Archive for October, 2010

And My Mother is Seventy.

It seems impossible to me, but the wonderful woman I loved first and best of all is seventy years old tomorrow. She’s a young seventy, with a lot of good years left, still teaching school and running around after her grandchildren. And I do not love her any less than I ever did. More, if possible, though I don’t believe it is.

Tonight the clan gets together for a dinner in her honor, and not beforetime, either. A truly virtuous woman is my mother, whose price, we are told, is far above rubies. Nothing has ever been more certain than that is.

I love you, Susan Jean. We all do.

Actual Writing about Mortgages!

I do write about mortgages, you know.  I don’t do it here all that often, which is a thing in the process of changing (eventually), but I do it, and I do it a lot.

In case you’re interested, which seems unlikely but is possible, I have a couple of posts about the foreclosure mess on Zillow’s Mortgages Unzipped blog.  The first one is here, and I’ll link to the second one if they ever put it up.  I also have a piece on where I think rates are headed for the next six months, which you might find useful.

In other news, I have an article in the November issue of The Niche Report, which is the second of the mortgage-industry publications to want my stuff, after the Scotsman Guide, for which I’ve written several articles.  I’m still waiting for a paying gig, but in the meantime it’s nice to have people interested in printing and reprinting the things I write.

In Which I Once Again Do Not Talk Mortgages

So I’ve been exchanging email with one of these Christmas Book novelists – you know the kind, the smallish, hardbound, bright-covered books pioneered by people like Richard Paul Evans. This author wrote a decent post last week about why you leave sex and swearing out of your books, and I commented on it, so we’ve been in contact. My comment was essentially to say that leaving sex and swearing out of your book is all well and good, unless the things and the people you’re writing about require sex and language to be truly alive. Mormon writers especially (though not exclusively) like to write about these hard-bitten black sheep that find their way home, but even WHITE sheep are far more disposed to swearing and cruelty and sleeping around than they get portrayed in these novels. They come off as fake. It takes me about two pages to tell that we’re dealing with another one of these silly Mormon fictions, in which there aren’t any actual people, just Sunday School versions of people masquerading as human. Gerald Lund is like this for me, for instance.

But I thought, this guy seems like a pretty decent fellow, so I’ll give him a shot. I had Jeanette pick up a couple of his books at the library and last night I started reading one of them. I’m two chapters in, and I’m done. Cannot go on. I do not care a jot about any of the people I’ve met so far. Well, that’s not true. There is ONE character – who has not appeared yet, but has been discussed by two others – that I find mildly interesting, a gal that is blowing off the double funeral of her parents because she’s running a business and can’t get away. I’m not that sort of person, but I find that sort of person entirely believable. She’s the only one so far that strikes me as plausible.

The black sheep, for instance, is off in Brazil when he gets the call on the satphone to come home for the funeral. He does. On the way, he meets this gorgeous Brazilian babe and takes her out for the evening after, essentially, telling her that they’re going to spend the night together. And then, at the opportune moment, he finds that he’s so tormented by the memory of his old flame back at the homestead that he can’t sleep with her. That’s complete and utter garbage. Black sheep don’t behave that way. MISSIONARIES have a hard time behaving that way. What, is the author afraid that we’re not going to approve of this guy if he behaves the way humans do? Is the author unaware of the entirely casual nature of sex outside of certain districts of Provo, to say nothing of Brazil? The whole thing struck me as so ridiculously sanitized that I gave up. It isn’t even sanitized that way you see in, say, Dick Francis novels, where the love interest and the hero finally get together and you know they get together, but Francis doesn’t have to describe the pulsating loins of it all. It makes sense. It is what these people would do. It doesn’t make them less.

The end of my comment to this guy, I wrote that it often seems to me in the Mormon adult genre, that the authors have taken a story and crammed it into the genre so that it would sell, rather than telling the story the way it is and letting the genre find the tale. And this is EXACTLY what this guy is doing. And that’s why I don’t read Mormon adult fiction, except for Card, who seems capable of avoiding this trap, somehow.

Not sure why I opened the day with this when I’m supposed to be writing a business plan for investors, but I do feel better.

And This is Heaven

We’re in the last few minutes of the truly amazing City 1st Mortgage Services Branch Managers Conference.  These last minutes we are watching the final scene of Mr. Holland’s Opus, a movie that I have never seen but that is going to the top of my Netflix queue in about ten minutes.

You have to see the scene for yourself, and most of you have, I’m sure.  It comes at a particularly good time for me, as I am about to close a significant chapter of my life and move into another one that scares the living spit out of me.  Which close I did not know was going to happen until this last few minutes.

I’ve never worked particularly hard by the standards of real work. My grandfather, now, he worked hard.  My ancestry is filled with men and women that really worked hard.  My mother and father worked very hard.  My wife works hard, as do my sisters.  Their husbands are hard workers.

I want to be a hard worker.  I want that more than anything in the world.  It is the compliment that I desire above all others, to be dependable, to be reliable, to be steady.  It is the thing farthest from my natural character, and the label I fear most I will never have.

And yet.

I do what I can.  I struggle mightily.  I fail every single day, every hour of every day, to be the person I know I can be and feel I should be.  I feel much like what I see in Richard Dreyfus, Mr. Holland the music teacher, as he walks down the school hallway with his box in his hand, walks down that hallway for the thousandth and last time.  I see that he knows he is not what he should have been.  I see that he sees only the bare patches of his life.  And often, so often, that is what I see.

Nearly everyone will make that walk, and almost no one will find at the end of it an auditorium filled with people that love and care about him, standing and cheering.  Practically no one gets to see all the lives that her life has touched, all those that are better than they would have been but for that person’s passing by.

But that is Heaven.  Heaven is the place where, when you walk out of this life, you walk into an auditorium filled with the people that know you and love you and see all the horrid and petty and disgusting things you are, and don’t care, because they reject those things, because they know that those things are not you.  Not really you.

And that is why I want to go to Heaven.  Being broken, I want to see the people that know what I might be like if I were whole.  As I step out of one life and into another, so to speak, in the next few days, how I dream of that auditorium and pray that when I get there, the place will not be empty.

While simultaneously pledging to you that whoever you are, if you come here, and you read what I have to say, and if it has something at all to do with making your life better, that I will be there in your crowd screaming my head off.  That sounds like Heaven to me.

Read the Whole Thing

I practically never do this, preferring to add to the discussion rather than to repeat the lines of others, but today’s WSJ has a terrific letter to President Obama by the founder of Home Depot, and it’s just better than anything I can do, so I ask you to go and read it here.

My favorite excerpt:

A little more than 30 years ago, Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Pat Farrah and I got together and founded The Home Depot. Our dream was to create (memo to DNC activists: that’s build, not take or coerce) a new kind of home-improvement center catering to do-it-yourselfers. The concept was to have a wide assortment, a high level of service, and the lowest pricing possible.

We opened the front door in 1979, also a time of severe economic slowdown. Yet today, Home Depot is staffed by more than 325,000 dedicated, well-trained, and highly motivated people offering outstanding service and knowledge to millions of consumers.

If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you have advocated, it’s a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground, much less thrive. Rules against providing stock options would have prevented us from incentivizing worthy employees in the start-up phase—never mind the incredibly high cost of regulatory compliance overall and mandatory health insurance. Still worse are the ever-rapacious trial lawyers.

Coupled with Daniel Henninger’s spectacular essay on the success of capitalism in the Chilean miner disaster, this represents a high-water mark in recent political discourse on economic systems.  I strongly encourage you to read both essays in their entirety.