i can haz point?

Well, I’m happy to see (through the surveillance device I’ve had installed on this blog)

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that many of you are checking out MousesHouses, the source of the picture of that nice little mouse doing the fan dance from the other day.  Now, normally a blog subtitled “Pictures from my own private mouseland” would send me screaming in the other direction, but for some reason, I really like these mice.

I am not a fan of cuteness in general, unless I gave birth to it myself

and animal-looking animals doing human things usually makes my skin crawl — at least, if the animals still look fully animal-like.  In Beatrix Potter’s work, for instance:  never liked those pictures (and the stories terrified me when I was little — all I remember is a lot of whippings, peckings, and terrified animal children hiding in baskets and watering cans. Was there more to those stories?).

Sometimes that rabbit he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a rabbit... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'.

source

I am fine with anthropomorphism, but I think the artist owes it to the viewer to put a little spark of humanity into the eye of the animal, if it’s going to be doing human things; and I also appreciate it when the illustrator doesn’t just make it look like the characters are people wearing animal suits, as in the deeply unpleasant Arthur series.

"Oh, oh, penmanship is more fun when your polo shirt is tucked in, kids!"

 

Mary Raynor is one illustrator who  does a great job of making the animals remain animal-like in their postures, even while playing with toy trains, going to the opera, or buying ketchup in bulk:

See how she’s teetering on her trotters, just like a mother pig would as she reached for a heavy bottle of ketchup.  (By the way, I heartily recommend the Pig family books by Raynor: Mrs. Pig’s Bulk Buy, Mr. and Mrs. Pig’s Evening Out, Garth Pig Steals the Show, and Mrs Pig Gets Cross.  It’s pretty much about my family, except that they’re British, and are pigs.

There was a story a while back about a recently-rediscovered collection of fanciful Victorian taxidermy.  These, at least, are well done, if somewhat, you know, full of dead kitties:

I’m not sure what drives a person to pour so much time, energy, and formaldehyde into a project like that, other than the fact that he has some time to kill while his wife is at her mother’s house, thinking things over.

In general, I think posing animals, whether dead or alive, and taking their picture is something that ought to be booed and hissed.  What do you think?  Does it ever turn out well?  The only exception I can think of is when people put a shirt and tie on labradors.  For some reason, that always gets me; and it sure looks like the dog is just glad to be getting some attention.  Harder than you’d think to find a picture online, though.

Well, now I just have to come up with a title for this post, to give the impression that it was about something.

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  • http://breakingground.wordpress.com/ sara

    First Little Drummer Boy and now Beatrix Potter? *sigh* There’s no accounting for taste.

  • Sheila

    We love Mrs. Pig books!

    And my second daughter spent all her communion money on Calico Critters. Crap, but who I am to say no?

  • http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com MrsDarwin

    Yes! Mary Raynor! Garth Pig! I’m glad to find another fan of these pigalicious books. I’d be tempted to try Mrs. Pig’s ketchup trick, except that I don’t want to clean up that much ketchup.

  • Melissa

    Your title should be: ” _Pet_ Peeve”- ha! Get it? Har-har-har…

    Those kitties were creepier than regular taxidermy to me. We had a friend who collected odd (read: naughty) taxidermy. Seriously, how does supply meet demand here??

    • Tracy C.

      naughty taxidermy? And this was a friend?

    • Katharine

      I need to know more about this “naughty” taxidermy.

  • Eileen

    Hah! And here I thought my husband and I were the only two who were creeped by Beatrix Potter illustrations.

    One of my kids is completely terrified of those weimaraner dog books. He’s actually had nightmares about a picture of one the dogs who’s dressed up like a barber.

    I have to admit Arthur doesn’t bother me at all, and I’m one to be easily creeped out. Like that mouse sitting there reading the book – that one literally makes me lose my appetite, which is not entirely a bad thing so I may come back to look at him a few times.

    Pretty much dolls have always terrified me too. Although a few years ago my then 8 y.o. Irish dancing daughter had gotten a digital camera and a bunch of Irish dance costumes for her dolls for Christmas and she posed them in Irish dancing moves. And instead of being creeped out, I was amused and proud of her work.

    • Eileen

      And I have to add that I think “Go Dog Go!” – the illustrations, the text, the story – all of it is pure genius. Not creepy or bothersome at all.

  • http://stmonicasbridge.wordpress.com Kristen

    Rodents….eeek!!!! No, not here. And after what Hallie went through, okay my skin is crawling and I just threw up in my mouth a little at the thought. But this post was TOTALLY worth it for the awesome cuteness you gave birth to. (Love that smile!)

  • Karen

    Gah Beatrix Potter. Luckily my kids are not fans of Peter Rabbit and the like. I especially hate the Two Naughty Mice, because not only are there creepy, squatter mice but dead-eyed dolls.

    • Martha

      Karen! That one was her best! Isn’t that the one about the mice who come to the doll house (while the dolls are on a walk), get all furious that the food isn’t real, and trash the place? Hilarious. Then they become, like, the dolls’ indentured servants to make up for their rampage- I thought it was hilarious. Can’t remember the lines, but there were a few very cheeky ones that make me laugh every time.

      • Karen

        *shudder* it’s the illustrations of those dolls, propped up in chairs (not SITTING like people, either) staring at the mice, who are clearly alive and moving, with their dead, glassy eyes.

        Dolls have always creeped me out. Didn’t help that my grandmother collected dolls and always had hundreds staring from her shelves. When she passed away, my aunt said, somewhat apologetically, that my cousin had asked if she could have Grandma’s dolls, thinking I would be upset. HECK NO. Have the dolls. Take all of them.

        There is probably a reason God has so far given me all boys.

        I didn’t mind the mice so much, from a creepy standpoint, but even as a kid I thought those mice had some nerve, breaking into somebody else’s house and trashing it!

        • Eileen

          One of our kids was about a year old when we adopted him. He came to us right around the time our oldest was posing and snapping pictures of her dolls. He would literally shake with terror when he saw those dolls and their dead eyes. I’ll never know if there was some earlier doll related trauma or if, like his mother, he just has some natural aversion to them.

          • Abby

            Probably a natural aversion. One of my kids was terrified of dolls when he was a toddler. He even had a word for them: “ee-hee.” At Christmas some well-meaning anonymous person gave us a four-foot tall motorized Santa Claus doll that turned its head and waved an arm. We hid it immediately–can’t think of anything that would have terrified him more.

      • Anne-Marie

        The Tale of Two Bad Mice is my very favorite Beatrix Potter. I like the dolls to be dead-eyed–after all, the mice, not they, are alive. I like the aura of danger that’s always lurking in a Beatrix Potter book, the soft watercolor world threatened by Mr MacGregor or the “tawny gentleman” or the pike.

        Arthur is horrible, rivaled only by the barfworthy Berenstein Bears.

        Go Do Go is a gem, rivaled only by Are You My Mother? The dog party on top of the tree vs. SNORT!–now there is a tough call.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

    WHAT!? Hunca Munca ROCKS!

    • Martha

      That was it- Hunca Munca- hilarious. And Tom Thumb, I think. You’ve got to be able to appreciate the humor in that one, especially as a parent slogging your way through a story for your kids. Nice to have something in it for you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Okay, I’ll admit I never read Hunca Munca. We only had a few Beatrix Potter books when I was a kid, and I hated and feared them so much I was never motivated to check out more as an adult.

  • Nina

    Okay, Simcha, put everything down, right now, and go rent Dinner for Schmucks. (I’m not saying anything else.)

    Warning: this is not a movie I would normally “recommend”……only for Simcha. :)

  • Martha

    Taxidermied kittens??!! Creepy. Creepier than creepy. That’s something I’d stare at as a child akin to morbidly staring at a crime scene, or someone in a coffin at a wake. That’s disturbing, and I’m NOT one to get creeped out. Troubled, troubled author, methinks.

  • http://www.clan-donaldson.com Cari

    I love a woman who can give a deeply opinionated rant on obscure topics. This made my day.

  • GinTonic

    Oh, but what about Tom Kitten??? Doesn’t everyone identify with him when they go to put on their nice work clothes after the holidays? No? Just me?

    Ok.

    • Laura V.

      posing taxidermied animals dressed to look like people was quite the rage among taxidermists at one point. i think it creeps the modern ones out, too.

  • gussie

    The cats are very creepy. I don’t mind Peter Rabbit, but you have a point some of it is a little disturbing. I am however a big fan of Jaws, now I’ll never look at a rabbit the same way. Can’t stand Arthur. Must check out the pig books, I am getting tired of what we have around here.

  • http://www.daydreamsofanaveragewoman.blogspot.com Amanda S

    “I’m not sure what drives a person to pour so much time, energy, and formaldehyde into a project like that, other than the fact that he has some time to kill while his wife is at her mother’s house, thinking things over.”

    *shiver*

    If my husband kept that many long dead animals around I would be at my mother’s house thinking things over too. Poor woman.

    I did think the mice were rather cute though.

  • A Girl

    “I’m not sure what drives a person to pour so much time, energy, and formaldehyde into a project like that, other than the fact that he has some time to kill while his wife is at her mother’s house, thinking things over.

    THis was my favorite line too.

  • Anna

    My dh has an uncle who is (like all the men in dh’s family) very fond of hunting and fishing. But this uncle is the only man in that family who doesn’t know elementary things like “don’t give your wife a pair of dead stuffed pheasants for an anniversary gift.” I’m sure he thought, “hey, it’s a male/female pair, so it’s clearly romantic,” and at least his wife pretty much knew what she was getting into when she married him – but I don’t think she realized quite how far gone he was. She commented on a nice mantelpiece at an estate sale once – and he went back and thoughtfully purchased the longhorn steer’s head mounted over that mantelpiece, thinking that that was what she was referring to and that it would be a nice birthday surprise for her. My sole point in this ramble is that one has to be comfortable around lots of dead animals in my in-laws’ family, and I am, but I still think those kittens are beyond creepy.

    Also, it’s the whippings in Benjamin Bunny that have a morbid fascination for my 4 y-o. She must play the hiding-under-a-basket-and-being-whipped-with-a-switch scene each night after her bath (b/c although the bunnies wear jackets, they do not wear pants, so post-bath is the correct time). Seems odd to me, but I guess she doesn’t seem creeped out.

  • http://todayagain-mamamidwife.blogspot.com/ MamaMidwife

    I was convinced Mr McGregor was going to find me and kill me as a child. I had the Peter Rabbit book ON TAPE and it had creepy music and even creepier drawings to go with. *shudder* I still hate Beatrix Potter to this day.

    I didn’t even know about the bunny whipping until I read the comments here. I never read any of her other books as a kid (even though we had them all) because I was so terrified of Mr. McGregor.

  • Ceri

    In college some boys tp’d my duplex and also sneaked (I really thought it was snuck, but my spellcheck is telling me otherwise) in and stuck a roadkill squirrel in our toilet. My roommate and I fished it out of the toilet, threw it in a bucket, and took it to a taxidermist who agreed not to ask any questions about why it was wet. The female taxidermist (seriously, are there many of those??) took one look at it and informed me she’d go shoot me another because that limp, wet one wasn’t going to “do up nicely.” A week and $35 later, we had our stuffed squirrel and got our payback with those boys by planting it in their apartment. CREEPY, that stuffed squirrel was.

  • http://butnotlost.blogspot.com tyson

    On a transpacific flight not long ago, I watched a Steve Carell commedy called “Dinner with Schmucks” where Steve played a character that did the same type of cute taxidermy as the kitten scene, except with mice.

    Just thought it was oddly relevant and figured no one who reads a high-brow blog like this one would know otherwise.

    • Kat L

      Yes, I just watched Dinner for Schmucks – so relevant, I’m surprised that’s not why Simcha was bringing it up!

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  • http://amomforlife-theunconventionalfamily.blogspot.com/ Kelly

    Anybody else notice that both Simcha and her cute offspring have the same exact expression, in a mirror image in this post? :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/simchafisher Simcha Fisher

      Wow, you’re right! If it were a more honest picture of me, you’d see that we have the same double chin, too.

  • http://catholicanuck.blogspot.com JP

    Love Arthur. Like Beatrix Potter. Anyone read “Just So Stories”? Talk about whippings etc!

    And I just remembered that as a child I had a horrible aversion to the little fake birds that seemed to be around a lot back then. The kind with feathers and wire legs…not the little yellow Easter chicks. I couldn’t touch one.

  • Colet

    Those kittens and their other species friends (yes, I clicked on the story) are FAH-REAKIN me out. The worst part about it is how many of them they are and how similar they look. He must have raised them for just…such…a purpose! (cue Psycho music). Apparently the turn of the century term ‘curiosity’ was code for ‘really effed up’. I sense an upcoming indie movie starring Ralph Fiennes.

  • http://lydiapurpuraria.wordpress.com lydiacubbedge

    What was wrong with the Victorian era? Seriously, dressing up dead animals? What part of “dead animals” did people not find unappealing and wrong? I laughed my fanny off with that. Sooo deeply disturbing.

  • http://lydiapurpuraria.wordpress.com lydiacubbedge

    Oh, also, my husband asked me to say “curiosities killed the cats.” He’s here all week.

  • http://catholicanuck.blogspot.com JP

    Victorians had a different attitude toward death entirely, it would seem.

    With the advent of photography, they would dress dead children and pose them for a picture before they were buried.

  • http:fallinglikerain-sandy.blogspot.com Sandy

    That last picture up there is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen. Who thinks up this stuff? Ick.


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