Posts Tagged humor

Book Review: The Rorschach Coloring Book

The Rorschach Coloring Book, by Deus C. Wateyesee, Feaux•Afield Guides (www.feauxafieldguides.com), 2017, 41 pages, $11.95

Following on the footsteps of The Synesthesia Activity Book, last year’s break-out adult coloring book, Feaux•Afield Guides is back with the next best thing in trendy coloring book for the boutique clinical neurology market niche, The Rorschach Coloring Book. Therapy is expensive, and coloring is therapeutic, so why not shrink yourself in the comfort of your own home with soothing psychodiagnostic plates that allow you to color away your inner demons?

As you advance in the book, the inkblots vary from calming rabbits and ducks to the more neurotic, like spilt dime bags of cocaine or crime-scene blood splatters (not pictured here). But be it bunny ears or bloodstains, each inkblot will help you tap into your id through the tip of a crayon. Staying inside the lines has never been so crucial – who wants a misdiagnosis when you scan and email the completed pages to the friendly therapist diagnostic hotline, a free service offered with your purchase of each book.

The coloring plates, which range from easy to difficult, will test your mental patience and take the traditional color-between-the-lines to new pathological levels. And because everyone remembers that in kindergarten currency, a black crayon is as prized as a cigarette in a prison yard, The Rorschach Coloring Book even comes with a complete set of black crayons to ensure you can wax poetic while you discover your disorders.

 

{APRIL FOOLS DAY POST 2017}

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Book Review: The Synesthesia Activity Book

Synesth_CoverThe Synesthesia Activity Book, by Dior-Ian Grey, Feaux•Afield Guides (www.feauxafieldguides.com), 2016, 41 pages, $11.95

As the popularity of adult coloring books continues to grow, so too has the niche market catering to increasingly smaller circles of consumers (like hipsters and neck-beard enthusiasts). The Synesthesia Activity Book – a trendy coloring book that marks Feaux•Afield Guides‘ recent foray into the boutique clinical neurology market – panders to the 1 in 2,000 people suspected of having synesthesia. For synesthetes – those that experience a neurological phenomenon in their everyday lives that involves an overlap or ‘cross-talk’ of the five senses (touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing) – the clockwork is orange, The Green Mile describes their daily commute, and oranges are the new black.

Simply put, synesthesia (also, synaesthesia) is a “union of the senses,” or deferring to a slightly more clinical definition, when “stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to an automatic and involuntary experience in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” It means seeing clouds and involuntarily smelling bananas or wet dog; hearing the word ‘Kevin’ and tasting baby powder; or experiencing the calendar or days of the week in colors. Synesthesia is bath salts without the socially-awkward side effect, “user may experience flesh-eating-zombie urges.”

The list of synesthetes that have walked among us may surprise you: Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who experienced colors when speaking or reading letters and words; American composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington, who experienced colors when he made music; and former professional American road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong, who experimented with doping when faced with ordinariness. Armstrong excluded (it’s true, Lance is no more a synesthete than he is an athlete [assthlete??] – I just felt like kicking him while he’s down), the Nabokovs and Ellingtons of the world tend to share the stage with other prodigies like artist Vincent Van Gogh, physicist Richard Feynman, inventor Nikola Tesla, and singer/songwriters Tori Amos, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, and Kanye West.

Knowing that genius walks among us in synesthete shoes, the normal-Normans and -Nancy’s of the world should be asking themselves, “Why should synesthetes have all the fun?” If your clockwork is as gray as your commute, why should you settle for coloring by numbers when you can number by colors? Enter The Synesthesia Activity Book, whose every page turns those fifty shades of gray into scarlet letters.

Ranging from easy to difficult, this awe-perspiring book’s activities range from the traditional draw-a-line-between-this-and-that to the more challenging complete-the-picture, all with a synesthetic twist. When you are drawing a line, you are identifying the association between a word (“chainsaw”) and it’s corresponding taste (“raw eggs”), the ‘lexical-gustatory’ (word to taste) form of synesthesia. Likewise, to complete the hidden picture, you need only read a string of numbers and apply the subsequent lines that automatically and involuntarily appear in your mind’s eye to the partial picture (a medieval wizard’s hat and sword) using the mind-boggling ‘number form’ (numbers to spatial placement) type of synesthesia. My personal favorite is the number by color page, in which a fraternity sofa magically appears out of a scribble of lines as you replace each colored dot with its corresponding number to connect the dots and reveal the hidden picture.

 

Despite a recent report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse concerning a surge in the abuse of pairing The Synesthesia Activity Book with Mr. Sketch Scented Markers™, a combination known as “sketching” that purportedly results in hallucinogenic episodes that put the fear and loathing in Las Vegas, Feaux•Afield Guides plans to begin shipping additional titles in early April the first chance they get, including Sticker Stencils, Scratch & Sniff Temporary Tattoos, and The Dyslexic’s Ulitmate Wrod Saerch Pzuzsel.

 

For a limited time, these six introductory coloring pages are available for download as .pdfs – get yours today.

{APRIL FOOLS DAY POST 2015}

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Book Review: The Monochotomous Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Metropolitan San Francisco Bay Region – A Diagnostic Key

Mono-Page-1-Title_web

The Monochotomous Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Metropolitan San Francisco Bay Region – A Diagnostic Key, by Skóla Per-Hús Degrasse, Feaux•Afield Guides (www.feauxafieldguides.com), 2015, 401 pages, $89.95

Over the centuries, traditional field identification keys have proven clumsy, confusing, and unreliable for everyday scientists. Especially in the herpetological community, the battle between diagnosticians and field biologists has proven especially messy. The surprising dearth today of keys in the field of herpetology stems from a long-pitched battle between proponents of the synoptic (taxonomic) and diagnostic key camps, and the appropriateness of dichotomous (bifurcating) versus polytomous (multifurcating) keys.

Take for example the following schema. When presented with a couplet offering two leads in the traditional diagnostic dichotomous key to California’s hodgepodge of slender salamanders, the operator is left stranded in a sea of keels and folds:

39.1-7a. Dorsolateral fold hirsute, marginal scales abruptly to gently keeled, axilla-to-groin interstice hourglass-shaped
39.1-7b. Dorsolateral fold naked to downy, marginal scales gently to abruptly keeled, axilla-to-groin interstice empire waist-shaped

And let’s face it – not every field biologist has the luxury of having a specimen in hand to count inguinal folds or nasolabial scutes. Recognizing the need for a linear identification key, Occidentalis College Professor Skóla Per-Hús Degrasse of western Fen’s lizard fame has developed the world’s first monochotomous key to San Francisco Bay Area herptiles. The basis of the Degrasse Monochotomous Key is the ‘Quid est Cascade’ – simply turn to the monochotomous key, ask yourself “What is it I saw?”, and work your way down the cascade of species names until you find the salamander or frog or lizard or snake or turtle you saw. When you come across the correct species, look to the right-hand side of the page for a page number. There, in line with the simplicity of the Degrasse Monochotomous Key, each resulting photo-profile includes four color photographs and the species’ common and scientific name. Look at the pictures and ask yourself, “Is it a _____ I saw?” If not, turn back to the start of the monochotomous key and start again. TOC Grab By implementing a schema no more sophisticated than a table of contents, this singular guide has already revolutionized the world of field diagnostics. Williams Harland, editor in chief at Feaux•Afield Guides, likens the Degrasse Monochotomous Key to the proverbial 7-Minute Abs. “You walk into a book store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin’ there, there’s 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you going to pick? There’s something about marrying science and simplicity that makes this key so ingenious. Where other keys are tedious, laborious manuals that demand a meticulous understanding of anatomical minutiae, the Degrasse guide is like picking up a coffee table book.”

“The snakes in Degrasse’s guide, for example, key out with little more than a flip of the page,” says Harland, who has been watching Degrasse grow under his feat of taking the key from concept to completion. “Demand on Degrasse’s knowledge has shaped this guide into the real deal, a plausible book depository of all things herpetological.”

Printed on archival, heavy-stock 12′ x 19′ folio sheets, the final presentation of this exquisite hardbound guide includes decorative gilt boards, spine, and edges, a water-proof tooled Moroccan leather-bound presentation box (to protect it against the elements during field work), and ribbon marker. The Monochotomous Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Metropolitan San Francisco Bay Region – A Diagnostic Key is slated to hit bookshelves April 1st.

{APRIL FOOLS DAY POST 2015}

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Book Review: Aviary Wonders Inc.

Aviary9780547978994_lresAviary Wonders Inc., Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual, by Kate Samworth, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (http://www.hmhco.com), 2014, 32 pages, $17.99

In Kate Samworth’s debut children’s book, the world has stumbled into a dark future fantasy where deforestation has brought birds to the edge of extinction, and Aviary Wonders Inc. visionary Alfred Wallis (surely no relation to Alfred Russel Wallace) has mass-manufactured a solution – a build-a-bird catalogue (and instruction manual). In the spirit of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogs from the days of old, Aviary Wonders Inc. encourages nostalgic nature lovers of the future to create their own birds from hand-crafted parts lovingly shaped and detailed by world-class artisans around the globe. From feathers fletched in 100% Indian silk to hand-tooled Italian leather legs, this spring catalogue is a veritable bird buffet of ready-to-assemble parts.

Told tongue in cheek through dark, exotic copy reminiscent of the J. Peterman Company, Samworth marshals the absurd to drive home how irreplaceable birds are. But in doing so, the dark comedy hits a little too close to home. Rightfully so, the screw-on legs, the gaudy-tacky feathers, the Celtic scrollwork-tooled beaks, and the buckle-and-strap crest and beak harnesses are all too alien to make peace with. Children who aren’t bedazzled by the playful presentation and silly premise may instead find it simply alienating (naked birds without beaks and feet). Hopefully, parents will take advantage of any discomfort and channel it into conversations about extinction and conservation, the hidden message in this post-cataclysmic catalogue.

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Western ‘Fens’ Lizard? – Occidental Tourist Helps Herpetologists Mend Fences

HERP BS

{APRIL FOOLS DAY POST 2014}

Across the Pacific West Coast, the western fence lizard is today an ubiquitous fixture in the landscape. Heedless of its heritage, this bucolic blue-belly, a true blue-blooded ambassador among reptiles, basks with reckless abandon in flagrant disregard for its purported preferred niche – western fences. Be it gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, or doghouse, be the surface vertical or horizontal, this gravity defying swift of the sun-burnt savanna has colonized habitats that defy its very nomenclature. Until recently, scientists had long wondered about the etymological origins of a species so Catholic in its present distribution it has been called the street pigeon of the oak savanna. This year, startling new research at last answers the age-old question, “What was a fence lizard before there were fences?”

According to field notes recently discovered in the collection of Occidentalis College, it appears the answer originates from a divine comedy of errors involving the species’ discovery by the heretofore unknown naturalist Ebrill Ferst Fens coinciding with the passing of an agricultural era. Writing in the new academic journal, Herpetological Errata, Redactum, and Polemics: Biological Sciences (B.S.), Occidentalis College Professor Skóla Per-Hús Degrasse’s carefully researched monograph recounts Fens’ early fall from grace and later claim to fame.

Ebrill Ferst Fens: Inventor, prospector, naturalist, poet.

Ebrill Ferst Fens: Inventor, prospector, naturalist, poet, and fence lizard namesake.

As a young man growing up in Paris, Ebrill Ferst Fens (1822-1873) was an avid outdoorsman, entrepreneur, and inventor. His first inventions included the ‘froide fusion’ bandage wrap, a cloth binding whose adhesive would persist in below-freezing temperatures. This was later followed by a children’s toy he dubbed the ‘flying saucer,’ a tea dish capable of flight. Fens’ trademark neck beard – another of his innovations, grown to prevent mealtime ‘crumblies’ from encroaching below his chin to intrude beneath his shirt collar, causing an unsightly nipple rash – was a vanity of his that set the young man apart from the flock. But it was Fens’ controversial ‘water dousing’ – the process by which he purported one could manufacture concentrated Holy Water by thrashing it with a divine rod – that ultimately sent Fens abroad fleeing his queue of debtors. Impoverished and disillusioned, in 1849 Fens struck out for the boom-towns of California to find his fortune.

But throat-frocked Fens was no gold-standard among Sierra miners. By 1850, having burned through his limited savings in the goldfields, the down-on-his-luck entrepreneur-turned-Forty-Niner packed in his pans and returned to the coast to retire and regroup in bustling San Francisco. There Fens found himself on the streets, taking shelter beneath vegetable carts in the many great open-air market stalls throughout the city by night, wandering the countryside by day. Having heard that ‘scientifics’ at the Smithsonian Institution’s U.S. National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History) were endeavoring to make a collection of California natural history objects, Fens began collecting curiosities discovered during his walks. On one of his many perambulations, Fens one day recorded a species of lizard he thought new to science:

April 1851

On this the First of Fourth-month, I today discovered a terrestrial, rough-scaled lizard of unusual markings. This specimen I have collected bears upon it an azure tiling upon the venter the likes of which remained by me unseen until today. This skye-dyed creature so reminds me of the mythic blue rock lobster of the Atlantic waters in colouration and scarcity, I have come to think of this creature like a terrestrial rock lobster. In my travels here outside the city limits, I have seen it with some regularity on sunny days at but a single location, perched upon a forgotten fence rail where elsewhere the fence has fallen into disrepair and is no longer. There upon its salient overlook, it performs a display both comical and intriguing. I can only describe its rhythmic dance as a sort of ventral-thrusting, erecting and then prostrating itself alternatingly on the axis of its forelimbs, much like a pugilist training before a match. For what reason it performs this behavior it is beyond me to ascertain, as it clearly has no brethren here upon this lichen-laced fence with which to communicate, court, or threaten. I can only speculate how much greater in numbers this spiny saurid might be were there more miles of fence upon which to perch. Then, perhaps it could be said good fences make more neighbors.

Western Fens' Lizard

The Western Fens Lizard

Fens collected the lizard and mailed the specimen – pickled in a jam jar of rotgut whiskey – back east to naturalists Spencer F. Baird and Charles F. Girard along with a transcription of his field notes. In 1852, Baird and Girard published a note in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia entitled “Descriptions of New Species of Reptiles.” Therein, they dubbed the species the ‘western Fens lizard’ after its discoverer, a common name they thought superior to the alternative name proposed, the  ‘blue-bellied lizard’.

Fens had returned from the gold fields destitute, but the correspondences he established with Baird and Girard developed into the occasional exchange of floral and faunal specimens he shipped back east to supply their studies (i.e., the Fens dingo [coyote], Fens whale, purple Fench, sweet Fennel). The reimbursements for these specimens paired with various odd jobs payed for the itinerant some-time naturalist’s next undertaking in 1860, poetry. Fens soon became a florid fixture in early San Francisco markets, where he became known among market-goers as the ‘lizard king.’ But Fens’ life of sundry accomplishments was cut short in 1873, when he succumbed to one of San Francisco’s inclement summer nights. A grocer who frequented the markets knew enough of Fens’ eclectic life to collect his few belongings, among them Fens’ journal, and mail them to the grocer’s brother-in-law, a professor of natural sciences at Occidentalis College. And there Fens’ work was accessioned, then inexplicably lost for more than a century until 2012, when the beet-juice-stained journal was rediscovered by an enterprising sociology graduate student who stumbled across the jumble of poetry and natural history field notes cataloged with manuscripts about 1960’s counterculture under ‘beet poetry’.

Fens never learned his rock lobster had been named in honor of his contributions to science, nor did he live to see his prognostications concerning the perceived scarcity of the species bear fruit. During the last few years of Fens’ life, there developed a shift in the local economy beyond San Francisco’s city limits, from cattle farming to grain farming. With this change came the passage of California’s “No-Fence Law” in 1874, which repealed the Trespass Act of 1850 and resulted in the exponential growth of fences as ranchers hastened to fence in their livestock. As miles of posts and wires were laid, a habitat was born that would bridge the rolling grasslands like a superhighway, allowing the western Fens lizard to expand its range across the western United States.

Fens’ legacy was short-lived as naturalists and passersby alike – seeing an explosion in the number of blue-bellied lizards along the countryside’s fence lines – adopted the malapropism ‘fence lizard’ in place of the honorific ‘Fens lizard’. Museum catalogues and field guides were quick to follow suit. In less than a decade, the western Fens lizard had been replaced by the western fence lizard. The damage was done, and Fens’ contribution to science faded into the background. Nevertheless, this etymological mystery had not yet run its course. Following World War II, the United States closed a chapter in its agrarian life-style as urban sprawl and automobiles facilitated the suburbanization of the countryside. At the risk of extinction, this one-time niche-specialist quickly adapted to novel, non-fence surfaces, at long last trivializing its own trivial name.

Audubon Barn Owl

Bjarne’s owl

Such etymological evolution is not uncommon. A similar transcription error was uncovered in the early 1950’s after it was discovered that what we commonly refer to today as the ‘barn’ owl (Tyto alba) was originally first described as Bjarne’s owl, after Reyes de Bjarne, the famed Spanglo-Dutch naturalist, botanist, and occult-phrenologist. It wasn’t until 1820, when clock towers, bell towers, and hay lofts associated with California’s early Spanish settlements and the suburban sprawl that followed in the wake of the 1849 Gold Rush began subsidizing the Bjarne’s owl’s natural cavity nests, that Bjarne’s owl underwent a similar vernacular, backward slide toward the more vulgar ‘barn’ owl common today.

In hindsight, Fens called it true when he wrote “good fences make more neighbors,” for the western Fens lizard proliferated in step with every board foot of fence laid. So too, however, did Fens’ contribution diminish with every board foot, until the common parlance trivialized not only a species, but the role their namesake played in herpetological history. Still, history has a way of righting itself, in this case mending Fens’ good name. In overturning the malappropriate defenestration of the west’s emblematic lizard, we are left with nothing but the best of Fens. Speaking at an April 1 press conference this week about Degrasse’s careful work restoring Ebrill Ferst Fens’ reputation, Occidentalis College Dean of Admissions Annie Ella remarked, “Degrasse was always keener on the bona fides of that Fens.”

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