VeggieTales and Everyday Kindness

I recently had the pleasure to write some scripts for the VeggieTales podcast, and the first of those scripts just went live on the official VeggieTales site. Rather exciting to hear one’s words come to life via someone else’s direction and interpretation!

Even though I use to work in production television a long, long time ago, I find it much more enjoyable to stick to the writing and let someone else worry about the actual production. Maybe that’s because I’m getting old and decrepit.

NBC Universal owns VeggieTales and, every year, they release podcast episodes starring Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. The episodes are fashioned along the lines of an old-style radio variety show. Each episode has a theme such as Joy, Forgiveness, Telling the Truth, etc. And, just as in a variety show, Bob and Larry interview different guests on the show. Sound effects and music are interwoven throughout.

The newly-released episode I wrote is called Everyday Kindness. While the VT podcasts are aimed at young children, the messages they carry are certainly applicable to all of us. I know I still need to work on my everyday kindness…

Anyway, please click on over and give it a lesson, particularly if you have young children.

Genuine California Asphalt

So, this here photo is of real, genuine California asphalt. And boy is it ever in bad shape. This photo is of the road next to my house. There’s no base rock under the road. No proper foundation, underpinning, whatever you want to call it.

They (the mysterious, ever-present, ubiquitous they) laid the asphalt right on top of dirt. What does that get you? A bad road.

That’s a workable metaphor for California these days. My amazing state is in such bad shape. I think, if you had to shoehorn California into the Lord of the Rings, it would be the area directly around Isengard.

Stratospheric housing prices that no one can afford. Homeless people everywhere, doing the things that should be done within homes. Rampant crime as the criminally-inclined stroll into stores and go shopping while skipping the whole check-out-and-pay part of the equation.

Public schools are in the proverbial toilet. And it’s a low-flow toilet, because our lizard overlords in Sacramento decree we must use low-flow toilets in order to conserve water (because they haven’t spent a dime on building water projects in the last crazy number of years, despite all the water bonds they keep passing, to the tune of billions).

So what do people do? They just flush that darn low-flow toilet several times to achieve proper passage. Which is what happens in public schools. They just graduate the kids on up, even though they can’t do math at a sensible level, write an essay to save their lives, or understand, let alone apply, any kind of logic to the various situations that life throws their way.

We will now interrupt our programming with a photo of a field of Brussels sprouts growing next to my house. Who is going to eat all these little cabbages of sadness?

Good-bye California. This is one of those long, slow good-byes where we all end up yawning our way through the last few years of the demise. Nero fiddling in slow-motion, that sort of thing.

How do you create in that kind of atmosphere? Well, one of the vital things is that you keep your sense of humor. I’m pretty sure I still have mine. In fact, I just got paid to use my sense of humor in a writerly sort of way, and the results will go public fairly soon. So, yeah, got my sense of humor; I think it’s in the top left-hand drawer of my desk at home.

Pro tip: hanging onto your sense of humor is vital for whatever crazy situation you find yourself in: decaying state of California, war, monitor lizard attack in the Indonesian jungle, IRS audit, colonoscopy, etc. If you lose your sense of humor, it’s time to hang up your hard hat and head home.

It’ll be interesting to see where California is in the next ten years. I’m not holding my breath, as that would cause me to expire, even though the reduction in exhaled carbon dioxide would apparently help save the planet.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep on writing and reading and playing guitar. I just wish I could find the next Mark Twain, PG Wodehouse or Richard Powell. They just don’t seem to make ’em like that anymore.

Why?

This is an image of my mailbox, waiting for a copy of a good book to read. Good books are like oxygen, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, fine Swiss chocolate and a peaceful evening indoors with a light rain on the roof, all rolled into one. But very portable.

Global Boiling

We are now officially in the era of global boiling, according to the top grumpy guy at the United Nations, Antonio Gutteres. I’m somewhat confused as to what constitutes global boiling, as most official charts avoid the years previous to 1960. What is so magical about 1960?

At any rate, I figure if you’re going to determine the baseline conditions necessary for global boiling, you should take a long, hard look at the centuries preceding the modern era. Maybe all the way back to the dinosaurs. I bet they had a thing or two to say about global boiling before the ice age caught up with them.

When I was a kid, we used to go down to the desert on the California-Mexico border. Talk about heat. Those days were something beyond global boiling. They were more like global-blast-you-with-a-blowtorch, and then blow some sand in your face for good measure.

El Centro in the summer. It was like living in an oven. Everyone came out at night, when things cooled off a bit. You ran from air conditioned car to air conditioned house to the pool and back again.

My dad was farming down there at the time. Most of the work during the summer was done at night. Even the guys stealing tractors would steal them at night. It was hot work to begin with, so I’m sure they appreciated both the cover of darkness and the cool temperatures as they drove your John Deere across the border.

If you wanted to, you could always drive across the next day and check in with the local police department. They were usually pretty quick about finding the missing tractor, which seems suspicious, now that I think about it with my jaded adult mind.

Anyway, global boiling as an official measurement unit seems a bit imprecise. Of course, once it enters public discourse, and it certainly has entered, judging from how many different talking heads on TV are now sagely nodding and parroting “Yes, we are in the era of global boiling, so kiss your heinie good-bye!” that means the metaphorical door is open for other measurement units, such as global basting, global broiling, global sauteeing, and global-shrimp-on-the-barbie.

I never realized how culinary-centric the United Nations is, but Gutteres throwing around the term global boiling does renew my faith in their kitchen abilities. But, perhaps I’m misjudging their new direction. Perhaps, instead of wanting to end up on Top Chef, the grand poombahs at the UN want to usher us into an era of sacrificing virgins in the volcano, along with various goats and coconuts and perhaps several Teslas for good measure.

I might have a tiny bit too much faith in their narrative abilities, wondering if they’re going to go down the road. But, you have to admit, it would make for great television if the UN convened their annual general assembly by solemnly declaring “This is the year of wombat, a year of global boiling, which we shall celebrate by taxing everyone 6.2 cents for every  cubic yard of carbon dioxide they exhale, so be it!”

Everyone would then clap and cheer, and then the Secretary General would announce break-out sessions to study the efficacy of Swedish virgins versus New Zealand virgins tossed into volcanoes in order to assuage the weather predictions and/or the climatologists at MIT.

I daresay the climatologists at MIT, if stereotypes have any ounce of truth in them, would be more than happy with any sort of virgin, as long as they were homo sapiens.

Unexpected Absences

My apologies for neglecting this site for so long. Writing is a free-time occupation. Sadly, it takes place in the bits and pieces of hours that are not taken by my higher priorities: family, 8-5 job, church, community obligations.

Those priorities don’t leave a lot of time (I tend to get a lot of writing done when I’m spending untold weeks in the hospital or slowly dying at home–very productive!). However, a further complication these days is that I’ve been making mini-plunges back into the entertainment world. Writing for hire. I’m not at this point willing to say what shows, properties I’m writing for, but I’ll post links here, once the episodes go live.

While writing for hire isn’t as satisfying as writing my own stories, it certainly pays a lot better.

In other news, perhaps I’m way behind the eight ball, but I just read that Disney is doing a live action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Except there are no dwarves. They are just…normal people? I’m not sure yet. I’ve read conflicting reports on that, in addition to some choice words from Peter Dinklage on the matter.

I have no real issue with Disney choosing to remake old stories. But…the sheer number of remakes does make me wonder. Is Hollywood running out of ideas? If so, why? And, if it is possible to run out of ideas, what does that say about the nature of the universe in terms of finite vs infinite? If matter is finite, is theoretical scope of creativity also finite?

 

Tolkien Counter-Culture Once Again

Once again, the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien has become counter-culture. Back in the days of hippies and yippies, Tolkien was accorded mythic status by certain elements within the counter-culture movement. After all, a barefoot hobbit smoking his pipe and out picking mushrooms in the forest had some things in common with a hippie living in a yurt in the forest outside of Santa Cruz. At least, that’s one perspective.

Now, however, decades after the hippies have gone grey and taken the reins of industry and politics, and years after Peter Jackson completed the ultimate mainstreaming of Tolkien, the venerable professor is undergoing a new revision. A recent analysis by an obscure British government bureaucracy called the Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU) has concluded that reading Tolkien can be an indication of right-wing extremism.

I myself would conclude that such analysis can be an indication of profound idiocy. But what do I do know? At any rate, the analysis seems to infer that belief in moral absolutes, in a worldview that acknowledges good and evil, is evidence of extremism. Right-wing extremism, mind you.

Tolkien is in Good Company

Of course, the genius report from the morons at RICU also called out C.S. Lewis, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and others as philosophically dangerous. I imagine they will go after J.K. Rowling next; though, to be fair, she’s already been targeted by elements of revisionist society.

The RICU report, as absurd as it is, takes place alongside the also recent kerfluffle involving the Puffin publishing giant–and not a big, friendly giant either–announcing their plan to edit the works of Roald Dahl in order to make his books more palatable to the thin-skinned readers of today. Dahl, as anyone who has read him knows, was fond of calling things as they actually were. If Augustus Gloop is fat, then Dahl would call him fat. If Aunt Spiker was a nasty, miserable wretch of a woman, then Dahl would point that out. Let the chips of reality fall where they may seemed to be his writing motto.

And all of us children understood accordingly and were not harmed in the reading. That is, until today. Apparently, the children of today are thin-shelled shrinking snails who recoil at even a few grains of brisk salt.

Modern Literary Criticism is the Wicked Witch

I’ve always detested the modern view of literary criticism that says the reader should bring his or her perspectives to a story and make that interpretation more important, more primary, than the author’s original intent. This is just a despicable manifestation of narcissism. Modern literary criticism is the witch holding out the poisoned apple.

A lot of people seem fine with the apple. As long as it is organic.

This inward focus is one of the same motivations fueling Puffin’s decision to sanitize Dahl for the modern reader. They are intent on remaking Dahl in their own image. It’s an absolutely outrageous decision and will contribute further to the overall dumbing down of society. When we decouple books and communication in general from the author’s original intent, we are separating ourselves from a proper understanding of history.

Oh, there are plenty of reasons why rejection of original intent is bad, but the loss of history is particularly troubling. If we forget history, we tend to then… well, you can fill in the rest of the sentence, unless you’ve forgotten your history.

Considering the intersection between RICU’s analysis of Tolkien and Puffin’s contempt of Dahl, I daresay it’s only a matter of time before someone suggest an edit of Tolkien for modern sensibilities.

And where do we go from there?

We cannot reshape reality into our own image. That applies equally to Roald Dahl, as well as the arrogance of the transhumanist movement in both its cyborg branch and its sad gender branch. Be content with making your bed when you consider reshaping reality.

I find it ironic that many of these revisionist nitwitteries going on–whether in academia, entertainment, business or government–are overseen by the aging post-hippies of the 60s and 70s, those admiring fans of Bilbo Baggins and his free-wheeling hobbit ways.

There and back again…

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