Category Archives: clowns

Politics Are Doodoo, not Voodoo

President Ronny Ray-Gun

In the Republican primaries in 1980 it was Republican candidate George HW Bush who gave the old Gipper’s economic policy the accurate nickname of “Voodoo Economics.” Then when the Gipper defeated the last American President to have an administration without a war in it, that Voodoo became the things we do.

Banks became predatory, using credit card ploys to turn us into a nation of debtors where wealth defies gravity and trickles upward instead of down. To help that along, Republicans deregulated things, killed off the Savings-and-Loan industry through scandal to reduce competition. Wall Street learned to make greed good by building bubbles that allow profits to inflate them and eventually explode them. When the business moguls at the top of economic food chain went through the Great Depression (the ones who didn’t jump out of windows) they learned there are ways to turn recessions into profitable ventures for the wealthy elite. Income inequality grew fat on the raw meat of recession after recession.

And wars became a popular pastime again. Every president from Reagan onward had to manage a war they either started or inherited from their predecessor.

Gorbachev became the Premiere of the USSR. He attempted to modify Russia with Glasnost, opening up about the Russian past and the contemporary state of Russia’s economy. By opening up the ban on criticism, he caused the USSR to fall and the Cold War basically ended when they fell. Still, Republicans managed to always increase military spending, and use any excuse (in fact, making up some excuses) to declare war on somebody, especially little guys who were easy to beat up and bully. The Gipper did his happy dance and declared that Republicans had defeated evil. And stupid people gave him so much credit that two of the next three Republican Presidents got there with fewer popular votes than their opponents. And this was all okay because some voters count bigger than the rest of us.

And so the era of elections being decided by angry people and stupid people who want to punish the rest of us began.

Somehow a rodeo clown from Texas who dodged serving in combat during the Vietnam War became a war President, starting two wars, one against the wrong country. The Republicans deregulated more. Corporations cut down trees in National Forests more. They burned more coal. They fracked up the place and got more oil. And they looted and polluted more and more during the time when we could’ve done something to reverse the worst of climate change. They crashed the economy again. They made more money. They left a mess in the economy for Obama to clean up. And when he cleaned it up, they blamed him for not doing it right, and even for causing it all somehow before he took the oath of office.

And when Obama was done, and we were hoping we could return to breathing safely in the atmosphere that was quickly overheating and being filled with doodoo smells, the angry and stupid people elected an orange guy (seen above with the green guy he tried to help destroy the world.)

And now I cannot watch the news without getting steamed, or crying over pictures of dead children in Ukraine. And all of this Voodoo doodoo is deep-rooted in the Republican poopoo, growing in horrific power and doodoo smells since the time of Ronny Ray-gun. (Why can’t Star Wars Anti-Missile Systems take out Russian missiles over Ukraine? Did we not pay enough for them?)

If you are wondering why I do less and less political humor anymore, well… It really stopped being funny.

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Filed under angry rant, clowns, irony, politics

Arrivaderci, Bozo

No, I am not saying goodbye to anyone that is leaving the Trump administration.  Frank Avruch has passed away.

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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.

bozo

Immortality

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.

Kops aa

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.”

 

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Filed under artists I admire, clowns, goofy thoughts, humor, poem, poetry, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Shakespeare Knows Fools

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The fact that Shakespeare was a master of the art of creating and mocking fools does not really help decide the question of who Shakespeare really was.  A stage actor who owned a theater in Elizabethan times and apparently focused on being the bit player, the butler, the second man on the castle wall in the great plays, would certainly know enough of flim-flam, being a con man, or artfully throwing turds at kings and queens in ways that get rewarded rather than beheaded.  But a nobleman who has unpopular and unwelcome-but-probably-wise insights into the back-stabbing-goings-on of the royal court of England would equally be capable of putting the most memorable of critiques of humanity into the mouth of the fool or the clown in the great stage-play of life.  Even the most depressing and violent of the Shakespearean tragedies is enhanced and made pointed by the presence of the fool and the comic relief.  In some ways everything that Shakespeare wrote was a comedy.

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Whoever Shakespeare was, he shared Mark Twain’s overall assessment of “That damned human race” and often declared all men fools in the eyes of the playwright.  Puck’s observation on humanity is delivered about not only Bottom and the other poor players who carry on their vain attempts at performing Pyramus and Thisbe while Bottom magically wears the head of an ass, but also the easily fooled lovers who mistake their true loves for one another, and even the clueless mortal King Theseus of Athens.

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In the play within a play, Nick Bottom wants to be not only his own role, Pyramus the romantic lead, but argues that he should be Thisbe, the lion, and Pyramus all at once, making a satire of human nature and its overreaching ways that we could only pray Donald Trump will one day watch and magically understand.  In fact, Shakespeare’s entire body of work is an extended investigation of foolishness versus wisdom, and with Shakespeare, the verdict always goes to the fool.

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The plays of William Shakespeare are filled with fools doing foolish things… and fools being accidentally wise. (Think Jacques in As You Like It giving his famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy in which he elucidates the seven ages of man.)  There are fools too who prove to be wise.  (Think of the ironic advice given by the jester Touchstone in As You Like It, or the pithy commentary of King Lear’s fool).  The fools in Shakespeare’s work are not merely the comedy relief, but the main point that Shakespeare makes about humanity.

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Whoever the man was who wrote the plays of Shakespeare, he was someone who had a deep understanding of the basic irony underlying all of human life.  And someone with that vital sense of the bittersweet, a philosophy of life that encompasses the highest heights and lowest depths that a soul can reach, is someone who has suffered as well as known great joy, someone who has experienced loss as often as profit, and has known real love as well as real hatred.  It is the fool that Shakespeare shakes us by the neck with to make us recognize the fool in all of us which makes the plays resonate so deeply within us.  It is watching the path of the fool unfolding that makes us shake our head and say to ourselves, “Yes, that is what life is really like.”

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Filed under clowns, comedians, conspiracy theory, foolishness, goofy thoughts, inspiration, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life, William Shakespeare

Writing About Nothing and Nobody Being Nowhere

Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Walt Disney, and Edgar Allen Poe (the four clowns depicted above) all probably had times in their writing life when they didn’t really have anything to write about. Charles Dickens couldn’t think of anything but his time in the boot-black factory and the misery he felt as a child raised in poverty. So, what did he do? He created Wilkins Micawber as a stand-in for his ne’er-do-well father who always believed, “Something will presently turn up.” And he wrote the semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield.

William Shakespeare didn’t actually write anything with his grade-school education and limited knowledge of the world. But when the Earl of Oxford who used his name as a nom de plume could think of nothing, he thought of ending it all, and the “To-be-or-not-to-be…” play, Hamlet, poured out of his quill pen onto paper.

And when Walt Disney rode the train in defeat, having lost his best comic character for cartoons, Oswald the Rabbit, to his old boss, he doodled a mouse and named him Mickey, even providing Mickey’s falsetto voice for decades on the silver screen. Oh, and claiming the rights to any further characters his studios produced… to this day.

Poe looked at the bust over his chamber door… and saw a raven. Instantly, NEVERMORE.

Now it’s Mickey’s turn to write about nothing, and try to live up to the nothing-masters’ artistic masterpieces of yore. For instance, the boy in the picture. I drew him from a nude model in a black-and-white photo. Nobody in class, not even the one who brought the picture, ever told me his name. And the class was forty-four years ago now. So, assuming the picture wasn’t old back then, the boy is now older than fifty-four, and possibly significantly older than that now. So it is a picture of a nude nobody in front of an abandoned house in the snow however-many years ago in a place that is probably nowhere now. And I won’t even mention the imaginary puzzle pieces floating through the air for nobody to put together. What’s that? I just mentioned them? What did I mention? They are really just nothing.

So, there is a time and a place for writing about everything. Even if that everything includes nothing… and that nothing is nowhere… and is about nobody.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, clowns, humor, nudes, Paffooney

Classroom Clownery (Not to be confused with Sean Clownery… He’s James Blond)

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See Dick?

See Jane?

See Sally?

See Dick run?

See Jane run?

See Sally…?   Wait a minute!  Why don’t I remember Sally?

Did Dick forget to feed Spot and Spot was forced to kill and eat Sally?

No…  I had Dick and Jane books in Kiddy-garter and they did have Sally in them.  And Spot never killed anyone.  But with all the running she did, Sally did not do anything memorable.  If my teacher, Miss Ketchum, had told the Spot eats Sally story, I’m sure I would’ve remembered Sally better and learned to read faster.

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But I actually did learn to read faster because there was a Cat in the Hat, and a Yertle the Turtle, and because Horton the elephant heard a Who, and a Grinch stole Christmas.  Yes, humor is what always did it for me in the classroom.  Dr. Seuss taught me to read.  Miss Mennenga taught me to read out loud.  And in seventh grade, Mr. Hickman taught me to appreciate really really terrible jokes.    And those are the people who twisted my arm… er, actually my brain… enough to make me be a teacher who taught by making things funny.  There were kids who really loved me, and principals who really hated me.  But I had students come back to me years later and say… “I don’t remember anything at all from my classes in junior high except when you read The Outsiders out loud and did all those voices, and played the Greek myth game where we had to kill the giants with magic arrows, and the stupid jokes you told.”  High praise indeed!

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I think that teaching kids to laugh in the classroom was a big part of teaching them how to use the language and how to think critically.    You find what’s funny in what you learn, and you have accidentally examined it carefully… and probably etched it on the stone part of your brain more memorably than any other way you could do it.  And once it’s etched in stone, you’re not getting that out again any time soon.

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Humor makes you look at things from another point of view, if for no other reason, then simply because you are trying to make somebody laugh.  For instance, do you wonder like I do why the Cat in the Hat is trying to pluck the wig off of Yelling Yolanda who is perched on the back of yellow yawning yak?  I bet you can’t look at those two pictures positioned like that and not see what I am talking about.  Of course, I am not betting money on it.  I am simply talking Iowegian… a totally different post.

But the point is, humor and learning go hand in hand.  It takes intelligence to get the joke.  Joking makes you smarter.  And that is why the class clowns in the past… the good and funny ones… not the stupid and clueless ones… were always my favorite students.

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Filed under clowns, goofiness, high school, humor, irony, kids, philosophy, teaching, word games

I Love to Laugh

It began in childhood with the Red Skelton Show.    Every Wednesday night it a was a refuge for me.  And refuge was a critical idea for me.  I was a child hiding a terrible secret from the entire world.  At times I hated myself.  Twice as a teen I came very close to choosing suicide over life.  The person I most needed to hide from was myself.  And humor helped.  Red Skelton’s gentle humor helped me to not only escape from myself for a while, it taught me to laugh at my own foibles and not take things quite so seriously.

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In my college years I discovered humor in written form.  Mark Twain swiftly earned my utter devotion as I read not only Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but Roughing It, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Mysterious Stranger, and The Autobiography of Mark Twain.  You know, there are a large number of things in Mark Twain’s humorous books that make you cry, that make you angry, and make you think deep thoughts.  I basically discovered that humor is a way that smart people choose to think of things which helps to keep you sane and basically un-suicided.

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A beautiful portrait by artist Emily Stepp

It is obvious that some people become very skilled at humor because they have used it all their lives to fight the darkness .  Robin Williams is only few years older than I am.  In many ways his life has paralleled my own (obviously minus the wealth and fame in my case… but what would’ve happened if Robin had become a school teacher?)  I have depended on Robin Williams’ movies to keep me going, giving me insights in how to talk to kids, how to be a parent, and how to empathize with others.  Of course, I haven’t yet taken some of his movie advice.  I never put on a mask and a dress to deceive my own children.  But only time will tell.

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I obsess about humor and how you create it.  I gorge on things like the works of Dave Barry.  Do you know who he is?  Florida newspaper columnist who writes books about everyday life and the fools who live it?  I have to do a post on Dave Barry, because he makes me laugh so hard that milk shoots out of my nose, sometimes when I am not even drinking milk… believe me, I don’t know how that works either.

 

 

I love to laugh.  It makes the world right again.  I have laughed an awful lot for almost an entire lifetime now.  I treasure all the funny people I have known.  And I need to continue to try to make people laugh up until the very end.  Because the world is too often not a funny place.  It can be full of badness and sadness and suffering.  And as Mark Twain  so aptly pointed out, “Against the assault of laughter… nothing can stand.”

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Filed under autobiography, clowns, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing humor

When the Old Mind Wanders…

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When the old mind wanders…

They tell you you’re just too slow.

But thoughts like mine drift everywhere,

And the edges of the universe… are a place to go.

 

Maybe I should write in red.

And argue with the voices

That rhyme inside my head.

And break the rhyme scheme 

Here and there

Because of what they said.

Eden

Or maybe I should write in blue

Because I’ve been thinking in the nude

And laying all my secrets bare

Which really might be rude.

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But the old mind wanders…

In the form of a poem,

And breaks and squanders

Tallest waves in mere foam.

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The Quest for Acceptance

We all are on a Quest to find our place in this world. We labor hard at trying to get other people to see us as the people we think we are.

Of course, we always fail.

The problem is, first of all, that we are not even remotely… usually… the person we think we are. Sure, we put that clown paint on our face in the mirror, and we think we look funny. But since sitting in front of the mirror we ate a sandwich and smeared the red around the lips. and we rubbed our left eye with a gloved left hand and didn’t even realize it.

The first wide-eyed child we meet screams and runs away from their parents. To her we looked like some sort of vampire clown who eats children for lunch.

And the parents threaten to call the police because they insist we were leering, not knowing we suffered gas pains at the moment because that damned sandwich had red peppers in it, and we are allergic, now approaching intestinal distress.

So, we run and hide for a while.

What’s that, you say? I’m not talking about you? That never happened to you?

Well, it didn’t really happen to me, either. It was a ding-danged metaphor gone rogue and taking over the post just like you would expect an evil vampire-clown to do.

Harker Dawes, owner of the worst hardware store in Iowa.

The thing is, I have always wanted to be a storyteller. And not just any storyteller, but an extra-funny, goofy-clown of a storyteller. And not a vampire-clown either.

But it’s not easy to be funny every day.

I was the teacher that middle-school kids loved because I had a laughing classroom. I used humor to get the point across. And most of my discipline strategies were to head off bad behavior before it actually happened. Get them to laugh rather than act out.

But even then, there were bad days and sad days sprinkled into every week.

Of course, now that I am retired, I no longer have a captive audience to play to and force to laugh at my jokes with the threat of perpetual after-school detention.

The only audience laughing at my jokes now is the imaginary one in my head. And maybe the three people who read my Twitter tweet-wittiness. And of course the six or seven people who bother to actually read my posts on WordPress.

I have twenty books published, the first of which, displayed above by plastic Batgirl, is Catch a Falling Star. That one is about an alien invasion of a small town in Iowa by totally incompetent aliens. The aliens get blitzen-schmuntzed when they kidnap a child specimen from the town who turns out to be more dangerous to their way of life than any Navy Seal could manage, and accidentally leave one of their own tadpoles on Earth to be adopted by a childless farm couple.

The book won two awards from the publisher, Editor’s Choice and Rising Star Awards, which basically means that they appreciate all the money I spent on editorial services and marketing advisors. The book is not a best-seller. In fact, I have made sixteen little dollars on it since it was published in 2013. And I-Universe Publishing does not send out a check for less than $25, so they are still holding on to my money. And very few people read my books. Fewer still buy them.

Anyway, we keep trying. We are on a Quest. And some day, some way, somebody is bound to accept us. As what is yet to be determined.

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Filed under autobiography, clowns, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, novel writing, writing humor

Classroom Clownery (Not to be confused with Sean Clownery… He’s James Blond)

16473244_1449448801783847_8086681324837506057_n

See Dick?

See Jane?

See Sally?

See Dick run?

See Jane run?

See Sally…?   Wait a minute!  Why don’t I remember Sally?

Did Dick forget to feed Spot and Spot was forced to kill and eat Sally?

No…  I had Dick and Jane books in Kiddy-garter and they did have Sally in them.  And Spot never killed anyone.  But with all the running she did, Sally did not do anything memorable.  If my teacher, Miss Ketchum, had told the Spot eats Sally story, I’m sure I would’ve remembered Sally better and learned to read faster.

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But I actually did learn to read faster because there was a Cat in the Hat, and a Yertle the Turtle, and because Horton the elephant heard a Who, and a Grinch stole Christmas.  Yes, humor is what always did it for me in the classroom.  Dr. Seuss taught me to read.  Miss Mennenga taught me to read out loud.  And in seventh grade, Mr. Hickman taught me to appreciate really really terrible jokes.    And those are the people who twisted my arm… er, actually my brain… enough to make me be a teacher who taught by making things funny.  There were kids who really loved me, and principals who really hated me.  But I had students come back to me years later and say… “I don’t remember anything at all from my classes in junior high except when you read The Outsiders out loud and did all those voices, and played the Greek myth game where we had to kill the giants with magic arrows, and the stupid jokes you told.”  High praise indeed!

funny-pinoy-jokes-grammar-nazi-natzi-hitler-alert-2013

I think that teaching kids to laugh in the classroom was a big part of teaching them how to use the language and how to think critically.    You find what’s funny in what you learn, and you have accidentally examined it carefully… and probably etched it on the stone part of your brain more memorably than any other way you could do it.  And once it’s etched in stone, you’re not getting that out again any time soon.

dr_cat.jpg

12140070_10153033719407821_7711720876061693795_o

Humor makes you look at things from another point of view, if for no other reason, then simply because you are trying to make somebody laugh.  For instance, do you wonder like I do why the Cat in the Hat is trying to pluck the wig off of Yelling Yolanda who is perched on the back of yellow yawning yak?  I bet you can’t look at those two pictures positioned like that and not see what I am talking about.  Of course, I am not betting money on it.  I am simply talking Iowegian… a totally different post.

But the point is, humor and learning go hand in hand.  It takes intelligence to get the joke.  Joking makes you smarter.  And that is why the class clowns in the past… the good and funny ones… not the stupid and clueless ones… were always my favorite students.

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Filed under clowns, goofiness, high school, humor, irony, kids, philosophy, teaching, word games

Silly Names

Meet Harker Dawes. He’s a ne’er-do-well businessman, a fool, a bungler, a clown, and his job is comedy relief as a support player in multiple novels of my Hometown Novels Series. I would contend that he is the kind of character I can’t write a good story without. And why does he have a name like Harker? Well, it’s Charles Dickens’ fault.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you’ve never read a novel by Charles Dickens… Why the heck not? I mean seriously… A Tale of Two Cities is one of the best novels ever written by anyone. The history, themes, and tightly woven plot threads of that novel… pale in comparison to some of the funny names Dickens uses to tell that tale. Jerry Cruncher, porter for Tellson’s Bank, is also a grave-robber in his spare nights. He is constantly losing his temper with Mrs. Cruncher for “flopping against him” (which is how he characterizes how she prays for him). He is an essential clown in that narrative. Prim and proper Miss Pross is Lucie Manette’s hand maiden who is so fiercely loyal she ends up taking out the vengeful villain of the tale, Madame Defarge, for threatening her precious Miss Lucie.

And that notation is just the beginning of the long list of silly names used for critical supporting characters in his books. There is a wealth of them in every book you pick up; Uncle Pumblechook, Herbert Pocket, Abel Magwitch, and Joe Gargery in Great Expectations… certainly not leaving out Philip Pirrip (Pip) the narrator and main character of the tale.

Wackford Squeers is the perfect name for the abusive headmaster of Dotheboy’s Hall in Nicholas Nickleby.

A Christmas Carol not only contains Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit, but also Old Fezziwig, a former boss who loves to dance at the Christmas parties he throws.

David Copperfield has wonderful character names like Edward Murdstone the evil stepfather, Wilkins Micawber the ne’er-do-well surrogate father figure (based on Dickens’s real father), jovial Mr. Dick, and the slimy, villainous Uriah Heep.

The multi-syllabic names he uses are not only comical or sinister or both, but uniquely descriptive of the characters themselves, defining for us in nonsense syllables what those characters seem to be all about.

So, that is why his name is Harker Dawes. It stands in for, “Hark, there will be guffaws.” The perfect moniker for a very imperfect man.

In the same book as Harker, you can find heroic Agnes Brikkleputti the social worker who chases four orphan runaways from Chicago to Norwall, Iowa and risks death in a blizzard to bring the orphans their medications. She is the putty that holds those four bricks together.

So, you should not be surprised if you read something Mickey has written and you run across a silly name. It is evidence that he might be Dickens reincarnated.

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