Tag Archives: self portrait

Me, Myself, and Eye…

I am aware that nobody who looks at my blog ever clicks on my videos. This one, however, would be very useful if you are really going to read and engage with this essay. This self-reflection came into being as a response to watching this video. The video talks about how most people can’t stand to actually sit alone in a room with only themselves. And it has an impact. I have claimed in the past to being a devotee of the Theodore Roethke maxim, “Being, not doing, is my first love.”  But how does one go about becoming truly self-aware? How does one enumerate the concept of “being”? I believe I can do it, but it requires a bit of self-examination. How do I do it?  

Let me count the ways…

I put myself down on paper, through drawing or writing in English and look at the way it portrays me.

I find myself in both the written characters I create and the cartoon characters I draw. In Hidden Kingdom, my graphic novel, the Mouse and young Prinz Flute are both me. I can see myself both as the reluctant romantic hero and the snarky child-thing with a dangerous little bit of wisdom.

I learn to know more about my secret heart and what I truly think about the world I live in and react to by writing about what I think and the things that happen to me, both for good and ill. This blog is all about learning about myself, just as your blog is a mirror of who you really are. Consequently, I have no secrets left.

I not only reveal myself in this blog, but I also attempt to sing about myself in much the same way that Walt Whitman did in his poetry.

I live most of my life in my own imagination. It is a silly Willy Wonka world of images, songs, music, and dreams. It can all blow away in a moment when the sun comes out. It can also keep me in a light-obscuring cloud wrapped and safe, well away from the things I fear and the things that worry me. I came to realize I was repressing the memory of being sexually assaulted when I was ten through a dream when I was nineteen, re-living the event in a dream from which I awoke with a blinding flash of realization. I came to grips with the horror that mangled my childhood and young adulthood first by facing the fact that the nightmare had been real, and then by finding ways to overcome it. I became a teacher of young people in large part as a way to protect them and prevent such a thing from ever happening again to someone else.

I use my fictional stories about the girl Valerie Clarke to examine my relationships with my own daughter and a couple of old girlfriends from my youth.

I often worry that I don’t see real people as being real people. I tend to think of them from the first meeting onward as potential book characters, walking collections of details and quirks, conflicts and motivations. But I recognize too that that way of seeing with the author’s eye is not incorrect. People really are those things. There are rules and generalizations that everyone falls under at some point. It is not so much that I see real people as book characters as it is that I realize that book characters are as real as any other purportedly “real” people.

I am myself both the subject of my cartooning and fictionarooning, and the cartoon character of myself as well.

Mickey is not a real person. He is a cartoonist persona, a mask, a fake identity, and the lie I tell myself about who I actually am.

In this essay, I have attempted to explain to you who I think I am spending time with when I am alone in a room with myself. He is not such a terrible person to spend time with, this Mickey. Or else he really is truly awful, and I am lying about me and who I think I am when I am alone with me and have no other options. But probably not. I have been getting to know me for about 562 years, only exaggerating by 500, and I am not finished yet.

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Filed under autobiography, being alone, irony, Mickey, Paffooney

Upon Further Reflection…

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My 60th Birthday Self Portrait

Time dictates lots of things.  I am not now even the ghost of what I was back then.  I look more like Santa Claus than my father or my grandfathers ever did.  You may notice that, even with glasses on, I have to squint in order to see who I really am.

It is normal to do a bit of self-examination after a milestone birthday.  But I never claimed to be normal.  In fact, I doubt after the results of the recent election that you could say I was anything like the common man at all.

I was raised a Christian in a Midwest Methodist Church from a small Iowa farm town.  But I have since become something of an agnostic or atheist… not because I don’t believe in God, but because I don’t believe anyone can tell me who God is or how he wants me to be other than me.  But I am also not at the center of the universe the way most religious people believe.  I believe that all people are born good and have to work at being bad by making self-centered choices and making excuses to themselves for behaving in ways that they know are wrong.  God doesn’t forgive my sins because he doesn’t have to.  I am tolerant of all people and most things about them.  To sum up this paragraph, I am nothing like the dedicated Christians I know and grew up among.  The actions of the new, in-coming government and dominant political party convince me that intolerance, self-interest, and rationalizations are the norm.

mickeynose

Sometimes my nose gets really red and my hair bozos out for no particular reason.

I deal with the problems of life by making jokes and forging ahead with carefully considered plans in spite of the doubts others express about my abilities, my choices, and my sanity.  I prefer to do something rather than to sit idly by and do nothing.  Yet, I never do anything without agonizing over the plan before I take that step.  And like the recent election, things usually go wrong.  I have failed at far more things in my life than I have succeeded at.

I am told I think too much.  I hear constantly that I make things too complicated.  People say I should do practically everything in a different way… usually their way.  But I inherited a bit of stubbornness from my square-headed German ancestors.  In fact, I inherited Beyer-stubborn from my Grandma Beyer.  In all the time I knew her, I never saw her change her mind about anything… ever.  She was a Republican who thought all Republicans were like President Eisenhower, even Ronald Reagan…  but not Barry Goldwater.  Someone convinced her that Goldwater was a radical.  That was almost as bad as being a Democrat.  I, however, have strayed from the Beyer-stubborn tradition enough to change my mind once in a while, though only after carefully considering the facts on both sides of the question.  Nixon changed me from a Republican like Grandma into a Democrat.  Fortunately, Grandma Beyer loved me too much to disown me.

mewall24

In my retirement, I have gotten even more artistical than I was before.  This is a picture of me with my fictional child Valerie.

So how do I summarize this mirror-staring exercise now that I have passed the 500-word goal?  Probably by stating that I do have a vague idea of who I am.  But I promise to keep looking in the mirror anyway.  One never knows what he will see in the map of his soul that he wears on his face.

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Filed under autobiography, birthdays, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Wide-Eyed Wonder

bad dayThere is no doubt about it, being a writer is like getting naked in public.  It never used to really sink in before I published books, and when no one read my writing or listened to me when I talked.  Suddenly, I am being read… and even… frighteningly, being believed.Creativity

I now have 678 followers, a number of whom actually read and comment on my posts.  I do my best to entertain and make them laugh, but it is the nature of real writing that the contents of my life as a whole spill out for all to see.  I try to keep private things private, but it is becoming more and more obvious that I need a much bigger purple teddy bear.  Readers of my blog know that I was a public school teacher for thirty-one years.  They also know that I did not want to leave that job, but I have six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor, and my health let me down.  They may also know that I was the victim of a sexual predator when I was a child and recovery has taken a lifetime… in fact, it is still going on.  They may know that my family life has become difficult because health issues affect an entire family, especially when the costs of care are turned into gigantic scary monsters by an increasingly greedy and corrupt health-care industry (not doctors and nurses. mind you, but the higher-ups who really make all the money off drugs, tech, and insurance.)   There are no longer skeletons in my closet.  All my darkest secrets become fuel for writing and bubble out of my cauldron, transforming into butterflies, who may have started as worms, but have worked themselves into filigreed winged creatures that flit about in the sunlight.  I turned one of my most horrible experiences into a post for https://www.facebook.com/groups/1000Speak/.  It was the story of Ruben Vela, and it was about my inability to prevent a tragedy.  Here is the link; When Compassion Fails.  Gobs of sobs from readers in the comment section.  I usually try to make them laugh… but crying is a part of the reading game too.

And where are the Trolls?  I see them on the internet everywhere.  I know other bloggers who have cut off comments because of Trolls.  They don’t seem to come around me with their leg-breaking, gut-busting insults and four-letter-wordy mayhem.  Do I not deserve that as much as anybody else?  But I know better than to actually wish for what I don’t really want.  It is okay, Trolls, if you decide you’d rather apply the soul-crushing efforts elsewhere.

The point is, while I have always wanted to be a writer and have some experience with naturists and nudists, I have never before now had to come to terms with dancing naked in the sunlight in front of God and everybody… but continuing to write means dealing with it now.

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The Prognosticator’s Spyglass

Self Portrait vxv

A while back I gave you an overview of my writing plan and called it the Magician’s Spyglass.  My magic, of course, is story-telling, and the spyglass is a metaphor for looking at the long view ahead.  But I have also recently been thinking about the purpose of my writing and where I need to go in sailing my fictional ship with pink sails.

The Lady

Here is where I’ve been, the view over the aft rail.  I have my novel Snow Babies contractually obligated with PDMI Publishing to be published (though the time in the future when it sees print seems to be drifting farther and farther forward.)  The novel Superchicken is finished, and the publisher accepted submission, but they have not yet made a decision on its possible publication.  The Bicycle-Wheel Genius is completed and being seriously edited by me.  The Magical Miss Morgan is completed, edited, and about to be submitted to the YA novel-writing contest that I last participated in with Snow Babies.  I am currently writing two new novels, Stardusters and Lizard Men, a science fiction novel about planetary destruction and renewal, as well as using the energy and creativity of youth as a natural resource.  And When the Captain Came Calling, a novel about the origins of the Norwall Pirates, that boys’ club of liars that forms the center of most of my Norwall books.  So, there is that.  I am still sailing straight ahead into stormy seas with my writing.  But I am not wearing an eye-patch over both eyes.  I am looking at the rough seas and squalling storm clouds dead ahead.

So, as Prognosticator, I must gage the winds, evaluate the white-caps, and take a sounding or two.  I have these problems to overcome.  I am limited in funding because of poor health, mounting medical expenses, a large tax burden, and a steady retirement income that may be threatened by a Texas Republican trend to cut everything out of public schools, even teacher pensions.  This State will never ask billionaires and oilmen to foot their fair share of the bills.  They would much rather take away education money because, after all, you need to keep the masses stupid if you are going to continue to farm them like hogs and cattle for every dollar you can squeeze out of them.  Stupid people vote Republican, and so are the cherished commodity that Texan Empires are built upon.

The environment is changing for the worse.  With COPD and severe allergies brought on by the exposure to farm chemicals in my teen years, I have trouble breathing fresh Texas air (made up of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, butane, and other by-products of fracking and refining).  I also have experienced seven Dallas-area earthquakes in the last two years that directly result from fracking in the oil shale beneath our feet.  Soon our drinking water should be flammable, judging by the Pennsylvania experience.  Global warming has given us record heat-waves and drought in the last decade, though all the officials in this State are insisting it is all in my head.  I was imagining the heat two summers ago when we had 99 days of temperatures over 100 in a row.  So there is the reason my Stardusters novel is about environmental Armageddon.

The likelihood that I am ever going to make more money writing and drawing than I spend on the endeavor is increasingly small as the publishing industry continues to change and continues to benefit the booksellers like Amazon more and individual content creators less.  I will need to write a post or two on that before one of my six incurable diseases kills me.

I must continue to write about artists and writers that influence and engage me.  That is lifeblood to me, a commodity that I may soon be short of;  I need to write about how I create the stories that I am writing.  I also need to chronicle the life I have lived as a teacher and an educator, because the valuable lessons I have learned as a teacher and a mentor to the young will all be lost if I do not do everything I can to pass them on.  That is the primary reason that my teacher-story, The Magical Miss Morgan, now exists.  These are all things that I am now predicting I must write about.  The water is churning and navigation is becoming more difficult… so onward we sail until I can shout, “Land Ho!”

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Goofy Me

The more I looked at the silly simpering grin on my old foolish face, the more I realized it needed a few things added.  So I added a few of my dream babies.  You know, those characters I have created in cartoons and novels who may have started with my own three kids, or kids I grew up with, or kids I taught over the years, but ended up with a large injection of my own mental DNA in their final, fictional selves.  So here is a self portrait that I privately refer to by the title “Goofy Me”.

Self Portraixxxt  Man, is that ever goofy!

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Self Portrait and Mildly Broken Heart

DSCN5418  Hermoine, Vintage Ricky, and Vintage Skipper are inspecting my heart monitor in this silly Paffooney  Photo.  I have been wearing the thing since Monday to hopefully detect an irregular heart-beat problem.  It’s kinda like when you hear a knocking noise in the engine, but when you take it in to the car dealer, you can’t get it to make that sound even once.  Two trips to the doctor and two EKG’s have not been enough to fix the knocking in my engine, and so I am still on a heart-attack/stroke watch.  Four times in the last two nights I have felt the racing heartbeat and painful tugging sensation in my chest that could spell the instant end.  But I am not worried.  I now have the opportunity to lay in my bed all day and play with my toys… err… admire my collection.  I apologize for Ricky not putting on proper clothes for this post, but they haven’t made clothes for a doll like him since the early seventies.  They are a little hard to come by.  And they always sold Barbie dolls in bathing suits when he was new to the world.  So he goes about mostly naked and I have to apologize for him whenever we are in polite company.

“So, Mickey,” you are probably saying to yourself, “it’s a heart problem, not a brain problem, right?”

Well, if my hyperactive butterfly of a heart sends a clot the wrong direction, it could be a stroke, a brain-curdling, word-mincing, vegetable-making sort of brain problem.  If it’s all the same to God, I’d much rather have a heart attack, thank you.

I am really, honestly not worried though.  My career is ended.  I can no longer get up in front of a classroom, a basically captive audience, and inflict upon them a never-ending spiel of word-wit and vocabulary-bloating that made kids laugh and love my class (based on the fact that even though they thought they were avoiding learning to write and read and speak in my English Class, we were actually practicing those things bell to bell).  Though I miss it so terribly it probably isn’t helping my current condition, I really have done my job and taken my best shot at winning the ongoing War Against Ignorance.  I actually make more money now on my full retirement pension than I was making month to month as a teacher.  (Mostly due to deductions for health problems and absences from work).  I have the chance to draw some and paint some and write a lot now.  I can do more story-telling of the written-down variety, and not waste my tall tales in the very absorbent air of the classroom.  I get to joke about my condition more, and hide my rotted out hulk of a body behind a computer screen so no one has to cringe while looking at my fuzzy, spotty old form.  I can use words to be beautiful in the reader’s mind’s eye once more.  Oh, and I made the mistake of promising to show you a self portrait.  So, try to keep your lunch down, because here it is;

Self Portrait

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A Bit of Him, a Bit of Them, Plus a Lot of Me

miltie 001It is generally true that any kind of artist, whether they make portraits, or paintings, or novels, or poems, or photos of landscapes, or photos of cats,  is making a self-portrait more than anything else.  It is true that no matter what form an artwork takes, you see it from the perspective of the artist.  You are shown what they see.  You are led to think their thoughts.  Characters in books are usually telling at least in part, the author’s life story.  That’s why I use so many real people that I once knew to model the people in my stories and drawings upon.  You must write about what you know, and your own self is what you know best.  This Paffooney of young Milt Morgan is a picture of me.  It actually looks like what I once looked like.  Milt as a novel character thinks and acts as I once did.  Anyone that knew me fifty years ago will tell you how much this looks like me.  Of course the number of folks who knew me back then continues to seriously dwindle.

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