Tag Archives: Movies

At the Sopranos Convention! (Part 2)

We all know The Sopranos is the greatest television show of all time. And yes, I’m a little obsessed. So when I had the opportunity to the attend Sopranoscon on Saturday in Atlantic City, NJ, I had to do it!

The best part about the convention was seeing the show come to life right in front of me. There were the characters I loved, just a few feet away! I even got to sit in Tony’s seat in his Cadillac Escalade. The car that’s pumped full of bullet holes in the final season as Patsy and Sil desperately try to escape New York’s hitmen was there too!

In Tony’s Escalade!
Patsy and Sil’s car!

One of the biggest highlights of the day was the costume contest: the winner did a perfect impression of Sil’s “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” I haven’t smiled as wide in a long time.

A very convincing Tony Soprano look-a-like who was actually a stand-in for Gandolfini in the series, bookable here!

Since this was Mobmoviecon in addition to Sopranoscon, there were actors from other gangster classics. One of my favorites was Armand Assante, who played a pitch perfect John Gotti in the 1996 HBO movie. Since I’ve done some extremely minor acting myself, I had to ask him: what makes a great actor?

Armand Assante, interviewed by real-life former gangster Michael Franzese

“Will,” he told me. Like when a baseball player says “I’m going to hit this out of the park,” an actor has to will himself to deliver a great performance, whatever it takes. When we connect our will to our talent and imagination, we can become great actors, Assante added.

The convention also had a major announcement: there will be a Gotti 2, starring Assante, and production is beginning now!

You’re at the precipice of an enormous crossroads.

To top it off, I took second place in The Sopranos trivia competition! The prize: a signed copy of a fascinating book about the series written by another big fan!

I’m a winner, baby!

About the only negative of the convention is that you have to pay $20-40 extra to meet any of the actors or get a picture/autograph. But this may be the only way to make the economics work: paying dozens of high profile actors and renting out a major resort isn’t cheap! Perhaps in the future, they can host a mixer for everyone to allow more interaction.

The organizer of the convention, Michael Mota, has huge plans for the future: not only is he producing Gotti 2, he hopes to buy Tony Soprano’s house and turn it into an Airbnb for fans of the series. If he does, I’d love to visit!

More on The Sopranos:

AT THE SOPRANOS CONVENTION!

WELCOME TO SAL “BIG PUSSY” BONPENSIERO’S HOUSE FROM THE SOPRANOS

VISITING UNCLE JUNIOR’S HEADQUARTERS FROM THE SOPRANOS

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

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My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

At The Sopranos Convention!

I’ve been an huge Sopranos fan for many years. I’ve seen every episode at least 5 times. So when I got the opportunity to attend Sopranoscon this Saturday in Atlantic City, NJ, I was so excited!

Me and Richie Aprile!

As I came to the head of a long line of Sopranos fans, many dressed as their favorite character, I entered a grand ballroom decorated for the “Feast of St. James.” Set up like the Italian church feasts that are all over New York and New Jersey this time of year, the feast was dedicated to James Gandolfini, who died too young but left us with so many memories.

Past the food vendors selling sausages, espresso and cannolis was a board of all the shows best quotes. My favorite:

“I’m sorry I stole your prosthesis. But it did bring me to the Lord.”

Janice Soprano

Giggling like a school girl, I rounded a corner and suddenly saw all my favorite Sopranos stars! It was incredible to see them suddenly appear, alive and moving and freed from screen. It was quite a lineup: Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior), Lorraine Bracco (Jennifer Melfi), David Proval (Richie Aprile), Jerry Adler (Hesh), John Fiore (Gigi Cestone), and many more.

Uncle Jun!

And since this Sopranoscon doubled as Mobmoviecon, there were amazing actors from other gangster tales as well, like Paul Sorvino (Paulie in Goodfellas) and Giancarlo Esposito (the terrifying Gus Fring in Breaking Bad)!

Gigi!

I took a picture with David Proval, whose portrayal of Richie Aprile I found chilling and memorable. In reality, he is a nice, quiet man, nothing like the loud and dominating gangster he played. As we took a picture together, I told him how I loved his performance. It was wonderful to be able to thank him for all the happiness he brought me. He thanked me and I went on my way to…

Tony’s Escalade

Tony Soprano’s Escalade! Yes, the very same car Tony rode in for the last few seasons of the show. Not only did I see it, I even got to sit in Tony’s seat and take a picture!

This convention was a wonderful experience, and I have way more amazing things to tell you. See you soon!

More on The Sopranos and the mafia:

WELCOME TO SAL “BIG PUSSY” BONPENSIERO’S HOUSE FROM THE SOPRANOS

VISITING UNCLE JUNIOR’S HEADQUARTERS FROM THE SOPRANOS

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

AMC + UFC = Jackpot

AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. just made a bold move to capture a huge new audience:

The value proposition here is obvious: why pay $70 when you can pay $25? But the implications for AMC are even bigger than they may appear.

UFC is growing at an incredible rate, dwarfing growth in any other major sport. 2020 was a banner year for the league:

“For us personally, it’s the best year we’ve ever had. Crazy to say that, but we broke just about every record we have, except for live gate, obviously,” White told TSN. “It was a very challenging year for us, to pull all this stuff off. It was without a doubt the hardest year of my career.

Viewers grew 30% on ESPN and the UFC’s YouTube and Instagram accounts are second only to the NBA in followers.

UFC not only brings an enormous new audience to AMC, it counters one of the biggest problems movie theaters have: strong seasonality in their business. The most anticipated movies are usually released in the summer, and the crowds swell. But in the colder months, major releases are fewer and attendance drops off.

Unlike the movie business or most professional sports, UFC is not seasonal. Major tournaments happen regularly throughout the year, and there is no off season.

Picture normally empty theaters packed with cheering fight fans in January, and then imagine the money printing machine in AMC’s headquarters spitting out hundreds. While the stock’s price is a little high for my taste at the moment, I have to applaud CEO Adam Aron’s leadership.

More on AMC:

AMC ON THE THRESHOLD LIST: STRONG EVIDENCE OF NAKED SHORT SELLING

AMC’S S-3 WITHDRAWAL: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

HEDGE FUND TORCHED BY AMC

Photo: “File:Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin UFC 115.jpg” by Bad intentionz is licensed under CC BY 3.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

AMC Stock Is Acting Like COVID Never Happened

AMC burnt over $900 million in the first 9 months of last year*. That presented a bit of a problem.

They had just $429 million in cash left going in the fall of 2020, and that would be gone in a matter of months. So, to stave off bankruptcy, AMC went into fundraising mode, big time.

AMC got a surprisingly good reception from investors and was able to sell over $500 million in new stock and borrow a further $400 million. Since then, additional stock sales have boosted their cash hoard to over $1.3 billion.

This fundraising bought AMC at least a year’s worth of breathing room, even if 2021 is no better than 2020, which seems unlikely. But there’s one little problem…

AMC had just over 100 million shares outstanding in the fall of 2020, per their latest quarterly report. It now has close to 500 million shares outstanding. So, every dollar AMC makes in the future (if it makes any) is now 20 cents as far as shareholders are concerned. Each dollar of profit is only worth 1/5 as much if your shares represent a portion of the company that’s only 1/5 as large as before. This is called dilution.

So this must have cratered AMC’s stock, right? Wrong. In fact, it’s actually up! On December 30, 2019, the stock traded at 7.32. It’s at 8.27 as I write this.

Investors are saying that a share of AMC is actually worth more than it was before COVID annihilated its business and dilution took away 4/5ths of the ownership rights in each share. That makes no sense.

I suspect this stock is being traded on the basis of memes and pure speculation. Indeed, it’s currently mentioned on Reddit’s Wallstreetbets more than any other stock. The price is pretty much impossible to justify rationally unless AMC suddenly makes far greater profits than ever before. Why would that happen all of a sudden, even as COVID is still with us?

That said, I have to applaud CEO Adam Aron and everyone at AMC for doing whatever it takes to save this company. Even the CEO was furloughed in March 2020 to conserve cash! That’s what I call leadership. However, it doesn’t make their stock a good bet at the current price.

I’m going to leave this one to the crowd at Wallstreetbets.

For more on the Wallstreetbets phenomenon, check out these posts:

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*See 11/4/20 10-Q report cash flow statement, cash used in operating and investing activities.

Photo: “AMC Theaters” by JeepersMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Did You Know Dragonflies Can Do Backflips?

I came across this interesting new study today showing dragonflies can do backflips, even unconscious!

They found that conscious dragonflies, when dropped from the upside-down position, somersaulted backwards to regain the rightside-up position. Dragonflies that were unconscious also completed the somersault, but more slowly.

Check out the video below!

I happened to be watching a wonderful David Attenborough documentary on insects, including dragonflies, last night with my wife, so this interesting tidbit caught my eye! Nature continues to amaze me, day after day.

See the full study here.

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Photo: “White-faced meadowhawk dragonfly” by Tibor Nagy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0         

What I Just Learned From a Discussion With Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna

Today I attended a fascinating discussion of the movie Human Nature, a documentary on CRISPR gene editing. Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, the co-inventor of CRISPR, gave us her perspective on the technology. Author Walter Isaacson and the filmmaker, Adam Bolt, also gave valuable insights.

Isaacson framed the moment well, saying that CRISPR is part of the 3rd great scientific revolution. The first was in the first half of the 20th century, in physics. The 2nd, in information technology, consumed the second half of the century. And in the 21st century, the revolution is and will be in the life sciences.

Because CRISPR can make DNA and RNA programmable like computer code, there’s a strong parallel between CRISPR and the IT revolution. What if biology and medicine progressed the way software has in the last few decades?

Doudna is particularly excited about the applications of CRISPR to cure cancer. CRISPR can be used to program the patient’s immune cells to attack tumors. This echoes what the co-founders of BioNTech said earlier this week at a call I attended.

Bolt and Doudna also noted that CRISPR was a scientific backwater at first. This really emphasizes the importance of funding basic science with no clear application. We never know where it will lead!

The first patient to be treated for sickle cell anemia using CRISPR is doing quite well a year later. Doudna and others are hard at work on further applications of this technology. As an investor and as a human being, I am eagerly anticipating these breakthroughs.

“Jennifer Doudna” by Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

An Outstanding Science Movie and Your Chance to Talk to a Nobel Prize Winner

I just finished watching the superb documentary Human Nature, which details the origins and applications of CRISPR gene editing. The filmmakers interview all the leading people in the field and produce a fascinating and highly accessible narrative.

I found particularly striking how one of the co-inventors of CRISPR, Jennifer Doudna, enjoyed being in an unknown field at first but also wondered whether the field was neglected because it was a dead end. It shows us what we can accomplish when we overcome our self-doubt!

You can see the movie and attend a talk tomorrow at 1pm EST with Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna here, both free of charge. It’s not often a person gets the chance to ask questions of a Nobel prize winner. I’ll be there!

P.S. If you’re interested in CRISPR, I recommend this book.)

“Micah’s DNA” by micahb37 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0