Category Archives: foolishness

The Real Magic in that Old Home Town

Rowan, Iowa… Not the place I was born, but the place where I got to be a stupid kid, and have the lessons of the good and god-fearing life hammered into my head hard enough to make a dent and make it stay with me for more than half a century. I got to go to grade school there. I learned to read there, especially in Miss Mennenga’s third and fourth grade class. Especially in that old copy of Treasure Island with the N.C, Wyeth illustrations in it, the one Grandma Aldrich kept in the upstairs closet in their farm house. I got to see my first naked girl there. I learned a lot of things about sex from my friends there, and none of them were true. I played 4-H softball there, and made a game-saving catch in center field… in the same game where my cousin Bob hit the game-winning home run. But those were things kids did everywhere. It didn’t make me special. There was no real magic in it.

Being a farm-kid’s kid taught me the importance of doing your chores, every day and on time. If you didn’t do them, animals could get sick, animals could die, crops could be spoiled, the chickens could get angry and petulant and peck your hands when you tried to get the eggs. Cows could get grumpy and kick the milk bucket. Cats could vow revenge if you didn’t direct a spray or two at their little faces as they lined up to watch you milk the cows. And you never knew for sure what a vengeful cat might do to you later, as cats were evil. They might jump on the keyboard during your piano recital. They might knock the turkey stuffing bowl off the top of the dryer when Mom and Grandma and several aunts were cooking Thanksgiving Dinner. And I know old black Midnight did that on purpose because he got to snatch some off the floor before it could be reached by angry aunts with brooms and dustpans. And all of it was your fault if it all led back to not doing your chores, and not doing them exactly right.

But, even though we learned responsibility and work ethic from our chores, that was not the real home-town magic either. I wasn’t technically a real farm kid. Sure, I picked up the eggs in the chicken house at Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich’s farm more than once. And I did, in fact, help with milking machines and even milking cows by hand and squirting cats in the faces at Uncle Donny’s farm. I walked beans, going up and down the rows to pull and chop weeds out of the bean fields at Uncle Larry’s farm. I drove a tractor at Great Uncle Alvin’s farm. But I didn’t have to do any of those things every single day. My mother and my father both grew up on farms. But we lived in town. So, my work ethic was probably worth only a quarter of what the work ethic of any of my friends in school was truly worth. I was a bum kid by comparison. Gary G. and Kevin K, both real farm kids and older than me, explained this to me one day behind the gymnasium with specific examples and fists.

Being a farm kid helped to forge my character. But that was really all about working hard, and nothing really to do with magic.

I truly believe the real magic to be found in Rowan, Iowa, my home town, was the fact that it was boring. It was a sleepy little town, that never had any real event… well, except maybe for a couple of monster blizzards in the 60’s and 70’s, and the Bicentennial parade and tractor pull on Main Street in 1976, and a couple of costume contests in the 1960’s held in the Fire Station where I had really worked hard on the costumes, a scarecrow one year, and an ogre the next, where I almost won a prize. But nothing that changed history or made Rowan the center of everything.

And therein lies the magic. I had to look at everything closely to find the things and strategies that would take me to the great things and places where I wanted to end up. I learned to wish upon a star from Disney movies. I learned about beauty of body and soul from the girls that I grew up with, most of them related. And I invented fantastical stories with the vivid imagination I discovered lurking in my own stupid head. I embarrassed Alicia Stewart by telling everyone that I could prove she was a Martian princess, kidnapped and brought to Earth by space pirates that only I knew how to defeat. And I learned to say funny things and make people laugh… but in ways that didn’t get me sent to the principal’s office in school. Yes, it was the magic of my own imagination. And boring Iowa farm towns made more people with magic in them than just me. John Wayne was one. Johnny Carson was one also. And have you heard of Elijah Wood? Or the painter Grant Wood? Or the actress Cloris Leachman?

Yep. We were such stuff as dreams were made on in small towns in Iowa. And that is real magic.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, dreaming, farm boy, farming, foolishness, goofy thoughts, humor, magic, Paffooney

The Case for the Clown

The criminal was led into the courtroom in chains and forced to sit in a box made of metal bars so his influence would not reach out and harm anyone by drawing their sympathy in.

“Mr. Prosecutor,” said the learned judge, “what terrible crime has the perpetrator been charged with?”

“The alleged perpetrator!” objected the defense attorney, a mousy old man who looked like a cross between Santa Clause and Robert E.Lee because of his white beard, stern face, and a twinkle in his eye.

“Shut up please, Mr. Badweather. You will have your turn to speak.” The judge banged his gavel smartly to emphasize the shut-up-ness of his overruling.

“Your honor,” said the prosecutor, “Mister Pennysnatcher Goodlaughs stands accused of being a clown.”

“The people of the State of Texas, home of the free, land of the brave, and place where cowboys can hang their hat on the antlers of a moose they shot in Canada, will prove that Mr. Goodlaughs did willfully, and with malice of forethought, commit acts of supposed humor in order to make people laugh. And we will further prove that in a time of very serious things, he intentionally made light of very serious matters and the very serious men who try to turn those serious things to their exclusive… err, sorry, I mean… everyone’s benefit.”

“Your honor,” said the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, “I would like to request a new venue for this trial. My client will not get a fair trial here.”

“Sir, your stupid request is rejected on the grounds that Mr. Goodlaughs cannot get a fair trial anywhere. We are all conservatives, and are therefore incapable of having a sense of humor. Continue, Mr. Prosecutor.”

“We will show numerous instances of Mr. Goodlaughs putting paint on his face to hide his true features or assume the identity of a character not his own. He has repeatedly used false noses, large shoes, and floppy hats to exaggerate his flaws and scare young children. He repeatedly wears polka-dotted clothing to simulate terrible taste and ridiculous lack of fashion-sense. He employs pratfalls and slapstick humor in his performances, things that, if any school-age child would imitate the behavior, might lead to serious injury or even death. And he has even dared to make fun of our glorious leaders, implying that they make mistakes and may even have hurt people. That they act without thinking about anything but their own pocketbooks. In other words, this clown has knowingly made jokes in order to get people to not take things seriously.”

“Your honor, I object to this jury. I object to the fact that it is made up of fifty percent rednecks and fifty percent kangaroos! My client demands a new, more impartial jury!” cried the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Captain Kangaroo and Ronald Reagan.

“Has anybody noticed?” asked the judge, “that this attorney looks like he could influence this jury unfairly? He looks like two people who could lead the two halves of this jury to the wrong conclusion. Bailiff! Take the defense attorney out back and execute him by firing squad.”

After the entire courtroom heard the gunshots go off, the judge then turned to the prisoner.

“It seems, Mr. Goodlaughs, that the defense’s opening statement is now entirely up to you. Do you have anything to say in your own defense?

“I do, your honor. Ladies and gentlemen, kangaroos and Reagan Republicans of the jury, I submit to you that I have never actually been a circus clown, or wore face paint. Not that I wouldn’t if the opportunity presented itself. I merely claim the right to laugh at anything I think is funny… or can be made funny. Whether I am being what you call a clown, a humorist, a cartoonist, a comedian, a fool, a village idiot, or a witty fellow, I believe I have the right to make light of anything. Life is always better when you can laugh. Especially if you can laugh at yourself.”

“I’ve heard enough,” said the judge. “What say you, jury?”

“Guilty!”

“Yes. And I preemptively waive the prisoner’s right to appeal. Sir, you are guilty, and you shall be executed immediately.”

Everyone in the courtroom breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief.

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Filed under clowns, comedians, commentary, foolishness, humor, insight, Paffooney, pessimism

Polly Ticks

Politics are complicated. Our economic and quality-of-life issues are basically killing us during this pandemic. And you cannot blame it all on the Simian in Chief. Or even on his Mean Monkey Party (GOP stands for Greedy Old Primates). They get a lot more of the justified blame than they are willing to accept without a lot of monkey howls and poop throwing. But not all the greedy evil people are Monkey Party People. There are definite problems with the black spots on the armor of the white knights we were depending on to slay the dragons.

The problems with Herr Twitler, the Chaos Clown have only gotten worse. We failed to hold him responsible for any of the many crimes he has committed. Impeached, but turning impeachment into peachy pie, Trumpalumpa the Oompaloompa is now able to do anything his manic monkey mind can conjure up for him to use against us. We suffer for the crimes of being poor, or a minority, or an immigrant. No matter what he does to us, he will get away with it, and then take away the whistle-blowers’ whistles and turn all Inspectors General into blind-folded privates.

And if I die from Covid 19, the terrible Trumpinator will not exactly be convicted of murder. But he is directly responsible. After Ebola there was an extensive pandemic playbook and procedures and protocols in place for the next health crisis. But because the Trumptastic Trumpaloo detected Obama-cooties on it, he threw it all away and fired the special task force and pandemic office.

And it is not even fun to make fun of him anymore. Nothing that used to be funny can still create even a wan smile. And how much of this is my fault?

I voted all Democrats in the last election. I have called most of my Republican, Trumpatater-loving friends doody-heads enough to alienate all of them (though admittedly I used a number of big words so that they don’t know what they mean). I have explained the problems with Trumpapalama and his minions like Devos and Barr on social media until I’m blue in the face, and purple on the inside. But none of that gets rid of the pumpkin-headed Cheeto-man.

I even need to get some of these dividers for the family dinner table. I am beginning to prefer lyme-disease ticks over Polly Ticks. I have had way too much of my blood sucked out these last four years.

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Filed under angry rant, cartoon review, cartoons, clowns, foolishness, humor, politics

Stepping Out of My Skin

Who exactly am I?

I know who I wish to be.

And I have a pretty clear idea

Of who I have actually been.

Bur do I have a notion of who I am now?

Have I finally awakened after watching…

The bowling of little green men?

I live inside the heads of characters,

And walk around in their imaginary lives.

I pretend to be someone I don’t want to be.

And then I try to break out again.

But the problems I have

Are not quite my own,

Though once they were

In the long-ago way back when.

I look into mirrors that are shattered,

And see myself twisted and grim.

And I complain about just what I see there,

And the poetry just does not rhyme.

Who am I?

Where am I?

What am I?

How?

Mostly I think

I’m that thing from the circus.

You know the one.

That thing that rhymes with brown.

But mostly also I think,

I am something entirely else.

A writer.

Yes, that’s the one.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, foolishness, humor, Paffooney, poetry, writing, writing humor

Doing Dumb Discipline

Yes, I am writing this post in response to another hard day of substitute teaching. 6th graders! Aaargh!

But the real point of it is that most of the problems I had are due to every teacher’s daily nightmare… discipline management.

This is all that remains of my classroom rules poster from the 1980’s.

Teachers, even substitute teachers, are expected to keep an orderly classroom. But the truth is, no adult human being can make a twelve-to-eighteen-year-old member of the monkey house do anything… or refrain from doing the most harmful thing that occurs to the immature monkey brain.

It is just as Carl Sandburg once suggested in a clever poem. If you tell them not to put beans in their ears, the only thing they will definitely want to do is put beans in their ears.

So, this post is my list of excuse-a-mes for why the classes I taught yesterday all had bean-filled ears.

Excuse number one; 6th graders! Aaargh! Yes, I had four classes to teach, and three of them were made up solely of 6th graders. They are the squirrel monkeys of the middle-school monkey house. Unable to sit still and be quiet on their best days, they were super-stirred and hormone-activated. It is, after all, February, a week before Valentine’s Day, the hormonal-monkey holiday. It was a writing class and they had a writing assignment that they are supposed to be working on for the next week. And the generally accepted rule among monkeys; Do no work for substitute teachers, no matter their educational backgrounds in English and writing.

Excuse number B; To maintain discipline you have to know the kids. Here’s the most pernicious problem that substitute teachers are saddled with. I had never seen over ninety-five percent of these squirrel monkeys before… not in their natural habitat… not even in cages at the zoo. Boy, do the nerd-like teacher-pleasers who are actually classroom comedians and attack-monkeys in disguise really mount up in that particular saddle and ride you for the rest of the monkey-rodeo you thought was going to be a writing class.

Excuse-a-me Three; There are too many monkeys in the monkey house. Especially the Avid class of 30 super-heated seventh and eighth grade warm bodies that I had to teach as a bonus-penalty for being a “good” substitute. AVID is a special program for troubled and at-risk kids where you put them together with a good teacher and treat them like gifted students and set their lovely little monkey-feet on a path to college. Except, this under-funded special program that works spectacularly well in some schools, is basically misused and abused across Texas where practically all kids who are not white or not wealthy are at-risk for one reason or another. I got to walk into a classroom cold with these thirty high-risk monkeys because no other sub had signed up for this particular nightmare job. No lesson plans were available. No attendance sheets were ready. And it was a science lab, so the room was filled with kids who had helped themselves to rulers and yardsticks with which they were conducting sword-fights. The teacher next door who was giving a test found for me a stack of worksheets to give out. I located a class list to use for attendance. And then I proceeded to put them into seats with work to do and threatened several lives and put one overly-aggressive girl in temporary time-out and denied restroom privileges to scores of kids who probably weren’t going to actually explode into showers of pee. And I didn’t keep them quiet, but when the bell finally rang 50 hour-long minutes later, no one had died a horrible death. And they all had their clothes still on. And it appeared that the structural integrity of the classroom was still sound enough for one more class period. And I, of course, had to quickly rush back to the 6th graders for the worst class of the day.

Excuse-a-me Finale; The sub in the room next door was more incompetent than I was on this particular day. That isn’t really an excuse for my poor showing, but it at least made me feel sorry for someone besides myself. Some of his students came to me as their next official class, already charged up for a super-fun murder-the-sub day. Some of the students who came to me had to go to him for their next period and tried to stay in my room instead. Some of his students went for extended tours of the parts of the campus where they knew no assistant principal or security guard would be. There were fights in that class. They were banging on the the walls. They were noisier than my classes. The poor young guy had none of the substitute survival skills that I had, and I was too pressed to help him at all. But he was young and healthy. He had apparently been there for a couple of weeks as he was doing a long-term job for a history teacher who was having a baby. So, he will soon learn that he does not want to become a Texas public school teacher in his future.

So, as a disciplinarian, I was really dumb for a day. I do know how to handle these things correctly, and I will make future posts about the How-to-s of that. But for today, it is enough to say that I survived to teach another day.

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Filed under aliens, foolishness, humor, kids, monsters, Paffooney, teaching

Friday Foolishness II (It Is a Great Time to be a Republican)

Image from teeshirtpalace.com

We got control of da Gubba-mint, Wuss…

To get anyting ya gotta go tru us.

Don Don Trumpatini is now in charge,

And only he can say what tings is large.

Da judges is all appointed by da Don.

So what’s legal is up ta him.

Don Don Trumpatini, I mean,

Can kill ya on any ol’ whim.

If youse sez he can’t do jest any old ting,

And get away wit it under the law,

Then ol’ Capo Bill Barr will bring on de dogs,

And dey will be eating ya raw.

picture courtesy of the Daily Beast

And don’t tink of not payin’ yer taxes,

Like all of da rich people do,

Cuz they has da money fer axes,

And can chop up especially you.

“De Dems tink dat dey can remove me,” says Don.

“Jes cuz I’ve committed some crimes.

“But as Prexy, I’ve made de crimes legal.

“So, Stoopid, youse get wit da times.”

imgur.com

And Moscow Mitch has his big ol’ back-side,

And Kanye is in his dark corner.

So dat leaves yas with no place to hide.

Cuz Hells’ gettin’ whole lots o’ warmer.

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Filed under angry rant, foolishness, humor, pessimism, poem, politics, satire

Friday Foolishness

Moose Bowling

I went moose-bowling the other day with my good friend Doofy Fuddbugg. We don’t do this often, as the moose-bowling lanes are rarely open. (There is a distinct shortage of Bullwinkles willing to grab their ankles with their gloved hands, make themselves into a ball, and then be thrown down bowling lanes by human goofballs who’ve exercised their moose-muscles to the point that they can actually throw a moose. And, of course, as antlers often get tangled up in the moose-ball return, the moose-bowling lanes can rarely stay up and running for a whole evening.)

Doofy, as he put on his bowling shoes, was enlightening me with his philosophy of dating.

“You has ta pick an ugly girl, because ugly girls will appreciate ya more since they can’t get nobody better than you,” Doofy says with a smug smirk on his smiley old puss.

“I have seen this philosophy at work,” I confessed. “I have seen your girlfriend, Green Lillian. She is four-foot-two with a bright green complexion and completely bald. But does it not bother you that her house is made of gingerbread and candy canes, and she eats small children for lunch?”

Doofy Fuddbugg

“Gingerbread-fed brats can be quite tasty with lots of catsup. “

“Don’t you mean ketchup?”

“Naw, Green Lillian makes her condy-mint out of the fur of black cats which she clips off them when they is upset and the fur on ’em is all standing uppity up on their backs.”

“Oh.”

Doofy rolled the first Bullwinkle for a strike. Of course, if you can get the moose to roll all the way to the pins, it is almost always a strike because of the antlers sticking out on either side.

Then the discussion turned to politics as my first Bullwinkle rolled right into the left gutter, then just sat there scratching his moose head and chewing on a daisy he pulled off the flower-patterned wallpaper in the restroom.

“Iddennit great we has a wunnerful prexydent in the White House to do rotten stuff to all the peoples we hates?” Doofy said stupidly.

“I really don’t hate anybody, Doofy. But the current president comes close. Why do you love him now? What terrible thing has he done?”

“He done kilt an Iranian towel-head general in the Iraqi airport. Done kilt him with a drone.”

“Yeah, I heard about it. The Great Orange Face may have started another war in the Middle East in order to get us to look away from the Impeachment trial.”

Doofy bowled another Bullwinkle for a strike.

“I dun’t know why ya allus has ta talk down about the prexydunt, Mickey. He’s a good ol’ boy. And why does ya allus wanna im-peach him fer? He’s a purty peachy guy already. Ya dun’t need to put him IN a peach. Ya oughtta be X-peaching him!”

“Yeah, let’s not talk about him anymore,” I moaned as I rolled a Bullwinkle into the right gutter.

“Eeyup, I win der arguey-mint again cause I jes’ keep repeatin’ the facts until yer pointy liberal head is done ready to explode.”

“Whatever you say, Doof. You can’t argue logic like that because it simply doesn’t exist. How can you argue what doesn’t exist?”

Doofy laughed and laughed as he rolled another moose-bowling strike on his way to a 300 game. 300 to 0. God, I hate moose-bowling.


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Filed under cartoons, foolishness, humor, Paffooney, satire

Cries of the Writing Addict

For the last five and a half years I have been averaging more than 500 words every day. A rough conservative estimate of that means 17,112,000 words. If words were cocaine, I’d be dead five times over by now.

But writing is not the same as cocaine. The addiction to it has very different effects. I divide my daily writing into at least two parts. The daily blog is itself, more often than not, 500-plus words. So, by itself it can satisfy my daily word-count. And I devote at least 500 words every day to my novel work in progress. So, that means I have produced well over 17 million words in reality. Probably closer to 34 million than to 17. That, of course, is far less than Stephen King wrote in the same period of time, but it is also far more than the average person writes.

And one thing that such an overdose of verbiage does to a writer, is to make him or her a better writer.

I have produced nine novels, between 35,000 and 50,000 words each, in the time since I retired from teaching and began writing and self-publishing in earnest. I have gotten only five-star reviews on the novels that have been read and reviewed. Granted, nobody who read and hated my books hated them passionately enough to leave a scathing review, so the 5-star average is just due to laziness on the part of the reading public. But it is marginally evidence that my storytelling is good.

Another effect I have experienced from my writing addiction is that it has made me increasingly metaphorically naked. My illustrations for this post reveal a little bit of that. It is not only that I like to write in the nude when I can, but that I have used my stories to grapple with everything that was once a deep, dark secret buried in the depths of me. Being sexually assaulted as a child was something that for many years I could never admit even to myself. Struggles with loneliness, depression, and self-hatred are also something I had kept buried until I needed them to tell stories with.

I finally worked up the courage to send a gift copy of Snow Babies to the girl I grew up with whose name I used for the main character, Valerie Clarke. Valerie loved the book and became an advocate for me with both the Belmond and Rowan libraries. I even admitted that the part about Valerie being the most beautiful girl ever born in Norwall, Iowa came from something the boys in our 5th and 6th grade classes at school all said about her. She told me she never knew we had said that back then. Ah, but that was probably an untruth too.

As addictions go, my addiction to fiction is probably a lot better thing to have than addictions to gambling, cocaine, wife-beating, or gummy bears. But it hasn’t made me any richer or healthier either. It has made me older, and possibly a little bit wiser.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, being alone, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, writing, writing humor

Tarzan and the Timeless Valley of Nostalgia

There was a time when Tarzan was one of the ruling heroes of my boyhood fantasies of power and self-fulfillment. And, while Tarzan was a cartoon show on Saturday morning, comics by Burne Hogarth, movies in the theater in color with Mike Henry, or a weekly series on TV with Ron Ely, he was always Johnny Weissmuller to me. Weissmuller who played both Tarzan and Jungle Jim in the Saturday afternoon black-and-white movies.

I have to admit, I didn’t identify with the character of Tarzan as much as I thought of myself like the character “Boy”, played by Johnny Sheffield in movies like “Tarzan Finds a Son”. It was a significant part of my boyhood to imagine myself being like Boy, free from practically all restraints, able to gad about the dangerous jungle nearly naked with monkey pals and no fear. If I got into trouble by believing my skills were greater than they really were, I would save myself with ingenuity, and, barring that, Tarzan would rescue me. And, believe it or not, sometimes there were fixes that Tarzan got into that he needed me and Cheetah to be creative and get him out of. I knew in my heart that one day real life would be like that, especially once I grew into Tarzan and stopped being just Boy. That idea was in my head so loudly that several times I went to Bingham Park Woods, stripped down, and played Boy in the Jungle.

As in the previous essay about Heroes of Yesteryear, I learned important things from Johnny Weissmuller on Saturday TV. He taught me that all you really needed, even in the darkest jungles of Africa, was confidence and courage. You could stand up to any deadly danger without the protection of any armor, practically naked, in fact, if only you had that heroic goodness of heart. The little boy I was then still believes that whole-heartedly even in the aging body of an old man.

So, Tarzan continues to live in my memory, a part of me, an essential part of my education. He is me and I am he. But only in my mind. Me in a loincloth, swinging on a vine now… and probably going splat like an overripe melon on the jungle floor… well, that is too ridiculous to even imagine being real anymore. Yet he lives on in me. And he battles the metaphorical leopard-people of modern life through me. Unarmored. Confident. And unafraid.

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Filed under autobiography, comic book heroes, foolishness, heroes, humor, movie review, old books, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature

Chicken-like Spaceships and Other Fantasy Sillyart

Ninja Chickens doing Chicken-Dance-Fu

These don’t actually qualify as Paffooneys because there is no story to go with them today. Just Mickey doing ridiculous pictures again .

Brekka the girl Telleron and her Man-Eating Plant

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