Thursday, July 28, 2011

America Eats -- Well! (Srsly!)

So, what do three English profs -- all Americanists, all chicks, all enthusiastic foodies -- do for fun and a bit of low-key continuing education on a fair summer evening in their nation's capital? Hmmm, how do you combine love of food with (critically informed) love of country, without straying too far from a Metro station? Why, it's easy, my hungry lit and history critters! All you gotta do is swing by the National Archives to check out the recently opened exhibition, "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government's Effect on the American Diet," and then step right over to America Eats Tavern, the pop-up restaurant set up by rock-star chef José Andrés in conjunction with the show. (Make a reservation. The joint is jumping from good buzz and the coolness of its short shelf life.)

(World War II poster, ca. 1942. National Archives, Records of the Office of Government Reports, via.)

The "What's Cooking?" exhibit won't overly tax your summer-ized brain. Moose commented that it seemed targeted at (not especially precocious) fourth graders, but it offers enough in the way of nifty images and compelling tidbits of cultural history to justify a visit. (Hey, it's free, and you can drop in and make sure the Constitution hasn't been shredded while you weren't looking!) Moose and her companions, the Shy One and the individual who comments here occasionally as kb, particularly enjoyed some pretty botanical prints of exotic agricultural products the government was exploring and promoting, including Japanese persimmons and Meyer lemons. Moose didn't see any posters for the Clean Plate Club (which was discussed in our recent food/nutrition post, "Breaking Up With Potatoes"), but she was intrigued to see the range of ways in which food has, for more than a century, been bound up with economics and ideology, with systematic government efforts to promote and produce particular kinds of bodies, behaviors, citizens, and identities. Many if not most of these efforts have failed -- we never did become a nation of carp-eaters, despite the Bureau of Fisheries' strenuous promotion campaign ("Eat the Carp!") of 1911 -- but that is part of what makes them so fascinating, especially as we watch the rollout of yet another government plan to encourage healthy eating and physical activity.

To heck with that, though! The real point of this gathering of friends was to see what kind of restaurant Andrés would spin out of his partnership with the Archives and Uncle Sam. We are pleased to report that he is in no way slavish in relation to the exhibition, which means, among other things, that there is no carp on the menu. (I know -- Try to contain your disappointment.) Given the prominence of certain bivalves on offer (prepared seven different ways, including grilled, stewed, and in a spoonbread topped with ice cream and caviar), you might suppose the U.S. government had staged an aggressive "Eat the Oyster!" campaign if you had imagined Andrés would be so literal, but you hadn't (unless you are this guy) and he isn't. The menu is dazzling and chockfull of historical fun facts uncovered by Andrés' staffers, who did weeks of research in the Library of Congress to find recipes from the nation's culinary past. Who knew, for instance, that catsup wasn't always made out of tomatoes? America Eats offers eight different varieties, including one made of -- natch! -- oysters and another made out of -- what? -- Jack Daniel's.

The menu doesn't have a great deal of coherence, but neither does the nation whose diversity it celebrates. (Insert flag-waving icon here.) Our waiter explained as soon as we sat down that, unlike Andrés' other establishments, America Eats is not a tapas restaurant. Still, one could dine happily by treating it as such, grazing and sharing from the several courses of smaller plates and sharing a couple of entrees. Our party of three did that and was too stuffed to consider dessert, though, truth be told, the dessert selections were not awe-inducing enough to make Moose willing to cash out anymore activity points in order to try one. C'mon, José: Cheesecake? Pineapple upside down cake? Can't we get a little more unconventionally retro than that?

Earlier in the meal, Andrés' trademark ingenuity is more in evidence, as he riffs on classics such as lobster newberg and the locally mandatory crabcake. We give high marks to the two forms of oysters we sampled, on the half shell and grilled in butter. The oysters were briny enough to make a girl think she was standing in the surf pulling them out with her bare hands. The night's only real disappointment was a New England clam chowder with poached cod that seemed undercooked in both the literal and the figurative sense. It was bland, and Moose does not waste points on bland these days.

All in all, though, America Eats is a night of fun and fine dining, offering great food, attentive service, and a menu that will captivate you even if you don't earn your living studying American culture. However, we think non-local readers who do earn your living that way and will be in Baltimore for the ASA convention in October should plan to spend an evening in DC so you can visit this joint before it disappears. Not convinced yet? Click below on the movie Moose made out of the not great photos she snapped of most of what was eaten last night. We are confident that her epic, The Case of the Hungry Americanists, will persuade you to stop in for a bite at America Eats. Oh, and visit the bar, which for some strange reason is not called America Drinks. It's good, too.

(The Case of the Hungry Americanists is brought to you by New Dog Productions, a wholly owned subsidiary of RW Enterprises, LLC. No oysters were harmed in the making of this film. Oh, and for reasons no one could figure out, America Eats brings diners their checks inside a book, which, in our case, was a Hardy Boys mystery. That explains the strange denouement of this woefully under-narrated film. With love and thanks to kb and the Shy One, who had absolutely nothing to do with the making of this film, though they ably assisted in ordering, eating, and photographing the food.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Picturing Marriage Equality

This here blog has had quite a bit to say on the subject of marriage equality over the years. We've mapped out a tortured, wishy washy carefully nuanced, ambivalent position that captures our passion for civil rights and our (queer/feminist) skepticism toward marriage as a means of arranging intimacy and distributing benefits to which all citizens should be entitled, regardless of relationship status. Do a label search on "gay marriage" if you are interested in finding those posts. Our all-time favorite on the subject is a piece from March 2010 commemorating the Moms' twenty-sixth anniversary. Its subtitle is "Love Without License." A close second would be a long postmortem on the 2008 election, in which, you may recall, voters elected the nation's first African-American president while voting down same-sex marriage in California, Arizona, and Florida. That one is called "Repetitive Motions."

We may not be quite the rainer on the same-sex marriage parade that our good buddy queer legal eagle Katherine Franke is (here she is on WNYC), but, having said so much, we feel permitted to take a pass on coming up with something pithy to say about Gay New York becoming Gay-Married New York, as civil marriage rights became available Sunday to same-sex couples in the Empire State. Instead of telling, we're more in a mood to do some showing -- of some of the very compelling images that have come out in the last day or two. Regardless of how fraught and fuzzy necessarily complex our position on marriage is, we have to admit that pictures like these move us. They make us smile or bring a tiny tear to a jaded eye. More importantly, though, they also have significant political potential in the power they may have to reframe the way the culture sees not only the institution of marriage but sex and gender variation more generally. (We've made this point before, deep in this post.)

As of Sunday, in New York, this is what a newly married couple looks like (via):

(The couple is Connie Kopelov, 84 [in the wheelchair], and Phyllis Siegel, 76, who have been together for 23 years and were the first couple married in Manhattan. This lovely shot reminds us of the Ladies First etiquette that prevailed in San Francisco back in 2008 when pioneering dyke activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first same-sex couple to jump the broom during the brief period when marriage equality was available in the Golden State.)

These folks, too, are ready to play The Newlywed Game:

(The image above is a partial screen capture of a gallery of "Portraits From the New York City Marriage Bureau" that ran in the New York Times. All photos by Fred R. Conrad, NYT. See the whole thing, which includes links to brief audio commentary by each couple, here. The website BuzzFeed also ran a collection of 60 portraits of just-married same-sex couples. Access here.)

The logic of such representations is inescapably normalizing. A wedding portrait is a wedding portrait, whether the couple at the center of the frame is same-sex or opposite-sex. These images fit comfortably into the matrimonial grid, as it were, and into the assimilationist logic embraced by many proponents of same-sex marriage. "We feel a little more human today," commented a 68-year-old New Yorker who married his partner of 42 years on Sunday. Wow: State-sanctioned love makes us a little more human. So much for that whole We don't need no piece of paper from the city hall keeping us tied and true, eh? Please, sir, license my love so that I may feel a little less monstrous than I have felt these 42 years.

On the other hand, there is also something ineluctably queer about these photos, shaped as they are by a homologic we don't see in opposite-sex wedding portraits. Roxie's World is in general opposed to same-sex couples dressing alike, which is why the Moms carefully consult one another before ordering out of certain catalogs that cater to women of a certain age and sensibility. In the wedding photos, however, sartorial similarity -- matching jackets, ties, tee-shirts, banners -- injects an element of symmetry that is, in this context, destabilizing and revealing, accustomed as our eyes are to the traditional asymmetry of a groom in a tux and bride in a gown. On closer examination, the new marital order turns out not to look like the old one, at least not entirely.

The photos also have a giddy, anarchical quality we don't tend to associate with hetero wedding portraits, hyper-stylized and air-brushed as they are. The slightly unruly, improvised look in some of the photos from New York no doubt has something to do with the excitement and uncertainty of rushing to get on stage for the opening performance of a new musical we ought to call The Empire (State) of Love. One might hope, though, that something of that unruliness will persist even as the novelty of same-sex marriage wears off, in New York and elsewhere. For those who would insist that marriage will change (for the better) once queers get hold of it, the signs of difference and disruption in these images are encouraging: State-sanctioned love doesn't make us more human. We make state-sanctioned love more queer. Pretty to think so, isn't it?

As we pause here in that happy interlude that comes after the first weddings and before the first divorce, yes, my darlings, Roxie's World raises a glass and a paw to the idea that queer love can survive anything, even marriage. Congratulations to all of those who took the plunge this week. May your landings be soft and your love as stubborn as an old queen trying to get the bartender's attention at last call. Peace out and mazel tov!

(Niagara Falls [via] all decked out [maybe] for same-sex marriage.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ruby's Worlds

The heartwarming story of Sister Ruby's journey from a Missouri puppy mill to a Maryland pleasure palace is now up on the American Fox Terrier Rescue website. It includes photos even the Moms have never seen of the new embodied dog of Roxie's World shortly after her liberation, late last November, from a life of confinement and forced breeding. (Ruby was called "Sissy" by the angels who rescued her, so her transitional name was "Sister Ruby.") You'll also find a little piece that Moose wrote to let readers know how Ruby's adjustment to life with a ridiculously large backyard and a couple of besotted humans is going. Shorter version: The poor kid is coping. Somehow.

On their recent road trip to the midwestern Land of the Moosians, the Moms -- in that way they have of pretending that dogs talk -- imagined that their adorable little companion kept asking from the backseat of the car, "We're not going through Missouri, are we? 'Cause I really don't want to go through Missouri!" -- As if she were a canine Louise ordering Thelma to find a way to get to Mexico without going through Texas. "Not to worry, Ruby-doo," Goose assured her. "We won't be going through Missouri, ever!"

Sometimes late at night, curled up on the couch, Moose gazes into Ruby's big, brown, trusting eyes and tries to imagine Missouri and the first three years of her sweet girl's life. She wants to reconstruct that missing time and space in order more fully to understand the present -- the way Ruby will freeze in her tracks when she encounters a more dominant dog, for example, or the deep, instantaneous attachment she can form to a new toy. In this desire, Moose is not unlike Denver in Toni Morrison's Beloved, who longs to know the story of her family's origins at Sweet Home, the Kentucky plantation from which Sethe, her then enslaved mother, escaped while pregnant with her. "Denver, you can't never go there," Sethe urgently insists, after explaining Sweet Home's persistence in what she calls rememory. "Never. Because even though it's all over -- over and done with -- it's going to always be there waiting for you. That's how come I had to get all my children out. No matter what."

Is it fair to compare a puppy mill to a slave-holding plantation? Probably not, though we think the analogy points to certain brutal economic similarities between the two spaces. In any case, we hope you'll grant the validity of Moose's desire for knowledge of a beloved other's possibly traumatic past. Tell me your story, we say to those we love. Tell me your story, so that I may know you fully and we can share whatever burden there may be from your past. Tell me your story, and I will tell you mine, and in the telling we will become something new.

Or we will write a new story, in a new place, a better place, a hotter than hell place that is not hell but Paradise. With smoothies.

It's the American dream, darlings, as revised and realized by the Department of Middle-Aged Dykes With Dogs. Don't be jealous. Every breed has a rescue organization. If you love a particular breed and are ready to expand the size of your pack, get in touch with a rescue group. Or contact a shelter in your area. As Lucinda Williams says in the song we embedded here the other day, "You were born to be loved" -- and you were born to love. What the heck are you waiting for?

* * *

Dedicated, with thanks and admiration, to the good folks of American Fox Terrier Rescue, who brought the sweetest critter on dog's earth into our lives, and to all the friends who have so kindly welcomed Ms. Ruby into our extended pack. We love running with each and all of you, actually and virtually.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Smoothie/Ruby Tuesday

(Photo Credit: Moose, 7/19/11)

Moose couldn't take it anymore. Over the past couple of weeks, she's been subjected to a barrage of ads for McDonald's new mango-pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie. The commercials are peppy and fun and summery, and the fruit is so luscious and juicy-looking that Moose's mouth would water every time she saw the ad. Damn, she'd think to herself, I want me a mango-pineapple smoothie! Finally, instead of driving to McDonald's, which she has not done in several decades, she ordered Goose to pick up a mango or two on a recent trip to the grocery store. This morning, she decided today would be the day she made her very first smoothie.

Yep, kids, this is what passes for culinary adventure as the household moves forward on the effort to maintain Moose 2.0: A Considerably Less Broad Broad Than She Used to Be. You want high-fat food porn? Photos of risotto swimming tantalizingly in a sea of butter and white wine? Recipes that call for half a pound of ricotta without offering the nutri-Nazi qualifier part-skim? Then head on over to our pal Comrade PhysioProf, whose latest nom de plume is the apt Comradde RisottoProffe. He'll keep you fat and happy or permit you to indulge in some safe full-fat voyeurism if that is what floats your boat.

Here in Roxie's World, however, the name of the game is keeping the points low and the satisfaction high, which means, ladies and non-ladies, that it's time to start your blenders!

Moose did some surfing around the intertoobz looking for a smoothie recipe, just enough to realize that you don't really need a recipe. Here's what she ended up doing, and the results were deelish:

Moose's Mango-Pineapple Smoothie:

1. Peel and chop a mango. Toss into blender.
2. Chop a nice thick slice of pineapple. Toss into blender.
3. Slice a banana. Toss into blender.
4. Dump 3/4 cup of non-fat vanilla yogurt into blender. (We've been enjoying Brown Cow yogurt lately. Just sayin'.)
5. Dump about a cup of ice into blender.
6. Put lid on blender, press "smoothie" button, and pulverize the heck out of that healthy $hit.
7. Pour into a clear glass, photograph for posterity, and present to skeptical partner, who, a few minutes later, will squeal happily, "I feel like Popeye eating his spinach!"

So, what's (not) cooking in your blenders, nutri-Nerds? Moose brought some of the season's first peaches home from the market on Sunday, so we're betting tomorrow's frothy mix will include a fuzzy orb or two. What do you do to sex up your smoothies? Are there any fans of flaxseed out there? Debauchees of dates? We're new to this liquid breakfast business, so we are eager to hear your thoughts.

Meantime, since it's Tuesday, here's a little glimpse of Ruby, whose been spending quite a bit of time curled up with a new toy the Shy One brought for her the other evening. It's a pheasant, and Ms. Ruby has been obsessive in her devotion, spending long hours in her crate and refusing to let anyone else get near the adored stuffed critter. She loves it so much she hasn't even disemboweled it to get at its squeaker yet:

(Photo Credit: Moose, 7/19/11)

Ruby Tuesdays are about songs, so here's one from Lucinda Williams, who the Moms will be seeing tonight at Wolf Trap. Technically, it's not a Ruby song, since that name is never uttered, but it's a beautiful song about how all dog's children are born to be loved, which means it has a special resonance for a girl rescued from the cold cruelness of a puppy-mill and transported to the paradise of Roxie's world. Sing it, Lucinda, and remember, darlings: You weren't born for nothing either. Peace out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dear Abby

Would you please come home and raise the debt ceiling? Yours sincerely, US of A

Because, you know, I'm pretty sure she could.

(Photo Credit: Martin Meissner, Associated Press, via. AP caption: United States forward Abby Wambach celebrates after scoring the winning goal against France on Wednesday.)

Girl's got a good head on her shoulders, after all, which is more than you can say for the dudebros in DC these days.

(Photo Credit: Associated Press, via.)

Sigh. We are officially soccer-illiterate here in Roxie's World, but you know we love us any estrogen-fueled spectacle of power and grace, so we are all in for Abby and her gang o' high-kicking gal pals over there in Germany battling for the World Cup. You go, girls, and when it's over get your firm behinds home and get to work fixing any of the several. pickles. our nation. is currently in.

Meantime, whatever it is you do to win a soccer game, we hope you will do it supremely well against Japan on Sunday. Use your heads, wimmin. Right? Right! Go, team, go!

And, you, dudebros, being all preening and stupid and strateger-ic: Straighten up, fly right, and pay the bills. The clock is ticking, and your nation is sick of the dithering. Shut up and make a deal. Use your heads, if you can manage to pull them out of your un-firm behinds.

Yours sincerely, US of A

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blogger Babes Bare All!

Apparently, it's Show-and-Tell Day in the academic feminist blogosphere. Missed the memo? Consider this your invitation to participate!

Our dear friend Historiann, whom we have never met in the dimension commonly referred to as Real Life, posted photographs this morning of herself and her husband frolicking in the Colorado wilderness. These are, as far as we know, the first images Historiann's readers have ever seen of the Real People behind the blog. To our surprise and considerable disappointment, Historiann is not wearing chaps or brandishing a lasso in the picture. On the other hand, the head-and-shoulders shot proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that our favorite tenured cowgirl has a very fine neck and a regal way of looking at a camera, which somehow does not surprise us. Think Audrey Hepburn, only outdoorsy-er.

Not to be outdone by our blog pal's sudden penchant for self-revelation, the Beach Blanket Bingo players of Roxie's World are pleased to offer this bodacious image of Moose last week in South Haven, MI, looking for all the world as if she is ready for the swimsuit competition in next year's Ms. Blogosphere pageant:

(Photo Credit: Little Sister of the Moosians, 7/4/11)

Yes, as a matter of fact, we have lost our minds. It could be the heat has gotten to us. It's hot as heck here in the national capital area today. We thought this photo might help local readers cool off. Also, we thought you'd get a kick out of seeing the reading glasses placed strategically in front of the giant sunglasses, not to mention the kind of high-octane reading material Moose takes with her to the beach. (Look, she had her Kindle with her, too, and actually read a screen or two of Sherry Turkle's Alone Together before nodding off in the sun!) We also felt it was important to immortalize the ridiculous floral bathing suit Moose was forced to buy out in New Mexico when she showed up at a hot springs spa that used to be sex-segregated and clothing-optional. That she is still wearing the suit nearly two years later proves that cheapness triumphs over vanity in la famillle Moosianne.

Mostly, though, we offer this shockingly revealing image as a way of commemorating the six-month anniversary of Moose's Lifestyle Adjustment Program. It's true. Six months ago today she walked into a meeting, stepped on a scale, and made a commitment to eating less, moving more, and feeling better. Tomorrow, she will walk back into a meeting, step on that same scale, and declare herself on maintenance. An important part of the journey will be over. A victory will be (sensibly) celebrated, and a new stage, more challenging in many ways for Moose than the effort to take off weight, will begin. To mark that transition, we offer a photograph, not to brag, shame, or even necessarily inspire, but simply to acknowledge and to remember: For one feisty middle-aged broad, this is what feeling better looks like.

Peace out, darlings. Be well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Party's Over

(Photo Credit: Moose, 7/10/11)

We don't usually title Moose's humble photographic efforts, to which this blog's loyal readers are regularly subjected, but The Party's Over seems an apt name for this lucky shot of Ms. Ruby mesmerized by the balloons left over from the 80th birthday bash thrown for the Mother of the Moosians on Saturday. Ruby bounded out of her mobile home on Sunday morning and went straight to the festive bunch of slowly sinking balloons in the living room. She watched them for awhile, then entertained herself and assorted caffeinating Moosians by experimenting with various ways of attacking them, including pouncing, swatting, and snapping at them. Eventually, some sensible person intervened to put the balloons out of reach, concerned that the embodied dog of Roxie's World might injure herself if one of them popped and forced her to ingest an inordinate amount of helium. Just in case the video below, which by some strange coinkydink Moose had stumbled across late Saturday night, is not an accurate depiction of what happens when a cute little fox terrier is forced to ingest an inordinate amount of helium (trigger warning for extreme ridiculousness and [we hope] possible fakery):

Ruby and the Moms tore themselves away from the balloons and the family and hit the road at high noon yesterday. They made it back to Roxie's World shortly after 10 PM, just in time to unpack, nuke a couple of low-fat frozen dinners, and accidentally catch the last few minutes of The Marriage Ref. Moose's verdict on the show? If the Defense of Marriage Act can't protect us from this bizarre monstrosity, what freakin' good is it? Srsly, people, if this is what civilization has come to, I think we should demand a do-over.

So, the pack is back. The trip was in every way delightful. Moose worried about gaining weight simply because she crossed the threshold of an ice cream parlor at one point and stood down wind of a heaping vat of mac 'n cheese at another. She ended up losing a couple of pounds, of course, and so is eagerly anticipating an official transition to maintenance later this week. Stay tuned for the further adventures of Moose 2.0: A Less Portly Dyke Than She Used to Be!

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the blogosphere, a smart young whippersnapper calling himself Will Danger went to see Next to Normal at KenCen and wrote a fine long post exploring what the show has to say about the affective trajectory of grief. And Historiann asks some timely questions about whether Skype interviews will eventually (or soon?) replace the meat markets centralized forums for academic interviewing that the conventions of the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association have become in recent decades. Go read them, darlings, while we knock the sand out of our shoes and try to remember what exactly it was we intended to accomplish this summer. Oh, and if you really need to hear the song our post title put into your sensitive little head, click here and let Doris Day soothe your disappointed, dissipated, party-loving soul. Peace out.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

By the Lake

Vacay Photo/Text Essay Brought to You by Willa Cather, Because Even When We Play We Are Hard-Workin' Lit Critters in Roxie's World.

Photo/Text #1: This one goes out to our good buddy and summer reader Historiann, who will score 25 points and an extra large pisco sour if she can identify the source of the following revery upon Lake Michigan:
[le Michigan] is altogether different. It is a sea, and yet it is not salt. It is blue, but quite another blue. Yes, there are clouds and mists and sea-gulls, but -- I don't know, il est toujours pus naif.

Photo/Text #2: Here Cather supplies us with a clever title for a pic of Ms. Ruby and her cousin Scooter out for a long evening stroll beside the lake. We call it, naturellement, Shadows on the Rock:

(Photo Credits: Moose, 7/6/11)

The Moms and la Ruby are on the road for a few more days, headed south later today to gear up for a big eightieth birthday celebration for the Mother of the Moosians this weekend. Back to regular blogalicious programming soon, I promise. For now, we'll leave you with another pithy Cather quote on the particular loveliness of Lake Michigan, which Moose is so deeply delighted to have discovered once again:
[T]he great fact in life, the always possible escape from dullness, was the lake . . . . [I]t was like an open door that nobody could shut. The land and all its dreariness could never close in on you. You had only to look at the lake, and you knew you would soon be free.
We'll let Historiann tell you where that one came from, too, darlings. We've got a boat to catch! Peace out.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Fireworks Are Hailing . . .

. . . over a Little Eden slightly west of Jersey last night. Greetings from South Haven, Michigan, darlings, where the Moms and Ms. Ruby are celebrating the birth of the nation with the Baby Sister of the Moosians and several guitar-playing, shaggy-haired adolescent sweet peas. The sky is clear and the breeze is soft. We hope your particular corner of the world is as pretty as this one is today.

All photos by Moose, lying on her back on the beach, looking up through the lens of Goose's iPhone, her heart full of joy and the memories of summers past in this ever lovely place. Peace out, my pretties, and remember: It's your country, too. Make something of it.