Archive

Monthly Archives: January 2013

Image

The above platitudinous-yet-true page was, in a way, more than forty years in the making. In June of 1971 I and many other high school students from various Arizona towns spent a week in the high country near Prescott at a “human relations camp” called Anytown. The camp’s reason for being was to mix kids of a spectrum of ethnicities and creeds and have them examine social dynamics, particularly bigotry.

We sang a lot of songs, too. One set of lyrics started like this: “Who am I and where did I come from?/Who am I and where did I come from?/I’m a man and I come from every land./The Earth, the Seven Seas I span./Every language I understand/I’m a man of the Whole Wide World.” And another, the “root” of this journal page, started like this: “Let there be peace on Earth/And let it begin with me./Let there be peace on Earth/The peace that was meant to be…”

I recalled those lyrics yesterday, and realized that many people yearn for Peace On Earth, but far fewer let Peace On Earth begin with them. Yet Peace On Earth has a growing golden opportunity that must begin on the individual level. You who read this–and in only forty-nine entries (this is nice round Number Fifty) and less than two months, my readership includes Swiss, Romanian, Zimbabwean, Swede, and citizens of at least eight other countries–have taken the step of tapping into the Earth’s citizenry via your blogging. You wage Peace on the micro level via connectivity. Keep it up, please!

My illustration is of a Lion and a Lamb coexisting harmoniously. I mention that the Lion is “sufficiently evolved.” So must we be.

Image

This page started with the realization that the words Shibboleth and Lethal had a common letter string, and when combined made a new, potent word. (A Google search disclosed that the word had been coined already. Someone credited someone usernamed Xel for it. Congratulations, Xel!) The word was twelve letters long; soon were found two other twelve-letter words to form a potent phrase.

So what does Shibbolethal Contrapuntal Dispositions mean? Well, shibboleth once meant a tell-tale in pronunciation that revealed where someone came from. (If curious, see the biblical Judges chapter 12, verses 4 through 6.) It has come to mean some distinguishing feature of a special group. Make that deadly, and you’ve got Shibbolethal.

Contrapuntal is the adjective form of counterpoint. In music, Counterpoint is the use of a second melody that enhances the first melody via its difference. This definition has broadened to include non-musical endeavors.

Dispositions is the plural of a word that can mean either Mood or Inclination or Deployment.

Now, with the phrase to conjure with, it was time to do some conjuring. Here is the work in early progress:

Image

Most of these acrostics start with the end words, and with twelve, the main choices are strict rhyme, near rhyme, or no rhyme. Once the choice is made, the words are usually free-associated into discovery. Thus came jihad, wadi, morass, grasp, intaglio, adios, Nefertiti, appetit (which really ought to have been appétit), Kundalini, magneto (the machine, not the supervillain), Hunín (which ought to have been Junín, and which was changed), and vetoes. But it felt like the middle words should somehow relate, too.

Well, one thing led to another, and the resulting message has something to do with the terrible habit of governments and the people they are made up of imposing their opinions, sometimes in the forms of firebombings or assassination, on different nations or cultures or regimes. It is not a clear message; though three different rhyme/meter schemes were used, conforming to the triple acrostic disclarified the meaning. Still–the World is a lot like that: murky, obscure, providing frustrating clues.

A few words about the two caryatids used to illustrate a contrapuntal quality: the traditional caryatid found in Greek architecture is a support element, a quasi-pillar. Auguste Rodin gives us an idea of what would happen if an actual human being were enlisted to hold up tons of masonry. He thus brings to life that fine Greek concept, Pathos.

Image

Somewhere between the Big Bang and Heat Death, somewhere between the Cradle and the Grave, somewhere between Teeter and Totter, there is a midpoint, a locus where the balance is exact. In recent decades people talk about being Centered. If you consider yourself a citizen of four dimensions, your Midpoint must be the moment that moves with you.

Far ago from my present Midpoint, I ran across a book entitled How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. The author, Alan Lakein, urged his readers to constantly ask themselves: What’s the best use of my time right now? Your own answer may well be, “Stop reading this bloggage and do something real.” So long then!

Two recent journal pages of mine refer to the two unpleasant subjects Rage and Spit. When I woke up this morning, “Shave and a Haircut/Two Bits” was looped in my head, I think to clue me in that I ought to base today’s blog post on the two pages.

Image

RAGE is known to all except (perhaps) the freakishly evolved. I wonder if the Dalai Lama has ever experienced rage. Rage usually makes us do regrettable things. This to me is exemplified not only by mass shootings but by the Lynch Mob. About forty years ago I read The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilberg Clark, and the author managed to imagine the dynamics of a Lynch Mob utterly convincingly. I commend this fine book to your attention.

Is Rage ever a good thing? Does it ever drive positive behavior? Ought we to genetically engineer Rage out of our genome, if we could? I wish we knew.

Image

The Spit-Take is an unignorable part of American physical comedy. Actor A is drinking something; Actor B says something unexpected and/or outrageous; Actor A diffuses the contents of Actor A’s mouth into the local atmosphere. In cinema, the Spit-Take has been around since 1906. That’s more than a hundred and six years ago! In television, the Spit-Take has been around for at least fifty years, having been popularized by Danny Thomas of “Make Room for Daddy” fame. On YouTube, there is a video by my friends, Phoenix-area poets Kevin Patterson and Bill Campana, containing no fewer than half a dozen Spit-Takes of what purports to be Champagne. The interested reader may use the phrase “Bill Campana 1957” to find the video (I could provide a link, but you have to REALLY WANT to see it, so I’m not making it easy). If you drink coffee while watching the video, point your mouth away from your computer screen, for you may well end up doing a Spit-Take yourself.

Cheers!

Image

The 16th-Century apothecary and prognosticator Michel de Nostredame, popularly known as Nostradamus, is most likely better-known than the 20th-century biochemist, raconteur, limericist, Futurian, essayist, humorist, correspondent, toastmaster, and, yes, prognosticator, Isaac Asimov. Dr. Asimov is perhaps best known for his Foundation series, which covered more than a thousand years of Galactic history. But he also wrote Asimov’s Guide to Science, Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, and about four hundred other books that made him the only author to have original writing in every single major Dewey Decimal System classification in the library. His daily writing streak extended from his teens till close to the end of his death at 72. In addition to his books, he corresponded with EVERYONE who wrote him–over one hundred THOUSAND letters.

Indeed, one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never wrote him. I wanted to–I had found what was perhaps a fatal flaw in the logic of his science-fiction short story “Billiard Ball.” But I had not the wherewithal to do so. Alas! His letter to me would have been one of my most prized possessions.

My late, great father was fond of saying “Less prediction, more production.” This is the latest of my several salutes to him. And I’d also acknowledge Thomas Carlyle for his immortal quotation: “Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a Product, produce it, in God’s name! ‘Tis the utmost thou hast in thee: out with it, then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might. Work while it is called Today; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work.” And–what the hell, grateful acknowledgment also to Harlan Ellison, writer of more than one thousand short stories, without whom I might never have read Carlyle’s quotation.

Image

Here is the text of the acrostic sonnet:

The challenges that meet us every day
Essentially define us over time
So if we promptly Act–get off the dime–
That which seemed insurmountable–is Hay.
If Wishes turned to Courses, we’d all Golf
Not much else COULD we do, there’d be so many,
Got Jokes–enough to make a young man Henny–

1-liners fit for each Tom, Dick and Rolf.

2 live the Here and Now is much more serious

Travail avails itself of every life,
Heroics may be needed when the strife
Ramps up from Not Too Bad to Deleterious.
Each Crisis Met puts more tools on your shelf
Enabling reaching farther than yourself.

–Which, granted, is SO much easier said than done. But, Friends, it would have been easier for me to say Help Yourself or You Can Do It and have done with this blog post. Struggling through fourteen lines of acrosticized iambic pentameter to tie in with a crucial line from a Who song has made me a little bit better poetically. I wish you well with your own struggles to be a better You.

… because it is a Mars/Soupy/Al (Marsupial).

In a lifetime of concocting horrible puns, this is one of the worst. As far as I know, the planet Mars and Soupy Sales and Al Pacino have never before been linked to such nefarious purpose.

The text of this triple acrostic is nigh-impossible to read, doing as it does Loop-the-Loops with internally-repeating text strings, so here is a plain-text transcription:

My Mephistopheles has an Agenda
Mmmost unmysterious–yet an enigma
My bane is mucilaginous pudenda
My oddities extend to the 6th sigma

And if by chance I riff a lot, my VISA
Augmented by demented tours of ASIA
And psychical applause from Mona Lisa
Agrees then to succumb to Euthanasia

Responding to despondent plaintive plea
Retributive spare parties hunt the Fauna
Responsible for plaguing Earth and Sea
Repeatedly whipped-creamedly with Sauna

Spawn-taneously we may Breed until
Symp symphony then contraceives our Will

Fans of the Sonnet will note that this is one such: fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, Shakespearean rhyme scheme, concluding final couplet. In my immodest and self-aggrandizing opinion, no one else on Earth could have written a triple acrostic, the letter lengths of which are three/five/two, with a metaphor of such stick-together oddness summed up by the punned acrostic, cleaving to sonnet parameters, with a Zero Population Growth message embedded. Plus it has Loop-the-Loop calligraphy and loopy illustrations. Hope you like it!

Image

Image

Here is a page based on what a brief quotation from James Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE was based on. For the Thought, I include one of Maxwell’s equations (with a boost from Gauss’s Law); the Word is from my hero Groucho Marx; and the Deed is a crude re-enactment of a portion of the journey that culminated in humanity’s first (hu)manned trip to the Moon. The seemingly-random-but-not juxtaposition is an odd tip of the hat to Joyce, who juxtaposed like crazy, and crazily, in FW. For another hat-tip to him, here’s this:

scan0018

Lastly, here’s a tip of the hat to Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss mentioned above, possibly the ablest mathematician who ever lived.

gauss thumbnail

Consider: ballad, folk rock, ska, calypso
And if your voice sucks Buttermilk–O.K
Ridiculousness serves to fix&flip woe
You need a playlist laced w/FUN today
One hopes one’s thirst 4 ☆dom may B slak’d
Konsumed on Kaiser rolls w/extra mayo
Enjoy the Sturm und Drang w/out a break
Yet–get ME to perform? no freakin way

Such are the “lyrics” to this “music”:

Image

And the last line is a bit of a fib. Karaoke-like, when I was a featured poet at Caffeine Corridor in June of 2012, my girlfriend and I performed “Suddenly Seymour” from the play/film LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. My vocal talents are meager, and I warned the audience that I would not hit the high note. Miraculously, though, I did hit the high note; ironically, it occurred with the word “can” in the line “Yes, you caaaaaaaaaaaaaan!” And the moral of the story is Try, though you think you may fail, for some happy time you Can..

The acrostic pokes fun at the American pronunciation of the Japanese word “karaoke.” Instead of “car are oh keh” we say “cary okey.” As Robert Frost says, “Thus Eden came to grief.”