Friday, September 30, 2011

Weighty Matters


(Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, 9/30/11, via)


(Washington Post, 9/30/11, A19)

Double Plus Unfunny:

(Washington Post, 9/30/11, A16)

Look, kids, we're no fans of NJ Gov. Chris Christie, the tough-talking Republican who may or may not enter the presidential race. (That sad, squeaky sound you hear is the air going out of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's balloon.) We agree with esteemed Garden State political pundit Bruce Springsteen that Christie's tax cuts have had a devastating impact on the poor and the lower middle class, and we think the last thing the country needs is one more foaming-at-the-mouth tax hater.

Nonetheless, shame on WaPo for the double dose of fat hatred in this morning's coverage of Christie. Yes, the governor's size is notable and possibly newsworthy, in that his obesity could create health problems that would interfere with his ability to serve. Eugene Robinson notes in the column we screen-capped above that Christie was hospitalized this summer for asthma, a condition that can be worsened by obesity, and that the governor himself has acknowledged that his "weight exacerbates everything." A candidate's health is a legitimate issue, and Robinson is generally careful to frame his remarks in those terms. However, his snarky ending -- "I’d just like to offer [Christie] a bit of unsolicited, nonpartisan, sincere advice: Eat a salad and take a walk." -- along with the punny headline and the photo of the portly gov and the skinny-as-a-rail prez, tips the scales, as it were, in the direction of fat hatred. Especially when you consider that just three pages earlier Al Kamen's "In the Loop" column had run a very similar Christie/Obama photo to illustrate a few short pun-filled paragraphs aimed at "sizing up Gov. Christie's chances," as the headline on the web version of the story put it.

Sizing up: Get it? Belt-tightening: Hilarious, yes? A fitting time: Harharharharhar! The biggest loser: OMG, I am ROFL!

OK, technically, I am not ROFL. I am dead, and my typist is banging her head on the laptop screen thinking it's probably not just fat-hating and mean but also politically unwise of Dems and the so-called liberal media to start chortling and finger-pointing and making fun of the Wide Man who might want the Thin Man's job. A broad -- get it? -- section of the electorate is overweight, underpaid, and hopping mad right now. And lots of folks seem to be under the impression that the Thin Man may be something of a lightweight -- get it? -- when it comes to the brutal business of running the country. If this election turns on questions of physique, Obama's thinness may not be as much of an asset as the salad-eating media seem to imagine it will be.

Our advice and fervent hope? We wish good health to the governor of New Jersey, and we dream of a media mature enough to keep the focus on the truly weighty -- get it? -- matters facing the country.

Because, you know, their track record in that regard is. so. impressive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


File this one under, It Isn't Even October Yet, and I Know It's Going to Be One of Those Semesters:

(Photo Credit: Moose, on the campus of QTU, 9/27/11)

Moose had an 11 o'clock meeting this morning down in the Main Administration building at QTU -- you know, where such lofty personages as the president, the provost, and several dozen vice presidents of this or that extremely important thing nibble away at what's left of the soul of the institution do their extremely important work. Per usual, Moose was just a teensy bit late because she had spent the morning trying for the eleventy billionth time to figure out the new Facebook feed system rereading the beginning of Orlando for today's trans lit class. While getting dressed, she pulled an old pair of shoes out of the back of the closet, thinking they might look nicer with today's snazzy new outfit than her default work shoes. (Moose 2.0: She eats less and shops more.) She put them on and thought, "Oh, yes, much better than the clogs, comfy as those are." Away she went, feeling that extra little bounce a girl gets in her step when clothes and shoes are in happy harmony and every hair is more or less in place.

You know where this is going, don't you? Walk with Moose, as she makes her way down the long mall that comprises the bucolic heart of the QTU campus. It's a humid morning, so within a few minutes the good hair begins to wilt. Much more distressing, however, is that by the time she reached the bottom of the hill leading to the administration building, the bounce in Moose's step had become an awkward flap, flap, thud. She looked down and realized with horror that the heel of one of her shoes had come off. A small light flicked on in the back of her middle-aged mind. Oh, she thought, perhaps those shoes had been shoved to the back of the closet for a reason. Well, crap, now what? I still have to get to this %$&*#($ meeting! She picked up the broken heel, stuffed it in a bag, and hobbled into the meeting several minutes late. She greeted her assembled colleagues, pulled her phone and reading glasses out of her bag, and began -- surreptitiously yet frantically -- texting Goose, who, she hoped, was still at home. URGENT! she typed, hoping to grab her busy partner's attention.

Long story short: An hour or so later, as Moose trudged unevenly back up toward the English department, the heel on her other shoe started to come away from her shoe. Happily, halfway up the hill, she met Goose, who grinned and handed her the comfy and exceptionally durable clogs she should have put on in the first place. They chatted briefly, then Goose went down the hill to teach her class and Moose went up it to finish preparing for hers. Crisis averted, thanks to the miracle of modern communications technology and the incredible convenience of being a dual-career couple with the good fortune to be employed at the same institution.

Moral of the story? We believe Mr. David Cassidy put it best when he sang, in 1971, "I'll meet you halfway, that's better than no way." So true, Mr. Cassidy, so true. In life, love, and, um, footwear. Thank you, Goose, for saving the day. And you, my pretties? What's the takeaway for you in this amusing little slice of domestic/professional life? Wear sensible shoes, of course, and recognize that being well-heeled is not just a figure of speech. Peace out, darlings, and have a pleasant, meeting-free tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Empire State of Love

The Moms are about to catch a train for a big gay wedding up in the Big Apple this weekend. They also managed to snag a pair of tix to the hottest show in town, The Book of Mormon, so Moose is, like, you know, over the moon with excitement.

Our pal Julie, who's getting hitched, confessed on Facebook to having some difficulty writing her vows. Let's help her out, kids. What should a girl promise her girl as she publicly, legally commits to hanging in with her until the last dog dies? When the Moms stood up together in 1989 for their (not legal in any state) practically a wedding ceremony, Moose promised Goose a joke a day for the rest of her life. That's worked out pretty well, and it totally avoided all that pesky, bummer-inducing crap about sickness and death.

Leave your suggestions for Julie's vows in comments, darlings, and have a lovely, if soggy, weekend. Meanwhile, we'll play the girls off with a bit of relationship advice from Mr. Bruce Springsteen (who turns 62 today!) and the E Street Band. Here's a lovely version of "If I Should Fall Behind," which really tells you everything you need to know about what it takes to hang in with someone over the long haul. It all boils down to patience and compassion, doesn't it? If I mess up -- and I will -- bear with me. If I lose my way, don't lose faith. I will find my way home -- to you, to me, to us.
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I'll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me
Peace out, lovebirds.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Night Link-O-Rama

Quote of the Day: "Being an English major prepares you for impersonating authority" -- Garrison Keillor. Yes, it was that kind of day.

Latest Indication That Our Children Is Not Learning: SAT reading scores reach record low. Is kids to blame? Um, no.

Funnest Thing the Teacher Has Picked Up So Far in This Semester's Trans Lit Course: CISSEXUAL Prince Harry plans to be the first Royal to boldly go into space -- and even wants to enter NASA training. Trannies do too have a sense of humor!

Oh, So That's Why All Our Pals in the Midwest Are Switching to G-Mail: Proposed e-mail policy at U of Illinois gets knickers in wad.

Latest Proof That Eating Conscientiously Does Not Mean Giving Up Comfort Food: Cooking Light's makeover of Mac & Cheese -- with butternut squash. It's the meal you will make every time the forecast calls for snow this winter. It's the reason you will tune into the weather every evening praying there will be snow in the forecast. It's the reason you will soon regret every meal you ever ate that did not include butternut squash. And, you know, moderate amounts of gruyère, pecorino, and parmesan cheese.

Most Amusing Search Phrase That Led More Than One Reader to This Blog Recently: "what to wear in new york during summer for a wedding in city hall same sex." I know, I know, darlings: Social change is discombobulating. Aim for comfort and style. Even the dykes have gone snazzy now that we've all figured out we could end up hosting the Emmys. You will just have to cope.

That's all for now, kids. Both moms are already howling about what a crazy week it is, and the teaching part of it hasn't even started yet. Wevs. No matter how busy you are, don't forget to raise a paw to the long overdue demise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which officially lapses at midnight tonight. Let us know if you run out and join the Army, will ya? We love a girl -- or guy! -- in uniform. Peace out, y'all, and, you know, Semper Fi.

Here's a shot of that yummy casserole to help ease the pain of your work week.

(Photo Credit: Moose, 9/18/11)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ten Years and a Day (or Two)

Or, Why We Failed to Blog the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11

Like our good friend Keguro, we have been "trying not to write" about what happened in the United States and in our neighborhood ten years ago Sunday. (Go read that post. Keguro is in Kenya right now and reflects eloquently on how location affects memory and on how the events of that day transformed foreignness in the U.S.) Tenured Radical kindly invited us to participate in creating a bloggy archive of 9/11 posts that she set up over at her place, but we failed to produce anything for the actual day.

A major factor in our muteness was simply shortage of time. The Moms were on the road this past weekend at a family wedding and didn't get settled back to home, hearth, and happy dog until late Sunday evening. The 9/11 anniversary was a focus of some conversation during the festivities, part of the way that long lost cousins reestablished bonds and a sense of what time and adulthood had made of folks once known primarily as fellow occupants of the kids' table at holiday gatherings. Still, most of the talk was happy, as suited the occasion: How's that brother of yours? . . . . I'd like you to meet my second husband. . . . . Holy crap, Mom's on the dance floor! . . . . Do come by for breakfast tomorrow before you take off, OK? We'd love to spend some more time with you. Oh, and there was a certain amount of commentary on Moose's weight loss and the girlie-girl ensemble she wore to the wedding. We'll give you just the smallest peek and trust you to imagine the rest:

(Photo Credit and Pedicure: Baby Sister of the Moosians, 9/10/11)

(Yes, we feel a little weird about putting that photo in a post even tangentially related to 9/11, but, well, some of the most serious bloggers we know post regularly about shoez, darn it, so indulge us just this once, will you?)

Another reason for our muteness in regard to the anniversary is that we did a commemoration post in 2008 that recounted the story of 9/11/01 in Roxie's World -- Moose at home, watching the horror unfold on TV, convinced when the Pentagon was hit that World War III had started and was practically in our ridiculously large backyard; Goose on campus, responsible for a work group comprised chiefly of students, ordered by the campus administration not to leave until the students were gone. That story and the feelings it elicits in us have not changed. It remains true that "the unimaginable can happen on an achingly beautiful autumn morning. The world can change in an instant. Individual lives can be lost, shattered, or merely transformed. And all you can say [by way of comfort] is, 'I know.'" What more needs to be said by a humble dog blog typed by a distracted English prof? Nothing, perhaps, but indulge us a little longer.

Moose could not bear to watch the few glimpses of the anniversary coverage she happened to catch on TV over the weekend. It was too much, she said, and it brought up too much sorrow, not only for what was lost on that beautiful morning ten years ago but for all the tragedies and nightmares unleashed in the wake and too often in the name of that morning. The visuals were just too intense. In the car, though, on the way to and from the wedding, the Moms kept the radio tuned to NPR and so heard much of its coverage, made bearable, perhaps, by the soothing voices and the absence of high-definition images of the World Trade Center towers gently -- or so it looks, in slow motion -- sinking to the ground.

And so it was that on their way out of town on Friday afternoon they happened to hear a story about the extraordinary efforts to rebuild and reopen the damaged section of the Pentagon within a year after the attacks. In the middle of the story, which featured Walker Lee Evey, a modest, genial-sounding fellow who managed the reconstruction project, they glanced out the car window and realized they were driving past -- the Pentagon. They marveled at that weird bit of synchronicity and went on their way. On the return trip Sunday evening, they listened to a selection of StoryCorps' 9/11 tributes and recollections. The stories are captivating, of course, recording with gut-wrenching specificity the individuality of lives lost and survivors struggling to carry on. They listened intently to one particularly powerful account by Beverly Eckert, whose husband Sean Rooney spoke to her for more than 30 minutes from the 105th floor of the World Trade Center until the collapse of the building cut off the call and his life. As Eckert's narrative ended, the dulcet-voiced reporter picked up the story -- with the tragic update that Eckert, who became a prominent advocate for those affected by the attacks, was killed in a plane crash in 2009 while flying to an event to honor her late husband. Both Moms gasped as they took in that painful detail, and as they struggled to absorb it the car rounded a curve -- and there again, across several ribbons of highway and in the soft light of a sweet late-summer evening, was the Pentagon.

The Pentagon is about ten miles from the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC. Going south from Roxie's World, it's the first clear sign that a trip is underway, as the federal city and its monuments fade from view. Coming north, it means, Hooray, we're nearly home! One part of our household's 9/11 narrative that didn't make it into the 2008 post is that, on the weekend after the attacks, the Moms felt moved to get in the car and drive down to see the damaged building. It felt necessary and appropriate to do so. They are hardly fans of the military-industrial complex, though Moose has always admitted that in the aftermath of the attacks she took comfort in the sounds of fighter jets constantly passing over the house. In any case, they needed to see for themselves the appalling gash in the massive building, smell the smoke from the barely extinguished fires. They were hardly alone in that impulse. The highway was packed with vehicles that slowed to a crawl as they approached the Pentagon.

Others have written about experiencing 9/11 at some distance from the attacked places. (See, for example, Historiann's comment on TR's post.) The Pentagon is different from the World Trade Center in being geographically separate from its surroundings and in being not a relatively open center of commerce but a closed space designed to be hard to access and even, in some ways, to see. These are points made in a thoughtful piece by Marc Fisher in WaPo a couple of weeks ago on why and how it is that public memory of the 9/11 attacks focuses almost exclusively on New York, with only nominal attention paid to the Pentagon (or Shanksville, PA, for that matter).

"[T]he story of 9/11 has become overwhelmingly a New York story," Fisher notes. He goes on to explore this imbalance by acknowledging the many factors that have given rise to it, including the scale of the losses at the different locations, the lack of video of the plane hitting the Pentagon, the building's architecture and its physical remoteness from its surroundings, and a military culture that favors secrecy and efficiency over openness and prolonged public debate over how to honor the victims of the attacks. Fisher writes without rancor about the skewing of public memory toward New York, refusing to enter into an unseemly game of comparative suffering, but his point should raise concern for those who are interested in having as full and accurate a record as possible of the attacks and their impacts.

The military may not be comfortable having such a devastating assault on the symbolic and actual center of American power be a part of public memory, but the rest of us should insist upon it. The Moms have lived in the Washington area for a quarter century now. Nothing in all those years compares to those terrible hours of uncertainty when the Pentagon was burning and rumors swirled of bombs on the grounds of the Capitol. If history "requires the assembling and collation of memory," then Washington stories, too, must be brought into the account. The Pentagon was on fire. My friend could see the flames from her office window. Goose went to Taco Bell on her way home from campus late in the afternoon because neither of us had eaten. I stayed in my bathrobe and watched TV for 16 hours. In the family calendar she faithfully maintains for the household, Goose wrote on September 11, 2001, simply: "The saddest day." That weekend, we drove down to Arlington and went slowly by the Pentagon. We rolled down the windows and could smell the smoke. I don't remember what we said or if we said anything at all. That was a sad day, too.

(Photo Credit: Bob Houlihan, US Navy, via)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Day I Became a Dog

Our big question: When will Ruby speak? Stay tuned.
--Tenured Radical, 8/28/11
Roxiom 1: Dogs, like people, are different from each other. Even dogs of the same breed, who share many of the same physical characteristics and behavioral tendencies, may be so different from one another as to seem like all but different species.

With dogs as with people, therefore, one who would enter into significant relationship -- who would, in short, fall in love -- must assume nothing in advance about what the beloved critter will prove to be or do in any given circumstance. Past relationships with similar critters will be of limited value and can in fact be detrimental to forming an understanding of a new dog if one is forever comparing the one to the other. Every sentence that begins, But [our last dog] [loved this] [hated that] [always did this] [never did that] -- , is an insult to the unique and perfect incarnation of doggedness standing before you, ready and eager to love and be loved for and as itself.

Dogs are different from each other. The differences may arise from that vague yet powerful place known as temperament. Some dogs are alpha, others simply are not. Some are willful and aggressive, others are inclined to be docile. Some love water, others fear it when they fear nothing else on earth. Some are territorial and lunge at the UPS guy every day of their lives even if he is the sweetest fellow ever to drive a truck. Others yawn through his incursions with apparent indifference. Some bark lustily and often. Some . . . rarely make a peep. Same breed, different critters.

Dogs are different from each other. Some differences arise from experience or environment. (Yes, my clever darlings -- It's a nature/nurture conundrum we are probing here.) A dog raised from birth in a stable, stimulating, critter-affirming home is bound to be different from one who spends the first three years of her life in, say, a Missouri puppy mill, neglected, confined, unsocialized, unloved. That the latter critter could emerge from such deprivation eager to bond with humans and prepared to adapt to a radically different set of circumstances is testament to an admirable resilience. Nonetheless, such a critter will need time to adjust and to figure who and how she will be, now that she has the luxury of being able to make choices in such matters. My yard? you imagine her marveling. What can you possibly mean? Mine? And I should go play in it? What is this thing you call "play?"

All of this hemming and hawing over difference may seem to avoid the question at the top of this post, a question put to us by this blog's dear, though as yet unmet, friend, Tenured Radical, from her lofty new perch over at the Chronicle of Higher Education (which has apparently become a hotbed of lesbian blogging -- Who knew? Yo, Chron, my typist is a raging Sapphist! We await your call!).

Anyhoo, TR has been nagging us quietly persisting with the question of when the new embodied dog of Roxie's World will begin holding forth in this space. It is, as she says, a big question, one that preoccupied the creative team for much of the long, hot, whacky summer of 2011. When the Moms weren't gallivanting from here to there to the other place, Moose spent long hours huddled with Mark Twain, director of the Office of Persona Management for Roxie's World, considering if, when, and how the adorable Ms. Ruby would make her debut as more than just a pretty face around here. Though Moose and Mark often disagree on matters creative and political, they both felt strongly that such a delicate issue had to be handled with the utmost care, especially in light of its potentially blog-transforming significance.

Over drinks at Ishmael's, the seedy yet cozy bar around the corner from the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC, Twain argued forcefully that if Ruby spoke she should not disparage his home state of Missouri, despite her unhappy experiences there, but he thought it would be OK if she cussed. "You know, Moose, this place could use some healthy swearing -- and not just in comments from your pal PhysioProfThere ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It's dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that." Moose was dubious about the swearing, healthy as she finds it to be in her own off-blog communications life. She thought Ruby might offer uplifting advice to people and critters struggling to overcome adversity. "She could become the voice of the glass half full, on account of she got a rough start in life, but she never lost hope and things have turned out pretty well for her." Twain rolled his eyes and ordered bartender Peter Coffin to put a shot of vodka in Moose's next smoothie.

It went on like this for weeks, with Moose and Mark going back and forth and round and round, raising possibilities and shooting them down, until finally one evening, as happy hour was winding down, a scratchy little voice from a pallet beside Moose's seat at the bar said,

I could tell them about the deer.

Moose and Mark looked down at the floor and then at each other in amazement, for Ruby is not in the habit of interrupting their barstool colloquies. "What?" they said, in unison.

I could tell them about the deer.

"Go on, Ruby," Moose said gently. "What about the deer?"

I could tell them about that night, last week, after the earthquake and the hurricane and the start of school, when the deer was out in the yard, chowing down on the hostas again. I was in the house with you, Tall Lady -- the one Roxie called Moose. The Other Lady -- the one Roxie called Goose -- was out in the yard, frustrated because she couldn't get the deer to leave. You and I saw what was happening and you decided to let me out, thinking I would probably ignore the deer because I'm not much of a hunter but I might manage to startle her anyway and get her to leave the yard. To your surprise, though, in that moment I came into full possession of my mighty terrier heritage. I found my voice, my speed, and my powerful instinct to give chase. I pursued that deer up and down the ridiculously large backyard, barking louder than you had ever heard, determined to make her leave. You and the Other Lady were impressed but worried, concerned that the deer in her panic would attack me. (Such things happen.) She didn't, though. I chased and I chased, and finally, in one delicate movement of her whole body, she leapt the fence and was gone. You and the Other Lady beamed happily at me and gave me a rub behind the ears. "Well, well," you said, "looks like somebody figured out she's a terrier!" I was so excited that I promptly went and took a big poo in a remote corner of the yard, which, you know, I rarely do, preferring to take care of my business on walks around the block.

"That's right, Ruby-doo," Moose said with a doting smile. "That's a wonderful story, and I agree it's one our readers should hear. What would you want them to take away from it?"

How the heck should I know? I did not spend the first three years of my life curled up on the floor of an English prof's study, taking in queer theory and Emily Dickinson by osmosis. Your readers are pretty smart critters. They'll figure out that this is a story about how, six months into my new life with you and the Other Lady, I recognized and acted upon something important about what it means to be a Dog With Humans. You are my people, your yard is my yard. I will love and protect you, as you have loved and cared for me. You will show me a world I never knew existed, a rich, vast, varied world of groomers and grandmothers and pretty boys and feisty girls and beautiful trails and bodies of water that seem to go on forever. In return, I will chase deer from the yard and put my head on the keyboard of your laptop when it's time to stop typing and snuggle. Stuff like that. As I said, though, readers will figure out why the story matters -- You don't have to tell them everything.

Mark Twain looked at Moose and said, "She has a point, you know. Like most stories on Roxie's World, Ruby's charming tale of her encounter with the deer is of the humorous type, and the humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular."

"Of course," Moose replied. "That's our stock in trade. So Ruby fits right in to our rambling style and our admittedly loose preexisting structure. We don't have to change a thing, and we don't have to explain anything!"

"Good lord, no!" Twain thundered. "Explanations are for comic stories, not humorous ones, and involve such tedious things as exclamation points and parentheses. All of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life."

"And lord knows there'll be no renouncing of joking around here, eh, Mark? I'll raise my smoothie to that, with an exclamation point!"

Twain raised his whiskey and clinked Moose's glass. They both laughed heartily and with evident relief. From the pallet on the floor, the new dog sighed and laid her head on Moose's foot. My human. My world. My still, small voice.

* * *

With thanks to Tenured Radical, for asking the question and helping us to shake off the lethargy of summer. Paws up to you, pal.

(Photo Credits: All photos by Moose. The top one is Roxie at Smith Mountain Lake in October, 2003. The middle one is Ruby on a Sunday morning in March, 2011. The bottom one is Ruby soaking wet from Hurricane Irene on August 27, 2011.)