Monday, February 28, 2005
Room 101 Games in the Lounge
As mentioned in the previous post, last night's Room 101 was a high-toned affair in the Drake Hotel's Lounge. Note the Deluxe Scrabble board, and the silver platter used to serve the cheesies. It just doesn't get any classier.
The new game this time was called Visionary. It was German and involved blindfolds and bits of wood, as you can see here:
I didn't get a chance to play it, but it was amusing to watch.
The fine print
Oscar and "The Academy Awards" are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Other marks of the Academy include, but are not limited to: Oscar Night, Academy Awards, Academy, Awards, Oscars, "Oscars", "Oscars!", Academia, Macademia, "Oscar winner", Winner, Inner, in, n, wi, sc, the lyrics to happy birthday, "Oscar Meyer Weiner", nominee, hominy, homily, homunculus, clusterfuck, ACPAS, Ozcar, "Hey Oscarino", and the distinct statuette. If you want to use these words, please complete the appropriate forms. Approval may take 6 to 8 weeks. No exemption is provided for use of these words in satirical works, private conversations, or dreams, either waking or nocturnal.
The Academy reserves the right to control the use of these words, to take legal action against those who use them wrong, and to annually heap toxic quantities of adulation upon those very few members of society who actually suffer from a surfeit of it. The Academy reserves the right to use the word "best" to mean "most treacly and moralistic". The Academy reserves the right to come into your home while you are out and to try on your clothes and prance about in front of the mirror pointing at itself and making moron noises. The Academy reserves the right to trade you a what for a slap. These rights are ensured by international law, as ratified by the MPAA. Protect the arts.
(Posted with permission. Thanks Misha!)
Games photos forthcoming.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Chester Brown reading
Here's Chester Brown reading from Louis Riel at the Toronto Metro Reference Library yesterday. Another packed lecture -- standing room only! Brown, for those of you unfamiliar with his work, is a prolific Canadian cartoonist best known for his full-length biography of the nineteenth-century Metis mystic and rebel leader. You can see a page from the book in the overhead projection in this photo; if you'd like to read it, the Toronto Public Library has copies. The library is your friend!
Brown has drawn comics on a whole range of other subjects, from Bible stories to scatological humour. He sees no contradiction in this, and defended his eclecticism during the Q&A: "One can have religious beliefs and still enjoy drawing mountains of feces." Religious Comic Jammers, take note.
Friday, February 25, 2005
I was bummed to learn that Goodwill will be closing its Jarvis and Adelaide location in a month or so. I love that Goodwill. Where else can you see displays like the one above? (Note the price stickers on the foreheads of all the angels. And the dinosaur. And the US flag in what appears to be a champagne flute.) Fortunately, the retail outlet is only moving to Bloor and Sherbourne. But the Buy the Pound is moving to darkest Scarberia!
The pound store is just what it sounds like: big bins of clothing at $2 a pound. Also big bins of bags, books, and shoes (see below). I believe it's where donations go before they've been sorted; it's like an archaeological dig through the raw castoffs of the city. You find the best, weirdest stuff there. I'll still go to the new location, I guess, but I'll have to take a bus from Kennedy Station to get there. Feh.
Here are just a few of the shoe bins at the Adelaide store:
Think I should've bought those plush puppy slippers?
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Spookie Boo passed away today.
He had been moving pretty slowly for the past couple of days, and not eating, and my mom knew it was time to take him in. She called me before and after the visit to the vet. She always used to complain about what a pesky whiny cat he was, but she's much sadder now than she expected to be.
Nobody in the family seems to be able to agree on exactly when we got Spookie, but we think it was about 16 years ago. He had a pretty good run.
Toronto Comic Jam, February 2005
Beer, pens, people drawing bizarre things... must be a comic jam. Quote of the night: "I just drew a dominatrix putting jumper cables on a monkey! Where else are you gonna get to do that?"
A good turnout last night. Music was provided by Damian, who is trying to get a mix-CD club up and running. Click on that link and contact Damian if you think you might be interested. Damian is also an inexhaustible source of strange biology factoids. Ask him about Professor Wigglesworth and the beetles sometime.
Here's Corduroy High creator Tyrone McCarthy hard at work on something, probably something unspeakably perverse:
The Jam happens in the back room of the Cameron House on the last Tuesday of every month. If you like to draw, drop by sometime!
Sunday, February 20, 2005
American kestrel in bird branch
The strange Lomo-like quality of this picture is the result of the fact that I took it through one-half of a pair of binoculars, then lightened the exposure and messed with it a bit using Kodak Easyshare (very rinkydink image software).
This is turning into a birdblog! Fewer birds from now on, I expect.
Mystery bird identified!
I did some Googling of bird names suggested by Philip and discovered the Canadian Peregrine Foundation here in Toronto. I e-mailed the bird post to them, and almost immediately received this informative reply from Foundation director Mark Nash:
We have several peregrine families around Toronto for sure, in addition to several other species of raptors -- both larger and smaller than the peregrine. Your photo is in fact a red-tailed hawk. Good work on the identity of the red-tail. [Thanks, Ward and Philip!] The kestrels and merlins are much smaller than the peregrine, where the red-tail is much larger. Think of it this way: the kestrel is the size of a robin, the merlin is the size of a pigeon, the peregrine is the size of a crow, and the red-tail is larger than a crow -- approximately 1.5 to 2 times that size.
While it would not have been typical ten years ago for many of these birds to be in our cities, today all the rules have changed and we have had an invasion of these feathered raptors that call our cities their home. (Something has to control the pigeons!)
We have a large web site with many photo galleries that include some interesting shots of these raptors that are now permanent city dwellers.
Thanks to the Peregrine Foundation, I now know that the smaller raptors I've been seeing were probably merlins or kestrels, although it's possible they were peregrines. If you're in the Toronto area and you see falcons and hawks about and wonder what they are, check out the Foundation's handy Identification Tips!
Also: From now on, I'm referring to pigeons as "raptor snacks".
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Looking at Flickr
So the thing that surprises me about flickr is how few of the photos suck. Log onto the main photostream at any given time, and sure, there'll be a couple of party shots, but most of the photos you see will be interesting or compelling in some way, and one or two of them will be really striking. Partly I think this is a function of digital photography. It's difficult to take a bad photo with a digital camera, and when bad photos do happen they can be instantly erased. And the freedom to take as many pictures as you like emboldens people to be much more experimental in what they photograph. True, there seem to be a lot of professional or serious amateur photographers on flickr, which must have something to do with the overall quality of the content, but anyone can join. I like to think that people who are smart enough to find flickr and sign up for an account are generally too bright to post snapshots of their partners bare-assed and brushing their teeth.
More tales from the one-hour photo booth: As well as the nekkid bathroom photos, we saw a steady stream of kinky-sex photos: people wearing strap-on dildoes, handcuffed to furniture, that sort of thing. I got the impression that the people who brought these in believed that the whole developing process was done by machines, and that humans never saw their photos. But of course we had to look at each photo to check the exposure and colour balance, so we all saw those photos, and in fact I had one creepy co-worker who printed up doubles of all the "special" pictures and kept them in a drawer. Remember this if you're ever getting prints made.
Another thing: a roll of film came in once full of photos of an ecstatic-looking woman standing next to Melissa Etheridge, backstage at a club. When the woman came in to pick up her prints I said, "Oh, neat, you met Melissa Etheridge," and she replied, "Yep. Gonna meet her again someday," which still strikes me as kind of disturbing.
Back to Flickr: There are some great public photogroups on it -- check out
Praise and curse of the city, an endless stream of pictures from Barcelona, Paris, Baltimore, Sydney, Tokyo, Montreal, etc. etc. I have to get in on that one.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Bite-sized bits of Lexiconjury
Tuesday night's Lexiconjury had an unusual sampler/assortment/short-attention-span format. It was the Toronto poetry equivalent of MuchMusic: if you don't like what's on, wait 3 minutes & it'll change! But I liked pretty much everything that was on; it was a terrific all-female roster of poets and fiction authors. Above, Sharon Harris, the mind behind the lovely & amazing iloveyougalleries.com (recently featured in eye weekly!), gives her first feature reading at Lex, under the encouraging gaze of Lexiconjurers-in-chief Bill Kennedy and Angela Rawlings.
Here's Sarah Lucille Selecky being photographed by Sharon while reading a short story about chickens:
Here are a few more pictures, not very many. I kept taking pictures of Sharon because she was taking pictures of everyone else, so it's a bit of a Sharonfest. There's also a good one of Bill waving a Bristol-board sign and looking demented.
Flight of the mystery bird
From my window, I can see the top of a tree over the roof of the next building. The top branch of this tree is dead and leafless, and I call it the bird branch, because birds love to perch there. It's usually full of starlings or grackles, and I often see small falcons there -- I think they're peregrine falcons. I've seen cardinals and bluejays there, too.
There hasn't been much action in the bird branch over the last few weeks, since it's been so cold, but twice recently I've seen this huge raptor-type bird up there. I mean this guy is HUGE. Above is a picture I snapped of him as he was flying away. Here he is in the bird branch, taking up the whole damn tree:
Who knew there were falcons this big in downtown Toronto? Lock up your yappy little lapdogs!
If you have any guesses as to what kind of bird this is, please leave me a comment.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Malcolm Gladwell was rather far away
Nonetheless, I could hear perfectly, and I really enjoyed his talk at the MedSci building at U of T yesterday. The man gives good lecture. He was talking about Blink, which I haven't read yet but which is on the painfully long list of books I want to read. It's about how most of the decisions we make -- even the ones we believe we've carefully thought through -- are actually snap decisions, made within a few seconds and grounded in instincts and unconscious biases. The notion that very little human behaviour is really based in rational thought sounds pretty Humean to me -- it's interesting how many current writers in psychology and cognition seem to be riffing on Hume. If you're interested in this stuff and you haven't read An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, you really should. As he usually does, Gladwell illustrated his points with a lot of great anecdotes. He described a study which showed that subjects formed a more accurate assessment of a person's personality after being shown his or her bedroom than after interviewing the person for a job. Perhaps, he said, the job interview should be replaced by "the successful date." I hope not: I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to hire me after seeing the state of my bedroom. And I've had more successful job interviews than successful dates.
Nice to see the auditorium packed for this event, even though it meant I had to stand at the back of the balcony. It was the same at the Charles Taylor event a few months ago. I like what it says about Toronto that people turn out in droves for things like this.
Incidentally, my current frenzy of content generation will not last past the end of reading week. I just want to get enough stuff up to justify this blog's existence. I expect to update maybe two or three times a week under normal circumstances.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Toronto subway buttons
Happy Valentine's Day
She had driven all night until the sun came up behind her and she felt calm and clearheaded as you do at such times. She went into a cafe and ordered coffee and fried eggs. She sat at the counter looking at the usual things there are behind cafe counters -- the coffee-pots and the bright, probably stale pieces of lemon and raspberry pie, the thick glass dishes they put ice-cream or jello in. It was these dishes that told her of her changed state. She could not have said she found them shapely, or eloquent, without misstating the case. All she could have said was that she saw them in a way that wouldn't be possible to a person in any state of love. She felt their solidity with a convalescent gratitude whose weight settled comfortably into her brains and feet. She realized then that she had come into this cafe without the least far-fetched idea of Simon, so it seemed the world had stopped being a stage where she might meet him, and gone back to being itself. During that bountifully clear half-hour before her breakfast made her so sleepy she had to get to a motel, where she fell asleep with her clothes on and the curtains open to the sun, she thought how love removes the world for you, and just as surely when it's going well as when it's going badly. This shouldn't have been, and wasn't, a surprise to her; the surprise was that she so much wanted, required, everything to be there for her, thick and plain as ice-cream dishes, so that it seemed to her that it might not be the disappointment, the losses, the dissolution, she had been running from, any more than the opposite of those things; the celebration and shock of love, the dazzling alteration. Even if that was safe, she couldn't accept it. Either way you were robbed of something -- a private balance spring, a little dry kernel of probity. So she thought.
-- Alice Munro, from Who Do You Think You Are?
Sunday night fever
It was the first time I'd been to a Room 101 in a few months, and the Drake Underground was packed:
There were barely enough games to go around, despite the fact that there were loads of new games. One, the name of which I didn't catch, was described as "kind of an Indian crokinole" (the large pale square visible in the above photo); another was a German game called "Hamster Wheel":
We were all intrigued by the wheel and the little multicoloured blocks, though I don't think anyone was able to puzzle out the oddly translated rules.
Afterwards a bunch of us went to Kick Ass Karaoke at the Rivoli, which was also packed to the rafters. KAK is always a good party, and surely the only karaoke night in town where you can see both 1) girls dancing on the bar, and 2) a guy with an accordion:
That's what the Stone Temple Pilots were missing all along: an accordion. Somebody alert Scott Weiland. I'll never hear "Interstate Love Song" the same way again.
Edited to add: After I posted this, I got an e-mail from Misha saying, and I quote, "That's not just some guy with an accordion. That's Accordion Guy." Well, now I know.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Room 101 Games tonight
Saturday, February 12, 2005
At that moment I realized I needed a digital camera, and a blog to post my photos to.
I told Ward about the squid, and a couple of days later he sent me an e-mail headed "The Quiddity of Squiddity", so I have to give him credit for the title. I had a feeling at the time that once I got a camera & started carrying it around, I'd never see anything as great as the squid again. Maybe I won't, but I'll try nonetheless to photograph and post some of the many other things that give Torontopia its essential whatness.
I expect this will be mainly a photoblog, sometimes a links blog. Sometimes a bit of a foodblog, or maybe an academic blog. Check back and see what happens.