Category Archives: artists I admire



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.


Filed under artists I admire, artwork, autobiography, finding love, foolishness, humor, philosophy, religion, strange and wonderful ideas about life

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.


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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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, classical music, heroes, humor, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Our Cartoon President


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.


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


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.

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Filed under artists I admire, cartoons, politics, review of television, satire

Writer’s Block on a Thursday


The 1957 Pink and White Mercury of Imagination

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.


A picture of me reading painted long ago and not with me in the picture..

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.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, imagination, irony, Uncategorized, writing, writing humor

The Doctor’s Bill Comes Due


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.


Filed under angry rant, art my Grandpa loved, artists I admire, artwork, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, pessimism

Naked Innocence


To be clear, I will have to write a post called Naked Experience to go with this post.  It is a William Blake style of thing.  You know, that English Romantic Poet guy who was into drawing naked people even more than me?  The writer of Songs of Innocence and Experience?  You know, this stuff;

Well, maybe you don’t know.  But Blake gave the world the metaphor of the innocent lamb and the tyger of experience (tyger is his spelling, not mine, and it didn’t blow up the spell checker, even though it made the thing unhappy with me again).  There is a certain something I have learned about nakedness that I mean to innocently convey.  I learned it from anatomy drawing class and spending time with nudists.  Naked is not evil.  Naked is not pornography.  Nakedness, itself, is a very good thing.


At this point the avid clothing-wearers among you are probably saying to yourself, “This guy is nuts!  If God had wanted us to be nude, then we wouldn’t have been born with clothes on.”  And I must admit, I cannot argue with logic like that.

But on a more serious note, I believe nudity is a fundamentally essential part of the nature of art.  After all, pictures of naked people are a central part of what people have been drawing since they first started etching them with charcoal on cavern walls.  And all art, including this blog, is about the human experience.  What it means to be human.  What it feels like to be alive on this Earth and able to feel.


And there is nothing sinister and immoral in drawing nudes to portray that fact.  I am trying to show metaphorically the music of existence, the pace, the symmetry, the musical score…  It isn’t focused on the private bits, what some call the naughty parts, even when those things are present in the picture.  “How dare that naughty Mickey show the naked back end of that butterfly!  It ought to have pants on at least!”  Yes, I am making a mockery of that outrage itself.  I am not a pornographer.  These pictures were not created to engender any prurient interests.  These pictures are part of Blake’s lamb.  They will not bite you.  Though blue-nosed people who wish to control what others think may very well bite me for daring to say so.

I have posted a lot of writing and artwork on this blog that I held for the longest time to be completely private and personal.   I hardly ever showed any of it to anybody before I posted it here.  But I am old.  I no longer have secrets.  I am capable of telling you everything even though I have never met most of you in real life.  And I have no shame.  I have become comfortable with emotional and intellectual nudity.  And when I am dead, the body I have kept hidden from the world for so long will be no more.  It’s just a thought.  It’s a naked thought.  And it is completely innocent.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, commentary, humor, nudes, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

My Precious Things


The dawn tomorrow is a hoped-for event, not a promise, not a guarantee.  For some it will not come again.  But that is what life is for, to be lived.   You must find the value in living and wallow in it while it is yours, and you must measure it not by the world’s measuring stick, but your own.



Looking at it mathematically with only the cold hard facts, my life has come to very little.  After teaching for parts of four decades, I was forced by ill health to retire from the job I loved.  As it will in this country where profits for corporations are more important than people’s lives, my personal fortune, that horde of wealth that is allotted for public servants like teachers, was absorbed by the health care and pharmaceutical industry, and health insurers managed to get away with paying out less than I put in through premiums for a lifetime.  After having to pay for the removal of the pool, and after having to go into bankruptcy because Bank of America decided to sue me instead of help in my debt resolution, I really have nothing left.  And if we can’t pay the property taxes that keep going up because the State is continually reducing funds to public schools, we may eventually lose the house.  Broke and homeless.  But they cannot take away my precious things.  It simply isn’t possible.

6a0120a6abf659970b01348734d01c970c-800wi   I saw a woman and her two kids getting breakfast at QT this morning.  The kids, a boy and a girl, were both wearing jackets and pajama pants.  They were both cute, and happy, and speaking Korean to each other.  And I realized after smiling at them with my goofy old coot grin, that I am not prejudiced in any way when it comes to other people.  They were Asian.  I notice details.  But that was an afterthought.  It really wouldn’t have mattered if they were black, white, purple, brown, or yellow.  (Though I have to admit I might’ve been slightly more fascinated by purple.)  Not being prejudiced is a precious thing.  It comes from a lifetime of working with kids of all kinds, and learning to love them while you’re trying to teach them to also have no prejudices.

And, of course, I still have my family.  I was a professional when it came to talking to kids, so I applied those professional skills to my own family as well.  I actually talk to my kids, and know them pretty well.  They have learned to draw and paint and tell stories from me, and may one day be better at it than I am.  They are musical and play instruments… and, hey!  Maybe we could form a family band!  All of those are also precious things.  Let’s see Bank of America try to take those things away from me.


And it may have occurred to you by this point why I am thinking about precious things and using pictures of my sister’s favorite TV show from the 70’s.  We just lost a singer and actor from that show whose music meant a lot to my family once, and always will.

And he was not a lot older than me.  And his life was not easy either.  But he lived with music in his heart and artistry in his soul.  David, you will be missed.  But your precious things still benefit us.  And some of us will probably be seeing you again soon to thank you yet again.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature