Category Archives: metaphor

Hypocrasysiphus

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And God said, “This world I have created is good.  It is very good.  In fact, it is too good.  We must balance the good with evil.”

Then God took a ball of elephant dung and created Republicans.

“You see, beloved ones, if the world is too good,” said God, “Then when I get full of wrath, there will be no one to smite.  You don’t want me too full of wrath.  I may pop like an overfilled balloon.  So someone needs to get struck by lightning to let off some of the pressure that has built up through the hard work of being God.”

So God took up a ball of old chicken guts and created Democrats.

“Why do  you always seem to let the evil ones get away with lying and deceit?” a prophet dared to ask.  “They cheat and steal and become wealthy, and then use that wealth to cover over their crimes, yet you do not smite them with lightning bolts?”

God threw a bolt of lightning and incinerated the prophet.

“I did say in the Bible somewhere that God helps those who help themselves.  I’m sure I remembered to put that in there somewhere.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  Or if He does, they are perfect mistakes.”

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“So you authorize the wealthy, who became wealthy by exploiting others, to commit further acts of exploitation until they virtually control the government and say that any crime is not a crime because they are now in charge of making the laws and deciding the consequences?” asked another brave but stupid prophet.

God immediately sent a plague of locusts to eat the prophet’s flesh down to the bone.

“The Bible says that all governments are put in place by God.  No government exists except with my approval.  If I don’t like them, I will remove them.  So if the government of the United States is to be run by my evil Republican creations, I merely have to create a lot of very stupid citizens who will vote to give everything to the rich and exploit everyone else, including those who basically voted against their own best interests.”

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Another rather stupid prophet got up to ask a question of God.  He raised one finger, opened his mouth, and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt.

“I have anticipated your question.  I do have a plan for mankind.  Remember the Greek myth of Sisyphus?  That old Greek idiot who has to labor for eternity rolling a heavy rock up a hill, and just as he almost reaches the top, it rolls back down on top of him and he has to start over at the bottom of the hill?  That is a metaphor for all human life and accomplishment.  Income inequality becomes a heavier and heavier burden as you near the goal of getting rid of it.  You have a Great Depression, then FDR comes along to fix things and help common people.  Then Reagan takes over with “trickle-down economics” and rolls you all back to the bottom of the hill.  It ends in Junior Bush’s Great Recession of ’08.  Obama comes along to fix that.  Then, in a sudden political reversal, the party of pure evil takes over again.  Back to the bottom of the hill we go.”

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And so, no further prophet got up to speak.  It was not because prophets had gotten any smarter.  No, it was because there were no prophets left.

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Wielding the Big Pencil

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The guy holding the big pencil used to be me.   I know you are thinking, “But, Mickey, you are not a rabbit!”  Well, that’s true, but it is also true that the whole thing is a metaphor, and metaphorically I was always Reluctant Rabbit, pedagogue… teacher… the holder of the big pencil.  It is a writing teacher thing.  The best way to teach kids to write is to have them write.  And the best way to show them what you mean when you tell them to write is to write yourself.  You learn to read better by reading a lot.  You learn to write better by writing a lot, reading what you wrote, and reading what other people wrote, especially if those other people were holding the big pencil in front of the class.

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I was recently reminded by people who know me that once I held the big pencil in the front of the class.  They both asked me, “Really?  You were a teacher?”

I suppose it is hard to believe when once you’ve gotten to know me, at least a little bit.  I don’t strike people as the sour-faced, anal-retentive English-teacher type.  I smile and laugh too much for that.  They can’t believe that someone like me could ever teach.

But over the years, I got rather good at holding the big pencil.  I learned, first of all, that anyone can be a good teacher.  You only have to be competent in the subject area you are trying to teach, and open to learning something new about teaching every single day for the rest of your life.

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Here’s something you have to learn about teaching to be any good at it; Discipline is not about making kids behave.  You can shout, stamp your feet, and hit them with a ruler and you will never get them to do what you want to them do.  It has to be about limiting the choices they have for what they will do.  Yes, one of those choices is to be removed from the classroom to go have fun sitting in the uncomfortable chair next to the assistant principal in charge of discipline’s desk, but the good teacher knows you should emphasize that they can either sit like a lump and imitate a rock, or they can participate in the activities presented.  And in my classroom, activities led to jokes and laughing and trying new stuff… some of it hard, but most of it easy.  Kids don’t end up having a hard time making the right choice.

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Here’s something else you absolutely have to learn to be any good at it;  You have to like kids.  Not just the well-behaved teacher-pleasers, but also the class clown who’s too smart to sit still for stuff he already knows, the shrinking violet who is a wonderfully complex well of deep thoughts who is only a little bit too scared to actually speak in class and share her thoughts, and the dark snarky demon who is quietly plotting the next outburst that will make your life a living hell so he or she can spend time with their old and dear friend, the chair in the assistant principal’s office.  If you don’t like them, you can’t teach them, and driving dynamite trucks in war zones is an easier job.  It pays better too.

I often try to picture Donald Trump teaching English to seventh graders.  What a slapstick comedy that would be.  The man doesn’t know anything.  He is always angry.  And he hates everybody except his daughter Ivanka.  My fourth period class wouldn’t merely eat him alive, they would skeletonize him faster than a school of piranhas could ever hope to match.  And it might be entertaining to watch (assuming it was metaphorical, not literal).

And I sincerely wish I could hold the big pencil in front of class again.  It was the act that defined who I was and what purpose I had in life.  But it isn’t gone since I was forced by ill health to retire.  I held the big pencil for over two thousand students in the course of thirty-one years.  And I will always hold the big pencil in their memories of it.  It is a sort of immortality for teachers.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching, writing teacher

Life By a Roll of the Dice

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These are Warhammer 40,000 Harlequin Warriors I painted myself.

Over the years I have played many role-playing games.  Virtually always I have done so as the game master, the dungeon master, the story-teller behind the action.  Players decide what to do about the story problems I represent to them.  They have characters that have painstakingly advanced in skills and levels of skills to use for the problem-solving the plot centers around.  But ultimately, when they take action, the outcomes are decided by a roll of the dice.

Life is like that.  You labor hard to control what happens next in your life.  But random chance intervenes.  If you are the Harlequin Space Elf known as Smiley Creaturefeature (the masked elf in the green robe on the front row, far left in the picture above) and your band of high level Harlequin War Dancers have come to Checkertown City Square hunting for your hated enemy, Bone-sucker the Space Orc, it is entirely possible when you use your scanner operator skills to find him, you could roll a “1” on the twenty-sided dice.  This would mean failure.  Not merely failure, but failure on a spectacular level.  The scanner would explode, killing your entire squad, yourself included.  And all those weeks of building the character up to level 17 in order to defeat Bone-sucker and his mutant minions, would be lost and become all-for-nothing in the disappointment department.

Of course, a benevolent game master would alter the outcome in some way to keep the story going.  Perhaps the exploding scanner, instead of killing everyone, created a mini worm hole in the fabric of space-time and transported them to a parallel dimension where Bone-sucker is actually the chaotic good hero of Checkertown, and you must now work out an alliance with him to fight his enemies, the other-dimensional versions of you that are actual Evil Smiley Creaturefeature and his band of Evil Harlequin Space Elves.  You must then defeat your evil selves carrying out the evil plot that the game master had originally designed for the villain Bone-sucker to employ before returning to your own original dimension.

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Real life does not work that way.  It works more like you see above.  The lovely, metal-bikini-clad female barbarian of swimming pool repair is faced with the attack of the giant rats of city pool inspection, necessary electrical repair, and limited finances.  You can see, if you look incredibly carefully at the purple twenty-sided dice, that her defensive attack roll is a “2” for catastrophic failure.  Her sword cuts off her own leg and causes personal bankruptcy.  The giant rats roll a lucky “13” on the black twenty-sided dice for successful tooth and claw attacks.  They then go on to eat her and force the pool to be removed from the property, using up all the money the player (who is me, by the way) has left.

No game master steps in to create a more reasonable outcome.  The worst possible outcome is what happens.  That is how real life works.  Roll the dice, and lose your swimming pool.

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Dr. Teeth

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Today I had to take my daughter to the dentist before dropping her off at school.  A simple teeth cleaning and an exam for future tooth work they are recommending resulted in a fifty dollar charge.  I could pay for it, but it comes out of the monthly food budget.  And I have no idea where the three times that amount that the future tooth work will cost is going to come from.  Let alone the property tax due at the end of the year which is now three times what it was in 2006.  I have lost control over my life because of increasing expenses and decreasing income.  And it makes me lament, “Why can’t I control ANYTHING?”

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You would think that having been a teacher for so many years I would know how to control practically everything, right?  I mean, if a teacher can control the ultimate chaos engines of the average junior high school classroom, he ought to be able control anything… while doing nuclear physics on the side.

DrteethMAHBut that, of course, is not how it works in real life… even without the nuclear physics which was an exaggeration for humorous effect.

The secret is, a good teacher doesn’t control the behavior of students.  The teacher manages behavior by adjusting what he is in control of, his own reactions and behavior.

To make a metaphor, it is like juggling handfuls of sand.  They will slip between your fingers, bounce, and fly apart completely before the first revolution is complete.  But if you are smart, and have a small ceramic bowl in each hand, and a convenient big bowl of sand to dip into for new handfuls, you can throw and catch and guide the handfuls of sand through their amazing performance, at least three handfuls.  Maybe as many as seven, though that would take some really fast hands and years of practice.

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The point is, I think in my stupid little head, that I should not be trying to control the chaos my life has become.  The art is to manage the opposing forces, guide them back into the over-all flow of it, and prevent any single thing from overwhelming me, interrupting or wrecking the music of existence.

So the lesson here is, even though this post started out being about dentists and cost control, that I can’t control anything in life but myself.  So I might as well keep playing my figurative banjo and get into a figurative Studebaker with figurative Fozzie just to see where the road song will take me.  I will play the music and try to keep it all in tune and following the beat, no matter how many wrong turns and hitchhikers happen along the way.

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Liars Run the Animal Farm

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Napoleon the PIG.

Napoleon the Pig makes himself ruler of the Animal Farm in Orwell’s 1945 book by lying about Snowball, his rival Pig, and blaming the destructive acts of the former human Farmer Jones on poor Snowball.  He is driven away from the farm by the farm dogs whom Napoleon has taught to think since they were puppies. This, even though Snowball was actually the hero of the animal rebellion that drove the humans away.  Collusion?  Perhaps.  But definitely a lie.  And the PIG Napoleon, once in power begins to keep all improvements to living conditions for the PIGs.  Other animals, he says, are happier with a simpler, hard-working life.  The PIGs begin to dress like men and walk upright and wear long red ties.

Keith Olbermann in the video is very much like Benjamin the Donkey, who is cynical and skeptical about Napoleon’s methods.  He also reads as well as any Pig.  When Boxer the workhorse is wounded defending the farm against neighboring farmers who attack and destroy the windmill, he shrugs off the the wound and works at rebuilding the windmill until he collapses.  Then Napoleon declares Boxer will only get better if he’s taken to the vet’s animal hospital.  But he calls the Knacker (the man who renders dead horses into glue) to take Boxer away.  Benjamin calls him out.  He points out that it says “Knacker” on the van that takes Boxer away, not “veterinarian”.   He points out that Russian Facebook trolls used targeted troll-posts to help get Napoleon his position of power.  But Napoleon gets away with his lies.  Boxer apparently dies in the so-called animal hospital.

Now, I am not sure which tiny animal on the farm Robert Reich is like, but he is pointing out in this video that once the PIGS got themselves into power on the animal farm, they lie in order to get their agenda operating, enriching all PIGs (or is that GOPs?) and their political donors.  They are doing it all by LYING.  Pigs lie.  We should have learned that lesson by now.  They don’t care who dies and gets rendered into glue.

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In 1945 Orwell intended Napoleon to be a satire of Joseph Stalin in communist Russia.  But I truly believe, as we are living on the Animal Farm now as the hard-working farm animals, that he has a bad wig on his head with whippy straw-yellow hair, and a distinctly orange face, with the same little piggy eyes he always had.  And he is in power because he tells lies.  And what’s worse, he gets away with the lies.  As long as the PIGs are in power, controlling both houses of congress and the Supreme Court, he will not lose his lying grip on the farm.  We are all doomed to continue being hard-working animals who eventually get rendered into glue.

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Doodley Doo

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Yes, I was doodling again.  Doodling is the kind of thing doodlers always doo. I am not the only secret sinner who doodles.  My children doodle too. Except, number one son does his best doodling on the piano.  I don’t mean he draws on the actual pianoforte instrument. He makes meandering melody that sounds almost polished, almost professional.  He amazes people with his musical fingers and his musical ear and, especially, his musical imagination.  Number two son doodles music too.  Except he’s in love with the guitar.  Seriously.  He’s doodling out chord progressions and sonorous soulful melodies right this minute.  He can play Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1 on guitar.  It is so beautiful it makes me weep.  And the Princess?  She draws anime characters and doodles more like me.  Except, as you can see, I draw doodle-dogs and doodle-cats and make you wonder if they have spats.  Look at the paw, the paw with the claw.  Is it the doodle-cat’s claw?  Or the doodle-dog’s paw?  One way’s peace, the other war.

And that is my wisdom for today.  Doodling is natural.  Churches should not call it a sin. Everybody does it, in one way or another.  And though it doesn’t usually create high art from nothing, it does lead to the eventual birth of masterpieces.

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Bottom of the Ninth

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Yes, it is the bottom of the ninth.  I am up to bat, but down by a half dozen runs.  How do I pull it out of the fire?  My fat, I mean. I am busy mixing and mangling metaphors again.

I tried a bit of nude pool repair today.  I got one crack secured and plugged.  I spent about fifty per cent of the time wearing only sunscreen.  It was hot.  I got done as much as I could.  And then it rained.  So only one run in the eighth.  I sealed at least part of one crack.  But there are twenty-three still to go.  And I have to make the pool hold water by the 9th of July.  And it is supposed to rain again tomorrow.  I suppose doing this as a fool naturist is stupid and self-defeating, but it was cooler in the hot Texas sun.  I don’t think I will be doing that foolishness in public after all.  But fixing the pool is not completely impossible.  Just mostly.

I took a hit to my numbers on this blog by not posting for three days.  But I published multiples in order to get caught up, and people are reading and liking them although they are full of the same nudist nonsense I have been pursuing for a week now.

But I am six runs behind.  My fat behind may have gotten slightly sunburned.  I need to score seven in the bottom of the ninth.  Can it be done?  Possibly.  But I need to bare down and concentrate on the pitches coming over the plate.

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Filed under autobiography, baseball, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, metaphor