Book Review: Imprisoned: Drawings from Nazi Concentration Camps, Arturo Benvenuti (2017)

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

#Resist

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher, as well as an electronic ARC on Edelweiss.)

Humanity continues to kill, to massacre, to persecute, with increased ruthlessness. Before eyes that are increasingly indifferent, passive. When not complicit. There’s no pity for the elderly, for women, for children. There’s no pity for anyone anymore. Man is wolf to man, today as much as – and more than – yesterday.

The older generations seem to have learned very little; the new ones don’t seem to want to learn any more. Wars continue to sow slaughter. Behind the barbed wire of new concentration camps, it has gone one; humanity has gone on being suppressed.

Most of all, this book aims to be – attempts to be – a contribution to the just “revolt” on behalf of those who feel like they can’t, in spite of everything, resign themselves to a monstrous, terrifying reality. Those who believe they must still and always “resist.”

– Arturo Benvenuti, “Without Words”

Born in 1923, Arturo Benvenuti – poet, painter, researcher, accountant, and banker – was just a young man during World War II. Yet his lack of civil engagement haunted him for decades, and the feelings of guilt and powerlessness – reflected in his poetry – eventually proved the impetus for the KZ Project.

In September of 1979, at the age of fifty-six, Arturo and his wife Marucci loaded up their camper and began what would become a lifelong journey: traveling throughout Europe, visiting former Nazi concentration camps (including Auschwitz, Terezín, Mauthausen, and Buchenwald), and meeting with as many survivors and veterans as he could. He also combed through local history museums, public libraries, and public archives, trying to piece together “visual testimonies” of the camps.

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Book Review: Pop Manga Coloring Book: A Surreal Journey Through a Cute, Curious, Bizarre, and Beautiful World, Camilla d’Errico (2016)

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Not just for manga fans and adult coloring book aficionados!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Confession time: I’ve never really gotten into the whole adult coloring book fad. I mean, who has the time, right? Not to mention, I have a fat stack of kid’s coloring books gathering dust in my library. Rather, when this title popped up on Blogging for Books, it was the artwork that caught my eye and compelled me to request a copy.

And Camilla d’Errico’s illustrations are indeed lovely. Beautiful. Dazzling, even. Stunning and surreal. The sort of thing I could stare at for hours on end. Honestly, there’s just no overselling it. If nothing else, Pop Manga Coloring Book would make a wonderful coffee table book.

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The book’s synopsis describes portraits and patterns, but the majority of the pages are filled with the former, sometimes superimposed on the latter for an extra-challenging coloring experience. Portraits of wide-eyed girls and women, some fully human, others only partially so: mermaids, steampunk mechanics, dragon wranglers, and kraken-girls. Here you’ll find androids and wolves, clockwork fishes and chariots pulled by ginormous butterflies. The world that d’Errico has created is weird and whimsical and hecka fun.

In fact, some of the artwork is reminiscent of my favorite kid’s movies from the ’80s – most notably Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. d’Errico’s wooly mammoth-type creature calls to mind Ludo,

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while the armored lizard immediately conjured images of SkekSil (his sharp and pointy face, anyway).

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It seems like the bulk of the illustrations fall into one of three broad categories: steampunk, under the sea, and goth girl, interrupted. Whatever the case, all are brimming with creativity and artistry.

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Part of me doesn’t even want to color in any of the pictures, lest I ruin them! Though I’m pretty sure this would offend/depress Ayako, the cute little blob-with-eyes who serves as our guide. She encourages us to bend the rules, exercise our creativity and, above all, have fun. Ayako pops up throughout the book to offer tips and dish gossip about her boss/creator. That’s the kind of book we’re talking about here.

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Whether you’re a manga fan or simply appreciate funky art; are skilled in the ways of coloring with pencils, or new to the adult coloring book scene – d’Errico’s Pop Manga Coloring Book is guaranteed to amaze. Seriously, SF/F nerds – you need this book now.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Long May She Wave: 100 Stars and Stripes Collectible Postcards, Kit Hinrichs (2016)

Monday, July 4th, 2016

50 Unique Americana Postcards (One to Keep, One to Share!) in a Faux Book Box

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Okay, I’ll admit it: I mostly requested this title from Blogging for Books to satisfy my curiosity. At the time, the description was rather vague and confusing, and I wanted to know just what the heck this book was: A collection of American ephemera? An interactive book with tear-out postcards? A stationary set?

As it turns out, it’s a cross between two and three: a storage box designed to mimic a book, housing 100 individual postcards: 50 unique designs, with two of each so you can send a card/keep a card, if you’d like. Kind of neat, eh?

(Hinrichs published a similarly titled book in 2001 (with several editions since), Long May She Wave: A Graphic History of the American Flag; the synopsis for Long May She Wave: Stars and Stripes Collectible Postcards that currently appears on Amazon appears to have been copied from the older title. Stars and Stripes doesn’t feature 500 illustrations, nor is it an 11″x14″ hardcover volume.)

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The postcards are all lovely, and range from the expected (American flags; items sporting American flag designs, such as quilts and costumes) to more unusual fare (a “living flag” made up of 10,000 cadets at the Great Lakes Naval Academy circa 1917; a postal flag constructed entirely of postage stamps; a prison art flag made of candy and cigarette wrappers). Each card has a brief description on the back; you could make a game out of guessing what some of the crafty flags are made out of.

The box is really handsome, too. Made out of heavy-duty cardboard, the embellishments on the “spine” and “pages” give the feel of a real book. The title’s even embossed, and the flag textured, for a rich, sophisticated feel.

If you have an amateur (or even professional) historian in the family, Long May She Wave would make an excellent gift. The box even comes shrink wrapped to prevent damage.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess, Janet Hill (2016)

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

Whimsical Artwork Paired With Sage Advice

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-book for review through NetGalley.)

I don’t usually gravitate to kids’ books, but with a title like Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess I was powerless to resist. Dog Governess? Hello! That’s only my dream job! That and reading books for a living. Preferably from the bottom of a warm, cozy dog pile. But I digress.

I have four rescue dogs (down from seven at the highest point) and also foster, so I’m betting that I’m the target audience for this book. Or one of them anyway. While obviously suitable for kids, Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess is also likely to appeal to adults who love dogs, as well as connoisseurs of irreverent animal art.

Mother to a monkey named Mitford and Petunia the French bulldog, the redheaded Miss Moon is employed as a governess to sixty-seven dogs on an island off the coast of France. In this book, she shares the lessons she’s learned from her canine companions. Twenty pieces of wisdom, each illustrated by a lovely portrait of Miss Moon and her furry charges.

While Miss Moon’s guidance is indeed inspired – who can argue with advice like “Friends come in many shapes and sizes” or “A good book will chase away the dark”? – really it’s the artwork that will take your breath away. Each scene resembles a painting on canvas; I would happily hang any one of these images on my walls. There are dogs in hats, dogs in Halloween costumes, and dogs dressed as pirates. (So many pirates!) Dogs at the dinner table and dogs riding bicycles. Big dogs and tiny dogs and every dog in between. I think I even spotted my own dogs: a dachshund (no surprise – everyone loves a wiener dog!) and a fox or Jack Russell terrier of some sort (representations of these being a little harder to find).

Even the book’s layout appears to be carefully considered; the colors and background on the “advice” pages complement the illustrations like whoah. Really, this is one gorgeous children’s book – and I say this having only seen the electronic version. Usually I prefer the print version for books that have a heavy graphic element. I can’t wait to get my hands on a “real” copy.

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Book Review: Go Ahead & Like It, Jacqueline Suskin (2015)

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Not Terribly Interactive

two out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Go Ahead & Like It is not at all what I expected. Granted, based on the book’s vague and weirdly broad Amazon description, it’s difficult to pin down precisely; in one breath, it purports to be a scrapbook, art book, self-help book, how-to guide, etc., etc., etc. So perhaps it’s unfair to dislike it for failing to meet my already hazy expectations. But. When the description says that it features “writing prompts,” I don’t think it unreasonable to assume that the book will also include blank space for me to work on said prompts. Not so much.

Go Ahead & Like It isn’t an interactive journal or workbook, with space for the reader to formulate her own lists, but rather an instructional guide, the bulk of which highlights Suskin’s own lists, photographs, and ephemera. The end result feels remarkably self-indulgent: Suskin fans aside, who wants to shell out seventeen bucks to read an assortment of a stranger’s random lists?

What we have here is a case of good idea, poor execution: this book would have been 100% better had Suskin complemented her writing tips with one or two of her own lists (and perhaps a plethora of artwork with liberal white space), and then given her readers ample space to record their own. There’s one blank list at the very back of the book, but that’s it.

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Book Review: Dave Loves Chickens, Carlos Patino (2013)

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Pro tip: You can get a good deal on this title if you buy it through United Poultry Concerns’ website!

Give a Cluck about Chickens!

five out of five stars

Chickens are kind of awesome. They can distinguish between more than one hundred faces (chicken faces, that is!). They enjoy sunbathing – and dust bathing! When they sleep, chickens often dream – we know this because they experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A mother hen will bravely protect her chicks from predators; using “chicken” as a synonym for “cowardly” doesn’t quite fit. Chickens can travel up to nine miles an hour and, when not slaughtered for their meat or caged for their eggs, chickens can live anywhere from five to eleven years in the wild.

But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to Dave, the three-eyed, double-horned, snaggle-toothed, lumpy blue alien. (Okay, so maybe I put a few factoids in his mouth in order to spice up this review, but you get the gist!) He’s pretty smart, you know; he’d have to be, to master space travel and all.

A visitor from Far, Far Away, Dave can’t understand why we love some animals and eat others. All animals are pretty cool and have a right to be free – chickens included!

With bold, bright colors and fun graphics, Dave Loves Chickens is an adorable picture book that encourages kids to respect animals by not eating or otherwise exploiting them. The message is presented in a fun, engaging, and gentle way, stressing the unique attributes of chickens as opposed to, say, explaining the horrors endured by battery hens in egg-laying facilities. Dave Loves Chickens is an excellent resource for parents and guardians who want to raise kind, compassionate, and critically-thinking kids.

And this 35-year-old enjoyed the artwork and enthusiastic message, too.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: We Animals, Jo-Anne McArthur (2013)

Monday, February 17th, 2014

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“It will change the world, for the better, for us all.”

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free pdf copy of this book for review.)

“What you see on these pages may surprise or disturb you. My aim is not to turn you away but to draw you in, bring you closer, make you a participant. I want my photographs to be beautiful and evocative as well as truthful and compelling. I hope you’ll take the time not just to look but to see — if only as a mark of respect for the billions of animals whose lives and deaths we don’t notice. To look at this book is to bear witness with me, which means also that we confront cruelty and our complicity in it. As a species, we have to learn new behaviours and attitudes and unlearn the old ones.” (page 9)

Photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur has spent the last decade and a half traveling the world – both on her own and in the company of animal activists – documenting our complicated relationships with nonhuman animals. Relationships that so often boil down to objectification, exploitation, and consumption. If you’ve been involved with animal advocacy for any length of time, no doubt you’re familiar with some of McArthur’s images. She’s photographed open rescues conducted by Animal Equality; documented the affecting actions of Toronto Pig Save; and set sail with the crew of the Sea Shepherd. McArthur bears witness through the lens of her camera, exposing atrocities that many of us would prefer remain invisible.

Recently featured in Liz Marshall’s The Ghosts In Our Machine, We Animals features 100 of McArthur’s photos – some taken for the film, others on behalf of various animal advocacy organizations, and the rest during the artist’s travels. The result is a stunning portfolio that’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. From the Calgary Stampede to the Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, McArthur brings us examples of unimaginable cruelty – and selfless compassion.

(More below the fold…)

#ForTheGhosts

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

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The much-anticipated animal rights documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine is coming out in just a few weeks, and the folks involved need our help to get the word out! The film follows renown photographer Jo-Anne McArthur over the course of the year as she bears witness to the suffering of the billions of animals exploited in the food, fashion, entertainment, and research industries. The film is part of a larger, ongoing photo project, We the Animals, now in its 15th year. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, no doubt you’ve seen some of Jo-Anne’s photos.

(This picture of Sonny the calf – shown on his rescue day in the banner above – is among my favorites!)

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You can find (some really amazing) banners, graphics, Facebook cover photos, press kits, and more on the film’s website at www.theghostsinourmachine.com. Private Vimeo screenings are available to those bloggers who would like to review the film and/or interview the filmmakers.

To see a list of upcoming screenings – or request one in your community – click here.

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New Documentary ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine’ Begins U.S. Theatrical Release in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco

TORONTO, ON – The Ghosts in Our Machine, the acclaimed documentary film about the dramatic reality largely hidden from our view – the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world – will begin an awards-season run in four major U.S. markets this fall.

Award-winning filmmaker Liz Marshall’s progressive, consciousness-raising documentary will be released in New York on Nov. 8 at Village East Cinema, in Los Angeles on Nov. 15 at Laemmle Music Hall, and will later expand to San Francisco and Boston with dates and theaters to be announced soon. The film enjoyed a successful world premiere earlier this year at Canada’s Hot Docs film festival, where it was voted a Top 10 Audience Favorite, and has since been booked in 11 cities across Canada.

Marshall directs The Ghosts in Our Machine through the heart and lens of award-winning animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. Over the course of a year, Marshall shadows McArthur throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe as she documents animal stories, with each photograph and story serving as a window into global industries using animals for food, clothing, entertainment and biomedical research. McArthur’s epic photo project We Animals is comprised of thousands of photographs taken around the world, documenting animals with heart-breaking empathic vividness.

This visually arresting one-of-a-kind documentary shines a cinematic light on the animals we don’t easily acknowledge – the “ghosts” – who are trapped within the cogs of our voracious consumer world. Haunting and heart-warming, audiences encounter a diverse cast of animal subjects who invite us to consider whether non-human animals are property to be owned and used, or sentient beings deserving of rights. The Ghosts in Our Machine also charts McArthur’s efforts to bring wider attention to a topic most of humankind strives hard to avoid.

“With the exception of our companion animals and a few wild and stray species within our urban environments, we experience animals daily as the food, clothing, animal tested goods and entertainment we make of them,” said Marshall. “This moral dilemma is often hidden from our view.”

“I feel like I’m a war photographer,” McArthur says in the film. “I am photographing history, and photographing changes in history right now, in terms of animal rights and where it’s going.”

Since early development and during filming, the project has attracted the attention of progressives and celebrities alike, with kudos from Woody Harrelson, Bill Maher, James Cromwell, Bob Barker, and other international animal and environmental advocates. Radiohead agreed to have their iconic song, “Give Up The Ghost,” in the film.

The film’s website (www.theghostsinourmachine.com) offers a number of interactive educational tools including a guided five-day “Ghost-Free Journey” to lead participants on adopting a vegan lifestyle, and a stunning and innovative flash story by award-winning interactive artists The Goggles (Welcome to Pine Point; Adbusters).

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Book Review: The Performance Identities of Lady Gaga, Richard Gray III, ed. (2012)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Deconstructing the Fame Monster

three out of five stars

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.

In just a few short years, Lady Gaga has built a large body of work ripe for critical analysis. The sixteen authors and academics who contributed to The Performance Identities of Lady Gaga: Critical Essays clearly agree. The thirteen essays in this anthology address the spectacle that is Lady Gaga from a multitude of perspectives: sociology, politics, psychology and psychoanalysis, LGBTQ rights, gender studies and feminism, camp, Surrealism, Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, and “post-racism” and white privilege – examining her in relation to those she has parodied, as well as those who have parodied her: most obviously Madonna, as well as Judy Garland and The Wizard of Oz, Thelma & Louise, Kill Bill, sexploitation/blaxsploitation/“women in prison” B movies, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Rammstein, and “Weird Al” Yankovic, to name but a few – all with an eye on performance art and identity.

The Performance Identities of Lady Gaga is obviously written by and for academics. While some essays are more accessible than others, all are filled with jargon and $20 words. I was able to muddle through with the occasional help of Google, yet some of the essays (the early ones, in particular) proved so dry that they threatened to lull me to sleep. This definitely isn’t a book for the lay monsters in the audience.

That said, a working knowledge of Lady Gaga’s oeuvre – not just the obvious song lyrics and music videos, but also concert tours, album art, costuming, speeches, interviews, and photo shoots – is an essential prerequisite for The Performance Identities of Lady Gaga. While the authors do a decent enough job of explaining the performances they’re dissecting, a certain level of prior knowledge is assumed.

I requested a copy of this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program not because I’m a Lady Gaga fan, but because I enjoy pop culture analysis. Nor am I an anti-fan (to borrow a term used frequently in the book); rather, I’m not really into dance/pop and thus know very little about Lady Gaga outside of her activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community. My understanding of the essays definitely could have benefited from a greater knowledge of the source material.

Perhaps owing to my love of fairy tales, I found Jennifer M. Woolston’s “Lady Gaga and the Wolf: ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ The Fame Monster and Female Sexuality” especially readable, even if most of the connections are stretched well past credulity. Also enjoyable is editor Richard J. Gray III’s contribution, “Surrrealism, the Theatre of Cruelty and Lady Gaga” – surprisingly so, since I didn’t know anything about Surrealism beforehand. Gray does an excellent job of introducing the reader to the material (without watering down the discussion for those already in the know) and then illustrating how Lady Gaga’s work clearly fits within the Surrealist tradition. Rebecca M. Lush’s “The Appropriation of the Madonna Aesthetic,” Matthew R. Turner’s “Performing Pop: Lady Gaga, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’ and Parodied Performance,” and “Whiteness and the Politics of ‘Post-Racial’ America by Laura Gray-Rosendale, Stephanie Capaldo, Sherri Craig, and Emily Davalos are all highly engaging and interesting as well.

Not wishing to penalize the authors for my own ignorance, I struggled with weather I should give this book a 3- or 4-star review. That is, until I came to Karley Adney’s “’I Hope When I’m Dead I’ll Be Considered an Icon’: Shock Performance and Human Rights.” One of just a few pieces written from an overtly feminist perspective, I was both surprised and not a little offended when, in the course of her Lady Gaga apologism, Adney excuses and reinforces the stereotype that feminists are misandrists.

(More below the fold…)

Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 26: Milk Thieves, Body Hair, and the Cannibals Within

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

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Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: A Powerful Statement

This stunning sculpture by Liu Qiang is an accurate depiction of humanity’s use of, and utter dependence on other animals and, in particular, the savage and bizarre habit of consuming the breast milk from mothers of other species-milk that these mothers have produced for their own babies, babies that we forced them to become pregnant with only to kill shortly after birth so that we can take the bereft mother’s milk, milk that we drink as though we were the children that we murdered.

Live vegan. There is no excuse not to.

Learn about non-violent living
Learn who is spared when you live vegan…
…and who suffers when you choose not to:
Milk Comes from a Grieving Mother
Dairy is a Death Sentence
The “Humane” Animal Farming Myth

29h59’59 by Liu Qiang is on exhibition at the 798 Art District in Beijing, China
Photo by Ng Han Guan

VegNews: June Twitter Chat, Wednesday, June 20 @ 6pm PT/9pm ET

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we’ll be talking with prominent gay animal-rights activists about the connection between both movements. Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Don’t worry. We have a handy guide to explain it all. Join us at the hashtag #VegNewsChat. You don’t even need to have a Twitter account to enjoy the discussion.

Kaili Joy Gray @ Daily Kos: Safeway’s general counsel tells hilarious sexist joke at annual shareholder meeting

You can listen to the audio at the link above, but here’s a transcript for the a/v averse:

You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter.

The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”

And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Women as livestock. Nonhuman animals as items of trade. Sexism and speciesism, the stuff of high comedy. TAKE MY LAWYER, PLEASE!

Fat Girl Posing: Vegans.. I need to talk to you..

This is a year-old piece about fat shaming in the vegan community that recently recirculated on Facebook. h/t to Emelda (I think).

The whole piece is worth a read, but here’s the excerpt I posted on FB:

So here’s your strategy, right? Animal products are full of fat and calories and, therefore, if you stop eating them you’ll lose weight.. so, market veganism as a diet or “lifestyle change” will bring more people to the movement by preying on their low self esteem and body hatred. While the strategy may work initially what do you intend to do when all the newbie veg’s don’t lose weight? Or when they lose it but then gain it back? As a diet, it fails, just like any other, and you’ve lost your pull. More so, you’ve become part of an industry which is cruel to animals.. specifically the human animal.

Word.

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 21: Campaign WIN/FAIL edition

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

MTV's Retro Hit Girl Poster

“MTV’s Retro Hit Girl Poster”: In a reimagining of J. Howard Miller’s iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, a purple-wigged Hit Girl flexes her bicep, gun in hand. The purple bubble emanating
from her head reads, “We Can Kick Ass!” Message brought to you by the Women’s Ass-Kicking Committee. (This photo has absolutely zilch to do with today’s post; rather, it just makes me smile. The warm and fuzzies, I sure needed ’em after wading through not one, but two PETA campaigns. Maybe you will too?)
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Okay, so there’s much, much more FAIL than WIN in this edition of Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, but seeing as I’m all about the power of positive thinking, half-full beer steins, and all that fluffy fun stuff (sike!), I had to lead with WIN. In the title, anyhow. Had you fooled, didn’t I?

The Discerning Brute: Rape of Africa in “A Bid to Save the Earth.”

So this is…interesting. In honor of Earth Day, Christie’s hosted an auction to benefit several environmental organizations. One of the art pieces – David LaChapelle’s “Rape of Africa” – is unsettling, to say the least. Click on over to the Discerning Brute to view the image (which is totally NSFW as it depicts, among other things, Naomi Campbell’s bare breast). Joshua Katcher’s interpretation of the photograph is worth a read as well, particularly as he links the exploitation of farmed animals to that of human women, to wit:

[S]itting beside Naomi Campbell are farm animals, which suggest the failure of programs like Oxfam and Heifer International as well as making the statement that, like domesticated farm animals, Naomi is a chattel.

WIN or FAIL? Well, I dig the piece, though it’s not exactly something I’d hang over the fireplace, if you know what I mean.

Catholic Vote - Earth Day 2010

Her Authority: Women’s Bodies Are… Pieces of Land?

In this Earth Day-themed ad, the anti-choice group CatholicVote.org links women (particularly mothers, o givers of life!) with the natural world by superimposing an image of the earth over the womb of a heavily pregnant woman. A cute (read: white, blond-haired, appropriately feminine, etc.) little girl rests her head against her mother’s belly; index finger pressed to her lips, she seems to be saying, “Shhh! My little sister is trying to sleep in there!”

With this imagery, CatholicVote.org is romanticizing two “homes,” if you will: that of the developing fetus (baby!), i.e., a womb which belongs to an adult human female; and planet earth, i.e., home to all of humanity (and a trillion other creatures, as well). Women are not individual beings with their own thoughts and desires, but rather pieces of land. And what do we humans do with land, the earth, and the natural world, class? That’s right – we conquer and dominate them! Nice.

Which makes the romanticization of each – women/mothers and the earth/nature – all that much more distasteful and disingenuous. Throw me on the bottom of the shitpile and tell me that I live on a pedestal, why don’t you?

(More below the fold…)

A hen is a mink is a dog is a boy.* Also: site updates and intersectionality links!

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

“Mother hen”: Resting in the grass, a mother hen carries/camouflages four+ chicks under her wings. CC image via topinambour on Flickr.
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Along with The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book, the Book Publishing Company sent me a copy of Karen Davis’s Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, which I’ve had my eye on for some time now. (The book is now in its second edition; you can download the first ed. for free as a .pdf file here, via United Poultry Concerns.) With five out of six chapters down, I’m not yet ready to offer a review, but I will say that it’s excellent – a must read, and a difficult one, at that. Not difficult intellectually, but emotionally: battery and broiler farms are the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Inferno come to life. You will need to read this book from the bottom of a dog pile – soft fur and warm bellies were the only things to keep me from breaking down in tears some nights. The scale and depth of suffering is simply unfathomable.

Anyhow, whether intentionally or not, Davis writes quite a bit about issues of intersectionality in Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs. The gendered nature of egg production is an obvious topic, but the shared suffering does not stop there. For example, Davis explains what becomes of “spent” laying hens – that is, hens whose bodies are (prematurely, tragically, needlessly) depleted of calcium and other nutrients, such that they’re no longer capable of laying eggs. Their fate is a gruesome one, however, it’s only one link in a long chain of abominations:

At slaughter, spent laying hens are a mass of broken bones, abscesses oozing yellow fluids, bright red bruises, internal hemorrhaging, and malignant tumors. They’ve lost 40 percent or more of their feathers, and because they are economically “worthless,” they sit in transport cages in all weathers at the slaughterhouse “until all other birds are dealt with – up to 12 hours.” The slaughtered birds are shredded into products that hide the true state of their flesh and their lives: chicken soups, pies, and nuggets, commercial mink and pet food, livestock and poultry feed, and school lunches and other institutionalized food service and government purchase programs designed by the egg industry and the Department of Agriculture to dump dead laying hens onto consumers in diced up form. **

In order to mask the abuses inflicted upon the bodies and psyches of egg-laying hens, the industry dismembers – nay, grinds – them into unrecognizable bits. These bits are then fed to the most vulnerable among us: enslaved and exploited nonhuman animals, including the dead hens’ kin; “pets,” including dogs and cats; children who attend public schools, particularly those who rely on the school lunch system; “institutionalized food service and government purchase programs,” such as those that “feed” incarcerated men and women; and working-class and impoverished Americans, whose only access to food may come in the form of fast food joints. One injustice fuels the next, with no end in sight. (Sigh. Where’s that dog pile?!)

(More below the fold…)

Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 4

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

LGBT Compassion - Screenshot

LGBT Compassion

One of the newest additions to the “Intersections” category on my blogroll, LGBT Compassion is a

coalition of San Francisco Bay Area gay animal advocates (and some non-gay friends) working to promote awareness of animal welfare, health, environmental, and civil rights issues within our community – along with any other important social issues that we feel strongly about.

We feel that the LGBT community, having experienced discrimination, oppression and suffering ourselves, having special health issues, and often having unique bonds with companion animals, should be open to learning and helping others who may not be able to speak up for themselves – whether human or non-human.

Their motto: Fighting oppression and discrimination for all. Love it.

I first learned of the group through its investigation into San Francisco’s live animal markets, where chickens are kept and displayed for sale in plastic bags (!). If you haven’t yet, definitely go check ’em out.

PETA Asia-Pacific: Urge Egypt’s Prime Minister to Stop Cruel Pig Cull

When I saw that PETA was campaigning against the pig culls in Egypt, I was excited. Last I checked, the WSPA had reached a standstill with the Egyptian government, which was insisting that the culls had ceased, despite evidence to the contrary. Writing about the issue at change.org, I wanted desperately to offers readers an opportunity to take action. But nada – until now.

When I actually read the sample letter provided by PETA, though, my heart sank. Rather than calling for an end to the culls, PETA asks the government to “Please place a moratorium on the pig cull until guidelines can be put in place to ensure that the killing is as humane as possible.” This despite the fact that the culls are wholly unnecessary – an inefficient way to guard against swine flu. And this comes not from animal advocacy groups, but government experts (such as those at the UN) – who, on the whole, aren’t really known for their animal-friendly views.

Add to the mix the possibility that the culls might have as much to do with religious discrimination as swine flu paranoia, and PETA really dropped the ball here. Not only has the group failed to defend the pigs from slaughter – it also failed to take the majority Muslim government to task for oppressing the minority Christian farmers. PETA even reinforces the government’s bigotry by pleading for a “humane” pig cull at a later date!

Oh, with friends like these…

(More below the fold…)

DawnWatch: Animal slaughter art exhibit closes under peaceful protest, then threats — SF Chronicle 3/30/08

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Previous IDA alerts here and here.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 1:28 AM
Subject: DawnWatch: Animal slaughter art exhibit closes under peaceful protest, then threats — SF Chronicle 3/30/08

Last week, a San Francisco art exhibition that included animal cruelty was in the news. This Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, included a lead article (by Ilana DeBare, pg B1) headed, “Art Institute halts exhibition showing killing of animals; Workers threatened; video unclear about why deaths filmed.”

The article opens:

“Citing threats of violence by animal rights activists, the San Francisco Art Institute said Saturday that it is canceling a controversial exhibition that included video clips of animals being bludgeoned to death, as well as a public forum it had scheduled to address the controversy.

“”We’ve gotten dozens of threatening phone calls that targeted specific staff people with death threats, threats of violence and threats of sexual assaults,’ said Art Institute President Chris Bratton. ‘We remain committed to freedom of speech as fundamental to this institution, but we have to take people’s safety very seriously.’

“The exhibit that sparked the controversy was a one-person show by Paris artist Adel Abdessemed called ‘Don’t Trust Me,’ which opened March 19.

“Along with a variety of other elements, the show included a series of video loops of animals being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer in front of a brick wall. The animals killed included a pig, goat, deer, ox, horse and sheep.”

While the headline and opening lines of the article suggest that the exhibition was removed only because of threats of violence, further on we read:

“Abdessemed’s show, one of about a dozen public exhibitions that the 650-student school hosts each year, had opened fairly quietly. But as word spread among animal rights groups, more than 8,000 people sent e-mails to the institute slamming the show. Institute officials temporarily closed the show Wednesday and scheduled a public forum for Monday.

“But then the tone of some of the e-mails turned violent, Bratton said, with threats against individual staff members, such as, ‘We’re going to gather up your children and bludgeon their heads.’ Officials decided to shutter the exhibition permanently, the first time in the institute’s 137-year history that a show was closed for safety reasons. They also canceled the forum.

“”Some of the people who said the most threatening things said they would be present at the forum,’ Bratton said.”

(More below the fold…)

IDA: In Defense of Animals Denounces Snuff Video at Art Exhibition

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

FYI: SFAI has apparently canceled the exhibit; according to this article, “a public forum [SFAI] had scheduled to address the controversy” has been nixed as well. I’m assuming that it’s the same forum IDA is referring to in this alert; I don’t think it was canceled until Saturday or Sunday, after the alert was released. Either way, I’m crossposting it as an update. (Sorry for the delay, I still haven’t quite recovered from Thursday’s dental surgery.)

The SF Chronicle article also provides some additional info about Abdessemed and the exhibit:

Art Institute officials said Saturday that Abdessemed had shot the videos at a farm in rural Mexico that routinely slaughters animals in the way he depicted. They said the videos were part of a social critique. “One of the things this exhibition was pointing to was the difference in production of food resources between industrialized production in the U.S. and in poorer countries,” said Bratton.

But the exhibition was a far cry from straightforward exposes like Upton Sinclair’s classic muckraking book, “The Jungle,” or the Humane Society’s video footage.

The show did not mention that the videos were shot in Mexico or provide any historical context. Other parts of the exhibition included large neon sculptures and a video of Abdessemed hanging upside down from a helicopter while creating a drawing based on a 19th century French painting.

“Those killings were done gratuitously, not like someone documenting a slaughterhouse,” Katz said. “It sends a terrible message to Art Institute students that it’s OK to go out and do similar things.”

So I still don’t buy this bullshit about “Don’t Trust Me’s” grand social goals. If Abdessemed wanted to draw attention to animal cruelty, he would have provided some contextual info. A half dozen animals, bludgeoned to death against a quaint brick background, played on a loop with no commentary, is a snuff film. These deaths were staged for the camera, in stark contrast to the thousands upon thousands of undercover videos taken by animal rights advocates over the past few decades. If you want to draw attention to animal cruelty, you use existing footage. If it’s not purty enough for you, rework it. But if you go stage a few cases of animal abuse specifically for your exhibit, you’re an animal abuser, not some kind of visionary.

(You can read the previous alert here.)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at] idausa.org
Date: Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 1:14 PM
Subject: In Defense of Animals Denounces Snuff Video at Art Exhibition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In Defense of Animals Denounces Snuff Video at Art Exhibition

Animal Protection Organization calls for public to attend Monday’s SFAI Forum

San Francisco, Calif. – Following an overwhelming public response to an action alert from In Defense of Animals (IDA), the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) has suspended the Adel Abdessemed exhibition of animal torture videos entitled, “Don’t Trust Me.” IDA’s President Elliot M. Katz characterized the exhibit, depicting the bludgeoning deaths of tethered animals, as a snuff video.

IDA and its members will also speak up at SFAI’s public forum, scheduled for Monday at noon, and IDA is encouraging the public to attend and speak.

What: Public forum to discuss this exhibit
When: Monday, March 31st, Noon
Where: San Francisco Art Institute Main Campus (in the lecture hall), 800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco

(More below the fold…)

IDA: Tell San Francisco Art Institute to remove snuff video exhibit from gallery

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

(Crossposted from.)

Note to those who carelessly toss out some variation of the complaint that “animals are treated better than people” (usually taking the form of a lamentation that ‘x’ minority group is treated worse even than mere animals; e.g., “women are treated worse than animals” or “dogs are treated better than women!”): Does this mean that I can, say, fillet a baby and get away with my crime, just so long as I videotape it and call it “art”? No? Then STFU.

And for Chrissakes, it’s not as though Abdessemed has to go out and slaughter another six animals to make such an exhibit; animal abuse is everywhere. She could have aired any six of the hundreds (thousands?) of undercover investigations conducted by animal activists. How is exhibiting something you can find on YouTube with distressing frequency “innovative” or “art”, even? Yawn. She’s not an artist, she’s a sadist.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at] idausa.org
Date: Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 1:27 PM
Subject: Tell San Francisco Art Institute to remove snuff video exhibit from gallery

The “Art” of Animal Cruelty

Tell San Francisco Art Institute to remove snuff video exhibit from gallery

Walk into the Walter and McBean Galleries in San Francisco’s posh Russian Hill neighborhood, and you may be shocked to see what passes for contemporary “art” these days. Six televisions display video images of six different animals — a doe, a goat, a horse, an ox, a pig, and a sheep — being bludgeoned to death with a large sledgehammer by “artist” Adel Abdessemed of Paris. Entitled “Don’t Trust Me,” this sick exhibit is Abdessemed’s and the Institute’s self-serving attempt to pass off the brutal abuse and killing of animals as legitimate artistic creation.

What such “artists” and their patrons overlook is that animals are living beings who feel and suffer just like we humans — and we are no more justified in taking their lives at will than we have the right to kill another person. Such abuse of animals may elicit horror and disgust in viewers, but that does not qualify it as art. Far from it — in fact, “Don’t Trust Me” represents the very worst impulses of the human imagination.

It takes no artistic talent or ability to kill animals, and Abdessemed should have never been given a venue for his sickening “work” in the first place. To their great discredit, the San Francisco Art Institute agreed to sponsor this exhibit, lending it an air of credibility, but what makes matters worse are the obscene rationalizations this venerable institution of learning and culture offers in defense of the sleazy snuff films. These include pedantic claims that such killings “regularly take place…in the real world, on a regular basis,” and that the installation “(makes) typical moral and cultural constraints seem beside the point.”

Such statements betray not only a lack of compassion and basic human decency, but also a fundamental confusion of true artistic creation with the destruction of life. Abdessemed’s work is of no artistic value, and rather than raise people’s consciousness about the cruelties committed against animals every day, it will encourage them to accept animal abuse as a way of gaining attention and notoriety.

To call someone who murders animals an “artist” is an insult to every real artist who refuses to rely on violence and shallow, sensationalistic gimmicks to express his or her vision. While the work of such murderers will surely not endure, their antics may encourage and incite others to torture and kill animals, so it is crucial that people of conscience voice our outrage over this monstrous display of cruelty.

Please Take Action to urge the San Francisco Art Institute to remove Abdessemed’s disgusting exhibit immediately, and implement a policy explicitly prohibiting exhibits for which animals were exploited or killed.

(More below the fold…)

Coming to Madrid in May 2007: "Neither Muscles nor Secretions"

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Crossposted with the artist’s permission…

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: nmns – nmns [at] nimusculosnisecreciones.com
Date: Feb 28, 2007 3:39 AM
Subject: vegan art exhibition

Hi,

I’m Veronica Ibarra, I’m writing you to tell you about a vegan art exhibition I’m co-organising.

Ni Musculos Ni secreciones (Neither Muscles nor Secretions) is an international art event happening in Madrid this May 2007.

More than 15 vegan artists from UK, US and Spain will be showing artwork for a week at an empty flat located at the heart of the city.

The idea behind this event is to promote veganism and respect for non-human animals. An art exhibition is an original way of doing vegan outreach. We will be showing art that expresses ideas of veganism and animal issues in very different ways and styles. Art can be a very effective and powerful tool and has always been used to question injustice and provoke social change.

The fact that the artists involved are vegan is also important to the project. One purpose of the exhibition is for people to start perceiving veganism as something that can be interesting to them and even exciting and not a restrictive sacrifice. We want to give out the message that people doing interesting creative and enriching things can also be vegan. Ni Musculos ni Secreciones will be the first contact that a lot of people will have with the concept of veganism, so we intend to give them a positive first impression.

We have two main target audiences: the international art community and the local people who are interested in art and/or are politically curious.

The location where it will take place is a huge space in the trendy area called Malasaña. It’s an area full of young kids hanging out, alternative cafes, bars and art spaces. We believe that people who are interested in going to shows will want to come to this one. We are going to do a lot of promotion: press release, emails, handing-out flyers, fly-posting, Fotolog, Myspace, etc. As a strategy, this event won’t be promoted as vegan activism, but simply as a cool art exhibition where all artists happen to be vegan.

At the opening night, we will have a party with free vegan food and a vegan DJ will play music.

The website will permanently showcase the art for the international community to see (http://www.nimusculosnisecreciones.com).

(More below the fold…)

DawnWatch: Elephant as art on NY Times front page and LA Times metro cover — 9/16/06

Monday, September 18th, 2006

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Sep 16, 2006 8:20 PM
Subject: DawnWatch: Elephant as art on NY Times front page and LA Times metro cover 9/16/06

An exhibition that includes a painted elephant has made the front page of the New York Times and the front of the Metro section of the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, September 16. The difference in tone between the two pieces is striking. The New York Times piece, headed, “In the Land of Beautiful People, an Artist Without a Face” opens:

“As a metaphor for problems that people are uncomfortable talking about, ‘the elephant in the room’ is not the most original.

“But then, few people actually put the elephant in the room, paint it red and adorn it with gold fleurs-de-lis to match the brocade wallpaper, and then dare viewers not to talk about it.

“Banksy, perhaps Britain’s most notorious graffiti artist and public prankster, has done just that with “Barely Legal,” a new show at an industrial warehouse in Los Angeles, as part of what his spokesman says is his first large-scale exhibition in the United States.

“Such a show — complete with advance publicity, an opening party with valet parking and Hollywood glitterati, including Jude Law and his posse, and sales of numbered prints at $500 each — would seem to go against Banksy’s rebel image.

We are informed the show is supposed to draw attention to the world poverty problems nobody talks about — the elephant in the room. But nowhere in the article is there any suggestion that having an elephant in a room is a problem.

(More below the fold…)