GE is using the protest song “Sixteen Tons” for an ad about coal energy.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so disrespectful in my life.
“Sixteen Tons” was made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford, but it was written by Merle Travis, who was the son of a Kentucky coal miner. It’s not really difficult to work out that it’s about how much it sucked to be a coal miner, specifically in the time before the UMW (United Mine Workers).

You load sixteen tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go,
l owe my soul to the company store.
Now, some people say a man’s made out of mud,
But a poor man’s made out of muscle and blood,
Muscle and blood, skin and bones,
A mind that’s weak and a back that’s strong.
Well, I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine.
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mines.
I loaded sixteen tons of Number Nine coal,
And the straw-boss hollered, “Well, bless my soul.”
Well, I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain.
Fightin’ and trouble is my middle name.
I was raised in the bottoms by a mama hound.
I’m mean as a dog, but I’m as gentle as a lamb.
WeIl, if you see me a-comin’ you better step aside.
A lotta men didn’t and a lotta men died.
I got a fist of iron, and a fist of steel.
If the right one don’t get you, then the left one will.

I’ve always thought of the last two lines as pretty direct metaphors for the two industries coal mining hugely influenced in the US: the railroads and the steel industry.
You can read a little more about why miners and their families hated the company store if you can’t work it out, and check out other songs about life in the coal mines at this ‘History in Song’ site.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I just wonder if there’s anything that can be respected. I wonder if GE has any idea that miners are still killed and injured in coal mines around the world on a regular basis. On Tuesday, a mine flooded in China and 13 of the miners are still missing as I’m writing this.
Here’s an article about the same ad, in Slate.
(And if you’re wondering why on earth I’m blogging about coal mining at all, that’s simple: my grandmother’s family were Anthracite miners in PA at the turn of the century, and the history of the mines, the miners’ unions, and all things coal have been interests of mine for a long time. I was one of the few kids who did actually get coal in my Christmas stocking to remind me I wasn’t always an angel.)

Fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina Victims at CDI

The local CD group CDI is having a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The organization will match all contributions up to $500, so if attendees donate $500, the hurricane victims will get $1000.
I think this is a brilliant idea, and I’ve donated a signed copy of my book for them to use as a fundraiser. I’d welcome requests from any other TG groups who’d be interested in doing the same thing. My contact information is right here.
Below are more details about the event, and even more can be found on the MHB Boards.

BBQ Fundraiser for Victims of Hurricane Katrina
Wednesday, September 14 at the Open House Dinner at 8:00pm

Cat, with Mess

We’ve been doing some re-organizing of our apt, which might explain the mess in the background. Endymion, in the foreground, never explains himself.
hall endymion


These eleven congressmen, Republican conservatives all, just voted against the $51 billion package (H. R. 3673) for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. If you live in any of these states, you might want to write and ask them why.
Rep. Joe Barton – TX
Jeff Flake – AZ
Virginia Foxx – NC
Scott Garrett – NJ
John Hostettler – IN
Steve King – IA
Butch Otter – ID
Ron Paul – TX
James Sensenbrenner – WI
Tom Tancredo – CO
Lynn Westmoreland – GA
(taken directly from Kos)

Five Questions With… Mariette Pathy Allen

Mariette Pathy Allen is the award-winning photographer and author of the books Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them and The Gender Frontier. She has been photographing the trans community for 25 years now, and is unofficially referred to as the “official photographer of the transgendered.”mariette pathy allen Transformations was personally an important book for me (the only one about CDs that included wives’ words) and The Gender Frontier won this year’s Lambda Lit Award in the Transgender category, and she also took the cover photo of Jamison Green’s Becoming a Visible Man (which was a Lammy finalist as well). We had the great pleasure of being photographed by her last year at Fantasia Fair, and it was lovely to get to “catch up” with her. Her most recent news, which came down the pike after this interview took place, is that she will soon be the proud grandmother of twins!
< I took this photo of Mariette Pathy Allen with her camera at the 2004 IFGE Conference. And yes, that is Virginia Prince in the background.
1. You won the Lambda Literary Award for best TG book this year – how does that feel?
I wasn’t expecting to win-in fact, I thought I had it all figured out: the odds were so unlikely that I didn’t even have a speech ready. When I heard “The Gender Frontier” announced as the winner, I thought I would faint! Getting to the stage seemed to take forever: I was in the middle of the row, near the back of the auditorium. When I finally got to the stage, I realized that I was thrilled, and that this was as close to getting an Academy Award as I am likely to get!
Last year, Bailey’s book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen” was a finalist. It caused a furor among tg activists, and controversy at Lambda, finally leading to its removal from the list. This year, the selection of books in the transgender/genderqueer category was excellent-any one of the five deserved to win, and there was no drama.
I had the feeling that most of the audience had no idea what “The Gender Frontier” was about and that this was the time to tell them. I mentioned that it was a long time in the making because it chronicled events and people over the past decade, that my intention was to represent the range and variety of people who need to live fulltime as the gender in which they identify. and that the book divides into sections on youth, political activism, portraits, and stories. I can’t remember what else I said, but I know my last word was “gender variant”, and I hope the audience understood.
Out of all the LGBT prizes offered, it is odd that there’s only one for the “transgender/genderqueer” category. We have illustrated books, memoires, essay collections, science, and science fiction, enough books to be included in the range of GLB awards, or to add to our own category. I think we need at least three categories next year: “transgender/genderqueer fiction, non-fiction, and illustrated books”.

Continue reading “Five Questions With… Mariette Pathy Allen”


I just got the good news that I’ll be speaking at the New York State Museum in Albany on Saturday, November 12th, at 7PM.
More details to follow, and thanks to Rhea for all her hard work.

Not Working

As someone who already had PTSD when 9/11 happened, I’ve been very attuned to the fear-mongering that’s been going on in his country for the past four years. I’ve been aware of it because it works on me – works in that I start to fear getting on a subway or a plane. And let me say, there’s been a lot of it, all of it focused on what the terrorists might do. There’s been so much that I understand why Americans are fearful, and even why they voted for Bush: they wanted to be safe. So do we all.
But it strikes me that on this Sunday morning, what we have all feared terrorists doing has now happened, and it wasn’t terrorists who did it. We have lost a great American city to a combination of natural disaster and incompetence. We gave up our civil liberties, we gave the President new, sweeping powers, we funded the Department of Homeland Security. And for what? Because we thought, we hoped, that doing so would keep us safe; that a small sacrifice, like letting the government in on what I’ve been reading, would give the government enough power to handle something disastrous quickly and well.
They didn’t. There’s a lot of blame-laying going around: ironically, Republicans (who are usually for giving more power to state and local governments) are blaming the state and local governments for not being prepared, and Democrats (who tend to like big, nation-wide planning) are blaming the Feds. The irony that the current Republican Party says it’s for smaller government when it has increased the powers of said government is not lost on me.
Gov. Blanco (D-LA) called a state of emergency on August 26th. She asked the President to do the same on August 27th, which he did.
So what happened? FEMA has said that all the emphasis has been placed on terrorism, not natural disasters, which is why this went as wrong as it did. But surely the response to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack requires the same mobilization, supplies, and swiftness, yes? Why, if on August 27th, FEMA were alerted that they might have to help Louisiana with the aftermath of Katrina, are people’s moms still dying as of Friday night? I’m sure there isn’t a simple answer, although it’s pretty clear to me that the White House – along with Chertoff, Brown of FEMA, and the President himself – have shown themselves to be incompetent, or, as a recent editorial by Greg Mitchell pointed out, they are guilty of dereliction of duty. One that’s proved fatal, not just to thousands of American citizens, but to a great American city.
My question, then, is when do we get our civil liberties back? If we traded them in for safety and security as promised by the Bush Administration, and we are not getting those things, shouldn’t we get them back now, due to breach of contract? Because if a hurricane – which is one of the most predictable types of natural disasters – caught these guys unprepared, then how on earth can anyone still believe that they will be prepared for a terrorist attack, which is not predictable at all?

(Much thanks to the blogosphere for doing the legwork: Josh Marshall, Atrios, Kos, and Kevin Drum.)