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March 30, 2010 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com h

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 5

Jonathan Foer and my
meaty epiphany part1
J received Jonathan Safran entire 41-day lives waiting to be "influence." At the end he pres-
Foer's newest non-fiction slaughtered, barely heing fed, ents a simple factoid: The average
book "Eating Animals" as never having walked on solid American eats 21,000 animals
a gift not too ground. Their claws reportedly in a lifetime, one for each word.
long ago, its grow around the metal mesh of I had not made this connection
cover garishly their cages. between dead meat and killed
hot green and it is this disconnect that I animal. My thoughts had stopped
covered in struggle with - a chicken versus there, right in their tracks, on the
blocky white chicken on a plate. I know, and moral road.
letters, its have always known, that I was Then I watched a 1949 docu-
spine yelping a eating animals since I was a child. mentary film made by French
for attention I went to a school that had a farm director Georges Franju titled
on a shelf of WHITNEY in the back that housed pigs, "Blood of the Beasts." Its cheery
drab-colored POW sheep, goats, a miniature horse, title sequence with dancing chil-
(teal, rose, rabbits and chickens. Here I fed dren creates a perverse frame for
brown) books. pigs, shoveled goat manure and the horrifying images to come.
The title of the book itself simi- picked the ticks out of the sheep's Soon a horse is led into a slaugh-
larly clamors for attention, point- heavy woolen coats. It was also terhouse, hit through the skull
O edly and politically using the my job to go out in the foot-high with a spring-loaded spike and,
word "animal" instead of "food." snow at 8 a.m. to pick up the eggs as it lays twitching on the floor,
It asks for a moral awareness of the chickens had laid in their legs circling in the air in a dying
eating meat: Know what you eat. coop. I was in sad awe one day desire to escape, three men cut
And at this point of my life, I'm when I approached a hen and its neck open and blood - so, so
beginning to think twice about gently put my hand on the back much of it - comes pouring out
my omnivorous eating habits. of her neck. She calmly bowed by the gallon.
I grew up in a Chinese-Amer- her head down, her neck gently other scenes in the film are
ican family, where, like many equally horrific - baby cows are
other families, Christmas dinners strapped down and decapitated,
often involved various animals one by one, the headless bod-
cooked, sauteed, baked and pre- "Eating animals ies twitching as men skin them;
sented on plates. In my family it sheep are calmly herded and led
is also a tradition to eat animals and killing them to a similar fate. It was then that
with their parts (heads, feet, eyes, I realized that while I knew what
tails) preserved and left on dishes w ere nOw I was eating was an animal, and
delivered to the table. intermin led" that I was ingesting marinated
There were no hot dogs, no m gl flesh that had once moved, I could
hamburgers, no chicken fingers not kill these animals myself. I
(except the literal kind) - no couldn't put out an animal's life.
animals ground up and re-worked grasped between my thumb and And here is where the moral
into patties or amorphous, forefinger, and she stood there, dilemma sat in my head: Eating
unnatural shapes. Instead, at our quietly unmoving, yielding - animals and the process of kill-
table, the plates were filled with waiting. ing them were now intermingled
the animals themselves, not just I've now come to a point of and causal even though I had put
reconstituted, unrecognizable re-thinking my attitudes toward up a mental blockade, separat-
"food" - and this awareness ret- eating animals. "What we forget ing the idea of dead flesh from
ognized the lives that were given about animals we begin to forget killed flesh. And I realized it
for us to eat. about ourselves," Foer writes. We was my moral responsibility to
On a two-page spread in his forget animals' deaths and so for- consider both of these concepts
book, Foer presents a rectangle get our own hand in it. We forget together in order to make a deci-
barely larger than a DVD case. their pain at the hands of unkind sion about where I stood mor-
At the bottom of this heavy black and often violent farming prac- ally and ethically on the topic of
box, Foer presents some facts - tices, and similarly forget our- eating animals. But before I did
the average egg-laying hen has selves in relation to it. My moral this, I decided to read further
a cage with 67 square inches of assumptions about meat had into Foer's book - the book that
space: "The size of the rectangle stopped with my comfort eating turned Natalie Portman into a
above." We are aware of chicken flesh - an amorphous word more "vegan activist," as she says in
with an odd disconnection connoting "food" than "killed her essay for the Huffington Post
between the illusions we have animal bodies." - and decide these things for
seen in storybooks (the fat, happy, The translation of "meat" to myself.
ambulatory hens making bread, "dead animal" is attempted in
not letting others have any) and another section of the book where The second part of this column
the reality of these birds. Accord- Foer presents five consecutive will be published in the April 13th
ing to Foer, they are stuck in a pages containing only two words edition of The Michigan Daily. Pow
hand's width of space for their repeated: "speechlessness" and can be reached at poww@umich.edu.
A political prescription

A spa-thetic attempt

Too nostalgicfor
teens and too vulgar
for adults
For the Daily
The screenwriters of "Hot Tub
Time Machine" must have con-
sumed copi-
ous amounts
of drugs before
writing this
film. The movie HOt Tub Time
is one big trip, Machine
beginning with
a journey back At Qualityl6
in time with and Showcase
one preposter- MGM
ous scenario
after another.
"Hot Tub Time Machine" intro-
duces audiences to Adam (John
Cusack, "2012"), Lou (Rob Corddry,
TV's "The Daily Show with Jon
Stewart") and Nick (Craig Rob-
inson, TV's "The Office"). We've
heard their stories a thousand times
- Adam is going through a break-
up with his long-term girlfriend,
Nick's stuck in a go-nowhere job
and has a possibly unfaithful wife
and Lou is a profane drunk with
nothing to show for himself. Each
approaching a midlife crisis, the
former best friends decide to revisit
the favorite ski-town of their past.
Accompanied by Adam's pudgy
nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke, TV's
"Greek") the friends decide to drink
away their sorrows in a hot tub.
During the drinking binge, an ener-
gy drink spilled on the tub's wiring

"What do you mean 'The jets aren't on?'
system sends them whirling back in
time to the fluorescent '80s.
To say that the dialogue of "Hot
Tub Machine" is less than bril-
liant is an understatement. The
film is riddled with profanity,
sexual comments and homophobic
remarks. The asinine humor the
movie employs is a bit enjoyable
at first - it definitely elicits some
laughs. But after about an hour, the
overt coarseness becomes a bit too
much to handle. The film becomes
annoyingly gross and it leaves one
contemplating a walkout. This is
especially true when it comes to
Rob Corddry's character. The audi-
ence initially revels in his irrev-
erence, laughing at his excessive
drinking, his constant criticism of
geeky Jacob and his continual quest
for sex. But the early laughs his
character earns soon morph into
utter disgust. His actions are just
too repetitive and vulgar.'
Who is the intended audience of
"Hot Tub Time Machine"? The film

is too vulgar for those who actu-
ally remember the '80s. And while
the adolescent crowd may find the
senseless humor hilarious (at least
initially), they miss the blatant
manifestations of '80s culture.
In one scene, Cusack's charac-
ter attends a Poison concert with
his perm-sporting girlfriend who
is decked out in neon and span-
dex. The irony of Cusack, an icon
of '80s teen comedies returning to
this genre in his 40s, is also lost on
young viewers. Extended cameos
from '80s stars Chevy Chase and
Crispin Glover most likely also go
unrecognized - these days they're
only known as the "old guy on
"'Community" and "the creepy thin
man in 'Charlie's Angels.' " Unless
they're pop culture historians,
young viewers cannot fully appre-
ciate "Hot Tub Time Machine."
"Hot Tub Time Machine" is a
drug trip gone wrong - after the
initial excitement, it makes one
want to just go back to reality.

Shedding 'Lights' on the Whites

career +
their i
using t
in both
some of
tive sou
tion of
ful ca
In 2
huge b
of Can
lenge, t
the wor
to rest

By DAVID RIVA ventional concert halls, as they
Daily Arts Writer made spontaneous performances
in town squares, youth centers, a
White Stripes have built a bowling alley, a city bus and even
on being the music world's a nursing home.
com- The film's technical aspects
enig- **** - exceptional sound quality dur-
Jack ing concert scenes, crafty editing
Meg Under Great including a cut to "Citizen Kane"
con- White Northern and alternating black-and-white
every and full-color images - illustrate
of Lights the talent of the filmmakers. But
mage: On DVD the scenery and breathtaking
con- landscapes of Canada take cen-
them- Warner Bros. ter stage and become the most
by stunning element of "Northern
he number three as a limit Lights." The band's penchant for
instrumentation and color out-of-the-ordinary and out-of-
. On the other hand, they're the-way adventures certainly con-.
ntly pushing the creative tributes to this spectacle.
pe and consistently create There's one flaw that prevents
f rock'n'roll's most innova- the film from joining the ranks of
ands. canonical rock documentaries. It
der Great White Northern lacks a narrative structure and is
at its core, is an explora- absent of any major conflict. Foot-
this balance between care- age of Jack and Meg backstage
dculation and inordinate and during car rides displays some
veness. particularly private moments and
007, the Stripes set up a the film attempts to manufacture
oundary for themselves by tension by overplaying the con-
g an 18-day tour to perfor- trast between Jack's dominating
solely within the borders personality and Meg's shyness. But
ada. To add to this chal- even this seems forced. The real-
he band decided to play in ity, according to Jack, is that Meg
province and territory in is simply a quiet person and it's her
rld's second-largest country own decision to be silent while on
aphically). camera and during interviews.
Jack and Meg didn't intend Another telling, if not comical,
rict their shows to con- moment comes after a show when

Meg claims she "wasn't on top of
(her) game" during an evening's
concert. It's humorous because
her drumming is so simplistic,
practically anyone with a sense of
rhythm could emulate her rudi-
mentary style. But the fact that
she makes this statement shows
that, even though she might be
musically subordinate to Jack, she
still demands consistency in her
playing. In a later scene, Jack con-
firms their commitment to high
standards as he criticizes his vocal
quality and suggests the tempo
was dragging throughout a perfor-
mance. This might seem inconse-
quential to the casual observer, but
for Jack it's paramount to strive
for a sort of perfect chaos amid
his completely improvised guitar
solos and off-the-cuff setlist.
Although contrived at times,
"Northern Lights" reinforces the
unpredictability and unconven-
tional nature of a band that is open
to any new idea, so long as it fits
within self-imposed parameters.
Specific instances like a bagpipe
procession and a horse-masked
interview toe the line between
staged and spontaneous, which
perfectly illustrates the very
essence of the band. Ultimately,
the film provides a glimpse into
the bizarre and cryptic world that
Jack and Meg White have created
and perpetuated for 10 remarkable

Daily Arts Writer
Political awareness is nothing
new for Ted Leo. In a music scene
brimming with politically illiterate
post-punk enthu-
siasts, Ted Leo
and the Pharma-
cists are a much
needed breath of
fresh air. While and the
many of these P'iaists
groups sing pri-
marily about the The Brutalist
joys of whiskey Bricks
drinking, Leo Matador
prefers to harmo-
nize about gov-
ernment failure. Rather than shy
away from dense political narra-
tives, the Notre Dame graduate and
New Jersey native eagerly embrac-
es these heavy topics within the
confines of his guitar-heavy tracks.
With the Pharmacists, Leo's
current band and most successful
project, he has honed his talent for
crafting punk-inspired beats tinged
with political angst. On the group's
sixth full-length album, The Brutal-
ist Bricks, Leo and his Pharmacists
have solidified their sound and
produced their most cohesive col-
lection since 2003's near-perfect
Hearts ofOak.
Unlike its overambitious 2007
predecessor Living With the Living,
the Pharmacists' most recent offer-
ing is tighter, more compact and
more on-point. Instead of sprawl-
ing out into extended periods of
static confusion, every track on the
album is expertly structured with
a gripping introduction, catchy
chorus and (typically) a signature
Ted Leo guitar solo. From roaring
anthems ("The Mighty Sparrow")
to engagingyet subdued cuts ("One
Polaroid A Day") to quiet acoustic
tracks ("Tuberculoids Arrive In
Hop"), the album touches on vari-
ous musical orientations that are
all tied together by Leo's prevailing
punk influences.
The band's ability to straddle
multiple musical labels is wholly

Wildly different hair philosophies unite!
apparent on "Mourning In Amer-
ica," a track that wears its political
leanings on its sleeve. As Leo cryp-
tically illustrates the bloody history
of racial oppression in the U.S., the
track alternates between frantic
drumming and deep synths, brief-
ly cut by a somber guitar-driven
bridge. In combining these diverse
soundwaves within one tightly con-
structed song, Leo demonstrates
his ability to pull various influences
together to produce a track that is
both cohesive and innovative.
This ingenuity is expanded on
in the brilliant "Bottled In Cork,"
a cut that touches upon a multitude
of styles in just over three minutes.
Beginning with a frantic combina-
tion of crazed guitar strings and
uncoordinated drumming, the song
initially comes off as a prototypical
post-punk orgy of frenzied instru-
mentation. This chaos soon reverts
to a mix of cutesy guitars, topped
off with a dizzying Ted Leo solo.
By showcasing his ability to sur-
prise, Leo proves that neither he
nor his Pharmacists have fallen into
the trap of producing formalistic -
and ultimately boring - records to
appease its fan base.
Apart from this wide assort-

ment of musical styles, The Brutal-
ist Bricks is also packed with its fair
share of politically tinged lyrical
puns. Like many musicians with
punk leanings, his political musings
tend to skew heavily to the left. The
aforementioned "Bottled In Cork"
offers the album's most convolut-
ed - and, arguably, riskiest - line,
"There was a resolution pending
on the United Nations' floor / In
reference to the question 'What's
a peacekeeping force for?' " Such a
line can be appreciated simply for
its pure audacity.
Leo continues with this ques-
tioning theme on "Woke Up Near
Chelsea," a quirky cut that opens
with the phrase "Well we all got a
job to do / And we all hate God,"
before lamenting the "despair" in
While Leo definitely has a politi-
cal agenda in craftingcertain lyrics,
he doesn't allow his core message
to excuse sloppy songwriting.
The vast majority of the tracks
are strong enough on their own so
that his overriding political mes-
sage only becomes apparent upon
repeated listens. And, thankfully,
The Brutalist Bricks has so many
gems that multiple spins come easy.


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