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The Cody Blog: September 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Cody News Video Edition September 29, 2006

Click here for a high quality, downloadable version in quicktime. (right click to save, left click to play in the browser)

Click here if you would like the podcast version (right click to save, left click to play in the browser)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

CW on RM: Big-Cap Tech Is Back

Big-Cap Tech Is Back
09/26/2006 9:18 AM

The market snapped back from the red yesterday morning to rally into the close with some big gains. And those gains once again were led by tech, as they have been since the market bottomed (at least in the intermediate term) in late July. Even the semiconductors reversed and ripped higher, closing up 2% on the day.

The rally from the July bottoms has been broad and strong, with the Nasdaq up more than 10% from its lows. And, despite being written off more times than an oil man's Enron investment on his tax return, the biggest leader in the market has been big-cap tech.

Yes, big-cap tech has been in full-on bull mode. Oracle now up more than 40% on the year. Microsoft is up more than 20% from its recent lows. Cisco is up nearly 30% since it reported its most recent quarterly results. So much for big-cap tech's exaggerated rumors of death.

To be sure, the whole group is not exploding higher. Intel has crawled back from its lowest points of the year, but it's still bumbling along just about 10% above its recent bottom. Dell, of exploding-computer and failed-MP3-player fame, is also about 10% above its summer lows.

Even recent qualifiers for "big-cap tech" status, Apple and Google have bounced strongly from recent lows. Apple has been really smoking from the mid-$50s to the mid-$70s since summer, with a 30%-plus rally.

With the retail and bank indices each up single digits from their summer lows and with energy and commodities in free fall, big-cap tech is back. "Is" is the operative word in that sentence, because if Microsoft's Vista spurs any meaningful upgrade cycle in PCs, if Intel's new chips rock at a low temperature, and if Cisco keeps enjoying the fruits of accelerating enterprise tech spending -- well, multiples can continue to expand and estimates can go higher. And that would provide a double-whammy to fuel these stocks further.

I won't chase these names right now, but I continue to hold Microsoft as my biggest position, and I'm holding my more recent addition of Cisco steady, too.

P.S. Speaking of Enron, can you imagine how big and powerful that firm would probably be if it had managed to hide the corruption long enough to enjoy the huge energy boom? That's a scary thought. Or perhaps a beautiful thought, because they did get busted and justice was served.

"A Way to Deal With Your Blog Trolls?"

A friend of mine sent me this article with the comment “A way to deal with your blog trolls?”. One of those trolls, er, readers of mine gave one of their usual barrages of always-anonymous comments in three or four of my posts last night. My favorite of the night is, “ Saw you....besides your hair looking all greasy, as usual, you added nothing!”

I think I love these folks who care so much about me that they catch my appearances on TV and keep coming back to read this blog...and read my stuff from other outlets to boot....and even care so much that they help me generate traffic with their funny comments on my blog.

But I guess I could go this route:

Director takes swings at critics -- literally

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Tired of the criticism of his films, controversial German film director Uwe Boll took on four of his critics in a Vancouver boxing ring, and ended each bout with a knockout.

The director of the vampire flick "BloodRayne," based on a video game and starring Kristanna Loken and Ben Kingsley, issued a fight challenge to his critics several months ago. Fifteen responded.

"I like now the critics," Boll told a news conference after the fights on Saturday. "Everybody who was in the ring showed (guts). Nobody dived.

Hey, latest anon, got the guts to meet me in the ring? ;)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jonesing For But Leery About Dylan's Concert

I'm pretty jazzed to have some great tickets to go see Bob Dylan for the
first time ever in a few weeks. Even though I'm pretty jaded by
his Apple endorsement (that reminds me how my good friend Joe used to scream "I'm jaded!" along with Garth's cover of Billy Joel's hit "Shameless" instead of "I'm shameless". Gawd, did the corporate playlists ever kill that song back in 1991/2 in Texas). And I'm still banning music from post-1982 too, so I can't speak to his newest album (though I will listen to it before I go to his show...).

At any rate, I had to pass on this review from my favorite music
critic/analyst/whatever, Bob Lefsetz wrote up:

So now plagiarism is the FOLK TRADITION?

The reviews of this album are demonstration of why you can no longer trust
print/reviewers. To look cool, to be a member of the club, to remind you of
the way things WERE, you've got to dig deep and give a good review of this
record. Whereas you've got to listen to it almost a dozen times for it to
reveal itself, and almost nobody's gonna give it that time and should you
have to TAKE the time? Isn't that like saying if you're alone on an island
with a member of the opposite sex for three months you'll grow close?

This is not a bad record. But it could have used an outside producer, the
sound is anything but revelatory, never mind ear-pleasing and Dylan could
have used a Jacques Levy.

If you consider this to be classic, you've never listened to "Blood On The
Tracks", never mind "Bringing It All Back Home", "Highway 61" or "Blonde On

Now if you were alive back then, if you weren't looking at the past through
rose-colored glasses like the aforementioned writers, you'll know that Bob
Dylan released a turkey, "Self Portrait", and after the reviews were
SCATHING, he went back into the studio and released the almost classic "New
Morning" within six months. Maybe if they gave this guy BAD reviews, he'd
come to his senses and make something more accessible.

Oh, don't tell me "Modern Times"' virtue is its INACCESSIBILITY. "Anna
Karenina" isn't inaccessible. And if inaccessibility is the criterion,
"Trout Mask Replica" is the best record ever made, maybe challenged by
"Metal Machine Music".

This is not a word of mouth record. These same worthless print writers are
selling this record. Getting baby boomers who want to look cool and in the
loop to buy it. Because if you heard it at a friend's house, you'd NEVER
buy it!

PS. Tune in Friday -- New Music Friday (with a twist) returns!

Friday, September 22, 2006

CW on RM: 10 Market Thoughts

10 Market Thoughts
09/22/2006 4:28 PM

It was an intense week of action in the markets, and there was a lot of macroeconomic news flow to blame it on. Here's what's on my mind as we close out the week.

1. If spiking energy didn't matter to consumers while they kept spending over the past few years, why should we think energy's collapse will matter in our consumer outlook now?

2. Is there any, any, any remote possibility that housing will actually strengthen again?

3. What if, now that even DaimlerChrysler has all but thrown in the towel and that the Philly Fed and who knows what other macrodata are being hit by Detroit's problems, Detroit's fundamentals have finally bottomed?

4. What if it turns out that the automakers actually roll out some products that consumers really dig?

5. Why can't the automakers become "tech" companies and innovate in ways they used to in decades past?

6. Was it too obvious to buy Google on Yahoo!'s warning? Sure was a lot of commentary on both sides of that bet.

7. Is it time to bet that Nokia will be OK this quarter and guide fine for next?

8. Should I pair that idea with a Motorola short because the market has deemed that Moto can do no wrong lately?

9. I complain all the time about the fallacies of stereotyping, er, grouping stocks by market cap and sector, such as "big-cap tech." That said, is the strength in Cisco, Motorola, Microsoft, Apple and Oracle a function of money flowing into "big-cap tech" as a sector because the rest of the world doesn't see it my way?

10. What if the Zune does bomb as badly as most all the world thinks it will? Does that present downside risk to Microsoft? Probably not. Would a Zune boom present upside to Microsoft? Probably so.

I am going to get outside and hit some tennis balls on these last days of summer-like weather here in New York City. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

The Cody News Video Edition September 22, 2006

Click here for a high quality, downloadable version in quicktime. (right click to save, left click to play in the browser)

StockPickr.com Takes Off...

My boy James Altucher, oft-mentioned in my adventures on these pages, has just launched his new stock-referral service at StockPickr.com. It's pretty interesting stuff, as you enter in your favorite and least favorite names and the site generates new ideas for you based on hedge funds and super investors (Buffett, Icahn, Soros, Miller, etc) and individuals who have similar stocks. Click here to check it out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

All Wet, But Having a Blast on CNBC Squawkbox

Last Thursday I had a 7am spot on the Squawk. I was up at 5:30ish and got cleaned up and ready to rock n roll. Armani leather jacket in hand, I stepped out into the misty rain and ran across my bricked street and hopped in the back seat of the Town Car waiting...the driver was surprised to see me and said I had the wrong car. Uh oh.

No other cars were waiting outside, and it's now 6:20 so there was no sense in wasting any time trying to track down the right car. Now being a cowboy from NM, I'm an utter umbrella incompetent. I lose them all the time (no shocker there, right?), and I don't currently have one that I know of. So I wrapped my jacket inside of my WSJ and after a few minutes found a cab on Houston. To the studio in a skyscraper in midtown then, and I find the doors locked. Sloshing through a giant mudpuddle and I get inside through a side door, rather soaking wet (as noted by a commentor here). No hairdryer (and no handdryer in the bathroom for me to pull a Desperately Seeking Susan)...what can you do? Was still a blast to get on there and talk Revolution.

A Cody News Spot: Life is Better?!

Life Is Better; It Isn’t Better. Which Is It?

Published: September 20, 2006

When the first snow falls on the North Shore of Chicago this winter, Robert Gordon will take his Toro snow blower out of the garage and think about how lucky he is not to be using a shovel. Mr. Gordon is 66 years old and evidently quite healthy, but his doctor has told him that he should never clear his driveway with his own hands. “People can die from shoveling snow,” Mr. Gordon said. “I bet a lot of lives have been saved by snow blowers.”

If so, most of them have been saved in the last few decades. A Canadian teenager named Arthur Sicard came up with the idea for the snow blower in the late 1800’s, while watching the blades on a piece of farm equipment, but he didn’t sell any until 1927. For the next 30 years or so, snow blowers were hulking machines typically bought by cities and schools. Only recently have they become a suburban staple.

What an awesome "Flip It" this one is -- the world is better for most Americans (really?!)...and also -- after all the whining about hedonic adjustments by our bureaucrats understating inflation, Leonhardt explains how they might be dramatically OVERSTATING inflation. Provocative ariticle.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

ESPN Blows It on MNF

I'm gonna write up a whole post about this in the Digital Revolution theme, but for now, let me just say that I watched a few minutes of last night's Pitt vs. Jacksonville game -- you know, the MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL for 2006 version -- and I'm just appalled at how badly ESPN has dropped the ball. How hard could it be to find some announcers with some sort of clue and some sort of personality in the same vein as Madden and Summerall? And really, more to the point, how hard could it possibly be to have hyped ESPN's Monday Night Football so that it could capture some of the relevance and momentum of ABC's long, long MNF program. MNF on ESPN could have legitimized that network like nothing before it ever could. Fire that producer and get out of the Revolution's way, ESPN.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Launching Cody's Digital Revolution Newsletter

I'm pretty excited to launch my tech newsletter today, appropriately called Cody's Digital Revolution Newsletter.

The first issue, published today, is titled: Five Stocks That Will Win Big in The Digital Revolution.

You can click here to read a sample of it.

Or click here to sign up for the newsletter -- we're kicking it off at a special offering of a one year subscription for $129 at 35% off the list price.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thinking Positive (and It's Not Just "Latinos" Who Do So)

Readers surely know that part of my whole Flip It™ mantra is centered around overcoming the incessant whining and negativity by the mainstream media, the mainstream public and mainstream investment pundits. I got this newsletter today from TrendCentral.com, a company that, in full disclosure, is affiliated with my buds at CAA -- the same folks who brought you the lonelygirl15 headfake/new video paradigm -- and while I think it's a mistake to try to break down analysis by "race" in this acceleratingly (ooh, nice word, Cody!), melted-pot-society, the analysis itself sure rang true to me:

With so much negativity in the world—the challenging economy, continuing military conflicts, worldwide famine and disease, and even the mean-spirited tone of celebrity gossip—young people are seeking positive messages and reminders that the world is, in fact, a good place. At the same time, although young Latinos are also concerned about the world, they remain enormously positive in their outlook and perspective. This is a generation that feels remarkably optimistic about their place in the world in the context of how far they’ve come. They see milestones within their reach that their parents only dreamed of—going to college, buying a house, starting a business and they feel confident that, as a generation, they are bound to be more successful. They see Hispanic politicians (Villaraigosa in L.A., Martinez in Miami) in the news, Latina celebrities on magazine covers (Eva Longoria, Shakira), and Latin trends invading the mainstream (Reggaeton, telenovelas, obsession with car culture, and overtly curvy looks on the runways).

However, this relative optimism is not often reflected in the marketing and entertainment they see. Much of the media messages aimed at Latinos focus on the risks they face—the risk of not graduating high school and making it to college, the risk of teenage pregnancy, or the scourge of violence in their schools. Very few marketing campaigns or entertainment properties offer a view that reflects the optimism of this Latino generation. The hunger for positive aspirational Hispanic portrayals was reflected as a number of participants applauded Desperate Housewives for showing a Hispanic family living inside the house, and employing their own gardener.

Right on!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

CW on CNBC SquawkBox Tomorrow at 7am EST

I'll be on CNBC's SquawkBox to talk about the Video Revolution manana at 7am EST. Fun topic, I am jazzed about it. You can read another one of my Trading Blog posts about it at 360 on Apple.

Back to Boycotting College Sports

When I realized my dream of playing for a nationally-ranked NCAA basketball team, the University of New Mexico Lobos, I was quickly disillusioned and alienated by the evil-doings of my coach, the one and only now-infamous Dave Bliss. From players who didn't have a pot to piss in suddenly driving brand new Eddie Bauer Ford Explorers to the way that somehow none of the scholarship players, including my poorest teammates, didn't have to work during the summer breaks, but still always had good spending money and clothes and what not to the time two of my teammates who were arrested for burglary or something were punished by having to sit out a meaningless game against someone like Hawaii, I didn't have to look hard or long for the stereotypes about college athletics.

How many of my team-mates graduated? I'd guess less than 50%, but I wouldn't know for sure, because I essentially got kicked off the team -- and never looked back -- for calling it like I saw it when the Albuquerque Tribune did a feature story on me. The jist of the story? Well, the call out on the frong page sorta says it all, "The Dreaded Chant: When Lobo fans start chanting for the walk-ons to get in the game, it's meant affectionately. But for Lobo Cody Willard, the chant is the knife in the heart of a proud player who believes he can contribute." My first high-profile "Flip It" perhaps? (BTW, I searched on Google archives for this article, but I guess it's not added...yet.)

Anyway, the day I walked up the ramp at the Pit for the last time, I pretty much had decided that I'd be boycotting college athletics in the same way I boycott Woody Allen movies -- the dude married his ex-wife's daughter, a girl whom he helped raise for crying out loud, and I'm not okay with that -- because of my fundamental objections against the tyranny of the NCAA monopoly. It's not okay that young kids are constantly exploited and lucky to get what is deemed illegal SUVs and clothes by the system that generates hundreds of billions of dollars for itself and its cronies and coaches and publicly-funded schools.

However, my dad and my uncle and my cousins sure do love college sports as most people in this country do (I remember sitting on the bench at UNM and watching the 25,000 wacky fans in the stadium scream horrible things at the refs and wondering how any one who's not actually on the team can possibly care so much as to be so cruel) and I got this forward from my uncle about the bounty that their alma mater (and where I'd paid half the fees to a half-dozen basketball camps as a kid with the money I made working full-time in my pop's animal hospital, contributing to the outsized revenues of the school's basketball program) is receiving from Nike.

Here I'd finally watched a part of a game or two since I caught Vince Young's amazing championship game performance last year, and then this article in the Sports Illustrated College Basketball Blog by Luke Winn reminded me of all that's wrong with the sport and why I'm going to have to put my boycott back on.

Bob Huggins arrived in Manhattan, Kan., in March, and shortly thereafter, big things began to follow. National media attention. A 7-foot-3 high school center from Florida, Jason Bennett. Controversy over wresting rivals.com's No. 1 recruit from the Class of 2007, Michael Beasley, away from Charlotte by hiring 49er assistant Dalonte Hill. But the biggest thing of all -- at least for Kansas State's athletic department -- came last week: a $12.3 million contract with Nike.

Nice bounty for the coach and the school. How much do the kids who will be the ones constantly on TV wearing those swooshes get? From the article...

If I'm Nike, I'm keeping a close eye on what happens the weekend of Sept. 23. That's when Beasley -- and a host of other big-time recruits -- will make official visits and get their first look at the K-State campus. Louisville will be in town to face the Wildcats in football, and Huggins and his staff will no doubt be pulling out all the stops.

Ooh, the recruits will be treated to a coach and a staff who will pull out all the stops! That probably includes some great tours of the campus and some great food and parties. Give the players on the team anything of value -- besides that education that's measured in value in tens of thousands of dollars (the school makes tens of millions of dollars a year on the basketball team, remember) -- and they get criminalized. What a great system!

Oh, and if you're a school who wants to do something right by your student athletes? You could always join one of those other collegiate associations, like the NAIA which has the same damn rules.

I'm back to boycotting college sports -- because free trade and individual rights are important, and the NCAA oppresses free trade and individual rights.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rolling Down a Window, Please

As cutthroat as business is in this global economy as it is, the fact that the engineers at Lincoln who designed the Town Car have been complacent since the first design in which they had messed up the simple function of ROLLING DOWN the window the whole way in the backseat speaks volumes as to why the domestic car companies have steadily lost all their marketshare. Fix that mistake already....or just kill the line as is actually happening.

CW on RM: This Revolution Will Be Televised

This Revolution Will Be Televised

09/12/2006 12:48 PM

Lost in the hubbub about Apple's upcoming announcement, which will almost certainly include the availability of downloadable movies at the iTunes store, is this press release that hit my inbox this morning:

"Blip.tv today announced it is bringing its best user-generated online video to the television through a partnership with Internet video-on-demand service Akimbo. User-generated content is quickly moving from the computer to the TV screen, and blip.tv is leading the way."

You see, as I've been writing for the past few years -- and really laid out in this column -- the video content business is being completely turned on its head by two facts. First, there is no longer a capital-intensive barrier to creating content. Second, distributing content is becoming entirely free.

That's exactly what this deal between Blip.tv and Akimbo make reality: the distribution channels to putting end-user video content on people's home televisions. Slowly, to be sure, it is happening. And that is as revolutionary a development to the entrenched media business models as any change the Internet has brought in the past 10 years.

The major content creators (read: Hollywood studios) have had a symbiotic relationship with the networks that push their content over the "channels" that you get on your TV. They charge the end user a sickening amount per minute of watchable TV by bundling hours of unwatchable crap with hundreds of unwatchable channels.

Just as the music label and distribution model has been ruined by the unbundling of songs from entire albums, the TV model is facing the writing on the wall. The content creators and content distributors have made hundreds of billions of dollars using these models since the first TV show was broadcast in 1941. Uh-oh.

In the next few years, we're going to see successful "television" series made by "users" who will create entirely new paradigms of programming. You might call YouTube.com's Lonelygirl15, which James wrote about in his must-read "Blog Watch" yesterday, the first shot across the bow in this new shift. This is rather ironic, given the recent reports that she is a creation of Hollywood's big Creative Artists' Agency. (Full disclosure: I have affiliations with them.)

When these series get legs -- and they will -- they'll sometimes be picked up by the major studios and/or outlet channels. And other times, often by the creator's own choice in order to stay outside of the "system," they'll be distributed by companies like Akimbo.

While Apple's rightly going to focus on Hollywood content in its announcements today, it too will eventually become a distributor of user-generated content. Google will also benefit from this coming trend. So will others.

The Hollywood content owners and creators will continue to benefit from the explosion of their addressable market, as more and more of the world's population comes online and new outlets for their content continue to explode.

Who will suffer? The guys who own the pipes that have centrally controlled what content they push on their customers. They can't stop the revolution, which is a term I've trademarked exactly because they can't. CBS, Viacom, even the Fox assets inside of my new News Corp. purchase -- they are on the wrong side of this slowly but surely coming paradigm shift.

CW on RM: The Real Problem With Xbox 360

The Real Problem With Xbox 360
09/11/2006 2:10 PM

I might have been the single most vocal bull on Microsoft for the past few months, and I remain convinced that it is a "safe" tech stock with lots of upside ahead of it.

That said, I'm concerned about one area in particular. Given that I'm Mr. "Flip It," that worry is a very recent development that most pundits have been proclaiming as a new positive: the gaming console business.

I think Sony's going to wallop Microsoft something awful when the PS3 finally comes out en masse sometime in 2007. Sony's way behind schedule after having postponed the rollout of the PS3 for a second time, most recently blaming production delays in the Blue-Ray DVD technology that it is including in every PS3.

Most of the commentary I've read has explained that the delay will boost Microsoft's fortunes for the Xbox 360 because it'll be widely available this holiday season and the PS3 won't be. Yeah, that's all true. Sony will sell a few hundred thousand fewer PS3s and Microsoft a few hundred thousand more Xbox 360s this Christmas season. Given that more than 50 million copies of PS2 and the original Xbox were sold in the U.S. over the past five years, it's not as if that rounding error of a difference will determine which machine dominates.

And that leads me to the real problem with Xbox 360 -- it's just not that great a machine. The PS3 is going to be much cooler with much better graphics and movie playability. Xbox 360 is fun, and it looks much cooler than the original Xbox. But it's not really all that much more functional or fast than my old Xbox.

The graphics -- yeah, incrementally improved. So is the way most games save themselves and so on. And I've seen some rather amazing modified versions by obsessive gaming geeks who tap into the unutilized processing power and storage capabilities of the Xbox 360.

But without a meaningful improvement in the system, something from which a killer app/revolutionary new game can be developed, Microsoft is only getting those of us who feel like we must have the latest and greatest -- whether because we're geeks, competitive, jocks or whatever. The rest of the 50 million-plus gamers in this country rightly see no reason to upgrade.

Microsoft rushed this system out to get a head start on Sony and Nintendo in the next generation of consoles. In their rush, Softee rolled out a 2.5G box instead of a 3G. That head start has amounted to a whopping 2 million units -- and that small number isn't attributable to shortages. The lack of sales is due to lack of demand for a 2.5G system.

We won't know whether Sony or Nintendo will fare any better until the systems roll out, the games get developed and we see if the forces of critical mass and de facto standardization hit on their next-gen games.

Maybe the Blue-Ray technology will enable some unthought of killer apps. Maybe none of the new games will revolutionize and we'll call this generation of video games the 2.5G mistake. Certainly, Xbox isn't going to be "the" catalyst to drive Microsoft to new highs. It'll have to be one of the many other ways to win with Softee, including the rollout of Vista, the value of MSN, the PocketPC, or the IPTV platform.

I'll stick with my Microsoft, but not because of any success in the Xbox or failure in the PS3.

Finding Sleep and Commercializing 9/11

Since I got back from my flyfishing trip (pics and stories coming in the next day or two...), I'd been having a terrible time sleeping. I thought it was just usual stress about work, etc, but last night I got home from teaching my first class of "The Valuation of Innovation" at Seton Hall at 9pm-ish and I fell onto my couch and woke up to a bad episode of Law & Order on the TV at 10:40ish. Sometimes I can't ever fall back asleep when I wake up so quickly from a night-time sleep, but I barely mustered the energy to get to my bed where I fell face first and didn't wake up til 7am this morning.

Ahh, sleep. Makes me think that maybe it's been this endless coverage and over-the-top media hype/commercialization of 9/11 that's been my biggest sleep deterrent of late.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Cody Show: Still ToY (Up at Night)

Last summer I really got hit hard with some 9/11 flashbacks of memories that I'd basically convinced myself weren't entirely of reality. In the midst of dealing with those night-terrors, I decided I'd make a movie/music-video/modern art short film on the nights whenever I'd not sleep. I wonder how much if at all working on this piece helped me deal with my issues over the event, but it did make me focus on it, which is still something I am struggling with, as I avoid all news pieces and specials about 9/11 this weekend. Anyway, here it is:

I've never published the full version of the song, mainly because I struggled with being okay with the lyrics for so long. It is what it is though, and as I come to terms with my guilty feelings over my 9/11 experience (rightly or wrongly, whatever), I am okay recognizing them in lyric form too. Here's the full song (right click to download).

Click here for a high quality, downloadable version in quicktime. (right click to save, left click to play in the browser)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

CW Featured in NY Daily News Article about Post-9/11 NYC

They bet on biz to bounce back

New Yorkers who refused to give up their business dreams after the terror attacks have played a major part in helping the city's economy rebound in dramatic style


When the city's economy was on the ropes, battered by a post-9/11 recession and a bear stampede on Wall Street, some New Yorkers stood fast and gambled on Gotham - and themselves.

Rebuilding their own lives and reinventing the city's staggered economy in the process, they joined the swelling ranks of the self-employed. Five years later, from tourism to technology, from finance to food, they are helping fuel the city's remarkable rebound since 9/11.

"It reflects the dynamic and entrepreneurial character of the New York City economy," said Mitchell Moss, professor of Urban Policy and Planning at NYU's Wagner School.

The number of self-employed workers in the city rose to 719,986 from 554,204 between 2000 and 2004, a jump of 30%, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. While those figures are the latest available, Moss believes the trend has accelerated.

"Between the dot.com collapse, a trend of mergers among big companies and 9/11, you had a lot of extremely talented people looking for work," Moss said. "A lot of them, either by necessity or choice, went into business for themselves."

The new generation of risk takers is finding success and confounding some experts who predicted that the city would never come back economically.

"The vigor with which New York City rebounded surprised a lot of people," said Jason Bram, who researches economic trends in the region for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "What ended up happening was much closer to the best-case scenario than the worst."

It's not just entrepreneurs that have brought the city back. Unemployment is at an 18-year low, putting the number of payroll jobs within 100,000 of the pre-9/11 high of January, 2001.

But a recent Federal Reserve report authored by Bram and fellow Fed researcher James Orr bore out Moss' theory that the burgeoning self-employed sector has a huge and sometimes hidden impact on the local economy. The report suggests a major shift of payroll workers - who count in unemployment figures - to the self-employed ranks, where they do not, could be disguising an even rosier picture.

But James Parrott, chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, said there's another side to the boom in self-employment. Parrott said the best measure of the job market is wages. He says they're falling when adjusted for inflation.

"The 10% drop in the real median wage for college-educated city workers over the past three years reflects a weak labor market," said Parrott, who said his research shows most of the city's self-employed make less than $20,000 a year. "In this environment, people have been turning to self-employment for any income at all."

But city Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Robert Walsh sees the self-employment surge differently.

Walsh believes the trend taps the ideas and passion of some of the city's most talented people. His agency, which supports new businesses, has more than doubled in size since Mayor Bloomberg - the city's most successful small businessman - appointed him.

"You think of where the mayor started - four men in a small office with a coffee pot and a dream," Walsh said. "It worked out very well for him.

"I see people all the time who have a great idea and a passion. They have that fire in the belly to make their dream work, and it is truly fascinating."

Walsh's department has "solution centers" throughout the five boroughs where staffers help aspiring entrepreneurs get started, including support with financing, business planning and finding employees.

Walsh said information services, technology, hospitality and food service are among the growth industries for people starting businesses.

And Moss said there has never been a better time for people to strike out on their own.

"The ability of people to function in small business has been enhanced by information technology," Moss said. "One of the great changes is that people can work from home, from Starbucks, or even from Central Park."

* * *

The hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs driving an increasingly dynamic post 9/11 economy include people from around the world working in all sectors. Here's a look at a few:

Cody Willard

Cody Willard, a Wall Street wonder at 25, lost his job a week before 9/11. Then the terror attacks took his apartment in Battery Park City, prompting a head-clearing, trek across the country. Now 33, Willard runs a booming hedge fund, writes regular columns for the Financial Times and TheStreet.com and appears frequently on TV, touting the opportunities of a renewed tech revolution.

The youngest partner ever at Oppenheimer & Co.'s Lanyi Research, Willard had moved on to a venture capital firm when a receding economy cost him his job Sept. 4, 2001. The New Mexico native had no idea how much worse things would get for him and his adopted city just days later. But he regrouped in Austin, Tex., and returned months later with a dream and a vengeance.

"I knew that this city, harsh and lonely as it can be, was the only place for me to realize my dreams," says Willard, who is finally undergoing therapy for 9/11-induced post traumatic stress disorder. "I belong in New York City, and I always have. It's the capital of the universe and I still strive to fit in - and strive to be different. Which is exactly the point, no?"

Ilir Sela

Ilir Sela, 26, drained his savings to start Nerd Force out of a tiny rented office on Staten Island three years ago. Starting his own business was less a leap of faith than an act of necessity: After graduating from CUNY Staten Island with a computer science degree, nobody else would give him a job.

Nerd Force quickly morphed from web designer to on-the-go IT for small business. Now the company employs 25 and its distinctive yellow Scion minivans are seen all over the Island.

Ironically, the bread and butter of Sela's own business is helping other entrepreneurs. And given the local explosion of small business, he figures his client base is only going to grow.

"Due to 9/11 and the poor job market that followed, a lot of small businesses were born," explained Sela, whose family came here from Albania in 1990. "They were in need of IT support, but they didn't have the budget to do it in-house."

As for Sela, his business may not stay so small: He's already been approached about franchising rights.

Debra Harris

Debra Harris and her husband, John Shepherd, used to watch from their Battery Park City apartment as hordes of tourists visited the World Trade Center prior to 9/11.

Harris, 38, dreamed of offering them the same tour of the birthplace of hip hop culture that she gave friends and relatives who visited her. The couple, displaced for seven months following the attacks, spent much of the time putting together their business plan. Less than a year after the attacks, they launched Hush Tours.

"It's been great to start with a dream and then work hard to make it come true."

Now regular charter buses, hosted by rap legends Kurtis Blow, Kool Herc, Rahiem and Grand Master Caz take tourists from around the world through Harlem and the Bronx, where they see the graffiti wall of fame in Spanish Harlem, the Apollo Theatre, and the numerous city parks where hip hop pioneers paid their dues.

The rollicking bus rides feature a pulsating beat, the chance for tourists to try their hands at rap and Japanese translators.

Next up for Hush Tours: routes through Brooklyn and Queens, which have hip hop roots of their own.

Veronica Leung

August of 2001 was the month Veronica Leung's fledgling restaurant on East Broadway in Chinatown, Dim Sum Go Go, finally turned the corner.

The divorced former housewife's dream was starting to work: tables were full, the kitchen was humming and dinner checks wereat last covering expenses.

"I was really happy, and September - the first 10 days before 9/11 were great," recalled Leung. "I said, "'Veronica, we did it.'"

When the dust of the terrorist attacks cleared, Lower Manhattan and Chinatown were left crippled. Leung's dream nearly died.

"There were days when I thought I would never make it," she said. "There were no customers, and no one would lend money to a new restaurant to help me get by."

Somehow, Leung hung on, betting that when New Yorkers got back on their feet, their appetite for good Chinese food would be as ravenous as ever. Now the 50-something restaurateur's biggest problem is finding tables for hungry customers. The Shanghai-born Leung's battle-tested dream is alive again.

"I'm the bookkeeper, the host, the waitress - you name it," she said. "And I am loving it."

Friday, September 08, 2006

CW on RM: Slicing Up Apple's News

Slicing Up Apple's News
09/08/2006 11:52 AM

So the tech, media and investment worlds are holding their collective breath in outsized anticipation of what Apple will reveal in the announcement on Sept. 12.

Its stock has been pretty strong lately, especially after bottoming amid the options controversy in the middle of the summer. (You know, the "Hey, don't worry about the options scandal because Steve Jobs canceled those options after they were totally worthless, and we gave him tons of valuable stock to replace it!" revelations.)

The Street seems to have convinced itself that the risks surrounding those options irregularities have passed, though I have my doubts about that. Therefore, the focus has moved back to the fundamentals and new product potential. As good as Apple's fundies are and as uniquely positioned as it is for meaningful new product introductions, the stock's been rightly moving higher.

Tuesday's announcement will most likely include something about how Apple will offer downloadable movies at the iTunes storefront. Traders who are looking for a pop next week had better hope for more than that because expectations for this announcement are running rampant. Here are some possible new products and what I'd expect the stock to do, based on each potential new product:

  1. A living room computer that enables easy downloading of content from the Internet and iTunes, perhaps even playing high-definition content. If there's anything besides movie downloads from iTunes in the announcement, this is what I'd expect. The stock would probably hang tough around $73 or so if this gets rolled out.

  2. An iPod phone. An Apple-branded phone that really is a full-on video iPod would be a huge, huge hit. I don't expect this rollout yet, but if it were to happen Tuesday, I'd look for a 5% to 10% pop in the stock.

  3. A new lineup of video iPod and/or iPod nanos. If the announcement is about new iPods that aren't phones, they sure as heck better have something else awesomely compelling about them. Bluetooth enablement won't be enough -- neither will a touch screen. I'd look for 5% hit if it's "just" new iPods and downloadable movies.

  4. Miscellaneous. If something comes out of left field, that would surprise just about everyone, including me. The stock's action would obviously depend on just how cool (or uncool) the product is.

  5. Just movie downloads. The market is expecting more than this, and if it's just movie downloads from iTunes, I figure a hit of about 5%.

The upshot is that this isn't exactly a good risk/reward for a trade, as most scenarios that I expect to play out next week entail some downside. Part of the reason for my pessimism is the way the market has just not been trading well and seems to be selling most news.

I still own a decent bit of Apple from much, much lower levels and continue to hold it as the long-term outlook -- as long as the options debacle doesn't kill it -- is very bullish. But I wouldn't want to flip it for a trade into next week.

By the way, the last time the hype got this big was right around the time Apple announced its stupid iPod HiFi system. I had gone on CNBC before it was announced and downplayed it.

You Know What They Say About Assess

I don't want to be too mean, so I won't name names on this one, but I thought I'd share this pretty funny email from a mid-cap tech company's PR firm that arrived in my inbox just now. When I first saw the subject I thought it'd just been a mistake as they typed that subject line in, and figured -- been there, done that, empathize. But it's in the "body" of the email too:

Subject: How Do Employers Asses Their Employees' Performance?

Body: How do employers asses their employees’ performance? Are they showing results? Is he/she a leader? Did they receive the proper training? Are the employees’ goals aligned with the company’s objective?


Anyway, back to work.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Confessional: Love for Judge Judy

It's true -- I watch Judge Judy when I catch it on TV. I love how cutthroat she is; you better know that there are only three answers to any of her questions: yes, no, or I don't know I'll find out. And there's nothing better than when she senses BS and then digs and prods until she gets the BS out in the open for everyone to see.

You wanna see a modern-day "Perry Mason" in action, it's not that contrived L&O spinoff with D'Onofrio -- It's Judge Judy.

I think I'd marry Judge Judy if she were younger...well, that or at least I'm gonna set my Time Warner DVR -- which completely blows compared to Tivo in overall functionality (more on that in an upcoming RealMoney column) -- to start recording that show.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Uneasy at This 9/11 Anniversary

I'm flipping through my handful of HD channels on my plasma television when I once again can't turn the channel once I get to 706 Time Warner Cable NYC and the amazing Discovery Channel in HD. This time they have this show on called "Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb", and they are showing these what seem to be real-time clips of the first explosions of the A-Bomb and I've got the volume turned up on my system and I'm almost doubling over in shock over the impact these Hydrogen bombs are making. The color video of Grable, a 15 Kiloton bomb shot out of a cannon on May 25, 1953 is so crisp, so cold and scorched in the HD imagery. The power of the bomb. The power of mankind.

Great pine trees, crisp from a dry desert summer, are windswept as and pulled from their earth by mankind's creation as a toothpick is from a cheap glass trey at any remarkably cheap steakhouse in any city where a huge percentage of this population relative to any other civilization's population in the history of the planet can afford to eat meat. Buses like those that I rode in and my parents rode in and children still ride in today are stripped of their paint, their glass, their metal til they are skeletoned and melted into one piece.

The awesome power unleashed in the torrent and delivered by the system on my wall really do almost make me double over. The mushroom clouds, in what might or might not be slow motion are the buildings collapsing as I ran with my ex's cat, Marquis de Marmalade so named because he was one 23 pound portly orange tabbie-gentleman, in a porta-cage in my hand on that fateful day almost exactly five years ago.

And you know what...the worst part of writing about this is the same reason I don't talk about it...I feel so guilty for not having somehow helped people get out...whew, that hurts to write...

I am feeling uneasy about this anniversary. Restless nerves.

Worried About My Lungs

At some point, soon after 9/11, I fought through all the barricades, police check points and other obstacles to get down to my apartment building in Battery Park City near ground zero. I rode my bike down and had to show my driver's license, sometimes two bills with my name and address on them and mainly use the force ("these are not the droids you want"...er, "I am approved to be on my way to my apartment down there at ground zero") to get "home".

The lobby of my apartment building was full of cots and dozens of heroic firefighters were sleeping there. I hiked up to the 23rd floor where my apartment was and got my two guitars, my computer and a few clothes and headed back down.

Storming right past the barricades and firefighters smoking cigarrettes outside my building, I went out the back straight into ground zero where my car had been parked and where I'd been about to move it when the second plane had hit and dropped debris all over. I found my car and while cars on either side of it were pretty much done for, I could make out the design of my car under the mound of drying, caking sludge. I scooped it out with both hands and I got the door open. I threw my gear in and, to my pleasant surprise, the car started on first turn.

I drove my car out of the area and on up to the upper west side where my friend, Greta, was working at a home-office where I could base myself for the afternoon. As hard as it was getting down to ground zero, you should have seen the shocked looks as the firefighters and police and soldiers along the way out would open their gates for this sludge-covered Nissan Maxima coming out from the stench and steaming hole of ground zero. I cried as I drove and nobody stopped me.

I think it's a healthy thing that I've started therapy to deal with some of this -- and especially about some of the individual horrors I saw on the day itself. The whole of it obviously weighs heavily on me still.

On top of it, I think I'm going to have to go to the doctor to have my lungs checked out. I've never really been much of a believer in "asthma" because as the hard core athlete I was growing up I'd always figure any time I'd be short of breath it was an indication that I mainly just needed to get in better shape. And it took a lot for me to get out of breath as I was obsessive in my workouts. I figure many kids use the "asthma" thing as a crutch for not pushing it harder.

At any rate, my lungs bug me a little bit sometimes lately. Maybe it's just a symptom of geting older, maybe it's just that I don't work out like that anymore. But all these press reports this week about lung problems in 9/11 workers have me thinking that maybe I need to have it checked out.

P.S. I'm not sure what it means but I find it interesting as an aside that both times I've written about my apartment and 9/11 we have used a picture from the cover of the Economist.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hoping It's Insults From Ancient PR Policies, and, Learning to Fight Darfur's Horrors

I can't remember the last time I had the patience to sit through much more than five minutes of a traditional newscast. I find the pace is too slow for my Internet-paced brain. That, and the fact that the topics they most often choose to focus on are often pointless in the extreme (or is pointless a superlative?). But isn't it mainly just infruriating how the media will print and broadcast ("push!") the most insulting comments from those who serve us and lead us in government?

I'm watching The News Hour with Jim Lehrer tonight and they show a clip of a Democrat citing some ridiculous study that shamefully purports to somehow scientifically refute some other ridiculous study from a similarly in-the-pocket research shop of that other fraternity, er, "mainstream political party" -- that we collectively pretend provide us some substance of the actual concept of democracy. Said report cited by the Sigma Chi, er, Democrat dude purportedly scientifically proving that we're safer today because of some combined, compromised foreign political policies that the Republican party I suppose rightly claims as being mostly closest to their compromised-among-hundreds-of-millions-of-individuals-in-the-fraternity (er, party). This followed a similarly embarrassing clip from the President (fraternities and this nation each have Presidents, right? Do sororities call their presidents, "Presidents"? Have to ask my mom that one) in which he cited that other report.

On a "flip it" side of things, I'd like to think that maybe all these endless insults and avoidance of responsibility for both the good and the bad of this world is all the collective result of ancient political PR parties and that most of the time these guys who can't possibly be so stupid as to believe for one second their own spewing of this pointlessness (to the extreme...or superlative?) is somehow going to determine whether each us "public" individuals out here think the policies of frat parties', er, political parties in power are responsible for how protected we are or aren't. It might be just a wee bit more complicated than that, no?

But then again, sometimes optimism can be naivety , just as sometimes pessimism can be cynicism. (And sometimes that's okay, btw.)

It also upset when they briefly overviewed the the horrors of of Darfur and the rest of Sudan and they bothered to show and appeared to objectively imply that the people they chose to quote who shamefully/horrifyingly (neither superlatives, right (...or wrong?) ) said that a UN deployment of troops would be about expanding US/western values (man, I think I'm making the jackass they quoted sound good here). THE PEOPLE, INDIVIDUALS, IN DARFUR ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED. Seriously, this is like one of the the very few ways in which the UN could do some good and serve its purpose.

It's as if objectivity of any sense gets suspended in the name of trying to remain objective. The horrid murderers and criminals which the mainstream press chooses to give any semblance of credibility as a government might be a case of when objectivity dictates not implicitly verifying such a body as a government. Which is conceptually parallel to the idea of my complaining about the made-for-scroll-paper-town-crying coverage of the insulting claims/soundbites of our own politicians.

A few frustrations, er, "flip it's" in this one, eh? Let's keep reading, learning and trying to figure out ways to help.

Apples and Dylans -- They Don't Mix

Now I love Apple, as most people know. I've owned the stock since the dawn of their foray into the music business and continue to hold it.

And I have come to truly love the mind, lyrics, music and performances by Bob Dylan since I finally dove into his full, original non-greatest-hits albums. He's truly a genius, a legend, and I can gush about him for hours.

But I am sickened by his endorsing Apple, the iPod and iTunes with their new campaign. What happened to artist integrity? What happened to not selling out? What happened to fighting the damn system? Is Dylan even human anymore or is he a cyborg now since he's been fully assimulated into the system?

What's next -- The Who singing for the intro to Friends and the Rembrandts singing the intro for CSI? Er, somethign like that, right?

And then what -- maybe Jimmy Page can play for the opening on of the New York Stock Exchange. Wouldn't that really be the ultimate sell-out? Oh, wait, that already happened too didn't it?

Only Neil Young and his "This Note's for You" mentality remains pure, no?

Sad, really. But rock n roll will never die, even if these fallen stars' principles already have.

Referring to Oneself Is a Sign of Sanity

I was too excited about coming into work today to get much sleep last night. And at some point, I was watching a clip from one of the 2072 actual Law & Order spin offs (as opposed to the 823,208 Law & Order knockoffs) that is also a spin off of Perry Mason and which stars that one strangely named dude who's a good actor.

Anyway, the point is that as he's breaking down this dude who's trying to convince them of his innocence by saying his shrine to women's underwear and dead animals is simply a method of method acting, the bad guy says, "I've seen that type of stuff on TV. You know, all those forensic cop shows." And I'm wondering to myself -- you know, if they really wanted to make it realistic wouldn't they specifically refer to the name "Law & Order" in that dialogue?

You know they won't because conventional wisdom would tell you that it's unrealistic to refer to one's own show in the show. Right? I mean, they'll pretend that their own shows don't exist in the actual show because they think that people would think that'd be disingenuous. But that's wrong, man -- flip it. Shows should refer to themselves to remain realistic.

Then again, would it make sense if that D'Onofrio's character referred to his own character? Pandora's box? Maybe that's where the saying of "referring to oneself in the third person is a sign of insanity" comes from. Speaking of which, I always wonder if the person saying that is referring to oneself in the third person by using the word "oneself."

Whatever. I guess I'll get back to the work that I was too excited about to sleep last night. Now that I've finished this post. (Ah, yeah, I referred to my own post in the post -- that keeps it real, according to this post, right?)

Wishing I Could Use My Hands to Wash and Dry My Hands

Ah, it's great to be back in NYC. Amazing how quickly our perspective of our own life can change when we get a little breather. I just took my first week off in more than 3.5 years. I didn't look at a newspaper, I didn't read a magazine, I didn't let any of the central powers broadcast any of their propagandic (ooh, I like that one) take on the news to me over a radio or TV. I was mostly in the middle of nowhere on the border of Colorado and New Mexico and spent several days hiking and camping all alone. I'll post more about my reflections, my experiences and what not with some pictures throughout this week.

But I had one pressing observation about the conveniences of our modern world that hit me when I got to the airport in Denver on my way back.

I can't work these automatic sinks or hand dryers. It drives me crazy. First of all, I can be a bit of a germ freak when I'm in a city (dirt and mud and stuff don't bother me so much in the country....but all these people in the cities...) and so I so very much want to love these sinks and hand dryers that are supposed to work without me ever having to touch them. And second of all, aren't they supposed to be pretty much idiot-proof? I think I must be beyond indiocy when it comes to simple, every day tasks like washing and drying my hands. I can't ever get these damn machines to turn on. I move my hands, up closer to the sink or the blower -- nothing. I move my hands further away -- nothing. I move my hands towards me, away from me and suddenly they'll turn on. For like two seconds. And then I can't find the sweet spot again. I look around at the 7 out of the 23 other guys in the bathroom who bother to wash their hands and they don't seem to be having any problems with these auto machines. What's my problem?!

I'd almost rather just use my own hands to wash and dry my hands, you know?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Digital Revolution Video of the Day

Today's video is a very funny spoof of a classic film. I hope you enjoy it.