Posts Tagged ‘tv’

The Dangerous World of Butterflies: More dangerous for butterflies than for humans.

Saturday, June 20th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

On Wednesday, journalist Peter Laufer appeared on The Daily Show in order to discuss his newest book, The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists. While the material might seem rather lighthearted – especially in comparison to his previous subjects, which include neo-Nazism, illegal immigration and the Iraq war – the illegal butterfly trade is nothing to scoff at, as he explains:
 

 
Naturally, even the so-called “butterfly huggers” (e.g., the North American Butterfly Association, the International Butterfly Breeders Association) view butterflies as a collection or a part of nature or ecology as opposed to the many individual beings that they are. Or, put another way, butterfly conservation is more about environmental protection than animal rights – or even welfare. Even so, The Dangerous World of Butterflies sounds like an interesting read, since butterfly collecting isn’t normally a “hobby” that’s equated with danger (nor are butterflies the first group of animals to come to mind when one thinks of wildlife “poaching”).

During the interview, Jon wonders why one might want to collect butterflies, due to their short life spans of a week or two. According to Wiki, this is a bit of a misconception:

It is a popular belief that butterflies have very short life spans. However, butterflies in their adult stage can live from a week to nearly a year depending on the species. Many species have long larval life stages while others can remain dormant in their pupal or egg stages and thereby survive winters.

Butterflies may have one or more broods per year. The number of generations per year varies from temperate to tropical regions with tropical regions showing a trend towards multivoltinism.

Not that the butterfly’s life span really matters – for, as Laufer explains, it’s not the aim of collectors to house a population of living butterflies. Rather, collectors view butterflies as objects to be exhibited, much like artwork. In this way, the appeal of “owning” the corpse of a butterfly belonging to a protected or endangered species is much like that of owning a stolen piece of art.

As morbid as this attitude is, I’m not sure it’s all that different from that of butterfly conservations, who view their objects of admiration as pieces of a whole, cogs to be manipulated and controlled in order to achieve a desired result. A thousand Schaus Swallowtails, for example, aren’t significant as a thousand living beings, but as representatives of an endangered butterfly species. To conservationists, the beings are all interchangeable members of a species, much as their corpses are interchangeable pieces of valuables and artwork to poachers and collectors.

Videos in this post

The Daily Show – June 17, 2009 – Peter Laufer
Peter Laufer sheds light on the villainous subculture of poachers who steal endangered butterflies and sell them for big money. (5.13)

“Being dead never tasted so good!”

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Via Blamer moodygirl comes the following SNL skit, “Cluckin Chicken,” which takes the Suicide Food phenomenon to a whole new level. (Indeed, Ben included the video as part of a “Fictional Suicide Food Emeriti” roundup last May.)

Warning: the video contains some graphic footage of a chicken corpse being “cleaned” and “quartered.”
 


 
About twenty seconds into the video, my husband popped up over my shoulder to ask if I was watching an actual commercial. Such is the depravity of modern “meat” advertisements.

Videos in this post

Saturday Night Live – Cluckin Chicken
Excerpt (s.18 : ep.13) | 01:34
All the outs and ins of making a great chicken.

Why this vegan feminist is red hot for Green Porno.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

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I’ve heard mention of Isabella Rossellini’s latest project, Green Porno, here and there – ecorazzi, The Colbert Report, CNN even – but never bothered to follow up, seeing as I don’t get the Sundance Channel and all. But an article in Bitch magazine’s Spring ’09 issue (No. 43, appropriately titled “the buzz issue”) made me take a second look.

In “Wings of Desire: Bug sex as a gender revolution,” Katura Reynolds examines the subversive nature of Green Porno (as well as British evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson’s alter ego, Dr. Tatiana): by depicting (non-human) animal sex in all its kinky, decidedly non-vanilla glory, these projects challenge our traditional views of what “natural” sexuality and gender expression look like in the animal kingdom.

“Bug sex” is so much more then heterosexual, missionary style pairings: bugs may be male, female, or hermaphrodites; heterosexual, homosexual or asexual; reproduce through sexual activity, parthenogenesis, or an alternative combination thereof; etc. (Some, like the preying mantis, even engage in sexual cannibalism, consuming their partners during coitus.) The same holds true for many animal species, humans included; for example, in his 1999 book, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (which I highly recommend, by the way), Bruce Bagemihl reviewed existing evidence which points to observed homosexual behavior in nearly 1500 animal species.

Green Porno, which is currently in its second season and airs on the Sundance Channel Tuesdays at 9 PM ET, is a bit cheesier and cheekier than its British cousin, – which is so raunchy that it’s not even available on Region 1 DVDs, let alone running on U.S. television. (You can, however, view a few clips of the show on You Tube.)

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Writes Reynolds,

The eight short films in [season 1 of] Green Porno were written by Rossellini and codirected with Jody Shapiro. They feature Rossellini acting out the sex lives of flies, praying mantises, earthworms, dragonflies, gees, fireflies, snails and spiders. The films are simultaneously hilarious, scientifically accurate, unrepentantly corny, compellingly sexy, and completely bizarre. […]

Rossellini strives for a simple, childlike atmosphere in the films. She starts each in a bodysuit, saying, “If I were a [type of bug],” and then her costumes gradually build as the film progresses: extra arms, compound eyes, snail shells, you name it. The props and supporting characters are made from giant cut-paper sculptures, like she’s wandered into a kindergarten classroom plastered in giant paper flowers.

The schoolroom setting is chosen very deliberately – it’s a foil for overtly sexual content. Rossellini gets it on with huge paper models of flies, mantises, and bees; she gasps and moans in orgasmic ecstasy as a firefly and a snail; she runs around waving hands covered in paper cutouts of sperm as a spider. As stated in the press release, “If human, these acts would not be allowed to air on television. [Indeed, Dr. Tatiana’s human reenactments and live non-human animal footage is not.] They would be considered filthy and obscene.” But the silly costumes and absurd props distract audiences from the flagrantly, graphically sexual content. Comedy often serves as a harbor for the unspeakable. By laughing at the silliness of it all, we can disarm the taboo.

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Happiness is a ‘pumped and dumped’ gun.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

First, the bad news: That rider to the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, introduced by asshat extraordinaire Tom Coburn, which would allow visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks? Passed both the House and Senate – with the help of plenty of Blue Dog Dems, natch.

But on the bright side, Stephen and his fiancé, Sweetness, can take that honeymoon in Yellowstone that they’ve always dreamed of:
 

 
Also, this provides our park rangers an excellent opportunity to earn some extra funds, to prop up the crumbling national park system.
 

 
$20k on AK-47’s, anyone?

Videos in this post

The Colbert report – Monday, June 1, 2009 – Guns in National Parks
Thanks to Tom Coburn and the NRA, campers need no longer live in fear of being carjacked by a bison. (02:30)

The Daily Show – June 2, 2009 – Money Shot
Josh Gad explores the exciting investment opportunities in semi-automatic weapons.

Bob Woodruff on boiling humans.

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Journalist Bob Woodruff made an appearance on The Daily Show last night in order to promote his latest project, Earth 2100:
 

 

I find it interesting that Stewart and Woodruff open the discussion with a clip of Earth 2100 that invokes the anecdote of the frog submerged in a pot of boiling water: namely, if you put a frog in a pot of water that’s already boiling, she’ll jump right out, having sensed the heat and danger. But if you place her in a pot of cold or lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, she’s none the wiser, and will remain in the deathtrap until she becomes frog soup. In this metaphor, humans are the frogs, and the pot is earth.

Which is all fine and good, except according to Snopes, this is a folk tale:

Like a fable, the “boiled frog” anecdote serves its purpose whether or not it’s based upon something that is literally true. But it is literally true? Not according to Dr. Victor Hutchison, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Zoology, whose research interests include “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles to include determinations of the factors which influence lethal temperatures, critical thermal maxima and minima, thermal selection, and thermoregulatory behavior”:

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

The “boiled frog” legend is a ubiquitous one – one that, given its falsehood, is both speciesist and completely inappropriate for what I assume is supposed to be a scientific documentary. The latter point is a given, but allow me to explain the former: central to the anecdote’s premise is the idea that a frog is so utterly stupid that, given subtle but entirely discernible cues, “it” would remain oblivious to the increasing danger and allow “itself” to be boiled alive. “Let’s not be like those lesser animals!” the tale cautions. Except. In denying climate change and poo-pooing slight increases in average global temperatures as “insignificant,” the human species is actually exhibiting less sense than Dog gave a frog. The frog isn’t earth’s complacent village idiot – we are.

Also of note: Jon alludes to the presumed vivisection which led to the “discovery” that frogs might allow themselves to be boiled alive, given the right circumstances. Both Stewart and Woodruff appear to think that such gruesome experiments probably took place years ago, in the distant past. Except.

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

While I can’t locate citations for these experiments, Wiki suggests that they’re more recent debunkings of “research” performed in the late 1800s (“research” on which the legend is apparently based).

So, yeah, we boil frogs alive – or attempt to, anyway. And that’s not even the worst of it.

Anyhow, back to Earth 2100.

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The History Channel makes the case for VHEMT.

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

The History Channel - Life After People

Last January, The History Channel aired Life After People, a one-part documentary that imagined what a world suddenly absent humans might look like:

In the program, scientists and other experts speculate about how the Earth, animal life, and plant life might be like if, suddenly, humanity no longer existed, as well as the effect humanity’s disappearance might have on the artificial aspects of civilization. Speculation is based upon documented results of the sudden removal of humans from a geographical area and the possible results that would occur if humanity discontinues its maintenance of buildings and urban infrastructure.

The documentary features the gradual and post-apocalyptic disintegration of urban civilization in a time span of 10,000 years after humanity suddenly vanished. The hypotheses are depicted using CGI dramatizations of the possible fate of iconic structures and landmarks (i.e. the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hoover Dam).

Having just received Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us for FSMas, I was super-psyched about the documentary (which aired as part of a block of similar programming, such as Last Days on Earth) – and Life After People did not disappoint. The graphics were amazing, and the time projections – from 1 to 10 days after our disappearance, to 1 to 10,000 years post-h. sapiens – were quite impressive. Perhaps most importantly, and much like The World Without Us, Life After People gave me great hope for the future – or rather, for a future without us. Many of humanity’s so-called “greatest achievements” will prove a small match for the forces of nature, particularly once we’re no longer around to beat nature back. Those species which we haven’t yet driven to extinction will be given a second chance, and the earth will regenerate, reclaiming the land and resources we’ve stolen from it.

As I wrote in a review of The World Without Us,

Environmentalists – indeed, any person [with a] modicum of decency – will be happy to know that much of what we’ve done to the Earth, can be quickly undone. With the exception of those species we’ve already managed to eradicate, many endangered and threatened animal species do stand a fighting chance in a world without us. Many of our “greatest accomplishments,” from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Hoover Dam, will eventually crumble without humans around to maintain them. Forests, grasslands, and jungles will recover lost ground, though native species will be forced into competition with exotic ones introduced by humans. Global warming will slow and the ozone layer will regain molecular equilibrium. Our most enduring legacies will be our most unnatural creations: nuclear waste, plastics, and petrochemicals. Hopefully a world without us will evolve microbes to digest the more than one billion pounds of plastic we’ve dumped into the environment since the late ‘50s. […]

Whether it happens tomorrow or in 900 million years – when our Sun enters a red giant phase and begins to expand and contract, thus heating the Earth and evaporating our surface water – we will disappear. In this regard, we’re no better than the great megafauna of the Holocene epoch – or the lowly cockroaches and rodents that congregate in our fragile urban areas. It’s not a question of if we will vanish, but when; perhaps we should make our exit a graceful one, taking no more of our fellow earthlings to the grave than we already have.

Call me a hopeless cynic if you’d like, but it’s worth noting that Life After People was the History Channel’s most-watched program ever, with an estimated 5.4 million viewers. Something resonated.

Anyhow, while flipping around the teevee this morning, I was happily surprised to stumble upon Episode 2 of Life After People: The Series. Apparently last year’s documentary proved so popular that the History Channel commissioned a 10-part mini-series:

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The Colbert Bump (Now with Tofurky!)

Monday, May 25th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

At the risk of making this blog a shrine to Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, allow me to follow up yesterday’s otherworldly thought experiment with yet another clip from The Colbert Report.

Last month, Colbert interviewed Kanishk Tharoor, son of “Friend of the Show” Shashi Tharoor, who was at the time running for an MP spot in India’s General Elections.

Stephen endorsed Tharoor the elder thusly:

Colbert: Now, your dad, Friend of the Show Shashi Tharoor, is running for position as an MP in Kerala, correct? OK, let’s move his numbers right now. I can’t endorse in this country, but I can in India. I hereby endorse Shashi Tharoor. He will put a chicken in every pot. Or – at least – at least – a chicken in every tandoor.

Tharoor: I’m afraid he’s not going to do anything of the sort. He – like me – is a vegetarian. So it’s not very likely that he’s going to do anything like that.

Colbert: Then he’ll put a vegetable korma in…whatever you wish to eat it out of.

At the time, I noted:

What’s so beautiful about this brief exchange is how Tharoor so casually dismantles Colbert’s preconceptions about Indian dietary preferences. Like most Americans, probably, Colbert “naturally” assumes that people the world over do things the American way – or aspire to, anyway – including slaughtering sentient beings by the billions for no reason other than convenience and selfishness. Even though, at +/- 30%, India has “the highest rate of vegetarians for any country worldwide,” Colbert just assumes that Indians want nothing more than plates filled to overflowing with animal corpses. As Tharoor points out, not so much. Colbert normally strikes me as someone who does his research (or has his writers and interns do his research), which makes this particular flub all the more interesting.

A few readers noted that “a chicken in every tandoor” is a play on the political slogan “a chicken in every pot,” a point not lost on me (though I suppose I could have conveyed it better in the post). Even so, I argued, since Stephen was spinning the phrase in order to make it more relevant to Indian culture, he could have spun it further: instead of “a chicken in every tandoor,” “a pound of tofu in every tandoor.” Given India’s high rate of vegetarianism, ‘twould be the odd politician who promises to put animal flesh on the plate of every Indian, methinks.

Anyhow, Stephen offered an update on Thursday’s show; despite steep odds, Shashi Tharoor

defeated his nearest CPI rival P. Ramachandran Nair by a margin of around 100,000 votes when the results were announced on 16 May, 2009.

Tharoor’s victory, of course, being due in no small part to The Colbert Bump.
 

 
During the segment, Stephen replayed his endorsement of Tharoor:

I hereby endorse Shashi Tharoor. He will put a chicken in every pot. Or – at least – at least – a chicken in every tandoor.

which he interrupted thusly:

Of course, since many of his constituents are vegetarian, he could promise a Tofurky in every tandoorky.

I feel like a totally deranged egotist in saying this, but…could that possibly have been directed at me?! Does one of The Colbert Report writers frequent my humble blog?! ZOMG, could it be the Sonic guy?!

Nah, I don’t think so, either. Either way, I love it.

Bonus AR goodness:

[Stephen, on Tharoor’s candidacy:] I was so excited to have a horse in the Indian Parliamentary race. Especially since this one was so much better than my pick for the Preakness, “Headed for Alpo.”

Is it just me, or has there been an uptick in disparaging, anti-horse racing / horse meat jokes on tv as of late?

Videos included in this post

The Colbert Report – Thursday, May 21, 2009 – Naan-Partisan
Stephen calls Shashi Tharoor to congratulate him on getting the Colbert Bump. (04:01)

The “right” to guzzle gas.

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Tom Coburn is fast becoming my pick for Douchebag of the Week.

See, for example, minute 2:30 of this Daily Show clip:
 

 
Coburn’s complaints re: CAFE standards: “What if you want to drive a gas hog? You don’t have the right any longer in this country to spend your money to drive a gas hog?”

Yes! And should I be struck with the desire to toss a barrel of arsenic in my pond, who is the government to tell me I can’t? It’s MY arsenic and MY pond, goddammit, and my grandfather fought and died in WWII so that AMERICA THE FREE would remain FREE from this sort of BIG GOVERNMENT FASCISM.

What’s better/worse, Coburn defends the “right” of individuals to pollute and consume to excess while also working to strip women of the right to bodily autonomy and privacy. He opposes abortion even in cases of rape and supports the death penalty for medical doctors who perform abortions. (Nor does he care to reduce the need for abortion by increasing the availability of and access to contraception.)

In Tom Coburn’s mind, a person has a greater “right” to decide what car to drive, than a person woman* has to decide whether or not she will lend her body and organs to another being – a potential being, which in its early stages exists as a tiny clump of cells – for nine months.

Car purchase > Bodily integrity

Seriously, what a douche.

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Your moment of Zen.

Sunday, April 19th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Okay, so Stephen Colbert’s interview with Kanishk Tharoor (featured in Thursday’s episode of The Colbert Report) has little to do with animal rights – nevertheless, there’s a delightful bit of awesomeness squeezed in at the end, starting at the 4:18 mark:
 

 

For those who can’t view the video, Colbert interviews Kanishk Tharoor, son of “Friend of the Show” Shashi Tharoor, who’s currently vying for a seat in India’s General Elections.

Colbert: Now, your dad, Friend of the Show Shashi Tharoor, is running for position as an MP in Kerala, correct? OK, let’s move his numbers right now. I can’t endorse in this country, but I can in India. I hereby endorse Shashi Tharoor. He will put a chicken in every pot. Or – at least – at least – a chicken in every tandoor.

Tharoor: I’m afraid he’s not going to do anything of the sort. He – like me – is a vegetarian. So it’s not very likely that he’s going to do anything like that.

Colbert: Then he’ll put a vegetable korma in…whatever you wish to eat it out of.

What’s so beautiful about this brief exchange is how Tharoor so casually dismantles Colbert’s preconceptions about Indian dietary preferences. Like most Americans, probably, Colbert “naturally” assumes that people the world over do things the American way – or aspire to, anyway – including slaughtering sentient beings by the billions for no reason other than convenience and selfishness. Even though, at +/- 30%, India has “the highest rate of vegetarians for any country worldwide,” Colbert just assumes that Indians want nothing more than plates filled to overflowing with animal corpses. As Tharoor points out, not so much. Colbert normally strikes me as someone who does his research (or has his writers and interns do his research), which makes this particular flub all the more interesting.

Or perhaps I’ve just been conditioned to have really low standards vis-à-vis vegetarian/vegan/AR representation in pop culture media?

Videos in this post

Thursday, April 16, 2009 – Indian Elections – Kanishk Tharoor
Kanishk Tharoor describes India’s beautifully choreographed dance of democracy. (05:06)

Update, 6/2/09:

Stephen announces Tharoor’s victory, this time with a vegetarian option.

From animal liberator to animal hunter: Life and death in the Dollhouse.

Friday, April 10th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

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Caution: Spoilers ahead! (More specifically, after the blockquote.)

Firstly, I’m extremely happy to report that, as promised by Ms. Dushku, Dollhouse has improved by leaps and bounds since last I blogged about it. Not only have we gotten to know Echo – our hero – a bit better, but more importantly, the show has addressed “the consent issue” head-on.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who haven’t seen the show, here’s a brief summary via Wiki:

Eliza Dushku plays a young woman called Echo, a member of a group of people known as “Actives” or “Dolls”. The Dolls have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas, including memory, muscle memory, skills, and language, for different assignments (referred to as engagements). The new persona is not an original creation, however, but an amalgam of different, existing personalities. The end result incorporates some of the flaws, not just the strengths, of the people used as templates. The Actives are then hired out for particular jobs – crimes, fantasies, and the occasional good deed. On engagements, Actives are monitored internally (and remotely) by Handlers. In between tasks, they are mind-wiped into a child-like state and live in a futuristic dormitory/laboratory, a hidden facility nicknamed “The Dollhouse”. The story follows Echo, who begins, in her mind-wiped state, to become self-aware.

As I noted before, the Dolls’ lack of agency in both their “wiped” and “programmed” states makes it impossible for them to give meaningful consent – for any of their actions, including sexual relations. When a doll “has sex,” she (or he) is actually being raped. Usually the rapist knows full well that he (or she) is “having sex” with a programmable “doll” – so it’s rape with intent. Occasionally, however, the “doll” is sent on a covert/undercover mission – for example, to seduce a certain FBI agent – and sex becomes a tool she (or he) uses to that end. Such cases still constitute rape, but…well, it’s hard to say who the rapist is when the “doll’s” partner believes that the encounter is consensual. The Rossum Corporation, perhaps?

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