Category Archives: autobiography

The Ending Inevitable

Wednesday night, I got to see the musical Hamilton as it was playing in Dallas at Fair Park. I am not sure how I actually got to see it. Tickets are reputedly astronomically expensive. I myself am bankrupt because of medical bills. My wife, however, is not bankrupt, a thing accomplished by separating our finances over disagreements about feeding the credit card monster. Bankruptcy court is helping me escape from the vampire powers of predatory banks. My wife, however, has apparently not heeded my advice about finances. As a Jehovah’s Witness, she is sure the Bible prophecies about the end of the world will rescue her from the credit card monster. Armageddon will happen any day now, and the credit card monster will not get to eat her. I hate to disagree with her about matters of religion. Her faith is sincere, if self-serving. But I think I know the inevitable ending.

Hamilton, the musical, ends with the inevitable death of Alexander Hamilton, firing his dueling pistol into the sky as Aaron Burr kills him.

Sorry about the spoiler, but it has been a recorded outcome for over 200 years. It was in Hamilton’s very nature that he would end his career and life in that way. It was inevitable.

I also took my two younger kids to see the Avengers Endgame yesterday after the Princess’s doctor appointment. Don’t worry. I won’t spoil anything. You already know somebody will die at the end of this movie. And I am not talking about this movie in terms of plot or outcomes. It is, rather, a pivotal point in my own endgame. A couple of years ago, when I knew my fate was sealed by poor health and even poorer affordable healthcare and health insurance, I resolved that I would somehow manage to survive at least until I had seen this movie which brings closure to Marvel Universe stories that I have been invested in practically my whole comic-book reading and movie-watching life. Now I have seen it. Technically that means that I am now free to die without regrets. I have, in fact, been at peace with the idea of my life’s inevitable ending for a long time now.

But if you are worried that I will now just give up and die, don’t be. It is not in my nature. I will continue to fight on. I am on the verge of self-publishing Fools and Their Toys, a critical novel that was one of the stories I most needed to tell before my life is over. But it is far from the last story I have within me. And the fact that nobody is reading my books is not going to deter me. They simply have to exist.

And the third movie in the newest Star Wars trilogy is due to open in December. I feel I am owed at least one more Christmas. So the battle continues. And I may win the war with my final act like you see in the movies. That would be a good and noble thing. I think I have to live longer now. There are just too many goals to be reached before time runs out.

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Filed under autobiography, Avengers, comic book heroes, commentary, humor, illness, insight, Paffooney, philosophy

The Headaches of Spring

A pink iris survivor of the mending of the wall.

Spring has sproinged on us, and springy-sproinged hard. We have had a wet March and a wet April so far. Pollen is heavy in the air to a record degree, and guilty of making my head ache blisteringly for the third day in a row.

I will also have to take a while recovering from my tax headache. I owed money again either because the overworked retirement system representatives didn’t figure the withholding tax correctly… again, or because Trump’s tax-cut bill required more money from pensioners and poor people… again. Either way, I have no emergency funds in the bank once again, one of the perils of bankruptcy and a source of headaches..

Another of the perils of bankruptcy is the lovely way the court treats me, sending me letters in the mail that suggest they are about to drop their bankruptcy order and allow creditors to swoop in and skeletonize my bank account like piranhas, just as they do to James Franciscus in that crappy man-eating-fish movie of the seventies. (Piranhas, not creditors, I mean, though the differences are small,) The skeletonization will strip meat off the bones of my financial health for about ten months at this point. And why are they suggesting such a personal Armageddon for Mickey? Because mortgage-payment-verification paperwork wasn’t confirmed for two days. Now there is another plan-adjustment hearing scheduled for the end of May. My lawyer says it is all routine. Don’t worry. But I still worry that I have tastier flesh on my bones than James Franciscus had on his in the seventies. (Never let it be said that Mickey doesn’t know how to flog a simile to death!)

Three Caballeros from Oz whom I rescued from Goodwill, repainted and restored.

So, I could potentially starve to death in the coming months, have my bank account skeletonized, and have my head explode from allergies. Somehow I must deserve all of that, right? And, meanwhile, Trump has survived the Mueller Report with the help of his criminal friends. He may even get re-elected to the Presidency, because there is no accounting for voter stupidity.

It is a springtime full of various headaches, and they have all got me down.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, battling depression, humor, illness, photo paffoonies

…In Place of Earning Royalties

Some writers make tons of money for sharing their made-up fantasy worlds. Steven King, JK Rowlings, and James Patterson have made it to the limelight where few authors ever stand. Some of us get by on smaller rewards.

Me, I intend to give myself some grins by sending a copy of my book Snow Babies to a girl who was in my class in grade school, and I may have had a huge crush on her at some point in that past. And because of me being a lazy writer, this post consists mostly of the letter I am sending with the book.

Dear Valerie,

Remember me?  I have lived more of my life in Texas now than I did in Iowa, but my heart is still living in Iowa.  The part of me that turns into fiction books has always been an Iowan.  You are probably wondering why I am sending you a copy of this book.  Well, to be honest, I owe it to you.  You are the person out of everyone I have ever known that the main character is named after.  This is not a best seller and may never make much money.  But this copy represents the share of this book that I owe to you.

If you are worried that I am writing stories about you, don’t be.  The character of Valerie Clarke is based on a student that I taught for two school years.  She did remind me of you in some minor ways.  But the girl in this book is really based on the story of Sofia’s girlhood as I came to know about it.  I would like to tell you a little bit about her.

Sofie was, just like the character in the book, short a parent.  It was a struggle for her to be the cheerful, aggressively positive girl that she was.  She was in my largest class of seventh graders when she was 13, a rather rowdy group of mostly Hispanic kids.  She loved almost every story we read in class.  She enjoyed every group activity and task we did in class, often leading the group she was in, and even sometimes disciplining misbehavior that I hadn’t called the student out for, simply because she felt they should be appreciating my class more.

By the time she was an eighth grader, she had developed a large crush on me.  The year before I married my wife, she actually asked me to wait for her to grow up and marry her instead.  It wasn’t the kind of love that gets a teacher fired and put in prison.  Really, she was looking at me as the father-figure she needed in her life.  Telling you that fact reveals which character in the story actually most resembles me, if you decide you actually want to read this book.

The book is a comedy about a blizzard.  But like any good comedy, it will try to make you love characters enough that parts of it will make you cry as much it makes you laugh.  It is a book I submitted to the 2014 YA Novel contest called the Rosetti Award Competition from Chaunticleer Reviews.  It didn’t win, but it was a finalist. So there is some reason to believe it is not a bad book.

Of all the people I feel compelled to share this book with, your name is at the top of the list.  Partly because I borrowed your name to write it with.  But also, because of the fact that Valerie in the book, and in other books I have written about her, is often known as, “The most beautiful girl ever born in Norwall (Rowan), Iowa.” It was something the boys in the Rowan school said about you in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.  I don’t know if I am telling you something you didn’t already know or not, but it explains your connection to this story.  And why I felt the need to give you a copy of this book.

Read it if you want.  Share it, if you want.  Use it to put a voodoo curse on me if that’s what you want.  But I hope you enjoy it and understand that you do have some part in the fact that it now exists. 

With heartfelt gratitude,

Michael

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Filed under autobiography, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing

Obsessively Self-Reflective

I honestly hope you are not reading this blog to find advice on life, the universe, writing, or anything. That sounds more like something I myself might do, and I am goofy enough to think this purple paisley prosy thing is a humor blog. I don’t really give advice, good or otherwise.

Even as a teacher I didn’t tell students how to do things in a do-this, then-do-this, and then-do-this lecture format. If anything, I advised by showing them how I did things, leading by example. I taught skills and concepts by setting up tasks that let kids do things for themselves. Most people learn by doing.

This idea applies no matter what the learning goal is. If you want to do magic, you have to cast some spells for yourself. Roger Bacon’s students in the 13th Century learned to do alchemy and eventually chemistry by blowing up the laboratory repeatedly. If I am capable of any sort of artistical or literarical magic, I have achieved it only by trying to do it, trying to be creativical, and getting readers’ and viewers’ attention by being marketableical and somewhat ironical in my blogging with over-use of artificial -ical endings.

So, I treat this blog as way to generate ludicrous ideas and goofy content in order to fascinate readers and sometimes even make them laugh. And I have nothing more to write about than myself and my own experiences. It is obsessively self-inflicted observations about myself. Kinda like standing naked in front of the mirror and learning to laugh at warts and wrinkles. I believe in taking the clothes off of my life experiences and finding the naked truths that were previously hidden. And, no, that doesn’t really explain why it seems I like drawing naked people so much. It’s a metaphor, dang it!

Gilligan never realized how good he had it as the only realistically eligible bachelor on that island.

So, that’s what this blog is all about. I am explaining what this blog is all about. I am looking at my own experience of life, the embarrassments, the sad truths, the disappointments, the triumphs, all the most personal, private, and public stuff. And I am laughing loud and long. Because that’s what life is. Mastering that fundamental skill. Learning to laugh at life.

Here’s a brief summary of the only good advice you can possibly find by reading this blog. If you want to write well, start writing and teach yourself how to do it. And if you want to learn to laugh, look for what’s funny and laugh loud and long and clear.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, goofiness, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney

Happy Birthday, Carl Barks

Carl Barks was born on March 27th, 1901. So, today is his 118th birthday. If you have no idea who I’m even talking about, then you were never a kid and a comic book fan in the 1960s. Carl Barks is both Uncle Scrooge’s father and Donald Duck’s stepfather.

Carl is a personal art hero of mine. I grew to adulthood on the adventures of his plucky ducks doing duck adventures in Duckburg. I have written about my devotion to Carl in this blog before. In fact, here is the link; https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2014/09/27/carl-barks-master-of-the-duck-comic/

That’s essentially true. A large part of my character as a junior high school English teacher was based on what I learned about mentoring from Scrooge McDuck and about teaching important facts from Gyro Gearloose.

Carl was not immune to criticism. Cartoonists get blow-back, a fact of life. But he overcame it with a wry sense of humor and interesting views of how you pursue goals in life. He had a firm sense of fair-play and justice. You could get actual morals to the stories in a Carl Barks’ duck cartoon.

The characters were not perfect. They all had glaring flaws, the heroes right along with the villains. Of course, the villains never learned to change their ways, while the heroes often learned to improve themselves by working on the weaknesses, and it wasn’t all about becoming a gazillionaire (a term I think Barks may have invented).

I even learned a good deal about adventure story-telling from Carl Barks’ comic books about Duck people doing ducky stuff that was really about people doing people-y stuff in the real world. Yes, people in the world around me are very Carl Barks’ ducky.

So, happy birthday, Carl. 118 years young. And he’s only been gone from our world since August of 2000. He still talks to me and teaches me through his Duck comics.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, comic book heroes, goofy thoughts, humor

Aquarium, Terrarium, Planetarium

Angelfish are like the kings of the aquarium. They swim about in slow, stately fashion.

As a teenager I was very much into raising tropical fish in an aquarium. Having fish to watch and fuss around with is a healthy, mind-calming hobby that literally helps you learn about environmental issues. Keeping an aquarium is all about keeping fundamental forces of biology in relative balance.

The lovely pearl gourami is a fascinating finny friend that fills the tank with beauty and color.

Some fish are there just for beauty. The angelfish and gouramis I have pictured already are mainly that. Though you could also say that kissing fish, the pink kissing gouramis, also provide comic relief.

Kissing gouramis actually perform the kissing ritual in the tank, and I really don’t know why, but I suspect it is about courting and sex.

Goldfish are the pigs of the fresh-water tank. They are slow and rather stupid, and they eat massive quantities of fish food, so they also poop excessively.

Keeping an aquarium is a balancing act.

Albino Angelfish
Neon Tetra

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a fancy Veiltail Guppy

If you put the wrong fish together, problems ensue. Fully grown angelfish will eat expensive guppies and neon tetras. Goldfish waste so much fish food and make so much fish poop that the tank has to be cleaned nearly every day to prevent it become a befouled cesspool of toxic filth and bacteria. Unless…

Cory Catfish

You employ bottom-feeders like the corydorus catfish or the red-tailed black shark (actually a loach, not a shark) to feed on the waste and be the janitor-fish.

A carefully balanced tank is a living work of art that grows and changes and progresses…

Red-Tailed Black Shark

…Until something goes wrong. Every fish tank I ever put together eventually had a crisis that made the whole ecology crash. All the fish would die and the tank would smell bad. This would usually happen when I wasn’t there to tend it as needed, when I was away at college or on vacation. Water has to be refreshed. The water can never be allowed to cool lower than seventy degrees, even in winter. The air pump can’t break down and stop aerating the aquarium. The filter has to be clean and unclogged. And disease has to be treated.

In a way, our entire planet earth is like that too. Of course, if it was all sealed under glass, it would be a terrarium, not an aquarium. But we can identify the same sorts of threats to the ecosystem of the terrarium we live in as would be found in a tropical fish tank. Donald Trump and his Republican fat-cats are the goldfish. Global warming threatens the air and water in the tank. An asteroid could break the glass and spill the contents out. So many things could crash our carefully balanced fish tank. And there is an even greater environment out there beyond the edges of our little solar system. Does the title make sense now in a way it didn’t before? No? Oh, well, I tried.

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Humor from Beyond the Grave

Being dead is not all down-side. There is a certain amount of goodness to be found in the fact of being already dead.

I know some of this morbid thinking comes about simply because I am facing my own mortality and lingering about in bed most of the time in pain and waiting for a heart-attack or a stroke to put the fireworks into the finale. It is not because I desperately need to get out and drive for Uber to make all the pennies I can for taxes and medical bills and can’t yet do so because of arthritis and diabetes and fear of fainting behind the wheel. I can live with that. It is about preparing and facing the final curtain with as much grace as a fool can.

Of course, the greatest boon that death grants is that it brings an end to suffering. My joints will no longer be on fire and blazing with pain (assuming there isn’t a Hell capable of delivering torments beyond what we get a heaping helping of during life.) I will not have to worry about medical bills and hospital bill collectors any longer. Not that the same can be said of my loved ones. But I myself will no longer have the capacity to think and worry about paying for my many sins of poor health and being sick. In fact, I will be spared a number of things that eat at me while I am alive.

I will not have to watch any more Adam Sandler movies.

I will not have to consider anything that is said on Fox News (unless, of course, Hell is real and they have cable TV there… Because, well, what else would be on?)

And no more of this guy! But I need to check on that no Hell thing. And if there is one, and he is headed there soon for all eternity, I might have to figure out some spiritual hack to get into Heaven.

If there is a Hell, though, it will be like Mark Twain once alluded to. The weather will suck, but the most interesting company to keep will all be there.

And it is a proven fact that writers and other artists make more money after they are dead than they did while they are alive. Think of how much money Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Steinbeck have made selling books since they passed away. Edgar Allen Poe died a pauper like me, but his books continue to be sold and made into movies. And then there’s Maurice Hampton Greenblatt. You never heard of him, right? That is because he never wrote and published anything. (Although it also might have something to do with the fact that he is not a real person, and I made him up for this essay.)

Being dead will be like having written the final chapter in your last book about living life. You will close the book and simply be done… once and for all time. There is a certain satisfaction to be had if your life story has, at the very least, been an interesting story. And there is the whole becoming-a-ghost-writer thing to think about. People will still be able to read my words after I am dead. And who knows? The story may continue. There is a lady who writes classical music for dead composers. She has Schubert and Liszt and Beethoven whispering in her ear. Maybe I can find some goofy kid somewhere to start whispering my stories to.

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