Dream of the Dragon

Month: August, 2010

Eating Cartoons

by Justin

Even in my more carnivorous days the practice of anthropomorphizing the source animals never made sense to me, especially since it usually took the form of a joyous cartoon character.

The last neighborhood I lived in was largely Latin American, and the local carnicerias often had some winking cow or top-hat tipping pig on the awning. When I ate meat, part of the joy in eating came from the ease in ignoring the animal slaughtered to provide the food. But going to a Carolina BBQ restaurant and seeing Porky grinning up, even as a kid that was a little unsettling.

Maybe the idea, not necessarily unsuccessful for most of its audience, is to present the animal as an enthusiastic participant and even an advocate for the consumption of his or her species. You know, if a cow threw a comic grin at me and pleaded that I eat his brethren (or him) maybe I’d oblige. As I consider it, those cartoon icons may in reality (?!) be a dark cannibalistic element in the ranks of other pigs, cows, and chickens. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ground Zero Mosque

by Justin

Let’s first of all point out that the popular title I adopted for this piece, usually reserved for the feverish demagogues and their pigheaded followers, is itself misleading. The proposed mosque will be built two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center,but the title suggests the mosque will be built on top of the ashes. And were that the case, I’ll concede that it would be insensitive and bizarrely prejudiced toward the Muslim community affected by 9/11. But this Islamic community center and mosque will be at some distance and represents a beautiful opportunity for the United States to rise above prejudice and recommit to a legacy of tolerance and acceptance.

The debate on this proposal has been raging for some time, the petty and ignorant crawling our from beneath their fundamentalist rocks to assault the very foundations of American liberty. That foundation being religious freedom. There are legitimate reasons to be opposed, to at first be insulted and contest that hey, maybe there’s no good reason to invite controversy so close to such a recent tragedy. I understand that the Islamic community in general had its image tarnished in the minds of many Americans in the wake of 9/11, people making the unfortunate and perhaps involuntary mistake of allowing Al-Qaeda to represent an entire religion. It happens often in history that the loudest and most radical groups define public image, but the era of mass media should no longer permit that. Somehow, the fact that the GOP’s domestic agenda flagrantly favors only the wealthiest Americans and disregards the needs of the poor isn’t enough to throw them out of favor and out of office.

The point here is that there is considerable popular misconception about Muslims and an unfortunate mental association for many with Islam and 9/11. Read the rest of this entry »

Black Fashion – Vogue and the Oil Spill

by Justin

There’s a fine line between opportunistic exploitation and timely, topical art. It isn’t very hard to be inciting and controversial in the interest of generating an audience – you don’t need to look past GOP campaigns and demagogues. But sometimes controversy emerges because the artist tapped smartly into the pulse of something unspoken and framed it just right to make people uncomfortable. It’s rare and wonderful when art (and journalism) does that.

This entry into the debate comes courtesy of Vogue Italia, pouncing on the BP oil spill catastrophe and marrying the harrowing imagery of a ruined coastline with high fashion. I personally appreciate how layered my immediate reaction was – I couldn’t condemn, endorse, or dismiss the spread right out the gate. That, at least, suggests that photographer Steven Meisel‘s work isn’t completely any one thing. It is absolutely morbid, and the use of inky feathers and a model coughing up water plants the shoot comfortably in the realm of the grotesque. But it’s also kind of beautiful if you’re down with the darker side of things. Read the rest of this entry »