Sadness is a strange drug
intoxicating as any pill,
Sadness is a bed
into which you can sink and sink,
drown so deliciously
and sad, slow guitar chords
strummed with bloody fingertips.
Sadness is feathers
with cinderblock stems,
the exquisite beauty of moonlight
reigning in the wild sea.
Sadness is the song that makes you cry
and the lyrics which make you ache
yet you play it over and over
for the strange beauty
in the elegant shudder
of your sobs.
It’s why we find lovely
in the heartbroken folk songs.
It’s why I find gorgeous
in trampled flowers
and crippled butterflies,
thin streams of blood
and weather-beaten book covers;
yet what were they to me
before they were broken?
Sadness is falling asleep in the snow;
it is always dusk,
it is the end of electricity,
it is unused tires
and objects drifting in outer space.
It is floating
and it is sinking
in one fluid motion;
far be it from me to divine the difference.
It’s been a while (I’m pretty sure everything I post on here begins with a phrase along those lines). In the meantime, I’ve done a lot, and more importantly, I’ve written a lot, so I thought perhaps I’d share some of that work. So without further ado I will be posting a (small) slew of poetry (is there a such thing as a small slew?) I’ve been writing over the past few months!
My Perfect Disney Princess Live-Action Casting
(Which Is SO Much Better Than Buzzfeed’s)
Aurora – Gabrielle Wilde
Pocahontas – Tara Gill
Jasmine – Nazanin Boniadi
Tiana – Jennifer Hudson (Back-Up: Sophie Okonedo)
Alice – Elle Fanning
Mulan – Ziyi Zhang (Back-Up: Brenda Song)
Elsa – A Blonde Janet Montgomery
Anna – Anna Kendrick (Back-Up: A Strawberry Blonde Isabelle Fuhrman)
Rapunzel – AnnaSophia Robb
Snow White – Emily Browning (Back-Up: Lily Collins)
Belle – Rooney Mara (Back-Up: Kaya Scodelario)
Cinderella – Saoirse Ronan
Ariel – Melissa Benoist
Megara – Kate Mara
Jane – Emilia Clarke
Esmerelda – Sarah Shahi
Because I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
I’m not gonna lie to you guys….
I have the best internship ever.
Sure, Boston traffic often turns the otherwise 30-minute commute into an hour and ten minute trek. And yes, the internship’s unpaid and yes, I work a kind of weird schedule that includes all-day Saturdays.
But guys. I work at the zoo.
So I’m officially on my third week as an education program intern at the Franklin Park Zoo of Zoo New England, commuting three days a week from Medford, Mass. I can now tell you a male lion sleeps up to 20 hours a day, giraffes are born already standing 6 feet, female ostriches guard the nest by day and male ostriches by night, and tree kangaroos are the cutest animals to ever exist.
My work includes accompanying behind-the-scenes tours, running programs with kids on various topics (habitats, adaptations, etc) and animal encounters (nothing too exotic – ferrets, cockroaches, ball pythons, rosy boas, box turtles, skunks, skinks, geckos – but still tons of fun!), and walking around the zoo ‘interpreting’, which is our word for dispensing our knowledge regarding the animals and trying to get guests more involved.
My favorite exhibit happens to be Tiger, where we have two Siberian/Bengal tiger mixes named Luther and Anala.
Anala and Luther are some pretty cool cats (haha, see what I did there?!). First off, Anala’s the one of the left; the orange tiger. For whatever reason most guests tend to be convinced the white tiger must be female, which must bruise poor Luther’s manly ego, but our white tiger is in fact a male. Secondly, most guests are surprised when I tell them Luther and Anala are believed to be brother and sister. Most people are under the impression that the ‘white tiger’ is its own subspecies, while in fact the white coat is simply caused by a recessive gene that blocks the orange coloring.
I’ll throw out some other fun Anala/Luther/Tiger facts for ya: The two of them are both eight years old; tigers generally live to around twenty in captivity. A common misconception is that tigers live on the savannah and share their space with lions, but they actually hale from a wide variety of tropical forests. Also unlike lions, tigers are generally solitary animals (but since both Anala and Luther are not in competition for resources and have been raised together since birth, they get along just fine). A fun fact is that males in the wild keep a very specific territory, often encompassing the territory of a few females, and a new tiger can only move in once the old one has died and a vacancy opens up, kind of like our own housing system (except, you know, death isn’t usually a requirement).
Luther and Anala were rescued by the zoo after a man was caught trying to illegally sell them as pets. Which brings me to another point; debunking the bad rap zoos seem to get in this day and age. Sure, in the past I think zoos often served as more of a circus-like establishment, capturing wild and exotic creatures to show off to a curious public. But as time has passed they have become less about showing off rare creatures and more centered on trying to garner appreciation, interest and hopefully aid from the public regarding the various wildlife that shares our planet. In my brief time working behind the scenes I’ve been blown away by the amount the zoo, which has very little funding to begin with, attempts to educate visitors and raise awareness regarding environmental issues, as well as their various and determined conservation efforts.
I’d like to make one thing clear; few if any of the animals residing in the park have been removed from the wild. They were nearly all born in captivity, many within Franklin Park itself, and couldn’t survive if released into the wild if you tried.
Naive visitors who know very little about the workings of the zoo like to get up on their high horses and berate me, telling me the animals must be sick (no, he’s just a lion, lions sleep a lot…), that they must be bored (well actually the pygmy hippos are nocturnal, so you won’t see her moving much unless you’re here in the morning), that we should be ashamed of the horrible care we give our animals (sorry, he’s actually just naturally shedding, Bactrian camels do that) and so on and so forth.
I’m constantly being asked if the animals miss the wild or if they’re happy. To which I have to respond, “Um, of course they’re happy.” In their natural environments animals are engaged in a constant struggle for survival, a struggle that more often than not ends violently and unhappily. They must combat hunger, severe weather, predators, lack of prey, diminishing habitats, various illness, and countless other obstacles they simply don’t have to worry about in a zoo exhibit. I completely understand the appeal of the image of a wild and ferocious leopard stalking his prey in the wild, but people generally overlook scenarios such as leopard cubs being ripped to pieces by Nile crocodiles, his kills being stolen by lions or hyenas (as often happens) and leaving him hungry, or the leopard itself taking out young gorillas, chimps, zebras, chitals and muntjacs. I get that visualizing the grand predator in his natural habitat is engaging, given we as humans put great stock in personal freedom and choice. But do I actually think the animal is happier fighting to survive versus living in relative comfort and safety in a well-designed zoo habitat? Not really.
I’ve always thought this passage from Life of Pi puts it best (it’s a little lengthy, so bear with me):
‘Well-meaning but misinformed people think animals in the wild are “happy” because they are “free.” These people usually have a large, handsome predator in mind, a lion or a cheetah (the life of a gnu or of an aardvark is rarely exalted). They imagine this wild animal roaming about the savannah on digestive walks after eating a prey that accepted its lot piously, or going for callisthenic runs to stay slim after overindulging. They imagine this animal overseeing its offspring proudly and tenderly, the whole family watching the setting of the sun from the limbs of trees with sighs of pleasure. The life of the wild animal is simple, noble and meaningful, they imagine. Then it is captured by wicked men and thrown into tiny jails. Its “happiness” is dashed. It yearns mightily for “freedom” and does all it can to escape. Being denied its “freedom” for too long, the animal becomes a shadow of itself, its spirit broken. So some people imagine.
This is not the way it is.
Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured. What is the meaning of freedom in such a context? Animals in the wild are, in practice, free neither in space nor in time, nor in their personal relations. … An animal inhabits its space, whether in a zoo or in the wild, in the same way chess pieces move about a chessboard—significantly. There is no more happenstance, no more “freedom,” involved in the whereabouts of a lizard or a bear or a deer than in the location of a knight on a chessboard. Both speak of pattern and purpose.
If you went to a home, kicked down the front door, chased the people who lived there out into the street and said, “Go! You are free! Free as a bird! Go! Go!”—do you think they would shout and dance for joy? They wouldn’t. Birds are not free. The people you’ve just evicted would sputter, “With what right do you throw us out? This is our home. We own it. We have lived here for years. We’re calling the police, you scoundrel.”
Don’t we say, “There’s no place like home?” That’s certainly what animals feel. Animals are territorial. That is the key to their minds. Only a familiar territory will allow them to fulfill the two relentless imperatives of the wild: the avoidance of enemies and the getting of food and water. A biologically sound zoo enclosure—whether cage, pit, moated island, corral, terrarium, aviary or aquarium—is just another territory, peculiar only in its size and in its proximity to human territory. That it is so much smaller than what it would be in nature stands to reason. Territories in the wild are large not as a matter of taste but of necessity. In a zoo, we do for animals what we have done for ourselves with houses: we bring together in a small space what in the wild is spread out. Whereas before for us the cave was here, the river over there, the hunting grounds a mile that way, the lookout next to it, the berries somewhere else—all of them infested with lions, snakes, ants, leeches and poison ivy—now the river flows through taps at hand’s reach and we can wash next to where we sleep, we can eat where we have cooked, and we can surround the whole with a protective wall and keep it clean and warm. A house is a compressed territory where our basic needs can be fulfilled close by and safely. A sound zoo enclosure is the equivalent for an animal (with the noteworthy absence of a fireplace or the like, present in every human habitation). Finding within it all the places it needs—a lookout, a place for resting, for eating and drinking, for bathing, for grooming, etc.—and finding that there is no need to go hunting, food appearing six days a week, an animal will take possession of its zoo space in the same way it would lay claim to a new space in the wild, exploring it and marking it out in the normal ways of its species, with sprays of urine perhaps. Once this moving-in ritual is done and the animal has settled, it will not feel like a nervous tenant, and even less like a prisoner, but rather like a landholder, and it will behave in the same way within its enclosure as it would in its territory in the wild, including defending it tooth and nail should it be invaded. Such an enclosure is subjectively neither better nor worse for an animal than its condition in the wild; so long as it fulfills the animal’s needs, a territory, natural or constructed, simply is, without judgment, a given, like the spots on a leopard. One might even argue that if an animal could choose with intelligence, it would opt for living in a zoo, since the major difference between a zoo and the wild is the absence of parasites and enemies and the abundance of food in the first, and their respective abundance and scarcity in the second. Think about it yourself. Would you rather be put up at the Ritz with free room service and unlimited access to a doctor or be homeless without a soul to care for you? But animals are incapable of such discernment. Within the limits of their nature, they make do with what they have.
So yes, I fully support zoos in terms of what they do to protect animals, educate about the environment, and give the public a chance to see first-hand what zoos fight to protect and why they should be fighting, too.
And on that note, here are a few crappy photos I took with my camera-phone over the past week. Enjoy! 🙂
I’d like to get back with a few more species-specific exposés, but till then, have a lovely week and, if you’re a resident of the US, a splendid 4th of July! 🙂
Check it out guys! I finally wrote something!
Review: Baz Luhrmann’s
The Great Gatsby
I’ve always been a huge supporter and defender for quirktastic film director and father of the ‘Red Curtain Trilogy’ Baz Luhrmann. I haven’t met a soul who wasn’t touched by the music, artistry, creativity and general spectacle of Moulin Rouge, never mind an individual who didn’t watch the credits with tears obscuring their vision. And though it tends to earn mored mixed opinion, I was an avid fan of Romeo + Juliet and its fresh take on the consistently over-done (but still much beloved) Shakespearean classic. Although his symbolism was at times, to understate, heavy-handed, I found the images nonetheless both beautiful and powerful. Maybe its merely because this film was my first introduction into the world of modernized Shakespeare, but I found the little attempts at modernization (the television reporter, the Sword-brand firearms) clever, and the added motif of water which bound the lovers particularly compelling.
Luhrmann’s strength is not in his characters. Nor is it, truly, in his story-telling. I find his hap-hazard (though purposefully so) style of editing generally calls for a few viewings before the material can be fully understood. His strength lies, undeniably, in his imagery. Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio first glimpsing one another through a fish tank and John Leguizamo’s death and fall into the fountain in Romeo + Juliet; Satine’s diamond-studded, cold-lighted, mid-air introduction as the seductive Satine and her dramatic embrace with Ewan McGregor atop the dazzling elephant statue, with a backdrop of dazzling fireworks, a soaring score and an opera-singing moon, mustachioed moon.
The Great Gatsby is no exception, chock full of unusual, elaborate, intensely over-the-top images. It is undeniably a beautiful film, full of color, composition and a certain ostentatiousness; yet unlike Luhrmann’s previous works, in which his outrageous presentation and creativity were the saving graces of his projects, it is in great deal thanks to this excessiveness that Gatsby fails to have the proper impact upon his audience.
As reviewer Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone, “Aside from the staggering beauty of Catherine Martin’s costumes, nothing works. The actors are buried in art direction, along with feeling.” I wouldn’t say that’s completely true; while Catherine Martin’s costumes are indeed breathtaking, so are the sets, the stunning aerials of a computer-rendered 1920’s New York City, the distinctly Luhrmann-esque incorporation of modern hip-hop and other, raunchier touches that attempt to sync 20’s style atmosphere with the current decade’s understanding of culture. But while all these aspects of the film are lovely as separate parts of an equation, piece them together and the math doesn’t add up. The music is well-chosen for the tone of the film but incorrectly used from scene-to-scene; the glitz and glamour of the backdrops, the city, the outfits and the elaborate parties are wonderful as additional touches but end up fighting with the story itself for dominance. In the end, as Travers states, the extravagant art direction is beautiful but buries anything real the film may have to offer in an overwhelming avalanche of champagne and confetti.
Luhrmann takes the immortal words of F. Scott Fitzgerald and sets them to gorgeous, prismatic images, but while the frames are lovely to gaze upon he fails to effectively convey the story and emotion Fitzgerald so artfully crafted. In consequence, rather than appearing as a coherent tale filled with faceted characters, crests of hope and the crushing trenches of betrayal, the film plays as merely a pretty little picture book for the words Fitzgerald penned all those years ago; at multiple points, his words actually appear in print on the screen, floating above Tobey Maguire’s head as he sits at his typewriter.
The worst thing about Luhrmann’s over-abundant bombardment of glitzy imagery is that we’re so adjusted to the extravagance that, when a scene comes along with actual emotional and narrative resonance, they seem to simply sail by. One example of this is a scene involving Myrtle, being when she is slapped by Tom for mentioning Daisy’s name. That she is in a flowing red robe with scarlet feathers, that the scene is sandwiched by dizzying, drunken jump-cut antics, and that the actual act of Tom physically harming her is shown in slow-motion and looks more like a clip out of Wile E. Coyote than a piece of serious drama; all of these detract severely from what should be a moment that causes the audience to sit up and take notice. In contrast to the absurdity that surrounds it, Tom’s act of violence would have carried a great deal more weight had the music been cut, the colors dulled, and shown in real time, grounding the viewer and jolting them out of the dream-like fantasy these ludicrously wealthy characters enjoy and back into the real world, where such atrocities occur.
When it comes to the cast, I think the decisions vary from spot-on to dead-wrong. I’ll be up-front in letting you know I’m a huge fan of one Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio. He can do very little wrong in my eyes, so I saw his depiction of Gatsby as a solid performance, despite the clear struggle to convey any emotion underneath the weight of all that unnecessary glitz and glamor. And while many criticized the choice of Carey Mulligan for the achingly beautiful Daisy Buchanan, I thought she was an excellent choice, absolutely dripping with Southern home-town charm and entirely believable as the object of Gatsby’s affection. Her character, however, is transformed from a shallow and disinterested girl to a confused and overwhelmed young woman worthy of some sympathy. In the case of Nick Carraway, both the casting of Tobey Maguire and the film’s characterization come across entirely wrong. His constant reliance on wide-eyed stares, and precious little other expression, quickly grows tiresome. Maguire’s inability to express strong emotion, often laughable and apparent in many of his other works, are a detriment in the more serious of his scenes, while Nick’s idolization of Gatsby and his hatred of all the other characters is nearly impossible to understand.
In the end, Luhrmann succeeds in creating another visually dazzling cinematic work but fails rather substantially in transposing the characters, themes and emotions of Fitzgerald’s great novel to the big screen. It’s worth a viewing perhaps for the spectacle alone, but its unlikely to evoke any philosophical thought or emotion. Much like Daisy, it is a specimen coated in a sparkling and glossy sheen but remains, on the inside, quite empty.
I’ve always had this thing for weird animals. I love my cat, and my dog, and the numerous pet hamsters and fish that preceded them, but there’s always been something especially attractive about have an exotic, one-of-a-kind critter to call my own.
Throughout my life I’ve kept detailed lists and plans of the country gentleman’s farm I plan to own, complete with the architecture of the barn, layout of the land and each and every animal that will fill the stalls (just ask my parents, they can vouch).
I guess I should put down a disclaimer saying yes, I realize some of these animals aren’t meant to and should never actually be kept in captivity (although many are). I’m hatching no elaborate plans to house a bengal tiger in my backyard, Boy Scouts’ promise. And so without further ado, this is the list of my Top 10 Dream Exotic Pets. 🙂
I don’t really know if chinchillas can even really count as ‘exotic’ anymore, they’ve become so popular over the past few years. These little South American rabbit-mice things are pudgy little balls of cuteness and their cuddle-ability factor is seriously upped by those velvet coats (which I find infinitely more attractive when actually still attached to their bodies, thank-you-very-much).
9. Kangaroo Rat
Still in rodent territory, the kangaroo rat is, as one might guess, A, a rat and B, likes to hop around on their back legs in a manner akin to that of a kangaroo. If one look at those big black eyes doesn’t melt your heart, I don’t know what will.
Again, maybe a little too popular to be considered ‘exotic’, but these prickly little guys have my heart. And if they have yours too I definitely suggest watching this:
7. African Grey Parrot
Incredibly intelligent with an overall gentle disposition and trademark ability to mimic human speech; what’s not to like about the majestic-looking African Greys? Unfortunately, as is the case with many exotic animals, the African Grey trade is a shady business that has caused serious harm for the wild population. Nonetheless, their intelligence is terribly compelling, don’t you think? Plus the whole talking-parrot gimmick never gets old.
That’s not true at all. But I still want and African Grey.
I LOVE TORTOISES! I don’t know what it is, but something about that ancient, slow and steady nature is so incredibly endearing. And I think we can learn a lot from the tortoise’s stop-and-smell-the-roses lifestyle (although I guess any other sort of lifestyle isn’t really an option when you can only move at .17 miles per hour). I guess the big problem would be lining up a caretaker after your death; one of the few pets you can count on to outlive you.
5. Miniature Zebu
Um, duh, the sacred namesake of this blog had to make an appearance. I think the full-sized zebu is less of a pet and more livestock, but this portable variety can definitely make the cut. I would keep him in my house. We’d have a zebu-door. It’ll be great.
Another rodent (yeah, it’s a rodent! Science man, it’s cray!) that’s basically a rabbit and a kangaroo and maybe a deer all rolled into one. It manages to come off both cute and sassy at the same time and hails from Argentina. Why don’t we get wildlife like this in the states?
Oh my lord, this is my heart’s greatest desire. I have daydreams about the looks I’ll get on the street as I stroll along the sidewalk with my leashed wallaby. Just look at that face!
I put both of these in the same spot because they’re pretty similar and equally super-fierce (Tyra-fierce, not wild-animal-that-will-most-certainly-turn-on-you-and-tear-you-apart fierce). Okay, they’re really not similar at all. One’s a majestic house-cat-cheetah hybrid and one’s a precocious-looking ferret-like mongoose-cousin. But I love them both.
1. Fennec Fox
Does this picture really need words? Realistically, I don’t think anyone could ever get me on board with having a fennec fox as a pet; that doesn’t seem like a creature suited to captivity (although they are legitimately kept as household pets). But in my hypothetical dream list there are no rules, and I am in love with these desert canines.