Monthly Archives: August 2004

Animal testing crackdown

The animal rights people aren’t terrorists, not even the ugly ones wearing balaclavas and harassing researchers and their families – that’s just big pharma spin. They are stupid, though. Their story-book anthropomorphism is simple-minded, reductive and partial. Animal testing may offend you (it offends me – I’m as sentimental as the next man) and there are mature and sophisticated arguments against the subjection of one species by another and especially against our growing reliance on factory-farmed protein but the use of animals in research is a legitimate extension of domestication.

As a species we have put the animals around us to organised use for at least 10,000 years and this ongoing symbiosis has not imperiled or reduced our humanity – rather it has guaranteed it. Animal protein, muscle power and endurance have, to a large extent, made us what we are today. Animal testing, though it triggers some very basic and very understandable anxieties, will, like intensive animal rearing, continue. Our dislike of vivisection flows from our empathy and our squeamishness, from sensibilities developed through centuries of stories about cuddly woodland creatures, loyal pets and majestic wildlife. We’re obviously going to continue to produce these narratives (Nemo, Shrek, Animal Planet…) even while we quite happily process millions of beasts into mince and sausages and cutlets and bags of offal daily. In the meantime, sickening or not, we must continue to defend the animal testers – they’re the ones who have the stomach to do it for a living and the courage to keep doing so in the face of childish animal rights nihilism.

Half a kilometre and climbing…

Short piece from MIT’s Technology Review about the latest world’s tallest building – in Taipei – soon to be overtaken by several others, including the Twin Towers’ replacement (NY Times). I like skyscrapers. They speak to the 14 year-old in me and, since you just have to reverse those numbers to arrive at my current age, that sounds reasonable to me. Here’s the Taipei tower’s page from the wonderful SkyscraperPage.com (both articles require free registration).

Small amusements

a small amusement
Pages like this will one day form a sort of buried stratum from which info-archaeologists will reconstruct the texture of our time – or something. Russell’s been photographing those little rocking, beeping, coin-operated amusements they put outside supermarkets (well, anywhere actually). My kids love them, naturally enough, and I can’t get away with sitting them on an inoperative machine any more (“yes, that is all it does”)…

One great book, one bad one…

Here’s a beautiful book about The Marx Brothers and here’s a dreadful one about Groucho. The first, by movie comedy-specialist Simon Louvish, is warm, melancholy, loaded with incident, contemporary accounts, documentation, asides and – above all – funny material from the brothers’ long career on- and off-screen. The second, by Groucho expert Stefan Kanfer, is long, dreary, parsimonious and self-important. The first is a pleasure to open at almost any page and the second will send you to sleep in five minutes. The first is ‘a book about The Marx Brothers’, the second is – and very self-consciously – a proper biography of the act’s biggest star. Self-effacing, self-important. Scrapbook, monologue. You choose.

I think this must be the first time I’ve passed out a bad review here and I feel a bit shoddy about it. Bloggers usually only review stuff they love. I love Groucho, though, and every time I go on holiday I take something about him or the brothers to read. Louvish is a permanent pleasure and Kanfer really annoys me because I don’t think it should be possible to write such a mean-spirited book about such a big and complicated (and funny) man.