UNHAPPY DEATHDAY, SERGIO!

Sergio Leone, my favorite director, died 26 years ago today. As a tribute to Leone’s life and career I’ve assembled a few clips of his films accompanied by some choice quotes from the man himself. Unhappy Deathday, Sergio! Viva Leone!

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1929-1989

A Fistful of Dollars:

“When they tell me that I am the father of the Italian Western, I have to say, ‘How many sons of bitches do you think I spawned?’ There was a terrifying gold rush after the commercial success of A Fistful of Dollars. It wasn’t as if the Italian Western had been taken up by many serious producers or serious directors; it was simply a terrifying gold rush, and most of them built castles in the sand instead of on rock – the foundations just weren’t there.”

“I feel that A Fistful of Dollars made a certain breakthrough in terms of the presentation of violence. Sam Peckinpah told me that The Wild Bunch could not have been made if it hadn’t been for my films. He said that A Fistful of Dollars launched ‘a new kind of cinema.’”

“I wanted Lavagnini, who had composed the music for The Colossus of Rhodes, to write the score. The producers had spoken to me of Ennio Morricone and showed me Showdown in Texas which seemed horrible to me; the music sounded like a poor man’s Tiomkin. The producer insisted on my meeting Morricone. I went to his house and he had me listen to a piece that the producers had rejected and which I was later to use in the finale of the film. Afterwards we listened to a record of something he’d written for an American baritone which immediately impressed me. I asked him to keep the basic elements. We had the principal motif, only the singer was lacking. I proposed having someone whistle it and thus the firm of Alessandroni and Company was born.”

“The duel in Fistful reverses all sorts of conventions. It’s a theatricalized duel in the arena where the moment of truth takes place. Not face to face! There’s the phrase, ‘When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man.’ And I amused myself by proving the contrary. When Volonte’s rife is empty, Eastwood places his pistol on the ground. The duel begins. We follow his technique of picking up his firearm and loading it. We also follow his opponent’s technique. The rifle takes longer. So: Volonte loses.”

“The day after A Fistful of Dollars opened in Rome, one of the reviews really got to me – because it was written by an enemy of mine. It was a thoughtful review which even suggested connections between Fistful and the films of John Ford. So I picked up the telephone and said to him, ‘I’m touched, truly touched by your support. Thanks you so much. I’m so glad you were able to bury our disagreements.’ And this was his reply: ‘But what on earth have you got to do with A Fistful of Dollars?’ He was the only critic in town not to have found out that behind the name of ‘Bob Robertson’ on the credits was Sergio Leone. Since then, with monotonous regularity, has always panned my films.”

“The story is told that when Michelangelo was asked what he had seen in one particular block of marble, which he chose among hundreds of others, he replied that he saw Moses. I would offer the same answer to the question why did I choose Clint Eastwood, only backwards: What I saw, simply, was a block of marble. And that was what I wanted.”

For a Few Dollars More:

“When Eastwood was offered the second film, For a Few Dollars More, he said to me, ‘I’ll read the script, come over and do the film, but please, I beg of you, one thing only – don’t put that cigar back in my mouth!’ And I said, ‘Clint, we can’t possibly leave the cigar behind. It’s playing the lead!’”

“I flew to L.A. to find Lee Van Cleef. I saw him walking in the distance and he looked just exactly right. He looked like a grizzled old eagle. I turned to my production manager and said, ‘Just sign him up here and now. I don’t even want to speak to him, because if I do it might make me decide not to take him, and if I did that I would be making a big mistake. He is so perfect for the film that I don’t want to hear a word of what he has to say.’”

“The character of the bounty hunter, the bounty killer, is an ambiguous one. They called him “the gravedigger” in the West. He fascinated me because he demonstrate a way of living in this land, and at that time. You must kill to survive.”

“In the final duel, Clint obliges the colonel to prove his professionalism, once and for all, at the moment of truth. He gives him his chance, but the colonel must move fast because Indio is fast on the draw! And Clint will not help him in this closed situation. He’ll remain a spectator. If the colonel is beaten, then he will avenge him. But the essential thing is to preserve his colleague’s moment of truth. This is much less banal than a saloon duel.”

“The lives of two bounty hunters depend on a perfect knowledge of the tools of their trade: guns. I couldn’t invent imaginary objects. I needed to be exact from the technical point of view, so I found exact descriptions of all the types of weapons of that period and ordered them to be remade for the film. But authenticity wasn’t enough. I had to be precise about ballistics and range as well. To nourish my fairy-story with a documentary reality.”

“I did not ask Morricone to read the script. I told him the story as if it was a fairy-tale. Then I explained the themes I wanted. Each character had to have his own theme. But I spoke Roman-fashion, with plenty of adjectives and comparisons, making sure everything was clear. Then he worked at the composition and brought me some very short themes, one for each character. He played them to me on the piano. This would continue until he’d composed a piece which inspired me – because it was me the music had to inspire, not Ennio! When a passage pleased me, I’d say, ‘That’s the one!’”

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

“I had always thought that the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ did not exist in any absolute, essential sense and it seemed to me interesting to demystify these adjectives in the setting of a Western.”

“What interested me was the absurdity of war. I wanted to show human imbecility in a picaresque film. The key line of the film is the comment made by a character about the battle on the bridge: ‘I have never seen so many imbeciles die so pointlessly.’”

“I wanted Eli Wallach because of a gesture he makes in How the West Was Won when he gets off the train and talks to George Peppard. He sees a child, Peppard’s son, and suddenly turns and shoots him with a finger. That made me realize he was a comic actor of the Chaplin school.”

“Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, one of the finest films I know, had a strong influence on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Chaplin’s film looked at the chaotic and absurd aspects of an era in which a hero who has murdered several women could say, at his trial, ‘I am just an amateur at homicide compared with Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Stalin, who do such things on a grand scale.’ Verdoux is the model of all the bandits, all the bounty hunters. Put him in a hat and boots, and you have a Westerner.”

“In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly each character had his musical theme. I was representing the route-map of three beings who were an amalgam of all human faults and I needed crescendos and spectacular attention-grabbers which nevertheless chimed with the general spirit of the story. So the music took on a central importance. It had to be complex, with humor and lyricism, tragedy and baroque.”

“My Westerns have been compared with melodramas. If this comparison arises from the importance of music in my films, then I feel flattered. I have always limited the use of dialogue, so that spectators can use their own imaginations while they observe the slow and ritual gestures of the heroes of the West. If it is true that I have created a new-style Western, with picaresque people placed in epic situations, then it is the music of Ennio which has made them talk.”

“The final duel was a sequence which gave me the greatest satisfaction, especially from the editing point of view. The picaresque journeys all come to a conclusion within it. I always enclose the final sequence, the denouement of my films, within the confines of a circle. It is the arena of life, the moment of truth at the moment of death. This wasn’t a whim on my part. The idea of the arena was crucial. With a morbid wink of the eye, since it was the dead who were witnesses to this spectacle. I even insisted that the music signify the laughter of corpses inside their graves. The first three close-ups of each of the actors took us an entire day. I wanted the spectator to have the impression of watching a ballet. And I had to accumulate shots of their cunning in action: their looks, their gestures, their hesitations. The music gave a certain lyricism to all these ‘realist’ images – so the scene became a question of choreography as much as suspense.”

Once Upon a Time in the West:

“I wanted to do a film which was a dance of death, or a ballet of the dead. I wanted to take all the most stereotypical characters from the America Western – on loan! The finest whore from New Orleans; the romantic bandit; the killer who is half-businessman, half-killer, and who wants to get on in the new world of business; the businessman who fancies himself as a gunfighter; the lone avenger. With these five most stereotypical characters from the American Western I wanted to present an homage to the Western at the same time as showing the mutations which American society was undergoing at the time. So the story was about a birth and a death. Before they even come on to the scene these stereotypical characters know themselves to be dying in every sense, physically and morally - victims of the new era which was advancing.”

“We wanted the feeling throughout of a kaleidoscopic view of all American Westerns put together. But you must be careful of making it sound like citations for citations’ sake. It wasn’t done in that spirit at all. The references aren’t calculated in a programmed kind of way; they are there to give the feeling of all that background of the American Western to help tell this particular fairy tale. They are part of my attempt to take historical reality - the new, unpitying era of the economic boom - and blend it together with the fable.”

“The rhythm of the film was intended to create the sensation of the last gasps that a person takes just before dying. Once Upon a Time in the West was, from start to finish, a dance of death. I wanted to make the audience feel, in three hours, how these people lived and died…”

Once Upon a Time in the West Opening: The Sound as a Storyteller from Pablo Valverde on Vimeo.

Duck You Sucker:

“Mexico became a pretext to evoke wars and revolutions. In certain sequences, I signal events from other places and times: the flight of the king; the Ardeatine Caves massacre; the ditches and death pits of Dachau and Matthausen. I even chose a face resembling the young Mussolini and dressed him up in a uniform. These are signs which are there to connote all wars and revolutions.”

“But at the heart of the film, and my essential motivation, was the theme of friendship which is so dear to me. You have two men: one naïve and one intellectual. From there, the film becomes the story of Pygmalion reversed. The simple one teaches the intellectual a lesson. Nature gains the upper hand and finally the intellectual throws away his book of Bakunin’s writings. You suspect damn well that this gesture is a symbolic reference to everything my generation has been told in the way of promises.”

“Me, I live apart and don’t give a damn about anything. At the end of the war, like many Italians, I had illusions and dreams. I believed in revolution - in the mind if not in the streets. I dreamed about a more just and humane society, where wealth was more evenly distributed. After all, my father struggled against Fascism and I came from a socialist family. Let us just say that I am a disillusioned socialist. To the point of becoming an anarchist. But because I have a conscience, I’m a moderate anarchist who doesn’t go around throwing bombs. I mean, I’ve experienced just about all the untruths there are in life. So what remains in the end? The family. Which is my final archetype, handed down to us from prehistory. What else is there? Friendship. And that is all. I’m a pessimist by nature. With John Ford, people look out the window with hope. Me, I show people who are scared even to open the door. And if they do, they tend to get a bullet right between the eyes.”

“I suffered a lot on that film. The shooting, the plots, the problems. And the editing which took such a long, long time. I’m attached to the film as one might be to a disabled child.”


ONCE UPON A TIME: THE REVOLUTION: Opening Sequence by bongolicious


The Toll of Revolution


A Fistful of Dynamite

— MOVIECLIPS.com

Once Upon a Time in America:

Once Upon a Time in America is my best film, bar none. I’m glad I made it, even though during filming I was as tense as Dick Tracy’s jaw. It always goes like that. Shooting a film is awful, but to have made a movie is delicious.”

“I’m trying to do a film that can’t easily be categorized. It’s not a realistic film, not historical. It’s fantastic, it’s a fable. I force myself to make fables for adults.”

“Time and the years are one other essential element in the film. The characters have changed, some of them rejecting their past identities and even their names - and yet in spite of themselves, they have remained bound to the past and to the people they knew and were. They have gone separate ways; some have realized their dreams, for better or worse; others have failed. But growing from the same embryo, as it were, after the careless self-confidence of youth, they are united again by the force that had made them enemies and driven them apart - Time.”

“And it is this unrealistic vein that interests me the most, the vein of the fable, though a fable for our own times and told in our own terms. And, above, all, the aspects of hallucination, or a dream-journey, induced by the opium with which the film begins and ends, like a haven or a refuge.”

“The scene of the charlotte russe in the stairwell is an homage to Charles Chaplin. It is not an imitation of him or plagiarized from a sequence of his. It is simple evidence of my love for him. And I think he would have filmed the situation in this way.”

“I want to say how much the truncated version took the soul out of my work. A version of one hundred and thirty-five minutes was done for television. Everything was flatly chronological: childhood, youth and old age. Time is no longer a theme. There is no more mystery, journey, and opium smoking. It is an aberration. I cannot accept that the originalversion is too long. It has the exact duration it should have. After the screening at the Cannes Film Festival, Dino De Laurentiis told me it was wonderful but it was necessary to cut a good half hour. I told him he was in no position to tell me that. Because he makes films of two hours which seem to last four hours, while I make films of four hours which seem to last two. Dino cannot understand this. I added that this was the reason we never worked together.”

“I am aware that this film is different from my previous works. This time I worked in total clarity as to the correctness of what I was doing. No question. Not the slightest concern. I have no doubt. I was transported on a journey during which I was certain of a good result. I’m speaking of the making of the movie. I’m really happy to have waited fifteen years to do it. All this time was important. I reflected on this when I saw the finished film. And I realized that if I had done the film earlier, it would have just been one more movie. Now, Once Upon A Time In America, it is the film by Sergio Leone. And it’s me, this film. We can only succeed with such a film with maturity, white hair and a lot of wrinkles around the eyes.”

“It seemed to me important, at that precise moment in my life, to film the almost futile existence of a person who left no trace and whose sole strength was the sentiment of friendship. Something which has always touched me, and which I have treated in all my films.”

“Clint is a mask of wax. In reality, if you think about it, they don’t even belong in the same profession. De Niro throws himself into this or that role, putting on a personality the way someone else might put on his coat, naturally and with elegance; while Eastwood throws himself into a suit of armor and lowers the visor with a rusty clang. It is precisely that lowered visor which composes his character. And that creaky clang it makes as it snaps down, dry as a Martini in Harry’s Bar in Venice, is also his character. Look at him carefully. Eastwood moves like a sleepwalker between explosions and hails of bullets, and he is always the same - a block of marble. He had only two expressions: with or without a hat. Bobby, first of all, is an actor. Clint, first of all, is a star. Bobby suffers. Clint yawns.”


Once Upon a Time in America (scene) by dm_50218e8e7e221

NORTHWEST HOUNDED POLICE (TEX AVERY, 1941)

Life got ya down? Are you consumed by existential angst? Has “the horror” of existence become unendurable? Fret not, my friend, for I have the solution to all your worries. Just watch this Droopy cartoon and all will be right with the world. It’s a NOFF guarantee. (But if it doesn’t work, then start drinking heavily.)

Then watch a defenseless dairy calf get his head bashed in. Make no mistake: such horrific savagery is the inevitable by-product of the dairy industry. But don’t worry about it. After all, you need a piece of cheese.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT VEGANISM, ANIMALS, NUTRITION, THE ENVIRONMENT AND Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

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Would anything persuade you to go vegan? What about the unnecessary slaughter of sentient animals? Every hour six million farm animals are stabbed in the neck. Does that bother you? Would you go vegan for them, for all those innocent and defenseless animals? I’d like to think the answer to that is a resounding “Yes!” but, alas, I know all too well from spending entirely too much time online suffering speciesist fools ungladly that all too often the answer is a self-serving “No!” Such people regard farm animals as mere things, consumable commodities, no more worthy of our moral consideration than a head of lettuce, even though chickens, cows, pigs and the rest are as fully sentient as the beloved companion animals we fetishize. These non-vegan bullies victimize the most vulnerable among us and chuckle and brag about it as though it were a point of pride, a praiseworthy accomplishment. For them, it is unthinkable to forgo that bacon ‘n cheese, chicken ‘n steak quadruple-decker, grease-drenched, blood-soaked 5-pound cowburger, because titillating their palates is vastly more important than the meaningless life of some stupid animal. “Stab ‘em in the neck and fire up the grill” just about sums up their inspiring perspective.

I hope you are not one of these lost causes. If, unlike the “mmm bacon” brigade, you have genuine moral concern for animals but, for whatever reason, harbor reservations about veganism, I urge you to read Gary Francione’s Eat Like You Care, an eloquent defense of veganism which debunks nearly every conceivable objection to it in a straightforward, easy-to-read, commonsensical style.

But even if you have little or no regard for the wellbeing of sentient nonhumans, and value your palate pleasure over their very lives, there is still ample reason to go vegan, notably the recognized health benefits of a well-planned vegan diet. Would you go vegan for that, for your health? After all, there is widespread consensus across the full spectrum of health care organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, Kaiser Permanente, and nearly everyone else except those with a vested interest in the animal abuse industries, that a properly planned vegan diet is not only nutritionally sound but also provides optimal protection against, among myriad other ailments and diseases, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

If you’re interested in good health and longevity, do yourself a favor and read Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunity, and/or The End of Dieting: How to Live for Life, both of which are lucidly written, painstakingly researched nutrition guides that expose the health risks associated with consuming animal products and tout the health benefits associated with a plant-based, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and mushrooms. (Note: Fuhrman cannot be accused of promoting a vegan agenda because he does not insist upon a strict vegan diet, allowing for an extremely limited intake of animal products once in a while, but it is fair to say that he encourages veganism based upon an objective, comprehensive analysis of the scientific literature.)

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I happen to live in Texas where the vast majority of people are noticeably overweight, if not downright obese, which is both alarming and, well, thoroughly repugnant. Don’t mess with Texas…because they’ll sit on and crush you - then swallow you whole. I swear, these bad food junkies, who just can’t lay off the bacon wrapped, cheese-stuffed, fat-saturated, calorie/cholesterol/carcinogen-loaded 2-foot frankensteinfurters, would rather get ass cancer and keel over prematurely from a coronary than live vegan for 100 years. I can hear them now: “Whoopie ti yi yo and a yippee-ka-yay, stab ‘em in the neck, fire up the grill, slather on the butter and let the feeding frenzy begin!”

Apparently these yahoos think, quite mistakenly, that we vegans nourish ourselves on rabbit food and other tasteless shit, as though we nibble on lettuce and tofu all the livelong day. For the record: I don’t eat tofu. Hate it. Nor do I eat much lettuce, although I do eat a lot of phytochemical-laden leafy greens such as kale, spinach and arugula, all of which contain more protein per calorie than steak. Stick that in your pit and grill it.

Vegans also eat “tasteless shit” like this:

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Above photos courtesy of Beyond Meat

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Above photos courtesy of Reverie Bakeshop

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Above photos courtesy of vegan chef Vincent Guihan

That’s a mere sample of vegan chow, but it should be enough to convince even the staunchest animal-gobbler that we vegans can titillate our taste buds with the best of them. But the real pleasure, one that transcends the mere pleasures of the palate, comes from knowing that no animals were enslaved, tortured and stabbed to death in the making of these delicious meals and confections.

Not all animal abusers/eaters display such reckless disregard for their health. Currently the so-called Paleo diet is all the rage among gullible bros back-slapping and high-fiving each other at the local CrossFit gym. A few bench presses and cave-manly grunts later, the pumped-up bros sharpen their spears, form a hunting party, and head to the supermarket to buy lots of meat with their mom’s credit card. Just like a caveman.

For an utter demolition of this inane diet fad - whose entire premise, that we should eat like our Paleolithic ancestors did, rests on a fallacious appeal to nature - check out this outstanding website. It is, in bro parlance, a total smackdown.

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But even if you have little or no regard for sentient nonhuman life and/or for your own health and longevity, there still remains compelling reason to go vegan. What about the fact that animal agriculture is an environmental disaster? Did you know that livestock alone emit more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector? That’s right, more than all the modes of transportation *combined* - as in every motor vehicle, locomotive, watercraft and aircraft on…the…planet. Although estimates of the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions linked to livestock range from 15% to 51%, even the lower of the two percentages exceeds that of the transportation sector, which is estimated to be around 13%. Moreover, as this article points out the 15% was calculated by livestock specialists, the 51% by environmental specialists. Don’t know about you, but I’d put more (live)stock in the latter.

Would you go vegan for that, for the environment, for the planet? Imagine the good we could do for the planet, literally overnight, if we all just stopped stabbing farm animals and went vegan instead.

I defy anyone to read this fact sheet, and the studies therein, and not come away convinced that the gross wastefulness and inefficiency of animal agriculture is a major contributor to the escalating climate crisis. Here’s a sample of what you’ll learn:

Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year: Vegan: 1/6th acre; Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan; Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan” “Our food our future.” Earthsave. http://www.earthsave.org/pdf/ofof2006.pdf

Methane has a global warming power 86 times that of CO2.” NASA. “Methane: Its Role as a Greenhouse Gas.” Jet Propulsion Laboratory. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/education/pdfs/podest_ghg.pdf

Livestock is responsible for 65% of all emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 296x more destructive than carbon dioxide and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.”

“Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.

http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm

One hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce – the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers.” Catanese, Christina. “Virtual Water, Real Impacts.” Greenversations: Official Blog of the U.S. EPA. 2012. http://blog.epa.gov/healthywaters/2012/03/virtual-water-real-impacts-world-water-day-2012/

2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.” Robbins, John. “2,500 Gallons, All Wet?” EarthSave http://www.earthsave.org/environment/water.htm

1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk.” “Water trivia facts.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://water.epa.gov/learn/kids/drinkingwater/water_trivia_facts.cfm#_edn11

477 gallons of water are required to produce 1 pound of eggs; 900 gallons of water are needed for cheese.” “Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/interactive-graphic/water/

But, hell, on second thought, who gives a shit about the planet anyway? Why not let future generations worry about global warming and climate change? Why not ignore the facts, pretend that global warming either doesn’t exist or if it does exist that we had nothing to with it, and have faith that, even if we did instigate and now continue to perpetuate the ever-worsening climate crisis, we could fix it with a little elbow grease and a can-do attitude, plus a helluva lot of technological know-how, before the situation crosses the point of no return. Besides, why should I care about future generations that will exist after my death any more than I care about past generations that existed before my birth? Makes no sense. What I really care about, above all, is pleasuring my palate like there’s no tomorrow. So commence with the neck stabbings!

If, on the other hand, you care about the planet and the fate of our species and countless others, then I urge you to watch Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, a somewhat amateurish but fact-filled, eye-opening documentary which deserves attention, if for no other reason than that it exposes an inconvenient truth that Al Gore neglected to mention. The film does what Gore and so many gutless others, including most of the environmental agencies, failed to do: take on the powerful meat/dairy/poultry industries and their lobbying bullyboys, and call attention to the hormone-oozing, freakishly humungous cow in the room. See her? She’s the one belching, farting and shitting unholy amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

Breaking news: cows unleash an earth-shattering fart into the face of humanity. You might call this poetic justice, bovine-style. Our species, in all its absurdity, is literally dying for a hamburger. How delicious is that?

By the way, if you think that organic beef from grass-fed cows is the answer, I’m afraid you’re mistaken.

First, the argument is moot, because unless there is a dramatic paradigm shift toward veganism, factory farming ain’t going away. As a practical matter, the quaint family farms of yesteryear, where happy animals once grazed peacefully on picturesque pastures before being lovingly herded into trucks and leisurely driven to the friendly neighborhood slaughterhouse to be oh-so-humanely exsanguinated, cannot possibly meet the rising global demand for meat and other animal products in this increasingly overpopulated world. Only intensive, hyper-efficient factory farming has the wherewithal to churn out the massive amounts of meat, eggs, and dairy needed to satiate the gluttonous appetite of the non-vegan.

Second, grass-fed cows are *worse* for the environment than their feedlot counterparts. As Plant Positive explains in the video below:

“Some people believe they are getting around the environmental costs of meat-eating by selecting grass fed beef. I’m not sure why they believe this. If you are concerned about land use or greenhouse gases, the regular feedlot system is much better. Giving an animal growth promotants like hormones and antibiotics makes it more efficient at converting its food into muscle and fat mass that will eventually be food for the meat-eater. Therefore, it needs less resources and less time to develop all that meat, milk and fat. How is it better for the environment to eat an animal that requires more land and more resources to produce the same number of calories?”

Veganism is better for the animals, for your health, and for the planet. Any one of those benefits is a good reason to go vegan; combined, they make the case for veganism overwhelming. So stop looking for excuses to keep harming animals, yourself and the environment, and just…GO…VEGAN!

I thank you. The planet thanks you. And they thank you:

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Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, 2014)

Come back in a day or two for a new post. In the meantime, take a look at the documentary that Louie Psihoyos, Oscar-winning director of The Cove, says “may be the most important film made to inspire saving the planet” and that Darren Aronofsky says “will rock and inspire the environmental movement.”

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA - EXTENDED CUT (BLU-RAY)

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After the restored longer version of Once Upon a Time in America was shown at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival (which I wrote about here), the film was promptly removed from circulation “pending further restoration work.” Not much has been written about it since, but now, on September 30, Warner Bros. is finally releasing the extended - and, presumably, “further” restored - version on Blu-ray. Although press reports and reviews will doubtless tell you that this version more closely approximates Leone’s intended director’s cut, the reality is far more complex. First, there’s a small matter that nobody ever mentions: Leone preferred the 229-minute version. How do I know this? Because he said so: “the version that I prefer is this one.”

Here’s the full quote:

“Then there is the very long one that has never been edited and which lasts fifty minutes longer. Four and a half hours. But we rejected the idea of two parts on TV. It is so intricate that it has to be done in one evening. And besides, let’s be honest: this one is my version. The other perhaps explained things more clearly and it could have been done on TV in two or three parts. But the version that I prefer is this one, that bit of reclusiveness is just what I like about it.”

[Source: Sergio Leone: The Great Italian Dream of Legendary America by Oreste De Fornari]

This raises obvious questions: If Leone were alive today would he even want to have these scenes reinstated? Would he want a bunch of technicians, splicers and knob-twiddlers, many of whom had no previous association with the film, tampering with his *preferred* version without his consent? We will never know, of course, the extent to which Leone would have approved of this longer version. And that’s the point. We can’t know. So, please, let’s not refer to it as the “Extended Director’s Cut,” as is stated so misleadingly on the cover of the Blu-ray.

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A different albeit related question is this: did Leone actually assemble a fully edited, ready-for-distribution 270-minute director’s cut in 1984? Most fans assume so, but considering the ample evidence to the contrary, I have my doubts. Let’s review the evidence:

1) In his 1988 interview with De Fornari, Leone is quoted as saying:

“Then there is the very long one that has never been edited…”

The quote contradicts the notion that Leone finished editing the longer version. It is, of course, possible that he was mistranslated. After all, in an earlier interview he’s quoted as saying the exact opposite: that the scenes had been edited. Perhaps in the later interview Leone used the word “edito” which sounds like “edited” but which Google translates as “published” and which could, I suppose, be interpreted as “released.” So he might have said that the missing scenes had never been released.

But…

2) In the Cannes press kit, Davide Pozzi, Director of L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory which performed the restoration, wrote:

“Technically, the homogeneity of the unedited scenes was the biggest problem, as unfortunately the negatives for these scenes no longer exist.”

Was Pozzi mistranslated too? I doubt it since I think he’s fluent in English. So what does he mean by “unedited scenes” if not that the scenes were…unedited?

I don’t know, maybe we can construe “unedited scenes” to mean “scenes that need to be reinserted from where they were removed.” And why not? Doesn’t Gian Luca Farinelli say, in that very same press kit, that “beginning and end frames of the cut scenes allowed us to identify the exact place they were deleted from.”?

So there you have it. All they had to do was take a beginning frame from here, an end frame from there, and reinsert them whence they came. Finito!

But…

3) In an Italian article from 2011, Andrea Leone, Sergio’s son, said “Il montaggio degli inediti è una ricucitura complessa,” which roughly translates as “the editing of the unreleased footage needs complex re-stitching.” (Note: in the context of filmmaking, “montaggio” refers to editing.)

Here we have a sentence containing three words that seem to refer to or could be interpreted as “editing” - montaggio, ricucutura and inediti. (Note: the Italian translation of “unedited” is, according to Google, “inediti.”) Whatever the precise translation, one thing is certain: the process to reinsert the missing scenes would be “complessa” - i.e., complex.

Hmm, if all they had to do to arrive at Leone’s fabled director’s cut was insert the unreleased (and supposedly fully edited) footage back into the existing 229-minute version, why would Andrea say that it would be a complex editing process?

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Come to think of it, editors routinely leave extra footage at the head and tail of frames on rough cuts so that the shots can later be trimmed for content, rhythm, and running time. It is common practice, is it not, for editors to significantly whittle down the running time of rough cuts by the time the film is released? So, yeah, we know where the missing scenes were cut from (the script pretty much tells us that anyway), but so what? That doesn’t mean they were taken from a completely edited workprint - i.e., the fine cut.

In his 1984 interview with Cahiers du Cinéma Leone discusses the film’s duration, saying that he was given carte blanche to make a four-and-a-half hour version, but then…

“Four months after the start of editing, they said to me no, it is not possible. They demanded that I cut the film. I did not want to go back to the first concept which was three hours. I cut as much as I could…”

This is, I think, telling: Leone knew that a four-and-a-half hour version was out of the question two months *before* he finished editing the film. It’s not as if they demanded he shorten the film *after* he’d assembled a fully edited 270-minute fine cut. I suspect, then, that Leone excised around 40-50 minutes of footage from an *incomplete* workprint, not from the *fine* cut, with the idea of later assembling a longer version for Italian TV, but never got around to fine-tuning the scenes.

According to Leone’s biographer, Christopher Frayling:

“Leone had ten hours of usable footage in the can. With help from editor Nino Baragli, this was pruned to six hours. Then, finally accepting that there was unlikely to be a two-part version, Leone delivered a *fine cut* of three hours and forty-nine minutes.”

So it sounds like the “fine cut” - the one that results from trimming down the rough cut - was three hours and forty-nine minutes, not four hours and twenty-nine minutes. If so, that means the missing scenes never made it all the way through the most crucial creative phase of the editing. How do we know the extent to which the scenes had been edited? Were they completely edited, up to and through post-production, or were they only partly edited and/or in need of additional post-production work?

Of course, it was Andrea Leone, after all, who said reinserting the missing scenes would be a “complex” task, and we all know from the fiasco of the premature release of the restored version that Andrea has his head lodge in his asshole up to his Adam’s apple, so it stands to reason that he was just talking shit.

But…

4) Reportedly, Morricone and Fausto Ancillai, the film’s original sound editor, helped supervise the restoration, which suggests, at the very least, that the sound and music in the missing scenes hadn’t received proper post-production attention.

Admittedly, I don’t know the exact contributions Ancillai and Morricone made to the restoration. All I know is what little has been reported of their involvement. I think Variety was the first to report Ancillai’s role as supervisor, and Pozzi thanks him in the aforementioned press kit for his support during the restoration process.

Interestingly, Pozzi did not thank Morricone, which might indicate that the composer’s involvement was minimal, I don’t know. Farinelli mentions Morricone in relation to the restoration in this 2011 article but it’s in Italian and the Google translation is ambiguous:

“It will be a challenging process and we are at the beginning. A job that will require at least a year, also because in addition to the frames, there are the sound effects and the soundtrack of Morricone, who is added to the work of replacement.”

I can’t tell if Farinelli is saying that Morricone will work on the new scenes or simply that the sound and music need additional work/enhancement. Maybe someone who understands Italian can interpret this.

This French translation of the Italian article is less ambiguous, and if it’s closer to the mark, then there’s good reason to believe that Ancillai and Morricone contributed additional sound and music to the excised scenes.

“It’s a real challenge ahead of us today. A job that will require almost a year, because in addition to the image, there is the sound and music of Ennio Morricone to be added.”

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Leone makes another telling statement in the Cahiers interview:

Cahiers: How was the sound done in the movie?

Leone: Everything was in direct sound, with Jean-Pierre Ruh, who won an Oscar for Tess. But it was necessary to *post-synchronize* some scenes because sometimes I try shooting with the film music and the actors who have rehearsed with it sometimes prefer to film with it and to *dub afterwards* since it gives them a certain atmosphere.

So just because Leone shot the missing scenes with direct sound does not mean he completed post-production work on the dialogue, let alone the effects and music.

Most directors do not play music on the set, so Leone was unique in this regard, but even under normal circumstances dialogue is often modified and/or replaced during post-production. Moreover, whether scenes are shot silent or with direct sound, the music and sound effects get mixed in afterwards, during the post-synchronization process.

Given Leone’s operatic style and imaginative sound designs, the mixture of sound and music was a particularly important element of his cinema. To put the matter into stark relief, imagine if the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West, with its marvelous symphony of sound effects, or, more to the point of this post, the sequence in Once Upon a Time in America with the ringing phone echoing persistently through Noodles’ guilt-ridden flashback, had been excised before going through Leone’s creative sound mixing process! That phone rings 24 times at gradually increasing intervals over a span of 3 minutes and 43 seconds. How would the scene play if left to the devices of Andrea and his knob-twiddlers? How many times would the phone ring? Would the sequence climax with that piercing electronic shriek? I’d say “fat chance” but that would be an insult to fat chances. No wonder they enlisted the film’s original sound editor to supervise the restoration!

To be fair, the majority of the missing scenes appear to be heavy on expository dialogue, so perhaps the situation isn’t as serious as it might have been.

But Leone’s forte lay in his operatic style, his flair for creating dramatic marriages of image, sound and music, which likely inclined him to excise these talky scenes. And if, as I suspect, Leone cut the scenes before post-production and put them aside for safekeeping with the intention of fine-tuning them later, but ultimately abandoned plans to assemble a longer version, then, well, I’m afraid the Leone clan’s decision to reinsert the scenes was a doomed venture from the beginning.

When Raffaella first announced the discovery of these scenes in 2006, she said:

“We want to restore 40 minutes of deleted scenes we have found. Mind you, though: we will not reassemble the movie, which will stay what my father did.”

Yet she couldn’t leave well enough alone. Instead, she did precisely the opposite of what she said she would do: she *changed* what her father did. One has to wonder why. Did Leone’s secret diary reveal that he preferred the extended cut after all? Did Leone’s ghost encourage her to go forth with the project? Or, perhaps, were there more, shall we say, financial considerations afoot? Did she, her brother, and their moneymen calculate that it would be more profitable to reinsert the scenes? Maybe plastering “Extended Director’s Cut” across the Blu-ray cover would fill their coffers. But would the siblings Leone really sell out papà Leone for a stinking fistful of denaro? Well…maybe.

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In any case…

This comment by Pozzi makes a mockery of the notion that the newly restored longer version is Leone’s director’s cut:

“Technically, the homogeneity of the unedited scenes was the biggest problem, as unfortunately the negatives for these scenes no longer exist. The only materials available were discarded strips of working positives which had been badly preserved. Making this task even more difficult was the fact that the working positives had been printed without particular care, as originally they were part of the working copies which circulated between the assistant editors and sound editors as a work reference.”

Perhaps someone more familiar than I with the ins and outs of the editing process can straighten me out here, but if the missing scenes were unedited, if the negatives no longer exist, if the only materials available were discarded strips of working positives that had been badly preserved and carelessly printed, and if assistant editors and sound editors had used these copies as a work reference, on what possible grounds can a case be made that the reinsertion of these scenes into the existing film somehow constitutes Leone’s director’s cut?

Moreover, that these scenes were used as a work reference suggests, does it not, that they were still in the process of being edited? So even if Leone had assembled a complete 270-minute director’s cut in 1984 (which remains questionable), who’s to say that these “discarded strips of working positives” had been edited in the same way and to the same extent as the corresponding footage that made it into the alleged 270-minute version?

The ultimate question - the long and the short of it, I suppose - is this: given the above facts, how do we know with anything approaching certainty whether the missing scenes had been fully edited, partially edited, or not edited at all? Which ones, if any, made it all the way to the fine cut? Maybe some did. Maybe others never made it past the rough cut. Maybe others needed post-production tweaking.

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At least one scene was likely removed at the rough cut stage. Frayling says that Leone excised the chauffeur scene *during shooting* due to his reservations about producer Arnon Milchan’s acting ability, a well-founded concern given that the confrontational scene involves an amateur with no acting experience going up against the greatest actor of his generation. According to Leone’s trusted long-time assistant, Luca Morsella, whose close day-to-day contact with Leone surely gave him privileged insight into the director’s mentality and decision-making process, “Sergio had promised the part of the chauffeur to Milchan…but lost his nerve about this. He was worried that having taken so much trouble over casting everyone else, this might not work. So he said no. There was a row with Sergio, who finally agreed to shoot it. He shot it then cut it, and then told interviewers Milchan had made him cut it!”

Elizabeth McGovern, meanwhile, expressed grave doubts about her Cleopatra scene, not only because she felt she lacked the acting chops to pull off Shakespeare but also because “it stopped all the action…and was very strange to have a death scene Kabuki-style at that point in the movie.” She, for one, was happy to see it go. Frayling shares McGovern’s assessment of the scene and of herself, calling the scene “awful” and McGovern “no Shakespearean actress.” One has to wonder if Leone too harbored doubts; this might be the scene he least regretted cutting and the one he’d least want reinserted.

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Still, in the end, it might turn out that the scenes did travel all the way through post-production and that Leone did assembled a complete, release-ready 270-minute director’s cut in 1984. Maybe such a cut really existed, despite good reason to think otherwise. I don’t know.

I *do* know that, however many minutes of shitty looking footage Andrea and Raffaella manage to splice into their father’s 229-minute version, the newly restored longer version is not now, nor will it ever be, a true Leone-approved director’s cut. This is so for the following reasons:

1) Leone preferred the 229-minute version:

“Let’s be honest: this one is my version. The other perhaps explained things more clearly and it could have been done on TV in two or three parts. But the version that I prefer is this one, that bit of reclusiveness is just what I like about it.”

To me, that’s the final word on the subject, straight from the lion’s mouth, so to speak.

2) Leone is dead. So unless his ghost directed the restoration from on high, I’m guessing he never gave Andrea, Raffaella, Scorsese, his personal chef, or anyone else approval to reinsert the scenes.

3) Leone ain’t no ghost. Which means he did not participate in the restoration of *his* film. And that means he had no input into how the editing of the missing scenes was handled. So how then can the restoration be the director’s cut if the director wasn’t around to make decisions about how best to cut it?

4) Just because Leone might not have wanted to remove the scenes in 1984 does not mean that he’d want to reinsert them today. Maybe he’d want to put back all the scenes. Or none of them. Maybe he’d want to reinsert the Louise Fletcher scene but leave out the new one with Treat Williams. Or vice versa. Maybe he’d decide to burn the chauffeur scene to spite Milchan. Maybe he’d choose to shorten a scene, or add a sound effect, or employ Morricone’s score in some idiosyncratic way. We’ll never know. Because he’s dead.

As far as I’m concerned, this newly restored version, or any other version Raffaella and Andrea decide to cobble together in the future, is nothing more than an approximation of a director’s cut Leone envisioned once upon a time.

That said, I can’t wait to see it! And I hope the accompanying 32-page booklet addresses some of the above issues.

Postscript (10/3/2014): I am now in possession of the misnamed “Extended Director’s Cut.” I haven’t watched the film yet, but in the process of downloading a digital copy, I happened to watch the pre-credits restoration notes. This caught my eye:

Additional sound restoration and sonorization of cut scenes: Fausto Ancillai and Ennio Morricone

Additional editing supervision: Alessandro Baragli and Patrizia Ceresani

“Sonorization” refers to the practice of adding music and effects to silent films. So there you have it: Fausto and Ennio contributed additional sound and music to the cut scenes. They “sonorized” the film!

That Alessandro Baragli, presumably Nino’s son, and Patrizia Ceresani provided “additional editing supervision” can mean only one thing: the cut scenes underwent editing of some kind. After all, there had to be editing going on in the first place for there to be a need for “additional editing supervision.” I guess Alessandro and Patrizia supervised the supervision of the editing. Perhaps Nino supervised the two career assistant editors from beyond the grave.

What a joke it is to claim that this is the “Extended Director’s Cut.” It should be called the “Deceased Director’s Additionally Edited and Sonorized Extended Cut.” But, of course, that wouldn’t fit on the cover of the Blu-ray.

Post-postscript (10/3/2014): Raffaella Leone makes some interesting remarks in this article:

Raffaella Leone: “This is the movie that our father showed us when he finished editing ‘his’ movie.”

Wait, what? “His” movie? Hmm, so then I guess Leone showed her the additionally edited and sonorized 251-minute version. And here I thought “his” movie was a completely edited, un-sonorized 270 minutes.

I wonder if Raffaella has ever read the 1988 interview her father did with Oresto De Fornari, in which he says:

Sergio Leone: “Let’s be honest: this one is my version. The other perhaps explained things more clearly and it could have been done on TV in two or three parts. But the version that I prefer is this one, that bit of reclusiveness is just what I like about it.”

Make no mistake, Raffaella: your father’s talking about the 229-minute version. Your father preferred the 229-minute version. Your father said it was *his* version, the one *he* prefers.

I have no idea what movie your father showed you, but whatever it was it wasn’t *his* movie, at least not the one he said was *his* in 1988. And it certainly wasn’t this additionally edited and sonorized 251-minute version just released on Blu-ray. Ya know, the “Extended Director’s Cut?”

Raffaella Leone: “To bring back to the screens that movie in its original version has been very difficult and time consuming.”

Wait, what? “bring back…that movie in its original version.”

“That movie.” What movie? The one he showed you once upon a time? *His* movie? So *his* movie was 251 minutes? I thought it was 270 minutes.

Questions for Raffaella (who no doubt reads this blog):

1) How can this movie be the “movie in its original version” if its original version was supposedly 270 minutes?

2) How can this movie be the “movie in its original version” if this movie in its present form was edited and sonorized?

3) Why did you decide to reassemble the movie, and change your father’s preferred 229-minute version, after you said “we will not reassemble the movie, which will stay what my father did”? Why didn’t you leave your father’s film alone, as you originally said you would?

4) What about the additional footage Scorsese supposedly has? Wasn’t that part of the original version? Or are you planning to release an even more original “original version” in the future with even more original footage from your father’s ever-evolving director’s cut?

LIVING THINGS (ERIC SHAPIRO, 2014)

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Living Things consists of a dinner-table debate between a vegan and a meat-eater. That’s it: just two people sitting down to dinner and debating the morality of eating animals. Never having been a fan of two-handers, I had my doubts about the film, but because its subject matter interests me, I decided to give it a look. To my surprise it wasn’t half bad. Despite having its share of overwritten dialogue, the film is watchable because of the intense interplay between the two characters, whose increasingly malicious verbal sparring steadily escalates, then spins out of control and, finally, explodes into physical violence.

The acting too is better than expected, especially that of Ben Siegler as Leo, a macho meat-muncher whose incipient rage bubbles under the surface of his barbed comments, sarcastic retorts, mocking tone and unwavering eye contact. Siegler brings considerable intensity to the role, so much so that he overmatches Rhoda Jordan, who plays Leo’s vegan daughter-in-law, Rhona. It doesn’t help that Rhona is stereotyped as a quixotic, muddle-headed vegan prone to spout New Age mumbo-jumbo. She loses credibility before the debate even starts with this foolish statement:

“In yoga we study the unconscious mind. In the unconscious mind everything’s the same as its opposite, so when you say “No” your unconscious also says ‘Yes.’”

Such stupidity renders debate utterly pointless, for if “No” also means “Yes” then when a vegan says “No” to meat she also means “Yes” and when a meat-eater says “Yes” to meat he also means “No.” So it’s all the same, it doesn’t matter, end of debate. At least Leo had a good retort: “A lot of frat boys would be happy to know that.”

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Other eye-rolling things Rhona says:

“Love is the ultimate truth. Compassion is the ultimate truth.”

“I see karma playing itself out in everyone’s life every second of every day.”

“Everything is everything. We are all interconnected. You’re me and I’m you and we’re all one.”

“All beings are one.”

So very nauseating.

Moreover, some of Rhona’s weak rebuttals to Leo’s arguments had me yelling out what she should have said and what I would have said if I were there. Happily, my blog provides a forum for me to rebut Leo’s arguments.

Leo’s first objection to veganism is no surprise: where oh where do you get your protein from? That meat-munchers emit the “protein question” with such robotic predictibility suggests that it has been preprogrammed into them. And so it has been. All of us were brainwashed into believing the protein myth early on. Remember what was in the protein box of the “Basic Four” food group charts we were shown in elementary school? Why, a thick steak, of course. And didn’t our parents tell us that we had to eat our meat (and drink our milk) if we wanted to grow up to be big and strong like them?

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But wait, surely our parents and teachers wouldn’t steer us wrong. They always spoke the unvarnished truth! If there’s one thing we can believe it is this: to get enough protein we need to eat cows. Otherwise, we’ll turn into scrawny and malnourished vegan wimps. End of story.

But like many stories this one is a myth, which begins with “once upon a time” and ends with cancer or heart disease. Yes, I’m afraid our parents did steer us wrong (and did wrong by steers) when they told us that we had to eat our meat.  Reality tells a different tale. And reality never lies. Ma and Pa, on the other hand, overlooked some facts:

  • 1) All the protein we need is easily obtained from plants. Where do you suppose the animals we get our protein from get theirs? Hint: plants. Just as lions get their protein from gazelles who get theirs from plants, so we get our protein from cows who get theirs from plants. Vegans simply bypass the animal and get their protein directly from the source: plants.
  • 2) Broccoli has more grams of protein per calorie than steak. So does kale. So does Romaine lettuce. Mom and Pop never took a class in nutrition so they never learned that fuckin’ “rabbit food” has more protein per calorie than steak. As my pops might say, who’da thunk it? But that’s not all. Broccoli and the rest also have more iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, folate, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin E per calorie than steak. Veggies also have more, way more, fiber, vitamin C, Vitamin A, and beta-carotene than steak…because steak has precisely *zero* of these nutrients. And veggies have more, way more, many orders of magnitude more, phytochemicals and antioxidants than steak because, again, steak has *none* of these cancer-fighting, cholesterol-lowering micronutrients.

Beans, legumes, seeds and nuts are also packed with protein. So toss some chickpeas, walnuts and pumpkin seeds on your spinach salad, then make like Popeye and go kick a pansy meat-muncher’s ass.

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Crucial point: it is the *protein* we need, not a specific type of food that contains protein. Meat contains protein that we need to eat but we do not need to eat meat to get the protein. Even if, thanks to the hunting prowess of our troglodytic ancestors, a meat-adaptive gene were somehow embedded in our genome - let’s call it the Burger gene, which phenotypically expresses itself whenever we walk past the supermarket meat counter or drive past a McDonalds - we need not conclude from this that meat is, should be, or must be an essential part of our diet. Again, we can get all the protein we need from plants. The same goes for every other essential nutrient, with the sole exception of vitamin B12, which is readily available through fortified foods and/or supplements. The fact is, if you eat animal products, you do so because you *want* to, not because you *have* to.

Exactly why humans associate eating animal protein with superior size and strength is a mystery given that the biggest and strongest land animals on earth eat nothing but vegetation. Maybe you’ve heard of them: hippopotamuses, giraffes, rhinoceroses, buffaloes and elephants. Unless I’m terribly mistaken, elephants neither grow to their mammoth size nor acquire their prodigious strength by eating other animals. No, I’m pretty sure elephants grow big and strong by eating plants.

Speaking of plants…

Leo expresses another common and equally baseless objection to veganism when he says:

“Plants have feelings too. It’s a matter of fact. They feel pain even.”

Inexplicably, instead of challenging Leo’s idiotic assertion, Rhona accepts it as fact! In an admission most unbecoming of a karmically-concerned New Ager who believes that “everything is connected” and that “all beings are one,” Rhona says that although plants can feel pain, she neither cares about nor empathizes with plants because, I kid you not, she can’t “snuggle up next to them.” This is her rebuttal. This is how she justifies eating plants - plants that she evidently regards as sentient. Oh yeah, but of course: the decision whether to inflict pain, suffering and death on a sentient being hinges on a deep philosophical question: can I snuggle up next to it? If snuggling is not an option, then anything goes - so feel free to brutalize that worthlessly unsnuggable creature with as much gusto as you can muster.

But wait, let me rack my brain and see if I can come up with a better argument. Hold on, I’m brainstorming here. Yes, yes, an idea is forming now. Just a minute. Almost there. Eureka! By George, I think I’ve got it! How about this? To experience pain one must have a brain. A plant has no brain. Therefore, a plant cannot experience pain.

Only a brainless human would contend that a brainless plant feels pain. And Rhona, I’m afraid, is nothing if not brainless. Not to mention karmically fucked.

Even Daniel Chamovitz, an authority on the biology of plants who argues that plants can respond to sights, sounds and smells, told Scientific American that “just as a plant can’t suffer subjective pain in the absence of a brain, I also don’t think that it thinks.” He goes even further on his blog: “so if suffering from pain necessitates highly complex neural structures and connections of the frontal cortex, it follows that plants obviously don’t suffer - they have no brain. Your plants may ‘know’ what’s happening, but frankly my dear, they don’t give a damn.”

And *that* is why, my dear Rhona, you need not give a damn about plants: because plants don’t give a damn about themselves. But maybe plants just need a little lovin’, so go snuggle one.

Even if plants could suffer pain, that would be no reason to stop being vegan. Veganism would still cause less harm to plants than non-veganism for this reason: non-vegans slaughter countless plants to feed to and fatten up the sentient animals they in turn slaughter and eat. Fact: it takes about 16 pounds of plant protein to produce a pound of steak. So to those meat-munchers who say that plants feel pain I say this: every time you sit down to a steak dinner, just remember that you’ve got 16 pounds of plant pain on your plate. How do you sleep at night knowing that you’re responsible for the suffering and death of all that sentient vegetation? If you truly care about the plants - and you must, otherwise you wouldn’t be arguing that they can feel - there is something you can do for them right now, today: GO VEGAN, because veganism minimizes the harm done to poor, defenseless plants. So, I repeat: Go VEGAN! Do it for the plants.

Plants: sentient since 1960.

A more sophisticated but no more persuasive argument related to plants not raised by Leo is this: the number of wild animals killed in crop production exceeds the number of *pasture-raised* animals killed for meat.

Note that this argument applies only to ruminants raised on pasture such as cattle, sheep and goats. No one would be foolish enough to make such a claim about commercially farmed chickens, pigs and feedlot ruminants because before these animals go to slaughter, at a fraction of their natural life spans, they consume astronomically more harvested crops than humans. It makes no sense to argue, with regard to factory farmed animals, that vegans kill more animals than non-vegans, given that meat-munchers fatten up the billions of farm animals they eat each year on harvested crops whose production kills untold numbers of wild animals. In short, meat-munchers not only *intentionally* kill vastly more animals than vegans, they also *unintentionally* kill vastly more animals than vegans.

And make no mistake: unless there is a dramatic paradigm shift toward veganism, factory farming ain’t goin’ away. As a practical matter, the quaint family farms of yesteryear, where happy animals once grazed peacefully on verdant pastures before going on a leisurely drive to the slaughterhouse to be humanely exsanguinated, cannot possibly supply the overwhelming demand for animal products. Only hyper-efficient factory farming has the wherewithal to churn out the massive amounts of meat, eggs, and dairy needed to satiate the voracious appetite of the non-vegan. (By the way, you are either deeply deluded or willfully ignorant if you think that “happy” meat from “jolly” farms and “friendly” slaughterhouses doesn’t involve significant suffering and death. It does, so stop lying to yourself.)

But imagine that by some miracle everyone and his gristle-gobbling grandmother agreed to forgo chicken and pig and eat only grass-fed ruminants. (Wait. Give up bacon and wings? Perish the thought!) Could this newfangled animal-eater legitimately claim that he causes less harm to animals than vegans?

Short answer: Nope.

Longer answer: I’m afraid not.

Longest answer: http://www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/1mc

The longest answer is a link to an exhaustively researched study that decisively debunks the animal-gobbler’s argument.

The introduction explains why the argument fails:

“In a 2003 article in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Steven Davis advanced the argument that fewer animals would be harmed if we consumed a diet containing large herbivores (namely cattle) fed on pasture than if we consumed a vegan diet, based on his calculation that more wild animals would be killed in crop harvesting than in producing food from a ruminant-pasture-forage system. Gaverick Matheny identified a crucial error in Davis’s calculation: it assumed that equal amounts of land will produce equal amounts of food from crops or from animals on pasture. In fact, an amount of land will produce much more food when used to grow crops for direct human consumption than when used to raise cattle, provided it is suitable for growing crops. Once Matheny corrected the calculation, Davis’s argument made the case for, rather than against, a vegan diet, given an objective to cause the least amount of animal death.”

Crucial point: because an acre of cropland produces so much more food for so many more people than an acre of grassland used to raise ruminants, far *fewer* animals are killed *per consumer* in crop production than are killed in raising animals on pasture.

The chart below, which provides an eye-popping visual snapshot of the study’s results, leaves no doubt as to which food system kills more animals.

Finally, as a moral matter, there’s a difference, is there not, between *accidentally* killing animals in crop production and *intentionally* killing animals for food? Intention matters, no? Yet some animal-eaters would have us believe that, since wild animals are unintentionally killed in the harvesting of crops, it’s perfectly okay to deliberately breed, fatten, slaughter, and devour farm animals by the billions every year, even though it isn’t nutritionally necessary to do so. What nonsense. Vegans do not bring billions of animals into existence year after year for the express purpose of fattening them up for slaughter and eating them, just to titillate their taste buds. Animal-gobblers do.

Here’s what vegans do: 1) reject outright the intentional killing of fellow sentient beings, and 2) seek ways to improve harvesting methods so that fewer animals are accidentally killed in the process.

I ask you: which way is more humane?

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It’s only a matter of time before the self-justifying animal-gobbler brings up “nature” - and it doesn’t take Leo long to go there:

“Humans are animals and animals eat each other. That’s how nature works. And guess what? We are part of nature. It’s no big deal, it’s just nature.”

Yes, humans are animals. Yes, (some) animals eat other animals. Those are facts. Here is another fact: humans have no nutritional *need* to eat animals. Here is yet another fact: unlike nonhumans, humans can reflect morally on the issue and choose not to kill and eat animals.

Given that we have no nutritional need to eat animals, and that we have the cognitive capacity to make the moral decision not to eat them, we are left with a few simple questions: why choose to eat animals when we have no nutritional need to do so? Why choose to eat animals when we can choose not to - when we can choose to eat something else instead? Why not bypass the supermarket meat, dairy and egg aisles and toss only veggies, fruits, beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds into the shopping cart?

Callous animal-gobblers might respond this way: “I kill and eat animals because I *want* to not because I have to. I want what I want and have no *need* to justify my predilection for animal products. I kill and eat animals because they taste good. And I don’t give a fuck what happens to animals on their way to my stomach as long as they arrive there. Pleasuring my palate outweighs the mere life of an animal.”

I’ll say this for such an animal-gobbler: at least he gives an honest accounting of his heartless disregard for nonhuman life. For him, titillating his taste buds trumps the suffering and death of sentient beings. What is there to say to so coldhearted an animal killer as this? “Fuck off” sounds about right. So to him I extend my heartiest dactylion.

More often animal-gobblers try to justify their animal-gobbling by appealing to something over and above mere personal predilection. Eager to explain away their craving for animal flesh and secretions they point to something outside of themselves; very often that something is “nature,” which is precisely where Leo points. “Humans are animals and animals eat each other. That’s how nature works.”

But to argue as Leo does that it is natural and therefore okay to kill and eat animals because other animals do so is a fallacious appeal to nature. That nonhuman animals *must* eat other animals for survival has no bearing on the question of whether the human animal *should* eat other animals for pleasure. Yet Leo, an animal with the capacity to reflect morally on his own actions, appeals to the actions of animals with no such capacity for moral guidance.

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Not for nothing is he named Leo, which means “lion” in Latin. (Leo the Lion is also the famous MGM mascot.) Peering through his safari binoculars, Leo observes that lions chase, catch, kill and eat buffaloes, and therefrom concludes that it is perfectly fine for him to drive to the supermarket and buy a steak. “Look, see what lions do? They eat buffaloes, therefore I must eat cows.” Leo fancies himself an apex predator atop an imaginary food chain doing what his Paleolithic ancestors did: stealthily stalking prepackaged prey at Kroger armed only with a crude hunting weapon fashioned out of plastic called a credit card. Yes, Leo is at the top of the food chain in that he hunts for food at the top supermarket chain.

Imagine Leo at the supermarket:

 ”Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat.

As a carnivorous apex predator, I am constitutionally incapable of not eating meat. Make no mistake: me must eat meat. I hunt for food at the top supermarket chain; therefore, I am at the top of the food chain. I must wheel my shopping cart up and down and all around the meat aisle because my Paleo-powered brain constantly sends me urgent pro-meat messages in the form of inner whispers: “Beef is what’s for dinner.” “The other white meat is what’s for lunch.” “The incredible edible egg is what’s for breakfast.” “Get milk.” Whence do these messages originate? Surely not from the meat, dairy and egg industries, for I am impervious to Madison Avenue brainwashing. No, no, the messages emanate from a more primal source - namely, the tiny Paleolithic caveman residing within the innermost recesses of my brain. It is he who whispers these must-eat-meat exhortations. And it is to him I owe my allegiance. Hail to the Stone Age homunculus in my mind!

I am powerless to resist the dictates of my prehistoric brain. I must obey the whispering troglodyte in my head. Bypassing the meat, dairy and egg sections at Kroger is unthinkable. My legs dutifully follow a mandate to walk to the meat counter. My mouth is forced to order ground beef. My hand is compelled to reach for milk and eggs. What’s more, buying bacon strips is indelibly etched into my genome. I can do nothing about it. I just find myself involuntarily tossing body parts into my cart. I am merely the locus through which a biological imperative to eat animals operates.

Beans bad. Grains bad. Meat good! Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat.”

Inspired by Leo and other wannabe troglodytes, I hereby propose the Meat-Muncher’s Mantra: “Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat. Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat….”

Still, as stirring as the Meat-Muncher’s Mantra may be, I can’t help but notice that Leo is mighty selective about where he casts his field glasses. Hasn’t he observed a male lion taking over a pride from another male and killing the ousted predecessor’s cubs? In one fell swoop the lion eliminates a rival and the rival’s offspring and brings the female into heat so as to have his own offspring by her. Why not emulate this leonine behavior? What better way to maximize your reproductive fitness! Why not kill some guy and his kids and then rape the wife/mother so that *your* genes rather than *his* get passed on? No biggie, right? It’s perfectly natural. After all, lions do it. And if lions do it, why shouldn’t we?

As for our Paleolithic ancestors, it is a typical phenomenon, is it not, associated with evolutionary development that competition for limited resources be exploited as a means of displacing or eliminating weaker organisms and/or weaker groups of organisms? By outcompeting other tribes for resources we guarantee our tribe’s success and eliminate the other tribes. So let’s do it. No biggie, right? It’s perfectly natural. After all, cavemen did it. And if cavemen did it, why shouldn’t we?

And therein lies the problem with basing one’s morality on “nature.” What evolution has wrought often bears little resemblance to what is generally considered “moral behavior.” Few of us would be moved to consider it moral to kill off an entire people. Likewise, if only we’d reflect on it for a minute, few of us would be moved to consider it moral to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on sentient nonhumans.

One more point about “nature.” By arguing that eating meat is natural, Leo implies that veganism is unnatural. He’s suggesting that whereas he possesses a natural inclination to eat animals, Rhona’s veganism constitutes an artificial constraint she’s imposed upon herself on the basis of her own experience. That is nonsense. Since the human animal has come into existence through strictly natural processes and nothing else, we cannot but act, in every instance, in complete conformity to nature. All that we are has been produced by nature, including our moral sentiments, which occur in us just as naturally as any other desire. Leo’s implied distinction between natural and artificial is a false dichotomy: Rhona’s moral concern for exploited animals is just as natural as Leo’s selfish desire to eat them.

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So much for Leo’s main arguments. Here are my replies to a few other things he says:

“Like you said 95%. Like they say about McDonalds, how can a billion people be wrong?”

Leo needs to crack open an introductory textbook on logic and look up argumentum ad populum. Inside he’ll discover that an appeal to what the majority likes or believes is a fallacious argument.

“You got a cause? Great. But don’t come around telling 95% of the population that they’re butchers.”

It is true: 95% of the population do not themselves butcher animals. But 95% of the population pay butchers to do what butchers do, which is butcher animals for 95% of the population to eat. He who pays a butcher to butcher an animal is as responsible for the butchering of that animal as the butcher.

“It may allow you to live mentally in a self-satisfied state of idealism. But what you are onto here is contributing absolutely nothing to the greater good.

The only one satisfying himself here is the guy pleasuring his palate with animal flesh. And veganism does contribute to the greater good. It contributes to the greater good of *nonhuman animals* (not to mention the planet). Ya see, my friend, doing less harm to nonhumans necessarily contributes to their greater good.

“You know what your problem is? The fact that you’re a philosophical person. We do not live in a philosophical world. And since people have been around there have been philosophers doing their damndest to tell us why we shouldn’t fight, or we shouldn’t kill, or we shouldn’t eat meat. But generation after generation, human nature reveals itself to be reliant upon all such things.”

What past generations did has fuck all to do with what I decide to have for dinner tonight. I don’t need a philosophy degree to choose not to victimize innocent animals. Just a functioning conscience.

2013 NOFF AWARD WINNERS

Oh yeah, almost forgot: here are the winners of the 7th Annual Noff Awards!

And here are the 189 eligible films I’ve seen:

ABC’s of Death, The
Absentia
Act of Killing, The
Afternoon Delight
All is Lost
All the Light in the Sky
Alyce Kills
Amazing Ocean
American Hustle
American Mary
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Angels’ Share, The
August: Osage County
Band Called Death, A
Bastards
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
Battery, The
Bedeviled
Before Midnight
Berberian Sound Studio
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc - The Egg of the King
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 - The Battle for Doldrey
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 3 - Descent
Beyond the Hills
Birders: The Central Park Effect
Birth of the Living Dead
Bitter Buddha, The
Blackfish
Bling Ring, The
Blue Caprice
Blue is the Warmest Color
Blue Jasmine
Buffalo Girls
Butler, The
Byzantium
Call, The
Canyons, The
Captain Phillips
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Computer Chess
Conjuring, The
Counselor, The
Croods, The
Crystal Fairy
Dallas Buyers Club
Dark Skies
Dead Man’s Burden
Dead Sushi
Despicable Me 2
Dirties, The
Drinking Buddies
Drug War
East, The
Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
Elysium
Enough Said
Ernest & Celestine
Escape from Planet Earth
Escape from Tomorrow
Europa Report
Evil Dead
Exhibitionists, The
Frances Ha
From Up on Poppy Hill
Frozen
Fruitvale Station
Gangster Squad
Garden of Words
Gimme the Loot
Ghosts in Our Machine, The
Girl and a Gun, A
Graceland
Grandmaster, The
Gravity
Great Beauty, The
Heat, The
Her
Hijacking, A
History of Future Folk, The
Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The
Horrible Way to Die, A
How to Make Money Selling Drugs
Hunt, The
Iceman, The
In a World…
Inhuman Resources
Inside Llewyn Davis
In the House
It’s a Disaster
Jeffrey Dahmer Files, The
John Dies at the End
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
Last Stand, The
Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, The
Laurence Anyways
Let the Fire Burn
Leviathan
Like Someone in Love
Lords of Salem, The
Lovelace
Magic Magic
Mama
Maniac
Missing Picture, The
Monster in Paris, A
Monsters University
Motorway
Much Ado About Nothing
Mud
Museum Hours
My Amityville Horror
Nancy, Please
Nebraska
New World
Oblivion
Off Hours, The
One Life
Only God Forgives
Out of the Furnace
Oz the Great and Powerful
Pacific Rim
Painting, The
Paradise: Love
Passion
Past, The
Philomena
Pieta
Place at the Table, A
Place Beyond the Pines, The
Post Tenebras Lux
Prince Avalanche
Prisoners
Rambler, The
Reality
Resolution
Room 237
Rush
Selfish Giant, The
Short Term 12
Side Effects
Sightseers
Silence, The
Simon Killer
Sleep Tight
Sound City
Speciesism: The Movie
Spectacular Now, The
Spring Breakers
Star Trek Into Darkness
Stoker
Stories We Tell
Student
Sun Don’t Shine
Superman: Unbound
Talking Cat!?!, A
This Is the End
To the Wonder
Touch of Sin, A
Touchy Feely
True Nature
Turbo
12 Years a Slave
20 Feet from Stardom
Twixt
Unspeakable Act, The
Upstream Color
Vanishing Waves
V/H/S/2
Violet & Daisy
Wall, The
Warm Bodies
We Are What We Are
Welcome to the Punch
Wind Rises, The
Wings of Life
What Maisie Knew
What Richard Did
Wind Rises, The
Wolf Children
Wolf of Wall Street, The
World’s End, The
World War Z
Would You Rather
Wrong
Wrong Cops
Wuss
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
You’re Next
Zero Killed

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BEST PICTURE

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American Hustle Before Midnight Berberian Sound Studio Blue Jasmine Frances Ha

 

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Inside Llewyn Davis Only God Forgives Sightseers Spring Breakers 12 Years a Slave
And the Noffscar goes to: Before Midnight 

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BEST DIRECTOR

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Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers Richard Linklater for Before Midnight Nicolas Winding Refn for Only God Forgives David O. Russell for American Hustle Peter Strickland of Berberian Sound Design
And the Noffscar goes to: Richard Linklater

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BEST ACTOR

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Christian Bale in American Hustle Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis
And the Noffscar goes to: Ethan Hawke

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BEST ACTRESS

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Amy Adams in American Hustle Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy in Before Midnight Jade Dornfeld in Alyce Kills Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha
And the Noffscar goes to: Cate Blanchett 

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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Jeffrey Combs in Would You Rather Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave William Fichter in Wrong James Franco in Spring Breakers James Gandolfini in Enough Said
And the Noffscar goes to: James Franco

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave Sarah Paulson in 12 Years a Slave Kristin Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives
And the Noffscar goes to: Sally Hawkins

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BEST SCREENPLAY

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Before Midnight Blue Jasmine Frances Ha Nancy, Please Sightseers
And the Noffscar goes to: Before Midnight 

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BEST EDITING

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Berberian Sound Studio Let the Fire Burn Only God Forgives The Past Spring Breakers
And the Noffscar goes to: Berberian Sound Studio 

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

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The Grandmaster Gravity Only God Forgives Spring Breakers 12 Years a Slave
And the Noffscar goes to: Gravity

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BEST SCORE

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twelve_years_a_slave_xlg1.jpg

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Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 - The Battle for Doldrey Listen

Maniac 

Listen

Listen

Only God Forgives

Listen

Listen

Listen

12 Years a Slave

Listen

Listen

 

Zero Killed 

Listen

And the Noffscar goes to: Only God Forgives 

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BEST ART DIRECTION/SET DESIGN

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The Great Beauty Inside Llweyn Davis Her The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh Only God Forgives
And the Noffscar goes to: The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh

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BEST SOUND

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All is Lost Berberian Sound Studio Leviathan 12 Days of a Slave Upstream Color
And the Noffscar goes to: Berberian Sound Studio 

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BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

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Beyond the Hills A Hijacking In the House Laurence Anyways The Past
And the Noffscar goes to: The Past 

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BEST DOCUMENTARY

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The Act of Killing Birders: The Central Park Effect The Ghosts in Our Machine The Jeffrey Dahmer Files Let the Fire Burn
And the Noffscar goes to: Let the Fire Burn 

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BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 - The Battle for Doldrey Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 3 - Descent

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Wolf Children

And the Noffscar goes to: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 

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BEST ORIGINAL SONG

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“A Girl and a Gun” from A Girl and a Gun

Listen

“Juno” from Maniac

Listen

“Funky Baiser” from A Monster in Paris

Listen

“La Seine” from A Monster in Paris

Listen

“Nosferatu, Me and You” from Twixt

Listen

And the Noffscar goes to: “La Seine” from A Monster in Paris 

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BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

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Gravity The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Oz the Great and Powerful Pacific Rim

 

The World’s End
And the Noffscar goes to: Gravity

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BEST SCENES

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Before Midnight:

Lover’s quarrel in hotel room 


Berberian Sound Studio: 

Credits to fictional Giallo film

Watch

Maniac:

Murder set to ‘Goodbye Horses’  

Watch

Much Ado About Nothing:

Party scene/’Hey nonny-nonny’  


Passion:

Murder/ballet split/screen 


 

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Post tenebras lux:Opening

 Watch

Spring Breakers:

“Everytime”

Watch

20 Feet from Stardom: 

Merry Clayton returns to the studio where she sang backup on ‘Gimme Shelter’ - “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away!” 

Watch

The Wolf of Wall Street:

Delayed drug effects

Watch

Wrong:

Meeting Master Chang in the forest

Watch

And the Noffscar goes to: The Wolf of Wall Street 

EARTHLINGS (SHAUN MONSON, 2005)

“Of all the films I have ever made, this is the one that gets people talking the most. For every one person who sees Earthlings, they will tell three.”  Joaquin Phoenix

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If you eat, wear clothes, or use products, then you ought to watch Earthlings.

Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, Earthlings brings the viewer face to face with a few of the billions of otherwise anonymous animals who suffer terribly and die brutally every second of every day in every place throughout the world for the products you use, the clothes you wear, and the food you eat. That humans inflict so much suffering and death on so many nonhumans year after year for nothing more than hamburgers, fur coats, cosmetics, and countless other such trivial items is an enduring testament to our callous disregard for our fellow Earthlings.

Step back for a moment and consider what we are doing to animals at fisheries and hunting preserves; on fur farms and factory farms; and inside testing labs and slaughterhouses. Behold the magnitude of the bloodshed and the heartless efficiency with which it is perpetrated. The *hundreds of millions* of land animals killed each year by hunters, by furriers, in medical labs and in pounds account for only a miniscule *2 percent* of the total number of land animals killed annually. Farm animals bear the 98% brunt of the slaughter. Hundreds of millions? Pfft. The United States alone raises and kills about 10 *billion* animals a year for food; worldwide, the figure balloons to a staggering 57 *billion.* (Tack on another *trillion* for fish and other aquatic animals.) Only one word does justice to what this is: a holocaust. As Isaac Bashevis Singer said via one of his characters: “In relation to animals, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”

Of course, the difference between the animal holocaust and the Jewish holocaust, other than that the former involves the slaughter of sentient nonhumans and the latter involved the slaughter of sentient humans, is that the Nazis sought to eradicate Jews once and for all, whereas farming continuously creates and destroys animals by the billions year after year after year after year…

By providing a horrifying glimpse inside of the farming industry’s carefully concealed torture chambers and death houses, Earthlings throws the grim reality of the animal holocaust into stark relief.

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“Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a
slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.” - Theodor W. Adorno

If the tragic plight of animals does not bother you, then fuck off.

If their plight does bother you, then watch Earthlings. Do not look away and pretend that this horror is not happening. It is happening, everywhere, at all times, and each one of us is a direct participant in it. If you think you’re not involved, that your hands are clean, you’re deluded: he who pays someone else to slaughter an animal for him is as responsible for the agonizing death of that animal as the one who wielded the knife.

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A problem with Earthlings is that it fails to make clear that the overwhelming amount of suffering and death on display is completely *unnecessary*. I’d like to rectify that shortcoming by pointing out three facts:

Fact 1: We do not *need* to eat animal products.

Fact 2: We do not *need* to wear animal skins/furs.

Fact 3: We do not *need* to use products tested on animals.

Keep these facts in mind while watching Earthlings.

Allow me to elaborate a bit on fact 1 and explain why I have gone vegan:

1. We can be perfectly healthy without eating animals. We do not *need* to eat animals. Eating animals is *unnecessary.*

If you think that eating meat, dairy and eggs is necessary, that’s because you and virtually everyone you know have been indoctrinated into believing so by none other than the meat, dairy, and egg industries. There’s a word for the dissemination of such misinformation. It’s called propaganda. You, my friend, have been duped. No one other than those with a vested interest in these industries maintains that it is medically necessary to consume animal products. Indeed, there is widespread consensus across the spectrum of health care organizations that a well-planned vegan diet not only provides all the necessary nutrients but also offers optimal protection against cancer and heart disease. If you doubt this, allow me to disabuse you of your doubt with some (sausage-free) links:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, has stated:

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357

The Cleveland Clinic, one of the best hospitals in the United States, has stated:

“Eating a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet can be a healthy, exciting alternative to traditional meat-based meal planning. Obtaining proper nutrients from non-animal sources is simple for the modern herbivore. There is a wide variety of vegetarian/vegan-friendly meat/dairy/egg replacements currently on the market. Recipes are abundant on the Internet as well as in a variety of vegetarian cookbooks.”

“There really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet! A plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health.”

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/understanding-vegetarianism.aspx

The Mayo Clinic says:

“A well-planned vegetarian diet is a healthy way to meet your nutritional needs. A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vegetarian-diet/HQ01596

Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation says:

“Vegetarian diets can provide all the nutrients you need at any age, as well as some additional health benefits. Vegetarian diets often have lower levels of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than many meat-based diets, and higher intakes of fibre, magnesium, potassium, folate and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Vegetarian diets may lead to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, healthier weight and less incidence of Type 2 diabetes, all of which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.”

http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484249/k.2F6C/Healthy_living__Vegetarian_diets.htm

The American Heart Association says:

“Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients.”

“Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.”

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp

The American Cancer Society says:

“Some studies have linked vegetarian diets to lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. A strictly vegetarian diet must be properly planned to be sure it provides all the required nutrients.”

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/vegetarianism

The American Diabetes Association says:

“A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes. In fact, research on vegan diets has found that carbohydrate and calorie restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss and lowered participants’ A1C.”

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/meal-planning-for-vegetarians/

Dietitians of Canada, one of the largest organizations of dietetic professionals in the world, has stated:

“A vegan eating pattern has many potential health benefits. They include lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Other benefits include lower blood cholesterol levels and a lower risk for gallstones and intestinal problems. This eating pattern can take some extra planning. Vegans must make sure that enough nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins D and B12 and omega-3 fats are included. A well planned vegan diet can meet all of these needs. It is safe and healthy for pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies, children, teens and seniors. A variety of plant foods eaten during the day can provide enough protein to promote and maintain good health.”

http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vegetarian/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx

The British National Health Service, the largest and the oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world, has stated:

“With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.”

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegandiets.aspx

The British Nutrition Foundation, team of nutrition scientists that conducts academic reviews of published research on issues of diet and public health, has stated:

“A well-planned, balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate.”

“Studies of UK vegetarian and vegan children have revealed that their growth and development are within the normal range.”

http://www.nutrition.org.uk/publications/briefingpapers/vegetarian-nutrition

The Dietitians Association of Australia has stated:

“Vegan diets are a type of vegetarian diet, where only plant-based foods are eaten. They differ to other vegetarian diets in that no animal products are usually consumed or used. Despite these restrictions, with good planning it is still possible to obtain all the nutrients required for good health on a vegan diet.”

http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/vegan-diets/

The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a branch of the USDA, has stated:

“Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients.”

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/tips-for-vegetarian.html

The National Institutes of Health, the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research, has stated:

“People who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need.”

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/vegetariandiet.html

The Perelman School of Medicine, a medical school ranked second for research in 2012, has stated:

“A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health. Eating a vegetarian diet can help you reduce your chance of obesity; reduce your risk of heart disease; lower your blood pressure; lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.”

http://www.pennmedicine.org/encyclopedia/em_DisplayArticle.aspx?gcid=002465&ptid=1

The New York Presbyterian Hospital, an esteemed university hospital system affiliated with two Ivy League medical schools, has stated:

“A vegetarian diet may take a little extra planning—especially at first—but it is easy to learn how to ensure your diet is healthy.”

“People who follow a vegetarian diet are relatively healthier than those who don’t. Vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of obesity and fewer chronic health problems, including some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.”

http://nyp.org/wellness/showDocument.php?contentTypeId=1&contentId=1876&heading=Vegetarian+Diets%3A+The+Myths+vs.+Facts

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the largest medical centers in the world, has stated:

“A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health.”

http://www.upmc.com/healthlibrary/Pages/ADAM.aspxGenContentId=002465&ProjectId=1&ProductId=1

The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, one of the top three hospitals in the US, has stated:

“If properly planned, a vegetarian diet can be healthy.”

“Some of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet may include decreased blood cholesterol levels
and blood pressure; lower incidence of heart disease, some forms of cancer, and digestive disorders like constipation and diverticula disease; lower incidence of obesity and some forms of diabetes.”

http://www.dining.ucla.edu/housing_site/dining/SNAC_pdf/Vegetarianism.pdf

Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States, has stated:

“Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”

http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html

Now that you’ve been thoroughly disabused of the troglodytic me-must-eat-meat myth, allow me to repeat the simple, incontrovertible fact with which I began:

1. We can be perfectly healthy without eating animals. We do not *need* to eat animals. Eating animals is *unnecessary.*

2. We don’t just eat animals. We eat *sentient* animals. A sentient animal is one who is subjectively aware, perceptually alert, sensate and conscious (although not necessarily self-conscious in a human-like way.) A sentient animal has interest, wants, and desires. A sentient animal has an interest in staying alive. A sentient animal wants to be comfortable. A sentient animal desires freedom of movement. A sentient animal seeks pleasure and avoids pain. A sentient animal *feels.* Make no mistake: the farm animals we eat are as sentient as the companion animals we love.

A handful of benighted souls still cling to the absurd and discredited Cartesian conception of animals as mere automatons devoid of conscious experience. But anyone who has ever held a blissfully purring cat or been greeted by an excited dog with tail wags and tongue licks knows that Descartes’ impoverished characterization of animals as empty machines is wrong on its face.

That animals are sentient strikes most of us as self-evident. But it’s always nice when science authoritatively confirms what we already know, and a group of prominent scientists recently did just that, declaring unequivocally that nonhuman animals possess conscious awareness. Here’s an excerpt from The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness:

“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

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This newborn calf, still wet with amniotic fluid and already tagged for slaughter, was yanked away from his mother at birth by a two-legged monster and will spend the rest of his short life in the cramped confines of a veal crate. Yet another innocent victim of the dairy industry.

3. By virtue of their sentience, farm animals have the capacity to suffer, and suffer they do at factory farms and slaughterhouses, which are nothing if not places of torment. Few of us would willingly step foot into such hellholes, but farm animals spend the entirety of their joyless existence there. They are born into them. And in them they die. Please understand: the vast majority of the *billions* of animals we eat *annually* suffer mercilessly from birth to slaughter, first enduring confinement, enslavement and torture, and then meeting a brutal, terrifying death. Then we, the consumer, after paying someone else to slit their throats for us, devour the butchered corpses of these once-sentient beings for no better reason than that their flesh titillates our taste buds.

The heartless commodification of these sentient nonhumans is deeply saddening. Sadder still is that the animals we exploit, torture, kill, chop into pieces, slice into shreds, roll into balls, skewer on sticks, roast in ovens, fry in pans, char on grills, stew in pots, spin on rotisseries and greedily deposit into our ever-expanding gullets have done *nothing* to us to deserve the ultra-violence we ruthlessly visit upon them.

Throughout their lives these animals sought kindness but found only cruelty; sought companionship but found only solitude; sought pleasure but found only pain; sought comfort but found only misery; sought freedom but found only captivity; sought life but found only death. Their will to live remained strong to the last, permeating every atom of their abused and exhausted bodies even as they were led onto the killing floor of the slaughterhouse, where the death house executioner awaited to snuff out their lives.

Ah, but they’re just animals, right? Sure, they’re sentient. Sure, they had wretched lives and horrific deaths. Sure, all that agony and carnage was utterly gratuitous. But fuck ‘em. They taste good. Let ‘em be McNuggeted, Whopperized, and packaged and sold to children as Happy Meals. As Ronald McDonald said, “Nothing brings joy to a child like the corpse of a slaughtered animal.”

Doubtless a significant portion of the population does not give a shit about animals. If you are one of those people, then fuck off.

If you are not one of those people, that is, if you are someone who cares about animals and does not want to see them suffer and die needlessly, then please keep reading.

earthlings9.jpg

4. Do you oppose inflicting *unnecessary* suffering and death on sentient beings? Do you oppose *needlessly* harming defenseless animals? Do you oppose animal cruelty?

If you answered “Yes” to the above questions but continue to eat, wear and use animals, then your professed values do not align with your behavior. To eat animals is to participate in animal cruelty. To eat animals is to needlessly harm them. To eat animals is to support inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on sentient beings.

You cannot reconcile caring about animals with killing and eating them. To say that you are against imposing gratuitous suffering and death on animals as you chomp on a mouthful of pig is absurd. Caring about animals is not consistent with harming them or paying someone else to harm them for you. Stabbing defenseless animals in the neck or paying someone else to stab them in the neck for you is an odd way to show that you care.

There is only one way to align your values with your behavior: GO VEGAN

5. I used to eat a variety of animals. Animal flesh tastes good. I get it. So what?

Cats and dogs taste good too. Just ask the Koreans.

earthlings5.jpg

From what I understand, human meat, otherwise known as “long pig,” is downright scrumptious. Not only zombies hanker for human flesh. Fijians regarded the flesh of the human as the food of the gods. The Tupinambás preferred human meat to all other kinds. Māori warriors relished the delicious taste of their enemies. The Aztecs too were fond of long pig. One of their favorite recipes was hominid stew flavored with peppers, tomatoes, and squash blossoms. Mm Mm good! People…it’s what’s for dinner.

Lest you think cannibalism is a thing of the past, think again. Roasted human head was on the menu at this restaurant, which proudly catered to its cannibalistically inclined patrons. Sure, the dish was a bit pricy, but what do you expect? Hominid head is a delicacy.

So let’s review. Dogs taste good. Cats taste good. Humans taste *the best.* So what?

Is palate pleasure a good reason to impose suffering and death on dogs, cats and humans?

If you think so, then fuck off.

If you don’t think so, then ask yourself this: if palate pleasure is not a good reason to inflict suffering and death on cats, dogs and humans, why then is it a good reason to inflict suffering and death on chickens, cows and pigs? Like all sentient beings, farm animals want to live a normal life with a chance to pursue their interests free from pain, fear and violent death. Does your palate pleasure trump their basic desire to live unmolested? Are you okay with depriving them of everything that could make their lives worth living, and subjecting them to the horrors of the abattoir, just so you can indulge your appetite for chicken wings, hamburgers and pork chops? I hope not.

Victimizing defenseless animals because they taste good is barbaric. Count me out. I can please my palate just fine without participating in animal cruelty.

Watch Earthlings. Make the connection. Reject speciesism. Go vegan.

SPECIESISM: THE MOVIE (MARK DEVRIES, 2013)

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Speciesism: The Movie is the thinking person’s animal rights movie, the intellectual companion piece to The Ghosts in Our Machine. Drawing upon the philosophy of Peter Singer, the Princeton professor whose seminal 1975 book, Animal Liberation, is considered a classic of the animal rights movement, Devries’ film advances the position that no rational justification exists for excluding other sentient animals from the realm of ethical concern, and that causing them unnecessary suffering is a violation of our most basic moral principles.

No, the film ain’t gonna win an Oscar. But it is, at least, thought-provoking. Mostly I’m plugging it for this reason: I feel obligated to be a voice for the mute suffering of non-human animals. What happens to factory farm animals on their way to our stomachs is an abomination. Let’s be honest: if you or I did to our cats and dogs what is regularly done to chickens, cows, and pigs, we would be arrested on felony cruelty charges. So if you’re opposed to animal cruelty (and who among us isn’t?), please give this film a look. On behalf of the billions upon billions of sentient creatures who suffer mercilessly from birth to slaughter so that we may enjoy our fried eggs, milkshakes, bacon strips, and hamburgers, I thank you.

Click to visit the official page.

PARADISE LOST: A BLOODY DEBATE, WEST OF MEMPHIS

Count Dracula: This is very old wine. I hope you will like it.

Renfield: Aren’t you drinking?

Count Dracula: I never drink…wine.

bela-lugosis-dracula-cape-up-for-auction1.png

I regret to inform my readers that this blog has been co-opted by Cinatas Cinap and Retro P. Pus. As such, my role here has been relegated to that of debate moderator. Hello, my name is Al A. Vomit, the blogger formerly known as Mat Viola. Tonight’s debate will focus on Exhibit 500. Introduced by the defense during the penalty phase of Damien’s trial in an effort to keep him off death row, Exhibit 500 is an extensive record of Damien’s mental illness around the time of the murders, the contents of which make non-supporters rejoice and give supporters fits. But hear this: emotional outbursts from the audience will not be tolerated - no cheering or booing, applauding or hissing, high-fiving or jeering.

The debate format is as follows: I’ll introduce a topic from Exhibit 500. The participants will debate it. And I’ll put a stop to it when I can stand the lunacy no longer. To ensure the participants adhere to this agreed upon format, electrodes from my trusty electro-shock generator have been attached to the foreheads of Messrs. Cinap and Pus, allowing me to zap them with 450 volts of electricity should their commentary stray off point. However, I also reserve the right to zap them for the sheer fun of it. Zapping is at my sole discretion.

First issue: Damien’s penchant for consuming human blood. That Damien had, and perhaps still has, a hankering for blood is not in question. Damien himself admits as much. The question is, so what? What does it mean? Is he a vampire? Does he suffer from Renfield’s Syndrome? Does he have an iron deficiency? Whatever the case, his taste for blood is well-documented. One notorious incident occurred during Damien’s September 1992 stint at the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center:

“Approx. three hours after Damien arrived, he was sitting in rec. area with several other residents. One of the boys had scraped his arm a little, and it was bleeding some. Without warning, Damien grabbed the arm that was bleeding, and began to suck the blood from it.” [Page 464 ]

Mr. Cinap, you won the coin toss, so you’ll go first. The floor, I’m afraid, is yours.

Cinatas Cinap: Before I discuss Damien’s twisted predilection for human blood, allow me to expose Exhibit 500 for the unholy abomination it is. First, notice that, alphanumerically speaking, Exhibit 500 adds up to 10. Now, Exhibit 500 actually consists of 509 documents. If you add those 9 additional documents together you get 45 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9 = 45)

45 + 10 = 55.

55 + 500 = 555.

Basic occult numerology tells us that 555 used three times and reduced to a number is a hidden 666.

555 = 15 = 1 + 5 = 6.

555 = 15 = 1 + 5 = 6.

555 = 15 = 1 + 5 = 6.

Therefore, Exhibit 500 is actually Exhibit 666. In other words, it’s Exhibit Satan.

Oh goodie, I get to test out my electro-shock generator.

Cinatas Cinap: YOWCH! My but that stings like the dickens! Why in tarnation did you do that?

Cut the numerology claptrap, Cinap. Veer from the issue again and the voltage increases. Now, why does Damien have a taste for blood?

Cinatas Cinap: A “taste” for blood? That’s like saying pigs have a “taste” for slop. That Charles Bukowski had a “taste” for booze. That William S. Burroughs had a “taste” for smack.  Echols doesn’t have a “taste” for blood…he has an all-consuming, unquenchable, vampiric craving for it. Echols is to blood drinking what Kobayashi is to hot dog eating. Echols can quaff a barrel of blood faster than a partying frat boy can shotgun a can of beer. Echols chases a shot of Cub Scout blood with a decanter of toddler blood. Echols…

Retro P. Pus: Please zap that insufferable tub-thumper, would ya?

Retro P. Pus: YOWIE! Man oh man that smarts!

Let’s get something straight. Nobody tells me when or who to zap or not to zap. I zap when and who I want to zap. Stay on point, Pus.

Retro P. Pus: I have just one thing to say: Damien does not drink blood:

Retro P. Pus: See? He licks blood.

Cinatas Cinap: Ha! Undead revenants like Echols don’t “lick” blood. They drain it. As in, from your body. As in, all 10 pints of it. Your body is to Echols as a plant is to a sap-sucking aphid.

Retro P. Pus: Damien is constitutionally incapable of lying. If he says he licks, he licks!

Cinatas Cinap: Damien is constitutionally incapable of not drinking blood. He drinks!

Retro P. Pus: Licks.

Cinatas Cinap: Drinks.

Retro P. Pus: Licks.

Cinatas Cinap: Drinks.

Retro P. Pus: Laps.

Cinatas Cinap: Swigs.

Retro P. Pus: Sips.

Cinatas Cinap: Slurps.

Retro P. Pus: Takes a little nip.

Cinatas Cinap: Guzzles 7% of your body weight.

Retro P. Pus: Wets his whistle.

Cinatas Cinap: Soaks his horns.

Retro P. Pus: Gingerly samples.

Cinatas Cinap: Aggressively chugs.

Retro P. Pus: Delicately tastes.

Cinatas Cinap: Violently gulps.

Cinatas Cinap: OUCH! Jiminy Crickets! It burns, it burns…

Retro P. Pus: OW! Criminy, my body’s a throbbin’!

Shut…the fuck…up! Never mind how much blood Damien ingests. The question is, why?

Cinatas Cinap: Because drinking blood gives him power.

Retro P. Pus: Pfft. Blood is mostly water. Just a bunch of cells designed to absorb and deliver oxygen. Hardly a nutritious food for humans. I mean, a unit of blood gives you roughly 100 calories from albumin, sugar, and fat, and 350 calories from hemoglobin. That’s a whopping 450 calories per unit! Wow! What a source of power! Damien might as well eat a donut.

Cinatas Cinap: First of all, who said anything about human? Echols is undead. As such, he has no resting metabolism calorie requirement; hence, he needs far fewer calories than a human. Second, if you think Damien limits his daily intake of blood to a mere unit, I have a story about Metallica-listening teens who got falsely accused of murder to sell you. Third, and most important, Damien doesn’t drink blood for its nutritional value. He drinks it for the same reason mortals drink Red Bull: for an energy boost. Blood is the energy drink of choice among walking corpses. It gives cadaverous Damien his vigor, his oomph, his get-up-and-go. Without it he’d just be lying around the crypt all day, miserable and depressed, complaining about how fatigued he is. But it’s not really about the blood per se. He’s got a more sinister underlying motivation. You see, by drinking blood, Damien absorbs the victim’s life-force. Forget sugar. Forget protein. Forget fat. Damien sucks souls. Damien chews Chi. ‘tis thence he gets power.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, inanity billows out of your mouth like pollution out of a smokestack.

Cinatas Cinap: Pus, the truth must ride on infrasonic sound waves to your ears - because you can’t hear it.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, the truth is to your big mouth as light is to a black hole.

Cinatas Cinap: Pus, the truth frightens you, which is why you flee from it like a nun from a dildo factory.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, idiocy oozes from you like oil from a pimply-faced adolescent.

Cinatas Cinap: Pus, one more word out of you and I’ll kick your ass. Just shut up!

Retro P. Pus: You shut up!

Cinatas Cinap: No, you shut up!

Retro P. Pus: No, you shut…

Retro P. Pus: EEEYOUCH! Gadzooks! You’re really puttin’ the hurt on me now!

Cinatas Cinap: AAARGH! Egads! Ya got me good that time!

Mr. Cinap, apologize to Mr. Pus.

Cinatas Cinap: I’ll do no such thing…

Cinatas Cinap: OW! Alright, alright…Pus, I sincerely apologize for the dildo comment and whatnot.

Mr. Pus, apologize to Mr. Cinap.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, I’m truly sorry for the mean and nasty things I said about your oozing idiocy and billowing inanity.

Retro P. Pus: OW!

Increase the sincerity or I increase the voltage.

Retro P. Pus: Okay. Mr. Cinap, no words can express how deeply sorry I am for whatever I said and what have you.

Ok, carry on, Mr. Cinap.

Cinatas Cinap: First, let me say that I have the utmost respect for my worthy opponent. I hold the eminent Mr. Pus in the highest regard. Really. I truly do. I’m not just saying that. Having said that, Damien drinks blood. Only a complete moron would think otherwise. Furthermore…

Wait, what did you say?

Cinatas Cinap: Damien drinks blood.

After that.

Cinatas Cinap: Furthermore.

Before that. You said something under your breath.

Cinatas Cinap: No…no I didn’t.

Yes, you did. Let’s play that back, amplified.

Cinatas Cinap (recorded and amplified): Only a complete moron would think otherwise.

Cinatas Cinap: ZIPPITY ZAPPITY FUCKING DO DA! Ok, ok, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Reasonable people can no doubt reach different conclusions on this issue. Please accept my humble apology. My contrition is bone deep.

Ah, aversive conditioning is a beautiful thing. Start over, Cinap.

Cinatas Cinap: Damien drinks blood. But not just any blood. Damien prefers chillun’s blood. Why? Because the younger the body the purer the blood, and the purer the blood the more power Damien derives from it, and the more power Damien possesses the easier it is for him to infect others with his vampirism, and the more vampires he creates the easier it will be for him and his minions to eradicate our chillun, and eradicating our chillun spells the end of the human race. Don’t you get it? The juvie hall incident was just the beginning! Damien is a Vampire Regent with an insatiable thirst for the lifeblood of innocent young’uns. He must be stopped before it’s too late for us all.

Retro P. Pus: I respectfully beg to differ with my esteemed opponent. Intelligent people can reasonably disagree on this issue…but the fact is, you’re dead wrong and I’m indisputably right. Damien *licked* that boy’s scrape to hasten the healing process. You see, due to a benign genetic mutation, Damien’s saliva is awash with antibacterial and antiviral enzymes, the curative properties of which promote wound healing. Just as Saint Mary Magdalena of Pazzi cured a nun of sores by licking her wounds, so Damien cured the injured boy by licking his wound. Far from being a blood-drinking vampire, Damien is a wound-licking healer. He’s a mender, a shaman, a curandero, a medicine man whose medicine comes from an inner wellspring of cleansing spittle. Not for nothing did Damien take the name of Saint Damien of Molokai, the martyr of charity who selflessly cared for lepers until he died of the disease himself. One day Damien will be known, not as the West Memphis Boogeyman or the Witch City Bugaboo, but as Saint Damien of the Arkansas trailer parks.

Cinatas Cinap: I say this with all due respect to the honorable Mr. Pus: Poppycock! No, scratch that - Cockypop! Fact: Cub Scout blood contains regenerative properties essential for the health and well-being of animated cadavers. Fact: Damien is an animated cadaver. Fact: Undead Damien regularly replenishes himself with revitalizing Cub Scout plasma so as to acquire the energy needed to help his Pa bring about the Apocalypse. Deny these patently obvious truths at your peril.

Retro P. Pus: I humbly put it to my distinguished challenger that he’s blowing a minor incident out of proportion with inflammatory rhetoric. Notice how innocuous the original incident report was:

“Approx. three hours after Damien arrived, he was sitting in rec. area with several other residents. One of the boys had scraped his arm a little, and it was bleeding some. Without warning, Damien grabbed the arm that was bleeding, and began to suck the blood from it.” [Page 464 ]

Retro P. Pus: Now see how the story grows increasingly sensationalistic with each telling, going from a level-headed description of Damien’s beneficent wound-licking to satanicky panicky embellishments about Damien’s sinister vampirism, much of it originating from none other than vampire and demon hunter extraordinaire, Jerry Driver:

“Knocked him down to the ground, sucked the blood from the arm, rubbed it over his face and body, and say he is a blood sucking vampire. . .  also grabbed another person and tried to suck their blood.” [Page 341]

“Hit male who cut wrists sucked blood of male.  Smeared blood on self.  Made statements indicating belief he is a vampire who worships the devil.” [Page 366 ]

“While in the detention center, Damien witnessed a co-patient slashing his wrist. Damien is reported to have knocked the co-patient to the ground and began to suck the young man’s blood…was observed sucking the wrists of the young man and smearing his blood over Damien’s body.  [Page 374-375 ]

Cinatas Cinap: There’s nothing embellished or sensationalistic about it. Damien not only drank from that poor boy’s arm like a parched Bedouin at an oasis, he ripped the lad’s limb off at the shoulder, clubbed everyone in sight with it, and smeared the gushing hemoglobin all over his face and naughty bits while maniacally declaring himself a devil-worshipping, blood-chugging vampire.

Retro P. Pus: Hey Cinap…ever wonder what it’s like to be a fear-mongering, rumor-spreading, misinformation-spouting, twaddle-spewing, rabble-rousing, monosynaptic, infrahuman zealot? Well, wonder no more. You’re a natural.

Retro P. Pus: AHHHHH…! My deepest apologies to Cinap! Respect!

Cinatas Cinap: Instead of defending Damien from me, you should be defending yourself from Damien. With permission from moderator Vomit, I’d like to cover what the citizenry needs to do to ward off Damien.

Proceed, Mr. Cinap.

Cinatas Cinap: Thank you, Mr. Vomit. Ladies and gentlemen, listen up. The Echols menace is a matter of grave concern. And I mean that literally. The Pus’s of the world would have us believe that Damien is harmless. Better than harmless, in fact. He’s a magickal medicine man committed to improving our collective lot in life - a fuckin’ do-gooder! The reality is far more sinister. Damien wants you to believe what Pus believes. Damien wants to give you a false sense of security. Why? Because then you’ll let your guard down. That’s when Damien will swoop in and massacre the populace. So pay attention! What I’m about to say is of the utmost importance. Heed my words or die. It’s that simple. To stay alive you must arm yourselves with apotropaics aplenty. Now hear this: Follow my instructions without the slightest deviation or, make no mistake, the end is nigh:

1) Build a moat around your house and fill it with holy water. Holy H2O is the Echols repellent par excellence. It is to Damien as sulfuric acid is to mortals. He won’t dip his little toe in there.

2) Bloodthirsty corpses like Echols despise hallowed ground. So dig up the consecrated dirt from your local churches and spread it evenly around your yard. Damien won’t step foot on it.

3) Sprinkle mustard seeds on the roof of your house. Don’t ask why. Just do it.

4) Tattoo a crucifix in the center of your forehead and on each butt cheek. That way you’re protected from top to bottom and front to back.

5) Eat raw garlic daily and DO NOT brush your teeth. Repeat: DO NOT brush your teeth. Never ever again. Pucker up for a kiss if Damien approaches and watch the alliumphobic fiend flee.

6) Purchase firearms for everyone in the family, including the chillun, and load them with sacred silver bullets. Making holy bullets is a snap: simply inscribe a silver coin with a cross and forge it into the shape of a bullet. If Damien comes a knockin’, blow his preternaturally pale ass back to the stinking bowels of Hell from whence he came.

7) To counter Damien’s malevolence, keep your body and spirit pure by crumbling Eucharist wafers on your breakfast cereal. [Warning: This does not work with Count Chocula, Franken Berry or Boo Berry cereals.] These blessed crackers also go well with soups, salads, and pasta sauce. You can even try them with your favorite dips, be it sour cream, salsa, hummus or guacamole. Added bonus: Christ’s crackers are surprisingly nutritious.

8) Beat Damien at his own game: Imbibe a carafe of the blood of Christ daily. With the Holy Spirit coursing through your veins, Damien is sure to go suck some heathen’s neck instead.

9) Keep a tanning lamp in every room of the house. Not only will the artificial sunlight repel the heliophobic Echols, but you’ll get a beautiful golden brown tan to boot.

10) Never leave home without a wooden stake. Why? Because Damien never leaves home without his staff - aka a big old stick. If you run into him you’re sure to find yourself fencing Damien to the death. So be on guard! You must plunge the stake into his decomposed heart before he disembowels you with his staff. Of course, you could simply blow his decayed brains out with your silver-bullet gun, but that wouldn’t be very sporting.

Are you quite done?

Cinatas Cinap: Almost. Only about fifty more essential vampire antidotes and repellents to go through.

Cinatas Cinap: YOW! BLISTERING BARNACLES! leck mich am Arsch!

Let’s translate that from German to English.

Cinatas Cinap (recorded and translated): Lick my ass!

Well, Cinap - what do have to say for yourself?

Cinatas Cinap: Das tut mir Leid?

You’re done. Go ahead, Pus.

Retro P. Pus: Defend myself against a piddling blood licker? Pfft. Why, Damien Echols can lick my blood anytime. I’d be honored to have Mr. Echols lick my wounds. And I stress *lick*.

Cinatas Cinap: If Damien doesn’t drink blood, why did he tell his counselor that drinking blood makes him feel like a god?

“He obtains his power by drinking blood of others. He typically drinks the blood of a sexual partner or of a ruling partner. This is achieved by biting or cutting. He states “it makes me feel like a God”.  [Page 52 ]

Retro P. Pus: He was misquoted. Damien didn’t say he drinks blood; the shrink did. Damien’s no biter either. He’s a licker, not a biter. A lover, not a fighter. This is just another example of people putting words in his mouth. And of course he felt like a god! When you’re blessed with magickal healing powers, how else are you supposed to feel?

Cinatas Cinap: Amazing how you dismiss Damien’s theomaniacal ravings. You won’t be so dismissive when he’s got his fangs sunk in your jugular vein. Only then, as the lifeblood slowly drains from your body, will you realize how damning Exhibit 500 is.

Retro P. Pus: Exhibit 500 is jack shit, wrapped in fuck all, inside not a goddamn thing.

Cinatas Cinap: What a contemptible potty mouth!

Retro P. Pus: Aww, did I injure Cinap’s pansy ass delicate wittle sensibilities?

Word of advice, chaps: my hand is on the button of my electro-shock generator.

Retro P. Pus: Let me rephrase: Exhibit 500 amounts to nothing. It’s rumor, gossip, hearsay, anecdote, allegation, assertion, misinformation, hyperbole, sensationalism, embellishment, exaggeration, and confabulation more than documented fact. It certainly doesn’t prove Damien killed those kids, nor does it place him at the crime scene.

Cinatas Cinap: I say this with all due disrespect and with the utmost disregard for my dishonorable opponent…

We all heard that, Cinap. You’re not fooling anyone. But carry on…

Cinatas Cinap: If nothing else Exhibit 500 sheds light on Damien’s disintegrating mental state at the time of the murders.

Retro P. Pus: It sheds light on the mentality of satanicky panicky Bible belters bent on railroading a sensitive kid simply because he was a bit unconventional.

Cinatas Cinap: Right, it’s just “a bit unconventional” to sacrifice your firstborn to Satan!

Retro P. Pus: Quick! Call an exorcist! Mr. Cinap is possessed by the satanicky panicky spirit of Jerry Driver!

Hear that ominous hum coming from the electro-shock generator? That’s bottled up electric current itching to roast a couple of nuts.

Cinatas Cinap: Fact: That there was no blood at the crime scene proves Damien was there. He drank it all.

Allow me to put this into syllogistic form:

1: Damien drinks every drop of blood spilled in his vicinity.

2: Robin Hood Hills was in Damien’s vicinity.

3: Blood was spilled in Robin Hood Hills.

4: Police found no blood in Robin Hood Hills

5: Therefore, Damien drank it.

I defy you to find a flaw in that reasoning.

Retro P. Pus: Ah, but blood was found at the scene; Luminol testing detected it. The area “lit up like a Christmas tree” when Luminol was applied. That proves Damien wasn’t there, because if he had been, he would have drunk it all.

1: Damien drinks every drop of blood spilled in his vicinity.

2: Robin Hood Hills was in Damien’s vicinity.

3: Blood was spilled in Robin Hood Hills.

4: Police found blood in Robin Hood Hills.

5: Therefore, Damien didn’t drink it.

Cinatas Cinap: Ah ha! So you admit that if Damien had been there he would have drunk all the blood.

Retro P. Pus: Yes, Damien would have drunk it all had he been there. But since blood was detected, it follows, ipso facto, that he didn’t drink it. Hence, he wasn’t there. Hence, he’s innocent.

Cinatas Cinap: Ipso facto? Try Ipse dixit. Fact: Damien was there. Fact: Blood was detected. Conclusion: Damien doesn’t drink blood. He licks blood, as he himself admits.

Time to roast these nuts.

Sorry folks, that’s all the time we have. There’s much more to discuss about Exhibit 500. Perhaps I’ll schedule another round of debate. In the meantime, go watch West of Memphis and see if there’s any mention of Damien’s taste for human blood.

Cinatas Cinap: Don’t watch that lousy piece of propaganda! Watch the biopic of Damien instead. It’s called The Omen.

Retro P. Pus: West of Memphis is the unvarnished truth!

Al A. Vomit