Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Bonus letter Z!

September 24, 2023

As a Z-person, I went on alphabetic alert when, in a New York Times Magazine interview (in print 9/17), Roz Chast mentioned a 2007 picture book by her and Steve Martin, The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z! (That’s Roz Chast the American cartoonist, and Steve Martin, the “American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and musician” (as his Wikipedia entry puts it):

(#1) Chast’s cover for the book

Now: some very blurby words about the book. And then the two Z pages from it, Martin’s text on the right page, with ornaments by Chast; and Chast’s drawing on the left (illustrating the text, but throwing in many more words with Z in them). There are at least 28 words with Z in them mentioned on these two pages, plus one such word — zebra — that is, cleverly, evoked by drawings but not actually printed.

An ordinary alphabet book would end with Z is for Zebra; gigantically, that’s the standard choice for an exemplary Z-initial word*. This one ends with 5 drawings of zebras but not the word; you don’t need the word in print, because you get it as an automatic associate to the name or image of the letter.

[*note: very small sprinklings of the non-standard choices in these books: zeppelin, zipper, zodiac, zombie, zoo, zookeeper, AmE zucchini, a few others. Plus several stunningly non-standard choices like Zamboni (in A Hockey Alphabet) and ziti (in Food by Letter).]

That is, Chast and Martin chose — surely unknowingly — to exploit a massive mental association between the letter Z and the word zebra to evoke the letter entirely via drawings of zebras. That’s clever, and subtle.


down there

September 11, 2023

That’s down there ‘male genitals, junk’, in this Facebook ad (hat tip to Victor Steinbok) for the Dollar Shave Club’s razor starter set — the razor handle, razor blades, and three accompanying products, called the scrub (prep wash), the butter (shaving cream), and the dew (soothing lotion):

(#1) The Dollar Shave Club offer; in a small space, the ad manages to proclaim the $3 offer three times

Now, I’m not really interested in collecting further terms for the male genitals — my 9/4/23 posting “From the genital junkyard” covers the territory, and I have no enthusiasm for foolish completism — but male-genital down there evoked two strong associations for me that I want to explore here: it’s routinely used as a polite reference to the vulva (so, female-genital down there); and an allusion to Christopher Isherwood’s 1962 novel Down There on a Visit, whose title combines locational down there with actually sexual (not merely male-genital) down there.

Before I take up female-genital down there and the Isherwood book, though, a digression to slag off the $3 offer from the Dollar Shave Club, as an example of deliberately impenetrable (and therefore misleading) sales pitches. The product would have to be truly fabulous — but how fabulous can a shaving-supplies kit get? — before I would engage with a company that advertises this way.


Labor Gay

September 2, 2023

(Man-on-man sex, with a photo that just barely doesn’t have any genitalia in it, so not for kids or the sexually modest)

Today is the Saturday of the US Labor Day weekend — the actual holiday is on Monday — and so there are sales on almost everything imaginable, including of course gay porn. This year TitanMen is offering a holiday pun — Labor Gay — for the occasion, in an ad showing two pornstars hard at work, laboring at their job:


The vipers of Santa Clara County

August 19, 2023

I wrote on Facebook a little while ago:

Just heard on a tv public service announcement from Santa Clara County: … Watch for walkers and vipers. (Ah, that must have been: bikers. Fortunately, vipers are sparse in the county.)

Follow-up: there seem to be plenty of Dodge Vipers in the county, also Pit Viper Sunglasses. And we have the Silicon Valley Vipers quadball team. According to the US Quadball site: “quadball is a mixed gender contact sport with a unique mix of elements from rugby, dodgeball, and tag”. (Until 2022 it was known as quidditch. Yes, that quidditch. Players must have a broomstick between their legs at all times. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.)

Logo of the Silicon Valley Vipers quadball team



August 15, 2023

Provoked by the Merriam-Webster site‘s “Words We’re Watching: ‘Nibling’: An efficient word for your sibling’s kids”: some reflections on the portmanteauing that gives rise to nibling ‘niece or nephew, sibling’s child’; on “having a word for X in language L”; and on neologism and its discontents.

First, the fun. There’s a book for kids, and there’s a t-shirt for kids, too.


The sea captain figure fantasizes in Cambridge MA

August 8, 2023

Today’s Zippy strip takes us to the Summer Shack seafood restaurant at 149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge MA 02140:

(#1) The sea captain figure fantasizes about his Easter Island ancestry: Massive Stone Heads R Us


The Marquis de Sad

July 29, 2023

(Innocent posting until I get to Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, a section that is absolutely not for kids or the sexually modest. I’ll issue a warning when it’s coming up.)

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, a Psychiatrist cartoon with, on the couch, a Marquis de Sade who no longer can no longer find pleasure in blasphemy and cruelty:

(#1) Yes, a terrible pun, with sad for the model Sade (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page)

Note that the therapist matches the Marquis in period costume, including a wig and the use of a quill pen for taking his notes.

Now, the backstory (about the actual Marquis de Sade and his writings) and the afterstory (the movie Pasolini made out of 120 Days of Sodom.


Writing together

July 13, 2023

A fairly complex follow-up to my 6/30 posting “54 years of chamber music and more” (about Virginia Transue’s book on chamber music at Auburn University), responding to VT’s protests, in e-mail to me, about my posting’s failure to credit her collaborator in the project. I shot back to her with some asperity:

I can scarcely give credit to your collaborator if nothing you you have posted publicly mentions the existence of such a person, nor is he named anywhere in what you have said publicly. Perhaps he wishes to remain anonymous, and I can deal with that in what I say; he can be X. But I can’t credit him if nothing you’ve said publicly mentions even his existence.

And then went on, more constructively, to observe that there are (at least) three ways in which two people can work together to create a book and to speculate on which of these was at work in the chamber music book. I will now amplify.


Evil empires

July 3, 2023

An attempt to respond (despite my home health challenges) to a Facebook comment about my 7/2/23 posting “SUMC moments: Dutch treat”. That posting included a section on the evils of the Dutch Empire; Tim Evanson then wrote on FB:

Coincidentally, the Belgian Empire just apologized for the rape of the Congo this past week.

Now my response to TE: (more…)

54 years of chamber music and more

June 30, 2023

(More from the gigantic backlog of postings.)

This is a chorus of praise for a forthcoming book by my sister-in-law Virginia Transue (technically, my sister-in-law-in-law, and even that involves stretching the sense of spouse a bit: VT is my husband-equivalent’s brother’s wife, but we disregard all the lexical niceties, since she and I are all that’s left in the immediate family from our generation). With a surprising kicker about the moral underpinning of her enterprise — nobody expects A.J. Liebling!

The cover of the book:

Note the subtitle