Sunday, November 6, 2011

Haunted Property

Most people are familiar with the stereotype of the spooky house on the block.  Perhaps there are a few gnarly old trees rotting in the front yard.  Maybe that busted out window in the back still has a couple of 2x4s nailed over it.  And there always seems to be a crow perched on the fence, cawing as you walk by.  You know, the one that everyone dares each other to ring the doorbell of on Halloween.  For the more intrepid, this may seem like the perfect dream house; but for the rest of the world, it holds a certain stigma that can seriously devalue a property.

A haunted house is merely one example of a stigmatized property.  Properties are considered stigmatized when some aspect of the property, other than its physical condition, would lead to it being shunned by potential buyers.  These tend to be issues that would affect the potential buyers psychologically or emotionally.  Having a death occur in the home is merely one example.  Any sort of notoriety that could draw unwanted attention to the home could land the property under the stigmatized label, or a history of problems that would cause buyers to perceive a future risk should they invest in the property.  The former home of a famous person or a property that was used in a movie could draw unwanted attention from nosy tourists.  And in some special cases like California, having an earthquake nearby is enough to stigmatize a property.

In the past, property transactions have been ruled by the saying: "caveat emptor" or "buyer beware!"  This means that your real estate agent does not have to disclose that a property is stigmatized, though they legally cannot lie to you should you ask a direct question.  Most states now have laws protecting buyers from a host of problems, but stigmatization isn't often covered.  The laws regarding stigmatized property differ from state to state and country to country.  In some states, an agent is only required to disclose that a property is stigmatized if a death occurred in the past 3 years.  Seeing as how the events leading to stigmatization don't often leave obvious physical changes on a property, the buyer is generally unable to tell that there is something "wrong" with the house upon a reasonable inspection.  It's not until the neighbor's gossip reaches their ears that they realize they got more than they bargained for.  By then, it's usually too late to seek legal action.

One noted exception is the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley.  Helen Ackley's house in Nyack, NY was touted as being home to a multitude of poltergeists.  Her and several family members had reported these findings to both local and national publications on multiple occasions.  Unfortunately, they were apparently not any publications read by Jeffrey Stambovsky.  After putting a down payment on the house, he sued to be released from the contract and have his money returned to him once he discovered the home's reputation.  In a surprising and often cited court decision, Stambovsky was awarded the money he sought.  The court felt that since the notorious house had been publicly advertised as haunted by the owner that it was to be considered "legally" haunted regardless of the actual ghostly content.  In other words, Ackley could not suddenly claim the opposite of her published words.  The house eventually sold to a brave soul who actually wanted it because of its ghastly reputation.

If you plan on selling a property with noted paranormal activity, it would be wise to consult your realtor and local law books to determine whether or not it’s appropriate to disclose the information to potential buyers.  You don’t want to chase them off or lower your property’s value unnecessarily, but you certainly wouldn’t want to find yourself in legal trouble which could have been easily avoided.  Or perhaps you are the potential buyer – in which case, do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask questions even if they seem a little nutty.  It’s better to find a home you’ll truly be happy with (ghosts or no ghosts) than a property with unexpected annoyances.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

To all the Snookis of the world...

This started out as response to this post, but it kind of focused too narrowly on the Halloween costume issue instead of the broader topic of cultural appropriation so I'm choosing to post it here rather than clog up Kenaz's blog.

When my friend and I saw these adverts, we made a joke about dressing up as the cast of Jersey Shore since we're both Italian.  And then she reminded me she had dressed up as a Native American one year, which is also part of her heritage. 

That got me thinking... Would anyone, other than Italian-American organizations, bat an eye at people dressed up as the Jersey Shore cast?  Is it OK because we're mimicking celebrities rather than directly mimicking the culture?  Is it OK because it's our culture?  Is it OK because most people think of Italians as "white"?  Or should we be offended because they're a horrible stereotype?  Most of the cast isn't even Italian...

Would certain costumes get a pass if they were historically accurate rather than derogatory stereotypes?  What if my friend went as a historically accurate Pocahontas? Would that be acceptable since she's going as a historical figure?  Is that any worse than me going as Sylvia Plath, whom I share no heritage with?  Where do we draw the line?  What about a Roman soldier costume or a typical English princess or even a Viking?

I didn't personally see it, but my friend swore one of the adverts was about Geishas, which to me is no different than going as a ninja, knight, or cowboy.  It's a profession with historical significance; not a representation of everyone in that culture.

I'm not sure where I stand on all of this yet.  I'm still forming my opinions.  But I will at least say that those adverts got me thinking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Back in my day, Pluto was a planet.

Amateur astrologers and neo pagans seem to think that this is some major blow to astrology. After all, what about all those poor people whose charts are really affected by Pluto? The consequences will never be the same!

First of all - chill. Let’s not conflate astrology and astronomy.

Pluto is no longer a planet in astronomy. That doesn’t mean that astrology needs to follow suit and diminish Pluto’s importance. Look at how important the moon is to one’s chart, and it’s certainly not a planet. It’s not like Pluto changed size or got destroyed. It’s still the same lump of space rock it’s always been. And if astrologers want to still consider it a planet, why not? This is an issue of taxonomy, not physical change. 50 years from now scientists might reinstate its planethood because they’re using some other method of classification.

The only issue I foresee is that Pluto’s demotion would mean a change of perception in the collective unconscious. But would this affect astrology? Well, only if astrology is based on people’s perceptions and preconceived notions of heavenly bodies’ attributes rather than something more mathematical and independent.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Just testing the new blogger app.  I'm glad they finally made an official one.  I was getting sick of pop up adds.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Your Sign Has NOT Changed (and neither has your future children’s)

Cross-posted on tumblr

OK, so first off - I don’t give a toss if you believe in astrology or not.  But I hate MISINFORMATION.

You see, the news media and these so-called scientists are trying to debunk something with a little drop of truth in a whole sea of misinformation.  It’s like trying to debunk the geocentric theory by saying “The earth is not at the center of the solar system.  Uranus is!”  Do you see why this is a problem?

The other problem is that everyone with half a brain (and only half) is trying to debunk the debunkers by saying that the sign changes only affect people born after a certain date.  So your sign is the same, but your future kids’ signs are all jacked up.  WHAT?!  Do you think the constellations just shifted overnight?  This is an ongoing process that has been happening since the beginning of time.  The constellations didn’t just chill in one spot and then decide to move after astrology got invented or after this news story aired.  Use some frikkin common sense.

So before I go further into this, here are the links you need to read if you want to understand what’s going on.  They are concise, informative, and not dry.

So I’m going to make this short since I’ve already explained this in my other blog and the other blogs cover pretty much everything else (and I know you all on tumblr have no attention span when there’s no pretty pictures):
  1. Astrologers have known about the constellations shifting since they invented astrology.
  2. It’s called precession.
  3. Precession is how we determine what age it is, ie Age of Aquarius (like the song!)
  4. Western Astrology, which uses the Tropical Zodiac, is not actually based on the stars.  It’s based on the planets.
  5. It’s a fixed cross anchored by the solstices and equinoxes. These quarters are divided into 3 sections each and assigned with names that just so happen so be the same names as the constellations (yeah, they used to match up once upon a time).
  6. Vedic Astrology uses the Sidereal Zodiac which is actually concerned with the stars’ influence.
  7. It’s not affected by this “news” either as it’s nothing actually new.  Read the 3rd link.
  8. If you’ve ever picked up an actual astrology book and noticed that the sun signs shift back and forth by a few days depending on the year, don’t make me smack you.  This is not precession.  This is the equinoxes and solstices shifting because of earth’s orbit and thus affecting astrology.
  9. This really only affects cuspers anyway.
  10. And btw, you’re not just your sun sign.  You have a whole frikkin birth chart including sun, moon, all the planets (even pluto!), ascendent, and a bunch of other stuff that I’m not going to get into because that’s where I stopped my studies about 12 years ago.