Book Review: The Bone Sparrow, Zana Fraillon (2016)

Friday, November 4th, 2016

A raw, unflinching, powerful, and very necessary book.

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for violence.)

I find my notebook and pencil and I start to write. The letters flow from deep inside me without even a pause to worry about which way is which and where to put what. And my head fills with memories and stories from so long ago that fences weren’t even invented yet. Stories that haven’t even happened yet. Stories that the world won’t see for years and years. All those stories swirl through my head, but I suck them all in and tell them to wait. Because first I have to write the most important story of them all. The story which isn’t even a story. The story that has to be told, no matter how hard it is to tell.

Ten-year-old Subhi was born in an Australian detention center. Originally from Burma (Myanmar), his Maá and older sister Queeny (Noor) were forcibly removed by soldiers, put on a boat and compelled to set sail at gunpoint. His ba, a poet, was imprisoned by the government.

Their offense? Subhi and his family are Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority living in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. In the Author’s Note, Fraillon explains that “the United Nations and Amnesty International have declared the Rohingya to be one of the most persecuted people on earth, and a recent investigation by Al Jazeera News suggested that the government of Myanmar is committing genocide in its treatment of the Rohingya. The Rohingya are being hunted into extinction.”

For the past decade, they’ve been in limbo: unable to return to their native country, but unwelcome where they washed up. Like the United States, Australia has a policy of mandatory detention; refugees are treated much like criminals.

In order to keep his mind from turning to “mush,” Subhi clings to stories – the familiar, well-worn tales of his family, and new ones belonging to the nine hundred other refugees who live in the detention center alongside him. Especially cherished are those stories dreamed up by his ba; stories of the Night Sea, which sometimes washes over Subhi’s camp as he dreams, leaving cryptic treasures in its wake: A small statue of a knight. A little blue toy car. A sketch of a thousand birds in flight. A green coin rimmed with black smudges. Subhi believes that these are messages, sent by his ba – and that, one day, he’ll come in person to rescue them from this non-existence.

(More below the fold…)

DNF Book Review: The Girl with Ghost Eyes, M. H. Boroson (2015)

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

 

It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring great shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.

(summary via Goodreads)

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: New Zapata, Teri Hall (2013)

Monday, July 15th, 2013

A Timely Dystopia

four out of five stars

Trigger warning for rape.

Nineteen-year-old Rebecca Johnson – Becca for short – is a young woman who suddenly and unhappily finds herself pregnant – again. Though she loves her young son Luke, his birth almost killed her. Did kill her, in fact: her heart stopped beating for several minutes before doctors were able to revive her. Despite the doctors’ grave warnings that a second pregnancy would most likely kill her, Becca’s husband Chad continues to insist upon sex as his husbandly right. Though she tries to satisfy him in other ways, he rapes and impregnates her. The embryo growing inside her could very well claim her life or leave her permanently disabled, like her own mother Dee, who has spent all nineteen of Becca’s years in a persistent vegetative state. An abortion is her only chance at survival. Trouble is, Becca lives in the Republic of Texas circa 2052.

Shortly before Becca was born, Texas seceded from the United States and installed its own repressive theocracy. The first order of business: assume control of the means of reproduction – namely, women and their bodies. Naturally, abortion is prohibited, although – after an initial backlash – the powers that be begrudgingly allowed exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the (would-be) mother. These exemptions are rarely granted, and require a vote by an (all-male) council and, if the woman is married, the husband’s written permission. To make matters worse, nearly all forms of contraception are outlawed, the sole exception being vasectomies, which also require a health exemption. (Chad would qualify due to his wife’s condition, but he refuses Becca’s requests to have the procedure performed.) As a result of this mandatory fertility, the population of the R of T is growing at an alarming rate, while public assistance to families is need is dropping steadily. “Pro-life” at its finest!

Divorce is outlawed, though in larger, more “liberal” cities, aggrieved couples sometimes opt to live separately. (Becca lives in the border town of New Zapata, which is not so progressive.) While public schooling is available, children are fed a steady stream of propaganda, faith-based misinformation, and outright lies. Any books that counter the government’s official platform – like the seemingly innocuous Gray’s Anatomy – are banned, and their possession could land you a stiff jail sentence. Girls rarely receive more than a tenth-grade education because they’re expected to become mothers, usually at a young age – and mothers aren’t allowed to hold paying jobs. Pregnant women are made to leave their jobs in the third month of pregnancy, so as not to harm the “baby.” The government knows exactly when life begins, right down to individual cases: beginning at adolescence and continuing through menopause, girls and women must submit to monthly pregnancy tests (and boys, DNA screening). The country’s borders are sealed, with no one allowed out or in, so that those in need of employment or who don’t agree with the country’s policies don’t have the option of leaving in search of a better life elsewhere. The R of T is a virtual prison, with its residents held captive to the hatred and religious zealotry of its founding fathers.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Santa Olivia, Jacqueline Carey (2009)

Monday, July 9th, 2012

“Santa Olivia” will leave you howling for more.*

five out of five stars

— Warning: moderate spoilers follow! —

North America. The year is … well, we don’t know the year. Suffice it to say that it’s some time in the not-so-distant future. A flu pandemic has swept the continent, killing millions and exacerbating already-unconscionable inequities. Scared, desperate, and dying, Mexican immigrants flood U.S. hospitals in search of medical care. The leaders of the “land of the free” respond to this crisis not with charity and compassion, but by circling the wagons. In an effort to tighten the border, the government annexes a portion of Texas, declaring it a “buffer zone” to be occupied indefinitely by the U.S. military. The citizens of Santa Olivia – now simply called “Outpost 12”** – are given a choice: evacuate to other parts of the United States, or stay. Possibly forever. Overcome by poverty and sickness – and some, like Carmen Garron, just children at the time of the occupation – there is no choice to make at all.

And so the remaining Santa Olivians enter a state of limbo; they are neither dead nor alive. As far as the rest of the world knows, they don’t exist: one of the government’s many lies is that civilians no longer inhabit Outpost 12. Aside from military personnel, no one is allowed to travel into or out of Santa Olivia. There is no contact with the outside world: no phone, no internet, no television, no newspapers. No way of screaming for help; no rescue. The residents of Santa Olivia have only each other.

It’s into this dystopia that our hero Loup Garron is born. Loup isn’t like other children. Her father, an escaped government “project” – a genetically modified organism (GMO) who, because of gene splicing, exhibits superhuman strength, speed, and stamina, as well as an inability to feel fear – left town just as suddenly as he appeared. Named for the wolf DNA that they share, Loup is raised mostly by her older half-brother Tommy, who teaches her how to conceal her exceptional abilities, lest she be “requisitioned” by the U.S. military. Even as she watches Tommy hone his own skills as a boxer – strength, power, and agility which she could easily surpass – Loup lives in the shadows, unnoticed. Unappreciated. Unutilized. For Loup, it’s “purgatory.”

In the space of just five years, Loup loses both her mother and brother: Carmen succumbs to another wave of the flu pandemic, and Tommy is killed in the boxing ring. In the interim, a twelve-year-old Loup is sent to live in the town’s only orphanage. Run by “Father” Ramon and “Sister” Martha, the children who live within the safety of the church’s wall forge a strong bond: they are the Santitos. When a soldier rapes one of their own and the army refuses their demand for justice, Santa Olivia is born. With Loup acting as their muscle, the Santitos exact revenge upon the rapist and his lying, rape-enabling friends, and then set to work performing “miracles” for the townspeople. The town’s patron saint experiences a rebirth of sorts – and with her, so does Loup Garron.

When Tommy is killed – murdered – during a rigged boxing match, Loup faces her greatest challenge: convince Tommy’s trainer Floyd to take her on so that she can beat the boxer who killed her brother. No small feat, since he’s like her: a “Wolf-Person.”

Boxing is the primary form of entertainment in Santa Olivia. Run by the military – on account of the general’s love of the sport – the matches always consist of a soldier versus a civilian. While the soldier’s motivation is clear – they serve at the pleasure of their general – Santa Olivians are bribed into participating with the promise of two tickets out of town for the winner. No civilian has ever won a match in the history of Outpost 12. Tommy had a shot – which is why General Argyle replaced boxer Ron Johnson with his GMO twin.

For Loup, success will most certainly mean imprisonment. Slavery, perhaps. Possibly even death – execution as a traitor. Yet fight she must: for her brother, for herself, and for all of Santa Olivia. She is their new patron saint.

— End: spoiler alert! —

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2012)

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

American Dreamz (of “Good” Food)

four out of five stars

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

When is bread just bread? After reading White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2012), you’ll realize that the answer to this deceptively simple question is likely “almost never.”

Tied as it is to issues of class, race, gender, and nativism, the history of bread – which types of bread are considered the healthiest, which are the most patriotic and “American,” what methods of preparation are considered safest, which loaves are most valued by the affluent, etc. – reflects changing social mores as much as (or perhaps even more so than) it does evolving culinary tastes. Focusing on recent American history – the past 150 years, give or take a few decades – Bobrow-Strain doesn’t so much trace the history of bread as he does examine how trends in bread consumption reflect deeper cultural ideas, fears, and ideals. Accordingly, the book is divided into six primary chapters, each dedicated to a different “bread dreams,” namely: purity and contagion; control and abundance; health and discipline; strength and defense; peace and security; and resistance and status.

The mass production of (the titular) white bread in factories, for example, was initially celebrated as a safe, scientific, and superior way of delivering bread to the masses, in a time when women were otherwise tied to the kitchen and many small, family-owned bakeries were run from unsanitary basement kitchens characterized by brutal working conditions. Now derided as “white trash” food – ironically, in part due to its success and ubiquity – industrial white bread was once considered a healthier, more sanitary, even elite alternative to home-baked, locally bought, and whole wheat breads. Oh, how the times have changed! Or not. What comes around goes around – America’s current love of freshly made artisan breads harkens back to the 1800s and earlier, before bread was made by robots and procured in giant grocery chains.

So too has the maxim of “knowing where your food comes from” changed with the times. Prior to the industrial revolution, this meant getting to know your local bread baker (and, more importantly, his kitchen) – or, preferably, having mom bake all the family’s bread from scratch. (No small feat when one considers that bread has long been a dietary staple: from the 1850s though the 1950s, Americans got an average of 25-30% of their calories from bread. While this figure began to dip in the 1960s, it tends to rise in times of war and recession, particularly among the poor.) Later on, “knowing where your food comes from” was presented as a benefit of buying industrial white bread produced by faceless bakery conglomerates – an idea that seems laughable to the modern consumer.

White Bread is an engaging look at a foodstuff that, until now, hadn’t received its proper due. Recent condemnations of industrial bread aside, historical and scholarly accounts of bread’s history have mostly been lacking; with this engaging, meticulously researched, and passionate tome, Bobrow-Strain fills in the void. Especially useful to food activists, the lessons found in White Bread are important ones:

Thanks to an explosion of politically charged food writing and reporting that began in the late 1990s, members of the alternative food movement have access to a great deal of information about why and how the food system needs to change. Much less is known about the successes and failures of such efforts in the past. Even less is known about the rich world of attachments, desires, aspirations, and anxieties that define America’s relation to the food system as it is.

The history of bread in America provides countless illuminating examples of how national crusades for “better” food (however you define it: safer, healthier, cheaper, etc.), while well-intentioned, often draw upon and feed into harmful stereotypes and work to perpetuate the very oppression and inequalities they seek to eradicate. Food must be taken in context: everything’s related. Food justice, feminism, worker’s rights, racial equality, immigration, environmentalism (not to mention, nonhuman animals and veganism) – intersectionality is the word of the day.

So why the 4-star rating? Exhausted by the bald speciesism found in so many books written by non-vegan environmentalists (culminating in the particularly awful Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage), I promised myself that I’d stop requesting such items from Library Thing, no matter how much they might interest me. While I expected that meat might make an appearance in White Bread – a status symbol, the consumption of animal flesh has long been linked with class, gender, and race – I didn’t anticipate that the author would be a former intern on a “kinder,” “gentler,” “sustainable” beef ranch. Bobrow-Strain peppers the book with anecdotes about his time as a purveyor of “happy meat,” grass-fed beef, and raw milk – all of which is presented as a “radical” new way of looking at food. Uh, yeah, not so much. Exploiting animals? That’s just business as usual. But rethinking who is on our plate, and why? Now that’s extreme. (Such bold proclamations bring to mind Red Lobster’s latest ad campaign: “We Sea Food Differently.” If by “differently” you mean “exactly the same.”)

And yet, the closest we get to any mention of veganism is Sylvester Graham, the 19th century Presbyterian minister and food reformer who advocated vegetarianism, temperance, and a return to “natural” foods as a means of achieving physical and moral superiority. Unfortunately, his vision of a simpler life was predicated on the genocide of indigenous peoples and the enforcement of rigid gender roles; and, in blaming the poor for their ills and ignoring larger social structures, his philosophy was classist as well. Not that I blame Bobrow-Strain for presenting this critique of “the father of American vegetarianism.” Quite the contrary: it’s essential for vegan activists to recognize, acknowledge, and overcome past wrongs – many of which are still in operation today. But in all his waxing sentimental about animal exploitation – on a book ostensibly written about bread – it’s especially irritating that an oblique discussion of Graham’s vegetarianism is the best – indeed, the only – counter to the oppression, violence, and waste that is animal agriculture. Slow, local, organic, and healthy foods – all receive their due. And veganism? Apparently that’s so radical a notion it’s not even worth mentioning. (But yeah, vegans are the ones always shoving their opinions down the throats of unsuspecting omnivores. Riiiight.)

While I think there’s a lot that vegans can take away from this book, the speciesism is at once asinine and infuriating. If you think you can handle it, by all means.

Read with: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy (2010).

2012-05-08 - White Bread - 0002

A page from White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf
by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2012)
Chapter 6: How White Bread Became White Trash; Dreams of Resistance and Status
“You’re scum, you’re fucking white bread.”
– David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

——————————

(This review is also available on Library Thing, Amazon, and Goodreads. Please click on over and vote me helpful if you’re so inclined, mkay? I have a sneaking suspicion that this piece won’t prove especially popular on Amazon.)

Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo: Loud, Clueless & Proud

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Some of you may recall the animal rights bingo cards I made last year, namely: Defensive Omnivore Bingo II (inspired by Brian VanderVeen’s Defensive Omnivore Bingo, of course!), as well as the vegan-feminist Speciesist Feminist Bingo and Anti-Feminist Vegetarian Bingo cards. (No? Well, here they are!) Around the same time, I started working on a card dealing with racism and classism in the animal advocacy movement: Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo. A year later, give or take, and I finally filled in the few remaining squares!

Unlike the other cards, I feel as though PWV Bingo requires more of an introduction – but every time I sit down and put fingers to keys, the words that appear on my computer screen seem trite, inadequate and lacking in eloquence. So rather than keep struggling along, instead I invite you to read this FAQ by Tim Wise, as well as “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack,” by Peggy McIntosh – the first few paragraphs of which I’ve excerpted below:

Through the work to bring materials from Women’s Studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over-privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to improve women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials which amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages which men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened or ended.

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege which was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless backpack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

For me, filling in the 24 squares of the PWV Bingo card was an exercise similar to that performed by McIntosh – that is, recognizing the many ways in which my racial and ethnic makeup help me navigate the world of veganism and animal advocacy, unhindered and unmolested. Whereas – as a woman lacking in gender privilege – I was able to complete the two feminist-themed cards with relative ease, it took me – as a vegan benefiting from race and class privilege – months to finish the PWV Bingo card. In short, it’s much easier for me to identify sexism, misogyny and anti-feminism, since I’m marginalized by them; harder still to identify racism and classism (particularly less overt examples of each), since I’ve been taught to take white privilege for granted – to see right through it, as though it doesn’t even exist. An eye-opening task, and one I highly recommend – no matter the privilege in question: race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, dis/ability…species, even. No, not even – especially.

Additionally, I should note that while I use the terms “racism” and “classism” in conjunction, this isn’t to suggest that they’re interchangeable. Related, yes – inasmuch as people of color are disproportionately represented among the poor and working-class, and a number of variables, structural and otherwise, work to perpetuate the status quo – but not the same. However, rather than make a card each for racism and classism, I decided to combine the two in one for simplicity’s sake. All forms of oppression are intertwined, and sometimes it can be next-to-impossible to separate all the tangled threads.

Also, I almost named this card “Cluelessly Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo” – since recognizing one’s privilege doesn’t automagically dispense with it – but decided against it, seeing as “Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo” is already quite the mouthful. I specifically chose not to call it “Racist Vegetarian Bingo,” as labeling one a “racist” tends to shut down civil, productive discourse in a way that “speciesist” (and even, to some extent, “sexist”) does not. Plus, racism isn’t an either/or proposition; as Wise explains, we’re all socialized and/or programmed to be racist – to think in terms of in group/out group membership – to some degree. The challenge, whether you choose to accept it, lies in using our oversized primate brains to overcome these outdated, retrogressive, lazy ways of thinking.

As with the previous cards, I’ve included a plain-text version of PWV Bingo after the jump. At the time of this writing, most of the squares contain links to refutations and debunkings; for those that don’t, I plan on either finding an appropriate response or writing my own in the (hopefully near) future – so check back often!*

In addition to the articles by Wise and McIntosh, I also highly recommend that you check out the resources linked to in the plain-text version of the card. Vegans of Color, The Vegan Ideal, The Food Empowerment Project, The Sistah Vegan Project, L.O.V.E. – all have been instrumental in challenging and shaping my views on race and class privilege (etc.), particularly in relation to the animal advocacy movement. Many of the squares were directly inspired by things read and seen on the pages of these blogs and websites.

Of course, PWV Bingo is equally applicable to vegans as well as vegetarians. Sad but true, people. Sad but true.

Privileged White Vegetarian Bingo

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Between the Fences: Before Guantanamo, there was the Port Isabel Service Processing Center, Tony Hefner (2010)

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

An engaging, if frustrating, story of government corruption & abuse

three out of five stars

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

In BETWEEN THE FENCES, Tony Hefner tells a harrowing tale of corruption and human rights abuses, committed by both the United States government as well as contractors tasked with fulfilling governmental responsibilities (in this case, caring for detained, undocumented immigrants). Employed as a prison guard at the Port Isabel Service Processing Center – an immigrant detention center in the South Texas’s Rio Grande Valley – from 1983 to 1986 and again from 1988 to 1990, Hefner either witnessed personally or was privy to first-hand accounts of various crimes that took place at Port Isabel, including the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of detainees, both male and female (and sometimes, children); the sexual harassment, assault and rape of female guards; the physical and emotional abuse of male employees; drug trafficking; blackmail; nepotism and racism in hiring and firing decisions; and countless other illegal and immoral activities, including repeated cover-ups of these incidents, and the protection of those involved.

Hefner’s account of these human rights abuses is both engaging and enraging, but his constant digression into his own life history detracts from the story. For example, as a child Hefner himself endured physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his stepfather, who thought him worthless because of his Mexican parentage. Although I sympathize with his plight – no child should be bullied, hit, or made to feel worthless, and certainly not by adults – Hefner repeatedly points to this abuse as one reason (“excuse,” you might say) for his relative inaction on behalf of abused inmates. While Hefner’s power to intervene directly was no doubt limited, he also didn’t do much behind the scenes; for example, he might have clandestinely collected hard evidence in order to build a case against his superiors, and/or anonymously leaked this information to the media, thus remaining an inside whistleblower at Port Isabel – but he didn’t. While Hefner did record those abuses that took place out in the open (in a notebook, after the fact – not exactly irrefutable proof), he also didn’t go out of his way to uncover the hidden, more egregious cruelties that were kept from him and others. Too often, he seemed content to go about his own work, nose down, ears closed – see no evil, hear no evil.

Many guards and employees tolerated the abuse of both prisoners and, not uncommonly, their own persons because of financial hardship. In the 1980s, at least, Port Isabel was one of the largest employers in an economically strapped area. Far removed from the situation, it’s easy to sit in judgment of guards who refused to speak up in the interest of self-preservation. But this unfair at best; no one can really know how he or she would react in a similar situation without actually living it. Here, though, Hefner makes frustrating excuses as well; if he had simply chalked his lack of action up to poverty, I might be able to understand. But he claims to have stayed on at Port Isabel in order to keep his ministry, the Bearing Precious Seed Ranch, viable. In other words, he was content to proselytize to vulnerable children on the one hand, while utterly and spectacularly failing to live the actual tenets of his religious teachings on the other. “Do as I say, not as I do.” In the name of “caring for” some people’s children, he ignored the abuse of other people’s children (some of them, it’s worth noting, actual children – minor boys raped by fellow inmates while indifferent guards looked on, or underage girls forced to dance naked for the possibility of clemency).

The many, many pages Hefner devoted to writing his own autobiography would have been better spent, I think, placing the abuse at Port Isabel in context. According to the book’s promotional materials, 400,000 immigrants are detained by the U.S. government every year; these individuals are held in a number of jails across the country. How do the conditions at Port Isabel compare to those at other centers? What steps, if any, are the INS and the U.S. government taking to ensure that the individuals detained in these facilities – and the guards employed therein – are treated humanely and respectfully? How does the government justify its lack of action on the complaints lodged against Port Isabel officials? What steps do Hefner and his allies plan to take next? And how does our broken immigration policy, too often marred by racism, sexism and xenophobia, contribute to these horrific conditions?

(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!)

randomness: dicks, donuts, girls, books, ice creams, pigs and pizzas!

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Fan Junk Shots - Ralphie 01

  • www.schlongs4seals.com is now open and ready for business!

    Currently, only the blog – where I’ve already logged more posts in August than I managed to write for this here blog in the entire month of July – is fully functional. I’m still working on the promised interactive photo gallery and discussion features, but hope to have these done soon. (To this end, WP-compatible software recommendations would be most appreciated!)

    That said, the template and static/informational pages are all finished and look, if I might say so myself, kickass. I found a template that mimics Facebook almost to a M (for misogyny, natch), so it’s almost like we never left. (And by “left” I mean “were kicked off.”)

    Additionally, I created a temporary set of photo pages to house all the “man meat” I’ve “processed” thus far: VAPETA PSAs, promotional materials, junk shots, celebrity cock shots, South Park avatars, brother campaigns, etc. Browse, bookmark and check back often, because there’s more in the pipes.

    If you’re still out there and, um, excited to participate (excited! get it!?), send me your package at schlongs4seals [at] gmail.com and I’ll be equally excited (tee hee) to feature it on the appropriate page.

    Also, if you visit the front page, you’ll see a little Facebook “like” button in the left-hand sidebar (right under the hot white torso wearing the hot red boxer briefs). Click it, won’t you? We need friends! And sharing! On Facebook!

    Fan Junk Shots - Baby Kelly 02

    I’ve been a connoisseur of men’s briefs since early childhood.
    Behold the rapturous glee on my chubby chipmunk cheeks!
    ——————————

    SeaL Shepherd may have succeeded in removing our page from Facebook, but he can hardly prevent us from sharing content in the form of links.

    Can’t stop the schlong, yo.

    (A note for the newbies and occasional readers: if all this cock talk has you flummoxed, go here for some background.)

  • Tofurky Pizza with Daiya Cheese has finally made its way to Kansas City!:

    2010-08-05 - Tofurky Pizza - 0003

    The Whole Foods in Overland Park, to be more specific. And now it’s in my freezer. Nom nom nom.

  • As if this isn’t already more awesomeness than the KC metro area can handle, Kansas City is now home to a brand-spanking-new vegan bakery. Gluten-free, to boot. And, if you live in the KC area, they deliver!

    Shane ordered a box of Golden Girls – the vegan feminist version of “real” Twinkies, if you will – for delivery to his office Monday.

    2010-08-02 - Golden Girls - 0010

    They are super-yummy – a little denser than Twinkies (according to Shane; I’ve never partaken), with a sponge- or angel food cake-like consistency. The creamy filling is the bestest, though methinks the cakes could use more. I say the same of Ronald’s Donuts and Newman’s O’s, so grain of salt.

    Egads. In all my excitement, I almost forgot to name drop. Brody’s Bakery is the name of the biz – hit ’em up on Facebook, and if you’re ever in the KC area, shop team vegan, mkay? Jasmin of Our Hen House also did a nice writeup on Brody’s this week; see Brody’s Bakery Bakes Up Compassion. (Color me jealous, btw.)

  • (More below the fold…)

    Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 11: Battered, Bruised & Consumed

    Monday, November 9th, 2009

    null

    Natalie Portman @ The Huffington Post: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals Turned Me Vegan and

    Carol J. Adams: A vegan-feminist lament

    Natalie Portman – a newbie vegetarian-to-vegan convert, thanks to Jonathan Safran Foer’s welfarist Eating Animals (zuh?) – recently caused a stir when she compared the consumption of “meat” to the consumption of women, i.e., in the form of rape:

    He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don’t believe in rape, but if it’s what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it).

    Naturally, Portman’s remark(s) unleashed a torrent of speciesism – to which Carol Adams responds with a vegan-feminist lament.

    (This is the point at which I’d normally swoon over Ms. Portman – but I’m still somewhat heartbroken over her Jane Hancock on the “free Polanski” petition.)

    Striking at the Roots: Carol J. Adams on Activism, Veganism and Models for Change

    In what’s shaping up to be a series (see also: Mark’s conversation with Andrew Zollman of LGBT Compassion), author/activist Mark Hawthorne interviews vegetarian (vegan?) / feminist Carol Adams. The two touch upon sexism within the animal rights movement, masculine vs. feminist models of change, the gendered nature of animal exploitation, and guerrilla activism. Keep it coming, Mark!

    Stephanie @ Animal Rights: Are American Rodeos More Acceptable Than Spanish Bullfighting?

    Stephanie details an alarming trend: as Spanish animal advocacy groups work to bring an end to bullfighting, promoters of American rodeos are promoting the “sport” as a “humane” alternative. Clearly, the question she poses – Are American Rodeos More Acceptable Than Spanish Bullfighting? – is a rhetorical one, and the answer is a resounding hell no! Here, colonialism meets speciesism, and everyone loses. Save for the colonizers, of course.

    (More below the fold…)

    Book Review: Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town, Warren St. John (2009)

    Friday, May 8th, 2009

    Sports as a microcosm.

    five out of five stars

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

    Warren St. John’s OUTCASTS UNITED: A REFUGEE TEAM, AN AMERICAN TOWN is a sweet and inspirational story about newly immigrated families trying to achieve the American Dream (or their interpretation of it) – as reflected through the microcosm of children’s soccer.

    The charmingly named Fugees is a soccer team (three, actually, divided by age group) in the small Georgian town of Clarkston. Comprised of immigrant children from Afghanistan,, Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and other war torn nations, they face a number of hurdles, including a lack of funds, xenophobia, petty small town politics, and opposition from the mayor himself. As St. John reported in a series of articles for THE NEW YORK TIMES, Mayor Lee Swaney objected to their use of the baseball fields for soccer thusly: “There will be nothing but baseball down there as long as I am mayor. Those fields weren’t made for soccer.” He even refers to the immigrant soccer enthusiasts as “the soccer people.” Lessons in Othering, anyone?

    The Fugees are led by Luma Mefleh – “Coach Luma” – a woman immigrant born in Jordan and educated in the United States. In a field dominated by men, her coaching position is no small feat. Mefleh tries to instill in the boys a sense of ethics as well as soccer skills, requiring all team members to sign a “contract” which consists of what you might call rules for “good citizenship.” Mefleh, then, makes it her mission to help the boys adjust to their new surroundings, as well as play a good game of soccer.

    OUTCASTS UNITED is an engaging read, fun and lighthearted one moment, heartbreaking the next – and perfect for both sports enthusiasts and bleeding hearts alike. I’m not really big on sports (watching, anyway; participation is another matter!), but I quite enjoyed following the Fugees over the course of a season. Along the way, St. John also traces the events which led Mefleh and her players to America, offering us a glimpse of the myriad reasons why some people choose (or are forced) to leave their homelands and start anew in foreign countries. Hint: it’s not for greed, nor to steal your jobs.

    If you’d like to learn more, hop on over to THE NEW YORK TIMES’ website and search for ‘ Warren St. John’ – the articles which inspired OUTCASTS UNITED are still available online. According to the intro by Chris Jackson, the movie rights were sold in exchange for a sizable donation to the team – so hopefully the Fugees’ story will soon be coming to a movie screen near you. Let’s hope Hollywood does their story justice.

    And, if St. John’s looking to do a follow up, I bet many girls and women would love to see the story of a similar all-girl’s team…I’m sure there are at least several out there. Hint, hint.

    (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!)

    When "isms" intersect: Wild Versus Wall

    Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

    Via the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, by way of Deb at Invisible Voices, an eloquent illustration of intersecting “isms.” In this case, racism/xenophobia (“ZOMG! ILLEGAL ALIENZ!!!1!!1!”) and speciesism (“ZUH? THERE ARE ANIMALS ON TEH BORDER?”):

    The Border Campaign of the Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter has completed a 20 minute video about the environmental effects of the current border policy, “Wild Versus Wall.” This video covers the ecological effects of enforcement and infrastructure in the four states that share boundaries with Mexico.

    Tucson-based filmmaker Steev Hise has been working on the film since January, 2007. He traveled to Texas and California during the spring to interview land managers, scientists, and activists who are working to limit the ecological impacts of border wall construction.

    “I have been covering border issues in southern Arizona for a while,” said Hise. “One of the great things about this project was traveling to other places along the border and to see how people concerned about the recent border militarization have the same outlook as people do here. They are also trying to stop the Department of Homeland Security from running roughshod over natural resources and constitutional rights.”

    Hise also gathered footage from a diverse array of sources, including some of the Border Patrol’s own employment videos, which show agents blazing along on off-road vehicles. Numerous photographers contributed images of the rich ecosystems and species that are impacted by border infrastructure projects and local biologists lent their eyes and ears to the factual background of the habitats at stake.

    Order your DVD today! Send $20 to 738 N. 5th Ave., Suite 214, Tucson, AZ 85705. Be sure to include Wall vs. Wild in the memo line of the check.

    Understandably, the Sierra Club focuses on the environmental impact of the border wall, since that’s what they do and all. Even so, this is an area that’s ripe for coalition building between pro-immigration/anti-racist and environmental/animal advocacy groups, since they share a somewhat similar goal: sensible immigration policy, specifically pertaining to border security.

    The Center for Biological Diversity has has written extensively about the US-Mexico border wall; Google search here.

    (Crossposted from.)

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    Tagged:

    Personas para el Tratamiento Ético de los Animales?

    Thursday, August 14th, 2008

    Via Noemi @ Vegans of Color, PETA’s latest publicity stunt: pro-vegan ads on, of all places, the US-Mexico border fence:

    While many view the contentious border fence as a government fiasco, an animal rights group sees a rare opportunity.

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans today to announce an unusual marketing pitch to the U.S. government: Rent us space on the fence for billboards warning illegal border crossers there is more to fear than the Border Patrol.

    The billboards, in English and Spanish, would offer the caution: “If the Border Patrol Doesn’t Get You, the Chicken and Burgers Will — Go Vegan.”

    “We think that Mexicans and other immigrants should be warned if they cross into the U.S. they are putting their health at risk by leaving behind a healthier, staple diet of corn tortillas, beans, rice, fruits and vegetables,” said Lindsay Rajt, assistant manager of PETA’s vegan campaigns.

    The Department of Homeland Security is working to meet a deadline to complete 670 miles of fencing and other barriers on the Southwest border by Dec. 31. The fencing operation has run into stiff opposition by landowners fighting government efforts to obtain their land through condemnation.

    PETA says its billboards would picture “fit and trim” Mexicans in their own country, where their diet is more in line with the group’s mission. Another image on the sign would portray obese American children and adults “gorging on meaty, fat- and cholesterol-packed American food.”

    PETA’S offer to the feds is expected to arrive in a letter to Border Patrol officials today.

    But a government spokesman in Washington said the request will be rejected because it would limit visibility through the fence. And Border Patrol does not allow advertising on its property or installations, the officials added.

    “The fencing being put in place is, in many cases, mesh fencing to allow our officers to see what’s happening on the other side and to better secure the border,” said Michael Friel, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    One property owner on the Texas-Mexico border laughed at PETA’s proposal.

    “I think it’s ridiculous,” said Noel Benavides, who is contesting the construction of a fence dividing his family’s 145-acre ranch in Roma on the Rio Grande. “I can’t see the point of something like that.”

    But Rajt said the rent money they’d pay would help offset the huge costs of the fencing — and the advertising message “might even be frightening enough to deter people from crossing into the U.S.”

    PETA has often been criticized for its aggressive animal rights crusades. It’s used billboards to push many of its controversial positions such as “Buck Cruelty: Say NO to horse-drawn carriage rides” or “Feeding Kids Meat Is Child Abuse.”

    (More below the fold…)

    Center for Biological Diversity: Border ‘Berlin Wall’ will harm endangered species!

    Friday, September 22nd, 2006

    Via the Center for Biological Diversity:

    Border ‘Berlin Wall’ will harm endangered species! Call your Senators now!

    The Senate is about to vote on a bill that would build a ‘Berlin wall’ on the US-Mexico border creating an enormous wildlife barrier, spanning 700 miles of the international boundary and nearly the entirety of Arizona’s southern boundary. This would be an environmental disaster, utterly preventing wildlife migrations between the two countries, blocking Jaguar, Sonoran Pronghorn, and Mexican Gray Wolf recovery and fragmenting the habitats of myriad border species. This bill MANDATES construction of double-layered fencing no later than May 30, 2008 and trumps efforts like wildlife-friendly vehicle barriers along public-lands boundaries that have been effective in mitigating cross-border traffic. […]

    It is essential that you write and call your Senators and urge them to say no to HR 6061 and to the Berlin Wall on our boundary with Mexico. This could go to vote as early as Monday, Sept. 25, so please write and call today!