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Archive for December, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Winter Solstice 12/21/2010

The last time a lunar eclipse happened on the winter solstice was in 1638. What you you doing then? This just reminded me that we will make a complete orbit around the sun and meet here again next year. See you then. In the meantime,Happy New Year and have a safe and productive transit!

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  • Unchained melodies: You either get Glee — or you will.

  • Comments are off for this post

    A film for New Year’s Eve: The Fabulous Baker Boys…

    This is my all-time favorite New Year’s movie (Netflix link):


    More than you know
    More than you know
    Man of my heart, I love you so
    Lately I find
    You’re on my mind
    More than you know

    Whether you’re right
    Whether you’re wrong
    Man of my heart, I’ll string along
    You need me so
    More than you’ll ever know

    That’s Michelle Pfeiffer’s opening song from The Fabulous Baker Boys, (here is a clip of her singing it) and it rapturously encapsulates the very best of four distinct art forms. It’s gripping film-making, with great performances by all three principal players, Beau Bridges, Jeff Bridges and Pfeiffer. The piano, portrayed by Jeff Bridges, and and the song, actually sung by Pfeiffer, are very effective together. But the song itself exhibits in a very simple fashion the essence of lyrical song-writing: From the first verse to the second we change from ‘I need you’ to ‘you need me.’ And that in turn, like a page torn from Sophocles himself, provides the argument for the entire drama. This is what integrity means in art: Every different thing is the same one thing.

    And the whole film is done brilliantly. It’s easy to get lost in Pfeiffer’s sultry performance, but I think Jeff Bridges’ laconic, sardonic, taciturn embodiment of Jack Baker is an excellent exploration of the practical consequences of self-loathing. The story is dark, almost seedy, but the plot is redemption, which is my favorite yarn. And despite a few short lapses into cheesiness, writer/director Steve Kloves delivers a gritty and credible resolution. There are no villains, nor any genuine heroes, but everyone is a better person by the time the credits roll. I score that a victory for the forces of the light.

    The Fabulous Baker Boys is particularly appropriate for New Year’s Eve, because the timeline of the film runs from Christmas through New Year’s. Kloves uses this to the story’s huge advantage, which matters a lot to me. In particular, the big romantic blow-off of the movie occurs on New Year’s Eve. It starts when Michelle Pfeiffer’s Susie Diamond character sings a very provocative version of ‘Makin’ Whoopee’ to Jack Baker — (here is is a clip of that) — free for once to play the piano as he wishes. The night ends with what is possibly the sexiest seduction ever committed to film.

    With this on the DVD player and a couple of flutes of champagne, you just might get lucky. How do I know? “Intuition.”

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  • 3 comments

    Is THIS The Year You Grow A Pair And Finally Walk Your Talk?

    If that title harshed your mellow in any way, you’re the target audience. Does it sound unfair? Make you feel like you’re being picked on? Poor baby. Compared to much of what’s published on these pages, I’m a relative Mr. Rogers. But the dark cloud messin’ up the mostly silver lining that was my 2010, was the talk/walk ratio with which I constantly was forced to deal. Isn’t shame possible any longer? Does nobody know how to blush? Has there been some sorta immunity from embarrassment pill on which I missed out?

    I speak from painful experience. Many of the early years in the business my talk/walk ratio was maybe 8:2 or so. Talkin’ big time while walkin’ in clown shoes is something with which I’m no stranger. I know, cuz I’ve watched me do it.

    Hey! I has an idear.

    Do most of your talkin’ to yourself. Do most of your walkin’ makin’ things happen — quietly. Most of my mentors were lifetime members of Brutal Mentors Я Us. There were countless times I was ‘gang mentored’ in the truest modern sense of the phrase. They weren’t interested in why things couldn’t or didn’t get done. If you can’t walk your talk, maybe Von’s is hiring they’d say. Actually, they said a lotta stuff a whole lot different than that, but those gems won’t be repeated here. :)

    Ever get tired of hearing your own empty words?

    We all have more or less talent than the next agent. Same with experience and knowledge. Experience doesn’t happen a day at a time. It happens a transaction at a time. Every time you sit down and prospect. Each time you follow up. Every belly-to-belly with a potential client. Etc., etc. Knowledge increases cuz we seek it out, not cuz it gives a damn about us.

    Whether or not you have more or less talent than the guy a desk over is literally not worth talkin’ about. Who’s working harder? Who’s learnin’ how to work smarter? Who’s grindin’ it out day after day after day? If the title pissed you off, you haven’t done that yet — and you know it.

    Ever ask yourself why?

    Allow me to quote one of my mentors.

    “You’ve never given your best effort for one simple reason: You’re scared shitless you’ll discover you just don’t pack what it takes. That your best just ain’t good enough. Try growin’ a pair and find out once and for all.”

    Not long after that knife to the crotch, in fact the same week, I endured this conversation while getting my tax return done at H&R Block — with my new bride sitting right next to me. After going over the income/expenses for my year, the preparer looked with sympathy at my wife and said,

    “Mr. Brown, you’d have been much better off if you hadn’t worked this year.”

    The ride home was, um, funereal. She was quiet cuz she didn’t know what to say. I was quiet cuz I’d been replaying both quotes in my head, and knew they were both on the mark. I decided then and there to do two things.

    1. Grow a pair.

    2. Find out if indeed I had what it took to make more in real estate as an agent than the the big rat at Chuck E. Cheese.

    When we finally arrived home, a five minute drive that lasted two lifetimes, I was at the same time enraged (at myself), completely humiliated (in front of my brand new bride), and nearly unable to face her. She saved me, saying just the right things at just the right time. In essence, she expected me to show her and the world what I was really made of.

    I know as surely as I know the sun’s gonna set in the west today, that there are those reading this who’re wondering how I knew so much about ‘em. You may be one. You’ve spouted so much crappola the last few years, that nobody thinks you’re capable of producing anything but what comes outa your piehole. You know in your heart that the next time you walk your talk about work, it’ll be the first time.

    Been there. Done that. Feel your pain. Feel your sense of abject failure. Empathize with you big time.

    So here’s what ya do.

    Decide that once and for all, the world, your family, but especially you, are gonna find out what you can do when you literally put your best effort on the line, and let the chips fall where they may. In sports they call it ‘selling out’. When the game’s over they haven’t anything left to give.

    It’s a lot easier shaving or puttin’ on your makeup in the morning when you can look yourself in the mirror and smile at who’s lookin’ back.

    Walk your talk — and talk a lot less.

    If you’re still readin’ — Happy New Year!

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  • 11 comments

    My New Years Resolution: To take care of today’s goals today, tomorrow’s tomorrow, and to track my progress every day.

    Yikes! The end of the month is upon us. The end of the year is upon us. I have no good opinion of New Years Resolutions, by now, but I think the world of chipping away at your goals day-by-day. Here’s a calendar for January to get your New Year off to the right start. Set some goals and track your progress. You’ll be amazed at your results, if you will just follow through one day at a time.

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  • Pieces of April for a morning in May: Set goals, attain them, record your progress, do better over time, repeat month-by-month.
  • Part 2 of 4: Tracking Goals in google Docs.

  • 4 comments

    The best place to appreciate a really good snowstorm is… Phoenix.


    December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

    This particular blizzard is in New Jersey, but it’s a lot more fun to see it from here. I’ll do my best to make a video the next time it snows in Phoenix — if I live that long.

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  • 7 comments

    The Ten Commandments of Buyer Side Representation

    Merry Christmas.  Happy Hanukkah.  Happy Kwanzaa… Festivus… all that stuff.  Lovely… now let’s get down to business.  I’m buying a house.  Along the journey, I’ve paid close attention to how the average Real Estate Agent operates.  I’m sharing these thoughts with my fellow Bloodhounds at the risk of offending some – or perhaps all – of you.  But it all comes from the right place and I hope you enjoy…

    Commandment #10:  Have a freaking take.

    Are you the type of Real Estate Agent who likes to open doors for clients and then stand silently with a pleased expression as they walk through the home?  If so, I suggest you consider a new profession.  Look, I want to know what YOU think about a home too… that’s one of the reasons I hired you.  I might agree with you, I might not.  But when you have a take, you engage in critical dialogue with your clients.  In my case, I’d trust you more if you tell me what you don’t like about something.  It would make me feel like you’re looking out for me.

    Commandment #9:  Don’t tell me you’re a Top Producer.

    Because if you are, I probably know that already and all it sounds like is bragging (which most of the time… it is).  Just let your work do the talking for you.  Oh, and here’s just a bit of a peeve… if you’re in the “Million Dollar Club” is that really something worth crowing about anymore?  What is that… 3, 4, maybe 5 houses a year? 

    Commandment #8:  Avoid this question:  “So what do you want to do?”

    This commandment is closely associated with #10 above.  One agent I was working with loved to interrupt me with that magical question and eventually I told her what I wanted to do:  fire her.  Instead of asking what your client wants to do (which, by the way, they could easily figure out without your counsel)… you ought to continue tossing ideas/suggestions at them.  And if you REALLY want to impress your clients, give them the upside and downside with every suggestion you make.  Then listen.  Simple.

    Commandment #7:  Get over the B.S. cliche’ “The Buyer’s Agent service is free because I’m paid by the Seller.”

    I almost didn’t write this one because I know it’s going to set some people off.  But Commandment #10 forced me to come clean.  Every seller has their number… their bottom line number.  And whether you like it or not, we live in a new world where access to information is faster and easier – especially for Real Estate Shoppers.  Ten years ago home shoppers would mosey off to buy the Sunday newspaper and leaf through the Homes and Garden section.  Today, we subscribe to RSS feeds, watch Virtual Tours, and hook our iPhones up to listing data via GPS.  No, information isn’t always “instant” (which is how one agent tried overcoming this objection) but it’s instant enough for most consumers.  So, instead of clinging to the B.S. notion that Buyer Side Agents are the “keepers of the data” and provide a “free” service to their clients, I think it’s going to be absolutely CRITICAL in 2011 and beyond to articulate a true value proposition.

    Commandment #6:   Pour your online foundation – now.

    When I found a home I wanted to make an offer on, quite honestly I didn’t trust that my agent was going to look out for me during the due diligence period.  So I decided to find my own inspector.  Problem was, I didn’t know anyone and needed to start from scratch.  The good news:  my search and subsequent decision was made in about 15 minutes of web work.  This is because Domicile Consulting has committed to the web - and they’ve built an impressive body of work online.  For me, all I had to do is read the Yelp reviews and my mind was made up after a 5-minute conversation with Ross Neag.  Do you have a Yelp profile yet?  I put one together in about an hour and need to build upon it.  If you want to see an extremely impressive online resume, check out our good friend and fellow Bloodhound Mark Madsen and prepare to be blown away.

    Commandment #5:  Take risks in 2011 - the kind that make your stomach just a little bit queasy.

    I”m a firm believer that you cannot win unless you’re willing to lose.  And this commandment is the only one of my ten that comes from Mark Green the CRM guy instead of Mark Green the home shopper.  In this commandment I’m going to reveal why there isn’t a killer CRM product for the Real Estate industry.  It’s not an issue of building it… that’s relatively easy.  The reason the Real Estate industry doesn’t have a killer CRM product is because CRM vendors won’t commit to servicing a product that its’ clients won’t commit to using.  And here’s the straight dope:  if you ain’t using it, you ain’t gonna pay for it… regardless of how many bells and whistles the CRM has.  This is a debate I’m certainly interested in if anyone has an opposing viewpoint though.  The bottom line:  invest generously back into your business.  Why?  Because your competition won’t.

    Commandment #4:  Don’t miss the softballs.

    I can’t believe I even need to say this – but you Bloodhounds wouldn’t believe how few Listing Agents didn’t engage me AT ALL when I called about visiting one of their listings.  Seriously.  I’d call the Listing Agent about a property I’d found online. 

    1. Some agents never called me back – ever.  Okay, so maybe this means they had an offer on the home that looked 99.9% iron clad and they didn’t see the need in showing it again.  But hello, McFly, wouldn’t you want to find out my story?  If I had a Buyer’s Agent at that time, I wouldn’t be calling you myself.  Doesn’t this seem to be a pretty promising selling opportunity?
    2. Some agents did a fine job with everything on the showing side – but the sales follow through lacked.  For example, I’m assuming that the MLS here – which I’m guessing every agent in the area subscribes to – has a function where the agent enters a prospect’s email address and home search parameters and then an automated email goes out every day or two.  It wasn’t long before I was getting the same data… in the same format… at the same time… from multiple local agents.  So, the question becomes – how do you break through this clutter and stand out?

    Commandment #3:  Conduct a SWOT Analysis & Consider Alternate Comp Models.

    Per Commandment #7, technology is changing the way Real Estate is marketed and sold.  Redfin is a great example.  I predict severe downside pressure on the traditional compensation model in 2011 – who doesn’t?  I guess my question becomes:  which side are you on?  Are you clinging to the status quo and hoping for some sort of Hail Mary where everything remains the same?  Or are you willing to analyze how technology and trends might potentially impact your business model in the year ahead? 

    I’m not saying that you’ll arrive at a different conclusion than 2010.  But what I am saying is that every business should formulate its’ annual plan.  I like renting a cabin and spending 48 hours focused on business planning.  Here are the steps we go through each winter:

    1. Review the past year vs. the previous year’s business plan.  Successes?  Failures?
    2. Conduct SWOT Analysis
    3. Conduct pie-in-the-sky brainstorming session (idea generation only – do not discuss merits of ideas yet)
    4. Grade all ideas in terms of cost, benefit, time to implement and risk
    5. Rank all ideas (implement first, second, third, etc.)
    6. Assign implementation/ownership of each idea

    Commandment #2:  Increase your fiscal literacy.

    I have a good friend in the mortgage business named Brian Larrabee.  He’s one of the most honest, hard-working and loyal colleagues I’ve ever had the honor to stand beside.  And I know he won’t mind me sharing one of his secrets to success:  Brian knows how to use historical data, math, logic, and a bit of financial acumen in overcoming common sales objections.  I think it would behoove Real Estate Agents to share this level of competency in this area – not just with a cursory understanding but rather a deep one.

    1. Rates are rising (yet they’re still extremely attractive and will look downright incredible a year from now)
    2. Home affordability (relative to inflation, real estate prices, and % of household income) has never been better
    3. Real estate should serve as the backbone of most Americans’ financial plans

    If you’re looking to move some of your buyers off the fence, show them how the recent increase in rates has impacted how much home they could comfortably afford compared with 30 days ago.  Read and internalize what Brian Brady is saying here on this blog.  The beauty:  you’re truly consulting with your clients – and you’re motivating them to buy at the same time. 

    Commandment #1:  Answer your freaking phone dude(ette)!!!

    I have no idea why, but the average Real Estate Agent lets 94.3% of their incoming phone calls go to voicemail.  Now, of course that’s a made-up number – but to me, that’s about what it felt like.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the mortgage industry over the past eight years, it’s that top mortgage professionals answer their phone as close to 100% of the time as humanly possible.  Why?  Here are a few reasons:

    1. Because a commission check is often at the other end of the line.  Who wouldn’t want to answer that call?
    2. Because a client isn’t usually calling to talk about the weather.  They want or need something.  Now.
    3. Why the heck not?  In other words, what are you doing that’s more important at that given moment in time than servicing your client?

    Well there you have ‘em – my 10 Commandments for the year ahead.  I sincerely do wish each of you the best this coming year.  I appreciate everything I’ve learned here at Bloodhound Blog – and all the friends I’ve made along the way.  2011 is going to rock.

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  • The fetal flat fee: Contract language . . .
  • Divorcing the real estate commissions is simply a matter of HUD-1 bookkeeping effected by the mortgage lender

  • 28 comments

    Merry Christmas to hard-working dogs everywhere!

    I’m very grateful to have y’all in my life, the folks who read and comment here, and especially the people who write at BloodhoundBlog. Here’s wishing every hard-working dog a Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy and very productive New Year!

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  • 6 comments

    Merry Christmas, Princess Peach

    A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

    “Luigi!” The beautiful blonde girlchild tore her way across the packed airport corridor.

    “Oh,” said her mother, a beautiful blonde womanchild. “Great…”

    There is only one Christmas, isn’t there? Holly and mistletoe. A golden retriever by the fire. Mom bastes the bird while dad carols with the choir. Icicles cling to the branches of birch trees and fat, wet snowflakes tumble down, lit by the yellow glow of gaslights. Horses nicker and children giggle and lovers nestle and sigh. We’re all dreaming of a white Christmas — and we’re all dreaming.

    And why not? Over the ghetto and through the industrial park doesn’t sound like a very nice way to get to Grandmother’s house, even though the highway really does go that way. There are no trails of tail-lights at Christmas, glinting and glowing in the drops of muddy drizzle on the windshield. The snow is white and windblown into drifts, not plow-piled and gray with soot. The children don’t squabble, the drunkards don’t wobble and the lovers don’t quarrel or cry.

    Even at the airport there is only one Christmas, the Christmas-card Christmas of a world without airports.

    Luigi was sitting across from me and he leapt up to meet the little girl as she crashed into him. She was seven or maybe eight, really too old to be picked up, but he picked her up anyway. She hugged him tightly and they both had a sudden wetness in their eyes.

    He set the girl down as her mother approached. She nodded to him in a way that might have been curt, except the honey gold ringlets of her hair fell forward and robbed her of her haughtiness. She said, simply, “Brendan.”

    He answered with a smile that was good-humored at the mouth and mocking in the eyes. “Best of the season to you, Chloe.”

    The little girl shook her head furiously, her own white gold ringlets redeeming her mother’s haughtiness with an imperiousness of her own devising. “He’s not Brendan, he’s Luigi. And she’s not Chloe, she’s Princess Daisy. And I’m not Jennifer, I’m — ”

    Luigi said, “This announcement wants herald trumpets, I think.”

    “I am Princess Peach.”

    Princess Daisy smiled weakly. “Home for Christmas?”

    “Once a year, whether I can stand it or not.”

    “Us, too. But we may have a problem with our tickets.” She gave a look to the long line at the check-in counter and bit her lower lip.

    Luigi grinned. “You picked a good day for it.”

    “I hate to ask this, but could you — ”

    He broke her off with a wave of his hand. “Princess Peach, would you deign to grace me with your company while your mother whiles away her life in line?”

    Princess Peach giggled. “You’re such a poet.”

    “You’re such a snot,” he returned. To Princess Daisy he said, “I think we’ll be fine.”

    Princess Daisy walked back to the end of the line and Luigi took Princess Peach’s hands in his own. “God I’ve missed you…”

    “Same here.”

    “You’re more lovely every time I see you.”

    “Too much flattery,” she scoffed, clearly flattered nonetheless.

    “Too much scorn, my lady disdain.”

    “Too quarrelsome.”

    “Too pretentious.”

    “Too — , too — ” She couldn’t find a word and finally she said, “Brat!”

    He laughed out loud and that was that.

    She climbed into his lap and laid her head against his chest. “Say me a poem.”

    “The only one I can think of right now is morbid, so I’ll borrow from someone else.” He stroked her hair and recited:

    Jenny kissed me when we met,
    Jumping from the chair she sat in.
    Time, you thief, who loves to add
    Sweets to your list, put that in.
    Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
    Say that health and wealth have missed me.
    Say that I’m growing old — but add
    Jenny kissed me.

    “You’ve done that one before. Besides, I’m not Jenny, I’m Princess Peach. Say the morbid one.”

    He grimaced. “Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

    I wish someone would send me something from somewhere.
    Somewhere not too far away.
    I’ve got too much of nothing from no one in nowhere.
    There’s more in the mail every day.
    When I’m laid on the slab in the pathology lab,
    There won’t be anything for anyone to say.
    I can’t take anything for granted,
    I can’t take anything for granted,
    I can’t take anything for granted,
    So I’d like to have something today.

    “That’s more a song than a poem.”

    He smiled. “Oh, yes. Very danceable. But now it’s time for ‘As the Worm Turns’.”

    “What’s that mean?”

    “You have to recite to me.”

    “I don’t have any poems. All I have are verses I had to memorize for school.”

    “Luke two, I’ll bet.”

    “Sister Carmela says I say them better than anyone.”

    Very precisely he said, “Ahem. Prove it.”

    She sat up in his lap, the more properly to declaim:

    And Joseph went up from Galilee to Bethlehem to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass that when they were there her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the brightness of god shone round about them and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people. For this day is born to you a savior, who is Christ the lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising god and saying, “Glory to god in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will.”

    His eyes were glassy again and he said, “You did that very well.”

    “Mother says you don’t believe in god.”

    “True enough. But I believe in Santa Claus. He’s the driver of the airport limo who brought me my Christmas wish…”

    She said nothing for a long moment, just looked at him. Finally she said, “I wish you could spend Christmastime with us.”

    He pursed his lips tight together. “I wish I could, too. Your mother and I were such broken people. I guess I thought we could fix each other… But even if we can’t, I wish you and I could have time together.”

    She fell back against his chest and clasped her arms around his neck. “Me, too.”

    He stroked at her hair and looked at nothing. After a long while he began to sing softly.

    When that I was and a little tiny boy,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
    A foolish thing was but a toy,
    For the rain it raineth every day.

    But when I came to man’s estate,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
    Against knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
    For the rain it raineth every day.

    But when I came, alas, to wive,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
    By swaggering could I never thrive,
    For the rain it raineth every day.

    But when I came unto my beds,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
    With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
    For the rain it raineth every day.

    A great while ago the world begun,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
    But that’s all one, my song is done,
    And I’ll strive to please you every day.

    Without looking up, Princess Peach murmured, “What does it mean?”

    He smiled wryly. “It means we may grow old, but we don’t always grow up. It’s from Shakespeare.”

    “Sing another one.”

    “Okay. This is also from Shakespeare.”

    O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
    O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
    That can sing both high and low.

    Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
    Journeys end in lovers meeting,
    Every wise man’s son doth know.

    What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter;
    Present mirth hath present laughter;
    What’s to come is still unsure.

    In delay there lies no plenty;
    Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
    Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

    She pulled up her legs and cuddled more snugly in his lap. “Sing the bear song.”

    “Why should I? You’ll just go to sleep on me.”

    With an imperiousness becoming only to a princess, Princess Peach said, “Sing the bear song.”

    Luigi smiled at her and began to sing softly.

    I may go out tomorrow if I can borrow a coat to wear.
    As I step out in style with my sincere smile and my dancing bear.
    Outrageous. Alarming. Courageous. Charming.
    Oh, who would think a boy and bear
    Could be well accepted everywhere?
    It’s just amazing how fair people can be.

    Seen at the nicest places where well-fed faces all stop to stare.
    Making the grandest entrance is Simon Smith and his dancing bear.
    They’ll love us, won’t they? They feed us, don’t they?
    Oh, who would think a boy and bear
    Could be well accepted everywhere?
    It’s just amazing how fair people can be.

    I may go out tomorrow if I can borrow a coat to wear.
    Oh, I’ll step out in style with my sincere smile and my dancing bear.
    Now who needs money when you’re funny?
    The big attraction everywhere
    Will be Simon Smith and his dancing bear…
    It’s Simon Smith and the amazing… dancing… bear…

    By the time he had finished, Princess Peach was fast asleep. He kissed her hair and stroked it and sat with a contented smile on his face.

    When Princess Daisy sat down next to him, she was seething with frustration.

    “Trouble?”

    “One of our tickets — not both, mind you — one of our tickets is on stand-by.”

    “Well that can’t work.”

    “It can, if it must. My mother’s meeting us, so Jenny can fly unaccompanied and I can go out tomorrow.”

    He shook his head. “Here.” He dug into his jacket pocket and pulled out his own ticket. “Take this up to her and tell her to give my seat to you and book me for the morning.”

    “Brendan, you don’t have to do this.”

    “No, I don’t. But no one’s meeting me. I’ve rented a car. I’ll still make Christmas dinner, and I don’t think Santa’s going to miss me tonight.” Trying not to wake Princess Peach, he pulled a credit card out of his pocket. “Use this if it costs more.”

    “She’ll need you to sign.”

    “My hands are full. Sign for me. Tell her you’re my wife.”

    “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she joked.

    Not joking at all, he said: “I would.”

    She may have reddened at the cheeks, but I wasn’t sure because she spun around and stalked back to the counter. When she returned, she said, very carefully: “Thank you.”

    “My Christmas gift to your folks. I can’t remember the last time I saw them, but they’ve always been good to me.”

    “…You’ve always been good to me.”

    He gave a tight little smile, almost a wince. “The words sound like forever, but they’re really just for-now.”

    “Must you attach a name to everything?”

    He shrugged. “In fact I must.”

    “Isn’t it just a little too cloying?” she asked. “Lifelong friends, high school sweethearts, reunited after all these years. So romantic. Isn’t that just a little too pat?”

    He chuckled. “With whom are you arguing?”

    “With — , with — ” She couldn’t find a word and finally she said, “Brat!”

    He laughed out loud and that was that. After a long silence that seemed almost like home, he said, “I miss her a lot.”

    Princess Daisy gave a crooked little smile. “She talks about you all the time. She plays those silly video games and she insists we’re in them.”

    “I’d like to spend time with her, if you’d allow it.”

    “Brendan, I can’t see you. We’ve been through all that.”

    “Not you, her. I could take her on Saturdays. Give you a day to yourself, to go shopping, to clean house.”

    “To see other men?”

    “Do you think you can’t do that now? I miss her. I love her as much as if she were my own daughter. I want to have time with her. I think she’d like to have time with me.”

    “Sometimes I think you love her more than you ever loved me…”

    “…She erects fewer obstacles.”

    “Touché! I am gored but still unsmitten.”

    “I don’t want to spar with you, Chloe. Think about it. Let me know when you get back.”

    Princess Daisy bit her lower lip and looked at the floor. When she looked up, she said, “We have to go.”

    Luigi smiled weakly. “Such horrible words, and you say them so beautifully.” He shifted Princess Peach’s weight in his arms. “Stand up and I’ll hand her up to you.”

    When they had effected the transfer, they stood face to face. They looked at each other for a long time, and finally Princess Daisy broke the silence, saying, “Merry Christmas, Brendan.”

    There is only one Christmas, isn’t there? Even at the airport there is only one Christmas. Luigi smiled, and his face bore not the smallest hint of sadness. “Merry Christmas, Chloe.” He leaned forward and kissed the slumbering golden girlchild on the forehead. He said, “Merry Christmas, Princess Peach.”

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    Tea Party Santa says, “Cut taxes, spending, red tape — or you’ll get a lump of coal in your stocking.”

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    Best Christmas Viral Video of 2010…

    Super busy, but wanted to share…What the Nativity Story might have looked like in today’s internet / Google / social media world…

    Merry Christmas to one and all.

    best

    Eric

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    Unchained melodies: A Bloodhound Christmas

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    Want Unvarnished Truth? See Who You Are Through The Telescope Of Decades

    I bet you look back at the end of each year to review, tally wins/losses, etc., measuring results vs first of the year expectations. That’s no doubt a universal experience. Did we lose the weight? Do the business? Learn the new language? Master that new skill? Become a better whatever?

    This year you may wanna try something different — something that may provide insight more useful than a year’s review. Liken it to comparing stargazing to seeing the night sky through a powerful telescope. Instead of scrutinizing the last 12 months, critically examine the last decade. In fact, begin with the first decade of your adult life, examining each succeeding 10 year period. You have the perspective of having lived it, which will help.

    Dad did this on the advice of his father-in-law, back in the late 50′s or very early 60′s. He told me of the life changing realization that hit him like a shotgun blast at pointblank range.

    (Paraphrased) “I suddenly realized, with almost terrifying lucidity and coherence, that I could literally accomplish anything I wanted. It had a paralyzing affect on me for days. Not long after, I sat down with pen and paper to set long term goals, and I’ve never looked back.”

    You may have more than a few epiphanic moments. I know I sure have. 2010 completes the fourth decade for me, so I can crank up my mental telescope to full power, while conducting postmortems on each successive decade. Like the galaxy, we all have a mental picture of the paths our lives have taken — by choice or otherwise. Yet much as the night sky is orders of magnitude different through the lens of a powerful telescope, so is looking at galaxy-sized blocks of our lives.

    It shows how we’ve grown — or haven’t. What lessons we’ve yet to learn, and wisdom we’ve successfully adopted. But most of all you’ll see the truth — in big picture form. Forensically dissecting a decade of your life, or better yet, more than one decade, is a potential goldmine of information about the most important person in the world — you. Imagine a movie showing where you were 10 years ago, and all the years leading to the present. If proffered that opportunity, how many of us would opt to watch it in it’s entirety, warts and all?

    It takes no small amount of courage to seriously undertake this sort of decade by decade autopsy of every aspect of your life. Seeing trends, both good and bad is priceless if only to inform us of the naked truth about who we are. Improvement in any aspect of our lives can only begin when we’re able to correctly pinpoint and name what’s blocking the achievement of better results.

    Before bravely lurching into this scary venture, I caution you with one caveat. Whatever you discover, whatever epiphanies slam you in the jewels, promise yourself you’ll be painfully honest in how you mentally frame those discoveries that aren’t flattering. That is, don’t frame them at all. Let them be what they are. You can’t replace a bad washer if you refuse to acknowledge the leak. Let the leak continue, unabated for a decade and the damage could be — maybe was? — crippling.

    Remember, you’ll be discovering pretty cool things too. They’ll balance out, you wait and see. Speaking for myself, one of the many benefits of this exercise is the clarity it provides. Look how much more quickly we added to our knowledge of the universe when we created and used the telescope. It allowed us to quickly see where we were dead wrong, and absolutely correct.

    If that isn’t priceless, I don’t know what is.

    Do this seriously and be prepared for startlingly positive results. It’s never a bad thing to learn the unadorned truth about who we are. The piper is paid as we discover things about ourselves we wish weren’t true — but nevertheless attach honest definitions. It’s amazing how smoothly life can flow when we stop tryin’ to cram square pegs into round holes.

    Remember — once you do this, there’s no goin’ back. You can’t ‘un-see’ the big picture truth telescopes provide.

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    A future more vivid

    A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

    “Salve, caudex,” the big little boy said to his father.

    “Salve, caudex,” the father replied.

    The boy turned to me, a stranger, and said, “Salve, caudex.” I smiled at him and he confided, “That means, ‘Hello, blockhead’.”

    We were sharing a bench at the mall, as one must at Christmas. When I had sat down it was just the father and me at opposite ends of the bench. But then the big little boy — too young to be big, too tall to be little — had come bounding out of the toy store across the way.

    He was his father in miniature, seven or eight years old but very tall, very lean. His hair was brown and a little shaggy and his eyes were gray and very bright. He had his father’s large hands and long fingers, and it won’t be long before he has his father’s prominent proboscis. He walked fast and talked fast and he moved his body with a blinding abruptness.

    “You like it, don’t you?” his father asked.

    “Boy, do I! I think that’s the best video game system ever! That’s what I want for Christmas!”

    “How interesting.”

    The boy spun to me and said, “That means, ‘I don’t care’.”

    I said: “I’m sorry?”

    “When he says ‘how interesting’, it means he doesn’t care.”

    “What it means,” said the father, including me, I think, because he felt he had to, “is that you have said nothing to motivate me to act. You haven’t asked for anything, and you haven’t given me any reason why I should honor your request in any case.”

    “It means he doesn’t care.”

    “Attend me, sir,” the father said.

    “That means, ‘Listen up’.”

    Attend me, sir. I think you’re right. I think it is the best video game system ever. At least the best so far. Have I told you lately how much I despise video games?”

    “He hates video games,” the boy confessed.

    “I hate video games,” the father confirmed — to the boy, not to me. “And yet you love them. And a Christmas gift should be what you love, not what I love — what you love, even if I hate it. Isn’t that a reasonable proposition?”

    The boy pondered this for a while and I could almost hear the gears grinding. “It sounds right to me.”

    The father smiled. “I’m sure it does. On the other hand, there’s the small matter of what I want…”

    The boy said nothing at all. His lips were a tight little line.

    “Cum taces, clamas.”

    “What’s that mean?”

    “When you are silent, you shout. Tell me what it is that I want.”

    The big little boy put his chin in his chest and said, “You want me to learn Latin.”

    “I want you to learn Latin.”

    “None of the other kids have to.”

    “You’re not them.”

    “None of their parents are making them.”

    “I’m not their parents.”

    “They’ll probably just make fun of me.”

    “Solum stolidi rident linguam Latinam,” the father declaimed. “Only fools make fun of the Latin language. Anyway, they won’t make fun of you, they’ll beg you to teach them Latin insults.”

    The boy smiled. “You’re probably right. They already do, the caudices.”

    “An hour a day, every morning before breakfast. Plus you’ll have Latin homework. A quiz every Friday and a test once a month or so. We’ll put the game machine in the den so you won’t have to compete for the big television, and you can play it as soon as all your work is done — schoolwork, chores and Latin. That’s my offer. Are you taking it?”

    The boy was looking at his chest again. “I still don’t see why I have to do this… What good is stinkin’ Latin, anyway?”

    “A future more vivid,” his father replied.

    “Huh?”

    “It’s a subjunctive condition. It’ll be a while before we get to it. Si laboraveris, vinces. If you work, you will win. Learning is about mastery; we go down that street all the time. And learning is about competence, being able to get the job done. And learning is about success, which in the instant matter means having the means to buy expensive new toys. Learning is about confidence, standing tall in your mind. And learning is about every virtue I could ever think to name. But there is a point at which learning is just about learning. You soak up knowledge when and where you can, and if you happen to find a use for it later, so much the better. In omnia paratus.”

    “I know that one,” the boy said to me. “It means, ‘Prepared for all things’.”

    “Qui non est hodie cras minus aptus erit.”

    “That’s on the wall in my room. It means, ‘He who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow’. I think it’s about homework.”

    I smiled. “I think it’s about everything.”

    “Nemo est casu bonus,” the father intoned. “No one is good by accident. Do we have an agreement?”

    “…We have an agreement.”

    “Excellent! What do you say we go buy a fancy game machine and stick it under the Christmas tree?”

    “Great!” The big little boy leapt to his feet and gave his father a hug, forceful and abrupt. He spun to me and said, “Festum natalem Christi!”

    “Don’t tell me,” I said, “That means, ‘Merry Christmas!’”

    He smiled his delight and then he and his father walked off, hand in hand, in pursuit of a future more vivid.

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    A Costco family Christmas

    A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

    “Okay, so one day we’re driving, and we’re just about to get on the freeway, and I look up and the sign says, ‘Squaw Peak Freeway.’”

    The Kid said that. Maybe eleven years old, tall and thin. Tousled brown hair and the most beautiful gray eyes I’ve ever seen. He was talking to the Mom, mid-forties, fair and tall. She had long brown hair and eyes of a gentle, laughing green.

    She said, “That’s what the sign says.”

    “But my whole life I thought it was called the Pipsqueak Freeway. That’s what Dad always called it. That’s what he still calls it.”

    The Mom was laughing silently, trying very hard not to laugh out loud.

    “It’s not funny! I asked him why he called it that and he said he named it after the mayor.”

    The Mom was still trying not to laugh.

    “Oh, sure. Very funny. Every day after school we used to stop at the Post Office, and I was seven or eight before I found out that it’s not really called the Edgar Allan Poe Stoffice. I didn’t even know who Edgar Allan Poe was.”

    The Mom was stopped short by her laughter. She stood there behind her shopping cart trying to catch her breath.

    “You think it’s funny. I think it’s funny sometimes, too. But I never know when he tells me the name of something if that’s the real name, or if it’s just something he made up.”

    “You have a lot of room to talk,” said the Mom. “The other day I said I needed to get four quarters and you spent the rest of the day telling people that I want to put warts on forks.”

    “The Fork Warters, semi-notorious villains from the nether reaches. Or maybe they’re just a really bad rock band.”

    “You see? You sound just like him. Where is your father, anyway?”

    “He took off. He said he had Santaclaustrophobia.”

    The Mom said nothing, just smiled and pushed her cart along the aisle.

    They were Christmas shopping at Costco, which used to be called The Price Club before some genius decided that made too much sense.

    Do you know about Costco? It’s a warehouse-sized store that sells huge quantities of stuff at wholesale prices. There are other companies that exploit the same basic idea. Another big one is Sam’s Club, where the motto is, ‘When mere WalMart just isn’t enough.’ It’s like mainlining heroin for shoppers. You start out with a shopping cart that’s bigger than a dog’s kennel. You work your way up to a four-wheeled cart the size of a pick-up truck bed. And eventually you take home skid-loads of merchandise from the loading dock. Costco is absolutely the most American store that could ever exist.

    Do you doubt this? If you go to an ordinary supermarket, you can buy a one-pound jar of peanut butter. Particularly peckish? Buy the two-pound size — there’s nothing bigger. But at Costco, the very smallest jar of peanut butter is two-and-a-half pounds, and you have to buy it as a two-pack. Five pounds of peanut butter, enough to feed a normal adult for a month and a boy the size of the Kid for at least half a day. And you can buy the whole case if you want, four two-packs, twenty pounds of peanut butter. Fill the shopping cart. Stack up cases on that four-wheeled cart. Take home a truckload of peanut butter if you want. Try that at an ordinary supermarket.

    And people really do shop that way. They’ll leave the store with nothing but hundreds of cases of soda. Those guys who sell bottles of water outside the baseball stadium buy their water in huge bulk at Costco. Years ago, owners of ghetto markets would buy their stock at sales in suburban discount stores, because it was cheaper than the deals they could get wholesale. No more. Costco has that business now. A few years back I heard about some street guys who had become infant-formula entrepreneurs, buying pallet-loads at Costco in the suburbs and selling it by the can, below retail at a small profit, to inner-city mothers. The police thought they were selling hot milk, so to speak, but it was just the American tradition of John Jacob Astor — buy it where it’s cheap, sell it where it’s dear, pocket the difference — all made possible by Costco.

    The Mom wasn’t that kind of shopper, though. Her cart was loaded with some food and a lot of gift items. The Kid was helping to load the cart by begging for every last thing that caught his eye.

    As for me, I don’t buy anything at Costco. I never buy anything I’m not willing to carry. But I love to go there, just to watch all that stuff leaving the store. I had been tagging behind the Mom and the Kid for a while, enjoying their chatter.

    The sound system was playing “Oh come all ye faithful” and behind us a man’s voice was singing the song in Latin. “Venite adoremus,” he sang, pronouncing the ‘V’ correctly — as a ‘W’ — which church-choir Latinists never get right. He said, in full voice and seemingly to no one, “Who can sing this slowly?” But he was right on the beat for the next “Venite adoremus.”

    It was the Dad of the family, of course, and the Mom stopped and turned to wait for him. He was tall. Not as thin as he used to be. Not as fat as he’s going to be: Costco’s immense supply creates its own demand, after all. Brown hair peppered with gray and grass-green eyes ablaze with mirth. He said, “I love this song, but no one can sing it that slowly.”

    The Mom ignored this entirely. She said, “Do you have any idea what you might want for Christmas?”

    “Zamfir.”

    “What?”

    “A CD I just saw. The greatest hits of the Beatles performed by Zamfir on his magical pan flute.”

    “What’s a pan flute?” the Kid asked.

    “It’s a folk instrument from the Andes. It’s been completely ruined by Zamfir.”

    “Can you please be serious?” The Mom said that.

    “No. But what about a complete set of Chia heads? I was looking at them and thinking, ‘What about a Chia toupee?’ Wouldn’t that look cool? How about a Chia jacket? Or just a big fuzzy green Chia vest, like that vest Sonny Bono used to wear.”

    “Who’s Sonny Bono?” the Kid asked.

    “The talented half of Sonny and Cher. Cher had a big voice and big teeth and big hair and a big… personality, so she made more money. But Sonny Bono wrote ‘Needles and pins,’ so he got to go to heaven when he died.”

    “What’s ‘Needles and pins?’”

    “Pop tune. Ask me again when we get home. I have five or six versions of it.”

    “Christmas present…?” the Mom said.

    “What more could I want than the two of you?”

    “He’s hustling us,” the Kid said. “Isn’t he?”

    The Dad said, “Wouldn’t think of it.” Both the Mom and the Kid rolled their eyes.

    “Your son wants to know why you’re always giving things comical names.”

    “I never do that.”

    “Dad!”

    “I never do that. I’m very serious about names. I want for everything to have the perfect name. Take you, for instance. I wanted to call you Anaximander.”

    “Anaximander…?”

    “Either that or Anaxagoras. Or both. Just think of all the junk mail lists you would have been left off of, had you been denominated Anaximander Anaxagoras.”

    “What’s ‘denominated’ mean?”

    “It means to be plastered numerically on currency. I’d much rather be drunk on love.”

    “Huh?”

    “It means to be stuck with the lower berth in a fraction.”

    “What?”

    “It means to be named, honey.” The Mom said that.

    They were still wandering slowly through the aisles, but none of the three were shopping. The Mom said, “You love doing that, don’t you?”

    “If I didn’t have me around to keep me amused, I would surely despair.”

    The sound system had changed to a different song, a rock tune masquerading as a country tune.

    “These lyrics make no sense,” the Dad complained. “‘What kind of name is Amadeus?’ What’s that doing there?”

    The Kid said, “What kind of name is Amadeus?”

    “Latin, of course. ‘Love god.’ Singular imperative. Kind of a mild order, but not really a command. Shakespeare has Benedick say, ‘Serve god, love me and mend.’ The form commends without actually commanding. Very different from the hortatory subjunctive: ‘Hoist the anchor!’ ‘Man the battlements!’ ‘Once more unto the breach!’ ‘Bell the ding-dong cat!’”

    “Dad, what are you talking about?”

    “Grammar. ‘Venite adoremus’ is similar. ‘Venite’ is plural imperative, ‘come, y’all’. ‘Adoremus’ is first-person plural subjunctive, the jussive subjunctive, ‘let us adore,’ ‘may we adore.’ ‘Let’s bell the cat!’”

    “Tace. Nunc.”

    “Precisely!”

    “What did he say?” the Mom asked.

    “He told me to shut up, now. In the singular imperative voice.”

    They walked along a little further, both the Dad and the Kid looking every which way at once. “This is too crazy,” the Dad said. “We should push Christmas off a few days.”

    “What!?” the Kid demanded.

    “Just to let the crowds clear. I mean, what’s our hurry? How about the Feast of the Epiphany?”

    “The what?”

    “Epiphany. The twelfth day of Christmas. January 6th, your first day back to school. You could go to school, come home, do your chores and your homework, then sometime after dinner we could open presents. What do you think?”

    The Kid was aghast.

    The Mom said, “No skin off my nose.”

    “You don’t even have a nose!” the Kid insisted. This was true. The Mom had the kind of tiny Celtic nose that convinced the noble Romans that Britannia was theirs for the taking. To the Dad he said, “We’re having Christmas on Christmas. Early on Christmas.”

    The Dad said nothing, just pulled the Kid under his arm.

    “Hey, baby,” the Mom sang along with the sound system, “see the future that we’re building.”

    “Here we go,” the Dad said. “I think I’m about to find out what I want for Christmas.”

    “Our love lives on,” she sang, “in the lives of our children.”

    The Dad said to the Kid, “Now you know where little brothers come from.”

    “Huh?”

    “I think we’ll name him Nebuchadnezzar. Or maybe Zamfir. Or both.”

    The Mom dug her elbow into the Dad’s ribs. “And that’s something,” she sang. “Something worth leaving behind…”

    The Dad smiled warmly. But he said, “Look at all this stuff! It doesn’t look like you left anything behind.”

    The Mom smiled warmly in return. But she said, “Tace. Nunc.”

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    Lawrence Reed of FEE.org lecturing in Southern California in January 2011

    I wanted to make you all aware of a free lecture series, offered by Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education, in early January, 2011:

    I’ll be attending the San Diego lecture and have a friend attending the Los Angeles lecture.  I hope to have synopses of both, published here on Bloodhound Blog, by mid-January.

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