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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Filed under artwork, comic strips, fairies, Hidden Kingdom, humor, Paffooney, pen and ink

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

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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Filed under artwork, Celebration, humor, illustrations, kids, Paffooney

Rabbit People

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On days when I am still recovering from life-altering blows, I often try to find new realms, alternate realities to live in.  (Retreating into a fantasy world is one of the reasons she gave for leaving.)  And since, as a youth in Iowa, I raised rabbits for a 4-H project, I know rabbits better than I do human people.  Rabbits are people too.  So, I have been walking among the rabbit people.  Seriously, bunnies are better people than most human people.  They are not trying to profit off you.  They are not trying to get everything they can off you.  They are merely there to wiggle their whiskers, sniff for food, poop, gnaw on stuff, and make more bunnies.

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I often see myself as a rabbit person.  In cartoon form, I am the bunny-man teacher known to the Animal Town School System as Mr. Reluctant Rabbit.

As a teacher, I am always pulling out carrots of irony and gnawing on the ends of them in front of students.  If they complain that eating food in class is supposed to be against the rules, I ask them, “Do you want a carrot of irony?”

“Oh, no, thank you sir.”

“They are good for your eyesight as well as your insight.  You really ought to chew on healthier things like that.”

“Oh, no sir,” they say.  “We prefer Hot Cheetos.”

And so, I taught on like that… like a rabbit, fast and frumious (a Jabberwocky sort of word), and never really bit anybody.  Teaching is like that.  You offer the good healthy stuff to nourish their little animal minds, and they always choose the junk food instead.

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And so life goes on like that.  Looking to rabbit people to ease my pain and need for good, wholesome carrots of irony.

I have  recently run a free-book promotion on The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.One of the main characters in the book is Tommy Bircher’s pet rabbit Millis.   During the course of the story about invading aliens, Secret Agent Robots from the CIA, and making friends when you need friends, Millis is turned into a rabbit-man by a lab accident.  He teaches Tommy that you don’t have to be human to be a good, caring, self-sacrificing person.  He also teaches him to eat his carrots and greens like a good boy should.

So, I will spend more time with the rabbit people and heal a little bit.  That is what you do with the tragedy that life brings you.  You spin it into whole cloth, making humor and poetry out of everything bad that happens… wrapping yourself up in a comforting blanket of lies (you can also call those fiction stories), and eating a little chicken soup on a cold day to heal your soul.  (Oh, I forget, rabbits often gag on chicken soup.  Let’s make that bean soup with carrot chunks.)

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I Don’t Know What to Think

Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island, the actress Dawn Wells, died of Covid. Today is the seventh day of my illness with what I believe was Covid Omicron, and it seems very likely I will not die of it. Of course, I was triple-vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. And she was 82 and arguably in worse shape health-wise than me.,

Is it fair? Should it have happened this way?

When I was twelve and she was 29, I worshiped her. Of course, it was the Mary Ann in syndicated reruns I really loved. She was even younger than 29 in that context.

So, how do you balance existential equations like that?

Would I have traded my life for hers? Yes, probably. But what would it really matter? I don’t know what to think.

The Cardinals football team lost again in the first round of the playoffs. They had their best start of any year this football season, and they were being talked about as a favorite to reach the Superbowl. Then they collapsed and won significantly fewer games than they lost in the second half of the season.

Why did their winning engine go so dead at the worst possible time?

Well, I have been thinking since the St. Louis Blues finally won their first Stanley Cup that if the Arizona Cardinals ever won the Superbowl, as they came within minutes of doing in the 2009 Superbowl, I would probably die because all my sports-team wishes would’ve come true. Does that mean I owe my continued existence to the Los Angeles Rams for defeating them? I don’t know what to think.

Uh oh! Does that mean that since, “I Don’t Know What to Think,” Therefore I am not?

Doing the philosophical-thinking thing can be deadly serious.

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Damn Lies, White Lies, Stretchers, and Wild Hoo-Haws

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**This is a classic post from January, 2015 that is still somewhat relevant… Unless I’m lying.**

There are limits to what people will believe.  No really, there are, I promise.  You can believe me because I’m a fiction writer, a story-teller, and I therefore tell lies all the time.  I was a teacher for thirty-one years, so I not only tell kids how wonderful they are in order to get good behavior and real learning out of them, but I have been told some of the most convoluted, inside-out, purple-in-the-face hoo-haws that are ever told anywhere in human culture throughout human history, and told them by a child with a straight face, perfectly seriously, and with little red horns holding up their crooked golden halos.  We are taught to misrepresent the truth from early childhood on.

“Do you have to go potty, sweetheart?”

“No, mommy, I jest like to dance.”

“Do you love me, Mortimer?  Or do you just want to get me alone in a car after the prom?”

“Oh, I love you, Alicia.  Really I do!”

“So are you in favor of taxing the oil companies at a fair and balanced rate, Senator, so we have more money to spend on Education and public works?”

“Why, I most certainly do, young voter.  Ignore that man with the “I Love Exxon” button trying to bash me over the head with that Tea Party campaign sign.  Let me kiss that darling little baby of yours.”

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This post was inspired by all the lies told in the State of the Union speech last night by President O’Bama (He’s Irish and a conservative like Bill O’Reilly, isn’t he?)  Now, I am well aware of the white lies the President buttered our bread with.  The economy has actually improved, but not nearly as much as was claimed.  And not nearly enough for someone like me, a white male retired educator with significant health problems living in a Red State under Republican-Nazi governor/emperors who want to privatize education and spend my pension money on tax breaks for billionaires.  But those lies are nothing compared to the damn lies told by the Republican response lady, Ernst from Iowa.  She laid out a plan for undoing everything that’s been done to improve my life by the government since 2008.  The Affordable Care Act is to be repealed.  Tax breaks for “job creators” are going to be re-instituted.  We are going to heal the middle class by deregulating industry and predatory banks and by giving more benefits and goodies to the rich folks who will treat us better than those horrible Democratic liberals who want to turn us all into socialists.  This is coming from the Iowa Senator who won her seat by promising your average pork-eating Iowan to use her “hog-castrating skills” to motivate Democrats in congress to see things her way.  Iowans (of which I once was one of) know good fertilizer when they smell it.  It makes you want to shout, “Hoo-Haw!”  (Yes, it’s true, I once knew an old farm hand that, when he heard a ridiculously contorted lie, would shout “Hoo-Haw!” as a sort of derisive laughter to hear such a funny truth-twister.)

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Lies are our way of life.  We lie about what we think.  We lie about what we feel.  We lie about how we view the world.  We lie about whether or not we tell lies.  Could we live a life without ever lying?  I hate to tell you this, but if I say, “yes”, then it might not be entirely truthful of me.

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