Category Archives: metaphor

Living in the Spider Kingdom

Life seems to be getting harder and harder. And I realize that a big part of that perception is the fact that my health is deteriorating quickly. This is a humor blog, but it has been getting more and more serious and more and more grim as the grim reaper becomes more and more a central character in my own personal story.

My perception of reality, however, is best explained by a passage in a novel that spoke to me in college. It comes from the novel, the Bildungsroman by Thomas Mann called Der Zauberberg, in English, The Magic Mountain. In the scene, Hans Castorp is possibly freezing to death, and he hallucinates a pastoral mountainside scene where children are happily playing in the sunshine. Possibly Heaven? But maybe not. As he goes into a stone building and finds a passage down into the ground, he sees wrinkled, ugly, horrible hags gathered around a child’s corpse, eating it. And this vision explains the duality at the center of the meaning of life.

For every good thing, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that balances it our. There is no understanding of what perfection and goodness mean without knowing profanity and evil. Just as you can’t understand hot without cold nor light without darkness. And you don’t get to overturn the way it is. You try your hardest to stay on the heads side of the coin knowing that half the time life falls to tails.

So, what good does it do me to think about and write about things like this? Well, it makes for me a sort of philosophical gyroscope that spins and dances and helps me keep my balance in the stormy sea of daily life. I deal with hard things with humor and a sense of literary irony. I make complex metaphors that help me throw a rope around the things that hurt me.

We are living now in the Spider Kingdom. Hard times are here again. The corrupt and corpulent corporate spiders are spinning the many webs we are trapped in. As metaphorical as it is, we wouldn’t have the government we currently have and be suffering the way we are if that weren’t true.

But no bad thing nor no good thing lasts forever. The wheel goes round and round. The top of the wheel reaches the bottom just as often as the bottom returns to the top. So, it will all pass if we can only hold out long enough.

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Filed under commentary, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy

I am Made of Words

Yes, I was an English teacher. So, I was charged with teaching children, both exceedingly clever and oppressively stupid, including every child in between the extremes. how to read and to write in English. Words are my profession. Words are, in fact, my world.

I’m sure you realize that the title is a metaphor, and in no way literal. But now, as a retired senior on Medicare, my parents are both gone, I lost two cousins to Covid this last week, both of whom refused to be vaccinated because they were Republican FOX News watchers in ultra-conservative Iowa; I have six incurable diseases or conditions that I will have until I die. My zombie-skin is all peeling off. My prostate has gone from softball-sized to giant grapefruit. And eating is a diabetic nightmare now. My favorite foods will all kill me with knives of brain pain.

So, my physical life is all about deterioration and decay now. I have no happy days if you have to gauge happiness by lack of pain and surpluses of ease and things to be grateful for.

No, my world now is mostly interior in nature. Memories of the cherished past. Imaginary worlds I have built up all in my head over time. And re-imagining of the events of my past to make them more palatable and less filled with regret.

And so, I am made of words. I live in the stories I write, whether it is a story about my cousin’s recent passing on here, or a story about three-inch-tall fairies who’ve built a castle out of a willow tree with magic in my novel-in-progress.

I define myself and my life with words. And I am fortunate enough to be able to do it with some skill, learned over the decades of telling stories to kids in an English classroom.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, metaphor, Paffooney

I Hope You Dance…

When you walk to the front of the classroom and take up the big pencil in front of a group of young teens and twelve-year-olds, there is a strong pressure to learn how to sing and dance. That, of course, is a metaphor. I was always too arthritic and clunky in my movements to literally dance. But I looked out over a sea of bored and malevolence-filled eyes, slack and sometimes drooling mouths attached to hormone-fueled and creatively evil minds. And I was being paid to put ideas in their heads. Specifically boring and difficult ideas that none of them really wanted in their own personal heads. So I felt the need to learn to dance, to teach in ways that were engaging like good dance tunes, and entertaining in ways that made them want to take action, to metaphorically get up and dance along with me.

I wanted them to enjoy learning the way I did.

But the music of the teacher is not always compatible with the dance style of the individual learner. The secret behind that is, there is absolutely no way to prompt them to dance along with you until you learn about the music already playing in their stupid little heads. (And you can’t, of course ever use the word “stupid” out loud, no matter how funny or true the word is,) You have to get to know a kid before you can teach them anything.

The discordant melodies and bizarre tunes you encounter when you talk to them is like dancing in a minefield blindfolded. Some don’t have enough to eat at home and have to survive off of the nutrition-less food they get in the school cafeteria’s free-and-reduced lunch program. Some of them have never heard a single positive thing from the adults at home, enduring only endless criticism, insults, and sometimes fists. Some of them fall in love with you. Some due to hormones. Some due to the fact that you treat them like a real human being. Some because they just stupidly assume that everyone dances to the same tunes they hear in their own personal head.

Some of them automatically hate you because they know that if you hear their own secret music in their own self-loathing heads, you will never accept it. They hate you because you are a teacher and teachers always hate them. Some of them, deep down, are as loathsome as they think they are.

But, if you find the right music, you can get any of them, even all of them, to dance. It might be hard to find. It might be a nearly impossible task to learn to play that music once you find it. But it can be done.

And if you get them to dance to your music, to dance along with you, I can’t think of anything more rewarding, anything more life-fulfilling. Have you ever tried it for yourself? If you are not a teacher, how about with your own children or the children related to you? Everybody should learn to dance this dance I am talking about in metaphors. At least once in your life. It is addictive. You will want to dance more. So the next time the music starts and you get the chance… I hope you’ll dance!

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Filed under commentary, education, kids, metaphor, Paffooney, teaching

Gooseberry Pie

I would like to contend that a blog is a form of self-portrait.  Do you want to argue with me?  Have a piece of Gooseberry Pie….

You see, gooseberries aren’t made from geese.  They don’t look like gooses… er, goosei… um, geese.  They aren’t the favorite food of a goose, unless, maybe…  Mother Goose.  The name is a corrupted form of the Dutch word kruisbes , or possibly the German Krausbeere.   You know, because people who speak English don’t know how to talk right.  They don’t have anything to do with geese.  In the same way, a person’s name doesn’t really help you understand the person that wears it.  You have to dig deeper.  Do you know, I have never actually tasted gooseberry pie?  I have seen and even picked the gooseberries.  They are danged ugly, spikey-furred snot-green berries.  I am not tempted in any way to put one in my mouth.  And yet, I should not judge gooseberry pie before I taste a piece.  I know people who adore gooseberry pie.  Maybe you are one of them.

The point is, blogs are exactly the same thing.  An artist, a writer, a producer of something, or a day-dreamy noodling goober has put together a blog to display their wares, show off their creations, and share their words and wisdom.  You have to look at them, warts and all, and actually take a bite.  You have to try them out and test them.  Follow them over time.  Read, absorb, and appreciate… not merely zoom through and look at the pictures… and maybe click “like” at the bottom of the post.

Of course, I admit, I do the very thing I am advising you not to do.  The first few times I visit a blog, I scan through and only focus on a few things that catch my falling stars.  (oop!  Shame on me… I should say “catch my fancy”.  Forgive me for lapsing into Mickian brain farts for a moment there).  But if I am lured into coming back, I dip deeper and read more… tasting it thoroughly, as it were…  And much of what I taste there will end up in my own recipe somewhere down the line.  I begin to learn who that blogger is, and their writing style… sometimes even their thinking style (though I don’t read minds… only smell brain farts and odoriferous mental cooking smells) and I picture them as people in my minds eye.  Sometimes I wonder if they match in real life the person I am picturing.  Of course, the answer is no.  People don’t look like what you think they should look like.  They don’t even look like what they think they look like either… even in photos.  So let me end this goofy pie-based argument about why blogs are self portraits with a few self portraits I have created that aren’t really what I look like , even if it is a photo.

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Me in the mirror, 1980

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Scary pictures of the artist as a creepy old man…

 

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The novelist me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A wizard selfie taken at Mad Ludwig’s Castle in Bavaria.

 

 

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Who I am and who I was…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seriously grumpy me…

Gag!  Enough of the gooseberries already!  Or are they gross-berries?  I think that I really don’t look anything like me anymore.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, blog posting, goofiness, goofy thoughts, humor, metaphor, Uncategorized

Special Snowflakes

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When conservative cultural warriors, Twitter Trolls, or dyspeptic gasbags like Rush Limbaugh call you a “Special Snowflake”, I have discovered, to my chagrin, that they don’t mean it as a compliment.  In their self-centered, egotistical world you have to be as emotionally tough and able to “take it” as they believe (somewhat erroneously to my way of thinking) they themselves are.  They have no time for political correctness, safe spaces, or, apparently, manners polite enough not to get you killed on the mean streets where they never go.  Being a retired school teacher who was once in charge of fragile young psyches trying to negotiate a cruel Darwinian world, I think I disagree with them.

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Have you ever tried to draw a snowflake?  Believe me, it is difficult.  Snowflakes are hexagonal star-shapes with enough lace and  filigrees in them to make it a nightmare to draw it with painfully arthritic hands.  The one above took me an hour with ruler and compass and colored pencils, and it still doesn’t look as good as a first grader can create with scissors and folded paper.  Much better to use a computer program to spit them out with mathematical precision and fractal beauty.  That’s how all the tiny ones in the background were created.  But even a computer can’t recreate the fragile, complicated beauty of real snowflakes.

You see how the fragile crystalline structures will break in spots, melt in spots, attach to others, and get warped or misshapen?  That is the reason no two snowflakes are alike, even though they all come from the same basic mathematically precise patterns generated by ice crystals.  Life changes each one in a different way.

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And that, of course, is the reason this essay is really about people rather than mere physical artifacts of cold weather.  Our fragilities and frailties are earned, and they make us who we are.  I have a squinky eye like Popeye from playing baseball and getting hit by a pitch.  I have a big toe that won’t bend from playing football.  They both represent mistakes that I learned from the hard way.

As a teacher, I learned that bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders are very real things.  I lost a job once to one of those.  And I spent a long night talking someone out of suicide one horrible December.  Forgive me, I had to take fifteen minutes just there to cry again.  I guess I am just a “special snowflake”.  But the point is, those things are real.  People really are destroyed by them sometimes.  And they deserve any effort I can make to protect them or help them make it through the night.

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But people are like snowflakes.  They are all complex.  They are all beautiful in some way.  They are all different.  No two are exactly the same.

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And I really think boorish bastards have no right to insist that we need to take safe spaces and sanctuaries away from them.  Every snowflake has worth.  Winter snow leaves moisture for seedlings to get their start every spring.  If you are a farmer, you should know this and appreciate snowflakes.  And snowflakes can be fascinating.  Even goofy ones like me.

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Filed under 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, artwork, battling depression, commentary, compassion, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, self portrait, Snow Babies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Human Beans

People are not really vegetables… even though I have seen IQ scores as a teacher that might say otherwise. But I often use the pun of calling them Human Beans.

Your basic human bean.

Western style beans

Of course, being a Texan means having a healthy appreciation for beans as a staple food. Cowboys used to live off of beans and beef jerky, and if Louis L’Amour is to be believed, they even made tea from mesquite beans. That makes your average cowboy made up of over 50 per cent beans. Of course the rest of him is mostly gas caused by the beans in his diet, whether it comes out as a fart or as a Texas tall tale… And yes, I admit it, I get a lot of my writing ideas from eating beans.

A Boston baked bean

We must also be aware that Texas has no corner on the beans market. We all know Boston baked beans by reputation. They, like the ever-hapless Cubs, had a habit of never winning the World Series. And now, in the last two decades, it has actually been difficult for the other teams to keep them from winning it all. But we shouldn’t mix up beans with baseball metaphors. Baseball is like life. Full of long and boring parts punctuated by intense moments of hitting, scoring, committing errors, and player versus player individual drama. And concession stand food! Beans, however, can taste good in chili draped over the ballpark hot dogs which cost more than a restaurant meal at most reasonable restaurants. And I promise you, you will never hit a home run over the fence by hitting it with a bean.

A Mexican style re-fried bean

And I wish to point out that this last human bean is not a racist cartoon. Beans are not part of the human race. They only have legs in cartoons and would come in last even when racing a snail. And all beans are created equal in the sight of God. Kidney beans, butter beans, navy beans, string beans… all beans are just beans, no matter what the color of their skin is, and no matter how they add flavor to a casserole. All beans are just in it to live life the best they can, and if that’s not enough… they can be planted as seeds to raise the next generation of human beans.

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Filed under cartoons, foolishness, humor, metaphor, Paffooney

Musings on Manic Mumbles in My Mind

The voices in my head never stop mumbling. For the past year I have been having trouble with passing out while trying to write or draw or watch TV. And yet, scenes play out vividly in the theater of my mind while I am briefly unconscious. I’ve been to the doctor about it. But there is no cure for the yammerings of an unquiet thought-mill. The word-weavers keep weaving new sentences. The cloth-cutters keep snipping out patterns and themes. And the prose-sewers keep making essays and shirts and jeans. How did my mental-breakdown voices get stuck inside a garment mill?

The mutterings this morning have been about writing success. Do I dare think any of that has my name associated with it?

Well, my blog views have been up this week. And this morning my prayers have been answered for my book Sing Sad Songs. A reviewer defended my book as a legitimate 5-star novel, and refuted the charges that my book is somehow child-pornography. I have been needing some validation that my book, the product of my darkest secrets and the affirmation of my victory over personal pain, is worthy of being seen as a good book.

And, of course, I have been thinking a lot about the talking-dog story, the one about Horatio who smokes an imaginary meerschaum pipe and talks only to Bobby Niland, and solves murders committed on chickens by the evil Dr. Rattiarty, a really evil real rat.

I have been discussing it endlessly with my dog on our walks in the park for her to take care of her pooping in public. We argue endlessly about how to make the tale believable.

She says, “The thing you don’t seem to understand is that, in real life, dogs can’t talk.”

And I say, “Then how is it that we are even arguing at the moment?”

And she answers, “It’s all because you insist on listening continually to the voices in your head.”

And there is a considerable discussion going on in the faculty lounge of my mental monkey house about the fact that for so many years I had numerous opportunities to be a practicing nudist, and I ran away from it as something I should not do… Until I grew old and weak and gave in to the desire to become a naked man amongst socially nude naturists and now I am unable to physically do it in any way but in my imagination.

“You simply lack the resolve, Michael, to take the bull by the horns and tackle it,” said the Dean of Brain Studies.

“Well, of course he can’t do that!” exclaimed the Professor of Inappropriate Thoughts. “Mickey has no Moo-Wrestling muscles to manage the kind of bull fighting you suggest. The kind where he wrestles with bull-puckie.”

“Mike is a man who can make up his own mind,” said the Associate Professor of Metaphor Mixing. “He just has to stop listening to us.”

“Can you all just SHUT UP!!!” said the Teaching Assistant of Pragmatic Prattle. “We are just a Monkey-House faculty incapable of making any sense.”

So, I am taking the Teaching Assistant’s advice now, and I am closing this essay immediately.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, mental health, metaphor, Mickey, Paffooney, self pity

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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Filed under artwork, cartoons, classical music, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, Hidden Kingdom, magic, metaphor, music, Paffooney

Malaise as a Condiment

Malaise is not mayonnaise. It is that horrible sickly feeling that you can’t really put into words because you don’t know what medical problem is the one that is probably killing you.. I feel blah to the twenty-third degree. And the reason why is a malaise-causing mystery to me. Where is Scooby Doo when you need him?

And it probably is being caused by my diet. (This is a metaphorical diet illustrated in the Dagwood diagram.)

It is undeniably true that what you put into your body by eating becomes what you are made of. And it can make you healthy and happy. Or it can make you sick and even make you die.

It is also undeniably true that what you put into your mind can do the exact same thing.

I have no issue with the bread in my Dagwood sandwich. Whether wheat is better than white is not an issue to me. Bread is the stuff of life, no matter the color. And if bread is going to hold everything in the sandwich together, I prefer the wheat bread because of the ruffage that keeps me regular. But white bread is just as good as long as it doesn’t go buy Tiki torches at Walmart.

But the roast beast I get now is reaching its expiration date. It is in dire need of roasting over a real fire. And now that it is no longer in office, what is standing in the way of roasting it thoroughly to prevent the salmonella that comes from not giving it the fire it deserves for its crimes? Waiting for that to happen is making me sick.

It is not normal to put ap-peas-e in any sandwich but a Dagwood because they are very round. And if you hold the sandwich too tight, they can pop out of the sides of the sandwich and end up rolling on the floor.

So, just like Mick Jagger, “I can’t get no… SATISFACTION!”

That doesn’t mean I won’t need it.

The malaise itself won’t make you fat and have high cholesterol like mayonnaise will. But it is definitely not good for you. It leads to depression and an inability to get anything good accomplished. I almost didn’t get this essay done.

I am really enjoying watching Selena Gomez on Hulu in “Only Murders in the Building” with Steve Martin and Martin Short.

Hot tomatoes can really perk me up, especially in bikinis (I find the bikinis are satisfyingly chewy,) but they are dangerous to my health. Especially dangerous when my wife notices what I am looking at. The show we are watching on Hulu, however, works well since I laugh at Steve Martin enough to throw her off. Still, the tomatoes are probably going to be the death of me.

Onions are a tradition in Dagwood sandwiches. But in these times of extremely divided politics, onions are too often divided by pi.

As far as using cheese goes… Well, this is a very cheesy essay.

And if you eat a Dagwood sandwich for lunch every day, soon you will be full of baloney.

So, now, as we sit down to lunch, let-us pray. But don’t use iceberg lettuce. That can give you gas. And anyway, icebergs are getting hard to find due to climate change.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, metaphor, satire

Thinking Differently

Buckminster Fuller is an intellectual hero of mine.  As he said in the video, if you bothered to watch it, “I was told I had to get a job and make money, but would you rather be making money, or making sense?”  Bucky was always a little bit to the left of center, and basically in the farthest corner of the outfield.  That’s why we depend so much on him in times like these when the ball is being hit to the warning track.  (I know the world doesn’t really work on baseball metaphors any more, but my life has always been about metaphors from 1964 with the St. Louis Cardinals playing and beating the New York Yankees.  Mantle was on their side, but Maris was playing for us.)  You have to live in the world that fits into your own mental map of reality.  And if you’ve been whacked on the side of the head one too many times… it changes the way you think.  You begin to think differently.  

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If you don’t know who Bucky is, as you probably don’t because he revolutionized the world in the 60’s and died in the 1980’s,  Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, and inventor.  He is credited with the invention of the Geodesic Dome.  But he was so much more than that.  He wanted to build things that made better sense, in a practical sort of way, than the way we actually do them.  He built geodesic homes because he felt a home should maximize space and use of materials and minimize costs and amounts of materials as well as environmental impacts.  He is the one who popularized the notion of “Spaceship Earth”.  He wrote and published more than thirty books, and gave us a variety of truly wise insights.  He promoted the concept of synergy.  He said, “Don’t fight forces, use them.”  He also pointed out, “Ninety per cent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.”  He was a man full of quotes useful for internet memes.

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So, lets consider an example from the mixed up mind of Mickey;

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Here are three dolls from the Planet of the Apes part of my doll collection. (Two different movies are represented here, the 1968 original, and the Tim Burton 2001 remake.)

The world we now live in is increasingly like the movie, The Planet of the Apes.  In that film the world the astronauts set down upon is ruled by talking apes.  The human beings in that film are relegated to the fields and forests where they are no more than speechless animals.  Much like the Republican Party and the wealthy ruling elite of this day and age, the apes control everything and, led by Dr. Zaius (seen on the far right) reject science and evidence as a way to explain things.  They rely on the rules set down by the Lawgiver in much the same way that modern day Republicans swear by the U.S. Constitution to determine the truth of all things.

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Here we see the apes capturing and enslaving Marky Mark… er… Mark Wahlberg rather than Chuck Heston from the original movie.

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In the original set of movies, Charleton Heston, playing the astronaut Taylor, discovers that through hatred and warring, the human beings of Earth have bombed themselves back into the stone age and enabled the evolved apes to take over.  How does Mr. Heston deal with that problem?  He discovers an old doomsday device and blows up the world.  Chuck Heston has always approved Second Amendment solutions to modern problems, so it is no wonder that he lays waste to everything, the good and the bad.  I think we can see that old orangutan-man, Donald Trump doing exactly the same things now as he runs for President, or Great Ape, or whatever…

In both the previous series, and the current remake, salvation from the rule of the monkey people comes in the form of a leader among the apes.  Caesar, whether he be played by Roddy MacDowell or by Andy Serkis, is able to solve the problems of apes and men by reaching out to those of the other species, assigning them value, and ultimately doing what helps everyone to survive and live together.  Diversity is power and provides a workable solution through cooperation.  The forces of hatred and fear are the things that must be overcome and threaten the existence of everyone.  Donald Trump needs to learn from the lesson of The Planet of the Apes, and be less like General Ursus.   We need Bernie Sanders to embrace the role of Caesar and show us how we can get along with our Muslim brothers… after all, they are more like us than the apes are, and Caesar builds bridges between apes and men.

So, there you have it, my attempt to build a new model based on an old movie… or on the remake… whichever you prefer.  And if that doesn’t work, well, there’s always…

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Filed under doll collecting, humor, insight, inspiration, metaphor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, Uncategorized