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My US adventures 2011 - Part Four: AR Conference LA

Thursday 21 July

Peter kept to his word by making sure we arrived at the AR Conference at the Westin LAX Hotel by 4pm. I caught up with my roomies: Brittyn from Portland and Susana from Seattle who went downstairs to register while Peter, Sheila and I showered. One of the things I was excited about the conference for was to finally meet Marisa Miller Wolfson whose new documentary, Vegucated screened at 5pm. The documentary is a fun, happily contagious (like Marissa) adventure about three New Yorkers who go vegan for six weeks and the effects this change has on their lives. Marissa said in the opening that the beginning to end of the film were all done with low budget, this is noticeable in some parts, but overall the film is great and it will be launched all over the country soon.

I finally caught up with Denis and his mum, Anne who were also in the audience and spent a bit of time with the two of them before they had to leave and I had to eat. For dinner Sarah from Xs to Os Bakery organised takeaway from Veggie Grill where I had the Bali Bliss US$6.75: Indonesian styled tempeh, sautéed and grilled with lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle ranch on a bed of kale:

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I had dinner with Sarah, her partner Linwood from Motive Clothing Company and good friend Jared near the Motive table. I look forward to getting to know Sarah and Lin better. I already miss hanging out with Peter and Sheila.

Friday 22 July

 Today I slept in, did my washing from the road trip and finished my Seattle blog. I met Susana and Brittyn at the hotel restaurant for lunch which was about US$20 for sandwiches, a wild rice dish, salad, biscuits and carrot cake. The carrot cake was good, the rest, not so. The three of us sat down with Keith McHenry from Food not Bombs and he caught us up on his latest prison story. Keith said he's getting too old for prison now. Another great thing about the conference, is wherever you walk, you will see someone you know. He's a cute pic of Brian Vincent from Stop UBC Animal Research and I:

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At 2pm I attended the Marketing Our Message - Improving effectiveness of advocacy through research with a FaceBook friend of mine, Carol Glasser who is friends with many of my friends and who runs a really informative feminist and Animal Rights blog, Vegina. Carol was joined by Nick Cooney who has released a book Change of Heart: What Psychology can teach us about spreading Social Change - Marketing our Message. Carol is a wonderful speaker and really passionate, I have a feeling we will get on well. I learned a lot from their speeches including how to not let your own assumptions of what is important - or what you think others believe is important - stop you from understanding excactly what is important to others. Nick gave a great example of how when people were faced with 4 different options of promoting environmentalism, one was a save-money-focused tactic, another was more of a "everyone else is doing this, why aren't you?" and two others. I assumed that the saving money option would be the most effective, however it was the following of the masses that worked the best. Food for thought. I have to buy Nick's book plus Will Potter's Green is the New Red book whilst here.

Straight after that I went to see Peter who runs Voice of the Voiceless talk about Applying Direct Action: Getting attention and changing behavior through direct economic & social pressure with the always inspiring ladies: Camille Hankins from WAR - Win Animal Rights and Shannon Keith from ARME who I finally met in person! Friends Nik and Ramy dropped by to instil some silliness into my night. The three of us ended up at the SAEN: Stop Animal Exploitation Now casual meet and greet plus dinner along with Peter, Jared, Sheila, Brittyn and Susana, Lin and Sarah where we found out some information about SAEN and had free dinner from Veggie Grill.  There were many things happening with an evening plenary where Peter and I stopped by just in time to hear Will Potter talk as part of the panel on activist repression.

At 10pm I went upstairs to an informal gathering and discussion organised by Carol from Vegina and her like minded friend and partner-in-protests, Nicoal Renee Sheen from Band of Mercy. These two ladies are inspiring with the way they articulate the sometimes-hard-hitting issues that need to be raised in our movement including the link between animal liberation and feminism - two of my favourite things as well. Carol has uploaded a pamphlet that her and Nicoal have written together on her blog. You can READ IT HERE. I believe that everything I am interested in is related to each other: veganism, animal rights, feminism, human rights, environmentalism, social justice, third world and hunger issues. I don't understand how some people don't see how these all link. A friend once asked me if a mutual friend of ours was really vegan due to the fact that he consumed a particularly well-known brand of soft drink/soda and that he bought items of clothing new from a certain well-known department stores that were made in China. I said that it didn't make him not vegan and that just as all vegans have different reasons to why they became vegan, they also have other different passions and choose what other things to also be passionate about. I understand it can be overwhelming as it's hard to unsee and unknow something once you've seen it... This is probably another totally seperate blog for a later date, me thinks. 

After being intellectually stimulated by the ladies and witnessing great participation from other like-minded folks, I headed to Ramy's room where the rest of the group had ended up to be entertained in other ways.

Saturday 23 July

Susana and Brittyn get up early for breakfast in the mornings and bring me a bagel each day for later on when I get out of bed. A negative thing about the conference when it's located in large hotels is that the food isn't that great. A few people have mentioned something about the unions and how outside food vendors aren't allowed to cook and/or sell their food in the hotel anymore. I think this can be worked around somehow. I got a bit of computer work done, ate my bagel and headed downstairs. I met a lovely rescue wolf:

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Gary and Kezia from Evolotus PR who I hung out with in LA, dropped by and they interviewed me for their blog The Thinking Vegan:

Carol, who is now my new favourite friend (!), bought me a Veggie Grill chicken Ceasar wrap with a quinoa (!) salad for lunch:

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After lunch Gary and Kezia interviewed Carol for the Thinking Vegan and then I interviewed Carol:

At 5pm in the afternoon I was part of the panel speaking about Promoting on the Internet: websites, e-newsletters, blogs, FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube. I was joined by the wonderful Jasmine Singer from Our Hen House and Andrew Kirschner who is a candidate for the Humane Party a political party committed to the rights of all animals. Here's some pics of Jasmine & Andrew speaking (thanks Susana):

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It was great to see the room packed and so many friendly faces: Holly and Nik, Peter, Gary and Kezia, Brittyn and Susana, Carol, and many more - you know who you are! See below for my talk on Twitter and Social Media Marketing:

Plus some photos - thanks Susana!

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Here's a photo of the three of us after our panel had ended and many people came to ask questions/tell us how great we were ;) Dina is in this photo speaking to me, she was one of a handful of people who saw my talk on Staging Effective Events last year with Alex Hershaft from FARM and Lori Houston from Animal Acres. Eric from Happy Cow also came up to say hi. Was great to meet him and hopefully we'll catch up before I leave LA.

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After our talk most people were heading to the banquet that I had decided not to go to this year. I ended up interviewing Shaun Monson from Earthlings instead. I can't wait for his new film Unity.

Here's Shaun and I - pic by Holly:

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I hung out with Nik & Holly:

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Here's a photo with Nik:

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and with Holly:

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Sarah and Lin organised Native Foods takeaway for dinner, so Holly and I headed to their room to eat our dinner together. Holly had the Spring Kale Salad: raw crunchy kale, shredded cabbage, apple and avocado tossed with maple orange dressing, topped with currants, almonds and creamy tahini drizzle US$8.95:

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I had the Sweet Potato Taquitos - crispy corn tortillas filled with coconut mashed sweet potatoes, drizzled with Native Chipolte crema and served with guacamole US$6.95:

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I also followed that up with Cheesecake - rich cream cheese filling, ginger granola crust, served with blueberries:

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After dinner we found Karla who I'd met at last year's ARC and her work partner, Scotlund who runs Animal Rescue Corps. I did an interview with Scotlund back in our room:

It was about this time when the banquet was over, so Holly and I went downstairs to see who was out and about. We ran into Sparkle and Robyn and got Brian to take a photo of the four of us: Sparkle from The Only Sparkle, Robyn who runs Open the Cages Alliance with her partner Adam, myself and Holly who is a Virtual Assistant.

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Then we went down around the bar area, which isn't that exciting when you don't drink, but it was good to catch up with people including Jasmine and her partner Mariann from Our Hen House:

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As well as Gene from band The Faded who was my roomie last year, always great to see him. Here's a pic of us with Sparkle:

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There was so much happening at the hotel this night. Ramy was having a few people in his room including Holly, Nik and Alicia. Friend Mike from Portland was performing Woody Guthrie-inspired political acoustic tunes under his moniker Mike XVX and various other people who I wanted to catch up with were doing various other things. It was a night of seeing a few people here and there before moving to the next group.

Peter has been carrying on for over a year about a supposedly secret rooftop hot tub that I don't believe actually exists - I think it's just a line he uses. Last year in Washington DC Peter, Jared and myself had gone looking for said hot tub that we didn't find which forced Peter to come to the conclusion that the hot tub was actually really in LA. Cut to now. Peter and I go looking for this (probably made up) hot tub. We explored each corner of the top floor and found the space that could have had a hot tub there at some stage.  Peter was devastated and heartbroken that this was the end of his "let's find the hot tub" story though I can vouch for the fact that there was water pipes in a certain area leading me to believe that there actually was a hot tub/spa there at some stage. Hmm.

To get Peter out of his slump that the hot tub was no longer in existence, I decided that we need to find something better, to which I found a landing pad/helicoper landing pad. Pretty impressive, the views were breathtaking:

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Peter was meant to take a photo of me spinning around in the middle of the red circle of the landing in my red dress, but didn't. Would have been a great photo but the lighting wasn't that good anyway... Being up on the roof reminds me of one of my favourite singer/songwriters, Kate Bush songs Top of the City (sorry about the film clip, just listen to the wonderful song) from my favourite album of hers, The Red Shoes. If you enjoy reading biographies, I strongly suggest you read Under the Ivy. It was beautiful up on the roof. Take me up to the top of the city, Peter. Here's the lyrics:

One more step to the top of the city
Where just a couple of pigeons are living
Up on the angel's shoulders

I don't know if I'm closer to Heaven but
It looks like Hell down there
These streets have never been paved with gold
Welcome to the loneliest city in the world
It's no good for you baby
It's no good for you now
Keep looking up for the ladder

I don't know if you'll love me for it
But I don't think we should suffer this
There's just one thing we can do about it

Take me up to the top of the city
Take me up to the top of the city
Take me up to the top of the city
And put me up on the angel's shoulders

See how that building there is nearly built
There's a big fire over on the north of the city
I see you walking down the street with her
I see your lights going on and off
She's no good for you baby
She's no good for you now
Look I'm here with the ladder

I don't know if you love me or not
But I don't think we should ever suffer
There's just one thing we can do about this

Take me up to the top of the city
Take me up to the top of the city
Up to the highest point of the city
One more step to the top of the city
Put me up on the angel's shoulders

And I don't mind if it's dangerous
I don't mind if it's raining
Take me up to the top of the city

And put me up on the angel's shoulders
Take me up to the top of the city
Mmm yes, one more step to the top of the city
And put me up on the angel's shoulders

Sunday 24 July

After catching up on computer work, my focus for the day was to get as many interviews as I could with friends and other vegan activists who inspire me and hopefully will inspire others. First up I saw Justin and Peter in the lobby, and since we had all managed to dress to match each other today, we had this photo taken. A lot of people say that Justin and Peter look like brothers. They have a few mannerisms that are similar and are both tall with glasses. Hmm... 

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My first interview for the day was with Nathan Runkle from Mercy for Animals who are probably my favourite Animal Rights organisation. Nathan became vegan after reading a vegan pamphlet, started Mercy for Animals, has educated so many of the mainstream public to the horrors of animal agriculture and their latest success story is that of the Farm to Fridge tour where the group tour around certain parts of the USA showing the undercover footage of where food really comes from. Here's our interview:

Next I interviewed Nick Cooney from the Humane League:

Then I interviewed Sarah Preston who runs Xs to Os Bakery in Troy, NY:

and Sarah's partner, Linwood Bingham who runs Motive Clothing:

then Jared who is working on a new online video series, Alternative Explorers. Jared's coming to visit me back home in Brisbane in September so that will be fun!

A few people had mentioned another Australian gal, Shelley who was also at the conference. We finally met, here's a photo of Shelley, my roomie Susana from Seattle and I:

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I then interviewed Shelley who has an extremely successful YouTube channel:

I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Heather who runs a holistic health website Live Natural, Live Well:

At 5pm Peter was speaking about Coping With Activist Repression: Dealing with enforcement, permits, arrests, documenting, doing prison time along with Camille Hankins from Win Animal Rights, Dara Lovitz who wrote Muzzling the Movement and Dave Simon from Animal Protection & Rescue League. Peter runs a website, Voice of the Voiceless and releases various ALF books. He is always great to see speak, as is Camille.

After the talk all the tables were getting packed up by all the exhibitors. I interviewed Will Potter who runs a great informative website, Green is the new Red and has just released a book with the same name. I always enjoy hanging out with Will and look forward to catching up with his gal, Ashley when I'm in New York. Here's our interview:

 

After my interview with Will, I headed back downstairs to help Keith pack up the Food not Bombs table and then we had an interview. Keith is really inspiring and I always learn a lot speaking to him. Here's our interview:

 

I also interviewed Bryan Monell but the video camera stopped before we had finished properly and Bryan wasn't too happy with his responses which is too bad as it would have been great for you to see. Bryan is an amazing activist who has done so many undercover investigations and still manages to keep a smile on his face. 

Ramy was meant to have a party at his place and as his parties are always fun, silly and debaucherous we were all looking forward to it. However him and his gal decided to drive hours away for dinner and we weren't able to contact them until the early hours of the morning. Gene and Sparkle went to Veggie Grill to get takeaway food for us, Peter, Brittyn and Susana. I had the Grillin’ Chickin’ US$8.95: Grilled chillin’ chickin’, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cilantro pesto, chipotle ranch on a wheat roll:

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Due to no party at Ramy's and most people being exhausted from a big weekend and late nights, most people hung around the bar and the bar area until the early hours of the morning. It was pretty late when Peter and I went back to the landing pad on the top of the hotel to sleep there the night. What wonderful views:

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How quiet does West Century Blvd look:

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At about 6am it got too cold for me, so I headed back to my warm bed, but not before taking a few photos:

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Monday 25 July

My roomies, Brittyn and Susana left to go back home to Portland and Seattle (respectively) and I caught up on some computer work, showed Sparkle how to tie bows in her hair and spent some time with Sparkle and Peter before leaving. Here's a photo of Peter (with a Little Mermaid purse!) and Sparkle being silly:

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Here's a cute photo of Peter and I:

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Here's Sparkle and I - note how cute the bow in her hair looks:

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Overall, the LA Animal Rights Conference was a great event with many people from various states in the USA and beyond. I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with friends, making new ones and networking and was quite impressed with the amount of interviews I had with people! Thanks to everyone from FARM who put in the time and energy to make this year another educational and fun event! Until next time...

USA_Adventures_CoverMy USA Adventures - the Book by Leigh-Chantelle (ISBN 978-0-9808484-2-7) is now available to purchase in paperback on Amazon US & Amazon UK, Barnes & NobleEspresso Book Machine and other online retailers. Wholesale info for Retail Stores, Libraries, Colleges, Schools, Universities: Ingram Books.
See HERE for more information.

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