St. Lucy and the Borg

So I bought a dissection bucket of three rats as a pilot study, to see if I still remembered how to taxiderm small mammals. I told myself that if I did a decent job, we can see about ordering more rats.

Well, I already showed you my first rat, Princess Fat-Fat, aka St. Francis of Assisi. Here are the other two rats from my pilot experiment.

The first one here I don’t really have a good name for. I’ve just been calling him Sparkplug until I come up with something better. He was fashioned with some pieces of the remote control that Giles destroyed a few weeks ago. Maybe I could call him “Video 2.”
Sparkplug 1

Sparkplug 2

And the second rat is St. Lucy, although she was crafted from a male rat.
St. Lucy 1

St. Lucy was arranged to marry a pagan, but she refused because she wanted to keep herself pure for The Lord and not sully herself with a heathen. She found herself on trial for this and upon facing the judge, she was found guilty and the guards came to take her away. Except she was so filled with the Holy Spirit that she was suddenly as heavy as a mountain and even a team of oxen couldn’t move her. So they stabbed her in the throat instead. Also, at some point they may have gouged out her eyes. Hence she is depicted as presenting her eyes on a plate or a chalice:
St. Lucy 2

Sometimes she also carries the sword that stabbed her in the throat, and I saw some pictures of her holding some kind of plant, but I haven’t been able to find out what’s up with the plant.

Now in another post I mentioned that Princess Fat-Fat, aka St Francis of Assisi, was a ridiculously fat rat when she was in the dissection bucket and was twice the size of the other two male rats. Now I have a picture that shows off the size comparison and we can marvel and wonder at why St. Francis is so enormous.

Lucy and Francis

And finally just for fun I took a family portrait. I hope the rat family grows soon.

Family Portrait

Very Effective in Preserving

I did a lot more taxidermy work this past weekend, when I wasn’t watching boring, sober roller derby.

Here I am dremeling some excess epoxy out of Princess Fat-Fat’s mouth:

And here I am doing some sewing:

Then we were off to the basement to work on some of the messier aspects- namely, this stuff arrived in the mail just a few hours after I was done sewing and setting. You can tell they’re really serious about the dangers in the warning label because they use so many exclamation points.

Even though I should have started this step before sewing up the rats, I couldn’t help giving it a whirl now that I had it. I found it on what I thought was a respected taxidermy supply site, but sketchiness abounds with this particular product. For one thing, it never says anywhere what the stuff actually is. All the label had to offer was this:


Oh well, it was only 7 bucks. But really? A World War I embalming fluid? I tried looking up what was used to embalm soldiers in WWI, but no luck. My searches just come back to this um, product.

Right now the rats are drying out in the basement, so I guess we’ll see how it goes. It does seem to be turning their feet a little green. Once they’re all done and I put on the finishing touches and they look pretty, I’ll show you.

Rats live forever

I used to be a taxidermist. Some people knew that already, but I haven’t thought about it or mentioned it in a long time. I was in an art show or two and I consigned some of my work to a store in Allston. My greatest moment was when some local paper had letters in the editorial column about how offensive some people found my work and how I would have to answer to a higher power some day. I was so flattered- I was actually controversial!

I’m not really sure why I stopped, but I think it was a combination of living in small apartments for many years with no decent working space and the fact that dead specimens were hard to get ahold of. I haven’t been a taxidermist since 2001.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching The Immortalizers lately, or maybe I realized that I have enough work space now compared to my various Boston apartments, and that preserved specimens aren’t so hard to get ahold of now, but I had an idea to order a bucket of rats and see what I could do with them. To see if I still got it.

Apparently I still got it and I’m back, baby! Here’s the first piece of taxidermy I’ve created in over a decade:
Fat-Fat 1

I think she needs two names, like a show dog. One name will be her show name, and the other the name that everybody actually calls her.

Because of recent world events and because it’s appropriate in a few other ways, her show name, the name of this “piece”, is St. Francis of Assisi.

Fat-Fat 2

But before I dressed her up and gave her a dove, back when she was an extraordinarily bloated dead rat in a dissection bucket, I called her Princess Fat-Fat. She was at least twice the size of the other rats in the bucket and my jaw dropped when I saw how enormous her belly was. The truth is, she probably wasn’t that fat in life- when I was skinning her she didn’t have huge fat deposits on her or anything. What probably happened is that the intestinal gas buildup post-mortem caused her abdomen to distend hugely, and then being moved into a fixative immediately afterward preserved her huge belly for eternity. I tried to spare her some embarrassment by taking her pictures at more flattering angles.

And also being St. Francis among the pretty flowers.
Fat-Fat 3

This was really a pilot taxidermy project, just to see if I still knew what I was doing. I had a notepad ready to jot down anything I needed for next time. Turns out I needed quite a few things, including some wire cutters. But I unfortunately missed a major point. I was so excited to be taxiderming things again, that it didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have any eyes for her until I was halfway done sewing her up. I hastily had to use epoxy that I later painted. It seems like that shouldn’t be a problem for a beady-eyed creature, but the problem was that as her skin dried, it pulled away from her face and her eyes started to bug out. That wouldn’t have happened if I’d had proper rat-taxidermy eyes.

No worries, this was a practice rat. I’m really happy with how she came out, but my next one will be better. If I want to keep with a saints theme, St. Bartholomew might be fun. The rat could be be posed holding his own flayed skin. Or maybe St. Giles, because I like the name. Or maybe we could do a Giles Corey diorama, only with rats dressed as little pilgrims with one rat covered with rocks. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Shing a ling shing what a creepy thing to be happening

When I moved here, I had a yard for the first time and I thought that people with yards are supposed to have gardens. So I gave it a whirl and failed miserably. Nor does it turn out that I have enough interest in gardening to learn from my mistakes and do a better job. My favorite part about gardening turned out to be the colorful insect pests that would show up and eat my hard work. I collected a lot of new species this way.

All in all, I’m not much of a plant person. I think I’ve been impatient with plants because they work on a slow timeline and don’t do very much. By contrast, animals move around and bite and spray foul-smelling substances on you and build nests and sometimes fortresses- all in all- they’re exciting and active.

To my surprise though, I finally found a plant that I enjoy taking care of, and even more amazing, it’s actually thriving under my care.

This is my venus fly trap (actually a pair of them):
Trap 1

It was a run-of-the-mill plant that came in one of those small plastic domes. You know, the kind that you buy at a fair or something that dies in a week or so. I don’t know what came over me when I bought it, but instead of setting in by a window and watering it like you’d do for any ol’ plant, I kept it in a terrarium under a full-spectrum UV light. I read about proper care and found out that it’s sensitive to metals and other impurities found in tap water, and can only grow in sphagnum peat moss. Luckily, my lab has a special machine that makes distilled, deionized water. Nearly every other day I fill a water bottle with ddH2O and give some to Venus Fly Trap, and keep the light on for 16 hours a day.

And so it grew like crazy, sprouting heads everywhere that I occasionally feed with bugs I find in the yard. And you know what happened?
Trap 2

It started to sprout a long, long stem, with flower buds at the end. Have you ever seen a Venus Fly Trap that big? The stem got so tall that it no longer fits in the terrarium. I didn’t know it could grow stalks like that. And venus fly traps can grow flowers? I didn’t know they could do that, either.

So I’ve heard people who are bad at plants say things like “I’ve even killed a cactus” or “I water them too much…” One, I’ve killed a bunch of cactuses. I get bored because they don’t require much water or hand-fed insects and then I forget about them and don’t care anymore. And you have to work really hard to over-water a venus fly trap. They are native to marshy bogs in North Carolina and are accustomed to being soggy. And so this is the first plant I’ve ever had that not only have I not killed, but it’s thriving more than any I’ve ever seen of its kind.

So I guess the real reason I’ve never taken to plants is not because I’m not good at caring for living things, not because I needed a hardy, low-maintenance plant, but rather the opposite. Somebody who prefers to take care of animals will do much better with a high-maintenance plant that requires daily care and needs to be fed. A plant that kind of acts like an animal. I hope it doesn’t count towards our pet points.


This weekend we went to see OH! FEARSOME HEAD! It was held at this big house on Ponce next to the Shriner’s temple that looked like an artist commune sort of thing. From looking at the Tumblr, it was really hard to figure out what OH! FEARSOME HEAD! might be about, but I figured since the title was in commanding, all caps and it featured a probably-disembodied head in there at some point, there was no good reason not to check it out. A disembodied head? What’s not to like?


The commune had a lot of hay in the backyard and an emaciated, elderly chihuahua wandering around, plus a smaller, extra house in the back. It looked like they had set up every chair or other seating device they had in the house to accommodate the guests. I picked the church pew:

On the pew

You can see in the background there that there are a lot of dyed eggs hidden around. I figured it was for Easter, but it turned out to be a part of the first performance. Some steampunkish girl sat by herself on a dark stage and told us some stories of her life and her past friendships and past mistakes. While she did that, she tossed hard-boiled dyed eggs with numbers on them at the audience. We were supposed to catch them, but it’s hard to catch eggs in the dark and most people dropped them. There were egg-cracking sounds everywhere and the elderly, emaciated chihuahua had wandered into the space and was nosing around the cracked eggs hoping to score a treat. I ate two of the eggs. I noted that this was the second art performance we’d seen this year that involved throwing eggs.

Then it was time for OH! FEARSOME HEAD! I could tell right away that it was heavily Residents-inspired. Not a bad thing, because at one time in my life, The Residents were my hands-down favorite band. Following a very Residents-like formula, the music was droning and abrasive. First there was a guy who was lying on the floor, fishing into the Infinity Frame. Then he started thrashing and flailing- he had caught THE FEARSOME HEAD! The string on the fishing pole broke pretty fast, but the FEARSOME HEAD kept pulling at the imaginary line, pretending he was still caught. This went on for maybe five minutes.

There was a witch who speared some guy with the back-end of her rifle. She kept waggling her tongue around, which was more hypnotic than whatever she was doing with the gun.

Then some other girl with a buggy-eyed grin was inside an aquarium. At that moment THE FEARSOME HEAD showed up and she started cleaning the inside of the aquarium by wiping the drooly, whitefaced FEARSOME HEAD against the glass, leaving white greasepaint everywhere.

There was a maintenance man who was reminiscent of Devo. I think he reached into the body cavity of the felled guy from the witch-rifle incident and pulled out a sandwich. He took a bite and from time to time for the rest of the show, Devo-guy would occasionally continue to eat the sandwich.

My favorite song was “R”. The ringmaster had a large letter R and he said “R!” “R!” “RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!” Like an enraged Sesame Street character. The witch from a previous scene joined him and they screamed about R. A lot.

Then it was time for the big reprise after our fun time with THE FEARSOME HEAD!. The song, which sounded more like the Residents than any other song from the show, had only one line over and over- “OHHHHHHHH! FEARSOOOOOOOME! HEAD!”

And by this point I was sleepy from eating those eggs and because I’d nodded off in my church pew, it was time for us to go home. We’d had a lot of art that night.