Tag Archives: surrealism

My Bookish Journey (Part IV)

Once I settled into a publishing plan where I was basically in control of the whole process, the center of my world became the execution of my overall plan to commit acts of actual literature. I had to decide what I wanted to write and the reasons why I was going to write it.

Surrealist Reasons for the Season.

I began the most serious part of my journey into authorship once I was fully retired from my last teaching job. And the darkest part of that truth is that if I weren’t ill enough to be forced to leave teaching, I would still be doing that. It is what God made me for, if there is a God. But since I am stuck in this retirement reality, I really have to use fiction for what fiction-writing is for.

And let me assure you, I know what writing fiction needs to mean for me. I need to rewrite the story of my life in the surreal reality of perceived truth. And what does that mean in simple words? I have to lie a lot. Because fiction is lying in order to reveal the truth.

Two of the most important books I wrote tell the same story for the same purpose.

The Two Stories are really One Story.

I had a childhood full of monsters. And who I became in adult life was not done in spite of what those monsters did to me, but because of it. I was sexually assaulted as a ten-year-old. What he did to me was not pleasurable in any way. He tortured me because causing pain turned him on. I was severely traumatized by the experience. So much so that I experienced PTSD-induced amnesia for a while. These two books are about my fear of monsters and evil, and the deeply embedded fear that when directly faced with evil, I would not know what it really was.

Things in the two novels are not exactly what they seem.

Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf, is not a monster. He is a boy who suffers from a genetic hair disorder called hypertrichosis, the same disorder that caused the star of Barnum’s freak show, Jojo the dog-faced boy, to have excessive hair growth.

He looks like a monster, but he is really the sweetest, most innocent character in the story.




The Cobble Sisters, both Sherry and Shelly, are nudists. That is a detail that was both kinda true about the real twin girls that inspired the characters, and true enough about these characters in the story to make fans of my fiction from real nudists I befriended on Twitter.

The nudism, however, symbolizes innocence and truthfulness. Sherry labors in both books to get the other members of the Pirates’ Liars’ Club to accept nudism and try it for themselves. Sherry tells them repeatedly that nudists are more honest than other people because they don’t hide anything about themselves.

The ultimate villain of both novels is, ironically, one who hides everything and manipulates from the shadows.

Grandma Gretel is the main character of Recipes for Gingerbread Children. She is a story-teller that has to come to terms with her own monsters from the past. She is a survivor of the Holocaust during WWII. She lost her entire family to the monsters of the Third Reich.

Ironically, she is the one who, through stories and her own keen perceptions, reveals the ultimate villain and his evil. She also, through stories, is coming to terms with her own trauma and loss.

So, what I am saying about my bookish journey at this point is that I have to write the novels I am writing because they allow me to rewrite the world I live in and the facts of my past life in it. I am rewriting myself. I am becoming the me I need to be by writing.

Of course, I am not yet done talking about my bookish journey. Keep an eye out for Part V.

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Filed under book review, humor, novel writing, Paffooney, writing

Chances Are…

Postable Paffoonies

Chances are… I could wear a foolish grin, like a Johnny Mathis Moon in the sky…

I could waltz… all alone in a dark room, never seizing on the chances to fly…

But there’s a time… meant to let the summer in…

And love songs… all make me wonder… Why?

Silly, I know.  But silly and surreal is how I go, how I deal with the time.  A song in my head leads to rhythm and metaphor and rhyme.  And it takes me from old winter and the waning of the moon… to the silly month of June… And my dancing shoes were never quite so spry.

Chances are… if you really read this, you will know I am depressed.

My life is all unfairly messed.

And I barely can get dressed…

To go tripping cross the floor, dancing awkwardly toward the door, ’cause I’m in need of so much more.

But in a poem I find it… the very reason that I rhymed it… like the crooning song that’s stuck in my old head…

I will catch it, and I’ll bind it, like a fool who hopes you’ll find it, and the treasure will be revealed before we’re dead…

Chances are… that you hear that silly tune, as it reels across the page in silent spread.  And the song will slowly stop, as I dance a final hop, and the answer is brightly shining in my head.

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Filed under Depression, feeling sorry for myself, finding love, healing, humor, magic, music, Paffooney, poetry

Tim Burton Movies


Last night the Princess and I went to see Alice, Through the Looking Glass, the latest Tim Burton movie.  Of course we loved it.  Burton is one of the most interesting story-tellers of our time.  Did you know he is two years younger than me?  And also, like me, he began as a cartoonist and is totally dedicated to the idea that every artist is a surrealist and must exaggerate, elucidate, equivocate, and numerous other things that start with the letter “e” and end with the suffix “ate” simply because that’s how surrealism starts.  You notice a little bit of weirdness in real life and blow it all out of proportion with lies and coloring of meaning and relentless “what-iffing?”  If you don’t see surrealism in those last two sentences of purple paisley prose… then maybe you can see it visually in Burton’s many masterpieces.


Tim Burton began his legacy as an apprentice Disney animator specializing in stop-motion animation.  But he was just another creative nobody like me until the launch of his small-budget monster hit, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Of course, any time you can pull in huge profits for little investments, you will have Hollywood executives ramming the heads of their unpaid interns like battering rams against your door so they can get in and throw money at you.

Hence, Batman.


Batman was the first time I actually took notice of Tim.  And not just as a director of a film… eventually two films.  He was gifted at assembling a cast.  And this would work to his advantage as several singular talents attached themselves to him and worked in his movie projects repeatedly.



And his repeated collaboration with Danny Elfman and his music was easily as great a master-stroke of genius as John Williams with Spielberg and Lucas.

He has repeatedly used his movies to describe and rewrite his own life story as a misunderstood genius flubbing horribly in the quest to fit in with a world full of “regular people”.


Poster for the film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (directed by Tim Burton), 1990. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)



His sense of humor, of course, is distinctly and colorfully bizarre.

Dark Shadows

DSTF-0046r JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabas Collins in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ “DARK SHADOWS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.



Burton is, just like me, a child of the 70’s.  He references things like the old gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, that were a part of his impressionable youth just as they were mine.  He picks stories about things he truly cares about, and that is also just like me.



So, in a rather bizarre coincidence that is entirely appropriate to surrealists, I love any Tim Burton movie simply because it is a Tim Burton movie.  He is probably me in an alternate dimension.  And as such, I already know I will love his next movie, whatever the heck it is.


Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, humor, movie review, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Surrealist

Yes, I admit it.  I am a Surrealist.  I also hope that it is not too terrible a thing to be.  Because I truly think that everyone who was raised by television, and lived through the revolution where computers took over human life, is one too.

definition from Merriam-Webster;

Simple Definition of surrealism;

a 20th-century art form in which an artist or writer combines unrelated images or events in a very strange and dreamlike way

Full Definition of surrealism;

the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations

  • rooster riding
  • There is a certain satisfaction to be had in knowing for certain how to define oneself.  I learned about Surrealism in high school art class back in the early 70’s.  I saw and admired the works of Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, and Max Ernst.  And I realized that everything I wanted to do in the Realm of Art, whether it was weird paintings, cartoons, comic book art, or bizarre puppet shows… fantasy, science fiction, or humor… it was ALL Surrealism.  Surrealism saturates out culture and our very thinking.    We are drawn to watch baseball by the antics of a giant pantomime chicken.  Our food choices are influenced by a happy red, yellow, and white clown who battles a blobby purple monster and a hamburglar over shakes and French fries.  It is only natural then, that I would want to draw bug-sized fairies who would saddle and ride a red rooster.  I have embraced surrealism as a way of life.
  • 20150910_122142
  • I have no trouble writing a poem about the difficulties of life by writing about a game of bowling where you have to roll a moose down the alley into the pins.
  • Surrealism is all about creating things by lumping all kinds of disparate goodies into the same pot and cooking it up as a stew.  It is important that the stew tastes good in the end, so the mixture has to have large doses of reality and realism in it.  Dali painted melting watches and boneless soft-sculpture people with almost photographic realism.  I am compelled to do that too.
  • And what is humor, after all, if not lumping strange things together into a reality sandwich that makes you laugh because it takes you by surprise?  I don’t shy away from weirdness.  I embrace it.  It makes life all the funnier.
  • And why did I put bullet points on everything in this post?  Because it allows me to mash bits of wit and wisdom together in a weird way that only seems to have no connection, one to the other, and only seems to make no sense.
  • princess on rooster
  • Sometimes we just have to look at things sideways.
  • I was recently accused of being eclectic in my posting topics by one regular commentator.  I could wear that word like a badge of honor.
  • Definition from the Urban Dictionary;
    This describes a combination of many different individual elements of styles, themes, mediums or inspirations pooled from many sources. It can refer to musical tastes, dress sense, interior design…many things.
    She has an ecletic sense of style, today she wears biker boots, pink fishnet stockings, a pencil skirt, a military jacket, a baseball hat, a my little pony t-shirt and a dunlop bag covered in badges from all her favourite bands from ABBA to Kooks
    by Ezmerelda August 28, 2005
  • So, if I am going to make sense of this whole mess of words and ideas and bizarre images, let me do it with a picture that I think is surreal.
  • Ima mickey


Filed under art criticism, artwork, humor, insight, Paffooney, philosophy, surrealism, Uncategorized

Mapping the Stories

Norwall map

By golly, I finished it.  It may not look like it, but this map of a place that really only exists in my memory and imagination took a lot of work.  I surveyed the town and made a set of rough map sketches back in 1994.  Some of the places on this map don’t exist any more, while a few never existed at all in any real sense.  I finished drawing it out in pen and ink yesterday, February 15th, 2016.

This map is Norwall, Iowa, population 275 (If you count the squirrels… and we had a lot of squirrels in this town… in more ways than one).  The map is attributed to Bill Stuyvessant, known to the locals as “Cherries Bill” because he loved cherries more than any other fruit and it was the exact same color of red he had on both his cheeks and nose.  For the last decade of his life, the 1960’s, he lived alone.  His wife died in 1958.  His only son, Christian, died near Bastogne in December of 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge.  He lived alone with a house full of stacks of old newspapers.    It is believed by many that he was a sorcerer and knew practically everything.  Some even said he was God.  The map probably had to originate with him because it shows the locations of key settlements in the Faery Kingdom of Tellosia, which of course is known only to practicers of magic and those with vivid imaginations.

Norwall is the setting for my hometown novels series.  They are not exactly science fiction and not exactly fantasy, but have heavy doses of both.  They are actually about real life as it can be warped by imagination and dreaming.  You can make the argument that they are surrealism.  The four pictured above are completed novels, except for When the Captain Came Calling on the right.  It is undergoing a complete rewrite and is only about 50% complete.  I have one published novel in this series through I-Universe, an imprint of Penguin Books.


I also have a number of novel projects in the planning and rough-draft stages that are also set in this little imaginary Iowa town.  I am continuing to write and expand it all as time continues relentlessly forward.




Filed under humor, maps, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, surrealism

Surrealist Eyes

The moral of the story; never challenge Cowboy Flash Crumpwell to a rubber gun duel.

The moral of the story; never challenge Cowboy Flash Crumpwell to a rubber gun duel.

He was the marshal in charge at Crumpwell’s Wild West Dude Ranch and Rabbit Farm.  It was his duty to create order and peace on a lawless frontier… and keep the fur-bearing bunnies happy, and making more rabbit fur.  So, when Pistoleer Pete Pistachio-Mustachio came to town, it was totally up to Marshal Flash Crumpwell to put an end to his terrible reign of Pistachio-ness.

They faced off on either end of Main Street.  Their spurs clanked and jangled as they started their bowlegged walks towards destiny and each other.

Then the guns came out.

The triggers were squeezed.

The barrels began to wiggle and elongate like elastic melting on a hot stove.  Up and down and all around dueling rubber guns dipped and danced and maneuvered through two dimensional space, until finally… Flash’s gun found a target in Pete’s ear.

“I should’ve known better than to hide a target in my ear!” Pete said as he surrendered.  “I just didn’t think any fool with a rubber gun would ever look there.”

  1. a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.

The horrible truth is, I have always been a surrealist.  My unconscious mind is constantly bombarding my life and work with irrational images.  And my ultimate source of creativity comes from a simple assumption.  “I can make sense out of the irrational things in my dreams and the movies constantly playing in my mind’s eye.”  Of course, that assumption is total hoo-haw.  People really can’t make sense out of nonsense.  But I am the idiot that always swims upstream.  I tend to try impossible things that can’t possibly be possible, and I end up pretending I can do them.  I am not the only one who has ever done this silly, stupid thing.  Notice what the auteur has to say about Chuck Jones, a cartoonist and fellow Surrealist;

So here is my conclusion; If you have ever wondered, “Why am I drawn to reading the meandering nonsense of this daft bugger?  And why does he do all this irrational and random stuff?”… It is because I am desperately infected with the affliction of surrealism.  Take pity on me.  Laugh at my kooky quirks.


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Filed under humor, Paffooney, surrealism

Life is Surreal

I have told you before that I am a seriously committed surrealist.  Not in the sense of “committed to an institution” sort of committed, but seriously committed.  All cartoonists are by nature surrealists.  Bill Watterson created Calvin and Hobbes around the idea that a toy tiger can come to life in the evil imagination of a child.  Jim Davis created Garfield around a seriously self-absorbed and greedy talking cat.  Elsie Segar created Popeye about a one-eyed sailor who drank from a magic pool to gain invincibility and maintains it with iron-fortified cans of spinach.  To be a surrealist, you must put unlikely things together to make something fantastically super-real… so unreal it seems flawlessly real… er, how do you actually define surrealism without resorting to the dictionary definition about “juxtaposing severely mismatched items created with photo-realism”?

flying car

Surrealism is actually more real than realism.  If you simply take a photograph of your picture idea, a picture of a birthday cake or a picture of a clown or a picture of your favorite bicycle’s back wheel, you are not showing the reality of life.  You are only taking a photograph of a thing.  You cannot get more than the physical, objective reality of that thing captured on photographic paper… or in a digital image (I am learning not to be a dinosaur even though I am old).  Reality is so much more than that.  It is the feeling, the evocation, the nuance, the… stuffy stuff-ness of stuff… and an infinity of other things that make reality seem real.

Take for a moment the whole notion of flying cars.  I am trying to create a hero-worship colored-pencil Paffooney about Astroboy riding in a flying car.  I am still puzzling out how I am going to make this scene look like the car is flying by juxtaposing something.  (By “juxtaposing something”, I, of course, simply mean putting one thing next to another thing… but it is important for artists to use hundred-dollar art words wherever possible to prove that they are serious artists) (I, of course, am actually making fun of my own stuffy stuff-ness in that last parenthetic expression.) (Maybe juxtaposing parenthetic expressions with the phrase “I, of course,” in all three of them is a kind of surrealism?)

So, why am I taking on this silly topic right now?  Right now I am a working artist in the midst of making art.  I am not just a cartoonist… I also write novels… silly young adult novels about voodoo men and snow babies and incompetent alien invasions and fairies successfully invading a middle school in Iowa.   I am suffering from six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor… so I could drop dead of a heart attack or stroke any second… I may not finish most of the artwork I am now working on… and I am blogging…   I need a lot more silly topics like this to fill 500 words a day for every day of 2015.  I am writing this down in a published blog on WordPress because I need to put all my thinking down in a crystallized form to preserve it in case the opportunity to do so suddenly ceases.  And all of that muddle of meaning is so surreal it hurts.  I could do a better job than this of summing up and pulling it all together in a tighter package, but it is all about the messy business of surrealism, after all… another way of saying… “It’s about life.” 

Voodoo Val cover7snowbabiesAGaltorr PrimexvxDonner n Silkie


Filed under humor, Paffooney, surrealism

More Nuts n’ Bolts… This Time Mostly Bolts

Okay, this is another filler piece to allow me to post every day of 2015.  But it does give me a chance to write down a few things I have been thinking about…  And I do realize allowing me to think nowadays is a completely risky proposition.  But when you talk about Nuts and Bolts, you are talking about how things are put together.  The nut keeps the attachment from sliding apart and failing to do its job, but the real work of bonding things together is done by the bolt.  So, to keep mangling the metaphor until it is either as tightly bolted as it will go, or it bursts from the torque and stress, let me talk about some bolts in my cartooning endeavors.


This most recent pen and ink Paffooney is a cartoon panel about Pirates from the imaginary dream world of Fantastica.  In the cartoon environment I am working on now, Pirates take your gold and valuables basically by being bankers and compounding your interest…  mostly by compounding really, really hard… like with hammers and heavy swords.   So here is one of the bolts holding my posts together.   I am financially troubled right now (right now meaning the last twenty years) by trouble with credit card debt and banks.  I fight that kind of trouble with swords of satire.  You find me complaining a lot about this particular topic by mostly metaphorical means.

And that leads to another bolt that is a common rivet in the girders of my purple paisley prose.  I use metaphors and drawings in a way that can be characterized by the artistic term (or is that autistic term?) surrealism.  Yes, I am an out-of-the-closet surrealist like Salvador Dali, Juan Miro, and Rene Magritte.  I would like to argue that I am also a surrealist in the manner of Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, and Dan Piraro, creator of Bizzaro, but cartoonists in general don’t tend to be out of the closet, willing to admit that they juxtapose disjointed images with realist elements in them to make a comic point or raise an emotional response.  That is something most cartoonists are unwilling to let their parents understand about them… that, or they simply don’t know what big words like juxtapose mean… because cartoonist are generally unwilling to look things up in the dictionary.  I hope this paragraph doesn’t make your brain hurt.  But if it does… well, that’s why most of us surrealists try really hard to keep it secret and end up living a double life.

I think you can also tell by today’s post that I need to revisit this idea of examining bolts.  I am swiftly coming to the end of today’s 500 words, and I have only covered two working bolts.  What kind of structure can stand up to high winds with only two bolts in the entire thing?  But hopefully it won’t all suddenly collapse before I have a chance to come back and place a few more bolts.  And on that note, I am at 514.

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, surrealism

The Mouse and His Child

Today’s animated cartoons are very sophisticated and technically superior to older fair like you might find on YouTube from… let’s say… 1977.  As an artist and writer dedicated to didactic surrealism (yes, I know you probably have no earthly idea what those two words even mean, but that’s a review post for another day), I should probably look down my long critic’s nose at the story of A Mouse and His Child, from Sanrio Studios.   I saw this bit of artwork in motion at the College-Town Theater in Ames, Iowa while attending Iowa State University.  It is a dopey pre-Toy-Story story about a pair of wind-up toy mice who are designed to dance in circle and can do nothing more than that at the beginning of the movie.  They are told at the outset that they can only do in life what they were designed to do… and nothing more.  But then they spend the whole movie doing so very much more.

220px-Mouse_and_his_child1977 220px-TheMouseAndHisChild

The artwork is very cartoony in ways that only an American who loves Japanese versions of American style can be.  (Don’t try to tell me you didn’t recognize Sanrio as the “Hello Kitty” people.)  It has classic animation voices in it.  Peter Ustinov as the villain, Manny the Rat, Andy Devine as the frog… and more other classy actor-types than I can possibly remember.


The story is everything a cartoon movie should be.  It is a quest to get rid of the wind-up key and be self-winding.  It is a quest to choose your destiny for yourself… to make for yourself a family and have safety and love as all people should.  There is also considerable danger.  Young children will come away from this movie with many potential opportunities to develop nightmares from the images.   It is also a quest to find a balance between the magic of the frog and the science of the Muskrat.  In order to solve the mysteries of destiny, they have to look at a dog food label that has a picture of a dog grinning and holding a can of dog food with a label that shows a dog grinning and holding a… you get the idea, they have to see beyond the last visible dog.  This movie makes sense in a way that poetry makes sense.  You have opportunities presented to you make sense of it yourself.  Like a good poem, you get out of it what you put into it.  If you think about its meaning long enough, you will find something quite profound.


I have seen this movie now four times.  I saw it in the theater in 1977.  I saw it two years later on TV, on a Friday night.   Then I re-discovered it on You-Tube this last February and I have watched it twice since.  Every time I understand something new and wonderful from it.  I have now made it my goal to find a copy of the Russel Hoban book and read that as well.  You have to be a little crazy to like a movie the way I love this movie, but I have to tell you, I will be a little disappointed if nobody clicks on it to see if they like it too.

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Filed under humor, movie review

Architecture for Clowns

Try not to be upset with me for drawing a naked lady. You see, she is not really a lady, she is a caryatid, a stone pillar for holding up a building.  Besides, I have been recently very ill, and drawing naked ladies makes me happy, even though it is a sin and means I will probably burn in hell.  I am a hopeless sinner in this regard.  I got kicked off Pinterest for liking an oil painting of a naked lady.  I think it was a painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau.  How could I be so terrible?  You should check out my post about his sinful, horrible paintings so you can see how terrible I am for yourself. (Bouguereau)  carytidOf course, This post is not about naked ladies at all, so why am I fuming and ranting and telling all my darkest secrets about that?

This post is about architecture, about giving structure to things, about holding things together and holding things up.  Is it clever that I drew this picture of an ornate pillar and placed it in this post so it looks like it is standing on later paragraphs and holding up the introduction?  I find weird surrealist things like that help me write stuff that makes a few people laugh.  It helps me because I can focus on nonsensical side-stuff like that (mixed up with obscure puns and alliterations like “pillar” and “placed” that, when cooked together with goofy rhythms in over-long sentences end up sounding funnier than they really are), and then I can say stuff that is actually funny because I don’t realize how wrong, or weird, or silly some of these words I am futzing it all up with truly are.  (And I am amazed that the Pinterest police haven’t come and kicked me off WordPress for using a word like “futzing”, even though they don’t know what it means.  Heck, even the spell-checker didn’t object to the word!)

But someone like me who is trying to be funny needs structure more than anyone else you can think of.  Why?  Because the sad-clown-crying-on-the-inside is so very true.  The dark dips of depression… pain, illness, and more pain… family stress from others in my family who also suffer…  That’s what makes the laughing so very necessary.  You need the lighter stuff to fill up the room (somewhat like a really big fart) because you depend on the sheer buoyancy of it to lift the entire house up and keep it from sinking to the very center of the earth.  (And the stink of it can also help keep you awake when otherwise you might never get out of bed again)… (But please don’t light any matches around my house.)

So, in conclusion, this stuff I write does have basic structures, basic rules.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It has a theme, a point that needs to be made,  And then it needs to end with some kind of a kicker line or punch line… because when that finally hits me square in the face (like a pie thrown by a pie-whacker clown), it helps me remember… I am still alive, and I can still laugh about it.


Filed under humor, Paffooney, surrealism