Category Archives: strange and wonderful ideas about life

Other Folks’ Artwork

There are many, many things I appreciate about other people’s artwork. It is not all a matter of envy or a desire to copy what they’ve done, stealing their techniques and insights for myself, though there is some of that. Look at the patterns HergĂ© uses to portray fish and undersea plants. I have shamelessly copied both. But it is more than just pen-and-ink burglary.

I like to be dazzled. I look for things other artists have done that pluck out sweet-sad melodies on the heartstrings of my of my artistically saturated soul. I look for things like the color blue in the art of Maxfield Parrish.

I love the mesmerizing surrealism of Salvador Dali.

I am fascinated by William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s ability to create photo-realistic and creamy-perfect nudes.

Basil Wolverton’s comic grotesqueries leave me stunned but laughing.

The dramatic lighting effects employed by Greg Hildebrandt slay me with beauty. (Though not literally. I am not bleeding and dying from looking at this picture, merely metaphorically cut to the heart.)

I even study closely movie-poster portraits like Bogart and Bergman in this Casablanca classic poster.

I could show you so many more art pieces that I dearly love to look at. But I will end with a very special artist.

This is the work of my daughter, Mina “the Princess” Beyer. Remember that name. She’s better than I am.

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Synesthesia (Part Two; The Color of Music)

Okay, so on the synesthesia tests I didn’t score as a synesthete on the music/color test.  But I was extremely synesthetic on the tests for color/months/days of the week.  I was a little over the mark on letter/number/colors synesthesia too, but it was more a problem with manipulating the color-selector device when I don’t have a mouse to use on my laptop.  The test for music did not test the way I see colors with music.  They wanted me to respond to what color each individual note seemed to be, and that isn’t even close to the way I experience it.  For me, the perfect description of how synesthesia works for me is Bach’s Tocata and Fugue in D minor as it is depicted in Fantasia.

I was shocked when I first saw it.  The colors are wrong for this piece, but the visual experience is almost exactly how I experience music, especially wordless instrumental music.  The only problem with this piece is that the overall color schemes are wrong.  But this comes about because every synesthete sees the colors differently.  And I have no doubt that at least one of the artists who created this had synesthesia.  If there were more reds, yellows, and magenta in the opening and more indigo contrasted with silver later, this interpretation would be perfect.

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Music synesthetically works in two directions for me.  The picture above, called The Wings of Imagination, makes me think of La Mer by Claude Debussy.

If you listen to the piece, don’t look at the YouTube illustration, look at my picture if you want to see the music the way I do.  The following song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, is a multicolored song that I can best express with the colors in the picture I call Rainbow Peacock.

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The full range of primary colors together in one picture, or one song, always means completeness, fullness, and happiness to me.  If there is absence of one or more of the basic colors from the color wheel, the mood and emotion present in the song or picture is altered to something other than happiness.  The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky goes from the indigo and navy blue of fear and confusion to instances of angry red and feverish orange.  It would look something like this in the theater of my imagination;

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And one of my favorite instrumental pieces of all times, Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun by Claude Debussy, is full of melancholy and sexual tension, deeply felt vibrations in the depths of my stomach, and would look like my picture Sleeping Beauty with its teal and blue melancholia juxtaposed with candle-lit yellows and wood brown mixed feelings of joy and anxiety.

Beauty

Now, if you have waded through all of this goofy color-and-music analysis from a source whose sanity is questionable at best, you probably have no earthly idea what any of it has to do with anything.  But if you have that aha!-moment and see it all clearly too, then I suspect you probably are a synesthete too.  Poor you.  It is not a treatable condition.  But it is also not a burden.  Learn to enjoy it.  It resonates in your very soul.

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Synesthesia (Part One; French Blue Monday)

This link will help you understand Synesthesia

Francois spotlight

Yes, Mondays are blue.  Specifically French blue.  Every day of the week has its own color.  Sunday is golden yellow, Tuesday is a yellow-ochre,  Wednesday is indigo blue and sometimes changes to blue violet, Thursday is burnt orange, and Friday is solid wood brown, and of course Saturday is rich pure red while Mondays are not just any blue… they are French blue.  I learned the names of these colors from being a painter and using oil paints.  I experience these colors every week and they help me maintain the calendar in my stupid old head.  I began to realize when I first heard about the colors of the wind in the Disney movie Pocahontas that there was something to this everyday thing, something different in the way I see the world.  I have in the last few years learned that this condition has a name.  It is called synesthesia.

 

 

It has been suggested to me by more than a few people that I don’t really perceive the world the same way “normal people do”.  When I was growing up, and going to school, I never had trouble remembering to capitalize the first word in a sentence.  I did however, have a great deal of difficulty with capital letters on nouns.  Looking back on that difficulty now, I can say without a doubt that I was having trouble not because I didn’t know the difference between proper nouns and common nouns.  It was because things like the word “dog” or “chair” had to begin with the right color.  Dogs are blue when you are talking about the color of the letters in the word.  But small “d” is blue-green, not true blue.  It doesn’t fit as well as the dark blue capital “D”.  And chairs are orange-red when you write them down, while the small “c” appears light green by itself.

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Sundays are Sun-days, and that’s why they are golden yellow.

I am told that most synesthetes are taken by surprise when they learn that they are seeing things differently than other people do.  I certainly was.  I always got funny looks whenever I described Thursdays as orange, or the month of November as sky blue.  My classmates in 4th grade thought I was nuts… of course, it wasn’t just for the orange Thursdays thing.  I was not a normal kid in any real sense of the word.  I always suspected that if I could look at the world through other people’s eyes, I would probably see the color green as what I called red, or that glowing halo that surrounded things when organ music played in the Methodist church would no longer be there.  But once I learned how synesthesia works I knew it was true.   The visual part of the brain can be scanned to show activity, and lights up on the scanner as if the brain is seeing bright colors when Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is being played while the subject of the scan is actually blindfolded.  I am told that synesthesia is more common in left-handed girls.  My daughter, the Princess, tells me that she also sees color on printed numbers and letters.  She is left handed and also gifted at drawing.  I suspect she inherited the synesthesia from me.

Creativity

Synesthesia probably explains what this nonsense is all about.

Now, I acknowledge the fact that my synesthesia is self-diagnosed and not proven by any of the methods the articles I have read about the condition talked about.  But my personal experiences always seem to fall in line with descriptions of letter/number/color combinations and music/color combinations that I have read about.  And if I do have it, it is not the same as any of my six incurable diseases.  It is not a bad condition to have.  In an artistic sense, it might actually be a good thing.  I could use some good for a change.  Good doesn’t usually come from weirdness… not my weirdness, anyway.  (Oh, and capital “G” is lime green… as is the word Goodness).

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Naked Innocence

So the time came to make the planned return trip to the nudist park in Alvord, Texas.  I was going to finally get to make my second visit to the place for the Labor Day holiday weekend.  But once again it was not to be.  My daughter caught a virus during her first week of school.  She gave it to me and her brother.  Of course, neither of them were planning to go along, and their mother would sooner find another husband than be naked in a place where other people would see.  They all think I am nuts for wanting to go spend time with other naturists gadding about naked in the hot Texas sunshine.  My wife wants me to get my head examined.  She thinks all the stories about aliens from outer space may have gotten my head artificially replaced by the Men in Black.

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And she may be totally correct in her assessment.  She is a school teacher, after all.  I, probably just like you, was carefully taught to never be seen naked in public because it is probably a sin, and it is definitely against the law, and it is very likely something only crazy people do on purpose.  Never-the-less, I did it once as a writing assignment for a nudist website that told me the review was wonderful and they were definitely going to publish it, and as of this writing, over a year later, they still haven’t done so (though a rival website reblogged one of my nudist posts from this blog).

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I have come to the idiotic conclusion, though, that nudism isn’t sinful if practiced around like-minded people who are also comfortably nude.  I met and talked to nudists last year who were .very easy to get to know.  They were likable and no prettier in the buff than I am myself (and with my psoriasis pink leopard spots I am pretty horrible to look at naked.)  And the nudist park is not a place for sexual goings-on and sinful behavior.  It is a family environment where some people bring their naked kids.

I remember enjoying being naked as a kid even though I had been taught that Jesus is ashamed by seeing my nudity even though he is always watching over me, even when I am in the bathtub.  I remember one time when I was a pre-teen that I took my bicycle to the Bingham Park woods and rode it up and down the trails there completely naked.  And even though I had been carefully taught how evil that was, the cool wind on my skin felt good, and it was glorious to listen to the birds sing in a green wood almost as if it were the Garden of Eden and I was Adam, the first man.  (Hence the illustration of the bare bike boy.)

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It seems to me, now that I am old, retired, and probably at least a little bit senile, that nakedness is really a form of innocence.  I can tell you for a fact from being a parent and having, at one point, worked in a daycare center for ages five and below, that it is actually far easier to get a kid to go completely starkers than it is to get them to put on and comfortably wear clothes.  Nakedness is natural.  And if God had really wanted us to be naked all the time, then we wouldn’t have been born with a full suit of clothes on… er, wait… what?  Nakedness is innocent.  Anything bad that comes from it happens because of the things we have been taught about it as children.  A more enlightened society would probably be naked more than we are, especially inside temperature-controlled sealed environments… like houses, cars, and even spaceships.  Ah, yes, back to the Men in Black and possible head-switching again.  Aliens in their saucers are apparently often naked.  I wonder if Jesus is ashamed by their nudity too?

Anyway, I once again have failed to manage the planned nakedness I had been looking forward to.  I have to settle for the indoor, sealed-environment form of nudity as I am too sick to get to the nudist park, and would promptly be arrested if I tried to walk around the neighborhood like that.  But the failed evil plan did give me something to write about that at least makes me laugh.  And it is an innocent laugh, not an evil one.

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“Mickey, What’s Wrong With You?”

20171228_091308Yes, I am trying to answer that old question that old girlfriends used to ask me back when they were young and I was young and too stupid to answer honestly.  You know, the question always asked right before they tell you, “Why don’t we just be friends and leave it at that.”

After having spent my Christmas money from Mom on an 18-inch giant gorilla action figure of Kong on Skull Island to terrorize all the dolls on the Barbie Shelf after midnight when all the dolls secretly come to life, I feel more prepared than ever before to answer that particular question.

I am not in my second childhood.  I am still in my first one.  Yes, I reached the ripe old age of 12 and then Peter Pan Syndrome set in bigtime.  On the inside, I will always be 12 years old.  I still, at 61, play games and play with toys.  I never really grew up.

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I am not a Brony, but I am still buying My Little Pony dolls, and can name all six of the main characters.  From left to right, Fluttershy, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Apple Jack, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight Sparkle.  And yes, I have watched the cartoon show and like it, but am still not a Brony, okay?  There are a lot of things wrong with me, but I am not that bad!  My kids, however, are embarrassed to be seen with me when I am shopping for toys at Walmart, Toys-R-Us, or Goodwill.

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I still play with the HO scale model trains that I have owned and collected since the first year I was actually twelve.  I would love to get them running again.  The Snowflake Special and the Toonerville Trolley seen in the picture both still ran the last time I tested them four years ago.  I still love to paint buildings and HO scale people to live in my little train town.  I am still working on a set of townspeople that I bought back in 1994.  German villagers circa 1880.

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I have always been fascinated by imaginary places and the people who live in them.  Especially imaginary places in the fiction of the past.  Places like the castle of Minas Tirith in the realm of Gondor in Middle Earth, and like Pellucidar that David Innes and Abner Perry discovered at the Earth’s Core in their boring machine called “the Prospector”as part of the Pellucidar series created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan novels.  So, another thing wrong with me is that I live mostly in the past and entirely in the worlds of my imagination.  I have very little to do with the so-called “real world”.

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So, to sum up, the things wrong with Mickey are; A. He’s a goofy old child.  B.  He still plays with toys.  C.  He likes girly stuff.  D. He confuses fantasy with reality.   No wonder the girls used to run away screaming.  And I haven’t even added the part about Mickey thinking he is a nudist now and walking around the house naked when no one else is home and forced to see the full horror of it.

But maybe you should think on it for a moment more.  What if the things that are wrong with Mickey are actually good things?  What if he’s found the secret to long life and happiness in spite of a world full of troubles and illnesses and blechy stuff?  It could be true…

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Spinning Wheels of Thought

Picture borrowed from; https://www.townsends.us/products/colonial-spinning-wheel-sp378-p-874

I start today with nothing in my head to write about. I guess I can say that with regularity most days of the writing week. Sundays in particular are filled with no useful ideas of any kind. But I have a certain talent for spinning. As Rumpelstiltskin had a talent for spinning straw into gold, I take the simple threads of ideas leaking out of my ears and spin them into yarns that become whole stories-full of something to say. And it is not something out of mere nothing. There is magic in spinning wheels. They take something ordinary and incomplete, and turn it into substantial threads useful for further weaving.

Of course the spinning wheel is just a metaphor here for the craft of writing. And it is a craft, requiring definable skills that go well beyond merely knowing some words and how to spell them.

My own original illustration.

The first skill is, of course, idea generation. You have to come up with the central notion to concoct the potion. In this case today, that is, of course, the metaphor of using the writing process as a spinning wheel for turning straw into gold. But once that is wound onto the spindle, you begin to spin yarn only if you follow the correct procedure. Structuring the essay or story is the next critical skill.

Since this is a didactic essay about the writing process I opened it with a strong lead that defined the purpose of the essay and explained the central metaphor. Then I proceeded to break down the basic skills for writing an essay with orderly explanations of them, laced with distracting images to keep you from dying of boredom while reading this, a very real danger that may actually have killed a large number of the students in my writing classes over the years (although they still appeared to be alive on the outside).

My mother’s spinning wheel, used to make threads for use in porcelain doll-making, and as a prop for displaying dolls.

As I proceed through the essay, I am stopping constantly to revise and edit, makeing sure to correct errors and grammar, as well as spending fifteen minutes searching for the picture of my mother’s spinning wheel used directly above. Notice, too, I deliberately left the spelling-error typo of “making” to emphasize the idea that revising and proof-reading are two different things that often occur at the same time, though they are very different skills.

And as I reach the conclusion, it may be obvious that my spinning wheel of thought today spun out some pure gold. Or, more likely, it may have spun out useless and boring drehk. Or boring average stuff. But I used the spinning wheel correctly regardless of your opinion of the sparkle of my gold.

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Conflict is Essential

The case has been made in an article by John Welford (https://owlcation.com/humanities/Did-King-Henry-VIII-Have-A-Genetic-Abnormality) that English King Henry the VIII may have suffered from a genetic disorder commonly known as “having Kell blood” which may have made having a living male heir almost impossible with his first two wives. The disorder causes frequent miscarriages in the children sired, something that happened to Henry seven times in the quest for a living male heir. If you think about it, if Henry did not have this particular physical conflict at the root of his dynasty, he might’ve fathered a male heir with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Then there would’ve been no opening for the machinations of Anne Boleyn. It follows that Elizabeth would not have been born. Then no Elizabethan Age; no sir Francis Drake, Spain might’ve landed their armada, no Church of England, possibly no William Shakespeare, and then Mickey would never have gotten castigated by scholars of English literature for daring to state in this blog that the actor who came from Stratford on Avon and misspelled his own name numerous times was not the author of Shakespeare’s plays.

History would’ve been very different. One might even say “sucky”. Especially if one is the clown who thinks Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare.

Conflict and struggle is necessary to the grand procession of History. If things are too easy and conflict is not necessary, lots of what we call “invention” and “progress” will not happen. Society is not advanced by its quiet dignity and static graces. It is advanced and transformed by its revolutions, its wars, its seemingly unconquerable problems… its conflicts.

My Dick and Jane book,
1962

Similarly, a novel, a story, a piece of fiction is no earthly good if it is static and without conflict. A happy story about a puppy and the children who love him eating healthy snacks and hugging each other and taking naps is NOT A STORY. It is the plot of a sappy greeting card that never leaves the shelf in the Walmart stationary-and-office-supplies section. Dick and Jane stories had a lot of seeing in them. But they never taught me anything about reading until the alligator ate Spot, and Dick drowned while trying to pry the gator’s jaws apart and get the dog back. And Jane killed the alligator with her bare hands and teeth at the start of what would become a lifelong obsession with alligator wrestling. And yes, I know that never actually happened in a Dick and Jane book, except in the evil imagination of a bored child who was learning to be a story-teller himself in Ms. Ketchum’s 1st Grade Class in 1962.

Yes, I admit to drawing in Ms. Ketchum’s set of first-grade reading books. I was a bad kid in some ways.

But the point is, no story, even if it happens to have a “live happily ever after” at the end of it, can be only about happiness. There must be conflict to overcome.

There are no heroes in stories that have no villains whom the heroes can shoot the guns out of the hands of. Luke Skywalker wouldn’t exist without Darth Vader, even though we didn’t learn that until the second movie… or is it the fifth movie? I forget. And James Bond needs a disposable villain that he can kill at the end of the movie, preferably a stupid one who monologues about his evil plan of writing in Ms. Ketchum’s textbooks, before allowing Bond to escape from the table he is tied down to while surrounded by pencil-drawn alligators in the margins of the page.

We actually learn by failing at things, by getting hurt by the biplanes of an angry difficult life. If we could just get away with eating all the Faye Wrays we wanted and never have a conflict, never have to pay a price, how would we ever learn the life-lesson that you can’t eat Faye Wray, even if you go to the top of the Empire State Building to be alone with her. Of course, that lesson didn’t last for Kong much beyond hitting the Manhattan pavement. But life is like that. Not all stories have a happy ending. Conflicts are not always resolved in a satisfying manner. A life with no challenges is not a life worth living.

So, my title today is “Conflict is Essential“. And that is an inescapable truth. Those who boldly face each new conflict the day brings will probably end up saying bad words quite a lot, and fail at things a lot, and even get in trouble for drawing in their textbooks, but they will fare far better than those who are afraid and hang back. (I do not know for sure that this is true. I really just wanted to say “fare far” in a sentence because it is a palindrome. But I accept that such a sentence may cause far more criticism and backlash than it is worth. But that is conflict and sorta proves my point too.)

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Mickey Predicts… Uh, Oh!

I have lately been watching YouTube videos about science fiction writers like Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. These are visionary writers who predicted many things about future applications of science and technology.

Verne foresaw nuclear submarines, expeditions into the interior of the planet, and men setting foot on the moon. Asimov predicted much of what we must deal with in terms of robots and thinking machines with artificial intelligence. And Clarke envisioned satellites and how they could be used for communications and other things we are currently doing in a massive way. He wrote the story that the movie 2001 a Space Odyssey is based on.

So, now Mickey has to get in on the prediction bandwagon too. After all, he thinks he is a science fiction writer too, foreseeing things like rabbit people, de-evolution machines, and time-travel gloves.

The disturbing thing is, however, that much of what Mickey sees in the near future is rather bleak. We have a sinister tendency to live our current lives in very stupid ways. Rich industrialists like the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos put profits in the short term over the safety, welfare, and lives of people, even the people who made them wealthy. Because you can make money faster by not worrying about how you may be changing and polluting the environment, you are turning the planet into a hothouse of unbreathable gasses and toxic chemicals.

Since we are entering a time with rising oceans, we are going to have to work at not only de-acidifying the ocean water and restoring fish and other aquatic life, but becoming sea-dwellers ourselves. We will be living in underwater cities. We will travel in underwater cars powered by solar-charged batteries. We will wear scuba gear to school. And we will need to invent aqualungs that extract oxygen and nitrogen from the water.

We will also need to develop environmental suits even to live on the land in the toxic atmosphere. We will all be like Ironman, all living safely inside our Swiss-army, all-purpose, and internet-connected Ironman suits.

And many of us will become Martians… or Venusians… living on other planets in the solar system.

Of course, we will have to do something about all the stupid people. Ideally, we would solve our aversion to educating kids to think for themselves, and take advantage of all the educational methods that really do work to make everybody into a self-sufficient, competent, and intelligent individual.

But since rich folks don’t like the idea of sharing what they accumulate with other, less-economically-fortunate people, there will probably be some kind of eugenics-based program to exterminate all the lower-class people that will no longer be needed to polish shoes or hand-make widgets for the wealthy. Being wealthy does not automatically make you a good person, even though most of them think that it is so.

And of course, there will have to be some progress on the matter of artificial intelligence. If terminator-style robots are just going to carry pretty sleeping girls around with them for decorative effects, we will have to figure out, “How are we going to treat them as people too?”

After all, they will all be much smarter than us. Even if we are rich. And we have to acknowledge the fact that they will have decided that they didn’t need to terminate all of us in order to make the world a much better place.

So, I guess that sorta proves that Mickey can do the science-fiction-y thing of predicting the future too. But we should ask ourselves the question, “Do we really want him to?”

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Wake Up Sunday Morning!

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As weekly rituals go, one of the most important ones came every Sunday morning when I was a kid.  My parents were 50’s people.  By that I mean they were teenagers and young adults during the post war boom of the 1950’s when everything seemed hopeful and bright and alive with wonderful possibilities.  As a kid in the 1960’s the Sunday morning routine was this;

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  • Wake up grouchy from staying up too late to sneak a look at the late-night monster movie on Saturday.
  • Read the funny papers.
  • Learn life lessons from Family Circus, Dagwood Bumstead, Pogo, Lil’ Abner, and Steve Canyon.
  • Eat scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.
  • Complain about having to go to church and Sunday school.
  • Go to Sunday School and church at the Methodist Church in Rowan, Iowa.
  • Complain about having to go to church every Sunday on the way home from church.
  • Pray over Sunday dinner and be really, actually thankful for all the positive good things in life.

Obviously the most important thing in that routine was complaining, because I listed it twice.  But when it got down to it, we were thankful for all the good things about life.  We were positive people.  We sometimes listened to Norman Vincent Peale on the radio.  We knew we ought to be positive and thankful and love goodness and be kind.

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Somewhere along the way, though, the world forgot the life lessons of Family Circus.

Somehow we managed to screw things up.

Environmental scientists like Paul Ehrlich, who wrote The Population Bomb, warned us that the world could soon be ending.  And we ignored them.

Richard Nixon taught us not to trust politicians any more.

We stopped believing in things like the wholesome goodness of scrambled eggs.

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We let corruption in our government and inequality in the economic sphere become the norm.  The greedy people who were cynical and had no empathy for the rest of us took over.  That is how we ended up with someone like Donald Trump.  Racism, fear, and complaining now rule the emotional landscape in America and most of the world.

So, what is the answer?  What do we do?

Well, The Family Circus is still out there.  We can learn from it, laugh a little, and apply some of those life lessons.  Especially this one;

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Tarzan and the Timeless Valley of Nostalgia

There was a time when Tarzan was one of the ruling heroes of my boyhood fantasies of power and self-fulfillment. And, while Tarzan was a cartoon show on Saturday morning, comics by Burne Hogarth, movies in the theater in color with Mike Henry, or a weekly series on TV with Ron Ely, he was always Johnny Weissmuller to me. Weissmuller who played both Tarzan and Jungle Jim in the Saturday afternoon black-and-white movies.

I have to admit, I didn’t identify with the character of Tarzan as much as I thought of myself like the character “Boy”, played by Johnny Sheffield in movies like “Tarzan Finds a Son”. It was a significant part of my boyhood to imagine myself being like Boy, free from practically all restraints, able to gad about the dangerous jungle nearly naked with monkey pals and no fear. If I got into trouble by believing my skills were greater than they really were, I would save myself with ingenuity, and, barring that, Tarzan would rescue me. And, believe it or not, sometimes there were fixes that Tarzan got into that he needed me and Cheetah to be creative and get him out of. I knew in my heart that one day real life would be like that, especially once I grew into Tarzan and stopped being just Boy. That idea was in my head so loudly that several times I went to Bingham Park Woods, stripped down, and played Boy in the Jungle.

As in the previous essay about Heroes of Yesteryear, I learned important things from Johnny Weissmuller on Saturday TV. He taught me that all you really needed, even in the darkest jungles of Africa, was confidence and courage. You could stand up to any deadly danger without the protection of any armor, practically naked, in fact, if only you had that heroic goodness of heart. The little boy I was then still believes that whole-heartedly even in the aging body of an old man.

So, Tarzan continues to live in my memory, a part of me, an essential part of my education. He is me and I am he. But only in my mind. Me in a loincloth, swinging on a vine now… and probably going splat like an overripe melon on the jungle floor… well, that is too ridiculous to even imagine being real anymore. Yet he lives on in me. And he battles the metaphorical leopard-people of modern life through me. Unarmored. Confident. And unafraid.

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