Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bring 'em ON

Bring on the ghosts and goblins who will come to the door tonight. I am ready to greet them in my beautiful wizard costume, thanks to my young friend Aaron, who made his daddies buy me this fabulous get-up last year. Normally, I object to dogs being made to dress up for the entertainment of humans, but I'm willing to make an exception in this case, because there just isn't enough cuteness in the world.

Bring on the mud and the fear-mongering and the spooky voices Republicans will use to try to terrorize voters into staying home or extending their reign of control of all three branches of government. Way down deep in the bottom of my leaky heart, I believe the American people have had enough and are looking past the smoke and mirrors. This time, turn-out will not be Mr. Rove's friend, and it won't be possible to steal enough votes to turn back the tide of change.

Bring on those old-fashioned ideas about checks and balances, transparency and accountability in government. Last week, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters to "back off" when they dared to raise questions about Iraq. Soon, let us hope that Rumsfeld himself will be forced to "back off" from his disastrous leadership of a failed military adventure.

Most importantly, bring HOME the good men and women who have put their lives and bodies on the line for a country whose leaders have sold them out every inch of the way. Bring them home, and we will spend the rest of our lives trying to make amends and explaining how we let it happen.

Peace to you all, friends of Roxie's World, and happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Roxie's Reading: Sisters

Our house is full of books. That's one of the occupational hazards of having two English professors in the family. We have old books, new books, poetry books, political books, books on continental philosophy, books on home repair, books about books, books about food, books about DOGS, and lots of books about gays, lesbians, and other happy people. We also have some trashy books that have been disowned by their own authors, such as the 1981 novel, Sisters, written by super-RightWing Satan Girl and Second "Lady" of the United States, Lynne Cheney.

Cheney's frontier boddice-ripper, which traffics in incest, prostitution, near-rape, something like murder, and steamy but apparently non-sexual Sapphism, is suddenly back in the news because desperate Republicans have decided to go after Democrats not for their policies or platforms but for the parties they've attended and the novels they've written. Why not? Most Republican policies these days are woven out of fiction anyway, so why not pull a few lurid passages out of a novel and use them to tar your opponent as a misogynist who is not fit for office? It beats hell out of trying to justify your support for a useless war that has led to the deaths of more than 2800 Americans and god knows how many Iraqis. (Read about Senator George Allen's scurrilous attacks on James Webb's writings here.)

Which brings us back to Sisters. Everybody knows the Cheneys have never been as strenuously homophobic as Republicans are supposed to be, at least publicly. Their lesbian daughter, Mary, has earned them a pass in the paroxysms of gay panic that regularly (one might say strategically) seize the GOP. In the 2004 campaign, Vice President Darth Vader even acknowledged that he was opposed to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, though he mostly kept his mouth shut as his party exploited the issue to whip its evangelical base up into a frenzy. Still, it's a little surprising to pick up Sisters and see the queen of the culture wars, who has made a career out of denouncing feminist and multicultural scholarship, celebrating female friendship as an alternative to marriage. In the book's acknowledgements, Cheney credits feminist historians Linda Gordon and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg with helping her to understand the daily, personal lives of 19th-century women and even singles out Smith-Rosenberg's famous article of 1975, "The Female World of Love and Ritual," for "guid[ing] [her] thinking."

Cheney got testy with CNN's Wolf Blitzer for bringing up Webb's response to the attacks on his work, because Webb dares to mention Sisters, Sapphistry, and Cheney's 1988 novel, The Body Politic, which features a Republican vice president who dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress. (You can see an excerpt from the interview with Blitzer here.) According to the indignant Mrs. Cheney, the difference between being American Grandmother of the Year (her) and Left-Wing Moonbat Sex Perv of the Century (Webb) is the difference between being sexually implicit (about rape, incest, and lesbianism) and being sexually explicit. As she puts it to Blitzer:

Jim Webb is full of baloney. I have never written anything sexually explicit. His novels are full of sexual (sic) explicit references to incest, sexually explicit references -- well, you know, I just don't want my grandchildren to turn on the television set.
Per usual, fans of Roxie's World, we want you to judge for yourselves. You can check out a pdf version of Sisters here. Or, if you want to stay right where you are, here's one of our favorite Sapphic morsels from Sisters. Most of the Sapphistry in the novel occurs off-stage and retrospectively. The protagonist, Sophie Dymond (nice touch with the allegorical naming, Lynne!), discovers that her late sister, Helen (married, with children), has had a passionate friendship with the schoolteacher, Amy Travers. Sophie comes across a parcel of letters from Amy to Helen. Among them is this seductive invitation:

Let us go away together, away from the anger and imperatives of men. We shall find ourselves a secluded bower where they dare not venture. There will be only the two of us, and we shall linger through long afternoons of sweet retirement. In the evenings I shall read to you while you work your cross-stitch in the firelight. And then we shall go to bed, our bed, my dearest girl. . . .
The letters repeatedly invoke the Ladies of Langollen, common 19th-century signifiers of women's romantic friendships, as Cheney no doubt learned from her reading in Smith-Rosenberg. Technically, of course, Cheney is correct that she stays on the "right" side of the line between implicit and explicit depictions of sexuality, but one wonders if foaming-at-the-mouth homophobes will be satisfied with Cheney's insistence that there's nothing sexual in this fantasy of 24/7 girl-on-girl intimacy. I mean, heck, cross-stitching involves needles, doesn't it, and that's clearly some tawdry allusion to a sexual apparatus. Then there's that "bed, our bed, my dearest girl. . . ." (ellipses in original).

It's a tricky business, Mrs. Cheney, pinning down the line between the implicit and the explicit, the erotic but non-sexual and full-on genital action. We here at Roxie's World think that if you can't stand the heat you'd better stay out of the boudoir. Lesbianism ain't for sissies, "sister."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Diva Citizens

Check out these sexy public service announcements aimed at getting women to vote. They're put out by an organization Moose and I have never heard of called Women's Voices, Women Vote. It's a non-partisan group, so the feminism of the commercials is so "lite" that it's hard to tell exactly why the organization is interested in mobilizing women to get to the polls. One of the speakers is actress Angie Harmon, a socially conservative Republican who gave a speech at the 2004 Republican convention. Like progressive radio goddess Stephanie Miller, Harmon also has a unibrow. Anyway, another of the speakers is Felicity Huffman, who was an object of reverence in our household long before her astonishing performance in Transamerica last year. It's not likely that Harmon and Huffman and the still kick-ass Tyne Daly (who is also featured in the ads) would all vote the same way on any candidate or issue, but we'll put our paws together here at Roxie's World for any effort to get the estrogen set to the polls. For every gun-loving "security mom," there are at least a dozen intelligent women who think it's time to end a senseless war and start focusing on creating the conditions that will make lasting peace possible, here in the US and throughout the world. Angie will be out-voted, so we join her in saying, "Get thee to the polls, Women!"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pity Party

Pity poor Barney, held hostage by the "leader" of the "free" world and his highly medicated wife. (Don't you think Bush looks fat in this picture? Moose and I do. We bet there's a cooler full of beer hidden somewhere in the Oval Office and the "Decider" has been the "Imbiber" lately.)

Pity poor Moose, who has a bad cold and a head that feels like the back wheels of a fully loaded semi have been rolling back and forth across it for the past twenty four hours.

Pity poor ME, because I've got my annual skin allergy to autumn leaves, which means that I've spent an inordinate amount of time licking myself lately rather than blogging. This, I realize, is a huge disappointment to my legions of fans, but bear with us. Y'all should be out knocking on doors for progressive candidates anyway. (Or, if, like Moose, you don't feel like leaving the house this weekend, volunteer for Move On's Call for Change program.)

Pity both me and Moose, who have been without the company of our beloved Goose for almost an entire week! She has been in Texas visiting family and attending a conference, while we have been here sniffing and licking and tinkling on the rugs and eating take-out food and hoping that none of the technology in the household breaks down. We are lonely as clouds and eagerly awaiting her return tomorrow. We took a vote and have decided to revoke her travel privileges, unless, of course, she takes us with her next time to some canine-friendly destination.

And speaking of canine-friendly, here's a wonderful story about the incredible new animal shelter that has just been built by the Washington Animal Rescue League. The idea behind it is that a posh, peaceful environment will help animals recover from trauma and abuse and make them less aggressive, more relaxed, and therefore more adoptable. I am pleased to give the Rescue League a Five-Paw Rating and a Roxie's World Seal of Approval for smart, compassionate plan that is likely to result in healthier animals finding the loving homes they deserve. Hip-hip-HOORAY!

Okay, Moose says it's time to stop typing and get horizontal. The semi is starting to roll over her head again. Ouch!

P.S. Need a little more inspiration for ending the "pity party" of liberal politics in the US? Read this powerful piece by Kevin Tillman, brother of NFL star Pat Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. Kevin calls on fellow citizens to honor Pat by voting for change on November 7--the day after his late brother's birthday. (With thanks to Auntie Faye for pointing out this moving call to action.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gut Check

How ya doin', Dems? Acid reflux churning up in the back of your throat? Election Day is just twenty days away. Polls continue to show that the chickens may at last be coming home to roost for Republican incumbents who ruled like kings and tried to score cheap political points through lies, fear-mongering, and irresponsible tax-cutting. Looks like Senator "Man on Dog" Rick Santorum is going down big in Pennsylvania. He's down by at least five points in every recent poll. Moose woke up this morning to a headline in the Washington Post declaring that "Elections May Leave Bush an Early Lame Duck." She smiled at me before she even took her first sip of coffee and said, "Rox, it's going to be a great day." And Moose is not a morning person. The story was full of such delectable details as, "On desks around the West Wing sit digital clocks counting down the days and hours left in the Bush presidency, reminders to the White House staff to use the time left as effectively as possible." The funny thing is we have one of those clocks in our house, too! We use it to count the days to the end of one of the most destructive presidencies in American history. We also have a bumper sticker on the fridge that says "01.20.09--Bush's Last Day." Maybe we should send a carton or two of those down to the White House for Josh Bolten to pass out to all those clock-watching staffers.

Don't worry, kids, we are not getting over-confident here at Roxie's World. Goose is still convinced the Republicans will find a way to steal the election if they can't manage to win it. Moose is still a little uneasy about the senate race in Maryland, though she was pleased to see that puppy-loving Republican Michael Steele is so desperate to garner votes in the African-American community that he accused Rep. Steny Hoyer of being a racist for saying that Steele "had a career of slavishly supporting the Republican party." I am not making this up, folks. Read about it here. Steele would love to spin this into some kind of "macaca" moment, and Democrats, in their usual obliging way, have already played into that by sending Hoyer out to offer a dutiful apology, but give me a break. Steele's opponent didn't make the allegedly racially insensitive remark, and it's also perfectly obvious in any case that Hoyer intended the secondary meaning of "slavish" (showing no originality; blindly imitative). And, yes, my moms the English professors have taught me all about how intended meanings might not matter as much as the unintended or implied ones, particularly in communicative contexts charged by racial difference. Still, Michael Steele has consistently toed the Republican party line, and this latest manufactured outrage fits into his pattern of trying to position himself as a racial victim in an effort to make himself in effect "more black"--perhaps to distract voters from his class privilege and the ways in which he has benefited from his connections to (mostly white and often insidiously racist) Republicans.

Oops. Did I just rant? Dogs don't rant, do they? Well, maybe a rant is the rhetorical equivalent of sinking one's teeth into a nice juicy bone, so I guess it's okay.

Anyway, rest assured we are not taking anything for granted here at Roxie's World. I know a lot of my devoted fans live in Maryland, where voting on primary day was an absolute chaos, thanks to massive confusion about how to operate the state's new Diebold touch-screen, no-paper-trail machines. For those of you who are worried about the chaos and the uncertainty of the new system, here is where you go to apply for an absentee ballot. You don't need to have a reason to vote absentee, but you do need to apply for a ballot by October 31.

Moose has taken to feeding her election obsession by cruising for polls on a daily (nightly, hourly) basis. Here are some of her favorites:

Rasmussen is a polling company, but a lot of information is available for free on the site. Electoral Vote was set up in 2004 to track electoral votes state by state. The guy who runs it owns up to being a Democrat, but he's also a smart statistician and he only tracks non-partisan polls. Real Clear Politics offers averages of major polls. It's a very deep site that also has a blog and pulls together news and political commentary from all sides.

Happy surfing, kids. Keep the Maalox at hand and the champagne on ice. Fight the good fight, and then, dammit, have a party!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On Diva Worship

Friday nights are special at our house. Usually, my moms make drinks, and we all curl up on the couch and watch Mark Shields and David Brooks rehash the week in politics on The News Hour. They’ll scratch my neck, rub my ears, and shriek at David Brooks’ lame attempts to justify the latest Republican outrage. Moose will do one of her hilarious imitations of moderator Jim Lehrer interrupting the discussion to ask for clarification of some perfectly obvious point. “When you say that the sun will come up tomorrow,” Moose intones, “you are referring to the large orange object in the sky that appears every morning, correct?” Then we all crack up, and Goose tops off the drinks. It’s a perfect way to spend an evening, in my humble opinion.

Last night was different, though. Last night I had the couch all to myself, as Moose and Goose raced downtown for an early dinner and the big Barbra Streisand concert at the arena formerly known as the MCI Center. Goose bought the tickets, which were obscenely expensive (though most of the money, according to Barbra, is going to very politically correct charities) to indulge Moose in her lifelong admiration for the funny girl with the big voice. That generosity is one of the things we love most about our Goose. She is something of a Streisand fan herself, but she bought the tickets mostly for the pleasure of looking over in the dark and seeing her own funny girl mouthing the words and dancing in her seat with misty eyes. She bought them knowing that at some point during the show Moose would reach for her hand in the dark and give it a squeeze, to thank her for making her one of “the luckiest people in the world.”

Diva worship makes us sentimental, doesn’t it? Or maybe diva worship is all about sentimentality: a potent mixture of desire, nostalgia, identification, and the pure seduction of a big voice that can make every lullaby sound like a Broadway show-stopper—and vice versa. Is that bad? Moose doesn’t think so. She’s been a fan of show tunes and the women who belt them out since she was a little kid watching her parents perform in amateur productions of Little Mary Sunshine, The Fantasticks, and Carousel. As a child of the early 60s, she knew all of the Beatles songs by heart, but she spent at least as much time pretending to be Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music as she did stroking an air guitar and wishing she were John, Paul, George, or Ringo. (Well, she never actually wanted to be Ringo. Back then, he was the dorky Beatle.) The highlight of her older sister’s childhood was getting to go to a Beatles concert, but Moose went to see the film version of Funny Girl with her mom and dad and thought she had glimpsed true genius. (It’s important to note that she was nine years old at the time. Her parents probably took her to the Blue Boar Cafeteria in Louisville before the movie. Then, Moose thought the Blue Boar was the height of culinary achievement, so it's possible that her sense of judgment was not particularly refined at this point. Still, the Blue Boar did put out a fine mac and cheese.)

Moose called her mother at intermission to say that she (Moose) could die happy, having just heard Barbra sing “People” live and in person. She felt a goose bump or two during “The Way We Were,” one of her late father’s favorite songs. One of his many excellent song parodies began with a long, poignant “ma-m-m-m-m-m-aries may be beautiful and yet. . . ."

My moms were on cloud 9 when they got home from the show last night. They marveled that Streisand’s voice is still in excellent shape—sultry in the lower range and pure as a bell in the higher. They were pleased that she looks gorgeous and is confident enough to look her age. No starvation diets or plastic surgeries for this sexy sixty-four year old! She even did a funny recurring bit about her appetite in which she talked about stopping off at several well-known Washington restaurants to eat on her way to the National Gallery, which she wound up not reaching because she had to get back to the theater for her pre-performance dinner. Ha-ha. Moose admires a woman with the guts to acknowledge a hearty appetite.

My solitary Friday night left me to wonder: Is lesbian diva worship the same as gay male diva worship, a camp tradition long acknowledged and widely studied? And what does it mean when two middle-aged dykes indulge in worship of a cult figure usually associated with gay men? This isn’t the first time my moms have crossed over into what might be considered gay male terrain. Goose has had a thing for Dolly Parton for years, and Moose used to love a good drag show—and this was long before the days of drag king shows, mind you. Moose and Goose were by no means the only sisters of Sappho in the crowd to see Barbara last night, so perhaps this phenomenon is more widespread than one might think.

Or perhaps it is the nature and the magic of the diva to activate desires across all the silly little boundaries humans have set up around sex and gender identities, orientations, and expressions. Perhaps the diva commands us to see that every girl and every boy is at least a little bit “funny.” And perhaps we like having to see it.

Strike up the band!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When You Close Your Eyes

Tonight in your bed, all safe, warm, and snuggly, with your loyal dog(s) or cat(s) or ferret(s) curled up at your feet, close your eyes and try to imagine. . .the 655,000 Iraqis who have died since the US invasion in 2003 who would not have died otherwise. This is according to a new estimate by a team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists. Try to wrap your mind around that number, a number that surpasses previous estimates by hundreds of thousands. (Read the Washington Post story on the report here.)



I am a dog, not a mathematician, so I can't debate the method by which the epidemiologists arrived at their numbers. My moms the English profs aren't much better at that sort of thing than I am, but still. . .655,000. . .people. . .dead who would not have died if we could have prevented the government of the United States from waging an unprovoked war against a country that did not have weapons of mass destruction, did not aid or abet the 9/11 attacks, and had been contained from attacking its neighbors for more than a decade.

Guilt is in a dog's emotional repertoire. When I've done something bad, I avoid looking my moms in the eyes or I walk in a big circle to stay away from the spot where I tinkled on the floor. And sometimes in my sleep, I'll tremble or make little woofing noises that make my moms think I am having a bad dream. Canine guilt doesn't penetrate that deeply, though. Usually when I'm restless in bed, I either have gas or am picturing myself racing along my trail on a glorious morning when the air is crisp and the leaves are a riot of fall color.

Which is a good thing, because otherwise tonight I might lie in bed and feel haunted by the faces of 655,000 dead strangers who were killed in my name. I might lie awake and stare at my hands and wonder how I will ever get rid of the blood. I might stare at the ceiling for hours and force myself to imagine one--just one--of the 655,000. She had a name, a home, foods she loved, friends who loved her, a set of beliefs, a set of skills, a family, a favorite thing, a pet peeve--or maybe a pet--and I bet she had one useless object she thought was beautiful whether anyone else did or not.

And now she is gone, because the United States of America lit a torch that turned her country into the very fires of Hell.

I am so glad that when I close my eyes tonight I will not have to see her eyes, but what will you see, my poor, sweet, guilty, human, American friend? What will you see--or try desperately not to see--when you close your eyes tonight?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Roxie's Reading: Chester

Okay, fans, we've got something new for you here in Roxie's World today. I know that blog afficionadoes crave novelty, as your restless fingers click from one thing to another quicker than a hungry dog racing from the couch to his supper bowl on steak night. To satisfy your craving, I am offering the first in a series of book reviews, my unique take on literary works related to dogs, dog owners, dog-human love, and a dog's eye view of the world. It is the next logical step in the evolution of my role as cultural maven. My moms the English profs thought it was high time I showed off my book-learning (and my Aunt Faye, the radical militant librarian from Tulsa, has greatly enhanced my collection of Dog Lit recently!), so here we go. First up is a book for young readers that has gotten a lot of attention on The Stephanie Miller Show, because it was written by Stephanie's best friend and is all about Stephanie's late Saint Bernard Chester, who died suddenly in April. (See my heart-breaking memorial tribute to Chester here.) The book is called Chester, the Water-Loving, Pool-Hopping, Salad-Eating, St Bernard Dog, and it's written by Leslie Rockitter. (You can read about the book and purchase it here.) Chester is the heart-warming story of the relationship between a St Bernard pup and a young girl named Allyson, who falls in love with the blue-eyed pup and takes him home despite the fact that her family already has two HUGE dogs (Puffy, a Great Pyrenees, and PooBear, a Newfoundland) and a new baby (Allyson's sister Emily). Allyson's parents miraculously agree to let her keep the latest addition to the family, after half-heartedly opposing the idea and getting Allyson to promise to clean up after the dog and do extra chores. The rest of the story is devoted to Chester's efforts to establish his place in the pack with the pretentious Puffy and the dim-witted PooBear. The book's title telegraphs the story's major plot elements, which involve Chester's fondness for vegetables, his prodigious thirst, and a couple of accidental tumbles into swimming pools. Slowly but surely, he earns not just his place in the pack but in everybody's heart, even that of snooty alpha-dog Puffy.

I give this book Four Paws (out of a possible five) for its sweet story and adorable illustrations. Chester is a fully believable young pup, and Allyson is a plucky girl willing to fight for her heart's desires. We all know how important it is to fight for the creatures and things you love--whether it's a puppy or a friend or a political ideal (such as peace or justice or equality for families). My only criticism of Chester is that it exhibits the unfortunate bias toward large breeds that I have noted in progressive radio goddess Stephanie Miller. Fans of Roxie's World know that I have worked closely with Ms. Miller to address this bigotry, particularly since I assumed my role as Official Dog Blogger to The Stephanie Miller Show. We have made progress in opening Ms. Miller's eyes to the virtues of dogs who don't leave mounds of hair and large buckets of drool behind them. She realizes now that terms like "high-strung" have no place in the vocabularly of a fighter for democratic values and that terms like "busy" and "trembling with the desire for a better world" should replace such stigmatizing language. Chester was written before I had a chance to point out to Ms. Miller the errors in her thinking. Here's hoping a second edition of the book will feature an encounter between Chester and a smart, sleek terrier who might suggest, in a mild British accent, that the next time he is thirsty he should demand that Allyson put out some water in an elegant Waterford bowl, which would be so much more dignified than diving into a swimming pool for a drink.

In the meantime, I am pleased to give Chester Four Paws and a Roxie's World Seal of Approval. Buy it! Read it! Give it to a young reader who loves a dog, wants a dog, or believes that love is a lick on the face that makes everything better.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Dog Wags

I love this Mike Luckovich cartoon. I love the suggestion that even the family pets are abandoning Bush and his maniacal commitment to failed policies. I'm especially pleased, as I'm sure all fans of Roxie's World are, that the cartoon shows a brave little terrier out in the yard by himself carefully crafting the message his stubborn master refuses to see or hear. I like to think that Barney would be my ally in the War on Terriers. He and I have a lot in common, after all. We're both highly photogenic political animals, and we both have a tendency to make some of our letters backwards, no matter how carefully we write. (That's why blogging is such a good medium for me. When Moose types for me, the letters usually come out in the right order and direction. Usually.)

Anyway, I just wanted to share a funny image with my legions of loyal fans. I know a lot of you are worried about the upcoming mid-term elections. You are Democrats, and so you are accustomed to watching your party steal defeat from the jaws of victory. Nonetheless, friends, I think there is cause for optimism, if not for irrational exuberance. Polls are trending our way all over the country, and the Republicans are falling all over themselves in an orgy of ex-Foley-ation that shows no signs of abating any time soon. My moms and I think it's hilarious that the party that has sought to enshrine homophobia into the Constitution of the United States is now trying to claim that sensitivity to gay feelings hindered their efforts to control the behavior of a congressman who couldn't keep his hands off his "send" button. We think Congressman Foley should have heeded the advice of Harry Truman: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

For those in need of an encouraging political word, here's a piece by pollster James Zogby on the October surprises that are, so far at least, spelling good news for Dems. Plus, here's a spot-on commentary on ex-Foley-ation by feminist genius Katha Pollitt. We heart Katha big-time in our household.

Keep the faith, my friends, and if you're worried about how the election is going, then get up off your chair and go do something. Democracy is not a spectator sport.