Category Archives: strange and wonderful ideas about life

Ich Bin Jetzt ein Naturist

The actual card is inside this plastic case. I thought it might be a bad idea to show my membership number and everything.

Yes, my membership card for the AANR arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon. AANR is the American Association for Nude Recreation. My membership is for two years in the South West Region.

But before you immediately unfollow me for my blazing stupidity, let me explain a bit why this nonsense is actually a good thing.

You see, I have had a very long road of avoiding becoming a real nudist. A former girlfriend introduced me to the whole idea of nudism back in the 1980’s. But, I was terrified of being naked in front of other people, mostly because as a victim of a sexual assault as a child, I had traumatic memories about nakedness, but also because my parents and grandparents had taught me to be ashamed of showing off my nakedness to anyone outside the family. And also because I was a middle-school teacher at the time and parents doubt your abilities to keep their children safe if they know you like to prance around outdoors naked.

But I find I have a certain need for nakedness in my life. It is not a sexual thing. Rather it is a sensual thing. And surprisingly, God made us to be chemically dependent on being naked at least for a portion of our lives. Going without sunlight deprives you of enough vitamin D to cause serious depression, self hatred, and even thoughts of self harm. And oxytocin is generated in the pituitary gland in response to being naked among like-minded others. It’s the chemical that makes Scotsmen more fertile than other men if they don’t wear underwear under their kilts. Now, with diabetes, arthritis, and psoriasis plaguing my old flesh, I find that being nude helps immensely. Naked under the sun dries and cools the skin to fight psoriasis plaques, balances my blood sugar quicker, and warms my aching joints.

And I think most people from childhood onwards experience a longing for the innocent freedom of being without the restraints of clothing. I admit to being more than a little obsessed with childish nudity as displayed in many of my artworks. But that does not in itself make me a pervert or a pederast. It is not a sexualized obsession. To be honest, naked children are sexually kinda icky. They don’t engender feelings of arousal, but rather an urge to parentally protect and watch over them, keeping them safe from the demons that ruined my own childhood.

You actually gain confidence and self-control by practicing social nudity with other nudists. This is something I had long suspected was true, but didn’t actually learn until I went for a day to the Bluebonnet Nudist Park North of Dallas.

And it may well be that having the membership card and using that to legitimize the stories I write about nudists and nudism is the only benefit I will get from the membership. I have a desire to go camping in a tent with other nudists, or participate in a nude bike ride in California or New Orleans. But my health keeps me from doing those things totally on my own. And my family members think I am crazy and want nothing to do with going along to help with those plans.

So, I am left being a nudist mostly by myself, and mostly for reasons of writing humorous stories about it.

But now that I finally have an official membership card, I can truthfully say, “I have now lost my long-running battle to not become nudist. Mickey now officially is one. On paper at least.

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Magical Thinking

People accused of doing magical thinking are basically being accused of doing something awful. Like Republicans telling us that if we cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, working class and middle class citizens will prosper because of it. Of course, they actually know better. So, it isn’t really magical thinking. It is really evil magical thinking.

But when I am actually guilty of magical thinking, it is more along the lines of me pinning my hopes on an intuition brought about by calculations in my overcrowded imagination that are probably horribly miscalculated but that I need to turn out to be accurate and miraculously pull me out of my current difficulty. And then, because I intuit really, really hard… it turns out all right.

Magic is after all, merely what we call science and situations where something amazing is created, but we have no idea at all how and why.

Our movies nowadays are really quite chock full of magical thinking. Wish-fulfillment, fantasy, and violence-laden revenge stories are what fill the cinema with seekers of escapism and relaxation. That is magical thinking of an epic sort. Go see the Black Panther movie and “Wakanda forever” solves racism.

So, what is the point of this little essay? What am I actually thinking about the subject of magical thinking? Well, I needed a topic today to keep my every-day-in-April posting goal alive. And magically…

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Black Humor

I think I know what you’re thinking. He’s just going to retell a bunch of Eddy Murphy, Richard Pryor, and Flip Wilson jokes from the 1970’s which his fuzzy old-coot memory will get wrong in slightly amusing ways. Or he’s got dementia now and has turned totally racist. Or both.

Well, maybe. I am old after all.

But, no. I am writing about that kind of humor where you laugh when someone in the story dies a horrible death in an unusually humorous way. Or most dead-baby jokes. Or the part of “The Producers” where “Springtime with Hitler” turns out to be a Broadway hit musical even though the two con men in charge were gambling on it being a failure.

Bad things can be funny, you know.

At least if you have a brain-damaged sense of humor like mine.

Kurt Vonnegut was a master of very dark black humor. In his novel, Cat’s Cradle, (Spoiler alert!) the world ends at the end of the novel because the mad scientist commits suicide by swallowing his invention, Ice Nine, freezing solid in a way that couldn’t be melted at room temperature or above, and then falling into the ocean, thus permanently freezing the entire planet Earth. Golly, what a laugh fest!

Black humor is, of course, highly dependent on dramatic irony and the fact that people smart enough to read and enjoy Vonnegut, usually are smart enough to realize if you read too much ironic humor you are not in danger of actually rusting from the brain outward.

I, of course, am a black humor aficionado of sorts. I thoroughly enjoyed all the torture, death, and deadly mistakes of Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder. Of course, I had a ridiculously hard time gaining access to the show which originally aired on the BBC and didn’t appear on American TV channels until our household gave up television to save money due to ever-rising cable costs.

Fortunately, during the yearlong imprisonment of the Covid pandemic, I discovered the entire series available on Hulu which is cheap enough to stream on my laptop. Only in excess of 500,000 people had to die for me to get the chance to binge on all the historical reiterations of this amazingly dark show full of humorous English demise and occasional accidental murder.

So, that is what black humor is to me. As defined by Professor Wilson at Iowa State when I was assigned to read a novel by Saul Bellow and ended up reading three, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, and The Adventures of Augie March. Of course, I am not sure which novel was the assignment. They were all deadly hilarious. And I am, after all, old enough to probably be demented and a closet racist. Is Saul Bellow Jewish? I ask because I am also forgetful.

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Go and Catch a Falling Star…

You may have looked at the name of my website here on WordPress and wondered, “Why in the heck has that fool Mickey called this thing he writes Catch a Falling Star?”

The answer is, he named it after the first good published novel he wrote at the insistence of the I-Universe Publishing’s marketing adviser. Very poor reason for doing anything, that.

But, the secondary reason is because of where that title came from. Look at the first stanza of this poem by John Donne.

So, now, you are justified in asking, “What nonsense is this? That doesn’t have any coherent meaning, does it?”

And you would be right. These are impossible things that I am being ordered to do by a very religious cleric in the Anglican Church who was originally a Catholic, but, in the time of Henry VIII Catholicism was made illegal, and he wrote this poem about not being able to find an honest woman in his drunken, wasted youth anyway. He is ordering me here to not only “catch a falling star” (and catching a meteorite with your bare hands has rather hot consequences), but also to have sex with a semi-poisonous plant, explain why we can’t go backwards in time, determine whether and why God might’ve given Satan goat feet, listen to probably-nonexistent humanoid creatures singing, find a way to avoid anybody ever looking at me with envy and then doing something to me because of it, and, most importantly, find a place where the wind blows in a way that fills your head with facts that actually makes you smarter.

Challenge accepted!

It is exactly what I wanted to write about. Impossible things actually being accomplished. Finding the meaning behind alien beings from outer space developing an intense love of I Love Lucy television broadcasts and Mickey Mouse Club music. Discovering why intensely shy people need to embrace social nudity. Defining who is actually a werewolf and who is not, uncovering who and what real monsters are. Singing songs so sad that it magically makes people fall in love with you. Talking to clowns in your dreams and getting real answers to the meaning of life, love, and laughter.

Catching falling stars is the stupid idea that this wacky, idiotic little blog is about. It is what I write about constantly. You have to kill me to get me to stop. So, there is your fair warning. Read on at your own peril.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, goofy thoughts, Paffooney, poetry, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Art Influenced by the Boob Tube

Yes, it is very possible that my imagination was galvanized in childhood by TV.

It seems to me that NBC had even more power over me than the other two networks. We could get CBS and ABC on our black-and-white TV. But the only NBC affiliate in Iowa was not able to be received in our little town. We had to go to Grandma’s house in Mason City where Grandma had a color TV.

Wow! Color!

Of course, it used to be referred to as the “Boob Tube” because psychologists and people who mattered kept saying that TV makes you stupid. Which, naturally, has a grain of truth to it because you don’t watch TV actively. You sit there and passively let the stories, commercials, and propaganda about sugary breakfast cereals flow in one ear, poison your brain, and then flow out the other ear leaving only water-logged thinking-muscles behind them.

The Saturday Matinees on CBS provided my youthful imagination with science fiction, fantasy, and heroes of all kinds.

I taught myself to draw cartoon characters based on the animated shows I watched on TV. I not only copied Mickey, for obvious reasons, but also Donald and Daffy Ducks, Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, Yogi Bear, and the Herculoids.

And Batman! With Adam West and Burt Ward and Cesar Romero as the Joker. Bam! Boff! Sock! Pow! Bright colors, goofy Riddler plots, and really bad jokes that were so bad they made you laugh.

And I loved monster movies. Not horror movies really. I never loved Freddy Krueger or Jason. But the Wolfman? Frankenstein’s Monster? Bela Lugosi’s Dracula? The Creature from the Black Lagoon? My inspirations!

And, of course, Disney on Sunday nights. The Wonderful World of Disney in living color.

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Drawing from the Past

It is almost impossible to accurately draw from the future. One of the tests of good science fiction is how much of it finds its way into reality over time.

Computers and communicators and scanners and material printers are doing things daily now that were predicted as fantastical possibilities in the Star Trek episodes of the 1960’s.

Jules Verne’s novels predicted men walking on the moon and the existence of nuclear submarines patrolling the depths of the sea.

George Orwell predicted even worse things when it comes to government electronic surveillance and governmental control of everything they can take control of.

But it has never really been the future that my writing, as a fantasist/surrealist, has been about.

All of my writing is set either before the year 2000, or 3000 years in the future in the 51st Century and beyond. And all of the science fiction involved is really more about the past than it is even about the present. These drawings of the Civil War bugle boy and the Shakespearian portrait of Prospero, Ferdinand, and Miranda, were all drawn from either photos or paintings or woodcut prints from the distant past.

In my writing I don’t try to predict the future. I write about people who are basically the same now as they were in the 16th Century. In truth, only the costumes, props, and stage technology change over time. The actors in the great performance always play the same basic characters.

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The Religion of Conspiracy (*not my religion)

I have always had an inquiring mind. That is a curse instead of a plus if your main goal in life is to be happy and unbothered by anything. But it has proved to be of benefit to me as I have become an old coot who actually cares about what is true. Yes, I am willing to personally suffer to bring to light that which is actually true and that which must be disbelieved before it truly hurts us.

Don’t judge me yet based on this next question;

“Did you know that the Democratic party is funded by billionaires who want to use the “Deep State” to promote their Satanic rituals involving the murder and cannibalistic consumption of human children?”

I hope you know that I would never promote such a thing as being true. I am even careful of posting this pernicious lie in a question rather than a statement, because that’s one of the tactics the malign promoters of this religious belief use, not actually stating something that will be contradicted immediately, but taken merely as something to be considered and discussed simply because it is offered in question form.

So, how do you tackle such dangerous nonsense?

I prefer the scientific method which provides the structure for your thinking that will keep you on the most likely paths that lead you to what is true and what is not.

  1. Facts should be confirmed by multiple verifiable sources.

We don’t talk much about cold fusion nowadays because when it was discovered in 1989 by a pair of electrochemists whose single experiment produced more heat than what should result from the energy put into the tabletop experiment. But, as is required by the entire scientific community, it couldn’t be reproduced in more repeats of the experiment than those that turned out negative. So, even though Pons and Fleischman did an experiment that answered the dreams of science-fiction nerds like me, they are mostly ignored by now. Cold fusion? Only one flawed source, studied in 1989 and proved still basically untrue in 2004 by a multitude of scientists who wanted it to be true.

Consider the source for Q-Anon conspiracies. One (or possibly more) anonymous government whistle-blowers whose credentials have never been presented or identities revealed, and mind-blowing statements appearing on places like 4-Chan, 8-Chan, and Parlor to be picked up and amplified on such reliable sources of scientifically proven knowledge as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Q-Anon is not the only conspiracy religion out there. My friend Giorgi above has a more benign, but no less ridiculous religion that chooses to replace God Jehovah, Zeus, Odin, Buddha, and other religious figures and deities with Ancient Aliens.

Here’s a second and third test offered by Carl Sagan to use against their ideas;

2. Encourage debate from knowledgeable people from all identifiable perspectives.

3. Do not accept arguments only from positions of authority.

Q-Anon arguments only have the authority of repetition because social media endlessly asks the same “questions” over and over. There is no debate from any recognizable “authority,” just a plethora of unsubstantiated statements and commandments.

In a way, the Ancient-Aliens crowd is guilty of the same thing. They never have skeptics and debunkers on their History-Channel show. You never see Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, offering his opinions of their conclusions on that show. Neither do they allow Christian theologians or Buddhist scholars to offer their take on what probably really happened. They do employ physicists, engineers, and historians on their show, but never the ones that don’t agree with their radical theories and conclusions. Since there is no real debate on that show and no identifiable peer review, that show does not qualify as History, let alone Science.

4. Don’t get overly attached to your own ideas.

If you are going to investigate any conspiracy that holds thrall a number of “true believers,” approach everything with a truly open mind. I actually believe alien beings from “out there” have visited Earth. That is based on things, science, and testimony I haven’t even begun to go into here. But I reserve my right to be skeptical about everything, especially my own prejudices, theories, and beliefs. Otherwise I could too easily get trapped into believing in the truth of something that I otherwise would recognize as false. This is the factor that has pulled so many of my otherwise sensible Republican friends onto the flypaper of spurious Q-Anon claims.

5. Use numbers wherever possible. Math is quantifiable information that can “prove” the facts better than most ideas expressed in mere language. It is more precise, and reveals truth in verifiable ways that no poet ever could.

I am known to some in my family (here you could read wife and sisters) as the family conspiracy nut and generally crazy old coot.

But I am not so crazy that I don’t recognize the dangers inherent in some the ideas I am talking about here. As an English teacher I have learned some effective thinking skills that protect me and mine. I can honestly tell you that these thinking skills explained here will help you too. I learned them from a friend who pointed me to Carl Sagan as the source of these thinking skills.

And to any of my friends who might read this post and be offended, I apologize. But you were wrong about Pizzagate, and you are on the wrong side of this too. Aliens probably did NOT build the pyramids.

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Truthfully…

Truthfully… for a fiction writer, a humorist, a former school teacher of junior-high-aged kids, telling the truth is hard.  But in this post I intend to try it, and I will see if I can stand the castor-oil flavor of it on my tongue.

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  • The simple truth is, I rarely tell the unvarnished truth.  And I firmly believe I am not alone in this.
  • Yesterday I battled pirates.  (While this is not literally true, it is metaphorically true.)  They were the scurvy scum o’ the Bank-o’-Merricka Pirates who are suing me for over ten thousand dollars despite my efforts of the last two years to settle 40 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.
  • I hired a lawyer, but in spite of what he told me, I expect to lose the lawsuit and be wiped out financially.  I also believe Donald Trump will win as President.
  • I am a pessimist.  And it helps me through life.  I am always prepared for the worst, and I can only be surprised by happy and pleasant surprises.
  • My son in the Marines has developed an interest in survivalist gear and chaos-contingency plans.  We are now apparently preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.
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  • I like to draw nudes.  I have drawn them from real-life models who were paid for their participation.  But no bad things happened.  It was all done with professional integrity even though I am an amateur artist.  Chaperones were a part of every session.
  • In high school I identified as a Republican like my father.  In college I became a Democrat (Thanks, Richard Nixon) and voted for Jimmy Carter.  I argued with my father for eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush.
  • My father has now voted for Barack Obama twice and will vote for Hillary this fall if he is still able.  We spent most of our conversations this summer exchanging “Can you believe its?” about Donald Trump.
  • Blue Dawn
  • I have been collecting pictures of sunrises for three years now.  I stole the idea from my childhood friend who now lives in Florida and takes beautiful ocean sunrise pictures over the Atlantic.  But I do it because I know I don’t have many more sunrises to go.  I have six incurable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and COPD.  I could go “BOOM! …dead” at any given moment.  I believe in savoring it while I have it.
  • I was sexually assaulted when I was ten years old.  I can only tell you this particular truth because the man who assaulted me and inflicted physical and emotional pain on me is now dead.  It is liberating to be able to say that.  But I regret forty years’ worth of treating it is a terrible secret that I could never tell anyone.
  • Telling that last truth made me cry.  Now you know why telling the truth is not easy.
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  • I really do love and admire all things having to do with Disney.  And when I was young, I really did want to find a picture of Annette naked.  There was no internet back then.  That quest helped me learn to draw the human form.  I know how bad that sounds… but, hey, I was a normal boy in many ways.  And I don’t draw her naked any more.
  • Finally, I have to say… in all honesty… I don’t know for sure that everything I have told you today is absolutely true.  Truth is a perception, even an opinion.  And I may be wrong about the facts as I know them.  The human mind works in mysterious ways.  I sometimes think I may simply be bedbug crazy.
  • (P.S.) Bedbugs are insects with very limited intelligence.  They cannot, in fact, be crazy or insane.  Their little brains are not complicated enough for that.  But it is a metaphor, and metaphors can be more truthful than literal statements.

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The Bottle Imp Implementation

I gave you a list of places where my ideas for fiction come from, and in the end, I failed to explain the thing about the bottle imp. Yes, I do get ideas from the bottle imp. He’s an angry blue boggart with limited spell powers. But he’s also more than 700 years old and has only been trapped in the bottle since 1805. So, he has about 500 years of magical life experience to draw from and answer my idea questions. Admittedly it would be more helpful if he were a smarter imp. His name is Bruce, and his IQ in human terms would only be about 75. But, then, I don’t have to worry about misfired magic. If I asked him to, “Make me a hamburger,” he wouldn’t immediately change me into a fried, ground-beef patty because he is not smart enough to do that high of a level of magic spell.

But he is just barely intelligent enough to tell me a truthful answer if I asked him a question like, “What would happen if I put an alligator’s egg in a robin’s nest as a joke, and the robin family decided it was their own weird-looking egg and then tried to hatch it?” The answer would be truthful according to his vast knowledge of swamp pranks. And it would also be funny because he’s too dumb to know better. In fact, he told me about a mother robin who worked so diligently at hatching an alligator egg that a baby alligator was hatched. She convinced it that it was actually a bird. And when it came time for the baby birds to learn to fly, the baby alligator couldn’t do it… until she talked it into flapping madly with all four legs. Then, a mother’s love and faith in her child got an alligator airborne.

Yeah, that hasn’t proved to be a very useful story idea. I put it into a story I was writing during my seven years in high school, and then lost the manuscript. (I was a teacher, not a hard-to-graduate student.) But it was proof that you can get your writing ideas from a bottle imp.

So, if you decide to use bottle imps as an idea source for fiction, the next step is to find and acquire the right sort of bottle imp. I got mine from Smellbone, the rat-faced necromancer. I bought it for an American quarter and three Canadian loonies more than a dozen years ago. I found it at his Arcana and Horse-Radish Burger Emporium in Montreal. But I am not sure how that information helps you. Smellbone died in a firey magical-transformation accident involving an angry Wall-Street financier and a dill pickle. The whole Emporium went to cinders in an hour.

If you are going to try to capture the bottle imp yourself, which I strongly do not recommend, you are going to need a magical spell-resistant butterfly net, a solid glass jar, bottle, or brass urn. A garlic-soaked cork to fit the bottle. A spell scroll ready to cast containing at least one fairy-shrink spell. And an extremely limited amount of time to actually think about what you are doing.

Now I have told you how I get writing ideas from a bottle imp. Aren’t you glad I did not include this idea in the post about where ideas come from? After all, I am a fiction writer. I get my jollies from telling lies in story form. And bottle imps, especially angry blue bottle imps named Bruce, or Charlie, or Bill, are more trouble than they are worth. They can curse you with magical spells of infinite silliness and undercut your serious nature for a lifetime.

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Fairy Tales and Wishing Wells

If you are on a writer’s journey like I am, you have my sympathy. I am not saying it is not worth it. But if it is going painlessly easy for you, you are not doing it right.

If you are doing it right, you are dredging your soul deeply with a huge jagged-edged bucket to find those small gemstones of truth and life and meaning, and then trying to arrange it all into patterns and genres and stories that are artful enough not to just look like a pile of random rocks. If you do it for a lifetime, you may be lucky enough to create a masterpiece or two, a finely-crafted jeweled creation that dazzles the eye and captures the heart of the reader.

I have always been cursed with high intelligence and a vividly over-active imagination. So, in some sense, I was always destined to be some kind of a fantasy writer with dragons, unicorns, wizards, and such crap dancing in my head, and polluting it by farting rainbows too often. Fiction-writing, by its very nature has to tell a lot of lies to get to the truth. It also has to be, in large parts, autobiographical in nature to be any good. You have to write about what you actually know. Because making stuff up without real-world references will only produce crap that you yourself (meaning you, the writer-you) can only see as mud-brown dhrek.

Therefore, my stories have to be the thing that I label as Surrealism. Many experts would call it that too. It is expressed in highly metaphorical imagery, as in a boy moving in with his father and step-family at a nudist park where everybody is naked most of the time, and the boy sees practically everyone as a faun from Greek myths. (A Field Guide to Fauns) ‘Where a boy loses his whole family in a car accident in France and must rebuild himself in the US with family he has never even met before and he does it by putting on clown paint and singing sad songs, and visiting a dream world inhabited by clowns who might actually be angels. (Sing Sad Songs) Or a girl recovering from the grief of her father’s suicide during a once-in-a-lifetime blizzard where she is saved from snow-ghosts by a magical hobo and runaway orphans from a stranded Trailways bus. (Snow Babies) The reality of these stories depends on a willing suspension of disbelief challenged by a myriad of disparate things thrown together into a kaleidoscope narrative.

I have been thinking deeply about the nature of my own writing experience as I spent most of a year working to promote my books through an online author-review exchange called Pubby during a pandemic unlike anything seen in a century.

The author-review exchange thing has been a very mixed blessing. More than half of the reviews I have gotten on my work are done by authors seeking to earn points for their own books to be reviewed by cheating. They don’t actually try to read the books. Instead, they look at other existing reviews and try to cobble together some lies that don’t show any original thinking and merely parrot what other reviewers have said.

And while some reviews come from reviewers like me who work hard at reading and understanding the book and giving honest reactions that delight me by pointing out the things they actually connected with and understood in my books, other reviewers react with unexplained horror at something they found offensive to their own world view in my books, painting them in harsh terms, in one case even calling the book child-pornography and ridiculing the authors of the good reviews as someone who didn’t understand what they were reading.

But even the bad reviews are a blessing, in that they prove that someone has actually read my books. I cannot explain why that is so important, but it is.

So, hopefully you see now why I am talking about fairy tales. A writer’s journey is hard. It burns your very soul. And you are not very likely to see any rewards but the intangible ones. If you are a fellow writer on your own writer’s journey, well, I sympathize. And I can only wish you well.

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