Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Three words to marvel at

November 1, 2023

🐇 🐇 🐇 trois lapins to inaugurate November, the final month of autumn or spring (depending on which hemisphere you’re in), and celebrate the Day of the Dead. A day on which we’ll enjoy three English words that have entertained posters on Facebook (from now on, FB) recently: calceology ‘the study of footwear’; telamon ‘male figure used as an architectural pillar’; and hallux ‘the first and largest toe (on a human foot)’.

At this point, you might admit that these terms are English words but, quite rightly, object that it would be bizarre to talk about expressions that almost no speakers of English know or use as words of English. Certainly, if I asked you whether English has a word for the study of footwear, you’re almost surely going to say no, because part of our everyday understanding of word of English is that such an expression has some currency, and hardly any speakers of English know or use the expression calceology.

On discovering the technical term calceology, then, you might be willing to say that the term is an English word, or maybe even a word in English, but still balk at saying it’s a word of English. It should by now be clear that we’re dealing with distinct concepts here, and grappling, awkwardly, with putting labels on them. At least one fresh label is called for. I’ll hold off on choosing a label to cover the territory that includes words of English until after I’ve looked at three other characteristics of CTH — calceology, telamon, and hallux — separate from their lacking currency.

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Japanese symbolic culture, inscribed on León’s arm

September 8, 2023

About my friend (and former caregiver) León Hernández Alvarez (hereafter, LH) and the tattoos covering his left arm, from wrist to shoulder, reflecting his deep sympathy with the symbolic culture of Japan. Here’s LH in a face shot that will serve as an introduction to his text (as I edited it for compactness) taking us on a tour of the ink, along with seven photos he took to accompany the text (as I cleaned them up for presentation here):


(#1) LH showing off the arm (and the muscles he’s developed at the gym)

After most sections of LH’s text (which I’ve boldfaced), there’s some background material about the things depicted in the tattoos, with some photos from real life.

I hope to post separately about LH, including some about his personal qualities, but here I offer four important pieces of biographical data: LH is in his early 40s, he’s Mexican (here on a work visa), he has an MBA and a previous history working in business in Mexico, and (like me) he’s gay.

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Cognitive dissonance in bricks and mortar

August 4, 2023

From Steven Levine, continuing his observations in the Netherlands, on Facebook yesterday:


[SL:] A McDonald’s in Haarlem. I can’t decide if I think this is creative reuse or a violation of sensibility. Either way, what a building.

Ah, a continuation of my architecture theme, specifically in my posting “Durability, utility, beauty” from yesterday, where I looked at architectural design as simply the design of very large everyday objects, subject to the same judgments that we apply to kitchen tools, downspouts, typewriters, and the like.

In this case, there’s a certain cognitive dissonance (Steven’s “violation of sensibility”), between the elegant design of the building and the crass display of a fast-food restaurant.  (On the other hand, for a McDonald’s, this display is positively modest and unobtrusive.)

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The Bulldog Café, a lost monument of mimetic architecture

July 30, 2023

It begins with yesterday’s posting “Charlie’s Dog House Diner” — not actually in the form of a doghouse, but with a doghouse image on its facade; in a comment on my posting, Tim Evanson now suggests a little place in old L.A. in the form of a bulldog — a genuine piece of mimetic architecture:

There is also the Bulldog Cafe, once located at 1153 West Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. A takeout restaurant, it was torn down in 1955. A re-creation was built for the 1991 Disney movie The Rocketeer.

The link Tim provided is unusable for me, but here’s a fine one, to Martin Turnbull’s website (of 3/10/15) on the Bulldog Café, opened in 1928:

I’m a fan of mimetic architecture – buildings intentionally made to look like something, often in the shape of what it sells, like an ice cream store in the shape of a waffle cone. Yes, they’re kitsch, and but they’re fun and memorable. This one was called the Bulldog Café, and opened at 1153 West Washington Blvd in 1928 and lasted until 1955 or 1966 (sources differ.) Not unsurprisingly, it’s no longer there, but a replica of it can now be found at the Idle Hour in North Hollywood. (The replica was built by the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Blvd, but was removed during their 2017 remodel.)

Featuring ham, barbecue, chili, tamales, and ice cream; if it offered hot dogs, that wasn’t trumpeted.

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Charlie’s Dog House Diner

July 29, 2023

From the great book of diners of fanciful design (compare, more generally: restaurants of fanciful design and motels of fanciful design), from Tim Evanson: Charlie’s Dog House Diner, 2102 Brookpark Rd, Cleveland OH:


(#1) The facade, representing a doghouse, with dogs; but this is just one face of the diner, which is otherwise of more ordinary form

Now: on the compound noun dog house; on Charlie’s Dog House Diner; on what is no doubt the most famous dog house in pop culture, Snoopy’s from the Peanuts comic strip; and on diners that have taken dog house entirely for its name value, without any attempt to mimic or represent a dog house — taking the Dog House Diner in Encinitas CA as one exemplar of these. Hot dogs! Getcher hot dogs here!

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From the annals of remarkable names

June 4, 2023

(This is a brief not-dead-yet posting, also an attempt to hack away at the avalanche of things to post about that confronted me when I arose — at 2:30 am, which for me is a reasonable time.)

An old One Big Happy strip that came up in my comics feed this morning. With a remarkable name — but one concocted by the cartoonist to achieve a terrible pun.


(#1) Creighton is a real, but rare, FN (a LN converted to use as a FN); and Barrel is a real, but rare, LN, introduced in panel 1 of the strip; put them together and, in panel 4, you’ve got Creighton Barrel, which is Rick Detorie’s fictive remarkable name, an outrageous pun

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Briefly: exocentric V + N

September 20, 2022

(Warning: a vulgar term for the primary female sexual anatomy will end up playing a big role in this posting.)

Where this is going: to an alternative name for an American President (#45, aka TFG); and to an alternative name for a classic American novel (by J.D. Salinger) — both names being exocentric V + N compound nouns, the first in English, the second in French. (I’ll call them exoVerNs for short.)

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Words at the Java Lanes

June 27, 2022

Today’s Zippy strip is a triple riff on masspop culture — on bowling as recreation, on the Googie style of architecture, and on Polynesian-stye “Tiki” culture (architecture, food and drink, and entertainment) — enlivened by our Pinhead’s fascination with words (and the images they call up), here with: bowl, Java, lane, cocktail, alley, ball. Cocktail, with its combination of sexual associations (plus penumbral associations with mai tais and other Polynesian-associated drinks), gets a panel all to itself, so setting the tone for interpreting the rest:


(#1) As usual, the setting is taken from real life; those are drawings of Java Lanes in Long Beach CA (3800 E. Pacific Coast Highway) — but a Java Lanes from the past, since the place was demolished in 2004, almost 20 years ago, to be turned into condos

The historical setting, first from the bowling point of view, then from the architectural and Tiki-culture point of view:

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Jacques and Arnold’s presidential adventure

October 4, 2021

More notes on the 1993 annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, at the Biltmore Hotel (now the Millennium Biltmore) in Los Angeles, at which I gave (on 1/9/93) my 1992 presidential address to the society, “Mapping the ordinary into the rare: Basic/derived reasoning in theory construction”.

The setting. The hotel is a landmark building of downtown Los Angeles (on Pershing Square).


(#1) The exterior, viewed from Pershing Square; you will have seen bits and pieces of the exterior and (especially) the interior in numerous movies and tv shows (Business Insider photo)

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Chips on the west, Chip’s on the east

May 17, 2021

Yesterday’s (5/16) Zippy strip shows a Zippy-like Pinhead actor playing the Zippy role in the comics; Zippy strips often advance the unsettling view that characters in the comics are, or at least can be, just roles that are played by actors, who have lives of their own, outside the strips their characters appear in. But then (as here) these Zippy strips sometimes feature such actors as characters in the strips, hence as roles that can themselves be played by actors. And so on down the surrealistic rabbit-hole.

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So much for the content of the strip. My attention was immediately caught by the diner, Chips, that the Zippy-actor is studying his script in, and its arresting architecture, which cries out “L.A.!” So it is.

But a search for “Chips diner” pulls up as its first hit a set of 5 east-coast eating establishments, the Chip’s Family Restaurants located throughout Connecticut — equally offering old-fashioned diner fare, but architecturally crying out “New England!”

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