Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jesus and the Home Owner Association

I remember when I was a kid being a little afraid of the dark. The house where I grew up in Primrose Hill had a walk-out basement leading to a yard and a small road and beyond that was a small housing estate. There was a streetlight right across the road and a night, when you went to the toilet, that light refracted off the back door window and seemed to follow you as you walked from left to right, right to left between the staircase and the bathroom. Scared the bejeezus outta me every time. Also, sometimes, I'd wake up in the middle of the night and there been some clothes or something crumpled on a chair that looked like a weird monster. My mind would play all kinds of tricks on me when I was young, but I mostly grew out of it. Now, sometimes, I think I can see a bug or something out the corner of my eye crawling across the floor, but I look and there's nothing there. I'm usually a little drunk when that happens, though.
Now, however, at the ripe old age of 36, I don't really much that isn't there. Emily West of Lodi, California, on the other hand, claims to see Jesus in a knot-hole in her wooden fence. Apparently, it's there in the above photograph. Now granted my vision isn't exactly 20/20, and I've never been good at those Magic Eye things, but... Where the friggery is Jesus in that picture?
"I looked up and saw the face of Christ in the fence and I said, "Whoa," West said.
I look at that and say, "Buh?". Am I taking crazy pills? Is my imagination now so poor that not only do I not see the face of Christ, I don't see a face at all. There's absolutely nothing there to be read into. She's a survivor of breast cancer and great for her for making it through that. But West sees this as a sign that "things will be okay from now on". I'd rather get a opinion from a doctor on that than from a stake of gnarled wood rammed into the ground.
Meanwhile a little further north in Belmont, California, Estrella Benavides is getting a little more than cryptic whorls of wood as a sign of God's existence: actual messages from God. In her head. But they can't stay there, oh no. They must be displayed to the world across the exterior walls of her house and all over her car. Unfortunately, God doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense these days.
Now because of these messages on her house, she's being sued by the city she lives in, after she refused to pay a $5,000 fine for violating the city's sign ordinance. Now I actually think it's a shame that she can't express herself this way. If it was a mural, I doubt she'd be under such a hefty scrutiny from the city, plus it's her property, and she really should be able to do whatever the hell she wants to do on it. But... no. I'm sure it would destract drivers or bring down neighbor's property prices or whatever, and so we need ordinances such as this so we can lock up the crazy people.
What we don't need is ordinances to lock up the sane people. Unfortunately, that sort of thing makes Home Owner Associations cream their pants. HOA's are strange organizations which lord over suburban communities, making rules about how tall your lawn has to be, whether or not you can have a fence in front of your house or if it has to be hidden behind it, or what time you're allowed to put your garbage cans out at night to be picked up in the morning. They're not totally evil, though, as they also do things like hire snow ploughs so you can get your car out in the morning after an overnight storm, etc. What I didn't realize is that many of them impose a rule that bans clotheslines. Seriously.
In an attempt to go green, Michelle Baker of Vermont has stopped using her tumble dryer and is now drying her clothes in her yard, and, with her husband has started a company that makes clotheslines, the Vermont Clothesline Company, selling clotheslines all across the country. Lucky for her, Vermont has introduced a bill that will "override clothesline bans", and a national movement being tagged the "Right to Dry" campaign is on the rise. This ABC News article has really opened my eyes to just how pathetic much of HOA-run USA has become:

"the overwhelming majority" of community associations regulate or ban them, says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the Community Associations Institute in Virginia. Sixty million Americans belong to one of 300,000 homeowners' associations, according to the institute, a national organization of community association leaders and management firms.

The rules exist for aesthetics, residents' expectations, and property values, Rathbun says: Environmental leanings have to be balanced against the desires of those who find their neighbors' blue jeans, khakis, and the occasional flannel nightgown to be unseemly, unsightly or both.

How far up your own arse do you have to be even think of a statement like that? Oh, I forgot what country I was living in for a second. The laaaaaand of the freeeeeeeeee...

Monday, August 20, 2007

If you could be any animal...

Yeah, well. I would.
Especially today.