Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

A Curious Crew of Castaways and Cunnilinges

Penned upon the 20th of April, 2009

It’s been a mad science sort of weekend.

We had a few errands to run for family, see. One involved picking up some artworks, which were being kept in the archives of the Cunningham Dax collection. If you’re not familiar with the ‘Dax, it’s in Parkville – just north of the University of Melbourne, within the extended range of the various Royal Melbourne Hospital buildings, and right next door to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.

That’s right, the Commonwealth SERUM LABORATORIES!! “We need a concoction that will turn ANTS into SCIENCE-MEN! Quick – to the SERUM LABORATORIES!”

Ms Merah tells me that ‘serum’ pops up often in cosmetics advertising, which to my mind is the only redeeming feature of that odious discipline. “No woman wants to grow old and die. Now you don’t have to. Our new serum-enriched formula slows the eighteen telltale signs of aging. Using natural herbs and electricity, we have succeeded in the REANIMATION OF DEAD TISSUE – the very secrets of LIFE ITSELF.”

You might think I’m making much of little here, but allow me to rebut, as you’re committing the fallacy of insufficient sample size (I love telling people that.) We next met the family for dinner – so as to most genially deliver the collected artworks, you know. And on the menu was Pinot Noir (the wine, not the Terror of Milan,) which we were informed was genetically unstable and so given to a great diversity of flavour. “EXCELLENT! My wine is GENETICALLY UNSTABLE, and my rogan josh has MUTATED! Ahahahaha!”

Just to prove there’s nothing I can come up with that is stranger than the real history of science, I was reading The Straight Dope and came across this charming piece on the history of treatment of hysteria. Much of it I’d heard before – it’s the sort of story that gets around, you know – but what was new to me was that medical vogue once decreed that many ailments were caused by a buildup of female ejaculate, which released noxious fumes through the body’s interior and impaired good health – and that this was the origin of the famous “vapours.” Now, I’ll find a few more reliable sources before I use this tidbit academically – no disrespect to Mr Adams and co., just good careful reading – but if true, it’s a truly wonderful fact.

The Lady: “Oh, darling, I feel a mite poorly. I think I’ve a touch of the vapours coming on.”
The Man: “My dear, have you not been regularly venting your potent feminine fluids?”
The Lady: “But I’ve been so busy! And you’ve been in the orchard all day, attending my abundant fruit bushes.”
The Man: “Well, something must be done before the heady odours emanating from your suppressed sensuality overwhelm us all like a horde of twittering xiucutil!”
The Lady: “Darling, be a dear and fetch me a remedy from your Serum Laboratories.”
The Man: “You mean my thunderous tides of gentleman-juice?”
The Lady: “Yes, administered with your colossal syringe. I shall tap and spurt it to remove any pockets of air.”

And so on. Honestly, once you start with a routine like that, it’s hard to stop. But that’s SCIENCE for you – it just keeps on giving.


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