Monday, March 30, 2009

Of Starblazers and Steampunk

Yesterday, my friend T. and I got into a discussion about a shared nostalgic bit from our respective childhoods -- the old animated series Star Blazers (at least, that was its North American incarnation back in the day). The conversation then meandered in increments and we went from discussing Star Blazers, to models of the Space Battleship Yamato -- the Argo in me own wee heart, to our respective former obsessions with Lego and building things. (Google pretty much effectively condensed and / or summarized most of our conversation here.) Then he brought up "steampunk". And then I ended up finding a link to some photos of steampunk computer modifications and have, I think, come up with a new project, if only I can resurrect my comatose iMac. In retrospect, it was sort of funny how the conversation ended up getting from Star Blazers to steampunk, considering that Star Blazers is as steampunk as anime gets.

Fore more information on how to go about indulging your steampunk urges, check out The Steampunk Workshop. The Instructables website has a whole bunch of entries in their steampunk category, as well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Burger King and Heather Mills

According to this article, vegan Heather Mills just recently landed herself a deal in which fast food chain Burger King will pay her the whoppin' sum of 4.3 million dollars to promote its "new meat-free burgers". I'm guessing that this isn't the already existing Burger King BK VEGGIE Burger, which is made with Morningstar Farms' Garden Veggie Patties, which in turn contain egg and dairy. I think that the story is fairly new, so it might be a few days before further details come out concerning Burger King's latest product and whether it's just meat-free or altogether animal product-free.


I have seriously mixed feelings about vegans getting behind any business that makes almost all of its profits through the use of animals, even if it's to promote a vegan option. My feelings about it will be a little less mixed if the new burger is in fact yet another non-vegan option, but not by any significant amount. I can't help but think that getting behind someone who profits from animal slaughter's offering an animal-free item is sort of like making a business deal with a company that sells women into sex trade slavery to help them promote their brand new line of anatomically correct dolls. Would promoting the dolls merely increase the business' customer base by attracting people who wouldn't be interested in purchasing a sex slave anyway? Or, is it reasonable to expect that having the option available would actually sway those who have no ethical issues with purchasing a sex slave into opting to purchase the anatomically correct doll instead?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Suicide Food

Suicide Food isn't for everyone. The blog examines depictions in the media and advertising of animals who behave as if they truly want to be consumed. Cartoon pigs beckon you to come hither to chow down on some barbecue; chickens wink enticingly while holding out buckets of their kin's deep-fried body parts. It's eerily fascinating and so commonplace that I think that most people don't even give it a second thought -- that is, until they become aware of the ethical issues inherent in consuming animal products and start noticing how it is that the consumption of those animals is portrayed in society. It's worth checking out if you can appreciate absurdity or if you're a pop culture fetishist like me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vegan Recipes in Online Media

I stumbled across another piece today that mentions Bryant Terry and his book Vegan Soul Kitchen. This one offered up his recipes for "Vegan Succotash Soup" and "Garlicky Corn Bread Croutons".

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Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger's website has a feature today on Susan Voisin (aka SusanV), creator of the FatFree Vegan website. In it, Voisin discusses how she came to set up her site -- a definite favourite amongst vegan foodies across the internet. A recipe for "Quinoa, Asparagus, Mushrooms and Chickpeas" is included. Mention is also made at the end of the piece of a forthcoming book in 2010.

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Seacoast Online's Rachel Forrest has a really informative piece that highlights the origins, versatility and health benefits of agave nectar (or agave syrup) today. It's not written from a vegan perspective, by any stretch, but it's great nonetheless to see it being discussed in mainstream media. She's included recipes for an "Asian Vinaigrette", as well as a "BBQ Sauce".

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recipes, Muscle-Flexing and Documentaries, Oh My!

From the interwebs this morning:

The Washington Post's Kim O'Donnell's latest "Meatless Monday" instalment featured recipes for a BBQ Tempeh Sandwich and Carrot-Cayenne Coleslaw, both from Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen.


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Mother Jones
had a really positive article on vegan bodybuilder Kenneth Williams in the online version of their March / April issue.

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Variety
's Brian Lowry wrote a review of the documentary Death on a Factory Farm, which airs on HBO tonight at 10 pm. He describes it as "exposing cruel treatment and horrible conditions for animals bred for butchering, without addressing the larger question of societal complicity in our demand for food at reasonable costs". Lowry sums up the documentary by stating that

The main drawback with this sort of exercise -- and indeed, the animal rights movement -- boils down to a matter of degree and perspective. Wanting such operations to be as compassionate as possible is certainly laudable. But unless everyone turns Vegan overnight, animals are going to be killed for our consumption, so the question boils down to how.
It's annoying -- but unsurprising -- to hear yet another person stress that it's unreasonable to strive towards the eventual cessation of animals being raised and slaughtered for food, and that our attention should instead be focused on animal welfare -- i.e. how animals are treated as they continue to be raised and slaughtered for us to eat.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Flight of the Conchords - Bowie's in Space

Unrelated musical indulgences, galore! This is purportedly from their first televised performance in May of 2000.




The Flaming Lips - Waiting For A Superman - Nov. 6th 1999

This girl's in love with YouTube.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vegan-ish Bits Online

I did a quick scan of mostly online media this morning while inhaling my morning coffee and found a few interesting things to share.

Adam Kochanowicz, a fellow fan of Bob and Jenna Torres' kickass Vegan Freak Radio Podcast, has been writing some neat little pieces for Examiner.com. One of his latest addresses the "3 Most Popular Vegan Fallacies" -- that veganism leads to protein deficiency, that it's difficult to be vegan in certain locations, and that vegans are skinny.

The Dallas Observer featured a brief interview today with former professional tri-athlete and current Austin firefighter Rip Esselstyn about an animal-product-free cookbook he's recently published. Esselstyn is distancing himself from using the term "vegan", however, adopting the label "plant strong" instead, emphasizing a diet that's "all plants, no animal products, no added oils, and no processed foods" as well as containing no caffeine or alcohol. The recipes are suitable for vegans, but the author's focus is strictly on health.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Quite Possibly One of the Most Stupid Things I've Read Today

Taken from Princeton's newspaper, The Daily Princetonian:

“The dining hall is the reason why I’m not vegan anymore,” said Jones, who is now independent, adding that she subsisted mostly on peanut butter, soy milk and fruit when she had a meal plan. “I basically couldn’t eat a varied diet and get all the nutrients that I needed,” she explained.

As the University requires all students to sign up for meal plans during their freshman and sophomore years, Jones said she felt she wasn’t getting her money’s worth. “I was being forced to pay for everyone else’s meat, which I normally wouldn’t support,” she said. As a result, she gave up veganism. “I decided to eat [meat] anyways since I was paying for it,” she explained.

She decided to "eat meat anyway" since she was paying for it? Plus, the article goes on to state that more than a third of the meal options in her dining hall at any given time were actually vegetarian or vegan. Once again, convenience trumps logic.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The True Origin of Knowledge

Anti-Cruelty Legislation as Empty Gestures

I read an insightful piece on the FindLaw website this morning by Sherry F. Colb, Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law School. It's called "An Empty Gesture to Soothe Conscience: Why We Pass Laws Protecting Chimpanzees and Other Animals From Cruelty". In it, she explores the reasons that motivate us to pass anti-cruelty legislation, citing a paper by Pace University law professor Luis Chiesa:

The four purposes are, roughly: (1) protection of property rights (of animals' owners); (2) apprehension of dangerous people (whose dangerousness to fellow human beings is made manifest in their mistreatment of nonhuman animals): (3) promoting the moral sensibilities of those who feel that animal cruelty is immoral; and (4) protecting potential animal victims from harm.
Chiesa expressed that the best account of modern anti-cruelty laws is the fourth, even though this begs the question
Why, if the goal of these laws is to protect animals, are there so many exemptions to the laws, leaving them inapplicable within and throughout the meat, dairy, and egg industries, not to mention the use and killing of animals in clothing production, scientific experimentation, and hunting?
It is from this starting point that Colb proceeds to examine how it is that human society manages to justify -- even when there is inherent and obvious cruelty in certain acts -- that the benefits received by humans in performing some of these acts outweigh the harms that are in-turn inflicted upon the non-human animals involved. Colb agrees with Chiesa that the key to addressing animal cruelty is to address these nonsensical distinctions that are, in fact, so telling of our actual "moral schizophrenia" (Colb quotes Gary L. Francione in her piece). According to Colb:
Chiesa's thesis is important because it implies that if one wishes to legislate more aggressively against the infliction of harm against nonhuman animals (for example, by outlawing the slaughter of nonhuman animals as food), one need only make the case that the benefits derived from a legally permissible activity – such as farming animals to meet the demand for meat, milk, and eggs – are in fact no greater than they are in the case of prohibited activities like bull-fighting or (in some jurisdictions) the production of paté de foie gras.
However, Colb disagrees with Chiesa that protecting potential animals from harm provides the best account for what drives anti-cruelty legislation, although she does him the kindness of referring to it as "mistaken". She focuses on the incoherence of how we view some animals as adorable, and others as edible or wearable, and expresses how this is something that's instilled in people as early as childhood. According to Colb
People grow up eating, wearing, and otherwise consuming sentient, nonhuman animals. Children, on occasion, feel confused and upset when they learn that their food was once a live animal, but parents counter the confusion with a combination of false information (such as "The animals have very good lives until they die" and "We need to eat and wear animals") and majoritarian reassurance ("Look at all the people eating animals – it can't be wrong if everyone does it"). Then parents might purchase (or even adopt from a shelter) a dog or cat and demonstrate to their children that they – and their children – really are good to nonhuman animals, because they feed and care for one in their own home and even consider him or her to be a part of their family.
From this, she assesses that "[a]nti-cruelty laws, properly understood, represent self-soothing gestures within that denial structure" and that promoting anti-cruelty legislation -- the sort of baby steps that even some vegans view as worthwhile, actually does little other than leave people feeling more comfortable about eating animals than bringing us any closer to the end of our using them as means to our purportedly pleasurable ends. It's a well-articulated article that raises many points that come up time and time again in discussions questioning the philosophical split between welfarism and abolitionism in the animal rights movement.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The B12 Study, Part 2

Nosing around this morning, I found two excellent reactions to the B12 study referenced in the article(s) I discussed yesterday.

Gary L. Francione is addressing the Telegraph piece, itself, on Opposing Views, commenting on how the journal article's abstract doesn't actually even refer to veganism. As well, PCRM has issued a statement endorsing "well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets for healthy pregnancies".

Monday, March 02, 2009

B12 and More Scaremongering About Veganism in the News

There are articles spreading across the internet this week about a recent study in Ireland linking neural tube birth defects to vitamin B12 deficiency. The study pointed out that a) women who consume little or no animal products, as well as b) women who have intestinal disorders that prevent them from absorbing B12 properly, are at highest risk of being B12 deficient and that it's this B12 deficiency that increases the chance of the development of neural tube defects. At least some of the articles mention the B12 absorption issue, but not all of them do, which is unfortunate, since awareness should be raised of this condition. Furthermore, not mentioning the absorption issue leaves all of the negative attention focused on veganism.

One example of this is the UK Telegraph's article, which has me particularly irked since along with omitting the mention of the absorption issue, it states flat-out in its title that a "Vegan diet increases the risk of birth defects". Like some of the other articles I scanned, it makes a reference to supplementation, but fails completely to mention the wide range of foods that are fortified with B12 already. All of the 4-5 articles I scanned that covered the study emphasized that B12 can "only" be found in meat, eggs or dairy; few of them made more than a slight reference to supplementation, and none mentioned the absurdly high percentage of foods like soy products and cereals that are already fortified with B12 -- foods that aren't, in fact, animal-derived. (See this article from the Vegetarian Resource Group for more information on how to get B12 in your diet from non-animal sources.)

What concerns me even further is that Telegraph's article (along with a few others) fails to mention what this one does, which is that

[f]or the study, the researchers analysed stored blood samples originally collected during early pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990. During that time, pregnant women in Ireland rarely took vitamin supplements.
So, these articles are now going around, associating veganism with birth defects. This, in and of itself, is what's going to be kicked around in mainstream media for the next little while, since villifying veganism seems to be the trendy thing these days. This study, however, was conducted using women who weren't taking any vitamin supplements at all at a time when the B12-fortified foods so readily available and plentiful now were probably incredibly scarce. Vegans today live in a completely different context, yet if clarification of these significant facts in these articles about the study isn't provided, yet another myth about the (gasp!) dangers of being vegan will be perpetuated -- possibly for years to come.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Beirut - Postcards from Italy

A musical interlude (which also happens to be a part of the wonderful background noise I've had around me all weekend):