Said the rapper to the geek

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, with a fine POP (of a nonstandard variety):

(#1) M.C. Hammer-Escher = MC Hammer + M.C. Escher

An M.C. Escher-style tessellation of images of the rapper MC Hammer — visually combining the elements that are combined linguistically in the portmanteau.

The standard phrasal overlap portmanteau combines AX with XB to yield AXB; the material X is shared in the middle, as in sweet tooth fairy. But portmanteaus come in many forms, including those with shared material at an edge, as here: XA and XB combine to yield XAB.

Of course, much of the charm of POPs comes from preposterous and unlikely combinations of contributing elements — in this case, the classic (some now say “old-style”) rapper MC Hammer and the geeky Dutch artist M.C. Escher.

Hammer. From Wikipedia:

(#2) Hammer’s album Icon (2014)

Stanley Kirk Burrell (born March 30, 1962), better known by his stage name MC Hammer (or simply Hammer), is an American hip hop recording artist, dancer, record producer and entrepreneur. He had his greatest commercial success and popularity from the late 1980s, until the early 1990s. Remembered for his rapid rise to fame, Hammer is known for hit records (such as “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit”), flashy dance movements, choreography and eponymous Hammer pants.

Then, since Hammer’s a fine hunky dude and I am who I am:

(#3) Hammer, showin’ it off

Escher. From Wikipedia:

Maurits Cornelis Escher (17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972) was a Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically-inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints.

His work features mathematical objects and operations including impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry, and tessellations. Although Escher believed he had no mathematical ability, he interacted with the mathematicians George Pólya, Roger Penrose, Harold Coxeter and crystallographer Friedrich Haag, and conducted his own research into tessellation.

Early in his career, he drew inspiration from nature, making studies of insects, landscapes, and plants such as lichens, all of which he used as details in his artworks. He traveled in Italy and Spain, sketching buildings, townscapes, architecture and the tilings of the Alhambra and the Mezquita of Cordoba, and became steadily more interested in their mathematical structure.

Escher’s art became well known among scientists and mathematicians, and in popular culture, especially after it was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1966 Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. Apart from being used in a variety of technical papers, his work has appeared on the covers of many books and albums. He was one of the major inspirations of Douglas Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Despite wide popular interest, Escher was for long somewhat neglected in the art world; even in his native Netherlands, he was 70 before a retrospective exhibition was held. In the twenty-first century, he became more widely appreciated, with exhibitions across the world.

Two famous examples:

(#4) Day and Night (woodcut, 1938), a tessellation of a Dutch landscape

(#5) Relativity (lithograph, first printed 1953), an unorientable scene

[My standard “But is it art?” digression. Escher’s work was largely neglected for some time because it lay outside the art establishment and could be dismissed as merely academic jokery. Putting it into the artistic outside, along with cartoons, caricatures, book illustrations, scientific illustrations, design, crafts, and political posters (among other things).]

Said the rapper to the geek. A play on the first lines of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”:

There must be some kind of way out of here
Said the joker to the thief

From Wikipedia:

“All Along the Watchtower” is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The song initially appeared on his 1967 album John Wesley Harding, and it has been included on most of Dylan’s subsequent greatest hits compilations. Since the late 1970s, he has performed it in concert more than any of his other songs…

Covered by numerous artists in various genres, “All Along the Watchtower” is strongly identified with the interpretation Jimi Hendrix recorded for Electric Ladylandwith the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

You can listen to Dylan performing it here.


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