Tag Archives: Dr. Seuss

Taxidermy With Dr. Seuss

Seuss header

San Diego is a hotbed of Dr. Seuss-iness, which is not surprising as he lived here from 1947 until his death in 1991.  Mandeville Special Collections in UCSD’s Geisel Library is filled with his notes and original artwork, and there is a bronze statue of him sitting at a drawing desk outside the library named after him.  UCSD also celebrates Dr. Seuss’ (Theodor Geisel’s) birthday in the beginning of March each year, and gives away thousands of pieces of free cake.  See my post You Had Me At Free Cake for a description of this whimsical event.

There is another, temporary Seuss-fest in San Diego, at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park.  They currently are showing an exhibit of his artwork including sculptures, paintings, and drawings, which runs until December 2015 (Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss).

Sam and Trevor had a half day a few Wednesdays ago, so we headed to Balboa Park, our Explorer Passes in hand.  Explorer Passes give you admission to all of the museums in the park (but not the Zoo), so we had a lively debate (as usual) trying to figure out where to go.  Trevor reminded me of the Seuss exhibit, which ended the discussion.  Off we went!

From the lobby there is a view of a vibrant yellow wall, which is hung with fanciful taxidermy specimens.  Taxidermy as only Dr. Seuss could conceive of it!

Taxidermy with Seuss.2

Here is an old photo of Dr. Seuss under one of the taxidermy heads that hung in his home, holding a little dog.  Is it just me, or is this juxtaposition a tad creepy?

Dr. Seuss with dog

Speaking of Dr. Seuss’ home, one of the first things you see in the gallery is a huge photo of him sitting at his work table.  His home sits on top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, and offers views up and down the coastline.  As a creative person, I can only imagine how cool it would be to do your work with that view outside your giant windows.  Sublime.

Dr. Seuss at desk

The gallery was filled with paintings by Dr. Seuss.  Below are a series of cats.  From the left, “Cat From the Wrong Side of the Tracks”, “Wisdom of the Oriental Cat”, “Joseph Cat and His Coat of Many Colors, and “Green Cat with Lights”.

Different Seuss Cats

The colors were so vibrant.  On the left below are “Free Bird” and “Fire Bird”.  I didn’t get the title of the one on the right.   So I’m going to make one up.  How about “Little Red House in a Big Big Universe.”

Colorful Seuss paintings

Self portraits by Dr. Seuss.  He forgot to put on his happy face.

Self portraits

Sometimes the exhibit strayed into more adult themes, like the “Facts of Life” on the right.  The one to the left is Dr. Seuss’ version of “Abduction of the Sabine Women”, which depicts Roman men abducting neighboring Sabine women to help populate their new city.  Hard to imagine a children’s book based on that theme.  It would be enough to give Cindy Lou Hoo nightmares!

Facts of Life.Sabine

This one is “After Dark in the Park”.  Who knew the little animals were so happy?  I wonder what’s in their water…

Park after Dark

There were also amazing sculptures, including, of course, the Lorax.  It inspired Sam to get all “Hand of God”.

The Lorax

Bitter Teen Trevor found his soul mate, Mr. Grinch.  And Horton is hearing a Who.


Had to get a photo of Sam I Am with some green eggs and ham.

Sam I Am

WHEW!!!  What a great exhibit.  Though they started out chipper as chipmunks, the boys found it a bit exhausting.  Fortunately there were giant poof pillows, upon which they sank gracefully down.

Before and after

If you live in San Diego or come to visit, this exhibit is up in next December.  If you would like more info on Dr. Seuss, there is a nice article from 2004 in UCSD Magazine, where the author visits Dr. Seuss’ house and interviews his widow Audrey (Oh the Places He Did Go).

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You Had Me At Free Cake

My son Sam and our friend Trevor had a day off from school last Monday.  It was a “staff development day”, or something like that.  They go to a charter school, which can do what it wants.  Their school didn’t want to have school that day, so they didn’t.

Anyway, when the boys have random days off, we try to find something to do.  Besides them sitting on their backsides all day in front of a computer.  I happened across an article in the paper (yes, I am one of 10 people in the United States who still get a paper) on USCD’s annual celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) lived in San Diego, and his widow Audrey has donated thousands of his materials as well as money to the UCSD Library, which bears their name.  She recently donated 1,500 new materials, which are display at the library through the end of March (http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/feature/donated_dr._seuss_works_may_lead_to_new_books).

That all sounds lovely, but what really made me decide to go was the part about free cake.  Also, the fact that in the 6 years I worked on my PhD and the two years I was a postdoc at UCSD, I never managed to go to this celebration.  This was my chance to make up for a lifetime of regret.  And a chance to get some free cake.

So off we went to UCSD to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ 110th birthday.  We headed to the library, and something told us we were probably in the right place.  The giant blow up Cat in the Hat maybe?

One Big Cat

There was a rocking band…and lots and lots of CAKE!

Cake + band

Besides eating the delicious cake and cupcakes and drinking lemonade (one of Dr. Seuss’ favorite drinks), Sam and Trevor got to hobnob with important people, like Pradeep K. Khosla, the Chancellor of UCSD, and Brian E. C. Schottlaender, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UCSD.  Heady times boys!


Though you might not think it, there was a point in the celebration when a drone would have come in handy.  The Chancellor stepped in make the first cut in the cake, and all we got was a nice view of the photographers.  The camera guys got out of the way soon enough, as the crowd rushed the table, desperate for cake.  Frosting flew everywhere, small children were crushed underfoot!  Just kidding, this is UCSD.  People politely waited their turn for some cake.  Just trying to spice up the old blog a bit, New York Post style.

Need a drone

After we had some refreshments, we headed into the library to check out the special collections.  They had the new Dr. Seuss materials on display, including line drawings, paintings, and color illustrations.

Line Drawings


There was also a case displaying ideas that Dr. Seuss described as failures, including a card game he designed.  It was a nice teaching moment, as I told the boys sometimes failing can be as important as succeeding, if you use it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself.  I wish I could say they lap up this and the other pearls of wisdom that continuously drop from my venerable lips, but they just shrugged and wandered away.  Tweens, sigh.

Card game

Also in the special collections section was this fantastic wall covered with “The Alphabet of Bones,” a font of 26 characters inspired by the hollow bones of birds by San Diego artist Joyce Cutler-Shaw.  Trevor is doing the Chicken Dance in front of it.  Glad to see all those acting and dancing lessons are paying off.  In my opinion, the library totally missed the boat on the signage for the campus phone.  How hard would it be to add the spelling of “campus phone” in the bone alphabet?  Brian E. C. Schottlaender, Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UCSD, is this something you could make happen???

Chicken dance

Next we decided to head up to the top floors of the library, to get a look at the view.  The person at the information desk reminded us that the top floor was a SUPREME QUIET ZONE!   This made my worry wart son Sam not even want to go up.  Trevor helpfully points out the “BE QUIET ON THE TOP FLOOR” notice in the elevator.

Inside UCSD library

On the top floor I found this incredible book, which I spent a few minutes looking at while the boys quietly ran amok.  They came back in time to help me get some pics from the book, as there were some large fold out pages.  Trevor is pointing out the rat’s teats, in case you missed them.

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

A few more fun pics from around the library.  Trevor is confusing Dr. Seuss with Santa Claus, and is asking for presents.  The library has some pretty cool architecture, you can get an idea of this from the bottom picture.  The building looks like a space ship that has landed.  On the lower right you can see our reflections in the mirrored walls of the walkway leading to the front doors.  Sam is making bunny ears on his mommy.

Library shots

Finally, the art piece below (Fallen Star) isn’t at the library, it is on one of the engineering buildings, but we saw it as we walked down the hill and decided to try to get a closer look from the top floor of the building.  We did get to see the garden and the front of the house that is perched on the edge of the roof, but only through the locked doors.  It is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I guess we will have to try to come back over spring break.

Fallen Star

Fallen Star is part the Stuart Collection at UCSD, a collection of site-specific public art pieces around the campus.  If you haven’t ever wandered the campus visiting the art pieces, I would recommend it.  Parking is free on campus on the weekends, just like the cake on Dr. Seuss’ birthday!

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