Hidden Kingdom (Chapter 2-adding page 9)

To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/

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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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Filed under commentary, compassion, happiness, healing, humor, illness, movie review, NOVEL WRITING, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Tornado Dreaming

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This post won’t be funny.  So if you come seeking humor, be warned, every writer has a dark side, and this is about mine.

I have learned the hard way that there is a very special power to be gained from the Dreamlands.  But it is a dark and ominous power.  When H.P. Lovecraft wrote his nightmare horror stories about the Cthulhu Mythos and journeys in the Dreamlands seeking Unknown Kadath and other forbidden horrors, he may have been writing from real experience.  While dreams are couched in metaphor and must be interpreted, they also touch the physical contours of our reality.  And not just a light touch, either.  Dreams can be made of concrete and stone.  Further, I believe the dreaming mind is no longer bound by perceptual tricks we identify as “present time” in our waking lives.  The existence of every man is eternal.  Existence is beyond the control of the relative dimension in space we know as “time”.  In dreams you can actually reach out and touch both the distant past and the future.  Does this mean  I think I can foretell the future?  Of course not.  Are you daft?  If I could I would be a millionaire and far removed from health problems and dark depressions that define my inner, darker self.

But dreams shape and define my actual day-to-day existence, and not always for the better.

1966 was the year I turned ten, and the year the skies of my dreams turned dark.  My best friend at the time lived next door.  My best friend had an older brother who was five years older than me.  One day that older brother trapped me behind a pile of tractor tires in the neighbors’ back yard.  He pulled off my pants and my underpants.  He wasn’t gentle.  He twisted my most sensitive parts and forbid me to scream by threatening worse torture.  He introduced me to pain I never knew could exist before that day.  He forced me to endure torture for his personal pleasure.  He told me the incident was my own fault and he made me believe it.  I lost a part of my soul that day, and I would not remember what had happened for another twelve years, two-and-a-half emotional breakdowns later that school counselors and parents could never explain.  I never told anybody about it for years.  I could not have even written this paragraph until the summer before last… when he died of a heart attack.  He had power over me until I was 56 years old.

1966 was also the year of the tornado in Belmond, Iowa.  Both of my parents worked in Belmond.  When we were in school that day, we were studying weather in science.  The topic of nimbus clouds and storms came up.  Mrs, Mennenga, our teacher, pointed out the north window of the 4th grade classroom and said a cumulonimbus cloud was just like the one we could all see in the sky over Belmond, ten miles to the north.  She said that was the kind of cloud from which tornadoes would form.  It was ironic that that was exactly what was happening.  I spent that night at Uncle Larry’s farm knowing that a tornado had devastated Belmond, and not knowing if my mother and father were alive or dead.  (My father’s business was leveled, but he made it to the basement just as the building exploded and only had a deep scalp laceration.  My mother was a nurse at the hospital, and she, along with the rest of the hospital were miraculously spared.  Only six people were killed in the devastation.)  Needless to say, I know where my tornado nightmares come from.

So what is the real meaning behind Tornado Dreaming?  I firmly believe nightmares auger something in real life.  Granted it may be past as well as future, but dreams can come true for good or ill.  While I was in college, I dreamed one of my childhood friends was riding in a pickup truck in the back, where no one should ever ride, but farm kids always do.  A black tornado dropped out of the sky and knocked him out of the pickup and split open his head.  Only a week later, in real life, that same friend fell out of the back of a pickup and nearly died.  I had a tornado dream at age twenty-two that preceded remembering the sexual assault by two days.  It all came back to me and floored me like being stepped on by the boot of horrendous Cthulhu.  As a sophomore in high school I had a tornado dream that found me running for shelter into a house I had only entered twice in my life.  It was the house of another of my friends, and everyone there, many of whom were people I didn’t know, were crying over the death of someone.  My friend was there.  His twin brothers and little sister were there.  A woman that I later learned was his aunt was there.  His mother was there too.  Who were they all weeping for?  The following Monday I found out that my friend’s stepfather had been killed on his motorcycle by a drunk driver the same night that I had the dream.  Dreams can warn what the future holds.  But you cannot do anything to change the outcome.  Any attempts I made to change anything may have done more to cause the event than prevent it.  So, I am left wondering if this “gift of prophecy” is not merely a curse.

I have a novel or two to write about this if God grants me enough time to write them.  I am burdened by the very insight I am sharing with you here.  Why am I even talking about it at all, you ask?  Especially when I warned you from the start this wouldn’t be funny and practically no one will actually read this far?  I must confess.  Friday night I had another tornado dream.  In the dream, I was in Grandpa Aldrich’s farmhouse, the place where my mother and father now live.  My mother and I looked out the south window on the back porch.  There, swirling in dark gray-green, was a funnel cloud dancing against an ominous electric-green sky.  We were only steps away from the door to the storm cellar.  But before we reached safety, the dream ended.  What is about to happen?  Will talking about it cause something to happen?  Is Cthulhu knocking at the door?  Only time will tell.

Leap of Faith

This post is a copy of the original posted in January of 2015.

Now, seven years after I originally posted this dark and scary essay, I now know what this tornado dream meant. My parents were each of them still living at the farm when the grim reaper came for the final visit. It happened, all of it, during the Covid 19 pandemic. Thus, the green sky. The color green indicated a raging growth, in this case, the growth and mutation of the virus. I have now survived the virus myself, the Omicron variant failing to kill me. Of course, neither of my parents got the virus and died of other causes. So, the green tornado may yet claim me too.

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Some Days Just Happen

Today is a day like any other day.

On a day like today, the same old things happen.

A red Pegasus still flies in downtown Dallas.

And a red Omicron virus still kills the unvaccinated people.

The dance of future people still steps forward in rhythm.

Although they dance towards visions apocalyptic, a bleak future.

And I try dancing too, though on feet made painful with arthritis.

Nothing out of the ordinary happens today.

Except for some blank verse of worrisome tone and theme.

Written by the potentially worst poet who ever lived.

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Loish

I want to talk about a living artist for a change.  I know that the artists I have talked about on this goofy blog-that-doesn’t-seem-to-know-what-it-is-really-for, Norman Rockwell, William Bouguereau, Paul Detlafsen, Thomas Kinkade, Fontaine Fox, and Maxfield Parrish, are all quite dead.  But conversely that is a good thing because it means their art has stood the test of time.  But today I want to plug a working artist I find absolutely fascinating.  This is the first artist I ever seized upon as an example of a true master whose chosen medium is primarily digital art.

This is Loish.  You can find her at http://loish.net/ or http://http://loish.deviantart.com/.  Her name is Lois Van Baarle and she is a Dutch citizen by birth.  She has worked as both an animator and a commercial artist/illustrator.  She has lived all over the world in countries like France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States, but currently resides back in her home country, the Netherlands.c18296b715d6f4bb5326967c0aee012c-d7a6fao   What I find so absolutely engaging about her work is the way she can portray ordinary folk, particularly young people and female people, in luminous digital colors (almost as if she is painting with light… and in fact that is actually what she IS doing), and in such a big-eyed, cartooney way (the way you would expect someone who does animation to do it.)  Take a look at all these wondrous creations that I have borrowed from her websites or her Facebook page.

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Isn’t that some of the loveliest artwork you’ve ever seen?  I know some may not like it, preferring what is more realistic, gritty, hard-edged, or more cutting edge… but I love foofy art of all sorts… goofy foofy girly art… and this is among the best I have ever seen.

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Novel Writing Going Forward

The Necromancer’s Apprentice is now finished and being edited for publication. So, the chapter by chapter serialization is now ended. The previous work AeroQuest 4 : The Amazing Aero Brothers is also finished and awaiting final edits for publication.

So, I need a new book to put on this Tuesday blog-spot.

Most of the novels I have put through this Tuesday process have been like AeroQuest 4, novel projects with big problems that require a lot of rewriting and editorial work.

Since I finished AeroQuest 4, I have been using Tuesdays for my main writing project, the first two being relatively short novellas. The most recent one was intended to be a novella, but turned into a short novel. If I follow the original plan, the next book I will use here is AeroQuest 5 : It Ain’t Over Yet.

The second choice would be to use my next main work in progress. That would be some version of this book;

But this novel is going to be a lot longer than any of the things I have been using for this purpose. Cantos or Chapters are a lot longer than is wise to use as a daily post. Do I use smaller chunks of chapters?

I have doubts about this method, but the post for next week would already be written if I do that.

So, by next Tuesday… I will have an answer.

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Sanctuary

This is my library, the place where I keep my books.  It is also a place for my doll collection and the Dungeons and Dragons game that I’ve been playing with my kids for more than a decade.  It is a place to read and think and… oh, yeah, there’s an X-Box also.  Well, that’s one way to get the kids to spend time there too.

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I do realize what a jumbled mess it is.  The shelves are all cheap Walmart kits that I built myself.  Some have been damaged over time and travel.  I have rebuilt them, restocked them, and rearranged them time and again.

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This reading nook is currently being used to display parts of my Captain Action collection.  The Captain America costume on the left is my original property from Christmas 1967.  The Steve Canyon costume next to it is an E-bay purchase and a rare find from a decade ago.  Aquaman is a combination.  The mask, trident,conch horn, and swim fins are from my original set from Christmas 1966.  The suit itself had to be replaced from E-Bay because I played with it until it was no more than a mass of frayed thread.  The gloves come from a innovative toy company called Classic Plastick run by Wes McCue.  http://classicplastick.proboards.com/  You may notice cups and junk left by kids in my library.  Cheetos wrappers from food that my daughter the Princess loves are often found crammed in between the books.

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This alcove is where I store my customized Star Wars’ Twi’leck Barbie which I made myself with acrylic paint, Sculpey plasticine, exacto-knife, and Crazy Glue.  It also is where I store my antique book collection, some of which are a hundred years old or more.  (I have books from my Grandparents’ libraries as well as some from my own childhood.)

Let me show you the Star Wars shelf.  (It is not big enough for all my twelve-inch Star Wars action figures, but… oh, well.

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Here is the back side of the shelf.  (How did topless Mermaid Barbie get in there?)20150110_134644

I also have a corner for the X-Box and the TV it is attached to.  (But Dr. Evil is holding it hostage at this writing.)

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And finally, let me bore you with the fact that the small upstairs bedroom that is now the library does not have enough room to contain all my books.  The library also fills up the upstairs hall and large portion of my bedroom/studio.

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It has been said that my library is as cluttered as my mind is.  But don’t you believe it.  My inner world makes this manifestation in the outer world look Spartan by comparison.

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One Key Idea

The World is a Factory for Making Misery…

…but you do not have to work there.

You have no power over anything the world at large can do to you….

…but you have control over how you respond to what it does.

It is basically what Jesus meant by turning the other cheek. If you live by a policy of an eye for an eye, you are participating in making the whole world blind. Seeking and exacting revenge doesn’t harm the one who wronged you as much as it harms you yourself. You will never find happiness and fulfillment by punishing anyone else, no matter what they have done.

Like the girl with the puppy and the giant gingerbread cookie-heart, you have nothing, you own and control nothing, and you are basically naked no matter how many clothes you wear.

You only get love by giving love. And you have to be aware that not every time you give love away do you get love back in return. The world is a factory for making misery… and the production line is filled with bitter goods. It is always better not to help them make those products. Try not to need or buy those products. Instead, invest your love and care in something hand-made, something given life from your own heart and your own imagination.

None of this wisdom is my own, and you may have heard all of it elsewhere…

…just as I did. But probably, just like me, you will have to relearn it all the hard way.

Life should make you cry a little…

…but make you smile and laugh a lot.

Every life ends in death…

…but that doesn’t mean life isn’t precious and entirely worth living.

So, don’t give in to despair and lose hope…

…because the world puts the negative things in the large type…

...but that doesn’t mean that’s what you most need to read and take to heart!

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Krazy Kat

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I told you before about a cartoonist from ancient ‘Toon Times” named Fontaine Fox.  He was a master, and I acknowledge him as one of my greatest inspirations.  But he was not the original master mentor for my teenage ‘Toon Training”.  That honor goes to the inestimable George Herriman.  He was the Krazy Kartoonist who died more than a decade before I was born, yet, through his Kreation, Krazy Kat, did more to warp my artistic bent into Krazy Kartooniana Mania than anybody else.  I discovered him first.  I found him through Komic books and the Kard Katalog at the local library.  I own a copy of the book I pictured first in this post.  It is the first Kartoon book I ever bought.  I couldn’t post a picture of my actual book here because I have read it so often in the past forty years that the Kover has Kome off.  It is now more of folder of loose pages than a book.

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Krazy Kat is a newspaper Komic strip that ran all around the world from 1913 to 1944.  Comics Journal would rate Krazy Kat as the greatest work of Komic art of the 20th Century.  Art critics hailed it as serious art, and it fits snugly into the surrealist movement of Salvador Dali and others.  It has been cited as a major influence on the work of other artists such as Will Eisner, Charles M. Schulz, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Watterson, and Chris Ware.

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The centerpiece of the strip is a love triangle.  Krazy Kat the Kharacter is a feline who may be female or may be male but is definitely deeply in love with Ignatz Mouse.  The Krazed rodent hopped up on seriously stinky fromage (cheese to us non-French speakers), is Konstantly throwing bricks at Krazy’s head… obviously out of serious disdain, however, Krazy sees it as a confession of love.  Offisa Pup, the police watchdog, wants to jail the malevolent mouse for battery and protect the precious Kat, whom he obviously loves with an unrequited love.  Explanations are superfluous in the weird world of Krazy Kat.  How can I explain the charm, the humor, the good-natured violence of a strip such as this?  There are echoes of it in Tom and Jerry animated cartoons, but nothing like it really exists anywhere else.  Krazy has her own unique language, a language that you naturally learn to interpret as you read the strip.  Ignatz exhibits psychotic frustrations that he takes out on the world around him in our name, that we might experience hubris at his expense.  And what’s with that mysterious sack of “Tiger Tea” that Krazy carries about and keeps a Klosely guarded “sekrit”?

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I honestly hope you will give Krazy Kat a thorough “look-see”.  Because if you like Kartoons at all… and it doesn’t have to be the Krazy Kooky love of a seriously overdosed addict like me… you will fall desperately in love with this one.   It is a world of its own, a superbly superfluous abstract anachronism.  It is a surrealist’s dream of fun with puns and tons of buns… or something like that.  Simply put… read it and don’t like it… I dare you!

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The Truth About the World of Books

You can live a thousand lifetimes if you are willing to read a thousand books.

Yes, I know that means living life vicariously through the words and descriptions of other people.

But it allows you the magic of being able to see things through the eyes of other people.

The universe is expanded in your mind with every new idea you learn from a book.

One wonders if books actually come from a naked fairy girl working by candlelight with a tiny quill pen. Of course, that one wondering such a thing is a totally crazy one.

But authors do write themselves naked. You get to see not only what is under their clothing, but what’s under their skin. You can see what’s inside their head. That’s way more than merely naked. That’s exposed to the very core of the writer’s being, more deeply than even x-rays can look.

Of course, this crazy idea is metaphorical. I don”t literally write while I am naked. At least, not all of the time.

Reading is also an immersive experience. You need to totally open yourself up to what’s in the text, playing the movie of what you read in the theater of your imagination… even if you are reading about the physics of black holes in a book by Stephen Hawking.

And reading a book connects you not only to the author, but to others who have also read the book. Both those who read and loved it, and those who read and detested it.

Of course, everything you read in a book is a lie… even if the book is not a work of fiction… even if it is a book about the physics of the black hole written by Stephen Hawking. The scientific method is how you verify truth. But it is an open-ended process. Every truth is endlessly re-verified by questions about the anomalies that are always there. And the only way to resolve the anomalies is to re-frame the truth with new facts, observations, testimonies, and further evidence built onto what is already known. In other words, truth is always relative.

But right now, the books in this world are no longer published in the same way they were from sometime shortly after the invention of the printing press to the invention of the internet and the rise of self-publishing.

Now, the books we have are written by infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters. The gate-keepers are no longer sorting out the good and great from everything else. Thus the rise of best-sellers about vampire love and sex with bondage in the style of the Marquis de Sade. But be aware too that this revelation of the publishing world comes from the typewriter of one of the monkeys. Although I do claim to be more of a rabbit-man.

And so, now you know… some of the secrets of the world of books. At least the ones known to this goofy old Book-Wizard who is actually a Little Fool.

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Big Eyes

141202210752_margaret_keane_304x171_margaretkeaneYesterday, before the big game, I watched the DVD I bought of Tim Burton’s Golden Globe Award movie, Big Eyes.  It is the true-story bio-pic of an artist I loved as a kid, Margaret Keane… though I knew her as Walter Keane.

This movie is the bizarre real-life tale of an artist whose art was stolen from her by a man she loved, and supposedly loved her back.  I have to wonder how you deal with a thing like that as an artist?  I live in obscurity as an artist.  My art has been published in several venues, but I have never been paid a dime for it.  All I have ever gotten is publication in return for “exposure”, and limited exposure at that.  But my art always brought vigor, joy, and light to my career as a school teacher.  My art was always my own, and had either my own name on it, or the name Mickey on it.  I shared my drawing skill in ways that directly impacted the lives of other people.  It enriched my “teacher life”.

Mrs. Keane’s hauntingly beautiful big-eyed children appealed to the cartoonist in me.  They expressed such deeply-felt character and emotion, that I was obsessed with imitating them.  In fact, the “big-eye-ness” of them can still be detected in some of my work.  I remember wondering how these children, mostly girls, could be drawn by a grown man.  What was his obsession with little girls?  But the true story reveals that he was a man so desperate to have art talent and notoriety that he put his name on his wife’s work, made her paint in secret, and eventually convinced himself that it was actually his.  He had a real genius for marketing art, and he invented many of  the art-market ploys that would later inform the careers of homely artists like Paul Detlafsen and Thomas Kinkaid.  One wonders if Mrs. Keane could’ve ever become famous and popular without him.

 

The movie itself is a Tim Burton masterpiece that reveals the artist that lives within the filmmaker himself.  I love Burton’s movies for their visual mastery and artistic atmosphere.  They are all very different in look and feel.  Batman was very dark and Gothic, inventing an entirely new way of seeing Batman that differed remarkably from the 60’s TV series.  Edward Scissorhands was full of muted, pastel colors and gentle humor.  Alice in Wonderland was full of bright colors and oddly distorted fantasy characters.  Dark Shadows was Gothic melodrama in 70’s pop-art style.  This movie was true to the paintings that inspired it and visually saturate it.  It is beautiful and colorful, while also serious and somber.  It makes you contemplate the tears in the eyes of the big-eyed waifs in so many of the pictures.  It is a movie “I love with a love that is more than a love in this kingdom by the sea”… if I may get all obsessive like Edgar Allen Poe.

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So, there you have it.  Not so much a movie review as an effusion of love and admiration for an artist’s entire life and work.  I am captivated… fascinated… addicted… all the things I always feel about works of great art.

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What Makes a Child Beautiful?

Living the life you were born to live makes you beautiful.
Being happy and positive makes you beautiful.
Differences accepted and even celebrated are beautiful.
Living close to nature makes you beautiful.
Accepting yourself for what you are makes you beautiful.
Expressing yourself by dancing makes you beautiful, even if you are a terrible dancer.
Carrying your girlfriend’s books at school makes you beautiful.

Having a big imagination makes you beautiful.

Loving others makes you beautiful.

Working through your fears and sadness makes you beautiful.

Being intelligent and motivated to use it makes you beautiful.
Realizing everybody else is beautiful too makes you beautiful.
Being a really old and foolish child can make you beautiful too, if you don’t spoil it by being all ugly and stuff.

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