A Concert Performed For Nobody

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Back in my college days in the late 70’s I came back to the dorm one night late due to research until the library closed. In the entry hall to the dorms there was a piano. I had never seen anybody playing it. But as I got there, there was a student playing it. It was my nerd friend Kip, an engineering major. It was quiet, unassuming Kip. Kip who was so quiet, in fact, that I can’t even remember his last name, or what his voice sounded like. But he was playing the piano in an empty room with nobody listening. He was playing Scott Joplin’s composition “The Entertainer”. He had his back to me, totally lost in the music. He didn’t know I was there. And I… I was transfixed. I realized he was just practicing. But he knew the music right out his head, no sheet music on the piano in front of him. And he played like the ultimate virtuoso. And the music was so good it made my soul tingle.

It occurs to me that that single moment is, for me, a metaphor for my life. It is a concert played for nobody. I am competing only with myself. I am trying to please only myself. And if anybody is listening… I mean really listening… not just looking at the pictures and moving on, I don’t know it. And that is probably how it should be. This poor player is strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage. And when the concert ends… when the concert ends…? Applause is not likely. And applause is not needed. The music exists for its own sake. And the echoes of it are the fuel that powers the universe.

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Is Mickey Icky?


This post is about writer doubt. And Stephen King. Do those two things go together? If they don’t then Mickey is an awful writer and does not know how to do what he does. It would mean Mickey is icky.
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I used to think Stephen King was a totally over-rated writer. Back in the early eighties I read Carrie, King’s first novel, and got halfway through Firestarter, and had to give up. Partly because the book was overdue at the library, and also because I found the books mechanical and somewhat joyless in the writing. I thought he suffered greatly in comparison to writers I was in love with at the time like Ray Bradbury and Thomas Mann. I began to tell others that King was somewhat icky.
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But King was obviously also somewhat successful. He began to get his books made into movies and people who don’t read discovered the evil genius of a man who tells stories to scare them and laces them with a bit of real humanity, real human feeling, and love.
I saw it first in Stand by Me. That movie, starring young Wil Wheaton as the Steven King autobiographical character, really touched my heart and really made for me a deep psyche-to-psyche connection to somebody who wasn’t just a filmmaker, but somebody who was, at heart, a real human being, a real story-teller.

Now, the psyche I was connecting to may very well have been Rob Reiner, a gifted story-teller and film-maker. But it wasn’t the only King movie that reached me. The television mini-series made from It touched a lot more than just the fear centers of my brain as well. And people whose opinions I respect began telling me that the books The Dark Tower Trilogy and Misery were also amazing pieces of literature.
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So I picked up a copy of Hearts in Atlantis at Half-Price Books and began reading a Stephen King novel for the first time since the 80’s. MY HOLY GOD! King is not a little bit icky. He is so NOT ICKY that it makes Mickey sicky to have ever thought King was even a little bit icky! Here is a writer who loves to write. He whirls through pages with the writer’s equivalent of ballet moves, pirouettes of prose, grand jetés of character building, and thematic arabesque penchées on every side of the stage. I love what I have discovered in a writer I thought was somewhat icky. Growth and power, passion and precision, a real love of both the words and the story. He may not know what he is doing. But I know. And I love it.
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And so, while I have been editing the first novel I ever wrote, Superchicken, to make it ready for self-publishing, I have begun to ask myself the self-critical question, “Is Mickey really icky when he writes?” My first novel is full of winces and blunders and head-banging wonders that make me want to throw the whole thing out. But I can’t throw it out. It is the baby in the first bathwater that I ever drew from the tap. The answer to the questions of Micky ickiness have yet to be determined, and not by me. I guess I have to leave it up to you.

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Doodledragon

I joined an art challenge Facebook group that regularly pits doodlers against each other with four minutes to doodle in and a place to post the results. And we do it for absolutely no prizes or titles or even ranking, just for the love of doodling. So here is a recent 4-minute doodle by Mickey posted on that selfsame super-silly group;
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If you are having trouble believing that I dragon-doodled this in only 4 minutes, please notice that that the left side of the dragon’s face is clearly the area I was rushing to complete as the time was running out. I doodled this in black ink with a ballpoint pen. I timed it. And I have drawn numerous dragons before. So you could rationalize that I really worked for hours upon hours to be able to do this four minute doodle.

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Aeroquest… Canto 20

Canto 20 – Seize the Hammer

In the caverns of Don’t Go Here, Ged and Ham and company had arrived at the coordinates of the so-called Hammer of God. Instead of some large ancient construct resembling Thor’s Hammer, however, they found a small army awaiting them. They were not an un-schooled, low-tech army of cave people. They were leather-clad laser jerks, complete with plasma laser rifles and allosaurus mounts.
The army was led by a white-skinned conehead in fake tiger fur. He rode the largest of the allosaurs and he had a small electrical star orbiting his cranium.
“So, you are the Aero Brothers!” cried the cone-headed leader. “You are too late to thwart me this time. I have the Hammer already, and I mean to kill you all now!”
“Ged,” said Ham, “You have such ill-mannered friends.”
“I’m sorry. I hang out in too many low places, I guesssss,” answered Ged, already transforming into the familiar raptor body.
A beam of green energy lanced out of Ham’s weapon and sliced the torso of a bald allosaurus rider in two pieces. Sinbadh’s twin laser pistols splashed angry red beams along the flanks of two different allosaurs, spilling intestines. The beast that didn’t fall dead immediately lashed out in pain and took the head off of another laser jerk.
Chaos erupted before the Synthezoid leader could give any orders to his army. Ged and Ham had never fought an army before, but they knew dangerous beasts from years of hunting experience. They could split up and de-fang a large group of xenomorphs with great skill.
Beams of blue-white plasma leaped out of the laser jerk barrels and skewered things in their path mostly in random directions. One beam passed through the craniums of two of the ten allosaurs in one shot. It wasn’t enough to kill the two-ton carnivores, but it put them both down with smoking holes in their heads.
Ged had transformed and used the raptor’s innate leaping and clawing ability to great effect. He was quickly up on the allosaurus backs and slashing away at laser jerks, piercing leather armor with the wicked hooked claws he wore on each foot. Growling in triumph, he twisted the head off another laser jerk.
Tkriashav used his telekinetic powers to shield the group from laser fire. Plasma and heat splattered off his invisible force fields to set the rocks alight. Puddles of magma began to form around the group of adventurers as rock melted under the rain of deflected plasma.
Tara sent streams of mental fire into the brains of untouched laser jerks. Most fell from their mounts into the burning lava puddles, or to be eaten by their own agitated mounts. Riderless allosaurs did not stick around for a further fight. They scattered into the darker recesses of the back part of the cavern.
The artificial man, unhorsed from his allosaurus, lay glaring up at the raptor Ged with a fierce defiance on his white face. “I shall not underestimate you again, Ged Aero,” he said. “There are ways to defeat even your kind. Psions have weaknesses too!”
“Who are you?” demanded Ham, pointing his laser weapon at the face of the Synthezoid. Bam-Bam Salongi, unable to do anything but watch in the battle, had picked up a plasma rifle. He leveled it at the Synthezoid and showed him that Bam-Bam had seen how they operated by observing laser jerks. He fingered the trigger switch menacingly.
“I am called Sorcerer 4. Remember that name. I will be the death of you all.”
Suddenly the Synthezoid began to hum internally. His eyes rolled back, and his orbiting spark went out like a light bulb.
“He’s going to explode!” shouted Tkriashav. His inner eye had warned him.
“I will get it!” shouted the little blue boy. His naked body vaulted over the corpses to lay hands on the Synthezoid’s head. “He’s still downloading to somewhere else!” Junior closed his eyes and directed a bolt of mental energy into the metal mind.
“The boy can’t do anything!” warned Tara. “We can’t read that artificial mind!”
Suddenly the whirring and the humming ceased.
“I stopped him,” said the boy, smiling. “I mentally diffused the bomb. I can see into robot and computer minds.”
Ham stepped forward and picked up his new Nebulon son. He glared down at the defeated Sorcerer, and then grinned at the boy.
“You know,” said the boy, “you are really handsome when you smile.”
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Urgh! The Taxman Cometh

I am now incapable of coherent thought.  Wait!  Did that last sentence make sense?  I guess I am not dead yet.  So I have avoided the Grim Reaper,  But not the Taxman!

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The book I need to take more seriously now.

I wasn’t expecting to make the kind of money from Trumpig’s “Big beeyootiful tax cut” will provide to his wealthy-pig friends.  I have no illusions about him ever doing anything to benefit me.  But I figured I shouldn’t have to pay extra.

Stupid me.

Somehow Trumpig’s tax cut affected the withholding amount for my pension taxes.  Something like $120 a month that retroactively applied to all twelve months last year.  I still owe the government $1,320!

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I had planned to finish up taxes yesterday evening and then get a good night’s sleep.  Then I saw that tax bill and didn’t sleep a wink.  I am already in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy because Bank of America sues people for more than you owe them if you make the mistake of hiring a debt reduction company to help you pay off credit cards.  But the universe is obviously adverse to me making and keeping any money at all before I am riding in a hearse.  Wait!  Did I just lapse into bad poetry?  Death and taxes will mess with your head, that’s for sure.

So now I need a day off to just sleep and feel sorry for myself. I’ll get angry at Trumpig tomorrow and decide how I will handle this latest hurdle in the human race… or human obstacle course… or whatever that stupid metaphor was I cannot even remember any more.

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Word Salad and Idea Casserole

In a world filled with interesting and engaging ideas, I get frustrated with the constant barrage of word salad on social media tossed at me by conservative friends.  As Trump seems to be coming closer and closer to ending his administration with his own chaotic behavior, those who supported him are tossing more and more flavorless lettuce and rotted vegetables in the mix.  I have to resist the urge to throw the same thing back at them.  I do not resist such salad-making well.  Witness my attempts to alter this stupid meme from a friend;

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I admit, I kinda barfed half-digested word salad all over this one.  I get tired of debating the issues only to be insulted like this and then accused of only insulting Trump and avoiding what they call the “Real Issues”, like Hillary giving a gazillion per cent of our uranium wealth to the Russians and Obama being the one guilty of colluding with Russians.

But, enough of that.  It is time to make something healthier out of words and ideas.  I have a lot of things on my mind, and I want to get a lot of them said before I die.  So let me make some idea casserole, cooking a whole lot of very different ideas into one multivitamin dish.

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  • Trump, for all the damage he’s done, will end up being good for us if we can just survive his administration to the end.  Scar tissue is always tougher than the surrounding flesh when the wound heals.  Repairing the damage he has done will leave us stronger, wiser, and more able to cope with the root causes of the Trump phenomenon.
  • My friends and family who supported the whole Trump mess primarily to hurt people whom they feel are smarter than them and so more stuck-up and self-important than them, will eventually get back to leading more productive lives than they did before.  And they will continue not to credit the ones who actually made that happen the way they didn’t credit Obama for healing the blunders of Bush.
  • I will get back to writing gentler, non-political-type humor novels.
  • I have my novel Superchicken half-way through the final edit to publish it on Amazon Kindle.  You can see I have been playing with cover ideas.  I plan to write Sing Sad Songs next.  Also I have two more novel ideas that I will add to this casserole as separate ingredients.  And I have The Bicycle Wheel Genius, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, and The Baby Werewolf finished and ready to edit as well.
  • Here’s new idea number one; The Boy Who Lived Forever is a fantasy novel about Icarus Jones coming to stay with the Jones family of Norwall.  He has survived a house fire that killed his parents and now must evade the dragon that pursues him while trying to figure out what is wrong with him health-wise.  Could he be dying?  Or did he survive the fire because he somehow can’t die?
  • Here’s new idea number two; Kingdoms Under the Earth is a fantasy novel about Blueberry Bates, a troubled young girl, falling seriously ill, and the measures her boyfriend, Mike Murphy, and her friends have to take in a realm made of magic and fever dreams to save her.

The truth is I really can’t do anything about politics and government beyond expressing my beliefs and voting my conscience.  I need to concentrate on telling stories.  It is the one thing that still gives my life meaning through the pain, illness, and suffering.  I am not dead yet.  And, not being dead, I need to be writing.

 

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Equipment Makes the Adventurer

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You cannot cleave a ghost in twain with a cast-iron fireplace poker. Throwing snowballs at vampires will not keep your blood from being drained.  And bugbears don’t really have an aversion to little girls in pink dresses (except for little Tessie Trueheart of the Green Dale; that little booger has a temper as large as her love for the color pink).

To go adventuring in Mickey the Dungeonmaster’s dungeons, you need the right equipment.  Of course, whole books full of weapons and armor and adventuring doodads have been published.  Some of the stuff we use in the family games comes from the game books, as exemplified by the items pictured above.  The Blue Wood Armor of the Forest Guardian is a collection of items put together from the books published for D&D by Wizards of the Coast Publishing.

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My daughter’s favorite weapon is a sentient throwing knife that always flies back to its current master after being thrown.  It also never misses, adjusting its own flight to always strike the target for the greatest possible damage.  It has a mind and intelligence of its own.  It became sentient and alive in the middle of an epic combat with a magical giant golem who hit it with a spell that went disastrously wrong for the caster. This item was created on the spur of the moment in the midst of a published adventure, based on a disasterously low roll of the dice for the monster side of the combat.

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Some items in the game are actually treasures from the published adventure scenarios I like to use. Instead of simply selling off items when they are discovered in the cold, dead hands of defeated evil druids whose dreams of conquest and tyrannical rule you have thwarted, you can take them for your own personal use.  I have a tendency to embellish what is described in the pages of the adventure with both really good powers and effects, and really insidious concealed curses.  The Legendary Black Blades are both demon-laced and deadly.  And both, though fatal to your enemies, will eventually darken your own heart and possibly shorten your adventuring life the hard way.

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Not all equipment is made of swords and armor.  The Evil Heads of Dr. Zorgo are a collection of living zombie heads that can impart wisdom and information (allowing characters to add skills) and can also direct you to places of adventure and great treasure.  Of course, they are evil.  There is always that little factor to consider.  But come on, how can you not be tempted by treasures talked about by the Ghost Elf’s head when you tried to ask her for the time of day in her native land?

So the point of this post is that I am really proud of my drawings of D&D equipment and wanted to show them off.  This post is merely an excuse for doing that.  I have one more to show you, though I must confess, while I drew this one, it was designed by number one son to be used for his character, though as soon as he got it made, he sold it for lots of gold to use on the next project.

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