Posts Tagged Current Events

Mixed Martial Arts

How, and more importantly why, has this sport over the last fifteen years become so popular that people wear tee shirts showing the splattered winner’s faces and set up viewing parties at home?  One answer that I’ve read explains that it all began in New York city with formation of the something called the UFC, Ultimate Fighting Championships.  But Wikipedia presents a slightly different explanation, one that may be related to the David Mamet film, Red Belt.  It claims it all started in So Cal with the famous Brazilian martial arts family, the Gracies in collaboration with film maker John Milius. 

Whatever its origins, I personally hold it started with the Romans and probably explains the popularity of such weak film fare as Gladiator.   1993 seems to be the beginning of the current phenomenon.  According to the history of the UFC, gathering enthusiastic competitors from all kinds of fighting sports, the spectacles quickly became competitive events fought in an arena shaped like an Octagon.


The octagonal competition mat and cage design are registered trademarks and/or trade dress of Zuffa, LLC and are symbolic of the highest quality mixed martial arts events brought to you under the Ultimate Fighting Championship® brand name.  In 1993, UFC events were the first to feature an eight-sided competition configuration which has become known worldwide as the UFC Octagon™
The UFC Octagon is unique from any other fighting arena because the octagonal shape and structure have become inherently associated with Zuffa and the UFC brand name among mixed martial arts consumers, other mixed martial arts organizations and the national media.  The UFC Octagon is regularly featured on UFC Pay-per-view events, UFC® Fight Night™ and The Ultimate Fighter® reality TV series.  The UFC Octagon creates a neutral arena to showcase the skills of UFC mixed martial arts athletes. The UFC organization has established a reputation for providing the maximum safety to the fighters with commission approved ring structures, canvas, and all safety padding and fences.  Zuffa makes major investments to ensure the safety of competitors in the UFC Octagon — as a result, when people see the Octagon they associate it with the reputation and quality delivered only by Zuffa at UFC events.  
Add Las Vegas, males aged 18-34 and their companions, to beer drinking, football loving, and bet craziness and real Americans have apparently found their match.  Fight clubbing, clamoring for more wars, as long as they don’t actually have to enlist, the current followers of this sport brook no interference to their “god-given” right to watch other people beat themselves into bloody unconsciousness.  And then they sit idly by, as Micheal Vick is sent to jail.
What is it in our psychological makeup that somehow does see this violence for what it is?  In this dissertation, I found the following to be of interest:
Ernest Becker is a psychologically oriented anthropologist who focuses on fear of physical death as the mainspring of human behavior. He sees himself as continuing to develop Jung’s idea of the projection of the shadow, but he very emphatically argues that this shadow that is projected is a rejected awareness of one’s mortality. Because human beings are animals, we are mortal. But we also have highly developed brains that give us an ability to be self-conscious and to anticipate the future. We can see that death is our eventual fate, but because we are animals who are basically narcissistic, we want to be immortal. This clash between what we want and what we know is coming overwhelms us. It disturbs us so much that we invent all sorts of personal and social lies in our efforts to somehow pretend that we are immortal. One of the lies we tell ourselves is that if we can triumph over our enemies, we can rise above the limitations of our condition. We can project the shadow, that awareness of our mortality that we have repressed into our unconscious, onto the enemies or the scapegoats we attack in an attempt to prove that they will die and we will not. At root, violence against others is an effort to avoid facing one’s own mortality with existential honesty and courage.
Which brings to mind the film Rollerball and the conflict between the Oligarchs who run/own the games (See Las Vegas) and the players like Jonathan E who enjoy the competition for its own sake.
Am I getting anywhere with all of this?  Will any of what I think change the yearly income of millions this pay-per-view event earns or shift the viewers to whom I appeal for rationality to another choice?  Probably not.  Do I wish someone would comment on my original question?  Most def.

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Banks and how they work

It was quite a while ago but I still remember it.  My small family, three kids and a wife, was finally making a go of it in San Diego.  I had quit college and found a job as a delivery truck driver.  We had a two bedroom apartment in Hillcrest from which I walked to work every day.  I sort of liked it since it was down 6th Avenue along Balboa Park and only three miles one way.  It was walking home uphill that sometimes wore me down.  Anyway, we had caught up on our bills, this was before god gave us all credit cards, and even saved up $100 which we had in a savings account at B of A.  It was coming up on Spring when we, my wife and I, decided maybe we could afford a car but we needed a little help with the down payment so I went into the bank to ask for a loan.  That was when I learned how banks work.  No was the answer.  I didn’t have a long enough work history, a year and a half, and I didn’t make enough, $2.12 an hour, to justify the bank taking a chance on me.  I was stunned.  But not as much as I was this morning when I opened up my LA Times to find out that those very same banks that refused me then are getting theirs now.  

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How the sub-prime mess relief works

It is a complex problem and strangely enough the government has come up with a rather simple method for taking care of it.  All you have to do if you are one of the thousands of motgage holders who are at risk is pass a simple set of tests that will allow you to qualify for the Fast Track Rate Freeze Plan.

Test One – Your current FICO score must be below, yes that’s right, below 660.  I know, after years of being concerned about that score not being high enough, you must now show that indeed you do, and probably did not, qualify for the loan you now hold.  The idea behind picking that score apparently is that if you are at 660 or above you could solve your problem by re-financing.  Good luck with that and caveat emptor, too.

Test Two – To obtain an expedited rate freeze, you must be “current” on your mortgage.  Here, two standards may apply: You aren’t more than 30 days behind right now and haven’t been more than 60 days late in the last 12 months or you aren’t more than 60 days late now and haven’t been more than 90 days late in the past year.  So the term “current” in this context means that you have, but barely, been keeping up somehow and that is good proof that helping you will in fact help you.

Test Three – The LTV test measures you current loan-to-value ratio, another way of saying how much equity do you have in the property.  Here again lower is better.  3% or lower and you qualify, any higher and somehow this means you are less likely to default and you might even qualify for a refinance plan.  This by the way, this constant referring to refinancing, is the elephant in the room.  This whole plan is voluntary but what is in it for the lender and the loan industry is that all of this refi action comes with a cost that presumably will be added to your new mortgage package and end up in the pocket of those very nice folks who are so willingly helping you out.

Tests Four and Five – The mortgage has to be on your permanent residence and your monthly payment must be scheduled to increase by 10% at the reset.

Pass all 5 tests and you are almost there.  The only thing left is that your mortgage servicer must also believe that you would default without the rate freeze, then you are in and supposedly safe for two more years.

So here’s my take on all this.  Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.  Even if you have equity up to 10%, you still may be better off defaulting on the loan. 

Here’s why:  This is a wake up call for you and the real estate industry.  You haven’t been able to afford this property and if you truly look at your financial future you might never be able to qualify for it as long as two things stay constant.  One, as of now our rate of pay in the US is not keeping up with the inflation rate.  How are you doing in this regard?  Two, real estate prices are and have been based on the belief that real estate value will continue to increase by rates of up to 10% a year.  Do you really believe that it is in your best interest to continue supporting this idea?  Take the opportunity, yes, I said opportunity, that  this situation has provided and do some research.  Who knows maybe you’ll come up with a more affordable future.

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Omega, man

Science fiction is a curious craft to be sailing in these days.  We are in our own future, right now, nanotech, genentech, abound.  So watching the current version of I Am Legend, resonates with the currency of the debate over gene research and the Religious Right’s insistence that such research goes against god’s plan.  I recall the effect on my thinking when I saw the Omega Man version of this story.  Charlton Heston as the ultimate American hero willing to die, like a Christ figure, for what he believed in, and of course to save the human race.  It was uplifting, and, as we saw Heston’s Robert Neville character crucified, so subtle as a reminder of our christian roots.

But that’s the thing folks.  We all aren’t Christians here in the human race though it is easy to see how our culture is rooted in it.  We all aren’t any one thing except human.   And even that comes into question when we read about the atrocious inhumanities that occur everyday everywhere between supposedly human counterparts.

So in the end, this current version of the same old story, though tautly told and acted, doesn’t provide us anything new in the way of answers, which is what I really expect when I get on board the ship, “What would happen if?” 

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Another List, or two

I love to make lists:

  • books I want to read
  • authors I want to
  • bike rides I want to take
  • bike rides I want to take again and again

I love to make lists and then go back and check things off.  It feels like I am being so productive and actually I am.  I need to make lists in order to be productive otherwise even though I do things somehow I don’t count them unless they were on a list somewhere.  So sometimes I’ll go back and add them to a previous list as a sub-category.  That way my personal adding-up-the-work machine gives me credit and I can feel all organized and, like I said, productive.

Another thing about making lists is that I can use them to get somewhere in my thinking and then somewhere in my doing.  A list can start out randomly:

take time to read, go for a run, do the bills, set up the calendar for next month, research the difference between a 401k, a Roth IRA, and an IRA., work on the Corp stuff . . .

Then I can work the list into a time or a priority framework: 

  1. set up the calendar for next month
  2. go for a run
  3. work on the Corp stuff
  4. take time to read
  5. research the difference between/amongst a 401k, Roth IRA, and an IRA
  6. do the bills

Once I’ve taken a list this far, I usually let it jell while I start on item #1.  Oh yeah, I should add that I may start this whole process by going back to previous lists to make sure everything got checked off.  If something is still undone, I like to think about why that happened.  (Like most humans, I am pretty good at procrastinating.)  And if it’s still important, I’ll add it to the new list.

Listing is also an excellent way to work out my thoughts when I am writing.  This is especially useful when I am trying to describe some object or event without using the same old . . .

Same, familiar, familiar idea, repeat reference, . . .

Old, not new, rusty, dusty, tired, lifeless,

without using the rusty, dusty, tired phrasing of old.

So now it’s time to put together a list for real.

  1. Write a post a day
  2. Work at least an hour a day on the Corp and Real Estate businesses
  3. Ride my bike out into the beautiful California sunshine and up hill and down dale remembering that line from Anyone lived in a pretty how town by ee cummings
  4. Research how to blog better on the internet
  5. Be home when T. gets home so that we can spend more and more time together
  6. Read those library books
  7. Stay calm during “getmass”

Meanwhile, here are some lifehacks you might enjoy:

  • J.D. at getrichslowly wrote of his inner conflict while reviewing his friend’s new book on personal finance.
  • If you’re as puzzled as I about this coming election, maybe this cute calculator can help you out.
  • And finally, at Millionaire Mommy, after polling her readers, she posts some excellent referrents with which to connect up with the personal finance community on-line.

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Just Don’t Say No, You Know?

So it turns out that reverse psyche is still the operative format by which we get things done.  No, to our brains, actually means yes.  And that’s why it is so damn hard to get things done.  We were told to just say no to drugs, yet all the indicators: size of the busts, wealth of the drug dealers, budget growth of the policing forces, number of drug related imprisonments, and the size of our fear of changing this policy; have grown.  Turns out that maybe we should have just been saying yes.

Or look at our misguided attempt to reform educational policy.  Ask yourself, are our school kids performing better since the implementation of No Child Left Behind?

What about our numerous dieting books, regimens, and advice columns that shout – Don’t eat this, don’t eat that?  Are they working well here in the land of the fat?

No is the big NO NO, you know?  So I say just say know.

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Bonus points – Reward or Lure

As usual, the sky is bright with sunshine and blue as far as I can see.  But as John Barth once so ably noted in his novel, The Floating Opera, bad things can happen on good looking days.  These days I feel clotted in the brain as I try to analyze the incoming data.  In market analysis after market analysis, the odds favor a coming economic depression while the market itself rockets up one day and plummets down the next.  Meanwhile, from my perspective this holiday season is serving to illuminate our current dilemma.  Spend or not to spend that is the question.

My mailboxes, both literal and viral, have been flooded with reward offers that ask me to double my points while using my great credit to buy more stuff.  The pressure is on and it is real because we all face the choice.  If we continue to spend, buy, use credit, then the free market economy of which we are a part will continue to flourish.  We will all be safe, employed, and rosy in our futures.  But if we continue to spend, to invest in our futures by buying into our present, then how can we adhere to the main idea of frugality, spend less earn more?

This is really what it means to be stuck on the horns of a dilemma.  The way our economy is designed, we need to continue consuming in order for it to survive.  But for us to survive, we need to develop an economy that is built around the idea of sustainability.  Instead of built in obsolescence, we need designed to last.  Instead of get-rich-quick, we need to recognize when enough is enough.

Somehow, we need to recognize what is going on right now as an economic warning signal to rethink without the politics, to plan without the avarice, and to use the opportunity to come together instead of growing further and further apart.

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