Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Mighty Heart

(Photo Credit: A Mighty Heart photo gallery)

With apologies to Ms. Angelina Jolie, for riffing on the title of her soon-to-be-released major motion picture about love, courage, and exceptional beauty, but we pretty girls have to stick together.

Fasten your seat belts and hold onto your mouse, kids. Roxie's World hereby announces its very first miracle. No, Paul hasn't been resurrected and climbed out of the toilet and back into our fish pond, and, no, we haven't proven that Mary Cheney's child was conceived through divine or diabolical intervention. No, loyal fans, the miracle is ME, ME, ME -- your very own favorite dog blogger. The moms took me to the doctor on Tuesday. It was time for my semi-annual checkup with the world's most amazing Portuguese canine cardiologist, Dr. Luis Braz-Ruivo, who has been treating my mitral valve prolapse since early last year. (I've posted about Dr. B. before. For a good description of why the moms and I heart my heart doctor so much, click here.) I was a very good dog on this visit, as Dr. B. put me up on his wooden table and hooked me up to the big computer that shows my leaky old heart in action. As usual, he dimmed the lights and he and the moms traded pleasantries while images of my heart flickered in the darkness. The report from my last visit was very good, but the news this time was nigh on to miraculous. Dr. B. says that my left atrium has decreased in size because my heart is leaking less. In other words, my heart condition has actually improved, though the goal and expectation of our treatment has merely been to keep it from getting worse. In other words, your favorite dog blogger is a machine-certified medical miracle! Touch your screen, kids, and perhaps the miracle will rub off on you. Go on. You know you want to.

I'd like to thank my moms for their dedication to the cause of canine cardiac health. I'd like to thank whatever German genius invented liverwurst (aka the world's most effective canine pill delivery system). And I'd like to thank you, my legions of loyal fans, for holding me in the light and knowing in your own leaky or un-leaky hearts that dog is love. I couldn't have done it without you.

While we're in a celebratory mood, allow me to point out yet another new widget that an increasingly adventurous Moose has installed on the blog. We now have a "Backwards Bush" countdown widget over in the sidebar. (You can get one, too, for free, right here.) As of today, the incredible shrinking Shrub has less than 600 days left in his ignominious reign. That's still plenty of time for him and his evil crew to make plenty of mischief, but it's less time than he had yesterday.

Here are some other feel-good bits of news in a week when grim news from Iraq gives us still more cause for sorrow:
  • A study shows that altruism is hard-wired into the brain and that generosity toward others "activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex." In other words, placing the interest of others before one's own is not a superior moral faculty but is rooted in the chemistry of the brain. It's a fascinating story with rather extraordinary implications. Read it here. Most interesting point: "The more researchers learn, the more it appears that the foundation of morality is empathy. Being able to recognize -- even experience vicariously -- what another creature is going through was an important leap in the evolution of social behavior. And it is only a short step from this awareness to many human notions of right and wrong, says Jean Decety, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago."
  • Barbara Holland has written a lively new book called The Joy of Drinking that celebrates the sociability of drinking and rails against "the rise of broccoli, exercise, and Starbucks." Goose just ordered the book, which we haven't read yet, but Wa Po's "Style" profile on Holland is a kick. It reads like a how-to manual for feisty women who intend to grow old by being bad. I have a hunch it will resonate with some of my most devoted fans, not to mention my typist. It's here. Best line: "I'm in favor of a little more sociability, a little more merriment, maybe even a little more singing and dancing," she says. "Jeepers, I'm so old that I remember when we all used to sing all the time." Holland should have been at our house over Memorial Day. The moms and their pals could have demonstrated there is still plenty of drinking, singing, and dancing, at least in Roxie's World.
  • Cindy Sheehan "resigned" this week as the face of the American anti-war movement. (Read her letter of resignation here.) With all due respect to Sheehan for her hard work and sacrifice, I call this "good news" because I agree that she needs a break to re-assess her role, her strategy, and the long-term goals of the movement she came to represent. We were all disappointed that Democrats failed to get timetables for withdrawal into last week's vote on funding for the war, but we also have to be patient, realistic, and tactically smart. Statements like, "Good-bye America are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it," will only undermine the cause and give aid and comfort to those who claim that opponents of the war "hate America." This isn't about you, Ms. Sheehan. It's about all of us finding ways to make peace and a better world.
May all your hearts be mighty and your voices loud. Roxie's World may be quiet for the next week or so, as the moms head off for a road trip to the land of Moose's misspent youth -- Indiana and Illinois. We've loaded a new song into the music box to accompany them on their journey, "All the Way" from the Indigo Girls' album, Despite Our Differences. It's a jaunty tune, and the metaphors aren't so mixed that the English profs will get headaches from listening to it, as can sometimes happen with Indigo lyrics. Click, listen, enjoy!

Note from Tech Support on Listening: Moose tested the blog on Internet Explorer 6.0 yesterday and noted that the music box doesn't work. Time to upgrade, beloveds -- Or better yet: Switch to Firefox. That's what all the cool kids are doing, and Roxie's World is a much prettier, fully functioning place if you access us that way. Of course, in an ideal world, you'd all be Mac users, too, but we know that's too much to hope for. We embrace the un-cool as well as the cool and love you, love you all.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Death in the Family

Paul is dead -- again.

Loyal fans will recall that we had a plump orange koi named Paul who disappeared from our pond a few weeks back, the victim, we suspect, of a hungry heron who swooped into the yard for a late-night snack. That left us with only two fish (John and George-Ringo or the Captain and Tennille, as Moose liked to joke), so the moms went off to PetSmart to get replacements. (You know, sort of like when Ringo took over for Pete Best.) Things were going along swimmingly. The new guys seemed to be getting along well with the old guys, and Moose and I had almost figured out who was who. But then Friday evening Moose went out to check on the boys and noticed that the new Paul was. . .stiff. She went in the house to tell Goose. "Is he floating on top of the water?" asked the ever-skeptical Goose. "No," Moose replied, "but I'm sure he's dead. Come see." A careful investigation ensued. Scary red splotches were noted on Paul's skin and a certain curling of the body seemed to be taking place. The net was fetched. A eulogy was spoken, brief but heartfelt. "You were a good fish, Paul. I hope you didn't get John sick, too." A toilet was flushed. The dinner guests arrived, and it was soon learned that our favorite seven-year old knows how to spell "dead," "fish," and "toilet."

And so it goes in Roxie's World, where life and death brush shoulders as casually as strangers on a crowded street. Paul is dead. What's for dinner? In this respect at least, Roxie's World is not unlike the world of The Sopranos, which is winding toward a spectacular conclusion that is likely to find a lot of our favorite characters swimming with the fishes. Steve Van Zandt, who plays Silvio Dante on the show, has hinted that the piles of corpses are likely to get as high as those piles of asbestos-laden garbage Tony's guys have been dumping all over New Jersey lately. He recently told The New York Post, "If they were ever considering the idea of doing a ['Sopranos'] movie, let's just say it would need to be a prequel."

The moms and I noticed that last week's episode of The Sopranos took a turn for the literary. We can't explain the sudden appearance of the "Lincoln Log sandwiches" Carmela made for AJ shortly before his pathetic suicide attempt (though we are pleased to pass along NBC anchor Brian Williams' amusing explanation of the "handy, portable heart attack on a bun" he recalls from his north Jersey childhood). We can, however, weigh in on the significance of AJ sitting in on an English class in which Yeats' poem "The Second Coming" was discussed. ("The Second Coming" is also the title of the episode.) First off, the moms insist that I rant a little about the ludicrous depiction of the English prof with her carefully written lecture notes on the blackboard behind her. (What, no laptops with projectors in New Jersey?) They don't mind that the young woman playing the prof was a little sluttier-looking than most real-world English profs, despite the academic black turtleneck and blazer she wore. The moms realize that certain liberties had to be taken in order to make sure horny little AJ would pay attention. What annoyed them is that she did such a miserable job of reading the poem. No wonder AJ wanted to off himself after listening to her declare that "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity" in a thin, flat voice utterly devoid of poetry. She might as well have been reading from the phone book!

Fortunately, the scene quickly shifts to AJ reading the poem aloud to himself in bed -- curled up with his Norton Anthology of Poetry pointed right at the camera. (Excellent product placement, "Horton." Now, if your proofreaders were only as careful as your marketing department. [Follow this link if you don't get the "Horton" joke.]) AJ reads most of the poem's second stanza, including its ominous concluding question, "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, /Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" He reads in the monotone of the medicated adolescent boy he is, yet his reading compels our attention much more than that of the tone-deaf English prof. As the series moves inexorably toward its own grim ending, we are watching AJ finally grapple with the possibility of having conviction. He is troubled by the violent actions of his "friends," judgmental about his parents' materialism (yet wholly dependent on it), haunted by the injustices and inequalities he suddenly sees everywhere. At the same time, he seems paralyzed, unable to act in any meaningful way on his new beliefs. When his psychiatrist asks if he tried to stop his friends from brutally beating a young Somalian, AJ replies, "I'm one individual. What could I do?"

Don't just stand there, AJ. Read the poem again. If things fall apart, as they seem on the verge of doing in your life and family, it might be time for you to realize that you've got to grow up and do something. Otherwise, you could be the next one to find yourself swimming with the fishes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Child Is Born

(Photo Credit: White House [!!!]; Lynne and Vice President Darth Cheney with their sixth grandchild)

Paws up for Mary Cheney, kids. She finally popped her little bun out of the oven. Wa Po reports that Samuel David Cheney was born yesterday at Sibley Hospital in Washington. (Sardonic aside from Moose: What, wouldn't any of the hospitals in Cheney's home state of Virginia allow for same-sex spawning in their sacred delivery rooms?) (Sardonic aside from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann: The state of Virginia was named last night's Worst Person in the World for denying Cheney's partner, Heather Poe, parental rights to the child she and Cheney will be raising together.)

We've been racking our brains here in Roxie's World trying to decide how to commemorate this extraordinary occasion. We don't want to involve ourselves in all the crass speculation about how the child was conceived, though we did notice a fascinating story in the paper this week reporting evidence of reproduction through parthenogenesis in female sharks. When Moose saw the headline, "Female Sharks Can Reproduce Alone, Researchers Find," she thought perhaps the story had something to do with Mary Cheney. Interestingly, news of Samuel's birth broke hours later. Coincidence? We think not!

Having grown up with two moms myself, I should probably offer little Samuel some free advice. Hmmm, let's see. If both moms are going through menopause at the same time, don't just leave the house -- Leave the planet. It ain't pretty. If you're lucky enough to have one mom who is a disciplinarian (or a "Moose," as in "Mussolini") and one mom who is a freedom schooler (or a "Goose," as in "Mother Goose"), then you're in for a lifetime of fun playing them off against each other. It's a great game, Sammy, and you're the winner every time! If the kids at school make fun of you for having two moms, just smile at them and say, "It's okay -- My grandpa's a huge Dick."

On that crude note, let's pause for a moment to imagine Baby Cheney's First Words. What will it be like for this child, growing up in a political family that has sold its soul to a party devoted to denying him the same set of rights, privileges, and legal protections that children born into other types of families have? What will little Samuel have to say when his tender mouth can finally form words? How about something like. . . :

  • Wait, Grandpa, don't shoot!
  • It's a free country! You can't send me off to Gitmo for refusing to eat my vegetables.
  • Wow, Mama Heather has one heck of a pitching arm. I think those years as a forest ranger were good for her upper-body strength.
  • Mother Mary, why won't Grandpa stop the war? Everybody says he started it.
Now, that is an excellent question, Samuel. Why won't Grandpa Cheney stop the war? Or, why, if he and the Bubble Boy president can't get out of their delusional states, won't someone else? Why can't anyone put out the fire that was lit by the lies and fear-mongering of this administration? Why can't Democrats stiffen their spines and figure out a way to do what the vast majority of the American people say they want done? (Latest Times/CBS poll reports that 76 percent say that the additional American troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush have either had no impact or are making things worse there.)

Memorial Day is this weekend, kids. In addition to pulling your white shoes out of the closet and coming up with your own witty contribution to the Baby Cheney's First Words Contest (sure, let's have one -- Why not?), Roxie's World urges you to read the following articles and to DO something that in some small way can move our nation toward peace. How much more blood can you stand to have on YOUR hands?

  • Read this powerful story by Wa Po reporter Darragh Johnson on Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery, where 336 men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been buried. It's a touching analysis of how the rawness of the families' grief has transformed the subdued space of Arlington into a messier yet more deeply real space of living, communal sorrow. It brings the war home in vivid fashion.
  • Check out my moms' colleague Marshall Grossman, holding forth in Huff Po on the Democrats' reluctance to put teeth in their opposition to the war.
  • Keith Olbermann also had a "Special Comment" on last night's show calling Democrats to account for collaborating in prolonging the war. It's hard-hitting and righteous, as usual.
  • Join in John Edwards' Memorial Day call to support the troops by ending the war. You can search for local actions going on in connection with this effort. Props are due to Edwards for his leadership on this issue, even if it is motivated by a desire to tack to the left of Clinton and Obama on the war.
That's all for now, folks. Happy grilling and happy hell-raising. If Molly Ivins were here this Memorial Day, she would remind you that citizenship is not a spectator sport. She's not here, so Roxie's World is proud to remind you for her. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Songs in the Key of Roxie

We have a new toy here in Roxie's World, thanks to our good friend Damion, the creative genius behind Queering the Apparatus. It's the cute little widget you see over on the right sidebar, just below the profile photo of yours truly. It'll be a fun way for us to share cool stuff with my legions of loyal funs -- text, photos, video, and especially music. The moms and I are big fans of music, though our tastes are hard to pin down, reflecting everything from the lesbo penchant for alto voices crooning songs of heartbreak or empowerment to the baby boomers' passionate worship at the shrine of rock and roll. Then of course there's Moose's peculiar devotion to the Broadway musical, which has led to speculation in some quarters that she is a gay man trapped in a lesbian's body, but we won't go there.

For now, we've got three tunes loaded into the widget. If you take a listen, you'll notice there's a vaguely Celtic theme running through the mix. That's because Moose likes themes and because Damion, during the course of their widget tutorial, had her load a beautiful song called "Conway Bay" from a not yet released CD by Judith Owen called Happy This Way. Moose had never heard of Judith Owen before this afternoon, but she loved this song the moment she heard it. Owen is from Wales, and the song tells the story of a journey back to the place of childhood. Musically, it is also a journey back to Owen's home country, borrowing lovingly from the melody and rhythm of "Jerusalem," the William Blake poem that was turned into a hymn in 1916 and has served as an unofficial anthem of England for many years. To round out the mix, Moose also uploaded Bruce Springsteen's recording of "Mrs. McGrath," a traditional Irish song on his incredible CD, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. She also added a cut from the best girl singer you've never heard of, Eliza Gilkyson, whose new album, Paradise Hotel, has been in heavy rotation at our house ever since Goose's Texas musician nephew Eric turned us onto it. The tune we've included here, "Jedidiah 1777," is a haunting ballad woven out of passages from letters home by a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Gilkyson is an amazing songwriter, and her smoky alto voice will remind you of every late night you ever spent alone with a bottle of something stiff. Not that anyone in our house has ever done such a thing, but. . . .

Summer's coming, kids. Grades are in, so let's head for the blogosphere. You'll notice other changes in Roxie's World over the next few weeks, as Moose and I experiment with the new features in the easy-to-customize Blogger. Let us know what you think! As always, your pleasure is our purpose.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Memento Mori

Don't speak ill of the dead? Um, can we make an exception when they spoke ill of the living? Peace out, kids, and thanks to Dudley's human and RutgersAlumna for passing along some fun cartoons.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Welcome to Hell

(Photo Credit: Doug Koontz, Lynchburg News and Advance - AP; Falwell, then Liberty University chancellor, hobnobs with a crowd at Liberty's Big South conference tournament basketball game, in which Liberty played Radford in March 1997 in Lynchburg, Va.)

Close your eyes, loyal denizens of Roxie's World. Close your eyes, and imagine with me the Rev. Jerry Falwell's sudden leap into eternity on a Tuesday afternoon in May while alone in his office at Liberty University. (Wa Po coverage of Falwell's death yesterday at age 73 starts here. NY Times coverage begins here.)

It's a warm spring afternoon in Lynchburg, VA. The rev has, per usual, eaten heartily at lunch. Back in his office after the repast, a dull pain grips his chest. He rubs it distractedly, trying to dislodge a pocket of gas. Suddenly, a shot of searing hot pain throws him to the ground. His eyes open wide but see nothing, until, suddenly, he finds himself transported to an even warmer place. It's all, as Tony Kushner puts it at the end of Angels in America, Part One, "Very Steven Spielberg" in its epic scale and melodramatic sound and lighting effects. It's also very, very hot, but the rev is not alone. He is met at the entrance by a sweet-faced young man with a smile as bright as a thousand klieg lights.

Matthew Shepard: Afternoon, Rev. Falwell. Welcome to Hell.

Rev. Falwell: Wha? I was in my office. I needed to burp. Aren't you that. . .boy? Wyoming?

Matthew Shepard: That's right, Rev. I'm Matthew Shepard, and you're in Hell.

Rev. Falwell: And so are you, which I suppose means that demented Phelps fellow is right about God hating fags, but what am I doing here?

Matthew Shepard: (laughing softly). Oh, no, Rev. Falwell. I was just sent down here to welcome you. I don't usually work here but, you know, up in the other place. Actually, it turns out that God doesn't hate fags, but He does have a wicked sense of humor and of poetic justice. So here I am. Welcome to Hell.

Rev. Falwell: But, but. . .why? I was a man of God, a warrior for Christ, a preacher of the Word. How could I have ended up here?

Matthew Shepard: Because you believed in a vengeful, angry God who casts sinners into places like this -- and you did so without grasping that your own venomous rage against those whose beliefs differed from yours was the greatest sin of all against a god who is, always and only, love. This place is the logical outcome of your years of condemnation and cruelty, of promoting hatred in God's name. (For lowlights of Falwell's career, see the archive Carpetbagger has assembled.) As Milton's Satan says in Paradise Lost, "Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell." Your Hell -- Welcome to it.

(Shepard turns to leave.)

Rev. Falwell: Wait -- Please, don't go. I have so. . .many. . .questions.

Matthew Shepard: Sorry, Rev. I gotta get back upstairs. Tea dance starts in a few minutes, and I could use a cool drink. Here, take this -- It might help to explain your predicament in terms you can understand. It's not what the guy upstairs believes, but it's in keeping with your theology. Perhaps you'll take some comfort in it.

Shepard hands Rev. Falwell a crisp copy of the famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," by the 18th-century Puritan divine, Jonathan Edwards. The following passage is underlined:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.
As Shepard turns to go, Falwell holds the document in his hands, stares at it, looks longingly at Shepard, and then back down at the piece of paper. As he reads, his hands begin to tremble.

"Myself am Hell," indeed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

News from the Trail

(Photo Credit: Scout Tufankjian, Polaris for Newsweek; Michelle Obama listens to her husband in Waterloo, Iowa.)

Happy Mother's Day! Last year, Mother's Day fell on Goose's birthday, which is tomorrow this year, if that makes sense and doesn't make your head spin. (To see one of the most adorable photographs ever taken of yours truly and to read the touching poem I wrote for Goose on Mother's Day last year, please click here.) We've had a quiet celebration of Roxie Has Two Mommies Day here in Roxie's World. The moms had a big party last night, and I spent much of the evening tolerating the attention of young children who seemed to think that a terrier's tail is a convenient carrying device, so I've been a little sleepy today. It's gorgeous here, though, so I sent the moms off on a four-mile walk while I curled up for a restorative nap. They came home, as they often do, with news of the 'hood and of the larger world, because that's the way their brains work when they are walking and talking out on my trail.

Today's topic is political partnerships. During their walk, the moms ran into a couple of our favorite neighbors, an African-American mother and daughter who have separate houses within a block or two of us and one another. We are especially fond of them because they are especially fond of ME. They are always inquiring after my health and prayed fervently for my recovery when I was so sick last year. Somehow, the conversation turned to politics. Perhaps it was because Moose was wearing her thought-provoking "Stop Bitching and Start a Revolution" tee-shirt. (See photo here. Purchase shirts here.) Barbara, the mom, announced with a smile that she loves Bill Clinton and plans to support Hillary in order to get him back in the White House. A lengthy discussion ensued about the charm and wisdom of the forty-second president and the impressive command of the issues shown by the junior senator from New York in the recent Democratic candidates' debate. Everyone laughed when Moose said that Bill Clinton is one of the few men in America who would be comfortable in the role of first male First Lady. (Apparently, the First Gentleman of Michigan, husband of Girl Gov Jennifer Granholm, is not always at ease in that role. Here is an Eleanor Clift piece that speculates on the role Bill might play in a Hillary administration by focusing on Granholm's husband Daniel Granholm Mulhern. Clift also cites a Gallup poll showing that 7 in 10 Americans think Bill would be "mostly helpful" to his wife should she win the presidency.)

Interestingly, the name "Barack Obama" did not come up in the course of the moms' conversation with our neighbors. They said good-bye and proceeded on their walk, thinking out loud together as they so often do about politics, gender, race, and the mostly ridiculous ways such complex issues are covered in the American news media. The moms have not yet taken an official position on any of the Democratic candidates for president. (Loyal fans will recall that Roxie's World endorsed Al Gore just about a year ago.) However, Goose has been expressing serious "Where's the beef?" doubts about Obama recently, and Moose was more than a little annoyed with a Post profile of Michelle Obama that talked about her recent decision to quit her job in order to campaign fulltime for her husband. Moose respects that decision but was bothered by Obama's all too predictable mealy-mouthed response to the question of whether she considers herself a feminist.

"You know, I'm not that into labels," Michelle Obama said in the interview. "So probably, if you laid out a feminist agenda, I would probably agree with a large portion of it," she said. "I wouldn't identify as a feminist just like I probably wouldn't identify as a liberal or a progressive."

Oh, thanks, Michelle, and you "probably" wouldn't want to label yourself pro-choice or pro-same sex marriage or anti-war, would you? Thanks for the profile in political courage. Funny, in the photo we ran at the top of this post, the one of you gazing up at your husband as political wives have done from time immemorial, you're sitting up so straight we figured you actually had a spine. Guess not! Wouldn't want to offend anyone by taking a stand, would we?

Here's the thing: The media are framing the Democratic campaign as a battle between Obama and Clinton. It's race versus gender, pretty boy versus scary girl, platitudes versus policy. Obama will have to do more than look and sound good to earn the support of Roxie's World and the smart women my moms ran into out on the trail. Smooth talker that he is, he is going to have to take positions, flesh out policies, and be brave enough to embrace a label or two, or he runs the risk of being dismissed as a lightweight. If that happens, the wonky woman with the rapscallion husband we hate ourselves for adoring will waltz back into the White House as the first Chick Prez and non-lady First Lady. They'll make history, and Michelle Obama can go back to work.

You heard it here first, kids. Roxie's World says the girl is going to win. (That is a prediction, not an endorsement, so don't get your knickers in a wad. Just stay tuned.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Better to Burn Out. . .

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/NASA, Chandra X-Ray Center,, M. Weiss. From Wa Po: "This artist's illustration provided by NASA shows what the brightest supernova ever recorded, known as SN 2006gy, may have looked like when it exploded. The star 'is a special kind of supernova that has never been seen before,' the discovery team leader Nathan Smith of the University of California at Berkeley told The Associated Press. 'It blew the core of the star apart, blew it into smithereens, sending all those heavy metals into space' at a speed of about 9.3 million miles per hour, Smith said. And it has been shining at levels brighter than other supernovae for several months, Smith said. The discovery was first made last September by a graduate student in Texas.")

(Read the Post piece on this supernova. It's fun to see astrophysicists so excited. Cool video, too.)

. . .than it is to fade away:

Our favorite suggestion from a dumb Post piece on what to say to the Queen: "I loved you as Helen Mirren." If you must, read the piece on the white-tie state dinner for the Queen at the White House. We love you anyway, you pathetic Anglophile. Speaking of fading, latest Newsweek poll has Bush's approval rating at 28%. And he still couldn't take a good, hard, public swig off all that fine wine at last night's dinner. Poor Shrub!

Neil Young nailed it many years ago:

Some not quite random links (because it's the last week of classes and Moose doesn't have time to type):

  • Katha Pollitt in The Nation on the Supreme Court's recent abortion decision: Best point: It matters who's president and who controls Congress. Best line: "It's flatly outrageous that five men--five devout Catholic men, 56 percent of the court--can impose their will on women's bodies, talking about 'anatomical landmarks' as if a woman's reproductive system were some kind of national park."
  • Timothy Noah in Slate on The Sopranos final season: Best point: The game plan seems to be to make pretty much EVERYbody likely to whack Tony in the end. Best line: He proposes a Bush-Soprano mix 'n' match, since both administrations are in an advanced state of collapse. He can't decide whether Condi equals Carmela or Dr. Melfi. Please discuss in comments.
  • Women Bloggers Feel Threatened: Makes me glad I'm a dog. What is with you people?
That's it for now, kids. Catch you on the weekend.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Martha Smith Living

This post is for the English profs who lurk in Roxie's World. Oh, I know you're out there, scads of you, sneaking in here in the middle of the day when you just can't stand to read another student paper, clicking furtively on my URL when you've lost the will to believe that a 42-minute Google search constitutes serious scholarly work, popping back in for one more look before heading off to that meeting you dread attending. Has Roxie updated yet? What on earth did I do with that Learning Outcomes Assessment draft I was supposed to take to this meeting? I wonder how Roxie’s new fish are adjusting to life in the pond. Can I fail a student for using “impactful” as an adjective? Has Roxie taken a position yet on how The Sopranos is winding down?

I know you’re out there, and I love every single overworked, underpaid, too-literate-for-this-world one of you, so this post is just for you. You’ll appreciate as few others can its odd mix of existential angst, the perils of poor proofreading, and academic publishing in the age of global capital. Oh, and of course the subversion of heteronormativity and the hegemony of literary canon-formation. Whatever the heck those are. Moose has been feeding me big words again.

Goose is having a weird week. You might say she’s been having an “out of vitae” experience. The other day she got an e-mail from an old professional friend with what should have seemed like a strange question. “Are you dead?” the friend inquired. “No,” Goose breezily replied before pressing “send” to go back to the all-important task of purging the erectile dysfunction messages from her in-box. Are you dead??!

Backstory: The English profs out there know that in the world of college textbook publishing, a new edition of a major anthology of literature is a very big deal. It’s tantamount to an automobile company doing a major re-design of an old model. There is a lot at stake, because textbook sales are one of the few places where independent publishers can still make money nowadays. Reputations are on the line. Receptions are held. Competing anthologies are mercilessly dissected by friends of the new anthology’s editors in online reviews. Most importantly, before the ink has barely had a chance to dry, free copies of the new anthology are sent out to English profs all over the country so they have a chance to kick the tires on the new model and decide if they’d like to order a couple of hundred copies for their fall classes. Free books are one of the few perks English profs get, so they are delighted when they go to their faculty mailboxes and find them stuffed with bulky boxes from publishers.

This spring, English profs all over the country have been opening up boxes containing an impressive new 5-volume anthology. Just for fun, let’s call it The Horton Anthology of American Literature. Horton is one of the leaders in the field of literary textbook publishing. Their critical edition series is the gold standard for scholarly and textual rigor. The moms are great admirers of Horton and have relied on their books for years. That’s why I’ve decided to offer “Horton” the veil of a pseudonym in the story I am about to tell. They are a fine publisher. Moose has a contract with them for an edition she was supposed to finish. . .awhile ago. And they probably have a team of lawyers ready to pounce on anyone who casts aspersions on their hefty new anthology. They are determined not to lose business to the competing, um, Wreath Anthology of American Literature.

Goose, as my loyal fans and a lot of the English profs know, is a big muckety-muck in the world of Emily Dickinson studies. She’s published a bunch of books and has an online scholarly edition of works by and about Dickinson, the Dickinson Electronic Archives. So, when the editors of the new Horton Anthology were updating the Dickinson section they naturally turned to Goose for suggestions on what to include and how to present one of America’s greatest poets to a new century of readers. Goose, as you might imagine, has some fairly strong opinions on these issues (most of which involve the aforementioned subversion of heteronormativity), which she was happy to share with the editors. The editors, being both gracious and grateful, expressed their appreciation by listing her in the acknowledgments to the anthology.

Acknowledgments are wonderful. They are a civilized custom that reminds you that scholarly publishing is always a collective endeavor undertaken by mostly nice, earnest people who are happy to acknowledge their debts. They can also be a fun way to pick up bits and pieces of academic gossip, such as who is sleeping with whom (or was when the book was in press) or who was whose teacher or who was mad enough about thus-and-such to leave so-and-so out of her long list of thank-yous. English profs read acknowledgments very carefully – but apparently someone at Horton didn’t read the acknowledgments to the 5-volume Horton Anthology of American Literature quite carefully enough.

Which perhaps explains how my beloved and very much alive Goose came to be listed in those acknowledgments as, and I quote, "Martha Nell Smith (late of the University of Maryland)." (Aside to English profs: Go get Volume A of your new Horton down off the shelf. Remove the plastic covering if you haven’t done so already and turn to page xxvi [though the error is repeated in the acknowledgments to all five volumes]. Goose is listed about two-thirds of the way down that long final paragraph.)

Are you dead? Moose pinched Goose’s arm. “Ouch,” she said with that tone of mild annoyance she gets in her voice when we interrupt her in the midst of deep thought with some trivial domestic concern. “Nope,” Moose declared, “you are definitely not dead.” I licked her face to be sure. Same tasty mix of salt, oil, and food crumbs as well as a reassuring puff of warm, moist air as I zoomed in on the nasal region. “Yep,” I seconded. “You live and breathe.”

How could such a thing have happened? you might wonder. Was it merely a case of mistaken identity that somehow got overlooked in the process of copy-editing a gargantuan manuscript? Or did something more sinister occur – Was this premature burial some nefarious plot to diminish Goose’s influence, perhaps in the interest of saving Emily Dickinson and heteronormativity from her relentless assaults on the myth of the broken-hearted Belle of Amherst in thrall to some male Master? Fortunately, Roxie’s World doesn’t have to involve itself in trying to solve the mystery of who killed Goose and why, but I hasten to assure my legions of loyal fans that her in-box has been loaded all week with explanations and apologies from the red-faced team of folks involved with the Horton Anthology, several of whom are close personal friends. As a manuscript scholar, Goose is sympathetic to the simple fact that errors happen, because texts are produced and edited by human beings. Indeed, one could argue that the strange case of her own death-by-textual-error proves a point she has been exploring professionally for nearly twenty-five years. She has accepted the apologies and urged Horton to examine its procedures for fact-checking.

Meantime, here in Roxie’s World, we’ve embraced the incident as an unexpected spring gift, an opportunity to engage in the kind of sophomoric gallows humor we especially enjoy. As in: Moose bumped into one of the Horton editors at the office yesterday and asked him if he was coming to Goose’s memorial service. As in: We cordially invite all you English profs to send us your copies of the new Horton. Goose will autograph the page on which she is listed as “late,” thus exponentially increasing the value of your free book, at least until that sad moment when Goose actually slips this mortal coil and proves the Horton editors correct at last. Act fast, friends. The error will be corrected in the second printing of the anthology, which will be out in a matter of months.

Are You Dead? A Prequel

Once upon a time a long, long time ago when Moose and Goose were cat-lesbians instead of dog-lesbians, Moose was worried because Goose was showing signs of serious stress. This was in the early days of life on the tenure track. Goose has always been a little driven, but under the pressures of her first real job, she took a turn toward hard-core Type A behavior. She worked constantly, slept little, and considered fast typing a form of aerobic exercise. Moose worried, because that’s what Moose does and because heart attacks run in Goose’s family. Anyway, one night, deep in the middle of the night, Moose woke suddenly (and this was in the time before hormonal imbalance made sleep disruption a nasty fact of Moose’s life). Restless, she rolled over and looked at Goose. (The cats, Spike and Lily, slept peacefully at the bottom of the bed.) In the darkness or the furry-headedness of interrupted sleep, she suddenly became concerned that Goose wasn’t breathing. Her looking became an anxious stare, which became a frantic search for signs of life. Convinced that she saw none, Moose shook poor Goose and shook her again until her exhausted partner finally awakened and said, “What? What? What is it?” “Oh,” said Moose, enormously relieved, “never mind.” “What do you mean, ‘never mind’?” growled the now fully roused Goose. “Why did you wake me up?” “Well,” said Moose sheepishly, “I was worried that you were dead.” Goose took a deep, loud breath, rolled her eyes, and went back to sleep. Moose stroked a cat, closed her eyes, and silently promised never to give in to such silly anxieties again.

Lily explained to me later that this promise was broken a thousand times even before I came on the scene in 1994 with my own set of neuroses and anxieties. For some reason, Goose accepts our eternal vigilance as a small price to pay for our love and companionship. We are fond of pointing out that we have managed to keep her alive so far – which, we can’t resist noting, is more than we can say for certain proofreaders.

(Photo Credit: Moose; Goose -- Alive in Paris, 2006)