Category Archives: goofy thoughts

In Defense of Corny Jokes

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It will probably be clear that I am writing this post because I am currently reading 1941 daily strips from Al Capp’s Li’l Abner.

But I am definitely going to talk about corny jokes, not cheesy jokes, because I grew up in Iowa, not Wisconsin.

And, yes, that is example number one.

There is a certain way of telling a joke or tall tale that is unique to the farmyard.   And it does not contain chicken poop, but rather, corn.

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Of course, as you can see by this corn-colored definition of what corny means according to Collins Online Dictionary, the word is supposed to be an insult to corniness in jokery.  That doesn’t sit well with the people of Iowa, where the tall corn grows.  We are also obvious, sentimental, and not at all original.  And we are proud of it.  Corny360_2017-06-19-17-17-44-339

To tell a corny joke right, you have to set a simple scene, and make it clear what happened, and give the audience a simple cue for when to laugh.

For instance, there was the time that Cudgel Murphy had a cat problem with his car, the 1954 Austin Hereford that he has driven since dinosaurs walked the earth.  It seems there was this time in 1988 when he kept having engine trouble.  The engine would sputter and cough and die, and when Cudgel opened it, he would find a half-eaten dead pigeon or other random bird carcass gumming up the works.  He couldn’t for the life of him figure out how dead birds were getting into his car engine.  But his grandson Danny happened to see the neighbor’s big tabby tomcat carrying a pigeon he had killed under the front of Grampy’s car, apparently enjoying a fowl meal in the dark with a nice warm engine to lay the food on.  Sure enough, when they checked the engine later, there was the half-eaten dead bird laying across one end of the fan belt.

So Cudgel set up a vigil, assigning times for himself, Danny, and his younger grandson Mike to watch for signs of that damned cat taking another bird under the hood of the Austin. With only two day’s worth of watching under their belts, Mike came running into the Murphy kitchen with the news.

“Grampy!  I seen that damned cat taking a dead bird under your car!  He’s in there right now!”

So Cudgel rushed out, turned the engine on, and stomped on the gas.

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There were some worrisome thumps and bangs under the hood, and then the cat shot out from under the front of the car spewing howls and cat curses all the way up the nearest tree.

Cudgel laughed hard and finally caught his breath to say, “How about that, Mike?  I’ll bet James Bond doesn’t have a car that can shoot angry cats out the front!”

Now, before you chastise me for enjoying cruelty to cats, I hope you will remember that Cudgel Murphy is a fictional character, and I am merely illustrating the idea behind corny jokes.  And, besides, that cat really had it coming to him.

 

 

 

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Filed under goofy thoughts, humor, Iowa, Paffooney, satire, Uncategorized, writing humor

Singing Rock and Soul

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Yes, this is a picture of a rock.  But it is no ordinary rock.  Okay, that’s not precisely true.  It is a gray metamorphic rock roughly square in shape with numerous flecks of white and a white strip along the top.  As rocks go, it probably couldn’t be more ordinary, more rocky in its soul.  But, as with all things in this life, the importance and true meaning lies in the context.  This is a pocket rock.  It spent a quarter of a century riding around in my pants pocket.  I have held it in my hand millions of times.

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The Rowan Community Center, seen in this picture I used for the cover of Magical Miss Morgan, is the last part of the old Rowan school still standing.

In 1980, my Great Grandma Hinckley died.  That was also the year my folks had to move to Texas because of the transfer my Dad’s seedcorn company gave him to its cotton seed division.  It was one year before I got my teaching degree.  And it was the year they tore down the building where I went to school for grades 1 through 6.  That summer, as I walked around the demolition site, I found the homely gray rock that was nearly as square as I was, and because I was already feeling homesick before I actually left home, I picked it up  and stuck it in my pocket.  It was a little square piece of home.

That rock went with me to college.  It went with me to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Florida.  It has been to Washington D.C.  It has been in the depths of caves in Kentucky and Missouri and Texas.  It has been high in the sky in my pocket in an airplane.  It has been to beaches on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the U.S.  It has visited both Mexico and Canada.  It his been to Las Vegas.  And it even rode in the subways of New York City.

And possibly the most interesting part of this pocket rock’s career happened in Texas schools.  It was with me in my pocket constantly from 1980 to 2004.  I finally took it out of my pocket and placed it in an old cigar box that once belonged to my grandfather and I have kept keepsakes in since I was a kid.

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And I have thought a lot about this ordinary rock that isn’t really ordinary on closer inspection.  At one point or another I thought about using it as a skipping stone at both the Atlantic and the Pacific.  In 2004 when I was considering the pocket watch broken by it and the car key accidentally bent against it, it almost wound up in Lake Superior.  I put in my cigar box and it has remained exiled there since.  Will I have it buried with me, in my pocket?  No, probably not.  My wife plans to have me cremated.  Hopefully, though, not until I am already dead.  This rock has pretty much been a symbol of my soul, travelling with me, teaching with me, jingling the pocket change when I walk…  And it will continue to exist when the thinking and writing parts of Mickey are gone.

But even rocks are not immortal.  Sometime in the future something will happen to it.  It will end up someplace unexpected or changed by grinding, melting, or chemical reaction into some other form.  But no matter what happens to it ultimately, the meaning of it, the context, the places it has been and the things that it has done will still be true, still have happened to it.  And, ultimately, it will still be just like me.

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Filed under autobiography, goofy thoughts, humor, insight, Iowa, irony, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Seizing Sunday

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Sundays have always been a day for rest.  And yet, I have always gotten more work done on Sunday than any other day of the week.  It was always in the past a day for grading papers and reading student essays.  It was also a day for housework; washing dishes, mowing the lawn, painting the house, and paying bills.

And today, I have paid bills and fully intend to do more meal deliveries through Uber to raise money for paying even more bills.  I have no shortage of bills.

But I also need to “Carpe Diem” a little bit and do some of the things that are most important in life.  And here I intend to confess a few of those things that I consider important.

My wife has gone to California for a week to a religious convention.  I took her to the airplane early yesterday morning.  So I am alone with the kids for a while.  I intend to take them out to eat today, maybe at Braums.  Later, the movie Ready Player One is playing at the dollar movie in Plano.

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You can also see by the initial picture of this piece that the flower garden has zinnias blooming, but desperately needs weeding.  I don’t wish to horrify you too much, so I will not post a picture of me working on the flowers because I have resolved to do it in the nude.  Seriously, have you ever heard of the oriental practice of Forest Bathing?  Spending time in nature, like the time we visited the redwoods in California, really does cleanse the soul.  And because we have a privacy fence in the back yard, and because wifey is gone to California where she can’t make fun of me for it, I intend to get a little bit of that feeling by practicing nudism a wee bit in the back yard.  I know it sounds like the idiot pronouncements of a fool entering his second childhood, but it is really a refreshing thing to be out in the light of the sun bathing in the growing greenness and yellow sunshine.  And I can get a few weeds pulled out of both the flower garden and my soul.

So I vow to get important things done today.  I will seize the day.  And while the things I do can’t all be called work, necessarily, they will be accomplishments.  And I will have done something worthwhile.

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Filed under autobiography, flowers, goofy thoughts, happiness, humor, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The 13th Sense

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I know that you are probably thinking, “What the heck are you thinking, Mickey?  There are really only five senses!”

And I am probably thinking, (ignoring the fact that I should know for certain what thinking is present at least in my own stupid head), “Oh, I think you are probably wrong about that, considering carefully that I should only think this and not say it out loud, because people get mad when you suggest that you are smarter than they are.”

Besides the five senses we all claim of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, there is also that one people often refer to as “the sixth sense”, and by that phrase they don’t necessarily mean that you “see dead people who don’t know they are dead”.  Instead, that sense is kinda like a sense of intuition.  A feeling that you simply know what is about to occur, or you know something about something that you could only really know if you have ESP…   Or if you are Spiderman, it is your “Spider Sense”… wiggly lines radiating from your comic-book head.

And what about the sense of hot and cold?  Or the sense that you can’s breathe the air in the same room with your cigar-smoking Republican uncle, you know, the one with all the toxic opinions you are forced to listen to too often?  And there’s a sense of contentment.  Or the sense of happiness.  A sense of dread.  There are all kinds of senses that your magnificent stupid-old brain constantly responds to that you really haven’t been counting.

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Of course, I am not writing about any of those today.  I am writing about that old “Sense Number Thirteen”, the sense of certainty that every pessimist lives by, the sense that your natural daily bad luck won’t kill you today, but only because it would all be over and prevent more suffering if it did.

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Yes, it is Sense Number Thirteen that makes you prepare yourself for the worst, because you simply have the sense that it is destined to happen.  I dread going to the mailbox.  I know I will hate what I find there.  This week I found a letter from the IRS, who has already accepted my 2017 return and the first installment of my tax payment, suggesting that they may reopen my case in order to determine if I owe them more money.  And I got the hospital bill that I have been dreading because I cannot afford to pay it.

I dread walking the dog also because there are two pickup trucks, one black and one silver, that routinely roar through the 30-mile-an-hour neighborhood doing sixty or seventy.  One of them is going to run over my dog while she has me on the leash, or maybe even run over one of neighbor Frank’s grandchildren.  Anyway, we are preparing by organizing a neighborhood petition and complaining to the police. The Thirteenth Sense really screws with my life. But it forces me to prepare.

The hospital payment department told me that they are going to send paperwork that will help me pay the debt by forgiving part of it, since I am already bankrupt over medical bills.  I was taken pleasantly by surprise by that.  I have so far successful avoided thinking about the IRS.  Those jack-booted shock troops apparently aren’t going to show up at my door until next week.  And the police cruiser has been on our street twice already since I last talked to Frank, and they put out one of those speed limit signs that shows you in bright red lights how much over the speed limit you are going.

So, there’s the saving grace.  A pessimist gets to be happier in the long run than the optimist. By preparing for the worst, the pessimist is ready for the bad thing to happen, and either deals with it as it comes, or is pleasantly surprised at an outcome devoid of extra suffering.  A pessimist is never taken by surprise for the worse.  I’m glad I have a 13th Sense.  It helps me be a HAPPY stupid old pessimist.

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Filed under angry rant, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, pessimism

Made-Up People

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I often get criticized for talking to people who are basically invisible, probably imaginary, and definitely not real people, no matter what else they may be.

The unfinished cover picture is from the novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius which I just finished the final rewrite and edit for.  All of the characters in that book are fictional.    Even though some of them strongly resemble the real people who inspired me to create them, they are fictional people doing fictional and sometimes impossible things.  And yet, they are all people who I have lived with as walking, talking, fictional people for many years.  Most of those people have been talking to me since the 1970’s.  I know some of them far better than any of the real people who are a part of my life.

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These, of course, are only a few of my imaginary friends.  Some I spend time with a lot.  Some I haven’t seen or heard from in quite a while.  And I do know they are not real people.  Mandy is a cartoon panda bear, and Anneliese is a living gingerbread cookie.  I do understand I made these people up in my stupid little head.

But it seems to me that the people in the world around us are really no less imaginary, ephemeral, and unreal.  Look at the current Presidentumb of the Disunited States.  He is an evil cartoon James Bond villain if there ever was one.

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

People in the real world create an imaginary person in their own stupid little heads, and pretend real hard that that imaginary person is really them in real life.  And of course, nobody sees anybody else in the same way that they see themselves.  Everybody thinks they are a somebody who is different from anybody else who thinks they are a somebody too, and really they are telling themselves, and each other, lies about who somebody really is, and it is all very confusing, and if you can follow this sentence, you must be a far better reader than I am a writer, because none of it really makes sense to me.  I think everybody is imaginary in some sense of the word.

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So, if you happen to see me talking to a big white rabbit-man who used to be a pet white rabbit, but got changed into a rabbit-man through futuristic genetic science and metal carrots, don’t panic and call the police.  I am just talking to another fictional character from a book I just finished writing.  And why are you looking inside my head, anyway?  There’s an awful lot of personal stuff going on in there.  Of course, you only see that because I wrote about it in this essay.  So it is not an invasion of privacy.  It is just me writing down stuff I probably should keep in my own stupid little head.  My bad.

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Dealing With Downers

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“If it weren’t fer bad luck, I’d have no luck at all… Gloom!  Despair! And Agony on Me!”  I often think of that old Hee-Haw! song when bad luck continues to pile up on me in waves… err… waves of bad luck crest over me in piles… or some other gol’ danged mixed

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Some of my tip money, artfully backlit so you might not notice they are all ones.

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After the tax man took all my spare change and dollars I didn’t have to spare, we woke up Monday morning to the Princess still down with flu and me with no more doctor-bill money.  Fortunately there are a few things I can still do about it.  I mean besides eat chocolate and play with dolls.

I have been able to earn extra money by driving for Uber.  I have been mostly delivering meals for restaurants who use Uber Eats, but I have also delivered folks to the airport, taken non-car-owners to work, and occasionally delivered drinkers to liquor stores. (You wouldn’t believe some of the rationalizations and excuses and made-up stories I have heard from people who regret being sober.)  This last week I made $102 on 11 fares plus the cash you can see in my hand.  It may not seem like a lot to you, but for someone who feels sick 95% of the time, it is miraculously helpful to have a job that won’t fire you if you are repeatedly too sick to work.  And I don’t drive if there’s any hint of not being well enough.  I can’t afford an accident caused for any reason.  And you get to talk to people.  Most of them just want to quietly ride and look at their phones.  But some of them ask me questions and strike up story-telling liars’ duels.   (Yes, I know I don’t have to lie to come up with a funny story about being a teacher, but lying, especially exaggerating, is a required part of a teacher’s job.  And that goes for any other kind of story-teller too, so they lie to me more than I lie to them.)  Three straight weeks I have made $100 or more a week.  (Not a lie OR an exaggeration). And that helps.

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I had some necessary yard work to do where the pool used to be.  I had thistles growing that needed to be cut down.  So I pitched in and got that done… in the nude.  Be glad I didn’t take any pictures of me doing the actual work.  Thistle cutting naked?  I am not a nudist in order to offend people.  It was just a way of working off stress without working up a sweat.  It was a cool morning.  And the yard in question is in the middle of the city, but fenced in on all sides.  And no one can see in without climbing the outside of the fence or locating an un-patched hole.  That would be their bad, not mine.

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And of course, I have been working on my humor writing.  What other excuse is there for the last paragraph?  And I just published a humor novel, Superchicken, and started working on publishing another, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.

There are many more ways to heal the mind of dark depression than you might imagine.  Of course, I did also buy chocolate covered peanuts again, and played with dolls again this morning.  Old nudist fools with their Cirque du Soleil clown noses rarely learn new tricks.

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Filed under battling depression, Depression, doll collecting, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, insight

Is Mickey Icky?


This post is about writer doubt. And Stephen King. Do those two things go together? If they don’t then Mickey is an awful writer and does not know how to do what he does. It would mean Mickey is icky.
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I used to think Stephen King was a totally over-rated writer. Back in the early eighties I read Carrie, King’s first novel, and got halfway through Firestarter, and had to give up. Partly because the book was overdue at the library, and also because I found the books mechanical and somewhat joyless in the writing. I thought he suffered greatly in comparison to writers I was in love with at the time like Ray Bradbury and Thomas Mann. I began to tell others that King was somewhat icky.
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But King was obviously also somewhat successful. He began to get his books made into movies and people who don’t read discovered the evil genius of a man who tells stories to scare them and laces them with a bit of real humanity, real human feeling, and love.
I saw it first in Stand by Me. That movie, starring young Wil Wheaton as the Steven King autobiographical character, really touched my heart and really made for me a deep psyche-to-psyche connection to somebody who wasn’t just a filmmaker, but somebody who was, at heart, a real human being, a real story-teller.

Now, the psyche I was connecting to may very well have been Rob Reiner, a gifted story-teller and film-maker. But it wasn’t the only King movie that reached me. The television mini-series made from It touched a lot more than just the fear centers of my brain as well. And people whose opinions I respect began telling me that the books The Dark Tower Trilogy and Misery were also amazing pieces of literature.
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So I picked up a copy of Hearts in Atlantis at Half-Price Books and began reading a Stephen King novel for the first time since the 80’s. MY HOLY GOD! King is not a little bit icky. He is so NOT ICKY that it makes Mickey sicky to have ever thought King was even a little bit icky! Here is a writer who loves to write. He whirls through pages with the writer’s equivalent of ballet moves, pirouettes of prose, grand jetés of character building, and thematic arabesque penchées on every side of the stage. I love what I have discovered in a writer I thought was somewhat icky. Growth and power, passion and precision, a real love of both the words and the story. He may not know what he is doing. But I know. And I love it.
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And so, while I have been editing the first novel I ever wrote, Superchicken, to make it ready for self-publishing, I have begun to ask myself the self-critical question, “Is Mickey really icky when he writes?” My first novel is full of winces and blunders and head-banging wonders that make me want to throw the whole thing out. But I can’t throw it out. It is the baby in the first bathwater that I ever drew from the tap. The answer to the questions of Micky ickiness have yet to be determined, and not by me. I guess I have to leave it up to you.

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