Category Archives: metaphor

Flying the Magic Flying Carpet

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There are many ways to fly.  Airplanes, bird wings, hot air balloons, bubble-gum-blowing goldfish… well, maybe I am really talking about flying by imagination.  The more my six incurable diseases and old age limit my movement, my ability to get out of bed and do things, the more I rely on reading, writing, and the movie in my head to go places I want to be.

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Sometimes the wings I use to fly come from other writers.  I get the flight feathers I need not only from books, but also from YouTube videos, movies, and television shows.

This magic carpet ride in video form is by the thoughtful creative thinker Will Schoder.  In it he carefully explains how Mister Rogers used the persuasion techniques of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos to talk to elephants and convinced a congressman intent on cutting the budget to actually give Public Television more money for educational programming.  This is a video full of warmth and grace and lovingly crafted magic flight feathers that anybody can use to soar across new skies and blue skies and higher skies than before.  I hope you will watch it more than once like I did, to see how beautifully the central explanation spreads its wings and gives us ideas that can keep us aloft in the realm of ideas.

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It is important to stay in the air of fresh ideas and new thinking.  The magic carpet ride that takes you there is the product of vivid imagination, cogent thinking, and the accurate connection of idea to better idea.  So instead of falling from the sunlit sky into the darkness that so easily consumes us on the ground, keep imagining, keep dreaming, and keep flying.  You won’t regret having learned to fly.

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Hearts in Atlantis (a book review)

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I finished reading this marvelous book over this dreary sunshiny weekend.  And I am totally surprised by how much I loved it.

This marvelous book, Hearts in Atlantis, is a book by Stephen King, whom I have always considered a dreary sunshiny popular writing hack.  I have learned by it, how wrong I have been all along about this author.  He is now established in my mind as a serious literary giant  (as opposed to a comic literary giant like Kurt Vonnegut or Terry Pratchett).  He deals with the emotions of fear, loss, angst, and regret, and so falls too easily into the horror writer category.  I misjudged him for so many years because I read Carrie, his first success, and Firestarter… well, I tried to read Firestarter and only got 40 pages in when it was due back at the library… and… I mean, I never fail to finish a book I have chosen to read.  And then I did.  But both of those books showed me a writer who was trying too hard, following some road map of novel writing borrowed from some other writer he admired.  And it all becomes formulaic and trite, sometimes even boring.  He is mimicking someone else’s voice.  I filed him in the “authors who are hack writers” drawer next to R.L. Stine.

But this book proved me totally wrong.  I had to take King out and put him in a different drawer.  It starts out as a typical Stephen King monster story with a first section with a young boy as the protagonist and introducing us to the monstrous “low men in yellow coats”.  But it is a total trick to draw us in.  And it is even a very good monster story.  Like H.P. Lovecraft he has learned the lesson that a good monster story is not about the monster.  And showing us the monster directly is something that should only be done very briefly, at just the right moment in the plot.  Like the works of David Mitchell, this section connects you to threads from King’s other books, especially the Dark Tower series, which I must now read in the very near future.  Stephen King has learned through practice to write like a master.

But the theme doesn’t really start to score ultimate literature points until he tricks us along into part two.  The hearts in the title is actually the card game.  It is a card game that takes over the lives of college boys in a dormitory in the 1960’s.  They play it for money and it takes over their lives to the point that they flunk out of school at a time when that means they will be drafted and sent to Vietnam.  And the characters that are immune to the pull of the hearts game (also a metaphor for the second protagonist’s love life) fall victim to the urge to take on the government and protest the war.  Hence the “sinking of Atlantis” metaphor means the loss of innocence, and the devastation that comes from making choices when you are young that will haunt you forever.

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The post-war section of the book is filled with hubris, regret, lost love and stoic determination that is barely rewarded for only two characters in the entire plot.  I won’t of course, say anything that is a plot spoiler.  This is a horror story, and it is not my place to reveal the truth about the monster.  I can only tell you that this story is a devastating read for those of us old enough to remember.  And it is a fine work of dreary sunshiny fiction that frightens us with its truthfulness.

 

 

 

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Filed under book reports, book review, good books, horror writing, metaphor, monsters, NOVEL WRITING, reading, strange and wonderful ideas about life

A Concert Performed For Nobody

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Back in my college days in the late 70’s I came back to the dorm one night late due to research until the library closed. In the entry hall to the dorms there was a piano. I had never seen anybody playing it. But as I got there, there was a student playing it. It was my nerd friend Kip, an engineering major. It was quiet, unassuming Kip. Kip who was so quiet, in fact, that I can’t even remember his last name, or what his voice sounded like. But he was playing the piano in an empty room with nobody listening. He was playing Scott Joplin’s composition “The Entertainer”. He had his back to me, totally lost in the music. He didn’t know I was there. And I… I was transfixed. I realized he was just practicing. But he knew the music right out his head, no sheet music on the piano in front of him. And he played like the ultimate virtuoso. And the music was so good it made my soul tingle.

It occurs to me that that single moment is, for me, a metaphor for my life. It is a concert played for nobody. I am competing only with myself. I am trying to please only myself. And if anybody is listening… I mean really listening… not just looking at the pictures and moving on, I don’t know it. And that is probably how it should be. This poor player is strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage. And when the concert ends… when the concert ends…? Applause is not likely. And applause is not needed. The music exists for its own sake. And the echoes of it are the fuel that powers the universe.

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The State of the Onion

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Yep, the state of the onion is stinky.  The great onion that is our world is hyuge.  And it tastes like an onion.  Especially if you eat it from the inside out.  Mmm… I love onions. I want to eat them all myself, every onion in this garden.  But if I am going to do that, I am going to need the support of all sides.  Yes, there is blame to go around on many sides.  But I need their support to get rid of all the dietary restrictions illegally placed upon our garden by the last onion-master-in-chief.  That illegitimate onion-master was not even raised in this garden.  He seems to think that everyone has a right to clean, pesticide-free soil to plant their roots in.  But all garden vegetables are not created equal.  Tomatoes are poisonous.  They all have radical religious beliefs that makes them hate our onion-ness.  They are therefore terrorists, believe me.  They are trying to sneak across the southern border of the garden and take over the onion-growing space that good, conservative, right-thinking onions have and need more of.  They are trying to spread their poison in our garden.  They want to replace our onion laws with their own stinky Tomatillo Law.  And corn.  The Corn Party tries to defeat every item on the onion agenda.  When we pass a law that all corn voters need to be stripped of their kernels before they can be allowed to vote, they selfishly vote against that law.  Government in this onion garden cannot work if they continue to do that.  And we need a wall to keep illegal jalapenos from crossing the garden’s southern border.  They are not the best vegetables, I guarantee you.  They are onion-eaters and foul mixed vegetables.  And promises were made to spring onions that were brought into this garden as seeds and now are crying that they deserve not to be uprooted and thrown into distant gardens where they don’t even speak the proper vegetable languages to get by.  I know this garden loves those onions.  I love those onions too.  I want to eat them too.  They are very nutritious.  But their protections are now gone.  I leave it up to the Corn and Onions of Congress to build that wall, and if they do, I will let the spring onions stay.

And now you can heap praises on me for the state of our economy.  Yes, I take credit for all the fertilizer I have created by speaking tons of bull manure every single day.  The quality of my manure is fabulous… simply fabulous, believe me.  It is the finest manure any garden has ever received.  And I, Donald J. Onioneater, am the finest onion-master you have ever seen.  No onion-master before me has done as well, except maybe for Abraham Limabean.  He was pretty great.  Although I don’t really know why.  Maybe I should have said Andrew Jackfruit instead.  So the state of the onion is stinky.  And let’s all work together now to MAKE THE GARDEN GREAT AGAIN!

 

 

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Ice Cream in Winter with Propaganda Sprinkles

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The Cheeto-in-Chief has now given us something we needed as much as anyone could possibly need an ice cream cone in the middle of a blizzard.  He has shut down the government.  And, I mean, we need a break from this Republican Clown-Horror Show in the worst way.  But the government shutdown is positively the worst way.

The government is actively undermining everything of value to the common man in America.  It is deconstructing American school systems from the top down, the EPA is now encouraging polluters and removing all regulations and barriers, taxes are reduced for everybody… who has immense wealth, and we are assigning debt to our children that will take centuries to pay off.

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And the problem isn’t that the government is run by profiteering criminals, which it most certainly is, but that no matter what they say and do, no consequences are suffered for it.  They can literally do anything to anybody and get away with it because Republicans now hold all the winning cards.  Pundits say they are facing a blue wave of change in the 2018 midterms, but then again, probably not.  They control the mechanisms of government.  They can cheat to win and get away with it.  If we disagree, we are looking at a Revolution in which the armed forces are all on the other side.

The government is shut down now because the President hates immigrants, even the legal ones.  He unilaterally brought an end to the DACA Dreamers program, shutting the door on immigrant children who have only known life as an American.  Everybody in both parties want the issue settled with heart, in favor of the Dreamers.  They deserve to be here.  But when the issue was almost settled with a compromise that would’ve allowed the government to move forward, suddenly the CHIPS, Children’s Health Program is subject to negotiation and being held hostage to the Republican desire to punish Americans just for needing the government to stay open and functioning.

My conservative friends in Iowa, Texas, and elsewhere continue to back Trump and his policies even when they themselves are hurt by them.  They do this because he has appealed to their fears and hatreds.  He promises to punish those they are afraid of, and he hates the same groups that they hate.  One of the groups they hate are liberal Democrats like me, though none of them say they hate me personally.  Fox News has taught them to think of the labels and the people who wear those labels as different things.  Killing Muslims in Afghanistan doesn’t bother them because they are taught not to remember that the Mother of All Bombs was dropped on Muslim women and Muslim children too.  I try to remember they are friends and family, and I still love and care about them, even though they support things I find unconscionable.

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So, this weekend, Trump gave us an ice cream cone laced with propaganda sprinkles, some of which are made of pure horse poop.  And he shoved it in an orifice where you least want to receive a cold ice cream cone… in mid winter.  And I am willing to admit, maybe we need a little ice cream right now, a cold-but-loving treat of looking honestly at the current situation that has to be dealt with.  But couldn’t we have ice cream without the poop sprinkles, the hate sprinkles, and mind-blowing sprinkles?  Let’s take the radioactivity out of our confections for a change.

 

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, metaphor, pessimism, politics

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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