The Cat, the Bead and the Corkscrew Penis

May 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

I’ve been making jewelry for Mother’s Day, hoping to see a little action on my ebay site. It’s hard with a cat in the house, especially one who likes to follow me around. I tried shutting him in the kitchen but he meowed piteously and it was hard to concentrate. So I let him out and fed him to make him sleepy, and gave him a talk about how humans have to work so that cats can be languid ornaments.* Then he sat quietly on the windowsill, watching me.

I love my vintage Italian glass beads, like the ones in the picture above. They were handmade in the late 1940’s, on the island of Murano just off the coast of Venice, craftsmen winding molten glass from the furnace around a mandrel (a steel rod) that was then turned in the flame of an individual gas lamp to shape the bead.

At one time, glassmaking was a jealously guarded craft; each worker knew only a piece of the process, and those who revealed its secrets were put to death. This was in the 14th and 15th centuries, when being put to death was a fairly common occurrence in Italy, as was death of the more ordinary sort, from plague, childbirth, shipwreck and fire. Glassmaking was confined to an island because of its danger in a city of wooden buildings.

I’ve never held a 14th century Venetian bead on the palm of my hand but from pictures, I’d say the ones I have are more beautiful. I like them better than jewels because they’re more painterly, at the same time retaining that balance fine crafts have, the material sharing the spotlight with the artist.

If I had steadier hands, I’d try glassmaking. Just the phrase “molten glass” makes me see a river idling in slow curves down the workshop floor. I want to plunge my hands in it, pull out the beautiful fish. Luckily, what I do requires technique but is more about the artistry of arrangement. Don’t you want to look at my necklaces? Don’t you love your mother enough to buy her one?

I love my mother. She put me to bed between sheets painstakingly sewn from the pages of great novels, and fed me desserts glittering with shards of handmade glass. She wouldn’t dream of letting me go to school. Wizards bespelled into the bodies of frogs were my teachers. This was on an island not too far from here, whose coordinates are still a secret punishable by death.

 *A description by my mother’s friend Evelyn of a woman they both knew.


Ned commented on how pretty the Mangalista pigs in my last post were. There was a Times article about them a few months ago and I saved the pic for a future post on pigs, about which I have much to say.

Well, not that much, really. Most of it I learned reading Boink, a lighthearted romp of a book by Mary Roach about science and sex. I discovered that boars are the only other male animals besides humans to stimulate teats as foreplay. And that sows have their clitorises inside their vaginas. (Perhaps when we get this gene-splicing thing right, we can make life easier for our female babies.) Furthermore farmers in Denmark routinely arouse their sows before insemination—done the scientific way—because sows thus pampered are 6% more likely to conceive.

It’s fun to read about these men rubbing and riding the sows (fully dressed, of course, and by riding I mean as one rides a horse), after the girls have been primed by wet kisses from a slobbery ‘teaser’ boar, and before the semen tube is inserted.

Roach also reports that artificial vaginas don’t work for boars as they do for bulls and horses because a boar has a corkscrew penis. Well, come on. If a sow can take it, we can make it. I think the boars are just being fussy.


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