Category Archives: self portrait

Off-Beat Self-Portraits

This picture was intended to look like it could’ve been my son, so the face came from an old black-and-white photo of me when I was ten.
This is me as a nudist child in my current home’s backyard flanked by two nude Butterfly Children.
This is my purple-mouse avatar.
Eli Tragedy, my red-clad Sorcerer character from Dungeons and Dragons days is also really me.

Me as a happy new nudist
Milt Morgan is a wizard, and also a character who is half me and half the Other Mike from my childhood.
Milt Morgan as a child. Also half me.
Another purple Mickey.
The serious part of Mickey

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, humor, Paffooney, self portrait

Fritterday

If you are old, forgetful, and retired like Mickey, you may have the same problem Mickey does with remembering what day it is. But he has a solution. At the end of the week, he simply has two Fritterdays. They take the “Fri” from Friday, and the “turday” out of Saturday…. But wait just a gol’ danged minute. We have to get the “turd’ out of there because nobody likes those. And we do that by changing the “u” to an “e” which means we also add a “t” to it to change the long “I” sound to a short “I” sound because “fritter” can mean wasting something, especially time, because that’s what you do when you don’t even know what-the-heck day it is. Fritterday! Fun times for the hopelessly forgetful.

And it is fun to be retired and not have anything to do… but put eye drops in each eye three times a day from three different colored-coded bottles so you don’t go blind from glaucoma… and pick up the package for the Princess at the Post Office because the doorbell is broken and nobody hears the package-delivery guy when he knocks… and go to CVS for more bottles of eye drops because they finally filled the prescription three days after the doctor phoned it in… and the Medicare paperwork needs to be filled in at the pharmacy… and you get 4 free Covid 19 test kits just because you are old… and… phooey! It is hard to make a run-on sentence like that fun. And the grammar-check program hates it in a mixture of blue and red squiggly underlines.

But you found things you didn’t even know you had lost, like paper doll clothes that had fallen off the paper dolls because the little white foldable tabs don’t stay folded and need to be given a little dab of glue. And the rubber bands you use for your ponytail because haircuts give you psoriasis sores and you don’t cut your hair anymore because of them, but they are all back in the same sack again because you found them scattered on the floor while you were cleaning in order to find the lost package-claim slip that you mislaid… apparently under the bed… the one you needed to claim the Princess’s package which contained… a white stuffed tiger toy all the way from a game company in Japan… because it matched the stuffed tigers she had as a child and she won it by playing an online game. Boy, howdy! Another sentence or two the grammar checker hates!

Annette Funicello from the cutout paper doll on the back of a 1960’s Cheerios box looks good in the cowboy getup… err… cowgirl getup you found under the corner of the bookcase. You have liked her since you were a boy. You once had a yearning to see a picture of her naked, but that never panned out. She was a Disney star and not allowed to even think bad thoughts, let alone pose for any nude photos. She was in the Mickey Mouse Club, not the Playboy Magazine Bunny Club. Darn it!

But the mind still works, and you’re still not blind, and you enjoy enraging the grammar-check program, and you cleaned your room without meaning to. You even wrote most of this messy blog post in second-person point-of-view without realizing you were doing it.

Hang-dang! A Fritterday! And there’s probably another one coming tomorrow.

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Filed under autobiography, cleaning genii, commentary, doll collecting, humor, Mickey, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, satire, self pity, self portrait

Characters From Superchicken

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These are a few of the main characters of the old story which is now my newest novel.

Superchicken is Edward-Andrew Campbell.  He is basically a me-character.  His embarrassing nickname, from a Jay Ward cartoon that used to be on TV Saturday mornings, was actually my nickname in junior high and high school.  Many of the emotional changes he goes through and the embarrassments he endures to be a super hero were based on my own experiences.  But he definitely embraces the nickname as his superhero name in a way I can only wish that I did.

Brent

Brent Clarke is the outgoing athlete sort of kid who was definitely not me.  He becomes leader of the Norwall Pirates because he pitched for the softball team, and because anyone who met him naturally assumed he was the most important kid in the group.  Others look to him for leadership even when they don’t need it.  Making friends with Brent is one of the most difficult and important tasks the Superchicken must undertake.

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Milt Morgan is the wizard of the group.  He is obsessed with magic and imagination. And though Brent is nominally the leader of the group, all their evil plans and hair-brained schemes come from Milt’s imagination.  The picture of Milt is drawn from me as a boy, but in reality he is the other Mike from my childhood, the one with a rather tough life and a heart of… well… maybe not gold, but at least silver.  He is also the one who insists on making Edward-Andrew part of the gang.

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The Cobble Sisters, Sherry and Shelly, are a pair of identical twin girls.  They are both nudists at home on the farm place and at the nudist club in Clear Lake.  They are problematic for a shy boy just discovering girls, but Sherry definitely pursues a crush on the Superchicken and tricks him into a family camping trip at the nudist camp.

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Sherry at the Sunshine Club

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Anita Jones is the shy girl who has a crush on the Superchicken.  And he secretly has a crush on her.  But she is also the girl who becomes, completely by accident, the first girl that Edward-Andrew sees naked.  Love and hate, embarrassment and attraction, she is the one girl whose opinion seems to matter most.  I, of course, will never reveal the real life girl she is based on.  I could never live that down, even though we are both now more than sixty years old.

So those are a few of the main characters that make this novel work for me.  They are real people to me now that the novel is written, just as they were once real people when I was a boy and living the nightmare of being a mere boy in a world that needs heroes.

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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

Daily Magic

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Daily Magic

The world all around us is magic…

And magic encompasses all,

But sadly the world is not permanent

And tomorrow the darkness may fall.

So here is the magic of daylight

The sun has arisen from pall

And at least for a moment the true light

Is the sun as it voices its call.

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Never Explain

You should never have to explain a poem…

It is there for all to see…

And whether ’tis sick, or happy, or bad…

It is its own reason to be.

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Never Explain… The Sequel

You should never have to explain a joke…

Whether stupid, or ribald, or punny…

Because reasons all melt with explaining…

And, if you do, it’s not really funny.

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Pearls in the Dark

Swim down into deepening darkness.

Do you truly want to find a pearl?

Fish around in oysters and dark places.

Risk your fingers, your hand… hold your breath.

The deeper you dive, the more you risk, the brighter the pearl.

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Write This One Too, Doofus!

Where did these poems suddenly come from?

You are not a poet…

And you already know it…

You meant to write one…

You wrote five…

How was so much doggerel in you?

Goofy wisdom…

Silly rhythm…

Random rhyme?

You’ve been writing these poems all your life…

Every action…

Every footstep…

Every joke…

Is a pearl from the oyster of your soul…

Some are beautiful…

Some are ugly…

All have value…

So don’t question the magic, you fool.

 

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Filed under artwork, goofiness, goofy thoughts, humor, poem, poetry, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

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

What the Heck is this Blog About?

I read a lot of other people’s blogs for a lot of reasons.  As an old writing teacher and retired Grammar Nazi, I love to see where writers are on the talent spectrum.  I have read everything from the philosophy of Camus and Kant to the beginning writing of ESL kids who are illiterate in two languages.  I view it like a vast flower garden of varied posies where even the weeds can be considered beautiful.  And like rare species of flower, I notice that many of the best blossoms out there in the blogosphere are consistent with their coloring and patterns.  In other words, they have a theme.

Fox logic

So, do I have an over-all theme for my blog?  It isn’t purely poetical like some of the poetry blogs I like to read.  I really only write comically bad poetry.  It has photos in it, but it isn’t anything like some of the photography blogs I follow.  They actually know how to photograph stuff and make it look perfect and pretty.  It is not strictly an art blog.  I do a lot of drawing and cartooning and inflict it upon you in this blog.  But I am not a professional artist and can’t hold a candle to some of the painters and artists I follow and sometimes even post about.  I enjoy calling Trump President Pumpkinhead, but I can’t say that my blog is a political humor blog, or that I am even passable as a humorous political commentator.

One thing that I can definitely say is that I was once a teacher.  I was one of those organizers and explainers who stand in front of diverse groups of kids five days a week for six shows a day and try to make them understand a little something.  Something wise.  Something wonderful.  Something new.  Look at the video above if you haven’t already watched it.  Not only does it give you a sense of the power of holding the big pencil, it teaches you something you probably didn’t realize before with so much more than mere words.

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But can I say this is an education blog?  No.  It is far too silly and pointless to be that.  If you want a real education blog, you have to look for someone like Diane Ravitch’s blog.  Education is a more serious and sober topic than Mickey.

By the way, were you worried about the poor bunny in that first cartoon getting eaten by the fox and the bear?  Well, maybe this point from that conversation can put your mind at ease.

Fox logic 2

Mickey is tricky and gets good mileage out of his cartoons.

You may have gotten the idea that I like Bobby McFerrin by this point in my post.  It is true.  Pure genius and raw creative talent fascinate me.  Is that the end point of my journey to an answer about what the heck this blog is about?  Perhaps.  As good an answer as any.  But I think the question is still open for debate.  It is the journey from thought through many thoughts to theme that make it all fun.  And I don’t anticipate that journey actually ending anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under humor, insight, inspiration, music, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, word games, wordplay, writing, writing teacher

Now You See Me… Now You Don’t

How does an artist know himself?  Now there’s a difficult question.  I spend all my time looking at the world with the eyes of imagination.  I don’t even seem to be able to take photographs in the normal way other people do.  Maybe I should consider this self-think through the medium of pictures I have made with captions added to them?

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Mickey is not actually me.  He is my “other” me, my pen name, my goofier self.

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                                                      I was born in a blizzard in Mason City, Iowa in the 1950’s.

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I have learned about dog poop five times a day since 2011 when we found Jade, our dog.

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                                                                                                                      I was a middle school teacher for 24 of my 31 years of teaching.  I love/hate 7th Graders.

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When things go wrong, I tend to make a joke about it.

I like to draw students as I saw them, not as they really were.

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I always see myself as the one with the BIG pencil.

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If there is goofiness around here, it is all my fault.

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                                                                                           In spite of the title, I don’t know how to disappear.

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I love everything Disney.

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I tend not to be very much like other people.  I don’t think like they do.

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                                                                                                                         In grade school, I was deeply in love with Alicia Stewart, though I never told her that, and that is not her real name.

My high school art teacher told me that when an artist draws someone, he always ends up making it look a little bit like himself.  That is because, I suppose, an artist can only draw what he knows and he really only knows himself.  That being said, this post should really look just like me.

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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

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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