Friday, August 31, 2007

The Bacon & Porkchop Show

Another link from the editor of Porkopolis, this time to an animal act called the Bacon and Porkchop Show. According to an article in the Greeley, Colorado Tribune (here), John Vincent's performing pot-bellied pigs have been on the road for fifteen years. Although the pig known as Bacon died last year (see photo at right of Bacon raising the American flag), he has been replaced by a rescued pig called Mudslinger. The act also features a chocolate lab and five trained parrots. Vincent apparently uses popcorn to motivate his pigs (recall that oreo cookies seem to be the universal treat in pig racing setups) and notes that "Pigs, like most animals and humans, are products of their environment. If you're nice when you train them, they'll be nice pigs." This, of course, reminds me that I still have to create a post about pig training methods going back to William Frederick Pinchbeck and his 1805 book The Expositor. You can find more information about Vincent's show at the Top Hogs, Dogs, and Parrots site.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Armando Romero's "Pork Flakes (The Gladiator)"

I was visiting the Museum of Latin American Art here in Long Beach with my pal Lisa over the weekend when we saw this amazing painting as part of their exhibition "La Presencia: Latin American Art in the United States." There was no label for the painting on the wall, which was a bit strange. I looked at the exhibition catalog and didn't find it either, but did see a work in a similar style. Once at home, I got to work and finally tracked down Armando Romero's work. You can see five other of his works, most of which seem to be satires of master paintings, on artnet here. Based on what's there, this painting from 2006 is the odd man out, perhaps connoting a new direction in his work. All I know is that I love it.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pigs & Medieval Studies

In the Middle, a medieval studies blog, has had several recent postings about pigs by Karl Steel, one of their contributors. You can find them here sorted by keyword. One post concerns anthropophagus pigs--pigs that eat human flesh. I've mentioned this theme a couple of times, as it's one that comes up in HBO's late-lamented Deadwood and in the on-going trial of accused Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton (for the latest news about his defense, see this BBC account). There is also a post about the Testamentum Porcelli, a satirical last will and testament from a pig that was popular with the kids back in the fourth century. If you happen to read Latin, you can find a copy here. If, like me, you haven't worked on your Latin since high school, there's a great 1987 article about it called "The Testament of the Piglet" that you can find here in J-Stor.

Thanks to the great for the reference. Today's image comes from my friend Lisa from her trip to Nantucket. Painting and artist unknown, for now at least.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Big Norm

A reader tipped me off to the story of Big Norm, supposedly the world's largest known pig at an estimated 1600 pounds. If you are visiting upstate New York you can make a personal visit to see Norm in Hubbardsville. For most of us, though, an on-line visit (here) is better. You can buy shares in Big Norm (to help pay for his upkeep) or pick up a t-shirt.

By the way, the Guinness Book of Records believes that a Poland-China pig called Big Bill which died in 1933 is the largest pig ever, weighing 2552 pounds. In other news, the world record for the highest jump by a pig is 70 cm (27.5 in) and was achieved by Kotetsu, a pot-bellied pig on 22 August 2004 at the Mokumoku Tedsukuri Farm, Mie, Japan. You can find a photo here at the Guinness site.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What's Organic About Organic Pork?

The Ask Umbra column at took on the vexed issue of what constitutes organic pork last week. You can find the full discussion, with lots of comments, some interesting, some asinine, here. She points out that just because pork might be produced under organic guidelines, these rules "do not guarantee that a pig has experienced any piggy fun such as snorfelling merrily through the grass, making its own bed from straw, biting its farmer, or staying far from its own excrement. It is possible to meet the organic guidelines, and pass the yearly inspection, but still run a variant of a confinement operation."

The column mentions other possible standards, including those devised by the Food Alliance and the Animal Welfare Institute. I'd add that it's worth looking at the niche pork site (a project of the National Pork Board) and the Niman Ranch pork page as well. I like her recommendation about visiting a farm to check on the way they treat the animals that become the meat you eat, but that's something awfully difficult to do for the vast majority of us. Besides, there's not that much one is allowed to see in an era of concentrated operations with full biosecurity.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Spider Pig in The Simpsons Movie

I've been putting off making reference to The Simpsons Movie for quite a while. So, as many of you will know by now, the plot is driven by Homer's acquisition of a pig after a commercial shoot at Krusty Burger. Homer keeps the pig at home and stores its waste in a rickety silo that Marge insists he get rid of. He dumps the silo in the already polluted Lake Springfield, further contaminating it and leading to the EPA's invasion of Springfield which sets the rest of the action in motion.

Homer names his friend "Spider Pig" after he makes it walk on the ceiling. Later, the pig is called "Harry Plopper" in a parody of, well, you know. There was a special pig-centered movie trailer made for the film that is well worth seeing. A version of it can be found here. The trailer includes the great line "The other white meat has a taste for vengeance."

Homer's song "Spider Pig," a takeoff of the 1970s "Spiderman" tune, is probably stuck in millions of people's heads this summer. The lyrics: "Spider pig, spider pig, does whatever a spider pig does, can he swing, from a web? No he can't, he's a pig." There's an overly orchestrated version in the film's credits and on the official soundtrack.

"Spider Pig" has made it into the news in an odd way. One Australian guy is running a petition on Facebook to get 100,000 signatures so that his wife will let him name their forthcoming child "Spider Pig" (here). By the way, what's the deal these days with children's names down under? A couple in New Zealand, Pat and Sheena Wheaton, were trying to name their baby boy 4Real. After the court turned them down, they chose "Superman." Hmm.

Addendum: Some joker has added "sus arachnia" to the list of the species of pigs on the Wikipedia entry for "pig." Might serve as a good example for our students when things start back up in a few weeks...

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Bacon Bracelets

Another bacon-related item. Thanks to Sean for pointing me to this one. According to the Hipster Haircuts blog where he found it (here), the bacon is printed on a leather band, so it's non-vegan. For more on bacon, also see the blog I Heart Bacon (here).

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gummy Bacon (Strawberry Flavor)

A new item in the famed Archie McPhee catalog. You can order your own gummy bacon here. I'm now wishing I'd stopped at the Archie McPhee store in Seattle when I drove by it earlier this summer. They've got lots and lots of toys, gifts, and novelties.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

"Pig Racing is a Lot Like Life"

NPR's Weekend Edition ran a nice end-of-summer piece about pig races at the Montgomery County Fair that you can listen to here. There's a good interview with Cody and Gabrielle Boger, proprietors of the Ham Bone Express pig races. I find it interesting that in all the pig races I've heard of the "prizes" the pigs are racing for are invariably oreo cookies. Cody Boger notes that they use two-month-old Yorkshires that they return to the farmer at the end of the season.

Thanks to Lisa for tipping me off about this story.
Photo by Laura Krantz, NPR.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Sacrifice for Human Culinary Pleasures

Here's another image my friend Sean found for me, an advertisement for sausages from Auvergne. I'm not quite sure what to make of this, other than to say that it is a bit on the disturbing side in the way it presents the relation between cochon and saucisson. I guess that's the French for you... You can find a contemporary picture of said dry sausage from Auvergne here.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

KCRW's Flying Pig

KCRW, my favorite local radio station (I'm listening right now via iTunes, in fact), is using this flying pig with poor eyesight on its Summer 2007 merchandise. Since I always subscribe in the spring fund-raising drive, I probably won't wind up snagging a t-shirt or hat, but you can via their website. Hey, perhaps they'll see this post of support and sign me up for a regular slot running short commentaries on animal issues. It would be great to get back on the radio, as it's been a long time since my WGTB days...

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Il Porcellino in Sydney & Elsewhere

My pal Kelly, who is contributing Rhinoceros for the Reaktion Books "Animal Series" (here) was recently in Australia, where she saw a statue of a wild boar on Macquarie Street outside the Sydney Hospital. According to the sign attached to the sculpture of "Il Porcellino," if one drops a coin in the box (to benefit the sick in the hospital) "legend says that if you rub the nose of the boar you will be endowed with good fortune." Kelly suggested that this probably wasn't a custom original to the Aussies, and she was correct. The statue in Sydney of this wild boar is a copy of the Italian original that can be found in the Uffizi Galleries in Florence. According to the Sydney Hospital web site (here), the copy was presented to the hospital in 1968 by the Marchessa Clarissa Torrigiani in memory of her father and brother who had both been renowned surgeons at the hospital.

The photo to the right is of the "Il Cinghiale" ("Il Porcellino," or "piglet," is the statue's nickname) fountain in the Mercato Nuovo in Florence. Apparently, the wild boar was first sculpted and cast by Pietro Tacca in 1612, based on a marble Italian copy of a Hellenistic marble original that has been lost or destroyed. There are five copies of "Il Porcellino" made in 1962 in different locations, including one at the Derby Arboretum in England that replaced one destroyed by bombing during World War 2. According to the Public Art Around the World site (here), the other modern copies are in California, Florence (presumably the one above the the public can touch), and Canada (one in Waterloo and one in Victoria).

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Kids & Pigs

Today's photo comes from the normally crusty proprietor of the wonderful yet dismal Axis of Evel Knievel, the blog that got things rolling for me a couple of years ago. This cute picture of Audrey's first encounter with a piglet made me think of both the biophilia hypothesis and a recent interview on (here) with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. While I'm not worried about Audrey, as she'll be growing up in Alaska and its outside all the time, the photo did make me ponder the ways in which today's kids might face an increasing disconnect not just from nature but from animals as well. While this is less likely to be the case with pet animals, especially dogs and cats, who seem increasingly central to middle-class identity in contemporary America, I'm not sure that aside from the occasional petting zoo or field trip to a dairy (a highlight of my elementary school education) that kids have too much exposure to farm and food animals other than in their processed (and increasingly abstracted) form. Do kids make a connection between the chicken and the nugget? the piglet and the pork chop? What might be the implications? Just a few random thoughts, poorly linked together, for today...

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

(Spurious) Soviet Pigs in Space

My local brewmaster Sean forwarded me a series of photos supposedly documenting an old Soviet effort to put pigs into space. In the sequence of stills, which you can find here (you might have to click on the image to enlarge it), a pig is given a drink, strapped into its capsule, then launched upwards via a large cannon to return to earth and root around. These images, especially that of the odd-looking mortar used to launch the pig, seemed too good to be true. After poking around a bit it seems that these are stills from a 2005 Russian mockumentary entitled Pervye na lune (First on the Moon), directed by Aleksey Fedorchenko. You can find information about the film at its official site (in Russian) here. The Soviet space program was well-known for its use of dogs in early flights. You can find a pretty good wikipedia account of that program here.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Little Pig's Ramble From Home

The San Francisco Public Library has an excellent collection of children's books, some of which are discussed on-line in an essay by Ruth McGurk (here). In a section in her essay on the moral lessons imparted by children's literature, McGurk uses The Little Pig's Ramble from Home (ca. 1850) as an example of the kind of children's book that urges youth not to put on airs. In this text and illustration, Jack Pig wears a wig and a top hat but receives his comeuppance when he discovers how pigs are "dressed" at the butcher's. A cautionary tale indeed!

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