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.
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”.
Certain puns are just so wrong in a fundamental way. That’s right. They are both fun and mental. So that’s wrong.
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.
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.
Putting this in a file my wife could find on my laptop… Yes, that was wrong.
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?
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.
My 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 is odd about the “Wrong File”, It is so wrong that it is right.
I have always loved using weird, wild, and goofy words to describe things when I am trying to be funny. But recently I was saddened to learn that a word I have liked using in the past, “dingleberry”, is actually a poo-poo word. I am very much on the Red Skelton side of the question of using bad words. I mean, I don’t find direct use of obscene language and harsh Anglo-Saxon swear words to be very funny. Shock humor and gross-out humor do not appeal to me the way more whimsical word-play does.
Betelgeuse is a funny word because it is the name of an actual red-giant Star in the Milky Way Galaxy, while at the same time sounding like juice made from beetles. And, of course, there is the little matter of a hilarious Tim Burton movie about a gross-out ghost with an evil agenda. The parts of a word can make or break the comic gravity of the word. As much as I previously liked “dingleberry” as a goofy insult word, the “dingle” part is giving me pause. I have discovered that a “dingle” is not only the v-cleft in a valley between two mountains, it is also derived from “dung”. A “dingleberry” describes a dangling “berry” of poop like the ones sometimes found on the fur of my dog’s behind. Yetch! I can’t even use a label like that on a detestable buffoon like Donald Trump. It bothers me that it suggests the color brown rather than the proper orange. Trump requires a word that translates to something more like “flaming orange Kool-aid man”.
So, I guess I need to focus on other weird, wild, and goofy words as I continue to try to be funny. The dinglebunnies of my comic fantasies need to be “kerpoppled”… the act of “poppling”, to move in a tumbling, irregular manner, as in boiling water. Do away with poo-poo humor, Mickey, old lad! You need some new goofy words.
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.
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.)
Have you ever noticed that some celebrities with weird names are recognizable no matter how badly you mess up or mangle their names?
For example, take a name like Justin Timberlake.
If you call him Timber Just-in-the-lake, everyone still knows who you mean.
Yes, I’m talking about Laker Timberjust, that singer who used to be famous when he sang with that group Out O’ Sink. You know, that guy named Joozin Mimbolake who caused Joanie Jackelson’s wardrobe malfunction in the Superbowl. Muffin Limbersnake… you know, that guy.
Well, there’s this other actor named Ving Rhames.
Okay, that’s too scary to contemplate. Well, there’s always Kenderbick Bumbersnatch! He’s always good for a name-mangling good joke.
Very astute literary allusion delivered with Sherlockian poise, Benickle Bumberbatch!
I can think of a number of name mangles that make me laugh. Bumbershoot Bandersnatch, or Bimbleroot Snoodersnatch, or Smogthedragon Paddlebatch. What mangled names can you think of for the Mangled Name Game? You can put your bubbling genius-type answers to that question in the comments. For these guys, or any other mangle-able celebrity names you can think of.
I have to because somebody has to control the words.
People are made of words. Their identity, their inner self, their reason for existence… all made of words. The very thoughts in their heads are… words.
If I want to control the words I am made of, then I must be the writer who writes his own story.
I don’t want anyone else to write the words that essentially become me. Do you?
Of course, authors create characters. Even autobiographers create characters. Carl Sandburg could no more make his words into Lincoln than a bird can make its tweets into a cat. Sandburg can, however, help us to understand Lincoln as Carl Sandburg understands the words that are Lincoln.
Lincoln probably did not have the words for “bikini girls” in his head when he wrote those words in the second quote. But somebody thought that the picture would help us understand the words. By all accounts, Lincoln was not a particularly happy man leading a particularly happy life. But he showed us the meaning of his words when he stood firm against the strong winds of harsh words and bad ideas in a terrible time. And he was as happy about it as he made up his mind to be.
I, too, have not lived a particularly happy life. But I was always the “teacher with a sense of humor” in the classroom, and students loved me for it. Funny people are often not happy people. But they make themselves out of funny words because laughter heals pain, and jokes are effective medicine. And so I choose to write comedy novels. Novels that are funny even though they are about hard things like freezing to death, losing loved ones, being humiliated, being molested, and fear of death. Magical purple words can bring light to any darkness. I am the words I choose to write in my own story. The words not only reveal me, they make me who I am. And it is up to me to write those words. Other people might wish to do it for me. But they really can’t. The words are for me alone to write.
And so it is imperative that I write my words in the form of my novels, my essays, and this goofy blog post. I am writing myself to life, even if no one ever reads my writing.
Yesterday’s post got me thinking about how words and the power behind words can actually hurt people. They can you know. Words like “brainiac”, “bookworm”, “nerd”, “spaz”, “geek”, and “absent-minded professor” were used as weapons against me to make me cry and warp my self-image when I was a mere unformed boy. I do not deny that I was smarter than the average kid. I also recognize that my lot in life was probably better than that of people assaulted with words like “fatty”, “moron”, “loser”, and “queer”. Being skinny as a child, there was actually only one of those deadly words that was never flung my direction. Words like that have the power, not only to hurt, but even to cripple and kill.
We all stand naked at times before a jury of our peers, and often they decide to throw stones.
I try to commit acts of humor in this blog. Or, at least, acts of verbal nit-witted goofiness that make at least me laugh. I have been told by readers and students and those forced to listen that I only think I am funny, and I am a hopelessly silly and pointless old man (a special thank you to Miss Angela for that last example, used to tell me off in front of a science class I was substitute teaching years ago.) But those words do not hurt me. I am immune to their power because I know what the words mean and I am wizard enough to shape, direct, and control their power.
I have stated before that I don’t approve of insult humor (usually right before calling Trump a pumpkin-head, or otherwise insulting other members of the ruling Empire of Evil Idiots). And I don’t mean to shame others or make them feel belittled by my writing. But sometimes it happens and can’t be helped.
This blog isn’t about entertainment. I am not a stand-up comedian working on joke material. I use this blog as a laboratory for creating words and ideas. It is mostly raw material that I mean to shape into gemstones that can be used to decorate or structurally support my crown jewel novels. I use it to piece ideas together… stitch metaphors and bake gooseberry pies of unusual thinking. I use it to reflect on what I have written and what I have been working on. And sometimes, like today, I use it to reflect on how readers take what I have written and respond or use it for ideas of their own. That’s why I never reject or delete comments. They are useful, even when they are barbed and stinging. I made an entire post out of them yesterday.
I try hard myself to be tough in the face of hurtful words. You have to learn that essential Superman skill to be a middle school and high school teacher. It is there in those foundries for word-bullets that the most hurtful words are regularly wielded. The skill is useful for when you need the word-bullets to bounce off you, especially if you are standing between the shooter and someone else. But I can never feel completely safe. Some words are kryptonite and will harm me no matter what I do. Some words you simply must avoid.
Anyway, there is my essay on hurtful words. If you want to consider all of that being my two cents on the matter… well, I probably owe you a dollar fifty-five.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Things are not what they seem. Life throws curve balls across the plate ninety percent of the time. Fastballs are rare. And fastballs you can hit are even rarer. But if Life is pitching, who is the batter? Does it change the metaphor and who you are rooting for if the batter is Death?
If you think this means that I am planning on dying because of the Coronavirus pandemic, well, you would be right. Of course, I am always planning for death with every dark thing that bounces down the hopscotch squares of the immediate future. That’s what it means to be a pessimist. No matter what bad thing we are talking about, it will not take ME by surprise. And if I think everything is going to kill me, sooner or later I have to be right… though, hopefully, much later.
I keep seeing things that aren’t there. Childlike faces keep looking at me from the top of the stairs, but when I focus my attention there, they disappear. And I know there are no children in the house anymore since my youngest is now legally an adult. And the chimpanzee that peeked at me from behind the couch in the family room was definitely not there. I swear, it looked exactly like Roddy McDowell from the Planet of the Apes movies, whom I know for a fact to be deceased. So, obviously, it has to be Roddy McDowell’s monkey-ghost. I believe I may have mentioned before that there is a ghost dog in our house. I often catch glimpses of its tail rounding the corner ahead of me when my own dog is definitely behind me. And I am sure I shared the facts before that Parkinson’s sufferers often see partial visions of people and faces (and apparently dogs) that aren’t really there, and that my father suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. So, obviously it is my father and not me that is seeing these things… He’s just using my eyeballs to do it with.
But… and this is absolutely true even if it starts with a butt… the best way to deal with scary possibilities is to laugh at them. Jokes, satire, mockery, and ludicrous hilarity expressed in big words are the proper things to use against the fearful things you cannot change. So, this essay is nothing but a can of mixed nutz. Nutzy nuts. And fortunately, peanut allergies are one incurable and possibly fatal disease I don’t have. One of the few.
If you have the bad habit of reading this particular blog more than once, then you are probably aware that I used to be a public school teacher. Even worse, I used to be a middle school English teacher. Aagh! Seventh graders! It explains a lot about how life has warped my intelligence, personality, and world view. It also explains somewhat where I found such a fountain-like source for some of the worst jokes you ever heard.
Now, as to the question of why I have chosen in my retirement early-onset senility to become a humor-blogger… well, that is simply not something I can answer in one post… or even a thousand. But kids are the source of my goofball clown-brain joking around.
Kid-humor, you see, is stunted and warped in weird ways by the time period you are talking about. The eighties, nineties, two thousands, and the tens are all very different. And those are the various sets of students that I attempted to learn moose bowling from by teaching them English.
Still, there are certain universal constants.
Potty humor really kills. If you want to make a thirteen-year-old crack up with laughter, roll around on the floor, and maybe wet his or her pants, then you only need to work the “poop” word, or the “nickname for Richard” word, or the “Biblical word for donkey” word into the conversation. Of course the actual words, even though we all know what they actually are, are magical words. If you actually say them to kids in school as their teacher, those words can actually make you magically and permanently disappear from the front of the classroom. All kids are big fans of George Carlin and his seven words, even though most of them have never heard of him.
And violent humor is popular with kids from all decades. The most common punch line in the boys’ bathroom is, “… and then he kicked him in the Biblical word for donkey!” followed closely in second place by, “… and then she kicked him in the Biblical word for donkey!” I am told (for I don’t actually go in such scary places myself) that in the girls’ bathroom the most popular punch line is, “…so I kicked him right in the soccer balls, and he deserved it!” Why girls are apparently obsessed with soccer, I don’t know… or particularly care.
So my education in humor began with bad-word jokes, slapstick humor, put-downs, and rude noises coming from unfortunate places. Humor in the classroom is actually a metaphorical mine field laced with tiger traps, dead-falls that end with an anvil hitting you on the head, or being challenged to a life-or-death game of moose bowling. (Don’t know what moose bowling is? Moose bowling is a very difficult game that, in order to knock down all the pins and win, you have to learn to roll a moose down the alley.) Sounds like I spend too much time watching cartoons and playing video games, doesn’t it? Well, there’s more. And it gets worse from here. But I will spare you that until the next time I am foolish enough to try making excuses for my really bad jokes.
Peaches, it seems, mean something I don’t really need to be talking about here when used in their emoji form. Especially by teenage boys and girls texting each other and sending pictures to each other to learn the secrets of human anatomy in spite of parental prohibitions. Things that make the teacher in me squirm in my own skin.
But my wife and daughter love eating peaches. And peach cobbler can be a real sensual experience. We often call situations “peachy” when we mean it is all good. And a beautiful woman, a beautiful car, and a lovely sailboat can all be called a “real peach.”
So, while pretty girls are a good thing, and peaches are good food, It is especially a blessing if you have a life full of peaches. That is really “peachy keen.”
Fiona Long, dragon name, Firefang. was a hot peach in The Boy… Forever.
So, let’s reclaim the meaning of peaches from the emojis. For God looked upon them and dectared, “Peaches are good.”