Friday, December 5, 2008

Battle of the Nutcrackers

I've been watching The Battle of the Nutcrackers on Ovation TV and, frankly, it has become a metaphor for the economy, the solutions and the world in general.  Let me explain, if I can . . . Ovation TV is playing six different versions of The Nutcracker, viewers will vote on which version they like the best and that version will play on Christmas.  When I first heard about the competition, while channel surfing, I thought it would be basically the same as watching the Nutcracker on six different tvs - a little different size or clarity, but basically the same program over and over again.  I couldn't be more wrong.  Arguably, at least four of the Nutcrackers are entirely something different and three of them don't even resemble the Nutcracker at times.  I mean you hear the music, you see ballerinas, but other than that . . . 

So how is this a metaphor for anything?  Well it's in that vote.  Think about how that is going to shake out.  There will be some people for whom the best Nutcracker will have to be the most traditional looking version; there will be some people for whom the best Nutcracker will have to be the most strikingly different version; and there will even potentially be resentment between the two factions for even existing . . . questions of whether someone should even have the right to call a ballet the Nutcracker when it has drifted so far from the original and eyes rolled at such a narrow minded view of the arts.  There is even a version from a French choreographer who used the Nutcracker as an autobiography.

How dare he!  

You get the point . . bail out the auto industry, don't bail out the auto industry . . . . capitalism, socialism . . . . tax cuts, welfare . . . the most truthful statement ever naively spoken by an individual was perhaps said by Rodney King, "Why can't we all just get along?"

Personally, my favorite Nutcracker is the Matthew Bourne version where the "nutcracker" looks like a Howdy Doody doll and the story takes place in an orphanage . . . it is kinda like the what the Nutcracker would be like if seen by Tim Burton on the big screen.  

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Speaking of fear . . . . . Money

Money . . . "the sordid topic of coin" as Isabella Rosellini says in one of my favorite quotes from "Death Becomes Her,"  . . . I know that the number 1 fear spot for most Americans is public speaking.  Simply raising your voice to be heard above the crowd is feared more than death, but I don't know where money ranks on the list.  Certainly some people's money fears paralyze them to total inaction, whereas others act quickly and irrationally.  Despite FDIC insurance, we did have a run on some of the banks during this financial crisis and despite FDIC insurance, some people did lose money because they held more than the insured amount in an institution.  

You may have heard Dr. Phil say "you don't solve money problems by throwing money at them" or perhaps you've heard the statistics about lottery winners . . .  they tend to settle back to the financial status they were at BEFORE winning the lottery.  Moreless, if they managed their money well, they still did and if they didn't, they still didn't.  

I think one of the reasons that money is so scary is that there are no set rules as to what to do with your money.  The best choice at any given time is fluid and changes with the state of the world.  For instance, how many people, right now, have $7000 in their savings account at about 1% interest, while they are carrying $7000 of credit card debt at 25%?  How many people make the minimum payment on their mortgage at 5 or 6%, while holding that savings account at 1%?  Simple math tells you to gravitate to the solution that earns you the most return; simple fear keeps you from doing it.

Warren Buffett says "Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful."  But truthfully, the individual investor tends to buy at the top and sell at the bottom.  At the top, we're afraid of missing out on opportunity and at the bottom, we are afraid of losing it all . . . frequently just before things were going to get better.  

Most of the time, we would rather trust someone else's judgement than learn about the subject and trust our own.  I suppose it gives the illusion of someone else to blame.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Best Halloween Ever . . . aka Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

So it was the best Halloween ever.  Maybe it was the three man mariachi band accompanying my last trick or treaters who serenaded me with Cielito Lindo . . . but I also really enjoyed two comments.  First, maybe I should say:  1.  I have a very large honeysuckle hedge in front of my house that surrounds an arbor walkway to my front door. It completely blocks the front of my house from view and 2.  I had a string of orange lights and a red rope light strung on the arbor, a large black spider in the arbor with a strobe light aimed at it, red celophane over my front porch lights, and a small rubber alien sitting on the front step.  Oh and an unlit skeleton hand in a pot just on the door side of the arbor.  Not alot of decoration, but some.

The first comment came from the only boy in my first group of trick or treaters.  "I didn't know this was a house."  The comment's counterpoint was made very late in the evening by a girl in one of the last groups.  She repeated 2 or 3 times, probably not knowing who to tell, "I like your house.  I like your house."  Then she quietly added, "I think it's pretty."  

I wasn't the person handing out candy just then . . . or I would have given her an extra piece or two.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Speaking of afraid . . . .

The other night I was working on a customer's video to DVD project . . I was watching something else on tv, though, and when the customer's tape finished, it automatically rewound.  I was sitting on the couch next to Peabody and Art was on his other side.  The minute that tape began rewinding - Peabody puffed to twice his size, stood with his back arched, and no amount of consoling would keep him in the room.  Later, after Art had gone home and the customer's project was long finished; I saw Peabody walk cautiously near the equipment only to slap a table leg . . .just in case.  

I remember when Mew used to slap every padded hanger she'd encounter.  

It's twisted, but I miss that a little.  It seems like you move too quickly from the curious but cautious kitty to the over-relaxed, fat and always sleeping mature cat.  While Peabody was fleeing the hissing VHS tape, Mew barely even cracked her eyes open.   

Just comes down to another lesson learned . . .enjoy the now . . . now.  If you spend too much time reminiscing about what the cat did last year . . .you may not notice what he did today and you'll spend your whole life missing what you barely noticed while it was happening.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fear Itself

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."  "It's always darkest before the dawn."  

More than anything else, I think, your humanity is defined by your relationship with fear.   Some people court their fear openly whether they are riding rollercoasters or freefalling out of airplanes; some live those "quiet desperation" lives barely able to leave their homes.  

There is no greater high than beating your fear and there is no greater low than realizing you have sacrificed yourself . . . only because you were afraid.  

I have a friend who loves to run her foot just adjacent to an unsuspecting cat to see how high it will jump.  Watch the stock market these days and you will see the ones who yell "Fire" in new crowded theaters.   Forcing someone else to expose their fears can make you feel more at ease with your own; in the right circumstances it can also make you a lot of money.  

Don't kid yourself . . . something is always ending . . .but something is always beginning just beyond that.  

What would you do if you weren't afraid?  

The Dork . . . er that is . . Peabody responds

Prrr. . . what?  That old biddy?  Well, she's good for some entertainment, isn't she?  I mean, if you run, I will chase you, won't I?  No matter how much you spit and hiss.  

Prrrup prrup. . . oh.  The human?  A bit slow, but I won the jackpot when I met her.  I showed up on her doorstep for a few weeks before she noticed that I was three times the cat my collar had been built for.  I'd rub against her legs, do headstands on her feet  . .  . put on a show.  When she finally did notice, I made sure not to spook her as she took it off - not an easy trick because she didn't have the sense to cut it off . . .she actually unbuckled it. . . .I thought she'd kill me while saving me.  

Since then, . . . . prrrruuuup prp . . .well she's like a mouse dinner, isn't she?  Right under my paw where I want her.  

Friday, October 17, 2008

Let Me(w) Set things Straight

So let me give you the real story . . . she's an all right human for the most part . . . a little soft maybe, but all right.  She seemed lonely so I began visiting her house and she would feed me and eventually she brought me inside.  I had it made.  She was easy to train and soon I had her getting up at 3 am and 5 am to give me treats . . .in addition to regular meals at 6 am, 10 am and 7 pm, of course.  I trained her which food was the proper one to give me, to lift the blankets for me on the bed and raise the curtains when I wanted to look out.  Life was pretty sweet.  I was boss of the house.  The undisputed Queen Kitty.

She takes a little maintenance . . . she's a little needy.  Checks in every hour or so when she's here, to run her paw on your fur or mumble into the back of your neck.  It can be a little irritating when you've settled in for a nap or she pulls out that clicking metal thing just when the finches are in the fennel on the other side of the glass.  Most of the time, she knows her place and is easy to manage.  

But she's soft, all right?  How could I know she'd bring that dork in too?

Random Play Negativity

Let me tell you a secret . . . I used to hate my neighbors.  I should explain upfront that I was a very unhappy person.  Every negative thing that anyone had ever said to me or about me  . . . my entire life . . . was stored in my brain and I routinely played them back . . . random play.  So when I would come home and my neighbors would be having a party, complete with loud music and diminished parking availability - I took it as a personal affront.  Deep inside I kept a score of every bad thing and thought . . . I've put up with fill-in-the-blank!!!  I shouldn't have to put up with this!  (I guess you wouldn't need to be told that I didn't have a lot of parties.  Or that even when I was doing "happy" things; I wasn't . . . not really.)

I finally learned that I've been crueller to myself than all of those other people ever were - after all, they only said whatever they said . . . once.  I'd repeat it every day; and, after lots of reading and thinking about things . . . I still don't throw a lot of parties and I still wonder how loud your music is inside if I can hear it outside . . .  but I don't see it as an attack when others are simply trying to have fun.  

I see a lot of the same thinking against "entitlement program" recipients during this presidential campaign.  People who don't make $250,000 desperately defending the rights of those who do, not to be taxed more.  When asked if they couldn't use the tax break themselves, they say it won't ever happen anyway.  They say they're against "liberal policies" and, sometimes, vehemently speak against entitlement programs as if the recipients have broken into their car and stolen their stereos.  And yet, one of the candidates is living proof that entitlement programs can work.  

I recognize the anger and the hatred.  None of the people in question are Warren Buffett-like billionaires.  It just seems to me they are misdirecting their anger and frustration.  

Perhaps it's that random play radio station repeating in their heads.  

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I should have just gone to bed, but instead I'm creating this blog.  Why? I keep talking to people about the election.  I'm far too old not to understand why everybody doesn't separate their shinola from the other stuff in the same way, but I still don't understand.  How can we all hear the same people speak, but yet hear so many different things?  I just know that everyone I talk to worries about the worst that the government can be (isn't it really there already?)  They want to have their "checks and balances" and keep all of the government branches at odds with each other.  They talk about preventing the government from getting anything done like it is a good thing.  They get hung up on sex and marriage and moral issues that aren't the Fed's business, aren't the State's business . . . that are really nobody's business but your own and then pick the "least offensive" alternative . . . . "the lesser evil."  Well this time, I'm voting my heart.  This time, I'm saying "What if ?" What if the country could be the place I wish it could be?  What if the world could do the right thing?  (And just from my saying that, perhaps you know who I'm voting for even if I don't say.  But I wonder if you're right.  Because, after all, we can both watch the same debate and pick a different winner.  We both can watch and hear a different message.  I have my issues and you have yours and don't get me started about each of our pet peeves.)

This is the first election where I've even cared.  Until now, I was right with you . . . "I voted for the lesser evil . . . not like it makes any difference anyway . . . they're all the same guy just in a different package."

Well, this time I'm not voting out of fear or apathy.  I AM voting largely to knock out one vote for the other guy, but I'm also voting because . . . what if . .. . . .