Saturday, 4 July 2015


As I have mentioned in previous posts, I teach a class called Animals and the Arts through Canisius College's Masters of Anthrozoology program. Every week we discuss new topics and take on some fun and creative assignments over the term. We are now at the midway point of the class and this week we start to delve into advertising. Students in my class each take turns leading discussions and creating thought-provoking questions to get a dialogue going in the group. This week one of the questions put out by our discussion leader was for the rest of the group to find an advertisement that featured other than human animals and talk about the strategies that were used to captivate their audience. It's always fun for me to partake in responding to the questions and I embrace these challenges! I thought it fitting to share my own chosen ad which was the WWF's snapchat conservation campaign.

This ad tied in with our week's reading by Jodi Berland Animal and/as Medium: Symbolic Work in Communicative Regimes and it is also a wonderfully evocative example to kick off the new page Love Wins starting at Beautiful Creatures this month that will feature love across species. In the same fashion that Alphabeasts' featured less popular animals in need of a spotlight and conservation aid Love Wins will do the same as we work our way through the alphabet... 

WWF #LastSelfie Campaign
Now this is why I thought it relevant to share my ad choice from my class's discussion. Within the same vein as Berland’s work, the WWF campaign focusses on the way in which we use technology to connect with each other by powerfully emulating the snapchat platform as a metaphor for species extinction. The soft yet hauntingly repetitive background music that plays has an underscoring sense of urgency while they stream their words to bring to light concepts of short-lived moments with which we can identify like our reflection in a mirror. In the brief trailer, the viewer is led through the dance of these metaphors which equally stir the subconscious feeling of our own momentary presence on this planet. It is very subtle and nuanced, but it plants that seed so that the viewer will bond and internalise that message and thus connect on a deeper level with their ensuing appeal. At the midpoint is where they deliver their tagline that will resonate with our contemporary culture “Don’t let this be my #LastSelfie” framing the image of a primate within a cell phone. This is something that a younger population can definitely identify with, and they are the target audience for this campaign. The WWF is reaching out to a new cohort of advocates for their conservation efforts and have done so in a very potent way. The concept of selfies and transience is one that is prevalent in today’s youth culture and this ad connects those ideas in a way that won’t alienate or critique but rather use the idea as a manner of empowering their audience and creating a call to action.

This ad is a reminder to the strength of our love of wild nature. I was not quite ready to feature the first of the Love Wins animals today and I hope to create this same connection to the species that I will feature in my new series. Until then, I hope you look forward to meeting Mox and Mialy, a faithful duo separated by distance...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Starting this July I will begin to explore the bonds between species on a new page joining Beautiful Creatures. As I work on my writing over the summer, I am looking forward to learning about new species, the bonds they form and understanding the worlds of other than human beings.

A friend recently wrote me with the question of bonds between species and how they differ. He was interested knowing about the difference in the variety of love bonds that other animals express and their experiences of loss and emotional depth. How can we as humans truly have an understanding of another species umwelt and how much projection is there from our own experience upon others?

I have touched on the topic with some of the Alphabeasts narratives and the thread of love has been stitched into a few of the character interactions in Beautiful Creatures. And so, I felt inspired by my friend's questions and thought I would really like to explore this further in my own stories. I look forward to sharing my thoughts, findings and stories with you about love and bonds across species…

So, from the one who never fails to make me smile...

We wish you all a great day!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Release the Kraken!

Today is the 100th post… And, over the summer my posts won't follow my regular schedule. They will be more spontaneous... So take the time to enjoy some of the previous stories you've missed and I still love to hear from you! 

I am always so excited for the summer months as I have the privilege of teaching one of my favourite classes which is a constant source of inspiration. These first two weeks of being back in the interweb of my class is a reminder of how these interactions are like a muse. It is such a pleasure to be once again immersed in reading through the critical thoughts and being submerged in the depths of understanding of participants within the class. I am always delighted to find that each of the students in the class are as passionate about the research we explore, diligent in their work and avidly engaged in our discussions. The first couple of weeks we hit the ground running before we’ll settle into a steady pace. We began by examining concepts of cognition, the role of fairy tales, fables and folk tales, Disney and social commentary in relation to our connections with other beings.

By Bruce Strickrott
From Expedition to the Deep Slope/NOAA/OER
(NOAA Photo Library) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

All this brings me to a quote from this week’s reading "if animals carried the message—if it were not completely clear where natural history ended and social history began—it might be easier to teach children unpalatable truths about the society they lived in" (Ritvo, 1985, 81). This quote stirs up so many thoughts. It brings to mind the Western idioms that are riddled with the use of other than human animals as adjectives which reflect our values, to films that will, if effectively executed, surreptitiously put forth their core message. It is the cumulative repetition of these concepts that form our beliefs, not a singular exposure to a concept which makes me think of cephalopods. Cephalopods are like mythical beasts from the abyss that capture the depths of my imagination. They are fascinating beings with an ability to create a real sense of wonder. 

When I think of the ideas that we touched on in this first part of my class, I cannot help but think of the illustrative concept of the cephalopod… Each of the animal’s arms is like the individual messages we have explored so far. These individual messages group together and are controlled by the larger being (“society”). They are sustained by the fluid patterned exposure they repetitively circulate across media and become the theoretical framework from which we will draw our knowledge, rules for behaviour, and/or varying beliefs. This is something that Colin Stokes touches on in his TEDtalk about the hidden messages in children’s movies. So, when we think of a concept, a rule or a belief to which we subscribe to, its origins are never quite like a serpent and a linear path, but rather, they are implanted over time from several sources like the arms of the cephalopod and they can be fluid to adapt to our environment like this being's chameleon-like abilities… 

So with that thought in mind… 

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