All posts by lukk

Venomous by Christie Wilcox

How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered BiochemistryIt’s amazing what tiny little creatures such as the blue-ringed octopus or a little caterpillar in the rainforest can do to you (paralyze you completely and induce hemorrhaging, respectively), without even your realization that you’ve been bitten or pricked! Where Wilcox really shines in Venomous, though, is when she goes beyond show-and-tell and explains what goes on when you graze the back of that caterpillar with its bristly spine: contrary to what might be expected, this little caterpillar actually causes all the coagulants in your blood to become otherwise engaged so that they’re nowhere to be found while the rest of your blood is running rampant. Hence the hemorrhaging.

Venomous is engaging and serves as a great introduction into the world of venom and the creatures that produce them. Wilcox takes you through a variety of different types of venom, organized more or less by chapter, telling you what they do to their (unfortunate/maybe-brought-it-upon-themselves) victims, connecting their incredible abilities to theories as to why certain creatures should have developed the venoms that they did. In fact, Wilcox goes further and delves – relatively lightly, nothing to be afraid of even if you’re not scientifically minded – into the science of what different venoms do. What you get, in effect, is something along the lines of this: what creature generates what sort of venom, which does what to which animal by targeting which areas, likely influenced by which evolutionary pressures. Wilcox breaks it down so that you understand what’s going on – which neurotransmitters are involved? what areas of the body does it affect and why? why might these creatures have evolved as they did? – as you make your way through the rest of the book, keeping all the information intact by making connections throughout.

Continue reading

Aventine

available at VPLI didn’t really know what to expect when I clicked on a friend’s twitter link that gushed about an artist I’d never heard of and her upcoming concert taking place in Toronto, but I am SO GLAD I did! (On second thought, I should really never have doubted her taste in music. What was I thinking?)

Just a quick listen through Agnes Obel’s soundcloud had me immediately searching up in another tab the availability of her CDs here at VPL. And while I’m not one to really know what exactly to talk about when it comes to music, I’m going to bring her to your attention if nothing else. Obel’s music is an incredibly beautiful, soft, and haunting moment reminiscent of a fairytale or a daydream. She’s amazing, and she’s COMING TO TORONTO FOR A CONCERT (March 4th, in case you’re interested)!

And if you enjoy what you’re listening to, you might also enjoy these ones:

1. Lucy Rose – Like We Used To

2. Safia Nolin

3. Ludovico Einaudi

4. Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Edited by Philip PullmanThese are the Grimm fairytales as pulled from various sources, both well-loved and obscure, edited by Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass. It’s probably a given that the fairytales we absorb as children don’t generally sound quite the same when we hear them again as adults (although that probably also has something to do with Disney and the variations of some tales, especially the most popular such as Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, that abound), and while you might already know some of the gory originals to the stories you know and love – the removal of various parts of the feet in Cinderella, for one, is pretty well-circulated – Pullman does an excellent job choosing and editing the tales that he chooses to include in this volume.

Pullman states from the start that he has taken liberties with some of the tales, leaving others in their original state, and he lets you know after each of the fairytales which ones have been revised from their original state and which have been preserved in whole, and, most importantly, why. He also makes a good point: fairytales were, and remain in part, a part of oral tradition, and as such the performer of the tale makes their own changes to parts of the story, whether it be the plot or the details, in order to tailor it to their way of storytelling – so why not change what doesn’t seem to be working, as an editor, to make even better fairytales for the reader? Continue reading