Category Archives: red States

The Terribly Icky Car Trip

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The Iowa Landscape in late, late afternoon… or possibly evening.

We made it to Iowa.  But only after a long, hard, impossibly-icky travel day.  More than 700 miles were covered in only fifteen-plus hours.  With no real breaks for meals because restaurants will not look kindly on bringing the family dog into the dining room.  Especially our dog, who will kill for people food, and even threaten small children if she thinks they might pull her ears and also look tasty enough.  Traveling with an insane dog is never easy.

And the way was unusually challenging.  We normally travel up Interstate 35 because it goes from the North Dallas suburbs where we live to within a few miles of the family farm where my parents still live.   It is a good route because it is very travel-friendly with numerous places to stop and a 70-plus miles per hour speed limit to make the trip faster.

But first, we had to pass through Oklahoma.  And unfortunately that means Okie drivers.  Especially the super-speed Bubba trucks (Chevy pickups with a rebel flag in the back window and more often red than any other saner vehicle color), ultra-super-speed oil-money Wasp-rockets (BMW’s, Rolls Royces, Italian sports  cars of high-dollar varieties),  and the most dangerous, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (because I have a Texas license plate, that is.  They never seem to be a problem for the first two groups on this list.  Do other people in the world do racial profiling against Texans in general?  They probably should.)

And, apparently every bridge, over-pass, and under-pass on Interstate 35 has to be repaired, inducing a lowered speed limit that also apparently doesn’t apply to Okie drivers.  And the powers that decide things for highways went with the northbound lanes first so they could save the southbound  side for my eventual return trip.  I got honked at, headlight flashed at, and endured several Okie drivers using one of their fingers to brag at me about their current I.Q. (I won’t mention which single finger they all use for that).  They heaped this scorn on me for daring to go no faster than the posted speed limit.  I mean, there are road signs in Oklahoma that tell you it is against the law not read and obey all road signs.  And fines are doubled, if not quadrupled, in work zones.  But the laws against not reading probably don’t apply to those who naturally can’t read.

And I ran into trouble with Kansas City rush hour.  Which, of course, travels in the opposite of a rush.  And while we were sitting and waiting in the middle of the rush, my little car’s engine overheated.  So I had to turn the heater on high and aim the dashboard vents out the rolled-down windows to prevent the car’s engine control chip from shutting the engine off to cool down in the middle of the stationary rush.  The heat made the dog even more insane.

And when we finally got to Iowa just before dark, we may have been kidnapped by aliens.  Time, it seems, completely went missing  in southern Iowa, making the trip last even longer.  I may actually have captured the reason for that.  I took a few pictures with my phone camera on top of the steering wheel, which probably isn’t a safe thing to do, but I wasn’t in Oklahoma at the time.  So decide for yourself if this is significant, or just marsh gas.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, humor, photo paffoonies, red States, satire

The Art of Being Stupid

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My title today may prompt you to think, “Apparently, when Mickey does art it is stupid art.”  If my title didn’t make you think that, then my first sentence certainly did.  I am literally putting stupid ideas into your head.  And this is a problem because the people currently at the top of the people pile that is our modern society are  shoveling great smelly heaps of stupidity directly into our brains.

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I know stupid.  I was a public school teacher for thirty-one years.  No one survives the mine-field of stupid bombs in the classroom without being able to recognize the incoming booby-head missiles.  Years worth of lame homework excuses have made stupidity easily recognizable.  Being stupid is easy.  Countering it is hard.

So how does one be stupid?  I nearly found out yesterday as I was driving on an access road for I-35.  I was going the 40-mile-per-hour speed limit and got a phone call on my cell phone.  All I did was look at my phone to see who was calling in case another school child was calling because  pollen season was killing them again and they wanted to come home from school… again.  My son shouted a warning of imminent death and I looked back at the road in time to see the car dealer had left a car-carrier trailer in the road with the ramp down.  Wow!  That was almost an epic Evel Knievel stunt.

But being epically stupid is simply a matter of not paying attention well enough.  It is easy to achieve.  Note how often President Cheeto-head achieves it.

I have also found it to be a remarkably easy thing to be stupid on Facebook and Twitter.  All you have to do is post and repost stuff, or tweet and retweet stuff, that speaks to your own prejudices and ignores what is factual and what is not.  I have seen very elaborate anti-climate change graphs that seem to show a correlation between sun activity and periods of warming and cooling climate.  The biggest problem with this frequently debunked “take-that-and-stuff-it!” evidence is that it was created by a pair of propagandists with oil-company ties who were only masquerading as climate scientists.

When you vet that source and introduce evidence to your conservative Facebook friend you will get back a horrified speculation about the depths of your own stupidity for believing that Snopes.com is not also propaganda and you can’t believe everything NASA says because their funding is at stake.  And I end up having to admit I do say similar things about their cherished sources like Infowars, Breitbart, and Fox News.  Truth is apparently more the product of faith than it is the province of science.

Besides not knowing what facts are, it is fairly easy to be monumentally stupid by having no empathy at all.  Iowegians who would bend over backwards and feed their own liver to a hungry Iowan, will routinely cry about the dangers of Sharia law and talk about wall building at the sight of Syrian widows and orphans.   And don’t even get me started about shoot-first Texans.  Not after they just shot and killed another unarmed black teenager in Balch Springs.

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So how do you make an Art out of Stupid?

Well, the CBS Morning News has started running down the key events in the news with snippets quoted from late-night TV hosts and comedians like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, and James Corden.  You defeat stupidity by aping it, imitating it, and making people laugh at it.  It is really defeated when you make someone laugh about their own stupidity, like the story about me and the I-35 launch ramp.  Comedians seem to be the only ones effectively reporting on the current Presidential situation, and even CNN and MSNBC news anchors have begun making jokes in their reporting.  I have become a lover of political cartoons like never before.

downloadYou may not be able to rescue other people’s minds from being stupid.  But what you can do and be artful about is… make them laugh.

 

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Speaking in Iowegian

“We’re from Ioway…Ioway!

State of all the land…

Joy on every hand…

We’re from Ioway…Ioway!

That’s where the tall corn grows!”

Yep, I was an Iowa boy.  I sang that stupid song with pride, though we never once called our home State “Ioway” outside of that song.  I have driven a tractor, made money for pulling buttonweeds out of soybean fields with my own two hands, watched the wind ripple the leaves in the cornfields like waves on bright green ocean water, and hid in the basement when we believed a tornado might come and destroy our house.  Life in Iowa is made up of these things and many more, don’t ya know.

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And of course, I learned to tell corny jokes along the way.  That’s a must for a quick-wit-hick from the sticks.  Pepsi and Coke and Mountain Dew are “pop”, and when you have to “run down to the store” you get in your car.  You don’t have to do it by foot.  And other Iowans know this.  You don’t even get the raised eyebrows and funny stares that those things evoke when said aloud in Carrollton, Texas.  You have to explain to Texans that “you guys” is how Iowegian speakers say “y’all”.  Language is plain and simple when you speak Iowegian.  You have to follow the rule of “Only speak when you’re spoken to”.  Iowans are suspicious when somebody talks first, especially if you haven’t known that somebody for their entire life.  That’s what an Iowan calls a “stranger” .  “Frank is from Iowa Falls, and he’s only lived here for twelve years, so he’s still a stranger around here.”   So large portions of Iowegian conversations are made up of grunts and nods.  Two Iowegians can talk for hours saying only like ten words the entire time.  “Yep.  You bet.”

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But that only applies when you are outside the confines of the local cafe or restaurant or beanery or eatery or other nesting places for the Iowegian gossiping hens and strutting roosters.   Inside these wordy-walled exchanges for farm lore and lies there is no end to to the talking.  And because the mouths are already in motion anyway, there is also no end to the eating.  You are not too likely to see skinny farmers.  But farms and farmers definitely affect the quality of conversations.  In Iowa you have to learn how to stuff good grub in your pie hole in spite of the fact that farmers have decided to compare in detail the aromas associated with putting cow poop in the manure spreader (back in the day, of course) and mucking out a layer of toxic chicken whitewash from the chicken coop.  Perfect topic to accompany that piece of lemon meringue pie (which is the perfect color to illustrate the chicken side of the argument).  And, of course, if you have a family of health-care and service professionals like mine (mother was a registered nurse for forty years), you get to add to that discussions of perforated gall bladders, kidney resections, and mean old biddies that have to be helped on and off the bedpans.  You must develop a strong tolerance and an even stronger stomach, or you are doomed to be skinny and underfed.

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And since Iowegian is a language that is very simple, direct, and mostly about poop, they practically all voted for Trump.  Like him they never use transitions more than starting sentences with “And” or “But”, so they understand him mostly, even though there is no chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that he understands them.   It’s what allowed them to elect a mouth-breathing troglodyte like Steve King to the House of Representatives, and I can say that because they have no idea what “troglodyte” means, and will probably think it is a complement because it has so many syllables.  Insults have four letters.  Politics in Iowa is simple and direct too.  Basically, if you are not a Republican you are wrong.  Of course, somehow the State managed to go for Obama over Romney, but that was probably because, to an Iowan, neither one was right, and Mormons are wrong-er than anybody.

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So there’s my brief and beautiful bouquet of Iowegian words and their explanatory weegification.  I know there is a lot more to say about how Iowegians talk.  But I can’t say it here because my short Iowegian attention span is already wandering.  So let me wrap it up with one final weegification (yes, that is a made-up word, not a one-time typo mistake).

 

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Filed under autobiography, family, farm boy, farming, humor, red States, strange and wonderful ideas about life, word games, wordplay

Here Comes DeVos and Her Army of Orcs

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This is not a picture of Betsy DeVos.  This is an orc used as a metaphor, something children will no longer learn how to use in the dark new future of education.

Orcs, as depicted by Tolkien in his epic work The Lord of the Rings, are an unhappy lot, hating everyone, especially themselves and their masters whom they serve only out of fear.  Sound like modern-day Republicans?  Well, that’s probably not a fair comparison.  Shame on you for thinking like that.  Although, I must admit, looking at the Secretary of Education that Donald Trump has foisted upon us with the aid of senate Republicans, there is probably good reason you might think that.

Orcs, according to Tolkien, create no beautiful things.  They live out their lives violently destroying everything and everyone they touch.  They are greedy, corrupt, disloyal, and generally the very definition of ugliness.  And they have been the opponents of good public education for as long as I have been associated with schools and teaching.

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Here is an actual portrait of DeVos.  Sorry to spring something so foul and gut-wrenchingly horrible on you, but I thought you ought to have some idea how hideous this orcishness really is.

Orcs always tell me, “You can’t solve education’s problems by throwing money at them.”   What they really mean when they say this is either, “I can afford to put my kids in a good school that will only teach them what I want them to know, and I don’t think any of my money should be taken from me by taxation to pay for the education of poor people’s kids, especially not stupid poor people’s kids.”  Or, more likely, “I am too dumb not to believe rich white people when they say the world will be better for me and mine if I let rich white people keep all the money they make and make all the money they want.”   Either way, in Texas where the orcs have ruled since the Reagan Revolution first won over the rich white orcs that carry their orcish tribal banners all over oil-rich Texas, money has never been an issue for Texas public schools.  There simply is no money for public schools in Texas.  Over the past decade the State has always chosen to cut school funding before dipping into their vaunted billion-dollar rainy day fund whenever the Republican legislatures create a huge budget shortfall.  And whenever there has been a budget surplus, education funds are not restored.  Things like the fight against evil Planned Parenthood clinics take precedence.

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Members of the Texas State Legislature

Now Betsy DeVos, who became our current Secretary of Education despite resistance from all non-orc members of the US Senate, plus two orcs, will now give the orc hordes everything they want for education.  The federal Department of Education will be dismantled from the inside.  Privatized for-profit schools will become the new normal and receive funding disproportionate to the work they actually do.  All the cream belonging to rich folks will be skimmed off the top of the educational milk vat, and the rest will be left to fester and spoil in public school vats, becoming, at best, really really stinky cheese.

And so, let me end by saying, “Thank you, orcs, for doing such a wonderful job of protecting my children and grandchildren from the horrors of education and the ability to think for themselves.  You have protected them from ever learning enough to pull themselves out of the poverty and slavish lives you have put them in.”

 

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“It’s a Hard-Knock Life… for Us”

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Yes, this is another in a series of reviews from the Uncritical Critic where I gush endlessly and almost mindlessly about movies, TV, books, and other sorts of stories that I love.  And just like other reviews that I have done, writing mainly to myself, this will probably bore you to the point of having to sandpaper  your tush just to stay conscious through it.  But I do, in fact, have a social conscience.  I do care about things moral and ethical.  That’s why I’m not going to talk about this Annie;

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I want to talk about this one;

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I am not sure how any of my white, conservative friends can work up such an angry fizzyblackengrrr about the remake of the musical using black actors as the principles.  I am not saying I don’t see color and I don’t notice the changes in the basic story to make it fit a more different-race-friendly cultural magnetism.  I am saying I love the changes.

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Quvenzhane Wallis is one of those little girls that, if she were actually an orphan, would be adopted in record time.  She sings, dances, and exudes a personal charisma to a degree that is not only perfect for this particular musical, but is not an act.  It is obviously her real, perky, upbeat self.  I would adopt her instantly even though I don’t have the finances, energy, or good health necessary to make that kind of commitment any more.  And the changes made to the songs, setting, and themes of the basic story I think are not only brilliant, but so very appropriate to our times.  The story of an orphan connecting to a lonely, power-hungry billionaire is transformed by the idea of finding the best way to connect the family that you not only want, but desperately need.  The Daddy Warbucks character, played brilliantly by Jamie Foxx, is able to realize his connection to his own lost father as he transforms himself into the father figure that Annie needs.  Songs are added and dialogue is changed in ways to bring out these complex themes of love and need.  It is a very different story from the one found in the Aileen Quinn/Carol Burnett film of the 1980’s.  And it is a story that needs to be told.

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“You are never fully dressed without a smile!” is an important theme for any person of color, or any outsider in our American society today.  The troubles and strife related to race tension, violence, and the American struggle to rid itself of racism are best faced with a kind of confident optimism that this musical was always intended to be a vehicle for.

It is a statement about the basic goodness of human beings.  This version of the musical even redeems the vile Miss Hannigan, leaving her at the end with a change of heart and a Hispanic boyfriend.  So, I really think that anyone who has a problem with this remake of a beloved musical made by Jay-Z, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith ought to examine the real reasons they feel troubled by it.  I think they really ought to let go of all baggage, especially the alligator-skin bags of racism, and just immerse themselves in this wonderful movie full of singy and dancy stuff.

 

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Filed under humor, movie review, music, racial profiling, red States, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mickey’s Red-State Blues

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I often struggle with depression.  Every member of my family has battled it at some point.  And it is a dangerous disease.  It can kill you.  I don’t like spending quaking, fearful hours in the emergency room.  I have had to do exactly that three times already.  And now Trump has attacked my most cherished issue… public schools.  I gave my life to them for 31 years.  There is not enough chocolate in the house.

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It is ironic.  I was already attempting to commit suicide by not taking my daily medication any more because of high drug prices that health insurance does not help with.  But that suicide attempt has actually failed already.  After two years of not taking blood pressure medication, a thing the doctor feared would kill me, I am now detoxified and actually feeling quite a lot better.  My blood pressure has not been high since 2001.

So, if I am compelled to end it all over the rise of Education Czar Betsy DeVos, I will have to use some of that creative problem-solving that we have not really been allowed to teach since the George W. Bush administration.  Something involving massive amounts of sugar water and thousands of man-eating butterflies would be appropriate, I think.

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If I had to teach this class, I would be tempted to flunk the orange-skinned kid in the middle just on principle, but that would be discriminating against a rich guy, which is against everything this new administration stands for.

Privatizing schools, another way of saying the “school choice” thing that Republicans love to promote, will mean you get exactly what you pay for in education.  Unfortunately, that means you have to be rich to get proper schooling.  Since governmental entities will be shedding the burdens of paying for schools, the good schools will only be able to pay for their resources by charging high tuition and fees, something that limited school vouchers will never be able to fund.  A majority of kids whose families cannot afford anything more than the vouchers will pay for will end up in underfunded discipline mills that will be far worse than the public schools we have now.  Those schools will be set up to prepare students for their future employment making license plates in State prisons even more so than public schools are now.

My Republican friends in Texas (and my birth State of Iowa too, for that matter) like to tell me that, “You can’t solve education’s problems by throwing money at them.”  But I would like to know what studies they base that conclusion on.  When in American history have we thrown money at schools?  Other nations that get better education results do spend more, especially on paying teachers better.  And they are not forced to teach Creationism in Science class to get those funds.

So, managing depression has not been easy since the recent election.  Recount efforts and rumors that the Electoral College may do what they were designed for and vote for the candidate that actually won the popular vote are just pipe dreams, and won’t actually amount to anything.  Betsy DeVos will be the next Secretary of Education.  Maybe I will try bucket-loads of stinky, sharp cheddar cheese and a lighter for setting off explosive cheese farts.  It would be a painful way to go, but the results might also be colorfully amazing.

P.S. – I would never actually commit suicide, and as someone who has spent time in the ER fretting for someone else, I would never really advocate that.  But I am certainly not above using it as a bit of hyperbole to discuss important issues that I really do see as life-or-death.

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Filed under angry rant, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, humor, politics, red States, teaching

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future

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…Except it ain’t zactly funny. Somehow we let the orangutan take over the zoo.

I did tell you the world would end because the Cubs won the series.  Now we have to pay for our excesses and mistakes.

No more Obamacare.  The monkey vowed to repeal it.  And I have six pre-existing conditions, four of which may cost me any and all health insurance.

No more Paris climate agreement.  The monkey likes to burn coal and pollute the air with carbons because it makes money and his monkey friends like it.  Global warming turns the Earth into Venus.

No more nuclear agreement with Iran.  The monkey promised to tear it up.  He hates Iran’s particular flavor of invisible sky-friend.  He believes it gives him the right to kill them, kill their families, and take their stuff.  He is an aggressive and thoughtless monkey.

And I saw this all coming.  My Bubba friends all kinda like this monkey because he says all the things they want to say and get away with… even in polite company.  There are a lot of Bubba friends in this country.  Some of them are not even angry all the time.  Some of them are not even white.

And now that the dust has settled from massive monkey tricks, voter suppression in southern states, lies from Fox News, and Comey’s “Oh-one-more-reminder-about-emails”, the White House will become the Monkey House.  I doubt this essay will get me thrown in prison.  The monkey doesn’t read… except for Twitter.  And he doesn’t understand metaphors.  And I never used his real name in this post.

But everything that’s bad in life gets worse… and then you die.  So I have a little while yet to live and love and make the best of life.  But the monkey wins in the end.

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