Winchells Open All Night

So Winchell’s is open all night. That’s twenty-four hours a day, each and every day of the year. For those of you who don’t know, Winchell’s is a doughnut chain in the United States. It’s all over California, but I’m not sure about the other states.

At any rate, my interest in Winchell’s, other than their glazed blueberry, is the fact that a Winchell’s  would make a decent place to run to if you were being chased by zombies at one in the morning. It’s always going to be open–right?–so you could make for those bright yellow lights with equanimity that the door will swing open as you sprint through.

I have it from an excellent source (yes, better than the New York Times) that zombies are allergic to chocolate-glazed old fashioneds. There are decent odds that you’ll always find a good supply of those in the racks. That and a good pitching arm should keep you safe.

No need to thank me.

Speaking of silly things that complicate our lives, some genius in Bloomberg just wrote a piece titled “Inflation Stings Most If You Earn Less Than 300k. Here’s How To Deal.” I’m torn over this one. Should I laugh or yell? I’ll do both. I think an excellent tonic for idiocy is a return barrage of laughter, but some yells volley well enough too.

I’ll take one for the team and give you a quick run-down of the so-called Bloomberg piece. Doomberg, Bloomberg–is there a difference? It begins with an acknowledgement of inflation and how it is affecting gas and food, etc etc yawn. We’re all painfully aware of that. But then Professor Teresa Ghilarducci then goes on to explain how those in lower income brackets can soften the blow. Spoiler alert: here’s where it goes down the rabbit hole to Alice in Wonderinsaneland.

Professor Ghilarducci, an economist at the New School of Social Research (where is that and what steps should I take to make sure my kids don’t go there?), says that people should control your budget. That is nothing short of revolutionary, of course, right up there with making sure your zipper is hoisted high after application of pants.

She then goes on to encourage all of us to take more public transport. I suppose that advice is decent for those of you in urban settings. Doesn’t really work out here in farming country. “Excuse me, Mr. Bus Driver, can you take the dirt road on the right after Mr. McIntry’s wheat crop on the lower forty before the old windmill, and then just down three miles and a hard left, but watch out for the brown bull in the pasture there, as he often gets out.”

And then, ha! the good professor descends into culinary advice. Such as steer away from pricey meats and try meat substitutes like beans and lentils. Beans and lentils? For the humble folk, you say? At this point, she gives some rather mysterious advice which I will quote in its poetic entirety: “Plan to cut out the middle creature and consume plants directly.”

Hmm.

Images come to mind of cropping the grass. Cropping it directly, with the fresh dew on it. That’ll be breakfast. A quick nibble of the office potted plants for lunch, the ficus is particularly delicious, and then home for dinner with a plate of succulents, which are, er…succulent, high in fiber and an excellent source of water. As Grandmother is fond of gifting you succulents every Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Jr Day, I’m sure you’ll be in good supply.

At this point, Professor Ghilarducci’s worthy list of advice, almost as inspiring as Ben Franklin’s better treatises, veers into truly noteworthy territory. She remarks that many people acquired pets during the pandemic (that whole loneliness and isolation thing, right?). Regretfully, she points out that pets sometimes necessitate expensive medical treatments, so you might consider skipping chemo for Fido.

Ship Fido off to the glue factory as part of your inflation therapy. We have a call in to Fido to inquire about his perspective, but he’s probably too busy hunting up Ghilarducci’s address on Google to respond.

And they wonder why more and more people are growing skeptical of higher education as a choice.

Friends in Masks

A friend of mine from the land of Oz, and fellow-fantasy writer, Ashley Capes, has an epic fantasy series called The Bone Mask Trilogy out on Amazon and the various other ebook sites. His books feature a young thief as one of the main characters, just like Jute in my Tormay trilogy. Anyway, the first book in the series, City of Masks, is going to be free on April 4, so check it out if you get a chance.

city of masks

In other news, I’ve decided to lay claim to Mars as my ancestral home. Just need to find a good lawyer who specializes in that sort of thing. Mars sounds pretty peaceful these days in comparison to all the nonsense going on in these parts!

The Hobbit and Kardashian marketing

I must say I’m not that enthused about Peter Jackson spinning out The Hobbit into three parts. He’s taken quite a few liberties with Mr. Tolkien’s untouchable tale, some of them rather benign and some of them (girl elf-Fili, or Kili, whatever, love story) reprehensible. Jackson should have his beard shaved off for that one in the manner of the king’s emissaries who were humiliated at the court of Edom (or wherever).

At any rate, it’s galling that Sir Jackson (Sir Jackson? that’s what people get knighted for these days, as opposed to fighting the Moslems at the battle of Tours?) has gone the route of Kim Kardashian marketing with the good Professor’s wit. Spin it out, enlarge it, hash and dash it and repackage it with something shiny.

Yes, I’m going to go see the movie. Even though I’ll gnash my teeth from time to time (sans popcorn, as it doesn’t seem to agree with my health — little agrees with my health these days; save me, Jonathan Gruber!, or at least let me know when I’m supposed to die so I can schedule my dry cleaning accordingly).

And, yes, I’m almost ready to publish the latest Tormay story. Hopefully before my dry cleaning’s date with destiny. Wait. Am I talking about clothes or closure?

And, yes, winter is coming, and that has nothing to do with George Martin. It’s simply winter, a much more profound and persistent entity than any Stark.

Heinlein’s Rules for Writing

1. You must write. 
2. You must finish what you write. 
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order. 
4. You must put the work on the market. 
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

That’s from an essay Robert Heinlein wrote in 1947. All I can add is: Amen. Also, try to write good stories. Stories that aren’t going to make the ghost of my deceased grandmother rise up from her grave and haunt you until you run screaming off a cliff.

Or something like that.

Rare Interview of Master Criminal Greg Downs

I first met Greg Downs when I was serving in the French Foreign Legion in Namibia. We were taking fire from a heavy platoon of British tourists. Ladies, mostly named Hortense or Mabel, elderly and wearing those  tight compression stockings that assist in varicose-vein sublimation. They had the usual assortment of mortars and 6-inch recoilless rifles and RPGs. Plus, they had a sniper the Namibians called the Suet Death Pudding who could shoot the cigar out of your mouth from three miles out. We were pinned down, outgunned, out-womaned, and in need of backup. I remember Greg well because he had the foresight to bring a cooler of pastrami and stone-ground mustard sandwiches on a nice marbled rye, and a few bottles of cold beer. He was a good man. We lost touch, however, when he went to work for the Chinese Tongs in Macau. Mostly smuggling guns and pharmaceuticals and misfortune cookies into Belgium.

Anyway, I ran into him recently at a performance of Swan Lake at Carnegie Hall. Mikhal Gorbachev was dancing lead, along with Al Gore as the Prince. It was a hard thing to watch, but that’s why I always bring along a flask of the even harder stuff. We got to talking during the intermission, while people were running out, screaming about the end of the world and hollering stuff and looking nauseated.

While I know Greg, I’ll pretend I don’t, for your educational sake.

So, while I know you, for the sake of discussion, who are you?

My name is Greg, but who I am is rather difficult. I think the answer has to do with writing, at least somewhat, or I wouldn’t be here, would I? It started in highschool, when I wrote and published some short books on Kindle, my Song of the Aura series, which is when I met Mister Christopher here.

To date, I have published three books: one, a collection of novellas and short stories, two, a novel reimagining King Arthur’s world through the eyes of the (guy you thought was the) villain, and three, a big hulking fantasy epic compiled from that series I mentioned. Nowadays I mostly just doodle, write poetry, blog a little, and go to college.

One day I’ll know who I am, too. Then I’ll tell you.

Speaking of King Arthur, what are your thoughts on modern education and its role in either encouraging or stifling creativity?

I just read Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, where the kids are given more and more information in school, are schooled earlier and earlier, and learn less and less of what will actually give them meaningful lives. I think we’re on the threshold of that. Creativity is not killed by modern education, not judging by all the creative public-schoolers I’ve met, but it’s giving it its best try.

Ray Bradbury was a good man. I have fond memories of that evening he shot up a Taliban bar in Kabul. Good times. Speaking of the Taliban, what are your thoughts on the self-pubbing/indie movement?

I think it’s a great way to encourage people to write more, read more, and generally get involved. It does have a tendency to create a swamp of various amateur books, but I think 50 Shades shows us that everywhere is a swamp nowadays. So really, we have a lot to gain by people taking their writing and their careers in writing into their own hands.

I’m with you there. 50 Shades is to books as Robespierre is to democratic rule. I’ve even heard that those geniuses in Hollywood are in pre-production on a film version. Do you think Hollywood is maintaining its creative edge or losing it?

I think a lot has been lost from a thematic point of view, but a lot has been gained in a visual sense. We have a lot of really good ways to portray events and characters that we didn’t have before… but we don’t use a lot of that potential. Instead we just blow more things up. And then more. I am watching less and less contemporary film nowadays so I think I’ll stop there.

Contemporary film seems to be all about the big name actors and actresses who, frankly, seem to be mostly several noodles short of a bowl of Vietnamese pho. Lately, that’s exemplified by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling” end of their marriage. The subtext in that is they are crazier than mercury-addicted loons. Speaking of marriage, do you think marriage should be arranged by the State?

No. See 1984 for details.

Ah, yes. 1984. Every year is 1984 these days. So, what is creativity and how do we access it and are we truly individual with it?

Got to admit this is my favorite question and I was waiting for it the whole time. So naturally instead of answering it directly I want to go on a tangent. Plato, in his Ion, reckons creativity as a sort of inspiration that begins in a Divine Source (the gods), and proceeds down in a chain from the gods themselves, to the poets and artists, to the performers of poetry. I find that idea a lot more interesting than calling creativity a mush mix of social/political/historical/psychological sources that kind of bubbles up from us every time we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it now were). Think about it. What if creativity was not brainwaves, but a Divine Light we could tap into? What if our creativity, what you might call our artistic self, is like a crystal that the light shines through? When we hone our artistic craft, we chisel at, refine, and polish the crystal. We determine its shape by the life experiences and art experiences we have, and this shape, whatever it is, will reflect the Divine Light in a different way. So if this were true (I don’t know if it is, but it’s worth thinking about), then creativity is something beyond us, which we nevertheless have a good amount of individual control over. So, yes and no, as the elves say.

Very wise of you to retreat to the elves. I’ve always admired their thought processes, but not their sartorial sense. Too many tight pants. Speaking of tight pants, do you think the government is hiding information from us on things like extra-terrestrials, etc?

I could answer that question, but then I would have to kill you to protect my employers.

I trust they’re paying you well! Thanks, Greg, for taking the time to come on by and chat. If anyone wants to learn more about Greg Downs–the man, the writer, the cheese expert–stop on by his blog and spend some quality time.