Category Archives: artists I admire
This post is about writer doubt. And Stephen King. Do those two things go together? If they don’t then Mickey is an awful writer and does not know how to do what he does. It would mean Mickey is icky.
I used to think Stephen King was a totally over-rated writer. Back in the early eighties I read Carrie, King’s first novel, and got halfway through Firestarter, and had to give up. Partly because the book was overdue at the library, and also because I found the books mechanical and somewhat joyless in the writing. I thought he suffered greatly in comparison to writers I was in love with at the time like Ray Bradbury and Thomas Mann. I began to tell others that King was somewhat icky.
But King was obviously also somewhat successful. He began to get his books made into movies and people who don’t read discovered the evil genius of a man who tells stories to scare them and laces them with a bit of real humanity, real human feeling, and love.
I saw it first in Stand by Me. That movie, starring young Wil Wheaton as the Steven King autobiographical character, really touched my heart and really made for me a deep psyche-to-psyche connection to somebody who wasn’t just a filmmaker, but somebody who was, at heart, a real human being, a real story-teller.
Now, the psyche I was connecting to may very well have been Rob Reiner, a gifted story-teller and film-maker. But it wasn’t the only King movie that reached me. The television mini-series made from It touched a lot more than just the fear centers of my brain as well. And people whose opinions I respect began telling me that the books The Dark Tower Trilogy and Misery were also amazing pieces of literature.
So I picked up a copy of Hearts in Atlantis at Half-Price Books and began reading a Stephen King novel for the first time since the 80’s. MY HOLY GOD! King is not a little bit icky. He is so NOT ICKY that it makes Mickey sicky to have ever thought King was even a little bit icky! Here is a writer who loves to write. He whirls through pages with the writer’s equivalent of ballet moves, pirouettes of prose, grand jetés of character building, and thematic arabesque penchées on every side of the stage. I love what I have discovered in a writer I thought was somewhat icky. Growth and power, passion and precision, a real love of both the words and the story. He may not know what he is doing. But I know. And I love it.
And so, while I have been editing the first novel I ever wrote, Superchicken, to make it ready for self-publishing, I have begun to ask myself the self-critical question, “Is Mickey really icky when he writes?” My first novel is full of winces and blunders and head-banging wonders that make me want to throw the whole thing out. But I can’t throw it out. It is the baby in the first bathwater that I ever drew from the tap. The answer to the questions of Micky ickiness have yet to be determined, and not by me. I guess I have to leave it up to you.
No, I am not saying goodbye to anyone that is leaving the Trump administration. Frank Avruch has passed away.
Who is that, you may ask?
Well, from 1959 to 1970, he was Bozo the Clown. The first Bozo. The best Bozo.
And we will miss him, those of us who knew him from childhood, watching a colorful clown on black and white TV.
He did charity work for UNICEF. We collected dimes in covered coffee cans for Bozo because Bozo needed them for UNICEF. What the heck is UNICEF, you ask? Don’t you know how to use Google and Wikipedia?
So, this is a clown who inspired poetry. What? He didn’t inspire poetry in you? Well he did with me. Let me show you.
They say a clown can never die,
And at the table has a place,
And here’s a little reason why,
It’s all about his face.
When one clown stops the life of laughter,
And stops running the human race,
Another clown can pick up after,
And keep wearing clown one’s face.
Do Not Fear The Bozo Squad
It is really, truly, very clear,
You should not fear a clown, I hear,
Identities disguised in paint,
Malevolent of thought they ain’t.
A clown is meant to make you laugh,
And I can show you with a graph,
That silliness saturates their very sheath,
And rarely hides evil underneath.
- Sleep Soundly, Sweet Bozo
- Silly songs sound in synchrony
- As the symphony sounds softly
- Sincerely saying in sweet song
- “Sing angel songs, sweet Bozo
- Your spin-off will last long.”
It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God. Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth. And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.
The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.
I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.
Hey, I was raised in Iowa. I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill. I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness. So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing. The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true. They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now. But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction. I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past. Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.
According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist. So, okay, I guess I am. If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.
On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8, “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.” That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God. I know love. I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is. And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!” Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.” I am not going to worry about it. I will be in good company. Some things are just bigger than me. And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.
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.
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.
I may have expressed this sentiment once or twice before, but I am really tired of Donald Trump. His march toward fascist dictatorship and becoming a really incompetent Hitler 2.0 has only made me learn new bad words to shout at the TV news that I never knew I already knew before.
So, I am not going to complain about him in this essay. Instead, I am going to praise another group of artists for complaining about him in a really well-done manner. Yes, I am about to laud Stephen Colbert’s new Showtime Cartoon Show, Our Cartoon President.
The idea for this show began on Stephen Colbert’s Late Night on CBS talk show. He did extremely popular segments there where he interviewed Donald Trump as a cartoon character. Colbert’s show is on TV past my bedtime, so I only manage to catch these segments on YouTube. But I sincerely appreciate every single one I watched on computer when it made me late for wherever else I was really supposed to be and do. It gave me chuckles and smiles about some the darkest, dirtiest things the human cartoon has done to disrupt my life in retirement.
The characterizations as well as the cartoon caricatures couldn’t be more spot on. The series really nails Ted Cruz as the Zodiac Killer invading the White House to steal toothpaste and use the President’s toothbrush. Eric Trump is portrayed with a disturbing amount of politically incorrect accuracy. The pilot episode, offered online for free, captures the killer clowns of the Trump administration so well, you really begin to wish it were these cartoon people running the country instead of the real collection of Bond villains, peanut-heads, and malevolent mooks we actually have.
Now, the bad news is… I can’t afford Showtime. So the chances of watching this show are limited to watching whatever snippets get illegally uploaded on YouTube. But I intend to appreciate the heck out of this cartoon show, and watch the free episode 1 many times.
I don’t have writer’s block. I can write as long as I can think and move my fingers on the keyboard to crystallize that thinking into words. The Pink and White Mercury of Imagination is always moving, either driving forward in the present and towards the future, or in reverse, rewriting the past. It is never parked.
But somewhere along the way today, the route got sidetracked onto a looping detour.
Hence, this car-themed drive through the idea-capturing process.
I started reading a new novel. It is a 500-plus-pager by Kate Morton called Distant Hours. It is a Gothic novel, but in a very different way from the one I am writing in The Baby Werewolf. That book starts as a first person narrative, and then flashes back to the past as a series of third person narratives focused on single characters per section. My novel is a first person narrative throughout, though told by three different narrators. It would make an interesting writing analysis post, but I haven’t read enough of that novel nor completed mine to a point where I can compare and contrast them. And those of you who get bored easily have already tuned out and just looked at the pictures by this point.
I also thought about writing a post about Uber-driving conversations and how that impacts the quality of my driver-service. But the best stuff there can’t be revealed without breaking confidences. Doctors, lawyers, bartenders, and Uber drivers are tasked with providing a touch of confidentiality.
I wanted to complain more about Trump and evil Republicans. But that gets far too tiring. And if the collection of my posts on WordPress is like a flower garden, the political rants I do are definitely the garden-choking weeds.
A much better thing for my garden is to chase the flitting butterflies of near-perfect ideas with a butterfly net made of idea lists like this particular post.
So, it is true that I never actually have writer’s block. I do get writer’s detours, writer’s delays, and writer’s just-not-satisfieds- with-those-ideas sorts of things. But not today. I made the problems the topic and the topic wrote itself.
I am in the middle of a family health meltdown. In this time when the yearly flu epidemic is turning deadly, my two kids living at home and still in high school are both home sick. And I am finding it difficult to pay for illnesses. My recent trip to the hospital for a faux heart attack has left me staring down an incoming tidal wave of doctor and hospital bills. I have been paying more for health insurance than ever before. The lovely caring government has been mucking about with health care issues to the point that, even though I am paying thousands of dollars more per year for health insurance than I did ten years ago, I have huge medical bills that, due to higher deductables, leave more for me to pay as my portion than ever before. I am paying twice as much for a three day stay in the hospital than I did five years ago when I had pneumonia, and was hospitalized for five days. The Princess’s doctor visit yesterday cost me $77 dollars. Number two son goes to the doctor this afternoon, and I have to hope it won’t cost more than that, because I am running out of Uber money for the month.
Gone are the days when I could afford to be sick. Now, bankrupt and with no credit left to my name, I am going further into the dark lake of debt, hoping for the mercy of lawyers and credit collection agencies. They may as well grind my bones to make their bread. I have little else to give them.
If this sounds like a complaint rather than the humor I usually shoot for, well, that’s because that’s what it is. I am sick and tired of always being sick and tired. But I have to do my part to help the American economy. It is really booming right now. Probably because people like me are investing so much in health care, right before we die because we can’t afford to pay for the medicine the doctor prescribes.
My thanks go out to the ghost of Norman Rockwell for providing the illustrations for this post. The pictures make me long for the good old days when doctors actually cared, and weren’t just making lots of money. Of course, it isn’t the doctors who are making most of the money off piratical health-insurance schemes. Whoever those people are, we never actually see their faces, and the voices we argue with over the insurance help lines are just their employees. Anyway, I am not myself sick yet. That probably comes later. So I will hunker down and burrow my way through a potentially terrible week.