Baby Gorillas Grow Up

A review of the One and Only Ivan

Disney’s latest animal tear jerker, The One and Only Ivan, is a mixture of briefly inspired moments and severely flawed thinking.

The movie is loosely based on the fortunes of a real life gorilla, Ivan, who was kidnapped out of the Congo and raised to be a circus attraction.

The real life Ivan grew up alongside a child who hit puberty around the same time as his gorilla buddy. They did everything together including motorcycle rides.

Baby gorillas are adorable, as are all babies. Then they grow up.

But, as the saying goes, kittens become cats, puppies become dogs, and baby gorillas grow up into 400 pound adults. No way can an animal that size ever convince humans that he’s no threat to the family. He’s going to break several lamps just on his way to the refrigerator.

Like the real-life Ivan, Disney’s Ivan ends up in a concrete cage, making daily appearances before a pre-internet circus crowd that can still be amused by exotic animals.

Disney’s gorilla does his best to give the crowd what they want. He rears up on two legs, roars, shows teeth, and thumps his chest even though there’s no occasion for such displays.

In one of the movie’s finer moments, Ivan privately asks, “Why do they want me to be angry?”

It’s a good question. In real life, male gorillas are not in a perpetual state of anger. It’s questionable whether they’re ever angry. Their dramatic displays of aggression are designed to scare off predators and protect the females and babies of their clans. It takes a human imagination to invest that act with a negative emotion.

And it should quickly be noted that, against the gorilla’s most dangerous predator, humans, these gestures are sadly futile. As I write, gorillas in the wild are being killed to provide trophies and trinkets, like gorilla hand ashtrays, and for bush meat.

Because, despite the millions of acres of food that Monsanto grows, somehow there are huge stretches of the planet where people are starving.

When not faced with a threat, male gorillas pretty much do what all higher-order male mammals do. They scrounge for food, contribute their DNA, accept a little post coital attention from their mates, nap, look smug, and take a distant interest in their offspring.

The Disney movie’s best accomplishment is the character of the circus master/owner, brilliantly played by Brian Cranston. His obvious use of makeup and a fake English accent, laced with bizarre rolling Rrrrs, betray his thinly veiled desperation.

Circuses that exploit live animals were never much more than sanctioned freak shows. They were not designed to withstand the internet age, much less competition with non-animal circuses like Cirque du Soleil.

Cranston adeptly renders the frantic business owner who is holding the financial bag for an industry that no longer has a market. He tries to brazen it out, even talking to his animals as if they understand him, and trying to pep talk them into better performances.

The circus master is also in the unenviable position of regretting his decisions while he is also trapped in the consequences of those decisions. His wife leaves him when Ivan progresses from adolescent to full-size simian.

His misguided affection for captive wild animals leaves him socially isolated from other humans. Though he is not an unkind man, his anger frequently taints his interactions with his menagerie, especially targeting the stray dog that befriends Ivan.

Let’s not get confused about what caused the decline of animal attractions like roadside zoos and circuses. Perhaps ten percent of the decline was rooted in human enlightenment about the plight of captive animals.

The other ninety percent of circus failure owes its demise to virtual entertainment. Sitting on a couch, beer in hand, binging on Netflix, beats sitting a hot, foul smelling tent, watching a depressed gorilla and a dying elephant slowly and sadly strut their stuff, ten days out of ten. Especially when the Disney channel is only another $7 a month.

Such attractions are slowly fizzling out, propped up by a few sentimental travelers whose main motive for buying a ticket is nostalgia for the days when this was a viable entertainment.

The movie Ivan buys his freedom by painting a landscape of a prairie. One astute observer understands this to mean that Ivan wants to return to a natural habitat.

This is where the movie takes a fraudulent left turn. Animals can’t liberate themselves. It takes humans to undo human mistakes. In real life, it was the the courage of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) who kicked up a fuss and got a better habitat for Ivan.

It took the courage of a few PAWS members who weren’t afraid to create conflict and make a scene to get Ivan transferred to a zoo. There, the real life Ivan’s story is more interesting than the Disney version.

Because the real Ivan, having been isolated from his kind for over twenty years, integrated himself into an established gorilla community. He even found a mate. In his last years, he overcame the handicap of imprisonment and led a nearly full life as a gorilla though he did not have offspring.

To suggest that, if they just wish hard enough, wild animals can improve their own circumstances is dangerous magical thinking. And movies that perpetuate that thinking encourage complacency among humans. Humans need to sustain a sense of outrage strong enough to act against animal exploitation.

The end of The One and Only Ivan is an unforgivable whitewash job. Ivan’s cell door opens to a vast and seemingly limitless African savanna. Ivan climbs a tree and there is nothing but wilderness as far as the eye can see.

Then his human visitors jump down from the boardwalk.

So, the Disney Ivan is really in a zoo. Just as the real Ivan ended up in a zoo in Atlanta.

Admittedly, a small landscape setting with others of the same species is better than a concrete cell. But to pretend that zoo animals look out on their surroundings and see a limitless preserve is shamelessly dishonest.

In the end, this Disney confection panders to one of the worst traits in humanity: the willingness to absolve ourselves of our crimes against wild animals.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How guilty is my fake fur?

Yes, I bought a fake fur.

I can’t fix all the problems of climate change and extinction. But I can dress for winter. So off to my favorite “gently used” clothing store for some new-to-me sweaters.

Do I really buy all my clothes used, out of a political conviction about consuming raw resources? Or am I just cheap? Luckily, I don’t bother myself about these fine distinctions.

After wearing the fur a couple of times (It’s definitely too much for the pinball bar where I spent New Year’s eve, but not too much for the hipster pizzeria,  strangely enough. Could I wear it to church? If, you know, I were a churchgoer and not an atheist?), I  got to worrying.

Does owning a fake fur sweater make me a piss poor animal lover?

I went, almost mindlessly,  to the PETA site (People for the ethical treatment of animals). I expected a full on sermon on the symbolic evils of fake fur. After all, these are the folks best known for throwing paint on the minks of celebrities.

To my amazement, I found a carefully reasoned policy saying that fake furs are okay.

Fakes, it emerges, are even a little trending.

Of course  I was bred for guilt, so I  couldn’t rest there. It seems there are also some fake furs out there that have a quantum of real fur.

So I used the three tests recommended by the Guardian for determining whether fake fur is really fake.

The skin of the dead is a giveaway

First, the back should look and feel like fabric, not skin. Check. That’s definitely a knit backdrop.

Beyond all that, my fake fur sweater smells like the acrylic content that the label asserts.

(A fellow activist and I once crept into a fur store just for the hell of it. The smell of dead animals was overwhelming.  Apparently,  there aren’t enough odor eaters in the world to cover up that travesty.)

Better to have faith than to burn

The next test is to burn a small amount of fur. Clearly, I had to wait until I got home, rather than setting fire to the ladies’ auxiliary thrift store.

Hell, that was dangerous.

And inconclusive. I was supposed to get sticky plastic balls, if it’s fake, and singed fur, if it’s real. The sample instantly disappeared in the experiment, and then I was figuring out how to keep from burning down the kitchen.

Do NOT test your fur this way, not at home. Not anywhere. I hope the smell dies back before my husband gets home. I’m canceling my subscription to the Guardian.

Blunt or tapered

The third test is to examine the individual hairs to determine whether they are tapered or blunt. If blunt, they are man-made.

Seriously?

They look blunt, but I’m not at all sure I could tell the difference. And I’m still shaking from the fire experiment, so that’s it. I’m going a different direction with this.

The pit bull smell test

As I said, the fur smells fake, which is to say, it doesn’t smell like a murdered mammal.

Nevertheless,  my smell is not my superpower. But I know someone who can smell trace elements of meat and plant food through a brick wall a mile away.

My pit bull, Alice.

She was napping when I began my experiment.

Here is Alice’s level of interest in my fake fur:

This continued for a few minutes.

Here is Alice’s level of interest when her favorite cat entered the room. Trust me, there’s tail wagging here.

Quick kiss, then back to the experiment.

Alice’s level of interest in trace elements of tuna:

So, I’m declaring my fake fur fake. But the great thing about buying from a charity thrift store is that I can always donate it back. What do you think? Should I?

Are you ready for a husky? Answer key

Give yourself five points for every answer that appears in green and three points for every blue answer. More than a hundred points possible for husky wizards.

Does your family have ten hours a week to walk a dog?

  1. Yes. Ideally, your husky is walked twice a day for at least thirty minutes a walk.
  2. No.

To which of the following do you have daily access? Circle all that apply.

  1. A fenced in yard of a half acre or more.
  2. Access to a dog park.
  3. Access to a dog day care facility where dogs play at least eight hours a day.
  4. None of the above.

Huskies need to be run and walked just about every day. They get discipline and a sense of relationship to their humans from walking on leash. They burn off their nervous energy through running and wrestling other dogs. Dog day cares that offer ten or more hours a day of play can really help you manage your husky’s excess energy.

How many hours a day will your dog be completely alone, i.e. without companionship of other dogs, cats, or humans?

  1. No more than three hours a day. Huskies are not wolves and do not enjoy lone wolfing it. They are highly social, with people and other dogs. They also get bored very quickly when not socially stimulated. Unless you are retired or home all day, it’s really better to get two huskies than one husky. Two huskies can entertain each other, taking the pressure off you to entertain them constantly. Huskies will also bond closely with other dog breeds, especially herding breeds like blue heelers, and, under some circumstances, household cats.
  2. Three to eight hours a day.
  3. More than eight hours a day.

Define “positivity training.”

  1. Reward positive behavior. Constantly. Especially if you are raising a husky under two years of age, you really have to administer a lot of treats. Don’t count the treats. Is that too many? No. As long as he’s doing something you like or even just something that doesn’t bug the shit out of you, reward that behavior with treats, toys, play, and praise. Huskies love to play and will often learn to sit, go down, stay, etc. for a game of tug the rope. Positivity training is really the only viable training for a husky.
  2. Reward positive behavior and administer physical punishment for negative behavior.
  3. Reward only really good behavior with treats, then ignore bad behavior.

Do you fundamentally believe that dogs don’t need to take obedience classes?

  1. Yes. Huskies are feral enough with training. Don’t even think about getting a husky and not hiring a trainer or taking a class.
  2. No.

If you have children, did you ever discipline them by hitting, spanking, or shouting?

  1. Yes. If you couldn’t manage your children without resorting to violence, you should definitely not get a dog. And please don’t have any more children.
  2. No.

Do you believe that dogs learn from being slapped or kicked or yelled at?

  1. Yes.
  2. No. All a dog learns from being yelled at or beaten or slapped is that you are a mean person and not to be trusted.

When your dog steals half a bagel, dressed with cream cheese, from your plate, what is the appropriate response?

  1. Yelling “no!” in a loud, firm voice.
  2. Screaming and then rubbing the dog’s face in the cream cheese.
  3. Beating the dog for ten seconds or less.
  4. Taking responsibility for putting your dog in a position to do something that displeases you and letting him finish his bagel in peace. Husky ownership obligates you to anticipate things that can go wrong. 

Are you or is at least one member of your family physically able to walk a mile in fifteen minutes or less?

  1. Yes. Huskies like to walk fast. Unless you have an older husky–six or more years old–you will need to walk briskly to keep him happy. A husky is a good choice of dog if you want to get in shape through power walking.
  2. No.

How big do huskies get?

  1. 40-70 pounds. According to the American Kennel Club, they average 50 pounds, but sometimes get as big as seventy pounds. This is a big dog. If you want a bigger dog, consider a Malamute. If you want a smaller dog, consider a Pomsky, which is a breed that looks like a husky, but will only get to be twenty-five pounds or so. If you want to be assured of a forty pound husky, you will have to obtain one that is already at least two years old. If you are obtaining a husky puppy, you should try to meet the mother and father and observe their size. This will give you some idea how big your puppy will get, but it is not a guarantee. Other indications that your puppy will be huge are: if he is the first born of the litter, if he arrived a day ahead of all the other puppies, or if the breeder says things like, “he eats all the food.”
  2. 60-80 pounds.
  3. 25-45 pounds.

What is the best harness for a husky? Circle all that apply.

  1. A weighted back pack. You get full points for this, because a weighted backpack will divert some of your husky’s pulling instincts into carrying. Weighted packs also help equalize the energy level of the husky and her walker.
  2. A sled harness.
  3. A shock harness.
  4. This is a trick question. You shouldn’t harness a husky because it activates her pulling instinct.

Do you need a lot of physical affection from your dog?

  1. Yes.
  2. No. There are definitely more affectionate dogs. Pit bulls, beagles, King Charles spaniels, and Labrador retrievers, to name the most obvious. That’s not to say that your husky won’t come to love you, but it will take longer, and you will have to earn it.

Do you need a lot of eye contact and emotional support from your dog?

  1. Yes.
  2. No. There’s a reason you rarely, if ever, see a husky performing as an emotional support dog. They never make the list of best dogs for fighting depression either. Huskies will challenge your physical and problem solving abilities, rather than supporting you.

When training a dog, what is the reward that most reinforces good behavior?

  1. Dry, odorless dog treats.
  2. Stinky, moist dog treats. If you think all dog treats are equally good, you will be in for a rude shock. Huskies quickly develop a sense of what treats are high value enough and will only learn new things for those treats. Your husky might initially go outside to pee for a small, dry treat, but, if going outside isn’t enough fun, you will find yourself graduating to beef jerky, then cold cuts, then redesigning the yard to be more fun. 
  3. Scratching behind a dog’s ears.
  4. Praising the dog lavishly with a loving tone of voice.
  5. Rewards will have to be rotated and re-evaluated on a daily basis because your husky will tire of any reward that’s too consistently administered.

You believe your relationship to your husky will be most like:

  1. A master, servant relationship. Don’t get a husky. 
  2. An alpha dog, beta dog relationship. Whatever Cesar Millan might think, there’s no science to the notion that dogs think of people as dogs. 
  3. A friendship.
  4. A collaboration. Your husky wants to play and explore. Your best option is to be his fellow explorer and play buddy.

Do you enjoy gardening and raising flowers, fruits, or vegetables in your front or back yards?

  1. Yes. Unless you have a six foot fence around your cultivars, there’s really no mixing a beloved garden with a beloved husky. Huskies have an instinct to dig. They are great dogs for people who look out on their backyards and say, “You know, what we really need back here are some craters.”
  2. No.

When your husky kills a baby bird, the appropriate response is to:

  1. Beat the dog because he knows better.
  2. Scold the dog so that he never does that again.
  3. Identify where in your yard birds are nesting and then, during the winter months, trim tree branches and block cavities to prevent birds from nesting in your yard.
  4. With the patience of Gandhi, accept that huskies have a strong prey drive and that there will be a few casualties.

As you are taking off your shoes, your husky grabs one, runs across the house, and has chewed a hole in it before you catch up with her. The appropriate response is

  1. Nothing. Your opportunity to make this a learning moment expired the moment she got her teeth around your shoe. You will now buy only cheap shoes. Again, it’s not enough to be a good dog owner who keeps her temper. You must also anticipate trouble and get ahead of it.
  2. Scream “NO” at your dog and then get the shoe away from her by screaming and pulling.
  3. Hit your dog until she gives up the shoe, then hit her with the shoe for at least five seconds.

You come home to find that your husky has chewed the corner off your favorite chair. The appropriate response is to:

  1. Remind yourself that you signed up for chewed furniture when you got a husky and take your dog for a lovely long walk.
  2. Drag your dog by the collar to the chewed chair. Scream and point at the damage.
  3. Hit your dog at least three times while yelling, “chair, chair, chair!”

Your husky pees the floor when you come home from a long day at work. The appropriate response is to:

  1. Rub your dog’s nose in the pee.
  2. Make a mental note hat, when you come home every night, the first thing you should do is firmly command your dog not to pee the house.
  3. Recognize that your dog was probably stressed and lonely in your absence and that, when she saw you, she got so excited she lost bladder control. Make a mental note that, when you come home from work, you should immediately go outside with your dog and show her that you are as excited to see her as she is to see you. If you don’t have an enclosed yard, keep a leash by the door.

Your results

I lied. I’m not going to tell you what kind of dog to get. I just want you to know what you’re getting into.

 

 

Are you ready for a husky? Take this quiz

We don’t need another scientific study to tell us why huskies are so popular. They’re beautiful dogs. 

Really beautiful.

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Distractingly beautiful. What was I talking about? Damn it!

So let’s all quit blaming Game of Thrones, Balto, and Jack London for all the huskies that are purchased with high hopes, then abandoned in despair because huskies are a lot more and a lot less than what some people can handle.

Huskies are a specific challenge because of their breeding, strength, high energy, high intelligence, and independent personalities.

Is a husky the right dog for you and your family? Take this quiz to find out. Or skip directly to the answer key.

Does your family have ten hours a week to walk a dog?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

To which of the following do you have daily access? Circle all that apply.

  1. A fenced in yard of a half acre or more.
  2. Access to a dog park.
  3. Access to a dog day care facility where dogs play at least eight hours a day.
  4. None of the above.

How many hours a day will your dog be completely alone, i.e. without companionship of other dogs, cats, or humans?

  1. No more than three hours a day.
  2. Three to eight hours a day.
  3. More than eight hours a day.

Define “positivity training.”

  1. Reward positive behavior.
  2. Reward positive behavior and administer physical punishment for negative behavior.
  3. Reward only really good behavior with treats, then ignore bad behavior.

Do you fundamentally believe that dogs don’t need to take obedience classes?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

If you have children, did you ever discipline them by hitting, spanking, or shouting?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

Do you believe that dogs learn from being slapped or kicked or yelled at?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

When your dog steals half a bagel, dressed with cream cheese, from your plate, what is the appropriate response?

  1. Yelling “no!” in a loud, firm voice.
  2. Screaming and then rubbing the dog’s face in the cream cheese.
  3. Beating the dog for ten seconds or less.
  4. Taking responsibility for putting your dog in a position to do something that displeases you and letting him finish his bagel in peace

Are you or is at least one member of your family physically able to walk a mile in fifteen minutes or less?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

How big do huskies get?

  1. 40-70 pounds
  2. 60-80 pounds.
  3. 25-45 pounds.

What is the best harness for a husky? Circle all that apply.

  1. A weighted back pack.
  2. A sled harness.
  3. A shock harness.
  4. This is a trick question. You shouldn’t harness a husky because it activates her pulling instinct.

Do you need a lot of physical affection from your dog?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

Do you need a lot of eye contact and emotional support from your dog?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

When training a dog, what is the reward that most reinforces good behavior?

  1. Dry, odorless dog treats.
  2. Stinky, moist dog treats.
  3. Scratching behind a dog’s ears.
  4. Praising the dog lavishly with a loving tone of voice.
  5. Rewards will have to be rotated and re-evaluated on a daily basis because your husky will tire of any reward that’s too consistently administered.

You believe your relationship to your husky will be most like:

  1. A master, servant relationship.
  2. An alpha dog, beta dog relationship.
  3. A friendship.
  4. A collaboration.

Do you enjoy gardening and raising flowers, fruits, or vegetables in your front or back yards?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

When your husky kills a baby bird, the appropriate response is to:

  1. Beat the dog because he knows better.
  2. Scold the dog so that he never does that again.
  3. Identify where in your yard birds are nesting and then, during the winter months, trim tree branches and block cavities to prevent birds from nesting in your yard.
  4. With the patience of Gandhi, accept that huskies have a strong prey drive and that there will be a few casualties.

As you are taking off your shoes, your husky grabs one, runs across the house, and has chewed a hole in it before you catch up with her. The appropriate response is

  1. Nothing. Your opportunity to make this a learning moment expired the moment she got her teeth around your shoe. You will now buy only cheap shoes.
  2. Scream “NO” at your dog and then get the shoe away from her by screaming and pulling.
  3. Hit your dog until she gives up the shoe, then hit her with the shoe for at least five seconds.

You come home to find that your husky has chewed the corner off your favorite chair. The appropriate response is to:

  1. Remind yourself that you signed up for chewed furniture when you got a husky and take your dog for a lovely long walk.
  2. Drag your dog by the collar to the chewed chair. Scream and point at the damage.
  3. Hit your dog at least three times while yelling, “chair, chair, chair!”

Your husky pees the floor when you come home from a long day at work. The appropriate response is to:

  1. Rub your dog’s nose in the pee.
  2. Make a mental note hat, when you come home every night, the first thing you should do is firmly command your dog not to pee the house.
  3. Recognize that your dog was probably stressed and lonely in your absence and that, when she saw you, she got so excited she lost bladder control. Make a mental note that, when you come home from work, you should immediately go outside with your dog and show her that you are as excited to see her as she is to see you. If you don’t have an enclosed yard, keep a leash by the door.

Go here to see the correct answers!

 

 

Brownouts: Is Solar Energy the Cause or the Cure?

If you don’t have a dog in the fight against climate change, you might be confused about conflicting headlines. The “Daily Caller” once claimed that solar power could fry Germany’s power grid while other publications are claiming that solar energy is the cure for brownouts.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Solar energy, like any form of new power, has some kinks to work out. And it’s worth noting that the kinks in solar energy are nowhere near as dangerous or frightening as the kinks in electricity’s early days. Ask anyone whose house blew up before alternating current was discovered. And before clean electricity became a thing we all take for granted, households that ran on coal were plagued with upper respiratory health issues.

Like early electricity, solar power is still in development, and the auxiliary technology needed to make it secure is still in development, too. In Europe, Austria, and North America, most solar technology is tied into the existing power grid. When their houses can’t run on the sun, they have electricity and natural gas as a backup. That means, when the sun hasn’t shone for a week, people with solar panels still take hot showers and have the benefits of heat, air conditioning, lights, refrigeration, and computer technology.

Unarguably, a connection to the grid makes solar power more secure. At its very best, excess solar energy can be given back to the grid to meet the needs of an ever expanding population. Many solar panel owners find themselves in the enviable position of being able to sell power back to the power company.

But the downside of tapping into the grid is that, when the grid fails, so does the solar. That’s why some towns in California find themselves in the ironic position of having no power at all on a sunny day. Solar energy cannot save them from a brownout when the demand for power exceeds the abilities of the grid or, sometimes, if a single power line succumbs to storm or fire.

Remote regions, such as rural India, which have skipped over the grid and gone straight to solar do not have this problem, but they also don’t have the security of power when the sun or their solar equipment fails.

And solar power in abundance can add to the strain on an aging power grid. Some experts predict that, in Germany, where solar power has flourished due to generous subsidies, the amount of solar power will soon outstrip the capacity of the country’s energy infrastructure.

Three things are needed to keep the dream of solar alive across the world: solar batteries, smart inverters, and improvements to the infrastructure.

Solar batteries

Batteries that can store solar energy for use at night, during a cloudy day, or during a black out, offer new hope for better energy stability across the globe. A leader in creating space-efficient, wall-mountable batteries is Tesla, led by Elon Musk, an inventor most famous for PayPal and an electric luxury car. Tesla’s Powerwall is a battery that basically acts as a backup generator—without the diesel. It can store both traditional electric and solar power for use when every other form of power fails.

The use of solar batteries should not be confined to individual homes and businesses. Smart community leaders are already looking at how centralized batteries can keep the town’s lights on—even when it’s surrounded by blackouts.

Smart Inverters

Smart inverters are an improvement to solar technology that enable grid-based solar panels to switch off their dependence on the energy infrastructure and operate independently. This is a huge step toward energy stability and solves the problem of brownouts on a sunny day. Tesla has incorporated inverters into some of its Powerwall batteries so that solar customers can bundle their energy security.

Improvements to the grid

It’s a good time to live in Germany which is now leading the world in solar energy use. Would that we all had the problem of too much solar power. However, Germany will soon have to bite the bullet and invest in improvements to its elderly power infrastructure. Without country-wide improvements, solar users could, indeed, find that a flip of the switch does not turn the lights on.

However, it is empirically unfair to blame solar energy, alone, for straining power grids. Like it or not, power grids must be upgraded from time to time to accommodate both increasing populations and the escalation of small and large appliance development which has become part of modern life. Some people couldn’t imagine life without wii sports. But in the 1950s, when much of today’s power grid was constructed, wii was not even a glimmer in an inventor’s eye.

The truth is that power grids would have to upgraded, with or without solar energy’s advent. Headlines that predict a power failure in Germany for which solar is solely to blame are wildly inaccurate.

At the same time, solar advocates need to be careful not to oversell solar energy. It has the potential to stabilize energy security in combination with other energy sources. But the technology to make it so is still partly on the drawing board.

By Lynn Hamilton

Isle of Dogs: Wes Anderson’s best so far

Dogs are not wild animals.

But what if they had to be?

Would they latch onto the first human that came along?

Probably. At least that’s what Wes Anderson hypothesizes in his latest film, Isle of Dogs. In this movie, a province of Japan has deported all its family pets and watchdogs to Trash Island. The cat-loving local Japanese administration claims that the dogs will spread their flu to the human population if not exiled.

Formerly used for manufacture, transportation, and animal experimentation, Trash Island has been devastated by multiple storms which have left it in chemical and architectural ruins.

Only one human attempts to rescue his dog, and that is Atari, a twelve year old boy who steals a prop plane and crash lands on the island in search of his dog, Spots.

Of the five animated dogs who star in Isle of Dogs, four immediately make Atari’s mission their own. And the outlier, Chief, voiced by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, never actually walks away from the mission. Instead, he keeps a close eye out on the others from a distance of a few yards.

Eventually, Chief comes to love Atari, saves his life, and pledges his lifetime loyalty to the twelve year old. When it turns out that Spots is Chief’s long lost brother, Chief has one question: “Was, was I the runt?”

“Not any more,” replies Spots as the two of them protect Atari from a raging current.

The movie is partly in untranslated Japanese, about which some reviewers have taken issue. In point of fact, nothing is said in Japanese that cannot easily be understood in context. It’s a bit like harping that you didn’t catch every word of an opera.

And one reviewer, Moeko Fujii , has said that language and the failure of translation is really what the film is all about.

Other critics have accused Anderson of stereotyping because his film traffics in a number of Japanese art forms: sumo wrestling, cherry blossoms, haiku.

We condemn this as cultural appropriation at our own risk, however, as Anderson is so tongue in cheek. In other words, he might be stereotyping, or he might be making fun of the way America stereotypes Japan.

What we do know is that Isle of Dogs is a really loving portrayal of dogs, their attachment to humans, and how little they ask of life. Isle of Dogs has all the heart that is absent from Anderson’s intriguing early work.

Perhaps not every dog is as rational and compassionate as Rex, King, Boss, and Duke, voiced by Edward Norton, Robert Balaban, Bill Murray, and Jeff Goldblum. But we all know dogs who are that gentle, dogs who will put up with the worst travel accommodations just to be near their people, dogs who would do anything for a twelve-year-old boy.

And the trademarks of Anderson’s work–the softly spoken monologues and characters staring straight into the camera–really work in this film. Especially when dogs and boy have their eyes full of tears.

Altogether, Isle of Dogs is Anderson’s most complex, subtle, and clever film so far.

 

 

Five easy ways to save bees

You don’t have to be a champion of animal rights to care about bees dying out.

You just have to like food.

By Joel Worth
Bees can survive on the despised dandelion.

Bees aren’t the only pollinators out there. But they are, by far, the most efficient.

This is a swarm of honey bees. They make it so we can eat food. Cherish them.

Let’s put it this way. If bees all die, we can quit worrying about climate change. We’ll starve to death before the permafrost melts.

The catastrophic decline in bee populations doesn’t make headlines anywhere near often enough. It’s not sexy news.

But while we pant after Lady Gaga’s latest outrage, the boring farms that feed us draw closer to peril.

It’s now a common thing for farms to rent bees, which get trucked in from elsewhere. Without these mercenary pollinators, crops would fail.

Scientists point to pesticides as an obvious reason why bees are dying. But the pesticide industry got busy and pointed back at the varroa mite.

Yeah, we know it’s really the pesticides.

While competing interests fiddle, we may want to consider the easiest things we can do to save bees. They are:

  1. Put down the bug and weed killers. The one kills bees, the other kills bee food. You can save money and go to heaven by leaving the poisons on the shelf at Walmart.
  2. Leave your dandelions alone. Bees don’t get enough nutrients from dandelions alone. But this sturdy and abundant little weed often saves bees from starvation while they are looking for a richer meal.
  3. Learn to identify honey bees and bumblebees. Bumblers are more or less unmistakable. Honey bees can be confused with wasps. But a few seconds spent looking at a photo of honey bees will show you what to look for.
  4. Where you see bees in your yard, don’t mow. Bees latch on tight to any steady source of nutrients. They love milkweed, goldenrod, pokeweed, and wild clover. Learn to love the weed. And know that, in other parts of the world, people prize that weed that you take for granted or despise. If you can’t give up your whole yard to bees, at least set aside a corner or fence buffer.
  5. Buy locally harvested honey. Bee keepers are the first line of defense of bee extinction. Supporting small-scale honey production ensures a good distribution of bee habitat.
Bees can easily locate a sunflower, and the big petals make it easy to feed from.

Vast majority Of Americans Support Endangered Species Act

Science Daily reports the vast majority of Americans support the Endangered Species Act despite increasing efforts to curtail it: Political and business interests don’t appear to align with the public’s view. Roughly four out of five Americans support the Endangered Species Act, and only one in 10 oppose it, found a survey of 1,287 Americans. Support has remained […]

via Vast majority Of Americans Support Endangered Species Act — Natural History Wanderings

What they will know from our trash

A thousand years from now, when aliens finally discover the husk of our planet, these are the things they will know about us from our garbage.

The wedding dress

The most important artifact in a woman’s life was her wedding dress. She spent days locating it, often commanding the time of friends and family in the search. She would then wear this dress once.

After that occasion, it would be carefully put away and stored in an air-conditioned temple, away from the bride’s home. These temples charged a monthly fee for the care of the dress, but temple priestesses stole a percentage of the dresses and sold them on a virtual platform called “Craigslist.”

Paper or plastic

There was a great debate about whether paper bags or plastic bags were more destructive of the planet, even though both contributed to the planet’s demise. The population became sharply divided into those who used disposable bags and art bags.

The art bags were carefully designed and crafted, durable bags made of fabric, often canvas, and sometimes string. Care was assigned to the colors and constructions of these bags, and some of them were even used to communicate life philosophies such as “Tread lightly” or “Leave only your footprints” or “Just say ‘neither.'”

Some people even created their own bags out of old clothing, especially an artifact called the “T-shirt.” These hand-crafted bags were highly regarded by their creators and sometimes given as gifts to the wrong people.

Everyone else used plastic bags which were, in general, used once and then discarded. These bags were often used to encase one item purchased from a store. While some store priestesses would ask customers whether they wanted a bag for one or two items, others dispensed the plastic bags with every purchase.

Some big store priestesses resented store pilgrims who brought art bags into big stores. If the pilgrim asked for “no bag,” the priestess would throw an unused plastic bag into the trash to register her disapproval of the art bag people.

Small, outdoor “farmers markets” emerged to give art bag people a place to shop where their bags were valued. Many people reviled these markets as “elitist” bastions of wealthy, bored white people.

Would you like some polystyrene with that coffee?

In the early twenty-first century, everyone knew how to make delicious coffee. There was an amazing array of coffee makers, from percolators to drip systems. Coffee could be made by the pot or by the cup. Arguments concerning the best coffee and the best way to make coffee took up a considerable amount of leisure time.

However, it was a sign of wealth and status to buy coffee away from home and receive it in a throwaway paper or polystyrene cup. Eventually, the production of these cups caused such wide spread deforestation that the earth’s oxygen crashed, killing three quarters of the people and wildlife.

 

 

Disposable cups: How are they still a thing?

If you’ve ever waged a one-person war on disposable cups, you know how frustrating and lonely it can be.

Around twenty years ago, when I was trying for zero waste, I bought a rather expensive metal mug at Krispy Kreme Donuts because I was getting my daily morning coffee from that chain.

The next day, when I presented the mug and asked the server to put my coffee in there, she refused, saying that all Krispy Kreme coffee had to be served in paper cups. I pointed out that it was a Krispy Kreme mug that I had bought at that location.

She knew. It just didn’t bother her.

Only partially daunted, I made several more attempts to get my coffee put into the metal mug. One server first poured it into a cup and then decanted it in the mug.

Even at that time, Dunkin’ Donuts probably had some corporate policy about letting people use real mugs and eschew the paper ones, but these policies often don’t make it down to the store level.

On numerous other occasions, I have made store clerks and cashiers angry by refusing bags or insisting on putting items in my back pack.

The words, “No bag!” and “I don’t need a bag” hollered directly at someone picking up my items for purchase often falls on deaf ears. Or it has to be repeated–which amazes me.

Am I really the first person at Walgreens ever to refuse a bag for one item?

Considering the on-the-ground resistance to reducing pointless, conspicuously immoral waste products, I decided to do some new research. Maybe disposable cups aren’t really the ecological disaster that I think they are.

Sadly, that’s not true. According to the Huffpost, Starbucks alone is destroying forests at the rate of 8000 paper cups a minute. And, if you’re thinking that paper cups could be recycled into other paper products, guess again. Many such cups are coated with polyethylene, a chemical that makes recycling difficult, if not impossible in most places.

Paper cups were supposed to be an improvement on styrene foam (colloquially known as styrofoam) which has been proven to kill marine animals and is suspected of contributing to cancer in humans.

A writer at the Boston Globe notes that neither cup is really recyclable.

Right about now, you might be asking how this is an animal rights issue. In the case of styrene foam, it’s more obvious. Surely, you’ve heard that turtles and diving birds ingest small amounts of this trash and it poisons them.

But let’s circle back to the thousands of trees that are destroyed to make paper cups. That’s a huge loss of trees. And mature trees are almost never alone. They are homes to animals. Most birds need trees to nest in. The destruction of one tree at mating season can destroy dozens of baby birds and bird eggs.

So, what is the solution?

The most obvious thing to do is make and drink your own coffee at home–without using a K-cup because K-cups are landfill mongers–and compost the filter.

But going out for coffee is an emotional or social ritual for millions of people. Are they doomed to participate in deforestation every day?

Not where coffee chains have voluntarily figured out ways to reduce waste. Europe, New Zealand, and Canada are getting way ahead of the United States on this initiative.

What you can do

All is not lost, even in the U.S. Starbucks lets customers buy $2 reusable cups. Then customers receive a small discount when they use them. The company does this in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

So, if you’re a Starbucks addict, this is the obvious thing to do. If you’ve been getting coffee in paper cups from another chain, switch to Starbucks and use their reusable mugs and get the discount.

If you’re not addicted to chain coffee, patronizing a local coffee shop may allow you the luxury of sitting down with a ceramic mug of coffee. Imagine that!

Or you can start a local initiative to ban paper cups in your town. Start out at city hall.

Last, but not least, you could buy an espresso maker at your local Goodwill or Habitat Restore and learn to make really delicious coffee at home.