Book Review: The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Ellen Datlow, ed. (2008)

Monday, May 14th, 2012

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You had me at “Maureen F. McHugh”!

five out of five stars

I first picked up this book because it contains a piece by one of my favorite writers, Maureen F. McHugh – “Special Economics” which, as it just so happens, I’d already read (it appears in 2011’s After the Apocalypse: Stories) – but ultimately enjoyed all but one of the sixteen essays in this diverse collection. With elements of horror, fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction, alternate history, and the supernatural, The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy – masterfully curated by Ellen Datlow – has a little bit of something for everyone. Especially if you prefer your speculative fiction on the dark side.

In addition to Maureen McHugh’s “Special Economics,” an arguably feminist tale which takes place in a future China devastated by the bird flu, my favorites include:

* “Jimmy” (Pat Cadigan), whose eponymous (anti?-) hero is a young boy coming of age in the 1960s (the bulk of story takes place the day JFK was assassinated). Granted “enlightenment” by an alien species, Jimmy is shunned by those who can sense his difference – and want nothing to do with it. Ignorance is bliss, or so the saying goes.

* “The Passion of Azazel” (Barry N. Malzberg), a revenge story told from the point of view of a goat, sacrificed to the gods one long-ago Day of Atonement and then reincarnated as a (human) rabbinical student who fashions a golem who is quite possibly his long-dead brother goat.

* “The Goosle” (Margo Lanagan), a fittingly bleak retelling of/sequel to “Hansel and Gretal,” in which lone survivor Hansel escapes from the witch’s cage only to find a world more brutal than the one he left behind. (Strong trigger warning for rape.)

Some of the stories – most notably “The Passion of Azazel” – can be interpreted from an anti-oppressive vegan perspective, which I especially appreciate.

For what it’s worth, I just discovered Ellen Datlow’s adult fairy tale anthology series. Wishlist ALL the books!

 

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An excerpt from “The Passion of Azazel.”
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(Crossposted on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads.)

Oprah’s Favorite Things: Cracker Box Palace ("You get a rescue goat! And you get a rescue goat! EVERYBODY GETS A RESCUE GOAT!!!")*

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

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So you’ve vicariously tasted the yummy vegan eats at The Owl House as part of veganmofo iv, and last week I introduced you to Ms. Chicktoria. Though it’s now four months after the fact, there’s still one set of vacation photos I’d like to share from my September visit to Rochester. Because they’re from an ANIMAL SANCTUARY and who doesn’t like pictures of SUPER-CUTE RESCUE ANIMALS, hmmmm? Besides, it’s like zero degrees outside and there’s a three-foot snow drift on my patio and I could use a vacation, even if only in my own head.

Initially, my sis and I had our hearts set on visiting Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen – but unfortunately the fall tour hours (weekends only!), coupled with the lengthy drive time and previous commitments, just didn’t fit into our schedule. My mom suggested that we instead visit Cracker Box Palace Farm Animal Haven, a new-ish farmed animal sanctuary located in Alton, NY. (Alton is a short drive from Sodus – which is where I spent the first five years of my life – and Sodus, in turn, is a 45-minute drive from Rochester. In comparison, Watkins Glen is twice as far.)

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According to the group’s website, CBP opened in 2001 on a 50-acre former migrant farm. Originally dedicated to horse rescue and rehab, the sanctuary is now home to geese, ducks, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, and several breeds of pigs as well. Currently, it’s leasing and attempting to purchase Alasa Farms, a 500-acre historic Shaker farm.

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The weekend we visited, the group was holding a fair to help raise funds for the purchase.

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Before we begin, a bit of a disclaimer: on its website, Cracker Box Palace isn’t particularly forthcoming about its positions on animal rights and veganism/vegetarianism. In some newsletters, for example, the founders allude to the cruelties of factory farming and ask for donations of vegetarian cookbooks for CBP’s gift shop. They also speak approvingly of Farm Sanctuary and credit its courses with teaching them the skills necessary to start and run an animal sanctuary. (While you may disagree with some of Farm Sanctuary’s positions – and I do – the group does include animal rights and veganism in its advocacy.)

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The Men Who Stare At Hug Goats

Monday, January 4th, 2010

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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.)

(More below the fold…)

Slaughterhouse Rescues Find Sanctuary at California Shelters

Monday, May 5th, 2008

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Natalie Bowman
Date: Mon, May 5, 2008 at 4:14 PM
Subject: Slaughterhouse Rescues Find Sanctuary at California Shelters

Hi Kelly,

Farm Sanctuary and Animal Place, a nonprofit sanctuary for farm animals, are now coming to the aid of 14 animals seized from a Watsonville, Calif. slaughterhouse- whose owner is now being charged with cruelty and investigated by the state Department of Agriculture.

I have included a press release below with further details, in case you are interested in posting on the story.

Warm regards,

Natalie Bowman
Communications Manager
Farm Sanctuary
P.O. Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY 14891
PH: 607-583-2225 ext. 250
http://www.farmsanctuary.org

P.S. Farm Sanctuary has just offered refuge to six more goats from the slaughterhouse, including two new mothers and their twin kids.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Natalie Bowman, Farm Sanctuary, 607-583-2225 ext. 250, nbowman [at] farmsanctuary.org Marji Beach, Animal Place, 707-449-4814, marji [at] animalplace.org

Animals Confiscated from Slaughterhouse Find Refuge at California Sanctuaries

Farm Sanctuary and Animal Place Shelter Neglected, Sick and Injured Animals from Watsonville Abattoir

Orland, CA and Vacaville, CA – May 5, 2008 – Farm Sanctuary, which operates the largest rescue and refuge network for farm animals in North America, and Animal Place, a nonprofit sanctuary for abused and discarded farmed animals, have responded to a call from Santa Cruz Animal Services and are coming to the aid of 14 neglected animals confiscated from a Watsonville, Calif. slaughterhouse on Thursday, May 1.

The rescued animals-12 goats, one cow and one sheep-were discovered at the Lee Road slaughter facility on Thursday, May 1 by Todd Stosuy of Santa Cruz Animal Services, when he noticed a cow with a bloody horn from the road and initiated an investigation. Stosuy said that in addition to the injured cow, he found 12 very ill, malnourished goats with overgrown, rotted hoofs, as well as several other animals who would have perished if he had not intervened. Upon returning to the facility on Saturday, May 3, Stosuy seized eight more goats and another sheep whose health had deteriorated since his last visit; the sanctuaries and Animal Services are arranging placement of these animals. According to Stosuy, all of the rescued animals were either acquired by the owner at auction or raised on the property and were to be hand-picked by and slaughtered for local customers.

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