Saturday, July 30, 2005

Panning For Gold

I've been looking for treasures in the mighty stream of pop culture.

Here are some nuggets I've extracted:
*"Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots"--a quirky assortment of songs released by The Flaming Lips in 2002. Wayne Coyne's voice has to grow on you (Billy Corgan and Robert Smith come to mind as similarly challenging vocalists), but once it does the album keeps getting better and better after every listen.

*"Kung Fu Hustle"--directed by Stephen Chow. I missed this movie at the theaters, but I'm sort of glad I waited for the DVD. I've watched it twice, once with original Cantonese dialogue with English subtitles, and then again with the commentary track subtitles. That last feature is cool--the participants ramble a bit, but you learn about some of the homages to martial arts movies from the past, and that "American food sucks". Set in China circa 1930, it has a funny, surreal and ultimately warm-hearted story to tell. If only The Matrices had been this fun.

*"5 Children and It"--a British film, with creature effects by Henson's crew. Based upon a story by English author E. Nesbit (literature J.K. Rowling read as a young girl?). I'm hoping The Chronicles Of Narnia will be handled this well by Disney...

*Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper--does it remind anyone of how Dr. Pepper tasted 20 years ago? Maybe I'm remembering it incorrectly.

*Bleem! for the Dreamcast--so far I have the discs that allow Tekken 3 and Gran Turismo 2 (originally for the PlayStation) to be played on a Dreamcast. You do have to own the original games, which seems redundant when you have a perfectly good PlayStation around! Emulation just can't get any respect these days. Nintendo may offer online downloads of ROMs from previous titles in their catalog for the Revolution. Microsoft might have to do some fancy flying to have the XBOX 360 (November 2005 streetdate) be compatible with previous XBOX titles. Sony hated Bleem!'s efforts to offer PS emulation for the PC--did anyone get that software to work? Sega doesn't seem to care as much about the Dreamcast versions. There is one more disc out there, that allows Metal Gear Solid to be played successfully on the DC--I will continue panning.

*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory--as I watched the movie it was kind of strange having a picture-in-picture image of the original playing in my head simultaneously, but the new version seemed closer to the book. Which is good, right?

People comparing the two movies seem to have missed the point--that the original film was not a faithful effort and could be considered loosely adapted. Why didn't Tim Burton continue Charlie's story instead? I have "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" on my bookshelf, Roald Dahl's own sequel. It includes Wonka-Vite, the great rejuvenator! (could some be administered to the movie industry?) I don't know if that story will ever be cinematized.

I thought it would be funny to have "outtakes" as the credits rolled, of the Oompa-Loompas practicing the songs--some of them out of sync or forgetting the lyrics, having to begin again, with Wonka berating them. Maybe they could reveal an unused "Charlie" song too (in case he failed miserably). I guess sham digital bloopers are played out. Also, subtitles for the songs during the movie (with a bouncing gobstopper) might have cleared up some of the wordy, over-dubbed vocal bits. I'll have to look over the lines in the book again.

*I've been trying to keep as many old videogame systems from going to the landfills (to join the millions of dirty diapers, years of Christmas wrap, unfinished models and meals, couches, bubble-wrap and ice--who throws out ice?) as possible. I recently found two Sega Genesis units (the older, larger version) at Goodwill for $1.99 each, with all the needed cords. I paid $129.99 for my original in the early 90's! I am hoping to find an Intellivision or Odyssey 2 someday, but I believe a large digging device may have to be employed in Coopersville (the local dump). I'm sure eBay has a few, but where's the adventure in that?

Perhaps all of this is Fool's Gold.

4 Comments:

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Computer News
China's Google rockets on debut
It was a remarkable debut. Chinese search engine Baidu.com's shares sold in the United States for US$27 ($39) - then surged on day one to close at US$122.54 ($177.46).

Friday's result was the biggest first-day gain for a new listing in the US for five years.

Investors had more than quadrupled their money.

An analyst in New York with IPOdesktop.com, a website devoted to initial public offerings, John Fitzgibbon, said: "This one is the return to the internet bubble. Last time we saw a deal skyrocket was during the frothy IPO markets of 1999 and 2000."

Then came the post-mortem.

Some analysts said the internet search engine could have had an even better payday for itself if underwriters had sold the deal at a higher price to begin with.

"It looks to me like the underwriters should have had a better indication of the appetite for this stock than they did," said Donald Straszheim, president of Straszheim Global Advisors.

Investors were eager to own a stake in a company that many say could grow as dramatically as Google and is based in a country itself undergoing explosive growth.

But other analysts are not so sure the underwriters made a mistake, given that the company's shares were priced at a relatively high multiple of revenues.

"It wasn't priced out of line with the rest of the market. In a situation like this, you're dealing with the unpredictability of the after market," said Tom Taulli, of Instream Partners in Newport Beach, California.

At issue is the underwriting process. Banks selling shares to the public - in this case Credit Suisse First Boston, Goldman Sachs, and Piper Jaffray - are paid to use quantitative models to determine a fair price for shares, but also to gauge investor demand.

Underwriting has both subjective and objective elements, making definitive evaluation of a bank's performance difficult. In this case, demand for the IPO was evidently outsized, but so were the unknowns for the company.

"We don't know the potential impact of censorship in China, or how quickly the internet will grow there," said David Menlow, president of IPOfinancial.com. Had the IPO been priced higher and then fallen in the first day of trading, investors could have sued.

Baidu.com chairman and chief executive Robin Li, speaking on CNBC, said he was not upset by the potential lost proceeds of the IPO because the company had only sold a small portion of itself, and had significantly more growth ahead.

But University of Florida Professor Jay Ritter, an IPO expert, said Baidu.com left money on the table by introducing the shares at a level well below where they ended hours later.


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