Monday, October 25, 2010

The Great Oom: Book Review

Well...unsurprisingly (since the exact same thing happened last time I tried to start a book club) the first book I picked for a group of people to read turned out to be a dud of a book. When I saw this book at the library and read the tag line of the title "The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America" - I assumed - wrongly, that this book was about yoga.'s not. It's actually about this dude - The Great Oom, who went by Pierre Bernard. It's a biography and it spends more time talking about the Vanderbilts and Pierre Bernard's groupies than it does yoga. The book mentions the occasional headstand and gets into the rumors of the groups (who called themselves the Tantriks) wild orgies and secret doings. There are some interesting aspects to the book - it's one of the those "self made man" stories that makes you feel like if only you were more motivated you could make things happen. It IS interesting to see how he swindles millionaires out of their money and builds himself an empire of cars and property and circus animals and pretty girls. Also the stories about Bernard being able to control his breath to the point where he could "put himself under" and literally have a needle passed through his cheek and tongue without the least amount of pain. What wasn't interesting...most of the book. A lot of the book seems to revolve around who was interested in who, who gets married to who, what kind of scandals the group was involved in or reputed to be involved in. So on a scale of enjoy to hate - what did I think of this book? I stopped reading after more than 200 pages. I invested myself into 3/4ths (!!) of the book and yet still decided to put it down. I got bored. Towards the end there were only sparse mentions of yoga - most of the talk centered on parties and circuses. I skipped to the last chapter hoping to read some revelatory last few pages about how he went on to found some incredibly well known yoga group that defined modern yoga as we American's know it. The last chapter is entitled: Family Man. I gave up and moved on. Sorry group - I should have done a little more research before suggesting this book.

This next book SHOULD be more of a success - it has been getting rave reviews and to at least two of the "group", it's a topic we can show some enthusiasm for. The next book I would like to propose to read and discuss is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer - who also wrote Everything is Illuminated.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breast Cancer/Animal Awareness Month

Everywhere I looked these past few weeks I couldn't help but notice the pink ribbon. Being somewhat of a hermit and perhaps more than a little out of touch with society, it didn't hit me until...well today actually. It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A few weeks back my mom was telling me about how a local tattoo shop is giving out free pink ribbon tattoos - and well now that makes sense. The weird conga line of people wearing glowstick headbands and pink ribbon shirts in the park last week - makes sense. The teller at the grocery store asking me if I wanted to round up my change to support breast cancer research....duh.

So now that I am "in the know" - only 20 days after the fact - I would like to participate a little in this awareness process. For a pretty long time now I have had breast cancer awareness. Both my paternal and my maternal grandmothers had breast cancer, and my mom (who thankfully hasn't had it) has always been pretty into those pink ribbon magnets and bumper stickers and may even be getting a tattoo now. I am aware of breast cancer. I am aware of what I should be doing (at least somewhat aware) to prevent it and check for it. I am aware there is no cure and that there are tons of organizations throwing money at scientists diligently working towards that goal. But until quite recently, I wasn't at all aware of the part the animals have to play in this disease and it's cure.

According to, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women right behind skin cancer, so chances are most of us has known someone who has had breast cancer. The devastation it can cause to a woman and her family are immense and widespread and organizations like the Pink Ribbon and the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation have kept the issue in the public eye - helping raise money "for the cure." But...what exactly does that mean? Where is that money going? The awareness that I would like to bring this month is that perhaps we should look a little closer at what it is we support and fund. We tend (and I am so guilty of this myself) to look at just the big picture. Breast Cancer = BAD. Finding the Cure = GOOD. So in extension, any group pledging to help find the cure is filed into our mental GOOD folder and we can guiltlessly sign over checks to help in the cause. Lets look a little deeper shall we.

While reading Karen Dawn's "Thanking the Monkey" (Im starting to feel like her personal spokeswoman) I was a little surprised to learn that according to FDA law, "no drug is allowed onto the market until it has been put through a battery of animal tests." In the case of breast cancer the animal of choice is usually mice but can also include monkeys, rats, rabbits, cats, and dogs. The debate between whether or not animal testing is necessary or accurate is a hot one. Tons of examples can be found on both sides - from the people at Pro Test to the passionate, if sometimes a little bit nutty, PETA. In looking at the people who are for animal testing I have come across a pattern. Their stance (and I pulled this one from Pro Test, but some others were similar) is that, "without animal research, medicine as we know it today wouldn't exist. Animal research has enabled us to find treatments for cancer, antibiotics for infections, vaccines to prevent some of the most deadly and debilitating viruses and surgery for injuries, illnesses and deformities." Sounds like all you need to know right? Animal testing got us where we are today. It's true. I won't deny that.

But here is what the other side of the issue has to say: Animal testing is not that affective and we have new, more current, animal free ways of testing medicines. As I already mentioned, mice are the animal most commonly used to test breast cancer drugs. PETA quotes the former National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Richard Klausner saying, "The history of cancer research has been the history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simply didn't work in humans." In other words we have successfully learned how to induce and then cure breast cancer in rodents, but can those findings help humans? Medications and treatments that are successful in mice are then moved to human trials. Dawn quotes this from a New York Times report on human trials that were successful in mice, "One in 20 prospective cancer cures used in human tests reaches markets, the worst record of any medical category. Among those that gained approval in the last 20 years, fewer than one in five have been shown to extend lives, life extensions usually measuring in weeks or months, not years." The publication Nature (also quoted in Dawn's book) says that "' Of the potential anticancer drugs that give promising results in tests on mice with cancer, only about 11 percent are ever approved for use in people.'" Doesn't seem like very good odds.

But what makes us think animals are so close to us that we can test them for cures to our illnesses, but yet so far from us that testing on them isn't somehow morally wrong? And what makes us think that a positive or adverse reaction to tests will mean anything for us? As Dawn points out, "aspirin causes birth defects in mice and rates. Ibuprofen causes kidney failure in dogs - even at very low doses," and "at the high doses employed in animal tests- sometimes staggeringly high doses that are necessary because of the dissimilarity in the ways different species process chemicals - penicillin kills guinea pigs." Does this mean we may have found the cure for cancer along the way - then tested it on a monkey or a rat who didn't show any positive reactions - so we chucked it out the window? We won't know the answer to that because unless the drug in question is tested and receives positive results in animals, its worthless as far as the FDA is concerned.

But there are newer methods out there to run tests that don't involve animals. Dr Neal D. Bernard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine or PCRM writes in his article A Look At Cancer Research about some of the alternatives that are being found. He writes that scientists at the National Cancer Institute were concerned by the "phenomenally low yields" of possible treatments making it to human trials and started to explore the idea that perhaps mice and humans just don't deal with cancer in the same way. Bernard writes that " a new method uses cultures of human cancer cells. These cells are obtained from biopsies or surgeries. In an automated method developed by Robert Shoemaker and Michael Boyd of the NCI, colon cancer cells, breast cancer cells, and many other cell types can be kept alive in test tubes. Substances are applied to these cells, and the results are checked and entered into a computer. Using this method, tens of thousands of potential anti-cancer drugs can be screened." But they won't be allowed to be marketed to humans until they are tested on animals so they can be approved by the FDA.

Well this leads us to an even bigger problem - how do we get the FDA to change it's policy? Well that's a whole 'nother can of worms and honestly Im no authority on any sort of legal, governement blah blah blah action. But, what I do know is that we can give our money to groups and non-profits that pledge to "find the cure" without torturing animals. And yeah - the animals get a pretty sour deal out of this whole "find the cure" business. The companies that test cancer drugs don't run around looking for abandoned dogs with breast cancer or sewer rats with a terrible case of colon cancer - they GIVE cancer to the animals they test. And then they try to take it away - and the animal either dies in trials or is killed at the end of the test.

But lucky for us animal lovers there are plenty or organizations who have received the Human Charity Seal of Approval run by the PCRM who are searching for the cure to breast cancer (just type breast cancer into the search box and you will get the whole list of approved and unapproved charities). Organizations like Pink Ribbon Girls who help young women with breast cancer and the American Breast Cancer Foundation who have cool fundraisers like Yoga For Life. One that I was particularly interested in was the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation where I learned about the Army of Women, a program set up by the Dr. Susan Love RF and the Avon Foundation for Women in which they propose" To recruit one million healthy women of every age and ethnicity, including breast cancer survivors and women at high-risk for the disease, to partner with breast cancer researchers and directly participate in the research that will eradicate breast cancer once and for all." And "To challenge the scientific community to expand its current focus to include breast cancer prevention research conducted on healthy women." To learn more about the project check out their website and be sure to read the FAQ. Organizations like these realize that what we have been doing for the past 25 plus years isn't working. They realize that, yes, American's are AWARE. But we need more than that. We need to try something new. It's sad to think that huge foundations like Susan G. Komen are bringing in money to fund animal testing, but its also comforting to know that there are other groups working towards something new and exciting.

I would also advocate that we all try the Think Before You Pink advice given here by Breast Cancer Action. It's tempting to assume that the pink ribbon you buy from a store is your little contribution to the cure but perhaps it's not having as much of an impact as you had hoped, and perhaps there are even better things you could be doing that support the cure while protecting millions of animals from unnecessary testing.

If anyone has comments to add, opinions, or by all means if you have more expertise in this matter than me (I certainly don't claim to know everything) - please please share your thoughts.

Coast to Cote Week 30

Pang: I promise no more pottery/firing talk from this point on, but i couldn't help but choose this photo. I went back to the firing on the second night to try to get more shots and check out the pot luck (we all know I love food!). While stoking the fire on the first night, we didn't have to use too many precautions, but on the second night, on top of wearing gloves, when the fire reached it's highest temperature, we had to wear goggles (to protect our retinas), a face mask, and made sure our shirt/jackets were 100% cotton (if not, we risked catching on fire even if a little spark were to fly out). I got to help feed the fire and had to put on a cotton flannel shirt and felt an immense difference in the temperature of the fire. I felt like my face was going to melt off if I stood in front of the open kiln door any longer. When the fire is at this stage, the potteries in the kiln are almost at a liquid state (although they retain the shape). Joy's husband mentioned that if we were to poke a pot with a rod, it would go right through. They put out the fire around 1 am, but even with that, it takes four days for the pots to cure and become solid again. Tomorrow is the big unveiling where the kiln doors will be disassembled (they had to build it shut for the firing) and the pieces will be ready.

Lacey: This week on a lazy Saturday we went to Wonderbook in Frederick to rent some movies and peruse the books. I came across the children's book Nos Enfants by Anantole France. The book is sadly falling apart and was wrapped up in plastic but in fact, this is actually perfect because I have been looking for a falling apart book with awesome illustrations (this one was illustrated by MB de Monvel - who may just inspire another tattoo in the future because his little girl drawings are just my taste) because I would really loved to have framed storybook pages decorating my (future) apartment. These are especially perfect because they are in French and they are already literally detached from the spine. I have a really hard time bringing myself to rip or destroy a book - but if it's already falling apart its ok right? In any case I spent more than I usually would, but I'm super excited to see the finished product one day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Club: The Great Oom

So it seems that there are some interested parties in starting a book club of sorts. This is the book I am currently reading, The Great Oom, just came out at the library. If you want to, read it too and we can chit-chat about it when we're done. If this club idea fleshes out and enough people are interested we can have a rotation of who picks the books and writes the main review? I dunno. We will figure it out - until then - get reading!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coast to Cote Week 29

For some reason Pang's links don't copy over so visit her site to click on the links that should be in this blurb below

Pang: I was on assignment for a local newspaper on Monday to visit a couple of pottery studios. These two studios are a part of Over the Mountain Studio Tour. Our first stop was Sycamore Pottery, where I met Ren and Pam, and our second was Joy Bridy Pottery, where I met Joy who designed and built her own wood burning kiln. This shot (my favorite) was actually my last from the first stop. On my way out of the studio, Ren showed me their propane burning kiln that was situated on a trolley. The light seeped in so perfectly and I loved that Ren was perfectly included.

Me: At the Thai and Japanese restaurant where I work we have a new sushi chef. Communication with him can be frustrating at times, but one things for sure - people are loving his new rolls. Kazu, the owner, asked me to take some pictures for the website and for the menu. It's been a little frustrating taking pictures because they will only allow me to take pictures when people order the roll - and I'm also working as a server at the same time - but I'm hoping to get some good stuff out of it. Here is a shot from the first day - the dragon roll.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma

Before I go into way too much detail about this book and how I feel about it - just wondering, just throwing this out there - would anyone like to start a book club? I know I tried this already with Pang and it was only kinda....ok not really successful - but I think it would be really cool to have a dialogue going - more than me just yammering. It can be informal to start. I will just start announcing what books I will be reading/reviewing next. If you wana get the book and read it too so we can chat, great! If not I will just keep ranting on my own. I think the next book I plan to read and review is The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America by Robert Love. It's brand new in the library and it looks pretty interesting. Now on to the current book!

The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's certainly an interesting book, a well written book - but one I feel a little....ambivalent towards, an ambivalence that has grown and stretched and now threatens to schizophrenically dictate this review. I will try to hold it together but...well I have a dilemma! Im really really not sure how I feel about this book. Perhaps it's because some of the topics covered in this book are becoming increasingly nearer and dearer to my little heart, and it's as if I can see us on opposite sides of the line, and he's just staring me down, "pitying" the poor vegetarian who is in" denial of reality." Or perhaps I'm upset that it's not the happy ending I had hoped for - that in spite of all he witnesses and even participates in - he's pretty much just as close minded and stuck in his ways as when he started the journey. Perhaps I'm torn between the fact that I did indeed learn tons of interesting facts from this book (like yeast can be harvested in your own backyard!) but that at the same time Pollan almost blatantly overlooks going into a deeper exploration of what would support what he might call a "sentimental" or "animal people" lifestyle.

Pollan's book follows, to a certain extent, four meals. The industrial agricultural meal of corn to Mcnugget,the two different kinds of organic - the industrial Whole Foods bought meal and the "local" Polyface farms meal, and the foraged and hunted meal he cobbles together from the general surrounding area of Berkeley California.

The first part of the book I really dug. It was interesting! He explains how corn has become such a huge huge crop in the United States and how it has found its way into so many of our foods - becoming the building blocks of the bulk of our processed food (yogurt, ketchup, candy, cheez whiz - the list goes on) to the point that its almost impossible to eat a packaged food that doesn't contain corn! And it doesn't end at just food, corn is a part of "disposable diapers, trash bags, cleansers, charcoal briquettes, matches, batteries, right down to the shine on the cover of the magazine." He even reveals the identity of the elusive and mysterious Xanthan Gum. He digs into the mystery of why corn has been grown and used so widely.

He then starts talking about how corn is used in the meat industry as feedstock for the animals. I was surprised to learn (I'm not sure why really because it does kinda make sense) that cows cannot digest corn. Ruminants, which are animals that have rumens (cows, llamas, deer, sheep, giraffe, camels, ect) are grass eaters by nature. What happens when you feed ruminants grain? They get sick. Pollan says that "virtually all of them [feedlot cattle] to one degree or another, according to several animal scientists I talked to - are simply sick." Bloat is a concern for ruminants eating grains and is described as " a layer of foamy slime [which] forms in the rumen and can trap gas. The rumen inflates like a balloon until it presses against the animal's lungs. Unless action is taken promptly to relieve the pressure (usually forcing a hose down the animals' esophagus), the animal suffocates." Another common side effect of the animals diet is acidosis. The basic symptom of acidosis is "bovine heartburn that in some cases can kill the animal" or cause the animal to "pant and salivate excessively, paw and scratch their bellies, and eat dirt. The condition leads to diarrhea, ulcers, bloat, ruminates, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system." I've always heard that cows (and industrial livestock in general) were pumped full of antibiotics but I didn't fully know why until reading this part of the book. Pollan also inspects the other aspects of the cow's diets and finds...well cows. The cows on the farm he is exploring are fed "blood products and fat," or in other words the steer that Pollan bought and is following through it's life is being fed "beef tallow recycled from the very slaughterhouse he's headed to in June." Also in cattle feed are "feather meal and chicken litter (that is, bedding, feces, and discarded bits of feed) " as well as "chicken, fish and pig meal. Wait these herbivores are eating animals and animal waste and even their own species?!

I found this particular meal - from corn to McDonald's to be pretty fascinating. Pollan artfully lays out the history behind the present state of things (the over-production of corn and soy and the mass production of animals for slaughter) and makes links to our current bulging waistlines, all while setting up things for the next two chapters. He accuses (rightfully) American's of being out of touch with their food (a sentiment I assume he handled heavily in his other book In Defense of Food, which I haven't read but have read reviews on, so I know the general punch-line) and says that if we are what we eat, then Americans are unknowingly walking, talking bundles of corn and petroleum (petroleum being the fertilizer, the harvester, the processor, the transporter, and even some of the ingredients of our food).

Pollan is far from the first person to attempt to turn American's off to fast food - but I feel like he does a thorough job of creating a story with which to bind his message in. Not only do we learn about the weird list of ingredients that goes into a chicken nugget but we also learn about the struggle of the corn and soybean farmer who no longer have the option of playing by the "supply and demand" rule we all remember memorizing for our Econ101 classes. Up through this point, I'm pretty pleased with the book. I'm enjoying reading it and I'm looking forward to more.

Next Pollan goes into the organic meal - but as he is soon to find out, organic has different meaning to different farmer and consumers and so he is forced to break down the term a little bit and he explores the industrial organic farm and then a more small scale organic farm.

For the industrial organic farm he compiles his meal from the vast array of organic and natural treats at a Whole Foods supermarket. He describes the shopping as a "literary experience." Marketers in the food business have a tough job - how do they get us to spend more money on items that may look and taste exactly alike? How can they assure us that the organic chicken breast we are buying is more nutritious, more ethical, or more tasty? Pollan wittily names this sort of writing - the work of the food marketer- as "Supermarket Pastoral," and the questions he draws, while walking through the Whole Foods reading pamphlets and labels and comparing organic products that boast different but both alluring aspects (he cites two organic jugs of milk, one ultra pasteurized - touting its long shelf life - the other company said no to ultrapasteurizing and claims they have a fresher, less processed product because of it) exemplifies just how confusing and slippery shopping can be. The recent trend in the United States it to buy natural, organic, and local foods - but Pollan points out that those words are defined differently by different companies and its hard to know, as the consumer, just what you are buying.

So he goes back to the source - the farms - and tries to discover where his chicken (Rosie is her name according to the package) actually came from, and if her described living conditions matched his expectations. I wont ruin all the surprises for you in this book but suffice it to say that the label "free range" didn't quite mean what we would all expect. Something interesting I learned from this little section - the life of a chicken on the Petaluma Poultry farm is only 7 weeks long. Only 7 weeks to produce big juicy breasts of meat. Surprisingly short really!

In this section Pollan also talks about little farms who made it big - like Earthbound Farms who pretty much have a monopoly on organic baby greens - which perfectly segways into his next section - the little organic farms.

Pollan spends a little less than a week on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm in Virginia to find out what this self professed "grass farmer" is all about. Salatin, and a small group of hired hands and family members, run a pretty fascinating and well orchestrated choreography of animals at Polyface based on Pollan's description. This is what people think of when they think of "free range" or "humanely raised" animals. Salatin's secret to success: letting the animals do what they do best while working within the cycles of the grass. The cows are moved around the pasture to systematically eat the grass, the chickens move three days behind the cows to pick the insects out of the cowpaties, the pigs turn the stacked cowpoop from the winter shed into rich compost. Salatin has all kinds of little inventions and time tested rules that make this dance run on schedule. It's obvious from the way Pollan writes about this farm that he is pretty impressed by it, but at the same time he paints Salatin in an occasional condescending light. I get the feeling in this chapter that Pollan is really looking for a finished meat product that is "good to think" - meaning he can still eat the meat without feeling bad about killing an animal for it.

The chickens at Polyface are killed and prepared and bought right on the farm - and Pollan describes his experience working at the "killing station" and the evisceration part of the job. For the average American, this is not a process we are at all familiar with. Part of what makes Polyface so special is that the slaughter is done out in the open. Salatin encourages his buyers to come witness the process and even participate if they choose. Pollan admits to a fair amount of disgust at the whole process and wonders if he will be able to cook and eat one of the birds he just helped turn from a living animal into a brined chicken carcass. He writes in several parts of the book for the need to have more connection with our food and the processes they go through. He says that if the raising and slaughtering of animals was as accessible and transparent as the process at Polyface people would either stop eating meat or would demand more humane practices. While I can get behind this statement (although for me it wouldn't matter if it was "more humane" or not - it goes beyond that for me, so I still wouldn't eat it) I was disappointed that Pollan didn't spend a bit more time talking about the pigs on Polyface. What kind of life do they lead? How does he feel about animals that are raised in a more humane situation like this but still go to the same slaughterhouses as industrially raised animals?

Pollan's meal from the Polyface farm is shared with some friends nearby (he considered taking it back to California but thought that might tarnish the local sustainability value of it) and both he and the guests proclaimed it to be more chickeny flavored than most chickens. Everyone except one of the son's "Mathew, who's fifteen and currently a vegetarian." Here is where I flinch a little bit. Why currently? Is Pollan suggesting that Mathew is part of some fad - as if he is currently wearing the latest jeans - and his choice (a pretty important and mature choice to even consider at a young age) shouldn't be taken seriously? Turns out that's exactly what he is insinuating as he makes more clear in the last chapter of his book - the self made meal.

In Pollan's last meal he decides to shoot a pig, harvest mushrooms (sounds like hard work but could be fun too!) capture his own yeast, and collect salt. Before shooting a pig Pollan decides (after reading Animal Liberation while eating a steak) that he has to examine his feelings about taking an animal life and the only way he can do so is to become a "reluctant," and "fervently hoped, temporary vegetarian." It's in this section - The Vegetarian's Dilemma - that he start referring to vegetarians and vegans as "animal people." He says that in the first month of eating vegetarian he is still feeling reluctant. "I find making a satisfying vegetarian dinner takes a lot more thought and work (chopping work in particular); eating meat is simply more convenient." What really really irks me about this sentence is that it's just exactly what non-vegetarian's want to hear to pat themselves soothingly on the back and say - see, it's just not realistic. Eating meat is convenient and therefore ok to do. Also, why doesn't he describe any of his vegetarian meals? He goes at length to describe the Polface chicken: "The skin had turned the color of mahogany and the texture of parchment, almost like Pekind duck, and the meat itself was moist, dense, and almost shockingly flavorful. I could taste the brine of the apple wood..." Not one single description of a vegetarian meal. I am forced to believe (not only because of this, but because of the obvious disdain he has for the experiment as well as the practicers of the lifestyle) that he didn't really take this "challenge" from Peter Singer seriously.

He talks a bit about animal suffering too - and says the idea is vexing to him because "in a certain sense it is impossible to know what goes on in the mind of a cow or pig or ape." Sounds like a copout to me. Oh well its impossible to know what animals are feeling so can we really say they are suffering? Nope - lets eat steak. Yet in another place in the book he talks about how pigs are shown to be just as intelligent as some breeds of dogs and he questions why most dogs in America are given Christmas presents yet no thought is given to the pig served as Christmas dinner. He doesn't take it to the next step though - why don't we eat our dogs after they die? Because they are intelligent and sensitive creatures with emotions and bonding abilities? So are pigs but we don't give them that chance. While Pollan admits that animals do feel pain he says that it is not equal to human suffering and should not be viewed as such because their pain is not "amplified by distinctly human emotions such as regret, self-pity, shame, humiliation, and dread."

This I just don't buy as an excuse to eat animals. So I looked to see what others were saying about animal feelings. I came across Arran Stibbe's article Dignity Beyond the Human World of the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies group. Stibbe write this:

Undoubtedly there are situations where animals feel emotions similar to humans feelings of humiliation, but it seems anthropomorphic to assume that other animals experience dignity and its loss in the same way that humans do. Perhaps, in many cases, the animal in question is feeling pain and distress rather than a loss of dignity.
However, looking at the other side, the human side, it is clear that strategic attempts to humiliate another party differ little whether that party is human or not. It is the same cultural script found throughout the human world: words and actions are used to systematically lower the social status of one party in order to feed the other party's desire for superiority. The mastery and control of animals, demonstrated through confining them, distorting their bodies, or making them perform unnatural feats, delivers at best a very fragile sense of self worth. The fragility occurs because the very act of having to humiliate another in order to gain a sense of self-worth simultaneously reveals deep insecurity.

And here is something I can agree with. Ok Pollan - so humans and animals don't experience the world in the same way - I will give you that. But does that mean we should take advantage of them? That we should inflict pain on them just because their experience of pain is different from ours? Stibbe's article also made me realize what I was trying to grasp as I read Pollan's "arguments" against Peter Singer's points and while I gritted my teeth through Pollan's admission that he "pities" vegetarians. Pollan is insecure. Really insecure obviously. He goes so far as to taunt vegans in the section The Vegan Utopian by saying "the farmer would point out to the vegan that even she has a 'serious clash of interests' with other animals. The grain that the vegan eats is harvested with a combine that shreds field mice, while the farmer's tractor wheel crushes woodchucks in their burrows and his pesticides drop songbirds from the sky." Really Pollan? Really? So it's all or nothing is it? Are you suggesting we adopt the "no shadow" diet now if we really want to be vegan? And why is the vegan a "she"? Is that to underline the opinion that you have that "animal people" are sentimental and out of touch with reality? He goes on to say that "if our goal is to kill as few animals as possible people should probably try to eat the largest possible animal that can live on a the least cultivated land: grass-finished steaks for everyone." Oh how convenient seeing as though you obviously love eating steak. I don't think you really thought this one out. You just let your stomach do the thinking.

Unsurprisingly he decides to go through with the pig hunt and finds in the end a mixed bag of pride, shame, elation, and disgust. But not so much disgust that when he smells the leg of pig roasting that he can't bring himself to eat it.

The most disappointing part of this book. There is no conclusion. He doesn't give us much of anything. He lamely closes out the book with a description of his last meal and thanks the people that made it possible and ....that's it. For as many times throughout the book as he urges us to look at, really look at what we are eating, Pollan fails to see the meal in front of him for what it is, the rotting decomposing corpse of another living species. Or I suppose he does - but chooses to accept that and keep on chewing.

So what are we left to think? He admits that both the McDonald's meal in the beginning of the book and the hunted boar meal at the end of his book are unrealistic - and should perhaps only be indulged once a year. His disdain for the vegetarian diet certainly doesn't lead me to believe that he would promote that option. So we are left with the Whole Foods option and the grass fed animals. Now maybe I'm wrong about this but I'm willing to bet that those two options are the foods that Pollan was probably already eating given the fact that he admits to shopping at Whole Foods and lives in Berkeley, which is known for its foody, local, natural, somewhat elitist cuisine. Unfortunately - American's interested in the subject, perhaps questioning their impact on the environment, their relationship to the animals they eat - will learn a good deal of information about this book. But at the end they will be able to reassure themselves that no one is asking them to give up anything really. No one is trying to "trick" them into thinking vegetarianism or even just eating a heck of a lot less meat can still lend itself to delicious and varied food (I eat a wider variety of food now, with animal products stripped out, than i ever did before). And worst of all, they will probably walk around parroting Pollan talking about how out of touch vegetarians are and may even go so far to say they too pity us.

As you can see, Im confused about this book. Pollan is a masterful storyteller. His writing style is enjoyable. He does quite a bit of research on both sides of the issue. But, for me, I can't get myself behind a book written by someone so insecure that they attack others who are doing someone that he obviously just doesn't have the selflessness or the courage to do. He's too concerned with being ostracized at a dinner party to really look at all the information he has gathered and follow it to it's logical conclusion.

Coast to Cote Week 28

Pang: In it's second year, Freedom's Run Marathon has attracted so many people that they had to close the registration. Over 2500 people (I don't actually know the number but this was what I was told by locals and business owners) flocked into our little town over the weekend and ran their hearts out. C's mom participated in the 5K for the first time so I was on full babysitting duty. She finished under her goal and we were all so very proud of her accomplishment. later in the morning C, his sister, and I ran in the 1 mile Fun Run aimed towards kids. He was so shy and didn't want to run at first, but we definitely finished the race looking like real marathoners.

Me: Im going to be completely honest with you all. I cheated. I didn't take this picture this week. In fact...I didn't take ANY pictures this week. I was lazy and spent all my free time cooking or with my nose shoved in a book. Next week I will try to redeem myself.