Category Archives: Paffooney

Aeroquest… Canto 28

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Canto 28 – Rock and Roll Starship

      The Megadeath was the only available starship left in four Parsecs of space in any direction from Don’t Go Here.  Ged didn’t want to travel in a Trav Dalgoda concept, but left with no choice, he trusted Frieda’s demonstrated skills as a shipwright and spacecraft designer.  He could use it to travel if only he could recruit a space crew.  He needed a pilot, an engineer, and a navigator who knew how to figure coordinates from Xavier Tkriashav’s memories of nearby systems in unknown space.

The finding of a crew proved quite difficult.  All they had was a pool of marooned talent left by Lupin corsairs, mostly the dregs of the spaceways.  Tkriashav had a telepathic network set up on the planet, and there were some primitive crystal radios.  Otherwise, the planet was bound together by a word-of-mouth commo system.

All they could find was a rather motley crew.  Vince Niell was the only pilot to apply for the job.  He was a merchant pilot who’d lost his final ship to Lupins in the Mingo star system.  He wore mirrored sunglasses even in the dark.  He had a leather flight jacket which he wore over his Fredsuit.  He signed on for a pair of pants, some underwear, and a baseball cap from Ged’s own wardrobe.  He wanted Ged’s brown fedora, but that hat was non-negotiable, being needed always on Ged’s own head.

Nikki Sixx was a guitar-playing engineer with bright red hair that he wore long down to his waist.  He had his own hand-made electric guitar and broadcast speakers even though he had no generator to make electricity for them.  He had blue ovals tattooed around each eye, and he had skulls tattooed on his bare chest.  He wore Bam-Bam shorts and also carried a medium-sized stone-caster.  He signed on to keep the engines purring on the promise that he would be allowed to play guitar whenever he had free time.

The third crewman was the hardest to find, and easily the one Ged would’ve most preferred to replace.  He gave his name as Cold Death.  He was a white-skinned near-human with skin that looked like snow and was surprisingly chilly to the touch.  It was like shaking hands with a snowman.  He had strange black triangles tattooed around his eyes and wore a neon green Mohawk for a hairstyle.  He also had two ivory fangs like Dracula in his mouth.  He, too, was unnaturally attached to a guitar.  He, too, was willing to sign on for a chance to play Heavy-Metal Rock-and-Roll.

Ged’s only comfort with this crew was the fact that they came cheap.  He didn’t have any Imperial coins or electronic credit-exchangers to pay them with anyway.  But the music gave him headaches.

Before leaving, Ged helped Tara use the Hammer of God to build a downport on the surface of the planet.  All Tara had to do was take Ged’s blueprints and descriptions, picture them in her imagination, and then telepathically download them into the Hammer.  The device shot a stream of purple energy into the dirt at the construction site, turning the silica and clay into a pool of microscopic nanobots that made her mental image grow into reality before the startled eyes of the cave men of Don’t Go Here.

Plans were made for housing and high-rises to enhance the economy of Bedrock and the planet Don’t Go Here.  A shuttle system was built to help Tara get starship building supplies up to Frieda and farmers up to the grange station.  Ged promised many that he would come back soon to begin training spacers to man the space ships they would build.  The Hammer of God allowed them to boost the planet from a quasi-stone-age to the space age in next to no time, Flintstones into Jetsons, so to speak.  Of course, Ged had promised a lot of commitment on the part of both his brother and himself.

Finally they were prepared to leave Don’t Go Here in the hands of Tara and her father, Bam-Bam.  Ged, Tkriashav, and little Junior Aero would head out with the crew of the Megadeath to visit Tkriashav’s world and the system of prophecy.  As Ged said a final, difficult goodbye to the beautiful teenager, Tara Salongi, he never imagined that he wouldn’t be back to see her again within the year.  He never imagined a lot of things that would make the memory of that one goodbye one of his greatest regrets.

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The Wheels of the Stupidity Cycle

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Sadly, the Flynn Effect is working now in reverse.  If you didn’t know, for decades the collective IQ of the United States has been increasing.  People have been getting smarter.  Improvements in education, health care, and diet had been making it possible for each succeeding class year to score better by a significant and steady amount every year over the students of the previous year.  Apparently, according to recent data analysis, it kept going up through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and the 80’s.

And then, in about 1991, people began to be born who were destined to do worse than their predecessors.  People stopped getting smarter.  In fact, they not only leveled out, they began to get dumber.  Bummer.  As a teacher who taught during that time period, I have to pause and wonder… was it my fault?

I want to be clear about my use of illustrations here.  Not all of the faces I used in the collage above are actually stupid people.  I am told Rowan Atkinson (who plays an idiot character named Mr. Bean) is actually a genius with a very high IQ.  And some of the faces are not even from actual people.  They are cartoon characters or animals or Donald Trump.  And none of them actually caused the decline of IQ scores.  (Although I can’t prove the actor Brendan Fraser didn’t cause it by making the movie George of the Jungle.)

Economic factors brought about by the Reagan Revolution probably caused the wheel of life to turn back towards the stupid end of the cycle.  Rich people began sucking up and keeping every dollar possible, making themselves impossibly rich, and leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs.  McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King turned the poorer suburbs into virtual food deserts of no nutritional value in every major urban area.  Schools across the nation have been forced to teach to tests whose main and sometimes only purpose is to prove schools undeserving of their funding so States can shift that funding towards private and for-profit schools.  Starved for proper funding, it is only natural that schools turned from learning institutions into baby-sitting services and uniformity indoctrination centers.  Schools now put out only average and poor students because that was the goal of education reform all along in conservative minds.

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So what, exactly, should we do about it?  Well, the wheel will still turn.  And as all wheels do, the part that is on the bottom will return to the top, and stupid will return to bottom as it obviously has before.

The next century is rife with problems that threaten human life on Earth.  Those problems, like income inequality, climate change through corporate abuse of the environment, the nuclear threat, and Donald Trump, will have to be solved by the next generation’s smart people.  When they do solve all those problems, the world will be better for it… or destroyed.  One of those.

And don’t mistake my meaning.  Stupid people have their own value.  Clowns like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers are doing a far better job of helping us understand the issues of today than the nightly news is.  There is a great deal of fun to be had in watching the cat-and-mouse game of Robert Mueller and Donald Trump (where Trump is not the mouse so much as the cheese the mouse ate to start all the slapstick brouhaha).

And people who are not particularly smart can have great value in an infinite number of other ways.  Simple people may never be able to do calculus, but they can make you smile and feel loved better than some of the sharpest intellects (who often tend towards cynicism and bitterness).

The wheels of the Stupidity Cycle will continue to turn because that is the very nature of wheels. We will eventually be smart again.  We can’t keep getting dumber forever (though we did elect Trump).  And this is a pessimist telling you this.  So if this is completely wrong and off base, remember, I am also trying to be positive about the future.

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Aeroquest… Canto 27

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Canto 27 – Blue Eggs and Ham

      The Leaping Shadowcat pulled into the orbit of White Palm just as the last explosions on the periphery of the battle site were dying out.  Sinbadh sat next to Ham in the copilot chair.

“So, Bucko, what be Questor like?  I have ne’er been in that there port.”

“It’s deep in the Imperial Interior, in the Phaetus Cluster with the systems of Phaetus, Xerxes, Perch, and the Talosian Systems I, II, and III.”

“Kinda the suburbs to Galtorr Prime?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Do it be easy livin’ there?”

“Yes, but…  Well, the Galtorrians house many of their slaves there.  Freaks, Unhumans, Mechanoids, Metalloids, all the basic slave races are housed in the ghettos of Questor.   It was oppressive growing up there and seeing all that injustice.”

“Me, I never had the chance to see the like.  My people were forever hunted out there beyond the borders, movin’ an’ hidin’, movin’ and hidin’.”

“You had it good.  When I was twelve, I had a friend who was a Mechanoid.   He was only ten when they reanimated him.  He would’ve never been able to grow up had he…  At school they caught me talking to him when he was supposed to be mucking out sewers.  They whipped me for talking to a slave.  They shut him down and scrapped him.  I found out, though, that he was still a person, just like me.  He told me all about his memories of his early life.  He remembered when he was still alive.  He felt love and fear just like we do.  I vowed after that that I would change the galaxy some day.  I wanted them to be treated the same as we are.”

“Ged feel the same?”

“He’s worse than me.  He’s careful and doesn’t get into trouble as much as I do, but he cares passionately about justice and morality.  He’s already done more to help the oppressed than I ever dared to even dream of.”

“Good man, that Ged.”

“You’ve no idea.  He’d give his life for an ideal.  He’d sacrifice himself to help you and me, too.”

It was then that the Madonna brought them lunch.  It was made of blue eggs from the starchickens of the planet Arriseah. They smelled foul and were served next to greasy slabs of fried bacon.  The meal was not healthy, but the planet-bound peoples of the Imperium believed the meal had the effect of a love potion.

“Madonna, my girl,” said Ham shaking his head, “I do not like blue eggs and bacon.”

The Madonna looked at him confused.  She wore a revealing flesh-wrap that effectively showed off her girlish blue figure.  Being a neotynous Nebulon, she had the physique of a fourteen-year-old human girl, even though she was a Nebulon woman of nearly thirty years in age.  Nebulons were child-like even when they achieved advanced age.

“I…  I read about your world… foods of love…”

Ham’s expression turned from one of disgust to one of sympathy.  He had grown fond of this Nebulon Princess.  He didn’t want to hurt her in any way.

“You don’t need to feed me Aphrodisiacs.  I love you without that.”

The Madonna smiled at him shyly.

“Well, says I,” said Sinbadh, “I better get to the galley and make this right.”  He took the eggs and bacon and headed out of the cockpit.  “I’ll make ye some of me best honey-plant stew.  I got a case of honey-plant roots on board for just such an occasion.  They can make ye fall in love too… with me cookin’, o’ course.”

The Madonna sat down in the copilot chair.  On the view screen, a large Pinwheel Corsair showed up.  Its weapons were visibly armed and ready to fire.

“Unknown vessel!” came a voice over the commo, “prepare to be boarded.”

“Negative, corsair.  You don’t need to board us.  We are friends of Captain Tron.  Radio him that Ham Aero is here to help.”

“Ham Aero?  Is Ged with you?”

“No.”

“Oh, okay.  Don’t make any foolish moves.  We’ll escort you down to the planet.”

Together the two spacecraft rolled to the left and inserted themselves into the atmosphere of White Palm.

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Aeroquest… Nocturne One

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Nocturne One – The King and the Dark Beauty

    The infamous King of Killers was watching as Sheherazade ran out of the caverns calling for Doctor Blake.  His sour face was smudged with oil and soot from his daring rescue of the beautiful female pirate.  No one knew how much his heart ached for her.  Seven years he had watched her flirt with Elvis, Blue Death, and even Ensign Pavel.   Seven years of wishing and hoping and planning which had all come to naught.  Sooner or later one or both of them would die in combat.  Probably sooner now that Tron had made the horrible mistake of taking up with Goofy Dalgoda again.  The Goofer was a pure Jonah, poison to the corsair band.

Sheherazade found the puny little doctor by his ATV.  The scrawny medico was patching up war wounds.  He could prevent scars with Imperial medical tech, but no pirate would forgo a chance for a real battle scar.  Patching was all he was allowed to do.  Blake was both a doctor of medicine and a top notch combat pilot, but in King’s studied opinion, he was a prissy little nerd, with luminous lady’s eyes and a pencil thin… moustache.

The doctor rushed down the tunnel as soon as Sheherry relayed the order from Tron.  He was gone from view in a flash.  Not so with Sheherry.  She lingered, slouching alluringly.  The brass bikini she wore covered only the ends of ample bosoms and the areas critical to earn a PG-13 rating.  Was she conscious of the effect she had on men?  Surely she must know.

“Thanks for what you did today,” she said without looking in King’s direction.

“You know I didn’t want to lose a good pilot.  I may need you to cover my butt next time.”

“Don’t worry, King.  You have a pretty butt.  I would never let anything happen to it.”  She looked him square in the eyes and smiled evilly.

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King Killer blushed.  He hoped the soot kept the red from showing.  He was not the sort known for blushing.

Sheherazade straightened herself up to her full, beautiful height and walked over to him with the slink of a leopard in her own jungle domain.

“You have orders from… erm, the boss?” he said with an uncustomary stumble.

“Maybe, but other matters have been weighing on my mind too.”

“Like what?”

“Like why you stare at me constantly but never say anything.  Like why you blush when you hear me say dirty words.  King, you are a man of action.  You are cool under fire and unshakable.  What is it about me that shakes you up?”

“Well, I, uh…”

“Could it be that you love me, but are just afraid to say the words out loud?”

“No, erm… I mean…”

She laughed.  She ran her ebony hand along the line of his jaw, and then kissed him on the lips.  It lasted longer than he would have ever expected.

“After what you did today,” she said, looking him steadily in the eye, “I realize that your feelings are no longer just an amusing detail for me.  I need you as much as you need me.  I’ve been watching how much Maggie and Tron love each other.  I need that too.  And, I know, it’s you, King.  You are the one for me.”

“What about Elvis?” asked King in his hard, cool combat voice.

“The man’s a pig.  I could never love him the way I do you.  Don’t tell me I’m wrong about you.  I’ll die if you shoot me out of the air now.”

Something changed for the first time in King’s life.  He cracked his first real smile.  He kissed her again.

“The Captain can marry us, you know.”

“Yes,” she said.  “I already asked Tron to do it for us at about twenty hundred hours this evening.”

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My Music is Better Than Yours…

My next novel, the one I have just started the first draft of, is a novel about music and dreams.  Sing Sad Songs is the title, unless I decide to change it back into Sing Sad Songs… with Clowns.

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I have an insane urge to write my next novel as music.  I intend to have it narrated in first person by three different characters, none of whom are themselves the main character.  So there are three back-up singers to the lead singer who carries the tune and drives the plot forward.

And there will be death and murder in this music, as well as a touch of the H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands.  And together we will transcend genre and the borders of a single novel and common sense entirely.  Can I do it?  Of course not.  Metaphors are never literally true… even if Bible thumpers claim they are, invoking God as the author.  But it will be the biggest, most complex, and difficult novel I have ever written.  The writing of it may kill me.  But if it works, it will be worth it.

Hyperbole, you say?  An oxymoron come to life?  Well, of course it is.  Believe the worst about it, and it will become true.  But if I believe the best about it…  well, we shall see what we shall see.

I mean to try.

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The 13th Sense

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I know that you are probably thinking, “What the heck are you thinking, Mickey?  There are really only five senses!”

And I am probably thinking, (ignoring the fact that I should know for certain what thinking is present at least in my own stupid head), “Oh, I think you are probably wrong about that, considering carefully that I should only think this and not say it out loud, because people get mad when you suggest that you are smarter than they are.”

Besides the five senses we all claim of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, there is also that one people often refer to as “the sixth sense”, and by that phrase they don’t necessarily mean that you “see dead people who don’t know they are dead”.  Instead, that sense is kinda like a sense of intuition.  A feeling that you simply know what is about to occur, or you know something about something that you could only really know if you have ESP…   Or if you are Spiderman, it is your “Spider Sense”… wiggly lines radiating from your comic-book head.

And what about the sense of hot and cold?  Or the sense that you can’s breathe the air in the same room with your cigar-smoking Republican uncle, you know, the one with all the toxic opinions you are forced to listen to too often?  And there’s a sense of contentment.  Or the sense of happiness.  A sense of dread.  There are all kinds of senses that your magnificent stupid-old brain constantly responds to that you really haven’t been counting.

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Of course, I am not writing about any of those today.  I am writing about that old “Sense Number Thirteen”, the sense of certainty that every pessimist lives by, the sense that your natural daily bad luck won’t kill you today, but only because it would all be over and prevent more suffering if it did.

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Yes, it is Sense Number Thirteen that makes you prepare yourself for the worst, because you simply have the sense that it is destined to happen.  I dread going to the mailbox.  I know I will hate what I find there.  This week I found a letter from the IRS, who has already accepted my 2017 return and the first installment of my tax payment, suggesting that they may reopen my case in order to determine if I owe them more money.  And I got the hospital bill that I have been dreading because I cannot afford to pay it.

I dread walking the dog also because there are two pickup trucks, one black and one silver, that routinely roar through the 30-mile-an-hour neighborhood doing sixty or seventy.  One of them is going to run over my dog while she has me on the leash, or maybe even run over one of neighbor Frank’s grandchildren.  Anyway, we are preparing by organizing a neighborhood petition and complaining to the police. The Thirteenth Sense really screws with my life. But it forces me to prepare.

The hospital payment department told me that they are going to send paperwork that will help me pay the debt by forgiving part of it, since I am already bankrupt over medical bills.  I was taken pleasantly by surprise by that.  I have so far successful avoided thinking about the IRS.  Those jack-booted shock troops apparently aren’t going to show up at my door until next week.  And the police cruiser has been on our street twice already since I last talked to Frank, and they put out one of those speed limit signs that shows you in bright red lights how much over the speed limit you are going.

So, there’s the saving grace.  A pessimist gets to be happier in the long run than the optimist. By preparing for the worst, the pessimist is ready for the bad thing to happen, and either deals with it as it comes, or is pleasantly surprised at an outcome devoid of extra suffering.  A pessimist is never taken by surprise for the worse.  I’m glad I have a 13th Sense.  It helps me be a HAPPY stupid old pessimist.

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True Treasures Take Time

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I now have six good books and one embarrassing one published.  They represent stories I have been crafting, revising, telling, and retelling for over 40 years.  They represent things that happened to me in real life and people I have known and loved in real life that have all been transformed in the wizard’s crucible and witch’s cauldrons of my bizarre imagination.  They contain some of my best magic spells and some of my most worthwhile wordsmithing, by which I mean writing in ways that give the spellchecker fits.

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I tried to tell you this story about telling stories yesterday, but my computer glitched and burped and spontaneously deleted more than half of what I wrote just as I was finishing it to publish it.  So the complex part I had planned to  explain this Paffooney was lost and the resulting tantrum I threw kept me from remembering and rewriting.

But it was fortunate that I delayed the repair of this post until today.  Because last night my daughter finished her end-of-the-year art project for school, and the snafu-demons have inadvertently given me the opportunity to include it here.

It is a soft sculpture dragon made of felt and hand-sewn.  She didn’t tell me what his name is, or even that it is a him, but one can imagine that it must be something like Rumple-Tum Sneezer,  or something equally awkwardly foolish like that.  One can imagine it because one has a slightly off-kilter and Disney-demented imagination.  But the whole project took a boatload of time, and you can see she crafted it with great care and skill.

Treasure takes time to create.  We who attempt to create it in the red-hot forges of our stupid little creative heads put all the skill we have acquired over time into it.  And the endeavor renders something of value almost every time.  Time… time… time… Treasure takes time.  And now I need to hurry and publish this before the computer tries to fart it all away again.

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