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?