Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Business March 28th 2012, "Exceeded Bandwidth" Edition

The Business is downloading some serious funny this week as we stuff our network with more special guests than you can shake a router at. Don't worry, we've got major capacity so things won't slow down or freeze. We'll be delivering rich live content at speeds that would melt your cable or DSL connection. Linking-up with us this week are:

Karl Hess: Curly headed taco truck enthusiast from Los Angeles; knows how to wear a sweater; makes hilarious jokes - http://karlhesscomedy.com/

Josh Androsky: One of the clowns behind Hamclown: Los Angeles comedy hotspot; Occupies Wall Street; makes hilarious jokes. - http://joshandrosky.tumblr.com/

Dan Crane: Known to the planet as Björn Türqoue, air guitar second-place legend and master of world ceremonies; Knows some dudes at Wheat Thins; makes hilarious jokes. - http://www.dancrane.com/Site/Home.html

Stephanie Tolev: Toronto's own; in a sketch group called Ladystache and also attempting to grow one as well; makes hilarious jokes. - http://www.ladystache.com/site/about

Sean Keane has dropped off the grid, but we have Bucky, Chris G., Caitlin, Alex and Chris T. on hand to move data into your ports.

As always our show is a standard flat rate of $5.  Shows at eight, bring a burrito and a date.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Business March 21st 2012, "Fried Green Medinas" Edition

The secret’s in the sauce this week, as all the regulars are back in town and ready to go TOWANDA on this show!!! We are also fully prepared to BBQ a wife batterer (SPOILER ALERT). Luckily the guests we have this week are the best kind of gentlemen, and the only thing getting killed will be YOU, the audience.

The Business is always open for Nato Green. This most beloved guest can be seen in SuperPAC, a run of shows at the Hemlock Tavern every Monday night through May 7th, before his live CD recording May 8th at the New Parish in Oakland. The East Bay Express has called him “erudite and acerbic”. He’s like a prawn wrapped in bacon FOR YOUR MIND. (Of course that’s a fresh, wild prawn and home cured bacon)

We also welcome hard workin comic Juan Medina, who grinds like he’s at a middle school dance. You can catch him Live at Deluxe, at the SF Comedy Cellar and on-air with Mutiny Radio. He also put his arm around John Waters once and has a picture to prove it.

You got a burrito? Bring it. This whole incredible show is just $5. So join us. Maybe you’ll find the Jessica Tandy to your Kathy Bates.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Business March 14th 2012, "Gondelmania" Edition

The Business is happy to welcome the hilarious Josh Gondelman to the show this week. Josh hails from Boston, but currently lives in New York City. For such a sweet and lovable former preschool teacher, he knows a surprising amount about gangsta rap. He won first prize in the initial Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta, and has performed at festivals such as SF Sketchfest, Laugh Your Asheville Off, and the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. His debut CD is called "Everything's The Best," and was produced by Rooftop Comedy. You can follow his consistently stellar Twitter work at twitter.com/joshgondelman.

As if that weren't enough East Coast flavor, we've also got comedian Emily Fleming visiting from New York. And we're also happy to welcome back Kaseem Bentley, local favorite and insult comic extraordinaire. The San Jose Mercury News called him a "comic to watch," and Chris Garcia once called him "the last King of Scotland." You'll call him "hella funny" or possibly "Rick Ross's half-brother."

We've also got a full cast of regular Businesspeople: Chris Garcia, Caitlin Gill, Sean Keane, Alex Koll, Bucky Sinister & Chris Thayer. As always, admission is just five dollars, because we're the best bargain in town.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Business March 7th 2012, "Two Silent G's & A Bishop" Edition

Reunited and it feels so good! Since all The Business regulars are gonna be back at the mic this week, we called in some of our favorites and are planning to laugh through mouthfuls of burrito right along with you.

David Gborie (@thegissilent) is a member of Sylvan Productions, a team of comedians pulling themselves up by their bootstraps...ALL THE WAY TO THE STARS! His hustle and grind take him all over the Bay and beyond. We know he’s gonna be the talk of the town at the upcoming Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, OR. We’re happy to have him here, as it’s hard to tear him away from one of the 4,329,438 shows that Sylvan is currently producing.

Joe Nguyen is just your everyday Vietnamese Jew raised in Georgia. His jokes are well crafted and clever, his delivery is inviting and affable--so much so that he won the 2009 Russian River Comedy Competition. We are happy he had time to stop by, as he’s just here for a visit. This former local has relocated to the glittering promise land of Los Angeles, so catch him at The Biz while he’s back! And remember: you can always find him on Twitter at @vietjew.

Lauren Ashley Bishop baits a hook with irresistible beauty then BOOM--its sharp wit right to your face! She’s an LA girl by way of Arkansas, and has played the finest clubs in between. If you ever found yourself wanting to eat at Arby’s its probably because you saw her in their commercial; yes, she’s that good! (If you’ve wanted to eat Arby’s for any other reason, please consult a physician.) Additionally, the Huffington Post named her one of the 18 funniest women on twitter. Follow your heart to her feed @sbellelauren.

ALL THIS FUNNY PLUS THE REGULARS (Sean Keane, Chis Garcia, Bucky Sinister, Alex Koll, Chris Thayer and Caitlin Gill) FOR JUST $5!! No joke!!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Update: The Cost of Thoroughbred Ownership in New York

It's been a couple of years since I last commented on the cost of owning a thoroughbred race horse in New York, and the likelihood of breaking even, much less earning a profit, on that horse. Until recently, not much had changed, and it was still an uphill struggle to  stay in business  at the blue-collar levels of the game.

Now, however, all that has changed. Or, judging by the frenzied activity at the NYRA claim box -- our Castle Village Farm lost an 18-way shake last week! -- a lot of people seem to think that it's changed. All, of course, due to the increase in purses resulting. at long last, from the installation of slot machines at Aqueduct. Purses for the current Aqueduct winter-spring meet are up 36%, and NYRA just announced that the already solid purses for the Belmont spring-summer meet and the marquee Saratoga meet will go up 44% and 39%, respectively, including both overnight (maiden, claiming and allowance races) and stakes. Fourteen-thousand-dollar claimers, just a step or two above the bottom level at NYRA, are now running for $33,000 purses. With the winner's share of that race at almost $20,000, it's no surprise that trainers are will to take a chance on losing their horse.

Here's my analysis of what it costs to keep a horse in training at the NYRA tracks; let's see if the purse increases, as so many believe, have really changed the fundamentals of the game. The surprising result is that costs have stayed constant, or even declined in some cases, while purses are going up. The game really has changed.

Let's assume that the horse is based at the race track for nine months a year, stays sound (increasingly unlikely), races 10 times, and gets a three-month vacation. Most owners and trainers probably can't afford to give the horse the time off, but that would represent good horsemanship, and it's an ideal to strive for.

Training Costs at NYRA tracks still average about $90-$95 a day, with barely any increase since I last reported two years ago. The big guys -- Pletcher, Mott, etc. -- charge a lot more, but that's not who we're talking about. Those trainers' owners are in a position where they can start out with a big fortune and still have a small fortune left when they're done racing. 

So, for nine months, that's $24,660. Down time on the farm is a lot less, but not cheap. Probably $40 a day on average, or another $3,640.

Most NYRA-based trainers now charge extra for tack, supplies and feed supplements. The trainers simply can't break even on the $90 day rate. Those bills have generally been on the order of $150 a month for our horses. Our trainer, Bruce Brown, doesn't pad his bills at all with extra charges, as some trainers have been rumored to do. So let's add another $1,350 to our total for the nine months the horse is at the track.

Van costs have actually gone down, or perhaps we're just now using a trainer who understands his owners have budgets, too. Even if your horse doesn't ship to non-NYRA tracks, the van up and back to Saratoga averages $600, and out and back to the farm, though it depends on the distance, is probably another $500. So, a total of $1,100 for vans.

Vet bills are highly erratic and unpredictable. Ours have ranged from $50 to $1,000 a month. A reasonable average is about $350 a month when the horse is at the race track, and perhaps $50 a month on the farm. That's a total of $3,300.

Farriers charge about $170 per shoeing. That's $1,700 for the year, once a month at the track plus one new set of shoes before the horse leaves the farm. If your horse has fragile hooves and needs glue-ons, the equine equivalent of Manolo Blahniks, then farrier costs alone could be $4,000 or more for the year. 

Raceday charges Whether your horse wins or loses, the owner pays a bunch of nickle-and-dime charges, including (1) $10 for the NY State Racing and Wagering Board; (2) $20 for Lasix;  $12.50 for backstretch insurance; (4) $2.50 for the Jockey Club Foundation (the influence of the Phippses in NYRA never seems to end); and a $100 minimum fee for the jockey. In addition, 2.9% of whatever the horse earns each race goes to pay for jockey insurance, the horsemen's organization NYTHA, and the seldom-used backstretch pension fund. If a horse starts 10 times a year and never finishes in the money, that all adds up to about $225 a year. And add in the annual $840 premium for jockey insurance. Unless an owner has lots of horses, that adds another $100 or so to the cost of racing the horse.

So, before our horse earns a penny in purse money, our base cost for the year is $36,075. Surprisingly, that's actually a slight decrease from the $37,400 figure I reported two years ago, even though hay and feed prices have gone up in the interim. The relief may, however, be temporary, As I'd expect NY-based trainers to move toward a $100 day rate in the not too distant future, which would add another $3,000 or so to the annual cost. 

And if the horse does earn a few pennies, a pretty good proportion of those pennies disappear along the way before the owner can pull the balance from the horsemen's bookkeeper account. Here's how things work in New York.

The trainer typically gets 10% of all purse money, plus an extra 1-2% for the barn staff when the horse wins. Let's say 11% overall.

The jockey gets (approximately) 10% of a win purse, 5% for second and third, and $100 a ride for anything else. Because the win purse is so much (60%) of total purse money, and because the $100 a ride is a very big percentage of what the horse earns if it finishes 6th or worse, the jockeys' percentage overall is something like 8% of total purses.

The jockey insurance, NYTHA and pension charges take another 3.9% of the purse. Adding in the trainer's 11% and the jockey's 8%, that means a total of 23% of the purse goes somewhere other than to to horse's owner.

So, to earn the $36.075 that we said earlier our horse needs to stay in training in New York, even with a three-month vacation, that horse actually needs purse earnings of $46,850. Add in a few win pictures ($25 each from the track photographer) and a few celebratory drinks and let's call it $47,000 even.

Now what does that mean with the new purse structure?

With maiden special and allowance purses now well above $50,000, a win and a couple of in-the-money finishes will now represent break-even. So, if you've got a good horse, it's definitely possible to come out ahead or at least have the horse pay its way. That's a far cry from the long-term national average of purses representing only about half of the carrying costs of thoroughbreds. Still, one needs to earn more than that to pay back the costs of breeding or buying the horse and getting it to the races. But still, for a quality horse, the financial picture is pretty good.

But what about claimers, who still make up a majority of the horses that race on the NYRA circuit? The average purse for the claiming races that NRA is carding at Aqueduct is probably about $38,000; that should rise at Belmont and Saratoga, with fewer $7,500 races and $15,000 maiden claimers on the card. Still, an average purse of $40,000 for a mid-level claimer is probably no more than $40,000, of which $24,000 goes to the owner of the winner.

So a claiming horse that runs regularly, ekes out a win or two and a couple of in-the-money finishes could cover its costs. If the owner can have the horse claimed away for the same price that the owner put in to make the claim, then that owner survives to fight another day, which is what most of us want to do.  And if the horse can get a win in a short period of time, it even makes sense for the owner to drop the claiming price, lose the horse, and walk away with the purse money and a net profit. That seems to be what's fueling the claiming boom at Aqueduct, and it makes sense.

Not as tough a game as it used to be.

Changing social power is reflected in the sales of newspaper offices

Newspapers across the US are shedding large downtown buildings in favor of more modest facilities, often away from the center of cities.

The downsizing is the consequence of reduced need for office space following staff cuts, changes in production technologies that reduce space requirements, and the outsourcing many printing and distribution activities. Examples include:
  • The Miami Herald has sold its bayfront building and the 14 acres around it for $236 million and is planning to relocate elsewhere next in 2013. It will use the proceeds to pay down debt and pension liabilities.
  • The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has sold its home for the past 90 years and will be moving to new offices this spring
  • The Boulder Daily Camera in Boulder, CO, sold its downtown facilities for $9 million and is moving to facilities outside the center of town.
  • The Tribune & Georgian in St. Mary’s, GA, shed its former building by donating it to United Way of Camden Country in February to be used for work space and a training resource center for charitable organizations. The paper no longer used the building because it had moved to other facilities after outsourcing its printing operations.
The changes are not just indicative of the changing financial and operational characteristics of newspapers, but of the position of newspapers as major institutions in society. Over the past 150 years, newspapers used the wealth they generated to construct buildings in the center of towns—sometimes monumental and architecturally significant edifices—that reflected their importance and power in the community and their location at the center of society.

Social, economic, and technology developments have stripped that wealth from the newspaper industry. But cities are also changing and many downtown areas are no longer the locus of economic and political power in communities. As we continue to move more firmly into the digital age, the physical manifestations of where the center of society is located will continue to change.

Changes in media and media industries reflect deeper social changes that will continue altering our lives in may ways for many years to come.