Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Educate the State

(Image Credit: Eric Coe)

Seems like a good idea, doesn't it? Educating the state, we mean.

We've been intending to write this post since the big March 4 Day of Action to Defend Education, which, as we noted at the time, turned out to be a day of not much action on the campus of Queer the Turtle U. Elsewhere, however, the day became the occasion for a significant shift in strategy for those concerned with the problem of funding for higher education. Most notably in California, where so much attention had been focused on the regents and the always entertaining Mark Yudof, on March 4 the battle was taken to Sacramento, where 2000 people rallied at the state capitol in an action designated "Educate the State." At that rally, Berkeley political science prof and co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association Wendy Brown gave an impassioned speech on the vital importance of an educated citizenry to the functioning of democracy:
Without quality public education, we the people cannot know, handle, let alone check the powers that govern us. Without quality public education, there can be no substance to the promise of equality and freedom, no possibility of developing and realizing individual capacities, no possibility of children overcoming disadvantage, or of teens reaching for the stars, no possibility of being a people guiding their own destiny or of individuals choosing their own course. Above all, there is no possibility of being a self-governing people, a democracy.
For public universities, of course, the state has to be a target of efforts to organize, lobby, advocate, and educate on behalf of their missions and their institutions. That is especially important now, in a moment when a deep recession has converged with decades of declining levels of state support to put "quality, capacity, and the underlying ability to meet student and societal needs at risk," according to Paul E. Lingenfelter, executive director of the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Lingenfelter is quoted in a Chronicle of Higher Ed article from mid-March that surveys the national scene and sums it up with a sobering headline: State Cuts Are Pushing Public Colleges into Peril. (Go read that article if you haven't already. You need to know these things.)

As this year of activism on campuses throughout the country winds down, we are pleased to note that California is not alone in raising the pressure on state governments to halt the functional privatization of public higher education. In Georgia a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of students marched on the state capitol to protest cuts to the state's university system. In Illinois, our rabble-rousing pals in Shampoo-Banana are planning to use another of their collective furlough days in April to "storm Springfield," as one of the organizers puts it in a fiery post on the importance of protest not just as a means of educating the state but of teaching her daughter the value of being "a giant pain in the ass." PAWS UP to that, eh, kids?

Meanwhile, here in Turtle Country, flowers aren't the only thing popping up on campus. In our neck of the woods, it appears that part of educating the state might involve sending a message to Gov. Martin "You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy" O'Malley, who is up for reelection this November:

(Photo Credit: Goose, on her iPhone, on the campus of QTU, 3/23/10)

Moose did some research on teh Internetz and thinks that "Furlough Owe'Malley" is connected to a group of state employees disgruntled with having been forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the effort to balance Maryland's budget in the past couple of years. We share their consternation, if not the hostility to unions evident on their blog. Heading into his re-coronation (oops! of course we meant to say reelection!) campaign, O'Malley seems to think his cynical and short-sighted (oops again! that should have been courageous and tough-minded) strategy of slashing budgets rather than raising taxes will protect him in a rematch with his opponent in 2006, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (who will formally announce next week his intention to run again for his old job). It will be interesting to see how the strategy plays out. For all O'Malley's fiscal restraint, Ehrlich will still try to tar the Great Furlougher as a big spender who saddled Maryland's middle class with "the largest tax increase in Maryland's history" in 2007. (WaPo compares the records of the two govs here. O'Malley did raise taxes in 2007 -- and we applaud him for it.) O'Malley will counter that Ehrlich, who actually governed as a moderate and was pretty generous to QTU, is a spooky-scary guy who will turn back the clock -- to what? the time when the state's university system got its largest budget increase ever? Oops!

Listen carefully, precious Turtles: We can't stand Gov. Bob and have no wish to see him ensconced in Annapolis again, but Martin O'Malley can't count on us to get up off our big comfortable couch and vote for him a second time. Indeed, Moose has publicly declared she cannot imagine any circumstances under which she would do so. Our disgust with O'Malley comes not from the right -- surprise, surprise! -- but from the left. It arises from his willingness to put his own political self-interest above the needs of the state's most vulnerable citizens and the financial security of its 70,000 employees. Furloughs and cuts to Medicaid and local aid programs were not fiscal necessities in Maryland. They were political choices made by Martin O'Malley and Democrats in the state's legislature who refused, for example, even to consider raising taxes on alcohol, despite the fact that taxes on beer and wine haven't been raised in 37 years and taxes on distilled spirits haven't budged since 1955. For an illuminating survey of the alternatives that were available to O'Malley, go read around on the wonkish Web site of the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, which advocates a mix of cuts and revenue enhancements as a way of balancing the state's budget while preserving the level of public investment needed to assure "a good quality of life and a decent standard of living for all Marylanders." (That line is from a special report, "A Balanced Approach to Meet Maryland's Needs." It's a PDF file accessible from here.)

As of today, there are 11 days left in the 2010 session of the Maryland General Assembly. It appears that the forces of gutlessness are going to prevail. That means no tax increases, about $120 million in cuts above the $1 billion originally proposed by O'Malley, and, we surmise, an increased likelihood of a third round of furloughs for QTU staff and faculty next year. Further, there's a proposal in the state senate to freeze support for the university through 2012, which means more fun lies ahead over how to maintain both quality and affordability.

Educate the state: What does that mean in Roxie's World? Well, for starters it means banging the drum here on this little blog, hoping that local readers will get informed, get angry, and get active in support of higher ed. It also means reaching out to the good guys and gals who represent us in Annapolis. We're fortunate in the People's Republic of Takoma Park to be represented by true profiles in political courage, like Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Heather Mizeur, who believe in public goods and have the guts to fight for them. (Raskin is a law prof, too, at American University, so he's especially sympathetic to the cause of higher ed.) We're in regular contact with these dedicated public servants and have let them know how disappointed we've been by the lack of compassion and equity in the state's budget decisions. We tell them we expect Democrats who campaign as progressives to govern as progressives. We'll work and vote for Raskin and Mizeur again. O'Malley? Sheila Hixson, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committe and issued a blanket declaration that "We're not going to consider taxes" this election year? Sorry, folks. These Turtles will be staying in their shells when it comes to you.

Who's your rep in Annapolis? Reach one, teach one, Turtles. We've got some educatin' to do.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sugar Shock

In Which We Offer a Double Dose of Animal Cuteness in Lieu of an Actual Post

Blame it on Historiann, who asks readers this morning if they have ever heard the expression "cute as a pailful of kittens?" Have you ever heard that expression? We hadn't, actually, but the question made us wonder:

Does anyone ever say,
"cute as a basketful of puppies?"

An exhaustive quarter of a second search of the Interwebs suggests that this is not a common expression, but we think it should be, because, well, you know:

(Photo Credit: Picked up here, but you should avoid this captivating blog about some amazing yet ordinary saints out in Shampoo-Banana doing the lord's work of providing foster care for dogs, especially pups and new moms. This blog features a PuppyCam that is as addictive as crack, especially if you are on leave or have recently lost a much beloved companion animal. Do not go to this blog if you love dogs or have anything other than a stone in the place where your heart should be. And if you are foolish enough to go to this blog, do not under any circumstances look at the little puppy named Martha, who is chocolate brown and so full of spunk and cuteness that your heart will melt even if it is made of stone. [That's Martha on the back row of the photo above, clearly plotting to lead the pack on a great escape from the silly basket.] You have been warned. RW Enterprises, LLC)

Should your taste in animal cuteness incline more in the feline direction than the canine -- but if that is the case, darling, may I ask what the heck you are doing here? -- then click on the vid Historiann embedded in her post, which shows Koko, the gorilla famous for her skill in sign language, meeting a litter of five kittens and picking out one to snuggle with:

Lord, people, how is a girl ever supposed to get anything done, with all this inter-species cuteness just a click or two away? Oh, and if you feel like getting a little weepy while you are not reading scholarly journals in your field this afternoon, take a look at the vid of Koko learning about the death of a beloved kitten/playmate, All Ball. Grab a hankie, kittens, and learn what it sounds like when gorillas cry.

Wisdom of the Day from a 6-year Old who Hangs Out in le monde d'Historiann: "STFU" could also stand for Snuggle Time For Us! How lovely to think so, don't you agree? The next time someone slaps you with a stinging STFU in the midst of some epic Interweb kerfuffle, imagine that is the intended meaning and consider replying with these words from the greatest snuggler in the history of rock and roll, Mr. Bruce Springsteen:
Cuddle up angel cuddle up my little dove
We'll ride down baby into this tunnel of love
Oh, Bruce, you had me at cuddle up. STFU, darlings, and I'll see you soon, down in the tunnel of love. Peace out.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Working Girls

Photo of the Day. No, the Month. No, the YEAR!

(Photo Credit: Bill O'Leary, Washington Post, 3/26/10)

OK, look, there hasn't been any irrational exuberance breaking out in Roxie's World over the passage of health insurance reform. Yes, we are pleased that the Precious and his strong Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate were finally able to deliver on a major piece of legislation. We are also not displeased that Republicans have emphatically demonstrated that they don't mind in the least if their disinformation and obstreperousness whips their demented followers into a frenzy that threatens to become violent (or, wait, that actually becomes violent). The vote is a huge political victory for the president, and it's one he and the party desperately needed in order to get the words "embattled" and "flailing" out of every single sentence describing the Democratic condition as mid-term elections approach. It was good to see the president in Iowa yesterday, leading a happy crowd in a boisterous chant of, "Yes, we did!" Cut and print, sweet peas. There is your fall campaign commercial all fired up and ready to go.

On the other hand, we are in a wait-and-see mode on the legislation itself. Will it really control costs? Will it be as good a deal for the people as we suspect it is going to be for the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies? And what will the long-term consequences of the president's executive order on abortion be for heterosexually active fertile persons with vaginas? Only time will tell.

On the other other hand, we're tickled pink that's it's been a good week for the hardworking women of the Democratic party, most notably House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The photo above shows the two engaging in some serious girl-on-girl public affection yesterday at a Women's History Month celebration in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. Pelosi is getting major props for having corralled the votes needed to pass the Senate's version of the legislation, when she and many other members of her fractious caucus would have preferred the more liberal House version. She lined up the last few needed votes by agreeing to the aforementioned executive order on abortion. Did she take some serious $hit for the deal from some of her best friends and allies in the fight for reproductive freedom? This WaPo story on the back-stage drama to round up votes suggests she did.

She deserves that $hit, but she also deserves credit for getting the job done. Imperfect as the bill is, we are inclined to think it was a step worth taking and that not taking it would have been politically disastrous for Dems. Success breeds success, so we hope the bill changes the narrative and helps the party get its mojo back. Gail Collins had a funny column on how passage of the bill immediately transformed Washington and everybody in it, turning the bunglers and do-nothings of yesterday into the can-do geniuses of today. "I guess it was because of the new president, Barack Obama," Collins deadpans, "who is so much more decisive and take-chargey than the old president, Barack Obama. And, of course, he was helped by the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is strong and brave and pure of heart. As opposed to that party hack, whatshername. Hated her."

Meanwhile, in Foggy Bottom, the SOS has had a fairly impressive week as well. Secretary Clinton has been busy spanking Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu for announcing plans to build new settlements in disputed areas of Jerusalem. She's also been helping out on a new treaty with the Russians to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the two nations. Play nice, boys, and, um, let's put down some of the more dangerous toys, shall we? Thank you, Madame Secretary, for all you to do make the world safer and just a little less testosterone-fueled.

PAWS UP for the ladies and a little Friday happy dance for some concrete actions that may lead to some positive results. Yes, we did -- Now, let's do some more! Am I right, kids? Of course I am. Peace out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Raw Babies and Rhubarb Pie

(Photo Credit: Candy Man, on his iPhone, 3/22/10)

As a follow-up to last week's wickedly witty post on "How to Cook a Baby" we offer this amusing little morsel from our extremely beloved Candy Man, who sent the photo above (click on the image if you need to embiggen it to read the label, kids) to Moose along with a note, "Maybe something to put in your baby cooker? Always wanted to try an organic baby . . . !" which of course prompted Moose to snort right into her laptop. Then she paused, as she always does before anything bearing the "organic" label, and tried to imagine what an inorganic baby would look like and where it would come from. After all, she reasons, I suspect the vast majority of babies -- and bananas and tomatoes and cucumbers and cauliflowers -- are chiefly or ultimately of biological origin. Where would you get an inorganic baby, and, crucially, what would it taste like if you cooked it up in your Beaba Babycook?

And now, as is so often the case, Candy Man has succeeded in distracting Moose with thoughts of food and cooking and eating and drinking. Which explains only in part why we are so inordinately fond of him. By the way, that pile of organic babies in the photo is displayed upon a copy of George Eliot's longest poem, The Spanish Gypsy. Apparently, even the most dedicated Victorianists require large infusions of potassium to get through the nearly 300-page opus, but we credit the Candy Man for his commitments to both healthy eating and careful reading.

What? You were expecting we'd break our prolonged blog silence with a long, thoughtful piece on how women were thrown under the bus (via) in order to pass health insurance reform? Or maybe a slack-jawed meditation on what it means to live in a world in which WaPo runs earnest "Style" section stories on the challenges butch lesbians face finding masculine apparel that is formal enough for the same-sex weddings that are now occurring in Washington, DC?

Sorry, darlings, I know we've fallen down on the job recently, but my typist is juggling a number of deadlines at the moment along with other assorted madnesses of March. We'll get back to you soon with something worth sinking your teeth into, we promise -- the blogalicious equivalent to this sublime strawberry-rhubarb pie the Shy One brought to dinner the other night:

(Photo Credit: Moose, on her iPhone, with CameraBag, 3/21/10)

Doesn't that just make your mouth water? And doesn't it bring to mind that goofy duet from Prairie Home Companion that you never think you are listening to until you find yourself humming it several hours after you've gotten out of the car?
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Gosh, the mind is funny, isn't it? Peace out, little babies. And try to stay away from the Babycook, will you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Harpers Ferry on Foot

The moms are off on an extremely short educational trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, which they've been threatening to visit for, oh, twenty years or so on account of its monumental significance in American history. They had beautiful weather this afternoon and enjoyed a long ramble through town and the National Historical Park. Moose took her camera along, so y'all have to suffer through another little photo essay because the discipline of choosing a single image to speak for a day or a moment is as alien to her as the discipline of passing legislation is to the U.S. Congress. They are staying here, if you ever happen to be in the neighborhood of Harpers Ferry and are fond of river views and Mission furniture. Which of course you should be.

Now, enjoy your eye candy and some itty-bitty historical fun facts, borrowed from such authorities as Wikipedia and the National Park Service. Hey, let's hear it for public history, right, geek squad? Happy spring break from all your friends in Roxie's World!

John Brown's Fort: Built in 1848 as a guard and fire engine house for the federal armory at Harper's Ferry, this building was briefly held by abolitionist John Brown, who led his famous raid on the town in 1859 in an attempt to launch an insurrection against slavery. (More details here.)

Ruins of St. John's Episcopal Church:
Built in 1852, St. John's was one of the five earliest churches in Harpers Ferry. It served as a hospital and barracks during the Civil War and was abandoned in 1895 when a new Episcopal church was built in town.

Jefferson Rock: These rocks look down on the Shenandoah River just before it reaches its confluence with the Potomac. Thomas Jefferson stood at this spot on October 25, 1783 and found the view so impressive that he declared two years later, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, that "This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic." Not sure about that, but it was definitely worth a quick trip up I270 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.

Harper Cemetery:
Established by Robert Harper, who got a patent for the land that became Harpers Ferry from the Virginia legislature in 1751. (West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1863.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to Cook a Baby

Transcript of an actual conversation in Roxie's World, this morning:

Goose (checking e-mail): You know, Williams-Sonoma got into trouble because they started making too many gadgets.

Moose (reading dead-tree edition of WaPo): Mmmm-hmmm.

Goose: No, really. They're a very good company, but they got carried away making separate gadgets and machines for every single silly task in the kitchen. It's ridiculous.

Moose: Mmmm-hmmm.

Goose: Like this one they just e-mailed me about, for example: the Beaba Babycook.

Moose: Mmmm . . . the wha?

Goose: The Beaba Babycook.

Moose: That's not ridiculous. We've been needing something to cook babies in for ages. The flame-colored le Creuset dutch oven is really not right for the job. Let's order a Beaba Babycook! Do you think they could FedEx it so we could try it out over spring break?

Gales of laughter, sounds of coffee exploding out of mouths and being launched across the breakfast nook. The phrase, "Beaba Babycook" repeated several times in rapid succession, first by one mom and then the other, setting off fresh rounds of guffaws, chortles, snorts, and giggles.

Simple minds, simple pleasures. That's the way it is in Roxie's World on a cloudy morning in the middle of March, 2010. What's cooking in your neighborhood today, my pretties?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Memo from the Office of Compulsory Volunteerism

Or, Better Living Through Pay Cuts!

[Written for and cross-posted at Kritik, the blog hosted by the Unit of Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Kritik is running a series of posts called "15 Ways to Take Your Furlough/Voluntary Pay Cut" in response to a first round of faculty and staff furloughs at Illinois this semester. Roxie's World was invited to weigh in with advice on how to make do with less while maintaining one's dignity and good humor. Our sincere thanks to Lauren Goodlad for letting an old -- oops, dead! -- dog run loose in Kritik's well-maintained yard for awhile. Click on over there and read the whole series. You'll be glad you did.]

Esteemed Comrades of Shampoo-Banana,

You know you’re in a pickle when a dead dog is called in to give you advice on how to negotiate the political and economic challenges of your work life. Never fear, kids – Roxie is here, and the furloughed shall not succumb to furloughisme, though succumb they must to something, eventually. Alas.

Permit me to introduce myself. I am Roxie, a wire-haired fox terrier late of the People’s Republic of Takoma Park, a hippie-turned-yuppie enclave on the outskirts of Washington, DC. For nearly sixteen years, until my untimely demise on the penultimate day of 2009, I kept company with a couple of cranky English profs at a big state university we like to call Queer the Turtle U. For the past four years, I have held forth regularly in the blogosphere on the subjects of politics, pop culture, and basketball, with occasional forays into the vicissitudes of higher ed. Why? Well, as my typist is fond of saying, because tenure means never having to say you’re sorry.

The moms, as I call the human companions of my embodied years, are experienced in the ways of the furlough, because QTU was on the leading edge of this damaging wave of short-term cost-cutting maneuvers. They endured a first round of “temporary” salary reductions in the spring semester of 2009 and are going through a second right now. The possibility of a third round looms for next year, because Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a fauxgressive Democrat whom we call “You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy,” plans to campaign for re-election by bragging about the “tough” decisions he made in order to balance the budget, which he opted to do on the backs of 70,000 state employees rather than advocating for the more equitable solution of, you know, tax increases.

The preceding paragraph offers an important lesson in furlough-ness for you who are having your first exposure to this particular pedagogy of the oppressor: Furloughs are habit-forming. If furloughs were a drug, they would come with warnings about how highly addictive they are and a long list of extremely pernicious side effects. Listening to the ads for them on TV, you would wisely say to yourself, “No, thanks, but the supposed cure sounds worse than the disease.” Feeling sad? Take furloughs! They may or may not make you happier, and taking them may cause vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, impotence, flatulence, and suicidal ideation! Not to mention a significant depression in your bank account.

We have followed with interest the stories of how you Urbane-Champaignians have adjusted to the crazy catastrophe-a-day dynamic that seems to have taken hold out there – scandals, resignations, strikes, a fiscally derelict state government, the shame of a politically incorrect mascot. And now furloughs! We think teach-ins and long, thoughtful blog posts that historicize and contextualize and problematize the whole furlough phenomenon are all well and good, but Roxie’s World firmly believes that serious times also call for unserious responses. We think at least one of the “Fifteen Ways to Take Your Furlough/Voluntary Pay Cut” should involve high degrees of snark and smart-a$$ humor, so we thought we’d weigh in with some helpful hints on matters you might not have paused to consider what with all the rabble-rousing you’ve been involved with recently.

For example, Challenge #1: How to dress for your furlough. Academics tend to be fashion-challenged to begin with, but the double whammy of reduced income and lowered self-esteem is a recipe for sartorial disaster. Over at the left, you see a kicky pink number guaranteed to brighten up those dreary mid-winter furlough days spent at home. Slip into this slinky getup, and you won’t be the least bit tempted to engage in any illicit work or work-like activities. That’s right – No sneaking off to the computer to check e-mail or write a letter of recommendation. No curling up with the latest Žižek hidden inside your copy of Entertainment Weekly.

Alternatively, you could take a page out of this guy’s fashion book and continue to dress the part of a fully employed and compensated professional as you while away your furlough days. Nothing says success like a crisp white shirt and a carefully brushed head of Elvis hair! It’s true that not being under indictment might diminish your chances of proving your testicular virility by going out and lecturing on the ethics in business circuit, but, hey, perhaps you could pick up a bit of extra income holding forth on the vital importance of the semicolon to the future of Western civilization. That’s what folks expect from English profs, so stand and deliver, grammar geeks.

Challenge #2: What to eat on your furlough. We’ll keep this one simple for you by suggesting that it comes down to a choice between bonbons and brown rice. Go with bonbons if sweets are your idea of comfort food and if you feel moved to affirm the perception that the profession of English is a leisure-class pursuit that seldom involves anything remotely resembling “work.” Chase your bonbons with a glass of fine port, while watching a selection from your box set of the films of Akiro Kurosawa, and you’ll win a gold medal for the perpetuation of damaging yet hilarious stereotypes. If, on the other hand, you are not a trust-fund baby and will actually miss the income lost through furloughs, pull your battered copy of the Moosewood Cookbook down off the shelf and whip up a batch of that Vericheesey Casserole (main ingredients: two cups brown rice, two cups soybeans, roughly half a ton of cheese) that enabled you to get through grad school on less than $7000 a year. Warning to the middle-aged: Cheese is a lot more fattening than it was back in the days when you burned 2500 calories just by getting out of bed in the morning. Better plan to spend part of your furlough days at the gym if you go with this dietary option.

Challenge #3: What music to march to in your next furlough day parade. We have long maintained that the soundtrack for higher ed administrators committed to pretending that you can cut costs without sacrificing quality was the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic from South Pacific, “Happy Talk.” Clearly, we need a different musical accompaniment for the new age of activism that has dawned on campuses this year in response to devastating cuts, fee increases, and administrative failures of various kinds. Fortunately, the age of the iPod means we can have a theme song for every mood and moment of the “Screw You and the Neoliberal Horse You Rode In On” revolution. “The Internationale” has history in its favor, but the sad truth is it’s not much fun to dance to. For that, we would definitely go in a disco direction, most likely opting for Ms. Gloria Gaynor’s righteous “I Will Survive.” For the tenured rockers among you, we might recommend the Pretenders’ gritty “Back on the Chain Gang,” but, hey, whatever floats your boat, kids. The musical world is all before you. Clench your fists, tap your toes, blend the voices of students, staff, and faculty into one loud perfectly harmonized chorus, and you cannot lose. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Finally, we come to Challenge #4: How to represent your furlough -- graphically, we mean. Image is everything, right? (Doubt a dead dog? Then, um, check with Chief Illiniwek, if you can find him.) Fortunately, Roxie’s World has taken care of this problem for you. In tandem with our blog pal, Historiann, we’ve designed a catchy slogan and a fake yet fabulous seal that elegantly conveys the weird combination of desperation and cynicism that we think characterizes furloughisme. Yes, Excellence Without Money is what the people and their elected representatives seem to expect in this surreal, prolonged period of declining levels of support for public higher education. Nobel Prize winners? Oh, yeah, we want those on the faculty. Small classes? Well, of course! World-class venues for the arts and athletics? Gosh, yes, gotta have those on our campuses! OK, but we might need to raise your taxes to help fund some of those worthy objectives. Hell, no! Then I guess we’ll have to raise tuition again. No way, buster! You campus fat-cats had better just tighten your belts. Cut the fat! Get rid of those wasteful programs that suck up resources and fill kids’ heads with a bunch of useless ideas about “diversity” and “critical thinking.” They don’t need thinking skills, darn it! They need JOBS!

Around and around and around it goes, my sweet misunderstood and under-compensated friends. Take heart, darlings. We’ll let you use the slogan and seal for nothing as a way of welcoming you in to the fellowship of the furloughed. You can even modify the color scheme to match your institution’s unfortunate commitment to blue and orange if you like, but, please, people, no feathers, OK?

Keep up the good fight. Roxie’s World is here for you and with you every step of the way. Peace out and a hearty PAWS UP for your dogged pursuit of the resources and institutional values that make true excellence possible.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fab (at) Four

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
But that won't stop my dancing
On my Blogiversary!

That's right, darlings -- The early spring orgy of celebration continues today, as we pause to commemorate four years of Roxin' the blogosphere. Can you believe it? Four years -- of comic punditry, of sentimental indulgence, of work avoidance, of queer/canine/feminazi talk back, of meditation on the glories of sport, of eye candy and other pretty things? Who would ever have thunk that what was begun as the whim of a Sunday afternoon would have lasted so long and evolved into the hot mess of words and images in which you now find yourself?

Of course, none of it would have happened without you, my legions of inexplicably loyal fans, who have hung with me through thick and thin, not to mention the shock and inconvenience of bodily death. Rest assured, my pretty boys and tough yet tender girls, that I am with you today in all the ways that matter, which is to say that I am a part of that universal heart that cannot leak or fail or stop or break.

Thanks for being here. Love me do, sweet things, you know I love you. No sorrow today -- Let's dance.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Misery Would Prefer Less Company

But at least, according to this report in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, it's really smart, hard-working company:

One Third of Faculty Members See Dip in Their Salaries, in 2009-10. The average cut, for those who got them, was 3 percent.

Oh, and who's at the bottom of the barrel, salary-wise? Why, English profs, of course! There's a chart that lays out the sorry news in black and white, but we don't recommend looking at it without the support of a good stiff drink. (The data is from a study by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.) According to the Chronicle's reading of the data, the disciplines with the lowest average salaries across the ranks were "English, at $60,850; parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies, at $61,709; and visual and performing arts, at $61,898."

So, English profs make less than gym teachers? Wow, I always knew the moms were the wrong kind of lesbians. I just didn't realize it had significant financial implications.

That is all, beloveds. We are going to go drown our sorrows now, with something strong and, you know, cheap.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Twenty-Six Years of Queer Delight

Or, Love Without License

You are a smart bunch of critters, so let's start the week off with a mind exercise to give those brains (and possibly those hearts) of yours a stretch.

Imagine someone tells you you can't have something. It's an ordinary something that is generally available and widely thought to be good. Let's say it's ice cream.

Now, you're not told you can't have ice cream because you are lactose-intolerant or diabetic or anything else that would make eating ice cream hazardous to your health. You are told you can't eat it because you don't deserve it. You are not good enough for ice cream. Indeed, you are so unfit for ice cream that the mere thought of your tasting it poses a threat to the goodness of ice cream. Stay away, the Committee to Protect the Deliciousness of Ice Cream screams, or the rest of us won't be able to enjoy ice cream anymore!

How do you react to this bizarre prohibition, when you live in a world in which the vast majority of people are committed eaters of ice cream? The mature and reasonable response is of course to become an equally committed hater of ice cream. Yuck, you sneer every time you pass a crowded Baskin-Robbins, ice cream is horrible, and the people who eat it are fools! They are dupes of the ice cream industrial complex! I wouldn't eat ice cream if it were the last food on earth!

Time passes -- more than a quarter century, let us say -- and you construct a perfectly satisfying life that involves no ice cream whatsoever.

And then one day, suddenly and without warning, you are told that you can eat ice cream after all. (Well, you can't eat it everywhere, but you can eat it in your own state, although you have to purchase it in another state. Or district.) What flavor would you like? says the friendly young woman behind the counter. How many scoops? What do you say? What do you do? What do you want, and how is the condition of your wanting or not wanting changed by the lifting of the prohibition? It is, after all, one thing to say you don't want ice cream when you are legally prevented from having it, quite another to step up to the counter, take a close look at all thirty-one flavors, and then say, "Thanks, but I think I will stick with the cheesecake. It's really delicious." Or perhaps you say, "By golly, I would like a triple scoop of butter pecan with hot fudge sauce and a cherry on top. And sprinkles, please, a whole bunch of rainbow-colored sprinkles."

What do you do? You pause. You consult your heart. You consult your partner in a life full of cheesecake. Perhaps you consult your doctor to find out if there are risks or benefits associated with an abrupt shift to a diet that includes ice cream, especially if you become dependent on it before you can have it everywhere. You look back with a sense of awe at twenty-six years of sweetness without ice cream. You smile, thinking of the one who made it possible and all the friends and relations and critters who shared in the sweetness and offered their own delicious recipes for cheesecake and other yummy treats. You raise a glass of something bubbly and try to imagine the next twenty-six years. You chuckle, pondering the phrase, just des(s)erts.

And because you are musically inclined, you are reminded of a song, a song you have always loved, sung by one of the sweetest voices on dog's earth, a song which you have only now gotten around to realizing is a song about the desirability or non-desirability of state-sanctioned ice cream:

* * *

Happy International Women's Day and Happy Anniversary to Moose and Goose! Thanks to all of you for being a part of the fun. Have a bite of something sweet today to celebrate the many forms of love and its stubborn, amazing persistence. Peace out.

(See also "Twenty-Five Years of Queer Delight" and "Twenty-Four Years of Queer Delight" [in which I interview the moms on the secrets to the success of their partnership].)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Matter Out of Place

Spring is in the air, and you know what that means: The birds are singing, the moms are walking, the snow is nearly gone -- and the audiovisual equipment that was for some reason abandoned in the park is there for all the world to see. And to photograph:

Hey, you know, it felt like a nuclear winter:

Ah, nature! culture! technology! CameraBag!

Breathe deep, walk tall, and keep your eyes peeled, darlings -- You will see the darndest things. Peace out.

(Photo Credits: Moose, on her iPhone, with ToyCamera [top] and CameraBag [bottom], 3/6/10.)

Friday, March 05, 2010

March 4th Day of Action

Updated below.

Being a Roundup of Roundups, Plus a Vid and Evidence Suggesting that Activism Makes You Happy (In the Unlikely Event That You Didn't Already Know That)

March 4 proved to be a Day of Not a Whole Lot of Action on the campus of QTU, where news of a small rally and teach-in was overwhelmed by ongoing coverage of street disturbances in College Park following the Non-Lady Terps' stunning upset of 4th-ranked Duke in basketball late Wednesday night. (Of course, the moms were there, silly, and, yes, somehow they managed to celebrate the glorious win over the Evil Empire without setting anything on fire or climbing up any lampposts.)

Plenty was going on elsewhere, though, as campuses across the nation responded to the call to defend public education in the face of devastating budget cuts and rising fees. We've got nothing new to say on the subject, so we will be content to direct your attention to a number of fabulous link farms that have already sprung up on Thursday's events:

Defend Education (.org), the folks who issued the original call for a day of action, have set up a good list of links that is strong on national and California coverage. It's here.

Remaking the University, run by our blog boyfriend Chris Newfield, is doing its usual kick-a$$ job of covering the story, with photos and links to darn near everything. Just go to his main page and let your fingers do the clicking.

Student Activism, run by Angus Johnston, has a series of posts reporting on events as they were unfolding. He did an amazing job of tracking the far-flung pieces of the picture and fitting them together in a more or less orderly way. Start here, then go here, then here, and here.

WaPo education reporter Jenna Johnson has a good roundup with links to coverage of the day's actions in campus newspapers. It's here.

The report in The Chronicle of Higher Ed focuses mostly on California but touches briefly on actions elsewhere. A Chronicle subhead writer felt a need to declare "protest fatigue," perhaps because students at Santa Cruz managed to shut the university down only "partially." The story is here.

Here is a vid of action at UC, Davis, which includes the effort by protesters to shut down I80 -- and the efforts of police to stop them. We don't go for that kind of high-risk maneuver ourselves, but, hey, if we got slapped with tuition increases of 32%, we might consider it:

San Francisco Chronicle coverage of the California actions is here.

Update: One of our sources on the ground in Shampoo-Banana sent us a link to this vid of a well-attended protest and rally at the University of Illinois. No cops on the scene, but no attempts to shut down major thoroughfares either.

Oh, and that evidence that activism makes you happier? It's right here, you little rabble-rouser. Click on that link, and have a better tomorrow. Peace out.

(H/T: Goose and the Shy One, for links.)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

RIP Jon Swift

My typist was at work on a new, deeply satirical post when she stumbled across the sad news that a guy she never met and whose name she never even knew had passed away suddenly. Al Weisel, who blogged -- brilliantly and satirically -- as Jon Swift, "a reasonable conservative" who got all his news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Jay Leno monologues, died on Feb. 27, according to a comment left by his mother on the last post on his blog. Weisel suffered two aortic aneurysms on his way to his father's funeral and died after three surgeries and a stroke. Moose read the news on Tom Watson's blog, in a post appropriately titled "A Death in the Blogging Family." Indeed.

We didn't know Al Weisel the person, but we closely followed Jon Swift the blogger. We had missed him greatly in the past year and worried about his prolonged blog silence. (That last post went up nearly a year ago.) He taught us a lot about the values of parody and satire, about political commentary that had a sharp edge but a good soul. We were the beneficiaries of his great generosity as a member of the blogging community, too. He listed us on his blogroll when we wrote and asked him to. He included our pieces in his annual list of best pieces selected by bloggers themselves. He nominated us for Weblog Awards that we never won because, we are convinced, those awards just don't have the right category for a comic dog blog obsessed with politics, pop culture, and basketball, but his faith that we were doing something worth nominating meant a lot to our humble crew of readers, writers, and internets trollers.

We did not know him, but we admired him and sought to emulate him and wish there were more folks like him in the blogosphere and the world. Dogspeed, Modest Jon. May you find kindness, fairness, and balance wherever you go. Dogspeed.