Knock-Knock, 1936-Infinity

These trying times require a little levity, so how about a knock-knock joke?

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Cows go.

Cows go who.

No, silly; cows go ‘moo.’

I understand if this punchline elicits an eye roll. That’s perfectly natural. Very few knock-knock jokes go beyond the hackneyed and/or juvenile. Yet the format endures. And that speaks volumes about the nation itself.

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Gucci v. Gender Inequality: VIDEO

For those of you who think fashion is just vapidity and glitz, I urge you to check out Artsy’s new Gucci-backed video series about gender inequality in the world of art.

In this installment, “Past,” artists Barbara Zucker, Faith Ringgold, Lynn Hershman Leeson and Joan Semmel discusses the barriers they faced coming up in the art world, including Hershman Leeson’s admission that she invented male art critics to create the credentials to find representation. Today she’s one of the most lauded and sought after artists in the world. “Present” and “Future” will be the Artsy/Gucci series’ next installments.

And, PS: this isn’t the first-time Italian luxury brand Gucci has thrown its glamorous and influential weight behind combating gendered imbalance: last year they teamed up with Beyoncé for the “Stand In Formation” initiative against gender inequality, poverty and general injustice.

Found in the LOC: 34 Pics of Animals Acting Human

You never know what you’ll find in the Library of Congress’ digital archives. I searched “pin” and came up with that image above: a kitten adorned in a dress and bowling. Obviously I had to know more, so I clicked on the “animals in human situations” link and was delivered to a collection of images by Harry Whittier Frees.

Turns out Frees, 1879-1953, was a pioneer in pet photography who posed baby animals, mostly kittens, doing all sorts of whimsical things.  The New York Daily News called him “original LOLCat photographer,” and NPR recently ran a profile on the late artist. Spoiler: like so many creative minds, Frees wound up broke and broken.

But at least Frees’ campy art lives on — and it’s adorable. Except for the ones with the dolls. They’re creepy. So, without further ado, 33 other Frees images, all taken between 1914 and 1915, AFTER THE JUMP.

And for more Found in the LOC, that’s Library of Congress, click HERE.

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“Symbolaton,” a Failed Neologism

My first book hit stores this week. Called  The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History, it traces American history via uses and cultural representations of our nation’s favorite hard wood, the titular log cabin. It’s a fun and informative little tome — and, most importantly, it’s filled with hundreds of awesome images.

Three years in the making, the projects’ impetus came in part from my own bafflement over how the log cabin became such a beloved symbol: What forces shaped our collective national consciousness to make us so blindly, unquestioningly adore what is essentially a stack of sticks? The answers are in the book. What’s not in the book? The word “symbolaton.”

An amalgamation of “symbol” and “automaton,” the term was meant to be a neologism meaning, roughly, “an automatic symbol,” i.e.: an object or totem that Americans worship without considering why or how — kind of like the national anthem or the pledge of the allegiance. [I guess my work has a theme, huh?]

Unfortunately, “symbolaton” doesn’t quite work because “automaton” means, literally “self-motion,” which gives the impression that the log cabin is moving by its own will, its own power. Though the structure indeed took on a life of its own over the years, and was certainly axiomatically perpetuated in America, the locution lacked the precision I sought. It’s close, but not cigar.

The term “symbolicon” was also thrown around in my noggin and then tossed out, largely because it doesn’t really mean anything, and so too was the phrase “zombie icon,” which comes closest to what I hoped to convey but which still didn’t make the cut. Oh well.

But even though there are no neologisms in The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History, it’s still an entertaining and — gasp! — educational read. Please check it out.

And for more Fun with Words, click HERE.