Death Strikes the Adorable

January 19, 2022

One is a hardboiled, coke-addled Fed from the mean streets of the City, the other a sleek lutrine kid from the pristine snow slopes of Otter, Montana. They both have literary pretensions but sadly lack the schooling to tell a sonnet from a double dactyl or the skill to fashion either of them. After a chance encounter, they fall, enjambed, into the coils of a tragic desire. Inevitably, it ends in blood gushing onto dirty snow.

It’s a bad dream, a nightmare mash-up of a pulp noir fantasy, bad poetry, and cute images of animals disporting themselves in the snow. It comes with its own poem:

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The infested apple

January 18, 2022

Today’s Price / Piccolo Rhymes With Orange, again with the apple:


(#1) Just silly-surreal… unless you know René Magritte’s 1964 surrealist painting The Son of Man (French: Le fils de l’homme), in which case it’s second-hand surrealism

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Holiday specials 2021

January 17, 2022

In the Economist‘s holiday double issue (December 18th – 31st 2021), “an exuberance of articles about Middle Eastern railways, India’s touring cinemas, quadratic voting and much more”. A set of 18 special reports: long feature stories on cultural, political, and economic topics — some familiar subjects of interest (schemes for tallying votes, vegetarianism, cryptocurrencies, the history of restaurants), others more out of the way. It had never occurred to me to wonder about the history and cultural significance of corrugated iron, or what happened to the rural villages of Singapore (well, obviously, they were razed and replaced by skyscrapers, but how was that done?), or how Bollywood movies became so wildly popular all over India.

So: from these 18 I’ve picked 8 that especially fascinated me. These are my personal choices, clearly slanted towards sociocultural topics — note that my personal history includes fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the Stanford Humanities Center — and others would make other picks (how could I possibly disregard “Why Vladimir Putin’s Russia cannot tolerate a free Ukraine”?).

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On the couch

January 15, 2022

The saga of Psychiatrist cartoons rolls on, with unusual analysands in two strips that have come my way recently: a stalk of broccoli (in the winner of a contest to caption a Lonnie Millsap drawing) and a cephalopod (in a Victoria Roberts cartoon from 2012 that I stumbled on while harvesting a recent Roberts cartoon for an entirely different purpose).

But then the Psychiatrist cartoon meme is extraordinarily welcoming to bizarre patients on the couch — all manner of non-human analysands (as above) or thoroughly fictive ones (Superman and Batman are frequently in need of therapy).

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Folk ethology: wolves

January 14, 2022

Recently come past me, two metaphorical uses of wolf (and wolf-related vocabulary) that get their punch from common lore about wolves and their behavior: one from a particular sociocultural context in which men have sex with other men; one from a different particular sociocultural context in which men relate socially to women and other men. The first context is from working-class Harlem of the 1920s; the second from recent alpha male self-help / self-improvement literature aimed at striving American middle-class, largely professional, men.

The first case, which involves labels for particular categories of male-male sexuality, will require some care, since the labels are so bound to specific contexts and are mostly drawn from ordinary language, but used in specialized ways. You might appreciate this last point better when I tell you that a rough synonym for the 20s Harlem male-male label wolf was man — which obviously must in this context be understood as metaphorical (some males in this context were men; other males were either punks or fairies); more on these label vs. category complexities below.

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The phallozoo

January 13, 2022

(Obviously not to the taste of the sexually modest.)

Very brief note. At least for the moment, my phallozoo collection — a menagerie of plastic models of creatures, real and fabulous, with phallic bodyparts realized as simulacra of penises — is complete.

The menagerie is housed in two locations in my bedroom.

On a dresser by the window, in the Woolly Mammoth house (which holds a once-“animaltronic” hulk with a dark brown rubber-like plastic skin; and a somewhat smaller and more fanciful stuffed toy with a purple, blue, and yellow cloth skin — creatures I call Butch and Fey): Fey and Butch each have in their shadow an elephant with phallus as trunk and now also a similarly phallic woolly mammoth (illustrated below, #1, in gold);  and in the space between Fey and Butch, three phallus-necked brontosauruses disport themselves.

Meanwhile, on a shelf on my desk, amidst an assortment of memorabilia and miscellaneous phalliana, an assortment of phallic Tyrannosaurus rexes of many sizes and colors lord it over a pair of gorillas, a pair of rhinos, a pair of a pair of camels, and a pair of flying dragons  (all similarly phallic, of various sizes and colors), plus two yellow banana-dicks and, now, a green dicky turtle (illustrated below, #2).

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The teen fugue

January 11, 2022

Yesterday’s (1/10) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro revives plays on fugue and minor (exploited in a 2012 Bizarro), plus (in the title FUGUE IN A MINOR) a clunky play on A the name of a musical key vs. a the indefinite article (which are visually identical in all-caps printing):


(#1) The cartoon figure is a version of the classic portrait of the late Beethoven — the Beethoven of the Grosse Fuge — looking stormily rebellious in a Romantic red scarf, tempered by an image of Johann Sebastian Bach — the great master of the fugue as a musical form — in the powdered wig characteristic of the 18th century (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

The word plays are on fugue, musical (“this piece”) or medical (“drifted aimlessly”); and minor, musical (“A minor”) or chronological (“my early teens”, “a minor”).

A look back at the 2012 posting, which had a different play on minor (the minor of music or the minor of significance), and so provided no justification for Wayno’s title for #1, “The First Emo”, with its allusion to emo kids / emos, who stereotypically are sensitive, socially dissociated, rebellious teenagers. And then some reflection on the cartoon composer in #1.

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The Burne-Jones Adoration

January 9, 2022

More for the Epiphany season, following on a section on four artistic representations of the Adoration in my Epiphany posting “Commercial Christmas 2021: DJ’s third quarter”; and on my Epiphany Morrow posting “Royal Melchior”, about a Leonetto Cappiello poster depiction of the Magus Melchior. Assembling these postings led me through famous depictions of the Adoration (by Leonardo, Botticelli, and Rubens), which are enormously crowded, while my interest was in the Three Magi, and (because I’m Arnold Melchior Zwicky) in the Magus Melchior specifically.

So I came to stumble on an idiosyncratic delight, an 1894 tapestry (by Burne-Jones and others) depicting only the central figures of the Adoration scene: the Christ child, Mary, Joseph, and the Three Wise Men, plus (in the actual center of the image, rising in the air above the other figures) the Angel of God (responsible for the Annunciation to the shepherds, who don’t appear in #1), holding the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the Magi from their home in the East (the geographic neighborhood of Persia, Babylonia, and Assyria) to the site of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

To come: the tapestry; the background on this blog; about the tapestry and its interpretation; about Burne-Jones; and about the celebration in song of the Angel of the Lord (with glory all around) proclaiming to the shepherds. (The music of the Star of Bethlehem I leave for another time.)

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Royal Melchior

January 7, 2022

A day late for the occasion — Epiphany, 1/6, the Feast of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) —  an occasion in which I have a personal onomastic stake, as Arnold Melchior Zwicky, named for my father, who was named in honor of his father (Melchior Arnold Zwicky), who was, with two of his brothers, named after a Magus: Melchior, in one tradition king of the Persians, the bringer of gold to the Christ child, and the oldest of the three.

All of this was brought to my attention again yesterday, in a Facebook posting by Bert Vaux, which included this vintage advertising poster:


(#1) The Magus Melchior, roi des Perses, serving as advertising eponym and mascot for Royal Melchior vin mousseux (sparkling wine), in a poster (undated, but from early in the 20th century) by Leonetto Cappiello (sadly, this brand of sparkling wine is apparently no longer produced)

Now: refresher notes on Epiphany; and an appreciation of Cappiello.

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Commercial Christmas 2021: DJ’s third quarter

January 6, 2022

(Well, men’s homo-underwear ads, featuring what are intended to be alluring male bodies, and skirting the line of outrageous lewdness. Clearly not to everyone’s taste.)

Following up on yesterday’s Twelfth Night posting (“Three days of commercial Christmas”), about the Daily Jocks treatment of the second quarter of the 12 days of commercial Christmas — Days 4 (12/16, calling birds), 5 (12/17, golden rings), and 6 (12/18, geese) — for Epiphany itself today, the DJ treatment of the third quarter: Days 7 (12/19, swans), with fetishwear; 8 (12/20, maids), with traditional jockstraps; and 9 (12/21, ladies), with — hiss, boo — a mystery jock offer, nothing to see here.

Nothing says Christmas like harnesses and old-school jockstraps.

In any case: a quick tour of DJ’s Days 7 and 8, then a survey of Epiphany on this blog.

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