Rules of Animal Cruelty

So I'm sitting here listening to "Embraceable You" over and over again. It ends, I press "left" and it starts over. Then it ends, and I press "left." And it starts over.

And I'm beginning to fall in love with Judy Garland. The first time, I felt nothing. Twinges of feelings crept in by the 5th. Now we're on the 12th time around or so, and I feel very vulnerable and emotional. I want Judy Garland to want me.

You see, I'm heading to San Francisco tomorrow to play the piano for a charity event. I had assumed I'd be playing background music. I figured I'd dabble around on the piano happily and do my thing, while checking out the crowd, reflecting on things in general, and looking around nervously for a potential 5-7 year old who might come over and begin banging on the high keys, which would in turn make me want to smash my face into the edge of the piano.

But then last week they called me and mentioned that it would be great if I could play "Embraceable You" to a singing duet. Unaware that people sang duets at charity events, I reluctantly consented. And since I play well by ear and read music terribly, I'm now here, cramming for the big moment, and hoping to spend the rest of my life with Judy.

Anyway, from San Francisco, I'm heading East for a week before returning (I'll be doing a CD signing at New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, MA on Sunday from 2-4, if you'd like to come by and say hi). This left me wondering whether it was okay to not write anything on the blog this week. I'm still not sure. But then this whole Judy Garland situation happened, and I had to tell someone, and you're such a great listener, so here we are.

And while we're here, I'll also mention something that I think everyone's kind of confused about—

I'm pretty sure people aren't really sure which animals it's okay to be cruel to and which ones it's not.

We all agree that it's not cool to be cruel to people. But after that it gets hazy. And people react to the confusion by forming extreme opinions, arbitrarily. Here's what the rules currently say about cruelty towards various animals:

-Horses: Cruelty is pretty much okay. New York is swarming with horses in bondage, head strapped in and all. They have, through no will of their own, committed their lives to being workers and slaves. And this is okay with everyone. There's even the whole "glue factory" joke, and no one cares.

-Dogs: Definitely no cruelty allowed here. Exceptions include dogs that lead the blind around all day, and dogs in LA that are dressed up in sweaters, scarves, and sneakers by their hot owners.

And look at this guy: www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/05/30/britain.man.dog.ap/index.html. This guy has gone completely insane because of the arbitrary cruel rules in society. And who can blame him?

-Cows: Some d-bags are concerned about cows, but basically no one cares. Bullfights, on the other hand, people get all worked up about.

-Ants: Cruelty is not only fine, it's hilarious. And I'm no exception. The ants in my ant farm have been living miserably in their own feces for weeks, and I think it's pretty funny.

-Whales: No cruelty whatsoever is allowed. And they take it a step further. People want to be so uncruel to whales that they end up being obsessed with uncruelty to whales. For example: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/05/30/delta.whales.ap/index.html. This is an article about two "lost" humpback whales, who accidentally swam into a delta. Rescuers have toiled for days now trying to get the whales back to their normal habitat in the ocean. Then, today, the whales were missing, and were presumed to have found their own way back into the ocean. The rescuers are now out on a second rescue mission, to search for the whales, just to make sure they got back safely. There are horses lining Park Avenue, but we need rescue crews to make sure a couple of idiot whales get back to their natural habitat.

This is extreme, over-the-top uncruelty. There are thousands of homeless people all over the place, and there are rescue operations committing a ton of time, money and resources to two lost fish. They could have built a homeless shelter with the money they spent on these whales-- not to mention that these two whales are undoubtedly homeless. Only homeless whales would end up aimlessly wandering into a delta. The rescuers could save the two whales and the whales would just end up using it to buy alcohol anyway.

At the end of the article, one of the rescuers issued this gem: "If we learned anything about these two, it is that they will do what they do when they want to do it." Apparently this was taken as a surprise. But I'm not sure why— in my experience, fish tend to live life on their own terms.

We are too uncruel to whales.

-Other fish: Cruelty is fine here. Fishing's fine with everyone, right? You know those d-bags who take a picture of themselves beaming, holding up a rod in one hand and a 4-foot swordfish-guy in the other? And that's like big bragging rights or something? Why is that better than killing a whale? Or a dog?

-Mice: No one has ever uttered any form of protest against "lab mice." Nothing could possibly be more cruel. But the rules say that this is completely fine. Why? Because they're small? Why is size such an important factor in whether cruelty is okay? Because they're dumb? That can't be it, because they're smarter than whales—if they can find the cheese in the maze they could definitely find their way from the delta back to the ocean. Because it serves a crucial purpose for humans? I guess this is a pretty good reason. But still.

-Chickens: In an upset, it's not okay to be cruel to chickens. Everyone's all worked up about the inhumane conditions that mass-produced chickens live in.

-Snakes: There are 4,348 times more protests about fur coats than snake skin or leather products.

Given that A) this is a hot topic, and B) I have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure people will be chiming in. But to me, sitting here, listening to "Embraceable You," these rules seem to be arbitrarily chosen, lacking rational reason. Which cruelty is okay and which is not seems to be based on human emotion, not any rational moral basis—we get much more upset by cruelty towards bigger, smarter animals. They're not innately more entitled to be treated well than any other creature, but they're more like us, so we get emotional about them.

To be honest, I don't even know what point I'm making here, nor do I care to better elucidate my own thoughts. I just felt like talking. And there you were. My sweet, irreplaceable you.

15 comments:

Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking Of Judy Garland, there is a new and exciting group on Yahoo called The Judy Garland Experience. The group features an amazing and ever changing selection of audio files. This week we are featuring Judy In Concert at The Back Bay Theater in 1968, Selections from Judy's 1950's radio work and television specials, songs and conversations from her aborted role in Valley Of The Dolls, and many other odds and ends (including highlights from a 1973 NY performance by Josephine Baker. "Why" you ask? You will just have to join and find out). The group also features lively discussions, rare photo's, thought provoking polls, and more!
The group's membership has an amazing assortment of people, including Garland family members, other people who knew Judy, people who saw Judy perform, author's, historian's, people who have made movies about Judy, plus fans of every level. The only thing missing is you. Please stop by our little Judyville and check it out. You may never want to leave!
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/thejudygarlandexperience/

Anonymous said...

hardest i've laughed in a long time.

Nick said...

I have a question? Actually I have a lot of questions, but I am only going to trouble you with one of many. I also play the piano, I love to play, and pretty much I play everyday. I've heard your music so I can say right now that I am not at anywhere near the same level as you, maybe the level you were at when you were 10, of course there is a chance that you were still better. Unlike you though, I read music really well, I can pick up a piece of music and sightread it almost perfectly the first time. I can't play be ear though. Not at all. I can't even play the simplest songs by ear. I also can't write my own music, although I have tried, it always comes out sounding like something that those 5 year olds you so detest would come up with. Sometimes I can sit and just play but it quickly either turns unbearable to listen to or into another song that I have played so many times that I now subconsciously play it, while attempting to be original. It would seem to me, that if you don't read music well it would be harder for you to write music, but clearly its not. Care to give a little insight into how that works, because I am extremely jealous.

Josh said...

I agree that the arbitrary decisions on animal cruelty are ridiculous. I once new a girl who was a vegetarian on ethical grounds. She wore leather and carried a leather handbag and when questioned on that she quickly stated that leather is just a byproduct of the slaughterhouse. I let her pass on that, but when I caught her relentlessly torturing a jellyfish I just about lost it. She said it was OK becuase, jellyfish don't have brains and can't feel pain. Suddenly she's a marine bioneurologist. Infuriating.

Also Tim, WHALES ARE MAMMALS, not fish.

Anonymous said...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20070531/cm_csm/ybauer;_ylt=Av4xe0.MUrhkrvX8kPOVHRRkM3wV

Anonymous said...

I think that a Harvard graduate realizes that whales are, in fact, mammals. Do you not see the humor in calling them fish?

Jhighi said...

Why weren't you this funny on the
show?

penny lane said...

Cruelty to horses is ok... unless you decide to eat them... I think that when it comes to meat eating then the rules become even more arbitrary.

By the way, you are quite gorgeous :)

clyde devins said...

No offense to Judy Garland ... but had you posted something about Elmer Fudd would you have then had a long diatribe about the Mel Blanc festival/concert in the park. [See first post on this page]. For some reason that type of self promotion needs to ridiculed. Ha ha ha ... now I feel better.

clyde devins said...

On a different note ... all puns aside ... if I were you ... I would wear dark ray ban glasses and instead of cheater notes on the lenses I would put stereoscopic images of Judy Garland in both lenses circa 1941 (you know to make her legal) and just sit back and play, man. Oh and Judy ... Don't be a naughty baby, Come to papa - come to papa

josh said...

No, I do not see the humor in calling whales fish. Please explain.

jaime said...

I really hope you took care of the whole Sunday Recap posting before you left - or that you'll do it from the east coast...

Tim Urban said...

nick-
when i write music, i don't actually "write" anything. i sit at the piano and compose something, and record it into Logic (a program on my computer)-- it never ends up on paper. the only time i'll put it on paper is when live musicians will be performing it (e.g. i used real strings and guitars on my album)-- and even then, i used a program called Sibelius to take it from Logic to sheet music. so for me at least, reading music is not needed in writing music.

Anonymous said...

I just learnt that it's okay to be cruel to chickens, since a chicken can ruin your life!

Anonymous said...

I think youre a pathetic excuse for a human being & and should get tortured like the animals you talk about.go back to school and get educated!