Current Tracks

I just dropped in (to see what condition my condition was in) and more importantly, to share this certified grade-A banger by way of reddit’s r/ListenToThis community. It’s called Twisted Love by Bastion. Enjoy…

 

-jaliner

RIP Prince (1958-2016)

Today is a sad day in the music world as we’ve lost one of the all time greats, Prince. The guy had swagger before 2015 pop-culture took the word ‘swagger’ and murdered it 1000 times over.

Any time I think of Prince, the first thing that comes to mind is the absolutely hilarious Chappelle Show sketch featuring Dave Chappelle and Charlie Murphy. No idea if this clip has any basis in reality, but I sure hope it does. RIP Prince, you outrageously magnificent sonnova bitch.

In Defense of John Mayer

The guitar is arguably the single most important instrument of the last 100 years. It’s the cornerstone of one of the most powerful and popular genres in modern music, Rock and Roll. As a guitarist myself, I may be a bit biased, but I have a deep appreciation for the instrument.  When you look at much of the popular music that’s been made in the last century, there’s really only two instruments that are generally featured front and center in any band: guitar and piano. While piano is a wonderful instrument, it lacks the authority and power responsible for birthing musical gods. Think of the Hendrixes and Pages of the world. These men transcended Rock and Roll and became music icons. They sold out arenas and brought people to their feet. This is the mystical power of the guitar.

When we talk about the greatest guitarists in history, there’s always names that get mentioned without argument. Hendrix, Clapton, Page, SRV, Santana, Frusciante, Richards, B.B. King, etc. Their contributions to music are unquestionable and their talent otherworldly. Lost in the mix is a name that I like to bring up, and subsequently catch a lot of heat for doing so: John Mayer.

This is when you roll your eyes at how I can even mention a guy who wrote a song called “Your Body is a Wonderland,” and 10 years ago captured the same demographic as Hanson and The Backstreet Boys. This is also where you’re wrong. I mean sure, that’s John Mayer, but there’s also this John Mayer:

(please excuse the double popped collar… we’ve all made mistakes)

and how about this John Mayer?

 

People either forget or don’t realize that he’s an incredible blues and rock guitarist. Most people have no idea he’s part of an entirely separate blues-rock band called John Mayer Trio alongside accomplished musicians like Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan. The bottom line is, this guy shreds. He knows his way around a guitar. Anyone who understands and appreciates music can hear the complexity and technique in his playing. He’s openly talked about his appreciation for most of the names I’ve mentioned above, and you can hear the influences of guys like Hendrix and SRV in his playing. I think in particular what makes him so special is his versatility. He’s equally comfortable playing pop, rock, blues, folk, you name it. He’s the guy that made Room for Squares and Continuum. It’s difficult to name many artists who have abandoned the style and sound that made them famous in the name of evolution and remained successful. This was definitely a calculated gamble on Mayer’s part, but it seems to have paid off. Now when you look around at John Mayer concerts, there’s a pretty interesting demographic on display. There are hipsters standing side by side with basic bitches. There are middle aged parents and their teenage children equally enjoying the music. Pretty much everyone likes John Mayer music because he has a sound for everyone. Across his entire discography, including his work with Trio, there is bound to be an album you gravitate towards. While admittedly I don’t love much of his most recent work, I admire his progression and have no doubt over the course of his career, he has picked up more fans than he has lost.

It seems the hardest part about listening to John Mayer is telling other people you listen to John Mayer, and we need to change that. To all my fellow Mayer fans out there, let us unite. Let us stand strong in the face of music snobbery and remind the less enlightened that John Mayer is the voice of a generation. In an age of music dominated by computers, he is a member of the last bastion of true musicianship, and that should be something that everyone can get behind.

-Jaliner

Smoke and Mirrors: How Wall Street Convinced You They’re Smarter

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Hello dearest readers,

It’s been months since I’ve touched this blog, and I am truly sorry. Things have been pretty hectic around here: I recently moved into a new place and for the past few months, I’ve been studying for the FINRA Series 7 exam. For those that don’t know, this is a financial certification required by law to transact in financial securities on behalf of a registered FINRA member firm (broker/dealer) who transacts on behalf of its clients. In plain english, it’s a drivers license for wall street traders and salesmen who spend their day buying and selling stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, etc. The material isn’t particularly difficult to grasp, especially with a financial background, but there’s a lot of material to cover and that makes studying a pain in the ass.

The good news for me is that I’m one of those nerds who kind of geek-out over financial markets and securities, particularly financial innovation. There’s real beauty in the structure and complexity of a cross-currency interest rate swap, or the fact that someone had this genius idea to take your mom and dad’s mortgage, throw it into a pile of other mortgages, slice it into digestible little pieces, and sell them onto investors who want exposure to the US residential housing market. Finance is a fascinating study of human behavior, preferences, and ultimately our beliefs about the past, present, and future. It’s pretty fucking interesting.

I want to come right out and say I don’t think Wall Street is evil. Sure, there have been some bad characters throughout history, but overall Wall Street serves the greater good by making sure capital is constantly finding its way into the hands of people/companies/institutions who need it to innovate and create a better tomorrow. Maybe I’m just in a particularly good mood at the moment (and even after reading that back to myself, I may have thrown up a bit in my mouth), but I do believe the financial markets are necessary for humanity to grow.

This is the point in my blog where I hit you with the big “BUT,” and here it is: If there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of my career, it’s that investing is an art, not a science. All the numbers, the models, the charts all attempt to do one impossible thing… predict the future. Listen to me very carefully because if you don’t read another word of this post then read this, no man or machine can predict the future.

I’m reminded of a time when I was about 20, and had gone on an interview for a sales & trading analyst program at a top investment bank in New York City. I’m in a room being interviewed by two guys who look to be a few years older than I, and in an alternate universe could have easily been my fraternity brothers or the kind of bros you meet playing pick-up basketball at the JCC. The fact is, they didn’t strike me as the people sitting behind the computers making million-dollar trades that move the market. Eventually, the conversation turned toward my investing philosophy and the kind of analysis I do for my own portfolio (side note: don’t even attempt to get a job on wall street if you’re not some kind of wunderkind with a brokerage account who can talk about how much alpha you made last year and how you beat (insert hot fund manager)). It’s at this point that my ignorant 20-year-old brain, which suffers from a bad case of ‘not knowing what I don’t know,’ goes on some tangent about Black-Scholes and CAPM. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job, and years later had my moment of L’esprit de l’escalier.

The thing is, I actually know a lot about financial modeling and analysis. I could tell you all about how to pick apart a company’s balance sheet and create all kinds of financial ratios like EPS, P/E, DPS, Book to Value, Debt to Equity, etc. We could talk about using technical analysis to chart trends, look at resistance and support lines, moving averages, hell we could even talk about Fibonnacci sequences and how bizarre patterns and numbers appear everywhere and Nicholas Cage is a rogue trader who is uncovering some giant stock market conspiracy (National Treasure meets The Da Vinci Code…note to self: need to write this screenplay asap). If you want the truth though, that’s all bullshit. Every model that’s ever been created and used to identify value has one giant fundamental flaw. They all use historical data to predict the future. That’s it. When you look at your retirement account and get all hot under the collar thinking about how little you understand finance/wall street and how “those guys” are so much smarter than you and how it’s a good thing they’re defending the wall, I want you to remember this. All they do every day is plug some numbers into a “model” (calculator) that’s supposed to tell them if the price of the thing they’re looking at is going up or down, and those numbers they’re plugging into their model are based on what that thing was worth yesterday. As we’re all well aware, history has no bearing on the future (ask anyone who traded MBS in 2008). Just because something is worth X today doesn’t mean any number of things can happen and cause it to become Y tomorrow. All the “numbers” tell you the stock is going to infinity? Guess what, the CEO choked to death on a filet last night and investors are scared about leadership. A trendy apparel company has promising financials and appears undervalued? Some 16-year-old youtube star with 10 million followers murders them in her latest vlog and teen girls everywhere stop buying their shit. The stock market is fickle and based on nothing more than the irrational beliefs and opinions of people like you and me. There’s no math in the universe that can account for the kind of random irrationality humans display, even when comparing it to how irrational we’ve been in the past. It seems the greatest investors in history were the ones who merely OPENED THEIR EYES. They looked at the world around them and made “educated guesses” based on the preferences, beliefs, and opinions of society at large. I remember a story my 7th grade science teacher told our class about a guy who made a fortune investing in Volvo. He saw the advertising campaign promising a safer car, a marketing ploy no car company had used before. Then one by one, he notices Volvos appearing at his local grocery store parking lot. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. Even while predicting this trend correctly, his timing could have been way off. By sheer virtue of luck, he happened to buy and sell at the right times to net him a profit (but I digress). Investing is an art that favors the big thinkers, not those of us that get lost in spreadsheets looking at companies under a microscope. It’s not about numbers or models, but how we perceive the world around us.

Wall Street wants you to think what they do is difficult and quantitative. It’s how they appear important. How they keep their jobs and rationalize getting paid boatloads of money. Deep down, every banker, portfolio manager, trader, and salesman out there knows what I’ve just told you. Most are in denial and need validation, so they hold fast onto their models, even when their models turn out to be wrong. The reason the S&P 500 index is a benchmark is because 50% of all fund managers beat it and 50% fall short. Anyone who beats the benchmark consistently is doing something they shouldn’t, knows something they shouldn’t, or is just plain lucky. Don’t just take my word for it, many books and articles have been written about the rampant insider trading throughout the hedge fund community.

Deep down in places I don’t talk about at parties, I’m a financial athiest. I look around and see all these professionals out there praying to their valuation gods and reading their models like religious manuscripts. I get it, we all need faith. We need to believe that what we’re doing has purpose. That the universe and the stock market aren’t random and somewhere out there, there’s answers we still haven’t uncovered. It’s a lot easier to sleep at night when you have millions of dollars on the line if you think there’s some science or math confirming your decisions. Maybe part of me wants to believe that too, but forgive me if I remain somewhat skeptical.

-Jaliner

Bagels

Happy Monday to all. I would apologize for not being more diligent on the blogging front last week, but I don’t think the 5 people who accidentally find their way here once a day really care.

This morning I ate a bagel. If you’re a New Yorker/Jew (I am), that doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but I was thinking about how many people across the world and even in this very country don’t fully understand bagel culture. You see, most major cities are usually famous for some type of food. Philly has the cheesesteak. Chicago has the Chicago dog and deep dish pizza. New York has the bagel (sidenote: we also have the New York slice, deli-style pastrami sandwiches, halal street meat, etc… but let’s focus on the bagel). For New Yorkers, the bagel is more than just a food, it’s a cultural icon. Bagels are as New York as jaywalking, Biggie Smalls, The Yankees, and homeless people. Pretty sure those 5 things would kick the crap out of the most representative 5 things from anywhere else (challenge to any readers to send me their city’s top 5). So what’s the deal with bagels and why are they so inherently New York? Today, we discuss.

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For starters, bagels are in fact a jewish “thing”. They actually originated in Poland, with the first mention of a bagel dating back to 1610. From wikipedia, “traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, which is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior.”

Yeah, I know… you’re so smart you already knew that. Well did you know this?

“The basic roll-with-a-hole design is hundreds of years old and has other practical advantages besides providing for a more even cooking and baking of the dough: the hole could be used to thread string or dowels through groups of bagels, allowing for easier handling and transportation and more appealing seller displays”

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Functional and delicious! Us Jews think of everything.

Some other bagel fun facts:

  • Its name derives from the Yiddish word ‘beygal’ from the German dialect word ‘beugel,’ meaning ‘ring’ or ‘bracelet.’
  • Bagels were brought to the United States by immigrant Polish-Jews, with a thriving business developing in New York City that was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338, which had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all their bagels by hand.
  • The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century, which was due at least partly to the efforts of bagel baker Harry Lender, his son, Murray Lender, and Florence Sender, who pioneered automated production and distribution of frozen bagels in the 1960s. Murray also invented pre-slicing the bagel (making him the greatest thing since sliced bread… I’ll see my way out).

Bagels have been to mother fucking space!!! At this point, I’m pretty much waiting for bagels to enter the 2016 United States Presidential Election.

There’s other info out there like how there’s apparently two distinct styles of bagels (New York and Montreal), but we’re not going to even validate Montreal by talking about it. Also, I want to shift from bagel history to giving you my personal bagel thoughts.

First, there’s only one kind of bagel out there that matters. The everything bagel (pictured above). All real bagel connoisseurs know this. For those that don’t know, an everything bagel is coated with a seasoning of dried and minced onion and garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and salt. If you’re visiting New York and want to eat a bagel, this is the one you order. Next, you get it with vegetable or scallion cream cheese. Those varieties really complement the everything seasoning. Personally, I’m also a big fan of lox/nova salmon, but I’ll leave that to your discretion.

Now listen carefully to this next part. If the bagel is fresh, DO NOT TOAST. You’re getting the bagel in all its soft, doughy glory. Why do you want to ruin that? The only time to toast is when eating a slightly old/stale bagel. Toasting actually brings back some of the softness to the bread. Once again, a fresh bagel is already soft as a baby’s ass. If you toast that shit, you have revealed yourself to be a novice and I can’t trust you.

That’s pretty much it. For those of you wondering what my go-to bagel spot is in the city, it’s Ess-a-Bagel on 3rd ave btwn 50th and 51st. Tell them Jaliner sent you.

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New Music Mondays: Like Woah

The Youtube abyss is a terrifyingly wonderful place. You descend into its depths unaware of how or when you’ll return. I usually set out on these journeys without any real goal, except maybe to entertain myself for a few hours. Last night I stumbled upon a relatively new artist, Logic, and his new single, Like Woah. The future of hip-hop is looking bright. Enjoy.

and as always, here’s the sample

-jaliner

Friday Feels

Sending you into the weekend with M.O.P.’s Ante Up

Friday got me like

A #TBT Halloween Special: The Nightmare Before Christmas

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If you’re a 90’s kid like me, chances are you had a pretty extensive VHS collection. In that collection, you had one movie in particular that you kept coming back to. Old faithful. The one movie that became your “go-to.” I asked a few of my friends what this movie was for them, and got such answers as: Space Jam (like Ocean’s 11 for kids, this had all the greats), The Sandlot (a good movie, but this is vanilla ice cream. There also seems to be a correlation between liking this movie and being more likely to wear a sports jersey unironically. “I want to date a guy like Turtle,” said no girl ever), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (one look at Jessica Rabbit and my sexual identity was formed at 6 years old), The Mighty Ducks (GOLDBERGGGG…also, D2 > D1), and Home Alone

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Sure they’re all great movies, but none did it for me quite like Tim Burton’s, The Nightmare Before Christmas (from here on out referred to as “TNBC”). For starters, I don’t really consider this a kid’s movie. You’re talking about a film by a guy who’s got his name on stuff like Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Batman Returns, and Beetlejuice. Animated does not equal juvenile (go ask Archer). It’s all stop-motion, which somehow makes the characters even creepier than had it been fully digitally-animated. This movie is visually stunning. Burton has a certain aesthetic that really comes through in his films.

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See what I mean? They’re dark and brooding and very very beautiful. Side note: Burton looks like the kind of guy who listens to The Cure (and apparently he does, as Edward Scissorhands was inspired in part by The Cure frontman Robert Smith). TNBC will make you laugh and then pull back and hit you in the feels. It’s as fun and lighthearted as it is scary, suspenseful, and dramatic. Did I mention the protagonist, Jack Skellington? Yeah, he’s the fucking MAN.

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How about the music? I guarantee you will have these songs stuck in your head for weeks and you won’t even mind (it was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe… should have won both).

Even with all this praise, I’m not doing this movie justice. You just need to trust me and go watch it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. I don’t know how to end, so I’ll just throw up this photo of Jessica Rabbit and mic drop.

-jaliner

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Alessia Cara, Portishead, Isaac Hayes, and why I hate FM radio

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2007 was an awkward year for automobile technology. On one hand, car technology had evolved to the point where Bluetooth was becoming pretty ubiquitous and you could connect your phone to your car to make/receive calls. On the other hand, that was about all you could do with bluetooth. The concept of being able to use the technology to stream media from your phone to the audio system of your car was still a couple years away at best. Unless your car had an AUX port or you wanted to rely on those shitty AM/FM transmitters, you were basically stuck listening to CDs or the radio. If you’re anything like me, you haven’t purchased a CD since 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (21 questions is my JAM) and your current computer can’t/won’t burn a goddamn CD. I know this is a first-world problem. Shut up.

I’m currently driving a car from 2007. It’s a sweet ride and there’s a lot to like (I digress), but what I don’t like is being forced to listen to FM radio. FM radio was cool when you were 12 and getting tickets to Z100’s Jingle Ball was a thing. Now it’s pretty much only good for ironically listening to Spanish music stations (shout out to Amor 93.1)

Have you heard Alessia Cara’s new single Here? I have, because they play it a whole fuckton on FM radio. Maybe you’ve heard it. Maybe you even like it. I do, it’s a good song, but it’s good primarily because the entire melody is a sample of Isaac Hayes’ song Ike’s Rap II. Take a listen.

I’m aware of the fact that pretty much all mainstream music today is derivative in some form or another of stuff that came before it. There are producers out there who have made a name for themselves entirely by sampling music from decades past (see: Kanye West). The thing is, I’m not mad about it. Sometimes paying homage to a GOAT like Isaac Hayes while also flexing your vocal abilities is the perfect way to launch your career and enter the spotlight. Cara’s song is different enough that it feels exciting and original, unlike that canal street Birkin bag you bought from a shady Ethiopian for $100 (you’re not fooling anyone, Becky)

But that’s not even the best part. There’s another artist out there who has sampled Mr. Hayes work and I think it’s even better than Cara’s take.

Portishead’s Glory Box, off their first album, Dummy, is a first ballot trip hop hall of famer. This song oozes sex. It’s the leadoff batter on my James Bond playlist (I’m done with the sports analogies, I promise). Go give the album a listen and tell me what you think.

-Jaliner

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The first post

This is it. The first post. El posto primero. Yes, I just butchered the Spanish and Italian languages in one sentence, and you know what? I don’t really care… this is my mother fucking blog!

That’s right people, welcome to my blog. A blog without purpose. The Seinfeld of blogs if you will. My original intention was to create a lifestyle blog, discussing music, film, fashion, design, miscellaneous esoterica (no, I did not just write erotica…unless you want me to?), while also sprinkling in some pop-culture and political commentary along the way (nothing too serious, scout’s honor).

My wish is that you find this blog equal parts entertaining and informative. Wanna talk about mid-century modern furniture or the top 5 greatest Hitchcock films? Done. How about power-ranking each NBA team for the 2015-2016 season or what’s the best way to cook a porterhouse at home? We can talk about that too! The fact is, I’m not entirely sure where I’m gonna take this thing, but I promise to keep it fun, funny, and interesting the whole way. Buckle up, subscribe, stay tuned.

-jaliner