Tag Archives: magic

The Clock on the Wall

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Who in their right mind writes an essay about a clock on the wall?  Well, the “right mind” thing gives me an out.  I do watch the clock on the wall.  Especially now that I am old, and the sand in the hour glass is running out.  The clock on the wall can be quite entertaining.  Especially one like the cuckoo clock that hangs in my parents’ front entryway.  On the hour, the dancers twirl and the two goofballs in lederhosen saw away at the log they will never be able to cut in two.

My wife and I gave that clock to my parents as a gift for their 50th wedding anniversary.  We bought it in Texas and brought it on a visit back to the family farm in Iowa.  Having old German relatives as a boy, I remember waiting impatiently for the clock to strike in Great Aunt Selma’s house, anxious to see the cuckoo pop out  and the clockwork entertainment do its little mechanical show.  I’d have gladly wished on a star for the hours to pass instantly… to see the show again right away… and be older and wiser and able to do more.  Back then it seemed like older folks like Aunt Selma lived forever, with her dried-apple face and German accent.  Accumulated time seemed to have majesty and power.  It was magical.

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But now I am old.  My joints hurt every time I move.  I can’t get out of bed of a morning easily.  Parts of me that I used to take for granted no longer work.  I have forgotten what it feels like to feel good and full of energy.  The time on the face of this old clock hasn’t changed in nearly a decade.  My parents don’t keep it wound.  We no longer look forward to the clock-Kinder dancing so often.  If the clock stays forever at five after four, maybe the grim reaper won’t come knock at the door.

I have always believed that there was magic in old cuckoo clocks.  It was a simple, earnest faith in magic that only a child can truly know.  But now, as an old man, I remember.

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Filed under art my Grandpa loved, autobiography, commentary, family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, metaphor, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Learning Photographically

Being all artistical and everything, I struggle a bit with being able to reproduce my artwork on this blog.  Sometimes I can get a good picture, and sometimes I simply can’t.  The biggest problem I have encountered is the problem of light.  I can lose so much quality in the color and the detail because of bad photography that it bothers me to the point that I seriously consider whacking myself on the side of my own coconut with a brick (with the intent of knocking some color back into my eyeballs).  Of course, I am smart enough to realize that probably wouldn’t work, so I haven’t actually tried it yet.  Do you see the difference in the two pictures of my painting above?  Do you fixate on all the yellow-gray mud in the second picture the way I do?

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I found a light fixture that I could put a 300 watt bulb in, and I managed to set the whole thing up for under ten dollars.  It helps a lot.  It was able to put some of the color back into my work.  Now, I have to clean up my studio/bedroom a bit so it doesn’t look quite so junky.   I need to find that old bottle of cleaning fluid that I rubbed last time and discovered Clean Gene the Cleaning Genie.  I have found that cleaning stuff up requires magic.  It also makes me realize that I have just revealed one of my magician’s tricks as far as posting artwork.  A magician is never supposed to reveal his secrets…  Oopsie!  Never mind.  Pretend you didn’t read today’s post.

 

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Filed under art editing, artwork, cleaning genii, humor, photo paffoonies, photos

Book Magic, the Empathy Spell

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I have long known that reading good books is the primary path to being a wizard.  There are many, many things you can learn from the magic contained in fiction books, but now there is also research that proves books can improve your empathetic skills.  Here is the article I found to suggest it is so;

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If you don’t feel energetic enough to actually go there and read that, let me summarize a bit.  When you read a good fiction story, you get to live for a while in another person’s skin… see the world through someone else’s eyes… and if it is intelligent, realistic, and complex enough, it rewires a bit of the part of your brain that tries to understand and make sense of perspectives that are new to you, not merely habits that you follow down muddy, well-worn paths on auto-pilot.  You get to practice understanding other people.  And the more you practice this with well-written, insightful material, the more empathetic you will become.  The article notes significantly that children reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series develop skill at compassion.  I can personally testify that as a middle school teacher, I saw that very thing happening as students in my nerd classes not only became more sensitive towards the gifted weirdos in their class because of Harry, but also became more understanding of the special education students, and other often-bullied minorities.  Harry Potter books are literally magic books.

Here are some other notable books and their magical powers;

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is taught in numerous middle schools and high schools across the country because teachers have instinctively realized how much it does to solve problems of racial and cultural tension in the school environment.  It tackles the unfairness of racism, the effects of extreme poverty, the possible side effects of too much religion, and it illustrates everything through the voice of a very intelligent young girl.  Learning hard lessons becomes practically painless.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by the angel of death.  It is set in Nazi Germany in the war years.  The central character is the daughter of a man arrested and executed as a communist.  She is forced to live with German foster parents who turn out to be very loving individuals, though they are enduring difficulties of their own.  They not only love and nurture her, they take in a young Jewish man who is fleeing the Gestapo and the work camps.  In the face of the constant threat of death, the main character learns to read both books and people, to care about others, and face the deaths of those she loves without fear.  This book makes beauty out of human ugliness and war, and love out of fear and death.  Very powerful magic, in my humble opinion.

So what am I saying in this Paffoonied post of books and magic?  Only this.  There is magic power to be gained from reading fiction books, especially well-written fiction books.  Try it for yourself.  You may accidentally turn yourself into a frog… or a little girl from Maycomb, Georgia in the 1930’s… but it will turn out to be very good magic.  Go ahead, try it.  I dare you.

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Filed under book reports, humor, magic, Paffooney

Home Stretch

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I have almost reached the end of my trek, my year-long goal of posting something every single day of 2015.  I have hopes of finding something profound to say.  That’s what a wizard does, right?  He provides wisdom and wit.  I am not saying my magic is nearly used up.  My cauldron is still boiling and full of eye of newt and gingerbread bat-wings.  I can still weave a few spells from it.  In fact, one of the effects of writing regularly and in a sustained manner is the priming of the pump, enabling me to more readily produce the magic liquids from the very depths of the well.  If I can keep breathing and limping forward, I will write many more good things.  I am not bragging here.  It is just a fact.  Practice empowers the sorcery.  But I also need to slow down and have a break… or two… or twelve.  I will not stop writing.  But I will post less because I will be putting more of my words into my fiction.  I have several unfinished novels to move forward, to shape, to mold, to breathe life into.  There is a necromancy there that cannot be ignored if we are to avoid the results of Victor Frankenstein’s Promethean follies.

space cowboy23 I have given you a picture Paffooney today of the tapestry created by the town of Rowan, Iowa for its centennial in 2002.  I consider Rowan my home town.  I was not born there, but it is the scene of most of my childhood.  It shaped most of who I am and how I am and what I am.  It is the scene of most of my fiction because that’s where the most valuable treasures of Truth are hidden, near the wishing wells of our youth.  I keep it on my bedroom wall because, not only do Pooh and Fozzie like it to be there, it is a beautiful thing to look at and reflect upon.  It keeps what is most important in my life in focus.  I have a lot of physical pain from my six incurable diseases, and pain makes the focus blur at times.  But pain is also the source of what wit and wisdom I have to offer.  I will continue to contemplate and write and think and create… and draw.  I will continue to post at least a portion of the results here.  I do desire to make some money with my writing, but that is only a secondary concern.  I am not really writing for the people who know me in real life.  They already know me and made up their minds about me long ago.  They might read this and that and recognize something of themselves, but they are not the ones I am speaking to at this moment.  I am talking in prose to those who see my ideas for the very first time with new eyes, no preconceived notions about me.  It is for them, the readers I do not personally know, that my magic spells are cast in words.

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Filed under humor, metaphor, Paffooney, Uncategorized

The Underdog

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Yesterday I failed to add to the list of magical powers I possess the ability to make football teams lose.  I have always believed that all I have to do is root for a team to win and they will lose.  I have tested out this power thoroughly over the years.  Through most of my life I thoroughly detested the Dallas Cowboys.  I hated the way they always seemed to have the advantage, the way they would always injure players on my favorite teams and force them out of football for the rest of the season, and they would always win.  Even after moving to Texas and, still rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals even after they moved to Arizona, I rooted against the Cowboys in every game they played.  I am amazed that they didn’t go undefeated for three decades.  But a little miracle called “General Manager Jerry Jones” happened to the Cowboys.  I moved to Dallas at a time when the team was being dismantled and dismembered by a magical ability of Jerry’s that seems very similar to my own.  The Cowboys became the underdog.  So much so that I actually began to root for them when they were not playing the Cardinals.  This, of course, magnified Jerry’s magical gifts tenfold.  The Cowboys became the same kind of perennial losers the Cardinals had always been.

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So, you can easily see that I am one of those superstitious nerd-body nincompoops who always pulls for the underdog.  I admit to helping the Boston Redsox win their first World Series at the end of “Babe Ruth’s Curse”.  Those perennial also-rans benefited from playing my beloved Cardinals’ baseball team.  So I rooted against them fiercely, and they won.  In fact, underdogs sometimes win even in spite of magical ability.  Some times they just have to win.  In 2006 the Cardinals won the World Series on the strength of Chris Carpenter’s throwing arm and Albert Pujols’ bat, along with a team of underdogs and ne’er-do-wells who all played far above themselves.  I rooted for them every step of the way.  And we lost some battles, but we won the war.  Such is the way it must be in this world.  The ultimate victory belongs to the Underdog, the unlikely superhero that is sometimes confused with a flying frog.

The football Arizona Cardinals came through for me again in the same way last night.  They were up against another good team in the Minnesota Vikings.  And in spite of the fact that I was rooting for them every step of the way, I saw them pull victory from the jaws of imminent defeat.  With mere seconds left, they created a fumble and recovered it, preventing a game-tying field goal that was practically in the bag.  The Cardinals are now in the playoffs with an 11 and 2 record, poised to make another run at the Superbowl.  That may not seem like an underdog to you, but if you look back over the years of rooting for a team that was often the butt of jokes and were usually losers like the current Cowboys are, then you can see that these are underdogs at the end of a long, long uphill climb.  And aren’t we all like that most of the time?  Aren’t we all climbing the mountainside in spite of numerous avalanches, storms, and falls?

Listening to the radio station KLUV doing their annual radiothon for Children’s Hospital while taking my daughter to school this morning, I heard the heartbreaking story of a little boy who is both autistic and epileptic.  Apparently he collapsed in school, and when taken to Children’s ER, was found to have leukemia as well.  I had to stop the car and cry for ten minutes.   It never seems fair to have to listen to stories like that.  You want to help the underdog to win.  But you feel totally powerless.  I don’t have enough money to pay my own medical expenses, and my daughter had to come home early with a fever.  But believe me, I had to donate $20 to Children’s Hospital.  It is a tiny, meaningless amount… but the magic is in the doing and the believing.  I will continue to use my goofy magic to the very best of my ability.

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, philosophy, Uncategorized

{Old Photographs}

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One of Facebook’s gifts that I actually appreciate is the connection it has given me to old photos.  Being connected to family members and old high school friends that live far away and I haven’t met face to face for a very, very long time gives me access to shared photos that have existed for a very long time.  I never would have gotten access to them if somebody hadn’t posted it on Facebook.  Example number one is a photo of Son Number One who is now a Marine stationed in (No the government did not remove this portion.  That is paranoid old me.)  The picture shows Dorin as a ring-bearer at a family wedding in the Philippines when he was not yet two.  I was teaching at the time and couldn’t go with them, so, though I have seen copies of this Photo in relatives’ houses, I never had access to it until photo-mania hit Facebook.

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Here’s another case in point.  There was a time when my Iowegian farm family had lots of four-generation photos and even some five-generation photos.  This one makes me a little sad.  Only the two little girls in this photo are still living.  Great Grandma Hinckley (I can use her real name here because she’s been gone since before desktop computers… who is going to be able to exploit that in any way?) lived to be almost 100 years old.  This shows not only her, but her eldest daughter, that daughter’s only son, and that son’s three kids.  John was younger than me, but his heart did not last anywhere near as long as mine has at this writing.  My own three kids would never have even an inkling of who these people were and their blood connection without the Facebook posts of a cousin who is still kicking. (Thank you for that, Louise.)  Four-generation photos have not occurred again in my family for a long time now.  And before this photo was taken, Iowans did not live long enough on average to do photos like this.  My Great Grandma (who actually was pretty Great and doesn’t get the Great just for being old) took a lot of these, as did both of my Grandmas.  Big farming families generate lots and lots of family photos.

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The photo from the train station in Yugoslavia was a gift from a time when my cousins hosted a foreign exchange student and the whole family got to broaden its world.  I am able to be Facebook friends with the Yugoslavian girl (Whose name translates to Snow White in English) even though she has lived most of her life in Eastern Europe.  I can even collect pictures of her grandchildren if I wish.  (Can’t return the favor, though, as I don’t have any grandkids and probably won’t for a few years.  Mom has to settle for a three-generation picture.   And it is harder and harder now to get the whole clan together, (especially since my younger brother has become a Tea Party Republican and swore off both logic and the use of facts in shaping his thinking).   But I think the best gift of all is how these old photos can keep my family alive for me in ways mere memory can’t manage.  We lost Uncle Larry a couple of years ago now to lung cancer.  Still, life and love and laughter live on…

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Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat!

20141231_144345bflyySometimes I don’t believe in the magic I believe in… Er, well, it is something like that.  I mean, things happen in life that you never imagine could be possible.  Some things are unbelievably bad, and others are unbelievably good.  For instance, the Cardinals lost their last two football games.  They had an amazing year with eleven wins and a spot in the playoffs, but the @#&$$!!! St. Louis Rams broke their first AND their second string quarterbacks in that last win they won.  No more wins for this year barring a playoff miracle.  And I had been developing a heart problem since we went to San Diego in October to see my son graduate from Marine boot camp.  I have been waking up every night with heartbeat arrhythmia… at least, that’s what I thought it was, and what the doctor suspected it was… but it wasn’t.  I went in yesterday to get the bad news from the cardiologist, and he showed me test results that proved my heart is totally healthy and beating normally.  Apparently I was being fooled by muscle spasms in my chest caused by arthritis in my rib-cage.   Don’t that beat all?   Bullwinkle shows us there is nothing up his sleeve, reaches in into the magic hat expecting to pull out a lion, and we get a little white rabbit.

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The Truest of Magicks

Okay, life is like this; you are born, a lot of dumb stuff happens that you are mostly not in control of, you suffer a little bit, you are happy a little bit, and then you die.   That is a pretty gloomy prospect, and most of us spend our entire lives obsessing over it, examining it with microscopes, doctoring it with needles and potions and chainsaws, trying to make it last a little longer, wailing and complaining about our sorry allotment, and wasting what little time we have.  So what secret exists that could ever make a difference?  Could ever open up our eyes… even just a tiny bit?

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The secret, as far as I can tell (and I am certainly one of the dumber and more random among you because I am cursed with insight and wisdom won through suffering and making huge mistakes), is reading the right books.

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I am not alone in this sort of thinking.  There are those who believe that if you gather the best books together into a personal library and read them, they add experiences and knowledge to your life that you would not otherwise have.  (Of course, one must acknowledge, especially if you read fiction, that most books are filled with lies and misinformation, and some, Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus leaps to mind, might leave you stupider than you were when you started.)  It deepens, broadens, and intensely colors the experience of life.

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People who read books a lot… really read them, and re-read them, and collect them, and study them, and think about and write about them… are called wizards.  Wizards are wise men.  It is what the word means.  Being one does not make you better than anyone else.  In fact, wizards are generally weaker than normal men.  It comes from all that ruining of eyes and fuddling up brains with too much thinking.  You don’t want a wizard to back you up in a fist fight.  You will certainly lose.  And you don’t want a wizard to tell you how live your life.  They are not good role models.  But if a wizard tells a story, you should listen.  Because if you really listen, and the wizard is really wise, you can expand the borders of your life, and push on nearer to immortality.

Ice Alchemist

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Magical Moments

There comes a time, a moment of truth, in which a decision has to be made, a problem has to be solved.  In the teaching business those moments can occur once per hour, or fifty times in the space of two minutes.  You can bat 900, hit nine out of every ten out of the park, and still come out on the losing end.  More often than not, you lose.  You continue to get it wrong, and you feel totally defeated at the end of the day.  No World Series of education for you.  Sorry about that.  But once in a while, you do not fail.  You say the perfect thing to diffuse the situation.  You think of the perfect example that, once explained, turns on every light bulb in every head in the room.  That is magic.  That is the reason you teach.

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I am writing a novel right now, The Magical Miss Morgan, about a teacher.  Without making a mystery about it, the teacher in the story, Miss Francis Morgan, is really me.  I am basing this story on things that actually happened to me.  Now, before the yelling and the accusations start, I will confess that I realize I am a male teacher and the main character is female, and there are things a female teacher does all the time, like hugging a student, that a male teacher can never do.  And I must also confess that this teacher I am writing about loves all her students, even the ugly and stupid ones, and that is probably only true for teachers who really are magical.  I further realize that the fairies in the story, just like the ones in Peter Pan, are not real outside of the story being told.  I’m not insane… well, okay, I’m a teacher… a middle school teacher… so let’s just say I am not completely insane.

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But there is real magic.  It happens in that moment when you desperately need that perfect solution to pop out of the magic hat like a white rabbit and say, “Howdy!”  Because if you have the courage to reach into that hat and pull the rabbit out, more often than not, it is there.  And it doesn’t end when the teaching ends.  I hit the wall with this novel at about 30,000 words.  I wrote myself into a corner with no way out.  But then I realized that I already had the answer.  I am basing this story on what really happened.  So, all I have to do is turn me into her and sprinkle some fairy dust, and voila! the rest of the novel is already plotted and as good as written.  Everything fell into place in only a moment.

Magical Moment

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What Mickey’s Magical Tome says about Horror and Fear

I never could watch only the start of the monster movie, the late-night Saturday creature feature.  Once begun, I had to see it to the very end.  I had to know the evil was ended and the horror was defeated.If I did not find out, then nightmares ensued.  The night I watched John Carpenter’s original Halloween, I had to get up in the night and check the closet fifteen times.  I almost didn’t survive number thirteen, nearly dying from dread, and the light stayed on for the rest of the night.  I need to see that which scares me in the light of reason and hope.  I need to face my fears and overcome them with mental and spiritual power.  No story is ever wholly unreal, and no enemy stalks me forever without end.

(You probably can’t read it, but my magical tome contains a list of magic words, words that mean “magic”, incantations against the fear of the dark.)

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