Category Archives: irony

Singing Rock and Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wheels of the Stupidity Cycle

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Sadly, the Flynn Effect is working now in reverse.  If you didn’t know, for decades the collective IQ of the United States has been increasing.  People have been getting smarter.  Improvements in education, health care, and diet had been making it possible for each succeeding class year to score better by a significant and steady amount every year over the students of the previous year.  Apparently, according to recent data analysis, it kept going up through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and the 80’s.

And then, in about 1991, people began to be born who were destined to do worse than their predecessors.  People stopped getting smarter.  In fact, they not only leveled out, they began to get dumber.  Bummer.  As a teacher who taught during that time period, I have to pause and wonder… was it my fault?

I want to be clear about my use of illustrations here.  Not all of the faces I used in the collage above are actually stupid people.  I am told Rowan Atkinson (who plays an idiot character named Mr. Bean) is actually a genius with a very high IQ.  And some of the faces are not even from actual people.  They are cartoon characters or animals or Donald Trump.  And none of them actually caused the decline of IQ scores.  (Although I can’t prove the actor Brendan Fraser didn’t cause it by making the movie George of the Jungle.)

Economic factors brought about by the Reagan Revolution probably caused the wheel of life to turn back towards the stupid end of the cycle.  Rich people began sucking up and keeping every dollar possible, making themselves impossibly rich, and leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs.  McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King turned the poorer suburbs into virtual food deserts of no nutritional value in every major urban area.  Schools across the nation have been forced to teach to tests whose main and sometimes only purpose is to prove schools undeserving of their funding so States can shift that funding towards private and for-profit schools.  Starved for proper funding, it is only natural that schools turned from learning institutions into baby-sitting services and uniformity indoctrination centers.  Schools now put out only average and poor students because that was the goal of education reform all along in conservative minds.

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So what, exactly, should we do about it?  Well, the wheel will still turn.  And as all wheels do, the part that is on the bottom will return to the top, and stupid will return to bottom as it obviously has before.

The next century is rife with problems that threaten human life on Earth.  Those problems, like income inequality, climate change through corporate abuse of the environment, the nuclear threat, and Donald Trump, will have to be solved by the next generation’s smart people.  When they do solve all those problems, the world will be better for it… or destroyed.  One of those.

And don’t mistake my meaning.  Stupid people have their own value.  Clowns like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers are doing a far better job of helping us understand the issues of today than the nightly news is.  There is a great deal of fun to be had in watching the cat-and-mouse game of Robert Mueller and Donald Trump (where Trump is not the mouse so much as the cheese the mouse ate to start all the slapstick brouhaha).

And people who are not particularly smart can have great value in an infinite number of other ways.  Simple people may never be able to do calculus, but they can make you smile and feel loved better than some of the sharpest intellects (who often tend towards cynicism and bitterness).

The wheels of the Stupidity Cycle will continue to turn because that is the very nature of wheels. We will eventually be smart again.  We can’t keep getting dumber forever (though we did elect Trump).  And this is a pessimist telling you this.  So if this is completely wrong and off base, remember, I am also trying to be positive about the future.

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Filed under angry rant, education, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, Paffooney

Alliteration

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I find alliteration to be a useful poetic tool to use for comedy purposes.  I like to use it to the point of ridiculousness… as in apt alliteration’s artful aid.  The repetition for repetition’s sake in spite of meaning is in itself chuckle-worthy.  But when alliteration can further the meaning of the writing itself also… I liberally laugh out loud.

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L-Words (a Lousy L-Poem)

Lovely little lambs lament

Little lambs lament the loss of love

Lambs lament loudly and long

Lament the loss of lovely love

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Lovely little lambs laugh loudly

Little Lambs laugh at life lived lovingly

Lambs laugh long and loudly

Laugh long and loudly in lieu of love

Life and love and laughter

The three L’s

Laugh lovely little lambs!

Okay, I know… I am the king of bad poetry.  But perhaps the alliterative excess makes you laugh a little bit… at my poor poetry skills if nothing else.

Alliteration always awards awesomeness on authors… or not.

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Morning With Coyotes

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Coyotes live in the city.  You hardly ever see them, though.  This one was entirely too interested in me walking my dog at around six thirty in the morning.  You can see the hungry look in his eyes.  It made him brave and brassy enough to walk up right behind us on the sidewalk in the park just after the sun had come up.  I got a chance to look him right in the foxy-eyed stare he was giving us.  He had fully planned to snatch Jade, my Cardigan corgi from behind if I hadn’t turned around in time.

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Old Wiley Coyote would’ve successfully snatched her too, if I hadn’t noticed him out of the corner of my eye and turned around on him.  But shouting at him only made him back off, not flee.  He was a big coyote, big enough to give me a really bad day if he wanted to go through with the planned attack.  Who knows?  Maybe he breakfasted on old men before too.

Jade bristled at him and talked really tough, but she was scared witless.  And he was obviously bold and bad enough to be confident that he didn’t need to immediately run away.  He stayed there looking at us with his evil yellow wolf eyes.  He stayed long enough to allow me to take a picture of him.  And he didn’t leave until we chased him just a bit to show him we were not afraid (even though we really were).  (The dog told me after that my face had gone ghost white.)

Being stalked by a hungry coyote early in the morning is sort of a bad omen to begin a day with, especially when so many other things have been going wrong for me.  But, as always, I laugh about it and write about it and make it seem of little consequence by doing so.  Still, I am not a road runner.  And that coyote had murder on his mind.

 

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Filed under family dog, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, photo paffoonies

Is Mickey Icky?


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

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

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Filed under artists I admire, book reports, goofy thoughts, horror writing, humor, insight, irony, Mickey, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Rain Is Supposed To Make Flowers Grow…

I am a pessimist by choice.  I always expect and prepare for the worst.  It is possible that this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as I seem to be the butt of a series of never-ending cosmic jokes and misfortunes.    Last night the rain came down hard in Texas.  We got over 4 inches of rain in a little over two hours.  It came in the house as the river of runoff found enough cracks and crevices in the south wall of the house to soak the carpets in the family room and the Princess’s bedroom.

We had to get electronics off the floor.  My son had to rescue computer equipment and game machines.  The wooden feet of furniture got soaked, and the carpet became spotted and squishy.  I was feeling ill already, and a wet carpet will swiftly become a mold farm… mold I am highly allergic to.  I have some carpet cleaning to do today.  In fact, the carpet will have to be removed before too long.

But even though we got way too much rain in too short a time, and it did damage, rain does make the flowers grow.  I will end up doing the carpet removal myself, as I have done twice before.  The exercise will be good for my heart, my diabetes, and my arthritis.  Exercise, though hard and painful, is a flower of goodness.  I will also be able to control how we reshape and restore the floors.  Tile is better for allergies than carpet anyway.

I have no money and I’m in poor health.  Misfortune continues to rain down upon me relentlessly like raindrops in a thunderstorm.  But I am prepared.  I have know-how and a will to respond to misfortune.  I needed another challenge about now.  Eleventy-eleven bad things happening yearly is more or less the way it goes now.  And rain does eventually result in flowers.

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Stupid Stuff I Think And Do

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Last night I spent a couple of hours avoiding washing the dishes that piled up in the sink for the weekend by submitting my rough draft novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children to the Inkitt free novel contest.   I am pretty sure that was a stupid thing to do.  I created the above cover to complete the submission.  I had previously decided by researching Inkitt that it was probably a bad idea to go for this kind of publishing scheme.  I cannot afford another vanity press price.  I can only manage free publishing opportunities.  I am probably better off publishing through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

The novel is not entirely a stand-alone.  It is the companion story to The Baby Werewolf whose climax I am working on last week and this week.  It wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t a pile of irresistible weird stuff left over from the creation of The Baby Werewolf and Superchicken.   It is full of fairy tales, “real” fairies created by fairy tales, Nazis, teenage nudist girls, and a sweet old German lady who managed to survive the holocaust.

The contest will only have four winners this month, and I did not submit it until four days before the end of the month.  Snowball’s chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks, right? I cannot afford to pay them to publish it.  So if it doesn’t win, I tell them no.

I mistakenly believe I am a good writer and story-teller.  But that may be a totally delusional belief.  I am not any good at the publishing and promoting game.  I am forced to trust to luck, and am probably the unluckiest goober who ever lived.

And while I was tackling the crisis point of my horror novel last week, my Republican friends and family, rabid Trump supporters all, were on my case in social media about why I, as a former teacher, wasn’t completely on their side about making teachers with guns a line of defense against future school shootings.  I have to be careful what I say and support, because a single wrong word can blow up my friends on Facebook with an incendiary display of name-calling, Fox News facts (which are pretty far removed from true facts), accusations, recriminations, and crying about my stupidity.  And through it all, I am not totally convinced that the stupidity is all on my side of the word war.

So, we shall wait and see.  I did a stupid thing.  I said some stupid stuff. I have risked a lot on the current direction of the wind. And soon I will know if my stupidity has scuttled me, and I come crashing down in my sailboat to bottom of the sea… or if I am somehow right, and allowed, for now, to sail onward.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing, strange and wonderful ideas about life, word games, writing