Category Archives: irony

Plumbing the Darkness

There is a dark future hanging over us all. No, I am not simply trying to bring you down with the idea that we all will face death sooner or later. I am going to bring you down with an all-encompassing dread. Because, of course, that’s what humorists do. We try to introduce uncomfortable truths into your lives with a suddenly-revealed truth that takes you by surprise and leaves you with nothing you can do about it but laugh… laugh insanely.

Here’s a bummer. The government of the United States is dissolving into chaos because corrupt people have taken over all the political power due to the fact that they are legally allowed to spend whatever amount of money they want to change the laws and the people who make them.

And this did not begin with President Pumpkinhead. It has been a while since a Mr. Smith could go to Washington and actually make a dent in the armored juggernaut of evil. Why do you think nobody in the President’s party is working to remove him in spite of the clear evidence of corruption in how he incompetently goes about not doing the job he was elected to do?

I often turn to Answers with Joe on YouTube to make myself feel infinitely worse about these things. This video does a good job of explaining how stupid people like me are doing it wrong, not learning to field a meteor shower of informational fly balls that burn holes through your figurative baseball glove and the hand inside it if you actually catch one. And because we don’t know how to fact-check what we’re seeing inside our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram bubbles that are built out of malevolent algorithm-directed soap, we have all failed to learn how to learn and protect ourselves from infectiously poopy facts. We have all become stupid people and are the ones Goofy Dave makes fun of in the cartoon above. And if you think that makes you feel bad, remember that I was once a teacher. What you haven’t learned is, at least in part,, my fault.

And it gets worse. Suppose for a moment the Mayan calendar wasn’t wrong about the world ending in 2012, but merely has a typo in it. Maybe it was supposed to say 2021. Ice in the Arctic will soon be gone from the global warming that stupid people don’t believe is established science. All of the carbon locked in the bottom of the Arctic sea and in the permafrost of the Northern Hemisphere will soon be free to enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and will be capable of turning our planet into Venus with thousand degree temperature days on the surface of the earth. I hate to say this, but my air-conditioner can’t handle that. Neither can yours.

But I am not like George Carlin, using humor to make you feel so low you have to look up to see the soles of your shoes and then leaving it there after the last black-humor joke-bomb has burned away your sole… er, soul. There is still hope. A massively important breakthrough in technology, or, more likely sociology, will have to be made and implemented really fast. And it will require some magnificently genius-level smart folks to do some magnificently genius-level problem-solving. But there are still very smart people on this planet. And they can’t all be corrupt, can they? And I really can’t imagine they have anything more important to do right now than save all life on the planet. But we can do our part too, you and I. We need to notice all this darkness around us, and light some danged candles!

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

Magic Man

My daughter, seen here in this oil painting of me and her, she’s the one trying to talk to the spirit elk in a previous lifetime, has started painting oil paintings. She started with a picture of a small cactus growing in sand. I have to admit, when she showed it to me for the first time, I thought it was a green basketball. But she has worked out the details since and it is beginning to actually look like a cactus. Now, you might think I was making fun of her in this post, calling her an oil painter who makes cactuses into green basketballs, and using my oil painting of a nude and overly-white Native American girl to illustrate her, but actually, this post is praising her abilities. She is already a much better watercolorist than I will ever be. And she is learning to paint green basketballs… er, cactuses, in oil paint at a much faster rate than I ever did. This semi-competent oil painting of mine took many practice paintings and many years to achieve. Far slower than her mastery of the medium coming into focus before her eighteenth birthday. And besides, she is leading the sacred spirit elk into the safety of the lake and away from the stormy darkness of the background, while I, as my Native American self, can stand hamming it up and looking at the artist as I have my vanity-project portrait done in oil paint.

Okay, so this is not a perfect essay, and it is not 500 words. But painting in oils and trying to be a real artist is hard enough without you criticizing. Be kind in the comments, or I might cry.

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Filed under daughters, humor, irony, nudes, oil painting, Paffooney, self portrait

Me, Myself, and Eye…

I am aware that nobody who looks at my blog ever clicks on my videos. This one, however, would be very useful if you are really going to read and engage with this essay. This self-reflection came into being as a response to watching this video. The video talks about how most people can’t stand to actually sit alone in a room with only themselves. And it has an impact. I have claimed in the past to being a devotee of the Theodore Roethke maxim, “Being, not doing, is my first love.”  But how does one go about becoming truly self-aware? How does one enumerate the concept of “being”? I believe I can do it, but it requires a bit of self-examination. How do I do it?  

Let me count the ways…

I put myself down on paper, through drawing or writing in English and look at the way it portrays me.

I find myself in both the written characters I create and the cartoon characters I draw. In Hidden Kingdom, my graphic novel, the Mouse and young Prinz Flute are both me. I can see myself both as the reluctant romantic hero and the snarky child-thing with a dangerous little bit of wisdom.

I learn to know more about my secret heart and what I truly think about the world I live in and react to by writing about what I think and the things that happen to me, both for good and ill. This blog is all about learning about myself, just as your blog is a mirror of who you really are. Consequently, I have no secrets left.

I not only reveal myself in this blog, but I also attempt to sing about myself in much the same way that Walt Whitman did in his poetry.

I live most of my life in my own imagination. It is a silly Willy Wonka world of images, songs, music, and dreams. It can all blow away in a moment when the sun comes out. It can also keep me in a light-obscuring cloud wrapped and safe, well away from the things I fear and the things that worry me. I came to realize I was repressing the memory of being sexually assaulted when I was ten through a dream when I was nineteen, re-living the event in a dream from which I awoke with a blinding flash of realization. I came to grips with the horror that mangled my childhood and young adulthood first by facing the fact that the nightmare had been real, and then by finding ways to overcome it. I became a teacher of young people in large part as a way to protect them and prevent such a thing from ever happening again to someone else.

I use my fictional stories about the girl Valerie Clarke to examine my relationships with my own daughter and a couple of old girlfriends from my youth.

I often worry that I don’t see real people as being real people. I tend to think of them from the first meeting onward as potential book characters, walking collections of details and quirks, conflicts and motivations. But I recognize too that that way of seeing with the author’s eye is not incorrect. People really are those things. There are rules and generalizations that everyone falls under at some point. It is not so much that I see real people as book characters as it is that I realize that book characters are as real as any other purportedly “real” people.

I am myself both the subject of my cartooning and fictionarooning, and the cartoon character of myself as well.

Mickey is not a real person. He is a cartoonist persona, a mask, a fake identity, and the lie I tell myself about who I actually am.

In this essay, I have attempted to explain to you who I think I am spending time with when I am alone in a room with myself. He is not such a terrible person to spend time with, this Mickey. Or else he really is truly awful, and I am lying about me and who I think I am when I am alone with me and have no other options. But probably not. I have been getting to know me for about 562 years, only exaggerating by 500, and I am not finished yet.

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Filed under autobiography, being alone, irony, Mickey, Paffooney

Rebuilding

The retaining wall that keeps the yard from flowing downhill into the park and down to the creek, is now growing back upwards, visibly straighter and better grounded than it was before.

In his poem “Mending Wall”, Robert Frost suggested that the wall dividing his property and the neighbor’s property is constantly falling down and requiring mending. He gets together with his neighbor and they replace the fallen stones, mending the wall between them. And then the neighbor says the oft-quoted line, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Ironically, the neighbor is not saying that having a wall between them makes them better neighbors. He is saying that their friendship is built on mending the wall together.

And so it is with me and number two son as we labor together to straighten the foundation stones and replace all the heavy stone bricks that we had to remove to get to them. It is hard work, slowed by heavy bricks, one arthritic back, multiple rainy days, cold weather, and fatigue. But slowly we have problem-solved together, discussed the state of the world, and mended the wall. We have also mended our working relationship as father and son. A good wall makes a stronger family in the Frostian sense.

And so, I have come to see how life imitates art, and work begets poetry. A little sunshine creeps back into the picture when you engage in a little rebuilding.

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Filed under commentary, family, irony, metaphor, philosophy, poetry

Idealism

Idealism (a poem)

When I was but a stupid boy

I had a stupid thought

That if you told a story well

And that story was easily bought

That you could save yourself from hell

If the story was rightly wrought

And the telling would end in joy.

………………..

But when I was an awkward youth

I tried my tale to spin

And awkwardly my words went wrong

And my story failed to win

And readers sang that critical song

And laughter crept right in

And my steering was not strong

My story was uncouth.

……………….

But as a mostly mature man

I tried to tell the truth

And live my life by a mature code

And profit from lessons of youth

And composed a much more stable ode

That rhymed while showing tooth

And defended my small abode.

I executed my story’s plan.


Finally, I wisely became real old

And I warily and wisely began to lie

I made of life a serious joke

And ate my small piece of the pie

I laughed and watched the faces in the smoke

As the fires began to die

And I made the point as I wisely awoke

My story is now told.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, humor, irony, metaphor, Paffooney, poem, poetry, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Secret Life of Clowns

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The clowns of Sing Sad Songs; Mr. Dickens, Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Disney, and Mr. Poe

The truth is, clowns are rarely happy people under the greasepaint and the manic grin.  An underlying feature of every funnyman is a background of hardship, suffering, and sadness.  There is a reason why Robin Williams committed suicide and Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose.  If you listen to the comedy of George Carlin in his last few years, he became a horribly bitter and cynical man.

The reason for all this wearing of clown masks and underlying sadness is really based on a very simple equation.   Living a hard life, but dealing with it with the power a sense of humor gives you, yields wisdom.  And how do you best deliver wisdom to all the people out there?  A sugar-coated candy shell is just the thing.  A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine to go down, to plagiarize Mary Poppins.  Say your wise words like a wise guy and say it with a smile.

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So why am I so clown-happy and therefore clown-posty today?  Well, I have used clowns in a very metaphorical way in the novel I am now finishing, Sing Sad Songs.  Clowns are definitely on my mind.  And I have a sneaking suspicion creeping up on me that maybe… just maybe… I am myself a clown.

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Filed under clowns, comedians, commentary, humor, irony, Paffooney

Mickey’s Secret Identities

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Yes, there is very definitely a possibility that there is more than one me.

If you look carefully at the colored pencil drawing above, you will see that it is titled “The Wizard of Edo” and signed by someone called Leah Cim Reyeb.  A sinister sounding Asian name, you think?  I told college friends that my research uncovered the fact that he was an Etruscan artist who started his art career more than two thousand years ago in a cave in France.  But, of course, if you are clever enough to read the name backward, you get, “beyeR miC haeL”.  So, that stupid Etruscan cave artist is actually me.

It turns out that it is a conceit about signing my name as an artist that I stole from an old episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show and have used for well over two decades through college and my teaching career.

And of course, the cartoonist me is Mickey.  Mickey also writes this blog.  Mickey is the humorist identity that I use to write all my published novels and blog posts since I published the novel Catch a Falling Star.

Michael Beyer is the truest form of my secret identity.  That was my teacher name.  It was often simplified by students to simply “Mr. B”.  I was known by that secret identity for 31 years.

Even more sinister are my various fictional identities occurring in my art and my fiction.  You see one of them in this Paffooney.  The name Dr. Seabreez appears in Catch a Falling Star as the Engineer who makes a steam engine train fly into space in the 1890’s with alien technology.  He appears again in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius as a time-traveler.

The young writer in the novel Superchicken, Branch Macmillan, is also me.  As is the English teacher Lawrance “Rance” Kellogg used in multiple novels.

So, disturbing as it may be to realize, there is more than one name and identity that signifies me.  But if you are a writer of fiction, a cartoonist, an artist, or a poet, you will probably understand this idea better.  And you may even have more than one you too.

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Filed under autobiography, foolishness, humor, irony, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life