Category Archives: commentary

The Truth About the World of Books

You can live a thousand lifetimes if you are willing to read a thousand books.

Yes, I know that means living life vicariously through the words and descriptions of other people.

But it allows you the magic of being able to see things through the eyes of other people.

The universe is expanded in your mind with every new idea you learn from a book.

One wonders if books actually come from a naked fairy girl working by candlelight with a tiny quill pen. Of course, that one wondering such a thing is a totally crazy one.

But authors do write themselves naked. You get to see not only what is under their clothing, but what’s under their skin. You can see what’s inside their head. That’s way more than merely naked. That’s exposed to the very core of the writer’s being, more deeply than even x-rays can look.

Of course, this crazy idea is metaphorical. I don”t literally write while I am naked. At least, not all of the time.

Reading is also an immersive experience. You need to totally open yourself up to what’s in the text, playing the movie of what you read in the theater of your imagination… even if you are reading about the physics of black holes in a book by Stephen Hawking.

And reading a book connects you not only to the author, but to others who have also read the book. Both those who read and loved it, and those who read and detested it.

Of course, everything you read in a book is a lie… even if the book is not a work of fiction… even if it is a book about the physics of the black hole written by Stephen Hawking. The scientific method is how you verify truth. But it is an open-ended process. Every truth is endlessly re-verified by questions about the anomalies that are always there. And the only way to resolve the anomalies is to re-frame the truth with new facts, observations, testimonies, and further evidence built onto what is already known. In other words, truth is always relative.

But right now, the books in this world are no longer published in the same way they were from sometime shortly after the invention of the printing press to the invention of the internet and the rise of self-publishing.

Now, the books we have are written by infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters. The gate-keepers are no longer sorting out the good and great from everything else. Thus the rise of best-sellers about vampire love and sex with bondage in the style of the Marquis de Sade. But be aware too that this revelation of the publishing world comes from the typewriter of one of the monkeys. Although I do claim to be more of a rabbit-man.

And so, now you know… some of the secrets of the world of books. At least the ones known to this goofy old Book-Wizard who is actually a Little Fool.

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Wizard Wits and Tolerable Tricks

Once in a while, though not often, it pays to be a wizard. It is easy to become a wizard. Socrates tells us that the key to wisdom is knowing that you don’t know anything at all. Most of us can handle that realization with ease. I myself question everything constantly. You know… because I don’t know anything.

Being a parent is a lot like that. Any idiot can make a baby. You don’t have to take any classes or get any kind of license. Heck, you have to have a license to go fishing in Texas and Fishing Police are very real.

Many babies happen totally by accident. And this is unfortunate because it is sorta like accidentally becoming a bomb squad technician. It is a very important job that could blow up in your face in many different ways and bring an end to everything important.

But I do remember one time when my oldest was a toddler and I was stuck taking care of him during an after-school teachers’ meeting. It is hard when the principal is talking about things you have to hear and the baby is colicky at the same moment. Fortunately, the Counselor’s daughter and her best friend were still hanging around the school cafeteria where the meeting was held. Wizard that I am, all I had to do was look pathetic and overwhelmed. My son was also cute enough that, once he got their attention, they actually volunteered to take over as temporary parents with the baby safely entertained in a sound-proof classroom nearby. And they didn’t charge me. And I was smart enough not to ask them to pay me for the privilege, because they enjoyed it so much they volunteered to do it again for any future meetings where I was in charge of him. That happened about three more times that year.

And I was able to use my wizardly powers to make my life as a substitute teacher easier the last time I did it during December. Students who had never seen me before took one look and started acting extremely polite, cooperative and helpful.

Of course, like a true wizard I had no idea at all why they were so keen on discussing new kinds of cell-phones with me, or whoever the heck Tommy Hilfiger was and why a gray t-shirt with his name on it was so much more valuable than an ordinary gray t-shirt.

And, like a wizard, I told a joke like this in more than one class;

“I overheard my Russian friend Rudolf arguing with his wife. It was snowing outside.”

Rudolf’s wife said, “It’s snowing outside, dear Rudolf.”

“No, you are wrong. That is rain outside, dearest,So” said Rudolf.

“No, it isn’t. It is actually snow, dear informationally-challenged Rudolph.”

“Yes, it is rain. Rudolf the Red knows rain, dear!”

After they all groaned and sniggered, they all went immediately back to talking to me about Christmas shopping, but only while acting very, very good.

What was all of that about? I wondered. But the wizard in me kept thinking about buying lumps of coal.

So, those are some of my best wizard tricks. Like the wizard in that first illustration. Fistandantalas Crane, the wizard, learned how to switch places with his avatar inside the crystal ball. This was a wizard move because in the crystal-ball world, Crane was immortal. But he didn’t invent a way to switch back with his avatar. And he found life in crystal-ball world very boring.

In light of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent innovations on Facebook, I sincerely hope he doesn’t read this post and get any ideas. I can imagine myself stuck in Facebook world, even more boring than the inside of a crystal ball. And even though my avatar is better looking than I am, I have to worry that everybody calls Mark Zuckerberg a wizard too. And I could be tempted by immortality.

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326 and Counting

Twice before I have gone through a year posting something on this blog every single day of the year. And not just by scheduling the publication wisely to cover every day, but by writing something and publishing something every single day. At this point, I have now written something and posted it for 326 days in a row, and being past the holidays and funeral for my mother, I am probably going to make 365 again for the third time.

This is Ernest Hemingway for those of you who have only heard his name before now.

This is a man who also wrote something every single day. He was a former journalist who worked as an ambulance driver during World War I, for the Italian Army, where he was wounded and won a medal for his service to the Italian government.

He developed a writing style with no author commentary, sparse but crucial details, and a reliance on the reader’s intelligence to figure out the themes of his writing.

His best work is the Novel, The Sun Also Rises.

I hold that opinion because I have not only read it, but I have also read and compared it to For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, and several of his short stories. His writing is fiction, but highly autobiographical which makes his stories so realistic and accessible to all readers.

This is Charles Dickens, whom you have probably seen somewhere before when you really weren’t paying close attention.

This is also a man who wrote every single day. He started out writing for newspapers, but starting with his first major success as a fiction storyteller, The Pickwick Papers, he began writing mostly comic stories for monthly magazines.

He is noted for long paragraphs of vivid and plentiful details, and especially relatable and memorable characters.

His best work is the novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

I make that judgement after reading it three times, and also reading Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, and The Old Curiosity Shop. There are also autobiographical features in the Boz’s works but he was a wonderfully astute people-watcher, and that dominates his narratives far more than his own personal story does.

I don’t have to tell you that this is Mark Twain… because it isn’t. It is Samuel Clemens
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This writer is known particularly for his sense of humor. It should be mentioned, however, that his fiction is not only filled with humor, but was very keenly realistic. His use of author commentary probably makes him the opposite of Hemingway, but he still carries that journalistic quality of writing it exactly how he sees it… full of irony and irrationally-arrived-at truth.

I don’t know for a fact that he wrote every single day. But he probably did. He always said, “The writing of the literary greats is like fine wine, while my books are like water. WIne is good for those that can afford it, but everybody drinks water.” You can’t have writing that is as plentiful as water without writing fairly often.

His best book is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I am not the only one who thinks so. Hemingway wrote, “All American Literature began with one book, Huckleberry Finn.”

I have also read, Tom Sawyer, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Roughing It, and The Autobiography of Mark Twain.

So, what’s the point of all this literary foo-foo? Hemingway would expect you to figure that out for yourself. But I’m addicted to topic sentences, even if I wait til the end to reveal it. If you want to be a writer, you need to read a lot of really good writing. And even more important, you need to write every day.

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On the Problem of Always Being Wrong

I was a middle-school teacher for thirty-one years. That, of course, basically means I have to be wrong about everything. Principals have told me so. Parents have told me so. And students who have heard them say so take it completely to heart because, well… Who has the most authority to declare someone else completely wrong?

Yes, I have it on good authority… I am wrong about everything, always.

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But it is very useful to realize that I am in good company. Galileo was wrong about the sun not going around the Earth. The College of Cardinals said it was so, and the Inquisition forced him to confess he was wrong. Giordano Bruno was so wrong about Copernicus being right that the Inquisition had to burn him at the stake. One would almost think that it is a bad thing to be wrong.

But it’s not.

Science, in fact requires its greatest practitioners to find out all the ways that they are wrong. How else do you create a theory of what is probably right?

It is fundamental to the scientific method to be as right as it is possible to prove. Of course, every scientific theory yields up a lot of anomalies that somehow defy the rules of the currently understood correct theory.

Isaac Newton got thumped on the brain-top by an apple and realized that the same thing that made the apple fall to Earth was making the Moon fall to the Earth, although the Moon is falling at the same rate as it is going around the Earth, so it never finishes the falling.

Later, Albert Einstein would realize that Newton’s gravity would even bend the light of distant stars around the edges of the Sun. And so, he found where Newton, genius that he was, was wrong. And so, the Theory of Relativity was born.

Guess what. Einstein was wrong too.

So, ultimately, it is okay for me to be wrong about things. It is necessary to be wrong before you can find out what is right. So, when I say something stupid like the following…

Comedy is good for you.

You should be naked more.

Fairies are only real if you believe in them.

You must take a leap of faith and live in the world like a Navajo, in tune with the natural world and comfortable with other people living in your world too. Moment by moment in the present moment.

…and eventually, I may stumble upon what is right and true. Or get burned at the stake like Bruno. That happens too.

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The Cowboy Code

When I was a boy playing cowboys and Indians with cap pistols and rubber tomahawks, we all knew that cowboys had a code.  The guy in the white hat always shoots straight.  He knows right from wrong.  He only shoots the bad guy.  He even shoots the gun out of the bad guy’s hand if he can.  Westerns are about right and wrong, good and bad, and the unyieldingly good knights of the plains.

And boys believe what they see on TV and in the movie theaters.  People who make television shows never lie, do they?  In fact, Wyatt Earp was based on a real guy who really lived and really shot the bad guys at the gosh-darn real OK Corral.

Daniel Boone was a real guy too.  He faced the opening up of new lands full of deadly dangers.  And when Fess Parker played him in 1964, wearing Davy Crockett’s coonskin hat, he walked the earth like a guardian angel, making everyone safe by the end of the episode.  He even knew which Indians were good and which were bad.  Mingo was always on Daniel’s side.  And when they spoke to each other about the dangers they faced, it was never about killing the people they feared.  It was about doing what is was right, about helping the community at Boonesboro to survive.  Being encouraging… looking forward to a more settled future created by following the cowboy frontier code.

So, I am left wondering what ever happened to the cowboy code?  I listen to Republican presidential candidates talking about dipping bullets in pig’s blood to kill Muslims, and building walls against Mexican immigrants, and why our right to carry assault rifles is sacred, and I wonder what happened.  Didn’t they experience the same education from the television versions of the Great American Mythology?  Didn’t they learn the code too?

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I am old enough now to know that cap guns are not real guns and you cannot solve problems by shooting somebody.  But that was never the point of the cowboy code.  We need straight-shooters again in our lives, not to shoot people, but to tell the unvarnished truth.  We need wise people who can tell who are the good Indians and who are the bad   We need them to shoot the weapons out of the bad guys’ hands.  And I know that’s asking for leaders to be larger than life and be more perfect than a man can actually be.  But Daniel Boone was a real man.  Myths and legends start with a fundamental truth.

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Infinite Monkeys

The theorem goes, “If you sit an infinite number of monkeys behind an infinite number of typewriters and let them tap away at random for an infinite amount of time, they will eventually come up with all the works of Shakespeare, and in addition to that, all the works of literature that have ever been written and ever will be written.”

Now, that is a daunting theorem. All the great works of literature by Mickey will be recreated by monkeys? And even worse, they will probably produce much better versions of all of it. Plus versions of it written in German, Mandarin Chinese, Urdu, and Californian (a really difficult language to translate.) All languages ever created on all the planets of the universe, as a matter of fact. The proof is there. It hinges on the mathematically precise definition of “Infinite.”

But you have to remember, infinite is the biggest number there is.

So many variations will be there in the truthfully infinite amount of stuff that infinite monkeys will produce that one version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet will have a final act where, instead of everyone dying or accidentally killing themselves, Hamlet will talk them all into putting on yellow chicken costumes and dancing with hula hoops as a means of acquiring absolution for their sins.

And a version of it will also exist where all the letter “B’s” will be replaced by “P’s” and all the vowels will be doubled so that Hamlet’s famous soliloquy will begin, “Too pee oor noot too pee, thaat iis thee quueestiioon…”

Accurately imagining the conditions required to have infinite monkeys tapping out infinite works of literary art means that any ridiculous thing that Mickey thinks of will have to actually be typed out by one or more (or infinite) monkeys in all of that infinite monkey writing. Somewhere Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros will have nothing but characters who are rhinoceroses at the beginning of the play who turn into human beings by the end of the play. (That is the exact opposite of the real French absurdist’s play, for those of you who did not have to read such stuff in college literature courses.)

In fact, in order to think up all the ridiculous variations of every work of literature would take Mickey an infinite amount of time. Mickey probably doesn’t really want to live that long.

And then there is also the question of the physics of infinity. Is the universe itself, I mean, the one we all live in presently, actually infinite? Astrophysicists don’t think so according to current observable data on the astronomical model of this universe. And then you have the problem of infinite monkeys made of infinite matter. The universe would be filled to overflowing with infinite monkey-matter. And that leaves no matter or space to be used for infinite typewriters. The whole universe would be monkey-matter. And that would also mean no room for bananas, or, in fact, any monkey food of any kind. What is going to motivate the infinite monkeys to work for an infinite amount of time on their monkey literature which they won’t have typewriters to write on anyway?

And then there is another horrible thought that occurs to me. In this picture to the left, do you see the evil monkey? Believe me, if you have an infinite amount of monkeys, one or two (or possibly an infinite number of them) will definitely be evil geniuses.

And evil monkeys do evil monkey-business.

At least one or two (or possibly… you know…) evil monkey geniuses will disassemble infinite typewriters to make infinite doomsday devices. Typewriters will be re-engineered into computers and will become filled with monkey-viruses that will rewrite the operating software of the universe. And then, everything becomes an infinite monkey-villain paradise where the evil geniuses among the monkeys will live the perfect life for monkey criminals full of monkey crimes and monkey debauchery and the kind of infinite chaos that infinite monkey-villains enjoy.

This thinking about infinite monkeys leads to one very definite infinite-monkey conclusion; WE DO NOT WANT TO MESS WITH GIVING INFINITE TYPEWRITERS TO INFINITE MONKEYS!!!

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Comic Book Heroes Who are Older Than Me

I don’t know if you know this, but I am in reality older than Spiderman. I am also older than the Fantastic Four. All of the Avengers except for Captain America are younger than me. Well, you could argue that Thor and Hercules were around longer than me. And the Sub Mariner, And the original Human Torch, the one that Ultron would eventually turn into the Vision. But I am turning 65 this year, and only the Golden Age comic-book characters are actually older than me.

Superman, from the date of his actual creation, not first publication, is turning 88 this year. Schuster and Seigal drew the first Superman strips in 1933.

At the beginnning of June, 2021 the Spirit will be 81 years old. Created by Will Eisner in 1940 the Spirit got an entire full-color page in more than 20 newspapers with a total circulation of more than 5 million copies nationwide. Denny Colt got his super crime-fighting powers by basically being a ghost, back from the dead to punish his killers and other criminals every Sunday until 1952.

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Sheena, Queen of the Jungle is turning 83 this year, being created in 1938 by Jerry Iger working with Will Eisner, among others. She looks pretty good for her age. But, consider this, she is based on the character Rima the Jungle Girl from William Henry Hudson’s 1904 novel Green Mansions. Rima, if she had become a comic book character too would be 117 this year.

The Shadow, too, is pretty damn old. He celebrates his 91st birthday this year if you consider his pulp fiction origin in 1930. He was also the narrator of a radio show before actually becoming a comic book hero. The old man of this essay was a billionaire who could become invisible thanks to his mind-control powers. And he also had peerless martial arts prowess. He is an obvious inspiration to Bob Kane’s Batman.

Batman and Robin, as understudies to the Shadow are virtually the same age. Batman was created in 1939 in Detective Comics, and Robin would appear for the first time before the year was out. That makes them both 82 years old this year.

The first time they appeared in their own title was in 1940, so that makes the Joker, Alfred Pennyworth, and Catwoman 81 years old.

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Alex Raymond’s imitation Buck Rodgers comic, Flash Gordon, first appeared in newspapers in 1934. That makes Flash, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov all celebrate their 87th birthday this year.

The Green Hornet is 85 years old.

Wonder Woman is 80 years old.

So, even though I am old and creaky, reading comics with the older superheroes in them makes me feel like a kid again. An old, creaky kid.

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What 2020 Has Done To Me

The year began with me recovering from a bout of flu caught while substituting at Bush Middle School. I had thought it would be the end of me. But, no. I managed to survive. It left me feeling that no mere virus could get the better of me.

Oh, foolish and overly simple me! I had no idea what was coming. I had decided to write a novel set in a residential nudist park in South Texas that I knew nudists from but had never actually visited.

I discovered that my financial situation was headed for disaster if I didn’t earn enough money from substitute teaching. I was trying to pay off my Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and I was committed to paying $2000 dollars worth of our ever-increasing property tax. I wouldn’t be able to earn the money in time to avoid late fees, which meant I needed to earn even more extra money.

I dug down deep and found myself able to substitute teach to the full extent my doctor and the Texas Teacher Retirement System would allow. I was really hitting my stride and enjoying teaching again. I met a couple of kids in classes I subbed for that connected so well, I used them as inspiration for a few things in the novel I was writing, A Field Guide to Fauns. The novel practically wrote itself.

I published it. But it was about naked people. So a majority of people who might be fooled into reading one of my books will never read this one.

I was looking forward, after teaching so much that I could pay off the tax only one month late, to making more money I might actually be able to put in savings for a few minutes. But March ended all hope of that.

The long Covid imprisonment began with one novel published and one more, my AeroQuest rewrite, being more than halfway along.

I found myself with way more time to write and do other stuff than I had anticipated. But, of course, little money to do anything but survive with.

I definitely understood Kurt Vonnegut better in very short order.

I had a chance to reread a LOT of my own writing.

I gave some of my own books a careful reread and proofreading, even updating the content on Amazon. I began collecting my best posts from my daily blog. I put it in book form, becoming not one, but two collections of autobiographical essays.

My quest to put all my teacher recollections, goofy humor and cartoons, and philosophical wacky-waxings into some kind of order, allowed me to get a real sense of the overview of my life as both a teacher and a writer.

But, not only did my number two son get a job with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department as a jailor, but he got Covid in July as well from his job.

Not only did my number one son find a serious relationship with an excellent young lady, but he was forced to stay away from us and limit contact to the point he almost became a stranger.

And not only did my father’s Parkinson’s Disease get worse, it killed him in midsummer during a surge in the pandemic that meant only my mother and two sisters could actually be at the funeral.

But, in spite of setbacks, I managed to stay Covid-free and read and write way more than is probably good for any human man.

I published or re-published six books during 2020. It is an accomplishment that reflects a fear of imminent death and loss of any further chance to make my writing real, not just foolish fantasies and dreams trapped in my stupid head.

So, what has 2020 done to me?

It has made me fearful of the future. It took away enough of my health that I will never be able to stand in front of a classroom ever again. And it took my father away.

But it has also galvanized me with the heat of the struggle to survive. It has made me more careful, and more appreciative of what life is, and especially more determined to have more of it.

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Mr. Grumpy Holds Forth

(This is an idea that comes from Bruce the Bottle Imp, so, don’t blame me if this humor blog-post isn’t really very funny.)

The thing I am grumpy about today, besides the dog chewing up last night’s pizza box and spreading the shreds all over the kitchen before I had a chance to take it to the trash barrel, is the fact that it seems like the world is ending.

I know, the “How can you say that?” crowd are going to argue with me if I say it’s because we let Adam Sandler get away with making too damn many movies. But in spite of the existence of Jack and Jill, I actually kinda like the cartoons where he plays Dracula and Selena Gomez plays his daughter. So, Sandler doesn’t give me the feelings of existential dread his movies used to provide.

No, I think the reason is because when I went out to walk the dog this morning on a sunshiny and blue-skyed dawn, and took a deep breath of fresh air, I nearly coughed up a lung thanks to that yellow-gray patina delicately painting the horizon.

We are running out of time.

President Grandpa Joe, the mildly confused one, is proposing a huge infrastructure bill that is even larger than the one he rammed through congress without a single Republican vote in order to keep the poor and the middle class from starving and becoming homeless… and potential fuel for the zombie apocalypse. The infrastructure bill will provide a starting point for building green-energy projects, providing thousands of green-energy jobs to an ailing economy, bullet trains and healthcare improvements, and life-changing transformations to rival FDR’s New Deal, which Republicans will also vote against. And he might actually do it if Senator Turtle McConnell doesn’t convince Senator Grumbly-Grampa Joe Manchin to vote against his own party in dismantling the foofy filibuster and then voting down the infrastructure bill both to fully insure the extinction of the human race.

For some reason, probably involving dark money, Republicans want so badly to see all middle class and poor people die a horrible death that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of their own grandchildren and great grandchildren. After all, they will mostly all be undead and undying critters by that time, and they won’t want pesky younger generations to support using money from their treasure hordes that they are planning to swim in like Scrooge McDuck for eternity.

I am also deeply grumpified by the whole Congressman Eddy Munster… er, I mean… Matt Gaetz thing (seen pictured in the Vampyr Paffooney above.) That happy-go-lucky blood-sucker is facing child sex-trafficking charges involving a 17-year-old girl, and the investigation was started under Attorney General Bill Barr, Trump’s Fred-Flintstone-impersonating, Yabba-dabba-doo collusion-denier. Senator Al Franken(berry) of Minnesota, a leading Democrat, had to resign from the Senate over a picture where he wasn’t actually touching the sleeping Republican-lady’s boobs, just making a crude joke-photo the way former Saturday Night Live comedians will often do… er, well… doo doo. But Eddy Matt Gaetz doesn’t have to resign, or even give up his assignment to the Judiciary Committee. And that’s because we’re okay with unindicted criminals running our country, just not Democrats.

I hate to say it, but, now that we have gotten rid of the Orange Prexydent at long last, if we still can’t prevent human extinction, we deserve what’s coming to us. We have work to do…. and things to grumble about… and Republicans have acts of vampire-evil to commit.

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A Mr. Holland Moment

Life is making music.  We hum, we sing to ourselves, movie music plays in our head as the soundtrack to our daily life. At least, it does if we stop for a moment and dare to listen.   We make music in many different ways.  Some play guitar.  Some are piano players.  And some of us are only player pianos.  Some of us make music by writing a themed paragraph like this one.  Others make an engine sing in the automotive shop.  Still others plant gardens and make flowers or tomatoes grow.  I chose teaching kids to read and write.  The music still swells in my ears four years after retiring.

The 1995 movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is about a musician who thinks he is going to write a magnificent classical orchestra opus while teaching music at a public high school to bring in money and allow him time to compose and be with his young wife as they start a new family.

But teaching is not, of course, what he thought it was.  He has to learn the hard way that it is not an easy thing to open up the closed little clam shells that are the minds of students and put music in.  You have to learn who they are as people first.  You have to learn to care about what goes on in their lives, and how the world around them makes them feel… and react to what you have to teach.  Mr. Holland has to learn to pull them into music appreciation using rock and roll and music they like to listen to, teaching them to understand the sparkles and beats and elements that make it up and can be found in all music throughout their lives.  They can even begin to find those things in classical music, and appreciate why it has taken hold of our attention for centuries.

And teaching is not easy.  You have to make sacrifices.  Big dreams, such as a magnum opus called “An American Symphony”, have to be put on the shelf until later.  You have children, and you find that parenting isn’t easy either.  Mr. Holland’s son is deaf and can never actually hear the music that his father writes from the center of his soul.  And the issue of the importance of what you have to teach becomes something you have to fight for.  Budget cuts and lack of funding cripples teachers in every field, especially if you teach the arts.  Principals don’t often appreciate the value of the life lessons you have to give.  Being in high school band doesn’t get you a high paying job later.

But in the end, at the climax of the movie, the students all come back to honor Mr. Holland.  They provide a public performance of his magnum opus, his life’s work.  And the movie ends with a feeling that it was all worth it, because what he built was eternal, and will be there long after the last note of his music is completely forgotten.  It is in the lives and loves and memories of his students, and they will pass it on.

But this post isn’t a movie review.  This post is about my movie, my music.  I was a teacher in the same way Mr. Holland was.  I learned the same lessons about being a teacher as he did.  I had the same struggles to learn to reach kids.  And my Mr. Holland moment wasn’t anywhere near as big and as loud as Mr. Holland’s.  His was performed on a stage in front of the whole school and alumni.  His won Richard Dreyfus an Academy Award for Best Actor.  But his was only fictional.

Mine was real.  It happened in a portable building on the Naaman Forest High School campus.  The students and the teacher in the classroom next door threw a surprise party for me.  They made a lot of food to share, almost all of which I couldn’t eat because of diabetes.  And they told me how much they would miss me, and that they would never forget me.  And I had promised myself I would never cry about having to retire.  But I broke my promise.  In fact, I am crying now four years later.  But they are not tears of sadness.  My masterwork has now reached its last, bitter-sweet notes.  The crescendos have all faded.  But the music of our lives will still keep playing.  And not even death can silence it completely.

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