Politics & Government

Expats leaving Dubai, dumping cars and dreams at the…

photo by cabrown01 on Flickr

I have a friend that lives in Dubai, I believe it might be his birthday this week but I’ve been reading about the crashing effect of global downturn in business, especially that of the construction capital of the world: Dubai. It seems that many expats are just junking their cars at the airport as they fly back home, unable to pay their loans or find a new job. I know one friend left his job early to return to the states and it’s clues like these people should realize that this economic recession is worldwide.

Indians flee as dreams crash [Mumbai/DUBAI – JAN 14]
Driven down by debt, Dubai expats give new meaning to long-stay car park [The Times Online – February 5, 2009]
Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down [The NY Times February 11, 2009]


TicketMaster are greedy pigs now complete with a Monopoly

I picked up tickets last week for the Thievery Corporation show this week, in a painful process that hits my wits and wallet. Not only is the process cumbersome, rot with bugs so that you could loose your virtual place in line to garner tickets, but the business is corrupt in that they siphon off tickets to their sister company which grossly over charges for the same show, and when you do get tickets on the TM site, there are exorbitant fees for the privilege to do so.

The latest fees now for tickets purchased through TM are $7.05 per ticket for the “convenience” of selling me the ticket AND $2.90 fee to “process” my order. On top of that they now charge just to print out the tickets (about $2 per ticket). We are now talking $12 per ticket on top of the artist or venue charge to watch a charge where tickets are sourced through Ticketmaster. There needs to be a review of this business and alternatives to purchasing from big broker houses.

Here’s some of the latest news on these greedy ass clowns:

TicketMaster is owned by IAC and inn January of 2008, bid to acquire TicketsNow.com for $265 million. This now puts under the same roof, the ability to initially sell all tickets, and have the opportunity to re-sell those tickets though second tier brokerage houses (such as Stubhub and ebay). What became increasingly clear is that TM was directing buyers directly to TicketsNow.com when sales become sold out. What’s not clear and still to be determined under either the $500 Million suit or the $250 Million suit, both against TicketMaster, is if they gave preferential treatment to TicketsNow.com to buy up tickets to resell at a higher profit margin. There’s different laws in Canada so they very well could have violated fair ticket sales laws there and here’s to their loss in these suits!!!

On the 10th of this month Live Nation and Ticketmaster announce a 2.5 Billion dollar merger. This merger agreement between Ticketmaster and Live Nation will produce a stranglehold in the fragile concert business which lost money on ticket sales last year (even as concert prices went up). This is not a merger that will benefit the concert goer and it’s you and me that will be seeing even higher fees on shows through these companies. New bands will find it harder to get audiences and established acts will get smaller crowds if they don’t play into the TM end game. TM has exclusive rights to sell sporting events tickets as well and this hurts not only music but live sports event enthusiasts as well.

Joe Cohen, the founder and CEO of Seatwave, the UK’s biggest fan-to-fan ticket exchange, sent out a press release on Tuesday the 10th, saying: “The combination of Live Nation and Ticketmaster will create a company that controls over 70% of the U.K. ticketing market, the country’s largest music promoter and management of over 200 of the world’s top artists. Neither party has suggested how this tie-up in any way could be in the interests of fans.”

Before TM, it was first come first serve. You went to the venue or camped out at your local Warehouse record shop to get tickets for the local show. You at least had a shot to get great seats at face value if you had the dedication to do so. Now TM sells their prime seats to ticket clubs (their partners TicketsNow.com etc.), gobbles up competitive ticket sites and strong arms the venues to resell their show tickets at their terms.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-New Jersey called for a federal probe of Ticketmaster’s practices, said “the deal could put concert-goers nationwide at risk of permanently increased ticket prices and should not gain regulatory approval.” The Dept of Justice is looking into the merger, and I hope they find significant evidence that this would create an unfair market monopoly for this business.

Event venues signed with services like TM and Live Nation to expand their promotional reach, and sell out their events. In the internet age, these shows are primarily artist driven not venue driven, so the need for additional promotion through a national ticket service provides marginal benefit to them and they are loosing the processing fees by giving this up to TM.

Regardless, we all need to be conscious of these events and take personal steps to persuade our favorite artists, sports teams and other event promoters to host events in venues that do not sell their tickets through TM or to create tours without the help of TM services. We need to reach out to our favorite venues and encourage them to set up their own ticketing practices. Lastly, people can take a stand on the issue by not going to shows where artists have signed with Live Nation, or Ticketmaster for exclusive concerts, and avoid venues where TM has the monopoly on selling event tickets. It’s a tough sacrifice to give up the live show but maybe this economy will help cut into that discretionary spending and make it easier to make that decision.


The New Yorker and Magazines

Your Eustace, 2009I buy quite a few books but I don’t end up reading them as fast as I can purchase them. The same seems to be true for Magazines and even blogs (thank you for Blogline & RSS Feeds!). I’ve started to pick up photography more, thus, I’m headed down to my local rag shop to pick up the latest photo mags. I’m also subscribed to several local magazines: Time Out NY and Paper. I’m still current with Food and Wine Magazine because I get it free after attending their event last year and I also get Rolling Stone to catch up on some of the music news.

I’ve gone through many a subs, such as Conde Nast Traveler (which completely sucked for the type of travel I liked to do, and it was entirely advertisements), Business 2.0 (which is good, but I think it went out of business), Fortune (quite often I just didn’t care anymore about the point of several of the stories, so I figured I’d just check in on the mag online), Inc. (again, just didn’t have the time to read it alll the time, however, I did like some of their focus and depth), Men’s Health (I still am reading the back mags of this so why should I keep up with a new subscription?), Selling Power (a great mag for sales professionals, my company didn’t renew my subscription so I haven’t been back to renew it myself) and the last on the dead sub list was XLR8R.

My NY Magazines were piling up in my apartment with out being read for various reasons. I often found the writing in NY Mag to be terrible, boring or just not enthralling enough to keep reading it regularly. The New Yorker however, had great articles and writers, however, I just couldn’t keep up with the weekly schedule. If I could I’d probably get back to the New Yorker out of all of the above options. Here’s a few from their latest:

Here’s a slide show of Shepard Fairey’s work from the Mag
How Obama won
The Perils of Public Banking institutions


Is New York lossing it’s Exclusivity because of the…

Velvet Rope by longhairbroadExclusivity is an interesting adjective to describe a portion of the New York night life. Some definitions range from “admitting only members of a socially restricted or very carefully selected group” to “fashionable; stylish” to “catering to a wealthy clientèle”.

Exclusive clubs are not a new thing but they tend to thrive in certain areas, New York, LA, Miami and Las Vegas for the most part. Being from the norther California area and a former promoter, exclusivity was never part of the region or my personal business model as the crowd usually dictated the market for clubs with a priority on 1) hearing/dancing to great music 2) and enjoying like minded crowds. Money, scene and even hotness didn’t factor into it as much.

This last Saturday I had an evening of passing through some exclusive venues and wondered how the economy is effecting the exclusivity in this city. I’m not a regular, trust fund baby or a VIP for that matter and so I usually have to work at access via gaming the bouncers, bsing the list I’m on, who I know or chat up a few hot girls to walk me in to these high end spots (1Oak, Rose, The Eldridge, Beatrice are some of the more exclusive spots in NYC). All this translates to too much work for pretense, lame DJs/music, exorbitant prices on cocktails (made poorly many times), and people that are more happy they are in than really contributing to a good scene once they have made it past the rope.

I started my “exclusive” evening with a private dinner party at a friends house. It was very exclusive, limited to 7 close friends where we all contributed top notch cuisine to the evenings feast. The focus is that our host figured out how to turn on the oven, and with some direction from sis, tossed in a roast. There were wines of the world, side dishes recipes from various top chefs, decadent deserts and a few store bought sausage rolls to round out the dishes.

Dinner was excellent and thanks to all who came out and contributed. In todays economics a private party dinner with close friends saves cash and creates a more relaxed atmosphere as we can all be more or less obnoxious and vibrant than those public eateries. After a few games of chance with people’s fortunes the party split and we moved on out for the evening.

 ny.niche's photoOur next stop was Soho House NYC in the MPD. Our host was just accepted as a member of this “exclusive” international club. Soho House is an international brand pioneered by Nick Jones, that offers membership by application, and yearly fee to participate in using its facilities of the lounge, hotel, restaurant, pool and private party space for events, film screenings and mingling with other like minded “exclusive” patrons. Once accepted you have access to all the NY facilities and to invite your guests to join other members in the pay to play scene.

Our host had been accepted into the fold via a local “neighborhood” membership which allows local residents access to the club. This is a new membership which I believe is at a discount to the full house membership, and eliminates some of the criteria for access as the priority for access is being a good neighbor. This is a change in the club’s policy to expand it’s membership to locals that would utilize the club more for their “regular” spot than as a status destination, thus increasing the number of patrons and potential revenue for the club.

Access on Saturday was actually very lax as we showed our IDs and entered into the reception area of the club floor. Like most lounges of this nature, a newly group, is instantly sized up upon entrance. We were a pack of 4 guys, dressed in varying degrees of flare from a more causal dinner party, and too scanning the couches for the glitterati that care. You enter the club via the registration desk after the elevator. Coat and bathroom check and then have the option to join the game room for a smoke with a foose or round of pool to the left, the restaurant area centered or bar lounge to the right. The decor is dark with low set brown chaise lounge couches, high back bar chairs, and small tables dotted with champagne bottles and the fat cats that are puring them. The room is brightened by the custom blown glass lighting chandeliers reflected off hardwood floors and silver metal horseshoe bar.

The crowd this evening is stylishly dressed for the most part. Most of the men in European suits, with a few exceptions being the boisterous bathrobe or guayabera wearing barons you’d see in Miami rather than NY. The ladies range from sophisticated youthful dresses to jeans and a blouse with excessive jewelry. The snobbery was thick from many responding with an air of indifference and arrogance that seems to be traditional for member only locals. Several more casual guests were probably just that, guests and ones we approached to get to know.

The wait staff seemed slow, casual, and unrefined in the apprenticeship of bartending for such a place. Drinks were poured with a slight impudence attitude and when I asked for an Oban scotch, I was delivered a full glass of ice with the pour. Champagne, wine and house cocktails seemed to be the libations of choice.

Our host had spied a casually dressed man chatting up a woman and sized him up to be gay. Being the only straight guy in the group, I was asked for the first time I can remember to play the wingman for a gay to distract the other woman. With a receptive opener, I sat down across from the couple and quickly learned she was from CA and in fact I had commuted from Santa Monica to her home town for work some time ago. The boy turned out to be South African, not gay and I needed to wrap up my survey so as to not cockblock his set any longer.

The most annoying aspect of the club became apparent with this encounter and others, that typical introduction includes the inquiring of membership, and term there of. It seems that your categorized as guests or members from the onset and there’s a certain level of presumption to you if you’re a member as I heard “oh that membership is quite exclusive and hard to grant access” when in reality the I found it quite easy as long as there’s money to pay it. I have a feeling as members become more aware of the relaxed policies, weaker door access and more guests of guests in the mix, the draw of the jet set crowd to hang at the Soho club will dwindle.

I left my digs late, and $60 short from the purchase of a round of 4 drinks at the club and headed over to Pop burger for some onion rings and a Tecate. There I had no issues getting in to their lounge stuffing fried food into my face swilling a cheap Mexican import beer. So much for the door policy at Pop late night. The place was trashed worse than a McDonalds on half price dollar days.

I opted to walk off my buzz through the village but as I found quickly I needed a piss break. Being the village, I prefer to actually urinate in a facility than on someone’s million dollar brownstone, so I followed two ladies down into a club on W 12th. The spot was fairly packed but there were groups of people waiting to get into the bathroom as if the social scene was better in the toilets. I quickly left, not wanting to wait cross-legged for however long it takes the party to finish, and realized I had just ducked into Beatrice Inn, Paul Sevigny’s (Chloë’s brother; member of A.R.E. Weapons) speakeasy exclusive hotspot in the village for models, actors and the hipsters that follow them. I certainly wasn’t scrutinized getting in, however, I admit I might have ducked past the bouncer to expedite my trip to the bathroom. I guess it takes more than glamor to get into a hotspot, it takes a drive more core to human nature, the call of the wild to relieve bladder pains!

I hopped across the street into the next spot and waited in line with three ladies, all who were using either the womens or men’s bathroom. No mind, I’m used to that action in SF until it dawned on me like Jason Lee in Chasing Amy realizing he’s in a lesbian bar (I was in the Cubbyhole to do my business). Obviously there’s no hesitation to let the straights in, and I’m not saying Cubby is as exclusive as Soho House or Beatrice but it was with the same singular focus as I entered Beatrice that I missed the whole scene here and walked right through the crowd to get my business done.

So the description of my night brings me to my point, of why were I and friends, non-VIP zillionaires able to so easily crack the exclusive club lounges of NYC? Were they sleeping at the door when we walked up, were we really worthy of the crowd status at first look, or are the door policies in NY sliding? Milk and Honey the ultra exclusive cocktail lounge with a private number has just opened up their offering by revealing publicly their reservation line. Are they hurting for clients willing to pay 16 for some fresh juice and gin mixed expertly?

 by montanagirliesurfergirlThere’s no denying that the conspicuous consumption economy is floundering in these times as bankers are not getting their bonuses, and more people are cautious of frivolous spending. Clubs themselves have fewer queues but it may have more to do with the musical talent than the host or the economy, but certainly bottle service is hurting at many establishments. These exclusive clubs are already starting to fade or owe huge sums of money to people (The Box, Merkato 55, Bijoux, Cain Luxe, Tenjune) as nightlife goers really start to consider not so much how much they are spending, but what they are getting for their money and time at these places. This I hope only revitalizes the nightlife scene as promoters realize nightlife needs more from what they are paying and they try to get more creative with the venue, take risks and take a hard look at the crap music being played so as to bring back some substance and soul to a club or lounge.


Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor

This has been a huge problem of club land in the last 20 years, until the club came up with the exclusivity clause to limit the number of dicks on the dance floor. That didn’t last long as this created an influx of paying off the bouncer, so the dicks who had money still were able to penetrate the club. In the singles scene this is still a huge problem at your local watering hole, dive bar or lounge where dicks are always trying to improve their odds. What I’ve found that works more than hoping spot to spot, is indifference. Stop caring about who’s in the room and have a good time with the people you came with. You’d be surprised how much that will rub off on the room and the ladies will notice.

Speaking of the video, I need to get some of those disco units!


Nunu is new chocolate in Brooklyn

Last Saturday we headed out to Brooklyn for the opening party for Nunu Chocolates in Brooklyn. I was introduced to Andy and Justine Pringle’s fine nuggets of dark caramel salted goodness via friends during Christmas and picked up a few boxes for family-friends at their Union Square holiday booth.

So unlike many Manhattanites, we actually crossed the bridge to Atlantic ave for the newly opened shop; sadly it’s not made of chocolate. however, we were greeted with wine and chocolates none the less. The space is set up like a chocolate den with a long farm house table for working via wifi, swilling hot chocolate and noshing on their absinthe tinged chocolates (among others cocca goodness). Check it!

NuNu Chocolates [529 Atlantic Ave. between Third and Fourth avenues in Boerum Hill, (917) 776-7102]


Exhausted from Travel

I’m just getting back to normal here. I’ve been in Columbus, OH and Toronto, ON Canada with lots of work follow up in between, I’ll throw down a few updates through the weekend and get back to my daily commitment. Lot’s to talk about.

Ain’t that the truth!


Hot and Cold in LA

A friend of mine sent me this pic of LA. It’s 75 degrees and still got powder up in the mountains. It’s weather like this that only makes me miss California. I can never complain about my residential location but this hot n cold business needs to stabilize.

Katy Perry- Hot N’ Cold (LMFAO Remix)

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7 Deadly Sins

Auto Gratuity is the latest way NY Restaurants are…

I’ve spend almost 10 years in the service industry working almost every hotel and restaurant position from buser, bartender, front desk to manager. I’ve seen the best and worst tippers and as a server could pick out the cheapskates before they even sat down. Working 8+ hours for dirt wages dealing with assholes and disgusting food (even in the nicest restaurants, you still don’t want to see some of the things that go on in the back kitchen) is only worth it when you get that wad of cash at the end of the night.

In NYC, food servers make more than most desk jobs when you factor in how little of that cash is actually reported to the IRS and if they’re making $200+ a night. The growing standard in NYC is a 20% tip on any service that’s not ridiculously bad, which is usually what I’m putting down (in cash) on most evenings out. Even when the service is terrible, they fuck up the food, they ignore you, or are complete assholes, I’ll still leave something.

A couple weeks back I went to Negril for some Jamaican food, specifically some jerk chicken and curry goat stew. There was three of us and we all ordered starters, liquor and entrees. The restaurant was not very busy yet the food still took forever. Some of the sides were noticeably canned or reheated but the mains were good including the chicken wings. The bar and waitstaff we’re laid back and we asked for the check after another round.

And what did I get for all the red gold and green comfort, and reggae rhitums? The check came loaded with an automatic 15% service charge on top!

No where on the menu or within the service did they state we were going to get this charge, and rather than argue the tip amount I’ve noted the practice and will take this into account in heading to Negril again. Additionally, the restaurant has just done a disservice for the waitress as we would have tipped closer to 20% and I assume now that it’s on the check, she’ll now have to claim more of her tips to the IRS.

The law in new york is all added gratuity must be clearly stated on the menu or somewhere for the customers – which in this case it was not – and this is usually only done for parties of 6 and up. The post had recently reported this practice is becoming a trend in NY, especially at restaurants with high tourist traffic. I’ve known plenty of Europeans, and they ALL know the tipping customs when coming to new countries, those that don’t are out right liars. So when you have Euros tipping 5% because “oh they didn’t know” is bull shit.

Regardless, I’m not a fan of the force tip, and next time, I’ll request the tip removed, pay what’s appropriate for the meal serviced and if not, won’t return to the restaurant. In tough economic times, no restaurant should be choosy.