Midsummer cartoons

Saturday night was Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve), yesterday Midsummer Day (St. John’s Day) — so that last night was Midsummer Night, when the fairies frolic. (As they did indeed, at SF Pride events.) Meanwhile there are cartoons: a Bill Whitehead Free Range cartoon from 9/6/17, in the July 2018 issue of Funny Times; a John Atkinson Wrong Hands cartoon that came to me from Eleanor Houck; and a Scott and Borgman Zits cartoon in today’s King Features feed.

First come the cartoons, then come the holidays. (Apologies to Brecht and his Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral — pleasure first, then the serious stuff.)

Whitehead’s cat psychiatrist. (‘psychiatrist for cats’):


Previously on this blog:

on 6/15/17, in ” For Saul Steinberg”: #9-11 three Bill Whitehead cartoons

on 6/11/18, in “In case of cartoons, see therapist”:  #3, a Strange Brew cartoon with a psychiatrist who wants his cat patient to stay off the couch

Cats’ fixation on sharpening their claws on furniture is a recurrent theme in Whitehead’s cartoons. As here:

(#2) Two art lovers taking the audio-guided tour of the Cat Art Museum.

A Whitehead bonus: a mammoth cartoon:

(#3) How’s it curvin’, Swarthy?

Atkinson’s art school of fish. The title is a POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau): art school + school of fish:

(#4) Piscine parodies of 15 artistic styles

I’m especially taken with the Warhol tin can.

Slaying and gigging in Zits. Jeremy’s father is confounded by his son’s enthusiastic announcement:

If Goat Cheese Pizza slays, we could be gigging at Warped!


If Walt Duncan doesn’t recognize the name of his son’s rock band, Goat Cheese Pizza, then he’s terminally inattentive, since the band’s been around — and practicing in the Duncans’ garage — for months (or years; it’s hard to calibrate the passage of time in a comic strip with the passage of time in the real world).

Three words down, three to go. The other proper name is the name of a music festival, Warped, which has been a Jeremy topic for several days. Maybe his dad missed it. But at Warped should help Walt to guess that Warped is an event or a place, and since it’s going to make the biggest day of his life, probably an event, and since Goat Cheese Pizza is involved, probably musical. So: maybe not comprehensible in complete detail, but far from gibberish.

Then two verb forms, PRS slays and PRP gigging. Surely Walt has experienced the noun gig and its verbing; they’ve even made it into NOAD, labeled merely informal:

noun gig-2: informal [a] a live performance by or engagement for a musician or group playing popular or jazz music. [b] a job, especially one that is temporary or that has an uncertain future: he secured his first gig as an NFL coach.

verb gig: [no object] perform a gig or gigs.

Now intransitive slay is (apparently) a relatively recently innovation, a more colorful version of kill, as when we say that a performer really killed, performed very impressively, by really (metaphorically and hyperbolically) killing his audience.  From GDoS on this kill:

verb kill: 1 (orig. US) to affect another person in a non-lethal way. (a) often constr. with dead, to amaze or delight, esp. an audience [1st cite 1770; from 1899 on, all the cites are transitive]

And from OED2 draft addition of June 2015 under the verb kill:

trans. colloq.(orig. U.S.). To do or perform (something) impressively or conclusively. Also: spec. to do extremely well at (an examination subject). Frequently in to kill it. Cf. nail v.6d.

1899 Werner’s Mag. Jan. 376/2 Kill, to do easily.

1906 Dial. Notes3 ii. 143 Kill, to pass an examination perfectly. ‘I killed math.’

1968 C. Baker et al. College Undergraduate Slang Study 147 Kill it, do well on an exam.

1982 Campus Slang (Univ. N. Carolina, Chapel Hill) Spring 5 Kill, to do something extremely well: She killed that song.

2001 Snowboard U.K. Sept. 43 Hamish McKnight was killing it on a Burton Junkyard snowskate, pulling off big indys and even getting close to 360 flips over the first box in the boardercross.

2011 T. Rayburn Pulse (2012) xiv. Matt said you totally killed the interview.

2012   P. Coughter Art of Pitch ii. 48 You have to go out there and kill it, make them love us right now, and inspire the team.

Intransitive kill ‘perform very impressively, succeed absolutely’ is just a step past kill it.

Meanwhile, slay has developed senses analogically to kill. The beginning of this development, in sense c from NOAD2:

verb slay: [with object] [a] archaic or literary kill (a person or animal) in a violent way: St. George slew the dragon. [b] chiefly North American murder (someone) (used chiefly in journalism): a man was slain with a shotgun. [c] informal greatly impress or amuse (someone): you slay me, you really do.

Then from there to ‘do or perform (something) impressively or conclusively’, especially in slay it, and from there to intransitive ‘perform very impressively, succeed absolutely’.

The later steps in these developments are not yet in the big dictionaries, but I’ve heard all of them. If Walt Duncan doesn’t recall having heard them, he could at least have made guesses as to Jeremy’s meaning on the basis of things he does recall having heard.

Instead, he plays the curmudgeon card: you just can’t understand a word of what teenagers say.

Midsummer. Now to the really serious stuff (though there will be some male art; I promise). From Wikipedia:

Midsummer is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different cultures. The undivided Christian Church [the church before the split into the the Roman and orthodox churches, and then of the Roman churches into Catholic and Protestant] designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John’s Day begins the evening before, known as St John’s Eve.

… Midsummer is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different cultures. The undivided Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John’s Day begins the evening before, known as St John’s Eve.

Many different customs in different places. As I’ve written, in my 3/30/18 posting “Pride Time #5: on Barceloneta beach”, in Catalonia it’s the de facto national day and also a big gay day:

As for Sant Joan, St. John [in Catalan], in #2: his celebrations mark midsummer, the national day of Catalonia, and (for gayfolk) a high point of Pride Month. From Wikipedia on the traditions of Catalonia:

June 23: Midsummer. Revetlla de Sant Joan: Celebration in honour of St. John the Baptist … takes place in the evening of June 23. Parties are organised usually at beaches, where bonfires are lit and a set of firework displays usually take place. Special foods such as Coca de Sant Joan are also served on this occasion.

June 24: St. John’s Day. Dia de Sant Joan; Christian feast day celebrating the birth of Jesus’ likely cousin, Saint John the Baptist. This is considered to be the national day of the Catalan Countries.

So we are inevitably impelled on to last night, Midsummer Night, and of course to the Shakespeare play (and Mendelssohn’s music, and various movies). Which took me to the Shakespeare Illustrated materials by Harry Rusche (of the English department at Emory Univ.), in particular to his material on Joseph Noel Paton and his 1883 painting Oberon and the Mermaid:

(#6) Left to right: The mischievous fairy Puck; Oberon, king of the fairies; and the mermaid

This painting inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream was exhibited more than three decades after Paton’s prize-winning The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847) and his Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1850).  Oberon and the Mermaid illustrates a scene we do not actually see in the play; just before Oberon sends Puck in Act II, Scene i, to fetch the love-in-idleness with which he will enchant the lovers he asks Puck if he remembers a particular night when once I sat upon a promontory

And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin’s back,
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song,
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid’s music.

In the painting Paton depicts the memory of that night.

The impish Puck with batwings is reminiscent of the earlier paintings on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the scantily clan Oberon reveals a new element in Paton’s work. In discussing the semi-clad figures of Oberon and Titania in The Quarrel and The Reconciliation, Alison Smith suggests in The Victorian Nude [: Sexuality, Morality, and Art (1997)] that by “the 1850s, painters such as Joseph Noel Paton and Robert Huskisson had arrived at a softened fairy type, tempering any suggestion of eroticism by a delicate treatment, and enhancing their creations with the addition of gauze wings, flowing hair and wispy robes.” Paton’s contemporary the critic of the Spectator approved of Paton’s style, remarking that his “sense of the voluptuous . . . carries him to the verge of what modern ‘decorum’ will tolerate, never beyond it” (Smith 92). No such sense of decorum, however, governs Paton’s rendering of the nearly naked fairy in Oberon and the Mermaid. Victorian attitudes toward the male body in art had changed significantly in the 33 years between Paton’s earlier paintings and this one done in 1883. Smith traces these changes in a section of The Victorian Nude, “The male nude” (pp. 135-42), beginning with the exhibition of Frederick Walker’s Bathers (1865-67), a picture showing a number of young men and boys disrobing on the bank and swimming naked.

Once again, it ends in male nudes.

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