Radio Commercials

Radio commercials have a story to tell. And it seems to be the same story for a lot of them.

During the work week, I spend a decent amount of time driving around each day. I have to check on job sites, crews, inspect properties, etc. My driving time is usually occupied in three different ways: silence, talk radio, or listening to music.

Both the music and the talk radio stations have very similar commercials. Off the top of my head, I estimate half of the commercials use fear as the main sales motivator. Precious metals, emergency food, vaccines (so many vaccine commercials), real estate, health products. The list is long and tedious.

As for the commercials that don’t use fear as a motivator, I wonder if they’re missing out on potential sales? There’s a commercial for Babel, the language learning app, that might want to rethink its approach. The current Babel commercial has the usual patter about learning typical tourist phrases, such as “My name is Fred,” “I will order the hamburger,” and “Where is the bathroom?”

A fear-based Babel commercial could tout learning phrases like “There’s no point kidnapping me, as my family is poor,” or “Only a nitwit would want to harvest my kidneys, as I have advanced cirrhosis.” I bet a lot of people planning on overseas travel would appreciate knowing some phrases like that.

Sorry. Sometimes my humor goes a bit dark.

The Mystery of Masks

The culture of masks, here in California, truly has been a mystery. On again, off again, on again, off again. Masks are like a psychotic high school girlfriend.

You have to wear a mask when you’re walking into a restaurant. But, as soon as you sit down, you can take the mask off. Does that mean the little covid virus particles only exist at higher altitudes of 54 inches or above? But what if you sit at a bar on a stool and your head is equivalent in height to the average standing head? Should extremely short people and small children be allowed to walk into the restaurant without a mask, as their standing head height is equivalent to the average sitting-at-a-table head height?

Fairly obvious insanity.

We’re all painfully aware of the blatant hypocrisy of the elites swanning about their soirees (I would love to work the word “sauna” into this sentence but I can’t figure out how [other than this parenthetical]), sans masks. Garcetti at the ballgame, Newsome at the French Laundry, Pelosi staggering through her salon, various stars (what a strange use of the word star) at their sparkly galas, wait-staff obsequious and objectified in their muzzles, hovering around the fringes with platters of champagne in hand.

More insanity, but so tedious and grating.

Children in schools, anonymized and de-individualized, transformed into pairs of eyes blinking above fabric. The treatment of children in schools is a painful one to watch. I remember quite well the loneliness and uneven isolation of public school. Eddies of cliques washing around you like a cold North Sea tide. Uncertainty of self, uncertainty of purpose, uncertainty of meaning. The psychology of most children is delicate enough as it is. But to add in daily masks and the ensuing separation?

Insanity and abuse, wrapped up in a teachers union-approved recyclable bow.

In moments of sanity, why do we ever wear masks? When you’re out at night asking strangers for candy. When you’re Batman. When you’re in a burning building. When you’re demoing walls full of asbestos. When you’re touring Chernobyl. When you’re the Phantom of the Opera. When you’re welding. When you’re deep-sea diving. When  you are a dead pharaoh. When you’re robbing a bank.

Brief interactions of sanity and masks, all of them. Except for the Phantom of the Opera. He was clearly a sad nut.

Which brings me to story (of course). The lunacy of the whole thing (complete with shrieking harridans in grocery stores “Put on your &*#$ed mask! Do you want your grandma to die?!”) begs for an explanation. A perspective from 30 miles up that makes sense of all the idiots in government, the sheep-like people, the liars in the media, and all the rest of the poor, huddled masses, yearning for uninhibited breathing.

Perhaps an invasion of the body snatchers style infiltration of certain people’s brains? Aliens exerting mind control over society for some nefarious, future purpose? A witches coven in the highest levels of government and business, grooming the world for mass child sacrifices that will enable the opening of a door between dimensions? Nothing good ever comes through those kinds of doors. Or perhaps a secret society of Malthusians bent on turning the masses into mindless slaves with forced sterilizations and drastic population reductions as the next steps?

There could be some interesting stories here.

The Taller Mountains

When I was a boy, I often had the sneaking suspicion that the mountains were actually taller than they usually appeared. This only occurred when the storm clouds came down and obscured the mountaintops. At those times, the usual, everyday peaks vanished behind the grey. I would look at them and think, “Perhaps the real heights of the mountains are now revealed within the clouds, even though I can’t see them. Maybe they reach higher and higher, up into the stratosphere and into some strange realm.”

I never climbed the mountains in a storm (or any other time, for that matter, as they’re private property), but that would’ve been the time to climb them. Doubtlessly, the path would’ve gone higher than the regular humdrum mountaintop.

YOU ARE OLD, FATHER WILLIAM…

Now that I’m an aged adult, one would assume I’d put such childish ways behind me. But, looking out my office window today at the rain clouds lowering down over the mountain range, the same thought enters my mind. I suppose I’m just a very aged boy.

There’s a similar idea in Lewis’ The Last Battle, toward the end of the book. The children and their various companions have finally entered the real Narnia. The heart of it is further on and higher up. The real truth behind mountains (and stairways, ladders, steps and apple trees) is further on and higher up. You can certainly climb a ladder down here on Earth, whether it is a corporate ladder at the XZY Widget Company or the ladder to fix the chimney, but the ladder that is even more real than your ladder goes on quite a bit higher. Pro tip: exercise your lungs so you can breathe easily at higher altitudes.

It’s an interesting thought to muddle on, and I suppose I’ll have to write about it in a book or perhaps just a song (almost have a whole new album done with the band I belong to–Inflatable Hippies–watch this space for announcement). In the meantime, I’ll leave you with wishes for a peaceful and merry Christmas, regardless of the doom and grumpy gloom seeping out of the White House like curdled milk spilling from a over-stuffed garbage bag (will they never learn?). Please enjoy a great deal of good food, good conversation, good music and good cheer. And may Heaven keep the beast from slouching to Bethlehem to be reborn. At least for a while yet.

Here’s a photo of our cat enjoying Christmas in the best way cats can.

Fantasy Series for Children

All of my kids have learned to love to read. Thankfully. That’s not always a sure thing these days. Throughout the week, there are a lot of competing magnets for a kid’s time: video games, social media (we don’t allow our kids on social media–feel free to argue/disagree with me on that), Disney Plus, sports, legos, hobbies, etc., as well as the ubiquitous demands of school. Some of that competition, of course, I’m happy to see, such as sports and hobbies and school. And even lego (even though I can’t bear thinking about how much money we’ve spent on legos over the years).

There’s nothing I like better than seeing my kids curled up on the couch reading a book.

However, one of the problems is that it isn’t exactly easy to find excellent books for them to read. Over the last few years, I’ve been mining all the books I enjoyed as a kid and recommending them to my kids. It isn’t always a guarantee that they’ll like the same stories.

Here, try Narnia, Prydain, The Princess and the Goblin. Or, how about an Alexander Key story, Roald Dahl, Danny Dunn, The Great Brain? Sadly, none of my kids like the Great Brain books. I’m still stunned by that; though, one of them might undergo further brain development and suddenly realize John Fitzgerald is one of the best American writers ever to have walked the Utah landscape.

One of my kids was delighted by Harry Potter. He blazed through the series in a matter of weeks. And then re-read it. Now, I’m wracking my brain, trying to find a fantasy series followup for him. He wasn’t too impressed by Narnia. Enjoyed The Hobbit. LOTR is probably too much for him this year, but he might be ready in a year or so. Fairly ambivalent toward both Peterson’s Dark Sea of Darkness and Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles.

Any ideas? I’m definitely not offering him George Martin (too adult) or Robert Jordan (too uneventful and endless–perhaps that series should’ve been called The Endless Wheel of Time?–truth in advertising). I’ll try Spiderwick and Eragon. But, other than those, I can’t think of anything else that is currently age appropriate (12 years old).

I realize there’s been a ton of new youth fantasy written in the last ten years, but, to be honest, most of it is quite suspect. I try to read and sample and dip in here and there in order to stay abreast. There are some disturbing trends in anti-hero protagonists, adult themes that should have no place in writing for youth, nihilism as core philosophy, etc.

Rather dreary.

As I get older (not necessarily wiser, but just older), I have less patience for such messages. I find them sad and unhealthy, and largely a waste of time. Life is hard enough as it. I have no issue with dealing with such issues via the medium of literature (see most of everyone from Dickens to Dosteyevsky, etc.–all amazing writers, and they understood balance and priorities), but there’s no need to glorify it.

 

Long Time

Long time since I’ve been in these parts.

There are eleven more days until the darkest day of the year. For the northern hemisphere, that is. In many ways, though, it seems like this has been the darkest year for a long time, even with all this California sunlight.

I worked for a production company in Scotland, on and off, for several years. That was back in the late 90s. My boss remarked that one of the best ways to weave the light into narrative was to have it surrounded by the darkness. Makes sense. That way your eye is automatically drawn to the light. Stories like that can possess a great deal of power. Sometimes, though, the darkness can be overwhelming.

The last two years have been writing-dry except for two projects. I experimented with a light-hearted epic fantasy, somewhere in between the Tormay trilogy and the Fury Clock. That project is almost done. Doesn’t have a name yet, but I have one possibility lurking in the back of my mind. I’ll need to check if someone hasn’t used it already.

The other project… now that’s quite a serious project. A friend approached me two years ago and pitched an idea to me for a feature film. He was trying to get me to join forces with him (and do most of the writing). I almost turned him down because of the time commitment it meant. Also, because the story was one of the crazier things I’d heard in a long time. But then the craziness of it started to make sense and, after a while, revealed that it had a sane heart.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on that second project. Finished the feature film script. Went through more than twelve drafts on it. Had a first studio pitch for it, with an invite back. Rewrote the script into an eight season, sixty-four episode version. And now, joined by a third writer, we are rewriting the whole thing into a book series.

There’s a lot of discussion in and around the film world these days that walking in with a killer script isn’t good enough. Sure, lightning might strike, but there are countless amazing scripts walking around the (crime-ridden) streets of LA these days. You need more than that. You need to develop your intellectual property into other mediums before approaching the studio meat grinder: books, graphic novels, podcast, audible. Those mediums are all quite doable, if you have the time and focus to tackle them. The graphic novel route takes some money, but not at the same onerous level as an actual film or video series.

We figure it’ll take about five years to do the books, graphic novels and audible. Not sure if there’s any real reason to do podcast versions if we do audible.

At any rate, plenty of fodder for writing these days. Just watch the news… or not, if you want to maintain your sanity and hopeful view of humanity. Thank God there’s a God in charge of this little universe.