TBR: Reading Zoos by Randy Malamud

I actually ordered this book as an inter-library loan and flipped through it already. I just don’t have the time to commit to its study, nor the funds to buy it to read it later (I think it’s out of print and about 100 bucks  used). I just wanted to send this book out into the world and let everyone know it’s on my radar. Read it! Tell me to read it! Tell me what you thought of it!

On Amazon.

Night Flower: The Life and Art of Vali Myers was very beautiful

A pretty little book filled with art that seemed familiar, yet I didn’t know the name Vali Myers until this post on the reading recommendations of Florence Welch.

Filled with essays from others about her, her art, and pages from her diaries, you get a glimpse as to what kind of artist and person she was. Which was good, because I had never heard of her before.

Her art, though entirely her own, reminds me of Frida Kahlo’s work – exposed breasts, intricate scenes threaded together to tell a story, self-portraits. To me her art is much easier to relate to than Frida’s, due to the animal imagery, fewer fetuses depicted (not as natalist), and the diaries that remind me of my own habits.

Her work titled Wu Man stood out to me:

Though this book was fun, I don’t feel like I really know that much more about Vali Meyers, though. There is still a mystery to her that I doubt will ever be solved.

Angel Catbird Vol 1 by Margaret Atwood was terrible…

Besides being anti-cat propaganda in disguise and pushing that agenda on almost every other page with little “facts” at the bottom of each page (Atwood clearly cares more about birds and humans than cats), the story is mediocre and, quite frankly, boring.

I skimmed the end.

Besides their clothes magically disappearing when the shapeshifting characters change, it’s just poor storytelling.

But back to the pro-bird agenda/factoids. By now you all should know how I feel about labeling some animals as invasive species. Also, read this. But Atwood completely ignores the fact that cats have historically evolved with humans for a symbiotic relationship and humans are overpopulating the earth. Heck, our buildings’ windows kill more birds than cats.  Seriously, watch this PSA video:

It’s not cats that are the biggest problem. If we, as a species, were to disappear overnight the cats wouldn’t be the biggest threat to birds. It would still be our buildings. If our buildings and us were to vanish, the impact of cats on birds would stabilize.

I’m so sick of the xenophobic rhetoric underlying approaches like this. Yes, I’m sure Atwood cares about birds and cats, but she’s still feeding into the anti-cat movement that kills cats.

Yes, cats kill birds. And other things. And each other.

Yes, it’s changing ecosystems (but because of us).  But instead of striving for Nazi-like eco-purity, let evolution/survival of the fittest take its course, I say, because living alongside us humans will take animals who can adapt and not constantly suffer…

Also, one fact at the bottom of a page says that only 5% of lost cats are ever returned to their owners, because they are “probably dead, having been hit by car or mauled by an animal.” Bullshit. More cats are put down in shelters than dogs. Your cat didn’t just die of accidental causes. Shelters actively take in cats and kill them. I’ve volunteered at a shelter. I’ve watched what happens to them. They are killed because, quite frankly, dogs are viewed as more important in a shelter system. Don’t like a cat and need to make space? Call it feral and unadoptable. Boom. Easier to justify their death.

Fuck. This. Watered. Down. Book.

Sorry to rant, but this is something I feel passionate about.

Other goodreads reviews I agree with:

Let’s look at her intro: she emphasises in the first paragraph that she’s “an award-winning nice literary old lady” – and already there’s a sense of sneering condescension. She’s an award-winning literary writer – so what the heck’s she doing slumming it in the retarded comics world?!? She then name-checks a bunch of famous comics (she knows how to use Google!) before mentioning that “Spider-Man, who begat Wolverine” when it came to “psychologically complex characters with relationship problems”. Uh, what? How did Spidey beget Wolverine in any sense?

 

The exposition was was the kind of level you’d expect to see in a seven-year-old’s story – clunky, awkward and over the top. Who randomly goes up to the new person in the canteen at work and asks if they’re working on a secret project? Or, after two minutes of conversation with said newbie, reveals their theory that newbie’s predecessor was murdered? Actually, I’m imagining this happening at work for real (especially as we have a new person starting next week) and it’s kind of making me laugh.

 

What even was this? I don’t think this comic knows what it’s supposed to be. A retro throwback comic? A vanity piece? A PSA about cats and birds? A steaming hot mess? 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

This book was comforting and honest at times. But it wasn’t so much “geek” as it was just “feminist,” in my view.

This book reads more like blog posts than essays, which is fine except some of the topic seem fleeting and time-specific. The most similar thing I’ve read is Jo Walton’s What Makes this Book So Great (which I think were literally blog posts).  Also, Hurley is very vague in how she approaches some topics, not giving them context unless you were specifically involved in the incident or aware said incident happened (like, for example, Gamergate).

I’m not so sure I agree with some of her blanket conclusions in a few of her essays; like in “Becoming What You Hate,” where she says she used to write honest reviews but holds her tongue nowadays and doesn’t read mean reviews of her own work, which I disagree on because I’m still simply  not sure what she’s talking about. She’s very “Leave authors alone!” and yet in the next sentence also very “Fine, they deserve it!” All over the place. I’m all for bypassing black and white, but I’m still not sure what her position is. At best, I don’t think she is either sometimes.

Some quotes I liked from the book:

“We live in a culture that controls people through a grim hierarchy. Anyone who’s ever been bullied in school knows exactly what it looks like, and how it seeks to keep us in our places; the folks at the top work to establish dominance and power. They are the ones who succeed, because the game is rigged in their favor. When you add onto that hierarchy the place of women in it, when it was only about fifty years ago when women couldn’t buy a house or get a credit card without her husband’s permission, it makes sense for women to make alliances with men who are bullies. Men who are bullies can protect women from other men who target them. The bully who is known to you is far less scary than the one who is not. Fetishizing that behavior when your choices are limited is not surprising.” 

“Anyone can write a book and post it on a retail platform. We’ve got far more opportunities for choice now, and though big Hollywood studios and publishers are still releasing primarily status-quo stuff, they’re changing, too. What they see is that when presented with more choices, less problematic choices, people are quite often choosing them over their messy, face-punching bullshit.” 

“But nodding and smiling gets old. It makes it easier for people to box you up and ship you off. I’m only really alive when I’m pissing people off anyway.” 

Other goodreads reviews of this book I approve:

Also, I didn’t like that most chapters started very strong, with several pages of what exactly is wrong about the topic at hand, but then ended too quickly without a solution other than “so in my book, I . . .”

 

Gosh I did want to like this, but a lot of the essays felt like stray blog posts, really short and divorced from context.

 

If your audience doesn’t get tips or advice on what to do, they will do nothing. Hurley is pretty vague about her calls to action, and I felt that they were geared more toward writers than readers. I was so fired up reading about making change, but…how can I help? This is supposed to be a revolution, we all have to fight in some way. I need to know how in order for that to happen.

 

Although I agree with most of what is said in this, this didn’t bring anything new to the table for me…

BOOK REVIEW: American Zoo by David Grazian

This book was a DNF for me. I skimmed to what parts I thought might hold interest for me.

But just like the people who do go to zoos take a (what I call) shallow interest in the experience (the come, they see, they go on to the next exploitation), so too does Gazian state his observations of the human reasons zoos exist. This book more so answers “why do Americans still do that?” (ie put animals in zoos). But only for a modern context. It does not answer the question “why do Americans do that” in any historically sociological way.

There is no real exploration as to if it is good or bad that we “do that.” He states horrors inflicted upon zoo animals like someone observing birds flying in the sky. Well, isn’t that interesting? Because they aren’t horrors to him.

He talks about the fact that male pandas are given Viagra and forced to watch porn, never exploring if this is a moral thing to do to pandas. He even goes so far as to call them (either all pandas or zoo pandas specifically) sexually ‘incompetent’ – as if they can’t even do the one thing they are “good” for, for us humans (make more of themselves). This presupposes that pandas are our things and that they need us to help make them more competent — as if that’s their only problem and as if they hadn’t been thriving all on their own without our help until man started killing them off and destroying their habitats. Hell, are we even sure that we didn’t create the panda from nothing?  Grazian even talks about zookeeper’s masturbation aids with just a passing, subtle comment: that’s “exactly what it sounds like.” But what does it sound like? Because to some, that sounds like rape, not something funny.

Colonialism is never explored, as far as I could tell, which are the roots of all zoos. He ends on the note that zoos have their faults, but they aren’t morally bankrupt, ignoring the fact that their AZA accreditation is not the real beef some animal rights activists have with zoos. I’m sure there were good slave owners in America too that didn’t beat their slaves and didn’t sell slaves’ children off… It is the concept of slavery that is the topic. Just like the concept of zoos should be the topic. Not what zoos think or try to do in this modern age.

At the end he mentions a book called The Zookeeper’s Wife which is a story about how a zookeeper’s wife kept Jews safe in WWII in their zoo. The sad thing is that Grazian can’t see the irony in that. The very thing/concept that created hate for Jews was the self-same hate that sticks animals in cages: an attempt to “Other” and “conquer” and “control.” Where is the sociological exploration in that?

Zoos can try and kid themselves that they are protecting animals, just like the Zookeeper’s wife can repurpose an evil concept to save Jews. But there wouldn’t be a need to repurpose anything if “the evil concept” hadn’t messed things up to begin with. That’s what animal rights activists are targeting. The concept itself.

But I guess I shouldn’t have expected that deep of an exploration, what with the subtitle of this book being “A Sociological Safari.” Safari? Because what humans do to animals is just as interesting as going on a safari? Safaris show you animals in their natural habitat. And it doesn’t seem “natural” what we’ve done to animals.

Or, if it is natural for humans to do this, I don’t think I like being human.

Trump, Patriarchy and the Sexual Politics of Meat

Vegan Empowerment

donald-trump-1269282_1280

Recently, as I was watching Democracy Now!, I listened to the released tape of Donald Trump making typical sexist remarks about women with Billy Bush (W and Jeb’s cousin) back in 2005. The revealed audio tape goes as this:

UNIDENTIFIED: She’s still very beautiful.

DONALDTRUMP: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down in Palm Beach. I moved on her. And I failed. I’ll admit it.

UNIDENTIFIED: Whoa!

DONALDTRUMP: I did try and [bleep]. She was married.

UNIDENTIFIED: That’s huge news there!

DONALDTRUMP: No, no, Nancy. No, this was—and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture—I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she…

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BOOK REVIEW: The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams

This book affirms and reaffirms everything that I, a vegan and feminist, know to be true. Part of my ‘knowing’ is innate and part of it has been relearning. But this work puts words to my knowledge. This gives me something to point to.

I had no idea that others before me had laid such a beautiful foundation (arguably part of veg erasure). This book sums up those before it (which I also did not know about) and is my official stepping stone.

My overall impression with this book: This book will not win converts. It is for those who are already veg or have been thinking of experimenting with veg. You cannot speak to those without ears to hear. But if you are feeling all alone in the world. YOU ARE NOT.

Another critique I could make is that it gets all literary in the middle–a large portion of this work is dedicated to dissecting (probably not the best word to use here) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And it illuminates it beautifully. I am still in awe. I have read Frankenstein but never before had I noticed its veg connotations (veg is my word). It might seem odd to other readers that literature plays such an important role in the book–almost out of place or stitched in there like a relevant patch around some other topics. Or perhaps Shelley and the other Romantic writers were the main blanket and all the other “topics” were just threads and knots holding it, the real quilt, together. But I loved the patchwork nature of the book. It is all over the place. Yet it flows and with every page I loved it more and more. I felt sane for the first time in years.

Enough of my sewing metaphors.

Buy this book and read it. 

I also want to know what Carol Adams thinks of  The Vegetarian by Han Kang (which I did not like). 

Here are links one and two to quotes from the book that I wanted to preserve and go back to.

Holy Heretic Devotional – Feb. 4, 2017-Sheros and Heroes

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carolHOLY HERETIC DEVOTIONAL – Feb. 4, 2017 – SHEROES & HEROES: ACTIVISTS

Compiled by Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center Director Beth Foster

“In a situation where flesh is consumed, vegetarians inevitably call attention to themselves. They have made something absent on their plates; perhaps a verbal demurral has been required as well. They then are drawn into a discussion regarding their vegetarianism. Frequently, there will be someone present who actually feels hostile to vegetarianism and regards it as a personal challenge. If this is the case, all sorts of outrageous issues are thrown out to see how the vegetarian will handle them. The vegetarian, enthusiastic reformer, sees the opportunity as one of education; but it is not. instead it is a teasing game of manipulation. At times, ludicrous questions are raised; they imply that the entire discussion is ludicrous.” ― Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A…

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