Tag Archives: humor

The Cowboy Code

When I was a boy playing cowboys and Indians with cap pistols and rubber tomahawks, we all knew that cowboys had a code.  The guy in the white hat always shoots straight.  He knows right from wrong.  He only shoots the bad guy.  He even shoots the gun out of the bad guy’s hand if he can.  Westerns are about right and wrong, good and bad, and the unyieldingly good knights of plains.

And boys believe what they see on TV and in the movie theaters.  People who make television shows never lie, do they?  In fact, Wyatt Earp was based on a real guy who really lived and really shot the bad guys at the gosh-darn real OK Corral.

Daniel Boone was a real guy too.  He faced the opening up of new lands full of deadly dangers.  And when Fess Parker played him in 1964, wearing Davy Crockett’s coonskin hat, he walked the earth like a guardian angel, making everyone safe by the end of the episode.  He even knew which Indians were good and which were bad.  Mingo was always on Daniel’s side.  And when they spoke to each other about the dangers they faced, it was never about killing the people they feared.  It was about doing what is was right, about helping the community at Boonesboro to survive.  Being encouraging… looking forward to a more settled future created by following the cowboy frontier code.

So, I am left wondering what ever happened to the cowboy code?  I listen to Republican presidential candidates talking about dipping bullets in pig’s blood to kill Muslims, and building walls against Mexican immigrants, and why our right to carry assault rifles is sacred, and I wonder what happened.  Didn’t they experience the same education from the television versions of the Great American Mythology?  Didn’t they learn the code too?

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I am old enough now to know that cap guns are not real guns and you cannot solve problems by shooting somebody.  But that was never the point of the cowboy code.  We need straight-shooters again in our lives, not to shoot people, but to tell the unvarnished truth.  We need wise people who can tell who are the good Indians and who are the bad   We need them to shoot the weapons out of the bad guys’ hands.  And I know that’s asking for leaders to be larger than life and be more perfect than a man can actually be.  But Daniel Boone was a real man.  Myths and legends start with a fundamental truth.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, cowboys, humor, insight, philosophy, politics, Uncategorized

Banned Breakfast-Table Talking

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At Mother’s breakfast table we were always encouraged to talk about stuff.  That was a given.  It was how families operated in the 60’s and 70’s.  Mom and Dad not only listened to the mindless drivel coming out of the childish mouths of me, my two sisters, and my stinky little brother, but they also tended to hold forth about things they wished to teach us. We learned Methodist-Church-flavored Christianity and Eisenhower-Republican values.  Ike had been president when I was born and got most of the credit for the post-war boom in the economy.  We were middle-class people with solid middle-class values.

And then I had the bad sense to grow up and start thinking for myself.  Nixon had let me down big-time when I was in high school.  I had defended him against my McGovern-leaning loony liberal friends.  My best friend was a preacher’s kid, a Methodist preacher’s kid.  His father actually believed in progressive nonsense about sex-education for children and helping to feed the poor.  And then Nixon turned out to be a liar, a coverer-upper, a cheat, and a bad-word-user.  I suspect, though my Dad never admitted it, that he may have voted for Carter over Ford.  It was my first time voting, and it actually felt good to use my vote to strike back at the party that betrayed my trust.

Religion, too.  In the late seventies a man named Carl Sagan put on a TV show called Cosmos.  The man bedazzled my father and I with Science.  He taught us that every molecule of us was composed of atoms that could only have been forged in the cosmic furnaces in the centers of stars.  He showed us how spectroscopy of the stars could show us what they were made of.  He showed us the meaning of Einstein’s special Theory of Relativity.  He pulled the universe together for us in a way that could not be undone.  And he did it without calling upon the name and blessings of God.  But he pointed out that we are connected to everything in the universe and everything is connected to us.  To me, that seemed to define God.  My religion was changing from Christianity to Saganism.  Of course, Mom heard that as “paganism”.  Breakfast table talking changed into early morning arguments.  We didn’t exactly throw chairs at each other, but some pretty heated and pretty large ideas went flying through the air.   Religion and politics became the banned topics at the breakfast table.

tedcruz  So that brings me to the Paffooney points for today.  This blog has turned into a place where a disobedient son, a horrible sort of “free-thinker” type of radical hippie pinko goofball, can talk about the loony-liberal progressive ideas that have taken over his good-little Eisenhower-Republican little-boy mind.    I spent the last post talking existentially about my religious beliefs.  My conservative, old-fashioned friends and family call me an atheist now, but I truly believe in God.  It’s just, I recognize the factors behind Christian myths.  I bow to the wisdom of Scientists like Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking… as well as hippie psychologists like Alan Watts… and literary heroes like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S, Lewis.

Will_Rogers_1922I am proud to be an Iowegian (a Mickian word for being from Iowa), yet my birth-State produces gawd-awful Tea Party politicians like Steve King and Joni Ernst.  The stuff that comes out of their mouths doesn’t even make good fertilizer.  But they are comedy gold.  Will Rogers would have pointed out that the jokes will write themselves.  All the humorist would have to do is consult the front page of the newspaper.  I also live in Texas where the debate over secession from the United States still goes on with new Governor Greg Abbott, a man who is a Rick Perry clone, except that he hasn’t bothered to put on glasses as much to make him smarter.  And Texans are looking forward to the next Republican president in 2016.  Both Rick Perry and Ted Cruz are running.  That doubles Texas’ chances, right?  With Global Warming not being accepted as a real thing, the need for giving all our money to the Koch brothers and the Walton family being recognized by both parties in Congress, and looming war with foreign nations that have the bad sense to be “Muslim in nature”, the future looks kinda bleak.   But it is a great time to be a humorist, and I am guessing I won’t be doing very much talking at the breakfast table for a while.

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Rabbit People

castle carrot

On days when I am still recovering from life-altering blows, I often try to find new realms, alternate realities to live in.  (Retreating into a fantasy world is one of the reasons she gave for leaving.)  And since, as a youth in Iowa, I raised rabbits for a 4-H project, I know rabbits better than I do human people.  Rabbits are people too.  So, I have been walking among the rabbit people.  Seriously, bunnies are better people than most human people.  They are not trying to profit off you.  They are not trying to get everything they can off you.  They are merely there to wiggle their whiskers, sniff for food, poop, gnaw on stuff, and make more bunnies.

Mr. R Rabbit

I often see myself as a rabbit person.  In cartoon form, I am the bunny-man teacher known to the Animal Town School System as Mr. Reluctant Rabbit.

As a teacher, I am always pulling out carrots of irony and gnawing on the ends of them in front of students.  If they complain that eating food in class is supposed to be against the rules, I ask them, “Do you want a carrot of irony?”

“Oh, no, thank you sir.”

“They are good for your eyesight as well as your insight.  You really ought to chew on healthier things like that.”

“Oh, no sir,” they say.  “We prefer Hot Cheetos.”

And so, I taught on like that… like a rabbit, fast and frumious (a Jabberwocky sort of word), and never really bit anybody.  Teaching is like that.  You offer the good healthy stuff to nourish their little animal minds, and they always choose the junk food instead.

Millis

And so life goes on like that.  Looking to rabbit people to ease my pain and need for good, wholesome carrots of irony.

I have  recently run a free-book promotion on The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.One of the main characters in the book is Tommy Bircher’s pet rabbit Millis.   During the course of the story about invading aliens, Secret Agent Robots from the CIA, and making friends when you need friends, Millis is turned into a rabbit-man by a lab accident.  He teaches Tommy that you don’t have to be human to be a good, caring, self-sacrificing person.  He also teaches him to eat his carrots and greens like a good boy should.

So, I will spend more time with the rabbit people and heal a little bit.  That is what you do with the tragedy that life brings you.  You spin it into whole cloth, making humor and poetry out of everything bad that happens… wrapping yourself up in a comforting blanket of lies (you can also call those fiction stories), and eating a little chicken soup on a cold day to heal your soul.  (Oh, I forget, rabbits often gag on chicken soup.  Let’s make that bean soup with carrot chunks.)

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Jungle Boy

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When I was 12, my favorite novel was Rudyard Kipling’s First Jungle Book.  I loved it.  From page one to the last sentence of the story about the White Seal.  I owned a paperback copy that I still have 51 years later.  I bought it from the school book order form, Scholastic, I think.  I used my allowance money, earned at a nickel a week.  Along with the chapter books I had read previously, The Swiss Family Robinson, the White Stag, and Treasure Island, it guided my view of life.  Every grove and forest in Iowa became the jungle in the summer of 1968.  The windswept fields of corn and soy beans easily transformed into tropical seas.  I imagined pirates, natives, and buried treasures everywhere.  When I found a piece of a brass candlestick with the necessary curved part, which became the cursed Ahnk from The Jungle Book.  Midnight, Grandma Aldrich’s blue-eyed black cat, became my Bagheera.  I traveled with an invisible Baloo.  You know, it was only a year or so before that when I saw the Disney movie.  So, of course, dancing and singing was a part of being a jungle boy.

In the book, unlike the movie, Mowgli was naked in the jungle.  He didn’t wear clothes until the first time he submitted himself to the man village.  He took them off again when he escaped.  I had to try that too.  I went to the BinghamPark woods down by the Iowa River.  I found a tree where I could put my clothes, and I took everything off.  I figured roaming the woods like Mowgli would be great.  Boy, I was a stupid child.  Problem number one struck with my first naked step in the forest.  Dang!  There must not be any twigs or nettles in Mowgli’s jungle.  I tried hopping from place to place, but in minutes I was wearing at least my socks and shoes.  Hanging branches and brambles were a problem, too.  They clutched at me, striping me with welts and scrapes.  Certain parts you just don’t want pricked by a bramble bush.  It was like God suddenly planted those pointed things everywhere.  Okay, shoes and socks and shorts.  Well, then I began to get cold.  Iowa is never very warm even in the height of summer.  I had already defeated the whole naked in the forest thing when I put my shorts back on, so, what the heck!  It just didn’t work like I thought.

I still believed that the ways of the jungle were an essential part of my young life.  I read and reread what the Jungle Book says about the “Law of the Jungle”.  I tried to make sense of it as a credo to live by.  Of course, at twelve we are always among the wisest and all-knowing of God’s creatures.  We can make sense of the world in our own weird little way, and no one will ever be able to sway us from the philosophy we live by, no matter how silly it is.  I still think about my “Jungle Book Period” as an important part of my young life.  There are things about young Mowgli and Jim Hawkins and the Robinsons that formed a significant part of my character.  I would one day make use of those determined and resourceful qualities to stay alive in the classroom jungles of South Texas.  I tried to make others see it.  I shared Kipling and Stevenson with kids and hoped that I could make them learn, as I did, how to be that little boy facing and succeeding against the dangerous jungle around him.

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Exploring the Mind of Mickey

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One really weird thing that teachers do is think about thinking.  I mean, how can a person actually teach someone else how to think and how to learn if they don’t themselves understand the underlying processes?  Now that I have retired from teaching and spend all my time feeling sorry for myself, I thought I would try thinking about thinking one more time at least.  Hey, just because I am retired, it doesn’t mean I can’t still do some of the weird things I used to do as a teacher, right?

This time I made a map to aid me in my quest to follow the twists and turns of how Mickey thinks and how Mickey learns.  Don’t worry, though.  I didn’t actually cut Mickey’s head in half to be able to make this map.  I used the magical tool of imagination.  Some folks might call it story-telling… or bald-face lying.

Now, a brain surgeon would be concerned that my brain maps out in boxes.  He would identify it as a seriously deformed brain.  It is not supposed to be all rectangular spaces and stairs.  It probably indicates a severe medical need for corrective surgery… or possibly complete amputation.  But we are not going to concern ourselves with trying to save Mickey from himself right now.  That is far too complex a topic to tackle in a 500-word daily post.  We are just discussing the basics of operation.

You see the three little guys in the control room?  They are an indication that not only did I steal an idea from the Disney/Pixar Movie Inside Out, but I apparently have too few guys doing the job up there compared to the movie version.  (It probably makes sense though that a young girl like the one in the movie has a much more sensible configuration in her brain than someone who was a middle school teacher for 24 years.  Seriously, that job can do a bit of damage.)  The three little guys are not actually Moe, Curly, and Larry, though that wouldn’t be far from descriptive accuracy.  They are Impulsive Ignatz, currently in the driver’s seat (or else I wouldn’t be writing this), Proper Percy the Planner, and Pompositous Felixian Checkerbob, the fact-checker and perfectionist (also labeled the inner nerd… I am told not everyone has one of these).  They are the three little guys that run around in frantic circles in my head trying to deal with a constant flow of input and output, trying to make sense of everything, and routinely failing miserably.

I shouldn’t forget the other two little guys in my head, Sleepytime Tim in the Dream Center, and little Batty up in the attic.  I have no earthly idea how either of them function, or what in the heck they are supposed to do.  But there they are.  The other three run up and down stairs all day, locating magic mushrooms and random knowledge in the many file cabinets, record collections, book stacks, and odd greasy containers that are stored all around in the many nooks and crannies of Mickey’s mind.  They collect stuff through the eyes and ears, and it is also their responsibility to chuck things out through the stupidity broadcaster at various inopportune times.  It is also a good idea for them to avoid the lizard brain of the limbic system in the basement.  It is easily angered and might eat them.

So now you should be able to fully understand how Mickey thinks.  (Or not… a qualifier I was forced to put in by Checkerbob.)

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Dippy Dogs Must Die! (a Talking-Animal Short Story)

Pepe n Skaggs

My name is Skaggs.  I am a cat.  It is as simple as that.  I have to tell you, life is not very fair to cats.  In my last life I was an alley cat.  I lived on rats that bred and thrived under the water tower in the alley behind the small-town post office.    I was basically happy.  You have heard the old expression, “happy as a cat”, right?  I could kill and eat any rat I wanted at any time, no matter how big of a Mickey he thought he was.  I was good at ripping out rat guts and breaking mouse spines.  I was the baddest cat in the whole damn town.

But I had to share my alley with a dog.  That Barky Bill was an insane killer canine that the owner of the local restaurant and bar kept chained behind his Main Street building to keep the rats away from the restaurant garbage.   I hated that dog with a hate as great as a vampire has for the sun.   (What’s that you say?  You didn’t know that cats knew about vampires?  Silly human, how little you know about the things that should truly scare you in the world.  Cats, vampires, and Barky Bill are far more complicated issues in the world than you realize.)  Anyway, needless to say, I teased that dog on a heavy chain leash for the better part of three years when one day, to my utter horror, I discovered he was loose at the same time that I was totally focused on catching and eating a beautiful gold-colored squirrel.  I was so sure that the squirrel would be the finest thing that any cat had ever eaten, that I didn’t even notice, mainly because I had that squirrel right between my paws, toying with it before devouring it, that the dog was pouncing.  Barky Bill bit clean through my neck.  It was so shocking that even as I was being transported to life number seven, my severed head watched in confusion and fright as that ugly, smelly dog ate my finely tuned rat-catching body.

So, having been a bad, bad Leroy Brown sort of cat, I was sentenced to a next life with a crazy cat lady.   Miss Velma Proddy owned at least fifty cats.  I was reborn in an underwear drawer in her back bedroom, the one she kept for the company that she never had.   My mother was the cat called Pinkie, even though she was a milk-white cat.    My father was Proddy’s favorite, a tomcat called Tom Selleck.    He would’ve killed and eaten me soon after I was born because my mother was not a very dominant fighter and alpha cats like Tom could always sense when a cat filled with pure evil is born.   But Proddy was having none of that.  She rounded up all the kittens and raised them in a blanket box in the corner of the kitchen near the stove.  I owe that woman everything, which is why I don’t understand why she had to go and buy Pepe.

Pepe is more of a malnourished rat than a dog.   Like a lot of Chihuahuas he trembles a lot, and he blinks at you with those big round eyes of his.   Proddy thinks that everything he does is so cute.  She carries him around like a prize possession or a human baby or something.  In my past life I was a white cat like my mother.  (Everyone knows that when a cowboy wears a white hat, it means he’s a good guy, but when a cat has white fur, it means that it is evil.)  In this, my seventh incarnation, owing to the fact that my father was a gray tiger cat, I was a sort of white cat with gray tiger stripes.  It meant I thought like a tiger.  Pepe looked like a rat to me.  Pepe was prey.  Pepe was meat.  I was going to eat him.

“You tell this story so scary, Señor Skaggs,” says Pepe, “you make me so afraid!”

“Shut up, stupid dog.  I’m telling this.  And you are not afraid.  Remember what happened that time I tried  to drown you in the toilet?”

“Si.  I remember well.  That time with the super-fancy drinking bowl.”

“I saw you trying to hold on to the plastic toilet seat and dip your tiny little tongue into the water that was too far below you to reach.  Only your hind legs and stupid little tail were even visible.”

“Si!  And you jumped up to smack me on my cute little behind and push me in.  I remember.”

“But I was surprised that such a little dog could react so fast and leap so far.”

“Si, Señor.  I jumped right on that handle and flushed it.”

“Just as I fell into the water.  That would’ve been the start of number eight if Proddy hadn’t come along right then.”.

“Oh, you make me laugh so hard, Señor.  And she was so mad at you for playing with the toilet!”

“And you remember the time I almost got you with that pot of boiling water and hard-boiled eggs?”

“Si, Señor.  You got up on the kitchen counter right next to the stove.  I was sitting on the floor in front of the stove sniffing up all the smell of the bacon.  You tried to push the pot off the stove.”

“I still haven’t figured out how you planned it.  The bald spots I have all around my front paws are still there from my fur catching on fire.  You must’ve been sitting in the precise spot on the floor where I couldn’t knock the pot down on you without passing my paws through the flames.”

“You owe that one to Señora Proddy too.  She had that fire extinguisher next to the stove.  That saved you from being cooked cat-burgers.  And you looked so funny when she almost drowned you in that white foamy stuff.  Oh, you make me laugh so hard Señor.”

Well, I am guessing that I made my point by now.  This little underfed rat of a dog is more evil than I am!  The harder I try to kill and eat him, the more I suffer for it.  And I still don’t know how he does it!  He makes my life miserable.  He needs to die.

“Oh, you make me laugh so hard, Señor!”

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Poor Ol’ Wooden Head

“Kaw-Liga”
KAW-LIGA, was a wooden Indian standing by the door
He fell in love with an Indian maid over in the antique store
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

He always wore his Sunday feathers and held a tomahawk
The maiden wore her beads and braids and hoped someday he’d talk
KAW-LIGA – A, too stubborn to ever show a sign
Because his heart was made of knotty pine.

[Chorus:]
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he never got a kiss
Poor ol’ KAW-LIGA, he don’t know what he missed
Is it any wonder that his face is red
KAW-LIGA, that poor ol’ wooden head.

KAW-LIGA, was a lonely Indian never went nowhere
His heart was set on the Indian maiden with the coal black hair
KAW-LIGA – A, just stood there and never let it show
So she could never answer “YES” or “NO”.

Then one day a wealthy customer bought the Indian maid
And took her, oh, so far away, but ol’ KAW-LIGA stayed
KAW-LIGA – A, just stands there as lonely as can be
And wishes he was still an old pine tree.

“The Complete Hank Williams” (1998)

Magicman 3

The quirky movie I reviewed, Moonrise Kingdom, reconnected me with a song I loved as a child.  It was on an old 45 record that belonged to my mother’s best friend from high school.  When the Retleffs sold their farm and tore down their house and barn, they had a huge estate sale.  My mother bought the old record player and all the collected records that Aunt Jenny still had.  They were the same ones my mother and her friend Edna had listened to over and over.  There were two records of singles about Indian love.  Running Bear was about an Indian boy who fell in love with little White Dove.  They lived on opposite sides of a river.  Overcome with love, they both jump into the river, swim to the middle, lock lips, and both drown.  Together forever.  That song, it turns out, was written by the Big Bopper, and given to Johnny Preston to sing, and released the year after the Big Bopper died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

Kaw-liga, by Hank Williams, was a wooden Indian sitting in front of a cigar store.  His love story is even worse.  As you can see from the lyrics above, he never even gets the girl.  Dang, Indian love must be heck!

But I have come to realize that these aren’t merely racist songs from a bygone era.  They hold within them a plea for something essential.  They are a reminder that we need love to be alive.

When I was young and deeply depressed… though also insufferably creative and unable to control the powers of my danged big brain, I knew that I wanted love.  There was one girl who went to school with me, lovely Alicia Stewart (I am not brave enough to use her real name), that filled my dreams.  We were classmates, and alphabetical seating charts routinely put us near each other.  She had a hypnotic sparkle in her eyes whenever she laughed at my jokes.  She was so sweet to me… sweet to everyone… that she probably caused my diabetes.  I longed to carry her books or hold her hand.  I cherished every time she spoke to me, and collected the memories like stamps in a stamp album.  But like the stupid cigar store Indian, I never spoke up for myself.  I never told her how I felt.  I was endlessly like Charlie Brown with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  Sometimes you have to screw up your courage and leap into the river, even if it means your undoing.  Because love is worth it.  Love is necessary.  And it comes to everybody in one way or another over time.  I look at pictures of her grandchildren posted on Facebook now, and wonder what might have been, if only… if only I had jumped in that stupid river.  I did find love.  And I probably would’ve drowned had I done it back then.  Life has a way of working things out eventually.  But there has to be some reason that in the 50’s, when I was born, they just kept singing about Indian love.

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My School-Teacher Soapbox

It has been more than a semester now that I have not been a teacher.  I am missing it mightily.  I even miss the yelling and screaming, the name-calling and the crazy-eyed threats against life and limb.  And that’s just me.  I miss what the kids always did too.  This was driven home to me as I tried to move my middle child from one school to another.  We were hoping to get a bit of a break on his placement.  He is a gifted child with a penchant for bizarre and long-lasting obsessions.  He has a talent for building huge, monumental structures in Minecraft.  He is very computer-nerd and history-wonk.  (Yes, I know those are not pure predicate adjectives, but I am a retired English teacher and just don’t care any more.)  I was hoping they could overlook his burnout/blowout eighth-grade brain meltdown from the previous year and give him the chance to be a ninth grader for at least half a year.  No.  Arbitrary rules must be obeyed.  (That isn’t even how she said it.  More like, arbitrary rules MUST be obeyed).  That meant of course that he has to continue to repeat the mindless indoctrination of year number 9, (eight numbered grades plus K), (And Pre-K, come to think of it.)  Make that year number 10.  No high school yet, though he is more than mature enough, intelligent enough, motivated enough, and sweet-natured enough.  We are not loving and forgiving people.  We are strict and by-the-book people!  Forgive me, Lord.  I am writing my own book.  (In more ways than one.)

This is what we are doing wrong in Education;

1.   We are putting people in boxes.  (Little people.  Kids mostly.  We are calling those boxes things like ADHD, Special Education, trouble-maker, learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, disobedient, truant, and “in need of alternative education”… here meaning kid-prison.)

2.  We are sealing those boxes with heavy-duty red tape.  (Read special or remedial classes as waste-baskets for keeping the rabble and the riff-raff out of the good teachers’ hair.)

3.  We are routinely handing those boxes to the box-bangers and package manglers.  (The semi-incompetent teachers who have discipline problems because in teacher college nobody tells you what to do with the kid who sits in the corner and sings to himself instead of paying attention, or the girl who gets out of her seat every time the teacher turns his back to go flitting around the room like a bumble bee going flower to flower (except that it is a more hormonal attraction and goes boy to boy); or the competent teacher like me who incurs the principal’s disfavor for having classes that always make noise and are given such classes in boxes as a punishment because that kind of principal is too limited in intelligence to understand that those kinds of boxes are not really a punishment if you merely take a moment to examine the treasures they contain.)

4.  We keep the boxes air-tight so that no oxygen or light gets in.  (To suffocate learners under piles of worksheets and endless drill and practice is murder.  We are killing the precious learners with boring stuff and teaching them to be zombies who all act alike and hate learning because their brains are rotted masses of goo.)

This is what we must do instead;

1.  Open the boxes up again and thoroughly mix the contents.  (The rich suburban parents will resent the heck out of having their precious honors student sitting in class next to the poor black kid from the projects, but studies show that both kinds of learners do better when they are mixed together.)

2.  Notice, we don’t need two any more, because learners are already distributed to different and diverse boxes based on what they individually need and want to learn about and have talent for.  Groups should be more like the Shakespeare-loving group or the talkative-socializing group or the Tinker-toy builders group or the vampire-literature-writing group and less like groups of kids all the same color or all the same culture or all the same age.

3.  All the teachers need to be trained to handle all the possible… no, make that probable problems that may come up in the classroom.  Every classroom needs a proven veteran teacher and an enthusiastic young apprentice teacher.  Neither one should have to face the evil hordes alone.  And most important of all, any teacher who doesn’t love working with kids (and doesn’t love the kids in a way that will not lead to a prison term) needs be utilized in some way other than as a classroom teacher.

4.  Every classroom is a laboratory and every teacher is a creative and daring mad-scientist-type intent on trying new things and only re-doing things that really work well.  Forget this nonsense about standard curriculum goals and common core curriculum.  Those are only buzz words for suffocating learners and being too lazy to think on your feet in the middle of the every-day classroom battle in the on-going War on Ignorance.

Now you see… I have all the answers and I know everything.  The only mystery is… why don’t more people listen to me?

Tabron

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, teaching

Mickey, the Teacher of the Jungle

Mickey, the Teacher of the Jungle

It’s true… 24 years of my life was spent in the Jungles of Junior High fighting for my life against predatory seventh graders, monkey people, lizard people, and general craziness. If my pictures are loony, and my stories are insane, it is because I have endured where no sane man should ever venture. The pink raptor, by the way… one of my best students.

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January 3, 2023 · 4:16 am

Wrestling with Themes

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I recently was advised by a fellow blogger to offer a few writing tips on my blog as a way to painlessly market my writing.  Okay, I’m a writing teacher, so I can do that.  But in my own writing I have hit a snag.  Yes, there are things much, much bigger than my humble skill as a writer.

My current novel project, the Bicycle-Wheel Genius has grown into a science-fiction monster.  It is not only about a scientist who has secret government connections, but about time travel and people changing into rabbits… or rabbits into people… or boys into girls… dogs and cats living together…   No, that is Ghostbusters. 

But it has reached a point where the most important theme is incredibly clear and difficult to deal with.  The theme I find myself weaving into this story is;  “All men are basically good.”   Gongah!  Wotta theme to try to write!  Do I believe it?  Of course I do.  Can I put the story together in such a way that  I illustrate it to the reader’s satisfaction?  Of course I can’t.  So what do I do?  This story has some of the best villains and evil people in it that I have ever written.  I can’t kill them off to solve the story’s plot problems (Well, I can, but I don’t want to).  I have to show how evil can be redeemed.

My cast of characters include the scientist himself, calmly dealing with time travelers, invading aliens, government assassins, and a group of young boys known as the Norwall Pirates.  There is a time traveler who appeared in a book within a book in my novel Catch a Falling Star.  There is also an alien space navigator who has been shot by a local Iowa Deputy Marshall and stranded on Earth.  Another character is an artificial man, an automaton who has been crafted as a government assassin made from alien technology.  Okay, I know you don’t believe I can make serious science fiction out of such crazy-quilt characters, especially with a primary theme like the one I’ve claimed.  So, I have to confess that it is not serious in any way, shape, or form.  It is a silly fantasy comedy.

So, how do I generate a theme as big and bold and important as the goodness of all men?  Well, here’s a secret recipe;

  1. Take one genius who has lost all the people he loves and has to start over with new friends and, eventually, new family.
  2. Add a brother-in-law with mental health issues and financial dependency.
  3. Add a group of young boys hungry for adventure and new experiences and a little bit short on common sense.
  4. Add a paranoid evil government that has secrets it will kill to protect (the factual part of the story).
  5. Mix well.
  6. Add vinegar.
  7. Boil at 350 degrees for a year.

Of course, if you thought I was giving you real writing advice, then SURPRISE!  It turns out I have been making it all up as I go along.  That’s how you do it.  You write and write, knit it all together tenuously, and then edit the heck out of it, hoping to make sense of the whole thing.

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