Monthly Archives: January 2014


From midnight to seven today I was doing my Graveyard Shift Front Desk thing. Drove home to Cottonwood, communed with Cookie the cat on the couch and caught about forty-five minutes, then drove back to the Village of Oak Creek for my solo shift at the Village Gallery. It was busy and then not off and on from 10am to 6pm. When it was unbusy I looked through my almost-filled notebook for unfinished stuff, being too beat and disheartened to start something new, and found a portrait of Etta James. It was a welcome distraction to work on the portrait and to concoct some poetry based on the liner notes of one of her CDs, which we have at the Gallery. Now I’m here at home, very tired but wired too, and so I finished the page, scanned it and photoedited it as you see. Ms. James died two years and eleven days ago. I so wish I’d seen her perform.

Here are the words to the acrostic:

Even Angels board the ouija
Elves and trolls and you too mija
Thus goes one LA girl’s anthem
Took her Bleus but shan’t decant them
Thrilled a Fuqua Chessed a piece
Tapped a needle for release
Ahh: AT LAST she’s made good choices
Adding hers to Heaven’s voices

This blog post is written in sadness and dedicated to my stepfather, Martin L. Stoneman, who is in hospice and not expected to live much longer. Like Marty, the post is quirky and focused on linguistics.

The first joke I ever heard, circa 1960, was not quite a joke: “Guess what?” “What?” “THAT’S what!!”

Years later the “joke” had evolved: “Guess what?” “What?” “CHICKEN BUTT!”

Young children find this funny, referring as it does to hindquarters. Why butt-related referrals are funny is easier for human beings to understand than it is to verbalize. My own answer is that it’s related to that aspect of humanity that impinges on what is considered private or scandalous or both–but I’m already wrong. I understand but hash up an explanation.

I have an addition to the Guess What/Chicken Butt canon. It is not funny but has the value of repurposing. (Sidebar: “repurposing” is a recent Flavor of the Month new usage…) If a kid ever Guess What/Chicken Butts me, my reply shall be “Wax wroth, Chicken Broth!”

This is sure to baffle the kid. It does a lot in four words that are much the same as the ones that he (or she) used. It rhymes; it uses language that though correct is becoming archaic, it anthropomorphizes a food product produced by poultry-slaughtering creatures, and such a product, given a soul, might well feel wroth indeed toward the slaughterers; it does more:

It extends the song of humanity.

Ever wonder how jokes invented and told by kids in a playground can zip across the country in a matter of weeks, and quickly become part of the tapestry of culture? As this is written, January 30, 2014, the latest fad/quirks of the language include phrases like “at the end of the day…” and “I know–right?” that are semantically tenuous yet serve the purpose of making the conversants a micro-community. It’s a dynamic language, in a dynamic Universe, and part of the joy of living, the song of humanity, is hearing a new form of speech and learning to use it. So my answer to the question of why kid-jokes propagate so quickly is that, common-speechwise, they are exciting and addictive, being not just more of the same.

Too bad Marty isn’t writing this. He spent a huge chunk of his life on linguistics, and a subchunk thereof on discussing linguistics with your humble blog-poster, his stepson. I hope I get the opportunity to read this to him. It will demonstrate the impact he’s had on the song of humanity.


Corners turned & fates revised–so balances the beam
A splayed delay, then RICOCHET as CHAOS slings the schema
Reveal: A plinth–a LABYRINTH–a HINGE-so creaky door
Outside a bride who’s stir’d & fried her veggies with a spork
Macabre or humdrum? All relies on THIS; the wine uncorks
[or: Macabre or humdrum? All relies on THIS, the road that forks]

Ipse dixit, I hope. [smiles]


Johannes Vermeer died in debt and quickly faded to obscurity. Luckily for human civilization, however, he was rediscovered more than a century after his death, and is now recognized as a master of the depiction of light and life. However, few of his paintings survive. The number is somewhere between 34 and 66 depending on whom you believe.

Pablo Picasso left more than 20,000 works of art in the wake of his wild, often destructive (and deconstructive) ride through life. For better or worse, his life WAS his art. The world could probably do without at least a third of his output: he repeated himself, he indulged in whim to devaluation, and people were so eager to throw money at him that they would buy his scribblings on cocktail napkins.

Vincent Van Gogh went out in a blaze, failing his way to success in everything from lay preaching to suicide: he shot himself in the midsection, walked back to town, and took a couple of days to die. We have hundreds of his artworks and volumes of his correspondence. Some would argue that he is well represented, some would say overly so, and some mourn that there is not more.

We all are works in progress, and the work is not finished until we are. Not only am I a work in progress, but my big mouth is as well. I attribute much of my dysfunction at work and at home to speaking before thinking. I don’t think it would be an unalloyed tragedy if I lost my ability to speak; I’d rather lose my voice than my eyes.

After I saw the movie GANDHI I found and read his autobiography in paperback. He says a lot about silence.  Succinctly, he says this: “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

Once upon a time I drew someone’s portrait and asked for and received permission to publish it. Unfortunately, I not only blog-posted the portrait, but also included some words of annotation that the person found offensive. I ended up deleting the post. Moreover, I’m prescreening this post, because it includes two baby pictures of people I love, and also some words about them. They are delightful, evolving works in progress, both preserving something from their babyhood, and both leaving something behind.

Here is my daughter, wearing one of my running event shirts, in Central Phoenix, in the very early 90s:


She was amazingly articulate and iconoclastic then, and remains so to this day. She reads faster than I do (dammit) and has developed a sardonic wit at some cost to her baby-self’s innocence.

Here is my girlfriend, wearing a diaper and a smile, in Central Phoenix, in the early 50s:


She still has that dazzler of a smile and that sense of wonder. She’s gained an amazing figure, but lost a bit of the fluffiness of her hair.

Unlike two-dimensional works of art, people must carry the impress of every single moment of their lives. No amount of attempted erasure, including electroshock therapy and plastic surgery, really works on human beings; they live with their lives to the final heartbeat.

This brings us to my artwork in progress. These CAN be erased, or, better, redone. Here are a couple from the Pending file:

Lately I’ve been combining crossword puzzle grids and face/figure studies. This one could use some cleanup and some original, not newspaper-derived, crossword grids.


This one has really barely begun. Meanwhile, I and Denise have acquired a cat, so at minimum the cat will change. And some explanation will be needed for the Lya portion of the acrostic/pun. Hint: A SONG FOR LYA by George R. R. Martin.

Finally: it’s great to be alive, evolving, and a work in progress. Hope I haven’t said too much with my Big Mouth.


One of the great shames of my 21st Century life is that in this century I have never been less than 200 pounds. I’ve been working hard this year to make that untrue, but I am a glutton whose appetite often becomes a runaway train. This page hints at my struggle.

Here are the words to the triple acrostic:

When hunger strikes at three o’clock and cravings grow and grow
I STRIVE to minimize the want–I Strive to stem the flow–I
Strive: austerity with grace: a Winner’s tale to tell
Potential TRIUMPH wrestles with a SWEET TOOTH hard to quell


This one will neither go away nor allow itself to be finished, so here it is in draft, with hopes that its growth proceeds.

Here are the words to the double acrostic:

He had his genius charm–his diamond rough
Or flawed, though hard–a fear of such as flu
Was long self-exiled, shy of folk & bug
And yet of Flight he never got enough
Romantic leading ladies knew largesse
Detractors harried up a Hellish mess


Two days ago my Sweetheart was on the phone with her daughter. We had intended to go to the Adopt-For-Life shelter and rescue one of their Kitty-Cats; so as a friendly reminder, and not to interrupt the conversation, I quickdrew the above and held it where Denise could see it. She smiled and interrupted the conversation to tell me the shelter wasn’t open, it being MLK Day.

One day ago we left home at 2:00 PM and returned with Cookie:


She is rocking our world.

Stellar poet Bill Campana made this comment when I posted Cookie on Facebook:

you can’t write a cat poem unless you have a cat.

I soon replied:

for you, bill:


sylvester’s sister
in glorious black & white
graces our presence


I’m no photorealist, but I took two days instead of my usual one with my page image in order to take the proper time to be a tourist in Photorealville. Like a marathon, it’s more fun HAVING done it than actually DOING it.

In French, “Il faut que…” means, approximately, “It is necessary that…” I haven’t studied French in more than thirty-five years, but I think whatever follows the phrase must take the subjunctive. Luckily I only needed the phrase to make an international bad pun. This one isn’t just punning for the sake of, though. With Ill meaning Sick and Faux meaning False and Ku meaning Haikuesque, the play on words fits the words of the poem, which are these:

out of the darkness,
into the comprehensible:
uneasily done…

One example is Galileo’s Inquisition-forced recantation of his assertion that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than vice versa. He is rumored to have muttered “Eppur si muove” [“Nevertheless, it [the earth] still moves”] as he walked off to compromised freedom.

A more recent example is Richard Feynman’s bucking of NASA authority in publishing, and demonstrating, his assertion that the material that the O-Rings were made of was the likely cause of the Challenger disaster. Less known is the fact that he was on a supervisory committee for the approval of textbooks in the state of California, and tried to fight senselessness in the textbooks he reviewed, to little avail and in the face of offered bribes and other senselessness. He finally quit in frustration and emotional stress; THAT battle he could not continue to fight.

Bottom line: If you have a Truth that defies societal “truth,” and you wish to defend the Truth, prepare for uneasiness.


You’ll find the circumflex right above the 6 on your keyboard. By itself, it’s called a caret. I mention that only because in posting, entertaining, or teaching, getting your point across is often due to a good mix of caret and schtick.


The circumflex is used in French for words that used to have an S. Thus forêt means Forest. The Latin words circum (around) and flectere (to bend) mashed up to make circumflexus. This made me think of Dance, which is a lot of bending around, and also the life-journey step of turning a corner. Thus my image is of an introspective dancer. The Jackson Browne song works with her well.

Here are the words:

Chuckleheads deride & scoff
In their forêt of felafel
Ridicule a Dance de Luxe
Cacophonic at its crux
Understatement will cohere
May observers stand & cheer


…NOT Continuing Sex Education, as you may have extrapolated. CSE is Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow, possibly the heiress to the mantle of Dorothy Parker, but more likely first of her by-her-bootstraps kind. The poetry of hers that I have read is quasi-conversational, but you’ll catch your metaphorical toe on a phrase and find it sprawls you elsewhere…

An alternate title to this post might be “Well, She Asked For It…” The image/poem came to be when Cynthia challenged me on Facebook to triple-acrosticize her name. An early draft of this page was produced and Facebook-posted within an hour of my reading Cynthia’s challenge, which just goes to show what a liberating force severe limitations can be. Had she challenged me to “write a poem in less than an hour” I’m not at all sure I could have done it. (“It takes a fillip in the flanks for my mare to dance,” Rex Stout once had Nero Wolfe say…)

Anyway, I’m glad to know Cynthia, who is vivacious and witchily wise. She’s also won a boatload of awards for her poetry and has been published in more different poetry journals than I’ve ever read. She’s findable all over the Internet, and poetry lovers could do worse than to look for her…