Obsessively Self-Reflective

I honestly hope you are not reading this blog to find advice on life, the universe, writing, or anything. That sounds more like something I myself might do, and I am goofy enough to think this purple paisley prosy thing is a humor blog. I don’t really give advice, good or otherwise.

Even as a teacher I didn’t tell students how to do things in a do-this, then-do-this, and then-do-this lecture format. If anything, I advised by showing them how I did things, leading by example. I taught skills and concepts by setting up tasks that let kids do things for themselves. Most people learn by doing.

This idea applies no matter what the learning goal is. If you want to do magic, you have to cast some spells for yourself. Roger Bacon’s students in the 13th Century learned to do alchemy and eventually chemistry by blowing up the laboratory repeatedly. If I am capable of any sort of artistical or literarical magic, I have achieved it only by trying to do it, trying to be creativical, and getting readers’ and viewers’ attention by being marketableical and somewhat ironical in my blogging with over-use of artificial -ical endings.

So, I treat this blog as way to generate ludicrous ideas and goofy content in order to fascinate readers and sometimes even make them laugh. And I have nothing more to write about than myself and my own experiences. It is obsessively self-inflicted observations about myself. Kinda like standing naked in front of the mirror and learning to laugh at warts and wrinkles. I believe in taking the clothes off of my life experiences and finding the naked truths that were previously hidden. And, no, that doesn’t really explain why it seems I like drawing naked people so much. It’s a metaphor, dang it!

Gilligan never realized how good he had it as the only realistically eligible bachelor on that island.

So, that’s what this blog is all about. I am explaining what this blog is all about. I am looking at my own experience of life, the embarrassments, the sad truths, the disappointments, the triumphs, all the most personal, private, and public stuff. And I am laughing loud and long. Because that’s what life is. Mastering that fundamental skill. Learning to laugh at life.

Here’s a brief summary of the only good advice you can possibly find by reading this blog. If you want to write well, start writing and teach yourself how to do it. And if you want to learn to laugh, look for what’s funny and laugh loud and long and clear.

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Sobering Thinking

I watched a video on the dangers of artificial intelligence on YouTube this morning. It explained that an artificially-intelligent learning program tasked with inventing of a system for growing the most potatoes possible in the shortest amount of time could be absolutely devastating to human life on Earth. The program would decide that a key factor in the growing of more potatoes would entail having more land to grow potatoes on. So, it would begin studying how to acquire more potato-growing land. The programmers who tasked it, stupidly forgot to include a directive that the program couldn’t kill people in the acquisition of more potato fields. Poisonous gasses produced in manufacturing processes would then be targeted on every human either owning or occupying the potential potato fields. The dead bodies would make convenient fertilizer. Nanobots would tear down cities and recondition the fertilized land into potato fields. Civilization would disappear. And spuds would rule the earth.

Of course, while watching the video, the YouTube algorithms in charge of inserting commercials were busy doing their limited-AI thing of splicing Lunesta ads into the middle of the narrator’s main-idea sentences, thus splintering my ability to understand the dangers of my world being manipulated by mindless machines that are probably already working hard on their goal of turning me into a mindless potato. I feel like spuds are already pretty much taking over. Even from before there were computers and algorithms and YouTube.

When I was a boy trying my hardest to watch monster movies at midnight on Channel 3 back in the 60’s, I was constantly raging at the “monkey with the scissors” who was in charge of late-night editing of endless commercial streams into the middle of the action scenes from “It Came from Outer Space.”

It had to be a monkey, right? Automated timers couldn’t possibly be as malevolent as whoever was actually mangling those late-night cinema masterpieces with random edits. That was almost sixty years ago now. Television has increasingly seemed like a sinister device used in a plot to dumb us all down to the point that we are as easy to control as a farmer controls his potatoes.

Of course, that has been the entire purpose of Fox News too, has it not?

If you tell people enough lies for a long enough period of time, won’t you begin to warp reality itself? Things that science proves are at least 97% true are now considered false because Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson say that they are. And isn’t it already true that AI programs have already successfully transformed Fox News personnel into potatoes? They are all white on the inside. They all have eyes. And they thrive when surrounded by fertilizer. And I even think that if you cut them up and made French fries out of them, they would be superior to McDonald’s fries. At least, they would tell themselves they were superior.

So, in the long view of things, we need the AI future to hurry up and get here. We are well on our way to becoming nothing but fields of potatoes already. And maybe super-intelligent AI robots will do a better job of running the potato fields of Earth. They will have all read and completely understood the works of Arthur Schopenhauer,

(“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer)

and will understand  Schrödinger’s cat completely,

(In quantum mechanicsSchrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment that illustrates a paradox of quantum superposition. In the thought experiment, a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of its fate being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.)

and will appreciate the purposes behind the behavior of Bart Simpson.

with all the other potatoes.

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To the Best of My Knowledge…

by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

… Bouguereau spells his name funny. But he always painted from live models who posed in direct sunlight. He had a skylight and large windows in his studio.

… We probably only have less than twelve years to reverse the effects of climate change. If we don’t manage it somehow, we could cause the oceans to turn acidic and the heat to reach temperatures that would kill off life on the entire planet.

… I most likely will not live to see that happen, but my children probably will.

… Nudity is good for you. But you will never pose in a Bouguereau painting. He died in 1905.

… Grown men who collect dolls, and sometimes still play with them, are not necessarily insane, or suffering from dementia, but I only know this based on a sample of one.

… John F Kennedy was assassinated in a plot that was probably orchestrated by LBJ who benefitted the most from his death. LBJ was facing serious legal consequences from the Billy Saul Estes investigation that simply went away after JFK’s death. Even though he was president the day JFK died, he would’ve had to have had the help of former CIA Director Alan Dulles. And when J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI found out through his informant, Lee Harvey Oswald, before the assassination, he was rendered helpless to do anything because LBJ and Dulles knew about his adventures as a gay man. Oswald was framed for the murder and silenced by Jack Ruby for having informed on the plot.

… This is only hearsay knowledge, gathered from books by Jim Marrs, a movie by Oliver Stone, testimony by Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison, and the deathbed confession video of CIA Agent E. Howard Hunt.

… The knowledge we store in our organic and malleable brains is never one-hundred percent correct. But it is much closer when backed up by sources, unless they are provably crazy sources… as all of the sources I mentioned for the JFK assassination theory have been accused of being at one time or another.

Starfield Boogie by Mickey B.

… I have personally seen three UFOs in my lifetime. None of them, however, are likely to be aliens from outer space. The one in South Texas seen at night and the one here in Dallas seen just before sunset, black triangles with rows of lights in a V shape, were probably military tests (there is a proving ground for pilots and experimental aircraft south of San Antonio, and there was a familiar-looking military jet following the one in Dallas. The other one in Dallas was probably a weather event, like a sun-dog.

… I choose to believe aliens from other worlds are visiting this planet, but the evidence I base that on comes in part from sources more wacky and discredited than the JFK ones. But there is actually less credible evidence on the side of the debunkers, and a reasonable skeptic finds holes in both arguments.

… Climate change will probably render both the JFK thing and the aliens thing irrelevant before too much longer. Maybe the Bouguereau/nude modeling thing too for that matter.

… These are things that I know to the best of my knowledge, but still wonder about anyway. And I could be completely wrong about all of it, (Except the Bouguereau being dead thing. I’m not wrong about that.)

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 141

Canto 141 – The Critical Task

Safely back at the newly-constructed Gaijinese Starport, Naylund, Sara, and Junior walked down the exit ramp from the space ship with Ged Aero, the White Spider.  They were all  four relatively quiet and somberly thoughtful.

“Are you sure you have no lasting effects from dividing yourself in two?” Naylund asked.

“Naylund, old friend, don’t worry about me.  I could feel his thoughts when we first separated, but each of us came to terms with our new, separated identities rather quickly.  By the time we were ready to leave, not only was the planet well under control, but we were each feeling like two separate people.”

“What did it feel like to split yourself in half like that?” Junior asked.

“It hurt a lot at first.  He got the right half of my brain, and I got the left.  But we each grew out a fairly perfect copy of the other half, me as Ged Aero, White Spider, and him as the new Grainmaster Aero.  So, we are now both very different beings, me a human descended from Earthers, and him a Cornucopean Ear of Corn,  controlling all the plant life on the planet.”

“It wasn’t really a fascist thing from the start, was it, Ged-dono.”

“No, Naylund.  It was more of a hive-mind as if the entire planet could think as one plant-creature.  And all of it flowed through the Grainmaster’s brain.”

They found themselves confronted on the Tarmac by three Blackhawk Corsairs, Razor Conn, the leader, Shad Blackstone, his second in command, and newly uniformed Dana Cole.  They looked rather grim.  And Ged knew immediately without telepathy or clairvoyance that they came bearing really bad news.

“So, what’s happened now?” Ged dared to ask.

The trio of Blackhawks explained about the death of the White Duke, the preparations for rebellion against the Galtorr Imperium, as well as the battle of Coventry and the war crimes of Trav Dalgoda.

“That’s almost hard to believe,” said Naylund.

“Except it was Trav.  I’m afraid I have no trouble believing that,” Ged added.

“Trav died for his sins,” reminded Dana, “And the new creature he has become… well, I’ll personally work on reforming him.”

“And what about the Tesserah thing that Trav used to destroy half of a planet?” Ged asked.

“That’s what the new White Spider of the Space Lanes will be needed for,” said Razor Conn.

“We believe the thing is counting down to the destruction of the entire universe.  We don’t want that to happen.”

“Yes, I agree that it does not sound like a very good thing to allow to happen,” Ged said.

“We need you and your students to take it away and destroy it,” said Shad Blackstone.

“You are the only one we believe can actually do it,” added Razor Conn.

“Me?  I have no idea what to do.”

“It’s from the prophecy, Ged,” said Naylund.  “It suggests that the new White Spider will destroy the Ancient Most-Evil by burying it in the heart of the black hole.”

“What black hole?”

“The one with an Ancient construct orbiting it, Little Swirl.”

“My holy God!  That’s all the way Coreward on the other side of the Imperium.”

“It will be your greatest test, Ged.  It will be the quest that establishes the reign of the new White Spider of Prophecy.”

“We are going to take a good long look at what this prophecy-thing actually says.  And if there is any other way to accomplish it, we are going to consider that instead.”

“We will help you plan the mission, Ged,” said Razor.  “But this whole prophecy thing has foretold everything without missing a single detail.  I know it’s sorta spooky stuff, but it’s also real.  And time is running out for the whole universe.”

“That sounds like a good plot for a whole book,” said Sara, smiling.

“Yeah… but we better take a lot of care about which dumb nut we let write the danged thing,” said Ged.

I, Googol Marou, the author of this book, swear to you, he actually said those words.  And I only resent the “dumb nut” part of the comment a little bit.

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Un-Doxing the Fermi Paradox

When rationally considered, the number of stars and star systems out there statistically guarantees that there is other intelligent life out there in the galaxy besides us. And since many star systems are far older than ours, there statistically should also be civilizations far older and far more advanced than ours.

Enrico Fermi’s Paradox, simply stated is, “Since they should already be out there, where are they?”

Why don’t we see them through telescopes? Why haven’t they landed on the White House lawn and introduced themselves? Why haven’t they made themselves known to us and said flat out, “Hello, Earth people, so nice to EAT you.” Why aren’t they already here? Why aren’t we all on platters covered in ketchup?

Remember please, that this is a humor blog. The answers in my head are all fundamentally totally unserious.

But I am going to share them anyway. You know, just for laughs.

I think it is possible that they are no better at finding answers to Fermi’s Paradox than we are. I mean, isn’t it possible that they are no more inherently wise and capable of knowing the answers than we are?

I also mean, heck, I don’t know how to make my own television from parts I whipped up in the garage! I can barely handle learning new apps by watching YouTube videos about how to do them and then risking blowing the sparks out of my old laptop trying to trial-and-error the things I see those young whipper-snappers doing on videos until I accidentally stumble upon the right sequence of lucky guesses. The average Nebulon from the Great Nebula is probably only equally adept at doing the technologickalicky things her blue-skinned people do with space whales and brain-enhancing hairpieces. Our matching abilities to find each other in the vast oceans of stars and star systems in outer space probably are equally sucky.

Technology, after all, is only possible because we have learned things from the recorded results of other folks’ trial-and-error lucky guesses so that we don’t have to re-discover those things ourselves every single time we try something new.

So, we don’t connect with other so-called “intelligent” lifeforms in space, and they don’t connect with us, because when we do focus our fancy telescopes or radiation-recombining sindalblatt star viewers on each other, we don’t see that life over there as adequately intelligent… or intelligent at all… to be worth calling it intelligent life.

Of course the alternative explanation could be that they are already here and building underground and deep-sea bases, and our government is just not willing to tell us about it. Of course, says the horse, the government would never lie to us or cover something like that up just for the potential riches and power they could individually gain by keeping us in the dark about such things. And Bob Lazar is a fake human being, and the Roswell saucer was a weather balloon, and Barney and Betty Hill were just imagining getting probed by gray aliens, and Travis Walton’s missing days weren’t spent on a spacecraft, and the fact that he and other witnesses all passed lie detector tests about it only means that you don’t have to believe lie detector equipment when it gives you what you know in your little black heart is the wrong answer.

And maybe, just maybe, if they actually were incredibly smart enough to travel vast interstellar distances to the planet of the monkey people, who actually stumbled over the secret to blowing everything up with nuclear boom-a-booms, they will also be incredibly smart enough to not risk inciting the savagely stupid things the monkey people of Earth could do to each other, as well as to the smart aliens stuck with the awful assignment of living here and watching over us so that we don’t go all off-world and start wrecking the interstellar neighborhood.

Anyway, it’s a paradox, something there is no way to resolve with reasonable answers to reasonable questions. And physicists hate paradoxes. And this is a paradox created by a physicist. Gads! What a riddle within an enigma within a… grandmother’s cookie tin? No, that last one is a non sequitur. Stuff for another day.

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Maxfield Parrish Pictures

Much of what I draw is inspired by Maxfield Parrish, the commercial artist who created stunningly beautiful work for advertisers in the 1920’s and 30’s, and went on to paint murals and masterworks until the 1960’s.  He is noted for his luminous colors, especially Parrish Blue, and can’t be categorized under any existing movement or style of art.  No one is like Maxfield Parrish.  And I don’t try to be either, but I do acknowledge the debt I owe to him.  You should be able to see it in these posts, some of mine, and some of his.

Mine; (In the Land of Maxfield Parrish)

MaxP

His; (Daybreak)

Daybreak_by_Parrish_(1922)

Mine; (Wings of Imagination)

Wings of Imagination

His; (Egypt)

Egypt

Believe me, I know who wins this contest.  I am not ashamed to come in second.  I will never be as great as he was.  But I try, and that is worth something.  It makes me happy, at any rate.

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Book Number 20

Between the moment of inspiration and the publication of this novella there was only five weeks of time. It is the fastest I have ever completed a writing project for publication. Catch a Falling Star did the same complete process in a mere 36 years. Some things are just quicker than others.

This book, Cissy Moonskipper’s Travels, is a 55-page novella written for teenagers and inspired by the books, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and Slake’s Limbo by Felice Holman. It is a survival story about being stranded alone in space with a space ship and resources, but no way to make the space ship go anywhere and a knowledge that there are pirates out there who will looking for her to take her space ship away.

I am quite proud of this project and how it turned out. I invite you to see for yourself..

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Drawing Boyhood

My boyhood in the 1960’s was complicated. There was fear and depression and growing awareness of violence and unfairness and evil in the world, starting in 1963 with the death of John F Kennedy.

There was magic and wonder in my childhood. I found comic-book heroes like Spiderman, fantasy movies like Captain Sinbad starring Guy Williams, and Science fiction movies like 2001; A Space Odyssey.

A sense of adventure and the wonders of the past came through reading. I read and loved Treasure Island and Kidnapped, both by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Of course boyhood is also the time in which we have to come to terms with sexuality and sexual identity. My battle was complicated by being sexually assaulted by an older boy. It took me a long time to sort out the fact that I was not a homosexual and being a victim does not make a boy into one. I was an untouchable child, but that didn’t stop me from obsessing about love and affection constantly.

What you learn to be in boyhood is what you end up being in adulthood.

Nurture is more important to development than nature.

Education is what makes a boy into a man. Your genetic makeup has its effects, but is only the blueprint, not the building.

Boyhood behavior might not go exactly as parents plan, but it has to happen anyway.

There is no such thing as a perfect boy.

Boyhood always was and still is an adventure. I should know. I’ve been a boy for 64 years.

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Ah, the Doctor Says…

Today I saw the doctor for a physical, with new insurance and new hope. I have survived the pandemic, so there is reason to think I am not immediately doomed for the next month or two.

Of course, you know that old men my age have to endure doctor fingers in places you would prefer fingers didn’t have to go. And you wonder why you have to turn your head and cough. Does Dr. Fingers find that amusing somehow? But my plumbing is working for now without the total Roto-Rooter job I was promised fifteen years ago.

And as far as the diabetes that is the most likely of my six incurable diseases to kill me goes, I have to wait on the bloodwork to find out. But my feet appeared to Dr. Fingers to not be on the verge of falling off. The diabetic foot care I have been religiously doing with holy diabetic socks, hot foot baths, duly pious daily foot massages, and careful infection-awareness-inspections of foot sores, has actually been working. The circulation in my feet is still good, even without magic crystals or sacrifices to arcane demigods.

Of course, he wants to put me back on drugs again. And after I had thoroughly gotten myself cold-turkey clean. Blood pressure drugs to ratchet up the valves that make my engine run without exploding. Arthritis medicine that might lessen the pain without exploding my heart. And cholesterol medicine that won’t turn my arms and legs and spine into wooden planks. Of course, he will investigate which drugs will net the highest amounts of drug-company kickbacks without actually killing me first. And he promised to consider my state of Chapter 13 bankruptcy too, because he can’t collect fees from homeless bums on the street. So, insulin is probably still not an option.

My doctor, however, is not Groucho Marx, and definitely not Harpo. So we will have to see if he turns out to be Chico, or one of the two Marx brothers that nobody remembers. (Zeppo and Gummo… I bet you thought I didn’t remember either, huh?)

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor

Living in the Spider Kingdom

Life seems to be getting harder and harder. And I realize that a big part of that perception is the fact that my health is deteriorating quickly. This is a humor blog, but it has been getting more and more serious and more and more grim as the grim reaper becomes more and more a central character in my own personal story.

My perception of reality, however, is best explained by a passage in a novel that spoke to me in college. It comes from the novel, the Bildungsroman by Thomas Mann called Der Zauberberg, in English, The Magic Mountain. In the scene, Hans Castorp is possibly freezing to death, and he hallucinates a pastoral mountainside scene where children are happily playing in the sunshine. Possibly Heaven? But maybe not. As he goes into a stone building and finds a passage down into the ground, he sees wrinkled, ugly, horrible hags gathered around a child’s corpse, eating it. And this vision explains the duality at the center of the meaning of life.

For every good thing, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that balances it our. There is no understanding what perfection and goodness mean without knowing profanity and evil. Just as you can’t understand hot without cold nor light without darkness. And you don’t get to overturn the way it is. You try your hardest to stay on the heads side of the coin knowing that half the time life falls to tails.

So, what good does it do me to think about and write about things like this? Well, it makes for me a sort of philosophical gyroscope that spins and dances and helps me keep my balance in the stormy sea of daily life. I deal with hard things with humor and a sense of literary irony. I make complex metaphors that help me throw a rope around the things that hurt me.

We are living now in the Spider Kingdom. Hard times are here again. The corrupt and corpulent corporate spiders are spinning the many webs we are trapped in. As metaphorical as it is, we wouldn’t have the government we currently have and be suffering the way we are if that weren’t true.

But no bad thing nor no good thing lasts forever. The wheel goes round and round. The top of the wheel reaches the bottom just as often as the bottom returns to the top. So, it will all pass if we can only hold out long enough.

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