Category Archives: Mickey
This post is about writer doubt. And Stephen King. Do those two things go together? If they don’t then Mickey is an awful writer and does not know how to do what he does. It would mean Mickey is icky.
I used to think Stephen King was a totally over-rated writer. Back in the early eighties I read Carrie, King’s first novel, and got halfway through Firestarter, and had to give up. Partly because the book was overdue at the library, and also because I found the books mechanical and somewhat joyless in the writing. I thought he suffered greatly in comparison to writers I was in love with at the time like Ray Bradbury and Thomas Mann. I began to tell others that King was somewhat icky.
But King was obviously also somewhat successful. He began to get his books made into movies and people who don’t read discovered the evil genius of a man who tells stories to scare them and laces them with a bit of real humanity, real human feeling, and love.
I saw it first in Stand by Me. That movie, starring young Wil Wheaton as the Steven King autobiographical character, really touched my heart and really made for me a deep psyche-to-psyche connection to somebody who wasn’t just a filmmaker, but somebody who was, at heart, a real human being, a real story-teller.
Now, the psyche I was connecting to may very well have been Rob Reiner, a gifted story-teller and film-maker. But it wasn’t the only King movie that reached me. The television mini-series made from It touched a lot more than just the fear centers of my brain as well. And people whose opinions I respect began telling me that the books The Dark Tower Trilogy and Misery were also amazing pieces of literature.
So I picked up a copy of Hearts in Atlantis at Half-Price Books and began reading a Stephen King novel for the first time since the 80’s. MY HOLY GOD! King is not a little bit icky. He is so NOT ICKY that it makes Mickey sicky to have ever thought King was even a little bit icky! Here is a writer who loves to write. He whirls through pages with the writer’s equivalent of ballet moves, pirouettes of prose, grand jetés of character building, and thematic arabesque penchées on every side of the stage. I love what I have discovered in a writer I thought was somewhat icky. Growth and power, passion and precision, a real love of both the words and the story. He may not know what he is doing. But I know. And I love it.
And so, while I have been editing the first novel I ever wrote, Superchicken, to make it ready for self-publishing, I have begun to ask myself the self-critical question, “Is Mickey really icky when he writes?” My first novel is full of winces and blunders and head-banging wonders that make me want to throw the whole thing out. But I can’t throw it out. It is the baby in the first bathwater that I ever drew from the tap. The answer to the questions of Micky ickiness have yet to be determined, and not by me. I guess I have to leave it up to you.
If you are wondering, “How in the Heck can Mickey write nonsense like that essay he wrote yesterday?”, then please be aware that Mickey is pondering that same question.
Seriously, why would a writer publish personal thoughts and allude to personal tragedies? Especially when they are about things that once upon a time nearly killed him? (Please note that when Mickey starts a sentence with “Seriously” it is probably about to lead to a joke, the same way as when Trump says, “Believe me” we should assume he is telling a lie and knows it.)
The answer is simply, writers write stuff. They have to. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be writers.
It is really not something to do to earn fame and fortune. Fame and fortune happen to rare individuals like J. K. Rowling and Steven King… and even Stephanie Meyer, to prove that it is totally random and not based on actual writing talent… except for sometimes.
You write to get your head right about bad things that happen in life. You find that factor in Mark Twain whose infant son died, as well as most of the rest of his family, before him, forcing him to face survivor’s guilt and the notion that life is random and death does not come for you based on any kind of merit system. Charles Dickens wrote about the foibles of his father, on whom he based the David Copperfield character Wilkins Micawber, a man who was overly optimistic and constantly landing in debtor’s prison because of it. He also wrote in his stories about the women he truly loved (who were not, it seems, his wife) one of whom died in his arms while yet a teenager. Dickens’ amused take on the innate foolishness of mankind gave him a chance to powerfully depict great tragedies both large (as in a Tale of Two Cities) and small (as in Oliver Twist). I wrote yesterday’s post based on the connection between the nudity I write about in novels and my own traumatic assault when I was only ten.
You write because you have wisdom, an inner personal truth, that you are convinced needs to be crystallized in words and written down on paper. It isn’t necessarily real truth. Lots of idiots write things and post them in newspapers, blogs, and even books. And it is often true that their inner personal truth is complete hogwash. (But, hey, at least the hogs are cleaner that way.) Still, your wisdom is your own, and it is true for you even if some idiot like Mickey reads it and thinks it is only fit for cleaning hogs.
And you truly do have to write. If I did not write my stupid, worthless novels, all the hundreds of characters in my head would get mad and start kicking the pillars that hold up the structures in my head. I do have structures in my head. My mind is organized in boxes that contain specifically sorted ideas and stories and notions. It is not a festering stew pot where everything is mixed together and either bubbling or boiling with hot places or coagulating in the cold corners. (That is how I picture Donald Trump’s mind. It is certainly not an empty desert like many people think, because deserts don’t explode all over Twitter early in the morning like the stew pot metaphor obviously would.)
And so, I have done it again. I have set down my 500+ words for today and made a complete fool of myself. And why do I do it? Because Mickey is a writer, and so, Mickey writes stuff.
It is true that I am now only a month away from being 61. But this reflection is based on what happened to me while undergoing the year past. My fictional character, Valerie Clarke, took the selfie above of the two of us. She doesn’t have her own smartphone, after all, she’s a fictional character, so she used mine. It shows in the picture what she looked like at eleven and what I looked like at sixty years and eleven months, in other words, this morning.
So, what exactly does the picture reveal about us?
Well, for her, it is fairly obvious that she’s only an imaginary person. She was eleven in 1984, the year of the fictional snowstorm in Snow Babies. She’s a bright and vibrant young girl with hopes and dreams ahead of her. She’s also known tragedy, especially after her father’s suicide. But the fact that she’s fictional and based on more than one real person from my past does a lot to explain why this reflection is not about her.
For me, however, you get a look at a grumpy old man with a straw farmer’s hat, an author’s beard, and silvery Gandalf hair. More of my drawings are glimpsable on the wall behind me. I look like the kind of seedy old curmudgeon who yells at neighbor kids who walk on his lawn.
But I’m really not what I look like.
I am a writer. So I am full of experiences, ideas, and feelings. And I am also full of people. Valerie is only one of those. I create fictional people from the people I knew or knew about in my little Iowa town, Rowan, where I grew up. Kids that went to school with me. Their parents. Shopkeepers and business people and creepy old people that I sometimes encountered. Hot tempered people. Wise people. And stupid people who were often laughed at for good reason.
I can also draw on (and draw pictures of) all the people I knew as an educator. More than two thousand kids who passed through my classes in four different schools, some of whom I knew as well as I knew my own children, were available to pull details from to mix and match and make fictional characters from. Fellow teachers, some gifted with a natural way with students, some hopelessly lost in the wrong profession with the wrong sort of personality were also available to make characters from. Fools and idealists. Bullies and shrinking violets. Heroes that possible readers could look up to and love.
I am the kaleidoscope, the thing that you can look through to see the world and have it refracted and patterned to make it beautiful, even in its ugliness.
But all of this reflection is only that, the view in the mirror, the outward look of the man who is me. Mickey at sixty is many things, not all of them pretty, not all of them wise. But some of them are. And some even better than I think they are.
“Climate change is a hoax by the Chinese.”
That, unfortunately, is not an opinion. It is a fact. It is a FALSE FACT.
Facts are statements that can be proven or disproven. There are studies by government agencies and university science departments all over the world that provide evidence to back up the theory that the climate is drastically changing in ways that threaten our existence. The studies are repeatable, peer reviewed, and thoroughly “vetted”, to use the new word that Republicans embrace so deeply and lovingly for immigration issues. On the other side of the question, you have scoffing congressmen who bring snowballs into the capitol and say, “See? The science is not proven.” That is not a fact. Where is the evidence which is not anecdotal and based on a misunderstanding of the difference between “climate change” and “weather change”? That is by definition an opinion. And it is not even an informed opinion. Opinions are not equal to facts. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to onions. No, that is not even correct. You can eat both of those things. It is more like comparing apples to planetary moons.
After a long and heated Facebook debate about immigration between me, a Texas teacher, and an Iowa Republican Trump supporter I went to high school with who doesn’t even know if he ever met an illegal immigrant, I have pretty well proven to myself that a big share of the divide between liberals and conservatives stems from the unwillingness of one side to avoid equating facts and opinions. Apples and moons.
So give me a moment to do what teachers do.
Here is a non-political lesson in Fact versus Opinion.
Who do you prefer? Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny? The answer doesn’t matter to me.
I can give you a quick and dirty lesson on fact and opinion using these two cartoon characters. And it doesn’t even matter who you like more.
Here are some obvious facts about the two of them.
They are both cartoon characters. They are both anthropomorphic animals. They both wear gloves most of the time. They both have a thumb and three fingers on each hand.
These things are observably true. You can prove them by looking at the illustrations I have already provided.
Other things may not be as readily apparent, but no less provable.
Both of them are heterosexual and both of them have one main love interest. Neither of them have ever been married, but neither of them really are playboys and even though there are no legitimate bits of evidence that either one has ever had sex with their respective girlfriends, Bugs has kissed Lola on more than one occasion and Mickey has kept company with Minnie for longer than most old married couples.
These things are provable by watching the cartoons and observing a preponderance of evidence. There is no contradictory evidence. But the possibility of contradictory evidence doesn’t change these things into opinions. A disproven fact is still a fact. It is merely a false fact. Over time the relationship between Bugs and Daffy Duck may become clearer and the fact that Bugs is gay may pop out of the cartoon closet. It does however, require proof, so it is a fact, not an opinion.
Here’s another fact you know the evidence supports. Bugs Bunny is a nudist. He almost always appears in cartoons naked. Mickey, however, believes in wearing clothes. Even when he gets out of the bath tub, he clutches the nearest towel, and you never get a look at whether he has cartoon genitals or not. Mickey does hang out a lot with a duck who wears no pants, but that’s an irrelevant fact.
The notion that Mickey and Bugs are very different personalities because they had very different creators, is an opinion. It is a opinion offered by people who have studied the characters and their creators, and therefore can give you an informed opinion. But it still can’t be proven.
Walt Disney made Mickey into more or less of an every-man sort of character whom audiences can identify with. Things happen to Mickey Mouse, and the comedy comes from him trying to deal with those external forces, be they wind storms during music concerts, Donald Duck’s raging temper, or the evil plots of Black Pete. Walt never said this was so to prove it, but it is not unreasonable to think it.
Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, was created by several great animators like Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Bob Clampett. And Bugs tends to make things happen to other characters. Think of how he plays Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and even his pal Daffy for laughs. He is more of a Groucho Marx type character than an every-man. We don’t identify with him. We only laugh at his victims (because they always deserve what he gives them). That too is an opinion. And even if one of his creators were to say that this was the intent, it still is not proven until all of them agree. And they all had very different ways of doing things.
But these are only informed opinions. You cannot be proven wrong whether you agree or disagree with them. You are entitled to your own interpretations and opinions because they are not provable facts. There is no one way to view any opinion.
Opinions, even un-informed opinions and religious beliefs are never either wrong or right. You don’t make a mistake when you have an opinion. It only becomes a mistake when you try to use it as a fact, or mistakenly believe it is a fact.
So, there is my lesson for those Facebook arguers who never seem to know the difference. It’s all color-coded and everything. So try using this new knowledge when arguing with me, rather than calling me stupid, or making your point IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!
If you are one of those readers who has taken to regularly reading Mickey posts on Catch a Falling Star ( a habit that is probably bad for you, but certainly not fatal), there are some things and random recent developments that you should probably be made aware of.
- Mickey recently finished a rough-draft novel. After giving birth to a massive 12-month-long-gestating thought artifact like that, there is bound to be some necessary recovery time involved. He may be difficult to understand for a while as he puts the pieces of his psyche back together again. Using mental duct tape for such things takes time and patience.
- The novel is called Recipes for Gingerbread Children. If that arouses curiosity in you (a condition that I also hope is not fatal… You are not a cat, are you?), there are instances of rants and delusional spoutings about this story to be found in recent posts on this blog. Unfortunately, it will not be published immediately. You will have to wait to actually read it until I or my heirs eventually get it published… by whatever means necessary (though I have my doubts about the plan involving kidnapped alien slaves and mimeograph machines.)
- The novel I do have nearing publication is Magical Miss Morgan. I recently submitted approval for final edits to my project manager for Page Publishing. Since I am investing my own money in this publication project, I am expecting that it will get published before 2017 is done. I will continue to relentlessly plug the thing here.
- Page Publishing is a less expensive and less professional publisher than I-Universe that did Catch a Falling Star for me. If you are reading this for ideas about pursuing publication yourself, I would recommend the more expensive publisher first, due to the quality of their professional editors, though I intend to continue publishing my books with less expensive self-publishing options like Amazon from here on. As I finish the publishing process I am now involved in, I promise to complain about publishers and throw Mark-Twain-like insult fits in future blog posts. No one should have to repeat the egregious mistakes that Mickey has made.
- Catch a Falling Star, the blog, will continue to be a blog about my artwork, my story-telling, my teacher memories, and my generally confusing and bombastic opinions about life, the universe, and everything… including pies. Mmm! Pies are good. You might even want to look at my essay on Gooseberry Pie.
In case you were not aware of it, this purple mouse-man is Mickey, and Mickey is the writer-spirit within me. Mickey is not actually me. You know how Mark Twain is not really a real person? The real person was Samuel Langhorn Clemens. Mickey is not a really real person either. Michael Beyer, cartoonist, writer, and former middle school teacher is the real person… if any former middle school teacher can ever be considered a real person.
Yes, I am a wizard. That is a complicated thing to say. It is complicated because a wizard has to be a wise man, and wisdom has to begin with the idea that you know practically nothing about anything… but you can find out. So one version of me has to be my wizard D&D character, the wizard Eli Tragedy. This is because I know practically nothing about anything… but I am willing to not be stupid and look stuff up before I tell you anything and pretend it is a wise thing to say.
I have been thinking about who I am because I want to re-do my About the Author page. And that leads to the difficulty of explaining who Mickey actually is. You see, I am actually lots of different people in my head. Mickey is the cartoonist, the humorist, the clown. He is not the every-day me. He is the goofy and foofy and lovey-to-drawie part of me. And yes, I know some of those are not real words. Mickey is like that. He speaks Mickian Goof Speak. I have no control over that part of him. I am not certain where this Mickey-part of my soul originated, but it may be the result of too much TV when I was a kid.
And of course there is the Teacher-Me, Reluctant Rabbit, the person who stood in front of groups of twelve-thirteen-and-fourteen-year-olds for three decades and tap-danced, told stories, stood on my head, and begged them to internalize at least a lesson or two of what I tried to teach them.
And the wizard part of me was just barely wise enough to realize that a teacher can open doors, but you can’t shove a kid through. They have to take the critical learning step themselves. They have to want to learn something. But even though they actually do the learning themselves, they will come back to me in later years saying, “Oh, thank you, you taught me so much!” when really all I did was be a guide on the side and stayed out of their way.
And, of course, there is the Cowboy Me. I live in Texas. I was a Belmond Bronco in high school, but I became a Cotulla Cowboy for 24 years of my teaching career. I ended up as a Naaman Forest Ranger. I have worn the hat a lot in my life, being as much of a straight shooter as the Shakiest Gun In The West can be, always trying to shoot the six-guns out of the bad guy’s hands rather than shoot people.
So how do I explain a thing like that? Probably the way I just did it (ironically). I should use Paffoonies I have created over time and waffle about stupid stuff that might make people laugh when they realize how self-contradictory it is. And I should say it like I mean it… because I probably do.