Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Airspeed of an Unladen Eagle

Every school child is taught that Benjamin Franklin argued for the turkey to be the American national bird. Despite the eagle's less "noble" characteristics, it somehow beat out the competition. I haven't noticed the turkey prominent on antique samplers, but eagles abound. The Ben Franklins of the world must have saved their energies for other battles because the popular eagle pops its head in on the crests, flags, and coats of arms around the globe: from Nigeria to the Phillipines, from Mexico to Poland.

As with all creatures, as some point a mutation occurs. The eagle sprouts a second head, and contrary to logic, this dual-headed beast seems to thrive. This is not to be confused with the American Double-Eagle ($20 gold coin) which is quite rare, or the "double eagle" three strokes under par for a single golf hole, which is even rarer if you insist on witnesses. Earliest 2h eagle sightings were back in the 20th century BC with the Hittites, but the beast really took off with the rise of the Byzantines.

The two heads sometimes represented dual sovereignty, but many countries adopted this motif merely because, "It looked way cooler than that ordinary eagle," as one spokeman stated. The town of Berg en Terblijt in the Netherlands uses this fine black 2h eagle on their coat of arms.

Naturally, the 2h eagle motif shows up in many antique samplers such as Zeeland 1763 by Permin. Looking through my stash and WIP pile, I see it is also making many appearances on modern samplers that feature antique-style motifs such as Paradigm Lost (left) and Renaissance by Long Dog, etc.

Ripley's Museum boasts a 2h magpie. 2H snakes, turtles, and common farm animals abound. The BBC share this picture of a three-head/six legged frog (don't let him near your stitching!). There are mutant examples all over, but one must wonder why the 2h eagle rose to the level of respect and ubiquity it has, when the rest of the 2h menagerie is written off as freaks? National Geographic has a nice article written about the difficulties a typical 2h organism would face, particularly with feeding itself.

Hey 2h eagle has gotta eat, right? So if this is a video showing that a golden eagle CAN carry away a red fox, then why are these eagle stories all just Urban Legends? (Probably the part of the story about the husband cheering just out of range of the sobbing wife.)

"¡Yo quiero Chihuahua!".
And for those chihuahua lovers out there that might be offended, just add a few stitches in the tail area and say it is a cat... Unless you are also a cat lover. In which case you can improvise independently.

Monday, February 4, 2008

That's My Name and I Am Proud of It!

Ever wondered if your name would translate into something really embarrassing in a foreign language? How about your initials spelling something that was a real *PITA*. The baby name guidance of today is quick to warn parents to check that little sweet pea's initials will be as pleasant as that new baby smell. But how were the Dutch of 200 years ago supposed to know *WTF* the acronyms in today's English venacular would be. *LOL*

Really stupid, really real discussions abound on baby naming forums for some prime examples of parental cruelty or ignorance. The silliest name I ever personally encountered was Mrs. Olive Green. She went to our church when I was small.
I wonder if the LL Bean monogramming department ever had to turn someone down? I can certainly envision a worker calling his coworkers over to share a good chuckle. I know the DMV certainly does screen their custom license plates. And remember this embarrassing NFL moment? Does the International English Honor Society think they totally escape ridicule by using their little greek letters? And with text messaging rampant among our teens, new acronyms are becoming popularized every minute.

Imagine finding a steamer trunk in your elderly neighbor's recently deceased great-aunt's attic. Inside is the most beautiful antique sampler you have ever seen. The trunk even has the documentation to help date it back to 1750 (I probably need a few more "greats" in the timeline to make it work). The only catch, her great aunt's great-great-grandmother that stitched it was named Anneke Saartje Smit. Oh yeah, they were from Friesland, in the northern Netherlands, home of the Big Honkin' Initials.
Well, fortunately, that is not the sampler of current discussion. (And anyway, traditionally the Dutch did not actually use middle names in that time period.) Sampler 1761 reproduction by Permin is the Queen of the Big Honkin' Dutch Initials. Another fine Friesian example. Now here is a wonderful success story of a trunk in Lilian's Aunt's Attic that has a much happier ending.

However, my Dutch sampler did need some initials. I rely on the tussenvoegsel to give me a third inital and enough material to hopefully stir up a giggle, but not too much more. Bestina's last name was "van Drachten." So, here we are so far (the size of the crop represents the finished size more or less - we ARE getting close):
Enough little donuts to keep a powder sugar mustache on Homer Simpson all week.