Category Archives: goofy thoughts

The Care and Feeding of a REALLY BIG DOG

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My neighbor, Wendy Wackyname, is the owner of a really big dog.  I asked her how she managed a dog that was bigger than a moose and weighed more than an elephant.

“You have to be able to solve problems you never thought you could have,” she said.

“Problems like what?” I stupidly asked.

“Well, a dog that big not only chases cars, he often catches the littler ones like yours.  It became a real problem when he finished chewing on them and wanted to bury them in the back yard.  When we lived in Oklahoma, our back yard just wasn’t big enough, and the local police kept wondering about what might be buried there.  I guess they had a lot of missing persons cases.”

“Oh, that does sound bad.”

“Yeah, but moving here solved that problem.  We now live next to this nice big park with lots of room for a dog to bury stuff.”

“So he isn’t cured of chasing cars?” I asked nervously.

“No.  But that isn’t the worst problem.  Feeding him is really expensive.  We have to buy a truckload of dog food every week.  That problem has gotten worse since we left Oklahoma.  There used to be a cattle ranch nearby.  At least until the last of their stock mysteriously disappeared.”

I decided I should probably change the subject a bit.

“How do you walk a dog that big?”  I asked.

“Oh, I don’t.  I climb up on his neck and hang on to the collar as hard as I can, and we go for a run.  We ended up in Waxahachie, Texas last week.”

“Does your mother ever let the dog in the house?”

“Oh, no.  Foozy is an outside dog.  If he wags his tail indoors, he breaks all the furniture in the room.  Besides, the doors in this new house aren’t big enough for him to fit through.”

“Wendy, did you ever read those kids’ books about Clifford the Big Red Dog?”

“Oh, sure.  But life with Foozy is nothing like that.  Giant dogs are a much harder pet to take care of than people think.”

I remembered then how my little dog somehow managed to make five poops a day.  Did Foozy do that too?  And how did poor little Wendy go about bagging it and depositing it in the trash?  I finally decided I didn’t want to know.

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Catching Up on Movie Masterpieces

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What do you do after a long, hard journey home when your arthritis is making you house-bound and bad weather is making it worse?  Well there is the miracle of Amazon and Netflix and the movies that you desperately wanted to see, but didn’t make it to the theater for.  One such movie is… um…  What was the name of that movie that all my radically Christian friends said we couldn’t see because of the gay character?  Well, it wasn’t the movie I’m talking about first.  If there is gayness there, it is so intrinsic a part of the story and so artfully slipped in that you really have to intend to be offended to actually be offended by it.    This movie was simply an amazingly beautiful live-action adaptation of an animated classic that morphed into a hit Broadway musical and then morphed back into a movie.  It was brilliant on so many levels.

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The cast is so completely unexpected, yet so completely perfect.  Obi-wan Kenobi plays the Candlestick.  The snowman from Frozen plays the toady character, Le Fou.  Nanny McPhee plays the talking tea pot.  Gandalf plays the clock.  And who knew that Hermoine could sing so well?

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I loved it for so many reasons that I can’t begin to name them all in only 500 words.

And I had more than one movie I simply had to see.

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Moana is an engagingly bright archetypal experience full of bold color and comic relief and breath-taking artistry.  The heroine is a step forward not just for Disney, but for Hollywood as a whole.  The songs are energetic and soul-lifting.  The magic is truly magical.  Both literally and figuratively.

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If I ever have a chance to see this movie in a theater, I will leap at the chance.  Of course, I have arthritis and will probably break my leg.

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And I am watching these things on my parents’ TV.  So I felt compelled to throw in an old favorite as well.

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Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, and Van Johnson have been dead and gone for a long time now.  Yet this sensitive and beautifully crafted comedy is still as alive as it was in 1968 when it premiered.  I laugh harder now at it than I did when I was twelve, because I was looking at it from the other side of the divide back then.  Rediscovering the charm of old movies is one of the great joys available to the old.

So, my vacation time is definitely not wasted even though I can’t get out much and do much.  Time spent watching good movies with family is a very good thing.  It allows me to catch up on some of the new lights that illuminate the whole of culture.

 

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The Cottonwood on the Corner

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The old cottonwood tree on the Aldrich farm corner has been there for as long as I can remember.  It was there when I was a small boy visiting Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.  It is still there 55 years later as I visit Mom and Dad who are still living on the farm.  A lot has changed.  Time has passed.  It is a different decade, a different century, a different millennium.

The old tree is like an anchor in time.  I can come home and look at it and be taken back in time.  I know that tree.  And he knows me.

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That isn’t true of all of the trees on the farm.

 

 

 

 

This pine by the house is tree who is younger than me.  I can remember when it was planted.  It was not so very many years ago.

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This gnarled old tree in the grove may be about the same age as I am.  I remember it when both it and I were small and we played together in the grove.  I was Tarzan, Jungle Jim, and the Lone Ranger.  It was the post I leaned on in my secret lookout post.  Back then my hand went most of the way around the trunk.

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It is good to come home to a place where you know the trees personally.  You can revisit old haunts, see old friends and acquaintances, and walk along gravel roads in a place where there is little traffic and no smog.

So I came back to Iowa to visit a tree.  Well, the farm place and aging parents too.

 

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Why Do You Think That? Part 3

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A taxonomy of different living beasts in our world is an important thing to keep up with.  Because they are constantly evolving, due to processes of evolution (Stop hitting me with that old family Bible, Reverend Winchuck!  It is still legal, for now, to say that word), you have to constantly change and refine your understanding of beasts and their relationships to one another.  So here I am trying talk about “Why liberals and conservatives are completely different species!”

When I look at a group of people, a crowd, a… what do you call a flock of people?  An idiocy perhaps?  They all look the same to me.  To tell which species they are, I have to hear them talk.  So I selected a couple of notable interviewees to explain what the differences really are.

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Bull Blindersly, head of the Bullish for Trump and Trumpkins Committee

The conservative I will use to represent conservatives is Bull Blindersly, who I noticed briefly had a Make America Great Again red hat on until the wind took it off his flat head.  I’ll let him tell you the difference in his own words.

“It’s easy to spot a libtard.  They have pointy little nerd heads full of stupid ideas based on statistics and encyclopedia facts and other such brainiac junk that clogs up your head.  They don’t have the common sense they were born with because they spend all their time reading and thinking and other stuff that just gets in the way.  There is a simple solution for everything in life.  The economy is healthy and grows if you give tax breaks to rich folks and job creators.  They will spend that money they have earned to improve things for everyone.  You don’t fix problems by dancing around giving away my hard-earned tax dollars to folks who don’t work hard enough.  Those people are just tempted to become blood-sucking parasites for life when you do that.  We need to build a wall around Animal Town to keep more of those kinds of people out.”

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                                                                                                                                                                  Phillip “Flip” Moosewinkle. ACLU lawyer and Dal Mation, independent media journalist

I talked to Flip Moosewinkle and his friend Dal Mation because they were protesting in front of city hall with “Not My President!” signs and other signs that indicated they were liberals because everything was spelled and punctuated correctly.

Flip; “I think conservatives talk without thinking first most of the time.”

Dal; “You have to be careful about making blanket statements like that, though.  It is not backed up by any studies I can find with Google on my i-phone.  And we want to be fair and considerate when making statements about our opponents.”

Flip; “Yes, that’s quite correct.  But a shoot-from-the-hip style of discourse is still common among those we argue politics with.  They’ll accuse us of trying to take away their rights to own guns and won’t even listen when we try to shift the conversation towards gun safety and responsible ownership.  They mostly agree with our positions when it comes right down to it, but they rarely listen to our point of view.  They would rather call us names and chant slogans.”

Dal; “True, but you have to admit they do tend to win arguments that way in public forums.  Maybe we should try some of their tactics, and try to be more forceful in making our case the way they are.”

Flip;  “Do you really want to sink to their level?  Then we’d be no better than they are.”

Dal;  “But isn’t that the point we are trying to make?  Aren’t we all the same and no one is better than anyone else?  Aren’t we trying to be fair and loving to all?”

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Doofy Fuddbugg here is an example of what a “Nolt” is.

Of course, it is at this point in the consideration of the topic that I reach the inevitable conclusion that I am dealing with two different categories of animal here.  One side is patently unfair, and the other is marginalized and ineffectual.  One side is often predatory, while the other is routinely prey.

What do I do about it?  The conservative side has purged themselves of all compromisers, liberal-leaners, and RINO’s (Republican In Name Only, not rhinoceroses).  The liberal side never wins.  (Yes, I know Obama was president, but look how easily he was erased from the public conversation when his term ended.)  There is no place for moderates any more.  To be moderate is to be isolated and headed for species extinction.    So I am a liberal now, hoping the side that is in power at the moment won’t pass a law against my continued existence.  And trying exceptionally hard to fit in with other members of my same species.

 

 

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Novel Ways to Make a Portrait

As both an artist and a writer I portray people I have known. I can also say that I have portrayed people I love, but that is rather redundantly repetitive because I basically love all people, even the really nasty ones who hate me in return.  It’s a teacher thing.  But portraits as a writer/artist/cartoonist/fool is not a straightforward thing.  Let me start by unpacking my portraits of the Cobble Sisters.  Sherry and Shelly Cobble are twin sisters.  They are in several of my YA novels about the little town in rural Iowa where I grew up.

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They are nudists.  That means their family believes there are health benefits to not wearing any clothes when they are at home or spending private time with the rest of their family and friends.  I can claim that they are based on real people, because they are, but that takes considerable explaining.

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                                                                                                                                                                             Sherry Cobble

I have a pair of identical twin cousins who I grew up with and learned about the unique things twin share from them.  But the Cobble Sisters are not a direct portrait of them.  They are not nudists.  And they would probably beat me to a pulp if I dared to insist that they were.

The nudist/naturists I once knew and lived near were in Iowa City where I went to grad school (and where I found the original model for the picture), and in Austin, Texas where my girlfriend’s sister was living in a clothing-optional apartment complex.  My parents lived in an Austin suburb and when my girlfriend and I visited the area in the 80’s, I stayed at my parents’ home and she stayed at the crazy communal resort for naked people where her sister lived.  This situation provided the background for the embarrassment humor in my novel Superchicken.   That’s the story that includes an episode where the main character is tricked into going to a nudist camp as a guest with the Cobble family.  Poor Superchicken didn’t realize until he got there that it was a place where you have to take off all your clothes to blend in.

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Which leads quite naturally into the second portrait I want to talk about.  Edward-Andrew Campbell is called “the Superchicken” by his friends in Norwall, Iowa.  That nickname is actually my nickname from high school.  It comes from part of the George of the Jungle Saturday morning cartoon show by Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle’s creator).

The nickname was hung on me by a girl I had a huge crush on from grade school through junior high.  Superchicken in the cartoon show was this mild-mannered chicken who could gain super powers by drinking super sauce and then fight crime.  She obviously thought I was full of hidden talents just like him.

So Superchicken is a me character.

But the picture is not me drawing myself as a boy.  It is modeled on my young second cousin who was my little buddy for the last two years of high school and during my first couple of years in college.  The portrait in the novel, however, is part me and part a student from my early years as a teacher.  The Anita Jones portrait is drawn from a Sears catalog model, while the real girl was the most popular girl in my grade at school,  I wasn’t the only boy hopelessly in love with her.

Finally, since I am well over the word-count target already, I want to talk about the portrait of the main character in my novel about to be published, Miss Francis Morgan.

On the left you see who Francis really was.  Mother Mendocino was born to be a teacher, and it is her natural-born love of teaching and rapport with kids that I am portraying in the novel.  In the novel, though, everything that happens in that classroom was really something that happened in my classroom, not hers.  Especially the invasion of the classroom by three-inch tall fairies.  But it should also be obvious that Miss Morgan is not a portrait of me.  I am not female.  I could never respond to and touch kids the way she does because our society frowns on that from male teachers.  And further, she is not Hispanic because the novel is set in 1990’s Iowa rather than the deep South Texas town where these things happened.  So I based the drawing on another teacher I knew from Iowa, one that had always been the next door neighbor girl when I was a kid.  She babysat me and was older than me.

So, my portrait art that I am mangling the discussion of in this post is made up mostly of amalgamated portraits.  A little of this person added to a lot of that one, with a sprinkle of me mixed in for goof-factor effect.  The novel Magical Miss Morgan is being edited by Page Publishing as I write this and will be available soon.  I am hoping that a few of you may be foolish enough to buy one and read it.   I truly believe in my goofy old heart that you will like it.

 

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Why Do You Think That? (Part One)

I believe myself capable of rational thought.  It is that irrational and over-emotional conclusion that leads me to write a self-reflective post full of over-blown thinking about thinking like this one.

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The little Midwestern town of Rowan, Iowa, the place where I grew up, is probably the center of my soul and biggest reason for why I am who I am.

I was a public school teacher for 31 years.  It really seems more like 131 years for all the kids I got to know and lessons I got to teach.  I have lots and lots of experience on which to draw for the drawing of conclusions about education.  Here is a conclusion I drew (literally);

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All kids are good kids.

I can hear the debate from the teachers’ lounge already.  “What kind of an idiot thinks something as stupid as that?”  “It’s true that there are a lot of good kids, but what about Psycho Melvin or Rebel Maria?”  “Some kids are stupid.  I have test data to prove it.”

But I not only believe all kids are good, I think all people are good, even the bad ones.  I have large numbers of memories filed away of times I got to the bottom of problems with kids acting out in class.  Invariably the reasons for their bad behaviors would either make me laugh, or make me cry.  Edwin rammed the drinking fountain with his head because he was socially inept and starved for attention from the other kids.  El Goofy could make his whole head turn bright purple on command because it made the girls squeal and laugh and he had learned to manipulate facial muscles to make it happen because he liked the result.  Lucy yelled at me in front of the whole class because she was thinking about committing suicide like her mother had before her, and she needed me to stop her.  (I don’t use these kids’ real names for some very good reasons, but rest assured, Lucy made it to adulthood.)  (Sorry, I had to stop at this point and cry for 15 minutes again.) My experiences as a teacher have basically taught me that all people need love, and all people are worthy of love.  Someone even loved Adolf Hitler.

There are really two kinds of teachers.  There is the kind who teaches because they love kids and will literally sacrifice anything to benefit them.  The Sandy Hook incident proved that those teachers exist in every school.  There is also the kind who hate kids with a passion and believe themselves to be experts at classroom discipline.  Don’t get me wrong, teachers like that mold young people into upstanding citizens or championship-winning football or basketball players on a regular basis.  But they do it by polishing out the flaws in kids through punishment and rigorous efforts to remove every flaw because they actually detest the flaws in themselves that they see mirrored in students.  I could never be that kind of teacher myself, but I know they are just as necessary as the other kind. After all, all people are good people, even the bad ones.

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Doctor Doom really doesn’t like to be around me.  Still, he’s a good person too, even though he’s fictional.

After more than 500 words worth of this nonsense, and I realize I still have a lot more to say about this goofy topic, I must draw to a close.  And I know I haven’t convinced anyone of anything yet.  But let me threaten you with the prospect that I will pursue this topic again sooner than you would like.  I just can’t seem to stop thinking about why I think what I think, and why I am always thinking.

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Surviving the Reign of the Monkey King

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So the head monkey has fired the giraffe in charge of looking into the Russian banana pilfering that has everyone questioning his fitness to rule.  Rule?  Heck!  I question his continued right to own bananas!

But this post is supposed to be a reflection on surviving, not another angry animal metaphor about things that can’t be cured until the next election, or until the elephants that put the monkey in charge do something about their own addiction to bananas and work up the necessary human emotion and moral outrage to remove him as head of the zoo.

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                                                                        Steve Bannon, the idea-monkey of the Monkey Kingdom

So let me enumerate some of the thoughts that give me peace in the midst of this insane monkey-house cacophony.  (Cacophony is a good word to use around the topic of the monkey king because it has both the words “caca” and “phony” in it.)

  • Bannon is a very scary chimpanzee, but he is apparently on the outs in the court of the monkey king.  He got in a verbal kerfuffle with Orangutan Junior Kushner, and the monkey king has not recently crayoned his signature on the  poison-in-executive-order-form that Bannon cares most about.
  • Orangutan Junior Kushner is now in charge of everything under the sun.  All bananas now grow by his doings, and he can’t possibly run everywhere and poo everywhere to properly fertilize all the banana trees.  And considering the toxic qualities of the monkey king’s banana trees, we probably don’t really want them to grow anyway.
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Orangutan Junior Kushner has taken to wearing Trump-style hair.

  • The Russian banana pilfering has put all other monkey initiatives on hold.  The monkey king was planning to create monkey laws with the elephants that would prevent most other animals from having any hope of health care.  It made its way successfully through the Elephant House and was supposed to move on to the Elephant Senate to be officially stamped with the notion that providing the other animals with mythical “access” to health care wasn’t just a way to make animals pay all their money to insurance piranhas and still not be able to afford any real health care.   Now they are forced instead to talk about other banana-related things.
  •  And on the subject of bananas, the monkeys and the elephants actually have them all already.  So we don’t have to worry about having bananas.  We probably never will.  All they have left for us are the peanuts.  But they like to take and eat our peanuts too.  The good part of this is that peanuts are a healthy food for diabetics.  And, of course, you can’t die of over-eating if you cannot buy food.

So, the long and the short of it is this.  It is not hard to see the end of this struggle to survive the monkey king’s rule.  I, for one, will probably not survive.  But cutting the legs out from under the giraffe investigating the Russian banana pilfering was probably the beginning of the end of the monkey king himself.  The lions, wherever they have been hiding, will now come out and eat him.

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