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.


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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.

Food for the Stomach, Food for the Soul

In my mostly life, I work for my family’s farming company. Dirt, tractors, trucks, lettuce, celery, deep wells, fog in the morning rolling in off the Monterey Bay, sunlight and blue sky, no rain and water-contentious California. We do a variety of things, but one small and lovely thing we do is run a CSA program. CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. That’s a program where you purchase a subscription to fresh produce. In our program, that means a once-a-week box of organic fruits and vegetables. You, the subscriber, will not know what each weekly box contains until you get it. CSAs are worthwhile programs because they force you to eat in-season, they typically push you beyond the bounds of what you normally eat, and they’re sold at a discount (ours is).

Anyway, here’s a shot of a recent box’s contents from our farm. Good food for the stomach. I’m afraid most American families don’t eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits. Eat more greenery! And reddery! Such as beets. Yum. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of beets, but they’re darn healthy. I recently stumbled across a recipe for salt-roasting beets and then using them in a goat cheese and toasted walnut salad that sounded pretty good. Even for an avowed anti-beetist such as myself.

You need food for your soul too, so read more good books. What is the last book you read that was truly amazing? Listen to good music. Look at good art. No, Kim Kardashian does not qualify as good art. Don’t just glance at it. Look at it. Go to church, even if you don’t believe in God. Go to church, sit there, and try posing some of the eternal questions of the philosophers to yourself: why the heck am I here (not in church…why are you in life)? What does this all mean?

And then go do a little creation yourself. Bake a cake. Write a poem. Write a song if you’re so inclined. Consuming is good for the soul, yeah, but you also need to do a little creation as well. That’s food for the soul as well.

Don’t give me the “I’m not artistic” excuse. Everyone has some kind of creative streak in them, whether its making jerky or gardening or flower-arranging or crocheting or writing the next War and Peace. It’s in there. Trust me. It might be a little withered because you haven’t used it in a long time, but it’s in there. Just give it some mulch (exposure to good art) and then give it a go…

If you don’t, you’re lessening yourself as a human being. Now, if you have a really good excuse, such as being a Christian or Yazidi in Syria and you’re running away from ISIS, then, I gotta say, that’s an excellent excuse. Still, you’ll have time someday. Hopefully.

Man in the Mirror

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 Here’s the latest song. Man in the Mirror. Guitars, bass, drums, vocals upon vocals. Lots of fiddling around and having fun. The verses were particularly fun, as I kept on layering harmonies. Hopefully you can tell that the third verse has more harmonies in it than the 1st and 2nd (and the 2nd more than the 1st). I wish I had more time to write and record songs. Very therapeutic.

Various yarns that weave into one

Whether you subscribe to the chaos theory approach to life, the universe, etc., or a more theistic approach, both philosophies are comfortable with the idea that life is made up of various yarns that tend to come together into one rope.

Sure, they might wander off in random directions, intersect, diverge, re-route, whatever and whichever and however you might imagine, but they tend to converge. The road in the yellow wood that split into two will one day emerge from that wood as one road again.

That said, we’ve all our various yarns weaving together into the tapestry of our lives. For me, that includes the Rangers film having had its first screening last week in Virginia. Next, it’s off to Fandom Fest, August 7-9, in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as at Gen Con in Indianapolis, July 31. Rangers is the second script I’ve written that’s actually been made into film (Rise of the Fellows Hip was the first–same production company: OAP); I’m not expecting it to be the last.

Speaking of film, I’m trying my hand at shooting a music video for a song called Little Zombies (local band called Skypilot, from their upcoming Galactic Holler album). Should be interesting to see what happens with no budget. Could be a trainwreck or could be awesome (as in: eliciting some awe). I think I’m going to go for a horror film approach, plus kids on bicycles.

Other yarns? Slowly (see: glacial) chipping away at another Tormay book. I refuse to divulge information about it right now, as that would be akin to opening the oven door to look at a cheese soufflé mid-bake. Never a good thing.

What are your threads these days?