Category Archives: magic

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

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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The Fey Children

The Fairies : Butterfly Children

In the background of several of my novels, there lurk little people with magic powers. In this modern age of science they still exist, but are reduced in size to about three inches tall for the adults. As I am now working on a book set in their world, I am therefore using today’s post to elucidate what they are and categorize them a bit.

Butterfly Children is a nickname for the winged fairies. And most fairies not only have wings, but don’t wear clothing because, not only do shirts, jackets, jerkins, and such interfere with wings, but they, like me, prefer to be nude if possible.

The Butterfly Children are not really made of flesh and blood, but rather coherent magical energy. That is the reason they rarely become spellcasters themselves, but can lend their energies to the spell-casting Sylphs; witches, wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, liches, and some Storybooks.

They refer to us as “the Slow Ones” because we are easily fooled into not seeing them for what they are. They use concealing glammers to convince us that we are seeing a bug or a bird or a glare of sunlight instead of what they actually are. They also have the ability to allow slow ones to see them if they choose to voice the necessary spells. Some rare slow ones are able to see through their glammers and view them in spite of their wishes.

Sylphs and Elves : The Man-shaped Fey

Once, long ago, the Fey Children who looked human could pass themselves off as slow ones. The Elves, of course, had pointed ears to hide. But they looked like what we would call “regular people” because they were our size. But human science developed things that stop magical energies like brass or drain magical energies like iron and copper. The Fey became smaller and smaller. Things like discarded nails and lost pennies decreased the places where they could live and build homes.

Eli Tragedy (in the middle above) is an example of both an Elf (with pointed ears) and a magic-using Sorcerer. His apprentices, Bob and Mickey, are both Sylphs. Like Butterfly Children, many Sylphs would rather not wear clothes. Magic-using Sylphs and Elves learn to wear clothes because garments can be invested with protective spells.

Mickey is different than other Sylphs in that he has been bitten by a wererat and has been infected by lycanthropy. Since he is now an uncontrolled wererat, he constantly looks like a boy with a mouse head and tail, a fur-covered boy’s body, and paws instead of feet.

Sylphs can occur in many different non-manlike forms. The Mouse from Cornucopia is a Sylph in the form of an anthropomorphic mouse. Radasha, also seen to the left, is a Faun. Pixies, Nixies, Boggarts, Gremlins, Centaurs, Minotaurs, and other magical creatures have gotten far smaller since ancient times when human beings added greatly to the magical energy loose in the world through their imaginations, faiths, fears, nightmares, and dreams.

All of those magical creatures have odd and sometimes horrific shapes. You can see that in the insect-like Pixie to the right.

Storybooks : Immortals Amongst the Fey

The other Fey Children that need a special mention are the Storybooks like Silkie pictured in the acorn beret and leaf dress to the right. These lucky Sylphs, Elves, or other Fey Children who’ve been singled out by slow ones in their slow-ones’ books and literature are made magically immortal by the power of stories told by humans, especially those preserved by print. They no longer die. They can no longer be killed or grievously wounded.

General Tuffaney Swift is another good example of a Storybook. He exists as an immortal because some of his early adventures, were overheard and written down in stories about Tom Thumb. He was instrumental in bringing Grandma Gretel and her daughter, Anneliese, into the Fey World. She is responsible through her magical baking skills for the entire races of Gingerbread Children and Cookie Monsters.

So, there’s a brief overview of the Kingdom of Tellosia and the World of the Fey Children.

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Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

It is, of course, one of the most powerful, masterful, and best-known pieces of music ever written.

Mozart completed the “little serenade” in Vienna in 1787, but it wasn’t published until 1827, long after Mozart’s untimely death.

The Serenade is incorrectly translated into English as “A Little Night Music”. But this is and always has been the way I prefer to think of it. A creation of Mozart written shortly before he hopped aboard the ferryman’s boat and rode off into the eternal night. It is the artifact that proves the art of the master who even has the word “art” as a part of his name. A little music to play on after the master is gone to prove his universal connection to the great silent symphony that is everything in the universe singing silently together.

It is basically what I myself am laboring now to do. I have been dancing along the edge of the abyss of poverty, suffering, and death since I left my teaching job in 2014. I will soon be taking my own trip into night aboard the ferryman’s dreaded boat. And I feel the need to put my own art out there in novel and cartoon form before that happens.

I am not saying that I am a master on the level of a Mozart. My name is not Mickart. But I do have a “key’ in the name Mickey. And it will hopefully unlock something worthwhile for my family and all those I loved and leave behind me. And hopefully, it will provide a little night music to help soothe the next in line behind me at the ferryman’s dock.

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Premonition

I actually saw an event happening in my little mind’s eye before it happened. And then it came true. My daughter and I went to Whataburger’s drive-thru last night to get a burger for her and a strawberry milkshake for me. I was driving as I have a license and my daughter does not. At one of the three red stoplights on the way there, I had a sudden vision of my milkshake being crushed and covering my shirt. In the vision I was tearing up from disaster recovery when I said, “I really wanted to drink that.”

So, I vowed to be a careful driver and not have a car accident anywhere along the drive, especially after I had purchased my milkshake.

I didn’t have the car accident. So, I thought it was just a nervous thought and not a prophecy. Then, walking from the car to the house, we walked through the shadowy back yard. Suddenly my right leg found a protruding part of the old bicycle sidecar that was sitting in the darkness. L landed on the milkshake I was carrying in my right hand. And, of course, tearing up from arthritis pain, I said, “I really wanted to drink that.”

Now, I can’t prove any of that, except showing you the crushed styrofoam milkshake cup, and by experience I know you are rolling your eyes and thinking about what a goofy man I really am.

But I have had an unignorably large number of these experiences in my life. There is no way to avoid these little experiences of the bizarre. But there is also no way to make use of them either.

The picture is the Wizard of Tellosia called Eli Tragedy and his two apprentices, Bob and Mickey the Wererat. It is a start of a cover illustration for a planned novella called The Necromancer’s Apprentice. Oh, and Eli is NOT the Necromancer in the title. He has premonitions too. But he can’t use them for anything either.

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Practical Magic

Wizards do magical spells. It kinda goes without saying. But to do magical spells, you have to know how the magic works… and why.

Me, imprisoned in my own crystal ball by my naughty familiar.

The secret is in knowing what the word “magic” actually means. It is not supernatural power, nor the creation of something out of nothing. It is entirely the act of uncovering and understanding the underlying truth, the actual science that most people don’t yet comprehend that underpins the thing you are trying to accomplish. Jonas Salk was a wizard. His polio vaccine was a successful magical potion. But magic can be evil too. Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer were wizards. And the atom bomb was an act of necromantic evil.

Me, in my early green wizard phase.

So, being a wizard, I have learned lessons over a lifetime that uncovered for me the secrets of practical interpersonal magic. Being a teacher has taught me far more than I taught to others.

So let me share with you some of my hard-won practical magic.

In a room full of rowdy children, most of whom are not minding any of the teacher’s directions, you can get their attention easily by shouting, “What the poop is going on here?” with the biggest evil grin on your face that you can manage. They will immediately quiet down like magic and look at you. Some will be wondering if their teacher is having a fatal stroke. Some will be wondering what punishments their behavior has earned as indicated by your evil grin (and here it should be noted, their little imaginations will cook up something much worse and much scarier than anything you could’ve thought of to unwisely threaten them with. A few will begin recording you with their cell phone cameras in hopes of future behavior they can post online and get you fired with. And the rest will laugh at the word “poop” and forget why they were acting out. At that point, with their full attention, you can ask them to sit down and look at page 32, and, not knowing what else to do, they will probably do it.

Here are some other rules of practical magic that apply to the wizarding arts of being a public school teacher;

  1. Violence is never the answer. Change their actions and reactions by making them laugh, making them cry, or making them think about something else entirely. The last thing you would ever want to do is hit them, even if they hit you first.
  2. Anything they can be forced to repeat eight times in eight different ways is something that will be fixed in their memory for more than just the duration of a class period. It moves things into their long-term memory, and that is itself a very magical thing.
  3. Students laugh when you surprise them or present them with the absurd. Tell them they should imagine themselves as pigeons who have to act out Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. What costumes will they wear, and why? What stage directions are necessary to add to the play that are unique to pigeons, and how will they word them? How does pigeon Mercutio go about his death soliloquy when stabbed by pigeon Tibault? Will he have to say, “Look for me tomorrow and you will find me a very grave pigeon?” By the end of the lesson they will have learned more about this play they are supposed to learn about as ninth graders than they ever would have otherwise.

Being able to do any of those things is actually a manifestation of magical power, and only producible by a wizard. The simple fact is, every good teacher is a wizard.

Me, as a wizard in my blue period. The period at the end of this essay.

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Under Unlucky Stars

The Astrologer

Here;s something undeniably true; Astrology is NOT science.

That being true, it is also true that there is a certain untestable validity to the ideas of someone gifted with a semi-accurate intuitive foresight I find Nostradamus endlessly fascinating. But I don’t rely on any of his so-called predictions. It is uncanny that his quatrains can be interpreted as having come true after the fact. I remember Orson Welles narrating a documentary on old Nosty back in the 1980’s offering a possible prediction for the near future. in which the third antichrist arises in the Middle East and sends destruction through the air to the New City.

Osama Bin Laden’s attack on the World Trade Center Towers in 2001 is a scary coincidence. But it is no more of a useful prediction of the future than Nosty’s predictions of the first and second antichrists, Napoleon and Hitler. Did anyone know about any of these three predictions at a time when they would’ve benefitted anybody?

The Coming End of the World

My most recent Christian faith system was, unfortunately, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are an eschatological faith that believes Jehovah God will soon destroy “This wicked system of things” and the bad people will all be done away with before all the newly “perfect people” take over and turn this world into a paradise. I am doomed. I have knocked on doors and shared the “Good News from God’s Word the Bible” with all the potential “other sheep.” But that’s not good enough to punch my ticket to paradise. I don’t keep the right words in my heart.

But my wife and other Witnesses are now eagerly waiting for “tribulation” to wipe out the rest of us so that the good times can begin. Wow. Jehovah can wipe you out just for touching the Ark of the Covenant with the wrong hands. He’s a rather angry, vindictive sort of God.

And yet, the world does seem to be ending. Actual climate scientists are presenting evidence in their latest report that it is a problem that will overwhelm us faster than I am ready for. And corruption in the world governments, prompted by the fossil fuels industry, continue to ignore the problem in favor of short-term profits. Talk about “having the wrong words written on their hearts!”

It does actually look like we are all gonna die. Not an A+ outcome.

Predictions and Solutions

So, what predictions does an amateur wizard like Mickey of the Goofy Grin have to offer about living under unlucky stars?

Well, here’s one I know will very likely prove true; If the world is ending tomorrow, I will be among the first to die. Seriously, my health is poor enough that a hot wind can easily blow out my candle. When the zombie apocalypse begins, I have warned my children to make good use of the time they gain to get away while the zombies are picnicking on my gray matter. I believe my brain should be pretty tasty.

But even though I and many many other people just like me will fold up and die at the beginning of the coming dark times, that doesn’t mean everyone is doomed. Humanity has shown remarkable resilience against war, famine, disease and that boney guy on the fourth horse. They may yet come up with a magic-bullet solution that allows life on earth to continue. Even if it becomes the planet of the cockroaches. And probably lawyers. I’m sure there is a legal maneuver that gets around not having air to breathe. From a God’s-eye perspective, there is still an entire universe to play with. We could go get reincarnated somewhere else in the galaxy. Maybe there are people out there who are smarter than us. There are ways to heal the ecosphere if we just have the will to do it.

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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 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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