I was granted an incredibly rare opportunity to meet someone I have always considered to be a huge inspiration to me, and have since I was very young. "Weird Al" Yankovic was nearly a household name in my family. We would purchase the new albums before family car rides and listen to them on many occasions. I recall a time I even broke a cheap set of headphones in half so me and my cousin could listen to the "In 3-D" album together while one our way to a dude ranch vacation. My cousin and I actually listened to his music almost non-stop. We would dress up our barbies and have dance contests to the songs (the strip tease to "Fat" always seemed to win). Needless to say, he started my love of comedy, musical comedy, and contrafact.
For Christmas, I was given VIP tickets to see "Weird Al" which meant, of course, meeting him and getting something signed. After a month of hemming and hawing on what to have him sign, having come up with everything from a guitar to an accordion, various movies and CDs and figurines that could happen, I realized that the most important thing, for me, was that this memory was going to last forever. I wanted something I could hang on the wall and look at. Something I wouldn't worry about getting ruined through wear.
A unique opportunity arose. Why not make a scroll based on one of his songs? But then I began to hem and haw all over again because, -which- song!?
This was his original tour. It had to be an original song. It should be something meaningful. Again people gave me advice, but nothing felt right until I came across "Germs".
For those who do not know me, I am right now working on finishing my degree in molecular biology/biochemistry. It is a return to college after ten years off in order to better my education in hopes of bettering my career. As such, the song "Germs" holds a lot of meaning for me.
The last thing to worry about was what I would use for an inspiration (besides "Weird Al"). I ended up choosing The Chronicles of the Crusades, a French document from 1455.
The circular styling of the piece would make for perfect microscope images. And so I began.
Here is a look at the scroll as a whole (complete with signature from "Weird Al" himself).
I will not be posting the words from the scroll, as they are easy enough to find. If you have never heard the song, I highly recommend it. The entire scroll was done on art paper using gauche, Indian ink, and walnut ink. The signature was done, I believe, in sharpie. The black border around the edge is washi tape to give the scroll a clean feel before matting and framing.
Now, a little about the scroll.
The top of the scroll lists, in order, Ascaris, Toxascaris, Tritrichomonas, Babesia, and Demodex species. These are various different eggs found in fecal flotations (Ascaris and Toxascaris), muscle living parasites (Tritrichamonas), parasites that infect red blood cells (Babesia), and parasites that live in the skin (Demodex). All of them were things that I have either seen or searched for in health inspections of animals.
The middle is, obviously, where the lyrics reside. There is also a bacteriophage along the edge in the blue and spiraling lengths of budding yeast on either side. Yeast is something I would routinely find and search for during microscopic examinations of ear residue in dogs, mostly.
All of my favorites are located along the bottom. Dirofilaria is better known to most as heart-worm, a parasite that can live and breed in the blood and clog the heart. They can be seen in blood slides and are quite large compared to red and white blood cells. Diplydium is the egg found in fecal flotations for tapeworm. Of course, you can just gauge tapeworm by the wriggling grains of rice in the feces, but the microscopic tell tale sign is the egg seen here. Next is Sarcoptes, another type of mite that can be seen on microscope slides from skin scrapings. I have certainly seen my share over my time in labs. The next, Dentostomella, is better known as pin-worm. Although this particular species is not the one that occupied three years of my life at Rockefeller University, they look the same and still give me nightmares. Last, but not least, is the happy little smiley face of Giardia, a terrifying parasite that lives in the water and can many an organism terrible diarrhea. But it looks like a happy little face swimming around, so I love it!
Next, we talk about the actual bacteria in the border work. This pyramid shaped dot-work is Staphylococci.
Here you will see a line of dashes that can be better thought of as Streptobacilli and the square shaped dots are tetrad formed cocci.
This is the linear wiggle of dots known as Streptococci and fingers of lines to symbolize pallisade formed bacilli.
Lastly is the double formed rods of Diplobacilli and the much more squat dashes in the middle that represent Coccobacillis.
So much research and work went into creating this, and I will admit to being incredibly nervous to place this in front of him and have him sign it. It wasn't a piece of his merchandise and, of course, I am super critical of my own work, so I was terrified what he would think. So I will conclude this post with the interaction between myself and "Weird Al" during the meet and greet portion.
The line had to move quick, so you didn't have much time with him. About a minute for a picture, a handshake, and small talk as he signed your memorabilia. When it was my turn, the first thing I asked is if I could but my hand on his back for the picture, since consent is everything. After the photo, this is the conversation that transpired.
Me: If you could just sign right here, that would be amazing.
Him: Sure! *starts to sign... pauses half way and looks up at me* What IS this?
Me: I.. er.. well, it is kind of a 15th century manuscript of your song "Germs"... *nervous stuttering laughter*
Him: *leans down, still paused, blinks, and starts to laugh* So it is! That is so cool!
Me: Thanks. I'm kind of going back to school to get a better degree in molecular biology and doing work like this is a huge hobby of mine.
Him: Really?! That is cool! This is just... it is so cool!
Me: Thank you.
Him: *finishes signing his name finally and hands the scroll back to me* That is just -so- cool! Thank you! Thank you so much!
Me: No. Thank -you-!