Category Archives: commentary

Living in the World I Once Drew

The Grain Mill

It is normal for the world we live in to inspire us to draw pictures of it. But architects do the opposite. They imagine a world we could live in, and then build it.

David and Me in Cotulla

Sometimes, like in the picture above, I draw real people in imaginary places. Other times I draw imaginary people and put them in real places.

Gyro and Billy on the planet Pan Galactica A

Sometimes I put imaginary people in imaginary places. (I photo-shopped this planet myself.)

Superchicken and Sherry before school

In fiction, I am re-casting my real past as something fictional, so the places I draw with words in descriptions need to be as real as my amber-colored memory can manage.

Valerie and her skateboard in front of the Congregational Church

When I use photos, though, I have to deal with the fact that over time, places change. The church does not look exactly like it did in the 1980s when this drawing is set.

Drawing things I once saw, and by “drawing” I mean “making pictures,” is how I recreate myself to give my own life meaning.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, collage, commentary, humor, illustrations, imagination, Paffooney, photo paffoonies

Dave Barry

dave barry and alan zweibel

dave barry

I threatened to write a post about Dave Barry and the writing gods apparently thought that was a very very bad idea.  They have tried to prevent me from carrying out this idle threat by attacking my computer with gremlins.  Now my WordPress page is shrinking practically out of sight.  I can barely  see what I am typing.  You don’t believe me?  Here’s what it looks like at the moment;

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They obviously tricked me into pressing the secret shrink button on my computer, and I have no idea where to find the un-shrink features.  Not only that, but my Facebook page is automatically translating everything it can into French.  They really don’t want me to tell you about Dave Barry.  And why do you suppose that is?

Well, Dave Barry may actually be me from a parallel dimension.  He started writing for The Miami Herald in the early 80’s, at about the same time I started teaching.  He retired from that in 2004 after winning a Pulitzer Prize and started writing humorous novels…. the same thing I started doing when I left the job I loved and was good at.  Okay, so I am stretching the analogy to the point that all the buttons are popping off its shirt… but the point is, we are alike in some ways and I admire his work and I steal things from it whenever I possibly can.  Like this post.  I deeply admire the way he can say witty and pithy things.  Like some of these quotes;

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So, you see, he is very good at doing what I want to be good at.  He is a humor columnist and all-around imitation Mark Twain.  And I have read and loved his novels.  Especially the Peter Pan things he writes with a partner.

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Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

So, I will leave this post here even though I could talk for hours about how Dave Barry makes me laugh.  I have to stop.  the words on the screen keep getting smaller and smaller, and my old eyes are about to fall out of my head.

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Reflections from 1964

In 1964 I was 7 years old until November. I became a baseball fan that year. I had listened to baseball games on the radio with Great Grandpa Raymond before that year, but that had always been Twins’ games in the American League. But that was the year I discovered the St. Louis Cardinals. I followed them in the newspaper, the Mason City Globe Gazette. They had lost the greatest hitter in their history to that point, Stan Musial having retired when the 1963 season ended. But he was replaced in left field by Lou Brock, the hit-making base-stealing boy wonder of 1964. They went from near the bottom of the National League to edging out the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds by one game each (they were tied for second) at the very end of the season.

The World Series pitted the Cardinals against the mighty New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford were the stars of that team and had won five World Series in a row a decade before. It was a fantastic battle that the Cardinals finally won 7 to 5 in the seventh and final game in St. Louis. Bob Gibson was a deciding factor and won Series MVP. I would become a life-long Cardinals fan.

And I lost my Grandpa Beyer. He went to work one day, driving a road grader and his heart simply stopped working. It was the first time I lost a major somebody in my life.

In 1962 I had spotted the bright pinprick in the sky that was John Glenn orbiting the earth in the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. My mother and father helped me spot it from our back yard in Rowan, Iowa.

In 1964, therefore, I began to take a serious interest in outer space as the Mercury program transformed into the Gemini program that was testing procedures in space for eventual Apollo moon missions.

I was in the Second Grade in 1964. Miss Madison was my teacher. She was as old as my Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich. She got mad at me at least three times that I can remember. I mean, I know that there were more than that, but there were three times I made her so mad with a joke that she memorably made me feel the wrath that teachers reserve for classroom clowns.

Steve Kaufman “The Beatles Debut on Ed Sullivan 1964”¬†

The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan in February. My Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich told me that the Beatles must’ve been confused about whether they were boys or girls to have haircuts like that. And those were the bowl-cuts they had before the wild-hair days of the later Sixties. All the boys in my class had either a butch cut or a flat-top. Hair styles for boys back then meant not really having any hair.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was president. He had been since the Kennedy assassination in 1963.

In July LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, abolishing segregation.

In August, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (since revealed to be a proven false-flag operation) leads to the Vietnam War.

The “Daisy” campaign ad for LBJ, showing a little girl picking flowers and then being blown up by an atom bomb, convinces my dad that Barry Goldwater is a dangerous radical, and he votes for LBJ even though he is not a conservative or a Republican.

LBJ is elected President of the United States in 1964.

Later that November, I turned eight years old.

1964 was a notable year for me. Even if it wasn’t for Barry Goldwater.

In the picture that starts this post, I am 8. Nancy is 6, holding on to little brother David at 2. Mary is 4. We are all in our Sunday best on Easter Sunday morning.

Why am I writing about 1964 today?

My mother is in hospice at 87 years old. She is dying of heart failure. And today, I and my two younger children got to talk to her by phone. The light and hope we have today is colored by the hope and light we had in the past. Such is the nature of having a family over time.

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Filed under autobiography, baseball, commentary, humor, nostalgia

Malaise as a Condiment

Malaise is not mayonnaise. It is that horrible sickly feeling that you can’t really put into words because you don’t know what medical problem is the one that is probably killing you.. I feel blah to the twenty-third degree. And the reason why is a malaise-causing mystery to me. Where is Scooby Doo when you need him?

And it probably is being caused by my diet. (This is a metaphorical diet illustrated in the Dagwood diagram.)

It is undeniably true that what you put into your body by eating becomes what you are made of. And it can make you healthy and happy. Or it can make you sick and even make you die.

It is also undeniably true that what you put into your mind can do the exact same thing.

I have no issue with the bread in my Dagwood sandwich. Whether wheat is better than white is not an issue to me. Bread is the stuff of life, no matter the color. And if bread is going to hold everything in the sandwich together, I prefer the wheat bread because of the ruffage that keeps me regular. But white bread is just as good as long as it doesn’t go buy Tiki torches at Walmart.

But the roast beast I get now is reaching its expiration date. It is in dire need of roasting over a real fire. And now that it is no longer in office, what is standing in the way of roasting it thoroughly to prevent the salmonella that comes from not giving it the fire it deserves for its crimes? Waiting for that to happen is making me sick.

It is not normal to put ap-peas-e in any sandwich but a Dagwood because they are very round. And if you hold the sandwich too tight, they can pop out of the sides of the sandwich and end up rolling on the floor.

So, just like Mick Jagger, “I can’t get no… SATISFACTION!”

That doesn’t mean I won’t need it.

The malaise itself won’t make you fat and have high cholesterol like mayonnaise will. But it is definitely not good for you. It leads to depression and an inability to get anything good accomplished. I almost didn’t get this essay done.

I am really enjoying watching Selena Gomez on Hulu in “Only Murders in the Building” with Steve Martin and Martin Short.

Hot tomatoes can really perk me up, especially in bikinis (I find the bikinis are satisfyingly chewy,) but they are dangerous to my health. Especially dangerous when my wife notices what I am looking at. The show we are watching on Hulu, however, works well since I laugh at Steve Martin enough to throw her off. Still, the tomatoes are probably going to be the death of me.

Onions are a tradition in Dagwood sandwiches. But in these times of extremely divided politics, onions are too often divided by pi.

As far as using cheese goes… Well, this is a very cheesy essay.

And if you eat a Dagwood sandwich for lunch every day, soon you will be full of baloney.

So, now, as we sit down to lunch, let-us pray. But don’t use iceberg lettuce. That can give you gas. And anyway, icebergs are getting hard to find due to climate change.

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The Sedentary Stradivarius

The greatest tragedy known to man is the finely-tuned instrument that is merely sitting, barely active, when instead it should be soaring to heights never seen before.

It is a real shame that so much of human endeavor is bent towards the accumulation of wealth… And when the lucky few reach the pinnacle of that wealth-acquisition, measured in billions, they choose to hoard it and salt it away for their own exclusive use rather than solve problems like poverty, hunger, ignorance, pollution, violence, and want. The act of creation, being musical, artistic, literary, or profound, is given so little value that the idea of the starving artist is an idea that exists in every head.

I fear that far too many people don’t t truly understand what value means. For life to be worth living, you have to have priorities that justify mankind’s very existence. Surely we were not created… by either God or an indifferent random universe… to merely exist like the blue-green lichen that graces the bark of a rotting stump, or to elect Donald Trump as President just so we can see smarty-pants liberal elitists chopped down by a corrupt plague of racist frogs. The tragedy lies in the knowing… or the not knowing.

Perhaps you recognize Beethoven’s 9th Symphony when you hear the Dah-Dah-Dah-Dummm! of death knocking in that familiar musical phrase. But do you recognize the pastoral beauty of the sunshine-and-rain-filled 5th Symphony? Or have you heard the sorrow and the striving of daily life in the city streets depicted in the 7th Symphony (offered above)? If not, why not? How can you listen to any of it and not hear the many underlined reasons that it is considered among the greatest music ever created? And that by a man who was mildly insane and eventually stone deaf, unable to hear his own music anywhere but in his imagination?

I have reached a point in my life that I cannot do much beyond sit and think such thoughts. I am limited in how I can move and what work I can do by my ever-more-painful arthritis, stinging me in every joint. I am also limited by lack of money in where I can go and what I can afford to do. But I refuse to be that finely-tuned instrument that does not make much in the way of music. Hence, an essay like this one today. It is me, using my words to the best of my ability, to fill the sky with hopelessly beautiful attempts at making the stars twinkle.

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Filed under artwork, classical music, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, insight, Paffooney, philosophy, review of music

The Puzzle of Life

Life is littered with a multi-headed mystery to try to solve by the end.

Yes, as I continue to age nearer and nearer to the ultimate darkness at the end of my story of life, I am using everything in my considerable experience and acquired wisdom to solve several key questions.

Here are the key questions.

  1. Have I lived a life that makes me worthy? (Worthy of what doesn’t really matter.)
  2. Is the world going to survive long after my life is over? (By which I mean life on Earth, particularly human life.)
  3. Does anyone really deserve love? (Particularly me.)
  4. What is destiny? And what does luck have to do with it? (As one of the unluckiest people ever, this concerns me.)
  5. What is true? (This is a big one.)

So, my plan is to write 5 essays. I will try to solve all of these big philosophical questions in a 500-word essay each. I know that makes me sound like an idealistic idiot. But, realistically, I know that may be a the answer to 4 out of the 5 questions.

Yes, I am putting puzzle pieced together in front of a haunted house while naked in winter.

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How To Write A Mickian Essay

mickeynose

I know the last thing you would ever consider doing is to take up writing essays like these.  What kind of a moronic bingo-boingo clown wants to take everything he or she knows, put it in a high-speed blender and turn it all into idea milkshakes?

But I was a writing teacher for many years.  And now, being retired and having no students to yell at when my blood pressure gets high, the urge to teach it again is overwhelming.

So, here goes…

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Once you have picked the silly, pointless, or semi-obnoxious idea you want to shape the essay around, you have to write a lead.  A lead is the attention-grabbing device or booby-trap for readers that will draw them into your essay.  In a Mickian essay, whose purpose is to entertain, or possibly bore you in a mildly amusing manner, or cause you enough brain damage to make you want to send me money (this last possibility never seems to work, but I thought I’d throw it in there just in case), the lead is usually a  “surpriser”, something so amazingly dumb or off-the-wall crazy that you just have to read, at least a little bit, to find out if this writer is really that insane or what.  The rest of the intro paragraph that is not part of the lead may be used to draw things together to suggest the essay is not simply a chaotic mass of silly words in random order.  It can point the reader down the jungle path that he or she can take to come out of the other end of the essay alive.

Once started on this insane quest to build an essay that will strangle the senses and mix up the mind of the reader, you have to carry out the plan in three or four body paragraphs.  This is where you have to use those bricks of brainiac bull-puckie that you have saved up to be the concrete details in the framework of the main rooms of the little idea-house you are constructing.  If you were to number or label these main rooms, this one you are reading now would, for example, be Room #2, or B, or “the second body paragraph”.  And as you read this paragraph, you should be thinking in the voice of your favorite English teacher of all time.  The three main rooms in this example idea house are beginning, middle, and end.  You could also call them introduction, body, and conclusion.  These are the rooms of your idea house that the reader will live in during his or her brief stay (assuming they don’t run out of the house screaming after seeing the clutter in the entryway).

Teacher

The last thing you have to do is the concluding paragraph.  (Of course, you have to realize that we are not actually there yet in this essay.  This is Room C in the smelly chickenhouse of this essay, the third body paragraph.)  The escape hatch on the essay that may potentially explode into fireworks of thoughts, daydreams, or plans for something better to do with your life than a read an essay written by an insane former middle school English teacher at any moment, is a necessary part of the whole process.  This is where you have to remind them of what the essay is basically about, and leave them with the thought that you want to haunt them in their nightmares later.  The last thing that you say in the essay is the thing they are the most likely to remember.  So you need to save the best for last.

So, here, finally, is the exit door to this masterfully mixed-up Mickian Essay.  It is a simple, and straightforward structure.  The introduction containing the lead is followed by three or four body paragraphs that develop the idea and end in a conclusion that summarizes or simply restates the overall main idea.  And now you know why all of my former students either know how to construct an essay, or have several years left in therapy sessions with a psychiatrist.

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Other Folks’ Artwork

There are many, many things I appreciate about other people’s artwork. It is not all a matter of envy or a desire to copy what they’ve done, stealing their techniques and insights for myself, though there is some of that. Look at the patterns Herg√© uses to portray fish and undersea plants. I have shamelessly copied both. But it is more than just pen-and-ink burglary.

I like to be dazzled. I look for things other artists have done that pluck out sweet-sad melodies on the heartstrings of my of my artistically saturated soul. I look for things like the color blue in the art of Maxfield Parrish.

I love the mesmerizing surrealism of Salvador Dali.

I am fascinated by William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s ability to create photo-realistic and creamy-perfect nudes.

Basil Wolverton’s comic grotesqueries leave me stunned but laughing.

The dramatic lighting effects employed by Greg Hildebrandt slay me with beauty. (Though not literally. I am not bleeding and dying from looking at this picture, merely metaphorically cut to the heart.)

I even study closely movie-poster portraits like Bogart and Bergman in this Casablanca classic poster.

I could show you so many more art pieces that I dearly love to look at. But I will end with a very special artist.

This is the work of my daughter, Mina “the Princess” Beyer. Remember that name. She’s better than I am.

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Filed under artwork, commentary, inspiration, oil painting, old art, pen and ink, strange and wonderful ideas about life, Uncategorized

Can We Be Clear?

Mai Ling uses psionic ninja powers to separate the flowers from the weeds, a thing that is not easy to do.

I suppose that if I were to be insightfully honest for a moment, I would have to admit that I am a failed novelist. If you take “success” as meaning “financial success”, the fact that I only make less than five dollars a month for my writing means I am a failure at it. If you specify that success means my books find readers, then evidence would suggest that my books are mostly ignored. A majority of those who have responded favorably to my work are actually members of the nudist community on Twitter. I admit that I have cultivated that a bit with nudist characters in about a fourth of my books. But that is a result of having experienced fascinating people and situations that I felt I had to write about because I happened to meet, totally by chance, interesting nudists in real life.

I have lost a lot of writing-community followers on Twitter because of my interactions with Twitter nudists. My work gets dismissed on occasion because your standard teacher-turned-writer on Twitter, usually female and usually fundamentalist Christian, doesn’t want to be contaminated by sinful nudist associations. Ah, such a life. But I don’t wish to destroy anyone’s faith in a God who will apparently burn them for an eternity in Hell if they are tempted to frolic with no clothes on. I would rather be blocked by them on Twitter than have them give up on whatever paradise they are pursuing.

But I am basically on the Brad Bird side of the argument about whether or not you can choose to be a hero even if others will see you as a monster. My fiction does not cause demonic possession and probably does not cause spontaneous bouts of joyful nudism either. Even my werewolf story, which was too much for one potential reviewer, does not have actual werewolves in it. Although it does describe some things that really happened to me as a child in a fictionalized, sort-of-truthful way.

So, by those criteria, I judge myself to be a failed writer.

But I am definitely not giving up on writing in despair. Those were never the reasons I wrote novels to begin with.

I write because I have something to say to the world and stories to tell. And I mean to have my say, even if the world is too stone-deaf and stupefied to listen.

I have things to say about living and learning.

I have things to say about finding love, and losing love, and finding it again.

I have things to say about how I think the world works, and why I’m pretty sure I’m completely wrong about all of that. And what I intend to do about it.

To that end, I have started writing a book full of essays like the stuff and garbage and lovely wisdom I write in this goofy little blog. And I shall call it Laughing Blue. Because, you know, nobody is going to read it anyway, and I can call it whatever the heck I want to call it.

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Coca-Cola Mind Control

If you’ve read very much of my goofy little blog, you’ve probably run across the fact that I am something of a conspiracy theorist and strange-twist believer… sometimes referred to as a tinfoil-hat-wearer, or that old uncle you don’t want your kids sitting next to at the Thanksgiving dinner table.  And I’ve got another one for you.  I discovered while obsessing about nostalgia and old ads in the Saturday Evening Post, that the Coca-Cola company is probably  responsible for warping my mind as a child.

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My plan in revealing this hideous conspiracy is to take a look at ads and illustrations that I saw as a kid addicted to reading Saturday Evening Post every week at Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich’s farm.  I will scour them for hidden meanings and try to reveal to you the insidious plot underlying these mind-altering illustrations.  Keep in mind that you should probably take everything I say in this article with a grain of salt.  No, really, salt can protect you from subtle mind-control messages.

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And, yes, I realize that not all the messages are that subtle.  Sometimes they shout at you, “Drink Coke and you will have more sex!”  And you have to remember we are trying to avoid that kind of mind control.  We have to fight every instance of ad companies trying to take control over us by exploiting our baser animal urges.

So, let me take a momentary interlude, a break if you will.  I have this big glass of Diet Coke I just bought at QT, and…

Well, that was good!

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Coca-Cola has been at this for a while.  This ad from the  1940’s is apparently attempting to win World War II through choice of soft drinks.  Look at this feisty brew the soldier is about to quaff.  It is actually struggling in the cup to get out and go bite some German soldier’s face off.  Any American soldier who can choke this stuff down is tough enough to take on the Axis powers, Napoleon after Hitler dug him up and used Frankenstein’s scientific breakthroughs to re-animate him, and even several countries we weren’t actually at war with.  Even Rush Limbaugh and his weird lesbian-farmer-subsidies theory can’t compete with Coke on this level of propaganda wars.

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I also think Coca-Cola ads may have something to do with why I became a Cardinals fan when I lived in a place full of Cubs and Twins fans.  I admit, I added the dialogue and the commentary, but I used to do the same thing in my head when I was eight and the Cardinals went to the World Series… and the Cubs could not win it all even with Ernie Banks on their team.  The Cardinals beat the Yankees in 7 games!

I blame Coca-Cola.  Especially their ad department.  Cause the generic manager is telling the generic Oubs player to “Relax… take it easy.”  But the Cardinals won because Bob Gibson had that laser-intensity stare that bored holes through Mickey Mantle’s bat!  (It is Oubs, not Cubs, by the way.  Look at the big “O” on his jersey.)

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And you can’t tell me that the Coca-Cola ad seen here, the one with the white-haired goblin child casting a spell on you with his crazy eyes and pointing at your dark, delicious master isn’t seriously trying to mess with children’s minds.  There used to be a big five-foot-tall metal sign with this very picture on it in the one and only alley in Meservey, Iowa.  The one time I went to the barber there to get my hair cut I had to sit in that barber chair and stare at this evil thing staring back at me from the alley across the street.  It warped me.  For one thing, I never went back to that barber shop again… at least until I was in college and the sign was gone.

So, I seriously believe Coca-Cola was messing with my mind as a child.  They did it through subversive ad illustrations in Saturday Evening Post Magazine.  And if I’m completely crazy now, I blame them.  You don’t see that kind of thing going on today, do you?  Well, I mean, we should be very worried.  Because it probably means they have gotten better at it.

 

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Filed under autobiography, baseball, baseball fan, commentary, conspiracy theory, foolishness, humor