K.I.S.S.

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When learning to write, you have to learn the rules.  And then you start writing, and you learn that you have to break all the rules to do it well.  But what do I know?  You have to be pretty desperate to get your writing advice from a Mickey.  After all, it’s not like Mickey was a writing teacher for over thirty years… oh, wait a minute… yes, he was.

Okay, so I decided to write today about the K.I.S.S. rule of writing.  That’s right, Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Other writing teachers tell me it should be, Keep It Simple, Sweetie, because you can’t say “stupid” to a kid.  Okay, that’s mostly true.  But I use “stupid” when I use the rule myself.  I’m talking to Mickey after all.

So, I better stop “bird-walking” in the middle of this essay, because “bird-walking”, drifting off topic for no purpose, is the opposite of keeping it simple.

I try to write posts of no more than 500 words.  I write an introduction that says something stupid or inane that speaks to the theme I want to talk about.  Then I pile in a few sentences that talk more about the theme and do a good job of irritating the reader to the point that they can’t wait to get to the conclusion.  Finally I finish up with a really pithy and wonderful bit of wisdom to tie a knot in the bow of my essay.  I save that bit for the end as a sort of revenge for all the readers who don’t read all the way to the end, even on a short post like this one.  Of course, I could be wrong about how wonderful and pithy it is.  What does “pithy” even mean?  It can be like the soup in the bottom of the chili pot, thicker and spicier than what came before… or possibly overcooked with burned beans.

That was another bit of “bird-walking”, wasn’t it?  See, you have to break the rules to make it work better.

So, in order to keep it simple, I guess I need to end here for today.  Simple can be the same thing as short, but more often you are trying to achieve “simple and elegant” and pack a lot of meaning and resonance into a few lines.  And I, of course, am totally incapable of doing that with my purple paisley prose.  And there’s the knot in that bow.

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Kerpopple That Dinglebunny!

I have always loved using weird, wild, and goofy words to describe things when I am trying to be funny.  But recently I was saddened to learn that a word I have liked using in the past, “dingleberry”, is actually a poo-poo word.  I am very much on the Red Skelton side of the question of using bad words.   I mean, I don’t find direct use of obscene language and harsh Anglo-Saxon swear words to be very funny.  Shock humor and gross-out humor do not appeal to me the way more whimsical word-play does.

Betelgeuse is a funny word because it is the name of an actual red-giant Star in the Milky Way Galaxy, while at the same time sounding like juice made from beetles.  And, of course, there is the little matter of a hilarious Tim Burton movie about a gross-out ghost with an evil agenda.  The parts of a word can make or break the comic gravity of the word.  As much as I previously liked “dingleberry” as a goofy insult word, the “dingle” part is giving me pause.  I have discovered that a “dingle” is not only the v-cleft in a valley between two mountains, it is also derived from “dung”.   A “dingleberry” describes a dangling “berry” of poop like the ones sometimes found on the fur of my dog’s behind.  Yetch!  I can’t even use a label like that on a detestable buffoon like Donald Trump.  It bothers me that it suggests the color brown rather than the proper orange.  Trump requires a word that translates to something more like “flaming orange Kool-aid man”.

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So, I guess I need to focus on other weird, wild, and goofy words as I continue to try to be funny.  The dinglebunnies of my comic fantasies need to be “kerpoppled”… the act of “poppling”, to move in a tumbling, irregular manner, as in boiling water.  Do away with poo-poo humor, Mickey, old lad!  You need some new goofy words.

 

 

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Of Nightmares and Publishing

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Okay, I don’t mean to mislead you with the title.  My nightmares last night were not caused by publishing a book.  But there is a connection.  So be patient with me and let me explain.

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Last night I kept waking up to the smell of something burning… the smell of pine wood smouldering, the acrid smell of plastic on fire, the nose-offending smell of human hair on fire…  So I get up multiple times in the night, searching the house in my underwear, sniffing about to try to detect where in the walls or under the furniture the smell is coming from.  I scared my wife at least once in the kitchen… sometime around 2:00 a.m.  And the more awake I became the less I could smell the something that was burning.  It turns out that was because it was only in a nightmare that I smelled it.  The house was burning down around me in a dream, and the dream lingered after I awoke, even though I had forgotten about the dream entirely as I woke.   It was a classic anxiety dream.

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What, though, do I actually have going on that causes me this kind of nightmare?  I mean, besides Donald Trump being elected President of the United States, the impending end of life on Earth, and Bank of America suing me with hopes of wiping out my personal finances completely?

I am, foolishly, trying to publish another novel.

I promise to tell you a bit more about this novel in the near future.  But let me tell you first why publishing it is causing anxiety dreams.

Magical Miss Morgan is a novel about being a school teacher.  It is based on real experiences in my teaching life.  I used the time my teaching methods were opposed by a school board candidate.  I also used the time a principal told me that school shouldn’t teach kids to think because that didn’t turn them into good citizens.  I used real kids I once taught as characters.  I even used the time that fairies invaded my classroom.  Oh, but that last one might be slightly fictionalized.

So, even though the main character, Miss Francis Morgan, is not actually me, this novel is a distillation of my entire struggle to be a worthy teacher and accomplish something good as an educator.  My goal during my teaching career was to teach kids to think for themselves, to guide their own lifelong learning, and feel like they were valuable enough as individuals that somebody could actually care about them individually… even the hardest ones to like.  One would think there was nothing controversial at all in this goal.  But this novel tells how I fought that battle.  It is a story that I owe it to everyone I ever taught to tell.

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I have turned to Page Publishing to put this novel into print.  Not just digital, online copies, but into real print-on-pages books.  I have no talent or luck when it comes to marketing, but I am determined to make this book real even though this is a vanity press sort of publisher that makes their money by taking advantage of dewy-eyed writing fools like me.  Yes, I am buying the services of their editorial staff and design staff and there will be no money flowing my way any time soon.  This is the way publishing has been changing.  Publishers are still the farmers and writers have become the milk cows.  I just have to hope the milk won’t be sour.

So, I am having nightmares of burning the house down because I am following my dream of making a book.  But it is an important book… at least it is to me.

 

 

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My Post for Today

My computer is wearing out.  It blew up the WordPress posting sight on my screen to where the letters in the title are once again an inch tall.  The chances that it will suddenly wipe out everything I have typed and save a blank post over the whole thing almost instantly is making me tired.  To combat the problem, I must constantly keep a back-up copy on Microsoft Word which may also grow or shrink for no apparent reason.  It gets frustrating, and I am old, ill, and quite tired.  But I am also only a month away from two entire years of posting every single day, a feat I am not ready to fail at this close to the end.  So let me show something from my cartoon collections stolen from the internet at large.

From the Lola Bunny file;

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From Movie Art;

From Hanna-Barbera Toons;

And these are all things I could’ve written a 500-word post about with unique and possibly yawn-inducing Mickian insights, but today I would rather not.  Today I take the “picture is worth a thousand words” thing and give you 17,000 thousand words worth of not having to listen to me.

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Front Porch Life

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How do you make sense out of a crazy world where if you are black and your car breaks down on the highway, the police might shoot you dead, but, at the same time, if you are orange and you cheat people out of millions of dollars with a fake university and a bogus charity, they might make you president?

Well, I remember how sitting on the front porch and just talking could solve all the problems the world had.  Of course music didn’t hurt.  The front porch of the house was once the family’s contact point with the outside world.  It was the place where you stop for a moment and think about things before you go out to face the world.  It was where on Sunday afternoons in the 1960’s I sat and listened to Harmon Killebrew and the Minnesota Twins play baseball on the radio with my Great Grandpa Raymond.  And practically every dad was the kind of dad Andy Taylor was to Opie, because they talked to you for a minute on the porch.

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So, what is the best advice I can give you with my limited wisdom?  Turn off the TV, the computer, and the I-phone… for a while.  And come to the front porch.  Take the wicker chair by the door.  Put your feet up.  Sit a spell.  And lets talk a while.

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Cheating at Reading

Three years ago I read 100 books during the school year.  I was a reading teacher.  I had piles of classroom books at all reading levels.  I wanted to record the feat on Goodreads, but I hadn’t figured out how to record things properly on the Goodreads website.  I have no record of those books to look back on.

So this year, 2016, I determined that I would read at least thirty books and record that reading on Goodreads.   Unfortunately I reached the beginning of September 17 books behind schedule.

So, I decided to cheat.  I gathered up a bunch of popcorn books… easy reads, books I set aside after reading half or more of the books, and books about drawing.

I also have a few books by comedians that are easy to buzz through because of the unique way that people like George Carlin and Lewis Black think… unfortunately rather close to the demented way I think.

I also read cartoon books and comic books quickly.

So, I have been cheating right along, finishing at least a book a day.  I am now at only 3 books behind schedule.  It probably is not a good thing for a former reading teacher to cheat at reading.  But I am filling up my reading shelf.  I enjoy the books.  And the way Donald Trump manages his businesses and does charity work, I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

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Stardusters… Canto 13

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Canto Thirteen – The Plaza of Bones in the Ruined Palaces

Farbick couldn’t see Starbright, but he knew she was immediately to his left as they moved towards a large pile of skeletons and rotting corpses.  He could hear her soft footfalls.  He was fairly confident in her abilities, something he couldn’t say about most Tellerons.

“Look at these bodies, Mister Farbick,” Starbright whispered through the hostile environment suit comm.  “Some of them have been slain violently by the others in this plaza, but some, like this group of three armed lizard men have no visible wounds or other indications of death by violence.  The toxic atmosphere by itself is not sufficient to explain the deaths of three such otherwise healthy individuals.”

“Could they have died of disease?” Farbick guessed.

“I don’t know the difference between a healthy-looking lizard man and a sick one, I guess,” she responded.  “But I can see nothing wrong with them.”

Suddenly, without warning, a large, muscular lizard man with a full Galtorrian dragon crest on his scaly head leaped up onto a marble portico and glared directly at the invisible searchers.  He snorted and sniffed the air.

“Stay quiet,” whispered Biznap from somewhere to the right.  “If he can’t see us, he won’t know we’re here.”

But before Farbick could even doubt the reasoning behind the order, the naked Galtorrian warrior was on the back of an invisible Telleron, raking him with claws and biting at what was probably the throat.

“Skortch him!” cried Biznap, the voice coming from a direction that proved the lizard man’s victim was not Biznap.

Skortch rays are not in themselves visible, but as the beam slashed outward from where Biznap was obviously wielding his ray pistol, there was a visible line of sparkles and flashes as the disintegration effect acted on small particles the air was obviously laden with.  The shape of a Telleron  flared into view as Biznap’s ray connected with one of the cadets who had the misfortune to be standing between Biznap and the monster.  The cadet screamed as he dissolved.  The other cadet screamed as he died of his wounds and became visible in the clutches of the lizard man.  The invisibility cloak, like the hostile environment suit it was attached to, was shredded and shorted out.  It obviously had not stopped the predatory lizard man from knowing exactly where his prey was.

The lizard man lifted the cadet’s corpse to throw at either Biznap or one of the other two.  He was looking directly at Farbick as Farbick uttered a brief prayer to Charlie the Crocodile God that Biznap was not now between him and the target, and then squeezed off a vaporizing shot that disintegrated the lizard man and the cadet’s body as well.

Biznap immediately uncloaked.

“Well, that was unpleasant,” he said.

Starbright also uncloaked.  “Mister Farbick,” she said, “you may as well uncloak.  Invisibility is useless against creatures such as these.”

“What do you mean, cadet?” Farbick said as he uncloaked.

“They obviously have heat vision of some sort.  They can’t see us with visible light, but they sense us almost as if they can see us.  They may have developed some kind of natural thermal imaging in their eyes.  Or the creature could have had bionic eyes built in.  Didn’t you see the way his eyes flashed with the color red?”

“Yes,” said Biznap.  “I wish I had known that before accidentally skortching what’s-his- name.”

“The two cadets were Buckabuck and Whootney, Commander, sir,” said Starbright sadly.

“Oh, yes, well…. I have heard of them, of course,” said Biznap in what could only be interpreted as a guilty voice.

“I’m sure they regret your not knowing more about them than you do, Commander,” Farbick said.  He also believed those red shirts weren’t standard issue for a very good reason.

*****

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Brekka and the Man-eating Plant (version one)

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Brekka and the Man-eating Plant (version two)

 

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