Monday, March 30, 2009

End of an Era

(Updated below.)

Maryland basketball fans will remember Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman and Kristi Toliver this way:

Not this way.

We love you. We are proud of you. We will never forget the skill and determination you brought to the game and the glory you brought to your school.

For now, that is all that matters and all we can say. Peace out.

A.M. Update: Here come the obits, the tributes, and the faint whiffs of off-court intrigue.
  • Camille Powell recaps the game here. Coach B acknowledges both the heartbreak and the tremendous accomplishment of Coleman and Toliver:
    "It's always tough to have that moment, for seniors, for their careers to end. Especially two seniors like these two," said Coach Brenda Frese, who embraced each player as she left the court. "What they've meant to our team, what they've meant to our program -- you hate for it to end like this. I want to remember all the good times, all the wins. Remember the position they put us in."
  • Rick Maese, having doomed Coleman to failure by imagining her in Icarian terms of flight after Saturday's astonishing performance, lets Shoulders and Coleman speak for themselves as they grapple with the raw emotions of a huge defeat. Get out your hankies, and read it here.
  • Mike Wise puts himself inside Toliver's head as she tries to find her shot and rhythm in the game, which, because of Louisville's very effective defense, was difficult to do. Read it here. As good as Wise's emotional reconstruction is, the eyebrow-raiser in his column is the suggestion that there is bad blood between Coach B and her former assistant, Louisville head coach, Jeff Walz. The two no longer speak, according to Wise, which makes a moment we noted at the conclusion of the game even more noteworthy. As time expired, the teams went through the traditional line of handshakes and acknowledgment, but Toliver and Coleman stayed on the Maryland bench, too disconsolate to participate in the ritual. At that moment when cameras were focused on the devastated stars, Walz, engineer of their disappointment, went over to each of them, got down on his knees, and put his arms around them. Moose thought there was something jarring about it at the time. It seemed disingenuous of him to take on the role of comforting them for a loss he and his team would be boasting about in a matter of seconds. Word of friction between Walz and Frese makes the gesture even harder to take. If Walz sincerely wished to express sympathy to Coleman and Toliver or admiration for their brilliant careers, he should have done so out of the limelight and only after Coleman and Toliver had had a chance to compose themselves. To insert himself into that moment was to take on a role that rightly belonged to his old boss and, apparently, his new foe. He beat her team, handily. He didn't need to try to usurp her role.
Or so it seems to us, on a sunny morning when March Madness has suddenly turned to March Sadness.

Terp Women Eat Kids -- And Birds

Grilled Cardinal Edition

Let's prepare for this evening's Rumble in Raleigh (Maryland's Elite Eight game against the Cardinals of Louisville) with a few glances back (over our Shoulders, as it were) at Saturday's stunning come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt.

First, in case you missed it, here are court-side interviews with Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman and Coach Brenda Frese from ESPN's broadcast of the game. We love watching Coach B standing in the background with a proud smile on her face while Coleman talks about how much she wanted the win:

Next, we've got several new candidates for the Sportswriters' Epic Simile of the Year Contest (trademark RW Enterprises, LLC), as reporters strained their brains (and, one imagines, Google) in their efforts to describe Shoulders' breathtaking 42 point/15 rebound performance. Just like Shakespeare, only with a distinct odor of gym socks in the air, the sportswriters sit themselves down to ponder the eternal question, "Shall I compare thee to a . . . ?" and the results of their pondering are:

Mike Wise in Wa Po sticks mostly to the world of sports as he endeavors to capture the scale of Coleman's accomplishment, though he tucks in a gratuitous rock 'n roll reference (to Bruce Springsteen, whose E Street Band reunion tour in 2000 played in the same arena, Raleigh's RBC Center, where the game was played). Wise compares Coleman's performance to Michael Jordan scoring 55 points against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden or to a 15-year-old Jason Kidd lighting up the house in Northern California prep championships and concludes that "Coleman's sublime game ranks alongside both of them among the greatest individual performances I've ever covered." Oh, in addition to epic similes, Wise offers the poignant news that Coleman's own mother, Joni, missed her daughter's whirlwind feat because she got so nervous when the Terps fell behind that she couldn't bear to watch (which also happened during the Terps' 2006 run for the championship:

"I was too worried. I had to leave the arena and plug my ears when they started losing," Joni said. "I didn't see the comeback, I admit it. But I'll say this: I know how bad she wants it. And I know what she can do."

"She did the same thing in Albuquerque," Marissa said, shrugging and grinning. "My mom . . . she gets so nervous."

Meanwhile, over on ESPN, Mechelle Voepel reaches into the domain of Cold War politics for a comparison that makes Coleman both a superhero and a freedom fighter. Reading it, one imagines Tom Cruise improbably cast in the role of Marissa Coleman in the film Voepel would make of this year's women's tournament:
It seemed like nothing short of the old Berlin Wall could have stopped [Coleman] -- and we would have given her pretty good odds of scaling that, too, on this day.
Nice try, Mechelle, but the winner of Moose's battered old Roget's Thesaurus, at least for this round, is Rick Maese of the Baltimore Sun, who reaches for the sky in a desperate bid to try to convey the scale of what Shoulders did in the last several minutes of the game:
[W]hat Coleman did Saturday afternoon is hard to quantify with numbers and difficult to capture with cameras. She could've started flapping her arms at midcourt and floated to the rafters and it would have been easier to rationalize than the closing minutes of Maryland's emotional 78-74 come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SHOULDERS! Maese is so taken with his metaphor that he returns to it for the ending of his column:
After what she did Saturday, nothing she does should surprise. If she does start flapping her arms, it might be wise to look up. Coleman's capable of anything.
Dear Rick,

Love you. Mean it. You're one of our favorite sportswriters, and we give props to the Sun for its coverage of Maryland women's b-ball. Wa Po's got nothing on you in this department, despite the excellent work now being done by Camille Powell. We have great sympathy for American sportswriters, who seem doomed by the culture to interpret everything that happens through the "thrill of victory, agony of defeat" formula established decades ago by ABC's Wide World of Sports. And metaphors of flight are, of course, an apt and handy way to capture the transcendent qualities of exceptional athletic feats. In such moments, the athlete is ourselves perfected, ourselves above ourselves, soaring Icarus reaching for the sun, while we sit on the couch eating potato chips. We get it, Rick, but we still think you went a little over the top in those weird images of Marissa flapping her arms. The image is more comic than epic to us, and it captures nothing of the grace of Coleman's powerful athleticism. We think you should keep your eye a little closer to the ground as you watch the game tonight. Remember, the only birds in the house will be the Cardinals -- and we're hoping Shoulders and her pals will be feasting on them.

Yours sincerely,

Saturday, March 28, 2009

All On Her Shoulders

Shoulders: 42
Rest of Maryland Team: 36
78 = Just barely enough to move on to an Elite Eight meeting with Louisville (32-4)

We hear you, Riss. We were screaming, too. And what were we screaming? One word:


Shoulders' ferocious determination was inspiring, even awe-inducing. Read all about it here, kids. We are still too traumatized to type, but the Cannibal Terps live to feast another day. Praise dog! Praise Shoulders! Pass the ketchup -- We've got Cardinals to eat!

(Photo Credit: Ellen Ozier, Reuters)

Sweet Sixteen

Cannibal Terps Pregame Edition

A little eye candy to psyche you up for this afternoon's Rumble in Raleigh:

(Top: Maryland's Kristi Tolliver. Bottom: Lynetta Kizer and Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman. Photo Credits: Toni L. Sandys, Washington Post)

And for your reading pleasure, check out Camille Powell's love letter to Kristi Tolliver from today's Wa Po. It was on the front page of the paper, leaving one with the unmistakable impression that Maryland has a great basketball team and that women's basketball is -- are you ready for this? -- newsworthy!

Finally, because we just aren't ready to drop the Cannibal Terps meme we launched the other day, we offer a little inspirational music from -- you guessed it -- the Fine Young Cannibals. It's a peppy tune with an important message for a bunch of Mighty Women on a mission to win a second national championship: Don't Look Back -- Everything that matters is in your hands right here and now. Stay focused, stay mean, and by all means --


Friday, March 27, 2009


Moose Turns Fifty

Life, Refracted Through Lit

My typist sits in her red chair, thinking of Godfrey St. Peter, protagonist of Willa Cather’s novel of 1925, The Professor’s House. It is a brilliant but ultimately grim book, the story of a man worn down by the ordinary stresses of living and by the sense that the choices of his adult life – marriage, family, career – had been accidents or mistakes, “a chain of events which had happened to him” but which “had nothing to do with the person he was in the beginning.” That alienation leads in the end to St. Peter’s complete indifference toward his family, even, indeed, toward his own existence. Nearly asphyxiated by a poorly ventilated stove in his attic office, the professor never resolves to save himself or let himself die, but is rescued by the intervention of the family seamstress. In the last paragraph of the novel, St. Peter reflects upon the effects of this latest accident and considers the prospect of being reunited with his family, who are at that moment sailing home from Europe on the Berengaria:
His temporary release from consciousness seemed to have been beneficial. He had let something go – and it was gone: something very precious, that he could not consciously have relinquished, probably. He doubted whether his family would ever realize that he was not the same man they had said good-bye to; they would be too happily preoccupied with their own affairs. If his apathy hurt them, they could not possibly be so much hurt as he had been already. At least, he felt the ground under his feet. He thought he knew where he was, and that he could face with fortitude the Berengaria and the future.
As an English prof, Moose is forever telling her students not to treat literary characters as if they were real people, but she has always been a little put out with Godfrey St. Peter. As a fiery young feminist, she deplored his obliviousness to his dependence on the female members of his household, his arrogant assumption that his hurts were so much greater than theirs. Even now, when you might think she’d be more sympathetic to a character clearly suffering from a midlife depression, Moose remains stern and impatient with Cather’s out-of-sorts history prof. “Accidents?” she snorts as she considers the end of his story. “You think your whole cushy life has a been a mere chain of events rather than a series of choices? And ‘fortitude’ – Is that the best you can do, man? I mean, sure, fortitude is all well and good if you’re taking a long hike, but don’t the people closest to you deserve better than that? What a load of crap.”

Dinner, With Photographs

Moose didn’t really want a party, but a dinner in New York with the old friends, the Jersey crew and the dear, transplanted neighbors, well, that would be lovely, like a Woody Allen movie of the mid-80s – all soft lighting, good wine, and clever repartee. At a certain point, though, it was clear that the guest of honor was supposed to have Something Significant to Say. And she didn’t. She had thought about it. Kind of. But she’d had a conference paper to write, and she was having a hard time knowing what to feel and think and say about turning fifty. In one corner of her mind, she thought about the beloved father dead at 60, the grandmother dead at 97. Do I have 10 years left – or 47? Or 10 days? Who knows? In another corner, she thought, What have I learned? What do I know? What wisdom have I picked up along the way?

And then she caught sight of the pictures. She figured they would be there, because that is part of what friends do for friends turning fifty, but actually seeing them took her aback. Some were as familiar as an old pair of socks, but others were utterly, startlingly strange. Her older sister had passed them along to Goose, and she had no memory of their being taken. As the pictures cycled through in an endless loop, she stared at them and tried to orient herself in her own life: When did I have that shirt? she wondered. That hair? That intense look over a tape recorder? Suddenly, she realized, she did have something to say.

She asked her hostess to help her find a poem. Do you have The Dream of a Common Language? she asked. (And she realizes Adrienne Rich has figured into several of our posts on aging, but she can’t help it. Rich is, like Moose, a white, middle class, American lesbian. Her words and her experiences resonate powerfully with Moose’s as she tries to make sense of her mid-life.) They found an excerpt online, exactly the passage that had popped into Moose’s mind as she began to compose her thoughts. They printed out the passage and returned to the table. Moose began to speak.

“I look at these pictures,” she says, “taken at different moments, in different places, and I think of myself, uprooted at eleven, from the only world I had ever known – from my grandparents, a daily part of my life in a small town where my family was a known, established quantity. From eleven to eighteen, I lived in four different towns. Every year or two, I had to acquire a new set of friends, adjust to different teachers and ways of teaching, and take on a new accent. What I realize in looking at these pictures is that I learned early on that life is largely a matter of improvisation. You just make it up as you go along – and that’s okay. I don’t see what I had to do in adolescence as a tragedy. I learned from the experience that people can be tremendously resilient. You make new friends. You learn new things. You adjust to changing circumstances. It doesn’t mean there’s no core self or continuity. It means you have to be flexible, and that’s not bad. It reminds me of a passage from Rich’s “Transcendental Etude”:
No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down in the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
--And in fact we can't live like that: we take on
everything at once before we've even begun
to read or mark time, we're forced to begin
in the midst of the hardest movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.
“What I hear in this passage is that you have to rely on instinct and improvisation to get through life. You never really know what you’re doing or where you’re going. You just make it up as you go along and trust that you’ll get somewhere worth going in the end. As I look around this table, I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by people who are so smart and so kind and so creative and so patient. Thanks for putting up with me as I tried to figure out who I was and what I was doing. Thanks for letting me improvise my life.”

She didn’t plan to say it, but, as the words came out, she knew it was one of the truest things she’d ever said. Thanks, everybody, for your love, your forbearance, your own marvelous improvisations. Here’s hoping the second half century is as full of joy and adventure as the first has been.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Terp Women Eat Kids -- And Utes

(Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman drives past Utah's Morgan Warburton during Maryland's convincing 2nd-round win at Comcast, 3/24/09. Photo Credit: AP)

Updated below.

Yes, yes, the Terps whupped the out-womaned Utes of Utah in the second round of the NCAA tournament tonight. Of course Shoulders pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds as a lovely farewell gift to the 10,000 adoring fans gathered in the Comcast Center for one more thrilling night with the dazzling prodigies of 2006, now all grown up and reaching for one more shot at collegiate glory. Moose wasn't there, proving that she wasn't lying last semester when she told a class that she couldn't justify canceling a class for an appearance by then-candidate Barack Obama when she wouldn't cancel class for a visit by the Pope or even for her beloved Lady Terps. Rumor has it her "Fear the Brenda" sign was held aloft by a former Melvillian who is known more as a baseball fan than a basketball fan but did a fine job nonetheless. (Camille Powell's excellent Wa Po report on the game is here.)

So, yes, the Terps move on for a Sweet Sixteen reprise of their matchup last year against Vanderbilt (26-8) Saturday in Raleigh. Still, the truly big news coming out of College Park today is, um, that the Terp Women eat kids.

Here's the report, from the Office of Dubious Role Models and Bizarre Sports Rituals, by way of Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Blog at Wa Po. Steinberg is doing a cutely sexist (as opposed to an ugly sexist) little piece on the differences between men's and women's sport teams as a way of compensating for the fact that he hasn't written much about women's college basketball this season, despite the fact that one of the best teams in the country is right in his neighborhood. (Note to dying newspaper industry: You are dying, in part, from self-inflicted wounds.) Anyway, after a couple of predictable jokes about nail polish and Lord and Taylor bags in the locker room, Steinberg lets his readers know that the Mighty Women of Maryland are by no means "soft" by telling a story about the "ruthless slogan" they use in the locker room:

"We say Eat Kids!" Anjale Barrett told me matter-of-factly.

Bet you never heard a John Wooden adage about that one.

So here's what happened. Back in the fall they had weekly rehearsals for their Midnight Madness dance routine. To keep the intensity up during these rehearsals, sophomore forward Emery Wallace began shouting out motivational things. A Mike Tyson quote jumped out in her mind.

"What'd he say?" she asked me. "Something about eating kids."

And thus, a motto was born.

"She's not stable," star forward Marissa Coleman pointed out about Wallace.

Regardless, that slogan became a tradition during the dance rehearsals. Then it moved inside the locker room. The players started writing it on the white board before games, underneath the three keys provided by the coaching staff. They began putting their fists together and shouting it before leaving the room. They return to the message at halftime, with Wallace tailoring her exact advice based on the first-half performance.

"She'll be like, 'We're halfway through the kids' body now, keep going,' " Yemi Oyefuwa explained. "It's not like we played bad, you already had the head, you already had the hair."

"I've heard her say, 'Get to the feet,' " Marah Strickland noted.

Children of the media age that they are, some of the Terps are concerned that readers understand that the "ruthless slogan" is not to be taken literally:

"We try to stay away from THAT definition; the, you know, real definition," Strickland said. "Eat their kids is more a statement of domination. It's a metaphor."

"We're not actually eating kids," Demauria Liles agreed. "We're just dominating, we're stomping them to the ground."

"We love the kids," Barrett interjected, trying to make sure that no one believes the Maryland program to be anti-child. "it's just something that gets us motivated. We're not like Hannibal Lecter or anything like that."

Freshman Oyefuwa, who hails from London, apparently missed the memo about metaphor:
"Every month I choose a child," she told me. "Sometimes it's one from back home, sometimes it's someone from this country. You try to pick the juicy ones, the ones with nice hair, delicious ones, pretty eyes, because you know, the eyes are the best."
Meanwhile, Terrapin Coach (and mother of two) Brenda Frese is baffled by the origin and meaning of the grisly motivational motto. She comments to Steinberg:
I just know what they write (on the board before games), I don't know what it means. They won't give me an answer. I've asked. Have they given you an answer? Kids. What they come up with nowadays.
No word on whether Frese's twin tykes, Markus and Tyler, are allowed anywhere near the Terps' locker room when the team is going through its pregame calls to cannibalism.

The English profs of Roxie's World are officially mum on the subject, refusing to kill the Terps' tournament buzz by going all academic-y and pointing out the problematic history of powerful women being imaged as terrifying eaters of babies, men, and other living things. Reached in her office moments after her grad class and the Terps game had ended, a weary Moose commented,
Screw it. If they need to engage in a fantasy of cannibalism to get psyched up to grind their next opponent into the dirt, I say more power to 'em. Let 'em eat kids.
You heard it here first, sports fans. Peace out. And we mean that, literally.

A.M. Update: Accolades roll in for Shoulders, KT, and the Cannibal Terps. Bet you anything Mike Wise's Wa Po column will make you cry. Graham Hays has a nice piece up on ESPN. And Wa Po seems to have figured out that photos of strong, sweaty women just might save the newspaper industry. Check out the awesome photo gallery of the Terps' quest for a national championship. Oh, and if you're still savoring last night's Stunning Upset of a Team That Didn't Deserve a #1 Seed in the First Place, go read Mechelle Voepel's analysis of the Duke-Michigan State game. Truth be told, we're surprised that Maryland is the only ACC team left in the draw at this point, but we are constitutionally unable to feel sorry for Duke, even if Shoulders' BFF Abby Waner is crying into her Wheaties this morning. Abby, baby, you shoulda been a Terp!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Terp Women Rule YOU

From today's press avail at Comcast, regarding Maryland's second-round game against Utah:

"Kristi and Marissa, this is your last home game tomorrow night. How are you going to feel knowing that this will be the last game you will play at Maryland?"

"It is exciting that my last home game will be an NCAA Tournament game so it's going to be a great environment. The fans that we had come out last night were great and I'm sure they will all be out tomorrow, so knowing that makes the game that much more exciting."

"It will be a great environment, it is sad that it will actually be the last game that we play here in Comcast, but hopefully we have the same fan base that we have had our entire career and they will come out and support our team tomorrow against Utah."


Because Shoulders and KT are counting on you and deserve your support.

Because Moose has to teach tomorrow night and will have to miss the game!

Because the first 100 QTU students to show up will get free pizza! (Tickets are free for students, too.)

Because non-service dogs are inexplicably barred from the Comcast Center, which means your favorite basketball-mad blogging dog will not be there either. (Don't worry. I will watch it on my Paw Pilot from the comfort of home.)

Because nothing brightens up a Tuesday evening in March like watching a bunch of strong, sweaty women play their hearts out to bring glory to their team and their school. Nothing.

Be there or be square, sports fans.

By Order of the Division of Sports and Leisure, RW Enterprises, LLC.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Moms Take Manhattan

Apologies for the prolonged blog silence, children, but the moms were up in the Big Apple for the past few days, attending a conference, torturing the late-night front desk manager at the Algonquin (who ultimately threw up her hands and let Goose into the back office to print out Moose's conference paper because no one else could manage to do it), drinking many cocktails in the Algonquin's beautiful lobby bar, and lavishly launching the orgy of celebration that will culminate this Friday in Moose's entry into the Second Half Century of Her Life. (Yes, an elegant dinner party was had. Toasts were made. Poems read. Tears shed. Embarrassing photographs of long-forgotten prom dresses and unfortunate 1970s hairdos were displayed, on a large-screen TV. Thank-you notes will be written.)

Anyway, spring (not really a) break has left the moms feeling as flat as poor little Vermont was against Connecticut this afternoon. Here are a few random snaps from the weekend. We'll catch up with you soon, kids. Meantime, here's hoping your brackets are in tact and your flowers are in bloom. And that all dog's children are escorted into middle age by a pack of splendid, generous friends. Love you. Mean it.

Photo One: Café Un Deux Trois -- The moms make a point of dining here when they're in New York because Moose likes the paper tablecloths and the crayons. The steaks aren't bad either, but, really, the crayons and the charming, attentive servers are the highlights. Oh, and "ED" is Emily Dickinson, of course.

Photo Two: Driving up Sixth Ave. on what felt like the first day of spring, though it was technically the second.

Photo Three: Strolling on Times Square, same day.

Photo Four: Of course the Sign Ladies made it back to Comcast on Sunday afternoon in time to see the Lady Terps make their NCAA tournament debut with an easy win over Dartmouth. Kristi Toliver scored 27 points and spent a lot of the second half sitting on the bench with a beatific smile on her face. Way to go, women!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the Death of Dead Trees

(Photo Credit: Joshua Trujillo, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

No time for a proper post, but we couldn't let today pass without acknowledging that another American newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has bitten the dust, at least in terms of daily, print publication. It published its last print edition today and henceforth will be digital. (Read about it here.)

We noted here the other day that Moose feels entirely responsible for the decline and fall of the American newspaper industry, because she has largely abandoned her habit of reading the print edition of a paper every single morning of her life. It could be the problem is just a teeny bit bigger than that and that Moose is not the only one to blame, though she continues to feel awfully bad about it. (Note to Wa Po and NYT: We've still got those daily subscriptions and dutifully bring the papers in every morning. They spend the day out on the kitchen counter, silently rebuking the moms for their bad new reading habits, which involve a lot of pointing and clicking and exceedingly bad posture, until someone sheepishly places them in the recycling bags before bedtime.)

Anyway, a lot of folks have devoted considerable mental energy lately to pondering the implications of the death of print journalism in connection with a range of non-trivial issues including, you know, the survival of democracy. Tom Watson is an ink-stained wretch whose opinion on such things we respect enormously. He's got a sad, anxious meditation on What This All Means over at his blog. Go read it. You'll get less ambivalence and even a giddy sense that we might be stumbling toward an amazing information future in Clay Shirky's long, thoughtful "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable," which everyone and her sister are linking to right now. With good reason. Go read it, but here's a tasty sample of the treat in store for you:

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

We don’t know who the Aldus Manutius of the current age is. It could be Craig Newmark, or Caterina Fake. It could be Martin Nisenholtz, or Emily Bell. It could be some 19 year old kid few of us have heard of, working on something we won’t recognize as vital until a decade hence. Any experiment, though, designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from the real, especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.

For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.

Like we said, go read the whole thing. It's late. We have to go put the unread newspapers into recycling and head to bed. Tomorrow: The revolution will be digitized -- and Roxie's World will be on the front lines! Cross my paws and hope to die, kids.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Graffiti Artist Left Behind

Spotted today on the Sligo Creek Trail (click to embiggen if you can't read the bottom line):

(Photo Credit: Moose, with her iPhone)

The following items are related to the above photo only in the sense that they are things that also caught our attention on a lazy misty Sunday in March that felt more like October. Running across them reminded Moose that there was a reason she used to spend about an hour every morning of her life running her eye over every single page of The Washington Post. Sometimes a story grabs you. It may not be the biggest news of the day or the most important issue of the moment, but it catches you, for one reason or another, and you end up being pleased for the unexpected bit of knowledge or delight the story provides. Such serendipitous encounters happen online, too, but Moose realizes there is still plenty of good writing in the Post, even as one section after another shrinks or falls away, and she misses a lot by not curling up with the dead-tree edition on a daily basis.

Yes, Moose feels responsible for the decline and fall of the American newspaper industry. Assuage her guilt by going to read these stories right now:
  • David Fahrenthold has some creative suggestions for how the National Endowment for the Arts could spend the $50 million it got as part of the economic stimulus package. Moose liked this piece because it reminded her of a whimsical introduction she did of Princeton prof (and blog pal) Jill Dolan when she spoke at Queer the Turtle U a couple of weeks ago. Moose imagined that Jill was named director of the NEA or the NEH and conjured a happy vision of Jill's first day on the job, which included investing $75 million to establish a Federal Bloggers Project (similar to the Federal Writers Project established by FDR in the 30s). The fantasy ended with Jill, who has written extensively on performance, utopia, and citizenship, asking Moose to direct the Federal Bloggers Project and ordering her to save the world with an army of grassroots critics and commentators all working in their jammies. Fahrenthold's story ends with a far more practical suggestion from Georgia Republican Jack Kingston, who fought putting the NEA money into the stimulus bill but has a brilliant idea for how it should be spent in order to promote economic growth:
"The money should be plowed into sacrilegious art, so that Christian groups can be offended and then hire a bunch of lawyers to sue somebody," he said. Then First Amendment groups hire their own lawyers, and talk radio hosts on both sides sell more ads, he said. You see where this is going. "That would probably create more jobs," he said, "than just a picture of . . . a ship at sea."

(Photo Credit: Melanie D. G. Kaplan)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Excellence With Substantially Less Money

Spring “Break” Edition

(For previous posts on the funding problem in higher ed, click here, here, and here.)

A bullet was dodged at Queer the Turtle U this week, as the university senate voted overwhelmingly against a post-tenure review proposal that included the threat of salary cuts for faculty who are judged to be performing “substantially below expectations” in two consecutive annual reviews.

You read that right: SALARY CUTS. Were debated on a campus where the merit pool this year is . . . hang on, wait a second, let me check that number for you – oh, right: empty. And where faculty and staff are already in the midst of furloughs undertaken to reduce the university’s current year salary budget by $6.86 million. Which means, for example, that our household, which contains two QTU profs, will lose close to $5000 in income between now and June 30, no matter how far above expectations the moms perform.

(Furloughs are calculated on the basis of compensation. Any employee of QTU, except for grad students, earning more than $30,000 has to take at least one furlough day. Employees earning $90,000 or more take five. Oh, and for faculty, furlough days must be taken on non-teaching days, because, you know, we wouldn’t want the public to get the crazy idea that it takes money to run an institution of higher learning.)

Note to Moose: That trip to Greece you wanted to take to celebrate your upcoming monumental birthday? Forget about it. Stay home this summer. Plant a garden. Type more for me.

Note to Goose: That discipline-shifting digital project you published this year? Good thing you didn’t do it for the money, because you won’t be getting a merit raise for it!

Y’all know the moms are insanely loyal to the institution that employs them. Shoot, if they had any more Terpitude, they’d have shells on their backs. They also have enormous respect for the folks who run the place and share their determination to move QTU forward, despite the challenges posed by the economy. In this instance, though, the moms forcefully – but respectfully, of course – part company with the big men (and women) on campus both on the substance of the proposed post-tenure review policy and on the cruel ineptitude of its timing.

Regarding the substance of the policy, the hard-working profs of Roxie’s World have no problem with the idea of post-tenure review. What they don’t understand is why the Faculty Activity Report they dutifully file every year in connection with departmental merit assessments (conducted, like this year, even when there is no money available for merit raises) does not satisfy the demand for post-tenure review. The merit reviews conducted in the moms’ department take every aspect of a faculty member’s duties – scholarship, teaching, and service – into account. Over time, merit allocations serve very effectively to penalize faculty for under-performing. The moms could point to several examples in their own college of associate professors retiring on salaries lower than those of newly hired assistant professors. (Salary compression is a problem, in part because merit pools have been so small in recent years, but that has nothing to do with merit as a mechanism.)

Now, we might debate whether it makes sense to have colleagues evaluate one another in this fashion, since in most professions performance reviews are conducted by supervisors rather than co-workers. The small world of an academic department likely contains one’s most intimate friends as well as one’s most bitter enemies, so it’s a safe bet that such evaluations are not exactly objective. One hopes that they are fair, but humans being human, well, who knows? Still, that issue was not on the table in the QTU proposal for annual performance reviews, which is scrupulous in deferring to departments to develop their own procedures and conduct reviews of their own faculty, as they have done from time immemorial. Indeed, careful scrutiny of the proposal reveals that the only thing genuinely new about it is the idea of cutting base salaries for deficient performance.

Moose closes her eyes and tries to imagine what a meeting of her department’s salary committee would be like if the committee were obliged to consider cutting colleagues’ salaries in the midst of an economic catastrophe that is already pinching faculty on all sides. Your classes may get bigger, they are told. Your options for publication may get fewer, they well know. The pension fund you were counting on may disappear altogether. And now we’re going to cut your salary because we don’t think you’re doing your job well. But, hey, we’ll assign you a mentor to help you get back on track. We’ll even help you write a development plan – with benchmarks and everything! Oh, wow, thanks.

Between them, the moms have more than forty years of experience in higher education. They are not surprised when students and the general public attack faculty as arrogant and out of touch for fighting to protect tenure or for chafing against a top-down corporate model that is in so many ways inimical to the autonomy necessary for scholarly and creative work. It is discouraging, however, to see their own administrators supporting draconian policies targeted at the chimerical figure of the overpaid, under-productive faculty member. Goose compares that figure to Ronald Reagan’s apocryphal welfare queen, whose mythical laziness and irresponsible fecundity were used to justify the dismantling of federal aid for the economically disadvantaged. Given the amount of time faculty are required to spend on various forms of reporting and assessment nowadays, the assertion that more oversight and accountability are needed is laughable at best, wholly disingenuous at worst. One colleague who called upon the senate to vote down the policy described it as a sledgehammer being used to hit a tack.

“Where is this overpaid, under-productive piece of deadwood?” Moose said to a friend, a high-level administrator on campus who supported the proposed policy. In response, the friend offered not an example but a vague accusation: “You’ve got your head in the sand.”

Really? Moose thought as she headed back to the office to tend to the piles of scut work that mean it’s spring on campus. She didn’t go to the senate meeting because she felt pressure to finish some of that work so she could devote spring “break” to writing the conference paper she’ll be giving next week. She also knew her position would be well represented by senators and colleagues in her department, who had spent the previous weekend marshalling opposition to the proposal. By Thursday evening, the sense of relief on campus was palpable, even if everyone knows the issue isn’t going away. It will be revisited, one hopes with greater compassion and perhaps more honesty about what its objectives truly are.

That the proposal went down is not surprising. That it was entertained at all in the midst of such profound economic anxiety is, we are sorry to say, unconscionable.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aging Gracefully

Third Blogiversary Edition

Time for a little happy dance in your cubicles, kids. Today is the third anniversary of America's favorite dog blog devoted to politics, pop culture, and basketball! It's true! Can you believe we've been hanging out together for three whole years, sniffing out all the news that's fit to rant about, making up cool new words like "Terpalicious" and new phrases like "poop on toast?" We are so grateful to all of you for your wholly inexplicable devotion to us and what we do around here. As I say every year around this time,
Without you, I’m just an old dog with two crazy moms and a laptop. With you, I’ve got a whole world in my paws.
So thanks for coming by!

I'm not the only one with age on my mind today in Roxie's World. Moose received her invitation to join AARP in the mail yesterday, in anticipation of the monumental birthday that will be occurring in a little over two weeks. How is she feeling in anticipation of that event? Suffice it to say that she got a little verklempt yesterday reading Melissa McEwan's heartfelt tribute to The Golden Girls, but she couldn't figure out whether the emotion arose from a sense of identification with the author or the object of that tribute. Moose has long been a fan of Dorothy and the gang, seeing them as rare and marvelous pop cultural examples of (white, heterosexual, middle-class) women aging gracefully and feistily, but something in the quality of her admiration shifts as she realizes that Dorothy now feels less like a mother figure and more like a friend she might meet for lunch. "How're you doing?" Moose might say to Dorothy over a glass of wine. "How's the knee?" "Oh, fine," Dorothy would gamely reply. "How're the night sweats?" "Ah, don't ask. Just keep the cool drinks coming!"

Looking for a rowdier vision of aging, one that includes unapologetic golden girl-on-golden girl sexual action? Then get yourself over to The New Yorker (you'll need a subscription or access through your university library) and read every riveting word of Ariel Levy's "Lesbian Nation" (from the March 2 issue), which checks in with members of the "Van Dykes," a group of lesbian separatists from the 1970s whom Levy describes as "a roving band of van-driving vegans who shaved their heads, avoided speaking to men unless they were waiters or mechanics, and lived on the highways of North America for several years, stopping only on Women's Land. The Van Dykes had determined that the world was suffering from 'testosterone poisoning,' and they were on a quest: to locate dyke heaven." It's a terrific story, written without any of the condescension toward the counter-culture or lesbian feminism that one usually encounters in such pieces. (H/T to Candy Man for calling Levy's story to our attention and to Historiann, who blogged it yesterday.)

So stay tuned, folks. We'll see if Moose decides to celebrate the monumental birthday by ordering the complete Golden Girls on DVD -- or by hitting the road and getting a tattoo. In the meantime, thanks to all y'all for being our friends. Peace out.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Twenty-Five Years of Queer Delight

If I could let you know --

two women together is a work
nothing in civilization has made simple,

two people together is a work
heroic in its ordinariness,

the slow-picked, halting traverse of a pitch
where the fiercest attention becomes routine

-- look at the faces of those who have chosen it.

Happy Silver Anniversary to Moose and Goose! The Creative Division here in Roxie's World decided it would be impossible to top last year's anniversary post for side-splitting relational hilarity (audience studies show that many of our loyal readers still wander through the produce aisle humming a song the moms discuss in that interview, "We Buy Fruit and Watch It Rot"), so we just decided to toss up some borrowed words, iconic images, and -- of course -- a Springsteen love song to make sure you all get a little verklempt while you read this. Go on, you sweet, sentimental fools. Click on the vid. We have to go make clam dip for this afternoon's basketball game/not-quite-an-anniversary-party event. (The moms are feeling a little retro today, so they've decided to serve clam dip and Rolling Rock as an homage to their early days on the Jersey shore, when money was tight and good taste was a sign of false consciousness. Wev.)

You know what, Mr. Springsteen? On their best days, the moms feel like a really awesome band that has stuck together through thick and thin because deep in the bottom of their rocked-out hearts they know they'd never sound as good or have nearly as much fun with anybody else. Tell the nice people how it's done, Boss:

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Yes, We Hear You Now

Now Hear Us

(Marissa "Shoulders" Coleman in the ACC tournament semifinal game against North Carolina. Maryland won, 95-84, 3/7/09. Photo Credit: Gerry Broome, AP)

Dear Shoulders and KT,

Nice game. Not to put any additional pressure on you or anything -- as if trying to win Maryland's first ACC championship in 20 years weren't pressure enough. in your senior seasons. when you're bucking for a second national championship to bookend the one you won your freshman years. when KT is clearly sick as a dog. -- but we just thought we'd let you know that tomorrow is a really special day in Roxie's World, and, you know, it'd be extra super swell if you guys could bring a little hardware back to College Park to make the day complete.

You may or may not know that tomorrow is International Women's Day. That alone makes March 8 a day of celebration in estrogen-fueled households such as ours. But March 8 is also the day we commemorate the unholy alliance of Moose and Goose, the basketball-crazy English profs who brought Roxie's World into being. That's right, kids. Tomorrow, March 8, 2009 is the moms' 25th anniversary! And all they want for the occasion -- aside from the love and good wishes of their dog and friends -- is for y'all to cut down the nets tomorrow afternoon in Greensboro. Got that? Yeah -- the moms, the sign ladies, the ones who re-baptized Marissa as "Shoulders" -- they've defied logic, heteropatriarchy, and the confident predictions of a few long-forgotten grad-school naysayers and managed to stay together for a quarter of a fricking century. Which could mean that Moose exaggerates slightly when she claims she was only 7 when they got together in 1984.

Show 'em you love 'em, women. Show 'em you know who rules. Go kick you some Blue Devil butt tomorrow. You deserve the win, and the moms want it more than anything on dog's pretty earth. We promise we won't pop any corks 'round here until the game is over. KT, get a good night's sleep and see if you can kick that bug out of your system. Shoulders, get a nice massage to make sure you've recovered from that nasty foul some desperate Tar Heel put on you in the second half.

Game time is 1 p.m. We'll be pulling for you, women, and the champagne will be on ice.

Yours sincerely,

Thursday, March 05, 2009

CA's Big Gay Do Over

(Image Credit: Roughstock Blog)

All citizens of Roxie's World are hereby called upon to stop trying to come up with acceptable names for the Obamas' still mythical dog and devote ten minutes to willing, wishing, praying, and otherwise directing powerful karmic energy in the direction of the California Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments today on the constitutionality of Prop 8, the ballot measure approved last fall that overturned the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state. Ten minutes, people. By order of all the angry dogs, ornery queers, and righteous straight but not narrow denizens of Roxie's World.

Pam's House Blend will have a chat during the proceedings, which will be broadcast live on the California Channel.

Equal Justice Under Law: Work for it, pray for it, make it real. Peace out.