Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Bit of History

Lisa: Okay, so everyone's familiar with Darwin and all of his big ideas, but what most people don't know is his theory on dogs.

Charles Darwin was just 22 years old when he set foot upon a ship called the Beagle during the winter of 1831. It was upon this ship that he wrote two of his most famous papers, "Dogs: Truly Man's Best Friend and Probably the Best Animals in the Entire World" and "I've Never Loved Any Woman as Much as I Love Dogs, Do You Think I Am Gay or are Dogs Just Really That Great?" In these papers, he speculated that dogs are the most evolved creatures on earth (I would have to agree), and that thousands of years ago existed a race of dogs so advanced that we have yet to discover the secrets to their technologies.

One of the many things that supported his theory was this dog painting. You may notice that the subject has opposable thumbs, which explains how he was able to dress himself in such complicated attire (complicated especially in comparison to the sweaters and t-shirts you may find on dogs of today). Also significant is the fact that the painter (who was also suspected to be a dog) was able to paint inside the lines, unlike my friends' dogs who can't even hold paintbrushes.

The cause for their extinction has not yet been determined; however, Darwin popularized two schools of thought. The first is that a great war broke out and left all but few dogs dead -- which, I suppose, is possible except for the fact that all dogs are best friends with each other, so why would they fight? The second (and more scientifically ground) theory is that this race of dogs is still thriving, they're all just really really really good hiders.

Jesse: If you think this kind of sick dog-man motif sprung whole from the twisted mind of that guy who takes terrifying photos of those gray dogs posing in painter's hats and overalls with human hands then you're wrong. Back in the 1800s people were painting dogs heads coming out of everything: vases, decorative Greek-Revival porticos, the chimneys of small cottages. It was a terrible fad and while nowadays you'd have the geniuses at Best Week Ever taking the air out of the whole thing by Friday evening people in the 19th century were much too polite and so this went on for nearly 80 years. There was even a 60-foot scene of the Battle of Waterloo at the Winter Palace in Petersburg that was painted over with dogs heads on all the soldiers and which, according to rumor, precipitated through its sheer awfulness the early death of Tsarina Anna Ivanovna from tuberculosis at age 14 (seriously).

Things had thankfully slowed down by the late 1930s when in a move that seems pulled from the latest Indiana Jones flick the Nazis began rounding up any paintings of this kind and burning them for the danger they posed to "the sanity and well-being of the greater European continent." SS terror squads raided mansions in Amsterdam and Copenhagen and destroyed untold quantities of stupid portraits featuring dogs wearing pince-nez and foppish hats with the hands of Lord Marlborough or Alexander the Great. This of course was entirely hushed up after the war because we need our villains cast in black and white and the idea that a group of monsters could have performed such a service to the world was rightfully offensive to most people.

Thanks to this paintings of this style are now pretty sought after and guys in the Midwest with doctoral degrees and careful moustaches spend hours discussing them in online forums. This, however, is a fake, you can tell because a dog would never have been allowed to attain the rank of Rear Admiral.

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