Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category

The heifer executive

May 17, 2022

Yesterday’s wry Rhymes With Orange strip, wordless and spare-looking, but packed with tons of meaning on two fronts, the dairy and the managerial; meanwhile, it presents a challenging exercise in cartoon understanding.

(#1) If you see that there’s something sweetly funny about a dairy cow managing a business, well, that will do — but the pleasure of the cartoon is in the details


The Aussie firedog

April 8, 2022

(There will be a few excursions in passing about men’s bodies and man-on-man sex. If you can manage an appearance or two of the sexual verb fuck, you’ll be ok.)

From Ann Burlingham a couple days ago, a greeting card with a photo from the 2020 Australian Firefighters calendar, showing a man and his dog:

(#1) How to read the man, how to read the dog, and how to read the relationship between them

It turns out that there’s an amazing amount of content packed into this photo — I’ll try to reveal a bit of it here — and the photo leads to much more, including andirons, Dalmatians, lexicography, and the cartoonist George Booth.


Briefly: the praying mantis cartoon

April 4, 2022

It’s beheading day on AZBlog! (See my earlier posting today, “non-profits”.)

In the 4/4/22 issue of The New Yorker, the finalists in the magazine’s Cartoon Caption Contest announced in the 3/21 issue, to provide the caption for this wonderfully grotesque praying mantis drawing by Felipe Galindo:

Waiter in elegant restaurant presents mantis with her mate’s head on a platter; Galindo has managed to give the mantis expressive eyes — but expressive of what?


Riffs on squat

April 3, 2022

(There will, as the title tells you, be riffs on squat, well, on squat. Since I’m given to finding my material in louche and faggy places, there will be brief encounters with squat — short and thick, fireplug-like — male organs and with a squatting position for receptive anal intercourse. But no visible body parts.)

I glanced at today’s incoming e-mail, which included a mailing from the New York Times with a link to a story of theirs offering life advice:


I found it remarkable that the paper was giving pointers on how to embark on living in uninhabited buildings without the legal right to do so. But then we live in precarious times, and millions are having trouble coping.

Then I found the fine print of the mail header:


The cups of winter

March 7, 2022

Those would be cymbidium orchids (Gk. kumbē ‘cup’), which have long-lasting blooms during the cool (but not cold), wet, and short days of winter here on the San Francisco Bay. John Rickford — author of the moving 2022 memoir Speaking my Soul: Race, Life and Language — has been Facebook-posting  fabulous pictures of the cymbidiums flourishing in Angela Rickford’s front garden, so I’ve been moved to post another of my reports on the orchids in my little front garden.

The somber summary is that of 14 pots of orchids, only three have so far managed to produce blooming plants, and only three other plants are in bud (and might or might not make it to blossomhood). Of the six, none are clones of our original cymbidium, the Jacques Transue birthday (1/22/42) plant:



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!


Our frugal cartoonists: Shreddy Cougar

February 24, 2022

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro supplies another Psychiatrist-meme cartoon in the strip’s pattern, this time with a cat patient yearning to shred furniture, as cats will do:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)


Metalico Cat

February 14, 2022

The 2/7 Wayno/Piraro Bizarro strip offers the complex portmanteau Metalico Cat = Metallico + Calico Cat (plus a cute title from Wayno: “The Shredder”):

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)


The groundhog and the scallion

February 5, 2022

Another greeting card from Ann Burlingham, this one for the American 2/2 holiday, Groundhog Day (see my 2/2/15 posting “Back-to-back American holidays”, with a section on the groundhog; the American holiday; and the movie Groundhog Day):

(#1) The Hester & Cook greeting card “Phil’s Great Adventure” by Vicki Sawyer, celebrating Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog seer of Punxsutawney PA — here  represented as wearing a bunch of scallions on his head (the headdress thing is a Sawyer feature; more below)

Wearing scallions of course evoked wearing leeks and took me to yet another holiday, 3/1 instead of 2/2: St. David’s Day, celebrating the patron saint of Wales.

And that bounced me back to the Christian feast day for 2/2: Candlemas Day (one of those Christian holidays I don’t venture to try to explain to people).


Squirrel vs. Cymbidium

January 28, 2022

(Not about language or about gender and sexuality.)

And it appears to be a knockout victory for Squirrel every time. A report on two recent bouts — from mid-December (involving the yellow cymbidium that is the first to bloom in my little garden, in the late fall) and from yesterday (involving a cymbidium that’s the palest of pinks, so that in most lights it looks plain white).

Cymbidium background. Cymbidium orchids — there are lots of species, and a host of hybrids and cultivars — are genuine winter plants. In my garden, the first flower shoots typically appear in early October, the first blossoms around Halloween. New plants come into bloom throughout the winter and spring, and the last flower shoots die back by early in June, in the dry heat of summer.

For me, the cymbidiums are Jacques plants. I gave my husband-equivalent the first one — a plant he had openly admired at a local florist’s — as a birthday present in 1987. He would have been 80 on his birthday this year, back on 1/22. More cymbidiums came every year, and then I got new ones just because they were beautiful and they reminded me of J, who died in 2003.

Not only is this a cold dark midwinter while I’m isolated with a respiratory infection during the pandemic, it’s also a time of deep sadness, with Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s death day (in 1985) on 1/17 and then Jacques’s birthday. In the circumstances, I find it almost impossible to write about cymbidiums, but I press on regardless.

What remains of the squirrels’ second victim sits in a vase in front of me, on my desk:

(#1) From the left of three pots of cymbidiums right outside my window, just behind the bird-feeder pole; yesterday, two days after the blossoms had opened up, I left my work table to use the bathroom, and when I got back the top foot of the flower stalk was lying on the patio, cruelly sliced off by rodent incisors

From 12/14/21, a gauzy view of the scene through the blinds on my window:

(#2) A squirrel feeding in the tray on the bird-feeder pole; the three pots of cymbidiums behind it; an ivy-covered wall behind that

I was concerned that the squirrels would snip the flower stalk on the right, because it was so thin; it seemed so vulnerable. The stalk on the left was impressively thick and so was, I imagined, unassailable. But then it turned out that big guys fall hard.

Meanwhile, on the patio south of that scene back in December, the squirrels had just finished decapitating the very first cymbidium to send up a stalk of buds. They lopped off the top half one day, and then the rest of it two days later. And either ate or carried off the remains, because I never saw any.

That stalk would have produced yellow blooms, like these from 2017 (in my 11/13/17 posting “Orchids on the march”:

(#3) Actually, greenish-yellow

Squirrel background. First came the bird feeders, to bring birds to my window, to provide life and activity during endless days alone. But then: you got bird feeders, you got squirrels.

For quite some time, exactly four squirrels. The same four squirrels. Two gray in color, two black in color. I could observe them closely enough to see them as individuals. The two males worked especially aggressively to get at the bird feeders mounted on my windows, even though the nuts and seeds that they adored were piled up all over the place.

When they failed to master climbing up a glass wall, or leaping six feet from a fence, they did excellent enactments of little kids having tantrums: they chittered at me through the glass, rushed around knocking things over, attacked other squirrels, and chewed on stuff — things like the wooden garden furniture and, alas, the plants.

They bit pelargoniums (“geraniums”) off close to the ground (these are tough plants; they send new shoots up from their base of those stems). They devastated my succulent gardens, bit leaves off the hydrangea bush (and dug up all the sprouting callas).

And snipped off flower stalks of the cymbidiums.

Squirrels have frequent litters (they also die off and get killed, but, locally anyway, they seem to be a steadily shifting but expanding population, eight or ten of them now, engaged in confrontations both aggressive and sexual, on top of their antics in getting at the bird feeders.

Two days ago, one the very young black squirrels made a stunning, applause-worthy, absolutely perfect 7-foot leap from a fence onto the pole of the bird feeder, apparently intending to use the momentum from that leap to pivot from the pole onto one of the feeders. The little squirrel failed utterly in the second part of this maneuver, dropping to the ground like a stone — but then recovered by leaping back onto the fence and sitting there quietly cleaning its paws, in effect pretending that absolutely nothing had happened, nothing to see here. I was expecting it to wreak some kind of havoc, but no. Like I said, they’re all different.

I did think, through my laughter at the whole performance, that Jacques would have loved it. He was, in fact, fond of squirrels, as you can see from this photo:

(#4) A boy and his squirrel