Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Problem with Modern Fairy Tales

A week before their Fall semester began at the University, Jeremy and his sister Alice flew out to see their grandpa. Grandpa picked them up at the airport and then drove them to his little retirement condominium. After sleeping accommodations had been sorted out -- Alice on the fold-out sofa in the living room and Jeremy on an inflatable mattress in the study -- they all went out to Grandpa's favorite Thai restaurant for dinner.

When they returned to the condominium, Alice sprawled on the sofa and went dramatically limp. "It's been a long day. I'm totally fried," she said.

"I'm sure you are," replied Grandpa. "We should get ready for bed. I keep forgetting that two-hour time zone difference."

Alice straightened up. She said, "Grandpa, you remember those fairy tales you told us when we were young? About the spellbound princesses? The brave knights in shining armor?"

"The fierce dragons and wily sorcerers?" added Jeremy.

"Yes, I suppose that I remember a few of them," said Grandpa. "But you two are much too sophisticated now for those old-fashioned fairy tales."

"You could update them, couldn't you?" said Alice. "You know, translate them to modern times."

Grandpa looked skeptical but said, "Well, I'll give it a try." He sat next to Alice on the sofa. Jeremy took a seat on Grandpa's recliner.

Grandpa cleared his throat and began. "Once upon a time there was a businessman. One day--"

"What kind of businessman?" asked Jeremy, who was majoring in accounting. "Corporate management? Finance? Insurance? Real Estate?"

"Does it matter?" replied Grandpa.

"It helps establish character and motivation," said Jeremy.

"Very well. Once upon a time there was a businessman who worked in finance."

Jeremy said, "Corporate finance? Investment banking? Venture capital?"

"All right, we'll say venture capital. Once upon a time there was a venture capitalist."

"Seed money or mezzanine financing?"

Grandpa looked at Jeremy and then at Alice, sighed, and shook his head. He began again. "Once upon a time there was a humble shepherd tending his flocks. One day ..."

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