Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Jam-packed Jam

Crowded comics jam
Another Comics Jam tonight, and man, was it packed. Look at the size of that crowd! In addition to a good turnout of regulars and a slew of Jam newbies, there was a film crew in the house, as you can see: Sl'Am Productions were shooting footage for an independent documentary on the indie comics scene. I wound up babbling in front of the camera quite a bit, and showed off my socks -- a birthday gift from Leslie, they have comic strips on them depicting a woman saying "Read any good comics lately?" in both official languages.

It seemed like everyone was gathering material for various projects this evening. Dave was busily sketching Dalton and me for a comic he plans to do about our excursion to the condom tree; he even got me to reminisce about the evening so he could tape-record me talking about it. And Brett was there, taking a lot of photos of Dave and me making extravagant and expressive hand gestures. Soon we will feature on Blamblog, engaged in a fake conversation. Turnabout being fair play, here is a picture of Brett gesturing:
Brett gestures

Brett and Dave gesturing!
Brett and Dave gesture
I don't have a fake conversation with Brett to go with these pictures, but he did remark pointedly on the slowdown in postings here on squiddity. Now seems like a good time to warn you all: Classes start next week, so posting isn't going to get more regular anytime soon! Expect to see new posts once, maybe twice a week. I'll certainly continue to blog, but I'll have a lot of other stuff to do too.

Update: Sure enough, here we are! Gesticulating!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Walking where the other half lives

When Jason proposed a psychogeography walk through Forest Hill, I didn't think it would be that interesting, but it turned out to be one of the more enjoyable walks I've been on. Our small group gathered at Eglinton Station and meandered south and west. Soon, we came to Upper Canada College. We thought the campus would probably be patrolled by security guards who would kick us out, but as we explored further, we didn't see a soul. The school's courtyard was dark and very quiet.

We continued on and came to another private school: Bishop Strachan, which, according to Jason, features in John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. Again, we wandered through open gates and explored without encountering anyone. We were amazed at the poshness of the school: the neo-Gothic splendour of the older buildings, the sleek glass-and-hardwood polish of the new ones, and the sheer expensiveness of every detail. The playground featured this gorgeous playhouse; peering through the windows of the preschool, we saw tiny chairs arranged before state-of-the-art flatscreen computer monitors. In the schoolyard, we tried out the slides and the hopscotch board.

The poshness continued as we walked on through Forest Hill: we'd never seen so many ornamental columns, and all the lawns and gardens were so mercilessly tended, they looked artificial. We detoured through a pitch-dark section of the Beltline Trail, then found a playground with some swings. Apparently, swings are something of a psychogeographical tradition. (Incidentally, the sprinkly bits in the above photo are grains of sand being kicked up by Jason.)

We reached Casa Loma, where some big catered party was going on, and a row of taxis waited in the parking lot. As we walked, we noticed a lot of "Lost Cat" posters on telephone poles. Alison took one down and kept it (there were two on one pole, and they seemed to have been there for awhile). The cat had been missing since June 26; he was 12 years old, neutered, declawed, and, the poster mournfully noted: "He went out without his pearls."

We had greasy food at Vesta Lunch ("Reputable since 1953!"), which really hit the spot; encountered Glen Kerr's outdoor computer survey (see previous entry); and ended at Bathurst Station. We walked from Yonge & Eglinton to Bathurst & Bloor!

Incidentally, if you'd like to walk yourself, you could get in touch with me or with the Toronto psychogeographers through their website. But you could also just round up a bunch of your friends and set out on your own. Anyone can do psychogeography!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Open-air opinionating

If you have a burning desire to share your opinions about gun violence and the threat of terrorism in the city of Toronto, walk on up to 855 Bathurst on a fine evening sometime soon, and maybe you'll find an outlet. Ryerson University Continuing Education student Glen Kerr has been setting computers up on his front lawn, with a sign inviting interested passersby to take a "3 Minute Survey." At the tail end of last night's psychogeography walk, sometime after midnight, Jason, Alison and I came across this and decided to participate. Kerr told us the results will be collated and published in the Ryerson student paper once he has 100 responses to each survey; last night he was up to 70 and 85. He said most nights he's out there until about 2, then the bars close & the drunks start wandering around, so he takes the computers inside.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The "special" tree

Field trip
Jason Turner, who moved back to Vancouver from Toronto a little over a year ago, is visiting this week, and so Dave and Dalton and I met up with him for a few beers on Friday. Dave has a little project on the go where every day he goes to Queen's Park and draws a different tree. Queen's Park is of course one of those city parks that at night plays host to, um, an active social scene, and Dave told us about this one tree that, for some reason, seemed to be a centre of activity. "I counted fourteen condoms under this one tree," he said, "and fifteen wrappers. The other trees have, like, two. I don't know what it is about this tree."

More beers were consumed, and it got late, and Dave decided we should go on an excursion to Queen's Park, because he needed to show us the tree. Which is how I came to be wandering around the park in the middle of the night with three comix artists, looking for condoms under a tree. This picture is ridiculous: Dave is all, "Look! I found some!", Dalton seems to be investigating a root, and Jason has spilled beer on an embarrassing area of his pants and appears to have adopted an attitude of philosophical detachment towards the entire situation. I have no idea what that thing above Dalton's shoulder is. It's in the other picture I took of the tree, too. Maybe the tree is haunted. It would make sense.

Incidentally, Jason and his girlfriend Manien have completed the first five-issue "book" of their comic, True Loves, which first appeared on Serializer. I'm not sure where you can buy it, but you could e-mail Jason and ask him. It's really sweet, and while it won't change your life, it may make you want to visit Vancouver.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Restless sleepers

Monday night's Trampoline Hall was on the theme of Sleep and Sleeplessness -- a topic close to my heart. As a hard-wired night owl and frequent insomniac, I've done so much reading about sleep over the years I could easily have given a lecture myself.

A high-school teacher gave a talk suggesting that as most teenagers are biologically inclined to be night owls, school should start a little later in the morning, and then maybe her first-period students wouldn't fall asleep in class all the time. The second lecture was actually an onstage panel interview: a sleepwalker, an insomniac and a narcoleptic sat onstage and were quizzed about their conditions by a guy with, in Trampoline Hall tradition, no expertise in the area. He took a flippant, teasing attitude to all three interviewees, which started to seem uncomfortably inappropriate as it gradually became clear that while two of the women had conditions which were intensely and chronically irritating and unpleasant, the third had a serious and rather terrifying neurological disorder. He came off as kind of an insensitive dick when talking to her, but she held her own pretty well, I thought. All three interviewees were interesting to hear: The sleepwalker often eats in her sleep, though she never cooks; the insomniac has frequently thought about strangling her peacefully-sleeping significant others in the watches of the night; the narcoleptic must control her emotions in intimate relationships, as strong feelings of happiness or sadness can trigger attacks of cataplexy.

The third speaker talked about insomnia as a kind of demonic possession, which wasn't nearly as interesting as it sounds, unfortunately. I think what I liked best about the evening was the group of people sleeping on mattresses onstage. Yes, those toes in the picture above belonged to one of four people who dozed away up there all evening. Misha woke them up after the last speaker and asked them how they'd slept. There's something inherently funny about watching a bleary-eyed person try to describe their sleeping experience within seconds of waking up. The woman who'd worn an iPod and sleep mask had slept like a log through everything -- music, stage lights, speakers, applause. The others had met with varying degrees of success. Psychogeographer Marlena was one of them, and had slept pretty well; she characterized the experience as "fun."

Misha: How was this sleep more fun than normal sleep?
Marlena: It was, um, tingly.

Soon afterwards, the situation on stage degenerated, inevitably, into a big ol' slumber party pillowfight:
Marlena told me she'd drifted in & out of wakefulness, hearing the voices all around her, and it had reminded her of sleeping in the living room during her parents' parties when she was a little girl, and it made her feel tremendously cozy and safe.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Post number 100

Yes! This is the one hundredth post on Squiddity!

Click here to see the photo Rannie took of me just before we were set upon by a mob of angry hippies in Bellevue Square Park.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

What waterfowl get up to at night, when they think no-one's looking

Psychogeographers on the rocks
Thursday's Psychogeography walk started with drinks at Sunnyside Pavilion, where you can watch beach volleyball, dragon boats, and distant yachts and tall ships all at the same time, while lounging under a patio umbrella with a gin and tonic. When it got dark, we wandered west along the boardwalk.

All along the shoreline, huge flocks of Canada geese gathered at the water's edge. I suppose they fall asleep there later in the evening, but at around 10:00, it was completely dark and they were still awake. They were an eerie sight, quiet but alert, paddling around in the black water.

We detoured to inspect a rocky outcropping (above), then kept going to Humber Bay Park. It's on a peninsula, connected to the shore by a series of footbridges, which at night are lit up with rows of little lights. The bridges cross and border some ponds, which look like they are being used for some experimental purpose; they have these functional-looking rafts floating in them, which as you can see are popular with ducks:
Duck raft?
The bridges and ponds and rafts gave Alison and I a strong sense of having wandered into an episode of The X-Files: Maybe the ducks are part of a secret government project! Like the bees! And the corn! And the black oil! However, no unmarked helicopters or men in black interrupted our walk, so presumably we didn't see anything we weren't supposed to.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Ooooooops., originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

Last night's psychogeography walk started at the Sunnyside Pavilion. I took the 501 streetcar to Parkside. There's a concrete stairwell that leads down to the underpass that runs beneath the railway and the Gardiner to the beach. As I was going down the stairs I heard a very loud BOOOM!!, followed by some crunching, tinkling sounds. Uh-oh. I reached the underpass and saw this. Yikes! Truck 0, low-slung railway bridge 1. No-one was hurt, but the driver looked pretty ticked off.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pretty Persuasion premieres

Skander reports:
Had the L.A. premiere last night, which was very Hollywood and surreal. I thought it would be low-key, as it's a small indie film. But no. They had to turn 200 people away at the door. Weirdly random celebrities turned up. Keanu snuck in undetected ... Two people actually asked for my autograph! ... Ranjith, my oldest friend (since Grade 4!) flew in from San Francisco. Pazit and I smiled for the flashing cameras on the red carpet, but of course only the actors turned up on the wire.
Paparazzi shots are here.

Reviews have started to appear, and the consensus is, errrm, not so good so far. This is not a huge surprise, as the mainstream critical response at Sundance was pretty bad. Audiences seem to like the movie, though. If you're in New York or L.A., take a chance! Go see it, and tell me about it -- I haven't seen it yet.

Update: Defamer's spies were there too -- check it out. Apparently some of the random celebrities were there for a screening of The Aristocrats, the Pretty Persuasion premiere was hopelessly disorganized, and things got inexplicably rowdy in the concession stand lineup: "Guys, guys! This is a luxury movie theater! If you want to bitchslap each other over some Junior Mints, take it to Burbank."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


If I know you, you probably got an e-mail from me earlier this month about this photoset on Flickr:

"You know those nerdy Cegep kids who run around on the mountain during Tam Tams fighting with duct tape weapons? We're trying to recruit an army of slow, dumb annoying zombies to go and attack them, just to see what happens. We're meeting for a potluck at 1:00pm, putting on makeup, dirty clothes etc., and then going out to do battle. You're heavily encouraged to prepare some zombie clothes beforehand (rip up some old clothes and smear them with dirt), and bring makeup if you have it."
The photos are great, and what an absolutely genius idea. (Thanks to Brett for sending me the link.) I can just imagine the RPG nerds, in the middle of their wargaming, being unexpectedly ambushed by a mob of zombies, and I still think that's one of the funniest damn things I've ever heard about.

That happened in Montreal (obviously), on July 3. Just recently Misha alerted me to this very similar incident -- a zombie flash mob in San Francisco. The Frisco zombies didn't encounter any medieval warlords, but they did invade an Apple store, which is pretty good.

Two zombie attacks in the space of a month -- and, apparently, the San Francisco organizers claim to have no connection to the Montreal people, nor even to have heard of the Montreal incident. You know what this means, don't you? The virus is spreading.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Another mystery solved

T-shirt back

I found this t-shirt at Goodwill's late, lamented Buy The Pound outlet last year. The picture above is on the back. Here's what's on the front:

What does this say?

The shirt was roughly the size of a pup tent, so I did a little surgery on it and turned it into a fitted, sleeveless top. I like it, and have worn it a lot. But something bothered me: I didn't know what the text on the front said, or even what language it was in. What if I was parading around Toronto with the name of some terrorist group printed on my chest? What if it said "I AM A MORON" in Sinhalese, or something?

Naturally, I decided to turn to the internet to solve the mystery. Regular readers will remember the success I had in identifying a mysterious bird of prey and, unexpectedly, finding the owner of some wayward pickles, after posting pictures here. I uploaded the picture of the mystery word to Flickr, and waited.

Soon, my Flickr pal Ranjit weighed in: he didn't know what the text said, but thought I might find my answer on Omniglot. I poked around there for awhile -- what a great site! So many beautiful and unusual scripts and languages to sift through! The site author, Simon Ager, seemed like a good person to ask, so I e-mailed the photo to him, and received a prompt reply. He thought it might be Thai or Lao, but wasn't sure what it said, so he put it on the site's Puzzles page. It was only up there a day or two before it was moved to the Puzzles Solved page.

So now I know: I'm wearing a shirt that says "THAI KICKBOXING."

Well, that's fine, if a little ironic, given that I'd probably sprain an ankle if I tried to kick anything heavier than a beachball. As I told Ranjit, maybe it'll frighten away predators -- Thai-literate predators, at least.

(Incidentally, I'm taking a closer look at that picture, which is usually on my back. Wow, you really wouldn't want to mess with that guy. Look at the bulge in his shorts! It's the same size as his head!)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Perils of photoblogging

Rannie, of Photojunkie, has a nifty new project on the go: Portraits in the Park. Every week he sets up in a different city park, people drop by, and he takes photos of them. My mom has been complaining that she has no decent photos of me, so I was pleased when I got an e-mail from Rannie today inviting me to take part.

Today's shoot was in Bellevue Square Park, in Kensington Market. The skies were cloudy but the rain held off, and when I showed up around 6:30, Rannie and a couple of other photoblog people were there. It was a quiet bright day; some toddlers played in the drained wading pool at the other end of the park. Rannie took a couple of shots of me with a tree and some playground equipment. Carrie wandered off a bit and took a picture of a giant toy crayon lying on the ground, and I took a picture of her taking a picture.

And that's when things suddenly got very weird. A young woman who had been over with the toddlers stormed up to Carrie and I and yelled, "What are you taking a picture of? What are you taking a picture of?!" We explained that Carrie had been photographing the crayon, and I'd been photographing Carrie. But she didn't believe us. "You were taking my picture! You were taking a picture of me and my child! I have a legal right to take your camera and smash it!" We were baffled -- remember, we were nowhere near the children. But almost immediately four or five of her friends -- a group of sharp-faced, angry teens and young adults -- joined her, screaming at us and grabbing for our cameras. One of them grabbed my arm and demanded to see the photos I'd taken. I showed her: two shots, one just of Rannie, one of Carrie taking a photo. Some tiny figures were visible far in the background of the shot of Carrie. "That's my friend!" the girl yelled. "You have no right to take that! You have to erase that! Erase all those pictures!" How she could even tell it was her friend at that size I'm not sure, but I erased both pictures (I probably would have erased them anyway -- they were pretty bad). She was still holding onto my arm, trying to take the camera away, but I looked at her face and calmly repeated that I had erased all the photos, just as she had asked, and finally she let go.

The most bizarre thing about the whole incident was the kids' self-righteous indignation, their conviction that taking pictures of your friends in a public park was illegal and a terrible thing to do (because someone who didn't want their picture taken might show up in the background). Can you imagine if that were true? Every vacation photo you've ever taken would be illegal, for one thing. There are probably a lot of places in Toronto where you might get swarmed by a gang for your camera, but you know you're in Kensington Market when they talk like you're oppressing them.

Finally, since I'd erased my photos and they weren't getting anywere with the others, the mob backed down and wandered off. It was starting to rain, and we went to the Embassy and had stiff drinks. I asked Carrie and Rannie, both of whom have been taking pictures for a long time and are a lot more serious about it than I am, whether they'd ever had anyone freak out on them like that before. Both of them had gotten a lot of funny looks, and occasionally had been asked to stop, but neither had actually been threatened.

The whole thing was unsettling, I have to say. It was a reminder that the friendly, laid-back Market, which I've lived near for ten years, has another face. (Stefan joined us at the Embassy and remarked that he's seen a lot of drug deals go down around that wading pool. "It's where drug dealers go with their kids!") I'll definitely be more careful from now on when I'm out taking photos on my own -- although, again, it's hard to think of a more innocuous activity than taking pictures of your friends in a park, so it's hard to say what I need to be careful of. I suppose the lesson here is to avoid letting anyone shifty-looking notice that you've got a camera out. I don't know. What do you think? I hope I'll still have new pictures of street art and bicycles and raccoons to show you in the future, anyway.

Update: Lots of interesting comments on this post! Also, Rannie has blogged about this incident, and posted a link to a good article about a Supreme Court decision clarifying the legal status of photographers in public places. Brett has weighed in with a post describing some of his own adventures in outdoor filmmaking. Be sure to click on the "we were dressed like this" links -- they take you to the funniest pictures I've ever seen on Blamblog.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A day in the sun

Fixing the sand mermaid
On Sunday, I went on a road trip with Leslie and a couple of her friends to Sandbanks Provincial Park. The weather was flawless, and the fact that everyone else in Ontario was there too wasn't as much of a problem as you might think. There was a long lineup at the gate, but Leslie just cranked the air conditioning and put on another CD of 1940s radio plays, and the wait wasn't so bad. The beaches are so huge that despite the enormous crowd we were easily able to find a wide stretch of sand on which to spread out our towels and beach blanket, and an expanse of empty water to splash around in. I walked along the shore and took pictures of all the sand castles, sculptures, etc. I liked this waving mermaid; while I was photographing it these two girls came along and said, "Oh look, it got wrecked!" and started trying to fix it. They told me two teenagers had made it.

When you live in the city and you go for a drive through the small towns and the countryside, everything looks like a setup for a horror movie. A derelict sign for the Hideaway Trailer Campground; a car emblazoned with advertising for Potpourri the Clown; a corn maze, offering "moonlight walks" and a "Haunted Halloween" event (which Leslie and I are dead set on going back for). I couldn't stop giggling over a shop at the front of a property that appeared to be a cattle farm and/or slaughterhouse; it had a big sign that said only "PROTEIN STORE", and all you could see through the front windows were stacks of unmarked cardboard boxes. And some things are just odd. Practical, but odd. Have you ever seen a vending machine that dispensed mealworms before?
Live Bait