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My Undercover Animal Cruelty Investigations

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CLICK HERE to read my narrative nonfiction piece about some experiences doing undercover stockyard investigations of dairy “farms” in Southern California.

The article is at turns riveting, heart-wrenching, beautiful, enraging, and militant (natch).

Or you can check out the same piece, print-published in a beautiful 16-page spread that includes pictures; it was the cover story for the November 2013 issue of The Animals’ Voice magazine. You can view the article as a PDF for *FREE*, or purchase beautiful glossy copies for just $6.40 each!

My Raunchy VASECTOMY Poem!

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When you’re tired of stressing about birth,
The solution is oh so plain to see;
No more rolling condoms on your girth–
Vasectomy!

She can stop taking those nasty pills,
Flushing hormones from her pee,
Making downstream animals ill:
Vasectomy!

But you don’t want it to burn when you piss.
I know, you’re worried about an STD!
Well, all I have to say is this–
Monogamy!

Stop putting such a burden on poor women.
Take on your own responsibility.
No more sperm in your semen swimmin–
Vasectomy!

No more, ‘Where’s my baby’s mama?’
No more abortion pleas.
No more Hitlers or Osamas–
Vasectomy!

Overpopulation is the world’s bane.
To global life it is a curse.
Don’t worry about the procedure’s pain,
You’ve felt so much worse.

It’s nothing like a kidney stone,
Really not a big deal.
Nothing like a broken bone.
You won’t even miss a meal!

After the Novocaine makes you numb
All you feel is a gentle tug,
Of total discomfort a tiny sum,
And the strange smell of a burning rug.

That’s the sealing of your vas deferens tube.
Now your billion bastard babies perish inside–
On your body, a brilliant medical rube!
With scars tiny, not a centimeter wide.

And if you want to raise a child,
Think about the most righteous option;
It’s really not an idea so wild–
Adoption!

Never again a pregnancy scare,
Worrying, stressing, feeling sick,
Pulling at the roots of your hair,
Waiting on that piss-soaked stick.

And think of all the fun to be had!
Sex any time, anywhere.
Leave the rubbers at your pad,
Now you can raw dog in there!

Get it on wherever you are;
Almost any quiet place will do–
The movies, the back of a bar;
Even a Starbuck’s drive-thru!

Free to be
Forever me–
Vasectomy!

Enjoy that? Check out my revenge-on-Monsanto debut novel Orange Rain HERE!

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Review–“Revival,” Brand New from Stephen King

Stephen King has repeatedly lamented the fact that so many people tell him their favorite book of his, more often than not, is something from the 1970s or ’80s, like The Stand or The Shining or Misery. He’ll say something like, “It’s a little disappointing to discover so many people find your best work to be many decades past.” But I happen to feel he’s done some of his absolute finest writing in the last ten years or so! He’s my favorite author, and influenced me to become a novelist rather than a sports writer (starting at the tender age of 12—after I first read The Shining). I adore books from throughout his entire 40-plus-year publishing career.

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In any case . . . perhaps because of the near-fatal collision between his body and a speeding van in 1999, or maybe because he felt a kind of liberation after finally completing his enormously complex and nuanced masterwork—the seven-book Dark Tower series—I truly feel he’s produced some of his most beautiful and literarily relevant works in the latter stages of his writing life. Stuff like Lisey’s Story, 11/22/63, Under the Dome (my personal all-time favorite), and Full Dark, No Stars. And his newest offering, Revival (released just a couple weeks ago on November 11), is an entirely respectable overall addition to the fantastic groove he’s managed—some might say miraculously—to carve into his path the last decade.

Revival focuses on the intersecting lives of its two main characters. Jamie Morton spends most of his life as a kind of bohemian rock guitarist and a heroin addict. Reverend Charles Jacobs, Jamie’s childhood pastor, experiences an appallingly traumatic event; he then delivers a “Terrible Sermon” denouncing god and religion. Jacobs goes on to devote his life to studying and experimenting with electricity, striving for his ultimate goal of harnessing the “secret electricity,” which would create unspeakable power and danger. The plot is engaging and kept me on my toes. I found the romantic subplot beautiful, sweet, and surprising. King very accurately portrayed a multitude of things: the horrors of addiction, music’s power to bring people together, the clear evidence against a loving god, and how religion-based charlatans can use faith as a weapon to take advantage of the sick and/or vulnerable and/or gullible. My only real problem with Revival was I thought its climactic scene fell flat. That it suffered from a lack of the imaginative voltage King pumped into the rest of the novel. Even so, it was a worthwhile read. It’s far superior to Mr. Mercedes, his previous clunker of a novel, and the electric energy of Revival makes me even more disappointed that he’s turning the former into a trilogy. My score for Revival: 60/100.

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FreeBook Fridays!

Very soon, I will begin a new promotion. Every Friday, I will publish a chapter from my novel Redwood Falls. The entire thing will be made available as an e-book on Amazon if people want to read the whole novel right away. But I will publish one chapter per week until the whole thing’s available for free, piece-by-piece.

Unreal Redwood

Redwood Falls is the story of David Foster Sayers, who decides as a child that he wants to be a writer. His overbearing mother decides to do anything it takes to stop him. Foster eventually embarks on a search for his missing father, who may or may not have faked his own suicide. Redwood Falls is a big-hearted, wild earth-centered ride about friendship, creativity, madness, family, and community. It is an edge-of-your seat environmental caper, an eco-thriller in the proud tradition of Edward Abbey’s classic The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Stay Tuned! My FreeBook Fridays will be starting before the year is out!

Vegan in Prison?!

This piece is culled partly from my forthcoming memoir, Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to PrisonIf you’re wondering WHY I was locked up, click on the “About Me” page above.

From 2010 through 2012, I served just under two years in Illinois prisons. Aside from a few accidents based on false information, I stayed vegan in County Jail, in Receiving (24-hour lockdown), for my 18 months in the high-minimum-security Jacksonville Correctional Center, and my three months in the medium-security “Disciplinary Prison,” Logan Correctional Center. You may be surprised to find that, overall, it wasn’t at all hard to be vegan, even in Midwestern-U.S. prisons!

Note that I used the caveat overall. Because at the beginning, it was physically outrageous. Dangerous, even. When my mother and I said our tearful goodbyes on the Henry County Jail steps, I was chubbier (on purpose) than I’d been since early puberty. That fine spring day, I weighed 183 pounds.

My two weeks in County Jail were . . . less than nourishing. I ate mostly white bread, peanut butter and jelly, dry cereal, mushy canned vegetables, and plain noodles. I didn’t know if they had any kind of vegan or even vegetarian tray. I didn’t even bother to ask. I was overwhelmed, scared, mentally/emotionally anguished. I just wanted to acclimate to my new environment before making waves. One of the worst things a new guy on the unit can do is show himself to be different. Especially in ways that are interpreted as weak in that environment. Those two weeks were unpleasant, but they were an absolute party (with a buffet!), compared to what followed.

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What came next was probably the worst two weeks of my life. Every prisoner in Illinois has to go through “Receiving”, where they enter your information into the computer system, determine your security level and which prison they’ll ship you to, and where, I believe, they try to break your spirit by keeping everyone, from serial killer to joint-smoker, in conditions only found in a supermax. During my two weeks there, I got out of the cell one time, for a ten-minute shower. There’s a reason the food trays at Stateville Receiving are referred to as “Lunchables.” Consider: I gave my cellmate all my animal products, and he was still hungry. I could barely sleep. Desperate for relief from the gnawing, churning ache of emptiness and hunger. They served lots of potatoes; yet they were undercooked to near inedibility. We couldn’t decide if they were supposed to be boiled potatoes or potato chips. When I mercifully made it, at last, to Jacksonville Correctional Center, I was 164 pounds. From 183 to 164 (19 pounds, evaporated into the ether) in just 27 days. That means I lost two pounds every three days. Madness! Pathologically inhumane!

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I was grateful toward religion/religious people for one of the only times in my life when I finally got to prison. At Jacksonville, I found out they had a designated VEGAN tray list for religious reasons. I claimed Seventh-Day Adventism. Unfortunate, but you’re not allowed to get on the list for ethical or health reasons—only religious ones. Silly, I know, but one of the only things that carries weight in prison is religion. Dig this: it didn’t used to be so easy. Claim a religion, see the chaplain, and BOOM, you have access to three vegan meals a day. No, back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Dietary staff would just laugh if you asked for even a vegetarian meal. But thank Earth for us ethical vegans that there were some ultra-religion people who took their faith—and faithful diet—very seriously. Guys went on hunger strikes. They filed lawsuits for violation of religious freedom. And some upped the ante even further; guys would attack guards and fellow inmates, flood their cells by jamming up the toilet, and even take guards and other prison staff hostage in an attempt to be heard, to be taken seriously. To receive their legit vegan meals. And they won. Because of those handful of inmates who fought, literally and figuratively, for animal-free meals, every one of the 15-plus state prisons in Illinois now has a designated vegan tray.

First off, that’s fucking awesome on their part. Second, that’s fucking pathetic on our part. Physically assaulting guards and inmates, taking prison staff hostage—“just” so they could receive vegan meals. Imagine for a second. Just imagine! What would it be like if everybody took veganism and animal liberation that seriously?! Those guys had so few resources and abilities at their disposal, and yet just a handful of men changed an entire state’s policy. And this ain’t Rhode Island, folks; Illinois has close to 50,000 people in prison, with a higher per-capita rate than California. They literally risked having years added to their sentence, risked months or years of solitary confinement, risked even their very lives.[1] Imagine if even 10 percent of those who say they believe in animal liberation were willing to take those kinds of risks. A powerful lesson—one that should both shame and inspire us—can be taken from the fight for adequate vegan meals in Illinois prisons.

I damn sure benefitted from it. The vegan trays were far, far better than the regular ones. And not just for the obvious reason that they contained no animal products. The food was tastier, with a greater variety. It makes sense. Inmate kitchen workers can make much higher quality food when they’re preparing for just eight or ten people, versus 800-900 people! The latter received trays of the lowest common denominator, and ones with food that was as simple as possible to cook. But we got stuff that was sometimes great. Spicy chili and cornbread. Garlic-butter noodles with soy crumbles. Mixed-vegetable fried rice. Perfectly spiced black-eyed peas and collard greens. Polenta casseroles. Fried cutlets of zucchini, zucchini grown in a garden maintained by the horticulture class. Fresh fruit at least once every single day (guys on the vegan list were the only inmates to receive fresh fruit—ever). Giant, warm biscuits slathered in non-dairy butter. The guy in charge of preparing the vegan trays, Duff, wanted to hook us up. Simple supply/demand allowed him to spend more time on our trays, enabling him to show off his cooking skills. He succeeded. For prison food, especially in the Midwest-U.S., Jacksonville’s vegan trays were comparatively spectacular![2] Because of my disabling chronic nerve pain condition, I only went to chow once a day, for lunch. Breakfast was far earlier than I wanted to wake up, and dinner in the dining hall was served during my afternoon siesta—a required nap, because my pain was most unbearable in the late afternoon and early evening. So I prepared my own dinner every night. Purchased the ingredients through Commissary. I made one of two things for my entire incarceration: either (1) spicy fried rice with noodles, or (2) a delicious meal of spicy refried beans, knockoff Ramen noodles sans the MSG- and chemical-laden seasoning packet, minced onion and garlic, pickled jalepeños, and spicy chili corn chips, which were accidentally (miraculously) vegan. Some other vegan treats they had on Commissary were ridged potato chips, granola bars that were fantastic with peanut butter, off-brand Golden Grahams, Oreos, knockoff Nutty Bars, and Sierra Mist Natural soda.

All in all, and considering the circumstances, I almost never felt like I was suffering for lack of decent food. Of all the challenges I anticipated leading up to prison and faced while incarcerated, staying vegan was definitely one of the easiest. Not every state is like Illinois in this regard—most are worse, but some are actually even better. I hear federal prisons have vegan options far superior to any state prison. But luckily I landed in a place that made it simple and predictable. For this, I’m hugely indebted to those incredible warriors who Took Shit Seriously and battled with almost unimaginable ferocity to receive acceptable vegan meals. I only hope those of us in the free(-ish) world will learn from their example, and be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve our own goals and dreams of animal liberation.[3] Let’s be more like those prisoners; let’s REALLY begin to Take Shit Seriously. Let’s learn from those human prisoners so we can make a real, tangible (not symbolic) difference in the lives of nonhuman prisoners.

Enjoy that? Check out my revenge-on-Monsanto debut novel Orange Rain HERE!

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[1] I know in Illinois, at least, if a prisoner takes someone hostage, the policy is shoot-to-kill; in fact, staff members have to sign a waiver saying they understand, basically, that if they’re taken hostage they’re most likely fucked.

[2] Ironically, Duff contributed to getting me kicked out of the special Drug Unit, which cost me 4.5 months of good time. He almost made up for that despicable treachery w/ his slick vegan cooking.

[3] BAMN!—By Any Means Necessary!

My Go Vegan Radio Interview

Great interview with me on Go Vegan Radio with Bob Linden this past Sunday! We discussed a whole range of topics, including veganism (natch), animal rights and liberation, the inherent racism of the American “justice” system, my time in prison, the vile Monsanto corporation, and my debut novel ORANGE RAIN, from which I read a short but powerful excerpt. Available for listening here:

http://www.goveganradio.com/2014/09/10/07-september-2014/

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Learn more about ORANGE RAIN here:

My Debut Novel Now Available in Paperback!

Click here to purchase in paperback or e-book via Amazon!

 

A legless veteran and his Vietnamese girlfriend embark on a cross-country journey through the dark heart of mid-1980s America to exact revenge on the loathsome Monsanto Corporation, whose Agent Orange decimated both their lives.

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From the illicit pharmaceutical underworld of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to the cocaine-dusted film set of amputee porn in booming Las Vegas; from the urban-industrial hideout of vegan militant black revolutionaries to a botched backyard lynching by Texas frat boys and the liberation of their chained, abused pit bull. . . Orange Rain hurtles from one stunning scene to the next, swaying between the hilarious and the hideous. Its humor is darker than the Marlboro Man’s coffee (and his lung cancer). A wildly twisted novel, but also one with undeniable heart and compassion. It is an ode to humans’ ability to endure in the face of horrific suffering. A celebration of feminine strength and spirit. You’ve likely never read anything quite like it.
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“The eco-warriors next door embark on a lightning round of vigilante justice. Orange Rain is what happens when the Monkey Wrench Gang goes Death Wish and moves from the scrubland to the streets. Literature that incites.” -Peter Young, former ALF prisoner, chief editor at Animal Liberation Frontline

Thanks to my wonderful, egalitarian, vegan-owned, Eco-conscious publisher Trebol Press for taking this on! www.TrebolPress.com

“Orange Rain is not a politically correct novel—which is why it is so appealing . . . [the main] character has a clear revenge mission he never wavers from. Revenge is exacted on more than one oppressor, including two different rapists . . . [It’s] the type of book that could never be published by a mainstream publisher, as they would be too afraid to touch the taboo subjects it contains. Jan Smitowicz’s first novel . . . is fast-moving, fun to read, and isn’t the same old tired thing we see coming from traditional publishers.” -Kimberly Steele, author of Forever Fifteen and other novels

“A compelling, fast-paced adventure through some of society’s most intriguing subcultures . . . filled with incisive political commentary. This timely and important novel is a must read for anyone concerned about the state of the planet, or simply looking for a good read.” -Camille Marino, former political prisoner, founder of Negotiation is Over and Eleventh Hour for Animals

“An exciting new author with a new voice to bring to the world of fiction. The literary world is in desperate need of more writers like him.” Veronica Rosas, playwright