Return to Collinswood

June 29, 2011 – “Dark Shadows” premiered this week back in 1966.

The gothic soap opera that focused on Barnabas Collins and the rest of the creepy Collins clan scared the bee Jesus out of me when I was a kid but I adored every minute of it and rushed home from school each day to watch my favorite characters. I especially loved the time travel, when they were swept back to Colonial New England. Funny how each member of the Collins family had someone back then who looked exactly like them.

Through the years, I’ve wondered if I would enjoy watching it again, or if it would seem too dated as many shows from that era do. In 1991, Hollywood attempted a weak remake, which lasted only a few episodes, and thankfully so.

Now director Tim Burton will try his hand at another remake scheduled to reach theaters in May 2012. I’m intrigued, but more frightened because Burton cast Johnny Depp in the lead role. That’s not surprising, since Depp is Burton’s favored actor for most of his films. But Depp’s Michael Jackson-like performance in Burton’s update of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” paled in comparison to Gene Wilder’s and I’m afraid the same will be true when compared to Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins. However, there probably isn’t an actor I would consider right for the role. The character is too iconic, just like the Barnabas portrait that hung in the hall in Collinswood, and was featured prominently in every episode.

Still, Burton, who also claims he was obsessed with “Dark Shadows” as a kid, will bring the story to new generations, and with vampire popularity at its height, he’ll most likely have a hit on his hands.

And for those of us who love the original series, we know nothing will ever be as good. Sometimes it’s impossible to recapture the magic.

The difference between mortgage pre-qualification, pre-approval and approval

June 28, 2011 — The mortgage industry is riddled with terms that may confuse even the most sophisticated buyers. This is especially true when it comes to understanding the difference between loan pre-qualification, loan pre-approval and approval. Here’s a brief explanation of each.

Pre-qualification
When a buyer is pre-qualified, it simply means that a loan officer or real estate professional has weighed the buyers’ debt against their income to determine whether they will qualify.

Pre-approval
The pre-approval process takes this a step further. To determine a pre-approval amount, the lender will check the income information provided by the buyer and run a credit report. If approved, the buyer is given an amount for which they will most likely qualify. However, an approval cannot be given until a property is found, and a satisfactory appraisal is completed.

Approval
Loan approval occurs when the underwriting process has determined that the buyer and the property meet all of the necessary criteria. After loan approval is received, a closing date can be set.

Job interviews are a two-way street

June 27, 2011 – When preparing for a big job interview it’s easy to overlook the obvious.

You may be armed and ready with answers to the toughest questions, but don’t forget that you are also interviewing them. Your perception of the company is important and the questions you ask not only show your interest in the position you are interviewing for, but also can help you decide if you want to work there.

Aside from asking general questions about the company or what to expect from a typical day at the office, be creative. For instance, I always ask for the average length of time employees stay with the company because that speaks volumes to me. And if they don’t know the answer, I ask how long they’ve been with the company. I consider it a solid corporate culture if they can tell me it’s more than seven years.

I also ask the interviewer for their favorite part of the job or the company, and then try to find out the opposite by asking about their least favorite, or the most common complaints employees make. My questions usually focus on the corporate culture because that is important to me. I can find out what a company does through its Web site. I’m more interested to find out if I’ll be a good fit.

The best way to compile a list of appropriate questions is to decide what is important to you. Do you prefer a flexible schedule? Or do you want the convenience of working from home occasionally? Factor those requirements into your questions. Here’s a helpful top ten list from CNN.com to get you started.

1. What are the top three tasks you want the candidate to perform after being hired?
2. Why did you choose this company?
3. How do you see me benefiting the company?
4. Is there room for growth and advancement?
5. Are there opportunities for professional training or further education?
6. How will I be evaluated and by whom?
7. What is the general culture of the company?
8. Are there other job responsibilities not mentioned in the ad?
9. When will you be making a decision on the successful candidate?
10. May I call you if other questions arise?

Be sure to close the interview with question #9. That might be the most important question of all.

Purple haze

June 26, 2011 – I never had much desire to visit France — I’m more of a fan of the Mediterranean countries, at least when I vacation in my mind — but these gorgeous photos of the country’s lavender fields make me want to hop a plane now.

With lavender’s ability to sooth nervous tension, relieve pain and help insomnia, the people in this region must be the happiest and most well-rested people on earth. Just looking at them made me smile.

Happy Birthday, Carly!

June 25, 2011 – It’s no secret that I adore Carly Simon. She’s my favorite female singer/songwriter of all time. In fact, nobody does it better than she does.

The Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe winner who rose to fame during the 1970s turns 66 today. A legend in her own time, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.

The biggest success of her career was the classic “You’re So Vain”, which prompted rumors worldwide as fans speculated who she was singing about when she crooned, “I bet you think this song is about you.” Likely suspects include Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson and Cat Stevens. Recent speculation, however, claims that it’s actually music and movie mogul David Geffen.

Simon, who was married to singer/songwriter James Taylor, suffers from severe stage and rarely toured during her hey day. I was lucky enough to see her twice, once in the late 1970s and once in the late 1980s. With much anticipation I waited for her to announce new tour dates for venues in my neighborhood when she recently toured with her two children, Sally and Ben. Alas, they didn’t come my way.

If you’re not familiar with Simon’s music, especially the wonderful deeper cuts on her albums, give her half a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

So join me in wishing Carly a Happy Birthday. It’s the right thing to do.

Ok, I probably overdid it with weaving in the song titles. Can you spot how many I mentioned? There’s at least one in every paragraph.

It’s laughter that is man’s best friend

June 24, 2011 – After a rough couple of weeks, a little humor is always welcome.

Today, while visiting my mother at the hospital, I turned on the television while she napped and watched “The Colbert Report” for the first time. His interview with former White Stripes frontman Jack White had me giggling rather loudly, and I almost woke her up!

Part 2 is especially hilarious…

Steven Colbert Interviews Jack White, Part 1

Steven Colbert Interviews Jack White, Part 2

Can’t wait to see Part 3!