1. The Movable Type upgrade has been accomplished. Comment spam search-and-destroy capability is much enhanced, and MT Blacklist is now built into the system. MT Blacklist has retained my favorite feature: the button you click on to demolish comment spam is still labeled “Go forth and do my bidding.”
2. The post about Death Masks just grew to about twice its former length. The reason I listed and linked to so many masks the first time around is that the site’s thumbnails aren’t labeled and its site index doesn’t work, which makes it unduly difficult to browse the images. Even with the addition I just posted, my own list is still less than half the total images.
If anyone’s curious, I left out the Shakespeare image because it’s disputed; Julius Caesar because I can’t find anything on its provenance; and Martin Luther because it looks slightly too awful for easy belief in its validity.3. If any of you remember Collecting bug, my long post about animal hoarding, Scott Lynch has spotted yet another story in that vein. This one’s bad:
450 cats cleared from homeThe house has been condemned, which is par for the course in cases like this.
3 likely to face charges; most animals were diseased or dead
ST. CROIX FALLS, Wis. — Shielded by hazardous materials suits against the toxic combination of feces, ammonia from urine and decaying flesh, crews removed about 450 cats Friday from a home along the St. Croix River.
A gut-wrenching stench, something akin to raw sewage combined with rotting meat, carried by a westerly breeze, attracted a bald eagle and turkey vulture for closer looks.
Inside the two-story white clapboard home, the crews equipped with oxygen tanks and air filters made their way through a catacomb of debris, including garbage bags and barrels filled with dead cats, all of which were covered by several inches of cat feces.
St. Croix Falls Fire Capt. Jeff Gutzmer called his trips into the home “like going into hell.” Like most on the scene, he had been to a number of homes and farms where from a few animals to maybe a couple dozen were found dead or dying.
“The numbers. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s beyond words, beyond description,” Gutzmer said of the dead and dying cats, and the waste they produced. “It’s almost impossible to believe anyone could live. It’s toxic.”
The home’s resident—an 86-year-old retired county health care nurse, her 47-year-old daughter and 52-year-old son-in-law—are expected to face felony charges, including animal abuse. The Polk County district attorney, working with investigators, could file charges as early as Monday. Meantime, the residents were staying at a local motel.
Authorities could not explain why the three were living with so many cats or for how long. Cats living on the main floor of the house on South River Street appeared to be more domesticated than the ones on the second floor. Many of the hundreds of cats were believed to be diseased.
After three firefighters were bitten trying to round up some of the cats, the crew decided the safest, healthiest and most humane option would be to asphyxiate the remaining animals by pumping carbon monoxide into the house.
“The cats on the second floor were wild, feral cats, and we decided it was too risky,” said Police Chief Paul Lindholm.
Firefighters attached large hoses from the exhaust of the fire trucks to pump the carbon monoxide into the house — one of only six on the street. Any cats found still alive were euthanized by injection. After the last of three truckloads of cats was taken to a Clear Lake crematory by Friday evening, the house was completely sealed and cordoned off with yellow police tape.Clearing out the cats took two days of work by the Polk County sheriff’s and health departments, and St. Croix police and fire departments, along with several neighboring fire and ambulance crews, who were called in to assist. Work began Thursday morning and was completed Friday.
If the St. Croix story seems incomprehensibly horrible, read the animal hoarding post. Note: all the links in it to Tufts University’s animal hoarding research site are broken. The Tufts site can now be found here. Many of my links were to the Tufts photo gallery, which is here. The site is admirably clear and well-informed throughout: a worthwhile if distressing read.
Addendum: I sometimes wonder whether the animal hoarding thing is a dysfunctional variant of the pleasure we take in the company our fellow critters. I don’t mean spiritual pleasure; I mean the measurable neurochemical hit we get off having someone pay attention to us. You can always have friends, minions, or sycophants (depending on your tastes), as long as you aren’t picky about what you get. Being able to command resources gets you a better class of minion; but not everyone has that option.
Animal hoarding has a strong overlap with general hoarding behavior. It’s been observed that in many cases, the difference between a mentally ill hoarder and an acceptably sane collector is the quality of collected objects and the amount of house space and hired help they can afford.
This connects with one of the weirder aspects of high-end fashionable dress. There’s a long history of wealthy people who’re heavily into fashion developing acquisitive behavior that can’t be called anything but compulsive. Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection wasn’t a singular aberration.
During the Regency, the Prince of Wales (later George IV) accumulated insane amounts of top-quality bespoke clothing in gradually increasing sizes, and in his later years gradually wore less and less of it. Pathological obesity didn’t keep him from ordering military uniforms and riding habits. He was perpetually broke, but after his death, hundreds of pocketbooks were found amongst his possessions, each with forgotten money in it.
One of the characteristic behaviors you see in people who’ve caught a case of the fashion thing is indiscriminate acquisition. Empress Eugenie of France had to have her servants maintain an elaborate filing system just to keep track of her wardrobe, and held annual public sales to clear it out so she’d have room for more. This acquisitiveness often takes the form of compulsively buying one of everything. If Jacqueline Kennedy (sometimes Onassis) liked a particular item, she’d buy one of it in every available color. The Duchess of Windsor would buy one of every item offered that season by her favorite designer, even in her bedridden final years.
Every so often, I see newspaper or magazine stories about this-or-that public figure who owns hundreds of bespoke suits kept hanging on a motorized system that parades them past him when he wants to dress. Or there’ll be some woman explaining that it’s simply impossible to dress herself adequately on less than improbably many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. That’s not sane. It’s just rich. And there’s nothing easier than spending money.
Does this mean I think these people are sad and lonely and looking for whatever happiness they can find? Not particularly. I do think they like the hit, though.
I think maybe the poor and the dowdy would like the hit too, but the things they can afford themselves are far more limited. We all know aging women tend to have pets, but they also buy a lot of greeting cards, and collectible tchotchkes, and other quick hits. It’s consoling clutter. A little old lady with a clean, uncluttered house is a little old lady who has some other absorbing interest to keep her happy.
But for people who stray off the straight and narrow of sane behavior, there are few consolations more potent and more convenient than companion animals. They’re always there. You’ve always got the drop on them. They can’t transfer their attention to some stranger they’ve met at work. And there are always more of them than the market requires. They’re every bit as unwanted as their owners, but they’re even more powerless.