very sad news

July 12th, 2010 | Uncategorized

I just found out that Harvey Pekar died. There’s this very short “just in” piece in the Huffington Post. (It’s been fleshed out a lot, I just noticed, since I started writing this an hour ago.)

I’m kind of stunned. He was such a sweet person, and I just saw him recently. In April we traveled together to do some presentations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He didn’t seem to be in the greatest shape, and I felt bad for dragging him out on a walk into the crazy casino area at the hotel where we were staying. Now I feel even worse. Here, I made a little movie of him in the garish indoor mall because he just seemed so incongruous there.

Anyhow, I loved Harvey. and I loved his work. I first discovered him when I was in college. American Splendor #2.


It’s the only comic book I bother keeping in one of those archival sleeve things. There was an epic story in it about Harvey and two friends just hanging out one night. It goes on for pages and pages, and the only thing that really happens is that they move a rug from one guy’s house to another guy’s house. The guys are all at loose ends–one’s a Vietnam vet who just got fired from his job, one has been unemployed for years. And then there’s Harvey with his “flunky government job” as a file clerk. They haul the rug—which is waterlogged and smelly from being left in the rain—all the way across town and up to the guy’s apartment. But then he decides it was a mistake, and they have to haul it out again, to his back porch. It’s a perfect story about nothing, and everything, and it started to give me ideas about autobiography. You don’t need to engineer some grand sprawling thematically dense narrative. If you write honestly about everyday life, all that stuff will automatically be there.

That issue of American Splendor also has the brilliant “Harvey Pekar Name Story” in it, illustrated by R. Crumb. It’s about Harvey finding all these other Harvey Pekars in the phone book. It was dramatized quite hauntingly in the movie American Splendor. Here’s an excerpt:
pekar name story

167 Responses to “very sad news”

  1. Calico says:

    I just read this on Josh’s site.
    I am so glad you got to see him recently.
    RIP, Harvey Man.

  2. Annie in Norway says:

    I just saw this on Mark Evanier’s site here. I actually saw him now and then at various comic con venues and always came away with something to think about or learn that I hadn’t known before. I am sorry to hear of his passing.

  3. Renee S. says:

    Another Great Talent passed through this World into the next…

  4. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Alison, I’m so sorry. I know how much he meant to you, and when I saw the news in the NYTimes, I shuddered.

  5. Diana says:

    My condolences to all who knew him well. I only got to meet him the one time, and was honored to have had the chance.

  6. Raffi says:

    I just bought American Splendor movie on dvd last week. Guess I’ll watch it today. You were fortunate to have known and worked with him, Alison.

  7. RachelB says:

    I was just reading Comics Curmudgeon, got the news, and thought of you. RIP, Mr. Pekar.

  8. Neda Ulaby just did a great piece on Harvey on NPR. You can listen to it here after 7pm EDT.

  9. spoilsport says:

    I met him briefly at your reading in Cleveland for Fun Home. It was truly delightful to see the appreciation between the two of you when he walked in with his wife. I felt like a silly fan girl with the two of you in the same room.

  10. Jesse Markham says:

    Sorry for you loss. I discovered the news on twitter when I saw his name trending there (!). I’ll check out the Neda Ulaby piece! Be well.

  11. John Boren says:

    I’ve been bawling like a baby.

    Damn it, I loved that man.

    There was nothing false or contrived about him. He practically glowed with honesty, integrity, compassion, good humor.

    He was one of my heroes.

  12. Aunt Soozie says:

    I also thought of you when I saw the news. 70 seems so young these days… sorry for your loss.

  13. Marj says:

    #12 Aunt Soozie. What she said.

  14. Acilius says:

    It is sad to lose him.

  15. hairball_of_hope says:

    Very good obit in LA Times, it makes mention of AB, et al.,0,6170883.story

    Quoting from the obit:

    Pekar, by all accounts, was a tough guy to be around: angry, confrontational, beset by grudges and troubles over money, an obsessive worrier. He never hid any of this, but wrote about it instead. That made him as brave as almost any artist I can think of – unadorned, unfiltered, less concerned with how the world thought of him than with how he thought of himself. It also made him an essential aesthetic bridge between, say, Will Eisner, who mined the lives of ordinary people in his 1978 graphic novel “A Contract with God,” and contemporary artists such as Jessica Abel, Adrian Tomine and Alison Bechdel, whose comics traverse a similar existential territory, in which the mundane (and sometimes not-so-mundane) material of daily life becomes the substance of their work.

  16. shadocat says:

    I concur with Soozie; a sad day.

  17. Minnie says:

    Oh Ms. Bechdel, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I just came across the sad news in The Daily Beast.

    As far as your Las Vegas excursion went, Mr. Pekar likely thrived on soaking up the experience and ripening it into yet another weird and wonderful part of his ongoing observations. (He’d have said ‘no’, really.)

    He is lucky to have had you as an appreciative, intelligent friend and sometime co-conspirator.
    And I am blessed to have been in the audience at UCLA’s Royce Hall in April, when you both expanded on your art. I could feel your warmth, courtesy and mutual respect, and I loved your easy smiles.
    In sympathy,

  18. Ready2Agitate says:

    That is really sad news. I loved the film and saw it two nights in a row because I was mesmorized, for the reasons you mention above…. 🙁

  19. Lurk-A-Lot says:

    I was thinking about Harvey Pekar last night; I was thinking of re-reading the first American Splendor anthology.

    Now this. What a shock. The comics world has lost an original.

    Very sad.

  20. DeLand DeLakes says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, Alison. I know he was special to you.
    He was, in a strange way, special to me, too. I honestly never got into his comics, but I found him very inspiring from a personal standpoint. So many people go through their entire lives without doing a single thing they actually want to do, and I consider him a giant for carving out a space in his life to make his work. At the risk of sounding corny, he was a real inspiration for me. R.I.P.

  21. Damn damn damn.

    I just gave up after 15 minutes of trying to write something poetic. Not just about HP, but about how we’re losing the luminaries of that whole in-between generation — older than the Boomers, younger than their parents — that set up the establishment so the postwar generation could knock ’em down (I’m _still_ smarting from losing George Carlin, 2 years later).

    Will blog about it later. 3 people will read it.


    RIP, Harvey. It’s been real.

  22. Kassie says:

    Oh, I just had to get over here when I heard Harvey had died. I was knocked flat when AS #1 came out, and was later thrilled when Alison began appearing with Harvey, because he too is a genuine original. Apart from how true to life Harvey’s writing was, don’t underestimate how hysterically funny he could be. Seek out “Standing Behind Jewish Ladies in Supermarket Lines,” and see if you agree! I hope Joyce finds lots of good stuff piled under the bed and lets the world read it.
    Thanks for this mention of Harvey, Alison.

  23. […] friends and colleagues as Neil Gaiman, Scott McCloud Josh Neufeld and Ted Rall, while elsewhere Alison Bechdel, Mark Evanier, Dean Haspiel, Mike Rhode, Tom Spurgeon, Ken Tucker, David Ulin and Gene Luen Yang […]

  24. Aunt Soozie says:

    Watched two clips of Harvey on David Letterman… from 1987 and 1988 last night. What a guy, what spunk. He was real with a capital R.

  25. Bechadelic1 says:

    I’m not familiar with Mr. Pekar or his works, but I gathered from this blog that he is a well-loved artist and legend. I’m truly sorry to hear of his passing. Rest in Peace Mr. Pekar. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend and inspiration, Alison.

  26. --MC says:

    I realized, thinking it over yesterday, that I’d had three brushes with Harvey over the years. He did a signing for “Ego and Hubris” at the Town Hall, and afterwards I got a book signed for K and we waited around with a large group of cartoonists to see if we could lure him out for a late snack and more conversation, but he was too tired.

    A couple months later he was at a signing for “The Best American Comics”, the first one (Alison has a page in that), along with AE Moore the editor and two other contributors. We got a signed book there also.

    And about a year later, he came and spoke at Bumbershoot, and the room was packed. He was brilliant and funny.

    One of my correspondents wrote that he missed a Pekar signing because he was weak from chemo, fighting cancer … and the next day got a call from Harvey, who had heard from the guy’s gf that he was ill, and wanted to talk to him.

  27. Ian says:

    What Aunt Soozie said (#12). Another good one gone west.

  28. Nick Van der Graaf says:

    Very sad to hear this news. In a world of Hiltons, Beibers and other vacuous nobodies who stand for nothing, Harvey Pekar found profundity in the small things of everyday lives. He truly qualifies for the title of “Working Class Hero.” He will be greatly missed.

  29. Amy R. Cohen says:

    AB, the love was mutual. Among the stuff Harvey Pekar liked is you (and Lenny Bruce and obscure jazz and R. Crumb and more).

  30. Calico says:

    Here is a nice homage to Harvey by none other than Anthony Bourdain, the beatnik chef:

  31. Dr. Empirical says:

    I just found out Tuli Kupferberg died. Another old guy who really spoke to me.

    At least he made it to 86.

  32. rinky says:

    sad news indeed

  33. Judybusy says:

    I’m very sorry to hear this news. Alison, you spoke of him so warmly and he was so inspiring in many ways. I would guess that the walk around the casino was OK–he seems like he wouldn’t want to lay around waiting to expire. And you have one more covnersation to hold onto and remember him by.

  34. Ellen Orleans says:

    When I heard this on NPR, I immediately thought of you, Alison. I’m sorry for your loss of friend and mentor. It’s good that you could see the brilliance in each other.

  35. mlk says:

    as you might imagine, Cleveland is also remembering and missing Harvey Pekar. here is a piece from WCPN, their NPR station.

    I’m glad your shared work allowed that time with Harvey in LV. As Judybusy has already said, it gives you one more conversation and memory from someone who was both an influence and friend. he will certainly be missed . . .

  36. Calico says:

    #31 – The Fugs…true prograssives…

  37. Calico says:

    progrssives, I mean. Sorry!

  38. Bob Morgan says:

    Saw you and Harvey speak a year or so ago at Charlotte’s Novella festival. Last week I bought Will Eisner’s “Comic and Sequential Art”, which features a page of your work about your father’s funeral. Then I heard about Harvey’s passing. Sad coincidence.

    I’m grateful that Mr. Pekar lived and made such a mark on the world by sharing his life with us. Likewise, I’m glad you’re doing the same, and I’m also glad that you’re still here. Thank you.

  39. Hoffmann the Organizer says:

    In Baltimore, in the Reagan era, we loved Harvey Pekar. His Cleveland was our Baltimore — and Alison picked a perfect example in the story of moving the rug: a bunch of us had the same day with an old rug (ours ended up in the church dumpster); as S. Clay Wilson once wrote: “confused guards moved absurd objects from room to room . . .” That’s Bohemian life in post-industrial America! I was such a fan I called Harvey up during a layover at the Cleveland airpost, and we spent a great afternoon in his apartment, circa 1989. Once for my birthday, a friend bought the whole collection of AS from Harvey for me. And all our friends gathered to watch him on Letterman live each time he was on. A sad loss. A great guy. He made a real contribution! Thanks Alison!

  40. Acilius says:

    Tuli Kupferberg! When Harvey P and George Steinbrenner died, I was wondering who the third would be. I wish it didn’t have to be Tuli. Here he sings Nobody for President!

  41. Pam I. says:

    The Guardian today has a piece on comics with medical subjects as ways to communicate. The comments are worth a read too, someone picked up very quickly about Harvey P.

  42. Stephen Gordon says:

    Good news to cheer everyone up!

    Gay marriage is legal in Argentina now!

  43. […] Reporter: Un sentito ricordo di Alison Bechdel: A un paio di giorni dalla scomparsa di Harvey Pekar ricordiamo l’autore di American Splendor, […]

  44. Kat says:

    Over in the music world, another giant died yesterday: Sir Charles Mackeras, a very important conductor

  45. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    MacKerras did a gorgeous set of Brhams symphonies in original performance style, and it was riveting! Made old Bruno Walter look dull and stuffy.

  46. Kat says:

    He was supposed to conduct the last night of the Proms, too.

  47. freyakat says:

    A new thread: I have just come back from a screening of “The Kids Are All Right”. Has anyone else seen this film? I was deeply disappointed after the great review in the NY Times by a reviewer — male, though, I have to say, and probably straight — whose opinion I usually trust. I didn’t sense any sexual vibes or indeed any ‘closeness’ vibes between the women in the lesbian couple. And, while it is indeed true that we humans do just about anything, and sexuality is fluid, etc., I found it
    not so plausible that one of the women would so readily jump into bed with the straight man, even given the explanatory plotwise buildup.

    Whatever. It’s back to screenings of Frederick Wiseman films for me.

  48. ksbel6 says:

    @47: I’m pretty sure that is the same film that lesbians were mad about for exactly the reason that you stated.

  49. Renee S. says:

    Uh, it is inappropriate to discuss bacon hot sauce at this sad time?

  50. Kate L says:

    The only thing sadder than seeing someone just before they pass away is not seeing them that one last time.

    (freyakat #47, ksbel #48) I have not seen the movie, but from the reviews it sounded like The Kids Are All Right was another major motion picture where a lesbian falls for someone with an incomplete set of X chromosomes. This is a cinematic idea that goes all the way back to the James Bond thriller Goldfinger (1964), when a lesbian antagonist of Bond nevertheless ended up in bed with him.

    (Renee S. #49) A discussion about bacon is never inappropriate ! Btw, I thought of all of you sweltering in last week’s hot, hot weather just a few moments ago as I drove my un-air conditioned car through the 107 degree F. heat here in Smallville. That’s 42 degrees C, and we are far enough east in North America that it is not a dry heat !!!

  51. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Renee (#49), Kate L (#50)

    I suppose brisket hot sauce or gefilte fish hot sauce just wouldn’t sell. Seems like a waste of perfectly good hot peppers if you ask me.

    Since bacon is one of the major themes on this blog, I feel compelled to pass on this link to the latest in bacon culinary scientific research from Matt Blum’s ‘Great Bacon Odyssey’, the 100% bacon burger. No beef, no cheese, just bacon and a bit of egg to hold the thing together.

    I suggest you make a cardiologist appointment in advance for a catheterization if you plan on eating this artery-clogger.

  52. Happy Birthday, Cybercita! May you have bacon in the quantities you prefer and may your maple syrup always be Grde B!

  53. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#50)

    “The only thing sadder than seeing someone just before they pass away is not seeing them that one last time.”

    You are so right on this.

    Add to that sadness not having said the right words. Or having not cleared up the angry ones. And then the person is gone, and the relationship is frozen in time, the regrets having no outlet for rectification, the unsaid words haunting.

    With that in mind, and with a pretty strong suspicion that my ex periodically lurks on this blog… yes dear, I still love you. Life is too short and too hard to be doing this alone.

  54. Renee S. says:

    @HOH (#51 & #53)

    Wouldn’t eat either the bacon hot sauce nor the Great Bacon Odyssey. Bacon does seem to be trending these days. Every fast food commercial I see now exudes bacon. And lots of it.

    Ditto on #53, HOH. But sadly, my ex never lurks here.

  55. judybusy says:

    I was just talking about the movie, The Kids are All Right today with a friend. She is planning to see it and is going to let me know what she thinks. She has a lesbian daughter, partnered with three kids, so I will be very interested to hear her opinion given the plot.

    Meanwhile, there is a bacon take-down happening today in Minneapolis: “The king of amateur cook-offs, Matt Timms, is bringing his gig to the Twin Cities. Following recent bacon showdowns in Brooklyn, Houston, and SXSW, Bacon Takedown Twin Cities will take place in O’Gara’s in St. Paul on July 18, and Timms is looking to pit 20 local cooks and their…best bacon recipes against one another. Each contestant gets 15 pounds of Hormel Black Label Bacon to work their magic with and then brings the completed dish to the event for judging. At the event, observers can sample the results, which means a feast including everything from bacon bloody Mary’s to bacon ice cream to Molten Bacon Explosions, and more!” (Taken from my Facebook invite) I can’t go because we have plans to see friends, but it sounds fun and delicious!

    Lastly, some fun news in our household: we adopted a dog last week, a 4-year-old shiba inu and Australian cattle dog mix. She is blending in smoothly with the three cats and is such a joy! We’re so happy. And, as I noted on FB today, she’s not laying in front of the monitor right now like some other types of animals are wont to do!

  56. ksbel6 says:

    @55: We have an adoption only pet policy in our house…most of you probably remember the terrible story about the dog we got from a puppy mill breeder over a year ago. We added a kitten (who is now very much a cat) a several months back. He is still pretty fun to watch interact with the dog.

  57. brenda says:

    Alison- I thought of you as soon as I heard about Harvey’s death, since you are the one who introduced me to his work some years ago when I read “The Indelible Alsion Bechdel”, I have been a fan ever since. I am so sad that he is gone, I have looked forward to his books and have recently been following his new stories at “The Pekar Project” at You have given me two great gifts, your work and Harvey’s, thank you so very much.

  58. Oh, I am so sorry to hear this.

  59. Acilius says:

    This morning, I was teaching a class about English words derived from Latin and Greek. One of the exercises required them to write definitions of English words and illustrate their definitions with examples of the words in use.

    I wanted to show them how they could use Lexis-Nexis to find example sentences. So I projected the computer onto the screen in front of the classroom and opened the Lexis-Nexis search window. I asked the class which word they wanted me to look for in my demonstration. From a list of several dozen words, someone picked “neurosis.” So I typed “neurosis” into the search window. Up came hundreds of results. Looking these over, we could see not only potential definitions, but a good deal about the usage of the word. For example, finding it in hundreds of daily newspapers but only one medical journal we formed the hypothesis that it is a word that is no longer in technical use, an hypothesis which that one journal reference explicitly confirmed.

    Then I wanted to show them that you can narrow the search so that it only brings up items posted today. When I did that, paragraphs six through eight of this article appeared on the screen:

    You could have knocked me over with a feather. I gave a little eulogy for Harvey Pekar and said something like, “Hey, Alison Bechdel! She’s great!” Then it was back to lexicography.

  60. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Acilius (#59)

    Hey! I live in the “depressive-schlub zone.” “Comics cheer up?” What’s there to cheer up about? Feh.

    (… goes back to her Pekar-esque existence in the cube farm, just a tad less curmudgeonly …)

  61. Dr. Empirical says:

    Acilius (59) I remember reading about that when they changed the nomenclature. The headlines said there were no more neurotics!

    And Pluto isn’t a planet.

    Don’t get me started on brontosauruses.

  62. Acilius says:

    What was poignant for me about the Guardian column was that it referred to “Dykes to Watch Out For” as if the strip were still in production. Here I was in front of my class, no idea what I was about to call up on the screen, and all of a sudden, big as life, is a reminder that one of my favorite fictional universes has stopped growing. I may be a bit more sensitive than usual, since I just observed a birthday marking an age ending with a zero, but it always makes me sad to realize that Mo, Ginger, Toni, Clarice, & co will likely spend the rest of eternity in the Bush-Cheney administration.

    Dr. E, the article showing that “neurotic” is no longer in technical use was an opinion piece in The Lancet from a doctor who seems to wish it were:

  63. Dr. Empirical says:

    Based on my limited understanding, his argument has merit.

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is really more descriptive than scientific, yet a lot of science, especially the science that gets done in order to get FDA permission to market a drug, is based on it.

  64. judybusy says:

    I’m a psychiatric social worker who got her degree in 1993 and I’ve NEVER heard neurotic used professionally. It’s really, truly out-of-date. It would be interesting to see when it got dropped in the DSM.

  65. Acilius says:

    @judybusy- I went back and checked the article I linked in #62 above. It says there that “neurosis” was scrubbed from DSM III, published in 1980. So it’s been officially out of favor for thirty years.

  66. Kate L says:

    Recently, the DSM IV was misquoted by a professional anti-LGBT critic to condemn transsexuals as being mentally ill, and in the same league with pedophiles and murderers (I didn’t know that last category was ever in the DSM!). This anti-transsexual diatribe took the form of a guest column against adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the city human rights ordinance, and was published in the local newspaper. The column claimed that transexuals (and, it said, others of the “mentally ill”) should never be protected by law. That’s an interesting statement all by itself. The local newspaper refused a rebuttal from a person who lives just outside the city limits of Smallville, although the person who wrote the original column is from Maryland. Oh, and at the City Commission, which has to approve amending the ordinance to include the LGBT community as well as such already-protected categories as military service, a commissioner said that he’d hate to see “government legislating civil rights”. AGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH ! ! !

  67. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Acilius (#65)

    Of note, the DSM-III was the first revision of the DSM to drop homosexuality as a mental disorder, although the seventh printing of its predecessor DSM-II dropped the diagnosis in 1974.

    I checked the Wiki on DSM to get the historical details of the change in homosexuality diagnosis, and found some interesting quotes about neurosis and the medicalization of social differences:

    On the change in homosexuality diagnosis:

    Following controversy and protests from gay activists at APA annual conferences from 1970 to 1973, as well as the emergence of new data from researchers such as Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker, the seventh printing of the DSM-II, in 1974, no longer listed homosexuality as a category of disorder. But through the efforts of psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, who had led the DSM-II development committee, a vote by the APA trustees in 1973, and confirmed by the wider APA membership in 1974, the diagnosis was replaced with the category of “sexual orientation disturbance”,[10] presently referred to as gender identity disorder (GID).

    On the exclusion of neurosis:

    The first draft of the DSM-III was prepared within a year. Many new categories of disorder were introduced; a number of the unpublished documents that aim to justify them have recently come to light.[13] Field trials sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) were conducted between 1977 and 1979 to test the reliability of the new diagnoses. A controversy emerged regarding deletion of the concept of neurosis, a mainstream of psychoanalytic theory and therapy but seen as vague and unscientific by the DSM task force. Faced with enormous political opposition, so the DSM-III was in serious danger of not being approved by the APA Board of Trustees unless “neurosis” was included in some capacity, a political compromise reinserted the term in parentheses after the word “disorder” in some cases. Additionally, the diagnosis of ego-dystonic homosexuality replaced the DSM-II category of “sexual orientation disturbance”.

    On the medicalization of social differences:

    Finally published in 1980, the DSM-III was 494 pages long and listed 265 diagnostic categories. It rapidly came into widespread international use by multiple stakeholders and has been termed a revolution or transformation in psychiatry.[8][9]. However Robert Spitzer later criticized his own work on it in an interview with Adam Curtis saying it led to the medicalization of 20-30 percent of the population who may not have had any serious mental problems.

    On the financial conflicts of interest and medicalization:

    It has also been alleged that the way the categories of the DSM are structured, as well as the substantial expansion of the number of categories, are representative of an increasing medicalization of human nature, which may be attributed to disease mongering by pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists, whose influence has dramatically grown in recent decades.[49] Of the authors who selected and defined the DSM-IV psychiatric disorders, roughly half had had financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry at one time, raising the prospect of a direct conflict of interest.[50] In 2008, then American Psychiatric Association President Steven Sharfstein released a statement in which he conceded that psychiatrists had “allowed the biopsychosocial model to become the bio-bio-bio model”.[51]

    (… goes back to her ICD-9 diagnostic codes of V69.4 and 569.42 …)

  68. Marj says:

    I was going to post this as “off topic”, but given the way the thread has gone, it isnt, quite.

    Better late than never!

  69. Kate L says:

    “Any woman can be a lesbian.”
    – Lavender Jane

    What? You young ones ask, “Who was Lavender Jane?”. Am I the oldest person on this blog ? ?

  70. Acilius says:

    @Marj #68: I have to admit I chuckled that lesbianism could seem off-topic at a blog called “Dykes to Watch Out For.”

  71. Ready2Agitate says:

    In 1988 my friend wrote in her bio (beside a photo of her among staff), “a real Lavendar Jane woman.” That’s when I learned about Lavendar Jane. 🙂

    The Kids are Alright? Wholly disappointing despite its potential to be entertaining. Completely unbelievable and another in the long list of films that refuse to take women’s sexuality seriously. Feh. Next I want to see “I Am Love,” which is supposed to be much better. (ps the roles for people of color in TKAA are entirely offensive)

    I am enjoying adverbs it seems.

  72. Kate L says:

    (Ready2Agitate #71) Oh, baby, music shall set us free! I remember talking to a friend on the phone one evening back in the 90’s. She had a CD (ok, maybe a cassette tape) playing in the background. I really shocked her by being able to identify the musician (k d lang), the song (Constant Craving) and the album (Ingenue). There’s just something about the company of womyn!

  73. judybusy says:

    Thanks so much for posting that article! It really resonates with me, as I came out from a marriage at age 34. I met my current partner shortly thereafter, and am so happy! Sometimes I used to wonder, am I really lesbian, because unlike so many others, I didn’t “know” at age 8 or 13 or whatever.

    It also brings back memories of the John Sayles movie, Lianna.

  74. Ian says:

    In other good news, apparently the Westboro Baptist Church showed up at San Diego ComicCon and were laughed away by comic nerds holding spoof Westboro signs and dressed as comic characters:

    I think my favourite sign is the “Is this thing on?” placard.

    Now, I don’t know Harvey Pekar’s work very well, but I have a feeling that he might be having a slight smile and chuckle up in heaven at this.

  75. Kate L says:

    (Ian #74) Actually, the robot carrying the sign saying, “KILL ALL HUMANS” is no superhero, he’s Bender from Futurama! Bender spends most of his time drinking beer for fuel and smoking cigars just for the hell of it.

    I just gave my summer semester final in a natural disasters course I’ve been teaching. In talking about the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, I showed the class some thrilling photos taken by a group of people who had to escape to higher ground before the house they were in was lifted off its foundation and carried out to sea. I also showed one of these people, the plucky daughter of the owner of the house, digging in the rubble for whatever family hairlooms she could find. She was a member of the Hepburn family; her mother had been active in feminist politics of the early 20th century and her father was a prominent local physican. This plucky young woman’s name? Katherine Hepburn. In an extra credit question, I asked the class to identify her from a slide I had showed them in lecture, of her in the rubble clutching a shovel. Interestingly enough, the most frequent wrong answer for this question was “Marilyn Monroe” ( ! ) I wonder what the Great Kate would have thought of that???

  76. Kate L says:

    “hairlooms”? Actually, she did find the family china!

  77. hairball_of_hope says:

    Check out the photos of Katherine Hepburn digging through the ruins of her house here:

  78. Kate L says:

    Oh, thank you, hairball! I didn’t know where those photos were on line. I actually scanned the one with Katharine holding the shovel myself! Did you know that I’m named after the Great Kate??? “Really, I am!”

  79. LizBn says:

    Wanted to make sure you saw this:

  80. I was persuaded to buy Lavender Jane Loves Women by a radical fairy, who also encouraged me toward separatism, which was a VERY good step for me at that time in my life. For a year, I listened to Lavender Jane front and back before leaving the house in the morning. It laid down those lesbian grooves in my brain. Or more to the point, lesbian feminist.

    I think the overriding lesson of the 1973 DSM diagnosis change re homosexuality was that “pathology” is more determined by culture and politics than science. A lesson we still have not absorbed, I fear. But thank you, Jean O’Leary, for your courage then AND for continuing to learn and grow.

  81. LizBn, THANK YOU for that photo of Dame Helen Mirren. Wow.

  82. Calico says:

    Sorry, Anon #82 was me.
    Silly cookies, or lack thereof.

  83. Calico says:

    #74 – Ian, my spologies – I didn’t read back.
    : )

  84. Kate L says:

    (Kate L #74) Uh… what I meant was that I scanned the image of Katharine Hepburn holding the shovel to use in my lecture on the Great New England Hurricane of 1938; someone else (either at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Center or the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford) was kind enough to scan that and the other post-hurricane images and post them. I myself never even met the Great Kate, although it would have been an honor. I was named after her, though! It was either that or Marion, ironically enough the name of one of Katharine Hepburn’s sisters. You’ll have to excuse me, I’m a little discombobulated this afternoon. It’s good to hear that Lavendar Jane has played a pivotal role in the lives of others on this blog, though! 🙂

  85. Ready2Agitate says:

    Oh wow I loved that Guardian article (#68) Marj – esp. after The Kids Are Alright, here’s a writer who DOES take women’s sexuality seriously!

    Connnnstannnnt Craaaaaavinggggg…..

    (But, but… am I the only person who didn’t realize that Susie Orbach and Jeanette Winterson were together? Power duo!)

    Maggie, you’ve mentioned said radical fairy before, and I can’t remember his/her/hir name, despite my gratitude for this person’s influence…

    Funny that the great Kate H. (not to be confused with the great Kate L., to whom all praise is due!) gets confused with Marilyn Monroe. I think it’s just the way clothing was cut in that era (the “line” of tailoring, if you will), so it kinda sorta makes sense to me. Kate L., your students must find you a hoot! (not to mention a sharp cookie!)


  86. Diamond says:

    86 R2A, I think some of the more salacious London papers were first to reveal Susie Orbach and Jeanette Winterson’s relationship, but they have since spoken about it themselves, for example Jeanette refers to it in the column section of her excellent website:

  87. Kate L says:

    (Ready2Agitate #86) Thanks! 🙂 Some do. When I talk about the sudden appearance of modern animal phyla near the start of the Cambrian Period some 535 million years ago, some get it when my slide title, “Celebrating Diversity at the Start of the Cambrian Period” is overlain on a rainbow flag background. But not everyone is thrilled and delighted when I talk about the man-made aspects of global warming. And, one semester, a young man in my intro. geology class came up to me after lecture and asked, “Do I have to learn all that history of the Earth and evolution stuff? I don’t believe in it.” When I replied, “Well, you will be tested over it”, he asked me who he could complain to. What did he expect? An intro. geology course that did not deal with the history of the Earth? And, you can imagine their reaction when, during my lecture on the solar system, I point out that Neil Armstrong’s original plan was to plant the United Nations flag on the Moon. When Congress got wind of that before the Apollo 11 flight, they passed a law (still on the books) requiring all U.S. citizens to raise the America flag as one of their first acts upon setting foot on another planet. Btw, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter is busy photographing the Apollo landing sites and the Soviet Luna* and Lunokhod** sites on the Moon. CHECK THIS OUT! The four-legged lunar module descent stage and scientific equipment that Armstrong and Aldrin left on the Moon are clearly visible at the Apollo 11 site, as the northwest side of nearby West Crater. That was the target of the automated lunar landing approach, but it turned out to be full of boulders (also visible in the recent LRO photo), so Armstrong took manual control and flew about half a mile farther along in final approach, with the lunar module descent stage nearly running out of fuel in the process.

    * – The Soviet automated Luna landers scooped up a lunar soil (regolith) samples and launched them back to Earth, where they landed by parachute in their own re-entry vehicles. But not before the Apollo 11 did so in a more systematic and bigger way (hundreds of pounds vs. ounces).

    ** – The Lunakhod vehicles, contemporaries of the Apollo and Luna landings, were early rovers, only on the Moon instead of on Mars as the present-day Opportunity and Spirit rovers are. One of the Lunakhod vehicles still holds the record for longest drive on a body other than the Earth (23 miles).

  88. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#88)

    Re: the kid who asked to whom he could complain about having to learn science facts about Earth history and evolution instead of fantasy fables from his flat-Earth belief system… I would have suggested he complain to the deity in whose name such nonsense teachings filled his poor gullible head.

  89. --MC says:

    #79 — I saw that and was wondering all yesterday what Dame Mirren — excuse me, I mean, what the HELL Dame Mirren is doing at Comic Con? I read today that she’s in a new actionadventure film with Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman and Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine.
    It’s a great cast, but couldn’t they be in something less noisy? Like, couldn’t they be in a film of “Uncle Vanya” or something?

  90. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#88)

    The official history of the flag-planting controversy, courtesy of NASA’s Johnson Space Center:

    Bonus for me, I learned a new word reading this paper – vexillological. I had no idea there was an American Vexillological Association.

  91. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Hi all,

    Here’s a NYTImes article on Harvey’s last days. Just caught it and thought it should be in here:


  92. Diamond says:

    This is somewhat off topic, but if you want to listen to something wonderful tonight, Jackie Kay, a Scottish lesbian writer, has been reading her book Red Dust Road on BBC Radio in five 15-minute episodes, and you can still catch them (if you’re quick) on:

    (Almost all BBC Radio catch-ups are supposed to be available in the US but it’s not obvious from here in the UK which are the exceptions – apologies if this is one of them)

  93. Maybe this has been shared here before, but I just got turned onto it by Sheldon — Jane Austen’s Fight Club.

  94. Kate L says:

    (Diamond #87, others) Wow!Womyn who love womyn out and about on their own, living out loud!!! 🙂 It must be catching on, too. Just now, I had Sunday dinner (alone) in a local Chinese restaurant here in Smallville. I happened to seat myself next to a table with two womyn. As I passed by, we nodded, and exchanged looks of…recognition? I thought for sure that they must be women geologists. You know, short hair, dressed for the field. A certain take-charge attitude that I have always found so… so… attractive. But I don’t think they were geologists at all! They were on a dinner date – together! 🙂 It was just like one of those futuristic, utopian scenes out of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek or Alison’s DTWOF. They finished before me, and as they were leaving they looked back towards me as if to say, “Go, ye, and do likewise!”

  95. Renee S. says:

    Hey everybody…

    I don’t really like to use this blog as a springboard for my side biz, but I am really proud of the latest cigar box build.

    Have a look:

    Thanks AB!

  96. Renee S. says:

    @ Maggie #94 Hilarious!!!

  97. Acilius says:

    @Renee #96: That’s brilliant! Thanks for letting us know about iot, I’ve subscribed to you on YouTube. You almost make me wish I still smoked cigars, so I could send you the empty boxes to turn into those exquisite works of art.

  98. Kat says:

    From NPR today:

    Bacon cocktails??? Even I’m not sure about this…

  99. Kat says:

    To avoid the spam limbo:

    Pam Isherwood’s amazing photo of my amazing bacon at the National Portrait Gallery in London last week

  100. Kat says:

    Me eating the “sinner’s” breakfast at the NPG
    (poached egg and bacon on an english muffin, served with a “bucks fizz”–mimosa to the americans here)

    Only somewhat visible is Pam’s “saintly” breakfast: poached egg, spinach, orange juice.

    Not visible: Pam Isherwood.

  101. Pam Isherwood is invisible? Now that a superpower I can envy.

  102. ksbel6 says:

    I finally got my copy of Stuck Rubber Baby yesterday and it is just amazing. Thank you so much AB for giving us the heads up.

  103. judybusy says:

    The setting for breakfast looks so cheerful, too! Relieved we can now tell the saints from the sinners!

    Renee, nice work on making something wonderful out of the cigarbox–I liked your playing, too.

    I’ve had the bacon Manhattan at our local Town Talk diner. Good, but I haven’t been craving it, either.

  104. Ready2Agitate says:

    Another beauty, Renee – the sound is crisp! Hope the knee is healing well.

    And I’ll resist the word that came to mind when I saw that photo of bacon (FINALLY I understand why dykes and dykely fans love bacon!:-).

  105. Pam I. says:

    @ R2A: s’not my fault. Kat did it. She’s the sinner.

  106. Dr. Empirical says:

    F.Y.I.: “those archival sleeve things”?

    They’re called “bags”.

  107. Feminista says:

    Warning: Rant about clueless people to follow.

    I’m involved in a variety of social,political,music,and outdoors groups. People still have a hard time figuring me out. In one group some assumed I’m a radical vegan (I’m not,just a healthy semi-vegetarian). Most get that I’m an activist,but don’t understand my multi-issue focus. And a few think the only reason I don’t drink alcohol now is because I’m very religious. (Reason is due to being on anti-depressants,which I only disclose to non-judgmental,trustworthy folks.)

    Today,however,in a carpool on the way to a mountain hike with an enviro-oriented outdoors group,one man was incredibly clueless. Or else he just didn’t listen. I was talking about humanitarian/solidarity delegations and study tours I’d attended in developing countries (Cuba,Mexico,El Salvador).After explaining in detail the challenges of visiting Cuba due to the embargo,he asked if I was there on an “evangelical mission.”*insert jaw drop*

    Mind you,I’d talked earlier about Democracy Now! and Indy Media,eco political prisoners (not terrorists as he called them),and was wearing a cap that said Peace Tours. I said I went to Cuba with Global Exchange,talked about not getting our visas stamped in our passports,and generally displayed a critical view of the U.S. govt. Since he didn’t know what a study tour was,I ‘splained that,too: “you talk with the local people,visit interesting places,maybe do research,and don’t spend all your time drinking.”

    In response to the evang.question,I swiftly replied that I was an atheist,raised Unitarian with Jewish roots,so no,I wouldn’t be on an evangelical trip.

    But the views on this wildflower hike were lovely,and good exercise/fresh air was nice.

  108. Renee S. says:

    @#98 Acilius, #104 Judybusy & #105 R2A:

    thanks for your kind remarks. I had to ship it to California this morning, and it was very difficult to do, cuz I wanted to keep it for myself!

    R2A, thanks for asking…the knee is 98% normal. Now if I were able to negotiate the stairs better than a 2 year old…

    Damn, I love this blog.

  109. Renee S. says:

    @Feminista #108. Dang, yeah, Cuba! I had wanted to study there back in 2005-06, but W put the kibosh on that. How were you able to travel there?

  110. Feminista says:

    Global Exchange,the friendly socially-responsible tour group based in San Francisco,got half its revenue from its Cuba study tours during the 1990s. For the 1994 trip,Art,Education and Politics,we went through Miami. But the women’s delegation in Oct.’01 had to go through Cancun,Mexico. Difference: Clinton v.Dubya. And by 2002/3,travel regs were tightened for U.S.-Cuba travel; Global Exchange lost half their revenue,and family visits basically ended.

    Obama said he’d lift the embargo during his campaign,but there’s right wing Congressional opposition,of course. But he has lifted restrictions for Cuban-Americans to visit family in Cuba.

    Pastors for Peace,which doesn’t check the presence or absence of your religious beliefs,has been doing embargo challenges for 20 years. This year 13 caravans from Canada and the U.S. meet at border town Brownsville,Texas,go through 2 days of bureaucratic idiocy,proceed in buses through Mexico,take a boat from Cancun to Havana,and donate buses filled with computers & medical supplies to the Cuban people. When the caravanistas passed through Portland earlier this month,our local Latin@ solidarity group hosted a potluck followed by a talk at our local anarchist vegan worker-owned cafe. I hosted two Canadian caravanistas overnight; their next destination was Boise,Idaho.

    An international sustainability conference is held annually in Cuba. The U.S.gubment allows some
    professionals to attend cuz it’s considered work-related,and they too must go through Mexico.

  111. Kat says:

    Sinner, moi??

    **Blinks innocently in hopes that no one will notice the little devil on my shoulder**

    Is it possible to go to Cuba without a tour or organization behind you, or has that (albeit not legal) option disappeared?

  112. Renee S. says:

    @Feminista #111

    “When the caravanistas passed through Portland earlier this month,our local Latin@ solidarity group hosted a potluck followed by a talk at our local anarchist vegan worker-owned cafe. I hosted two Canadian caravanistas overnight; their next destination was Boise,Idaho.”

    Thanks, Feminista, for all the good work you do in the world.

  113. Pam I says:

    Are you serious that you are not allowed to visit Cuba from the USA? And this is not USSR 1950?

  114. Kate L says:

    (Pam I, #114) All too true. Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States for the very same reason. Gotta stop the commies, you know…

  115. Renee S. says:

    @ Pam I # 116
    Even stranger yet, we are allowed to visit ANY OTHER Communist nation on the planet!

  116. Feminista says:

    Renee S:

    #113: Thanks! They were wonderful guests. Check out Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan for th’ latest on the caravanistas.

    #117:Though I haven’t heard of Yanks,or anyone else for that matter,flocking to North Korea lately. That’s one strange country,with a heavily guarded border and a govt verging on paranoia.

    Our translator for the Cuba ’94 trip said that of all her international travels,N.K. was the worst place she visited: the country and the people were cold and grim. Guess they need some good Afro-Cuban music and dancing,no?

  117. Acilius says:

    Here’s a link to Keith Knight’s tribute to Harvey Pekar:

  118. Carolyn Gage rips into The Kids Are All Right and expands on The Bechdel Test by codifying a new Lesbian Litmus and the Gage Gauge. Check it out at

    and let’s start demanding LESBIAN sex not overshadowed by male-conditioned views of what they think we do/ought to do in bed.

  119. judybusy says:

    kat #112 and all the rest. A coworker just went to Cuba this spring; it was just him and his wife, no official org. I think they went through Mexico. He really enjoyed it, getting to know the people and their struggles. Well, that sounds weird, but I think you know what I mean.

    Has anyone here heard of Servas International? I have friends who travelled and hosted via them and had wonderful experiences. I am taking my niece on a trip next year and hope she would be up for a host experience for a part of it!

  120. Ready2Agitate says:

    Be honest, Renee, you’re just hoping Feminista will send ya a good ole’ fashioned Cuban cigarbox! lol. 🙂

    Feminista, not sure I follow you, you’re nOT evangelical? (just kidding) bad humor night. just wanting to chime in…

  121. Ready2Agitate says:

    Great post, MJochild(#120) – I like the way she thinks!

  122. j.b.t. says:

    Hi All,

    I’ve been checking in but not posting for awhile.

    Just got back from seeing The Kids are All Right. Maggie, I can see your /Gage’s point, but I also think maybe we should give the only even close to mainstream lesbian director in Hollywood a break.

    No, it wasn’t perfect, but how often do we see lesbian families on the big screen? Why do we need to immediately criticize it for what it’s not?

    With friends like hers…


  123. Frances says:

    Back to the original thread that honored Harvey Pekar before it got sidetracked… Pekar was simply the best.

  124. The Facebook crew already knows this from my tributes, but today is the birthday of both Judy Grahn and Sarah Schulman. I can’t thank either one of them enough. Let’s honor our dyke foremothers while they can still hear it!

  125. Feminista says:

    #122 Ready: I’m not Evangelical or vegan,but I play one on TV.

  126. freyakat says:

    Happy Birthday Judy Grahn, and Happy Birthday to
    you too, Sarah Schulman!

  127. Renee S. says:

    @ R2A #122 Nope, I can get all of the Cuban cigar boxes that I want (empty ones) when I visit Canada, which is a quick drive from my house.

    I’m a long time advocate for lifting el bloqueo.

  128. judybusy says:

    Huh, my employer blocks access to the Carolyn Gage site. Any ideas why? I’ve never had this problem before. Guess I wil have to check it out at home!

  129. Kat says:

    So, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the embargo technically forbid Americans from spending money in Cuba, not from going there?
    Or am I totally wrong?

    Also, Carolyn Gage’s challenge to hollywood is a good one, but I wonder about a couple of things:

    -It seems that some of the terrible lesbian sex scenes come out of Hollywood’s very woman-phobic ratings system. Notice that het sex in mainstream movies is always the same, and the woman always seems to get ridiculous pleasure out of things that in real life don’t get most women that excited.

    Mainstream movies are essentially forbidden from showing things that ACTUALLY get a woman off, whether her partner is male or female.

    -I also wonder (and I’m just musing here) whether more realistic depictions of lesbian sex would require the actresses to get more nekkid than they currently have to (since, as I mentioned above, movie women all seem to have sex with their clothes (or at least their bras) on).

    Obviously there’s nudity onscreen, in some cases, but it seems that a lot of actors manage to do sex scenes with only their torsos showing. Would actresses be ok with showing us everything?

    (that’s an issue that’s starting to creep into opera, now and then, and being naked onstage is a pretty terrifying prospect to some people)

    I’d like to throw a question out there to the peanut gallery: “But I’m a Cheerleader” thumbs up or down?

    So….um, yeah… thoughts…..not that I’ve been pondering movie sex scenes all afternoon…..

  130. Renee S. says:

    @ Kat #131

    RE US Travel Restrictions to Cuba. I got this from Wiki:

    “Regulation does not limit travel of US Citizens to Cuba per se, but it makes it illegal for US Citizens to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba, under most circumstances. The regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related solely to tourist travel are not licensable.

    But, as I was researching all of this, I found out from a NY Times article that the House Committee on Agriculture has voted to lift the travel ban. It must first meet approval through several other committees before a bill will appear on the House Floor.

  131. Jain says:

    judybusy, our house is a Servas host house, and we have wonderful guests sporadically from all around the world. Since there are several other Servas hosts here, we don’t get picked very often, but when we do it’s been great. My housemate stayed with a Servas family in Calcutta while she was there adopting her daughter, and they were so happy to reconnect on their return visit when Jyoti was 5.

  132. Renee S. says:

    where the heck is Ginjoint?

  133. Acilius says:

    @Renee #132: Most US agribusiness interests believe they would profit substantially if they could get into the Cuban market, so it isn’t surprising that the House Agriculture Committee would vote to lift the embargo. On the other hand, the sugar growers in Florida would lose a huge advantage if they had to compete against imports from Cuba. So they are likely to put far more resources into defending the embargo than the others are going to put into trying to lift it.

  134. Renee S. says:

    @ Acilius 135~

    Yes, Corporate America has been chomping at the bit to regain their stronghold in Cuba again. Congress tried to lift the embargo during the W years, but W always threatened to veto such a bill. This may have something to do with the high population of Anti-Castro Cuban refugees living in Florida and that the state is worth 27 electoral votes.

  135. hairball_of_hope says:

    Off-topic, as usual… and perhaps NSFW (Not Safe For Work)…

    From the WTF Dept., comes news of how Goldman Sachs is cleaning up their act:

    Not actually cleaning up their business practices, mind you, that would be way too much to hope for, and besides, that might cut into their obscene profits and executive compensation. But since obscenity is rather subjective thing, they are focusing on their idea of obscenity, which doesn’t involve money, but words. They are installing nanny filters to screen out naughty words, even bowdlerized ones, from company e-mail and instant messages.

    This, of course, stems from the recent lawsuit and settlement with the SEC that Goldman defrauded customers by peddling complex derivative transactions that were designed to lose money for customers. The securities in the derivatives were selected by an outside firm that bet against them and made money on both ends, first by getting Goldman to pay them to select the underlying securities, then by betting against the derivatives, knowing they would lose value because the underlying securities were, in the infamous e-mailed words of the Goldman exec who ran that part of the business, “a shitty deal.” Goldman didn’t seem to mind accurate and colorful descriptions of their products until the aforementioned e-mail was publicized during a Congressional hearing.

    Some interesting factoids from the article:

    The new edict—delivered verbally, of course—has left some employees wondering if the rule also applies to shorthand for expletives such as “WTF” or legitimate terms that sound similar to curses.

    In the spirit of the times, there is no written directive specifying which curses now are officially cursed. But screening tools being used by the firm would detect common swear words and acronyms.

    [… snip …]

    The late comedian George Carlin famously aired the issue of taboo lingo in his 1972 monologue, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” One firm with a big presence on trading floors has an even bigger list.

    New York-based media company Bloomberg LP says it has monitored emails for more than 10 years, using an application that scans messages for 70 words and phrases – in English and several other languages – considered profane.

    When caught, an offending Bloomberg employee gets a pop-up message warning him or her not to send the message, which highlights the naughty word. Depending on the severity of the word, some emails will be blocked altogether from being sent. (The same technology also is available for clients of Bloomberg’s terminals.)

    [… snip …]

    Among famous emails is one in which former Merrill Lynch & Co. stock analyst Henry Blodget used the acronym “POS” (a.k.a. “piece of s—”) to refer to a tech stock he was touting to the public on behalf of the bank. In 2003, Mr. Blodget agreed to a lifetime ban from the securities industry after touting stocks that he disparaged in private emails.

    [… snip …]

    And last year, J.P. Morgan had to briefly override its automated profanity detectors so it could write a press release that mentioned a charity called Feel Your Boobies Foundation. That is the name of a Pennsylvania breast-cancer prevention group, which got a grant from the bank.

    Now, if that’s me who gets the popup message of a violation of naughty language which highlights the offending word, I’d just take a screenshot and attach that image to the sanitized message so the recipient could read it in all its glory (including the popup). Of course, nanny filters look for naughty graphics too, but they are looking for things usually detected as porn. Last year, I attached three photos of yellow cables in a communications cabinet to a message and it went into the nanny filter black hole, the software somehow determining that curvy yellow cables were a turn-on to geeks.

    I suppose the nanny filter software could be written to also read screenshot images, so I’d have to put the offending word(s) in something that looks like those PITA ‘Captcha’ graphics that are used as security devices on websites.

    Now, how to distinguish true naughty words from normal ones… I guess I can never discuss my falafel sandwich because it’s served on pita, not to be confused with PITA (Pain In The Ass). And that POS (Piece Of Shit) that Henry Blodget infamously wrote about? POS is a standard industry term for Point Of Sale, describing both the electronic terminals/cash registers, and the retail experience of customers, e.g. “Our exciting end-cap displays get consumer attention at POS!” End-cap is not naughty (yet), it is the prized location at the end of the shopping aisle where companies pay retailers to stock their goods.

    Of course, those of us with expansive vocabularies will simply tell TPTB to osculate our posteriors.

    Oh, the possibilities…

    (… goes back to feeling her boobies while contemplating Justice Potter Stewart’s observation about obscenity, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” …)

  136. hairball_of_hope says:

    Another off-topic rant from the cube farm…

    Business attire, or at least what’s considered appropriate to wear to work, has undergone many changes in the past 25 years or so.

    Once upon a time, business suits were de rigueur, male and female alike. Then came the idea of “Casual Friday” or “Dress-down Friday,” where the unofficial uniform was a golf shirt or tie-less button down shirt, and either khakis or dark casual slacks.

    Many meetings which used to require corporate attire were relaxed to “business casual,” and meeting notices always included the expected level of dress in addition to the agenda and list of attendees.

    The “business casual” attire acceptable on Fridays eventually crept into the full workweek.

    Post-recession, many workplaces have eliminated Casual Friday, and business casual attire.

    Fortunately, I work in a setting where business casual is ok except for certain meetings. Many folks wear golf shirts, often with the corporate logo, especially in summer. Sweaters abound in winter. Most women dress up more than the men, but I get away with the golf shirt and sweater look because I’m often doing hands-on techie stuff.

    Thus, it was with some amusement that we received an e-mail very late in the day earlier this week telling us that some bigwig was going to show up the next day, and all staff was expected to wear a shirt and tie.

    “Gee, I’m so glad they told me to wear a shirt,” I remarked to a very well-dressed colleague who favors wearing suits every day. “I might have come in wearing a tie with no shirt.”

    Al, the well-dressed colleague, ranted about how sexist the e-mail was. “Does this guy realize that there are women on the staff?” he asked. “The message should have read, ‘Shirt and tie for men, appropriate business attire for women.'”

    “At least the message didn’t say suit or sportjacket, who wants to wear that when it’s 95 degrees outside?” I noted.

    The next day, some staff showed up in their usual business casual attire, because the message had gone out so late the prior day. Not a huge deal for the guys who wore button-down shirts, a bunch of them trooped off to Tie-Coon in Penn Station to buy cheap ties.

    Gary, a colleague who wore a corporate logo golf shirt and navy Dockers to work, said he wasn’t going to go to K-mart in Penn Station so he could buy a cheap shirt and tie.

    Maria, a woman who always dresses very well, also kvetched about the tie requirement. “What about me, they don’t think I exist?”

    Maria looked at Gary, and you could see the lightbulbs go off.

    Gary and Maria then got working with scissors and colored copier paper, and made themselves ties.

    Maria’s was a pink and red bowtie, looking quite like the Playboy Bunny tie. It went well with her red scooped-neck blouse. Gary made a blue tie with stripes, and Scotch-taped it to his buttoned-up golf shirt. Then they marched into the morning meeting.

    Everyone tried hard not to giggle as the lead manager walked into the meeting. He looked at the assembled staff seated around the conference table, and ignored the ties Maria and Gary were wearing. When it came time for folks to report on their individual items, there was no comment on the ties.

    Strike one blow for resistance to corporate stupidity. I know it’s a hollow victory, but I’ll take what I can get.

    (… goes back to another pile of PowerPoint slides under construction …)

  137. jessez says:

    I liked “The Kids Are All Right”… agree that the affair with Paul was presented awkwardly, but I thought they did a good job of presenting it not as lesbian-needs-a-man, but as Jules seeking out something she wasn’t getting in her relationship with Nic. And I liked that through the affair Jules remained lesbian-identified–as in, yes, right now she is engaging in this behavior but it is not a long term possibility. It kind of turns the trope of a lesbian falling for a man upside down, where in this case she can sleep with men but will eventually end up with women.

    Also I thought it was well-acted, funny, and seemed honest.

    I know that it would be nice to see portrayals of lesbians that actually reflect many people’s lived realities — i.e. lesbians who just sleep with women, etc — but outside of that wider context, I thought it was a good film.

  138. Pam I says:

    @ HoH #137 – the fine English seaside town of Scunthorpe has had a lot of problems with web filters.

  139. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Pam I (#140)

    There are a few places in the US with directly provocative names, and they have made money off the risqué factor forever. As a kid, our camp trips to Hershey PA (home of the chocolatier) always included a stop in Intercourse, PA, where we all stocked up on double-entendre postcards and cheap tzchotchkes emblazoned with the name of the town. Another of those places is Blue Ball, PA. Why Lancaster County Pennsylvania ended up with two places with touchy names is a mystery to me, especially considering that Lancaster is also home to a huge population of Amish Mennonites (the folks in the 16th century garb who eschew modern life and still use horse and buggy).

  140. Kate L says:

    There is a small town in Kansas with a name that is not provocative at all, but intriguing as to its origin. White Woman Creek, Kansas, is not named (as you might think) after one of the Europeans who settled here in recent centuries, but rather is named after a deceased spirit in an ancient Native American legend from the area.

    (hairball # 138) My first day Chevron regional headquarters I was criticized for being over-dressed! Turns out that there was a caste system for employees, and I was dressing above my station.

  141. Renee S. says:

    @HOH,#141 also in Lancaster County is a village called Bird in Hand.

    @Kate L re: caste system for employees. I once worked at a place where the folks on the factory floor wore brown uniforms, the maintenance folks wore blue uniforms, and everyone else dressed either in lab coats or business attire.
    I once overheard one of the mechanics complaining that he had to wear the same color uniform as the woman who scrubbed the toilets.

  142. Acilius says:

    Wardrobe is tricky for teachers. My students want you to show a fashion sense, but will accept you in a business suit. I used to go to class in the schlubby stuff I wear everywhere else, but a very large percentage of my students complained about my clothes when they wrote their evaluations of me. “He needs to work on his ensemble,” “He doesn’t understand professional attire,” “Sometimes he looks Amish,” etc.

    After a few years of reading these evaluations, I decided I had to make a change. Showing off my fashion sense wasn’t an option, since I don’t have one. So I started wearing suits every day. That satisfied the students, but I started getting attention from the higher-ups. The administrators assume that every dressed-up person on campus is either trying to impress them or is someone they should try to impress. Up to that point I’d made it my mission to fly under the radar, so that no one above the department chair (that is, my immediate supervisor) had any idea who I was. Once they started seeing me in business formal every day, all the muckety-mucks set out to learn my name. Ever since then, it’s been all I can do to keep from being assigned to committees and put in charge of projects. It’s enough to make me wish there were still times when I looked Amish.

  143. ksbel6 says:

    We have a very large population of Amish near here, and here the Mennonites are very different from the Amish and get upset if you mix the two groups up (probably just a difference in how the two groups diverged here). Anyway, our Mennonites drive cars, have phones, ipods, etc. The only way to tell they are different from the rest of the population is that their women are in dresses and wear those little fake bonnet things. However, our Amish still drive horse and buggy, do not have ANY electricity, and they all wear handmade clothes. Kind of interesting I thought.

  144. hairball_of_hope says:

    Back-topic (is that a real term?)…

    Going back to a topic we batted about a few months ago: Internet privacy, the dangers of Flash, etc.

    There’s a great series of free articles on today’s Wall Street Journal about how users are tracked on the Internet, intrusive re-spawning Flash cookies, beacons which analyze your typing in real-time, and other tracking technologies.

    There’s also a database of the top 50 websites and what data they collect. The worst offender?

    Read it and start cleansing your computer.

    Start with the overview article and hit all the related ones. They’re not overly technical, although (IMHO) they are way too soft on the website operators and tracking companies. Everyone feigns ignorance or claims whatever they are doing is either benign or helpful, and there are plenty of disingenuous denials that the tracking data will be used, or that collection of health and financial data was a mistake. Yeah right.

  145. Acilius says:

    @h_o_h: Thanks for mentioning my students constantly use that site, I’ll start warning them against it.

  146. --MC says:

    The Bechdel Test appears again, here:
    a Stranger Slog entry that links to this site:
    The comment sections of both blogs are worth the price of admission.

    [Freed from spam-trap limbo. –Mentor]

  147. hairball_of_hope says:

    Before you warn your students, take a look at the rankings here:

    Note that is not good either, it’s listed right after as the second worst-offender in terms of tracking exposure.

    While the series of articles does have some decent basic info on how to limit cookies, its total silence on ad-blocking technology reveals a unconscionable pro-business/anti-consumer bias. Users of Mozilla-based browsers can download the Adblocker extension and eliminate all that crap from their browser pages in the first place. No way an ad network can place a cookie on your computer if you never see the ad. With Adblocker, you can either download a predetermined list of ad sites to be blocked, and/or add sites as you see them. I eschew the predetermined list and go strictly DIY because the canned list interferes with sites I use regularly (e.g.

    I also block all cookies unless absolutely necessary (e.g. logging into a webcommerce site), and keep Java and Javascript disabled unless necessary. But for average users who wouldn’t know how to navigate a hopelessly Java-ed site without it, that’s not an option (not everyone wants to look at page source).

    I set Firefox to delete all cookies, history, downloads, etc. when I close the browser, and I also delete this stuff during the session when I log out of a site where I had to accept cookies, Java, et al. I clean out Flash cookies manually (I wrote a batch file that does this for me, along with deletion of history, cookies, and temp files). And I never, ever, allow browsers or operating systems to remember passwords.

    The real irony in this series of articles came when I looked at the top 50 list… after all the text explaining how Flash can be dangerously misused, there was a message telling me to enable Flash “To get the full experience of this page.”

    Uh, I think I’ll pass on that one, thank you very much.

    (… goes back to thinking about how repressive governments and our own three-letter agencies are probably using this technology …)

  148. Diamond says:

    Thankyou Hairball, and hurrah for Safari for blocking third party cookies automatically.

    I naively thought I’d just open my cookies and delete the ones I don’t need. Ha. There’s at least a squillion there.

  149. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Diamond (#150)

    Yup, I’ll bet there are a squillion cookies in there. Imagine if you had enabled third-party cookies too.

    I forgot one more piece of my privacy paranoia precautions (love that alliteration!)… I populated my ‘hosts’ file with the names of lots of ad servers, and pointed them all to the loopback IP address of, meaning they will never get resolved to their real IP addresses, thus blocking them.

    It’s kind of a techie thing to do, but mere mortals can easily do it on Windoze if they have Spybot Search & Destroy installed. There’s an option under ‘Advanced Mode, Tools’ called ‘Hosts File’. You then have the option to add Spybot’s bad hosts list, which is comprised of lots of ad servers and tracking sites.

    Also, if you are using Spybot, it will pick up the tracking cookies when it scans for malware and you can clean them out.

    Check out Spybot (for Windoze users) here (it’s free, but if you like it, please make a donation):

  150. grumpy says:

    dont know if anyone posted this * its an audio file from NPR on the change in the DSM by the daughter of the man who was central to the change * besides being very sweet * the over-riding impression is of the TERROR all these fairy shrinks felt * being totally hidden and seperate * not wanting to be the one to step out *

  151. grumpy says:

    oops * but the link in the wrong feild *

  152. HoH, I just installed Spybot and ran a scan, cleared out 29 “problems” which on one hand is a lot but actually less than I expected, given how prevalent this is. Can anyone say whether is as wicked as Because I use it a great deal.

    Also, HoH, do you use social media, as in FB, or is that too plague-ridden for you to try even with applying all the restrictions recommended by geek sentinels?

  153. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Maggie (#154)

    No social media for me… too much of plague, as you indicated, and also way too much of a time-suck.

    Also, since I will probably be in the job market AGAIN in the next few months (sigh, this is becoming an annual ritual), the less that can be Googled, the better.

    For all you social media adherents, you should know that not only do potential employers, landlords, etc. use them to snoop on you, so do bill collectors. They routinely violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act in the process, because “friending” you on Facebook isn’t explicitly covered in the law, FDCPA having been written over thirty years ago, in 1978.

    Another thing… web analytics companies assume “birds of a feather flock together” when assessing you as a credit risk. If your FB friends are deadbeats, it’s assumed you are one too.

  154. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Maggie (#154)

    Only 29 problems not being much depends on what they were. If those were only tracking cookies, good for you. But if they were malware, one would be more than enough trouble.

    Spybot updates their malware definitions weekly, on Wednesdays. Plan on a weekly update and scan to stay safe (click on ‘Updates’ in the left column, check all the updates, wait for them to finish downloading, then click on ‘Search & Destroy’, ‘Check for problems’). You can see the date of the malware definitions by clicking on ‘Help’, ‘About’.

    I always recommend a second scan right after cleaning up problems to make sure they are really gone, because some malware refuses to go quietly in the night. Some can’t be deleted while Windoze itself is running, you’d need some specialized software tools for this (and perhaps a bootable Linux live CD and specfic knowledge on how to properly remove rootkits and stubborn malware).

  155. Ian says:

    Call me a luddite if you must, but I believe that, for sites like Dictionary and Thesaurus dot com, there is a low-tech alternative available …

  156. hairball_of_hope says:

    Just in case you thought I was facetious when I mentioned the three-letter agencies are using web tracking technology, check out this article in Wired:

    Yes, Google and the CIA investing in the same company to do the same dirty work.

    Quoting from the article:

    America’s spy services have become increasingly interested in mining “open source intelligence” – information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.

    “Secret information isn’t always the brass ring in our profession,” then CIA-director General Michael Hayden told a conference in 2008. “In fact, there’s a real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open.”

    U.S. spy agencies, through In-Q-Tel, have invested in a number of firms to help them better find that information. Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Attensity applies the rules of grammar to the so-called “unstructured text” of the web to make it more easily digestible by government databases. Keyhole (now Google Earth) is a staple of the targeting cells in military-intelligence units.

    Recorded Future strips from web pages the people, places and activities they mention. The company examines when and where these events happened (“spatial and temporal analysis”) and the tone of the document (“sentiment analysis”). Then it applies some artificial-intelligence algorithms to tease out connections between the players. Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on servers. The analysis, however, is on the living web.

    “We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told Danger Room as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”

  157. hairball_of_hope says:

    Split into two messages to avoid spam-limbo…

    The three-letter agencies have also invested in companies that snarf up and analyze blogs, tweets, and even your book reviews on Amazon:

    Quoting from the article:

    America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates – even check out your book reviews on Amazon.

    In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using “open source intelligence” – information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

    Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

    “That’s kind of the basic step – get in and monitor,” says company senior vice president Blake Cahill.

    Then Visible “scores” each post, labeling it as positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It examines how influential a conversation or an author is. (“Trying to determine who really matters,” as Cahill puts it.) Finally, Visible gives users a chance to tag posts, forward them to colleagues and allow them to response through a web interface.

    In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give spooks “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally,” spokesperson Donald Tighe tells Danger Room.

    Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.

    Now combine this with the so-called web analytics of the tracking beacons, cookies, etc., plus the user-specific info your browser coughs up on every page visit (IP address, browser name/version, operating system name/version), and there’s a pretty good chance that crunching all this data can identify the specific user.

    Aside from the obvious spook usage, I’ll bet lots of “cease-and-desist” letters and harrassing lawsuits emanate from corporations trying to silence their web critics, having monitored and identified them using this technology.

    (… puts her tinfoil hat on and covers the windows with black plastic …)

  158. Acilius says:

    @h_o_h: Great minds think alike- one of the coauthors of my home blog just put up a post called “Really Basic Web Defense” in which he made several of the points you’ve been making here.

  159. ksbel6 says:

    I thought this was a fun article by Ivan.
    Can I Be Frank

  160. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Acilius (#160)

    I read your pal’s post, and he mentions not using Internet Explorer. Good advice that I’ve posted here before.

    Coincidentally, today’s free Wall Street Journal article on digital privacy reveals that Microsoft *intentionally* weakened privacy protections in IE8 because they feared loss of ad revenue, having just spent $6 billion on acquiring an online ad company.

    Quoting from the article:

    The online habits of most people who use the world’s dominant Web browser are an open book to advertisers. That wasn’t the plan at first.

    In early 2008, Microsoft Corp.’s product planners for the Internet Explorer 8.0 browser intended to give users a simple, effective way to avoid being tracked online. They wanted to design the software to automatically thwart common tracking tools, unless a user deliberately switched to settings affording less privacy.

    That triggered heated debate inside Microsoft. As the leading maker of Web browsers, the gateway software to the Internet, Microsoft must balance conflicting interests: helping people surf the Web with its browser to keep their mouse clicks private, and helping advertisers who want to see those clicks.

    In the end, the product planners lost a key part of the debate. The winners: executives who argued that giving automatic privacy to consumers would make it tougher for Microsoft to profit from selling online ads. Microsoft built its browser so that users must deliberately turn on privacy settings every time they start up the software.

    [… snip …]

    Microsoft’s decision reveals the economic forces driving the spread of online tracking of individuals. A Wall Street Journal investigation of the practice showed tracking to be pervasive and ever-more intrusive: The 50 most-popular U.S. websites, including four run by Microsoft, installed an average of 64 pieces of tracking technology each onto a test computer.

    [… snip …]

    Web browsers like Internet Explorer can play an important role in protecting privacy because the software sits between consumers and the array of technologies used to track them online. The best-known of those technologies are browser “cookies,” small files stored on users’ computers that act as identification tags for them when they visit websites.

    Some cookies, such as those installed when a user asks a favorite website to remember his password, don’t do tracking.

    Others are installed on computers by companies that provide advertising services to the websites a user visits. These “third-party” cookies can be designed to track a user’s online activities over time, building a database of personal interests and other details.

    The Journal’s examination of the top 50 most popular U.S. websites showed that Microsoft placed third-party tracking devices on 27 of the top 46 sites that it doesn’t itself own.

    All the latest Web browsers, including Internet Explorer, let consumers turn on a feature that prevents third-party browser cookies from being installed on their computers. But those settings aren’t always easy to find. Only one major browser, Apple’s Safari, is preset to block all third-party cookies, in the interest of user privacy.

    [… snip …]

    The Internet Explorer planners proposed a feature that would block any third-party content that turned up on more than 10 visited websites, figuring that anything so pervasive was likely to be a tracking tool. This, they believed, was a more comprehensive approach to privacy than simply turning off browser cookies, one that would thwart other tracking methods.

    The group also planned to design the Internet Explorer set-up process so that it guaranteed the privacy feature would be used by most people.

    [… snip …]

    The browser group and its manager, Mr. Hachamovitch, tried to hold their ground. They were reluctant to let advertising executives interfere with the new Explorer design, according to people involved in the debate. Microsoft said that Mr. Hachamovitch and other members of the planning group wouldn’t comment on the matter.

    The debate widened after executives from Microsoft’s advertising team informed outside advertising and online-publishing groups of Microsoft’s privacy plans for Explorer. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer assigned two senior executives, chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie and the general counsel, Mr. Smith, to help referee the debate, according to Peter Cullen, Microsoft’s chief privacy strategist.

    The two men convened a four-hour meeting in Mr. Mundie’s conference room in late spring 2008 to allow outside organizations to voice their concerns, including the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Online Publishers’ Association and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

    One of the attendees, Interactive Advertising Bureau Chief Executive Randall Rothenberg, says he was worried that Explorer’s proposed privacy features would block not just the collection of consumer data, but also the delivery of some Web advertisements themselves. He says the features “seemed to equate the delivery of advertisements with privacy violations.” He was especially troubled, he says, by the prospect of Microsoft turning the features on for all consumers, by default.

    [… snip …]

    The former Microsoft executive says he had never before experienced a debate at Microsoft “so driven by external influences and conflicting priorities to protect users” as the tussle over the Explorer privacy controls.

    [… snip …]

    When Microsoft released the browser in its final form in March 2009, the privacy features were a lot different from what its planners had envisioned. Internet Explorer required the consumer to turn on the feature that blocks tracking by websites, called InPrivate Filtering. It wasn’t activated automatically.

    What’s more, even if consumers turn the feature on, Microsoft designed the browser so InPrivate Filtering doesn’t stay on permanently. Users must activate the privacy setting every time they start up the browser.

    Microsoft dropped another proposed feature, known as InPrivate Subscriptions, that would have let users further conceal their online browsing habits, by automatically blocking Web addresses suspected of consumer tracking if those addresses appeared on “black lists” compiled by privacy groups.

    No surprises here… the only outside influences during the privacy debate were organizations who snoop on users and rely on the passivity/ignorance of users to keep the data flowing. Not one representative of privacy advocates in the meeting.

    Foo on Microsoft. Use Firefox, Opera, Safari, IceMonkey, SeaWeasel, anything but IE. Set your browser to reject third-party cookies. Set cookie acceptance for only that session, and set data retention to be cleared out when closing the browser.

  161. Renee S. says:

    @HOH Wow! thanks for all of the detailed info! I’m a Mac & Firefox user, but yeah, I deleted lots of cookies and changed my cookie acceptances. Thanks for all you do…

    also HOH #159 “(… puts her tinfoil hat on and covers the windows with black plastic …)”

    Geez, still cracking up at that one!! too funny!!

  162. bean says:

    i use the scroogle scraper ( with firefox) as my primary search engine and have it set for my homepage. no history, no tracking, no cookies, otherwise, it’s the same as that search behemoth. beware of the dot com; it’s a porn site, of course.

  163. hairball_of_hope says:

    @bean (#164)

    Scroogle scraper is way cool. Thanks. The secure SSL version of Scroogle can be found here:

    Not only is the SSL version useful for bypassing all the Google data collection, it encrypts the search terms between your browser and Scroogle, and creates a blank referrer to links.

    If you’re using Google at work, your employer is likely logging everything you do on the Web, including the search terms you enter in Google. That won’t happen using the SSL version of Scroogle, unless your employer also has a keylogging program or dongle on your computer.

  164. hairball_of_hope says:

    Today’s free Wall Street Journal article on digital privacy talks about how no one is really anonymous on the web.

    Interesting reading, but it makes me wonder about the classic New Yorker cartoon gag, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” After reading this article, I’ll bet someone out there not only knows who’s a dog, s/he also knows the names of the dog’s fleas.

  165. Harvey Pekar says:

    […] Allison BechdelJeff Smith […]