Wednesday, November 26, 2008



So our President-Elect doesn't want a "girly-dog" like Barbara Walters' terrier. He wants something more 'rambunctious.'

I'm not in a position to help him select his cabinet, but I do know a bit about rambunctious dogs. I'm not certain that Chicago folks have had the same opportunities as their more rural cousins to experience the wonder of rambunctiousness.

When I think of a puppy in the White House, I of course think of pee on the floor. The old newspaper training method seems particularly well suited to someone who is on the receiving end of constant media scrutiny. "Right over here, Fido--on the Washington Times, page 5." It's a pity that Fox News can't be included, but blowing out fuses could get pretty old and pretty expensive in short order.

Back to the puppy itself. Since Obama isn't drawn to foo-foo dogs, and I'm sure that he wants someone who'll be great with children, I'm recommending three magnificently lovable, yet frisky breeds.

Let's start with America's most popular breed, the Labrador retriever. Cuddly sweet, great with kids, labs come in three delicious flavors-- er colors, chocolate, yellow, and black. I know that we have already had a First Dog who was a lab, Bill Clinton's Buddy, who was hit by a car after he left the White House. Labs have an actual skill--they retrieve divinely, and can get their ya-yas out chasing tennis balls. (Note: don't bother with all those yuppie toys; they'll never measure up to the joy that a tennis ball can bring. I pissed away about a hundred bucks on variations on the tennis ball, only to watch them wash out to the Atlantic via the system of dams on the Connecticut River. Make that the system of damns. I didn't learn quickly, but in this time of budgetary crisis, Mr. President-Elect, save your money and go with a big bag of tennis balls.) Labs are food-driven dogs, and if not supervised to have a desire to eat their own shit, which of course will make them right at home in DC. They are eager to please and highly trainable. Just about anything else can be negotiated with a cookie. The coprophagia aside (there's a nice word for everything, isn't there?) the lab's biggest drawback in a historical mansion like the White House is his generosity with his coat. He does shed. That can be a drag.

There are a couple of choices in the no-shed zone, still reliably rambunctious. Take, for instance, the Portuguese water dog. My lab used to enjoy romping with a couple of them. As their name suggests, they're great swimmers and lovely, bouncy boys. They're good-sized, bright, and sweet. They're the natural choice for those who might otherwise be inclined to that mix rip-off, the labradoodle, the lab-poodle mix for which breeders are charging way too much. The latter are bred for the sweetness of the lab and the smarts of the poodle, but really, if you're going to go to all that trouble you might as well get a nice Portuguese water dog.

Last, consider the golden retriever. Okay, okay--they will need more brushing than the lab, but a golden bounding across the White House lawn will do much to revive the flagging spirits of Americans everywhere. They are especially attractive as they bound, and they seem more content with regular foodstuffs, less driven to ... er... alternatives than labs. Goldens are very sweet dogs, inclined to lean on their masters, a habit that can be very reassuring in times of trouble. I have close friends with three rescued goldens, each of which is sweeter than the one before.

The thing about rambunctious dogs is their absolute need for exercise. Someone, Sasha and Melia spring immediately to mind, should be consecrated to the administration of the physical fitness program. I have a neighbor who thinks that staking a puppy in the middle of the yard is acceptable exercise. He's been through three dogs, unhappy that they "tear up the house" because of his neglect. Sasha and Melia, hear me: feeding the dog is just the beginning of the responsibility part. If there isn't time in anybody's schedule for exercising puppy and the dog s/he eventually becomes, a girly-dog* is actually a better choice.

So, Mr. President-Elect, it's a darn shame you don't read this repository of wisdom, canine and otherwise. I actually just wish I could stick my neighbor's nose in what I have written here. But if you need a Canine Advisor on the White House staff, give me a call. Maddie and I would be willing to serve our country in any way we can.

*Has Obama been sneaking around with Arnold?

Monday, November 24, 2008


Congratulations and Condolences

With the global economy down the toilet and every tenth person on the verge of unemployment, it's time that we bowed our heads this week and focused on what's really important.

If you think I'm about to drone on about the joys of home and family, forget it. We're talking about People Magazine's annual Sexiest Man Alive "award."

I'm relieved that Barack didn't make the list.

It's always a time of joy, sorrow, and probably embarrassment: joy for the most avid fans of this year's Sexiest, sorrow for fans of previous years' Sexiest, embarrassment (I hope) for the brighter men accorded this dubious distinction. And condolences are in order, no doubt. Is last year's Sexiest no longer alive, or no longer Sexiest?

What happened? An unfortunate meal of blowfish in a Japanese bistro? The wrong
haircut or film role? There are so many ways to be dead, both to sex appeal and to life itself.

The two sort of merge when it comes to Hollywood and People Magazine, so you may want to send condolences to the families of Matt, Brad, George, and all the other
no-longer-sexiest-men-no-longer-alive. It must be devastating, and I am sorry for your losses.

I guess the consolation prize is not some helpful tome like The Consolation of Philosophy by that top People columnist Boetheus, but being listed among the 129 other hot guys, the better for teeny-boppers to squeal over. There's always the hope that you may once again rise in the rankings (I think that Boethius covered that) as Brad Pitt did. If not, the Wheel of Fortune (the one before Pat Sajak) will serve as a permanent reminder that what is constant is change.

Tut-tut and pity. I must go to my closet and don black for the unsexiest dead men.

It's the least I can do.
.. and wait for the Dubious Achievement Awards from Esquire Magazine. They ought to be something, with all the Sarah Palin we survived.

In the meantime Palin's probably up in Juneau, or getting her per diem in Wasilla, fuming that there's no Sexiest Woman Alive award for her.

Maybe there'll be one by 2012.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Scary Monster Super Creeps

Note to readers in other countries:

If you are starting to think good things about the USA again, go right ahead. But don't kid yourselves: we have a long, long way to go.

I was beginning a shift at the library in the company of a volunteer who was happy to take a break with me while we smiled at the pictures of the new First Family in the latest issue of People magazine. We talked about how reluctant some of Obama's supporters here in Vermont are to take their campaign signs down. Serious Basking in the Moment here.

Then Jean told me about the article she'd seen in yesterday's local daily: threats against Obama are the highest of any against a president or president-elect. She pointed me to one instance, Oak Hill General Store, in Standish, Maine, where someone had posted an "assassination pool" on how many days it would take till Obama was killed. The sign indicated that shooting, stabbing, etc. were all acceptable means, with some drip adding at the bottom of the sign, "Here's hoping we have a winner."

A winner for losers.

Once the Secret Service apprised store owner Steve Collins of the illegality of promoting the murder of the President of the United States, he was able to take the coward's path and deny that he was aware of the existence of the sign.


I think that a small, tasteful postcard campaign to Mr. Collins at the Oak Hill General Store, Standish, ME 04084 would be in order here. Let's adopt the style of our President-Elect. No name-calling or threats or obscenities. A simple "Shame on you" will suffice.

Remember when people booed at the mention of McCain's name at Obama rallies? He said, "You don't have to boo; you just have to vote." So some class among his followers is called for here.

I do think that a Shame On You campaign is definitely in order.

Join me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Obama and the Down Side of Charisma

Since our guy got elected, I've been a little too slap-happy, I guess.

It's a rarified environment in which I live--in Vermont, the whitest state in the union, virtually every county went for Obama. We all grin idiotically at each other since the election; we all know what we're grinning about. People don't want to take their lawn signs down. Talk about afterglow! It's like the whole region just got laid, after 8 years of being screwed.

So it was a jolt to me to bumble around on the web this morning and run into some fool of a Georgia congressman who is afraid that Obama will seize power and create a dictatorship. Remember Hitler! He trumpets. He was democratically elected, then look what happened!

Of course, much of this can be laid to the fact that McCain-Palin courted the Stupid vote. Stupids are definitely a constituency; if they weren't, Rush Limbaugh wouldn't make so much money. Say really dumb things over and over again, and you can count on Stupid voters to believe them to be true. Rush does it. Cheney and Bush did it. Fox pundits have made an industry of it.

I couldn't find the Stupid congressman's name by Googling Obama+dictator... instead I ran into a bunch of really moronic blogs and bulletin boards who were pumping this dreamy misinformation into cyberspace. I looked around at a few sites and got so annoyed I decided that I would have to live without the Honorable Joe Blow's actual name. Who needs the aggravation?

The trouble with racists is that they can't see that non-racists don't play by their rules. Obama hasn't been sitting in some bunker sharpening his knives, the better to run Whitey through at the first opportunity in order to gain revenge for all those injustices.

But it's what these assholes would do, if given the chance. They can't imagine anyone working any other way. And having failed to learn anything about Constitutional protections, schools of economic theory, and having ignored everything Obama said about a new political paradigm during the campaign, having failed to see that he called no names, launched no lies, created no false assumptions, made no attempts to arouse fear in the American people, they are ripe for all the crap that the idiots on Fox news launched as a substitute for actual news.

We will go on, here in the Northeast, enjoying the overturning of destructive executive orders by the departing president, watching Obama turn away from revenge scenarios--he isn't even interested in beating up Joe Lieberman.

And by the way, during that same Depression we elected a guy who set up government programs to give people work and dignity, the better to keep fascism at bay in this country.

Finally a uniter, and these morons are trying to paint swastikas on him and give him a weird little moustache.

Ain't that just how some folks will do?!?


Sunday, November 09, 2008


Bridging the Great Divide(s)

About 10 years ago I wrote a grant proposal to the Apple Foundation, urging the establishment of an interracial bulletin board for high school kids. I was teaching American Studies at the time and thought that my students, mostly white, would benefit from other points of view. We're the whitest state in the nation demographically, and poked out of the way in the Northeast to boot, so the Internet seemed to offer a transcendence of geography and demography.

I didn't get the grant. I guess that the urgency was my own.

Just this morning my spouse pointed me to an excellent web site,
The Root, an African American pastiche of excellent writing and diverse, if strongly black, viewpoints. They do humor brilliantly (check out 5 Obama haircuts that he should not adopt, what black and whiter voters ought not to do/say for starters). Humor is always a good sign.

The existence of The Root has energized me. Frankly, there's more to life than making fun of Sarah Palin, however broad her ol' metaphysical behind, and I was losing the energy of the Bush years, negative energy though it mostly was.

What I find so motivating about The Root is the reminder that though our guy has gotten into
office, lots of questions and feelings of distrust remain. All you have to do to remember this is to follow the comments at the end of the mostly well written and succinct articles. There you'll find people yammering about Obama's blood cells black and white, his upbringing, his need to remember that he is STILL a black man in America, the argument of whether gay rights are civil rights, and so on.

What Obama has given us, more than at any other time, is an opportunity to talk to each other.

In my college days (class of '69, wink wink) I remember "befriending" Afro-American students in the dorm. Raised in Orange County, CA when it was still very white, I have always been a diversity junkie and was grateful for the chance to meet someone whose exterior differed from my own and whose style always thrilled me a little. (I have never had much style, so I gaze in wonder at those who do.) Those were the days when Black Student Unions were forming, where my dorm-mates were forsaking hot combs for afros and eventually, dropping white friends in the making of black pride. (I hadn't yet read Ralph Ellison's character's Bledsoe's remark about the necessity of telling the white man what he wants to hear.) I was a little sad, but it did seem to me that there were many things that I didn't get, and I know how comforting it is not having to be a goddam representative of anything when you are just learning to be a person.
Just needing a place to be your developing self.

(This last was underscored many times for me when I became a teacher and had to put up with the Opinions of everybody on the sorry state of education, the shitty ways that schools were treating children, nieces and nephews, etc., as I was forced into the role of representative of schooling at any party I attended.
Such are the burdens of Social Significance.)

In any case, it does seem that this is a great time for the races to chat each other up. It's going to take a national coalition not just to elect, but to implement. We have all sorts of issues to address, and the sooner we follow the example of Obama's respectful ways, the sooner we'll be able to address problems and assumptions that are less about race, more about some pernicious patterns that have plopped down on and distorted our national consciousness.

To survive economically and spiritually, to fulfill the idea that keeps people coming to our shores, we're going to have to become more creative than consumptive, more active than passive, more committed to solving problems than pointing fingers. This I think is what our new president is all about, and it's what I hope that we will be all about, too.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Filling a Market Niche

Well, dears, I don't know about you and this economy, but let me tell you--Lulu isn't lettin' any grass grow beneath her feet. Like any whiz-bang entrepreneur, she is constantly scannin' the free market horizon, gettin' ready to make her next big score.

If my diction is gettin' a little more caz-zhool, I'm just tryin' to master the idiom of my student-to-be, the next Senator from The Great State of Alaska.

Yep, welcome to Lulu's Portable Prep School for Congressional Wanna-Be's. Since it's only a matter of time till Ted Stevens gets his eviction notice from the SOB (Senate Office Building), I'm sure that Sarah Palin will be wantin' to bone up on a few fundamentals before she's jumpin' on Todd's snowmobile and hittin' the campaign trail.

I'm lookin' forward to workin' with Sarah. Here's our first lesson. Color Malawi in red, Botswana in blue, Kenya in yellow. What are the principal products of Madagascar? Does Robert Mugabe have any principles? What's the Ivory Coast known for? Extra credit: write a report about the lima bean and its nation of origin. Put it in one of those nice covers.

You see, Sarah had a dental appointment on the day they were doin' Africa in 9th grade social studies. She was havin' her teeth sharpened, and bein' such a nice kid, a coach-teacher's pet of sorts, he didn't see anything wrong with lettin' her skip the assignment. After all, what do Alaskans need to know about Africa?

Now that it's time to spackle in a few areas of Sarah's world knowledge, I'm pretty sure I'm goin' to find a ready pupil. I'm contractin' with Ted Stevens to bring her up to speed on technology; he's agreed to let her do a special diorama of the series of tubes that is the Internet.

So doncha worry about old Lulu in this economic downturn. I figure that I'm worth about as much as the stylist who adjusted Sarah's lipliner and blush, so $22K a week should get me by. I'll be campin' out at the governor's mansion, since Sarah's per diem for workin' at home is a little too sweet to pass up. Can you blame her?

So write when you can. Just send any emails care of Ted' and keep me up to date on what's happenin' in the lower 48. I'll miss ya, but I've gotta follow the money, doncha know?

You betcha.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


That Two-Nostril Voting Experience

I can't remember a time when I was more enthusiastic about a candidate. I didn't have to hold my nose as I voted, not even a little.

These lovely people in the White House? Too good!

I can't wait for them to enrich the national consciousness with their essence and experiences.

Yes, I'm premature, but dang, this is an election that has to be about all the good things that this young man is.

The Presidency must not turn into the unhinged vet's retirement home. There is too much work to do, and somebody consecrated to the high road, as this guy has been throughout the campaign, has to take us in new directions. I really believe that he has the respect for and therefore the power to draw respect from all sorts of folks.

Good luck, darlin' Obamas. It's a matter of hours now, I do pray.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Thank You, Studs

First of all, thank you for living such a long life. You had so many good things to do that your body did its best to keep up with your curiosities and causes. You were the energy of civic life and intellect.

Thanks for being a great listener. I have several of your books on my shelves, and only someone who listens respectfully and prods with gentle questions could have achieved the level of self and societal revelation that your books achieved.

Thanks especially for Working. I used that book in my senior English classes to give my students a peek at what the that world looked like in its multidimensional wonder and horror. I especially treasured your introduction, which my students were not yet ready to understand, but I understood too well:

This book, being about work, is, by its very nature, about violence--to the spirit as well as to the body. .. It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor, in short for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.

Thanks for the case of autographed books you sent to us to auction off when Watsonville, CA cannery workers were involved in a crucial strike. We got together to stage a performance of your play, and I remember what you wrote in those books: "Stick together and you'll win."

Thanks also for your courageous books on Race, on Coming of Age, on Hard Times and the Second World War. Thanks for your radio show, which provided people a place for discussion and dialogue with dignity.

Thanks also for being so accessible to those who wanted to meet you. In searching for a picture of you for this blog, I found so many pictures of ecstatic young folks photographed with you, thrilled to make your acquaintance.

You were the embodiment of Chicago for me. I have yet to visit that city, but I feel that I have read the words of its best.

I am comforted that I still have you in your books, which I will dip into again and again, in the hopes that some of your wisdom will rub off on me.

May you ride in the finest Cosmic Cab.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


School Children Want to Know...

Daddy, am I a plumber?
Are you what?!?

A man at school told me I was a plumber. And all my school, too. Are we plumbers?
Don't be ridiculous. You're my little Princess. They're telling you this at school?
Well, they took us to this place outside, and there was a man who wants to be president and he told us we were all plumbers.
Named Joe.

I can only hope that John McCain is as desperate as this little vignette suggests. As it turns out, hoping to extend the 15 minutes allotted to each of us in the USA, Joe has been out securing himself an agent and an audition for singing country music. A book deal? A political career? If only McCain's coattails were so long.

Still, I can't wait to hear him sing. Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, eat your patriotic hearts out.

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