Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WaPo Calls MD Gov's Race

Whew! That's a relief! And we didn't even have to bother NOT to vote! And now our buddy GlassPen won't have to worry that our refusal to vote will deliver the governor's mansion to the former governor known as Bobby Haircut! And the fauxgressive Irish rocker known around here as You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy will have another four years to campaign for the higher offices for which he clearly believes he is destined by making the kind of cynical, short-sighted moves that pass as Democratic profiles in courage these days!

Roxie, you may or not be thinking, has death impaired your ability to process information? What do you mean WaPo has called the election?

Let me 'splain it to you, darlings. WaPo published a poll today showing that current Gov. Martin O'Malley has opened up a sizable lead over his opponent, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, whom O'Malley defeated four years ago in the heavily Democratic state of Maryland.

The poll indicates that Ehrlich has made the sale with Republican voters (yes, both of them) and is leading by 20 points among Independents, but O'Malley has a 64% favorable rating among all voters and 87% of Democrats say they are inclined to vote for him. (Some deets on the poll are here. The full data dump is here.)

O'Malley also has a sizable cash advantage and is using his money to get his pretty face and determined jaw on the teevee. He's on the air constantly with slick ads that alternate between emphasizing his record of making supposedly tough decisions in difficult times and trying to terrify voters with reminders of the spooky-scary Bob Ehrlich.

Ehrlich isn't doing himself any favors. He was actually pretty moderate as governor, but he seems to have taken a sip or two of tea in deference to the lunacy currently gripping his party. He criticized Maryland attorney general Doug Gansler's February ruling that the state would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, calling it "government experimentation with the state's social fabric." He has also proposed rolling back a 2007 increase in the sales tax without saying a word about how he would replace the $600 million in lost revenue. One of the nice things about Maryland voters is that they are slightly less hysterical about tax issues than voters in many parts of the country, perhaps because a sizable number of them work for the federal gubmint and lie awake at night wishing Barack Obama truly were a socialist.

Given that, though, it's disheartening to see that Maryland's Democrats don't seem concerned that O'Malley asked the state's 70,000 employees to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of closing the budget gap, resorting to furloughs three times in three years rather than, as we have suggested before, taking on the state's liquor lobby and finally raising taxes on beer, wine, and distilled spirits. O'Malley leads Ehrlich on all the questions about who voters trust to manage the economy, education, crime, taxes, and the environment. How confident is the O'Malley campaign right now? Confident enough that Obama will be headlining an event for the MD gov next week, the first time the president has done that for a Democratic candidate since January (when he campaigned for, um, losing Massachusetts senate candidate Martha Coakley).

Wevs, kids. Moose saw the poll news this morning and thought, Fine. O'Malley is comfortably ahead. I think I'll show the same respect and support for the work he's done for the state as he's shown for the work Goose and I have done for the state. I think I will just stay home on election day -- Hell, maybe I'll take it as a furlough day! I've got several more of those to schedule this year! (Between them, the moms will have 11.5 furlough days this academic year.)

And then Moose realized she can't take a furlough day on election day because it is a Tuesday and she teaches. Furlough days should be scheduled in a manner such that there is no class disruption, intoned the e-mail faculty and staff received from QTU's office of human resources yesterday.

Because in the ugly autumn of 2010, in the Democratic state of Maryland, political courage means that you pretend there are no consequences to tuition freezes and salary cuts and budget reductions. You turn your head away from the damage you've done, gaze at the camera with your rock star's smile and your lawyer's rectitude and assure us you are brave and strong and on our side.

At least two of Maryland's 70,000 state employees beg to differ. No, we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Nor, however, should we delude ourselves into thinking that cowardice is courage or that getting re-elected is the highest political goal to which we can aspire. For three years, state employees have carried the load for Martin O'Malley and 6 million fellow citizens who gave up not much of anything to help the state weather its fiscal storm. We respectfully decline to endorse this course of action by casting a vote in favor of a second term for Gov. O'Malley. If he gets one, fine. We hope he will spend it making wiser and more equitable decisions.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Manure Central

Regular readers of this blog know that the official philosophical position of Roxie's World is that serious times call for un-serious responses. No Joke Left Behind and all that.

Per usual, it seems, we've got our paw on the pulse of the zeitgeist: John Avlon declared in The Daily Beast today that comedians have officially taken over our politics. (Avlon's examples are about what you'd expect: Stephen Colbert testifying before Congress, in character; Jon Stewart's upcoming "Rally to Restore Sanity" on the national mall; Bill Maher's merciless trial-by-video-clip of Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, who appears to be just as nutty as advertised.) According to Avlon, comedians are driving the political debate this year and doing a better job than either journalists or politicians of doing the one thing that matters most in public life: telling the truth. That's right, people: It takes a joke to tickle a village into facing the facts, sordid or painful as they may be, and you have to admit the facts are pretty sordid and painful these days. That's why we're here. And we think it's why a lot of you are here. Here. Ya know? (H/T to a QTU classicist for calling our attention to Avlon's piece.)

Anyway, it's in that spirit of comic public service that I sent my typist back to the University of Illinois agricultural extension's website dedicated to promoting resources related to the production and management of livestock manure. (We stumbled upon this vital repository of scatological information by way of University Diaries. Lord knows how she got there, but we are glad she did.) We decided to pilfer the image that runs across the top of the website, which, as we noted the other day, is on a rich, poo-brown background. We have a hunch it might come in handy around here, as a way to call your attention to stories on, oh, golly, I don't know, this, that, or the other thing. What do you think?

We think it's a nice succinct visual representation of our determination to call 'em as we see 'em. And a cute evocation of my typist's Midwestern girlhood, despite the fact that she spent way more time at the mall than she did on the farm, I assure you. Be sure to let us know when you come across stories that you think deserve this label, and we'll slap it up here quicker than you can say, "Does Obama think we don't know he could overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell with the stroke of a pen?"

Happy Saturday, my little pooh bears. In keeping with today's gastrointestinal emphasis, we'll play you off with a bouncy bathroom ditty from Sarah Silverman. Enjoy, darlings, and whatever you do, don't step in it! Peace out.

The Sarah Silverman Program
Poop Song
Nick Swardson's Pretend TimeBig LakeUgly Americans New Episodes

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

(Fashion) Excellence With Less Money

From the Department of Hey, This is Way Better Than Apples: Our favorite clothing retailer for sensible gals of a certain age is offering discounts to teachers:

Why, it's as though they've read a fabulous series of blog posts on the subject of Excellence Without Money in higher education! Where could they have stumbled upon such a thing? Here? Here? Here? Perhaps they heard we were giving out advice on how to dress for your furlough and figured there was some vast under-served and under-paid market of women whose favorite colors are charcoal and gray. (That's a joke, actually, and it is not intended to suggest that there are currently 947 pairs of black pants hanging somewhere in the closets of Roxie's World. Moose is pretty sure there are at most 891 pairs of black pants in the house, but she is refusing to count sweatpants and is overlooking the 44 pairs in the giveaway pile in the hall closet.)

Thank you, J. Jill. The teachers of the world appreciate your shrewd marketing. Don't know if you'll be able to get Historiann into the store, though. She has been indulging in a shoe and clothing fantasy far afield of anything we've ever seen in your catalogs.

While we are on the subject of Excellence Without Money, Non-Fashion Division, here are a couple of pieces you really must go read. (We've been remiss about keeping you up to speed on this topic, but my typist has discovered that teaching a course on blogging cuts significantly into the time a girl has available for blogging. Sorry, darlings, but she is dancing -- and typing -- as fast as she can!) Anyhoo, there's an excellent interview with our blog boyfriend Chris Newfield that was published on AlterNet a few weeks back. It's a great distillation of his thinking about what he has termed "the war on public universities," which he argues has been going on for several decades now, and its relationship to the recent devastating budget cuts in the University of California system and elsewhere. Meanwhile, back on Chris's indispensable Remaking the University blog, there's a guest post by Gerald Barnett of the University of Washington on the funding "free-fall" shaping up in Seattle. The piece is brilliant on what we consider to be the crux of the problem we named Excellence Without Money: Campus administrators who publicly pretend that budget cuts, while damaging, don't undermine the quality of institutions. It's a long piece that takes up a number of topics, including how the press covers these issues and how universities hurt themselves by carrying on a charade. Here's a passage that will give you a good sense of what Barnett is up to, but you should click over and read the whole thing:
The problem for universities, and for the reporters, is that university administrators are not coming clean on why there are university budget problems. It is not just that the states are no longer supplementing the budgets as they used to. Yes, that is a bad thing, a bad thing in the context of other bad things. Rather, it is the priorities that university leaders place on the spending of the money they do have. It is not reported that there are huge cuts to student instruction. The university issues no press releases or even brusque reports about this. These cuts, like cuts to department staff, happen in silence. There will be no departure notices in the local paper, like the notices when the university hires another senior administrator.  Every student knows (and I have a daughter at UW) that there are fewer courses offered, these are harder to get into, with less information about them, with less and poorer quality instructional support—and all this at substantially greater cost. This is not within the definition of “excellence."
He ends by saying that university administrators are well-intentioned but intellectually dishonest in these situations. Often, we reluctantly acknowledge, that term is justified. Though never on our campus, of course.

Which for some strange reason makes us want to end by passing along a post Margaret Soltan put up earlier today that got our attention because it conjoined the terms "University of Illinois" and "Manure Central." We clicked straight over, concerned that our once furloughed friends out in Shampoo-Banana had been visited by yet another crisis or scandal, given Soltan's knack for being first on the scene at any academic Augean stable in need of sweeping. Alas, the meaning in this instance was literal, but that link is amusing nonetheless -- and offers some very fetching animal photos, too, I might add. Props to the designer who had the nerve to use a rich poo-brown background on the website for the extension service's manure management program. Nice touch!

Still, Manure Central -- Don't you think that would be a swell name for an academic admin blog? We'll have to see if we can get Moose to bring that up in class tomorrow. She and her students have recently been discussing the all-important matter of blog names, so who knows? Peace out, darlings, and sweet, manure-free dreams to you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Primary School

Or, Lessons for Obama in Adrian Fenty's Big Electoral Meltdown

(Photo Credit: Nikki Kahn, Washington Post. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty appears with then-Senator Barack Obama in July, 2007.)

The moms are citizens of Maryland, which means they didn't get to weigh in this week on whether the Boy Wonder Turned Big Loser Adrian Fenty deserved a second term as mayor of the District of Columbia. They were busy abstaining from the question of whether Maryland Gov. Martin "You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy" O'Malley deserves four more years to prove his fauxgressive mettle by picking the pockets of state employees rather than fighting for more equitable ways to solve the state's budget woes. (Let's see, kids. Maryland hasn't raised taxes on beer and wine since 1972 and hasn't increased taxes on distilled spirits since Eisenhower was president! What say we raise our glasses to a modest increase in the cost of one of our favorite hobbies? I'll drink to that, won't you? Or are you, like O'Malley, comfortable forcing 70,000 hardworking state employees to shoulder the burden for 6 million citizens of Maryland? Perhaps you are. O'Malley was comfortably renominated in Tuesday's primary, setting up a rematch with the guy he defeated in 2006, Gov. Bob "Thanks, But I Don't Drink Tea" Ehrlich.)

We digress. Much ink is being spilled in an effort to answer the burning question of how Fenty, who actually got pretty high marks from voters for the job he was doing, managed to lose to DC Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. Fenty's defeat is no doubt complexly entangled in the racial politics of DC, as this story and this opinion piece by Kojo Nnamdi both argue. (Lesson #1 for Team Obama: That whole post-racial thing? It may not wear well over the long haul in minority communities that feel under-served and taken for granted.) It probably also has a lot to do with the young mayor's reckless disregard of the advice he was getting from strategists who told him voters had soured on him. Perhaps all we need to know about this campaign is that Fenty spent the Sunday before the primary vote competing in a triathlon, while Gray made appearances at three black churches. (Lesson #2 for Team Obama: Fitness, schmitness. Instead of "Let's Move," you might consider "Let Us Pray" as a slogan for the re-elect. It's cheaper than a second stimulus package, and if you campaign on it Republicans will suddenly go all anti-God, which would be fun to watch.)

Finally, we definitely agree with those who say it was a mistake for Fenty to allow DC Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to campaign for him -- as a private citizen, of course -- in the closing days of the campaign, when it was clear that her hard-charging (or brutally insensitive, depending on your point of view) campaign of school reform was alienating wide swaths of the electorate. Rhee made the mayoral primary a referendum on her, implying she would be unlikely to continue in her post if Gray won. After voters roundly rejected her appeals on Fenty's behalf, she declared the results were "devastating, devastating" for the District's schoolchildren. Rhee's behavior throughout the campaign showed an astonishing lack of political judgment, but her churlish scorn for voters in its aftermath suggests she was never cut out for public administration. (Lesson #3 for Team Obama: Think you know more than voters do? Tough $hit.)

That's all well and good, but it fails to solve the mystery at the heart of the Case of the Iron Man Who Got Whupped by the Old Gray Ghost. The armchair pundits of Roxie's World, who can't vote in the District but are fed a steady diet of DC politics through a range of local media, have given considerable thought to this question and are confident that they have an answer. Are you ready? Here it is:

Adrian Fenty annoys the crap out of any TV viewer over the age of 45.

What? Have the cranky old dykes of Roxie's World succumbed to ageism? Oh, maybe a little, though I'm sure we could come up with a list of leaders we admire who aren't card-carrying members of AARP. Really, I swear -- We'll get back to you on that real soon. Our point here, though, is that Fenty's public style grew increasingly grating over time. His youth and energy worked well for him when he knocked on seemingly every door in the District in 2006, but four years later you looked in vain for any sign that he had grown into the office, taken on any hint of the gravitas leaders typically acquire by holding positions of authority. In moments of tragedy, such as the Metro train wreck in June, 2009, you could hardly wait for Fenty to step aside and let one of the grownups talk about how the situation was being handled. In more political contexts, he came across as petulant and brash, like a student council president who couldn't understand why the other kids wouldn't support his plan for putting more vegetables on the menu in the cafeteria. In the race against Gray, Fenty sounded callow and defensive, while Gray came across as thoughtful, conciliatory, and concerned about process and all of the District's citizens. (Need proof? Check out the candidates' opening statements in a pre-primary debate.)

Is it fair to criticize a candidate on the fuzzy matter of style? Perhaps not, except that it's clear the District's voters were put off enough by Fenty's demeanor that they turned him out of office while acknowledging that he had produced some positive, concrete results for the city. Is there a Lesson #4 for Team Obama in this result? Well, some. folks. seem. to. think. so.

What do you think, my pretties? The crystal ball is in your court. Peace out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Note to Bloglines Readers

Yes, Both of You
The Office of Subscription Management here in Roxie's World reminds those of you who follow us through Bloglines that the service is shutting down Oct. 1. You will need to choose another RSS reader, or, you know, just click right in to this happy place four or five times a day so you can enjoy our pretty template, which, according to careful audience surveys, has only made one reader hurl from scrolling down against that static, slightly out of focus background. The other advantage of clicking in is that you can see what's happening in our action-packed sidebar. Use our automatically updated blogroll as your RSS reader, darlings, and you will never again be caught not knowing what's going on in the strangely overlapping worlds of higher ed, queer/feminist law and politics, and inter-species love.

Yeah, yeah, we know, RSS makes life easier for those of you who follow a kabillion blogs a day. The truth is we use one ourselves -- Google Reader -- and were surprised that the announcement of the Bloglines closure was accompanied by grim predictions about the future of RSS with the shift to ever more sociable media. Apparently, RSS is insufficiently conversational in the World Wide Chatterbox brought to us by Facebook and Twitter (both of which we use, one of which we love). "The writing is on the wall," declares, which acquired Bloglines in 2005, in explaining the shutdown. No, technically, sweet pea, the writing is on the screen, but don't you think it's funny that all such announcements from tech-landia are made with epic seriousness and absolute certainty about Trends and the Future of Everything? And as if anything of real importance hinged on how readers are getting their steady diet of blogalicious news, analysis, and barf jokes? Not to undermine the world-transforming implications of what goes on around here, but, hey, well, you know.

In any case, our good buddies over at ProfHacker have, in their usual tech-savvy and helpful way, embraced the cause of finding new homes for the displaced readers of Bloglines. Rather than holding a telethon or a Blog Action Day (like, um, Lifelines for Bloglines, maybe?), Julie Meloni sensibly asks what other aggregators are out there and what readers' experiences of them have been. Google Reader is leading in the replies Julie's gotten, but commenters bring up a number of other options. Click over there if you are in the market for a new feed bag. We admit there is plenty not to love about Google Reader -- clunky interface? check. boring look? check. -- but we find it a convenient way to keep a paw on the pulse of the blogosphere. Whenever we can, though, we click directly onto the blogs to show a little love for our hardworking blog pals.

How 'bout you, dear readers? How do you manage the flow of words and information in your online life? Is RSS an important part of that life, or do you agree that its days are numbered? Should we dump Google Reader in order to smash the emerging hegemony of Google Almighty or give in and admit that we have happily drunk the Kool-Aid? Burp. We eagerly await your reply.

(Image Credit: Picked up here.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Glee Minus 8 Days and Counting . . .

. . . Until we find out which of these splendid outfits Sue Sylvester will sport in the Season Two premiere of G-L-E-E-E-E-E:

(Photo Credit: Todd Heisler, New York Times, 9/12/10)

Can you stand it, darlings? Are you nervous about how the show will hold up under the pressure of sophomore year, a pressure intensified by two Emmy awards (yay, Jane!), that killer Springsteen sendup that opened the Emmy show, and a New York Times mag story declaring it a "bona fide phenomenon?" (Click on that Times link to see the whole glorious gallery of Todd Heisler photos from the set of Glee. You'll be glad you did.) The Times credits the show with "inspiring a resurgent interest in musical theater among young people," which we're pretty sure means it is making kids gay, something we think all the best shows do. (You know, like this one.)

Our pal Jill Dolan over at The Feminist Spectator did a nice piece on Glee early last season that did a great job of capturing the show's "incipient queerness" and its gently satirical take on adolescence and the pop-cultural faith in big dreams and bigger song-and-dance numbers. We think Jill's right, though we have to confess we turn off our irony meters every time Lea Michele, who plays Rachel, opens her mouth. Her sublime duet with Chris Colfer (Kurt) on "Defying Gravity?" Her audacious take on a song we thought no one on earth but Barbra Streisand should be allowed to perform? We think the show is seriously invested in the potent combination of discipline, desire, and jaw-dropping talent that fuels Rachel, or maybe that's just us, or, more precisely, the one of us who felt like a nerdy outsider in high school, except, of course, for those moments on stage, when the lights go down and the music begins and everything is . . . possible.
I gotta fly once, I gotta try once,
Only can die once, right, sir?
Ooh, life is juicy, juicy and you see,
I gotta have my bite, sir.
We digress, darlings, as we are wont to do when reminded of old dreams and the different forms they assume over the course of a life. Suffice it to say we are looking forward to S2 of Glee, which we hope will do a better job of negotiating the politics of race and disability than it did in its freshman season. Much as we adore Rachel, we hope to see and hear more of Mercedes this year, and we pray every night before our shrine to Judy Garland that the show's writers will realize that disabled characters can bring more to a plot than opportunities for able-bodied characters to be inspired, ennobled, or "helpful." Please, folks, this year could we let the deaf kids perform a song all by themselves? I mean, srsly, imagine that!

Have a Gleeful week, my pretties, and remember that in our book every single one of you is the rose of sheer perfection. March your band out. Beat your drum. And when it's your turn at bat, slam the little sucker right out of the park. Because you can.

(H/T to a Queerly Optimistic friend for knowing we would want to peek inside Sue Sylvester's closet.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Where There's a Hill There's a Way?

Like our blog pal Historiann, we've pretty much been keeping mum on the election season, because the prospect of a Democratic bloodbath has left us sad, speechless, and disgusted, but also determined, for the first time in our political lives, to abstain from certain races. Sorry, fellow citizens, but we have had it. We refuse to hold our noses and support Democrats who run as progressives and govern as center-right weenies who pick the pockets of state employees rather than making the case for shared sacrifice during a period of economic contraction. Our line on this election is that we gave -- and gave and will be giving again -- at the office. You took my money, but you have not earned my vote.

Does that sound selfish and bitter? Bitter, perhaps, but if we were selfish we might be vulnerable to Gov. Martin "You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy" O'Malley's sudden, mealy-mouthed, election-year conversion to the cause of same-sex marriage. O'Malley, a Catholic, has been a supporter of separate but equal civil unions. Now that his likely opponent in the race, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, has come out against s-sm in order to boost his cred with both of Maryland's registered Republicans, O'Malley has boldly declared he would sign a bill legalizing gay nuptials in the state if the legislature passed it -- knowing full well that will happen shortly after hell freezes over and MD House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who opposes marriage equality, takes a walk across the Chesapeake Bay. Wow, thanks, Gov. And we want you to know that we support any kind of union "in which [you] choose to enter and raise children and all the issues that go with that." Can't wait to carve those inspiring words on the front of the Irish pub and crab house you ought to be managing Mount Rushmore!

Enough about us and our petty parochial concerns. The nation has clearly gone off its collective rocker in this frighteningly silly political season. We need help, and we need it now.

Oh, who are we kidding? What we need is a little something to distract us on a pleasant Friday afternoon, to take us on a magic-carpet ride right past the expected nightmares of 2010 and onto the miracles of 2012. But where can we turn, who might we look to to perform the miracle of combining progressive vision with pragmatic skill? Who could save us from the gutless, the weasels, the weenies, and the hacks?

Heck if we know, kids, but a rich dentist from Chicago has an interesting idea. Check out the vid below, which the good doctor bankrolled and which is being billed as the first ad of the 2012 presidential campaign, and tell us what you think. Meet us at Ishmael's, the seedy yet cozy bar around the corner from the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC. We'll order up a big batch of Historiann's favorite cocktail, the pisco sour, and maybe she and my typist will regale us all with their war stories of being pro-Hillary bloggers back in Aught-Eight. Of course, that was before the nation was transformed by the gospel of Hope, Change, and the Bliss of Transcending All Differences Everywhere. Right? Ri-i-i-ght.

Wevs, my hopeful ones. Click on the vid, which we pass on by way of amusement, not endorsement, and belly up to the bar. Cocktail hour starts now. Better get here before Moose eats all the mozzarella sticks. You know how fond she is of those. Peace out, and have a delicious weekend.

(H/T to the Clintonistas in the Half Moon Bay office of Roxie's World who sent us the vid. Get out your hammers, girls. We've got a glass ceiling to crack.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Reentry: A Conversation

Apologies for the prolonged blog silence, kids. As you know, my typist returned to the classroom last week after a year's leave from teaching and administration, thus completing the transition from Moose on the Loose to Moose Back on a Very Short Leash. After a week of typing syllabi and welcome-back messages and e-mails aimed at charming colleagues into doing this, that, or the other thing, Moose finally agreed to sit down with, um, the Spirit of Roxie's World (SRW) for a Labor Day chat about how her reentry was going. We'll illustrate the conversation with a series of hilarious images (all picked up here) of an emergency reentry vehicle designed by General Electric in the early 1960s to bring an astronaut down from earth orbit to the planet's surface. The vehicle, which, alas, was never actually built, was conveniently known as MOOSE, Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment. Which means, of course, that its appearance on this humble blog was inevitable.

SRW: So, Moose, busy week. How's the reentry going?

Moose: So far, so bueno, but I'm here to tell you that life off leave is nothing like life on leave!

SRW: Fascinating, Moose. Could you elaborate for our readers?

Moose: Well, for one thing it involves a lot more talking -- to other people! -- and listening, lots and lots of listening. Oh, and clothing. Every single day. Clothing that fits and looks presentable and everything. It's going to take a while to get used to having to get dressed before 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

SRW: Now, Moose, aren't you exaggerating slightly?

Moose: Maybe a little, but, hey, I don't have a dog to walk anymore. That always got me out and about, gave me a sense of order and purpose, you know. I read a couple of stories this week about the trapped Chilean miners, about how important psychologists say it is for them to maintain a routine in order to keep from going all Lord of the Flies. I think it's possible I fell down a little in that department in the last few months of my leave, without, I hasten to say, killing anyone or even stealing their glasses.

SRW: Ah ha! Are you saying that it's good to be back on campus and to have more structure to your time again?

Moose: I'm saying it isn't all bad by any stretch of the imagination. I have a great appreciation for the value of time spent off and away from the clock. Even though it's important to get stuff done in order to justify one's time "off" -- to have something to show for it, as we say -- one of the best things about leaves and sabbaticals is that they open up space for moments of non-doing, which, as I have said before, are as necessary to one's creativity and learning as doing is. I firmly believe that daydreaming and other mental activities that don't appear to be productive can free up our minds in ways that will eventually help to advance our projects. Sometimes looking away is the best way to see something more clearly. (I note with interest, for example, a recent Chronicle of Higher Ed piece on academics who find that running increases mental acuity and helps with professional problem-solving.)

On the other hand, after spending a year mostly in a quiet, fairly unstructured time/space, I have to admit it feels good to step out into the daylight, as it were, and into a different energy. (Yes, I am thinking about those miners again, empathizing with their confinement to a dark, underground world, imagining their eventual [we hope!] return to life above ground.) There were moments last week when I really did feel that I was mentally blinking as I tried to adjust to a brighter, louder, more fast-paced world, but I also enjoyed it. Right away I felt my own pace quicken a bit and my reactions get a little sharper. I didn't miss a beat, for example, when my dean asked me at a meeting early in the week to take on a significant new service obligation. I agreed to do it -- in exchange for funding for a small but important initiative in my office. I think I even had the audacity to use the phrase quid pro quo as I was making my demand. Oh, yeah, I thought as I left the meeting, Moose is back on the leash -- and back in the game!

SRW: You're also back in the classroom. How does that feel?

Moose: Great, of course. Teaching really is like riding a bicycle. You don't forget how to do it and it can be a whole lot of fun. In this case, I have the added thrill of feeling like I am riding a shiny new bike, since the course I am teaching is brand new and the method of teaching it -- a writing workshop, really -- is so different from what I do in the lit or theory courses I usually teach. Plus, the course doesn't fulfill a single requirement for any degree program on campus, which means the students are taking it not because they have to but because they want to! That is like an academic hot fudge sundae with an extra dollop of awesome sauce on top!

SRW: So, how's it going?


SRW: Moose? I asked how the blogging class is going.

Moose:  Oh, fine. I just don't know how to talk about it yet, at least not here. I know people want me to, and I appreciate the interest. I just haven't figured out how to do that without feeling, I don't know, a certain boundary weirdness or perhaps some potential role conflict. In teaching this class, I have put blogging at the center of my public, professional life, and yet this place -- this quirky little corner of the blogosphere that has been a source of so much delight and fascination for me in the past four and a half years -- still stands in ambiguous and at times tense relation to my so-called real work. If I blog about the class here, I run the risk of making students who stop in for a visit think I am using them and the work we are doing together as blog fodder. If I don't blog about the class, I feel slightly disingenuous exhorting my students to embrace the challenge of what Richard E. Miller and Paul Hammond of Rutgers describe as "learning in public," which they see as the condition and the opportunity of thinking and writing in a network-centric world. I wholeheartedly agree with their position -- which is why their "This Is How We Think" presentation was one of the first texts assigned in my course. At the same time, the idea of going fully public with my teaching feels alien and slightly terrifying to me, as I imagine it would for most of my peers in colleges and universities. Oh, sure, the Interwebs are full of English profs, some from pretty fancy schools, doing their professing in front of the camera for all the world to see, but most of us were trained to think of teaching as an intensely private matter. You did it, but you didn't talk about it, and it wasn't polite to ask others how they did it. Weird, I know, and it's wonderful that attitudes and practices have shifted on campuses in recent years. Still, I've got some stuff to work through as I make my way across a new pedagogical terrain. I hope our readers will bear with me.

SRW: Sure they will, Moose. We're all here to assure your reentry is a smooth one. Think of Roxie's World as the multi-colored parachute automatically deployed to drop you gently and safely back to earth. Just stop in and type every now and again, OK? We miss you around here!

Moose: Oh, you know I will, Rox. I couldn't live without the work I do here. It's too much fun.

SRW: Alrighty then. There you have it, my pretties. The Moose has landed, and all is well in Roxie's World. Here's hoping all your landings are soft, all your students are brilliant, and all your deans are amenable to the making of mutually beneficial deals. Peace out.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Campus Parking

It's evidently Toyota Week in the Academic Fem/Dyke Blogosphere. Historiann got a new pre-owned Prius that comes with special parking privileges out there at Baa Ram U. Tenured Radical has a new Corolla that bears a suspicious resemblance to her old Corolla, but we probably shouldn't mention that because we learned it from Facebook and not from the blog and TR is evidently having some issues with FB and we wouldn't want to say anything to stoke her ambivalence because we'd miss her on FB if she were to give it up. Sh-h-h, don't tell her we told you about the car!

Anyhoo, kids, here is our contribution to Toyota Week in the Academic Fem/Dyke Blogosphere:

(Photo Credit: Moose on her iPhone, campus of QTU, 9/02/10)

Yep: Three little Priuses all in a row, baking in the scorching early September sun on the campus of QTU. No special parking privileges necessary, thank you. We are East Coast liberal elitists who require no rewards for socially responsible consumption other than that smug sense of superiority we have every time we go wind-surfing. Oh, and the silver pine mica 2007 Prius smack dab in the middle of the photo? That is, of course, the Official 4-Door Vehicle of Roxie's World, sporting a brand new rear bumper since the moms checked the last item off the long list of maintenance and repair they went through this summer. They regretted letting go of the Hillary 2008 sticker they still had proudly affixed to the old bumper, but they have a hunch that the way things are going they might have a chance to slap an Obama/Clinton sticker on the green machine in 2012. We'll see, won't we, darlings?

That's it for now, my pretties. More soon on how Moose's return to the classroom and other strange realities of Life After Leave is going. Meanwhile, you know, what's in your driveway? Peace out.