Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Liam #1

I've decided to do a Friday Liam and a Wednesday Anna. I'll just post a photo of Liam or Anna taken from some point during the last seven days. It'll be a nice way to track their growth and a good way to force myself to keep taking photos of them (not that that's ever been a problem).

Here's the first of Liam:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Adequate Family

The season premier of The Goode Family came and went last night with a few laughs, a few groans and chunks of silence. There were only a couple mentions of veganism. I'm sure they'll focus more on it in later episodes (in fact, I know they will, since I saw an ad that involved Dad Goode refusing to slaughter a pig).

At any rate, I think I get a Dad Gold Medal or something for getting Anna to bed by 8:00 so I could watch it. It's all for you, reader. It's all for you.

The episode starts out with Dad Goode boasting that he got a bag of elephant manure at the circus. "They were just giving it away," he says in his blank effeminate voice.

Two things:

1: I was recently contacted by a friend who is planting a garden. She asked me if I know of a place she can pick up manure for free. This friend's husband owns a motorcycle. She is a cosmetologist ... I think. Neither of them are vegan. Neither of them are craaaaaazy environmentalists. So ... I don't get the joke, I guess is what I'm saying.

2: Honestly, could you paint a more stereotypical image of a socially and environmentally conscious man? And isn't this whole view a wee bit dated?

Adopted Son Goode points out to Dad Goode that the circus exploits animals. Yeah, they do. Where's the joke? WHERE IS THE JOKE?!!

Mom Goode's reaction to all of this is that "being good is so hard!" What the fuck ever. Holy crap, anyone who is living the kind of life these people are living (you know, lives that take into account the environment, other people and animals) isn't the kind of person who bitches and moans about how haaaaard it is to do good. Bah!

Here are a few more "jokes" and why they just don't make sense and/or aren't funny.

Dad Goode clips a paper towel in half and says, "waste not, want not." Really? Would a craaaaazy environmentalist family such as this have paper towels in their house? My brother and sister-in-law (who aren't craaaaaazy environmentalist, but responsible citizens who do what they can) did away with paper towels about half a year ago. It's not funny, it's smart. Again, where's the joke? Why is it funny?

The Goode's say that their dog is vegan. This is, of course, ridiculous. Their dog might be fed a vegan diet by the Goode's, but the dog isn't a vegan because he can't make the decision to be vegan. Veganism is a choice. Dogs can't make that choice. So the joke is that the dog is supposed to be vegan, but goes around eating all the neighbors' pets. Har har.

There are, of course, plenty of dogs out there on vegan diets. They do just fine. They may occasionally kill animals in the back yard. Who knows. It doesn't the change or belittle the fact that their custodians have chosen to not use the flesh of one sentient being just to feed another sentient being. (And if their point is that dogs aren't "meant" to be vegans then I'd counter that humans aren't "meant" to own dogs.)

Mom Goode goes to a Whole Foods parody and sees different options for apples that range from "Conventionally Harvested" for $4.99/lb all the way to "Fair Trade, Locally Grown, Sustainably Harvested, Certified Organic" for $10.99/lb.

This and other jokes lead me to wonder whether or not anyone creating The Goode Family knows what they're talking about. Why the hell would something that is grown locally also be fair trade? This makes no sense. Fair trade is a label applied to goods brought into a region from a different region (I think in all cases, it's country to country). If you're going to make a joke (and again ... where is the joke?) about something do your friggin' homework.

I'm serious Goode Family creators. Do you need someone on staff there who can help you out? I'm available, cheap, and believe it or not, I have a really good sense of humor (for stuff, you know, that's funny).

Later on, Daughter Goode says, "I'm vegan. I've reached my weirdo tipping point." At first I bristled at this, but you know what's funny? I've actually felt this way before. I'd be fine if they explored this more. I mean, she's a teenager. She worries about being normal just like any other teenager would. I'm sure my daughter will have moments like this.

Other issues with the show:

Mom and Dad Goode are drawn about ten years too young. Then again, their glowing youth could be attributed to their vegan diet. So maybe that's not a problem after all.

Adopted Son Goode (he's white and from South Africa) was adopted as a baby and lived his whole life in the US. So why exactly is he made out to be a big ape? I don't get it. He speaks sorta-broken English. He's sixteen, but when faced with the prospect of getting a drivers liscense he sticks his arms out like he's driving a car and says "vroom vroom" like a five year old. He starts acting hungry and Dad Goode says, "Uh oh. We'd better feed him." There is no explanation for this. Honestly, even with all the environmentalist "humor" and socially conscious "jokes" this is what I found the most offensive. I think I'm just offended that they thought I'd find it funny though.

The Goode's own a hybrid car that looks like a box on wheels. Seriously, did someone just exhume a script from ten years ago and just throw it together now that King of the Hill is cancelled? Hybrids look like any other car! Are they making fun of hybrid cars? Why?

That's the question I find myself asking most in regard to this show: Why? Why is that funny?

The thing is I honestly can't tell you what the creators of this show think about the environmentally conscious. I'm tempted to say that mockery is the sincerest form of flattery. The Goodes cannot be the subject of this show without also being the protagonists. Viewers will root for the Goode Family (even though they may laugh at them).

King of the Hill invited you to laugh at rednecks, but then realize that they're good people anyway. The writers always made sure you knew at the end of the show that they were good people in spite of the fact that they were rednecks. At any rate, you were rooting for a redneck family. Which, well, that's a win for rednecks, right?

What I really don't understand is where's the logic behind vegans and environmentalists being bad people and somehow having to prove to the masses that they're actually nice people. Why would this family ever have to prove they're good in spite of their being good?

Maybe that's not where they're going to go with this. Maybe the humor will be in the interaction between people trying to be good and people who don't give a fuck. I hope that's where it's heading.

Here's a funny joke from last night: "Attention shoppers, the driver of the SUV is in aisle four."

Also, they had some funny flag pin jokes. Funny stuff. I want more of that.

Another positive from the premier: Maternal Grandpa Goode is over for Adopted Son Goode's birthday and wants to take him out for steak and strippers. He presses it a bit and Mom Goode puts her foot down, "Where do I begin, Dad!" He says, "OK, happy birthday. Sayonara," and like that he's gone. I thought it was great. It wasn't funny, but it was a good slice of vegan/omni interaction that was sort of true to life.

Um, OK, that's enough review. I think I'll keep watching the show and post a small round-up of vegan jokes/misinformation from each episode. I'll watch it so you don't have to (if you don't want to).

You can watch the episode online now at Did any of you watch it? If so, what were your impressions?

Veganism in Primetime Tonight!

All across the US tonight viewers will watch a story about a family of vegans trying to do good. They'll see their trials and tribulations. They'll learn from them. America will see how do-gooding vegans interact with "normal" society.

Sounds great? Well, probably not. For the family I speak of are the Goodes, subjects of the new animated comedy premiering on ABC tonight, "The Goode Family."

I blogged about this show exactly one year ago today. Here's some of what I said:

Of course, they're going to poke fun at people who try to be responsible citizens of the world. This doesn't bother me too much, as long as they do it intelligently and don't fall into the "crazy hippie" or "miserable vegan" trap. I don't know any crazy or miserable vegans. It feels good to do good. It is hard some times, but it's worth it. I hope that's where they go with the show.

Even if the show takes the easy route of vegan-bashing now and then, the fact that a vegan family is the subject of a major network sitcom is encouraging. Maybe this means that in a few years when I tell servers at restaurants that I'm vegan I won't have to then explain to them what that means.

But it probably also means that when people think "vegan" they'll think about that wacky Goode Family who are always so high-maintenance, condecending and miserable.

It's a double-edged sword. But at least it's a sword!

So yeah, it premiers tonight on ABC at 8:00 Central time. I'm sure it will be online at ABC tomorrow or the next day, for those of you not living in the States.

Here's a preview:

What Would Al Gore Do? Are you kidding me? What kind of vegan family would hold up Al Gore, a guy who refuses to acknowledge veganism as a way to curb global warming, as a pinnacle of virtue?

And there it is, my first legitimate criticism of this show.

Also, I already exploded into a rant about it to Mrs. Piggy today.

But I'll officially withhold judgement until after I watch the first episode. I swear, as Al Gore as my witness, I'm not already composing a scathing review.

Read my scathing review tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fun With Real Audio

So, I know that it's customary to have at least one blog post between two videos of your kid singing Thunderstruck, but what the hell, I'm going to buck convention.

My sister's letting us borrow this radio, since her son isn't huge into singing yet. Anna just eats up the microphone. It's pretty cool.

Yeah, that thing has a functioning tape deck on it too. Which is cool, 'cause now I get to listen to all the grunge I had tucked away in the closet.

I'm pretty sure the next blog post won't have Anna singing Thunderstruck in it, but I can't promise anything.

Friday, May 22, 2009

You've Been ... Shunderstruck!

We had a thunderstorm here last week (or was that two weeks ago now?) and I could tell Anna was a little wierded out by it. So I started to sing "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC and she asked what I was singing. I showed her a You Tube video of AC/DC performing it live. (Watch it here. They've disabled embedding on the video, otherwise I'd totally put it up here.)

It's now one of Anna's favorite videos on You Tube. Right up there with the classic Sesame Street song, "Opposites."

In fact, one day she told me, "I want to watch Thunderstruck then Opposites."

So, here's some video of her singing Thunderstruck (or at least one part of it, over and over and over and over again):

Sure, there might be some sexual undertones to the song, but oh well. She doesn't know that. And hey, at least he says, "Can I come again, please?" I mean, he could just say, "I'm going to come again." But no, not only does he ask, but he also has the decency to say please.

See, Thunderstruck is teaching her good manners. Thunderstruck is a gentleman.

And just for the record, I am not nor have I ever been a big fan of AC/DC. They're good at what they do, don't get me wrong, but it's just not my thing. Well ... OK, maybe it was my thing for one summer back in high school. I mean, "Back in Black" did kick some serious ass. Oh, and that's the other video of theirs Anna likes to watch; old concert video of Back in Black. She always comments on how many lights there are.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Veggie Nugget #24

"There is absolutely no single personal change that the average person can make that has a better impact on the environment than going vegan."

From "On the Environmental Disaster of Animal Agriculture" over at Unpopular Vegan Essays.

If you have some time and the wherewithal to think deeply about an uncomfortable subject, then I suggest checking out the rest of his blog.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Kentucky Fried What Now?

Not far from our house, on University Avenue in Saint Paul, sits a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Anna and I were sitting at the stop light yesterday and she pointed to it and asked what it was.

"You mean the red and white building?" I asked, hoping she would say no. She said yes.

I stammered for quite some time, not sure what to say. How do I answer her? Do I tell her it's Kentucky Fried Chicken? Because she's an inquisitive little girl and she might ask what fried chicken means. Am I ready to explain to her that people eat animals?

Sure, she sees people eating parts of chickens at family gatherings and certain restaurants. Yes, she knows more omnivores than vegans and has been visually exposed to all of the most common non-vegan foods. But there's an abstractness to it all. When she asks "what's that" and points to a hot dog her cousin is eating, I just calmly tell her, "it's not vegan .... but we have some great vegan stuff for you right here!"

I'm exploiting the abstract nature of language and I fear the day when it no longer does the trick for her.

"It's a restaurant," I finally said, "but we don't eat there because they don't have anything that's vegan."

And just like that, the conversation was over. No follow up questions were asked. No desire to eat there was expressed.

This happened on our way to Izzy's, an ice cream parlor in Saint Paul. They always have a couple vegan options of soy cream and/or sorbet. Before we went in, I explained to her that most of what she sees won't be vegan. We went in and got a sample of their chocolate soy cream before saying that, yes, we'll take a pint to bring home with us.

Anna looked at all the other varieties of ice cream and pointed to one of them, saying, "I want to try that one now, Daddy."

The day will come, maybe soon, maybe in a year or two, when Anna starts to ask the big questions. Why do other people eat things that aren't vegan? If animals are our friends, then why are we friends with people who eat our friends? Etc. Etc. Dot, dot, dot.

At what age did you first wonder the same thing about religion? Why are other people Lutheran and not Catholic? Why do those women dress like that? If Jesus is Lord, then who is Vishnu and what's the deal with those arms?

Veganism isn't a religion, of course, but the comparison is a useful one. Children are raised with certain values when it comes to food. Some kids start eating junk food at a year old. Some kids have a diet heavy on meat and light on veggies. Some kids have a vegan diet. These choices (like religious choices) have ethical, social and political ramifications whether parents realize it or not

"Remember what I said," I calmly reminded Anna about the ice cream, "those aren't vegan. We're getting the vegan one."

And just like that, the conversation was over. No follow up questions were asked. No further desire to try the non-vegan ice cream was expressed.

I've taken a hard line in my life against animal exploitation. I am against it. I want it to end. Completely end. I want there to be no more ownership of animals. I cannot force myself to shy away from this. I can't pretend like I'm OK with free range this or grass-fed this.

But it's my job as a parent to raise a daughter (and son, but I don't have to worry about Liam for at least another couple years) who can function within society just like I do ... preferably better than I do. I can only hope that she notices how Mrs. Piggy and I socially interact with omnivores (our friends, our family) and realize that even though we may disagree about how human animals should treat non-human animals, we still show each other respect and enjoy each other's company and love each other.

All of which makes the following question more important and complicated than it might seem: When she starts to ask the big questions, do I give her the big answers?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cute lil Nuggets

Shot some more video of the nuggets yesterday.

My favorite part is this:

Me: Do you want to sing Liam a song?

Anna: No. But I want to sing Liam a song.

Anna and I watched this video shortly after I shot it and she said, "I say it for him because he can't talk. He can't say, 'My name is Liam,' so I say it for him."

Veggie Nugget #23

"I went vegetarian when I was about - I think I was about 8 years old. One day I cut this piece of meat open and blood came out and I asked my mother, ‘Where did this come from?’ And she said ‘animals,’ and that was it. And now these days, you can get everything vegan — vegan marshmallows…so now I’m eating all these things that you couldn’t even get before.”

-Geezer Butler, guitarist for Black Sabbath.

Yeah that's right, Black effing Sabbath.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here's a photographic journey through our yard in the springtime. Just imagine me standing at a projector in the back of the room, speaking in a droll voice.

(Before we begin, just wanted to let you know that you can click on any of these photos to view them much larger if you are so inclined.)

In Anna's pre-pre-school class on Monday night she made a bird feeder ring with pipe cleaner and Cheerios. The ring sat out there for at least a week without any action.

Then all of a sudden they were gone. I refilled it a few times and never got to see what was eating them. Until one day, when Anna was at a friend's place I saw this little bugger chomping down. I took a photo to show her later.

Here are the pre-bloom tulips. They bloomed beautifully, but I didn't have a chance to get photos before that friggin' squirrel up there (or one of his/her cohorts) ripped them all off. Petals were laying at the base of the tree one morning. Oh well.

Our back yard tree was full of these little koosh-ball buds a couple weeks ago.

Now the leaves are popping out.

And here's the front yard tree. I love how the leaves in early spring have the same color as the leaves in the fall.

Here is the Al Franken lawn sign that sits below our front yard tree. Caked in mud and not yet where it should be, just like Al.

Fern in our back yard rain garden.

And here are the daffodils. We planted these daffodils, we figured, five years ago. This is the first year they have bloomed.

This one's ready to pop. It looks sinister.

And here's my arty photo, taken at the golden hour and everything.

We had a couple productive raspberry bushes last year. By the looks of the sprawl, we might have five or six this year. I think I'll let these take over half the lawn before I start managing them.

Day lilies haven't bloomed yet, but they're nice and green and lush.

The best part about our back yard, of course, is Anna running around in it.

And finally, a note to self: Try to clean this up this year.

By the way, I did something like this one other time last year during the summer. You can check that out here.