Category Archives: self pity

Pencil, Pencil, Pen, Pen, Pen…

Yes, students actually eat pencils in class.

My daughter forgot her pencil case in school over the weekend. Now, for normal students, this is no really big deal. But for the Princess, like it is for me as an amateur artist, the pencil case, with her colored pencils and pens in it, is one of the most necessary things for life.

Of course, we did not have an opportunity to go back to school for her pencils and pens. So, panicky, she texted her teacher whereupon the pencil case in question was found and put aside for her until early this morning. She then stole my pens and pencils for the weekend, depriving me and causing me to be the one with the anxiety disorder and heart palpitations.

Of course, pens and pencils were always a critical issue when I was a teacher for 31 years, plus two years as a substitute teacher. Unlike the Princess, students in an English classroom NEVER have a pen or a pencil to write with. I swear, I have seen them gnaw pencils to pieces like a hungry beaver or termite. And they chew on pens to the point that there is a sudden squishy noise in their mouth and they become members of the Black Teeth Club. (Or Blue Teeth Club for the more choosy sort of student.)

A piece of an actual classroom rules poster.

Having students in your class who actually have pencils and pens to learn with is a career-long battle. I tried providing pens for a quarter. I would by cheap bags of pens, ten for two dollars, and sell them to panicky writers and test takers with a quarter (and secretly free to some who really don’t have a quarter). I only used the pen money to buy more cheap pens. But that ran afoul of principals and school rules. A teacher can’t sell things in class without the district accountant giving approval and keeping sales tax records. Yes, the pencil pushers force teachers to give pens, pencils, and paper away for free. I finally settled -on a be-penning process of picking up leftover un-popped pens, half-eaten pencils, and the rare untouched writing instrument apparently lost the very instant the student sat down in his or her desk. These I would issue to moaning pencil-free students until the supply ran out (which it rarely ever did) at no cost to myself.

I also tried telling them repeatedly that they had to have a writing instrument, or they needed to beg, borrow, or steal one. And if they couldn’t do that, I’d tell them, “Well, you could always prick your finger and write in blood.” That was a joke I totally stopped using the instant a student did exactly what I said. A literalist, that one. And it turns out you can’t read an essay that a student writes in actual blood.

But, anyway… My daughter is safely in school now and no longer panicking because she has her precious pencil case back in her possession. And she probably will not ever make that same mistake again. (And she will probably not return my pens and pencils either.)

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Filed under humor, kids, Paffooney, pen and ink, self pity, teaching, Uncategorized

424 Days in a Row and Counting…

Days like today make me wonder about how long I can keep going. It has been so many years since I last had a day in which I felt no arthritis pain anywhere in my whole body, that I can’t actually remember what that felt like. With my movements and activities curtailed, I spend most of my retired life now sitting on my bed with my laptop, drawing paper, and colored pencils. I have been watching Green Eggs and Ham on Netflix, the Duck Tales reboot on Disney+, and numerous history videos on YouTube. And I have been writing a novel about teen depression and trauma, and, at the same time, a novella about a Fairy named Poppensparkle being taught magic by a master wizard who is a selfish idiot.

My bankruptcy is paid off, and my taxes have been paid for more than a month. I still have to get my second booster shot of Covid vaccine, but there is nothing else on my calendar for this month.

My writing has been increasingly going harder. The Pubby review exchange continues to get worse. The reviewing of others’ works is becoming harder, while the quality of reviews I get in return continues to get worse. Others don’t even read the books, just cobbling together reviews based on the comments in other reviews.

On WordPress I lost my ability to have ads on my site. Too many nude figures. No matter how innocent they might be. That is a loss of only pennies. But I may have gotten labeled an adults-only site even though there is not even remotely a hint of pornography.

And my views have drastically dropped from a year ago when my “Nudist Notions” post blew the number up to the highest I ever got.

Book sales are driven by Pubby reviews, so those have dropped off too.

So, the best thing that I can truly say at this point is that life is good and I enjoy being alive…with the complaints I registered duly noted. And today is about self-reflection, so I followed my overall plan for one day. And I have posted something 424 days in a row.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, self pity, self portrait

The Storyteller

The doctor looked at me with a pained and worried look on his pasty white face.

“Um, okay, I don’t know how to tell you this, but…”

“Well, if you don’t know how to tell it, then maybe you should look at the notes you made one more time.”
“Yes, okay, tell about your major symptoms one more time.”

“Well, Doc, I don’t seem to be able to explain anything to anybody without using complicated metaphors, similes, or timely literary allusions.”

“That’s why you began, “It was the best of times and the worst of times?” When you visited the first time, I mean.”

“Yes, with somber Dickensian overtures to the grim details of the London streets in summer. I didn’t feel like myself, since I live in Texas.”

I grinned at him and continued in a sad voice.

“And what’s worse, when I go to sleep, I dream dreams where there is a horrifying beginning, a mysterious ramble in the middle, and I can’t wake up until I have achieved a satisfactory conclusion.”

“I see.” the doctor said.

“Yes, first I see, then I take what I saw, and use the saw with hammer and nails to build a setting. And then I stir up some doughy memories and add highly conflicted seasoning, stir vigorously, and then bake it all into a plot.” I grinned as I said that sadly.

“Did you try the medicine I gave you last time?”

“Yes, I did. I read what I already red while I was writing, and the red pills helped me spot where the plot’s crankshaft was wobbling. A minor revision with the blue pills of clarity, and then a huge dose of the green pills of proofreading. After a while the engine of theme and meaning was purring.”

“Do I detect a bit of pun infecting your system?”

“No, I took the read pill while reeding.”

“Okay, I get it. A bit of dyslexia perhaps?”

“Possibly. Or perhaps pernicious practical punnery.”

“Ooh! Let’s hope it’s not that bad. Please continue.”

“It seems I have a lot of voices in my head. They are constantly telling me things about their lives. Sometimes deeply personal things. This one voice is a young girl who reminds me distinctly of a student I had back in 1994 and 1995. She was a very strong-minded young woman who definitely got her head together around the time she was thirteen and fourteen. She may have had a slight crush on me. But she had a hard time with a number of tough hands that life had dealt her in the poker game for all the marbles. It was a sort of extended poker game with the old Devil himself. And she was losing. But with a little bit of advice from me, and a whole lot of life lessons from her to me, she learned how to beat the old Devil himself. And this time the Devil was not just in the details, but also at the poker table of Life. And he cheats. But she beat him anyway. And I found I had so many things and notes and story-parts from that, that I needed to write a book about it. And when I did, it was never enough. I had to write another and another.”

“Yes, I believe I am getting the whole picture now. By the way, that’s Valerie in the picture, isn’t it?”

“It’s supposed to be, yes.”

“I see. …But leave the saw on the table, Mickey.”

“So… so, what is the matter with me, Doc?”

“Well, I hate to break it to you like this, but you want me to be completely honest with you, don’t you?”

“Yes, just give it to me straight, Doc.”

“The bad news is, Mickey, that you are an incurable novelist. You can’t help yourself at this point. You are seriously infected with storytelling.”

“Is it fatal, Doc?”

“Probably. You will definitely have this disorder until the day you die. There is no cure. There is only editing, editors, and the joy of publishing that can help you now. You just have to take it one day at a time, one story after another, from now until the final chapter ends.”

After that, I felt better. There was no cure, but at least I knew the prognosis.

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Filed under humor, irony, metaphor, novel plans, novel writing, Paffooney, self pity, self portrait

The World is Gray Today

It is cloudy outside. The sky is a cool, damp gray. No rain. No snow. Just dreary and gray. The world is gray today.

We have now been in a lockdown and wearing masks for an entire year. I have lost a lot of ground. Color-blindness runs in my family on my mother’s side. Great Grandma Hinckley was completely color-blind by the time she was in her 70’s.

I myself have known I had the color-blindness problem since I was in high school and the school nurse gave me a vision test that proved it.

In the dotted circle, I could see the blue-green number 29, but I could also see the red number 5. I was told that I had a slight color-blindness on the red/green scale. Believe me, I had no idea what that meant. Still don’t. I just know I have never seen colors the way other people with normal vision do.

But now, after twelve months of lockdown, I can definitely detect the fact that I have lost some more of my color vision.

Great Grandma saw the world in black and white and gray since she was 70. That, for me, is now less than six years away.

As a cartoonist I use a lot of pen and ink. I also love black-and-white movies. Being partially colorblind, you might think that I would be okay living in a film-noire world. But I am not. It is simply not enough. I have always craved color. I particularly love to create with bright primaries, red, yellow, and blue.

I will sorely miss color when it is gone.

And I have always loved cardinals. Not only because they are bright red songbirds, like the one singing outside in our yard on this gray and slightly blustery day. But because they never fly away when the winter comes. They stay even in the snow and cold. Trouble doesn’t drive them away. I shall not give up when I lose all the colors.

I remember the world being gray when I was a boy back in the 1960’s too. TV was only black-and-white… and gray at our house. I watched the funeral parade for JFK on the black-and-white… and gray TV. And around that time the three astronauts Grissom, Chaffee, and White had a similar funeral parade… also black-and-white-and-mostly-gray.

The Viet Nam conflict on the TV news with Walter Cronkite. The riots at the Democratic Convention in 1968 with the Chicago Seven going on trial. The world was very, very gray.

But then, in the Summer of ’69, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. A giant leap for mankind! And I saw that also in black-and-white-and-mostly-gray.

There was a hope of color in my life after that. And we got a color TV in the later 70s after that. And even with my partially color-blind eyes, I saw color everywhere.

And now again is a good time to anticipate color coming back into my life. I am on the waiting list for vaccination. My eldest son has a steady girlfriend living with him now. And we have a better President who actually seems to care if we live or die. Good things are over the next hill.

But still… the world is, for now… gray today.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, coloring, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, insight, Paffooney, poetry, self pity

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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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, mental health, metaphor, Mickey, Paffooney, self pity

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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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, mental health, metaphor, Mickey, Paffooney, self pity

Astronuts in Spacetime

I have always cherished science fiction. Not just Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. Not just Star Trek and Star Wars. But all of it. Buck Rodgers, Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, Galaxy Quest, Mars Attacks, and E.T.

Space is important to me. I feel like all of mankind will be a failure as a species if they don’t start moving out amongst the stars.

It’s not just that I am ensorcelled by the magical adventures that space-travel stories mixed with a romantic view of facing existential danger with a smile and a ray-gun can provide.

I watched with wide 12-year-old eyes when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon for the very first time.

That was all the way back in 1969!

I am disappointed that my George-Jetson expectations of life in 2021 have not even remotely been met.

Sure, computers are great. But where are the flying cars? The fishbowl helmets for walking on the Moon? Personal jetpacks to get to school and back?

It isn’t the dreamers, it’s the doers that have let me down.

And I know we could well run the risk of meeting something out there that might want to eat us.

But are we truly alive anymore if we are afraid to risk death in the face of Space Exploration and Discovery? We are not immortal. We need to achieve things that outlast us to justify our existence.

So, come on, people! Let’s make the world over again and start building cities on Mars.

Let’s start building what we have dreamt of rather than hiding from what we fear!

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Filed under aliens, humor, inspiration, science fiction, self pity

The Secret Meaning of “Donuts”

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I am diabetic. I am not supposed to have donuts for breakfast any more.  Hence the obsession with donuts.  I am only guessing here, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that the very name of donuts tells you what to do.

“What?!” you say.  “What goofiness are you talking about now, Mickey?”

Well, I’ll tell you.  I had a donut for breakfast this morning… with nuts.

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The name “donuts” is literally a command.  It tells you to “Do nuts”.  So I had nuts with my donut this morning.  Peanuts to be precise.  Of course that’s what is wrong with the whole scenario.  It doesn’t mean “peanuts”.  It is commanding you to do something nutty.  Maybe more like eating a donut when you have diabetes.  No matter how good that particular donut tastes when you eat it, an hour later you are going to suffer.

donuts-

So here’s the result of my being nuts this morning.  I have come to the conclusion that the root of all evils in the modern world is “donuts”.  Especially when it is pronounced “doo nutz”.  Yes, eating a donut subjects you to the command, “Do nuts!”

donut-bar-homers

And we all know how bad Trump’s diet is.  Could he be imbibing donuts?  Horrors!  That explains Twitter, cabinet firings, tariffs for the fun of it, random protestations of “No collusion!”, and even “Covfefe”.  Although Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is an evil beyond even the power of donuts.

And how did Trump even get elected?  Do people in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan glory in eating donuts before voting?  How about disgruntled Bernie Bros?  And one also suspects that middle-aged white women can’t resist a good donut… or an evil one either.

Could it be that I am down on donuts because I ate one and now I am writing this with a pounding high-blood-sugar headache?  Well, yes.  Eating one inspired this post.  It was a chocolate donut with green, mint-flavored frosting.  And it was evil.  It is taking out its evil revenge on the blood vessels in my brain.

So, I implore you if you are reading this… no, I’m not going to tell you not to “Do nuts”… I am going to tell you, “Please, for the love of God, keep donuts away from me!  Eat them yourself if you have to.  But be warned!  They have a secret meaning.”

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Filed under angry rant, conspiracy theory, feeling sorry for myself, goofiness, humor, satire, self pity, wordplay

The World is Gray Today

It is cloudy outside. The sky is a cool, damp gray. No rain. No snow. Just dreary and gray. The world is gray today.

We have now been in a lockdown and wearing masks for an entire year. I have lost a lot of ground. Color-blindness runs in my family on my mother’s side. Great Grandma Hinckley was completely color-blind by the time she was in her 70’s.

I myself have known I had the color-blindness problem since I was in high school and the school nurse gave me a vision test that proved it.

In the dotted circle, I could see the blue-green number 29, but I could also see the red number 5. I was told that I had a slight color-blindness on the red/green scale. Believe me, I had no idea what that meant. Still don’t. I just know I have never seen colors the way other people with normal vision do.

But now, after twelve months of lockdown, I can definitely detect the fact that I have lost some more of my color vision.

Great Grandma saw the world in black and white and gray since she was 70. That, for me, is now less than six years away.

As a cartoonist I use a lot of pen and ink. I also love black-and-white movies. Being partially colorblind, you might think that I would be okay living in a film-noire world. But I am not. It is simply not enough. I have always craved color. I particularly love to create with bright primaries, red, yellow, and blue.

I will sorely miss color when it is gone.

And I have always loved cardinals. Not only because they are bright red songbirds, like the one singing outside in our yard on this gray and slightly blustery day. But because they never fly away when the winter comes. They stay even in the snow and cold. Trouble doesn’t drive them away. I shall not give up when I lose all the colors.

I remember the world being gray when I was a boy back in the 1960’s too. TV was only black-and-white… and gray at our house. I watched the funeral parade for JFK on the black-and-white… and gray TV. And around that time the three astronauts Grissom, Chaffee, and White had a similar funeral parade… also black-and-white-and-mostly-gray.

The Viet Nam conflict on the TV news with Walter Cronkite. The riots at the Democratic Convention in 1968 with the Chicago Seven going on trial. The world was very, very gray.

But then, in the Summer of ’69, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. A giant leap for mankind! And I saw that also in black-and-white-and-mostly-gray.

There was a hope of color in my life after that. And we got a color TV in the later 70s after that. And even with my partially color-blind eyes, I saw color everywhere.

And now again is a good time to anticipate color coming back into my life. I am on the waiting list for vaccination. My eldest son has a steady girlfriend living with him now. And we have a better President who actually seems to care if we live or die. Good things are over the next hill.

But still… the world is, for now… gray today.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, coloring, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, insight, Paffooney, poetry, self pity

Evaluating the Moment

After running a second free-book promotion on Snow Babies, things look as bleak as ever for my publishing goals. It started well. Seven books ordered on the first day tied the best I had ever done on a give-away. But the second day saw a new record set with only one additional order. The three days after that… nothing. I can’t even give my books away for free. If you are reading this today and want to help, click on the link above. You understand e-books. You would be helping me out even if you never read it.

But, I have no illusions. My book is good enough to make a splash if people read it, but nobody will for a variety of reasons. People who knew me growing up in Iowa would be happy to read and support me if the message could get through. But my contact with them is limited by Facebook and its algorithms. Facebook will connect any political post to those on my friends-list who will argue with me and call me a socialist libtard cuck, but even family members don’t get notified of any post that is even remotely like an ad for one of my books. I try to post that kind of thing on friends’ pages, or direct message them, and Facebook steps in to call me a spammer. It is entirely a matter of me trying to advertise without paying any ad money to the greedy bahstidds of Facebook’s data-collection empire. (And yes, I know I misspelled the word about illegitimate birthings.)

My book ads fell on mostly deaf ears (or, rather, blind eyes) on Twitter as well. The #WritingCommunity is supportive, but they are all writers like me, dedicated to getting their own books read and loved. I know that many of them see a free-book ad like mine and think, “Ah, one more hack novelist’s hack novel that takes forever to read, and if I read it, they will never read mine in return.” I know they generally think this because I have slogged through some poorly written Indie novels and left a positive review, and got not even a thank you in return. Of course, nobody there actually knows anybody else. And, like me, they can’t afford to spend money on other people’s books. Although, like me also, they do now and again find books they can’t resist and spend money they can’t afford on those. Those authors won’t read my books either though. (Except for Ted. Ted Bun reads and loves my books as often as I read and love his.)

I will continue to slog through. I will continue to write and read what others wrote. I will continue to labor at this marketing-waste-of-time-formality thing. And I will continue to be depressed about the results. Besides, how else am I to proceed? Great writers are supposed to die alone in poverty and addiction, with no friends and no money. How can I pass up a reward like that?

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