Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Rollover Beatles. Tell the Rolling Stones the news.

August 13, 2008

Hands down…U2 is indisputably one of the top 5 rock bands ever. But now after watching U2 3D, I’m close to commiting heresy to say U2 has no equal, including legendary rock bands including the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Nirvana.

No U2 fan in his right mind would miss U2 3D shown at Imax theaters. The experience of watching this uplifting concert on Imax is worth repeating again and again despite the hefty US$15 ticket. For a good review on the U2 3D film read this.

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In the head of Kurt Cobain

July 14, 2008

A more apt name for the memorable 2006 documentary clumsily titled “Kurt Cobain, About a Son” would have been “In the head of Kurt Cobain.” This brilliant documentary is narrated by Cobain himself, taken from over 25 hours of journalist MIchael Azerrad’s audiotaped interviews.

Fourteen years after his demise, enough time has elapsed to safely say he was the most gifted rock star of his (and my) generation. Like Vincent Van Gogh, Cobain drew upon a wide range of emotions including joy, melancholia and anger as a source of inspiration and insight. And like Van Gogh, I hope Cobain will be remembered much more for his art expressed with intense feeling rather than his suicide.

If the alien pods in the 1956 cult classic horror film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, are a metaphor for conformity to society, then the non-conformist Cobain stood out as the iconic holdout against them. I wish more of us were as bold.

Cobain’s short life should remind us conscious living is not just about peace and love. It’s also about being disgusted with corruption, exploitation, and conformity to the point of eradication of individuality.

“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.”– Kurt Cobain

Rabi’a, the Sufi saint

July 4, 2008

Rabi’a al-Adawiyya (713-801) roamed the streets of Basra. In one hand she held a bucket of water and in the other a flaming torch.

The people wondered if she had lost her mind. “What are you doing?”

She replied, “I will extinguish the fires of hell with the water in this bucket, and I will burn the gardens of Paradise with the flame of this torch. So God will be worshiped for the love of God alone, not out of fear of damnation in hell or the desire to enter Paradise.

“I am the greatest!” (The Financial Athlete #18)

July 3, 2008

Muhammad Ali famously bragged, “I am the greatest!” while his poetic slogan of “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” characterized his fighting style.

Ali trained rigorously physically. He also trained mentally, constantly feeding his subconscious mind empowering thoughts of being the greatest champion. Without the physical training, all the mental training would only have gotten far in a dream world. Without the mental training, it’s doubtful he would he have progressed as far as he did with just intense physical training.

You’ve heard it said, “talk is cheap”. Don’t believe it if “talk” is backed by action. Ali’s illustrious career is a testament to this. He won an Olympic Gold Metal and became the Heavyweight Champion three times. To this day fans still fondly call him “the greatest”.

It’s obvious what I’ll say next…the ingredients for successful investing are action plus mental training (studying, drive, and visualizing being “the greatest” you can be). But which should come first, action or mental training? Mental training should come first. Study markets. Study the fundamentals. Study how the masters of investing think. Then create a blueprint to structure your investing strategies and techniques. Only after doing this are you ready for action which produces fruitful results.

“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
Muhammad Ali

Where’s the blood on Che Guevara’s hands?

June 23, 2008

On October 12, 1992 I walked up to Coit Tower in San Francisco to gaze upon the statue of Christopher Columbus. The day marked the 500th Anniversary of his discovery of the new world. I unexpectedly would find the statue to be a work of collaboration of artists, from that of the sculpturer and a stealth painter who with a few strokes of red paint changed the entire emotional content of the statue. The red paint depicted blood spilling from his hand grasping a blood stained sword. These few strokes of red paint left a deep impression upon me, without which the statue would have remained a forgetful figure. The red paint was removed within days. Mankind insists on whitewashing history to preserve its myths.

I recalled this vivid memory upon reading of a new 80 foot bronze statue of a Che Guevara standing proudly in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina.

Who was the real Che Guevara? Was he the compassionate man of the people as portrayed in the eye-opening film, The Motorcycle Diaries? Or, was he the brutal butcher portrayed in the underrated mini-series, Fidel. Perhaps, both were true. As a younger man, he may have shunned violence. Then later on in life, when he donned the fatigues of war, he believed it became necessary to purge — MURDER! — real and imagined enemies of a Stalinist, hardline communist ideology.

The new statue of Che Guevara is incomplete. Where is the blood on his hands?

I can’t believe I agree with Karl Rove

June 22, 2008

In this Wall Street Journal June 19, 2008 Op-Ed, he makes a lot sense.

On the other hand (as often is the case, there are two hands), Karl Rove will never publicly acknowledge the primary purpose of going to war in Iraq was to establish what amounts to an American oil colony to secure a steady supply of oil for America for years to come.

Al Gore, the perfect candidate for Vice President

June 18, 2008

Al Gore is the perfect compliment to Barack Obama. Few question Obama’s competence, but his lack of experience is undeniable. Al Gore fills the gap with 8 years of experience as a proactive Vice President.

Some fear a President Obama would go tax crazy and social spending will skyrocket, worsening the federal deficit. Al Gore was the Clinton Administration’s spendthrift, decreasing the size of the federal government. Under his urging and that of Leon Panetta, the Clinton Administration made fiscal responsibility a national priority.

Obama’s incessant cry is for change, but is his charisma magnetic enough to stir America to remain firmly committed to fundamental change? That’s too much to ask of anyone. Gore would offset some of the pressure of high expectations resting on the lonely shoulders of Obama.

Al Gore is also the champion of the environment and is respected internationally. With Al Gore as Vice President, America could regain its international prestige lost so precipitously under the incompetent Bush Administration. One key lesson from the Bush Administration is that a President is only good (or bad) as the people he surrounds himself with in his administration. Obama would be wise to choose a Vice President with high stature, without worry of being occasionally overshadowed by him.

Al Gore is the obvious first choice for candidate for Vice President, but would he accept? I’m now inclined to believe he would. Al Gore must turn a new page in building his legacy and he’s passionate about stewardship of the environment. More books and films will not do the trick. He must hold a seat of power, where he can be a force for monumental change.

‘Be like water’–Bruce Lee (The Financial Athlete #7)

May 26, 2008

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
–Bruce Lee

In sports to ‘be like water’ is to be a finesse player. Supreme examples today are Kobe Bryant for basketball and Roger Federer for tennis.

How can an investor be like water?

First, don’t be obsessed with being right or wrong. All cannot be known. All cannot be controlled. When your original investment thesis falls apart — flow like water — sell and move on another investment. Better to take your losses than remain stuck in the quicksand of a dead asset. When you scrutinize a great investment opportunity — crash like water — invest!

At the end of one’s life the biggest regrets are often not what was done but what was not done. Sometimes, dare to break your tried-and-true investment rules, but never to an extreme. This presupposes you have them. You should.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.”
–Bruce Lee

Robert Mondavi’s secret to long life

May 24, 2008

A friend told me this last night: When asked of the secret to long life, Napa Valley wine entrepreneur Robert Mondavi replied, “Every day…a massage, a swim, and red wine.”

Robert Mondavi died this week at age 94.

Court awareness (The Financial Athlete, #6)

May 24, 2008

Magic Johnson, my all-time favorite basketball player, was the most ‘complete player’ to ever play the game. One magical quality of his was his acute court awareness of the movement of all players on the court and how to leverage this to the L.A. Lakers’ advantage.

To succeed in investing, you need ‘court awareness’ too. This means keeping up with market trends, industry news and understanding gaps between current market prices vs. historical, long-term valuations. Lack of ‘court awareness’ can hurt financially.

Three years ago a hard-working gardener told me he was eager to buy a home. I urged him, “Wait a few years to buy a home for at least 20% less. Prices are too high compared to rental income from residential properties and the average income of workers in the local area. To restore a balance in home prices, either inflation will skyrocket or home prices are going to crash. High inflation is a remote possibility. So, I’m expecting a crash.”

The gardener gently argued back, “I knew I should’ve purchased a home last year, but I waited. Now prices are 10% higher. I don’t want to wait. If prices go up another 10%, I won’t be able to afford to buy a home.”

Within weeks the gardener purchased a home. The market price for that home is worth about 30% less today. I don’t know if the gardener still lives in the home or lost it to foreclosure, but it’s sad to see someone work so hard for money and then lose it due to financial ignorance.