Category Archives: commentary

Nutzy Nuts

Things are not what they seem. Life throws curve balls across the plate ninety percent of the time. Fastballs are rare. And fastballs you can hit are even rarer. But if Life is pitching, who is the batter? Does it change the metaphor and who you are rooting for if the batter is Death?

If you think this means that I am planning on dying because of the Coronavirus pandemic, well, you would be right. Of course, I am always planning for death with every dark thing that bounces down the hopscotch squares of the immediate future. That’s what it means to be a pessimist. No matter what bad thing we are talking about, it will not take ME by surprise. And if I think everything is going to kill me, sooner or later I have to be right… though, hopefully, much later.

I keep seeing things that aren’t there. Childlike faces keep looking at me from the top of the stairs, but when I focus my attention there, they disappear. And I know there are no children in the house anymore since my youngest is now legally an adult. And the chimpanzee that peeked at me from behind the couch in the family room was definitely not there. I swear, it looked exactly like Roddy McDowell from the Planet of the Apes movies, whom I know for a fact to be deceased. So, obviously, it has to be Roddy McDowell’s monkey-ghost. I believe I may have mentioned before that there is a ghost dog in our house. I often catch glimpses of its tail rounding the corner ahead of me when my own dog is definitely behind me. And I am sure I shared the facts before that Parkinson’s sufferers often see partial visions of people and faces (and apparently dogs) that aren’t really there, and that my father suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. So, obviously it is my father and not me that is seeing these things… He’s just using my eyeballs to do it with.

But… and this is absolutely true even if it starts with a butt… the best way to deal with scary possibilities is to laugh at them. Jokes, satire, mockery, and ludicrous hilarity expressed in big words are the proper things to use against the fearful things you cannot change. So, this essay is nothing but a can of mixed nutz. Nutzy nuts. And fortunately, peanut allergies are one incurable and possibly fatal disease I don’t have. One of the few.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, satire, wordplay

Living in the Upside Down

Well, I have now paid property taxes for 2019, exhausting all the money I have earned by substitute teaching this school year. I am not broke exactly, but all the money I still have is now already spent. There are more days in almost every month than I have funds to actually pay for them. I am not broke, but I am breaking.

And Washington is debating giving us money to help us make it through trying times. But I don’t anticipate “us” actually includes “me”. “Us” is mostly a matter of rich folks when they use that word in Washington.

But I have been busy. I continue to write away on A Field Guide to Fauns which is basically a book about naked people… specifically about sad naked people and the happy naked people who try to cheer them up. It is about nudists in a nudist park in Texas, I have also been walking the dog, which means bagging poop and yanking on the leash whenever she wants to run out in front of cars and Bubba-trucks and get squished under Bubba’s tires. And I have been talking by phone with relatives in Iowa and Missouri.

The Princess and I, while delivering the tax payment to the drop-box, noticed that Braums’ Ice Cream store had their dining room open for a number of patrons. Most of the food businesses are doing drive-up orders only. But, apparently, somebody has to feed the stupid people of Texas. After all, how else are they gonna spread viruses and kill off all those danged kale-eating liberals and old people?

You have to get rid of us somehow, right? And that “us” definitely includes me, even though I hate kale.

But there is no “normal life” anymore. Was there ever any? I am legitimately asking. I was a teacher my whole life, so I had to get used to “abnormal” and “chaotic” long ago.

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Sunday with Salvador

Today I am waxing on about the wonderful, mad, mad, mad genius of surrealist art, Salvador Dali. He was born in 1904 and died in 1989. And that’s really about all that I want to tell you about the physical parameters of his boundlessly creative life. He was alive in this world until I was already thirty-three. So, I got to see him on television and watch video biographies of him and his incredible artwork. Ones that included interviews. And if I get into his public persona, that will eat up the rest of his essay. Instead, I need to talk about his art, and how it modifies and magnifies what I am meant to be.

The Persistence of Memory

His most famous painting is the one that most clearly burned the image of melting clocks into our collective memory. He claimed, and others pretend to see it too, that it is a reaction to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. But when I look at it with the melting mask of Dali himself in the center, I see the artist’s perception of time in the spaces within which creativity moves. Time melts and has no meaning when you are painting and writing from an endless roiling flow of new ideas and notions. Time becomes as irrelevant in that context as the ants on the pocket-watch or the dead tree from which one deflated clock-skin hangs, There is no past or future, only the creative now.

And in that creative now, the artist sees himself. But if you look too closely, the self vanishes into the picture, the currently considered, fascinating work of art.

You see the boy with the hoop and wearing a sailor suit? That symbol, he always claimed, was his lost brother, the one who died before he was born. The one whose death made his parents decide to have another child. Without that brother, Salvador would probably never have been existing at all.

And do you see the disappearing bust of Voltaire? Or when you look closely at the slave market in the background, is it simply no longer there? Things that disappear… things that become other things… tricks of perception, the fooling of the viewer’s eye… These are what the artist actually wants you to see. Not the well-portrayed physical reality, but the ghost of the shadow of an idea that’s hard to define.

And then there is the idea of war. Two world wars that took place in the prime-time of his painterly life.

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans

Life does crazy things to the sensitive, suffering artist, and it shows in his work if not in his public personality.

Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 Salvador Dali 1904-1989 Purchased 1979 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T02343

And consider the artist’s notion of birth and life and death. Narcissus suffers for the sin of love of himself. He becomes petrified with age, a narcissus flower growing from his head, now an egg, the symbol of birth and rebirth.

Detail from “the Madonna of Port Lligat”

And here is an exploded portrait of his beloved wife Gala.

All the elements float eternally in the air.

And you can see inside each thing.

Inside the home is the wife and mother.

Inside the mother is the child.

Inside the child is the loaf of bread that keeps him alive.

Does the bread, then, stand in for God himself?

Dali and his work is not simple. It is deeply, incongruously complex. But that is surrealism. That is how it works. Without getting into other complex symbols and such Dali-esque puzzles like burning giraffes, eggs, and Venus De Milo with bureau drawers in her torso, that is how Salvador spends his Sunday with me. An artist beyond time and space, long dead, but still speaking to me. And teaching me beautiful, untold things and stories of things.

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Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, artwork, autobiography, commentary, surrealism

A Fatal Case of Hope

I have been avoiding talking about politics for more than a year even though it is a rich source of potential comedy material. The idiot-criminal President continues to bumble and blather and make money and do crimes he automatically gets away with in spite of the law. It’s easy to jape him and make jokes, but he black-heartedly continues to do things that benefit him and devastate me and the issues I care about.

This is Skye Johnson , the newest illustration for my newest novel, A Field Guide to Fauns.

After the South Carolina primary, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are now clearly the two leading candidates and most likely to become the Democratic Nominee. I will vote for either one. In fact, if Bloomberg steals it by out-spending everybody else, I’ll even vote for him. Donald Trump is the death of everything I care about in life. His position on health care, the environment, education, the arts, and on and on… is poisonous to my way of life. I may not live to see him defeated in the election. But I hope to last just long enough to be able to vote against the !#$%#%%,

In the meantime, I have forced myself to go back to work in the classroom, the thing that was killing me in 2014. And I have so far avoided the flu and death while making enough money to solve my immediate financial woes. I put in an extra day this last month beyond what I reasonably thought I could survive. And I am feeling good about that, even though I am still unable to afford the health care I need, and still feel awful on a daily basis.

So, do the good things in my near future still outweigh the bad on the scales of my continued existence? I think they do.

My work in progress, for which I am marshaling my ability to draw fauns, and I am using this blog post to show you illustrations for it, is about life at a nudist park where the family in the story is dealing with the after-effects of child abuse, divorce, and alienation of family members. It is about issues boiling in the stew-pot of my own personal experience. And about how love can ultimately overcome those issues.

Mandy Clarke and Mandy Clarke;s tongue.

I sincerely hope that Trump gets dumped in November. If he wins, and if I am still alive, that misfortune will seal my fate. I will not survive beyond it.

But if you can’t control your fate, and if the airplane is crashing, you might as well enjoy the ride down to the ground. I am doing a novel now that imagines life as a full-time nudist. My family will never accept it in real life, and my skin flakes off with psoriasis almost as badly as a leper, so I will never live that life. But you can do things in fiction that fly far above the limits of your real-life wings.

If I can keep up the work pace as a substitute teacher, I will actually have enough money to get by. That will be a welcome relief. And I might reach a level of life that approximates what I had before 2012… With a bunch of novels in print that didn’t exist before that year. No future fatality will overcome me. I exist here in my words. And words and pictures are my hope and dreams.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, humor, illustrations, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Something Unexpected

I finished up a final proofread and formatting project on the novel I am re-publishing on Amazon, Magical Miss Morgan.

And, you know what? The story made me cry again. An unbroken record. It is about the fifteenth time I read through it. And every single time, the little three-inch-tall fairy is killed again, and I can’t keep my eyes dry.

He’s not even based on a real person as so many of my characters are. It’s not like it is someone I know and love. It’s a fairy. Not even remotely real. And I’m the one who decided he had to die in the story because because good comedy stories always end with at least one main character dying… Don”t they?

Mike Murphy and Blueberry Bates

But I can’t help feeling things about the characters in my stories. I don’t love them all. I hate some of them. But, they’re the ones you are supposed to hate. They are villians, bad guys, characters based on real people who hurt me in real life.

Silkie and Donner are fairies.

It’s not just my stories that make me feel. I have read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities twice, and both times Sydney Carton made me cry. I read Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop only once. And Little Nell made me cry so hard I could never reread that book. And there’s Simon in The Lord of the Flies, and, of course, the old Yeller dog in Old Yeller by Fred Gipson… I’m a sucker for heroic deaths and tragic losses. They touch and twist my little blue heart.

Miss Francis Morgan, school teacher

But I cried for the fifteenth time, and I survived it. I will probably cry again if I read it again. That is what life is like. That is what fiction is for. To make me think and feel and… love.

Magical Miss Morgan will soon be back in print.

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99 Luftballons in Our Time

Hast du etwas Zeit für mich
Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich
Von 99 Luftballons
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
Denkst du vielleicht g’rad an mich
Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich
Von 99 Luftballons
Und dass so was von so was kommt

The song tells of 99 balloons that are released into the sky above the Berlin Wall and are immediately misinterpreted. Thinking the 99 balloons are UFOs, the air force sends 99 hot-shot pilots who all think they are Captain Kirk. They shoot at the balloons creating fireworks in the sky for the nearby country to see and get nervous about. 99 war ministers start shooting back… leading to 99 years of war.

99 Jahre Krieg
Ließen keinen Platz für Sieger
Kriegsminister gibt’s nicht mehr
Und auch keine Düsenflieger
Heute zieh’ ich meine Runden
Seh’ die Welt in Trümmern liegen
Hab’ ‘nen Luftballon gefunden
Denk’ an dich und lass’ ihn fliegen

Today I was walking among the ruins of the world. I found a balloon and I thought of you and let it fly away.

Such is the nature of this surreal song that it echoes and resonates in the world today just as it did in 1983 when it was first played by the German band Nena. We see things we don’t quite understand. And if we don’t understand it, we try to shoot it. Over-reacting and under-reacting work together to brew up disasters.

You have to be aware of the potential dangers of letting goldfish chew gum and blow bubbles with it.

Maybe we ought to do something positive for a change. We have a criminal president. He apparently can’t be charged with a crime. Republicans are immune to the accusations they always use on Democrats. We have a dying planet with warming and polluted air. Soon we won’t be able to breath if we are not already dead in hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other global-warming-related disasters. How many more balloons do we have to shoot at or decide not to shoot at? How many more mistakes can we make?

But I like the song. I listen to it, and I forget my mistakes and the troubles they have caused me. Well, at least for the duration of the song.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, music, Paffooney

Living on a Shoe String

There was an old man who lived in a shoe.

He had so many expenses, he didn’t know what to do.

Of course, I am not complaining.

Even though it’s a tennis shoe and not a cowboy boot.

I have got an ice cream truck outside. Sponsored by Hot Wheels.

And now that I have a substitute teaching job, I almost have more money than bills… well, some months… maybe.

But I still can’t afford ice cream. Or insulin.

But my neighbor lives in a house made of eggshell. And he has cancer. But he gets visits from the Partridge Family in their funky school bus. It is better to live on a shoe-string budget than an eggshell budget. But we all have our troubles. Which Aetna will never willingly pay for.

Except for the rich guy who lives on Mel Gibson Hill. He has no troubles.

He has plenty of money.

And he is the reason the rest of us are poor.

Because he pays for politicians to give him tax breaks on all that money that never trickles down the hill.

But life is good in Toonerville Town.

Unless that shoestring comes undone.

And then it takes lots more hard work to tie it up again.

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