Category Archives: magic

Only One Star?


There are certain books that simply have to exist in order for me to be me.  I couldn’t be the person I am without The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) by Thomas Mann, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  These are all books that have an allegorical element, a trans-formative effect, that shapes how you think and how you live after reading them. Some of these books have not been made into a movie.  Some probably still can’t be.  Others have not been made into an effective movie.  But, then, Disney in 2018 makes a movie version of A Wrinkle in Time that makes me relive the primary experience of the book all over again.


I was disappointed to see the critics being harsh about the movie.  I had high hopes before going to see it.  Yet, you couldn’t miss the one star rating on the box office rating system of the ticket and show time site I was using.  But my daughter and I went to see it yesterday anyway.  It was far above my highest expectations.


You see, the novel itself is magical.  The essential characters of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which have to be witch-like, super-real incarnations of inter-dimensional beings.  It is the view of them with open-minded childlike eyes that makes the complex relationships of this story to reality apparent to anyone who thinks clearly like a child.  It is the reason why this book is a young adult novel, written primarily for children, even though the concept of a tesseract is wholly mind-bending in a Stephen Hawking sort of way.  It is the wonder with which the director of this movie lensed the dimension-tessering time witches that makes this movie the best version.  Not like that failed attempt in 2003.  That was almost there, but not quite by half.

MV5BMjEyNjc0NDgzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjYwMjcyMQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_ Strangely enough, the things that the critics seem to hate about this version of the movie are precisely the things that I think make it miraculous.

Critics don’t like some of the special effects and the color schemes of some scenes.  Many things about the final battle with evil are seen by them as inexplicably bizarre.  They don’t like the over-use of extreme close-ups on the faces of characters.  And they think the performances of some of the child actors are too wooden and unreal to carry off the story.

I wholeheartedly disagree.


This is a story that takes place in the heads of the people involved, including the viewer of the movie.  The extreme close-ups pull you into the personal feelings and struggles of the main characters.  Particularly Storm Reid as Meg.  The story is about her struggle as an adolescent to be at peace with her own flaws and self-image while at the same time being responsible for finding and saving her father, as he has completely lost his way on his quest to “shake hands with the universe”.  Meg undergoes a challenge to her self image as she is cruelly bullied by another girl in school.  She has to come to terms with loving her super-genius little brother Charles Wallace.  And she has to weather the changes that occur when she encounters a potential first love in Calvin.  It is a coming of age story that really smart kids can relate to directly from their own personal experience.

This one-star movie with only a 40% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a far better movie than the critics would have you believe.  It is doing quite well at the box office.  Kids seem to love it.  And in my wacky opinion, it is the best movie version of the book to date.  I love this movie.

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Filed under art criticism, commentary, magic, movie review, science fiction

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


Some books come along telling a story that has to be taken seriously in ways that don’t make sense in any normal way.  The Alchemist is one of those books.

What is an alchemist, after all?

An alchemist uses the medieval forms of the art of chemistry to transmute things, one thing becoming another thing.

Coelho in this book is himself an alchemist of ideas.  He uses this book to transmute one idea into another until he digs deep enough into the pile of ideas to finally transmute words into wisdom.

There is a great deal of wisdom in this book, and I can actually share some of it here without spoiling the story.

Here are a few gemstones of wisdom from the Alchemist’s treasure chest;

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting…” (p.13)

“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.” (p.17)

“All things are one.  And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”  (p.24)

“And when he had gone only a short distance, he realized that, while they were erecting the stall, one of them had spoken Arabic and the other Spanish.    And they had understood each other perfectly well.  There must be a language that doesn’t depend on words, the boy thought.” (p.45)

All of these quotes from the book, as you can see, come from the first third of the book.  There are many more treasures to be found in this book.  I should not share them with you here.  Just as the main character of the story learns, you have to do the work for yourself.  But this book is not only an enjoyable read, but a map for how you can execute your own journey towards your “Personal Legend”.  In fact, you may find that the book tells you not only how to go about making a dream come true, but, if you are already on that journey successfully, it tells you what things you are already doing right.


Filed under book reports, book review, commentary, good books, magic, strange and wonderful ideas about life, wisdom, wizards

Who Are You Really, Old Man?


A wizened old man in a wizard’s robe walked up to a twelve-year-old boy.

“Okay, ask your question, and make it good.”

“What?” said the boy.  “Who are you, old man?”

“Never mind who I am.  I can answer the ultimate question.  I have lived a long life.  I am very wise.”

“Being old makes you wise.”

“It logically follows, yes.  But surely you have a question for me.  I know the meaning of life.  I can teach you great magic, deep knowledge, and truth.  So what will you ask?”

“But the only wisdom that is real,” said the boy, “is knowing that people like you and I really know nothing in the face of the vast, complex universe.  I’m twelve.  I don’t know anything.  So I am also truly wise.”

“I can’t argue that.  It is circular reasoning.  A circle is a closed loop.  But the snake who eats his own tail in the circle of life is a short-lived fool.”

“I guess you are right.  That probably does make you wise to know that.”

“But you haven’t yet asked your question.  The good one.  What is it that you most need to know to make a success of your life?”

“But I have asked it.  You just haven’t answered.”

“You did?  But what did you ask?”

“Who are you really, old man?”

“Ah, that one again.  Well, at heart, I am the same boy that I was when I was twelve.  I have learned my whole life long, so I am considered a teacher.  I have spent every coin I have ever earned while experiencing my life, so I am a poor man.  But no man on earth can ever be richer than me.  I have peace of mind.  And that is everything of value that there is.  If I am to say who I really am, then I must admit, I am you.”

“I thought so.  In the end, that’s who we all are.”




Filed under humor, irony, magic, Paffooney, satire, self portrait, wisdom, wizards

The Sorcerer’s Tower


In the mysterious continent of Xendrick, the adventuring party came across a very old abandoned tower.  The only way into the tower was a long sloping tunnel that turned out to be trapped and filled with a deadly poison and the numerous corpses of the previous adventuring parties.  Of course, if you are a D & D adventurer, such a tunnel is not going to scare you off.  It is going to irresistibly pull you in.

After nearly dying on three different attempts to get through the tunnel, Gandy Rumspot, the halfling rogue and thief, realized that it was a poison gas in the tunnel.  So he sent Big Cogwheel, the warforged artificial man who didn’t need to actually breathe air, to use his natural immunity to poison to go down and open the tricky invisible door and gain access to the tower.

Voila!  On to further tricks and traps.  At one point, exploding skeleton warriors animated by necromantic trap spells nearly killed Cog the warforged (by rolling a twenty on an attack roll) and required a miraculous magical repair by Gandy to save him.  That left the big metal man with a permanent irrational fear of skeletons.

Along the way, they encountered and had to overcome a bound female demon who had been imprisoned in the tower to keep watch over the property.  She was the slave of the Wizard Crane, builder of the tower long ago, who had then gone abroad and died in his semi-noble quest to slay a devil.  She told the adventurers a great deal about her former master and her imprisonment, monologuing  as villains will before killing and eating the adventurers.  She overdid it, though, accidentally revealing the presence in the room of the devil jar that enslaved her, and even more stupidly, revealing how to activate the jar to physically seal her inside like a genii in a lamp.

D&D Crane1

Finally, they found the teleport room in the top of the tower which zapped them to the dungeon under the earth where Crane’s ultimate treasure was kept.  It turned out to be a crystal ball which contained all the knowledge, memories, and experiences of Crane himself.  In fact, Crane’s entire life up to the point where he left on his fatal adventure took the form of Crane’s imprisoned self, longing to have someone to talk to again after hundreds of years of loneliness.  This proved to be a great boon to the magic users in the party, especially the half-elven wizardess Drualia.  So that adventure left the adventuring team with more than a mere heap of experience points.  It also gained them a crystal ball with an imprisoned sorcerer in it to talk too much and complain too much and teach them exotic and dangerous magic spells.

Like any three-session D & D adventure, this one was probably a lot more entertaining to play than it was to retell, but there it is, complete with the secrets that kept my players thinking about them for more than three weeks.

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Filed under Dungeons and Dragons, humor, magic, Paffooney

The Family That Slays Trolls Together…


As a family, we play Dungeons and Dragons.  Well, all of us, that is, except Mom.  It’s basically against her religion and means the Jehovah’s Witness version of Hell for us. (Which is a spiritual condition where God refuses to talk to you, and play checkers with you, and then you die.)  But let’s not discuss that here.  I don’t need her to start thinking about reasons to divorce me.  She accepts that it is a thing we do and like and keep mostly to ourselves.  (I just rolled a 15 on a twenty-sided dice to succeed in that charm-enemy spell and avert disaster.)


As a family we have chosen to use the Eberron campaign available from Wizards of the Coast, the company that now publishes all official D&D stuff.  It is a medieval/Renaissance sort of setting where magic is every-day common and takes the place of science in the real world.

I get to be game master and creator of the basic plots and stories.  My three kids, Dorin, Henry, and the Princess are the player characters who interact with the world and determine the outcomes of the adventures through the rolling of Dungeon Dice.

I want to assure you at this point that my eldest son does not actually have a watermelon for a head.  Maybe metaphorically, but he is easily the smartest and most likely to be a leader of my three kids.  His character routinely pursues ideas like replacing his arms with magical metal arms, or grafting additional arms on his body.  He has chosen the phoenix to be the symbol on his personal flag and coat of arms, but his artifice roll to create the magical ship’s flag turned out to make it look more like a pigeon that someone set on fire.  (You have to watch out for those rolls of “1” on a 20-sided dice.)

Henry, my middle child, likes to play a halfling.  The little hobbit-like character is the one called upon to disarm all the tiger traps and poison-arrow traps that line the dungeon tunnels ahead.  He is a problem-solver in real life.  And he wants to be an architect.  In D&D games, he is often the first one to run up to danger and look it in the blood-shot eye.

Every D&D group needs a wizard or some other magic-user.  Ours has Mira, the Kalashtar mind- wizard.  My daughter’s character can use mind powers to float in the air, pick up and throw things with her mind alone, and figure out ways to do things using as little physical effort as possible.  Oh, and she loves to eat chocolate.  (The character, I mean… or is it actually the daughter?  I don’t know.  It is sometimes hard to tell them apart.)


In our last adventure, we went to investigate the evil doings going in Evernight Keep, a castle in the country of Aundair.  We were able to not only defeat the evil mind-flayer, Dr. Zorgo, who had turned everyone into golems in the castle, but also to win the castle and the title of the Duke of Passage.  Now that they own a castle, my little band of adventurers will have to defend it, and I know of one old game master who will definitely throw all kinds of evil challenges at them.

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Filed under Dungeons and Dragons, family, foolishness, humor, magic, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Critiques in Color


I recently posted about being synesthetic and discovering how I am different from normal people.  Here is the post if you are interested..   Then I discovered that Kanye West is also synesthetic as he gushed some southern-fried crappie-doo about how wonderful he is as an artist because he sees the colors of his music.  Well, now I don’t want that mental affliction any more.  I don’t wish to be anything like him.  Of course, it has to be incurable, doesn’t it.


Now I am wasting today’s post on another metacognative thinking-about-thinking style of paragraph pile when I could be rhapsodizing about the humor of Dave Barry or the wisdom of Robert Fulghum, the author of

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Here it is on Amazon.

I could be shamelessly promoting the work of artists whose works I love instead of examining the random filing cabinets in the back rooms of my stupid old head.  But I can’t because I now need to explain myself to myself again.  Self doubt and self examination are features of being an artist.  We reach a point where we have to think about how we do what we do, because if you don’t know where the magic comes from, you might not be able to call on it the next time you need it.

That Night in Saqqara 1

I am a self-taught artist.  I have had art classes in high school and college, but never professional art training.  I know how to manipulate the rule of thirds, directional composition, movement, perspective, and lots of other artsy-craftsy techniques, but it is all a matter of trial and error and an instinct for repeating what works.  I have had a good deal more professional training as a writer.  But I do that mostly by instinct as well.  Trained instinct.  I have reached a point where my art is very complex and detailed.  And I don’t mean to suggest there are no flaws.  In fact, I am capable enough to see huge, glaring mistakes that really skew my original intent and make me feel hopelessly incompetent.  But others who see it and don’t know the inner workings of the process can look past those mistakes and not even see them.  Given enough time to look at my own work with new eyes, I am able to see at least some of what they see.

the Clarkes

Now that I have totally wasted 500-plus words on goofy talking-to-myself, what have I really accomplished beyond boring you to death?  What’s that you say?  You are not dead yet?  Well, that’s probably only because you looked at the pictures and didn’t read any of my sugar-noodle brain-scrapings in loosely paragraph-like form.  And if you did read this awful post by a colorblind artist who doubts his own abilities, you probably didn’t learn anything from it.  But that’s not the point.  The point is, I care about doing this, and I need to do it right.  And I managed to learn something… how to ramble and meander and make something that is either a hot mess… or something that vaguely resembles self-reflective art.



Filed under art criticism, artwork, autobiography, colored pencil, coloring, feeling sorry for myself, humor, magic, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, Uncategorized

Feeling a Little Loony

Some days I feel loony… April first comes to mind


And I can be quite cartoony… It really helps to unwind

little Toy Trio

So I’ll make some Paffooney… and draw it while blind


And grow really prunie… old wrinkles unwind

Eli Tragedy

And magic up some moony… to leave all worry behind.

Dumb Luck

April Fools! from an old fool.

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Filed under foolishness, goofy thoughts, humor, magic, Paffooney, poetry, Uncategorized