Of Mice and Men

I read some reviews this morning of the new movie “Dinner for Schmucks” starring Steve Carell.  He plays an amateur taxidermist who creates dioramas with costumed dead mice posed in little tableaux. 

One of the scenes is a rodent version of “The Last Supper.”

According to the reviews, Steve’s character’s creativity didn’t stop there. 

Oh no, my friend.

 Here are some other creations:

Yes, I’m an avid animal lover (just ask my cats) and I especially loathe it when animals are killed for sport so some fat ass can hang their heads on the wall of his den. 

But you have to admit, these are wildly inventive and extremely funny.  Also, they immediately brought to mind an episode from a series I watched this last winter on HDTheater about the great homes and castles of the National Trust in Great Britain. 

Castle Ward, in Ireland, was home to an eccentric collector who had this masterpiece of the taxidermist’s art:  dioramas of boxing red squirrels, from handshake to knockout.

 

Their creator was Edward Hart, 1847-1928.  “Although ornithology was his main interest, Edward also prepared a number of mammals. These included squirrels, rats, shrews, stoats and dormice, the latter being recorded as ‘very numerous between early spring and October.’ In common with many taxidermists of the time, Edward occasionally arranged mammals into what he called ‘Grotesque Groups’, which depicted animals, usually squirrels, in human situations. These dioramas included ‘Prize Fight’ ( six scenes), ‘Leap Frog’ and ‘The Barber’ amongst others.”

Leap frogging away, as it were, from squirrels and stoats, I flashed back to memories of childhood visits to Olvera Street in Los Angeles in the 1950’s.  Many of the little touristy shops had what I’ve since discovered are called “pulgas vestidas” from Mexico—or, dressed fleas.  Often these little posthumous pests were depicted as a wedding couple, as seen here.  (But I remember some that were a bit more colorful, with the male flea wearing a brightly striped serape and the female a similarly festive rebozo.)  They have become quite collectible and are featured in some museums.   

 My mother wouldn’t countenance my purchasing any, however.  Maybe because I already owned a chameleon named Quincy, who got loose in our car on the way home from the pet shop and terrorized my mother until I managed to catch him and put him back in the bag.  Also, I regularly lobbied for a white rat and was soundly vetoed on that proposition at every turn. 

In retrospect, some dead fleas dressed up in Mexican peasant costumes really should have been greeted as a welcomed request, don’t you think?

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12 thoughts on “Of Mice and Men

  1. Well, I suppose that if they stuffed Trigger. . . !

    Should you hear of a starving artist who thinks he can rekindle his career if he can only easily obtain a supply of grey squirrels, give him my address.

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    • Funny you should mention that. My son went to graduate school for a doctorate in neuroanatomy. While getting his hair cut at a barber shop/salon he was asked by the girl doing the cut what he did for a living. He said he was a research scientist. She recoiled and said “You don’t experiment on dogs, do you?!”, to which he replied, “No, only rats.” She thought about it for a second and then smiled and said “…’kay!” and continued with the haircut.

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  2. Urgh, I hate taxidermy. Horrible. That said, the mouse version of the last supper looks fun. If it was for a film, I very much doubt they used stuffed dead mice, they’re probably miniatures.

    How on earth does anyone dress up a flea? My mind boggles just thinking about it!

    (I’m reading your archives, by the way, in case you’re wondering why I’m commenting on old posts!)

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    • Read on, Val! I appreciate your comments. Yeah, I hate to see beautiful wild animals killed just so someone can hang them on the wall. Our local paper publishes photos of deer “hunters” (I use the term loosely because most deer are shot from a deer blind where the deer has been lured with feedings of corn) and I always daydream about photos of the deer holding up the head of the hunter instead. haha

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      • And if you don’t hunt from a blind (I prefer a tree stand) then how are you supposed to get the deer? Some hunters stalk, but it’s a lot harder. They have extremely acute senses and will see the slightest movement. Not all hunters use corn or other forms of lures, but also, not all hunters like to sit in the woods for 5 or more hours. Just give some credit to the people who are able to sit 100% still in a stand for hours on end and come home with dinner for their families.

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  3. I believe taxidermy is acceptable. My dad and I hunt, but only for food. If we get a good looking buck, we get it mounted. There’s nothing wrong with that. You just can’t make the conclusion that everyone out there into taxidermy is mercislessly killing animals.

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  4. Pingback: Can’t fly a dead cat without hitting one | Jeremy B. Blevins

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