Victoria Jelinek


WALL-E
September 17, 2018, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Film reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wall-E-Movie-PosterHumanity has abandoned planet earth, leaving behind them a fleet of robots to clean up their mess. When the movie opens, however, the only one of these robots remaining is WALL-E who is fascinated by garbage, cleaning it up each day, as he’s programmed to, and taking various ‘treasures’ he finds back to his home. His enchantment switches to a new target when a super-robot EVE touches down, looking for signs of life on earth.

Released ten years ago, I watched this again recently with my young son after seeing a small robot that cleaned a pool at a hotel we stayed at – day in, day out, without stopping – that reminded me of WALL-E. It was in this re-watching, though, with our ever-growing global behavior of consumption and waste, that I truly appreciated the ambition, charm, and visual wit of Pixar’s film. The story can only be the result of inspiration and passion rather than marketing meetings and focus groups, ‘cause WALL-E brings a message about being nice to our planet and the evils of big corporations (ironic, yes, given Disney owns Pixar, but hey ho, this film was made). The setting, a future earth composed of great skyscrapers of trash reaching toward a permanently overcast sky, is prescient. As are the signs for a mega corporation, “Buy and Large,” dotting the nihilistic landscape. While our hero speaks maybe four words – and he has no mouth, no eyebrows, no thumbs – everything WALL-E feels is perfectly palpable and authentic. He is one of the most expressive characters developed in animation. It’s in the nervousness of his gesticulations, the tilt of one of his lamp-like eyes, and his emotive sounds (designed by Ben Burtt, the man who gave us R2-D2’s beeps and tremors) that he is empathetic and believable. Meanwhile, the humans have been reduced to fat toddlers living in Lazy-Boy-type electronic recliners in space, whose every need is met with a touch of the screen that is perpetually in front of them. Enter WALL-E, who reminds us all what is important in life.

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do, with or without children. WALL-E is, arguably, Pixar’s most brilliant film in a canon of excellent films produced by the studio. It’s a hopeful film that reminds us of what it is to feel joy.

 

Advertisements


Entreaty to Herbivores WITH ADDENDUM
June 15, 2016, 6:32 am
Filed under: From the Soap Box | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Addendum to the piece, below

“Only I can change my life, no one can do it for me.” Carol Burnett

I actually began doing research on the environmental effects of eating meat shortly after writing this piece, and in September of 2016 I reduced my eat consumption by 90%. In essence, while I still am hurt and irritated by the people who were combatively proselytizing (& just being plain mean), I have since evolved and changed my ways…

That said, I will keep this post up as evidence of my previous ignorance and petulance on the subject…

To my recently converted vegan eating friends,

plaice_16x9Congratulations on your vegan diet! I’m glad that you’ve found something that you want to do to help the environment and your general health. I’m pleased that you’re contributing to the overall welfare of the collective. Really I am.

But even though I’m super happy for you, I get upset when you talk about your vegan diet and put down meat eaters as barbaric dimwits. I’m a meat eater. But you know that – we’ve had Sunday Roasts together. While it’s arguable that I’m a dimwit, I don’t believe I’m barbaric and cruel. And what about the golden rule? You’re treating animals better than I may, but you’re putting me down in the process of justifying your diet. I might evolve from my place lower than you on the evolutionary chain, but your lectures and accusatory tone may prompt me to crawl right back into the water, leaving my shell on the shore.

Last week alone I suffered three separate people in Chamonix Valley who have recently made this lifestyle change, proselytizing to me about veganism. Each of them explicitly and implicitly told me that if I continue to eat meat I don’t care two shits for the environment, about other living creatures, or my own body. I didn’t engage in argument. I mean, I don’t really care about my own body, and I should given that I’m aging and that’s a horrendous process…I tried to let it ‘roll off of my back’ and not to let my eyes glaze over, attributing their antagonism to early zeal, but the third novitiate made me angry (and hurt, if I’m to be honest): I ran into this friend in the parking lot of the primary school and excitedly mentioned that my husband and I are replacing our very old car with a hybrid. He told me in a flat, contentious voice, “You should become a Vegan if you really want to help the environment.” While I stumbled a bit with a reply, muttering “Oh, gee…um…” he immediately suggested, “You could stop commuting to Geneva for work.” As I scratched my head to figure out a polite way to stop this conversation, he rapid-fire-suggested, “You could stop visiting your family and wasting jet fuel.” I spluttered a “Oh. My. Well now…” Without hesitation, he went on to tell me that the “best” thing I could do (in addition to the aforementioned) was to keep the old car on the road and not cause the industry and subsequent pollution that happens with the creation of a new car. That I wasn’t serious about the environment if I’m unwilling to do the previously stated things. Awkward. I think I said something innocuous and superficial like, “Oh…well…okay. Then I’ll see you around,” and drove off with the belt of my coat stuck in the car door.

These interactions prompt me to write this letter now. I feel that I must justify my existence as a meat eater. And while I risk being a hypocrite ‘cause I’m now exhorting you, the reader, to my cause, and being defensive to boot, I’m also brave for defending my meat-eating ways which may, in the end, just reinforce the idea that I am a selfish, negligent nitwit who would sooner sacrifice kittens than give up something that pleases me.

So here goes:

My name is Victoria. And I’m a meat eater.

I wasn’t a big meat eater to begin with. We weren’t rich when I was a child and so we ate all kinds of awful meats that I wouldn’t touch, such as plaice, beef tongue, liver and pig’s feet. As a young adult in charge of my own dietary acquisitions, I found that I preferred to spend my money on drugs and entertainment. Granted, I did eat the odd slice of pepperoni pizza, but I can most definitely not be called a savage meat eater through most of the late 80’s and all of the 90’s. As a bona fide adult (meaning I pay my taxes, got married – again – am responsible for raising a child, pay my bills on time and don’t piss off my employers) I do eat more meat. But that’s primarily because I’m eating

three squares (or at least two) and it’s hard not to eat meat whilst still having a relatively diverse diet. Also, my son would never eat if he didn’t eat meat. Or at least he’d only eat starch and carbohydrates. (And don’t say that’s ‘cause we’ve allowed him to eat what he wants. That we’ve spoiled him. That we haven’t starved him enough. Short of tying him up with gaffer tape and administrating vegetables and fruits intravenously, we’ve tried everything).

I’m still making excuses for my addiction, I know, but we don’t consume a lot at home. And what we do eat is locally sourced. I know the animals I eat are still hung upside down, scared, and killed and that’s horrific, but I do spend the money and take the time to buy the meat in which the creature was at least allowed to enjoy their lives to that point. And, hopefully, in their nicer environments they were also spoken to softly and humanely as they were slaughtered. But I don’t think it’s fair to say I’m cruel to living creatures because I eat meat. I sign petitions to stop cruelty to animals. I support The World Wildlife Federation and National Geographic with annual cash donations. I pet wet, smelly dogs, including my own. I’ve taken in the neighborhood stray. But there I go justifying my behavior. The fact is, I like it. Especially the salty ones that originate from pig. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it sucks to feel judged and admonished about my meat eating ways and I don’t like it one bit. Please let me hit my own ‘bottom’ and reach the decision to stop eating it (and the rest) on my own.

This does not mean I’m not concerned about the state of the world. I’m deeply troubled by the world today, to the extent that it makes it hard for me to be happy at all with the myriad of global problems. My predisposition to neurosis is on overdrive these days, what with Trump, Brexit, Turkey, the Middle East, French strikes, mass shootings, environmental calamity, desertification, unfair wealth distribution, terrorism, human trafficking, the body’s resistance to antibiotics, etc. etc. It keeps me up at night. Seriously. Unless I take a pill (but now they’re prescribed, so that’s okay, right?).

With regard to the environment, I may not be a vegan, but I do many small things throughout every day in an effort to help save our planet:

  • We never dry our clothes in a dryer even though I really miss soft towels and jeans.
  • We don’t run water while we’re brushing our teeth, and my husband is a total soap dodger, so that’s water saved, too.
  • We don’t flush after each pee, adhering to the saying, “if it’s yellow, keep it mellow…”
  • We recycle, and flatten all the boxes and bottles.
  • We car share to the school most mornings (and we’ve attempted to involve two additional neighborhood families whose children go to the same place at the same time, to no avail, and despite their lamentations about environmental calamity…).
  • We don’t use harmful detergents and cleaners, even as I really miss the smell of Ariel.
  • As mentioned, our new car is a hybrid, and despite the fact that it’s just weird looking.
  • As mentioned, I didn’t eat much of anything through my childhood and into my adult years.
  • I spent most of my adult life without being the owner of a car, living in cities with true mass transit capabilities. That counts for something (How many of you can say the same?).

Yes, I’m flawed. I eat meat. I like it. I also eat gluten. And I eat dairy. I suffer a cheese belly due to my penchant for the stuff. I love milk in my coffee. I enjoy omelets and quiche (I’m getting hungry). Even as I’m still adapting and shaping my philosophy of the world, it’s not likely that I will convert to veganism anytime soon. I would like to do more to help. To have a big garden in which my husband grows vegetables and fruit, perhaps he’d even keep a few bees, but he’s busy at the moment earning money to put some kind of food on our table.

These recent conversations with these vegan disciples have left me disturbed and suspicious. Each person’s eye had the shine of a zealot. The imparting of their vegan information the air of proselytizing. The sudden popularity and timely coincidence suggests a fad. Growing up on the West Coast of the USA in the 1970’s, I met all kinds of charlatans who were apostles of Buddhism, Lao Tzu, Pluralism, Karma, Chakras, and astrology, with various accompanying diets, revered stones and/or crystals, yoga practices, and exercise regiments. Later, they became dot-commers and venture capitalists that “do” yoga and Pilates as part of their social role and follow folks on Twitter who practice “mindfulness” and positivity. These recent conversations with these vegan followers here remind me of home and those good old days…

But let’s get back to my central point – what’s up with the preaching and shaming? I have many old friends who are deeply devoted vegetarians. And a couple of vegans are among them. They don’t attempt to persuade me to their ideologies or make me feel bad about my own lifestyle choices. Perhaps they’ve lost their enthusiasm and it’s just a way of life. Perhaps they’ve ascertained that I’m a lost cause. Perhaps it’s ‘cause they know that I’m not a conspicuous consumer. That I’m not one of the bad guys.

Before my dad died, I used to frequently call him up after I’d watch the evening news (from any time zone), crying over the state of the world. In addition to the news, I’d be upset with the broadcasting itself, too, and what it implied about the world and its state of affairs also. My dad, a political activist, would always tell me: “Model the life you’d like. Try to live faithfully to your spirit and your values. Believe that the micro will affect the macro. Remember humor. And live and let live with critical insight, but not fast judgment.”



The Baby Diaries 22

“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in the our air and water that are doing it.” Dan Quayle

Mont Blanc TunnelLa Vallee de l’Arve, which is the region that encompasses the village I live in, has very polluted air. I believe that Paris and Marseille are the only other French places that have worse air (and they have a few more people). This is ironic, given that the area became a tourist destination – its primary source of income – in the late 19th century when the Victorians would come here for ‘the mountain cure’ of fresh air. The problem is primarily the result of transit through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, home heating (bad wood, fireplaces and chimneys that aren’t energy efficient), and the fact that the valley is so deep that it traps the air in it. All the expats complain about the air and attest that this will be the reason they leave the valley, ‘Poor little Junior can’t breathe and always has a cough.’ It’s true. My infant son often has a cough and after several visits to the doctor because of it, we’ve been told ‘C’est comme ca…c’est le Chamonix toux…” (It’s like that…it’s the Chamonix cough…). I, myself, am always congested here, and I find it odd when I return to London that my nose becomes clear again.

Recently, my husband and I received a letter home from the crèche (nursery) letting us know that they would no longer be going outdoors with the kids on days in which the pollution index was too high. Mon Dieu. Then, almost all of the doctors in the region signed a petition addressed to President Francois Hollande, stating that the air pollution in La Vallee de l’Arve is a health issue, particularly for the vulnerable, such as infants, children, and the elderly. I signed and sent this petition to everyone I know globally in the hope that by having folks of other nations sign it, maybe the powers-that-be would think that the tourist money will dry up if they don’t do something (god forbid they do it for the inhabitants).

Now there’s the proposal for a second Mont Blanc Tunnel, or, alternatively, the expansion of the current one, to increase the amount of transit and goods through the tunnel. As an aside, those that own the tunnel – a 50/50 partnership between ATMB France and SITMB Italy–pay for its upkeep and all of the overhead/salaries associated with the running of the tunnel, in the first six days of every month, so the rest of the month is pure profit. A second tunnel, or the widening of the existing tunnel, would be dire in terms of air quality. Ten years ago there was fierce opposition by local residents against plans to widen the tunnel, but it seems it’s back on the table again. The Swiss are busy building tunnels for trains through their country in the hope of increasing efficiency and not destroying the environment. But the French, and Italians on the other side, are extremely reluctant and claim it will cost too much money.

So, this last weekend there was a demonstration in Chamonix against the pollution, in which the highway, La Route Blanche (The White Highway), leading up to the Mont Blanc Tunnel, was closed so that protestors could walk it. I sent emails and text messages to all the expats in the valley I know (not many, granted, but a couple of dozen), many of whom are regularly complaining about this situation. But on the day, there were five expats I recognized there. The rest of the crowd of, perhaps, 150-200 people, were French, and included Chamonix’s mayor and various council folks. A disappointing turnout for the valley of 10,000 regular inhabitants and 90,000 saissonaires, but, then again, it was a good snow day. I did receive numerous text messages from my pals with various excuses about why they couldn’t participate, but they reflected their hypocrisy. At the march, I carried a HUGE sign with about 13 other people for the entire demonstration. It was very heavy and awkward to carry, but the spirit of the crowd was one of camaraderie, and the line of us carrying the sign joked together, often as a result of the French ‘lovey’ next to me calling out to folks passing in cars or on foot ‘cause she seemed to know everyone and was really charming. We marched down the highway and into town, then to the Mayor’s office where there were a bunch of speeches (of course). Yesterday, the Mayor travelled down to Paris to meet with someone in Hollande’s cabinet about the situation. I look forward to discovering what’s next. I’m still hopeful, despite my instinct telling me that apathy and commerce will rule the day…