Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Even the Oil Companies Need Bailouts?

At least in Russia, where it seems that Gazprom is on the skids. It's interesting to ponder a bit. With oil prices at record lows and with companies not seeing it worthwhile to explore for new fields, is it so hard to believe that oil companies in say the US might eventually ask for handouts? Late night speculation brought to you courtesy of a post-Xmas party homemade cookie sugar high? Maybe not.

According to this LA Times article about oil shale:

In recent weeks, the industry was included in the $700-billion government bailout package with investment and tax incentives to help oil shale producers build refineries and other expensive infrastructure.
Is there any big business at this point without its hand in the pot?

Friday, December 26, 2008

La Strada


Vegaquarian?

In a heated anti-vegetarian discussion on some forum in the world wide interwebs, someone brought up the term "vegaquarian" as the latest trendy label for someone who eats fish, but doesn't eat mammals. The person in question referred to himself as a vegetarian who eats fish and added that he likes the label "vegaquarian", which is purportedly becoming more commonplace. It's already in the Urban Dictionary. So what does that make an antiquarian, I wonder?

Cat Got Your Wallet?

Here's a half hour long documentary that appeared on CBC about how your vet's taking you to the cleaners with 100-450% mark-ups on medications you purchase in Canada. I'm guessing that it's the same old, same old in the United States. A friend over who blogs over yonder stumbled upon it. According to the documentary, in the UK, vets are required to post what they're actually charged for common medications in their lobbies. They're also required to tell companion animal caregivers that these caregivers can obtain the very same medications at their pharmacy with a prescription from the vet (which is something you can do in Canada, as well, although good luck finding a vet who'll let you deal directly with a pharmacy and lose out on the price mark-up).

Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance

I recently treated myself (all self-Santa like) to a copy of Sharon Astyk's recently published book Depletion and Abundance. I've been following her blog for over a year now and had been looking forward to getting my paws on a copy. I was wondering if anyone reading this has either read the Astyk book or (better!) is in the middle of reading it? If so, I'd be interested in discussing some of it over the next few weeks. I'm only 30 pages in, at this point, but am already liking what she has to say about the devaluation of work that's been deemed part of the private sphere -- work that until very recently was defined as "women's work" that was completed in and around the home, and that mostly revolved around one's family. I hope to get through the rest of it over the next week and a half while on vacation.

I'd picked up an additional copy of it for an old-fashioned doomer friend, hoping to be able to discuss it with him, but he's discounted the relevance of a woman's voice in the Peak Oil awareness / preparation movement, asserting that the Trinity of Heinberg, Ruppert and Savinar hold all of the answers that he -- or anyone -- should need.


(Listening to: Charles Mingus' Self-Portrait in Three Colors)

On Being Sussed Out

“When a man thinks he is reading the character of another, he is often unconsciously betraying his own; and this is especially the case with those persons whose knowledge of the world is of such sort that it results in extreme distrust of men.”

--Joseph Farrell

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Locked Out of Indoor Cage, Two Baboons Die at Moncton, NB Zoo

Just in time for Xmas:

Tragedy has hit the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton after two baboons died of hypothermia when they were accidentally locked out of their indoor home.

Bruce Dougan, the zoo's general manager, said an experienced zookeeper forgot to allow the animals back into their home after it was cleaned and new food was spread out on Monday night.

"And for some reason she forgot to let them back in, she forgot to open the door to let them back in," Dougan said.

Dougan said the animals spent the night outside and died of hypothermia.

"The female had already perished and the male was in dire straits. We called the vet in right away and unfortunately he died shortly thereafter," Dougan said.

Staff at the zoo are "very distraught" over the accident, he said, but none more so than the zookeeper involved.

Environment Canada data shows the temperature ranged from –9.1 C at 8 p.m. Monday to –2 at 8 a.m. At 2 a.m., the wind chill, in heavy, blowing snow, made it feel like –16.

Dougan said the two olive baboons were medium-sized primates, weighing roughly 10 kilograms. Although these animals are used to spending their days outside, Dougan said the night that they spent outdoors was just too cold for them to survive.

"That night was very, very cold," he said.

"Baboons are hearty animals. They spend all their days outside in the winter — they enjoyed being outside in the winter."

Dougan said nothing like this has ever happened before at the zoo.

Read the rest here on CBC's website. Here's the Magnetic Hill Zoo's website.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Tradition of Pretending Animals Are Rewards

I've been avoiding writing about this whole "new dog in the White House" thing, but figured that enough was enough.

So, to keep up the years long tradition of each new US President having an official White House Critter, the Obamas promised their daughters a brand new puppy if Obama was elected. One of the Obama daughters is allergic to dogs, but that won't throw a wrench into the longstanding tradition -- instead, the Obamas have been searching for a hypoallergenic breed. In the interim, VP-elect Joe Biden's gotten himself a three-month-old purebred German Shepherd. I stumbled across a bloggish piece in the Christian Science Monitor that mentions it. In this piece, according to Biden's spokesperson Elizabeth Alexander "[h]e’s excited to bring it home when it gets a little older and has promised that his grandchildren can name it after the New Year".

"It" pretty much sums things up. The puppy is a thing. A gimmick. Worse, Biden went to a breeder to get a dog, when in the US alone, 4 million companion animals are killed each year because they've been abandoned or mistreated by people. Many of those are purebred dogs.

The CSM piece is titled "Biden gets new dog -- animal rights advocates not happy". What got my attention about is that the supposed animal rights advocates named in the article are the folks from HSUS and those from PETA, which are both clearly animal welfare organizations and not animal rights advocates. And this whole "Let's hope Obama does the right thing and gets a shelter dog" just misses the point altogether. You don't promise someone a dog the way you'd promise them a car on their 16th birthdays. There's no heavy symbolism in the Obamas' getting a shelter dog, unless that symbolism is that dogs are things to be given. Sure, I'd rather see President-elect Obama rescue a dog from a shelter rather than perpetuate the companion animal status quo by getting one from a breeder. Whatever he does, though, means little when you look at the bigger picture.

Or so I thought when I started reading the comments left by CSM readers:

"It’s a dog, who cares where it comes from."

"Why should the Bidens, or the Obamas, have to accept somebody else’s leftovers?"

"Bringing in an unknown dog from a shelter is risky especially when you are dealing with kids. Often no history about the cute dog is known. Perhaps it was abused, beaten, had a tough life or for whatever reason would like to snap and eat your child’s head off. [...] The positive is, he bought from a reputable breeder, some one who breeds dogs for the love of the breed."

"Don’t breeders have a right to do business or is PETA saying that all dogs should be gotten from the pound. I have a dog which is wonderful and was gotten through a no-kill humane society. But there is nothing wrong with getting a dog from a breeder and why should they have to join the ranks of the unemployed."

Ah, that old grey area that I can't for the life of me ignore. I keep forgetting the level of ignorance held by so many when it comes to animals species we deem worthy to welcome into our homes. As much as I hate this whole White House tradition and the message I can't help but feel it delivers, I guess that I can't help but hope, myself, that the Obamas -- if they have to go through with this act at all -- do choose to adopt from a shelter: If only to send the message out that just because you've been abandoned doesn't make you a bad dog; in some cases, it just means that there are bad caregivers.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sharon Astyk's Predictions for 2009

In 2007, Sharon Astyk figured that the economy would tank this year, as well as that the term "Peak Oil" would become commonly known and mainstream. She also asserted that Hillary Clinton would not be the next president of the United States. She was right. This year, what she foresees is bleak. It seems that the only light at the end of the tunnel involves our really making an effort to brace ourselves -- to learn skills, to prepare for shortages of supplies and services and for shortages of money in the face of rising unemployment.

Here's what she had to say about her predictions for 2008 (and how they turned out), as well as what she thinks we have in store for 2009. It isn't astrology, folks. And it doesn't have a happy Hollywood ending.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thank You Amazon.ca!

Less than three business days after ordering them, my twin copies of a much-wanted book arrived today, Super Saver Shipping and all.

I usually order through my local bookstore, but a) they wouldn't have arrived in time for Xmas, and b) I would have paid 30% more.

I can't divulge the title yet, since tomorrow I'm sending the other copy of it out to a friend who sometimes reads this blog. After the holidays, though, once I've read it, I'll be posting a review.

On Getting McDonalded: Politics and Endangered Species

Huffington Post has an article on yet another blemish on what will be the Bush administration's legacy concerning non-human animals and the environment. It's kind of like dribbling a teaspoon of water into one of the Great Lakes at this point, isn't it? Anyway, it seems that a high-ranking Interior Department official exerted what's been deemed "improper political interference" in "nearly every decision made on the protection of endangered species over five years" to deny various endangered species increased protection.

Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service, did pervasive harm to the department's morale and integrity and may have risked the well-being of species with her agenda, Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney said in his report out Monday.
Macdonald had no training in natural sciences whatsoever, and her interference was pervasive that Fish and Wildlife Service staff came to commonly refer to any political interference by senior management as "getting MacDonalded".

Read the rest of it here at Huffington Post.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Without Soy, Are We Really Just Left with Fritos?

I read over at the Vegan Freaks forum that The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, previously a mainstream media advocate of veganism, has officially thrown in the towel. Seems that after a year of veganism, she has a bum thyroid and that since her endocrinologist has told her that soy has to go, she's decided that she can no longer survive as a vegan. She labels her blog post "The End of an Era" (humble, no?) and waxes on defiantly about how cutting out soy is necessary for her condition, and, that by cutting it out, she feels she can no longer get sufficient protein with her busy schedule. She claims that there aren't any restaurants in DC that serve seitan, so therefore, by going soy-free, she's ended up getting sicker since she "was basically living on Fritos and peanut butter every time [she] left the house". So for want of seitan, one is left with Fritos and peanut butter??

That's sort of sad. If I leave the house for the day, it's usually with a packed lunch and a couple of fruit. I also carry almonds, sunflower seeds or trail mix with me, most of the time.
At my desk, I frequently keep organic brown rice cakes or a Luna bar. If I eat out in my tiny not-so-veg-friendly city, I hit a salad bar or opt for a veggie stirfry, veggie wrap, a hummus plate -- there's always something healthy to eat. And it seems that Washington, DC does indeed have tons of vegan-friendly restaurants. I'm actually envious at the choices McArdle has when eating out and am quite sure that at least a few of these places don't include soy in each and every single dish on their menus.

This whole thing is just laziness spooned over a whopping bowlful of misinformation. You don't need to substitute meat with something if you stop eating it. A varied diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains is all you need to be healthy. Some even argue that too much emphasis is placed on legumes and grains and that we get sufficient protein without those, never mind bothering to eat fake meats. And where is it written that vegans need soy or seitan, specifically, to fill that meat void? The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) has a great piece on how ridiculously easy it is to obtain your daily requirements from non-animal sources. PCRM does too, in an article on "The Protein Myth". Some of the foods they list that are high in protein are soy-based, but most aren't.

McArdle basically posits that it has to be all or nothing. If she can't have soy, she can't be a vegan; if she can't be a vegan, she has to go back to meat eating, altogether. There's no grey area for her, so she's decided to return to eating what she calls "certified humane animal products" (i.e. that mythical "happy meat"), including dairy. And just to make her position clear in terms of any possible ethical reasons she had for being vegan for a year, she throws in that she's only a "moderate on animal rights" and that she believes "in animal testing". So I guess it's pointless to suggest to McArdle that just because she's chosen to go back to eating animals, that it doesn't mean that she has to go back to promoting their consumption.

It's one thing for McArdle to make decisions about her own diet that are based on misinformation. Unfortunately, by presenting her case the way she has, she's left herself looking, to those who know better, as if she's too attached to convenience to look for other options. Worse, to those who don't know better, she's left herself looking like a poster child for how veganism is too inconvenient, too complicated and just plain old too unhealthy. That's what irks me the most.

(Please note the accompanying photo of Ms. McArdle by David Shankbone that brings to mind an expression about babies and bathwater. Couldn't help myself.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Raging Rudolph

Friday, December 12, 2008

GMOs in the US and Obama

Grist has another great article dealing with the Obama administration and food / agriculture in the United States, particulary with respect to the United States' legacy of agricultural deregulation and how it's led to the proliferation of GMOs within its borders.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I've been MIA

'Tis one of our busiest times of year at work (unrelated to the holidays, strangely enough), so I haven't had time to post. My stints online have mostly involved checking out Matt Savinar's site's Breaking News to read about just how badly the global economy is tanking. Good times, indeed.

I hope to catch up with a few things here over the next few days.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Faces of "Free-Range" Farming



For the full story about the rescued "free-range egg" laying chickens featured in this video clip, visit the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary blog here.

The point is that there's no such thing as so-called compassionate meat-eating. There really isn't.

Gary Francione's VeganFreak Radio Interview

Bob and Jenna Torres host an amazing kinda-monthly podcast called Vegan Freak Radio. I've gushed over it here before. Bob's a sociology professor and both are animal abolitionists (i.e. they seek the eradication of the use of animals for human consumption). They're also authors of the book Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World, which is a witty and well-written book on how and why to be(come) vegan -- definitely worth checking out.

In June, they featured my favourite animal ethics philosopher Gary Francione in a two-part podcast where he discussed some of his works, explaining animal abolitionism and how it's a necessary reaction to the ethically problematic animal welfarism. He explains how his views differ tremendously from better-known animal ethics philosophers like Tom Regan and Peter Singer. He's actually responsible for having made me rethink my views on Singer's work (I was a utilitarianism geek in university) and has left me asking myself some important questions about why I'm vegan and how I can become a better advocate for non-human animals.

I strongly recommend listening to the two-part interview. You can listen to it here:

Part one - June 20
Part two - June 26

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Monsanto's Experimental Cotton Ends Up Fed To Cattle

WASHINGTON (AP) — An unauthorized strain of genetically modified cotton was accidentally mixed in with other harvested cotton in Texas last month, but government officials on Wednesday played down any safety concerns.

About a quarter ton of the experimental cotton seed engineered to contain a protein that produces a pesticide was combined with about 60 tons of commercial cotton growing nearby, said Eric Flamm, a senior adviser at the Food and Drug Administration.

The mixture, grown near Lamesa in West Texas, about 300 miles west of Fort Worth, was then stored along with 20,000 tons of commercial cotton seed in a warehouse. Nearly half the crop was processed into cottonseed oil and cotton meal to use as animal feed before officials at Monsanto Co., which grows the experimental cotton on a test plot, realized the mistake.

[...]

The FDA, Environmental Protection Agency and Agriculture Department are investigating to determine what enforcement action is warranted against Monsanto.

Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles said the crop was mistakenly harvested on Oct. 31, and the company learned about it eight days later when field researchers went to check on it and discovered it was not there. It is grown in a research plot adjacent to other cotton and separated by border rows.

[...]

"This incident and a string of others that have come to light over the past two years show that the USDA is fundamentally incapable of protecting our food," said Karen Perry Stillerman, a food analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Meat Moves Over -- US Food Trends

Caterer Search, a hospitality industry website, has an article today about the steady rise in demand for meat-free options in eating establishments around the US. Unfortunately, many of the chefs quoted cite using oodles of cheese in their meat-free menu items, but not all of them. It's still quite interesting to read something like this on a trade website. The focus seems to be on the overall greater healthiness of meat-free options, as well as on the increasing diversity available as they're offered up on menus around the US. There are statistics on vegetarianism and references to the many reasons some people shun animal products, as well as the reasons some are now seeking to limit their consumption of them. It presents the trend in a completely positive light, which is good to see.

How to Make Your Own Almond Milk from Scratch

This is so incredibly simple.

See more vegan recipes and videos at Eat Drink or Die.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Learned Helplessness

A couple of days ago, I gathered some things into my backpack to get ready to hop on my bike to zip cross-town to a friend's place. We were meeting up for the afternoon with another friend to catch up on stuff. About two-thirds of the way there, I heard a loud "thunk!" and felt my chain go slack. Thankfully, I'd been riding slowly along a side street, having just let a guy and his dog cross in front of me. I hopped off the bike to assess what had happened -- it had just derailed.

I walked the bike the rest of the way and when I arrived, both my host and our friend stepped outside to see what had happened. I asked my host if she had any tools. (See, when I'd packed my bag, I'd taken my bike tool kit out to make room for junk -- a dumb, dumb, dumb thing to do.) She immediately offered to get the guy next door to come over with his tools. "To fix it for you," she added. I told her that I knew how to fix it myself and pointed out that the guy next door was probably enjoying a marathon session of World of Warcraft. She shrugged and fetched her tools and fussed as my other friend and I tinkered with the bike. I was avoiding the inevitable -- having to loosen the back wheel, which could have led to alignment problems and having to tweak and tweak and tweak.

Just as I was about to give in and loosen the wheel, a male friend of my host's came up the driveway. "Hey! Just what we need -- a man! Do you know anything about fixing bikes?" she asked him. My other friend and I exchanged looks and the token man replied "No". My host persisted and asked if he could give me a hand. At this point, I stood up and told my host (again) that not only did I know how to fix my own bike, but also that considering what I'd paid for it and how much I rely on it, the only other person -- male or female -- I'd let touch it with a wrench would be a professional bike mechanic.

The whole episode left me wondering about learned helplessness and why people would try to project it at others. I mean, in this case it seemed to be completely gender-based. An assumption was made by a woman that, as another woman, I needed a man to "fix" a mechanical problem -- even after I'd repeatedly assured her that I was more than able to look after it. I wonder how often people project their own learned helplessness on others in less obvious ways and without verbalizing it -- particularly, how many women are doing this to other women. And I worry about how many women are letting this behaviour hold them back from learning what they need to know to become more self-reliant.

Connecticut Company to Make Motor Oil from Animal Fat

Green Earth Technologies, Inc. claims that it can make an animal-derived product chemically identical to crude oil, and intends to use animal fat from slaughterhouses to make it. You can read about it here.

I don't even have the words to describe how disgusting this is to me on so many different levels.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama and the Biotech Boys

Wednesday, I posted about how a couple of top members of Obama's transition team have ties to Monsanto. Yesterday the Huffington Post featured an article on the same topic, throwing a few other names into the mix.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things I Love

Someone reminded me today of Gabriel García Márquez and I remembered a short story of his that, I think, is probably one of the most beautiful and intricate in its simplicity that I've ever read. It's called A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: A Tale for Children. It's in his Collected Stories, which I recommend picking up.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Humanure Toilets

I've started researching the composting of human waste. In underdeveloped countries, pathogens from human waste going directly into water used for drinking are a seriously significant cause of illness (and death), so there's an extra incentive to find alternate means to dispose of this waste. What could be better than composting it and using it to replenish the soil? In developed countries, we waste so much water with our current toilet / sewage systems that composting toilets seem to provide a logical and environmentally ethical solution that really can't be ignored, either. I'll be posting more about this down the road once I've done some more reading up on it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vegan Recipes in the News

The St. Catharines Standard has a couple of scumptious sounding recipes from cookbook author and vegan blogger Laurie Sadowski, whose focus seems to be on gluten-free whole foods. The recipes include Creamy Baked Penne w/ Broccoli, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas and Sticky Maple Syrup Gravy w/ Cinnamon Walnuts. You can find pictures of the finished products here on what seems to be her fairly new blog.

The Boston University student paper BU has a great article on eating veg*an at Thanksgiving that includes a whoppin' bunch of great recipes: Nut Roast, Tofu Turkey w/ Stuffing, Vegetarian Gravy (which is really vegan), Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Garlic Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli Roasted w/ Garlic, Chipotle Peppers and Pine Nuts and a couple of dessert recipes that aren't vegan. A few of the savoury recipes have optional dairy ingredients that are very easily substituted.

The more things "change"...

It looks like lobbyists for biotech companies like Monsanto are going to be pleased with Obama's stint in the White House. According to Grist, members of Obama's Energy and Natural Resources transition team include Michael R. Taylor, who has spent the last 30 years alternating between working of Monsanto and the FDA and USDA. Taylor was purportedly one of the people responsible for ushering in rGBH. To be precise, in 1991 the FDA created the position of Deputy Commissioner for Policy for him (the Grist article mentions it was 1994, but it was, in fact, 1991), which left him with a significant amount of control over government regulation of GMOs. After his stint with the FDA, Taylor went back to Monsanto to serve as its vice-president for public policy. See this Sourcewatch article for references and further information. DailyKos has an article on Taylor and his Monsanto/FDA dance, as well.

So, what else? David J. Hayes is listed as the ''member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project's Agency Review Working Group responsible for overseeing review of the energy and natural resources agencies". His bio has this long list of the environmentally-friendly sounding positions he's held, including an on-again / off-again stint as a partner at Latham & Watkins, a HUGE law firm that defended Monsanto in an Agent Orange case brought against the company by Vietnamese plaintiffs and that's represented Monsanto in other cases. Another Latham & Watkins partner, John Manthei "has represented the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries as counsel in nearly every major FDA legislative initiative" since 2000.

This is just the tip of how sketchy it all gets. TruthOut has a great article on all of the former lobbyists involved in Obama's new transition team, for those who are curious.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Tofurky Day Means for Animal Rights

With Thanksgiving being just around the corner for my American friends, I've been doing some nosing around through some of the articles that have popped up about it -- at least those from an animal-friendly perspective. I found a nicely written piece about the holiday on the Columbia Spectator's student paper's website. Eric Risser talks about what Thanksgiving traditionally means to most -- getting together with family and friends, a chance to look back at the year behind you... Risser, of course, addresses the meat-centric nature of Thanksgiving. More than any other US holiday, it pretty much revolves around eating an animal. That being said, Risser points out that in terms of what it means to animals, it's really not that different from most other days. Sure, around 46 million turkeys are slaughtered every year in the US for Thanksgiving, but around 23 million chickens are slaughtered every other day of the year.

What Risser suggests is to use Thanksgiving to test out vegetarianism and he writes about the annual vegan Thanksgiving dinner that the Columbia Students for Animal Protection put on as having been a great opportunity for people to do this -- to see that all of the other aspects of Thanksgiving can be enjoyed without having to sacrifice having a delicious (in this case vegan) meal.
I wonder how many of you out there are hosting Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends this year and sharing scrumptious animal-free dishes while taking part in this traditional American holiday?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Veganism in the News

Switzerland issued new rules for enlistment in its army around a week ago. It seems that although you can serve in the Swiss army if you "smoke marijuana, take Ecstasy or drink regularly" as long as you can prove that you're not addicted. However, you can't be a conscript if you're a vegan.

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PANOS brands is recalling their Vegan Rella Cheddar blocks with a sell date of 12/09/2008 because they may in fact contain a milk protein not listed on the label. Click here for more info.

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New Brunswick's own Mount Allison University came out on top of PETA2's list of most Vegetarian-Friendly Universities in Canada. Mount A. apparently offers students a fully-vegan dining station with more than 100 vegan dishes from which to choose.

Got Sick? How's Your Credit?

Articles like these give me the creeps. There's apparently a new movement in the US where hospitals -- especially those who ordinarily provide subsidized medical care to those without insurance (or with insufficient coverage) -- are now running credit checks on patients without their knowledge or consent. They call what they use "financial analysis software".

An example of how this plays out would be, as discussed in the article, where a part-time hair salon employee earning $6500 a year was refused subsidized treatment (for which she would have qualified based on her income) because the hospital in question ran a credit check and discovered she had a $1800 line of credit with her Visa (never mind that she had a $1200 balance on it at the time). When she applied to have her $371 bill waived, the hospital refused and tacked on $400 in attorney fees. The case was later dropped without explanation, but not until she'd gotten help from a legal aid lawyer.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

South Park Does Obama

I just watched a US election themed South Park episode that was aired less than 24 hours after the results were announced. It was a sort of Oceans 11 meets Obama/McCain thing -- cute and effective, but nowhere as jaw-dropping as many of the South Park episodes I've chanced seeing over the past year or two. I chuckled a little, though.

If you're in the US, you can watch it on this site for free. The show's creators offer it up. In Canada, you can watch it here on the Comedy Network website.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tom Traubert's Blues (live 1977)

This song sounds as sad to me today as it did when I first heard it around twenty years ago.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Japan's "Scientific Research" Whaling Program

It looks like Japan's sending more ships out to Antarctica to conduct "scientific research" by catching and killing up to 850 minke whales and 50 fin whales, according to Greenpeace. The main ship in their fleet left quietly this morning. Australia, along with other members of the international community and various non-profit groups, has been urging Japan to stop this practice. The thing is that whaling's a part of Japanese culture and whale meat is considered a delicacy by many people in Japan. Greenpeace claims that the Japanese whaling industry is corrupt and collapsing. Read what else they have to say about it and find out how you can help speed the beginning of its end here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Vegetarianism Does Not Equal Eating Animals

Yes, every little bit helps. That being said, vegetarianism -- by definition -- excludes the eating of animal flesh. Asserting this isn't passing judgement; it's just confirming an established definition. Flexitarianism is not vegetarianism. A friend once put it quite succinctly: By definition, you're no more a vegetarian when you deliberately eat meat (however rarely) than you are a virgin if you have sex (however rarely). And you don't need to eat animals to thrive.

Jessica Fellowes wrote an article for the UK's Te
legraph yesterday ("The New Vegetarianism: Introducing the flexitarian") that implies the opposite. Well, that's all over the place with it, anyway. Fellowes is a writer who, according to her website, specializes in luxury lifestyle pieces. It gets a little tricky when a luxury lifestyles writer takes it upon herself to spread misinformation about nutrition, sometimes stating that ever-convenient (and elusive) source "anecdotal evidence" to back up her claims.

In her piece, she applies the term 'vegetarian' to meat-eaters often , while touting occasional meat-eating as the healthy option (e.g. "Polly is one of a gr
owing number of vegetarians who occasionally eat meat – for the sake of the nutrients that such a diet provides"). She spins the movement as follows:
"Families who now 'go flexitarian' a couple of times a week have come together with pragmatic veggies to create a new breed of health-conscious consumers."
Pragmatic veggies?? So, actual vegetarians who don't eat meat can't be pragmatic? How could they be, I guess, when Fellowes tells the reader that 'vegetarianism' is a term that conjures up "images of strict mealtimes reliant on flavourless soya-based products" and that unless a vegetarian diet is planned methodically, protein and amino acid deficiencies will follow. And besides, according to her "anecdotal evidence" everybody knows that "numerous vegetarians sneak the occasional sliver of flesh on to their plates" anyway so it's obvious that it just doesn't work.

To convey the health benefits of occasional meat eating, Fellowes' article references an interior designer whose name she says "has been changed so as not to devastate her mother". This vegetarian-raised designer ended up reverting to eating meat after developing eczema, which her nutritionist blamed on dairy. The designer told her that without dairy, she was left "craving protein", so the obvious choice for her was to start eating meat again. According to Fellowes, this meant that she was then left consuming less "
dairy and pasta" (pasta's a meat sub?) and enjoyed the added bonus of losing weight. Speaking of weight loss -- Fellowes cites a "nutrition consultant" called Ian Marber in her article (who of course advocates occasional meat eating -- but only happy meat eating, à la Pollan). A quick Google search for his name showed that he's a dieting guru who pushes weight loss books and supplements on his website.


Fellowes ends her article on that old typical "meat is yummy and I'm so clever" note, summing up her stance with a story about getting her protein by accidentally killing a pheasant while out driving and thus delightfully enjoying a free and tasty lunch. I wonder if, like a true Pollan-ite, she plucked and prepared the poor thing herself? I'm guessing not and that she probably didn't want to get her beloved Jimmy Choos dirty.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Once the Post-Election Giddiness Subsides

I've found myself regularly checking out the Breaking News section of Matt Savinar's Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash website. A thin Savinar book -- The Oil Age Is Over, a gift from a friend -- had been my harsh intro to Peak Oil a couple of years ago. He's regarded as a hardcore "doomer" -- i.e. he not only believes that we're running out of oil, but that life as we know it now is going to change so drastically as this progresses that most of us can't even envision how great an impact it will have on the things we take for granted today.

Over the past couple of months, the stories about what's going on with the US economy (as well as the global economy) have been pouring in and out of there -- and they're almost all from ordinary mainstream sources ranging from the NY Times to the Wall Street Journal. He's basically compiling what's out on the wire already, bringing it all together. And when you see all of those articles together, it certainly leaves a stronger impression. Things aren't good in the US. At all. And while a large segment of the US population may have breathed a collective sigh of relief when the geography-challenged moose-hunting momma didn't become their next Vice President, the truth seems to be that all history-making socio-cultural wows aside, this big "change" that's supposed to happen in Washington is just going to be the perpetuation of a government run by the same handful (albeit shuffled) of Washington insiders who've been drifting in and out of there for years.

So, what now? Oil prices have been going back down after a huge drop in consumer demand, so after a flurry of interest in Peak Oil over this past summer, the topic seems to have been banished to a back shelf in somebody's tool shed. Obama was just elected, so all of this tension and anxiety over recent goings on at Wall Street seem to have been forgotten, when the truth is that things are just starting to rock and roll there. Consumers are spending less (not such a bad thing, in my opinion -- although spending and incurring debt is what props up the US economy). Now there are more and more stories about the rate of unemployment spiking -- perhaps more so than people realize or the government is willing to admit.

This whole bailout thing -- it's now turning into a smorgasbord for credit card companies, auto manufacturers who are having a hard time pushing their gas guzzlers on the public, and others who want a turn at the cookie jar. Heck, American Express just got reclassified as a bank so that it could access more funding from the government. How cool is that?

I'm just wondering how long it's going to take for the post-election afterglow to fade. I hope it's sooner than later.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keith Olbermann on California's Prop 8 and on Marriage in General

Keith Olbermann comments quite passionately on marriage and hate, in response to the passing of California's Proposition 8, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry in that state.

Sharon Astyk's new book Depletion and Abundance

I'm hopping over to my favourite local book store after work to order Sharon Astyk's new book, Depletion and Abundance. I've referenced her a few times in my blog and have referred many friends to her own incredibly informative blog, Casaubon's Book. Astyk is a farmer in upstate New York who writes (prolifically) about sustainability and Peak Oil. There's a short and sweet review of her book over at The Blogging Bookworm, where the reviewer asserts that Astyk's focus is on how it's ordinary individuals who must lead the way -- not government -- and that this is especially applicable now in the face of the global economic turmoil that's just started to brew, and with Peak Oil still a reality, regardless of the recent nosedive in the price of crude.

The review also reaffirms what I've sussed out about Astyk from reading her blog. She's a lot like Heinberg in the sense that there are no rose-coloured glasses in her world. While some may find a lot of what she and Heinberg have to say
depressing, the truth is that both of them use their unapologetic assessments of the state of the world as springboards. Where a lot of Peak Oil writing seems to just dwell on the gloom, Astyk voices the "So what can I do?" with which a lot of people are left after learning about fossil-fuel depletion, and she provides solutions -- on all levels, however seemingly slight each proposed action may be. It's hard to read her writing and walk away from it feeling lost. In an age of so much uncertainty, it's reassuring.

Last month, The Energy Bulletin also had
a review of Depletion and Abundance. The reviewer describes Astyk as providing a much-needed women's voice in the Peak Oil movement and states that she provides this "by reclaiming th[e] traditional sphere of women's work from a feminist perspective". The book is said to dismiss the myths we hold, within the context of our high tech and high energy world, of how our lives should be lived. Astyk goes to the root of things, expressing that we need to revisit a simpler way of doing things -- living more frugally and becoming more responsible citizens. She suggests that change can indeed be started with as simple an action as starting your own garden.

I'm looking forward to reading it and intend to post my own take on it after I do so, regardless of being a bit slow on the draw.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Media-opoly

This got me snickering a little; I'd never seen this before. I've been cable-free for two and a half years now, so I don't get to watch SNL often.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Whale Wars on Animal Planet

I found myself wishing I still had cable this morning as I read about this evening's premiere of a show on Animal Planet. It's called "Whale Wars" and is a seven-part weekly series that essentially looks at the work done by Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society -- with the film crew spending a number of days on Watson's ship as it confronts whalers on international waters. Here's Animal Planet's official blurb about it, and here's what's on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's website. The show starts at 9 PM ET/PT.

The LA Times talks about it here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How to Take Care of People and Bikes

I've been trying to figure out how to fix the blog up a bit so that it looks better. I'm not a fan of clutter, so one of the things I've been fretting over are the links off to the side. There's a whole heap of them. Some of them lead to invaluable information and some would probably just be better off as bookmarks for me. So in trying to figure how to trim and rearrange my links lists, I've ended up -- not-so-surprisingly -- finding even more links to add. For now, I'll just share them here until I've figured out whether they're keepers. Many of them are geared towards skills acquisition or low-tech alternatives to things we usually take for granted in the age of cheap fossil fuels.

For instance, I found a free online book called Where There is no Dentist which contains information on how to treat mouth-related problems in a setting where the services of a dentist aren't available. Of course, you still need to have certain supplies on hand, including dentists tools. I'm no dentist, so I can't vouch for the information. It comes from a non-profit org called Health Wrights, which works to advance health, basic rights, self-determination and social justice in have-not countries. Another group called The Hesperian Foundation (or Hesperian) which is "a non-profit publisher of books and newsletters for community-based healthcare" has similar books called Where There is no Doctor and A Book for Midwives. Here's a link to all of their free book downloads.

Of particular interest to me right now was to find some information on bicycle repairs. Whenever anything goes wrong with my bike, which is my primary source of transportation and exercise, it seems that said bike invariable ends up in the shop for a minimum of 24 hours and I end up having to fork over anywhere from $35 to $100. So? It's in my best interest right now to learn how to repair my own bike. Additionally, as oil supplies continue to diminish in the future and this cost downturn we're experiencing now ends up being nothing but a nostalgic memory, things like bicycles will become invaluable when it comes to transportation over short distances. Possessing basic maintenance and fix-it skills will be vital. The Bicycle Tutor site features over 40 videos on everything from how to check for chain wear to how to true your own wheels. The site also has a links section that lists over a dozen other websites that teach you about bike repair.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Richard Heinberg and What We Call Food

Richard Heinberg's November Museletter is out. He discusses the need to take a proactive approach towards agriculture to both avoid a food crisis as fossil fuels diminish, as well as to lessen its impact upon the environment -- particularly, to reverse agriculture's contribution to climate change. The way to do this, he says, is to start removing fossil fuels from what he calls "the food system" now instead of doing it when we've no other option. He cites a United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)'s report on the viability of small-scale organic agriculture in terms of its production equaling that of industrial agriculture and then proceeds to map out this incredible plan, examining all components of the food system, from soil and seed, to labour and distribution. He explains why genetically modified crops, so reliant on transportation and chemicals, will be useless in a world with diminishing oil supplies.

Heinberg discusses the need to shift to natural unprocessed foods and asserts that a "shift toward a less meat-centered diet should also be encouraged, because a meat-based diet is substantially more energy intensive than one that is plant-based". It's funny how although Heinberg has been a vegetarian himself for many, many years, he's so rarely addressed the issue of meat eating and how so much more fossil fuel reliant it is than a vegetarian (or better -- a vegan) diet.

I emailed my friend J. about it. He's an almost-vegan and he introduced me to Heinberg's work a few years ago. J. pointed out that Heinberg is likely aware that bringing up vegetarianism would alienate a large percentage of the population. I don't buy that, though. Heinberg's not afraid to advocate cutting back on our energy consumption, growing our own food in whatever garden space we can muster up, focusing on changing how we view community -- why on earth would he be cowed by fears of following his own assertions about lessening meat consumption to their logical (and optimal) conclusions? The article reminded me of the only reference I've read Heinberg really make to vegetarianism -- his own, as well as with regards to others.


It was a talk Heinberg gave for the Twenty-sixth E. F. Shumacher Lecture in 2006. Actually, the reference happened in the Q&A bit that happened after the talk, when Heinberg was asked why he wasn't addressing how much grain goes towards raising animals for food, and was asked what his stance was on eating lower on the food chain, he responded:

As a thirty-five-year vegetarian I’m a little biased. Yes, meat production is obviously extremely energy intensive and more so in this country than in many other places. [...] Over the past thirty-five years I have found that from a health standpoint many people don’t do well on a completely vegan or vegetarian diet, and I think we have to be realistic and take account of that. I also think, however, that we would be much healthier if we ate much less meat; that would help our collective survival prospects enormously as we go through this transition.
Many people don't do well on a completely vegan or vegetarian diet?? So why this perpetuation of this myth that vegetarianism and veganism aren't healthy? Where does Heinberg get this supposed "data", which sounds especially weird coming from someone who claims he's been a vegetarian for thirty-five years. It was disappointing when I'd first read it, and is still disappointing to read today, after reading Heinberg's weighing of the energy-intensiveness of plant-based vs. meat-based diets.

A Vegan Thanksgiving

Trying to figure out what to do for a holiday meal? The ScrippsNews website has a short article on how to have a vegan Thanksgiving (U.S.). It includes recipes for a vegan Shepherd's Pie, Mushroom Gravy, Creamy Spiced Butternut Squash Soup and Pumpkin Raisin Bread, all from Mary Grayr, the chef and owner of Mary's Secret Garden in Ventura, CA.

Cookbook writer Bryanna Clark Grogan's got a whole mess of scrumptious-sounding Thanksgiving recipe ideas on her website. PCRM'S site has a bunch that sound lovely. Veg websites like VegWeb.com also have tons of holiday-themed recipe ideas and even ordinary recipe sites with search functions offer up lots of vegan variations on traditional holiday dishes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Animal Ethics

For those of you interested in animal ethics (animal rights, animal welfare, animal abolitionism -- whatever), I wanted to bring to your attention a blog I discovered a short while ago and that I've really been enjoying and appreciating. It's called Animal Ethics: Philosophical Discussion of the Moral Status of Nonhuman Animals and is maintained by Keith Burgess-Jackson, J.D., Ph.D. and Mylan Engel Jr., Ph.D. (although Burgess-Jackson seems to be doing most of the posting these days).

The blog has the most impressive collection of animal ethics related links I've seen anywhere. It covers so much ground -- links to relevant stories in the news and to other relevant blogs or websites, philosophical essays, analysis / commentary on those essays or on other animal-related issues, information on vegetarianism, et al.. The archives go back to 2003 and there's so much that's good to read there -- much of it involving a philosophical approach to animal issues.

I've included a link to it off to the side, but just wanted to post about it to bring attention to it. It's sort of interesting to see someone who seems rather conservative writing about something that's too often pegged as being on the fringes of the political left (on his more general blog, Burgess-Jackson asserts that he's against same-sex unions and appears to view feminism and abortion rights in a negative light).

Would blogging about anything *but* today

leaving me feeling as if there was a large pachyderm hopping up and down on my sofa?

Monday, November 03, 2008

The International Energy Agency's Report on the State of the World's 400 Largest Oil Fields

I'd posted back in May about the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s concerns about the decline in global oil production. At the time, they were planning to release a report this November about the depletion profiles of the world's top 400 oil fields. A recent article by Richard Heinberg on the Post Carbon Institute website states that the Financial Times has leaked some of the results of this report. According to Heinberg, the IEA found that "Without extra investment to raise production, the natural annual rate of output decline is 9.1 per cent." He states that according to the leaked information, we can only conclude that global oil production has now passed its peak, which would have been this past July.

According to Heinberg (and many others), the drop in oil prices over the past month or two means that the sort of investment needed to explore new oil projects just isn't going to happen, and even if it did, it would involve the exploration of expensive and / or environmentally devastating projects similar to the Alberta tar sands -- projects whose outputs very likely couldn't ever keep up with current and future demands for fossil fuels.

It'll be interesting to see the full report when it comes out on November 12.

Friday, October 31, 2008

World Vegan Day and Media

November 1st is World Vegan Day and kick-starts World Vegan Month. It was initiated by the Vegan Society in 1994 to mark its 50th anniversary. I'm guessing that veganism will be discussed a bit more than usual in the media as a result for the next week or so. For instance, Time's website has an article called "A Brief History of Veganism" by someone called Claire Suddath. She uses terms like "extreme", "strict" and "ism". Suddoth also insinuates that most vegans aren't really vegan since

like any lifestyle choice that ends in "-ism," there are plenty of people who cheat. The vitamin B12 is found almost entirely in animal products, so many vegans eat fortified food or take a vitamin to get the right amount.
She asserts that "American vegetarianism has broken free of its philosophical [...] roots, becoming an accepted health choice" as if ethical reasons now have less to do with American vegetarians' decision to stop eating animals. She juxtaposes this with veganism by asserting that veganism is "out there on the fringe" and is "still tied to" -- gasp! -- the animal rights movement. She also kinda makes Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, sound like a fearmongerer by stating that when he coined the term and he took "advantage" of a tuberculosis scare to prove that veganism would protect people from "tainted food".

Basically, the article reads as it was written by someone already biased against veganism, but it's done in such a mild way that your average reader, unfamiliar with veganism in the first place, wouldn't really pick up on it, but would just walk away thinking that vegans are radical and hypocritical nutcases who are (or who associate
with) nasty animal rights terrorists.

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A San Francisco Chronicle blogger posted that her 5 year old daughter announced to her that she wanted to be a vegan and asked for advice / input. The majority of the responses have been thoughtful, informative and supportive.

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Kim O'Donnel of the Washington Post had her live / online discussion, called "What's Cooking?", about meatless eating yesterday; you can find the transcript here. I've written about O'Donnel's "Meatless Monday" food column before. There'll be a special installment of her "What's Cooking?" feature on Thursday, November 13, when she'll be focusing on how to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Interview with Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

We are conditioned to respond in socially acceptable ways i.e. protests, petitions boycotts etc. We also have the problem that nature and other species are an abstraction to us. Humans fight for property, for immediate self defense and for religion. Hominids are a self centered species. When people ask how I can risk human life to protect a whale, I cite the fact that we do not think it is unnatural or unethical to risk our lives and to kill over property like land and oil. And we accept dying and killing for ridiculous religious beliefs. I think fighting for endangered species and threatened habitats to be much nobler.
--Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shephard Conservation Society

Paul Watson was interviewed by Jason Miller recently and talked about his work defending marine life, as well as his issues with Greenpeace (whose solicitors he calls the "Avon ladies of the environmental movement"), veganism, and the conflicts between capitalism and the basic laws of ecology. Read the full interview here on the Axis of Logic website.

Guns Don't Kill People

Absolute stupidity does. Who the hell hands an 8 year old kid an Uzi??

As his father raised his camera, an 8-year-old boy aimed an Uzi at a pumpkin set up at a shooting event. Before his father could focus, the third-grader from Connecticut squeezed the trigger, and the high-powered weapon recoiled and fatally shot the boy in the head.

[...]

In a telephone interview yesterday, the boy's father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, said he stood 10 feet behind his son as a professional trained in using the 9-mm Micro Uzi machine gun stood beside the boy on Sunday afternoon. He said he doesn't think the shooting instructor was holding the weapon as his son pressed the trigger, as guides did with other children firing the weapon.

"This accident was truly a mystery to me," he said. "This is a horrible event, a horrible travesty, and I really don't know why it happened. I don't think it's relevant that [the instructor] wasn't holding the weapon."

Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Crochet Chain Stitch

The chain stitch is sort of the equivalent of "casting on" in knitting. It's basically what you need to do to get started -- to create that first row from which you then crochet your project. I like this video better than the previous video I posted. It only covers this one part, though. Before you can even get to this point, you need to know how to make a slip knot. Click here for a video that shows you how.

These, and the rest of the instructional crochet videos I'll be posting, were found via the Knit Witch website.


How I Spent My Saturday Afternoon

I suspect that once I get the hang of this, it should be a breeze. Here's a beginner's video on how to crochet. The talking and baby in the background are a little distracting, but the instructions and image are clear. I'm sure there are better intro videos out there, but this one was good enough to get me started.

Edit: Actually, the problem with this video is that it doesn't show you what to do when you reach the end of a row. I'll have to find something else to post.

Nicole Atkins - The Way It Is

This was the incredible voice coming through the earphones of my trusty little MP3 player when it plopped through the bubbles and into the tub this afternoon.

That's what I get for letting myself get lost in thought. One less toy...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Veganism in the News

The Baltimore City Paper printed an article in its Eats section by a woman called Violet Glaze (I think she usually covers entertainment). She starts off by asserting that she's a vegan, "but not a very good one". She refers to her "ravenous, carnivorous muscles" sending "red alerts" to her subconscious when she purportedly becomes protein deficient (perpetuating the myth that vegans don't get enough protein). She quips that her skimping on seitan leads to dreams of animal flesh, and that although she knows that she can get sufficient protein from vegetable sources, that it's animal flesh her body craves anyway. She presents veganism as a struggle against these sorts of cravings.

She uses this as a diving board to plunge into -- you guessed it -- an argument for the ethical superiority of eating animals grown and
slaughtered locally, versus eating plant-based foods that are shipped in from far away. She quotes Barbra Kingsolver, who mused that opting for plant-based foods and meat alternatives from great distances leads us to "overlook the suffering of victims of hurricanes, famines and wars brought on this world by profligate fuel consumption". Therefore, we're left with an either / or situation where you can either eat local animals and their products or be a vegetarian and have your animal-free food shipped in from far away, which apparently leads to great human suffering. The assumption is that all meat and animal products are local and that everything else has to circle the globe to get to us.

Glaze accepts this either / or scenario and refers to the "rug of vegetarian moral superiority" being "yanked out from under" her feet (perpetuating the myth that vegetarians are, by default, smug and holier-than-thou types). So her solution to what she feels is a true ethical dilemma left in her lap by Kingsolver? To eat insects, since (as she puts it) "an insect is practically a plant, right?". In the end, she asserts that her experiment has likely left her a more "dedicated" vegan, but she continues by saying that if she ever sees insects on a menu in the future that although the "saint" in her won't order them, the "omnivore" in her might.

(Photo of the article's author from the Baltimore City Paper)
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In other news: Time magazine recently featured an article in its "10 Questions" series that allowed readers to ask Ingrid Newkirk of PETA some questions. I liked her response about the whole Ben & Jerry's breast milk campaign that left so many people outraged and ranting. Newkirk essentially points out that it was indeed a joke to get people -- as well as the media -- talking about how cow's milk is meant for calves. I didn't quite like how she answered the question concerning how one could fight for animal rights in a world filled with poverty and starvation. She focused on the unhealthiness of meat, when so much more could have been said.

I'm not a huge fan of PETA, but in all, I guess that this bit by her in as mainstream and conservative a publication as
Time wasn't all that bad.

Brooklyn Goes Veg! Responds to The Brooklyn Paper

I'd written a week ago about how Mike McLaughlin of The Brooklyn Paper had proclaimed, based on a few quotes and conversations and the low participation of restaurants this year in Brooklyn's annual vegetarian restaurant week, that vegetarianism is dead. It seems that McLaughlin, whose proclamation had seemed an ill-researched knee-jerk assumption, had misrepresented the Brooklyn Goes Veg! organizer's views in his attempt to stress the decline of vegetarianism. Read the response to his article here.

Apologies and Secrets, Oh My!

Too many years ago, whilst going to school somewhere in the Ottawa Valley, I enjoyed a few years of the most amazing radio reception I've ever had in my life. I'd stay up late at night -- college insomniac, often cramming for midterms or forcing essays out through writer's block -- listening to American talk radio on AM stations that would sort of disappear at sun-up. (Yes, even then, Rush Limbaugh was still a sorry jackass.)

I remember being fascinated with a program that I think ran on late night American radio
(although part of me is tempted to say that it ran on CBC). It had a twisted sort of appeal that tapped into my inner-voyeur. The program involved the broadcast of message after message left on Allan Bridge's Apology Project phone line. The art project was a confessional sort of thing, meant to provide catharsis to callers (and inevitably, a bit of titillation for those who listened to the messages or read about them). Bridge, or Mr. Apology (as he called himsef), left posters around NYC inviting people to call a phone number to apologise anonymously for something they'd done -- to relieve themselves of the guilt of long-held secrets. Of course, many probably took off running with it, although from listening to some of the messages, I'm sure that many took it quite seriously. I was surprised, upon Googling the whole thing, to find out about the book and movie the project led to, as well as about the magazine Bridge apparently published called Apology, which contained transcripts of the messages. Bridge, as it turns out, was killed 1n 1995 by a hit-and-run jet skier.

I was reminded of all of this earlier this morning as I sipped my green tea and tried to liven myself up to shower before heading off to work. I came across a blog called
PostSecret, which is another sort of art project. In this case, people mail in their secrets on one side of a postcard, and the product mailed in gets posted to the blog. Some of them are funny, but so many of them are so incredibly sad. I guess that this project is churning out books, as well.

(Photo: From the PostSecret blog.)