Archive: January 2010

The X in the File, the Meat on the Bones

Sunday, January 31st, 2010 by

Though not nearly as supernatural as its namesake, Bones Season 5, Episode 11 (“The X in the File“) concludes with a deliciously philosophical exchange.

But first, a brief plot summary:

An out-of-this-world case brings Brennan and Booth to New Mexico where they investigate human remains with extraterrestrial attributes. The victim is identified as a local UFO fanatic, known around town for her relentless search for alien life forms and whose latest “evidence” leads even Brennan and Booth to re-think outside existence. Meanwhile, a local sheriff refuses to release the bones, forcing the team at the Jeffersonian to work via satellite, and Angela and Jeffersonian intern Wendell come clean about their relationship.

After the case is wrapped up, Brennan and Booth celebrate with a little star gazing. In the middle of the desert, lounging on the hood of Booth’s car, the two wonder about the possibility that life exists on other planets:

(Brennan and Booth, alternating)

It’s ridiculous to think there’s anything on this planet which merits crossing what are literally astronomical distances.

Do you think aliens are anthropologists? Maybe they just want to study our religion, sex, love, our fine languages and line dancing.

That’s an interesting possibility I hadn’t considered.

They’re living creatures, they like to reach out, Bones.

Living creatures like to reach out and eat each other.

Oh. So what are you saying, that the aliens are going to come down here, and drink our spinal fluid?

Well, if the aliens are advanced enough to fly faster than light, then they can probably make spinal fluid.

You just said that aliens are nice.

Did not.

You just basically said that aliens are nice anthropologists.

I do not think so.

You think that aliens are you!

You got me. I was sent down as an advance scout.

At first, I thought the conversation might veer towards the ethical, with Brennan arguing that the aliens – being of superior intelligence and all – would have earned the right to drink our spinal fluid. After all, this is one of the most common justifications given for our individual and institutionalized exploitation of nonhuman animals (e.g., humans are more evolved, intelligent, refined, civilized, etc. – the “top of the food chain,” “because we can” school of “thought”). Taken to its logical conclusion, this line of reasoning grants a similar license to exploit us “lesser” humans to hypothetical intelligent alien visitors.

Alas, the episode ends on a lighter note. Even so, when Brennan suggests that the aliens could – and would – develop and consume synthetic spinal fluid, and Booth implies that this would indeed be the “nice” thing to do, I can’t help but read this as a subtle plea for veganism: why harm sentient beings for sustenance when you’ve no need? Exploiting just to exploit is “not nice” at best.

Thoughts?

Sweeney Todd, a Caged Bird and the Devil’s Wife

Thursday, January 28th, 2010 by

Sweeney Todd movie poster 07

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Caution: spoilers ahead!

Normally, I’m not one for musicals (Little Shop of Horrors and Grease notwithstanding!). That said, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street struck my fancy right away. Now, I could attribute this to the film’s macabre, Gothic Victorian setting, or to the dynamic star/director duo of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton; and, while these are both ginormous positives, I’d be lying if I said that either of these is what compelled me to dabble in a genre I tend to pass up. Nope, as much as I love a Goth Depp/Burton vehicle, Sweeney Todd reeled this vegan misanthrope in with promises of cannibalism. Cannibalism is the shit.

Sweeney Todd opens with the titular character’s arrival in London. “Return to London,” actually: in a former life, Sweeney Todd was one Benjamin Barker (also a barber). But we’ll get to Barker’s story in a moment.

We first meet Sweeney Todd as he and a young sailor dock in a London port. Whereas Todd’s traveling companion, Anthony, marvels at the beauty of London, Sweeney will have none of it. His gloomy, sullen mood sets the tone for the rest of the film: shades of black, gray and blue, colored only by the red crimson of blood spilt.

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link love, 2010-01-26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 by

Hello hello, and welcome to POP!’s very first link love link roundup. I’ve been collecting vegan pop culture links for months now, so this one’s a doozy. That said, the link love posts should be much more manageable from here on out!

Frac Attack! soundtrack cover artwork

Before we get started – please, feel free to promote your own vegan pop posts or share a link or two in the comments.

Frac Attack: Dawn of the Watershed (A short environmental zombie thriller) – A new independent environmental zombie film brought to you by the talented folks at Shirari Industries and The Dacha Project. R and PG-13 rated versions, both of which clock in at the 17-to-18 minute range, are available for viewing on the film’s website.

Karol Orzechowskiof: Field Trip – Via Mary at Animal Person comes this short film (and accompanying images) shot by Karol Orzechowskiof (of Animal Voices) at Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair’s Education Ring, “where thousands of children per year are conditioned to accept a corporate-sponsored and increasingly mechanized system of intensive animal agriculture.” You can view the video and learn more on field trip.

Zach Cincotta @ vegansaurus: Movie review: Meat, the thinking person’s slaughterhouse documentary – A review of the 1976 Frederick Wiseman documentary Meat, which sounds like something I wouldn’t even dare watch on Halloween. Also worth noting: Wiseman has apparently directed a number of other animal-themed documentaries (as per imdb), including Zoo, Racetrack, and Primate. Un/fortunately, Netflix doesn’t have a very large collection of Wiseman’s work available for viewing.

Zach Cincotta @ vegansaurus: Movie review: Au hasard Balthazar (it’s about a French donkey, you’re gonna love it!) – On Au hasard Balthazar, or “the existential donkey movie.” Reportedly a real tear-jerker, this one will not be making an appearance in my Netflix queue any time soon.

Zach Cincotta @ vegansaurus: Movie review: The Future of Food – Okay, this is Zach’s fist movie review for vegansaurus, and thus our last vegansarus link for today. Directed by Deborah Koons Garcia (Jerry Garcia’s widow!), Zach writes that The Future of Food “mines a lot of the same material as the more recently released Food, Inc., but without the head-scratchingly ridiculous hypocrisy inherent in the latter movie’s stance on animals.” Possibly you’ve also noticed that The Future of Food makes an appearance in one of POP!’s background collages?

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Biff! Bam! Kapow! (And welcome!)

Monday, January 25th, 2010 by

Super Kelly!

Welcome to the launch of POP! goes The Vegan., a pop culture blog written for vegans, by (a) vegan(s). Specifically, the aim of POP! is to dissect and critique film, television, music, theatre and literature, examining pieces of each from an animal rights / vegan / anti-oppressive perspective.

POP! has been a painfully long time coming. Some (many?) of you probably already know me from www.easyVegan.info, an animal rights blog that’s much more general in scope than POP!. While www.easyVegan.info began as an action-oriented blog, lately I’ve been focusing on issues of intersectionality over there, with the occasional pop culture post thrown in for fun. Inspired by the Bechdel Test Movie List database, I thought it might be fun to collect all my movie reviews in one place, thus creating a sort of “animal friendly film list.” Though slow to come to fruition, the idea quickly ballooned, resulting in what you see here. I’m still tweaking the site, so please bear with me!

Many animal-friendly bloggers sporadically discuss popular culture (with not a few blogs devoted to celebrity gossip) – but to the best of my knowledge, POP! is the first and only vegan blog that is dedicated solely to popular culture studies (wherein “popular culture studies” is my fancy way of saying “sometimes-critical movie and television reviews”). In this vein, I hope POP! fills a void in the vegan internets.

While POP! only went live in January, the blog archives reach way back to July 2007. All of the posts dated prior to 1/20/10 originally appeared on www.easyVegan.info; when I crossposted them here in anticipation of the blog’s launch, I archived the posts under their original publication dates. I expect that there will be some crossposting in the future, however, from here on out, most of the posts appearing on POP! will be original pieces. If you’re a regular www.easyVegan.info reader, please add http://www.PopGoesTheVegan.com to your reader or blogroll as well!

If you’d like to get in on the action, I’d love to have you! For the time being, I’m hoping to bring a few guest bloggers on board. I watch more television than I should, but even I can’t keep up with all the shows and movies out there! If you’d like to submit a post or idea, hop on over to the Submissions page for details.

Relax, kick back, and enjoy the show!

Praise the Egg! New Musical by Mary Gage Premiers in State College, PA

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 by

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: United Poultry Concerns – news [at] upc-online.org
Date: Tue, Jan 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM
Subject: [UPC] Praise the Egg! New Musical by Mary Gage Premiers in State College, PA

Praise the Egg! New Musical by Mary Gage Premiers in State College, PA
Experience Life from the Chickens’ Point of View in this Endearing Performance
The State Theatre, Saturday April 3. 2010: 3:00pm. 7:00pm

“I think you should tell your readers that you were the inspiration for the musical.” Mary Gage to UPC president Karen Davis

Praise the Egg! A New Musical is based on the bittersweet novel by prizewinning writer, Mary Gage, showing life through the eyes of chickens. The book, and now the musical, captures the drama and pathos of the chickenyard with a cast of characters that includes Prudence, Granny Black, England the cock, “X and Y” from a battery-cage hen facility, and Man and Woman, the chicken-keepers. The story of these chickens is based on a little flock of chickens Mary kept while living in Perth in Western Australia in the 1970s.

Mary Gage, who now lives in State College, Pennsylvania, is directly involved in the musical production of Praise the Egg: She tells UPC: “The music is being written by a composer who directs Broadway musicals for kids in State College. He is casting these kids as chicks – ideal for his school, as the chicks grow so fast that a new class can do each scene. The set and costumes are being done by an artist whose paper cutouts of grass and trees will be projected huge on the backdrop. Huge hands with buckets or hoses intrude whenever Man and Woman come with the food and water.”

So how did UPC’s president, Karen Davis, “inspire” the musical performance of Praise the Egg? In an email to Karen, Mary Gage writes, “Someone alerted me to your talk about chickens in which you quoted from my book at the Yale Chicken Conference, in May 2002. This person inquired about Praise the Egg! She wanted to know the rest of the story. At that point the producer of the State Theatre invited me to put on another play, so I decided to rewrite my Australian chicken story as an American musical. Thank you!”

Here is the passage I quoted at the Yale Chicken Conference from Praise the Egg! It appears at the beginning of Chapter Two in my book Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs:

Then they all settled down in the soft green shade of the lemon tree, with each little chick taking its turn to fly up to the best and softest seat on Granny Black’s back. And while they waited for the sun to go down again, she told them about the great big world outside the chick run, or the days when she was a chick, or the story they liked telling best of all – her Miracle story about Eggs. How the broken fragments they had hatched from were once smooth, complete shapes; how every chicken that ever was had hatched out in exactly the same way; how only chooks could lay such beauties; and how every time they did, they were so filled with joy that they could not stay quiet, but had to burst into song; and how their song was taken up by England the cock and echoed by every single hen in the Run. – Mary Gage, Praise the Egg

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The Men Who Stare At Hug Goats

Monday, January 4th, 2010 by

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Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Caution: Major spoilers ahead.

While The Men Who Stare at Goats is by no means an animal rights or overtly anti-vivisection movie, it does (happily!) have a few animal-friendly moments.

Based on a 2004 book of the same name by journalist Jon Ronson, the film is a dramatized account of Ronson’s investigation into “psychic” warfare experiments conducted by the U.S. military in the ’70s and ’80s. Ostensibly a story for the skeptic set (indeed, that’s why the husband and I saw it in the theater), the film also at turns sentimentalizes the “free love,” hippie sensibilities and mysticism of the ’60s and ’70s. (Indeed, it concludes on a disappointingly “anything is possible if you believe” note.)

Anyhow, along with all the “flower power” comes not a little tree- and animal-hugging. Goat-hugging, to be more specific: because the army’s more “practical” experiments involve trauma training carried out on live animals, the medical school’s in-house goats also play a role in the aforementioned psychic experimentation – the purposes of which isn’t nearly as sadistic as the trailers let on.

Lest I get ahead of myself, here’s a brief synopsis, via Wiki:

The film follows Ann Arbor Daily Telegram reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), who one day interviews Gus Lacey, a man who claims to have psychic abilities. Bob shrugs Lacey off as crazy. Soon after, Bob’s wife leaves him for his one-armed editor. Bob, out of anger, flies to Kuwait to investigate the Iraq War. However, he stumbles onto the story of a lifetime when he meets Special Forces operator, Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). Lyn reveals that he was part of an American army unit training psychic spies (or “Jedi Warriors”), trained to develop a range of parapsychological skills including invisibility, remote viewing, cloud bursting, walking through walls, and intuition.

The founder of this unit, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), traveled across America in the 1970s for six years exploring a range of New Age movements (including the Human potential movement), because of a vision he received after getting shot during the Vietnam War, and used these experiences to found the New Earth Army. In the 1980s, two of Django’s best recruits were Lyn Cassady and Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), who developed a lifelong rivalry because of their opposing views of how to implement the New Earth Army philosophy; Lyn wanted to emphasize the positive side of the teachings, whereas Larry was more interested in the dark side of the philosophy.

In the early 2000s Bob and Lyn embark on a new mission in Iraq, where they are kidnapped by a criminal gang. They escape with fellow kidnapping victim Mahmud Daash (Waleed Zuaiter) and get rescued by a private security firm led by Todd Nixon (Robert Patrick), but get caught up in a firefight between Todd’s security firm and a rival security firm; this would later be known as the “Battle of Ramadi.” Mahmud, Bob and Lyn escape from the firefight and go to Mahmud’s house, which has been shot up by soldiers. From there Bob and Lyn leave to continue on Lyn’s vague mission involving a vision he had of Bill Django.

Here it’s worth noting that Cassady recounts the story of Django and the New Earth Army as his Iraqi adventure with Wilton unfolds in parallel. Both tales begin on a light, humorous note, eventually taking turns for the worse. While the trailers and media interviews done in promotion of the movie tend to emphasize the New Earth Army’s more nefarious projects, Django began the program with the best of intentions: namely, achieving world peace through love and understanding. A laudable goal, to be sure – even if its implementation proved somewhat ridiculous.

However, Hooper eventually betrays Django, assuming control of the New Earth Army in order to corrupt it. (Think of Django as Obi-Wan Kenobi to Cassady’s Luke Sywalker and Hooper’s Darth Vader.) The peace, love and understanding of Django’s ’60s and ’70s give way to the greed, militarization and subjugation of – what? The Reagen ’80s? The Clinton ’90s? The Bush ’00s? All of the above? Take your pick! (The Men Who Stare at Goats is, if not anti-war, at least anti-torture.)

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