Monday, October 26, 2009

Going Down With The Ship

Things with the day job are winding down, it seems. Well, to be quite frank, they've been in a long slow decline for months and months now - but the downhill slide has gotten a lot more downhill and a lot slipperier. I keep looking at our course, and I know for a fact that there's an iceberg, dead ahead.

I think I've mentioned that I work for a real estate developer - I'm the person who handles escrow and loan closings on very large-scale deals. Of which there are NONE at the moment. And nothing on the horizon, not for long time to come.

I've been in and out of real estate for quite a long time now. I actually went through this sort of thing once before, in the very early 1990's. I worked in the savings and loan industry, which led to me working for government regulators. This included a huge flood of foreclosures, so I got to manage a pretty big portfolio of properties that had been taken back. It wasn't pretty. I'll spare you the details, but I got to deal with toxic waste, mismanaged nursing homes, and crack houses. Eventually the properties were cleaned up and sold, and that was the end of my career, until the industry recovered.

That crash was limited somewhat, because it was really S&Ls and the drop in value was pretty well centered in California. This time, of course, the problem is a hell of a lot bigger. Given that the last little hiatus made my line of work pretty well non-existent for five years, and that I'm getting older... my tenure in real estate is very likely over. By the time the jobs come back, I'll be too old, and frankly too tired, to start over.

I'm okay with that, really I am. It was fine while I did it, but it's never never been anything that lit me up inside. It's time to move on and move forward.

But like any other change, it's a little sad. And more than a little nerve-wracking. It'll take a couple of months, maybe less, but here we go....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Parting Shot

Just a short update, because I have a ton of stuff going on – but remember Sally, my dearly departed Mustang? We got a receipt in the mail saying that she fetched $1100 at the charity auction, money that’s helping to send needy kids to day care. That’s at least $500 more than I was expecting, so good for her.

And kudos to Father Joe’s Villages for doing so much good with something that was of no more value to me.

Thanks, Sally – you were a good girl, right to the end.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Watch Out for Warts.

You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.

We’ve all heard that.

Usually after you get back from a date with a creep, one of your friends will trot this out to make you feel better. It’s supposed to evoke the story of the Frog Prince, where the princess kisses a frog to transform him to a handsome prince. Of course, like nearly all modern stories, it’s a big fat candy coated lie.

The Grimm story, Iron Henry, does indeed include a princess and a frog. The princess loses her golden ball, and the frog returns it to her. (I will gloss over all the bad jokes and Freudian implications here.) She has promised him the reward of sharing her supper and her bed in return for this service. Of course, once she has the ball in her hands she breaks all her promises and runs away because it’s just a nasty frog.

She does eventually keep her promises, because her father forces her to make good. At the end of the night, she throws the frog against the wall, hoping for a good splat and a quiet night’s sleep, but he then transforms into a prince who wants to marry her. The original story is European, mostly appearing in English and Germanic sources, but it shows up around the world with variants in Sri Lanka, Korea, and China.

I’ve always found this story a bit odd.

For one thing, the princess is beautiful but clearly a spoiled self-centered brat. And for another, she doesn’t show any kindness at all toward the frog, but rather a deliberate cruel streak. What exactly does the prince see in her again? I’m pretty sure that there are going to be some domestic violence charges somewhere down the road for this family.

The kiss got added later, when we modern humans tried to make the whole thing about love and romance. Romance itself is a concept that wasn’t around when the story first appeared, back in the thirteenth century or so. That may be why it makes no freaking sense.

Animal bridegrooms are a big, big section of mythology. Far too much to cover in one post, in fact, so I’m going to just stick to magical frogs.

You can understand, I’m sure, why the frog seemed so magical to the earliest storytellers. They do, in fact, transform. If they can change from tadpoles to hopping bullfrogs, maybe they can change even further and we just haven’t caught them at it. If you’re in Asia, frogs are good luck and probably bring wealth. If you’re in South America, they’re a vital ingredient in blowdart poison. If you’re a Pacific Northwest hippie, you’re licking toads for the hallucinogens.

See? Magic.

And if you were a toad – or a lowly peasant, or a deformed leper, man, don’t you wish you could change, too? So it’s easy to see where the idea of transformation, particularly a transformation from ugly slimy warty toad to handsome rich prince, is an attractive thing. The stories very rarely address the front end of the transaction where the prince gets cursed and becomes the frog, because that is neither hopeful nor fascinating.

Everyone who reads this story understands right away what’s in it for the princess. She acts like Paris Hilton, gets yelled at by her dad, throws a tantrum, and gets the reward of her ideal husband. Wait, WTF? She doesn’t have to be good, or kind, or virtuous in any way whatsoever. Just gets rewarded for being a princess.

The appeal of this is so widespread that getting some illustrations together for this post is requiring me to wade through page after page of tasteless commercial variations of a little plastic frog with a little plastic crown glued to it’s little plastic head.

What nobody has been able to tell me is what’s in it for the prince. What does HE get out of the deal? The nicest thing you can say about the princess is that she looks okay as long as she doesn’t talk. I guess he gets to not be a frog, and maybe flies taste bad enough that not being a frog is its own reward.

Or maybe he did something terrible that led to the curse in the first place, and his sentence isn’t lifted, just transformed. Maybe she’s the next punishment. Maybe their kids will have warts.

Or take out the pasted-on romantic crap, and perhaps he inherits the kingdom by marriage, and his reward is not the girl at all, but the money attached to her. So the frog is a money grubbing gigolo, and he and the princess deserve each other.

And they lived happily ever after.

Or, you know, not.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Somehow, at some point in the last five years, we got on somebody’s group mailing list. This is one of those big gangs of people with a common interest who stay in touch by emailing each other constantly with all kinds of random bullshit. They’re all on the other side of the country, but somehow we’re included to every Taco Tuesday to discuss fundraising and t-shirt sales, or whatever stupid event they’re having lately.

We didn’t complain for quite a while, because there was a couple who were having quite the drama-filled long-drawn-out breakup. It was like watching Cops via e-mail. Joe would say “Just so everybody knows, Linda is not comin to the piknik becuz she thinks I’m sleepin with Susan and shes mad”. And then Linda would e-mail everybody and say “Joe is a basterd and I put his stuff out on the lawn so if anybody wants a guitar for free come get it right now”. And then the next week or so they’d announce their engagement.

Anyway, as long as this was going on it was hilarious and we were glad to be included. However, they finally broke up or one of them got a restraining order or something, and they stopped posting to the group. We still get the emails, but the joy is gone. And over the past couple of years both the e-mailers and I have gotten older and crankier. The emails got dumber and more political, a bad combo.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more. I sent a response to the primary offender, saying “I don’t know you. Take me off your list.”

I got the luxury of a personal response.

And since it included an agreement to take me off his mailing list, I just responded with “thanks”. But since I had more to say, and I didn’t want to start a fight, I’ll respond here.

(Click the pic for a better view)

MHWS Server Issues

For the past few days, our site host has been having issues with their hardware. They just informed us that they will be moving us to a new server. As far as I can tell, this is gobble-de-gook mumbo jumbo for our site being offline for a little while today, and apparently off and on for the last week.

So if'n ya looked at our site and it is and or was down, it's only a temporary thing and should go away soon. Nothing more than the electronic sniffies.

P.S. - Jackie's working on a new post about more crazy people. It would seem that there is no end to the crazies around us. Look for it tonight or tomorrow morning!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sound & Fury, Signifying Nothing

Sometimes I amaze, even myself.


I have been running around like a freakin’ lunatic for a month now, waving my arms wildly and complaining about how insanely busy I am. Don’t see any products yet, but whooooo! Look at me go!

And with all this activity, this frenzied strenuous run-around, what do I have to show for it?

Nothing, that’s what.

I’m exhausted, and I know I was in high gear, but … I got nuthin’. I’m kind of hoping it’s another senior moment, like the drivers license fiasco, and that I’ll find loads and loads of nicely wrapped soap, freshly folded laundry, and tasty nutritious lunches, neatly packaged and pre-frozen.

But if that’s what I’ve got, it’s behind piles of soap that still isn’t cured and needs to be wrapped and labeled, laundry that is festering and so close to being a life form in its own right that it has a rudimentary written language, and … okay, I have some frozen lunches, but Jesse made them for me and I’m so worn out from running around that I can’t possibly remember to bring them to work with me.

Luckily, several people have had birthdays recently and I’ve been able to survive off plates of day-old cupcakes from the tops of file cabinets outside the office of the birthday girl. I’m hoping for a birthday boy soon because they usually have some cheese and crackers instead of just sugar and I’m on a week-long frosting high that isn’t helping things.

I’m hopeless.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fairy Tale, Hairy Tale

One of the things I find so very interesting about fairy tales is how far we’ve edited them from the original forms. In our modern, post-Puritanical, won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children modern world, we’ve changed stories nearly beyond recognition.

I didn’t notice this right away. I had it pointed out to me by a child.

About ten or twelve years ago, I was visiting my mother. One of my nieces was there – she was about five at the time – and we started talking about the video she was watching. It was Rapunzel, and since I am not the most child-friendly person, the best conversational opening I had was “what’s it about?”

She said, very seriously, “A girl who lives in a tower with a witch. She’s sooo beautiful that she can’t get out.” Thoughtful pause. “Nobody can escape and go do stuff until a prince comes to rescue them. “

I said, “Nobody? Does EVERYBODY need to have a prince?”

With the exaggerated patience of someone lecturing to the dimwitted, she said, “Yes! You can’t go anywhere if your prince doesn’t show up! Nobody can do anything until the prince gets there!”


What exactly was the message here? Your life doesn’t start until there’s a man in it? I didn’t like this one bit. I corrected things by teaching her a version where Rapunzel cuts her own hair, braids it into a ladder, runs away to the city, and gets a job. Rapunzel is not stuck, and isn’t waiting around for anybody. She’s got things to do and she by god gets them done.

And of course what I’m doing is editorializing, after the fact. Changing the story to make it fit our modern ideas of right and wrong. I’m altering the tale to give the message I think is appropriate, just like Disney does. The difference is that … well, I was going to try and take the moral high ground, but my high horse is in the shop.

The original story doesn’t allow Rapunzel to escape. She holds the key to her own liberty – the hair – but somehow she’s unable to use it.

The Maiden in the Tower – well, she’s a prize to be won, not an active character. If you’re familiar with the original, you know the girl starts life as a bad trade, given up by her parents in payment of the lettuce her mother craved. She’s kept in a tower, companion to the witch, until a prince finds a way to climb up the tower. They hatch a long, slow escape plan, which gets blown to smithereens when the witch notices that her darling girl is preggers and can’t fit into her clothes very well anymore. (I guess the prince is pretty darn charming, after all.)

The girl gets banished to the desert, where she gives birth to twins. The prince falls from the tower into a big pile of thorns and is blinded. Years later, he wanders into her path, she cures his blindness, and the lovers are reunited.

A lot of this story got changed pretty early on, of course. Around the mid-1800’s, the prince decided to propose marriage, and somehow the pregnancy got swept under the rug. Rapunzel fell in love with the prince, instead of being a silly easily tricked girl. I know it’s possible to blame Disney for princess marketing and branding, and oh I really do blame them, but the Victorians had some pretty uptight ideas that got implemented, too.

Even earlier versions of the Maiden in the Tower have an actual active heroine, instead of an object, a prize to be handed around and discarded once deflowered and therefore spoiled. And it’s funny how stories have echoes of other stories within them….

The Prince leaps from the Tower to escape.


The princess, Rapunzel, once she has (carnal) knowledge, is banished from the Garden. I can’t help wondering if her twins were named Cain and Abel.

So the threads of other stories and archetypes weave in and out of everything. Of course, now, when you do a search for blog illustrations, you have to sift through endless pages of Rapunzel Barbie. To get at the original stories, you have to sift through the bright sunny cheerful and above all plastic face that we’ve put on everything.

I can’t help but wonder why we’re so insistent that everything be so frelling cheerful all the time. If nothing else, we’re setting ourselves up for a huge disappointment, because life is not always cheerful. Life is nasty, brutish, and short. I’m just slightly more positive than that, actually, but it’s a quote from Thomas Hobbes (1651) and I’m always trying to find a way, no matter how small, to use my college education. My point is that we have changed one set of stories – the fairy tales – and since everything is connected, the change vibrates down the strings to other stories, and if we’re not careful we end up in one big irritating episode of My Little Pony.

Here’s hoping that modern marketing hasn’t distorted the tapestry too badly, and that the stories continue to weave and grow.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

We Have a Winner!

Thanks for the entries and for all the votes! I hope you'all'll play again next time!

We're formulating a new contest, but we have one brain between us, and it's somewhere in the house. As soon as we find it, we'll let'cha know.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Everybody Loves the Bander

I think I mentioned earlier that Jesse and I went out of town for a few days. We met my mom and her husband in Carmel-by-the-Sea, one of the most gorgeous little towns I’ve ever seen.

Carmel is tiny, one mile square, and it’s known for being one of the most dog-friendly places in the world. We tested the boundaries, because Bander went on the trip with us, and we took him everywhere.


If you want a lot of attention, I recommend getting a big white dog with soulful eyes and putting a bright red cast on his leg. Then go for a very slow walk. Honest to god, people were pulling over and jumping out of their cars to look at him. Then they’d say something stupid, usually a variation of this: “Oh my god! Is he OKAY?” while staring at the cast.

Well, to be quite honest, no, he isn’t okay, which is why he has a cast on. But I spent money I didn’t actually have yet in order to get him terrific medical care so that he would be okay someday, and that’s why I dress like a bag lady and he has a big red cast. But Carmel is lovely and I was in a good mood so I didn’t say that.

I did briefly toy with the idea of looking at the dog in horror and screaming to Jesse “Honey! The dog has a cast on his leg! When did that happen? Who did this to him?”

I also considered saying “Oh, he’s perfectly fine, but I’m trying to train him to limp so I bandaged him up.”

Since people were eyeballing me suspiciously to make sure I wasn’t a dog-abuser, I didn’t do either of those either. I just told the story of him jumping off the roof to try and follow our cars and then watch their eyes well up. The dog and I can really work a crowd for sympathy. If I had had the foresight to have Jesse pass a collection plate, we could have made out like bandits.

Anyway, Bander got to go everywhere, and be the king of Dog Mountain. Even his 'doggiesitter' du jour, thought their matching casts were cute.

He sat in various restaurants, and servers brought him plates of diced grilled chicken, generally serving him before serving us. He sat inside the Post Office, under the “Service Dogs Only!” sign while I waited in line to mail a package, and the line would have moved faster except that the employees were all petting him instead of opening another window.

He laid in the middle of a king size pillowtop bed, managing to hog the entire thing. I swear he was smiling while he did it. He got petted by strangers so much that he had bald spots where the hair wore off. The B&B where we stayed took his picture for the guest book. If I hadn’t had to sign the credit card slip, they never would have noticed I was leaving.

Then he took a fistful of Benadryl (wrapped in liverwurst by his sneaky mama) and snored in the back of the SUV all the way home.

He had a much better time than we did.

Everybody loves the dog.


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