misshepeshu: (Blackbeard)
I cried today. I wept just about as hard as I'd ever cried over a broken heart or personal tragedy. The weight of the grief is a boulder in my chest and stomach; no matter what I do, I cannot dislodge it. And I'm not entirely sure I want to.

Why? Because we've systematically and brutally stripped the world of its apex predators, and not only are we the poorer for it, we're only just beginning to realize the consequences and ramifications. I've kept this in the back of my mind ever since I saw a documentary some years ago about how reintroducing gray wolves to Yellowstone allowed the beavers to flourish again, but William Stolzenburg's absolutely amazing book, Where the Wild Things Were, made the whole thing hit home especially hard.

The implications of a world in which we're the only apex predator left are chilling my feet and my fingers as I read the book, but the parts that tear at me the hardest are the descriptions of what hunters did to wolves captured alive, and the inventive tortures they came up with, from hamstringing them to dragging them behind horses. This passage, in particular, was what triggered my crying jag; re-reading it and typing it out for you is making me teary-eyed again.

One of the most notorious of [elusive renegade wolves] was Lobo, who with his mate, Blanca, and a phantom pack had run rings around the stockmen and trappers of the Currumpaw cattle range of northern New Mexico. Lobo and his pack were imbued by legend with monstrous size and speed . . . . By the time the flamboyant nature writer and erstwhile wolf-killer Ernest Thompson Seton was called in to take his shot, Lobo, the King of Currumpaw, had a thousand-dollar bounty on his head. . . .

Lobo's mate, Blanca, a white queen of a wolf, was the first to misstep into Seton's trap. Seton and his accomplice, not wanting to ruin the pelt with a bullet hole, used ropes instead. "We each threw a lasso over the neck of the doomed wolf, and strained our horses in opposite directions until the blood burst from her mouth, her eyes glazed, her limbs stiffened and then fell limp." Lobo fell shortly thereafter, held fast by a foot in each of four steel traps. The King of Currumpaw had finally been baited by the alluring scent of his lost mate, whose carcass Seton had shrewdly dragged atop the buried set of traps.

Stolzenburg freely admits to writing with a bias and an agenda. Reading this passage, you can pretty clearly discern what it is. It's a bias and an agenda I share, and as I re-read the passage, I'm swamped with anger and grief--at the brutality of the killing; at the way Blanca's horrible death was dictated, not by mercy or respect for a worthy adversary, but by a desire to not mar the pelt; at the way Lobo was lured to his death. I'm not prone to anthropomorphizing animals or nature; I'm the last person to call nature "benign" or "loving" (look into the eyes of an animal while its skin, guts and muscles are being systematically ripped apart by teeth, or knives, or by something burrowing its way out of its innards, and just try to argue that God or Life Force or Gaia or whatever the fuck is benevolent and full of love in any kind of way we humans can begin to understand). I'm also, however, the first person to acknowledge that many species of animals form long-lasting attachments to companions in ways that are very closely analogous to our own--perhaps even identical in all the ways that matter. And I have a hard time seeing how other people can miss this obvious similarity, and not feel the deepest kinship.

But then people have a hard enough time as it is acknowledging other humans deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, so I realize I'm perhaps being a cock-eyed optimist in thinking that we as a species can learn to view something with large pointy teeth and jaws that can crush us into pulp as something worth preserving and treating with care and respect--but it behooves us to, not only because the predators are valuable by virtue of being fellow travellers in life, but because they have a disproportionately large ecological impact, often with unexpected ramifications.

When it comes down to it, I'm OK with people being eaten by big jaws that go snap-snap-snap. I eat other animals, and I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with being part of the food chain in that way; if other animals want to eat me, they should have at it. But then, part of my sanguine attitude stems from the fact that the odds of me being eaten alive are pretty much zero, unless I suddenly decide to troll cannibalism fetish sites and offer myself up as a candidate for nomming. And looking at the patterns of competition that exist and all the reasons why we've made damn sure that we're the only apex predators left worth a damn, I'm not sure there's an answer left other than dismantling civilization as we know it. It goes beyond "Let's not eat meat because cattle ranchers are probably the biggest threats to wolves and grizzlies in the United States." It goes to the very way we feed ourselves: aggressive monoculture agriculture is incredibly destructive and deprives the animals of a viable habitat. It goes to the very way we live: our cities are not long-term sustainable by a long shot.

Some days, I just want to write to [livejournal.com profile] pristis and say "Hey, remember that human extinction program we joked morbidly about last year? Can I get on board? How much funding do you think we'll need? Can we actually get frickin' sharks equipped with frickin' laser beams, or would that distress the sharks too much?"

All of this mulling eventually spilled over into what I want to do with myself and law school. I'm pulled in two different directions: intellectual property and environmental law. Right now, I'm tempted to specialize in animal law (Lewis & Clark is one of the few law schools to offer this specialty, and our Animal Law Moot Court is one of the best in the nation), go to grad school, get an ecology degree and specialize in apex predator advocacy when I get out.

And likely die broke, insane and heartbroken. It'll be a life of fruitless struggles, of fighting for the most incremental of steps and praying that they will be enough, of endless, grinding compromises that are less than are needed but all I can ever hope for. This, I think, will be the danger of throwing myself into a cause so deeply personal.

Intellectual property, on the other hand, is a safer avenue. Don't get me wrong: I'm passionate, but I'm not personally invested in quite the same way. My passion for cerebral matters is intense, but it's colder and less likely to consume me from the inside out.

I'm not going to resolve anything tonight, but Where the Wild Things Were has certainly pointed me to an avenue for me to explore. In any case, the book is well-written and heart wrenching and important; Stolzenburg writes beautifully and with passion for his subject, and it's shaking me up and making me re-examine my life in all the best but most painful ways. If you're at all interested in ecology, animals and the way humans have made our mark in the world, pick it up. Do it now.
misshepeshu: (Bookishness)
So I occasionally say things like "I love this book so much, I'd totally make out with it at a party." Or, somewhat more rarely, "I love this book so much, I want to marry it."

[livejournal.com profile] octi_stripe and I were talking about this the other day, and she said "Well, why don't we marry those books?"


So some time in the near-ish future, i.e., once Kelly gets back from Manchester, I want to throw a party wherein we bring our very favoritest books, dress swanky, marry them in some kind of deeply silly ceremony (as opposed to the utterly serious varieties of biblio-human marriage ceremonies) and eat wedding cake baked from scratch (likely courtesy of myself and [livejournal.com profile] imfallingup), as well as other assorted bits of tastiness. And then maybe we can take turns reading our favorite bits from those favorite books? And figure out other fun, stupid things to do? I don't think this will be too much of a problem with you lot.

misshepeshu: (Bookishness)
As reported on [livejournal.com profile] knittinggoddess' Livejournal (AS SEEN ON TV!), [livejournal.com profile] ibnfirnas mentioned a short list of books chosen to help somebody understand you. These are not (necessarily) non-fiction books that catalogue your particular disorders or quirks, but books that especially resonate with you, that express a facet of you in book form.

Here's my list:

Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth: Slavery, insanity, the relationship between religion and commerce, high-seas adventure, the nature of justice--read this book to understand how I feel sometimes about humanity as a whole. But if you can't be arsed to wade through several hundred pages of slaveship shenanigans, "Humanity I love you" by E.E. Cummings condenses that attitude into a few scathing stanzas.

The BFG by Roald Dahl: Look, it's a book about the friendship between a little girl and a farting giant who dispenses dreams. If you can't figure out why this is on my list, you obviously don't know me at all.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling: When I was a little girl, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to marry Mowgli, or just be him. Hell, it's still true.

A Primate's Memoir by Robert Sapolsky: It's about animals. It's about Africa. It's about the relationship between humans and animals. It's about (the futility of) conservation (in the face of human industrialization and progress). It's about an awkward nerd bumbling his way through a completely alien environment. It's funny. And it's utterly heartbreaking. If I were a neurotic Jewish neurocientist haring off to the wilds of Africa to study baboon immune systems instead of a neurotic Chinese technical-writer-and-soon-to-be-law student in the urban tameness of Portland, this would've been a book about me.

The Windflower by Laura London: This book probably captures a lot more of what I think love is like and what I want love to be than I'm comfortable with. And yes, that absolutely does mean I wish I were a charming American ingénue kidnapped by a high-born British privateer and brought onto his ship, where I proceed to charm all of the crew and the pet pig.

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne: I am an unholy combination of Pooh and Owl.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser: This book utterly changed the way I looked at food.

Wasted by Marya Hornbacher: Like many women I know, I don't have an eating disorder, but I think very much like somebody who has one, and that fact was driven home very strongly by this book. It was eerie, reading exactly how I felt about my body expressed in somebody else's words.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson: The reason why this one is on the list should be pretty self-evident, I think.

Animal Farm by George Orwell probably best expresses the way I view politics and the nature of revolution, while

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes expresses why I think it's important to keep fighting, anyway.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot: This poem more than any other work of art resonates with my emotional space, barring certain Bach concertos. (God, how emo is that shit?)

What books are on your list?
misshepeshu: (Tired kittens)
Hello, Interblag. I'm still around and still alive, but barely. My sleep schedule has been completely fucked. It started a couple weekends ago, with my Epic Formatting Excel Tables in InDesign Adventures, and all of last week was Balls-Out Crazy at work + Extra Balls Out Crazy With Friends, since a bunch of beloved out-of-towners descended on Portland all at once. Last week = no sleep for Candy.

But enough about my sleep schedule, fascinating though it is. A small selection of what's been rattling around my brain pan lately, none of them especially profound:

- I've been listening to a lot of Iggy Pop/Iggy and the Stooges in recent days, and it struck me anew how fucked up the mixes are for some of their songs. OK, just one song. I'm talking about "Search and Destroy." The big, glorious, crunchy guitars are relegated to a muted buzz in the background; the lead guitar sounds screechy, with way too much mid-tone; Iggy's voice is muffled and subdued; and the drums are heard, but not felt. It sounds tinny, which isn't a good sound for most songs, much less a song about anger, alienation, disenchantment and nuclear escalation.

Despite all these problems, the song still rocks out with its cock out. I just feel frustrated and antsy when I listen to it, because I keep wanting it to sound bigger and fuller and louder, but it doesn't, it just stays tinny. Anyone else feel the same way?

I wonder if there exists a better mix for this song (for reference, the version I have comes from Raw Power)--one that explodes from the speakers the way it's meant to. I'm guessing odds are low, but hey, can't hurt to ask.

- I played croquet for the first time today. My neighbors from across the way busted out their set, and as the time passed, more and more people joined until about half the population of the complex (i.e. six people) were whacking little wooden balls around, laughing and cussing good-naturedly because a) none of us are especially good, and b) the lawn is extremely bumpy and shaggy.

- David Hasselhoff has an autobiography out. It's entitled Don't Hassel the Hoff. I just can't make that kind of shit up, good people of Internetlandia.

A choice quote from the book description:

As this fascinating memoir reveals, there’s more to this handsome superstar than great hair, and legs that look good while running down a beach. "The Hoff" is also a smart, caring man with a huge heart.

Pure gold. Sarah and I are fighting to see who gets to review this. She wants me to do it; I want her to have the honors. This could get ugly.

- Almost ten years after buying my copy of Neil Gaiman's Stardust, I got around to reading it, and am now thoroughly in love with it and the universe. For the first time in a long, long time, I wish a fictional universe were real.

- Tomorrow: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with a very good friend of mine whom I haven't seen since the beginning of the year, and then semi-secret Awesomeness afoot later in the night. Whee.
misshepeshu: (Bookishness)
Me during pages 1 through 90 of Count Zero: Man, this is kind of boring. Neuromancer was soooo much better.

Me after page 90 of Count Zero: Holy shit. Goddammit, do I need to go to work? I can skip a shower today, right? Sure I can. And tzatziki sauce with Middle Eastern flat bread is a balanced meal, isn't it? Sure it is.
misshepeshu: (Bookishness)
Not that I need any more books, but...anyone here read The Borrible Trilogy? If so, any opinions?
misshepeshu: (Bookishness)
(Damn, why haven't I created a bookish LJ userpic yet?)

Those of you who've seen my shelves can testify to the fact that I own hundreds of books. If there's one thing in my life I'm not lacking, it's books. But I keep finding more books I want. It's a never-ending pit of desire, this biblioholism. Today, my obsession is godlessness. Some recently-published titles I've been eyeing with lust in my heart:

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

Letters to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett

I'd list The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins, but I already own it, and it's not recently-published by any stretch of the imagination.

Completely random tangent: Dude, I smell AWESOME today. Like a freshly-baked sugar cookie. I have to restrain the urge to lick the back of my hand. Shikai French Vanilla r0xx0rs my b0xx0rs.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
I'm barely 10 pages into Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer--mind you, that means I'm still working through the prologue--and I've cringed more times than I can count. Filaria that can cause your testicles to swell to the size of ottomans, and others that make you scratch yourself to death. Guinea worms that burrow their way out by way of the skin on your legs. A dizzying array of flukes and worms. Microorganisms that literally make your blood cells explode with their progeny.

This book is so awesome. I haven't felt this excited about reading in a long, long time. I want to sit down somewhere quiet, gulp this book down and mentally go "AAAAUUUUUGGHH!" and flinch every 5 seconds.
misshepeshu: (Bork bork bork)
The Sustainable Kitchen: Passionate Cooking Inspired by Farms, Forests and Oceans

The Ethical Gourmet

And the one that really makes my heart palpitate in anticipation: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

WHY do I subscribe to Powell's Book News again? That thing is nothing but trouble for me, my wallet and my bookshelves.

Oh, and relatedly: Irvine Welsh has a new book out, one about Restaurant Inspectors Gone Wild, and he's going to be in town for a reading on August 24th. Seriously: what's with all these delectable food-related books catching my eye alla sudden?
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
I've never heard of Carl Zimmer before, ohhh, a couple of weeks ago, but I looked through his published booklist, and OMG, it's enough to make any geek girl interested in the history of science cream her pants.


(Also, Carl Zimmer looks pretty hot in that one picture of his. I'd hit it.)

Anyway, have any of youse read his books? Are they any good? They all sound fascinating.

Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain--and How it Changed the World

Parasite Rex : Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures (This one looks really, really cool, and oh, the lust I harbor in my heart for it, despite the couple hundred books already awaiting my attention on my bookshelves.)

At the Water's Edge : Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea (The prospect of reading this one gives me happy goosebumps, too.)

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins

I'm thinking I have to burden to my already-massive Library Holds list even further...
misshepeshu: (OMG EMO)
Anthony Bourdain was just in town to promote his new book, but I totally missed it. It looks like a similar deal to the totally awesome book reading/swank dinner combination from a couple of years ago, when the Les Halles Cookbook was first released.

That shattering sound you just heard was my fangirl heart breaking.

I'll just have to go buy the new book and sob quietly in the corner at the missed opportunity.
misshepeshu: (Bookishness)
Books I need to buy because I love them but never got around to acquiring my own copy:

Declare by Tim Powers (mind-bending speculative fiction/alternate history goodness)

Towing Jehovah by James Morrow (Peter brought this book up during the extended conversation on the nature of objective morality between him and Jay, and I was so happy to be reminded of its existence because it's one of the best books EVER)

Blameless in Abaddon by James Morrow (a comatose God is put on trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity; Morrow writes the most blaspheme-a-licious stories)

Tangent: The one Morrow book I own, Only Begotten Daughter, is also good, but not nearly as brilliant as the two books above.

Books I should buy because I gave away my copies to friends before I could read them:

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (gave away to Brian and Joy as part of their wedding present--I mean, c'mon, if anyone would be able to appreciate this book, it'd be a couple of Goths, right?)

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (gave away to Jen as part of her Christmas present, and I was SO HAPPY when she said she'd been meaning to pick it up but hadn't had a chance to)

I guess I know what I'm going to spend a nice chunk of my tax return on--besides the Multnomah County iTax and my car, that is.


misshepeshu: (Default)

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