Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Headlines: Elephants, Kenya, Ibsen and Lilly

Lots o' links edition:

Nebraska State Senators Ernie Chambers and Marian Price have introduced a bill that would outlaw the use of bullhooks in training, disciplining, and intimidating elephants. Behind the scenes of many circuses and zoos, bullhooks are routinely used to force elephants to learn tricks, to go where trainers want them to go, or simply to "teach them who's boss." After enough of this, the mere sight of a bullhook can be enough to frighten them (or, in some cases, enrage them). Many of the elephants at Hohenwald were mistreated in this way, some of them sustaining permanent injuries. Hopefully the bill will pass, and be only the first.

Speaking of Hohenwald, a group of University of Arizona law students are campaigning to have two elephants at the Reid Park Zoo sent to the sanctuary. Here's a link to their campaign.

In Britain, welfare groups are seeking an outright ban on animals in the circus.

Elephants drinking vodka to stay warm? I don't even know what to think about that one.

In South Africa the elephant population is doing so well that the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is considering a cull. (Culling is essentially a "controlled" thinning of the herds, and it's a highly controversial form of elephant population management, banned in SA for the past ten years.) Interesting quote from that article: "If South Africa culls its elephants, it will bring down the wrath of armchair conservationists in Europe and America who have threatened to discourage tourism to any country that kills elephants." (For the record, I do not own an armchair.) I recognize that what, from here, are majestic and sensitive animals might look quite different if they were tearing up my crops and knocking over my house. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to be sickened at the thought of hunting them down with machine guns and helicopters. Yesterday, a panel of scientists recommended against lifting the ban.

In India, elephant jams on the Dehradun-Rishikesh route. Also: all hail Guruvayoor Padmanabhan, King of the Elephants.

Compare these stories: one child killed, and another. Notice any difference in emphasis?

Rhinos! They're being relocated from Nairobi National Park to the Meru Conservation Area. There are still, sadly, hardly any of them left.

The Kenya drought: here we go. It's a mess. It's being called Kenya's worst drought in 22 years. The government has waived import duties on relief food (gee, how nice of them), but this hasn't stopped government officials from stealing said food for themselves. Herdsmen have moved about 10,000 grazing animals into the Mt. Kenya forest. That's about twice the amount the area can handle. You can't blame the pastoralists, though; they're desperate. A battle last Friday between nomadic herdsmen--one group from Ethiopia, another from Kenya--left 38 dead.

The drought has also left elephants and humans fighting over water and crops; a recent study provides some perspective on this. The drought is hitting hippos especially hard; 60 to 80 of them have died in the Maasai Mara reserve over the past six weeks.

You may have heard about this: British environmentalist and filmmaker Joan Root was killed at her farm in Kenya. Was it murder or assassination? Four suspects are in custody so far.

Kenya is talking about lifting its ban on sport hunting. Elephants would still be protected due to the ban on ivory trade, but it would be open season on lions, buffalo, and antelope. This kind of sport tourism has been a success in some places, creating economic incentive for citizens to provide for wildlife welfare. Which is not to say that I don't have mixed feelings about it, or worry about a slippery slope. On a related note, here's an interesting editorial from a Kenyan sports writer who's changed his mind about the idea of hunting elephants.

"[T]he Kenyan ministry of education . . . [has] identified [school based HIV/AIDS prevention programmes] as a necessary step towards protecting the general population from HIV/AIDS infection." Better late than never, I guess. Meanwhile, Britain will help fund Kenya's new Free Compulsory Education program.

In Norway: this past Saturday was the centennial of Henrik Ibsen's death. Events to come in the next year include "a performance of 'Peer Gynt' next to the Pyramids outside Cairo on October 26." (OH MY GOD would I love to see that. "Peer Gynt" tops my list of Ibsen faves, primarily due to the weirdness, although I also love "The Wild Duck," "Hedda Gabler," and "Ghosts.")

In soccer (yes, football) news, the U.S. Women beat Norway 3-1 behind Kristine Lilly. Have I ever mentioned my collective crush on the U.S. Women's Soccer Team? Now I have.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Your Life Is Science Fiction; In a Flash, You'll Be Gone

I got tagged, in secret. (EDIT: I actually got tagged twice, the second time by Elad, below. Blame Credit where it's due and all that.)

The first player of this game starts with the topic "five weird habits" and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don't forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says "You have been tagged" (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.

1. I don't like coffee. I don't even like the smell of coffee. Personally, I don't think this is weird. I think the rest of you are insane.

2. When I'm alone in the car I talk to myself. Sometimes I talk to my characters. Yeah, um. Back when I was writing my first novel, I had a lot of characters that I really had to get into the heads of, so I would interview them as I drove to and from work. Hey, you asked for weird.

3. I'm a bit OCD with numbers. (I mentioned this while doing the fifteen things about books post.) Yes, I count lines of text. I also sometimes count my paces, time stoplights, and run sequences in my head. (The story I sold to Spicy Slipstream Stories is based on an odd sequence I used to run in junior high.) And yet, I hate doing math! Ha ha ha WHAT are you laughing at?!?

4. I talk back to the TV. (This one is regardless of whether I am alone or not.) This is particularly bad when politicians are on. "You're such a fucking liar!" is a favorite phrase for this occasion. (This is why I cannot watch speeches, because I am constantly interrupting and THEY DON'T LISTEN ANYWAY!) I also do this during shows. "You are a bad actor." "Are you stupid?!? Don't do that!" "Whoa. That was cool." "What purpose did that scene serve?" In fact, upon reflection I do this much more when I am watching with someone. When alone I rarely speak to the people on the TV.

5. On unstructured days I constantly forget to eat. On Saturdays, when I write at my favorite joint (no, I do not drink the coffee), I will often have a bagel with lox upon arrival, then sit and work on stuff for six hours or so until a vague feeling of discomfort hits me. Hm. Maybe I need to use the restroom. No . . . I should have worked out this morning. That's not it. Jesus, am I getting sick? The hospital's just a block away, maybe I should--wait a minute, I know this feeling. I've felt this way before. I . . . need . . . food! (Ding ding ding ding ding) I used to do this when I was a kid, too. I'd wake up and start reading or cleaning my room or something, and at about three I'd realize I hadn't eaten all day. Remember, folks, listen to your body.

I'm supposed to tag some people, but I'm not going to because I'm WEIRD. (EDIT: OK, I tag Meghan, because she begged for it. If anyone else feels the need to confess, be my guest.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Here's to the Working Class: Rocket Ship Up Your Ass!

One thing I always forget to write about here, for some reason, is the shows I go to.

On the 6th, I went with my old buddy Froegel to see Mucca Pazza at the Hideout. OK, first of all, the Hideout is an amazing fucking club; tucked back on a side street among the warehouses, at night it's the only place open for a half-mile or more. I once heard Kelly Hogan on the radio talking about the first time a friend took her to the Hideout; she said "You're taking me back here to kill me, aren't you?" It's a very small place, where the PBR comes in cans for a buck fifty and the bartenders are mostly local musicians between tours (Ms. Hogan herself has served my drinks on more than one occasion). There is no formal relationship between the Hideout and Bloodshot Records, but Devil in a Woodpile holds down a regular Tuesday night gig, and I'd wager that most of the rest of the label has played there at some time or another, many of them a few times a year. It's a perfect spot to crowd in and hear some great music.

So Mucca Pazza is . . . imagine that, after the apocalypse, the surviving members of various marching bands gathered together. Too traumatized to communicate except with their instruments, they formed a bond, and traveled the devastated countryside in their mismatched uniforms performing jazzed-up renditions of old folk tunes and obscure rock songs. With cheerleaders. At least, these were the images that I took away from the show. Now y'all might not know that I used to play the sousaphone in my marching band days, and I had the bleeding lip and the blistered feet to prove it; Mucca Pazza evokes those brassy days with a self-aware--but not self-conscious--geekiness. They're enormously endearing, and they also really jam.

This past Saturday, I went to a very different show.

Some of you will remember that back in July that a friend of mine, John Glick, was killed in a not-accident with two other local musicians. Saturday at the Metro, the Negligents, the Returnables, the Dials and Exo played a "3Friends" tribute/benefit show to honor the guys and to raise money for various charities in their name. Ms. Bowen was in town and kindly agreed to accompany me. Hanging around before the show, the atmosphere was weighed down with a lingering cloud of emotions, but once the music started everything was better. The performance by the Returnables--John's old band, with whom he used to perform the genius couplet that titles this entry--was cathartic to the point where I had that feeling, the one where you're on the verge of laughter and tears at the same time? Kudos to Brando and Co. for a fitting tribute, and to all the other bands. No better way to say goodbye that I can think of.

Finally, Monday night I walked over to the Charleston and met the aforementioned Froegel for an evening of music by my roommate Marianne's new band. That's right, aside from playing sessions with her cello for indie films and upcoming bands, Marianne's joined her fiddle force with two banjo players and a guitarist to form an all-girl old-timey band. This was their first gig, and they sounded goooood. The fiddle was tight, they have a nice vocal blend, and the crowd (and there was a crowd, even on a Monday, which meant we got stuck in the back) loved it. Their only problem is the band name, which I'm told is only temporary but in any case is so bad I'm not putting it up here. So if any of y'all have any suggestions for a new name, perhaps one with "Bucktown" or "Cook County" in it, leave 'em in the comments, and I'll be able to tell you who to look for.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Owl Underneath

The owl underneath has a swivel face; its beak spins from zero to zero, while the Ice Cream Men fight outside. The woman turns anime eyes on sprinkle flares, white chocolate explosions, peanut-covered cone grenades. The windows rattle with melting ordnance.

The woman is wrapping herself in an electron cocoon (we are herlac). Schoolers dash through the battlefield, vibrator backpacks flapping, pants tight loose low high long short suspended in grim adolescence as they zag between rusted shells papered with city-sticker violations, spattered with Neapolitan rain.

Facing the blue light (we are herlac) she invites disaster, coaxes it, fondles it, but still it will not come. She is melting with inertia. Paralysis drips down her forehead, into her eyes. The owl takes a breath and hums the same four bars of "Pop Goes the Weasel" over and over and over and over.

She makes herself a slingshot. Glass lifts, mesh scrapes out of the way; the air is thick with sweet lactose. Night dribbles down over marshmallow stars. She straps rubber to her ankles and spreads them for launch. Square-petaled houseplants, dusty lamps, bowls with stuck spoons. Lying back, she cannot see to aim. The owl crackles with coordinates as the Ice Cream Men triangulate her position.

Eggshell ceiling cracks and tastes like ash. Out the window: plaster statuettes, condiment bottles, unread books of poetry. Strawberry barrages tremble the sleeping furnace. The electron bath flickers once (we are herlac) and goes dark.

She loads herself into the pocket, fires, and soars past the cold fireworks below.


"FILM RIGHTS: Kelly Link's Hugo Award-Winning short story "The Faery Handbag," included in her collection Magic for Beginners, optioned to David Kirschner of David Kirschner Productions, by Sarah Self at The Gersh Agency, on behalf of Renee Zuckerbrot."

So says Gavin.