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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Made-Up People

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I often get criticized for talking to people who are basically invisible, probably imaginary, and definitely not real people, no matter what else they may be.

The unfinished cover picture is from the novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius which I just finished the final rewrite and edit for.  All of the characters in that book are fictional.    Even though some of them strongly resemble the real people who inspired me to create them, they are fictional people doing fictional and sometimes impossible things.  And yet, they are all people who I have lived with as walking, talking, fictional people for many years.  Most of those people have been talking to me since the 1970’s.  I know some of them far better than any of the real people who are a part of my life.

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These, of course, are only a few of my imaginary friends.  Some I spend time with a lot.  Some I haven’t seen or heard from in quite a while.  And I do know they are not real people.  Mandy is a cartoon panda bear, and Anneliese is a living gingerbread cookie.  I do understand I made these people up in my stupid little head.

But it seems to me that the people in the world around us are really no less imaginary, ephemeral, and unreal.  Look at the current Presidentumb of the Disunited States.  He is an evil cartoon James Bond villain if there ever was one.

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

People in the real world create an imaginary person in their own stupid little heads, and pretend real hard that that imaginary person is really them in real life.  And of course, nobody sees anybody else in the same way that they see themselves.  Everybody thinks they are a somebody who is different from anybody else who thinks they are a somebody too, and really they are telling themselves, and each other, lies about who somebody really is, and it is all very confusing, and if you can follow this sentence, you must be a far better reader than I am a writer, because none of it really makes sense to me.  I think everybody is imaginary in some sense of the word.

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So, if you happen to see me talking to a big white rabbit-man who used to be a pet white rabbit, but got changed into a rabbit-man through futuristic genetic science and metal carrots, don’t panic and call the police.  I am just talking to another fictional character from a book I just finished writing.  And why are you looking inside my head, anyway?  There’s an awful lot of personal stuff going on in there.  Of course, you only see that because I wrote about it in this essay.  So it is not an invasion of privacy.  It is just me writing down stuff I probably should keep in my own stupid little head.  My bad.

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Wally

Here is a teacher tail… err, teacher tale that still warms the cockles of my silly purple teacher’s heart.

Catch a Falling Star

Wally

I spent some considerable time working on the Naked Hearts trilogy in my blog, writing about nothing but girl students who fell in love with me.  That was a sort of Narcissistic writing experience that convinced me that I was somehow worthy of the love those young ladies felt in their little pink hearts.  I was not.  At least, not more deeply than the teacher-student level… the appreciation level.  Because there is love and then there is LOVE.  I have never really felt any sort of desire for a student.  Dread, yes, desire, no.  It is not only something illegal, but it is really downright icky.  The students that fill your classroom are all incomplete works of art.  The paint is not dry and can easily be smeared.  I am never the artist involved, so it is not my place to ever touch the oil paint of their lives, not…

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Wally Wood

Here’s a re-blog about one of my comic book artist heroes.

Catch a Falling Star

wally-wood-portrait A self-portrait by Wallace Wood.

I am a bit of a cartoonist for a reason.  I started drawing cartoons at the age of five.  I read everything in the Sunday funny pages, not just for the jokes.  I poured over the drawings and copied some.  I drew Dagwood Bumstead and Blondie.  I drew Lil’ Abner and Charlie Brown and Pogo.  Cartoonists were heroes to me.

But my parents wanted to protect me from the evils of comic books.  Superheroes were off limits most of the time.  Things that are associated with evil were out of the question.  So Daredevil was beyond reach.  And Mad Magazine was full of socialist ideas and led kids down the dark path of satire.  So the truth is, I didn’t discover Wally Wood until I was in college.  His corrupting influence didn’t take hold of me until I was older and full of hormones.  Ah…

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May 22, 2018 · 6:43 pm

Aeroquest… Canto 25

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Canto 25 – Count Nefaria

      The underground of White Palm was riddled with ancient tunnels and warrens that may have been caused by nature, or may have been evidence of a lost civilization.  They meandered everywhere just under the surface of an entire planet.  They varied in temperature from cool and dark, to bright-hot ovens.  Navigating them was perilous.

Dana Cole led the way with Trav Dalgoda hovering right behind her.  She knew the passages Nefaria used, and she made Trav hold the densitometer, a gravitic device meant to read matter density and reveal open spaces, to read the makeup and general shape of what lay ahead.  Tron and Maggie came behind, pistols and lasers at the ready.  Artran came next with a stuffed Pleezy-bear under one arm.  Arkin Cloudstalker and Sheherazade came after the boy, also fully armed and ready.  The rest of the ground troops covered all exits from the Oasis City underground.

“We have to go carefully,” said Dana Cole.  “Nefaria imported tunnel fuzzies from Galtorr to serve as underground guard dogs.”

“Tunnel fuzzies?” asked Tron.

“You know,” she explained, “those acid-spitting green spiders with the hundreds of eyes?  The ones with the plastic fur that make insulation good enough to bathe in lava without getting burnt.”

“Fascinating,” said Cloudstalker ironically.

“There’s a large corridor ahead,” said Goofy, grinning.  “There’s a really big room beyond that.”  The densitometer made his face glow with unnatural purple light.

“This place sure is spooky,” said Artran.

Without warning, a stream of bright yellow-green acid flew over their heads and melted an alcove into the sandstone on the far side of them.

“Tunnel fuzzy!” cried Dana, scrambling to get down under cover as she looked frantically for the source of the toxic goo.

“I see it!” cried Tron, lasering into another dark alcove with his green pulse-laser rifle.

Acid splattered everywhere, leaving pock marks in the walls, sores on exposed skin, and holes in clothing and body armor.  Artran began to cry.

“Are you hurt, Snookums?” asked Maggie in parental agony.

“No.  It’s Little Goofy!”  The boy held up his now headless Pleezy-bear, the fuzzy smiley face burned off by acid.

“Keep a sharp eye out!” warned Dana.  “That could happen to any of us!”

Watching warily, the assault team inched forward.  Trav’s nervous eyes were glued to the densitometer screen.  They eased into the major corridor.  A quick firefight dispatched three of Nefaria’s police robots.  They were swept quickly away by the surprise attack.

As the group bolted through the door into the big chamber, they came face to face with Nefaria and Sorcerer 6.  Neither the monocled, gray-haired villain, nor the white-skinned Synthezoid were happy about the turn of events.

“Well, Captain Tron and friends!” said Nefaria, trying to act suave and sophisticated though obviously rattled.  “What brings you to my humble home?”

“I do,” said Dana Cole.  “You and the other members of Expedition One betrayed me.  One of your Sorcerers nearly killed me!”

“Believe me,” said Sorcerer 6, “no one regrets the failed attempt more than I.”

“Oh, I believe you all right, you slimy white android!”  Dana shot the new Sorcerer right between the eyes with an auto burst from her advanced combat rifle.  Microchips and synthetic flesh flew everywhere.

“Now, let’s not get vindictive!” pleaded Count Nefaria, his monocle falling out.

“Oh, I think we should!” cried Trav stupidly; pulling out the Skortch ray he had taken from the corpse of Sorcerer 3.  He skortched Nefaria before Tron could grab the illegal weapon.  The stunned Count dissolved into hot ashes in seconds, completely disintegrated.  The monocle tinkled as it hit the stone floor.

“You numb-noggin!” cried Tron, grabbing the deadly weapon out of Goofy’s hands.  “We still needed vital information out of that criminal bug-head!”

“Oh… gee… I’m sorry, boss,” said Trav, humbled.

“Kill the Goof now!” insisted Maggie.

Dana stepped in front of her beloved imbecile.

“Please, forgive Uncle Goofy,” pleaded Artran.

Tron looked down at his son’s cherubic face and lowered his guns.  “I forgive you, Goofy, but you will make it up to me with some hard work.  Man that densitometer!  We’ve got to find Nefaria’s prison and his treasure house.”

“Maybe Miss Cole can help with those, too,” suggested Cloudstalker.

“Maybe she can,” nodded Tron.

Sheherazade nudged with her foot the ruin that was once the Synthezoid, Sorcerer 6.  “Do you suppose this is the last one of these?”

“I doubt it,” said Cloudstalker.  “It has too much of the stink of Syn Corporation about it.”

“I hope it isn’t the last,” muttered Tron.  “I need to kill that conehead a few more times myself just to feel good about it.”

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Visiting Tellosia

Here is the first installment of a project I left on the shelf for too long.

Catch a Falling Star

In the novel I recently entered in the Chanticleer Reviews YA Novel-Writing contest, I used the fairy kingdom of Tellosia to be the land of the little people integrated into hometown Iowa.   As part of my cartoon stories page, I intend to take up the tale of The Hidden Kingdom once again and expand and complete it.  I will post it as a web comic on Word Press.  I know I can’t make money giving it away for free… but I hope to have my stories and cartoons read a little bit more through the buzz I hope this generates.  And perhaps Petit Zam can come up with some fairy magic that will help… so I can cast a spell on you.

Here is installment one of The Hidden Kingdom;

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Debt and Doubt

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I sincerely tried to get out of debt when I had to retire as a teacher.  I managed to shed $23,000 worth of my $35,000 of debt before being sued by Bank of America.  The lawsuit forced me into bankruptcy.  Five years of debt-reduction belt tightening and poverty has not turned into a new $35,000 worth of debt including lawyer fees.  And on top of that I have to add about $6,000 of hospital debt and $1300 worth of IRS tax payments.   Instead of solving my debt problem, I have only added to it.  Dying in a manner that will leave my family debt free is now out of reach.  And yesterday I got a notice from the IRS suggesting I may still owe them more.

I am led to these conclusions;

  1. Bankers are pirates and villains.  Especially Bank of America bankers.
  2. Lawyers are too expensive, especially when they are the only ones on your side.
  3. I am no different than a farmer’s cow.  Cows get milked for actual milk.  I get milked every single day for multiple dollars, most of it in the form of debt.
  4. The game is rigged against creative and intelligent people.  You cannot make money as a novelist.
  5. To get ahead you have to be stupid and have no morals.  That is why Trump always succeeds.
  6. But if you can ignore poverty and the disadvantages it brings, life is still wonderful and is worth living.  I don’t need an angel named Clarence to help me see that.

If this essay seems like it has not fully addressed this theme, that’s because it hasn’t.  Many more essays on this topic are coming… God willing.

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Talk Like Popeye

I shoulda probababbly not’ve re-poskered this, but I yam what I yam.

Catch a Falling Star

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I have long identified with Popeye.  Let me review that notion by re-posting a bit of an old post in which I explain while talking like Popeye;

I am Popeye, I sez, because I just am…  Yeah, that’s right, I yam what I yam.

First of all, I looks like Popeye.  I has that cleft in me chin, very little hair left on me ol’ head, and I gots the same squinky eye (what squinky eye?).  I has had that same squinky eye since I wuz a teenager and got kicked in the eye doin’ sandlot football (bettern’ sandlot high divin’, fer sure!).  I also has them same bulgy arms, the ones that bulge in the forearm and is incredibobble thin on the upper arms.

Second of all, I has Popeye Spinach-strength.  I look weak and scrawny, but I is a lot tuffer than I looks.  I go into classrooms…

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