Shell art

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Last updated on May 20th, 2017 at 10:25 am

Some weeks I’ll buy eggs from ranges so free that have no fences at all and cheerful hens volunteer their produce to gentle PETA workers wearing elf costumes. Other weeks I’ll select a carton from Buchenwald Farms, where caged and dewinged birds are nailed down as steroid-boosted eggs are extracted via their beaks. It’s all a question of balance.

But until this week I’d never seen egg packaging featuring the words “cage farm” plus a smiley face, thereby combining free range happiness with the misery of imprisonment. Naturally, I bought a half-dozen. It was only when I got home that I discovered a smiley face on each and every egg.

(Note: That handy kitchen golliwog securing the demonstration egg I think adds an edgy, Tate Modern quality to my little tableau. He may reappear in future works.)

UPDATE. Eliot R. emails: “I got some of these eggs this week, too. Freaky when you boil them a few at a time and they keep smiling up at you out of the saucepan of bubbling, boiling water. The smiley face seems pretty well indelible.”

Posted by Tim B. on 02/29/2008 at 11:41 AM
    1. Hahaha, I love it 🙂

      Posted by cyclosarin on 2008 02 29 at 12:04 PM • permalink


    1. I only buy eggs from unionized chickens.

      Posted by Mystery Meat on 2008 02 29 at 12:06 PM • permalink


    1. Those must be happy hens, laying eggs with smiley faces on them.  But Jeebus, Tim, couldn’t you afford an egg cup?

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2008 02 29 at 12:26 PM • permalink


    1. Mustn’t sleep.  Golliwogs will eat me.

      Mustn’t sleep.  Golliwogs will eat me.

      Mustn’t sleep.  Golliwogs will eat me.


      Posted by SSG Pooh on 2008 02 29 at 12:31 PM • permalink


    1. Happy free range polar birds sleeping in at noon owing to snowfall, ten minutes ago.
      pic 1
      pic 2

      Posted by rhhardin on 2008 02 29 at 12:39 PM • permalink


    1. Hahaha, beautiful!

      Posted by Mr. Bingley on 2008 02 29 at 12:42 PM • permalink


    1. #5: What the . . .??

      Posted by paco on 2008 02 29 at 01:21 PM • permalink


    1. Admit it, Tim: you’re just too lazy to color your own Easter eggs.

      Posted by paco on 2008 02 29 at 01:22 PM • permalink


    1. Tim, is the golliwog dating Mo’?

      Posted by Mr. Bingley on 2008 02 29 at 01:23 PM • permalink


    1. Hey Golliwog!  Stop pestering that egg and show us your Cakewalk.

      Posted by Gerry on 2008 02 29 at 01:53 PM • permalink


    1. It was only when I got home that I discovered a smiley face on each and every egg.

      The eggs were happy that they got laid.

      Posted by The_Real_JeffS on 2008 02 29 at 02:33 PM • permalink


    1. Thanks, Tim.  Your first paragraph made me spew coffee out my nose.  And if I want eggs from chickens, I’ll beat it out of them.

      Posted by Copious Maximus on 2008 02 29 at 02:39 PM • permalink


    1. Did you apologize to that doll before or after that photo?

      Posted by Gary from Jersey on 2008 02 29 at 02:58 PM • permalink


    1. Tim, how dare you consume eggs! At the least, you shouldn’t drive your car to the farm.

      Posted by RichS on 2008 02 29 at 03:17 PM • permalink


    1. Who sez GM foods can’t be fun?

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2008 02 29 at 04:20 PM • permalink


    1. Finally, the TRUE face of evil, as personified in our Eminent Entrepreneur Emeritus, revealed!

      I’m annoting an edition of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the story of the scholar who sells his soul to the Devil, and I came across the following diabolical invocation…

      ROBIN OSTLER: …Polypragmos Belseborams framanto PACOstiphos tostu Mephastophilis, &c….

      Deny THAT, buddy!  Just sit back and wait for the Inquisition; running only makes the bonfire smell all sweaty…

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2008 02 29 at 04:31 PM • permalink


    1. If meat is murder, are eggs rape?

      Posted by Parker on 2008 02 29 at 04:39 PM • permalink


    1. Enh. O/T, but how about a Detective Paco story. Detective Paco and the Idea Summit Heist

      Part I
      The huge crowd milled around in the giant conference room, munching on rubber chicken and washing it down with bottled water. There were ex-rock star politicians rubbing shoulders with beautiful actresses, and university eggheads in short-sleeved white shirts and crooked bow ties trying out amusing anecdotes on captains of industry swaddled in two-thousand dollar Savile Row suits. A female politician shook her head vigorously in disagreement with something an artist had said, leaving her near neighbors furtively plucking from their jackets, drinks and coleslaw strands of hair having a red hue found nowhere in nature. On the surface, they were a diverse lot; but there was one thing that seemed to bind them all together, one unifying theme:  an air of clueless unreality hung over this mob, like the aura of St. Elmo’s fire glinting on the backs of a trail herd of Texas cattle right after a thunderstorm.

      It was the complementary lunch being served on the inaugural day of Kevin Rudd’s idea summit.

      What was I doing there? I had asked myself that question several times on the long, smokeless flight to Australia. The Prime Minister was holding a big think-fest, where Australia’s “Best and Brightest” were going to put their heads together, consider solutions to the country’s problems, and undoubtedly come up with a bushel of ideas that would prove to be bold, original and completely idiotic. But the money was good, and since the regular law enforcement was tied down handling personal security for the B&B, I had been hired by the conference center to provide plainclothes and uniformed help in seeing to it that the deep thinkers didn’t absent-mindedly wander off with the silverware. I was also responsible for keeping an eye on some kind of award – The Golden Bandicoot – that the Prime Minister would be handing out to whoever came up with the best overall idea. Surveying this crowd, I could only imagine the kind of bone-headeda suggestion that would be bringing home the bacon. But, as P.T. Barnum said, there’s a progressive born every minute, so why shouldn’t I profit by that statistical phenomenon?

      I was suddenly aware of a ripple of laughter that was spreading through a group of people in my immediate vicinity. The uniformed half of my team was walking up to me through the press of brainiacs – and what a uniform it was. He was dressed in a khaki military tunic, with epaulettes the size of Amazonian bird-eating spiders and a quantity of gold braid sufficient to stock a curtain chord company’s inventory for a year. The leather bill on his cap looked like a tray full of scrambled eggs, and olive-green slacks with wide gold stripes on the side of each leg were tucked into brown jackboots, against which he was idly slapping a riding crop. I massaged my temples, feeling a headache coming on.

      “Wronwright, I know I asked you to serve as a uniformed security guard, but you didn’t have to dress up as a Guatemalan field marshal.”

      Wronwright glared at me. “Look, you said you wanted me in uniform for the deterrent effect.”

      “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to be deterring a peasant uprising.”

      “Well, this is all I could get on short notice.”


      In giving his excuses, Wronwright had made an expansive gesture, throwing his arms wide, the riding crop smacking a passing waiter in the eye.

      “Crikey, Colonel, watch what you’re doin’ with that radio antenna, will ya?”

      “Er, sorry, my good man. Carry on.” Wronwright gave a smart salute to the waiter, who returned him one of a very different, non-military kind.

      Posted by paco on 2008 02 29 at 04:50 PM • permalink


    1. Part II
      “Anything to report, Wron?”

      “Not much. I caught that fat fellow over there – See him? The guy with the white beard who looks like Santa Claus’ younger brother – stuffing muffins into his pockets. I confiscated ‘em.” Across the way, I saw Phil Adams pulling crumbs from his pockets and licking his fingers.

      “Is the brass rat still safe?”, Wronwright asked, glancing toward a long table on a dais at the front of the room, where the award was temporarily on display.

      “It’s a gold bandicoot, and yes, so far it’s ok.”

      So far. But there were a few odd things that had occurred since we started patrolling the conference room. Traceeee Hutchinson had slipped down the stairwell to the basement, and Peter Garrett kept sidling over to the dais – just standing there with his hands in his pocket, staring at the award. And like a giant locust, Phil Adams had eaten his way from buffet table to buffet table, leaving nothing but devastation in his wake, as he, too, closed on the dais. An unpleasant thought entered my head.

      “Wronwright, do me a favor. Go downstairs to the basement, to the electrical room where all the breaker switches are – it’s just down a corridor, second room on your right – and see if anybody’s fiddling around down there.”

      Wronwright saluted – this time catching the waiter on the back of the head with his riding crop – and quickly withdrew in good order to the basement. I edged my way nonchalantly toward the dais.

      A moment later, the great room was plunged into darkness. People screamed and shouted, chairs were overturned, jars of vegemite crashed to the floor, and there was the sound of a major scuffle toward the front of the room, featuring curses, and slapping and inarticulate grunts.

      Suddenly, the lights came back on, and there, at the dais, stood Phil Adams, Tim Flannery, Julia Gillard, Cate Blanchett and several other people I didn’t recognize, all grabbing on to the Golden Bandicoot, each person trying to wrench it from the grasp of his or her rivals. Peter Garrett and John Quiggin, to their obvious surprise, were fighting over a microphone, having grabbed that by mistake.

      Posted by paco on 2008 02 29 at 04:51 PM • permalink


    1. Conclusion
      A couple of minutes later, Wronwright came upstairs, marching Traceeee Hutchinson in front of him. The bill of his cap was hanging below his chin, like an Assyrian beard, and his nose was bloody.

      “She give you a rough time, Wronwright?”

      “No, I got her under control easy enough. It’s just that the floor of the electric room was all slippery, kinda like it had wax all over it, and I fell flat on my face.”

      “Yeah, Kevin Rudd likes to snack down there in privacy, from what I’m told.”


      “Skip it.” I turned to Traceeee. “All right, lady. Spill.”

      She was sullen, but she saw the jig was up. “Peter Garrett and I worked out a plan to steal the Golden Bandicoot. I went downstairs and switched off the breaker switches controlling the lights in the conference room, and he was supposed to grab the award and make off with it in the darkness.” She looked up at Garrett, who had just let go of the microphone. Traceeee muttered to herself through clenched teeth. “The great, spastic idiot! Couldn’t even latch on to the swag. No! He’s got to grab the microphone. The bloody microphone! Peter!”, she shouted. “First the bay, and now this cock-up! Don’t you ever call me again!”

      “What about the rest of this lot?”

      “I guess they just saw their chance and they took it.”

      I called the regular cops on my radio, and they came and took Traceeee and Garrett away, Garrett claiming, rather unchivalrously, that he had only gone to the microphone to encourage people not to panic. The rest of them swore that they were only trying to protect the Golden Bandicoot from theft. Wronwright went up to the group –  everyone still managing, somehow, to keep a grip on the award – and said, “I’ll just relieve you of that!”, sounding a little like Daffy Duck retrieving his bill from Elmer Fudd, on one of those occasions when it’s blown off by the latter’s shotgun.

      The conference center manager had shown up by this time, and Wronwright handed over the Golden Bandicoot, telling him to put it in the safe.

      “What is this thing, anyway?”, the manager asked.

      “It’s . . .”

      Wronwright interrupted. “Wait a minute, Paco! It’s my turn to say it.”

      I smiled at him. “Go ahead, Wron; you’ve earned the privilege.”

      Wronwright said to the manager, “It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

      Posted by paco on 2008 02 29 at 04:51 PM • permalink


    1. Absolutely fantastic Paco!

      There’s nothing that Detective can’t do!

      Posted by Ash_ on 2008 02 29 at 05:03 PM • permalink


    1. Well, I was going to comment on the topic, but well, after that masterpiece, I will just slink away……

      Posted by entropy on 2008 02 29 at 05:15 PM • permalink


    1. I would like to say sorry to the chickens.

      I am sorry that we housed you.

      I am sorry that we fed you.

      I am sorry that we kept you free from disease.

      I am sorry that we provided clean water.

      I am sorry that we protected you from predators.

      I’m sorry that we stole your eggs and painted happy faces on them.

      I’m sorry that we integrated you into the modern economy and made you productive chicken-beings.

      I’d like to invite some of you to come over to our house and perform a “chicken dance” welcoming ceremony.

      I’m so sorry.  Here, have fifty gazzilion dollars.

      Please don’t use it to buy eleventy-seven thousand tonnes of grain, then ferment it and drink it all.  And it would be really, really nice if you dropped this whole “pecking order” thing and stopped beating up the youngest and weakest of your flock.  Maybe if I say sorry and tilt my head, you’ll stop then?

      And we won’t mention the whole chicken pack rape thing either.

      Posted by mr creosote on 2008 02 29 at 05:38 PM • permalink


    1. #‘s 18, 19 & 20:  Jeebus Hey’ch Tap Dancing Christ P.A.C.O.

      Thats prolly yer best effort yet.

      I volunteered for the Global Womanising ‘Save the Earth’ summit, but Wron (and ‘some other folks’) wouldn’t let Moi attend.

      Something to do wit’ getting drunk and ‘abusing’ the Warmenista’s.  It not my fault them latin womens are rather sumptuous…

      Or them Chinese Warmenista’s for that matter, but that’s a whole ‘nother story right there; that shan’t be repeated here.  Even at this time of the morning…

      Posted by The_Wizard_of_WOZ on 2008 02 29 at 05:39 PM • permalink


    1. Thanks for a Saturday morning read, Paco.

      On the caged farm eggs, you have to think back to Mao and all those photographs of beaming peasants toiling in the rice paddies in front of huge billboards of the party chairman. The truth was that the peasants were miserable and terrified, starved, beaten and killed.

      So who is on the “caged farm” hens’ billboard to remind them to smile as they lay an egg a minute? It is the star of Paco’s next martial arts flick, the Man with the Golden Bandicoot – Rudd Zedong.

      Posted by Contrail on 2008 02 29 at 05:49 PM • permalink


    1. Tim’s holding a lemon, and he’s not afraid to use it!!!

      Posted by Pogria on 2008 02 29 at 05:56 PM • permalink


    1. Not that I’ve anything against the Scandinavian Warmenista’s (though they are in VERY short supply, or the Northern American [Damn the Canucks HATE being called Americans: its been that kind of night] Warmenista’s.

      Or any half decent looking female (insert *warmening* joke here) Warmenista’s.

      Indeed I can imagine more than one way to keep them warm…

      Posted by The_Wizard_of_WOZ on 2008 02 29 at 06:01 PM • permalink


    1. Oh, great. Now I suddenly feel like having eggs for breakfast, and I don’t have any…

      Posted by Nicholas on 2008 02 29 at 06:07 PM • permalink


    1. #5 Sorry RH, but I’m a gonna hafta run ya in, on account that them birds, being free rangin polar birds, are ndangered, and yu takin’ a pitcher of ‘em violated their space. Naw, that there is against the law.

      I might be pursweaded otherwise iffin one a them shows up at my backdoor. Pie or fried, don’t make no difference.

      Posted by Deborah Leigh on 2008 02 29 at 06:37 PM • permalink


    1. #5 rh,

      is that all that’s left of The Magnificent Seven?

      Posted by Pogria on 2008 02 29 at 06:41 PM • permalink


    1. Hens were first put in cages to prevent the transfer of disease between them, to stop the contamination of their eggs, and to prevent the birds from killing each other. (This is where the term pecking order comes from.)

      I have heard from people who know that poorly managed free range operations are animal welfare nightmares and disease traps waiting to happen.

      This is why I happily choose caged eggs every time – and with the money I have saved over the years, I will soon be able to buy a mink coat.

      Posted by Margos Maid on 2008 02 29 at 06:49 PM • permalink


    1. I’m taking back my ‘farm cage’ eggs.
      Sure, the carton has the Arbeit macht frei smiley logo, but not the eggs themselves.
      I want smiley eggs, not MFG* eggs.
      *Unless that MFG stamp is Y Gen. text for how good they are.

      Posted by lotocoti on 2008 02 29 at 07:26 PM • permalink


    1. #30 is that all that’s left of The Magnificent Seven?

      Yes, that’s nature’s way.  One disappeared for reasons unknown, though there were constant fights for no reason at the time, and he may have been murdered.

      Three others were eaten by an escaped polar dog (wearing white), that the birds had been unwisely taunting for weeks.

      Posted by rhhardin on 2008 02 29 at 07:26 PM • permalink


    1. Guatemalan field marshal, paco?  Don’t you mean “Argentinian”?  ;-P

      Posted by The_Real_JeffS on 2008 02 29 at 07:34 PM • permalink


    1. #18, 19, 20, Bravo!  Makes me almost wish I’d been there.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2008 02 29 at 07:39 PM • permalink


    1. Very funny reading you guys.
      Now, if we had some eggs ,we could have ham and eggs.If we had some ham.
      Archaic southern po’boy joke.

      Posted by greene on 2008 02 29 at 07:40 PM • permalink


    1. So what exactly are ‘cage farm’ eggs? What’s the difference? Is it just fancy PR for battery hens?

      Posted by Apple77 on 2008 02 29 at 07:46 PM • permalink


    1. #36 May all your wishes come true.

      Personally, I am ever so fussy about where and how my suckling pig is raised and nurtured —as these recent photos from “the farm” will clearly indicate.

      Quite apart from the ham, imagine the Sausage! The Dogs!
      (Not only “Safe for Work/Home”, but, really, a must see for littlies and others who like to say “Awwwwww…”)

      Posted by MentalFloss on 2008 02 29 at 08:04 PM • permalink


    1. OT

      Uh-oh. Looks like those islamists who have been up to these shenanigans have forgotten about next week’s Internation Women’s Day!

      By the time that top feminists like Traceee – renowned for their concern about their international sisters – are done with them, those islamists are gonna wish that they had self-detonated already!

      Posted by Margos Maid on 2008 02 29 at 08:23 PM • permalink


    1. Tim the word golliwog is un-pc.
      We have upset the pc-police.
      We may end up on a white blacklist.
      Or is that a black whitelist?
      Is this OT? Is it embargoed? If so do not look.

      Posted by stackja1945 on 2008 02 29 at 08:44 PM • permalink


    1. #38

      Dachshunds!! Awww, I love them! Great pics.

      Paco, you’ve outdone yourself. That was great.

      Posted by Dr Alice on 2008 02 29 at 08:54 PM • permalink


    1. I’m sorry to hear that they are giving away something they call a brass rat. It takes four years of unimaginable toil to earn a real Brass Rat.  THIS is a Brass Rat.

      Posted by ErnieG on 2008 02 29 at 10:21 PM • permalink


    1. paco!  That’s an absolute lie.  My uniform  was very appropriate for that wankerfest.  And once again, I got my criminal.

      Posted by wronwright on 2008 02 29 at 10:24 PM • permalink


    1. So that’s how they’re hiding the ecstasy these days.

      Posted by Craig Mc on 2008 02 29 at 10:38 PM • permalink


    1. Golliwogs or Jixiepingles. Who would win?

      Posted by dean martin on 2008 03 01 at 12:03 AM • permalink


    1. paco, I think I can speak for many when I say “You crazy, brilliant, sick son of a bitch! How am I gonna go back to work with detached ribs!”

      I stand (gingerly) in awe…

      Posted by MentalFloss on 2008 03 01 at 12:04 AM • permalink


    1. #46 Mental Floss: I am a clown at heart, so if I made you laugh, that is all the reward I ask.

      Posted by paco on 2008 03 01 at 12:50 AM • permalink


    1. Margos Maid, as one who grew up on a farm with free range chickens (although we didn’t know it at the time—we just couldn’t keep the damn things in the coop), let me tell you that chickens are vicious, nasty, cruel animals that darn well deserve to be eaten.

      Not only do they kill each other, they will break one another’s eggs.  Rotten, crazy googly-eyed little bastards.  Fried!! They should be fried, I tell you!

      Posted by JorgXMcKie on 2008 03 01 at 01:22 AM • permalink


    1. Paco, your trickster impulse is a throwback to our most ancient conditions, a sort of vestigial tale (sic) that, Baruch Ha-Shem, we wag behind us as we evolve ever more sophisticated or, cyclically (decadeently?), debased and degenerate cultural forms.

      You, trickster, are a figure of the doorway, the byway, the crossroads-one who wanders or who waits for the opportune accident, who capitalizes on the flukes of chance.

      You make this world by taking us out of established patterns and lead us down, like that rodent-obsessed flautist, those obvious (to you) yet unexpected (to us) pathways.

      Your seemingly innate ability to create or work with contingency I take to be a mark of the mythical trickster’s intelligence—Loki, Risus, Hermes, Eshu…and others whose names I would bandy about were my copy of Fraser’s “The Golden Bough” not temporarily out of reach.

      In his study of “The Fool and His Sceptre”, William Willeford observed that

      If the fool is “the spirit of disorder,” he is necessarily “the enemy of boundaries.” but since the disorder of which he is the spirit is largely contained in his show, he serves the boundary of which he is the enemy; and in doing this, he sometimes even demonstrates an authority proper to the central figure of an established order (such as the king, the president, the chief, the boss).

      It must be said that trickery appeared long before anthropology, and slips like mercury (see?) through the fingers of those who seek to define and therefore confine it.

      I’m just glad you’re here.

      Posted by MentalFloss on 2008 03 01 at 02:17 AM • permalink


    1. #45   Golliwogs or Jixiepingles. Who would win?

      I checked with Googlefight. The result:

      71,600 results

      0 results

      Posted by ErnieG on 2008 03 01 at 10:17 AM • permalink


    1. #49: I doan know, boy; that looks like the kinda stuff, what if I’d done it when I was a youngun, I’d ‘a got whupped for sure!

      Seriously, thanks for your kindness.

      Posted by paco on 2008 03 01 at 11:31 AM • permalink


    1. I bought a carton of those eggs last week.
      Findiong the smileys on them was a cheery surprise.

      Happy eggs – I love ‘em!

      #11 LOL

      #12, didn’t spew coffee but I agree – great first para.

      Posted by carpefraise on 2008 03 01 at 11:19 PM • permalink


    1. #18 “The huge crowd milled around in the giant conference room, munching on rubber chicken …

      What, no plastic turkey?

      ”…university eggheads……”

      With or without smileys? This could affect the revolution.

      Posted by carpefraise on 2008 03 01 at 11:22 PM • permalink


    1. #18. Oh Paco…Please NEVER stop that brain feeding on whatever it needs to generate these terrific tales.

      BTW, the Golden Bandicoot? The Bandicoot is US, no?

      Maybe the Platinum Echidna…?

      “there’s a progressive born every minute..”
      As, indeed, is a fabulous bumper sticker.

      Posted by carpefraise on 2008 03 01 at 11:27 PM • permalink


    1. #54: Thankee. This is a bandicoot.

      And I didn’t know it when I wrote the story, but was delighted to discover afterwards that there’s actually a real, live golden bandicoot!

      Posted by paco on 2008 03 01 at 11:33 PM • permalink


    1. Tim, re your lemon column – talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

      If only lemons too had smileys on their bums, what a feast of happy oval foods we could munch on.

      Please feature the golliwog again – I grew up on tales of golliwogs and have sorely missed them. I’m sure your little golliwog has much, much more to give.

      Surely Harry Potter could have included a golliwog or so…

      Posted by carpefraise on 2008 03 01 at 11:44 PM • permalink


    1. It sounds so cruel, caging hens… Imagine if they were people!
      Fortunately, they’re not people, but years of kiddie books full of talking animals have convinced us that they are. Nope, they have brains the size of a walnut, and are not aware of their condition. They’re not writing poetry about their imprisoned condition, or pining for the open skies.
      They’re just eating the food they get, clucking at their neighbors, and thinking nothing at all.

      Posted by daddy dave on 2008 03 02 at 12:21 AM • permalink


    1. they have brains the size of a walnut,

      A chicken with a walnut-sized brain would be the Einstein + Hawking of chickens.  They gots brains the size of peas.  Dried peas.  Only not as active.

      Posted by formerly Huck Foley on 2008 03 02 at 01:27 AM • permalink


  1. #55 Oops, it is an Aussie creature. Well, who’da thunk it?

    My mistake.

    BTW, I found a companion webpage for all Wodehouse fans –


    Posted by carpefraise on 2008 03 02 at 07:36 AM • permalink