Mad Cowboy Interview 01: Joe Connelly
(Part 02 of 03)

[Part 01] [Part 02] [Part 03]

MS: Given your busy schedule and that your computer keyboard probably needs to be food-proof, what do you generally eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Is there some way to characterize that?

JC: Yup, and that's not a difficult question to answer. I usually eat fruit for breakifast, usually banannas, or like a hot grain cereal, with cinnamon, raisins, and maple syrup. It could be oatmeal, it could be spelt or barley, whatever... usually a whole grain breakfast.

For lunch, we very often, since we work out of the house, we have a very simple stir-fry or rice bowl or a wrap... whatever... healthy, good stuff. We're very blessed living in California and having quite a bit of organic produce, and no shortage of places to buy organic beans and grains.

MS: You're very lucky over there. I'm looking at the snow outside here.

JC: I just mentioned my mom, and Colleen is also an unbelievable cook, so I very much lucked out guys.

MS: So you've got someone doing the cooking for you?

JC: Colleen can whip up the most amazing dishes.

MS: What do you enjoy for dinner?

JC: Dinner? Very often dinner and lunch kind of blend together, we'll eat one large meal around 2:30 in the afternoon, and then just do a snack at night or something.

MS: Are you doing raw foods, consciously, or is it a mixture?

JC: Mixture. We're definitely consciously doing as much raw as possible... lots of salads, a lot of fruit for breakfcast. Colleen always has her big smoothie for breakfast. We're very conscious of raw foods.

MS: Have you considered having her cloned?

JC: Ah... we don't go there (laughs).
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MS: (laughs).. Black tea, green tea, or coffee?

JC: No, I've never done caffeine.

MS: You're kidding?? With your verbal baud rate??

JC: (chuckles)... Ah... I think it would....

MS: Fry some neurons?

JC: Yeah, and it's weird... because I can work 18 to 20 hours a day without it, and it's scarey to think of what I could be able to do if I started pumping coffee down my veins.

MS: (laughs)... probably an issue a day! Do you have a favorite vegan food indulgence?

JC: Let me give a plug to my advertisers.... I'm constantly getting brownies... Allison's, Simple Treats, and Sunflower Baking Company cookies are examples. I love sweets. I definitely have a sweet tooth and probably a problem. So my indulgence would be whatever some company out there has sent me that day!
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MS: Let's talk about where you live now. You've migrated to California, unfortunately, I migrated out of California. Do you have any friendly comments about contrasting California versus New York that won't offend either Coast?

JC: You know, they're both wonderful, and I could live in either place. I think that's pretty much true with most guys.

But I think we end up where our ladies want us to be. I grew up and spent the first forty years of my life basically in New York State, and it's a wonderful place to live. It's got the change of seasons. I know it pretty cold there right now, but I could cross-country ski five minutes from my home. That is just something that I don't have where I am now.

Here, the weather is just gorgeous all year round.

MS: Boy, I miss it.

JC: Weather aside, this was definitely the right place to come to launch VegNeews. That was unbelievably vital and important to our success. If I was not here, making the connections that I was able to make.... very quickly, as I mentioned earlier, John Robbins, and vegan restaurants. I met and have gotten to know Ann and Larry Wheat, who own "Millennium Restaurant."

MS: I read your interview with them [VegNews November 2002], it's fascinating, and the cookbook is to die for.... as somebody who loves to cook, it's an extraordinary piece of work.

JC: Their head chef, Eric Tucker, is giving a cooking demonstration at the VegFair.

So it's these kinds of connections that have been important and it's obvious that this is where I need to be right now.

MS: How many Macs do you have?

JC: Oh, gosh... I've got a Classic, which I don't use, a Performa, Colleen usings an iMac, and a G4. What we certainly could use is a laptop computer, we're so desktop-based. We do a lot of traveling promoting VegNews that it's difficult to catch up when we get back.

MS: Now, with Steve Jobs, Chairman of Apple, being a vegan.....

JC: We don't know if he gets it, but we mail him a copy of every issue.
[short break to check equipment]
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MS: You mentioned during our break that Howard was your first advisor?

JC: It was the Spring of 2000, and I had moved to California, was kind of in that transition stage going back and forth between New York and California, and I happened to be in New York at that time. Howard was speaking at Ithaca, I think for a group at Cornell University, so of course we went down to see his lecture.

And I asked Howard, "I'm starting this vegetarian newspaper, would you consider being an advisor?"
He immediately replied: "Anything you need, Joe, consider it done."

After the lecture, we all got invited out to the ABC Cafe in Ithaca, New York. And we were sitting around the table, and there was Colleen and me, who were getting this project called "VegNews" off the ground, and there was James Labeck and Jenny Stein, who were getting a project called "The Witness" off the ground. We hadn't put out a first issue yet and Tribe of Heart hadn't put out their first documentary yet.

It's kind of a surreal feeling, when I look back, and see that around this table in Ithaca, in April or March of 2000, were these groups that, in a very short period time, would have significant impact on where vegetarianism is leading into the 21st century.

And Howard was there, and we were all eating vegan desserts.
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MS: You've read Howard's recent post on the website and in the Mad Cowboy Newsletter [Issue 14] of his New Year's Resolutions for 2003. What's your unabashed opinion of them?

JC: They were unbelievable. They were beautiful, they were humorous, they were warm. They are so Howard. Everything about him comes out in reading them. He's got the most amazing sense of sly humor, and yet, convictions... they're not jokes even though they're funny. I wish I'd had them a week earlier to put into the most recent issue of VegNews.

MS: He's very serious about them, though.

JC: At one time, I used to exercise (laughs).... I once did something very similiar to what Howard's doing. I decided I'd run a marathon, and my motivations for making sure I that I did it was, I wrote a diary of the six months leading up to running the marathon in my local running track club newsletter. I used to be a member of a running club, and they published a monthly newsletter. Every month for the six months leading up, I had an article in there about my training and how it was going, and then one article after I actually did the marathon.

By the way, it was the Marine Corps Marathon right in Washington DC. It was gutsy, but it was also the motivation needed to make sure that you kept to your mission. So, in a lot of ways, it's a good move.

MS: Is there any particular resolution that stands out?

JC: The one about living in a glass house. I just hope that his shower curtain is not see through. I loved the one about Willow Jeane and about Howard being a reclamation project. I thought that was wonderful.

You know what? I think what stands out is the group of them. I think what stands out is, that if you take them all as a whole, it really gives you, very quickly, a wonderful protrait of who Howard is.

MS: I would have to agree, but then I'm biased!

JC: So, is there one that you particularly like?

MS: Not to say ill of fellow plant-eaters...
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MS: Okay, let's get philosophical here: what books have most influenced you in your life?

JC: Wow... great question..... certainly in my vegetarian life, "Diet for a New America" [John Robbins]

MS: Powerful piece of work.

JC: It came right a the time when I started being influenced by some vegetarians.... I would have to put that right at the top.

I've read several books both about and by, Gandhi and Schweitzer, and I've never actually read a biography, but George Bernard Shaw I just think was brilliant. God, if I could emulate anybody... somebody like him who could put together a couple of words that would say so much.

And Mark Twain, too, you can see that some of these are writers and they've influenced me greatly. Not any particular work by them, but just by their style and the breadth of their work, what they were able to accomplish. All of course, except for Mark Twain, being vegetarian.
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MC: You done a lot of interviews as Editor of VegNews. Was there any interview you did (as interviewer) that particularly stirred your soul?

JC: Very early on, I interviewed Dr. Neal Barnard [PCRM], and actually never published that interview. But it was wonderful to interview Dr. Barnard, but to get my feet wet. I was nervous as hell! He agreed to do an interview, and I guess I was star struck. But that was very good experience for me.

When I started doing VegNews, the first two interviews I conducted were Jim Mason and Gretchen Weiler. Those really were wonderful me mostly because of the response we got from our readers. The interview subjects were so warm to me, and then the readers felt that. It really made me realized that interviews are great, people love them, they're fun to do,and you really get to know someone.

Afterwards, I interviewed Linda Blair and Casey Kasem.

MS: Now there's a twosome!

JC: I'm able to say that I still have contact with both of them, I talk to Linda more often than I talk to Casey. I actually got to know these people, and it was so nice, again, to get to know somebody in the interview process, but then to move beyond that so-called celebrity, and get at that real person behind the celebrity.

I can't pick just one... all of my children are beautiful.

MS: What would be your ultimate interview with anyone in any time period? Past, present, or future.

JC: My grandfather. The one I never met.

MS: Wow... of course...

JC: Whenever I hear the question, who's the person you most want to meet, I always think of my grandfather..[go to top]


MS: Let's say you had to pick five dinner guests from any period of time, and we'll exclude your grandfather as you've already had dinner with him, who would you pick?

JC: Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Sweitzer... (I'm not ranking them in order)... Gandhi would have to be there. Let me think.... Thomas Jefferson.

MS: Why?

JC: Based on the state of the world today, and I'm paraphrasing him, and how he said we should re-write the constituition every ten or twenty years and throw the government out.

I think we're in a very sad place right now in the world, especially with the politics of this country. I think somebody of Jefferson's brilliance and, ability to both reach to the people and his fellow lawmakers is really needed right now.
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MS: You've had a chance to meet some of the biggest vegetarian and vegan luminaries in the movement. You've met some many great leaders of change that are helping us get back on track as a species. Do you see some similiar or common attributes among them? I mean, you've really covered a range that most people don't get to interact with in a lifetime.

JC: Believe me, I feel blessed that I can actually do this and it's the greatest experience of my life. This may be disappointing to your readers, but everybody has their own convictions, whatever that conviction may be.

For some people, the conviction is the environment. Julia Butterfly Hill, she's just the most wonderful person, and certanly will be a leader for long time. She, most people are going to say, comes at it from an environmental perspective, although I know that's much too simplistic. She has a much larger and broader vision then that. She has that conviction because of what she believes in. Howard, has that conviction for organic gardening, the environment, and the animals.

Gretchen Weiler, who I mentioned earlier, her convictions is, again, multi-faceted, but certainly given the work she's done, given the Ark Trust and Genesis Awards, is based on animals.

It's people being driven home by what hits home with them.

It's almost like a switch going off, and when those people see, and you don't have to be a celebrity for this to be true, but when you see the connection, whether that connection is through organic farming, or whether that connection is through saving animals, like Gene and Lori Bauston.. whatever it may be, people have this switch turned on, and then they just go with it.

It changes your life; there's no going back, there's no looking back. I would say that anybody who I've had interaction with, has been driven simply by the knowledge that what they're doing is absolutely correct.
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MS: Three wishes... and you can't wish for more wishes.

JC: I wish, obviously, for world peace, I just we couuld all get along and utilize our resources on this planet to build houses, not create wars we don't really need.... that we could feed everybody on the planet. I guess maybe that would be my second wish, that nobody goes hungry --- nobody does without.

My third wish is to live long enough to make a difference.

MS: That's great. What would you do if I gave you a million dollars? And we won't hold this to you... this is just what you're thinking right now!

JC: If I had the resources to do something, if somebody said the're going to support me, what I would love to is build a vegan community. Not a commune, or not even co-housing. But, just, you know, have a place where non-profits could call home, maybe own our own building instead of having to pay rent. Share like a little mini-Kinko's on the first floor, where we could share copying costs and make sure that everybody could afford to rent an office and hire people to help them do their projects.

What I see, constantly, is under-capitalization of people who've got wonderful ideas. For every Ingrid Newkirk out there that actually brings her ideas to fruition - and I'm sure Ingrid would say that she certainly isn't done and has so much more to do - but she's obviously, PETA, has obviously been very successful. There are other groups who have been successful, but for every one there is, there's 10 or 20 groups that have just as smart people, just as invigorated, and worthy people running those groups, that just never get the funding or never get the ability to capitalize on what they could do.

So I would love to see a communal building..... maybe even offices on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors... I mean, this is a pipe dream, but that's what you want, right?

MS: Yup... then there's that vegan retirement home that some people dream of...

JC: That would be my second wish.

MS: ...for worn-out editors!

JC: (laughing) ...and you know, that said, there's a lot of interest and talk in doing very similiar to that. Pooling our resources... so that we can actually pay rent to ourselves, instead of to some landlord who doesn't care about vegetarianism. Which is not the case in my situation, by the way. We have a very wonderful vegetarian landlord.

MS: This gives me the idea of a vegetarian or vegan bank, just as Howard's grandfather... I think it was his grandfather... who set up a means to give loans out fellow farmers when the banks were being nasty.

JC: That's goes along exactly the same concept I'm talking about. Create a community that's self-supporting. Own the building rather instead of renting it from somebody else, make reasonable rents available. Things are just so expensive out here in San Francisco.

....and if I'm allowed a fourth wish, I would wish that we could get the environmental, and the animal rights, and the vegetarians, and the organic, and the raw foods, and the unionists --- all working together, as we're all on the same side of the equation.... the other side we are fighting against always seems to be working together.
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