Getting Schooled by Sharks

A few weeks ago, I was watching a show called Shark Tank with my 10 year old son and almost immediately realized that it’s a great way to subtly expose your kids to a subject that wouldn’t necessarily interest the majority of the tween/teen-ager set.  The subject – venture financing – including start-up capitalization, equity negotiations, licensing, revenue sharing, the power of salesmanship and a whole host of other key aspects of starting and building a successful business.  It’s like sneaking spinach into brownies (hey – it’s Mrs. Seinfeld’s recipe).  Airing on ABC on Friday’s at 8pm (EST), the show is mainly comprised of entrepreneurs and business people pitching a wide range of business/product ideas to five “sharks” who decide there on the spot whether or not to invest in the “contestant’s” business.

The five sharks are usually Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, technology innovator Robert Herjavec, fashion whiz Daymond John (started FUBU) and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary all who usually battle each other for a piece of the action (sometimes they work together to partner on a deal). They actually have a fun repoire with each other but it sometimes can get a bit nasty – which makes for more interesting viewing.

What became clear is that the show’s hook is whether the offer (usually in the form of equity) is worth the risk that the investors take in order to invest in the company. Sometimesthe ideas are really great but the valuations are completely off, sometimes it’s the other way around. During the back-and-forth between the sharks and the entrepreneur, there’s great moments – especially with a young kid (10 years older) watching, where you can pause the show (assuming you’ve got a DVR) and ask them to compute what a company is worth if the entrepreneur is offering 20% of his company for $100,000. There’s a lot of moments like that…

As the sharks react, negotiate and ultimately decided whether they’re in or not, there’s a slew of mini-lessons on the fundamentals of valuing businesses and what is involved to take an idea from inception and bring it to market. Here’s a link to some video clips. It’s a well-paced entertaining experience with the typical reality-show manufactured dramatic build-ups and resolutions but despite the contrived nature of the productions – the real value is the way that kids can develop an understanding of what is seemingly the boring dry financial aspects of business without feeling they’re in a lecture. Think of it as sugar coated spinach.

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Watson Wins It.

“I for one welcome our new machine overlord,”

If you haven’t already heard it, you will – over and over again. It’s what Ken Jennings wrote below his Final Jeopardy! wager knowing full well he and his other humanoid competitor were going to lose to a computer.

For all you “Singulartarians” out there – IBM’s super computer Watson, which beat two of the best Jeopardy! players ever tonight, could very well be one of the milestones that Mr. Ray Kurzweil will point to that validates his theory that within 35 years, human existence will be completely transformed by the overwhelming processing power of computers when we physically merge with hyper-intelligent technology. Want to be totally freaked? – read his book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

If you want to read some color commentary on the actual performance of Watson – Forbes.com’s account is pretty good.

Here’s a section of the piece that is demonstrative of the fragility, and also the complexity, inherent in Watson for it to be able to compete against humans… because the questions on Jeopardy! are displayed in all capital letters, “Having to read all-caps was going to confuse Watson’s ability to parse meaning from a long phrase without knowing which are the proper nouns or acronyms. Fortunately for the Watson team IBM Research also happens to have some math geeks around who can write-up a quick statistical program to derive the true case of the letters in any phrase.”

“I for one welcome our new machine overlord,”

Who Is Esperanza Spalding?

If your young daughter has recently been acting despondent or unexpectedly displaying  flashes of primal rage it most likely is related to her favorite singer losing the new artist of the year Grammy to a mostly unknown 22 year old jazz cellist and vocalist from Portland.  

 Yes, Justin Bieber got trumped by Esperanza Spadling who took the new artist award on Sunday to the disbelief of the millions of “Bielibers” who were certain that their 16 year old American idol would take the prize. 

Occasionally, the Grammys can get it right – sometimes. Choosing a true artist over arguably a manufactured pop sensation (whose CDs will be in the bargain bin in a few years no doubt).  Picking Bieber would have been consistent with other notable winners such as Milli Vanilli ’90, Hootie & the Blowfish ’96 and Starland Vocal Band ’77. But in this case Ms. Spalding is better accompanied by The Beatles ’65, CSN&Y ’70, and Natalie Cole ’76.

If you’re like most dads out there – you probably have  heard of lil’ Justin and, god forbid – perhaps even attended, unwillingly of course, a concert – but most likely have no idea who Esperanza Spalding is.

Ms. Spalding has been quietly producing a few luciously groovy jazz and Brazilian-influenced vocal compositions since 2006. Her New Artist win is notable not only because of the upset over Mr. Bieber (can I even call him Mr.?) – but also because she is the first jazz artist to win the award in the 53 year history of the Grammys.

Having discovered the cello at 14 after seeing and listening to Yo-Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers, she became a concertmaster at 15 and earned a full scholarship at the prestigious Berkelee School of Music where, after some struggle, considered giving up music and following her passion for political science. Thankfully, for all of us, she was discouraged to do so by none other than world renowned  jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny who told Spalding she had what it took and that if she applied herself she would certainly succeed.

Her compositions from both her “first” U.S. release and the most recent album Chamber Music Societyblends classical jazz orchestrations with samba and bossa nova. She’s played with Pat Metheny, Stanley Clarke, Patti Austin, Joe Lavano and many others. Here’s a little taste:

Ponta De Areia (from “Esperanza”)

Winter Sun (from “Chamber Music Society”)

The Best Beer Ads from Brisbane

Dads like beer. Dads like beer commercials – especially from Australia. Here are the top 10 beer ads from down under. They’re all pretty funny – displaying the unique Aussie humor and some of them are pretty ingenious. My faves are #8 Carlton and #6 Tooheys. Good day mates!

Also – just recently at this year’s Clios (the Academy Awards for advertising) the best in show Grand Clio television ad for 2010…. is a beer ad from Australia:

I personally think that the Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” spot was better – funnier, more memorable. Proof: compare their respective YouTube views – over 10 million for Old Spice and 80K for Boag’s Draught.

Top 10 Realistic TV Dads

I started thinking the other day about the portrayal of fathers on TV after watching “Californication” – Showtime’s steamy Sunday night guilty pleasure staring David Duchovny as the LA-based, sex-addicted, Porsche-driving, rebellious-author-turned-walking-social-commentator dad of a goth teenage girl.

Although the story lines get a bit over the top IMHO, there’s something authentic about his well-intentioned but flawed attempts of trying to be a stand-up father figure for his daughter.

But since the early days of the tube we have typically been served cardboard cut outs of paternalistic cliches  – either bland, uninteresting prototypes (think Ward Cleaver, Mr. Brady) or the knuckle-headed slob (Al Bundy, Homer, et al).

We’ve all seen the lists of TV dads that exemplify the vaulted model of daddy-dom…Dick Van Dyke and Clifford Huxtabel.  I started thinking – who were the TV dads that actually reflected the real, conflicted, emotionally confused and less than perfect pops who are out there doing the best they can?  So, for your review, reaction and rebuttal – I submit the following:

10. Gomez AddamsThe Addams Family

He was rich, stylish, madly in love with his wife (remember “Cara mia!”) never flinched at stressful or scary moments and always looked at the bright side of things. Although a caricature, his ability to stay well above the normal fray of fatherhood bucked the trend of the stressed out or overly protective dad that would typically be portrayed to TV audiences.

9. Dan Conner Roseanne

He got angry, slammed doors, yelled at his kids and his wife – perhaps not exemplary behavior but John Goodman brought real angst and frustration that I always though was kind of ballsy for a prime time sitcom. Although a hard worker – was constantly stretched financially and those issues were also brought to bear on the show – but he ultimately stayed grounded and worked through the messes – a good real role model.

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8. Tom CorbettCourtship of Eddie’s Father

Bill Bixby’s character (originally played by Glenn Ford in the 1963 movie that spawned the series) was a role model dad that struggled throughout the show to find a partner – thus the title. His failures with women brought an authentic vulnerability and made him real – not a super dad who can handle any problem or challenge thrown at him (he’d save that for when he’d get angry and turned into the Hulk). BTW – Ron Howard played the son in the movie.

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7. James Evans, Sr.Good Times

Although angry and frustrated with the indignities and struggles of being a working man, James Evans, Sr (John Amos) still brought an even-handed rational approach in relating to his wife and kids. You could tell that he was trying with all his might to leave his troubles at the door. And with a son like JJ ( Jimmy Walker), he was a shining example of restraint, as JJ’s repeated “dynomite” would cause a lesser man to toss his butt out the window of their high-rise.

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6. Elliot Weston ThirtySomething

Michael Steadman was too stoic and restrained, while Elliot Weston (Timothy Busfield) was the emotionally charged, passionate but at times misdirected father figure in the late ’80’s yuppie drama. Although his infidelities take him outside the bounds of accepted “fatherly behavior” – his love for his children while dealing with his conflicts with marriage and reconciling unfulfilled dreams, in short – his complexity as a character made him way more interesting than most of the other characters on the show.

 

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5. Mr. Cunningham– Happy Days

Mr. Cunningham is on this list despite the fact that he’s on most other top TV dad lists because Tom Bosley really brought forth the exasperation and surrender a father feels in dealing with their teenagers. He always redeemed himself in the end but the journey towards redemption was filled with the struggle of doing what he thought was right despite everyone around him encouraging him to do otherwise for the sake of keeping the peace. His desire to stay true to what he believed in and stand against the “would you rather be right than happy” mantra rings true now more than ever.

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4. Fred Flintsone The Flintstones

Although he came across many times as a bit of a dufus, Fred – based on Jackie Gleason’s character from the Honeymooners, always represented a dad who maintained respect in his household despite his occasional gaffes. He was a true blue collar kind of guy – bowling, pool, cards – he was a guy’s guy and his aggressiveness and loudness served him. He loved his Pebbles and his interactions with Wilma serve as a pretty decent model of a loving, attentive, well-meaning husband.

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3. Michael Bluth Arrested Development

As the only sane and somewhat decent adult figure in a cast of selfish, manipulative, co-dependent, mean and dysfunctional characters, Michael Bluth’s efforts to raise his son – George Michael (Michael Cera) stands out in stark contrast. His efforts to keep the family together while they all careen around him on drugs, booze and subversive sexual behaviors are noble and almost heroic. The struggle to keep from being pulled into his convicted father’s neurosis and paranoia while maintaining some semblance of a moral compass is hilarious AND exemplary.

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2. Hank Moody Californication

He’s a sex addict. He’s a recreational drug user. He’s a brilliant but burnt-out writer. He’s a dad. Juxtaposing the rock-n-roll LA lifestyle Hank lives with the sometimes mundane duties of being a dad is part of what makes Californication a compelling watch. He wants to do the right thing – and often does but his lessor instincts sometimes gets the best of him and he, like a lot of dads, has to figure out how to surpress the selfish streak that runs through all of us.

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1. Archie Bunker All in the Family

Considered the greatest TV character of all time by TV Guide, Archie Bunker was the quintessential bigot – loud-mouthed, ignorant, rude. But underneath the crust, Carroll O’Connor’s character was ultimately a man who was never motivated by malice or hatred – but was simply channeling a provincial and prevalent mindset of the times. Remember the episode he tried to stop a KKK cross burning? Or when he took in his Jewish niece? Whether you liked him or not – he’s on the list simply because he reflects a real perspective that very much still exists today.

What are your top picks? Send me yours and I’ll post them to this one. Either comment below or send an email to info@poppapa.com.

How similar is Don Draper’s parenting style to your own dad’s?

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Let us know if the iconic 60’s ad man, Mr. Draper’s style of raising his children is similar to how you were raised. For those of you living under a rock and do not know who Don Draper is – he is the lead character in AMC’s brilliant show Mad Men – now in its third season. I won’t take up time describing the show (here’s a great blog on Mad Men)  but it is considered one of the best television shows ever created. Think Soprano’s meets Thirty Something – with a sprinkle of Bewitched channeling Tennessee Williams. Sometimes it’s good to compare how things REALLY were in the “good ole days” as a reminder of how well we’re doing things today.