Category Archives: magic

Thinking About Thinking with a Thought-free Thinker

Yes, today is another in a long, tepid series of Art-Day posts, but it is also about metacognitive thinking. Specifically thinking about thinking using pictures to think with. (Maybe that title should say, “Free-Thought Thinker” rather than, “Thought-Free.”)

To start with, what does a person actually see when they close their eyes? My brain does not color everything on the inside of my eyelids black. Even in the dark of night with no nightlight so that nothing shines through my eyelids, my brain interprets the dark as shapes, patterns, and colors. Hence the inspiration for this picture.

But my brain is never satisfied with raw shapes, colors, and patterns. It has to interpret ideas into them. The mass of yellow and black resolves into a butterfly, or a sunflower, or an etude by J.S. Bach. The pink mass becomes a blond girl playing the music in my head…. a girl from piano-lesson days in the early 70’s. But naked. The way I always thought about her while sitting and waiting for my piano lesson and listening to hers. How else does a boy think about a pretty girl when he is fourteen?

And as the items in the picture take shape, they do also begin to tell a story. Who is this Dr. Seabreez? Is he a shaman of the Republic of Lakotah People? Is he a white man? Seabreez is not a Native American name. The naked boy by the tent flap has a crutch, and there is a mouse silhouetted nearby. Does that make him a medical doctor? A veterinarian? A professor of Native-American Studies? The mind begins to piece together a script.

But here we see that Dr. Seabreez has set up a new practice in Japan. Again the boy near the door has a crutch and there is a silhouetted mouse near him. But now the other boy has horns on his forehead. Why horns? And pointed ears? Is he a Doctor of Magic and Wizardry? Demonology perhaps? And what is an anthropomorphized panda doing in Japan? That’s clearly a Japanese castle in the distance. The collar Kanji is definitely Japanese in character.

And now there are horns again. Three of them by my count. And another naked character. But a Grecian background. The mind is here making connections between the pictures, noticing patterns. Appreciating colors. And turning every detail over in the mind’s eye, evaluating and analyzing.

Art, especially on Saturdays, totally engages the mind. That is one of the reasons we keep art around to look at again and again. It is the purpose of art to make us see something. And not just once, superfluously. We must see it in depth, looking beyond the surface.

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Filed under art criticism, artwork, humor, irony, magic, Paffooney

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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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.

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

The Magical Recipe

I made a vow that I would be more funny. But that is a difficult promise to fulfill. So, I decided to ask for some advice.

And I have the benefit of a vivid imagination, which I have had since childhood. And so, that means I know an awful lot of imaginary people. And of those, the magical ice-dragon of Doofenburgh supposedly has the best sense of humor in the nine realms. So, I went to ask his advice.

“Oh, great and laughable comedic ice dragon Bloojuice! I have come seeking a way to write a humorous blog today guaranteed to make anyone who reads it laugh so hard they will blow milk out of their nose.”

“Mickey, you know you are not the dungeon master this time around. And you are messing with a powerful, magic-using ice dragon. What if I decide to eat you, since that would be funny.”

“Well, I should remind you, then, that I have six incurable diseases. Possibly seven now that the pandemic is nearly over. Don’t you think it’s possible that I might taste pretty bad?”

“Good point. Well, my recommendation to you is to brew up a magical stew. I shall give you the recipe for humor potion with boogers in it.”

I gagged in my mouth a bit at the booger thing, but I nodded agreement to the plan. I got Bob the Apprentice to drag the silver cauldron in to begin.

“You know this thing is stainless steel, right, Master?” Bob said.

“Oh, of course. I called it silver for magical reasons.”

Bob accepted that readily. Poor Bob is not bright.

“Now what, oh ludicrous lizard Bloojuice!?”

“Remember that student you had, the one that was nutty about being a body-builder and becoming super-strong?”

“Yes, of course. Miguelito the Muscle Maniac.”

“Right. And remember that time he visited his little sister’s kindergarten class and pushed his sister and two of her friends on the swings using alternating two-handed pushes?”

“Yes, Sarita and her pals Dondi and Alejandra.”

“And he got carried away and pushed too hard. Alejandra fell butt first directly into the lap of the teacher monitoring recess. Dondi went up and over the bar so many times that he ended up tied to the top of the swing set. And Sarita was launched over the merry-go-round, landing on her soft little head, saving her from breaking any arms or legs?”

“Yes, but that story is about children getting hurt. That’s not very funny.”

“It worked for years on America’s Funniest Home Videos. And that whole TV show Malcolm in the Middle. So, write it down and put it in the pot.”

So, I did. “Now what?”

“Put the boogers in.”

So, I took hold of Bob’s ankles and shook him upside down over the cauldron. I may have gotten a bit more than just boogers and pocket change into the stew.

“Now it will make people laugh so hard that milk shoots out of their noses?”

“Well, only if you run around to everyone who reads it and force them to drink some milk.”

“And if I do all of that and still nobody laughs…?”

“Then come back here and I will try eating you.”

Okay, I guess I’m doomed.

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Filed under humor, imagination, magic, Paffooney

Magical Thinking

People accused of doing magical thinking are basically being accused of doing something awful. Like Republicans telling us that if we cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, working class and middle class citizens will prosper because of it. Of course, they actually know better. So, it isn’t really magical thinking. It is really evil magical thinking.

But when I am actually guilty of magical thinking, it is more along the lines of me pinning my hopes on an intuition brought about by calculations in my overcrowded imagination that are probably horribly miscalculated but that I need to turn out to be accurate and miraculously pull me out of my current difficulty. And then, because I intuit really, really hard… it turns out all right.

Magic is after all, merely what we call science and situations where something amazing is created, but we have no idea at all how and why.

Our movies nowadays are really quite chock full of magical thinking. Wish-fulfillment, fantasy, and violence-laden revenge stories are what fill the cinema with seekers of escapism and relaxation. That is magical thinking of an epic sort. Go see the Black Panther movie and “Wakanda forever” solves racism.

So, what is the point of this little essay? What am I actually thinking about the subject of magical thinking? Well, I needed a topic today to keep my every-day-in-April posting goal alive. And magically…

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Filed under fairies, humor, magic, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Merry Christmas… (maybe)

This holiday is going to be different. Different from the holiday I grew up with. Different than the celebrationless non-holiday I lived with for twenty years. And different from the new traditions we established, my kids and I, as we pulled away from my wife’s religion. The pandemic affects everything.

I was born into a family of Iowa Methodists living in North Central Iowa in a tiny farm town called Rowan.

I remember Christmas being the most magical time of year. I believed in Santa Claus. I felt like the Christmas magic that we saw in seasonal specials on TV in black and white were so real… the realest reality there could be…even if Andy Williams wasn’t the host of the program. Candy canes and Christmas trees and sitting on Santa’s lap being terrified of getting it wrong… and making him think I was asking for a talking Chatty Kathy doll even though I was a boy… FOR MY SISTER, SANTA! FOR MY SISTER… Oh, gawd, that really went wrong. And we had family gatherings where we ate pot-luck family meals with Swedish meatballs and turkey and mashed potatoes with brown gravy and casseroles of fifteen different kinds and nuts and candy…eating ourselves into a semi-stupor as we also did only three and a half weeks before at Thanksgiving.

And presents. Everybody gave presents. And Christmas Carols in Church.

But time goes on. You grow out of believing in Santa Claus. You even grow out of believing in Andy Williams. Perry Como was better. And it was getting so commercial. And Christmas shows we loved as kids seemed so simple and lame when watched again as young adults.

And then I married a Jehovah’s Witness. If you are not aware of it, Christmas originated as a pagan holiday, the Roman Saturnalia. It was a night of feasts and orgies and excess. And Jehovah’s Witnesses believe their beliefs are the only true beliefs, and celebrating Christmas is of Satan. I celebrated Christmas for the last time in 1994. I married in 1995.

For the next twenty years I did not celebrate Christmas. At least, not out loud where Brothers and Sisters in the Truth could hear. And the season became very austere and sanitized for me by the religious integrity of those around me in the faith.

But there were friends in the faith that lost their faith and left the congregation permanently. And the people around me changed. And I was beset by illnesses, mine and my family’s. And Jehovah’s Witnesses are very good at helping the sick. But, apparently only for others, not me and mine. They began turning away.

I am probably disfellowshipped now. They have turned away from me, and I am now isolated from all those who used to be friends and acquaintances. My wife is still a member of the congregation. And this is good because she desperately needs to believe. It is a good life for her and keeps her relatively well. But I know they disfellowshipped me, even though nobody told me so like they always do in such cases. My wife barely talks to me now. And this is probably because members of the congregation are supposed to shun the disfellowshipped, even if they are family.

But I bare no one ill will. That may be part of the problem. The Bible directive is to “Hate what is bad.” And blood transfusions and psychiatry are both bad things according to the Witnesses’ understanding of Bible commands.

I didn’t need any transfusions, and though I have significant stress and diabetic depression, I was never hospitalized for that. But I did kinda fake some disfellowshippable offenses so that I would be the one, and my wife would still be able to be a Witness. She needs it more than I do.

And, to be quite honest, I need to feel a little bit of Christmas now in my old age and infirmity. After all, it is a holiday all about making sacrifices in order to give gifts to others. I know that this post will make Jehovah’s Witnesses cringe. But now that they are shunning me, I guess they won’t be seeing this anyway. And I wish them a Merry Christmas in spite of it all.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, magic, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Thinking About Thinking with a Thought-free Thinker

Yes, today is another in a long, tepid series of Art-Day posts, but it is also about metacognitive thinking. Specifically thinking about thinking using pictures to think with. (Maybe that title should say, “Free-Thought Thinker” rather than, “Thought-Free.”)

To start with, what does a person actually see when they close their eyes? My brain does not color everything on the inside of my eyelids black. Even in the dark of night with no nightlight so that nothing shines through my eyelids, my brain interprets the dark as shapes, patterns, and colors. Hence the inspiration for this picture.

But my brain is never satisfied with raw shapes, colors, and patterns. It has to interpret ideas into them. The mass of yellow and black resolves into a butterfly, or a sunflower, or an etude by J.S. Bach. The pink mass becomes a blond girl playing the music in my head…. a girl from piano-lesson days in the early 70’s. But naked. The way I always thought about her while sitting and waiting for my piano lesson and listening to hers. How else does a boy think about a pretty girl when he is fourteen?

And as the items in the picture take shape, they do also begin to tell a story. Who is this Dr. Seabreez? Is he a shaman of the Republic of Lakotah People? Is he a white man? Seabreez is not a Native American name. The naked boy by the tent flap has a crutch, and there is a mouse silhouetted nearby. Does that make him a medical doctor? A veterinarian? A professor of Native-American Studies? The mind begins to piece together a script.

But here we see that Dr. Seabreez has set up a new practice in Japan. Again the boy near the door has a crutch and there is a silhouetted mouse near him. But now the other boy has horns on his forehead. Why horns? And pointed ears? Is he a Doctor of Magic and Wizardry? Demonology perhaps? And what is an anthropomorphized panda doing in Japan? That’s clearly a Japanese castle in the distance. The collar Kanji is definitely Japanese in character.

And now there are horns again. Three of them by my count. And another naked character. But a Grecian background. The mind is here making connections between the pictures, noticing patterns. Appreciating colors. And turning every detail over in the mind’s eye, evaluating and analyzing.

Art, especially on Saturdays, totally engages the mind. That is one of the reasons we keep art around to look at again and again. It is the purpose of art to make us see something. And not just once, superfluously. We must see it in depth, looking beyond the surface.

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The Real Magic in that Old Home Town

Rowan, Iowa… Not the place I was born, but the place where I got to be a stupid kid, and have the lessons of the good and god-fearing life hammered into my head hard enough to make a dent and make it stay with me for more than half a century. I got to go to grade school there. I learned to read there, especially in Miss Mennenga’s third and fourth grade class. Especially in that old copy of Treasure Island with the N.C, Wyeth illustrations in it, the one Grandma Aldrich kept in the upstairs closet in their farm house. I got to see my first naked girl there. I learned a lot of things about sex from my friends there, and none of them were true. I played 4-H softball there, and made a game-saving catch in center field… in the same game where my cousin Bob hit the game-winning home run. But those were things kids did everywhere. It didn’t make me special. There was no real magic in it.

Being a farm-kid’s kid taught me the importance of doing your chores, every day and on time. If you didn’t do them, animals could get sick, animals could die, crops could be spoiled, the chickens could get angry and petulant and peck your hands when you tried to get the eggs. Cows could get grumpy and kick the milk bucket. Cats could vow revenge if you didn’t direct a spray or two at their little faces as they lined up to watch you milk the cows. And you never knew for sure what a vengeful cat might do to you later, as cats were evil. They might jump on the keyboard during your piano recital. They might knock the turkey stuffing bowl off the top of the dryer when Mom and Grandma and several aunts were cooking Thanksgiving Dinner. And I know old black Midnight did that on purpose because he got to snatch some off the floor before it could be reached by angry aunts with brooms and dustpans. And all of it was your fault if it all led back to not doing your chores, and not doing them exactly right.

But, even though we learned responsibility and work ethic from our chores, that was not the real home-town magic either. I wasn’t technically a real farm kid. Sure, I picked up the eggs in the chicken house at Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich’s farm more than once. And I did, in fact, help with milking machines and even milking cows by hand and squirting cats in the faces at Uncle Donny’s farm. I walked beans, going up and down the rows to pull and chop weeds out of the bean fields at Uncle Larry’s farm. I drove a tractor at Great Uncle Alvin’s farm. But I didn’t have to do any of those things every single day. My mother and my father both grew up on farms. But we lived in town. So, my work ethic was probably worth only a quarter of what the work ethic of any of my friends in school was truly worth. I was a bum kid by comparison. Gary G. and Kevin K, both real farm kids and older than me, explained this to me one day behind the gymnasium with specific examples and fists.

Being a farm kid helped to forge my character. But that was really all about working hard, and nothing really to do with magic.

I truly believe the real magic to be found in Rowan, Iowa, my home town, was the fact that it was boring. It was a sleepy little town, that never had any real event… well, except maybe for a couple of monster blizzards in the 60’s and 70’s, and the Bicentennial parade and tractor pull on Main Street in 1976, and a couple of costume contests in the 1960’s held in the Fire Station where I had really worked hard on the costumes, a scarecrow one year, and an ogre the next, where I almost won a prize. But nothing that changed history or made Rowan the center of everything.

And therein lies the magic. I had to look at everything closely to find the things and strategies that would take me to the great things and places where I wanted to end up. I learned to wish upon a star from Disney movies. I learned about beauty of body and soul from the girls that I grew up with, most of them related. And I invented fantastical stories with the vivid imagination I discovered lurking in my own stupid head. I embarrassed Alicia Stewart by telling everyone that I could prove she was a Martian princess, kidnapped and brought to Earth by space pirates that only I knew how to defeat. And I learned to say funny things and make people laugh… but in ways that didn’t get me sent to the principal’s office in school. Yes, it was the magic of my own imagination. And boring Iowa farm towns made more people with magic in them than just me. John Wayne was one. Johnny Carson was one also. And have you heard of Elijah Wood? Or the painter Grant Wood? Or the actress Cloris Leachman?

Yep. We were such stuff as dreams were made on in small towns in Iowa. And that is real magic.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, dreaming, farm boy, farming, foolishness, goofy thoughts, humor, magic, Paffooney

Day After Day

Posting every day keeps the imaginary writing muscles toned and renews my basic energy levels. But it also becomes a chore on certain days. Like today. The weather has got me down with arthritis woes. Typing like this is it not as easy as it should be. And when I have to labor at it to make the paragraphs flow, sometimes I just turn it all into rambling babbling. I spin my mental wheels and get nowhere.

I can use this post to tell you, however, that I have now started a new work-in-progress. I have already pounded out the first four thousand words of The Wizard in His Keep.

This is the final story in the arc of the character Milt Morgan. This story has been gestating in my brain since 1995. Though, if I am honest, it began with fantasies I had back in fifth grade. The main character, Milt Morgan, is half me and half the other Mike from our gang back in Rowan in the 1960’s. Back when Mike and Michael were sometimes good friends and sometimes the brains behind evil plans and terrible tricks. He supplied the devious know-how, and I provided the creative spark that lit the schemes on fire.

But this story is advanced to the computer age.

Milt Morgan is 50% me and 50% my best nemesis, Mike Bridges

In 1996, Milt Morgan was a 34-year-old video game designer living a double life in a high-tech, state-of-the-art computer lab. It is then that he mysteriously kidnaps the three children of his child-hood friend’s sister and takes them away to a magical world that only two people in the entire world have the keys to. Milt is the Wizard. The other Key-Master is Daniel Quilp, the Necromancer. A battle for the soul of the world must take place, and Daisy, Johnny, and Mortie Brown are a part of it.

Anyway, the words are beginning to pile up again. And again I have made something out of nothing. My book promotion is still going on until tomorrow. The link above can still get you a free e-book copy until after midnight tomorrow. And nobody, it seems, still wants my book for free. (How’s that for a pathos pitch?) We’ll see how it all ends tomorrow.

Johnny Brown in Purple Glammis (the Magical Kingdom)

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Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo

On Wednesday I subbed again for a science teacher at Long Middle School. They were eighth graders, the chest-thumping apes at the top of the monkey-house food chain. There was an AVID class with too many at-risk and under-disciplined kids in it. And the Long ESL classes contain too many rabid monkeys who don’t understand monkey-English well and are liberally dispersed through-out the harried eighth-grade teachers’ day. In other words, the Wednesday job caused me brain damage from which I haven’t recovered from fully at this writing.

So, today I am obsessed with finding the magic necessary to avoid having any more teacher-meltdowns and brain injuries like that 6th period debacle. (“Debakkil” is a magic word, but it is an evil magic word),

In the Disney animated classic Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother uses a magic spell called (in a song) “Bibbety Bobbity Boo”. In the course of singing the song, the old F-G turns a pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses, the swayback horse into a driver, and the dog into a groom. I need a spell like that to remedy the monkey-house meltdown syndrome that I was victimized by.

So, here is how “Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo” will work.

The spell is cast initially on a male student, a monkey-like being swinging from the light fixtures, but obviously smarter than the other male monkey-students. You could magically turn his raggy clothing into a ball gown and embarrass him completely (which would be true to the metaphor, but would turn him into your worst nightmare)… but don’t. Instead, tell him that he is smart enough to be a leader. Put him in a position of power, making him in charge of a group, and telling him his consequences will be either a reward for good leadership, or the blame for the bad behavior of the group. Remind him that he has natural leadership skills. If he speaks to others respectfully, they will be respectful to everybody. If he shows them how to behave properly, they will use him as a positive example. He will get the credit for the good things they will do.

“Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo!”

It works. We had a poster project to do in groups of four. They were supposed to create a diagram of the mechanics of the four seasons of the year, with a sun and four representations of the earth with its axis and equator tilted properly in relation to the sun. That’s the kind of assignment that can result in the explosion of the science lab or the total cannibalization of the substitute. But I made it successfully work in four out of five classes.

Why did it go wrong in that last period? 1. Classes that are out of control for the regular teacher are impossible for even the best sub to control. 2. Too many students in one classroom are impossible to control when you have more groups than work tables. 3. Supplies run out at the end of the day, and empty pens and markers become projectiles. 4. Eighth graders all need to take mandatory naps in the afternoon (using sedative darts and a dart gun when necessary) but no school or principal is aware of that fact. 5. Cranky afternoon baboons grow longer fangs than they had in the morning.

So, Mickey must revise and rework this particular spell for the afternoons. And he must refuse the next job coming from this particular teacher.

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The Boy… Forever (Free Book Promotion)

My most-recently-published book is now available for free from Amazon. I have tried this free-book promotion idea with other books, but this is the newest book I have available. I need to give away a bunch of books, so help yourself to one with the above link.

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