Seahorse on a stick, GBF, and the Describe-A-Muffin Task

All in the 4/24/17 New Yorker: Beijing street food on the cover, a William Haefeli cartoon, and a Tom Chitty cartoon.

Seahorse on a stick. The cover, “A Taste for Adventure”:


From the magazine’s cover story:

“For me, one of the finest things about travelling is trying new and exotic foods,” Cannaday Chapman says, about the inspiration for his cover for the Food & Travel issue. Chapman recently returned from Argentina, where he ate “a whole lot of steaks and the best pork chops I ever had.” He hasn’t visited China yet. “Everyone says they have the best street food,” he says. “My Chinese friend was trying to get me there, describing the seahorses and also scorpions, lots of bugs. I’m told they taste like crab or lobster, which makes sense. Those are just sea bugs.”

Deep-fried fish or other sea creatures on a stick are well-known Beijing street foods: seahorses (said to taste like spicy pork rinds) and small starfish (also visible on the cover) and scorpions too.

Chapman seems to be new to the New Yorker (and is certainly new to this blog). The brief bio on his own website:


Cannaday Chapman was born in Huntington, West Virginia and raised in Upstate New York. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City on scholarship where he received his BFA in illustration. Cannaday has since been working professionally as an illustrator and showing his work in galleries around the United States and Italy.

Chapman is a prolific illustrator, especially in fashion, especially with young black women as his subjects, as in #1. Three other drawings:


A matryoshka weight-loss illustration: a thin man trying to get out of a fat man


A drawing of David Bowie, on the occasion of his death


A steamy drawing of Prince in Purple Rain, on the occasion of his death (one year ago today)

GBF. A William Haefeli cartoon:

“Sorry. I have no interest in being your gay best friend. Try human resources.” (#6)

(Haefeli is an old acquaintance on this blog. There’s a Page on postings about him here.)

GBF-hood is a relationship between a straight woman and a gay man in which the two parties have the advantages of cross-sex friendship — in particular, insight into the ways and feelings of the other sex (each is a spy into their own gender world for the other) — without the complexities of a sexual relationship and without the potential competitions of same-sex friendships. In the words of the Decider site’s posting on “The 10 Best Gay Best Friends”, from #10, Sammy Gray (Steve Zahn) in Reality Bites, to #1, Tanner Daniels (Michael J. Willett) in G.B.F.:

Every girl needs a gay best friend — or at least that’s what the movies tell us. These guys are typically the sweet, sensitive boys next door who offer guidance and sass to our female protagonists, and they never want to have sex with them. But that’s OK, because they have plenty of other things to offer: companionship, jokes, sometimes even fathering abilities.

And on the film G.B.F., from Wikipedia:


G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend) is a 2013 American teen comedy film directed by Darren Stein and produced by School Pictures, Parting Shots Media, and Logolite Entertainment. The film made its first official screening at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival in April 2013 and got its theatrical release on January 17, 2014 by Vertical Entertainment. G.B.F. focuses on closeted gay high school students Tanner and Brent. When Tanner is outed, he is picked up by the cool girls and he begins to surpass still-closeted Brent in popularity.

The film stars Michael J. Willett, Paul Iacono, Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen, Xosha Roquemore, Molly Tarlov, Evanna Lynch, Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, and Megan Mullally.

… The film received an R rating from the MPAA for “sexual references”. Director Stein responded to the rating by saying, “I always thought of G.B.F. as a PG-13 movie, but we were given an R ‘For Sexual References’ while not having a single F-bomb, hint of nudity or violence in the film. Perhaps the ratings box should more accurately read ‘For Homosexual References’ or ‘Too Many Scenes of Gay Teens Kissing.’ I look forward to a world where queer teens can express their humor and desire in a sweet, fun teen film that doesn’t get tagged with a cautionary R.”

As I remark every few weeks on this blog, many people see same-sex kisses, especially between males, as tantamount to depictions of X-rated sex acts.

The Describe-A-Muffin Task. The Tom Chitty cartoon:

“No, no, that’s a mushroom. These are bigger and more bready.” (#8)

(There’s a Page on this blog with postings about Chitty’s work.)

Chitty’s Earthman is trying to describe muffins to the Alien via perceptible properties of the things: appearance, size, texture, etc. So far he’s only up to discriminating between muffins and mushrooms (which do, after all, have similar shapes). But there’s hard sledding ahead, because words of everyday language are characterized as much by the functions of their denotata in human life as by their perceptible qualities. In the present case, it’s crucial that the denotata of muffin belong to the FOOD category, comprising stuff that is conventionally eaten for nourishment and pleasure.

More specifically, the denotata of muffin belong to the subcategory of FOOD taking in BREADS and CAKES (NOAD2 on the noun muffin: ‘a small domed cake or quick bread made from batter or dough’). And somewhere in this Earthman is going to have to explain that (in the U.S., at any rate) muffins are typically breakfast fare, which will require him to explain the system of meals in our culture.

This might take a little while.

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