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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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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Short and Sweet

No, I am not talking about a midget girlfriend today.

I am talking about brevity.

Some of the best writing gets directly to the point.

You have to know how to say exactly what you want to say.

Then say it.

Like, “Tootie is a Cutie.”

And once said, the point made is…

Sheer poetry.

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The Latest Character Portrait

Yes, I drew Blueberry Bates one more time.

I drew her as an illustration for the novella I am currently working on, Horatio T. Dogg, Super Sleuth.

The original is in pen and ink, shaded on the Microsoft paint program that came with the computer.

She is not a main character in this story. But she is a key character in the plot.

The essential details about the character Blueberry Bates include the fact that she was named by her older sisters. She was born a blue baby, her Infant Methemoglobinemia (Blue Baby Syndrome) was caused by too little oxygen in her blood. Her mother died during childbirth. Her father never quite recovered from the loss, leading her sisters and her aunt to raise her as a girl even though she was born with a penis. When x-rayed as a young child, she was found to have internal female organs, including ovaries and uterus. Blueberry is highly imaginative, loves to draw with colored pencils, and pursued Mike Murphy to be her boyfriend until he finally gave in and fell hopelessly in love with her at the edge of ten and a half. She is based on two different real transgender students I encountered as a teacher.

Here is the final, color version of the new portrait.

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For the Love of Korngold

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When I was in Cow College at Iowa State University I spent most of my study time listening to KLYF Radio in Des Moines.  They would eventually transform into an easy-listening music station, but the time I truly lived a K-LYFe was when they played classical music.  And it was there that I first fell deeply in love with the Saturday Matinee stylings of  Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the first incarnation of John Williams of Star Wars fame.  Yes, movie music.  Classical movie music.  And it seemed, mostly movie music for Errol Flynn movies.

 

 

 

My sister was always a lover of Errol Flynn movies, and when KGLO TV Channel 3 would play one on the Saturday Movie Matinee in the early afternoon, we would have to watch it, the whole thing, no matter how many times we were repeating the same four movies.  Nancy would memorize the lines from the Olivia deHavilland love scenes.  I would memorize the sword fight scenes with Errol and Evil Basil Rathbone (Good Basil was Sherlock Holmes, and we had to watch those too.)  Early evenings on those Saturdays were all about playing pirate and Captain Blood adventures.  Or better yet, Robin Hood.

 

 

 

But the music of adventure was by the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  He did the sound tracks for Captain Blood, Robin Hood, and the Sea Hawk.

I sincerely love the corny old movie matinee music because it was not only genius-level mood music and story-telling in a classical music instrumental masterpiece, but because even now it takes me back to the boy I was at twelve years old, playing pirate on Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.   Making Robin Hood bows out of thin tree branches and arrows out of dried ragweed stalks.  Sword fighting to the death with sticks with my cousin Bob, who was always Basil Rathbone in my mind. while I’m sure I was Basil Rathbone in his mind.

To be honest, there is much more to Korngold than I have relentlessly gushed about here like a hopeless nerdling fan-boy in the throws of a geeky movie passion.  He was a musical child prodigy like Mozart.  He wrote a ballet called Der Schneemann (the Snow Man) when he was only eleven, and became the talk of the town in Vienna, Austria in 1908.  He became the conductor of the Hamburg Opera by 1921.  He wrote some very fine classical music in the 20’s that still rings through orchestra halls to this day before coming to America in the early 30’s with film director Max Reinhardt.  He scored his first film in 1935, adding music to Reinhardt’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  He was fortunate to escape Europe just as the Nazis were coming to power in Germany, and also at the right time to team up with new movie star sensation, Errol Flynn.  He won his first Oscar for the musical score of the movie Anthony Adverse in 1936 and he won his second for The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.  He died in 1957, a year after I was born.  But I promise, I didn’t kill him.  I was in college in the 1970’s when his music underwent a revival, complete with renewed popularity.

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His music was pure gold to listen to in the fields of corn in Iowa in the 1970’s.  It was just as good as that last pun was terrible.  So, in other words, really, really, spectacularly good.  It was the music that scored my childhood fantasy adventures.

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Harvey Comic Books


“Joker”, a harlequin jack-in-the-box logo for Harvey

When I was a kid old enough to begin to see and interact with the real world in the tragic and magical 1960s, the first comic books available to me, long before my parents would allow me to pick up and buy Spiderman and Batman and (shudder) comics with monsters in them, were the kid-friendly comics of the Harvey Brothers.

Now, you have to understand that Harvey Comics had been around since the 1940s and made their money on characters licensed first from the Brookwood Publications company that Alfred Harvey bought out in 1941 to provide the building, equipment, and publishing personnel to start producing comic books.

Robert B. Harvey and Leon Harvey joined the company to help produce titles they now owned the rights to like Black Cat, the Shield, Shock Gibson, and Captain Freedom.

…………………………………………Of course, most of those characters didn’t last very long. Black Cat was the only title still being published by Harvey in the 1950s.

They would go on to license characters from Famous Studios, the animated cartoon works of Max Fleischer and his brother Dave. That’s when the kid- friendly, parent-approved comic books of Fleischer creations like Casper the Friendly Ghost opened up the world of comic books to seven-year-old Mickey circa 1963.

In spite of this cover art, Casper rarely wore clothing.

Now, it is probably obvious that there are many ways that Harvey Comics influenced me as a storyteller later in life. It goes without saying that my dedication to childish humor in stories derives from this comic-book source. The cuteness of characters is another necessity of comic storytelling gleaned from these ripe fields of baby faces. And stories advanced by magical means and absurd sidetracks also come from here. But did you ever notice that Casper and the other ghosts all perform in the nude? Yes, I think my childhood longing to be a nudist began with Casper’s naked adventures. But unlike Casper, my urges along those lines were suppressed and repressed by parents and society as a whole. So watching Casper and Spooky and Pearl (Spooky’s goilfriend) romp naked through comic book hijinks were a sublimated substitution for that childhood desire. (Sure, none of them had genitals, but it wasn’t about that.)

…………………………………………….Of course, there were many other Harvey characters to enjoy that actually did wear clothes. I was particularly fond of Hot Stuff because he made such an art out of burning things and being a bad kid and roasting the backsides of fools and hypocrites with his trident. And he only ever wore a fireproof diaper, so he was almost a nudist too.

There were many other characters licensed by Harvey as well, including Felix the Cat, Little Audrey, Baby Huey, and the characters from Walter Lance Studios like Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Chilly Willy.

Dell would later take over the comic book rights to Walter Lantz Studios creations.

So, now you know the true story of how my innocent childhood was warped and woven and corrupted by the characters of Harvey Comics.

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Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 14

Reichenbach Falls

Bobby and his book were perched in the rocking chair on the porch with Horatio curled up on the rug by his feet.  The reading lamp was on, but otherwise the porch was mostly dark.  Dad and Grandpa had finished closing the porch-window shutters over an hour earlier.  Thunder rumbled eerily somewhere out in the dark of the early evening.

“It sure is spooky out there,” said Shane from his seat in the darkness around the porch sofa.

“It’s just a summer thunderstorm,” said Bobby, turning a page.

“Whatcha readin’?”

“Sherlock Holmes.”

 “Oh?  What’s the story called?”

“The Final Problem.”

“Is that a good one?”

“No.  Sherlock fights Professor Moriarty at a waterfall in Switzerland called Reichenbach Falls.  They both go over the edge and fall to their deaths.”

“Sherlock dies?”  Shane sounded genuinely alarmed.

“Yeah.  But he’s not real.  And he comes back to life.  The Hound of the Baskervilles happens after this story.”

“Oh.”  Shane sounded relieved.

Then the place was briefly white with light from outside, and the thunderstrike that followed almost instantly meant that lightning had hit something nearby.  ProbaHbly the lightning rod on the barn’s cupola.

But Bobby and Shane both jumped as the electricity went out, leaving them in inky blackness.  A few seconds later, the lights were on again.

“What was that!?” Shane practically screeched.

“From the ozone smell in the air, I surmise that lightning struck nearby.  Close enough to cause a brief power outage via electromagnetic pulse.”  Horatio looked calm and unconcerned as he said it.

“Horatio says that the lightning struck the barn and caused the electricity to go out for a moment.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t wish to alarm anyone, but I smell rats out and about,” said Horatio.

“Professor Rattiarty?” asked Bobby.

“What?” said Shane.

“Yes, but not alone.  He has the corpse of a poisoned rat with him.  Possibly Darktail Ralph.  He probably wants to tempt me to poison myself.”

“You won’t eat the dead rat, will you?”

“No!  Yuck!  I don’t want to eat any dead rats!” remarked Shane loudly and with disgust.

“I concur with your brother.  I will not be eating any rats tonight either.  Rattiarty is himself filled with rat poison.”

“What?  Rattiarty is poisoned but not dead?”

“What… what?” gasped Shane.  “Are you talking to Horatio again?”

“Rats often ingest poison slowly enough that, instead of slaying them, they become immune to it.”

“What are we gonna do if the rats are now immune to poison?”

“They are?  Bobby?  What is Horatio telling you?”

“What are you telling me, Horatio?”

“Professor Rattiarty is out there now in the storm.  He’s out of evil minions and wants to challenge me to a final battle.”

“Horatio says Professor Rattiarty wants a final showdown now.”

“The evil rat is out there in the storm?”

“He is.”

“Bobby, if you open the porch door for me, I must answer the rat’s challenge.”

“Now?  In the storm?”

“Yes.  If not now, then never.  My aged body is soon to give out, and I would not let that evil rat continue to threaten the Niland family that I have loved for so long, and who loves me in return.”

Bobby put Sherlock Holmes aside and rose from the rocking chair.

“Bobby, why are you crying?  What did the dog say?”

“Not now, Shane.”

Bobby moved to the porch door.  He opened the screen door inward and the storm door outward against the wind and the driving rain.

“Bobby!  What are you doing?”

Horatio leaped up and bolted out of door as a lightning strike illuminated everything with a burning blue-white light.

Bobby thought he saw the rat scampering across the farmyard as the light faded to blackness.

Shane, terrified, jumped out into the downpour.

“Horatio!  Come back, doggie!”

Bobby, too, went out in the rain.  Straining his eyes to try to find Horatio and the rat he was chasing.  He could see nothing.  A car out on the gravel country road had its brights on as it barrelled along towards Highway 69 going much faster than it should in the rain.

“Horatio!  Come back, it’s not safe!” Shane screamed, crying as he shouted it.

Grandpa Butch was suddenly directly behind Bobby.

“What’s going on?  Why are you boys out in the storm?”

“It’s Horatio and the rat.”

“Shane!  Come back to the house!”

“Grandpa, Horatio is out here in the rain somewhere!  Bobby let him out the front door!”

A car horn blared.  Brakes screeched.  Bobby thought he heard a sickening thump out there on the gravel road.  And the car skidded to a stop in the dark and the rain.

“Oh, god, no!  Shane!” 

Grandpa ran toward the car.  Bobby followed right behind.  As they drew near the stopped car, they heard Shane crying as if he were heartbroken.

“Shane!  Are you all right?”

“Grandpa, it’s Horatio.”

“Butch, I am sorry,” said Mr. Beetle Jones, out of the car and kneeling by the lump of soaked fur on the gravel road, illuminated by the headlights.

Bobby’s stomach quivered, leading to an uncontrolled string of chest-constricting sobs.

  “Ah, Horatio.  You have been a good and faithful friend,” said Butch Niland wearily as he kneeled down and petted the badly damaged body.

“Is he…?  Is he dead?”

“I’m sorry, boys.  He was an old dog.  It is a blessing that it was over quickly.  It means his life won’t end in prolonged suffering.”

“Bobby, how could you?” cried Shane.  “It’s your fault!  You and your dumb old imagination.  You shoulda never let him out of that door.” Bobby could take no more.  He lit out for the house as fast as he could run.  The lightning and thunder lent drama and illuminated his path.

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Hindsight

A collage of some of my drawings posted over a year ago.

The world is different now than it has ever been. More of my life is in the past than will ever be in the future, so looking back is really most of what is left to me.

I have a lot of good memories. In fact, my novels are mostly about those memories. But there has to be a bit of the bad memories too. There is no story without conflict. No life is lived and learned from if there has been nothing to battle against, nothing to overcome.

I hope we have learned something from the past few months. But experience has told me that we probably haven’t. We didn’t learn hard lessons before… as a species. It is more or less up to the individual to stay away from the pit traps the herd is heading towards.

But as we swiftly approach future troubles, we need to look once or twice into the rear-view mirror.

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Living in the World I Once Drew

The Grain Mill

It is normal for the world we live in to inspire us to draw pictures of it. But architects do the opposite. They imagine a world we could live in, and then build it.

David and Me in Cotulla

Sometimes, like in the picture above, I draw real people in imaginary places. Other times I draw imaginary people and put them in real places.

Gyro and Billy on the planet Pan Galactica A

Sometimes I put imaginary people in imaginary places. (I photo-shopped this planet myself.)

Superchicken and Sherry before school

In fiction, I am re-casting my real past as something fictional, so the places I draw with words in descriptions need to be as real as my amber-colored memory can manage.

Valerie and her skateboard in front of the Congregational Church

When I use photos, though, I have to deal with the fact that over time, places change. The church does not look exactly like it did in the 1980s when this drawing is set.

Drawing things I once saw, and by “drawing” I mean “making pictures,” is how I recreate myself to give my own life meaning.

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Just Write Something, Mickey

“Lately Mickey hasn’t been doing much of any writing on his work in progress. I, a professional Professor of knowing practically everything and knowing most of it wrongly, am here to give the hopeless goofy guy some much needed advice. Of course, I shall offer that advice incognatively… err, incontranatively… err… anonymously because Disney enjoys suing schoolteachers and other criminals who misuse their intellectual property.”

“But I can’t help myself when it comes to giving opinions on stuff that ain’t really my business but fascistinates… err, fusstinates… err… highly interests me. So, here goes.”

“Write about something Over the Rainbow. I mean your imagination is really garganteelian… err… gigantickingly… err… really pretty big. You can make up something being about made-up worlds, witches who fly around in soap bubbles and other such nonsensical things. Maybe talking scarecrows and heartless metal guys and really big kitty cats… make a story with something beautiful and imaginative, though maybe not as beautiful as that Judy Garland chick… she was really georgeous… err… magnifical… err… really hot-looking! But she is so old she is dead now. So, you can’t put her in the film version of what you write.”

“Or you could write something extra creepy. Something totally like the Addams Family. You’ve got a talent for writing stuff that seems extra morbeedious… err… mackahbreebrious… err… extra spooky. You can turn peoples’ stomachs inside out and make them feel all gooey in their courageousness because of weird evilness and dark happenstances… err… murderiferous scenarios… err scary stuff. It helps that you can be funny here and there when you scare us. You can be totally spooky-ooky in your stories and sometimes you make us sharpen wooden stakes and make necklaces of garlic. Do an Uncle Fester shtick. Of course, Jackie Coogan is so old he is dead now, so you can’t use him in your film version.”

“Or there is always the absolutely romantical… like a story about a three hour cruise where funny guys get shipwrecked on a desserted island with girls that wear bikinis where you don’t see the cutie’s belly button. And “desserted” is the right word because the dessert is actually coconut-cream pie. But you are good at writing about faskinating… err… interesstrial… err… attention-requiring young women and really dorky guys and how they can fit together like puzzle pieces that you don’t even have to use scissors to make them fit together. Romantical comedy is a thing you can do too. So, we don’t even need to talk about Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann. You couldn’t cast her in the movie version because you’re still sad about Covid having taken her away in 2020.”

“But anyway, you got no excuses now, Mickey! You know you can write It’s just getting anybody to read the danged thing you can’t do. So, write something!!!”

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Pen and Ink and Sometimes… Pencil

Drawing with increasingly painful arthritic hands is still worth it. I suppose I should feel a little embarrassed about drawing so many young girls. Especially when I draw them naked.

But drawing someone who is naked, yet totally confident in their own skin and unafraid of the world they have bared themselves to, captures a feeling I have aspired to my whole life.

That is the purpose of art. To show the deepest insights life has forced upon the artist.

Not all the nudes I draw are female.

Sometimes it is the top of the head that is naked. That makes it easier to show what you are thinking. No hairy stuff between the viewer and the mind of the man.

Mere shapes and lines can make you feel something deeply.

There is a joy that can come from drawing something that begins with a spark from your secret heart.

But people will know at first sight what things you used to keep secret and to yourself.

And some people will hate you for it. They detect a little nudism or a little bit of gayness (and I am definitely not gay) and immediately default to hating your drawings, and, beyond that, hating you.

But I don’t accept hate. Because I don’t know hate. It is a stranger to me, from a country I have never been to. And I don’t recognize that stranger. But I don’t hate him. Because I don’t know hate.

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It Is Amazing That…

…Ideas come out of nowhere, and fit together so easily.

…People can laugh at almost anything, and for almost infinite reasons.

…Ugly things can contain great beauty, and beauty can conceal great horrors.

…Songbirds can be everywhere that there is life.

…You can live many lifetimes if only you allow yourself to be fully absorbed by books.

…You can be more confident and bold when you are naked in the world than when you wear suits of armor behind castle walls.

…When people get what they wish for, it never works out like they thought it would.

…People will often let others tell them what to think, but still won’t listen if you tell them they are wrong.

…You can learn wisdom from satire and foolishness from a philosophy teacher.

…Gravity works even when your brain doesn’t.

…We survived even when the clowns ran the circus.

…We didn’t really learn about the problems with drawing in our textbooks, until we became the teacher.

…Bananas do the Tango when the grocery store is closed

(Now, there’s an idea with real a-peel!)

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