How Low Are We Gonna Go?

This past week the College Board stripped down the A.P. curriculum for African American Studies. This course is for learning and researching the African diaspora to teach and understand our history. The African American journey has never been the focus of education. We are taught European history and early American history growing up. I learned more about African American history teaching it to myself.

Now more than ever, the importance of integrating African American Studies into the College Board curriculum should be applauded, as should queer theory and intersectionality. Yet that ugly white supremacy that comes from the beginning of our historical landing on this land was pushed hard enough to take away the course. Sure, the information is available, but if it isn’t part of the curriculum, we continue to make sure that most aren’t educated on these topics keeping prejudices alive and kicking.

What happened in Memphis this past week is so horrific that I don’t understand where that kind of behavior comes from. How much more can this country take, or perhaps I am in the minority? There is always a bottoming out, isn’t there? I can’t help but wonder, how low are we going to go?

Entrepreneurs Always Bear the Brunt

Being an entrepreneur is hard, especially when you bring on investors. It is hard not to believe the hype when things are doing great. So many people sitting around the table now have a stake. It becomes easier to listen to everyone around the table telling you to build faster and raise at a valuation not in sync with the ARR because you can, and don’t forget to let the company get a little fat too.

Then reality hits that the advice you were getting and reacted to was shit. All the people who gave you advice somehow look different, like the emperor who wore no clothes. You realize that the people telling you the reality of the situation were the people you should have believed. You should not have believed the people who kept blowing smoke up the companies ass. Your company is now worth 75% less; you must fire 35% of your team, and getting through it is hell.

The worst part is that everyone around the table marked your company down on their balance sheets. They are not being as supportive as you had hoped during this downtime. You begin to realize that the only people genuinely hurting here are the people you fired and yourself.

Not all investors are like this, but unfortunately, plenty are, and it is not pretty. For the entrepreneur, as always, if you succeed, you are a champion, but if you fail, all on you.

Why did YCombinator start pricing startups at $20m valuations with barely a product? Why did sizeable late-stage and some early-stage venture firms begin to drive up the price of companies in a bidding war? Money was cheap, people needed places to put their cash besides the market, and the public markets always show where truth is made.

More significant economic problems have caused this “check” in the startup industry, but we should look hard at the investors caught up in a game and the opportunity to create jobs. This downturn is still in freefall, and at the end of the day, it did not hurt the investors; it hurt the entrepreneurs. That is the most painful thing about all of this.

Space is the New Frontier, Rema Matevosyan, Podcast #180

Rema Matevosyan is a scientist turned entrepreneur who co-founded Near Space Labs. This start-up provides timely, wide-scaler, commercially available imagery with the largest zero-emission balloon fleet in the stratosphere. For Rema and her cofounders, space is the exciting new frontier.

This podcast episode will highlight her unique entrepreneurial journey and experience building and scaling her company as a foreign female founder.

You can also listen to this on Soundcloud and iTunes.

To learn more about the Near Space Labs, you can visit their website. Our next guest on PGG will be Lauren Yoshiko, the freelance writer, and editor behind the Broccoli Report, a bi-weekly newsletter for creative cannabis entrepreneurs.

Really?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) suggested that “the strength of the new marijuana” could be a factor behind recent mass shootings. Yet, Israel has marijuana for everything. They figured out how to use this plant over the past 50 years, where we have people like Newt Gingrich making up lies. 

This is why we are where we are with cannabis; Government officials have used it as a scare tactic for others to believe that the drug is the worst. Why do we ignore the truth?
 

A new study using Drug Enforcement Administration data shows that marijuana legalization is tied to reduced opioid prescriptions—specifically, a “26 percent reduction in retail pharmacy-based codeine distribution” in legal cannabis states.

And then there is this; San Francisco, California police often claim they smell marijuana to justify searches of Black people, even though it is legal, an analysis shows.  

65% of US citizens believe that cannabis should be legal.  The cat is out of the bag; it appears across the globe, as Cookies just opened in Bangkok this past week. 

It is time for the Federal Government to pass the legalization of cannabis. The longer they wait, the more difficult it becomes to create a burgeoning industry because the taxation is insanely egregious at the Federal level.

Perhaps once, just once, we could do something right.  

We are so Litigious

Have you ever noticed when you go out to dinner, they always ask if you have any allergies? Or if you get a coffee, the cup mentions how hot the coffee might be, aka don’t burn yourself.

The cannabis industry has been set up, thank you to the Government that without a stellar law team, you could be seriously screwed.

The other night I finally got around to applying for a business credit card. At each junction, where I had to answer questions, I was blown away by the litigious nonsense that the person on the other end of the line had to say between each step. By the end, she was laughing too. How did we become such a litigious society?

We spend 2.2% of our annual GNP on litigation. That does not include other legal needs. I understand the need for the law to settle disputes, but at one point, is it ridiculous?

The first time I had to sue someone was over money owed. My lawyer said, “congratulations, you are an adult now.” Fast forward, I always make sure our lawyers have their eyes look over a document, we have been in a handful of lawsuits, and sometimes we are the ones suing.

Perhaps it is the way of the United States. Still, I always think about how many people do not have the means or money to understand the need for legal representation, so the law hurts many of those who don’t get it.

Torrisi and an art opening

This past Thursday evening, I began the night at Mignoni gallery for the opening of the Rob Reynolds opening show. I have not done that in a while, and it felt really good. I saw a bunch of people and met some new ones, and we even shook hands! I have not been as out and about as I like these days. I genuinely do love NYC on so many levels.

On the other hand, Fred started his evening at a Bright Moments minting, another art opening.

We met at Torissi, with friends I was with, for dinner. It is our second time, and we will be back multiple times. There is much to love about Torissi. The kitchen is putting out delicious food. The setup of the restaurant is super smart. You can stand at one of the bars and have a drink and an appetizer or wait for your table. It is communal and out of the way. It feels like a small party. The service is exceptional. Every person goes out of their way to give top hospitality. But what I like best is the NY vibe, which I have always loved but have been missing. Didn’t realize how much. The energy, the people, and the hum that feels alive. We all felt it, and that is why we live here.

Here are a few highlights. The American and Italian ham platter with zeppoles is a must.

The winter vegetable salad is delicious. Last time we had chopped liver, which I want to have again.

The cucumber salad is a fan favorite. Cucumbers New Yorkese.

Tortellini Pomodoro is another win. I also loved these roasted turnips.

The porchetta is off the charts, served with apples right off the rotisserie.

Do not forget the cookies. I am a cookie snob, and these cookies were fantastic. The lemon powdered cookie, the pistachio leaf, and the thin mint, a huge wow!

Such a great addition to the downtown restaurant scene in NY. A place I did not even realize how much I missed this before it even opened.

Death of the Movie Theater

The post-Covid world has had a serious long-tail impact on the movie industry. All production companies, from Netflix to Hulu, have gone through a shakeup. They don’t look any different than ABC or NBC, except you can watch their content anytime vs. a particular hour. Each channel’s search is not that good. So much will have to change, and it will be painful for consumers to watch.

The writers are pissed; their films are being streamed and not in theaters, so they are making less money. A strike is imminent. It appears that streaming is where it is at.

I would love to see various movies, but you can’t stream them, and they are not in theaters either. But the thing is, theaters are closing. This past week it was announced that 14th Street Union Square Regal is closing, bankrupt. The theater on the 23rd and 8th is closing too. Both theaters are large, with 8-10 screens, and played a massive part in our kids’ lives. We would go once, if not twice, a weekend when they were growing up.

I love going to the theater. There are a few great indie theater houses downtown, but one has closed, and I fear more will. These are huge pieces of real estate. It makes me sad.

What is the future of film watching? We would spend more money on the monthly nut for the studios if we had access to every film that came out the day they came out. Perhaps those who don’t want that can pay up for a movie if they want to see it that day or otherwise wait on when it is dropped for everyone.

I do not know what the best decisions are, especially regarding how all the creatives benefit financially. Still, the film industry is entering a very rocky ride.

A Weekend out East, in winter

We rarely spend time out east during the winter after spending so much time out there in the winter months of Covid. Now, getting out there for a few nights of reprieve and movies is a treat. We could not go to the Sundance Film Festival this year due to— a wedding, so I got the streaming pass that allows us to watch whatever films we want from January 25- 29th.

On the way out of town, we stopped by Katzs, one of the premier food institutions in NYC. It is one of our favorite things to do. The lines are always long, the place is always packed, and the food is always good. I would love to know how many pastramis on ryes they make a year.

We watched two films on Friday afternoon/evening and did dinner at Nick and Tonis, a local spot that has always reigned supreme but now there is a bit of competition. Good for us, not so good for Nick and Tonis. Our meal was not that good, although it looked beautiful and sounded delicious. Perhaps it is time for a new chef? The whole fish was dry and tasteless.

The one film worth mentioning from the evening is Persian Version. An Iranian woman navigating her world of “American” life vs. what society expects her to be, particularly in the Iranian culture. Great film.

The morning was a stop at Goldberg bagels to get the day started. Dare I say the best bagels, hands down?

We headed for lunch to Hampton Chutney, a fixture out east that moved from Amagansett into East Hampton. I have never understood why they have not taken this place on the road. Similar to Katz, you know exactly what you will get and what it will taste like.

Before we settled in for the movies, a quick jaunt to the beach.

Our afternoon was chocked with more films: Scrapper, a British film set in northern England. A 12-year-old girl loses her mother and lives alone without anyone knowing it until her father shows up; he had her at 18 and hasn’t seen her since then. It is an endearing film. The other winner is A Thousand and One, set in 1990’s Harlem. A young, single, previously incarcerated Mom who has lost her kid to foster care decides to kidnap him from the system, stay out of jail, raise him, and give him the life she never had. Great writing and an excellent film. Another Iranian film, Shayda. A film about an Iranian woman living in Australia with her daughter that finds herself in a women’s shelter to protect herself against her husband and his desire to take his daughter away to Iran. A fantastic film.

We made our way out to Sant Ambreous, finally opened in East Hampton. One of our local favorites in the West Village. They now have twelve locations in and around NYC, the Hamptons, and one random in Florida and Milan. They have grown incredibly from the first location in Milan in 1936 to Madison Avenue in 1982. Well, run, and always good. I am a fan.

We dipped back to the city early for a few things, including a few more movies, before the festival ended. We are fans of Sundance, but the experience online is something to be desired. Not everything is available, the app is slow and frustrating, and the beginnings of each film give too much information about Sundance. AI should be able to figure out that you have already seen that info. Like all movies and where they will be seen in the future, Sundance is begging for an upgrade.

Ugly Capitalism

The US Government paid for all our Covid shots once they were approved. Yes, there are plenty of naysayers, and yes, I know many have had post Covid issues, but the hospitals aren’t lined up with people anymore. The crisis has supposedly passed.

We all know the long tail of this. Some health providers will pay for it, while others will not. With the cost of $120/$130 a pop, many will choose to opt out of the vaccine because of the cost.  

Pfizer stock soared during Covid. They will make huge multiples on this new Covid cost to their customers and show returns to the stockholders. Do they need to make those numbers as a provider of medications?  

Ultimately, we all lose because people will end up sick and without insurance. Many might end up in hospitals, yet someone always needs to pay the bill, and that is us.

Once again, greed win’s over those who don’t have and can’t afford it, so they get fucked. Just like the ridiculous price of insulin where the state of California finally said enough and is suing for price reductions accusing them of illegally inflating the price.

What is our responsibility as public or private companies to our fellow people? I recently received a business plan that gives a percentage of funds back to a local organization that impacts the waters around NY city. I love social responsibility. I had the same thing in mind when I conceived the opening of a dispensary.

Think about a better world if every biz had to give back a certain amount of the profits (new tax structure for this) to impact our communities, the ocean, after-school activities, or many needs.  

The Government has kept the pharmaceutical industry super happy for decades. It is time to rethink how public and private companies give back.

Perhaps we should also figure out a better way to fund campaigns and politicians. No wonder history repeats itself.

The Reality of Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Cannabis

I read that over one in five people abstaining from alcohol in “dry January” say they are using alternative products, such as cannabis, to get through the month. Doesn’t that say something about the reality of people’s mental health needs?

Our forefathers drank like a fish. They believed alcohol could cure the sick and improve the world. Better to drink alcohol than water, where you could get dysentery and cholera. On average, people drank over 7 gallons of pure alcohol a year back in the day.

Vinepair recently released an article about alcohol consumption by country. It is the colder climates that drink the most. The US suggests two drinks a day or less for men and one for women. Chile and Australia tied for the most, recommending no more than four drinks daily for men and women.

The other evening we watched To Leslie, a film based on a woman who grew up and lives in West Texas and won $190K in the lottery. She soon pisses away all the money on alcohol and eventually finds herself on the streets. A good samaritan gives her a job, an opportunity, as a maid at a small motel. After 12 years of solid drinking, she hits rock bottom and goes sober.

Watching someone detox is not pretty, as they stop the poison in their system that has kept them going for a long time. Kicking cigarettes is not easy either. Kicking certain pharmaceutical products is hard too. Canada just announced new guidelines for alcohol consumption, warning that no amount is healthy, period.

Back to cannabis, my favorite topic these days. Cannabis addiction is rare, but not alcohol, cigarettes, or cocaine. Withdrawal is an entirely different topic. I have never met anyone addicted to weed, but plenty who smoke a lot but stopping can cause insomnia and moodiness for a few days. It doesn’t include tremors, throwing up, sweating, anxiety, and sometimes hallucinations and seizures like alcohol does. Cigarette withdrawal isn’t that pretty either, as it takes a few weeks of cravings, sleeping inability, weight gain, irritability, etc.

So why is cannabis a schedule one drug, but alcohol and cigarettes are not or never have?