This morning The Consumerist kindly pointed us to a search on Amazon that returns quite a few free MP3s. The Consumerist says No guarantee that they'll be any good, but hey, they're free! I’ll go one further here and reduce the free MP3 list to songs I guarantee are good.

If you’re not satisfied by this musical selection, I’ll give you a full refund.

 

Back in university I had a lot of artsy friends. One of these friends, Sabrina Chapadjiev, got a bunch of artsy people together in a group to make some art. I played music and had long hair, but I’ve never really considered myself very artsy. When my theatre friends needed help with a play, I ran the audio equipment. But when Sabrina wrote a play, I somehow ended up in it. It wasn’t a major part, but I was on stage, which was uncomfortable. The play, called Perhaps Merely Quiet, became even more uncomfortable a couple days before it opened, when I discovered that it was largely autobiographical. That probably surprised me more than everyone else, since it was really kind of foolish of me to not have assumed from the beginning it was at least somewhat related to the writer’s life.

I gather from Sabrina’s website that the play has changed a bit since the initial production, but the key theme of madness has remained. So amidst the chaos that always exists around a theatre production, to find out the director is to some extent using the play to recreate her own past madness, well, I found the experience somewhat disturbing. I really didn’t want to be responsible for helping someone self-destruct, and I had no idea if that’s what was happening. So after the play was done, I tried to stay away from that whole scene, which meant mostly staying away from Sabrina.

I still have friends who have maintained contact with Sabrina, though, so I’ve heard a little of what she’s been doing. She seems to have become a somewhat successful artist, notwithstanding my earlier concerns. And now she has a book, called Live Through This, available to pre-order via Amazon. The subtitle of the book is “On Creativity and Self-Destruction,” exactly what I was worried about back then. Somehow binding it up in a book makes it seem less scary and more impressive, though. I don’t have any of the same worries that this book will have some sort of harmful effect on anyone.

It doesn’t hurt that the book includes a list of prestigious contributors. Remember when I wrote about bell hooks? She’s one of the contributors to Sabrina’s book. So in my small world this makes Sabrina successful. Of course she was probably successful long ago, back when I knew her even, but I just realized it. And I guess my point here is just to say that I knew her when, that I was once a friend (albeit fair weather) of that author now on a book tour with somewhat famous people.

 

Ezra Kilty wrote a pretty good summary of why I’m vegetarian, which has little to do with the stereotypical “animals are people too” philosophy most people assign to me when they hear I don’t eat meat. I often half-jokingly say that I don’t like animals and I’m vegetarian because I want to eat their food source and starve them to death. This is only half-joking because starvation would be a natural, reasonable way for animals to die. Industrial meat farming, on the other hand, just doesn’t make any sense. There are a lot of things I still eat that also don’t make sense, but industrial meat is an extreme. It’s a clear aberration in the history of food, and I want nothing to do with it.

I part with Ezra here:

… As living things, [animals] deserve not to be managed strictly as food items. They deserve to eat a diet that their digestion is adapted for, rather than one that fattens them up. (If they are meat-eaters, they deserve to eat other living things, rather than the ground bones of other industrially-farmed animals, which is commonly used as feed.) They deserve to roam, to graze—to follow their behaviors. The industrial system puts the animals in an extremely tight cycle of birth, feeding, waste removal, and slaughter, which is not a life.

My own vegetarianism is more selfish. I don’t think animals deserve any of this, but I do think I deserve to live in a world where animals are treated like, well, the animals they are. The industrial meat industry (and the meat-rich diet that sustain it) upsets me in the same way someone claiming that 2 + 2 = 5 upsets me. It obviously doesn’t work, and I want my world to work.

Nature will acquiesce to most of our modern attempts to bypass it. Our highways through mountains, our televised realities, our internets all infringe on the way the world has optimized itself to work. But industrialized meat goes too far, rearranging the way life itself works. This can’t last. Nature will not adapt to this; it will give us mad cow diseases until we adapt. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be vegetarian, but we will have to eat much less meat. My vegetarianism is a proof-of-concept that this is still possible, that we can still back out of the broken food cycle we’ve created.

 

We bought a house today, off Craigslist, without a realtor. Yeah, I know, that sounds really stupid. And maybe it was, but it still feels like a good deal. In a previous post, you’ll recall I said We’ll know soon if we’re buying that or continuing to look. We found out soon after that the house was being sold to someone else. And I was all ready to give up on buying a house and start looking at rental options when Jackie (my sister-in-law) found this house on Craigslist.

That was about a month ago; today we bought it. We won’t move for another month or so, but then my new address will be 460 S. Grant, Denver CO 80209. Here it is on Google Maps (street view). One thing that came up in the inspection: despite what Google Maps shows, it’s not consistently sunny on the property. But it is sunny sometimes. Today was sunny.

 

In “Daily caffeine 'protects brain',” the BBC offers another explanation for my abnormal brain. It’s too bad I’m so queasy around blood and organs; on a purely abstract level I find this kind of biology really interesting. You’ll recall I had previously suggested my brain started acting a little more like the brain of someone with Alzheimer's, a damaged hippocampus, roughly ten years ago. The BBC says:

"Caffeine appears to block several of the disruptive effects of cholesterol that make the blood-brain barrier leaky," said Dr Jonathan Geiger, who led the study.

"High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, perhaps by compromising the protective nature of the blood brain barrier.

This caught my attention. I never drank coffee, but I did stop drinking soft drinks about ten years ago, at the same time I stopped eating meat. In addition to saving money, I always thought this was an obviously healthy thing to do. It would be a sad irony if it actually broke my brain.

On the other hand, Wikipedia’s caffeine article (within an entire section on caffeine and memory) specifically says Researchers have found that long-term consumption of low dose caffeine (0.3 g/L) slowed hippocampus-dependent learning and impaired long-term memory. So the problem could actually be that I still consume too much caffeine, not too little (I eat a lot of chocolate). Sigh. Brains are complicated. Stay tuned for the next episode of “What’s Wrong with Scott’s Brain?”