Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"One Horse Dies"

Roxie's World takes the unusual step of cutting and pasting in an entire editorial from yesterday's New York Times because this short piece on the death of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro speaks so eloquently of the majesty of one great horse and the mysteries of the bond between humans and animals. In our household, Barbaro's terrible injury, which my moms and I saw live on the big plasma screen in our living room, prompted much discussion of the ethics of horse-racing (and remember, kids, Moose was born in Louisville, KY), but his death appropriately leads us to honor the dignity of his struggle, the beauty of his achievements, and the fierce dedication of his humans to doing right by the creature they loved.

Maybe tomorrow we'll have something to say about the premature death of another magnificent force of nature, Texas writer Molly Ivins, who did her best to save her home state and all the world from the idiocy of George W. Bush. Oh, Molly, if only we had listened. Give 'em hell in heaven, will ya, Molly? I'm sure they deserve it.

The editorial is titled "One Horse Dies."

Why should we feel so much grief at the loss of one horse? After all, this is a world in which horses are sacrificed again and again for the sport of humans. Barbaro was euthanized yesterday, eight months after he shattered his right hind leg at the start of the Preakness Stakes. After an injury like that, most racehorses would have been put down minutes later. But every race is a complex equation — a balance of economics, athleticism, equine grace and conscience. Conscience often comes in last, but not in this case. Barbaro’s owners gave that horse exactly what he had given them, which is everything. It was the very least they could do, and yet it seemed truly exceptional in a sport that is as often barbarous as it is beautiful.

Barbaro was exceptional because he won the Kentucky Derby and looked as if he might have a chance at the Triple Crown. But nearly everyone who met him also talked of the life he displayed, a vivid presence that was so much more visible to us because it happened to belong to a winner.

Humans are not especially good at noticing horses, but Barbaro was easy to notice. And if his life caused us to pay attention to the possibilities of all horses, his death should cause us to pay attention to the tragedy inherent in the end of so many horses. Barbaro’s death was tragic not because it was measured against the races he might have won or even against the effort to save his life. It was tragic because of what every horse is.

You would have to look a long, long time to find a dishonest or cruel horse. And the odds are that if you did find one, it was made cruel or dishonest by the company it kept with humans. It is no exaggeration to say that nearly every horse — Barbaro included — is pure of heart. Some are faster, some slower. Some wind up in the winner’s circle. But they should all evoke in us the generosity of conscience — a human quality, after all — that was expended in the effort to save this one horse.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Memo to Lady Terps: BELIEVE!

(Photo Credit: Preston Keres - Washington Post)

My beloved Lady Terps suffered a heartbreaking loss last night to the revenge-seeking Tar Heels of North Carolina. (The Heels lost just two games last year, both to the youthful Terps.) They lost 84-71 before a raucous crowd of 17,950 at Comcast Center. (For excellent coverage of the game, see these three pieces in the Post by Marc Carig, Mike Wise, and Kathy Orton.) It's the second time in two weeks that the Terps have been kicked in the gut by one of the elite teams they beat last year enroute to their improbable national title.

Athletes hate being put on the couch and psychoanalyzed when things aren't going their way. They also hate getting advice from arm-chair coaches and disappointed fans, perhaps especially when the advice is offered up on the internets by aging dogs who happen to have blogs. Nonetheless, the moms and Margie and I stayed up late last night thinking and talking about the game, and we came up with some suggestions for the still young though ever mighty women of Maryland. They probably touched on most of these ideas in the locker room last night, but we offer them anyway in a spirit of admiration and high hope for their future:

  • Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself: Fear the Turtle? You bet! Fear the Brenda? After last night's totally understandable technical, we reckon so! But watching last night's game, particularly the execrable first half, one got the sense that the Lady Terps have grown a little anxious in the big games. Last year, they played fearlessly because they were too young to worry about what they were doing. This year, with expectations so high and other teams gunning for them, they seem at clutch moments to suffer from pangs of self-doubt. Self-doubt breeds hesitation, and hesitation breeds turnovers (21 last night), poor shot selection (the normally cool-handed Kristi Toliver was 2-9 from 3-point land against the Heels), and missed passes. Coach Brenda Frese is right that her team needs to ease up on itself a little. Think less. Play more. Remember: It's a game.
  • Get Your Swagger Back: Coach B. is right on this one, too. You are the It girls of college basketball. Fans adore you. (Last night's crowd set a record for attendance at an ACC women's game.) Opponents respect you. Look in the mirror, and love what you see. Look at your teammates, and love what you can do together. Look at the stands filled with little girls wearing your numbers and screaming your names, and love what you hear. You are strong and beautiful and tough.
  • Get Even: Now you've got a couple of ego-bruising losses to avenge. Now you've got the image of Ivory Latta bobbing her head on your home court to celebrate another swishing 3-pointer burnished in your brains. And then there's that last-second shot by Camille Little, taken after you had conceded the game by opting not to foul North Carolina in the final 10 seconds. We want you to remember that bit of poor sportswomanship. Remember it, and use it to fuel your own competitive fire.
  • Check the Calendar: It's not even February yet, women. You've got lots of time to make the adjustments you need to make to win the big games. Your rebounding was magnificent last night. You still need to be more effective on defense, and you need to know what to do if Crystal Langhorne is getting shut down underneath the basket. There's a whole lot more right than there is wrong, though, women, and the season is a long way from over.
Hold your heads high. Your best is yet to come.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Send In the Twins

(Photo Credit: Moose; Easy-to-Read Anti-War Posters Designed and Painted by: Moose)

First things first: A heart-felt apology to my legions of loyal fans for the unconscionable delay between posts. Per usual, it's my moms' fault. I won't say things have been stressful for them lately, but they did go see Kathleen Turner the other night in the stunning revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and left the theater howling with delight. "What an utterly charming romantic comedy!" Moose said to Goose. To which Goose replied, "Oh, yes, and one based on a couple just like us--together for 23 years and 6 years apart in age! It's so seldom you see a great love story focused on middle-aged characters!" "You are so right, Goose. And, just like us, George and Martha had mutual interests and activities that kept their relationship fresh--the drinking, the verbal jousting, the comments about aging, the drinking. I'm surprised we never decided to have an imaginary baby. I think we would have been good at that, don't you?"

As I've told you before, my moms are weird, but I'm glad that instead of an imaginary baby they had a real dog. I'm also glad that one of the shared interests that has kept their relationship fresh as a daisy (and slightly less combustible than George and Martha's) is a passion for peace and liberal politics. (Yes, liberal. My moms think the term progressive is a wienie-word that evades noble Democratic traditions of expanding rights, shared responsibilities, and international cooperation that we ought to be proud to claim.) So of course they hopped on a Metro train yesterday for the big anti-war protest in downtown Washington. My moms just love a good demo, and yesterday's was delightful. The day was sunny and warm, the company was congenial, and the crowd was impressive. Several fans and citizens of Roxie's World were there, including my Official Gay Stalker, the Man Who Will Cure Cancer, Aaron the Anatomically Obsessed Six-Year-Old (and his grandmother), Margie the Eco-Warrior, and Alicia, my Favorite Poet Against the War. They got there in time to hear most of the speeches, including those by Maxine Waters and Jane Fonda, which were especially righteous and moving. They were able to march together without too much difficulty. They kept running into a sizable contingent of folks from Code Pink as well as an impressive group of large-headed papier-mache puppets of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice dressed in prison stripes and all chained together. They saw many clever signs, a lot of sad and angry ones, and one tee-shirt that said Vagina Warrior, which provoked squeals of glee from the Anatomically Obsessed Six-Year Old. All along the route, people kept stopping Moose to photograph her "Send in the Twins" sign, which of course delighted her endlessly. She thinks it's one of her best posters ever.

Roxie's World will not get into the debate about how big the march was, though Margie, who has done a lot of marching in her day, estimated it at about 200,000. From a political standpoint, it's probably more important that the visuals were compelling and that the march is being followed up by a day of lobbying Congress on Monday. Another thing that really impressed Margie, Moose, and Goose (or, as Moose sardonically termed their mini-contingent, the Hormonally Unbalanced Radicals for Peace) were the large numbers of young people in the crowd who weren't there because their aging hippie parents had dragged them along. The Post even had a separate article devoted to youth involvement in the anti-war movement. It reports that, "Many students mentioned the case of Ehren Watada -- the U.S. Army lieutenant facing a court martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq -- as an important step in building a cohesive antiwar movement."

Roxie's World is proud to celebrate all fighters for peace and all those who inspire others to get up off their couches and take a stand for a better world. We give yesterday's march a Five-Paw Rating and an enthusiastic Roxie's World Seal of Approval. But remember, kids, a march is not a movement, and a good slogan never ended a war. March today, but be ready to work your hearts tomorrow--and tomorrow--and tomorrow. . . .

Peace out, friends.

(Photo Credit: Jason Rudy)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sweet Shiloh: R. I. P.

Shiloh was a cousin of mine, sweetest little terrier mix to ever grace the heart of Texas. He lived in Austin with my uncle Bobby and aunt Judy Smith. He was sixteen years old and died yesterday of a stroke in the midst of the big chill that has hit the Lone Star state recently. We never met, technically, but when I was a wee pup he and his brother Quincy sent me a bone made out of tightly woven colorful thread. I chewed and chewed and chewed that bone. I played tug with that bone and dragged it from one end of the house to the other. For all my hard work, I never managed to destroy it. That bone is somewhere in this house yet, just as Shiloh's presence still lingers with uncle Bobby and aunt Judy and anybody who ever knew him. He's pictured here with little Wesley, one of the more recent loves of his long life. Shiloh was a great kid dog--always gentle, always fun, always ready for a snuggle.

Travel on, little Shiloh. We will miss you here, but we are grateful for all the time and all the love we had with you. Safe journey, sweet cousin. Safe home.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


The president seems to be shrinking again. Here he is in the White House library Wednesday night, making a speech he had put off and put off, like some desperate undergrad hoping against hope that he might find a dog to eat his homework. Sorry, Shrub, not even Barney would take a bite out of the load of hooey you tried to foist off on the American people this time. The latest "new way forward in Iraq" sounds so old and backward that even Republicans are fleeing from it in droves. The Times and the Post both have stories today on the every-man-for-himself mentality that has taken hold among Republicans, who realize Bush's war is a lost cause that has already cost them their majorities in Congress. They are voting for popular Democratic proposals faster than you can say "poll-obsessed, flip-flopping, former theo-con who now thinks global warming is real and negotiating with drug companies for lower prices is a brilliant idea." This spectacle would be fun to watch if it weren't for the fact that American kids and Iraqi civilians will keep dying while Bush and his cronies look for new ways to cover their backsides and postpone the inevitable for two more years.

Bush isn't the only one who was bedeviled this week by pesky enemies who made him seem small and weak. My beloved Lady Terps, reigning national champions and owners of the longest active winning streak in Division I college basketball, traveled to Durham for a re-match with the Duke Blue Devils, whom they last faced in the championship game last April. For the Terps, the reunion wasn't pretty, as Duke's suffocating defense held Maryland to 37.8 percent shooting. The Blue Devils prevailed 81-62, leaving Maryland coach Brenda Frese to say, graciously and succinctly, "This game we were outworked, outhustled, outplayed, outcoached, you name it."

Coach B. hits the nail right on the head. My moms and their new pals over at DC BasketCases, the best darn Washington-area women's basketball blog on the internets, hope the Terps will embrace their stinging loss as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to kick some serious butt when they face the Blue Devils again on Feb. 18. For a good example of how to bounce back from a bitter defeat, the Lady Terps need only look to that other team with a national championship trophy in the Comcast Center, the non-lady Terps. The Maryland men's team this week suffered an ugly loss to the Miami Hurricanes at home on Wednesday night. (My moms were there. How ugly was it? Judging by the looks on the moms' faces when they got home, I'd say it was as ugly as the boil George Bush got on his face during the Florida recount. Remember that? I do.) Anyway, the boys bounced right back on Saturday, defeating the 17th-ranked Clemson Tigers, the only undefeated team left in men's Division I basketball. The men needed the victory to avoid a disastrous 0-3 start in ACC play, and they got it thanks to a season high 62.7 percent shooting and strong rebounding against the ACC's best offensive rebounding team. We don't know if they answered all the questions that might be raised about them (since the boy Terps in the last couple of seasons have shown a tendency to win big games and let little ones slip away), but we're pleased with the win and hope this team really is ready to take Maryland back to the NCAA tournament.

Basketball is like life, kids. If you don't fear the turtle, you just don't know the score.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Notes on a Stereotype

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't yet seen Notes on a Scandal, you might want to skip this post for now. Maybe you could re-visit some of my holiday posts and try to decide whether you like me better in my reindeer tiara or my oh-so-naughty "Happy F-ing New Year!" tiara. Or, maybe you should shut down the computer and head out to your local cineplex to see Notes so that you can join in on the debate my moms are about to launch. Don't say I didn't warn you: Spoilers and rants ahead.

My moms go on lots of dates in January. It's a time of year when one of them will say, "I've got to go downtown and get a haircut this afternoon. Want to me meet me after for a movie and an early dinner?" and the other, instead of hemming and hawing about how much work she has to do, will say, "Sure. What's playing?" Thus it was that on Friday they caught a late afternoon showing of Richard Eyre's creepy, riveting Notes on a Scandal, starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. (Pause for a scene-setting bit of local gossip: Just as the trailers were about to start, PBS reporter Gwen Ifill and a female companion came and sat down right next to Moose and Goose. The moms were thrilled. They just love rubbing shoulders with the kinda famous people one tends to see at the movies in Washington.)

My moms are suckers for a good story, and they like nothing better than spending a couple of hours in the dark with women who are as smart, talented, and gorgeous as Dench and Blanchett are (even though Dench bends over backwards to be the opposite of gorgeous in this role. She succeeds admirably. Wait for the bathtub scene. Look at her upper arms. You'll probably race from the theater to the gym to start a weight-lifting program. Props to Dame Judi for letting them film her aging female body in all its un-nipped or -tucked glory.).

The tale is gripping, as Dench's Barbara Covett and Blanchett's Sheba Hart (love the subtly allegorical names, eh?) are drawn not into friendship but into a twisted nest of co-dependency, power struggle, sexual intrigue, and multiple betrayals. The two women meet on the first day of a new term in a dysfunctional high school in inner-city London. Dench plays a battle-ax history teacher who holds her students and her colleagues in utter contempt, while Blanchett is a novice art teacher who is bored with her bourgeois married-with-children life but clueless about how to run a classroom. Searching for a gem among her unruly students (Barbara calls them "feral"), Sheba gets entangled with a horny fifteen-year old boy. Barbara soon discovers the affair and realizes she can use the knowledge to gain control of Sheba and command a semblance of devotion from her. Not surprisingly, complications ensue. Horny boys show up at inconvenient times. Families get suspicious. Cats die. Secrets come out, with a little help from the bitter, grief-stricken cat owners who are supposed to keep them. Jobs are lost. Someone goes to jail. Someone else goes to the park. No one looks noble, though the child with Down syndrome at least seems fully innocent.

Luminous peformances, a great script, a haunting score by Philip Glass--What's not to love about Notes on a Scandal? Why did my moms walk out saying they felt deeply conflicted about this film? My moms are the opposite of image-nazis. They don't go to the movies expecting (or even wanting) to see positive role models and happy endings, but they were bothered by how fully invested Notes on a Scandal turned out to be in the trope of the predatory repressed lesbian. One could argue that as the adult in a sexual relationship with a "child," Sheba, too, is a predator, though the film is clear that her lover Steven instigates their affair and that Sheba's chief moral failing is her inability to stop it. Sheba seems less a predator than a selfish fool who misses the "fuck fests" (as she describes her early relationship with her husband to Barbara) of her youth. In the film's last glimpse of her, Sheba is shown in a tabloid photograph being sent off to jail with her forgiving husband at her side. She has been convicted of a crime, but she has been fully restored to "normal," marital heterosexuality.

Barbara, on the other hand, is the unredeemed and irredeemable sex criminal of Notes on a Scandal. The word "lesbian" is never spoken in the film, a sign of how deeply phobic its structuring of female same-sex eroticism is. In the moral panic whipped up by the revelation of Sheba's affair, Barbara is forced to resign from her job. The headmaster threatens to reveal a previous incident in which another woman teacher, Jennifer, sought a restraining order against Barbara, who had obsessively stalked her much as she has been stalking Sheba throughout the film. The film ends with Barbara moving in on her next target, a young woman who vaguely resembles Sheba and gets drawn into conversation when Barbara notes that she knew the woman who is the subject of the lurid tabloid headlines she is reading. Called a vampire earlier (and we all know that female vampires are lesbians, right?), Barbara has her fangs out in the end, getting ready to strike again. Sheba has been rehabilitated. Barbara is the damned recidivist. She is damned by the tormenting power of a sexuality neither she nor the film is willing to name.

Or that's what my moms say anyway, and their reaction is similar to commentary by Malinda Lo that my Aunt Katie was kind enough to pass along. Our pal Damion over at Queering the Apparatus had a different take on the film when he saw a preview of it in November (and you know we put great stock in what Damion has to say about film). We share Damion's awe for the performances, but the film's artistry is itself problematic because, as Lo points out, the performances have such a strong ring of truth that they forestall critical examination of the toxic stereotype that serves as the story's central narrative trope. And even if we don't go to the movies in search of positive queer images, it's disheartening that last year mainstream audiences thrilled to Brokeback Mountain, which presented same-sex love as sweet but doomed to a violent end, while this year they'll flock to a morality play that depicts same-sex desire not as victimized but as pathetically, inevitably victimizing.

I think I'm going to go to Hollywood and pitch a movie about my moms. Maybe I'll call it Notes on Twenty-Three Years of Queer Delight (Thirteen of Which Included a Really Cute Dog). Whaddyathink, kids? Could I sell that script and quit my day job as a world-class squirrel chaser?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy F-ing New Year!

Okay, fans, here is one last goofy holiday photo of me. I promise that soon your favorite dog blogger will return to such weighty subjects as Mary Cheney's pregnancy and the prospects of the Maryland men's basketball team developing a consistent perimeter defense in time for ACC conference play. In the meantime, we here at Roxie's World wish you and yours a joyous start to 2007. We hope that you partied heartily last night and then blissfully slumbered your way into the new year. We did. We slept til noon and Goose is just now getting the black-eyed peas on the stove. (That's her quaint Southern way of assuring good luck for the new year. Moose and I just think it's yummy!) Here's a short, random list of resolutions we've made here at Roxie's World for 2007. Feel free to weigh in with your own proposals and plans. The year is brand new, and hope is a thing with feathers, so may your dreams take flight as 2007 gets underway.

  • Give Dems a Chance: We are resolved not to go all snarky and finger-pointy on the new Democratic leadership five minutes after they take charge. They've been left with a huge mess to clean up and not many good options or resources for doing so. We won't be mindlessly loyal or uncritical, but we hope lefties won't be too quick to put everyone in a circle and start firing their guns.
  • Keep on Blogging: In March, Roxie's World will be one year old! We are resolved to go on being the Best Darn Dog Blog Devoted to Politics, Pop Culture, and Basketball in the whole blogosphere. We promise our legions of loyal fans to continue holding forth on our eclectic mix of topics with the unique left-wing dog-on-a-couch-watching-TV perspective you've come to know and love. Bookmark us. Link to us. Click on us. We will not let you down.
  • Bladder Control: My health has been great recently, thank you for asking. My heart disease is being effectively managed through the combination of meds that my sweet Portuguese cardiologist recommended. My energy levels lately have been high--Just ask the squirrels in our yard if you don't believe me! The best news from a family quality-of-life perspective is that my tinkle problem has also been under control in the past few weeks. My moms have gotten so confident that they even stopped putting the trash bag and the beach towel on our bed at night (the "sautee kit," as Moose calls it). We are resolved not to leak this year--and I bet we'll be better at it than the Bush White House was before its vaunted "discipline" melted away in the stew of its incompetence.
Happy New Year, beloved denizens of Roxie's World. Make peace happen, please.