Archive for the ‘Art’ Category


November 15, 2022

That’s who the postcard was addressed to. The postcard announcing the annual holiday fair of the artifactory / The Artifactory in Palo Alto:

(#1) Arnold M Zwicky has been getting these announcements for a couple of decades, but I believe that this is the first time MARCIA M Zwicky got one and I didn’t (it’s possible that I didn’t notice for a couple of years, because COVID-19, but my replacement by MARCIA M is surely a recent thing)

I suspect that this address is incorrect — it should be MARCIA M M Zwicky, because her full name is MARCIA MARCIA MARCIA Zwicky. As in The Brady Bunch.

Back in the real world, there’s the question of where MARCIA came from, and for that I have no idea, beyond the possibility that the Artifactory’s address database somehow mingled two different addresses, MARCIA + X and Y + M Zwicky.

In the world of consensus reality, there’s the Artifactory cooperative and the tv series The Brady Bunch (though I have to point out that we’re interested in the series for the (fictive) narrative in it, for the stories it tells). And then the fantasies and inventions I’ll spin out will use some other established fictive narratives: the story of the Three Magi and the tales of the Archangel Michael. With a side reference to the comics and graphic novels of Alison Bechdel.

In fact, Bechdel will serve as the entry point into the (real-world) story of the Artifactory cooperative.


Carousing for St. Martin

November 11, 2022

(This is a Mary, Queen of Scots Not Dead Yet posting — the best I can do on yet another terrible Sick Day — but it will have the virtue of being complete, not a promise of things to come.)

It’s Armistice Day (in the US, Veterans Day), solemnly following on the solemn anniversary of Kristallnacht, but it’s also (as Hana Filip just reminded me) the feast day of St. Martin of Tours: St. Martin’s Day, which has its serious saintly side — St. Martin and the beggar in rags — but is, as well, a day of wild revelling, initiating the winter season. An occasion that, ultimately, inspired a piece of music that is just sheer noisy unbridled fun: the Wine Chorus from Haydn’s The Seasons (aka “Juhe! Der Wein ist da!” from Die Jahreszseiten).


Eustace Tilley for 2022

November 9, 2022

Personal background: I decided to declare today to be a Sick Day and have been doing only the minimal things of life, mostly dozing fitfully in my recliner chair, wrapped up in my bathrobe. (Meanwhile, workmen did serious work on the balcony above my patio, so I had them and their ladders and noisy tools all over my patio, but I just let this activity drift by on the fringes of my consciousness.)

Mingled in with my tortured dreams were actual useful thoughts about postings — I am pretty much incapable of not plying my craft, even in the most unlikely circumstances — including a really neat follow-up to my 11/7 posting “Centennial moments in NYC”, which has a section on the The New Yorker’s first cover illustration, a dandy peering at a butterfly through a monocle — the gentleman now referred to as “Eustace Tilley”, who serves as a kind of mascot for the magazine. Rea Irvin’s original Tilley cover is used every year on the issue closest to the anniversary date of February 21, sometimes with a newly drawn variation in its place.

So, I wondered, what was the 2022 cover like?

Wow! Kadir Nelson’s “High Style”, with Eustace as a proud Black woman in butterfly-ornamented apparel, including a mask for the pandemic.

And then I wondered when you crossed the line from a (new) interpretation, version, or variant of an original cultural item (like the Eustace Tilley image) and moved into the territory of an abstract form, format, or pattern (something you might think of as a meme or trope — Eustace as a vehicle for, or expression of, cultural content). And I even thought of a linguistic parallel to this distinction: in playful variation of a fixed expressions vs. a snowclone.

What follows now is not a posting elaborating on all of this — I’m guessing I have maybe half an hour before I’m poleaxed by exhaustion again — but just a teaser. Please be patient.


Centennial moments in NYC

November 7, 2022

(On the brief, skeletal side; I continue to lose most of my days in irresistible exhausted sleep, so this is something of a Mary, Queen of Scots Not Dead Yet posting. My apologies.)

Two events of 1924. First, the Linguistic Society of America (hereafter, the LSA) was founded at a gathering in New York City (hereafter, NYC) on 12/28/1924 — at the very end of the year, but in 1924, so 1924 counts as the founding year of the LSA. Second, also in NYC, Harold Ross and Jane Grant (with the financial support of entrepreneur Raoul Fleischmann) embarked on the creation of a sophisticated humor magazine, with Ross as its editor. Their plans for this magazine, named simply The New Yorker (hereafter, the NYer), were realized in its first issue, of 2/21/1925. So 1925 counts as the founding year of the NYer.

A forthcoming event of 2024. The 2024 annual meeting of the LSA will be held at the Sheraton New York Times Square on 4-7 January. Meeting in NYC is of course no accident, and several centennial events have already been scheduled.

Now, since Ross and Grant (and their associates) were cooking up the NYer in NYC at the very same time the LSA’s founders were gathering there to formally establish that organization, and since the NYer’s one-panel gag cartoons — very often turning on linguistic points — were a central feature of the magazine, it’s natural to think about celebrating the LSA and the NYer together in some way. So there are modest plans for a display project at the 2024 annual meeting looking at cartoons in the NYer over the past 100 years that have to do with language. Cool. As an eminence grise versed in the ways of NYer cartoons, I’ve agreed to provide a bit of help to the young scholar who will be doing the actual work of preparing this display.

This posting is a rumble about things that are just now getting underway. More information to come, with an invitation to make suggestions about stuff for the display. Meanwhile, play with the idea.


The mythological John Singer Sargent

November 4, 2022

A very brief note set off by Pinterest postings of artwork (some paintings, some sketches) on mythological themes by John Singer Sargent (who appears every so often on this blog). In particular, two remarkable paintings from a hundred years ago (both in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston):

(#1) The Judgement of Paris (1920)

(#2) Perseus on Pegasus Slaying Medusa (1921)

Remarkable formal compositions, with subtle use of color. With muscular bodies — male, female, equine — as a focus.

I haven’t been able to find anything on-line about the history of these two paintings. The great age of painting on themes from classical mythology was from the 14th through the 19th centuries, so Sargent’s 20th-century gods-and-heroes works are something of a surprise, even in such a stylistically conservative artist; surely they were commissioned, but by whom, for what purpose?

Zwicky logos

November 3, 2022

Return with me now to the middle of June, when I was impelled into the world of Zwicky logos, including not only ones for prominent Swiss commercial enterprises in grain, sewing thread, and real estate (the grain company is where it all started on 6/14), but also for beer (in Colorado), hair styling (also in Colorado), car repair (in Canton Aargau in Switzerland), and astronomical surveys (in California).

The original impulse came from Kyle Wohlmut, posting on Facebook on 6/14 “at Zwicky Areal”, with this photo taken from his commuter train:

(#1) KW > AZ (about the gnome in the logo): I don’t think that’s a very good likeness…

The logo in question:

(#2) The gnome is indeed not a good likeness of me

There ensued a confusion that turned out to have to do with the word Areal, but eventually it was established that the gnomic logo in #1 and #2 is for the Zwicky grain company (Schweizerische Schälmühle E. Zwicky AG), headquartered in a corner of Canton Thurgau; while the Zwicky sewing-thread company (now merged into the German company A&E Gütermann) and the real-estate company (Zwicky & Co AG, headquartered in the Zürich suburb of Wallisellen) base their logos on the Donald Brun silk-cat poster of the 1950s (which I’ve posted about repeatedly).

But Kyle’s note sent me on a search for Zwicky logos, which took me immediately to the 4 Noses Brewing Company in Broomfield CO, makers of Zwicky P (a Pilsner-style lager) and on to all the rest.


Prof. Dr. Monica Elisabeth Zwicky

November 2, 2022

In academia, she’s noted for her research on sex determination in insects and her more recent career in training biology teachers; meanwhile, through her Zwicky father, she’s in the line of the sewing-thread Zwickys (going back to 1840 — made memorable through Donald Brun’s Zwicky-silk cat poster, Soie à coudre) and is now the CEO of the real-estate development firm that evolved from that enterprise.

Prof. Dr. Monica Elisabeth Zwicky (Professor of Developmental Biology, Department of Molecular Life Sciences, Univ. of Zurich [so listed on the English versions of its pages; it’s Zürich on the German pages]); photo from the Molecular Life Sciences website

The thumbnail sketch from this website:

Monica Zwicky was born to a Swedish mother and Swiss father in Zurich and grew up in Lausanne. She has two grown-up children, is in charge of training aspiring biology teachers and is an Adjunct Professor of MNF [die Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, the Faculty of Science, the larger division to which Molecular Life Sciences belongs]

This is then followed by an interview with her about her interest in natural science, her life as a woman in biology, her drive for independence and authority, and her recognition that the role of mentor and nurturer of students comes easily to her as an extension of her maternal role. It’s a complex and self-reflective piece, also something of a surprise on a Molecular Life Sciences site.


Three lithographs from 1857

October 24, 2022

Male nudes from Bernard Romain Julien’s 1857 Cours de Dessin, showing students how to draw figures from life; inexpensive paperback versions of Romain Julien’s instruction books are still available in the US, and seem to be popular; they also stand alone as compendia of the artist’s work, which was especially focused on portraits, bringing his searching gaze to faces.

Three pages from the Cours de Dessin, as encountered recently by Joel Nevis Y Flores and Jusquifabio NevisyFlores at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile (more on J&J and their holiday in Santiago below, but it’s already significant that the two men are married — in the US, on 4/28/12).


The stereotypical French hen

October 18, 2022

Brief posting. My day has mostly been consumed by (finally) installing MacOs 12 Monterey (trouble-free but time-consuming), so this is just ripped from a Facebook ad this morning for a set of Xmas cards (12 of them) from the Mialylove company (of which I know nothing), featuring Day 3: Three French Hens:

If the stereotypes are good for the cock, they’re good for the hen, apparently; see my 10/5/22 posting “Zhock jocks at play” for the Frenchman stereotypes

Pungent cigarettes all around, a beret, a Breton striped shirt.

And — surprise! — a garland of garlic, standing presumably for both body odor and fine gastronomy. And proclaiming the vampirelessness of the hen house, I suppose.

Pingu Pongu

October 17, 2022

Not remotely what I intended to post about today, but it figuratively leapt from the pages of yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, figuratively shrieking directly at me:


Well, as it turns out, sort of penguin, sort of language. The sort-of-penguin is Pingu, a claymation tv character. The sort-of-language is Pingu’s variety of  grammelot, a performance art form of “speaking without words” (pronunciation note: in English, /ˈɡræməlat/).

In the Magazine’s Letter of Recommendation section, a piece by Gabriel Rom: on-line 10/11 with the title “This Kids’ Show Proves the Wisdom of Gibberish”; in print 10/16 with the title “Pingu”; and both with the subtitle: ““Pingu” teaches everyone, even adults, to find meaning in made-up language”

(#1) Pingu, a creature of affective utterance and non-verbal communication (illustration by Niv Bavarsky)