December 30th, 2006 | Uncategorized


Wow. I haven’t checked the blog for a couple days, and was a bit shocked to see some rather illiberal comments on the last post. I was very impressed by how many of you pitched in to try and moderate things–first by reasoned argument, then by kindness, then by gracefully changing the subject.

It never occurred to me that I’d need to actually moderate the blog, and I’d really rather not spend my time that way. I haven’t deleted any of the problematic comments, because some subsequent posts referred to them, and I didn’t want to revise the record. And also, you’re all (I think) grown-ups and don’t need protection. It’s pretty cool how how you all managed this situation. I hope this can continue to be a self-moderated forum. But I’d love to hear any thoughts people might have on the topic.

172 Responses to “Moderation”

  1. Unseen says:

    I am reminded of a friend who used to say, “Everything is good in moderation, including moderation.” It sort of has a different meaning to me now.
    There have been some great comments that have given me great insights, things I might not have heard or thought about had they not been provoked. That having been said, there is something to be said for people giving great care to their posts. I would rather that our site’s hostess spend her time on better things than worrying about moderating the comments posted here. We did promise her that we would understand if she spent some time relaxing and recharging. I have really been enjoying the sketch diaries.

  2. Deb Lashman says:

    I’ve been following this blog since the beginning – checking in every week or two and then spending more time than I’d like to admit reading and following various links. As a long time reader (though first time commentator) and having just read through the entire blog resulting from Alison’s posting about Time, I agree that the free flowing format is best. I love the leaps from politics to cooking to people making connections with one another.

    I particularly appreciated Maggie Jochild’s comments on the reaction to Time choosing Fun Home as the #1 book of the year among older lesbians. As someone who never thought she’d see the day when (no matter what you think of it) marriage would be legal, civil unions would be the conservative option, co-parent adoption would be more prevalent and the Virginia Supreme Court would uphold a Vermont Court ruling in a lesbian custody case arising out of a civil union, I too understand and am awed by the mainstream recognition. (How’s that for an awful run on sentence!) I too am torn between enjoying the mainstream recognition, including what it means for you as an artist and financially Alison, and that feeling of radicalism in being pioneers and not part of the mainstream.

    It’s the same debate we had constantly here in Vermont throughout the fight for marriage and the difficult compromise to accept civil unions. We need the mainstream recognition and acceptance (not tolerance but full acceptance) in order to protect ourselves and our families, but we have to make sure we do not loose those qualities that make our community – however we describe and define it – its own unique being. Not a new problem, just one we haven’t had to deal with before. For those of us who grew up in the 50’s & 60’s think about the metaphor we were constantly fed in school of America as a “melting pot”, or the struggles any of us who come from immigrant backgrounds within the more recent memory have around assimilation vs. holding onto our some portion of our ethnic, cultural and/or religious heritage.

    So this is what happens when I start to write…all prompted by the Time posting and then by laughing out loud at the sketch of the cat.

    I was just about to post this when I realized that I was still on the page for December 22nd.
    Then I read the rest of the blog to catch up to where I am in real time – December 30th now at about 10:30 pm in Burlington (where we finally have snow and it feels like winter). While I was taken aback by the tone of some of the postings, the responses by many of the regulars both in trying to sympathize and understand and in changing the subject since it seemed to be going nowhere useful, only confirmed my belief that the contributors to this blog are able to moderate it.

    Besides, how else would we get to see Alison looking schoolmarmish? All right grammar police – as one myself having been brought up in that kind of home – what is the consensus on that as a word?

    Alison, congratulations on all the recognition. I just went looking for my copy of Fun Home and then called Ben to see if he had borrowed it (he thinks it’s in his room at Jane’s house) and he was very excited to hear about Time. I think Maggie Jochild is right – you should add a sidebar.

  3. Ian says:

    I definitely think that reader’s self-moderation is better. We are all grown-ups (of varying inner child ages) and should be able to conduct our behaviour appropriately. Besides, there are much better ways for you to spend your time, AB.

    I think the main reason for moderation is, most obviously, to remove spam messages, or ‘hate’ posts, that definitely need removing.

    I am always astonished at the intelligent, honest and gloriously diverse and arcane discussions in the comments section. A blend I can’t imagine finding anywhere else! It’s joyfully anarchic as it is which is a wonderful side attraction to this blog.

    Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree with Maggie Jochild: you should DEFINITELY have a sidebar listing every single plaudit ‘Fun Home’ has garnered (and D2WO4 for that matter). If you’ve got it, flaunt it, as someone somewhere once said sometime.

  4. clara_lemlich says:

    Yes, well I hadn’t seen those posts either (just went and read the thread) and concur that everyone did a lovely job w/kindness, changing the subject, etc. It’s funny– way back in the day i’d go to the planetout site and wonder who the AB groupies were who’d write little messages there and think, oh, maybe they’re ‘my people.’

    and i guess in some ways they were/are. but with this blog, we can see more the range of folks who are both drawn to AB’s work and who also carry around anti-fat, anti-trans (referring to the post w/the 300 some comments, some of which bothered me as much as the anti-fat ones this time around), anti-working class, etc. crap.

    i think the question asked in the last thread about what draws Liz to AB’s work was interesting… ’cause somehow it seems less that we need a moderator for the site and more that we all need to reflect on what i think is a pretty clear thread that runs through AB’s work– and that’s the interconnections of oppression and the need to take a multi-issued response to all that’s personal and political in our lives.

    oy, don’t know if that makes any sense. words– they don’t always do the trick. maybe i should consult with that dictionary panel that AB’s now on.

    well, anyway, thanks, as always Allison, for being so thoughtful and provoking (without sometimes, perhaps, even intending to be) and for making my relationship to the internet in 2006 oh so much more fun…

  5. Xanthe says:

    I’m very glad to see this post today after spending a lot of yesterday fuming. I was very heartened to see many people handling things much more graciously than I was feeling at the time, and it was following their example that I bit my tongue rather than commenting further (and probably losing my rag in the process). So a big thanks for this post and to the people who pitched in yesterday.

    You have an intelligent, respectful, often utterly adoring crowd here who pull together to handle difficulties rather like an ant colony 😀 I’d like to think that we can continue to moderate ourselves, which is not something I think I could say for the vast majority of the other internet communities I belong to.

  6. Lauren says:

    I can only applaud those who responded to hate speech with such grace. I’d have lost my cool if I’d have been reading those comments as they were being written. (And I am a genetically thin person. Can’t imagine how I’d have felt if I weren’t.)

    Alison, I’ll join the others in saying, ‘Don’t waste your time moderating!’ The situation was handled beautifully. We’re big kids and shouldn’t have to be babied. (Although as I said, had I been around when those posts were happening, my little fingers would have been flying across the keyboard in anger, which would have been the wrong thing to do.)

    My anger at that toxic commenter may leave me at some point. In its place I might even find some compassion for her. She is obviously completely miserable. Nobody could approach even the smallest amount of “real” happiness with such hatefulness inside them. It is just not possible. I sorta feel sorry for somebody who is so completely, wretchedly unhappy. I suspect self-hatred is at the core of her statements. She hates her own gluttony or loss of control, whenever or however that happens, and so she lashes out violently at that, when she sees it in others. She has no compassion for herself; Therefore, she can’t have compassion for others.

    Lastly: Congratulations, Alison, on all the end-of-year best-of press that Fun Home is getting. You deserve all of it, and more.

  7. disgruntled hamster™ says:

    I’m with everyone else- you shouldn’t have to waste your time moderating this place.

    (I, for one, promise I’ll attempt to do a better job of restraining myself from jumping into the fray the next time I find myself faced with a line of discourse that offends my sensibilities.)

    Lastly, I’d like to second (third? fourth?) the poster who suggested the sidebar. I think it’s a wonderful idea!

  8. kate mckinnon says:

    It’s almost tempting to start a blog fight just to get that look, Alison.

  9. Ian says:

    Well, I always think that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything, and save your anger, scorn and vitriol for the (insert expletive of choice here) in charge of our respective countries (US and UK)! Bigger picture folks, bigger picture …

  10. Ovidia says:

    We’ve got to be grown-ups here? But it was fun watching people fight so passionately about shapes, sizes & stereotypes here where no one can see your shape, size or stereotype… except you… ok. point taken. will behave.

    SidebarSidebarSidebarSidebarSidebarSidebarSidebar(chanting–but politely)

  11. Leslie says:

    I wish that I truly beleived that you’ll never have to consider moderating posts. Unfortunately from my experience with online public message boards, once a “troll” finds you, they are notoriously difficult to shake off, and they quickly learn what comments to make to keep the pot stirring and keep people pissed off: Attention seeking behavior at its finest.

    About the only thing you can do once trolls have invaded is moderate (delete individual posts or prevent the troll from posting at all), unless you can get everyone on board with a “don’t feed the troll” policy: Don’t respond to purposefully inflammatory comments, no matter how tempting and how much the person needs to be corrected or (politely) told off. And that’s just so hard to do sometimes, especially among those who have learned to be comfortable speaking out against others’ presumptions and prejudices in our daily lives.

    And I love the sidebar idea. Then again, I’m only loving it because I’ve had to dig through to find all of the different awards and accolades in order to list them in the various places where I’ve been gushing on and on about you & Fun House (you have quite a following at a “rebel mama” online community as well as others where I’m a member, and I’ve been keeping everyone posted about what’s up). So I guess that makes the awards sidebar something that’s just more work for you in order to make our lives easier.

    Actually, Kate, now that we know the look that comes from a blog fight, I’m hankering to find out what look Alison would give for a food fight, a pillow fight, a water balloon fight, etc. ::grin::

  12. *tania says:

    i agree. don’t moderate. the lack of an original text/script/document makes the revision of history too easy. i know it’s just a stupid troll out there, but i am all for preserving the archives, if only to remind us that though we’re operating in a virtual realm, we are still only as strong as our community.

  13. LM says:

    Oh, I do hope you don’t become a (shudder) moderator. Let’s face it, sometimes you encounter someone you really don’t want to stand next to at the bus stop. Your truly nice group of admirers/bloggers will just have to adopt a slightly less therapeudic approach to toxic trollishness. Still, I too wouldn’t have wanted to miss “the look” heading your latest post. Schoolmarmish indeed! Hmm, brings to mind some inappropriate feelings towards my eight grade algebra teacher, bless her heart.

  14. Duncan says:

    I agree: I would hate for Alison to feel that she *had* to moderate the blog. It’s hers, after all, and if she gets weary weary Lord weary of keeping us in line, she’d have every right to shut it down, or at least shut down the comments. Which would be a shame. Meanwhile, I’m very grateful that she has shared this space so generously with us.

    I love the schoolmarmish photo, though really, Alison, you need to have steel-gray hair and those glasses need to have a fine chain affixed to the sides. (And I’m pretty sure “schoolmarmish” is a word; I know I’ve seen it before.)

    That being said, I don’t think we have any “trolls” here; a troll is usually a hostile outsider who posts just to stir things up. An example would be an ostensibly straight boy urging all the lezzies to get themselves men. I haven’t read every comment here, but I haven’t seen anything like that. We’ve had some intense exchanges, though, and I’m glad that such things evidently don’t upset Ms. Bechdel.

    I really hate the term “hate speech” in this context, because I am not sure I’ve seen that here either. One reason I hate the term is that the people who use it as a weapon almost always use it themselves, against what they consider suitable targets. Even if it were the right word for the job, though, it bothers me that so many people think we need to be protected from “hate speech.” Well, not *us*, of course, but those others, the weak ones, you know the ones I mean. (I see this as the flip side of the people who say, “You should be careful not to fit stereotypes. I’m not misled by them, but other straight people, those who aren’t as nice as I am, might get the wrong idea.”) Granted, I wouldn’t want to see this blog taken over by real trolls and flame wars. But we have to learn how to defend ourselves, and, I hope, to help others learn to defend themselves. I grew up in the 50s and 60s myself, and if “hate speech” could kill, I’d be long dead by now. That’s not meant as macho toughness; I’m a vulnerable person too. (I’ve also noticed that those people who want their vulnerability to be protected are generally quite willing to savage the vulnerability of others.)

    I’ve been participating in online forums (fora?) for twenty years now. I think I’ve learned a lot by doing so. I believe that online spaces can be very useful for people to learn to defend themselves verbally. I agree with Ovidia that it’s “fun watching people fight so passionately about shapes, sizes & stereotypes here where no one can see your shape, size or stereotype… except you.” And it’s not only fun, it’s educational. If someone says something that angers me online, I can take my time replying, revise and think it over, and even decide not to post after all. (And I have done that more than once over the years.) Online fora give me (and you) an opportunity to engage seriously with people who oppose me, and whom I oppose: fundamentalist Christians gay and straight, Republicans and Democrats, Mythopoetic homophobes and matriarchalist Marxists. To listen to what they’re saying, and try to answer it, instead of merely dismissing it.

    Yes, we’re discussing issues here that people feel strongly about. And people do sometimes get upset when their assumptions and beliefs are challenged. But we expect our opponents and enemies not to get upset when we challenge *their* beliefs and assumptions; I believe we have to be willing to take the same risk, scary though that is.

    Again, thanks to you, Alison, for your generosity and your wisdom.

  15. Deb says:

    Looks like I missed the ‘excitement’. I have to say that seeing your picture on this series of threads made me feel like a naughty little girl…………and I didn’t even get involved in the last set of blog comments. Must be my inner child……..:)

    I appreciate all you do for the blog and I think that self moderation is the best thing. I reread the last posts and I thought it was handled very well.

    You have a great bunch of readers here!

  16. Straight Ally says:

    Unfortunately, only a site moderator can remove spam, and spam will appear from time to time. So to that extent anyway, Allison or someone representing her will always have to moderate.

    It seems like an idyllic little community of commenters to me–sane, wise, pleasant, peaceable, and socially adept. I don’t read the blog religiously, but I would think that so far, the exceptions are acceptably rare.

  17. AnnaP says:

    Am I the only person here who think some sort of moderation could be done in case things get really nasty?
    I have some past experience on Internet blogs and discussion groups turning into battlefields. There are so few places remaining friendly, whe should preserve that by any means nesessary.
    AB love your work.

  18. Pam Isherwood says:

    Let us read it and then ignore it, is my vote. And it was interesting to follow threads through to the comics boards and see what hardcore comic fans thought of FH – after all the entirely positive reviews from, nostly, the “literary” end of the press, the discussions between and within the (presumably) teen-boys were much more critical. It’s useful to know what your opponent thinks. You can win more arguments by trying to get inside their alien heads, I find.

  19. Pam Isherwood says:

    PS I KNOW comics aren’t only read by teenage boys, but that’s who they are written for. I started on Marvels at about aged 28, and went full-on at catching up – especially all those Mutants storylines. I believe Batwoman is lesbian these days, I must check that out too.

  20. Virginia Burton says:

    What I saw yesterday was someone in terrible pain, lashing out the way an injured animal does.

    Plus, the holidays are hard on everyone.

    So count my vote for no censorship, but with this hanging chad: there are some strange links posted at the bottom of Episode 500. I clicked on one of them (when will I ever learn?) and found a list of random words. I’m hoping my MacBook’s firewall will protect me from my eternal stupidity, but I’m wondering if those links are to something dangerous. I don’t know if there’s a way for you to check them without endangering your own computer, but perhaps they should be removed.

    Best wishes to everyone for a splendid 2007!

  21. dw says:

    Love the schoolmarm. Almost worth the unpleasantness. For myself, I will just skip over postings from the unhappy lashing person. Of course this means if the star of NATIONAL VELVET happens to leave a comment I’ll miss it but life is imperfect.

  22. mg says:

    I’m not part of this community–just a reader. What I’d like to see–the comments on a separate page from the strips. I don’t enjoy reading the comments; I’m not a part of the community, I’ve never posted here, and I have no wish to. I’m breaking out of this role only to make this suggestion. I’d like to view the art without the commentary starting immediately below it.

  23. meg says:

    Alison, I sincerely hope you don’t end up spending your time moderating these threads! What a waste that would be. I haven’t seen any real trolls here, thank Peep, just some rather less than tactful (*cough*) statements and remarks.

    Overall, I thought the whole little row was pretty well handled.

    And back to the sidebar – great idea. Katie can set it up no problem, right? It would make it far easier for people to have all the accolades and major reviews grouped in one area and hotlinked. Maybe rank the reviews by publishing date so that regular readers could check at a glance for new reviews?

    Do it.

  24. susansinclair says:

    As blog brouhaha’s go, this was a fairly mild one, I must say. But when it’s your blog, it’s gotta be disturbing. On the other hand, it’s interesting to track how a comic prompts folks to discuss a range of issues, from sharing other sources of humor to deeper questions of identity and self perception and public health.

    And the schoolma’armish look? Priceless. Definitely in my own teaching arsenal, to be trotted out on rare occasions, when thoroughly provoked.

  25. aimes says:

    Since I was away reading Fun Home, I missed all the excitement. Did something happen???

    (Sorry, I could not resist the Eddie Haskell moment)

  26. Ginjoint says:

    Moderating this joint? Feh. Not necessary. Off-topic, I like the way the top of your head looks all fuzzy and soft in the picture. A petable schoolmarm.

  27. Alex K says:

    “Did something happen”?

    Well, yes. In yesterday’s THE TIMES (the London flavour):

    30 December 2006 THE TIMES / “The year in ideas”

    GRAPHIC NOVELS: There ay be some argument about what to call the graphic novel, but there’s no doubting that it has now officially Arrived. As to the name: Well, comic book is fine for most of the people who write them, but literary types want something fancier. Of course, comic books have been around since Spiderman was knee-high, but this year saw Alison Bechdel’s remarkable memoir Fun Home chosen as one of THE TIMES’ Top Ten Books of 2006, and move smoothly on to the bestseller lists of THE NEW YORK TIMES. For Bechdel, author of the cult comic Dykes to Watch Out For, this was a remarkable achievement.

    Hey! For ANYONE, this was a remarkable achievement!

    Non-moderatedly (immoderately?) happy for AB — Alex K

  28. Alex K says:


    If some moderator could step in and insert that missing “m”, she would be very welcome just now.

    Stop judging me. You too, Alison.

  29. Silvio Soprani says:

    Sidebar? DEFINITELY!

    Trolls? Yes, I agree with ignoring them. To speak to a person who is treating one inappropriately only gives them more power. To ignore them feels unjust but is actually the most practical strategy.

    None of this takes into account the power of kindness. I was totally awed by the posters who addressed our problem poster directly and treated her like a human being, not a problem. I personally, did not have the courage or the stomach. And I don’t know if their kindnesses did any good, but you never know.

    But once it became apparent that no change in her attitude was occurring, ignoring her and changing the subject was probably the kindest thing for everyone. After all, when a child is having a tantrum, at a certain point you cannot reason any further.

    Duncan, while your comment that online spaces can be useful for people to learn to defend themselves verbally is probably true, I also have to say that I think debate and argument are skills that demand a certain personality type, and I am not convinced this can be learned. I find this type of engagement terrifying unless I trust the other parties. It takes a certain relish of being out on a limb to argue one’s position when it concerns one’s own personal situation or feelings.

    I suppose that is a great tribute to this blog, that many of us feel respected and approved of enough to speak. And I think the type of person who starts a flame (and this is just a guess), perhaps has nothing to lose because they already feel that everyone hates them, so it is no great loss to piss them off further.

    I would be terrified to say something that offended a lot of people because I truly want (and believe I will) receive a respectful reaction (even if not one of agreement). And if I did not receive that, my personality is such that I would immediately suspect that I had made some terrible error and should have thought out my words more carefully. (You can see why I am not in political office.)

    I am a work in progress; in some ways I think I had more courage ten or fifteen years ago when I was more involved in political groups. (Use it or lose it!)This recent episode with the fat wars kind of shook me up!

    But my vote is solidly that we continue to moderate ourselves, and Alison, thank you for asking us. But don’t leave that camera in a taxi…it is an excellent tool to keep us in line(in the most pleasant way possible…)

  30. fjm says:

    Alison, I was mostly impressed at how well people handled it. You’ve generated a community here, and on the last post it acted, and acted with courtesy.

    mg’s point about maybe having a link to the comments is worth considering. I’d read both but it would give people an option.

    Happy New Year Alison. I hope it’s as splendid as 2006 has been.

  31. Alison Cummins says:

    I agree with the general consensus that moderation is not necessary on this blog except in the case of spam and trolls, which are not the current topic of discussion.

    That said, I cannot agree with the general consensus that Liz is entirely wrong in all respects and that the only appropriate response to her is to either try to change her or to pretend she isn’t there or to assert that her experience is meaningless. I’m going to post something on the previous entry for those who absolutely need to know what I think; not here, because I understand that most people want to put the discussion behind them.

  32. Duffi says:

    A sidebar is an excellent idea. Let me be the 25th to affirm that suggestion. As to moderation, that’s not a burden that I feel Alison needs to pick up. We can, we have self-moderated. I was really impressed by how the community handled Liz’s comments. Tho’ I don’t post much, I love following the discussions.

  33. --MC says:

    Sorry, gang. New Year’s resolution for me: ignore the trolls. I tend to get into it once in a while online, which is my failing. I don’t want to cause Alison to spend time, that could be telling stories, policing squeakers like me.
    Speaking of the book, I understand that the second printing changes the book jacket — the diecut is gone, the underlying orange that used to be seen through the cut is now printed on the jacket.

  34. AK says:

    1. Alison, you most certainly shouldn’t have to moderate
    2. A sidebar for awards would be *very* nice
    3. A separate, “pictures only” link for just the DTWOF strips would be nice too. Sometimes I just want to go through and immerse myself in the story and not the blog or commentary.
    4. Please, please, please don’t thread the comments. I think it would kill the organic forum *conversation* that happens after each post. Threads require a lot of clicking and reloading of pages too, which on a slow computer is irritating *and* disheartening.

    As someone who occasionally trips over her tongue and lands with her foot in her mouth, I’m thankful that Alison is taking a gentle “let’s see” approach.

    Over a decade ago I was a regular at a privately hosted chatroom for Star Trek fans (Trekkie, not Trekker). This was on someone’s personal page, but the host seemed a likeable enough gentleman, and I met some good people and had some wonderfully fun discussions on that page, very few of which had anything to do with science fiction. When things got out of control and people began verbally abusing one another, he took some of the regulars and put them in charge of moderating the chat. I was invited to moderate, and I declined for ethical reasons. (I have a tendency towards sloth and self-righteousness, and I felt like that might be a bad combination for a policeman.) The moderators started out with good intentions, but soon favoritism and questions about “what defined an inappropriate post” got the best of them. Then people were “banned” from the chat…it was a true melodrama, and it ended with the chat being “temporarily” shut down.

    It’s my hope that here on Alison’s personal page, all that will be unnecessary. I have loved reading everyone’s opinions (even the ones that I “hated”), and I have learned a touch from some of the more well-traveled and well-read people who post here. (I could list you all, but that would be even more long-winded.) When I shuttled over here from that horrible PlanetOut after they cancelled Alison’s strip, I didn’t think that the comments section of her blog would become a forum, but I was pleased when it did because it meant that other people relished her work as much as I. And after “Fun Home” came out, the nascent beginnings of which I remember reading about years ago in “The Indelible Alison Bechdel,” it seemed like this page just “blew up.” That’s great. I try to only post what I would be comforatble seeing on a CNN newscrawl. That usually keeps me in check.

  35. shadocat says:

    HA! Alison, I agree with Kate: all that mess was almost worth that look. Cracked me up…

    I also vote for no moderator. Alison, you and your staff have better things to do with your time. In the past, we’ve had some pretty heated discussions on this blog, and I know sometimes I have taken some rather strong positions, some of which were objected to by some people. I can’t guarantee
    I won’t say (or blurt out) something objectionable, but I will work on being a little more careful from here on out.

    Also, I want to say I’m sorry for my last comment regarding “our distressing subject” on the last post. I had meant to soothe feelings and maybe lighten things up a bit, but all I ended up doing was to throw another log upon the fire. I am really sorry for that.

    Maggie, I would really love that information on the classism discussion you posted previously. I think that would be very useful for the type of work I do. I’m not sure if this is “kosher”to put my address here,but I don’t know how else to contact you. Could you e-mail that information to me at

    And Silvio, I think somewhere waaaay back you posted a website re: your music. Could you do that again? (I’m a former accordion player…)

  36. judybusy says:

    Virginia B.–on the last thread you wondered what the heck I meant by all the cows and cars, and how it realted to my garden zone! Well, I was just trying to be funny and allude to emissions which lead to global warming. (I must have stopped reading the thread where people were asking about what I meant, or I would have done the polite thing and replied.)

    I had read that the hardiness zone map has had to be re-drawn; I think this was somewhere on the New York Times website, with data provided by the Arbor Society or something. They showed the new map in color next to the one from 1990. It is very unsettling, and I am now officially in Zone 5 instead of Zone 4. I would rather not be able to grow crocosmia, frittilary imperialis, etc, etc, and have my damn winter back. Today it’s 41 and RAINING in Minneapolis. How can I possibly be self-righteous about living here anymore (oh, you think this is cold? Wait til you feel what -30 is like!) when today I didn’t even wear earmuffs….and haven’t for weeks.

    My two cents about moderating: obviously not. Alison, don’t you have a new sketch diary to work on? 😉 I would much rather have you taking walks to the beaver dam or going to the gym rather than be baby-sat. I, too was really perturbed about all the hateful comments, but I really learned a lot about kindness and speaking one’s mind respectfully but forcefully. It was also a great refresher on body image acceptance, something I know I can always use! Thanks to all who posted thoughtfully on that thread.

  37. Therry says:

    When I read AB’s comment on the snarky thread, I went back and read the entire stream of comments on the metrosexuals at the gym strip. And I enjoy seeing the same community congratulate themselves and reassure Alison that she doesn’t have to moderate the blog.

    But I haven’t seen any comments by Liz, and I miss the dissident voice. I miss the bitterness and pain. Somebody got real in the community’s blog. Somebody was what you clearly consider “other” in the community’s blog. I’ll keep checking, but I wonder whether Liz will come back, drawn more by Alison’s work than by the skilful, tactful way you shut her out.

  38. Olivier says:

    I just wanted to say that I totally agree with Duncan: Liz’s comments were clearly not what most of us come here to read but to call her a troll and her postings “hate speech”? Please. People, if that’s all the “hate” you’ve ever been subjected to, you’ve led very sheltered lives.

    I am also disturbed by Allison’s choice of words (she is a writer, so you have to assume she picks her words carefully) when she spoke of some “illiberal” comments. Again, I wasn’t pleased by Liz’s clearly absurd rant (hurt by one fat woman; curses all fat women to the fifth generation) but to condemn it, of all possible epithets, as “illiberal” smacks of political correctness, something we already have far too much of in the GLBT community, where I believe it’s hurting us.

    In conclusion I hope we can continue to find collegial ways to contain outbursts like Liz’ without descending into the hellhole of politically correct moderation, although I do appreciate that this is Alison’s blog and that, in the last resort, she is entitled to set rules for it.

  39. meg says:

    “illiberal -(adj) intolerant (narrow-minded about cherished opinions)”

    “illiberal adj.
    1) Narrow-minded; bigoted.
    2) Archaic. Ungenerous, mean, or stingy.
    3) Archaic.
    a)Lacking liberal culture.
    b)Ill-bred; vulgar.
    [Latin ill?ber?lis : in-, not; see in–1 + l?ber?lis, liberal; see liberal.]”

    Dunno, gov, seems a fair cop to me. *shrugs*

  40. Ellen says:

    Hey Olivier,

    You must have thicker skin than I do.

    Despite Liz’s comments coming from her own painful place, I found those remarks thoroughly hateful–mocking, shaming, degrading. If you substitute the words “gay man” or “lesbian” for “fat,” you might feel the same way.

    What does a post have to include to be called hateful? Violent threats? Four letter words? (With all the “Fuck. Me.” commentary of late, plus having just recently watched the full five seasons of Six Feet Under, the word fuck and its friends has lost much of its shock and expressiveness anyway.)

    Perhaps I do exist in a sheltered world, but I prefer to live in a community that supports, challenges, and inspires me instead of demeaning and stereotyping me. There’s plenty of that in this country already. I don’t need to read a website to take in more of it.

    Finally, I think there was a touch of irony in Alison’s choice of “illiberal.” I smiled when I read it. It’s more meaningful to me than the useless phrase “politically-correct, ” which started as a laugh-lightly-at-ourselves in-joke at lesbian potlucks, then was usurped by conservatives to mean, “anything we don’t agreed with.”

  41. shadocat says:

    a “bump” to you meg!

  42. kate says:

    I read your Y cartoon the next morning after you posted it (I think there were only 12 comments on it at the time) and was going to post something but I was late to my own Y workout, funny that. So I am equally surprised to see how the conversation weaved through every seemingly possible controversy and I loved the responses (good grief, I had no idea it would end up being about weight and hate). Gosh, I feel like it’s twenty years ago, I’m in college and joining in the debates (and I teach college now–young kids just don’t seem to debate like this anymore).

    I know it’s painful to read some of the comments made on that last one but sometimes it’s helpful to have an opinion that is so very different–I know it helps me formulate my own opinions when I disagree with others. Just trying to put a positive spin on it all.

    Alison, I’m glad you’re tolerant of all of these comments. It’s appreciated that you are open to a forum where people can discuss different, and sometimes illiberal (good word), opinions.

    Alison Bechdel 2008?

    Happy New Year everyone!

  43. Kathy says:

    Young kids still debate like that. You just aren’t privy to their discussions anymore.

    And to echo one of the professors from the last thread, that wasn’t someone expressing an opinion. She was trying to present her hateful ideas as fact.

  44. sunicarus says:

    Just a thought…

    Bring on 2007!

    Happy New Year!

  45. Feminista says:

    Hi all–Just want to put in my 2 cents here re: the off-misused phrase politically correct. As a veteran feminist left activist*cough*,my understanding is that the phrase came from Mao Zedong. In 1976,my socialist feminist study group was reading among other things the works of Mao,who raised the philosophical question,”Where do correct ideas come from?” Correct meaning ideas of the people,not the ruling class. Said study group was part of the Eugene (OR) Women’s Union,part of a national network of groups of women of all sexualities who rejected the “patriarchy is our only enemy”line of women who identified as radical feminists.

    Nevertheless, I managed to remain friends with feminists of many stripes at that time as well as maintain a connection with the left. (Though I did get some flack for my heterosexuality by some and was accused of being “separatist” by others. The term ‘the personal is political’was taken quite seriously then.)

    While I don’t doubt that the phrase circulated at lesbian potlucks,they aren’t the original source. Ellen is spot-on in how the right has used p.c.,and I cringe when people accuse others of being “too p.c.” when we call for more inclusivity.

  46. shadocat says:

    To those who feel the “dissident voice” was “shut out”, I offer this observation: several people tried to discourse with her in a reasoned manner but she did not respond to that (I for one, tried to give her an “out”-I thought that maybe she just needed to clarify her views-which , come to think of it, I guess she did).

    As the discussion went on, it was clear this person was not going to change her mind. Each time she posted, she hurt people, and said she did not care about hurting them. If she had said, “I hate Republican lesbians”, I would’ve still responded in the same way: Try to clarify what she meant, discourse, then drop it and move on. To keep that topic going (and I’ll admit, it took awhile for me to shut up), was just causing hurt to a lot of people, and she was one of them.

  47. shadocat says:

    This is completely off topic but-although 2006 may have been a good year for some individually, hasn’t it ended so weirdly? My mother believes the famous seem to die in threes–but James Brown, Gerald Ford, and Saddam Hussien make a rather odd trio, dontcha think? It’s strange world we live in…

  48. Maggie Jochild says:

    If a poster says “I find X people disgusting”, it’s a shock to hear but at least you can immediately know it is an opinion. If they say “X people are weak/stupid/repugnant/unpatriotic” etc., and then try to back it up with pseudoscience, quoting scripture, or whatever — I know it’s coming from exactly the same emotional reactionary place in them but they are demanding of me, of us, that I do translation for them. Which I have a right to decline. Kindly, of course. I think sincere kindness is always called for unless we are being attacked, and I personally define attacks as a tangible threat to my physical or economic well-being. A real attack is not going to happen on this blog — I can choose to not read, I can remove myself from “threat” here.

    Words I try to live by: Any difficulty I have with your difficulty is still MY difficulty. (You can live by this and still be a revolutionary.)

    Feeling safe and being safe are two different things, and the distinction between them is often incredibly hard for those who have been hurt to make. Especially women. I am responsible for the safety of those around me, but I cannot be responsible for your perception of safety — unless I choose to work with you in that regard. It’s a lesson that identity politics still fails to learn with any consistency, in my opinion.

    I think meeting hateful speech with kindness and a refusal to treat it as logic, insisting instead that it is feelings and (most importantly) not making fun of those feelings — this choice almost always assists the upset person to admit that they are, in fact, feelings and to share with you where those feelings come from. (Grammar, I know, forgive me.) All people want is attention for how they’ve been hurt. All of us at one time or another have sought attention in ways that were ineffective, to understate it, from people who had not really agreed to give it to us. It’s called being desperate. When you are desperate, your logic and judgment tend to be damaged, and interacting with someone desperate on only those levels will not help them in the long run.

    We handled this well, yes. Thanks for asking us about moderation, Alison, and I too vote no. I want you doing what you’re doing.

    For me, as a product of CR and collectives during the lesbian-feminist 70s, political correctness means specifically paying attention to my own language, attitudes and behavior so I don’t perpetuate the lies I was raised to believe. Rooting them out (which can take years) and replacing them with a broader reality. It’s not a joke, it’s not a club to wield against one another, and it’s not a final plateau where you can stop and build a little house, done with the climb. Any lie that makes me fail to understand or feel comfortable around another human being is painful, and I’d rather do the work than live with that pain. Especially since substance abuse doesn’t work for me, I have trouble numbing out. Just as an aside, paradoxically I live in physical pain 24/7, from more than one disability issue, and I don’t take pain meds (except once or twice a month when things go really, really wrong) — I want to be sharp, and physical pain is just nerve endings trying to get my attention.

    I wrote this to Alison, but I’ll share it with you: How I reached a place of kindness with regard to the poster who was saying things that so directly landed on my open wounds is that I managed not to turn off fast enough a little clip about Saddam Hussein’s execution — I got a little snippet of information. And it scalded me, because I don’t believe in killing other people, not under any circumstances. I’d be thrilled to see him imprisoned for life, but not executed. That forced me to think, again, about what compassion means and how far I’m willing to go. And I thought, if I’m willing to feel sorry for Saddam Hussein, then this poster is a piece of cake.

    Now — Sharon Bridgforth, who mentored me at one point, has taught the artistic community of Austin, especially the women of color here, a valuable lesson: Just because a need exists does not mean you have to be the one to fill it. Artists, in particular effective boundary-crossing ones, often attract the needy. But not all venues and settings can offer therapy, or all kinds of therapy. There are limits to what we can do on this blog. What makes us effective is our willingness to hear diversity and to discuss when we disagree. This is under constant tweaking — we have an international membership, we have a wide range of class and ethnic voices, and for the most part, we don’t offend one another too drastically. (I’m hoping.) But if we do say something hurtful, and another person on the list says “Ouch”, then our response needs to be something like “I didn’t mean to hurt you”. What occurred recently is that when one of us said “Ouch”, the poster came back with “I don’t care, I meant to hurt you, you deserve it”. Which means they are seeking therapy, not discussion. That’s when I said “No”. Stop engaging when you cannot offer what is being demanded of you. Stop engaging when disrespect is being deliberately aimed at you. I mean, don’t jump to that conclusion until they verify it, but when they do, walk away — without a parting shot. Because some lessons you just have to learn on your own, or let others learn on their own.

    I wish that were not true. I wish we could save each other. I wish someone had saved the members of my family, who are all dead in large part because of poverty, because they were an expendable element of society and nobody wanted to get near them. I do expect every one of us on this blog, in my community, in my world, to do everything she can to save the lives of those drowning in deprivation. But be smart about it, and choose venues where you can actually pull it off.

    Lastly, Duncan I concur that hearing the thinking of those with whom I completely, passionately disagree is growthful. Not everybody makes that choice, but I do. I read the right-wing blogs, at least those featured in the Daou Report, just so I can hear what they are saying to each other. But this blog is Different, and I hope we can keep it that way. Over 80% of the right-wing blogs out there do not, cannot afford to allow open commentary in response to their posts because the comments are so violent as to be legally actionable. In contrast, the progressive blogs overwhelmingly do allow comments, but they are moderated. This is a rarity, an unmoderated, unthreaded, come one come all blog. It’s a gift. Let’s keep taking good care of it. Talk to one another as if were sitting down to a meal together. And as if what we wrote would last for all eternity, because with caching, kids, that’s more or less the case.

    Happy New Year. It’s a honor to be among you lovely girls and boys.

  49. LondonBoy says:

    I’m sad that the year has ended with these three deaths, for different reasons. Ford was a surprisingly good president, and when you compare his decency, humanity and honesty with some of his successors his good qualities ( much underestimated at the time ) shine ever brighter. I am deeply saddened that Saddam received the death penalty – his crimes were immense, but my ethics do not tell me to reward killing with more killing. And Brown ? We’ve lost an artist who brought us the soundtrack of our happiest moments; I shall remember him by listening to his music.

    So that was 2006 ? It’s nearly midnight here in London, and in a little while I’ll be opening the doors and windows to let the Old Year out and the New Year in. My first foot will be a tall, dark stranger – or, more accurately, someone who is certainly tall, definitely dark, and undeniably strange. And it will be 2007. To Alison, and all my friends on here, a very Happy New Year !

  50. mlk says:

    I remember Liz from previous posts as being a prickly person generally. what she said on the last thread (eventually) gave the context for some of her rage.

    I believe that when she shared the account of her lovers’ illness and their break up, the response she received was along the lines of “get over it.” these words may even have been used — although I don’t want to wade back through the posts to check.

    not a compassionate response. despite what she was posting about overweight lesbians, Liz seems to have loved this woman. she was far more concerned about what the weight and diabetes were doing to her lover’s health than turned off by being with an overweight partner. which is not where she started out in her posting.

    having said that, I think we manage to moderate the blog adequately. sensitive topics have come up before and been hotly debated. from what I recall, the person who moves the discussion from debate to vitriolic rant is speaking from a deeply painful place in their life. but we get through it.

    Maggie Jochild, thank you for your thoughts about how to handle hurt, angry posters. you’re right that this isn’t a forum for offering therapy. I think it’s helped to take a breather and look at what happened, so we can disengage more successfully when this happens again.

    fortunately, the occurrences are few and far between. Alison won’t have to pull out that school marmish glare (mind your p’s and q’s!) too often . . .

  51. mlk says:

    maybe this wasn’t a school marm appearance. after taking another look I wonder — is the vicar back?

  52. mysticriver says:

    Gotta agree with mg – I’m not part of the community either (I think? I’ve posted but not on a regular basis), and sometimes there is a lot to wade through in the comments, especially if I just want to read things that are specific to the actual post or particularly to the strips, sketches, book, etc.

    If you did want to go with moderation, without actually moderating, how about guest moderators? Maybe regulars that could keep things above the board? I would guess that some moderation is inevitable in the case of spam, although I don’t recall seeing if that’s a problem here.

    Oh, btw, Fun Home made The Week’s top 10 for non-fiction!

  53. amysue says:

    I mostly lurk but just wanted to put in my 2-cents and request no moderation. Everyone here handled themselves well and even the poster in question was expressing her pain and dislike in unfortunate, but honest ways.

    Hey, I’m fat and insulin dependent and use a cane to walk and I wasn’t hurt or offended. I’m also a hiker, swimmer and gardener and am raising two young kids. I read compulsively and I spin and knit and none of those things are contain all of who I am. I get that some people aren’t attracted to redheads and some aren’t attracted to moms and yeah, some aren’t attracted to “woman of substance” s’ok with me.

    Now, about Fun Home!! Way to go, I gave the book to several friends and family on my gift list this year and everyone has loved it(oldest recipient is 87, youngest 19).

    Happy New Year and thanks for the wonderful body of work you’ve given us and for this great blog as well!

  54. wendy says:

    My two cents:
    I think there are two good reasons to moderate at least a bit. One is spam (advertising). Once that shows up, the blog/list whatever is dead. The other, that I encountered on the usenet, is a troll. Trolls are people who get off on upsetting everyone else. They make stuff up (long sad stories) they’ll say anything at all, take any position, just to see people get upset. They can be dealt with by the people who write in, but sometimes it’s just better for the administrator to delete the posts.
    BTW, I love the sketch diaries.

  55. Duncan says:

    wendy, so far I haven’t seen much if any advertising / spam here. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention.

    About trolls, as I said before, I haven’t seen any of those here either. I think there is a certain amount of danger that people will jump too quickly to label a person a “troll,” just because per opinions are offensive. It’s hard to know people’s motives for what they say. One of the things I have especially liked about debate and discussion on the Internet is that motives, personality don’t matter much. What counts is a person’s words. And a surprising (to me, anyway) number of people don’t want to take responsibility for their words; they want to be judged by their lovely personalities, their pretty faces — which the rest of us can’t see. (Another thing I like is that most often, our words persist. A lot of people will deny that they said what they said — but there it is.)

    At one point Liz said that she was entitled to her opinion. Indeed she is. She’s even entitled to express her opinion, within the bounds that Alison, our hostess, wishes to permit. A lot of people will offer “I’m entitled to my opinion” when they’re challenged on what they’ve said. It’s true, but they tend to forget that *other* people are also entitled to their opinions, and are entitled to express them. When I put my views online for others to read, I know that I risk being disagreed with. I can’t say I exactly relish that, but it’s so.

    Maybe, as Silvio suggested, it’s a matter of temperament and can’t be learned. I’m not so sure of that, but you could be right. If so, I think the prospects for democracy in the world are slim. But I do believe that even for those who have a combative temperamenet like mine, debate / argument is something that must be learned. It’s not something you’re born with. And I think the skills involved can be learned. Not only the skills, but the knowledge that being disagreed with will not kill me. That even if other people (or I) get angry, it’s not the end of the world. This has been hard for me to learn too; I too am a work in progress. But debating online gave me practice for dealing with disagreement offline too.

    Often, on a BBS I used to frequent, someone would try to stop debate by pointing out that the opponents were never going to persuade each other. Ny response was that, even if that was true, other people reading the debate might be persuaded, and others would at least learn that a given opinion can be answered and argued against.

    Other people have at times tried to dismiss me by saying that I’m tougher than most people. Well, I sure don’t *feel* tough. I too have my wounds. But one thing I’ve learned is that when someone tries to exploit those wounds, they are discredited by playing dirty, and I can go after them full-bore in response. (A number of online homophobes, for instance, have learned that gay people no longer scurry for the shadows when someone calls us “queer.” And a lot of bigots become very tender and vulnerable when they are called bigots.)

    The reason I mentioned democracy there is that, first, the First Amendment guarantees our right to be offended, even hurt. If we’re going to live in a free and diverse society, we are going to encounter not only kindred spirits but people who hate us, and whom we hate. We *have* to learn to deal with them, disagree with them, struggle with them, even reach out to them when we can. I’ve had more fruitful discussions, oddly enough, with fundamentalist Christians than with most liberal Christians. It’s important to remember that “diversity” doesn’t mean a lack of conflict. We really do need to learn to defend ourselves, Silvio, whether we are temperamentally suited to it or not. I think it can be learned, and it must be learned, or we might as well give up. And I’m not ready to do that yet.

    Again, thanks to Alison, and a Happy New Year to all.

  56. RES says:

    I’m only an occasional poster, but (even after having read the comments in question), I do not recommend that this blog’s comments be moderated.

    “Pruning” spam is not moderating – it’s merely good hygiene. Spam is also readily recognizable. I do not think that spammers are here — they tend to gravitate to newsgroups, easily accessible by robots.

    The question of moderation on email lists, where people subscribe and then get stuff delivered to their mailboxes, is a real one, because one “I have a right to my opinion” post can often generate a disproportionate number of replies, all zipping into thousands of inboxes around the globe, often prompting mass unsubscription from a list, before the owner has a chance to react/save the patient.

    It is far less of an issue here, I think, because *we* come *here*. No one is getting fifty irate emails about a topic they never signed up for in their mailbox, with more appearing every hour. If I don’t like the direction some comments are taking, I can just stop reading. And I think we can self-moderate. And I don’t think it’s terrible for us to be upset every so often. *And* — and this is key — I think, Alison, that if you log on and see that a conversation has gone really sour, you can always turn comments off for that post (I think this blog software has that function).

    Best wishes for a wonderful 2007. Thanks, Alison, for this space.


  57. Andrew B says:

    I am opposed to moderation of the comments for two reasons. First, it will require you to make difficult judgment calls about what to censor. For instance, Silvio said that she hates being called a “breeder”. The term has been used in comments on the blog. I am completely sympathetic to Silvio on this one, but I expect the people who use that term would claim to be making a serious point about the value of reproduction in a person’s life — and some of them might be making such a point, although they are also being snide. So do you censor it? Better not to make such judgments, and let people work their own problems out.

    But more important than that is the fact that your work is much, much more interesting than anything that appears in the comments. Time has limited your work lately, and I absolutely would not want to see you spend your time moderating the comments. If it came to that, I would much rather see you shut the comments facility down altogether than spend time (or money for your assistant’s time) moderating it.

    Trying to stay (truly) fair and balanced will keep you awake all night and drive you insane. And as you said to the cat, if you go insane you won’t be able to feed us. So if it comes to that, shut us out in the hall. Please.

    Nice face.

  58. Aunt Soozie says:

    Hi Alison!

    Sorry that I haven’t been around much but I did get a telephone call the other day saying…”did you see what’s going on on Alison’s blog?” I had to confess that I hadn’t checked in lately… bad, bad lesbo… bad little sycophant… alas… getting a fulltime “real” job has taken Aunt Soozie away from some of her favored obsessions.

    I agree that the locals did a fine job of self moderation.
    I hope that continues to be the trend.

    I can’t imagine you taking the time away from your creative outlets (not to mention the mundane demands of everyday life) to moderate a lack of moderation on your blog. It’s a testimony to you and your work that this blog has become a venue for such intense and varied dialogue.

    Well…Happy New Year and I’ll try not to be so negligent in the future!


  59. Olivier says:

    Ellen, on second thought I think you are right: Allison’s cartoonish schoolmarm face should have alerted me to the irony in her use of “illiberal”. So all is well!

    As to what constitutes hate speech exactly that’s a hard one but also a moot point for me. The very expression makes me cringe because nowadays in many countries you can’t offend anyone’s prickly sensitivity without risking legal proceedings and jail and that’s just wrong. Better a thousand Liz or even a thousand Reverend Phelps (now that’s hate speech) than a single law regulating speech.

    And, lastly, I did _not_ say that it was appropriate for Liz to post such comments here, only that for me they failed to register as anything more than an annoyance.

  60. Silvio Soprani says:

    I took the New York Times’ 100 Best Books list (heard of here when Alison surfaced on it)to the library and checked out SELF-MADE MAN by Norah Vincent. What with the recent discussion about “metrosexuals” and other gender issues, it’s very timely.

    This (lesbian) author conducted a brave experiment where she passed as a male for about a year in various societies. Her reactions were surprising.

    Happy New Year to all of you.

  61. shadocat says:

    I know I’ve already voted for no moderating (not just yet anyway), but now I’m voting for no “pruning” either. I’ve haven’t seen any objectionable adds on this site, nor any posts like”all you queers need is a good ****”If stuff like that shows up, then maybe we do need a babysitter. I would hate for the flow of conversation to be interupted just because once the argument got a bit heated.

    (BTW, I wish we could use another word besides”troll”. To me, a troll will always be a creature that lives under a bridege and eats billy goats.)

    Alison, did you ever think of becoming a nun? You look an awful lot like my elementary school principal, Sister Christopher, that is , in that picture…

  62. shadocat says:

    Oh I almost forgot–welcome back Aunt Soozie! And to all involved with this wonderful blog;

    Feliz Ano Nuevo!!!

  63. Katie says:

    Hi Virginia Burton,
    Thanks for alerting me to the messages that escaped our filter on the episode #500 post. I wish your Macbook the best of health!

  64. sksindurham says:

    Maggie, I grew up in a little town 55 miles from Austin. I grew up there, went to Texas A&M (scholarships talk loud) and then taught for three years in a suburb of Dallas. Austin was always very much on my map for school clothes, movies, pretty much everything I couldn’t get in my hometown. Which is a LOT of stuff, especially before Walmart. (I do not love Walmart by any means… but they did bring stuff to my town that wasn’t available before – and drove family friends out of business in the process.)

    I wasn’t born until the 60s and I didn’t have a clue that I was a lebian until I was in my 30s (talk about relief… figuring out what the deal was…) and then I was out of Texas and in Pennsylvania.

    So all that is just to support this statement: how astonishing to think that while I was literally a child you were doing and learning and knowing stuff (and people… leading to an unintended pun) that would have changed my life so very much. And you were only 50 miles away! But I had to come across the country to find the venue to hear what you have to say.



  65. Deb says:

    Nice to see you Aunt Soozie! Happy New Year to all!

  66. mlk says:

    a cheery hello to Aunt Soozie! I’ve missed you — and Suzanonymous, who isn’t posting nearly so often as (I thought she did) in the past.

    glad to hear that your absence has at least been productive in other areas!

    I’m greatly relieved that folks are coming down on the side of “no moderation services, please!” as I said before, I really appreciated Maggie Jochild’s comments on this thread. one that I found particularly useful:

    Words I try to live by: Any difficulty I have with your difficulty is still MY difficulty. (You can live by this and still be a revolutionary.)

    Andrew B was dead on when he said Alison’s attempting to moderate the blog will make her insane and if she goes insane she won’t be able to feed us. Amazing how many applications Alison’s comics have in her life (and ours)!

    I’m curious if Gerald Ford’s death (and the oratory by our Republican leaders) aroused resentment/regret in others that Ford pardoned Nixon following Watergate. whether it’s true or not, I tend to believe we might not be where we are today if Nixon’s actions had been thoroughly investigated and he been held accountable for his crimes. I believe this, in part, because I was in my early teens when the Watergate scandal broke and really didn’t understand just what was known or how Nixon’s resignation determined subsequent events.

    it stung in a big way to hear Cheney talking about the great service that President Ford did for the country by allowing us to put a shameful event behind us. to my mind, it’s more likely that he did the Republican Party a great kindness by letting them off the hook. I believe Ford acted honorably and did what he thought was right when the country was in crisis. I just don’t know that it’s always wise to put things behind us before actually learning something from them.

    by the same token, I’d really like to see our current president impeached — to demonstrate that Americans won’t tolerate all the things that have been in the news since he first came into office (I won’t say he was *elected*). I can’t help but think that Cheney has his fingers crossed that Congress will use Ford’s strategy to handle this generation’s scandal in the Whitehouse.

  67. dw says:

    I was disappointed when Nixon was pardoned. I wanted him dragged through the mud. I haven’t thought about it much over the years until Ford died. Perhaps it’s because of the paralysing partisanship we are enduring now, but I am glad about the pardon. Everybody knew he was guilty; that was the important thing. Now Bush on the other hand…

  68. Boondocks says:

    I agree mg. If the comments stuck to discussing the works, I’d be interested in reading them. But, too often, the blog gets hijacked by people with their own agendas.

    But, you can just view photos and sketches (and not the comments) as long as AB has posted a photo or sketch link on the main page. I find that clicking the link on the main page takes me to Flickr. And, once you are in Flickr, you can scroll through the photostream to see everything (including the comics) posted.

    I’d like to read AB’s blog without being exposed to most of the comments here.

  69. Ovidia says:

    I love this community & the diverse comments Alison B’s photos & sketches give rise to… & discovering how similar or how totally alien to me are the thoughts of other comic reading humans on this planet at this time… (my own agenda: that we find a way to keep this energy feeding Alison B rather than draining her!)

  70. LondonBoy says:

    Ovidia: I agree. Maybe we should think of ourselves as a tank of tropical fish – interesting creatures with their own lives that Alison can look at from time to time.

    On the Nixon pardon I’m generally convinced that it was the right thing to do: as DW above notes, everyone knew all the facts, and that he was guilty, and I don’t see what the gain would have been in a drawn-out legal battle. I understand the desire for public revenge and humiliation, but in general I feel it’s better to resist such temptations.

    With W, on the other hand, I have an uneasy feeling that impeachment may be the only way to stop him, because the mid-terms sure didn’t.

  71. AnnaP says:

    I have been thinking the defniton of “politically correct” a lot, for me it is hard to understand why only black people arer allowed to use the N word, why fat people should never be called fat and so on.
    A friend of mine who rarely ever has any money, once suggested that instead of the word poor we shoul call him “consumptionally-disable”.

    An aunt of mine has some weird neurological brain disorder that causes uninteded motions and noises, I just received a christmas card with the following text: Merry X:mas from aunt— who really can twist and shout.

  72. kat says:

    congratulations on the ever-increasing accolades and awards, Alison!!

    I don’t think we need a moderator, to second everyone else, since people seem very adept at handling situations.

    happy new year, all!

  73. Silvio Soprani says:


    Tropical fish!! I like that very much. I think it is an apt image for all of us. AS IF Alison could avoid staring at us at least once a day! AS IF all of us could refrain from swimming around in circles!

    Regarding Richard Nixon: somehow I rolled my eyes and got over his pardon, back in the 70s, hen people I knew used to say “The more the Republican Party misbehaves, the sooner the Revolution will come…” [it never happened…]

    What totally shocked me was that when Richard Nixon died, President Clinton stood right up there with everyone else and praised his life and his presidency. That was when I finally understood how the Ex-Presidents’ Club works. Once they have sat in the Oval Office, they can never again criticize any other president because they understand what a hot seat it is. I think it is some weird kind of belief in Karma “Never bad-mouth a fellow president”

    Anyway, as intelligent as he is, President Clinton could not even state the obvious.In the media blitz that followed his death, I was waiting for SOMEBODY, ANYBODY to say (or write), “Nixon WAS a crook…” etc. But it never happened.

  74. Silvio Soprani says:

    oops! I MEANT:

    “when people I knew”
    “hen people…” I don’t know any hen people!

  75. sksdurham says:

    I generally believe that forgiveness is the best way to go. If I forgive then I can move on. That doesn’t help in complicated situations where some kind of consequences might help a lot… but in general I believe in forgiveness. And I was a child when Nixon resigned so I don’t remember much of the details. But I do know that I don’t really mind that he was pardoned.

    I might be bothered by the stuff he did but then again, maybe not. Maybe it’s forgiven and done and I’m just relieved to know there was a chance to start anew.

    Nixon was most likely a crook, of course he was. But he can be forgiven. Just like my indiscretions can be forgiven. I say that knowing that I am not very good at working out what kind of consequences are appropriate or possible but in my own life, forgiveness has always led to greater things than punishment. I want to say that forgiveness requires repentance but I can’t even really believe that. Because forgiveness is more about me than the other person, anyway.

    Reagan died shortly after my mother’s death and it was very difficult to watch that funeral process. A colleague of mind pretty much hated Reagan and was saying unkind things to him. All I could think about, though, is how glad I was that they were being kind to Reagan because his children were obviously sad and in pain and the last thing they needed was the lens of accuracy being applied to their father. Because really, what would the point have been? He wasn’t perfect, none of us are perfect. And we all do the best we can with whatever limited resources we have. What a grace and blessing then, to know that there is forgiveness and forgetfulness so that we can have a hope of starting fresh and maybe maybe at least make different less damaging mistakes the next time around.

    The problem with going back and telling somebody how awful they are/were is that we know the same standard might then be applied to us, and who wants that? There is a real good chance that the Democrats won in November not because anybody thought they would REALLY behave differently – talk to the black population in the 60s that was completely hung out to dry by President Johnson, or take a gander at what Bill Clinton did to gays once he was elected – but it was a change and a change sometimes makes it easier to keep going. The system is still there but we got a little breather of hope that will keep us going until 2008, when we will get another little breather. And then there will be another person leading the same old system with the same old flaws. Democrats will want us to believe they love us and then dump us the second it is politically expedient to do so. They will use children as pawns in their power plays, lick up on anyone with a vote, and then go back into the closed halls of Congress and continue the same mutual tension game in which they are all playing the same game, and the people are not allowed to see the rules, much less the playing field.

    Really. I couldn’t survive all that without the capacity for forgiveness.

  76. Duncan says:

    AnnaP, re: “political correctness.” Well, some of it is just politeness, ordinary manners. For example, I can complain about my family and say what a scumbag my brother is (hypothetical example), but outsider are not allowed to unless I know them well. Ditto for “nigger” — it has a different significance when white people use it about black people, and when black people use it of themselves. I can call myself a faggot, and I do. But straight people better smile when they say it. That really has nothing much to do with “political correctness.”

    A lot of the language of “political correctness” comes not from politics but from the culture of therapy: the “-challenged” forms are most obvious examples. But then, much of liberal political discourse in the US (I don’t know about Europe) has become therapeutic, focused on the individual rather than on social and systemic factors. There are political reasons for that, of course.

    Someone (Silvio?) traced the term “political correctness” to the writings of Mao Zedong, but it’s actually much older than that. I read an article in a compilation on the subject, that traced it back to Toqueville’s “Democracy in America,” with apparently much the same meaning it has now.

    But by the time “PC” went mainstream around 1990, it had become Newspeak: it really means the opposite of its ostensible meaning. I have never encountered a person who actually endorsed being “politically correct,” and I’ve been involved in gay and feminist milieux for more than 30 years. What I have heard among the liberal left is people rejecting political correctness, distancing themselves from it. (Which doesn’t prevent others from accusing those same people of being PC.) To say that someone is politically correct is always to say that they are politically INcorrect, that their judgment is faulty, that they go too far, etc. It’s a handy way of shutting down discussion, of silencing people, by ridiculing them. And since most liberals are terrified of being ridiculed, of standing alone, it’s very effective. (Me, I’m used to being odd person out since childhood, so it doesn’t scare me much.)

    About the pardon of Nixon, I still think it was a bad idea. (And a criminal obstruction of justice by Ford, to boot.) This has nothing to do with “forgivenness,” if only because Nixon never admitted that he had committed any crimes, or done anything wrong, as far as I know. Forgivenness, in my opinions, means accepting another person’s contrition. I’m enough of a Buddhist to agree that I must let go of wrongs that have been done to me, that obsessing on them does not help anything; but that is forgetting, not forgiving. One major reason that this country is in so much trouble is precisely that Americans forget so easily — at least we forget our own crimes. What’s gained by dwelling on the dead past, after all? — except what we think others have done to *us* in the same dead past. (Americans are still seething about the Iranian hostage crisis, the destruction Vietnam wreaked on us, etc.)

    I can feel sad for the pain of Reagan’s children, say, and offer condolences without lying and saying that he was a good man. One thing I’ve learned from reading Miss Manners is how to offer condolences without such lies.

  77. Deb says:

    I feel strongly that the late president Ford did the right thing and even the brave thing in pardoning Nixon even though it was the main deciding factor that cost him the presidential election in the coming years. I was in college at that time and the country had to move on. I would have liked to see an independent group, say a civil suit, brought against Nixon, so his crimes could have been exposed in that way and we as citizens could have vented our frustrations and outrage at him that way. Our country was in the midst of spiralling unemployment, inflation and civil unrest. Europe was feeling our problems as a back-lash. Our economy was in the crapper as well. It was time to try and heal. We can abhore the behavior and still accept the individual.

  78. Silvio Soprani says:

    Duncan, it was actually Feminista who traced the term “political correctness” to Mao.

    I wonder what life would be like in a society where people did not use language? Would we hurt each other more, or less? Would we be reduced to a primitive culture where people just protected their food and their property, or would we communicate more effectively because there would be more looking each other in the eye?

    I am thinking about this because I am reading a volume of Jane Goodall’s early letters about observing the chimpanzee population in Kenya.

  79. sksdurham says:

    It’s easy to forgive someone who has repented and shown contrition. To do otherwise would only be to kick the person when he/she is down. But to forgive without that contrition and repentance allows the forgiver to let that thing go. Forgiveness takes the sting out of remembering. If I forgive Nixon for what he did then I can still remember those bad things but they become less important of themselves. The lessons learned can then take on a greater role. If I’m carrying around all that hurt and anger, though, I can’t pay as much attention to the lessons and good things that might come out of the situation.

    In fact, what you said about remembering hurts that others have inflicted on us as a country… those are exactly the times and situations where forgiveness would carry us forward. That was a big part of my point – we forgive because we want to be forgiven. If we would collectively let go of Vietnam, of 911, etc. we might also be able to make steps toward a situation in which we are seen as more compassionate and less selfishly materialistic.

    I agree that there are ways to tell the truth without hurting others. That is not generally the way of the press, however, and if I had been those children (an easy thing for me to imagine at that time) I would have been incredibly grateful that the speakers chose immoderate praise rather than immoderate denigration.

    A focus on individual therapeutic language vs. an understanding or consideration of the whole is an important distinction to make, not because the “rules” are so different, but because it’s important to remember what your grainsize is. Looking at individuals without understanding collective behavior and good of the whole is dangerous, but so is looking at collective behavior and good of the whole without realizing that the whole is made up of individual people, each of whom has great potential to have an impact on his/her world if given even the least opportunity.

  80. PCnik says:

    Seems to me that an accusation of political correctness is an attempt to recast basic decency as weak-minded and hollow. (At least since the right-wing highjacked the term in the ’90’s.) If someone asks you to pay attention to how you’ve been hurtful (or maybe just thoughtlessly privileged), you call them politically correct and presto, instead of being rude *you* were the brave truth-teller. It’s so much easier than learning how to shut up and listen when someone’s saying something that makes you uncomfortable.

    Whereas an actual, oppressive atmosphere of political correctness can only happen in a political system that radically shuts down debate and opposition. Thank goodness, the closest I’ve come to that in my 30-odd years was the huge outbreak of flag-waving and “patriotic” bumperstickers that followed 9/11 tragedy and the attack on Afghanistan. Scary as the Ashcroft/Cheney/Rumsfeld era was, it was a far cry from Mao.

  81. Liz says:

    There are no comments that are not liberal but only the fact that our points of view are not mutual. To moderate them would be “illiberal”. I make no apologies for my opinions, to allow them is liberal.

  82. --MC says:

    I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, even if it makes you look foolish to do so.

  83. Pam Isherwood says:

    A useful quote on PC that I can’t quite find the full reference for, but which was said by Clare Short, an english MP who used to be relied on to be on the right side:

    “Political correctness is a concept invented by hard-right forces to defend their right to be racist, to treat women in a degrading way and to be truly vile about gay people. They invent this idea of people who are politically correct, with a rigid, monstrous attitude to life so they can attack them. But we have all had to learn to modify our language. That’s all part of being a decent human being.”

  84. Duncan says:

    sksdurham, I was being a bit sarcastic (sardonic?) when I referred to the destruction that the Vietnamese wrought on us; I had in mind Jimmy Carter’s claim that there was no need for the US to pay reparations to Vietnam, because “the destruction was mutual.” Ah, how well I remember those tragic days, huddled in a bomb shelter in Indianapolis, while the Vietnamese planes rained down death! The Red hordes stampeding over the Canadian border to rape our cattle and kill our women. The napalm that sent American children running naked through the streets. The fifty million American dead. Yes, if anything, the Vietnamese owe *us* reparations; but President Carter, in his wisdom, was ready to forgive them. Maybe someday we’ll be ready to forgive Iraq for 9/11, and for invading us…

    “I agree that there are ways to tell the truth without hurting others.” But I said the reverse: it is possible to offer condolences and comfort without lying. As for “immoderate denigration,” I’d say that depends on the person being denigrated; vast crimes require a lot of criticism. But I saw very little criticism or truth-telling about Reagan after his death, and then only in the marginal left media that I read. I doubt very much that Reagan’s children heard any of that. I can understand Ron Reagan lying about his father in his criticism of Dubya. (And I’m sure you’re ready to forgive Dubya everything, n’est-ce pas?) But the corporate media don’t have Ron Jr.’s excuse.

    Olivier, I don’t think that Alison was being ironic in her use of “illiberal.” Did you see the definition posted by meg? “Liberal” itself doesn’t solely mean a position in the American political spectrum (running, as it does, from A to B.) There was a slight play on its different meanings, I thought when I read it, as well as understatement that went well with her posted photo.

    Silvio, sorry for confusing you and Feminista. My belief, for what little it’s worth, is that without language we would be chimps, or at any rate we would not be human beings. To judge from chimps as well as other species, without language, we would still have conflicts, often bloody ones. I am not sure how to measure hurting, but in a society without language we could only hurt each other physically, and I’m glad I can address conflict without having to use claws and teeth all the time.

    I’ve been struck, in the eulogies for Ford, how we are told (without any evidence) first that pardoning Nixon cost him the ’76 election, and then (also without evidence) that pardoning Nixon healed the country. I see a slight contradiction there. Some of us evidently were less healed than others?

  85. TM says:

    Maybe I’m just impatient, but it seems like a lot of time passes between new DTWOF strips. Are they once a month now?

    I’ve been reading DTWOF since the early 90s. Alison, you have really nailed the community’s quirks, personalities and issues. And I love the way it continues to evolve, as we do.

  86. McAuliflower says:

    sorry if this has already been stated- but sounds like time for a DTWOF forum here. It could be “moderated” by appointed uber fans.

  87. Silvio Soprani says:

    Apparently you have just joined us. Since no one else has stepped in to explain this, let me just say that Alison spent the last few months touring North America and parts of Europe to promote her new, highly acclaimed graphic memoir, FUN HOME. In the process, she totally outdid herself keeping her blog fans informed, amused, and enlightened. We noticed that she needed to catch her breath and encouraged her to let the schedule for DTWOF episodes slide a bit, in the interest of preventing undue stress to her most worthy self.

    She generously offered to share her sketch journal entries with us (which you can peruse if you hike back a few threads) and we (the blog) enthusiastically encouraged her to do whatever the hell would achieve refreshment for her.

    So Welcome to the Blog. We are “severally” (as Shakespeare might say) quite entertaining in our own way, and so might you be if you take a mo (no pun intended) to read and react.

  88. Boondocks says:

    Well, I have a different analogy than fishtank.

    When I go to a museum or art gallery, there are often people standing around making insightful remarks about the works. While I often do not participate, I enjoy listening and feel that this enhances the experience.

    There are also other groups, often very loud, who stand around and chat about other things–the Nixon pardon, self-image, women’s festivals–which interest them. While I have no problems with people doing such things, it would be nice if I could choose whether or not to listen, as otherwise it diminishes the experience.

    Sometimes, one can read AB’s blog without having to come here to the comments page, but sometimes one cannot. Because this page is not moderated, and because it is not threaded, it is often not a pleasant place to be. I read it hoping to find the not-infrequent comments about the works themselves, as they do occur.

    I suppose my specific suggestion–invited by AB–is that AB’s blog and artwork be on one page, perhaps with some excerpts of the blog responses that she wants associated with her work, and that the fan comments be on a separate thread (moderated or not) with a caveat that the opinions expressed therein are those of the writers.

    I was just advocating choice rather than censorship.

  89. mlk says:

    I absolutely agree with what’s been said about the value of forgiveness, but have wondered about the usefulness of a president forgiving on behalf of the American people. I guess Ford was as damaged as anyone else by Nixon’s misdeeds, but I’m still not sure his forgiveness will heal the nation.

    For instance, practicing dirty politics wasn’t excoriated (I think) when Nixon was pardoned — we just put an unpleasant episode behind us. I don’t know — were politics any more dastardly in the last quarter of the 20th century than they were, say, from FDR’s terms of office through Johnson (or whomever immediately preceded Nixon)? I’m asking ‘cuz I know diddly about political history and so my views are biased.

    I fully agree that we need to forgive our enemies (9/11 terrorists, Iranian leaders, GWB) and yet they shouldn’t be permitted to cause harm. I’m not thinking punishment so much as containment and taking a stand.

  90. cybercita says:

    i’ve been out of the country and didn’t get a chance to respond to a comment that maggie jochild left for me a couple of weeks ago, so off topic, i am doing it here:

    hi maggie, yes, indeed, i do remember uhuru house at the ashby flea market, having lived on otis street from 1981 to 1990. after some major head scratching, i even managed to come up with two names: ruby and terry. would either of those women be to whom you are referring?

  91. sksindurham says:

    Hee hee… Duncan thinks I’m a REPUBLICAN!!! Oh, how that amuses me. I’m no fan of Dubya, to be sure.



  92. Ovidia says:

    Sorry Boondocks, but I don’t understand why one can’t read the blog without reading the comments here. I don’t mean to be difficult, but if the comments upset you so much, why don’t you just make the choice not scroll down?

    (My fingers… can’t stop my fingers from scolling… otherwise I might miss that one vital point made on that one stroke in that one panel that will make that one decisive point in my PhD thesis…)

    It would take so much time & energy for Alison B to go through all the comments daily and decide what should or should not be ‘associated’ with her work. I think we would all rather see that time & energy go into her art & her life (world tour some day, please?)

    I think that the choice here is already ours makes the difference between this situation & the situation in a museum/art gallery–there you have no choice between earplugs & listening to loud voices discussing stuff. Here you do have the art at your finger tips & can choose not to scroll… I think your real problem may be, you want to ‘eavesdrop’ selectively & find you have to take the dross with the gold…

    LondonBoy, lurve the fishtank… but you know that in lots of tropical fishtanks it’s still necessary to keep fighting fish in separate compartments & some fish, like my pleco & siamese algae eaters prefer lots of sheltered spots to lurk unseen under…

  93. Maggie Jochild says:

    Cybercita – Nope, Janis. Whom I am now sorry I ever avoided. Brilliant woman — got her black belt with Amazon Kung Fu, remember them? Once I moved to the East Bay, I lived on El Dorado off MacArthur, on the edge of Piedmont. I remember Otis Street. In San Fran, I lived for 8 years on Brosnan (part of the Duboce Triangle dykes) then one year on Alabama a block or so from Precita Park.

    Were you there for the White Night Riot at City Hall in 1979? I helped start that!

  94. cybercita says:

    hi maggie,

    oh, and you asked me about the brick hut. yes, i remember very well when it was a tiny hole in the wall just off of ashby and then when it moved to the bigger place farther down on adeleine.

    i wasn’t there for the riot at city hall in 79. um, i guess i have to confess now that i’m not a lesbian. i just love dtwof because among other things it reminds me so much of berkeley in the 70’s.

    if you ever shopped at the berkeley bowl, i may have waited on you. i worked there in the bulk foods department while i was getting my undergrad degree.

  95. Maggie Jochild says:

    The Berkeley Bowl! Oh, yeah. (I suddenly remember their dried currants, and Alvarado Street bread.) Along with the Co-op, where I got my groceries in the East Bay (Rainbow, of course, when I was still in the City). I ran a delivery route in SF for Veggie Rolls, a vegan egg roll kind of thing, for a while and knew every natural food store in the area.

    S’fine you’re not a lesbian, honey. I lived in a world of almost all wimmin, I’m sure we rubbed elbows. Did you dance at the Askhenaz? Go to concerts by Malvina Reynolds? See Fat Lip, Mothertongue, Dos Lesbos, Swingshift? Play pool at Ollie’s or have a drink at the Bacchanal? Go to marches at Ho Chi Minh Park? Listen to the morning reading on KPFA, followed by Charles Amerkanian and the music I loathed? Did you read Plexus or Utopian Eyes (remember that comic about Polly Amorousperverse?) Did you go for free food when Hearst paid the giveaway ransom to get Patty back from the SLA?

    The counterculture, blended as it often was, was done in by Reaganomics. So, to tie this nostalgia back in to other comments — I happened to be in D.C. performing at an international disabled arts festival at the time of Reagan’s funeral. Everywhere I went those few days, I spoke out publicly against him and the damage he did to this country, which shocked people to the core. I, too, believe in forgiveness, but not silence or sugar-coating. I was extremely upset about Nixon’s pardon, to such an extent that I gave up on voting or electoral politics for a long time because I felt hopeless about the System. I might have done that anyhow, honestly, because I was so radical, but that was the turning point in my head. And what I find most interesting about the question of pardons is not so much about Nixon, but about the cabal he had around him, the men who worked for him and Ford and later Reagan, whose names are too well-known for us today: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Baker, North, etc. If accounts had been called due, could we not have avoided these men returning to positions of power? The destruction they have wrought is more than I can quite grasp. I’m not talking about punishment or condemnation, I’m talking about accountability and responsibility — separated out from the christian notions about forgiveness and reprisal.

    And, to reply to one more thread — the fact is, Alison’s work sparks all these diverse ideas, reactions, memories because it is that encompassing. We’re here talking about ten different things BECAUSE of her work, and it can’t be distilled down to just simple response — I’m not interested in “keeping to the point” because synergy and exposure to new thinking is at the heart of what Alison does.

  96. cybercita says:

    hi maggie,

    i did many of those things and i’m feeling quite homesick for berkeley right now. thanks for the memories…

  97. kat says:

    whoa, Maggie and Cybercita! The Berkeley-in-the-glory-days stories are too cool. Cdw and I can keep you up on what’s going on there now…..the answer, sadly, is probably not as much fun!

  98. Jessie says:

    want me to say hello to the bulk foods department at the berekely bowl tomorrow? I have to go grocery shopping.

  99. shadocat says:

    Morbid curiosity lured me in and I watched the Saddamm Hussien video on YouTube–god I wish I hadn’t…

    My sister called to remind me of a tee shirt I was fond of wearing in the seventies–it was a white shirt with a simian-like cartoon picture of G. Ford and above it the words, “Nixon’s Revenge”. She claims she has a picture of me wearing it,my hand raised in a fist, along with some other hippie-types, protesting at the Republican Convention.I thought at the time, the counry couldn’t get any worse, and Ford was nothing more than a tool of the establishment. What a difference thirty years makes! Gerald Ford looks like a flaming liberal by today’s standards…

    I was sad to hear James Brown was gone–but heard his music all over the radio the next day, and still can’t get it out of my head; “I’m on the scene!(da da dat!) Like a sex machine!(da da dat!!!)


  100. cybercita says:

    hi jessie,

    yes, absolutely! if conrad, janet, and diane {she’s the owner, so she definitely should be} are all still there, please tell them hi from loren.

    i live in brooklyn now and believe me, grocery shopping has never been the same. there was even an article last august in the new york times about shopping at the bowl for summer produce — all the different tomatoes!

  101. cybercita says:

    and hi kat,

    yes, i agree, berkeley is not as fun as it used to be. the counter culture has become the “over the counter” culture. i don’t mind all the great restaurants and good food, in fact alice waters is one of my heroes, but i miss hanging out at the med on telegraph avenue, drinking espressos and smoking clove cigarettes while making plans to smash the state.

  102. --MC says:

    I watched that Hussein video (somebody sent me a link, and well, I couldn’t resist.) It freaked me out a little to turn on the news last night and see a bit of the video being shown — the story is there was the official video, the one the government made — they said that Hussein’s execution was quiet and decorous, but the unofficial video, made on someone’s cell phone, shows the guards taunting and ridiculing Hussein as the noose was being fitted on his neck.
    This is way off thread. We were talking about moderating this forum, yeah? Only this community has such a wide range of interests and ideas and all that pruning it back to a narrow focus would be a shame. And, if it’s any consolation, compared to some web forums I’ve been on, it hasn’t ever gotten intolerably ugly. We’ve had some disputes but never any of the real soul-searing variety, and let’s hope it stays that way.

  103. Silvio Soprani says:

    Cybercita, just noticed your comment on the “Metrosexual” thread about the hurdy gurdy player in NYC. I am happy to hear that street music persists. I have a photo of myself streetsinging with guitar in Olde Towne, Alexandria (VA) in 1979 with my infant daughter in backpack. Even then most people looked offended with only a few looking happy to encounter music unexpectedly.

    In a complete change of subject, I was just reading my copy of the AARP Magazine (I’m serious), which is actually quite progressive with regard to race and gender issues. (Baby Boomers are, after all, turning retirement age…) (Retirement? What’s that? For me it will be either keep working or live in cardboard box..but I digress.)

    There was a chilling article by Barry Corbet about his temporary stay in a nursing home. He was a paraplegic who had lived self-sufficiently in a wheel chair, driving his own adapted van, for 35 years and he worked as a journalist. At the end of the article I discovered that he recently died, in his own home, surrounded by family and friends.

    But it got me thinking about Therese Edell. Some women may know her as the “Voice of the Michigan Festival.” (She used to announce the acts and give unique commentary from her wheelchair, from backstage.) She lived with MS for more than 20 years and what is notable about her really, besides her wonderful music and spirit, is the fact that she organized a large group of people in her community to assist her with her daily life so that she could function as a person living with Multiple Sclerosis. Dozens of people volunteered to be part of her schedule, in increments of several hours a day or week, so that she could keep living in her home, compose her music, and participate in the lesbian community in Cincinnati.

    It reminds me that in adversity, one can isolate and feel helpless, or one can reach out confidently and express what one needs. I have found that friends are willing to assist if they are part of a framework that empowers the whole concept of sharing. Also, people who love you want you to get what you need, especially if what they need is your company.

    By the way, Ovidia, I loved your description of the “laughing monk.” Definitely a welcome type!

    I am so out of the loop, I just wondered if anyone knows how Therese is these days? I did find a web page about her, but the latest entry was around 1999, when Ladyslipper re-released her recording from the 70s, “FROM WOMEN’S FACES.” Anybody know?

  104. mlk says:

    Maggie Jochild, thanks for your comments about Ford, Nixon, Reagan et al. am curious, though — how did Reaganomics alter Berkeley’s counterculture?

    I’ve been stuck in the muck of the midwest most of my life and have missed all the wonderful stuff that’s been referenced here. still, I’m curious about the history and what I’ve missed. and my mother was at UCal — Berkeley in the 1950’s! my family lived there for a year when I was 3-4 years old. don’t remember anything about rad preschoolers, though — guess I’m living vicariously.

  105. cybercita says:


    busking is alive and well in new york, especially on the subways, and many of them are just incredible musicians. it’s one of the many pleasures {or drawbacks, depending on the day} of living here.

    back in the early 80’s, late one night, a friend and i took our guitars to telegraph avenue. at one point i had gathered a large crowd of homeless men who wept along as i sang a song about a little boy’s grandfather who became a hobo during the depression. they applauded madly, and then very politely requested the money in our guitar cases. that was my first and last time as a street singer!

  106. mlk says:

    Boondocks, I can understand a desire to read comments that directly relate to Alison’s work. truly I can, especially if you’re a relatively recent newcomer to the blog. I first discovered the site when Alison was considering how to handle PlanetOut’s dropping her strip and the enthusiastic support of her fans was a little overwhelming. And *those* comments were related to Alison’s postings!

    Still, Alison herself likes the format of the blog and the meandering nature of readers’ comments. A close read of her posting on 12/17/2006 demonstrates this. If you really want to delve into the muck, Alison expresses similar sentiments among the comments to her posting about our reaction to strip #493, “What is Real: A Short Disquisition.” (August 25 post). Her comment is towards the bottom, in a pumpkin color, and is warmly supportive.

    I suppose it’d be nifty if a special color could be selected by posters when their message is directly related to Alison’s strip (or at least starts out that way), but that’d be an imperfect solution. It relies on posters’ willingness to select the special color — perhaps before hitting the submit comment button — and awareness that this is a step to take before posting their message. Still it would be a help — and may even happen — if Katie-the-wonder-assistant can figure out how to do it without too much difficulty. I make the suggestion because I’m always looking for a way to improve things, especially when the work’s left to another person!! and I *do* think it’d be nifty if we could somehow do the work of threading the comments. Alison and Katie have plenty on their plates . . .

    I think, though, that folks will have to do some judicious scrolling if they don’t get a kick out of devoting 1-3 hours to reading the blog. For instance, if a posting has 75 or more comments, you can be assured that many of them are “off topic.” it’ll be necessary to decide when you want to cut out. trust me, we sometimes come back to the original topic in comment #85, or #102, or #137, or #243, or #308 — but it doesn’t happen often.

    perhaps some impatience is creeping in for a portion of the readers because Alison’s taking something of a break from her work. while I totally believe that this is necessary and deserved, it kinda leaves us to entertain ourselves — and each other. a fun activity for some of us, but not the same as having fresh work from Alison to generate new thoughts.

    for what it’s worth, I think we’ll just have to take care of ourselves while Alison recharges her batteries.

  107. Silvio Soprani says:

    NOTE FOR KATIE: I was trying to find a quicker, easier way to go all the way back to the very first threads of this blog. So I clicked on Strip Archive and noticed that the early comment threads have a lot of obscene spam links inserted usually at the very bottom of each thread. Also the dates skip around a lot–One thread goes from February of 05 to Nov & Dec of 05 in the same series.

    It would probably take a lot a work to rake through each thread, but if you did, you would see that somebody has really spammed the blog. I clicked on the first link (I think it was called something like “asstraffic” (see what I mean?) and it led to a dead link. After that I did not want to see where the rest of them led. It was a long time ago, so hopefully the poster “anonymous” (which in this case probably means they gave no screen name) has moved on.

    By the way, I wish that the “Strip Archive” led a person back to the very first strip posted on this blog, and then we could click forward, instead of the other way around.

  108. shadocat says:

    I think I need to clarify my last post, mostly because I
    sound like a nut.

    Thirty years ago I loved James Brown’s music. Thirty years later, I still love it—maybe even more than I loved it then…

    Thity years ago I thought Ford was just as bad a leader as we could get. I believed he made a deal with Nixon regarding the pardon. Now I’m not so sure. I’m willing to concede maybe he did think he was doing what was right for the country (not that I think so, mind you, but perhaps he did). I was such a different person thirty years ago; were Rumsfeld and Cheney as well? Were they always the corrupt (IMO) people they are now? Or was there ever a time when they were idealistic, with big ideas for bettering our world, as I was then? And if that was so, what the hell happened to change them?

    And Saddamm—what did his execution accomplish? It was purely an act of revenge. Are we any better off, or the people of Iraq? I don’t think so. Now I read there will be more executions. More revenge. And it won’t make things any better…

    Now I sound like I’m nuts again….

  109. Maggie Jochild says:

    Silvio, a year or two ago I wrote a letter of appreciation to Therese Edell — I saw her (and Betsy Lippitt) perform many, many times in the Bay Area and of course at Michigan. I also recounted to her my strongest memory of her, which is the Year of the Tornado at Michigan, when a group of us (including me and my 8-year-old daughter) took shelter under the Merchant’s Tent next to the Main Stage, at the old land, and helped hold down the tent while Therese roared instructions at us over the sound of the wind. She had on a poncho, boots, and (to my memory) nothing else, a tall, powerful woman who was able to keep us coordinated enough to save the tent, and ourselves. I got a reply to my letter from her long-time partner, Teresa (sp), who said Therese appreciated hearing from me or anyone who wrote, and although she was not able to perform any more, lives in a chair where she is kept upright by a torso brace, she is still very much a musician. I don’t have her address handy but I found it by googling, so if you want to write her, I’d encourage it. Lillian Hellman once wrote “A great tragedy of life is that people change and forget to tell each other.” Or tell each other when things stay the same, as in love and respect. Shower the people you love with love…

    My own personal experience with having a network of people to provide individual care, from a strong community of friends, is that it does not last. People drop out, or become codependent, or just can’t handle the fact that you don’t get better. It’s something chronically disabled people know well — you are supposed, in American culture, to “get better” and if you don’t, some people blame you (sound familiar?) and some people just don’t want to have to face what that means. Good, smart, loving people can’t accept it. I wrote a song/performance piece about it that was the break-out hit at the international disabled arts festival in DC a few years ago that I mentioned earlier — the piece I and Actual Lives were performing when Reagan was buried. How’s that for irony.

    I’ll answer the question about how Reaganomics killed the counterculture, gutted organized resistance, etc. (as it was in fact designed to do) another time. Unless someone beats me to it.

  110. kat says:

    I’m a little young to really comment on the way that the Reagan era screwed up berkeley, but you hear a lot of people say that the high population of mentally ill homeless people is partially a result of the administration’s having stopped funding to residential mental health facilities…….I don’t know how much truth there is to that, though, its just what lotsa folks say….anyone know anything more?

  111. kat says:

    oh, and cybercita: alice waters? really?
    ….I went to school with her daughter, so I’ve had a much different experience with her than most, but…hm….
    I suppose we can all be thankful for her food revolution, though. I sure do like fresh food.

  112. Silvio Soprani says:

    I was living in suburban Virginia (just outside of Washington DC) in the early 80s under Reagan and I remember one thing that changed the homeless population. I remember when large numbers of mentally ill people were released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, which is a facility for the mentally ill. What you say makes sense, because it is a public facility, and if the funding dried up, that would explain why all the people were released.

    I also vaguely remember something about the laws of vagrancy being changed in the District of Columbia. It used to be illegal to be “indigent” (have no fixed residence and have no money), in which case homeless people would be put in jail for the night. After the vagrancy laws changed, there was no reason for police to gather up homeless people for the night, and so there were more of them on the street.

    I also remember an activist named Mitch (sorry, I forget his last name), who ran a shelter at night in Union Station (the DC train station). This was before it got remodelled into the chic place of shops and restaurants that it is now..

    Am I imagining any of this? The 80s were 25 years ago…

    Maggie, thanks for the info about Therese Edell.

  113. kat says:

    Thanks for that info. I’m glad that the stories told around here seem also to be true of other places, rather than someone trying to make up a justification for increased homelessness or something (or urban legends).

  114. Deb says:

    I work in a mental health facility, speciallizing in dual diagnosis (mental illness & addiction). Yes, over 2/3 of the population I work with are considered homeless. Funding for social services always takes the axe when there is a republican congress. One of the reasons why funding increased in the 70’s was because working with the homeless became the “cause” of the decade. Everyone was on the bandwagon to help the homeless then. Now that it is no longer that chic to deal with the homeless issue, the issue has been on the back burner for some time, though the population has increased dramatically along with those that are hungry. The homeless are still there. They are mostly women with children. Almost 7 out of 10 homeless mentally ill individuals are drug addicted……self medicating many of their symptoms. I don’t know how much help will trickle down to shelter’s like mine with the new congress, but anything helps at this time.

  115. Holli says:

    Maggie JoChild, when I grow up, I want to be as wise as you.

  116. Maggie Jochild says:

    I know there is a correlation between the Reagan presidency and the sudden emergence of widespread homelessness, but I don’t have cause-and-effect knowledge — although certainly loss of funding makes sense, as the point of Reaganomics was to remove money from the social service sphere and give tax cuts to the wealthy. (The “trickle-down” notion was a lie from the outset, designed to sell the idea to yuppies.) Grover Norquist, a bad, bad man, first came into prominence during the Reagan years. Reagan was also a union buster. If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you, I’m not quite rational on the subject of Reagan, so I’m being careful to separate anecdote or correlation from more substantiated information in my bias against him.

    The thing I hold against him the most is his ad for re-election which asked “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The only people who were able to answer yes to that were those on the upper end of the class scale, and the yuppies/middle class who thought they were going to be allowed along on the ride indefinitely. But the majority of the country was, in fact, not better off. Yet he felt free to ask this question, to rub people’s faces in it. And that is the main legacy of his administration — not just the dismantling of protections for those in real need (or the ignoring of them altogether — think of his response to AIDS) — but the permission he gave his band of Neocons and the rest of the country to be callous, heartless, to laugh at those who cared, to make a joke of the word liberal, and to use the same smear tactics or accusations of treason that have been the Bushistas ploy for the past six years. He introduced a venal and vicious partisanship to American politics, deliberately manipulating the system — and I believe our grave danger of losing all Constitutional rights currently can be traced directly back to his implementation of Nixonian ideas of imperialism.

    My own personal experience with the increase of mental health system survivors is rather different. In California in the 1970s, it was easy to be incarcerated in a mental institution against your will indefinitely for such things as being a lesbian, being a prostitute, using drugs, or not being white — I mean, the diagnoses were clever, but that’s what it amounted to. (Just as obesity is used to mean fat plus unhealthy, when in fact the health conditions associated with being fat occur just as often in people who are not fat but diet constantly or eat certain things.) So, in my circle, the emphasis was on springing women from the hospitals. In the Bay Area, there was more than one guerilla-style group of former inmates and their friends, lesbians, mostly working class, who trolled through mental hospitals locating women who should not be locked up. When they found someone in need of rescue, they’d create fictitious family relationships, get her a job and housing, and get her released into their care. Then they would shepherd her through the re-entry process, which often took months to get off the psychotropics, get over electric shock treatments, re-learn how to care for herself, until she was stable. At which point, they’d go back in after another woman. I was close friends with someone who had been “sprung” in this way, an incredibly brilliant and funny working-class dyke who went on to be a major leader in the community. These little bands of activists kept a very low profile, but accepted money and help from the rest of us as we could give it. I remember that the leader of one group was named Kevyn, and if she reads this, you have my undying respect and love.

  117. LondonBoy says:

    Ford: I suppose I’m the last person in the world to see this, but I think it summarises what I’d like to say:

    It’s sometimes very difficult for us to remember that all our politicians, even those with whom we disagree, are in some way trying to do their best. Their motives may not be unmixed, but we are in many ways lucky: even the worst of our rulers share our foundational belief in democracy, and and trying to do their best for us, as they understand it. We may not agree with their actions or beliefs, but we are all sheltering under the same vast umbrella of our society.

    In the same way, I do hope that we can remain unmoderated here – a noisy, chattering democracy of people and ideas – and try to understand that even the most immoderate of us are doing the best they can in their own circumstances, and are trying in their own way to fit in, find their way to happiness, and help other people.

  118. Holli says:

    But, my mother runs a treatment program and even though the funding was an issue in the increase of mentally ill homeless, the republicans aren’t entirely to blame (THIS time).
    More enlightened elements of society came to believe that institutions were cruel and inhumane, and institutionalization was no longer considered a valid treatment plan for anyone, no matter how ill. Today, you can only be hospitalized in many places if you can be proven ‘a danger to yourself or others’, and even then the hospital stay is shockingly short. I have heard frequently of people who attempt to qualify just to feel the ‘safety’ of a hospital stay.

    For a variety of reasons, there was nothing that was able to fill the void on the ‘function to disfunction’ continuum when hospitals closed. Even with the possibility of assisted living, many of the mentally ill are not able to use that sort of system to fufill their own needs, even when it is available.

    Which it often is not, and that part we may blame on the ‘compassionate conservatives’ and the other kind too.

  119. Kat says:

    Holli and Maggie:
    thanks for your insights!

  120. mlk says:

    I second Kat’s thanks!!

  121. cybercita says:

    in the sixties, when major tranquilizers such as thorazine were shown to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia and in many cases allow people to function somewhat normally while taking them, the laws changed and it became illegal to institutionalize schizophrenics permanently. the patients were all released but there was no appropriate planning for community services and the funding for mental health services, what there was of it, was reduced considerably. with no community support systems in place, and no one to help them stay on their medications, thousands of mentally ill people who had had places to live fell through the cracks and became homeless.

  122. Deb says:

    Holli, that’s very true. Now, in Oregon, you can NOT be sent to a state mental hospital unless you are clearly a danger to yourself and/or others. You must also have a clearly defined Axis I as per the DSMRiv, a minimum of a QMHP and two physicians must make an examination and concur with a Dx. Then, there has to be bed space. The latter is usually the trick. Where I work, individuals have been “stabilized” enough so they can take care of their own personal daily needs. They are not required to take medications though some of the meds that are out there now are excellent……….low side effects and maximum effectiveness with hallucinations and dellusions. We have 24 beds and are not a ‘lock-down’. We follow the client-centered, Sanctuary model and engage our residents as much as possible with all aspects of their residency. It’s very, very difficult to keep good staff when the starting pay is less than $10.00/hour. We get alot of interns from the university who are just learning about social services and want to make a difference. It’s a hard thing to watch people in such need who depend on the generosity of donations or ‘PC’ politicians and their savvy in fund-raising.

  123. Jana C.H. says:

    What did Saddam’s execution accomplish? Well, there will be one less witness at the Hague for Rummy’s war crimes trial.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith JcH: There’s no worse cynic than a spoiled idealist.

  124. Leslie says:

    Maggie, I read your post about Therese Edell, and my heart skipped and tears came to my eyes. I came out as an over-eager lesbian feminist college-age babyfemme in Cincinnati in the late ’70’s. I saw Therese and Betsy perform many times, and met them personally through a friend who was sharing a home with her, her lover, and some other women. I don’t have the honor of saying that she was my friend; I doubt seriously that she would remember me at all. But she was someone I had the chance to observe and chat with and hear talk about all kinds of things. She made a big impression on me as a smart, confident, talented, funny woman, who seemed very wise to me even though she was barely older than I was. My memories of her performances and having had the chance to just hang out her at her beautiful old house are some of the best memories of my young adult life. I moved away in ’83, lost touch with the Crazy Ladies and co-op and music communities of Cincinnati, and I was so sad when I learned through the lesbian press that she could no longer perform. Thank you for triggering some really good memories that I haven’t thought about in quite a while.

  125. Deena in OR says:


    Argh…mental health bed space in Oregon. Did you know that there is a three *month* waiting list in my area for comprehensive geriatric mental health evaluation? Three months to get an appointment. The system is broken. Meanwhile, we wait at my facility, watching like hawks and hoping that our paranoid, ticking time-bomb of a resident doesn’t hurt anyone in the meantime.

  126. Deena in OR says:

    hmmmm…how did we get from moderation to mental health facilities?????

  127. Deb says:

    Hmmmmmmmmmm………….not sure. Maybe I missed something! Wouldn’t be the first time for sure. We generally have a 25-30 person waiting list and we are a crisis bed facility. We house people that might end up in jail or come straight from the hospital who underwent psychiatric care. Geriatrics? ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!! A whole other thing. You are right, the system is so broken. I am sooooooo glad that I can come home from work and relax. Part of my relaxing is to read Alison’s work and post on the blog.

  128. Pam Isherwood says:

    The same thing happened in the UK – the huge residential homes shut down. And now we have Care in the Community, which on the whole works well, with lots of smaller homes. But somehow the cash from all the big ol places becoming luxury apartments didnt quite trickle down. A lot of our street homeless people don’t have mental health problems to begin with, many start off as young people discharged from care homes at 16 or 18 who have not got the basic skills of living as adults. This is being recognised now but the numbers are huge. And there are thousands of functioning but clearly ill older people who just about cope. Not my expertise, search for eg Shelter if you want to know more. From my warm, dry room…

  129. judybusy says:

    Weighing in on all these comments about the mental health system: I worked for 7 years as a psychiatric social worker at two community hospitals. As time went on, there was TREMENDOUS pressure to get people out and shorten the length of stay. Families and patients would often complain they didn’t feel ready, that the stay is too short. Psychiatric beds are in short supply, and many, many times, people are sent to hospitals 200-250 miles away from friends and family.

    I also see how some people became dependent on the hospital, afraid to try living their lives. The variety of people and their experiences of mental illness are incredible, and that’s what also makes it hard to develop a comprehensive system. Often our “solutions” are very generic, one-size-fits all, when there needs to be greater flexibility.

    This is so different than the terrible experiences Maggie wrote about, with people being wrongfully incarcerated in an institution. I want to say that there are so many safeguards now, at least in Minnesota, that that just doesn’t happen. This, of course, is the result of years of courageous activism on the part of people with mental illness and their allies.

    Last year, the Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which included deep cuts to what is called targeted case management. In my county, this was coupled with a Republican-controlled state legislature and governor who made deep cuts to local government aid. (I am now a county employee.) As far as I can tell, we are going to be most affected with cuts to child protection. I think this is utterly ghastly, as many, many of my clients have suffered terribly as kids and continue to suffer as adults. If the conservatives were really compassionate, they would recognize money spent at the front end ends up saving so much money and prevents so much suffering.

    There are some in our business community who are finally understaniding this, and for example, are lobbying for an increase in early childhood education funding. The afore-mentioned Rebuplican gov. has also deemed ameliorating homelessness a priority and has promised to put more money into a model of housing called supportive housing. People live in independent apartments, but can sign up for services from nurses, personal care attendants, and social workers to help them maintain their health and independence.

    I sit on the board of an agency that opened up just such a building in September 06 and are waiting to hear if we will be rewarded development rights to another site. Through committee work, I have had a chance to meet some of the residents and hear their successes, and I am so happy for them. It’s great to see their dignity shine through.

    So, overall, I think the system is deeply broken, and we are trying to effect change in small ways. I see the biggest problem is how our healthcare system is organized. If we could get a sane system in place, many of these problems could be addressed on a macro scale. But if I got started on that, you’d be reading til dawn tomorrow!

  130. Katie says:

    Hi Silvio,

    Wow…looks like I have my work cut out for me! Thank you for alerting me.

    Regarding color-coded threading- We work with pretty simple software and I’m not sure that we can accomplish something like that.

  131. mlk says:

    thanks for addressing the color idea online, Katie. didn’t have much hope for it, but though it was worth mentioning . . .

  132. Silvio Soprani says:

    To slightly modify the aquarium fish image of our community, I think we are also like a kalidoscope. Depending on the shift in topic, the various talents and experience of members become visible, as in this latest discussion of mental health policy and funding issues.

    I just have one item to add in regard to vagrancy policies in California. In 1976 I was bicycle touring from Eugene, Oregon to San Francisco. My companion had done this tour previously and tipped me off that as we passed through either Arcata or Ft. Bragg (I know they are far apart, but I just can’t remember), the city had a law against “vagrancy” so it would not be okay for us camp out anywhere. But they had a policy where if you called the day before, they would supply travellers with a free hotel room (swear to God I am not making this up!) And so we called, and when we arrived they gave each of us a separate room in a modest but clean hotel (my companion was male). Free of charge! The next day we continued on our trip.

    It was the most bizarre thing I had ever heard of, and it must not have been much of an issue or the town would have gone bankrupt. But all this to prevent there being vagrants on the street. It was April of the bicentennial year; perhaps they were trying to keep their image squeaky clean? No clue.

    Lest anyone get an image of me as being buff and athletic, in the interest of truth I must say it was thirty years ago and it remains the most athletic thing I have ever done (except perhaps having three wonderful midwife-assisted births without the use of drugs; that was definitely three good days’ work!)

  133. g-lo says:

    Hey everyone. Generally I try to keep a low profile and just keep the gears moving around here. But since a number of site issues have been raised in this post I figured I could make a few responses.

    re: Yesterday’s errrm discussion
    Every open forum of communication experiences moments of hysteria, name-calling, and “illogical” behavior. For this blog, which has a readership that is acutely aware of issues surrounding identity, the politics of identity and image etc, words have the potential to cut deep.

    I also suspect that there is a nice mix of ‘net old-timers (pine is not elm, right?) and some people for whom this may be the first time they’ve participated in online communication that is public. This is nice, but sometimes there’s a learning curve (oh, if I stick my foot in my mouth I can’t go back and edit it? yikes!).

    Learning to deal with this can be personally challenging for both the “offenders” and those of us who have to watch yet another ‘net newb go through online adolescence. But hey, we don’t lock up all the teenagers do we? We try to appeal to their greater nature and then get over our bad selves.

    Sort of a long preamble to say: Yesterday’s event will not be the last time someone flies off the handle or things get a little heated. If you continue to handle it as well as yesterday I’m sure it will be fine.

    re: Trolls and spammers
    There is a special case for Trolls and spammers though. If you happen to notice a troll the best tactic is for you to ignore them (I won’t ignore them, however). Due to the nature of this blog it is only a matter of time before a real troll shows up.

    For an interesting word-nerd read hit wikipedia:

  134. Deb says:

    Silvio, Florence, Oregon had a similar motel program. As one of the founder’s of the Women’s Center there, we came up with a unique way to keep homeless women and their children safer. It was a ‘patch-job’ for sure……….but it kept people warm and safe for 1 or two nights. After doing this work for almost 30 years, it’s true that there have been good times and lean times for social services. As frustrating as it is at times, I believe it keeps us attempting to be creative and flexible. Hey a bike trip from Eugene to San Francisco? Now how cool is that? Eugene is great for that sort of thing. I am surely not new to the internet but wasn’t aware that someone who caused such havoc was called a troll. I have only been witnessed to that once and it is so disruptive. I feel confident that all of us here could deal with something like that with tact and class.

  135. g-lo says:

    Troll is one of those great accidents in wordiness. It describes both the activity of the person (looking for something which would rather be left alone, as in trolling for bait/fish/etc) and the person’s character (hiding, malicious).

    That said, I do not think yesterday’s discussion involved a troll.

  136. shadocat says:

    I’m afraid all the “evidence” I have on the negative effects of “Reaganomics” is personal and in court it would be called “circumstantial evidence”—but it’s all the truth.

    I noticed that while Reagan and then Bush *41 were in office the number of homeless increased dramically. They were everywhere in my town. It really hit home when my kids and I were attending a late mass in a church downtown (still Catholic then) and when were approached by a homeless woman with children–and we had no money to give them!

    In 1980 my spouse was accepted into a construction apprentice program. In 1981, that program’s federal funding was cut, and it was discontinued. He took a job as a janitor, and went back to college on the G.I. Bill. But later, that program was “modified.” and he never completed his degree.(Not all Reagan’s fault, but I’ll blame hime for part of it, anyway).

    Husband’s little brother lost his dad at age 17, In the beginning, he at least had dad’s social security to help him with college. Guess what? Halfway through, THAT policy changed. Now, when the child turns 18, the checks stop coming–even when the child is still in high school, still needing financial support from mom. (This law also affected my youngest daughter when she lost her dad at the same age; 5 months of social security then fuggeddaboutit—get a big fat loan if you wanna go to school—if you’r still in high school, ask your boss for more hours at Mickey D’s. And since there’s no dad to pay child support, mom can get a second job. Happy Bithday from Uncle Sam).

    Oh and in 1986, I went back to college as well. Due to being dirt poor, I qualified for a couple of grants; even got a little scholarship. A year later, guess what? The rules changed again! The grants went away, and I had to get loans, which I am STILL paying on. I was lucky—a lot of my classmates simply left school and never came back. And unless you think I was leading the life of a carefree student, I was working like a horse the whole damn time, trying to make ends meet and raise a family, while Ronnie was splitting logs at the ranch. Those were VERRRY hard years for us; I still can’t relate when I hear about the so-called “prosperous 80’s” Not for me, or anyone I knew!

    Hey, on a more positive, though off-topic note; I completed 1 WHOLE WEEK as a vegetarian (although during my weaker moments, all I could think of was Stephen Colbert saying, “If God didn’t want us to eat animals, then why did he make them so delicious?)

    Alison: I think we nee another sketch diary…

  137. shadocat says:

    This is for the lovely Katie: Katie’ is there any way we could have a “preview button” to review and edit our posts before we finally submit them? I was on another message board not long ago that had this, and I really liked this feature.

    My reasons for suggesting this are: 1)The obvious, of course–it seems no matter how many times I carefully scroll down and proofread my post before I submit it, I ALWAYS find one , or two, or (shudder)more goofs, but by then it’s too late, it’s already on the blog, for god and everybody to read. (That’s the selfish reason). 2) An “edit button” causes a delay, and a delay might cause a person full of anger to stop and think before they submit a post.

    It’s just a suggestion (though I’d be willing to pay extra for it!)Feel free to ignore—I know you already have enough to do…

  138. Silvio Soprani says:

    Dear “G-Lo”–

    I see from clicking on your screen name that you are the Web Master of Alison’s site. Great job!

    However, as much as I scroll back to “yesterday’s” posts, I don’t see anything even vaguely close to an “eerrrm discussion.” I think you must be referring to the great wars that occurred back in the “Metrosexual” thread (which I don’t even want to mention or remind anybody of because we seem to have shaken off that dark cloud…

    Deb, from your mention of the Florence, Oregon motel policy, I think perhaps I was imputing image-consciousness instead of a compassionate motivation for Ft. Bragg (or Arcata’s) vagrant policy. I like your description better!

    Shadocat, I have always been sceptical of data, like the generalizations one learns in a sociology class. Your detailed trail of economic consequences makes a lot more sense. Let me add to it that I NEVER understood why they called Reagan the “Great Communicator.” I always thought he just sounded insincere. Even George W.’s querilousness these days sounds more sincere than Ronnie ever did. By the way,Shado, don’t worry about the typos!

  139. Silvio Soprani says:

    Oh gosh, g-lo, I see what you mean. People ARE still posting on the previous thread.

  140. judybusy says:

    Shadocat, thanks for the info on the changes to Social Security–I wasn’t even aware of this, even though I am in the social work biz. It just proves my point about the less we invest in people, the more human capital we waste. Bad for the individual and ultimately bad for society. With a poorly populated populace, who exactly is supposed to be doing the creative, inventive work that helps power our economy? At least Warren Buffet has the good sense not to say his wealth accumulation has been solely due to his efforts. He’s acknowledged that without investments in schools, transportation, healthcare (to a smaller degree) he wouldn’t be where he is today. And besides, making it possible for people to achieve their dreams is just the decent thing to do!
    p.s. Congrats on the vegetarian week!

  141. Amberooni says:

    Hey ya’ll,
    I ain’t read through everybody’s posts, but I just wanted to say that Ms. Bechdel’s picture for this thread was so totally perfect. ha!

  142. Wondering says:

    what’s happening with the strip?

  143. Aunt Soozie says:

    Thanks for the welcome back ladies.
    I’m truly needing a bit of down home Bechdel Blog comfort and distraction…so…let’s talk only of pleasantries for a moment or two. Aunt Soozie has had a very very difficult week.


    We had beautiful weather in the Northeast today…quite sunny, just lovely. That whole global warming thing is divine…well, with the exception of the melting of the polar ice caps but really, we had a delightfully balmy day.


    Was that a moment?

    So, yeah, I was disgusted by the whole Saddam thing.
    It seems so simple?

    I dunno, call me crazy…but I have to say that killing people is not the civilized way to address a problem.

  144. Ellen says:

    Anyone else feeling unfamiliarly excited and hopeful hearing Nancy Pelosi’s speech today?

  145. sturdy grrl says:

    This blog discussion is no longer about Alison’s work, DTWOF or Fun Home. So, it is not much fun to sort through to try and find a Bechdel moment. I am new to the posting on blogs business and I think I have have discovered this is not the life for me.
    My plans are to check for new entries on Alison’s sketch diary and look for postings from Alison with her photos and commentary.
    To the rest of you, keep posting up a storm, it appears you all dig it. tootles…

  146. Deb says:

    Awwwwwwww aunt Soozie, I hope your week improves. Yes, this blog is about Alison and her work and that work’s impact on our lives. Maybe there will be a sketch about this blog?

  147. sturdy grrl says:

    I just discover your FAQs. All the witty details about your work, in your words, love it. Very fun. Thank you. Hey, here is a question for your FAQs: How about a board game about DTWOF or a card game like Authors? The cards could be all the DTWOF characters. I am sure this idea has been shared with you already…

  148. Angie says:

    Chiming in about the medical discussion… Here in Canada, we complain non-stop about medical waitlists, and the most common solution that conservatives produce is to introduce a pay-for-procedure system just like the United States. This way, people who had money could go to a private facility, skipping the line and leaving everyone else to wait for government funded procedures. Which would create a very class-based health system, which most Canadians are opposed to (can’t find the stat atm, but it’s quite high).

    I wonder how many of these wealthy people would find themselves waiting just as long for health care in a US-based system?

    Medical care is expensive, and costly, and you really end up paying either way (through monthly taxes or in a lump sum), but at least with national medical, poor people can still get heart transplants as easily as privilaged people.

  149. Maggie Jochild says:

    Ellen, yes. I actually cried when I heard her strong, clear voice on the radio this afternoon. The last time I felt hopeful about a politician was when Ann Richards was elected governor of Texas. I voted for Ann, and way back when I lived in SF I voted for Nancy Pelosi, too. My godson was listening to the radio with me, and he kept cheering about women leaders (YAY!) He wanted to know exactly what this might mean, and I went into a Schoolhouse Rock kind of explanation of the House of Reps, which he was interested in, but then I dropped all the intellectual stuff and said “She’s third in line to the Presidency. That’s the main thing.” His face lit up and he began explaining why, if Bush is able to be impeached, it will also implicate Gunner Dick and so they’ll both be out of the running, and then…

    Over dinner, he also explained to me at length about how Walt Disney created the whole myth of lemmings committing mass suicide, for a documentary, by using captured lemmings, camera angles, and forced lemming-icide. He was incensed about it, as all too often only 8-year-olds are. And I saw a connection (’cause I’m a poet, I’m always sniffing for metaphor) between the lies about lemmings and the lies, lies, lies that keep women out of power.

    G-lo/Gaylord (I think I’ve seen that name for you), thanks for validating the lessons others posters (was that you, Duncan?) have tried to give us about the real meaning of trolls and spam. And for keeping an eye on us.

    Sturdygrrl, I’ll be sorry to see you go. I’ve enjoyed your postings. But not everybody likes a free-flowing conversation that follows tangents and nonsequiturs (sp), chasing around a topic like a spiral. Do come back and tell us what you think whenever you feel like it.

    And, wow, am I learning a lot with this thread and the still active Metrosexual/Body Image thread. Leave it to Alison’s art to spark such a dialogue.

  150. shadocat says:

    Maggie-Walt Disney created the whole lemming-suicide idea? Are you sure? Not that I doubt you, but that is one big whopper!

    Speaking of things that keep women out of power:I was reading the story about the couple that sought medical intervention to keep their severely handicapped child “small”, so that she could be more easily cared for (and NO, that’s NOT what I want to talk about, Far be it from me to judge the parents who will be caring for a child in this condition for the rest of their lives on the choices they make about how best to do that).

    While reading the article, I found this little gem of info:

    “We learned that attenuating growth is feasible through high-dose estrogen therapy. This treatment was performed on teenage girls starting in the 60’s and 70’s, when it wasn’t desirable for girls to be tall, with no negative or long-term side effects.”

    WTF was that??? People were deliberately stunting the growth of their daughters because being tall “wasn’t desirable”??? What kind of doctor would do that to a “normal” healthy girl? What kind of parent?

    I’ll admit, I’m a little sensitive on this subject as I am 5’11. All my life I was the tallest girl in the class, and I knew all too well it was not a “desirable” trait at that time. But I didn’t care; I liked the way I was. Nevertheless, I was suprised when sometime in the 80’s, being a woman and being tall was all of a sudden a great thing.

    But people doing hormone therapy on healthy kids just so they’d be sweet little sex kittens, and be able to catch great big husbands? Right up there with foot binding…

  151. Pam Isherwood says:

    Shadocat – take up photography. It’s a huge asset to be tall. You have your own built-in tripod extension.

  152. Bob says:

    Going back to the “political correctness” issue, I think it’s well summed up by one of my favorite bumperstickers of all time: “Better PC than Not-C.”

  153. shadocat says:

    Pam; i know you were just joking, but I was just trying to share another example of how are world has done thingd to women to make them less powerful. I’m not interested in photography, or being a built in tri-pod extension, And for anyone else, I don’t want to play basketball either.

  154. shadocat says:

    Aaarrrggghhh! Apologies for the typos!

  155. Jana C.H. says:

    The business about Disney and the lemmings is true. Here’s the story from

    Jana C.H.
    Saith E.G. Forbes: Never spoil a good story with too much truth.

  156. --MC says:

    Sure, but Disney didn’t create the myth, he just printed it.

  157. Silvio Soprani says:


    Tall AND a redhead? Truly you are a GODDESS!

    Just to put this in perspective, I always had a bump in my nose (which I found DEVASTATING) and I had big feet. When I look at my adolescent photos, I was damn cute! But I did not know it then. I was all worried about my nose.

    So now I am older, there is more of me, (both in brain cells and fat cells) and its all good as far as I am concerned.

    It is great to have grown up and see these things in perspective.

    It is even better to have found all of you, my intelligent, witty, good lookin’ (I’ll take in on faith) fellow AB Bloggers!

  158. Silvio Soprani says:

    p.s. I know we told Alison to take a break, but another sketch WOULD be nice!

  159. dw says:

    We got that look from the teacher, like, a week ago and she still hasn’t come back in the room and I’ve finished the assignment and I think everybody else has too so I have something completely off topic which I wanted to say and as long as we keep sort of quiet I think it will be OK.
    If there’s a silver lining of Bush’s War it may be the reduced influence of hate radio. I think we underestimate the importance of hate radio. I drove cross country with only AM and there was local hate radio all the way; and of course the big nationals: Rush, Sean, Laura, and Bill. It has to have had an effect on elections and since they were close in 2000 and 2004, I think hate radio was the margin of difference. They’re still at it, denouncing the Democrats and championing Bush. Here’s the silver lining. As the silent majority wake up to what happened to them and their children and their country they should turn against Bush and his supporters. As the war becomes more unpopular, perhaps its last defenders on hate radio will finally lose their audience.
    Of course, liberals don’t do hate radio as well as conservatives. Pacifica doesn’t have quite the venom or stupidity of a Sean Hannity and Air America didn’t find its audience. What we do well is mockery. Fox news is supposed to do a Daily Show style right wing show soon. I look forward to its failure.

  160. --MC says:

    Sturdy grrl, don’t go away. The comments go all over the place here, sometimes it’s like trying to sort mice, but that’s the sign of a healthy blog community. And eventually the topic gets back to Alison and her wonderous work.

  161. Maggie Jochild says:

    DW — (are you Arthur’s sister?) — I really like your point about hate radio. I used to work in an office with five other women, two of whom listened to that sewage all the time, sometimes at work despite my protests. One of them would get so worked up about what she was having pollute her mind that she felt justified in being overtly racist and homophobic at work (and yes, she got away with it, because my supervisor was the other one who listened to the radio). As someone who’s worked in community radio, I know it’s an amazing medium for eaching the homes of women, poor people, and travelers — which is why the right took it away from its populist roots.

    Silvio, I second your GODDESS declaration about Shadocat. I actually imagine this blog is populated with lots of goddessess and godlings and godexes, whatever the terms we need to invent for ourselves.

    Jana with the always funny signature line — thanks ever so for the link to the lemmings story. I wasn’t sure my godson hadn’t been hoodwinked somewhere along the way.

  162. mysticriver says:

    Re: All of the comments as a sign of a healthy blog community – actually, that’s the thing…this isn’t really a blog anymore, it’s more like a chat room. Usually blog comments are for communication between the author and the readers. This is more like readers communicating with each other, with occasional shouts or references to the author. It seems to be a core group of > 20 people who tend to drive most of the conversation, and while everyone seems nice and it’s good to see a loyal base group, it makes participation in the blog a bit intimidating for newcomers.

    Someone asked, “Why not skip past the comments if you’re just interested in the art?” And it’s true that you can look at the art without reading the comments. But you can’t participate in the blog without reading the comments. This thread is a perfect example: Alison writes a post and asks for feedback. To read the feedback that actually relates to Alison’s comments, one need wade through commentary on Gerald Ford, Saddam Hussein, homelessness, and the mental health system, none of which are even hinted at in the original post. And the commentary may be interesting and has its place, but maybe it needn’t be here.

    I dig that there is a want and need and value for the community as such, but could we separate things out a bit? McAuliflower’s suggestion about creating a forum sounds like a good idea…

  163. Donna Collier says:

    Hey. *waves at Alison* I know this is slightly off topic but I love that school marmish look. hehe 🙂

  164. Katie says:

    Hi Shadocat,

    Thank you for your suggestion…I’ve forwarded it to our web guru, Gahlord.

    This post has generated lots of excellent suggestions…I will do my utmost to keep you all informed about changes around here!

  165. Duncan says:

    sksdurham, I don’t see why you think I think you’re a Republican. Au contraire, mon frere, I think you’re a liberal.

  166. shadocat says:

    To Maggie and Silvio–Thank you for the lovely compliments, but as far as goddessness(?) is concerned, I think both of you outrank me (What would be above a goddess? Mega-goddess?
    How about four star goddess?)

    Judybusy-Thank you for the thank you–you would be suprised how many people, many of them professionals, do not know about this change in social security and it’s been in place for at least twenty years. When my ex-husband died suddenly,grief counselors at the hospital, school counselors, and even the funeral director told my 17 year old daughter she could receive assistance checks as long as she was a full-time college student. I hoped that perhaps the law had changed again (remembering my young brother-in-law’s experience), but when I checked with the SSA, I found nothing had changed. Minor children of the deceased only receive support until their 18th birthday. Then the checks stop, no matter where they are in their schooling. The government has not been eager to share this bit of info with the general public, for obvious reasons.

  167. shadocat says:


    Thanks for the reply;I also have one more suggestion, if I may (gulp!)

    When I’ve been on other message board, some have a feature where one can choose to see threaded (subject directed) or non-threaded (the whole ball of wax) comments. If this could be done, maybe we could “have our cake and eat it too?” (I know, like you don’t already have enough to do…)

  168. Maggie Jochild says:

    Yeah, let me put in my two cents to echo Shadocat — since I try to limit my comments to once per day, I cover all the topics in that single post. Which means I’d have no earthly idea which “thread” to plunk it under. For me, the strength of this blog, as indeed the strength of Alison’s art, is the complexity and the refusal to boil it down. I hear that’s not how some folks like to deal with things, and I respect that, but I’d rather have the option to continue hearing it all. Just how I live my life.

  169. Medic says:

    Should have his licence revoked; if this man is not happy with dispensing legal drugs because of his beliefs perhaps he should try other employment, or does his income come before his beliefs? WBR LeoP

  170. Matt says:

    Kids…if I can remember being one that long ago… are curious beings. Even in the most ‘perfect’ home, most parents enjoy and nurture the natural curiosity of their children. The reality and possibility is that any child, curious about the awful drug WBR LeoP

  171. Leo Pharmacy says:

    Kids…if I can remember being one that long ago… are curious beings. Even in the most ‘perfect’ home, most parents enjoy and nurture the natural curiosity of their children. The reality and possibility is that any child, curious about the awful drug WBR LeoP

  172. Pharmacist says:

    Many of the “new” drugs are just minor chemical modifications of old drugs that are loosing their patent protection. Most are no more effective than the older drug or the generic version. Virtually all of them are much more expensive and require higher pa WBR LeoP