That said, and with kudos, too, I wish Gordon Young could have broadened the scope of his article to include the process by which outfits like Wired Ventures are taken public, particularly with regard to the investment companies. The boys at Hambrecht & Quist, Robertson Stephens & Co., and Montgomery Securities (all adept in the area of high-tech IPOs) and the other investment firms that sell securities in initial offerings know exactly what the score is. And the boys managing the big institutional money, who agree to take a chunk, also know what the score is. I'd love to know who actually gets stuck with it, and read a description of some of the behind-closed-doors comments, if not laughter, at the investment firms while these rip-offs are plotted.
In all fairness to the investment companies, they really do help a lot of deserving, cash-needy companies to acquire capital and to expand further. But still, how could they take a dog like Wired public, make millions by doing it, and not care a whit about fleecing some sucker who doesn't know better?
It's a multimillion-dollar rip-off that is absolutely legal, and no one is ever brought to account. Our watchdogs, the press and sometimes the Justice Department, save that for scapegoats like Milken, Boesky, and the occasional headline-getting SEC crackdown on some broker busted for churning the accounts of old ladies.
In the meantime the local business pages deify the heads of the operations that engineer scams like the Wired IPO, and we as a society will admire their shiny Mercedes and stately Pacific Heights homes. What we won't see is the loss for a pension fund, or (more likely) a widow's desperation when she figures out she's been taken, and believe me, the big money boys and securities lawyers won't be discussing these details over dinner with the wife and kids. Maybe it's fitting for a society that increasingly seems to prefer graphic art and offbeat hipness to content.
The Write Stuff
Plaudits are most certainly due to Michael Sragow for his thoughtfully crafted critique of Independence Day ("Gypped," Film, July 10). I went to this movie with high hopes for great visuals without benefit of any Oscar-caliber performances. I got exactly what I anticipated -- great entertainment based on a lot of superscale fluff, rather than poignant writing. But ultimately, who cares.
Nevertheless, Sragow's insightful review provides the perfect take on this film, and it is his writing that deserves the praise, not the film's screenwriters.
Names and Numbers
Regarding "The Name Game" (Letters, July 10): I disagree. Sarah Vowell clearly is the new pen name of Bill Wyman, a man feared from Chicago to Berkeley for his formidably mediocre pen and his prodigiously profitable ability to sell promo CDs.
As for the Wired feature ("System Crashing"), it merits a paragraph in the Wall Street Journal, at best. At least the Journal's writers can tell the difference between 1 million and 1 billion.
I would like to correct several errors in George Cothran's article "Merchant of Redemption" (July 3). Ulla McKnight's band's name is spelled Cypher in the Snow. Also, Cothran got some things backward: Ulla's mother is excited because of their upcoming six-month tour with Green Day rather than their upcoming CD, and the band has chosen to maintain their die-hard old school punk integrity by turning down a recent CD offer. They are currently reviewing a contract by a major indie's new women-only label to do a series of four eight-tracks.
Anna Joy Springer
Gladstone & Vettel, Attorney at Law
God, how I wish you hadn't printed the location of my former favorite cruising spot in town ("Best of San Francisco," June 26). Sure, it was pretty common knowledge, but primarily among gay men. In all your Bondage a Go Go open-mindedness, you seem to have forgotten that innocent gay men still get busted for this victimless "crime." Now, this sacred ground is sure to be overrun by straight gawkers, queer-bashing homophobes, and cops.
Thanks for nothing, SF Weekly. Next time, leave the guides to gay cruising spots to gays -- we do it better anyway.
A Concert-ed Effort
I didn't attend this year's boutique protest event, the Tibetan Freedom Concert ("The Beastie Connection," Music, May 29) in Golden Gate Park on June 15 and 16. My job in corporate America only pays $6 an hour, and with tickets for the two-day affair a whopping $50 I would have had to shell out one-eighth of my unsurvivably low weekly wages to show my solidarity with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys. But my sympathies are as one with the composers of the songs "Sexy Mexican Maid" and "Professor Booty" in denouncing human rights abuses in Tibet.
As a U.S. citizen, I fully identify with those suffering under a totalitarian regime that invades other countries, massacres their inhabitants, victimizes prisoners as slave laborers, and uses police terror to keep its wage-slave class in line. For welfare recipients, undocumented immigrants, tenants of public housing complexes, and the homeless, today's capitalist America is a police state. Thanks to the drug war, the U.S. now imprisons more of its population per capita than any other country in the world. A black person living in New York City has less chance of reaching the age of 65 than an inhabitant of Bangladesh. The infant mortality rate in Washington, D.C., is higher than in Jamaica or Chile. In a society as exploitive and repressive as the U.S., why should wage workers or poor people listen to rich rock stars when they howl about Tibet?
It's telling that high-rent humanists have to look to the other side of the planet to find abuses worthy of their concern. Tibet is an ideal protest issue for wealthy entertainers with time on their hands; what's more safely distant from the ugly realities of life in the U.S. than exotic and colorful Tibet? In focusing on Tibet, conscientious corporate rockers draw attention to one of the few places in the world where rotten things happen that aren't the fault of multinational corporations like the ones that own their record labels; Time Warner doesn't have any investments there yet.
So remember shoppers, when you shell out $39.95 for the limited-edition, Dalai Lama-approved Tibetan Freedom Concert CD set, just chant to yourself: "This isn't about money -- it's about good karma."
Somewhere between accumulating madcap anecdotes and dishing out dime-store psychology in their Dave Burgin profile ("Final Deadline," May 29), George Cothran and Lisa Davis could have benefited from talking with the dozens of journalists around the country who consider him a mentor and an inspiration.
I worked twice for Dave Burgin, at the Washington Star and later in Palo Alto, and my experience was typical. He made papers better every place he went. He loved the craft, never wavered in his "we're-as-good-as-they-are" enthusiasm, and raised the level of writing, reporting, and design in every place he touched down.
Over 20 years in the newspaper business -- 14 of them at the Chicago Tribune -- I never met his equal. And I'd wager that if they were honest, the whiners who were chatted up by your correspondents would recall Burgin's tenure in their towns as the high-water mark for their respective papers.
I'd have been delighted to tell that story, and I know the names of folks at the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, Newsweek -- and some right there in the Bay Area -- who'd have done the same. But that's not what your profile was all about, was it?
In "System Crashing" (July 10), the potential value of Wired Ventures Inc. after its initial public offering should have been listed as $495 million.
Alfred Schilling, winner of Best Restaurant in a Candy Factory ("Best of San Francisco," June 26), relocated in March. It is now situated at 1695 Market; the phone number is 431-8447.