Cowspiracy & Circles of Compassion: Two New Indiegogo Campaigns Need Your Support!

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Two new Indiegogo campaigns recently caught my eye: Cowspiracy, a feature length documentary which examines the environmental movements’ unwillingness to talk about the v-word; and Circles of Compassion, an anthology of essays “on the connections between human, animal, and environmental well-being.” They both sound pretty rad, and you know what they say about sharing!

First up: Cowspiracy. I don’t usually go out of my way to watch animals rights/welfare documentaries – I can watch a zombie get its head bashed in 102 different ways, but am entirely too sensitive for even the tamest of feedlot footage – but am really looking forward to this one!

 

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The Great CriFSMas Food (and More) Roundup, 2013 edition!

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

It felt like I did a ridiculous amount of baking this Christmas – so, when I went and looked back at last year’s roundup, I nearly fainted in disbelief. (Full disclosure: there may have also been a food coma involved, due to the copious amounts of sugar I’ve been ingesting.) Did I seriously make a dozen plus batches of cookies last year? Little old me?

Fun story: after feeling super-smug and self-satisfied over my achievement of baking FIVE WHOLE BATCHES of cookies in one day, I headed on over to tumblr – where some lady posted about the 40 donuts and multiple trays of cookies she baked in one afternoon. Whoops! There goes my self-confidence!

So anyway, here’s the Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2013 edition! But with bonus x-mas presents and vegan pop culture observations.

First up: the noms. As per usual, let’s start with dessert, shall we? All the cookies are from Kelly Peloza’s The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, a review of which I’ll probably have for y’all soon. Unless. Maybe I need to try out a few more recipes? You know, for the love of science and books and all that is holy and sugar-dusted.

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Glazed Rum Raisin Cookies – With their copious amounts of liquor and strong rummy taste, these cookies aren’t for kids. Very tasty and easy to bake, though I opted to make my glaze into more of an icing, so as not to risk the cookies sticking to one another during storage. If you go this route, start out with less rum. I ended up with way more icing than I could use. Or drink! (Yes, I actually tried that.)

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Chewy Caramel Pecan Cookies – SO GOOD! Caramel and pecans, what’s not to love? Well, the cookies’ inherent stickiness, for starters: I had to refrigerate the sheet of cookies for about ten minutes before I was able to peel them from the parchment paper without tearing the cookies to shreds. I wonder if my batter was too wet; the caramel pecan mix didn’t get especially thick, which resulted in a very sticky cookie dough. Further experimentation may be required.

Also, pro tip: these cookies have mad spread, so space them far, far apart. As in four cookies to a medium-sized tray. No kidding!

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#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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Eat to the Beat: Pumpkin Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies & Ray Parker, Jr.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

 

The song: “Ghostbusters (Theme)” by Ray Parker, Jr. (lyrics)

The foodstuff: Pumpkin Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies from Little House on the Vegan Prairie

The connection: It’s Halloween and there’s a STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN in this movie!

 

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Happy Halloween, y’all! Next to FSMas, this is my favorite day of the whole year. Sixteen-hour horror movie marathons with all the vegan junk food and frozen Tofurky pizzas you can eat? SIGN ME UP!

We’re talking movie theater popcorn, salt and vinegar chips, Twizzlers, Go Max Go candy bars, ice cream sundaes, Skittles, candy apples – and new this year, a freshly made batch of Pumpkin Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies! Little House on the Vegan Prairie dreamed these up last Vegan MoFo and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since!

 

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The fruit of my loins!
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(Yeah, I usually have a stomach ache and/or sugar headache on November 1st. But you know what? SO WORTH IT.)

Sticky, ooey, gooey mess aside, these are pretty simple to make, with no unusual ingredients required. Just compassion and Dandies, yo! The result is a soft, cakey chocolate chip cookie with a hint of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice (the Thanksgiving spices!), covered in sweet marshmallowy goodness.

First you mix your dry ingredients, then your wet stuff. Then you add the dry to wet and lastly, fold in the Dandies and chocolate chips. The cookies rise considerably, so give them enough space to expand on the cookie sheet. The marshmallows puff up too – sometimes well beyond the bounds of the cookies they’re attached to! As they cool and contract, the Dandies leave little cavities in the cookies. Swiss cheese cookies, oh noes!

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Pop the cold cookies in the microwave for ~15 seconds for maximum meltiness.
(Yes, I own a novelization of Ghostbusters II. DON’T JUDGE ME!)
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A neat little workaround I found: don’t add the marshmallows until after you drop the batter onto the cookie sheet. Position one or two marshallows smack dab in the middle of the cookie and press down gently. As it bakes, it’ll drip over and down the cookie, but mostly stays on top – no hallowed out spaces in the cookies or clinging to the neighbors!

As part of her Hurricane Sandy preparations, Vegan CineGrub also made Ghostbusters-themed cookies yesterday: Ectoplasm Stay-Puft Cookies. PJ describes them as “Coconut Marshmallow Snickerdoodle” things, but they look a lot like the Pumpkin Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies – only green! How cool is that? Now I know what I’m making next Halloween! Even if you don’t like cookies (MONSTER!), you should visit her place anyway, ’cause she’s got a real live pic of the Ghostbusters car. Are you jealous yet?

Enjoyed to the sweet ’80s sounds of Ray Parker, Jr. in honor of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a likeness of which I purchased special for the occasion. (But I shall enjoy him year-round! He makes for the most adorable of nicknacks, I tell you what!)

 

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“I’m with cookies.” You and me both, Stay Puft. You and me both.
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Today we’ll be revisiting Ghostbusters, which I haven’t seen for years. Also on the roster – tentatively, since we usually play it by ear: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Cronos, The Tall Man, Inside, Red: Werewolf Hunter, Wrong Turn, Tales from the Hood, The House of the Devil, and The Shrine. I’m also thinking about The Cabin in the Woods, even though we already saw it in the theaters. THAT GOOD.

Do you like scary movies, vegan? Check out this list of animal-friendly horror movies I compiled last Halloween. We ticked a bunch off our list in 2011. Soylent Green? It’s delicious.

 

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P.S. This isn’t goodbye! I have a few extra “Vegan MoFo B-Side” posts lined up for the rest of the week (including a “best of” link roundup), AND I’m participating in the Virtual Vegan Potluck tomorrow. (Which for me is 11PM tonight. Silly time zones, always messing things up.) Stick around for more beautiful food and delicious music, mkay?

 

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Eat to the Beat

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Book Review: I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore (2010)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Four stars for I Am Number Four

four out of five stars

Not so much a review as a random collection of thoughts, but you get the idea!

  • The basic premise of the Lorien Legacies series is this: we are not alone. Besides Earth, multiple planets capable of sustaining life exist in the universe. Among these are Lorien and Mogadore, whose contrasting pasts and presents reflect two possible futures for Earth.

    Much like Earth today, in its early history Lorien was faced with ecological collapse. Caused by greed and fueled by rapid technological advancements, the Loric people were quickly depleting their planet’s resources, driving it ever closer to ruin. Rather than continue on this self-destructive path, the Loriens chose another way: they simplified their society, living sustainably and in harmony with nature. (Just what this entails isn’t clear. For example, there’s no indication that the Loriens are/were vegans, nor do they seem to have renounced their “ownership” of nonhuman animals.)

    In thanks, the planet endowed the Loriens with special gifts. While all Loriens are stronger, faster, and more powerful than the average human, roughly half of the population have additional, supernatural abilities: Telekinesis. The ability to control the elements. Invisibility. The gift of flight. Imperviousness to fire. They are members of the Garde, the superhuman – or rather super-Lorien – protectors of the planet. Behind the scenes, the Cêpan manage the society and act as mentors to young Gardes who are just discovering their Legacies. At the time of our hereos’ births, Lorien is a veritable Eden, with everyone coexisting in peace and harmony.

    Mogadore offers a terrifying glimpse of the road not taken by Lorien. Faced with a similar fate, the Mogadorians deplete their planet’s resources, turning it into a barren hellscape – and then set out to conquer other planets and plunder their resources as well. The first of these is Lorien, which is caught with its guard down and is taken easily. Save for a lucky few, all of the Loric people are slaughtered. Lorien is laid to waste.

    Obvious moral is obvious, though no less true. We are at a crossroads; will we emulate the peaceable Lorien, or – be it through, antipathy, stubbornness, or privilege – go the way of Mogadore? Human history, rife as it is with genocide, colonization, slavery, and wars of convenience, does not speak well of us.

    (More below the fold…)

  • Book Review: Of Muscles and Men, Michael Cornelius, ed. (2011)

    Friday, April 13th, 2012

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    Ralphie prefers Jason Momoa’s Conan. “He’s dreamy!”
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    Hey y’all! This post has zero to do with animal rights, but bear with me. I’m thinking about consolidating my other, mostly-unused blog, Smite Me! with V for Vegan to create one blog for (nearly) all of my writing. Maintaining two personal blogs, each for different but sometimes overlapping topics, just isn’t working for me. Anyway, you may see some non-AR posts pop up from time to time. For now that’ll mostly just mean more book reviews. Eventually I may also change domains, but I’m still thinking on it, experimenting and whatever.

    Along these lines, I’ve already changed my twitter username, from @easyvegan to @vegandaemon. Vegan sraffies, holla!

    So that’s what’s up. Hopefully you enjoy my writing no matter what it’s about, but hey. You’ve been warned!

     

    By the Power of Grayskull!

    four out of five stars

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

    Aside from the early ‘80s Conan the Barbarian films (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the eponymous, loinclothed hero) and a few odd campy television shows (namely He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power, which I grew up on, as well as Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, which I’ve enjoyed as an adult), I’m not what you’d call a big fan of the sword and sandal genre. But when I spotted Of Muscles and Men: Essays on the Sword & Sandal Film in Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program, I decided to request a copy anyhow, since I highly enjoy critical pop culture studies and thought it would make for an interesting read.

    To say that Of Muscles and Men veers toward the academic would be an understatement. In terms of accessibility, it’s much more similar in difficulty to, say, The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series or Investigating Cult TV than the more mainstream Smart Pop Books by BenBella (of which I own nearly half the available titles!). That said, some essays are more suitable for lay people than others – it really just depends on the author and his or her approach and writing style.

    While most of the essays focus on the intersection of violence, sex, and/or gender in the peplum or sword and sandal genre – loosely defined as those films featuring a reluctantly heroic strongman, clad in sandals and/or a kilt and carrying a sword or other phallic weapon, and set some time in humanity’s ancient past – the authors nevertheless manage to touch upon a breadth of topics. Among my favorites are:

    * Larry Shillock’s piece on Helen of Troy (the 2003 USA miniseries), an arguably feminist retelling of the Trojan War featuring Helen of Argon as the protagonist (“An Enduring Logic: Homer, Helen of Troy, and Narrative Mobility”);

    * “Beefy Guys and Brawny Dolls: He-Man, the Masters of the Universe, and Gay Clone Culture,” in which editor Michael Cornelius parallels the development of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe action figures and Filmation’s animated television show (the latter essentially being a marketing tool for the former) with the rise of gay clone culture in the 1980s; and

    * the hilariously titled “’By Jupiter’s Cock!’ Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Video Games, and Camp Excess,” wherein David Simmons examines the influence of video games on the increasingly violent and stylized Fourth Wave peplum films of today (such as the STARZ original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, from which the interjection “By Jupiter’s cock!” originates).

    I must admit to only skimming several of the twelve essays in this collection, either because they failed to hold my interest or contained so much jargon that I couldn’t easily decipher it all. Also disappointing is the lack of attention paid to those sword and sandal films and television shows starring female heroes: for example, the previously mentioned She-Ra: Princess of Power and Xena: Warrior Princess (both are mentioned in passing). Granted, Of Muscles and Men is ostensibly a collection about masculinity – “male protagonists as heroic, violent, fleshy, and, in the end, extremely useful” – but the presence of the occasional woman in such roles is a topic worth exploring, inasmuch as it challenges the role of “hero” or “strongman” as the exclusive province of men.

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    (Crossposted on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads.)

    Veg-sploitation Halloween Horror Flicks Even a Vegan Zombie Could Love!

    Monday, October 31st, 2011

    The husband and I have a longstanding Halloween tradition. Three words: horror movie marathon. Three more: vegan junk food. There will be John Carpenter and Stephen King and Tofurky pizzas and fancy movie popcorn and more gallons of homemade vegan ice cream than you can wag a tongue at.

    This year’s picks include a few films that might be loosely described as vegan-friendly, inasmuch as they contain elements that are potentially anti-speciesist or might otherwise appeal to vegan sensibilities: vivisection that triggers an apocalyptic plague; nonhuman “monsters” who prove more human than the story’s human protagonists; cow meat pies secretly swapped for those containing bits of human flesh; bird flu and mad cow disease; exploited animals out for revenge – all these and more make for a “vegan-friendly” horror flick. “Veg-sploitation,” in more colorful terms. (Like “sexploitation,” but SEXIER! AND VEGAN! ‘CAUSE VEGAN = SEXY, YO.)

    For those who’d like in on the festivities, I’ve compiled a list of veg-sploitation horror flicks that appeal to the vegan zombie in all of us. (What’s that? You don’t like horror movies? LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!) Many of these I’ve seen, some I haven’t; so there are bound to be a few lemons on the list. (Poultrygeist, I’m looking at you!) Most are pretty f’in awesome, though.

    In the queue this year: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Soylent Green, along with three or four more as-of-yet undetermined movies.

    Got a favorite vegan-friendly horror flick I missed? Tell us in the comments!

    (Unless otherwise noted, the summaries are snagged from Netflix.)

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    Soylent Green (1973) – “Set in a polluted, congested New York City in 2022, this sci-fi thriller stars Charlton Heston as Robert Thorn, a gumshoe looking into the murder of a corporate executive (Joseph Cotten) whose company makes a nutritious synthetic food called Soylent Green. But in the process of tracking down the killer, Thorn unearths shocking information about the product’s ingredients. The cast also includes the great Edward G. Robinson in his last film role.” Soylent Green is people! No more outrageous than if it were chickens!

    Attack of the Vegan Zombies! (2009) – “Joe and his wife Dionne have had yet another bad crop for their winery. Faced with the prospect of losing the family farm, Dionne convinces her mother (a witch) to cast a spell upon next year’s crop. The crop is such a success that Joe hires some college students to help them harvest. However, when a nosy neighbor begins poking around in the fields, he finds out more than he bargained for. Now the question isn’t how to best harvest the crop, it’s how to keep from being harvested!” I do not understand where the vegan zombies fit in, but I would like to find out! (plot summary via imdb)

    Isolation (2005) – “On a desolate farm in the Irish countryside, destitute Dan Reilly (John Lynch) — in return for cold cash — allows his heifers to be part of a genetic study intended to boost bovine fertility and beef output … until the experiment goes awry. When one of his cows spawns lethal mutants, Dan and a few other unlucky folks suffer the repercussions of meddling with nature in this unsettling chiller also starring Essie Davis and Marcel Iures.”

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – “Director Tobe Hooper’s horror classic is a gruesome reminder that a movie need not be complicated to scare the daylights out of viewers. Sally (Marilyn Burns), her wheelchair-bound brother (Paul A. Partain) and their friends travel to a vandalized graveyard to see if their grandfather’s remains are intact. En route, they come upon chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), and it’s a fight to the bloody death between good and evil.” The greatest vegetarian movie of all time?

    King Kong (2005) – “Set in the 1930s, Peter Jackson’s remake of the black-and-white classic follows a group of adventurous explorers and filmmakers (including Jack Black, Adrien Brody and Andy Serkis) to mysterious Skull Island, where they search for a legendary giant gorilla known as King Kong. The team battles dinosaurs and, with the help of a beautiful woman (Naomi Watts), manages to capture the mighty ape and ship him back to New York.” Like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, minus the ape revenge fantasy. A kind of prequel, perhaps?

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    Alien Resurrection (1997) – “Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder star in the fourth installment of the Alien series. Two hundred years after Lt. Ripley (Weaver) died, a group of scientists clone her, hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the new Ripley is full of surprises … as are the new aliens. Ripley must team with a band of smugglers (including Ryder) to keep the creatures from reaching Earth. Includes the theatrical and extended cuts of the film.” The scene in which Ripley stumbles upon the failed Ripley clones – her sisters – shattered my heart into a million pieces. Since when is Alien a tearjerker!?!

    Willard (2003) – “In this remake of the 1971 horror film by the same name, Crispin Glover plays a shy young man named Willard who is constantly pestered by his co-workers and has no friends save for his beloved pet rats. When one of the rats is killed at work, Willard exacts bloody revenge on all those who did him wrong — with the help of his furry friend Ben, an unusually intelligent (and lethal) rat who leads his cohorts to commit horrific murders.” Okay, so maybe Willard proved to be a back-stabbing, narcissistic frenemy to his posse of rodent roommates. But still: A POSSE OF RATS! If I lived in NYC, I’d totes be a female Willard, but better. As in, nicer to the rats.

    28 Days Later (2002) – “Twenty-eight days after a killer virus was accidentally unleashed from a British research facility, a small group of London survivors (including Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson) are caught in a desperate struggle to protect themselves from the infected. Carried by animals and humans, the virus turns those it infects into homicidal maniacs — and it’s absolutely impossible to contain. Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) directs.” There goes vivisection, unleashing a zombie apocalypse again! When will we learn? Also: Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris. Yes please!

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    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) – “Johnny Depp reteams with director Tim Burton for this big-screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, earning an Oscar nod as vengeful Sweeney Todd, who becomes a deranged murderer after being falsely imprisoned by a sinister judge (Alan Rickman). To cover his tracks, Todd enlists the help of Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who disposes of the victims by baking them into tasty meat pies that become the toast of London.” Reviewed by yours truly here.

    Little Shop of Horrors (1986) – “Plant yourself in front of the tube and veg out with Frank Oz’s horticultural horror flick. Gawky Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis), looking for a way to save his job in a ramshackle, skid row flower shop, purchases a curious exotic plant hoping it will make business bloom. And it does. There’s just one problem: The little creeper possesses a rapacious appetite for fresh human plasma … and it’s mushrooming out of control!” A carnivorous, human-munching plant. From the ’80s. IN MUSICAL FORMAT. This one’s a must-see, odontophobia be damned!

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    Zombieland (2009) – “An easily spooked guy, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), joins forces with wild man Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) to fight for survival in a world virtually taken over by freakish zombies. As they destroy scores of the undead, they meet up with two other survivors, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Wichita (Emma Stone), and journey to a supposedly safe abandoned amusement park. Ruben Fleischer directs this horror romp.” Two words: VEGAN TWINKIES! Two more: Woody Harrelson!

    Daybreakers (2009) – “Earth’s population is up against a vicious plague that’s transforming everyone into vampires and draining the world of an increasingly precious resource: blood. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) and “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) must decide what happens next. As the human race count nears zero, will vampires feast on the few men and women who remain, or could science hold the key to a less destructive solution? Sam Neill and Claudia Karvan co-star.” With the development of synthetic blood, are vampires morally obligated to dine on it, instead of humans? Or does their physical superiority give them the right to dominate this “lesser” species?

    Swamp Thing (1982) – “When the botanical experiments of Dr. Alec Holland go awry and a lab explosion renders him more plant than man, rival scientist Anton Arcane plans to capture the Swamp Thing and learn his secrets.”

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    Black Sheep (2006) – “On a quiet New Zealand ranch, a genetic experiment has gone horribly wrong, transforming a calm flock of sheep into killers hungry for human blood in this outrageous comic gore-fest. Those bitten become ravenous were-sheep. As the body count rises, a desperate handful of outnumbered survivors take a last stand against the bovine onslaught. Who will live, and who will be the next victim of the vicious killer sheep?” …and hilarity ensues.

    Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) – “What happens when a fast-food chicken franchise is built on a sacred Native American burial site rife with restless spirits? Zombie chickens! Now it’s up to high school grad Arbie (Jason Yachanin) to find a way to destroy the featherless fiends. Or will the fowl beasts turn the hungry drive-thru customers into the insatiable undead, too? This gleeful free-range romp through the supernatural also features Kate Graham and Allyson Sereboff.”

    Severed: Forest of the Dead (2006) – “When a forestry company’s profit-driven decision to genetically engineer trees goes horribly wrong, a mismatched group of loggers and environmental activists become ravenous flesh-eating zombies. And although a few uninfected survivors remain, their chances of getting out of the wilderness alive are as remote as the forest itself. An ensemble cast stars in this undead gore fest that makes a run-in with a wood chipper seem tame.” I’M ROOTING FOR THE ABOLITIONIST VEGANS. (Rooting! Get it?)

    Dead Meat (2004) – “You are what you eat! The seventh level of hell is unleashed when a mutated strain of mad cow disease infects the countryside, turning people into flesh-eating zombies that like their food … fast! Caught in the middle of this gory upheaval is Helena (Marian Araujo), a young Spanish tourist, and Desmond (David Muyllaert), the local gravedigger. Together, they must join forces and fight for survival or else become appetizers in a zombie feast.” Horror flick or speculative fiction? You decide!

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    Mad Cowgirl (2006) – “Director Gregory Hatanaka’s decidedly twisted thriller stars Sarah Lassez as Therese, a health inspector whose progressively delusional psyche leads her on a surreal — and bloody — odyssey. To cope with her marital split, Therese takes up with a slimy televangelist (Walter Koenig), indulges her appetites for sex and beef, and obsesses over a kung fu TV show. Meanwhile, her meat packer brother (James Duval) may have infected her with mad cow disease.” Ew.

    Meat Market (2001) – “When two former employees of a company that conducts bizarre medical experiments put two and two together, they realize that a series of “animal attacks” reported by the media are actually the work of flesh-eating zombies created by the company. As the walking dead invade the city, the two truth-seekers team up with three vampire women, a washed-up Mexican wrestler, a wounded soldier and a mysterious scientist to fight for their lives.”

    Flu Birds (2008) – “A tight-knit group of teens find themselves fighting for their lives when unexpected visitors — a flock of flesh-eating birds infected by a malicious virus — crash their carefree camping trip in the woods. With each deadly swoop, the flying predators are spreading their dangerous strain and transforming the locals into bird feed. Can a shrinking group of survivors fight back and reclaim the skies?” The Birds meets Bird Flu meets zombies. Hello, awesomeness!

    Beast Within (2008) – “Terror catapults onto the screen as a new form of avian flu turns its unsuspecting victims into voracious zombies. Pleasure-seeking 20-somethings partying in a remote mansion must then battle the flesh-eating monsters and the infected birds. Armed with flamethrowers, brawn and scientific know-how, the friends barricade themselves against the horrors of the night, but will any of them live to see the morning light?” See: above, plus flamethrowers.

    Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Pelts (2006) – “Sleazy fur trader Jake Feldman (Meat Loaf) will do just about anything for a quality skin. When Jake crosses paths with a trapper (John Saxon) offering raccoon pelts, he jumps at the chance to score big bucks and win a stripper’s heart. Little does Jake know that the supernatural furs wield bloody revenge upon anyone who covets them. This very different kind of skin flick is the 19th episode of the hit Showtime series.” MEAT LOAF! “I would dew anyTHING for LOVE…”

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    Harry and the Hendersons (1987) – “Returning home from vacation, the Hendersons — George (John Lithgow), Nancy (Melinda Dillon), daughter Sarah (Margaret Langrick) and son Ernie (Joshua Rudoy) — accidentally run over a strange Bigfoot-type animal (Kevin Peter Hall). They decide to take the friendly “Harry” home and adopt him as a pet. But soon, they’re scrambling to hide their new friend from authorities and Bigfoot hunters. This charming family film won a Best Makeup Oscar.” Not a horror film – heck, not even a monster movie, as evidenced by Harry’s gentle demeanor and compassion for his fellow nonhumans – but I just had to include it on this list anyway. I COULDN’T NOT INCLUDE IT! It’s Harry and the fucking Hendersons, yo! A vegan classic.

    Vegan MoFo 2011 logo banner

    DFTBA!*

    Saturday, August 6th, 2011

    Stumbled upon the short film Traffic Warden while surfing the youtubes this afternoon. Shared for those of you who like fishes, Doctor Who, random acts of kindness, whimsy, and/or water fountain kissing.

    Me? All of the above!

    * Don’t forget to be awesome! (Read the comments!)

    Kick. Ass.

    Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

    Yes, there are debates to be had about Hit Girl and Kick-Ass. There are always debates to be had about violence and vigilantes, and what they say about us. But I’d prefer the conversation also turn to why preteen girls don’t have a movie like Kick-Ass that they could see. Let’s ask why Kick-Ass was the only script option Ms. Moretz had if she wanted to play, in her own words, “an Angelina Jolie-type character. You know, like an action hero, woman empowerment, awesome, take-charge leading role.” By now, she should have had a lot more superhero and fantasy options to pick from. There are young adult genre books that center on something other than vampires. There are comic characters who are teenage girls. It’s ridiculous that they languish on the shelf while Spider-Man goes back to high school. Again. You might even ask why Millar thought no one could relate to a teenage girl, and insisted on centering the story around Dave and his girlfriend problems.

    Elisabeth Rappe, The Geek Beat: Hit-Girl Hysteria

    Lady Pork: The Other Other White Meat?

    Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

    Firstly, a big, shiny hello to everyone arriving here from The F-Word! (And can I just say how stoked I am to see yet another vegan feminist guest-blogging on yet another kickass feminist blog? More, please!) In addition to the posts singled out by Amy, you might also enjoy browsing the Intersections post category. And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, check out this list of vegan/vegetarian bloggers who regularly discuss the intersections of human and nonhuman oppressions. It’ll keep you occupied at least through the summer, I tell you what.

    So. On to today’s vegan feminist WTF. While searching for a related image last night, I stumbled upon a rather disturbing poster for the movie Saw IV:

    Saw IV Poster 01

    Shot in tones of black, gray and red, the poster is rather macabre (and quite fitting for a horror flick). Highlighted by a dim ray of light, in the middle of the poster sits a masked figure. She is confined to a torture device of some sort. Seemingly homemade, the instrument – similar in shape to a small chair – looks as though it was cobbled together from pieces of various mechanical devices, including a push mower. There are knobs, tanks, wheels and blades galore. The victim sits facing forward, her arms confined to her sides, ankles chained to the chair.

    Masked, robed and photographed from behind, the prisoner’s gender is impossible to determine. However, the figure does sport some obvious trappings of femininity, including knee-high, black stiletto boots (“fuck me boots,” if you will) and tight, black stockings or leggings. The robe is red, possibly velvet. Clearly, the audience is to assume that the victim is a woman (or one very “emasculated” man).

    Oh, and the mask? It’s of a pig. Holy woman-as-meat / meat-as-woman meme, Catwoman!

    Having only watched the first installment of the Saw franchise, this poster initially sent my head reeling re: its possibly significance, if any. Luckily, Wiki has the answers (some of them, anyhow):

    That evening, Rigg is attacked in his home; upon awakening, a videotape informs him that Matthews is still alive, with ninety minutes to save himself, with Hoffman’s life at stake as well. He finds Brenda (Sarain Boylan), a female pimp, chained to a chair with a pig mask covering her face. The first test, “see what I see,” is for him to leave her there; he ignores the message and ends up triggering a device to begin peeling her scalp off. He manages to free her, but she attacks him; she had been told that she would be arrested if Rigg saved her unless she killed him first. He throws her into a mirror and leaves; her corpse is later found by police.

    And, from the character description:

    Brenda was a prostitute who appeared in Saw IV as a victim in Daniel Rigg’s game. Brenda was placed in a machine designed to tear her scalp from her head and Rigg was instructed to simply walk away from her as she was not worth saving. After her scalp was partially torn away, Rigg managed to save her but Brenda then attempted to kill him, instructed by Jigsaw that if she didn’t Rigg would send her to jail. Rigg overpowered Brenda and threw her into a mirror. She was later found dead.

    I suppose the overriding purpose of the pig mask is to conceal the “scalping” contraption, but one has to ask…why a consumable (i.e., “food”) animal? Why not Ronald Regan or Freddy Krueger instead? Is Jigsaw (or his torture porn confederate) making a statement about women who “pimp out” other women? (e.g., Such people are “not worth saving,” much like “worthless,” “dirty,” “gluttonous” nonhuman animals such as pigs.) Or is the pig mask merely a handy prop for upping the film’s shock value? (Meat and corpses and slaughterhouses, oh my!)

    There’s a vegan feminist analysis lurking here somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. Perhaps someone who’s actually seen the film(s) can clue me in?

    (More below the fold…)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 17: F-O-O-D.*

    Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

    “assortment of vegan chocolates”: A dozen+ gorgeous vegan chocolates sit atop a white porcelain cake stand. Nom! CC image via quintanaroo (the chocolate-maker herself) on Flickr.
    ——————————

    Regretfully, I spent most of the long weekend either tossing and turning in bed, or retching and heaving over the toilet (read: vomiting; either way, what a mental image, yeah?), and thus was unable to get much of anything done. The perfect time for a link roundup! The commentary is rather sparse, but seeing as I feel like I’ve been through the ringer and back, I hope you’ll forgive me.

    johanna @ Vegans of Color: Vegan cookbooks: helping folks eat the Other

    The Vegan Ideal: A Western Vegetarian ‘Foray’ into Non-Western Culture

    johanna and Ida provide several examples of the “exotification” of non-Western foods (“African,” “Asian,” Hawaiian and Cambodian, respectively), with an eye on vegetarian/vegan contexts (cookbooks and a veg gathering at veg-friendly restaurant).

    Stephanie @ Animal Rights & AntiOppression: Domination and Rape in Avatar: This Is “Respect” for Animals?

    While I’ve seen many a discussion of Avatar‘s problematic racial politics, anti-speciesist reviews appear to be few and far between. This piece from Stephanie is a must-read; the title says it all, really. (Mary also discussed the film back in December.)

    Marji @ Animal Rights & AntiOppression: Sarah’s Diary: Remembering

    Marji imagines what rescue hen Sarah’s diary might look like. It is predictably heart-breaking. I’ll be honest; I have not yet been able to read the entire piece.

    Of course, I feel rather silly when considering Marji’s description of the “mock-diary”:

    This is Sarah. She turns seven this February 14th. She is one of 2,000 hens we were legally permitted to pull from a small, 160,000 egg-laying hen operation. I know this diary is horribly anthropomorphic. I pulled Sarah out of that cage. For hours, I breathed what they breathed, saw and smelled their world. It was horrifying. I have tried, for years, to fathom what it must have been like for them from birth to grisly death. I can’t.

    If there were a goddess, surely you’d find her volunteering at an animal sanctuary.

    (More below the fold…)

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

    Thursday, January 28th, 2010

    Sweeney Todd movie poster 07

    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.

    (More below the fold…)

    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…)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 13: Boobs, bacon & bigotry.

    Friday, December 18th, 2009

    Burger King's Singing in the Shower 03

    Mary Elizabeth Williams @ Salon: Will shower for sausages; She’ll “shake her bits” to whet your appetite

    In which Burger King tries to one-up its previous misogynist campaigns (can I interest anyone in a blog job burger?) by covering a naked woman in the dismembered corpses and fried secretions of tortured and murdered animals and making her wiggle her (and the animals’) bits in service of the male gaze. Cue: “morning spank routine.” Barf, gargle, repeat.

    Tracy Clark-Flory @ Salon: Berlusconi is a boob; The prime minister sells sex for political gain, but many Italians aren’t buying it

    While dissecting Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi’s entrepreneurial endeavors – which largely involve selling women’s sexuality on his television stations – Clark-Flory mentions this gem of a tv stunt:

    [T]he popular video “Il Corpo delle Donne,” which translates as “The Body of Women,” compiles some of the most shameless moments of T’n’A from Berlusconi’s stations and state television. The most egregious example: A woman is shown suspended from the ceiling in skimpy underwear next to a literal piece of meat clad in a matching pair of panties; it’s awfully reminiscent of that infamous meat-grinder Hustler cover.

    After 20 minutes spent perusing boob/burger pimp BK’s website, I’m kind of glad I don’t have a video clip to illustrate this piece. Oy.

    Stephanie @ Animal Rights: Breaking Unjust Laws: Clarence Darrow and Inherit the Wind and (especially) Breaking Unjust Laws: AETA, Fugitive Slave Acts, and Oppression Connections

    Using the 1960 film Inherit the Wind as a jumping-off point, Stephanie briefly discusses a few similarities between the animal rights and U.S. anti-slavery movements. Or rather, similarities in how each movement was (is) countered by corporate powers, with no small amount of help from the government. (Hint: the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 is to abolitionism as _____ is to the animal liberation movement?)

    (More below the fold…)

    VeganMoFo, Day 31: Ginger Snaps, Vegan Zombies & Hallow-weenies

    Saturday, October 31st, 2009

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    And the consumer becomes the consumed!

    It’s October 31st, folks! You know what that means: Halloween and the end of VeganMoFo. Thirty-one days, thirty-one posts. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted….and totally looking forward to VeganMoFo IV!

    The Mr. and I will spend the day taking in an orgy of Halloween horror movies and vegan junk food, so I don’t have enough time to put together a cohesive post. But that’s okay, because hopefully you don’t have time to read a cohesive post.

    On the schedule for today, movie-wise, is:

    The Alphabet Killer (2008)

    The Alphabet Killer is based on the double initial killings in Rochester, New York in the early 1970s. Eliza Dusku stars as Megan Paige, a police officer who is highly committed to the job. She develops schizophrenia, lasting for more than six months, and includes one month of active symptoms such as illusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior. Megan’s obsession leads her to a breakdown and a violent episode which lands her in the hospital. She eventually loses her fiance, Kenneth (Cary), and her job. Two years later Megan is back working as an advisor, but her more or less normal life goes to hell again when another murder is called in. Her fire rekindled, Megan sets out to find the killer, and this time she plans to get the job done, with or without the department’s assistance.

    Fairly B-grade stuff, but it’s set in my hometown, so it’s a no-brainer. Still waiting on the Arthur Shawcross Lifetime movie-of-the-week.

    Ginger Snaps (2000)

    Is becoming a woman analogous, in some deep psychological way, to becoming a werewolf? Ginger is 16, edgy, tough, and, with her younger sister, into staging and photographing scenes of death. They’ve made a pact about dying together. In early October, on the night she has her first period, which is also the night of a full moon, a werewolf bites Ginger. Within a few days, some serious changes happen to her body and her temperament. Her sister Brigitte, 15, tries to find a cure with the help of Sam, a local doper. As Brigitte races against the clock, Halloween and another full moon approach, Ginger gets scarier, and it isn’t just local dogs that begin to die.

    Feminist horror: yes, please! (See also: Teeth. No, seriously, go watch it. Now!)

    (More below the fold…)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 8: White Blood, Wild Things & District 9

    Monday, September 28th, 2009

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    Yikes! It’s been way too long since my last intersectionality link roundup and, as a result, I’ve managed to stockpile a ridiculous number of links – all without keeping current, naturally. Here’s the first batch; look for the second (or ninth, rather) installment later this week.

    Making Hay: Animal Rights Is a Universal Issue

    Farm Sanctuary’s Jasmin Singer recently traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, in order to attend the South African Law Review Consultation Workshop, organized by Animal Rights Africa (ARA) “for the purpose of initiating a transparent public process of South African animal protection legislation review.” Here, she shares her experiences and offers a little background on ARA.

    You can find out more about Animal Rights Africa’s work – and what you can do to help – on their website at http://www.animalrightsafrica.org.

    VegNews: Backstage Pass: Erykah Badu

    Via BlackVegan, a short-but-sweet interview with vegan singer/songwriter Erykah Badu, my favorite exchange of which is this:

    VN: Is vegan food the new soul food?

    EB: Vegan food is soul food in its truest form. Soul food means to feed the soul. And, to me, your soul is your intent. If your intent is pure, you are pure.

    Racialicious: An Interview with Bryant Terry on Race, Class, Food, and Culture – Part 1

    Speaking of soul food, Racialicious recently featured a lengthy interview with Bryant Terry, author of Vegan Soul Kitchen.

    A snippet:

    One of the biggest things I uncovered in my work, especially working with young people in New York City through the organization I founded called B-healthy, is that a lot of people living in low income areas and urban areas are living in what are known as food deserts. They have very little access to fresh food – healthy, local, sustainable, all that – and have an overabundance of the worst foods, the fried things, the packaged fast food that has a negative impact on their overall health. Lack of access to healthy food is a huge issue, and it’s only one indicator of material deprivation these people are living with. In these neighborhoods, I visited, it wasn’t as if they just lacked access to healthy food and everything else was great. Usually it would be failing infrastructure, dilapidated schools, high levels of illiteracy, low income. So I think it is one issue that has to be addressed of many among these people living in these historically excluded communities are dealing with.

    “Part 1” seems to imply that there’s a “Part 2” in the works – indeed, the interview ends with a promise of more to come – but a Google search has yet to reveal a follow-up.

    (More below the fold…)

    An American Opera Goes on an American Tour

    Friday, September 4th, 2009

    An American Opera (Poster)

    This past weekend marked the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Four years ago last Saturday, Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, causing untold property damage, environmental destruction and loss of life from Florida through Texas. At least 1,836 humans died, victims of nature, government ineptitude and indifference, and racism and classism. The number of nonhuman animal victims will never be known.

    Though I didn’t observe the occasion here in writing, the anniversary didn’t pass me by unnoticed. The weekend’s birthday celebrations were bittersweet; while spoiling my dog-kids with homemade treats, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many dogs who perished in the storm and its aftermath – some of them murdered in cold blood, by people who should have been their protectors.

    A year after Katrina, I marked the day with a sort a photo retrospective, which I titled “The Greatness of a Nation,” after the much-loved Mahatma Gandhi quotation. Three years later, I don’t have much to add, so I invite you to go check it out if you haven’t already.
     


     
    The past four years have seen a number of books and films made about Hurricane Katrina; see, for example, Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006); Jed Horne’s Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City (2008); and Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (2009). Many of these projects have focused on animal rescue efforts: Mike Shiley’s Dark Water Rising: Survival Stories of Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescues (2006); Best Friends’ Not Left Behind: Rescuing the Pets of New Orleans (2006); Cathy Scott’s Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned (2008); and even children’s books, such as Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival (2008).

    Released in 2007, Tom McPhee’s An American Opera: The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever! is a documentary recounting the spontaneous and titanic efforts undertaken by local and national animal activists to rescue the nonhuman animals caught in Hurricane Katrina’s wake:

    Tom McPhee’s An American Opera: The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever! is a multi-award winning documentary film chronicling what happened during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana when pet owners were forced to evacuate without their pets. An American Opera follows the pets, vets, owners, officials, rescuers, and adopters of animals as they try to remedy the situation, revealing that not everyone had the same goal of saving animals. Tom McPhee directed, narrated, and produced the film with the production companies Man Smiling Moving Pictures and Cave Studio.

    Interviewing leaders of animal organizations and volunteers who went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it is revealed that at the beginning, everyone had different ideas about how things should be done, but no one was willing to take charge because the problem was bigger than anyone could have imagined. The film champions the volunteers whose only concern was saving animals, unlike the animal organizations who were more concerned with the chain of command.

    After about a month, the state put the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in charge who told the volunteers to stop rescuing. Anyone not with the LA/SPCA was considered ‘rogue’ and operating outside the authority. Meanwhile, the police in St. Bernard Parish were shooting dogs in what they say was a form of mercy.

    Months after Katrina, many owners are still not reunited with their pets because they do not know where they are and do not have the means to find them. Some people have found that their animals have been adopted out and cannot get them back.

    The film ends with Barkus, a Louisiana pet parade, indicating New Orleans was not washed away with the hurricane.

    (More below the fold…)

    The Bechdel Test & An Animal-Friendly Film List

    Monday, July 27th, 2009

    Update, 3/18/10: I will see you an animal-friendly film list and raise you television, music, literature and theater. All this and more at POP! goes The Vegan.

    Recently, Lindsay at Female Impersonator was struck with the notion to compile a list of films that pass the Bechdel Test. In researching the issue, she found several existing sites which essentially offer the same service, and served them up in a mini link roundup. This all got me thinking about pop culture, female representation, feminist flicks – and, from there, the non-human animal equivalents.

    For those who have never heard of the Bechdel Test, it’s pretty simple. The “test” is a set of criteria which a movie must meet or exceed in order to “pass,” namely:

    1. There [are] at least two named female characters who
    2. talk to each other
    3. about something besides a man.

    The Bechdel Test – also called the Mo Movie Measure or Dykes to Watch Out For – was popularized by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, in a 1985 strip of the comic Dykes to Watch Out For called “The Rule.”

    Like I said, pretty simple; and yet, precious few films pass (and many of these, just barely). For example, check out the Bechdel Test Movie List, a sort of user-generated database that rates films on each of the three criteria. It’s not a super-long list, and only about half of the icons are smiling with approval.

    Feminist blogs are just as prone to misogynist trolls as animal rights blogs are to those of the speciesist variety; pop culture criticism, in particular, seems to bring the anti-feminist trolls out in droves. (Dudes do not like it when women try to encroach on “their” pop culture, I tell you what.) The mere mention of the “Bechdel Test” is enough to elicit a self-righteous wave of privileged male backlash – despite the rather low bar set by said “test.”

    In defending my review of Vantage Point (which passed the test, but barely), I observed,

    Rather than being “bullshit,” the Bechdel test is the minimum fucking standard that (most) movies should be held to. It’s pretty simple: two women, who utter at least two sentences to one another during the course of 90+ minutes, about something other than teh menses. Like, seriously: two women, two sentences, not revolving around men. That’s a low bar, especially when you consider that almost every damn movie ever made in the history of the world features two+ men, talking to each other, about something other than women. And yet, somehow it’s a huge fucking ordeal for Hollywood to make a film that features two women whose lives do not revolve around men.

    I say “most” because, obviously, there will be the odd exception; movies set in all-male spaces, such as an all-male school or such, can be excused for not featuring (m)any female characters, just as movies set in all-female spaces may not have equal male representation.

    Okay, so I was a wee bit angry, given that I was responding to a (now-banished) troll, but you get the idea.

    To this, I’d also like to add that fans of the Bechdel Test, by and large, don’t expect every film, without exception, to pass; this would be unrealistic. Films set in all-male spaces, or that focus on men’s relationships with one another, are obviously less likely to pass, and with good reason. The problem lies not in any individual film, but in the overwhelming number of movies that fail the test – it’s collective. Likewise, there are very few films that predominantly feature women (so much so that the film would fail a male version of the Bechdel Test – the “reverse Bechdel,” if you will); and those that do are more often than not dismissed as “chick flicks” (whereas movies featuring a preponderance of men are simply “flicks”). Add it all up, and Hollywood, we have a problem.

    (More below the fold…)

    Movie Review: Marie Antoinette: A Film by David Grubin (2006)

    Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

    The condensed version of Antonia Fraser’s biography

    four out of five stars

    After listening to Antonia Fraser’s excellent and exhaustive biography of Marie Antoinette on audiobook (MARIE ANTOINETTE: THE JOURNEY), I immediately hopped onto Netflix in search of a related documentary or two. The only one to catch my eye was David Grubin’s MARIE ANTOINETTE: A FILM. Try as I might, I can’t help but critique Grubin’s film in relation to Fraser’s biography.

    Grubin’s MARIE ANTOINETTE clocks in at about two hours, compared to the 20+ hour narration of Fraser’s MARIE ANTOINETTE. While it might seem unfair to compare the two for this reason alone, they do share a similar story arc and cover much the same ground. In fact, Grubin includes snippets of interviews with several French historians in MARIE ANTOINETTE, one of whom is Antonia Fraser herself!

    Given the time limitation, Grubin does a decent enough job of detailing the life and death of Marie Antoinette, starting with her childhood in Vienna, Austria, and ending with her death at the hands of “revolutionaries” in Paris, France. Even so, Grubin barely scratches the surface; for example, though he attempts to examine Marie Antoinette’s psychological, social and intellectual development, the audience is only beginning to get a feel for Marie Antoinette the person by film’s end. Additionally, Grubin raises a few controversial points – such as Marie Antoinette’s relationship with Count Ferson – which is unfortunate, because he’s unable to examine points of contention on anything but a superficial level. For example, Fraser dealt with historical controversies by returning to contemporary accounts of the events (diaries, letters, etc.), detailing various modern views on the issue, and then concluding with her own reasoned interpretation of the evidence. Grubin simply doesn’t have enough time to do the same.

    On the plus side, Grubin’s film boasts one momentous advantage over Fraser’s (audio)book – visual aids! Grubin interlaces interviews and narration with video and stills for stunning visual effects. MARIE ANTOINETTE: A FILM highlights a number of contemporary images, including portraits of Marie Antoinette and her friends and family, as well as scores of pages from then-scandalous pamphlets and propaganda – much of which contains nudity and sketches of a sexual nature (thankfully, none is censored). Grubin juxtaposes modern video of historical places – Versailles, Le Petit Trianon, Vienna – with these historical images, thus allowing the audience access to the places significant to Madame Antoine’s child- and adulthood.

    Additionally, I thought that Grubin’s recounting of the French Revolution was more linear and easier to follow than was Fraser’s. Fraser interspersed her accounts of the revolutionary political climate in France with its effects on Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, while Grubin offered a lean – but informative – summary towards the end of his film.

    All in all, I enjoyed MARIE ANTOINETTE: A FILM, but coming off of MARIE ANTOINETTE: THE JOURNEY, felt as though I’d already heard much of Grubin’s story. Newbies will probably find MARIE ANTOINETTE: A FILM a nice introduction to the topic, while history buffs might like the film’s visuals. All in all, a keeper.

    (This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 1

    Thursday, May 28th, 2009

    Life Is Beautiful (1997)

    I’ve decided to start a new feature (yet another!) on easyVegan.info. In “Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs,” I’ll highlight blog posts and news items that examine the various ways in which speciesism parallels or intersects with the oppression of marginalized human groups. In a word, intersectionality.

    Previously, I was linking to these stories in my weekly weekend activist posts, but since they’re easily overlooked in a sea of links, I’d rather give ’em their own home. Deconstructing the patriarchy is hefty shit, yo!

    So let’s get started, posthaste:

    Stephanie @ Animal Rights @ Change .org: Pregnancy at Slaughter: What Happens to the Calves?, Part 1 and Part 2

    Over the past few months, I’ve spent some time examining how modern animal agriculture subjects female animals to especially brutal and prolonged exploitation, turning their reproductive systems against them. Their children suffer greatly, too; the daughters of “dairy cows” are enslaved in the same conditions as their mothers, while brothers and sons, an otherwise worthless by-product of milk production, become “veal” calves; females born to “laying hens” become egg machines as well, eventually replacing their “spent” mothers, while males are simply disposed of in garbage bags and wood chippers; and so on and so forth.

    In “Pregnancy at Slaughter: What Happens to the Calves?,” Stephanie turns her attention to the fate of newborn calves and late-term fetuses at the stockyard, where their mothers are faced with imminent slaughter. As she explains, some fetal calves die with – inside – their mothers, while others are harvested for use in “science.”

    If you eat “meat,” drink milk, or wear leather, you’re complicit in this species-, sex- and age-based atrocity.

    Stephanie @ Animal Rights @ Change .org: Women, Girls, and the So-Called Achievement of Killing

    Following up on an earlier criticism of Feministing for celebrating a woman bullfighter as a feminist hero, Stephanie laments the pseudo-feminist news coverage of Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman, a 39-year-old Kansan whose major “accomplishment” is being the “first woman in the world to shoot an elephant dead with a bow and arrow.”

    As Stephanie and others have noted, Groenewald-Hagerman’s slaughter of an elephant – someone’s father, brother, son, partner, friend – is no more a feminist victory than Aileen Wuornos’s unprecedented killing spree.

    Elaine at Vegan Soapbox also weighs in:

    Teressa was “inspired” to kill an elephant after a male friend said “women could never draw such a heavy bow.” But archery is NOT necessarily a hunting sport. My grandmother was an archer and she did NOT kill. She shot targets, not animals.

    In order to prove the male “friend” wrong, Teressa needed only to show strength and skill, not a barbaric blood-lust.

    Indeed. Sex-based discrimination in athletics (or any field dominated by men, for that matter) is a pervasive problem; the solution, however, does not lie in the slaughter of even more marginalized beings.

    Vegetarian Star: Dan Matthews: Get Obamas Naked, Madonna Is Middle Aged Witch

    PETA’s Dan Matthews on Madonna:

    I was a fan of Madonna in the 1980s but she became this middle-aged witch who thought her style should be defined by wearing fur coats and eating foie gras. We had a long argument over her glamorising bullfighting in her music videos.

    While I agree that many of Madonna’s actions are reprehensible, let’s not pretend that 1a) “witch” isn’t a G-rated euphemism for “bitch”; 1b) “bitch,” when used as an insult, isn’t misogynist; and 2a) “witch” isn’t also a sex-based slur, inasmuch as one never hears a man so insulted (e.g., “You warlock!”); 2b) “witch” isn’t also ageist and lookist, inasmuch as (bad) “witches” are conceptualized as old, wrinkled, ugly, scraggly, disagreeable, hideous creatures.

    Alternatives one might employ instead of “witch”: killer, butcher, murderer, social carcinogen, Madge the Bunny Slayer. Lose the -ism in favor of creativity – you get the idea.

    And also: fuck you, Dan Matthews.

    (More below the fold…)