dateline Dayton

May 12th, 2009 | Uncategorized

I’m just about to fly home from Dayton. I spoke at Wright State University last night. I was alarmed to discover, upon my arrival, that I was part of the Presidential Lecture Series, a kind of diversity-enhancing program. It was all very formal, and the college president introduced me and I met a whole bunch of official people. I’ve been speaking at colleges for over 20 years now, and it’s so funny how things have changed. I used to speak to 12 kids in a dingy chemistry lab. With my slide projector.

I’m sorry I never posted any more about my big night in NYC. The Publishing Triangle Awards event was really fun. The august Martin Duberman received a lifetime achievement award, and spoke about how assimilation isn’t the point, and how our focus as a movement on inclusion in institutions like marriage distracts us from more systemic problems like poverty, education, and health care. Pleased as I am with all the marriage progress, I found his radical voice heartening.

Carol DeSanti, the editor who published Sarah Schulman’s first mainstream press book in 1988, After Dolores, won a Leadership Award, and gave a great talk about how much things have changed since she started out in publishing. It was a big freakin’ deal to publish Sarah’s book, which was not only about lesbians, but had a “social message,” which was also frowned on in those days, seen as an aesthetic flaw.

Here’s a list of the book award finalists and winners.

Then there was reception where I met these two lovely librarians from the Brooklyn Public Library, Sue Levy and Robert Renwick. I think maybe I’m a librarian hag, if there is such a thing.


Here’s Nancy Polikoff and her partner Cheryl. Nancy’s a fancy lawyer whose book Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage was a finalist for the Judy Grahn nonfiction award. Cheryl used to manage the Go Go’s.

[Correction, 5/12. Cheryl Swannack did not manage the Go-Go’s. Her friend Ginger Canzinari did. Cheryl was Lily Tomlin’s road manager and producer on Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Thanks, Cheryl! Sorry I garbled things.]


Okay, that’s the end of my book award report. On Saturday I went to see this exhibition by the French artist Sophie Calle at the Paula Cooper gallery.

It was an installation based on a courrier de rupture–a breakup email–some guy sent her. Clever in its way, but also kind of like a museum version of Sex and the City. Right down to all the stylish young New Yorkers looking at it.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Calle presented the email to 107 women in all different careers and walks of life, then documented their responses. Here’s my favorite–The Proofreader.


Okay. I just finished my breakfast in Dayton, now I’m gonna go catch a plane.

85 Responses to “dateline Dayton”

  1. Ruth in RI says:

    Safe flight.

  2. Ginjoint says:

    I’m completely on board with The Proofreader. (Is that the title of the piece or just a nod to the contributor? Because I’m not sure about appropriate punctuation.) You break up with me or a friend via email, and I’ll proofread the shit out of that puppy and make you ashamed you ever set fingertip to keyboard. It looks like Proofreader did a spectacular job – I’d love to see a translation.

    Side note – ah, the Go-Go’s, from my ’80’s youth. Responsible for me really beginning to question my orientation. Oh Belinda, oh Jane, Kathy, Charlotte, and Gina! How I used to check out, from my high school’s library, that issue of Rolling Stone with you all on the cover in your underwear! Then sneak over to a carrel so I could gaze unobserved! Or was I?

    …After the third or fourth time I checked out that issue, the librarian (a woman with a razor-sharp mullet – yeah it was the ’80’s, but still) gave me a very knowing look. Librarians, knowers of all our secrets.

  3. Andrew B says:

    Social messages were frowned on in 1988? The big publishing event of 1988 was Beloved. I don’t know…

    Based on your pic of the Calle installation, right down to all the stylish young female New Yorkers looking at it… I don’t know if that’s bad, good, or indifferent. My kneejerk response is, it’s bad.

    Proofreading as passive aggression. Yup.

  4. Maggie Jochild says:

    When I was a girl, my great-aunt Lee used to return my letters to her with corrections on it. Far from being intimidating, I found it thrilling: She was lavish in praise for the content, but the English teacher in her could not let grammar and punctuation errors go unremarked, not from someone she loved. I took it as a sign of her caring.

    Which may explain a lot of relationships since then, come to think of it. (sigh)

    The ex of an ex once organized a concert for the GoGos in a city which shall remain nameless, and she put them up at her house one night. She said she could not tell which of them slept with women — her exact comment was that they hit on anything that moved and left dust from coke all over her house.

    After Dolores, along with Bastard Out of Carolina, were the first books that made me believe I could write for someone besides the lesbian community. You’re right, it busted down walls.

  5. CLR says:

    The Sophie Calles expo looks amazing. I would translate the Proofreader if I had a) the text b) the time. Alas, we’re going to have problems with b).

  6. Ginjoint says:

    I think breaking up with someone via email is pretty passive aggressive, too.

    Why is it bad if it’s all females viewing that installation? You lost me.

  7. NLC says:

    To CLR and other interested parties:

    If anyone is interested in seeing the text of the letter more clearly:
    — Click on the image.
    — On the Flicker page, click on the “All Sizes” link.
    — On the following page, click on the “Original” link.

    This will show you a much larger version of the image where the text is much clear (although, alas, still in French).

  8. Terri Mileo says:

    Hello Alison.

    Thank you so much for coming to Wright State and being a part of our lecture series. You had a great connection with the audience, we love it when that happens!

    Again, thanks so much for being a part of the series!

  9. Juliet says:

    That woman has made a lifetime’s work out of getting dumped. I saw a performance of her book ‘Exquisite Pain’ last year. http://www.forcedentertainment.com/?lid=54. In both the book and the performance, one story is told over and over and over which makes me think that even if she never gets dumped again she’ll still be making a lifetime’s work out of it in 20 years’ time.

    That the theatre company is called Forced Entertainment might give you a taste…

    It was lengthy.

  10. Antoinette says:

    A bunch of my pals went to Wright State. Some of them even went on to become librarians. And bless them, they *do* know my secrets.

  11. Librarian in search of a hag... says:

    Oh please Allison, as a librarian (I’ve tried to make people call me Mistress Librarian), please be a librarian hag (and convince others of the necessity of librarian hags!).

  12. Ted says:

    I went to high school at Fairborn High. The city of Fairborn (not Dayton)is the actual home of both Wright State and Wright-Paterson AFB. Wright-Pat is the home of the AF Museum. Probably half the kids in the high school were Air Force brats(including me.)We moved often but I still love Ohio.

  13. Susan says:

    But how overly modest but you not to mention that you won a Ferro-Grumley Awards for LGBT Fiction. Congratulations!

  14. Susan says:

    That should have said “of you”

  15. Therry and ST. Jerome says:

    Sophie gives me an idea for my own oeuvre — when I was in college, I was stood up for any date I ever got asked out on. (NObody asked me out in high school, or I could have shown early promise in this field.) Hmm. Now how do I get attractive young women to stand around an exhibit of pictures of me being stood up?

  16. Ali says:

    If in France a fag hag is called a : “Fille à pédés” . Then in French Alison could be a “fille à bibliothécaire”.
    There is something very cathartic about sharing breakup letters or messages – the disdain and comradery with which most women will approach a fellow rejectees experience – lances all that hurt and pain like nothing else. I can imagine the guy who wrote that email will find it harder to date in his hometown now – one wonders if black listing has taken place.
    Martin Duberman “spoke about how assimilation isn’t the point, and how our focus as a movement on inclusion in institutions like marriage distracts us from more systemic problems like poverty, education, and health care. Pleased as I am with all the marriage progress, I found his radical voice heartening.”
    What say you all to this? Sometimes you can focus so much on one battle you can lose the war. It reminds me of Toni and Clarice’s relationship – one fighting for freedon to marry the other for the environment. Perhaps if they had fought for the same thing they would still be together? So which is the most important battle to fight for?

  17. Andi says:

    Wow, Alison, I was just in Dayton last month! It was way cooler than I expected. I got to hike on a boardwalk through a “fen” which is like a swamp, only with fresh water from a glacial spring running through it. It felt so Victorian – the moors and the fens and all…

    They’ve actually set aside a wetlands corridor in Dayton of over 1, 000 acres, and the boardwalks and trails are maintained by volunteers. The fen was raucous with frogs, birds, and wonderful swamp flowers. Go Dayton!

  18. Andi says:

    PS: For all the proofreaders out there, I guess flowers are riotous rather than raucous, but you get the picture!

  19. Kate L says:

    (Ferro-Grumley – related) Oh, A.B., you’re ALWAYS a winner with us! And a Presidential Speaker at a university, as well! Oh, my!

    Uh, I mean congrats on the award and speaking gig! 🙂 I think in that first paragraph I was channeling my great Aunt L. from early in the 20th century. She was a women’s rights advocate and (according to my father) quite a hell-raiser. I never knew her, but I do remember her ceramic tea service, decorated with little violets… I think my sister has the service, now.

    Anyway, today is a GOOD day, and not just for our favorite cartoonist! I have (once again) unclogged the drain that leads from both my first floor kitchen sink and my downstairs washing machine! Aunt L. would be proud of me! To paraphrase Lincoln on the cessation of Civil War combat on the Mississippi River, my plumbing flows once more unvexxed to the sea (by way of a sewage treatment plant, of course!).

  20. Ryan Godfrey says:

    I was at your event at Wright State University last night, actually I was the geek out cartoonist with the adobe programming talk. I really enjoyed your talk and the 30 some pages I managed to read in Fun House. You have a new fan! Thanks again for visiting.

  21. Kate L says:

    Well, maybe not a =completely= good day:

    I can’t get MSNBC on my television cable system (for some reason, Rachel Maddow is blocked as if she were an on-demand premium motion picture), but Fox News comes through loud and clear. This afternoon, Fox News has taken a break from defending Miss California’s comments against gay marriage to report that the Boston trolly operator who was using his cell phone when he had an accident used to be a woman. Fox News usually reports news calculated to make its conservative viewers as angry as possible, so I read the on-line version of the story at foxnews . com trying to see what they wanted their viewers to be most angry about. It may be the fact that as a transsexual, the driver was hired as a minority. In any case, their reporting about this tragic accident actually represents an improvement in the popular depiction of transsexuals. Usually, transsexuals in popular fiction and television dramas are portrayed as serial killers. To be featured as simply reckless and inattentive has to be considered an improvement!

  22. Renee S. says:

    Extremely enjoyed the excellent Wright State lecture last night! It was a marvel to share the experience with a widely diverse lesbian population in the audience.
    I work for a community college and could not help to imagine our own college president attempt to enunciate the words “Dyke” and “Lesbian” with choking.
    You’ve come a long way, Alison! From slide shows in a dingy room to the Apollo Room at Wright State…lol
    The 3 hour drive to Dayton was well worth the time. I think I journeyed via Cloud 9 on the way back home, in a giddy stupor.
    Thanks again Alison, for the autographs, cartoons, and kind words.
    But I think I shall buy new Bechdal books, as I may display my autographed books in a case, turning the pages once a month, my own little Book of Kells!

  23. Renee S. says:

    whoops, I should have said “without choking”

  24. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Just picked up a used LP of _Beauty and the Beat_ for two bucks. Love the Go Gos! And how cool you got to see Sophie Calle’s installation- she’s a really interesting artist.

  25. Penny says:

    Thank you again for coming to Dayton! I had an amazing evening listening to you speak, and the opportunity to meet you was just incredible. Thanks for all that you do ^_^

  26. Back home. Just hiked up the hill and heard my first thrush!

  27. Ginjoint says:

    Back to a previous thread for a moment, my local paper today has an article about the ceremony Northwestern Univ. med school students have to thank the cadavers they studied throughout the year. (Many med schools have such ceremonies.) The article speaks briefly about the issues of racism and classism (though not sexism, which we know was there too) throughout the history of anatomy classes. The main point of it, though, is about treating the bodies with respect. Lookit, if you want:


    Maggie, I found your words re: the male gaze in that thread to be quite striking – haunting, even. Despite this apparent change in attitudes, you made me think twice about donation.

  28. Ginjoint says:

    Welcome home, Traveler!

  29. Andrew B says:

    @NLC, I don’t get the “All Sizes” link. Possibly this is because I have no flickr account and can’t sign in. Thanks for the instructions but they may not work for everyone.

    @Ginjoint, the idea behind this installation is that getting rejected by a man is important enough to be the basis of art. Slather on all the irony and self-awareness you like, it’s still about getting rejected by a man. It bothers me that so many young women find that interesting. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her to think that being rejected in a romantic relationship was that significant. (Painful, yes, difficult, yes — but not meaningful.) And if that many young women are going to be interested, it would at least be reassuring to see more than (I think) one man taking the same attitude. At bottom, this appears to be about how a woman has to have a man.

    I could spin this out further, but that was my basic concern.

  30. Khatgrrl says:

    Wood or hermit thrush? Have yet to hear one yet this year. I did see my first hummer yesterday, and we have a robin nesting on top of our exterior garage light.

  31. Ginjoint says:

    Andrew, thanks for your reply. I do see your point, and I’m also taking into consideration what Juliet mentioned about the artist. I don’t know if you clicked on the link Alison provided, but the linked article describes more about the many other women (from many different professions) that the artist involved in this project. As a woman, that interests me.

    Another aspect of it was “to explore issues of intimacy vs. mass technology,” which I do think is important enough to be the basis of art. In fact, I find that very intriguing. Although, how interested would I be in this particular installation – which involves a heterosexual perspective? Not sure. Like most other lesbians and gays, I’m very often watching het stories/experiences in pop culture. And sometimes, yeah, that gets tiring, and I’ll reject an otherwise good movie, T.V. show, etc., just because I’m so sick of the “dominant paradigm”. But as I mentioned above, I find the involvement of all those other women tantalizing – I want to hear their points of view. And maybe, that’s what interested the women in the photographs as well. In short, maybe it had nothing whatsoever to do with men, really. That does happen in the world.

  32. Kate L says:

    (delayed reaction to earlier thread in this conversation) Yeow, tell me about e-mail break-ups! I lost a friend (in fact, we had adopted each other as siblings) that way without meaning to.

    And, it turns out I’m not the only radiclib who listens to the right-wing broadcasts afoot in the land. None other than Camille Paglia does the same thing!

  33. Aunt Soozie says:

    Yay for the Thrushes… I’ll tell my kid they’re back in town.
    Mistress Librarian… hmmm… I had heard of Marion, Lady Librarian..
    but, never Mistress Librarian. sounds good to me.

  34. Ready2Agitate says:

    radiclib, Kate? radical librarian? /geologist?

  35. Alex K says:

    Flying from Dayton, OH, to Burlington, VT.

    At least one change of aeroplane, for sure. And an entire day, like as not. With the added potential fillip of lost luggage.

    I hope the honorarium made up for a lot of inconvenience. A WHOLE LOT.

  36. JMG says:

    I’m at a major university and I can’t imagine our university president saying the word “dyke” either. But then, he also says things like “I don’t DO labour relations.”

    Andrew, I would be careful about commenting on an art exhibit without actually having seen it. Descriptions often don’t get across what is actually there or what it is actually about. I saw Calle’s “Prenez soins de vous” (the exhibit in question) at the Bibliotheque Nationale and it was amazing (especially in that setting, which is gorgeous). And indeed, the fascinating thing is the nature of the responses of women from a wide variety of fields. As an academic, I was often most thrilled by the readings of the letter by academics in a variety of fields. However, there were many many other thoroughly intriguing readings of the letter. Some of the readers were children or youth at different levels of schooling. Some of them were musicians, including Peaches, Feist, and Miss Kitten. As a whole, the installation seems to function as an exhibit of the wide variety of things that women can do and talents that women have. Ironically, since its the purported centrepiece of the collection, the contents and nature of the letter almost seem to disappear beneath the onslaught of intriguing things that women are capable of. Ultimately, I think it’s quite affirming of women’s talents and meaning outside of the context of their relationships with men. After all, the whole installation is effectively a collaboration between 108 women and only one (unwitting and unintending) man. When I saw it in Paris, I didn’t notice a disproportionate ration of women to men viewing the installation. I may just not be remembering, but I imagine those sorts of breakdowns might also vary widely depending on geographical location.
    This post has made me want to take out my copy of the massive exhibit catalogue and go through it again.

  37. hairball_of_hope says:


    You’re imagining that the guy who dumped Calle would find it hard to get another date? What about Calle? If that were me, I’d be steering far clear of her attractive charms, for fear of being exposed and immortalized in her art. Even if I were drooling on my shoes with lust.

    She may have found a lifetime’s worth of art inspiration from that breakup e-mail (and I’m sure it’s only the capstone in a contentious relationship with the guy), but I’ll wager that she’s never gonna get a date again either.

    That brings up some interesting questions (for me, at least) about how high-profile folks meet and keep normal friends, lovers, relationships. How do they keep some semblance of normalcy in their lives? How do those in the lives of artists overcome their reticence at becoming part of the art? David Sedaris writes that one of his sisters always says that whatever she tells him, she doesn’t want it ending up in one of his stories. How do I know this? Sedaris wrote about it. Why she still talks to him, I have no idea.

    I’ve always imagined it must be a really awful existence to know that there’s a phalanx of photographers and paparazzi waiting behind every bush and parked car, hoping to snap one’s photo in the most unflattering and uncomfortable situations. Whenever I catch some ridiculous photo of celebs in less-than-flattering glory, I’m give thanks I can dash out to the corner bodega for victuals unshowered, wearing a grubby sweatshirt, hair all akimbo, in relative anonymity.

  38. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L

    The Foxnews report on the 24 year-old trolley operator said he was busy texting his girlfriend. They also did not have gender pronoun consistency in the report, which in my view was no accident.

    Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority spokesman Joe Pesaturo told ABC News that there was “nothing unusual” in the hiring of Alden Quinn, and that he was picked out of a hiring lottery in 2004.

    Another MBTA source said, “Quinn was initially hired as a minority and used her transgender status,” ABC News reported.

    There’s no information in the report as to Quinn’s gender identity at the time of the hiring lottery in 2004. If still identified as a woman, she would have been a minority for hiring purposes. If the operator later identified himself as M trans in the course of the hiring process, I don’t know if that is considered a minority under Massachusetts employment law. Let’s assume that transgender is considered a minority. No matter what, the job candidate is still considered a minority. So exactly how does being a minority affect the outcome of this story? MBTA shouldn’t hire minorities? Maybe Quinn is black (I don’t know, I haven’t seen photos of him). Would they write this story in the same way if Quinn were also black?

    If I were a typicial Foxnews believer, my takeaway on their coverage would be a) he wasn’t really a he, because they also identified the operator as a she, b) all those affirmative action/minority/non-discrimination laws rig the system against “normal” people like me (read into that word all the preconceived notions you can imagine), and c) he/she is really all about SEX, it’s just so obvious because he was texting his GIRLFRIEND.

    Ok, so maybe this is one step up from the usual serial killer motif. But I think they managed to bring in the SEX (oh horrors!), nevermind that’s what might be on the brain of any typical 24 year-old of any gender or orientation.

    (Goes back to looking for her 24 year-old brain in the wayback machine)

  39. Susan Stinson says:


  40. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L

    “…my plumbing flows once more unvexxed to the sea …”

    I do hope that’s your house plumbing, and not YOURS. 🙂

    You keep getting clogs in the waste stack between the kitchen sink and the washing machine? Have you tried a lint filter on the output of the washing machine hose? World’s best (and cheapest) lint filter can be found in the form of pantyhose.

    Tie a piece of pantyhose over the output hose (secure it in place with a plastic cable tie). If you’re not using the foot of the pantyhose, just tie a knot in the end of piece you’re using. Remember to change out the pantyhose periodically as it fills with lint, or the water will back up. How often should it be changed? YMMV, depending on how many loads you’ve washed, how much lint, animal hair, etc. gets washed down the drain.

    Also, if you have one of those kitchen sink waste disposal things, stop using it. Compost your vegetable peelings instead, it’s better for the plumbing and the garden.

    I assume you are snaking the stack, do you have some idea of what the obstruction is? I once had a weird recurring obstruction in the ‘Y’ leading to the stack servicing my kitchen, it turned out to be MUSHROOMS growing in the pipe!

    This was in my road warrior days, where I would be gone for a good chunk of every month, and I would come home to compost in the refrigerator, incredible onions that sprouted à la Jack-In-The-Beanstalk, and other amazing kitchen tales.

    I solved the problem by running a sinkful of hot water and bleach down the drain before I left on my trips, or weekly, whichever came first.

    Haven’t had the problem come back (I still do the bleach/hot water thing), but now I’ve got one of those SeeSnake video inspection cameras I can stick down the pipe to check out what’s clogging the works, so I am all set for the next humongous fungus.

  41. Andrew B says:

    Ginjoint, thanks for your perspective and for reminding me to look at the links. They made me think more about this.

    JMG, thanks for your observations. I’m glad the crowd in Paris was more balanced. Looking at Alison’s pictures, at least when she was there the crowd in New York was nearly all women. (Female-identified, anyhow, and seriously, what’s the likelihood that many of them are drag queens?)

    You could look at that from the opposite perspective from the one I took earlier. If it’s a problem, the problem might be not that the women are there but that the men aren’t. Plenty of men could use more perspective and irony about how to cope with someone rejecting them.

    I’m not competent to provide a complete translation of the proofreader’s remarks. The ones at the top of the page have to do with standardizing the punctuation. I can’t read the ones on the sides at all. At the bottom, she comments, “Short and repetitive text.” The orange highlights pick out occurrences of the verb “savoir” and its conjugates (to know, in the sense of abstract or verbal knowledge). The yellow highlights pick out occurrences of “dire” (to say or tell).

  42. Kelli says:

    Regarding Martin Duberman’s point:

    What’s important to remember is that nothing is ever enough; there’s always some problem, some ongoing injustice, some wrong that needs to be righted. It’s important to remember this not because it can lead to compassion fatigue (though it can, and may contribute to the alarming tendency of the general public to drift from the left to the right politically as they age) but because it reminds us to FOCUS.

    A bunch of scattered people tackling scattered causes in haphazard ways does no one any good. Don’t take on more causes than you can handle. Understand that the left is such a nebulous and self-contradicting entity when you try to take it all at once: for example, how do you reconcile the simultaneous leftist ideals of support for industrial labor unions in seeking living wages and safe working conditions, and support for environmental concerns that would see some of those industries wiped from the face of the planet?

    I guess what I’m saying is, don’t spread yourself too thin. There’re a lot more of us out there than the mainstream media would have you think — but a mass of people rendered ineffectual by having their attention split in too many ways does not somehow magically add up to become the equivalent of a small group of focused and effective people.

  43. Kate L says:


    Yes, you raise valid points about the Fox News coverage of the Boston trolly crash. And you are right to say that the conductor texting his girlfriend at the time means it was no accident.

    Thanks for the helpful plumbing tips! 🙂 I had not thought of a pantyhose strainer for the washing machine, and the latest clog happened right after I used the garbage disposal machine on some raw cabbage. Sandy and I (Sandy is my harrier hound) liked the corned beef, though. And, as for being unvexxed, I have experienced the awe and mystery that is the hot flash, so I’m afraid Aunt Flow does not stop here!

  44. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L

    Hmmm… I had your house plumbing problems pegged. Suggest you reread the recipe for corned beef and cabbage, the cabbage is supposed to be COOKED. You and the dog might like it better that way. 🙂

    In any event, kitchen sink disposal units are terrible for your house plumbing, terrible for wastewater treatment plants, and terrible for the effluent from the treatment plants. Treatment plants end up with extra solids that have to be dried and buried, and the treated water has a much higher concentration of organic materials and nitrogen, which contribute to fish kills and algae blooms. Also, to prevent clogging, you have to run a lot of water during and after grinding up kitchen waste in the disposal, another downside to using the thing. If you’re not going to compost the cabbage, it would be better to toss it in with the garbage, where it will decompose (eventually) in a landfill.

    Better still, learn to eat the cabbage. It’s good for you (but perhaps not quite so good for the folks around you). I’ve always liked the cruciate vegetables, but folks tend to stay upwind of me if I’ve been on a brussels sprouts binge. Hello hydrogen sulfide! TMI.

    Remember, those aren’t hot flashes, they’re power surges.

  45. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L

    A little clarification on the pantyhose lint filter… use a piece that’s about 12-14″ long. Secure it to the output hose such that you have about 10-12″ dangling off the end of the hose. A little longer is fine; you can quickly get into water backup problems if the piece of pantyhose is too short, not enough surface area filtration to allow the water to pass.

    Oh, and keep cats away from the pantyhose. I learned that one many years ago when the four-legged furball first took up residence with me. I came home from work, got out of my corporate drag, washed out the pantyhose in the bathroom sink, and hung it up to dry.

    Silly me. How did I not understand that dangling pantyhose makes an EXCELLENT cat toy. Almost as much fun as unrolling the entire roll of toilet paper into a pile on the floor.

  46. iara says:

    Hairball, you are freaking me out. Remember I told you that I have a picture of what you look like because you sound soooo much like an old friend who unfortunately has moved away? Well, you might like to know that she also came to my rescue when I, hm, put a whole bunch of stuff down the garbage disposal (the hard parts of artichokes, if memory serves — no, nothing that you could convince me is edible, not even downwind!). When I read your post it brought back the image of her “emergency response visit” – she came over with her full complement of various plungers and stuff. I think I will give her a ring, we have not talked in a while.

  47. hairball_of_hope says:


    That’s funny. I used to regularly come to the (plumbing) rescue of a friend who was always washing her contact lenses down the drain. I eventually gave her a camel’s hair art brush and water pump pliers (channel locks), so she could undo the cleanout plug in the sink trap and retrieve the lenses herself. I always asked her why she didn’t close the sink stopper before rinsing her lenses. I think she was really just trying to get me over to her place (and in one case, to a party she was attending).

    I once saw a T-shirt that read, “She who dies with the most tools wins.” I should have bought the shirt.

    Women with tools… Nothing turns on a man like a woman with her own tools. And nothing turns on a dyke like the tools themselves! “Ooooh, you have a Snap-On socket wrench…” one woman cooed.

  48. Ali says:

    You are at your alert and witty best today. I am much entertained and informed! I guess you would at least think twice before finishing with Calle by email – isn’t there a paul simon song 50 ways to leave a lover – could be a few more exhibits coming up?!?
    So is an exhibit of 108 women analysing a break up email – ulitmately revealing women’s empowerment or subjugation?
    I find it exciting and inspiring when large groups of women collaborate on work – I am constantly amazed that women do not rule the world or at the very least that we accept mysogyny in so much of our lives.
    I had a discussion with my liberal feminist friend the other day about women’s freedom to wear what they want. Her sister works in Kuwait and has to cover up and she sees muslim dress codes for women as oppressive. I do not disagree with her in essence but we do disagree about the relative freedom of being able to wear what you like. On a saturday night my local city is full of young girls wearing next to nothing – even on very cold nights – I question that this is an expression of freedom – as many of them are chained to behaving in certain ways to pick up a man. If a woman dresses as she wants for herself it is one thing, but if it is to attract a man and this often involves being freezing cold or uncomfortable, then to me she is potentially less mentally free than a muslim girl who chooses to take the veil. Obviously, living in a free state to pass comment may seem trite, but still I think there is often the illusion of external freedoms, when actually mentally we are far from free.

  49. Ginjoint says:

    My favorite? A Sawzall. I channel my inner Sarah Connor with one of those babies.

    Hairball, a question – you brought up how treatment plants end up with extra solids from disposals that need to be dried and buried. Isn’t that decent for the soil, though? Does that benefit exist?

    Also, to Ali – I’m thinking about your questions re: concentrating on one “battle” too much. However, I told myself I would not spend too much time online today, as I have a multitude of chores to take care of. But later…

  50. hairball_of_hope says:


    Ah, Milwaukee tools… the red color is just so femme, dontcha ya think? Nothing holds a drill bit like a real Jacobs chuck. Oooh.

    The problem with the dried sludge from wastewater treatment plants is the high concentration of heavy metals, all of which are toxic to the central nervous system, and end up more concentrated in animals the higher up one goes in the foodchain. So the short answer is NO, the sludge is not good for the soil.

    There was a pilot project that gave away the sludge to folks (mostly minority and poor) to use as fertilizer on their lawns and yards, without any warning (or regard) about the heavy metal concentration. Now these poor folks have mini-Superfund cleanup sites on their property.


    There is some research being done on chemical processes to get the toxic metals out of the sludge so it can be safely used as fertilizer, but there’s nothing out there yet on any scale that would qualify the sludge as safe.

  51. Ali says:

    @ginjoint I have no set opinion on this. I do not think freedom to marry is one battle too many – just that I am very interested in what Martin Duberman had to say. I too will have a think about my own answers to this then get back to you. In Plato Aristotle rarely came up with his own or better arguments – he mainly just critiqued those of others – I will endeavour to provide answers not just questions…

  52. Ready2Agitate says:

    I just started Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (2007) and imagine at least Holly & maybe HRT and AB have read it. Hairball, you would love it, I think. Today I learned from you that I should not use my kitchen disposal (yikes – how’d I miss that?!), and from Kingsolver, the miracle of asparagus.

  53. Anne from Steamboat says:

    Just a reminder that for international couples, gay marriage is something quite serious; not just a way to register for kitchen crap and get distracted from more serious matters. My BBF of 30 years currently lives in Europe with her partner, the only place they can be together legally. She is thousands of miles away from her elderly parents and my daughter whom she has helped raise. These repressive federal marriage laws do a lot to tear apart families and everyone connected to my friend no longer considers this a trivial matter. As my daughter says, “They can’t live here because they’re both girls? Are you fucking kidding me?”

  54. Kelli says:


    Okay, I’m a little bit confused. Usually when you have a large quantity of stuff that is high in concentration of a bad thing, and you add other stuff that isn’t that bad thing, the resulting mass has a lower concentration of that bad thing.

    So, if sewage sludge is ordinarily high in heavy metals, and we add to the mass of sludge by putting stuff in the disposal, doesn’t that reduce the concentration of heavy metals (while of course adding to the overall sludge mass)?

    Isn’t dilution just about the only way to handle heavy metals, anyway, since they don’t just disappear?

    If adding disposal stuff to the sludge content doesn’t dilute the heavy metal content, then that MUST mean that there are heavy metals in the stuff we’re putting in our disposals. And we should therefore stop eating it. But since there’s no specific type of food being talked about, we have to stop eating EVERYTHING.


  55. hairball_of_hope says:

    Totally off-topic, but it segues nicely from the toxic waste department…

    (Rant-O-Matic alert, all dialogue guaranteed verbatim, à la “Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies”)

    Yesterday I had a real Dilbert day. We were summoned to one of our periodic brain high colonics (aka the big staff meeting) where The Powers That Be droned on about the usual crapola, complete with illegible PowerPoint slides and horrid PA system that alternated between cutting out, feedback, and random static.

    Five hours of this mind-numbing crap, which easily could have been summarized in four bullet items on one PowerPoint slide:

    . Business sucks
    . We have no money
    . Bring your own office supplies, we’re not buying any
    . Be thankful you have a job. For now. This week.

    I knew my day was going from bad to worse when my boss, Mr. Personality, greeted me with not “Hello,” “Good Morning,” or even “How bad was the traffic?” Instead, his idea of how to say hello to a staff member was, “Where’s my report?”

    “Uh, it’s 7AM, did you expect me to type it while I was driving?” I asked. “Tell ya what, I’ll leave now and write up the report. You can read it on your Blackberry.”

    “Oh no, you’re staying here. Grab a coffee and bagel before they disappear.”

    “Food?” I inquired. “I thought we weren’t allowed to pay for food at meetings anymore.”

    “There’s going to be an employee recognition award presentation, so we’re having food.”

    Both of these should have set off alarm bells in my head. Once upon a time we held these periodic meetings in a hotel, with a real cooked breakfast, lots of healthy items to eat besides the requisite pile o’ pork products, and some of them were even suitable for vegans (really tasty sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes were among my favorites).

    But now, in these “trying times” (and yes, our perfectly-coifed head honcho actually used that phrase several times), we hold these meetings in an inconvenient location that’s really a dusty unused corner of an industrial building where they plop some tables and chairs, and put up a projection screen and the aforementioned crappy PA system.

    The bagels turned out to be stale, petrified specimens that could have doubled as gorilla teething rings. No fruit. No yogurt. Nothing resembling healthy food, despite an official policy that says when food is provided, there have to be healthy and veggie selections. “Where’s the healthy food?” I asked the human resources drone who was manning the food table.

    “There’s vegetable cream cheese,” he replied. “And orange juice. And water.”

    I gnawed on my bagel with veggie cream cheese and tried to stay awake. TPTB did their part to keep us awake by cranking up the airconditioning so that many of us were wearing our coats.

    Then came the employee recognition awards. Those of you who work or have worked for large organizations are probably familiar with this bizarre ritual of corporate America.

    There is an entire industry devoted to producing overpriced pieces of shlock emblazoned with the company logo and the recipient’s name. I have my own collection of these gems, some of them are actually quite nice (like the glass plaque from Ginjoint’s hometown for a project I did there), some are ironic (the clock given to me for X years of service, the clock runs slow, making my countdown to freedom seem even more far away), some of them are simply useless (the wooden pen/pencil set that stopped working within a week of the award).

    Back in the day, these “incentive” award things were accompanied by a check. For real money. Not a lot, mind you, and certainly not commensurate with the extra time/effort devoted to accomplishing the task that garnered the award in the first place, but it was something.

    Then they switched to handing out gift cards for corporate chain restaurants. A colleague who is well-known as a vegetarian received a gift card to Outback Steakhouse. Her manager, knowing full well how inappropriate the gift card was, said as he handed it to her, “I’m sure you’ll find something you can eat on the menu.” A while back, I received gift cards for TGI Friday’s. I handed the gift cards to a colleague with kids, telling him that his kids would enjoy the meal more than I would.

    In recent times, they’ve stopped handing out any kind of compensation at all, just giving us the laser-etched lucite plaques we’ve nicknamed “tombstones.”

    But now, in these “trying times,” even the tombstones are too much for these bozos. The recognition award tzchotchke they handed out at yesterday’s meeting was a small cardboard replica box of Wheaties, with the recipient’s picture on it.

    No name, no date, not even anything indicating what the award was for. Frankly, it was insulting. They would have been better served to not hand out anything and simply take a picture with the head honcho shaking hands with the recipient.

    Back at our table, we tried to figure out how they would top this at our next meeting. One guy suggested they would hand out baseball cards with our pictures on them. I suggested they would hand out mugshot posters, “Wanted – Dead or Alive” with the “Alive” crossed out. The winner was the suggestion that they would hand out milk cartons with our pictures on it. *

    During a break I buttonholed the HR drone. “John, I get it that we have no money, but really, a Wheaties box? And it’s empty. At least you could have put some cereal in the box. It would have been better than these bagels.”

    “Oh no,” he said. “Read the fine print warning on the side of the box, it’s not suitable for food products. It’s made from some kind of toxic recycled cardboard.”

    “How much did you spend on breakfast? And on the Wheaties?”

    “Oh, under $2 a person for the food, and about $4.25 for the Wheaties box.”

    “John, for four bucks you could have gotten us each a nice set of colored magic markers at Staples. Or a box of crayons. Either of which I would have found more useful than this thing.”

    “Hey, those tombstones cost about $40 each. Be happy you still have a job.”

    * De-clique-ification note to non-USAnians: In the US, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children puts photos of the missing children on milk cartons. Those of us who suffer under brain-dead bosses often joke that a good day starts off with seeing our boss’s photo on the milk carton.

    (End of Rant-O-Matic alert)

  56. hairball_of_hope says:


    You asked a good question and bring up good points. Yes, you can dilute the concentration of heavy metals by dilution, but then you’ve got way more toxic sludge to deal with.

    “Dose makes the poison,” is the old adage, but for some of these toxins, their toxicity is such that dilution doesn’t do a whole lot to make them less toxic (e.g. methyl mercury).

    That’s where “better living through chemistry” comes in. The general idea is to treat the sludge with various reagents that will chemically combine with or trap the heavy metals (chelates, clathrates), and then they can be removed from the sludge, usually via precipitating out the heavy metal compound (e.g. lead carbonate), which can then be reprocessed for other industrial uses.

    But if we add to the mass of the sludge via all those kitchen disposal grindings, there’s more sludge to be treated to remove the same amount of toxins, raising the cost of sludge treatment.

    As for the source of all these heavy metals, a surprising number of them are essential to life, in really tiny quantities. Check out the fine print on your multivitamin bottle in the “minerals and trace elements” section.

    My favorite example is arsenic. Most of us are aware that a large amount of arsenic or an arsenic-containing compound is acutely toxic, resulting in death. A trace amount of arsenic is essential to life. And an intermediate amount of arsenic is carcinogenic (cancer-causing). So here’s one element that we can’t live without, and depending on how much we ingest over time can either sustain us, kill us immediately, or kill us slowly.

  57. hairball_of_hope says:

    Typo… that was supposed to be “reduce the concentration of heavy metals by dilution”

  58. Renee S. says:

    oh, HOH, you have brilliantly and hilariously described every stupefying USA corporate (and not so corporate) meeting.
    I can’t stop laughing!
    I remember one such meeting where they served us Subway Sandwiches. Our engineer, a Hindu, was appalled that there were no meatless choices. He was told by our HR guy to “just pick off the meat…”
    At another place of employment, we received little lapel pins with the words “Six Sigma” on them.
    “We must achieve Six Sigma” he said.
    As I understand the basics of statistical analysis, I thought I would stir up the stew a little bit and ask him what “Six Sigma” actually meant.
    “Well, it’s complicated,” he said.
    I then asked him why would we want to wear complicated lapel pins, and he fumed and said, “IT JUST MEANS WE WANT ZERO DEFECTS!”
    I also once worked for a company that wanted their ISO Quality Certification so badly that they hired cheerleaders to come to our company picnic to get us all to root for
    I! S! O! I! S! O!
    No wonder why our economy is failing.

  59. geogeek says:

    More than anyone probably wanted to have continued about sewage sludge:

    In most municipalities the concentrations of heavy metals would not be changed very much by additional organic material going into the waste stream (in this case organic = made mostly of C, O, and H, not “raised according to mysteriously ‘better’ standards of agriculture,” and thus includes all vegetable, meat, and wood scraps, though if you’re putting wood scraps down your sink grinder you have other problems). Organic material, both solid and dissolved, is the main thing most places have to think about, and there are some very cool ways of getting it out of the water before letting the water back into the hydrologic system, but they cost $$$. One of my favorite water-treatment systems is in Tacoma, WA, where they both remove nearly all of the organic material into solids that are then “cooked” and used as fertilizer, and produce water clean enough to drink right out of the last settling pond! I think they were the first waste-water treatment plant in the UA to produce class A biosolids, i.e. you can safely grow root vegetables in the compost they make.

  60. geogeek says:

    p.s., Wow, what a bizarre corporate culture story. I worked in a couple of industry jobs, but never in a place like THAT…

  61. geogeek says:

    p.p.s. – My first post, last sentence: should be US, not UA.

  62. hairball_of_hope says:


    Oh, Six Sigma! ISO 9001! Remember the Malcolm Baldridge Awards? Oh please.

    The latest steaming pile of corporate pseudo-quality programs is Lean Six Sigma. And that’s after we went through Six Sigma, Process Management, Breakthrough Productivity, Transformation, and probably another half-dozen nonsense programs.

    But as long as they can create pretty charts and graphs, however meaningless, the program must be a success. Oh, and we are still wasting beaucoup bucks on the phony-baloney Six Sigma “black belt” consultants, while we have to hoard copier paper because we have no budget for office supplies.

    Someone (maybe it was Fortune magazine) did a study of the companies that had implemented Six Sigma, and determined that the businesses were in worse shape after their so-called successes with Six Sigma.

    Motorola comes to mind as one of those companies. How much money did they blow on the Iridium satellite system? How much money are they losing in mobile handsets? The PowerPC chip business is dead. So glad they have all those metrics showing how well they’re doing.

    Edward Deming must be rolling over in his grave.

  63. anon et al says:


    Thank you for the Learn Birdsongs link! What a find! I’m smitten. 🙂 And now I realize that Issa (formerly Jane Siberry) must’ve been smitten, too. Some cuts on her new album; Dragon Dreams seems to be very much patterned on bird songs.

    Again, thanks!

  64. NLC says:

    Concerning viewing the “Proofreader” text:

    Andrew B was right, of course. You only get the additional links if you are logged in.

    However, here is a link directly to the full-sized image:


    However, it’s possible that your browser may not initially show the image “full size”. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to expand the image.

    Unfortunately, each browser handles this differently, so I can’t give instructions that will work for everyone (for example, in Netscape, you should be able to just click on the image).

    But, in any case, the image should be large enough that you should be able to read the text easily. If not, you may need to experiment to figure out how to expand the image on your particular browser.

  65. cybercita says:

    yep, sophie calle does make a career out of getting dumped. i saw a show she did at the pompidou museum about 7 years ago and it was the same thing — all about the sadness of a lost love affair. this one was a series of photos of hotel rooms where she had gone to grieve. it was strange and unsettling. but i don’t think it was art.

  66. Kelli says:

    @hairball_of_hope, geogeek:

    Thank you both for clearing that up for me.

  67. Kate L says:


    I saw a t-shirt a few years ago I wish that I had bought. It read, “Dip Me in Honey and Throw Me to the Lesbians!”. I wonder how that would have gone over here in the U.S. Midwest…

  68. Calico says:

    Ah, Corporate nonsense. The squirrel on the wheel.
    My first gf worked for a large Co. (name withheld) in the 80’s and early 90’s, and every day it seemed like she had a meeting or two to attend.
    I finally asked her “So do you all have meetings in order to plan more meetings?” She said that yes, pretty much that was it.

    So Jane S. changed her name? I haven’t listened to her for years but really liked her 80’s stuff (Waitress, Mimi on the Beach, etc.)

  69. ksbel6 says:

    I meant to reply to the post about the transgender trolly driver much earlier, but a very busy spring schedule along with a tornado destroying much of the north side of our town last night, kept me away. Anyway, pointing out that the driver is transgender is as beneficial as telling us the person’s eye color. Fox news is dumb.

  70. Kate L says:


    Sorry about the tornado! And, Faux News is dumb? That may explain a LOT. Last time I looked in on them, they were promoting another one of their infamous “teabag” protests. Oh, how I WISH I could get MSNBC! From what I’ve seen on the web, that Rachel Maddow seems like such a nice young woman!

  71. Ian says:

    Off topic (am I/are we ever on topic? 😉 ) but had to share this. Was looking for pics of a VW camper van (I was born to late to be a proper hippy sadly) and came across the “Be Your Own Goddess” van on Wikipedia:


    Complete with its very own mermaid and Willendorf Venus!

    I find the counter-culture a good antidote to corporate stuff.

  72. Ian says:

    Ok, I just realised that the link I posted doesn’t work if you click on it, but if you cut and paste it into your browser’s address thingy then it ought to work.

  73. Kate L says:

    Are telemarketer calls making a comeback? Over the noon hour here in the Central Daylight Savings time zone of the USA, I received just such a call from someone who asked me “are you Mrs. L____”!

  74. Alex K says:

    @NLC: Interessant, mais je ne comprends pas pourquoi elle ait souligne tous les pronoms relatifs…

    I hate reading my own e-mails a day or two after I send them, when a recipient responds. There’s always an embarrassingly painful mis-use of language **writhe**.

  75. Renee S. says:

    @ Hoh….indeed about Deming. The whole Quality ISO thingy is only a scam for those who want to make money selling the Lean Whatever blah blah idea. It’s a market withing the market.
    I once was a technician for an aerospace company. When the devices were built and tested, our quality tech, Tina, would inspect the product. The Lean Manufacturing folks decided that I should turn on a green light when I finished with the devices, so that Tina would know that it was time to inspect. They were very unhappy when I suggested, since Tina sat 5 feet away from me, that I should just hand the device to her.
    I was told that I was not a team player.

    @ anon et al
    I’m happy that you enjoy the website. I refer to it often.
    Bird songs are wonderful. I even enjoy listening to blue jays.

    @ Ian
    I love that bus! Especially Starry Night on the roof.

  76. Renee S. says:

    whoops, another typo…within the market…

  77. ksbel6 says:

    Have those of you working for large corporations seen http://www.despair.com? You will love their stuff. Sorry, posting from my phone, so no link 🙂

  78. Kate L says:

    Oh, my, yes I’ve seen their demotivational material. A friend even gave me their calendar a few years ago…

  79. Ready2Agitate says:

    Ian, I just set that pic as my desktop. Given the finding this week of an even older goddess/yoni image, it seemed appropriate!

  80. Ready2Agitate says:

    Oh, and I love Jane Siberry, so I just had to know ~ this, from janesiberry.com:

    Welcome to the Jane Siberry treasury website.
    Jane has changed her name as of June 3, 2006.
    Her new name is ‘Issa’.

    who knew?

  81. Ready2Agitate says:

    Lambo (smile), as far’s I know, there’s still a national Do Not Call registry. Are you on it?

  82. Ian says:

    @Renee S and R2A: Glad you liked it – it’s fantastic isn’t it? The Willendorf Venus reminded me of Mo and Lois fighting for the buyer’s job at Madwimmin. Before I sound like a complete nerd, I’ve just been re-reading that bit in Essential D2WOF!

  83. susan says:

    Congrats on winning the Ferro-Grumley Award

  84. ksbel6 says:

    Thanks to whoever put the link in for me!