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On those summer afternoons when the air conditioner can’t quite cut the heat, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven or stove. Smoothies are cool and refreshing, but sometimes you want something different. This salad with creamy avocado and crisp bell peppers keeps you satisfied and is easy to make.

Avocado Salad

This recipe makes enough salad to graciously top 2 pieces of toast, which I think seems like a pretty good serving size. If you want more it’s super easy to double (especially since it calls for 1/2 an avocado as is), but resist the temptation to make extra to save for later—avocado doesn’t like being exposed to the air, and will fare better if you keep the second half unchopped in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it.

Summertime Avocado Salad

1/2 avocado, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
1 slice red onion, chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Mix together the vegetables until just combined, being careful not to overmix. The creaminess of the avocado will coat everything, but you still want to keep a few chunks unlike guacamole. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper, and mix again. Serve on top of toast or crackers.

Feel free to sprinkle some grated carrot and/or nutritional yeast on top, and enjoy!
Avocado salad

As part of the Activists Writing Media class I’m taking at Kutztown, I am again blogging this evening about alternative media forms and functions. This time, I’m writing a response to Leah A. Lievrow’s Alternative and Activist New Media

Lievrouw’s book provides a great theoretical overview of alternative medias, split up into five genres: culture jamming, alternative computing, participatory journalism, mediated mobilization, and commons knowledge. While The Alternative Media Handbook (written about previously) gives specific examples of these various forms of media, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each, Alternative and Activist New Media focuses more on well-organized background information. She includes case studies here and there, but mostly discusses pre-existing research and writings.

Though the five genres Lievrouw discusses are distinct, they are also very much interconnected. For example, Indymedia was used as an example of an organization that engages in participatory journalism. However, Indymedia uses the internet “not only to distribute information, but also to recruit and instruct protest participants, to organize and publicize protest-related events, to feed Indymedia content to mainstream media, and to implement hacktivist actions against targeted organizations’ websites” (Lievrow 164). These actions all fall under mediated mobilization, the use of the internet to spread ideas or to bring together communities of geographically disperse, like-minded people.

Another example of the interconnectedness of these genres can be seen with alternative computing and commons knowledge. Alternative computing deals more with the infrastructure that hosts media than with the media itself, but one of its main critiques of the current system of knowledge and computing is against the gatekeeping of ICT infrastructure. It argues that “information wants to be free,” and develops open-source software or publish codes to help bypass gatekeepers. Commons knowledge deals with the information itself, rather than the technology, but participants similarly want information to be free to everyone, not just experts, and work toward this goal. As described in the book, Wikipedia serves as a prime example of an organization that works toward this goal. MIT provides another example with their OpenCourseWare, which publishes hundreds of MIT courses and course materials free online to make them widely accessible to anyone.

Overall, Lievrouw does a wonderful job outlining what is being done with alternative media, without delving into specific tactics and strategies or arguing the effectiveness. The book is very well organized and has an interesting yet academic approach to forms we don’t usually look at very closely in higher ed.

I’m currently taking a class at Kutztown called Activists Writing Media: Composing Democratic Futures (yes, it’s as rad as it sounds). We’ve just finished reading The Alternative Media Handbook, which discusses various forms of alternative media and their uses throughout recent history. Now, I’m exploring a few of those forms and their use in vegan advocacy.

Last one: Alternative or Mainstream?

One debate I’m constantly having with myself when assessing the effectiveness of media activism is: Do I want to reach a wider audience but risk watering down my message, or keep my message strong but reach a smaller audience?

This argument is much like the one between the “welfarist” and “abolitionist” groups of vegans. The former argues that marginal moves toward better conditions for animals (i.e. larger cages) are more widely accepted and therefore more likely to be instated, and those effected have slightly better conditions. The latter says our message must be no cages, not bigger cages, because even slightly better conditions are still terrible conditions that no sentient being should be subject to.

This argument is always framed as an either/or, but in reality there needs to be a balance between both: we should frame our message in a way that it will get our foot in the door in mainstream media, but never lose sight of the bottom line of liberation for all animals and always aim for that goal. Mirella von Lindenfels agrees in her essay on NGO media strategy, and says that organizations must always consider their message and how best to get it across. “For NGOs there is no choice between traditional and new,” she writes. “Who do you need to reach and which channel will enable you to do that?”

Many organizations, most notably of all PETA, rely on sensationalism to get their message into the mainstream media. This, however, undercuts the message by exploiting emotion, which can decrease public trust in the organization and, thereby, the movement. The Alternative Media Handbook cites an Advertising Standards Authority statement from 1995 that says “overstepping the line between presenting a possibly distressing, but accurate, picture of their cause and misinforming people about an issue by exaggeration or stretching the truth, exploits the trust that the public have in charities and certain pressure groups” (149).

All said, it’s much harder to get a message out using mainstream media options. Even if you water it down enough to fit into the hegemonic story journalists are selling, you must also be able to speak their language better than corporations that have a lot of money to devote to selling their own stories.

I’m currently taking a class at Kutztown called Activists Writing Media: Composing Democratic Futures (yes, it’s as rad as it sounds). We’ve just finished reading The Alternative Media Handbook, which discusses various forms of alternative media and their uses throughout recent history. In my next few blog posts, I’ll be exploring a few of those forms and their use in vegan advocacy.

This time: Podcasts!

Podcasts are great for distributing content online that is easily accessible to your audience. Think of it like a radio show that can be downloaded to your computer or mp3 player and heard anytime, anywhere. Like zines, podcasts are low-tech and their alternative channels of distribution bypasses the need to frame arguments in a way that is consistent with the journalistic hegemony. As Magz Hall says in her article “You Are Hear,” “Being able to dispense with media gatekeepers and broadcast totally independently on demand is liberating, although the immediacy of live radio is lost” (118).

In today’s technologically advanced world, practically anyone with a laptop can put together a podcast and broadcast it online. While it helps to have a good microphone, your laptop’s mic will work well enough if you don’t have the funds. Mac users can record and edit audio using GarageBand, which comes standard on all computers. Audacity is free, open source audio recording & editing software downloadable on most operating systems.

Unlike radio broadcasting, which has great geographical limitations, “podcasting provides a way of connecting with a geographically dispersed community,” according to Andrew Dubber (276). This doesn’t only mean the connection between the podcaster and the audience—the team making the podcast may be geographically disperse as well, thanks to technology such as Skype or Google+ Hangouts. Hosts can talk to each other in an online conference call, with each one recording their own audio and sending the file to one person who will put them together, adjust volumes, and add finishing touches before posting. Kelly Peloza and I experimented with this technique a few years ago in our own endeavor to create a podcast about vegan activism from farm to kitchen. Unfortunately our project never got off the ground, but we were successful in recording and being able to edit our first episode. This technique is also great for conducting interviews without having to have the interviewee physically there.

Once a podcast is put together, there are a number of free ways to host it online and get it distributed. Dubber mentions WordPress, Blogger, and feedburner.com as a few helpful options. iTunes is the most commonly used because of its intuitive use, organization, and accessibility. You can search for specific podcasts or general topics in the iTunes store, and once you find one you like, subscribe to it and new episodes will automatically download to your computer. Best of all, almost all podcasts are free.

One of the biggest cons about podcasting is that they’re still fairly new, and not everyone knows about or listens to them yet. If you want to create your own podcast, Dubber recommends you “be as helpful as possible to your audience by making it as clear and simple as you possibly can to subscribe and listen” (278).

My favorite podcasts are:

  • The Vegan Police – provides discussion on issues surrounding veganism and on-the-streets activism
  • Our Hen House – covers vegan news and events to help inspire listeners to find their own way to change the world for animals
  • The Cosmopolitan Hour – a less serious podcast full of shenanigans and lighthearted banter

Media Activism: Zines

I’m currently taking a class at Kutztown called Activists Writing Media: Composing Democratic Futures (yes, it’s as rad as it sounds). We’ve just finished reading The Alternative Media Handbook, which discusses various forms of alternative media and their uses throughout recent history. In my next few blog posts, I’ll be exploring a few of those forms and their use in vegan advocacy.

First up: Zines!

Zines are a fantastic way to distribute printed material outside of the publishing mainstream. They can be—and are—used in a variety of ways in vegan activism. They can be educational, the zine being a vehicle for getting the word out about the whys and hows of a vegan lifestyle. The vast majority of vegan zines I’ve come across are cookzines, such as Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk and Papa Tofu. Cookzines can be a great way to give a few starter recipes to new vegans, or take a closer look at specific types of vegan cooking: for example, Kelly Peloza‘s Vegan Candyland has recipes for homemade versions of your favorite candy bars, and Kittee Berns’s Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food is full of information and recipes about vegan, gluten free (xgfx) ethiopian cuisine.

IMG_1577

There are also vegan comic zines where the content is less informational and more entertainment. These include Lisa Coulson‘s Tofu Pirate Comic Adventure Zine of Fun (pictured below) and Soyfucker. The latter is not necessarily vegan-themed, but created by a number of vegan artists and writers who submit their work.

IMG_1574

As Joe Biel says in The Alternative Media Handbook, “the time and materials necessary to create a zine are seldom matched by revenue from sale of zines” (298). Most zines are either given away for free, traded, or sold at low cost, according to Katie Haegele. However, zines can also be used for raising funds. Stephanie Bogdanich put together the cookzine Sunny Days in Texas to raise money for Sunny Day Farms, a farm animal sanctuary that was facing financial crisis due to severe droughts. People from all across the Lone Star State contributed vegan recipes to the zine. Copies were sold for $10 each, both in print and online as PDF. Many people (including myself) were willing to spend the extra money on the zine because the money was going to a good cause. $1 from each sale of Coulson’s Tofu Pirate comic zine, mentioned above, also went to the same organization. Soyfucker’s website states that “after printing and postage costs, all proceeds from each issue will be donated to a different animal charity.”

IMG_1576

One of the great things about zines is the creativity that goes into putting them together. Some are entirely hand-written, like Gabrielle Pope’s Buhbah Cooks Around the World, pictured above. Others are typed, or a mixture of the two. They can even be something else entirely. Most zines are completely low-tech productions. Biel states that “the technical approach to zine making takes a backseat to what it is that you need to get out” (298).

As far as making physical copies of a zine for distribution, there are many different avenues. Haegele says that “the more handmade among them are printed on specialty paper or paper made from brown grocery bags, bound with twine; fastened with metal brads, plastic garbage bag fasteners, rubber bands or duct tape; and adorned with stickers, glitter, photographs or rubber stamps” (109). I knew one zine author who had the secret copy code from working at Staples and was able to print free copies of her zines that way. Those who are in school can take advantage of free printing on campus, depending on your situation. Most universities offer a number of free copies to student organizations. For example, my group (VEG) gets a default 100 free pages a month from the copier, and all we have to do is ask and that number gets raised to 500.

Once a zine is put together and printed, there are a multitude of ways to distribute them. Zines are sold online on personal websites, Etsy pages, or blogs, either as hard copies or PDFs. They can be found in stores such as Herbivore in Portland, OR and Wooden Shoe Books in Philadelphia, PA and sold at festivals and events. The Alternative Media Handbook talks about zine distros that bring together various zine creators and distribute their work. Pioneers Press, formerly Microcosm Distribution, is one such distro that is vegan-run. Zines can also be distributed online, usually in PDF format. The Talon Conspiracy (formerly Conflict Gypsy) has a large online library of zines dating back to the 80s. Their goal is to “preserve the history of protest movements for animal rights and environmentalism” by “collecting various newsletters, magazines, and other items, and making them available for free on the website.”

To finish things off, I’m going to leave you with some feel-good words from Haegele that I appreciated reading: “It is worth noting that, while flaming and bullying are common nuisances for online self-publishers, negative feedback is rarely a concern for those in the print zine community. They are probably too busy peeling glue off their fingers” (110).

Today’s the first weekend of the Upper Milford farmer’s market, which means there’s actually something within walking distance from my house other than greasy pizza. Not that there’s anything wrong with Vito’s (except their lack of vegan options), it’s just that I like to be able to walk down and get some nice, fresh vegetables from the farmers in my community.

It’s a very small farmer’s market in the parking lot of the municipal building (old Kings Highway elementary school), with only two regular vendors–one who sells fresh produce and another selling jams and baked goods. Both were there today. And of course I didn’t think of taking any pictures until after I already got back home.

I went to the produce guys first, and eyed the beautiful plants they were selling. While the idea of growing my own food sounds awesome, I bought some watermelon plants a few weeks ago from the Kutztown University biology club and I’ve already killed them. Even the basil I got from them is already looking limp. And trust me, I know I’m the common denominator in this equation; it’s not that their plants are prone to dying.

I swear, there were living plants in here a few weeks ago!

So I convinced myself not to buy any more plants. I was torn between getting some asparagus for grilling or rhubarb for strawberry-rhubarb pie, but the latter would require going to the grocery store for berries. I got some beautiful, tall purple-tipped asparagus for $3.

This asparagus is so tall, it won’t fit standing up in my fridge.

Then I went over to look at some homemade jams. There’s nothing better than homemade strawberry jam or apple butter. Since I didn’t get rhubarb at the first place, I decided to try something new and get strawberry rhubarb jam ($2.35) to eat on the bread I made a few weeks ago and stuck in the freezer.

I bet this would be even better on homemade English muffins.

I wish the farmers luck in their growing and selling season, and hope the market will grow this year! They’re open Saturdays 9-3 and Sunday 10-2, so make sure to stop on by sometime and support them.

Whatever you want to call them, it’s mother-effin’ chocolate covered rainbows. I ask you, does it get any better?

It does, because in this post I am going to tell you how you can make your very own! Continue Reading »

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