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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Celebration Time Again

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Little Metal Men I Have Made

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Today’s post is basically a picture post.  Every metal (or Plasticine) figure displayed in this post was painted by me with Testor’s enamel.  Most of the figures were painted back in the 1980’s.  Most of them were sculpted by Citadel Miniatures Co.  The Indian boy I repainted as a young storm giant was made of an inferior quality Plasticine that melted a bit with the paint’s more caustic ingredients.  That’s why looking at him closely makes him appear like a burn victim.

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Not all of the figures are from Dungeons and Dragons games.  These are figures I used in the Traveller RPG.    I also owned the Indiana Jones role-playing game, but the figure was used as a Traveller hero.

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These figures were used to play Call of Cthulu as well as Traveller.  Cerebus the Aardvark made appearances in both the Dungeons and Dragons game and Traveller, which was fairly true to the character as he appeared in Dave Sim’s underground comic.

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I am proud that my arthritic hands once allowed me to paint the tiny details on these miniature sculptures.  But the red dragon I wanted to display in this post, that I have pictured before in this blog, is missing for the moment.  I spent most of the morning trying to find him.  Oh, well…  I still got to show off my mini-painting skills.

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Fools and Their Money

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I spent yesterday with the court appointed trustee, under oath, successfully declaring bankruptcy without losing the house or any other protected assets. I have sworn to pay off the amount owed to banks without further interest.  I will be aided by the court, protected from predators so that they don’t eat the corpse of my economic life.

Fools like me are soon parted from their money.  After all, this country’s government and this country’s economy are run by con men.  Cheats, criminals, grifters, thieves… they control the entire government now, and make the rules serve them and punish us.

And I suppose that’s the way it should be.  If money is your only source of happiness, you are going to become one of them.  A credit-manipulating predator and carrion-eater.  I had to go through this bankruptcy proceeding because I lost Bank of America’s lawsuit against me.  And if it weren’t for my bankruptcy case protecting me, they could come into my house and take whatever they wanted, including everything they wanted.  They could garnish my wages up to 100% for however many months it took for my pension check to pay off my debt.  Meanwhile my children would starve.  I would have nothing to live on.  It is within their rights to do it because they own the government and make the rules.  Charles Dickens didn’t even have it so bad.  At least in the debtor’s prison in Victorian London they fed you and kept you alive… mostly.

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But I did learn some important lessons for the future.  Let me share that hard-won wisdom with you now.

  1. Never buy anything on credit.  Save the money first, and then buy what you need once you have the total price.  Only fools agree to never-ending cycles of interest upon interest, compounding and confounding your pocketbook for perpetuity.  (Say that one three times fast!)
  2. Only buy what you need.  If you really need that shiny blue doohickimus to keep from going insane, then buy it… but save up the cash to pay for it in full.  And if owning that doodadimus preposterosous isn’t going to provide you with the key to real happiness, then forget about it, and glory in your new-found self-control.
  3. Banks are run by pirates.  They are in the business of stealing your money.  They charge fees for holding on to your money, while at the same time spending your money, and fees for counting your money, even when it’s not really there, and fees for looking at your money, though your money is only blips on a computer screen, and even fees for eventually… very gradually so you will not notice… stealing your money.  You have to give them your money at some point, because you will die or be killed if you don’t.  But taking your money by force, leaving you with no other choice but death, makes them pirates.
  4. Save money wherever you can.  Bury some in the back yard (but only metal money… gold bars being the least likely to turn into worthless soil filler).  You are probably going to need it in the future.  So don’t forget where you buried it.  And making maps only helps groups of nerdy kids find it in the future after an unlikely series of fantastic adventures that all occur after you have become a one-eyed skeleton.
  5. And don’t get sick, whatever you do.  It costs too much to get health care.  After you’ve paid an arm and a leg for health care services more than once, you are not going to be dancing any jigs.  Maybe rolling around like a watermelon with a head, but that’s about it.

So, that’s the wisdom I gained from going bankrupt, for what it’s worth (and it isn’t worth much, or they would’ve confiscated it at the creditor’s meeting yesterday).

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Bankruptcy Time 


I have to appear before the Trustee and potential creditors with complaints.   It’s sorta like a lamb appearing before a wolf committee. 

But since the banks I owe probably won’t show up, I will probably just be talked mean to, and given a repayment plan.   At least the interest charges will stop.   Most of what I owe is accumulated interest. 

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What’s Up With Valentine’s Day?

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Today I needed some chocolate to make it through Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate covered peanuts are perfect for diabetic depression.  Chocolate to bring me up, and peanuts to help me not spike or drop in blood sugar levels.  Depression and Valentine’s Day have always walked hand in hand in my recollection.  Maybe it was the Valentine’s cards that we used as kids that did that to me.  You know, the ones where your parents buy them in bulk, and after you pick that one for the special someone, you just put your classmate’s names on random cards from the pile for the rest.  And then later that special someone gives you an obviously random card in return.  Blues City!

I was, of course, a kid in the 60’s, in the Space Age of Mercury and Gemini Missions.  Those were the cards I picked from for her.

But what kind of weird messages did the other random cards send?  Some of them were absolutely bizarre.

What kind of love goes with socks with holes in them, and screwy boys with little pigs?  No wonder so many of us grew up a bit demented.

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And how is being eaten by a giant cat not traumatizing?

Some cards were inappropriate, and some were all wet.  All of these are a bit perverted.

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This one causes nightmares.

And boys should never have to get cards like these from a girl.  Knives and forks and wieners?  It makes me shudder just to look at them.

And what does love have to do with food?  At least, anthropomorphic food?  And food puns?

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These are just scary and weird.

And there were Valentine’s cards that were right for me, but I didn’t want them.  Enough eating of fuzzy worms on Valentine’s Day for me!

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So it’s no wonder V-Day makes me blue.  I was trained to it from an early age.  Now, I just buy myself chocolate.

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Aeroquest… Canto 13

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Canto 13 – Dino-Man

 

Fred 3576 was tied to one side of the tree, his girlfriend Wilma456 was trussed to the other side.  Their pet, Dino6476 was laid out dead and ready for skinning, much too dangerous to try to keep as a live captive.  The two cave youths looked at Ged with large, fearful eyes.

“I can’t wear that!” moaned Ham, looking at the fur loincloth young Fred was wearing.

The Nebulon Princess grinned at Ham.  It began to dawn on all of them that she now understood the words being spoken around her.  Ham blushed.

“We have to find that clown of yours before he can do some real damage.  Unless you think you can do the riding beast, you are going to have to use what that boy is wearing as your disguise.”

“Ged?  What are you going to do about the riding beast?”  Ham seemed nervous about the grim determination he obviously saw on Ged’s face.  Ged could tell just by looking that what came next was going to traumatize Hamfast Aero.

“I’m going to skin and eat this thing.”

Ged’s environment suit was laid aside.  Ged sat down next to the dead raptor with his lectroknife.  The blade shimmered with barely controlled energy.  He slit the beast open from throat to groin.  He quickly peeled back the hide, and then spent about half an hour stretching and preserving the hide on the gray ironwood frame he made from tree branches.  The meat he carved off was eaten raw with special cat teeth he grew in order to eat the meat.  Then he began to analyze and absorb.  Complex DNA patterns formed in his inner eye.  He had never gone further than imagining this process before, yet he knew he could achieve it.  He ate more as he began to change. The skin of his face split at the nose ridge and fell away to reveal scales.  The bones of his face began to elongate into raptor form.  The more he changed, the more he felt the need to eat.  As his own previous flesh sloughed off, he had to replenish his own mass with the flesh of the raptor.  After another twenty minutes, Ged Aero had become a dinosaur, a Dionysian velociraptor.

Just as Ged had imagined, Ham was nearly in shock over the transformation.  He’d seen Ged grow scales here and there, and change color a few times.  He’d even seen the fangs grow in once or twice.  But this was the first time Ged had let anyone else witness how completely his ability allowed him to change form.  He knew it was disgusting and awful to watch, but he felt the time had come to reveal what he could truly do.

“Ged?  How did you…?”

“Truly amazin’ Bucko!” Sinbadh gasped.

The Princess took Ham in hand and made sure he followed through with the plan.  She stripped the captured Fred of his Bam-Bam shorts and then undressed Ham, before putting the caveman disguise on him.  Ham was too far gone to protest or be embarrassed.

“Thaank you, Princesssss,” said the velociraptor that was Ged Aero.  “You and Sssinbadh ssstay and guard the prisonerssss.”

The Princess firmly shook her head no.  She stripped the girl of her Raquel Welch 1,000,000 B.C. bikini and put it on.  Her small son she stripped naked.  “We go,” was all she said.

Ham mounted on Ged’s saurian back and the Princess got up behind him.  The little blue boy was wedged safely in between them.

“What is to become of us?” cried young Fred3576.  “You killed our Dino.  You can’t just leave us here in the wild naked and tied up!”

“No harm will come to you,” hissed Ged.  “Sssinbadh will ssstay and guard you.”

“Blimey!  Ya kin count on me, Cap’n.  As long as ye don’t eat me.  I am yer faithful dog!  Space dog, that is!”

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Getting Old is Heck

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I am sometimes forgetful.  You shouldn’t go for a walk on a country highway if you forgot to put on any clothes.

Cold weather makes my joints creaky and my bones ache.  My head gets fuzzy, and it makes it hard to think when my blood sugar gets low.  (By fuzzy, I mean on the inside like interference in your TV picture, not fuzzy on the outside.  I am fuzzy on the outside because I had to give up haircuts due to psoriasis on my scalp.)

Yes, as we get older, we get crummier and crummier.  I am literally crumbling now as psoriasis flakes my skin off all over.

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And as we get older… and poorer… and dumber… we have to learn how to do things to get happier.  My health problems lead easily to depression.  Not just a little generic sad, but deep down at the bottom of a deep, dark black pit of gloomy depression.  So, I have to take matters into my own hands.  Yes, I act a little goofy on purpose.  I draw a funny picture.  Laughter produces serotonin in the brain, the chemical that is missing when you fall into debilitating depression.  Scraggles is the result of major dark back in the early 80’s.  I also go to Walmart and buy chocolate.  Eating chocolate produces serotonin in the brain too.  I ate a whole 98-cent box of M&M’s this morning.  (Of course, as a diabetic, they had to be peanut M&M’s because peanuts have niacin in them at levels that boost your body’s insulin towards working more efficiently. M&M’s make me happy.

Of course, I am not out of the woods yet.  The mood of your family impacts your own mood.  My children have been ill for most of January and all of February so far.  And that puts them in varied states of depression and needing chocolate.  It is a good thing that Valentine’s Day is near and Walmart is over-stocked.   And it helps that it’s cheap.

I am old.  Being old is not easy.  Being ill is worse.  It really is heck.  But I don’t give up.  I don’t surrender.  I have fought back for too many years to give up now.

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