Category Archives: self portrait

Hello, Good Morning, Welcome to My Classroom

A critical teacher-skill is welcoming students as they enter your class each day. According to instructional leaders and classroom-management experts, you should stand in the doorway, greet them with a big idiot’s grin on your face, call them by name, if you can, and shake their hands if you can, pulling them into your classroom as if they are certainly doomed to be there even if they accidentally walked into the wrong classroom. I realize now that I am retired, how much I miss that ritual.

“Good morning, Sasha. How nice to see you this wonderful day.”

“Hi, Mr. B. Are we going to learn anything today?”

“Of course we are! Wonderful things! You are going to learn the most important lesson of your life today.”

“What lesson is that?”

“That we need to learn something each and every day.”

“Oh, great… yeah.”

“Ola, El Gongie, kay-paw-so, my dude!”

“Ay, vato… remember, you gotta address me like the OG I am. If I gotta respect you, you gotta show proper respect for me and my reputation, dude.”

“Oh, sorry. I thought that’s what I was doing. What did I get wrong?”

“Nothing, my dude. I am jes messin’ wit you. Gotta remind you to do it right.”

“Marissa, good morning! So nice to see you and your smiling face.”

“Don’t talk to me, Beyer. I’m mad at you right now.”

“Oh? What did I do now?”

“You didn’t do anything, but I’m not talking to you today.”

“So, you’ll yell at me about something later?”

“Yeah. But I won’t yell. I just need to talk to you… later.”

“Okay, right after class, just stay put when the bell rings.”

“In front of your next class?”

“No, they can wait outside the door for a minute or two.”


“Ruben! Good morning!”

“Hello, Mr. B. I read that book you lended me yesterday.”

“All in one evening?”

“It was only 200 pages. I read five times that in a week.”

“Well, that’s good. What did you think?”

“It was awful. No way it shoulda ended the way it did. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and then I reached the last ten pages, and I almost threw it out the window. Except I still had to read the last nine pages.”

“So, you didn’t like the book?”

“I loved it. It’s now my new favorite book!”

Now that I am retired and can’t even substitute teach anynore, I don’t have that excitement of greeting them and never knowing what I’m going to get in return. But i am saying hello to everyone I meet on the walking path. And sometimes I get an answer.

“Hey, I like your beard! You really need to be wearing a red hat this time of year.”

“Oh, I know… I get confused with him all the time around Christmas. And I don’t even own any flying reindeer.”

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Filed under humor, kids, Paffooney, self portrait, teaching

Tim Burton Movies

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Last night the Princess and I went to see Alice, Through the Looking Glass, the latest Tim Burton movie.  Of course we loved it.  Burton is one of the most interesting story-tellers of our time.  Did you know he is two years younger than me?  And also, like me, he began as a cartoonist and is totally dedicated to the idea that every artist is a surrealist and must exaggerate, elucidate, equivocate, and numerous other things that start with the letter “e” and end with the suffix “ate” simply because that’s how surrealism starts.  You notice a little bit of weirdness in real life and blow it all out of proportion with lies and coloring of meaning and relentless “what-iffing?”  If you don’t see surrealism in those last two sentences of purple paisley prose… then maybe you can see it visually in Burton’s many masterpieces.

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Tim Burton began his legacy as an apprentice Disney animator specializing in stop-motion animation.  But he was just another creative nobody like me until the launch of his small-budget monster hit, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Of course, any time you can pull in huge profits for little investments, you will have Hollywood executives ramming the heads of their unpaid interns like battering rams against your door so they can get in and throw money at you.

Hence, Batman.

 

Batman was the first time I actually took notice of Tim.  And not just as a director of a film… eventually two films.  He was gifted at assembling a cast.  And this would work to his advantage as several singular talents attached themselves to him and worked in his movie projects repeatedly.

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And his repeated collaboration with Danny Elfman and his music was easily as great a master-stroke of genius as John Williams with Spielberg and Lucas.

He has repeatedly used his movies to describe and rewrite his own life story as a misunderstood genius flubbing horribly in the quest to fit in with a world full of “regular people”.

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Poster for the film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (directed by Tim Burton), 1990. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

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His sense of humor, of course, is distinctly and colorfully bizarre.

Dark Shadows

DSTF-0046r JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabas Collins in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ “DARK SHADOWS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

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Burton is, just like me, a child of the 70’s.  He references things like the old gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, that were a part of his impressionable youth just as they were mine.  He picks stories about things he truly cares about, and that is also just like me.

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So, in a rather bizarre coincidence that is entirely appropriate to surrealists, I love any Tim Burton movie simply because it is a Tim Burton movie.  He is probably me in an alternate dimension.  And as such, I already know I will love his next movie, whatever the heck it is.

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Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, humor, movie review, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Finding My Voice

As Big MacIntosh welcomes more little ponies into my insanely large doll collection, I have been reading my published novel Snow Babies.  The novel is written in third person viewpoint with a single focus character for each scene.  But because the story is about a whole community surviving a blizzard with multiple story lines criss-crossing and converging only to diverge and dance away from each other again, the focus character varies from scene to scene.

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Big MacIntosh finds himself to be the leader of a new group of My Little Ponies.

In Canto Two, Valerie Clarke, the central main character of the story, is the focus character.  Any and all thoughts suggested by the narrative occur only in Valerie’s pretty little head.  Canto Three is focused through the mind of Trailways bus driver Ed Grosland.  Canto Four focuses on Sheriff’s Deputy Cliff Baily.  And so, on it goes through a multitude of different heads, some heroic, some wise, some idiotic, and some mildly insane.  Because it is a comedy about orphans freezing to death, some of the focus characters are even thinking at the reader through frozen brains.

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The ponies decide to visit Minnie Mouse’s recycled Barbie Dreamhouse where Olaf the Snowman is the acting butler.

That kind of fractured character focus threatens to turn me schizophrenic.  I enjoy thinking like varied characters and changing it up, but the more I write, the more the characters become like me, and the more I become them.  How exactly do you manage a humorous narrative voice when you are constantly becoming someone else and morphing the way you talk to fit different people?  Especially when some of your characters are stupid people with limited vocabularies and limited understanding?

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The ponies are invited to live upstairs with the evil rabbit, Pokemon, and Minions.

I did an entire novel, Superchicken, in third person viewpoint with one focus character, Edward-Andrew Campbell, the Superchicken himself.  That is considerably less schizophrenic than the other book.  But it is still telling a story in my voice with my penchant for big words, metaphors, and exaggerations.

The novel I am working on in rough draft manuscript form right now, The Baby Werewolf, is done entirely in first person point of view.  That is even more of an exercise of losing yourself inside the head of a character who is not you.  One of the first person narrators is a girl, and one is a werewolf.  So, I have really had to stretch my writing ability to make myself into someone else multiple times.

I assure you, I am working hard to find a proper voice with which to share my personal wit and wisdom with the world.  But if the men in white coats come to lock me away in a loony bin somewhere, it won’t be because I am playing a lot with My Little Ponies.

 

 

 

My best novel is free to own in ebook form for today and tomorrow. Buy it now with the link above. The offer is good until the end of the day on 12/14/2021.

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Special Snowflakes

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When conservative cultural warriors, Twitter Trolls, or dyspeptic gasbags like Rush Limbaugh call you a “Special Snowflake”, I have discovered, to my chagrin, that they don’t mean it as a compliment.  In their self-centered, egotistical world you have to be as emotionally tough and able to “take it” as they believe (somewhat erroneously to my way of thinking) they themselves are.  They have no time for political correctness, safe spaces, or, apparently, manners polite enough not to get you killed on the mean streets where they never go.  Being a retired school teacher who was once in charge of fragile young psyches trying to negotiate a cruel Darwinian world, I think I disagree with them.

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Have you ever tried to draw a snowflake?  Believe me, it is difficult.  Snowflakes are hexagonal star-shapes with enough lace and  filigrees in them to make it a nightmare to draw it with painfully arthritic hands.  The one above took me an hour with ruler and compass and colored pencils, and it still doesn’t look as good as a first grader can create with scissors and folded paper.  Much better to use a computer program to spit them out with mathematical precision and fractal beauty.  That’s how all the tiny ones in the background were created.  But even a computer can’t recreate the fragile, complicated beauty of real snowflakes.

You see how the fragile crystalline structures will break in spots, melt in spots, attach to others, and get warped or misshapen?  That is the reason no two snowflakes are alike, even though they all come from the same basic mathematically precise patterns generated by ice crystals.  Life changes each one in a different way.

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And that, of course, is the reason this essay is really about people rather than mere physical artifacts of cold weather.  Our fragilities and frailties are earned, and they make us who we are.  I have a squinky eye like Popeye from playing baseball and getting hit by a pitch.  I have a big toe that won’t bend from playing football.  They both represent mistakes that I learned from the hard way.

As a teacher, I learned that bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders are very real things.  I lost a job once to one of those.  And I spent a long night talking someone out of suicide one horrible December.  Forgive me, I had to take fifteen minutes just there to cry again.  I guess I am just a “special snowflake”.  But the point is, those things are real.  People really are destroyed by them sometimes.  And they deserve any effort I can make to protect them or help them make it through the night.

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But people are like snowflakes.  They are all complex.  They are all beautiful in some way.  They are all different.  No two are exactly the same.

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And I really think boorish bastards have no right to insist that we need to take safe spaces and sanctuaries away from them.  Every snowflake has worth.  Winter snow leaves moisture for seedlings to get their start every spring.  If you are a farmer, you should know this and appreciate snowflakes.  And snowflakes can be fascinating.  Even goofy ones like me.

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Filed under 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, artwork, battling depression, commentary, compassion, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, self portrait, Snow Babies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Humble Pie

The difference between who you want to be and who you are is humbling.

The recipe for humble pie requires good, clear eyesight.

And you need a reliable mirror that only shows the flaws in the reflected image, not in the mirror itself.

And you need to look at every detail in the whole of you. Even the secret things that you tend to conceal from everybody, especially yourself.

And writing a novel, if you do it right, is a form of baking humble pie.

The good and the not-so-good is reflected in reviews, which are often written with mirrors that have flaws.

But what you see, if you are honest with yourself, can show you that, even though you are far from perfect, you are exactly what you are supposed to be.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, irony, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Novel Tuesday Review

This novel should see publication within a month… or maybe more, depending on how lazy I really am.

For some time now I have been using Tuesdays to show an entire chapter or canto of a novel currently being written. It has resulted in a number of novels being created that I might otherwise have given up on. They may not be my absolute best work, but they are good enough for self-published projects. I have basically been working with novels that needed to be rewritten in order to pass muster with my own in-built “crap detector.” I took apart my first novel, Aeroquest, and turned it into five novels, AeroQuest 1,2,3 and now 4 with 5 soon to begin.

This will be the next novel I take up in this space. It is the tail-end lump of remains of the original novel including the final battle for dominance in the fractured Galtorr Imperium, the rescue of Ged Aero’s infant daughter, the final establishment of the New Star League, and avoiding the destruction of the entire universe in a struggle at the event horizon of a black hole called Little Swirl. I only have to add about 75 percent more detail, action, and event to the story in rewriting it.

You may have also seen other novels come into being in this Tuesday space. Here are the results of those.

These Tuesday posts, then, have been and will continue to be a chance for you to see novels in progress coming together (or failing to come together) as the author (namely nutty old Mickey) works out what they are all about and what happens on the next page written.

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Filed under humor, novel plans, novel writing, Paffooney, publishing, science fiction, self portrait, writing humor

Mickey the Decider

Yes, I know, you expect this title to be a joke. When Mickey says “decider,” he must mean he takes cider out of things. As in, “Mickey will decider those bottles of apple cider.” Well, hey, that is a pretty good joke in terms of what Mickey finds humorous in his crazy little super-corny brain. But this essay is about being decisive. You know, that quality about being able to make a decision. Preferably not a horrible decision. But a decision never-the-less.

I have made some pretty firm decisions recently. Hopefully good ones.

For one thing, I have decided I am going to make the trip to Iowa this summer… even if I have to drive the whole seven hundred miles myself… by myself. The rest of the family has jobs to worry about, car-insurance mandates to follow, and other plans. But I haven’t been home in over two years. The pandemic has taken its toll on me, and I have decided not to yield anything more to it. I wasn’t there for Dad’s funeral. I will be there to visit his gravestone and talk to him again.

Another recent good decision was to get fully vaccinated so that I could contemplate doing that very thing. Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and protection for my diabetic heart and lungs. I can’t take regular flu vaccine due to complications, but I am not an anti-vaxer. Mickey has beaten Covid.

I have also decided that I will become a member of the AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation,) Yes, Mickey has decided 64 years of trying to resist becoming a nudist is at an end. I have been in the closet about having a naturist’s heart for too long. It’s time to come out of the closet. Of course it may never again mean getting my old carcass out to a nudist park or a nude bike ride. Those things are too far away for the most part, and I am not in good health. But Mickey has decided to admit what other people have known all along. Mickey is a nudist. And it will lend some credibility to my novels about being a nudist.

It is good to be decisive, even if it makes Mickey sound a bit unsound of mind. Make up your mind, follow your plan, and be a decider. But, remember, those bottles of apple cider are not good for your diabetes. The doctor said, “No fruit juice ever again,” didn’t he? You better decide to listen, Mickey.

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I Sweetpotato What I Sweetpotato

If you are as goofy and cartoon-obsessed as me, you may remember that Popeye the sailor was known for the catchphrase, “I yam what I yam”. And if you do remember that, it will not surprise you that, when told a yam is another name for sweet potato, Popeye was furious. “It cannot be!” he argued. “I would not say I sweet potato what I sweet potato! That’s ridicumess!”

Well he has a point.

But I would like to talk today about the things that I sweet potato, and why I sweet potato those things.

First of all, I yam a humorist.

I yam this thing not because I am funny. You may think I yam funny because I say really goofy things for no apparent reason, and then keep on talking long enough to convince you that I did have a point to make, but my brain leans so far to the left that I am hardly right about anything.

And I make bad puns a lot.

You see, I have to use humor constantly to deal with all the hard things in life, because being too serious in the face of the world’s basic uncaring cruelty only leads to depression and taking a beating from life. In fact, I can think of any number of situations in my past where I avoided a beating only because I made a joke that made the bully laugh.

So, being a humorist is a survival tactic. Humor keeps you alive.

You see someone like me has to face all the pain and heartache and cruelty the world has to offer by using humor. The real reason is that, when faced with a bad situation, if the humor gland can’t empty itself of all the jokes it produces, it will begin to swell. The humor gland is located either in the brain or maybe in the behind (I am not medically qualified to tell you which it really is), and it can only swell to a certain point, and then it will explode. This is very bad thing for you, if you survive it, and certainly unpleasant for anybody nearby.

But the joke, properly launched at the target, will make somebody laugh, even if it is only the humorist himself. And laughter is the best medicine. Unless it kills you. You have to be careful not to die laughing. The angels will be offended, and the demons will all laugh too.

But I yam not only a humorist. I yam also a teacher.

I began to realize that I might be a teacher when, in graduate school to get a remedial master’s degree to help with the fact that plain English majors all starve to death, I discovered I had a talent for explaining things in simple terms. And then, immediately afterwards, I discovered I had an even greater talent for being ignored while the people I was explaining to made the mistakes they wouldn’t have made if only they had listened to me, before they failed spectacularly, and then realized how the solution I had explained would’ve made them succeed instead. There is apparently no better way to learn an important lesson.

Teaching is, of course, a pretty cool job. You tend to have the summers off. And you get paid for summer because they split the amount of money you earn for the year (which considering what a babysitter makes on average per child and per hour is far too little for the hours you put in) into twelve monthly pittances.

Of course you are expected to have a university degree (although no teacher college in the world can teach you what you really need to know in order to face that many little monsters… err, darlings… every day) and preferably some grad school, and a certification to teach in your chosen subject, and an additional certification if you are going to teach more than one subject (and ESL and Speech and Journalism, all of which I was expected to teach, are separate certifications) and you have to take hours of additional training every single year, and you have to get re-certified every five years, and… Well, you have to be basically smarter and much better-educated than Bill Gates… But the school janitor will probably be making more money per month than you do.

Anyway, it’s a job you just gotta love. I yam a teacher.

And really, there are a whole lotta yams in my basket yet that I could tell you about. I yam a Red Skelton fan. I yam sometimes a nudist (when I don’t have to put on clothes to keep myself from scratching all my psoriasis-plagued skin off). I yam also an artist (of the type known as a cartoonist). I yam pig-headed sometimes, and I yam Grumpy sometimes (so I go from being Porky to one of the Seven Dwarfs.) I yam a lotta things. And my sweet-potato basket is large.

But I can’t talk about all of my yams today. Too many yams are bad for my diabetes.

But here’s one last yam. I yam a storyteller. And I have a free Kindle e-book promotion this weekend. The book is the first in my series of AeroQuest books. It is a science fiction story with a humorous bent. And I mean, it is seriously bent in some places.

So, click on the link and get yourself a copy. It’s funny. And I will save the other sweet potatoes for another day.

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Filed under humor, metaphor, novel writing, Paffooney, self portrait, writing teacher

When Cartoon Characters Take Selfies

I often wonder if there is only one picture of me in this self-portrait.

This is definitely a self-portrait, the character in the novel as well as this cartoon.

This is me in a mirror… at least, filtered through my own self-concept.

Grumpy, square-headed German-American me.
Pirate me when I cannot talk like a real human being and need a wooden-headed puppet to interpret for me.
The character Superchicken (on the left) is a self portrait of me at twelve (in the novel). Sherry Cobble (on the right) is NOT me.
Milt Morgan is also a me character. But this picture is based on a school photo of me at ten.
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High school Senior me.

Me as a Charlie Brown/Peanuts character. This was created on an APP, and then photo-shopped by me.

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The self-portrait I use on the backs of paperback novels.

The science-y version of me from the novel The Bicycle Wheel Genius.

This post is probably evidence that cartoonists should probably not portray themselves.

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The Be-Bop Beat of Mickey’s Brain

Truthfully, when I look back at the string of posts in the picket fence of this daily blog, I fail to see the overall map of it in any semblance of pattern or order.  Honestly, I did not set out to be purposefully wacky.

I did, however, set out to be purposefully surreal.  I mean it, I consciously put bizarrely dissimilar things together in an attempt to find parallels and connections  in unlike things because, not only is it funny and surprising, but is a comic act that serves to keep the mind nimble and never numb.  I do think quite a lot.  And I try to see connections between things where others wouldn’t.  For instance, the Coppertone girl with her bare butt and Bullwinkle with his unicycle are both being threatened in a way that is both comic, and taking advantage of their inherent image of innocence.  Neither will lose anything by it.  The girl stands to brown her pale white behind in the sun, while Bullwinkle will probably land on his head and it will make a decent cushion to preserve him because of it’s empty and rubbery qualities.

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Pie makes everything better.  MMMM!  Pie!

I must also admit to a bit of the old telling of stretchers, the misrepresentation of the truth, the loquacious layer-onner of lies.  Not Trumpian lies that land on you like elephants dropped like bombs out of B-52’s.  Instead, fictions that entertain and elucidate.  It is the most likely reason I keep saying connecting words and phrases like “truthfully” and “honestly” and “I mean it”.  Those are words that liars love.

Yes fiction writers like me tell little white lies.

I have now published my novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  It is a novel based on real people I have known and loved and listened to.  It is about an old German woman, a survivor of WWII concentration camps, who loves to tell stories to children and bake gingerbread cookies, especially gingerbread men.  It features a pair of teenage nudist girls who believe in going completely naked whenever you are indoors, even if you are in someone else’s house.  It features Nazis, both in flashback and ghostly forms.  It also features fairies from the Hidden Kingdom of Tellosia, a fairy kingdom filled with little three-inch tall magical people living under our very noses.  And it has a werewolf in it, though admittedly a very young one.  It is a comedy with its requisite sad parts, and it is definitely an example of surrealism.  It is also full of lies… err, I mean fiction.

But the real purpose of this supposedly be-bop brain fart in blog-post form is not so much to explain my blog (because how do you explain a blog that goes from Flashbacks and Foobah to telling about Madman Trump to Another novel part… #37 to Centaurs to a book and movie review, to this eccentric and eclectic thing, which probably exists more to make alliteration jokes than anything else in the most musical beat I can bang out?) but to prove that I do often think about thinking and how things fit together and what it all means… and how to write a run-on sentence that adds to the effect rather than simply annoys.  And, yeah, I’m doing that.  And it feels like a good thing to do.

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