Summer Holidays

We’ve been a bit quiet recently as Miranda & Cesci are currently on hellish PhD writing up deadlines. We’re taking a break from all fun this summer, until then you can listen to past episodes where we cover everything from DEATH, PENISES and… umm BAKING on iTunes. If you Like what we have to say – why not give us a cheeky review? And if you want to learn more about any of our Cultural references, you can have a lil’ old read of our blog below that goes into more detail on the winners…because this is the kind of show that comes with a bibliography.

We will be back in the Autumn with the brilliant improviser, actress, clown and total neat-freak Lauren Silver and the A Cultural History Of TIDINESS

See you on the other side.. ITS GONNA BE DIRTY

AND THE WINNER IS…Miranda with the dick pic as self portraiture

Thanks goodness, my credibility as a cultural historian is restored. I won ‘A Cultural History Of…Dick Pics’ with my discussion of the dick pic as a form of self portraiture. Hurrah!

Here’s a summary of the discussion:

Philosopher Alain De Botton has championed the dick pic, insisting they the result of ‘the wish to reveal one’s deeper and sincere self’. He cites a 1509 self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer, claiming ‘Dürer carefully details his penis because he wants to tell us something about who he is … ‘he’s not purely an accomplished cultural figure concerned with lofty ideals. He’s also a creature of flesh and blood, defying notions of shame around the physical self’.

Have artists historically explored the dick pic as a form of self-portraiture? There are some powerful art historical examples of dick pics. Here are three:

1.French photographer Hippolyte Bayard’s 1840 ‘Self Portrait of a Drowned Man’, produced in reaction to his being usurped by rival Louis Daguerre ‘daguerrotype’

  1. Austrian painter Egon Schiele’s 1910 ‘Nude Self Portrait’, in which emotional and sexual honesty and use of figural distortion in place of conventional ideals of beauty

3. British photographer John Coplans graphic depictions of his ageing body, including 1986 ‘Self Portrait (Three Quarter View, straight)’

Perhaps Alain de Botton is right. Perhaps next time we receive a dick pic, we should think about what the sender, or artist, is trying to communicate through the medium of his member.

At the end of the discussion, I asked Cesci and guest Andrew to review a couple of dick pics. Sneakily, I didn’t reveal that they were in fact rather famous art works.

Cesci gave a B- to this rather lovely Robert Mapplethorpe, but Andrew gave Eddie Peake’s self-portrait a rather glowing review.

We tweeted Eddie Peake about it afterwards and he seemed VERY pleased with Andrew’s art historical efforts…

Thanks Eddie!

AND THE WINNER IS…Cesci with Juggalos and Bakhtin’s dark carnival

Well, well THREE IN A ROW. I am one proud little podcaster. And I couldn’t be happier than to win with such a bizarre precedent…

Remember if you are outraged and want to champion the clown church, or simply want to play more Gri-mal-dali.. let us know…

In horror studies you have ‘dark carnival motif, Carnivals are where bad things happen, in a constantly moving place, often late at night. Literary theorist Bakhtin coined ‘carnivalesque’ as a trope related to the fetes and spectacles where a lord of misrule overturned the world. We see this technique in Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and even Highsmith’s ‘Strangers on a Train’

Disclaimer: Stangers on a Train does not include any killer clowns

Like at Coney Island funhouse where you could smash up a replica dining room and hidden fans blew girls’ skirts up over their waists. The Coney Island clown, Steeple chase also had a horrific exaggerated smile ‘…at once innocent and very kinky’. He was played at the park by a clown-faced dwarf that chased visitors around and spanked them with an electric paddle. Fred Trump, father of horror clown Donald bought the original Coney Island funhouse to convert it to waterfront housing. To preempt the city from declaring the park a protected landmark, Trump held a party with his wealthy friends, where they threw bricks through the towering, glass Funny Face’s bared teeth.

None of the Clowns featured in this podcast where as scary as this one

But back to the horror-core rap band who have channeled Bakhtin’s literary criticism into music, I suspect without ever having heard of it are Insane Clown Possee and their followers the Juggalos. Whose hand signal is ‘the wicked clown’. ICP’s music has a mythology called ‘the dark carnival’ where truths will be revealed through albums entitled by joker cards that Shaggy 2 Dope sees in his dreams. The cards are lessons that are told through the lyrics like a moralistic pantomime. The last card ‘wraith’ in 2001, revealed the whole act was a smoke screen for the bands true message: evangelical Christianity.

Plenty more of this at

This has come as something as a surprise for their fans, as at one point were classed as a gang due to their random acts of destruction and violence and tattoo brandings. 7000 Juggalos meet once a year for the gathering of the Juggalos where they wrestle, get naked, take lots of drugs and perform odd rituals around a Detroit manufactured fizzy drink called Faygo. 4 people have died at these gatherings. ICP have their own definition of sin, creating  their own belief system of ‘magic’ (their  book is called ‘behind the paint’ But the much parodied, Juggalo song ‘Miracles’ reveals their evangelical outlook:

‘No more hidden messages

…Truth is we follow GOD!!!, The carnival is GOD

And may all juggalos find him

We’re not sorry if we tricked you.

Long neck giraffes, and pet cats and dogs

Fuckin’ rainbows after it rains

There’s enough miracles here to blow your brains.

Fuckin’ magnets, how do they work?’

Now Juggalos are easy to laugh at but they are not all bad. Seeing themselves as cultural and social outcasts, Juggalos call normal folk ‘floobs’ and see their performing of clowns is a reaction to those tha thave bullied and mocked them. Juggalos have actually done a lot of charity work including a trash pick up and a community helpline

Shaggy 2 Dope. Amazed by a giraffe

Want More Killer Clowns?

Bakhtin, M (1941). Rabelais and his world.

Baudelaire, C. (1956) The Essence of Laughter

Baumgarthuber, C (2012) Troubled Mime (

Dery,M. (1999) The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium; American culture on the brink

Louapre ,D. (1990),A Cotton Candy Autopsy (Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children)

Jurgens, A. (2014) ‘Batman’s Joker, a neo-modern clown of violence’ in Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (V5, N4) pp. 441 – 55

Radford, B. (2016) Bad Clowns

Ronson, J (2010) ‘Insane Clown Posse: And God created controversy’ in The Guardian (

Snyder,S. (2012) Batman: A Death in the Family

Weiner, G & Peaslee, R (2015). The Joker: A Serious Study of the Clown Prince of Crime.

American Juggalo (2010)

And the Winner is… Cesci and The Great British Bake Off & Surprise Pies

So I, Cesci am victorious once more and thus have the (honour?) apparently of writing this month’s blog posts. Part of me is becoming suspicious that Miranda might be bribing the enthusiasts so that she doesn’t have to battle WordPress.

I will concur that I did pick quite a wide topic of things-hidden –in –pies for this episode and I did not even touch on people escaping from prison with files bakes in cakes, although there are some great real life examples of this: William Blewitt broke out of an American prison in 1804 using the cartoon classic of a file hidden in gingerbread and in 1906 Charlie Howard was given to permission to marry his girlfriend and she brought her own wedding cake in, complete with hacksaw.

Wes Anderson is a fan of files in pies

So there are two main reasons why folk might hide things in cakes apart from smuggling – entertainment and haruspicy. For the classicists out there, I am quite aware that a haruspex would divine the will of the gods and thus the future specifically from entrails (its hepatomancy if it is the liver) but there will be no gore here, for that you should have picked cannibal pies – instead I am appropriating it here to be the telling of the future using the innards of cake.

We have seen lots of examples of hidden fillings on Bake Off, although as of yet nothing alive. There was Victoria’s homage in ‘hidden design cakes’ in Series 3 with her pastry 4 and 20 blackbirds, but apart from that all we’ve seen is a lot of union jack battenbergs of varying success.

So going back to the blackbirds in pies, these have historical precedent seemingly rooted in the catchy titled 1598 guide ‘Epulario, or The Italian banquet wherein is shewed the maner how to dresse and prepare all kind of flesh, foules or fishes and also how to make profitable and necessary things.’ Which specially includes a recipe for ‘a pie which birds can remain alive in’. The pastry for these kind of pies which might also contain other jumpy things like frogs and even, in a pie served to Charles 1st, a dwarf,  is worryingly known as ‘coffin pastry’.

I am aware that Fortune telling from cakes might seem a bit obscure and not traditional tarot, but there are lots and lot of examples of fortune telling with food. If you take the apple and peel off all the peel in one piece you should be able to throw it over your shoulder to reaveal the initial of your intended. There’s also Obi divination which involves throwing coconuts around and Tasseography, a posh way of referring to reading tea leaves or coffee grounds (I am not sure if anyone has tried it with coffee cake). There are special cup and saucer sets you can get for this so maybe you could throw your slice of cake at it and see what happens.  My favourite of food future prediction is Cromniomancy which is onions. This involves placing onions on an altar with names of lovers or questions written on them and then see which ones sprout first and strongest. This might well be the first historical precedent for the ‘Gingham Altar’.  In Frazer’s iconic study of comparative religion ‘The Golden Bough’ he claims that alongside romance, onions were used to predict rainfall by salting them and seeing the patterns of seepage. No evidence yet whether this is the etymology of ‘knowing your onions’.

I would argue that food fortune telling is symptomatic of ‘Pareidolia’; seeing things in things (especially faces) as the brain compensates and also of the Barnun principle which cold reading is based on. This involves making statements vague enough that they seem to specifically apply to everyone: Bertram R. Forer tested this in 1948 by giving it to lots of students as a unique assessment, when they had in fact all received the same one. You can find a full list of the statements here but I think that the following three are very apt for Bake Off:

  • You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
  • At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
  • Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.

Two specifically bakery examples for fortune telling that you will straight away be familiar with are Christmas pudding and Fortune Cookies (which have NOTHING to do with Asia). Christmas pudding and its lucky sixpence has its roots in 12th Night cake where the guest with the bean in their slice would be proclaims that evening’s ‘Lord of Misrule’. This tradition also survives in Mardi Gras King cake which is a scary rainbow cake with a plastic baby in it (apparently representing Jesus). The King of the cake will be showered with power and honour for the night, but it also means you have to host next year’s party.

Nothing sinister here what so ever…

In All Silver and No Brass, Henry Glassie observed county Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, that at Halloween girls engaged in ‘light-hearted divination’. Fruit cakes, called “bracks,” are still made for Hallowe’en with a ring baked into them. The girl whose slice includes the ring can expect to be married within the year (Glassie 1975: 115). These cakes turn up in James Joyce ‘The Dubliners as well ‘with the other charms, rosary for a nun and clay for death – because those were apparently your four choices in Ireland.

In the southern states of America ‘charm cakes’ form a key part of wedding celebrations. The bridesmaids gather round the cake to pull a ribbon out from between the tiers to find a charm on the end of it, one has to be a ring, much like the throwing of the bouquet and the irish Barmbrack, the lucky ring-puller will be next to marry. This tradition is supposed to originate in New Orleans as part of a French or French creole dynasty but there is no clear history and is more likely linked to 12th night cake and some clever marketing. However before there was wedding cake we have much earlier (1665) reference to  wedding pie, which again served central to the feast, would have a ring hidden in it. The closest to ‘ribbon pulling’ is the 17th century tradition in Europe where bridesmaids would pull small gifts and favours directly off the bride’s dress and veil.

phhp0n6pwg1 So these bakery predictions /fondant fortune telling have not been subject to any strict scientific testing but there is one case where the results are pretty a 100% accurate and that is Gender reveal cakes. These are a pretty recent American tradition, I haven’t been able to find exactly when but the earliest I’ve found is about 2012, as an extension to the baby shower. So the family ask the sonographer to give them the baby’s gender in an envelope which they then pass straight to a baker who then makes a pink or blue sponge, or fill it with skittles. Like the Ribbon Pull Charm Cakes, these appear to be an entirely fictive tradition, and a bit of a sinister one at that, I’m quite concerned how many of these cakes include gun motifs as a ‘boy’ indicator. That’s a whole gender signifiers Judith Butler conversation for another time…

Bibliography (YUP its that kind of show!)


AND THE WINNER IS: Cesci with Pokémon & The Medieval Humours

The winning Cultural Precedent this month was Pokémon & The Medieval Humours.

Maybe Nigel was worried about what his preference for Team Mystic said about his phlegmatic personality, or maybe he was just very concerned with leeches (disclaimer, there are not nearly enough leeches in the podcast).

Sadly, there isn't actually a Leech Pokemon

Sadly, there isn’t actually a Leech Pokemon

Lets look more in depth at this month’s winner and sources (Hurrah! A Bibliography!)…

The idea of Humours originates in Greek medicine where Aristotle charactererised animals as blood or bloodless types and animals, nature and most key, bodily fluids related to earth, water, fire and air, or as I like to call them Bulbosaur, Squirtle, Charmander and Zubat. The humours also control your life and virtues Vita with Spirtus or Pheuma in the Greek. So if you have Choleric fiery tendencies you might chose team yellow and Charmander or you might be more of a phlegmatic wet team blue Squirtle or a Melancholic black (ok dark blue) Bublosaur – he does look kind of sad, and bilious. Finally you might be lucky enough to be a jolly sanguine airy-fairy Jigglypuff or Drowzees. Which are blood. You cut me and I bleed Jigglypuff.

I am leaving out electric pokemon because evidently they are modern-magic and would have been burnt at the stake, and normal beacause – well they are just another term for vermin like rats and pigeons. So if you are inundated with oddishs or other grass types then perhaps you are a bit too melancholic are your spleen is all out of sync (Rawcliffe 1995: 33), unattented too much melancholic bile will make you very unhappy, grey of skin and eventually can lead to leprosy.

So you are either hot, dry, cold or wet or some combination of the two temperatures and two moist-ness. You need a balance to keep you healthy and make you who you are. Balancing your humours could be achieved not just by leeches (YEAH LEECHES)…

Jeff, Jeff... Thats totally enough leeches now.. Jeff? Jeff what ya doing...

Jeff, Jeff… Thats totally enough leeches now.. Jeff? Jeff what ya doing…

…but actually through quite sensible advice on maintainging a good diet, avoiding stress, early to bed and getting on with your neighbours. Noise was also very important, noise pollution such as living next door to a carpenter (the stereo had yet to be invented) or a tanner could put that all out of joint. Cold meat, raw fruit and herbs could also be too blame, and pastry an absoloute no no if you were a bit unbalanced. Your ideal state should mirror warm chicken and almonds, which represented the perfect mix of temperature and texture (Rawcliffe 1995: 40). Kormas all round then.

But what has Pokémon got to do with contemporary medicine? Well quite a lot actually, Pokémon was the subject of a medical court case due to sharing its name with a cancer gene. Zbtb7, originally named Pokemon (standing for “POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic factor”) , is a gene that may act as a master switch for cancer, and is responsible for the proliferation of cancer throughout surrounding cells.

  • Horden, P & Hsu, E. (Eds.)(2013) The Body in Balance: Humoural Medicines in Practice. Berghahn: New York & Oxford
  • Rawcliffe, C (1995) Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England. Sutton: Gloucestershire
  • Siraisi, N. (1990) Medieval & Early Renaissance Medicine. Chicago Press: Chicago & London

Pokémon & Evolution (Miranda)


In Pokémon Go, you ‘evolve’ into your Pokémon into stronger creatures using Stardust and Candy: Pikachu evolves into Raichu and Zubat into Golbat etc. Substitute the word ‘Stardust’ for ‘natural selection’ and ‘Candy’ for ‘genetic mutation’ and you’re pretty much working along the lines of modern evolutionary synthesis. But what if it isn’t that straightforward? The question I’m asking here is, what would Darwin have made of Evee?

Evee, the super cute rabbity Pokémon, can evolve into either Vaporeon, Jolteon or Flareon. Madness! Madness comparable, however, to one (widely debunked) hypothesis on human evolution: Aquatic Ape Theory. The idea is that when most primates were hanging about in trees or evolving into early homonids, a separate strand evolved to live in the sea – meaning there were also pods of fishy apes flapping about the oceans.

You can find a great/terrible faux documentary from Animal Planet 'Mermaids: The Body Found' (2012) which has great CGI ape-mermaids. The documentary was criticised for appearing 'too factual'...

You can find a great/terrible faux documentary from Animal Planet ‘Mermaids: The Body Found’ (2012) which has great CGI ape-mermaids. The documentary was criticised for appearing ‘too factual’…

If you prefer something with less CGI, here are some maybe slightly less speculative sources:

  • LANGDON, J. H. (1997). Umbrella hypotheses and parsimony in human evolution: a critique of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution. 33, 479-494.
  • MORGAN, E. (1997). The aquatic ape hypothesis. London, Souvenir Press.
  • PARKER, S., & ROBERTS, A. M. (2015). Evolution: the whole story.
  • ROEDE, M. (1991). The aquatic ape: fact or fiction? : the first scientific evaluation of a controversial theory of human evolution. London, Souvenir Press.


Pokémon & Cryptic Photography (Cesci)

There are lots of examples of fake ghost and monster photography (my personal favourite is the trickster, William Hope have a look on The Public Domain Review for some great spooky goings on)  and I don’t pretend to understand the technology of the Pokémon popping up in your camera, it is the same sort of strange witch magic that makes everyone on snap chat beautiful (magical golden butterfly heads…). However the photographing of strange beasties is closely linked to photography of cryptids, animals thought to be legends.

Many of these are brilliant fakes such as the 1930s Congo TRex ‘The Kasai Rex’, red with black stripes and 43 feet tall made from photos are cut from a magazine.

But some have proven to be real, such as giant squids, Komodo dragons and my FAVOURITE , the Hoan Kiem turtle.

Your best call for looking up Cryptids and brilliant videos of giant squid is the internet as cryptozoology is (whispers) still not really recognised as a science, but here are a couple of fun ones:

  • Newton, M (2005) Encyclopedia of cryptozoology : a global guide to hidden animals and their pursuers.  London : McFarland
  •  Coghlan, R (2004) Dictionary of cryptozoology Northern Ireland : Xiphos Books, 2004.
  • M. Eberhart, G (2002) Mysterious creatures : a guide to cryptozoology Oxford : ABC-CLIO

Here is a video of my beloved Hoan Kiem turtle (don’t worry, its says he’s apparently eating a cat but you can’t see it).  The Great grandfather turtle who lived in the lake died in January this year, conservation efforts rest of what the sex is of the only other know wild turtle so it could possibly be mates with a female in captivity but the Hoan Kiem, (if he ever existed at all...) appears to be extinct.

Pokémon & Animal Menageries (Miranda)

Pokémon Go is all about collecting wild animals: you roam the countryside trapping defenceless creatures inside tiny balls before bragging to your friends about how many you have.

Historically, these collections of exotic animals, known as menageries, were generally connected to a royal court. For example, the Tower of London housed a royal menagerie for six centuries, housing lions, elephants, leopards and, famously, a polar bear that would be regularly led out of the Tower to catch food and wash itself in the Thames.

You can see a state of the Polar Bear at the Tower of London today and his ghosted is the most sighted...

You can see a statue of the Polar Bear at the Tower of London today and his/her ghost is the most sighted. Maybe think twice about packing Tuna sandwiches on your visit to the crown jewels…

These menageries served as a symbol of the wealth and power of the Crown, but were also used for entertainment. Louis XIV used his menageries to entertain courtiers and visiting dignitaries with bloody battles: in 1682 the ambassador of Persia enjoyed the spectacle of a fight to the death between a royal tiger and an elephant. Next time you’re battling your Pokémon at a gym, you should think of Louis XIV!

Read More:

  • BENNETT, E. T. (1829). The Tower menagerie: comprising the natural history of the animals contained in that establishment; with anecdotes of their characters and history. London, Printed for R. Jennings.
  • GRIGSON, C. (2016). Menagerie: the history of exotic animals in England 1100-1837.
  • HAHN, D. (2004). The Tower menagerie: the amazing 600-year history of the royal collection of wild and ferocious beasts kept at the Tower of London. New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.
  • ROBBINS, L. E. (2002). Elephant slaves and pampered parrots: exotic animals in eighteenth-century Paris. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pokémon & Psychogeography (Cesci)

So sadly Nigel did not go for Pokémon and ‘evil maps’ but if you want to know more about ‘walking as content’ (including one of Debord’s ideas to re-walk your city as the speed of a tortoise as an act of rediscovery) then here are some references and links to get you started.

Satoshi Tajiri, the inventor of Pokémon, was inspired by his childhood hobby of catching crayfish (neither Miranda or I could entirely determine what a crayfish exactly looks like but we think they are the shit lobsters you see in Pret salads) and going on adventures in nature. Pokémon Go! sends often what might be thought of as, umm, indoors people?  outside to re-xplore there area looking for things that aren’t actually there.

This is a perfect example of Pscychogeography, walking to create content rather than walking with a purpose – coined in 1950s Paris by Guy Debord and the Situationists Pokémon Go! has changed the way that adults behave the urban environment, which, unlike Satoshi’s crayfish filled countryside, is not designed for walking. I argue that the fact that Pokémon changes your relationship, to non-purposeful meandering, makes walking around your own city is a subversive act of resistance.

Pokémon Map of Boston

Books to get you started:

  • Baker, P. (2003) ‘Secret City: Psychogeography and the End of London’ in Kerr & Gibson (Eds) London from Punk to Blair. Reaktion Books: London
  • Benjamin, W (1999) The Arcades Project. Belknap Press: Cambridge MA
  • Coverley, M. (2006) Psychogeography. Pocket Essentials: Harpenden
  • Debord, G. (1981) ‘Introduction to a Critique of Urban Georgaphy’ in Knabb, K. (Ed.) Situationist International Anthology p.5

How ‘Pokémon maps’ have become a thing, changing the way you might navigate or plan your route, not for speed but to finally get a Mr Mime (don’t get a Mr Mime, those things are terrifying)

A great article on how Pokémon effects the behaviour/ movement of children:

I particularly like this article from on how Pokémon could improve urban planning itself:

You might need to dig this one out of the Time archive somewhere, I can’t find it online (I would LOVE a link) but this is a really interesting example of taking the mapping further to include economic and social ‘mapping’ as well as geographical

  • ‘Pokémon Fold-Out: Mapping the Pokémonopoly’ Time. VOL 154; NUMBER 21, ; 1999, 91-93 — TIME – LIFE INTERNATIONAL – 1999

Go forth and use the power of Jigglypuff to re-walk your neighbourhood, safe in the knowledge that this is actually philosophy homework…

Pokémon & Animal Training (Miranda)

One other thing I found out is that Pokémon Go players are sometimes referred to as ‘Pokémon trainers’. We had already discussed Pokémon and its frankly disturbing overlaps with cockfighting but this got me thinking about our relationship with animals and, more specifically, all the crazy things we’ve trained them to do. Dogs are a great example: we use them for companionship, to herd livestock, in search and rescue, to hunt, in law enforcement, for protection, to assist people with disabilities, to detect cancer… it’s an endless list.

There are also some pretty bonkers historical examples: Lionel Walter Rothschild trained zebras to pull his carriage through London in the 19th century; Mr Henry Cooke entertained the public with his celebrated ‘Circus Troupe of Educated Dogs and Monkeys’ and, in the 1920s, Mabel Stark hit the headlines as the world’s first woman tiger trainer.

Walter Rothschild & His Zebras (Natural History Museum)

Walter Rothschild & His Zebras (Natural History Museum)

No animals (or Pokémon) were harmed in the making of this podcast.

Lovely books on bizarre animal training:

  • KALOF, L. (2007). Looking at animals in human history. London, Reaktion Books.
  • OROZCO GARCÍA, L., & PARKER-STARBUCK, J. (2015). Performing animality: animals in performance practices.
  • TAIT, P. (2012). Wild and dangerous performances: animals, emotions, circus. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.