hash browns, home fries

July 22, 2014

Two potato preparations often offered as alternative side dishes for breakfasts in American diners and the like: W onould you like hash browns or home fries with that? Both have idiomatic names, names that in fact are easily confused: both are browned by pan-frying, so the words browns and fries have some motivation in their names, while hash and home are simply puzzling.

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Peter Mendelsund

July 21, 2014

From the August 2014 issue of Details magazine, the piece “The Cover Artist” by Timothy Hodler:

You may not know his name, but chances are you already own some of Peter Mendelsund’s work. The 46-year-old designer of iconic book jackets for top-shelf authors both living (Martin Amis) and dead (James Joyce) is celebrated in this month’s Cover (powerHouse, $60; out August 5), a retrospective of his greatest hits. He’s also publishing his first book, What We See When We Read (Vintage, $17; out August 5), a philosophical exploration of the literary imagination. Here, he shares the stories behind some of his standouts.

An example of Mendelsund’s work, the cover for The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus:

Despite the title of the Details piece, the creators of book covers are not referred to as artists, at least in art circles, where they are designers or illustrators. They provide artwork (art for short) — designs or illustrations — for commercial purposes and so they are normally outside the world of art criticism and art exhibits (“Art art”, you might say), except on special occasions, when applied (as opposed to fine) art, craftwork, folk art, street art, outsider art, etc. are granted attention in shows, catalogs, and the like.

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Saturday monster puns

July 19, 2014

Through what I assume is fortunate accident, two cartoons this morning with puns on the names of movie monsters: a Bizarro with “Creature from the black legumes” (black beans) and a Mother Goose and Grimm with a psychoanalyst asking Godzilla about his Mothra (mother):

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Elaine Stritch

July 18, 2014

In today’s NYT, “Elaine Stritch, Broadway’s Enduring Dame, Dies at 89″ by Bruce Weber and Robert Berkvist, beginning:

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday [7/17] at her home in Birmingham, Mich.

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Elephants

July 18, 2014

Today’s Zippy, set not in a diner but at a carwash:

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Given the Space Needle in the background, the cartoon is clearly set in Seattle. And in fact Elephant Car Wash locations are all over the area. A representation in a Michael Birawer canvas painting:

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The title alludes to the idiom the elephant in the room.

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Things we doubt Louis XIV envisioned

July 17, 2014

In the June/July 2014 Details, pp. 57-8, a piece by Laurence Lowe on the Jeff Koons retrospective now showing at the Whitney Museum in New York, treating four of his most iconic works: New Hoover Celebrity III’s (1980); Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988); Made in Heaven (1989); and Puppy (1992).

On the last, Koons says:

I created it for a site-specific exhibition in Bad Arolsen, Germany. There was a huge schloss in the center of town. I envisioned Louis XIV visiting it and thought, ‘If Louis lived there, what would he want to see?’ Maybe he’d wake up in the morning and want to see a sculpture, about 40 feet tall, all made of live flowers, in the shape of a dog. It was that intuitive.

 

(There are other installations in other places.)

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Clickbait schemes

July 17, 2014

Andras Kornai wrote me on Tuesday to comment on a prominent pattern he’d seen in online clickbaiting, exemplified by:

You Won’t Believe What This Cop Did When The Cameras WEREN’T Rolling. WOW!

Man Attempts To Hug a Wild Lion. What Happens Next Stunned Me

He’s collected hundreds of similar examples and wondered whether others had noticed the pattern (many have in fact been annoyed by it) and whether it had gotten a name (not so far as I know). In this particular schema, the “hook” is an expression of astonishment or surprise, which can be expressed in a number of ways, referring to the reader (“you won’t believe”, “you’ll be amazed”) or to the presumed writer (“… stunned me”, “I couldn’t believe”), in a variety of syntactic constructions. As a temporary expedient, I’ll refer to this as the SURPRISE! clickbait scheme.

The scheme is “semi-formulaic”, in a way that’s reminiscent of the precursors to snowclones (see “The natural history of snowclones”, here): a culturally significant idea is given a number of formulations; one version achieves special status (in a formula); and then this formula serves as a template for new expressions. The SURPRISE! scheme hasn’t yet crystallized as a formula, but it’s nevertheless recognizable by its form(s) and functions.

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Hybrid dishes and foodmanteaus

July 15, 2014

From the 7/12/14 Economist, this feature: “Matches made in heaven—and hell: What do you get if you cross a waffle with a doughnut? It’s no joke”, beginning:

Not all marriages are happy, but Alex Hernandez thinks that the union of a waffle and a doughnut will be. The owner of Waffles Café in Chicago starting selling what he calls “wonuts” in April. They are deep-fried waffles, topped with icing and multicoloured sprinkles (see photo). Daily sales went from 24 to 600 within two days.

Ah, the foodmanteau wonut. Referring to a hybrid food:

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A Sunday quartet

July 14, 2014

Four cartoons from yesterday’s crop: a Zippy in a nameless diner; a Doonesbury on rumors; a One Big Happy on the spread of expressions and speech styles from the media; and another Bizarro collection of puns. The strips:

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(#3)

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The animal report

July 14, 2014

In the NYT Book Review yesterday, a set of three reviews of quirky books about people and animals (elephants, a tawny owl, and the giant squid); and then today in the Daily Post (Palo Alto and Mid-Peninsula), the story “Another cougar reported” (by Angelo Ruggiero), which I took at first to be a silly story about sexually aggressive older women in the area but which turned out (of course) to be about mountain lions.

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