To Change Everything…Start Anywhere (Goodbye, TNTSU!)

Oberlin Sky 2015

This post marks the end of an era. Over five years ago, in the hot summer of 2010, I started this blog as a way to post about things that mattered to me, to promote veganism, to interview cool people, and to have an outlet to speak my mind. The Nail That Sticks Up has served that goal in spades!

My life has changed dramatically sense then. Relationships, jobs, lovers, friends, beliefs, cities, apartments, and lifestyles have come and gone. Some I miss, others I am glad to have moved away from. I’m still vegan, still straight-edge, still trying to love the only life I have (as a secular humanist) and make it better for others (both human and non-human).

I’ve posted about CrimethInc often because I’m often inspired by their anarchistic, pro-love, anti-authority, balls-to-the-wall, fuck-capitalism approach to life. It rules. I’ve decided I’m not going to waste time wishing I updated this blog more, and instead, simply move on! My words will find a place if they truly need to take up space on the internet (Medium, perhaps?). Those who want to keep up with me will. And the articles that are still here will forever be cached in Google (a good thing, too, because people loooove my Sentinelese piece!)

To change everything, start anywhere. So I’m starting here, and saying goodbye to TNTSU. It served me well for five years and was an excellent springboard to my next venture. What that will be, I don’t know yet – and that’s the exciting part!

Thanks to you, the reader, the commenter, the troll, the instigator, the friend, and inspiration, or the Google bot who gave me a trackback. Hails!

Sam is the author of this blog and occasionally likes to write about himself in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter at @sam_metal.

Fall In Love, Join the Revolution*

burning-hearts

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of love recently, and how it can simultaneously propel someone to greatness, but also induce massive anxiety. Does the object of my love feel the same way? Do they love someone else? Am I loving too soon (or even too late)?

While my propensity to love, quote, and praise CrimethInc is not hidden, it’s often through their anarchistic lens that I find so much to comfort myself when it comes to love. “Love like you’ve never lost” graces their gift wrap when they mail you books (along with the follow-up: “Fight like you’ve never won”). Isn’t that a novel concept? To love like you’ve never lost. Meaning, simply, to not dwell on past relationships that may have failed or gotten fucked up; to get back up and try again – move on! – NOT, as was immortalized in the 1995 movie Hackers “mess with the best, die like the rest.” No, you don’t die, silly: you learn and grow stronger!

I can’t miss this opportunity to critique Christianity, and will do with the eloquent words of A.C. Grayling whom my mother has been a fan of recently and loves to quote. When speaking about his book “The Choice of Hercules,” Grayling responds a to comment about “moral failure”:

It’s one theme and one very dominant strand of Christian morality that if you commit a sin it’s an almost ineradicable stain on your soul and you may well have to pay for it, especially in a posthumous dispensation. It might be millions of years in purgatory or something. Whereas the Greeks had a much healthier attitude to this; they thought of doing something wrong as a mistake, as a sort of misfired shot. They likened it, in fact, to shooting an arrow at a target and if you miss, well, you just simply try better next time, you learn the lesson, pick yourself up and you move on. This very, very practical and I think rather healthy attitude means that people can regard the experience of trying to be moral, trying to live an ethical life that is full of satisfactions and achievements in the end is one that you can get better at rather than get worse at.

To me, the idea of a “moral failure” lives deep within someone who has failed relationships; a relationship where they took a chance, loved hard, and fell flat on their face. If this happens just a few times, the idea of falling in love with someone new can become perniciously avoided, even to the extreme that a walled stone fortress lives around the heart of such person. While my path of love has earned me enough to live without this bastion, such a guarded life doesn’t seem like the existence of someone – man, women, or otherwise – in their fullness (a phrase I’ll borrow from the writings of Robert Moore and archetype-based psychology).

In the modern age, love should be reveled in, and given as freely as possible. Science backs this, although from the traditional standpoint of a monogamous relationship, but also offers clues about how to keep the “spark” alive and fall in love all over again. See “The Psychology Of Loves That Last A Lifetime” on HuffPo recently. Science isn’t biased, however, and researchers from the other end of the spectrum are working on an anti-love drug (a la Eternal Sunshine) with uses from erasing a bad memory to treating trauma victims. But what if it has a bad reaction…? Ah, the possibilities.

CrimethInc’s chapter on “Love” from Days of War, Nights of Love, is worth a read, and reading 10-15 years after its original publication makes me enjoy the ethos evermore. Love is rebellion, love is revolution, love is an act that we can truly engage in without commodification, without interference from capitalism. That is, if we are honest and open, anyway. That sounds like an environment that I can support, and wish to create for myself, my lover, my family, and friends…

One might say that it is ridiculous to implore others to fall in love—one either falls in love or one does not, it is not a choice that can be made consciously. Emotions do not follow the instructions of the rational mind. But the environment in which we must live out our lives has a great influence on our emotions, and we can make rational decisions that will affect this environment. It should be possible to work to change an environment that is hostile to love into an environment that will encourage it. Our task must be to engineer our world so that it is a world in which people can and do fall in love, and thus to reconstitute human beings so that we will be ready for the “revolution” spoken of in these pages—so that we will be able to find meaning and happiness in our lives.

 

*I must attribute this phrase to Shane Becker, the “veganstraightedge” on all social media ever, who likely “stole” (not really, see the copyright of this blog) it from CrimethInc, and I’ve actually modified it to say “revolution” as perhaps a new way of loving, without fear of failure or harm, can be a revolution of sorts.

Photo: Daniela Hartmann, Flickr

Interview with Holly Nolly of Vegan Shortcake

Rebecca and Holly, Vegan Shortcake
Rebecca (left) and Holly (right) of Vegan Shortcake

 

During my wonderful weekend at Animal Rights 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting Holly Noll, a fellow vegan straight-edger, who, along with Rebecca Bolte, hosts Vegan Shortcake: a “super awesome” cooking show that not only features delicious vegan recipes, but animal rights issues, and “mocktails” or alcohol-free versions of cocktails. I recently spoke with Holly about the show, AR 2012, and her food choices:

TNTSU: I think Vegan Shortcake totally what need in cooking shows right now: healthy, funny, and hip. What’s your goal with the series? Did you put a lot of thought into the “look and feel” or did it come naturally?

Holly: We do put a lot of time and energy into the way that our show looks though I think that process came totally naturally to us. We pride ourselves on having a show that’s relatable, easy to watch, fun and informative. A lot of the reason our show feels so solid, also, is because Rex [Ray] makes the editing/lighting/sound really high quality and spends a lot of time making it not feel so much like a [typical] “YouTube show”.

How did you end up working with Rebecca? She adds so much comic relief to the episodes; was it a natural fit or did you two rehearse any of the craziness?

Rebecca and I actually met, I believe, at an indoor water park and became quick friends. We originally started working on this rad idea she had:a sober drink bar at shows called Teetotal Babes, which I was really into and which bled into our show with the straight-edge drink additions as well. [T]he show idea was brought up to me and I mentioned it to her and Rex; shortly [there]after Vegan Shortcake was born.

We do think a little about the jokes ahead of time, in that we plan out story lines but honestly we’re really horrid when it comes to acting so the stuff that ends up on the final cut of things is the stuff that just came out as a result of hours of laughing over inappropriate jokes and to much coffee. [Rebecca] really balances my constant need for informing [the audience] about boring food stuff with the entertainment value of the show. [S]he also holds down the drinks and is killer at making sure all the behind the scenes stuff happens like getting our show out there and seen by people, [selling] merch, and what not.

Rex Ray’s camera work makes the videos looks really good. What’s it like working with him? What’s the post-production for Vegan Shortcake like?

Rex is incredible. Honestly, we couldn’t do it without him…we tried when he was on an extended leave, Rebecca and I had some attempts at trying to film shows on this little flip camera…results were disastrous! He is a total mastermind. Somehow he pulls off seeing the end result through all of Rebecca and I running around being crazy. He holds the whole show together and – in addition to making it sound and look good – he really creates those linear structures that make the show watchable. I don’t know too much about post production of the show [but] I know there’s a lot of editing and making things all line up, as well as cutting hours of footage.

I definitely appreciate the straight-edge versions of bar drinks, but what do you want viewers to take away from that?

Yay! I’m glad you’re into it! We want to promote a few different ideas with the xvx [vegan straight-edge] “mocktails”. First, we wanted to get across that sober drinks can be complex and interesting, not just sodas and stuff for children as it is often portrayed in mainstream culture. We also really wanted to promote the fact that xvx living is hella fun and doesn’t have to be super serious. Many people outside of straight edge think of going out to clubs and drinking or partying as their primary source of fun. Here we are trying to show that we’re totally sober and stoked.

When we met, it was in the middle of a high energy animal rights conference. What did you take away from AR 2012?

Wow. Yeah, it was high energy, huh? I took so much from that conference. The most notable being the friends and connections I made, with you as well as with many other dedicated and awesome folks. The conference renewed my inspiration to keep pushing forward and was a solid reminder that so many people in so many ways are promoting the same thing I am. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that you’re not alone with your small group of people you know, and that there are tons of ideas out there – so pushing forward with your [ideas] when you see gaps is okay – because there are others who have your back.

I know you personally eat a lot of raw foods, and a few of the recipes are raw or mostly raw foods. Would you comment on eating a raw vegan diet for health benefits?

I honestly believe that it’s best to eat 80% unprocessed, uncooked food; try your best to keep [the] processed food, sugar and processed carbs out of your diet. I think it’s all about balance though, how you feel about your food affects how you digest it as well as how much you enjoy life. It’s also about seasons: in the winter it’s more likely you’ll crave warm food, so reaching for solid options like a baked sweet potato, some sauteed greens with nutritional yeast and pumpkin seed pesto might be better as opposed to the warmer months, where, if you live somewhere with seasons, you might find yourself eating all raw and not even thinking about it.

Focusing on eating high nutrient content, easy to digest, tasty foods is really the primary goal – in my opinion – for optimal health. I also believe very strongly in juicing and smoothies, as they give you the option of eating huge quantities of raw fruits, veggies and greens, very quickly and easily, where many people find it difficult to fit [that] into their schedules. [Juicing] also skips some steps for your body so it can take that nutrition straight to the body as opposed to having to break it all down.

Rapid fire questions!

Favorite vegan restaurant?

SO HARD! Either Blossoming Lotus in PDX or Chaco Canyon in SEA. (I know answering with two is cheating !)

Best current, and past, XVX band:

Seven Generations, for sure.

Most calories ever consumed in one day:

Whoa. I lived in a co-op in Oakland for a while, and one day someone brought home a deep fryer and that night we had a huge garlic inspired deep fried potluck followed by a big game of “what dessert things can we deep fry?” If I were to pick out a day, it was almost definitely that one. Absolutely the worst I’ve ever felt.

Spiciest food you’ve ever made?

I’m a total baby when it comes to spice, honestly! I recently my dad made me this harrisa crumble over beets that had this insane spice but it grew with smokiness and was complex so I loved it. I like spice with flavor as oppose to just a kick in the face.

Are you a fan of the Vegan Black Metal Chef?

Yeah, I think he is funny and awesome, though I don’t really keep up with it too much. I think it’s a great niche and it’s exciting when anything promoting veganism goes viral.

What’s next for you and Rebecca? Will Vegan Shortcake continue on or do you have other projects planned?

Vegan Shortcake will absolutely continue! Look forward to episodes on [vegan] bacon, BBQ and greens! I am also building a protein bar business, writing a “cook zine” series, brainstorming a few other books, as well as a few ongoing columns for AMP magazine and Vegan Warfare. I’m also hoping to get back to school and get certified in nutrition soon.

Anything else you want to add, promote, or dis:

We just put out our latest episode on Bananas at veganshortcake.com, so check it out as well as my upcoming articles in AMP magazine [and] veganwarfare.com. I love feedback and hearing from people so feel free to email me at holly[at] veganshortcake [dot] com.

Closing still from the video

Photos: Vegan Shortcake YouTube & Facebook pages.

By Any Means Necessary (Reflections on AR 2012)

Animal rights activists descended on our nation's capital over the weekend

After 3+ days of a non-stop whirlwind of animal rights activity, I would wager most activists are going home with a paradoxical “tired, but energized” feeling. I know I am – I ended up being sick the entire time (sorry to anyone I may have infected) – I feel a bit overloaded at the now ensuing networking/commenting/e-mailing/upkeep of 100+ new AR friends. But at the same time, if anything has shown me the power of our movement – the movement to end the exploitation of animals for any use – it was this past weekend.

Hundreds and hundreds of animal rights activists attended, from all over the world (mostly US, but a few from Europe, South America, and Asia), each with their own specific cause, group, or passion. Whether it was rescuing primates in the jungles of southeast Asia, protecting feral cats in our nation’s capital, or giving a voice (and face) to farm animals, the sheer volume of animal rights work being done right now is astounding.

Alex Hershaft of FARM – the organizers of the conference – put it well in his closing speech, that year to year, progress seems slow, but with his hindsight of 40 years (he’s been in the AR scene since the 1970s), we have come so incredibly far. Paul Shapiro echoed the comment at Sunday night’s plenary by showing a marked decrease in meat consumption, animals being killed for food (from 2009 on), and of course the vegan options that abound in grocery stores across the country. Seth Tibbot, the founder of Tofurky, was recognized at the talk for his service to vegetarians and vegans worldwide (and I even saw him do some karaoke later!).

Among my insanely long list of “to-dos” from the conference is some research on “conference-going” itself. I’ve been to just a few now, and each time they feel very overwhelming, then comfortable, and then sadness strikes as we leave for home. I’d like to balance those emotions a little more, as well as “plan” to attend less and network/interact more. My plans originally included a whole slew of talks I didn’t make it to, either because of over-crowded rooms, the super awesome exhibit hall were you could hang out for hours and not get bored, or just doing something else. From a “get things done” perspective, it feels like failure to miss many of the talks one planned to see, but it shouldn’t, and I have some great strategies planned for AR 2013.

It was a real highlight to hear people like Peter Hammarstedt of Sea Shepherd and Peter Young discuss direct action so candidly. As Philip Wollen put it, “what is indirect action?” and I challenge you to consider the same thing if you think breaking into buildings to rescue animals that are in pain is somehow unethical. Animals, as we learned, aren’t property: they aren’t pets, they’re companion animals, and we’re not owners, we’re guardians.  If you think that’s silly-vegan-hippie talk, then just consider the power of language as 60 years ago the civil rights movement fought against the word “nigger” instead of black, African-American, or simply, “human.” What we call things, the names we give and the terms we use to describe animals and people do make a powerful difference.

Much like my beloved Vida Vegan Con attendees, people at AR 2012 simply “got it.” They were 99.9% vegan*, they brought their rescue dogs with them (who were all well-behaved), and they sympathized at every story of animal cruelty, be it puppy mills, factory farm torture, or zealous hunters. We bonded over Dandies marshmallows and Tings, and smiled wide as each activist told of what they were doing in their town to promote a vegan lifestyle. I met a vegan forest ranger, a 72-year old vegan woman who was feisty as hell, a TON of vegan straight-edge kids (XVX REPRESENT!), and a lot of people who did a double take when I said I was from luh-a-vull kin-tucky. But we’re everywhere! Vegans from Alaska, from Baton Rouge, from Boston, from California, from New York, and from Hawaii. This isn’t just a group of people who happen to not eat animals: this is a tidal wave of change that will educate, compassion-ate (not a word, yet), and liberate. As it was said so many times, this will all happen, by any means necessary!

See #ar2012 on twitter for thoughts of others attendees. If you wrote a re-cap of the conference, let me know and I’ll link it here!

*I met, I believe, one vegetarian and heard “rumors” of a few others. No judgments! Alex Hershaft’s message to everyone at the beginning of the conference was “leave here a vegan.”

Neil Gaiman: Make Good Art (Video)

neil

Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

Incredible stuff. Tim Ferriss posted this on his blog, along with an eerily similar commencement speech from Steve Jobs in 2005, and to me, both resound with the following advice:

  • Do what you want, without fear of failure or mistakes – they’ll only teach you things in the long run
  • Do your best, whether that is art (in Gaiman’s case), or computers (in Jobs’ case)
  • Money is not that important
  • Be absolutely mindful of your path in life: are you moving away from the “mountain” (Gaiman), or towards it? Are you satisfied with this being your last day (Jobs), or not? This is powerful advice, but difficult to put into practice.
  • The “naked” analogy: Jobs claims “you are already naked,” and that there is nothing to lose. Death is coming, so make the most of life. Gaiman: when you feel like you’ve revealed too much, and are too vulnerable – that may be your truest moment, or your start. To sum it up: risk.

What do you think? Is this sage advice, too idealistic, or something else?