Saturday, February 28, 2009

This just in: Cullen to return to airwaves

A confirmed source told me Lynn Cullen will be on WAMO during afternoon drive time, starting, (I think) on March 9, not sure as I didn't have a chance to write it down.

I told my source I'd get the word out. So maybe those calls & emails did help...



Women in Film and Media Event

The Third Annual International Short Film Showcase is coming again on Sunday, March 8.
Films made by women filmmakers from every part of the world will be showcased in one afternoon.

Simultaneously, these same films will be screened at other Women In Film locations in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Auckland New Zealand, Denmark, Tokyo and cities throughout the United States.


March 8, 2009
GRW Theatre
University Center
Point Park University
414 Wood Street
Pittsburgh, PA. 15222

FREE street parking !

Doors Open at 1:00 PM to a fabulous reception - Come and NETWORK !
Screening begins at 2:00 PM

Members and Students: $10.00
Patrons: $20.00

How do you get tickets? Just call 412-973-9799 and leave your name and phone number and amount of tickets

OR - just send a return email to this address with your contact information !

Faith J. Dickinson
Founding President
Women In Film and Media - Pittsburgh Chapter

Female Candidates Line up for 2010

From Politico:

Female candidates line up for 2010
By: Josh Kraushaar
February 23, 2009 04:32 AM EST

A slew of formidable female candidates, mostly Democrats, are lining up
to run for the Senate in 2010, enough to raise the prospect of a surge
of women into a chamber that currently has just 17 women senators.

Even at this early point in the election cycle, two prominent statewide
female officeholders have announced their campaigns in key battleground
states and at least 10 other experienced female candidates — ranging
from state officials to former CEOs to members of Congress— are
considering bids for the Senate.

“This is really unprecedented for leading female candidates jumping
in,” said Karen O’Connor, director of the Women and Politics Institute
at American University.

“It really is a landmark year because there’s a farm team now,”
O’Connor said. “Now you have mayors, congresswomen, secretaries of
state; they’re waiting in the wings, and they’re not going to sit back
any longer.”

In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has already received the
blessing of the Democratic establishment and is not expected to face
serious primary opposition in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Kit

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

RE: So You Want To Get Me All Excited

Ms. Mon can have her cake and eat it too, at least I think. I think she can keep her lovely job at the City Paper and keep on dreamin' about Potter. (Note: I thought this was too big for a comment, so I just wrote a follow-up blog.)

In Sunday's Pittsburgh Post Gazette article, "Sunday Forum: Newspapers 2.0" (February 15, 2009), David Swensen and Michael Schmidt argued that if we want to "preserve great journalism, and we do, endowing newspapers like colleges might be the way to go."

It is true, newspapers are quickly becoming the thing of the past. The Post has dwindled in size--the font has been lowered, the margins shrunk, sections bunked with another. Soon, "Politics" will be with the "Funnies" to further cut down on space. Readership has dwindled, debt increased, scrutiny of articles and fact-checking has failed the litmus-test of Edward R. Murrow. Are bloggers and the Internet really to blame?

-The canal industry blamed the railroad industry.

-The railroad industry blamed the car industry.

-The radio industry blamed the television industry.

-The record industry blamed the CD industry.

-The CD industry blamed the MP3 industry and Napster.

It's about adaptation. A lot of the canals were bought out by the railroad companies and then they built over top of them. The radio industry ended up using their patents and built and patterned the television network stations we know today. The CD industry started creating Internet sites where people can go and download music and create their own CDs or record an album right onto their MP3 players. And an almost extinct railroad industry is starting to make a comeback as technology is making them greener and faster.

How can newspapers of today adapt to a world of tomorrow? I know one big hurdle is advertisements do not bring in the revenue they need generated on the Internet. It's a fact. Even magazines that have gone strictly Internet only, appealing to a 'tween base, are feeling a pinch.

The Swensen/Schmidt article sites a profound Thomas Jefferson quote from 1787: "And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter."

"Today," Swensen/Schmidt argue, "we are dangerously close to having a government without newspapers."

It's a fact that as more newspapers rely on advertising, the more stress they feel to oblige them with less abrasive stories--Look at the New York Times with putting advertisements on their front page.

And it is true we are tribal with how we relate to each other. As the Internet grows, people get more and more isolated and more and more specific with their interests. What kinds of things brings us together as a nation--with over 500 cable channels to choose from and millions of Internet sites, where and what is the tie that binds us? A once-a-year Superbowl? It used to be practically every one of us got our news from the newspaper and/or the evening 6:00 news. We can no longer count on that. It is practically impossible to tell where a person gets his or her information. From YouTube to TMZ to USA Today to CNN, there are so many options, we as a nation have no connection to one another. Maybe that is a different blog.

So, a possible future of newspapers is to endowed them under the Section 501(c)(3) of the I.R.S. code, which provides an exemption from taxes on income and allows tax deductions for people who make contributions to eligible organizations.

But I would go further than Swensen/Schmidt and create a separate code for publications to allow for public opinion and the endorsement of public officials. This is the problem with 501's. Because newspapers would receive public monies, they would have to give up parts of their freedom of speech. I think this is vital to newspapers. Of course, a government official could go in there during an editorial board endorsement meeting and threaten to take away their money if they don't endorse, but I suppose that's the same as if the owner of the newspaper threatens in the same manner.

The point is, times are changing. We can sit back and watch newspapers go away, or we can do something about it and help them to adapt.

I say adapt.

Lady Elaine


So why am I writing this at three in the morning? Because I had a nightmare that Chris Potter, editor of Pittsburgh City Paper, was scolding me. Funny thing -- all your life, you're told from the time you're a child that dreams can come true. When the reality is, it's mostly the nightmares that happen. Anyway ...

I attended the panel discussion Tuesday night at 8, "The Future of Journalism and Democracy" sponsored by The University of Pittsburgh Honors College and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. With the open mind that I always have.

Well, nothing more to rouse the skeptic than three bloviating windbags -- middle-aged, white men in black suits with the added value of blogger Chad Hermann (did you see me blow you a kiss?) -- who's bark really is worse than his beard -- I mean, bite. He demeanor was quite affable. I would have stayed and talked to you after, Chad, but I had to cut out, as the kids say.

And sitting at a separate table, alone? The mousy Meg Martin (aka "token female"), online editor at The Roanoke Times (, also dressed conservatively in dark, who was clearly no match for any of these men, at least as an orator. I couldn't hear a damned word the woman was saying. She whispered. I know nothing of her writing or editing abilities, and she's most likely brilliant, but if you're going to be a panel discussion -- discuss for godssakes, and discuss it LIKE YOU MEAN IT! In other words, speak the hell up because it's a big frickin' auditorium here in The Twentieth Century Club and stop waving your hands in front of your face so I can't see you.

I was seated with my translator for the hearing-impaired (the man whom I kept asking, "What did he just say?" ... thanks, I owe you a chicken foot, by the way) in the small balcony overlooking the auditorium and was so distracted by the mammoth crystal chandelier I just kept thinking of that Alfred Hitchcock movie, Family Plot. (That's right. Just wave something shiny in front of the girl.)

Jonathan Wolman, editor and publisher of the Detroit News and publisher of its web site,, won me over like Jerry McGuire with this line: "We encourage folks to make their way to our digital delivery." He talked about trends a lot, too. I was waiting for a tingle, but nothing.

There was also much yammering of "forced migration." And somewhat dolorous descant of "citizen journalists." And mesmerizing mutterings of a magical place where "land is free." And the employment of strong, manly phrases like "steering options," as well as talk of "tribes migrating." After enough of this (and in order to keep myself awake), I am sitting there, legs crossed, thinking, "these guys have all seen Shane (the bloggers being the homesteaders, naturally, and the newspaper execs being the powerful cattle barons in conflict with the homesteaders -- but arguably the greatest Western of all time) or watched the 1977 TV series The Oregon Trail waaaay too many times. (The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams being far too, well, just bad.)" (Yes, I think with parenthetical statements.)

Not to mention there was a lot of doublespeak, giving me the palpable feeling that like these guys were truly circling their wagons and maybe I had stumbled into a casting call for Bonanza.

Jay Rosen talked about "empty desks and workspaces," in newsrooms. So I did the obvious math. Empty desks and workspaces in newsrooms = basements filled with men in pajamas eating Cheetos and intermittently surfing porn.

I roughly guesstimated that more than half the people there had to be AARP members. Since I was on the balconette, I was easily able to do this by counting the number of gray heads in the audience. Which is actually pretty cool, that you know -- old people are interested in civics, too.

One of my favorite moments of the evening was Hermann's pregnant pause after a question, submitted by the audience in advance, was asked of him, "How do you know which writer's are providing good information?" I could have knitted a sweater during that pause (and incidentally, there would be talk of knitting to come -- couldn't wait). He gave a long-winded answer using the word vet and blah blah blahed a bit. And apparently, he, too, had recently been watching Western frontier movies, because he commented, "It's about following the trail."

I was expecting someone to bring a donkey on stage at any moment, but alas, I think there was not room left for one more.

David Shribman made a few perfunctory and well-timed attempts at humor as moderator. (He's the executive editor and Vice President of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

Trying to sell themselves financially to me wasn't working, either. So you are making ten cents on the dollar. I'm biased -- as a paid writer -- so naturally, I'm thinking, we just aren't nearly as greedy as we need to be. Do you people know how much restaurant food is marked up? And that only stays with you for a few hours.

There was a brief but merciful respite from the cowboy talk, when there was blubbering of experiments and "trying to get some of of attraction." I think I took a nap.

When I snapped out of it, these guys had apparently gone back to the farmer talk. When Rosen was using someone's name as a hypothetical (ain't that the truth?) customer, he kept referring to "Betty McDonald." Could this be Old McDonald's wife, I asked myself? And why does everyone pick on the Irish?

I was told, "In the end, instant gratification goes only so far." Well, that's what you're not getting. It goes a long way. Why do you think there are so many porn sites, and they are so successful? Instant gratification is the new end, pal.

The mantra of the evening was "Today, the press is in trouble." No shit. The two Philly papers just filed for bankruptcy. I predict a slow and painful death of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and one of the publications I've been writing for for years, Pittsburgh City Paper. (I opened that up just for you, Chris.)

Rosen also claimed that blogging teaches you how the web works. I-am-glad-he-told-me-that-because-I-had-no-idea-how-the-web-worked-before-I-started-blogging. This was a very bold, uplifting and inspirational assertion that made me all feel-goody inside. Blogging will teach everyone how to use the web. Wow. The funniest notion was that the web was actually working.
Then there was a joke about crocheting and knitting blogs. (Run by females, so of course, not to be taken too seriously. I suppose we are to stick to our "mommy" and "recipe" blogging guys, right?) Gag me with your freaking silver spoons, boys.

But hey, I left with some free pencils that don't have erasers, a lovely hat and of course, a great sense of impending doom. Which I immediately quelled with beer and some other bad habits.

And where am I in all of this? Why I'm a cowgirl, baby. With the top let back and the sunshine shining. West Coast chillin' with the Boone's wine.

Love them or hate them (because apathy is the greatest crime here), if three really old guys are our future -- we're all screwed. You want to do something about it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mockumentary: Sexburgh

I wrote a post on my blog about changing the slogan, "Sixburgh" to "Sexburgh" as a new marketing scheme. I began to notice the term showing up in my search results so I decided to see what else could be found with that term on Google.

It turns out some kids made a rather amusing mockumentary about the growing problem of prostitution in Pittsburgh. Here it is. :-)

-Agent Ska-


Stay tuned for my don't-want-to-miss-report on the University of Pittsburgh Honors College and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Panel Discussion "The Future of Journalism and Democracy."

Hey, in the meantime, check out this really neat press hat I got!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NetRoots Nation for students

Time magazine calls 2008 "the year of the youth vote." At Netroots Nation, we hope to make every year about successful youth organizing.Because we aim to continually bring new voices into the progressive movement, for the first time ever, we are offering a special student rate for those enrolled at least half-time at a high school, community college, trade school or university.For just $50, you can participate in four days of insightful panels, training sessions and networking opportunities at the grassroots event of the year--the annual Netroots Nation convention to be held in Pittsburgh August 13–16.Click here to get your $50 registration: local campaigns to the past presidential race, youth activists like you have been a vital part of bottom-up organizing efforts. Now that the election's over, it's more important than ever that you remain an active part of the political process.Like always, this year's convention will feature tons of panels, training sessions, workshops and keynotes to help teach you how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate. Past gatherings have included a Presidential Leadership Forum that drew seven Democratic candidates, a surprise visit from Al Gore and an interactive Ask the Speaker session with Nancy Pelosi, so what are you waiting for?There are a limited number of student registrations. Click here register now: You must provide documentation proving you are at least a half-time student at a high school, community college, trade school or university to qualify for this special student rate. Otherwise, standard conference rates will apply.


Monday, February 23, 2009

This is about Ms. Mon's post directly below

(For some reason the 'secret letters' don't come up when I try to post on blogs today, so I must resort to this).

Are they only intending this for print media?
“The Future of Journalism and Democracy” would indicate it's a broader net they wish to cast.

No room at the inn for successful local bloggers. Even if 'success' is measured only in terms of # of readers, you'd think they'd want to learn how & why these blogs are successful. (And, yes, I realize Chad is on the panel and that he is risen! once again as a blogger).



So, as I'm accustomed to, one of the first things I do when I come home is rifle through the garbage because sometimes my kids have trouble distinguishing between "real" and "junk" mail. Your call here. And what to my surprise but from from underneath an empty can of tuna, I gingerly retrieved the following mailer. (So, yes, it smelled fishy in more ways than one, one might say. Me? Never. Why bother to say it anyway, when it's so convenient just to type it right here?)

It reads:

Join us for this panel presentation

Chad Hermann
Blogger, The Radical Middle (Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette); Editorial Director, Carbolic
Smoke Ball; Communication Consultant

Meg Martin
Online Editor, The Roanoke Times

Jay Rosen
Professor, New York University,
Department of Journalism

Jon Wolman
Editor and Publisher, Detroit News

moderated by
David Shribman
Executive Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The University Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh
and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette present
“The Future of Journalism and Democracy”
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - 8 p.m.
Twentieth Century Club Auditorium
4201 Bigelow Boulevard, Oakland
Reception immediately following the panel
Limited Seating;
Reservations Required
RSVP (preferred)
(or 412-624-6880)
Parking is available in
Soldiers and Sailors Garage

Be it first stated most clearly that I have no personal problem with Chad Hermann (with two nn's. And an implied "hanging Chad" joke). Let's just say I have a friend who knows Chad (or maybe more than one) who says he's really not all that bad and he's even charming. I've never met Chad. But yet, I feel I know him well. Could it be that he is more long-winded than Walt Whitman and promotes himself more than well -- which "anonymous" commenter brought up the analogy, I can't remember -- better than Billy Mays?

This is a purely professional. And let me also state clearly that I love men. Even though I'm an evil, equality-commanding feminist. And there are several men who could vouch for this, and vouch very well. :-)

But since he tries to hard to ignore me (even though he is poring over this -- Hi Chad! I see you!) because he is allied with the some men I shall refer to as "The old, unfunny farts," I'll just have to wait until tomorrow to ask him some questions. Won't you join me? Seating is limited, boys and girls.

I suppose I should be glad there is at least, a token female. (When they insist you're not the token female, it's a giveaway.) But giving first billing to someone who BLOGS FOR FREE for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- especially after he had nothing left to say -- and listing as a credential "Editorial Director of the Carbolic Smoke Ball Blog" pretty much tells me all I need to to know about journalism: it's dead.

Democracy, I hope, is still up in the air.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


As soon as I find that damn paper I lost.

It's here somewhere. You'll love this one, trust me.

Especially the "Anonymous."

Thursday, February 19, 2009



Monday, February 16, 2009


Mr. I-love-Bruce-Springsteen-go-male-rights!-us-upper-middle-class-men-are-being-cheated-and-I-have-candles-burning-in-my-shrine-to-The-Carbolic-Smoke-Bomb-oops-I-mean-Blog?

Yeah, I read his "Radical Middle" blog at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette site (isn't that what you wanted?). Ooh. It's so rad, it makes me want to eat at the Olive Garden and drink a Coors Light.

But it's IRONIC that it's the same spiel he's been spewing on his own now-defunct blog, and at the "man blog" ... just recycled for an allegedly larger audience. And this was supposed to be the stuff that exhausted him, literally. Literally. Such a dramatic exit for someone who proclaimed , "I'M DONE." I definitely had a case of the vapors when I read that. Oh, whatever would I do? How could I possibly live without another blogger? Must you all just leave me, with no explanation?

What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know, goes away in the end ...

(Sorry, Johnny Cash. And Nine Inch Nails.)

The thing is ... you just have to keep coming back after these melodramatic exits. Jesus did it, but the way he did it totally rocked (even if you don't believe, the story is awesome, isn't it?). If you were even remotely close to making that kind of comeback, I'd be like, OK. Cool. But really now.

And Chad's doing this blogging for free? At least I get a schadenfreude fix.

A friend of mine brought up a great point -- Mike Madison started blogging again, but his reasoning seemed genuine. And I was inclined to agree. And then there's Chris Briem -- who is not a blogger, but happens to blog. These are people who really bring something to the cyber-table here.

(Notice I wrote "people," not men.)

OK. Blogging can be what it wants to be. If you want to stroke your ego, though, can you do it in the privacy of your bedroom?

Which does bring up another good point -- P-G -- where are your female columnists? The number of people reading an actual newspaper are dwindling (apparently they need all the ink for the tattoos these days -- and no offense there, because I have one) -- and females far outlive men. My 92-year-old grandmother has been bitching for years. You think throwing her a horoscope and a crossword is gonna shut her up?

OK, Radcliffe. I'll have another incendiary espresso.

(Oh -- and Chad -- this is my Valentine to you. XOXO. Since you like the rebel rousers, and all.)

City Neighborhoods Blog at PG community portal

Diana Nelson Jones has an interesting blog:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Women's Campaign Fund Seeking female candidates to support

Know any female candidates in Western PA that are running this year? They should apply for WCF's support/endorsement.

WCF supports pro-choice female candidates at ANY level.

From: Erin Cutraro []
Sent: Friday, February 13, 2009 12:49 PM

Are you or someone you know running for office? WCF is now accepting
endorsement applications for the 2009 and 2010 election cycles for
races at all levels.

Apply here:

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

Vodvarka's meter hasn't quite run out

On December 23, 2008 I posted about my dear friend Jaime Vodvarka's death in a car accident.

Today I received a face book invitation from Jaime's husband for a party at which people will:

Enjoy each other's company
Tell Jaime stories

I was delighted to see that Jaime had rsvp-ed on face book. The party's in North Carolina & I can't go, but I may do an in-spirit rsvp like Jaime did.

Gloria Forouzan

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Onorato Cyber Town Hall Meeting - Gay Stuff?

Has anyone who submitted a question related to any LGBTQ issue at all received a response from the Onorato people? I submitted a question to his first town hall meeting and had an email two days later saying I would get a personal response. Nothing so far and the second town hall meeting was today.

Questions related to other topics have been addressed so I'm just wondering?


Saudi judge sentences pregnant gang-rape victim to 100 lashes for committing adultery

By Liz Hazelton

Last updated at 11:01 AM on 11th February 2009

A Saudi judge has ordered a woman should be jailed for a year and receive 100 lashes after she was gang-raped, it was claimed last night.

The 23-year-old woman, who became pregnant after her ordeal, was reportedly assaulted after accepting a lift from a man.

He took her to a house to the east of the city of Jeddah where she was attacked by him and four of his friends throughout the night.
A judge in the Saudi city of Jeddah, pictured, ruled that the woman was guilty of adultery and should be jailed for a year
She later discovered she was pregnant and made a desperate attempt to get an abortion at the King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces.

According to the Saudi Gazette, she eventually 'confessed' to having 'forced intercourse' with her attackers and was brought before a judge at the District Court in Jeddah.

He ruled she had committed adultery - despite not even being married - and handed down a year's prison sentence, which she will serve in a prison just outside the city.
She is still pregnant and will be flogged once she has had the child.
The Saudi Arabian legal system practices a strict form of medieval law. Women have very few rights and are not even allowed to drive.
They are also banned from going out in public in the company of men other than male relatives.

Shame on UPMC for not serving active military

From today's Post-Gazette

A Bridgeville woman is seeking congressional help in an effort to reverse a UPMC
policy against accepting the health insurance plan for the region's 7,808
active-duty military personnel, their families and retirees.
Jean Rohal, 40,
said it's shameful that University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals and
medical centers turn away active-duty service members from all branches,
including the National Guard and reservists, especially in a time of war and
economic distress.
She said she's been told UPMC doesn't accept Tricare, the
military health plan, because of low reimbursement rates.

The bright note is that West Penn-Allegheny Health Systems do accept Tricare. And I'm guessing UPMC will reverse this atrocious policy pretty darn soon given the inevitable outcry from the flag-waving kitten sweatshirted suburbanites so eager to send your children off to war and theirs' off to college. Not too mention elected officials. Good thing this didn't come out before Jason Altmire's reelection campaign. There are a lot of yellow ribbons up in those parts.

This is pretty egregious. If the reimbursement rates are too low, UPMC needs to have a chat with the US government about that part not take it out on the soldiers, sailors, marines and their families. It is a clear example of why a comprehensive universal health care plan is so critical so every American can access the best medical services possible.

Shame on UPMC.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sharing Doctors/Therapists

How do you feel about making referrals to your doctors/dentists/therapists? A friend called me to ask about referring her sister to someone I see and I began thinking about I might feel running into her at this particular office. Is that an issue anyone else contemplates? Is there any difference between referring to your dentist and referring to your therapist? Hmmm.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Here we go, Natalia, here we go

Natalia Rudiak is an intelligent, engaging young woman who is running for City Council in District 4. This is the seat currently held by Jim Motznik who is not seeking re-election.

I've known Natalia & have worked with her for enough years to heartily endorse her candidacy. She is a Pittsburgher, born & raised in the district she seeks to serve. Natalia graduated from Carrick High School and Carnegie Mellon University, (with a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management).

Very important, (at least in my book), is the fact that her educational & work experience has allowed her to see how other parts of the country & the world "work". For example, Natalia earned her Bachelor’s from George Washington University, while an undergraduate, she studied at the London School of Economics and the Jagiellonian University in Poland.
During her career, Natalia's done press work for the US Senate in Washington, DC, worked for a public health organization in New York.

Natalia's holding "A Cross-City Fundraiser"
Date: Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Location: The Shadow Lounge 5972 Baum Boulevard East Liberty, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Food, Wine and Beer Served
Featuring the musical stylings of DJ Omar Abdul
RSVP/Info:, (202) 257-1145
Suggested Contribution: $50

I realize that times are tough, if you can't attend/afford $50, please consider sending a check, payable to Friends of Natalia Rudiak to: Friends of Natalia Rudiak, P.O. Box 59375, Pittsburgh, PA 15210

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This is the shop the neighborhood built: the return of K.S. Kennedy Florist

(crossposted from Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents)

"This is the shop that our neighborhoods rebuilt," says Kerry Kennedy, proprietor of K.S. Kennedy, Distinctive Floral, Gift and Gourmet which recently reopened in a new storefront just a few doors down from his former location on Western Avenue. The former location was destroyed by a New Year's Eve fire which also consumed Kerry's live in apartment and damaged adjacent businesses, including the Modern Cafe. While no one was injured in the fire, including Kerry's devoted four-footed companion Lucy, all three business suffered tremendous losses. The Modern Care has not decided whether to reopen yet.

Kerry's original store had become a destination shop for many throughout the Northside neighborhoods who appreciated the delightful accents he added, including the always freshly brewed coffee and a line of Swiss truffles available nowhere else in Pittsburgh. He also carries a line of LGBT oriented cards, the 10% line, which he chuckles about as he shares stories of matronly grandmothers picking out cards for their gay grandsons and nephews. Unlike traditional florists, he drew a tremendous amount of walk-in business, unusual considering he was the only retail establishment along Western Avenue, a corridor of the Northside which has been under scrutiny for revitalization efforts and home to several restaurants, bars and several abandoned storefronts.

Kerry chose the location because he wanted to one of the first ones in to what he perceived as a future boom area for Northside business. He stayed because of the people.

The night of New Years Eve, according to fire investigators, faulty wiring caused some sort of electrical arc "Act of God" which sent the first floor of the floral store up in flames. Kerry and his companions escaped into the night, leaving even his wallet behind to be consumed by the fire. He acknowledges that for a split second he contemplated running away as he watched fireman battle the flames. Kerry stayed with friends in Swissvale the night of the fire. He came back the following morning, New Years Day, and found Ed owner of the nearby Parador Inn standing in front of the storefront. Ed said "Please allow me to do this for you" and offered him the ballroom for a workspace and use of the room above for his residence.

Knowing he had a wedding and a funeral that weekend, he rolled up his sleeves and took over the Parador ballroom. People literally were knocking down the ballroom doors with donations of clothing, vases and other items all of which reminded him that the Northside is his home. People helped rebuild the business because they valued his store and the beauty he tried to bring to the community.

The outpouring of community support literally moves Kerry to moments of near tears and occasional speechlessness, which for those who know him, is not a frequent occurrence. One friend, an antique store owner from Tennessee, drove three days through winter storms hauling a ten foot trailer laden with furnishings for his new store. She spent one night in the parking lot of a Waffle House and the next in motel room with no electricity service. Kerry proudly points out the items she brought to him.

His card distributor loaded up his trunk with sample stock and gave the whole supply to Kerry which enabled him to triple his card display when he reopened. Card business has been so brisk that the distributor has been back weekly to keep the stock replenished.

When a neighboring tenant decided to close their business, the landlord immediately approached Kerry about reopening and he didn't hesitate. The outpouring of love and support from his community reaffirmed his original vision of a vibrant, dynamic Western Avenue and he fully plans to be part of that revitalization. Kerry has also relocated his personal residence to a carriage house on Brightonn Road, another gracious offer from a longtime customer. He reports that he and Lucy are adjusting well to their new abodes, even though he has had to take Lucy to sniff the former store several times to help her realize they no longer live there.

There was a benefit at the Allegheny Universalist-Unitarian church organized by long-time customers, Suzanne and Tom Roberts. Kerry was touched that they did the performance because they personally valued the shop. Kerry took a rose to everyone who attended. The pastor and his partner are also frequent customers. This was a powerful moment for him as Kerry had left a little Greek decorative column at the church from a previous event and they dug it out to bring to him during the concert as a symbol that rebuilding was going to happen. It was something whole and beautiful left from the shop.

A florist from Florida sent him a box of florist supplies such as wire and other things. His high school class sent him a laptop via Fedex and put a substantial donation directly into his bank account. They've kept in touch over the years and have been like his family. He attributes the generosity to karma because anytime a class member has lost someone, he always took care of the flowers.

He was working in the Parador ballroom and people were literally banging at the doors with boxes of vases and donations of clothing (better than his original clothing, he chuckles, mentioning a lovely cashmere scarf someone passed along). He thinks that people seeing him getting right back to work gave them faith in the ongoing revitalization of their neighborhood.
"I've learned the absolute joy of saying 'thank you'" he said. "This experience has taught me how to accept things with grace and dignity" He learned that his way to pay people back was to reopen and that people in the community needed him to reopen to fill the hole in their lives when the store was lost.

In an interesting analogy, Kerry acknowledges that most people don't get to see how much people care about them in their lifetime - like seeing their own wake. People repeatedly ask him about his faithful companion, Lucy. While we talk, the mail carrier comes in and goes right to the treat jar to share a moment with Lucy. She also noticed the red bustier vases on display in the counter that I think would be a great gift for Ledcat. Ssshhh.

Fast forward six weeks. The new store is open for business. The space is about 1/3 larger than his original store, but the workroom in back is substantially larger. He still lacks a cooler for the flowers, but acknowledges that he managed for six months without one in his original space and still got corporate business. For now, the back room is plenty cool and he just ushers customers back to select their own fresh flowers. He also compensates by making more frequent trips to pick up fresh flowers during the week. He has been able to make some nice changes like adding a small seating area which allows for folks to visit a bit more comfortably, but also gives some privacy for families who want to look through his books as they make decisions for momentous occasions. He is restocking his "signature" gift items, including the Swiss truffle chocolates he is expecting this week.

Kerry hasn't been able to return to the shop or his apartment to reclaim most of his personal items. The fireman helped him recover a few items. His apartment is salvageable, but he's waiting permission from the owners to go in and sort through. The source of the fire has been determined electrical arc fire due to an "Act of God" that probably began with a deteriorating wire.

He hopes the owners of the property, also the owners of the Modern Cafe, will permit him to return to his apartment to sift through the literal ashes and claim whatever remnants of his life are possible to retrieve. Having lost all of his family members save his sister, Kerry wistfully notes that even a fragment of a memory is better than nothing.

The Northside Leadership Conference has collected set up a fire relief fund for all three business owners. Kerry hasn't yet tapped into it this funding. He feels a sense of obligation to spend the donations wisely. He is looking around for a cooler and would love someone to call him if they know of a gently used cooler available for purchase. When discussing the fund, Kerry pointedly mentions the other neighborhood fire which destroyed an apartment building in Deutschtown, displacing 13 people including children. His heart breaks for the children and he made his own contribution to that relief fund (see link above).

The best thing people can do to help at this point is to support the businesses. Order flowers. Get your hair done. Support the Modern Cafe deli. Kerry is back at full capacity to accept flower orders.

Kerry notes that business is going reasonably well in spite of the recession. In the flower business, people are buying bouquets instead of a dozen roses, but flower occasions (funerals, weddings, birthdays) continue along so the demand remains consistent, if on a more modest budget. He believes that florists should not compete with $9.95 bouquets from grocery store and box chain stores, but instead remain associated with the big occasions that mark passages in life such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals. He also knows from experience that people walking buy will see the "beauty" and stop in to pick up some flowers.

One "cool thing" he gained from this experience is the realization that he can recycle vases so that's a way to also contribute to his ongoing commitment to go green. K.S. Kennedy has a long-time practice of offering fair trade flowers including roses. He's now got a "bring in your vase for a refill" policy and is contemplating a special Earth Day project. Along with neighbors, Allegheny General Hospital donated dozens of vases, an effort spearheaded by the sister of the owner of the Parador Inn who is a hospital employee.

Kerry refuses to sit and dwell on what was lost, but focuses instead on what he gained from this experience.

Kerry has lost most of his family members so he is a true believer in telling people you love them everyday, not just on special occasions or most especially when they've passed. He feels very lucky knowing that he's made a difference in people's lives.

After asking about himself and Lucy, Kerry chuckles that most people asked about the Cowher chair. Kerry is a big fan of Bill Cowher. He was upset when Cowher retired and signed up for the family's house auction. Kerry got his desk chair which he affectionately dubs "the Cowher chair" and it represents so much to him. He even appreciated the dog hair that came with it! He also acquired a pair of his sun glasses. It became a local destination. Folks came in and get their picture taken sitting in it. Kerry took it upstairs two weeks before the fire and thus it avoided the fate of his shop. When he returned to his apartment and saw the sunglasses and the chair still relatively intact it was like a phoenix had risen and what was important to him survived.

The one thing he learned is to have renter's insurance for his residence and contents insurance for his store so he won't face the same devastation if it ever happened. He also realizes that he'll probably always fear another fire, but cannot let that fear interfere with life.

Kerry is reluctant to identify any needs he has at this point. So perhaps the gift we can give him at this point is to say thank you to him for being part of the heart of the Northside community. He feels like people have invested in the \new store, that it is bigger than K.S. Kennedy's individual business but now the Northside's floral shop.

I'll take the grand leap of suggesting how the community can continue to support Kerry:
- Assist him with getting access to his apartment so he can retrieve his personal belongings. They have meaning to him regardless of their condition and it is somewhat cruel to keep him out when he is persevering in rebuilding his business.
- Find the man a cooler. Ask around. Check out Craig's List.
- Join Kerry's new Facebook Page
- Think flowers when you need a little something to take for a hostess gift or some such small need. Every $10 or $20 you spend is $10 or $20 toward keeping this heartful business firmly nestled in the Northside.
- Keep paying it forward. Kerry emphatically believes that he should continue to repay his supporters by paying it forward. He especially urges people to donate to the Deutschtown relief fund.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bread & Roses: The Strike Led and Won by Women

(i was going to post this on the 12th of jan. my birthday, but i forgot. i thought it was interesting in light of the robber baron mentality of the past 8 years or so)

Bread & Roses: The Strike Led and Won by Women

By Lyn Neeley, in Workers World,

29 January 1998

Jan. 12 was the anniversary of the start of the 1912 Bread and Roses strike--one of the most significant struggles in the history of the U.S. working class--in Lawrence, Mass.

A new state law had reduced the work week from 56 to 54 hours. A small gain for workers? Sounds like it. But of course the bosses found a way to gain the advantage.

They speeded up the looms and cut the average measly wage of $6 a week--a last straw for workers living on the edge of starvation.

When the wage cut was announced, workers shouted: "Short pay! Short pay!" Thousands of women and men started a spontaneous strike that rippled through two dozen textile factories in Lawrence.

Some 23,000 people left the mills and poured into the streets.

Immediately the National Guard was called out, along with 22 militia companies and 50 thugs disguised as strikers. They overturned trolley cars, smashed windows, assaulted people and planted dynamite near the strike headquarters.

But even quicker on the scene was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a 21-year-old organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World--the Wobblies. Flynn, Big Bill Haywood and other IWW leaders moved in to help organize the strike.

Lawrence was founded in 1845 as a textile city. By the turn of the century, advanced technology had enabled the owners to bring in lower-paid workers and force the skilled workers out.

In 1905 the American Woolen Company built the world's biggest textile plant in Lawrence, hiring Arab, Russian and East European immigrants. By 1912, people of 25 different nationalities lived within a one-mile radius of the mill.

They lived in crowded company-owned tenements. Eight to 10 people from different families shared one living space. Whole families--including children under 14 years old--worked in the mills.

The mills were hot and humid. The work was fast paced, with high accident rates.

Bosses made ethnic slurs. They sexually harassed the women.

Workers froze in the winter because they couldn't afford the clothes they produced. Rickets were common among children for lack of milk. Nearly half died before they were 6 years old.

Over one-third of the mill workers died before age 25, mostly from tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses.

In 1912, the American Federation of Labor was a grouping of weak craft unions, made up of white men organized by trade. The AFL refused to organize Black workers. Until 1918, the federation barred women from membership--even in an industry like textiles with twice as many female workers as male.

The AFL opposed the Lawrence strike, calling it revolutionary and anarchistic.

The IWW, in contrast, was formed by socialists like Eugene Debs. They called for industry-wide unions and even one big union for the whole country. The IWW emphasized unity and solidarity.

The Lawrence strike broke new ground in two ways. Women led it. And there was a conscious effort to unite workers of all nationalities.

Every union meeting was translated into 25 different languages.

There were four demands: a 15-percent wage increase, a 54- hour work week, double pay for overtime, and rehiring of all strikers without discrimination.

But the workers saw the strike as really a broader struggle. They wanted to fight for socialism.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn had grown up poor in New England mill towns. She watched starving mill workers leave before daylight and return after dark. She was familiar with the rats, cockroaches, lice and disease that plagued their families.

The strikers had a strong spirit of class struggle. They sang, put on shows, dances, debates and parades.

The Lawrence strikers are remembered for inventing the moving picket line. Police had been arresting them for loitering--so they linked arms and formed a moving human chain that wove around the mills 24 hours a day, preventing scabs from getting in.

Flynn led meetings about the special oppression facing women and immigrants. Women led the picket lines and were better at intimidating scabs.

Cops threw the women in jail but they refused to pay the fines. As soon as they were released they returned to the picket lines.

One freezing morning, cops drenched the strikers with fire hoses. The women caught a cop on a bridge, stripped off his uniform and nearly succeeded in throwing him into the icy river. One lawyer commented, "One policeman can handle 10 men, while it takes 10 police to handle one woman."

The children grew weak as the strike continued into February and March. Flynn gathered food and set up soup kitchens.

Arrangements were made for hundreds of children to be sent to the homes of socialists in other cities for the duration of the strike. This drew national and international publicity, and donations began to pour in.

The cops responded by attacking women and children at the train station so the children couldn't leave. Cops clubbed them, threw them into a heap and dragged them into military trucks, clubbing them again if they cried out.

They beat one pregnant women so hard she had a miscarriage. That was the turning point. The national and international outcry forced Congress to open an investigation. The pressure on the bosses built.

On March 14, the strikers won a 25-percent raise for the lowest-paid workers and smaller increases for higher-paid workers, time-and-a-quarter pay for overtime, and no discrimination against strikers.

The workers celebrated their victory by singing "The International," the communist anthem.

The IWW kept the strike committee going to fight for the release of Ettor and Giovanitti, leaders who had been framed soon after the walkout began. They were charged with the death of a woman whom 19 witnesses said was shot by a soldier.

The strike victory resulted in easily won wage increases in mill towns throughout New England. But once the Lawrence struggle ended and the IWW left town, the bosses stabbed the workers in the back. They instigated a 50-percent speed-up in the mills.

The Catholic Church joined the bosses in a campaign to discredit the IWW and harass union members. By the fall of 1913, IWW membership in Lawrence had fallen to 700.

An economic recession in 1913-1914 brought wage cuts and unemployment to the mill workers.

Later, after the Russian Revolution, the Wobblies faded from the scene. The IWW's best, including Flynn, left to form the Communist Party, while others turned toward anarchism.

However, the Lawrence strike had shown that low-paid, oppressed workers of diverse nationalities could unite, organize and wage a powerful struggle to win concessions from the bosses. It stands as a shining example of how to build multinational, anti-racist unity with women in the lead.

Today, labor is turning toward organizing these same groups--low-wage workers, women, immigrants. The struggle to organize workfare workers is in the tradition of the Lawrence strike.

One reporter wrote of the Lawrence strike: "It was the spirit of the workers that seemed dangerous. ... They were always marching and singing.

"The gray, tired crowds, ebbing and flowing perpetually into the mills, had awakened and opened their mouths to sing, the different nationalities all speaking one language when they sang together."

The strikers wanted not only decent pay, but a chance to enjoy the good things of life. They carried signs saying, "We want bread and roses too!"

And they sang: "As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days. The rising of the women means the rising of the [human] race.

"No more the drudge and idler, 10 that toil where one reposes--but a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: For subscription info send message to: Web:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pgh. women's protest - shot felt around the world?

Thanks to those of you who supported the efforts to change police dept. policy regarding promoting officers with records of domestic violence. It was my honor to work with the women who put the pedal to the metal & wouldn't take No for an answer.

We are giving strength to communities far beyond Pgh., just got this email from cloudwriter, (author of the behindthebluewall blog), wanted to share it with you. The link to the article is:
"The courage to fight back"
published: Sunday | September 21, 2008

Email from Cloud Writer:

"Hi Gloria -
...Pittsburgh women are THE model for getting things done. There's no community of women anywhere in the news that I've seen that even comes close. That shines on you well, but is a sad testament for the rest of us. I was amaze at the activism there. But others were too.

[PA] Jamaica looks to the women of Pittsburgh who rose against police dv wrongs

Standing ovation... Deon"

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The PG on Obama and Women

The PG runs a piece written from WOMEN-omics about the "female factor" in the Obama Presidency. Apparently, he is doing a good job using traditional female leadership skills himself, but not such a good job in elevating women to leadership positions.
Five, in fact, out of 22 Cabinet positions have been filled with women.


The Post-Gazette's MacKenzie Carpenter wrote an entire piece of Baby Boomer moms joining Facebook. Kind of weird, huh? The NYT ran a piece on "friending trends recently. What would be actually interesting to read is how Facebook as a cultural phenomenon fits onto Pittsburgh's actual culture, not just Baby Boomer parents. The IT guy at my former employer told me that the average Facebook user is 35 years old and I believe it. The best part of the sidebar is the advice not to send games around and to avoid using Facebook to get a job. Ha! That's exactly the sort of tunnel vision that keeps Pittsburgh so freakin parochial.

Just this past week, I sent a recently "friended" high school classmate some job leads simply because he informed me he was out of work. Unlike the folks in the Carpenter piece, I don't think that makes him a loser or someone in need of deep interpersonal connections. It makes him someone I know who needs a job so I tried to help. That's what people with a sense of connection do for other people. That connection is based on the 10+ years we attended the same public schools and the recent reconnect on Facebook (and my having a snowday and be available to chat). Otherwise, I'd have no clue he is looking for work. Whomever thinks there should be a neat and tidy line between personal and professional social network just needs to revisit the delete key and get over it.

I personally don't do all the sending of flair, terrible towel waves, blue garden gnome, flowers, ornaments, etc but I don't get annoyed when people send that stuff to me. It is sort of like being on a Christmas card list all year round -- someone had a momentary thought to share something THEY appreciate with me. I realize it isn't a highly evolved thought to click a link, but it is nice to be remembered. There's nothing loser about it.

I will admit that the friending trends are fascinating to me. I started out with a strict rule about friending only people I actually knew in real life, not friends of friends. Then the rule stretched to people that knew people I actually knew in real life. Then the rule stretched to people I would like to know in real life, but may never have the opportunity. Then the rule stretched when the opportunity to friend Candance Gingrich, Lauren Weedman and Alison Bechdel popped up (Candace has posted on my wall so ha!). The only rule I have right now is that I friend adults only with one exception and I checked with her mother first who is also my friend. It was flattering that a 13 year old thought I was cool enough to friend. I don't friend the people I serve through work because of professional boundaries, but I do friend certain colleagues and even board members.

The interactions I have with "my friends' varies greatly, just like in real life. Sometimes I "hang out" with people for a few weeks, exchanging wall posts and jokes and playing a game of Scrabble and then I don't see them for a few months. Or I hear through the grapevine about what is happening in their lives.

Perhaps because I am a blogger and tend to make a lot of my life available for public consumption, it doesn't bother me in the least to put stuff up on my FB profile. It does amuse/amaze me how people respond. I have been unfriended for making mockery of orphans (I commented that I gave away my Terrible Towel to wrap the the frozen feet of a little orphan on the sidewalk), because my profile picture used to have the word "lesbian" in it (my own sister-in-law did that) and because I send too many group/event invitations. Oh well. What makes me insanely curious are the "unfriendings" for which I have no information -- when I see my number go down from 543 to 536, I start to obsess about who it could be and what it was that prompted the decision ... was it something I wrote? Was it something in their own lives that caused them to shed me?

The actual number is meaningless. Having 540 friends is just a random number. I'm not any more popular or well-liked because that many people linked to me on Facebook. I grew up in a pretty tight knit, identity driven community so pretty much anyone that attended WM high school will friend another one of us. That's hundreds of people alone.

The one thing I do sort of regret about Facebook is the burst of the reunion bubble. In some cases, I've been thrilled to reconnect with old friends and have began building new adult connection with them based on who we are now. In other cases though, I have been sort of "eh" about their grown up self as reflected on Facebook. I kind of wish I had kept the memory untarnished and not realized that our glory days won't translate into contemporary adult relationships.

To bring this back to Carpenter's piece, I think some of the discussion about boundaries is the interesting territory. It is a given that some people are more invested in FB than others, but the social interactions are a little hazier when you start to consider the nature of the actual real life relationships (if one exists). I had to tell a 21 year old in one of my programs that I could not FB him just like I could not give him my home phone number. Instead, I exchange email with him using my work email address to give him a sense of social interaction within a strictly professional boundary. If he would need to reach me in am emergency, we have a well defined process built into our program using an on-call system. He knows I may not check my work email over the weekend, so it really becomes another method of contact with a concrete paradigm just like stopping into my office to chat during the workday.

Clearly, I could go on. Read MacKenzie's piece and let me know what you think.