An Unexpected Gift 

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This post is a movie review for Thor : Ragnarok , though I don’t really plan on talking about the movie very much.   It was an excellent comic book movie in the same tongue-in-cheek comedy tradition as Guardians of the Galaxy.   It made me laugh and made me cheer.   It was the best of that kind of movie.  But it wasn’t the most important thing that happened that night.

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You see, I spent the weekend in the hospital thinking I had suffered a heart attack during the Thanksgiving holiday. I thought I was facing surgery at the very least.   I knew I might have had an appointment to play chess with the Grim Reaper.   It is a lot to worry about and drain all the fun out of life.

Well, one of the things that happened that day, Tuesday, my first full day out of the hospital and, hopefully, out of the woods over heart attacks, was that I received my new replacement bank card because my old one had a worn out, malfunctioning chip in it.  So, I took my three kids to the movie at the cheapest place we could find.  I tried to run my bank card for the payment, and it was summarily declined.  I had activated it previously during the day, and there was plenty of money in the account compared to the price, but it just wouldn’t take.  So I had to call Wells Fargo to find out whatever the new reason was for them to hate me.  It turned out that it had already been activated, but a glitch had caused it to decline the charge.  While I was talking to the girl from the Wells Fargo help desk, the lady who had gotten her and her husband’s tickets right before us put four tickets to the movie in my hand.

The middle-aged black couple had lingered by the ticket stand before going in to their movie just long enough to see a sad-looking old man with raggedy author’s beard and long Gandalf hair get turned down by the cheap-cinema ticket-taking teenager because the old coot’s one and only bank card was declined. They were moved to take matters into their own hands and paid for our tickets themselves.

That, you see, was the gift from my title.  Not so much that we got our movie tickets for free, but that the world still works that way.  There are still good people with empathetic and golden hearts willing to step in and do things to make the world a little bit better place.  The gift they gave me was the reassurance that, as bad and black as the world full of fascists that we have come to live in has become, it still has goodness and fellow feeling in it. People are still moved to pay things forward and make good on the promise to “love one another”.  I did not have a chance to thank them properly.  I was on the phone with Wells Fargo girl when it happened.  The only thing that couple got out of their good deed was thank-yous from my children and the knowledge that they had done something wonderful.  I plan to pay it forward as soon as I have the opportunity.  Not out of guilt or obligation, but because I need to be able to feel that feeling too at some point.

I do have one further gift to offer the world.

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After we got home from the movie, I opened an email that contained the cover proof for my novel, Magical Miss Morgan.  Soon I will have that in print also if I can keep Page Publishing from messing it up at the last moments before printing.  It is a novel about what a good teacher is and does.  It is the second best thing I have ever written.

Sometimes the gifts that you most desperately need come in unexpected fashion.

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Pen and Ink

When your writing time is eaten up with getting your car fixed, re-blog an old art post to fill space and remind readers that you are not totally useless when you can’t write.

Catch a Falling Star

4th Dimension

Simple lines and line-drawn figures can contain the wisdom of the world.  It is a simple faith that can turn one into a cartoonist, a comic book artist, or an illustrator.  It is an almost god-like power.  You can make fools and geeks and little girls with fourth dimensional hoola-hoops come to life.

It has been said by some who’ve seen my line drawings, my pen-and-ink cartoons, that I am good at it.  But what do they know?  I’ve shown you in this blog some of the real greats.  Wally Wood and Milt Caniff and Cliff Sterret and George Herriman and Charles Shultz are all better than I am.  But I am at least smart enough to have learned things from them.

Elf on Patrol

Black and white lines and shapes can convey feeling in almost the same way that words can.  You can express feelings of melancholy, fatigue, or joy.  You can…

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August 17, 2018 · 2:29 pm

We Are All Gonna Die

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I hope you listened to Joe.  Not just the first part, then got bored and disgusted and turned on Fox News.  I hope you listened all the way to the end and heard the hopeful things he says there.  He is a very good video essayist who uses real science to reason with you about questions that are really about life and death.  One way we may be going to die as a species is through climate change and global warming.  The dire predictions we get from climate scientists, whom nobody seems to take seriously, are becoming increasingly alarming.  If we are too stuck in our own little kingdoms and don’t look the castle windows at the weather outside, we are not only going to have our parades rained on, it will be acid rain, and the parade marchers will get boiled on the hoof as they march.

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Those of us who put too much faith in the Trump Train, burning its beautiful clean coal, are going down to the bottom when we get to the canyon bridge and the train roars off the tracks.  Just ask Paul Manafort after his trial ends, or Jeff Sessions after Trump fires him to make racist sausages out of him to serve at an I-Love-Putin Picnic, what the ride has been like on the Trump Tongue Express.

But, of course, the Pumpkinhead in Chief is not the only reason we have no money and no jobs and are going to be roasted to death in a polluted world.  There is also the little matter of Trillions of Dollars in Debt that was racked up to make the rich richer and people like me foot the bill.

I know you may be suspicious of an interview conducted on RT which is an arm of Russian propaganda in the USA.  But I should point out, if you like Trump, you like Russia already, and both of these journalists, Chris Hedges and David Cay Johnston, are not afraid to tell the unvarnished truth.  That means the mainstream media is uncomfortable about putting them on the air, and those who want to stir up trouble find it easiest to do that by simply allowing access to researched facts and basic truths we are reluctant to hear.

If you don’t believe in the predictions offered by science, it is bound to be because of one of two different things.  Either you see the science and follow how the results of computer models become overwhelmingly dire, disgusting you with a total lack of optimistic outcomes, or you reject science in favor of the oil companies’ rose-colored fairy-tale outlooks where unicorns will consume CO2 clouds and fart out benevolent rainbows.  From where I stand now, broke and old and ill, it doesn’t matter much to me.  In the short time frames we are looking at for global-warming Armageddon, I will undoubtedly reach the end of my natural life.  I probably won’t be around for the horrific-suffering part of how this all is going to end.

I know if you haven’t turned away from this heat-death-of-the-planet idea already, you are probably pretty depressed by this point in the essay.  I know I am.  It does not bode well for my children and any future grandchildren.  But I will leave you with the reminder that we are human beings.  And human beings are complex and able to solve large complex problems.  We put men on the moon.  (Or we did the even harder job of faking it and not letting the secret be discovered for fifty years, complete with space-travel debris on the moon that you can take photographs of from earth with a really good telescope.)  So, just maybe this massive terrifyingly horrible problem can yet be solved in the nick of time.  I do believe in the good that can be found in mankind.  But I also see the corruption and evil.  So hopefully Mark Twain’s final hope for mankind, that this time when God drowns us, there will be no Ark, will be thwarted.  Believe me, I have no wish to die a horrible death.  But I am a pessimist after all.

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Conversations With the Ghost of Miss M…

I still can’t believe I wrote this. I love that I was able to put these notions into words. It made me cry again to reread it. So here it is. Make of it what you will.

Catch a Falling Star

DSCN5148Beneath the old cottonwood tree there once stood a one-room school house.  My mother went to school there as a girl, a short walk from home along the Iowa country road.  Misty mornings on a road between cornfields and soybean fields can often conjure up ghosts.

I took this morning walk with the dog while I was visiting my old Iowegian home, and I was writing my fictional story Magical Miss Morgan in my head, not yet having had time to sit down and write.  I was reflecting on times long past and a school long gone, though Miss Morgan’s story is really about my own teaching experience.  Miss Morgan is in many ways me.  But I am not a female teacher.  I am a goofy old man.  So, why am I writing the main character as a female?

Well, the ghosts from the old school house heard that and…

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Aeroquest… Canto 33

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Canto 33 – Dance of the Two Spiders

      Naylund Smith was dressed in a formal silk jacket with an embroidered Japanese-style phoenix raising its wings across the chest and turning to flaming ashes on the back.  A white chord ran down the left leg of the blue silk pants and ended in an embroidered white spider, the first time Ged was to see the White Spider’s personal logo on anything.

Ged couldn’t help but admire the strong-looking, erect posture of this amazing man.  He wore a gold earring in his left ear; his head was shaved and hairless except for white eyebrows, a white bun at the very back of the head, and a white goatee.  The man’s iron-gray eyes glared like the stare of an eagle.  Only the golden walking stick hinted at any weakness in the man, and he never seemed to lean upon it.

“The web of space is locked in an ever-expanding spiral dance,” said Naylund as ceremonial armor was strapped to Ged’s arms and chest.  “The spiders that move from strand to strand are merely a counterpoint to the great dancing flow of the web itself.  When spiders contend for space on the web, then the dance reaches its most violent and most beautiful point.  I cannot help you with the next few steps of the dance.  The prophecy says that you will be victorious, but no prophecy is ever absolute unless it can be proven to come from God himself.”

“You sound like I am about to have some kind of duel,” said Ged cautiously.  “I thought this was just a welcoming ceremony.”

“It is that.  It is also deadly serious.”

Little Ham Aero Junior was brought to Ged dressed in a milk-white kimono, and an embroidered white spider picked out in light blue covered the heart.  The female attendants left him with Ged.

“I am to stand with you, Ged-sensei,” the boy said.

“Did Frieda teach you to speak so well?” Ged asked the little Nebulon.

“No.  I learned your language long ago by telepathy.”

“Why didn’t you ever teach it to your mother?”

“She hardly ever spoke to me.  I was nothing but a reminder to her of the shame of her servitude.”

“I’m so sorry for you, Junior.”

“Don’t be.  Now I belong to you and you belong to me.  I will stand at your side and die rather than leave you.”

“A very handsome and noble child,” said Naylund.  “He deserves to be treated well by you, Ged.”

“Don’t worry, Naylund-sensei.  I am learning to love my nephew too.”  Ged smiled at Junior.

Naylund motioned to Ged to leave the tent where he had been dressed in armor.  He was now done up in the armor of a Japanese daimyo or feudal lord, a samurai.  He had everything but the demon mask on him.

As Ged, Naylund and Junior stepped out into the arena, 40,000 people cheered.  Ged was stunned to see so many people.  Being a spacer meant being alone more often than with other people.  He’d never in his life been with so many at once.

“Behold!  The so-called White Spider,” said a man across from Ged in the arena.  He gestured with a silver katana sword to Ged and his two companions.  “What do you say that I test this gaijin?  Do you really believe he is the white spider?”

The crowd roared that they did believe.

“Well, we shall see,” said the man, drawing his katana in front of him.

“He will now try to kill you, Ged,” said Naylund.  “If he succeeds, he will kill the boy and me as well.”

“But, wait!” said Ged.  “I am unarmed!”  He sounded panicky.

“According to prophecy,” said Naylund, “that’s not supposed to be a problem.”

“I am the Black Spider,” shouted the man.  Ged noticed his black silk robes bore a red spider-symbol on the chest.  “I will kill you now, Ged Aero!”

The man charged at Ged with lightning speed.  He was obviously martial-arts trained, and knew precisely what to do.  Ged tried to dodge, but the katana came down on his right shoulder in a perfect arc.  Ged’s right arm was neatly severed at the shoulder.

The crowd gasped.  Ged fell to his knees gasping also.  Junior tried to run to him, but Naylund grabbed him and firmly held him.

“Patience, little one.  Ged must pass this test himself.”

Ged’s mind swirled, but fixed on an image from his mind implanted there when Tara helped him return to his rightful form.  His inner eye sharpened and fixed the image with crystal clarity.  Immediately the arm grew back into place.  The crowd was silent with shock.

“So!” said the Black Spider.  “You are a magician!  It will help you not!  I have killed many magicians before you.”

Ged didn’t bother to listen.  Power was surging through him.  He could feel the rightness of each shape as it came to him.

“Tara?” said Junior, amazed at what he saw.  Ged had changed first into the lithe figure of Tara Salongi so that the bulky clothing and armor would fall away.  Then, as the nude female Ged stepped free of the binding clothing, he was already turning into the fearsome raptor dinosaur from Don’t Go Here.

“Try this!” cried the Black Spider as he leaped onto Ged’s scaly back and tried to sever the saurian head.  Ged’s clawed foot nimbly came up and swept the attacker off, as easily as a horse knocks flies off his flanks with a twitching tail.  The other clawed foot found the Black Spider as he hit the ground, the wicked hook slicing into the flesh of his stomach.

The Black Spider wobbled to his feet again, defiant and angry.  His intestines began to droop out of his wound. “Good trick, spider, but I’m not beaten yet!”

Even as the Black Spider was bragging, Ged remembered one other beast he had been forced to kill and eat.  He morphed almost immediately into a Samothracian Shadowcat, one of the most difficult creatures he had ever hunted.  On the colorful planet of Samothrace, with its many xeno-flowers, shadowcats had developed the ability to change color so masterfully; they could practically disappear from view.  As soon as the first paw touched the sand of the arena floor, Ged shimmered and disappeared.

“What?  Where…?” cried the Black Spider, swinging his sword wildly.  Attacks battered him from three sides.  Ged it seemed, had turned into the wind.  It looked like puffs of air were slashing the Black Spider; until finally, the sword fell from his hand and the Black Spider fell dead and thoroughly bloodied.  Ged remained invisible so as not to disgust the crowd as he replenished himself by feeding on the flesh of the enemy.  He also ate his own severed arm before he finally reappeared in his own form.

Naked, he quickly dressed in the samurai armor once again, though not bothering with the many straps and ties.  The crowd was utterly silent, which left Ged wondering what it meant.

Shen Ming approached solemnly, holding two sheathed swords in his hands.

“You have done well, my son.  Take your swords of office.”

Ged humbly received the swords from Shen-sensei.  He bowed.  There was a beautiful silver katana with a white ivory pommel and a smaller golden wakizashi with a blue woven pommel.  The crowd now began to cheer riotously.

“I have defeated the Black Spider?” asked Ged of Naylund.

“You have defeated the first of many Black Spiders, Ged-sama.  We will never be at a loss for villains.”

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Oyif!!! Life Smacks in the Fast Lane

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I was feeling good after making arrangements to pay off the IRS and both of my hospital bills over time in amounts that I could squeeze out of my present retirement income.  Then a random act of stupidity in the rain deprived me of my ability to earn extra money through driving for Uber.

I was driving north in the rain towards the meal delivery I had from Panda Express.  I was in the left-hand lane driving next to the median on the divided part of Josey Lane.  I was in no way expecting to need any defensive driving measures.  In fact, I wouldn’t have succeeded if I had been able to react.  The other driver turned directly into my drivers-side doors, effectively sealing both of them so they could not be opened.  He told me he didn’t see me in the rain.  I suppose it is possible that was true, but I don’t see how considering how clearly I saw him at the last moment.

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Sudden surprise bangs and damage are not particularly good for diabetics, either.  I got pulled off into the parking lot, canceled my Uber delivery, and had the shakes so bad that I could barely call 911.  My fingers didn’t work properly.

But by the time the ambulance had arrived, my brief battle with shock was over.  My blood sugar checked out fine in the ambulance and they let me talk to the police and then drive my damaged-but-still-drivable car home.

Now I have the nightmare of dealing with insurance and how I am going to pay for it.

My wife tells me that since the accident obviously wasn’t my fault, I shouldn’t have to pay for any of the damages.  Of course, we all know that in the buccaneering world of American insurance, that is not how it works.

So now I can honestly report that I am physically okay, and financially in worse jeopardy.  Such is the way the life of Mickey is apparently intended to work out.

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Dr. Evil’s Removable Brain

I have finally lowered myself to retweeting a thing like this. Please don’t hate me for it.

Catch a Falling Star

Last time, after months of me waiting to play with my X-Box Baseball ’04, Captain Carl Action and the Action Super-hero-guy Team had actually found where in the Library Dr. Evil and his minions had been hiding.

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It took an unbelievably long time for my Library to be liberated, but finally liberation was just around the corner…

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So Dr. Evil threw a monkey wrench into the liberation plans with a carefully timed real-identity mix-up ploy.

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Captain Carl had to stop and think for a moment… something that he only did when forced to do it,,, because, well, thinking is something that hurts quit a bit when you have a hollow plastic head with only a plastic armature for a brain.

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Max Steele, the most practical member of the Hero-Guy Action Team, put Dr. Evil/Ming the Merciless down on the Dr. Evil mint-in-box box and began to saw with his Captain…

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How to Be a Wizard

After yesterday’s trials, I needed to conjure up a little bit of the old magic. So here’s an old post with a little bit of wizardly stuff.

Catch a Falling Star

On Cartoon Network’s Looney Tunes show, Daffy Duck has decided he wants to be a wizard.  He even had business cards printed to be one. mqdefault

Being a wizard is almost as easy as that.  But becoming one is not what Daffy thinks it is.

wizard (n.)Look up wizard at Dictionary.comearly 15c., “philosopher, sage,” from Middle English wys “wise” (see wise (adj.)) + -ard. Compare Lithuanian zynyste “magic,” zynys “sorcerer,” zyne “witch,” all from zinoti “to know.” The ground sense is perhaps “to know the future.” The meaning “one with magical power, one proficient in the occult sciences” did not emerge distinctly until c. 1550, the distinction between philosophy and magic being blurred in the Middle Ages. As a slang word meaning “excellent” it is recorded from 1922.  http://www.etymonline.com

The word comes from wisdom.  Being one requires wisdom.  Being one requires you to look to the future and use your hard-won experience…

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