Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Updates on important matters

1. Here are some additions to my collection of library doodles:

2. I thought you would all like to know that the pillars on the Masonic temple (previously featured in this exciting post) have now been replaced with brand-new wooden, or more likely wood-covered, pillars that are shiny and lovely, and most importantly, match. My only complaint is that they're square, and I kind of miss the classic round pillars. But at least the roof isn't sagging anymore.

3. Our local Mary Kay representative seems to have traded in her pink Cadillac for a pink SUV of some kind. I hope this will prove marginally less embarrassing to her unfortunate son.

Friday, January 27, 2012


The non-terrifying portion of Margaret Woodbury Strong's collection is the dollhouse portion. You may translate everything I say in this post as, "Aaaaaaaah look how wee!"

One thing I was never really interested in when it came to dollhouses, somewhat predictably, was the dolls. They can't stand up without help, they have to lean on things if they don't have stands. And stands look stupid.   Plus, they're never as realistic as the furnishings, so they kind of ruin the illusion. Having said that, I like the lady on the second floor. She is quite elegant.

I'd never seen a Spanish dollhouse before. Or is this Mexican? 
I should really learn to read the signs.

Tiny bed. Tiny mattress. Tiny pillow. I bet it once had tiny sheets, too.

I really enjoy kitchen fixtures from the 1930s for some reason -- both in miniature and full-sized. I think I have a refrigerator like that in my own collection, but it's been so long since I've looked through it that I can't quite remember. I'm sure my parents would love for me to find out . . . and then remove it all from their house.

I've composed a haiku concerning this tureen. Here it is:

Beautiful tureen
Color of cream and mustard
I'd buy you for real

This looks cozy. Back to that tureen though, isn't that a great tureen?
My god, what a tureen.

The lighting in this photo makes this room look, to me, weirdly real.
If only that doll weren't there, you'd never know it was a dollhouse.
SEE?! Dolls are stupid.

One dollhouse was just a huge room decorated like a nineteenth-century ballroom.
It was pretty much adorable, but not adorable enough for a haiku.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bonus Doll

This doll is not in Margaret Woodbury Strong's collection. It's in the National Toy Hall of Fame, in a sort of tableau into which the museum has worked just about every possible toy. Which is fine. But what possessed them to represent the Statue of Liberty like this is a mystery that can't ever be solved.

Probable misquotation from Rich, guessing at the thought process behind this:
"I know! Let's wrap a harlot in a flag!"

I believe his theory to be correct. But I also believe it's not an inaccurate representation of this country's fundamental cultural values. So maybe they were making a statement.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Margaret Woodbury Strong's Slumbering Army

Remember that time when I went into the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh and scared myself silly with old dolls? Well. If you'd like to replicate that experience for yourself, you don't have to go all the way to Scotland. You'll find all the terrifying dolls you need, in excess, in Margaret Woodbury Strong's doll collection.

Let's talk about Ms. Strong for a moment. She lived from 1897 to 1968. The Strong Museum website says that she was born into "a wealthy family of collectors," which makes me immediately think of the room in the Vanderbilt museum filled with thousands of inert marine animals floating in formaldehyde. By "inert," I mean "dead." That room is every bit as creepy and weird as it is marvelous and impressive. I picture Vanderbilt as having some kind of mania of accumulation, not in the sense of hoarding, but in the sense that he knew he had enough money to own everything on the planet, including nature itself, and he went about systematically acquiring it. There's a kind of collecting that seems to be particular to the very, very wealthy, and I believe a collection of twenty-seven thousand dolls falls into that category.


Apparently when Strong got the idea for a museum, she was going to have it in a wing of her house, and it was going to be called, "The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Fascination," and that name would have been quite accurate. The dolls are fascinating. Unfortunately, looking through my pictures, I discovered that I appear to have self-edited for the pretty dolls, and only took a few pictures of the most fascinating (i.e., horrifying) ones. The ones I have are decently horrifying, though. We'll work up to them.

Some of the dolls are quite beautiful.

Grace Kelly and the Prince of Monaco, in clothes that had to have been stitched by mice.

Henry VIII with Catherine Parr, one of the wives he neglected to murder
probably because he died first.

Please note the more-or-less anatomically-correct proportions of these dolls.
You won't be seeing that again for a while.

My, what long arms you have.

Oh . . . oh, dear.

These two are really rather exquisite. Look at his face! So expressive and perfect!
If only his wife didn't have that unfortunate witchy hue.

I have nothing snotty to say about this pair;
I think they're hilariously adorable.

On to the weirdness.

The head on the right wants to tell you that resistance is futile.
You will be assimilated.

The head on the left has no idea anything's wrong at all.



Notice that the doll behind the addlepated human sphinx is looking at it very angrily.
I wouldn't want to share a glass case with that thing either.

Come to think of it, what with all the inert creatures in glass cases
this is very like Vanderbilt's, uh, Zoo of Death, if you will.

Can you imagine the horrors if they came alive and broke free
no wait let's not imagine that.

Of course this post is going to end with inappropriate uses of hair. Having been born in 1897, Margaret Woodbury Strong grew up in the heyday of inappropriate hair use. I made that up, I have no idea when the heyday of inappropriate hair use began and ended. But I know for a fact that it was going on when she was a child. Have a look at this charming photo of Strong as a little girl, with her beloved doll Mabel.

It's so much less cute when you discover, as the caption forces you to do, that Mabel had a wig made of Margaret's hair. I honestly think it's weird stuff like this that paved the way for the progressive income tax. Somebody had to curb the eccentricities of the wealthy when their inappropriateness began to reach egregious levels.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Butterfly Garden

The last time I went to the butterfly garden at the Strong Museum of Play, I was with Ivan and I did not have a camera. I have learned since then! But all I learned was to bring my camera; I haven't learned how to take good pictures, especially of butterflies. Are you aware of how infrequently butterflies sit still? I sure am. Most of my pictures look like this:

This is a red lacewing, not that you can tell.
Harumph. The turtles, however, were cooperative.

This spot is the best spot and no other spot will do.

Another 48 hours in here and he'll confess, trust me.
Since the butterfly garden is sweltering hot, it doubles nicely as a greenhouse. Otherwise they probably could not call it a garden. It would be a butterfly warehouse. Which no one would pay to see, especially if there was no soothing spa music playing. In the garden, they had a lot of orchids, as well as these flowers that I think might be a kind of shrimp plant, even though their bracts are green and their flowers aren't nearly as alien-looking as golden shrimp plants:

It's misleading because the bracts are green, like leaves.
They may be undercover.

They also had this strange round species of flower that was very attractive to butterflies:

That leaf is a butterfly, by the way. And some people doubt evolution, pffft!

I did manage to get one pretty nice butterfly shot, and a moth:

I can't figure out what these are and it's really annoying me.

Giant Owl (a confusing name, in my opinion)

A blue morpho landed on my shoe, which I seem to remember happening the last time, too. They must be the friendliest of all the butterflies, because I tried to hug several of the others, and they weren't having it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Coming Soon

Coming soon if I remember to write it over the weekend: an epic post about the Strong Museum of Play. It will include:
  • butterflies
  • turtles
  • bracts (I think)
  • historic dolls of the terrifying, horrifying, and mystifying varieties
  • miniatures
  • the original Monopoly
  • video of a Unicorn Tang
  • an unexpected but familiar friend (no, not an alpaca)
  • yet another inappropriate use of hair
and, as a bonus,
  • you will get to find out whom my friend Rich referred to as "a harlot in a flag," a phrase that is still making me laugh intermittently with no prompting at all

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fish Tank


Other fishy thing

Friday, January 13, 2012


When the trailer for Fellowship of the Ring came out, this scene was in it (only Gimli did not say his line twice):

I'm not sure why, but Matt and I found this hysterical, to the point that when we went to go see the movie in the theater, this line made us both laugh out loud. No one else laughed, but that's probably because they were overwhelmed by the magnificence of film and whatnot. Now that it's been ten years, apparently other people find this line funny, too. It's something about Gimli, I don't know. He's so angry, already, and he hasn't even gotten started yet. Wait til people start tossing you around, Gimli; then there will be something to be angry about!

Anyway, when I was looking for library graffiti, I came across this, and I laughed out loud again. I was not expecting to see this on a wall.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Accidentally Gaming the System

Because I work in an awesome place that doesn't want me to die of a preventable illness while still on their insurance, they offer free biometric screenings once a year, and if they think you need it, they refer you to a free program to help you with whatever your problem is. They pay you to do the screening, and they pay you for the programs you complete. It is a pretty sweet deal . . . which I accidentally discovered how to maximize.

Part of the screening is testing your BMI. However, I forgot about that part when they weighed me. At the doctor's office, if you take off your winter coat and your shoes and your purse in order to get a reading that is within ten pounds of being accurate, they laugh at you, as if you're vain. (Another reason to leave my doctor? Yes.) So, having been socially conditioned to get weighed with everything on, I just hopped on that scale and rolled my eyes when a number came up that was definitely ten pounds higher than normal.

When the nurse was done testing me for everything, she looked up my BMI, and it was a tenth of a point into the overweight category. A tenth of a point, with ten pounds of extra non-bodyweight-stuff on me. This means two things. First, I'm eligible for a free program where someone will encourage me to exercise by saying nice things to me over the phone, and second, I got a ten-minute lecture on keeping to "best practices" regarding my eating habits, not to eat prepackaged food, and to have lots of fiber. I did not mind being eligible for the program because the numbers are what they are, as far as she knows. But I was somewhat affronted by the lecture. I wanted to say, "By prepackaged food, are you talking about the plastic bag that the celery comes in?" But I am not rude, so I let her go on and on about the dangers of heart disease, while I thought about how I had been noticing how loose all my pants were. (And in fact, when I went home and weighed myself, I did came in even lower than I thought I would. So there!)

She sent me off, steaming gently, with a little form to fill out about which programs I would like to take advantage of. And that's when I remembered, hey! I get paid for this farce! I will essentially get a hundred dollars to take off my coat. While this was entirely inadvertent and I would give up the hundred dollars not to have been lectured about not doing things that I never do, I am now tempted to put weights in my pockets next time, because eating unhealthy pays more. Then when I lose sixty pounds in a week, and I can tell the person on the phone IT'S A MIRACLE, LADY!!! I'M CURED!!

It is also tempting to do absolutely nothing and take the money as payment for emotional damages, but I figure if I'm in the program anyway, I might as well let them encourage me to lose another eight pounds. Then I'll be smack in the middle of the healthy range . . . and I'll get half or a third of the amount of money I could if I was less healthy. There is something about this system of rewards that isn't quite right.

Monday, January 09, 2012

L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

From The Little Prince: "One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

Thursday, January 05, 2012

In Which the Arbiter of Inappropriateness Misjudges Slightly But Is Still Almost Always Right

This story comes in three parts.

Part One: Around my birthday, I got a delicious-smelling package from my dear friend The Clergy, and inside it were these absolutely adorable and classy tins. And as a bonus, the tins were full of tea! It was like a double present.

Part Two: Also around my birthday, as I may have mentioned, my dear friend Simon P. came to visit. Simon P. and I exhausted ourselves so much that by her last night here, we spent an entire hour just laughing. At nothing in particular. Like little girls at a slumber party. Who've just had a lot of cider and donuts. (It was Halloween.) During the exhaustion-induced hilarity, we had a worrying exchange in which Simon P. suggested an inappropriate use of food as she is wont to do. I reported the exchange live on Facebook, and I reproduce it here (I like to use primary source material whenever I can):

Click on this image if it's too small to read.

We had just discovered that more things than bacon could be inappropriate, and I was convinced that cider-tea fell into that category -- inappropriate, improper, and everything else with a negative prefix!

Part Three: A few days later, I opened up The Clergy's Hot Cinnamon Sunset and brewed a nice cuppa. And I drank some. And I said to myself HOLY MOTHER THAT IS SPICY. And then a thought came into my head for which I wholeheartedly blame Simon P. Because that thought was, "It's as if this tea needs to be brewed in something more substantial than water . . . UH OH."

Friends, I admit to you that I put that teabag into a mug of hot cider.

It was delicious.

So I am forced to concede that my sense of the inappropriate is not absolutely infallible. But there is no one else I trust to take up the role as Arbiter of Inappropriateness because the rest of you have repeatedly failed to recognize the most vile and egregious instances of inappropriateness even when they're staring you in the face. Take, for example, what I got in my stocking this Christmas:

There is no way I'm letting you people decide for yourselves what's appropriate and what isn't. You obviously have no idea what you're doing.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What ho what ho what ho!

Never fear, old sports; this period of neglect is OVER. I have nine hundred things to blog about and I will never leave you alone again. Well, that is not even a half-truth. I have three things to blog about, one of which I can't remember right now, and I will leave you alone again tomorrow because it's an even day and I'm not a blogging machine after all. But there's still no reason to fear, because we have nothing to fear but fear itself, and mushrooms.

You may recall that we left off with library graffiti. I have a good deal more of this, and the supply is constantly replenishing itself. In honor of today's frigid temperatures, I offer this sentiment from the stairwell in the old stacks:

This is at the bottom of the stairwell. At the top of the stairwell is the first half of the sentence, but I didn't see that part at first because it's poorly lit. So I thought someone had hit upon an all-purpose excuse and decided to share it with her fellow students. Professor nagging you for a paper? But it's the dead of winter, you've been hibernating. Accidentally got addicted to ritalin? But it's the dead of winter, you've got to stay awake somehow. Crashed your car? Of course you did; it's the dead of winter. You can't be blamed for anything in the dead of winter because, come on, it's the dead of winter. Just let it go. We need to concentrate on survival.

Here's the first half of the sentence, and someone's rebuttal:

So the first half of "but it's the dead of winter" is, "It smells like spring." And then someone argues that it smells, instead, like Rochester, which I get the distinct sense is meant as an insult, although I'm not sure how the entire city of Rochester could smell bad. I can personally attest to the stairwell smelling, looking, and feeling like the innards of an interwar passenger liner, but I've never once walked outside in the city and thought to myself, "Boy, smells like Rochester all right, phew!" So I don't know what that's about, but I guess for the situations in which the "but it's the dead of winter" excuse doesn't work, you could use "smells like Rochester." Being peer-pressured into imbibing something foul? No, thank you, smells like Rochester. Rode your bike through a flower bed? Got disoriented due to the smell of Rochester. Late for work? Woke up, smelled Rochester, lost the will to live.

I was going to say that you never know, one of these brilliant minds might cure cancer someday, but then I realized the ones that will cure cancer probably aren't hanging out in the humanities library. Which makes me want to go check out the graffiti in the science library and see what's happening over there . . .