The Iron Fist

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Comic books are not real life.  They are better than real life.  They allow you to go forward in your own story with the myth of the super power to bolster your courage.  You can face your daily devils and demons secure in the knowledge that, while no one is perfect, we can all at least imagine holding firm to an ideal in spite of the trials we face…  being true to a power and a goodness beyond ourselves… being a hero.

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I have followed Iron Fist’s adventures since the 1970’s.  It is true that I haven’t been as devoted to him and his heroics as I have been to Spiderman and the Avengers.  But I love the idea of a good guy in white standing up to the bad guys in black and beating the poop out of them with a good heart and a bare fist, not resorting to guns and bombs and gratuitous killings.  Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, has always been such a character to me.  Noble because he does not intentionally kill the enemy, like Batman, Superman, Captain America and so many other favorite super heroes.

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I admit it, this love-gush of a post is only happening because I finished binge-watching the new Iron Fist series on Netflix.    I depend on Netflix now to deliver to me effortlessly what I used to endlessly hunt and scrabble for in the way of idea fuel and motivational electricity.  And even though I am a notoriously uncritical critic, I have to say, it was not as heart-thumpingly good as either Daredevil or Luke Cage.  But it brought an old friend to life in a way that I never before believed could happen.  And I love the way it fit this puzzle piece into the overall jigsaw of the Marvel superhero stories on Netflix.  It used characters like the ER nurse Claire and the villainous Madam Gao to connect plotlines in Daredevil and Luke Cage, and the evil but helpful lawyer character from Jessica Jones.  Will I watch it again?  Definitely.  Will I need to draw Iron Fist for myself?  Probably.  But this is a hard experience to either explain or recapture.  Television using comic book heroes, sometimes, at its best, makes life better than it really is.

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Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach may or may not have written his organ masterpiece, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in 1704.  All we know for sure is that the combined efforts of Johannes Ringk, who saved it in manuscript form in the 1830’s, and Felix Mendelssohn who performed it and made it a hit you could dance to during the Bach Revival in 1840 made it possible to still hear its sublime music today.  Okay, maybe not dance to exactly…  But without the two of them, the piece might have been lost to us in obscurity.

The Toccata part is a composition that uses fast fingerings and a sprightly beat to make happy hippie type music that is really quite trippy.   The Fugue part (pronounced Fyoog, not Fuggwee which I learned to my horror in grade school music class) is a part where one part of the tune echoes another part of the tune and one part becomes the other part and then reflects it all back again.  I know that’s needlessly confusing, but at least I know what I mean.  That is not always a given when I am writing quickly like a Toccata.

I have posted two different versions for you to listen to in this musical metaphor nonsensical posticle… err… Popsicle… err… maybe just post.  One is the kinda creepy organ version like you might find in a Hammer Films monster movie in the 1970’s.  The other is the light and fluffy violin version from Disney’s Fantasia.  I don’t really expect you to listen to both, but listening to one or the other would at least give you a tonal hint about what the ever-loving foolishness I am writing in this post is really all about.

You see, I find sober thoughts in this 313-year-old piece of music that I apply to the arc of my life to give it meaning in musical measure.

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This is the Paffooney of this piece, a picture of my wife in her cartoon panda incarnation, along with the panda persona of my number two son.  The background of this Paffooney is the actual Ringk manuscript that allowed Bach’s masterwork not to be lost for all time.

My life was always a musical composition, though I never really learned piano other than to pick out favorite tunes by ear.  But the Bach Toccata and Fugue begins thusly;

The Toccata begins with a single-voice flourish in the upper ranges of the keyboard, doubled at the octave. It then spirals toward the bottom, where a diminished seventh chord appears (which actually implies a dominant chord with a minor 9th against a tonic pedal), built one note at a time. This resolves into a D major chord.

I interpret that in prose thusly;

Life was bright and full of promise when I was a child… men going to the moon, me learning to draw and paint, and being smarter than the average child to the point of being hated for my smart-asserry and tortured accordingly.  I was sexually assaulted by an older boy and spiraled towards the bottom where I was diminished for a time and mired in a seventh chord of depression and despair.  But that resolved into a D major chord when the realization dawned that I could teach and help others to learn the music of life.

And then the Fugue begins in earnest.  I set the melody and led my students to repeat and reflect it back again.  Over and over, rising like a storm and skipping like a happy child through the tulips that blossom as the showers pass.  Winding and unwinding in equal measure, my life progressed to a creaky old age.  But the notes of regret in the conclusion are few.  The reflections of happinesses gained are legion.  I have lived a life I do not regret.  I may not have my music saved in the same way Johann Sebastian did, but I am proud of the whole of it.  And whether by organ or by violin, it will translate to the next life, and will continue to repeat.  What more can a doofus who thinks teaching and drawing and telling stories are a form of music ask for from life?

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DoodleFace!!!

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I drew this face as a doodle while watching an episode of Iron Fist on Netflix.   I don’t think it is anybody in the show I was watching, actor or character or comic book villain, but I can’t help but think that Doodleface is a great name for a Dick Tracy villain.

Of course, a doodle is a drawing done with only half-attention being paid.  I was not ignoring Iron Fist as I drew this.  I did not take time to plan it out with a pencil sketch.  I started drawing the right eye, thinking it w ould probably become a girl’s face.  When I tried to match the first eye with a second, it came out mismatched enough that she morphed into a villain.  Bilateral symmetry equals beauty.  Asymmetry equals comedy goofball or possibly villain.  As I framed the eyes and developed the center of the face down to the chin, the chance to make a Natasha or an Olga Badenov sort of villain dissipated to the point of masculine villainy.  That probably explains the curly hair, since the villain Bakuto in Iron Fist had curly hair.  But curiously, this drawing-while- watching-TV fellow is not Bakuto.  This guy has no beard.  And in the episode I watched, Bakuto had a beard.  And Bakuto also ended the episode with a knife sticking out of his general heart-area, not a good sign for his personal health and wellness, though in a comic book plot… well, who knows?

So, if Doodleface is a Dick Tracy villain, how did he get his name and what is his special thing?  Pruneface was pruney in the face.  Mumbles couldn’t talk so you could understand him.  Flattop had a head that was flat on the top like a table.  So Doodleface is obviously a master of disguise.  He must possess a magic pen acquired in the mysterious Orient in the 1920’s, one that clearly allows him to redraw his features at any given time so he cannot be recognized.  And hopefully, he draws well enough that coppers won’t just take one look and say, “Hey, dat guy over dere has a squiggle drawn all over his mug!  Dat must be Doodleface!!!”  (Of course it has to be three exclamation points because… well, cartoon exaggeration!!!)

And all of this is, of course, evidence that even when I am watching a fairly good show on TV (Iron Fist is not Daredevil or Luke Cage in its levels of amazing Marvel comics goodness) my mind and my drawing hand are both still busy doing their own thing as well.  Doodling is an artsy-fartsy way to kill time and fill up empty spaces.  My entire blog is basically the same in this purpose.  But I am able to use the doodle imperative to create and be creative, to learn and to grow, and possibly make up something worth keeping.

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Stardusters… Canto 39

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Canto Thirty-Nine – The Bio-Dome’s Crew Quarters

Since Brekka had nearly gotten killed by a maniac sentient flower with hidden teeth, Brekka, Menolly, and George Jetson had not been apart by more than a few feet.  In fact, George and Menolly had spent an uncomfortably long time attached at the lips.

George finally pulled away from Menolly’s mouth to breathe.

“Oh, Brekka,” gasped Menolly, “we are so glad you didn’t die.  Life would never be the same again if I didn’t have you to dance with.”

Brekka crossed her arms and frowned at Menolly.  “What exactly are you and George doing exchanging spit like that?  I thought the two of you were never going to talk to me again.”

“You remember the kissing thing from Earther television?” asked George.

“Yes…” said Brekka cautiously, “like when Gilligan kissed Mary Ann that time to convince the surfer guy that they were boyfriend and girlfriend so he would surf back to Hawaii?  And she said he had skinny lips?”

“Um… yeah… that works,” said George.  “We discovered it makes you feel really, really good to kiss somebody like that.  Want to try it?”

Brekka pursed her lips for a moment and mulled it over.  “Okay.”

Without warning, she leaned over and kissed Menolly right on the mouth.  She tried to make it last like she had seen Menolly do with George… but… it was kinda yucky.

“I don’t really see what’s so great about it.”

“I dunno,” said Menolly.  “I thought it was kinda good.  Brekka is almost as good a kisser as George.”

“But,” said George, “maybe you would consider making some Telleron tadpole eggs with me… huh, Menolly?”

“Oh, you stupid-head…” said Brekka.  “We three are nest-mates.  That means we have the same mother and father… probably.  You know what in-breeding is?”

“We were programmed with that information in the egg, Brekka,” said Menolly.

“Well, you know… it might be the thing that makes Tellerons so stupid and incompetent… in spite of all the knowledge and skills programmed into us while we are in the egg.”

“Yeah,” said George, “you’re probably right.  But when I kissed Menolly that first time, it made me feel so strange in my stomach.  Isn’t it possible the feelings of the stomach are more powerful than the thoughts in the head?”

“I think in that episode of Gilligan’s Island it was the heart that love came from, not the stomach,” said Menolly.

“Well, my heart seems to be in my stomach,” said George, “really low down, too.  And it’s telling me to make tadpoles with the two of you.  We almost lost Brekka to that plant thing.  I don’t want to waste any more time.”

“You know that we are still too young for egg-laying, George,” said Brekka.  “Our ovipositors are not fully formed yet.”

“Yeah… but we could practice…”

Brekka was furious.  Why were male tadpoles so… so…?  Yeah, that.

*****

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…In the Eye of the Beholder

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Meet Xandu, the Beholder… I can’t say he’s a bad guy, but only because he’s a giant floating head full of eyes, and doesn’t have the proper parts to be considered a guy.

Those of us who were nutty about playing Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980’s hear the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder” and we’re automatically thinking weird thoughts about Xandu, and maybe even questioning, “Which eye do you mean?”

Beholders have one big eye, and a lot of little ones equipped with death lasers, gazes of perpetual sleep, nausea looks, and fear-eyes that make you run away in terror.  With that kind of surreal right-brain crapola going on in my stupid old dungeon master’s head, it’s no wonder I might go into this discussion of the Beholder with monsters on the brain when I really intended to talk all along about this particular beholder;

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Tomi Lahren is the darling of the right wing media, broadcasting her loud, angry racist-Barbie rants for Glen Beck’s lovely fear and hate smorgasbord known as The Blaze.  You can tell just by looking that she is a genetically German/Norwegian Midwesterner who could be an Iowegian if only she had had the good sense to be born in Iowa instead of the big bowl of blah that is Rapid City, South Dakota.  I know that may sound like some kind of reverse racism to say I can tell those things “just by looking”, but it isn’t, because I meant you can just look those things up on Wikipedia like I did.   To hear her shout her opinions on immigration in her closing segment called “Final Thoughts” you could swear she was channeling Donald Trump and lulling you into a stupor with her gaze of perpetual sleep power.    She is also known for giving San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick the nausea look for silently protesting racism and social injustice by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.  And she reserves both the fear eye and the laser death eye for Black Lives Matter activists, calling them the equivalent of the KKK because…  Well, I can’t read minds, especially hard little white power minds that say “all lives matter” because they really want to say “black lives DON’T matter”.

But, honestly, I don’t dislike this blond beholder who is more than just a floating head full of evil eyes.  She was cute on The Daily Show talking to Trevor Noah.  And she used her indoor voice even when saying slightly racist things.  The two of them seemed almost friendly, though ideologically they are worlds apart.

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And this is what we really need to see more of, the two sides of an issue actually being able to talk about issues acknowledging that each side has a right and a reason for the views they personally hold, and you can’t get the bugs out of the batter before you bake the cake if you don’t work together.  Lahren was even willing to be brave and appear on the liberal comedy talk show Real Time with Bill Maher where conservatives are often chewed up and spit out in front of a distinctly liberal audience.

But she is still a beholder.  She views the world through one big eye, one point of view, with little room for opposing viewpoints.  You will definitely have to decide for yourself as you enter the next dungeon room and come face to face with the beholder, which one is worth the roll of the dice to defeat, and which one you should run away from screaming like a little liberal snowflake girl.

 

 

 

 

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Return of the Train Man

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I was an aficionado of HO model trains as a kid.  I continued that horrendous fixation with 1/78th scale worlds long into my extended juvenile immaturity (I was an unmarried teacher of middle school students until 1995.)    Even after I was married, my wife allowed me, to a very limited degree, to continue to be a train man.

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I spent a good deal of time over the years building building plastic model kits of buildings, painting and repainting plaster model buildings, and collecting engines, rolling stock, and trackside details.  Painting little 1/78th scale people is definitely an exercise for steady hands and a zen-like, highly focused mind.

But that all reached an impasse when we moved to the Dallas area.  I had to tear down my train layout, box up my trains, and put everything on hold until I had another place to build and create my HO model-train world.  So, while it was all boxed up and transported to first, a house that we rented from my brother-in-law, and then a house that we bought, it got shifted around and stacked inappropriately, and grandma put some really heavy items on top to crush and mangle my treasures.  It also spent a night outside in the rain when my brother-in-law’s water heater had to be replaced in the garage where everything was stored.  I was not a happy camper for a while.

Now, a decade later, I am still taking the tiny items and trying to glue the pieces back together.  I have basically given up trying to get the trains to run again.  But I can use the bits and pieces of Toonerville to make pictures like these.  It makes the art-parts of my psyche and soul a little happier.

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Old number 99 had to have the front part where the headlamp is located reattached and restored.  It gave me something to do this weekend while I was down with a bad back and breathing difficulties.  It would be neat to put the train table back together and get things set up once again, but there is no space, and no unlimited funds, and less and less time.  So for now, the train man comes back to me to rebuild in photographs and in my imagination.

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The Daily Post

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Yes I will continue to coddiwomple for a while.  On my birthday in November of 2014 after retiring in May, I decided I would do a blog post every single day for at least a year.  Now, two years and four months later, I am still posting every single day.  I think that I shall continue for a while because there are real benefits to doing so.

  • It keeps my seriously old and worn-out brain active, chugging along even though it is held together with mental duct tape.
  • It challenges my ability to come up with new ideas.  I admit, sometimes I set down to write a post with nothing in my head but random snippets of music and empty space.  Yet, I have managed to increasingly create bizarre and exotic thought-artifacts at an increasingly volatile pace.  Perhaps soon the ideas reach critical mass and my writing goes boom like  a series of fireworks.
  • It has increased my visibility on WordPress and the reach of my writing through social media.
  • It has taught me how much I hate Twitter.  People tweeting in a rage at each other makes the world a birdhouse full of angry birds.
  • It has also taught me to edit carefully and quickly because my writing time is theoretically limited, as is my target word-count.
  • And I have learned that some days I need to do a simple and easy post like this to give my mind-muscles a chance to rest and grow.

So I will continue to post on WordPress, putting up pusillanimous Paffoonies to treat and entertain you.  (Yes, I know that “pusillanimous” means timid.  But the root words mean “small mind”, and my mind is nothing if not small.  And I also needed a multi-syllabic p-word to make the alliteration sound funnier.)

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