Archive for December, 2012

A Dingburg Christmas

December 25, 2012

Today’s Zippy:

“I’ll take names of birds in E for $200, Alex” (eagle, eider). Oh, that’s Alex Trebek, not Pat Sajak.

The 47th parallel N. calls up nothing special that I can see (Bern, Switzerland; Xinjiang in China; northern tier states in the U.S.; Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes), but then this is Dingburg and inscrutable.

The last panel does bring up the question of what counts as a proper insult in ritual-insult games. “Your momma wears Army boots”, yes, “Your mother wears mouse ears and a pair of neon ski pants”, not so much.

On to Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, and 6 weeks since my surgery, all wrapped up in one.


Oh no, not a pony!

December 25, 2012

The Christmas Eve Bizarro:

A cartoon clearly meant for me, in my guise as Underwear Guy.


Regrettable Christmas songs

December 23, 2012

(It’s Christmas Adam today, as several friends have pointed out: the day that immediately precedes Christmas Eve. Yeah, yeah, guffaw, guffaw.)

The world of Christmas songs (other than standard hymns and carols) can be roughly divided into three parts, according to content and purpose:

Jesus-y Christmas songs, in which the Christmas Child plays a central role (more on these below);

well-meaning non-Jesus-y Christmas songs, emphasizing family, friends, and warm feelings about the season, but making no commitment to the birth of Christ or indeed to his existence (“White Christmas”; “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting…)”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, etc).;

gag Christmas songs, which are basically meant to be awful but entertaining (“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “All I Want for Christmas Is a New Front Tooth”, “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”, etc.)

Aesthetic judgments work differently in these three domains, as well as in the domains of standard hymns and carols; even if you consign all gag Christmas songs to Music Hell (as I would certainly do) and run screaming from them when they appear in public places, you might still want to make discriminations in the other categories. Some instances are more vicious than others.

In particular, there is plenty of room to view some Jesus-y Christmas sings as thoroughly regrettable, despite their earnest pretensions. This brings me to “The Little Drummer Boy” vs. “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, in a tight and hard-fought competition for  Most Regrettable Jesus-y Christmas Song.



December 23, 2012

A story from almost 50 years ago, in Cambridge MA, in which a young woman talks with exasperation about the slapdash housekeeping skills of some male friends of hers sharing an apartment in Cambridge. One of them had done a load of laundry, washing, along with a lot of dark clothes, a brand-new fuzzy yellow garment, with the predictable unfortunate outcome that, as she put it:

*Everything* was covered with little yellow greeblies!

Ann and I hadn’t heard the word greeblies before, but from the context and the word’s sound, it was clear what the greeblies were: little bits of fluff (which attached themselves unwelcomely to other things). And when we told the story to others, no one had any problem dealing with the unfamiliar word.

(Greeblies are relevant in my life right now, because I’m washing my new plush bathrobe, which has shown some tendency to shed the occasional greebly here and there, and has to be washed on its own, not even with other dark-colored clothes, so as not to risk a plague of dark blue greeblies. Not for me the mistake of those guys back in Cambridge.)

And it seems that people have invented this noun (and the similar noun greeble), independently, many times, using the phonosemantic resources of English to craft a new word that vividly suggests the image they have in mind.


The multicultural Christmas playlist, mostly “Jingle Bells”

December 22, 2012

It started as a collection of eccentric and peculiar (even deranged) recordings of “Jingle Bells”, from EDZ’s iTunes, but it’s branched out some. “Jingle Bells” is, of course, a winter song — not even a holiday song, much less a specifically Christmas song, though it’s become associated so strongly with the holiday that it appears on many albums of Christmas songs – and at least one Hindi version that Elizabeth has suggests that for some Hindi speakers anyway it’s become a Christmas song (the singers shout out “Christmas! Christmas” every so often during the song). Odd things happen in cultural diffusion.


Triumph of the nerds

December 22, 2012

The Christmas (well, December 22nd) issue of the Economist has a great piece on the rise of web comics, beginning:

Triumph of the nerds: The internet has unleashed a burst of cartooning creativity

In 1989 Bill Watterson, the writer of “Calvin and Hobbes”, a brilliant comic strip about a six-year-old child and his stuffed tiger, denounced his industry. In a searing lecture, he attacked bland, predictable comics, churned out by profit-driven syndicates. Cartooning, said Mr Watterson, “will never be more than a cheap, brainless commodity until it is published differently.”

In 2012 he is finally getting his way. As the newspaper industry continues its decline, the funnies pages have decoupled from print. Instead of working for huge syndicates, or for censored newspapers with touchy editors, cartoonists are now free to create whatever they want. Whether it is cutting satire about Chinese politics, or a simple joke about being a dog, everything can win an audience on the internet.


Vestigial design elements

December 21, 2012

It started with men’s underwear, but eventually led me to a very strange place.

From “The underwear elves of 2012” (here):

Why mention the functional fly? Because these days many briefs etc. are made with false flies — made to look like old-fashioned men’s Y-fronts (a bit of stylist retro), but without an opening that might ruin the line of the garment. The FIZX brief and trunk offer an actual convenience to the wearer (the jockstrap is of course flyless).

First, a look at the way briefs and similar underwear have developed, to yield the current situation, in which you can’t always tell from just looking at a garment whether it has a functional fly or not. That leads to the notion of vestigial design element and to repurposing of design elements. And that takes us to features of living things, in particular functional vs. non-functional (vestigial) organs, and also to the recruitment of older structures for new purposes. There’s an analogy here between evolutionary development and the history of design elements, but it’s only a loose analogy, and I believe that evolutionary biologists and historians of design are quite clear that although there are suggestive parallels between the two, the underlying mechanisms are significantly different.

But then the Intelligent Design people enter the picture, and things fall apart into remarkably confused thinking, a mess that I’m at a loss to make sense of.


Dude Wipes

December 21, 2012

A few days ago on Facebook, Leith Chu wondered, about Dude Wipes from the Dude Products people:

Why hasn’t anybody mentioned these before? (link)

The Dude Products Dude Wipes Box of 30 [$9.99] on Amazon:

The description on this site:

There is nothing like the feeling of being clean!! After a long training session wipe down with a Dudewipe for a Fresh Scent not a Baby wipe scent. DudeWipes are wallet-sized and perfect for any person who wants to keep up their hygiene no matter where they are or what they’re doing. These wipes are a great complement to toilet paper, pre or post gym clean up, or to simply keep hands, face, and other areas Fresh and Clean. FINALLY!!!!!! A hygiene product that doesn’t smell like a baby.

Is this (to some degree) a serious product, designed to appeal to men who feel the need to assert their masculinity against babies (not to mention the elderly and the infirm, giving three groups who lack manliness and probably also the smell of a man, and of course women, who are totally out of it on both fronts)? There is plenty of male paranoia out there, but the closer you look at the site, the less likely it seems to be serious.


Still more Christmas music

December 21, 2012

(Ok, languages, if not actually Language.)

Just when I thought the vein of eccentric Christmas music had been played out, along comes Jolly Bolly Christmas, with Bollywood and Bhangra (Punjabi) versions of Christmas songs, plus a cross-cultural (Brit-Punjabi) sitcom and the tale of Bhangra Santa, the red-nosed Rhandhir, and the navigation device Sat Navinder.


Soft serve

December 21, 2012

Yesterday’s Zippy:

In ZippyPopLand, redemption can be found in soft serve. (In particular, New England Soft Serve, which would appear to be the franchise in Colchester CT, though I haven’t been able to find images of the place.)