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Last Friday, the WSJ ran an intentionally inflammatory article about “trash-outs,” when foreclosed homeowners vandalize their homes before being forced to abandon them to the banks. The opening gambit of the article is to depict how some banks have taken to bribing foreclosed occupants not to trash the homes before leaving.

These days, bankers and mortgage companies often find that by the time they get the keys back, embittered homeowners have stripped out appliances, punched holes in walls, dumped paint on carpets and, as a parting gift, locked their pets inside to wreak further havoc. Real-estate agents estimate that about half of foreclosed properties to be sold by mortgage companies nationwide have “substantial” damage, according to a new survey by Campbell Communications, a marketing and research firm based in Washington, D.C.
The most practical way to ensure the houses are returned in decent shape, lenders and their agents say, is to pay homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars to put their anger in escrow and leave quietly. A ransom? A bribe? “Yeah, somewhat,” says John Carver, an agent specializing in foreclosed homes for Prudential Americana Group in Las Vegas. But “you lose a house, and then you get some financial help—it’s a good thing…It’s a win-win for both parties.”


Yes, a real “win” for the people who have lost their house, who are “losing the dream” in the words of a real-estate agent quoted in the story. A tough break, to be sure. Still, it is also natural for readers to respond to an article gleefully detailing the spiteful destruction on the part of delinquent borrowers with perplexity. You might even be inspired to think, What a bunch of assholes.

At Calculated Risk, Tanta takes issue with this short-sighted attitude and seizes on the phrase foreclosed tenants to provide the rationale behind such vandalism.

When you take an interest-only no-down-payment loan to buy a house at market price—that is, at anything other than a significant discount to market price—you are in effect, if not in fact, merely “leasing” the house from the bank….
Possibly some borrowers are coming to the belated recognition that they were, de facto, not much more than tenants who were paying well above “market rent,” but the market no longer allows them to “sell” the “lease” to the next sucker, and the law does not allow them to simply forfeit the security deposit and move away. To be a “foreclosed tenant” is to live in the worst of both worlds…. They begin to grasp that they had only ever been given a short-term lease on the “American Dream,” not a piece of the “ownership society” pie. More than a few of them are very, very, crabby.

If success and respectability in America is popularly predicated on homeownership, then losing a home is much more likely to make someone lose regard for restraining mores. They tried to “work hard and play by the rules” that said you start by securing a home for your family. But then forces beyond their control—shifts in interest rates and financial risk management, in the economic climate and the future of house prices (which everyone was virtually guaranteeing couldn’t come down)—made the mortgage payments untenable and refinancing impossible. So the conclusion that following unspoken rules about conduct is a waste of time is actually fairly understandable. The joke of the American dream was on them, and they want to turn the tables by taking the implication of that one step further: If we can’t realistically aspire to society’s rewards, we won’t adhere to its codes.

It is within the realm of possibility that some folks engaging in “trash-out refinances” are, well, making the point that the joke’s on you, Mr. Bank. You might consider it a kind of performance art of the gallows-humor subgenre.

Subprime borrowers: the return of Lazlo Toth?

by PopMatters Staff

1 Apr 2008

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
An article about the Busby Babes, the legendary Manchester United Football Club soccer team that lost eight players in a plane crash in 1958.

2. The fictional character most like you?
Some people say Peter Pan because I refuse to grow up, but I totally disagree.

3. The greatest album, ever?
There are many great albums but if I have to pick just one it’ll be Odessey & Oracle by The Zombies from 1968.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I know it’s one of these questions “AC/DC” or “Kiss”? But I have to say I like both. Though William Shatner is the coolest of all!

In already what’s shaping up to be a terrible year for music magazines (Harp, No Depression), yet another publication is going under.  Folio reports that Resonance is now calling it quits.  They were a fine indie publication- how could you not love a zine that puts Octopus Project on the cover and does a purposely fake Yo La Tengo cover with three models posing at the band?  Not to mention the fact that they offer the last two issues online for free.  Chalk it up to the usual problems- the postal rates for mailing mags shot up sharply, ad dollars sinking because of a bad economy (plus those bucks going online) and business models that didn’t embrace the web enough.  Harp and ND were looking to do more on the last front but it was too late.  I hate to say this but don’t be surprised if you see a spate of other print-first music pubs (not to mention many non-music pubs) go belly up in the rest of 2008.

A growing trend in game criticism is to shoehorn academic disciplines like Marxism or Freudianism into video game analysis. A good example would be the blatant mother figure tones from Cortana in Halo and the fact that Master Chief seems dead set on winning her affections. Another would be going on about the mis-en-scene of Bioshock, which is just a fancy way of saying the game makes you feel claustrophobic. Typical reactions to these kinds of exchanges vary from “It’s a fucking game” to “Dude…seriously, it’s a game.” Which is fair enough, but how exactly are we supposed to talk about video games with people beyond “I luv teh gamez”? There is only one logical conversation after that: the experience itself. This is actually what academia really is when it applies to a game, varying ways to explain and analyze with great depth and magnitude the precise nature of that game’s experience.

This wouldn’t be a proper defense of academia without some game analysis though, so I’m going to take this through a very gentle, easy going run down of Starcraft (after the jump).

As a director, he continues to grow. His style has stayed basically the same, yet he still finds new ways to incorporate inventive ideas and social satire into the madcap mix. As a writer, his work has become polished and professional. Gone (well…almost) are the rude rants, the sexually explicit diatribes meant to shock as much as satisfy. In their place is a considered concentration on character, a desire to explore more mature aspects of humor while never quite leaving the confines of filth. Yet perhaps the most amazing thing about Low Budget Productions guru Chris Seaver and his 16 years of independent moviemaking is his consistency. Few if any mainstream auteurs have the track record that he’s developed, from his earliest experiments to his latest - and some may argue, greatest - works of genius.

Never one to rest on his lengthy laurels, 2008 looks like a banner year for this tireless talent. Already, Tempe has released Teenape Goes to Camp, and within the next few months we should be privy to new offerings like The Film Crew, Wet Heat, and the soon to be classic Ski Wolf. And what’s even more astonishing is that Seaver continues to create. A quick trip over to his website indicates the starting dates for two more films, as well as ideas for future projects. Not bad for a 30 year old who struggled in anonymity for years before DVD delivered his insane cinema to a wanting world. Even a change in personal status (he’s married, with a newborn baby) refuses to dampen his filmic fervor.

In this first part of a two day overview, we will look at Seaver’s old school pseudo-swansong, a crazy kiss-off revisit to the LPB universe melding the mindless teen sex romp with a small dose of Richard Connell.  Then it’s time to buy a ticket and take the Multiplex ride as a staff of highly skilled theater employees banter back and forth with the forces of evil. Together with the flicks featured in Wednesday’s piece, we’ll realize that something strange is happening to Chris Seaver. He’s leaving his past behind, and is preparing to take on so-called legitimate cinema. From what we see here, he’s got more than enough tenacity - and talent - to spare.

Teenape Goes to Camp

When former associate Heather calls, asking for a favor, our simian lothario is suspicious to say the least. When he finds out the request is for his services as a camp counselor, the mack daddy monkey goes ballistic. Little does he know but this entire summer stay-over set-up is just a ruse. Heather and her associates have the ‘most dangerous game’ prepared for our primate, and not even an obsession with sex can stop them.

It’s weird watching this surreal mix of Meatballs and Surviving the Game, especially in light of where Seaver’s career has been headed lately. To see him shuffle back to outrageous scatology, to rely on body parts and their accompanying functions as a means of making his business funny reeks of an unnecessary regression. Argue all you want about the LPB universe and its cast of kooky characters, but when this director wants to diddle in dirtiness, there is none better. So at least Teenape Goes to Camp offers its fair share of corporeal complements. Between our title character and the ever popular (and horny) Choach, there’s enough blue balling to go around. In fact, Seaver seems to have substantially stepped up his game in the proto-porn and massive mammary department. Some of his newest cast members are carrying cleavage that would make the editors of Juggs jump for joy.

It will be the sudden shift into stalker/slaughter mode that throws many off their game, especially when Father Mushroom from the MST3K classic Jack Frost shows up to offer his sage-like fungal advice. Granted, the moments of revenge are sweet as the gamiest cheek meat, and we want to see these standoffs as part of the overall LPB dynamic. But this is clearly a movie made for fans who just can’t get enough of the entire goofball gimmick. Fortunately, the film offers enough glad-handed good-timing to warrant attention. As a matter of fact, had he not made the next three movies under discussion, this would be one of his crowning achievements. Yet what happens to Teenape Goes to Camp is what tends to occur with all midcareer capers. There’s an undeniable sense of greatness here. There is also a tendency to view things via a “been there, done that” set of revisionist glasses. If you love Seaver and LBP, you’ll dig this fun flick. But be prepared - the next cinematic leap is a dozy.

The Film Crew

The employees at the local chain theater are a little wary of management’s new hire. His name is Caspian, and he seems unusually preoccupied with death, dismemberment, and retribution. As they go about their business, being rude to the customers and inappropriate with each other, something sinister starts to happen. One by one, the crew starts disappearing…and the new guy seems to be behind the vanishings.

Let’s get the lovefest out of the way right up front - The Film Crew is fantastic. It is by far one of the best, most inventive, and most consistently clever film Seaver has ever helmed. Not only does it prove that he can exist outside the strictures of the Low Budget Pictures universe, but it indicates a level of pop culture intuition that’s simply dead on. Attaching the at one time tired slasher dynamic to what is basically a stellar sitcom waiting to be discovered, we are treated to riffs on Jeremy Statham, American Idol, and geek cinema obsession. The scripting literally shimmers at times, reflecting one man’s undeniable ability to channel his entire catalog of fandom into a witty exchange of hilarious horndog hollabacks and genre homages. No one knows the horror comedy better, and when Seaver is on - as he is here - the results are electric. Indeed, one gets depressed at how the film ends, since it seems to indicate a sequel is next to impossible.

And another thing - Seaver has really solidified the work with his actors. The cast is incredible, delivering dead on parodies of slackers, dreamers, angst-ridden rejects, and ‘bumble-clot’ Rastafarians. The cartoonish quality they bring to each line reading really amplifies Seaver’s sensibility, and they end up endearing themselves to us with a juvenile gesture or a natty non-sequitor.  Not everything here is anarchy - the plot percolates along on whiffs of Prom Night and the essence of the venerable Voorhees. Even better, the splatter is kept under control, not allowed to overwhelm what is an excellent mainstream effort. Like his lost masterpiece The Karaoke Kid, Seaver continues to prove he can work well outside the confines of Bonejack, Teenape, and the entire Heather and Puggly domain. All he needs is someone to give him the chance. The Film Crew may just be his ticket to wider mainstream acceptance.

Tomorrow - we check in with another Teenape adventure, and witness the rebirth of Chris Seaver as a legitimate independent icon with his amazing ‘80s homage, Ski Wolf.

 

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