The last two weeks have brought me anguish.
CrenguÅ£Äƒ’s diseased body took a turn for the worse on my birthday and she died sometime in the night. Before she succumbed, I took a photo of her lovely little toes:
Then, as I was recovering from one hamster death, poor Valentina escaped never to be seen again alive. I set up four hamster traps around the house, looked in every nook and cranny, and finally decided I’d found her hiding place. Alas, she was in a different part of the house.
The thing that gets to me is that she died a mere two metres from one of the easily accessible traps, filled with seeds. Probably disoriented, dehydrated and starved, she could not make it this far.
You can see above that the blood had already started pooling in her extremities. Rigor mortis had set in as well. She had been alive until recently and I failed her.
A mother whose son went down in an airplane in the Andes was struck with the feeling that her son was dead even before anyone else had known the plane crashed. Another family friend here in Vancouver had a dream of her father appearing out of the woods in her backyard at the same time he was dying in Romania. I believe very strongly in telepathy, especially in times of stress.
Yesterday morning I woke at 3:30 am, overwhelmed with depression and fear. It must have been at the time Valentina realized she would die and began her frenzied search for nourishment.
Valentina is laying on her funerary shroud within a perfume box, as she has been for the last few hours. I want to keep her with me for a few more hours. She only lived six months and all I will have of her now is this photo:
Du Barry’s Backstabber
Remember this picture by Gautier Dagoty?
Notice the little dude in the lefthand corner?
Zamor was a Bengal servant in Madame du Barry’s service, received from the king. Joan Haslip’s Madame du Barry: The Wages of Beauty describes his life at Barry’s home of Louveciennes (pages 90-91):
The countess adored him, stuffing him with sweetmeats, dressing him in the most extravagant of costumes in velvet and in satin with plumed caps and jewelled earrings. She even went to the lengths of having him christened, with her as godmother and a Prince of the Blood, the Comte de la Marche, standing in as godfather. People spoke of the orgies at Louveciennes, of little blonde peasant girls brought in to frolic and make love to Zamor for the pleasure of the old King, who to amuse his mistress gave her blackamoor a pension and appointed him as governor of Louveciennes, calling in the solemn-faced chancellor to affix his seal on the documents.
By the time Madame du Barry returned from exile at the Pont aux Dames convent (sent there by orders of the dying Louis XV), Zamor had grown into an annoying brat. Despite advice from her steward and lawyers to fire him, du Barry was too soft-hearted.
Zamor filled the next few years by hanging out in Paris’ Palais Royal cafes and later the Republican Club in Louveciennes itself, making friends with spies and bad sorts. When du Barry’s famous jewellry was stolen on the night of January 11, 1791, historian Haslip suspects Zamor as the insider on the job with his new friends. Sadly, too, it was at the Republican Club was Zamor met Englishman George Grieve, who was later to rape du Barry while arresting her.
Grieve had taken an interest in Zamor, encouraged him to read Rousseau and received from Zamor purloined letters from du Barry’s desk. By the time du Barry finally fired Zamor during the Reign of Terror – talk about bad timing – he was completely on Grieve’s side, supplying him with proof of du Barry’s guilt for having ‘aristocratic leanings.’
In Haslip’s book, Zamor appears one more time, on December 6, 1793, at the trial in the Great Hall of Liberty, formerly the Paris parlement, to provide damning proof that du Barry hosted aristocrats. He added that he tried to warn her but, bull-headed, she wouldn’t change her evil ways.
Du Barry was guillotined the next day, after she won a few hours reprieve by giving away the locations of her buried treasures to the Committee of Public Safety in a bid to win her life.
We pick up his story again online. Zamor himself was not immune from suspicion and faced prison time. After his release, he disappeared until 1815 when he was a bitter old man living in Paris. The site on which we find this information ridiculously exonerates Zamor of all wrong-doing.
Personally, I think Zamor was a bastard.
Compendium of Google Searches
I wasn’t going to blog for a while, but I’ve just dug up my lists of weird searches that have led readers here. Going back to 2004 when I finally added Sitemeter, these searches make writing Maktaaq worthwhile:
1. hamster emails
2. indiebride poem
3. “japan men” photo “long hair”
4. woman eaten poo
5. krazy kat skirt
6. dr and mrs vandertramp song lyrics
7. hamster ladders
8. contact with deceased ladybug
9. spook the parrot
10. drugstore and biscuit beetles
11. bride porn
12. dream analysis guinea pig
13. squash, plural
14. big brown nipples
15. topless hula girl toy
16. what type of yoghurt can hamsters eat
17. guinea pig clothes
18. tooth extractions fetish
19. zombie fortress [this one was used twice this week!]
20. my hamster is throwing her babies across the cage why
21. what is written on the godmother’s business card
22. wet butts sex
23. pink hamster
24. strawberry shortcake adult comic dominatrix
25. wood sliver infection of the finger
26. what noise does a wookie make?
27. dream dictionary fingernails fall off
28. origami freddie kruger fingers
29. lewis and clark encountering werewolf
30. “how to survive a robot uprising” -”with more interest”
31. tweety bird birthday party for thirteen year old
32. grapefruits vs flatulence
33. The touching, massage, closeness guinea pig plan
34. insect squish fetish stories
35. pitt bull method of killing
36. chinese zodiac sign toxic rabbit
37. radioactive cutlery 2004 Bush
38. preserved babies in formaldehyde
39. queer eye bourgeoisie:
40. fresh pork of my thoughts [note: this was my second post as a blogger way back in 2002]
41. guinea pigs music notes tone (-”as guinea pigs”) ( -’”"guinea pigs”")
42. possum rat nutella
43. praying mantis tattoos
44. origami krueger claws
The searches have shifted from hamster menstruation (it can happen!), the one search I was once guaranteed to be #1. I still get a lot of slipper spanking, Marissa Imrie and Mohammed Bijeh, but not enough to make me really certain of what my identity really is. Am I a morbid ghoul or am I fraught with a latent sexuality borne of a convent upbringing?
Makes me want to write more about shepherding guinea pigs through Gobi Desert sandstorms. Or something.
Blame the Mother
JJ1 has been described as bloodthirsty, clever, and fast. Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber referred to him as a “problem bear.” Farmers claimed the bear “enjoyed killing,” because he had killed sheep without eating them. As of June 7, 2006, his kills included 30 sheep and 2 domestic rabbits.
Bruno, or JJ1, has alternately disputed the alleged charges and blamed his mother – a welfare crack whore – in the ongoing case. According to BBC News, “Bruno’s mother – who is blamed for his savage behaviour – has another three cubs.”
His lawyers are seeking a reduced sentence as their client is himself a victim of a tragic childhood marred by violence and a poor mother figure.
In a statement to the press, his law team spoke of lack of motherly affection, at a time when bears in Europe are almost extinct and a young bear needs parental attention. “Without a proper habitat, young bears turn to their parents for support – yet Bruno’s cries for help were ignored,” remarked a spokeswoman at the emotionally-charged press conference.
No word was given on the whereabouts of Bruno’s father.
Germany’s Spiegel Online describes JJ1′s descent into crime: “he began his rampage killing sheep, chickens and rabbits and stealing honey in the Alpine border region of Germany, Austria and Italy.”
The French and the Spanish, in response, greeted four Slovenian bears with “pots of honey laced with broken glass.” Other Slovenian bears reported racial slurs and being told to “stop stealing jobs from the natives.”
The suspect’s twin brother, JJ2, is still on the lam in the Italian alps.
As our little book club is now reading Evelyne Lever’s Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France, I have faithfully delved into it, already reading one-sixth of it. Hurrah.
However, already I have a few questions that need answers. What was so scandalous about Louis XV? What hanky-panky was the Sun King up to? Was Madame du Barry really practically from the gutter?
To answer a few of my questions, I picked up a few books at the library and began to research.
We’ll leave the Sun King aside for now – but Louis XV, yes, I would agree with Evelyne Lever and Joan Haslip (the writer of Madame du Barry: The Wages of Beauty), that this Louis was still hot shit in his old age. Not my type, but still, check him out below.
Louis XV was famously unfaithful. His most famous lovers were:
- Madame de Mailly
- Madame de Vintimille (younger sister of Madame de Mailly)
- Madame de ChÃ¢teauroux (another younger sister of Madame de Mailly)
- Two other de Mailly sisters
- Marquise de Pompadour – with whom he later became merely friends, as she didn’t like sex
- Marie-Louise O’Murphy – a saucy Irish lass who was famously painted by FranÃ§ois Boucher at fifteen (below) as the Reclining Girl, now in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek
- Madame du Barry, the last mistress
The king also frequented his Parc aux Cerfs, the Deer Park, where a changing smorgasbord of misguided girls were provided for the king’s vast appetite.
As for Madame du Barry, was she riffraff?
Mother Anne BÃ©cu was a gorgeous seamstress who, while sewing sheets at the Picpus monastery, hit it off with the handsome Brother Angel, or Jean-Baptiste Gomard de Vaubernier. Oops.
But it gets worse. The future Madame du Barry, four-year-old Jeanne BÃ©cu, went off to Paris to live with mom, mom’s new boyfriend Monsieur Billard-Dumonceaux, the paymaster of the city of Paris and inspector of the army commissariats, and his courtesan-mistress, the Italian Francesca or Madame FrÃ©dÃ©rique.
Life in a courtesan’s household left its mark on the little child and not even nine years in a convent culled her love of luxury. A few lovers here and there, then a stint at Monsieur Labille’s fashion house, followed by falling in with the pimp Jean du Barry, le rouÃ© (“the rake”). Not quite a streetwalker, yet hardly off the mark.
Seen above in her favourite portrait, by the darling of women’s art history, painter Marie Louise Ã‰lisabeth VigeÃ©-Lebrun, du Barry is certainly lovely.
All her portraits, though, show a wide space between her eyebrows and eyelids,
a long face,
a small mouth,
and a high forehead,
all contributing to a langurous look. Not quite beauty by my standards, but then, I’ve never been into vacuous blondes.
I still find Madame du Barry intriguing, despite her looks and lack of decent personality, more so because I couldn’t help but peek 200 pages into her future and saw that she ascended to the guillotine in hysterics. Too bad for the poor girl.
Her friendship with an illuminary of eighteenth century art is just as fascinating. Young Jeanne BÃ©cu, as a grisette (“working woman”) at Monsieur Labille’s, made friends with Labille’s daughter, AdÃ©laÃ¯de Labille-Guiard.
Another favourite in the pantheon of women’s art history, this portrait painter is quite famous in feminist art circles for her self-portrait (below, with students Marie Capet and Carreaux de Rosemond).
Celebrated for its depiction of a professional, at a time when an impermeable ceiling prevented women from having any sort of career beyond opening her legs (in matrimony or otherwise), the portrait has two gushing groupies and a pompously luxurious hat that serves to highlight the fact that, yes, she has made enough of a living at her art to be able to afford an expensive example of millinery.
Eating the Edible Woman
Having read Margaret Atwood’s first novel, The Edible Woman, I have a few thoughts left to dissolve:
- “A cicada was singing in a tree nearby, its monotonous vibration like a hot needle of sunlight between the ear.” (chapter 4) I always thought cicadas sounded like robot drones, but I’ll accept this.
- Ainsley has a poster of silent film sex symbol Theda Bara (chapter 5). The actress, whose name, others have pointed out ominously, is an anagram for Arab Death, ended her career when her husband disapproved of his wife continuing her job after marriage.
- Of a foreign film that Marian considers seeing (chapter 14): “In her present state she did not feel like writhing through intensities and pauses and long artistic closeups of expressively twitched skin pores.” As a foreign film buff, I say Ha!
- From chapter 15: “He’s beautifully toilet-trained now, he uses his plastic potty almost every time, but he’s become a hoarder. He rolls the shit into little pellets and hides them places, like cupboards and bottom drawers. You have to watch him like a hawk. Once I found some in the refrigerator, and Joe tells me he just discovered a whole row of them hardening on the bathroom windowsill behind the curtain. He gets very upset when we throw them out. I can’t imagine why he does it; maybe he’ll grow up to be a banker.”
- In chapter 20, Marian’s family breathes a sigh of relief: “…Their fears about the effects of her university education, never stated but always apparent, had been calmed at last. They had probably been worried she would turn into a high school teacher or a maiden aunt or a dope addict or a female executive, or that she would undergo some shocking physical transformation, like developing muscles and a deep voice or growing moss.” Which reminds me, Taiwanese girls are freaked out about developing muscles. “No, I don’t dare walk up that hill – what if I build muscles?” Oh, if only it were so easy to buff up. The growing moss part – I am intrigued, Margaret.
- “There was a fizzling sound, and Trevor appeared dramatically in the doorway, holding a flaming blue sword in either hand.” This snippet from chapter 22 deserves its addendum, uttered by Trevor himself: “I just love things flambÃ©.”
Our first book club meeting concluded with cake-making, in keeping with chapter 30′s defining moment:
Unlike the fully dressed version that Marian made, we opted for a bikini’ed edible woman:
As you can see, the hair is the same “masses of intricate baroque scrolls and swirls, piled high on the head and spilling down over the shoulders.”
We also used the only three colours available to Marian, red, green and yellow, as well as “globular silver decorations” for her eyes. We added some globular silver decorations to her belly button.
MaikoPunk poses with the finished product before we all dug in and destroyed her.
It took us a while to decide on our next book, as MaikoPunk begged for a nonfiction work. We finally agreed on Evelyne Lever’s translated Marie Antoinette biography when we realized we could host the next book club meeting on Bastille Day!
No decisions yet on how to commemmorate this book.
Not Dead the Way You Know It
Matt, a native Texan, says that many movies are about Texas but few are filmed in Texas. After having seen Texas in person twice, I needed to see Texas on celluloid and I was up for the challenge of finding a film about Texas set in Texas.
“Manos” The Hands of Fate was filmed in El Paso in 1966 and so I settled Matt down in front of the TV to prove to him that there are indeed movies about Texas made in Texas.
Known as one of the best films of all time, the 1966 “Manos” The Hands of Fate was the work of El Paso fertilizer salesman Hal Warren and features his trademark editting style of thirty-two-second scenes – thanks to the technology of the hand-wound 16mm Bell & Howell camera.
Starring Hal himself as hapless father Michael, Diane Mahree as his wife and little Jackey Neyman as his daughter, with an uncredited cameo by a poodle as the tragic family dog, the story unfolds with the family losing their way and finding themselves at Torgo’s doorstep.
Torgo hides a terrible secret in his pants – he is half man, half satyr. Actor John Reynolds, with help of Tom Neyman (Jackey’s father and the actor in the role of the Master), designed the prosthetics from wire coat hangers and foam. Rumour has it that Reynolds wore the contraption the wrong way, causing pain and leading to a pain killer addiction. Reynolds’ dedication to film is apparent with each painful step his randy yet well-meaning everyman takes across the screen.
The Master sleeps surrounded by his six wives, all models from El Paso agency Mannequin Manor, and with real-life family dog Shanka, who, in this charming family drama*, got a starring role as the Devil Dog.
When the Master awakes all hell breaks loose, with a madcap race between the Master and servant Torgo to win the affection of Michael’s wife, amid a ten-minute brawl between the Master’s six wives. It is at this point, when the now-famous line is uttered, “The woman is all we want. The others must die. They all must die. We do not even want the woman!”
The thrilling ending brings us back to where we started, though, instead of Torgo, we find Michael in the role of the servant. The film’s denouement leaves the audience gasping, for the Master is now surrounded not by six wives, nor even by seven but by eight – little Debbie is among the brides! – the words, “She will grow up to be a woman” echoing in the viewers’ ears. This horrific climax is splashed with the words:
So beloved is this film that, in 1998, fans of Torgo tried to get the actor a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star committed suicide six months after filming wrapped up – no doubt missing the camaraderie and the halcyon highs of the two-and-a-half month shoot.
*Tom Neyman’s wife and Jackey’s mom made the famous Manos cape, along with the billowing diaphanous robes of the Master’s wives. Tom Neyman painted the haunting oil of the Master and his Devil Dog. He also sculpted the metal hands visible throughout the film. Crew affectionately called the film Mangos: The Cans of Fruit. Incidentally, only little Jackey and Shanka accepted renumeration for their roles – a bicycle for the former and fifty pounds of the dog food for the latter – the rest of the cast accepted shares in the film in lieu of salaries, so great was their fate in this classic.
City of Glass Drawbacks
Ever since watching the fast zombies of the Dawn of the Dead remake, I’ve been on the lookout for possible fortresses during a zombie siege.
Yet, Douglas Coupland didn’t call Vancouver the City of Glass for nothing. This city is a deathtrap when it comes to zombie evasion.
All our malls; goldfish bowls with a “Zombie Buffet Open 24 Hours” sign on the front. One of our biggest malls and funnest consumer experiences, Metrotown Mall, has a permeable parking lot with flimsy gates.
The other malls are hardly conducive to a Dawn-of-the-Dead-like materialist calm before the storm. You may as well wander down Robson during zombie armageddon with a target painted on your face.
Office buildings, houses and even warehouses all have copious amounts of windows at ground level.
My guess is that if the zombies do take over, I would break into a tall apartment block with fire escape that’s locked on the ground floor – one of those stairwells, you could go into from any floor and then go out of on the ground floor, but that you can’t re-enter from the ground floor.
I’d shut down the elevators, make a clean sweep of the building, throwing out zombies that have inadvertently made it in before I locked off the building, and take inventory of all the food. I’d move non-perishables to the top floor (and my personal command centre), eating refrigerated food before the zombies shut down electricity to the city.
Today I discovered that Canadian Tire – for non-Canadians, this is, at its core, a hardware store – carries guns. I thought there were no gun stores in Canada. One zombie defense problem solved.
I have no idea what Malnurtured Snay‘s “Benelli shotgun with a pistol grip and stock” is exactly – I still can’t run into Canadian Tire and grab the first Benelli I see. I am working on this.
I figure, I can also grab a few vegetable seed packets while I detour to the Canadian Tire for zombie weapons.
Working yesterday at a festival, I supervised the native plant table for about ten minutes. A woman, in her mid-forties, and her obnoxious son of about nine or ten began looking through the album of invasive plant species.
Woman: Is a bulrush the same thing as a cattail?
Maktaaq: I don’t know. Maybe it is.
Woman: You’re standing right in front of the cattail sign.
I looked down and – lo! – there was the cattail poster. I quickly scanned the poster for an answer to the woman’s question. The rhizomes are nutritious, the pollen can be made into flour and the down can fill life vests.
Then I turned to a coworker and asked him. Yes, the answer was that cattails are bulrushes. British English has the bulrush being the cattail, whereas American English has the cattail as the cattail, the latter term more familiar to me – yet Canadians, when faced with British and American counterparts, should, by default, utilize the British one. The woman seemed triumphant.
Woman: So, if English ivy is invasive, then why do respectable nurseries sell the stuff?
Maktaaq: Most people don’t know yet that ivy is crowding out native species.
Woman: But isn’t ivy as bad as Himalayan blackberry? And why do plant stores sell blackberry plants when they’re so bad.
Maktaaq: Well, some seed companies sell dandelions, for gourmet salads.
Woman: I know, I’ve planted dandelions, but they’re non-flowering so they won’t spread. And they taste terrible. So why do nurseries sell ivy? Isn’t that unethical?
Maktaaq: I assume a lot of people still don’t know that ivy is so bad, like kudzu in the early days.
Woman: Also, isn’t ivy bad for houses? Why do people plant it? Isn’t it bad of nurseries not to tell people about the dangers of ivy?
Son: Mom, enough with the talking! Look at the book with me! STOP TALKING!
I quickly moved to the puppet section. The wombat, bunny, aligator and other animal puppets seemed easier to handle. Then some guy came up to me. He was pushing a stroller; in his early thirties, he seemed toked one too many joints in his youth.
Stoner Dad: Where is the bat house tent?
Maktaaq: I don’t believe there is a bat house tent at the festival this year. Let me look in the programme. Nope, no bat houses this year.
Stoner Dad: Is a bat house hard to make?
Maktaaq: I think you just have to make them pretty high.
Stoner Dad: But could you just use a birdhouse?
Maktaaq: Maybe, but you’ve got to remember that bats don’t move like birds.
Stoner Dad: Are bat houses really hard to make?
Maktaaq: I don’t believe so, there are lots of programs given by local naturalist groups on making bat houses – you might check the continuing education catalogues or community centres. Better yet, keep your eyes on newspapers because some groups only get exposure through there and their courses fill up fast.
Stoner Dad: What if I want to build my own bat house and I don’t get into a course?
Maktaaq: There’s lot of information online; that’d be the first place I’d look.
Stoner Dad: But aren’t bat houses hard to make?
Maktaaq: They shouldn’t be too hard to make.
Stoner Dad: Where do you think I could buy a bat house?
Maktaaq: Um, phone up the *local* Naturalist Club.
Stoner Dad: Gee thanks for the advice.
My bullshit quota was running low. I edged away from the puppet table and back to the kids’ balloon craft table. Secretly, though, as a Transylvanian, I was pleased to be the bat house expert.
Inspired by the zombie armageddon imagination exercise in the Dawn of the Dead remake, I put three books with zombie stories on hold at the library. Each week I read one of the stories.
Next week, it’ll be James Herbert’s The Fog. Last week it was Neil Gaiman’s Bitter Grounds, from The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Volume Fifteen. Unfortunately, the story was about traditional zombies. Good writing but I am looking for the ghoulish zombie, not the voodoo one. Eating the living and the eaten formerly living rising up to join their brethern. That sort of thing.
Last night it was Stephen King’s Home Delivery in his Nightmares & Dreamscapes. Ghoulish zombies, yes, but not enough of them. Only mentions of the living being cannibalized – more gore, please.
The one highlight in the story lies in the pleasure this prodigal daughter of knitting got from the following two paragraphs:
The cold cobwebs of bone, which were all that remained of his fingers touched her throat before the baby kicked in her stomach – for the first time – and her shocked horror, which she had believed to be calmness, fled, and she drove one of the knitting needles into the thing’s eye.
Making horrid thick choking noises that sounded like the suck of a swill pump, he staggered backward, clawing at the needle, while the half-made pink bootie swung in front of the cavity where his nose had been. She watched as a sea slug squirmed from that nasal cavity and onto the bootie, leaving a trail of slime behind it.