Category Archives: commentary

Doing Nothing

Yes, the retaining wall is leaning over the sidewalk and needs repair.

Being retired is a total pain in the Biblical word for donkey. I thought I would be challenged with nothing to do and probably die from lack of challenge as so many do who find their identity in their profession. I was a public school teacher. I loved being a public school teacher. I lived for the challenge of working with kids, especially trying to teach them to write well. And then my health began to betray me, and I was forced to retire.

In this country, loss of a job that defines who you are makes you basically worthless. Republicans will tell you that you go from being a “maker” into being a “taker”, and takers are basically parasites.

The wall began separating from the turf as it leaned, so we had to dig a trench to begin taking down the bricks one by one and re-staking them.

So, now I am a parasite, a blight on society, a “taker”. Decent hard-working people shouldn’t have to put up with a burden on society like me.

“If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat,” they self-righteously tell me.

“So, if I’m too ill to stand in front of a class all day, I should starve to death?”

“No, of course not! Don’t dramatize! You just need to do something else.”

Not having the money to buy expensive equipment, I had to improvise and do it myself.

So, I haven’t just sat back and enjoyed my pension which I worked 31 years to get. I have done things. I rebuilt the siding on the back wall of the house. I repaired all the cracks in the pool twice (once getting it back into shape for swimming, and then fixed only to be forced by the city to remove the pool because I couldn’t spend $9,000+ to bring the 1970 electrical system up to code.) I am now re-setting the bricks in the retaining wall.

I also took up driving for Uber to earn extra money. I needed extra money because hospitalizations cost me so much money I had to take out a bankruptcy which I will be paying off for the next five years while supervised by a State-appointed executor. And then a lovely Texas motorist bashed my car in the driver’s-side door costing me car-repair money (because insurance can’t be expected to pay everything) and leaving me unable to get well enough to return to driving for at least five months (up to the present day).

Doing masonry work takes some organization and some heavy lifting.

I have at no point had money enough to go on vacations or do the recreational activities that other retired seniors get to do (at least the rich white ones with lots of investment money and property). I haven’t been well enough even to be a substitute teacher (which I loved doing back in 2006-2007 when I was well enough and between teaching jobs). So what can I do with all my “free time”? Besides deal with aches and illness without the medicine I can’t afford, I mean?

Work has run into winter time when things get rather cold and wet.

Well, I did start out in life with a passion for writing and drawing. I am living proof you can’t even make pocket change for indulging those passions unless you’re as lucky as former teacher Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. But I have the time and the incurable obsession.

We began flattening out the foundation row of bricks just as winter rains began to perpetually fill the trench with water.

I began the most creative and productive period of my life by writing eight YA novels. I have two more well into the writing of the first draft. I also re-started work on my graphic novel which takes lots of time when you have arthritic hands to draw with. And I have been blogging practically every day.

So, since I retired I have basically been doing nothing. Well, nothing for the greater good and advancing the fortunes of mankind as a whole as my Republican friends who criticize me for being a “taker” on the dole apparently do with their retirements.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, battling depression, being alone, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, new projects, novel writing, photo paffoonies

The Art of Being Mickey

I have published my eighth novel in the last six years. Sure, it is through mostly self-publishing of novels that no one but me has ever read. Catch a Falling Star and Snow Babies both had a professional editor, one who had worked for Harcourt and one who worked for PDMI. Magical Miss Morgan has had a proofreader who made numerous stupid-mistake errors that I had to change back to the original meticulously by hand. But all three of those novels won an award or were finalists in a young adult novel contest. I do have reason to believe I am a competent writer and better even then some who have achieved commercial success.

But what is the real reason that I am so intent on producing the maximum amount of creative work possible in this decade? Well, to be coldly objective, I am a diabetic who cannot currently afford insulin. I have been betrayed by the for-profit healthcare system that treats me as a source of unending profit. I am like a laying hen in the chicken house, giving my eggs of effort away to a farmer who means to eat my very children if time and circumstance allows. I am the victim of six incurable diseases and conditions that I got most likely as a result of exposure to toxic farm chemicals in the early 70’s. I am also a cancer survivor from a malignant melanoma in 1983, and for three years now I have not been able to get the preventative cancer tests I am supposed to be receiving every year for the rest of my life. My prostate could very well be cancerous as I write this. If that is so, it will kill me unawares, because I don’t even want to know about having a disease I can’t possibly afford to fight all over again.’

So, the basic reason I am going through the most productive and creative period of my entire life is because I have a great rage to create before I die and I could be dying as soon as tonight. All of the countless stories in my head clamoring to be written down before it is too late cry out to me desperately for my immediate attention.

I will, then, continue to write stories and draw cartoons and other Paffoonies for as long as I am still able, and possibly even afterward. I have, after all, threatened repeatedly to become a ghostwriter after I die. And, yes, I understand when you scream at my essay that that is not what a ghostwriter is. But if a woman can channel the ghost of Franz Schubert and finish his unfinished symphony…(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Brown_(spiritualist))

—then I should also be able to tell my stories from beyond the grave. I have been percolating them in my head and writing and drawing them in whole or in part since 1974. I have too much time and too many daydreams wrapped up in them to let it all just evaporate into the ether. In summation, I am claiming stupidly that my novels, crack-brained and wacky as they are, are somehow destined to exist, either because of me or in spite of me. So just be happy that I write what I write, for there is an art to being Mickey, and I am the one artist and writer who is the best Mickey possible if truly there ever was a real Mickey.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, goofy thoughts, humor, novel writing, Paffooney

I Hope You Dance…

When you walk to the front of the classroom and take up the big pencil in front of a group of young teens and twelve-year-olds, there is a strong pressure to learn how to sing and dance. That, of course, is a metaphor. I was always too arthritic and clunky in my movements to literally dance. But I looked out over a sea of bored and malevolence-filled eyes, slack and sometimes drooling mouths attached to hormone-fueled and creatively evil minds. And I was being paid to put ideas in their heads. Specifically boring and difficult ideas that none of them really wanted in their own personal heads. So I felt the need to learn to dance, to teach in ways that were engaging like good dance tunes, and entertaining in ways that made them want to take action, to metaphorically get up and dance along with me.

I wanted them to enjoy learning the way I did.

But the music of the teacher is not always compatible with the dance style of the individual learner. The secret behind that is, there is absolutely no way to prompt them to dance along with you until you learn about the music already playing in their stupid little heads. (And you can’t, of course ever use the word “stupid” out loud, no matter how funny or true the word is,) You have to get to know a kid before you can teach them anything.

The discordant melodies and bizarre tunes you encounter when you talk to them is like dancing in a minefield blindfolded. Some don’t have enough to eat at home and have to survive off of the nutrition-less food they get in the school cafeteria’s free-and-reduced lunch program. Some of them have never heard a single positive thing from the adults at home, enduring only endless criticism, insults, and sometimes fists. Some of them fall in love you. Some due to hormones. Some due to the fact that you treat them like a real human being. Some because they just stupidly assume that everyone dances to the same tunes they hear in their own personal head.

Some of them automatically hate you because they know that if you hear their own secret music in their own self-loathing heads, you will never accept it. They hate you because you are a teacher and teachers always hate them. Some of them, deep down, are as loathsome as they think they are.

But, if you find the right music, you can get any of them, even all of them, to dance. It might be hard to find. It might be a nearly impossible task to learn to play that music once you find it. But it can be done.

And if you get them to dance to your music, to dance along with you, I can’t think of anything more rewarding, anything more life-fulfilling. Have you ever tried it for yourself? If you are not a teacher, how about with your own children or the children related to you? Everybody should learn to dance this dance I am talking about in metaphors. At least once in your life. It is addictive. You will want to dance more. So the next time the music starts and you get the chance… I hope you’ll dance!

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Filed under commentary, education, kids, metaphor, Paffooney, teaching

Winsor McCay

One work of comic strip art stands alone as having earned the artist, Winsor McCay, a full-fledged exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Little Nemo in Slumberland is a one-of-a-kind achievement in fantasy art.

Winsor McCay lived from his birth in Michigan in 1869 to his finale in Brooklyn in 1934.  In that time he created volumes full of his fine-art pages of full-page color newspaper cartoons, most in the four-color process.  

The New Year’s page 1909

As a boy, he pursued art from very early on, before he was twenty creating paintings turned into advertising and circus posters.  He spent his early manhood doing amazingly detailed half-page political cartoons built around the editorials of Arthur Brisbane,  He then became a staff artist for the Cincinnati Times Star Newspaper, illustrating fires, accidents, meetings, and notable events.  He worked in the newspaper business with American artists like Winslow Homer and Frederick Remington who also developed their art skills through newspaper illustration.  He moved into newspaper comics with numerous series strips that included Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend and Little Nemo in Slumberland.  And he followed that massive amount of work up by becoming the “Father of the Animated Cartoon” with Gertie the Dinosaur, with whom he toured the US giving public performances as illustrated in the silent film below; 

The truly amazing thing about his great volume of work was the intricate detail of every single panel and page.  It represents a fantastic amount of work hours poured into the creation of art with an intense love of drawing.  You can see in the many pages of Little Nemo how great he was as a draftsman, doing architectural renderings that rivaled any gifted architect.  His fantasy artwork rendered the totally unbelievable and the creatively absurd in ways that made them completely believable.

I bought my copy of Nostalgia Press’s Little Nemo collection in the middle 70’s and have studied it more than the Bible in the intervening years.  Winsor McCay taught me many art tricks and design flourishes that I still copy and steal to this very day.

No amount of negative criticism could ever change my faith in the talents of McCay.  But since I have never seen a harsh word written against him, I have to think that problem will never come up.

My only regret is that the wonders of Winsor McCay, being over a hundred years old, will not be appreciated by a more modern generation to whom these glorious cartoon artworks are not generally available. 

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Filed under art my Grandpa loved, artists I admire, artwork, book review, cartoon review, cartoons, comic strips, commentary

Dump the Trumpy Grump

This is the best Trump cartoon I have done of him so far, so I will use it multiple times.

The current President of the United States initially seemed to me to be a gift from the gods of comedy.  I figured it would be easy to make humorous blog posts about a clown who wears orange face paint, wears super-long red ties, and is more cartoonish behavior-wise than Yogi Bear.

But the Grumpy Trump leadership style is more depressing than even that of Rodeo Clown in Chief, George W. Bush, though Trump has managed to be accused of fewer war crimes by international tribunals.  He is so relentlessly inhuman in his every deed that you can’t use exaggeration humor against him.  The reality is too far over the top for that.  And you can’t rely on insult humor, because he does it so much more often himself than any comedian can,  and he really MEANS it.  He doesn’t tell or comprehend jokes unless it makes a good excuse to claim he was only joking.

One of the things he does that bothers me the most is the use of criminals in his cabinet and departments that do all the dirty work.

Sleepy McBoing-Boing, the HUD secretary seems to be in his job to screw things up for poor people who were barely hanging on and turn them into homeless people while he commits crimes to put an expensive dining table in the HUD office for his personal use.  “Let ’em eat cake,” right, Ben?

Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, heads of the EPA and Department of the Interior are so busy spending Federal budget monies on personal uses that their departments are falling apart, and so the air we breath and the water we drink are now more at risk than they were under Obama, where it was a very real crisis having very real effects.

I think I am through posting criticisms about Trump.  Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers do so much better at skewering the pumpkinhead than I ever could, so look to them for actual political humor of the thoughtful kind.

The only thing I want from Trump now… Now that his tax cut has cost me extra money and his healthcare meddling has made the price of insulin out of my reach… Is for the whole thing to end.  He won’t resign.  You can’t expect Ebola Fever or brain tumors will go away on their own.  But it is so obvious that he has committed impeachable crimes that, for the good of us all, the Congress needs to get rid of him.  The Dark Lord with White Hair, Mike Pence, though deeply evil, would be better.

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Filed under angry rant, cartoons, commentary, humor, lying, Paffooney, politics

Ginger Ale


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Long about the middle of October every year I have to partake of the miracle that is Ginger Ale during pollen season.  And believe me, in Texas, pollen season lasts until the parched grass and dry air sets in again during the droughts of middle July through September.  Sometimes in a wet year (which used to be rarer than now) the tree pollen, mold spores, mountain cedar, and ragweed fill the air year around.  Ginger in any form is a god-sent cure-all for ailments of the lungs, ears, nose, and throat.  It reduces inflammation, dilutes mucus, and helps you restore the breath of life.  I have developed a real taste for ginger products of all sorts as a result of the medicinal boost it gives me every year.  It explains my addiction to gingerbread.  Also why I often put ginger root in a pot on the stove filled with boiling water and then inhale the fumes.  I love Ginger Ale because it makes me feel good.

Simon’s Cat on YouTube is another kind of Ginger Ale for me.  Admittedly it is a mental sort of medicine, not a drink or a cookie or a steam inhaler.  But watching those simple black and white cartoon antics that are so realistically catlike makes me laugh and increases serotonin in the brain, and it provides a very real depression medicine.

Now, I know full well that I am connecting two very unlike things and calling them both Ginger Ale on the mere passing similarity of the medicinal benefits.  But life is far more metaphorical than it is literal.  And that is why I continue to maintain that poets live better lives than the rest of us even if they die young for love of beauty.  And it is better to be a cartoon cat than a literal king.

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Filed under artists I admire, battling depression, cartoon review, commentary, goofy thoughts, healing, health, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Secret Life of Clowns

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The clowns of Sing Sad Songs; Mr. Dickens, Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Disney, and Mr. Poe

The truth is, clowns are rarely happy people under the greasepaint and the manic grin.  An underlying feature of every funnyman is a background of hardship, suffering, and sadness.  There is a reason why Robin Williams committed suicide and Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose.  If you listen to the comedy of George Carlin in his last few years, he became a horribly bitter and cynical man.

The reason for all this wearing of clown masks and underlying sadness is really based on a very simple equation.   Living a hard life, but dealing with it with the power a sense of humor gives you, yields wisdom.  And how do you best deliver wisdom to all the people out there?  A sugar-coated candy shell is just the thing.  A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine to go down, to plagiarize Mary Poppins.  Say your wise words like a wise guy and say it with a smile.

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So why am I so clown-happy and therefore clown-posty today?  Well, I have used clowns in a very metaphorical way in the novel I am now finishing, Sing Sad Songs.  Clowns are definitely on my mind.  And I have a sneaking suspicion creeping up on me that maybe… just maybe… I am myself a clown.

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Filed under clowns, comedians, commentary, humor, irony, Paffooney