Archive for the ‘Pop culture’ Category

The wrap artist

November 21, 2022

Yet another Sick Day for me, so this is a minimal posting — you’ll have to google up stuff on your own — but I was so taken by today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro that I wanted to share it with you (with a bit of commentary, of course):


Wayno’s antic title: “Wrapper’s Delight” (with a pun on wrap vs. rap that I’ve borrowed for the title of this posting); if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page

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Doctor F notes Baron F’s slip

October 27, 2022

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro strip, yet another in their long line of Psychiatrist cartoons (today with Dr. Sigmund Freud as the therapist and Baron Victor Frankenstein as the patient) — a conventional form that, in the hands of an ingenious cartoonist, can be used as the vehicle for almost any joke:


(#1) The Baron makes a Freudian slip; Wayno’s title: “Unexpected Insight” (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

Doctor Doctor, this is no whim
I got a bad case of having created him
No pill’s gonna cure my ill
I got a bad case of having created him

Freudian slip, Frankensteinian slip: master, monster.

Yes, yes, a pile of bits and pieces jumbled together here (and full appreciation of the cartoon calls for lots of further background knowledge), so there’s plenty to talk about — and was, even before I introduced Robert Palmer into the mix. So grab your torches and pitchforks and let’s advance on this assemblage of oddly fitting parts.

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Zhock jocks at play

October 5, 2022

In today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, the (somewhat idealized, but real) world of male athletes intersects with the (fictive) world of stereotypical Frenchmen via an imperfect pun:


(#1) In both worlds at once: the object that is a (symbolic) baseball bat in the sports world and also a (real) baguette in the French world (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

The elements of my titular phrase Zhock jock (admittedly, a play on shock jock, though the cartoon isn’t about disc jockeys — jocks — or provocative, offensive humor — shock — or provocative, offensive talk radio — shock jocks): Jacques [žak] (with initial fricative, in both French and English, though with different phonetic details in the two languages) vs. jock [ǰak] (with initial affricate, in English). So we get these three hybrid guys, flashing signifiers from both the French Zhock world — details below — and the (American) jock world (football, soccer, baseball) — cleated shoes, football jersey, padded pants, sports shorts, baseball cap.

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More from 1982

August 29, 2022

… and on comic conventions. Following up on my 8/26/22 posting“Moon Over Palo Alto”, on my 82nd birthday, with reminiscences of 1982: from Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County Facebook site, posted yesterday (my thanks to George V. Reilly on FB today):


(#1) 🐧 Opus tries to get in to see an R-rated shark-from-space archaeologist-adventure flick (a nearly naked Indiana Jones does battle with the Sharknado from Mars) — hoping, perhaps, for some intense violence (disembowelments!), or at least for the whiff of sex (a little skin!)

[BB on the strip for:] July 13, 1982.  A good place to point out what often isn’t obvious to pop-culture fans: there had rarely been comic strip animals that talked to people.  Take a moment to consider this (I never did, not surprisingly).  In movies and comics, animals talked to each other… but hardly ever to us.  Aside from Bugs Bunny (slapstick license, one supposes) and Winnie the Pooh (the imagination of Christopher Robin), it remained, with very few exceptions, an invisible suspension of reality they never dared to go.  -bb

FB commenters noted passing animal-human exchanges in various strips, but Opus interacts with humans as a matter of course. Though he’s a penguin, nothing human is alien to him. Or to his buddies of various species.

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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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Flagging your identity

May 7, 2022

Friday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro (Wayno’s title: “Logo Design”):


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

There’s a relatively straightforward implicature from what Superman says, that there was a time when he didn’t wear an identifying logo — “the big red emblem” — but used only his spit curl (BrE kiss curl) to identify himself.

(Well, there is the rest of the costume, including the cape, but I suppose the idea is that those items would merely identify him as some superhero or another, speeding through the streets and airspace of Metropolis, but would fail to distinguish him from all the others. While the spit curl would have been something unique; it could have been, oh, a goatee, red eye shadow, pixy ears, a big butch metal neck chain, red knee pads with S on them, brass knuckles, high-heeled boots, any manner of things, but a spit curl ought to work.)

As it happens, in his early appearances, starting with Action Comics #1 in June 1938, Superman had the S shape on his chest, but not on his forehead. What to make of that? — Has he forgotten? Is he confabulating? Or does his use of “is too subtle” not implicate a spit-curl-only period?

Perhaps it merely conveys that when he started his career he, or maybe Martha Kent, realized that spit curls alone apparently are, as a general matter, insufficient to distinguish exceptional individuals from the herd, so added the logo from the beginning; in that case, he might have said “an S-shaped spit curl apparently would have been too subtle [for our purposes]”, so they axed the spit curl completely in favor of the much less subtle logo.

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Cooking with gas: a guest posting

November 21, 2021

Grant Barrett (of the Barnette-Barrett radio show A Way with Words — and a real lexicographer, one of the lexicographers I sometimes hang out with, even though I’m not of that tribe) tried to post this as a comment on my posting yesterday, “Now we’re cooking with carrots”, but it appears to have been indigestible to WordPress, so I’m publishing it here as a guest posting. Remember: what follows below the line is Grant, all Grant, not me (except for some formatting).


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Enduring classics

October 10, 2021

Let me slide into this one.

In yesterday’s posting “Gilligan’s aisle”, I marveled at the fact that a profoundly silly tv show from 1964-67 (Gilligan’s Island) was still available enough to the pop-cultural consciousness to serve as the hook for a punning Bizarro cartoon. It’s achieved some sort of classic status.

And then today’s Rhymes With Orange comic turns on a computer game that counts as antique in that world: the computer tiling game Tetris (released in 1984, for the Electronika 60 computer). The comic:


(#1) Incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t know about the game Tetris and how it looks on the screen; otherwise, this just looks like a peculiar depiction of the idiom rain cats and dogs (whose etymology is unknown, though you can find a pile of inventive speculations about it)

But it seems that pretty much everybody knows about Tetris, so the comic works.

Then, as a bonus, it turns out that today’s Rhymes is a re-play of one from 2010, eleven years ago.

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Il Castello del Formaggio

June 22, 2021

The 6/21 Zippy strip takes us to Kenosha WI, on the highway between Chicago and Milwaukee, along the shore of Lake Michigan — to the location of Mars Cheese Castle, which is why Zippy is there:


(#1) Nothing directly to do with the two principal foci of this blog — language and linguistics, gender and sexuality — but plenty on food, pop culture (along the roadside), and absurdist comedy

As for my interests, Kenosha does have the headquarters of Jockey International — hail to men’s underwear! — and a local woolly mammoth skeleton in its museum — my totem animal! — and, best of all in mid-America’s Land of Cheese, an annual fall Cheese-A-Palooza festival (devoted to the grilled cheese sandwich and to mac and cheese). But best of all is Mars Cheese Castle.

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Annals of commercial naming: Bear Naked Granola

June 18, 2021

Brought to me by Facebook in recent days, advertisements for two playful trade names: one — for the Boy Smells company, offering scented candles, unisex fragrances, and (unscented) underwear, all for LGBT+-folk — covered in my 6/16 posting “Annals of commercial naming: Boy Smells”; and now, for the Bear Naked® Granola company. The two cases turn out to be very different.

Boy Smells belongs with a series of postings on this blog on dubious and unfortunate commercial names — some clearly unintentionally racy, some playfully suggestive, some openly, even brazenly, suggestive, given the nature of the establishments (Hooters). The Boy Smells company is almost painfully earnest about its LGBT+ mission, which makes its name — so evocative of teenage pong — especially unfortunate.

Bear Naked Granola, in contrast, is knee-deep in playfulness, starting with the pun on bare naked, so that on the one side, you get a reference to bears, with their fondness for nuts and fruits and honey (all relevant to granola); while on the other side, you get bare naked, suggesting purity and simplicity. And you also get the pop-culture view of bears, as cute and entertaining.

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