A suspicious coincidence
The redoubtable PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame was recently in the Bay Area, ostensibly for a big scientific conference, IEDG 2008: Integrating Evolution, Development, & Genomics. Despite the plausibility of PZ's cover story, the San Francisco Chronicle published bits of information that suggest Professor Myers had a secret agenda as well—a clandestine mission related to his ceaseless promotion of all things tentacular.
IEDG 2008 was convened at UC Berkeley on May 28 through 30, the days immediately preceding the gala Black & White Ball in San Francisco, which was held on Saturday, May 31. The ball is a huge fundraiser for the educational programs of the San Francisco Symphony. It is also, of course, an enormous social event and an opportunity to strut one's fashionable self. While this description may not be likely to bring PZ to mind, graphic evidence was revealed in the Chronicle's story on the contest to choose a party dress for Patricia Sprincin, the chair of the Black & White Ball's organizing committee.
The winning design was a particularly octopoidal little number by British designer Sara Shepherd. Judging from the four tentacles appearing on the front of the gown, one surmises that the dress features a total of eight appendages (making a little allowance for the fact that stylistic license allowed Ms. Shepherd to link two pairs of them into loops). This was clearly a dress designed to appeal to the Bay Area's cephalopod lovers. One suspects that the great international mollusc conspiracy was involved in turning out the vote in favor of Shepherd's entry in the contest. Wherever mollusc-lovers are working in concert, will PZ not be found? Perhaps PZ was summoned to the Bay Area to advise Ms. Sprincin on the proper way to display one's tentacles. We cannot know for sure one way or the other.
Alas, I was not able to confirm the details of PZ's involvement when he held court at the Jupiter brew pub in Berkeley on Friday night. I was otherwise committed and could not make the trip into the university town to hoist a few at the impromptu gathering of Pharynguloids. (Of course, as a nondrinker I would have been hoisting whatever Jupiter offers as its house cola.) Therefore this post is a tissue of unfounded speculations. But one has to admit, it is suspicious in the extreme.
PZ decamped for Seattle on Saturday instead of waiting for the debut of the Shepherd ball gown at the Black & White Ball that evening. It's just as well. The actual event was a telling example of the difference between theory and practice—a lesson that all scientists—and fashion designers!—should try to remember. Patricia Sprincin bravely ventured forth on Saturday night in the gown that the popular vote had selected for her. She did the best she could as the Chronicle's photographer snapped a picture for the next day's newspaper coverage. You can see the result in the accompanying illustration.
It was not a tentacular success.