Posted by lisagbrown on November 24, 2009
On Blitzen Trapper’s new album Furr, the band draws on the storytelling tradition of shapeshifters: humans and animals who can shift between forms. The band embraces their inner wolf on the title track, “Furr.” Read the fantastic lyrics below:
Yeah, when I was only 17,
I could hear the angels whispering
So I droned into the words and
wondered aimlessly about till
I heard my mother shouting through the fog
It turned out to be the howling of a dog
or a wolf to be exact.
The sound sent shivers down my back
but I was drawn into the pack.
And before long, they allowed me
to join in and sing their song.
So from the cliffs and highest hill, yeah
we would gladly get our fill,
howling endlessly and shrilly at the dawn.
And I lost the taste for judging right from wrong.
For my flesh had turned to fur, yeah
And my thoughts, they surely were turned to
instinct and obedience to God.
You can wear your fur
like the river on fire.
But you better be sure
if you’re makin’ God a liar.
I’m a rattlesnake, babe,
I’m like fuel on fire.
So if you’re gonna’ get made,
don’t be afraid of what you’ve learned.
On the day that I turned 23,
I was curled up underneath a dogwood tree.
When suddenly a girl
with skin the color of a pearl,
but she didn’t seem to see.
She was listenin’ for the angels just like me.
So I stood and looked about.
I brushed the leaves off of my snout.
And then I heard my mother shouting through the trees.
You should have seen that girl go shaky at the knees.
So I took her by the arm
we settled down upon a farm.
And raised our children up as
gently as you please.
And now my fur has turned to skin.
And I’ve been quickly ushered in
to a world that I confess I do not know.
But I still dream of running careless through the snow.
An’ through the howlin’ winds that blow,
across the ancient distant flow,
it fill our bodies up like water till we know.
You can wear your fur
like the river on fire.
But you better be sure
if you’re makin’ God a liar.
I’m a rattlesnake, babe,
I’m like fuel on fire.
So if you’re gonna’ get made,
don’t be afraid of what you’ve learned.
Listen to the song on Blitzen Trapper’s website
Posted in Animal Behavior, Animals, Dogs, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Identity, Music, Representations | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lisagbrown on June 21, 2009
Please visit Antennae‘s website to download (for free!!) the newest issue of the ever-wonderful Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. The theme of the issue is heat. As Giovanni Aloi, the journal’s editor-in-chief, explains:
This issue of Antennae is fully dedicated to climate change. “Heat” pieces together a selection of artists’ responses to climate changes as experienced in different geographical, social and cultural realities. In doing so, we have tried to evenly divide our attention through a range of issues related to and departing from global warming.
Also, towards the end of the issue, please check out my interview with Geralyn Pezanoski, the director of MINE, an incredible documentary about the fate of companion animals during hurricane Katrina.
Posted in Amphibians, Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Art, Conservation, Dogs, Ethics, Extinction, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Literature, Photography, Public Policy, Representations, Theory | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lisagbrown on June 18, 2009
Hurricane Katrina was a pivotal event in animal welfare in the United States. However, it’s only now, some four years later, that we can begin to understand what happened in New Orleans. I’ve previously highlighted the film MINE, a documentary feature that explores the impact of Katrina on humans and nonhumans. Now, the book Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters takes a broader look at how animals are handled in disasters — not just during Katrina, but during many of the most recent hurricanes, tornadoes, oil spills, and other calamities.
In Filling the Ark, author Leslie Irvine weaves a tale that is both eye-opening and tragic. She reveals some of the most horrific repercussions of Katrina, and places them in the context of America’s “lesser” disasters. In the wake of Katrina, it has been easy to forget that other disasters set the stage for the inadequacies that became apparent during Katrina. But Irvine does a great service to animal welfarists, humanitarians and aid workers by putting all the pieces together in one place, and showing how cultural views, economic challenges, racism, and inadequate infrastructure combine to create disasters within disasters. It is not necessarily the hurricane that is tragic, she suggests, but our response to it that is.
Thus far, most of the attention to animal welfare in disasters has been placed on companion animals — people’s pets. But Irvine shatters that boundary by revealing the unfathomable impact that disasters have had on animals in factory farms, birds and marine wildlife, and animals in research facilities. For example, in hurricane Rita alone, 30,000 cattle died. When the media reports on losses like these, if at all, it frames the deaths as economic hits to the farmer. The reality is that there is very little structure in place to provide for these animals (or zoo animals) during disasters.
In her final chapter, Irvine suggests ways that we can begin to mend these holes in our disaster plans. As she explains, her goal is not to promote a radical animal rights agenda, but rather to establish sound structures within a culture that — for now — is “deeply entrenched” in its use of animals for food, science, and companionship. She says, “By incorporating welfare considerations into our existing uses of animals, we also reduce vulnerability — overall and during disasters. I believe we can accomplish this goal without imposing undue hardships on people (p 17).” Her purpose is to change practices in a way that is achievable, realistic, and cost effective. The biggest issue now, it seems, is how can we get this book into the hands of people who will listen,and who have the power to implement these changes?
Posted in Animal Welfare, Animals, Birds, Cats, Dogs, Ethics, Film, Fish, Food Animals, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Literature, Public Policy, Representations, Theory | 1 Comment »
Posted by lisagbrown on April 19, 2009
Mine: Taken By Katrina, is a new documentary by filmmaker Geralyn Pezanoski, about the effects of hurricane Katrina on human-animal relationships. The film follows a number of individuals who try to reunite with their animals after the natural disaster, and the tragic conflicts between people who have newly adopted the lost animals, and the original families who were separated from them.
Ever since hurricane Katrina occurred, the animal studies community has been teaching about the impact the disaster had on the way Americans think about relationships with companion animals, the intersections between race, class, and human and animal welfare, and also the way the government deals with animals during a natural disaster. This film is a way to bring this message to a broader audience, and has the potential to completely transform the way Americans understand the complicated, essential bonds between humans and animals.
Mine is already receiving attention and accolades, having won the audience award for best documentary at SXSW 2009. The film is showing on Saturday, April 25th and Sunday, April 26th at the Independent Film Festival Boston. (For tickets, go to IFFBoston.) For more information, visit Mine: Taken By Katrina, and watch the incredibly powerful trailer below.
Posted in Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Art, Cats, Dogs, Ethics, Film, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Public Policy, Representations, Television | 2 Comments »
Posted by lisagbrown on March 12, 2009
To read my interview with Charles Siebert, click here.
One of the challenges of writing with an agenda — that is, writing for the purpose of helping animals, or bringing greater awareness to animal issues — is that sometimes it seems as though lyricism and the beauty of words must be sacrificed. It can be difficult to imbue the language of public policy, welfare and rights, with the cadence of poetry. I started my career as a writer — not as an animal advocate, that came later — and so the weight of words matters to me. I am as much concerned with how I say something, as I am with what I am saying.
Therefore, when I find someone who manages to advocate on behalf of animals, while also creating worlds of imagery with his words, I become … shall we say … enthralled. Charles Siebert is becoming increasingly well known for his New York Times Magazine editorials, and below I’ve gathered a bibliography of his writings. Within each article, book and radio piece, you’ll find a searing analysis of human-animal relationships that is hidden inside the folds of personal, accessible, and above all, poetic writing. He manages to educate readers about the plight of animal sheltering in the United States, the inherent conflicts in caring for adult chimps, and the complex relationships between humans and the environment, all in the context of visceral autobiographical writing that engenders rawness and self-discovery, without becoming remotely saccharine. Enjoy the works below, and don’t forget to check out my interview with Siebert.
2009 The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals (Scribner)
2004 A Man After His Own Heart (Three Rivers Press)
2000 Angus: A Novel (Three Rivers Press)
1997 Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral (Three Rivers Press)
ON NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO:
7/21/09 Charles Siebert: The Wauchula Woods Accord The Diane Rehm Show
6/13/09 The Surprisingly Social Grey Whale Fresh Air
3/06/09 350: Human Resources, Act three. “Almost Human Resources” This American Life
10/06 Are Humans Causing Elephants to Go Crazy? Day to Day
06/09 Watching Whales Watching Us New York Times Magazine
03/09 Something Wild New York Times Magazine
05/07 Falling Down Green New York Times Magazine
04/07 New Tricks New York Times Magazine
10/06 An Elephant Crackup? New York Times Magazine
01/06 The Animal Self New York Times Magazine
06/05 Planet of the Retired Apes New York Times Magazine
09/04 The Genesis Project New York Times Magazine
03/03 Making Faces New York Times Magazine
Click here to see four articles by Siebert published in Harper’s Magazine:
(Please note: You must be a Harper’s subscriber to access the full text.)
05/97 Our Machines, Ourselves
02/93 The Artifice of the Natural
05/91 Where Have All the Animals Gone? The Lamentable Extinction of Zoos
02/90 The Rehumanization of the Heart: What doctors have forgotten, poets have always known
Posted in Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Cats, Conservation, Dogs, Ethics, Fish, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Identity, Literature, Primates, Public Policy, Radio, Representations, Theory | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lisagbrown on February 19, 2009
Dogs have played an unexpectedly prominent role in media coverage of the Iraq war. It began with a horrendous video: a U.S. soldier threw a tiny puppy off a cliff. This video (which I have chosen not to re-post because I find it too upsetting) captures the havoc of war in a new and startling way. That tiny runt of a puppy is innocence personified, and I will never forget the sound of his scream as he was tossed over the rocky crag. I wondered if that soldier had always been capable of such an act, or if this war had changed him into someone without compassion or concern. Had he been so numbed by the horrors of daily life in Iraq that his act did not seem to him deranged? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do know that that soldier was America’s worst fears realized — he was meant to be representing our country, and instead he perpetuated a cycle of violence and rage that this war was (supposedly) trying to prevent.
Eventually, stories began to trickle out of Iraq about U.S. soldiers who are smuggling dogs back into the U.S. These are not horror stories, but tales of love and compassion. The stray dogs lift the spirits of the soldiers who adopt them, and give the soldiers a reason to wake up each morning. If the man in the video was America’s worst fear about who represents our country abroad, then this other kind of soldier is the antidote. These soldiers see profundity in every single life. They are soldiers that Americans can believe in and relate to; soldiers who witness horror, decay, and the hell of war, yet still see a life worth saving amongst the discarded strays.
And now a different kind of story is coming out of Iraq. Baghdad has established a program to deal with their rampant strays, and that program is enforced with poison and a shotgun. These strays are part of the aftermath of our war. They are innocents who no one knows what to do with, so the dogs are simply and brutally killed.
When I write about controversial animals issues — like the geese that were struck by an airplane, or the personhood rights of apes, or the suffering of dogs in wartime — I sometimes get e-mails from people who accuse me of putting animal welfare before human welfare. They wonder, with all the human suffering in the world, how I could focus on animal issues instead. They see this question as black and white: either humans or animals. We must chose between them, and I have chosen wrong. But in response, I must quote the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
I believe that animals deserve to live free from pain and suffering, simply because they can experience these feelings. But if that is not a good enough reason, then I encourage people to look at the ways that the health of animals is inextricably linked to the well-being of humans. We are mirrors of each other, animals and humans. Our choice should not be one of who show concern for, but howwe do. It is possible to build an understanding of suffering that integrates compassion for both humans and animals, because we cannot achieve the well-being of one, without the other. These dogs of war are examples of this. Each story — the discarded puppy, the adopted dogs, the slaughtered strays — demonstrates how we channel our own frustrations, hope and despair into another species. We look to them to save us from our pain, whether by hurting them or helping them. The way we treat animals tells us how well we are doing to maintain our own standards of well-being. It is through them, and with them, that we strive to be better people.
For more information on how to help soldiers bring their dogs back from war, visit Operation Baghdad Pups
Posted in Animal Welfare, Animals, Dogs, Ethics, Film, Human-Animal Bond, Identity, Public Policy | 3 Comments »
Posted by lisagbrown on December 12, 2008
Everyone took notice when Barack Obama uttered his now famous words,
“Shelter dogs tend to be mutts, like me…”
It was a startling moment for many reasons. Had we ever heard a president-elect speak so self-deprecatingly? Had someone with such power ever spoken about companion animal issues to such a rapt audience? And finally, what did it mean for a person of mixed heritage — the president-elect, no less — to compare his own lineage to a dog’s? These were questions that felt too big to answer in a single blog entry, too daunting to address without serious rumination. Where would I even begin?
Thankfully, Frances Bartkowski has begun to peel back the layers of meaning behind Obama’s 8 small words. In her recent post on the Columbia University Press blog, Bartkowski suggests that to understand the power of this statement, one must recognize a new form of kinship that is emerging:
Aren’t we all, if we look closely or far enough back in our genealogies, mutts? …This is our object lesson, among others, whether to follow our curiosity and desire—to kiss, or to be led by our lesser selves toward animosity, what we sometimes like to cordon off as animality. Only by letting our human-animal borders become more porous can we let the future materialize out of our mixed pasts.
In Bartkowski’s view, Obama has revealed a way of bringing animals into the fold of family, and not just as individual companions. He has introduced a kind of shared ancestry among humans and nonhumans, one that integrates our history, if not our biology.
I believe Obama’s statement is one that people will turn to time and again for guidance, inspiration and contemplation, particularly those of us who work with or for animals. His 8 words are an endless meditation on race, individuality, animality, responsibility, history, welfare, and power.
To read Bartkowski’s full blog post, visit the Columbia University Press blog by clicking here. Bartkowski’s new book, entitled Kissing Cousins: A New Kinship Bestiary, is available on the site. Look for a review of the book on Animal Inventory in the coming weeks.
Posted in Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Barack Obama, Dogs, Ethics, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Identity, Public Policy, Representations, Television | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lisagbrown on December 7, 2008
There is nothing I love more than perusing my favorite blogs. Too often, the medium of blogging gets a bad rap because anyone can have a blog (and almost everyone does!) But that’s not the medium’s fault. Just like there are terrible and wonderful books, movies and art, there are terrible and wonderful blogs, as well. You just have to know how to sift through the bad to find the good, and this can be an intimidating endeavor. I highly recommend every single one of the blogs listed on my blogroll, but I thought I’d highlight the ones I’ve been completely addicted to lately. Enjoy!
Antennae isn’t actually a blog (it’s a journal), but it’s full of fascinating articles, interviews, art and tidbits by many of the most influential contemporary animal/nature writers and artists. Download the current issue “Botched Taxidermy” as a PDF on their website.
This blog is authored by Vanessa Woods, a Bonobo researcher who is stationed at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the Congo. Her blog is full of vibrant color photos, descriptions of her relationships with the bonobos and a no-holds-barred personal account of the politics of bonobo protection.
You may have noticed my previous enthusiasm for this blog, but it bears repeating. Daily Coyote is the day-to-day account of Shreve Stockton’s efforts to raise an orphaned coyote pup. Not only are her photos breathtakingly beautiful, but Shreve’s determination to chronicle this adventure responsibly (i.e., to reiterate that she will never again undertake an experience like this, and that coyotes are not meant to be pets) is commendable.
For a more intellectual and theoretical perspective on animals, check out the blog of Boria Sax, one of the stand-out powerhouses in the burgeoning field of human-animal studies.
Red Star Cafe is undoubtedly one of my all time favorite blogs. I like to imagine that I’m the only one who knows about this amazing treasure-trove of writing. I’m only sharing this little secret with you because I know you won’t tell anyone else about the intelligence, insight and originality with which they write about animals and nature in culture. Shh. Don’t tell. Our secret.
This blog is the ‘notebook’ of Boston-based writer and professor Steve Himmer. Steve posts his favorite highlights from blogs, books and more, and all of it is about nature, animals and writing. It’s a great source of inspiration, and a way to find hidden gems.
In the past, my own blog has been called, “wonderfully specific,” a compliment that I’d like to pass on to Taxidermy: Ravishing Beasts. It is a smart, engaging blog about the beauty, controversy, and power of taxidermy.
This bilingual blog by a Columbia University doctoral student combines her love of 18th century literature, contemporary American popular culture, and razor-sharp autobiography, into one big, diverse, delightful read.
Posted in Advertising, Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Art, Birds, Cats, Comics, Conservation, Dogs, Ethics, Extinction, Film, Fish, Food Animals, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Identity, Literature, Music, Photography, Primates, Public Policy, Radio, Religion, Representations, Television, Theory | 3 Comments »
Posted by lisagbrown on November 6, 2008
During Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday night, he promised his daughters, Sasha and Malia, that they would be moving to the White House with a well-deserved new puppy. Those of us who follow the role of animals in popular culture took notice of the moment, but it turns out that we weren’t the only ones. Check out the ever-growing list of high profile media outlets that chose to document Obama’s canine agenda:
Posted in Animals, Barack Obama, Dogs, Human-Animal Bond, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »
Posted by lisagbrown on November 2, 2008
Monday morning, November 3 at 8:30 am, Eastern Time, Animal Inventory blog and Animal Inventory TV will be featured on KZUM radio’s Canine 360 (89.3 in Lincoln, Nebraska). I discuss the purpose and goals of Animal Inventory in a lengthy interview with the show’s host, Jill Morstad.
Morstad describes Canine 360 as an opportunity to “pause to take a look around, to consider the concentric circles of home and family, neighborhood and community and explore how dogs create and reflect our values and ideals, and our conceptions of the good life and the good state for dogs and people.”
Listen to the show LIVE (8:30 am, Eastern Time) by going to the KZUM home page and clicking on the LISTEN LIVE icon on the left side of the page. If you miss the show, don’t worry — I hope to post a podcast of the episode within the next couple of weeks.
Posted in Animal Behavior, Animals, Art, Cats, Dogs, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Radio, Representations | Leave a Comment »