Category Archives: photo paffoonies

Art is What an Artist Do… or, maybe Doo-doo

Art? Or Doo-doo?
Doo-doo? Or Art? Definitely paper dolls and one plastic doll… mint in box.
Art? Or Food? Foo-doo?
Definitely about Doo-doo!
An Arty Picture of a Meaningful Moment that Probably is a Sin.
Puzzling Art.
Probably Doo-doo…
Meta-Art?
How is This Art?
It is not necessarily important to judge some things… Art or not… worth doing.

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Filed under artwork, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies

NPC’s (Non-Player Characters)

In Dungeons and Dragons games you are trying to bring characters to imaginary life by getting into their deformed, powerful, or magic-filled heads and walking around in a very dangerous imaginary world.  You have to be them.  You have to think like them and talk like them.  You have to love what they love, decide what they do, and live and die for them.  They become real people to you.  Well… as real as imaginary people can ever become.

But there are actually two distinct types of characters.

These, remember, are the Player Characters.  My two sons and my daughter provide them with their persona, personality, and personhood.   They are the primary actors in the stage play in the theater of the mind which is D & D.

But there are other characters too.  In fact, a whole complex magical world full of other characters.  And as the Dungeon Master, I am the one who steps into their weird and wacky imaginary skins to walk around and be them at least until the Player Characters decide to fireball them, abandon them to hungry trolls, or bonk them on the top of their little horned heads.  I get to inhabit an entire zoo of strange and wonderful creatures and people.

Besides the fact that these Non-Player Characters can easily lead you to develop multiple personality disorder, they are useful in telling the story in many different ways.  Some are friendly characters that may even become trusted travel companions for the Player Characters.

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D & D has a battle system based on controlling the outcomes of the roll of the dice with complex math and gained experience.  In simpler terms, there is a lot of bloody whacking with swords and axes that has to take place.  You need characters like that both to help you whack your enemies and to be the enemies you get to whack.  There is a certain joy to solving your problems with mindless whacking with a sword.  And yet, the story is helped when the sword-whackers begin to develop personalities.

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Crazy Mervin, for example, began life as a whackable monster that could easily have been murdered by the Player Characters in passing while they were battling the evil shape-changing Emerald Claw leader, Brother Garrow.

But Gandy befriended him and turned him from the evil side by feeding him and sparing him when it really counted.  He became a massively powerful ax-whacker for good because Gandy got on his good side.  And stupid creatures like Mervin possess simple loyalties.  He helped the players escape the Dark Continent of Xendrick with their lives and is now relied upon heavily to help with combat.  He was one of the leaders of the charge on the gate when the Players conquered the enthralled Castle Evernight.

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Not every NPC is a whackable monster, however.  In the early stages of the campaign the Players needed a magic-user who could read magic writing, use detection spells and shielding spells and magic missiles, and eventually lob fireballs on the bigger problems… like dragons.

Druaelia was the wizard I chose to give the group of heroes to fulfill these magical tasks.  Every D & D campaign requires wizarding somewhere along the way.  And Dru was a complex character from the start.  Her fire spells often went awry.  When Fate used a magic flaming crossbow bolt to sink a ship he was defending, killing the good guys right along with the bad guys, it was with a magic crossbow bolt crafted by Druaelia.  Her fire spells went nuclear-bad more than once.  She had to learn along the way that her magical abilities tended more towards ice and snow than fire.  She learned to become a powerful wielder of cold powers.  And while she was comfortable in a bikini-like dress that drove the boys wild because she grew to love the cold, she didn’t particularly like the attentions of men and male creatures that went along with that.  More than one random bandit or bad guy learned the hard way not leer at Dru.  There are just certain parts of the anatomy you really don’t want frozen.

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The Player Characters will need all sorts of help along the way, through travels and adventures and dangerous situations.  They will meet and need to make use of many different people and creatures.  And as Dungeon Master I try hard to make the stories lean more towards solving the problems of the story with means other than mere whacking with swords.   Sometimes that need for help from others can even lead you into more trouble.

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But as I am now nearing the 800 word mark on a 500 word essay, I  will have to draw it all to a close.  There is a lot more to say about NPC’s from our game.  They are all me and probably are proof of impending insanity.  But maybe I will tell you about that the next time we sit down together at the D & D table.

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Filed under characters, Dungeons and Dragons, family, goofy thoughts, heroes, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Making Photo Paffoonies

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I have been a picture-maker since childhood, drawing skeletons in the margins of my textbooks.  I used to use pencils, crayons, and colored pencils.  I don’t know why I said “used to” because I still use them… just not crayons so much any more.   In fact, I have tried, despite being a living antique my own self, to adapt to modern technology.  Computers and digital photography have made the picture-making thing easier in many ways, though my goofy old brain still has so many fossilized pathways to navigate to get anywhere new that it takes gobs of time to get it down.

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Having rampant hoarding disorder and being a collecting maniac proves useful, because I have stockpiles of junk and stuff to make pictures out of.  The only thing I have to get better at is my photographic light awareness.  I have spent too much money on different light bulbs and lighting equipment.  But practice makes perfect Paffoonies.

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It doesn’t hurt that I constantly paint and make arty-stuff to take pictures of either.  Here is my effort to use puff paints to add snow to Toonerville structures.

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And I need to work on my background awareness too.  But being at home alone while important things are going on elsewhere has given me one thing that I don’t often have.  Lots of time to work on stuff like this.  Scary how the mind of an artist often works, ain’t it?

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Wisdom From a Writer’s Life

Don’t get too excited.  I searched every box, trunk, bag of tricks, safe, closet, and jelly bean jar that I have in my rusty old memory.  I didn’t find much.  In fact, the old saying is rather applicable, “The beginning of wisdom is recognizing just how much of a fool you really are.”  The little pile of bottle caps and marshmallows that represent the sum total of my wisdom is infinitely tiny compared to the vast universe of things I will never know and never understand.  I am a fool.  I probably have no more wisdom than you do.  But I have a different point of view.  It comes from years worth of turning my ideas inside out, of wearing my mental underwear on the outside of my mental pants just to get a laugh, of stringing images and stupid-headed notions together in long pointless strings like this one.

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Mason City, Iowa… where I was born.  River City in the musical “The Music Man“.

One thing I can say with certainty, nothing makes you understand “home”, the place you grew up in and think of as where you come from, better than leaving it and going somewhere else.  Federal Avenue in Mason City looks nothing now like it did when I was a boy in the 1960’s going shopping downtown and spending hours in department stores waiting for the ten minutes at the end in the toy section you were promised for being good.  You have to look at the places and people of your youth through the lenses of history and distance and context and knowing now what you didn’t know then.

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Grandpa Aldrich’s farm in Iowa is now Mom and Dad’s house.  It has been in the family for over 100 years, a Century Farm.

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.  If I look back at the arc of my life, growing up in Iowa with crazy story-telling skills inherited from Grandpa Aldrich, to going to Iowa State “Cow College” and studying English, to going to University of Iowa for a remedial teaching degree because English majors can’t get jobs reading books, to teaching in distant South Texas more than a thousand miles away, to learning all the classroom cuss words in Spanish the hard way, by being called that, to moving to Dallas/Fort Worth to get fired from one teaching job and taking another that involved teaching English to non-English speakers, to retiring and spending time writing foolish reflections like this one because I am old and mostly home-bound with ill health.  I have come a long way from childhood to second childhood.

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                                                                                      If “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is really true, I should be Superman now.  I look like I’ve seen a lot of Kryptonite, don’t I?

Six incurable diseases and being a cancer survivor since 1983 have left their marks upon me.  Literally.  Little pink bleedy spots all over me are the mark of psoriasis.  The fuzzy-bad photo of me spares you some of the gory details.  The point is, I guess, that life is both fleeting and fragile.  If you never stop and think about what it all means then you are a fool.  If you don’t try to understand it in terms of sentences and paragraphs with main ideas, you are an even bigger fool.  You must write down the fruit of your examinations and ruminations.  But if you reach a point that you are actually satisfied that you know what it all means, that makes you the biggest fool of all.

If I have any wisdom at all to share in this post about wisdom, it can be summed up like this;

  • Writing helps you with knowing, and knowing leads to wisdom.  So take some time to write about what you know.
  • Writing every day makes you more coherent and easier to understand.  Stringing pearls of wisdom into a necklace comes with practice.
  • Writing is worth doing.  Everyone should do it.  Even if you don’t think you can do it well.
  • You should read and understand other people’s wisdom too, as often as possible.  You are not the only person in the world who knows stuff.  And some of their stuff is better than your stuff.
  • The stuff you write can outlive you.  So make the ghost of you that you leave behind as pretty as you can.  Someone may love you for it.  And you can never be sure who that someone will be.

So by now you are probably wondering, where is all that wisdom he promised us in the title?  Look around carefully in this essay.  If you don’t see it there, then you are probably right in thinking, just as I warned you about at the outset, “Gosh darn that Mickey!  He is a really big fool.”

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Filed under autobiography, education, empathy, goofy thoughts, humor, nostalgia, photo paffoonies, psoriasis, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, wisdom, writing, writing teacher

Crazy Old People Driving

You can probably tell that the photo Paffooney is totally staged.  I am not a good enough actor to manage the lookcrazy old driver2 of absolute blood-curdling horror that would be on my face if I were actually driving in the Dallas Metroplex.  My gray Gandalf-hair would be standing on end more, and my eyes would be more popped with horror… especially if I had really seen Suicide Sadie in her death-dealing super-WASP-rocket.  Honestly, I’m risking my life to reveal it, but one of the greatest perils of life in the suburbs in Texas is running afoul of the Texas Killer Grannies.  Yes, there is a secret, Illuminati-like organization of blue-haired old menaces driving big, expensive black battle-boats that try to kill as many other Texas drivers as they can… as well as pedestrians, cop cars, squirrels, poor-people’s children, and ceramic lawn gnomes as they can focus their myopic old granny glasses on.

To Texas Killer Grandmas, slaughtering the innocent on the roadways while your back seat is full of knitting baskets and tins of cat food is a Satanic ritual that gives them special and unnatural powers over life and death.

They all drive at least five-miles-an-hour faster than the speed at which they can actually control the vehicle.  For some of the most deadly grannies like Suicide Sadie and End-It-All Emma that is between 95 and 205 miles-per-hour, though the nearly-as-deadly Grandma McGillicuddy can be almost as guaranteed fatal at only about 35 miles an hour.  They cut in front of you without signalling, and traffic lights are interpreted far differently than normal in the presence of a Texas Killer Grandma.  Green means go.  Yellow means go faster.  And red means floor it and brace for impact.  Now, of course that is the granny interpretation of the light.  For me, green means proceed ultra-cautiously while scanning for hurtling BMW’s, Cadillacs, or Lincoln Town Cars with old ladies at the wheel and skulls painted in white on the driver’s door.  Yellow means pull over to the side of the road at a dead stop and make myself the smallest target possible.  And red means park on somebody’s lawn and wait for the intersection to become clear of all vehicles for several blocks all around.  Sidewalks are not safe either with a Texas Killer Grandma around.  You’re safer walking if you walk down the center of the road.  Of course, the more normal drivers will squish you like road-kill then, and the Texas Killer Grandma knows she was ultimately the cause of this suicidal death, so if they are close enough to see it in any sort of blurred clarity, they automatically count it as a kill.

You never see a Texas Killer Grandma charged with anything in the local media or even in court records.  They are not old ladies unconnected to persons of power.  Rich husbands, rich children, and sometimes even rich boyfriends see to it that they are never prosecuted.  They are immune to the wheels of justice.  Crazy Cat-Lady Clarice is immune to prosecution even though she doesn’t own even a nickel.  We think it is because she is so supremely skilled at vehicular homicide that even the police are afraid of her.  And how does she pay for gas in that 1965 Chevy Impala SS she drives with a blood-smeared hood and the driver’s side of the car painted completely white with skulls?

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Retirement Sinks In…

There comes a time in every career when the career is over and it has to end.  I spent 310 years teaching in Middle School and High School and loved every minute of it.  (Okay, divide the years by ten and subtract about twelve thousand minutes from the love… but I did love it.)  And I was good at it.  (At least, in my own confused little mind… I have photographic proof that I did help students get some quality sleep time in, but… hey, English is supposed to be boring.)

wonderful teaching

Eight years ago I was forced to make the decision to leave the job I loved.  Failing health and failing finances made it increasingly hard to do the job.  I was never a sit-behind-the-desk teacher.  I had to do the dance… up this row, down that one… lean over the spit-wad shooter before he could adequately aim and pull the stray cafeteria straw out of his mouth… suggest the verb needs to have an “s” on it if the subject of the sentence the student just wrote for me is singular…  stand in front of the boy who can’t listen to my wonderful teaching because the girl across the room is wearing a dress and I have to block his view… and he doesn’t even like that girl, but she’s wearing a dress… you can see her legs… and he’s a teenager… you know, the dance of teaching.  When you walk with a cane and have a back brace on every single work day, the dance becomes harder and harder as the year wears on.  I got to spend my days with Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut and Maya Angelou and Robert Frost… and even more important I got to spend my days with Pablo and Sofie and Ruben and Rita and Keith…  I had so many more favorite students than I ever had those black-banes-of-a-teacher’s-existence kids that other teachers were always talking about in the faculty lounge.  (I rarely hung out in the faculty lounge because they tended to talk bad about kids I really loved and enjoyed teaching… and besides, I had crap to actually do before the next class came in.  Lounging was rarely an option.)

I confess that I have spent a good deal of this school year depressed and feeling sorry for myself.  No kids to talk to on a daily basis except my own, and even with them, only after school or work.  My wife is still teaching… so I rarely see her.  (Am I married?  I need to double-check.)  I fill the lonely hours with writing and story-telling and recollections of days past… and I am beginning to come to terms with my loss.  In retirement I can do more of the things that I always wanted to do… but never had time for.  I can draw and paint and write and sing (pray hard I don’t start posting videos of me singing!) and play with my toys… I have even decided to write a novel about people playing with toys.  Would I ever teach again if suddenly I was healthy and could do it again…?  YOU BETTER BELIEVE I WOULD!  In fact, I was able to be a substitute teacher again from the Fall of 2019 to the start of the pandemic in 2020.  IF ONLY IT COULD’VE LASTED A LITTLE BIT LONGER!

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Filed under autobiography, humor, photo paffoonies, teaching

Being Iowegian

I was born in the 1950’s in Mason City, Iowa… the town that produced Meredith Wilson, the creator of the Broadway Musical, The Music Man.  Yes, River City in The Music Man is Mason City.  So I was born into a unique Midwestern farm-town heritage where swindlers came to town and saved the day with music and an eleventh-hour change of heart.  I was born into the land of Chmielewski Fun Time on the black-and-white TV, Lawrence Welk champagne accordion music, and the Beer-Barrel Polka, courtesy of loads and loads of German ancestry.  I am that unique crossbreed of Scandahoovian and sqare-headed Deutschmann  known by the only slightly racist term of Iowegian.

Corn Country!

943363_457313854350548_485543538_n388135_298275616878726_103835066322783_936339_2005428082_nLand of Long Winter and the ice-storm breezin’ down the plains.

And if you ask an Iowegian if he loves Iowa, he will answer, “You bet!”

And if you ask a northern Iowegian the same thing, he will say “You betcha!”

Iowans talk funny, don’t you know…

There are still corner stores and farm supply stores, though they have gone to brand names now, like Casey’s, BP, and Tractor Supply Co.  You can still find HyVee and Safeway grocery stores.  There are still a precious few family farms that haven’t been swallowed whole by big corporations and agri-businesses.  If you go to the county fairs, you will still find kids showing the cattle or pigs that they raised for 4-H projects, and if you go into the barns after the auction, they are still producing tearful kids hugging and kissing that calf that won a red ribbon and now has to be sold… and they will never see poor Barney or Moo-berry again…

1399024_220039334824422_480122723_o 1450109_688917614523503_5237770938249269421_n 10418988_688917684523496_8272199480536313576_n 10350345_10152788940611349_2865049925004654610_n 10563018_688909541190977_6371844517698833981_n DSCN7127It is the land of the lonely gravel road… the back-street cattle pen… the Saturday night tornado (nearly every Saturday in Spring)…  The VFW and the Lion’s Club Fish Fry at Lake Cornelia….And it is a place where most everything reeks of the past and old ghosts and times long gone, soon to never be remembered because there’s no longer anybody around who is old enough to tell the stories that grandparents and aunts and uncles used to tell.  I not only miss it desperately, but I feel deeply saddened by the loss.  Would I like to go home again?

“You betcha!!!”

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Collecting Disney Princesses

 

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Collecting dolls and action figures can overwhelm someone like me with hoarding disorder (and a Grandmother and Great Aunt who hardly had room to walk around their homes because of piles of collected stuff that they simply could not part with).  There have to be rules and limits to save me from myself.  I try hard to keep Disney Princesses from flooding my home and drowning me in a sea of plastic.  The toymakers are constantly updating and modifying their designs to entice fools like me to keep buying.

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A round of new designs with glittered-up clothes and new faces. Can I resist buying them all? Well, not the first four times.

I have to stop and take stock of where I’m at.  I rounded up all the Disney dolls I have that are not mint in boxes for collecting purposes and potential resale in the collectibles market.  Here they are;

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There are several ways that I can go about trying to limit and prune this massive obsession.  First and foremost, I can break this gigantic feeding frenzy up into smaller bites and pick and choose how long I chew.  This part of my collection, is based on the Tinkerbell movies and is limited to only one edition of these dolls.  It took over a year to buy all four;

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There are just four dolls in this set.  I chose only the size consistent with the 12-inch figures I always choose.  No little ones.  No second editions.  No doll costing more than $20.

Some of the dolls are rescue dolls, either bought naked at Goodwill or another thrift store, taken home to be cleaned, repaired, restored, and dressed (like the Ariel doll I posted first in this post).  These are probably my most valuable acquisitions, because they are previously loved and played with.  (The Jasmine doll in the middle belonged to my daughter, who had a tendency to mangle and experiment on dolls as well as strip them permanently naked.  This doll’s survival is a minor miracle.)

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The rescued dolls include two Snow Whites, a Jasmine that belonged to my daughter, and Mulan… mostly dressed in Barbie clothes.

The remainder of these collected dolls are recent edition Disney Princesses that I waited for some time to acquire so that they would come down in price.  A couple of these, like Tiana and Repunzel, and all the Frozen Dolls are not also represented in my collection by mint in box dolls.  I do have Belle and Aurora and even Tarzan’s Jane, but boxed only, so they are not pictured here.

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So you can see what a trippy-type trial it has become to keep a collection like this from taking over the house.  I have to impose limits on myself so I don’t become a weird old man living in cardboard box under a bridge with hundreds of dolls and action figures.

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Filed under collecting, doll collecting, humor, photo paffoonies

Cardboard Castles

After a long, lonely week by myself, unable to go with my family to Florida for Spring Break due to poor health, my isolation ended suddenly as they returned early.  I woke up to find them already here yesterday morning.  They were tired from travelling, having arrived in the middle of the night, and so they needed to sleep in… and I was suffering horrible cabin fever.  It mattered little, though, that I longed to get out.  I was still ill and unable to breathe outside of my sealed bedroom.  My arthritic back ached and I needed to lie in bed on the heating pad for the better part of a Saturday.  So, what could I do but use my creative talents to take me on a journey into imagination.  I built a castle.

cardcastle1 cardcastle2 cardcastle4  I used an old computer program I previously found at Half-Price Books, the big superstore thing on Northwest Highway in Dallas.  I printed out castle parts on white paper with colored ink.  I gathered pieces of reusable cardboard I had been saving for the purpose.  I began to cut and paste and tape.

cardcastle5 Cardcastle6 cardcastle7  I nearly forgot the most important step.  I put on a Dr. Who DVD I snagged at Walmart.   It was An Adventure is Space and Time starring David Bradley (who was playing William Hartnell who was the first Dr. Who, so it was a movie about an actor playing a part in a BBC fantasy series in the 1960’s played by another actor who looked like the original actor… I mean, it was a story about telling a story and it was the true story of the telling… Oh, I give up!  You figure it out.)  (That was the second longest parenthetic expression I have ever written, by the way.)  It also had a full four episode adventure from the very first Dr. Who story, An Unearthly Child, starring the real William Hartnell.  So I watched and cut and taped and pasted and built castle all day.

Cardcastle8 cardcastle9 cardcastle10  It begins to get exciting as the pieces fit together and it actually starts to look like a castle.  Of course, once it was finished, I had to play with the dang thing.  I am old, and this is my second childhood after all.

cardcastle11 cardcastle12 cardcastle14  Now, if only I can figure out how to keep female vampires dressed in red from invading my castle.

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Filed under humor, making cardboard castles, photo paffoonies

Frozen in Place

Everything in the Dallas-Fort-Worth area is shut down today by ice and the threat of ice. Texans don’t like to drive on ice. You can’t drive friendly… and fast… on ice. And Texans don’t like to be cold. 100 straight days of 100-plus heat is okay for Texans. Three days of freezing weather is the end of the world.

A year ago the world was frozen like this in DFW. The electric grid failed and people froze to death. Emperor Greg Abbott blamed the windmills because they froze and stopped turning. But in Iowa they go through the same thing every year and the windmills are properly winterized. Only the really stupid people and the spectacularly unlucky people freeze to death in Iowa. Mostly when they are stuck on the highway. Some froze to death in their bedrooms in Texas. But in Texas the real problem was the natural gas lines freezing and breaking down. Those can be properly winterized too. But Emperor Abbott doesn’t know that… or doesn’t want to know that. He still hasn’t winterized anything… or forced corporations to spend money to do so.

My wife’s religion actually makes her hope that Armageddon will come soon. They think the end of the world is the only way to get to paradise. Now that Russia is invading the Ukraine, Armageddon may be about to happen. All that Gog and Magog crap has been going on throughout the twentieth century. So far we’ve managed to avoid it actually happening, by war, by nuclear war, by nuclear winter. We have been feeling that the world is in danger of ending since long before I was born in the middle of the 20th century. The Bible says the 1st Century Christians would still be alive when the Day of Judgement would come.

They were wrong about that. Maybe they are still wrong now.

If the world is not going to end in fire and ice in the next week or two, we have to realize that things need to change. We can’t be frozen in place. In politics it is basically a matter of choosing to be progressive and not be stuck in the ice of being conservative. We need to change, not stay the same. We need to determine that world maps change by diplomacy and compromise, not by combat and killing civilians. And we need to convince Russia of that. We also need to change the way we treat the environment and the economy. We need to invest in technology and changes to the consumption of practically every product. Production needs to occur without polluting. We need to spend more, a lot more, on clean energy like solar power, wind power, thermal energy from the under-earth, and we need to stop spending so much of our capital on tax breaks for billionaires and corporations. And we need to convince millionaires, billionaires, and corporate executives of that.

We could even change schools to give Louisa her wish and create naturist classrooms in school, letting kids learn in natural environments, and having the school uniform be nakedness. And we would have to convince parents and teachers of that… Of course, that last one is a joke, and even Louisa might not really want that. Especially since it is really, really cold today.

But if you were serious about changing education to provide nude classrooms or even nude schools, you would have to change it slowly. You would start small. Kindergarten and first grade would go first, and only with kids who would actually choose to be nude in school (probably a lot more of them than parents think would choose that.) Then you would move them up a grade every year until you reached high school. Of course, you would have to be flexible. Some students would not thrive and have to be moved to textile classrooms. And nude classrooms would have to be expandable as textile students begin to see the changes in their nude friends and want to be transferred into the experiment.

Of course, I know that joke idea is still just a joke and always will be. But the point is, the Diplomacy/War question and the Save the Planet/Profits over People question would have to be answered the same way. The younger ones make the actual changes and the gas-and-oil, pro-war dinosaurs would be responsible for going extinct themselves or taking everybody else with them.

So, I am basically confined to my bedroom today with considerable arthritis pain and trapped in the middle of a frozen world. And as I have nothing better to do than solve all the world’s problems today, even Louisa’s… I am still faced with the fact that solving these problems involves changing people’s minds. Especially conservative minds who will likely have a gun and want to kill me if I try to change their minds. So, there it is, a simply-stated theme… and now I need to look at bullet-proof vests on Amazon.

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, humor, photo paffoonies