PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!


CP: A strange, convoluted story this week from Yowei Shaw on a homeless activisit, a young man so fired up about the Palestinian cause in Israel that he’s shunned work, shelter and the mainstream economy. Raphael McNamara appears both passionate and misguided, a combination that has led to accusations of terrorist involvement.

McNamara tunneled his way into the local pro-Palestinian movement in early 2009, becoming a regular participant in events and meetings held by different activist groups, including Stop U.S. Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now! (SUSTAIN), Bubbies and Zaydes, International Action Center and Temple Students for Justice in Palestine (TSJP).

“He’s a little frantic, but he’s a charming man — energetic as hell,” says Cy Schwartz, co-founder of Bubbies and Zaydes, a pro-Palestinian group of Jewish grandparents. Schwartz met McNamara at one of Bubbies and Zaydes’ Friday vigils in front of the Israeli consulate. “He became this amazing explosion of activity with all the various groups that were working.”

McNamara organized demonstrations and put up fliers and posters. “For him, while this conflict was going on and as he would say, people are being oppressed, it’s not OK for you to do nothing,” says Peter Hayakawa, a member of TSJP. “He considered activism his work. It was a full-time job for him.”

His “work” was omnipresent online: not just Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, but also Xanga, Scribd, Flickr, LinkedIn, Digg, YouTube, PicasaWeb and Photobucket. He posted hundreds of news articles, photos, videos, fliers, academic papers, letters, rants, comments, poems and more — almost all on the Palestinian conflict.

Shaw fills in McNamara’s troubled past, and from the volume and eloquence of his output, it seems like he had gone a long way toward overcoming it. The contradictions inherent in the piece and in McNamara himself — a non-violent crusader armed with a deadly weapon — don’t make it all seem any less true.

PW: The cover heralds a major accomplishment for the civil rights of transgendered persons, and Randy LoBasso digs even deeper into the legal issues surrounding sexual reassignment and transgendered identity. The PA Department of Transportation’s recent move to recognize individuals who identify as the opposite sex but haven’t undergone surgery opens a window into the life of Danielle Finnegan and others who struggle to be recognized and understood.

Finnegan, a male-to-female (MTF) transgender individual, was ecstatic when she got the call about the new policy the morning it went into effect. “I was like a little kid waiting to get … candy,” she says. The 64-year-old immediately printed out the new forms, which were posted at, filled them out, faxed them to her doctor’s office in Carlisle and then called the doctor. “I told her, it’s about a 40-minute ride [to your office]; I’ll see you in 40 minutes.”

As she busied herself with the formalities of legally changing her gender, Finnegan was unaware that she was about to become the first person in Pennsylvania to be affected by PennDOT’s new policy. “I didn’t care so much about being first … I was just happy to finally have [official documentation] in my hand.”

Within hours of receiving her new license, a photograph of Finnegan with her new ID was sent out as part of a TransCentralPA press release, aptly titled “Success!”

“Think of the number of times you have to present a driver’s license just in daily life,” says Lee Carpenter, a professor at Temple Law School and former lawyer for EqualityPA. “It can be while you’re stopped by police, but it could be getting carded in a bar. For most people a driver’s license is the only ID anyone ever has and [they have] to present that picture ID over and over again. This gender marker often caused trouble.”

For Finnegan, the new policy is a long-awaited civil victory. “It was so important to me,” she says of changing her gender status. Especially since almost every doctor she’s ever seen in her life told her she was nuts. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, Danielle, you’re not mentally crazy. There’s nothing wrong with you. Even the state of Pennsylvania recognizes that you’re truly female. And here’s the license to prove it.’” She adds: “After so many years of suffering … to be able to get up in the morning … put my hair in a ponytail … put on slacks or a skirt, whatever … and just be myself. Not thinking ‘I have to act like a boy.’”

The story gains additional cred from a tale of harrassment by Philly police officers of another transgendered person and of members of Riders Against Gender Exclusion continuing to take aim against SEPTA for their M/F stickers on train passes. Conservative nutjobs rear their heads, of course, but the hope and optimism Finnegan shows at the state’s change remains undefeated. Good for her, for the state and for PW.


CP: The Wilma does Macbeth, still has to call it “the Scottish play.” Carpenters Union: Hacks with hacksaws. Tom Corbett still evil, Dan Onorato still disappointing. Down the hatch: Booze journalism at its finest.

PW: A rave review for Green Eggs; Sam I Am was unavailable for comment. I knew those guys by the Electric Factory were up to no good. Not even liquid nitrogen can stop the BRT. Fear, loathing and incompetent waitresses at SugarHouse.

WINNER: Good stuff all around this week, but I have to give the nod to CP. It’s a compelling, confusing narrative, with politics and personalities at odds, and, like most mysteries, it doesn’t wrap up with an easy conclusion. The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association might be onto something here.

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