Sunday, December 30, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

I saw Charlie Wilson's War today.

The Julia Roberts character says "He was convicted by a jury," as her way of absolving Zia of any complicity in Bhutto's execution.

This movie is interesting for many reasons, but the treatment of women in it is a useful reminder that we've come a little way over the last 27-odd years.

I'm not claiming there are no more sexist idiots in our legislatures. But Charlie Wilson wasn't a complete idiot. While he wanted pretty women around, he also wanted competent women around. He relied completely on his main assistant (ably played by Amy Adams). While he readily bedded any woman who was willing, he seemed particularly to admire women like Joanne who also had power and money.

a little tah dah for poetry!

i posted this on my blog as well.
it's an e-mail i just received from the head of the poetry kit list
who is also the main list administrator (i'm the other one. the "american cousin" one, so to speak!)

this is a wonderful award and worth a read. ( a little poetry, couldn't hurt )

; )

This years recipient of the Ted Slade award is Connie Pickard, who has organised events at Morden Tower in Newcastle since 1964. You can see the excellent site for Morden Tower and read something of the long history of the venue at

Connie has been informed today so please feel free to contact her at if you would like to pass on your congrats. I am also pleased to say that I have reached an arrangement with the University of Liverpool to display the glass trophy that we have obtained and which, when the new plinth for it is ready, will carry the names of recipients of the award.

If you would like to know more about the award go to

The Official Citation

Each year at Poetry Kit we have a nomination and voting process to make a number of awards. The most important one as far as we are concerned is to make a good choice for the Ted Slade Award. Ted Slade was the founder of the Poetry Kit and the award is a recognition of others who like him gave freely of their time and energy in order to help preserve a platform for poetry at the grass roots in the UK or to develop an audience for it.

I am incredibly honoured to tell you that the award this year has been awarded to you for your tireless work in providing a platform for poetry.

The award will be listed on the front page of Poetry Kit Website where it will be seen by our 10 thousand plus visitors each day and their name will be inscribed on the trophy which will be on permanent public display.

You can find out more about the award at

The recipients of this award are;
Sally Evans
(Poetry Scotland)
Gerald England
(New Hope Int.)


Michael Horovitz

(Poetry Olympics)


Connie Pickard

(Morden Tower)


Saturday, December 29, 2007

End of Year Stuff

Just a few random thoughts I want to put out as we head into the New Year.

Has anyone seen the movie Juno? I loved Saved and this sounds interesting. Should I see it?

As expected, Ledcat came through and gifted me with Season One of Maude. We watched the first three episodes last night. It was amazing how relevant the entire episodes are to contemporary life in the United States. The political discussions, the battles over family values, the intergenerational relations, the "white liberal guilt" dynamics ... it is all there. I can't wait for more stay-at-home evenings to view the remainder of the discs.

Today is my blog's two year anniversary. And it received a really cool present as one of my favorite bloggers, Pam from Pam's House Blend, posted a comment. Very cool.

I love historical mystery novels. It seems to be a genre that lifts up strong, smart women. I just found a new series by Kathy Lynn Emerson set circa 1580 in Elizabethian England. The first novel I read which I believe is the most recent focuses on the race to lay claim to the New World. I got a little lost in the details, but it was a slightly different account of how Spain and England were locked in a death match over this conquest.

The downside to the genre is that most of the protagonists seem a little too modern-thinking. There's often very little growth to show how the progressive female character evolved from a culture hostile to uppity women. She's just suddenly there. Maisie Dobbs is one exception. The Gaslight Mysteries are a little less so.

Our niece turns 2 tomorrow. We bought her a retro Slinky and the book "Walter the Farting Dog" complete with a stuffed dog that farts. It is very popular with the toddler and preschool set. Our friend's daughter takes it to show and tell on a regular basis. The teacher lets all the other children "farted" the stuffed dog. I'm curious how my sister-in-law will feel.

We saw Charlie Wilson's War about five days before the Bhutto assassination. I *think* Julia Robert's character absolves the Pakistani leader of her father's death. I can't recall the exact line. Anyone?

Friday, December 28, 2007

interview with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

I just posted an interview I did with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on my blog. We talked about queer writing and queer politics. I hope you check it out.

Isn't She Lovely?

The Post-Gazette's most feminist columnist, Tony Norman, gave our Maria a shout out.

I canvassed colleagues and friends to help me create a parallel list: "The
25 Most Beautiful People for Now" in Pittsburgh. I am grateful for all their
suggestions, but the final list (in no particular order) was concocted according
to standards known only to me:

David DeAngelo and Maria Lupinacci are co-founders of "2 Political
Junkies," one of the most popular political blogs in town. David is no Adonis,
but he and Maria do have "beautiful minds."

As further proof of just how beautiful they are, check out Maria's latest metamorphosis ... I bet no one from the Top 25 Beautiful People from Pittsburgh Magazine would show such creativity!

And just for the record, the lesbians believe that David does have Adonisish qualities ... especially around the glasses.

Metrobloggers in Pakistan

I should probably be posting this on Metro Blogs, but as there's already a post about it here, I thought I would follow-up. I just received an e-mail from Sean Bonner, The Big Cheese of MetroBloggers, concerning Pakistan. [Copy and Pasted below.]

"Hey Metrobloggers!

Just a really quick note for you at the moment. As you might haveheard there have been some major events in Pakistan in the last 24hours including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Of course, thePakistani Metrobloggers are doing an amazing job covering the news andlocal reactions and major press is noticing very quickly. Check out afew of these stories:

If you want to follow this, or see more about any of it check out anyone (or all three) of our blogs there:

you can also follow metroblogging on twitter where we'll be postingannouncements as they come in:

I've had a few people ask if they can write about our blogs in theircity, even if it isn't related and of course pointing people in yourcity to what were doing in other cities during major events isperfectly OK. You can see how Markland in LA did this very thing:

OK, that's all for now. Stay safe everyone, and keep up the amazing work!

-Agent Ska-

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

From the PG website ...

By SADAQAT JAN and ZARAR KHAN Associated Press Writers


RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, aides said.
Bhutto's supporters erupted in anger and grief after her death, attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities. At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed, chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf.

Here's the BBC

Hospital anguish

The killing is likely to deepen the political crisis in Pakistan, where radicals had vowed to disrupt the vote and Musharraf's opponents, including Bhutto, accused him of planning to rig the result.

Manzoor said he believed the poll, sheduled for January 8, would now be cancelled

Blogher '08


I know I sent this out via e-mail but I thought I would also post it here for any women out there who are readers and not authors.

Blogher is the national blog that houses lots and lots and lots of women bloggers from all over the USA (I'm sure that that's not their official elevator pitch).

They have various conferences.

I'm looking to go to the one this summer in San Fran.

Conference List Here.

Agent Ska

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last Words

I have to write my first eulogy.

One of my dearest friends (it was as close to a Harold and Maude relationship as you could get in real life, only vice-versa) passed away just hours after my last visit with him Tuesday. I'm not fishing for condolences, but I have an opportunity to praise a life well-lived, and so I say here that my neighbor, Fritz Vogt, 89, was one of the most remarkable people I've ever known. He was a good man with all the scars and flaws, and I'll take that over a saint any day.

His daughter Francine, a city school teacher, is one of my dearest friends and asked me to say a few words at his ceremony Saturday. She gave me the greatest flattery one could ever receive -- he knew that I was coming Tuesday to visit because I was off that morning, and when she called to give me the news later, this is how she broke it: "He waited for you."

"So you mean?"

Yes, a great life over. She was calm, and we all expected it, but the laughter comes and goes with the tears. He was one of the last great bar owners of our generation -- former owner of "The Spot" in Whitaker and "The Crafton Grill." He hung out with Joe Chiodo. He flirted with me incessantly for years. He would become angry when I said I loved him like a grandfather -- and so I'd switch it to "father."

I sat with him that morning and read him the headlines from the newspaper, something we did a lot of together, and though he was unable to speak from being weak, I continued anyway, telling him that he got out of the bar business just in time. Then I talked about the squirrels outside the window of his hospice room, as he always did when he lived at home, because they'd eat his bird food, and I would always remind him that squirrels are God's creatures too and they need to eat as well. He'd roll his eyes and groan. We argued all the time!

He was convinced from the first day he met me that I was sent to him from a "higher power" because we didn't meet until his wife passed away. We shared the same name, so I became "Fran number 2."

Cheers to a great man, who was loved to the very end by his family, friends and -- me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Vagina Monologues -- Free show for bloggers!

Cynthia Closkey made mention of this on her website today and thought it would be a great tidbit of information to share with our group!

From her blog:

Pittsburgh Bloggers Invited to "The Vagina Monologues"

City Theatre, on Pittsburgh's South Side, is staging a new production of the mega-hit "The Vagina Monologues," and they're extending a special invitation to the bloggers of Pittsburgh -- female and otherwise.

"The Vagina Monologues," Eve Ensler's revolutionary and entertaining theatre event, will star Erica Bradshaw, Holli Hamilton and Laurie Klatscher. These three awesome actresses will list pet names for private parts, tell stories about discovering "downthere," and discuss the wonders of birth. Staged in City Theatre's 111-seat Hamburg Studio, the shocking truths and raucous humor will be an up-close and personal experience for all.

Local bloggers are invited to bring a guest and attend the show for free on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 5:30 pm. You'll also enjoy a complimentary glass of wine in the theatre lobby bar beginning at 4:30 pm. If you choose to write about "The Vagina Monologues" on your blog afterwards, the theatre will also provide a special discount code that you can offer your readers.

IMPORTANT: To reserve your seats, please send an email to Margie Romero (mromero at by Wednesday, January 2, 2008. Include your name, the name and URL of your blog, and the number of seats you wish to reserve (1 or 2).

Space is limited, so sign up today!

I have never seen this show before, but am definitely looking forward to going. Cynthia also had the right idea with perhaps meeting afterwards for coffee, etc. Hope to see some of you there!

a question of sheets and men and women

while posting on my blog about my excitement over finding good sheets in a great color i started to wonder why it seems that more women care about sheets and such then men do.
is that really the way that it is or are men leery of saying they have favorite colors or even know about thread counts? i knew a guy who picked out the wall papers and paints for his home but insisted that his wife tell friends that they were her choices. silly isn't it? says a lot about our culture around here than at first thought.
so, i'm wondering is it stereotypical to believe that things like sheet choice or paint shade is a female concern unless it is a man's business like interior design or are there many men like my friend out there, just somehow thinking it is GASP, unmanly to care about those things?
any ideas?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pittsburgh DIY Craft Congress in New York TImes

Four years ago I created an event called Handmade Arcade, which is a DIY Craft Fair, offering indie crafters an opportunity to sell their wares in Pittsburgh. With a small group of volunteers we put on the first HA, with 32 vendors and about 800 visitors. Both vendors and visitors doubled in number yearly.

As the DIY craft movement grew we thought it'd be a good idea to hold a gathering, in Pittsburgh, of DIY craft fair organizers, webzine editors, etc. The event, called Craft Congress & held March 31 & April 1, 2007, was a success with participants coming from across the U.S., Canada and even one from Leeds, U.K. One of the attendees was Rob Walker who writes for the New York Times.

Below is the article he wrote about current trends in the DIY craft movement, which includes a bit about his visit to Pittsburgh. It appears in today's (12/16/07) NYT:

Title: "Handmade 2.0"
Author: Rob Walker (who attended Craft Congress)
Date: 12/16/07
Subject: current DIY craft scene

Article Here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Party Tomorrow!

Benefit Party!

Dance! Film! Music! Interviews! Photography! Oh My!

Sumptuous Raffle! Delectable Delicacies! Fashionable Fancies!

Resources and Support for Women in Pittsburgh & The World!

Family Friendly & BYOB!

4130 Butler St. @ 42nd

CoffeeHouse and World Lounge

Your Inner Vagabond

Doors and Performances 7 PM

Tickets- General Admission 25$

Basically, you should go.

-Agent Ska-

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


No politician wants to raise property taxes (or give the appearance that they do).

Of course not. Then no one will vote for them.

So, why not start from the top -- and tap those resources -- and then work your way down, and get homeowners to actually pay the property taxes they should first? For example, off the top of my head, I can tell you about a home in Fox Chapel that was purchased for $750,000 and the owners are only paying on a value of little more than $500,000 in property taxes. It's not just there. It's in Squirrel Hill. Shadyside. It's everywhere. (Andy Sheehan, where are you?)

This should incense you (unless you are one of the people wealthy enough to afford a quarter-million dollar home and your conscience allows you to get away with a huge tax rebate). You can find it all over the Allegheny County Property Assessment page. Of course, Danny "The Goosekiller" Onorato and his cronies decided to take away your ability to search by name -- so if you want to find a pattern (say, just cosmically, among people with "connections" to this or that) -- it would be a lot harder to find.

Dan Onorato is making waves and headlines, because he's busy poising himself for his next gig.


Instead of her usual divisive rhetoric (with a few cleverly mined words and phrases painstakingly interwoven to give the illusion of "flair"), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ruth Ann Dailey writes in favor of a program that unites the left and the right.

Above: Me, savoring the moment. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do always wear satin evening gowns. You gotta problem?

Monday, December 10, 2007


Since I know we're a diverse group and this speaks for itself, I present what some of you will probably find to be the scariest thing since "Jesus Camp."

Please keep in mind that the first commandment of Conservapedia states that "everything you post must be true and verifiable."

Especially keep that in mind when you read about the debate over whether the kangaroos got to Australia by riding on rafts.

Since I'm familiar with the Focus on the Family view on single mothers, I queried that term. When that didn't work, I tried the more-Christian-y "wedlock." No luck, but I was presented with a link to the "Bastard" page.

And here are some of the more interesting bits:

Global Warming
Gay Marriage
Planned Parenthood

And the not-so-surprising Condoms

After all that, the Examples of Bias in Wikipedia are particularly entertaining.

Uh oh

Pittsburgh Officer Accused Of Indecent Assault


A Pittsburgh police officer is on administrative duty while officials investigate a report over the weekend alleging that the 12-year veteran was involved in an indecent assault.

Few other details are known about the incident at this point.

A brief statement from the chief's office says only that department's Sex Assault and Family Crisis Unit (SAFC) "was notified of a reported alleged sexual assault involving a Pittsburgh Police Officer" at 1pm Saturday.

The statement goes on to stay that "the accused officer... has been placed on Administrative Duty following allegations of Indecent Assault without Consent toward a female victim."

The SAFC is currently looking into the allegations, as is the Allegheny County District.

-Agent Ska-

Chatham Campaign Training for Women

From Early Returns....

"More Benningtons to come?

Are political stars born, or made? Chatham University is betting they can be made, and is holding its Pennsylvania Women's Campaign School from Jan. 25 to 27.

The 2 1/2-day workshop is meant to teach participants to create an effective campaign message, handle communication crises, manage criticism and raise money. Teams of participants will work together to simulate campaigns and network with elected officials.

"The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania currently ranks 44th in the number of women serving in its Legislature with only 37 women serving as of the current legislative session," said Dr. Allyson Lowe, the director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy, in a press release from which this blog item draws most of its information. "The limited presence of women in public leadership creates a compelling interest in organizations, like ours, to train women to successfully run a campaign; we are dedicated to producing candidates who are both capable of running and winning, like Campaign School alum Representative Lisa Bennington" who toppled Rep. Frank Pistella in 2006.

That's the same Ms. Bennington who recently opted to give back her annual cost-of-living raise.

Tuition is $200, and registration forms are due Jan. 9. And remember, campaign school makes a thoughtful holiday gift for the politically ambitious woman on your list."

Thanks to Bram for bringing this to my attention.

-Agent Ska-

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Saw this outside a tavern on Route 88 in Castle Shannon this afternoon.
Fellow blogger (but-not-just-a-blogger) MacYapper says get used to it. I say that's the attitude of an old, unimpassionated fart. But I'm sure if he were a rebel back in the day, he'd have tried to grab the biggest crate of tea all by himself at that Boston Tea Party, just for the photo op.*

I've considered arguments on both sides, but what the distillery boils down to for me as a member of the shrinking "middle class" is that plainly, I'm just sick and fucking tired of being nickeled and dimed to death.

Danny "The Goosekiller" Onorato should be shaking down the pockets of, oh, I dunno -- nonprofit obscenities like UMPC, that, while claiming to be making quality of life better, are, in the end, just softly killing us all.

Politicians can't do that, though -- because corporations run the world, and your "public servants" are there to simply do their bidding, though they go to excruciatingly elaborate -- almost surreal -- extremes to convince you otherwise. Anymore, I feel like I'm just watching the Theatre of the Absurd when I see a political debate.

Their greatest red herring is the continued polarization of left and right in America. Some of their greatest aids are our complacency and our fascination with the rich, the famous and the morbid. Wretched consumerism is the opium of the people.

* Ms. Mon likes Yapper, even if he is annoying, so if you don't know the back story, this is good-natured ribbing. Oh, and it would have been more like an "illustration op," since they didn't have cameras back then.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Information for victims of Police Officer Domestic Violence

When a police officer is the abuser there are a whole set of separate issues, in addition to those faced by non-officer involved domestic violence. If you have a friend, relative, co-worker who is in an abusive relationship with a police officer, the following are just a few of the informative links found on this excellent blog:


Father of Crystal Judson (Brame) slain by Tacoma Washington's police chief in a murder-suicide that has changed laws and policies, and promotes more change.

Read the P-I series on officer involved domestic violence

Site of consultant Diane Wetendorf and her approach to officer-involved domestic violence


Page from Purple Berets


from The National Center for Women and Policing

From Abuse of Power, Diane Wetendorf

Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Society Debute ...

Welcome to Donna Puleio, our 27th blogger. Donna blogs at Working Class Matters. She lives a bit out of Pittsburgh so we get several great new perspectives with her arrival.

Welcome, Donna!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Female DJs Set Fashion Styles in NYC

The New York Times has a cool and interesting article today about female DJs in New York City who are becoming the trendsetters.

Apparently Agent Ska isn't the only one bringing the 1950s ska/James Bond/Fedora style back:

"Yes, they are shaping their fans’ musical preferences. And to judge by the prevalence of high-waisted trousers, suspenders, cropped leather jackets, porkpie hats and fedoras on the dance floors, they are calling the tune in fashion as well"...

“When you go into a club and the D.J. is wearing something, it almost gives it idol status,” said Frannie Schultz, 21, a college student from Brooklyn. Ms. Schultz, who mingles high style and low in deference to idols like Leigh Lezark of the MisShapes and Roxy Cottontail, noted that on the Lower East Side, epicenter of the downtown club scene, style is “centered around the promoters and the D.J.’s.”

I was surprised that there were enough female DJs to write this article about. I always see male DJ's and I'd been wondering when the tables would be turned (haha! Get it? Tables Turned?!?) My question wasn't too off base.

A decade ago, only a handful of women, including Ms. Bond and Ms. Nellor, could claim the kind of style clout that comes with a presence in the D.J. booth.

“The barrier was high for females trying to enter an essentially male-dominated field,” said Rob Principe, a founder of Scratch Academy, a school for aspiring D.J.’s with outposts in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Today, women are less intimidated, Mr. Principe said. In 2002, when the school was established, 10 to 15 percent of applicants were women. Now that figure is closer to 40 percent.

“D.J.-dom has definitely been a boy’s club, a kind of cabal,” said Alexandra Wagner, the editor of Fader, a magazine that covers emerging music and fashion. It is a club, she noted, that women are only now penetrating in significant numbers."

Not only are their abilities as DJs getting them fashion attention, but the blogosphere is helping.

"They were enlisted, said Margo Brunell, the director of marketing for J. Crew, after being spotted on the Web. “We would look at the blogs and discover that the women who posted there were talking about fashion in one sentence and referencing to a cool D.J. they had seen in the next.”

-Agent Ska-

Pittsburgh Girls support Girls in Afghanistan

Wanted to share this event with other Pittsburgh women, as I am so proud of the girls at the school where I work...

Snipped from a student-written press release:
As part of its ongoing fundraising efforts, The Ellis Afghan Sister School Club will present a $2700 check to Mrs. Fahima Vorgetts, board member of Women for Afghan Women. The check will benefit Khwahari, Ellis’ sister school in Afghanistan, making their running fundraising total over $16,000.

Ellis students began the sister school project in 2004 when they learned that girls like them in Afghanistan were studying in tents because they had no school building. The girls resolved to build a school.

The club will host an informal coffee and conversation session with Mrs. Vorgetts from 5:30-7:00 in the Ellis Babcock Library, with the opportunity to purchase Afghan rugs and jewelry. Mrs. Vorgetts will discuss the status of the sister school and her human rights work in Afghanistan. The event is free and open to the public.

The story was covered last year in the Post-Gazette, and the girls have a website.

Fahima is an inspiring speaker - and a real on-the-ground activist working to change the lives of women. If you are free this evening, I invite you to come to Ellis and hear her speak.


I was thinking about my neighbor and dear friend Fritz yesterday when I read this in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Not because Fritz was a coal miner, but because he has been my surrogate grandfather for a number of years. My grandfather was a coal miner.

Anthony "Tony" Petrosky was the only remaining grandfather I had at the age of four, and that's when he died. It is a moment in my life that visits me often, because I was the one who found him. He was napping on the sofa while my grandmother was preparing Sunday dinner and she told me it was time to wake him up. So I started to tug on him, and then I went to tell my Uncle Joe, who was still living at home at the time, that he wouldn't move, and I remember watching as his efforts went from "come on, Dad, get up," to desperation. I didn't know the word for it then, but I understood the emotion on his face. When my mother realized what was happening, she pulled me away.

He was taken to the hospital shortly after and pronounced dead. He died of "black lung." There are few photos of he and I together, but being the first grandchild, I was the recipient of all of his attention for what short time we had together. The thing I remember about him most was that he knew how to have fun.

He certainly didn't have the most glorious of childhoods -- he started working in the mines at 14, lived through the strike, slept in a tent (my grandmother has the photos) and told tales of eating coffee soup, so it took me a while to figure out why he was so happy. But as I would come to learn, the toughest people I know have the most genuine senses of humor and are, above all, able to laugh at their situations and themselves the most.

My favorite photo of him has to be the one where he's dressed up as Little Bo Peep for Halloween. Wig and all. He was a real ham in front of the camera.

Reading the story about the exhibit at the Heinz History Center also reminded me of one of my early (June 2006), mangled attempts at blogging. I left the text exactly in its original, raw form; I only changed the font and color for easier reading (I was using a different background color when I started out, as if that matters in the least ... ).


The photo of Fritz was taken when we were celebrating his 89th birthday the day before Thanksgiving. He lived at own home until October. Now he has a new home, and new neighbors, but his old neighbors still visit him as much as they can.

He is one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. Sharp as a tack. And "not for his age." For any age.

(Poppyseed roll from Dave's Terrace Bakery, Whitehall. Smoke alarms going off courtesy of Ms. Mon.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why does a youth minister

... have a sawed-off shotgun in his home? And why would he give it to a 14 year old boy to examine? And why are children from youth ministry at his home on a school night?

Chelsea and her sister, Ashley, 18, left to return to their nearby
house, but Chelsea forgot her purse. As she returned to Mr. Owens' living room
to get it, a sawed-off shotgun being examined by a 14-year-old boy in the group
went off.
She was killed instantly.
Mr. Owens told police one of the boys
wanted to look at the shotgun. He said he unloaded it before handing it to him.
However, it still contained a cartridge. Police could not be reached yesterday
to say if charges will be filed.

That's a lot of poor judgement for one man to make in a single evening. Especially one given responsibility for young people. What's up with that?

I did the whole youth group thing in high school and college. I'm pretty sure my parents would nev-ah have left me go to the youth director's home and I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't have gone back if they knew he gave weapon exhibits to teenagers. Of course, my parent's church was pastored by Father John Wellinger so perhaps that isn't the best comparison.

But, seriously, can someone explain to me how a leader of young men and women isn't being held up for more scrutiny here? Even if you can explain why he owns the gun, why was it loaded? Even if you explain that, why would he show it to a child? Even if you explain that, why would he ... nah, you can't explain it.

Can you?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Do you know this song lyric?

Chalk this up to desperation.

I hate the annual clash of interfamilial holiday traditions. I am not a list maker. If you don't know me well enough to determine what I'd like as a present, don't buy one. Ask me my size, my color preference, etc. Don't ask me what I want. I know I'm particular and fussy. I read books from the library. I borrow CD's from Ledcat. Pay attention!

On the flip side, being handed a list is like a giant wall of expectation bashing Jesus AND Santa into a tiny heap of "Sparkle Season" dust. Don't give me the list of crap you haven't gotten around to buying for yourself. Don't put me in a box. Don't tell me you want Lemon Verbana Body Lotion from the Bath & Body Works because I'm not buying you something that was slathered on a cat for testing purposes. I'm going to The Body Shop and purchasing the closest possible scent. The fact that you would even suggest shows you don't know me well enough to receive a gift from me. Don't give me three gift card options. Don't tell me to send your kid a check because I'll never pick something he'd like. And for Mona's sake, please don't give me a gift and pout when I don't succumb to the temptation to spend $25.00 on people I don't even like very much. There are plenty of people I do like for whom I will not shell out $25.00.

So, Ledcat's mother has a small list. She's pretty creative and goes off-list so I can roll with that. She once made me a cute little "dress" for my dishsoap b/c I admired hers. She made it! For me! That's worth several years of semi-list requests.

She wants the album containing a song she hears on the radio. I'm guessing an Adult Contemporary Station out of Youngstown somewhere between 100.7 and 99.7. There's a "countryish" song sung by a woman with the title something like "Go Ahead and Try."

That's all I know. Both of her 90something parents are in the hospital and she finds the song uplifting and inspiring. She's also really worn down and just can't recall any more than that. So I search the Internet, sign up for (gulp!) country music lyric boards and still, nothing.

Help a lesbian out! I may have take Green Day out of my work CD player and listen to Lite Rock. That won't be good for anyone. Especially the kids!

ps: I recognize that my whole refusal to "compromise my values" arguement re The Body Shop is completely undermined by the plea for help on a list item. But ... she made me a dress, ladies!

with thanks to shakesville, too true!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Officer Bradley – there oughta be a law

Source: WPXI – Rick Earle story, he’s doing a follow up.

The details I have:

Pgh. Police Ofcr. Bradley Walker was arrested – 2 counts of assault. Spent night in All. County jail. Is now out, without bail, back on active duty with NO restrictions – yes, that means he still has his gun.

With all of the media attention, council hearings, public outcry & demand for redress over the last 6 months, this is how the police brass reacts to Walker’s situation?

Council will deliberate the new ordinance, which merges Shields/Peduto’s work with that of the Admin. & Police Dept., on Weds., November 28th.


Of course I'm thankful for family, friends and freedom and blah blah blah. But let's explore this "free" thing a little more, shall we?

I would like to thank all the women who freely give their time, effort and talent to this blog, so that I may have informative and entertaining things to read. Free!

I would like to thank the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for making their paper available to me. Free!

And the Trib. Free!

And all the other newspapers and magazines and online publications I am able to access -- gratis.

Library? Fa-ree!

I would like to thank my colleagues at the Carbolic Smoke Ball for continuing to entertain me. No charge for that, either. Or any of the other blogs that I read.

I would like to thank the good folks at City Paper and the other publications to which I have contributed for paying me, as well as for gainful employment outside the realm of writing -- so that I can continue to write in other forums ... you guessed it ... for free!

Which brings me back to being free to make the very conscious decision to not go shopping today. I feel like I don't lack for a thing.

That's better than free. It's priceless.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


we still have so much to be thankful for.

today, i will concentrate on those things.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Harlan loves the Mommy Bloggers!

Perhaps you've read "Help Me Harlan" in the Post-Gazette Sunday edition? As opposed to the Cat's Call/Just Ask Cat advice drivel tucked into Tuesday's edition? Harlan is nationally syndicated ("Like Dear Abby, only younger, hairier and a man."). Cat Specter has local political and society connections, plus a kicky beret. I'm not a fan.

Anyhoo, Harlan is working on a "How to be helpful" book for first time fathers and he wants help from mommies and daddies across the land. Follow the links to share your thoughts on how an expectant father can be supportive throughout pregnancy.

I generally like Harlan's advice, but have to admit that I groaned when he made the oh-so-obvious joke about eating a hamburger in front a woman in labor sucking on ice chips. Having never given birth myself, I can speculate that feeling helpless and terrified far transcend being a clueless, bumbling fool.

My brother-in-law is an awesome father, 100% invested in coparenting his toddler. He was as involved in the pregnancy as possible (from my limited vantage, I must acknowledge). But after being up for 26 straight hours, he went home for a nap and didn't wake up when he was supposed to return to the hospital. After an understandably frantic call from his wife, Ledcat had to literally drag him out of his bed which set in motion a predictable chain of guilt, anger, frustration and some yelling. Meanwhile, I fed the cats. I must give him props for how he handled the entire situation, post-nap. And no one jokes about it. Especially because she's pregnant again.

Harlan should be sure to include one sure-fire solution to these situations: have a set of childless, lesbian aunties on hand at all times for daddy shaking and cat feeding. Plus, where other bring flowers, we bring diapers. Amen.

The Society: 25 Bloggerettes Strong!

Welcome to Jamie, Pandora and nytesong whose participation brings The Society membership to a robust 25 bloggers. Yesterday (November 17) was our 7th month anniversary. One doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the other, but there you have it.

Be sure to check out The Society blogroll in the right-hand column for a glimpse of what's up for discussion in our individual domains.

Welcome, again!

UPDATE: Not three minutes after I posted this message, Eleanor became our 26th member. Welcome to Eleanor, too!

Three Books for Three Days

During the past three days, I had the good sense and the ability to read three incredible books: Terror Dream, Susan Faludi; Blindness, Jose Sarmago; and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer. My thoughts rarely ever stray too far from analysing post 9.11 United States, but the first and the last titles allowed me to examine the event from other, fresher microscopes.

Faludi; though at times I get annoyed when her emotions, innocence, and lack of experience (of poverty, of motherhood, of siblings even) interfere with her logic and reason, I always hang on for the ride because I know - whether or not I agree with her observations - that I will praise her for her insight. Part of her thesis is that America returned to its (ir)regularly scheduled program following 9.11; the one in which voices of intelligent women all but disappear from the media, the one in which women are the helpless victims, and men are our saviors.

My opinion: it's a valid and true argument. It wasn't and isn't enough that the U.S. is fighting a war (as a result of the despotic rule of GWB n' Co). I believe the same thing occured during the years of the Vietnam War. The war wasn't just over there>>>, it was propagandized as an attack on home soil as well, with enemies like "hippies" (who, in reality opposed so much more than the war!), "blacks", drug users, criminals (laughable, considering it was Nixon pushing the message), feminists, and Muslims. Why did masses of people still rise up against the system? Was the propaganda late in coming? Was there no real attack on home soil, like Pearl Harbor, to gather together the people to fight and support a war? Did citizens have too much freedom? Or federal authorities too little control? Was it because they didn't have a privatized mercenary army? Obviously, this isn't the medium to properly address these questions; I just want to plant the seeds.

I don't know about you, but from where I stand I've been able to see unbelievable change in this country in the past six years. For the record: I don't participate in viewing television programs and I don't pay much attention to corporate media, which includes movies and popular magazines. I witness enough of it though. I read more than anyone I know, not much fiction. And I observe people...on purpose. I listen to them, watch their actions, their mannerisms.

Right now, the change coming to mind pertaining directly to women is how readily so many are willing to objectify themselves these days. I see it more in the younger women. It seems common, accepted and most definitely encouraged. Is it related to 9.11 and the return to cultural mores long established that place women in the mythological role of victim or object needed by the supposed hero to validate his self worth? I don't know. I just notice it, and after reading Terror Dream the other day, I thought, 'man, I wish I could have a conversation with this woman', because she's observed something similar. Her book provided me with a different venue to explore what I think I believe about that. Anyway, I highly recommend taking the time to read it or sections of it, and be patient. While Faludi may not have 20/20 insight, she's damn close.

Oh! Almost forgot! As for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - not that anyone is looking to be told what to read - you should just read it, obviously. (that's something Oskar would say - obviously) Oskar is the nine year old from whose perspective the reader hears most of the narrative, and whose father had a meeting at Windows on the World the morning of 9.11. It' speaks for itself. Yes, it's that good.

Friday, November 16, 2007

La terreur transsexuelle

I received this from a friend in France. Its a Turkish documentary on trans issues and how trans people are portrayed (poorly) in the media and larger society. It's subtitled in French.

Anyone else catch this headline?

“Tomorrow on ‘Good Morning America,’ our correspondent faces the greatest fear of women undergoing cancer: losing her hair.”

Anyone else a little uneasy over it?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mrs. Huckabee likes the weapons

According to the Wonkette:

Polite small talk over cucumber sandwiches and Earl Gray may work for some tea parties, but Janet Huckabee likes talking weapons. During a tea party at the South Carolina governor’s mansion, Huckabee told CNN she’s pretty good with a grenade launcher. “I have fired a grenade launcher and hit the target two out of three times, so I think that’s pretty good odds for me,” she said, noting that she had a special interest in military matters and has also jumped out of an airplane, flown in an F-16 and shot an MP5 submachine gun.

(Cue Meatloaf: Now don’t be sad… cause two out of three ain’t bad.)

“I just was at the National Guard training camp at Camp Robinson and they just said we just want to, you know, introduce you to some of the equipment and some of the military guns that they have. And so one of them happened to be a grenade launcher, and so I shot it, and they said, ‘You’re good.’ And I said, ‘Thank you.’”

We’re not sure why, but we sort of think there’s something sexy about a woman wielding weapons. Issues?

Mrs. Huckabee: 2-for-3 with a grenade launcher [CNN]

-Agent Ska-

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

just my reply to McCain's non-reply to a supporter's use of the term about Clinton.

me, i haven't made up my mind about who will get my vote but i resent the term
being used as to Clinton.

McCain, he SHOULD be ashamed that he did not say anything.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pittsburgh Transgender Day of Remembrance

The Pittsburgh Transgender Day of Remembrance will be held on Sunday, November 18, 2007, at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 304 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. 15213

Ceremony will begin at 7pm and last no later than 8pm. Reception to follow.

Please contact Emilia Lombardi for more information. 412-383-2233, or


There are liars, and there are politicians; but I repeat myself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Post-Gazette on ENDA "It is a shame"

This is the best the PG could muster on a legislative "victory" at the expense of the most vulnerable members in our (LGBT) community:

If anything, HR 3685 does not go far enough. It should have covered
transsexual and transgender individuals, who are just as worthy of compassion
and understanding, but their interests were sacrificed to increase political
That's a shame. But this bill, if it wins support in the Senate, as
we hope it will, would make a historic statement about tolerating

Wow. The rest of the piece is decent, but there's no real examination of how leaving gender presentation and gender identity out of the legislation impacts us all. There's no sentence about the improbability of amending the act somewhere down the line. There's no acknowledgement that the majority of national LGBT organizations opposed the stripped down version and, thus, no reason to ask why.

And, most importantly, there's no acknowledgement of the legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania chambers by Dan Frankel.

While I personally appreciate their support, I wish the PG editors had written the complex analysis circumstances warrant rather than churning out the "we love the homos" refrain.

That's a shame.

Mind Boggling

A lawyer for the man accused of raping a University of Cincinnati student said the encounter could have been consensual because the woman has a history of sleepwalking.

And it gets even worse.



I really want to love this man and give him a great big hug and say, on behalf of all the children, thank you! Really I do. I want to wax rhapsodic about his jolly spirit of giving with unbridled ecstasy and unparalled gratitude.

But I can't. Because from personal experience, I can tell you that, in this climate, there is nothing more tragic than receiving a bicycle for Christmas. Really. Just hear me out. Then poo-poo me all you want.

There's no argument that a bike always makes for a magnificent, magical moment when its discovered placed just so in front of a glistening tree on Christmas morning. But then a harsh -- and a literal cold -- reality hits. You can't ride it. Even as a seven-year-old, you know this shit.

It's icy out. It's snowy out. It's freeeeezing. And God only knows when this is going to change. Days seem like months and months seem like years to a kid.

I remember my first shiny red (they all used to be shiny and red) bike. It had no gears, and somewhat intimidating fenders (my mother's first attempt at keeping the boys away, I think). And I clearly recall pleading with my mother to take it out on Christmas day for a glorious maiden voyage that I'd love to share with you, but I can't. Because the roads were covered with snow.

"No! Are you crazy? You can't ride a bicycle out there in this weather!" (Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, mom.)

The Christmas bicycle tradition of giving would continue until I was 16, and had worked my way up to a sleek blue ten-speed with ram horn handlebars. (We didn't get cars like kids get today, guys.)

You would think that I would have remembered this as an adult, with my own children. But no, there is something in the soul that subconsciously wants to torment your children the way you were tormented. So when my older two were small, they both got bikes one year. And they couldn't ride them. All they could do was admire them, and maybe cruise them across the living room.

It was after that fateful Christmas morning when I realized I was repeating the proverbial mistakes of the past that I vowed to never give a bike for a Christmas gift again. It's heartbreaking. The waiting ... and the waiting. The staring at the bike. Then the eventual storing of the bike. The realization that you've given Huffy money you could have invested in a short-term CD. Sad, sad, sad.

Since the kids have birthdays in April and May, I promised myself that's when they'd get a new bike -- if they needed it.

The cycle of heartbreak had to end, once and for all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Female Serial Killer Has To Work Twice As Hard To Achieve Notoriety"

OTSEGO, MI—While she may not be making the nightly news or gracing the covers of Time and Newsweek, 46-year-old nursing-home worker Barbara Louise Huxley is a dedicated, ruthless killer. But in today's male-dominated world of remorseless slaughter, Huxley has been forced to murder twice as many innocent victims just to gain the public exposure and foster the widespread panic her male counterparts routinely enjoy.


"There's nothing more upsetting than strangling someone with surgical tubing, only to have them look at you in shock and disbelief," Huxley said. "It's like, 'Why are you so surprised? Is it because I'm a woman?!'"

Read the rest here.

Gotta love The Onion.


-Agent Ska-

Veterans Day

November 11 is Veterans Day (observed tomorrow). In honor of that, I'm passing along this list of things you can do to support the troops that made its way into my mailbox:

(With apologies to David Letterman)

10. Post a message on the Wounded Heroes Tribute page
Go to to send a message to someone recovering from injuries.

9. Knit or crochet a helmet liner
Go to to download the pattern.

8. Donate Phone Cards
Go to , to send phone cards to our troops overseas.

7. Send Books
Go to , to find out how to send books to our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and in military hospitals.

6. Help Provide Groceries
Go to , to help provide groceries for service families.

5. Donate Your Frequent Flyer Miles
Go to , to help service men and women get back to their families.

4. Support the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes
Go to to help wounded and disabled veterans

3. Visit
Get names and addresses of service men and women and send them care packages.

2. Give To Homes For Our Troops
Call 866-7-troops, to donate to build or remodel accessible homes for severely injured veterans

1. Call Your Congressman
Tell him Dennis Kucinich is right. Impeach Bush and Cheney Now!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Dearest Gary Pletsch,

I told you this would happen.

For years, I have purchased your pottery only as gifts to be given to other people (I specify because the practice of "buying gifts for oneself" seems to be growing in popularity). In fact, one of your beautiful blue cobalt bowls was bestowed upon my good friend Mary and her
husband, who have on many occasions, along with their giant Newfoundlands, taken to entertaining me in their lovely home. (Though it was probably more the other way around.)

Another, larger, dusky green bowl belongs to my artsy, ragtime piano-playing friend Chris, who (or whom, whichever school of wordsmithery you subscribe to) me (or I; see previous parenthetical statement) and my kids love because he's one of the funniest people we know. He refers to his three brothers as "the unholy trinity" (one's a lawyer, one has a Ph.D. and is a school bully expert --and Chris always cracks me up when he says, "Well, he should know all about bullying since he beat the living shit out of me when I was a kid" -- and I forget what the third one does; I only met him once at at a funeral --but I'm sure he's equally nefarious). I yelled at him because I found your lovely bowl in the dishwasher at his house. More than once. He uses it as a centerpiece on his table and always puts it out when we're coming over because he knows it makes me happy. Until he puts it in the dishwasher again.

Marie has a lovely plate that you made. (Figure that one out.)

Being that I have such a soft spot for potters, I finally gave in to you. You wore me down like a pair of 20-inch tires in Brookline during the spring thaw until I got a piece of my own, after I told you and I told you, "my kids will break it."

Now, I'm left here to pace and ponder how to put a positive spin on my shattered piece of pottery. Oh, the turmoil!

Do you think if I put "Unchained Melody" on the stereo, plant myself in my youngest son's Sit 'N Spin and concentrate hard enough, Patrick Swayze will embrace me from behind? I mean, at least then I wouldn't care so much about the broken pottery.

Ms. Mon

P.S. Crazy Glue, right?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rapist of 12 year-old hired by Pgh Public Works

Crossposted from 2pj at Sue and Sherry's request (with a h/t to Gloria who posted this story to a mailing list):


Bernard Pendleton is a truck driver for the City Public Works Department. He's a Democratic Committeeman. He's also a convicted felon.

Court documents show that in 1987 Pendleton approached a 12-year-old girl at a bus stop, asked her if she wanted to go smoke marijuana, then took her to a house and raped her, threatening, "If you tell somebody, you know what is going to happen."


Public Works Director Guy Costa is one of several city leaders who approved the hiring of Pendleton because of his Democratic Party affiliation. They never saw his criminal file - didn't know he raped a 12-year-old. But they did know he was a felon. Right on his job application he admits to pleading guilty to statutory rape and illegal gun possession.

"We felt it was good for us to hire him as a truck driver," Costa said.

Griffin: "So it's okay then? On his record he says, 'I have been convicted rape.' That doesn't come across anybody's desk?"

Costa: "Based on the information we had at the time we felt that he was the best candidate."

(Apparently, however, there is no truth to the rumor that Public Works will be handing out Aqua Dots to city children for the holidays.)

May we add that this type of thing is exactly why we need ordinances and not just departmental polices when it comes to hiring and promotions practices in this city?

While we are gratified to learn that women's and DV groups are continuing to meet with police and city officials this week over police policies on officers with domestic violence histories, we cannot allow the police bureau to simply institute their own guidelines.

There must be laws in place when it comes to the safety of women and children in our city.

Coffee Houses?

I am searching for a list of coffee houses. I'm trying something a bit innovative (one hopes) by taking my foster parent recruitment on the road in 2008 (The CoffeeHouse Tour). I'd like to tap into the community aspect and use it as a vehicle to educate the public about foster care - to tap into the need for the community to embrace children in the foster care system, be it as foster parents or in some other way.

A classic example was my asking some friends to contribute $3.00 to help us send a really amazing set of foster parents out for dinner. They have a lot of children in their care and do a great - no, make that amazing - job, so we were able to arrange for childcare and a nice dinner. (Childcare for foster care is a bit more complicated than asking your neighbor's teen to watch the children for a few hours.) I asked the babysitter how it went and she told me they came home looking more rested and relaxed than they had in the past six months. Recharging their batteries helps them continue to foster parent at that super-awesome level. It was a lovely testimony to how everyday folks can support foster families. $3.00 made a real difference. And you'll never hear about it on the news, so I'm going to make sure you hear about it from me.

So I'm gonna spend six months drinking coffee and snacking on biscotti -- for the kids, of course.

I've discovered that coffeehouses are very prevalent in the East End and the Northside, so I need some help to ID spots in other parts of town. Any thoughts?

I've contacted:
The Vault
Quiet Storm
Taza D'oro
Coffee Tree Roasters
Crazy Mocha
Blue Horse

So I'm good with the North Side and the entire East End. I'd really like to find something in the Penn Hills/Monroeville area, the West End and the Homestead/Munhall area. Maybe the North Hills.

So here's my official plea for information on CoffeeHouses or similar places. Ideally, I need

Thursday, November 8, 2007


These are the things that make me want to pull my hair out and scream.

These are the things that just make me laugh.

These are the things that drive me to drink.

P.S. Please don't let me forget this next time I go to the grocery store.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Clarification: Chris Potter Rocks as a Feminist

From this week's City Paper

Potter wrote a column about the Duquesne University/WDUQ/Planned Parenthood debacle. He suggested protesting the actions of Duquesne University by making a donation to PP in the name of the University President, Charles Dougherty.

Dougherty contacted PP by letter stating that he did not wish to be associated with donations. PP contacted the City Paper, but didn't release the letter or make further comment.

So the City Paper is dutifully informing readers in a delicious "why didn't you just let sleeping dogs lie, Chuck?" kind of way. Read on and let me know what you think ...

City Paper apologizes to readers who might have thought Dougherty did want you to [make a contribution in his name.] We tried to make it
clear that contributing to Planned Parenthood was probably
the last thing Dougherty wanted -- and that this was precisely why City
Paper was suggesting it. City Paper's point was that Duquesne
administrators had hijacked WDUQ's name and reputation to promote their own
ideology; we were merely returning the favor.

But apparently, at least one person, Charles J. Dougherty, was confused on
this point.

So to ensure there are no further misunderstandings, Chris Potter will make
another contribution in the name of Charles J. Dougherty. This time it
willbe to NARAL Pro-Choice America, the country's foremost advocate for
reproductive freedom.

If you care to follow suit, make out your check to "NARAL Pro-Choice America," and mail it to 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. Bear in mind, please, that Charles J. Dougherty does not wish to be associated with your gift."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


go vote.

Freedoms Plow by
Langston Hughes

When a man starts out with nothing,
When a man starts out with his hands
Empty, but clean,
When a man starts to build a world,
He starts first with himself
And the faith that is in his heart-
The strength there,
The will there to build.

First in the heart is the dream-
Then the mind starts seeking a way.
His eyes look out on the world,
On the great wooded world,
On the rich soil of the world,
On the rivers of the world.

The eyes see there materials for building,
See the difficulties, too, and the obstacles.
The mind seeks a way to overcome these obstacles.
The hand seeks tools to cut the wood,
To till the soil, and harness the power of the waters.
Then the hand seeks other hands to help,
A community of hands to help-
Thus the dream becomes not one man's dream alone,
But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone,
But your world and my world,
Belonging to all the hands who build.

A long time ago, but not too long ago,
Ships came from across the sea
Bringing the Pilgrims and prayer-makers,
Adventurers and booty seekers,
Free men and indentured servants,
Slave men and slave masters, all new-
To a new world, America!

With billowing sails the galleons came
Bringing men and dreams, women and dreams.
In little bands together,
Heart reaching out to heart,
Hand reaching out to hand,
They began to build our land.
Some were free hands
Seeking a greater freedom,
Some were indentured hands
Hoping to find their freedom,
Some were slave hands
Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom,
But the word was there always:

Down into the earth went the plow
In the free hands and the slave hands,
In indentured hands and adventurous hands,
Turning the rich soil went the plow in many hands
That planted and harvested the food that fed
And the cotton that clothed America.
Clang against the trees went the ax into many hands
That hewed and shaped the rooftops of America.
Splash into the rivers and the seas went the boat-hulls
That moved and transported America.
Crack went the whips that drove the horses
Across the plains of America.
Free hands and slave hands,
Indentured hands, adventurous hands,
White hands and black hands
Held the plow handles,
Ax handles, hammer handles,
Launched the boats and whipped the horses
That fed and housed and moved America.
Thus together through labor,
All these hands made America.

Labor! Out of labor came villages
And the towns that grew cities.
Labor! Out of labor came the rowboats
And the sailboats and the steamboats,
Came the wagons, and the coaches,
Covered wagons, stage coaches,
Out of labor came the factories,
Came the foundries, came the railroads.
Came the marts and markets, shops and stores,
Came the mighty products moulded, manufactured,
Sold in shops, piled in warehouses,
Shipped the wide world over:
Out of labor-white hands and black hands-
Came the dream, the strength, the will,
And the way to build America.
Now it is Me here, and You there.
Now it's Manhattan, Chicago,
Seattle, New Orleans,
Boston and El Paso-
Now it's the U.S.A.

A long time ago, but not too long ago, a man said:
His name was Jefferson. There were slaves then,
But in their hearts the slaves believed him, too,
And silently too for granted
That what he said was also meant for them.
It was a long time ago,
But not so long ago at that, Lincoln said:
There were slaves then, too,
But in their hearts the slaves knew
What he said must be meant for every human being-
Else it had no meaning for anyone.
Then a man said:
He was a colored man who had been a slave
But had run away to freedom.
And the slaves knew
What Frederick Douglass said was true.

With John Brown at Harper's Ferry, Negroes died.
John Brown was hung.
Before the Civil War, days were dark,
And nobody knew for sure
When freedom would triumph
"Or if it would," thought some.
But others new it had to triumph.
In those dark days of slavery,
Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom,
The slaves made up a song:
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
That song meant just what it said: Hold On!
Freedom will come!
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
Out of war it came, bloody and terrible!
But it came!
Some there were, as always,
Who doubted that the war would end right,
That the slaves would be free,
Or that the union would stand,
But now we know how it all came out.
Out of the darkest days for people and a nation,
We know now how it came out.
There was light when the battle clouds rolled away.
There was a great wooded land,
And men united as a nation.

America is a dream.
The poet says it was promises.
The people say it is promises-that will come true.
The people do not always say things out loud,
Nor write them down on paper.
The people often hold
Great thoughts in their deepest hearts
And sometimes only blunderingly express them,
Haltingly and stumblingly say them,
And faultily put them into practice.
The people do not always understand each other.
But there is, somewhere there,
Always the trying to understand,
And the trying to say,
"You are a man. Together we are building our land."

Land created in common,
Dream nourished in common,
Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on!
If the house is not yet finished,
Don't be discouraged, builder!
If the fight is not yet won,
Don't be weary, soldier!
The plan and the pattern is here,
Woven from the beginning
Into the warp and woof of America:
Who said those things? Americans!
Who owns those words? America!
Who is America? You, me!
We are America!
To the enemy who would conquer us from without,
We say, NO!
To the enemy who would divide
And conquer us from within,
We say, NO!
To all the enemies of these great words:
We say, NO!

A long time ago,
An enslaved people heading toward freedom
Made up a song:
Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
The plow plowed a new furrow
Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.
That tree is for everybody,
For all America, for all the world.
May its branches spread and shelter grow
Until all races and all peoples know its shade.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Barney Frank Reception

I attended the reception for Barney Frank this past Saturday, which was held at the very beautiful home of Christine Donohue (who herself is running for judgeship for the Superior Court of PA) and sponsored by Stonewall Democrats. It was very nice and I and a number of my friends from the University and from around town were there. But my main goal of the afternoon was to hear what Rep. Frank had to say about the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

The facts; ENDA will be coming up for a vote this week; Rep Baldwin will offer and then pull her amendment so it will not receive a vote; ENDA without gender identity protections will go forward for a vote (Rep’s Doyle and Altmire stated that they were going to vote yea for this bill); and then it’s the wait to see if the Senate picks it up. None of this is actually new, but a couple things caught my attention.

The first was a comment made by Rep. Frank about how politicians say one thing and do another. One might ask “how is this new?”, but being reminded of this does make this whole situation understandable. My hypothesis is that Reps told activists/lobbyists one thing (that they are supportive of gender identity within ENDA) and then told their leadership another (I can’t vote for this). That could explain the disparate perceptions between Rep Frank and activists. But being a good scientist I can’t either find support or nonsupport of this hypothesis because I don’t have the data to make such a pronouncement. But it does bring attention to the problems inherent in this process. How do we as activists know when people are not only supportive but also willing to act on that feeling?

Needless to say, those supporting gender identity and trans inclusion not only need to continue their work but to step things up a bit. In addition, those of us (and include myself in this) who have been a bit lax in getting involved need to get more involved. We need to move out of our comfort zone because politicians need more education and those currently working toward inclusion need the help. We can no longer be complacent. This includes PA Rep. Frankel’s ENDA for Pennsylvania, which could suffer the same fate as the federal ENDA. In addition, we need more leadership from our Rep’s to help us identify areas of concern and to act upon them. I told Rep. Frank that I thought the process in which all this happened caused much of the problem. Rather than just stripping gender identity out behind closed doors that if he and others spoke to community activists about the situation, even if it would have lead to the same noninclusive bill, that might have diffused people’s anger over the situation.

This brings me to my second observation about Rep. Frank. I don’t think I exist in his community. I think he is very fixated within a very specific idea of a gay and lesbian community and see’s the transgender community as something distinct as opposed to being part of a larger whole. That is not to say that he hates transpeople, it’s more that he gives us as much thought as he does with the Llama Milk Producers of America. We exist in his eyes, but not much more than that. Rep. Baldwin, on the other hand, sees transpeople as being part of her community. Much of this is generational, and Rep. Frank is not alone. There are many LGB people (with varying degrees of animosity) with the same feeling that transpeople are not part of their community. They are a group that people have been neglected in being educated about trans issues. We have been focusing primarily upon the transphobia and trans-ignorance of non-LGB people rather than the transphobia and trans-ignorance found among LGB people. I also want to include dealing with the homophobia found among transpeople in this as well. All this fighting ignores those of us who are queer in our sexuality and our gender and who end up getting caught up in this mess.

My to do list is as follows:

1. Contact Mara Keisling and ask her about her needs in educating politicians.

2. Contact Rep. Doyle for his advice in educating his peers.

3. Contact PA Rep Frankle to ask him what needs to be done so that the PA ENDA remains inclusive of gender identity.

Regardless of my personal feelings for many of the people and groups involved, there is much to be done and I don’t feel I have the luxury of righteous anger no matter how appropriate it is.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Written Saturday, posted today. (Because stale bread makes better French toast.)

To sleep, perchance ... to sleep.

You'll never, ever hear me bragging that I only need five hours of sleep, as though this somehow made me more virtuous than the person who needs six, seven, eight or nine. I can get by on five hours (and countless times less, like you, dear reader), but then I am crabby. Very crabby. It is only if I act on this clinically well-documented predisposition to be "crabby" from sleep deprivation that I am willing to admit that, in terms of ethical parlance, I stand on lower, moral high ground than my neighbor. (That must be why I like high heels so much.)

My daughter has piano lessons this morning, but she had a sleepover last night and needs to be picked up at 8:30, meaning I need at least an hour to become "caffeinated" and therefore functional. Her piano lessons aren't until 10:30, but she needs to primp. Why she needs to look like she's going to the prom to see Mrs. Dinglehoffer to play Finiculi Finicula, I've no idea. Wait, I do. She's a teenager. I'm just being rhetorically obtuse. Writers love doing that. Isn't that annoying?

(Ms. Mon to Ms. Mon: You said you don't write posts like this. You make fun of posts like this. I sincerely hope you are going to taunt yourself sufficiently when this post is over. No. Don't write that. You're going to write about the laundry? What's happened to you? Please, for the love of all that is sacrilege, stop now! Do I HAVE TO REMIND YOU ABOUT THAT B+, MS. MON? You know -- the B+ you received in that post-graduate class at Duquesne when you wrote some drivel about your theories on where all the missing socks go? )

So as I was saying, before Ms. Mon interrupted (it would have been Vivian, her copyreader, but alas, she is not a member of the society): I have so much laundry to catch up on since my dryer was broken for several days. It was just the heating element, and so, I feel good that it cost only $150 to repair, and it wasn't another case of "it's cheaper to replace it than to fix," as so many things are these days. Without digressing into an invective of my conspiracy theories (SEE: "THEY MAKE THEM THAT WAY ON PURPOSE BECAUSE MY GRANDMOTHER STILL HAS THE SAME DAMN TV SHE HAD 40 YEARS AGO AND IT WORKS JUST FINE"), suffice it to say I'm rather perturbed that this has become more the rule than the exception. (Monday update: Yes, I read the the story about should you fix or toss your iPod ... but remember, it's still Saturday here on this post. So forget I just wrote that.)

I notice there are a lot of booster and lobbying sites for green this and green that, and that's all fine and dandy, but I'm one of those people who tries to practice that adage, "be the change you want to see in the world." (Stop throwing corn at me, Halloween's over.) In the summer I actually do put laundry outside to dry once in a while, but it's just not practical time-wise for me. I have a line in my basement laundry room, but the clothes take forever to dry, since that's the coldest part of the house. And again, a time issue.

So I ask myself, do I have the most energy efficient dryer I can? I'm not sure. I have meetings with my kids, and during the latest one -- prompted by the incident now known as "MADDIE BROKE THE DRYER" -- I tell my son to stop underloading (he is notorious for putting a "special jersey" in that needs to be fluffed) because it wastes electricity, and laundry has a symbiotic relationship with other laundry, and we don't want it getting lonely or anything because that's when the clothes start turning on us, as in the white clothes turning red, or blue, usually .... and then I tell my daughter that she can't overload, because the dryer can only hold so much Abercrombie & Fitch (yes, we had that talk -- you know, about the messages on the shirts -- and it was indeed heated, but we came to a compromise), and we need it to last as long as possible (it's two years old). My seven-year-old, thankfully, has no interest in doing anything but dirtying clothes. Nothing warms my heart more than a mud-caked seven-year-old.

I'm not a big fan of all the chemical products available to wash laundry, either. Truly -- how many products do you need for clean clothes? I also think of the impact all of these chemicals have on the enviroment. Speaking of which, I absolutely detest air fresheners and my gut tells me they're bad for our bodies. (What, your gut doesn't talk?)

The thing about air fresheners is, they smell like air fresheners. They don't smell like "dewey mornings." I have tried the "oil" plug-in type fresheners (I have three kids and a dog, so go figure), but they make my throat scratchy and honestly, if the warning says they'll outright kill your parakeet* ... what are they doing to us?

I think air fresheners are nothing but toxins in pretty packages and I've had it with them. I know someone who has one of those toilet paper holders that "releases" a fresh scent every time you unroll the t.p. ... and I just choke. Just call me the bathroom asthmatic.

Gladé me ass. (Forgive the Irish pirate potty talk.)

And speaking of near asthmastic incidents, why I was just in a class this weekend and for some reason, the chalk dust was really bothering me. I usually don't sit that close to the board though, so maybe that's why. I always have to sit on the end seat near the door when I'm in a classroom, because I have claustrophobia. Or maybe it's just classtrophobia. Classtroclaustrophobia? Possible. I never rule anything out.

* Not that I ever killed a parakeet this way, mind you. He resuscitated quite nicely.

Ahh .... so that's what it's like to write "one of those posts."