Category Archives: insight

Debussy Reverie

Some Sunday thoughts require the right music.

Some Sunday thoughts actually are music.

rev·er·ie

/ˈrev(ə)rē/

noun

  • 1.a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream:”a knock on the door broke her reverie

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I had originally thought to call this post “A Walk with God.” But that would probably offend my Christian friends and alienate my Jehovah’s Witness wife. It would bother my intellectual atheist friends too. Because they know I claim to be a Christian Existentialist, in other words, “an atheist who believes in God.” Agnostics are agnostics because they literally know they don’t know what is true and what is merely made up by men. And not knowing offends most people in the Western world.

But Debussy’s Reverie is a quiet walk in the sacred woods, the forest of as-yet-uncovered truths.

And that is what I need today. A quiet walk in the woods… when no literal woods are available.

I have apparently survived the Covid pandemic. But this pandemic has been hard on me. Having had the Omicron variant, I am left without the strength I once had even though I am fully vaccinated. I have lost the power to be a substitute teacher, a job I love. The loss of the ability to teach in any form still drives me to tears. I am a prisoner in my room at home most days. My soul is in darkness, knowing that the end could be right around the corner. There is so much left to do, to say, to write down for those who come after so they can fail to read any of it and reinforce the cruel irony that informs the universe. I have stories and lessons and morals and meanings to give the world still if only someone is willing to listen.

I am not afraid to die. I have no regrets. But I have been in a reverie about what has been in the past, what might have been, and what yet may be… if only I am granted the time.

And, as always, I feel like I have more writing yet to do. I am about to finish The Education of PoppenSparkle. And I have started He Rose on a Golden Wing, The Haunted Toystore, and AeroQuest 5. And I have stories beyond that to complete if I may.

But the most important thing right now is having time to think. Time for Reverie. And reflections upon the great symphony of life as it continues to play on… with or without me.

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K.I.S.S.

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When learning to write, you have to learn the rules.  And then you start writing, and you learn that you have to break all the rules to do it well.  But what do I know?  You have to be pretty desperate to get your writing advice from a Mickey.  After all, it’s not like Mickey was a writing teacher for over thirty years… oh, wait a minute… yes, he was.

Okay, so I decided to write today about the K.I.S.S. rule of writing.  That’s right, Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Other writing teachers tell me it should be, Keep It Simple, Sweetie, because you can’t say “stupid” to a kid.  Okay, that’s mostly true.  But I use “stupid” when I use the rule myself.  I’m talking to Mickey after all.

So, I better stop “bird-walking” in the middle of this essay, because “bird-walking”, drifting off topic for no purpose, is the opposite of keeping it simple.

I try to write posts of no more than 500 words.  I write an introduction that says something stupid or inane that speaks to the theme I want to talk about.  Then I pile in a few sentences that talk more about the theme and do a good job of irritating the reader to the point that they can’t wait to get to the conclusion.  Finally I finish up with a really pithy and wonderful bit of wisdom to tie a knot in the bow of my essay.  I save that bit for the end as a sort of revenge for all the readers who don’t read all the way to the end, even on a short post like this one.  Of course, I could be wrong about how wonderful and pithy it is.  What does “pithy” even mean?  It can be like the soup in the bottom of the chili pot, thicker and spicier than what came before… or possibly overcooked with burned beans.

That was another bit of “bird-walking”, wasn’t it?  See, you have to break the rules to make it work better.

So, in order to keep it simple, I guess I need to end here for today.  Simple can be the same thing as short, but more often you are trying to achieve “simple and elegant” and pack a lot of meaning and resonance into a few lines.  And I, of course, am totally incapable of doing that with my purple paisley prose.  And there’s the knot in that bow.

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Filed under goofy thoughts, humor, insight, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing, writing humor, writing teacher

The Philosophy of Bad Poetry

I do write poetry. But I must admit, I am not a serious poet.  I am a humorist at heart, so I tend to write only goofy non-serious poems like this one;

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So here is a poem that rhymes but has too much “but-but-but” in it.  A poem about pants should not have too many “buts” in it.  One butt per pair, please.  So this is an example of spectacularly bad poetry.  Why do we need bad poetry?  Because it’s funny.  And it serves as a contrast to the best that poetry has to offer.

As a teacher I remember requiring students to memorize and recite Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”.  Now this sort of assignment is a rich source of humorous stories for another day.  Kids struggle to memorize things.  Kids hate to get up in front of the class and speak with everybody looking at them.  You get a sort of ant-under-a- magnifying-glass-in-the-sun sort of effect.  But in order to truly get the assignment right and get the A+,  you have to make that poem your own.  You have to live it, understand it, and when you reach that fork in the road in your own personal yellow wood, you have to understand what Frost was saying in that moment.  That is the life experience poetry has a responsibility to give you.

roads-diverging

Hopefully I gave that experience to at least a few of my students.

Bad poetry makes you more willing to twirl your fingers of understanding in the fine strands of good poetry’s hair.  (Please excuse that horrible metaphor.  I do write bad poetry, after all.)

But all poetry is the same thing.  Poetry is “the shortest, clearest, best way to see and touch the honest bones of the universe through the use of words.”  And I know that definition is really bad.  But it wasn’t written on this planet.  (Danged old Space Goons!)  Still, knowing that poetry comes from such a fundamental place in your heart, you realize that even bad poetry has value.  So, I will continue writing seriously bad poetry in the funniest way possible.  And all of you real poets who happen to read this, take heart, I am making your poetry look better by comparison.

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Filed under humor, insight, irony, philosophy, poem, poetry, Uncategorized

Every Day

Every day has its own badness.

Enough to sour the milk.

But if you put your rollerskates on,

Wool sweaters start to feel like silk.

And the rolling life goes up and down,

And you’ll probably have some spills,

But do not take the rollerskates off…

It’s worth it for the thrills.

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As If It Weren’t Enough…

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THE WISDOM OF THE LITTLE FOOL

A fool can’t really sum up all of life in a sentence.

But a fool tries.

A fool can’t really say something in immortal words.

Because a fool dies.

A fool can’t really do the job of the wise.

But never-the-less, the fool applies.

But a fool can write a really dumb poem,

And let it sit to draw some flies.

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Don’t Give Up!

Yes, I am philosophically a pessimist. I expect always that the worst outcome is the one I will have to live with. Hence, I was not as devastated by Donald Trump’s election as some who were too confident that Hilkary would win. And the climate crisis seems to be good reason to prepare for the worst that can happen. Some of it is already happening, already here.

But you really should listen to what this career futurist has to say about it.

The near future is, as documented with evidence in the video, far worse than we think it is. “Just doom, nothing else,” as Robin Williams declares. But too much pessimism at this point is the death of us. We have to keep trying. We can’t just give up.

A cheerleader who is not me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the right person to be elected head cheerleader on this issue. I have given in to despair and weeping on more than one occasion already. Since the election of Trump, the conservative pillaging of the Supreme Court, the roll-back of EPA guidelines and restrictions, the erosion of fundamental voting rights (soon to be followed by other rights,) the mismanagement of the economy, the Covid crisis, wildfires in the West, the insurrection after the election of Joe Biden, and more and more things that signal doom and possible Armaggedon, we have to battle the urge to lie down and die.

Here is where the optimism of the Reverand Peale is critical.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, also definitely not me.

If we stop trying, our loss and subsequent death is insured. It is only by continuing to fight that we will have a chance to save ourselves. And this is beginning to happen everywhere.

In 2020 we turned out against the Evil-Clown President in record numbers. We wrested the control of the government out of the hands of the corrupt elephants and put it back in the hands of the hard-working but mostly stupid jackasses. Biden’s donkey-like devotion to following through on the work that needs to be done got us through the rest of the pandemic, getting ourselves vaccinated and acclimated to life with the reality of the new deadly virus.

We need, like the faun, to be one with our environment.

We have tried hard and kept at it to achieve much-needed climate-control legislation. The fossil-fuel industry has made it difficult, and we nearly gave up on the Build Back Better program, but it seems through perseverance that we may have finally gotten a critical piece of that over the hurdles after all.

One thing definitely indicated is that we will need to turn out to vote in the midterm elections again this year. If we don’t, the elitist elefantiasis party will take away all our gains and punish us again, playing their golden fiddles while the world burns.

We will never have the magic we need if we don’t try to conjure it.

But despair is still not warranted here. We know what we can do to solve the problems that face us. We have done similar things before, with the Cold War, World War II, and the hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s. What’s more we have the tools we need already, and what we don’t have is quickly being developed. There are plans in the works for mountain-sized storage batteries, massive solar-power arrays, and wind farms (many of which are already built and operating.) We can rebuild and upgrade the entire power grid, not just in the USA, but for the whole world. It needs, of course, to all be weather-proofed, meteor-proofed, solar-storm-proofed, and, hopefully, greedy-Republican-idiot-proofed.

We are not beaten if we don’t give up.

And as the futurist tells us in the video you didn’t watch, pessimists prepare us for disaster, but only the optimist can make us successful in living through it to a brighter future beyond.

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Filed under angry rant, battling depression, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor, insight, inspiration, Liberal ideas, magic, Paffooney, pessimism, philosophy, politics, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Why School Should Be Cool

Cool School Blue

I was a school teacher for thirty-one years, and in spite of the immense amount of brain damage that builds up over time, especially as a middle-school teacher, I think I know what we’ve been doing wrong.

We need to take a look at an education system where things are working better than they are here.

Now, I know you probably didn’t click on the boring video about school.  Heck, you probably aren’t even reading this sentence.  But I can summarize it and put it in easy-to-understand words.  Finland does not have to educate as many poor and disadvantaged kids as this country does.  The video gives five ways that Finland does it better, but all of them boil down to the basic notion that the country is more homogeneous and uniformly middle-class than ours is.  Still, we can learn things from them.

The first of the five ways that Finland does it better is a difference in government.  While U.S. governmental safety-net programs blame people who need food stamps for being lazy (even though some of them work 40-hour work weeks in minimum-wage jobs), Finland gives a huge package to parents of everything they might need as soon as their child is born.  As long as the child is in school, the government does many things to support the family’s efforts to educate them.  Imagine what we could accomplish here if we invested some of the vast fortune we give to corporations in subsidies into educating poor black and Hispanic children instead.  Children have a hard time learning in school when they come to school hungry.  If we could only feed them better, the way the Fins do, we would revolutionize our classrooms.

The second point the video makes is the biggest suds-maker every time I get on my teacher’s soap box.  They don’t give kids homework and they only give them one standardized test when they leave high school.  I have recently covered this topic more thoroughly in a post in which I was able to ridicule Florida governor Rick “Skeletor” Scott.  (Boy, did I enjoy doing that.)  But I won’t go into all of that again here.

The third thing is respecting teachers.  In Finland they treat teachers with the kind of respect that they give to doctors and lawyers.  How cool is that?  In Texas, calling someone a teacher is an epithet.  If a teacher is liked or even loved by their students, administrators are encouraged to keep a closer eye on them to figure out what’s wrong.  Students are supposed to hate their teachers and sit all day filling out mind-numbing test-preparation worksheets.  Imagine what it could be like if teachers weren’t the scum of the earth.  They might actually have students convinced that learning goes on in their classrooms.

The fourth point is that Finland does not try to cram more and more memorized details into young brains so they can spit it all back out on a test.  They take students thoroughly into the subject of study, and at a slower, easier pace.  They dive deep into the river of learning instead of wade through the wide and shallow parts.  All questions get answered.  And by that, I mean, student questions, not teacher questions.  The learning is student-centered.

Finally, the video states that Finland simply has fewer social ills in their country to get in the way of good quality education.  But even though the work is harder in this country, the potential is really there to go far beyond what Finland is capable of.  We have a natural resource that is totally untapped in this nation.  We don’t develop the minds of a majority of our children in any meaningful way.  And I can tell you from having done it, you can teach a poor or disadvantaged child to think.  You can give them the tools for academic, economic, and personal success.  You can make them into valuable human beings.  But you should never forget, they are already precious beyond measure.  We just ignore and trash that inherent value.  So, the information is out there about how to do a better job of educating our children.  We need to follow through.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

 

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Filed under angry rant, commentary, education, humor, insight, teaching

A Collection of Rather Evil Men

You wonder how they do it, these corrupt and evil men.

They fight for their own interests and act like clowns every now and then.

And still, retain their power while holding the bloody knife

They used to stab constituents in the back and take their pain-filled life.

No deed done for a dollar has consequences when they’re judged,

And every good in bills they kill is evilly begrudged.

They seek to lead this nation through insurrection and conflagration,

And they raise their fists of power, yet run and hide within the hour.

And when you finally defeat them and undo their evil schemes,

They break whatever things they can and pee on all your dreams.

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Filed under angry rant, clowns, conspiracy theory, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, insight, Liberal ideas, poem, poetry, politics

Take Time to Deteriorate More Slowly

I am only going to be 65 years old for four more months. Then I will be 66… even if I croak off this mortal coil before my birthday. It is heck getting older. My eyes and memory and joints all work far less well then they did a decade ago, even a year ago, heck, even last week. They don’t tell you this when you’re young, but you don’t have to be dead to start decomposing. And that doesn’t mean un-writing this essay, though maybe that would be a good idea based on that last sentence.

It is inevitable that the longer we live, the more our aging bodies are going to gradually break down, work properly with more difficulty, and cause us pain and loss.

And as we age, our minds drift back to childhood and days long gone. We obsess about little things. Especially the little things we have lost.

The sense of adventure is mostly gone from our daily lives. Things have settled into a permanence, and the limits of fame, fortune, and future expectations have all been irreversibly set. All we can do to reclaim any of that is to reflect, to remember, and to tell stories about it.

I had a recent story idea that I have begun calling by the title The Haunted Toy Store. It is about a small-town store filled with antique toys that nobody ever buys. And the store owner is very creepy and quiet and does practically no business. People wonder how he makes a living. But there are definitely ghosts in the toy store. And in the long run, it is discovered that the true customers are the ghosts. And the toys are actually the people that are lured in, especially the children, that the ghosts play with. It is not a horror story. It is a comedy adventure. But, like any good story, there is conflict and a number of scary moments.

Why would I even consider telling a story like this? Well, because I am old. There are certain truths, certain experiences, and a lot of goofy observations that I still need to tell about my life, and pretend that somehow it all adds up to wisdom. I am growing old, walking around naked more than ever, forgetting where I put my glasses while I am still wearing them, grumbling to myself like a cereal killer (I did not misspell that, I mean killing boxes of high-fiber cereal,) and arguing with the dog about whether or not dogs can talk, or if I can trust her to write another blog post or not. I will probably be losing my mind soon. I keep forgetting which box I put it in last night when I wake up in the morning and need it again. So, I better slow down and try to do it all the right way.

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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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