Archive for the ‘History’ Category

No more bunny helmets

August 2, 2023

Dan Piraro’s Bizarro from Sunday 7/30, in which Vikings with bunny-eared helmets demand horned helmets:

(#1) No more eating grasses, it’s time for Viking pillaging and plundering in an appropriately fierce costume (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 10 in this strip — see this Page)

Now, you’re thinking, I’m going to tell you that actual Vikings didn’t wear ornamental horned helmets, just to look fearsome; that instead they wore more effectively protective helmets of thick leather; and that the horned helmet thing is totally an invention of artists — or some disappointing shit like that. And I am.

It’s a good story, and it makes for amazingly impressive operatic scenes and a totally menacing muscle-hunk Marvel comics superhero (among other things), but all that horns stuff is fanciful.


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Peanut

April 17, 2023

— a Wayno  / Piraro Bizarro cartoon from 10/20/21, “Written by Goober Louis Stevenson”, according to Wayno’s title:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

A wonderfully goofy cross between two items of popular culture:

— the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, originally told as a literary tale, a caution about the dark duality of human nature and the danger of aspiring to divine power, but quickly folded into the popular consciousness in many forms

— and the figure of Mr. Peanut, the anthropomorphic mascot of the Planter’s Peanut Company

with the amiable and elegant commercial legume standing in for the evil and murderous Edward Hyde.


In the stones of the street

January 21, 2023

Appearing without comment or context in my Facebook feed on 1/19, this image from Tim Evanson:

(#1) My first thought was: a lizard creature evolving from the bricks; or a bird taking off from the bricks — a playful public artwork — but then the crosspiece looked rigid and inorganic, not like legs or wings

So I queried Tim about  the image; his response assumed that I knew who Jan Palach was — a peculiarity that turns out to be significant in a parallel tale of the dysfunctions of Facebook.


Shouting songs

May 19, 2022

Continuing a series of recent postings on the music of joy, now specifically joyous praise to God, and even more specifically “shouting songs” from the Sacred Harp tunebook.

This is loud, passionate praise, rooted in the evangelical camp meetings of early 19th-century America (and England and Scotland before that), capable of seizing your body and sliding you towards ecstatic engagement with the message and the music. Somewhat tamed by being captured on the pages of a hymnbook rather than being created live in the fervor of a camp meeting, but still standing out as something special in the Sacred Harp.


Turkish earworms of joy

May 4, 2022

More joyous music encountered in the middle of the night, via my Apple Music (formerly iTunes), this time very familiar and beloved music, which has given me a pair of intractable earworms for two days now:

Mozart, Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Act 3 Vaudeville “Nie werd’ ich deine Huld verkennen” — an ensemble song of joyful thanks — and then the joyous triumphal finale of the opera / Singspiel, the Turkish Chorus

I have loved this music since the early 1960s, when I encountered the opera in a Mozart and Haydn course at Princeton (a course I have been pretty much continuously grateful for these past 60 years — even more, since I had to fight the mathematics department to be allowed to take the damn course). But these two short numbers, wonderful though they are, are fiercely sticky. Alas, writing about my mental-music affliction for you is only making it worse.


Garden Prince

February 27, 2022

A Vicki Sawyer greeting card (on Sawyer’s animal art, see my 2/5/22 posting “The groundhog and the scallion”) from Ann Burlingham, Troublemaker (that’s what it says on her business card) — written on the 20th, postmarked in Pittsburgh on the 22nd, arrived in Palo Alto on the 26th — with a reproduction of Sawyer’s composition “Garden Prince”:

(#1) The Garden Prince wears a crown of carrots and a royal neckchain of peapods, which together serve both as symbols of his authority and as indicators of his tastes in food (also note the conventional simile like peas and carrots ‘getting along well together, being compatible’)

In #1, Ann “saw something akin to a Renaissance portrait. Crossed with Watership Down?” YES!


Name that tune

August 16, 2020

I awoke unusually early today, I think because of what was playng on my iTunes: a set of keyboard variations, some wonderfully showy, that I recognized as familiar, but couldn’t immediately place. It sounded like Beethoven during his early “classical” period (influenced by Haydn and Mozart), through roughy 1802, but it wasn’t any Beethoven I recognized. So: probably Haydn. (Haydn produced the most astonishing amount of music, much of it remarkable, during his lifetime, so it would be easy to lose track of some of it; I mean, compare Haydn’s 102 symphonies with Beethoven’s 9). (It could easily have been Clementi instead, but I know the Clementi catalogue pretty well, having once had a sort of musical love affair with it, roughy 60 years ago.)

And so it turned out to be. My iTunes identified the piece as Haydn’s Arietta No. 2 mit 12 Variationen (in A major), as performed by Christine Schornsheim. Well, that turned out to be a remarkable tangle of music history. Haydn, yes (well, at least mostly), as performed by Schornsheim, unquestionably, but all the rest of it is full of puzzles.


With spear, shield, robe, and wreath

May 6, 2020

… Helvetia stands guard over the Matterhorn, and by extension, all of her Swiss domain, in this excellent poster (source still untraced):

(#1) Not only the Matterhorn in the background, but also the shields of the 22 cantons of the time when the poster was published (I point to the Zwicky-Canton, Glarus, with its figure of Fridolin, the patron saint of the canton)


Revisiting 36: Lafayette on tour

November 10, 2019

The earlier go-round: my 9/7/19 posting “Big sexy prime birthday gay ice cream”, with a section on the Marquis de Lafayette (among other things, a French hero of the American Revolution), because I share a birthday with him.

And now (note from Joelle Stepien Bailard) the Lafayette Trail organization. Its logo:


With, as linguistic added value, the quite rare, but relatively learnèd-transparent N/Adj co-natalist ‘(someone) sharing a birthday with’. God is not my co-pilot, but Lafayette is my co-natalist.


OUTiL: a historical note

October 23, 2019

For LGBT History Month, some notes on a little piece of that history in linguistics, in the loose network of academic acquaintanceship that formed at the Linguistic Institute at UC Santa Cruz in the summer of 1991: OUT in Linguistics, OUTiL, OUTIL (the abbreviation pronounced /áwtǝl/, through some wags joked about its being French outil /uti/ ‘tool’, with the expected sexual slang use). A notice went out on the Institute mailing list for an informal social gathering of the new group, with a characterization that then varied, from occasion to occasion, in its list of invitees; a version from several years later:

The group is open to lesbian, gay, bisexual, dyke, queer, homosexual, trans, etc. linguists and their friends. The only requirement is that you be willing to be out to everyone on the list as lgbt(-friendly); it’s sort of like wearing a pink triangle.

This was at a Linguistic Institute, so no one was fussy about who counted as a linguist; if you wanted to hang out with rest of us for the summer, you were welcome. Just so with OUTiL; if you wanted to hang out with the rest of us for an hour or two, you were welcome. OUTiL, however, was primarily social, and that was an excellent thing, especially at the time.