Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Criminal Investigation!

In the early 1890s, Austrian professor and magistrate Hans Gross wrote the book on investigating criminals -- System der Kriminalistik (or Criminal Investigation). Gross is in fact often credited with creating the very field of criminology, establishing the first institute dedicated to the subject in 1912.

Criminal Investigation, according to The Encyclopedia of Crime & Punishment, "helped to establish the science of forensics, especially in terms of a cross-transfer of evidence; dirt, fingerprints, carpet fibres, or a strand of hair..." The book was considered the bible of criminal investigation throughout the 20th century, and is still used by police forces the world over.

Incidentally, Gross' son Otto was a friend of Franz Kafka (Kafka was also a former student of Professor Gross) and it is said that Kafka made use of Criminal Investigation in writing his classic novel The Trial. Police kudos aside, I don't think there could possibly be any higher recommendation than Kafka cribbing your book for notes. Except basing a character in his novel on you as well, I guess.

That said, it is none too surprising that much of Criminal Investigation might strike the reader all these years later as quaint or otherwise amusing. In any case, Gross. To wit:

"It is often stated, especially in continental treatises on the habits of criminals, that the wrongdoer deposits excrement at the scene of a crime, believing that by doing so he tends to ward off discovery. Whilst this may be, on rare occasions, the explanation of such behaviour it is explicable in many instances by the fact that sheer nervousness and fear render the criminal incontinent so that he leaves traces of this kind at the 'scene' because he cannot help himself."

And here I figured it was for kicks.

Included here are some scans from the 1962 5th edition of the book.

I also have a gallery up at flickr featuring one of the book's highlights, Chapter 8: Slang Expressions Commonly Used By Thieves. So head's up you gymers! Quit sucking the monkey and check it out!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Many years ago, I did a short job placement at the medical library of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. There were all kinds of amazing things to discover in the collection, but perhaps the most striking thing I found in my time there was a copy of the Oucher pain scale - a variety of photos of children ranging in expression from placid to agonized (there is also a version of the scale featuring simple 'happy face' to 'sad face' expressions*).

The scale was a bizarre contradiction to me: expressions of discomfort and agony on small faces - pained faces, ranked in such a manner, something pornographic about it - and in a hospital of all places. My initial reaction was to find it somewhat perverse, strange and disturbing. My mind kept coming back to it, and what a curious thing it was.

But then pain is a funny thing, ultimately subjective and thus very difficult to measure. Most of us, experiencing pain, would regard it as being either 'really bad' or just plain 'ARGGHHHHH!' - any more than that and words would likely fail us utterly.

This isn't very helpful to those in the medical profession of course, and, in the interest of applying some objectivity to the subject, many different methods of measuring pain have been created. Some of these rely on testimony from the patient, often using key words to evaluate the severity of the pain. Another popular method is to simply give the pain a numeric value from 0 to 10.

In the case of children however, who lack the sophistication or vocabulary to apply words to their pain, pictures may provide assistance. This is the rationale behind the Oucher scale, created in 1980 by one Dr. Judith E. Beyer. Initially featuring Caucasian faces only, it was updated ten years later with a Hispanic version and an African-American version. In addition, the original poster format was gradually shrunk down to a pocket-size version, making it easier to use.

The language of pain and the descriptions we may employ to convey our pain are often quite remarkable, even poetic. From the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, designed to differentiate insect stings:

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

*the Wong-Baker pain scale is virtually identical to this smiley-sad face scale. My research, such as it is, suggests the Oucher may be strictly photographic while the Wong-Baker is drawn.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

How Green Was My Sex Life!

Lawrence Lariar is perhaps best remembered today as the long-time editor of Best Cartoons of the Year (second story), but he was himself a pioneering cartoonist, humourist, mystery novelist (under such pen names as Adam Knight, Michael Stark, and Michael Lawrence), and prolific writer.

Lariar's 1955 "How Green Was My Sex Life!" (which he both wrote & illustrated) has long been a favourite of mine. I bought a copy on Yonge St. in the early 90s, & used a few of the pictures for The Starkweather Fix's website, as well as promo for our 1996 CD, "What The Swedish Butler Heard".

Sure, the women are beautiful. But it is the men here who fascinate. The eyes of the males in particular are striking, suggestive (along with the shakey hands) of a barely-contained sex madness.

I was very excited to finally scan this rare work & put the pics (120 of them, by one count) onto my flickr account, making them available to the world at large -- but it looks as though I'd have to break the book's spine in order to scan the pictures inside properly, & I just can't bear to do it. Sorry.

So, for the time being, I present the dust jacket and the cover of the book itself, along with some detail.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Wonders of the Heavens!

An out of this world set on flickr by one of the subjects of our last post, Matthew Kalmenoff.

From 1954. Thanks to astrotter.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Animals of the Past!

I knew that children's sticker books had been around a fair while, though the fact that there were actual Nazi Youth sticker albums in 1940s Germany was news to me.

I'll have to introduce this Golden Stamp Book then as being medieval, as opposed to ancient; first published in 1954, mine is the 23rd printing, from 1982.

The book is written by Rose Wyler and Gerald Ames, with beautiful colour stamps by Matthew Kalmenoff, and line drawings by Robert Gartland.

I wonder whether Golden Stamp revised the information presented throughout its many editions; no doubt much, if not all, of the text would need revising today.

In any case, here's a blast from the past. eBay has an unused copy of this going for $40US, making me wish I had been slightly more lazy about actually putting the stickers in the book than I was.

I believe I still have most of the stamps unused somewhere, but I can't remember where now of course.