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

Dippy Duck Dreams

The hardest dream-to-reality connection to make is my duck nightmare.  I know I bummed the world out yesterday with unfunny dream deliberations.  But in this post I explore the lighter side of nightmares.  It all began when I was about four years old and we went to the Deer Park Zoo in Mason City, Iowa.

Truthfully, when you look at it from the proper point of view, at four you are small and all animals look like monsters.  The three ostriches they had in a chicken-wire pen were at least several hundred feet tall.  The deer were huge with giant Bambi-eyes.  I was little and still very much in a touchy-feely stage of life.  And the goose-pen had a large hole in the front, just large enough for a goose head and neck to fit through at high speed.  That is exactly what happened when one wide-eyed nerd-child wandered close enough to give a gander a premium chance at a beak-first goosing.  Whether my pants had to be changed immediately afterwards is something I have yet to work up the courage to ask my parents about.  No rush.  They are only in their eighties now.

Anyway, I was left with a recurring nightmare, always involving a duck or very similar waterfowl with big, massive, white dentures.  Yes, you heard right, a duck with teeth.  It’s all right for you to laugh now, but I woke up in cold sweat every single time I had that nightmare.  Right from the moment when I realize that the evil little duck-mind has fixed its wishes on taking a nice, big bite, to the split second where the toothy duck-head zips towards me, I am gripped with total existential terror.  And it wakes me up.

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So what does this doozy of a dream mean?  Do dreams have to have a meaning?  All two-hundred-plus times?  (I lost count, so sue me.)  I do believe, however that it must be some kind of anxiety dream.  And the last occurrence was now four years ago, so the possibility of duck-dream remission is very real to me.

If my last post chilled your innards, then hopefully this one lit them up with laughing gas.

Leap of FaithThis closing Paffooney from yesterday is entitled “The Leap of Faith”.  I’m not sure why that is important to know, but it is.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 136

Canto 136 – Ugly Flowers

Mai Ling had swiftly learning the ninja skills that Ged Aero-sensei taught the students in his dojo.  Unlike the majority of the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Babies, Mai was completely in tune with the skills of movement, attack, and defense she was learning at the dojo because her psionic mutant power was telekinesis, the ability to remotely move things with the mind. 

Her mental ability complemented her ninja attack skills in that she could alter the course of projectiles in flight.  If she threw a ten-pointed shuriken at someone, it would not miss.

The picture in her inner eye, the secret of psionic control, was always the flower-like shuriken rotating through the air at the target, even if it needed to make a ninety degree turn to hit the precise spot she aimed at.

Shu Kwai, Ged-sensei’s lead student, had worked with her hundreds of times, helping her to see the power to control movement of objects as part of a wondrous dance.  He was also a telekinetic and could also do the dance.  It was a dance that could protect others from harm, or if the need arose, destroy them.

At twelve years old, Mai was already developing into a shapely young lady.

“You can’t be ashamed of your body when you are doing the dance,” reminded Shu.  “We wear hardly any clothes not because we are immodest, but because we do not wish to impede the dance in any way.”

Mai frowned at him.  Shu could be such a prig at times.  He stood there wearing only a white loincloth, while he himself had made the rule that no one should go un-armored on a potentially hostile planet.  Except for the ninja underwear, his light orange-yellow body was functionally nude. 

Boys could get away with that, especially scrawny teenage boys with practically nothing to show off anyway. 

Shu and Mai were both natives to the planet Gaijin where Master Aero’s dojo was located.  That meant that they were descended half from the Japanese humans of Earth, and half from the nearly-human Sylvani of deep space.  Mai herself had bare feet, bare legs, and a bare midriff.  She was not about to leave breasts exposed, or even her arms.  She wore a computerized ring-sleeve on her left arm, which helped give gauss-magnetic acceleration to objects she threw.  And the magnetic arm bands on her right arm gave her a magnetic shield she could shape and manipulate with telekinesis.

“I am not going out into this living jungle without any clothes on,” she stated firmly to Shu.  “You don’t know if these strange aliens will attack.  Besides, I fight better with clothes on.  I’m not a pervert like you.”

At fourteen, Shu was definitely vulnerable to insults like “pervert.”  He cast his eyes downward to scan the ground and   blushed furiously.  It was entirely possible, Mai thought, that Shu had a secret crush on her.  With the red flower in her hair, she was definitely beautiful, at least, in her own eyes, and possibly those of Phoenix whom she now considered her boyfriend.

“Okay, we all better obey orders while we are on this weird planet. I was just talking about on the practice grounds.”  Shu sniffed imperiously for added emphasis.  That was okay.  Mai accepted the fact that he outranked her.

“It’s just you being a hypocrite like usual,” sniffed Hassan Parker, the boy who had been forbidden from going naked.  Shu didn’t even offer a comeback.

Cornucopia was probably the strangest planet Mai had ever visited.  A vegetable starship had simply appeared in Gaijin space and announced themselves in need of help.  Little Gyro the Nebulon inventor and one of Ged Aero-sensei’s favorite students had discovered that all the intelligent creatures were plants and had a special scent language unlike anything in the known galaxy. 

The first alien they had been able to communicate with was a strange, onion-like creature that Gyro’s computer translator named, “Luigi the Onion-Guy.”  Why the plant-man had an Italian first name was a complete mystery, but there was a clue in the fact that Gyro’s computer also dubbed the language of the Cornucopians “Stink-Talk.”  Nebulons were known for weird senses of humor.  And Gyro with his unusual Psionic power had programmed the thing as he rearranged its molecules with his little blue brain.

Shu Kwai helped Mai Ling put on shielding-armor and kinetic shock absorbers.

“Are you sure we can’t take any weapons?” Mai asked.

Luigi the Onion-Guy had pleaded with Ged-sensei not to kill any plants, not even the seemingly evil “Throckpods.” 

“Master Aero doesn’t want us to anger or even frighten any of the regular flower-people of this planet.”

“Flower people?  They look like walking thistles and weeds to me.”

“Still, Ged Aero-sensei only wants us to locate a Throckpod and convince him to come back with us so our group can study it.”

“So, it’s a spy mission.”

“Intelligence gathering.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s different.”

The jungle was different than any other jungle Mai had ever been in.  Instead of trees and vines and shrubs, it was made up of salt pillars, living crystals, weedy plants, and mold.  Mai’s ring sleeve indicated that large parts of it were toxic and deadly.  The two young ninjas proceeded cautiously.

Each time they encountered a carrot-guy or a potato-guy or a corn-stalk-guy, they were told to take a different trail through the toxic jungle.   Fortunately, Mai’s ring sleeve was programmed not only to interpret the plant people’s Stink-Talk, but could make a map of their progress as well.  Otherwise, Mai and Shu would be hopelessly lost

Finally, a radish-guy with a puffy red and purple face pointed to a large stand of weeds.

“In that spot you will pinpoint a Throckpod.”  The ring sleeve translated the smells and spoke the message aloud in a voice that sounded like Mickey Mouse.  Darn that Gyro!

Shu looked at Mai and nodded.  They walked over to the stand of weeds.

“One of you is a Throckpod?” asked Shu.  The translator device made the word “Throckpod” smell suspiciously skunk-like.

“Who is asking?” said one of the flower-headed weeds.   With nearly humanoid eyes.  “You appear to be skoog monkeys.”

Skoog monkey was an insult on most planets, at least, when used to describe a humanoid.  They were vicious little primates from the planet Misko Skoogalia.  Human beings were much more like the little poop-throwers than any human was comfortable admitting.

“We are students of Ged Aero-sensei, the White Spider,” said Shu.  “We think you may have heard of him, because other Cornucopians came to our world to seek him out.”

“We have heard of your head monkey, yes.  But we do not recognize his authority.”

“All we want is for a Throckpod to come and meet with him.  We wish to learn more about your planet.  And about your people.”

Everything went silent and smell free.  Mai wondered if they knew that the translator device in her ring sleeve would pick up and translate any smells they used to talk about the situation.  Maybe, however, they used telepathy or something.  Mai wished Sarah the telepath was with her at that moment.

One exceptionally large weed came over to Mai and bent down over her head.  Mai realized that it was examining her red flower with little seed-like eyes.

“You have killed a seedling!” said the possible Throckpod.  “You must be killed in return.”

Mai’s heart leaped.  Shu was obviously surprised too.  They had no weapons, but both of them could pick up and throw rocks, pebbles, and crystal shards with only a thought.  Mai could propel one like a bullet with her ring sleeve.

The rest of the weeds gathered around them too.

“It’s a flower from my own world,” said Mai, lamely.  How could she make these plant people understand that, not only was the flower not intelligent like them, it was an artificial hair decoration and made from silk?

“A flower is a flower,” said the Throckpod, “and a monkey is a monkey.”

“Pick up a score of pebbles and rocks, Mai,” said Shu.  “It’s time we gave them the old lawnmower treatment!”

“Lawnmower?” asked the Throckpod.

“A machine for cutting grass,” said Shu.  “It cuts plants down close to the roots.”

If a weed could turn pale, then these Throckpods were suddenly gray.  They knew about human technology apparently, and were completely unsure of what Mai and Shu were capable of.  It was at that very moment that Mai had a bright idea.

“Why do you assume the flower is dead?” asked Mai, looking into the human-like eyes of the weed standing over her.

“Because it doesn’t move.”

Mai smiled.  She used her telekinetic ability to make the petals of the silk flower move.  In fact, she made the delicate little thing do a spinning dance just above her brow.  “This flower is alive and it is my good friend and companion.”

“Have it say so,” the Throckpod replied menacingly.

“It is a tiny flower,” said Mai, thinking quickly, “and tiny flowers on my planet have not learned to speak.  Can you not see that it is alive?”

“Accept her word, brother,” said one of the other weeds.  “We don’t want to risk this lawnmowing thing.”

The plant-man relented.  “Very well.  I will go with you to see this master monkey of yours.  You will remember that Throckpods are the natural rulers of this planet, and we are to be treated as king-things.”

“King-things?” asked Mai.

“Royalty,” suggested Shu.

“Oh,” said Mai.  It was Gyro’s crazy translator program again.

So, finally, Mai’s Cornucopea spy mission was ending as she trudged back to the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Baby camp.  She had found and mastered a walking weed known as a Throckpod, and she left with the melancholy realization that it would be nice to have a talking flower to put in her hair, but that wish could never come true.

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Apple Blossom Time

When you get to be old and burdened with deteriorating health like I am, you appreciate the renewal of spring with a new intensity.  This year has been like that.  Cold weather and dehydrating cold were worse this winter than I can remember… especially since I feel it in the marrow of my bones now more than ever before.  But the inevitable rebirth did eventually come.  The apple tree my wife planted in the hope that Texas heat would not destroy it is putting out more blossoms than ever before.

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The first flowers to put out their winter-weary heads this year were relatively stupid daffodils.  They came out in February only a day before an ice storm came along to slay them for their daffy dunderheadedness.   I didn’t take their demise very well.  I suffered a lot this winter and was looking for the sun with desperation.

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But then, in March, dandelions poked out their bright, dandy heads and decided to stay.

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And, though we have had plenty of wet weather and rain, the flowers apparently all had a big meeting and decided the time had come to make their yearly assault and wrench the world out of the hands of Jack Frost and his icy minions.

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Wisteria began climbing the back corner of the house.  They like to spread their purple majesty out over the area by the cracked and derelict swimming pool.  It is moist and shaded out there, somewhat protected from our cruel Texas sun.

My wife’s bed of roses, both red and yellow marched out into the open air and began to dance gently in the wind like grand ladies decked out in their Easter best , showing off their color and their sass for all the world to see.

I am coming back now too… less seriously depressed.  I completed a doll collection last week.  The educational problems my children were facing are now seemingly straightening out.  It is a time of rebirth… happiness… and flowers.  My smile has returned.

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A Walk Amongst the Flowers

Today I went for a walk with my daughter. Both of us are walking to improve our health. But it was a bright and sunny spring day. And in many unexpected places… there were flowers.

Yes, flowers are blooming now in Texas.

And it occurs to me, I was walking in a metaphor. That’s what life is. A finite brief journey from beginning to end. And round every turn… There are flowers along the way. Bright spots of color and gentle, lovely scents… things that make the walk worth taking.

And so, I went for a walk with my daughter today. A walk amongst the flowers.

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Things Probably Worth Knowing

The picture is called “One Day the Old Mad Gods Will Be Made Whole Again.”

It comes from a time in my life, in the early 80’s when I was fascinated with Medieval art and their conception of Armageddon and the end of everything.

They believed that everything, even the end of the world, was somehow cyclical. Like Odin, Thor, and Ragnarok, the end of everything merely wiped away what was and started again with something new.

It will not be too long before I am putting such notions to the test with my own life. Signs of the onset of Parkinson’s Disease plague me, and make me worry about losing control of my body and probably something worse, control of my mind.

I may be finding out soon if there is an afterlife. Of course, as a Christian Existentialist, I don’t need one. I am satisfied with my life the way it is, and I don’t anticipate messing it up significantly before it is complete.

But there is definitely evil in this world. The fossil fuel industries decided back in the 1970’s that they would do anything to preserve short-term profits, even sacrificing the long-term existence of life on Earth to continue to exploit the resources they gripped tightly in their evil, green hands.

We only have about twelve years left to reverse the destruction of the entire ecosphere on Earth. And it will require massive technological problem-solving by the very best of us, and probably an impossibly difficult reeducation of stupid people and Republicans. That means we are more likely to become extinct than survive as a species. Probably good to know so that we can be prepared for it.

Hopefully the evil people burn with us.

But because we have existed in this reality, our existence is now permanent. If we reach the point of no longer being here, we still existed, and for whatever reason or purpose, the fact of our existence will still be real.

I can’t prove it, but I firmly believe there is life out there. We are not alone in this universe. The odds are astronomically against us being all there is. And, truth-be-told, they are more like us than they are different from us. When and if you meet them, be kind and welcoming. They may still kill and eat you, but the same can be said about all of us. And we are better off dying ignorant and happy than we are when we curl up in a ball of misery and refuse to participate in anything… ever, Who knows? Our interstellar pen pals may be the salvation of us in the end.

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Penguin Proverbs

Penguins

You know how creepy penguins in cartoons can be, right?  The Penguins of Madagascar are like a Mission-Impossible Team gone horribly wrong and transformed into penguins.  The penguin in Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers disguised himself as a chicken to perform acts of pure evil.  Cartoonists all know that penguins are inherently creepy and evil.

I recently learned a hard lesson about penguins.  You know the joke, “What’s black and white and red all over?  A penguin with a sunburn.”  I told that joke one too many times.  Who knew the Dallas metroplex had so many loose penguins lurking around?  They are literally everywhere.  One of them overheard me.  And apparently they have vowed a sacred penguin vow that no penguin joke goes unpunished.

As I walked the dog this morning, I spotted creepy penguin eyes, about three pairs, looking at me from behind the bank of the creek bed in the park.  When I went to retrieve the empty recycle bins from the driveway, there they were again, looking at me over the top of the neighbor’s privacy fence.

“Penguins see the world in black and white,” said one of the Penguins.

“Except for purple ones,” added the purple one.

“Penguins can talk?” I tried unsuccessfully to ask.

“Penguins only talk in proverbs,” said one of the penguins.

“But the purple one gives the counterpoint,” said the purple one.

“The wisdom of penguins is always cold and harsh,” said one of the penguins.

“Except on days like this when it’s hot,” said the purple one.

“You should always listen to penguins,” said one of the penguins.

“Of course, people will think you are crazy if you do,” said the purple one.

“People who talk to penguins are headed for a nervous breakdown,” said one of the penguins.

“Unless you are a cartoonist.  Then it is probably normal behavior,” said the purple one.

“Is this all real?” I tried unsuccessfully to ask.

“Everyone knows that penguins are real,” said one of the penguins.

“But there are no purple penguins in nature,” said the purple one.

So, I sat down to write this post about penguins and their proverbs with a very disturbing thought in my little cartoonist’s head…  Why am I really writing about penguins today?  I really have nothing profound to say about penguin proverbs.  Especially profound penguin proverbs with a counterpoint by a purple penguin.  Maybe it is all merely a load of goofy silliness and a waste of my time.

“Writing about penguins is never a waste of time,” said one of the penguins.

“And if you believe that, I have some choice real estate in the Okefenokee Swamp I need to talk to you about,” added the purple one.

 

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Filed under artwork, birds, cartoons, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, surrealism

What Dreams May Come

I have always had very vivid dreams. This picture was inspired by one. I dreamed of being a seventh-grader going to school in lizard-person school on a dinosaur planet. And throughout the dream my classmates were threatening to eat me. Oh, and the clothes they are wearing in the picture were the school uniforms.

Of course, naked-in-school dreams are a common one. This picture is more of a naked-on-Main-Street dream.

The title of this post is a Shakespearian Hamlet phrase. The picture above is a detail from a dream about Shakespeare’s The Tempest dream.

That particular nightmare had Caliban in it.

Fairy tale dreams are much nicer. In this Sleeping Beauty dream, the monsters are tiny.

I also admit to having animated-cartoon-type dreams. The turtle-boy in front is from the actual dream. The rest of it is made up to fill in the background of the picture.

This dream was obviously inspired by a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have both good dreams and nightmares. And all of it provides fodder to fuel pictures and stories, but not always in that order.

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Filed under artwork, dreaming, dreams, humor, old art, Paffooney

Now What?

Ever have one of those days where you feel the need to write, but you don’t know what to write about?

Today my second vaccine appointment was postponed until next week. The weather is blustery and rainy. So, I am left with unexpected writing time and no ideas on the yet-to-write-about list.

Well, this book is listed as a free Kindle book from today until Tuesday, the 20th, the day my vaccination was rescheduled for. This is the third time Recipes for Gingerbread Children has been in a free-book promotion. I am hoping it does better than the last couple of promotions. It really is a good book, but it gets passed over because of its connections to nudism, or because people see the title and think it’s a cookbook. I promise, if you try it, you will find it’s much more complex and fascinating then that. The story began as a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. but this time the witch in the Gingerbread House is Grandma Gretel, a Holocaust survivor trying to deal with what she lost by telling stories and baking magical cookies. And it has a werewolf in it for good measure, a little one who is not a predator, but himself a victim.

The book I am working on now… my work in progress, is a story I am calling The Boy Who Rose on a Golden Wing. This is a novel idea about handling depression, and it was originally titled Valerie in Darkness. Valerie Clarke is still the protagonist, but the story is not solely about her depression.

I used this picture to illustrate it, but this will not be the cover of the book. It will have a cardinal in it, but the girl in this picture is not Valerie.

I recently got the book The Baby Werewolf reviewed on Pubby, but the reader did not actually buy the book, which is what I paid for, and he or she probably did not actually read it. 75,000 words in just a couple of hours? I think not. So, the five-star review will be pretty useless to me in the long run.

So, now I have basically written about nothing in this post. And I have written to my goal, but achieved only that and nothing more. Still, if you are interested at all in how a writer’s mind works on a disappointingly bad day, you now have some evidence for the formation of negative opinions. And you may have some idea of what to avoid in future blogs. (And I messed with the colored-text feature out of sheer goofiness and do apologize if you actually read this far only to be disappointed by the content of this paragraph.)

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Spitzen Sparkin’ Daze

My old laptop is not happy…

It’s seen much better days,

It growls and grumbles, snorts and fumbles…

And gets revenge in many ways.

Now it thinks a tiny font…

Is funny next to this

And zooms the screen five-hundred percent

To make the next rhyme miss!

And hopefully, I can afford//#%& a new c om pu ter soon

Because this one is veery weiiird

And totally out of tune.

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, goofiness, humor, photo paffoonies, poetry

Go and Catch a Falling Star…

You may have looked at the name of my website here on WordPress and wondered, “Why in the heck has that fool Mickey called this thing he writes Catch a Falling Star?”

The answer is, he named it after the first good published novel he wrote at the insistence of the I-Universe Publishing’s marketing adviser. Very poor reason for doing anything, that.

But, the secondary reason is because of where that title came from. Look at the first stanza of this poem by John Donne.

So, now, you are justified in asking, “What nonsense is this? That doesn’t have any coherent meaning, does it?”

And you would be right. These are impossible things that I am being ordered to do by a very religious cleric in the Anglican Church who was originally a Catholic, but, in the time of Henry VIII Catholicism was made illegal, and he wrote this poem about not being able to find an honest woman in his drunken, wasted youth anyway. He is ordering me here to not only “catch a falling star” (and catching a meteorite with your bare hands has rather hot consequences), but also to have sex with a semi-poisonous plant, explain why we can’t go backwards in time, determine whether and why God might’ve given Satan goat feet, listen to probably-nonexistent humanoid creatures singing, find a way to avoid anybody ever looking at me with envy and then doing something to me because of it, and, most importantly, find a place where the wind blows in a way that fills your head with facts that actually makes you smarter.

Challenge accepted!

It is exactly what I wanted to write about. Impossible things actually being accomplished. Finding the meaning behind alien beings from outer space developing an intense love of I Love Lucy television broadcasts and Mickey Mouse Club music. Discovering why intensely shy people need to embrace social nudity. Defining who is actually a werewolf and who is not, uncovering who and what real monsters are. Singing songs so sad that it magically makes people fall in love with you. Talking to clowns in your dreams and getting real answers to the meaning of life, love, and laughter.

Catching falling stars is the stupid idea that this wacky, idiotic little blog is about. It is what I write about constantly. You have to kill me to get me to stop. So, there is your fair warning. Read on at your own peril.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, goofy thoughts, Paffooney, poetry, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism