Sunday, November 28, 2010

What Remains

Scroll down to the previous post to see what Moose's Thanksgiving pies looked like on Thursday morning. Here is what they looked like at 3 PM Eastern today:

(Photo, Food Prep, Styling, and Considerable Eating by Moose, 11/28/10)

That is all, darlings. It's been a long, long weekend. There's laundry to be folded and a certain amount of decompressing to be done. And the last two teaching weeks of the semester begin tomorrow. Time for a couple of Tums, a deep, cleansing breath, and some quiet time before the fire to steel ourselves for what lies ahead. We hope you had a joyous holiday and managed to avoid ending up with, um, stitches in your lip.

Speaking of what remains, if you are trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your bird, here is a great recipe for a white chili with turkey from our good friends over at "Food Porn for the Conscientious," Cooking Light. Just 217 calories per one cup serving!

If, on the other hand, you've decided to stay on board the party train and are looking for allies in the noble cause of pursuing pleasure, we highly recommend this fascinating piece by Richard Klein that was in the Chronicle last week. "The Case Against Health" (an adaptation of Klein's contribution to this cool-looking new collection from NYU Press) argues that "the official version of health" peddled in the United States today is a deeply moralizing, complexly political, and potentially noxious Puritanism that "views the least indulgence in adult pleasure as the sign of a nascent habit on the way to becoming a dangerous compulsion." Klein locates an alternative and, as it were, healthier model of health in the pleasure- and body-affirming tradition that comes down to us from Epicurus. We were tickled to see that Klein holds up Julia Child as a contemporary exemplar of Epicureanism, noting that "Whenever anyone asked [Child] to name her guilty pleasures, she responded, 'I don't have any guilt.'" Go read the article. And then, dammit, go polish off the last of that pecan pie. You deserve it!

Ah, Julia, a woman without guilt? No wonder we heart you so! Peace out, pleasure-lovers, and have a happy tomorrow.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Aunt Pie

(Photo Credit, Food Prep & Styling: Moose, 11/24/10)

Happy Thanksgiving, darlings! Thanks for popping in to share a small slice of your holiday with your pals in Roxie's World. We hope that you are settled in for a happy day of feasting and fun. We are. The out-of-towners (the older Moosian siblings and their straight-married spouses) arrived yesterday without overly zealous government frisking. (They drove.) The sweet potato and carrot soup has been made, without a repeat of last year's unfortunate blender malfunction that resulted in hot soup exploding all over the stove, countertop, floor, and, um, Moose. A large batch of grandmother Janie's olives is chilling out on the porch, ready and waiting for cocktail hour. The superb cranberry chutney is in the fridge, jacked up with an extra half cup of port, thanks to Moose's poor skill with numbers. (She was increasing the recipe by half and ended up doubling the amount of port. Oopsy doopsy, darlings! What's a girl to do?) The bird is brining quietly in the cooler.

And the pecan pies pictured above are snuggled up next to the apple and pumpkin pies that the guests brought for the dessert extravaganza destined to precede the traditional post-prandial screening of Best in Show.

Y'all know the moms are pretty good cooks. They are not, as a rule, big bakers, but come holiday time Moose becomes a pie chef, because the ritual requires it. She embraces the role with joy, reveling in the opportunity to plunge her hands into flour and the deep culinary herstory that pie-making carries with it. The Mother of the Moosians (who will celebrate Thanksgiving with the family of her oldest grandchild today) was a mighty fine pie-maker in her day, so fine in fact that the cousins of Moose's generation called her "Aunt Pie" instead of "Aunt Pat." For decades, Moose avoiding pie-making because she was sure she could never make a crust as light and flaky and perfect as the ones her mom would make. So now, when she takes up the task at Thanksgiving, she spends those happy moments lightly mixing the flour and the Crisco doing her best to summon up her mother's sure, delicate touch.

Moose and Goose are partial to pecan pies. The recipe they use is a version of the delicious pies Goose's Aunt Inelle whipped up for the family gatherings of Goose's Texas girlhood. The mother of the Goosians shared the recipe with Moose one Christmas when the moms were in Austin. "Inelle always added a couple of tablespoons of bourbon to her pies," Mozelle explained to Moose with a twinkle in her eye. Which means, of course, that every year when Moose pulls the bourbon out of the liquor cabinet during pie-making, she pauses to send up a good thought in memory of Aunt Inelle. And this year, she paused to note that this was the first Thanksgiving in twenty-six years that she wouldn't have a holiday phone call with her beloved mother-out-law.

Ah, there it is: the poignant side of the holidays -- that moment in the midst of the celebration when we pause to reflect upon who is not at the table, who will not walk in the door and wrap us in a bear hug, who will not wag a tail in eager anticipation of a morsel of turkey that just might fall to the floor.

Party on, beloveds. You have so much to be thankful for. Here is Moose's pecan pie recipe, which combines the Silver Palate recipe with the aforementioned touches of Texas spirit. (We picked up the Silver Palate recipe here.)

Moose's Pecan Pie


4 eggs
1 C. brown sugar
3/4 C. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. melted sweet butter (1/2 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 C. shelled pecans, chopped
9-inch unbaked pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
1/3 C. shelled pecan halves


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pastry.

Beat eggs well in a large bowl. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, melted butter, and vanilla to the eggs, and mix thoroughly.

Sprinkle chopped pecans in pastry-lined pan. Pour egg mixture over pecans. Arrange pecan halves around edge of filling next to crust for decoration. (NB: Moose just mixes the chopped pecans in with the egg mixture and pours them all into the pastry shell together.)

Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for one hour.

Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Note: The Silver Palate recipe calls for starting the pie at 450 degrees for ten minutes and then lowering the temperature to 325 for another 25-30 minutes, which makes the pie more candy-like. Moose prefers the softer pie that results from longer baking at a lower temperature.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Refusal, Resignation, Resistance

(Image Credit: Steve Garfield's photostream on Flickr)

(Brief Note from the Office of Snort-Inducing Visual Allusions: In the unlikely event that you missed Glee this week and need a recap to understand the left side of the above image, go here. In the even more unlikely event that you don't get the right side of the above image because you think Sally Field made it big through Boniva commercials, go here.)

Once upon a time several weeks ago, before the mania for Xtranormal cartoons and the pressures of November interrupted the flow of normal blogging around here, we intended to weigh in on a conversation about salary stagnation in higher education that our pal Tenured Radical started late in October. We return to the subject now because it still seems important, as evidence of faculty discontent and institutional desperation continues to mount.  First, we direct your attention to some extraordinary tidbits from those earlier posts that convey the deep anger and demoralization faculty are experiencing as the expectation that they will do more while earning less begins to seem like a permanent rather than a temporary condition of their work lives. Tenured Radical lays down a line in the sand, declaring her “bottom line” on the pressure on faculty to earn additional income (for themselves and their institutions) by teaching, in effect as adjuncts, for summer and winter extension programs. Acknowledging the reality of financial problems in higher ed and the need for restructuring at her own institution, she nonetheless offers up a fiery je refuse to the idea that faculty should take on extra labor to make up for the inadequacies in compensation for the work they have already contracted to do.

“I refuse to sell myself for less than I am worth,” she declares. “I refuse to contribute to the casualization of academic labor; and I refuse to do what is essentially volunteer work for my employer.”

That has the feel of an oath or a pledge, doesn’t it, kids? Raise your right paw and repeat after me: I refuse to sell myself for less than I am worth, dammit!

TR, who is 52 and has committed to retiring at 65, ends the post by dangling before us the possibility of her leaving academia to become a fulltime writer.

Meanwhile, over at Historiann, there was talk of an atmosphere of resignation among the tenured faculty, of postponing completion of second books because merit and promotion raises are currently miniscule or nonexistent, of feeling disinclined to take on service commitments when class sizes have increased and there is steadily more work for fewer people to do. “We’re all turning into Alfred E. Neumans,” Historiann sardonically quips, “captioned by ‘What – me bother?’” That sad joke brought an even sadder figure to Moose’s mind -- Hurstwood from Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900), who ends his life in a flophouse with a weary, “What’s the use?” after his prosperity and prestige have slipped away through a series of poor judgments and failures to adjust to changing circumstances.

What’s the use? Is that what we’ve come to, my pretties? In truth, I don’t think we have, and I include Tenured Radical and Historiann in that royal, bloggy “we.” In these gestures of refusal and resignation, the queer optimists of Roxie’s World choose to see encouraging signs of an overdue resistance to the grim and getting grimmer conditions of academic work in the 21st century. We want to keep the resistance going. We want to see it get broader and deeper and more concrete. In raising our paws and taking our own oath against collaborating further in the casualization of our labor, we would like to start a conversation about steps faculty might take or changes they might advocate that would make more efficient use of faculty time. That's right, kids: Efficiency. We can play that game, too!

Here then are our Faculty Tips for Surviving in the Age of Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises, LLC). Read 'em. Add to 'em. Live 'em -- Unless you secretly long to end up starring in the next viral video of the Professor Who Totally Lost It.

Refuse to take on independent studies. That won’t really hurt students, who tend to take independent studies as much for the sake of scheduling convenience as to satisfy a burning desire to conduct research that couldn’t be undertaken within the context of a regular course. Special note to the untenured: You should say no to independent studies under any and all circumstances. They are major time sinks. You get no credit for them, and they take away from the already limited time and energy you have available for the work that will matter come tenure time. The clock is ticking! Say NO!

Refuse to take on service roles that feel pointless and don’t advance the cause of shared governance. Example: Conducting merit reviews in years when there is no merit money. The argument has always been that you do the reviews anyway so that the money can be awarded retrospectively on that magical day when the bronze turtle out in front of the library turns into a pot of gold. Bull$hit. Conduct the review if and when the funds materialize. Stop wasting our under-compensated time in the meantime.

Reduce the size of thesis, exam, and dissertation committees. In the moms’ department, for example, dissertation committees have four members from inside the department and one from outside. Lop off one of those insiders, and the student is still assured a range of input and an adequate supply of recommendation writers. This seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Efficiency means that you don't need too many cooks hanging around the kitchen arguing over the meaning of the recipe, right?

Scale back the surveillance/mentoring of junior faculty, which crossed the fine line between helpful and pathological about two years ago. Moose jokes that junior faculty are observed so frequently that their classes might as well be co-taught. She heard tell recently of a department that conducts a fifth-year review before tenure – on top, no doubt, of an extensive second- or third-year review. Don’t get us wrong. We adore our junior colleagues and want more than anything to see them succeed, but we are not convinced that constant monitoring is in their or the department’s best interest. For dog’s sake, people, you admired these young whippersnappers enough to hire them – How about just letting them do the job? Paging Goldilocks. Goldilocks, come in, please. Can we strive for just right when it comes to the amount of adult supervision the untenured are forced to endure and the tenured are asked to supply?

Similarly, dial back on the number of external reviewers required for tenure and promotion, which slipped into crazy territory about a decade ago. Srsly, folks, given the size of some fields in the age of hyper-specialization, it's darn near impossible to find six people that candidates haven't known in either a biblical or dissertational sense. I know that the point of having a bazillion letters is to limit or offset the damage of a negative letter, but how large and loud does the chorus of praise really need to be? Imagine the sighs of relief that would be heard across the land if four reviewers became the standard again in the humanities. When was the last time you saw a department chair turning cartwheels in the center of your campus, darling?

Unionize if you can; work like hell to make your faculty senate an effective advocate on workload and compensation issues if you can't. A recent study suggests unionization "'greatly increases faculty influence' over faculty salary scales, individual faculty salaries, and the appointments of academic department heads and of members of institutionwide committees."

So, what do you think? What would you add to our list? What are you planning to do to feel a little less miserable in your work life? Tell us! Best suggestion will get made into an Xtranormal cartoon featuring the feisty and entirely fictional rabble-rouser, Professor Louise Sawyer. Call me crazy, but I think Louise looks an awful lot like you. Peace out, proffies, and have a better tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Resistance Is Futile

Please let me in, Mr. President. I mean, srsly, what. have. you. got. to. lose? People are saying this joint has already gone to the dogs. Let's make it literal, and at least you'll know you've got one true pal. Lemme in. Lemme IN. Lemme IN already!

(First Dog of the United States, Bo, peers into the Oval Office from the Colonnade of the White House. Photo Credit: Pete Souza, the White House, via.)

That is all, darlings. We stumbled across this photo and thought it was a succinct way to do some political venting and indulge our dog-lust, which is considerable among the dogless dog people of Roxie's World at the moment. Moose blames the impending holidays. Wevs. You know it's bad when you get misty-eyed over the pic on the Dog of the Day Calendar.

How're things in your neck of the woods, kids? Here's hoping there is a pink-tongued bundle of love standing outside your door. Fer dog's sake, would ya let it in already? Peace out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Excellence Without Money: The Movie

Raise your hand if you had figured Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises, LLC) would be the title of our second contribution to the Disgruntled Academic Animated Short Film Festival that has been going on in the blogosphere lately. Good for you, darlings. You know us well, and you have been paying very close attention, as always.

Well, here it is, just in time for your weekend movie-watching pleasure. In this followup to our debut flick, "I Want to be Promoted," Professor Louise Sawyer (who, as we told you before, is entirely fictional) sits down with her (also 100% imaginary) dean to discuss the budget for the (nonexistent) program Professor Sawyer directs. Sparks fly as the two women debate the relationship between resources and (insert groaning sound here) excellence.

Moose is so fond of our latest cinematic masterpiece that she is considering taking it to La La Land for the MLA Convention in January, where she will be presenting on a roundtable (that will include our blog boyfriend Chris Newfield and MLA Exec Direc Rosemary Feal!) called "New Tools, Hard Times: Social Networking and the Academic Crisis." The session is part of a series of panels and workshops on the timely theme of "The Academy in Hard Times." What do you think, kids: PowerPoint or snarky cartoon? Snarky cartoon or PowerPoint? Leave your votes in comments, please.

Oh, and lest there be any confusion: Our film is in no way intended as a response to this peculiar little video that was flying around the campus of QTU this week at the behest of an extremely high-ranking administrator. Nope, not no way, not no how. Far be it from us to try to figure out whether building a car is anything at all like running a university or whether the color beige is the universal signifier of the opposite of excellence. No, my darlings, such conundrums are way beyond our (furlough-depressed) pay grade. Just watch the movie. Send it to your favorite adjunct or, if you dare, your favorite dean. Feel free to pass it along with our motto: Serious times call for unserious responses. Or, pass it along with this handy little phrase, Excellentia sine pecunia. That's "Excellence Without Money" in Latin, of course. Big wigs just love fancy-sounding foreign phrases, especially in dead languages!

Have a lovely weekend, my pretties, and enjoy the show. The soundtrack for this one? I'm thinking it's gotta be R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." That sound about right to you? Yeah, I thought so. Peace out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"I am an Eater of Chips"

Dear Mr. President,

Next time you sit down with a comedian, you might want to click on this vid a few times beforehand, just to see how it's done. Yep, this gal's got some serious comic chops, Mr. President. She can sit down with a couple of Aussie snark wizards, crack 'em up with some dead-pan looks and a couple of well-timed jokes about potato chips, and probably still create world peace by dinner time. Meantime, you are -- Oh, well, never mind, sir. We know you've had a rough couple of weeks. Everybody deserves to get out of town every now and again. Anyway, that SOS of yours -- Heck, Mr. President, she's so funny we're thinking of trying to snag her for our next Intertoob cartoon sensation. We think she'd be a huge hit with our core audience of hormonally unbalanced feminazis. Would you, um, let her know we'd like to talk to her? I mean, you know, if you happen to run into her somewhere in your travels. Tell her that we, too, are eaters of chips. Big time, as a former vice president used to say.

Anyway, sir, click on the vid. You'll be glad you did. Honor bright. Oh, and if you'd like a little insight into the incredible meltdown of your presidency, click on over to our old pal Anglachel, who is suddenly blogging up a storm again, mostly upon that very subject. You may not like what you read there, but, well, the truth, like election results, may hurt sometimes. We still think it's worth knowing. Dogspeed, Mr. President. We wish you all the best.

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I Want to be Promoted

Blame it on Tenured Radical. She jumped onto the Xtranormal bandwagon earlier this week with a side-splitting text-to-movie cartoon about a tenured professor demanding a raise from a priggish, tight-fisted department chair. Her directorial debut followed on the heels of the brilliantly sardonic tale of a naive yet determined undergraduate seeking a letter of recommendation from a jaded professor, "So, You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities." Finally, at the end of the week, thanks to Facebook, we stumbled across a masterful bit of dreamwork, "One Professor's Fantasy," which finally answers the question, "What would you say to slacker students if you were supremely clever and didn't give a rat's hind end about what might happen if you said what you were actually thinking?"

We're thinking it's just a matter of time before the Academy Awards adds a new category, "Animated Short Films by Disgruntled Academics." That's why my typist spent most of this week -- when she wasn't teaching, presenting a paper, preparing for a dissertation defense, or conceding defeat in her campaign to become governor of Maryland -- working up Roxie's World's first foray into video blogging. Hey, she set up a YouTube channel for us and everything! Our debut film is a heart-breaking work of staggering silliness also focused on life after tenure in the age of Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises, LLC).

Couple o' things you need to know before you gather 'round the laptop for your first viewing of "I Want to be Promoted":

1. The soundtrack for the film would, of course, be this song, which has been banging around in Moose's head for the entire week as she fiddled with Xtranormal's not especially user-friendly interface. Please click on that link so that the song will move out of her head and into yours. Please. Give a working girl a break, will ya?

2. The film is a work of fiction. Totes. Swear to dog. It depicts a conversation that never took place between two people who do not exist, though the clever might detect an allusion or two to this also fictional work. That means the Huck Finn rule applies:
PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
Interpret at your own risk.

3. Despite being a work of the imagination, the film makes reference to certain true facts of academic life, most notably that standards for tenure and promotion have changed significantly over time and vary widely from institution to institution. As for the claim that as late as 1969 a third of American professors did not have PhDs, we ran across it in Louis Menand's The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University. Page 121.

OK, kids. It's time to press play! Be kind in your reviews, and then run on over to Xtranormal and get in on the action yourself. Ballots for next year's Oscar noms go out December 27! See you on the red carpet, darlings. It's never too late to become a star, is it? Is it?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day 2010

Good morning, citizens! It's Election Day! Time to get our sorry a$$es out the door and party like it's, um, oh, you know, 1994! Raise your hand if you are old enough to remember that long, strange night. If your hand is up, tell us if you think it's worse to have been pretty much in the dark about what was coming in 1994 or to have been beaten over the head for months and months with confident predictions about the size, scale, and nature of the bloodbath, as has been the case this time. Tough call, isn't it? Me, I don't know, I'm thinking a little more ignorance might have been a lot more blissful, but, hey, it ain't over till the votes have been counted, right? Right?

Get out there and do your duty, and remember: If you are a Maryland state employee bitter about furloughs and underfunded pension obligations, you can write in Moose for governor. She's running on a platform of no more furloughs, legal (and taxable) marijuana, and an end to state-sponsored marriage for everybody.

Moose: Responsible Radicalism for Ridiculous Times

Speaking of responsible, Moose has to vote and teach today, so she can't sit around typing for me all day. Spend a couple of minutes watching this odd slideshow WaPo did on how "ordinary voters" are feeling about government on the brink of the election. The first voter featured has her hands on her cheeks in a gesture reminiscent of Edvard Munch's The Scream and describes the government as "freedom-robbing." Which made us want to, you know, scream. Anyhoo, kids, have a great day and remember: We survived impeachment over a blow job. We survived the stealing of an election. We have survived -- so far -- nine seasons of American Idol. I feel confident we can endure whatever the results of today's election might bring. Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Peace out.