Fifty Shades of Werewolf Bureaucracy

I must admit bias on the topic of a certain kind of urban fantasy, the werewolf and vampire category. Typically, those stories involve a werewolf or a vampire strutting around and doing his stuff. I find little of interest in them, and have often wondered why so many readers are devoted to those stories.

I have a theory, thought up in the last couple of weeks. It’s a political theory. Why political? For those of you who don’t know me, I come from a farming family in California and currently work on that farm. Farming in California is highly politicized. There’s no way to escape it. Water is dominated by politics, as is labor, air quality, organic issues, GMOs, land use regulations, species issues, nitrates, run-off, etc.

Therefore, like the old cogito ergo sum proposition of Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am,” one might say of California farmers: “agricola ego sum, ergo sum politicam.”

Anyway, given the fact that almost a majority of Americans are on the public dole in one form or another (food stamps, aid for dependent children, section 8 housing, Obamacare, etc), it follows that they need to be taken care of by government. Government is their alpha werewolf or dominant vampire. Therefore, that’s the kind of story they like to read. It is their story, whether they read it or live it. Vicariously living a story where your life is run by a dominant vampire is probably a bit more exciting than actually living a story where your life is run by a grey, impersonal bureaucracy sending you checks every month.

I know, I know. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it is something. It also explains the ridiculous appeal of all those bondage submission Fifty Shades of Grey whatnot, as well as all the various Billionaire’s Maid or Desperate for the Billionaire books.

That’s all for today. Carry on.


Selective Deafness

I’ve noticed that having small children is making me go deaf. Not because of their screaming and yelling and shrieking and toppling over of tall wooden block towers and stomping about the house like small elephants, even though they do all five incessantly. Heck, if they had access to dynamite, they’d be blowing things up in the backyard everyday merely to enjoy the noise. No, I’ve noticed that I choose to go deaf because they talk so much. My eldest is practicing to be an auctioneer. He rattles off speech like the sun gives off light. Endless, powerful, fast. So I choose to be deaf.

This is a bad choice on my part because it results in some miscommunication. My sons say one thing. I, due to being selectively deaf and not paying attention, hear something else. A typical conversation goes something like this:

Son #1 (what I hear): Dad, I’d like to devote my life to taking care of the poor. Mostly unwashed minority lepers, probably.

Me: Sounds good.

Son #1: (what he actually said): Dad, I’m going to borrow your skillsaw and cut a new doorway for my room. Two new doors, probably.

Me: Sounds good.

Son #2: (what I hear): Dad, can I practice piano for two hours today, followed by several hours of Latin memorization?

Me: Okay.

Son #2: (what he actually said): Dad, can we sell Tobi to the gypsies and then use the money to buy a Deathstar Lego set?

Me: Okay.

Thankfully, Son #3 doesn’t really talk much yet, other than monosyllabic shouts and bouts of deliberate burping (the wonder of free will at work). This latter behavior of his causes his brothers to scream with laughter. Which can be rather loud.

So, being deaf really isn’t a bad thing. Though, when they reach their teen years, I suppose I’ll have to sharpen my hearing.


Cheery Christmas Carols

I tend to write more frequently on my Facebook page than this blog, perhaps as an antidote to all the posts about what people ate for breakfast (bagel, wheatgerm, steamed kale, etc), what their amazing cat just did (slept), or how their kid is doing in school (was awarded Student of the Month, mostly for not beating anyone up or stealing other kids’ ritalin).

Anyway, as you know, my humor trends dark (which allows the light to shine brighter). Below is a reprint from a recent Facebook post.

A MODERN CHRISTMAS CAROL

(with culinary and musical undertones)

Holidays were always tense at the Pudding household. Particularly in the evening when carolers came to sing at their front door.

“Is the door locked?” said Mrs. Pudding to Mr. Pudding.

“Yes,” he said, and he glanced at the 12-gauge leaning next to the couch.

“I wish they wouldn’t sing that carol,” muttered their daughter Figgy.

The last few notes faded away outside with a final repeat of “we won’t go until we get some, so bring it out here.” The Pudding family sat in rigid silence, listening to the soft sound of scratching and scrabbling at the door. Finally, there was only silence.

“Damn zombies,” grumbled Mr. Pudding.


fantasy and a child’s point of view

Children see the world in such a profoundly different way than us adults. Most children. And most adults.

My three boys are still young. And with that youth they still have a clarity of eye in how they see life. They enjoy it. They’re delighted by it, surprised and pleased by it. They take a great deal of pleasure in simple things that most adults would not even bother noticing.

Life is still magical for them. I suppose it won’t be for long, and that’s a melancholy thought. But, for now, I can see their eyes light up over the smallest and oddest things. For instance, the other day I think I randomly mentioned the idea of cats secretly baking pastries at night (or something equally silly–silly from my adult perspective). They laughed uproariously at this, but, in a certain way, they took it seriously as well. I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they considered the idea of Duster (our cat) silently and sneakily baking croissants and bear claws in the kitchen at 2 in the morning.

I’ve realized lately, considering the perspective of my boys, and the sheer joy they get from that perspective, that the fantasy genre offers the same possibility. The possibility of a new perspective. Of joy in seeing things afresh again. Of seeing the world’s first day, of new vistas and quests and danger met cheerfully. Worlds beyond worlds.

Oh, yes, I know there’s plenty of anarchic, nihilist fantasy out there these days. More and more, I suppose, popularized by George Martin’s Game of Thrones series, and copy-catted ever since in dreary, factory output. Conveyor belts of the stuff coming through Amazon.

But I’m not talking about that kind of fantasy. I’m talking about Tolkien and Lewis and Chesterton. Patricia Mckillop’s Riddlemaster trilogy, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series. I’d humbly include my Tormay trilogy in that tradition as well. Certainly not as one of the greats, of course, but with that same peek through the window at the world’s first day.

Unless you become like children, right? They’re the ones who still have a worthwhile way to look at things these days (not if they’re already preoccupied by that dreadful nitwit Miley Cyrus or glued to their iPhone or whatever, but you know what I mean), and, I suspect, that’s why fantasy as a genre has something going for it that you really can’t find in other genres. Not often, at least.

Some of you reading this might think I’m babbling like a soft-minded fool. That’s alright. Others of you might understand. If you do, well, think on it for yourself for a while. Promise me that.


The power of words and Brookside Chocolate

A chocolate commercial? I’ll explain…

Not so long ago, in a fit of exuberance fueled by Brookside Chocolate, I wrote a review on Amazon about said chocolate. I don’t often write reviews, primarily because I’m loathe to review books as a writer (it can have bad, unintended consequences). When I do write reviews, they’re of other things, such as chocolate.

Anyway, to my surprise, the Brookside marketing people contacted me one day and asked if they could quote part of my review in some marketing material. I said, yes, of course. Why wouldn’t I? They make a good product. My review ended up in a TV spot.

This summer, Brookside contacted me again and asked me if I wouldn’t mind being in one of their commercials. I said, yes, of course! I’m not one for being on-camera (I don’t even like being in still photos), but Brookside is a good cause.

Anyway, a camera team showed up at my house several weeks ago and filmed here and there. They spent some time on our main ranch and then filmed some bits in front of my house with me and their main actor (George, the chocolate delivery man). That commercial is live now, and is the one at the top of this post. Rather fun, and I think they did an excellent job.

So, if you’re interested in seeing me in action, take a look. That’s the front of my house at the end, of course. Built in 1890 and still standing, regardless of California earthquakes. And, yes, they did give me one hundred pounds of chocolate. The commercial is part of a promotion they’re doing–an actual contest to win 100 lbs of chocolate (you know you want to enter!).

Creatives being creative. I have to say, the folks at Brookside have inspired me to get back to writing.


Happy Halloween or Samhain

Actually, Samhain.

I’ve always thought Halloween a weird holiday. Kind of a non-holiday, really. My skeptical disposition toward it began back when I was a kid. Our father made us go trick-or-treating for UNICEF instead of the usual amassing of candy tonnage. Me and my brothers would go house to house with those little orange UNICEF boxes. How depressing.

Knock! Knock!

The door would open and some old kindly lady would stand there, peering at me through her bifocals.

“And what might you be, little boy?”

“I’m dressed up as a Swiss bureaucrat from the World Health Organization. Trick or treat for UNICEF!”

And then I’d hold up that wretched orange box, jingling the change inside to prime her psychology. She’d usually plunk in a coin or two and then hold out the bowl of candy.

“Would you like a Mars Bar as well?”

“Uh, no thanks. The nickel is fine, thank you, ma’am. The starving children in Botswana will really appreciate the half-ounce of gruel you just subsidized.”

We didn’t take the candy because my parents were pretty strict about sugar back then. We only had sweets a couple times a year (birthdays and Christmas), and even then it was only molasses or maple syrup.

Later in life, I actually spent a fair amount of time working overseas for a subcontractor of the United Nations, specifically for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The amount of graft and waste in that organization is astounding. Very depressing.

Anyway, now that I’ve grown up and become grumpy, I’m even more skeptical about Halloween. I mean, who in their right mind is going to celebrate a day based on the Druidic festival of Samhain? That was a day when the druids, who apparently were pretty frisky people with some odd ideas, celebrated by burning other people alive in wicker baskets and having a lot of sex out in the forest. The way I think, that sounds like a bad combination. Bad for the people in the baskets and bad in terms of pine cones and gorse bushes and other prickly things getting in the way of intimacy. Not to mention the fact that these were obviously crazy people and, as such, they really shouldn’t have been having babies (which I imagine they would’ve brought up to be just as crazy).

Thankfully, the Romans came along and also recognized that the Druids were insane. The governor of England, Suetonius, put an end to most of ’em.

But, here we are, carving pumpkins and traipsing around with our little goblins and ghouls. I have to admit, we carve pumpkins as well in our house, but instead of saying they’re carved to ward off demons, we carve ’em to ward of government bureaucrats.


Echo

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Echo is my latest song. It’s about death (of course). Our shadows in this life are already stretching across the divide, waiting for us with all of their implications and consequences and echoes. What we do here will last. Or not.

I hope you consider your own mortality every once in a while. Not in a morbid way, but in careful consideration of what it might mean.

Echo is typical of my usual approach to songwriting and recording: seat-of-the-pants. I have some pretty rough tracks, clipping, mixing pop and rock and a little bit of punk anger. Considering death does make me angry at times, the supposed casualness of it, the loss of what-could-have-been, the supposed lack of meaning. I have to be careful to use that word “supposed” as a qualifier, because I think we’ll find out a lot of what we’re not understanding here, once on the other side. Things our forward-reaching shadows have already figured out.

Death is a drearily common fixture of our world, whether its a drunk-driving accident from last night on tonight’s news (if it bleeds, it leads), cancer, a gang-shooting (all too common in my town), ISIS beheading Christians in Iraq (wtf is up with US foreign policy?), or Planned Parenthood offing mini-humans in their dark Satanic mills (wtf America?). Sorry, some death is needless and evil. Some death is pushing the boat off from shore and sailing away into that good night with a brisk west wind.


Randomness and Brookfield Chocolate

Once upon a time, I wrote a rather exuberant review on Amazon of Brookfield Chocolate.  How could I not? They make a good product, particularly their delicious little crunchy version (it really is good). Having lived in Switzerland for several years, I have a great appreciation of chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate, other than odd people?

And now, due to the humorous hand of fate (at least, some times it is humorous), I find myself in a commercial for Brookfield Chocolate. We’re shooting tomorrow, early in the morning with the sunrise and the dew on the broccoli fields, the lark on the wing, and God in His heaven.

I shall resist fame mightily, but who doesn’t want to be on TV these days? The glamor, the lights, the caked-on makeup, the red carpets (frankly, I would never have a red carpet in my house–much too garish). 15 seconds on TV seems to be the chief goal of many people. Perhaps I have arrived at the Great Purpose of my life?

In other news, I’m writing a series of humorous children’s stories at the bequest of an old VeggieTales friend of mine. I just finished the fifth story today, and have two more to go. My friend is agented (I am not), and apparently the agent wants the project. Oh me, oh my. There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip. It’s a good thing that I enjoy writing, in and of itself.


Little Zombies

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Latest tune, courtesy of me, my guitar, Garageband, some midi and a little time. Time. That’s the most valuable part. Time. I’ve been realizing more and more that we have limited time. Hardly any at all. And we don’t know how much.

Time is kind of like a wrapped Christmas present that we don’t get to open until the millisecond before our death. We get whacked by the drunk in his car and–bam–we open the present as we sail through the air, check inside the box and think, “Hmm. Okay. I get 48 years, 3 months, 16 days, 2 hours and 37 seconds. This is the last second.” And then we hit the pavement.

Or we open the box while in bed at the cancer center. Tubes and monitors hooked up everywhere. The monsignor or pastor or rabbi just gave you the last rites. Your heart monitor begins to flatline as your disease has the last say, and…we get to open the box, peer inside and remark “Aha. I get 82 years, 5 months, 29 days, 1 hour and 12 seconds. And this is the last second.” Flatline.

So where am I going with this? Nowhere, really. Just that…well, be careful with your time. Don’t presume.

Speaking of presumption, this song, Little Zombies, is about the presumption of life. Some people feel entitled to it. Some don’t even get to be part of the discussion, whether they’re alive and enslaved somehow (sex trade, human trafficking out of Africa and into Muslim countries, kids in sweatshops, little baby humans who haven’t been born yet, whatever and whomever). This one is for all the little zombies who never really got a shot at life.