Category Archives: metaphor

Over the Rainbow

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Here is a notion that I find disturbing, compelling, and totally fascinating.  The world portrayed to us through history, current media, and what is assumed to be common knowledge of the facts is all warped and incorrect.  The people who make the world go round, like Glinda the Good Witch, Dorothy, and the Wizard in Oz are all lying to us.

What?  You thought I was talking about something more than the Wizard of Oz?  Well, you were right.  You cannot consider the real meaning of the story Frank L. Baum wrote without realizing that it has more than one meaning.

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You understand that in this story we are talking about a girl who becomes an interdimensional traveler.  She visits a dimension which contains the Land of Oz (a place you cannot find anywhere on a map of the Earth) first by means of an interdimensional Kansas tornado, and later, after learning how to use them properly, finds her way back to her own dimension by magic-heel-clicking ruby slippers.

Not only that but after she learns of the whole rulership of Oz by witches and wizards, she allows herself to be recruited as an assassinator of evil witches by a supposed “good witch”.  Again, she kills the first one by accident, then learns by trial and error how to kill the second one despite the witch’s winged-monkey minions.

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Nothing in Oz is, of course, really what it seems to be.  The Scarecrow, representing the rural farm worker, has been convinced he is an idiot know-nothing who doesn’t even have a brain.  Yet, in the story, his were the plans that led the group to successfully overcoming obstacles.  The Tin Man, representing the modern factory worker, has been told he doesn’t have a heart.  Yet he is the one with the most empathy, willing to make any sacrifice necessary for the benefit of those he loves.  And the Lion, symbolizing the military, is told he is cowardly, and he believes it, though he is willing to face grave danger and bravely takes on Dorothy’s enemies in spite of his paralyzing fear.

And we all know the Wizard, the man behind the curtain, is a humbug and a con man, trying to deceive others to stay in control of every situation and potential problem.  (I am actually surprised his face is not orange and he doesn’t have tiny hands for signing executive orders,)

So I believe I have definitely shown there is a conspiracy behind the whole Wizard of Oz thing.  It becomes obvious if you match up the signs, symbols, and clues.  But the biggest thing of all is the obvious evidence of making everybody wear green sunglasses in the Emerald City.  The cover-up is the greatest giveaway that there is when something odd is going on in Oz that they don’t want you to know about.  It is the biggest clue that George W. Wizard is actually the instigator behind 9/11.  The Scarecrow is also behind the back-engineering of alien spaceships at Area 51.  The Tin Man is behind the chemtrails in the sky that are trying to undo the damage of global warming.  And the Lion led the assassination team of CIA shooters who killed Kennedy.  I know it all sounds crazy.  But still… if we are willing to believe little Kansas girls can ride tornadoes into otherworldly dimensions…

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And we all know who really voted Trump into office in 2016.

 

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Filed under commentary, conspiracy theory, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, Uncategorized

Sunflower People

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Sunflowers can be beautiful.  They are the State flower of the State of Kansas.  They are also weeds.  I know this because as a teenager I had to walk up and down beanfield rows in Iowa and pull them out of the ground by the roots.  They were slightly harder to be rid of than the hated button weeds and cockleburrs that made up the bulk of farm boy plant war enemies.

To be clear, a weed is a plant that grows where you really wish it wouldn’t.  Weeds can aggressively take over in places that are outside their natural environment.  They can, like sunflowers, be volunteer crops that come up amongst the desired plants, aggressively and with malice, to take away the moisture and the nutrients from the plants you are trying to cultivate.

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A picture from Holmes Seed Company… some people pay for sunflowers.

But sunflowers can be a useful plant in their own right.  As a farm product they can produce edible seeds, and sunflower oil, like soybean oil, has a multitude of food and industrial applications.  Plus, as flowers, sunflowers have a certain hardy and steady beauty that metaphorically symbolize happiness and hope.  It is probably the reason Kansas chose it as a State flower, more than the fact that Iowans hate it as a pernicious weed.

People can be sunflowers.  I know at this point you expect a little Trump bashing, as both Trump himself and Iowa Congressman Steve King are examples of sunflower people.  They thrive where you really don’t want them, and they are very hard to remove from your beloved country crop field.  But hopefully, the system will pull the racist weeds out of the soil by the roots so they don’t grow back right away.  Robert Mueller as special counsel has his farmer gloves on and he is already going up and down the rows.

So, enough about the weeds.

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Let’s talk about the sunflower people we all know and love.  They can be weeds, at times, too, but the most important things about them have to do with their basic flower-ness.  Just because they tend to vote Republican does not make them weeds.  They are all about a primary color.  Yellow.  That is the color of warmth and sunshine.  One thing that always holds true about sunflower people is that they definitely love the people they love, and while living in rural farming communities full of sunflower people, you will be warm in the embrace of a culture that knows how to keep you fed and happy.  Yellow is also the color of happiness.  Sunflower people know how to celebrate.  They get together in large family reunions with lots of grilling and lots of potato salad.  They can sing country western songs, and often play the guitar.  The women get together in quilt-making clubs that produce beautiful works of blanket art that makes you happy on cold winter nights.

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And sunflower people have smiles that radiate who they are in the same way a sunflower does, mirroring the firey orb in the sky the flower is named after.

But make no mistake either.

Sunflower people can burn you with the force of their angry fire if you don’t do the right thing.  Their frowns and displeasure can wilt you under righteous heat.  And they can do it with just a disgusted look, leaving you as sunburned as a day at the nude beach without sunscreen.  They can take root in your life and take hold in a way that eventually takes over, like the sunflowers dominating the flower garden.  You had better pay heed, or your other blossoms are lost to you.

Well, that being said, I’ve already written too many words about it for today.  I know many sunflower people.  I live with some and was raised by others.  And you are probably surrounded by similar blooms yourself.

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How Mickey’s Brain Percolates

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I tend to do a lot of thinking about thinking.  I pay attention to what sources of input and images I use to bring the old brain to a boil.  It is entirely possible to turn into a malevolent moron in this age of Trumpalump Twitter Twit-Tweets if you pay too much attention to its anger-inducing misinformation and rage-ranting.  So I have to limit how much I think about calling Trump and the other elephant-heads names.  I enjoy it, true, but I really don’t want to become a malevolent moron.

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The anti-moron medicine comes in the form of remembering who I used to be and how problems were solved as an educator, mentor, and advocate for young people.  I remember how the times I used name-calling and anger in place of problem-solving tended to only make the problem worse.  If you deliberately brainstorm solutions to the problem instead, I have found that after you test several solutions and have them spectacularly fail, your persistance eventually yields a solution that works.

So when I think about how to proceed with the daily problems of life, especially the age-old question, “What the hell am I going to write about today?” I find that I tend to leap out of the box, think all around the outside landscape, and seize on something silly in a very round-about and experimental manner.

The things I choose to write about in book form are all based on my own real experiences.  But I have the unfortunate gift for having an overdose-level vivid imagination.  So my books are about fairies and ghosts and aliens as well as the kids I have taught, the people who raised me, and the people who have always surrounded me.  I write about ideas in some depth, but always from a sideways viewpoint that reflects my beliefs in non-violence, rationality, and love.

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My mind works like a match in a firecracker factory.  But I try not to use it for evil.  And now that I am done revealing the secret of how Mickey’s brain percolates, feel free to tell me how stupid it all is and call me whatever bad monkey-names you can think of for me.  I can take it.  And when I take it, I most likely will use it to make something surprisingly good.  Mickey-brain tea… now there’s a weird, wild, and wonderful metaphorical brew.

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The Evolution of the Sunflower

Apparently the seed was in the soil the demolition company used to fill the hole when the pool was removed.  It grew in the corner of the flower patch where I planted zinnias, and I decided to leave it, rather than treat it as a weed like I did with the other 14 sunflower plants that grew in the plot where the pool used to be.

You don’t even notice it in the first picture because it was in the back corner of the flower patch and only green.   But it began to stand out more as the yellow petals began to appear and it grew taller even than the gardener.

There is a certain metaphorical truth here that applies to being a teacher as well as it does to being the gardener in the flower garden.  Sometimes in the classroom you have to nurture the student other teachers have identified as the weed in the garden.  And don’t get me wrong when I say this, I pulled enough sunflowers out of the bean fields as a farm boy to know how aggressively obnoxious they are in their weediness.  But sometimes the classroom weed becomes the tallest, brightest, most beautiful flower in the patch.  It shows you clearly what a little patience, a little love, and accepting a lot of risk can accomplish.

I have begun to think of the sunflower as Clarissa, the valedictorian of the flower patch.

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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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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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