Documentaries

My Response to Blackfish

I watched Blackfish last night. I have lost another thread in the thin fabric of my faith in humanity.

If you’re not familiar, Blackfish is a recently released CNN documentary about orcas in captivity, specifically exposing what goes on behind the scenes at SeaWorld. For those naysayers who claim the film is biased and one-sided, I acknowledge that the story is slanted by the point of view of anyone who disagrees with animal captivity. However, in my opinion, no amount of good things that SeaWorld might be doing to help conservation efforts, or to help rehabilitate animals, can excuse or justify the terrible things we as humans have done to another living, feeling, highly intelligent creature. Two rights don’t justify a wrong. Anyone who thinks that way is simply rationalizing to make it possible to accept and look past terrible, terrible things. You can even read between the lines and see that the former trainers interviewed in Blackfish did this to a degree before leaving SeaWorld. Rationalization is, unfortunately, a fact of the human condition, which can be a powerful coping mechanism for survival, but is also too often twisted for personal gain. The ability to rationalize allows us to perpetrate unspeakable acts, not just in the realm of cruelty to animals but in many other ways historically, and to this day: slavery, the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, the misuse and abuse of our planet and resources, war for reasons beyond simply defending oneself and ones property. The list goes on and my heart breaks over the atrocities of humanity. Always in the name of progress, education, reform, revolution, ___________ [insert reason.]

I was once like the former trainers in Blackfish. I fell in love with SeaWorld as young child and for many years I dreamed of becoming a trainer. At some point my focus shifted and I believed I would pursue a career in Marine Biology, focusing on whale research. Sadly, I didn’t understand enough at a young age how that would translate into a tangible job which left me not knowing how to pursue it seriously. And in the end I let my weakness in mathematics and science studies push me away from that goal. I went with what was comfortable, reading and writing. But I never lost my love of orcas and dolphins. Interactions with these intelligent, beautiful animals in the wild have been highlights of my life. I hope to have many more.

Over the years I have become increasingly uncomfortable with animal parks – zoos, marine parks, etc. I’ve only been to a few in the last 10+ years and each time I left with a feeling of sadness and wrongness. It is often rationalized that it is important to have these institutions as a means to educate the world, and children specifically, about animals. Blackfish has confirmed what I think my unconscious has been trying to tell me, that animal captivity, for any reason, is wrong. We can educate our young about animals in other ways. Study them in the wild. Allow them to roam freely and observe them from a respectful distance. I now feel firm in my belief to never visit another animal park of any kind. I urge others to do the same.

If you have not seen Blackfish, please keep the title in mind. Watch for possible encore presentations on CNN. Watch for its release on netflix or other media sources. Ask around, perhaps a friend has it on their DVR. Please watch and open your eyes to what we have been doing to these majestic creatures, and to take action in efforts to change things. You can sign petitions to help free Tilly to a sea pen, to urge SeaWorld to end their exploitation of sea animals and to rehabilitate them back into the wild and to quit breeding, Like, Share, and Tweet, to your network of friends about these initiatives and others. I am not so foolish as to believe this is the only important cause in the world. There are many. Everyone must choose to support those causes that speak to them. Perhaps this is not yours. I can respect and understand that. All I ask is that you educate yourself and take part in trying to make a change somewhere, somehow, in some way that is meaningful to you.

Links for various petitions and articles about Blackfish and protecting marine life:

I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despise being one myself.
~ Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Movie Monday – Tapped, Mad Men

We disconnected our cable last week. Oh my. Well, we hardly watched regular tv anyway and we were looking for where we could cut back and save a little. We are installing an outside antennae today which brings in about 15 channels, including the local news. We still have our netflix streaming, and we might subscribe to Hulu Plus. All in all, it will still cost less than the monthly cable which will be good in the long run.

Anyway, last week we watched an interesting documentary via netflix on the bottled water industry. Tapped was made in 2008, released in 2009, so it’s a couple of years old but the information is still incredibly relevant. If you don’t know much about the bottled water industry, or even if you do, you’ll probably learn something new. We knew a few little things here and there, some of it common sense, like how important it is to recycle the bottles; we didn’t know how much of the plastic and bottles end up in our oceans. Not cool. Or how few people actually recycle. Shame on you if you don’t! It’s so easy and SO IMPORTANT! I had no idea that Pepsi and Coke were two of the largest bottlers of water. Say what? I’d heard of BPA and knew it was bad for you, but I didn’t know how it was made, the side effects of the production plants, or how prevalent it was in our consumer products. Although this film is a documentary it’s not slow and it’s not dull. It’s packed with interesting information, sure some of it’s probably slanted a bit, everything is. But it’s worth your time. Check it out. Make some changes. Buy bottled water less, invest in a filter and use your local water – which btw, might be in the bottles you are buying depending on where you live.

Lately I’ve also been watching the AMC tv series Mad Men on netflix. I know it’s not really a movie but after watching four seasons over the course of two months, it’s more of an investment than a two-hour movie and I thought worth a little mention. I am so fascinated…by the stories, the time period, the costumes, the difference in culture. It’s a little slow at times, drawing out the drama, but it’s forgivable. Sometimes it gives me more time to look at the scene and take in all the little things that are different from now. If you’ve seen The Help (and liked it), and haven’t ever seen Mad Men (I know many people have already been following it since it’s inception in 2007), check it out. It’s the other side of the coin to the story in The Help. Same time period, different perspective. Season 5 starts on March 25th on AMC. I can’t wait! (Although unless I go watch it with a friend who has cable, I’m not sure how I’m going to see it in March. LOL)

Recycling just seems like the right thing to do, I mean really, it makes us responsible for the messes that we make. It’s all about just picking up after yourself, not shoving our trash in our oceans and streams. We might as well reuse it before we lose it. 
~ Ed Begley Jr.

Movie Monday – King Korn, Bad Teacher

King Korn has been on our Netflix queue for weeks, maybe even months. We finally got around to watching it this weekend. It is an interesting and subtle commentary on corn that covers some history on the evolution of corn, details the farming process, and investigates where it all goes. Did you know that the majority of corn produced is used for animal feed and for corn syrup/sweetener? Very little corn is actually edible in it’s natural form. These days it’s made to be processed into something else – other than an ear of corn on the cob.

None of this was a huge “ah-ha” moment or shocker revelation to us as we’ve watched a number of other documentaries (Food, Inc., FoodMatters, FatHead, Sugar: The Bitter Truth) that discussed high fructose corn syrup at one level or another. This film however was specifically focused on the influence of corn in America’s farming and agricultural industries and the prevalence of corn in the American marketplace. One farmer plainly comments during the film that they are creating “crap”; they aren’t farming like our grandfathers and great-grandfathers did. The industry has totally changed – and not in a good way in my opinion. Sure, we’ve found a way to mass produce a substance that enables us to produce processed foods on a massive scale, inexpensively. But at the cost of radically reducing the nutritional benefits of our foods. As the communities of primal, paleo, and the ancestral movement grow (and even vegetarians and vegans who share similar ideals about natural food sources) I hope our philosophies will merge and overtake the conventional philosophies currently driving the food production and distribution in this country. I’d like to see a movement to embrace grass-fed meats and organic vegetables on a much larger scale than what we see now.

One of the things I like about the film is that the filmmakers let the viewer draw a lot of their own conclusions by presenting images without commentary throughout the film. It was a little slow at times. Aside from that, I really enjoyed some of their film styles, particularly the time-lapse photography, and the beautiful landscape of Iowa. Anyone who is interested in learning a little more about what we are eating everyday and how it is affecting our health, I would recommend King Korn (and all the other documentaries I listed above.) I would encourage you to hang in past the slow moments; there are lots of good points worth watching for.

Hoping for some unadulterated entertainment we watched Bad Teacher last night. I was disappointed. There were a few laugh out loud moments that were not shown in the previews but not many. I really thought the story had potential and I have been eager to watch it for weeks. And now I feel totally cheated of the time I spent watching it. I think that if the writers had spent some time developing the teacher character then perhaps the story would have had more depth and believability.  But they didn’t offer anything to explain why she was such a horrible person, where she went to school, why she would even have a teaching certificate…basically no background at all, other than her singular drive to marry for money. Why would a person like that even be qualified to teach? It just doesn’t make sense without more to go on. Also, why doesn’t this person have any friends? I mean, besides the overt horrible personality. Even some of your worst characters still have that one friend who has known them since high school or college or a previous workplace, who appreciates some spark of humanity buried beneath all the crap. Bad Teacher might play out better as a book where, as a reader, you could be privy to the character’s inner conflict, motivations, and of course, more background. Hopefully Bridesmaids doesn’t turn out to be a dud as well. (I still have yet to see it and have hope for some good laughs, but I know there are mixed reviews on that as well.)

Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.
~ Martin Scorsese

Dinner, documentary, and other randomness

We made mashed squash again last night – thank you Phyllis for the veggies! 🙂 I could eat the whole pot by myself this stuff is so good. I am not missing mashed potatoes in any way when I can get my hands on this.

Don modified his recipe a bit again.

  • squash
  • zucchini
  • jalapeno
  • garlic
  • butter
  • sour cream
  • about 2 tbsp of almond flour
  • one avocado
  • salt

There may have been something else he tossed in that I didn’t see but I’m fairly certain that even just these ingredients would make for good eats.

Cut your squash and zucchini into chunks and fill the pot about halfway with water. Steam on medium high for about 15 minutes or until soft enough to mash.

Drain the water and add the remaining ingredients: jalapeno (diced and keep the seeds if you like it spicy like us), sour cream, avocado, salt, garlic, butter, almond flour, and anything else you’d like, to taste.

Blend together.

It might look like pureed baby food, and green to boot if you add avocado, but let me tell you, it’s packed with flavor and goodness!

We paired our mashed squash with jalapeno sausage, and my apple-celery salad from Saturday. Mmm, good.

I also made another banana bread yesterday. I realized as I got everything together that I used twice as much butter as the recipe calls for last time. LOL  No wonder it wouldn’t set up well! I corrected that error this time around and I added about a tsp of baking powder as well. It turned out much better this time. It’s not as big and beautiful as my trusty old recipe, but it tastes great which in the end is all that really matters anyway.

After dinner last night we watched Food Inc. on Netflix.

Wow. I hardly know what to say. Take some time to watch this film. It is disturbing on so many levels but the information is something every person should know. We should all know where our food comes from, how it is produced, what companies are involved, and how politics and our government are involved. This film touches on all these things and more, and of course it’s only a small portion of the bigger picture but that’s ok. It gets you thinking and looking at things differently and that’s a good starting point.

Don and I have been shopping more organically in the last few months and our meat is mostly natural fed deer or hog that Don has hunted himself. But we do still buy bacon, chicken, and the occasional beef at the grocery store. Grass-fed farms are mentioned by a lot of primal bloggers that I follow, and they’ve been touched on in other food documentaries we’ve watched, but before this film we’ve never seen anything that pushed us to make a change in that regard. We have allowed ourselves to be put off by the assumption that it would be expensive and excessive. Now, regardless of cost, we will be making an effort to find local grass-fed, organic farmers, and making more trips to the farmers market on Saturdays. It is worth the effort and a little extra cost. Watch the film and see if you agree.

Support your local farmers in whatever little ways you can and be part of the change that needs to come to this country in terms of food production and distribution. Every little bit helps and contributes to the larger whole which can make great strides toward change.

On a random note, I caught Milo getting a taste of the smoky hand last night. 🙂

Organic farming has been shown to provide major benefits for wildlife and the wider environment. The best that can be said about genetically engineered crops is that they will now be monitored to see how much damage they cause.
~ Prince Charles

Food Matters Documentary

We watched another great documentary this week, Food Matters. It’s about food, pharmaceutical drugs, vitamins/supplements, and how all these things affect us and our bodies.
It was very thought-provoking. Definitely worth 80 minutes of your time (or more if you’re like us and like to stop the movie so you can talk about it. Took us about 2 and 1/2 hours to watch the whole thing. 🙂 )

Films like Food Matters, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, and FatHead, and websites like Mark’s Daily Apple, have really opened our eyes and made us see that we were walking through life blind. It’s a bit shocking. We always thought of ourselves as healthy and fit but we were missing SO MUCH. We thought we were eating pretty healthy (low-fat, whole grains, traditional food pyramid style). Throw in some major cardio sessions to burn those calories. But guess what? The concept of calories in-calories out is not truly accurate. And, I had no IDEA high fructose corn syrup was so freaking bad for us! Blind, blind, blind.

We feel like we are headed in the right direction now as we explore eating organic/natural foods and eliminate processed foods as much as possible. After about a month of making significant changes to our pantry and our cooking, we’ve both lost weight without any effort, and we feel amazing. We aren’t craving the foods we’ve given up, we aren’t counting calories, we aren’t constantly hungry like with traditional diets (which, just to be clear, we aren’t dieting, we are just eating differently, forever), we are having great fun exploring new flavors and new ways of preparing foods, and we don’t regret the choices we’ve made one bit.

A note to the skeptics/critics because I know what you’re thinking…just because we say we are not eating certain things anymore, it’s not like we never eat them. We are aiming for an 80/20 primal/conventional approach to our food and drink. We still enjoy a good cocktail, and we still enjoy an ear of corn, or a piece of cake from time to time. It’s all about balance and, truly, it’s been pretty easy to be 80/20 and and not feel like we’re missing out on anything.

We found Food Matters through Netflix but I’m sure that’s just one of many ways to view it. Take some time to check it out. I bet you’ll learn something new.

If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
~ Thomas Edison