The Media Chickens Out
Why Recent Reporting on Salmonella is All Wrong

NEW YORK — Every year more than one million Americans become sick from salmonella, often from eating chickens, a very dangerous activity. Yet it seems like no one wants to talk about any of that.

To anyone following the news, only one salmonella story has made headlines. “There’s a big salmonella outbreak in the US because people keep kissing chickens,” screamed Vox Media in 34 point font. However, this “big outbreak” caused but 181 salmonella cases, only 0.018% of the caseload.

“The media doesn’t talk about how dangerous eating chicken is even though hundreds of thousands of Americans get sick from eating chickens every year,” said Crooks, a New York City resident who identifies as chicken. “I just don’t understand. If you’re worried about salmonella, why not eat fewer chickens?”

It’s not surprising the mainstream media would choose to exploit stereotypes and profit from tragedy.

A vocal contingent argues this is but the latest example of media bias against chickens. Reporters continue using the phrase “chicken out” even though it perpetuates the stereotype that chickens are cowardly. Often, chickens are portrayed as either dirty and stupid or as victims of factory farming. Many feel media organizations like NPR work to perpetuate existing structures of privilege.

“I have nothing against dogs–I even have dog friends–but the fact is no animal murders more humans than dogs,” said one commenter. “Why does the media hold dogs to different standards?”

To the Ancient Greeks, chickens were symbols of courage. Across the United States, cute adorable chickens are quietly hoping for a day when the media finally reports their experience–love of good food, self-presentation and community, among others.

“Those NPR reporters can publish narrow-minded stereotyping hate, and I’ll still cuddle,” said Crooks. “It’s time to take back the conversation. It’s time to chicken in.” 

 

Crooks, who identifies as chicken, cuddling with a friend.

I’m a Special Needs Chicken and This is My Story

Hi!!! heart_beating

Do you like food? I love love love love eating. In fact, when I eat I chirp because I’m just so excited to be eating! I also like going on walks, a warm shoulder to rest against, and most of all friends and family!

But I wasn’t always an easy going chick because I was born with a genetic disability. I’m not sure what it’s called but basically my bottom jaw is 60° off and thus my tongue dangles out of my mouth perpetually.

#chickenselfie #camping #campfire #chickensofinstagram #crooked

A photo posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

When I was little I was just like the other chickens. We lived in a cardboard box under a heat lamp and we spent our days eating and running in circles.

One morning while running in circles, my sister turned to me and called me crooked. I just ignored it because I couldn’t imagine it. But then another called me crooked and another and then another and I looked down and saw it true. My beak was growing out sideways. I was born broken.

The others didn’t care. They just pecked on by, sometimes at me, sometimes they ate food right out from my bottom crooked beak. I hated that. I hated them. But most of all, I hated myself.

I remember kicking at my bedding furious. Why was I made like this? Why is everyone else straight when I’m crooked?
When I heard a voice, a raspy wheezing voice. “Crooks dear,” it said. I looked up and there was my neighbor, the hamster.
“All you chickens peck at me. But not you Crooks. You don’t because with your crooked beak you can’t. That darling is a gift, the gift to love everyone.”
I was startled. So much so I almost fell over.
“Them others are plain blind. Spend their lives looking for it thinking they got to get their way up the pecking order when truth is they already got it and don’t even know it. It’s sad. Makes a hamster want to burrow deep down and never see the light again.”

I fluffed my feathers in thought and waddled away clucking. That hamster was right, I knew. And from that day forward, I vowed — whatever the cost — to dedicate myself to love.

As the days passed the hamster told me stories, stories wise and ancient as time, of his ancestors’ long journey from the Mongolian steepes, through China, over the Himalayans and into India. He’d squat by the box, put his paws together and with vivid energy talk the origins of life.
He asked the most profound questions. Like once, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”
I was befuddled. Absolutely totally befuddled. The question was so obvious yet I was clueless.
“Can be neither,” he said. “The chicken and egg are one and inseparable like the sun and day, ying and yang. For what must, is.”
The Way of the Tao, Confucius and Buddha — He was wise in all their ways, and slowly he taught me.

“Mind cannot overcome matter, but you can choose your mind’s eye.”
The hamster demonstrated leaping from a bookshelf 50 times his height uttering not even a gasp of pain.
“You, young chicken, but a feather in the wind. Make your wind and fly like.”

And like that, it was over. I remember him leading the morning’s calisthenics. Then the heat lamp flashed, sputtered and went black. For the first time I saw darkness.
“Be still,” he whispered.
The others squawked and hollered. But true to my teacher I kept quiet and for the first time creeping in beautiful I saw morning’s light true.
“Soon they will put you outside,” he said. “Be well, young chicken.”
I didn’t know what to say. Maybe I didn’t believe it. The others were hollering and running in frightened circles, and I barely acknowledged him as he turned and climbed up to his home.

In evening they came for us. They yanked me out. I wanted to say goodbye. I looked to the hamster’s home. He was in his meditation pod, comprehending mysteries of the universe, I’m sure. I cried out but I guess he couldn’t hear me because he stayed still. It was the last time I saw him1.
Outside was different. The food came less often and the water got dirty. Nights were frequently frigid. But with the cold nights, every night my sisters and I decided to cuddle. And I love love love cuddling! It reminded me of everything I’d learned. What we needed was love. So I joined Tinder.

Crooks does Tinder

I went on dates, and I had some moments! It was fun, because spreading love is fun.

 

I went to the park and made friends.

Making #friends in #centralpark!!

A photo posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I free ranged, from Central Park to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Soars like a #bird! #Milwaukee #Wisconsin

A photo posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I went hiking in Shenandoah National Park.

#hiking with the #chicken. 🐤🐤🐤🐤 #shenandoah #cuteanimals #video

A video posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I took a train across the country.

I studied combat and call me chicken brains but I still can’t make sense of war’s slaughter.

#ChickenOnCannon #revolutionary #chickensofinstagram #findyourpark #yorktown #latergram

A photo posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I learned about freedom and government, inheritance and works concentrated.

"In the flock one has safety. Freedom and union; one and inseparable." Senator Daniel Webster #lincolnmemorial

A photo posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

You could say I am so so lucky.

But some folks didn’t like me. They separated me from the cats and dogs and everyone else. They said nasty things, like I’m dirty and diseased, even though every day I spend hours preening and cleaning. I wanted to say I’m trying to be pretty. I’m really trying.

Truth be told, the more I saw and learned the more I realized how little I am. I tried to remember everything the hamster had taught me. But the world is just so big and confusing and again I felt so small and alone left to kicking and screaming. Why? Why?

I learned that almost all chickens live in small cages, that when we die we’re left to rot caged in with our sisters. I learned that the loss rate for baby hens is 15%. I learned that I am half-size and will probably die young. Nearly anywhere else they would’ve killed me. I learned I shouldn’t exist.

Yet I am here. Am I an accident? A silly indulgence? I’ve thought about it a lot and I still don’t know. But I’ll tell you this and despite the (minor) exaggeration above, it’s 100% true.

In the morning I am so excited. I love a sunny day. I like bushes and trees and I dislike open fields. I’m terrified of nightfall. I love eating, especially when its fresh. I hate being alone. When I see a friend, I’ll fly to them. I love my friends. I’m still learning. I’m fighting. I’m struggling. I am alive. I am alive and every day I’m trying.

Been busy #hangingout!

A video posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

Where ya putting that robber…? #hamster vs #chicken #settlersofcatan

A photo posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

Have a crooked beak / Still #beautiful

A photo posted by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

John Henry

the anti-TED Talk, because inspiration isn't enough.

The Legend of John Henry [HQ]

John Henry was a mighty man. He was inspired, he worked so hard, and it killed him.

Where is the modern John Henry? Where is the song about the guy who did most things right, attended 2 years college on debt, but finds himself a diabetic Walmart Associate? Does it ends on his suicide, the second leading cause of death for Americans 25-341?

Why is a Disney re-creation of a 19th century folktale more true than so much of what we call non-fiction?
(more…)

High Noon @ the Rochester Depot

A balding black man sits alone with a large roller bag.

Two women approach. The younger comes up behind him and slaps hard the back of his head. He turns and says nothing.

“You’re a disgrace. You’re an embarrassment to the family.”

The older woman has a phone on speaker and she juts it into the conversation. It squawks something. He mumbles something.

“Where’d you even get the money. You steal it?” says the younger woman.

He stares at the ground.

“Uh-huh. Don’t think I’ll let you back you in. You do this now. Don’t think I can forgive this.”

The phone talks more. He mumbles something more. The older woman walks away. The younger begins to leave, then pauses to look on him.

He says nothing.

She looks at the floor. She looks at him, says “you don’t even have a job,” and walks away.

Forty minutes pass.

A young man comes. They embrace, a male hug, fists to the back. The young man gives him money. They talk, shake hands. And part.

Another hour passes. He boards a westbound train.

the Tent

june 2013. when i lived on a roof.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I would sometimes sleep on the roof in a tent. I liked it. It felt like a home more whole than my dark and dingy basement apartment. Up there, you couldn’t escape from the city, the sky, from every day’s dawn.

One May morning my phone buzzed:: It would storm. I was nestled behind a larger building and over the tent flew a regular blue tarp, 10 by 10 foot, secured to the roof by five lines to old screws and derelict TV antennas. I would be fine, I thought and decided to stay there in tent.

The storm hit as predicted. I woke to thunder. Sheets of rain illuminated by lightening flashing. Water was pooling above on the tarp, till the wind picked it up and sent the water crashing. In windy gusts I could feel rain. And I knew therefore the water would be upon my sleeping bag too. I considered leaving, but worried of being exposed on the open roof I stayed, sleepless, watching.

The next day tired I decided to sleep in my apartment proper and I never saw my tent again.

brooklyn tar roof

I discovered three of the tarp’s eyelets torn. The wind was so strong to tear the tarp and then lift the weighted tent over the adjacent buildings. This was a genuine loss, economic and sentimental. My glasses and knife were in the tent too. I could not afford to replace everything.

So, I made posters. Oh tent! Bright and cheerful, ever faithful, where did you go?

brooklyn seeking poster

Twice daily I checked my posters. People took my number. And no one called. A week past. Then someone called, and I missed it I was asleep. Ahhhhhh! The frustration. Google Voice failed to record the number. The frustration. Was it purposefully anonymous? Was it a prank call? Yet, the voicemail is weird and she mentions my sleeping bag, which was not mentioned in the poster. A lucky guess? Or was the tent found? Oh Tent!

I made new posters. I plastered them to poles far and wide. Tent is still missing. The regret! And over something so simple. I should have inspected the first morning after. I should have unmade camp. I should have tried harder. Most of all tho dark and stormy I shouldn’t have abandoned what was good.