In gentler times, when someone chirped about "the birds and the bees," it brought to mind winged things swapping life nectars mid-flit. Even the flowers and the trees were doing it.
The new documentary Vanishing of the Bees replaces such lusty affairs with scenarios of falling. Not falling in love. Falling dead.
Equal parts crime mystery, sci-fi and Western, this sobering look at honeybees on the brink of obliteration thrusts quite a sting. Personally, I could do without honey cake, but take fruits, vegetables and nuts off my table and I'll start seriously missing the fuzzy insect. (Alfalfa-fed livestock would go too, though that's not my beef.) Who knew the species pollinates one third of the world's food?
Like you, I've been catching news bits about “Colony Collapse Disorder," the strange case of bees going poof. But witnessing the empty-hive syndrome from the POV of their beekeeping "parents" is sadder, weirder and more haunting than a sound-byte or report can capture.
At least in the Gulf of Mexico you know where the gob-dripping creatures are. Beekeepers across America and in dozens of other countries, on the other hand, are logging losses of more than 90 percent of their colonies, and haven't the foggiest where they've gone.
My theory is that they've been off stinging Julia Roberts' lips. See Eat, Pray, Love and tell me what you think.
Vanishing of the Bees played on August 10th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Henein couldn't make it, so it fell to co-executive producer Peter Heller to entertain the swarm of blown-away viewers at the post-screening reception. I admired his Vanishing business card and its tag line -- "A Documentary for Anyone who Likes to Eat" – which touched off a few marketing ideas.
Maybe you have some of your own. Me, I was thinking: Get the film's narrator, brash Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page, to mount a Roger & Me-style confrontation with Marijn Dekkers when he takes over this October as CEO of Bayer AG, makers of pesticides implicated in CCD.
Or have people dress up like bees and sell DVDs around the produce sections of our nation's grocery stores. And how about if the Food Channel did an Iron Chef America cook-off using no food?
Regardless of when you see Vanishing of the Bees, it will get under your skin and stay there. On August 12 at yet another head-tickling SobelMedia event in The Samsung Experience, "The future of digital media: How wireless/mobile changes everything," I couldn't help wondering about the hidden perils of our shimmering toys. Amid all the talk of 4G technology and faster, mightier juice, images flooded back to me of poisoned honeybees staggering and stumbling in their flowers.
Afterward I asked panelists Brian Reich of little m media, Ari Zoldan of Quantum and capital advisor Robert Raciti whether, like the honeybees, we too are unwittingly addling our faculties with mediums harmful to life.
"I don't want brain cancer any more than anyone else," said Reich, "but the known positive benefits that technology offers today significantly outweigh the at-present harmful side effects that we can prove.
Raciti likewise waived off concerns that "there is much electromagnetic radiation being emitted from your phone," and touted the high frequencies of today's gizmos over yesteryear's lower and reportedly more mischievous frequencies. Apparently the early color TV sets rained down ridiculously more radiation than today's mobile phones.
Waxing Talmudic, Zoldan homed in on a different sort of duality: "Man is in control (and can) refrain from using technology anytime he wants" vs "Man amounts to little more than a pathetic slave to technology."
Both are true, of course, which got me reasoning that if Bayer made aspirin, how bad a company could it really be?
The following day my head was still pulsing with Reich's comment, "We have dangerous things coursing from the air at all times; it's part of contemporary life, so it's not fair to pick on mobile when everything we do has risks."
For relief I headed over to the microwave- and radiation-free offices of Dr. Edward F. Hutton. Holistic dentistry's leading light was a patient, then associate, of the late orthomolecular physician, Hans Nieper, whose Revolution in Technology, Medicine and Society: Conversion of Gravity Field Energy broke new ground in our understanding of the electricity-cancer connection -- and caused Hutton to break his own ground.
Some 25 years ago he dug a crater outside his window and filled it with 15 tons of black river rock. Thirty-five thousand dollars later, he had coiled them in copper wire and embedded the resulting "Faraday cage" in the walls of his Fifth Avenue practice. Sucking all the radiation earthward, the rig named for 19th-century English scientist Michael Faraday blocks penetrations of, shall we say, bad vibes, and gives a body a rest.
"Even if we just walk on the street, we're immersed in the soup of electromagnetic fields," said Hutton. "We're basically in a huge microwave oven and we're all slowly but surely getting fried."
If you call for an appointment, the Whole Body crusader will answer you by the window where hedges now cover the quarry. Only there do his radios and telephones get reception. Now that New York City has legalized beekeeping, he could even perk up the space with some hives. At honey-making frequencies, they'd transmit the optimal buzz.