Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More from "Eating Animals."

I've slowly been plugging away at my evening readings of Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals," and I am extremely enjoying the experience, even though he sheds some pretty bright light on some very uncomfortable subjects. 

The following are quotes from a letter written by a vegetarian cattle rancher (for Niman Ranch):

"Factory farming is the last system you'd create if you cared about sustainably feeding people over the long term...  Their prices are artificially low-- what doesn't show up at the cash register is paid for over years and by everyone."

"I have a lot of vegan friends and acquintances, some of whom are connected with PETA or Farm Sanctuary, and many of them assume that eventually humanity will solve the factory-farming problem by getting people to quit eating animals. I disagree. At least, not in our lifetime. If that were possible, I think it would be many generations from now. So in the interim, something else has to happen to address the intense suffering caused by factory farms. Alternatives need to be advocated for and supported."

"...We're awaking to the irony of seeking out shampoo that's not tested on animals while at the same time (and many times a day) buying meat that's produced in profoundly cruel systems."

The following are quotes taken from another letter published in "Eating Animals," admittedly written by a PETA employee. Now this, I think, should be very persuasive even for those among us who just don't think about the subject much or who don't care incredibly much about the welfare of animals or the environment compared to the burdens at home and at work:

"... there is no ethical difference between eating meat and throwing vast quantities of food in the trash, since the animals we eat can only turn a small fraction of the food that is fed to them into meat calories-- it takes six to twenty-six calories fed to an animal to produce just one calorie of animal flesh." (my emphasis)

And this, I think, is the most important point that we should take away from all that has been shown so far: "But it's not enough only to know what's right and wrong; action is the other, and more important, half of moral understanding."

More music

Daft Punk's theme for the newer Tron film. Pretty chill, if you ask me.

TOBACCO's remix of Restiform Bodies' "Panic Shopper."  Sick, retro (early 80s count as retro?) video.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Eating Animals" excerpts, or: Why I've Gone Vegan

Tomorrow marks one month that I decided to go vegan, and I must say that I am both loving the effects (both mentally and physically) and feeling more justified in my decision by the day. As an endeavor not necessarily (at least not whole-heartedly) tied to my vegan experiment, I also began reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathon Safran Foer, author of “Everything is Illuminated.”

“Eating Animals” is by far the most persuasive, gripping book documenting the author’s research into the animal industry, originally dedicated to his hope of deciding, once and for all, whether to feed his soon-to-be-born son meat or not.  What follows are excerpts that I have found especially enlightening/breathtaking/persuasive, and I hope that more of what he has to say on the matter can be read by more and more people.  I must admit that I had already known a fair amount of the intolerable treatment of most, but not all, of our farm animals as well as some of the negative health effects associated with frequent meat and dairy intake (higher rates of osteoporosis, actually), but this book (and I think it’s primarily due to Foer’s superb writing and the overall organization of the book) took that knowledge and ‘eww’ factor about meat, and the factory farm industry in general, to a whole new level.

Whether you are a hardcore meat eater or a die-hard vegan, I hope that you’ll at least come away with some new information or perhaps a new perspective from reading these excerpts. I know that I have done so, and I’m not even finished with the book yet.  Just waiting to reach the health and climate change sections…!

An excerpt from, taken verbatim from the “Species Barrier” section. (75,76) This story telling solidified Foer in my mind as an excellent writer, and I hope you’ll see along with me just why I feel  that way. This is relatively long (2 pages in a large hardback), but I implore you to read this to the very last sentence.

“The Berlin Zoo (Zoologischer Garten Berlin) houses the largest number of species of any zoo in the world, around 1,400. Opened in 1844, it was the first zoo in German- the original animals were gifts from Frederick William IV’s menagerie—and with 2.6 million visitors a year, it is the most trafficked zoo in Europe. Allied air raids in 1942 destroyed nearly all of the infrastructure, and only ninety-one animals survived. (It’s amazing that in a city in which people were cutting down the public parks for firewood any animals survived at all.) Today there are about fifteen thousand animals. But most people pay attention to only one of them.

Knut, the first polar bear born to the zoo in thirty years, entered the world on December 5, 2006. He was rejected by his mother, the twenty-year-old Tosca, a retired German circus bear, and his twin brother died four days later. It’s a promising beginning for a bad TV movie, but not for a life. Little Knut spent his first fourty-four days in an incubator. His keeper, Thomas Dorflein, slept at the zoo in order to provide twenty-four-hour care. Dorflein bottle-fed Knug every two hours, strummed Elvis’s “Devil in Disguise” on his guitar at Knut’s bedtime, and was covered in cuts and bruises from all the roughhousing. Knut weighed 1.8 pounds at birth, but by the time I saw him, about three months later, he had more than doubled his weight. If all goes well, he will one day be about two hundred times that size.

To say that Berlin loved Knut would be a tragic understatement. Mayor Klaus Wowereit checked the news every morning for fresh pictures of Knut. The city’s hockey team, the Eisbaren, asked the zoo if they could adopt him as a mascot. Numerous blogs—included one by Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin’s most widely read paper—were dedicated to Knut’s hourly doings. He had his own podcast and webcam. He even replaced the topless model in a number of daily newspapers.

Four hundred journalists came to Knut’s public debut, which far overshadowed the EU summit taking place at the same time. There were Knut bow ties, Knut rucksacks (that’s German-English for backpack), Knut commemorative plates, Knut pajamas, Knut figurines, and probably, although I haven’t verified this, Knut panties. Knut has a godfather, Sigmar Gabriel, the German environment minister. Another zoo animal, the panda Yan Yan, was actually killed by Knut’s popularity. Zookeepers speculate that the thirty thousand people crowding into the zoo to see Knut overwhelmed Yan Yan—either overexcited her or depressed her to death (it wasn’t clear to me). And speaking of death, when an animal rights group raised the argument—only hypothetically, they later claimed—that it would be better to euthanize an animal that raise it in such conditions, schoolchildren took to the streets chanting ‘Knut must live.’ Soccer fans chanted for Knut instead of their teams.

If you go to see Knut and get hungry, just a few feet from his enclosure is a stand selling ‘Wurst de Knut,’ made from the flesh of factory farmed pigs, which are at least as intelligent and deserving of our regard as Knut. This is the species barrier.”

While speaking with Mario, a kill-man in the slaughterhouse:

“Apropos of nothing or everything, Mario starts talking about his dog, ‘a bird dog, a small dog. A shih tzu’”… “He tells me, with obvious pleasure, about the birthday party he recently held for his shih tzu, to which he and his family invited the other local dogs- “all small dogs.” He took a photo of all the dogs on the laps of their owners. He didn’t used to like small dogs. Thought they weren’t real dogs. Then he got a small dog. Now he loves small dogs. The knocker [the man tasked with killing the pig] comes out, waving his bloody arms, and takes another pig.”

Speaking about the apparent mental states of pigs awaiting slaughter as he watches them:

“There’s no obvious terror, no wailing or even huddling together. I do notice one pig, however, that is lying on its side, trembling somewhat. And when the knocker comes out, while all of the others jump to their feet and become agitated, this one continues to lie there and tremble. If George[JSF’s dog] were acting that way, we’d take her straight to the vet. And if someone saw that I wasn’t doing anything for her, they would at least think my humanity was somehow deficient. I ask Mario about the pig. ‘That’s just a pig thing,’ he says, chuckling.”

Excerpt from a letter, admittedly from an animal activist (though, it should also be noted, one who is pro-life, conservative on some issues, and certainly not a self-identified liberal), to JSF

“Tell me something: Why is taste, the crudest of our senses, exempt from the ethical rules that govern our other senses? If you stop and think about it, it’s crazy. Why doesn’t a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to killing and eating it? It’s easy to dismiss that question but hard to respond to it.”

“The animals have paid the price for our desire to have everything available at all times for very little money.” –Frank Reese, from a letter exhibited in Eating Animals

“I’m not better than anyone, and I’m not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what’s right. I’m trying to convince them to live by their own.”  - Frank Reese, from a letter exhibited in Eating Animals.

After detailing the origins of the modern flu and its fatal strains (particularly H5N1 and H1N1) and giving reasons (and not just his own, but from the WHO and the Cal Academy of Science’s Dept. of Medicine) to worry about a new flu which will come about via (likely) swine and avian flu ‘hybridization’, for lack of a better word…

“Somewhere between 1 and 4 percent of the birds will die writhing in convulsions from sudden death syndrome, a condition virtually unknown outside of factory farms. Another … condition in which excess fluids fill the body cavity, ascites, kills even more (5 percent of birds globally). Three out of four will have some degree of walking impairment, and common sense suggests they are in chronic pain. One out of four will have such significant trouble walking that there is no question they are in pain.” – JSF

“Scientific studies and government records suggest that virtually all (upwards of 95 percent of) chickens become infected with E. Coli (an indicator of fecal contamination) and between 39 and 75 percent of chickens in retail stores are still infected. Around 8 percent of birds become infected with salmonella….Seventy to 90 percent are infected with another potentially deadly pathogen, campylobacter. Chlorine baths are commonly used to remove slime, odor, and bacteria.” –JSF

“Once upon a time, USDA inspectors had to condemn any bird with such fecal contamination. But about thirty years ago, the poultry industry convinced the USDA to reclassify feces so that it could continue to use these automatic eviscerators. Once a dangerous contaminant, feces are now classified as a ‘cosmetic blemish.’” 

From a journalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “’Every week,’ he reports, ‘millions of chickens leaking yellow pus, stained by green feces, contaminated by harmful bacteria, or marred by lung and heart infections, cancerous tumors, or skin conditions are shipped for sale to consumers.’”

… It’s up to you, and it’s up to me. As corny as it is, nothing could touch closer to the truth- we each can make a difference and, together, we all can be the difference.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What I've Been Listening To: Audio File 1

Birdy Nam Nam- "Parachute Ending."  A beautiful vid, and a pretty sick song done by a funky electro master.

Classic German Industrial by Einsturzende Neubauten ("ZNS")

French rap and sweet beats by Ghislain Poirier. 

Felix Kubin's funky and dark electro goodness.

AMAZING soundtrack song from Trentemoller for the movie "The Skin I Live In."  A bit sinister, like something you'd here emitting out of a back alley as a well-planned crime took place.

Good, slow, and deep. Fever Ray- Concrete Walls

Anthem material.  Ratatat's "Gettysburg"

Summer 2012 Organic Garden: Week 5

I just spent a bit of my morning out in the garden, and I must stay... it looks... great! And it makes me feel great. Great combination? Yes.

We're just about all-in! We've added some more basil in and around some other plants, and have planted zucchini squash, another roma tomato, 5 strawberry plants, a dyno kale plant, an artichoke plant, and some hybrid brussel sprout thing that was given to us at the Whole Earth Festival. We'll have to see how that one goes!

I've turned in more manure and compost into the second main plot (where the tomato, strawberries, artichoke, and zucchini are) before the planting, so I hope to see those rewards! It's so great to see everything just sitting in the ground, awaiting water and sunlight and not begging me to take them out of a pot I bought them in a week ago...

Nahdxyeli planting her strawberries. We'll need to get a bird mesh/net over them soon...

Onions, garlic, fresno pepper, sweet pepper, dyno kale, roma tomato...

Strawberries and artichoke

Eggplant, indigo apple and roma tomato, crenshaw melon, thai basil, sweet yellow pepper, spaghetti squash, summer yellow squash, and sweet (bushy) cucumber.  In pot: 2 lemon basils and 1 cilantro. Not sure if they're going to make it, and I have no idea why.

(Outside) Sweet 100, kentucky wonder pole(green) beans, and a pineapple tomato. (Inside same as above)

"Patio tomato" amid sage...

Italian large-leaf basil, oregano, and two annual bulbs that I had to repot. I think their original pots, lacking drainage, did them in. We'll see how they do after the repot!

Left side: golden pole beans, Right side: kentucky wonder pole (green) beans.

Hearty red onions! They're doing incredibly well, but sadly the garlic have taken a turn for the worse.  Why can't we live in Gilroy!?!?

The young champion- our indigo apple tomato showing off.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2012 Summer Organic Garden: Week 4

Bumble bees and hummingbirds in the sage. Tiny peppers already growing. Tomato flowers blooming and the hairs on the plants are growing stiffer and more resilient to my touch. They smell wonderful.

Last year, it was an engine block cemented to what became a fence post hole... this year, a 4' piece of rebar that I have NO idea how I missed when the garden was tilled last year. Oops!

And our 'patio tomato' potted between both of last year's sage plants...

In the ground or in the pot as of 5/8/2012:
1 indigo apple tomato
1 roma tomato
1 sweet 100 tomato
1 pineapple tomato
1 patio tomato
6 red onions
6 garlic
1 sweet cucumber (bush variety)
1 yellow squash
1 spaghetti squash
1 yellow bell pepper
1 fresno chili pepper
1 red bell pepper
3 Italian Large Leaf basil
1 Oregano
1 purple beauty eggaplnt
~12 kentucky wonder green bean plants
~4-6 golden bean (pole variety) plants
6 red chard

Have but still need to plant:
1 roma tomato
1 thai basil
3 Italian Large Leaf basil

Still want:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

2012 Summer Garden: Week 3

4/18 Plantings: Red Onions (6) and Garlic (6).
Earth Day Plantings! 4/22 Plantings: Spaghetti squash, yellow squash, roma tomato, pineapple tomato, sweet 100 tomato, sweet(bushy) cucumber, purple beauty eggplant, Kentucky wonder pole beans (from seed), and a sweet yellow bell pepper.
Red onions and garlic!
Family to the freed ones from last years worm bin, perhaps?

2012 Summer Garden: Week 1

A much earlier start, and I had hoped the weather would hold for us! Nahdxyeli and I are tag teaming the garden this year, simultaneously easing the load for any one person for work in the garden while also allowing us to increase plant numbers and (hopefully) plant yield. The soil was dark and smelling of delicious things upon turning and hoeing, and our first plant was a local organic hybrid tomato called an Indigo Apple purchased from a local nursery that we'll continue to trade at. We'll see how she turns out! First day of planting: 4/7/2012
Time to weed and rip...
It has begun!!


I've been up to quite a bit since I've last updated... Where to begin? October- Climbing! I was invited, along with the entire class, by a professor to come to Pipeworks and try rock climbing. Incredibly nervous as I sat in the car, I was then surprised to see only one other person show up- my friend Katie! We both were instantly hooked and, needless to say, it's my new passion. Pipeworks is a second home and where I go to let loose and feel my best. I love the act, the art, the movement... everything associated with climbing. I am in it for the long haul. I'm addicted to progress and to the joy of it all.
November- After some prodding by my best friend(thanks, man!), I agreed to a blind date with someone who, two separate people assured me, I'd adore. And, lo and behold, I did! 11/11/11, Tower Cafe, Sacramento, CA. A slightly awkward introduction (no doubt made more awkward because it was immediately preceded by my walking up to the wrong women and smiling, thinking that it was Nahdxyeli), and we were off and running! For that hour Nahdxyeli and I ate very little and conversed quite a lot, and from the time I dropped her off I knew(read: hoped) that there would be something there... The very next day I anxiously returned her phone call, only to realize that I couldn't go jogging with her on the day she had hoped. That next night, though, I sucked it up enough to ask her if she'd be willing to hang out a bit. We did, we talked, we laughed, we spoke of our relative (dis)comfort about getting immediately into a relationship (which, of course, temporarily shot my spirits), but we shared a very light yet incredibly intimate kiss before she had to leave, and we've been arm-in-arm ever since! I love her, and I hope that we continue to make each other feel as happy and secure as we do now.
School- Philosophy? Music? Geography? Double Major? Triple Major? Drop out and travel the world? .... I'm still figuring it out, 130 units later, but, mostly due to rising tuition costs and a growing apathy toward the education system as a whole, I will likely be graduating in the Spring of 2013 with a B.A. in Geography (emphasis: GIS and land use planning) with a minor (though I'd love it to be my second major) in Philosophy. I've made some wonderful friends in the Philosophy Club, though, and hope to keep that bond even as I drift back toward my other major and plan to leave CSUS.
And now that the graduation mark has been pushed up, I really, deeply need to get all of my shit together this summer and figure out internship and volunteer/tutoring opportunities for the next year so that, if I still wish to do the Peace Corps come the year or two after school, I'll be ready to apply. Then again, I have no idea what I'm doing in a month, so why invest too much into next year just yet? I've come closer to adopting a 'one day at a time' approach, and have noticed my anxiety levels drop to nearly zero. Take that, life! Bishop- I've been to Bishop, CA (a notorious climbing mecca on the West Coast) for the express purposes of climbing twice now, but my most recent trip was a very special one. I went down with some friends and Nahdxyeli, played in the snow, saw petroglyphs, camped, hung out around the fire and messed around on the slack line, soaked in natural hot springs, saw bats, and climbed 'till my arms and fingers hurt and bled. I really hope to make it down again before it gets too hot... perhaps a two-day trip in early-mid June to the Buttermilks or the Druids (where it'll be a bit cooler...).
Food and health- I've recently gone vegan and have doubled my daily water intake, and am loving the effects. I am by far in a state much healthier than I've ever been, and am climbing harder and running much easier than I ever have been able to in the past. Yosemite and STF!- I've continued my volunteer work for Save the Frogs!, namely at the Oakland Zoo for their Action for Animals event, and most recently in Yosemite National Park as a participant in Save the Frogs Day! I'm loving the work the STF! does, and have grown more out of my shell as of late, my confidence level rising and my inability to speak outwardly and openly to a public audience is slowly diminishing. I hope to continue volunteering in the future and spreading awareness of the amphibian extinction crisis. www.savethefrogs.com