Monday, 26 November 2012

Meet Minou

I am the luckiest person in the world. FACT. I have incredibly talented and generous friends who make my life a pleasure. Look at this *adorable* cat made by my friend Lena.

View from the top--look at that cute winter hat!

View from the bottom--look at the detail on her jumper(sweater)

 Isn’t she the sweetest little thing? Look at that face. You just want to make googly eyes at it and say things like “Awwww…you are so cute!” in a silly voice. She made this wee cat out of a pair of SOCKS. Seriously, SOCKS. How clever is she? Answer: Very.

She assures me it was easy and didn’t take her very long, but she would say that because she is mega talented.

The funniest thing was Minou was supposed to be my birthday present, but Lena was so excited she could not wait three weeks to give her to me. I can totally identify with that feeling. I am the most impatient person when it comes to gift giving. I want to give it to you NOW--who cares Christmas is a month away. I love it and want you to have it.

The thing I love the most is that she made it herself. We both agree that a handmade gift is one where you have put a bit of yourself into--your heart and your love. It is personal and shows great thought and care.  This is probably why I care for Lena so much--she’s a girl after my own heart.

Thank you Lena, for Minou and for being my friend and for being impatient. It is the best early birthday gift I could have asked for.



Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Giving Thanks

Today is the American holiday of Thanksgiving. I never could convince my Texas grandmother that this wasn’t a world wide holiday. Every year, she would marvel at the fact that we don’t celebrate it here. She always had that note of skepticism in her voice that made me think she didn’t believe me even after I reminded her of the origins of the holiday.

Our friend Karen sent us this e-card. I love it so much as that is what we would be eating if we did celebrate Thanksgiving here.
Thanksgiving Greetings from the Vegetable Kingdom
click on it to make it bigger  if you can't read it
But there are many things I am thankful for even if I am not celebrating in the traditional sense.  One of things I am thankful for is being a vegan. It means so much to be doing the best thing for my health, preventing animal suffering and helping save the planet—all things God can be proud of.  So in the words of my favourite vegan poet Benjamin Zephaniah here is what makes me thankful:

I am what you see

I’ve got no bodies inside me

All of me is me

I will not eat nobody else

So I am what you see

I do not plan to eat dead sheep

I will not eat a hen

I’m so proud of what I am

So I will say again

I’ve got no bodies inside me

All of me is me

I will not eat nobody else

So I am what you see



Saturday, 17 November 2012

High as the proverbial kite

One of my favourite guilty pleasures is singing along to Afroman’s song Because I Got High. It follows the hapless journey of a man who has good intentions, but then gets high and doesn’t manage to get anything done. It features lyrics such as:

I was gonna clean my room until I got high
I was gonna get up and find the broom but then I got high
My room is still messed up and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

I was gonna go to class before I got high
I coulda cheated and I coulda passed but I got high
I am taking it next semester and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

I was gonna go to court before I got high
I was gonna pay my child support but then I got high
They took my whole paycheck and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

I wasnt gonna run from the cops but I was high
I was gonna pull right over and stop but I was high
Now I am a paraplegic and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

  SIDE NOTE: I love this last verse because it reminds me of a Chris Rock public service announcement that reminds you if the police have to come and get you, they're bringing an ass kickin' with them.”
Silent Bob and Jay
 The video was directed by indy film maker Kevin Smith features Jay and Silent Bob in the background getting high with Afro Man. Jay and Silent Bob (who is, indecently, played by Kevin Smith) are my favourite stoners since Cheech and Chong.
click on this to read the full horror of the text

What are you trying to say here, Spidergrrl? That you have a secret smoking habit? Don’t worry, man. I’m clean. I’ve seen the film Reefer Madness and I know what happens when you smoke Mary Jane. You play the piano in a manic fashion and waggle your eyebrows a lot. FACT.

Spiderman and I have recently been re-watching our DVD box set of the Granada telly series of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett. Brett captures the angularity of Holmes so well that it drove him to a nervous breakdown because he was so absorbed in the part. We all know Holmes had a weakness for a 7% solution of cocaine injected into his veins. Watson was always troubled by his friend’s addiction and was forever furrowing his brow and tutting when he spotted Holmes’ syringe and vial of poison.

So we got to thinking. What if Afro Man wrote a song about Sherlock Holmes? We thought it would go something like this:

I was gonna solve the case until I got high.
I was gonna give some criminals chase but then I got high.
Watson’s giving me the stink eye and I know why

‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high.

I was off the Scotland Yard but then I got high.
I wrote the murderer down on this card but then I got high.
Now they’ve arrested the wrong man and I know why

‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high

So there you go. This is what we spend our life doing. What a load of nonsense.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remember me

This year Remembrance Day (the 11th of November) actually falls on Remembrance Sunday. In the UK we use this day to remember all those who died in wars past. This day was chosen as it is the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m. in 1918. All over the UK at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month we stand for a two minute silence. Everywhere you go at 11:00, everything comes to a stand still as we remember those who have fallen.

I have many to remember as my dearest friend is currently in the US military and growing up I was very close to a man who had been at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed.

In the UK, everyone wears a red poppy to show your support. They are made by disabled veterans--I've even been on a field trip to the poppy making factory.

According to Wikipedia:

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields". These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Quakers often wear the white poppy also called the Peace Poppy. This is to help us work for a more peaceful future where war may not happen.

According to Peace Pledge Union:
The idea of decoupling Armistice Day, the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.
A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint 'No More War' in the centre of the red poppies instead of ‘Haig Fund’ and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.
The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but as the centre of the red poppy displayed the ‘Haig Fund’ imprint until 1994 it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women's Guild. In 1933 the first white poppies appeared on Armistice Day (called Remembrance Day after World War Two). The white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the white poppy supporters lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers - but a challenge to the continuing drive to war. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union began widespread distribution of the poppies and their annual promotion.

The purple poppy is there to remember all of the animals who lost their lives in wars.

According to Animal Aid:

Throughout the history of human conflicts, animals have been victims of war.

During World War I, dogs and pigeons were used to deliver messages between frontline trenches and further afield. Horses, donkeys and even elephants have been routinely used as beasts of burden, while a shocking array of animals – from bears to deer – have been kept as pets in the midst of battle.

Today, animals continue to be used in the battlefield to detect explosives, and thousands suffer and die each year in laboratories, infected with biological or chemical agents, or deliberately shot or otherwise damaged.

To commemorate all the animal victims, Animal Aid has issued a purple poppy, which can be worn alongside the traditional red one, as a reminder that both humans and animals have been – and continue to be – victims of war.

On behalf of Quaker Concern For Animals our Meeting House is laying a wreath with purple poppies at the war memorial in town.

I tend to wear the red twined with the white but next year I plan to also get a purple and wear them all. We must look backwards and  remember them all and then look forwards and see that it never happens again.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Oz character time forgot

We were in class the other day trying to teach kids about the 4 directional points on a compass.

The children had managed to come up with N stands for North and S stands for South. We were struggling to elicit a correct response for E and W. After some considerable time a child came up with East. So the teacher winked at me and asked the class how many children had seen The Wizard of Oz. Many hands were raised and we both thought this was a good sign.

So the teacher said: "The Wicked Witch of the East and the Wicked Witch of the ......."

Suddenly a child piped up, "I know! I know! The Wicked Witch of the East and the Wicked Witch of the Wales!"

After we recovered from laughing, we managed to explain that the answer we were actually going for was West, but well done for trying. Plus Wales is actually in the West, so she was partly right.

So there you have it. The character Baum never got around to writing about. The Wicked Witch of Wales, who was probably named Myfanwy or another name that would net you lots of points in scrabble. Well it would  if they allowed names, which they don't. But they should. 

I'll never look at Margaret Hamilton the same way again.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Eat Me

Very few things makes me angrier than cartoon animals who act like they want to be eaten. I hate false advertising--often aimed at children--that shows happy farms and happy animals who would like nothing better but to end upon your plate

I recently picked up a free magazine from the our local Health Food Shop. It is mostly adverts, but it showcases new products as well. I was struck immediately by a colouring competition for a character called Krilly. Krilly in a cool little creature on a surf board, riding the wild waves. And what does Krilly want you to do? Eat him. That’s right because Krilly is the mascot for Cleanmarine Krill Oil for kids.  

The one page advert tells parents that krill oil can “improve concentration and possibly improve learning and performance of school aged children.”  But the advertising campaign is aimed at kids. It really makes me angry. Krill fill the oceans for whales and other sea life to eat. They are not there for us to over-fish and drive into extinction like every other marine creature we’ve managed to do it to.
Then the other day Spiderman and I were in the supermarket and we passed a carton of Happy Eggs. That makes steam come out of my ears. Everyone who eats eggs has heard about battery cages and the treatment of hens. Everyone wants to appease their conscience by buying free range eggs because isn’t that better for the chickens? We picture hens roaming leisurely about, pecking and scratching at the ground, having a good ole time. Who cares that they’ll go to an early grave when their egg production tapers off. Who cares that every one of the male chicks that hatch are killed (gassed, suffocated or worse--ground up alive) because they have no use. At least their lives are good, even if their deaths are not. Sadly, this is not the case.     
Look at that hen on the label. Doesn’t she look jolly? VIVA did an undercover investigation and the resuls were not pretty. Here are some highlights (or lowlights) from the article.
The Happy Egg Company’s TV advert feeds that belief, showing hens in sunshine, exploring verdant vegetation and even taking a ride on a farmer’s quad bike. They paint a picture akin to a holiday camp for hens. If the plants we visited are typical, they are more of a death camp.
Hens are not placed in the free-range units until they are 18-21 weeks old, during which time they are kept in intensive sheds in their thousands. This conditions them to stay indoors, something which is encouraged because of the ‘hassle’ of collecting eggs from outside. In their first weeks, young birds were shocked into submission by electric wires running along the feeders and drinkers to prevent them from defecating on their food.
Home for these hens are cavernous, industrial sheds with small ‘pop holes’ down the sides. Even when open, many birds are seemingly so traumatised by their first few months of life indoors that they never venture out.
Add to this the highly hierarchical nature of hen society, where one bird will not want to cross another’s territory, plus unnatural flock sizes in the thousands and it’s a wonder that any go out at all.
One shed was infested with red mite, which can cause stress, anaemia and even death. Our footage shows many bald and bedraggled birds and worker confirmed that there are big problems in another shed where hens “peck and kill each other.” We filmed plastic yellow bags full of dead hens being carried away. And this despite birds having the ends of their beaks seared off (beak-trimmed) at a few days old to prevent pecking.
The life of a Happy Hen, it seems, is far from happy – it is also far from long. They are slaughtered at just 72 weeks so once the weeks indoors after hatching are subtracted, they spend barely more than a year in this supposedly free-range system. Hens from one shed were to be slaughtered even younger because they weren’t making enough money.
You can read the whole article here:
Do you recall the American adverts for StarKist Tuna? Charlie was a tuna wearing a hat and coke-bottle glasses, whose goal is to be caught by the StarKist company. Charlie believes that he is so hip and cultured that he has "good taste," and he is thus the perfect tuna for StarKist. Charlie is always rejected in the form of a note attached to a fish hook that says, "Sorry, Charlie." The reason given for the rejection was that StarKist was not looking for tuna with good taste but rather for tuna that tasted good. (from Wikipedia)
Those adverts were really funny and you felt so sorry for him every time he was rejected. As a child I sincerely thought that fish wanted to be eaten. They must, because that funny cartoon fish said so, right? This is completely misleading.
Animals are sentient beings who can feel love and attachment for their young as well as pain and fear. When we take their babies away from them and torture them and kill them for our own needs, for our own plates, for our own appetites then we are the villain. They cannot speak to tell us of their suffering, but we can speak for them. We can choose to eat food that doesn’t involve suffering and death. We can pick up a fork and save lives.
There was some controversy several years back about Joe Camel. In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that by age six nearly as many children could correctly respond that "Joe Camel" was associated with cigarettes as could respond that the Disney Channel logo was associated with Mickey Mouse, and alleged that the "Joe Camel" campaign was targeting children,[2] despite R. J. Reynolds' contention that the campaign had been researched only among adults and was directed only at the smokers of other brands. (from Wikipedia)

 Why is it a problem that a cartoon Camel made children want to smoke, but a cartoon Krill is acceptable in hooking children in to taking a fish oil supplement bought by mum and dad? Or a cartoon hen misleads us into thinking that we are doing something better for animal welfare? Or a cartoon fish makes us believe that animals desperately want to be eaten?  
An animal who wants to be eaten only happens in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
So just be wise and wary. Unless you are at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, if a cartoon animal tells you to EAT ME, don’t listen.