Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No Icing, No Cake

I wanted to begin this blog entry by saying that I'm hungry and there is
nothing to eat in this apartment, but that's not least, the
latter is not. I have grains and pasta and chick peas and rye bread and
frozen spinach and berries. There is a lot I have in my apartment to
eat, but what I'm really craving is a cupcake from Snice. And as I almost started this blog entry by writing that and then veering off onto another subject, like the subject of the all-important cupcake or
the even more vital icing, I was reminded of a panel discussion I
attended yesterday at Cardozo Law School on the subject of food policy.

So much of my life revolves around animal rights, and mostly,
the non-human animal variety. I advocate, I write, I do my best to
listen, and I fight. (And sometimes I rhyme by accident.) I'm
traumatized and angry, but I'm also empowered and, in many ways, happy. Okay, that's not really true...I can't exactly be HAPPY when I know what I
know (I said the other day that the key to happiness is ignorance), but
I am fairly contented and have moments of happiness. The statistics of animal oppression are so big that there are no words to describe it. 10 billion land animals in the US will be killed this year for food. I can't even conceptualize that number, to be honest. All I know is that like most people who are open enough to learn the truth of how their choices affect other beings, they can't not do something. It's not virtuous or noble--it's obvious.

And when people yell at us during demos that there is a war going on and
why are we screaming about duck livers, or that they are first and
foremost concerned with human rights, we remind them that it is not an either/or, and that animal rights include human rights--both in direct ways (slaughterhouse workers are amongst the most abused and abusive workers out there) and in indirect ways (oppression of one kind leads
to oppression of another--see "Coming Out for Animal Rights").

So why did I not realize what is going on under my nose in the city I live in, on the very island where I crave a Snice cupcake and claim to have no food in my fridge when that is a lie that lucky people like myself tell ourselves in our blinder moments?

According to City Harvest:

1.5 million New Yorkers currently live in poverty*, struggling to afford basic necessities such as rent and medical care and put food on their tables.

Of those living in poverty, more than one million rely on emergency food at some point during the year.**

Of the more than one million New Yorkers who rely on emergency food:

34% have had to choose between food or paying their rent
34% have had to choose between food or paying their utilities
22% have had to choose between food or medical care.**

* Data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
**Data from "Hunger in America 2006: The New York City and New York State Report."

And according to Just Food:

New York City's soup kitchens and food pantries fed 45% more people in 2002 than in 2000. In 2003, 1.6 million New Yorkers will turn again to these
emergency food sources. That's one in five NYC residents.

I'm sitting here at my computer trying to come up with what I want to say, but in all honesty, I don't know what to say. There were other statistics given too, such as obesity rates being double in poverty-stricken areas of the inner-city
("dietary racism," according to Dr.Milton Mills).

Yet when my BFF, Marisa Miller Wolfson, Outreach Coordinator for Global Green Foundation and a smart and sassy panelist yesterday, talked about the obvious (albeit underspoken)link between animal agriculture and global warming (commodification of our planet!), nobody said anything. The other panelists (and leaders in environmental activism) focused instead largely on local and organic. (Yes, yes, that's important too...)

Animal agriculture is entirely unsustainable. On the front page of this past Sunday's NY Times Weekend Review, the article, Rethinking the Meat Guzzler,laid it on the line:

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor , an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

An audience-member at yesterday's discussion said that she was vegetarian,
but was from a middle-state where animal agriculture basically employs
every resident, and what would happen to them if--poof!--factory farming
was no more? Marisa said that she understands that concern, but it is
not a black or white all movements (including slavery), it
will be gradual, and as the demand drops in one area, the demand of
other areas will rise, and so too will employment.

The other panelists continued to talk about transportation, and how if NYC lost its bridges and tunnels, we would lose our food supply within 8 days--that's how reliant we are, that's how unsustainable this all is.

Maybe we should stop creating a demand for animal foods, and eventually there will be so much more land to feed those who are starving, those who really don't have food in their fridges. Dietary racism is just one example of oppression feeding oppression.

Everything is animal rights. Everything.

OBVIOUSLY there are a million other issues involved in what I am saying here. I do not claim to have all of the answers. But I KNOW that many of these problems could be significantly lessened by going vegan.

Now I have to do my homework. For me, ignorance is not blissful--it's annoying and damaging.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On the edge

It's late and I'm so tired. But I wanted to say hi. I wanted to clear my head before bed (and rhyme one more time). A less glamorous
part of my job is the data entry aspect, particularly when you save
it for midnight on a Thursday. And (this is personal in a weird way), I
just ended the worst case of PMS I've ever had--and Gaea Bless the
Girlfriend for putting up with me! (Please feel free to send her your empathy.) This morning, when I was bitchy and edgy and still
coffee-less, she said, "Jasmin, nothing is WRONG," to which I did a
scan of everything and ultimately agreed--nothing was wrong except my
self-perception and the balance of my hormones.

The other day, we visited Coney Island--or rather, what once was Coney Island. What ultimately got us there, not surprisingly,
was a rumor that Nathan's sells soy dogs. Sadly, it is only a rumor,
and alas, the two of us munched on fries and lemonade (like, unbelievably good, by the way). We then walked past big Walmart signs on abaonded torn-down mini-golf courses (apparently, Walmartopia is soon to invade "The New Coney
Island" too) and onto the Boardwalk, which was abandoned except for a
few scattered Punky Brewster
types. We walked on the sand and it was astonishing to remember that
even though we were staring at the Atlantic Ocean, we were in New York
City, only 45-minutes from Soho. Lack of soy dogs hardly seemed like a
disappointment anymore.

Still, I'm a bit concerned about the future of Coney Island, which is looking bleak and/or Disney-fied. My mother was born on Coney Island. My grandmother spent a large part of her life there, and in
fact used to ride bikes alongside Marilyn Monroe. Grandma's photo albums are busting with black and white pictures of thousands of families spread across the clean sand and into the water. My mother used to think that sand was an ingredient in
fruit, because sandy apples were her summer beach snack.

M and I opted instead for CANDY apples from Williams Candy Store, the
kind with the coconut on it. Afterwards I dragged her into the empty
arcade determined to win something in that machine that tries to grab a
stuffed animal. M rolled her eyes, I put in my quarters . Then the
machine broke. I didn't even get my turn. Dammit. Nor did I complain. I
figured I was somehow contributing to the future of Coney Island, or something like that.

We actually had a blast. It was a cold wintry January day and we just jumped onto the D train and took it to the end. When we stood
gazing upon the Atlantic Ocean and listening to the singing seagulls (who are likely
also sad about the soy dog rumor being false), I recalled a trip we took
last summer to San Francisco, where I truly did leave my heart. On a trip to visit our buddies at VegNews, we stopped to watch the surfers on the Pacific, where I (fleetingly) considered swimming to Hawaii.

I can't imagine not living on a coast. Even my apartment is on the river (kind have to tilt your head to see it, but it's there, I swear). It makes me
feel safe to be on the edge. Makes me feel like I can get away if I
have to.

Article of the day: Closing the Barn Door After the Cows Have Gotten Out (NY Times)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

R is for Roommate; R is for Rice Pudding

I'm so SENSITIVE today! If you cross paths with me, be extra nice, because I'm all hormonal or something. It's not attractive. Speaking of not attractive, you should have seen me when I woke up this morning. I looked like a bad Elvis impersonator. It's amazing how many directions very thick short hair can fly. Made me scream.

M and I had a tiff having to do with rice pudding. I will spare you the details, but now you have an idea of my state. Even rice pudding is somehow an emotional topic.

ReALITY CHECK, jasmin! Wake up and smell the coffee beans! The worst part of being in a crappy mood is realizing that you have little right to be in a crappy mood.

Here's some good news, then: I am constantly inspired and awed by the incredible volunteers who come out on behalf of the animals. They come to me bright-eyed and full of ideas and they want to be plugged in. It blows my mind!

In other awe-inspired news, where would I be with my roommate (who I'll call R)? She takes care of the cat and the house for most of the week when I'm downtown. She works 95 jobs (at last count) and still manages to vacuum (usually). The room she rents is the size of a large closet and yet she has figured out how to keep all of her things organized and CUTE! She tells me she thinks it is awesome what I'm doing, and yet she is the one who has these peaceful Buddhist ways that I wish I could ingest. Truly, R is the awesome one. She's a darn good NIA teacher, too, and I highly suggest you take her classes. When I look at my life and think of the people I trust most--the friends I don't necessarily talk to every day but still feel like they are there for good, Rachel (oops) is who comes to mind. Every time I come home, she says, "so, did you save the animals today?"

Which reminds me, back to work... I have to save up to buy some yummy (but pricey!) rice pudding from Lifethyme.

Article of the day
: Foes decline cloning rule.

M quote of the day:

me: (in defense of me being difficult) "You're madly in love with me!"
M: (in jest) "I'm mad that I love you!"

(oy vey.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Don't know much about history....

When I was a wee bit of a thing, I passed up classes for sitting in my 1986 Toyota and listening to Patti LuPone cassette tapes. I guess I wasn't that wee, if I was already driving, but when I think back to school, that is all I can come up with. I
honestly don't know where I was during grade school, and it is evident now by
my huge pockets of basic information that I don't seem to have. Much of
it I never needed, that's true. But boy oh boy do I wish I could sit in
on a history class, or even grammar. The good news is that even at my old age of 28 (and yes, I say that with dripping sarcasm), it's not too late to learn. Which is why I have decided to purchase World History for Dummies.

Please don't make fun of me. This is a very sore spot for me. To compensate for it, I have gotten really super-smart in other areas of my psyche--such as (I hope) the
ability to be empathic and to communicate effectively. In my previous
existence as an actor/depressive, I also got very good at all-things-jasmin. I feel as though I've come out of that self-obsessed phase and am now onto all-things-not-jasmin, or more specifically, speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. One day I realized that there was so much more to the world
than Manhattan, and that humans are the scum of the earth, or at least,

OH OH! This is exciting! Since writing the above two paragraphs, I opted instead of purchasing a history book, to ordering two for FREE on Paperback Swap!One is on World History and one is on US History. I love free things, particularly if they are something that can teach me something.

It will be useful, too, because I find that I have to STOP and RELAX more
regularly--even if it's just an hour a day or, more likely, a few hours
a week. Sometimes I feel like there's too much to DO and too much to
CHANGE to actually stop and breathe. Yet it's tough because I know that
animal rights also include myself, but sometimes, I'm so over myself.

Anyway, it will be good to learn more about the history of the patriarchy that
I so often scream about. Oh, and I suppose it will also be good to
learn more about the positive things, too. I often forget they're out

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Just another ranting Sunday....

The other night at my workshop, someone in the audience was very happy about happy meat, and how sometimes, organic standards within animal agriculture are acceptable. As we're learning, these "standards" are lax and created by and within the industry in order to appease those people who learn about the horrors of factory farming and choose, instead, to trust labels that say the animals are "humanely" raised, etc etc...many of these labels do not even require third-party verification. Anyway, if you have further questions about that, do email me... but my point is that these animals are not ours to eat, and there are alternatives to every single animal product. So really, the "humane" choice is actually to go vegan.

A quote I like:

"Isn't man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife by the millions to protect
his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the
billions and eats them. This in turn kills man by the millions, because
eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health
conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man
tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these
diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by
hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten
domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the
absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year
sends out cards praying for "Peace on Earth." -- C. David Coates

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lost Actor, Lost Children

I came home a day early from my work-trip due to a cancelled lobbying appointment. I was dead-tired on the way-too-expensive Amtrak trip and after doing some work, my brain decided it needed to melt into some of my trashy lesbian fiction. Thinking only of returning to home and rushing right to bed, my darling friend David called me and offered me five dollar tickets to Spring Awakening. Since my budget does allow for five dollar entertainment from time to time, I said yes. (I met David when I was a company member of Nitestar from 2001-2003. I was walking around a huge building hopelessly looking for my audition when he said "you look like a lost actor." Indeed I fact, I would venture to say that most of my actor-years were lost, but I digress.)

The show was fantastic, with the exception of the high school kids sitting behind us who would not shut up, but more on that in a moment. I particularly liked the woman who played Ilse, and as I write this I am listening to her music on her myspace page. Spring Awakening was sort of like a rock musical about growing up in a dark world full of confusion, where sex is as intriguing as it is painful. (Ain't that the truth!)

Anyway, there were two gay characters and the little brats behind us--who apparently live on another (gay-less) planet (known to some as the suburbs)--kept laughing and making snide comments whenever the gay guys were on stage. When the play ended, my BFF said really loudly: "HIGH SCHOOL KIDS THINK IT'S SO COOL TO MAKE FUN OF GAY PEOPLE. WHAT THEY DON'T REALIZE IS THAT THEY ARE GAY TOO!" The kids looked horrified, uncomfortably giggling and quickly walking away. I was glad that my friend said something (she also saw a woman wearing a fur coat and smartly proclaimed, "There's a lot of dead animals on you!" to which the woman replied "They keep me warm." Bitch.). But today, I wondered if her comment about the high school kids was actually (and accidentally) a dig at gay people? I mean, so what if they're gay, right? For the sake of gay people, I hope they are not. As my grandma always sings: "I'm glad I'm not young anymore." (Obviously I know I still am young. I'm but a fetus in the womb of life. Jesus Christ, stop me....)

During intermission, I ran to the car to put money in the meter. Some tourist scurried out of the hotel nearby and asked if that was my car (it's M's, but close enough). She had seen the "VEGAN" bumper sticker on the back and asked where she could get some good vegan baked goods. I recommended Atlas and Babycakes. I *love* doing vegan outreach while putting money in the meter!

Now it's back to the bump and grind and I'm totally overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. If you have a good system for organizing your life, please do let me know. I manage alright--and some would even say I'm good at it--but I must get better at managing how to multi-task. I welcome all ideas!

Article of the day: Check that Chicken Nugget: It Might Just Be a Plant.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Second-hand Rose

Rose is the sweetest dog you'll ever meet. She is full of love and curiosity and empathy greater than any human animal I've ever met, not to mention she has a sixth sense with people that is magical. She's also a nut. Her favorite thing to do is to wedge herself into the tightest spaces she can find. It's like she finds safety in being squished by two book-ends.

She came to M and her ex's lives after a kind worker at a kill-shelter (which holds a no-adopt rule for any pit bulls) noticed how sweet she was and snuck her out of her deadly fate. Rose had been found chained to a tree for days on end, left abandoned. I look at her now, a big sweet potato sitting on the ottoman, and I wonder how any person could do such a horrible thing to an animal like this--or to any animal at all. That kind of severance from compassion is what literally gives me nightmares. Is that the stuff America is made of?

Sometimes I think that being a "radical vegan lesbian feminist" gives me a bad rep. But that's nothing next to the rep that follows pit bulls, who are, in my experience, the kindest most loving dogs around. Or maybe I'm spoiled because I know the best one.

Now I'm off to DC for a few days of work. The day I get back, I will be giving a bird workshop with my BFF. If you're into animal rights, most of what you are speaking about is the right of birds--as they make up 98% of factory farmed animals.

Depressing fact of the day (from our outline): For every egg-laying hen confined in a battery cage, there is a male chick who was killed at the hatchery. Did everyone understand why the male egg-type baby chicks are killed? Because egg-laying chicken breeds have been selected exclusively for maximum egg production, they don’t grow fast enough or large enough to be raised profitably for meat. Male chicks of egg-laying breeds are therefore considered a waste product by the hatchery, and like garbage, are usually disposed of by the least expensive and most convenient means available. They may be thrown into trashcans where they are suffocated or crushed under the weight of others. A common method is to toss live chicks directly into a macerator—essentially, a high-speed meat grinder.

But here's the good news: "Soul chicken" at Red Bamboo is the best fake-chicken dish I've ever had--and it's the best one any of my meat-eating friends have had.

And here's the article of the day: Dog bucks the stereotype.

P.S. Can anyone figure out how to subscribe to this blog? I'm trying to figure out how to tell someone to do it and I can't for the life of me...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

It's fun to stay at the...

Last night, as per usual, I went to the Y for my workout. We go 3X a week, and I've found it's like a part-time job, but one I really like having. In a way, it's the one thing I do for myself to pay myself back.

Last night, M said, "I HATE working out! The best part of working out is having worked out."

Here's how you do it: You sit in the lobby for 10 minutes, change, exercise for an hour, sauna/steam room for 20 minutes, shower and change. 3 hours later, it's 11 o'clock and you haven't eaten dinner. So you go home and make canned Indian food with quinoa and (if you're good) greens, and then it's 11:30. You walk the dog, you come back upstairs and have some berries or cherries and watch a re-run of Sex and the City on TBS. Then you check your email one last time, plus--why not?--your work email too. Then you wake up and do it all again...

I'm not complaining! I like my life very much, and I realize how privileged I am on a constant, guilt-filled basis (I can't help it...I'm Jewish and Italian). My point is, there is no time to do everything, and there is no such thing as catching up. And honestly, I guess I thrive on that.

I also thrive on the Y, even though I agree with what M said. Plus, I happen to be a terrible athlete with no inclination to force my body to sweat, other than the fact that I know it's good for me. I think it was really traumatic childhood memories of gym class that have permanently scarred me. Chosen last for the team repeatedly, developing breasts when that was still funny (though it is still kinda funny), blah blah blah. So for me to voluntarily work out is a feat.

We are Y people, M and I. This is what we've come to realize. When we shopped around at other gyms, yoga studios, dog runs, etc, we found that the two of us--2 anti-breeder lesbian feminists--fit in best, ironically, at the Young Men's Catholic Association! Who knew?

The thing is, it's okay to go to the Y and not feel self-conscious about not being svelte, or about wearing argyle socks on the tread mill. It's a quirky blend of art students, senior citizens, gay guys, and weight-lifting dudes. Strangely enough, we fit right in.

Just the other day, we were on the elliptical (gawd help me), and I noticed the Farm Sanctuary newsletter on the magazine rack--and no, neither of us put it there! The following week, there was a PETA publication. And yesterday, a magazine about wildlife! There are vegans amongst us.... I wish I could sense their smell....

Article of the day: LA Times--Using birth control to tame urban wildlife.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

On my mind...

The show I saw the other day, C'est Duckie, involved a woman laying upside-down on my table with her legs spread-eagle with a bowl of salsa in her crotch. She then fed us nachos with her toes. It was hardly Shakespeare, but a pleasant distraction nonetheless.

Speaking of pleasant distractions, I brought in the end of 2007 with a delicious dinner at my favorite restaurantt. The city as a whole seemed staggeringly void of New Yorkers, replaced instead by international tourists. Walking Rose at close to midnight made me feel like a tourist as I eavesdropped on countless conversations that were in languages I didn't recognize. Which reminds me, I have got to find my passport.

With the New Year brings reflection. I heard from a friend of mine whom I met during a Sowing Seeds workshop last fall. After a conversation she and I had regarding confronting your own privilege (including how it results in oppressing others), she posted a blog entry about her feelings regarding inequality and when you stop cashing in on your own unjust benefits. I don't know the answer to this quandary except to say that the first step is to realize how you are oppressed IN ADDITION TO how you are oppressing others (and read this). I do know that having the discussion openly with those of different groups and subsets is imperative, and acting on behalf of those with less power than you is necessary. Obviously I am barely even touching on this much greater issue, but it is on my mind, and so I'm talking about it.

Perhaps I am a bit scattered today, but I am writing this on my lunch break and I keep accidentally getting soy sauce on the keyboard, which is slowing my thinking process. Hopefully you'll bear with me anyway, even though I might be getting your computer sticky.

Article of the day: Front page of the Food Section of the NY Times, "Still Skinny, but Now They Can Cook." Check it out.