Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chasing Daylight

Postcard from Japan (#1)

Dear Roxie and Legions of Loyal Fans (henceforth "LLF"),

This will be brief, as it's past 10:30 p.m. in Japan, and our bodies are still trying to find their way in time. My computer tells me it's 9:35 a.m. at home, yet Goose and I just finished a lovely dinner here in the hotel. We were both wide awake at 5 this morning, but I think tonight we'll have a normal night's sleep and be more or less on local time tomorrow.

As I noted earlier today in Comments, our trip here was a smooth one. We were both exhausted before we ever got off the ground, so I can't say that I spent the 14 hours on the plane in a particularly productive way. I spent a shocking amount of time pondering the (to me) baffling fact that we traveled thousands of miles west, and it kept getting earlier and earlier and earlier (and it also never got dark), until we crossed a magical line on the planet and discovered it was already tomorrow. At one point, Rox, Goose looked over, and I was making a big globe in the air and dividing it up with vertical lines. . . .Oh, you know how literal I can be, Rox. Anyway, somehow, it is later here, though in California it is earlier. Go figure.

I have to admit we were intimidated this morning about going out to try to conquer this vast city. We had great advice from Luanne's friend Laura over our long breakfast and a detailed session with the hotel concierge, but when we hit the streets on our own it was still challenging to find our way through the maze of streets and the subway system without knowing the language or even the alphabet, though there are English signs here and there, especially in the subway. Ultimately, though, I'm proud to report that we managed to pick up train passes and find our way to Asakusa, site of a Buddhist temple built in 1649, the oldest temple in the city. It's a beautiful place, and it was fascinating to realize that the hordes of "tourists" there clearly saw it as a shrine and treated it with genuine respect (as opposed to the mostly fake respect we're accustomed to seeing in, say, European cathedrals). People paused to pray before statues of the Buddha, covered themselves in smoke from incense, washed themselves in water from fountains. It was a peaceful place, despite the crowds.

(Photo Credit: Moose; Main Hall, Asakusa Shrine, Tokyo)

(Photo Credit: Moose; Thunder God Gate, Asakusa Shrine, Tokyo)

From Asakusa, we went to a "shrine" of another sort, the upscale shopping district of Ginza. There was comfort in being in a place that had the familiarity of places like Fifth Avenue after the overwhelming strangeness of much of the day. The avenues in Ginza are broad, and many of the brand names are familiar, though the most amazing thing we saw was the "food garden" in the basement of the Mistukoshi department store. People had told us this was something we had to experience, and they were right. I've never seen such an astonishing array of delectable looking food. We bought some dumplings and sushi and then wrestled with the difficult question of where to eat. Goose was convinced that plopping down and eating in some random public place would constitute a major breach of local etiquette. I was starving and insisted that we sit down and eat the food we had bought and paid for. "Look, anyone who sees us knows we're Americans. They already think we're barbarians. Sometimes nationalistic stereotypes can be very convenient. Sit down. Eat." And so we did, though the normally "rules-are-for-little-people" Goose was dying from embarrassment the whole time. What can I say? We're in another world. The rules and the roles get a little screwy, though, fortunately, Goose can still get us home, no matter how challenging it is to navigate.

'Night, Rox. 'Night, LLF. We're closing in on midnight in Tokyo, which means it's darn near the day after tomorrow, and I'm afraid I can't handle a conundrum of that scale. Tomorrow afternoon, we head to Kyoto to hook up with the Dickinson folk. More from there.

Peace out,

(Photo Credit: Moose; Ginza District, Tokyo)

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Best of Me

Sit down, kids. We need to talk. I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is that the moms are going away for two whole weeks. Oddly enough, Emily Dickinson, who rarely traveled far from home, is taking them to JAPAN for a gathering of scholarly muckety-mucks in Kyoto. (The moms call it a "conference." I call it a reprehensible abdication of their parental responsibilities, but you can read about the "conference" here if you're interested.) The good news is that Roxie's World won't be lonely, dark, or silent in their absence. Heck, no! We'll show those moms we can get along just fine without them. We'll keep the party going here in our happy little corner of the blogosphere. Maybe I'll invite my new best friends Britney, Lindsay, and Paris to come in and do some guest posting on how to drive drunk, destroy property, and survive without apparently ever ingesting food.

Or maybe not. The creative division has been racking its brain to figure out how to handle this unprecedented situation. Last summer, when the moms abandoned me to go to Paris for ten days, Roxie's World was barely a toy chihuahua in the dog-blogosphere. I took a long nap. They set up a travel blog, and my Gay Stalker salivated over detailed descriptions of fine wines and French cuisine. Nobody else noticed. Things are different now, of course. I've got legions of loyal fans who count on me for regular doses of insightful commentary, uplifting rhetoric, and eye candy. Oh, right, like this:

(Photo Credit: Random Image Pulled Off Internets [Mount Fuji])

So, after careful consultation with the Department of Travel and Leisure and the Office of International Affairs, we've come up with a plan. Unlike Shrub's war planners, we've also come up with a back-up plan in case the first one doesn't work. The plan is for Moose to serve as a kind of foreign correspondent for Roxie's World. Hearkening back to her days as Ace Girl Reporter of the Cornfields, she'll send in posts and pretty pictures that may shed light on the enduring mysteries of the Orient, or -- and my money is on this possibility -- capture my moms in stunningly embarrassing situations that are likely to arise from their complete ignorance of the history, culture, language, and alphabet of the country in which they are traveling. We entertained the idea of giving Moose designer privileges here for the purposes of this assignment, but the sticklers in Legal over-ruled us, saying it could compromise my claim to being "Sole Owner and Proprietor" of Roxie's World. The Office of Persona Management had problems with it, too, arguing that readers might get confused if it seemed that the humans were suddenly taking charge of my canine universe. I'm telling you, things have gotten a lot more complicated here in Roxie's World as a consequence of our astronomical growth. In any case, Moose will write stuff, and my Aunt Isa, dog sitter and musicologist extraordinaire, will help me put it up on the blog. We'll label the material as Moose's, but I'll have complete editorial control, as always. Are we clear on that now, kids?

In the event of technological failure or in case Moose discovers she'd rather drink sake than write (which Goose would insist was a false choice), we've also assembled our first ever "Best of Roxie's World" list to assure that you have something to read if Moose fails to post or you've already finished the last Harry Potter. We might have called it "Prime Cuts" or "Top Dogs" or "Best in Show," but the moms are tired and cranky and I'm slipping into the depression I always fall into in advance of any separation, so we'll just stick with "Best of Roxie's World." If you're new to this place, you might enjoy going back to those earliest posts in the spring of 2006, when we hardly knew what a blog was. My typist couldn't even put in links, and our main interests were my precarious health and Maryland women's basketball, but the writing, in our unbiased opinion, was still good and the exuberant terrier personality was already apparent.

From the first six months of Roxie's World, we're particularly partial to:
  • "A Meditation on Time, Age, Bodies," "Queasy Does It," and "Un-Dead Like Me" are early pieces focused on love, mortality, resilience, and appetite. In this same cluster is the one and only piece ever posted here that was actually written by Moose. It's called "Transitions," and she wrote it on that terrible evening when the moms thought I wasn't going to survive my attack of pancreatitis. She thinks it is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. I mocked it in a follow-up post called "Rumors of My Death."
  • My earliest forays into political commentary include "Terriers for Al," where I made my bold endorsement of Al Gore in the 2008 presidential race.
  • "Thunder, Near and Far" is my first sustained analysis of war and the psychology of the Bush years. "It Is What It Is" manages to connect home renovation to the authoritarianism and rhetorical violences of the Bush years. "Talking Points" shows me getting snarkier, more sophisticated about incorporating cool images, and increasingly self-conscious about being the child of two English profs.
  • Follow my meteoric rise to progressive radio superstardom in the series of posts about liberal talk diva Stephanie Miller's "War on Terriers." (She inexplicably prefers big dogs to terriers, which she considers to be "high-strung.") See also "Winning the War on Terriers" and "Enough About YOU."
By October of last year, Roxie's World was a bloggier place with well-established obsessions (politics, pop culture, and basketball) and an increasingly sophisticated sense of how images might help to enhance the thrill of being here. Some of the best bits from fall and winter include:
  • More reflections on the war, including "When You Close Your Eyes," and on the march against the war, "Send in the Twins."
  • Several pieces on the mid-term elections, including "Toast," which we like because of the hilarious image of Laura Bush we borrowed from whitehouse.org, and "Sittin' Pretty," which celebrates and analyzes the tidal wave of Democratic triumph that swept the country.
  • Some good examples of what the moms like to call "cultural studies," including a rapturous piece on their going to a Barbra Streisand concert, "On Diva Worship"; a reading of Lynne Cheney's 1981 novel, Sisters (which briefly became an issue in the mid-term elections), "Roxie's Reading: Sisters"; and a withering critique of the film Notes on a Scandal, "Notes on a Stereotype." Cheney-bashing is also the theme of a December piece on the announcement of Mary Cheney's pregnancy called "Stink Bombs."
  • Sometimes funny, sometimes sentimental slice-of-life stories that are mostly about me and the moms, including the tragicomic tale of Moose dropping her cell phone into the toilet, "Flush"; a couple of heart-warming holiday pieces, "A Dog's Thanksgiving" and "Reindeer Games"; and the sly yet profound "Dream Work."
  • We're also inordinately fond of our tribute to the late great Molly Ivins, whose death in January inspired us to come up with an official motto for Roxie's World, "What Would Molly Say?"
Writers always think their latest stuff is their best stuff, but I think it's fair to say that the spring and summer of 2007 have been pretty darn good here in Roxie's World. We're not sure how to explain the outpouring of creativity, which is, according to the English profs, a deep mystery, but we'll give some credit to the new version of Blogger, which makes it easy for even a Luddite like my typist to install widgets and other fun toys like my music box. It's hard to select the best from this prolific period, but here goes:
  • We did some of our best writing on basketball this season, as we watched our beloved Lady Terps suffer an early defeat in the NCAA tournament (see "Shoulder to Cry On") and then reflected on what it is we love so much about the game (see "Scarlet Women [Temporarily] Rule"). Don Imus's "nappy-headed hos" comment inspired three posts and brought some of the highest volume of traffic to Roxie's World ever (see "Teachable Moments," "A Moment of Pure Grace," and "After Imus").
  • In response to the April massacre at Virginia Tech, we wrote "Grief Work," a dialog between Moose and me which actually is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius if you ask me. The May death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell inspired another dialog piece, the sardonic "Welcome to Hell." "The Birthday Interview" is also a dialog in which Moose questions me on a number of important issues, including my career as a blogger.
  • Birth and death have been major themes during this period. "Martha Smith Living" is devoted to the peculiar incident of Goose's death by textual error in a major new anthology of American literature. "A Death in the Family" moves from the death of one of our fish to the winding down of The Sopranos. "A Child is Born" focuses on the birth of Mary Cheney's son Samuel.
  • We think June has been our best month ever and refuse to try to select the "best." Take a look at the archive for the whole month, and let us know what you think.
  • July has been pretty fabulous, too, but if we had to pick favorites we'd go with "Bird -- and Goose," our tribute to the late Lady Bird Johnson; "Dykes to Watch Out For," which Moose thinks is our funniest piece ever; and "Woman Enough," which focuses on Hillary Clinton's status as front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Of course, that leaves out "Hot Stuff," a puff piece in which readers were asked to weigh in on which tennis champ is cuter, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. That proved to be one of our most popular pieces ever, eliciting the most comments we've ever gotten on a single post and letting us know that our fan base, though intelligent, is not too snooty to be engaged by profoundly superficial questions.
There you have it, kids. We probably haven't been selective enough, and I'm reasonably certain my typist could have organized all this better, but it's almost 11:00 on Saturday morning, even if the time stamp on this post says it's sometime Friday evening. (What can I say? My typist and I both fell asleep in the middle of a paragraph.) The moms still haven't started packing, and Moose is beginning to worry that she might not learn Japanese by the time their plane takes off shortly after noon tomorrow. (I'm thinking she might not even have figured out where her passport is by then, but that's just me.) She needs to stop typing, and I need to start pouting to make them feel guilty about leaving me. You know how that goes. Come back and see me while they're gone to see how the experiment in remote blogging from exotic foreign places goes. Come back and study this extensive archive of The Best of Roxie's World. There will be a quiz once the English profs are back in town. Come back -- because without you I'm just a tired old dog with two funny moms and a laptop. With you, as I've said before, I've got a whole world in my paws.

Peace out, beloveds, and safe travels to all of you -- but especially to my moms.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Woman Enough

[Updated 7/25. See bottom of post.]

Top 5 Reasons Hillary Clinton is Going to Win the Democratic Presidential Nomination:

1. Great Skin. We watched her on the big CNN/YouTube debate last night and were blown away by the silky smoothness -- nay, the radiance -- of her skin. She looked as if she'd spent the afternoon at Elizabeth Arden, and she made us want to go there, too. We've always admired Senator Clinton's resistance to style, fashion, and other coercions of public femininity, but what's impressive about her now is that she has found a look and a way of being in public that projects a sense of being both comfortable and in command. She manages to look good, serene, smart, and strong, and that's no simple task, given the mixed messages women get about power and ambition.

2. Greater Warmth. It's starting to come across, even on television and within the often strange formats of these endless debates. We hated the idea that Clinton's image needed "softening," but she and her team had to do something about those high negatives, and the whole "Lady Macbeth" thing probably had a lot to do with that. In the more relaxed setting of the YouTube debate, she came across as an attentive, empathic listener who honored and understood the deeply personal concerns and challenges that motivated the questions being put to the candidates. In response to a question about health care, she thanked by name several individuals featured in videos that detailed their health and insurance nightmares and praised them for sharing their stories. Addressing plain folks by name may be the oldest politician's trick in the book, but Clinton is using it to good effect. It humanizes her, makes her seems less wonky than the supposedly arrogant smarty-pants who tried to impose socialized medicine on the country back in the 90s. Suddenly she's the lawyer/mother we all want to have on our side. She cares about our problems, and she knows how to go about fixing them.

3. No More Calculating Than the Guys. Listen to Edwards and Obama on same-sex marriage, and then tell us again why Clinton gets tarred with the brush of calculation and triangulation. Edwards hides behind religion to justify his "personal" opposition to same-sex marriage (while reminding the gay community that his wife came out in favor of it a few weeks ago), and Obama maps out a separate-and-unequal civil union plan (while avoiding a question about the parallels between inter-racial marriage and same-sex marriage). Here's the clip:

We won't defend Clinton on this issue, but watching the fellows try to tiptoe through the minefield of relationship equality without offending anybody gives us confidence that the "Pander Bear" label will be broadly applied during primary season. It shouldn't hurt her any more than it does the others.

4. Laughing Matters. The Clinton campaign has discovered its funny bone, and that may turn out to be their secret weapon. We still chuckle every time we think of the parody they did of The Sopranos finale (which you can watch again here), but we're also impressed with Clinton's spontaneous quips (she had a couple of good lines about the 2000 election in last night's debate) and even the canned laugh lines she uses at every possible opportunity (including the one about trying to do something about health care and "having the scars to show for it"). In their videos, the campaign shows they are willing to be a little bit cool, a little bit snarky in order to reach all those voters who get their politics while surfing the internets in their jammies. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. My typist's wardrobe suits me just fine.) Out on the trail, the candidate uses gentle self-deprecation to show that she doesn't take herself too seriously -- while never seeming smirky or shallow, as the current resident of the White House so often does when he tries to be funny. The funny girls here in Roxie's World give a hearty PAWS UP to this brilliant strategy.

5. Two for the Price of One. Looking for an experienced leader? Hungry for change? With Clinton, you get both. This is a no-brainer, kids. Every time she takes the stage with her fellow contenders for the nomination, she stands out as a thrilling combination of experience and novelty. Biden and Dodd are smart guys with fine resumes, but they don't for one second tempt you to quit your day job to try to make them president, do they? Edwards and Obama are smart guys whose pretty rhetoric has given us a goosebump or two, but they've never done anything but try to get elected president. Clinton offers experience and the chance to make history by electing the first woman to the presidency. What the heck, kids. Let's go out and win us an election!

(We remind you once again that Roxie's World is officially neutral on the declared Democratic candidates for president. We're just mapping out a scenario based on recent polls [like this one from Wa Po, for example], gut instinct, and an old dog's unerring sense of which way the wind is blowing.)

Now, here's your homework assignment, sweet children of summer. Point, click, and learn. There may be a quiz tomorrow:
  • Access, like, a gazillion links to the CNN/YouTube Debate here. Make sure to take a look at the cute dykes who ask about same-sex marriage.
  • John Dickerson reviews the debate in Slate and gives it a thumbs-up, arguing that the format put the issues in a more human context. He has praise for Clinton's performance as well. His piece is here.
  • Dana Milbank writes the piece on Cindy Sheehan's un-retirement from the anti-war movement that we would have written today if we hadn't gone off in pursuit of the Hillary story. It's here. "What," he asks, "you thought she was going to play shuffleboard?" Well, Dana, we'd rather have her doing that than making one impetuous, self-defeating, self-aggrandizing move after another, but, no, we didn't really expect it.
  • In local news of global significance, the city council of Takoma Park, Maryland voted unanimously last night in support of impeaching President Shrub and Vice President Darth Cheney. The hometown of Roxie's World joins 81 other municipalities across the country that have passed impeachment resolutions, including, of course, the Takoma Park-like enclave of Berkeley, California. Read all about it here.
That's all for now, kids. It's time for my typist to get out of her jammies! Peace out.

Update: Additional reading and debate detail. Ruth Marcus has a column in Wa Po today (Wednesday) cleverly headlined "Pretty Formidable in Pink." She looks at the collective uncertainty the country is experiencing "about how, and how much, to talk" about the notion of a female president as Clinton's front-runner status coalesces. Marcus addresses a telling moment near the end of the CNN/YouTube debate that somehow escaped our notice. (I might have been napping. The moms, well, you just never know how tuned in they are.) Anyway, in one of the debate's more ridiculous exchanges, each candidate was asked to say "one thing you like and one thing you dislike" about the person to her or his left. Edwards said of Clinton, "I admire what Senator Clinton has done for America, what her husband did for America." Casting about for something he could safely say he disliked about Clinton, Edwards glanced in the direction of her coral pink quilted jacket and deadpanned, "I'm not sure about that coat." Obama gallantly weighed in moments later in defense of Clinton's eye-popping sartorial choice: "I actually like Hillary's jacket. I don't know what's wrong with it.

The most important thing about this moment may well be the deft way Clinton handled it. She laughed off Edwards' fashion tip with a jovial, "Yes, John, it's a good thing we're ending soon," and smoothly pivoted away from saying she disliked anything about anybody. Her graceful riposte put Edwards in his place (un-queer guy giving fashion advice to a straight gal who doesn't need it?) without seeming caustic or, um, castrating. (See reason #4 above.) If the boys in the race are reduced to debating her wardrobe, Clinton doesn't need to go ballistic and call them out on their sexism. With a cock of the head and a smooth comeback line, she can stand there looking regal yet warm, knowing that the all-important camera loves her pink jacket. Score one for the funny girl with the estrogen-fueled team of color consultants.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fresh Herbs 1, Free Speech 0

(Photo Credit: Michel Du Cille, Washington Post)

Roxie's World
vigorously protests the arrest this weekend of 74-year old Alan McConnell on charges of trespassing for selling "Impeach Him" pins at a farmer's market in Kensington, Maryland. Moose bumped into this fine gentleman, a retired mathematician, last weekend at our own Takoma Park Farmer's Market and eagerly purchased six of the simple yet elegant buttons from him for a mere $5. She found him to be a delightful addition to the vendors of produce, cheese, meats, baked goods, and flowers who line both sides of Laurel Avenue every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. here in our happy little neighborhood. He was in no way disruptive to the sale of goods or the flow of traffic and did not seem in the least "aggressive" in his sales tactics, as some at the Kensington market have alleged.

Here is the Wa Po story on McConnell's arrest. And here is a piece that ran the day before giving some of the background on the issue, in which McConnell offers this spirited comment on his imminent arrest:
"I think it would be a good show," he said. "I am hopeful it will be a good show. . . . To have an old, old, old fart like me dragged off, with people in the background holding signs, that's an opportunity. That's public relations."
Roxie's World gives a hearty paws up to "old, old, old fart[s]" who are still putting themselves on the line for their beliefs. And Moose cordially invites the good people of Kensington to drive on over to Takoma Park, where you can get your fresh herbs and your free speech, too.

Friday, July 20, 2007

For the Love of Dog

(Photo Credit: Humane Society of the United States)

Hearts are heavy here in Roxie's World this morning, as the moms and I try to take in the horrifying news about dogfighting that has come out in the past few days following the indictment of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on charges of operating a dogfighting ring in southeastern Virginia. (Wa Po story on the indictment is here.)

We grieve for my noble terrier cousin, the pit bull, who in many cases has been bred for aggressiveness, trained to fight to death, and kept in miserable conditions that drive him to the brink of insanity. (A Newsweek story detailing some of those conditions is here, but it is not for the faint of heart.)

We grieve for the human perpetrators of this multibillion-dollar "entertainment" industry whose souls must be sick indeed to take pleasure in such brutalities. The Vick indictment calls attention to the glamorization of dogfighting in the worlds of hip-hop, rap, and professional sports. Videos of dogfighting that have aired recently show audiences comprised mostly of young African-American men. Would it be wrong to connect the verbal violence of rap to the actual violence of dogfighting and to ask why such violences are so alluring to young black men, even, apparently, wealthy sports stars like Michael Vick?

We give thanks to cranky old white guy, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, for the impassioned speech he gave yesterday condemning dogfighting. And, yes, kids, we remember Byrd's nasty segregationist past, and we squirmed a little, too, at the racial undertones of his saying in his speech, "One is left wondering who are the real animals, the creatures inside the ring or the creatures outside the ring?" Nonetheless, we appreciate his calling attention to the issue, and we're impressed that the old geezer was able to stand through his own 20-minute speech. Here are the last ten minutes of his remarks:

It's not often that we ask you to stand up for animals here in Roxie's World. Most of the time, I'm asking you to stand up for yourselves, to get up off your keisters and try to stop the war or rein in an out-of-control executive branch. Today, though, your favorite dog blogger is asking you to do a little pointing and clicking for the companion species. The Humane Society of the United States has launched a campaign to end animal fighting that is urging the NFL to suspend Michael Vick. (We know, we know -- innocent until proven guilty -- but even Scooter Libby lost his job once he was indicted.) You can access the action campaign here. HSUS also has a report on the overbreeding of pit bulls because of the dogfighting industry. Many of those dogs end up dead or dumped into shelters if they don't make it as fighters. The report is here.

Once you've done your homework, go hug a pit bull. I promise he won't hurt you -- unless he's been trained to do so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The M Word(s)

Have you ever noticed that when you start noticing something you suddenly notice it everywhere? For example, words beginning with "M." Lately, Moose and I have noticed, from the observation deck that looks out over the broad expanse of Roxie's World, that words beginning with the thirteenth letter of the alphabet are popping up like weeds. (Of course, we also notice a fair number of actual weeds when we're out on the observation deck, which overlooks our ridiculously large back yard, but for the moment let's focus on the metaphorical weeds rather than the literal ones, okay?) Lest you think we're just an old dog obsessed with a new scent or an English prof determined to find patterns in everything, consider the following examples:

Marathon: The Democratic majority in the Senate held an all-night session last night in an effort to break the Republican filibuster on a bill to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Mattresses were brought in so that senators could curl up to plan their big speeches about their deep misgivings toward the increasingly fuzzy mission of the troops in Iraq. Wa Po described the session as a marathon, while Republicans did their best to dismiss it as a "stunt." Roxie's World gives it a hearty paws up for keeping the war front and center on the American political stage. Even if it was a "stunt," it beats hell out of the stunts Republicans pulled when they controlled the Congress. (Can you say, "Terry Schiavo?") Think Progress was live-blogging from the Senate session and has some good bits up here. Crooks and Liars has vid of Senator Mary Landrieu's speech here.

Menstruation: Are you surprised that the Geniuses of Western Civilization have figured out how to stop menstruation before they figured out how to end the war in Iraq? Is it just me, or does that reflect a certain misdirection of energy, a flawed arrangement of priorities? Or does it merely prove that the Geniuses of Big Pharma have an easier job to do than the poor suckers stuck playing war games in the bowels of the Pentagon? Or that Prick Science is ahead of Prick Militarism, to return to the pointed theme introduced by Sister Gloria Steinem in the piece we referred to in Sunday's post? We offer these rhetorical questions in response to Karen Houppert's Op-Ed in yesterday's NY Times regarding the FDA's recent approval of a new birth control pill, Lybrel, that causes cessation of periods. We'd heard about Lybrel before, but Houppert, who wrote a book called The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo, Menstruation, offers a trenchant analysis that tracks shifting attitudes toward menstruation alongside anxieties about women's expanding roles and raises good questions about the medicalization of normal bodily functions and stages of life. (This is one of those subjects that really sets Moose off, so we'd best be careful. She is not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but she sincerely believes that pharmaceutical companies have been paying research scientists to invent new diseases in order to expand the market for new drugs. Restless Leg Syndrome? Check. Social Anxiety Disorder? Check. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder? Moose puts a check on this one, though she fully acknowledges the painful realities of PMS, having lived with it for years.)

Marriage/Madam/"Monogamy": We have a torrent of M words released in the hilarious story of Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a family-values conservative whose phone number turned up in the logs of the so-called "DC Madam," Deborah Jeane Palfrey. We won't cruelly mock Vitter's poor wife Wendy for her stand-by-your-man routine, despite the fact that she herself was cruel and arrogant enough to say during the Lewinsky mess that "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary [Clinton]. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me." We won't even make fun of her questionable fashion judgment in choosing to appear before the cameras for the traditional damage-control press conference in a form-fitting, low-cut dress that, from a distance, looked like leopard skin. (If you're interested in that, though, Countdown had a pretty catty piece along those lines last night. It's here, but the video wasn't available when we checked.) We're content to sit back and chuckle at the deserved comeuppance of another "family-values" hypocrite frantically trying to assert his right to privacy after years of working to impose his Pharisaical moral framework on the rest of us. Dana Milbank has a funny piece on Vitter's sneaky efforts to avoid the press since his return to Washington this week. Ruth Marcus has a spot-on analysis of how bogus the privacy line is, given that Vitter may have committed crimes in his dalliances with Palfrey's alleged prostitution ring. Here are Mr. and Mrs. Vitter, looking not quite ready for their close-ups:

Maureen Dowd: We know we've been pretty tough on MoDo here in Roxie's World recently. We think she deserves our righteous criticisms of her mindless Clinton-bashing, but today we give her a paws up for a good column that rips into the Bush administration following the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate which concludes that "al-Qaeda has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability by reestablishing a haven in Pakistan and reconstituting its top leadership." (See Wa Po's analysis of what the report does to the administration's rationales for the war in Iraq. It's here.) Our favorite lines from MoDo's column are right at the beginning:

Oh, as it turns out, they’re not on the run.

And, oh yeah, they can fight us here even if we fight them there.

And oh, one more thing, after spending hundreds of billions and losing all those lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re more vulnerable to terrorists than ever.

And, um, you know that Dead-or-Alive stuff? We may be the ones who end up dead.

Mormon/Mitt/"Monogamy": We could write a book on this Gordian knot of M words. For the moment, we will merely venture the kind of political prediction that is rare here in Roxie's World, given that we hate to create opportunities to be proven wrong. Nonetheless, we do hereby predict that if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination for president, the Democratic landslide of 2008 will make the LBJ landslide of '64 look like a squeaker. We say this because religious bigotry is alive and well here in the United States of Fundamentalism. Wa Po's Chris Cillizza and Shailagh Murray cite a Post/ABC News poll suggesting strong resistance to a Mormon nominee among Republicans. The poll shows that 30 percent of Republican voters said "they would be less likely to support a candidate if he or she were a Mormon. Of that group, forty-nine percent said there was 'no chance' they would back a Mormon for president." Their report is here. We like those numbers so much that we're ready to launch a new group called Democrats for Romney. We also think HBO should start running its fabulous new show about polygamy in the suburbs, Big Love, for free on non-cable stations. The moms think it's the queerest thing on TV now that The L Word is between seasons, but they also think it would do tremendous damage to Romney's candidacy by suggesting that every hard-working telegenic Mormon man probably has a couple of spare wives hidden in his closet.

Okay, kids, time to get up off the couch. Next M word on the list is MOVE. Peace out.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dog Tired

(Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Meet the Press, via Associated Press)

It's been non-stop fun here in Roxie's World this weekend, kids -- long summer evenings of re-connecting with old dog pals, of showing a new dog pal around my ridiculously large back yard, of listening to the moms and their human pals carry on about the state of the world, their lives, their fragile hearts, their conflicted minds. Your favorite dog blogger is one tired old pup this evening, though, so if it's all right with you I'm just going to toss up a few links and head off to bed. Once the batteries have been re-charged, I'll sit down with the creative team and the political division and draw up a plan for a series of posts guaranteed to get all of us through the dog daze of summer. Feel free to leave suggestions in Comments. You all got As for excellent participation in the Cutest Non-Lady Tennis Player Contest last week, so by all means keep those opinions comin'. Your input is important to us.
  • Watchdog of the Week is Virginia Senator Jim Webb facing off against South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on Meet the Press. Crooks and Liars has video here. NY Times has a re-cap of the Sunday talk shows here.
  • This just in from the Department of Unintended Hilarity: Bill Kristol has a piece in Wa Po arguing that Shrub's presidency will probably end up being a successful one. The big accomplishments, according to happy Bill, are that there have been no terrorist attacks on U. S. soil since 9/11, the economy is strong, and the war in Iraq -- though it's been "very difficult" -- is now "on course to a successful outcome." The piece is here, but we urge you to empty your bladder before reading it.
  • Michael Isikoff reports in Newsweek that Shrub decided to commute Scooter Libby's sentence in order to avoid angering Vice President Darth Cheney. He quotes an unnamed adviser to the president as saying, "I'm not sure Bush had a choice. . . .If he didn't act, it would have caused a fracture with the vice president." The article is here, and I think I'd approach this one with an empty stomach.
  • Also in Newsweek, Anna Quindlen has a column urging Hillary Clinton to try to persuade Barack Obama to be her running mate. We think she makes a pretty compelling case. Here is the last paragraph:
[Obama] would have to decide he would be willing to coexist with a strong woman. But it seems as though he already does that at home. You would have to be willing to let a charismatic man steal some of your thunder, but you do that at home, too. This would be a political marriage of convenience, sure, but one that could excite the country. The president has driven the nation into a ditch, and the American people are standing by the side of the road with their thumbs out. Everyone is poised for big change, big ideas. Do the big thing that also happens to be the right thing. Your Web site says help make history. Go ahead. I dare you.

The rest of the article is here.
  • Finally, and with thanks to RutgersAlumna for pointing this out in Comments, Gloria Steinem has an inspired little piece in Huff Po proposing a new form of gender balance in cultural evaluation. Tired of demeaning labels such as "chick flick" and "chick lit," Steinem suggests we start applying labels such as "prick flick" and "prick lit" to films and books that glorify war, violence against women, and female masochism to help consumers navigate the cultural marketplace with greater precision. Moose can't believe that she never managed to come up with such a term, but she gives props to Sister Gloria and predicts that some clever English prof will start offering courses in Prick Flicks and Lit very soon. Steinem's piece is here.
Golly, kids, doesn't it feel to you that the Bush years have been just about the longest, scariest Prick Flick you've ever seen? Yeah, me, too. Wake me when it's over, will you?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bird -- and Goose

(Photo Credit: Austin American-Statesman)

Today's post is in memory of Lady Bird Johnson, who died yesterday at her home in Austin, Texas at the ripe old age of 94. Following the deaths within the past year of Ann Richards and Molly Ivins, there is some concern that the world's supply of feisty old Texas women may be approaching dangerously low levels, but the moms can attest from their recent trip to the Lone Star state that this glorious species faces no threat of extinction. Their proof? Goose's very own mother, who is 87 and suffers, as Lady Bird did, from macular degeneration, brought her best pal Miriam with her to my Uncle Bobby's gig at the Broken Spoke, and they rocked out until 12:30 in the morning. Dog bless Texas women, I say. Paws up for the good old girls!

(For Roxie's World's tributes to Ann Richards and Molly Ivins, click on their names.)
  • Wa Po coverage of Mrs. Johnson's life and death focuses chiefly on her time as First Lady but also on her stalwart environmentalism and her courageous work for civil rights. "Style" has a special appreciation of her efforts to beautify the nation's capital. Forty years after she left town, Washingtonians are grateful to Lady Bird every time the flowers bloom in the spring.
  • The Austin American-Statesman offers Texas-size coverage of the story, as is appropriate. Access it here. Roxie's World officially endorses the idea of naming Town Lake in Austin, which Mrs. Johnson helped to reclaim in the late 60s, after her. The moms have walked off many an enchilada while strolling on the ten miles of trails that wind around Town Lake, and I think "Lady Bird Lake" sounds really pretty, don't you?
Roxie's World offers a personal tribute to Mrs. Johnson by passing along one of our very favorite stories from Goose's Texas girlhood. Some of you have heard it, but I know you won't mind hearing it again. It is, I promise, a true story and not a Texas tall tale, though you might be tempted to suppose it contains a stretcher or two. Moose used to think that about a lot of Goose's Texas stories, but after twenty-three years she has come to recognize that, in Texas, "larger than life" is often just the scale of life itself.

Goose says this incident must have happened in about 1965. She was 11 or 12, and LBJ had won his own term in the White House in a landslide in 1964. Her parents were yellow-dog Democrats in the west Texas town of San Angelo, where her father was a prominent attorney, so when Lady Bird came to town for a luncheon of women Democrats, Goose's mother was invited to attend. Goose desperately wanted to go along, but her mother resisted the idea. Years earlier, she had already gotten into a nasty battle with the gender fascists on Romper Room over whether her youngest child should be allowed to appear on the show wearing her PF Flyers rather than the Mary Janes all the other girls were wearing. She had fought -- and won -- the battle for her daughter's right to comfortable footwear (see photo below; Goose is on the far right), but she wasn't sure her irrepressible red-headed tomboy could be counted on to behave at a proper ladies' luncheon. Goose's father entered the fray in support of her cause, arguing they couldn't deny the child the opportunity to meet the First Lady of the United States, especially a First Lady from Texas! (The Texas card wins every time in Goose's family.) Her mother reluctantly agreed that Goose could come, but only on two conditions: 1) that she would be quiet and 2) that she would eat everything -- everything -- on her plate. Goose instantly agreed to both conditions. She has never been a picky eater, and she figured she could keep quiet for an hour or so, somehow.

The day of the luncheon arrived. Goose was dressed in her Sunday best, including her Mary Janes, and was determined to be on her best behavior. She was seated across the table from her mother. Lady Bird was on the same side of the table as her mother and a couple of places down. At first everything went beautifully. Goose stayed quiet by eating bread and butter and closely observing the women at the table, trying to catch the drift of their conversations about family, politics, men, the war. She was starting to feel like quite the little lady, when suddenly a salad plate appeared on the table before her. Goose, as I said, is not a picky eater, and she has always been good about eating her vegetables. Her mother's family survived the Depression by selling produce, so children were never allowed to turn up their noses at vegetables. When Goose looked down at this salad, however, she saw to her horror that it was covered with one of the all-time ickiest, most disgusting, foul-smelling, and as far as she was concerned inedible things on earth: ANCHOVIES! Goose shot a panic-stricken look in her mother's direction. "Mom!" she whispered, trying to sound both polite and urgent. "Mom," she repeated. "There are anchovies on this salad!" Her mother, engrossed in conversation, ignored her entreaties. Goose, growing increasingly concerned that she would not be able to satisfy condition #2 without becoming physically ill, started kicking her mother under the table and continued to call attention to the small stinky fish on top of her salad. She now admits it is possible her voice rose above the level of a whisper, but her mother continued to ignore her.

Suddenly, just as she thought she would explode from the pressure of trying to be good, Goose felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up, and there stood Lady Bird, gazing down at her like some great Texas goddess of wisdom. "Darlin'," she said in a voice that was equal parts sugar and steel, "don't you like anchovies?" "No, ma'am, I don't," said Goose. "I promised Mama I'd eat everything on my plate, but I can't stand anchovies. They stink." "Well, don't you worry, darlin'," she cooed. "I love anchovies," and with that she reached down, plucked the offending fish off Goose's plate, popped it into her mouth, and walked away with a smile. Goose's mother glared at her from across the table, but her eyes softened as Goose picked up her fork and ate her salad like the good little girl she was determined to be. The rest of the luncheon went off without a hitch, and Lady Bird Johnson had earned a fan for life.

Peace be with you, Lady Bird. Wherever you go, may there always be bluebonnets and long stretches of billboard-free highways. And anchovies if you really, really want them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hot Stuff

It's too darn hot for the kind of nuanced socio-political analysis you're accustomed to seeing here in Roxie's World, kids. I'll be spending the day curled up next to the air-conditioning vent in the living room, so I called in the Department of Eye Candy and our Director of the Lowest Common Denominator to take care of today's post. Those of you who live in places where it's cool enough to think might want to check out these interesting tid-bits:
  • On the gay stack: A Wa Po story on harassment and abuse of gays being increasingly accepted as grounds for seeking legal asylum in the United States. It's a little surprising, given the conservative judicial climate here in Bush World, and more than a little ironic, given that homosexuality was for decades used to bar immigrants from the country, but legal advocacy groups report the strategy has been successful in dozens of recent cases.
  • From the number crunchers: A new Gallup-USA Today poll shows Hillary Clinton with a 16-point lead over Barack Obama, which has her pollster Mark J. Penn feeling awfully happy. Meantime, on the dark side of the moon, Vice President Darth Cheney's approval numbers have slipped to an all-time low, "suggesting that he has replaced Dan Quayle as the most unpopular vice president in recent history," according to New York Times and CBS News polling from May and June. Question: What took so long?
  • From the Department of War is Peace: Shrub has finally figured out what to do! He is not going to change his strategy in the war; he's going to change the way he TALKS about the war, emphasizing "his vision for the post-surge" in order "to assure the nation that he, too, wants to begin bringing troops home eventually." Eventually. That is reassuring, isn't it? I feel better already, like I'm all warm and Rove-y inside, knowing that everything will work out because the Great Leader says he wants it to just as much as I do and everything the Great Leader says eventually comes true.
Okay, if it's too hot where you are to fry your brain with questions of war, peace, and whether Cindy Sheehan has simply lost her mind, we'll ask you to weigh in on this burning question:

Who is cuter, 5-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer or his rival, who has lost to Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals, Rafael Nadal?

Moose and the Official Gay Stalker of Roxie's World have been debating this matter in recent days and have not been able to come to agreement, which is odd and disconcerting because they are usually in sync on most of life's important questions. (Example #1: How should clothes in closets be organized? By color, of course. Example #2: Are you in favor of the death penalty? Only for people who a) leave handprints on the walls or b) fail to appreciate a mushroom stock that took three days to make. Example #3: Do you prefer to sing before dinner or after? Yes.) Anyway, my legions of loyal fans are going to have to adjudicate this question in the interest of maintaining queer harmony in Takoma Park.

Here are Federer and Nadal together, following Federer's triumph in a thrilling 5-setter on Sunday (and you can read all about their closely fought match here):

(Photo Credit: Eddie Keogh, Reuters)

Here is Federer, in a rare display of emotion for a cool Swiss guy:

(Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill, Getty Images)

And here is Nadal, who may have the finest shoulders of any athlete on god's earth (and you KNOW how Moose loves a fine shoulder):

(Photo Credit: Chris Young/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images)

So, astute judges of all things beautiful, what do YOU think? Do you go for Federer's calm elegance and excellent haircut, or Nadal's fiery emotionalism and glorious muscularity? Cool Swiss or hot Spaniard? (And don't blame us for the nationalistic stereotypes. In this case, they really apply.) Moose and my Gay Stalker are dying for you to weigh in on their dispute. Please leave your thoughts in Comments.

And while we've got you looking at pictures of boys, here's another question you might like to ponder on a stultifying afternoon:

Were these two guys separated at birth?

For those of you who don't live in the Washington area (or who watch The Daily Show instead of the 11:00 news), Steve Villanueva is a meteorologist for the local NBC affiliate. We have in the past referred to Mr. Villanueva, with respect and affection, as "Hispanic Eddie Munster," so we thought we'd give readers an opportunity to judge for themselves as to whether or not this is a fair characterization. Roxie's World is of course opposed to any form of meanness, but we find this resemblance too remarkable to ignore. In our dogged pursuit of the truth, sometimes we run the risk of offending, though Moose, who was an ardent fan of The Munsters in her misspent Midwestern youth, insists there is nothing offensive about being compared to the utterly adorable Eddie.

Gotta go, kids. A storm has come up, and we don't want Moose to be the next victim of a lightning strike to a laptop. (Seriously! Read all about it here.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dykes To Watch Out For

(With apologies to Allison Bechdel for the borrowed title. Image Credit: Southern Poverty Law Center)

Listen up, kids. I don't want you to get all excited by the fact that your favorite dog blog has brand new content two days in a row. You know that isn't the usual pattern here in Roxie's World, and you know that old dogs don't like to learn new tricks. It's just that it's summertime, which means Moose has more time than usual to type while she's ignoring the long list of Things She Was Supposed to Get Done While She Wasn't Teaching. Also, however, a story of mind-boggling significance has been brought to our attention (thanks to a new reader whom I hereby anoint the Official Baby Butch of Roxie's World in the hope she'll accept that title as the high compliment it is intended to be). Since the story isn't getting any younger and is likely to be of interest to some of our most well-armed readers, we figured we better go ahead and toss it up here.

Word on the street is that there is a "national underground network" of mostly lesbian but also some gay male gangs terrorizing America. Yes, fellow citizens, it's TRUE! I mean, it has to be, because it was on The O'Reilly Factor, and you know what a bastion of truth that is. In a segment that aired on June 21, a baffled Bill O'Reilly interviews former DC cop (and paid Fox News consultant) Rod Wheeler about reports of roving bands of armed lesbians terrorizing America, "raping young girls, attacking heterosexual males at random, and forcibly indoctrinating children as young as 10 into the homosexual lifestyle," as a summary of the segment by the Southern Poverty Law Center puts it. Wheeler asserts that these activities are taking place "all across the country," but his focus is on the Washington, DC area, where, he claims, there are "well over 150 crews or gangs or networks or houses, whatever you want to call them" recruiting kids into the gangs and getting them to commit crimes and, of course, forcing them to "perform sex acts with some of these people." Wheeler saves the most tantalizing aspect of the story for last, though, as he reveals in the last few seconds of the piece that some of "these groups" (and "these are lesbians") carry pink pistols -- 9-millimeter Glocks! -- and "call themselves the pink-pistol-packing group!"

Roxie's World insists that you watch the video before you read one more word of this post. You'll enjoy watching Bill feigning shock at the idea that homosexuality might be associated with "a criminal movement" rather than "a social movement," but you just know the old loofah lover is salivating at the idea of finding himself surrounded by a sweaty gang of pink pistol packers. Here you go:

Question One: Do you think a group clever and resourceful enough to arm themselves with 9-millimeter pink pistols would be so lacking in style or imagination that they would refer to themselves merely as "the pink-pistol-packing group?" I mean, please, that's BORING even by lesbo standards!

SPLC does a great job of truth-squadding this "report," particularly Wheeler's claims that there are more than 150 such groups in the DC area alone. If you'd like a serious analysis of the story, by all means please go there. Here's the link again. If, on the other hand, you're in the mood for more knee-slapping sophomoric humor, don't touch that mouse.

Questions Two through Four: Why didn't my moms get the Pink Pistol Memo? What's going on over there at Lesbo Communications Central? C'mon, grrls. We get the Title 9 catalogs! Don't you use the same mailing list when you're recruiting for the gangs?

Question Five: And speaking of recruiting, raping young girls??? Perhaps times have changed, but the moms insist that when they were coming up and out, all recruiting was done through softball teams, women's studies courses, and Take Back the Night marches, where, as you might imagine, not a whole lot of raping went on. Hell, Moose says, I got reprimanded back in those days for using sarcasm, because it was supposedly proof of my male identification and internalized phallogocentrism. (Huh, I said?) And don't get me started on the lesbian sex wars -- all that prescriptivism, all the judgment about penetra- (No, really, Mom, let's not get started on that subject.) I just can't imagine rape is the preferred way to get dates in the lesbian community nowadays. (Uh-oh. Moose is starting to sound old and crotchety, isn't she?)

Question Six: What do you say if you are not Bill O'Reilly and you find yourself surrounded by a burly gang of pink pistol packers? Hm-m-m-m, let's see. . . .
  • Chill, ladies -- I've got Mystics tickets!
  • Pardon me, do you know where I could purchase a menstrual sponge around here?
  • Look, over there -- It's Bill O'Reilly!
  • Your guns are really cute with your shoes. "A" for accessorizing!
  • Plenty of tofu, grrls -- Let's go back to my place for dinner and consciousness-raising!
Oh, it's a strange, strange world you humans have made. Sometimes this old dog just covers her head with her paws and laughs herself right to sleep. 'Nightie-night!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Roxie's Reading: Dog Years

The moms tell a story about the day they adopted me. It was May 22, 1994. They had been together for ten years and had never had a dog before, but they had just bought their first house, which came with a ridiculously large back yard. Moose looked out at that long, empty, unkempt space one day and declared that they needed a dog, as if it were some sort of yard ornament. Some yards have water features; theirs apparently required a creature feature, and so a search was launched for the right breed and the perfect name. Goose had a wire-haired fox terrier when she was growing up. She recalled it as a fun and noble beast who brightened up her Texas girlhood with charming antics like visiting her grandmother every morning to get a mint. Moose came up with the name Roxie because she had a grandmother named Roxie who always went by her middle name, Irene, which Moose thought was a shame because Roxie is ever so much cuter-sounding than Irene, which has to be the fustiest-sounding name in the world.

Their search concluded, they drove to Andrews Air Force Base on a bright May morning just to look, they insisted, at a litter of wire-hairs that had been born on April 1. When they knocked on the door, the runt of the litter came racing around a corner and leapt into Goose's arms. In contrast to her six siblings, the runt was mostly white, except for some black and brindle on the head and a large black spot on her right hindquarter. The energetic runt was, of course, ME, and I greeted Goose with a thousand tiny kisses. In a moment, the die was cast. Goose and I had claimed one another, and it was just a matter of waiting until the more deliberate Moose had carefully observed and examined all seven puppies in order to determine that, yes, the gregarious little runt was indeed the best and Roxie-est of them all. After watching me run my parents and litter mates around the yard for an hour or so, she finally figured out what Goose and I had known all along, and off we went to live happily ever after.

I tell this story because Mark Doty describes a similar moment of instantaneous dog-human bonding in his wonderful new book, Dog Years: A Memoir, which you can and should buy here. Doty describes a moment in Mexico, traveling with his partner Paul. They have lost one dog to a devastating neurological illness and are concerned about the health of another they have left at home when Doty finds himself suddenly smitten with a dog he meets wandering the streets of San Miguel. He can't stop thinking about the dog and seriously considers taking it back to New York. Reflecting upon the intensity of his yearning for this stranger, Doty recalls the moment of their connection, when he held her head in his hands and each looked deeply into the eyes of the other as they took one another's measure. "I trust that moment," Doty writes,
the weight of her small head in both my hands; who she is, in that instant, became perfectly clear. You can know an animal -- or a person, for that matter -- in an instant, though your understanding can go on unfolding for years.
Dog Years is full of such epiphanies, moments of deep connection between dogs and humans that illuminate or console, reveal and re-vitalize. Doty is an accomplished poet and memoirist, and the elegy is one of his favorite modes. (A previous memoir, Heaven's Coast, focused on the illness and death of an earlier partner, Wally Roberts. For more complete information on Doty's career, click here.) This eloquent and moving book will appeal to a range of readers on a number of different levels. Dogs will admire Doty's close attention to the physical particularities of the two dogs who are the focus of his story -- the spots on Beau's tongue, the smell -- like corn muffins -- of Arden's ears, the golden coat of the one, the shiny black of the other. They'll thrill at the time he takes recounting the many pleasures and adventures of his life with the dogs and be moved by the depth of his caring for them through the infirmities of old age and the profound sorrow he experiences at their passing. People who love dogs will be happy to see the subject of loving dogs taken so seriously. Moose appreciated the swift, direct manner in which Doty addresses many of the charges typically leveled against writers who take up the subject of love for the companion species -- i.e., that it is inherently trivial and sentimental. Writing in the shadow of September 11, 2001 (and having been in New York City on that fateful day), Doty acknowledges that the death of a dog is not commensurate with the death of thousands of people, yet he insists that Beau and Arden are as deserving of love and grief as the human dead:
. . .the plain truth is no one should have to defend what he loves. If I decide to become one of those dotty old people who live alone with six beagles, who on earth is harmed by the extremity of my affections? There is little enough devotion in the world that we should be glad for it in whatever form it appears, and never mock it, or underestimate its depths.

Love, I think, is a gateway to the world, not an escape from it.
In passages such as this, Moose says, one detects the queer resonances of Doty's story. There is, she thinks, a renegade quality to the fierceness of Doty's love for dogs. He makes large claims for the psychic and existential significance of such love and dismisses those who would mock or trivialize it as lacking in courage or compassion. For all the sentimentality surrounding dogs, Doty implies that genuine love for them is treated as treacherous or embarrassing, as are many forms of unconventional love. In honoring Beau and Arden, Doty honors love in all its forms as a means of soul-touching and world-building. The domestic life conjured in Dog Years may seem comfy, middle-aged, and academic -- the epitome of what is sometimes derisively referred to as "homonormativity" these days -- yet the deep-seated commitment to love's power to transform gives the book a queer edge, a sense of unrealized utopian possibilities.

People who love books will also love the literariness of Dog Years. Emily Dickinson serves as something of a touchstone, the point to which Doty returns again and again in probing the nature of love and the certainty of loss, the paradoxes and contradictions involved in human reckonings with mortality, contingency, "the empty space of our own death." From Dickinson, Doty learns both rage and resilience. He mourns each individual loss in its minute particularity and still finds within himself the will and the energy to form new attachments. In that passionate embrace of contradiction, Doty finds his way out of despair and into an affirmation "of futurity and of hope." The affirmation is no banal, "life goes on." It is a complex recognition that one feeling does not cancel out another. Sadness and joy may be two humps on the same camel -- or, more to the point, two spots on the same dog. Life does go on, until it doesn't.

When Moose came upstairs last night after finishing Dog Years, she had tears in her eyes. She came to the bed and put her face down next to mine, nuzzled me gently. I knew she was sad because the book made her think of her own dog's years and how few there might be left. She's noticed recently that my hearing is not what it used to be. She's put me on low-dosage aspirin to relieve the aches in my joints, but I'm still not up for the long walks we used to take. She misses me out on the trail and seeks the solace of loud music to make up for my absence. She nuzzles me again. I lay my head back down on the bed.

Silly Moose, I wished I could say, don't start missing me yet. I'm still here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mind the Gap

Happy Fourth of July from Roxie's World and the Department of Righteous Indignation. Take ten minutes out of your holiday to watch Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" on Shrub's decision to commute Scooter Libby's sentence. (Here is a transcript.) Keith would probably frighten us if we didn't agree with pretty much everything he says. As it is, we declare him Watchdog of the Week and thank him for offering up a fiery "j'accuse" to enliven our celebration of (what's left of) American independence.

Once Keith has gotten you all hot and bothered, you can cool down by listening to my Uncle Bobby's song, "Peace Begins With Me and You," which we've loaded into the Music Box in honor of the day. It's from his album, Turn Row Blues, which you can purchase here. Uncle Bobby is such a righteous dude that he said y'all could have this song for free, but the Music Box doesn't allow copying. :-(

Need some inspiration? A reminder that the task of realizing the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence is yet unfinished and belongs to all of us? Click here to see the sermon Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on July 4, 1965 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. It's called "The American Dream" and so is steeped in a rhetoric of American exceptionalism that would be troubling if it weren't so strategically valuable to King's cause. "It is marvelous and great that we do have a dream," King declares, "that we have a nation with a dream; and to forever challenge us; to forever give us a sense of urgency; to forever stand in the midst of the 'isness' of our terrible injustices; to remind us of the 'oughtness' of our noble capacity for justice and love and brotherhood."

The moms headed out this morning to catch one of their favorite community events, Takoma Park's fabulously funky Independence Day parade. They sat on the curb across from the firehouse with their peace flag held out in front of them and watched the spectacle roll by: the steel drummers and the bag-pipers, the belly dancers and the tumblers, the advocates of attachment parenting, immigrant rights, compact fluorescent bulbs, and 9/11 truth. They laughed and applauded and got a little teary at the goofy, glorious wonder of it all.

We still live in the gap between the "isness" of injustice and the "oughtness" of our noble ideals. On this day, citizens of the United States and denizens of Roxie's World, mind the gap -- and do what you can to narrow it.

Peace out, beloveds.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Scenes from an Airport

(Image Credit: U.S. News & World Report, July 2, 2007)

Quiet, kids, the moms are asleep. They fell in the door about 4 this afternoon, after being held hostage for 8 hours yesterday in Austin's Bergstrom International Airport and then having to hoist their weary selves back there at 6:30 this morning to try to figure out how to get home to your favorite dog blogger. We'll have a happier post in the next couple of days on their wonderful trip and their visit to the last true honky-tonk joint in America. For now, I offer a couple of timely links to reports on the nightmares of this summer's travel season from U.S. News and the New York Times as well a transcription of the strange notes I sniffed out of Moose's backpack after they stumbled off to bed. Fortunately, she had her laptop with her, so the notes were typed. All I had to do was cut-and-paste them into Blogger. Any errors likely resulted from keys that got stuck because of the plastic cheesy sauce on Moose's fingertips. Or beer. Or coffee. Or enchiladas. Or beer. Or breakfast tacos. Or beer.

Scene One: 11 p.m., July 1

We've been here since 3 p.m. Our flight was supposed to take off at 4:15, but when we checked in its departure had already been bumped to 6. We looked into re-arranging our flights, but weather in Dallas was complicating things, so we decided to hunker down and enjoy the amenities of Austin's cool airport -- cold beer, T-Mobile internet connections, and the best darn canned music you ever heard. (Seriously, we heard most of our favorite Texas musicians over the course of our long day's journey into night.) We're usually pretty good at making the best of trying situations, but as the hours wore on and the delays pushed our arrival home further and further into the middle of the night, we began to lose patience. We had gone through the post-mortem that follows any visit with family and moved on to speculating about recent developments in a friend's personal life, but we agreed we needed fresh evidence to make that line of conversation any fun. We had read snarky reviews of the super-hyped iPhone and agreed we could safely hold off on spending $1200 for new toys we don't really need, however sleek and adorable they may be. Desperately bored, I took to re-loading the American Airlines web site every 15 seconds or so to check on the status of our flight, while Goose kept an eye on the monitors in the airport, replenished the beer, and phoned American to try to get clearer answers than we were getting on the ground.

(By the way, we'd like to emphasize that every single American Airlines employee we dealt with by phone or in person was polite, efficient, and eager to be of assistance. The real problem in this situation was that the folks who were dealing with customers didn't have clear information to communicate in a timely way. We all understand the "act of god" elements involved in air travel, but airlines really need to do a better job of managing information when things go wrong. Their employees deserve better, and lord knows their customers do.)

Anyway, having waited all those hours for a plane to arrive and then waiting for that plane to unload, we were then told the pilots had just "gone illegal" and so could not fly us to St. Louis after all. The flight wouldn't leave until 8 the next morning, and it wasn't clear whether it would continue on to Washington or not. I was puzzled by the strange phrase "gone illegal,"which I had never heard before. I wondered if they had some sort of visa problem, but that didn't seem right, given that Texas has not been an independent nation since 1845, much to the chagrin of Texans. Before I got too far in my musing, I noticed that Goose had a frozen look on her face that seemed connected to the realization that "gone illegal" meant that we were, for the time being, going nowhere. "Snap out of it," I wanted to say. "You have to figure out what we're going to do. Call your brother and tell him we may be in need of a bed."

(Editorial aside: Regular readers know Goose has a knack for figuring out what to do in such situations, while Moose is adept at long-term planning. That's why Goose handles most travel-related emergencies [unless they require proficiency in French], while Moose takes charge of massive home-renovation projects and invasions of small countries. It's a division of labor that generally works well in our household.)

Fortunately, Goose quickly snapped out of her coma and did what she does best: Flipped open the cell phone and punched in the number for American Airlines, again. I have to confess this move baffled and annoyed me, because I was focused on the not insignificant issue of where we were going to sleep and how we were going to get there and because we were standing in a long line of tired people who could hear every word of her conversation.

(Editorial aside: Goose is one of those people who talks on her cell phone in an unnaturally loud voice. This is acutely embarrassing to Moose, despite the fact that no one has ever accused her of being, um, soft-spoken.)

While the gate agent for American distributed $10 food vouchers to the weary masses, I kept shooting Goose my "what the hell are you doing?" look while she persisted in torturing the poor soul stuck with the job of answering phones on a lousy night for the airline industry. She ignored me and executed her strategy with the calm precision of a master. "You've been lovely, Rae -- it is 'Rae,' isn't it? -- and I realize that none of this is your fault, but I have been an American customer for more than 20 years, and I am very unhappy. We have not been served well by American tonight, Rae. Isn't there something you can do to make me happier?" The brilliance of Goose's strategy is to have the nerve to repeat this same basic speech in an absolutely even voice (no sarcasm or vulgarity allowed, which is why I am not the one who makes these calls) until the person on the other end of the line finally capitulates and gives her something -- anything! -- to get her off the phone. My impatience gives way to amazement as I hear Goose say, "Why, yes, Rae, I do think an upgrade to first class would make me feel a little better. Thank you, Rae, and have a pleasant evening."

There were thousands of unhappy American customers stranded all over the state of Texas on Sunday evening, but somehow Goose managed to score first-class upgrades for our return trip! I bow down in awe before her genius. We rented a car and headed back to brother Bobby's for a few hours of sleep. We had no luggage and no reason to believe the next day would go smoothly, but we had the satisfaction of a moral victory, which for the moment was sufficient.

(Editorial aside: For a previous example of Goose's deft handling of customer service agents, click here.)

Scene Two: 6:30 a.m., July 2

The American ticket counter is a zoo by the time we get there, despite our flying trip through the nearly empty streets of a sticky Austin morning. We look with pity upon the long line of people assembled before the "Main Cabin" signs and make a bee-line for the much, much shorter "First Class" line. Within moments, we are at the counter talking to our new best friend Leslie, who appreciates the suffering of the sad refugees of flight 1536 and vows to get us home as quickly as possible. Feeling a little punchy and perhaps a little ornery, I ask Leslie how her night was. "Good," she replies. "Short, but good." "Yeah," I counter, "but at least you got to change your underwear." To her credit, Leslie laughed and acknowledged that, indeed, she had gotten to change her underwear. With that, I decided I could trust her and Goose to come up with an itinerary and went off in search of our luggage. By the time I returned, they had found our flights, but Leslie noted that we wouldn't be able to sit together on the Austin to Dallas leg of the trip. "Hey, that's okay," I said. "Remember that underwear thing? It's probably best that we not sit too close together." With that, we were off with a smile for the long trip home.

Many hours and 1500 miles later, we were still cracking up every time somebody said the word "underwear." And one of us kept saying it over and over and over again, because we drank champagne on the flight and one of us has a nasty habit of being inordinately amused by her own crude jokes.

(Editorial aside: And that, dear readers, is all you need to know to solve the enduring mystery of what ties Moose to Goose and vice versa.)

Sweet dreams, tired moms. Sweet dreams.