Monday, September 28, 2009

CA Walkout Postgame Show

Sorry to be late to the party on this topic, kids, but my typist was out trying to earn her hiker badge this weekend. (Old dog yawns, rolls eyes, and mutters, "So, when does the book-writing begin, eh?") Our tardiness enables us to point you straightaway to a link to Chris Newfield's wonderful roundup of coverage of the walkouts throughout the University of California system, held last Thursday to protest massive budget cuts, furloughs, and fee increases. Chris's excellent research means that we can move immediately to the question of the hour, which, obviously, is:

Would you buy anything this guy is selling?

(Photo Credit: Jason Madara, New York Times)

Oh, and I do have a follow-up question:

What exactly is this guy selling?

"This guy," of course, is University of California president Mark Yudof, who gave an interview to the New York Times' Deborah Solomon that was published (online) on the day of the walkouts and has had jaws dropping all over the country ever since. In the course of 15 rapid-fire exchanges, Yudof comes across as a stunningly insensitive leader whose response to every question is either a wisecrack or a callous shoulder shrug. Asked if he blames California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the system's funding crisis, Yudof quickly says no. What then?
This is a long-term secular trend across the entire country. Higher education is being squeezed out. It’s systemic. We have an aging population nationally. We have a lot of concern, as we should, with health care.
Okie-dokie, sir. Not much you can do about that, I s'pose. And what does the chief pitchman for what many would consider to be the crown jewel of the nation's public higher education system think of the product he is supposed to be selling -- i.e., higher ed?
The shine is off of it. It’s really a question of being crowded out by other priorities.
Wow. Paging Don Draper. Don, we got to get our shine back! Can you help?

With friends like this, people, higher education needs no enemies. And what does Mr. Softy think about furloughs, which sparked the battle over shared governance that led to the walkouts? (Yudof overruled faculty senates on all 10 UC campuses, which had voted to allow faculty to take some portion of their 26 furlough days on instructional days to demonstrate the impact such cuts would have on every aspect of the universities' work.) Solomon describes "furloughs" as a "buzzword," to which Yudof replies:
Let me tell you why we used it. The faculty said “furlough” sounds more temporary than “salary cut,” and being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening. I listen to them.
There are many people under you, but no one is listening -- Get it? Oh, man, this guy just kills, doesn't he?


(Click on that play button, kids. You'll be glad you did.)

I see then, Mr. Yudof. So it's burial plots and coffins you are selling for the dead enterprise of higher education. Thanks so much for explaining that! Much obliged to you, sir. These guys have a little bit of a head start on you in the coffin biz, so you might want to check them out, but I'm sure there are a couple of geniuses left at Berkeley who can help you catch up. Good luck!

Seriously, folks, we appreciate that it ain't easy being in the higher echelons of university administration these days and that the funding problem is in fact part of a much deeper political problem whose origins are way off campus. Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine a less sympathetic or effective advocate than Mark Yudof manages to be in this interview. It makes you root for the people all over California last week who were shouting, "Lay off Yudof!" Hell, it makes you root for the group, based at UC Santa Cruz, that is calling for ongoing disruptions to operations on campus in the service of launching an all-out war on the status quo. Go read this group's bracing "Communiqué from an Absent Future." Ironically, like Yudof, the communiqué's authors speak of higher ed as a dead letter office. ("Incongruous architecture, the ghosts of vanished ideals, the vista of a dead future: these are the remains of the university," states the funereal preamble to this call to arms. Go read the whole thing. It is a long but extraordinary document.)

Really, kids? Is that what it's come to? Nothing left to do but dig a hole, say a prayer, and dive into the Jell-o molds the church ladies have prepared for the wake? You know that we are committed glass half-fullers here in Roxie's World. We are not ready to declare that the ghost has been given up, and we're not sure occupying campus buildings is the way to go (though if Mark Yudof were the funeral director at our school we might be ready to take that step). For us, last week's actions in California and the signs of discontent we have sensed developing elsewhere in response to slice-and-dice budgeting in states across the country have engendered a series of questions we invite our readers to ponder:
  • What would effective advocacy for higher education look and sound like?
  • From where or whom should it come?
  • How is it that such intelligent people have by and large failed to this point to communicate effectively the value of what they do to the broader public and to state leaders who control the purse strings?
There are a million other questions, but it's late afternoon in the East and my mountain-time typist needs to get her walk in so that she can get to today's reading. Let us know your thoughts on the crisis in higher ed. How does it feel to be, you know, dead? Peace out!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ways of Seeing

Serious Question of the Day from Moose on the Loose: Did Georgia O'Keeffe teach me to see the Southwest this way, or is this "just" the way it looks?

Why does my eye always go to these points where sky and adobe meet, beneath a strong sun, adding shadow into the dramatic mix of color, shape, and texture? I know that looking is never innocent, that every gaze is stuck in history, and I am just another white tourist passing through this place searching for salvation or another silver bracelet to add to the collection. But it isn't merely history or consumerism that stops my eye when it encounters one of these amazing contiguities. My visual vocabulary isn't sufficient to describe the power there is for me in an aesthetic that so carefully situates culture in relation to nature and manages to "feel" both representational and abstract. O'Keeffe didn't invent that aesthetic. It was deeply rooted in New Mexico when she first visited in 1929. (The building in the photos above was built in 1917, but its style is rooted in pueblo architecture that was hundreds of years old when it was built.) So neither she nor I stand outside of history, but I wonder if she wasn't drawn here by something similar to what has drawn me back again and again -- some quality of light, air, color, and sky that arrests the eye, the breath, that makes you imagine that time itself might stop, for a moment -- until you blink and realize the shadow on the wall is longer than it was before. I wonder.

Sky Project: Update

Moose posted this shot of Friday's sunset to Facebook last night, but here it is, for the benefit of readers who are too cool or too busy (Goose!) for FB. This was taken with the humble iPhone. She tried similar shots tonight with her Canon, figuring they'd be better, but she ended up liking the deep blue of last night's sky better. (Insert icon of dog rolling eyes here. Suddenly, somebody thinks she's Annie freakin' Leibovitz!)

(Photo Credits: Moose on the Loose, undisclosed location, 9/26 and 9/25/09.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Sky Last Night

Snarky Question of the Day from Moose on the Loose: So, what'd you see out your back window last night?

(Photo Credits: Moose on the Loose, undisclosed location, 9/23/09)

A truly serious photoblogger -- you know, like this one -- would have the discipline to choose one Image of the Day (or Night) and post that, but Moose is a rank amateur, so she's enlisting all of you to help out on her project to capture the sky above her undisclosed location. Let us know which of these pictures you like the best -- and we'll, well, we don't know exactly what we'll do, really, beyond being grateful, as always, for your support. Isn't that enough?

She's proud of these shots because she had to race back to her borrowed home in order to get them -- and learned in the process that she officially knows the way! Mother Nature deserves most of the credit for whatever beauty made their way into the pictures, Moose's chief skill as a photographer being a willingness to just keep pointing and shooting. Ever the student, though, she needs a grade -- so tell her how you think the project is going so far.

Oh, and for the literarily inclined, here's a rather too obvious poem to go along with the pics. What the heck -- We had to throw some bone to our long neglected Department of 19th-Century Poetry and Rock 'n Roll, don't you think? (Note to Goose: Please insert dashes and other punctuation marks. We couldn't find a decent version online.)

Ten points if you can guess the poet:
Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple
Leaping like Leopards to the Sky
Then at the feet of the old Horizon
Laying her spotted Face to die
Stooping as low as the Otter's Window
Touching the Roof and tinting the Barn
Kissing her Bonnet to the Meadow
And the Juggler of Day is gone
Moose says she's not leaving her undisclosed location until she manages to capture that "leaping like leopards" quality of the sunsets. Oh, boy, kids, it's going to be a long autumn! Hang in there with us, will you? Peace out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CA Walkout Pregame Show

The fall quarter begins tomorrow in the University of California system, and the tenured radicals of Roxie's World are waiting with bated breath to see how the planned walkout by faculty, staff, and students will go. The images below, which were picked up on Facebook and are used with permission but without attribution, suggest that the troops will be armed with messages about the UC's budget priorities and processes that are sharp, clear, and visually appealing. The mighty small-D democrats 'round here are particularly pleased with the slogan, "If I wanted to go to a private school, I would have been born in a rich family." Indeed.

Hungry for info? Here's a buffet of links for you to graze:
  • UC Faculty Walkout blog -- Important background materials and list of famous endorsers here.
  • Remaking the University -- UC Santa Barbara's Chris Newfield's indispensable blog on the California crisis. Those of you in similar situations should be sure to look at Newfield's 2-page Q&A on the UC system budget. It takes an English prof to speak budget in terms that make sense. Just sayin'.
  • Why We're Walking Out -- A statement by UC Davis grad students and lecturers that cogently and eloquently articulates the rationale for the walkout. This was posted on Facebook -- Don't know if those of you who are too cool for FB will be able to access or not. Just one more reason for you to drop your utterly futile resistance to the funnest thing since Twister.
  • Chronicle of Higher Ed article on the mistrust that has developed between UC system administrators and the faculty -- Access by sub only. Sorry.
  • Sac Bee story on the "naked rally" that was held at UC Davis today to, um, arouse interest in tomorrow's walkout -- The story is trying to get a bead on how large the action is likely to be. It notes that 1,100 of the system's 19,400 faculty have signed an online pledge to participate.
As we note in the sidebar, this is our fight, too. This is everyone's fight, assuming you believe that in the 21st century a strong, accessible system of public higher education is essential to the nation's economy and its democracy -- and everybody in Roxie's World believes that, don't you? Tomorrow, we are all Californians, and tomorrow, our hearts and paws will be raised with those of our comrades in the Golden State. Be safe, be strong, be united, be clear. Justice is on your side.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

(Not) Walking the Line

(Photo Credit: Moose, on her iPhone, undisclosed location, 9/22/09)

Today's High-Altitude Sabbatical Meditation,
from Moose on the Loose:

I've always walked the line, more or less, though my family might not agree that the line they put me on was supposed to end up in godless academic dyke-dom. (Oops -- Sorry, Mom!) Nonetheless, true to my German blood and my middle-class upbringing, I've been a rule-follower, a hoop-jumper, a pretty good girl -- foul mouth and penchant for sarcasm notwithstanding. Even the way I've structured this temporary escape from my ordinary (and wonderful!) life betrays a preference for order over uncertainty: I didn't just jump in the car and go. I joined AAA for the first time in my life and followed my Trip Tik as if it were the Ten Commandments. I knew exactly where I was going, and I went there, precisely as I was told to go. Precisely.

And yet.

But also.

There is a powerful way in which this whole journey, this brief time that I've given myself in a world so far away and different from the one I usually inhabit is all about not walking certain kinds of lines, at least for awhile anyway. Perhaps a brief professional story will help to explain why this feels so deeply necessary to me right now.

A couple of years ago, I was on a roundtable at the MLA convention on institutionalizing LGBT and queer studies, building spaces inside the academy for fostering the study of sexual minorities and sex/gender variation. The panel was called "We're Used to It," and I positioned myself as the "battle-scarred yet stubbornly idealistic" administrator, owing to my role as director of one of the country's few free-standing programs in LGBT Studies. I was honored to appear on the panel and happy to pass along whatever words of wisdom I had picked up along the way. My stance was clear-eyed and pragmatic, as befit someone who at that point had already spent nearly 15 years helping to establish and then to run a degree-granting program in a Research 1 institution. In my remarks, I engaged with a brilliant (and not hostile) critique of the kind of work I had been doing by sociologist Rod Ferguson, who had just published a short piece in Radical History Review called "Administering Sexuality; or, The Will to Institutionality." I accepted and agreed with Ferguson's Foucauldian critique, which focused on the kinds of changes a mode of difference undergoes within administrative contexts. Among his many provocative questions was one in particular that made me squirm a little in my ergonomically correct office chair as I read it:
What contortions does sexuality, in particular, suffer while passing through institutional realms?
My position was -- and is -- that we should be mindful of the risks of institutionalization -- its tendency, for example, to neutralize what Ferguson calls the "ruptural possibilities" of sexuality and other modes of difference -- and use that awareness to try to assure that the programs we build reflect as much as possible our values, commitments, and political visions. Such programs, I insisted, are worth having as a means of assuring the survival of the queer knowledge we were all working to bring into being. I ended on an upbeat note by offering the audience a few examples of how I felt queer agency had survived and even thrived within the context of my own neoliberal, corporate, administrative university.

And yet.

But also.

On the morning walks I've been taking out here in my undisclosed location, I have found myself thinking a lot about that panel, Ferguson's article, and the downside, for me, of having gotten perhaps a little too "used to it" -- and by "it" I mean an academic administrative culture that feels more and more at odds with the values and commitments that led me to choose a career in public higher education. I won't go over the litany of complaints about the funding crisis and worse than useless accountability exercises, because most readers of this blog are already painfully familiar with them. I am more interested right now in the psychic and political costs of a generation of academics having habituated themselves to this kind of work life. We've all gotten "used to" systematic incursions on our freedom as scholars and teachers, on a culture of reporting that is really a culture of surveillance. Our workloads have increased while our salaries have stagnated or declined. And now, with states all over the country refusing to raise taxes in order to preserve their already appallingly low levels of support for higher education, we are getting "used to" draconian cuts that for all intents and purposes will end public higher education in the United States. Having gotten "used to" so much that is in so many ways unbearable, what, I wonder, will we do now?

Yesterday, out on my walk, as the glorious dry desert air filled my lungs, I spontaneously said aloud (yeah, I talk to myself -- it's a lot like blogging), "I feel as if I am recovering from an illness I didn't even know I had." Perhaps the illness was simply burnout, the understandable result of having deferred my sabbatical for a little too long. Or perhaps it was the illness of having gotten"used to" things that were making my very soul sick. Perhaps it was the illness of walking too many lines that I should have crossed or blurred or forcibly erased.

In any case, here, now, today, I am working hard to get unused to conditions that ought to be acknowledged, resisted, and changed. I am not, for once in my life, walking the line -- and let me tell you, friends, it feels good.

But I still really, truly love this song, which I send out to Goose, for letting me go. Peace out, rebels.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Apparently, ye olden times weren't always brimming with public politeness either, at least not according to the funny guys at xkcd (via Eric at The Edge of the American West):

Just a wee bit of historical context for the goody-goodies over at the Civility Project to consider, ya know. By the way, are y'all ready to take the civility pledge --
  • I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
  • I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
  • I will stand against incivility when I see it.
or can you just go on behaving pretty decently without doing something that will make an old dog get an icky burning sensation in the back of her throat? I thought so. Thanks so much for your cooperation. Y'all are the sweetest bunch of little Do-Bees on dog's earth.

Peace out, and have a pleasant Monday.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Out of Status

There's still serious blogging going on in the world, kids. If that's what you're in the market for, head on over to Historiann's place. She's got a great post up today on how race does -- and does not -- explain the resistance to Obama's policy proposals. This is an insightful intersectional analysis, much more satisfying than the silly all (Herbert) or nothing (Brooks) garbage that has been in the press of late. Ditto Anglachel, who rarely posts these days but has a good one up on how Dems, such as former President Jimmy Carter, keep the Southern strategy alive by focusing on race and racism as the source of all opposition and refusing to engage substantively and politically with resistance to what they (Dems) see as their more enlightened policies.

In another corner of the blogosphere, GayProf offers a dazzling contribution to our series (even though he doesn't, technically, know us), Excellence Without Money: Hard Times in Higher Ed. He's got a long, brilliant list of suggestions for how to cope with the increased scrutiny faculty are facing over class size as universities look to increase their economies of scale, as someone said to Moose in a meeting shortly before she fled the Eastern seaboard. Among our favorite ideas for making sure that students enroll in your classes and stay in them? We're keen on the idea of bar service in classes that start after 1 p.m., as long as the bar is open to instructors, too, but we are especially impressed with GayProf's efforts to exploit the tools of social networking in order to appeal to today's students. He'll consider an updated Facebook status line as the equivalent of attending class, for example, and, instead of final papers, he's going to let students Tweet their ideas about U.S. history. Now, that is some serious pedagogical innovation for these troubled times of ours, my friends! We'll mark that post with the official Excellence Without Money seal of approval.

Meantime, here in Roxie's World, my typist is still in a state of loopy bliss that makes it difficult for her to concentrate on the serious topics that typically absorb our attention around here. We don't know if it's the altitude or the sabbatical, but she's refusing to type anything that has to do with health care or the official QTU furlough policy, which was just announced today. Heck, we couldn't even get her to weigh in on how well Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman played in the Mystics' playoff loss to the Indiana Fever the other night! (Newsflash: Mystics just lost again to the Fever, in overtime, 81-74, to be eliminated from the playoffs. Boohoo.) All we get from her is a lot of hooey about how amazing it is to breathe a different air, see a different sky, walk a different path. What's wrong with the old path, I wonder? I like our trail just fine!

To try to get a clearer sense of what's going on with our prodigal typist and to pass that sense along to you, our passionately curious readers, we've enlisted the aid of a special team of (non)digital forensic experts to dig into the hard drive of Moose's brain and see what's in there right now. They're a bunch of high-level geeks, armed with what we might call, in homage to a pal and colleague, Kirschenbats, ready to flush out the truth. So far, their most intriguing find is a series of rejected Facebook status lines Moose came up with during her journey across the country and in the first few days of her stay at her undisclosed location. Here they are, in no particular order. Take a look at them. Let us know if you think we need to send the guys in white coats out to her undisclosed location to pick her up. Frankly, I am a little concerned.

Moose on the Loose:
Rejected Facebook Status Lines

Moose has settled the debate: If the universe had been intelligently designed, Oklahoma would have been much, much smaller. Think about it.

Moose cannot decide if, at the moment, she is Thelma without Louise, Lucy without Ricky, Lucy without Ethel, Bogey without Bacall, Gertrude without Alice, Hepburn without Tracy -- or vice versa. In her darkest moments, she fears she may be Fred without Ethel.

Moose has become that weird woman, dining alone, trying discreetly to take photographs of her food. You know, like this:

(Photo Credit: Moose, on her iPhone, undisclosed location, 9/19/09. What's the dish, which she neglected to photograph before she dove into it [which explains the jalapeno with the end bitten off]? Molcajete al pastor, which Moose loosely translates to, why Dog invented pork. Click here for a review of the restaurant and a description of this delicious dish, but only if you are not deeply invested in the fantasy of Moose's undisclosed location. You have been warned.)

Moose wonders if that is what coyote poop looks like.

Moose has looked at clouds from both sides now. Rather than illusions, she sees what appears to be a map of Africa, sliding slowly toward her from the mountains. It is one of the most sublimely beautiful things she has ever seen.

Moose is getting desert nose. 'Nuf said.

Moose now realizes that Rodgers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone," from Carousel (1945), is in fact a brilliant prolepsis of the existential condition of the iPhone user.

Moose moves quietly in her borrowed home, trying to intuit the rhythms and the ways of life there, slowly getting the feel of an unfamiliar space, full of gratitude for the generosity of friends.

Moose takes pretty good food pictures but feels defeated by the sky. She cannot capture it. Paging Ansel Adams! Ansel Adams, come in, please! Or Kate Flint. ;-)

* * *

So, what do you think, kids? Is it time to call in the mental-health professionals? Time to cut off her access to the internets? Time to tell her to get a grip, grab a pen, and start drafting the Big Whoop-de-doo Book on Blogging That Will Save the Humanities, Get Her Promoted, and Perhaps Attract the Attention of Nora Ephron? Like I said, we report, you decide. A gold-plated Kirschenbat (trademark RW Enterprises, LLC) to anyone who can make any sense at all of Moose's rejected status lines. Get out your secret decoder rings, and start crackin'!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend Treats

Eye Candy for the Day:

(Photo Credit: Moose, on her iPhone, exploring her undisclosed location, 9/18/09)

Word for the Day: SKYPE! Please don't tell us this free, miraculous techno-toy is a way of gathering information for creepy, capitalist purposes, if that is in fact the case. We don't care! Goose and I got to see Moose in her undisclosed location last night (and this afternoon and will again tonight . . . ), and she got to see US right here in Roxie's World! They keep making jokes about The Jetsons, and I keep going, "Wait, is Moose gone or what? What the heck is going on here?" What a world, what a world.

Thought for the Day (from Moose on the Loose): Academics, and especially humanists, need to stop being so sheepish about being able to take sabbaticals. From one perspective, yes, time away from teaching and service is both a privilege and a luxury, but such time is also essential to other vitally important aspects of our work: recharging intellectual batteries, exploring new scholarly terrain, immersing ourselves in reading, writing, and research. All of that will make us better teachers and happier, more productive members of our campus communities. Is it our fault that other professions don't regularly afford such breaks from routine? No. Rather than being sheepish, perhaps we should try to imagine a world in which such opportunities would be more broadly available -- and not just for professionals and creative types, but for everyone. Yeah, pie in the sky, I know, but such happy thoughts are possible to a girl getting a long overdue break. Gotta go, kids. It's time to explore one of the fine dining options available here in Sabbatical Land. Peace out!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama Talks Turtle

(Photo Credit: We'll tell ya later, when we've asked permission to use this image, taken by a Terp, at the Comcast Center, 9/17/09)

Extremely Brief Update on Moose on the Loose: She and her well-traveled tee-shirt made it to their undisclosed location early this afternoon and have settled in for several weeks of, you know, reading, writing, and thinking -- which is so vastly different from her usual routine that I am sure you can all understand why she had to drive 1877 miles in order to do it!

Forget about her. The big news in Roxie's World today is that Goose went to hear President Obama speak at the big rally for health care reform held at Queer the Turtle U this morning -- and has written up the adventure as her first ever guest post for Roxie's World! Fine, Moose, you go ahead and go. We can get by just fine without you -- even if you are, through the miracle of the internets, typing and editing this, with Goose's permission, to make it funnier.

Wa Po story on the president's visit is here. Photo gallery on the event is here. But who needs the Posties when we've got our own gal reporter in the house? Here without further ado is Goose's report on the President's totally Terpalicious morning! (Oh, in what follows Goose inexplicably refers to QTU by its non-blogospheric identity, but since this was a public event we'll let it go, though we vastly prefer QTU ourselves.)

President Obama in Terpland:
A Goose’s Eye View

Having decided that I was not going to venture onto campus today, because I knew that the President’s visit to our basketball arena to “fire up” supporters for health care reform would make traffic a nightmare, I quickly lost my resolve to work from home when I was offered a VIP pass (which meant no, or not much, standing in line and the chance to hang out with some cool administrators). So by 9:00 a.m. I was on campus and walking with my colleagues over to the Shrine for Mighty Terp Basketball (aka the Comcast Center in College Park). (Brief aside here: the Prez had to negotiate around the Washington Mystics game against Indiana this evening, being played in the Shrine, and so had a late morning rally rather than one this evening. You see, Basketball Rules in Terpland! -- but, of course, readers of Roxie's World know that!)

First thing I saw coming up to the arena was a passel of Obamaniacal volunteers, and I just grinned to myself. All were polite, clearly very excited, and had their presidential volunteer tags on. Then I saw some not-so-amusing demonstrators. Almost all were dressed as various versions of the grim reaper and were performing little skits in which they would take turns dying as the one who was dressed as Obama would select that one for the death chamber. The one chosen to die would scream and fall over, and the one chosen to live would giddily laugh and thank “Obama.” The spectacle was silly and sickening in its ignorance, but this is a free country and they weren’t hurting anyone except their uninformed selves. I was surprised that these demonstrators were all young—college age, in fact. There were also the “pro-life” anti-choice nutbars with their grotesque photos of dead fetuses, but I’m almost immune to their insults of “baby killer” by now. Oh, and there was one lone Lyndon LaRouche guy, of course.

Inside the arena, we “VIPs” were like a bunch of Keystone cops running around trying to find our designated area. The plan had changed from having us down on the floor to putting us up in some suites, and that was just fine with me. Folks on the floor looked hot and sweaty and we were comfortably sipping our water and chatting amongst ourselves as we waited for the Prez and the Maryland dignitaries—the mighty Senator Barbara Mikulski in her wheelchair (having busted her ankle back in the summer, during that weird period when every powerful woman in America seemed to be breaking something); the mighty Senator Ben Cardin; Moose & Goose’s dependable Rep. Chris Van Hollen; and the wonderful Rep. Donna Edwards. Oh, and did I mention our very cute but gutless Governor Martin O’Malley who refuses to raise taxes, refuses to explain what taxes can do for the commonwealth, and refuses to support queer households like ours in any kind of full-throated way? (Sounds like a lot of other Democrats, doesn't he?) But I digress.

A young man who was probably 8 years old or so was across the way and so cute that the jumbotron found him and focused on him dancing dancing dancing and throwing back his head to yell O-BAM-A. The air was festive, the Maryland band was its superb self, and it was a great time to catch up with colleagues outside of conference rooms, etc. We knew the main event was about to begin when we saw our (UM’s) president Dan Mote, his wife Patsy, and two of the biggest donors Maryland has known emerge from one of the tunnels. Then the Mighty Terp Marching Band, all decked out in their gorgeous caped regalia, started “Hail to the Chief” and we were OFF! I must admit that NOT wanting to burst into “Hail to the Thief” alone was very moving for me. The President came out coatless, sporting a beautiful red tie and a crisp white shirt. . .with his sleeves rolled up. He charmed the students by calling our feared turtle by his/her proper name—Testudo—and by saying he just might go rub Testudo’s nose for good luck (a student ritual during finals and other monumental occasions). I liked that he ignored the protester who was screaming his head off unintelligibly for a minute or so. I liked that he highly recommended the public option (though he didn’t insist upon it). I liked that he was funny and that he called us Terps.

What would I LOVE from President Obama? I would love for him to explain to the citizens of our country what taxes are for—health care, roads, schools, food and shelter for the poor—and not be afraid to insist that they be raised. But today it was very fine to host him at the University of Maryland and to see all of those young Terps with so much energy and enthusiasm. C’mon, Democrats—act like DEMOCRATS and stop letting the Republicans frame and control the discussion.

And, as one of my colleagues from Engineering just wrote, "Obama should hire that young adorable man" who made us laugh with his unabashed enthusiasm and joy. May he never know hope as a word only. We are what we do, and, as the President said today, channeling Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton (yes), affordable, excellent health care for all is a moral issue.

* * *

Thank you, Goose!
Not bad for a first timer, but, yeah, you gotta work on that funny thing. Perhaps we'll bring Mark Twain in to give you some tips. In any case, it's good to know we'll have fresh content while Moose is out getting her chakras balanced or whatever the heck it is she is doing. Stay tuned, kids -- Roxie's World is open for business! Peace out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

God Bless Texas

(Photo Credit: Moose, on her iPhone, Amarillo, TX, 9/16/09)

Moose, as you know, is on the loose, but we caught up with her this evening through the miracle of Roxie Cam (trademark RW Enterprises, LLC) and found her tucking into a nice filet and an ice cold bottle of Lone Star to reward herself for 544 miles on the road today, putting her just 280 easy miles short of her undisclosed destination. Livin' on the road, my friend, is gonna keep you free and clean . . . .

Day 3 finds her relaxed and happy and still sporting her 1969 tee-shirt. She hesitated about wearing it to dinner, thinking it might not go over well with the good old boys of west Texas, especially after she drove by the most spectacularly gynormous roadside cross she had ever seen on the outskirts of town. (Technically, she saw a very similar cross yesterday in Missouri, but they are tied in her mind as the most spectacularly gynormous roadside crosses ever seen.) She knew, however, that she couldn't disappoint me and my legions of loyal fans who are eagerly following the adventures of her and her provocative tee-shirt as they make their way across America, 2009. I mean, hell, she said to herself, what if Julie Powell had just decided to skip the execrable aspics in Mastering the Art of French Cooking? You don't cheat on a blog project, and you don't bail out on your readers!

She wore the shirt to the spectacularly gynormous Texas steak house down the road from the close-to-the-interstate Holiday Inn Express where she is staying. (Unsolicited commercial endorsement: Holiday Inn Express is clean, comfy, and affordable. Free breakfast and a small but well-equipped fitness room for working out those post-drive kinks.) She is pleased to report that she was exceptionally well-treated by everyone she encountered, including the trio of Texas musicians who wandered through the restaurant taking requests and chatting up the patrons. They came to Moose's table and stood right behind her, staring, she imagined, at "The Year of Gay Liberation" on the back of her shirt while doing a commendable "Orange Blossom Special" and "Rocky Top" for the couple from Tennessee seated next to her. Moose bounced her head along in time to the music as she ate her salad, being constitutionally incapable of not doing something in time to music. She wondered if they would stop and talk to her. To her delight, they did. Asked what she would like to hear, she immediately replied, "Some Bob Wills?" hoping it would up her Texas cred. "Sure!" the guitarist said, seemingly impressed. "Anything in particular?" Busted, Moose thought, unable to come up with a title. "You pick," she said, and the band launched into "Take Me Back to Tulsa." Moose sang along on the chorus, between bites of salad. When she confessed to being from Washington in the post-song chat, they jokingly asked if she was a politician. "No, no," she replied, "a teacher." (Which is really just a concise way of saying, "tenured radical and full-time lesbo indoctrinating America's children in the evils of heteropatriarchy," dontcha know.) The bass player asked what she taught. "English," she said, which usually elicits howls of, "Oh, my grammar is terrible!" Happily, though, the bass player said that he had actually minored in English and majored in journalism at the school formerly known as West Texas State. "Wonderful!" Moose replied, as the band moved on to the next table.

Newsflash: People are being nice to a middle-aged woman driving across the country in a shirt that promotes GAY LIBERATION! Does this mean:

a) that people don't read tee-shirts,
b) that people are too polite to say anything but are silently consigning her to hell,
c) that the idea of gay liberation is now wholly unremarkable, or
d) that the large group of motorcyclists in the restaurant wearing odd green caps that made Moose think they were a bunch of extremely butch leprechauns was just vastly more fascinating than one boring old broad in a shirt?

Whaddyathink, kids? We report. You decide. Peace out, and happy trails.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Moose on the Loose

(Check comments for something like an update on Moose's adventure. We're hoping for a proper post Wednesday evening. Thanks for all the good wishes for our roving reporter, kids!)

One cranky middle-aged woman.

One eye-catching, provocative, possibly risky tee-shirt.

With this image on one side:

And this on the other:

1887 miles of great American highway.

She vows to wear the shirt every day, everywhere. And to tell the readers of Roxie's World how people react to her . . . fashion statement.

Will she encounter birthers, wingnuts, and homophobes? Or sweet boys in unexpected places who sidle up next to her and whisper, "I like your shirt?" Desk clerks who ask why 1969 is significant, and, when she explains in her sweetest, most teacherly voice, look back with a smile and say, "Thank you! I learned something today?"

Bright and early Monday morning, Moose is off on an expedition (or, as Pooh and Piglet would insist, an expotition). She's going away for awhile to cleanse her soul, reconnect with her brain, breathe a different air, salvage -- or ruin -- her academic career. Where is she going? Some of you know. Heck, one of you gave her the keys to the kingdom, and for that we are truly, impossibly grateful. It doesn't really matter where she's going, though -- As someone once said, The end is nothing, the road is all. Just follow along and see what kind of adventures she has along the way. She'll report back here as time and internet connections allow.

It's a big country, people, with a million stories happening every minute. Let's see what kind of stories an old broad in a big gay tee-shirt can turn up for us. Wish her luck, and pray for good weather. Moose hates to drive in the rain. We'll play her off with a little Dylan, in keeping with the 60s theme of her wardrobe and her fantasy life. How does it feel, Moose, to be on your own? Especially when you've got a sweet old dog and a loyal helpmate waiting for you back home? How does it feel? Safe travels, Moose, and remember: A rolling stone is only a Skype away. Dogspeed.

(Big thanks to Geoffrey, who gave us the tee-shirts, in connection with this exhibit, and to qta, who helped work out the techno-glitches. Thank heaven for little queer boys.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Doggin' My Soul

Sorry for the commercial message, kids, but this one features a really cute dog and it matches the mood here today in Roxie's World: cloudy with interludes of worry, occasionally severe. Don't you worry, though, darlings. Nothing is really wrong. The sun will come out tomorrow, my typist will decide just how many pairs of socks she will need for six weeks in an undisclosed location, and Goose and I will assure her that we will somehow manage not to die or burn down the house in her absence. In the meantime, watch this vid, smile, and send a good thought out in memory of those who were lost eight years ago today. (Ray LaMontagne's complete performance of "Trouble" is here.) (A more complete account of what Sept. 11, 2001 was like in Roxie's World is here.)

Dogspeed, my lovelies.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ma Vie en Robe

Or, Being and Furlough-ness

Another item in the Roxie's World series, Excellence Without Money: Hard Times in Higher Ed

My typist is grappling with a complex existential dilemma, a dilemma exacerbated by her close following of the situation unfolding in the University of California system, where faculty are organizing a walkout to protest an order by system administration that none of the 26 furlough days faculty will have to take this year may be taken on instructional (i.e., teaching) days. (For blow-by-blow coverage of the California crisis, go here.) As we noted here a couple of weeks ago, faculty at Queer the Turtle U are also going to have furlough days this year. Procedures for this second round of unpaid days "off" haven't yet been announced, but the expectation on campus is that QTU faculty will also (and again -- as they were last spring) be ordered to take their (up to 10, depending on salary) furlough days on non-teaching days. Because, of course, we wouldn't want "the public" to get the idea that draconian cuts have any effect whatsoever on the quality of the educational product. Because, you know, we wouldn't want to do anything to upset the applecart of belief in the wholly delusional notion that a civilized society can function without adequate levels of taxation.

Wevs, kids, here is the problem for my typist: She is on sabbatical this semester (actually, she is on leave for the whole year, but don't hate her -- she hasn't had time off in a decade) and is having a heckuva time deciding a) what to do on her furlough days and b) how to register her strenuous objection to the idea that students shouldn't have to see that it takes money to staff classes. If you cut faculty pay, you cut back on all that they are able and expected to do. Period. It is insane to demand that faculty take furlough days on non-teaching days when it's perfectly obvious that they will perform non-teaching duties (i.e., research and service) on those unpaid days, knowing full well that there will be no decrease in the expectation for productivity in those areas when performance reviews are conducted next spring. How beautiful is that, darlings? I mean it's some crazy academic version of money for nothing and your chicks for free, ain't it?

By the way, tenured and un-tenured worker bees, here's a little furlough fun fact for you: Do you realize that you should not even be on campus on furlough days, because you aren't covered for workplace accidents on those days? (Sorry we don't have a link on this point, but a colleague in the sciences told Goose it had been discussed in her department. Here's a link to the state of Maryland's fun-filled furlough page, though.) Which means, of course, that last spring, when Moose paid no attention whatsoever to when her five furlough days actually occurred, she was at risk of injuring herself -- perhaps boinking herself on the head with some hefty, madness-inducing report on Learning Outcomes! -- and she would have had no recourse against her employer for exposing her to such grave dangers.

This year, Moose will be more prudent. This year, she vows to stay off campus and perform absolutely no work on furlough days. This year, she won't even get out of her bathrobe on furlough days! She will sit in her red chair and eat bonbons and help me blog about the idiocies of a "progressive" political leadership so bereft of courage that it will trot out specious conservative analogies suggesting that states, like families, must tighten their belts in challenging economic times -- as if states, unlike families, did not have recourse to measures such as, you know, tax increases to distribute the pain of economic sacrifice broadly and equally among citizens. She will exhort her colleagues who are teaching this semester to challenge the administration to reconsider the policy precluding taking furloughs on teaching days. She will urge them to join with their brave compatriots on the opposite coast in the effort to show the public that the last drop of blood has been squeezed from the academic turnip. Sing it with me, comrades: You get what you pay for, and you ought to pay for what you get!

Yeah, maybe she'll do that -- Or, well, um, maybe she'll take off the bathrobe, pull on some jeans, pack up the car, and get the hell out of Dodge for awhile to put some salubrious distance between herself and her beloved, troubled Turtle. She's got work to do, the clock is ticking, and in her heart of hearts she doesn't care whether she gets paid for it or not.

Stay tuned, kids, for the unfolding adventure of a Moose on the Loose. Someone is about to bust out of Roxie's World!

(Excellence Without Money: One, two, three, four, five.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Excellence Without Money

Hard Times in Higher Ed

A Roxie's World Series

(Credit for Fake Yet Fabulous Seal: Words by Moose, image by Historiann.)

We use the occasion of Labor Day weekend to return to a meme we launched late last year as the Humongous Recession threatened to become the Second Great Depression and the first wave of furloughs hit Queer the Turtle U. (We launched the meme [and the slogan "Excellence Without Money"] here. Blog pal Historiann picked up on it in the post linked to above. We returned to it here and here.)

The school year is off to a rocky yet interesting start on college campuses this year, as public institutions come to grips with devastating cuts to budgets that were already lean due to decades of eroding levels of state support. Evidence is emerging that faculty across the country are shifting into activist mode and taking positions at odds with campus administrators who for years have engaged in a lot of public happy talk about how everything was just fine, really, despite cuts, cuts, and more cuts. You can't blame the administrators, much, for trying to protect the brand, when it was clear states weren't going to reverse the tide of declining support and public schools were desperately searching for alternative sources of revenue. You can't blame faculty either for being true to their schools and mostly acquiescing to significant changes in their work lives (larger classes, more classes, new "accountability" measures, etc.) that few truly supported and many truly, deeply, legitimately deplored. (Can you say Learning Outcomes Assessment, without barfing?) Given the incredible shrinking academic job market, most faculty felt grateful just to be employed and didn't seem much inclined to rock the boat.

Suddenly, however, an old dog with her ear to the ground begins to sense that the times may be a-changin'. The signs are everywhere:
  • Faculty at Michigan's Oakland University have gone out on strike, forcing the 18,000-student school to cancel classes indefinitely, over contract talks that are stuck on issues of workload, benefits, and salary.
  • Trustees of Montgomery College in Maryland voted last night to remove the college's president, Brian K. Johnson, from his post amid allegations of mismanagement and overspending. The action followed a vote of no-confidence by the school's faculty, which had issued a 9-page "investigative report" documenting Johnson's record of missed meetings, unexplained absences from work, intimidating staff, and misuse of a corporate credit card.
  • Faculty in the University of California system, faced with salary cuts and 26 furlough days, are calling for a walkout because its president overruled decisions by faculty senates on ten of the system's campuses that some (6) of the furlough days should be taken on instructional days. The walkout, scheduled for September 24, protests both the president's attack on shared governance and the administration's effort to conceal the impact of the cuts from the public. (Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk / Talk about things you'd like to do . . . .) The faculty argue that taking furloughs on instructional days will make the impact of the cuts more broadly visible and pressure the state's legislature to cease defunding the system.
The California situation bears watching because . . . it's California. The system is large, some of its schools are highly prestigious, and the letter announcing the walkout bears the signatures of academic superstars like Berkeley's Judith Butler and Santa Cruz's Donna Haraway. If the walkout takes hold throughout the system, it has the potential to make a big media splash and call some serious attention to the issue of funding for higher education -- though, of course, it might also result in idiotic coverage depicting faculty as selfish, out-of-touch, hippie freak tenured radicals looking for any excuse to protest instead of doing their cushy jobs.

Another reason to keep an eye on the Golden State is that faculty are using the tools of social networking to organize and publicize their efforts. The revolution, it seems, will be blogged. Remaking the University is a blog run by UC Santa Barbara's Chris Newfield. It is an indispensable resource for information on what's happening in California, but it's also got an awesome collection of links to related news from elsewhere. The Berkeley Solitary Alliance is a newly established coalition of students, faculty, and staff formed to protests the cuts and the restructuring of the UC system. Its Web site posts an open letter to students from Berkeley prof Catherine Cole that explains the rationale for the walkout in great detail. UCLA seems to be getting into the act with a new Web site called Saving UCLA that is also aimed at promoting the walkout. Facebook has been crackling this week with links about what's going on in California. Watching the whole thing unfold, one can't help but wonder:
Are we witnessing the beginning of a movement, the emergence of a serious challenge to the conditions of work in American higher education, or is it merely the wish for such a movement, a longing that will fade when the first set of papers comes in or, more likely, when the first set of bills comes due and faculty simply hunker down to figure out how to pay them on their reduced salaries?
Hard to say, but the ornery, soon-to-be-paid-less bitches of Roxie's World plan to keep an eye on the situation and do our best to keep you in the loop of the latest developments. We encourage our academic blog buds to write their own Excellence Without Money posts and to send them our way. Yes, Historiann and Clio Bluestocking, we mean you and you. You, too, Dr. Crazy, and, heck yes, you, too, Tenured Radical! Perhaps we'll get ambitious enough to do something along the lines of Historiann's most excellent Lessons for Girls series. Perhaps we'll help launch a walkout of our own as soon as QTU officially announces that faculty won't be allowed to take furlough days on teaching days, as was the case this past spring. No one made a peep then, but the situation unfolded rather quickly and took everyone more or less by surprise. That won't be the case this year.

Or perhaps we'll just post a series of recipes for elegant yet affordable meals that we'll bundle into a package called Mastering the Art of Cheap Cooking and then sit back and wait for Nora Ephron to call and offer us a movie deal. Wevs, kids, we are on the case. Stay tuned for the further adventures of Excellence Without Money. And in the meantime, enjoy your Labor Day. You've earned it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Doggie Death Panels (Not!)

This public service announcement is brought to you by the Department of Inter-Species Aging and Communication. (H/T to Goose.)

This week is Animal Week on NPR's Fresh Air with the dulcet-toned Terry Gross. I know, I know, every week should be Animal Week, but, regrettably, we don't live in that kind of world. Anyway, Terry's first guest on yesterday's show was Dr. Nancy Kay (pictured above), a veterinarian who specializes in issues near and dear to the hearts of my legions of loyal fans: the difficult medical decisions humans are called upon to make on behalf of their companion animals as they age, particularly now that advances in veterinary medicine mean that unprecedented levels of intervention are possible for dogs and cats with cancer and other conditions associated with old age. Dr. Kay has written a book called Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happier, Healthier, Longer Life. Her Web site and blog are here. In the interview with Gross (a cat person, of course), Dr. Kay speaks movingly about her efforts to help humans think through questions of how much and what kind of care is appropriate, how to judge when an animal is in pain, and what an animal's experience of euthanasia is like. Moose got through the whole 30-minute interview without crying, though Dr. Kay choked up a couple of times.

Give it a listen, especially if you've got a sweet old bitch like me curled up at your feet. Dog bless you, friend, and know that you are not alone in the inordinate amount of time you spend worrying about how your animal companion is feeling and doing. Roxie's World is here for you, and, fortunately, so is Dr. Kay. Peace out.