Monthly Archives: November 2008

Shop Pigging not Shopping / Death to Butters

The Elecpencil proved he will go to the extreme of torture beyond mere water boarding in order to experience the ugly underbelly of society and report it here. I’m talking about rubbing elbows with an element of society more dangerous and vile than all the pimps, hookers, small time gangsters and foul mouthed truck stop waitresses that fill a Tom Waits recording.

In the interest of science I hung out with vampires and zombies on the most frightening night of the year. It is a day that shows we are a declining society. It ranks with such savage events like barbarism, witch burnings, plagues and the inquisition. That would be the demonic shopping day known as Black Friday. It got that name because it has historically been the day when stores broke into profitability for the full year.

My daughter, the Mac suggested we needed to buy one present for Christmas for all of us. That would be a new TV as ours has no remote, a 12-inch picture in a 20-inch frame and volume that raises and lowers ghostlike. She informed us that they also make color TVs now a days. That came as quite a shock to me as our family doesn’t spend much time keeping up with the latest technology. Mac suggested that we go early in the morning and get in line at an electronics store for one of the Black Friday specials on TV’s.

On the plus side Mrs. Elecpencil and I both had Friday off of work. Unfortunately that is also a day many people have been emancipated from work so the lines could be long. The big problem is a disorder I have known as, poverty. Like many people I don’t make enough money to support my family. I could try to convince my employer that I can’t live on these wages but he would say he isn’t in the business of saving my life.

The Mac said, that the electronic stores doors open at 3 am Friday morning. I had a relative who drove past the store tell me several tents of shoppers were already on the sidewalk as of Thursday at 10 am. I guess these were folks that were so thoughtful about wanting to buy a present for their loved ones they actually gave up enjoying a day of thanks with their families. Such sacrifice for others is the true spirit of Christmas I was thinking in my naive mind.

I looked up some stores on line and most had the same “bargains” I could buy online with free shipping instead of standing out in the cold for. The Mac had experienced standing out in the cold on Black Friday a couple of years ago and convinced us it was something we should check out. I wasn’t easily convinced because I have had previous experience being on a strike line for months on end in the wintry wee hours. We decided to go to the Grove City Outlets, which were opening at midnight, which seemed better than 3 am.

Darkness was upon us as we started out at 10:30 pm on our adventure. Fact is what with it being winter and that stupid turning your clock back crap darkness is upon us at 5:30 pm. We went a back way and arrived at 11:20. Some of the stores were opened since earlier in the day but not of course the ones my family wanted to shop at.

Mac and her friend, Mrs. Elecpencil and I got in line to go in PAC Sun. There were about 70 people in front of us and as many behind. Next thing you know a line starts parallel to the line at the door. I am shocked people walk up 20 minutes before the door opens and do this when people have been waiting in the cold for an hour. This is not something I’d want to do to an angry crowd who has been waiting in the cold jacked up chain smoking and guzzling high energy drinks.

A girl behind me tells me they are butting. She suggests butters should be brutally hacked to death, set on fire and their bodies spit upon. Wow, such Christian spirit for the holidays. The elecpencil fancies himself to be a man of peace. Standing in the cold an old saying comes to him. That is, “Whenever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.” I start looking around to see if there is a store I can buy some machetes and lighter fluid for myself and my muse in line behind me.

Once the doors open the parallel line is pushing like their lives depended on it. Once inside the store people grab clothes and line up at the registers or fitting rooms. I make a mental note about the people with armloads of clothing in the fitting room lines. That is that’s it’s amazing that the people they are buying clothes as Christmas presents for are the same size as them. They I demise aren’t shopping for others they are shop pigging for themselves.

Mac is in one of two checkout lines with clothes she has bought for her brother. She got in line at 12:15 and when my wife and I returned from shopping elsewhere she was still in line at 1:30. She said, people were just cutting in line and arguments were breaking out. We let her go shopping while we waited in line until 2:50. My wife refused to leave the line despite the Elecpencil’s pleading. I personally don’t even wait at a restaurant if they a say it’s going to be 5 minutes.

The lines in the store circled around the walls. There wasn’t room left for anyone to shop. They only had two registers open with two cashiers and two baggers. Meanwhile they had a greeter at the door and one employee wasting her time folding up items on shelves no one could get to. I’d say if you’re going to have people in line for hours you should have people giving them massages and free drinks by damn.

A woman and her young daughter tried to get in line behind us. I wondered why a woman would bring such a young girl out so early in the morning. They both claimed they had been in that spot. It was sad to see a mother lie in front of her young daughter and the daughter lie to back her up. Such lovely Christmas spirit. Mrs. Elecpencil said, “Neither of you were here.” The girl they butted in line in front of sternly said, “I strongly suggest you move to the back of the line.” The woman put her things down and left the store. Yeah, victory for our side and a loss for the butters. Now I was finding myself being unchristian like.

By 3:00 am the whole shopping complex was packed with huge lines at every store’s register. Seven buses from Canada had arrived plus buses from elsewhere. I talked with a woman from Toronto that was shopping despite having her broken foot in a cast. From this I deducted that even the wounded had entered the shopping battleground. I saw four teenage boys all in gray hoodies (an outlet mall gang?) with the hoods up drinking alcohol in paper bags. They were all screaming, “Woooooooo.” Which in drunk means, I can’t handle alcohol. Between the drunks and the butters the Elecpencil sensed his asshole magnet was drawing an evil element that could endanger his family so we headed for the Jalopy GT and made our exit.

After arriving at our domicile the Mac and her friend still having teenage energy headed off for the Eastwood Mall. The Elecpencil had decided to never again experience Black Friday. The nasty butters are a culture I don’t understand and hope to never see again. I’m reminded of an old saying, “ An idealist is a man who worries about why people do things. A practical man is he who worries about how to get out of it without doing it.” Put the Elecpencil down as a practical man.

Black Friday shoppers kill at Walmart: WalMart killers

The fun of Black friday: fun

More fun: crazy fun

Christmas shopping music: tune

Shopping music: music

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Thanking God for Genocide

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house. My mother is one fine cook and baker. I can almost smell the scent of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, buttered biscuits, cherry pie, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. No yucky sweet potatoes though because being 100% Irish we only eat real potatoes.

The Mac (my daughter) is off work for Thanksgiving and Adam (my son) will be home from college. Thanksgiving a sit down dinner with three generations of the family I hope will leave my children with happy holiday memories.

Holidays in the good ole USA always have some bizarre background to them. The Thanksgiving holiday is no exception as it’s history is about as weird as it gets.

We will smell a kitchen full of the scents of a delectable feast but that is not the whiff of what Thanksgiving represents. The original smells would have been the putrid scent of barbecued Indian flesh.

Here is a historic description behind the massacre of Indians, which is the real reason the Pilgrims, gave thanks: This by William Bradford, an early settler, on Captain John Mason’s attack on a Pequot village.

“Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword, some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.”

While we have genocide against turkeys for Thanksgiving our fore fathers had a genocide against Native Americans.

Thanksgiving history:facts

Here is a Thanksgiving/Christmas poem I wrote:

Holiday Deja Vu By the elecpencil

It starts before Thanksgiving
Those articles in the newspaper
on what to cook with leftover turkey.
Turkey ala-king, potpies, burritos…
why not turkey Jell-O or turkey smoothies?
Why don’t they just say buy a
God damn smaller turkey!

Then I wouldn’t have to see
all those redundant articles.
Next comes Christmas.
Ready for Christmas’s religious service,
I sit down to read the daily paper
and of course, there’s an article
on how Christmas is too commercial.

It’s say, Christmas has become
the largest annual economic stimulus
for many countries.
The story is squeezed in between
a Christmas Sales ad and
an article on the hottest toys to buy.

I contemplate the question
of Christmas commercialization…
sitting at my Thomasville dining room table
drinking my Carnation instant hot chocolate
complete with Kraft marshmallows
from my Correll Peach Garland pattern mug.

I spill some on my Geoffrey Benne necktie.
I toss it in my Kenmore washer and
add some Tide, extra strength
I turn on my Toshiba stereo TV and
ease into my Lazy Boy Recliner.
I set it to full tilt and view the 27” screen between
my black Dexter wing tips
that are so old they
were made in the USA.

I eat a Fiesta bowl of
Nabisco shredded wheat
with slices of Dole bananas in it.
My Timex watch says its time to go.
I get my tie out of the Maytag dryer
and put on my Botany 500 jacket.

I get in my Dodge mini-van
and leave my Ryan built home.
I brush off the idea of Christmas
being too commercial
as I enter church to celebrate
the real meaning of Christmas…
For the rest of you…
Merry McChristmas and
a happy Wal-Mart New Year.

Thanksgiving Prayer by William S. Burroughs: Burroughs

Stuff it Good: Devo parody

Happy Thanksgiving pass the smoldering Butterball Indian.

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Talk Radio Jihad / Minimum Wage

I am a CSPAN and talk radio junkie. As a kid I fell asleep listening to talk shows. I don’t remember most of them being as crazy right wing as they are today. Driving in the car I listen to them and yell back at the hosts every time I hear a lie (every 15 seconds or so). When my family is in the car they fear I am going to stroke out.

I watch CSPAN’s call in show at 7 am when I’m getting ready for work. They switch between several different hosts (isn’t that Greta a babe?). Hearing conservative callers with crack pot views gets me angry and in a defensive mood that prepares me for what the day will throw at me.

Here’s a poem I wrote a few years ago about talk radio:

Talk Radio Jihad

Leaving work, I turn on my car radio
only to hear the last few minutes
of the Mush Windbag Show.

Mush: “The Congress should vote against the minimum wage increase, it’s
already high, whatever it is. They should give more tax breaks and incentives to
businesses and keep workers from getting minimum wage increases.”

Caller: “Ditto Mush on the minimum wage it’s already too high…whatever it is. I also agree with you about the environment. Environmentalist are commies, green on the outside and red on the inside.”

Mush: “Yes, trees are not beautiful until you cut them down and make something from them. Goodbye ditto heads, be ever vigilant and tune in tomorrow.”

I yell at the radio,
I guess God had in mind big picnic tables when he made the giant sequoia trees.
Yes, keep tuning in ditto head lemmings
until prophet Mush tells you when to drink the Kool-Aid
We need national health care to get these callers mental help.
It must be very hard to dial the telephone in a straight jacket.

The news comes on to say protesters at a Buchanan fundraiser
called Pat, David Duke without the sheet.
Pat Buchanan’s sister Bay says, “I hate David Duke, he steals all of Pat’s ideas.”

Next on the radio comes a local show
with the host Don Dangling Participle
Don: “Now the government wants to regulate wages. The minimum wage is too high already…whatever it is. We don’t need government intervention. Let’s go to the phone lines. Callers what’s wrong with America?”

Don hits line one : Caller; “Big Government”
Ok, line 2: “Big government”
Line 3: “ Big government.”
Line 4: “Big government, big government, big government”
Don: “Caller turn down your radio when you call.”

Next line caller; “Hi Don, Juliet here, long time listener, first time caller. I was struck by a hit and run driver in a BMW last winter as I waited for a bus. I’m in a wheel chair for life and my husband has become an invalid also.”
Don: “Yeah, you old battle axe, so what?”
Caller: “Well we worked at minimum wage jobs and have no savings and are having a hard time making ends meet. I turned on the radio to hear you arguing against a minimum wage increase. Why over the years have you gotten meaner and meaner to working people?”

Don: “Listen lady I got married a few years ago and had an instant family. My wife wanted a big wedding ring, a big new house, a new car, and a $1500 dryer one of my sponsors sells and a $1000 sweeper another sponsor sells. Hell lady, my life’s been super sized in a short period of time. I had to get a 2nd career running a grass cutting business. I don’t like minimum wage increases because it will mean I’ve got to pay my employees more. Got it battle axe?”

Don;: “Next caller: Big government bad.”
Next: “Hey Don I can’t talk long, I’ve got to get to my post office box to pick up my Social Security check and re-mail a government college grant check to my son that came to my house by mistake then stop for a check up at the Vet’s hospital.”
Don: “Yeah, old timer so what did you want to say?”
Caller: “Just that big government is bad.”

Now for a commercial: Hello from Right Wing Wacko Check out this great new book, “Benefits Bah Humbug” by Silas Marner. Learn how to keep your workforce from obtaining health care, vacations and how to keep your sweatshop free of: unions, OSHA and EPA regulations. “Benefits Bah Humbug” with a forward by conservative union buster, the Gipper. Order one today.

The next program was an investment show.
“Hi, I’m Rob Grinch, host of Who Says You Can’t Take It with You, Sew Pockets in Your Shroud.”
First off: “Big government is bad, they’re trying to raise the minimum wage which is far too high…whatever it presently is.”
On to the first caller: “Rob I agree the minimum wage is too high…whatever that figure is. Now my problem, I make $635,000 a year, my wife $510,000. We’ve got a $985,000 house paid off, $3.5 million in 401ks, 1.8 million in bonds plus I just inherited 6 million.”
Rob: “What’s your question?”
Caller: “I need your help because, it’s free. Should I spend money for snow tires this winter or can my wife get by with her BMW’s all season tires? Last winter she slid off the road and thought maybe she hit something so she’s concerned about snow tires this year.”
Rob: “What the bleep, bleep, call the auto talk show you bleep. I’m a certified investor.”

Next caller: “Hi Rob, I’m Romeo. I just turned on the show and I don’t know your topic but I need help. I broke my spine on my job as a manual loader of anvils and I have no insurance or health care and a wife and 2 kids and a $15,000 house to pay off.”
Rob: “Did you sock away any money?”
Caller: “Not making minimum wage I didn’t.”
Rob: “What’s that pay?”
Caller: “$5.15 an hour.”
Rob: “Far too much, I knew it. Make your wife work.”
Caller: “She’s in a wheelchair, last winter a hit and run driver in a BMW hit her, jumping the curb while she waited for a bus. She has doctor bills over $300,000. What can I do?”
Rob: “I’ve got one word for you, cyanide. Sayonara until tomorrow listeners.”

Next came the therapist show,
“Hi, I’m Dr. Whora Slutfinger and I’m my kid’s mom.” I’m thinking that’s her way of talking about herself 3 times in one sentence.

Her first caller: “Dr. Whora, my husband has a permanent spine injury and can’t work. I am also an invalid since I was hit by a BMW hit and run driver last winter. We’ve got two kids to feed, no income or health care and 100’s of thousands of dollars in medical bills. We’re so stressed out we don’t know what to do.”
Dr. Whora: “How old are your kids?”
Caller: “ 3 and 5.”
Dr.: “You didn’t stay home with your kids? You worked?”
Caller: “Yes, my husband and I only had minimum wage jobs.”
Dr.: “You should have stayed home with your kids, you shameless bitch. I’m sure God is punishing you for working. You and your shack up honey probably have tons of cash saved since you both worked minimum wage jobs which pay way too much…whatever that figure is.”

Next up was a news break with Saul Harve.
“Hello, Saul Harve here with the rest of the story.”

Page 1: A Romeo & Juliet love story. With Romeo suffering from a spine injury he somehow gets the crazy idea to end it all with cyanide.

Page 2: Juliet finds his lifeless body, pulls her wheelchair next to him and takes the rest of the cyanide. Her small children find her muttering, “shack up honey, shameless bitch, God is punishing me” as she dies in their arms.

Page 3: It is your announcer’s view they ended their lives because they were depressed with their human condition. You see they both had minimum wage jobs and therefore must have been living the life of luxury. Living a decadent, debauched life discovering all their fabulous wealth could not bring them happiness.

Page 4: Yes, the lesson we have to learn is that minimum wage is already too high…whatever it is. Good day.

Minimum wage VS CEO pay:CEO

Minimum wage song: minimum wage

Smashing Pumpkins parody minimum wage song: Bob Rivers

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God is Not Spelled G.O.P.

All right that does it I had more than my fill of the Catholic Church. Before you label me a Catholic basher know that I spent fifty years doing penance in that faith before I left. I will save all the reasons for another post, as they will be lengthy. What I want to address is the harm they are presently doing by getting involved into politics.

Rev. Jay Scott Newman a South Carolina Roman Catholic priest distributed a letter to parishioners at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote for Barrack Obama. Fr. Newman says Catholics should always vote for the pro-life candidate, as any other issues don’t count.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas said politicians “ can’t check your principals at the door of the legislature.” Naumann has said repeatedly that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic Democrat who supports abortion rights, should stop taking Holy Communion until she becomes pro-life.” They cannot call themselves Catholic when they violate such a core belief as the dignity of the unborn,” Naumann said.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, many bishops told Catholic politicians and voters that the abortion issue should be the most important consideration in setting policy and deciding which candidate to back. A few church leaders said parishioners risked their immortal soul by voting for candidates who support abortion rights. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 was criticized for supporting abortion rights, with a few Catholic bishops saying Kerry should refrain from receiving Holy Communion because his views were contrary to church teachings.

This act of Catholic priests telling you who to vote for is not new to the elecpencil. I attended a small Catholic church in Warren Ohio for a number of years. In 1988 I was appalled when one of the priests at mass told us we had to vote for George H. Bush because he was pro-life. Sadly, this priest went to another Warren parish where he claimed two African American kids knifed him. It was soon learned he lied and had actually tried to commit suicide. That lie almost erupted the city into a race riot.

On the very day of the 2008 election I heard a bishop I believe to be Naumann from Kansas City interviewed on a Fundamentalist Christian radio show syndicated by local 1440 AM. He said to Catholics considering a vote for Obama: “Give consideration to your eternal salvation.”

Despite the Catholic Church’s claims that abortion needed to be the one issue that Catholics voted on, 54 percent of Catholics chose Obama. In a poll of likely Catholic voters, 70 percent said that the views of Catholic bishops holds no weight in deciding for whom to vote and 73 percent said they believe they are under no religious obligation to vote the way the bishops recommend.

The Catholic Church has a proud history of standing up for many movements of social justice. These are issues like: peace, justice, racial equality, workers rights, the fight for raising the minimum wage, health, safety, homelessness, poverty, environmental issues, corporate responsibility etc. The Catholic Church needs to remember that Republicans have always been the ones on the other side of these issues fighting back. That has not been lost on Catholic voters just the churches hierarchy. As far as the issue of decaying morality, let’s put the blame where it belongs, on conservative values, which promote greed as good, looking out for number one, and the support of an economic system that puts profits before people. Conservatives, I’ve come to realize confuse G.O.P. and GOD.

Since 9/11 I have heard hatred, racism and religious intolerance from people of many faiths. The most shocking to me were some things I heard a couple of years ago on the Catholic Church’s radio station, “”Stations of the Cross.”” On various programs on the station I heard: A Catholic Priest (who was a former Episcopalian Priest) criticize Episcopalians and Lutherans. I heard one host trashing Mormons another Moslems. I heard an author interviewed who was promoting his book, which would arm Catholics with information to combat those “pesky” Jehovah Witness missionaries when they come to your door talking religion.

It is time to realize there can be no peace and tolerance among nations if there is neither among religions.

As I go to print this it’s ironic I received information about a priest I have met and respect more than any other one I’ve ever met. I’m talking about Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch in Columbus Georgia. Fr. Roy leads yearly demonstrations against the School of the Americas that trains death squads for third world dictators. Despite all the great work that Fr. Roy had done he is being threatened with excommunication by Pope Benedict XVI (who as a cardinal was the one who hid the pedophile priest problem). This is because Fr. Roy has spoken in favor of ordaining women as priests.

I am saddened by this threat as I have been saddened by the second-class treatment of women in the church and the church’s stand against gays. With all this talk of denying parishioners communion and excommunication I would ask if the Catholic Church excommunicated pedophile priests or forgave them as Christ would? If the Catholic and other Christian churches are going to excommunicate liberal members who are pro-choice and use birth control, and conservative members who use birth control, are pro-war, pro-death penalty, and pro-pollution of our planet by corporations, all things opposed to Christian church teachings, I think you’re going to find the pews pretty empty.

With all the hate and intolerance I’m hearing from various religions that may not be such a bad thing.

I think these churches that want to get involved in politics should lose their tax exempt status. what do you think?

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A Message From God No More Bigotry in My Name

A message from God: God’s message

Lots of voters missed that message from God in California, Florida and Arizona when they voted to ban gay marriages.

Individual contributions from Mormon Church members put up $15,305,050 to pass Proposition 8 in California banning gay marriages. The Catholic Knights of Columbus was the largest single contributor against gay marriages spending $1.4 million. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops kicked in $200,000 and Dr.James Dobson’s Focus on the Family contributed more than $400,000 to the Yes On 8 Proposition. Other contributors included, the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association ($500,000), and Elsa Prince, ($450,000), mother of Erik Prince, founder of the private security contractor Blackwater Worldwide.

Besides the money another reason proposition 8 passed was the turnout of the minority population. 50% of Latino voters voted for proposition 8. African Americans who came out in big numbers for Obama voted 70% for the ban. The 51% of whites who voted against the ban were not able to make up for the minority vote for the ban.

Latinos are mostly Catholic so they supported their church in the discrimination against gays despite the discrimination Latinos face in the U.S. Mormons who spent big dollars to deny gays the rights of marriage have forgotten their own church history about how they suffered horrible persecution and were driven from state to state. Most gays voting cast ballots for Barak Obama and yet African Americans forgetting about the bigotry they have faced voted to discriminating against gays. In the case of color I believe many African Americans are some of the most religious people so I believe religion is what fosters their homophobia, not skin color

The elecpencil worked at an African American radio station for two years doing a weekly interview show in the mid 1990’s. I interviewed a young African American minister because I admired the work he was doing ministering to prisoners. Because he also worked construction and I am interested in labor issues we talked about minority hiring. I asked him how many minorities were on the large construction job he was presently on. He replied, “Only half a dozen.” I asked, “How many women?” He answered, “Thankfully none as they need to be home making dinner and ironing.” We then got into a heated argument because he didn’t see anything wrong with what he had said.

Another time near Martin Luther King Day I had on a local well-respected African American minister who had marched with MLK. I had seen in the newspaper he was having a meeting with the Promise Keepers. I sited some quotes from Promise Keeper leaders that trashed gays and treated women like subhumans and asked him why he would meet with such hate mongers. He asked me where I got such information. I replied from Promise Keeper literature and the NOW organization and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He replied, “Who cares what a bunch of queers and militant feminists have to say.” We got into a heated argument when I replied, “You may have marched with MLK but you surely never listened to him.”

I can tell you that the African Americans at the station took the ministers side and not the elecpencils. I was surprised at how African Americans who have suffered discrimination have no empathy for others suffering discrimination. I had to learn that it had nothing to do as I said with color but had everything to do with the hypocrisy that exists within the Christian faith.

Christian Coalition promises more anti-gay amendments: not so Christian coalition

As far as the Knights of Columbus and other Catholics (and I say this as a former Catholic) they might be better served not electing former cardinals to pope that hid the priest pedophilia problems than worrying about gays marrying. I have a whole tirade to wage against some of the U.S. Catholic Bishops who try to politicize elections. I will save that for later in a discussion about one issue Catholics.

As for now let me say, California by court order had created a bright new age where gay people had equal rights to enter into a loving committed relationship. The passing of Proposition 8 serves to discriminate against citizens of our country who just wanted the same rights of happiness and love as others have.

On a bright note Prop. 8 was opposed at significantly higher rates among California’s youth. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, a poll taken before the election showed that 59 percent of likely voters aged 18 to 34 opposed the anti-gay measure. Maybe the future will be brighter.

Another bright note is that some Mormons are standing up against their churches bigotry against gays: Speaking out

Proposition 8 lies: the lies in Prop 8

Thugs claiming to be Mormons attack protesters: thugs

Gay marriage song; Love Conquers All

It’s About Time Song: In California


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Review of a Kick Ass Concert and Warning of a Weasel in the Hen House

This was meant to be a review of Mike Stout’s concert last night at YSU (it follows this rant) before I brought in today’s Warren Tribune from the paper box. The Trib as it’s dubbed is the local newspaper. It’s actually owned by a corporate conservative conglomerate. It ignores the working-class make up of our area and endorses candidates like McCain. Being conservative it loves school vouchers and tells our citizens to vote against school levees even the local school for handicapped kids. This isn’t a rant against everything that’s wrong with the Trib as that would take me tens years to write working 24/7 but on a story that was in this mornings Trib.

The story is about USW (United Steel Worker) Local 3523’s members having been on strike against Thomas Steel in Warren Ohio for 100 days. I was glad to see our congressman Tim Ryan stopped to visit the strikers. Rep. Ryan spoke to the company’s owners a few months ago in an effort to get them back to the bargaining table. I sadly note that the workers are being represented by, Gary Steinbeck, a subdistrict director for the United Steelworkers International.

Gary was the union staff man for my USW local so I feel for the strikers. When Gary represented my plant he never met a contract he didn’t think we should pass. Gary would have had us vote yes on a blank sheet of paper. When we complained of terrible contracts Gary would reply, “We’ll get em next time guys.” Next time of course was always worse as once you open the concessionary door to the hen house the fox has an endless food supply to feast on.

In 1998 the roosters and hens at the plant I worked at had enough of bad contracts. They rejected an ugly contract from a new company that wanted to buy our plant. It went down to defeat by a vote of about 75 to 25. Guys who had voted for any contract in the past now said we had negotiated away everything but our dignity and by damn we were now standing up for our dignity! By the next week our dignity was stolen as Gary told us the USW was our bargaining agent and he was passing the contract we turned down. Some of us in the hen house were not going to be battered, seasoned and fried chickens or roasted roosters so a case was mounted to take to the Labor Board charging that the company and the USW were in bed together.

We lost the case because the USW by law represents the local rank and file members and doesn’t even have to give us the right to vote on a contract. So much for democracy in a union. The new company Gary had told us was great at turning companies around. The new company came in and unscrewed every other light bulb because they were a bunch of nickel and dimmer, ten-cent millionaires. The plant closed within a year and the same owners had purchased Copperweld Steel and closed it in no time at all.

Gary is a weasel who doesn’t care how bad a contract is because he doesn’t have to go to work everyday under it. You can’t let weasels into your hen house as they will steal your eggs and suck the life from them. I’m the most union person you’ll ever meet but I have no use for company unions who are nothing but mere cops for the boss. Unions need to know the real union is the rank and file members on the shop floor. That’s much like our political representatives need to learn they represent the people not corporations. I feel for the strikers at Thomas Steel because the only talk Gary knows is B.S. and the only walk he knows is slithering like the snake he is. Strikers stand up for your dignity and view your union “representative” Gary with a watchful eye. Best of luck to you FW’s (fellow workers).

A Real Grievance Man Sings Out at YSU

WYSU is a great station and they proved it to me by having Pittsburgh’s Mike Stout and the Human Union band play WYSU’s Folk Festival last night. Mike is a former grievance man for the US Steel Homestead Works. That, coupled with the working-class conscious music he makes today, has led him led him to be dubbed, “the Grievance Man of the world.” Grievance Man Mike has used his safety shoe allowance on steel-toed boots in the form of a dozen and a half songs he brought to Y-town to kick the powers-that-be in the ass and unite the working-class in solidarity in the struggle for a better world.

The elecpencil dragged his tired rump out for the evening even though working with some overactive youngsters at work left him as tired as Superman after a double shift at the Kryptonite mine. Ms Elecpencil having her strength zapped by the same type of tykes even joined me for the evening, which is a rare event. That’s mostly because like me she loves Mike’s music. I was invited to a get together for Mike before hand but due to circumstances beyond my control (which is about how 90% of my life is) we arrived just before the music started.

Though I didn’t see a lot of advertising for the event it was well attended. The crowd was a mix of many of the activists and radicals in the area. That includes lots of folks the elepencil loves and admires and was happy to see. These are people who make this community better and are therefore my kind of people! Mike’s also as he opened with his song, “My Kind of People.” Mike followed that up with more songs about: Solidarity, historic working-class heroes and heroines, a song about the School of the Americas, revolution, hope and freedom. His band the Human Union is made up of some of the best musicians in the Pittsburgh area. Guitarists Dan Parese and Fred Nelson help deliver a powerful and solid contract for the World’s Grievance Man. Ms. Elecpencil noted how, Fred’s slide guitar on Mike’s,” The Big Time Corporate Blues” was especially haunting.

Mike talked about how his father sent him away to a Catholic detention school for troubled kids. Mike said, he hid a radio under his pillow and listened to Chicago’s WLS’s top hits of the time. This brought back memories to the elepencil because his parents were Catholics who ran their home like a detention center. In my cell I would also hide my radio under the pillow. I listened to Chicago station WCFL’s Sunday show, “Ron Britain’s Subterranean Circus.” Britain introduced me to Muddy Water’s, “Electric Mud,” John Mayall and the Blues Breakers, Terry Reid, etc. Grievance Man Mike played three Beatles tunes he remembered from those times. He started with, “You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away.” As he played I thought about how that was one of my favorite Beatle tunes that doesn’t get played much. I was thinking the other Beatle tune I love and seldom hear is Norwegian Wood” Next thing I know Mike is playing, “Norwegian Wood.” Like Mike my favorite Beatles album is also, “Rubber Soul.” If you have the album dig it out and play, “The Word” and “In my Life” and see if you don’t agree.

Being in Youngstown Mike played Springsteen’s, “Youngstown.” He did,”Flowers of the Working-class” about two former Youngstown union leaders, John Barbaro and Ed Mann. Today’s union leaders like Gary Steinbeck could never fill Ed and John’s steel toe work shoes. Mike also played a song called “Mama Bear” written about and dedicated to Niles Ohio activist, Alice Lynd who was in attendance. Alice and her husband Staughton have been mentors to many others and me and our community is lucky to have such people. Ms. Elecpencil says, I’m a better person for having known the Lynds. Having known Mike for what must be over a decade I can say my kid are better kids by having been exposed to his music at home and in the car.

Mikes music gives voice to the voiceless. The voiceless are the downtrodden, the immigrants, the incarcerated and the workers left behind because of social injustice and globalization. He makes us workers realize, we’ve not just sold our labor, but also our souls to a system that promises us dreams but delivers us nightmares.

Sadly, Mike’s music is not for everyone. It’s only for those of us who won’t settle for the banality of junk food in our literature or music. If you seek something life sustaining, you’ll find it fulfilling and loaded with protein. Those of us who look to be the carpenters of a new world need these songs as tools towards that construction.

For your tool box pick up Mikes latest CD, “The Point of Pittsburgh.”

I could say tons more about Mike’s music but his songs speak for them self and you can hear them at Mike’s website: Mike Stout

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Review of the New Ytown Reading Series and Three Legged – Elephants

When I started writing this blog I was hoping I could review some events in the Youngstown and surrounding area. The first problem with having a Blog is you have to know how to write. I don’t mean just stringing thoughts together but actually using proper punctuation, spelling etc. Remember how you took another language in high school or college? Know how all you can do today is count to ten in Spanish or German. That’s the problem I face today with writing skills. After a couple of years at college and working two jobs and being dirt poor I quit the jobs and college all in one day (more on this another time) bummed around for awhile and got a job in one of our ancestral job sites known as a factory. I then didn’t pick up a pen for decades so I lost all writing skills.

Being someone who was into Punk Rock I realized you didn’t need writing skills to write. I started reading working-class poetry and decided that mixing my industrial background with a less is more, irreverent punk school of thought would be something I could do. Punctuation, spelling be damned (but thank God for Spell check anyway). OK that’s my way of saying I don’t know what the Hell I’m doing but full steam ahead. Nietzsche once said, “It is better for the Three-Legged Elephant to dance foolishly than to never have danced.” In the last decade and a half I have been dancing foolishly a lot.

While working on a monthly labor issue newsletter with some wonderful folks I started writing poetry. I realized I was going to at some point get in front of a crowd and read these poems. I was the guy in high school that wouldn’t take speech because I was afraid to get in front of folks and present something. Well, I have been getting in front of small groups doing readings for over a decade. Yep, I still am uneasy doing it and know I always will be. But by damn this three-legged Elephant doesn’t want to miss dancing.

Back to my wanting to review events in the area. The truth is I really don’t get out enough to be able to review anything. Also, after working with hyperactive kids all day I am hammered by the end of the day. My day at work is full of noisy kids and I really need some quiet when I get home. I love my job but I pretty much took a vow of poverty when I signed on. Truth is with poverty wages a son in college and a daughter going to college next year I really can’t afford to attend very many events.

I loaded up my vehicle with lots of heavy scrap metal today to get a few bucks ahead. At the scrap yard I had to drive down a long road filled with broken glass and scrap metal. I also had to unload all this crap myself. For all my hard work I walked away with the princely sum of $1.43. I will probably end up having to repair a tire for $20 with all the glass I drove over. There is no getting ahead brothers and sisters.

When I do venture out it is usually for some free event. As I mentioned previously my wife suffers from Lupus. Cold weather is especially hard on her so if I do venture out I try not to stay at an event for to long. I actually would like to bring folks to tag along but because I tend to get in and out of an event I don’t bother to ask anyone to come along. I’d actually love to stay some place I’m at longer and socialize. People who know me well will say I’m opinionated, boisterous, and humorous and love to banter back and forth with people. On the other hand if I don’t know you I am not unfriendly just shy.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way let me tell you about an event I attended Monday night. I went to Cedar’s Cafe for the New Ytown Reading Series. Local author, Chris Barzak is putting on this event, which features a visiting writer or poet, followed by an Open Mic. Monday’s speaker was the Akron Beacon Journalist David Giffels. Giffels newest book is, “All the Way Home.” It is a memoir about rehabbing a crumbling mansion in Akron. He has also written, “The Story of Rubber in Akron” and a biography of one of my favorite bands, Devo. He’s won a slew of awards and before you start thinking oh no not some high brow boring shit let me mention he was a writer for “Beavis and Butthead.”

This event featured two things I’m all about first access to beer and the event was free! Cedar’s Cafe has reopened and features tapas and panini sandwiches. I ordered hummus and it was creamy, yummy and a generous portion. I also got a Straub draft for a mere $1. Straub is my favorite beer along with Stoney’s (a great name for a beer) as both have all natural ingredients and are as pure as beer can be. A real working-class punk valued beer. None of that dark beer over yeasty, added flavor crap for me. Drinking that dark crap is like pureeing a loaf of pumpernickel bread and drinking it. What the Hell is with Corona beer? When I visited Mexico almost a decade ago I noticed you couldn’t give Corona away. People called it peasant beer. I learned that was because it was aged less than three weeks and contains corn syrup instead of 100% malted barley. Some how it made it’s way to the USA and is marketed as a top-notch beer. Any beer that people stick a lime in to mask the over sugary taste should be a tip off that the beer sucks. You shouldn’t have to add fruit to a beer just like you shouldn’t have to add mixes to liquor. A whiskey that won’t stand on it’s own isn’t worth drinking.

But I digress and must say I enjoyed David Giffels. He brought back memories of the Bank punk club in Akron and talked about Highland Square. He made me realize I love going to Akron because it reminds me so much of Youngstown. David talked and joked with us about trying to remodel an Akron mansion while trying to convince his wife he was up to the task. The book is a coming of age life story about dealing with an aged house on life support. Dealing with such a remodeling task David wondered at times whether he was breathing life into the home or it was sucking the life out of him.

I enjoyed briefly talking with David about the things I love about Akron. I was glad to learn David had fond memories of being in a band and playing at Cedars. After David there was an Open Mic where local folks shared poetry. Including the elecpencil himself. I don’t think I will ever be comfortable reading my poetry and I have a hard time looking at people after I am done. I really do admire some of the folks that can recite poems off the top of their head, as it’s something I would never attempt to do.

What I do isn’t poetry as much as observations and rants. To me there are only two types of poems, ones you start and ones you finish. I really do try and avoid some poetry readings that are highbrow shit with poems about nature with a ton of adjectives. I’ve been to a few poetry events that feature award winning poems and short stories by people working on their Masters’ of Fine Arts (MFA) and PhDs in creative writing. After hearing their poetry I started to think MFA must mean Mother Fucking Awful. This is the artsy fartsy, boring soulless, sterile academic, uninspiring crap that gives poetry and short stories a bad name. I want to hear short stories and poetry about events and characters that make you laugh, cry and even angry. These kinds of writers and poets are ones who’ve earned their MLE (Master of Life Experience) on the shop floor. If there were any justice in the world these writers would be the award winners who could earn a living by being a writer. I’m glad to say David Giffel is in the later class.

All in all it was a good event and I’d recommend you go next month. Chris Barzak who I’m told is a gifted writer himself (I’m to poor to any longer buy books) is putting on this monthly event. Being in some organizations that put on events I can tell you a lot of work goes into events so I was glad to see a nice size group of audience members. I as usual had to rush home after the event but if my broke, tired old ass can drag itself out for the night than you can to. See you next month at Cedar’s Cafe and bring some poetry to read as we three-legged elephants should stick together. ~ In solidarity ~ the elecpencil

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