I bought my first rotisserie chicken tonight. I thought of cooks I know--my mom, Eliza, Deandra (if she had anything to do with chickens)--who would buy a whole chicken for $1.99 and roast it themselves, but I am far, far from doing that. Actually, for me, the rotisserie chicken was a big step up--my normal food when I'm on my own is either Healthy Choice frozen entrees or (my favorite) cold cereal.

The chicken was good. I had some pasta left over from when Walter was here last weekend, and I heated it up, tossed in some chunks of chicken, and voila--a decent dinner. I'm trying to remember that it's a feminist act to feed myself. If I can make it political, I'm more likely to do it.

And along those lines, I'm also trying to recognize that not overworking myself is a feminist act. I spoke with long-time Women's Studies directors Jean Fox O'Barr and Maggie McFadden at the symposium this week, and they both encouraged me to slow down a bit and think long-term. I'm loaded with great ideas, but I don't have to do them all now. I also don't have to do them all myself. I know damn well that if I burn myself out I'm not doing anybody any good, but it can be hard to live that knowledge.

Anybody got tips for not overworking?


alison is gonna be annoyed....

she doesn't like it when i write stuff right after her. if she were a bluegrass player she'd say "hey man, stop steppin' on my break." but she's alison so she'll say, "dammit, biffle, everytime i post something, you post something right after it!"

sorry baby.

everybody be sure to scroll down and read alison's post. it contains some juicy gossip about dick cheney. do it now, and then come back to here. i'll provide you with asterisks, so you can pick up exactly where you left off...


for those of you who looked (kenneth): yes indeed, i did post something about patrick fitzgerald. i deleted it. see. here's the deal: what's this blog about, anyway? i know i don't want it to be about the minutia (minutae?) of someone else's day. for my part, i'd rather it be my personal riffs on external events.

so instead of merely reporting that "patrick fitzgerald just made a wonderful showing on television. he is a young man to watch," i'd rather be asking did he purposely pick out that presidential outfit for his press conference? blue suit, red tie, white shirt. yeah, that's a pretty standard color scheme, but his had the tiny elements down so well--mostly the tie.
a presidential tie usually has a large ratio of red to bauble.



his baubles were exceptionally small. (insert genitalia joke here).

News from the Feminist Beltway

I was at Duke at a conference for the last two days. It was a great event--I got to present with Paula Kamen, whose new work on women's experiences of chronic pain is really interesting, and I hung out with Therese Shechter, who has made a great film called I Was a Teenage Feminist. And I also got to experience how much I enjoy public speaking--I'm finding that I don't have to be over-prepared (while I was prepared, of course, I was a closing plenary speaker, and as such, I was expected to reflect on some of the themes that had emerged during the conference, so some of what I said was put together on the spot), and it feels pretty natural and fun for me.

Anyway, the news that the title of this post promises is as follows: Dick Cheney will be retiring within the month. How about that? According to my unnamed sources from the conference, this is what lefty folks in D.C. are saying right now. Maybe the tide really has turned on the Bush fuckers. I'm reluctant to be too hopeful--we've seen them get caught before and experience no consequences--but it's a great rumor, if nothing else, and should be spread.


a question, out of the blue, to you readers out there:

if you read this sentence as it pertained to a piece of art

Part of my intent is obliquely referencing the inter-connections that exist between privilege and need--how both these things are complicite in the perpetuation of the

would you know what it was getting at?

really, the question is: do i ever make a damn bit of sense?


fun with words:

in addition to the blog sitcom there could be a broadway musical. you know what it'd be called?


alison and i had a good running joke over the weekend: what if there were a vampire whose only special power was farting? he'd be called a fartpire.

i recently wrote a very short song:

people are sheep
we should call ourselves sheeple.


three new thoughts for the day (heaviest first):

#1 I woke up this morning excited about going home this weekend. "whoo-hoo! i'm going home," i thought. In times past, this thought has produced in me a certain chemical response. One that sorta floods me with warm feelings, and makes me think that i'm smelling something i really like. This morning, however, the moment after the "whoo-hoo" was met with a kind of confusion. "Just what is this home?" i asked myself.
i know what's at home--alison and baxter and the monkeys and a yard that needs to be mowed. But where was the feeling?

see, i'm not sure if my math is right, but i think that at this point in the fall, i've been here in massachusetts longer than i've been in charleston. At least it feels that way. So i'm not even gonna look at a calender to see if it's true--what's empirical evidence worth when feelings are a much more accurate barometer of truth?

wait! what was that sound? Oh, i know. it was the collective gasp of thousands of myers-briggs-ians out there, most of whom have no idea this blog even exists. They must've felt the disturbance in the force.

(note to alison: before you get too sad about number one, i really just wrote it for the joke. i thought of it while i was cookin' some eggs. luv you.)

#2 although i have given up drinking--just for today--i've still thought of a great drinking game. and it's an excellent game for those of you who drink alone, as it only requires this blog. It's called The Kelly Piepmeier Exclamation Point Drinking Game. Here are the rules: read all the comments made by alison's mom on this blog and take a drink every time she uses an exclamation point. You'll need a treatment center within the week.

#3 great idea of the moment: why hasn't one of the television networks come up with a sitcom based around someone and their blog? a hapless opinion spouter, a la jerry seinfeld (or me, for that matter), sits and blogs. Strangers read, threats of greatness loom, the zany adventures start!


Here are some pictures from the weekend with Catherine, Deandra, and Molly.


Someday the profits I live on will be my own,
But for now I need your help to have a home.
Sure, I could go to school and get more student loans,
But where would you be if I left you all alone?

--“So Now Hey Girl,” Biffle, c. 1997

The house was a mess last weekend—filled with people and stuff, baby Molly crawling around, Catherine, Deandra, and I lounging all over the living room and kitchen making food, talking, navigating the animals, and in the midst of it, I had a realization. I’m living a really self-sufficient life right now—much more self-sufficient than I ever thought was possible. I’m in a new town, at a new job, making new friends, and I’m doing it on my own, without Walter or any of my support system being here with me (other than Baxter, of course). And while I see this level of self-sufficiency as useful for me, since I’m someone who’s been dependent on various folks for my sense of wellbeing for much of my life, what I realized over the weekend is that it isn’t a good fit for me. The life I’m living right now just isn’t a good fit.

I like a house full of people. I like a life full of people. I don’t want my main focus to be my career. I know that my career will always be incredibly important, but it isn’t enough for me. I don’t know exactly where this realization is leading me, but it seems pretty clear to me right now that my life isn’t supposed to stay this way.

Here’s a picture from this weekend—I’m in Massachusetts, with Walter. This picture is a good documentation of how we spent much of our day yesterday, and Walter was amused by how often I would stop and say, “Isn’t this nice? This is so nice!” I was just profoundly grateful to be with him, both of us doing our own thing, but doing it together.

Aside from all the practical and professional benefits of the move to Charleston, the one thing I want the most from this new phase in my life is clarity—I want this move to Charleston to give me a clear sense of what I want, what my priorities are, what matters to me, where I want my life to go from here. And I think I’m beginning to get that.


in yesterday's (i think) new york times, there was an article about the re-building of biloxi, miss. the conversation that is going on right now in a lot of those hurricane-ravaged areas revolves, as the times put it, around "'re-building' not 're-creating'."

this is a particularly ripe area of artistic investigation for a lot reasons. most of that investigation is too boring, or too involved, or too mentally masturbatory, to go into. so, mostly, i guess the shorthand version is this: is an exact copy of the mona lisa a masterpiece, too?

in biloxi, the question is: the residents know that they can't re-create what they had, but how do they want it changed?

committees are being formed. the large steel wheels of bureaucracy are grinding into motion. inside these committees and amongst the bureaucrats are people that need a place to live. need is a powerful thing, but so is permanence--as in re-building a town is a serious undertaking. all those guys know this, and they're being serious about it. i wish them luck.

the townspeople are saying "we want it back." architects and thier ilk are saying "let's do it Right." and right there in the middle of it all is a five million pound word: Design.

i'm very skeptical of this word, Design. If you've ever seen me say it, i probably was fluttering my hands around my head while looking mock-doe-eyed and standing on my toes. i would put the emphasis on a wavering second syllable, like this: da-zIIGNnnn...

Design is scary to me because within its ruminations lie the future of humans on earth.

the farmer lays out a field, a village arranges the placement of houses, cities ponder a grid of parks and streets. these are all issues of design on a small scale. but, then, what has happened is that the farmer's field, the village's borders and the city's street have all bumped up against each other--literally and figurately. Design has stepped into the fray and has announced that it's gonna sort the whole thing out.

the mona lisa used to be a much larger painting. She used to have columns and greenery on either side of her. She was only a part of a bigger picture. Somewhere along the way, before the mona lisa was an icon for the word "masterpiece," someone cut off the sides of the painting so it would fit into a particular frame. My major question, when it comes to design, isn't the "exact copy question." My question is, "would it still be a masterpiece if those columns were still there?" Like the deal is, and what i hope Design figures out, is that the secret to human interaction
lies in the rough edges.

For the townspeople, i gotta say, that if ya don't let the Designers come in and do what they want, then another form of design, perhaps even more powerful, will lead the way: the Marketplace. (And you don't even wanna hear what i do with my body when i say that word.) wal-mart will pave your city over in a heartbeat, biloxi. please don't let them do that.


here's an easy one to psychoanalyze:

first: all the homeless shelters (hobo huts) i'm making are small, cozy little affairs. next: one of my long term goals is to become a good enough sailor to spend the night at sea. it isn't really about the sailing, it's about the intimate space that small sailboats afford. then we have: i luv tents. and what's more: when i was a child, one of my favorite spaces was the downstairs closet, all filled with winter coats. and if that's not enough: except for the problem of having my arms pinned to my side, i really love to crawl into rolls of carpet.


so i had an interesing experience the other day...

Several people warned me, once upon a time, that grad school would "ruin your art." I don't think they really meant that it would be an ever-lasting effect, but that, instead, it would throw me for a loop for several years. It would make me think too much about something that sometimes requires one to just act, to depend on instincts, etc. That prediction has largely been accurate. It was probably a necessary part of growth, but i feel that school really has taken its toll.

Most everybody knows that i'm slightly disenchanted with this world we live in. i think this is an okay way to be--i mean, if i were totally satisfied then that would mean i was oblivious to some things that need help. But here lately i'm reminding myself of a character in one of hawthorne's short stories: the guy in cynic's glasses. At the outset of the story, this man explains that he wears cynic's glasses because they are going to help him find "truth." If i remember correctly, he eventually finds truth, and takes the glasses off. the rub, though, is that even though he's removed them, the many years of searching have ruined his eyes. The only thing he can see, glasses or no glasses, is truth in all its negative and painful glory.

This is like what i've experienced here at school. I came, a starry-eyed idealist, eager to explore methods of making things "by hand." I felt that machines were bad for us in a lot of ways, that the mis-appropriation of technology was to blame for a lot of the woes a lot of people feel, and that art could do something about this. Part of me still holds on to this belief, but labyrinthine investigations have led me down a philosophical path upon which one feeling has led to another feeling that has led to another feeling, and so on, until i've arrived at the conclusion that all art sucks. That all art is powerless. I can now say i know just what Leonard Koren (the westerner who can almost explain the japanese concept of wabi-sabi) means when he says that he finds "large, permanant objects too philosophically vexing to design."

I used to think differently. I used to be under the impression--had bought the party line--"that art can make a difference." Part of the problem has been the de-bunking of the mythos that surrounds being an artiste. you know: the concept of the artist-as- visionary, an individual "divinely inspired." hell, that's just some conspiracy a couple of italians cooked up 500 years ago; and an idea that most artists and the marketplace have done nothing to dispel. Another bump along the path has been an ever-increasing awareness of how western art and priviledge seem to travel hand in hand. And finally, like i said above, i had simply been a blind believer that art had real power, that it really could change things for the better. how surprising --and what a sick twist of reason--it was to find that art's much flaunted power was actually borrowed from that very myth of divine inspiration, that connection to priviledge! It has been a painful process to learn that art is really just a ninety pound weakling decked out in a muscle suit.

okay, okay. so maybe its more than that, but it didn't seem like it was working out that way for me.

anyway, all of this has produced in me a certain ennui. i was feeling kind of worthless and dis-illusioned. and then the interesting experience...remember the interesting experience?...happened.

Over this last weekend, new bedford had its first "open studios" tour, where, from 10-5 on sat. and sun., the public could go visit artist's studios and see their spaces, meet the artist, see thier works-in-progress, etc. Now, like most old industrial towns, new bedford has a wealth of abandoned mill buildings. you know the kind: large, bedragled buildings with lots of blank staring eyes for windows, looking out on the city's business sector. artists move into them because the rent is cheap. and, even though this is massachusetts, new bedford is a relatively inexpensive city to live in. space in mill buildings is even cheaper. given this, and the plethora of these old buildings, and the fact that we have a school here, we had plenty of artists to choose from. I think by the time they put out the brochure there were over sixty artists on the list. The event was a big success.

i went around on my visits on saturday. It was a smiling, sunny day. a nice little breeze was blowing. i had been in the studio myself, so i was wearing a raggedy old pair of paint-covered shorts, socks and sandals, my "total crap" t-shirt. i had on my blue glasses. i walked down to the southend to cove street studios--one of the forementioned mill buildings, old and three stories of red brick, surrounded with the detritus of a hundred years as a mill, ten years worth of discarded sculpture and "found" materials. J.t., a friend of mine with space in the building , had abandoned his post in his studio and, dodging rows of on-lookers, we went to sit on the fire escape and talk. Jeremy weiss, an amazingly good visual artist, joined us. and then sarah martin and then shara porter. we were quite a crew.

so there we are, laying all about, smoking and talking on this ancient fire escape. a little pile of beer bottles had started to form (i had my soup container full of coffee). j.t. had been up until four in the morning cleaning up his space in preparation of the day. his thick dark hair was dirty and piled really high on his head. like me, he, also, was covered in paint and sawdust. shara porter makes crazy shirts and pants with old 50's looking domestic tools silk-screened on them. That day she was wearing a wrap-around silk blouse with an enormous wood screw screened right across it. she was holding a giant pair of wildly ugly, black and green, leather boots. her hair is dyed impossibly black and she had a big flower berrett, doing absolutely nothing, stuck in it. jeremy was looking fairly normal, but he smiles constantly and has enormous teeth. sarah was in her usual getup of studio clothes--pumpkin colored work pants, autumn yellow v-neck t-shirt, red hair, funny glasses. seagulls honked and the sunlight slanted as we sat and talked and laughed and watched fishing boats and sailboats come back into the harbour.

and then i heard a woman say "oh look, honey!"

a conservatively dressed woman, in her mid-sixties, had appeared, camera in hand, on the fire escape behind us. her husband followed behind her, toting the shopping bags that held the things they'd bought that day: a wheel-thrown clay pot, one of shara's shirts, maybe a small painting. "Artists hard at work!" she joked as she took picture after picture. sarah and shara stood a couple of steps down, drinking from paper cups filled with wine. jeremy was propped against the wall. i was lying prone with my feet in j.t.'s lap, who was sitting precariously close to the edge of the rusty, crooked landing. i noticed a look of disappointment on the woman's face as i started to get up. i laid back down. she took more pictures.

before her arrival, we had just been a collection of random people, in soiled work clothes, talking of nothing special. but then, i started to see what this woman was seeing through that lens of her camera. i realized that what she was taking pictures of might have been almost as important to her as the art-things she carried in her shopping bags. to her, we were more than just a construction. we were a neccessary part of society. she needed us there: a rag-tag group, living on the fringes, doing things a little bit differently than most folks. the obvious delight she took in seeing us told me that what we were doing was important to her.

sometimes, i guess it's just a matter of perspective.


A Charleston Story

Sunday morning I decided to join two of my new favorite people, Ed and Erin Lenahan, for breakfast at Joseph's--there is truly no better way to spend a Sunday morning in Charleston. (Ed is my graduate assistant and will someday have a post devoted to him because he showed me how to refill my AC coolant in my car. He's getting his MA in English but used to be a race car driver. Really.)

The problem was, I didn't know what time they were going to go, and I didn't have either of their phone numbers. But I had the brilliant idea that I would call Joseph's and find out if they had a reservation, and then I'd have a time.

As luck would have it, there was no reservation. "The Lenahans don't make reservations," the person at Joseph's said, "because they never know what time they're going to get here." I recognized the voice of Austin--the guy who'd waited on us two weeks ago when I had my first Lenahan-Joseph's breakfast, and I told him who I was.

"I'm invited for brunch," I said, "but I don't know when."

"Well, just call them and ask."

"I don't have their phone numbers--just email."

"OH!" Austin exclaimed. "I can give you the phone number!" And he proceeded to do so. I called Erin, found out when to get to Joseph's, and had an incredible breakfast of sweet potato pancakes and paper-thin bacon. SO good.

This kind of thing does not happen in Nashville.