The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, February 27, 2009

This Canadian Reads

By Andrew Tibbetts

For the first time I’m making my way through all the novels in preparation for CBC’s 2009 version of “Canada Reads”. I’m not sure I’m going to make it, but I’m sure glad I started. So far, I’m enjoying the books immensely. I started with “Fruit” by Brian Francis, mostly because I’m a fruit by Mr. and Mrs. Tibbetts. I do like queer lit. The book’s funny and lively and I whipped through it in a couple of days. It reminded me of the fun young adult novels I read when I was a kid—that’s a compliment. But at the same time, I imagined it wouldn’t ‘win’ because lightness and whimsy and comedy and ‘accessible’ usually don’t score big in Canadian Culture.

Next up, I read “The Book of Negroes” by Lawrence Hill. This was just as entertaining a read but had some serious meat to it by way of throwing light on some dark corners of Canadian and world history. It’s the first person narration of a former slave recounting her experiences from her richly detailed childhood in Africa, through her abduction, her life in slavery, her escape as a young adult, her movement with British loyalists to Nova Scotia, her emigration to the Sierra Leone project and her eventual old age in England working with the abolitionists to end the slave trade. The character is lively and completely convincing. I was sad to put the book down, I felt like I was leaving a good friend.

There was no way the next one could top that, but I’m half way through Gil Adamson’s “The Outlander” (luscious prose to tell a riotous adventure yarn! It’s a gorgeous book.) and I’m just thrilled with the quality and variety of Canadian novelizing! This one’s a winner too.

All these books are assured creations. It’s ridiculous and impossible to compare them and I’m glad I’m not on the panel. Although, I can’t wait to hear the debates! I hope I make it through the others in time. I’ve got a week. David Adams Richards and Michel Tremblay are both writers I’m familiar with (unlike these first three) and I enjoy their work—so this is going to be some event! The debates begin March 2 and last the week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What colour is your journal?

By Tamara Lee

Remember when writing Morning Pages was all rage? Folks were what-colour-is-my-parachuting and journaling to save their life. When was that, like the ‘90s?

I’m not sure when I started serious journaling; I do know I didn’t write in one regularly when I was young. Didn’t have the pretty little book with a precious little lock. My sister did, for a while, and I once looked at it. Read it for as long as it took my face to turn hot with shame. About a page-and-a-half. At the moment I closed her precious little journal, I knew what it meant to invade someone’s privacy, and I knew I didn’t want to meet that feeling again. But I also recognized that some of the words she’d written—so honest, earnest, vulnerable—were feelings I’d felt myself. Only I’d tried to put them into poems, and she just brazenly told her diary.

Around that time, I had an English teacher who encouraged free-flow writing in response to a daily quote he’d put on the board. I remember how foreign the whole experience was, to think-not-overthink thoughts as I wrote. Maybe I was 16 or 17, and I felt, finally, that I might be ‘getting somewhere’ with my writing. But still I didn’t journal.

When I backpacked through Europe, a year or two after graduating high school, I thought it would be the perfect time to start journal-writing. But of course I was too much in the experience to sit back and start reflecting. The little journal I’d bought in Chinatown before leaving is full of empty pages; aardvark drawings my travelling partner made while we waited for a train somewhere; names of long-forgotten people; the occasional vague attempt at saying something poignant.

Sometime between my return from Europe and beginning university I decided a writer might want to keep a journal, that doing so might capture significant thoughts and moments of brilliance I was sure I had but must have passed through my mind stealthily. Keeping a journal would allow me to catch my thoughts in the act.

Instead, it was a steady flow of frustrated whinging and pining, and otherwise teenage-like vulnerability for the first while. Looking through those journals I shamefully kept feels like I’m reading my sister’s high-school journal. Only mine reads more like someone trying too hard; someone who expects her sister to snoop and wants to give her a good show.

It’s taken years for the process to finally work for me. In fact, sometimes it feels as though I think more honestly with a pen and a journal, than while washing dishes and letting my mind wander. I find myself holding off working through a story or personal problem until I have my journal in hand.

But I know I’m not alone in this. Searching for a photo to accompany this post, I typed in ‘stacks of journals’ in Flickr, and found dozens of others who have this affliction, and who have visually documented their journal-love. (I’m using paperbackwriter’s photo because of the sheer volume of the impressive, meticulous documentation of her obsession.)

And now my own journal habit has evolved into a more complicated process: I have about a dozen journals going, all with different purposes, many ‘colour-coded’ for the tone of the project (the romantic-comedy script gets a little pink and brown polka-dotted book; the novella gets a larger, more serious-looking journal). There’s a black journal for my occasional dream recollections, and a green journal of notes for my new job.

Sometimes, I’ll find the ideas for one project have ended up in the wrong journal—possibly it was the only one I had when an idea struck—and so then I have to add annotated Post-It notes so I can locate the nugget of presumed brilliance. I'm thinking about colour-coding those Post-Its now, to keep those errant thoughts in order.

Things are clearly getting out of hand. Is all this a reflection of the journaler’s character? Her current state of mind? Something else?

I’ll have to get a pen and think about that.

(Image credit: paperbackwriter)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The New Reality

By Tricia Dower

I posted an article on my Silent Girl Speaks blog called “Why It’s (Once More) the Economy, Stupid,” suggesting we have to be careful that the economic downturn doesn’t lead to an increase in worker exploitation, domestic violence, discrimination, and other social ills.

What I didn’t mention was that the financial crisis, in combination with the dual threats of energy shortages and climate change, has spawned a new protocol. When public opinion forced a bailed out and bawled out US bank CEO to cancel a corporate jet order, he admitted, “We were slow to recognize the new reality.” As the economy worsens, taxpayers funding bailouts of businesses and needy citizens will be quick to pounce on behaviour they consider profligate. Conspicuous consumption will be out and frugality in. Here are a few signposts to the New Reality:

  • SUVs are out. Hybrid cars, bicycles, buses, subways, streetcars, and walking are in.
  • Flying is out. Riding the rails is in.
  • Cruise ships are out.
  • Bananas and pineapple are out unless you live where they grow. Eating local is in.
  • Vegetarians are in.
  • Homemade beer and wine are in.
  • Canning and preserving are in.
  • Breastfeeding is in.
  • Eating out is not in unless it’s at a potluck or your parents’ place.
  • Dishwashers are out unless they’re people.
  • Clothes lines are in.
  • Library cards are in.
  • Plastic water bottles are out.
  • Reusable canvas shopping bags are in.
  • Designer clothes are out unless they’re seconds with the labels slashed.
  • Used furniture is in.
  • Recycling bottles, plastic, newspapers, metal and what have you (and no longer want) is in.
  • Composters and backyard/balcony gardens are in.
  • Air conditioning is out. Windows that open are in.
  • Couch surfing is in.
  • $12 movie tickets are out. Rent-a-flick and bargain nights are in.
  • Seniors and student discounts, grocery store coupons, and two-for-one sales are in.
  • Garage and yard sales are in.
  • Darning socks and mending holes in pockets are in.
  • Leftovers are in.
  • Day old bread is in.
  • Public parks and paths are in.
  • Rain barrels are in.
  • Cloth diapers are in.
  • Solar panels and wind turbines are in.
  • Saving rubber bands and paper clips is in.
  • Flushing less often is in. (I hate this one.)

What's else? Help me out here.

If my parents were alive they might have some suggestions. I remember their Great Depression tales: standing in line for cabbages, my father grateful for construction work on one of FDR’s New Deal projects. They more happily remembered their community of friends who helped to feed each other and celebrated when one of them found work.

One good thing could come out of this: people might stop feeling ashamed for not having the latest and greatest of everything. Starving artists might finally be in.

Clothes lines are in: photo by Dori Moreno

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 19th 2009 is the International Day of Pink

Find out more:

Take a stand against bullying...
Wear pink on February 19, 2009!

"Chris and John to the Rescue" look fetching in the pink!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chasing the Story

By Antonios Maltezos

Ever notice how for each story that’s not quite there, there’s always that one central question that seems to be on the lips, on the verge of being expelled, spat out like a hoarker that's found it’s way into your mouth, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it? It’s like you’re in a carpeted lobby, or something. Why is that? Why can’t we dive into the issues our own stories unravel and deal with them like responsible adults? You just know something big will be answered if only you sit down and do it, listen to what the muse is breathing into your ear hotly. He/she isn’t there because you’re a natural and gifted and there’s lyricism in them words you string together. He/she is there for anyone whose willing to make the attempt at creating something fresh and pointed that doesn't beat around the bush and gets lost chasing it’s own tale, or lost in the way we can sometimes get when our farts sound like they’ll go on forever. I made that! You sure did, buddy. Can’t you smell it? He/she is there like God. Meet me three-quarters of the way… and I’ll give you the strength to make that last quarter on your own. Oy, sounds tiresome! And therein lies the problem. Finding that central question your story raises, and then making the attempt at answering it. It's those last two repetitions. It's where the men get separated from the boys, or the women from the girls. Experimental, surreal, magical whatever, but experimental mostly-I’m trying to do something here… are often just excuses for not having the guts to dig deeper until you're completely immersed in the gist of the thing, up to your nose in the stuff, and there’s only your mind to set you free.

Here’s a prime example of a story that’s failing because the author refuses to answer that one most important question. Who or what is the fucking dragon really?

Chasing the Dragon

I get two kinds of dreams as a grown man.

In one I’m always leaning over my mother’s body, only she isn‘t dead yet, just bone tired and very still. I’m trying to give back so my hand is caressing her forehead. The skin is shiny, sickly warm, her hair oily and pungent, coming off in clumps I have to pluck from between my fingers. I coo, the way she would when I was fevered, tucked in, wrapped tight in extra blankets, her weight on the mattress keeping me against her hip. Unlike then, her lips are pursed and cracked. I coo: aaaha, aaaha – the way I remember she would, only I’m thinking of my hand, the yellowish, razor thin skin it’s caressing. Her lips don’t move, only part slightly when the ball point tip of her tongue darts out dry and pale. I’ll get closer, to show that my love knows nothing about germs and the smell of death. My love, as was hers, is strong enough for the both of us. But I recoil from the smell of her breath. It’s baked like a head of garlic, and bloated, that’s why the steady hiss. Her teeth are stained like old tusk. When did that happen? And they must ache, idle as her lips and robbed of their chatter as in the mornings when she’d sprinkled the sugar over my cereal, in the evenings, a warm facecloth in her hand as she wiped the day from my eyes, the grime from my neck. Lying next to her, my father’s eyes ooze a sickly gum where there should be sleep. He’s been on his back so long the large frame of his bones is like an empty box under the sheets. I’ll let my elbow dig into his ribs, as if by accident, because I want to see how hollow he’s become. If he moans -- at least he’s still alive. I’ll peel the softening callous from his hands to get at the new flesh underneath. If I don’t, the callous will harden and crack and bleed the baby skin underneath, the way my mother’s lips bleed. Still, I remember his hands the way they were; how they were the hands I wanted when I grew up. I’ll peel his callous and make a mound of it, just as I collect my mother’s hair, make a mound of it, just as I know I’ll bury my face in their unwashed pillows when they’re finally gone. Nearly dead my parents, their hearts blackened to a crisp, scorched by my dragon fire, I try to keep these two good people clean and comfortable as best I can, in this dream, looking away as I pass a damp rag under my mother’s sagging breasts. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” I say, and their rotting eyes turn upward every time, just like the trout with its cold blood, upward as if they’re desperate to hear the osprey I say I can still hear from time to time, the screeching forecasting better days ahead.


Blah, blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah blah. Blah. Blah blah blah blah… blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah. Blah blah. Blah! Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah blah. Blah blah.


When I find myself surrounded by mountains, before me a steam rising off placid lake waters, as in a calendar I might have seen, I’ll hear that distant screech of a young osprey tearing through a pass, shearing the rocks, it’s down ripped off and fluttering like fuzzy horace clinging to cracks and mini-steps for dear life. This is the second of the two kinds of dream I dream. It’s cold and grey, but it’s also alive and untouched by my life closed up in rooms, by the people I’ve known, my parents doing the right thing as simple as they knew how. Don’t ever take candy from strangers. And I never did. Not candy. Eat your liver. I have. I do. Put every fiver away like you never had it. What fiver? My father saved his money in a little vinyl zipper pouch he couldn’t hide from my mother. Sugar pie for him. Hair dye for my mother. A pair of pants for me. Those were the days, the best there was.

Sometimes, when I find myself surrounded by mountains, before me a steam rising off placid lake waters, same calendar, I’ll get the musky whiff of the grizzly bear lumbering out of the woods and onto the shore looking to catch some fish, its hackles trembling as it charges the water, skewering trout after trout with its claws, its teeth gnash dangerously, the fish scales tumbling through the air as in a cartoon. I notice the bear’s claws slash deeper than need be with each swipe, tearing through fish and rock and mountain. The beast is mad with hunger, and with each chomp, its meal of trout, still eyeballing the sky, seems that much closer to its final gulp of air. But… it’s still hanging on.

“Friend,” I’ll say to what is about to heave the placid lake waters into a boil yet once again, a thunderous clap of bat wings so the dream disappears, the calendar, the bear was only in my head. “Churn for me,” I’ll say And then the mountains rumble and the lake explodes, falling back to earth like a millions of drops of rain. Quick like that… and then I’m leaning over my mother’s body again, only she isn’t dead yet.

If only I had the guts, or the energy, to peer into the heart of this and figure out what all the blahs are about.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Writer in Exile

by Tricia Dower

I’m at a secret location giving my best impression of Margaret Laurence, minus the booze, cigarettes, lung cancer, and suicide. Actually, my four-day self-exile is not at all Laurence-like. It’s just that whenever I imagine being left alone to do nothing but write, my mental picture is of her: round-shouldered over a typewriter in a lakeside cottage, turning out brilliant prose with smoke wreathing her head, a glass of whiskey close at hand.

Anyway, I’ve gone off to a place where I can see water and boats and a small mountain with fog-tipped evergreens. I brought my camera so I could show you but forgot the thingamajig that transfers the image to my computer, so you’re stuck with a photo of my dead muse. If I’d brought a recorder, I could share the rhythmic barking of sea lions, but they’d probably drive you nuts. When I take out my hearing aids, the sea lions sound like one big dripping tap.

I’ve got a small kitchen with tea, cereal, milk, blueberries, grapes, melon, cauliflower, mushrooms, Cheez Whiz, bread, soup, dried prunes, and pretzels to keep me going. The brilliant prose is harder to come by. I’ve sequestered myself to finish Part One of my next book, which I’m optimistically calling a novel. I’ve given myself a real challenge with this story and I doubt I'm producing even a word a minute. Mind you, each agonizing word is a gem, even the articles. (Would “a” have more impact than “the” in this line, I ponder at length, avoiding the tough work lying ahead in the unwritten sentences.) Whenever I start a new project, it feels as if it’s harder to write than the last one. But is that true?

“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Colin says, and, of course, he’s right. But what would I do, instead?

Image: Margaret (Peggy) Laurence in 1956

Monday, February 09, 2009


Congratulations to our CWC pals Hannah Holborn and Pasha Malla, who have been having an exciting new year so far.

Hannah’s story collection, Fierce (released December 31), has been receiving some great reviews, including this one from the Globe and Mail.

You’ll be able to catch her reading at The Silk Purse event on Feb 26, at 7pm (1570 Argyle Avenue, West Vancouver.) She’ll also be interviewed by Randene Neil on the Global Noon News Feb 16th.

Meanwhile Pasha, whose story collection The Withdrawal Method came out this past year, has just been selected as a writer-in-residence at the Berton House Writers' Retreat. He’ll also be part of the Wired Writing Studio 2009 – 2010 program.

What a great start to a new year!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dreaming Up the Future

by Andrew Tibbetts

I don’t like science fiction books very often but I do enjoy sci-fi movies and TV shows because of the way they look! From early days of silent film, in such beautiful pictures as Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” representing the future seems to call up the most interesting art direction on celluloid. And for me, there’s a large part of movie appeal that is simply eye candy! It’s a visual art.

Realism in film is so prevalent it’s hard to find a non-sci-fi film that attempts to present an artistic vision of the world as opposed to a truthful representation (perhaps with a bit of subtle lighting or use of filters that colour things slightly!) I think of Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” as one marvellous exception. Here, we have a vision of the suburbs! Juxtaposed nicely with a contrasting vision of the darkness of the creative impulse, by the way that Vincent Price’s ominous castle is just at the end of a pastel coloured lane.

But in sci-fi, directors give their artistic teams carte blance to create the world. Steven Spielberg hired Douglas Coupland among others to imagine what the near-future might look like, including the shape of garbage cans. “Minority Report” is a marvellous film, my favourite Spielberg by far. Different than fantasy, sci-fi imagines a working future. So we don’t get the silly theme-park reality of the Indiana Jones movies, we get a socio-political and deeply emotional visualization of certain aspects of human culture.

And our futures are so bound to our presents. The imagined futures of the 70’s were so bright and candy-coloured. Think of those primary coloured-coded polyester outfits of the world of “Logan’s Run”, or how funky the future of “Battlestar Galatica (the original TV series)” looked, reminding us of how ‘futuristic’ the funk bands of the 70’s were. Think of that giant spaceship landing onstage to give birth to Parliament-Funkadelic or even Earth, Wind and Fire. Didn’t all that descend from the wonderful Sun Ra (image at the top right)?

The future of the 80’s was more interested in depicting the fascism in the human heart. The future was dark and oppressive. Think of the Kafkaesque offices of “Brazil”, the film noir-ish shadows of “Dark City” or the post-apocalyptic dustiness of “Road Warrier”.

I’ve just seen a mind-blowing vision of the future that seems to be a hodge-podge of all our past futures. I’m talking about a weird little Canadian-German co-production called “Lexx”. The people who put together Lexx seem to have grown up on a diet of strictly cult films. There’s nothing resembling an ordinary, ‘good’ movie or TV show. But there’s something from every major cult movie that I can think of. The candy-coloured sexual freedom of “Barbarella”, the funny robot of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, the cast of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, the sexual libidos of severed heads from “Reanimator”, lots of brains and cannibalism from a zillion zombie movies (but just the cheesy ones) and the soft-core porn of Russ Meyer. The set design homages all those movies, plus the oppressive fascism of “The Chronicles of Riddick,” the curvy organic structures of Fellini’s psycho-sexual Italy, the strange fleshy machines of Cronenberg’s “Existenz” plus tons more I can’t even begin to elucidate.

Is it any good?

Well, it’s interesting. I couldn’t stop watching. And laughing, too.

Here’s a snatch of dialogue:
“What kind of robot head are you?”
“The kind of robot head who wants to live in your underpants.”

The accents of the cast are quite something, a silly mix of Nova Scotian and German. No one is trying to earn an oscar for subtlety so it’s curtain chewing ham-it-up time.

Did I tell you the space ships are all insectoid? At one point a person smashes on the windshield of a giant fly and gets scraped off. The creators love irony.

But the most fascinating aspect for me is the way it all looks. Everything is invented. At one point, the sex-slave Zev has a Russ Meyer shower but what kept me mesmerized was the damn showerhead. It looked like a cross between a penis and a prickly sea cucumber by way of the sandworms of Lynch’s “Dune”. I can wade through a lot of schlock for a glimpse of artistry so evocative. Of course a shower head is phallic, and of course phalluses are dangerous, hence the prickles. The scene is pure erotic nightmare. These folks know their Matthew Barney.

Do I wish someone would be as creative visually with material that was less campy, more intensely dramatic? Sure. But nobody’s going to give these guys the budget to stage the works of Euripides.

We see inventive license taken in the theatre all the time. Shakespeare’s woods as a nodal point between the fairyworld and the human world has been depicted as a circus, as a supermarket, as an abstract realm of triangles, as a boxing ring, as an empty stage, in the 1800’s, the 1900’s, the distant future and the B.C. past. If only filmmakers were given such license.

But I fear, I’m very much in the minority. A lot of people are put off when the movies present them an impression of the world, a revision of the world based on some abstracted quality, or a world that is an expression of a psychological way of interpreting it. Except, it seems in sci-fi. In that genre, we allow it, we expect it and we celebrate it. From Kubrick’s zero-gravity toilet jokes to Blade Runner’s rainy-noir-neon back alleys. From the Matrix to Star Wars, we’ve eaten up these futuristic dreams.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Time to Grow Up!

As usual, this post started out being too personal -- me saying more than I needed to about what isn’t working for me as a writer. Me digging into my childhood looking for answers. I’m sick of that. And I’m totally aware of the fact that I luuuuv feeling sorry for myself. I’m sick of that, too. I want to grow up! I’m ready. No more of the overwhelmed child in my fiction, and childish characters that are actually very old men and wise. Well, at least as old as I am, and as wise as a couple times around the block’ll make ya. Shit! If I ever write another story where I have to decide between using mom, or momma, or mama… just shoot me! Put me out of my misery! I had loving parents who were quite normal as a unit, which means they yelled and fought with each other from time to time. I mean, that’s as bad as it got. They did nothing to deserve a writer son like me. And if it ever got worse than them yelling at each other, ever(I may have repressed some stuff, but I'm unaware.), I can't see it, which means I don’t care even if they did beat me, which they didn't, I don't think. I pretty sure. Life goes on. Life went on and I have a whole pack of problems that are all my own. What the fuck am I still doing writing stories with adolescent characters? You go too deep that way, and the next thing you know the stories become complex, incestuous, lots of yearning for momma's thighs… what else is there to do with a boy story bereft of adventure? Literary boy stories – yuck! I’m done with that shit. Momma, mom, ma, mama, you’ve suffered long enough, though you have no clue (she stopped reading me years ago.). Dad, I may rake the loving memory of you through the coals a few times, but only because I’m ready to become a man. Ya, baby! Plots, here I come!

(nb, I’m actually working on this great story at the moment about a boy who grew up screwy because his parents did it nightly and noisily and the walls were really thin. BUT THATS IT! That's the last one!)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Eating Intelligence

By Tamara Lee

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been predominantly vegetarian. It’s become such a part of my daily life, and is so commonplace here on the west coast I rarely think about my reasons for not eating meat.

When I first became a vegetarian in university my reasons included personal economics and acting on my newfound independence. For much of my youth, I’d often experience guilt about eating other mammals, even when I couldn’t explain it, thus I felt empowered by my ability to choose not to eat meat as an adult. But as the years went on, I realized I still couldn’t resist salmon, and so eventually I decided I'd more accurately label myself "vegetarian-ish" (or pescetarian).

When I lived in Montreal I started to eat squid, needing an alternate protein in that city's very meat-centric, vegetarian-limited restaurant culture. My ignorance about seafood allowed me to feel little guilt. But the more I learn about cephalopods (squid, octopus, cuttlefish), the more I realize that my problem with eating animals is based on the animal’s level of intelligence.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been stumbling upon articles exploring the intelligence of cephalopods. In a recent tidbit in the Winter 2009 issue of Discovery, for example, I learned how octopuses “seem to engage in play, a sophisticated behaviour rare among invertebrates… Some research…even suggests [they] can recognize individual people.” (For an example of octopus intelligence, check out the wealth of YouTube videos available.) There are stories about octopuses destroying lab equipment, and climbing out of their own aquarium to raid other aquariums for food, then getting back to their home turf before aquarium staff can catch them.

Today as I tried to locate an online article documenting octopuses at play, I came upon Canadian Dr. Jennifer Mather’s fascinating research on cephalopod behavioural patterns . The Nature of Things was on TV, the whole show exploring cephalopods, in particular the cuttlefish, and the research into its intelligence. Suzuki was saying, “Intelligence is all about learning new tricks.”

Sometime ago, Jacques Cousteau wrote about cephalopods in a book called Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence. Although most of the research following the book’s release focused on the octopus, its cousin the cuttlefish has since become the focus for gauging cephalopod intelligence. Of primary interest is how human nerves work the same way as the cuttlefish’s, and on an intelligence scale measured 1-8, where humans are at 8, the cuttlefish and their cousins sit at 4. These invertebrates, in fact, are easier to teach than dogs.

So, as I considered my new resolve to no longer eat squid and octopus, I came upon scientists also exploring the ethics of eating intelligent beings. Of course, such decisions range from personal, to political, to merely being a matter of taste, or distaste, for meaty texture.

However one feels about consuming cephalopods, one thing is for certain: there is more to these creatures than previously thought. As one scientist noted on The Nature of Things piece, through studying the evolution of their intelligence, we will begin to learn more about the evolution of our own intelligence. Reason enough for me to consider giving the next steaming plate of kalamari a pass.