24 Aug 2015

Inspire Aspire - Pamela Anderson

Mother, wife, actress, model, TV personality, animal lover, vegan, activist, environmental carer and Playboy centerfold. The lady is a sex-symbol but beyond the image of her titillating the glossies and undressing the male psyche is a woman whose heart is in the right place and whose mind is set on doing her bit in society. As much as Pammy is a media focus, she is also a mama focused, and that is what makes her enticing, in my eye.

Pamela Anderson's biggest achievement goes beyond being the hottest poster girl in a red bathing suit since Farrah Fawcett. She put sexy, sassy and spiritedness into veganism, animal and societal causes, and converted a good number of regular girls to the off-center joys of veg(etari)anism, shaking off the old cliché coconut about animal militancy, all too often associated with a bohemian lifestyle of make-dos on the fringes of society, in a tumble of dreadlocks, tie-dyes, hand-me-downs, tambourines, hand-knits, dream-catchers and psychedelia.

Maneless and demure on the Fall 2014 cover of NO TOFU - (pict source)

Pamela not only made her own dreams come true (an inspiration all to itself to the myriads out there stuck in jobs they abhor), but behind the voluptuous dizzy blonde smokescreen (sunscreen?) stands a woman driven, of many talents, and a maker of her own destiny (she has no agent!).

Anderson's looks are her asset. They have certainly helped her get media exposure in the first place and secured those lucrative contracts that she has capitalised on. She got noticed, but after adversely getting the tabloids limelight in her younger years, has finally channelled the attention into something constructive and productive. 

And this is what I find enticing: a strong independent daring woman who is focused, unafraid to steer her career, personal life and belief system off the norm, while remaining humane, and not losing sight of her value system (what really matters in life), thus fiercely proud and protective of her extended brood (family, pets, PETA, and the countless societal campaigns she sponsors). Alongside this, The Pamela Anderson Foundation supports a wide range of committed environmental charities and animal organisations across the world. The lady is a busy activist indeed.

Suburban pastel poster wife on the Fall 2014 cover of NO TOFU

Pammy's legendary provocative pout and scandalous antics of the past only look scandalous to the ill-intentioned, the ones with the bruised egos, intent on feeding off gossip mags to spot the next scandal and delight in the prospect of possible demise, because misery in their lives seeks out the company of misery out there.

I take Pammy's cartoonesque Varga girl poses for what they are: a PR expectation for the public and a dollop of good clean fun for the lads and the cameras. Yet by reading her interview with NO TOFU magazine, it was made clear that she was eager to unstick those archetypes and just be allowed to be taken seriously, be her 40+ year-old self minus the showgirl attributes.

What interests me here is the fact that, as PETA's Honorary Director, and through her involvement with other organisations like The Gentle Barn or MAC's Viva Glam Aids Fund campaign, she has raised awareness and funds and worked consistently to change consumer habits and perceptions. Her celebrity status gives her clout as a high-profile influencer at a diplomatic level. Her unfailing commitment spans two decades, and that puts to shame some of her celebrity peers who – say - did a one-off for PETA's 'We'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur' campaign and then threw caution to the wind as they hit the catwalk.

Pammy teases because she's Pammy. Now get over it. If that troubles you in the name of feminism, then look away, but do remember that she is no victim of 'the macho world', she is in control of her image. She teases and gets things done and helps make the world a better place. So be it if her female detractors fester and flood social media with poison arrows, they secretly wish (for the most part) that they had the killer looks and achieved something with their lives. Jealousy is so lousy!

Must-Watch: A conversation with Pamela Anderson, a candid documentary about her Foundation.

18 Aug 2015

Dairy Malaise

Not only are we talking dairy malaise but also a general malaise that has 'egg-xacerbated' the whole farming industry worldwide for years. It is just that dairy price wars have featured on the French and British news lately, and pork price wars are doing the headlines right now. Yet to begin with, we do not need to look further than the antagonistic words 'farming' and 'industry' forcefully sitting next to each other as in 'farming industry', in order to understand the roots of the malaise. And there is no word - nor book title - more eloquent than CIWF's Farmageddon, to sum up the disastrous consequences that a drive for cheap brings.

The Honest Farm Toy by CIWF
Farming was once a history of small family-run concerns and pastoral endeavours that helped families sustain themselves, look after the countryside, build closely-knit communities, be self-sufficient and economically-independent, albeit modestly. The Industrial Revolution lured millions of rural families to the city lights that engulfed them into the darkness of coal mines and textile mills. From the 1920s onwards, farming increasingly became mechanised, and as such, less labour intensive. After World War II, it shifted to a lean, automated, extensive and intensive (monoculture-based), chemically-pumped, figure-churning, competitive industrial model set to satisfy corporate demands for their ever-increasing profit margins at the expense of farmer and flock. This has been amplified since as farming is currently being forcefully channelled into the global one-size-fits-all model. Except that one size fits not.

"Animal and crop rearing were once a happy partnership. Industrialisation divorced them." - Philip Lymbery, Farmageddon

As faceless as industrial models are, the first thing that happened to farming was a faceless revolution in the 1960s as flocks, herds and cattle were moved en masse from their lush pastures to concrete pens tucked away from sunlight and our sight, into barren sheds and hangars. Away from sight means away from the mind of the modern consumer, who associates their pack of sliced ham to a sandwich rather than to the pig it belonged to. And animals in their millions to be farmed for slaughter yearly (currently 70 billion worldwide) have become just that: an obscene number that defies the human mind capacity to fathom them as a collective of individual animals. The number appears as a desensitised distant emotionless global mass instead. Faceless in the hangars and faceless on the mind. Faceless on paper too as numbers are being tweaked and crunched to squeeze productivity out of farm animals to exhaustion, before they end up on the abattoir's conveyor belt on their way out of a short, brutal, confined, loveless - and ultimately pointless - existence.

(Available to purchase via Amazon)
Industrial farming means a serving of pain on your plate, and cheap animal produce (dairy, eggs, meat) is an additional serving of hurt. Now you may think I'm serving you the obligatory activist spiel as a vegetarian, but don't forget that I was once an omnivore, and pretty much oblivious to the fact that the whole farm-to-fork line is nothing more than a series of productivity processes that use and abuse animals to death. I am not seeking to discourage anyone from a meat-based diet, I just want to set the record straight so you get the facts in order to make up your mind for yourself.

I was brought up on a meat diet by meat-loving parents born in the 1940s who underwent full-on the changing consumer habits of the post-war Western world with all the false truths that went along, and for whom a meat-based regimen was (is) a sign of healthy living, social success and a status symbol. To be honest, I never was that much of a meat lover, but peer pressure and preconceptions meant I didn't question my own carnivore habits until only a few years ago.

A lonely calf peeping out of a veal crate... Photography by Jo-Anne McArthur, from her book We, Animals

Just to show you how out of touch with the reality of farming I was, I used to believe (well into adulthood) that dairy cows just so happened to naturally produce milk, without any intervention! The stark reality of dairy farming is that cows are perpetually made pregnant (by natural means or artificially inseminated), then separated from their calves at birth (sending their maternal instinct into disarray) or a few days later, and their milk - that should be feeding their young - is pumped away from them in order to feed us, humans. To the strain of repeated pregnancies, you add the trauma of a mother's separation from her baby, plus the painful milking process, and a life behind bars that ends up in the slaughterhouse, to realise that dairy is dreary!

As multinationals are forcing down produce prices and controlling the commodities market, animals (the very commodities at the heart of the farming industry) are forced to produce more, while their living conditions deteriorate further. And if farmers refuse to comply with the demands or refuse to bow to the pressure of turning their middle-size dairy farm into a super-farm, they lose their concerns to the banks, and the multinationals move on to source out cheaper milk from countries like Germany, Serbia or Poland, where cows have a tougher life. Farmers are as much victims as their animals here. They live from hand to mouth, work extremely long hours for a pitiful wage. Pushed to the end of their tethers by those unscrupulous men in suits, they resort to suicide (one suicide every other day in France). Now pause for a minute and consider the irony of it all: those (animals and farmers) who feed us are the ones who starve and suffer!

La Ferme des Mille Vaches (1000 Dairy Cow Farm) is France's first ever US-style mega-dairy farm, est. 2014.

My purpose is not to condone veg(etari)an practice at the expense of another, or sound like the newscaster of doom and gloom at every article I write. La Baguette Magique being about Lifestyle with Attitude, I am not going to follow the herds down the well-trodden middle of the consumerist road to ukulele you a song about Happy Meals! Instead we'll take one step back in order to get a clearer vision and stay ahead. My purpose is to raise awareness and then leave it up to you, dear readers, to think it over, investigate the issue further if it resonates with you, and decide - or not - to review your consumption habits. Let us bear in mind though that only collectively through our changing consumer habits will we be able to impact the faceless powers that are ruling our food shelves and ruining our food chain. Will you take that stance with me?

P.S: Be sure to watch CIWF's Farmaggedon - The True Cost of Cheap Meat. On a happier note, watch Karma the cow being finally reunited with her calf at The Gentle Barn sanctuary, after a life of misery. Who said cows have no feelings? Therefore no matter how well looked after dairy cows may be at David Homer's farm, they will still be missing their babies...

Further Reading:

[25-Sept-2017 Update]: For a quick and snappy visual idea of the cruelty of the dairy industry, please watch this French documentary preview, showing a cow and her calf who she had given birth to only a few hours prior. The farmer unceremoniously takes her calf away in his van while the mama runs after the vehicle in desperation for her baby! The calf is taken into a hangar where (if a male) he will be fattened up for the veal industry, or (if a female) fattened up to become a dairy cow. A dairy cow will be expected to produce milk for 5-6 years before being slaughtered for meat.

12 Aug 2015

Flat-Leaf Parsley Soup

Serves 4 (as a main dish)
Preparation: 10 mins
Cooking: 40-45 mins

What do you do when your next-door neighbour brings you a generous bunch of flat-leaf parsley from his vegetable garden? You make Flat-Leaf Parsley Soup!

Hiding from behind the wild fennel bush!

Believe you me, I was well excited at the prospect of making my very first soup from scratch, and parsley was to provide me that opportunity, under my mum's incredulous eye, as she knows how fussy I am usually about soup. But eh, this one I would love! It's a little like with kids: other people's kids do your nut, but when it's your own, you just melt!

  • Big bunch (200g/ 7oz) flat-leaf parsley 
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 small red onions
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1l (1.7 pints) cold water
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Prepare the parsley: cut off the stalks from the base of the leaves and discard the stalks. Place the leaves in a strainer and run water over to rinse them off. Then chop them finely in the food processor (or by hand if preferred). Peel the garlic, slice it roughly and add to the processor. Do the same with the onions. Peel the potatoes, finely chop them by hand and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a big saucepan on medium heat. Then add the parsley mix, add a pinch of nutmeg, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes, to just lightly soften the parsley and develop the flavours. Then pour the water over in one go, and add the potato slices. Bring to the boil gently, stirring occasionally, then cover with a lid and turn down to medium heat. The overall cooking process should take about 40-45 mins. Season just before serving.

You may want to 'pimp up' your soup with garlic croûtons, a pinch of paprika, a tablespoon of double cream or a serving of parmesan, and other soup essentials of your liking. Or you may just savour it as is, with a couple of crunchy slices of bread by the side.

This is a light-hearted, healthy, tasty and incredibly easy-to-make soup that reminds me in taste of watercress soup. It is perfect as a main course for warming up a little Summer evening breeze on the patio, or served in small mugs as an entrée. Enjoy!

6 Aug 2015

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Lion Scorned!

Karma avenged Cecil the Lion in more ways than anyone could have bargained for, and Walter Palmer's life will never be the same again. Do we feel sorry for the big game serial killer who also happens to play the dutiful dentist and family man somewhere in Minnesota when he's not out there killing for fun? He overstepped the mark of respect for life and respectability for himself by the distance that separates his locale from Zimbabwe. One of the comments I read sums up how I feel about him: 'This man is a menace to society.'

Cecil, Hwange National Park, photography by Brent Stapelkamp, via National Geographic

I shall leave Palmer with a quote by Rachel Carson which - no doubt - will elude his propensity for ponder but reaffirm to the universe our intention for a compassionate world. Meanwhile everything that had to be said has been said in the media frenzy over the last week or so, and truly the man's ethics are as empty as a blank and that makes him a jerk, so I won't waste my words. In fact, no words will bring Cecil back to life, or the thousands of other trophy hunting casualties for that matter. Please sign the petition for Cecil and for trophy hunting and canned hunting to be made illegal and punishable by law, thank you.

Click to sign PETA's petition

"Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is -- whether its victim is human or animal -- we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing, we set back the progress of humanity." - Rachel Carson

(Pict source)

5 Aug 2015

Atomic Parabellum

Despite its cheerful-sounding name, Enola Gay was never going to be a jolly affair. Little Boy and Fat Man neither. Yet in the same breath, Japan had made it clear that they wanted to surrender. America heard it, then pressed the button that dropped the bomb on the city of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, wiping out 70,000 civilians in one fell swoop. Then as if this wasn't lethal enough and pointless enough in its nihilism, it went on to drop another bomb, three days later, on Nagasaki. And that is the way WWII ended. In an atomic blast.

Aerial view of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

To say that there are winners and losers in a war is an aberration, because the concept of war itself is anathema to what humanity stands for. War is a failing, a failure. Man's propensity for creation and destruction combine into what I refer to as The Human Paradox.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic disasters were yet another crime against humanity, although American propaganda chose to shun this. It was at the same time the latest exemplification of human capability in destruction of others. And by destructing others we destruct self. Those scientists who had worked on the atom, with civilisation advancement in mind, never thought for one second that their discoveries would be turned around and channelled towards life extermination. The acute realisation, echoed by Albert Einstein, is that technological progress both serves and unserves humanity: -

'I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.' - Albert Einstein

By blasting Japan, the US showed how far they were prepared to stand as contenders for world domination. The message was sent out loud and clear to the USSR and other nations that would stand in their way. Atomic was the ultimate all-powerful weapon of mass destruction.

The nuclear blasts signed off the end of WWII and the start of another war, insidious and sinister, the Cold War. It unleashed a new era, of shameless consumerism in the atomic age, the trademark of the (not that) 'Fabulous Fifties'. One step closer to the New World Order as we know it today.

The Enola Gay crew

3 Aug 2015

Monsanto: Deadly by Name, Evil by Nature

Would you trust a biotech company that once produced the notorious Agent Orange, a dioxin-based chemical warfare used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam during the eponymous war, and which affected over three million civilians and servicemen in its deadly wake?

Would you believe a company that has managed to control Agribusiness by consistently investing an incredible amount of its profits in legal and financial teams in order to intimidate and bully governments the world over, buy out seed companies in order to kill off any form of competition and exterminate heirloom cultivars and the riches of the natural world?

A company that drives uncooperative farmers out of business, exploits those who are forced to comply under duress, silences mainstream media, sues corporations... and the U.S. state of Vermont...

(Venus Fly Trap) 'Seed Pods at Kew' photography by Andrew Withey, via Flickr

A company that is an aggressive world supremacist in seed engineering technology, plays God with biodiversity, eradicates traditional seeds, contravenes traditional cultivation methods and promulgates monoculture. It is part of the quadrangle of death and deceit, alongside DuPont PioneerSyngenta and Bayer CropScience, other major purveyors of hybrid and GMO seeds and crop chemicals worldwide. Currently No.2 in the world, Pioneer is vying the top seat and contemplating a strategic alliance with Dow AgroSciences that would counterbalance any Monsanto-Syngenta merger. Syngenta delivers crop protection and GE (genetically-engineered) seeds as per its 'More Food from Less Land' formula. Increase in yield and decrease in wildlife are guaranteed. The sharp decline in bees, a direct result of the use of Neonics and glyphosate in the pesticide/ herbicide industry, is incumbent upon the GMO biotechs! Bayer is behind 'Science for a Better Life', and science for death, as manufacturers of poisonous trenches gas during WWI, and later the deadly Zyklon B for the gas chambers (via their subsidiary). 

A company that produces the notorious Roundup, a powerful, highly-toxic carcinogenic glyphosate-based broad-spectrum herbicide that kills off every living organism (vertebrates, invertebrates and vegetal), bar its trademark ('Roundup Ready') crops - how convenient!

A company that is responsible for the vast decline in monarch populations in the U.S. as a result of the above, as wild milkweed (which the butterflies feed on) has been wiped off the face of the countryside!

'Milkweed' photography by Andy Goodwin, via One Eyeland

A company that wants us to believe in the greater good of GMOs, and gets the likes of Nestlé ('Good Food, Good Life') to purport the message, while we are told that Monsanto employees will NOT eat GMO food at the staff canteen...

A company that tampers with genetic codes à gogo, creates Frankenstein plants that cross-pollinate with nature and contaminate it, in effect compromising and irrevocably threatening organic produce...

A company that dispenses with and bypasses the necessary trials, careful research and ethical conclusions that would just put a stop to this diabolical experiment...

A company whose scope of activity spans the 4Fs of food, feed, fiber and fuel. Understand, not only cattle feed and the sinister cattle growth hormone, but also cereals, fruit and vegetables for human consumption... plus the cotton that clothes us (88% of the US production in 2009 was GMO!), and let's not forget biofuels!

'Morning Glory Harvest' photography by Renee Rendler-Kaplan, via Flickr

A company that has infiltrated the FDA to the top, bought out the U.S. government, and is working hand in hand with food multinationals to force-feed us its crap aimed at getting us sick in the long term, for the benefit of Big Pharma... This one's for you, Bayer!

A company whose business activity is nothing but ONE BIG CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY, legalised by the governments it bought out, and wreaking havoc with the natural codes of nature and life...

A company that is a huge player in the sinister U.N. Agenda 21 programme that has been designed for us - the populace.

A company that tampers with the natural order is evil incarnate, and the devil's industry of choice. Nothing positive can or will come out of it.

Monsanto has a lot to answer for regarding the shape of things to come, and consumers are in for a bumpy ride! Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Further Reading: