Category Archives: commentary

Today at Sunrise

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I was able to take a picture of a pink sky this morning.  Each dawn that comes is a gift.  None of them are guaranteed.  I haven’t gone to the doctor now in almost three years, not because my diabetes is not making me ill, but because I can’t afford to go on a regular program of insulin.  I don’t know how long I can continue to take pictures of the dawn and write about appreciating it.  But it doesn’t matter. I am here now.  And for today I have found treasure.

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Mickey at Sixty

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It is true that I am now only a month away from being 61.  But this reflection is based on what happened to me while undergoing the year past.  My fictional character, Valerie Clarke, took the selfie above of the two of us.  She doesn’t have her own smartphone, after all, she’s a fictional character, so she used mine.  It shows in the picture what she looked like at eleven and what I looked like at sixty years and eleven months, in other words, this morning.

So, what exactly does the picture reveal about us?

Well, for her, it is fairly obvious that she’s only an imaginary person.  She was eleven in 1984, the year of the fictional snowstorm in Snow Babies.  She’s a bright and vibrant young girl with hopes and dreams ahead of her.  She’s also known tragedy, especially after her father’s suicide.  But the fact that she’s fictional and based on more than one real person from my past does a lot to explain why this reflection is not about her.

For me, however, you get a look at a grumpy old man with a straw farmer’s hat, an author’s beard, and silvery Gandalf hair.  More of my drawings are glimpsable on the wall behind me.  I look like the kind of seedy old curmudgeon who yells at neighbor kids who walk on his lawn.

But I’m really not what I look like.

I am a writer.  So I am full of experiences, ideas, and feelings.  And I am also full of people.  Valerie is only one of those.  I create fictional people from the people I knew or knew about in my little Iowa town, Rowan, where I grew up.  Kids that went to school with me.  Their parents.  Shopkeepers and business people and creepy old people that I sometimes encountered.  Hot tempered people.  Wise people.  And stupid people who were often laughed at for good reason.

I can also draw on (and draw pictures of) all the people I knew as an educator.  More than two thousand kids who passed through my classes in four different schools, some of whom I knew as well as I knew my own children, were available to pull details from to mix and match and make fictional characters from.  Fellow teachers, some gifted with a natural way with students, some hopelessly lost in the wrong profession with the wrong sort of personality were also available to make characters from.  Fools and idealists.  Bullies and shrinking violets.  Heroes that possible readers could look up to and love.

I am the kaleidoscope, the thing that you can look through to see the world and have it refracted and patterned to make it beautiful, even in its ugliness.

But all of this reflection is only that, the view in the mirror, the outward look of the man who is me.  Mickey at sixty is many things, not all of them pretty, not all of them wise.  But some of them are.  And some even better than I think they are.

 

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Dr. Teeth

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Today I had to take my daughter to the dentist before dropping her off at school.  A simple teeth cleaning and an exam for future tooth work they are recommending resulted in a fifty dollar charge.  I could pay for it, but it comes out of the monthly food budget.  And I have no idea where the three times that amount that the future tooth work will cost is going to come from.  Let alone the property tax due at the end of the year which is now three times what it was in 2006.  I have lost control over my life because of increasing expenses and decreasing income.  And it makes me lament, “Why can’t I control ANYTHING?”

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You would think that having been a teacher for so many years I would know how to control practically everything, right?  I mean, if a teacher can control the ultimate chaos engines of the average junior high school classroom, he ought to be able control anything… while doing nuclear physics on the side.

DrteethMAHBut that, of course, is not how it works in real life… even without the nuclear physics which was an exaggeration for humorous effect.

The secret is, a good teacher doesn’t control the behavior of students.  The teacher manages behavior by adjusting what he is in control of, his own reactions and behavior.

To make a metaphor, it is like juggling handfuls of sand.  They will slip between your fingers, bounce, and fly apart completely before the first revolution is complete.  But if you are smart, and have a small ceramic bowl in each hand, and a convenient big bowl of sand to dip into for new handfuls, you can throw and catch and guide the handfuls of sand through their amazing performance, at least three handfuls.  Maybe as many as seven, though that would take some really fast hands and years of practice.

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The point is, I think in my stupid little head, that I should not be trying to control the chaos my life has become.  The art is to manage the opposing forces, guide them back into the over-all flow of it, and prevent any single thing from overwhelming me, interrupting or wrecking the music of existence.

So the lesson here is, even though this post started out being about dentists and cost control, that I can’t control anything in life but myself.  So I might as well keep playing my figurative banjo and get into a figurative Studebaker with figurative Fozzie just to see where the road song will take me.  I will play the music and try to keep it all in tune and following the beat, no matter how many wrong turns and hitchhikers happen along the way.

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What to Write About Today…

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I have to admit it.  I am pretty goofy.

Probably not Harpo Marx levels of goofy.

But close.

So, I have gone back and looked at what I  have been writing about during the course of my relentless three-year write-a-thon.  I am artist enough to recognize patterns.  At least, I can recognize the big and obvious ones.  Okay, I admit it, sometimes, while thinking, I am really only pretending to think.  That makes me kinda like Harpo, doesn’t it?

I reread one of what I think are my best works just now because somebody viewed it online for some reason I will never know.  The essay is Toccata and Fugue in D Minor written on March 23rd of 2017.  In that essay, I compare a super-condensed version of my life story to Johan Sebastian Bach’s masterwork, one that is represented in Disney’s masterwork Fantasia. My thesis was basically, “Living life is like a piece of classical music.”  Yep, total nonsense.

But that is not nearly as nonsensical as the nonsense I wrote in The Dancing Poultry Conspiracy Theory.  That one should make me ashamed of myself.  Not to mention the danger inherent in revealing a thing that governments of the world have worked so hard to suppress the knowledge of.  There is something seriously wrong with any government who would let wackos use the mysterious martial art of Ententanz Fu on anybody.

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I also fairly recently wrote a poem about writing poetry.  It was called The Secret Behind Poetry and in the course of the poem I carefully reason out that I have no idea at all what the secret behind poetry is.

I am epically good at writing bad poetry.  That is why I was chosen to host the Interstellar Bad Poetry Challenge which I did badly, getting no entries at all from Planet Earth, and being forced to settle on the submissions I posted in The Ixcanixian Bad Poetry Challenge

As I have not yet been vaporized by Ixcanixian skortch rays, then I guess I did the challenge badly enough to satisfy the intergalactic poetry lords of Ixcanix.  I offer that here as proof that I am really pretty bad at writing poetry.

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I am also pretty good at taking an idea and turning it upside down to get a good look at its bottom and to flatten its top a bit.  I did that in an essay called Pessimism as a Super Power.

I suppose it is really about losing a writing contest, but the thesis is valid.  One can save themselves a lot of grief by always expecting the worst outcome to happen.  You are never disappointed according to what you expected unless it is turned into a pleasant surprise.  I also admit that is really a Benjamin Franklin idea, but if you turn Ben upside down, he’s already a bit flat on the top of his bald head and he has an interesting pantalooned bottom.  (That is supposed to be a joke, so try not to be too disgusted with me.)

So, what will I actually write about today?  What is the pattern I am supposed to follow?  Well, it seems pretty obvious, I am basically unpredictable.  So maybe today I will just recycle some old posts and pretend I have been thinking.

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Filed under commentary, conspiracy theory, goofiness, goofy thoughts, humor, poetry

The Waning of September

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The pool removal has finally begun.  As I write this, I can hear the machinery grinding away at the gunite.  And so, September has almost ended.  It has not been a good time.

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The world has been filled with the fetid orange-faced swamp monster in charge of our nightmare future raging against football players while an Asian nuclear baby Godzilla trades insults and threats of Armageddon with him as the sideshow.  My health has been seriously threatened by chest pains and breathing difficulties made worse by all the stress brought on by my battles with the city over the pool.  How many more years of this can the world actually withstand? How many more can I hold on to life and love and laughter?

But it is not over yet.  I can still write.  I can still laugh.  I can still make goofy WordPress posts with autumn leaves and regal fritillary butterflies to make me feel better.  And I can still put together novels that make stories worth telling.  That is enough for the moment.

Val in the Yard

 

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Mickey Makes Manga Art

I always loved this song.  When I was a boy, it was the song I would sing when I was alone in the darkness.  It made me feel better, able to march toward home in spite of potential spooks and brain-eating zombies.  The weight of the invisible future world could not drag me down if this tune was in my head, filling it with helium and good spirit; it allowed me to fly.

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And when I listened to it playing on the radio…  I always paused and listened to at least a couple of verses no matter what I was doing… I never once thought of Johnny Nash as a black man.  I didn’t know he was black until I first saw a picture of him.  But even then I didn’t think, “Oh, he’s a black man.”  I thought, “Oh, he’s a man like me.”  But, I, of course, am not black.  I’m not really white either.  I am a kind of pale pink to mauve mottled color with dark pink psoriasis spots in random places all over me. It is the man on the inside that is like Johnny Nash, full of uplifting things, and goofy grins, and… hopefully, hope.

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But when I was young it wasn’t only singing “I Can See Clearly Now…” in my goofy farmboy voice that filled my head with air and allowed me to float away from the troubles of the world.  I also learned to draw Manga style, in the tradition of Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy , filtered through hours of practice copying Walt Kelly’s Pogo characters and various Disney cartoons.

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I copied the over-large eyes and big-headed cutsieness that informed the Japanese idea of the world after the atom bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I tried to capture innocence and wonder and adventure in drawings that took my mind off the terrible things of my childhood, being sexually assaulted, the assassinations of JFK and his brother RFK, and Martin Luther King Jr, the Viet Nam War, and Nixon with Watergate.  You can reclaim innocence and peace of mind, if you get the lines just right, and the proportions are good, and the character has just the right expression on their sweet little faces.

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Okay, maybe not always so sweet and innocent.  This is not the Dorothy I would want to mess with.  This girl is cocky, sure of herself, and more than a little impish.  A destroyer of wicked witches, that one.

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But that’s what Manga Art is all about.  You whistle away the darkness one drawing at a time.  And there’s plenty of darkness to whistle away anymore, isn’t there?  What with Tronald Dump taking on the NFL over the American Flag and National Anthem, Tronald Dump taking on Jim Kong Oon in an insult war backed up by ICBMs, and Congress busily trying to take away all our access to health care.  (I know I misspelled some names there, but I am tired of talking about that guy that Dorothy told me I should call the “orange-faced poop sack.”  No, Dorothy, I can’t call him that.  Using language like that robs my head of its helium.)  So, what do I do now about the state of the world?  Well, here is the Manga Art I drew last night.

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Catgirl and White-haired Snow White with a ping pong ball in her mouth.

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The Secret Behind Poetry (a Poem about Poems)

Poetry is life

Like life, it is sometimes fat and over-gorged

Like life, it is sometimes lean and starving

Like life, it sometimes rhymes

But that is only simile

Simile is not reality

Reality is metaphor

Metaphor is life

Like life, it has to mean something

Like life, it has rhythm, pace, and resonance

Like life, it sometimes rhymes

But this one doesn’t rhyme

And it may not really mean something

And it certainly isn’t reality

So, poet, you don’t know life!

And life is poetry

So you really don’t know poetry

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