Category Archives: strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mickian Fantasy Art

There is a reason why anything in my artwork starting with a rabbit is assumed to be autobiographical. I raised rabbits as a 4-H project from about the age of 10 and we kept rabbits in pens until I was finishing my undergraduate degree. (Rabbit chores fell to my little brother when I was away from home.) In many ways, I was a rabbit-man. My personal avatar as a school teacher was Reluctant Rabbit.

The panda known as Mandy in my cartoon world is an avatar of my wife, an immigrant from the Pandalore Islands.

There is often an exaggerated sense of adventure in my cartoonally weird Paffoonies, the very name of which is a fantasy word.

I have been known to actually believe gingerbread can be magical enough for gingerbread men to come to life once baked. It is the reason I bite the legs off first, so they can’t run away.

I have been known to see elves, fairies, and numerous other things that aren’t really there. In fact, a whole secret hidden kingdom of them inhabited the schoolyard in Iowa where I attended grades K through 6. They were all mostly three inches tall. The biggest ones, like dragons reaching only about six inches tall at their largest.

Of course I am afraid of death, evil, and… (shudder) mummies.
I think of art and story-telling as a form of music. I am a troubadour whose songs (like this one) are often completely silent.
My fantasy art tends to be more “comic book” than “art gallery”.

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Really Odd Things are in the “Wrong File”

On my computer I keep a lot of picture files for inspiration both as an artist and a writer.  One of those files is labeled simply the “Wrong File”.  Everything in that picture file is in there for the wrong reason.  Or does a wrong file need to be filled with the wrong stuff for the right reason?  I don’t know.  There is a lot wrong with this world.  The fact that I am going to post stuff from the “Wrong File” is merely proof of that.

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Liking Grumpy Cat posts on Facebook is an oxymoron of the lowest order.  It is an example of what is wrong in the “Wrong File”.

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Certain puns are just so wrong in a fundamental way.  That’s right.  They are both fun and mental.  So that’s wrong.

 

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As an educator I am aware that this thing we thought was true is now an untrue fact.  That’s wrong also.  My left brain tells me so.  But my right brain tells me it feels right.

Yes, these things are wrong.  Just wrong.

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Why did I put this in here?  This is not wrong.  This is right.  So I must’ve put it in the wrong file.  So that’s all right, then.

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Putting this in a file my wife could find on my laptop… Yes, that was wrong.

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Saddle shoes have been wrong for many years now.  I still draw them on the feet of kids, especially girls, especially school-age girls, and that is especially especially wrong because it means I am just too old and out of fashion.’

Boy!  Is that wrong!

These things are all older than me, but I remember two of them.  Is that wrong?

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I’m not sure I believe this is wrong.  So is that wrong?  To believe that it is right, I mean?  I’m probably wrong.

 

 

988289_10201821431282097_1326790710_nMy wife constantly tells me I am wrong… about everything.  And I probably am.  So that is not right.  And if you think that’s my wife in the picture, you would be wrong.  She’s much larger than that in real life.

And many people find surrealism is wrong.  Surreal is when you put wrong things together on purpose to make something that almost seems right.

So that’s what odd about the “Wrong File”,  It is so wrong that it is right.

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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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Islands of Identity

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Who am I?

Why do I do the things that I do?

No man is an island.  John Donne the English poet stated that.  And Ernest Hemingway quoted it… and wove it into his stories as a major theme… and proceeded to try to disprove it.  We need other people.  I married an island girl from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.  She may have actually needed me too, though she will never admit it.

Gilligans Island

When I was a young junior high school teacher in the early eighties, they called me Mr. Gilligan.  My classroom was known as Gilligan’s Island.  This came about because a goofball student in the very first class on the very first day said, “You look like Gilligan’s Island!”  By which he meant I reminded him of Bob Denver, the actor that played Gilligan.  But as he said it, he was actually accusing me of being an island.  And no man is an island.  Thank you, Fabian, you were sorta dumb, but I loved you for it.

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You see, being Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island was not a bad thing to be.  It was who I was as a teacher.  Nerdy, awkward, telling stories about when I was young, and my doofy friends like Skinny Mulligan.  Being a teacher gave me an identity.  And Gilligan was stranded on the Island with two beautiful single women, Mary Ann and Ginger.  Not a bad thing to be.  And I loved teaching and telling stories to kids who would later be the doofy students in new stories.

But we go through life searching for who we are and why we are here.  Now that I am retired, and no longer a teacher… who am I now?  We never really find the answer.  Answers change over time.  And so do I.

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For the Love of Korngold

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When I was in Cow College at Iowa State University I spent most of my study time listening to KLYF Radio in Des Moines.  They would eventually transform into an easy-listening music station, but the time I truly lived a K-LYFe was when they played classical music.  And it was there that I first fell deeply in love with the Saturday Matinee stylings of  Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the first incarnation of John Williams of Star Wars fame.  Yes, movie music.  Classical movie music.  And it seemed, mostly movie music for Errol Flynn movies.

 

 

 

My sister was always a lover of Errol Flynn movies, and when KGLO TV Channel 3 would play one on the Saturday Movie Matinee in the early afternoon, we would have to watch it, the whole thing, no matter how many times we were repeating the same four movies.  Nancy would memorize the lines from the Olivia deHavilland love scenes.  I would memorize the sword fight scenes with Errol and Evil Basil Rathbone (Good Basil was Sherlock Holmes, and we had to watch those too.)  Early evenings on those Saturdays were all about playing pirate and Captain Blood adventures.  Or better yet, Robin Hood.

 

 

 

But the music of adventure was by the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  He did the sound tracks for Captain Blood, Robin Hood, and the Sea Hawk.

I sincerely love the corny old movie matinee music because it was not only genius-level mood music and story-telling in a classical music instrumental masterpiece, but because even now it takes me back to the boy I was at twelve years old, playing pirate on Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.   Making Robin Hood bows out of thin tree branches and arrows out of dried ragweed stalks.  Sword fighting to the death with sticks with my cousin Bob, who was always Basil Rathbone in my mind. while I’m sure I was Basil Rathbone in his mind.

To be honest, there is much more to Korngold than I have relentlessly gushed about here like a hopeless nerdling fan-boy in the throws of a geeky movie passion.  He was a musical child prodigy like Mozart.  He wrote a ballet called Der Schneemann (the Snow Man) when he was only eleven, and became the talk of the town in Vienna, Austria in 1908.  He became the conductor of the Hamburg Opera by 1921.  He wrote some very fine classical music in the 20’s that still rings through orchestra halls to this day before coming to America in the early 30’s with film director Max Reinhardt.  He scored his first film in 1935, adding music to Reinhardt’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  He was fortunate to escape Europe just as the Nazis were coming to power in Germany, and also at the right time to team up with new movie star sensation, Errol Flynn.  He won his first Oscar for the musical score of the movie Anthony Adverse in 1936 and he won his second for The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.  He died in 1957, a year after I was born.  But I promise, I didn’t kill him.  I was in college in the 1970’s when his music underwent a revival, complete with renewed popularity.

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His music was pure gold to listen to in the fields of corn in Iowa in the 1970’s.  It was just as good as that last pun was terrible.  So, in other words, really, really, spectacularly good.  It was the music that scored my childhood fantasy adventures.

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I Love to Laugh

It began in childhood with the Red Skelton Show.    Every Wednesday night it a was a refuge for me.  And refuge was a critical idea for me.  I was a child hiding a terrible secret from the entire world.  At times I hated myself.  Twice as a teen I came very close to choosing suicide over life.  The person I most needed to hide from was myself.  And humor helped.  Red Skelton’s gentle humor helped me to not only escape from myself for a while, it taught me to laugh at my own foibles and not take things quite so seriously.

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In my college years I discovered humor in written form.  Mark Twain swiftly earned my utter devotion as I read not only Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but Roughing It, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Mysterious Stranger, and The Autobiography of Mark Twain.  You know, there are a large number of things in Mark Twain’s humorous books that make you cry, that make you angry, and make you think deep thoughts.  I basically discovered that humor is a way that smart people choose to think of things which helps to keep you sane and basically un-suicided.

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A beautiful portrait by artist Emily Stepp

It is obvious that some people become very skilled at humor because they have used it all their lives to fight the darkness .  Robin Williams is only few years older than I am.  In many ways his life has paralleled my own (obviously minus the wealth and fame in my case… but what would’ve happened if Robin had become a school teacher?)  I have depended on Robin Williams’ movies to keep me going, giving me insights in how to talk to kids, how to be a parent, and how to empathize with others.  Of course, I haven’t yet taken some of his movie advice.  I never put on a mask and a dress to deceive my own children.  But only time will tell.

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I obsess about humor and how you create it.  I gorge on things like the works of Dave Barry.  Do you know who he is?  Florida newspaper columnist who writes books about everyday life and the fools who live it?  I have to do a post on Dave Barry, because he makes me laugh so hard that milk shoots out of my nose, sometimes when I am not even drinking milk… believe me, I don’t know how that works either.

 

 

I love to laugh.  It makes the world right again.  I have laughed an awful lot for almost an entire lifetime now.  I treasure all the funny people I have known.  And I need to continue to try to make people laugh up until the very end.  Because the world is too often not a funny place.  It can be full of badness and sadness and suffering.  And as Mark Twain  so aptly pointed out, “Against the assault of laughter… nothing can stand.”

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The Puzzle of Life 5 : What is True?

One thing that I am pretty sure of is that Mickey has no idea what is really, fundamentally true. Is it possible that nothing actually is?

Of course, I have to acknowledge this weird old foofy guy. It is true that I am thinking right now, in spite of what my critics may tell you. And as I am aware that there is thinking going on, then I can be fairly certain that I do, in fact, exist.

So, since I exist, this is probably not a soap-bubble universe that could go “Pop!” at any second. But I can’t be sure. My eyes repeatedly lie to me. That has to be what my repeated sightings of the ghost dog in our house is all about. All of my senses lie to me in various ways. The world could all be a dream that I am having as some kind of Olympic-level super-sleeper. Apparently I am such a talented sleeper I can even dream about sleeping.

Of course, since I am willing to pretend that reality is real, there are some things I can do to help myself detect what is most probably true.

Any statement presented as truth needs to be backed up by evidence in the form of verifiable facts, reported and repeatable experimental results, reliable corroborating testimony from verifiable experts, or other scientifically significant correlations with proven facts. For example, “Mickey knows a lot of big words.” This is proven by the first sentence in this foofy paragraph.

But even science doesn’t yield perfect truth. In fact, science operates completely through distrust of the facts and trying to the extreme-est degree to disprove everything it already knows. Back when gravity was understood to be a process where demons invisibly flit around sticking people’s feet to the ground, an angry little antisocial pervert named Isaac was sitting under the apple tree. An apple fell and nearly hit the dyspeptic little caffeine addict on the head. He grumbled a bit about future generations probably defaming him by retelling the story with the apple bouncing off his large-brained nerd-head. So, he determined that if they were going to tell it that way anyway, he would link it with his discovery of a mathematical description of gravity. He sat down at his work table and invented calculus so that he could describe in mathematical precision how the moon was constantly falling towards the earth at the same rate as it moved around the globe of the Earth thus keeping it in orbit. And he proved as well that the apple falling to the earth and missing his head was subject to the very same equations.

But Newtonian mechanics and gravity were only theories. That means that it accounted for the visible effects of gravity, but did not completely answer every associated anomaly. So, then there was this goofy little Germanic guy named Albert who fled the Nazis and had extremely bad hair days and liked to stick out his tongue when photographers pointed their cameras at him. He was well-known for having lots of thought experiments involving fast-moving street cars and their headlights, associated somehow with shrinking rulers and mismatching alarm clocks. And he designed an Astronomy experiment that proved the planet Earth could bend starlight. And then he showed the world how his slowing clocks and speed-of-light street cars actually gave a more thorough description of how the theory of gravity works and called it Relativity.

So, scientific truth is always changing. In fact, it is always moving upward as one scientist stands on the shoulders of the previous scientist, and then another scientist climbs up on his shoulders to reach even higher. Stephen Hawking even climbed up on Albert’s shoulders in his wheelchair.

So, what is actually true in the puzzle of life? Nothing at all that the little liar named Mickey can tell you. You really need to decide what is true for yourself,

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Elsie the Cow

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I was a boy back when the milk man still came around in his blue-and-white panel truck delivering bottles of milk with Elsie the Cow on them.  I don’t remember clearly because I was only 4 years old back when I first became aware of being a boy in this world instead of being something else living somewhere else.

There were many things I didn’t know or understand back then.  But one thing I did know, was that I loved Elsie the Cow.  And why would a farm boy love a cartoon cow?  There were many not-so-sensible reasons.

For one thing, Elsie the Cow reminded me of June Lockhart, Lassie’s mom and the mom from Lost in Space.

Lassie’s Mom, June Lockhart


 It may be that June Lockhart’s eyes reminded me of Elsie’s eyes, being large, soul-full eyes with large black eye lashes.  It may be that she starred in a TV commercial for Borden’s milk in which Elsie winked at me at the end of the commercial.

Or maybe it was because Elsie had calves and was a mom.  And June Lockhart was Lassie’s mom and the mom of Will Robinson, so I associated both of them with my mom, and thus with each other.

      Elsie gave you milk to drink and was always taking care of  you in that way.  Milk was good for you, after all.  My own mom was a registered nurse.  So they were alike in that way too.

And she was constantly defending you against the bulls in your life.  She stood up to Elmer to protect her daughter more than once.  Of course, her son was usually guilty of whatever he was accused of, but she still loved him and kept Elmer from making his “hamburger” threats a reality.

And you can see in numerous ad illustrations that Elsie’s family were basically nudists.  Although she often wore an apron, she was bare otherwise.  And though her daughter often wore skirts and her son wore shorts, Elmer was always naked.  And that didn’t surprise me, because no cow I knew from the farm wore clothes either.  From very early in my life I was always fascinated by nakedness, and I would’ve become a nudist as a youngster if it hadn’t been soundly discouraged by family and society in general.

Proof that Elsie’s family lived the nude life.

Puppets from a Borden’s commercial

So there are many reasons why I have always loved Elsie the Cow.  And it all boils down to the love of drinking milk and that appealing cartoon character who constantly asked you to drink more.

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MessMaster 2018

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Yes, my life is more or less a big ol’ mess.  I am bankrupt.  I am ill constantly.  I am an Uber driver who made $31 in the rain today.  I am a retired middle school teacher and ESL teacher.  So my messy mental conflagrations are certainly understandable.

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I had made a vow back in November I was going to clean the house and put everything in order, especially my room which I use as a studio for writing and drawing.  I even had the dolls, er, action figures all positioned in poses that were dynamic and artsy.  Then G.I. Joe decided he had to insert his nose between firefighter Barbie’s breasts, knocking her fire hat to who-knows-where.  Nothing stays where I put it.  Pictures keep falling off the wall because it is cold enough to harden the plaster-tack that I put them up with.

20180107_081716And, of course, I have hoarding disorder so bad that I can’t resist starting new collections of dolls when toy-makers are putting out the new stuff at Christmas, even though the Princess has thoroughly outgrown dolls.  And I am not alone in having hoarding disorder.  While we were cleaning bedrooms, my daughter found a fluffy rug that would be perfect for the bathroom.  But no.  My wife is saving it.  It has to stay folded and put away where it won’t get dirty.  We have closets stuffed full of clothing and other stuff that is rarely or never used.  And I do not dare throw any of it out or move it to anyplace else.  I can move my stuff, not hers.

But I did complete a collection.  I managed to get enough of the new Justice League figures to make a pretty decent Justice League collection.  20180107_183635

Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg have joined multiple older Batmen, Supermen, and Wonder Women to round out the League.  Of course, I have at least one Green Lantern too.  Though GL wasn’t in the recent movie.

20180107_081914‘There are dolls everywhere in my room, so any attempt to clean starts with picking them up off the floor and putting them somewhere safer.  These four are now living behind the TV.   I just wish they would stay put for a while and quit leaping off shelves when they come alive after midnight every night.

I fully intend to keep on cleaning and Uber driving and writing.  And I will probably continue in my spare time to play with dolls and rearrange stuff.  You have to understand, I am old.  And more than a little goofy.

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The Puzzle of Life 4 : Destiny?

Is there an outcome in our lives straight ahead that can’t be avoided? Is there predestination? Or do we have a choice? And if things are totally random, how can someone like me even exist? I was born in a blizzard. My high school graduation on the football field was interrupted by a sudden thunderstorm and downpour, causing a sudden and chaotic relocation to the school auditorium. i have actually lost a coin flip 12 times in a row, narrowly avoiding the unlucky number thirteen. I even lost the most embarrassing strip poker game of my young life.

So, what is destiny?

As an Existentialist, I can say with some certainty that I believe this statement is true; “Existence precedes essence.”

Of course that means you are now thinking, “What the hell does that mean, you goofy Mickey, you?!”

So, here it is; A cadoopa-keeloopa does not exist. But if I build a complex machine out of tinker toys and Legos that uses a green plastic flag to knock over a chessboard where I am losing a game to the Grim Reaper, and I then name that machine, “cadoopa-keeloopa,” it suddenly exists, and it’s essence of cadoopa-keeloopa-ness has been established. That makes perfect sense, right?

Of course, it doesn’t! Not in the case of considering destiny.

How do you prove that destiny has existence? To know for certain what is going to happen, you must first wait for it to happen. The event that happens is existence. How do you prove that no other happening could take place? The puzzle pieces are designed to fit together in only one way, right? But anybody who has ever done a jigsaw puzzle knows that you can complete the puzzle no matter what order you use to put the pieces together. Someone putting together a 500-piece picture of Michelangelo’s David will invariably start in the middle, putting together David’s penis first and his face second. And those of us who think less logically will start with the corner pieces and do the outer edges first. And no matter the first steps, or the middle steps, you end up with the same picture at the end.

Argue the matter with me if you dare, but we are born, we piece together our lives step by step, and when the picture is complete, we die.

So, Destiny is an essence without a provable existence. God has not fore-ordained any conclusion. A jigsaw puzzle will show you the complete picture on the cover of the box. But God doesn’t put any picture for reference on the box our lives come in. That would be proof of destiny. He doesn’t even provide the box for all the pieces. So, there is no set outcome to our lives on Earth.

Which is a good thing for me. As I have told you. I am one of the unluckiest men to ever live on this planet (and not be wiped out by misfortune in childhood.) So, if God gave me a puzzle box with a picture on the top, I would invariably be missing at least one piece. If not a dozen.

So, the shape, size, and outcomes of our lives have nothing do with destiny. The picture that takes shape as we put together the puzzle of life is completely in our hands. At least the part of it that isn’t someone else’s picture made from someone else’s puzzle pieces. And we all put it all together as willy nilly (or even Milly Vanilly via lip-syncing) as is humanly possible.

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