Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grow Old With Me

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich, New York Times; Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, 2002.)

(Photo Credit: Eric Risberg, AP; Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, 2004.)

The two couples in the photographs above have a lot in common. The partners in each couple share a passion for social justice and have fought hard for a range of causes over many years. They have professional interests in common, too -- acting and directing in the case of Newman and Woodward, writing and editing in the case of Lyon and Martin. Somehow, despite the usual and unusual pressures upon them, both couples built partnerships that managed to endure for more than half a century -- 55 years in the case of Lyon and Martin. Sadly, with Paul Newman's death yesterday, one member of each of these couples is also now a widow. Del Martin died in August, just two months after she and Lyon were the first same-sex couple to be legally wed in California.

You see what I'm getting at, don't you? I've set you up to see the similarity between Joanne Woodward and Phyllis Lyon, women of substance and courage who shared their lives for more than half a century with loving companions and co-conspirators who worked with them to realize the dream of a better world. And now, of course, I want you to pause to consider the differences between the widows Woodward and Lyon. Woodward, who was married in the eyes of the federal government, will be entitled to full Social Security survivor benefits. Lyon, who was married only in the eyes of the state of California, will get nothing from Social Security. Nothing. Yes, it is crazy that benefits are tied to marriage, and we should work our tails off to de-link the two in the long run, but in the short run we need to think about the widow Lyon and the profound injustice of the states and federal government refusing to recognize and equitably treat a marriage licensed in one state. We've been down this road before. It's a dead end. Justice demands that Joanne and Phyllis be viewed as the same in the eyes of the law.

Truth be told, there is more on our minds here than justice for the widow Lyon. Truth be told, we were reflecting on the melancholy topics of queer age, death, survival, and (in)security for several days before Paul Newman's passing -- which we sincerely mourn -- gave us an occasion to point out the inequities of queer bereavement. As you know, we lost a good friend in Roxie's World last week, which is still weighing on our hearts and perhaps causing us to ruminate more than usual. A couple of other friends have lost elderly parents after long, painful illnesses or slow declines in the past year, so we've been thinking a lot about caretaking and the delicate renegotiation of relationships (with parents, partners, and siblings) that occurs as parents and adult children age. There have been other changes in Roxie's World recently -- new babies, new jobs, sudden moves to the other side of the country, separations of various kinds. Sometimes lately Moose has felt a little bit like Dorothy standing wide-eyed in Oz, marveling, "My! People come and go so quickly here!" She and Goose have joked that they are the still points in the universe, but stillness, she knows, is relative. The ground is always shifting, the future always uncertain.

In this pensive mood, Moose came across a Newsweek article on the unique needs and challenges of the growing population of LGBT senior citizens. It's a wonderful, if not especially happy-making, article supplemented by videos of interviews with feisty queers coping with the physical, emotional, social, and economic challenges of growing old gay. (H/T to SAGE, the nation's oldest service and advocacy organization for LGBT elders, for helping Newsweek with this project.) The report cites fairly grim statistics suggesting that LGBT seniors, in addition to facing discrimination in medical and social services, are more likely to live alone, more likely to be uninsured, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker than their heterosexual counterparts. Here's the problem in a nutshell:

"In many ways, this population is a mirror opposite of what the mainstream aging community looks like," says Karen Taylor, director of advocacy and training for the New York-based Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, or SAGE. . . . "The average senior in the United States lives with one other person; two-thirds of LGBT seniors live alone. If you don't have those informal support networks built into your life, then everything else becomes a bigger issue. Who forces you to go to the doctor? What happens if you fall?"

What happens if you fall? In the post-Stonewall period, queers have been amazingly resourceful at building support networks, communities of care, and models of intimacy that in some ways mimic heterosexual models of marriage and family and in other ways radically re-imagine them. Such bold re-imaginings helped to re-shape sex and gender identities and were crucial to surviving the devastations of the early years of HIV/AIDS. As queers of the baby-boomer generation move into their senior years, one hopes that those networks of support, those extended but fluid circuits of alliance, friendship, and love will be durable enough to answer the question, What happens if you fall? As Moose was pondering such questions while trying to fall asleep the other night, she suddenly declared to a weary Goose, "We should have had a daughter!" When Goose finally figured out what she was getting at, she replied, "Don't be ridiculous. Not every daughter wants or should have to take care of her mother. I refuse to worry about this right now, and neither should you. We will figure out what to do when the time comes. Goodnight."

"She's probably right," Moose thought, as she drifted off to sleep. "We've been making it up as we went along for twenty-five years, and so far everything has turned out all right. There is something to be said for improvisation. I just hope someone will be there to catch Phyllis Lyon if she falls."

Here's the song we were humming while we were thinking through these issues, which is why we borrowed its title for this post. John Lennon wrote it, Mary Chapin Carpenter performs it, and the video is a fairly cheesy celebration of somebody's 40th wedding anniversary. Just close your eyes, and listen to Carpenter's beautiful vocal:

And, yes, beloveds, we know full well that the pretty boys and smart girls of Roxie's World will take care of us in our dotage. We feel you out there in the night, every night, and we know your strong, capable arms will be there to catch us if we fall, just as ours will be there for you. Peace out.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pre-Debate Pub Crawl


There is enormous relief at Ishmael's, the seedy yet cozy bar around the corner from the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC, over the news that Republican John McCain has relented on his threat to bail out of tonight's scheduled presidential debate if there wasn't an agreement on the plan to force American taxpayers to rescue the irresponsible fat cats in the financial industry who seem intent on bringing you Great Depression 2.0. Fortunately, after yesterday's big confab at the White House, where McCain spent 40 minutes saying not much of anything, the Republican nominee awoke from his nap and realized he was running for president. He announced this afternoon that sufficient progress had been made in the negotiations to allow him to tear himself away from the cesspool of Washington and participate in the debate after all.

Ishmael's proprietor Peter Coffin is relieved because he recently pulled down some of the grimy old oil paintings (fishing scenes, mostly) that for decades had adorned the walls of his place and installed a bank of gleaming new plasma TVs as part of his effort to bring in a more up-scale clientèle. He was planning to debut the TVs tonight in a big debate watch with a Hawaiian-themed happy hour -- a clever marketing device and an homage, of course, to Barack Obama's birthplace. (You'll recall that Peter had an Alaska-themed happy hour a couple of weeks ago, in tribute to GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Peter is a fair-and-balanced kind of guy, and Ishmael's is a cheerfully post-partisan establishment. No matter who takes office in January, 2009, Peter will be ready from Day One to take their money and keep them drunk.)

(Image Credit:

So the debate is on, and Peter is behind the bar, checking on his supplies of rum, curaçao, pineapple juice, and strawberries, hoping he'll be moving a steady stream of Blue Hawaiis and Lava Flows all evening long. He had to take out a second mortgage on the place to finance the TVs, and he has a hunch Congress won't be willing to come to his rescue should his happy-hour plan not succeed.

As Peter works and worries, the new TVs flicker with an assortment of images. Conveniently, they are tuned to different channels, and each shows a different story Roxie's World has managed to overlook in the course of a busy week. Luckily for us, our faithful readers have been tuned in and sending us a steady stream of gentle suggestions, most of which boil down to, "WTF, Roxie? Why aren't you paying attention to this?" We hear you, people, and we appreciate your noses for news. Let's take a look at Peter's big TVs, 'kay?

You are correct, Roxie Fan and Dudley's Human, we somehow managed to miss the metamorphosis of CNN's Campbell Brown into the feistiest chick in American political journalism. Let's call her Femme Non-PhD to distinguish her from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, still known in these precincts as Butch PhD, even if we are grievously disappointed by what we've seen of Maddow's new star vehicle of a show. So far, Maddow is proving to be as in the tank for the Democratic nominee as all the boys on MSNBC, which has made their recent political analysis worth about as much as a share of Washington Mutual. Meantime, Brown has been offering political commentaries that are crisp, incisive, and edgy without being mean. They are a refreshing alternative to the unilluminating ravings of MSNBC's overly righteous and under-medicated Keith Olbermann. Take a listen to Brown going after the McCain campaign for keeping Sarah Palin away from the press. She rightly calls such protectionism sexist and demands that the campaign "free Palin" and allow her to stand on her own to face the scrutiny such a high-level candidate deserves:

You go, Alma Dale! We like the spunk and the smarts.

On the next screen, we've got a clip of Diane Schroer, the transgender woman who recently prevailed in a sex discrimination suit against the Library of Congress, which rescinded a job offer to Schroer after learning that she was transitioning from being a man to a woman. Schroer is a retired Army colonel and former special forces commander who specialized in tracking international terrorists but was denied a position as a terrorism research analyst with the LOC's Congressional Research Service. She won earlier this week in federal court, and Congressman Barney Frank, in his latest act of contrition for betraying the trans community in last year's battle over ENDA, immediately wrote to the Library urging it not to appeal the judge's decision. (H/T to a beloved Homo Librarian who works deep in the bowels of the federal government and keeps us up to date on what's happening on the Hill.)

Congratulations and a rousing chorus of "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman" to Schroer, who tells her story in this video by the ACLU, which represented her in her suit:

Oh, and speaking of Barney Frank, let's pretend that we have video of him getting off the best line of this busy week, apropos of McCain's decision to suspend campaigning because of the financial crisis. Frank said of the move, "It's the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys." Oh, Barn, we love it when you go all camp on us! (H/T to T'Other Homo Victorianist, who feeds us even if he doesn't read us.)

Finally, because happy hour is fast approaching, and Peter thinks a music video will warm up the early birds, here's something else our pal Dudley sent our way, a very goofy song on the defenders of marriage by funny man Roy Zimmerman. We recommend it because we are in awe of anyone who can find a way to work a line like "two people who want to provide a protected and nurturing family environment" into a song. We'll have to see if we can get Zimmerman to join in our next game of Palintology. Betcha this guy could write one heckuva Palin-ode:

That's it for now, kids. We've still got a bunch of stuff in the mailbag, so don't get all hurt if we didn't work yours in here. Not everything is suitable for a Friday afternoon happy hour post, but the weekend has just begun. Settle down on this barstool right next to us, and order yourself some Coconut Shrimp to go with that Lava Flow Peter just sat down in front of you. C'mon, gentle readers. You know the Friday rule of Roxie's World: Belly up to the bar -- It's five o'clock somewhere. Bottoms up!

Update: We're not the only ones planning to drink our way through tonight's debate. Check out these excellent rules for a presidential debate drinking game, picked up on Feministe by way of our blog pal the Red Queen. Here's a teaser, just to give you a sense of the game:
  • Every time someone mentions “hope” or “change,” drink.
  • Drink double every time the mention of “change” comes from McCain.
  • For every mention of “my fellow Americans,” drink.
  • Every time the candidate steers away from the question asked to highlight his own talking points (we call that a Palin), drink twice.
  • For every mention of “Main Street,” drink.
Feel free to add rules of your own. Our suggestion? Every time someone makes a positive reference to George W. Bush, take a huge drink, because it may be your last chance!

Monday, September 22, 2008

On Still Not Endorsing Obama

Every time we think we ought to just give up and endorse Barack Obama for president, along comes another roadblock, another stick in our craw, another clear piece of evidence that his commitment to some of the issues that matter to us is, shall we say, wobbly.

Today's bit of evidence? Douglas Kmiec, Pepperdine University law professor (yep, Ken Starr is still dean there -- Many blessings to you, too, Ken!) and former legal counsel to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. We learn by way of Tom Tallis on Pam's House Blend today that Kmiec, a staunchly anti-choice and anti-marriage equality Catholic who has endorsed Obama, will be featured as one of the "top faith surrogates" in Obama's "Faith, Family, and Values Tour" being launched next week in battleground states.

Look, folks, we get the whole big-tent thing and the idea that politicians have to prostitute themselves -- oops! I mean, um -- appeal to voters with deep, contradictory feelings on a range of issues, but at some point the spectacle becomes too tortured and sickening to endure. At the very least, such unholy alliances undermine Obama's scary-spooky argument to vagina-equipped and same-sex loving voters that He is the only thing standing between them and the legal reign of terror that would be ushered in by a McCain/Palin administration.

Just what the heck is wrong with Kmiec? Let us count a couple of ways. For starters, in a May column for Catholic Online, Kmiec justifies his support for Obama in part on the grounds that McCain's opposition to abortion is not really a pro-life stance but a pro-federalism stance that isn't really all that different from Obama's putatively pro-choice stance -- which Kmiec assures his Catholic readers is not really all that pro-choice because of Obama's emphasis on personal responsibility and on reducing the number of abortions. Seriously, kids, we are not making this up. Go read Kmiec for yourself! He argues that the only genuinely pro-life position would be one rooted in "the natural law presuppositions in the Declaration of Independence." As Kmiec helpfully explains:
As I see it, the “self-evident truths” of the Declaration have interpretative significance for the meaning of “life” and “person” in the constitutional text -- and that meaning makes life unalienable, which means each life from conception is unique and worthy of constitutional protection.

Were Senator McCain to be of the same mind, he would be pro-life. As it is, he and the GOP are pro-federalism, which is not a bad thing, but frankly, at this late date, insufficient.

Thus, as I see it, it is a choice between two less than sufficient courses . . . .
Um, 'scuse me, Senator Obama, I know I'm just a deaf old dog and everything, but, um, is that the way you see it? Sir? Natural law?

Then, because that just wasn't creepy enough, Kmiec argued in June in the San Francisco Chronicle in support of the ballot initiative aimed at overturning same-sex marriage in California. His reasoning here makes the natural law argument of the earlier piece seem positively progressive. Read these three paragraphs, and tell me again why Barack Obama is the best friend the gay community ever had:

Beyond correcting the court's disregard of the separation of powers, insisting upon preserving the link between marriage and procreation: 1) promotes the orderly continuation of the species; 2) avoids the uncertainties of single-gender effects on children (most parents readily recognize the distinctive contributions of male and female in child rearing); and 3) takes respectful account of the difficulties of accommodating religious freedom that arise subsequent to the legal acceptance of same-sex marriage. Oddly, and incompletely, the California Supreme Court managed to ignore these important issues in its 170-plus page opinion.

The proponents of same-sex marriage insist that inventing gay and lesbian marriage harms no one, but the above concerns suggest otherwise. Moreover, it overlooks the national and global decline in fertility, which threatens the economies of Europe and contributes to the weakness of our own. To say, as its advocates do, that the availability of same-sex marriage is not the principal cause of this decline in terms of absolute numbers is a fair point, but giving state approval to non-procreative marriage cannot be denied as a contributing cause to the decline of families with natural children.

Separating marriage from procreation may also have other remote, but frightening, ill consequences. Society should be skeptical of wider use of asexual procreation. An earlier dark moment in U.S. history employed eugenics to forcibly sterilize the mentally disabled. The push for artificial wombs and the genetic manipulation of intelligence already peppers scientific literature - a push that would no doubt grow, accommodating even the minimal same-sex desire for simulating natural child birth - claimed to be of interest for 20-30 percent of same-sex couples. When carefully assessed, the acquisition of unnatural reproductive means often advances the interests of the very affluent through a libertarian exercise that would threaten all hope of democratic equality.

We don't vote on the basis of anatomy or sexuality here in Roxie's World, and we don't hold a candidate responsible for every word that every supporter or surrogate has ever thought, said, or published. Nonetheless, we think it's fair to question a candidate whose support on fundamental legal and social issues is so mealy-mouthed that he will publicly ally himself with someone who compares non-traditional families to state-enforced eugenics programs! Politics may make strange bedfellows, but Obama/Kmiec is just a little too strange for our comfort. Sorry, kids, the Swiss flag still flies in Roxie's World. Peace out.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Remembering Jean

Today we mourn the passing of one of the official Bonus Moms of Roxie’s World, our dear friend and Aunt Katie’s actual mom, Jean King. She died yesterday morning after a long battle with spinal stenosis. Jean was 87 years old, a widow and mother of two who served as a Navy nurse in World War II and lived for many years in Japan, Thailand, Turkey, and in numerous places in the U.S. while her husband, an Army colonel, did tours of duty in Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand. Jean moved to Washington in 1998 to be closer to Katie, who tended faithfully and with great compassion to her mother through several surgeries and the challenges of managing the pain of her illness on a daily basis. Our hearts go out to Aunt Katie and her brother Ed as they adjust to life without their vivacious, fun-loving mom.

We have many fond memories of Jean in Roxie’s World. Most of them involve the pleasures of eating, drinking, and lively conversation, activities Jean enjoyed with gusto. She had a hearty laugh and eyes that could light up a room. She loved a stiff drink and a good story and was as happy to hear one as she was to tell one. She was a shrewd judge of character who recognized pretension from a mile away and appreciated a job well done whether the job was big and important or small and humble. Her pride in the accomplishments of her daughter and her friends was palpable and fierce. She was a feminist by nature and a Democrat by common sense.

For years, we kept a bottle of pepper-infused Stoli on hand so that we could offer what Goose called a Jeanie Martini (pepper vodka, a jalapeno-stuffed olive, and a faint trace of vermouth) should the King women happen to stop by, which they often did when Jean was still ambulatory. Jean had a place of honor at many holiday gatherings at our house. She was especially fond of the New Year’s Eve dinner parties the moms threw and admired Moose’s commitment to serving lobster and champagne on such occasions because she agreed that the new year should begin on a note of elegance and extravagance. She would stay at the table for hours happily engaged in conversation with a shifting cast of characters – lawyers, profs, kids, writers, rebels, grad students, gadflies, under-employed ex-chefs incredibly skilled in the art of plating lobsters. Months after such a gathering, Jean would ask after one of her dinner companions. She had an impressive knack for recalling the details of people’s stories. “How’s so-and-so doing?” she would say. “I was worried about that horrible job she was in.”

As the years went by and Jean’s debility increased, we saw less of her in Roxie’s World but treasured our moments together all the more. A favorite memory from the last few years was a Mother’s Day luncheon we had on a splendid, sun-drenched afternoon in 2005. It was a simple meal of grilled shrimp, salad, and sourdough bread, but Jean relished each bite as if it were the most sublime delicacy on earth and praised the cooks to the skies. We ended the feast with a few minutes out on the deck, enjoying the sun. In photographs of the occasion, Jean’s cheeks are gaunt, but her eyes are bright with pleasure. She may have been a shadow of her former self, but even the shadow of such a soul looms large and beautiful and leaves sorrow in its wake when it passes.

Godspeed, sweet friend, and may your journey’s next steps be free of pain. We miss your company, honor your courage, and raise a glass to your great, good spirit – an elegant glass, crystal with a sturdy blue stem, filled with something strong and spicy and fine. And, finally, we send out a song to console ourselves and all who are left trying to remember:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Say Something Nice

We like this ad:

It's exactly the kind of thing Obama needs to be doing in the midst of an epic meltdown in the financial markets. Simplify the set. Strip out the fancy graphics. Drop the preacher's voice. Look right at the camera, and let people know that you are hearing them, taking it in, and prepared to respond. Except for the hopey-changey crap near the end about unity and getting past bitter partisan fights, we wholeheartedly approve this message. We loves us some bitter partisan fights, kids, and we want our Dems to be ready to rumble from Day One.

Oh, and check out this strat memo thoughtfully prepared for Obama by battle-scarred Dem William Galston. It is excellent. Our favorite passage?

This is not about you alone; it's a matter of political responsibility. Millions of Americans have invested their hopes and dreams in you, and you owe it to them to campaign effectively, which isn't happening right now. Yes, the McCain campaign is replete with exaggerations, evasions, and outright fabrications. It's your responsibility to defeat them, not complain about them. If this means listening to advice you don't want to hear, and getting out of the "comfort zone," so be it.

Like we said: Take off the gloves, dude.

This post certified Palineologism-free, but we can't resist dropping in a tasty morsel of Paliniana (oh, oops -- accidental Palineologism!) that dropped into our in-box today, even if everyone else in the world has already seen it:

We are still not making an endorsement of Obama/Boredom, but the havoc in the financial markets is a sobering reminder that it probably wouldn't be a good idea to give Republicans four more years to wreak economic destruction. (But remember our current, official position on the presidential election: If you live in a swing state, vote early, vote often, and vote Democratic.) Mostly, though, we felt like giving a little bit of mid-week love to all the Obamaniacs in our pack. We hope the latest Times/CBS poll is relieving some of your recent stress. Y'all are good dogs, too, and Roxie's World hearts every single one of you. Peace out.

P.S. To the person or persons who finally succeeded in getting us hooked on Project Runway: Thank dog Joe can finally go home and spend more time with his kids! We were over his straight-guy-among-the-fashion-queens act weeks ago. Sayonara, sucker. But, seriously, folks, can we talk about the truly nasty ageist comments directed at the moms featured in tonight's episode? I tell you, it was almost enough to get the aging bitches in this house up off the couch in indignation. Almost.

Monday, September 15, 2008


We're trying to quit, I swear, and we don't keep harping on this Sarah Palin thing because we are even remotely considering voting for her. We are not. I swear, though we are not responsible for the Moosians and Goosians from sea to shining sea or even in the swing state of Michigan. We're just fascinated in an arm-chair, scholarly kind of way -- as observers of the culture, deconstructors of the zeitgeist, pickers of nits -- with the whole mad tsunami of Sarah. I mean, normally women have to be young, blond, and kidnapped or murdered to come in for this kind of attention, don't they? And here we've got this moose-huntin', marathon-runnin', Bible-thumpin' mother of five standing on the threshold of American history, and the country just can't seem to get enough of her. Gives you Goose-bumps, doesn't it? Or Moose-bumps? Maybe a little Roxie-bump or two?

Frankly, it's mostly giving us a little burning in the back of our throats, and yet, this morning, Moose found herself walking across the campus of Queer the Turtle U., on her way to her 11:00 lecture course, when her mind should have been filled with deep professorial thoughts aimed at inspiring and enlightening the 200 eager young scholars she was about to see, still casting about for Palin-related neologisms that no one else has used. (You know how highly we value originality here in Roxie's World, don't you?) "Palinomics!" she accidentally said out loud, as three students on skateboards swerved to avoid her on the sidewalk. "That's what we could call Palin's proposed solution to the financial crisis, such as it's likely to be." (A Google search later revealed she'd already been beaten to the punch on that one.) She walked on, trying to re-focus on the morning's lecture on women, madness, and creativity, but thoughts of Suddenly Sarah kept bumping "The Yellow Wallpaper" off her radar screen. "Hey, how about Palinomacy as a term for her unique, Alaska-inflected foreign policy views? I loved that stuff in the Gibson interview about being able to see Russia from land in Alaska." She paused on the sidewalk to shift her backpack, weighted down by The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, to a higher position on her shoulder. "Except I don't want to do one of those snarky, elitist attacks on the state-school educated rube from the provinces. Hell, that's what I am." (On the other hand, a Google search turns up no previous references to Palinomacy, so we do hereby claim it for Roxie's World. We'll come up with a non-snarky definition later.)

The true "Eureka!" moment on Moose's morning stroll was when the genius term Palinoscopy exploded in her brain as a way of describing all the scrutiny being aimed at vagina-equipped voters and commentators over Palin's unexpected nomination. "But surely you're not thinking of voting for her!" is the most common form of the Palinoscopy, though a variation includes the self-inflicted version of the test being performed by feminists who find much to admire in Palin's chutzpah and style but much to deplore in her politics. A great (and deeply insightful) example of the latter form is in a piece Rebecca Traister published last week in Salon, "Zombie Feminists of the RNC." Best line in a really smart analysis of what is genuinely troubling about Palin?

What Palin so seductively represents . . . is a form of feminine power that is utterly digestible to those who have no intellectual or political use for actual women. It's like some dystopian future ... feminism without any feminists.

(Emphasis added, and H/T to Eitan for pointing us toward Traister's piece. Oh, and we are sorry to report that the term "Palinoscopy" is not original with us. Alas.)

By the time Moose got to class, she was back to thinking that Palin isn't just a joke, no matter how much she and the hoo-ha around her have made us laugh in the last few weeks. You know how it goes sometimes around here: Sometimes we laugh so we don't have to cry about the madness and the meanness and the bitter disappointments of what passes for politics in the US of A these days. We laugh, and we try to get a snicker or two out of those of you who are kind enough to stop by this place, because absurdity loves company, and you are some of the best company we know. So here's one more little Palin-related joke to help you giggle through the nightmares. Click on the vid (which we picked up by way of Mustang Bobby on Shakesville), and know that your laughter echoes through all of Roxie's World:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tina & Amy for Prez

As ordained and foretold by dog in Roxie's World a couple of weeks ago, here are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on last night's season premier of Saturday Night Live doing Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. The pair are making a joint appearance before the nation to denounce sexism in media coverage of the campaign. It is, without a doubt, the funniest thing SNL has done since Darrell Hammond and Molly Shannon were doing (Bill) Clinton and Monica Lewinsky back in the 90s. Fey has a little trouble finding Palin's accent in the beginning, but once she does it's pitch-perfect. Poehler's Clinton is, from start to finish, sheer genius. Wait for the moment when she rips a piece of wood off the edge of the podium in response to Palin's banal suggestion that, "Anyone can be president -- All you have to do is want it."

Go on. Watch the vid. Get your day started with a soul-cleansing belly laugh. Just make sure you are wearing a Depends before you hit that play button.

Friday, September 12, 2008


We’re gearing up for another Friday happy hour at Ishmael’s, the seedy yet cozy bar right around the corner from the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC. Alaska is on the menu at Ishmael’s today, because barkeep Peter Coffin has decided to capitalize on the whole Sarah Palin phenomenon in hopes of bringing in a more up-scale clientele. The bloggers, profs, and grad students who tend to hang out here drink the cheap stuff and seem to think “tipping” is a city in China, if you’ll pardon a little bartender’s humor. Anyway, today’s half-price drink is the Alaska Martini, a potent mix of gin, chartreuse, and orange bitters guaranteed to take the chill off a cold northern night. Appetizer specials include Bering Sea Shrimp, Alaskan King Crab Tempura, and – Mark Twain’s personal favorite – Mexican Moose Dip, a hearty concoction of moose burger, Velveeta cheese, onions, and salsa.

So grab a stool, place your order, and join in the fun as the denizens of Ishmael’s launch a brand new bar game aimed at gauging the cosmic significance of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s stratospheric rise to the top of the American political scene. What are the cultural, literary, and linguistic consequences of such a sudden emergence? The game is called Palintology, and our crack team of lit critters and assorted other readers of the zeitgeist is ready to play. Object of the game? To amuse ourselves until we’re too drunk to care that Democrats seem poised, once again, to steal defeat from the jaws of victory in a presidential election. The game begins, appropriately, with the sound of a high-powered rifle shot that qta downloaded to his laptop. BOOM! And away we go!

Something new in the culture of course requires a new lexicon. Roxie's World has already added "palin-dromes" to the new word order, and with this post we offer up "palintology" for your consideration as well. Additionally, however, Moose and Mark Twain have labored hard this week, as reports of shifting poll numbers and hysteria among Dems mounted, to come up with a word that conveys the full-on freak-out unleashed by the rise of Sister Sarah. Here's the word they came up with:

palination: N. paroxysms of indignation, befuddlement, and wounded vanity as the faux-gressive bloggerboyz, Dem strategists, and liberal media whores (see, for example, big-shouldered Donna Brazile on CNN Wednesday night) absorb the shock of seeing Senator Barack Obama’s lead disappear as Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin transforms the landscape of the 2008 presidential campaign. Symptoms include gnashing of teeth, anxious second-guessing of vaunted Obama team's wisdom and strategy, and vicious denunciation of any vagina-equipped voter who utters the name "Sarah Pailin" without immediately denouncing her as an anti-feminist cretin who will destroy everything Hillary Clinton stood for. See also cross-palination: the process by which Republicans who saw no sexism in media treatments of Senator Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign suddenly see it everywhere in the treatment of Gov. Palin. Palin herself, who accused Clinton of whining during the primary battle and now benefits from the GOP assault on the media, is a fine example of cross-palination in action.

A new cultural phenomenon also produces new literary forms -- or revitalized versions of old forms. Or that's what the English profs 'round here say. And thus we have the palin-ode. (Click on that link if you don't know what a palinode is. Trust us -- It will heighten the pleasure of what you're about to read.) (H/T to Candy Man, the official prosody consultant to Roxie's World.) Two examples will illustrate the form:

Palin-ode I, by John McCain

How do you beat the bitch? Some asked
I answered them with laughter
And now the bitch the Dems can’t beat
Is mine forever after!

Palin-ode II, by Barack Obama

Sarah Palin’s not a pig
And I did not imply it
But if I had I guarantee
I’d hasten to deny it.

Jokes and other forms of humor also always accompany the emergence of a new cultural force, and Sarah Pailin has earned deserved praise for her skill with a quip. Roxie's World has some pretty decent quippers on staff, though, and we think we've come up with a better joke than the one that has earned the chick gov such acclaim. We offer it up to all those Dems whose cages have been rattling ever since Palin came on the scene:

Q: What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?
A: If a pit bull scares you, you can have it killed.

Pass it on, kids. We don't get paid for this stuff, so the least you can do is help us to achieve some fleeting glory on the internets.

We'll end with a couple of funny cartoons, passed along to us by a newly naturalized citizen of Roxie's World who shall be known in these precincts as GlassPen until such time as we get to know her better and can come up with something of our very own. Thanks for adding to the collection of, um, Paliniana, GlassPen, and thanks for entering our world. There's a free drink waiting for you right here at Ishmael's. Happy weekend, everybody.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Later

(Photo Credit: Bill O'leary, The Washington Post; the recently completed memorial to the 184 people killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 is the nation's first 9/11 memorial.)

For Moose, Sept. 11, 2001 was a flurry of phone calls, the first of which came in from the Mother of All Moosians at around 9:15, as Moose lingered over the morning paper and a second cup of coffee. (She had been on campus late the night before, teaching a grad seminar.) "Well, I guess you know what happened," her mom said when she picked up the phone. "Apparently I don't," Moose replied. "What are you talking about?" The MoAM told her to turn on the television. She did and watched in horror as smoke filled the cerulean skies of Manhattan. She and her mom were still on the phone when reports of a jet plowing into the Pentagon were first broadcast. "Mom, I have to go," Moose said abruptly, seized by a sudden panic. "I have to find Goose." Goose had gone to campus for an 8 a.m. meeting that day. Moose's first impulse when she realized something terrible was unfolding so close to home was to find her, reach her, get her back safe to the house.

Moose spent the next 16 hours in her bathrobe, glued to the television and the telephone. A neighbor who worked downtown called in worried about her daughter at school in the suburbs. And to report that she could see the Pentagon in flames from her office. A friend from Oslo called, her usually restrained Nordic voice filled with emotion. "Europe is with you," she told Moose. "We are watching, and we are with you." Something about that call -- those words, that small, intimate acknowledgment of the global significance of what was happening, got to Moose, momentarily unhinging her. When her younger sister phoned in from Michigan a few minutes later, all she could do was cry and say, "What am I supposed to do? I feel like World War III is breaking out, and it's already five miles from my house." "I know," her sister comfortingly replied, "I know." It was all that could have been said.

Goose didn't get home until late in the afternoon, ordered to stay on campus by the authorities at Queer the Turtle U., who sensibly decided it wouldn't be wise to send all the grown-ups home and leave the students alone on campus. She and Moose were on the phone when office workers were leaping out of windows in the World Trade Center. They were still talking when the first of the towers fell. "What do you mean, the tower is falling?" Goose said, unable to imagine such a thing could happen.

But it did. Seven years later, Roxie's World pauses to remember that the unimaginable can happen on an achingly beautiful autumn morning. The world can change in an instant. Individual lives can be lost, shattered, or merely transformed. And all you can say is, "I know."

Be safe, beloveds. Remember that dog is with you, today and every day. Peace out.

Monday, September 08, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around

Lambert said it, not us, so if it upsets you, don't shoot the messenger, 'kay? Just think about it, as you ponder all those new polls released today and continue to gnash your teeth over what Dems should do between now and Nov. 4:
[I]f it’s legitimate to vote for Obama as a blow against racism, regardless of his policies, then it’s equally legitimate to vote for Palin as a blow against sexism, regardless of her policies. And if it’s legitimate to vote for Obama because of his compelling life story, then it’s equally legitimate to vote for Palin because of her compelling life story. And if it’s legitimate to vote for Obama because he’s charismatic and gives a good speech, then it’s equally legitimate to vote for Palin because she’s charismatic and gives a good speech. And if it’s legitimate to vote for Obama because he’s a media darling, then it’s equally legitimate to vote for Palin if she becomes a media darling. And since the post-partisan schtick can only mean that there’s no intrinsic difference between D and R, that means all the candidates are equally legitimate, so why vote for one as opposed to the other? Eh?

All back to the original sins of the primary, I’d say.

Hm-m-m. Funny, that's what we'd say, too. And the former comp teachers in the house give Lambert an A+ for arguing a point through extremely effective use of the material conditional. Oh, and a 5-point bonus for the nifty bit of recursion there at the end. Well done.

(Image Credit: Real Clear Politics)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sarah Palin's FUNdamentalism

(Photo Credit: Al Grillo, Associated Press, via Washington Post, 9/7/08; Alaska Governor Sarah Palin rides with her husband, Todd, to the starting line of the Iron Dog snowmobile race in February 2007.)

Could you in your wildest dreams have imagined that anyone or anything could come along and suck the political oxygen away from Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign? Be honest. Could you? Did you? Do you? If you are a Democrat and you're still answering no to those questions, then you'd better wake up. De-nial, as they say, is not just a river, but you'd better hope somebody in the party of Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry has a strong paddle to help navigate the suddenly roiling waters of campaign '08.

Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown (by way of Anglachel) gets what has happened to the race since John McCain selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running-mate, and he is sounding the alarms for Democrats:

Palin's speech to the GOP National Convention on Wednesday has set it up so that the Republicans are now on offense and Democrats are on defense. And we don't do well on defense.

Suddenly, Palin and John McCain are the mavericks and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the status quo, in a year when you don't want to be seen as defending the status quo.

From taxes to oil drilling, Democrats are now going to have to start explaining their positions.

Whenever you start having to explain things, you're on defense.

I actually went back and watched Palin's speech a second time. I didn't go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. I had to make sure I got the lines right.

Her timing was exquisite. She didn't linger with applause, but instead launched into line after line of attack, slipping the knives in with every smile and joke.

And she delivered it like she was just BS-ing on the street with the meter maid.

She didn't have to prove she was "of the people." She really is the people.

It's true that not everyone in Roxie's World appreciated how effective Palin's convention speech was while we were watching it Wednesday night (okay, Goose, you were right and we were wrong), but we felt all along that Palin was a cagey pick whose political skills and value to the McCain campaign should not be underestimated. We also felt that the "progressive" blogosphere and the media's ganging up on the candidate and her family over the pregnancy of 17-year-old Bristol was a mistake that would end up generating sympathy for the Palins and do damage to Obama, no matter how much he tried to distance himself from the stone-throwers. As of today, Obama's post-convention bounce has disappeared, and polls show the race pretty much dead even. We rest our case.

Sarah Palin is a problem for Democrats for all kinds of reasons. Her presence on the ticket is a constant reminder of the proven vote-getter whom Barack Obama passed over for the second spot on his ticket, Senator Hillary Clinton. McCain's surprise pick also, as many observers have noted, gives him an opening to voters hungry for change in this election. Suddenly, the old geezer in the race offers his own version of the iPhone: a fresh and undeniably pretty face, a promise of bipartisan reform, an opportunity for voters to make history by putting a woman into the executive branch. The Republican brand, which five minutes ago seemed as stale as month-old bread, now seems new again, almost even hip. (Note that we said seems, people, not is. This is a game of appearances and perceptions, not realities.)

But here is something we think Dems are missing about Sarah Palin and a sizable chunk of voters to whom she is likely to appeal. Secular Democrats have a caricature of evangelical Christians in their heads as grim, repressive naysayers who spend their lives tuning out the obscenities of the modern world and working frantically to assure that nobody anywhere ever has any fun. They are mean, punitive, ignorant, intolerant. They homeschool their kids, wear drab clothes, and imagine that dinosaurs and Jesus roamed the earth together. Such pinched, sober individuals and faith communities no doubt exist, but the hip, sunny face of postmodern fundamentalism presented by the Palin family is clearly not anomalous. The chick gov and her hunky first dude are the cool Christians next door -- the attractive, fun couple who look like they are ready and waiting for Annie Leibovitz to show up and take their photo for the cover of Vanity Fair and who likely won't show up at the neighborhood potluck with a Pyrex dish full of day-glo Jello. They may go to prayer meetings on Wednesday night, but it's easy to imagine they race home to be on the couch in time for Project Runway. Their faith is not an oppressive force that keeps them remote from the world but a source of deep pleasure and consolation that helps them make their way through it. "Shit happens," we say in secular-ville. "Sin happens," say many contemporary fundies. Either way, it's not that big a deal. Smile. Carry on. Stand up for and with your family. No scarlet letters necessary, thank you.

George Lakoff has written brilliantly on the Palin selection because he understands what many Dems still do not -- that Gov. Palin and her large, telegenic, imperfect yet seemingly happy family are the embodiment of what Lakoff has termed "bi-conceptualism." (The concept is mapped out in detail in an excerpt from Lakoff's 2006 book, Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision.) The concept gets at the mixture of conservative and progressive modes of thought and systems of value that are at the heart of conservative populism the Republican party has been successfully deploying since Ronald Reagan to win over especially working-class voters. As Lakoff puts it in his piece on Palin:
A great many working-class folks are what I call "bi-conceptual," that is, they are split between conservative and progressive modes of thought. Conservative on patriotism and certain social and family issues, which they have been led to see as "moral," progressive in loving the land, living in communities of care, and practical kitchen table issues like mortgages, health care, wages, retirement, and so on.

Conservative theorists won them over in two ways: inventing and promulgating the idea of "liberal elite" and focusing campaigns on social and family issues. They have been doing this for many years and have changed a lot of brains through repetition. Palin will appeal strongly to conservative populists, attacking Obama and Biden as pointy-headed, tax-and-spend, latte liberals. The tactic is to divert attention from difficult realities to powerful symbolism.

Lakoff's advice to Dems is to focus on realities without overlooking the important domain of the cognitive and the symbolic. They have to appeal to voters' sense of values, and to do that they need to understand the complex and seemingly contradictory admixture of values operating in voters' minds all across the political spectrum. In our judgment, the most damaging moment of Gov. Palin's speech the other night for Democrats was when she lambasted Obama for an April incident that has come to be known as "Bittergate":

in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.

We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.

Democrats may deplore the fact that large swaths of voters can be taken in by the crude antithesis of Scranton and San Francisco, but it remains a devastatingly effective way to portray Democratic candidates as elite, effete, and scornful of "mainstream" mores and values. Palin's populism appeals not only to Republican base voters who would probably never vote Democratic but also to more middle-of-the-road voters who distrust any whiff of hypocrisy and condescension. Such distrust is as American as apple pie, and Democrats can't ignore it or complain that it isn't fair. They have to dislodge the perception or counter it with another, more powerful perception aimed, perhaps, at pointing out the more consequential hypocrisy of a party that has repeatedly sold out working people through economic policies that have systematically redistributed wealth upwards. Palin's FUN-damentalism might then look a whole lot less fun to voters, but it remains to be seen if Barack Obama can change the game yet again and get his offense back out on the field. He better hurry, because, right now, Sarah-cuda is having the time of her life out there, and time is running out.

Friday, September 05, 2008

It's Five O'Clock Somewhere

. . .and we've had a long, interesting week in Roxie's World. Let's cut our afternoon classes and repair immediately to Ishmael's, the seedy yet cozy bar right around the corner from the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC, and have ourselves a couple of tall ones. Mark Twain and Moose are already there, fighting over who gets the last of the fried mozzarella sticks. Goose will be over as soon as she finishes her latest scholarly article of earth-shattering importance. Historiann and Eitan are huddled together in a booth at the back, having a quiet conversation about communications strategy for the home stretch of the presidential campaign. I'm curled up on my special spot right by the fireplace, where an old dog goes to get warm on even the hottest afternoon.

C'mon now, kids -- Join us! We can talk about old times -- You remember -- the good old days before Dems were kicking the crap out of each other in the most bruising primary fight in recorded history, back when Republicans were the source of all pain and evil in the universe. We can dream together about the better world we are all trying to build -- You know, the one with universal health care, free tampons, a sane environmental policy, and peace everlasting. Oh, and dogs allowed in restaurants everywhere, not just in France.

Belly up to the bar, kids. Half-price specials on the deconstructed martini for grad students. What's that, you ask? A shot of vodka with a bowl of olives on the side, or, as the moms like to call it, "dinner."

Sit down here next to us, and tell us what's on your minds. You know dogs and bartenders are the greatest listeners in the world.

Oh, and if you can't join us right away, amuse yourself with this brilliant bit from Jon Stewart, who revels in the irony of Republicans having realized that their deck has a gender card in it after all:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


This post has nothing to do with that title, though I suppose if we were clever and not so tired we could come up with three or four examples of palindromic rhetoric or logic in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's big speech at the Republican convention. But the truth is it just popped into our minds and struck us as inordinately clever, so we decided to throw it up before anybody else had a chance to use it. We own it, okay? And here in the Ownership Society that means something, so don't use it or we'll shoot!

We already shot our wad on the speech in a comment we left over at Historiann's open thread. Moose thinks Todd Palin is a hot slice of sub-Arctic butch. Goose is smitten with 7-year-old Piper, though we think that's just some Fairness Doctrine thing -- a reaction to having gotten smitten with Sasha Obama last week. They respectfully disagree with Melissa McEwan's assertion that the Palin/Tina Fey comparison is an insult to both women. Watching Palin at the podium, doing the whole "Yeah, I'm sexy but I could whip your ass and I'm smarter than you are, too" thing, the resemblance was inescapable. We felt as if we were already watching the parody SNL will do on its season premier in a couple of weeks. The speech itself? Eh. A few good digs at the Precious, but our number crunchers estimate that the Hockey Mom for Veep meme has about four minutes of shelf life left. Goose had a more generous assessment, but Moose and the political division are now predicting an Obama landslide.

What did y'all think about the speech? You were so eloquent and, um, loquacious on the subject of the stoning of Bristol Palin that we figure we'll just open things up and let you rip.

While you're formulating your opening gambits, here's a pants-wetting vid from JibJab. It feels seasonally appropriate, and it performs the valuable public service of making fun of Obama in a way that we think will have even his most devoted fans giggling. Just so you know, we giggled at the part about Bill and the cigar, and you know how sensitive we Clintonistas are to cigar jokes. Enjoy, children:

(With thanks to a long-time friend of Roxie's World, who passed the vid along. We do hereby declare her the Purr-fect Medievalist. Meow, baby.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pistol-Whipping Bristol

(Photo Credit: The Scarlet Letter [1926], with Lillian Gish, via imdb.)

You have no idea how little business we have posting this evening. Classes start at Queer the Turtle U. tomorrow. Moose has an important meeting at 9 a.m. The syllabus still isn't done. The pencils are not sharpened and all lined up in the new cigar box. The bologna sandwiches have not been made. And we're reluctant to bump down the post about Basic Rights Montgomery, because we're still hoping a lot of you will step up to the plate and help save transgender protections here in our ridiculously large backyard. (Remember: Moose's fundraising deadline is Friday. Scroll down and read that post, 'kay? And let us know if you decide to contribute. Thanks!)

Anyway, so we shouldn't be posting, but we are, because in between working on their ten million unfinished tasks the moms couldn't help but tune in to what strikes them as the insane and in many places cruel reaction to the news that presumptive Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant. We realize that the left is entitled to gloat when any of the self-appointed vice cops of the right is caught in some compromising sexual shenanigan, but are we comfortable exploiting the mistake (if that is what it was) of a 17-year-old kid whom none of us had heard of three days ago? Does that really feel fair? Does that make us feel good about our grown-up, sexually progressive selves? As we glanced around the blogosphere today and saw all the gleeful jokes made at the Palin family's expense, we had one thought, a thought no doubt inspired by the back-to-school moment in which we find ourselves:

What if Bristol Palin were your student?

What if she stumbled into your office late on a Tuesday afternoon, the day before a paper was due, and asked you for an extension? You might slip into stern, schoolteacher mode for a minute and ask her why, at this late date, you should afford her such munificence. You begin your speech about being fair to all the other students in the class -- and Bristol bursts into tears, right there, across the desk from you, when you are eager to pack up and go because you have to stop at the grocery store on the way home. Chicken or fish? you were thinking to yourself when the earnest brunette came to your door, and now, suddenly, you must contend with a weeping young woman who cannot finish her paper. What do you do?

Roxie's World has a hunch you would not mock her. You wouldn't make jokes about her dubious morals and the embarrassment she caused her family. You wouldn't berate her either or lecture her about the decision she had made or the pressure she was feeling. No, we think we know what you would do. You would do what good teachers from time immemorial have done. You would forget about the chicken and the fish, push aside the papers you had been trying to organize, hand Bristol a Kleenex -- and you would listen, kindly, patiently, and without judgment. You would show her empathy, treat her with compassion, and work with her to formulate a strategy for finishing her assignment. She would leave your office 30 minutes later with dry eyes, and you would order a pizza for dinner. Because, face to face with her, you would care about Bristol Palin.

Can you imagine that?

(For more on the Bristol brouhaha, see, as always, Melissa McEwan, in The Guardian, and Zuzu over at Shakesville. There's been a lot of other stuff on this today, but we honestly don't have time to do the linking. Oh, and this post isn't aimed at any particular person or piece we ran across. It is really aimed at a sort of general chortling on the left that made us profoundly uncomfortable. We think such carrying on is politically risky because of the likelihood that it will offend and alienate pretty much anyone who has ever parented, taught, known, or been a 17-year-old kid. Quite a few votes in that cohort, eh? And, for the record, Obama said exactly the right thing.)