Archive: July 2011

Barks and Buttercreams

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

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A ginormous chocolate cupcake topped with raspberry buttercream frosting and a single plump raspberry. From Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse, so you know it’s made with love instead of animal parts. Delicious!

So psyched to have a new vegan eatery in Kansas City!*

Also: old dogs rock. Exhibits A and B:

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Ralphie

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and Kaylee. Case closed.

* See also: Cafe Seed, FÜD and Eden Alley.

Is there another way to win a maiden? | Kindness, courtesy, good works, that sort of thing.

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Still fro The Last Unicorn

“What can I do for you?” Prince Lír asked. “Nothing very much just now,” Molly Grue said. “The water was all I needed. Unless you want to peel the potatoes, which would be all right with me.”

“No, I didn’t mean that. I mean yes, I will if you want me to, but I was talking to her. I mean, when I talk to her, that’s what I keep asking.”

“Sit down and peel me a few potatoes,” Molly said. “It’ll give you something to do with your hands.”

They were in the scullery, a dank little room smelling strongly of rotting turnips and fermenting beets. A dozen earthenware dishes were piled in one corner, and a very small fire was shivering under a tripod, trying to boil a large pot of gray water. Molly sat at a rude table which was covered with potatoes, leeks, onions, peppers, carrots, and other vegetables, most of them limp and spotty. Prince Lír stood before her, rocking slowly along his feet and twisting his big, soft fingers together.

“I killed another dragon this morning,” he said presently.

“That’s nice,” Molly answered. “That’s fine. How many does that make now?”

“Five. This one was smaller than the others, but it really gave me more trouble. I couldn’t get near it on foot, so I had to go in with the lance, and my horse got pretty badly burned. It was funny about the horse —”

Molly interrupted him. “Sit down, Your Highness, and stop doing that. I start to twitch all over just watching you.” Prince Lír sat down opposite her. He drew a dagger from his belt and moodily began peeling potatoes. Molly regarded him with a slight, slow smile.

“I brought her the head,” he said. “She was in her chamber, as she usually is. I dragged that head all the way up the stairs to lay it at her feet.” He sighed, and nicked his finger with the dagger. “Damn. I didn’t mind that. All the way up the stairs it was a dragon’s head, the proudest gift anyone can give anyone. But when she looked at it, suddenly it became a sad, battered mess of scales and horns, gristly tongue, bloody eyes. I felt like some country butcher who had brought his lass a nice chunk of fresh meat as a token of his love. And then she looked at me, and I was sorry I had killed the thing. Sorry for killing a dragon!” He slashed at a rubbery potato and wounded himself again.

- Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn (1968)

Son of a Bieber!*

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Apropos my suggestion to fellow vegans that they come up with their own unique insults, rather than rely on the same tired sexist, racist, speciesist garbage:

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For those who can’t view the image, it’s a series of four panels, all of which are animated gifs:

1) A white, blond, bearded man is animatedly addressing the camera: “Instead of deriving ‘bad words’ from sex, we should derive it from bad musicians.”

2) The same man is shown walking down a hallway and into a living room. Not paying attention to where he’s going, he walks right into a sofa, presumably hurting his leg or otherwise sustaining injury.

3) Hopping around on one leg, gripping his knee, the man screams out, “NICKELBACK!”

4) And, grimacing, “THAT HURT LIKE A KATY PERRY SINGLE!”

Fin.

Originally spotted on tumblr! I don’t usually take the time to repost stuff from tumblr in this space, but this was just too good not to share! (That’s a not-so-subtle hint that you should follow me on tumblr, people!)

Added bonus lolz: when the husband and I first started dating, I found a Nickelback CD in his car. Note how I say “found” as though it was some horrific discovery … cause it was. Ten years later and his liking Nickelback enough to shell out $15 for their CD is still a running joke/insult.

* Credit where credit’s due; I so did not think of this one!

Book Review: The Moral Lives of Animals (Dale Peterson, 2011)

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson (2011)

“The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.”

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Moral Lives of Animals through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

What is the nature of morality? Which behaviors do we consider “moral,” and why? Are humans the only animals to have developed a sense of morality and rules for moral living? Dale Peterson’s The Moral Lives of Animals (2011) attempts to answer these questions, with mixed results. While he presents ample evidence which suggests that nonhuman animals have literally evolved their own moralities, in so doing Peterson demonstrates how terribly disrespectful, cruel, and (dare I say!) immoral human treatment of other animals and the planet we all call home remains, even after thousands of years of evolution and revolution.

When you think of “morals” and “morality,” most likely terms such as “just,” “kind,” “compassionate,” and “fair” come to mind. And ideally, what is considered “moral” in any given society is that which is just, and kind, and fair. However, “morality” differs in time and space; morals are relative and context-specific. Morality (or what we consider “moral”) is not fixed, but changes over time and across cultures. Those behaviors and institutions that were thought “moral” in colonial America, for example, are quite different than what we consider moral today. So too does morality vary across species: elephants, bonobos, mice, chickadees – all have their own moral rules, codified not in language (as human moral codes often are), but written into the DNA of the species by evolution. Sometimes these moral principles resemble our own; other times they do not.* This is the crux of the author’s theory of animal morality.

Peterson looks at animal morality in seven areas of animal life: authority, violence, sex, possession, communication, cooperation and kindness. The first five he groups together to form a system of “rules morality” – i.e., something is moral if it follows the rules – while cooperation and kindness together form “attachments morality” – i.e., compassionate behaviors, or those that encourage attachments among social animals, are moral. He presents a wealth of evidence – anecdotal, laboratory studies, field research – attesting to morality in nonhumans. Since each of these seven areas could easily command its own book, the sections are necessarily brief – but compelling nonetheless. (Curiously, Peterson barely touches upon rape – even though it could fit into two different chapters.) Primates receive quite a bit of attention (gotta love those sexually liberated, matriarchal bonobos!), as do elephants, hyenas, lions, whales, wolves, various species of birds, dogs – and humans.

It’s this last group that many of my fellow LT reviewers takes issue with, and with good cause. Though I take the title of the book to mean “the moral lives of nonhuman animals” (the omission of “nonhuman” when referring to animals being a nice/nasty linguistic trick that separates “us” from “them”), examples of human morality are introduced quite frequently, usually as a point of reference against which to consider nonhuman morality. Along these lines, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick serves as a framework on which Peterson weaves his own discussion, and passages from the Bible – used to illustrate written human moral codes – abound. As an atheist who Cliff Noted Moby-Dick in high school, I wasn’t thrilled with either device. That said, by the end of the book, I’d come to see the usefulness of Moby-Dick for shaping the structure of Peterson’s book; and, while the endless Biblical excerpts essentially excluded other religions from the text, I suspect that Peterson used them because he expected that Christianity would be the religion with which most of his audience would be most familiar. (Certainly, this seemed true of the author himself.) So I guess you could say that I came around on both points.

(More below the fold…)

Banana Bread Soft Serve, for dogs & their people! Also: Ralphie’s 10-year adoption day anniversary!

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

To Ralphie

Today is Ralphie’s adoption day anniversary! (Ten years, bitches! TEN!) Okay not really, it was actually on Thursday, but I totally screwed the pooch and missed it. Though we did squeeze in a combination morning walk / digging session that day, so it’s all good. I didn’t forget his big day; rather, he’s so nice that we’re celebrating twice! Yeah, that’s it!

Anyway, I decided to make the dogs a batch of ice cream to compensate/celebrate. Also, ’cause it’s 95 degrees F with a heat index of 115 out there. BRUTAL!

I’d been storing some overripe bananas in the freezer in anticipation of turning this awesome banana bread recipe into a frozen dessert – and then I realized that the dish I had in mind would be suitable for the dogs, too. So we split a batch!

Of course, this meant that I couldn’t add any chocolate chips to the batter, but that’s okay; since I only got the 3/4 cup of leftovers, I topped my scoop with a whole damn candy bar. YUM.

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And yes, this ice cream does taste a lot like the original banana bread. I bet it’d be even better with chunks of banana bread mixed in, but I’ll have to save that experiment for another day. I’m fresh out of bananas, yo!

Oh, and the best part about this recipe (aside from its healthfulness, that is) – no ice cream machine required!

Banana Bread Soft Serve

Makes two to three generous (human) servings, or about 20 large dog treats.

Inspired by Shane’s banana bread & hipsterfood’s two-ingredient ice cream.

Ingredients

5 bananas – the riper the better – frozen and slightly thawed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup carob chips (for dogs) or chocolate chips (for their people) – optional

Directions

Combine the bananas, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice and carob/chocolate chips in a food processor and mix until blended (but still a little chunky). Enjoy immediately or, if the ice cream’s on the runny side, chill in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes for a thicker dessert.

If you’re making this for your dog friends, remember to omit the chocolate chips (carob chips are a nice replacement!) as chocolate can be deadly to canines.

For a slightly less messy dog treat, you can: spoon the batter onto a tray lined with parchment paper; roll it into small, bite-sized balls; or put it in an ice cube tray and freeze before serving.

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Bite-sized banana ice cream balls for the dogs.
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Peedee tries to sneak a treat!
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Ralphie, the man of the hour!
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* Please check out the Dog Food Disclaimer page if you have any questions or concerns, or before trying any dog food recipes on this site!

Double Chocolate Pudding Pops

Friday, July 15th, 2011

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Homemade pudding pops! They’re quick and easy to make, and way cheaper than the store-bought stuff. (Though Tofutti’s Fudge Pops are decadent, if memory serves.) Plus they’ve got tofu, so they’re totally healthy! Go on, have them for breakfast. TOFU!

Double Chocolate Pudding Pops

Ingredients

1 (12 ounce) box of silken tofu
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted

Directions

1. Blend the above in a food processor until smooth, adding more or less sugar, cocoa powder and chocolate chips to taste.

2. When done, spoon the batter into six popsicle molds, small Dixie-style paper cups or similar. Insert a popsicle stick or small plastic spoon into each pop so you’ve something to hold onto.

3. Freeze for two to four hours, depending on the size of your popsicles.

4. Enjoy!

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Notes

I actually had a few bricks of tofu to use up, so I doubled the recipe. I was also woefully unprepared – no popsicle molds or small paper cups to be found! – so I used four larger “disposable” plastic cups,* filling them just 1/3 full. Plastic spoons made for nice “sticks,” with two per cup to make a grand total of eight pops. (If you go this route, I recommend removing them from the freezer after a few hours to cut them in half while they’re still soft on the inside. They might freeze together once you return them to the freezer, but they’re easy enough to pry apart.) The pops are a bit on the large size, but still edible! And delicious!

* While I loathe disposable dinnerware, I’ve literally been carting a box of plastic cutlery and paper plates from house to house for over a decade. I don’t even remember buying this shit! So don’t judge me, mkay?

Book Review: The Sex Doll: A History, Anthony Ferguson (2010)

Monday, July 11th, 2011

More accurately titled “The Sex Doll: Its Origins and Functions”

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free advanced review copy of this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

Upon requesting this title from Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program, I was nervous that author Anthony Ferguson’s discussion of sex dolls would present a view largely uncritical of these increasingly popular sexual aids and, more importantly, their owners/users. (So much so that I was actually relieved when the first copy was lost in the mail!) Happily, Ferguson (a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association – a detail that seems only slightly less odd in light of chapter eleven, which turns to dolls as a common trope in the horror genre!) manages to outline the potential anti-feminist implications of sex dolls while retaining empathy for (at least some of) their users. All in all, the book manages to find middle ground, even if it is at times shaky.

THE SEX DOLL: A HISTORY might be more accurately titled “The Sex Doll: Its Origins and Functions,” as there’s more theory than fact in this volume. By Ferguson’s own admission, the history of sex dolls is somewhat sketchy – which is wholly unsurprising given society’s conservative and oftentimes oppressive attitudes toward sex and sexuality. Sex dolls present an added complication, as Western religions have historically regarded lifelike representations of the human form (i.e. dolls) with suspicion and distrust. Thus, Ferguson relies less on the historical record and more on the theories and conjectures of philosophers, psychologists, sociologists and ethicists, seemingly indiscriminately and with mixed results.

While some of the views represented are intriguing (in particular, I’m keen to read David Levy’s LOVE + SEX WITH ROBOTS after seeing several excerpts in THE SEX DOLL), others are nonsensical, offensive, and downright misogynistic. Colin Wilson, for example, is paraphrased as saying that “a subverted worship of women” drives men to rape (WTF!); elsewhere, Ferguson himself extols the “value of war in pre-technological societies as a means of channeling masculine aggression” (never you mind that physical and sexual violence against women is nearly universal, or that rape is commonly used as a weapon of war; also, gender essentialism much?). Naturally, erstwhile misogynist Sigmund Freud and his sex-obsessed, woman-hating theories litter every chapter.

Likewise, the words Ferguson chooses are sometimes problematic. For example, he uses the terms “transgender” and “she-male” interchangeably, the latter being widely regarded as a derogatory slur within the trans community. Additionally, instances of rape are often referred to using variations on the phrase “had sex with,” implying consent where there is none. (“With” suggests that the sex is a mutually shared experience, which is not the case in rape. In this vein, it’s erroneous to say that one “has sex with” a sex doll, since a doll as an inanimate object cannot consent to the experience. In this case, “masturbate with” is more accurate.)

In chapter seven, “Sex Doll Stereotypes,” Ferguson analyzes sex dolls – objectified, silent and subservient (representations of) women, the “perfect” partners, if you will – in relation to their human counterparts, namely sex workers such as prostitutes and pornographic actors, as well as other sexually exploitable women, including mail order brides and mistresses. Since each of these topics could easily fill its own volume, the discussion is necessarily brief and lacking in nuance. Rather than add to my understanding of sex dolls, I found this chapter in particular a distraction.

Perhaps the greatest missed opportunity comes in chapter eight, “The Vagaries of Masculine Desire,” in which Ferguson lets “doll users speak.” Whereas a demographic/psychological survey of doll users would have been incredibly enlightening – who are these people and why and how do they choose to use sex dolls? – Ferguson instead presents us with a Q&A involving just five respondents. It’s rather obvious that Ferguson hand-picked these individuals in order to represent the spectrum of users: they run the gamut, from a single, older disabled man who’s heavily emotionally invested in his dolls, to a sexually active younger man who regards them as just one of many sexual outlets at his disposal. Curiously, two of the subjects – or a full 40% – of the respondents are women, which must surely be out of whack with the actual statistics. (Although we’ll never know, as Ferguson doesn’t offer any such numbers.) Since women are otherwise absent his discussion (Ferguson almost solely focuses on male users of female dolls), their inclusion here is doubly puzzling.

Ferguson is at his best when looking at representations of sex dolls in popular culture, as he does in chapters ten and eleven (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Orgasm?” and “Revulsion, Lust and Love,” respectively). His discussion of sex dolls and gynoids (female robots) in literature, film, television, music and art is by far the most engaging section of THE SEX DOLL – although his omission of the Cylons in the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA reboot is disappointing at best. (Particularly since it’s in these chapters that Ferguson introduces the question of human-robot love and marriage. Caprica Six! Athena! Hera!) Additionally, while the Terminator franchise is mentioned in brief, Ferguson fails to examine the evolving representations of the cyborgs in this realm; i.e., the possibility of a romantic and sexual relationship with a terminator is only raised when the female cyborg Cameron is introduced in THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. This observation might have provided a nice window into the gender dynamics of sex dolls, and how they’re reflected in popular culture.

Ultimately, THE SEX DOLL concludes that the uses and functions of sex dolls are as varied as are the men who utilize them. For some men, a sex doll represents the “perfect” partner: silent, non-responsive, subservient, powerless, never aging, changing or evolving. For others, a doll is merely a sexual outlet: safe, both physically and psychologically, affordable (perhaps), convenient. It might be just one of many sex toys a man utilizes, or it could be more: a willing companion to socially isolated men. Whatever the case, the fact that feminized sex dolls are visual representations of women – real, flesh and blood women – cannot be escaped:

“Given that sex dolls are as of now still inanimate objects, they are understandably treated as lacking autonomy, and yet they represent real women and are utilized as substitutes for real women. Despite the fact that some sex doll owners seem to treat their dolls with affection and anthropomorphize them, it is the dolls’ inability to respond, react or reject which most attracts men. This objectification is mirrored historically in the treatment of women, the ‘thing’ most dolls represent.” (Chapter six, page 81, “Consumable Women”)

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, Steve Hockensmith (2011)

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Bloody good fun!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is the final installment in the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES mashup trilogy. Whereas the first book in the series (the aptly named PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES) – written by Seth Grahame-Smith – is a rework of Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the subsequent two novels (both penned by Steve Hockensmith) comprise original material. While DAWN OF THE DREAFULS precedes the events of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by five years, DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is a sequel, following new bride Lizzie Bennet’s desperate search for a cure to the zombie affliction that has overcome her beloved Mr. Darcy.

As with its predecessors, DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is bloody good fun. Action packed and filled with ninjas, zombie slayers, and reanimated corpses, DREADFULLY EVER AFTER retains much of the maudlin humor and sardonic wit that fans have come to know and love. If you didn’t enjoy the previous two books or aren’t a fan of the mashup genre in general, probably you aren’t reading this review anyhow.

I listened to the previous installments on audiobook – between housework and exercise, it’s one of my few opportunities for leisure “reading” – and slightly prefer that format for this series. But I received a copy of DREADFULLY EVER AFTER through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program, so I’m really in no position to complain. Either way, I can’t wait for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES to come to the big screen, Natalie Portman or no. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER meets 28 DAYS LATER – and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, of course. Score!

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)