Monday, October 31, 2011

Ruby's First Halloween

Miss Ruby tries on her hand-me-down wizard costume in preparation for her first night of greeting trick or treaters in Roxie's World:

Fits perfectly, don't you think? She has studied previous Halloween posts to get a sense of what this peculiar holiday is all about and why it requires her to cover up her pretty new haircut with a long cape that she will inevitably step on or wag off with her tail in the excitement of meeting throngs of young chocolate-seeking zombies and ghosts. She has taken my words to heart, though, and is ready to play her part in the festivities. "I love the little princesses and the animals and the girls with fangs and the one who explains she is 'the spirit of music,'" I declared in 2008, the last Halloween I was physically able to greet visitors. I went on to explain:
I love a festival of pretending to be something other than what you "are." I think that is a healthy exercise in stepping outside the usual order of things. I think it is good to try to know oneself in one's apart-ment, as Dickinson might have said.
As it was then, so it is now and ever shall be. Happy Halloween, darlings. Enjoy the dark side. Revel in your apart-ment. Just don't let your dogs eat chocolate. We'll be back soon with a blockbuster post on the theme of Excellence Without Money, but my typist, like all the other profs in the blogosphere, has a mountain of papers to grade and letters to write at the moment. Pray for her, please, as she endeavors to rid the world of comma-splices and mushy prose. Peace out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cocktails and Queries

Oh, Googles, what would we do without you? Especially at the tail end of an exhausting teaching week, when brains are so scrambled you begin to worry that someone will mistake you for the latest entrant into the Republican presidential field. The Moms gave up on coherent thought early in the evening and headed over to a favorite local eatery for drinks and dinner. (That's Goose's extra dry martini in the photo on the left and Moose's kicky combo of champagne, St. Germain, and other cute ingredients on the right). Now they're vegetating in front of the World Series. My typist is cruising the interwebs in a desultory way and starts poking around in the keyword data on this blog's hit counter. Yeah, she finally says with a yawn, let's steal a page out of Nicole and Maggie's play book and do a Google Q&A post. I think I have enough brain power left to manage that. Boy, searchers are strange, but let's take a stab at answering some of the actual queries that have recently led readers to Roxie's World.

Q: how long does it take to get roxys out of your system
A: Oh, sweet pea, we don't know, but we don't think you should mess around with that $hit at all. You might consult this guy for advice. Or, if you are convinced Roxie's World is where you want to be, you might do a search here on the phrase "lifestyle adjustment" to get sensible but not obnoxious advice about healthy eating and nice things you can do to and with your body. Hint: Abusing Roxicodone is not on the list.

Q: which side of the army uniform does the name type go
A: Not sure, but I'll go out on a limb and say it's either the right or the left. (OK, it's right, but I bet the gayz will change that, don't you?)

Q: Picture of a white person hugging a asian tranny
A: Incredibly, somehow in the nearly 6-year history of this humble dog blog devoted to politics, pop culture, and basketball, we have failed to publish a single photograph of a white person hugging an Asian tranny. We apologize for the oversight and wish to assure readers that our crack team of interweb image trollers will seek to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. But, you know, it may not be easy. Please bear with us. 

Q: refrigerator eats socks
A: Of course it does, darling, and our microwave belches occasionally. You worry about a refrigerator if and only if something smells or there's a puddle of water on the floor. Otherwise, close the door and walk away.

Q: yes we can parody
A: Yes, you can -- and you should. Parody makes life better.

Q: gay stupid album covers
A: Oh, so many to choose from, but start here.

Q: expression of people being kind
A: Not quite sure what you're getting at here, but I've always thought this guy's face had just about the kindest expression I've ever seen. Kindness, compassion, and a playfulness that always makes my typist smile. Even if he isn't what you were searching for, you probably won't mind stumbling across him in the overcrowded emptiness of cyberspace.

Sweet dreams, my pretties. Game 6 is finally over, so it's time for bed. Peace out.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Impossible Demands

Judith Butler speaks at Occupy Wall Street, her voice amplified by the human microphone of the assembled crowd. On the one hand, it's an academic wet dream: We all wish the masses sounded as smart and decent as Judith Butler, and it's intoxicating to see that fantasy actualized for three minutes and forty seconds. On the other hand, in desperate times, a wet dream is at least a dream, and perhaps a dream is what is needed to begin to move the 99% out of sleep, silence, paralysis, despair -- or whatever it is that has kept us so passive so long in the face of so many urgencies and obscenities, so much inequality, so little courage or kindness on the part of our leaders, even those who have claimed to be on the side of hope.

If hope is an impossible demand, Butler declares, then we demand the impossible. Amen. Watch the vid.


Funny how Butler takes that word hope, so drained of meaning by its overuse in the last presidential election, and makes it the linchpin of her response to those who have complained that OWS has no clear or reasonable set of goals, isn't it? And by funny we mean of course genius. Hope is a demand, not a slogan, and it arises from bodies in the street, voices on the square, in an eruption of popular will. David Axelrod wouldn't recognize it if he tripped over it.

To be honest, we don't know what we think of OWS yet. We haven't watched it closely enough to have a very clear sense of what it really means or where it might go. We passed a small Occupy Baltimore encampment when we were in town for the American Studies Association convention this weekend, but we didn't stop to check it out or get especially excited by the organization's statement of solidarity with the movement. (Sorry -- We've seen too many feel-good resolutions passed by academic orgs over the years to put much stock in such gestures.) On the other hand, we were moved and inspired by our dear friend Priscilla Wald's presidential address at the convention, which wove a brilliant tapestry of disciplinary, organizational, and cultural history into a passionate call for new stories that would more accurately and compellingly capture the realities of twenty-first century American life.

Another impossible demand? Perhaps, but again: Amen. Sometimes, you demand the impossible just in getting your a$$ out of bed in the morning, but you have to get up in order to make anything happen, don't you, darling? So do it, OK? Demand the impossible. Judith Butler wants you to, and you don't want to disappoint Judith. Peace out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weighty Matters, Again

Suddenly this whole body politic thing has gotten kind of literal. A couple of weeks ago, the nation's pundits briefly obsessed over whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was too fat to be president, for which they were roundly -- get it? -- chastised by this here. blog. Now, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill  is getting body-policed from the other direction. McCaskill recently took off fifty pounds and used Twitter -- cleverly, in our opinion -- as part of her weight-loss plan. She announced to her nearly 60,000 followers in May what her goals were and used the social media tool as a means of holding herself publicly accountable to them. On October 8, McCaskill proudly tweeted that she had reached her goal weight. Thursday in Jezebel, Erin Gloria Ryan declares herself "happy for [McCaskill] for doing what she set out to do," but says that she finds it "depressing that the standard by which women measure our fitness is still the number on a scale." Ryan continues:
It's dismaying that we still feel like we need to announce shamefully to the world when we believe that we have become too large, and then return to proudly tell world when we become tinier, and that we reflexively feel compelled to tell other women when we've noticed that they have shrunk. Stop it, ladies. Stop it right this second.
The headline on the column is, "Can We Please Stop Setting Weight Loss Goals?"

Ryan makes a good point. "Weight alone is not an indicator of health." True. There are plenty of other numbers one ought to consider -- blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels -- to get an accurate picture of overall health. It's also true that the kind of public scrutiny of her body that McCaskill invited is a double-edged sword. Such scrutiny and the harsh set of judgments that goes along with it is, as Ryan notes, a major source of the pressure women feel "to become ever smaller."

As you might suspect, however, the Recently Overweight Person of Roxie's World does not find Sen. McCaskill's story of public, socially mediated weight loss depressing or troubling, no matter how much she might agree with aspects of Ryan's analysis. Moose, who at times has used this blog as an embarrassing or inspiring (po-tay-toh, po-tah-toh) public record of her own adventures in re-contouring a middle-aged body, had this to say in response to the story: "60,000 followers? Little Lord Jeebus, I'd kill for 60,000 followers! Apparently, senators are connectivity nodes, whereas English profs are just, um, nerds."

Here's the thing, kids: The number on the scale is one among many numbers you should consider when you are evaluating your health and fitness, but sometimes, you know, losing weight is a reasonable goal, no matter how steeped the culture is in misogyny and fat-shame. If you set your sights on losing weight, you should use whatever tools are available to help you do so. And if you are a woman and a public figure, your body is going to get scrutinized and analyzed and judged every day of your life no matter what you do. (See, for example, Clinton, Hillary Rodham: cankles, cleavage, hair, weightwrinkles.) We admire Sen. McCaskill for using social media and her status as a public figure to help her achieve a goal and to frame proactively the story of her weight loss rather than soldiering along on her treadmill waiting for the inevitable questions and comments to start. Hers was a risky strategy that could easily have backfired if she hadn't succeeded or if she were less adept in the art of the Twitters. She'd have been labeled a fat old broad trying desperately to look cool. In comments to CBS News, McCaskill shows that she was well aware of the risks but also savvy about how Twitter fits into a postmodern pol's communications strategy -- and her Lifestyle Adjustment Program:
My Twitter account -- I look at it as a way for people in Missouri to see the whole picture. I tweet about my kids. Yesterday, I tweeted about how happy I was that my daughter said she had cleaned her apartment all day. I think it's important for people to see that I've got the same kind of problems and challenges that everybody else does and, obviously, for a woman in her 50s, figuring out how to stay in shape with a really hectic schedule is a big part of everybody's daily struggle in my state and, I think, all across the country.
Along the way, McCaskill posted clever tweets about her progress, including a dramatic announcement about having divorced bread and pasta, which inspired her legions of followers to weigh in, as it were, with menu suggestions, advice, and helpful reinforcement. The senator still hopes to rekindle her relationship with carbohydrates, thinking it might work out on an occasional rather than a daily basis as she shifts her focus to maintaining her weight loss.

To which the Recently Overweight Person of Roxie's World replied, in precisely 140 characters:

@clairecmc, I recently broke up w/ potatoes, but carbs, in moderation, CAN fit into a sensible diet. Meet my new pal, butternut squash. Yum!

A hearty PAWS UP to you, Sen. McCaskill. The women of Roxie's World salute your effort, your good humor, and your smart use of social media as a way of sharing your experience and crowd-sourcing the challenges of eating well and getting fit while working hard for the fortunate citizens of the Show-Me State. We wish you well in your ongoing commitment and sincerely hope that Santa brings us a treadmill to aid in our own efforts to balance health with busyness.

What do you think, kids? Are we missing something in not being depressed or concerned by McCaskill's story, blinded by self-interest as we may be on this issue? Is Ryan fair in raining on the parade by harping on the compulsion women (and, sometimes, non-women) feel to publicly declare that they have become too large and then proudly announce that they are thinner, better, healthier people? Is there a way to acknowledge and address that problem without dissing McCaskill -- or, you know, my humble, recently overweight typist?

As always, darlings, we eagerly await and rely upon your wisdom. Meantime, someone is off for a quick run before a meeting and a trip to Baltimore to see a few thousand friends (including, at long last, Tenured Radical, with whom the Moms shall [decadently!] dine this evening). A happy Friday to you and yours. Peace out.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Better Homes?

(Photo Credit: Moose, 10/8/11, in the Land of the Moosians.)

Apologies for the prolonged radio silence, kids. It's been a ridiculously busy week in Roxie's World. It's also been a stressful, emotionally draining week for Moose in particular. She spent last weekend in her native state, working with her three siblings to get the Mother of the Moosians ready to transition from independent living in Indiana to assisted living in Michigan, close to the Little Sister of the Moosians. MOTM turned 80 this summer and outfoxed lung cancer earlier this year, but she has short-term memory impairments that make it hard for her to remember little things like when the movers are coming and bigger things like, oh, participating in the decision to move to Michigan.

We'll pause briefly while you apply your considerable brain power to imagining some of what we are not saying here about time, change, the delicate dance of family relationships, the terror in the eyes of someone increasingly trapped in an archipelago of disconnected moments. When are they coming? Who will take me? Where is my medicine? Would you like that necklace? Why are you packing the silver away? When are they coming? Who will take me . . . ?

Perhaps a longer pause is in order. My typist is weary. Her heart is full. In her head, she hears the aching tenderness of Chris Colfer's cover of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which Glee's Kurt sang last season when his father, his only surviving parent, had a heart attack.

When are they coming?

The cookbook in the photo above transitioned, too, making its way from a shelf in MOTM's kitchen to one in Roxie's World. This was the cookbook of Moose's childhood, the battered tome that figured into a 2009 post on the culinary history of the Moms and the United States. A close look at the book's helpful guide to meal planning perhaps explains why Moose found it necessary to break up with potatoes as part of her recent Lifestyle Adjustment Program. You'll notice there ain't a lot of whole-grain variety in the list of starchy foods in that third column in from the left:

Moose has agreed to take on the role of family archivist, because that is what English profs and history geeks do in their families, being useless when it comes to things like managing finances and figuring out which asthma inhalers are full and which are empty. She came home with several recipe boxes and books, including one from her maternal grandmother that goes back to at least 1937. She also is getting custody of file boxes full of family photos, letters, and documents. She already has her parents' college yearbooks, her grandmother's high school diploma, and her father's certificate of baptism. Still to come are the scrapbooks she loved to look at as a child, mostly because they included the earliest photographs of her own tiny self, cradled in the fleshy arms of that same grandmother who graduated from high school in 1923 for "intellectual attainments and correct deportment."

Having spent part of the winter of 2010 digitizing me after my untimely demise, Moose now seems on track to digitize the entire famille Moosianne. Assuming she isn't overcome by the dust or doesn't end up lost in a labyrinth of words, images, and memories. Which is, you know, pretty likely. Stay tuned.

When are they coming? When are they coming? Soon, Mama, soon, and I promise it will be all right. I know it's scary, but we've taken care of everything. Before you know it, you'll be settled into the new place, and everything will be fine.

When . . . ?

Friday, October 07, 2011

On the Death of Steve Jobs

When news broke the other evening that computer overlord Apple visionary Steve Jobs had died, Moose quickly posted to Facebook:
RIP Steve Jobs. I think we should all go out on our porches and hold our iPhones up to the sky.
Thus, she was pleased to stumble across this photo on the New York Times website:

(Photo Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi, Bloomberg News, via.)

She was also for some reason deeply moved to read that among the memorial tributes being left to Jobs outside his Palo Alto, CA home were a pile of apples with one strategically removed bite. Sometimes, only metonymy will do. (At least we think that's what the gesture is, rhetorically speaking. That part of our brains is a little rusty, but our highly capable research assistant Wik E. Pedia seems to agree with us on this point.) Bonus bit of poignancy: Jobs died at the height of apple season. There's a lot of apple eating going on. Every crunchy bite is, by a postmodern logic of transubstantiation through branding, a way of remembering Him.

Please note: We're not being sacrilegious or snarky, kids. This post is being typed on a MacBook Pro. This humble blog is full of images snapped on an iPhone 3G that will soon be replaced by an iPhone 4S that Moose has decided to buy as a way of saying, "Apple, we still believe. Also, dammit, we want to have a voice assistant and a video camera in our back pockets at all times."

My typist suspects she might never have become a blogger had Apple products not totally transformed her relationship to technology. The computer was nothing more than a glorified and often baffling typewriter until the day Goose brought a new Mac home from school and gave Moose permission to play with it while she went off to take a shower. Twenty minutes later, Moose had made her first iPhoto slideshow. That was the day she became a Mac person, having experienced for herself what folks meant when they rhapsodized about how intuitive the machines were and how perfect they were for working with images. In less than twenty minutes, she got it and has never looked back.

Our good friend Cathy Davidson offers a marvelous tribute to Jobs that also acknowledges the dark side of the company he built: the shut-down nature of its products, its dependence on sweatshop labor to produce all those shiny, happy toys. It's important to acknowledge that dark side, even as we celebrate the creativity and connectivity Jobs both embodied and enabled. Davidson ends her post with a quotation from Jobs' famous Stanford commencement address. There's a reason the 2005 speech is famous, and we can't think of a better way to conclude these too brief remarks on a guy who transformed the world and left it far too soon:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
You are already naked: Indeed, you are, my pretties, and time is short. Carpe diem -- and, for dog's sake, have an Apple today.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Apparently Unbearable Un-Lightness of Chris Christie

Newsflash: NJ Gov. Chris Christie is still fat -- and it is driving some people right over the edge of decency and sense.

Consider this a postscript or an update to the post we did Friday on the heaping helping of fat hatred the Washington Post dished up in its coverage of speculation about whether Christie would enter the 2012 presidential race. Somehow, in our careful research for that post, we managed to overlook the truly appalling display of fat eliminationism posted on Bloomberg earlier in the week by Michael Kinsley (H/T). I kinda hate linking to the Kinsley piece, but it seems important to let you see for yourselves just how comfortable he is asserting that a public servant's size is in and of itself disqualifying for higher office. Why? Well, Kinsley says, because being overweight shows a lack of discipline, and "a presidential candidate should be judged on behavior and character, not just on policies." Also, presidents  set an example for the people they lead and serve as a symbol for the U.S. around the world. Fat people make bad symbols -- unlike, you know, torturers and obstructors of justice.

Here's the thing, kids: We're not wild about the term "fat eliminationism," which feels designed to shut down any kind of conversation about weight's relationship to overall health. We think those conversations need to occur. In this instance, however, the term is appropriate, because Kinsley is so unbelievably harsh and unabashed in his judgments. He has no qualms about insisting that fatness is disqualifying at the presidential level, blithely asserting that even fat people hate fat people ("Most overweight people hope to be thin eventually.") and that Christie could lose weight if he put his mind to it ("Controlling what you eat and how much is not easy, and it’s harder for some people than for others. But it’s not as difficult as curing a chemical addiction.").

The Recently Overweight Person of Roxie's World has a message for Michael Kinsley: Shut the frack up. What in dog's name made you think this was a column worth posting? It is worse than worthless as political analysis, dripping as it is with a mean-spiritedness, condescension, and -- there is no other word for it -- hatred toward those whose size you deem to be excessive. It offers nothing of value to our understanding of either politics or health. You are not a doctor, and you don't seem to have direct knowledge of Chris Christie's metabolism or genetic makeup. The last thing fat people need is one more finger-wagging thin person telling them that if they are not willing to lose weight they should just get their fat bodies out of sight. Mr. Kinsley, you are so not helping people of any size with this kind of clap-trap. So, well, you know . . .

(Image via.)