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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Lazy Sunday Silliness

Sometimes I need something like this to keep me happy and keep me going.

Catch a Falling Star

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Imagination is always the place I go in times of trouble.  I have a part of my silly old brain devoted to dancing the cartoon dance of the dundering doofus.  It has to be there that I flee to and hide because problems and mistakes and guilt and pessimism are constantly building un-funny tiger-traps of gloom for me to rot at the bottom of.  You combat the darkness with bright light.  You combat hatred with love.  You combat unhappiness with silly cartoonish imaginings.  Well… maybe you don’t.  But I do.

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When reading the Sunday funnies in the newspaper on lazy Sunday afternoons, I spent years admiring Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes for its artistry and imaginative humor, believing it was about a kid who actually had a pet talking tiger.  I didn’t get the notion that Hobbes was actually a toy tiger for the longest time.  That’s because it was…

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June 24, 2018 · 3:43 pm

Terry Pratchett, the Grand Wizard of Discworld

Terry is gone now. No new books are coming. But what he has left behind for us is pure dragon’s treasure hoard… if it’s a pink dragon with purple spots.

Catch a Falling Star

image borrowed from TVtropes.com image borrowed from TVtropes.com

I firmly believe that I would never have succeeded as a teacher and never gotten my resolve wrapped around the whole nonsense package of being a published author if I hadn’t picked up a copy of Mort, the first Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett that I ever encountered.  I started reading the book as a veteran dungeon-master at D&D role-playing games and also as a novice teacher having a world of difficulty trying to swim up the waterfalls of Texas education fast enough to avoid the jagged rocks of failure at the bottom.  I was drinking ice tea when I started reading it.  More of that iced tea shot out my nose while reading and laughing than went down my gullet.  I almost put myself in the hospital with goofy guffaws over Death’s apprentice and his comic adventures on a flat world riding through space…

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Take the Midnight Train to Anywhere

 

Journey back with me to the 1980’s, and hear once again the music of escape.

There was a time when I was young when I did not know where I would be when the next new dawn came.  Yes, I once took the midnight train (except it was a bus) and I arrived in a teaching career in deep South Texas.  I crossed borders into another culture, another way of life, another journey made of words and pictures that hasn’t reached the final station yet.

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At the outset, we all take a risk.  Born and raised in South Detroit (although it was really North Central Iowa) I passed through established procedures, rules, and regulations to do things that desperately needed doing for people who could only help themselves in very limited ways.

Some spoke mostly Spanish.  Some lived in broken homes.  One boy lived for a while under the bridge of the Nueces River, but attended school every day because he was hungry to learn, and because free school lunch was the majority of the food he got to eat.  He got on a midnight train, and I never saw him or heard from him again.  His sister, though, lived with a tia who treated her like a daughter, and grew up to be a school teacher.  I let her teach the lesson for me during one class period, as part of an educational experiment, and it put her on her own midnight train.

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It was a train going on the same track I followed.  Not because of me and what I did for her.  But because she came to realize it was the right journey to take for her.  It was the perfect anywhere for her.

But there is danger inherent in getting on a midnight train going anywhere.  You don’t know who is waiting for you down the line, or what your circumstances will be at the next station along the way.  There may be strangers waiting up and down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night.  I befriended other teachers, mentored some, learned from many,  even married one.  I had a run in or two with people who sell drugs to kids.  I had all four of my car tires slashed one night.  I had a car window broken out.  I had a boy once tell me he would kill me with a knife.  I later had that boy tell me he had a good job and a girlfriend and he was grateful that I talked him out of it and never turned him in to the police.

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And we end up paying anything to roll the dice just one more time…  At one time or another we have all been there, aboard that midnight train to anywhere.  There is a moment in everyone’s life when… well, some will win, and some will lose.  Some were born to sing the blues.  I have been there.  I have done that.  And it occurs to me, that song plays on in my head still.  I am still on that journey.  And I won’t stop believing.  Because it goes on and on and on and on…

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The Mouse and His Child

I definitely love discovering treasures I once had in the past. The memories this movie incites are definitely treasures for me. Mickey plus movie equals love….

Catch a Falling Star

Today’s animated cartoons are very sophisticated and technically superior to older fair like you might find on YouTube from… let’s say… 1977.  As an artist and writer dedicated to didactic surrealism (yes, I know you probably have no earthly idea what those two words even mean, but that’s a review post for another day), I should probably look down my long critic’s nose at the story of A Mouse and His Child, from Sanrio Studios.   I saw this bit of artwork in motion at the College-Town Theater in Ames, Iowa while attending Iowa State University.  It is a dopey pre-Toy-Story story about a pair of wind-up toy mice who are designed to dance in circle and can do nothing more than that at the beginning of the movie.  They are told at the outset that they can only do in life what they were designed to do… and nothing…

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RumikoTakahashi

This has been, over time, a very popular post. Mangaphiles all love her artwork. I love her artwork. So let me share once again about Rumiko Takahashi.

Catch a Falling Star

Yesterday I used a Paffooney I had stolen to illustrate my gymnasium adventures, and in the caption I gave credit to the wonderful comic artist I shamelessly copied it from.  The second imitation Takahashi that I did yesterday is now displayed next to it above.  I am now compelled to explain about my goofy, sideways obsession with Anime and Manga, the cartoons from Japan.  I love the art style.  I have since I fell in love with Astroboy Anime as a child in Iowa.  Rumiko Takahashi is almost exactly one year younger than me.  As a cartoonist she is light years more successful than me.  She has been crafting pen and ink masterpieces of goofy story-telling longer than I have been a teacher.

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Her artwork is a primary reason I have been so overly-enamored of the Japanese Manga-cartoon style.  I love the big eyes, the child-like features of even adult…

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June 21, 2018 · 11:26 am

A Little Bit Here, A Little More There

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How do you build something big and complex that would seem to be beyond the power of ordinary men to do by themselves?

20180620_093511  The pen-and-ink Paffoonies I have placed in this post are both examples of the answer to the question.  I spent numerous days penciling and inking separate pieces of each picture in small chunks of time, fifteen minutes here, twenty minutes there, bits and pieces of time.

The Downtown Animaltown picture shows at least one consequence of the process.  The forced perspective, especially in the roofing area looks wrong because it wasn’t precisely rulered.  That was, of course, intentional.  It was a happy accident, but goofy perspectives are a feature of cartoon worlds.

The gnarly old tree in the Buffalo Castle Paffooney was created in at least five separated pieces.  Inking the leaves actually fractured the time spent inking by twenty or thirty more.

So big things are created by a compounding of little things.  This is also how novels occur.  The bricks of character, scenes, plot twists, and themes are baked one at a time over a space of years, and then assembled into the castle of the whole story.

Little things that fit together can definitely make bigger things.

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Why I Must Write

Here’s a good post full of bad poetry that needs to see the light once again.

Catch a Falling Star

Blue in the back yard

Why I Must Write

Life is simply poetry,

And I must write it down.

Without the rhyme and beat of words,

I am a hopeless clown.

But if I can but set the theme,

And manipulate the sound,

The music of the world is mine,

And Meaning is unbound.

Here is a simple truth about why I write.  I believe I have the power to define myself, a power that not even God can take away.  I hope to leave words and stories and poems and drawings behind to speak to others, especially my children, after I am dead and gone.  That is a writer’s immortality.  And you should probably know that as a retired school teacher, I have over 2,500 children.  But even if none of them ever reads a word of it, or looks at one of my Paffooney pictures, I will have made poetry enough to be…

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