Category Archives: insight

The Sardonic Solliloquy

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The homeless man wandered onto center stage just as the spotlight went on.  He shaded his old eyes against the brightness and looked outward into the dark  theater.  It was probably some kind of mistake.

“Oh, so now it’s my turn to talk, eh?”

There was no response.

“Well, if you’re expecting something funny to come out of my mouth, good luck with that.  More than half of what I say that makes people laugh is the result of depression, ill health, and just plain ignorant stupidity.  And the other half of it is not meant to be funny, but is because I don’t always understand what I am saying.”

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There was an embarrassed chuckle somewhere in the darkness.

“I mean, you can’t expect too much from me. I’m a bum.  I have no money.  I have no job.  Not having any work to be bothered with is kinda good.  But the other thing kinda sucks.

And all the great comedians that used to stand on this stage and try to save the world through humor are dead now.  It’s true.  Robin Williams died recently.  George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, and Bill Cosby are all long gone.”

There was some nervous laughter in the theater.

“Oh, I know, Cosby only thinks he’s dead.  But he kinda killed the character delivering the wisdom in the form of observational comedy, didn’t he.”

 

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“But most of them old boys tried to come up here and tell you the truth.  And the truth was so absolutely unexpectedly wacky and way out of bounds that you just had to laugh.  And the more wicked the humor, the more you just laughed.  You didn’t do anything about the problems they talked about.  But you sure did laugh.”

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“It seems like the more they told you the truth and the more you just laughed about it, the more old and bitter they got.  Sardonic?  You know that word?  Not sardines, fools, but sardonic.   Bitterly humorous and sadly funny.  Seems like a lot of them old boys got more and more bitter, more and more depressed up to the end.  More and more sardonic.”

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“I mean,  Carlin was calling you stupid right to your face at the end.  And you just laughed it off.”

The theater had grown eerily silent.

“But it ain’t all bad, is it?  I mean, at least you all can still laugh.  Only smart people get the jokes.  The ones Carlin moaned about were laughing because everybody else was laughing.  Those weren’t the ones we were talking to.  There’s still life out there somewhere.  Maybe intelligent life.  Maybe aliens ain’t located any intelligent life on Earth yet, but they’re still trying, ain’t they?”

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“You shoulda listened more carefully to what they were saying.  Life and love and laughter were bound up in their words.”

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“So I guess what I’m really saying is… just because I happened to get a rare chance to say it to you all… learn to listen better.  The voices are quiet now.  But the words are still there. And laughing at them is still a good thing.  But remember, you need to hear them too.”

The theater suddenly filled with the roar of a standing ovation.  The old man bowed.  And this was ironic because… the theater had always been empty.  No one at all was there now.

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Filed under comedians, humor, insight, poetry, quotes, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism, Uncategorized, wisdom, word games

Why Mickey is Surreal

Literary realism attempts to represent familiar things as they are.

Surrealism definition: Surrealism is a type of literature in which the author attempts to display irrational or dreamlike qualities in his or her writing. Surrealism refers to writing that goes beyond the realistic into a creative, imaginative realm that often has dreamlike qualities.

Two definitions of styles of writing that are common in today’s literary realm.

Realism is a tradition that began in the middle of the 18th Century. It includes authors like Balzac, Alexander Pushkin, Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, and Charles Dickens. They tend to focus on the details that shine a light on the grungy, dreary realities of the Industrial Revolution, the American Experiment in Democracy, and wars like the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and wars against Napoleon, Hitler, and Communist Russia.

Surrealism, especially as it grew legs and began galloping in the 20th Century is really a reaction to the realities that Realism ground into our souls. Science Fiction imagines the problems and the possibilities presented by applying science and industry into our future. Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and Aldous Huxley are all surrealists because they apply the power of their imaginations to dealing with the limits reality hangs around the neck of the race horse we call life on Earth.

Fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Neil Gaiman, and JK Rowlings apply apples of imagination hung from a string in front of the race horse to motivate him onward. The race horse of life on Earth is a dreamlike metaphor, somewhat like a dog who smokes a pipe and solves crimes, and is the kind of literary device that defines surrealism the way that Mickey sees it.

But enough about what surrealism is. It is just realism with a “sur” pasted on the front. So, let me just show you some.

These are Snow Babies from the book of the same name. If you see one during a blizzard, it might mean you will freeze to death.
This is a sample of an illustration for a friend’s children’s book idea that never got made. Accidentally travelling by bubble-gum-chewing goldfish.
This picture shows that, in order to do surrealism, you must make the dreamlike seem very realistic.
In When the Captain Came Calling, the Captain is invisible and Valerie Clarke gets turned into a squirrel by Voodoo.
Mickey is not the only surrealist who thinks of Toys coming to Life.

So, now that you have seen the pictorial evidence that Mickey thinks surreal thoughts, you should be willing to admit… He probably really is a Surrealist. Or, possibly, he surreally is a surrealist.

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The Surprises We Are Made From

I was amazed when I awoke this morning, not stuffed-up and apparently dying. I really expected this last bout of flu to be the end of me. I figured I had only lasted this long by sheer luck and the grace of whatever gods really do flit about us and don’t ignore us completely. I figured Covid would claim me by the end of this week. After all, I have COPD, genetic heart issues, high blood pressure, and diabetes. But if it was Covid 19, which most likely it was not, it turned out to be one of the milder flus I have endured in the last decade. Yesterday, the fifth day, was the worst day. And, like has happened more than fifteen times since 2008, the following day sees me feeling almost completely better. I had H1N1 twice according to the flu tests I took. Once for each f the strains of that particular epidemic. I have had severe bronchitis three times, and spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia once. The biggest surprise was that I hadn’t succumbed to this whole awful virus business before now. Every extra day I am given is a new surprise.

I had some other surprises. I got the results back from a book review I requested through the Pubby book-review cooperative I am working with. The Pubby author’s desktop had told me the review for Magical Miss Morgan was going to be a four-star review. The actual review, once Amazon approved it, was actually only a three-star review. The reviewer was apparently a former teacher who took issue with some of Miss Morgan’s classroom decisions and also objected to some name-calling in the book. Name-calling? The only name-calling I recall comes from students making jokes about unpleasant teachers’ names, and some fairy racial slurs used against other fairies. The fire-wisps are known for a lack of intelligence since their bodies are literally made of magical fire, leading inescapably to the whole race being hot-headed.

I am not upset about the poor rating. I expect some people not to like my books for any number of reasons. And it is refreshing to see a reviewer giving a specific criticism and proving she actually read the book. That is much better than the reviewer of Recipes for Gingerbread Children, a book about a Holocaust survivor who makes her peace with the world by telling fairy tales to children, who gave it five stars for having “very good recipes for gingerbread cookies.” That faker not only didn’t read the book, he didn’t even look at the basic information in the review request.

It would’ve been nice, though, if Pubby had been more accurate about reporting the number of stars. That’s not the kind of surprise I really enjoy, even if I did learn from it.

The third surprise I had today was how easy it was to reclaim my Hulu account. I have been paying for it right along, but I lost access to it when the last TV in the house burned out its screen. I couldn’t transfer it to my laptop because I was sharing the account with my eldest son who doesn’t live in our house anymore. I could not change the password because he was still using it, and the account would not recognize my laptop without changing the old password. Finally, a month after my son got his own account, I was able to reach Hulu programming once again by resetting the password. I was really surprised that a months-long problem was dispatched in less than ten minutes.

Surprises, both good and bad, actually shape our lives. The performers I used as illustrations all entertained me by surprising me. I learned things from them my whole life… and I am still learning from them. In Chaplin’s case, I even learned from the surprise of who he turned out to really be. Not such a mice man. I was also surprised by how good of a person Fred Rogers turned out to actually be. And it is surprising how much Red Skelton’s difficult life and heart-felt comedy actually helped make me be the kind of man I came to be, whether you think that is good or bad in itself.

And that is all I have to say abut that. Surprise!

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Islands of Identity

Island Girl2z

Who am I?

Why do I do the things that I do?

No man is an island.  John Donne the English poet stated that.  And Ernest Hemingway quoted it… and wove it into his stories as a major theme… and proceeded to try to disprove it.  We need other people.  I married an island girl from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.  She may have actually needed me too, though she will never admit it.

Gilligans Island

When I was a young junior high school teacher in the early eighties, they called me Mr. Gilligan.  My classroom was known as Gilligan’s Island.  This came about because a goofball student in the very first class on the very first day said, “You look like Gilligan’s Island!”  By which he meant I reminded him of Bob Denver, the actor that played Gilligan.  But as he said it, he was actually accusing me of being an island.  And no man is an island.  Thank you, Fabian, you were sorta dumb, but I loved you for it.

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You see, being Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island was not a bad thing to be.  It was who I was as a teacher.  Nerdy, awkward, telling stories about when I was young, and my doofy friends like Skinny Mulligan.  Being a teacher gave me an identity.  And Gilligan was stranded on the Island with two beautiful single women, Mary Ann and Ginger.  Not a bad thing to be.  And I loved teaching and telling stories to kids who would later be the doofy students in new stories.

But we go through life searching for who we are and why we are here.  Now that I am retired, and no longer a teacher… who am I now?  We never really find the answer.  Answers change over time.  And so do I.

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Elderberries of Wisdom

Now, during the winter of Covid 19, is the right time for a bite of elderberry pie. Or a sip of elderberry wine. Did you know, the antioxidants in elderberries are a European remedy for colds and flu from the middle ages? There is old wisdom in turning to elderberries to protect you from virus and bacteria.

And old wisdom is what you get from old berries like me. The longer you put up with my blue/black berry tartness of taste, the more likely my bittersweet wisdom is to affect you in some positive ways.

Here’s a bite of elderberry pie for you. “When it comes to taste, don’t go for too much sweet or two much sour. The road between those two valley edges avoids both diabetic breakdowns on the one hand, and old, bitter cynicism on the other.”

The middle road, down the canyon’s center, is the safest road to take. Go too far to either side, and there are cliffs with many rockfalls, and occasional rattlesnakes. (I know these are metaphorical rattlesnakes; those are the best kind. It is the best way to express the idea without actual snakebites, and I only wish the members of our governing bodies knew that.)

Here’s another forkful. “A little bit of bitter is necessary to the overall flavor.”

I could also use the trite old food metaphor about having to break eggs to make omelets, but I am trying for pie-based metaphors here. You have to take a little bit of the bad to get to the really good parts. Sometimes it seems like it takes an awful lot of endurance of the bad to get to not-enough good. The current pandemic seems to be like that. Almost too many bitter berries to get to the medicinal qualities of basically beauteous berries. But that which doesn’t kill us will make us… easier to kill next time? Hopefully not. But haven’t you noticed? The best Disney movies make you cry a little at some points… cringe a little too… but they also make you laugh a lot. And the message of the movie’s ultimate ending leaves you with a smile. And smiling more makes you live a little longer. The berries grow brighter when you can make your own sunshine. These berries are beginning to taste a bit like vinegar because maybe Mickey doesn’t cook them quite right. But bottle them for now and let them ferment a bit. Then you get medicinal elderberry wine.

“Finally, when you have pigged-out on the whole pie, you should be full. It is good to be satisfied.” Eventually you reach a point in life where you will either succumb to despair, or you will look back over the arc of your life and be satisfied. The good you have done should outweigh the damage. You are a good cook. And the whole pie of your life was worth the effort to bake it.

I know that three bites of elderberry wisdom does not seem like much. But the longer you practice berry-baking, the more you come to realize, “A little bit of hard-won wisdom goes a long way towards making you healthy, wealthy and wise.”

  • No, Ben Franklin never said that. Mickey did. Sorry if that means it is not the wise wisdom you were hoping for. Pie-based essays rarely are.

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Filed under humor, insight, metaphor, Mickey, satire

After the Apocalypse

I am starting this post as I often do, with an unplanted seed of an idea that I decide to stick into a fertile place and see what grows. It is a very poor way to plan an essay, but it has yielded a very good essay by the end of it on more than one occasion. Of course, it often ends poorly too.

So, we begin to look down this dark and smelly rabbit hole where strange ideas live because the world ends on Tuesday when Trump gets re-elected with a minority of the actual vote and a majority of the dirty tricks. Because if he gets re-elected, his nightmarish deregulations of everything that needs to be regulated in order for billionaires and corporations not to continue to make profits over destroying people’s lives and the ability to eat the world will make it impossible to undo the damage in time to save the environment from collapse, and us from extinction. And I don’t want to even mention whether or not I think the Trump family deserves to be extinct or not, I am through talking about him or laying blame anywhere.

The fact is, even if Biden wins, he’s not behind implementing the Green New Deal, and his vision of reform will still cause the end of life on Earth.

Remember, I am a pessimist. I always expect the worst to happen. But the worst is BAD. We really should be trying to avoid it, not be stupid enough to deny the problem even exists just because a Senator from Oklahoma can bring a snowball into the Senate Chamber.

And remember too we still have the Covid 19 pandemic to survive as well. If, as it appears to be the case, you can get the illness again a second and third time, each round causing more internal damage if it doesn’t kill you, the virus may well stick around long enough to infect everyone enough times to drive us to extinction. I fully expect to die from the virus before that nightmare is all over. And I realize that some think that, because the virus is killing Texans and Floridians at ever higher rates with each new wave of infections, that that is merely a “good start” towards killing the real problem. But I love a lot of the people in both States. And just because Governor Abbott and Governor DeSantis and Mickey Mouse and Matt McConaughey are all probably part of the problem, it doesn’t mean I would take comfort from having them die of the virus along with me. But don’t ask me about Trump, the monkey-flinger has already declared himself immune for life and completely kissable. Augh!

You have probably realized by this point that this is a bit of bitter black humor from old Mickey. But I don’t want to leave you with a totally hopeless opinion of what I think is ultimately true. I still have hope for the future. The picture above is mostly done in black ink, using up more than one pen in the creation of it. And yet, the real subject is the light. Yes, the light of the lighthouse. The two luminous children. And the full moon. I have hope for the Green New Deal (if Trump doesn’t win.) I believe in the children I have left behind when Covid kills me, both the ones I raised and the ones I taught. And if it all fails in the end, it was still worth doing. Even when Trump wins.

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Fascination

I am falling apart. My health is poor and continuing to fail. My memory is suffering from an inability to remember the names of things. I find myself in the kitchen having gone in for a specific purpose, and not being able to remember what that purpose was. That is not to say I am not coping. I have quite a lot of adaptability and significant problem-solving skills. But that will eventually become a losing battle. Especially if I get the virus… any virus. So, what am I going to talk about with a dissolving brain and an hourglass of lifeforce swiftly running out? Fascination. I am fascinated by the details of the process. Like Mr. Spock, I find practically everything, “Fascinating!”

Birds and butterflies

My childhood fascinations turned into obsession first around natural things. When my mother would go to Vey Osier’s Beauty Salon, Vey had this fascinating parrot that was probably a hundred years old and knew how to swear really, really foully. I remember that being the only reason I was willing to go there and wait for Mom to get her hair fussed up (What my Grandpa Aldrich, her father, used to call it.)

I remember waiting for hours to hear that bird say the magic F-word or the horrible S-word. Or even the zillion other bad words I didn’t know anything about when I was seven. And, of course, I never did. The bird was mute the whole time during who-knows-how-many visits. But I did get to look endlessly at that green parrot’s amazing nutcracker bill that Vey always assured us would snap our fingers off like biting a salted pretzel if we got them anywhere close to the bill.

And when I was nine I was given as a present a plastic model kit of a Golden-Crowned Kinglet (the bird in that first picture). My relatives knew I was a burgeoning artist since my teachers constantly complained about all the skeletons, crocodiles, and monsters I drew in the margins of my school workbooks. So, I had a plastic bird to paint with all the necessary paints, but no idea what the bird looked like. We had to go all the way to Mason City to Grandma Beyer’s house because we called up there and checked, and, sure enough, there was a colored picture in the K volume of her Collier’s Encyclopedia. I painted it so accurately, the danged thing looked almost alive.

And if you have ever seen any of my butterfly posts, you know I became a butterfly hunter before ever entering junior high school, where Miss Rubelmacher, the rabid seventh-grade science teacher, made that obsession a hundred times worse. (She didn’t actually have rabies, just a reputation of requiring excessively hard-to-find life-science specimens like a nasturtium that bloomed in October in Iowa, or a Mourning Cloak butterfly.

I was able to find for her numerous Red-Spotted Purples like the one in the picture. I got them off the grill of Dad’s Ford, as well as in Grandpa Aldrich’s grove. And I eventually caught a pair of Mourning Cloaks as well on Grandpa Aldrich’s apple trees, though not until summer after seventh grade was over for me. I could tell you about my quest to catch a Tiger Swallowtail, too. But that’s an entirely different essay, written for an entirely different thematic reason.

Needless to say, my bird fascination led me to become an amateur bird-watcher with a great deal of useless naturalist information crammed into my juvenile bird-brain about birds. Especially Cardinals. And my fascination with butterflies opened my eyes to a previously invisible world of fascinating and ornately-decorated bugs. (Of course, I should’ve said “insects” instead of “bugs” since I absolutely did learn the difference.) And I still to this day know what a Hairstreak Butterfly looks like, what a Luna Moth is (Think Lunesta Commercials,) and how you have to look at the underside of the lower wings to correctly identify a Moonglow Fritillary Butterfly.

During my lifetime, my fascinations have become legion. I became obsessed with the comic books done by artist Wally Wood, especially Daredevil. I became obsessed with Disney movies, especially the animated ones like The Rescuers, The Jungle Book, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. I rode the bucking bronco of a fascination with the Roswell Crash (and the actual alien space ships I am almost certain the U.S. Army recovered there.) And so many other things that it would make this essay too long, and would probably bore you into a death-like coma. So, here’s what I have learned by being fascinated with my own fascinations;

  1. You do not want to play me in a game of Trivial Pursuit for money, even now that my memory is like swiss cheese.
  2. I have a real ability to problem-solve because I know so many useless details that can be combined in novel ways to come up with solutions to problems.
  3. I can write interesting essays and engaging novels because I have such a plethora of concrete details and facts to supplement my sentences and paragraphs with.
  4. It can be really, really boring to talk to me about any of my fascinations unless I happen to light the same color of fire in your imagination too. Or unless you arrived at that same fascination before I brought it up.

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The Same Old New Day

Today is…

a new day.

an opportunity.

a day to celebrate.

But Last Night was…

a horror show.

proof our Prexydent is a monster.

reason to be afraid of the future.

So, what do we do?

I wish I had answers. I woke up with a slight sore throat this morning. I have a cough that comes and goes. That is nothing new for me and my allergies this time of year. Still… it might be COVID. I could be dead before the end of the week. My power to affect anything in the world right now is very limited. I have to wait in Texas until early voting starts on October 13th, a very ominously-numbered day. I still have to finish and publish book number 18. And I feel like it is a very good novel. But I may be too ill to write that last chapter today. And it would be a shame to leave this world without finishing it.

We must never give up hope.

We must remember where we came from.

And look for new dawns more than colorful sunsets.

But most of all…

We must remember who we care for…

and the value placed on love.

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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

Powered by Oxford Dictionaries

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.

This pandemic has been hard on me. 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. I am susceptible to the disease. It didn’t slay me on its first visit to the house, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get me on the second or third visit. Health experts are expecting a resurgence of up to 3,000 deaths per day before the end of the year. If I am relying on luck to avoid it, luck will run out.

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 writing yet to do. I am about to finish The Wizard in his Keep. 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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Filed under artwork, healing, health, insight, Paffooney, religion

Another Saturday Gallery Peek

The thing about being an artist that I can’t seem to really explain, if I even am one, is “Why?” I mean why am I an artist? I am not a camera. You look at my imperfect drawings, and you can see it is a drawing. Even if I did photo-realistic drawings, I would still have to wonder “Why?” Why go to all that work if we have cameras for that?

And if we draw something that never was, but might have been… if only we were made like gods and could control everything around us completely… why is that worth doing? Just to see things through my eyes? I have weird eyes. They see skateboards with flaming Bart Simpsons on them saying, “Eat my shorts!” What is the value of that?

Perhaps this sort of “Seeing through someone else’s eyes” gives us a perspective that we could get no other way. I know I love art museums, art books, and art collections even more than I like looking at my own art. I love looking at the world as other people see it.

Maybe artwork, in one form or another is the closest we can come to truly sharing what’s inside us with other human beings, mind to mind, heart to heart, liver of blood-curdling revelation to liver of blood-curdling revelation… wait, you mean not everyone has a liver like that?

So, not everyone lives life the way I do, or knows what I know, or remembers the sweet, sad things I remember, or sees things the way I see them. Is that, then, the reason why for being an artist? Or cartoonist if you believe that I am not a real artist?

If I truly am an artist… and I am not convinced that I truly am, then I don’t answer the why questions. It is the job of the scientist to do that. I only ask the questions. And I do it by drawing the next inexplicable thing.

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