Walter Mitty

DSCN5331I am still recovering from a heart-attack scare, and as a part of my regimen of rest and fluids, I watched the DVD of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring and directed by Ben Stiller.  It is a brilliant piece of film art in my opinion.  The basic story is about a day-dreaming ne’er-do-well who is so much like I once was that it is practically an unauthorized biography.  Mitty daydreams and pines over a co-worker that he is afraid to introduce himself to.  He works at Life Magazine at a time when the printed periodical was going out of business.  His job is on the line.  Then, he loses a photograph from a famous photographer when he has never made such an error before.  To correct his mistake, he goes on a world-hopping quest to find the photographer, visiting Greenland, jumping into the ocean from a helicopter, fighting a shark, escaping from an erupting volcano in Iceland, climbing a mountain in the Himalayas, and finally, getting fired for not finding it, though he does find it, and proves he is more competent and brave and daring and heroic than even his daydreams told him that he was.  At the end he even gets the girl.  It made me cry to realize how much my life was like that.  It has been a comedy of errors compounded by the criticism and negativity of the world around me.  I fought hard to be a competent teacher.  I had to become an advocate for kids.  I fought for the good of the students against principals, parents, the State of Texas, three school administrations, politicians, and sometimes even the students themselves.  I rose to new heights during my darkest hours.  I made a difference.  A lot of kids came back to tell me I was their favorite teacher, that they learned things and remembered things from my class more than any of their other classes.  I know some of them were lying for sentimental reasons, but not all of them were.  So I was, in the end, a success.  I had my Walter Mitty moments.

So what is the point of all of this, and of the picture of my messy studio which is also my bedroom and sickroom?  If I had died from the heart attack rather than finding out it wasn’t really a heart attack, I would still be successful in the course of my life and career.  Three beautiful and intelligent children with my genetic stamp… more than 2,500 students educated and served… thirty-one years of faithful teachering… like Walter Mitty, I have been worth so much more than I have ever been given credit for.  And yet… and yet… I am not finished.  I am only now coming into my real magical powers over words and ideas.  I am only now reaching out and saying what treasures are truly in my heart for all to take away and enrich themselves with.  Some of it is in the books I have written.  Some of it is in the blog I am here making available to you.  I am not bragging.  I am old and in pain and very near the end… but I still have love to give… and laughter… and life.  Please, help yourself to it while you may.  I am not done yet.

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Broken Hearts

Last night I had an episode that may have been tachycardia, a scary enough thing, but that was followed by chest pain in the area of my heart.  I came very near to calling 911 and going to the emergency room at about 2:20 a.m.  I didn’t, or rather, I kinda passed out before I got to the phone.  But it turned out okay.  I have been to the cardiologist twice before for the same thing.  It turned out that the electrocardiogram was completely normal.  Before it was my COPD that fooled me into thinking I was having a heart attack.  This time was probably also that.  Lung pain and muscle spasms can disguise themselves in Halloween costumes of myocardial infarction.  But I am over the scare now.  I am not dead.  I am apparently not dying yet.  So I am still playing games with Paffooney backgrounds.

Yes, I know you are getting tired of this same background, but I’m still playing while I still am able.Drawn

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The Uses of Background

In fiction, a good background or setting can be home to more than one character.  In art, too, you can use the same background in more than one picture.

Billy and Gyro12 Brent n bball  Okay, so maybe it is really cheating, but cheating can be fun too.

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Background Work

You know that setting is a key to good fiction.  It must be as detailed and alive as the main characters.  It is necessary to good art as well.  I will be talking more about that as this Paffooney project unfolds.  I am concentrating on background art.  Here is step one… a tree on a hill.  This is the pen and ink on the original pencil drawing.  It is an extra-warty imaginary tree.

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Things You Probably Ought to Know about Mickey

As Mickey’s go, the one who is writing this is a moderately interesting example of the breed.  Still, there are things you probably ought to be made aware of.  A sort of precautionary thing…

First of all, this particular Mickey is an Iowegian.  That means he comes from Iowa, the State where the tall corn grows.  It is a prime reason why his jokes are corny and his ears have been popped (oh, and he does actually have two, unlike the picture Paffooney where only one is showing).  His fur is not actually purple.  If anything now, it is mostly silver-gray.  But the Paffooney is a magical portrait, and purple is the color of magic.  He has a goofy, and sometimes fatal grin.  You may not be able to prove that he has ever actually grinned someone to death, but it is likely he could always dig somebody up.

Another irrefutable fact about this Mickey, unlike many many Mickeys, is that he used to actually be a public school teacher.  He taught the little buggers for thirty-one years, plus two years as a substitute teacher.  He did twenty-four of those years in middle school… twenty-three of those in one school in South Texas.  His mostly Hispanic students managed to teach him every bad word in Spanglish… err, Texican… err, Tex-Mex… or is it Taco Bell?  Anyway, they taught him every bad word except for the word for cooties… you know, piojos.  He learned that word from an old girl friend.

A despicable thing about him… (you know despicable, right?  It’s that word that Sylvester the cat always uses) is that he actually likes kids.  That’s just not normal for someone who teaches them.  Teachers are supposed to hate kids, aren’t they?  But he never did.  It is true that he yelled at them sometimes, but he never did that because he hated them.  He did that only for fun.  And he actually apologized to kids sometimes when they got into behavioral trouble, because he said it was the teacher’s fault if kids are bad, and, besides, the kids are so surprised by that, that they forget all about the behavior and can be flammoozled into acting good.

The last and most wicked thing you need to know about Mickey is that he cartoons up a storm sometimes.  He loves to draw everything that is wacky and weird.  He has more goofball colored pencil tricks than a Charles Shultz and a Dr. Seuss rolled together in a sticky lump with a George Herriman stuck on top in place of a cherry.  He steals ideas and techniques from other artists and steals jokes from comedians, undertakers, and random juvenile delinquents.  He also puts together lists of wacky oddball details that don’t quite fit together and weaves it into purple paisley prose (somewhere in this whole messy blog thing he has also defined purple paisley prose and how to make it… in case you were curious.)

So there you have it.  The Truth about Mickey.  The sordid, simpering, solitary facts about Mickey.  The straight poop.  (wait a minnit!  How did poop get there?  Not again!  I thought I had cured that!)

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Cardinal Points

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The cardinal is a personal symbol of mine.  Cardinals, for those who only see them in the south where they live in relatively comfortable surroundings year around, are tough little birds of bright color.  When the winter comes, and the snow piles deep, the cardinal digs in and stays put.  I hope I am like that.  Six incurable diseases, financial problems, being forced to retire from a job I loved by poor health, are all winter things that have not driven me out yet.

And, of course, my favorite teams are Cardinals.  (Sure, you can argue that it’s a St. Louis thing, the Arizona Cardinals were once from St. Louis.)  The St. Louis baseball Cardinals just ended their season with a loss, but the loss was in the National League Championship Series.  They were in that series for the fourth straight year.  They have been doing well, a good sign for me.

The football Arizona Cardinals are at the head of their football division with a record of five wins and one loss.  They had a winning record last year, but were left out of the playoffs because they were in the same division as the Superbowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco Forty-Niners.  Things are getting better for cardinals everywhere.

So things are looking up.  I am happy, in spite of anything that stands in my way.

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Consequences of Art

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This little picture Paffooney is a work that makes me sick.  Now, I don’t want to mislead you, but it I literally mean it makes me sick.  So let me explain quickly before I have to do something about the nausea.  I drew this from a black-and-white photo of a zebra on a day when I was seriously ill with the flu.  It took a good deal of concentration while having a headache and fever to draw the detailed, stripey form.  The stripes, the zig-zags, the cross-hatches, all conspired with the dizziness and the fever to permanently impress the feelings on my brain.  I can’t look at it now without feeling queasy.  So why am I posting it now?  Well, it shouldn’t have the same effect on you.  And I can post it and look at it now without feeling any worse because I am now sick with fever and possibly flu.  I hope you like this more than I do.

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