Category Archives: insight

Robins, Blue Jays, and Blackbirds

God talks to me through the birds.  I know that sounds crazy.  Only a loony man like Francis of Assisi could ever believe such a foolish thing, right?  But is is true.  I am aware of the birds around me at all times because birds have meaning, and when I need to see certain signs from God to center and redirect my life and spiritual awareness, God puts certain birds in my way, hoping that I will see them and interpret their meaning correctly.

This morning at QT I saw three different kinds of bird.  First I saw a robin while eating my QT pumpkin spice doughnut.  Then a blue jay on the ground hopped out from behind the corner of the building.  Then a pair of blackbirds flew down to watch the jay hunting through the grass.

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Robins are traditionally the bird of spring-time, the harbinger of the end of winter.  As a boy in Iowa, it was always a relief after the long cold winter to see the first robin of spring.  But it means more than that.  Robins are reliable.  They leave for the winter to parts south and always return to bring hope for relief from our troubles.  You can depend on robins to provide that service.  The robin I saw this morning, I saw in early December.  Winter is just beginning.  But Texas is a place where robins spend the winter.  God is telling me through the robin that my troubles are ending, easing into a metaphorical Spring and Summer.  And like the robin, God is asking me to continue being reliable for my family and everyone else who looks to me for signs of hope, candle flames in the darkness, and a return to spring.  How’s that for bird-brained thinking?

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Blue Jays are bullies and thieves.  If you have ever watched birds go about bird-business, and ever specifically watched blue jays do their jobs, then you already know they are bully birds.  A blue jay will arrive at the bird feeder and drive off the sparrows, finches, and chickadees.  They use their superior size to dominate the other birds, eating their fill before allowing the smaller birds their chance.  They are aggressive enough to land on your picnic table and snatch a McDonald’s French fry or six if you are not close enough to swat them.  And it was a blue jay that got me three times on the top of my head with her claws, diving at me like a dive bomber, when I was ten and didn’t realize that her chick had fallen out of her nest and sat shivering next to the sidewalk where I was walking.

Seeing the bird this morning was a reminder that there will be more aggressive folks on the sidewalk of life ahead of me that I will have to avoid.  But this blue jay did nothing but hunt the grass for himself.  He did not bother any other bird.  So relief from the aggression of others is at least possible.

And black birds are the most common sorts of birds to see.  But when you say, “black birds” what do you really mean?  Grackles, creeks, common grackles, starlings, magpies, and redwing blackbirds are all black birds, even though they couldn’t be more varied and different from each other.  The black birds I saw this morning were common grackles, which, of course, aren’t even truly black.  They have iridescent blue-green feathers on their heads that can reflect sunlight with neon blazes of color.  Black birds tend to be scavengers, trash-snatchers of the highest order that live on whatever they find. So they really feel that all business is their business. No trash bin left unattended, or bug that a blue jay scared up and then ignored, is beneath their notice.

So God is telling me to appreciate all those around me.  I should notice and record their many unique beauties  and skills and useful utilities.

There was good reason that Francis of Assisi preached to the birds.  They are always watching, always listening, and, if studied carefully, always telling us about God’s will.

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Filed under birds, goofy thoughts, humor, insight, inspiration, religion, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Price We Pay

It is becoming obvious that the American experiment with democracy is now over… In fact, it has been over for quite a while.  We can no longer even claim that this is actually a Republic in the sense that the Roman government began as a Republic.  The current emperor, Emperor Bumpkin Pumpkinhead, has no clothes.  The oligarchs own the government, and we are headed down serious paths of fascism and chaos and potential civil war.  We have the Devil to pay for our economic sins, and many of us will be swallowed whole before the end of it.

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I have known since the 1980’s that Reagan’s supply-side theory of trickle-down economics, more aptly titled Voodoo Economics, was a monumentally bad idea.  If you let the rich folks get richer and capable of buying absolutely anything, they will sooner or later buy the government and rewrite the rules to allow them to do anything they want.  That is the system we have right now.  Anything the idle rich want… That’s the reason we are saddled with Trump right now, the fattest jockey that ever broke a horse’s back.  And some of the rich folks who want anything and everything they can afford are truly demented and psychotic, backed up by years of getting their way even in putrid, evil ways.

The reason that the Republican government is so hot to cut taxes for the wealthy is to continue the wealth-redistribution program of the Reagan years.  Apparently the anointed few deserve all the rewards the economy has to give even though they do little besides horde their money and buy politicians who will continue to help them rake more in.  Meanwhile the rest of us continue to slave for them doing all the work under oppressive debt burdens that keep us under control.

24294271_844430295763808_6294495221275275142_n Of course, “Why should anyone believe me of all people?” is definitely the question.  I am only a retired school teacher who spent a career finding and verifying information, followed by a simple and clearly-defined presentation of the information to be learned.  I have revealed myself in this blog to have the letter “L” on my forehead for “liberal” which translate into Republicanese as “loser”.   And that’s where we will stay if we don’t fight back.

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So, how do we fight back?  For one thing, we have to vote.  Current policies and beliefs of the administration do not reflect the will of the people.  The general consensus about health care and taxes is not even considered by the Bozos in charge of the circus.  And we probably won’t win in the coming elections, because, through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and outright cheating the Republican right always gets its own way.   But that should stir us to further action… doing things like I am doing here, using my innate ability to use hyperbole and doofy jokery to spread the word and stir up outrage.  Better than angry fascist propaganda, right?

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Haven’t we, by now, had enough of what Ronnie Raygun wanted?  Isn’t it time we considered what we want?  …What we need?

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Filed under angry rant, cartoons, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, insight, pessimism, politics, rants

Sequel + Mania = Sequelania

I hate to spring another portmanteau word on you so soon after the atrocity that was “Hypocrasisyphus”, but I have been seriously putting things together that do not belong together.  For example, I have been binge-watching two Netflix series; Stranger Things 2 and The Punisher.   Stranger Things 2 is the sequel to the Duffer Brothers’ hit last year, Stranger Things, and The Punisher is the return of a surprise breakout role for Jon Bernthal as the violent vigilante anti-hero, Punisher, from Daredevil, Season 2.   ST2-Final_poster

I love the 80’s monster movie thing that is called Stranger Things mostly because of the kids.  I mean, the most important protagonists in the story are the gang of Dragon’s Lair-playing kids that are so like the gang of kids I taught and played games with in the 80’s.  They have the same cohesion and feel as the kids gangs in Steven Spielberg movies like the Goonies and E.T.   They are the real heroes of the story who actually do the most to defeat the monsters they face from a looming evil dimension on the verge of taking over our world after taking over the body and soul of my relative, Will Byers, one of the gang.

 

I won’t spend much more effort describing that one, since I wrote about Stranger Things 2 in a previous post.  Instead, I want to connect it to my most recent binge, The Punisher.  As I said before, these two series have absolutely no relationship to each other beyond one nutty retired school teacher bingeing on and loving them both.

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The Punisher is about war, violence, the trauma that those things create, and putting the shattered pieces of lives, families, and psyches back together again in a way that resembles making scrambled eggs from Humpty Dumpty.

The main character, Frank Castle, has been a special forces soldier with a talent for violence and a reasonable code of honor developed to combat unreasonable malevolence.

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He has come home from war after having been a part of a covert, CIA assassination squad that has done terrible things, in fact, things more terrible than even the soldiers themselves realize.

The result being, somewhere along the way, a toxic secret has gotten out.  Castle’s wife and two children are targeted and killed while Castle himself survives.  He seeks to put himself back together like the King’s men attempt to do with Humpty Dumpty, through revenge, and killing the people who killed his family, and the people who were part of the plot behind it.  Through two series he murders, assassinates, and otherwise exterminates bad guys, drug dealers, rogue agents, and others who have betrayed him in multiple ways.

But as mind-numbing and stomach-turning as the violence is, the story is about family.  The family that Castle lost.  And the family of the Edward Snowden-like character, Micro, who are still alive, but only because the NSA spook Micro is thought to be dead when he actually is alive and working against the same villains who killed Castle’s family.

And there are just enough scenes with family and guitar-playing moments of insight to convince us that Castle would’ve been a pretty great dad, if only he had been given the chance, thus amplifying the tragedy a hundred fold.  Aha!  There’s the unlikely link.  The two things are both about the struggle to raise kids in a dark and dangerous world.  I knew if I just twisted the puzzle pieces hard enough, I could make them fit together.

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Filed under family, insight, movie review, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature, TV review

That Bluebird of Happiness

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I often go back and re-read old posts, particularly when I discover that someone else has read them.  It is amazing to me how differently I perceive things from when I actually wrote the post.  As you write, squeezing huge, boulder-sized portions of hot, magma-like burning ideas and passions out through writing orifices not nearly big enough to accommodate, you usually hate what you wrote and are still writhing in pain from the creation of it as you try to edit it, trim it and brush its unruly hair.  (How’s that for a mixed metaphor to make you cringe?)  But given time and distance, you can really appreciate what you wrote more than ever before.  Things that you thought were the stupidest idea a man ever put in words suddenly have the power to make you laugh, or make you cry.  You are able to feel the things the writing was intended to make you feel.  You begin to think things like, “Maybe you are not the worst writer that ever lived, and maybe that’s not why nobody ever reads your books.”  But then, of course, your sister reads the post and tells you that you write like a really old, really crabby, really ancient old man.  And you use the word “really” too much too.  I know I deserve that, Sis.  Especially the “really” part.

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Here’s a post that I reread and liked today about Bob Ross.

This is the thing about happiness;  It is elusive and rare as a real-life blue bird. But capturing it for a moment is not impossible.  And as long as you don’t try to salt its tail and keep it prisoner, you can encourage it to sing for you.  (Much better metaphor this time, don’t you think?)  vintage-coca-cola-ad-1950s-1960s-clownb

When I am accused of being gloomy, old, and boring, I can happily admit it and make it into something funny.  I am something of a conspiracy nut, but not so serious that I believe all my own assertions.  For those people who took offense at this conspiracy theory of mine; Coca-Cola Mind Control, I would like to point out that “Hey, I was joking.  I actually like clowns.”  Even though there is a serious side to everything and there can’t be laughter without some tears, I am basically happy with the way things are.

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I started listening to “Live Happy Radio” on Sunday mornings on KLUV in Dallas.  They point out on their program of endlessly droning happy-talk that happiness is something that you can work at.  Like humor writing in blogs, it takes practice and practice and time.  They even asked me to share the word about their happy magazine and products, so I am doing exactly that right here.  Sometimes you simply have to put your cynicism in a jar on the shelf next to the lock box where you keep depression and self-loathing.  So you can find their Live-Happy folderol right here.

So I am bird-watching again with an eye out for the bluebird.  You know the one.  It is out there somewhere.  And I need to hear that song one more time.

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Regrets…

Veterans day is here again.  It means something different now that my son is a Marine.  It was always a solemn and somber occasion in the past.  My great uncle on my father’s side died in World War II, a training accident inside a Navy gun turret.  My great uncle on my mother’s side was part of the second wave on the beach in Normandy.  He was injured by a German grenade and moderately disabled for the rest of his life.  I never got to hear war stories.  He was too damaged to ever talk about anything that happened in the war.  My mother’s cousin was flying a plane in the Viet Nam Conflict.  It went up, and didn’t come down again.  You think of those things, and wish it could be different.  You pray that it will be different for your son who is a soldier.

But when the worst that can happen comes to pass… there are no regrets.  Whatever future we have is rooted in the past.  Pain and suffering are difficult to manage, but when you manage them, it leaves you stronger… better as a person than you were before.  So I don’t take anything for granted.  I was not a warrior in this life.  I was a teacher, a story-teller.  And I made some mistakes along the way.  I have lost some whom I cared about very deeply.  Ruben, Fernando, and J.J. are all gone tragically.  I will always feel I should have done more to help them when they were boys and needed help.  Miraculously with the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq I have lost no former students to war, though many of mine have fought.  I pray that my luck continues to hold.

But there are no regrets.  And “you can listen as well as you hear”, so listen to this.  I love you.

Yes, I am talking to sons and daughters, to former students, to former colleagues, to everyone I have ever known.  And even if I don’t know you, never met you, even if you never get a chance to hear this message… I am talking to you also.  We are all one.  We all live and love and strive together, and even if we disagree to the point of war… we still belong to each other.  Thank you for being you.  You needed to hear that at least as much as I needed to say it.

My son is coming home on leave for Thanksgiving.  I will be giving thanks.

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Filed under commentary, healing, insight, Paffooney, sharing from YouTube

Why Mickey Writes

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If you are wondering, “How in the Heck can Mickey write nonsense like that essay he wrote yesterday?”, then please be aware that Mickey is pondering that same question.

Seriously, why would a writer publish personal thoughts and allude to personal tragedies?  Especially when they are about things that once upon a time nearly killed him?  (Please note that when Mickey starts a sentence with “Seriously” it is probably about to lead to a joke, the same way as when Trump says, “Believe me” we should  assume he is telling a lie and knows it.)

The answer is simply, writers write stuff.  They have to.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be writers.

It is really not something to do to earn fame and fortune.  Fame and fortune happen to rare individuals like J. K. Rowling and Steven King… and even Stephanie Meyer, to prove that it is totally random and not based on actual writing talent… except for sometimes.

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You write to get your head right about bad things that happen in life.  You find that factor in Mark Twain whose infant son died, as well as most of the rest of his family, before him, forcing him to face survivor’s guilt and the notion that life is random and death does not come for you based on any kind of merit system.  Charles Dickens wrote about the foibles of his father, on whom he based the David Copperfield character Wilkins Micawber, a man who was overly optimistic and constantly landing in debtor’s prison because of it.  He also wrote in his stories about the women he truly loved (who were not, it seems, his wife) one of whom died in his arms while yet a teenager.  Dickens’ amused take on the innate foolishness of mankind gave him a chance to powerfully depict great tragedies both large (as in a Tale of Two Cities) and small (as in Oliver Twist).  I wrote yesterday’s post based on the connection between the nudity I write about in novels and my own traumatic assault when I was only ten.

You write because you have wisdom, an inner personal truth, that you are convinced needs to be crystallized in words and written down on paper.  It isn’t necessarily real truth.  Lots of idiots write things and post them in newspapers, blogs, and even books.  And it is often true that their inner personal truth is complete hogwash.  (But, hey, at least the hogs are cleaner that way.)  Still, your wisdom is your own, and it is true for you even if some idiot like Mickey reads it and thinks it is only fit for cleaning hogs.

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And you truly do have to write.  If I did not write my stupid, worthless novels, all the hundreds of characters in my head would get mad and start kicking the pillars that hold up the structures in my head.  I do have structures in my head.  My mind is organized in boxes that contain specifically sorted ideas and stories and notions.  It is not a festering stew pot where everything is mixed together and either bubbling or boiling with hot places or coagulating in the cold corners.  (That is how I picture Donald Trump’s mind.  It is certainly not an empty desert like many people think, because deserts don’t explode all over Twitter early in the morning like the stew pot metaphor obviously would.)

And so, I have done it again.  I have set down my 500+ words for today and made a complete fool of myself.  And why do I do it?  Because Mickey is a writer, and so, Mickey writes stuff.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, humor, insight, irony, Mark Twain, Mickey, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, wisdom, writing humor

Nudist Notions

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This nudist camp is entirely fictional.  The actual camp in Clear Lake is a Methodist Youth Camp.

I have learned a lot more about nudists in the last few months than I probably ever wanted to know.  The book I wrote about a boy being invited to go camping with the family of a girl he liked, and then finding out it was a nudist camp, was written as rough draft back in the late 1980’s about life experiences I had in the early ’80’s.  Some things I learned back then have proven to still be true.  Some things have changed.  The things that have changed, are mostly about me.

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Nudist families in touch with nature are beautiful in ways I can’t explain.  It’s not the clothes the wear.

Naturists are happier than normal people.  They shed a lot of their hang ups and worries with their clothes.  Sunshine and cool breezes on bare skin have a healthy psychological effect.  I know this from having experimented myself.  Socially nudists are able to comfortably “live in their skin”.  Their confidence in self translates into sensible nude social behavior.  It is not about sex.  Sex is private behavior to a nudist, not public.  When nudists interact, the conversations occur eye to eye, not eye to somewhere else.  And the acceptance of how others look when naked is a critical factor in nude social interaction being beneficial.  Most nudists are not beautiful or ugly.  They are a spectrum of everything in between.  And they don’t talk about body parts or make comparisons.  Nudist men talk about sports teams and vehicle repair and politics the same way the guys in overalls at the Nutrena Feed and Farm Store.  Nudist women talk about… well, the stuff women talk about in the secret language of women that guys like me don’t understand.

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Sherry Cobble at the Sunshine Club

So those things about the nudist community have not changed over time.  True in the 1960’s is true today.  The thing most of you don’t realize is that there are lot more nudists in the world than you are reasonably ready to admit.  And the nudist community has a lot more old naturists than you probably thought possible.  Naked wrinkles and beer bellies are a thing.

What I have learned about myself by joining the nudist community (though only once at only one of the several nudist camps available in sunny Texas) is that the nakedness and thoughts about nakedness in my novels is there for a reason, and it will not go away.  I am trying to be a Young Adult novelist, which means my novels are basically aimed at a junior high and high school audience.  I have to dance a carefully straight line between the need to be honest with naked reality and Amazon’s prohibition of adult content in YA novels.  Sherry Cobble luring young boys into going camping naked with her family is on that borderline.  It is not sexual content.  But it is naked content and the barriers have been physically set aside.  The humor caused by sexual tension can’t cross the line into bawdy or lewd or pornographic.  Nor would I want it to.

But people who write fiction do it not because it’s fun.  It is necessary.  We have lived lives that leave us damaged in ways that can only be fixed through fiction.  The world has to be reshaped in words by people who can’t live with the world the way it was.  The truth is, I was sexually assaulted when I was a child, one traumatic event that clouded and warped my self-confidence, my sex life, and my self-concept.  Healing has been a life-long process.  In fiction, it means characters having to deal with the naked truth and make peace with it.  This I believe I have done in so many different ways as a teacher, a husband, a father, and a story-teller, that it simply has to be shared.  I will publish Superchicken on Amazon soon, and hopefully Edward-Andrew’s nudist adventure will pass the Amazon test.  I have some nutty nudist notions in my nerdy old noodle, but in a novel, they can all be made new.

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