Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Favorite Super Bowl Memory

When MCBias of Moderately Cerebral Bias emailed me asking me to write my favorite Super Bowl memory, I really had to think. What should I write about? The games come and go, usually beer is consumed, food is thrown down the gullet, and commercials are watched. How different can each experience be? I had to really think back - 2007, 2006, 2000, 1994, 1991, 1987 ... all the way to the earliest Super Bowls I could remember watching. After much contemplation, one game - Super Bowl XXXVII (37) between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders - stands out above the rest.

Going to a university like Florida State, a school known more for its athletics than its academics, alumni and students love to namedrop the more famous athletes they had classes with. Some brag about sitting next to Charlie Ward, some talk about Chris Weinke's classroom habits (whatever they may be), so on and so forth.

Personally, I shared class space with a few Seminole football stars. Probably the most famous of these were current NFL players Chris Hope and Darnell Dockett. The athlete I knew the best, however, was an fourth-string linebacker who probably never once saw any action at Doak Campbell Stadium on a game day.

After knowing [name withheld] for only a few weeks, my new football-playing friend invited me to his place for his Super Bowl shindig. Not having any plans outside of the usual beer, buddies, chips and dip, I accepted his invite.

Arriving at [name withheld]'s apartment in late afternoon, I knew I was in for an interesting time. As I pulled into the parking lot, there about a dozen big dudes, all throwing the remnants of barbeque chicken bones across the road I just arrived on. I guess I was lucky they weren't done eating when I drove down the road.

As game time neared, we all hung out in the parking lot of my friend's run-down apartment (football players don't get paid, remember?). Much beer, chicken, and other assorted grilled meat were consumed, and yes, I even competed in a few chicken bone throwing contests.

Not surprisingly, my friend was completely at ease as the master of ceremonies. Apparently, what was risky and exciting to me was par for the course for him. He tossed chicken bones, drank like a champion long before Rothlisberger, bragged about the many women he slept with, and matter of factly yelled insults at two young ladies jogging down the street. I'll admit, a pillar of society he was not, but at least no one threw a chicken bone at the girls.

Of course, no interesting party around Florida State would be complete without a visit from Tallahassee's finest. When the cops eventually showed up, my friend casually told them we would calm down and be a tad less rowdy. Fortunately, the validity of his claim was never tested as the football game started shortly after the police visit.

As the Bucs and Raiders began play, my friend and I and the dozen or so others at the party all huddled into his small, barely furnished apartment to watch the game. Surprisingly, despite being in Florida, there were few, if any, Bucs fans at the party. Those who were there however might have been scared into silence after my friend claimed his admiration for the Raiders' Jerry Rice and placed his 9mm pistol on his coffee table with the declaration of "This is how I'm livin'". Who was I to argue?

During the game, the chaos, as predicted, was toned down, although most likely because the high quantities of alcohol we drank prior to kickoff were starting to sink in. Although I was quite buzzed, I was one of the lucky few not completely trashed and in a few cases, passed out.

As for the game itself, well, any sports fan can tell you former Seminole Brad Johnson led the Buc to victory and fellow former Seminole Dexter Jackson was named MVP. But few outside of the dozen or so people in attendance can tell you that former Seminole [name withheld] threw one hell of a Super Bowl party.

For more Super Bowl stories see MCBias's Moderately Cerebral Bias as he talks about rooting for the Patriots against the Rams and fellow blogger The Extrapolator shares football memories with several generations of Extrapolator kin folk. Also available is Dan from Foxborough's haunting memories of Desmond Howard and the Green Bay Packers and Signal to Noise discusses John Elway's rise to Super Bowl glory.

Take a moment and read some great bloggers and more importantly, enjoy your Super Bowl this year.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wu-Tang Clan in St. Petersburg, Florida 1/26/08

"Patience or forbearance is basically the Dhamma contrary to anger, which, in other words, is adosa - absence of anger. It is similar to the essence of metta, loving-kindness. In particular, what is said to have patience, is to be able to endure any kind of provocation and to remain calm without anger and doing evil."

"Khanti paramam tapo titikkha"

"Patience is the highest or best devotion"

Patience was definitely the word of the night Saturday night. After the doors of Jannus Landing finally opened at 7:30 (30 minutes after the tickets said doors would open), three hours would pass before the Wu-Tang Clan finally showed up. Three hours of listening to a local St. Pete DJ spinning the same songs I could have listened to in my car. Three hours of some local MCs trying to hype the crowd. Three hours of chanting "Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang". And three hours of standing in the rain, wondering if I wasted my 50 dollars on a band that isn't going to show.

Yes, I was that close to walking out. I was even on my way to find someone in charge to see if I can get a refund when the Wu-Tang bus finally pulled up. Finally.

(Note: This was only my third major hip-hop show as compared to dozens of rock shows. Hip-hop fans are much more patient. Rock fans would be booing, complaining, and probably rioting if their band didn't show. If hip-hop fans get rowdy, they are easily sedated with a old-school Biggie or Nas track. Get their heads nodding and they are good for another hour.)

So at nearly 11pm (10:50 to be exact), the Wu finally took the stage. Most of them. Unfortunately, possibly due to the inner turmoil in the group, the RZA didn't make the tour. In his place on stage were unofficial Wu members Cappadonna and Streetlife. Not bad substitutes, as they have verses on nearly Wu album anyway.

As for the show, when it finally started, it was amazing. As mentioned in other tour reviews, Method Man was the lead MC, hyping the crowd. Apparently the show was the last on the tour, and according to Method Man, they were ready to give 110%. That they did.

Even without RZA, the Wu were on top of their game. Surprisingly, and perhaps related to the fact that RZA was not there, they didn't perform any songs off their new album 8 Diagrams. They did songs off of Enter the 36 Chambers (Shame on a N***a, Bring the Ruckus, CREAM, Method Man, Can It Be All So Simple, Protect Ya Neck), Method Man's Tical (Bring the Pain, What the Bloodclot), Raekwon's Only Built for Cuban Linx (Ice Cream, Incarcerated Scarfaces), the GZA's Liquid Swords album (Duel of the Iron Mic, Liquid Swords), No Said Date from Masta Killa, and a song with Inspecta Deck and Masta Killa (Winter Warz?). Also making a guest appearance was Ol' Dirty Bastard's brother 12 O'Clock to rap Shimmy Shimmy Ya and Brooklyn Zoo.

Needless to say, I was impressed by the Wu-Tang Clan. Although I had seen it in concert footage, Method Man's trick of standing on the hands of fans is very impressive. Their overall energy is amazing and the vibe going back and forth from the group to the fans was electric.

Unfortunately, about an hour into the show, Method Man's mic began to give out. As I was halfway back in the crowd of perhaps 600 to 1,000 people, I could barely hear him. Finally realizing his mic was out, Method Man grabbed Masta Killa's mic, only to find out that was out as well. In turn, nearly every member of the Clan spoke into their mics and then looked at each piece of equipment with disgust. The Wu Tang Clan had been rendered silent by the evil power of St. Petersburg City Ordinance 754-G 11-64.1.b.2.c, which states:

1. Playing, using, operating or permitting to be played, used, or operated any radio, musical instrument, drum, compact disc or tape player, sound amplifier or other machine or device that produces, reproduces or amplifies musical sound within any building if such sound is for the purpose of entertainment or receiving information, or is used for that purpose and: i. In a commercial or an industrial area, Sunday through Thursday, except the day prior to a national holiday, between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. the following morning or on Fridays, Saturdays and the day prior to a national holiday, between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 8:00 a.m. the following morning, the sound exceeds an L50 sound level limit of 60 decibels measured in accordance with Section 11-65 at a receiving land use that is legally used for residential purposes regardless of whether it is situated in a residential area, commercial area or an industrial area.

By 12:07, the mighty Wu-Tang Clan had been completely silenced. Although Method Man attempted some accapella sing-alongs with those in the front rows, the only sound audible was the repeated chant of "Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang" by those who couldn't read Method Man's lips.

Overall, I give my first Wu-Tang Clan experience a Incomplete Minus (I-). Incomplete in that it would have been nice to hear the whole show from start to finish. The Wu definitely had potential and things were starting to get hyped. However, had the group not waited until nearly 11pm to arrive, perhaps they could have fit more songs in before midnight. Any disappointment should be blamed as much on the Wu-Tang Clan as on the ridiculous city ordinances of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Super Bowl Financial Favorite: Part 2

Three weeks ago, I examined the NFL playoff contenders by their potential effects on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Some had storied pasts of positive financial repercussions, others did not. Some had only one year of success to their name, and others I was left ranking by association.

Alas the field has been narrowed after weeks of contests, drama, and struggle, and we have finally come down to two: the New England Patriots versus the New York Giants. Of course, much will be made of the fact that the Giants are an original NFL team and the Patriots (formerly of Boston) are an original AFL team. As I did three weeks ago, many will discuss the Super Bowl Indicator, and its 80% success rate. But what lies in the numbers? What are the past results of the market following previous championships by these two teams? Should we really root against a historical season by the Patriots for the sake of the market?

In a word, yes.

Since 2002, the Patriots have been bad luck for the market. After New England won Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, the Dow Jones Industrial Average responded by dropping 16.8% from 10,021.71 to 8341.63. The S&P 500 also took a large fall, losing 23.3% from 1148.08 to 879.82.

Following their second championship in XXXVIII, the Patriots disproved the Super Bowl Indicator, and the DJIA increased from 10,452.74 to 10,783.01, a 3.1% gain. Like the Dow Jones, the S&P 500 also increased, climbing 8.3% from 1,111.92 to 1,211.92.

The Patriots most recent win in 2005's XXXIX however, proved the Patriots were not above the Super Bowl Indicator. Following their victory, the DJIA dropped, albeit by .7% from 10,783.75 to 10,717.50. The S&P 500, on the other hand, actually increased, going up 3% from 1,211.92 to 1,248.29.

So since 2002, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has followed Patriots wins with two decreases and one slight increase. The S&P 500 has followed the same Patriot championships with one major decrease, one average increase, and one slight increase.

Then what about the Giants? As I wrote earlier, "As expected from a team hailing from the home of Wall Street, the New York Giant Super Bowl victories precede good years for the Dow." Although their victory in Super Bowl XXI in 1987 brought little to cheer about, the DJIA did increase 2.2% and the S&P 500 climbed a likewise 2%.

The second and most recent Giants' Super Bowl victory, in 1991's Super Bowl XXV, on the other hand, preceded a very good year for Wall Street, with the Dow climbing 17% from 2633.66 to 3168.83 and the S&P 500 also going up by a worthwhile 11.1% clip, from 330.2 to 371.36.

On an added note, if the underdog Giants can pull off the upset and the market responds as it as for their previous victories, the Giants will join only the Redskins and the Packers as the only teams to see positive gains after three Super Bowl wins. And since the market's performance is sketchy at best, horrible at worst following a Patriots' win, the choice of who the market wants you to root for is clear.

Go Giants!

(Picture from: http://cf1.acc-tv.com/)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A toothed vagina. A beaver with bite. A muff with molars.

I've been on the look out for movies that will hold my interest. Last year, I mentioned "Ninja Cheerleaders", a movie that I called the "soon-to-be-greatest movie of 2007". This year I found something even better: "Teeth".

According to the synopsis: "High school student Dawn works hard at suppressing her budding sexuality by being the local chastity group's most active participant. Her task is made even more difficult by her bad boy stepbrother Brad's increasingly provocative behavior at home. A stranger to her own body, innocent Dawn discovers she has a toothed vagina when she becomes the object of violence. As she struggles to comprehend her anatomical uniqueness, Dawn experiences both the pitfalls and the power of being a living example of the vagina dentata myth."

 You read that right. A toothed vagina. A beaver with bite. A muff with molars. In case you can't get enough "Teeth", here is another review, and "Teeth"'s official IMDB page.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Santa Claus possibly killed in Kazakhstan crash?

According to reports, an unidentified flying object (UFO) was seen crashing into a Kazakhstan lake on Saturday, January 5th. One eyewitnesses, a local chief of a police, saw a "shining flying object" plunging into the Belaya River in the May district in the Pavlodar region. The police chief then reported it to "higher authorities".

Unfortunately for Christmas fans around the world, the jolly gentleman known as St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, may have been killed in the crash. With talk around the world that Santa Claus would better served if he moved his operations to Kazakhstan and the morning of January 6th being the 12th day of Christmas, it is only logical that Santa was in the area and that his sleigh made the hole in the ice. Of course, if this is true the Kazakhstan government would be and is possibly already in full denial mode. After spending countless dollars on festivals and naming a mountain after Mr. Claus, the last thing the Kazakhs would want is for Santa to be tragically killed in their country. Perhaps the denials have already started, as neither divers from the emergency situations department nor officers of the local sanitary and epidemic office claimed to find any evidence of a UFO.

My estimate is that Santa was returning from distributing gifts the day of January 5th and was scouting new production plant locations when his sleigh veered out of control and crashed into the Belaya River. Even if the Kazakhstan government fails to admit any evidence of the crash, I would still stand strong with my assumption. To those who would need to see the body to prove Santa's demise, I pose this question, every year Santa delivers gifts around the world, why aren't there any eyewitness reports? If no one sees him deliver gifts and he does, is it that large of a leap of faith to believe he died in a crash in a northeastern region of Kazakhstan?

So contrary to the claims of Kazakhstan ufologist Lyubov Rybalko, a UFO can indeed fall. Especially when misguided by eight tiny reindeer.

(h/t on the news of the crash: Kazakhstan Neweurasia.net. I alone am responsible for the theory on who or what it was that crashed.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

High Fidelity I hardly knew ye

Before Christmas Rolling Stone.com published an excellent article on the diminishing importance of quality sound in music as it becomes digitized and more portable. If you care anything about good sound, go read it. I'll wait.


Ok, now my personal opinion: I'm a music whore. I am always buying new CDs. I have well over 500 and counting. For some reason though I cannot seem to get into downloading music. Maybe it is because of bad experiences listening to the old "tinny" .midi files. Maybe because I have been convinced by the older generation that every progression of recording, from 45s to tapes to CD to MP3s, has made sound quality progressively worse. Maybe it is all just psychological.

Recently, however, I have even experienced a few CDs that just didn't sound right. The best example of this recently has been the new Down CD, Over the Under. This is not a bad CD, by any means, but it just doesn't sound right. For those not in the know, Down is one of the many bands spun off of Pantera, so they definitely have a hard-rock metal sound to them. The problem with this album however, is that it all sounds the same. In the Rolling Stone article they talk about loudness monotony and Over the Under is a great example. The songs just blend together and no part stands out. There is little sound variation. Whether or not that was the point of the album, which I doubt, this happens to me more and more often. Over the Under is just the last example.

To be honest, I am not sure whether I can pin a bad sounding album on the fidelity of a CD or an MP3 or any other kind of format. Maybe it is the production. Until recently, I've never been a big fan of acknowledging producers. However, producers getting hyped has become a huge trend in hip-hop and to an extent in rock as well. Apparently, big name producers all have a distinct sound to their albums. Again, this is more true in hip-hop than in rock. But in rock a producer can minimize or maximize a certain instrument or "depth" of sound. So of course, they play the same role. I still think producers are overrated.

(Disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of lyrics. You can give me an old blues man strumming on an acoustic guitar on the corner or a rapper freestyling over the sound of a dishwasher humming and I'm happy as long as they are passionate and their lyrics grab my interest.)

Ok, I'll stop babbling now. But before I go, I ask that you read that Rolling Stone link and take a moment the next time you turn on the tunes to think how much better, clearer, and crisper your music could be. If only we all still listened to the old Victrolas. Hook those bad boys up to a wall of speakers and you got yourself a system.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

My Super Bowl Financial Favorite

In this season of endorsements and primaries, I am following the example of many bloggers and announcing my favorite well in advance of the final contest. Unlike other supporters however, I am not endorsing an individual who battles in the political arena, but rather I am backing a group of individuals - those who battle for gridiron supremacy.

By now, many in the sports and financial communities are aware of the "Super Bowl Indicator". Created in part by "longtime Wall Street guru" Robert H. Stovall, the Super Bowl Indicator claims "if an old AFL team wins the Super Bowl, the stock market will decline during that calendar year and if an original NFL team wins, the Dow Jones industrial average will rise". Although some pundits have sought to debunk this predictor, it still carries an over 80% success rate.

As the NFL playoffs begin at the end of this week, and with ten of the twelve 2008 playoff teams tracing their roots to original AFL or NFL franchises, I've decided to pick my favorite based on which team's victory would be best for my portfolio. The following list ranks the teams from most dangerous to my financial well-being to most favorable. (Note: market performance percentages are from the year of the Super Bowl victory, not the year of the NFL championship.)

12. New England (originally Boston) Patriots - Despite a positive gain (3.1%) for the stock market after their last win in 2004, the best team in NFL is bad news for the stock market, with their championship in 2005 preceding a .8% decrease and their 2002 championship preceding a 16.8% decrease in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

11. San Diego Chargers - Although they don't have the history of the Patriots, the Chargers are an original AFL team and cannot be trusted.

10. Tennessee Titans - The Titans could very well be ranked equivalent to the Chargers, however, in 1997, they shed their original existence as the Houston Oilers and moved to Tennessee. Their relocation does not exempt them from being a potential curse on my early retirement, it only bumps them above the original AFL teams that kept their identities.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars - One of two 1995 expansion teams, the Jaguars play in the AFC and therefore are guilty by association. Without any positive history to the contrary, I cannot trust the Jaguars with the future of my finances.

8. Indianapolis (originally Baltimore) Colts - Although not an original AFL team, the Colts' affiliation to their current conference does put them in bad company. However, they are provided a respite thanks to recent history. Perhaps their realignment after the AFL-NFL merger can explain why 2007 was such an extremely volatile year in the stock market, with numerous triple-digit gains and losses, mortgage industry problems, rising oil prices, and a downtrodden housing market. Despite the inconsistency, the Dow Jones did conclude the year 6.43% higher.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers - Similar to the Colts, the Steelers are also not an original AFL team, having similarly moved from the NFL to the AFC. The franchise's roots may explain the market's friendliness to Steelers' championships. For example, following Steelers' victories, the market climbed 27% after 1974, 15% after 1975, 4% after 1978, 13% after 1979, and 14% after 2006. Despite these successes and subsequent market performances, as a current AFC team, the Steelers remain a risk.

6. Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawks are the opposite of the aforementioned Jacksonville Jaguars. An expansion team in 1976, the Seahawks have not yet won a Super Bowl. However, because of their association with other NFC teams, a Seahawks' championship would be preferred over other less stock-friendly candidates.

5. Dallas Cowboys - A five-time Super Bowl winning original NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys have followed the Super Bowl Indicator's 80% success rate, forbearing four gains and one losing year for the Dow. After a 12.9% increase in the Dow Jones Industrial following their 1971 championship, the Cowboys preceded a 3% decrease six years later. The 1970s would bring an end to the Cowboy inconsistency however, as the team preceded a 10.4% increase after 1992, a 2.1% increase after 1993, and a 17.6% increase after they won it all in 1995. Despite these recent gains however, rooting for the Cowboys is a risk until the appearance schedule of Jessica Simpson is determined.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Although not an original NFL team, the Tampa Bay Bucs were the forbearers of one of the most successful years in recent Dow Jones Industrial Average history. Following their sole Super Bowl Championship in 2003, the market soared 23.93%.

3. New York Giants - As expected from a team hailing from the home of Wall Street, the New York Giant Super Bowl victories precede good years for the Dow. Following their 1986 championship, the Dow Jones Industrial increased 2.2% and after their 1990 championship, the Dow increased another 16.9%.

2. Washington Redskins - An original NFL team, the Washington Redskins have won three championships in the last 26 years. In those years (1982, 1987, and 1991) the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gone up following each victory, increasing 16.9%, 10%, and 4% respectively. Despite three positive returns after three Redskins' championships, these returns have decreased, discounting them has the best team to root for during the 2007 playoffs.

1. Green Bay Packers - Like the Redskins, the Packers are also an original NFL team. Unlike Washington, however, the Green Bay Packers have been the most consistent favorite of the Dow. Following the Packers' three Super Bowl Championships, the market has increased, gaining 6.2% in 1967, 9.4% in 1968, and 18.6% in 1997. With increasing positive gains after each Packers' title, the market has shown its love for the team from Green Bay. And any love of the market is a friend of mine.

The Green Bay Packers have my endorsement in the 2007 NFL Playoffs.

Go Pack.

Primary Sources:
Super Bowl Stock Superstition, Forbes.com.

Can a Super Bowl Victory Predict a Stock Market Rally? T. Rowe Price Investor, December 2007.

The Super Bowl Indicator, Snopes.com

AFL-NFL Merger, Wikipedia.org

Wall Street Wraps Up 07 in Somber Mood, Yahoo.com

Dow Jones Industrial Adjusted Close, data360.org (used for 1967 and 1968 data only).

Image from dennisflood.com.