Monthly Archives: January 2010

Jordi’s Review of the RJD2 concert in Tampa, 1/14/2010

Hey, folks. Here is another post-concert webcast. Although I am only now posting it on here, it has been on YouTube since the night of the show. By the way, I think I am getting a little better at talking to the camera.

Quick reminder: if you haven’t already, you can check out “The Jordi Scrubbings Channel” on YouTube.

Coming soon: posts on overseas athletes, NASCAR and the United Nations, and mathematically breaking down the ability of a single guy to keep his apartment clean.

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The Rise and Fall of a Florida Wrestling Organization

A few weeks ago, I introduced a documentary that the fine webmaster of Wrestling911.com was doing on a recently closed wrestling organization in the Tampa area. This documentary, entitled “The Rise and Fall of PWe”, is now on YouTube.

Here are links to each chapter:

Chapter 1 – The History of Pro Wrestling Eklipse – Introduction

Chapter 2 – PWE Originals and New Talent

Chapter 3 – Leadership

Chapter 4 – The Ring

Chapter 5 – JoBob’s Fight Club

Chapter 6 – The Hybrid Championship

Chapter 7 – Josh Rayne

Chapter 8 – The Gangstas vs. The James Boys

Chapter 9 – The Irish Blood Bath

Chapter 10 – The Ultra Violent Title

Chapter 11 – The Screw Job

Chapter 12 – What Could Have Been Done Differently?

I definitely recommend taking a look at at least one of these chapters. The filmmaker did a really good job, especially being that this was his first foray into documentary making. As Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” showed, the majority of the pro wrestling business takes place far, far away from the fame and fortune of the WWE. PWe might have only been a blip on the radar, and perhaps only a few dedicated fans might have seen it from its inception, but for the wrestlers there it represented many hours of sweat, blood, and tears. This is not only the story of a failed wrestling organization, it is also the story of those performers, and it deserves to be heard.

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Jay Electronica, 5% Influence, and Lyrical Jahiliyya

jay-electronicaThanks to the excellent recommendations of Mizzo and several others, I’ve been recently checking out underground hip-hop artist Jay Electronica (download his unofficial album here). Vastly different from the materialistic, pop-friendly, bling-heavy blather permeating hip-hop radio (how many songs about money can there possibly be?), Jay Electronica drops introspective, socially conscious hip-hop with a great flow and a knack for realistic storytelling.

On his song “Exhibit C”, a song widely considered one of the best of 2009, Jay Electronica brings an old theme back into hip-hop, the thoughts and theories of the 5% Nation of Islam. Although I am not sure if Jay Electronica is an official 5%’er, throughout Exhibit C, Electronica mentions that he is supposed to “educate and 85′er”, “Allah through your monitor”, and that he is “bringing ancient mathematics back to modern man”. All of these phrases were the norm during what many call the “golden years of hip-hop”, the era between 1989 and 1995 when New York ruled the hip-hop scene and artists from Rakim to Nas to the Wu-Tang Clan ruled the airwaves.

In Islamic culture, the term ” Jahiliyya” is used to describe a state of ignorance, especially in regards to worship and acknowledgment of God. According to Islamic history, the people of Arabia were in a state of jahiliyya before they were presented with the Word of God. They drank, fought, had no higher belief, and lived generally directionless, God-less lives. Then, according to the Qur’an, Muhammad came with the Word of God and helped them shed their barbaric ways.

Like the ancient Arabians, hip-hop before the late 1980s was somewhat directionless. There were some established groups, such as Run DMC, and there were a lot of groups and rappers known throughout the urban underground music scenes, but hip-hop was struggling to make an impact on mainstream culture. Then came the Golden Age of Hip Hop.

Few would disagree that this era of NY hip-hop was influenced by the tenets of the 5% Nation of Islam (see this article: Islam in the Mix: Lessons of the 5%). The Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet of the 5% mantra provided a guide to many rappers, from solo artists such as Rakim to collective groups such as the Wu-Tang Clan and the Native Tongues (the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and a Tribe Called Quest). These rappers frequently made mention of “suns and earths”; “arm, leg, leg, arm, head” (ALLAH); and the “uneducated 85%”. For these rappers and their fans, rap was not the black CNN that Chuck D of Public Enemy famously said it was. It was the black Al Jazeera, a news network catering to a community with a specific religious lifestyle.

As the 90s drew to a close, hip-hop quickly became more mainstream. As it did, artists who did not use religious context grew more prominent. From 1995 to 2000, the religious doctrine of the 5%ers all but faded from the airwaves and mainstream hip-hop. In its place emerged more commercially friendly, less socially challenging tales of crime and violence, glitz and glamour propagated  by rappers such as Puff Daddy, Notorious B.I.G., Fat Joe, and Jay-Z.

Led by these secular rappers, hip-hop in late 1990s would grow into a billion-dollar business. Soon rap scenes throughout the country would stake their claim in the hip-hop landscape. Although the LA rap scene had always been strong, rappers were making names for themselves from cities such as Atlanta (Outkast), New Orleans (Master P), and St. Louis (Nelly). Much to the dismay of hip-hop nostalgists, this new wave of mainstream hip-hop (which continues to today) did not concern itself with the social consciousness and philosophic undertones of its predecessors. New hip-hop was either pop friendly or soaked in the idolation of materialism. Although the Wu-Tang Clan maintained prominence, they were one of the few, as a new era of jahiliyya descended onto hip-hop .

There is no question the 5% dogma had an impact on late 80s-early 90s hip-hop. The question of what happened next, however, is the age-old “chicken or the egg” dilemma.  Did commercialism, complete with the simplicity and ignorance of catering to the lowest common denominator, kill off hip-hop’s religious references? Did money make it more advantageous to quote movies such as The King of New York than to cite religious doctrine?

Or did the hip-hop community merely run out of philosophical-minded rappers? Was their message not as influential as they believed? Did 5% Nation of Islam membership decline as the national economy grew and America prospered? Was all that needed to be said said between 1989 and 1995?

If the latter, could a dogma once again influence hip-hop enough to make a genre-wide difference? Or would political correctness allow the bog of corporate materialism to suffocate hip-hop? Could there be a reluctance to embrace philosophical lyrics in mainstream rap, especially those mentioning Allah? Could the continued lyrical jahiliyya be the combined result of a paranoid post-9/11 buying public, the formulaic processing of corporate America, and collective community disinterest?

There is no doubt mainstream hip-hop has been mired in lyrical jahiliyya for over a decade.  According to Adisa Banjoko, in his book Lyrical Swords: Hip Hop and Politics in the Mix, Unless we rid Hip Hop of all its Jahiliyya elements, we can only expect more sharp minded but misguided youth to perish over territorialism, materialism, and the pursuit of the sensual path.

Perhaps Jay Electronica is the beginning of a new trend. A new social and lyrical awakening. Perhaps he is the one who will bring insight, knowledge, and thought out of the underground and back into mainstream hip-hop.

If only he would release an official album.

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Comparing the page views of Rays Index and MetsBlog

Although I don’t write as much about sports as I used to, I still read my share of sports blogs. I still follow the Seminoles, Rays, Mets, and Knicks through both fan blogs and mainstream media sites. Two of my favorite of these sites ended 2009 with very similar posts that showed some interesting differences.

Over at Rays Index, the almighty Professor gave a hearty thank you to his readers for year well done. According to the Prof, Rays Index received 1.1 million page views in 2009.

Over at MetsBlog.com, founder Matt Cerrone also wrote a year-end post and mentioned he was on pace for six million page views in December 2009.

(Interestingly, both sites said they had huge increases in readership over 2008′s totals, 40% for Rays Index and 80% for MetsBlog. Meanwhile, newspapers are going the way of the dodo. Oh, in case you are curious, my old site, TheSeriousTip.com, received only 250,000 hits in its 3 years of existence.)

If the numbers given by Cerrone and the Professor are correct, in one month MetsBlog.com received almost six times the amount of page views that Rays Index got for all of 2009 – that’s 72x the page views for the entire year.

Of course, there are some legit reasons for this. MetsBlog.com the flagship fan blog for a New York City-based team. New York City has well over 10 million people. That’s a lot of potential viewers in possibly the world’s biggest media market. Not to mention, MetsBlog.com is associated with SNY, New York’s newest sports and entertainment television network.

Then there is Cerrone’s fanbase. New York is one of the more online cities in the world. I would also venture a guess that many of Cerrone’s core readers are Met fans who became fans during the Mets glory years of the late ’80s and are currently early-30s, late-20s professionals leading the business world into the Internet age.

Rays Index, on the other hand, isn’t quite the flagship blog of Rays fans. Although there is a growing Rays blogosphere, there are two primary Rays fan blogs, Rays Index and the more statistical-based, stat geek-run DRaysBay. Rays Index is the more snarky, less-pretentious, more down-to-earth alternative. Personally, I read and am a fan of both.

(Disclaimer: I’ve met the bloggers from both sites. Whereas The Professor and I shot the breeze over a beer, the guys that write for DRaysBay had no interest in chatting as they were too busy shadowing (or was it sucking up to) Will Carroll of BaseballProspectus.com.)

Rays Index also caters to a much smaller market without the depth and fanbase legacy. The Tampa Bay Rays’ market, if you really stretch it, could include from Orlando to Sarasota to Tampa to St. Pete-Clearwater, and tops out at probably 5-6 million people. That’s half of MetsBlog’s guaranteed, local, direct market. From a legacy perspective, the Rays as a team also don’t have the history, of success or otherwise, that the Mets have, although I bet if you compare Rays Index’s page views from 2007 to the present, you will see a large increase (More than MetsBlog’s 80% increase? Tough call.). And finally, to my knowledge, Rays Index doesn’t have a partnership with a major entertainment company.

I’m not sure why I just wrote nearly 500 words comparing the page views of a major market flagship fan blog with a fan blog in a minor market. I guess the fact that one receives 72x the annual hits of the other blew me away.

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Jordi’s Review of Obituary Live in Tampa, 1/8/2010

Here is my latest foray into webcasting. I’ll admit, I am not very good at it yet. I think I come off a little wooden (I hope I am not this stiff in real life). Anyway, today I talk about my first experience checking out the local Tampa death metal scene and a concert featuring the bands Headless Missionary, Destined to Ruin, Unkempt, and Obituary.

The more I do these webcasts, the better I think I’ll get. If you notice, this is the first time I incorporated some special effects. Anyway, thanks for being patient.

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Using culture and patterns to stop cybercrime

While perusing through one of my Florida State University magazines, I found an interesting article on how FSU is one of the leading universities in researching cybercrime prevention and investigating tools.

(Do other schools send their valued, cherish, and celebrated alumni a library of magazines and newsletters? I think it is awesome.)

As part of the write-up on the FSU cybercrime program, there was a side story (sorry, I forgot the official name of these mini-articles) on a super password finder hacker program the university has created. According to the article, the FSU password cracker is nearly twice as good at deciphering passwords than popular open-source programs.

What makes the FSU password cracker different and more effective is that it uses culture, patterns, and probabilities to calculate solutions. According to the article,

Basically, what sets Aggarwal’s program apart from all other password crackers is that its algorithms are based on what people actually do when they create a password, rather than what they could do-namely, create a password that is genuinely unique and thereby almost impossible to break.

Aggarwal’s team was able to determine the grammatical patterns and a variety of other user habits (e.g. adding a “1,” a “2″ or a “3″ at the end of a four-letter name) that they gleaned from analyzing over 100,000 old passwords amassed from a number of sources. One of the biggest batches they got their hands on was a list of 67,000 passwords that hackers stole from MySpace.com, for example.

I think this is fascinating – using our everyday culture in the algorithms used to predict the codes of criminals. To be honest, I don’t think I have ever created a password that didn’t follow some sort of grammatical convention.

Hopefully, this technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, I’d be screwed.

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When will the National Rifle Association offer to help sports leagues?

education_imgAlthough I am a supporter of the National Rifle Association, I am extremely critical of them. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I think they do a horrible job of reaching out to people outside of their stereotypical demographic. Unfortunately, because the NRA seemingly only targets (no pun intended) white, suburban/rural, middle class supporters, other groups outside their demographic are not usually influenced by the largest gun group in America. Although some may argue that the lack of the NRA’s influence is a good thing and that if given a larger role, the NRA would only promote the repeal of gun laws, I disagree. Along with being the foremost lobby group, the NRA is also the premiere gun education and safety organization in the US.

In the wake of the Gilbert Arenas gun debacle, the time is now for the NRA to reach out to organizations it doesn’t normally associate with. What the NRA should absolutely do is reach out to the NBA, NFL, MLB, and any other sports leagues and offer to teach instruction classes on safe and proper gun ownership, handling, and transport. This would benefit not only the athletes, but also the leagues and the NRA itself.

Benefit to athletes:

Overall, if the NRA would start teaching athletes the right way to handle guns, maybe we would start seeing less incidents such as those that occurred to Arenas, Sebastian Telfair, Stephen Jackson, Plaxico Burress, or former Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer.

(Wow. Check out what Switzer did back in 1997. According to reports, “a loaded .38-caliber revolver was found in his carry-on baggage at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.” I’m sure that’s impossible these days.)

If possible, the NRA should teach courses not only to active players now, but also as part of the indoctrination seminars leagues have for new players – where players are warned about groupies, instructed on finances, taught how to talk to the media, etc. This would lay the groundwork for a change in behavior. If the players opt not to own a gun, that’s their choice. But for those that do chose to own and carry, at least they are instructed the right way.

Benefit to the Leagues:

Currently the NBA and NFL have made statements and enacted policies that are fairly anti-gun. However, this has not stopped the flow of incidents. If the athletes aren’t listening to suggestions that they shouldn’t carry, then the leagues should implement courses to help them carry and own the right way. Allowing the NRA to instruct athletes would help the leagues. First and foremost, from a public relations perspective, it would hopefully reduce the number of embarrassing incidents. From a legal perspective, it may also give the leagues more leverage to use against a player if they do commit a crime with a gun. If a player attends a league-approved, NRA-taught course and still finds themselves on the wrong side of the law, the league could state the player was taught and hence should have known better.

(This would alleviate situations such as Arenas “not knowing” he couldn’t bring guns into the locker room or that he needed to follow the laws and guidelines of Washington, DC. Ignorance of the law, especially in this case, is almost laughable.)

Benefit to the NRA:

As I stated in the introduction, there is a definite benefit for the NRA to reach out and assist the NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues. Teaching athletes would expose the NRA to a brand new audience, to include many people who never heard of the organization. The NRA would also benefit from the positive press it would get for attempting to reduce high profile gun crime. If they promote themselves right, after they get an arrangement with one league, the positive press would lead to other leagues signing up, which would only continue to show the NRA in a positive light.

The NRA takes pride in its instructors. They are ambassadors of the organization. Nothing would benefit the NRA more than to showcase these instructors teaching the most high profile athletes in the world.

Epilogue: I emailed the NRA blog webmasters and asked them if they had or are planning to reach out to professional sports leagues. So far I have not received a response.

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Counterpoint: Bobby Bowden is Florida State University

(Originally posted on ScalpEm.com)

Yesterday, NoleCC posted a lengthy piece on why he was opposed to people saying statements such as “Bobby Bowden is FSU” or “Bobby Bowden made FSU”. He claims Florida State University would have been Florida State University even if Robert Cleckler Bowden had never stepped foot on campus. According to NoleCC,

It bothers me that players and media alike want to minimize what a great university Florida State is academically and culturally by chalking up the success and fame of FSU to ONLY the football program.

NoleCC uses his own experiences as a student to make the point that because his enrollment was in no way shaped by Bobby Bowden, then no student’s was. This is a faulty premise. As a matter of fact, there is even a chance NoleCC is completely wrong. According to NoleCC, “FSU was in major transition with renovations going on everywhere“. From the late 1980s to 2000s, what was the university’s biggest cash cow? The football team, of course. The Bobby Bowden-led Seminoles were the catalyst that drove the entire university to upgrade in 1990s. From the T.K. Wetherell Building and the University Center surrounding the former Giant Erector set that was Doak Campbell Stadium, to the medical school, to Strozier Library, I doubt any facility was constructed or improved without some contribution from the athletic department.

Think about this, even in its most simplest terms, had the football team not done well, and had Doak Campbell not been upgraded, perhaps the registrar and admissions office might still be in the Westcott  Building. The upgrade in administrative capability allowed the school to handle more students, students who chose FSU over Florida, USF, or UCF. Bobby Bowden is the reason these students were able to go to FSU.

There is no doubt athletically we owe our school’s reputation to Bobby Bowden. There is a lot of prestige that comes with being a top-5 football team for 15 years. Without Bobby Bowden, we might have had the crossover talent in other sports that we had. There would have been no Deion Sanders playing baseball or Charlie Ward playing basketball. No Charlie Ward playing basketball means no tournament appearance in the early 90s and the money that brought in.

Although I see where NoleCC is coming from and yes, many students may have chosen to come to FSU based strictly on academics or programs or opportunities or maybe even the beautiful landscape of Tallahassee. But, then again, some also have chosen FSU because Jim Morrison of The Doors went there (ex. the lead singer of Creed). However, if not for Bobby Bowden, the university they enrolled in would be a completely different place. To put it bluntly, it would be a middle-of-the-road university far overshadowed in all but a few areas by other state colleges. Basically, it would have been the University of Central Florida.

Florida State University is the Florida State University it is today because of Bobby Bowden. He is, directly or indirectly, Florida State University.

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My Addiction To To-Do Lists

Today over at the Freakonomics Blog, economist and acclaimed author Steven Levitt discussed a book entitled “The Checklist Manifesto“. Although I haven’t read it, and it does sound interesting (hint: my birthday is in nine months), here is what a reviewer on Amazon.com says about it,

The author’s key message is that the volume and complexity of knowledge today has exceeded any single individual’s ability to manage it consistently without error despite material advances in technology, boatloads of more training and super-specialization of functions and responsibilities.

I am big user of checklists and to-do lists. Most of my daily events and tasks are driven by a list. My list creating has gotten to the point that I have lists all over my apartment. There are lists of things to do, lists of groceries to buy, lists of people to call, I even have lists of lists to throw away. I wonder sometimes if my life is the epitome of the volume and complexity discussed in “The Checklist Manifesto”.

Is my life so complex that I have to have two, three, or even six to-do lists actively floating around? I do like to think I am my own corporation. I manage my own finances, food hunting and gathering, labor, entertainment, and do media creation all by myself and all from a small apartment in Tampa. If it wasn’t for those lists, those banes of my existence that have made me their slave, I would probably forget to vacuum the living room, change my bed sheets, send my mom a birthday card, or write this post.

Well, time to cross that off the list.

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The Effect of the New Economy on Foreign Baseball Players

Thoughts on foreign baseball players making their move to the states:

Taiwan World Cup BaseballEvery year there seems to be at least one big name foreign baseball player who makes his move to the US to play Major League Baseball. Some are prominent stars from their homeland, such as Japanese players Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hideki Matsui, and others are intriguing prospects such as Cuban Aroldis Chapman, a recent defector who has scouts drooling.

But how will the new economic landscape effect baseball teams and their interest in foreign players? In a climate where almost every team except the Yankees lost money last year (I think), will we ever see another offer like the one the Red Sox gave for Matsuzaka (51 million to Matsuzaka’s former team, the Seibu Lions, and another 50 million through contract)? Could anyone again offer over 100 million for one player?

So far, either by circumstance or by economic necessity, the answer is no. Since the end of the 2009 World Series, the biggest import as been relief pitcher Ryota Igarashi, who signed a two-year contract with the New York Mets for $3 million. Before signing with the Mets, it was reported the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Mariners and the Indians were also interested in Igarashi.

But the Mets’ acquisition is regarded as only having potential as an “effective late inning” pitcher, hardly a game-changer. And three million dollars is relatively chump change for major league teams. What about players who can significantly add wins to a major league team?

I wonder if it is possible that fewer baseball player will consider coming to America if they know they will be offered less money. If a ballplayer is paid well in Japan, how much is enough to compensate their move and cultural adjustment? Will the prestige of playing in America carry less weigh if the pay is less?

Whereas most players that come over from Japan are established, many that come from Cuba are not. Many are prospects who immediately latch on to an agent in the hope of being signed based on their raw skills. These players are far bigger gambles for Major League teams. In this new economy, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of teams considering foreign projects is shrinking or will shrink considerably (with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates, of course, who, for whatever reason, signed two Indian game show winners last summer).

(Note: I know the financial landscape in Japan is far different from that of Latin America. Baseball players leave Japan for the challenge of playing in the states. They leave Latin American countries for far different reason, to include freedom and economic prosperity. But, regardless of the reason, for major league organizations, both types of players are investments.)

The new economic landscape could also see organizations committing to either the domestic amateur draft or foreign scouting and development. Currently, teams both sign college and high school players and have academies and scouts in places such as South America and the Caribbean. The acquisition of both types of players require sunk costs. Domestic amateurs require large sums up front, and could fetch the type of contracts reserved for established major leaguers. The recruiting, training, development, and eventual signing of foreign born players is more of a long-term cost but is a larger financial commitment. Could we see some teams committing exclusively to foreign development and skimping on the domestic draft or vice versa?

A few years ago on TheSeriousTip, I tore apart a suggestion by a close-minded baseball fan that teams shouldn’t sign or develop foreign players because they are taking jobs away from good ol’ American baseball players. I wonder if the letter-writer will eventually get his way as some teams end up more “American”, deciding signing foreign players too expensive. Although I do think teams will continue to be smarter financially, I hope we don’t see the end of multi-cultural rosters and the MLB being a showcase of the best baseball talent in the world. That is what makes baseball in America great.

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