Animal Inventory Blog

Keeping track of animals in popular culture.

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Blitzen Trapper Embrace Their Inner Wolf

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:

“Furr”

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,
wandered aimlessly,
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 »

Antennae, Issue 11: Insecta

Posted by lisagbrown on September 27, 2009

The newest issue of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture is now available for download. The theme of the issue is insects — namely, our uncomfortable relationship with them and how we can come to see beauty in creepy crawlies. The issue was inspired by Pestival, a week-long festival in London celebrating insects. As Giovanni Aloi, editor-in-chief of Antennae, says:

…this issue of Antennae looks at some of the most challenging and interesting contemporary artists working with insects. The “excuse” for ‘Insecta’ to be released right now is Pestival 2009, “A festival celebrating insects in art, and the art of being an insect” which took place at London’s Southbank Centre this September. Pestival’s aim is to examine insect-human interactivity in bioscience through paradigms of contemporary art, cinema, music and comedy as well as through direct scientific demonstration and educational projects.

Antennae Issue 11

Click on the image above to be redirected to the Antennae homepage.

Posted in Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Art, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Literature, Music, Photography, Representations, Theory | Leave a Comment »

Best of the Blogs…

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!

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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 »

Remembering Elliott Smith

Posted by lisagbrown on October 22, 2007

Four years ago today, on October 21st 2003, the music world lost one if its most talented contributors. Elliott Smith was just 34 years old when he died under mysterious circumstances at his Los Angeles home. Smith’s death was a tragedy, but it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Anyone who is a fan of his music is well aware of the common themes: alchoholism, loneliness, addiction. Since I knew this sad anniversary was approaching, I revisited Smith’s catalog, this time with an ear towards the role of animals in his music, hoping that I could both honor his memory and explore his relationship with nonhuman life.

I was surprised to discover how few animals appear in his lyrics. With minor exceptions, Smith’s world seems completely devoid of nonhumans. For that matter, nature, wilderness and the environment in any living form are also noticeably absent. This striking omission might be as significant as the presence of his other themes. A world without wild animals, companion animals, even symbolic animals, mythological beings or fantasy creatures seems unimagineable. I searched the lyrics for anything living — plants, insects, fish. I listened for natural habitats like oceans, sky, forest. With rare exceptions, these representations of life are completely missing from his world. Smith sang again and again about the unliveability of his life, a life populated by alcohol bottles, drugs, darkness and not much else. The only life-giving force that ever appears in his music, and does so repeatedly, is the sun. But for Smith, the most obvious element of the sun is its habit of abandoning him every single day without fail. And even when he can manage to derive joy from the sun’s brilliance, he always does so in the context of self-destructive behavior that will cast him to the shadows again.

It is well-known that depression causes people to withdraw from family, friends, work, and all the things they hold dear. But what becomes clear from Smith’s lyrics, and his subsequent (possible) suicide, is that depression can pull people away from the natural world as well. It is a kind of isolation that transcends species and isolates the sufferer from any form of living being.

I never knew Smith personally, nor do I know what role animals and nature played in his experiences outside of music. But I can see from his lyrics that liveness in its many forms was absent from Smith. Spending any length of time within his musical world highlights the haunted genius of his talents, but spending too much time there can cause claustrophobia, as would any world without sun, life, greenery, sky, water and animals. Perhaps there is something to be learned from this. In our darkest moments, we ought to remember to reach out to the natural world, even if we can’t muster the strength to reach towards the human one. Perhaps such an effort could have saved Elliot Smith some pain.

If you would like to honor Smith’s memory, the Elliott Smith Memorial Fund encourages donations to Outside In, a Portland, Oregon organization where Smith had been scheduled to perform a benefit show to support their needle exchange program. You can also learn more about Smith by going to his official fan website, Sweet Adeline.

Photo of Elliott Smith by Autumn de Wilde

Posted in Identity, Music | 2 Comments »

Josh Ritter and the Digital Fish tank

Posted by lisagbrown on October 5, 2007

Josh Ritter is a local Boston folk-scene fixture. His recent appearance as musical guest on David Letterman solidified his status as an up-and-coming star. All the more reason why this charming, self-effacing performer should be noticed; not only for his singer-songwriter talents, but also for the ways that animals play a role in his music.

Last night I saw Ritter play live at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square. In between songs he told a story. He and his bandmates have recently discovered the digital fish tank, a DVD of fish. A single camera is statically focused on a tank. Every two hours the film is looped back to the beginning, to create an endless movie of fish tank livelihood. Ritter deadpaned that the fish tank was an exciting hotbed of action and he and his bandmates were riveted. The crowd laughed at Ritter’s apparent irony, but I think his comments were as honest as they were comedic. Surely a man who wrote an entire album called The Animal Years (2006) finds worth in the observation of animals. He went on to lament how difficult it is to get to know a fish’s personality. Again, the crowd laughed because fish don’t have personalities, right? But Ritter continued: Is the fish friendly? Is it mean? The ongoing guffaws of the audience confirmed my suspicions of their thoughts: fish are fish — the suggestion of personality differentiation is nothing more than stand-up comedy!

Ritter ended the story by wondering aloud what kind of fish he would be. At the very least, he determined, Zack Hickman his bassist (a statuesque man with an impeccably maintained handlebar mustache) would be a Manta Ray.

To hear Josh Ritter’s music and find tour dates click here.

Posted in Music | Leave a Comment »