Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Smart car

smart car, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

U of T students swarm round a Smart Car at the Sustainable Energy Fair on campus today. (The guys in the upper left are watching a friend test-drive the other display model.) It's so cute! You could practically fit it in your backpack! And it uses only 4.2 l of diesel per 100 km!

Enviro-friendly cars like this were invented decades ago, but I suspect they're finally about to take off in a big way. The Smart company seems to be marketing aggressively to students, which is, well, smart. I envision dozens of these in the parking lots at York in another 5 or 10 years.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bicycle, Bible, shoes

Just an odd little juxtaposition of things; taken earlier this month, when winter was really dragging on.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Stairway to...

stairs. Image hosted on my Flickr site.

I can't reconstruct the thought process that would have led someone to decide, "I think my genitalia would make a really neat rubber stamp," and then to make a large quantity of photocopies of the resulting print and use them to carpet the basement stairs of a dingy commercial building in Kensington Market; I can only guess that alcohol was a factor. Or perhaps this is a deeply personal and courageously subversive response to the ubiquity of the male gaze, and I don't know what I'm talking about.

Friday, March 25, 2005

That was a good party

[Photo redacted by request.]

Sheila Heti and m@b at the launch for Sheila's spanking-new novel Ticknor, at Stones Place last night.

I had something to celebrate too: I just found out I got into the PhD program! Years of penury, overwork, and commuting to North York lie ahead of me :-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Nifty webtoy

This is fun. Feed it a word and see what happens. Works well with the word squid.

Inexplicable object

Late one night last week, I stumbled upon something on the side street behind my building -- something I can't explain...

inexplicable. Image hosted on my Flickr site.

Here is a close-up. DEAR GOD, WHAT IS THAT THING?

inexplicable closeup. Image hosted on my Flickr site.

Well, it appears to be, erm, female. The presence of the ballpoint pen suggests it may be some kind of transcribing or recording device. My guess: alien probe. Sent by the Martians in response to recent overtures from NASA. Doesn't it kind of look like a Mars probe as re-envisioned by Tim Burton?

When daylight arrived, it had vanished. Of course it had. WATCH THE SKIES.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


PUBLICity. Image hosted on my Flickr page.

Last Thursday, Leslie and I dropped by the opening of PUBLICity, a show at the Toronto Free Gallery featuring the work of several Toronto photobloggers. Most of the photos in the show can also be viewed online, but the exhibit is certainly worth checking out. I particularly enjoyed Adam Krawesky's wall of 3"x5" photos of street life. Seeing the photos all together like that is a much different experience from seeing them on the website, and the display made me rethink my aversion to tiny prints.

Bonus: if you go to the gallery you'll also see the mini-exhibit by Marlena Zuber, in the "24-hour gallery" in the front window. Marlena's "map" paintings look like '50s Cubist abstractions which tiny people have climbed into and made their homes, and the accompanying journal pages give them added meaning and dimension. Check out her website, too -- really lovely stuff.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Made in Malaysia

Three private-school girls, about 14, on the northbound Spadina subway. They were sitting directly behind me so I couldn't see what they were doing.

Girl 1: So, I have it, do you want it?

Girl 2: Yeah, but don't give it to me now, I don't want everyone on the subway to see it.

Girl 3: Can I see it?

Girl 2: Don't give it to me now! Don't give it to me now! Don't give it to me now! Give it to me later, OK?

Girl 3: Can I see it? I'm not going to do anything with it, I just want to hold it in my hand and see what it feels like. I'm not going to wave it around in the air and yell and run around the subway with it. Seriously.

::no response::

Girl 3: I'm not going to do anything, I swear. I swear on my mother's grave. If I do my mother will die. Seriously, I just want to hold it in my hand and see it and feel it. Please can I see it?

::rustling, followed by fascinated silence::

Girl 1: Look, it says "Made in Malaysia".



The putative theme for the 30th Lexiconjury was allegedly "erotica," but there was nothing particularly erotic about it, perhaps because sub-themes included "hockey" and "Tony Danza." We arrived to find the front room of the Cameron House festooned with cowboy boots. Festooned, I say! Above, Jon Paul Fiorentino, the self-described "Tony Danza of Canadian literature," reads a story about hockey.

Dave Bidini couldn't make it due to illness, so Bill read a story of his, which was about hockey. Jill Hartman couldn't make it due to the craven greed and stupidity of Jetsgo, so Angela read something of hers, which was about neither hockey nor Tony Danza. Connor Green read the lyrics to "Tiny Dancer," but substituted "Tony Danza" for each occurence of the words "tiny dancer," and to make it more entertaining he declaimed it in the vocal style of the head of the New York Sanitation Department.

There were lots of Lexiteers present whom I had not seen in dog's years. Peter McPhee was back from his labours in the west, with photos of a house outside Nelson he's in the process of buying. Helen Tsiriotakis was back, and Steve-O was back, with short hair! Michelle Cross was back from Buffalo, with a Buffalonian named Aaron. Here's Michelle looking all sweet & innocent and fooling nobody, least of all Alana:

Saghi Ghahraman read some intense poems which would have gotten her detained, and worse, in her native Iran, but which in Toronto drew applause, comparisons to Kathy Acker, and some inappropriate hooting from the back of the room. Aaron's open-michelle reading led an inebriated female heckler to comment, "You don't know what you're talking about, manchild!" Later, a herd of us proceeded to Sneaky Dee's, where Helen encountered poutine for the first time in her life, and Steve-O said, "Dovercourt is the Pape of the west end." I don't know what that means, but it sounds meaningful.

For more photos, click here or on the photos above to get to my Flickr site.

Update: For an account of the evening that actually talks about, like, the poetry, be sure to check out Mark Truscott's excellent review.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Pickles in peril

I stumbled upon the aftermath of a pickle catastrophe on Queen St. West last week:

picklecrash, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

Clearly these pickles had familiarized themselves with the appropriate picklecrash safety protocols, because they were marching away from the crash site in an orderly fashion, single-file, as you may observe more clearly in this photo:

picklemarch, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

A procession of pickles!

(I was thinking about posting this, but hadn't gotten round to it, and then Brett posted this, so what could I do?)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Flux Factory are having more fun than we are

Man, I wish I could belong to New York art collective Flux Factory. I first heard of them when their president, Morgan Meis, published an article entitled "Devil's Work" in the April 2004 issue of Harper's. It detailed the progress of a performance/installation the group did a few years ago in the Queens Museum of Art, in which they were given a room in the museum for 3 months and left to their own devices. At first they just hung out in the room, wearing orange jumpsuits and sticking things to the walls, but then they started to get bored. One of them suggested, "We have to extend the room." A couple of others agreed. Secretive mayhem ensued, of the kind that made me laugh out loud on the subway while reading the article. A sample passage, from Day Seventy-Three:
Jean has come dangerously close to letting Seb in on the secrets over the past few weeks, but it seemed almost impossible to do. "How do you subtly suggest to someone that we may have tunneled into the walls of the museum, created a secret spy hole, and covered it with a picture of his face?" I asked Jean. He didn't have an answer. Stefany tells Seb to stand in front of the wall of drawings, and as he does, Jean, who is in the new secret room, slides the fake drawing aside and Seb can see Jean's eyeball peeking through the wall. Seb turns back to Stefany and me with a look on his face that is difficult to describe, a mixture of shock, terror, and admiration.
An article in the New York Times this weekend describes the collective's home base:
Flux Factory occupies a floor in a converted factory in Long Island City, an environment that feels a little like a cross between a youth hostel and a space station. The 15 resident members have their own rooms, but all amenities - bathrooms, a kitchen, a library, a computer lab, a dining room and a large exhibition space - are shared. So are expenses. With its nonprofit status, the collective's members survive primarily on grants, on proceeds from their art and on a talent for frugality that they regard as an art in itself.
There's a cool photo too.

All of this led me to the group's website, which describes upcoming projects like NOVEL: a living installation, in which three novelists will be "enclosed within three individual habitats" and will each complete a novel in a month, and Comix Ex Machina. Oh, wow, get a load of this:
In the summer of 2004, Flux Factory produced a collaborative work called Cartünnel. A 2,000-square-foot walk-through maze was constructed. Its walls were illustrated by nine artists working together to produce characters and a story. Depending on what route the viewer traveled through the maze, it yielded a different version of the narrative. The intention was to highlight the importance of graphic novels and illustration as contemporary art forms and to show their performance and sculptural possibilities.

This summer, Flux Factory will produce a show that follows the thematic of Cartünnel—comics-as-installation—called Comix Ex Machina. The Comix Ex Machina exhibit looks back to archaic technologies like Stereoscopy and the automated mechanical entertainment of the turn of the previous century. It also draws upon the aesthetics of interactive and contemporary science museum displays. In Comix Ex Machina, each artist will build an installation with graphic as well as mechanical components that presents a sequence of images to the viewer in an interactive setting, making the story part of an overall physical experience. The pieces will be engaging and inclusive, inviting viewers to be active participants in the art.
Opening party is June 18th... anybody up for a road trip?

Shiny objects

buttons, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

You can see a lot of Adelaide St. reflected in these buttons, if you look closely.

Friday, March 11, 2005

New David Rees comic

Well, new in the sense that I just found out about it. If you've heard of David Rees, it's most likely because of Get Your War On, the political strip he's been drawing since just after 9/11; it appears in Rolling Stone as well as on Rees's website. Long before the "War On Terror" began, though, Rees was already drawing My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable and My New Filing Technique Is Unstoppable, which are done in the same lo-fi clipart style as Get Your War On but are more silly than satirical. Rees has gone straight over the absurdist wall with his latest effort: Adventures of Confessions of Saint Augustine Bear. As this article explains,
[Rees] has added a new, religiously-themed absurdist cartoon called “Adventures of Confessions of Saint Augustine Bear” about a bison, a bear, and a hunter obsessed with killing them.

St. Augustine’s Confessions, the canonical fifth century work celebrating Christianity, “is like the most incredibly awesome book,” he told the audience last Friday, explaining the strip’s inspiration. “So well written. You think Larry David is self loathing? He doesn’t have shit on St. Augustine.”

Sample quote from Saint Augustine Bear: "The idling of men is called business; the idling of boys, though exactly alike, is punished by those same men; and no one pities either men or boys. Holy shit, does that guy have a gun?"

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Skate Boardin' Beaver!

I won this button at a county fair in the Ottawa Valley sometime in the late 1970s, at a beanbag toss or something. I have nothing to say about it except: Behold its awesomeness! SKATE BOARDIN' BEAVER!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Things to look at online

WOW. The New York Public Library has just launched an online digital gallery featuring over 275,000 images from the library's collection. As the site's About page explains, the gallery includes:
artwork such as Goya's Disasters of War; panoramic cityscapes of New York City's Fifth Avenue; classic illustrated zoologies and botanies such as Pomona Britiannica; George Caitlin’s North American Indian Portfolio; Felice Beato's photographs of Japan; reformer Thomas A. Larcom's portrait collection from Dublin's Mountjoy prison; theatrical documentation including the Theatre Guild's first performance of Porgy in 1927; decorative arts in fine pochoir prints of the same era; and rare illustrated books such as William Blake's hand-printed masterpiece of 1793, America a Prophecy.

Also included are 16th-century maps and drawings depicting the landing of European explorers in the Western Hemisphere; contemporaneous engravings of battle scenes of the American Revolution; portraits of African Americans in the mid-19th century; photographs recording the westward progress of the American transcontinental railroad; sheet music covers and restaurant menus from the 1890s; and photographs of Depression-era New York City by Lewis Hine and Berenice Abbott.

Closer to home and on a much smaller scale, I'm also happy about Christopher Hutsul's new website. As well as sketches, drawings, etc., the site has an archive of all 111 episodes of Dunk McDougall and his Li'l Buddy James, the strip Hutsul used to draw for Eye Weekly under the pseudonym Ace Hammersmith. That's a week's worth of coffee breaks, right there.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Today in 80 Spadina

This afternoon I went to the opening of Susan Feindel's show, ‘REMEDIATION: sea dumped munitions,’ at offthemap gallery in the gallery-rich 80 Spadina. That's Susan in black in the foreground of the above photo. Her work deals with ecological issues and engages with environmental science in a really interesting way. This show focuses on the Fishing Banks off the coast of the Maritimes. As she explains in the accompanying statement, "As my work tracks these distant and fragile habitats, it juxtaposes medical imagery with ocean life, bringing each closer to human consciousness and making visceral the thought, 'my body, the sea'. While resident aboard Bedford Institute of Oceanography vessel C.C.G.S. Hudson, I was able to access scientific data and video imagery as it arrives from the deep." Accompanying the oceanographers on expeditions, she learned about the dumping of explosives in these waters, the environmental impact of this, and the ocean's gradual self-renewal. You should drop by and see the exhibit if you get a chance. It runs until March 26; gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11am to 5pm.

Afterwards, I went down to the Leo Kamen Gallery on the floor below, and discovered the Cliff Eyland exhibit there. As I was disappointed to learn, today was the last day of the show, so I can't tell you to go see it, but I'll describe it for you. Called "Note Paintings," it consisted of dozens and dozens of 3" x 5" paintings, and a few copies of a booklet containing brief notes on each. Some of my favourite notes:

This is a picture of an imaginary sea on which a set of genitals has been floating for years.

This is a picture of a First Nations face in the sky, a common sight in Winnipeg on bright days.

This is a picture of a forest person, like that hairy guy in David Lynch's
Mulholland Drive. Eyland has shaved off the Bigfoot hair from the face and hands of this secretive person so we can see her eating her baguette.

This is a picture of a person having his pants pulled down in the sky. However uncommon, sky-pants-pulling-down is still possible at most altitudes.

For one of Eyland's early exhibits, he made a whole lot of 3"x5" drawings and then hid them all over a New York library, in and behind the books. Definitely another artist to watch.

Canadian Graffiti

Another thing I scored at Goodwill was a copy of a 1983 book entitled René Lévesque Buys Canada Savings Bonds, and Other Great Canadian Graffiti, by veteran Canadiana collector John Robert Columbo, with great '70s/early'80s-style illustrations by David Shaw. Much of the graffiti anthologized in it isn't very good or original -- there are a lot of one-liners that Columbo apparently failed to recognize as Saturday Night Live quotes or the taglines of famous comedians. And much of the bathroom graffiti is ancient and universal; I doubt very much that the world's first appearance of "Here I sit, broken-hearted..." was in a Toronto washroom in 1970.

Some of the graffiti, though, is hilarious, and highly specific to its time and place. The best bits are often the exchanges -- graffiti with responses added by subsequent readers. Herewith, a small, Ontariocentric selection of mostly-Trudeau-era specimens:

- Rochdale College, Toronto, 1967 (Even truer today!)

You gave me a place to stand
And a place to go
So I'll call this land
- Men's washroom wall, Ovens Campsite, Nova Scotia, 1970 (If you don't get this, ask someone who grew up in Ontario)

-If I gave her the material, could she make me one too?
- Carleton University, 1971

(This one is especially for Ward:)
- Toronto, 1973

-No he doesn't.
-Yes he does -- comic books.
-I read neither books nor graffiti -M.M.
- Centre for Culture and Technology, University of Toronto, 1973

There is no plural for grilled cheese.
- Carleton University, 1975

Friday, March 04, 2005

Best Boggle ever?

boggle, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

One of my thrift shop scores last week was Big Boggle, which as you can see here is exactly what it sounds like: Boggle, only more of it. I was trying it out just now and got this square, which seems to be as fertile as this one was sterile. If you stare at this square long enough, eventually you will see every word in the English language. Try it!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The lobster of spite

The lobster of spite, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

Not a squid, but in the same general seafood category. Possibly related to the salmon of doubt.

Seen on a Cecil St. sidewalk last summer.