Friday, March 07, 2008

Today's Metal Moment

I wasn't sure what to make of Mastodon when I first heard them. Unbelievably heavy, but my first impression was that they were a band that had a great sound; now all they needed was some great songs. I no longer have that view, as I've found a few songs that I could listen to over and over, but I must still admit the tempos are complicated and the riffs are ten bars long, so a single listen might leave you thinking, WTF?

Give it a couple though, and you might think these guys are masters of musical time and space.
Mastodon - Mother Puncher

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Break Up

I'm not really sure how to say this, Zooey. We've been seeing each other for a while now and things are, you know, good. But I've been doing a lot of thinking, and well, okay, I'll just come straight out with it.

I met someone else. I'm sorry.

It's your sister.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

3 Ways To Bubble-Proof Your Mortage

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Paying My Bills.

I can't guarantee that if you follow this advice you won't get splashed by the housing bubble when it bursts, but I can guarantee that if you follow these three steps you'll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long run.

1) Pay your mortgage first.

Seems like common sense, but let's be real: common sense isn't all that common. If most of the people who foreclosed on their homes paid their mortgage first, then they probably wouldn't have foreclosed. Granted, job losses or medical emergencies render this dig moot, but what about the folks who still have cable TV, two cell phones, a car, and actual food in the fridge? If you don't pay the cable bill, what happens? They shut you off. So what? In a few months, when you get your shit together, re-order it. The cell phone? Please. A land line is cheaper and besides, what's more important, being accessible 24X7 or the roof over your head? Your car? need it. You have to work, right? You have to get around, right? Sure you do. But seriously, if you're faced with losing your car or your house...pick the car. As for the food... this is the easiest part. Really. Food is cheap as long as you're not picky. With bread and baloney, you can still eat 3 squares a day for less than $10 a week. It would suck, sure...but you would still have your house.

Of course, if you don't mind trashing your credit history, losing your home, and scratching your biggest investment out of the books, you could always do nothing and just let the bank take it all. To avoid that outcome, pay it first.

2) Pay it on payday.

This ties in with #1 but builds on it. Since you're paying it first, it should be the first thing that comes out of your paycheck. If you get paid a couple times each month, split it up, half from one check, half from the other. Me, I have a separate checking account devoted solely to my mortgage and my "half" is direct deposited into that account every other week on payday. I don't even touch it.

If you really don't want to touch it, set up automatic payments with your lender. On payday, your half is put into your account. The day after payday, your bank takes your payment. It's beautiful.

And now onto...

3) Pay more than you have to.

On most traditional mortgages, any amount over your normal monthly payment gets applied to the principal of your loan. The principal is what you owe, but it's not the only thing you pay. Mostly you pay interest, and in most loans, you pay that interest up front. The first few years of your loan, only a piddly amount of your monthly payment will be applied to the principal.

But it's the principal that you want to pay. It's the principal that determines how much interest you have to pay, determines how much profit you'll make when you sell the home. The principal is very important. Once you pay the principal, you're done.

So pay more than you have to each month, even if it's only a few dollars. The extra gets applied to the principal, and there are several beneficial effects from doing that.

A) As your principal goes down, so does the amount of interest you'll have to pay over the life of the loan.

B) It speeds up the time it takes to pay back the loan. Instead of 30 years, try 25. Hell, why not try 20?

C) It increases the equity in your loan, and by extension, your own liquidity. You can borrow off it if you need to, and the more equity you have, the more profit you'll make if you sell. Even in the worst circumstances, you can dump your property for less than it's worth and still walk away with your pockets full and your credit rating intact.

Using myself as an example, I pay more than I have to each month, and in some months -- the two months of the year where I get three paychecks -- a lot more. Those two months, April is one of them, I end up paying one and a half mortgage payments, leaving me at the end of the year with thirteen full payments rather than twelve, and that thirteenth payment?

All principal, baby. No taxes, no interest, no escrow. Just principal.

Little by little, chip away at the principal. A little adds up in the long run, and if you're smart about it, you can save yourself some major dough.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Couple Things

Do you think the terrorists in ELF realize that by burning ski resorts and luxury homes, they're not exactly helping the environment? All those carbons and CO2 emissions released by the fire. And surely they know that there will be attempts to put out the fire, wasting all that water and releasing toxic flame retardants into the environment. All those trees, cut down for nothing! The steel, the glass, the industrial waste used to produce it...

I'm not saying I doubt ELF's commitment to the environment. I just don't think they thought this one all the way through...
And then there's Rush, who's urging his listeners to vote for Hillary in the upcoming primaries...not because he thinks they should support her. But because he wants to game the system and keep the race between Clinton and Obama going, hoping the Republicans benefit somehow down the line. On its merits, it seems like a dumb idea. But it's also cynical and disingenuous, which makes it a triple triangle of jankiness.


Blind bluesman and 80s action hero (he was in Road House), Jeff Healey passed away yesterday. I never met the guy, but I did see him play live once at a free outdoor concert in Avon, Colorado. Hearing the news today brought forth a flood of memories and images. The park, the cool blue lake rippling in the wind, the sound of rifle fire on a far off mountain, kites flying and children running. We were real close to the stage, right up front. After the show, we looked for a room but the entire town of Avon (which isn't very big in the first place) was sold out. So we slept in the car, sharing a blanket and running the motor every hour or so to get some heat. We still froze our asses off.

If the guy can live on in such vivid memories, well, that's something.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Movie Cliche of the Day

Dear Hollywood,

You obviously didn't get the memo, but the Mexican Stand-off is officially dead. Yes, producers and studio executives, I know you think the Mexican Stand-off looks cool, two guys pointing guns at each but not firing because they both have a bead on each other, but I'm here to tell you that you're wrong.

It doesn't look cool. The first time it did. The second time even. But now, having seen the move repeated a thousand times in a thousand movies, it just looks stupid.

In a perfect world, Robert Rodriguez would have killed the Mexican Stand-off with his Mexican magnum opus Desperado. There is a scene, if you remember, in which our hero, El Mariachi, takes out a whole barful of baddies. By the time he gets to the last one, both he and the bad guy are out of ammo.

So they scramble amongst the dead for a loaded weapon, find one, point it at each other An empty chamber. They could have just pointed it at each other and started laughing about the irony of a bunch of Mexicans getting themselves into a Mexican Stand-off, but no... These guys, surprise, surprise, want to kill each other. If their guns were loaded, they'd both be dead.

So they pick up another gun. Another dry click. Jesus Christ, talk about a gunfight. Every clip is empty! Another gun, another dry click. Finally, finding no working guns for their stand-off, El Mariachi just breaks the dude's neck.

How can you do another serious Mexican Stand-off after that? You can't! That scene turns the cliche on its head, exposing its central weakness --that two rational people pointing guns at each other won't fire them -- and at the same time, putting a twist on it that can't be topped.

So no more Mexican Stand-off scenes please.

Thank you,

James Pearce
National Film Authority