Short Film: Symphony No. 42

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This wonderful short piece of animation played at Berlinale:

Humorous, thought-provoking, and beautifully rendered. It is like a symphony of real and absurd human/animal encounters. They seem somewhat random but somehow connected. No real recurring themes. They start out tragic but at some point start to turn somewhat loving. I like the cat that grows until the human becomes the object of nurture. I like the old lady that cut the dog leash. The drunken foxes doing the limbo morphing into the smoking woman wearing the fox. Both with La Bamba playing in the background. I love the little dipper in the very first scene. The song of the red-winged blackbird. I like the fox at the beginning creating a target out of particle physics and Eastern religions and he ends up shooting himself in the head instead of the target. Trying to understand this stuff (and this movie) will drive you to that.

It’s a wonderful movie. I’ve watched it three times now and still don’t understand it. A vignette here and there, sure, but the whole thing. What does it mean? I don’t care, it’s s great film.


Singularity Watch: The Case for Frankenfoods

Ray Kurzweill, in his book, The Singularity is Near, talks about “growing meat.” In a pan, that is, not out in the feedlot. Forget the grass vs. grain argument. This beef is fed a nutrient soup.

I admit I was disgusted with the idea of a thick cut of prime rib emerging from a substrate in a dish in some incubator. I prefer things that are real. I don’t even like mock chicken or turkey hotdogs. Meat must be meat. If you want a steak, a real steak, you need to get you a grass-fed hunk of well-marbled, hopefully butchered only moments ago, animal. I could only imagine how wrong a burger from a Petri dish would taste.

There is one good reason why we should consider growing a pile of meat in a pan, though, as opposed to growing a steer in the yard. The animal. I’ve always known the manner in which we raise and slaughter cattle is less than humane and if you do your homework on the subject, there’s a good chance you’ll become a vegetarian.

I’ve done my homework, but I’m not a vegetarian. I order my meat from a friend who grows up the cattle and butchers it locally. It’s organic, grass-fed, and he only handles about 6 or 7 head a year, so there’s no factory involved. It’s the best I can do to satisfy my guilt.

But let’s face it, just because a farm is not a factory farm does not mean its animals are treated well.  Take the case of the Conklin farm. Under cover cameras caught farmer Gary and a number of his employees sadistically abusing his animals. Enjoying the animals’ pain. This is different than the institutional abuse that occurs due to the exigencies of economics, which of course is horrendous and unacceptable. But somehow it seems worse. It involves malice, bad moral character, things that won’t go away with legislation or a stronger FDA. Those things might help with conditions in factory farming. You can make laws that say animals require a certain type of care, room to breathe, freedom from pain, but you can’t make a law that ensures empathy towards them. So I’m left wondering what do you do to ensure people like Conklin are not alone with animals? You can take this particular person’s livelihood away, but what about all the other idiot farmers out there, too dumb to figure out that animal husbandry is not a good career choice?

Peta has made inroads convincing people to wear fake fur in order to stop slaughtering minks etc. There are fewer animals used for fur now than before, so I guess they’ve accomplished something. For the record, rather than wear fake, I don’t wear fur at all (well, except for my ‘coon hat), but the point is, if you want people to not abuse animals, you’ll need to take away their reason for being around animals. In other words, farmers need to find another way to make a living.

Humans don’t seem to be responsible enough to raise and slaughter animals in a humane way. Maybe we should just grow the type of meat that doesn’t have a brain stem. Has no brain or nerves and so can’t feel pain. If that ever becomes possible, I’ll be a proponent of it. I suspect that I won’t like the product anymore than I like Velveeta or plether, but I’ll reserve my judgment on machine-made Chateaubriand. I suppose I’ll have to pinch my nose in order to find it palatable. Hate to say it, but it will be worth it if that means the Conklins of the world are out of business.

Sue Lange