Sunday, October 30, 2005

A face you probably haven't seen on a t-shirt before

Rosalind Franklin t-shirt

How cool is this t-shirt, which I got at Canzine today? At the centre is Rosalind Franklin, whose work was crucial to the discovery of the structure of DNA but who was overshadowed by Watson and Crick. To the right is her famous Photo 51; Watson and Crick appear in the lower left corner.

The shirt was made by Kate Sage and sold to me by Peter Stevens, who says this image can be silkscreened onto just about anything you like: a t-shirt, sweatshirt, tote bag, whatever. Kate and Peter have a lot of other cool designs, too, featuring the likes of Billie Holliday, Emma Goldman, Richard Feynmann, Scott McCloud and Lynda Barry. E-mail if you're curious.

Update: You can see all the stencil designs on the Elephant Empire website!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Saturday Report: This is your brain on drugs

I've mentioned here, a few times, that I love what I'm doing, but I've been so busy doing it that I haven't had time to tell you about it. Early on Saturdays, though, the weekend stretches out before me, and I can delude myself for a few hours into believing that my workload is actually manageable. So, now seems like a good time to tell you guys about what I've been up to. Maybe this will become a weekly thing.

On Wednesday, we had a really interesting guest speaker at the Philosophy Department: Dr. David Rosenbloom, a professor of pharmacology, spoke on "Drugs, Consciousness and Murder." Dr. Rosenbloom frequently gives expert witness at criminal trials, and had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of bizarre crime anecdotes to illustrate his points about consciousness, agency and moral culpability. And a lot of interesting factoids about drugs. Did you know that if you mix cocaine and alcohol, a chemical reaction occurs that causes the effects of the cocaine to last twice as long? Budget tip for partiers! Of course, the cocktail also plays havoc with the parts of your brain responsible for impulse control, emotion and memory, so side effects may include entering a state of drug-induced automatism, stabbing your girlfriend over 60 times, and waking up a few hours later covered in blood, with no memory of what happened. Naturally, being strung out on street drugs doesn't exonerate murder. For one thing, we hold the murderer responsible for taking the drugs in the first place. Dr. Rosenbloom generally argues that a drug-induced lapse in conscious autonomy is a mitigating circumstance, and therefore grounds for some leniency in sentencing, if the defendent did not have the knowledge that he might commit such a crime, or the intent to commit it. So, for example, you might know better than to get drunk and do a lot of coke, and you might understand that you'll become a less responsible person if you do, but if you have no prior history of violence and you love your girlfriend, you probably have no idea that your actions are going to lead you to chop her up with a knife. The defendent in this particular case was sentenced to 12 years.

I am hammering my SSHRC application together, and issues of psychological determinism and moral agency are turning up in my proposed plan of study. I'm not that interested in drugs, though, and I'm less interested in rare, extreme cases than in day-to-day cases involving minor pathologies like mood disorders. The type of question I'm likely to ask will be not so much "Is the schizophrenic responsible for stabbing her child?" as "Is your clinically depressed roommate responsible for the fact that she never cleans the damn kitchen up after herself?"

Monday, October 24, 2005

You know, that pigeon story

From my site meter, more actual search terms that have led people here to squiddity. My own comments are in square brackets:

all about what baby raccoons like
"bulge in his shorts"
"The Mystery Bird" the story about the pigeon [On Google Poland]
condom pants
squid eye
stuffed squirrel theremin
zombies invade montreal
moments & whatness [on Dutch search engine]
"Angry Teens" photos
Daccia is weird
scary pickles
squirrel footprints [You wouldn't believe how often I get this one. Who knew there was such a hunger for squirrel footprint information on the internet?]
love daccia
the dark side of cute animals
humorous alligator clipart
photos of mating kangaroos [Google Aus., of course]
pachyderm squish

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Surrealist Extreme Makeover: City Edition

At one of the U of T booksales I found a copy of What Is Surrealism?, a fat omnibus of writings by André Breton. It includes this Q&A with Breton, "Experimental Researches (On the Irrational Embellishments of a City)," originally published in the May 1933 issue of Le surréalisme au service de la révolution:

Should one preserve, move, modify, change or suppress:

The Arc de Triomphe?

Blow it up after burying it in a mountain of manure.

The Obelisk?

Remove it to the entrance of the Abattoir where it will be held by a woman's immense gloved hand.

The Saint-Jacques Tower?

Conserve it as it is, but demolish the surrounding quarter and, for a hundred years, forbid anyone to approach within one kilometre, under penalty of death.

The Statue of Gambetta?

Destroy it.

The Vendôme Column?

Replace it by a factory chimney being climbed by a nude woman.

The Opéra?

Transform it into a fountain of perfumes. Reconstruct the staircase from the bones of prehistoric animals.

The Palace of Justice?

Raze it. Let the site be covered with a magnificent graffiti to be seen from an airplane.


Replace the towers by an enormous glass cruet, one of the bottles filled with blood and the other with sperm. The building will become a sexual school for virgins.

The Statue of Alfred de Musset?

The woman will put her hand in his mouth; people will be invited to strike him in the abdomen and his eyes will light up.

The Statue of Henry IV?

Paint the horse black. Reconstruct Henry IV in powder-puffs.

Imagine the suggestions he might have had for the CN Tower, or City Hall!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Booksales in full swing

At the University College Booksale yesterday I ran into Ron Nurwisah, Boy Reporter, in the mass-market paperbacks room. We combed through the bins for awhile, and I came away with a copy of Jose Saramago's The Stone Raft, but he found all kinds of great, crazy stuff -- most notably a 1950s Soviet book of predictions about life in the 21st century. It had a section of black & white photographs, mostly of Soviet technology and scientific experiments; there was one of a dog which, in the name of some obscure Lysenkoist line of scientific inquiry, had had the head of a live puppy grafted onto its body next to its own head. I am not kidding: a TWO-HEADED FRANKENDOG. It will stalk my nightmares.

I did better in the big halls upstairs, where I was pleased to find an anthology of articles from the Journal of Polymorphous Perversity called Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality, and also this. Someday, I will actually have time to read these things...

Update: Ron's blogged his finds here and here. Check it out! I'd forgotten the pulp paperback about Devil's Island -- what a classic cover!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Duck duck GOOSE

Goose closeup

On Saturday, Andy made scrumptious apple pancakes for Leslie and Austin and I, and then we went for a walk in High Park. At Grenadier Pond, I discovered that if I held my camera out and kept very still, the geese would become intrigued by it -- oooh! shiny! -- and slowly drift closer, peering at it curiously. Above is one of the photos I took; here's another, with fill flash.

And here are a bunch more photos, mostly from the Animal Paddocks. Llamas! Yaks! A peacock!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

So there!

So there, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

On a walk with Austin, Leslie and Andy today, looked briefly into a contents sale. Any bartering was pre-empted by this sign at the door, which I thought was pretty funny. I didn't really want that wine-cork wreath, anyway.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Anagrams of Brooklyn

Still swamped with work and not getting out much, so you get links instead of photos.

When Brooklyn's Flatbush Pavilion cinema closed for good, nobody bothered to remove the titles of the last movies that played there from the marquee, so for a long time it looked like this. Then...

Somebody got creative. And then it happened again. And again.

Poetry is everywhere!

(Thanks to Brian Kim Stefans for posting this link to the ubuweb listserv.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

My favourite gargoyle

Snout, originally uploaded by squiddity of toronto.

There are many, many gargoyles and similar stonecarvings on U of T's St. George campus. But this one, third from left, has long been my favourite. Look at it: it's just a snout! Nothing but nostrils and teeth!


That is all.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Mister Grouchy Pants

Mom and Hitch

On Saturday, my brother moved to Los Angeles with his psychotic cat. This photo of our mom with Hitch sums up Hitch's personality pretty well. She's recoiling in terror, and if you look closely you can see the band-aid on her arm where he bit her earlier. Hitch, meanwhile, has the truculent "You feel lucky, punk?" look that he gets when he's about to attack.

He doesn't always get that look -- often he strikes without warning. See, some cats are friendly. Some cats hide under the furniture and hiss when people visit. But Hitch looks innocent, sits on your lap, waits until you relax, then tries to take your damn hand off. The one person he adores is Skander, who can manhandle him without risk. Mom and Pazit, Skan's girlfriend, were over at his place on Thursday helping him pack, and they both yelled "No! No! Don't do it!" when I looked like I was thinking about petting the cat. Skander scooped him up and said mournfully, "Hitch, look what you've become."

Skander and Pazit had me tearing up with laughter when they described a recent visit to the vet. Hitch was a keyed-up version of his usual self, biting and slashing and hissing, but the vet wrestled with him without ever dropping his cutesy-cheerful, Mr.-Rogers-like demeanour: "Oho! Mister Grouchy Pants! Looks like somebody didn't get his coffee this morning, ha! ha!" Skander says it was like a Saturday Night Live sketch.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Elsewhere in the Toronto blogworld

Robert Fulford has an article about blogs in the new Toronto Life. Brett Lamb doesn't think much of it. Oddly enough, I'm not all that interested in blogs -- there are a handful that I read obsessively, but I don't spend much time thinking about the form. I do think Brett has a good point in deriding Fulford's point about the amount of crap you have to wade through to find anything worthwhile in the blogosphere. There's no more bad blogging than there is bad writing in all the conventional, offline genres; the difference is that the internet is unfiltered. So looking for a good blog isn't like walking into a bookstore and browsing the shelves -- it's more like digging through the slush pile at a major publishing house. And, of course, there are lots of people online who are happy to dig through the internet so you don't have to. Case in point: the contributors to the fine sidebar of Toronto blog links that accompanies the online version of the Fulford article. There's even a plug for squiddity, courtesy of Mark Truscott! Hey thanks!