Category Archives: VirgoTex

They make our heart sing

It’s just some funky old photo to most of y’all.

Looking closer, you might guess, correctly, that it was taken on a Sunday. For the record, it was an Easter Sunday. Also for the record, I believe it may be the only (and last) photo ever taken of me carrying a purse.

But if you’re from Texas, you see more. Almost certainly, in at least one of the springtimes of your childhood, you too were situated, possibly against your will or better judgement, in a field ofLupinus texensis so your parents, aunts, uncles, and/or Meemaws could snap your picture.

Transcending boundaries of class, gender, race, ethnicity, geography, and photographic abilities, tens of thousands of bluebonnet pictures have been taken of tens of thousands of children. As well as not a few adults, dogs, new pickups, and other objects of affection. That’s just how we do down here.


But here’s the deal: more than the bluebonnets (which, by the way, were more likelyLupinus subcarnosus, the sand-loving cousins oftexensis), more than the Easter dresses, more than any actual reason that led to the picture being taken, it’s the incidentals that give it power.

That little goober in the red didn’t know this location but the kid she would be and that I used to be knew every inch of it by heart. It wasn’t my backyard or an actual playground but it might as well as been. “Going down to the bay” was how most of my wandering kid adventures started out. The best ones, anyway.

I look at this and I’m standing on the very spot where it was taken, I know the stray cats living under those exact salt cedars covered with wild mustang vines. Even over the pushy prevailing wind from the southeast, I can hear the noise from the mobs of courting Least Terns that have turned the little spit of an island in the background into their rookery. The wind, the salt in the air, grassburs and sand in my socks, the oyster shell road we’re standing next to, the sense memory of all of it comes in waves. Not imagined or blurred nostalgia, but involuntary and absolute experience. Time travel, or as close as I’ve gotten to it.

Everybody has at least one old Polaroid or some other momento like that, don’t they?

Tell us about yours.

Just kill it and move on to the next one

Because I’m an American, I know there’s all sorts of international folks who would gladly kidnap and behead me. On TV. I know there are white supremacists in the United States who would happily hunt me down in the woods. But that’s so minuscule—the number of people who are like that. The chances are so small. I think the bigger problem is that, on both sides, we fight people whose politics are different than ours with the worst of that. Like their efforts to equate Obama with Ayers, or to equate McCain with Timothy McVeigh. Or, you know, to call Bush “Hitler.”The need to make someone who disagrees with you into something extreme—to turn him into a monster.

Sherman Alexie (emphasis mine)

That last bit of Alexie’s quote has bounced around in my brain pan since I first read it. A lot.

Won’t speak to, can’t speak to, what’s behind the behavior of anyone else, but me personally, I’ve spent a lot of time in the monster-making workshop. I’d go so far as saying that making monsters of the opposition, along with jeering, ridiculing, trash-talking and exaggeration, constituted the bulk of my online participation here in Netrootsville, Left Blogtopistan. Political crack is a helluva drug.

And now? Now I slouch before you a changed woman. Not that I’m not still a card-carrying member of the hoi polloi and certainly not that I’ve come to some enlightened moral high ground. That’s not it at all.

It just stopped working for me, the monster-making. It stopped being motivating. The vegetable throwing stopped being fun. It stopped making me feel part of a community. I got bored with it. I got bored with the part of me that it came from. I have no idea about anyone else, but for me, that stuff comes from the lazy part.

I didn’t see this coming. It’s kind of an unanticipated side effect of a much larger set of changes I’ve made during the last year, and I guess it’s the lazy factor that connects it all together. Things started out really simple. I didn’t want laziness to be my default setting anymore. I just wanted to get healthy, eat right, lose weight. So I started doing it.

Then I decided to clean up my act around money stuff. Then I felt I really needed to rededicate myself to my job and career goals. Next thing I know, I’m going to the gym, working with a trainer three times a week, and cutting grains out of my diet. All along, I sort of thought it would all end the way countless other self-help binges have in the past but it didn’t. Or at least it hasn’t yet, which is good, since lately I’ve started considering grad school.

I still spend way more time on the internet than most “normal” people but it’s a whole lot less than I used to. I still watch too much TV but again, much less than before, and I’ve completely lost all patience with political coverage. If you had told me a year ago I’d be this person, I’d have laughed at you. What? Me not spend the evening getting cozy with MSNBC? But I just cannot sit still watching that stuff anymore.

You know what my favorite kind of television is now? Women knocking the holy crap out of stuff, stuff that deserves to have the crap knocked out of it. Hot kick-ass ladies beating shit up, if there was a channel that showed that 24/7, I’d probably go back to being a couch potato.

And if there were kick-ass Dems beating shit up, I’d start paying attention again. Not monster-making, not crack. Just sack up, get the job done, and move on. And for the record, I don’t entirely agree with Alexie about the monster thing. Sure we waste a lot of our energy creating monsters out of simple differences. But sometimes the monsters are real. The problem is we (us, the people we vote for, the process, the pundits, that “we”) still waste a lot of energy on them, and we still don’t ever seem get rid of them. Kill it with fire, hit it with a rock, shoot it in the eyestalk with an alpha-meson burst, I don’t care.

Just take it down and move on.

NOTE to the NSA, FBI, or whoever is listening in: above references to killing and maiming in politics are strictly rhetorical and do not refer to actual violence.

“Yes. This is Dog”

“You think dogs will not be in heaven?
I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

As skeptically humanist as I remain about heaven, I still want to believe that all dogs go there. And I believe it looks likethis. Or maybethis.


There’s a reason both the links above went viral this week. This is what joy looks like. Throw the ball!

Yeah, we can pretend we’re that

My favorite music of any past year is the stuff I’m still listening to thenext year and the one after that, long after all the year end lists and taking account is past.Sharon Van Etten‘sepic has been on lots of “best” lists for the last two years, and her spanking brand newTramp is already making waves.

epic’s “One Day” is one of those songs that always sounds brand new, even after a couple years:

She’s the real deal. Go out and get to know her.

Paging the ghost of Upton Sinclair

The real surprise isn’t thatthis happened, it’s the fact that the plant actually got caught. That they did this in the first place speaks to the impotent (by design) oversight of our “reasonable and predictable regulatory structure” that guy with the purty hair brags about.

Damn those good-for-nothingunmanned drones.

The long arm of the law, in your uterus

I feel more empowered already.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all who stand in defense of life. Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy, and this important sonogram legislation ensures that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying, and understands the devastating impact of such a life-ending decision.We will continue to fight any attempt to limit our state’s laws that value and protect the unborn.”

We will, however, continue to dismantle and destroy those laws and systems that value and protect living children.Once they’re born, those little suckers are on their own

America, 1900: Subsistence Marriage


My maternal great-grandparents and children. This is on my wall at home, next to one taken around the same time of my great-grandparents on the paternal side. In both pictures, of these two families that were very different from each other, there is one commonality: an older husband, younger wife, and two sets of kids, the older set from a first marriage. Here, the two older girls and the older son were from the first marriage. My great-grandfather above married my great-grandmother less than six months after his first wife died in childbirth.

Needless to say, if the shoe was on the other foot and my great-grandmother had been widowed with three kids, she would have been waiting a lot longer for a second husband, if anyone married her at all. Said hypothetical second marriage would probably only have happened if she’d been able to hold on to whatever property she had inherited upon her husband’s death. The likelihood of that inheritance happening, of course, depended on what state she lived in. Women’s property rights varied widely by state in the second half of the 19th century. “Reforms” that allowed women to inherit property from their husbands were not passed to advance the rights of women but to lessen the burdens to creditors and society posed by impoverished widows and their kids.

(NOTE: the baby in this picture grew up to be the very tired woman inthis picture.)

America, the day after Christmas, 1929

My mother is the dark-haired girl sitting between her father and her older sister. They’re on the steps of her grandparents’ house in Hext, Texas. Said grandparents were probably the source of presents, the dolls, the baseball bat, a stiff new pair of overalls for the oldest boy. My great-grandfather ran a general store and while hardly well-off, at least had enough to spare. His daughter, my grandmother, on the right, isn’t even 30 in this picture. You can’t see the sunglasses underneath my grandfather’s hat. He’d been gassed in World War I and barely survived, living the rest of his life nearly blind and plagued by a slowly deteriorating cardiopulmonary system. By later standards, he would have been declared fully disabled on discharge but full benefits for WWI veterans, even the non-wounded and able-bodied, were a very, very, long time in coming.

My grandparents’ existence at this point, at the beginning of The Depression, swung between the places and times my grandather was able to work, assuming there was paying work to find, and the eventuality that his health would fail, if the job didn’t end first, or the weather would turn too harsh. They traveled back and forth between the Gulf Coast, where the warm winters were easier, and the Hill Country where they could stay with family during the lean times. A lot of the time in between was spent camping or living out of a truck.


Because we are cursing bunch of cocksuckers around here

And because Athenae tweeted this, and I couldn’t agree more,

Twitter _ @Athenae_ Apropos of nothing, I_m ju ...

some thoughts on the effectiveness, or non-effectiveness, ofprofanity. Best of all, one of the commenters links to this video, which, getting back to ruining children by exposing them to reality, contains one of my favorite bits ever from Fry & Laurie, at 0:45 seconds.

The kids are alright: Star Witness

Because we could all use some inspiration:

These two high school students, Kate and Janelle, are seniors in the arts program at Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School (PCVS), located in downtown Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. Earlier in the fall, district school board trustees voted to close the old (founded in 1827!) downtown fixture next year and move its highly-regarded Integrated Arts program to larger more modern Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School. The decision to close down the much-beloved PCVS sparkedprotest afterprotest in thecommunity but it didn’t seem much of anything was going to reverse the trustees’ decision. A few weeks ago, just trying to draw more attention to efforts of their peers and the community at large to keep the school open, Kate and Janelle recorded their video, using the reverb in a PCVS stairwell to make Neko Case’s already-atmosphericStar Witness sound even more haunting.

It worked. The video started getting forwarded around, someonetweeted it to Case, she re-tweeted, the video went viral, the story got blogged, re-blogged, and picked up in the media. To paraphrase Margaret Mead, thoughtful, concerned citizens (and teenage girls singing like angels) for the win!

On Monday, more progress: the Ontario Minister of Education appointed a special facilitator to review the policy and process behind the school trustees’ decision to close PCVS. Follow the PCVS story here.

Assets, not liabilities

Merry Christmas everyone!

Having served various administrations, we know that politicians of both parties love this country and want to keep it safe. But right now some in Congress are all too willing to undermine our ideals in the name of fighting terrorism.They should remember that American ideals are assets, not liabilities.

You may know that, General. Me, I’m not so sure anymore.

Happy Anniversary, Doctor


The year was 1963, An Unearthly Child was the episode title, BBC One was the channel.

The rest is history.

Which Who is your favorite? I’m a total heretic, I really love #11.

Idiots of America, unite!

Want to just riff a bit on A’s excellentHow, Exactly Would We Know This? post from yesterday, as well as some of the comments, because I believe it’s a critical conversation, central to our very own little First Draft neighborhood and the larger community, our shared net-rooty identity, to the extent we have just one.

Here’s the deal. We are all, every one of us, the Idiots of America. This idea that we on the left, and the people we elect to represent us, are in the position to serve as some kind of missionaries to the beknighted knuckledraggers out there, that wecould do that, not even that weshould do it, well that’s a lot of crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I know what team I want to be on, and I like US and the things we tend to believe in, better than THEM and the things they tend to believe in. But as pointed out yesterday, it’s a struggle to know everything we need to just get by these days, not to mention weighing the relevancies and prioritizing our goals. It’s a fucking uphill climb to do that asindividuals, not to mention as communities.Sifting and winnowing ishard, y’all. And it’s not like we can stop the game clock, evolve as individuals, as a society, fix all the broken crap, and then start the game over and play better for the rest of the quarter. We have to do it all on the run, in real time, fixing and breaking and fixing as we go. It’s a struggle for all of us, we are all equally vulnerable to the overwhelm, we all make flawed choices with respect to what and how we filter and amplify, or who we choose to depend on to do it for us.

The obligatory digression:

Let’s talk about water, H2O, agua, something sort of important to, you know, carbon-based lifeforms. So, where does yours come from? Is it surface water or ground water? How does it get to you? Does it come from the watershed you live in, or from someone else’s? What are the major pollution threats? Point source or non-point source? Starting with your town/region/county and ending with the EPA, who and what regulates your water, protects it, decides or recommends how much can be used and in what ways? Are these decider/recommenders elected or appointed? If elected, when was the last election? Did you vote in it? If appointed, who appoints them? Are meetings and other processes that bear on your water made available to the public? Do you attend and participate? Are there any volunteer organizations involved in water issues around you? Are you a member? What are the desired future conditions for your water region and how were they developed? When were they last reviewed and updated?

Okay, I’ll stop. If you knew most of the answers without googling, good for you. If you didn’t, you’re in the biggest of big tents. Most Americans, no matter their political party, religion, or education, don’t know shit about their water supply, their watershed, or much of anything past their faucets and garden hoses. So, no shame if you are one of them but I will ask you one last question. Let’s take the top three issues you DO know about, you DO involve yourself with. Of those three, which are more important to your survival, your kids and grandkids’ futures, to all carbon-based life, than water?

See where I’m going with this? Regardinglots of really important stuff, we are all, every one of us, “low-information” voters, non-participatory citizens shirking our responsibilities.

So, back what A said. “AMERICA IS REALLY FUCKED.” All of it. All of us. With respect to framing, how about let’s start from right there instead of “THEY are WAY More Fucked than WE are and WE need to Help THEM Be More like US.”

I guess Nancy Grace is more what they have in mind

This. Times a thousand.

Yes, it’s just a stupid tv show and I get that there are traditional aspects to the art form but over and over, week after week, this is about some invisible rigid construct of “pretty” and “feminine” and “sexiness,” one single recognized standard for the “natural sexiness” of a woman.

“I think it came out in moments …you had glimpses of this beautiful, vulnerable girl.”

Fuck that shit.

For the crafty types

No kittens available in your neighborhood? Too poor to buy your own cat? Or maybe you want something very specific, like, say, one that looks more like a giant rabbit alien? No problem. Make your own!

Start with about a yard of cat, as above. It goes without saying that it should be cut on the bias. Stuff with the best chow you can afford. Voila! Leave your stuffed cat laying about likely cat environments, no one will be the wiser. Unless they try to wake it up.

Frank Kameny, big damn hero

In Washington, DC yesterday, a man namedFrank Kameny died quietly at home. He was 86. Fittingly enough, Kameny’s death happened onNational Coming Out Day, something we’ve been celebrating since 1988, when it was created to commemorate the great 1987March on Washington, that October day when a quarter-million LGBT citizens came to their nation’s capitol to remind the rest of the country that they too were Americans and wouldn’t accept being treated as anything less. That such an event took place at all, that we still celebrate it nearly a quarter of a century later, that more people than ever before are out, that DADT is history now, that same-sex marriage is a reality—none of these things could have happened if pioneers like Frank Kameny hadn’t paved the way for us.

“Hero” doesn’t seem big enough somehow to describe what Kameny was, what he accomplished, what he risked, but he was a hero and much more. He was out, proud, and fighting for his civil rights during times when it was truly dangerous, when doing so could get you fired, jailed, publicly shamed. All that and more happened to Kameny but he chose not to accept it.


That 1987 march was actually the second GLBT march on Washington, but decades before either, years before even the Stonewall Riots, Frank Kameny started fighting back. His career as an activist began in 1957, after he was fired for being gay.

Kameny, a WWII veteran, earned a PhD in astronomy from Harvard, taught for a year, then became a federal employee in 1957, working for the U.S. Army Map Service in DC. Not only was he fired within a year for being gay, he was (as was customary at the time) banned from from future federal employment. He appealed his termination all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

In 1965, Kameny was an organizer of the first-ever gay and lesbian protest at the White House to draw attention to government discrimination against homosexuals. Another LGBT pioneer, Jack Nichols, describes the event.

As we marched, I looked about at our well-dressed little band. Kameny had insisted that we seven men must wear suits and ties, and the women, dresses and heels. New Yorkers later complained that we Washingtonians looked like a convention of undertakers, but given the temper of the times, Kameny’s insistence was apropos. “If you’re asking for equal employment rights,” he intoned, “look employable!” In the staid nation’s capital, dressing for the occasion was, in spite of New York critics, proper.

We paraded in a small circle. Behind lampposts stood unknown persons photographing us. Were they government agents? Perrin and Otto wore sunglasses so absolute identification would be difficult should they fall prey to security investigations. We walked for an hour that passed, as I’d predicted, without incident. A few tourists gawked and there were one or two snickers, more from confusion than from prejudice.

We’d hoped for more publicity than we got. Only The Afro-American carried a small item about what we’d done. But we’d done it, and that was what mattered. We’d stood up against the power structure, putting our bodies on the line. Nothing had happened except that we’d been galvanized, and, to a certain extent, immunized against fear.”

Forty-four years later, Kameny was present in the Oval Office as President Obama signed a memorandum extending (limited) federal benefits to partners of gay federal employees.


Innocent families trapped onboard plane with kissing lesbians

When the bits of information aboutLeisha Hailey’s experience on a Southwest Airlines flight first started trickling out yesterday via Twitter (which I was of course on at the time), I had two simultaneous reactions. One, I assumed without knowing any other source information that the airline was at fault. Two, I snickered at the PR ramifications because, I mean really, could you not find someone more adorable to pick on, Southwest? She’s one of theYoplait bridesmaids fer chrissakes, not to mention the only remotely likeable character on theL Word.

So yeah, as noted by a Twitter friend, maybe I rushed to judgement believing the worst of Southwest. I didn’t care then, and I don’t really care now, even though Hailey and girlfriend have since stated they take “full responsibility for getting verbally upset with the flight attendant after being told it was a ‘family airline'” and the airline has “clarified” the real reason they got booted wasn’t their “excessive” display of affection but their profanity and “aggressive reaction.”

In Hailey’s version, the “excessive” PDA was one kiss, after which the couple was approached by a flight attendant who told them they were traveling on a “family airline.” And that, that right there, is what this is about:the completely unselfconscious, unexamined assumption that GLBT people are supposed to have the decency to be ashamed of ourselves, to know our place, and to accept it without any kind of undue reaction.

You’re a paying customer on a crowded airplane, someone in authority says something to you that translates as “what you and your partner are doing isn’t merely irritating, it’s disgusting, harmful to children and families even.” You then have the choice of swallowing the hatred quietly and politely, conforming, going along to get along, or you get angry. Short of physically harming someone or doing something that might cause the plane to crash, I think anger is perfectly understandable in that situation.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the only really sane reaction.

This story isn’t important because Southwest kicked another celebrity off a plane because they can get away with it because it won’t put a dent in their business. The story is important becausewe do know our place, and we will continue to claim it.

Snarker gets the last word:

So for every person out there who persists on thinking we’re just shoving our big gay agenda into their faces, trust me – we’ve thought about the consequences of what we’re doing a lot more than you ever have. And we do what we do because we’ve decided that it’s worth it – despite all the bullshit – to be who we are. Because to self-censor ourselves for other people’s so-called comfort isn’t doing the world any favors. In fact, it hurts the world to let this double standard exist that says one kind of love is more acceptable than another kind of love. We think long and hard and endlessly about many of the simple gestures that straight people just take for granted.

So each time gay people demand to be treated equal, cry foul against discrimination and simply dare to give the person we love a kiss before the plane takes off, we chip away at that double standard. We stake our claim on our own equality. We say, I have the right to do this. If that makes you uncomfortable world, well, that’s your fucking problem. It’s not excessive to kiss someone you love, Southwest Airlines. And it is definitely worth it.

Winning the internet, all of it

It’s not often, lately anyway, that we read a story that makes us want to fistbump the whole interwebs and shout, “Fuck yeah humans!”

Butthis is one of those stories.

Video-game players have solved a molecular puzzle that stumped scientists for years, and those scientists say the accomplishment could point the way to crowdsourced cures for AIDS and other diseases.

“This is one small piece of the puzzle in being able to help with AIDS,” Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington, told me. Khatib is the lead author of a research paper on the project, published today byNature Structural & Molecular Biology.

The feat, which was accomplished using acollaborative online game called Foldit, is also one giant leap for citizen science — a burgeoning field that enlists Internet users tolook for alien planets, decipher ancient texts anddo other scientific tasks that sheer computer power can’t accomplish as easily.

“People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at,” Seth Cooper, a UW computer scientist who is Foldit’s lead designer and developer, explained in a news release. “Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans.”


Dope on the table

Okay, so someone at a conference asked Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld what he thought ofThe Wire. Watch the video below and see if you can tell exactly when the Commissioner makes his first mistake:

If you answered “As soon as he opens hisfuckmook mouth,” you’d be right.

Bealefield says heknows David Simon. If so, then he was probably not surprised by this:

Publicly, let me state that The Wire owes no apologies—at least not for its depiction of those portions of Baltimore where we set our story, for its address of economic and political priorities and urban poverty, for its discussion of the drug war and the damage done from that misguided prohibition, or for its attention to the cover-your-ass institutional dynamic that leads, say, big-city police commissioners to perceive a fictional narrative, rather than actual, complex urban problems as a cause for righteous concern. As citizens using a fictional narrative as a means of arguing different priorities or policies, those who created and worked on The Wire havedissented.

Commissioner Bealefeld may not be comfortable with public dissent, or even a public critique of his agency. He may even believe that the recent decline in crime entitles him to denigrate as “stupid” or “slander” all prior dissent, as if the previous two decades of mismanagement in the Baltimore department had not happened and should not have been addressed by any act of storytelling, given that Baltimore is no longer among the most violent American cities, but merely a very violent one.

Others might reasonably argue, however that it is not sixty hours of The Wire that will require decades for our city to overcome, as the commissioner claims. A more lingering problem might be two decades of bad performance by a police agency more obsessed with statistics than substance, with appeasing political leadership rather than seriously addressing the roots of city violence, with shifting blame rather than taking responsibility. That is the police department we depicted in The Wire, give or take our depiction of some conscientious officers and supervisors. And that is an accurate depiction of the Baltimore department for much of the last twenty years, from the late 1980s, when cocaine hit and the drug corners blossomed, until recently, when Mr. O’Malley became governor and the pressure to clear those corners without regard to legality and to make crime disappear on paper finally gave way to some normalcy and, perhaps, some police work. Commissioner Bealefeld, who was present for much of that history, knows it as well as anyone associated with The Wire.