Monday, April 27, 2009

When two worlds collide...

Two of my favorite things in the world are Wikipedia and the MacArthur Foundation. And so here we have Jonathan Fanton interviewing Jimmy Wales, and it's such a great combination:

Other great combinations:
1. Kentucky and Australia
2. Google and the Oxford American Dictionary:
3. Free access and law school
4. the French and the Germans
5. Clark and Michael

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The best laid plans of mice and men...

I had to momentarily suspend country appreciation on account of busy-ness (not to be confused with business, which is originally what I wrote, and not at all what I meant). I also decided that while the abecedarian method is fun and allows for a more varied week, I should probably take advantage of physical travels, as well as relevant national holidays, in my virtual adventures. So tomorrow is the Day of the Armenian Genocide, and since all I did on Armenian day was listen to a lot of Cher, I'll continue its appreciation tomorrow. I'll celebrate Belgium on Saturday and Sunday, since I'm going to Brussels for the weekend.

Australia will be duly celebrated on Monday. I'm going all out for Australia day. I will only listen to Australian music, I will talk to Australian people, and I will use Australian slang (it's easy as!).

And then Thursday, the Netherlands will be celebrated. Thursday, you see, is Queen's Day. I'll have to buy something orange.

Anyhow, time to save this post....

Here are cool things that live on the internet:

Like Lastfm, only for books. Find out what people are reading RIGHT NOW!

Clearly, a world where doing this feeds the hungry is fucked, but, well, yeah, the world is fucked up. So go draw on bread and try not to think about it.

Susan Boyled potatoes. Looks run of the mill on the outside, but what's on the inside will change your life. Or something like that. Leave out the bacon, because pigs are people too.

This was where my brother was born! (Er, not in the Taco Bell bathroom...but in South Bend...)

Way to go, Spiderman!

Way to go, smaller, Brazilian Spiderman!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Still travelin' (but first, a recap)

I've learned so much this past week! The highlights of things learned include:
-Dari is what Afghans call their language, not Persian or Farsi, even though it's basically the same.

-Argentina claims part of Antarctica, which is disputed by Chile and the UK, both of which also claim parts of the continent. In order to enforce their claim, Argentina flew a seven-month pregnant woman onto their Antarctic base so that they could claim that the baby was a native-born Argentinian, and thus that Antarctica is part of Argentina.

-Andorra and Angola's mottos are remarkably similar ("strength united is stronger" and "virtue is stronger when united," respectively).

-Albania, under Enver Hoxha, was the world's first officially atheist state.

-The banjo originated from Angola; they call it "mbanza" in Kimbundu.

-Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John's, Antigua. Also, Silvio Berlusconi has a home there.

-Nathaniel Davis, Assistant Secretary of State under President Ford, resigned when his warning that supporting the Angolan insurgency would lead to an escalation in the conflict was ingored. He later became a professor at Harvey Mudd College.

-Argentina's population consists of only 10% mestizo or Amerindian. In contrast, Paraguay's is 95%.

-Adolf Eichmann's last words were, "...long live Argentina."

-About two thirds of Albanians fell victim to a government-sponsored ponzi scheme in 1997. Riots ensued.
I decided I need a sabbath. I didn't realize how exhausting virtual travel could be. This weekend I'm going to Brussels (in reality), so I'll have to take a hiatus then too.

I'm excited to finish off the A-list this week. I already have great fondness for all of the following countries and I can't wait to learn more about them. Especially about Azerbaijan, which for now I only associate with Eddie Izzard. Here is the schedule:

Tuesday, April 21: Armenia
Wednesday, April 22: Australia
Thursday, April 23: Austria
Friday, April 24: Azerbaijan

Beautiful people in Argentina

Do beautiful people have an advantage in Argentina? Gonzalo Artelora thinks so. The self-declared feosexual (feo is Spanish for ugly) believes that growing up ugly gave him a disadvantage. His solution is to tax the beautiful, of which Argentina seems to have many, and give the money to the uglies. He thinks that former president and current First Man Nestor Kirchner should be sympathetic. He is, after all, a hook-nose who cares nothing for fashion. Artelora calls him a "comrade."

Artelora's tongue-in-ugly-cheek campaign is more than just a joke.
It's not about making yourself look beautiful, he says, but about coming to terms with and being positive about who you are and what nature has given you.
I was really disappointed by this feel-good message. Easy for Gonzo to say. Ugly people, especially ugly women, are treated terribly, all over the world, and always have been. For Artelora it's all well and good; he was an awkward teen and emerged from it relatively unscathed (he looks pretty normal in his adult pictures) and with a quirky sense of humor to boot. Chicks dig that. But don't expect President Fernandez to start letting herself go at any point. To put it simply, there are higher expectations for women. And beauty is one of them.

Speaking of beautiful women in Argentina, Metric's Emily Haines traveled to Buenos Aires to clear her mind and write new songs. While the problems of the beautiful and talented might seem silly compared to the problems of, say, workers struggling to keep their jobs and assert their rights, I do like her song.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ancient and bearded: Antigua and Barbuda

Not just a host to a one of the biggest ponzi schemes in recent months, Antigua and Barbuda can also boast of having the world's first giant thing in nature to be named after Obama. Mount Obama was coined by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer following the American President's November victory.

Additionally, there are 365 beaches in Antigua alone, which means you could visit a different beach every day for a year! I suppose that would be cool if you're into sitting around and doing nothing all day on a beach...

That said, I think I would hate visiting this place. It looks like a tourist cestpool. And not just any kind of tourist, but jerk billionaire tourists who want to steal people's money. No thank you. But since this is supposed to be an adventure in appreciation, here are some recipes that look delicious:


* 2 large sweet potato
* 1/2 cups sugar
* 2 1/2 cups flour
* Dash of all spice
* Dash of cinnamon raisin (optional)


Grate sweet potato and add sugar to grated potatoes. Leave for a while - it will spring water from the mixture (so you don’t have to add water at anytime). Mix in flour and add spices and raisin. If the mixture is too thick then you may proceed to add a little water, if the mixture may seem too watery add a little more flour. Spoon some mixture into foil paper. You may be able to make at least five individual Ducuna from the above recipe. Wrap Ducuna and place in boiling water and boil for 45 minutes until they are firm. Unwrap and enjoy (it will be hot). Hope you like it.

National Dish

The national dish of Antigua and Barbuda is fungie (pronounced as foon-gee) and pepper pot. Fungie is a dish that is similar to the Italian Polenta, and is almost completely made from cornmeal.

Fungie & Pepperpot


For Corn Meal Fungee
4 cups water
2 cups corn meal
1 tsp salt to taste
6 okras, cut into small pieces

For Pepper Pot
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Vegetable oil
4 cloves, cut
2 medium onions, chopped
4 tbsp ketchup
4 tbsp margarine
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch chive
1 lb spinach, chopped
2 cups fresh greenpeas
4 fresh green eddo leaves
1 lb antrobers(eggplant), peeled & cut
1 lb okras, chopped
1/2 lb pumpkin,peeled & cut
1 lb salt beef, chopped
1 lb pig snout(optional), cut--->hahahahaha what! I'm glad this is optional
1 lb green papaw, cut
3 small squash, cut
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper

Corn Meal Fungee Preparation
Place water, okra and salt in a pan. Bring to boil until okras are cooked. Remove half the liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon. The corn meal is mixed to a pasty batter by adding cold water then stirring & mixing this.

Add wet corn meal. Reduce the heat, stir continuously with a wooden spoon until mixture becomes fairly stiff.

When the mixture breaks away cleanly from the pan (i.e it does not stick), the fungee is ready. Butter a bowl, turn the mixture into the bowl, shaking it into the shape of the bowl, then turn it out into a serving dish.
Serve hot with Pepper Pot, boiled fish or stew.

Pepper Pot Preparation
Wash all leaves and vegetables in salted water. Place cut vegetables; eggplant, squash and leaves to soak in fresh water Cook salted meat in water with no salt for 10 minutes.

Remove and drain. Heat vegetable cooking oil. Add salt meats. Fry for about 15 minutes, add onions and fresh meats. Fry for another 5 minutes.

Add all vegetables, except peas. Stir. Add just enough water to cover and cook the vegetables till tender. When the vegetables and meat are cooked, add the peas along with all seasonings.

Allow all ingredients to simmer under low fire for approximately 15 minutes or until thick. Serve with okra fungee rolled in butter or margarine.

Antigua’s Fungee is Barbados’ Couscous. If you’re vegetarian or do not eat red meats, you may omit the meats from your preparation. Recipe courtesy of Antigua & Barbuda Board of Tourism.

Oh, also, their flag looks like someone is trying to send a ninja star through the mail. Dope.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Andorra is so tiny that there's not much that can be said about it. They just got a government in the '90s, the people live into their eighties, they like to ski. They lost a bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. They are Catholic but support gay marriage. They are a national minority in their own nation. They refer to their country as a "princess" in the national anthem. They don't like taxes. They were officially at war with Germany until 1957. There's more, but that's all that's interesting.

There's a lot that can be said, however, about Caribou. Caribou is the musical alias for Daniel Snaith, an electro-musician/mathematician from Canada. His Andorra (see the connection??) album won him the esteemed Polaris Prize in 2008. He went on a very long tour last year which shows working hard hasn't yet gone out of style, but he has never played in Andorra. Anyhow, I could drone on, but how's about you just have a listen to the whole album instead? Plus two bonus remixes!

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fiji is sooo boring

The Fiji Daily Post has nicely protested the recent emergency regulations which, among other things, have been deployed to severely limit freedom of the press. Given that the top story has been declared by the Fijian "Government" to be not newsworthy, the Post has turned to other events dominating the national agenda. These include breakfast, watching paint dry and the spectacle of a man boarding a bus.

The tension between the authorities and journalists over the media blackout was relaxed a little today as foreign journalists were "welcomed" back into the country. It's difficult to pick a winner at this stage, we'll just have to see who crumbles first.

Blackouts: a Top Ten list

In military lexicon, a blackout is a tactic used to thwart the enemy, usually consisting of turning off lights and severing communication lines. While this may have been the original concept behind blackouts, now blackouts take myriad forms, from comeback pop albums to really insignificant protests. Here is a totally objective and statistically created top ten.

10. The Battle of Los Angeles
In February 1942, just three months after the U.S. entered into World War II, a UFO sighting caused panic in Los Angeles. Air raid drills were sounded and the entire city was ordered to shut off their lights.

9. Blackout Sabbath
In which Rufus Wainwright encourages everyone to turn off their lights, and in return promises to serenade us all by candlelight.

8. New Zealand's Internet blackout
Protesting a new law that somehow blocks freedom blah blah blah due process of law blah blah blah. Participating websites opted to change their homepages to this for a day. Here's a video that explains it. It's totally annoying. (Kangaroo court...get it?)

7. Britney's Blackout wins three MTV Europe awards. And here I didn't even know this album existed. Guess I survived the blackout...get it?

6. Weird couple has World War II themed wedding, complete with Neville Chamberlain and a blackout.

5. Seismic activity severs tubes which contain the internet and thus causes a blackout in India, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan and Pakistan.

4. Crazy Ukrainian teens go on a Clockwork Orange rampage and media blackout ensues.

3. NBC's historic Blackout Thursday of 1994

2. Sirhan Sirhan has "complete mental blackout" when it comes to his assassinating Robert F. Kennedy.

1. New York City blackout inspires beauty in an otherwise kinda mean city.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The wait for the First Puppy is over! Welcome, Bo!

I don't want to rain on the puppy parade and side with the often-shrill PETA people, but I am a little disappointed that Bo is a blue-blooded Kennedy, and not a mutt from a shelter. Then, I saw this picture of President Obama running with Bo -

And this picture of Bo wearing a lei -

- and was too hopelessly distracted to be critical.

Never been kissed (but not in a Drew Barrymore-vehicle-film sort of way)

While I admire Becky's nondiscriminatory animal humanitarianism, I am one of those obnoxious people who tend to care much more about the cute endangered animals, and I always chose my activist chocolate bars based not on the chocolate I actually wanted to eat (bat, salmon), but the animal on the label (panda, baby penguin).

awww, look at the baby!

As such, her post on the faceless, but loving kitty creeps me out hardcore. On the off chance that any of you are as shallow as I am, but also feel guilty about being a bad person, I have another story about "the inside that matters" that may be a little easier to get behind.

Susan Boyle is 47. She has never been married, and, in fact, has never been kissed. She has been singing since she was twelve, but her dream has always been to sing in front of a big audience - and she gets her chance when she appears on "Britain's Got Talent." She is sassy, though a little frumpy, and didn't get a chance to figure out frizz-control before arriving at the competition. As she takes the stage, you can feel the audience and the judges collectively dismissing her. The judges, including Simon Cowell, restrain themselves from rolling their eyes, but several audience members do not. With the first bars of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables, Susan fidgets a little, and you hear a few scattered giggles - and then - she begins to sing -

The fascists have disabled embedding for this video, but here is Susan's performance. As far as I know, Susan has not been forced into prostitution to provide for her child, but damn, does she sell this song.

Albania's small town charm

I've recently been made aware of a blog which ignores whatever lame cause various protesters are promoting in order to graphically objectify the more attractive of the protesters. Pretty legit.

Anyway, this is related to Albania, because the first thing I noticed upon reading this article was that a certain home-bound, death-sentenced, reading-level-of-a-twelve-year-old Albanian boy is a fox. Not to mention the fact that he has never been able to have a girlfriend, he dreams of a normal life, he wants to be whisked away from Albania...he's the male Rapunzel!

Okay, now that that's out of my system, here's the deal: Certain areas of Albania still follow the Kanun, a code of behavior that has been passed on for more than 500 years, in which “blood must be paid with blood,” with a victim’s family authorized to avenge a slaying by killing any of the killer’s male relatives. The Albanian constitution used to be based on it. What. And now an estimated 1,000 children are kept locked up so that they won't be avenged in the streets.

This law in itself is enough for me to make a mental note to never go to Albania, but then they have to go and inform me that one dude killed an ice cream man for not selling his kid a cone. Way to ruin ice cream, Albanian dude.

Luckily, there's an upside to all this senseless killing. Since only the men are targetted, there ends up being a shortage of them in Albanian villages. So women, just like Rosy the Riveter, stepped up to the plate. Taking a vow of celibacy, these women were the de facto men of their respective households. Nowadays, with western infiltration telling women that they can be free as women and not as men, there's not such a need for this lifestyle anymore. The men can go on getting killed while single motherdom will become the norm, just like in inner-city America. Way to enter into modernity, Albania!

Faceless love

There exists in the world a cat without a face, and she loves everyone and she just wants to be loved back. And she blogs.

It's really hard to read the blog because Chase uses typical cute-cat speak but then there are these pictures that make you want to scream, "OH MY GOD YOU HAVE NO FACE!!!!!" but then you realize that Chase is here to make us all a little more tolerant.

Here is what Chase said in her first post:
My name is Chase. I am 2 years and 3 months old. When I was 3-6 weeks old, in June 2005, I was hit by a car and left in the road. A young man heard my cries after a few days and came to my rescue. He brought me to the Chevy Chase Animal Clinic and gave the doctors some money to do what they could for me and hopefully find me a home. A new vet tech, Melissa, was working there. The doctors informed her she would get to care for me. She took me in and would take me home at night and on weekends to give me extra care that I needed while I recovered. I ended up having a back leg amputated and over the summer my nose and, eyelids, and skin from my face sloughed off from the trauma of the accident. The wonderful doctors sent me and Melissa to the University of Tenn Vet Hospital for 2 rounds of plastic surgery. Unfortunately neither attempt was successful. I would have to live looking different than my other kitty friends. I adjusted fast and even though I don't have eyelids I can still sleep just fine but I prefer to go to a dark room or under the bed. My caretaker, Melissa, ended up switching jobs and then relocating to a different state. I happily have become her "baby" and she takes care of me still to this day as a member of her family. I need a bit of special attention to keep my eyes in good shape. I get artificial tears applied to them 3-4 times daily, as well as antibiotic drops and steroid drops as needed. I have GREAT vision and love to catch flies and crickets! My face looks pink but it is just tissue and the fur will never grow back. I am NOT IN ANY PAIN! I am a very loving and friendly cat. I love to meet new dogs and cats and really like to lick them. This got me in trouble when I was a clinic cat at the vet's office. Not all the dogs wanted to meet me. But often I would curl up with the sick animals in their cages and keep them company.
This is just an introduction to me and my family. I will try to keep you posted in my daily obsticles and fun filled days as often as possible.
Love and Meows,
Chase the cat
Way to go Chase. What a trooper.

Did people know about this? I feel like this is one of those things people know about and then I find out later and am all worked up about and people are like, chill, we've all known for years. That must be how these isolated Amazonian tribes would feel if they ever were told about the existence of "the rest of the world." Hate to break it to you guys, but we all know each other. And we can fly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Burka Blue

"You give me all your love, you give me all your kisses, and then you touch my burka, and do not know who is it."
Day is starting off smashingly. I learned already that in the past 100 years, Afghanistan has had all major forms of governance (republic, theocracy, communist, etc.) except for military junta. I also learned about their first girl pop band, named, of course, Burka Band. They got popular in Germany, hence the German subtitles.

They had to flee Afghanistan because, well, this is scandalous. At least the burkas help conceal their identities...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Around the world in 192 days

Since I'm working for the UN and all, I've decided to embark upon a personal journey of cursory appreciation by devoting 192 not necessarily consecutive days to the member states of this organization. Each will get its own day. I'm assuming this will entail skimming the Wikipedia entry of the day's country, trying to coordinate my outfits with the state's flag, eating the country's food (where applicable), and trying to impress people with little known facts (which I will have picked up from Wikipedia). If I know someone from that country, I may give them a ring (a phone call, not a finger ornament). This will probably last until I get bored, but the beauty of the non-consecutive is that I will definitely finish eventually. Feel free to join me on this tour! Here are this week's targets:

Monday, April 13: Afghanistan
Tuesday, April 14: Albania
Wednesday, April 15: Algeria
Thursday, April 16: Andorra
Friday, April 17: Angola
Saturday, April 18: Antigua and Barbuda
Sunday, April 19: Argentina

The global financial crisis: the Songsmith version

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Best leave that to the professionals...

Fans of Michael Pollan know that he promotes salvation through gardening. Per example:
You begin to see that growing even a little of your own food is, as Wendell Berry pointed out 30 years ago, one of those solutions that, instead of begetting a new set of problems — the way “solutions” like ethanol or nuclear power inevitably do — actually beget other solutions, and not only of the kind that save carbon. Still more valuable are the habits of mind that growing a little of your own food can yield. You quickly learn that you need not be dependent on specialists to provide for yourself — that your body is still good for something and may actually be enlisted in its own support. If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need. We may also need the food. Could gardens provide it? Well, during World War II, victory gardens supplied as much as 40 percent of the produce Americans ate.

But there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden, to bother. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen. Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools. You will have reduced the power of the cheap-energy mind by personally overcoming its most debilitating weakness: its helplessness and the fact that it can’t do much of anything that doesn’t involve division or subtraction. The garden’s season-long transit from seed to ripe fruit — will you get a load of that zucchini?! — suggests that the operations of addition and multiplication still obtain, that the abundance of nature is not exhausted. The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
So isn't it nice that Michelle Obama embraced this PR-friendly past time and started her own White House garden? The Mid-America CropLife Association doesn't think so.

Michelle's organic gardening elicited "shudders" from some of MACA's employees. And this letter from another:

March 26, 2009

Mrs. Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mrs. Obama,

We are writing regarding the garden recently added to the White House grounds to ensure a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables to your family, guests and staff. Congratulations on recognizing the importance of agriculture in America! The U.S. has the safest and most abundant food supply in the world thanks to the 3 million people who farm or ranch in the United States.

The CropLife Ambassador Network, a program of the Mid America CropLife Association, consists of over 160 ambassadors who work and many of whom grew up in agriculture. Their mission is to provide scientifically based, accurate information to the public regarding the safety and value of American agricultural food production. Many people, especially children, don't realize the extent to which their daily lives depend on America's agricultural industry. For instance, children are unaware the jeans they put on in the morning, the three meals eaten daily, the baseball with which they play and even the biofuels that power the school bus are available because of America's farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture is the largest industry in America generating 20% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Individuals, family partnerships or family corporations operate almost 99% of U.S. farms. Over 22 million people are employed in farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing and sales. Through research and changes in production practices, today's food producers are providing Americans with the widest variety of foods ever.

Starting in the early 1900's, technology advances have allowed farmers to continually produce more food on less land while using less human labor. Over time, Americans were able to leave the time-consuming demands of farming to pursue new interests and develop new abilities. Today, an average farmer produces enough food to feed 144 Americans who are living longer lives than many of their ancestors. Technology in agriculture has allowed for the development of much of what we know and use in our lives today. If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?

We live in a very different world than that of our grandparents. Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and aging parents. The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family's year-round food needs.

Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown. Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical. Local and conventional farming is not mutually exclusive. However, a Midwest mother whose child loves strawberries, a good source of Vitamin C, appreciates the ability to offer California strawberries in March a few months before the official Mid-west season.

Farmers and ranchers are the first environmentalists, maintaining and improving the soil and natural resources to pass onto future generations. Technology allows for farmers to meet the increasing demand for food and fiber in a sustainable manner.

* Farmers use reduced tillage practices on more than 72 million acres to prevent erosion.
* Farmers maintain over 1.3 million acres of grass waterways, allowing water to flow naturally from crops without eroding soil.
* Contour farming keeps soil from washing away. About 26 million acres in the U.S. are managed this way.
* Agricultural land provides habitat for 75% of the nation's wildlife.
* Precision farming boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.
* Sophisticated Global Positioning Systems can be specifically designed for spraying pesticides. A weed detector equipped with infrared light identifies specific plants by the different rates of light they reflect and then sends a signal to a pump to spray a preset amount of herbicide onto the weed.
* Biogenetics allows a particular trait to be implanted directly into the seed to protect the seed against certain pests.
* Farmers are utilizing 4-wheel drive tractors with up to 300 horsepower requiring fewer passes across fields-saving energy and time.
* Huge combines are speeding the time it takes to harvest crops.
* With modern methods, 1 acre of land in the U.S. can produce 42,000 lbs. of strawberries, 110,000 heads of lettuce, 25,400 lbs. of potatoes, 8,900 lbs. of sweet corn, or 640 lbs of cotton lint.

As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy and providing a safe and economical food supply. America's farmers understand crop protection technologies are supported by sound scientific research and innovation.

The CropLife Ambassador Network offers educational programs for elementary school educators at covering the science behind crop protection products and their contribution to sustainable agriculture. You may find our programs America's Abundance, Farmers Stewards of the Land and War of the Weeds of particular interest. We thank you for recognizing the importance and value of America's current agricultural technologies in feeding our country and contributing to the U.S economy.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Bonnie McCarvel, Executive Director
Janet Braun, Program Coordinator
Mid America CropLife Association
11327 Gravois Rd., #201
St. Louis, MO 63126

Food is a science best left to the scientists.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A tale of free knowledge: James Franco

This concept was inspired by Drew, who is the silent yet pivotal member of this blog team.

So James Franco, while at UCLA, wrote his thesis under novelist Mona Simpson. Mona Simpson wrote Anywhere but Here and is the younger sister of Steve Jobs, but didn't know that until later in life because Steve Jobs was put up for adoption by his then-unwed parents, one of whom is Syrian. Steve Jobs is rumored to have dated Joan Baez, and to have done so solely because she once dated Bob Dylan. He's a big fan. Joan Baez's first act of civil disobedience was refusing to leave the building at Palo Alto Senior High School at age sixteen during an air-raid drill. Another notable alumnus of Palo Alto Senior High School is James Franco.

Animal rights

Nicholas Kristoff's op-ed this week looks into animal rights and speculates that that ethical obligations beyond our own species is finally catching on. While this idea has been promoted the eccentric Peter Singer for decades, legislation is finally popping up that suggests its entry into the mainstream is nigh. Kristoff quotes Jeremy Bentham's litmus test as the new standard: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”

Kristoff looks at new legislation in California as a sign of progress. Switzerland has gone even further in protecting animals from harm and has adopted laws which allow for a better quality of life for "social" creatures. Before we cheer the revolution in animal rights, maybe we should step back and think about what it means when someone like Alan Dershowitz can be both pro-animal rights and pro-torture. Do we care about animals more than people?

Animal rights activists often see their campaign as fitting in the trajectory of ethical advancement. Over two hundred years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft's appeal on behalf of women's rights was argued to have equal merit as an appeal for animal rights. At the time, this was meant as an insult. Now, many animal rights advocates are coming back to this point. In drawing a comparison to violations of human rights, they hope to draw the connection that animals are just like us; they deserve rights too. But when the Holocaust is compared to dinner, the campaign seems more to diminish the former than promote the cause of the latter.

Clearly that's not what the well-intentioned, albeit sometimes misguided, folks at PETA have in mind. It's a tactic that has similarly been used by the pro-life community, pro-Palestinian activists, even those raising awareness of global warming (on both sides). All such comparisons are meant to do is proclaim: this is serious stuff. The offense stems from the perception that they diminish the seriousness of the Holocaust, but that's not what any of these groups and individuals have in mind. They are working under the assumption that we all get how serious the Holocaust is, and they are using this common conception to draw our attention to another, in their eyes, very serious issue. In doing so, they actually reinforce the belief that the Holocaust is an unquestionably horrible event. It's pretty common to hear of Hitler-Satan comparisons, right? Does that make Satan any less evil?

So it's a similar thing when animal rights advocates compare their task to that of anti-slavery activists, the women's liberation movement, and the gay rights movement. Such a comparison shouldn't be seen as a threat to the importance of those causes, but rather a reinforcement of their importance. There is no reason to claim that animal rights advocacy takes away from the promotion of human rights. Right?

Well, you can't ignore the visibility of animal rights activists. They are dousing fur-clad celebrities in paint, taking out full-page magazine articles, and liberating lab animals. And of course it gets people wondering: where are the radical Darfur protesters? Or the anti-poverty demonstrations? Who is sticking up for women's rights these days? The high profile nature of animal rights activists suggest that they don't care about human causes. When PETA sends a letter to Hamas asking them to stop swinging cats around by their tails, you can't help but think they are really really stupid. It reinforces what many folks who don't already care about animals are thinking: how can you stick up for animals when so many people lack basic rights?

It's not that obvious. Pro-lifers face similar criticism--why waste your efforts on the unborn? For them, as for the animal rights advocates, the task isn't just to secure rights for those who deserve them, it's to convince people that these individuals deserve them in the first place. This increases the gravity of the call. Because otherwise they'd have to bow out entirely, right? Until the rights of the borned humans are fully realized?

OK, I'll sever the abortion-animal abuse link right now, I was just trying to broaden the issues a little bit. But basically, I think it's short-sided to say that we can't fight for animal rights so long as people aren't provided for. Perhaps if the human rights community would accept the animal rights advocates, the latter would be able to prioritize their campaigns and show proper concern for human atrocities. The emphasis has to be on inclusiveness. Similarly, the animal rights advocates should consider working towards joining the greater community of people fighting for rights of the oppressed rather than fight for animal rights only and using comparisons that further alienate the cause. Think about how hurt gays in California were by the seeming snub of African-American voters when Prop 8 passed. It certainly highlighted the insularity of these movements. If you care for the rights of the oppressed, you should care for all who are oppressed, in whichever form. People have an immense capacity for empathy; there's no reason we can't care about multiple issues at a time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who needs liberty when you can have four more years of no privacy?

Remember how Bush and his cronies disregarded the law and did whatever the hell they wanted? Remember how Obama was supposed to be a beacon of light and hope and change and stuff?

In this illuminating article, Glenn Greenwald confirms what I suspected before: the president can follow whichever laws he chooses to follow. Not only that, but that Obama chooses to not follow a whole bunch and there's nothing we can do about it.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, which filed the lawsuit against AT&T and other wireless service providers for illegal eavesdropping on American citizens, has now filed one against Obama, Eric Holder, the United States, et al. for warrantless wiretapping. And what does Obama say? Basically, that the U.S. has secret stuff that is super important because of terrorists and stuff and you wouldn't understand and terrorists are out there and blah blah blah. Not only does the Department of Justice ask for the lawsuit to be dismissed, they also employ Bush-speak in doing so. FUCK.

Greenwald even scanned the brief and excerpted some of the scarier Bushisms in his article. Here are a few:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Vegetarian Feast!

Though this meal is months away, I am already all a-flutter! On June 13th, I will be having dinner at a local farm, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, IL. The four to five course meal will feature local and sustainably farmed fruits, vegetables, meats, and the farm's own cheeses. These events, which run from late May to October, are themed around interesting ingredients, such as game meat (bison, venison, quail), or challenges, such as the 100 yards dinner, an "extreme local" meal.

We have selected the "Vegetarian Feast," which will take place in the heart of cherry and currant season, but part of me longs for "The Whole Hog." My love for bacon runs deep (and tests my almost-always-pescatarianism), but more importantly, it would afford me the opportunity to recreate Michael Pollan's closing meal in The Omnivore's Dilemma...minus the actual wild boar killing...and slaughter...and meat carving...and fat rendering...and sausage making...

On second thought, I'll stick to my kale and cauliflower. It will be much easier to kiss the baby goats without grease on my lips.

Know your organs!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

BTW, here's the making of the Antwerp video and the T-Mobile version in England.

Friday, April 3, 2009

do re mi...

So I've had a very long two days of lots done, learned a lot, blah blah blah, but good lord it was exhausting. But today I get home and find this:

And all is just beautiful.

Sure, it's just a really creative advertisement (down with capitalism and all that). Sure, they stole the idea from improv everywhere. But that little girl (0:45)...and the teenager with attitude (1:05)...and the one with the hair (1:19)....and the old woman (confused at 1:20, happier at 1:59)....the zany old guy in a suit (2:38)...the scary biker (3:50) and just the joy. Makes me want to visit Belgium (er, I am, just under different circumstances). Anyway, hope it brings you cheer as well!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull's band is the shit. And the song ain't bad either (a cover of The Crane Wife 3 by The Decemberists).