Category Archives: grumpiness

What the Lord Hath Given…

You know how that Bible lesson goes, right? What He hath given, He can also take away. And the Bible doesn’t suggest He ever owes us any explanation. God is subject to capricious whims, apparently.

This is part of the reason why I often have doubts about the fairness of most religions. How do you worship that which is cold, uncaring, and capricious? And yet, to say there is no God above… or below… is anathema to the way I was raised and the fundamental structures of my moral and inner self.

If there is no God, then why is there any life at all? Life is complex and intricately ordered. How can that be if the universe is random and mindless? Physics already says all order is headed for eventual chaos. Our chance to control the climate crisis and save the planet is now down to seven more years. If we don’t get our act together before 2027, we are doomed. What is the need for order at all? Why do you need to have a counterpoint to chaos if there is no underlying point to the whole process?

Philosophical questions like this are why what I really am is a pure and simple agnostic. I am open to all possible answers. But I have no scale to weigh any of it.

One way that the Lord is taking things away right now is through the capitalist system worshipped by wealthy and greedy men. Especially the Septuagenarian Mutant Turtle currently in charge of the Senate. He and his billionaire mutant overlords don’t want to raise the national debt to help ordinary people through the Covid crisis and the economic chaos it caused, even though they were fine with ballooning the debt in 2017 to give tax breaks to billionaires and corporations while actually raising taxes on pensioners like me.

My house is falling apart. I can raise no extra income because of the pandemic. And the bank is making noises about balloon payments and raising the specter of homelessness for the four of us.

Muckman! Ta-ta-ta-tah! He who slays evil with the foul stench from his unwashable armpits.

And, of course, the biggest thing God may soon take away is my very life. I am having problems with high blood pressure, fainting spells, and numerous symptoms that could easily be interpreted as the onset of Parkinson’s, the disease that took my father’s life. Of course, going into the clinic to find out for sure could financially sink me, as well as infect me with Covid and kill me even though I previously survived my son’s experience with the disease without becoming infected.

This January and February are expected to be the worst part of t the pandemic that we have yet experienced.

But this little exercise in philosophical whining and complaining will, in the long run, do nobody any good. I don’t blame a God for my troubles because of the atheist in me. I know difficult times lay ahead for everybody, not just me. And just as Muckman, the superhero, turns his unfortunate condition of nearly-deadly body odor into his super-power for fighting evil guys, I need to turn my misfortunes into something good.

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‘Tis the Season…

Yesterday I posted one of my patented conspiracy-theory posts which was intended primarily to give my three kids more practice at using their Eye-fu skills. You know, that ancient Chinese martial art of using the dramatic eye-roll to combat the embarrassing way elderly parents have of saying what they actually think for the sole purpose of humiliating their much-more sensible offspring. So, today I need to humbly contemplate the many reasons I will not get any Christmas presents this year and begin to generate some holiday spirit to lighten the mood of what is likely to be a rather lonely Christmas season.

So, here’s a selfie from old Grumpy Klaus, wearing the aggravated countenance of the Jolly One looking at the Naughty List to determine who gets the bricks and who gets the lumps of coal… and who gets referred to Old Krampus.

Ho ho ho… kinda…

Having married a Jehovah’s Witness twenty-six years ago, I have gotten mostly out of the habit of celebrating Christmas. The Witnesses believe that holidays with pagan origins are from Satan, and bad for you. But it has been almost seven years now since they decided I was from Satan too, and so I stopped believing in knocking on doors and trying to get homeowners to reject their own form of Christianity because we are somehow more right than they are, and if they don’t swear off celebrating Christmas they are doomed. Among the many other things you have to swear off of for that religion. Like swearing.

Don’t get me wrong… Jehovah’s Witnesses are wonderful, loving people who care about others and whose religious teachings are more helpful than harmful over all… just like all other Christians who aren’t ISIS-level radicals. (The Westboro Baptists leap to mind for some reason.) If you really need religion, it is a good one to have. But even though my wife still needs to be one, I have begun to feel like I do not.

I personally cherish the holiday traditions I grew up with, and I really wish I could have shared those with my children. (This is another point for practicing Eye-fu right here.) I fear however. that like most devoutly religious parents, we managed to raise three devout agnostics and atheists. I have trained them in the last four years to like the tradition of making and eating gingerbread houses and gingerbread men. That’s probably of pagan origin too, but it’s too late now to save my sorry old soul from gingerbread.

Anyway, I am trying to look forward to the season of Peace on Earth once again. And though I will be celebrating mostly alone and ill and condemned by gingerbread, I do have pleasant memories. I can still reach my sisters and my mother by phone. They share some of those memories. And my kids will be around enough to eat the gingerbread castle I bought for this year.

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Phantasms of Phoniness

Some of us believe mildly stupid things, and all of us get a multitude of things wrong.

But there are many of us who know that most of what we see and hear is not true, and some of that is propaganda, lies, and manipulation intended to exploit us and cause us to lose something for the benefit of others.

Our fearless, if not overly-blessed-with-brains, crew.

We are trying to set the sails of our ship of State again, and sail onward toward a better future. But after four years under a mad captain seeking white whales of ego, we still haven’t finished throwing the foam-at-the-mouth Ahab overboard. He’s got 18 boatswains from red-sailed ships to petition the harbormaster to throw our newly-chosen captain into the sea and let him sail us back out into the typhoon. Enough, already! Our mutiny was justified to try to save the whole ship.

The red ships all firmly believe the lie that we are better off under elephantine officers, and apparently, they have the right to tell us who our captain should be, even after we decided that ourselves.

Here are a few of the things too many of us believe because the red captains say so;

  1. Money belongs in the hands of the few who have already been in charge for generations. They know how to use it best for the good of all. That is; pay any price for their own comfort and benefit, and that of their families who will make the same decisions after they are gone. And the rest of us, if we don’t make them increasing profits for decreasing wages, deserve to be homeless, get sick, and die.
  2. Anything can be justified, as long it profits the business owners and corporate investors. Only the already wealthy deserve to have money.
  3. If we pooled all the world’s wealth, and then we distributed if fairly according to need, all the billions currently alive on Earth could have decent, comfortable lives. We could also battle the climate-change crisis and restore the planet. And rich people could still keep more than they need to survive. But those who control the money now are allowed to choose not to do that.

I have grown a little tired of stupid people telling me how stupid I am because I don’t believe what it is apparently comfortable for them to believe… and they want me to stop being stupid and believe what they believe.

But I know I am stupid most of the time and take steps to try to be a little less stupid a little more often. And I wish they would give it a try too.

Okay. I am done yelling now. Nobody heard me anyway.

But we should tie an anchor around foaming Ahab’s neck and toss him into the sea.

And I don’t believe I am the Emperor of Stupid for saying so.

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On the Fritz

On this Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you) I am a little perturbed that practically everything, including Star Wars, is on the fritz. My computer is on the fritz. It starts all sorts of programs and actions within programs without being prompted by a keystroke or click command. The picture I posted at the start of this essay had to be downloaded from Google twice because it downloaded the wrong selection for no reason. And then it had to be pasted into the block editor twice also because the first attempt failed to finish the transition.

Of course, for something “to be on the fritz” and be well understood, it would help if we knew the origin of the phrase. Unhelpfully, no one really knows how it was initially used. Was it a reference to something about Germans? “Fritz” was a common nickname for German soldiers in two world wars. But probably not. Germans are not always haywire.

I think it far more likely that the word is an onomatopoeia for the sound a radio makes when there is a short, it sparks, and then malfunctions, if not catches fire. That seems to me to be a much more fitting image to use for the way my computer works today with its faulty keyboard, and/or mouse pad. It also is a fitting definition for the condition our economy is in due to the pandemic.

But on this Star Wars Day, it is the most apt phrase to describe what has been done to the Star Wars Saga. Don’t get me wrong. I am an uncritical critic. I loved the Rise of Skywalker in the movie theater. The images and the action were great. But the writer in me did not appreciate how wires were crossed in the making of the latest trilogy. The resulting dumpster fire, while colorful and visually entertaining, caused the power of the story to be definitely “on the fritz”.

Character arcs were ruined. Kylo Ren went from evil secondary antagonist to big bad to heroic turn-around to… what? His character dies and disappears at the end. Why? How did he complete his arc?

Rey went from child of nobody to Jedi to possible Sith Lord to…? Where does she end up? Palpatine tells her if she kills him, his spirit will infuse her with Super Dark Side Power. She kills him anyway? Will she now try to destroy the universe in the next trilogy?

And what did Finn do besides ride a horse-thing in space?

But I’m not complaining. Even if the pandemic is going to kill me shortly, I have had a good life. I have seen all the Marvel movies so far. I taught English to well over 2,000 kids in a thirty-year teaching career. I wrote fifteen novels that I published. And no amount of sparks, fire, or fritzing is capable of changing all of that.

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From an Alternative Point of View

These are not my two sons. The picture was drawn fifteen and ninteen years before they were born. Yet they were my two sons in the cartoon story this picture was lifted from.

Am I literally able to fortell the future? Of course not. But as an overly-sensitive artistical type one could argue that there is evidence in my art and writings that my reality now was at least partially embedded in my consciousness many years ago.

Estellia the Demoness

And truthfully, looking at the truth of things based on empirical evidence is what this point-of-view post is all about. We cannot always rely on the traditional concepts of good and evil as they have been taught to us. Sometimes you have to look at how the evidence stacks up properly, and just plain intuit a new way of seeing the whole picture. Yes, this is a portrait of a fifteen-year-old former student of mine. And she was definitely evil and difficult to deal with. But she went into nursing after high school. She works in the ER where her decisive ways and ferocious insistence on having things work out in her favor because that’s the way the established rules say it must be done turn into positive qualities that are probably saving lives in a Texas hospital as we speak. It is all in how you perceive the truth of a situation and then apply it.

Comedy, of course, depends greatly on rearranging your point of view. If you are going to make a joke about something, you have to re-mix and un-match the details in ways that still make a sort of sense to the reader or the hearer of the joke. I have taught at schools like Dudwhittler’s. If you are a teacher, you recognize that that school bus carries not only that which is funny, but also that which is very true. The teacher driving the bus is a tin man who easily rusts and cries too much, thus rusting further, but you can see he has earned his heart, even if he has to drive the bus on top of teaching so he will have enough money to buy food.

But probably the most anticipated thing from a new perspective that you were expecting since reading the title is a new perspective on the Coronavirus shut-down and economic depression. That alternative take is simply this… the pandemic, though extremely hard and painful, is a good thing that happened at the right time.

I am willing to say this, even though the way the virus has been mishandled in this country is going to very likely be the death of me, because there are benefits that we simply don’t recognize without a thorough punch to the gut and another to loose teeth.

It is a good thing because it will make it harder for Herr Fuhrer Pumpkinhead to win the next election, and he will probably take a number of corrupt Republicans down to the bottom of the sea with him.

It is a good thing because it is proving to us that we can survive on less and still make our way out of the bad situation.

It is a good thing because kids get extra time off from school, and probably also the chance to spend more time with the people who really teach them things we need them to know… like parents, grandparents on Zoom, teachers who don’t fear distance-learning technology, and trolls on the internet (Yes, I know that last one is risky and mainly learning the hard way, but it is also true from before the virus hit).

It is a good thing because the air is cleaner. And we have proven that we can make radical adjustments when it is a matter of life and death. And the environmental crisis is actually a matter of life and death.

So, now I’ve had my twisted say about my pretzel-minded perspective. And so you can now trash it, or possibly learn to like pretzels.

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Stuff Happens

Life is like that. You work out a plan for how to economically get through a bankruptcy and chronic ill health and retirement income not being enough to get by, and then a life-threatening pandemic happens worldwide and shoots it all to hell like a redneck shooting watermelons in the backyard with his new AR-15.

We are now stuck at home with family, unable to go anywhere but the grocery store and pharmacy. And you have to have a mask to go anywhere because you are risking death by breathing every time you have to go to the store so you can continue to eat and live. But, of course, the supply chains are failing as people get ill on the job, and most of the food shelves are practically bare.

And a way of life is dying (or is already dead). But, for those of us lucky enough to survive until this is over, and that will be most of us, it will be a chance to remake the world. Maybe people post viro-apocalypse will take climate change more seriously. Maybe our lost future will be saved because billionaires will be too ill to keep pumping coal sludge and factory waste into our drinking water and breathable air. We should definitely be able to vote Mr. Toad of Toad Hall out of the White House, put him in jail for his crimes, and elect somebody that at least says they care about about people like me who will probably die from this virus.

But for now, stuff happens. (Or in many cases, important stuff doesn’t happen.) And we must make a new plan that deals with it.

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Humor from Beyond the Grave

Being dead is not all down-side. There is a certain amount of goodness to be found in the fact of being already dead.

I know some of this morbid thinking comes about simply because I am facing my own mortality and lingering about in bed most of the time in pain and waiting for a heart-attack or a stroke to put the fireworks into the finale. It is not because I desperately need to get out and drive for Uber to make all the pennies I can for taxes and medical bills and can’t yet do so because of arthritis and diabetes and fear of fainting behind the wheel. I can live with that. It is about preparing and facing the final curtain with as much grace as a fool can.

Of course, the greatest boon that death grants is that it brings an end to suffering. My joints will no longer be on fire and blazing with pain (assuming there isn’t a Hell capable of delivering torments beyond what we get a heaping helping of during life.) I will not have to worry about medical bills and hospital bill collectors any longer. Not that the same can be said of my loved ones. But I myself will no longer have the capacity to think and worry about paying for my many sins of poor health and being sick. In fact, I will be spared a number of things that eat at me while I am alive.

I will not have to watch any more Adam Sandler movies.

I will not have to consider anything that is said on Fox News (unless, of course, Hell is real and they have cable TV there… Because, well, what else would be on?)

And no more of this guy! But I need to check on that no Hell thing. And if there is one, and he is headed there soon for all eternity, I might have to figure out some spiritual hack to get into Heaven.

If there is a Hell, though, it will be like Mark Twain once alluded to. The weather will suck, but the most interesting company to keep will all be there.

And it is a proven fact that writers and other artists make more money after they are dead than they did while they are alive. Think of how much money Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Steinbeck have made selling books since they passed away. Edgar Allen Poe died a pauper like me, but his books continue to be sold and made into movies. And then there’s Maurice Hampton Greenblatt. You never heard of him, right? That is because he never wrote and published anything. (Although it also might have something to do with the fact that he is not a real person, and I made him up for this essay.)

Being dead will be like having written the final chapter in your last book about living life. You will close the book and simply be done… once and for all time. There is a certain satisfaction to be had if your life story has, at the very least, been an interesting story. And there is the whole becoming-a-ghost-writer thing to think about. People will still be able to read my words after I am dead. And who knows? The story may continue. There is a lady who writes classical music for dead composers. She has Schubert and Liszt and Beethoven whispering in her ear. Maybe I can find some goofy kid somewhere to start whispering my stories to.

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Terminal Thoughts

This is not an essay about what I am thinking while sitting in an airport terminal.  This is about the end of things.  Not just my own personal end, which via heart attack or stroke may happen at any moment.  But the ends of hope and dreams, of birds and bees, and possibly life on earth.

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On his last hunt, Eric bagged two illegal immigrants and a lion.  He would’ve bagged the girl too, but his dad the President reminded him that Judy Garland is a white girl and he doesn’t have a current hunting license for that.

Now, I just eliminated 75% of Trumpkins with that last joke, mainly because they didn’t understand, but also because they feel insulted by it.  Whenever I say anything about how the current government policies have impacted my health, wealth, and happiness they tell me I am a snowflake and they insult me further because I hurt their feelings.  25% will keep reading to find ammunition to use in hate memes on Facebook and rage tweets on Twitter.  After that last Facebook kerfluffle, I am tempted to disengage from social media.  They are not buying my books because of it.   They are only getting madder and madder at me and hating me more and more for being a goddam liberal.  Though, when asked, they still assure me they would never unfriend me.

Relationships with people I have always known and cared about are one of the things threatened with imminent demise.    The domination of politics and government by the Republican Party is the reason why.I

I myself don’t have to worry too much about the demise of prosperity.  I am already bankrupt and planning for a future life living in a cardboard box.  But as Trumpian economics continue to work on world markets, everyone else will soon be joining me in suburban-yard farming and eating insects for protein.  Tariffs and trade wars are already destabilizing the world’s economy.  Stocks are beginning to fall.  Of course, the consequences won’t fall on us like a ton of bricks until after enough Republicans win re-election in 2018 to protect Cinnamon Hitler from the crimes he committed to become President.

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Of course, the biggest coming demise that I wish to lament in this post will basically take care of all other things.  The demise of all life on earth will pretty much take care of anyone’s need to lament about anything.  As the world becomes hotter and hotter, and the oceans turn to acid and rise to swallow Miami, and the planet becomes more of a twin to Venus, the Koch Brothers and others who profit from polluting will be laughing about it.  They will either be safely dead of old age or ensconced in gilded survival bunkers.  They may even have another planet to live on already.

Okay, as I hyperbolize and carry on about doom and gloom, I need to remind you that I am a pessimist.  I always plan for the worst so that I can only be pleasantly surprised.  And it really can’t get worse than what I am planning for here.  But that is not to say there is no hope.  All of these problems have solutions.  But I don’t anticipate they will be solved under present conditions.

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Questionable Progress

After four days of working on getting my car fixed, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.  I have not gotten it into the shop yet.  I still have to climb over the middle divider from the passenger door because neither door on the left side of my car can be opened.  Both are bent and jammed.

But the gaggle of insurance agents squabbling over who pays for it all is beginning to sound like I might not have to shoulder the entire burden myself.  There is a consensus that the accident was not my fault.  (Probably due to the fact that the police officer making the accident report clearly stated it was the other goofball’s fault in his written report.)  So, Geico, the perpetrator’s insurance, has generously agreed to pay 85 percent of the cost of repair and rental car.  (85 percent???  Why not a hundred???  Apparently, because I couldn’t testify with 100 percent certainty with my hand on a Bible that I had my lights on at a quarter to noon in the rain, even though I am in the habit of having my lights turned on even if it is just cloudy and would’ve automatically turned them off when I got out of the car to prevent the warning dinger from dinging.  That should cost me $300, right?)  My insurance agent from Progressive is willing to argue all the way to arbitration that I deserve 100% coverage, especially since Geico is paying for it, and Uber also stands ready to be coerced to pay if need be because I was on my way to pick up a meal delivery at the time of the accident.

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So, I am hopeful in a pessimistic sort of way that I am not going to be socked with another bill that is higher than my emergency fund (which I maintain on the orders of my bankruptcy lawyer).

But it is not only good news about car repair that I am finding questionable today.  I have also made progress on a stubborn printer/scanner that has been failing to work properly since I bought it new.  I discovered I needed to go online to download an HP printer driver, not once, but twice.  Apparently, it had been rendered useless because just after I downloaded and made it work the day I bought the thing, HP decided to update that software with critical patches that I did not have.  So, the second download allowed me to discover…

Scan_0001

 

…That the scanner bed was still too small to scan the size of art needed to scan my graphic novel and get that usefully re-created through scans on the internet.  You can see the cover is too large to scan the whole thing in one go.  I am, however, tricksy enough to scan it in parts and paste the whole together with the paint and art editing tools I already have on the computer.  I intend to start doing that to get Hidden Kingdom up and running on my Dungeons and Dragons Saturday posts.

Here’s an adjusted scan to increase my ability to copy and paste a whole together from parts…

Scan_0003

It should be easy to quilt together the artwork over time and provide a view not grayed out by having to reproduce the black and white pen and ink art in shades of gray, the way I must if I try to do the thing photographically.

And I can definitely say that scanned art is better than photographed art.

I have included a couple more scans to prove the point.

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Debt and Doubt

Rainbow peacock

I sincerely tried to get out of debt when I had to retire as a teacher.  I managed to shed $23,000 worth of my $35,000 of debt before being sued by Bank of America.  The lawsuit forced me into bankruptcy.  Five years of debt-reduction belt tightening and poverty has not turned into a new $35,000 worth of debt including lawyer fees.  And on top of that I have to add about $6,000 of hospital debt and $1300 worth of IRS tax payments.   Instead of solving my debt problem, I have only added to it.  Dying in a manner that will leave my family debt free is now out of reach.  And yesterday I got a notice from the IRS suggesting I may still owe them more.

I am led to these conclusions;

  1. Bankers are pirates and villains.  Especially Bank of America bankers.
  2. Lawyers are too expensive, especially when they are the only ones on your side.
  3. I am no different than a farmer’s cow.  Cows get milked for actual milk.  I get milked every single day for multiple dollars, most of it in the form of debt.
  4. The game is rigged against creative and intelligent people.  You cannot make money as a novelist.
  5. To get ahead you have to be stupid and have no morals.  That is why Trump always succeeds.
  6. But if you can ignore poverty and the disadvantages it brings, life is still wonderful and is worth living.  I don’t need an angel named Clarence to help me see that.

If this essay seems like it has not fully addressed this theme, that’s because it hasn’t.  Many more essays on this topic are coming… God willing.

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