Category Archives: Paffooney

Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 4

Talking to the Stone

Grandpa Butch pulled the pickup over on the side of the road.  Bobby and Shane quickly piled out.  Horatio jumped down out of the pickup bed where he had ridden to the cemetery.

Grandpa had two roses with him, just like always.

The little Norwall cemetery was a rectangular space of well-tended grass surrounded by stately pine trees just off the south side of State Highway Three. Numerous marble grave markers and family monuments were fairly tightly packed there.  Across the gravel road to the East was a newer rectangle of grass surrounded by recently planted white pines that were supposed to be the new addition to the cemetery.

“Grandpa, your folks are buried up there in the old cemetery, right?” Shane asked.

“Yep.  The Niland family monument up there contains three generations of our family.”

Bobby nodded at the monument on the hill.  He had been taught reverence for the place by both Grandpa Butch and Dad.

That wasn’t, of course, where they were headed.

“I brought you your flower,” Grandpa said to the headstone in the new addition.  He kissed one of the roses and put it in the brass vase.  The other rose was stretched out to the first, pressed against it as if the blossoms were giving each other a kiss, and then hooked the stem around the left suspender of his overalls.

“Why do you always take one of the roses home with you again?” Bobby asked.

“She knows I brought it here to her, and she sends a little bit of her bright spirit home with me to watch over us for another week.”

“Grandma’s an angel now, isn’t she?” asked Shane.  The goof asked that same question every time he came along to the cemetery.  And every time it made a tear come to Grandpa Butch’s eye.”

“Of course.  She’s right here with her wings spread wide, standing guard over us.”

“Does she ever answer you when you talk to her?” Bobby asked.

 “Of course, she does.  Don’t you, old woman?”

“So, you inherited the ability to hear voices who aren’t really there,” said Horatio to Bobby.  No one but Bobby could hear him, though, so Bobby didn’t say a word in response.

“What you gonna tell her this week?” Shane asked.  He often asked that same question too.

“Sassy, ain’t he?” remarked Grandpa Butch.  He was talking to Grandma.  “You know they can talk to dogs now, your grandsons?”

“What does she say back?” Shane asked.

“She says it’s only Bobby that does.  And not to worry about it.  It’s natural for Niland boys to have that ability.  It’s a sign of smartness and a good imagination.”

“Does that mean that I’m not smart like Bobby is?”  Shane’s eyes were open a little wider than usual.

“Oh, no, of course not.  You’re both smart. Just in different ways.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, I can vouch for the fact that I talked to voices that weren’t really there back in the 40’s when I was a boy.  And your dad used to imagine werewolves and monsters he could talk to when he was a boy back in the 70’s. Bobby has the same kind of smartness we had.”

“And how is my smartness different?” Shane asked.

“Your Grandma tells me she was a very perceptive girl when she was your age.  She was very aware of how everybody around her was feeling.  And she would referee fights and arguments, always the peacemaker… always trying to make other people happy.  And she also tells me all the times you’ve done the same exact thing for Bobby and some of his friends.  You have a loving intelligence that works more with what you know is real than what you can dream up.”

“Is that a good kind of smart?”

“In some ways it is the best kind of smart.  A kind of smartness the rest of us need to rely on.”

“So, Shane is better than me?” Bobby asked, feeling a sad spot in the depths of his stomach.

“No, no…  Your Grandma just thinks it’s a different kind of smart.  And you are both brave and handsome and good-natured.  That’s what it means to be a Niland.  You are near to the land, and you can make it blossom and grow.”

“What if I don’t wanna be a farmer?” asked Shane.

“That can be a good thing too.  You could be like your Uncle Nat.  He felt like that too, so he went to college at ISU and became an engineer.  Now he’s a civil engineer in Des Moines, figuring out how to make city things work better and helping people get along with one another better.”

“Can you see her, Grandpa?” Bobby asked, looking at Horatio.

“Your Grandma?  Of course, I can.  She’s right here by her memorial, in the place that I’ll be one day too.”

“I can see her,” said Horatio.

“Dogs can see ghosts?” Bobby asked before thinking.

“I don’t know about ghosts,” Grandpa Butch said.  “But I’ll bet they can see angels.  Dogs see with their heart more than with their eyes.  That’s why I see her here, and any place I put the second rose in the house.”  Grandpa Butch’s eyes were wet.  He didn’t say anything more.  Neither did the two boys, both of them trying hard to see their grandmother too.

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New Scans of Old Art

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Thinking About Thinking with a Thought-free Thinker

Yes, today is another in a long, tepid series of Art-Day posts, but it is also about metacognitive thinking. Specifically thinking about thinking using pictures to think with. (Maybe that title should say, “Free-Thought Thinker” rather than, “Thought-Free.”)

To start with, what does a person actually see when they close their eyes? My brain does not color everything on the inside of my eyelids black. Even in the dark of night with no nightlight so that nothing shines through my eyelids, my brain interprets the dark as shapes, patterns, and colors. Hence the inspiration for this picture.

But my brain is never satisfied with raw shapes, colors, and patterns. It has to interpret ideas into them. The mass of yellow and black resolves into a butterfly, or a sunflower, or an etude by J.S. Bach. The pink mass becomes a blond girl playing the music in my head…. a girl from piano-lesson days in the early 70’s. But naked. The way I always thought about her while sitting and waiting for my piano lesson and listening to hers. How else does a boy think about a pretty girl when he is fourteen?

And as the items in the picture take shape, they do also begin to tell a story. Who is this Dr. Seabreez? Is he a shaman of the Republic of Lakotah People? Is he a white man? Seabreez is not a Native American name. The naked boy by the tent flap has a crutch, and there is a mouse silhouetted nearby. Does that make him a medical doctor? A veterinarian? A professor of Native-American Studies? The mind begins to piece together a script.

But here we see that Dr. Seabreez has set up a new practice in Japan. Again the boy near the door has a crutch and there is a silhouetted mouse near him. But now the other boy has horns on his forehead. Why horns? And pointed ears? Is he a Doctor of Magic and Wizardry? Demonology perhaps? And what is an anthropomorphized panda doing in Japan? That’s clearly a Japanese castle in the distance. The collar Kanji is definitely Japanese in character.

And now there are horns again. Three of them by my count. And another naked character. But a Grecian background. The mind is here making connections between the pictures, noticing patterns. Appreciating colors. And turning every detail over in the mind’s eye, evaluating and analyzing.

Art, especially on Saturdays, totally engages the mind. That is one of the reasons we keep art around to look at again and again. It is the purpose of art to make us see something. And not just once, superfluously. We must see it in depth, looking beyond the surface.

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Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 3

The Evil Professor Rattiarty

A short while later Bobby went out through the back door to find and torment his little brother Shane.  He was definitely thinking of the word “torment” rather than “torture” because of that last lesson about how to treat your little brother better that Grandpa Butch gave him.

Horatio, in hat and smoking his pipe, followed close behind on his heels.  Horatio only rarely let Bobby leave the house without him, especially when it wasn’t a school day.

“You have to remember that Shane is a very good boy,” Horatio said.  “Being mean to him on purpose doesn’t hurt him as much as it does you.”

“Are you trying to be my conscience or something?” Bobby asked.

“Actually, I prefer to think of myself as the detective.  And you are my Dr. Wadlow.”

“I think you mean Dr. Watson.  Wadlow was that eight-foot-tall guy we were reading about in the school library.”

“Bobby, you know you were in the library by yourself, right?  I only said Wadlow because you were thinking it.”

“Sure, I know.  Imagining stuff is one of the few things I am good at.  And remembering weird stuff is another.  Robert Pershing Wadlow was 8 feet and 11 inches tall when he died at age 22.  He was the tallest human guy that ever lived.”

Shane, Bobby’s 11-year-old brother, was swinging on the tire swing that was tied up to a horizontal branch in the old walnut tree near the north grove.

“Hey, Little Dick, wanna see the drowned Turken?”

“Sure.”  Shane was a quiet child who rarely teased or picked on anybody.  That’s why he had taken to calling him “Little Dick” at about the same time that Mom had named the stupidest turken, “Little Bob.”  Shane had merely asked why he was being called a nickname for “Richard” instead of his own name.  Bobby never explained anything to Shane.

The boy with the mouse-brown hair and blue shorts hopped off the old car tire that was used as a swing and hustled after Bobby on the way to the horse tank where Bobby had left the body wrapped and ready for burial..

When they got there, the waterlogged and potentially bloated-by-now corpse of Little Bob was missing, except for a couple of soaked turken feathers and the torn cloth.

“Where is it?” asked Shane.

“I swear, when I left it was right here.”

“Well, it’s not here now.  Just feathers.”

Horatio snuffled the entire area with his hyper-powered sense of smell.

“Professor Rattiarty!” Horatio declared.

“Of course, it was!” declared Bobby.

“Of course, what was?” asked Shane.

“Horatio says that the body was stolen by Professor Rattiarty.”

“No, it can’t be him again.  Didn’t Horatio eat him in that caper three months ago?  When he tried to break into the house and get my toys out of my toybox?”

“Rattiarty always manages to survive somehow.  It’s miraculous… evilly miraculous.”

“You do know that Horatio doesn’t actually talk, don’t you?  I think it all comes out of your evil imagination.”

“If Horatio doesn’t talk, then how did he solve the case of your missing Science report?”

“It was a report on giraffes.  I think it was probably you who moved it from the G encyclopedia to the C encyclopedia.  I didn’t make that mistake myself.  And how can a dog smell a piece of notebook paper stuck in a closed book?”

“Elementary, my dear Little Dick.”  Bobby was never going to explain the other meaning of “Little Dick.”  “He was detecting your scent with his superior nose.  He is actually… ta, ta, ta, TAAAH!  Horatio T. Dogg, Super-Sleuth!”

“Sure, he is.”

“I can smell where the body was dragged off to.  Do we pursue?” asked Horatio.

“No, no… another time.  Right now, I need to pound on Little Dick’s shoulder some more.” So, Bobby beat on his brother again, though only with softened blows.   You see, Bobby was bullied a lot in school and around other children in general.  Taking things out on Shane was sometimes the only thing he could do.  Well, that was because Shane was the only person in the whole world that Bobby could beat up.  And then, he suspected, only because Shane let him do it.

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Dog Writes

Jade Monster1Okay, like, my name is Jade Beyer.   I know I look like a dog, but my family lets me be a people sometimes.  They let me eat enough people food from their table to turn into one of them.  You know, like, all fat and unhealthy and some stuff.  So, since Mickey is being lazy today, he said I could write his blog for him.   It won’t be very long because it is taking forever to pick out the right keys with my nose.  And my nose is bif… I mean big enough to hit the wrong key sometimes.  So I have to edif caretully and ofren.

My family does a lot of funny stuff I can tell about.  Like how they pee.  They go in my extra drinking places.  You know, the white things with the extra funky tasting water.  Why are you not laughing about that?  Don’t you get it?  The house is full of carpets where they could pee and mark their territory with their scents.  But they would rather just pee where I drink.  I don’t get it.  And why is Mickey yelling at me that I can’t write about that?  I just did, didn’t I?

But besides that I can tell you about my Momma.  Mickey is my Momma.  Why do I say that even though Mickey is a man?  Well, when I was a wee little puppy and my family found me in the street, Mickey was the first one to pick me up and hold me.  He was the first one to feed me.  He says I must have “imprinted” on him as baby animals sometimes do.  And that’s why he’s my Momma.  I love him best.  Even when he is grumpy and mad at me.  I chew up a lot of his stuff because it smells like him and I love him so very much.

I am writing this today because Mickey is busy shaving off his face fur.  He found some old pictures of himself for yesterday’s post, and it made him wonder if he could look anything like that again.  I tried to chew the old pictures so I could love them even better, but he just got mad at me and swatted me on the ears.  He said I could show you the old pictures, and not eat them.  So here they are before the temptation gets to me;

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Wasn’t he a goofy-looking kid?  I like him better with glasses.  I tasted his glasses once, but not the ones in the picture, the ones he is wearing now.  His face doesn’t look anything like the third grade pictures any more.  I would very much like to lick that little-boy face with the same tongue I use to lick my own butt, but Mickey says he’s glad I can’t because that kid was dumb enough to let a dog lick his face.  Apparently when people get older, you just can’t lick them as much.  It just makes them grumpy.

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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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Spinning Wheels of Thought

Picture borrowed from; https://www.townsends.us/products/colonial-spinning-wheel-sp378-p-874

I start today with nothing in my head to write about. I guess I can say that with regularity most days of the writing week. Sundays in particular are filled with no useful ideas of any kind. But I have a certain talent for spinning. As Rumpelstiltskin had a talent for spinning straw into gold, I take the simple threads of ideas leaking out of my ears and spin them into yarns that become whole stories-full of something to say. And it is not something out of mere nothing. There is magic in spinning wheels. They take something ordinary and incomplete, and turn it into substantial threads useful for further weaving.

Of course the spinning wheel is just a metaphor here for the craft of writing. And it is a craft, requiring definable skills that go well beyond merely knowing some words and how to spell them.

My own original illustration.

The first skill is, of course, idea generation. You have to come up with the central notion to concoct the potion. In this case today, that is, of course, the metaphor of using the writing process as a spinning wheel for turning straw into gold. But once that is wound onto the spindle, you begin to spin yarn only if you follow the correct procedure. Structuring the essay or story is the next critical skill.

Since this is a didactic essay about the writing process I opened it with a strong lead that defined the purpose of the essay and explained the central metaphor. Then I proceeded to break down the basic skills for writing an essay with orderly explanations of them, laced with distracting images to keep you from dying of boredom while reading this, a very real danger that may actually have killed a large number of the students in my writing classes over the years (although they still appeared to be alive on the outside).

My mother’s spinning wheel, used to make threads for use in porcelain doll-making, and as a prop for displaying dolls.

As I proceed through the essay, I am stopping constantly to revise and edit, makeing sure to correct errors and grammar, as well as spending fifteen minutes searching for the picture of my mother’s spinning wheel used directly above. Notice, too, I deliberately left the spelling-error typo of “making” to emphasize the idea that revising and proof-reading are two different things that often occur at the same time, though they are very different skills.

And as I reach the conclusion, it may be obvious that my spinning wheel of thought today spun out some pure gold. Or, more likely, it may have spun out useless and boring drehk. Or boring average stuff. But I used the spinning wheel correctly regardless of your opinion of the sparkle of my gold.

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The Reds and the Blues

Lord, grant me peace

In times of great violence

Grant me wisdom

As everything around me burns in ignorance

Let the cold blues

Be tempered with warm reds

Let me juggle life’s fortunes and misfortunes alike

Red balls over blue balls

Yellow, purple, and green

Over and under

The spiraling path

I’ll keep written records

In journals with pictures

And share my discoveries

With any who’ll listen

And I’ll always keep close in my heart

The people and places and memories

That mattered and shattered

The whole color wheel

Because Shakespeare once showed us the whole color wheel

Is necessary for magic to form on the page

And though yellow is also a primary too

It’s the reds that warm life as the color of blood

And the blues let us chill as the deeper color of ice

But let there no period be

To stop the color progression

Of this warm/cold blank verse

Nor rhythm or rhyme sully

The Reds and the Blues

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Naked Disappointments

It happens a lot in the course of a long life. And sixty-four and three quarters-years is a long life as far as I’m concerned. But still, disappointments come hard.

They come harder when you’re a child. Two years is forever when you are only six. Four years would seem like your whole life. But even though I know there is a good chance the thing longed for will eventually be possible, it is still hard to wait even longer.

I confess now that I had a perfectly evil plan for last weekend while my wife is off at a religious conference in California. You see, she wants nothing to do with my crazy obsession with being a nudist. So, if I want to go to the nudist park again, I can’t expect her to go along or have anything to do with it.

It has been four years since I went to Bluebonnet Nudist Park for the first time in July of 2017. That trip, which I enjoyed very much, was directly followed by a trip to the hospital for an EKG reading that indicated a possible heart attack and turned out not to be a heart attack after all. After a week’s stay in a hospital room under the care of a cardiologist, and there was a little matter of being sued for an unpaid debt by Bank of America,

that was followed up before 2017 was over with my personal bankruptcy.

So, my wife is now on a sort of vacation without me, and I wanted to go be naked with other naked people for the second time ever last Saturday. It would’ve been a day with more of Bluebonnet’s members present than the day I went before. I was hoping to meet and get to know other people who believe relaxing in a natural setting together with no clothes on is a healthy, healing thing to do.

Number two son got sick, however, with a virus that might’ve been Covid, even though he has been vaccinated. And while we were quarantined, awaiting the test results, I came down with that virus too. Needless to say, I was disappointed in having to cancel my evil plan. Of course, I could’ve simply put it off till this holiday weekend. But I am not completely recovered. I developed skin sores that would not have reacted well to sunscreen or sunburn if I tried it without sunscreen. So, plan cancelled.

Of course, the disappointments in the title are plural. And I did not write about this topic only to show off my ability to draw pen-and-ink nudes. (Although that reason certainly played a role in the decision.)

From the 7th of July to the 16th, my wife was going to take me to Iowa to see my octogenarian mother for the first time in two years, thanks to the pandemic. I was going to get the chance to see my father’s grave site and headstone. I was going to see my sisters. And…

Well…

The notice now on the table waiting for my wife’s return says the county tax assessor wants to hold a hearing on the value of our house and property in Denton, on the 12th.

It seems like I have waited forever. And things are simply not destined to go my way. I guess I just have to keep my britches on and hang on for another time.

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Mangaphile

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My wife brought treasure back from the Philippines for my kids and me.  She spent over a thousand Filipino pesos at a book store over there and apparently bought out the store’s entire supply of “How-to-Draw-Manga/Anime” (though the amount she spent is not so impressive when you realize the exchange rate for a Filipino peso is .025 of an American dollar).  Anyway, I happen to love the Japanese anime-style cartoons.  I have since I was a kid in the 60’s watching Astroboy in black and white on the old Motorola TV set.  So, just as you would expect, I had to go on a drawing binge, copying ideas from the books, but putting my own spin on them.

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It is not the first time I have gone on anime-drawing binges.  Let me provide some proof of that from past posts;

So, there’s my original content for today.  The day after the 4th of July, I am celebrating one of the ways that Japan conquered the United States after World War II.  Yes, manga-style cartoons have far more kids carefully copying a cartoon style with big, cute eyes than probably ever tried to draw like Walt Kelly or Al Capp.

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