Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Brief, Backward Glance

Want a proper End of Year List? Go elsewhere, darlings. A humble dog blog cannot be expected to wrap its paws around a year as epic in scale as 2011 turned out to be. Our focus this year has been largely personal and our productivity has been significantly lower than in years past. (This is just our 89th post of the year, making 2011 our lightest year of blogging since RW's barbaric yawp was first heard in 2006. We would apologize for slacking, but, hey, you get this stuff for free, so, you know, deal with it. We love you, but we gotta pay the bills somehow.)

Anyhoo, here, in no particular order, is an unabashedly partial and idiosyncratic list of some of what mattered to us this year. We invite you to share your highlights and lowlights in comments as a way of preparing for the transition into 2012. Retrospection is good for the soul, especially as we move into the unpredictability and intensity of a Year of the Dragon.

Number of the Year:

 -- That's the number of pounds Moose lost on the Lifestyle Adjustment Program she began in January. Which just goes to show you that sometimes New Year's resolutions work. Also: You can teach old dogs new tricks. Oh: And self-improvement arises not from self-loathing but from compassion. Just saying. Finally: It's possible to eat well and lose weight. Go here and here  for recipes and inspiration.

Happiest Day of the Year: March 6 -- That's the day Ms. Ruby arrived in Roxie's World to assume the role of Embodied Dog. It was a cold, dark, rainy day that became sunny and bright the moment the good people of American Fox Terrier Rescue brought the sweetest critter on dog's earth across the threshold.

Photo of the Year: Pepper-Spraying Cop -- The image that launched one of the best memes ever and, more importantly, briefly focused attention not only on funding crisis in higher education but on the overly zealous policing of nonviolent student protest on campuses throughout the country. One of our major hopes for 2012 is that "Occupy Education" becomes a sustained and viable challenge to the way of doing business in higher ed.

Best Art We Saw: The Steins Collect, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Thrilling.

Best TV We Saw: The Good Wife, but that may only be because we missed Homeland. We started watching it on the penultimate day of 2011 and are impressed. Good lord, Claire Danes can act!

Most Hyper-Inflated Ticket Price We Didn't Mind Paying: For The Book of Mormon on Broadway in September. Oh, sweet-voiced boys in short-sleeved shirts, you truly had us at "Hello!"

Most Culinary Fun We Had in the DC Area This Year: The several times we dined at José Andrés' delightful pop-up restaurant, America Eats. We blogged about this rollicking good tour through the culinary history of the United States after Moose first visited it in July. It has held up well through several repeat visits. Go. Now. Before it disappears!

Losses That Stung/Struck Us: Death, as usual, had a banner year in 2011. Of the biggies, the death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs in October particularly struck us, but we were more personally touched by the deaths of Texas music impresario Joe Gracey, poet Ruth Stone, and retired teacher Ida Pinkney, our next-door neighbor for 17 years who literally died laughing on the day before Thanksgiving. Ida was talking on the phone with a dear friend and suffered a massive heart attack. The Moms were terribly sad to lose someone who taught them so much of what it meant to be a good neighbor -- the exchange of pleasantries across the driveways, the check-in phone calls during snowstorms and other local dramas -- but they also kind of love the idea that a woman with Ida's gift for friendship and immense joie de vivre left the world laughing. Some endings, though sad, are fitting. Dogspeed, Ida.

Best Posts We Managed to Get Up in This Not Especially Bloggy Year: We'll choose two, one in the category of Meditations on Social Media and the other in the category of Inter-Species Romance. For the first, we'll award our post-MLA post, "The Great Untweeted," which set records in Roxie's World for volume of traffic and number of comments. We're proud of that one and thinks its reflections on what does and does not get tweeted at academic conferences hold up pretty well. For the second category, we are willing to pat ourselves on the back for "The Day I Became a Dog," the September post in which readers heard Ms. Ruby's voice for the first time. We agonized over that one for ages and were pleased that readers seemed to enjoy it so much when we finally pressed publish.

Thanks to all of you for hanging out with us for another wacky year in the blogosphere. We promise to try to be a little more prolific in 2012, as the presidential campaign heats up and the Republican ship of fools sails on. In the meantime, we wish you all a safe and happy new year. Peace out, my pretties, and may none of your dear acquaintances ever be forgot.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ruby's First Christmas

'Tis the season for making a fool out of oneself by publicly sharing low-rent videos made by techno-challenged iMovie illiterates. Pardon the indulgence, kids, but there are at least two good reasons to give Moose's latest film a click: It features the jazzy piano song that simply is Christmas for several generations of Peanuts-raised Americans, and it stars a really cute dog appearing in her first non-major motion picture. Yes, Santa found Ms. Ruby all the way out in chilly Michigan and brought her some presents. Plus, her cousin Scooter proved to be remarkably generous in sharing his presents and his astonishingly large stash of toys. Like spoiled children everywhere, Ms. Ruby now believes that every day should be Christmas. 

She has a point, of course. Gather 'round the laptop for this heartwarming holiday non-classic, while we pack up and get ready to head back to Roxie's World tomorrow. See you soon, my pretties. Whatever you are celebrating this season, we hope you are feeling nurtured in body and spirit and that some sweet soul is genially sharing his or her toys with you. Peace out.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Respite and Rescue

The Moms and sweet Ruby-doo are about to hit the road for a brief holiday visit to the Land of the Moosians (Motor City division). Grades are done. The car is tuned up. Not one single gift has been purchased, but, hey, Republicans caved on the payroll tax cut extension, so at least we'll have more moolah to shop with after Christmas. We hope that you, too, are gearing up for some quality time with loved ones.

Here's the image that festooned the front page of WaPo this morning, by way of reminding readers that, with yesterday's winter solstice, light is finding its way back to the national capital region. (That news will disappoint the Dark Ages caucus of the GOP, but they are accustomed to disappointment.)

(Photo Credit: Bill O'Leary, Washington PostWaPo caption: "The Capitol and its Christmas tree gleam amid first light Thursday as the sun rises after the longest night of the year; the winter solstice was marked at 12:30 a.m. This HDR [high dynamic range] composite image was created by software that combines several images of the same scene to enhance clarity and color saturation.")

Meanwhile, here's a little image Moose snapped at dinner the other night that captures the spirit of the season in Roxie's World:

Finally, if you need a heartwarming animal story to lift your holiday spirits, Ms. Ruby urges you to click over to this tale of 100 dogs who arrived at the Washington Animal Rescue League just in time for Christmas. They were rescued from an Arkansas puppy mill. There's a whole set of ridiculously adorable photos of the survivors up on flickr, but unless your heart is made of stone you'd better be prepared to adopt a dog before you subject yourselves to images like, uh, this:

Happy holidays, darlings. May you find refuge in love this season. Be warm, be kind, be rescued.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Upward-Facing Moose

Time for an exciting round of Complete the Caption! The above photo depicts Moose:

a) working on her tennis serve, which, she insists, does not actually require a ball or racket;
b) looking good but seriously underdressed for holiday caroling in the neighborhood;
c) smiling with gratitude because the pile of ungraded papers is not quite as high as her outstretched arm.

The answer of course is d) posing for a photographer at her local yoga studio to illustrate a little piece she wrote for the Willow Street Yoga Center Newsletter. (Yeah, it ain't Critical Inquiry or glq, but she wouldn't get a merit raise if she published in those fancy venues this year anyway, so what the heck?) We've pasted in a slightly revised version of the essay below. You can access the original by clicking on this link and then opening the PDF for the winter 2012 newsletter.

This one goes out to all the readers and friends who have followed the adventures in embodiment of Moose 2.0 over the past year. Your support and interest have meant a lot, and your stories have inspired and delighted all of us in Roxie's World. The post is dedicated to Suzie Hurley, first teacher, with love and gratitude for all that her vision has brought into being.

* * *
Lessons from the Mat
by Moose

I recently lost fifty pounds, and yoga helped me do it. Indeed, if I were inclined to be entrepreneurial, I would probably be making infomercials for something I might call the Yoga Diet, or perhaps even the Willow Street Diet: LOSE WEIGHT AND INCREASE FLEXIBILITY, WHILE STANDING ON ONE LEG!

I know: Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not especially entrepreneurial. Besides, Google tells me someone has beaten me to the punch on the Yoga Diet. Bear with me, though, as I try to explain my infomercial impulse.

Yoga may not be a major fat-burning activity, but I am serious when I say it contributed significantly to my efforts to re-contour my middle-aged body. I returned to Willow Street in the winter of 2009 after several years away. I had taken classes for a couple of years early in the 2000s, mostly Level Is with Suzie Hurley, but I decided to take a break in 2003 during a ridiculously stressful period in my life. (Two words are all I need to explain a crazy time and a dubious decision: home renovation.)

By the time I got back from my “break,” I was seriously out of shape and significantly overweight, because I had given up not only yoga but also a commitment I had maintained for most of my adult life to regular, vigorous cardiovascular activity. On the brink of my fiftieth birthday, I was feeling out of sorts and starting to worry about the long-term consequences of having gotten so out of shape. In other words, I was starting to feel old, and I didn’t like the feeling.

Returning to Willow Street was a small but important step on my long road back to health and fitness. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I see now that getting back to the mat was a way of gently yet powerfully re-connecting with a world and a self I was afraid I had left behind. Ultimately, that re-connection helped me find the will to lose weight by giving me a way to think about weight and body issues that feels affirming and enabling rather than punitive and disabling, which, I think, is how much of our culture’s talk about bodies, especially female ones, tends to be.

Back on the mat – first in Joe Miller’s Level I classes and lately in the I/II class he and Natalie Miller co-teach on Friday evenings – I learned three lessons that were enormously helpful in what I would eventually (and only half-jokingly) term my Lifestyle Adjustment Program. The first was to approach yoga in a spirit of play. This is an aspect of Joe’s teaching that deeply resonated with me, perhaps because it’s something I strive to do in my own classrooms. I am an English professor at the University of Maryland. The intellectual discipline of reading literature in a serious way can be intimidating, so I have always tried to cultivate a light, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom in the hope that students will learn more by worrying less and not noticing how hard they are working. Similarly, Joe’s insistent playfulness helps to demystify the discipline he teaches – which can also be intimidating -- and allows students to enter into it in their own way and at their own level. “Thanks for playing,” he often says at the end of class. Those words never fail to bring a smile to my face, but they’ve also encouraged me to feel comfortable trying to learn new and challenging skills. Fall out of a pose? No big deal! We’re just playing! Try it again!

That spirit of play guided me toward a second and equally valuable lesson, which was to love and honor the body I have, to appreciate what it can do now, and to stop berating myself for what it can’t (yet) do. My prolonged sedentary period had left me feeling alienated from a body I didn’t like or recognize. Yoga helped me let go of self-loathing and treat myself with a compassion that had eluded me for many years. Love and compassion, not disgust, were what finally got me, in January of 2011, to go to a meeting, step on a scale, and say, “OK, I am ready to do something different.”

Finally and perhaps most importantly, yoga gave me practice in mindfulness, which proved to be invaluable as I worked to cultivate and sustain new and better habits in relation to food and activity. I realized that my weight gain had a lot to do with the fact that I had just stopped paying attention to how much I was eating and how little I was moving. Food tastes better and is more satisfying when you pay attention to every bite, no matter how simply or sensibly it’s prepared. Mindfulness has meant that I experience my new way of eating as the opposite of the deprivations we associate with dieting. I have been cooking up a storm since I started losing weight, and I’ve enjoyed every moment in the kitchen and at the table – as has my well-fed partner, by the way!

Playfulness, compassion, and mindfulness: These are three lessons I learned on the mat that have helped me transform my body and my attitude fairly dramatically in the past year. You may not see me in an infomercial, but you will definitely see me in the studio, working hard but happily and with deep gratitude to continue this extraordinary process of learning. Thanks to everyone at Willow Street for playing with me and teaching me so well.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Rat Empathy

This story caught my typist's eye this morning. A new study shows evidence of empathy existing "in a robust way" among rats. Here's how the experiment works: Two rats are hanging out in the rat lab. One is free and the other is in an "unpleasantly restrictive cage" that the other rat can learn to open if he wants to release his compatriot. The study indicated that, not only would the free rat liberate the caged rat, he would also save a treat from a horde of chocolate chips to share with the captive. Wait, dude: Liberty and chocolate? What planet are these critters from and how do we get there?

Wa Po summarizes the implications of the study:
The researchers came to the unavoidable conclusion that what they were seeing was empathy — and apparently selfless behavior driven by that mental state. 
“There is nothing in it for them except for whatever feeling they get from helping another individual,” said Peggy Mason, the neurobiologist who conducted the experiment along with graduate student Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal and fellow researcher Jean Decety. 
“There is a common misconception that sharing and helping is a cultural occurrence. But this is not a cultural event. It is part of our biological inheritance,” she added.
Also: Rats are not Republicans. Revise your political name-calling accordingly. Henceforth, rats are the good guys. As in: Oh, that Hillary Clinton is such a rat, running around telling everybody that gay rights are human rights! Get that girl some chocolate!

What a world, what a world. Have a lovely, rat-filled weekend, my pretties. Here's hoping your cage door opens soon.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Dear Hillary Clinton,

We love you so. No, really, we adore you and totally groove on the way you have become like the Global Queer-Affirming Good Girl. Srsly, the burly women and pretty boys of the world unite in saying that you are homolicious!

Nonetheless, with all due respect, we wish you would re-think the hair. I am sorry, Mme Secretary, but we cannot love a ponytail.

Yours sincerely,


(Photo Credit: Anja Niedringhaus, Associated Press [via]. New York Times caption: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, after her speech on human rights issues at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday. [Video of the speech is here.])
It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity. -- US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Remarks in Recognition of International Human Rights Day," Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 12/6/11.
You go, girl. With you till the last dog dies. Or 2016, whichever comes first.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Remembering Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone, who died November 19 at the age of 96, was a friend of ours. By friend we don't mean we spoke on the phone every day or spent summers at her charmingly decrepit Vermont farm house. Indeed, we hadn't spoken in several years before the National Book Award-winning poet passed away. The friendship we claim is rooted in the depth of our affections, not the amount of time we spent with a fine poet and a feisty woman who toiled in obscurity for decades. We loved Ruth, and she loved all the denizens of Roxie's World.

To Ruth, everything on earth was intensely alive -- full of meaning and worthy of recognition. Thus, in "Vegetables II," she says of an eggplant she contemplates eating, "We put our heads together. / You are so smooth and cool and purple, / I say. Which of us will it be?" In the early days of their friendship, when the Moms were cat lesbians, Ruth would inscribe copies of her books to them and their cats, Spike and Lily, illustrated with adorable little cat cartoons down by her signature. When I came on the scene in the mid-90s, Ruth laughed uproariously at the wild antics of my exuberant puppyhood, but, as the photo anchored to this paragraph shows, she could also calm me down enough to curl up and enjoy some poetry. (Ruth is reading a volume by another of our beloved poet-friends, Alicia Ostriker, in this picture.)

Goose first met Ruth at an epic lady poet-palooza held in May of 1986 to commemorate the centennial of Emily Dickinson's death. Upon that occasion, Ruth spoke movingly of Dickinson's astonishing originality and of the conditions in which her poetry was produced. Much of what she said of Dickinson might have been said of Ruth, too:
When I read her poems, these original, hard as steel poems, and I feel the intensity in every word, words used in new ways, bent to her will, then I think she was self-sufficient, an artist whose mind was never asleep, whose concentration recreated, made fresh all that she saw and felt, as though she saw through the ordinary barriers, not as a visionary, but as a laser beam. But when I think of how little recognition she received in her lifetime, and how devastated she must have felt, though her fierce pride concealed it, then I am angry and sad. Yes, a great artist knows and can work in almost total isolation, but it is a terrible thing to have to do. The original mind seems eccentric, even crazy sometimes. In her cryptic inventions, she broke the tiresome mold of American poetry. We still stand among those shards and splinters.
The original mind seems eccentric, even crazy sometimes. Oh, maybe just a little. Moose's favorite Ruth story involves an afternoon in the late-80s when Goose was at school and she and Ruth were hanging out with the cats in the apartment they lived in back then. Moose was supposed to be working on her still unfinished dissertation. Ruth was supposed to be resting to get ready for an evening reading on campus. At some point, Moose tuned in to the sound of Ruth's voice. Out in the living room, she was muttering something about death. "Oh, dammit. Oh, death," or words to that effect. When Moose ventured out to see what was happening, Ruth was sitting on the couch staring at her hands. "Ruth?" Moose shyly inquired, for she barely knew her elderly houseguest. "Everything okay?" Ruth turned to her, with her large brown eyes open wide, and declared, "Death is after me. Ever since that car accident. I knew it. Dammit." "Uh, okay, Ruth. What makes you think that?"

At that point, America's most obscure great poet held out her hands so Moose could see them. They were bleeding. Not from any visible wound, mind you -- Just bleeding. Two thoughts immediately popped into Moose's dissertation-enfeebled mind. The first was something like, Cool, stigmata -- We can turn this joint into a religious shrine and retire our grad school debts by charging the pilgrims to get a look at Ruth's hands! The second was no less selfish but a little more paranoid: Oh, great. I'll be a footnote in the next edition of the Norton Anthology of Lit by Women: Stone bled to death while Moose agonized over her paradigm-shifting analysis of Sarah Orne Jewett's "An Autumn Holiday."

Then Moose got a grip. She asked Ruth a few questions and quickly ascertained that the poet, lacking health insurance, had likely been overdosing on aspirin to treat neck pain from a recent car accident. She had also been subsisting mostly on candy bars during the long bus trip from Vermont to Maryland. Moose figured the bleeding had to be a side effect of the aspirin and the diet. She fixed Ruth a sandwich and they spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the cats. That night's reading was a spectacular success. Strange postscript to the story: The Moms had a ratty old cloth couch back in those days. Ruth's hands left a couple of blood stains on the couch that never faded. Swear to dog, kids, those stains looked as fresh and bright on the day that couch was finally hauled out to the curb as they did on a sunny afternoon when America's most obscure great poet scared the bejesus out of a befuddled grad student.

Here are Ruth and Moose on a bench outside the Folger Shakespeare Library during that same visit. They had gone there with Goose to see an amazing exhibit of Marianne Moore materials from the Rosenbach Museum and Library's Moore archive:

And here are Ruth and Goose on the same bench:

Oh, dammit. Oh, death. Oh, dammit, indeed. Damn you, death, for taking those we love from our midsts. Damn you for leaving us with nothing but echoes, shadows, fading images of nearly forgotten selves.

But thank you, Ruth, for the gift of your friendship and the consolation of your far from ordinary words. Thank you and dogspeed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

OMG SHOEZ (Encore)!

Everyone is doing post-Thanksgiving posts to announce that they survived the holiday and are back on the grid. Here's ours.

The Moms and the Carolina branch of the Moosians avoided the malls by watching movies yesterday. They caught a late-afternoon showing of George Clooney's new Hawaii-is-not-paradise-because-there-are-people-in-it flick, The Descendants, which you should totally see because Clooney does middle-aged learning through suffering better than anybody. The rest of the cast is splendiferous, too. Later, after a supper of yummy leftovers, the crew collapsed on the couch to watch (or re-watch) The Devil Wears Prada, because no holiday is complete without a Meryl Streep film, is it?

Anyway, you may recall that The Devil Wears Prada co-stars a lot of fairly impressive footwear. We mention this detail because today the Moms and the Older Sister of the Moosians went downtown to catch the lovely Degas show at the Phillips Collection (which we highly recommend for DC-area readers and visitors). Afterward, at Moose's behest, they popped over to Dupont Circle to do a little -- you guessed it! -- shoe shopping. Oh, dear. We think it may not have been fiscally prudent to turn Moose loose in a shoe store with visions of Miranda Priestly's contemptuous stare still dancing in her impressionable head. She came out with a pair of little black boots that are, by a long, long shot, the most expensive shoes she has ever owned. And yet, she tells herself, they are expensive, pretty, sensible shoes that I will wear for decades with pleasure and in comfort.

Of course you will, Moose. And you will be at the gym at sun up tomorrow, burning off all that pecan pie and the half dozen of your grandmother's glorious olives you couldn't resist over the course of the holiday. Whatever, Moose. A girl is entitled to her illusions. And every woman needs at least one pair of truly decadent little black boots in her life. Don't you agree, my pretties? Don't you and your inner Miranda Priestly emphatically agree?

(Photo Credit: Goose, 11/26/11)

[For previous shoe-related posts, go here and here. Yes, we know that shoe-blogging probably means we will never end up in The Chronicle of Higher Education blog network, but, well, we don't see too many dead dog blogs in that network anyway. Screw them, darlings -- We are here for you! Peace out.]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Everyone in Roxie's World wishes you and yours the happiest Thanksgiving ever. This year, we are calling Thanksgiving "the Feast of the Liberation" to celebrate the fact that it was just about a year ago (November 30, 2010) that sweet little Ruby, the embodied dog of Roxie's World, was delivered from bondage in a puppy mill in Missouri and embarked on the course that would eventually lead to a posh, happy life with a couple of dog-crazy English profs. We've got a lot to be grateful for -- like you, for example! -- but this year, we are especially grateful to be dogg-ed again.

May your feasting be fabulous and not interrupted by waddling, pepper-spray-wielding cops. May you run out of fingers before all your blessings are counted. May you successfully avoid traffic and bad weather and the verb to shop in all its forms. May you dine on something as sumptuous as this and as sensible yet yummy as this.

Peace out, darlings. Enjoy your day. And don't take your -- or anyone's -- liberation for granted.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Image Doctoring, Without Photoshop

Screen Caps of Actual University of California, Davis websites on the morning of November 22, 2011:

(The English department's home page)

The image mavens of Roxie's World have a healthy respect for the work of universities' marketing and communications divisions. For all our snarking about doublespeak and gutlessness on campus, we appreciate the challenges of creating identities for institutions of higher education and promoting them like crazy in the marketplace. (Seriously, kids -- The Moms have drawers full of QTU tee-shirts, and Moose has a Queer the Turtle sticker on her laptop. She came up with that slogan and fought hard for the right to use it. Don Draper's got nothing on Moose.)

Truth be told, we even respect the need to protect the brand/reputation of an institution during a moment of crisis -- which explains why my typist was frantically screen-capping these images of UC Davis websites this morning before they disappear. They strike us as particularly compelling examples of institutional communication in a context of crisis. A click on that "I'm Here to Apologize" bubble superimposed on the photo of Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi speaking yesterday at an assembly on the Quad takes you to an information-rich page that includes a gallery of high-quality photos from the rally as well as links to reports on the latest developments in the unfolding story (e.g., reaction from UC President Mark Yudof, announcement that campus police chief Annette Spicuzza has been placed on administrative leave while the pepper-spraying incident is being investigated). Sure, it's all butt-covering and strategery, but to our eyes the whole package does a decent job of reporting on events in a fairly neutral fashion. We give Davis credit for giving such prominence on the home page to Katehi's apology with a strong image that bumps all the happy talk off the screen. We're not sure the effort will save Katehi's job -- but then again that's probably not the goal. The aim here is to show that the institution is making a sincere effort to make amends for an outrageously over-the-top response to student protest. Katehi is, for the moment, the face of that institutional response. It seems appropriate to feature her in this fashion.

The English profs, dog love them, take a different tack, using the home page of the department's website to echo demands for Katehi's resignation and the disbanding of the campus police department. It's astonishing, really, in the age of top-down message management, to see such a powerful example of off-the-reservation communication. Paws up to you, lit critters, for using your website to go all righteous and truth-to-power-y in the midst of crisis. We appreciate your candor, and we wish we had time to go trolling around to see what other Davis departments are doing with their websites. But we don't, alas.

We also sincerely regret that we didn't screen cap Penn State's home page at the height of the Jerry Sandusky/Joe Pa nightmare, but if you look at that (badly designed) site now you'll see a lot of tepid gobbledygook about "moving forward." It may be harder to talk about allegations of child sex abuse than a rogue cop with a spray can, but we think Davis kicks Penn State's a$$ communications-wise in this instance. What do you think, darlings?

Oh, and if you still haven't gotten your fill of Photoshopped images of the Man With the Can, go here, where you will find things like this to brighten up your day:

Don't say we never gave you nothin', my pretties. Peace out.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Man With the Can Goes Viral

Quote of the Day:
A meme is born. Lieutenant John Pike is suddenly everywhere at once -- waddling through time and space with his little red can of pepper-spray.
Ridicule can be an effective revolutionary tool. But the cops still have the firepower so we can’t stop taking them seriously. But for the time being, this is some hilarious shit. -- Marc Campbell, Dangerous Minds
Every day, my typist wakes up and asks herself the same question: Are parody and pants-wetting laughter really adequate responses to the urgencies of our time?

Every night, she goes to sleep with essentially the same answer: Yes.

In that spirit of revolutionary ridicule, we pass along some more brilliantly doctored images of the (now suspended) UC Davis police officer whose creepily casual pepper spraying of peaceful student demonstrators has become fodder for a million intrepid Photoshoppers. (See yesterday's post for the image of Lieutenant Pike on a wickedly clever remake of the Davis website.) We regret that we are unable to give credit where it is due, because we picked most of these images up on Facebook, where things tend to circulate without attribution. Marc Campbell has been collecting and commenting on images on Dangerous Minds. Go here and here.

What's your favorite? Have you seen others? Send 'em our way, and we will update as we can. Busy day here in Roxie's World, but we'll do our best. Peace out.

Update (Noon): Of course, there's a Tumblr. Check it out.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

UC Davis Link Farm

Offered Without an Iota of Schadenfreude. Not Even a Whiff. OK, Maybe the Tiniest Scintilla, From the Department of There But for the Grace of Photoshop Goes You:

(Image via.)

November 2011 seems on track to be the Worst Month Evah for higher ed administrators in the age of Excellence Without Money -- Or Decency. Or, It Appears, a Lick of Sense. First we had the catastrophic failure of leadership in the Penn State intergenerational "horseplay" in the shower scandal. Now the interwebs are on fire with video and commentary on an incident Friday at the University of California, Davis in which campus police in riot gear used pepper spray on students who were peacefully demonstrating in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. The police were there on orders from Chancellor Linda Katehi, an engineer with impressive hair and, it seems, a bias against tents. No, wait, she has a bias against really bad publicity. Wevs, kids, she does have great hair. We're hoping she also has an up to date CV and a moving van on speed dial, just in case the chorus of calls for her resignation doesn't subside with news of investigations of the incident and suspensions of the spray-happy cops.

As a public service to our readers, we've collected some awesome bits of instant analysis by folks who are much better than we are at figuring things out while they are happening. We consider all of these must-reads for anyone who is wondering if Occupy Education has a serious shot at challenging the profoundly destructive set of values and management principles that have dominated campus administrations in recent years. And isn't that, like, everybody? Click away, dears, and get ready for the revolution. Here's hoping your campus is next -- and that your administrators will rise to rather than fall down upon the occasion.

Below is the video of that long, silent walk, which is as powerful, eerie, and inspiring as others have said it is. Watching it, it's hard not to feel that something truly extraordinary is happening. Young people, who have such cause to lash out in anger, choose instead to summon the righteous power of nonviolence and silence. Katehi walks slowly past them with her elegant coif and her perfectly arranged scarf, her hands gracefully interlocked in front of her, giving her walk of shame something of the look of a perp walk. To her credit, Katehi does not avoid the gazes of the students seated along the edges of the sidewalk. She looks at them. You can imagine them, in the darkness, looking back at her. And in the mutuality of those gazes, you may dare to suppose that something decent might be born: the chance for genuine dialogue, collaboration, and transformation.

At least, that's the way it looks to us, from a few thousand miles away, on the Sunday night before Chancellor Katehi and all those students meet again, in the different light of Monday. Watch the vid and tell us what you see and think and imagine, my darlings. As always, we long to know.

(Here is a longer version of the vid that shows the couple of minutes before Katehi exited the building. The students use the human microphone to arrange the scene and clarify the plan. As the comment passed along by Spivak notes, this version "shows how deliberate and well orchestrated the silence was.")

[Post corrected to reflect that Gayatri Spivak was not the author of a letter previously attributed to her and published on trinketization.]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Seasonal Musings

Are all gourds merely decorative, mother f_ckers? We ask, knowing full well that a butternut squash is not, technically speaking, a gourd, but, well, still, gourds and squashes are in the same family, according to noted botanical expert Wik E. Pedia, and we've had this butternut squash sitting out on the counter for weeks now, and Moose chortles to herself every time she catches a glimpse of it because it seems not terribly useful from a culinary standpoint, its thin neck not offering much in the way of squashy stuff, yet not entirely useless from other possible standpoints that one might imagine if, say, one's brain had been warped by overexposure to psychoanalytic theory in the course of one's training as a professional reader of texts -- or if one happened, on some long ago and probably drunken evening, to have heard a hilarious parody of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that culminated in the declaration that, "A thing's a phallic symbol if it's longer than it's wide, / As the id goes marching on!" (Melanie performs it here. Go on. We'll wait for you to listen.)

Anyhoo, darlings, it's the Friday before Thanksgiving, which means that my typist has a scholarly article to finish and 37 tabs open in her browser as she cruises the interwebs in search of just the right combination of decadence and point value for this year's Lifestyle-Adjusted holiday table. We'll close, therefore, by wishing you well on your own holiday planning, inviting you to let us know what you will be serving up this year, and showing you a picture of the aforementioned butternut squash so that you can help us to answer the burning question with which this post began:

Are all gourds merely decorative, mother f_ckers? Inquiring minds want to know. Peace out, and have a, um, stimulating Friday.

(Photo Credit: Moose, 11/18/11)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Half-Naked or Half-Dressed?

Hillary Clinton burst out laughing the other day when a scantily clad fellow bearing a torch streaked behind her and Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang as they were posing for photos together in Hawaii. Her reaction is priceless -- an utterly spontaneous hearty guffaw, complete with a delighted clapping of hands. Ah, Madame Secretary, we still carry a torch for you. Thanks for lightening up a dull, gray, overloaded Thursday.

Watch the vid, kids. We bet your Thursday could use a little levity, too. Hang in there, and maybe we'll all get treated to a glimpse of a scantily clad something or other before the day is over. Peace out.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Penn State Link Farm

(NB: If catching up on the Penn State scandal is part of your weekend plans, WaPo has a handy tick-tock story in today's paper that summarizes events since the release of the grand jury's indictments last Friday afternoon. The grand jury's report is here, but it is not for the faint of heart. Trigger warning for graphic details of child sexual abuse and men in positions of authority behaving badly.)

What can a humble dog blog say that hasn't already been said about the sordid news out of Penn State University this week about an alleged sexual predator protected and enabled for years by an athletics department and a university administration in thrall to a legendary coach and the economic power of big-time football? What do we see when we gaze at the seal of the neighboring school a few hours to the north and take American culture's latest Rorschach test?

Mostly, we see what others have seen:

Disturbing evidence that universities do a terrible job of handling sexual violence and harassment by responding to them as private, internal matters, as Tenured Radical points out in her excellent post on the scandal. Lesboprof also focuses on the administration's failure to notify police of what was obviously a criminal matter in a post that every college administrator on earth ought to read. Historiann weighs in briefly but generates a long and lively discussion thread full of thoughtful comments and good links in response to her point that the administrative failure in this case was gendered male, as all of the coaches, directors, university lawyers, and presidents whose actions protected the alleged predator rather than his young victims were men. Jennifer Doyle points out that laws that require universities to investigate and act upon allegations of sexual abuse or harassment have done little to change "the culture of silence" that serves to shame victims and enable perpetrators on campus.

Possible evidence, particularly in the pro-Paterno riots that occurred on the Penn State campus Wednesday night, of uniquely American forms of idiocy having to do with sports, idol worship, and other vulgar things. For that perspective, see Eric Wilbur, Jon Stewart, and Margaret Soltan, who focuses not on the riots but on the "stupidity" that overtakes a campus dominated by football. Of course, QTU is a school where "rioting" is as commonplace as plagiarism, so the Moms are a little less horrified by this particular behavior than others are. Gather a bunch of kids stirred up about something, bring in a few cops decked out in their Darth Vader costumes, get a couple of cameras rolling, and -- presto! -- you've got a riot on your hands. Still, we doubled over laughing at Andy Borowitz's somber announcement that the board of trustees at Penn State had responded to the rioting by replacing the entire 40,000-member student body with an interim student body: “After careful consideration, we decided we had to make a change,” said trustee Harley Manvers. “Hopefully, these interim students won’t be such jackasses.”

Y'all know we are fans of college sports here in Roxie's World. (Indeed, the Moms are washing tee-shirts and polishing up the pom-poms in preparation for the season's first trip to the Comcastle tomorrow, where they'll see if their beloved [and 11th-ranked!] Lady Terps can avenge last year's NCAA Tournament loss to Georgetown.) Nonetheless, we've grown increasingly concerned in recent years by the sense that the athletics sides of the campus in Division I schools are worlds unto themselves, operating by a different set of rules than the rest of us and not really accountable to anyone. To us, one of the most telling details in the Penn State saga is that President Graham Spanier and some members of the board had tried to get Joe Paterno to retire at the end of the 2004 season, and he refused. Joe Pa maintained a similarly arrogant "You are not the boss of me" attitude until the bitter end, as he announced Wednesday that he would retire at the end of this season and appeared to order the board of trustees not to spend "a single minute discussing my status." That seems to have been the last straw for the board, which announced his firing late that night.

Penn State's difficulty breaking up with Paterno reminded Moose of the Sturm und Drang that arose at her undergrad alma mater back in 2000 when the late Myles Brand, then president of Indiana University, fired the school's legendary basketball coach, Bob Knight. Sports Illustrated columnist Stewart Mandel noted that parallel in a post on the dangers of turning coaches into idols who answer to no one. Mandel argues that fans are partly to blame for what happened at Penn State, their worship encouraging Paterno's arrogance and his bosses' diffidence. Richard Vedder, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, considers possible solutions for the lack of accountability, including the radical yet intriguing idea that universities might "get out of the commercial intercollegiate business, perhaps by spinning off their athletic operations to separate for-profit companies (which could be sold to the public), largely erasing the fiction of the 'student athlete' that exists in the more commercial sports such as football and basketball."

We don't see big schools getting out of the sports business anytime soon, because, of course, the revenue and the brand buzz generated by athletics are desperately needed in the age of Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises, LLC). In the end, for us, the many facets of this tragedy -- sexual coercion, catastrophic failures in oversight, rioting fans -- come together in a phrase that kept running through Moose's mind as she contemplated the events of this sad week. That phrase might be taken as the unspoken motto of the neoliberal university: Live by the brand, die by the brand. Jerry Sandusky was protected by his close, nearly forty-year association with Joe Paterno, who was not just a legend but the public face and foundation of the Penn State brand. Tarnish the brand, and the whole shaky financial edifice might come tumbling down. Such thinking encourages the diffidence and denial that appears to have been rampant among administrators in State College, including, it pains us to say, Graham Spanier, who has been one of the good guys of American higher ed for many years. We are sorry to see his tenure as president end on such a negative note.

Live by the brand, die by the brand: Bloomberg is reporting that Moody's Investors Service will look into downgrading Penn State's revenue-bond rating in view of the likelihood of "lawsuits, weaker student demand, decreased philanthropic support, changes in its relationship with the state, and management moves" in the wake of the scandal. Sometimes, it would appear, the most strenuous efforts to avoid reputational and financial risk end up producing precisely what they intended to avoid. That's worth keeping in mind, as we all seek to learn "the lessons of Penn State."

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Adjuncts

Another Episode in the Unfolding Academic Melodrama We Call Excellence Without Money: Hard Times in Higher Ed

QTU has been in the throes of one of those periodic policy tizzies brought about when a butt-covering well-intentioned board of regents seeks to appear to address a problem by coming up with a one-size-fits-all solution and imposing it on a complex system of institutions of varying sizes and missions. (Let's call it the University System of Turtle Country.) The policy, as you might have guessed from the title of this post, has to do with the employment of adjunct faculty. The BOR approved a system-wide policy in December 2010 and charged institutions to come up with implementation plans by November 1, 2011, which explains the recent tizzy on the campus of QTU. (Oh, and the policy defines "adjunct" as a non-salaried, non-tenure-track member of the instructional faculty hired to teach specific courses and compensated on a course-by-course basis.)

Before we go any further, we will pause to remind you that this blog has a long history of opposing what our epic animated short feature, Excellence Without Money: The Movie, eloquently describes as "the wage slavery of adjunctification." We consider the slow but steady erosion of tenured and tenure-track positions and the accompanying rise of non-tenure-track and part-time positions to be one of the more disastrous results of the defunding of higher education that has occurred in recent decades. Our pal Tenured Radical describes wage stagnation and the shrinking of the tenure-eligible faculty as evidence of "the casualization of academic labor." In our view, students and institutions were better served by a system in which most of the instructional workload was shouldered by full-time, tenured or tenure-eligible faculty who had strong incentives to work hard and creatively in order to achieve job security and to be loyal to the department and school that offered it.

Nonetheless, that happy world is largely gone. (For the Modern Language Association's latest report on its disappearance, go here.) Adjunctification is not a temporary aberration but a permanent and defining feature of the brutish neoliberal university. Given that troubling yet inescapable fact, one would think that any serious effort to examine and address employment conditions for non-tenure-track faculty would be applauded by the bleeding heart tenured radicals of Roxie's World. For far too long, after all, avoidance and denial about what was happening to the academic workforce have kept us from acknowledging the explosive growth in a class of workers that are treated as the pack mules of academe. We largely ignored them, and we ignored the harsh and often humiliating conditions in which they worked.

In that respect, then, yes, the regents deserve credit for breaking an unconscionable silence and trying to set a baseline to assure that adjuncts throughout the system are treated with a modicum of professional respect. Many requirements of the new policy are laudable and, you know, humane, if you think access to a university e-mail account can be considered humane. Beyond the no-brainers (e.g., access to telephones, office supplies, and "appropriate space" for meeting with students during office hours), the policy mandates what are basically kill fees for classes that are canceled less than 30 days before the start of the semester if the adjunct contracted to teach the course can't be reassigned to a comparable course. The fee is just 10% of the contracted payment amount for the course, but that's enough to make departments think twice before canceling a class. Managing schedules and seats is a departmental responsibility, after all. Adjuncts shouldn't have to pay for someone else's poor planning.

So far, so bueno, right? How is it, then, you may be wondering, that this new policy ends up being tarred by this humble blog as an example of Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises, LLC)? Easy peasy, my pretties. Aside from the kill fees, the policy delicately sidesteps the issue that makes the life of an adjunct so uniquely hellish: the shockingly low levels of compensation for work that institutions of higher education claim to value so highly. The policy's major statement on compensation is 100% weaselly: "Every effort should be made to make adjunct faculty compensation professionally appropriate and competitive to the extent allowed by available fiscal resources (emphasis added).

Curiously, the policy establishes a new class system among adjuncts, creating categories of "Adjunct Faculty I" and "Adjunct Faculty II" that sound a lot to us like the old plantation system's distinction between field slaves and house slaves. Adjunct II's (who become eligible for that category by establishing a consistent record of high-quality instruction over multiple semesters) would get priority consideration in teaching assignments (OK, so maybe it's more like a frequent flyer program than a plantation) and would be assured of making at least 10% more than the minimum per-course compensation rate at the institution. That sounds pretty decent, but, as it turns out, the Adjunct II designation would be available to almost no one on the QTU campus because of the way loads are calculated. (It's one of those boring, opaque questions of FTEs and other bureaucratic mysteries. Take our word for it, will you?)

But guess what would apply to all adjuncts, both field and house, and the units that employ them. Say it with us, darlings: PERFORMANCE EVALUATION! Yes, it's true. The new policy, in the interest, of course, of supporting professional development for adjunct faculty, requires units to develop procedures for evaluating adjunct faculty performance on a regular schedule. As QTU has moved toward implementation of the policy, the regents' somewhat vague call for procedures has been interpreted to require, not just class visits and student evaluations, but what amounts to a full-on teaching portfolio for every single adjunct. Individual instructors will be largely responsible for developing those portfolios, though the employing units will have lots of new work to do in terms of collecting documents and data and conducting/reporting on class visits. Moose is really looking forward to implementing this policy in her itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie queer studies program, in which the turnover rate among adjuncts is so high that she fully expects to be conducting performance reviews for instructors who will likely have disappeared before she's even had a chance to read their heartfelt statement of teaching philosophy. Oh, the fun just never stops, does it?

Here's the thing, kids: We are not opposed to evaluation or professionalization of the adjunct workforce. We are, however, violently opposed to increasing the burden of work on adjuncts and the understaffed units that tend to employ them without meaningful increases in compensation or resources. New policies that create new work under the guise of assuring high quality and continuous improvement while blithely ignoring the not insignificant problem of available fiscal resources are, sadly, exactly what you would expect in the age of Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises, LLC). Such policies can only add to the stress and demoralization of everyone who has to hold up or jump through the new hoops established by them.

Tenured Radical recently called on her comrades in the academic blogosphere to "find a way to Occupy Education." We offer this post in support of that worthy cause. Write back and let us know what's happening on your campus with regard to the wage slavery of adjunctification. One step toward changing the world is acknowledging what's happening in your particular corner of it. So tell us what's happening on your plantation in your neck of the woods. We are eager, as always, to hear from you.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ruby's First Halloween

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cocktails and Queries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Impossible Demands

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

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


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

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

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

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weighty Matters, Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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