Michael J. Fox, the #Parkinson’s cause and me

Michael J.  Fox, god bless him, should win a medal one day for all the good he’s done to advance the cause of Parkinson’s research.    As I wrote in The Fiscal Times, the community could not have asked for a better spokesman.

His “Q Score,” a measure of celebrity awareness and likeability, stands at 28 percent, nearly double the 16 percent average. A whopping 88 percent of adults aged 18 and older know who Fox is, more than double 31 percent average for other celebrities.

My one quibble with Fox is that “The Michael J. Fox Show” is  a mediocre effort.    As a Parkie — Parkinson’s sufferer — I wasn’t expecting every episode to be an infomercial about my disease.  What I was hoping for was some laughs, which have been lacking.  The first two episodes were disappointing.  I thought the third one was a little better.

Maybe the show will get better over time.  Maybe it won’t.

But the fact that millions of people are now aware of Parkinson’s that weren’t before is a good thing.

And if Michael J. Fox or any of his people happen to be reading this blog, I think I have got some ideas that can save your show.

Call me. :)

Wall Street ignores `crazy’ government #shutdown”, at least for now.

Whose running Congress these days? I bet Ozzy Osbourne is the conductor on this “crazy train.”
You see only crazy people and the House Republican leadership want to shut down the government.  As I noted in Investopedia, the shutdown fight could lead to a far more worrisome battle over the debt ceiling, which could lead to the government defaulting on its financial obligations for the first time in our country’s 237 year history.

From the story:

The government is expected to hit its borrowing limit, which it needs to fund its activities sometime in October. Though some people have tried to compare the U.S. with cash-strapped countries such as Greece, there is a critical condition. Greece needed several bailouts because it couldn’t afford to pay its bills. The U.S. can afford to pay its creditors but sometimes threatens not to, a situation that in 2011 cost the US its AAA bond rating

For now, the market is yawning at the impasse in Washington. Major stock indexes are trading up. Gold, though, is plunging which is strange since people usually buy the metal when people get scared about their economic futures.

People can’t relax because this could easily be the calm before the storm.

Why has #MoePrigoff’s Disappeared From #StorageWars: Texas?’

First he was there and no he’s gone.

Moe Prigoff, perhaps the only reason to watch “Storage Wars:Texas”,  has disappeared.   At least, he is nowhere to be found on the small screen.

Storage Auction Forum recently noticed that Prigoff and Victor Rjesnjansky were missing from a recent cast picture. Rjesnjansky apparently is set to appear in an upcoming episode. As for Prigoff, his fate remains unclear.

His “partner” Mary Padian has teamed up with Jenny Grumbles.   Whether this duo will be dynamic remains to be seen.

Prigoff, I guess, is supposed to be the show’s answer to Barry Weiss,  “The Collector” on the original “Storage Wars.”  He is certainly one strange dude.  How else can you describe a podiatrist with hording problem?  And I am not sure what to make of this line from his official biography: “With the help of his young manager Robert, Moe runs two successful businesses.”

A&E has been screwing around with “Storage Wars.” The father and daughter auctioneer team Johan Graham and her father Earl Graham suddenly appeared on the show.   Dan and Laura Dotson, the show’s beloved husband-and-wife auctioneer team, were nowhere to be found.   “The Gambler”  Darrell Sheets and and his fellow tank top twin and son Brandon Sheets were also missing.

Maybe Prigoff isn’t missing.  He is probably hiding.

Has #BlackBerry found a white knight or a joker?

BlackBerry, which can’t give away its smartphones, got an unsolicited $4.7 billion takeover bid from its largest shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.

Or did it?

As I noted in my story in The Fiscal Times, there is less than this deal than meets the eye.  From the story:

Under the terms of the agreement, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) will be allowed “to actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals,” the company said in a statement. In other words, it can still go shop for a better offer until Nov. 4. If BlackBerry finds a better deal, it would have to pay Fairfax 30 cents a share, or more than $150 million. The termination fee would rise to 50 cents a share, or more than $260 million, if BlackBerry balks once a definitive agreement is signed.
About the only thing that BlackBerry has got going for it is its patents, which an analyst estimates could be worth about $1 billion.  The company would be wise to find a buyer.
Selling or licensing patents has been the go-to move for struggling technology companies for years. Eastman Kodak, whose film documented the 20th century before the company went into a long decline, struck a $525 million deal with a slew of technology companies such as Google and Apple in 2012. The sale was for a fraction of the $2.6 billion the company had hoped to get. Microsoft acquired AOL’s patents for $1 billion in 2012, which helped bolster the media company’s balance sheet. Nortel, which is currently mired in bankruptcy, unloaded its patents for $4.5 billion in 2011 to a consortium of companies led by Apple.

Ever wonder when #StorageWars jumped the shark?

“Storage Wars” is chock full of awesomely fake moments that it’s hard to choose just one.

My favorite, though, has to be Dave Hester’s Elvis newspaper find from 2011. The show said the stack of papers announcing the death of “The King” was worth $90,000. That’s a load of crap.

Newspapers aren’t scarce. Millions of copies of them are sold on a daily basis even in today’s Internet-dominated world. People hold onto papers when something especially newsworthy happens for years if not decades. Finding an Elvis newspaper isn’t hard, A quick check on eBay underscores this point.   None of the auctions, by the way, had any bids.

If you still want one of the actual Elvis newspapers found by Hester, check out Storage Treasures.com, which is giving them away.   The site was founded by “Storage Wars” auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson. Supplies appear to be plentiful.

Interestingly,  the Elvis paper episode happened several years before Hester complained that he was fired for complaining the show was rigged.

Why are #Disney Theme Parks Making Life Tougher for the #Disabled?

I would to wring the neck of those “handicapped” assholes who hired themselves out as tour guides at Disney theme parks and used a special pass to enable their clients to avoid the park’s long lines because they ruined a system that benefited scores of people including me.  Many parents of children with autism will have to scratch Disneyland and Disney World off the lists of things their kids can do.

As I wrote in MSN Money:

When my family and I went to Walt Disney World earlier this summer, I got a Guest Accommodations Card (GAC) because of my Parkinson’s disease…I probably won’t get this help on my next visit to the “Happiest Place on Earth” — whenever that may be —  because people were abusing the system.

According, to MiceAge, a website that tracks Disney, the company is discontinuing the GAC as of Oct. 9 at Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure and replacing it with what the company calls the Disabled Assistance System (DAS). Though the MiceAge story doesn’t mention Disney World, it seems likely that the policy will apply there as well.

Unlike the GAC, which can be used throughout the park, only one ride at a time can be reserved using the DAS. Disney may be solving one problem but creating many others.

There has to be a better way to ensure that jackasses don’t take advantage of the system. Disney, for instance could require people provide a doctor’s note to get a GAC. I was stunned that I wasn’t required to prove that I needed assistance;

Let’s Stop the #NFL’s No #Tax Touchdown Dance

When people think of tax-free organizations, most people think of charities, hospitals or universities.  What many people don’t realize is that the NFL — as in the National Football League – is in this august company even though it generates some $9.5 billion in annual revenue.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., aims to fix this injustice though odds are better that the inept Jacksonville Jaguars will win the Super Bowl.   Liberals and progressives should encourage him to fight the good fight.

As I wrote in MSN Money:

The conservative Republican yesterday introduced The Pro Sports Act, a bill that would prohibit sports organizations with annual revenue of more than $10 million from enjoying the same tax-exempt status that trade associations and public interest groups enjoy.

If passed, his bill would affect a variety of sports groups such as golf’s PGA Tour, the National Hockey League and tennis’ ATP World Tour, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Interestingly, it wouldn’t apply to Major League Baseball, which gave up its tax-exempt status in 2007, or to the National Basketball Association, which is a for-profit business, the publication says.

#Newspapers ain’t dead yet

In my first piece for Investopedia, I note that stock of newspaper publishers have been doing surprisingly well even though the fundamentals for the industry remain horrible.  From the story:

Indeed, the sector that every investing pundit loves to hate has been beaten to a bloody pulp over the last few years is starting to show signs of life, faint though they may be. Some investors, such as Warren Buffett see value here. Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, the soon-to-be-owner of the Washington Post, seems to as well as does Southeastern Asset Management, a hedge fund that recently disclosed a 12% stake in the new News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), Rupert Murdoch’s print holdings such as the Wall Street Journal.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that good times are near just less godawful ones.   Publishers are diversifying into faster-growing businesses such as television.   Some papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are benefiting from paywalls. The Washington Post didn’t start charging to access its website until this year, a huge blunder.

Attention #BarneyMiller fans: I need your help

Few people know that getting “Barney Miller”, one of the most popular and groundbreaking television programs of the 1970s and 1980s, on the air was nothing short of a miracle.   This is a largely unknown story that I want to tell in a book I am planning to write.l

Executive Producer Danny Arnold, a largely unknown sitcom pioneer, who pushed “Barney Miller” to address many hot-button political issues including gay rights, one of the first shows to do so. He clashed with ABC, which aired the show for 8 seasons and even threatened to pull the show from the network if he didn’t get his way.

Arnold’s story is a complex one. On the one hand, he could be charming and generous, lavishing extravagant gifts such as an Aston Martin on people who worked for him. But many found him to be intimidating. He was known to have unpredictable, volcanic mood swings. Few were spared his wrath, even people who he otherwise liked. Arnold had a low opinion of the human race and often said that smiling was a sign of stupidity.

A perfectionist who demanded so many changes to scripts at the last minute that they were never completed before an episode was filmed, Arnold drove the cast and crew crazy, He also snuck off the watch the races at Santa Anita when otherwise should have been working. To top it off, Arnold had to cope with feuds among the cast and a decade-long legal fight over the show’s ownership with co-creator Theodore J. Flicker which he lost at a cost of millions. He died in 1995.

As an award-winning journalist who has written about the media for more than a decade, I am qualified to tell the “Barney Miller” story. My book will offer the first comprehensive account of the “Barney Miller” story, which has been told so far on a piecemeal basis in anthologies. have interviewed members of the cast and crew along with scholars who will help me put the show in its proper historical context.

I want to hear from “Barney Miller” fans.  What   What have you always want to know about the show?  What are your favorite episodes?  What were the qualities about the show you especially liked?

By the way, Abe Vigoda is alive, at least he was when I spoke with him a few months ago.   The clip I put in this post is from the classic “Hash Brownies” episode, one of the many “Barney Miller” classics.  Enjoy.

Why NBC’s `Million Second Quiz’ is the `Biggest Loser’

If you haven’t been caught up in the excitement over NBC’s “Million Second Quiz”,  you aren’t alone.

As I noted on MSN moneyNow, “total viewership fell to 3 million on Saturday, down from the 6.5 million who watched its debut Monday.”   MSQ, as it calls itself, has got to be one of the most confusing game shows in history.  I have watched it a few times and I don’t get it.

For those wondering if there is such a thing as too much Ryan Seacrest, the answer seems to be a million times yes.