Monday, July 12, 2010

Monkeying around with my muse

I believe the Monkey Playing Cymbals merits some more explanation. So if you click on the link on the left (the highlighted "Monkey Playing Cymbals" text) you will find the first blog post dedicated to the little bugger. He eventually took on a life of his own and had his own blog for awhile. But he gave that up because he has a very short attention span (he is a monkey after all) and in all honesty, he is only a mechanical toy that doesn't really work.

There, I said it. The monkey isn't real. Oh, he is a real object, but he doesn't really talk or move outside of my imagination. This may come as a great shock to anyone who already followed the monkey on my blog. But at least I now have the monkey off my back.

I really shouldn't blame the monkey anyway for not having interesting things to blog about. I could blog about many things going on in my life, but unfortunately, since this is a public blog, I have learned the hard way not to share too much personal information on the Web.

I used to think it was okay to just blurt out anything about my life and history. But a brush with a stalker and a heightened awareness of identity theft and fraud have made me err on the side of caution as to what I talk about.

I will say that I have been trying to sell a 1978 Bally Playboy Pinball machine online. I'd bought it about 12 years ago in my bachelor days. It took up the better part of my family room in my old house. For the past five or so years, it has taken up a corner of my garage covered with blankets. It is a great vintage machine that actually still works. It is just like a machine I used to play at the Student Union Building when I was in college and the Playmates depicted on the machine were Hugh Hefner's favorites. Since he never seems to date anyone under 23, I imagine they have long since retired.

Anyway, I have trying to sell the machine at a site called Mr. Pinball. Right after the ad went live, I received this e-mail:

Do you still have the above item for sale for sale?i would want to know the present condition as well and arrange for the shipping myself,i';ll like to know if you would accept a cashier cheque.....kindly email me back as soon with your final asking price.i reside in U.K and your quick response will be highly appreciated.
Thank you.
In the good old days, I would have been elated and trusting about receiving such an inquiry. But I was immediately skeptical, especially since Mr. Pinball warned buyers and sellers about scam artists trying to bilk people with a scam whereas they send a counterfeit cashiers check for more than the amount of your item (to cover shipping and your inconvenience). The check apparently clears and you wire the shipping money to an address designated by the scammer. Then the bank discovers the check is bogus and you are libel for the money you've wired.

So even though I figured the e-mail was a scam, I replied to "Mr. Perry Bridge" who for some reason lived in the UK but had no command of the English language or any apparent knowledge of pinball machines. I sent a few photos of the machine and said I'd accept a check but wouldn't ship until it cleared the bank (this was before I'd done research on the cashiers check scam). 

Mr. Bridge fired back this e-mail:

Thanks for the quick response.i will be buying the machine you have
for sale,so kindly reserve it for me.However, the payment will be
deliver to you this week or next week...So please as soon as you
receive the payment, get it cashed immediately, deduct the money for
the item and send the remaining balance to the shipping agent that
handles the shipment via Western union money transfer. Moreso, I'll be
giving you an extra $40 for keeping this item for me till the
shipper's come for the pick up and to know you're selling this to me.
So in view of the above, Here are some of the details I will need for
final issuance of the Check or MoneyOrder to you.
(1) Full Name
(2) Mailing address, not please
(3) your direct telephone number both home and cell.
Once you get back to me with all the above informations, the payment
will be issued out immediately and it will be sent to you.
hope to hear from you.
Best regards.

All of my red flags were flying full mast at this point. I did a quick Google search and discovered Mr. Perry Bridge who uses the e-mail addresses "" and "" was quite the active buyer. He had used the exact same e-mail trying to purchase several other pinball machines, a horse trailer, a horse, and various other big ticket items online that would require a hefty shipping cost wired back to the shipper (who we can bet was Mr. Perry Bridge). 

Okay, all of this depressed me. There was a time when a cashiers check was pretty much as good as cash. Now if you sell something online, you are pretty much stuck using Paypal or only selling for local pick up and demanding cash. 

I thought about goofing with Mr. Bridge like I used to do with the Nigerian spammers in the old days. But, although it would waste the spammers time, I didn't have the energy. 

I realize that this was a major digression from writing about the monkey, but I think in a roundabout nonsensical way, it was relevant. The moral is that, not all monkeys are as they seem to be and there is a lot of monkey business on the Web.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The sun also rises in Seattle

After a long, rainy winter and a long, rainy spring followed by a rainy June, we finally have some warm, sunny weather in Seattle. And even after all of the bitching about the rain, people are already complaining about how hot it is.

It is simply the nature of people who live in this place of endless gray drenched greenery. I personally like a more moderate climate. Give me temperatures of about 70 to 75 degrees max and I'm fine. I don't really mind rain as long as it is in moderation. I just get sick of day after day of drizzle and drabness. So even the relatively high heat is a welcome change.

Growing up in Idaho, I got used to summers that often erred on the unbearably hot side. To me summer was the dead time. No matter how much you watered things in the summer there, they were brown and brittle. I spent most of my summers hunkered down in my room with the shades drawn waiting for the sun to go down. So I can kind of relate to how vampires must feel, if, they existed.

I can't believe I've resorted to blogging about the weather. My creative muse seems to wax a wane a great deal lately. My Monkey Playing Cymbals is ignoring me right now. He has been smug since he had an extended cameo appearance in Toy Story 3. I hate to break it to him, but the movie just furthered the stereotype that Monkeys Playing Cymbals are annoying little shrieking villains who narc on their friends. I suppose it isn't really a stereotype in his case.

I do miss the monkey being more active in inspiring my writing, however.

But I digress and I am sure most people don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about. But either you know the monkey or you don't.

It sure is hot out.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Always after me lucky charms...

When I was a kid, I was big on lucky charms. No, not the cereal. I mean objects that brought you luck. They came in all shapes and sizes. They could be simple as a shiny penny or a pretty rock. Or a feather or a four leaf clover.

Rabbits feet were hot items as lucky charms for awhile. I'm not sure why they were considered lucky. They certainly weren't lucky for the rabbit. You used to be able to buy them at grocery stores or Dime Stores. I assume they fell out of favor as lucky charms when the animal rights advocates pointed out that a rabbits foot was put to better use on the rabbit than on a key chain.

I was thinking about lucky charms recently not because I believe in them, but more at why people project attributes such as luck or magic on an inanimate object. It dawned on me that nothing has power until we empower it to have that power. If you really believe something brings luck, you kind of stack the deck psychologically that it really has that power.

I think the same applies to religion or politics. You have to give an entity or institution power before it has any over you. Ditto with relationships. You have to give up power to another person before they have any over you. Conversely they have to give up power to you before you have power over them.

The beauty of this theory is that if you recognize that you are the one empowering anything to have magic, luck, healing properties or power to cleanse your soul or psyche than you are really the source of the power. So you don't really have to give it away. You just need to use it.

I suppose this is too simple of a theory to catch on. It also wouldn't be too popular because it eliminates the ability to blame your circumstances on someone or something else and forces you to take responsibility for everything that happens to you. You can't blame things on bad luck, god's will, mother nature or your parents. If you are in a bad relationship, lousy job, crappy neighborhood or have a bad haircut, it is something you have the power to control or gave up that power to put you there.

Okay, I'm not saying you can control the weather (but you can control putting yourself at its mercy). And maybe you can't control some diseases, but you can control how you treat your body to allow yourself to get sick. I am suggesting that before you blame fate and the blue bird of happiness for crapping in your cereal you retrace the steps that got you in the situation you are in. Then seize the reins of power and get the hell out of dodge.

More power to you if you do.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Random acts of randomness

After rambling yesterday about the maddening quality of repetition and sameness in life as we age, I was remiss in not pointing out that the occasional encounter with a random thing does break up the mundaneness of it all. Point in fact: I was driving to the train station this morning on my usual route encountering the usual traffic at the usual places and stopping at the usual lights when I noticed a watermelon in the gutter next to the road.

This struck me as odd. One might expect an apple or an orange perhaps, cast off from a passing car. But you don't normally see a whole watermelon just sitting there down and out in the gutter wondering why part of its ambitions to be part of a summer picnic had been thwarted. This was a whole, unscathed watermelon, mind you. It hadn't been tossed in the gutter. It had been placed or perhaps rolled there. The only thing odder fruit to be found just sitting in the gutter would be a coconut or perhaps a pineapple. But even those could have accidentally fallen out of some one's grocery bags. Watermelons, however, don't just happen.

Now granted this watermelon was in the vicinity of a real estate office that is surrounded by life sized fiberglass models of animals. There is a life sized elephant, a giraffe, a gorilla and I believe a zebra. It is a virtual Noah's Ark of fake animals staged for some unknown reason under a tree in front of the office. But these have been there for several years and have merged into the sameness of my everyday experience driving to the train station. The watermelon is a new anomaly.

I am actually quite fond of random things. They spice up the mundane. I was in a lawyer's office with my family the other day signing some papers when a transient looking gentleman popped in the front door and proclaimed that there was a live opossum outside and he just wanted us to know about it because we had small children with us. The lawyer thanked him and returned to pointing out where I needed to date, initial and sign a document. I had to resist the urge to jump up and say, "Hey kids, let's go out and play with the live opossum. They are lots more fun than the dead ones we have at home."

I work in downtown Seattle so I am actually pretty used to random things. One of my co-workers was waiting for the bus outside our building a couple of years ago when a man wheels up to him with a shopping cart loaded with hams and asked him if he'd like to buy one. I debate sometimes whether this was a random thing or just odd. This is a fine line we are talking here.

Since I am contradicting my post from yesterday anyway, I must say that I find any movie done by the Coen brothers an exception to the rule when it comes to breaking out of the hackneyed plot realm. I love their films because they epitomize a sort of organized randomness. It is refreshing in a "I don't really understand it, but here's something I haven't seen before" way.

Kind of like the watermelon in the gutter this morning.