Guest Blogging on ZMEScience!

Check it out, I am finally publishing elsewhere than my homegrown free wordpress account! I wrote a guest feature for the science blog ZMEScience about the phenomenon of bachelorhood in the animal world. Why do bachelors exist? Why doesn’t natural selection stop this madness? Can Photoshop illustrations that Sarah spent way too much time on help us understand? Find out here!

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Your hobbies are your greatest assets.

There’s this weird story we tell ourselves that somewhere around the age of 20, we need to “grow up” and “buckle down” and “get serious” and “put in that hustle” and “find that thing” that’s going to define our careers and our lives. Around this time in my life, although I was barely aware of what was happening, I divorced myself from a bunch of things that had come to define me: I stopped dancing, I stopped playing video games, I stopped making art, I stopped doing creative side projects with no real purpose to them (see: a strangely large collection of video scrapbooks, video games, comics, and parodies of short stories made with my friends). All of my time became absorbed by The One Thing that was going to define my life from now on, and that was biology. Continue reading

Pioneering a genre: where environmentalist films like Okja need to go next.

Last week Netflix released the unusual hit Okja, a film laden with environmental messaging and directed by Snowpiercer’s Bong Joon-ho. The film centers on a young girl named Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) who has spent most of her life in the mountains of Korea raising a so-called “super-pig”: a massive genetically modified creature designed by an American corporation called Mirando to be a super-efficient, low footprint source of meat. A competition in which 26 super-pigs were distributed internationally to each be raised by a different family farm was used as a publicity stunt to launch Mirando’s marketing campaign. After 10 years, Mija’s pig named Okja is selected as winner and unceremoniously removed from its mountainside home to be transported to New York City for the grand announcement. Mija follows in hot pursuit, intent on recovering Okja and returning it home, but becomes quickly entangled with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) who also intends to rescue Okja.

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Mija and her hippo-like super-pig, Okja.

It seems temporarily that Mija and the ALF should have allied interests, but the ALF’s leader Jay (Paul Dano) reveals that they only wish to capture Okja temporarily in order to implant a recording device that will be used to expose the abuses they suspect to be occurring in the Mirando laboratory and slaughterhouse. Indeed, everything about Mirando seems too airbrushed to be honest, their CEO being played by an angelically beaming Tilda Swinton (who is subtly psychologically unhinged in that classic Swinton style). They even hire a somewhat manic zoologist named Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhal) to act as the face of the corporation, in an apparent attempt to lend the company scientific and ethical legitimacy. While the film makes some excellent statements about the dangers of corporate influence when it comes to managing environmental issues, I find that it unfortunately falls quite short of accurately representing the scientific community in its dystopian setting. Continue reading