99 cents is way easier than .79 "points." Drop the multiple forms of payment - leave the Zune Pass for the "Plays for sure" devices and only sell by song. It works for Apple and it can work for you.

6. Tell the record labels that they will have to play ball... Not the other way around. Every time you bend to them, you make my life harder. One song price, one album price - more than that and I start to lose interest. You can always negotiate by asking them what it feels like to be Steve's bitch.

7. Build in the FM transmitter, don't worry about the receiver... We buy these devices to replace the radio, not to play it. I don't think you can use the "iPod" plugs that are available from the dealer in almost all new cars. (Yes - I know that Ford offers this, but the cars that matter are high end European luxury cars or Japanese econocars.)

8. Give away free noise-canceling in-ear headphones to all iPod owners you can find. Make sure the headphone cables are black. (think about it)

9. Build "Zune-pod" kiosks at every Starbucks. These will be wireless devices that offer to "squirt" music to any Zunes present. This will ease the feelings of lonely Zune-aholics and give them a place to congregate. To get to the new social, you have to go through the old social first.

10. Make the Zune work on a Mac. I don't think that you would have many sales here, but you need to take the war to the enemy.

The last time I wrote about the Zune, I got a few choice words thrown at me. I can't wait to hear what comes back this time ;-)


March Madness with Stocks

This time of year, everyone is mad for march madness, a gathering of many teams in a bracketed playoff that gets sports fans of all types excited about who is winning the games and the office pool.

While I'll probably not watch any of the action on the courts, I would like to point out a similar, but much more profitable version of march madness. Motley Fool has brought back their March Stock Madness. A couple of years ago, I really enjoyed this series of articles and got a lot of investment advice from reading the pairings of companies, as well as a bit of a smile when "my" companies won a bracket.

The game seems to change a bit every year they hold it, with this year having the "divisions" being labeled by investor (Buffet, etc.) Which is an interesting concept.

I still hold some of the stocks that I purchased during the first time that I read this series, and some of them are back again this year.

If you are a sports fan, I hope that you have fun with March Madness. I have to be honest though, Stock Madness has made me a bit more money and helped to get me into stocks in the first place. If you are teetering on the edge about investing, this might be a good place for you to start. I find the the good natured ribbing and back and forth really help to make the dry financial comparisons into a game that can be fun to follow.


I saw 300 this past Friday. Um... "Wow!!!".

Great movie, wonderful film making and a magnificent story. Easily as good as Sin City, which was also done in the comic book style. Here is a link to the trailer. It will tell you more about the movie than I can in words.

In case you have not heard about it, 300 is a story based on a comic book by Frank Miller, which is itself based on a the battle of Thermopylae where 300 brave spartan soldiers face down an army reported to have been anywhere from 100,000 to 1,000,000 men. A true feat of bravery, courage and a warrior's skills.

Though in truth, I do have my doubts that 300 men stood against the kinds of monsters that they faced in this film. There were so many creatively styled opponents that just watching the variety alone was overwhelming.

While a strictly historic view of the events would probably not involve monstrous and misshapen giants and twisted versions of elephants and rhinos trained for war, this more imaginary view adds them to great effect. In fact, the variety really helped the battle scenes feel unique at every turn.

The cinematic quality of these battle scenes is amazing and I found myself being drawn deeply into them. I suggest that you find a theater with a massive sound system if you truly want to experience the full effect of the film since there are several points where a booming bass hit adds intensity to these battles - the pressure of the booms that happen when the warriors slam opponents with their shields makes you feel as if you were the one getting pounded.

Of course, the movie is a bit on the bloody side, as you can see in this YouTube video that depicts a particularly gruesome battle scene:

Even with the gore and shocking images, this movie feels tastefully done. This is probably a result of the comic book style of the film, which in a funny way makes the ultra-violence feel much more like a video game than an over the top gore-fest.

Bottom line, This movie made me feel like a kid again and I'd recommend it over almost anything I've seen recently.

For a great look at this film, try viewing the "making of" video podcast on iTunes, It's free and well worth the time: Warner Bros. - The Making of "300" - The Making of "300"


The ocean I gave
Water blue and bountiful
Now runs red with blood