21 February 2010

When You Put it That Way ...

An episode of Antiques Roadshow is described in part in our TV on-screen directory, "Michael Aspel and the team marvel at an array of historic items."

I wonder if the powers that be who greenlighted the show see that, look at each other, and ask, "Did this always sound so bad on paper?"  I mean, seriously: an hour of watching people say, "Oooh!  It's a tiny silver pig, manufactured only between 1787 and 1789!" does not sound particularly riveting.  But then you see an episode in which a cabinet housing a miniature Victorian parlor scene populated with anthropomorphized taxidermied squirrels is earnestly praised and valued at several thousand pounds, and you do indeed marvel along with Michael Aspel and the team.

FYI, a Google image search for "squirrels parlor scene taxidermy" yielded nothing close to the objet d'art in question to share with you.  But I'm pretty sure it put me on some kind of government watch list.

13 February 2010

Mind Warp: Complete

 My dissertation research involves reading 150-year-old hospital records, which means I spend 40 to 50 hours a week reading about people suffering from horrible diseases and receiving often-horrible treatments (heavy metals: good for what ails ya!).  This has apparently warped my conception of "funny" into what most of my friends and relations would place squarely under "morbid".  Such as the 6-year-old with a tapeworm whose own history of his illness was taken in his mother's absence, and earnestly entered by the doctor: "[a piece of tapeworm] was like a broad riband and as long as his finger ... he [the boy] is fond of sugar and butter." (LHB1/129/2/12)  Cute, right?  I mean, sad, obviously, but a little bit funny?  ... Anyone?

I think it's the kid's irrepressible-by-tapeworm enthusiasm sneaking through that cracks me up.

This leads to, I imagine, a general dread when people ask about my research and I start by saying, "Oh, this was funny!"  But you have to find some reason to laugh, or all your free time is taken up trying to cry quietly in a public restroom stall and/or plotting exactly which powers-that-be (Social Darwinists?  Hospital administrators?  Doctors?  The power-drunk and paternalistic bourgeois?  That hospital clerk who can't write an intake record less than four pages long?) you will slap in the face, and how hard, when you finally get your time machine.  Which is kind of my philosophy on dealing with heavy shit in general, when you get down to it, so there you go.

ETA: And now I'm imagining the effect in Victorian Britain if I were to appear from the future in my denim trousers and short haircut to deal massive and richly-deserved roundhouse face slaps to, like, dudes saying disease decreases the surplus population, and then wink away back to the present.  And it is hilarious.  I say, "You just got slapped!" or, I don't know, "Slap justice!" to avoid copyright infringement on How I Met Your Mother and disappear, and they all stand around blinking and stunned for a while while one guy clutches his muttonchop whiskers.  And then one dude finally says, "I say, that was taking the point a bit far, old chum; my mistress was diagnosed with consumption just a se'nnight past."  I wish I could draw comics so you all could see it too.

04 February 2010

Speaking of Gnomes

It's vaguely related story hour!

I began agitating for a yard gnome soon after I moved in with my now-husband, what with having an actual house with an actual yard.  Well, an actual house with a gravel-mulched xeriscaped plot surrounding it.  Not that I dislike xeriscaping -- it can really be lovely, and God knows we can kill plants with the best of them -- but the builder's interpretation of it is sparse at best, and the neighborhood association was so taken with it that it's in the neighborhood covenants (do they keep them in a Neighborhood Ark?) that the front landscaping is not to be densely planted.  For what it's worth, we've gone even sparser by killing our small tree and being scared to replace it lest we kill Tree 2.0.

(Photo from this Telegraph story about gnome discrimination)

Anyway.  Imagine my surprise and delight (and shock and awe!) when my husband came home from Walgreen's bearing two yard gnomes.  He saw them for like $5 each when he was picking up a prescription or something and took the plunge into gnome ownership, because he is awesome.  Then the following conversation ensued:

Me: Yay!  Where do you want to put them?
Him: Well, one's going in the garage.  Which one do you want to put out?
Me: Garage?
Him: Some kid's going to steal our gnome, or break it!  I got a spare!

This gnome-paranoia shouldn't have been a surprise, as he's been muttering dire warnings about how terrible things happen to yard gnomes ever since I first mentioned wanting one.  He takes a dim view of the goodness of mankind.  But, take heart!  It's been over a year, and our gnome is mostly unmolested.  We had to set him upright again after a cat rubbed up against him once, but that's all.  It may be time to bring the second gnome into play.

Ooh, and we totally need this from Toscano next: