Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gratuitous Link

I always come back to Dostoevsky, usually to Notes from the Underground.  In "Liberals Are Useless" in Common Dreams, Chris Hedges does too:

"I save my anger for our bankrupt liberal intelligentsia of which, sadly, I guess I am a member. Liberals are the defeated, self-absorbed Mouse Man in Dostoevsky’s “Notes From Underground.” They embrace cynicism, a cloak for their cowardice and impotence. They, like Dostoevsky’s depraved character, have come to believe that the “conscious inertia” of the underground surpasses all other forms of existence. They too use inaction and empty moral posturing, not to affect change but to engage in an orgy of self-adulation and self-pity. They too refuse to act or engage with anyone not cowering in the underground. This choice does not satisfy the Mouse Man, as it does not satisfy our liberal class, but neither has the strength to change. The gravest danger we face as a nation is not from the far right, although it may well inherit power, but from a bankrupt liberal class that has lost the will to fight and the moral courage to stand up for what it espouses."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Conversation

(cross-posted at Pacifist Viking)

No, the most depressing conversation I had on Thanksgiving wasn't my grandmother noticing my balding spot and telling me, "Joe, put your head down. I just noticed that. Did somebody hit you? Do you have a scar? It's so thin there," then proceeding to tell me what shampoo she uses to get thicker hair. The most depressing conversation I had on Thanksgiving was the following:

Aunt: Does anybody know, when is the last time the Vikings WON a Super Bowl?

(I stare blankly)

Aunt: I tried to look it up, but I couldn't find it.

Me: It will probably take you a while.

Aunt: I could only find the info back to like '67.

Me: That's around when they started having Super Bowls. But the Vikings have never won one.

Aunt: So what did they do before the Super Bowl? Just have nothing?

Me: They called it the NFL Championship.

Aunt: Oh. So when is the last time the Vikings won that?

(I blankly stare)

Me: They never won that either. Actually, they won it in '69, but then lost the Super Bowl.

Aunt: Oh. But they were in, like, three Super Bowls.

Me: Four, actually.

Aunt: Well, what team has gone the longest without winning a Super Bowl?

Me: Um, the Vikings are pretty close.

Aunt: So they're like the Chicago Cubs of football.

Me: Yes.

Aunt: Well, then it could be worse: it could be another 60 years of waiting.

Me: Did you walk out of my nightmares and into my waking life?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eating foods

A triple play of vegetarians from Slate: Juliet Lapidos on fake turkey, Lapidos again on green beans (I still cut fresh green beans for my spinach salad, out of season be damned), and Taylor Clark on the social reaction to vegetarians (Clark's column really speaks to me).

In The New Yorker, Jhumpa Lahiri writes about her father cooking rice.

From PETA, Miami Dolphin running back Ricky Williams is a vegetarian and now he has a restaurant. When I find out an athlete is a vegetarian, I start rooting for him or her.

The easiest freaking salad in the world

For Thanksgiving, my wife volunteered to bring a salad, and I volunteered to plan and prepare it (this is the sort of thing vegetarians can do to ensure getting quality food for the meal).

Bam: spinach, walnuts, craisins, some sort of vinaigrette. I'll be tossing in some fresh cut green beans just because I think they're good. Simple, healthy, delicious, vegan.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratuitous Link

Gary Steiner's "Animal, Vegetable, Miserable" in the New York Times.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vegetarians and Priorities

Advocates of animal rights or animal welfare often have their priorities questioned.  Aren't there many human problems?  Why should we focus so much attention on the suffering and death of animals when there is so much suffering and death of humans?

In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani says as much in her review of Jonathan Safron Foer's Eating Animals:

"It’s arguments like this that undermine the many more valid observations in this book, and make readers wonder how the author can expend so much energy and caring on the fate of pigs and chickens, when, say, malaria kills nearly a million people a year (most of them children), and conflict and disease in Congo since the mid-1990s have left an estimated five million dead and hundreds of thousands of women and girls raped and have driven more than a million people from their homes."

The problem is that this sort of logic--that we shouldn't "expend [...] energy and caring" on animals when there are still human problems--is that this logic can rightly be applied to most human activities and endeavours in the developed world.  Why is Kakutani devoting any energy at all to reviewing the fiction of Nabokov, or Irving, or Ishiguro and Roth, when she could be devoting her energy to solving the world's human problems?  What is reading literature doing to stop malaria or war or oppression of women?  Why does she care about novels, when human beings are suffering?

Vegetarians are expected to get their priorities straight, and worry about the problems of human beings first.  That all sorts of people are devoting all sorts of time, energy, and resources to all sorts of things that do nothing to assuage human suffering around the world is left aside.