A few weeks ago, Baxter and I went to a dog yoga class. Yes, yes, I know it's ridiculous, but it was a fundraiser for the SPCA, and besides, doesn't Baxter deserve to enjoy yoga every now and then?

It ended up being mostly yoga for the people, with the dogs as props or accessories. I do have to say, though, that there were some neat yoga effects. When the class started, there were 15 dogs panting, barking, straining at their leashes to get at the other dogs (all except Baxter, who was very well behaved). The teacher had us do deep yoga breathing and OMs with our chests touching our dogs, and I swear that within a couple of minutes every dog in that room had calmed down. The energy of the room had changed. That was pretty cool.

So here's a picture of me doing downward dog with Baxter. Note that she is not doing downward dog, even though she's eminently well qualified.


Biffle dishes out excellent advice:

"No meetings about anything new before Christmas. If someone calls and wants to meet with you, you say, 'I would love to, but it'll need to be in January. I've got a lot on my plate right now, and I want to be able to give you my full attention.'"


Gridge and Mary's wedding

At long last...here are wedding pictures from Gridge and Mary's wedding, Sept. 24, 2005.

The Wedding Party and Families

The Piepmeier/Biffle/Hall Siblings

The Piepmeier back yard transformed into a candlelit reception.

(Walter took all these photos.)


bill monroe and revisionist history

Oftentimes, i sabotage my own happiness. I've put off writing the following post because i don't feel comfortable about it. The reason is that what i want to talk about concerns "the good old days" in America. Like, back in the fiction of Leave it to Beaver and Mayberry. Revisionist history (if i'm using the term correctly) has kind of taught me that there never were any "good old days." The good old days were simply back when white men ruled the earth (at least, more effectively than they do today). Everything was just hunky-dory.

what the hell is "hunky-dory?"

I've been reading a book that is a collection of magazine articles, scholarly writings, interviews and liner notes concerning blue grass music. Here is a section from that book...

"In the fourties, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys were not only a bluegrass band, but also a baseball team. Shumate explained how this worked. "We'd get to town early, usually around three or four o'clock. I'd go to the pool hall or somewhere where i could find some young guys and ask them if they had a ball team there in town. Most of em did, and i'd tell em who we was and that we had a bluegrass team and we'd like to challenge em. Oh man! They'd get busy and get their gang together and meet us at the field. Sometimes they'd meet us in an hour. We did that all over the country. Sometimes we had good crowds just for a ballgame. We had a lot of fun. we played for keeps and had a prety good team. We had uniforms and everything. I played shortstop and was a pretty good hitter too. I could lay the timber to that ball. String pitched, and he was a good pitcher. I believe Lester played third base."

Jim Shumate was Bill's fiddler. He invented the famous "da-da-da-daddat" and "chit-chit-chit" kick off heard at the beginning of so many blue grass tunes.
"String" refers to Stringbean, whose real name was David Akeman. Akeman was one of the forerunners of the Scruggs style--not quite clawhammer, not quite three-finger style. Akeman would later be the victim of an infamous nashville murder. A common rumor around Nashville in the early seventies was that Stringbean kept thousands of dollars stuffed up inside his chimney. Thieves killed him and his wife.
"Lester" refers to Lester Flatt, half of Flatt and Scruggs--of Beverly Hillbillies fame, for you neophytes--and the great uncle of one of alison's childhood friends.

Anyway. What an amazing story! I'm going to assume i don't have to tell you why i think so.

Here's what's at stake for me in this tale: First of all, it made me nostalgic for a time i didn't even know. And then, second, it made me feel guilty that i was enjoying a story that takes place in an America swimming in sexism and racism. I imagine you guys can probably relate.

Now, if i set that guilt aside for a second, if we set the mayberry fiction and the larger historical framework on the backburner for just a second, does this story say anything about yet another America that has been lost? One that might have possibly been better than our current moment?

That story is packed to the gills with references to the concept of liesurely community. Boys at the pool hall. Baseball. Celebrities playing a ballgame because they wanted to. Small towns with ball teams (and uniforms!) willing and ready to accept a friendly challenge.

Jesus! What have we've given up to be where we are?

I don't know if this story, and the stories of (an as yet unrealized) racial and sexual equality, coincide. I can't tell if this is a story that speaks to what economics and technology have done to us. I can't tell if it is a tale of things gained, or things lost.
I do know that i would have liked to have played baseball with bill monroe. i'd even settle for being one of the boys at the pool hall....but what would i have to do in order to feel okay about it?


Volvo Baggins and Hyundai Potter

I just want to report that I went to the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night with a few of my students...and stayed awake for the whole thing! Quite an accomplishment, considering that we didn't get out of there until 3 a.m.


Masculinity is a toxin, part 2

Well, it's happened. I don't know why I thought it might not, but it has. In my intro to Women's and Gender Studies class Monday, we discussed violence against women. Today, they turned in papers. I've only read four so far, and two of them are women analyzing the times when they were raped.

It happened every semester at Vanderbilt. As soon as I broached the subject of violence against women, expressed my outrage, and stressed that the victim is never to blame, women started coming to my office to tell me about their experiences.

Here at C of C, I've been asking around about rape and dating violence, but I haven't gotten much information. People have said, "We don't hear much about it. It's probably happening, but it's not reported." Yeah, violent crimes against women are the most underreported, so that's not surprising. But I have to admit that I'd actually begun to believe that maybe it wasn't as prevalent here as it was at Vanderbilt.

I can't decide whether it pisses me off or breaks my heart. Both, I guess. Who are these men who think they have the right to rape my students?


A Quickie on Masculinity

Kenneth's blog today is about Johnny Cash's masculine persona, and I was so delighted--as I always am--to see any man critiquing masculinity that I was inspired to share a bit of one of my favorite feminist rants.

The topic is, Masculinity Is a Toxin.

Walter notes in his master's thesis that one of his litmus tests for white people's level of racial consciousness is to ask, "Can you see how the popularity of the King Kong story in America could be due to its allegorical connection to race?" He says the answer is usually no, meaning the answer-er is operating out of a place of unexamined white privilege.

The "masculinity is a toxin" rant functions in a similar way for me. If I even say that sentence, many people react with such defensiveness that it tells me that they haven't examined male privilege in this culture, and that, if they are men, they haven't divested of that privilege. And I should stress here that I don't mean that men are a toxin, but that the way our culture has defined masculinity is toxic, both to men and to women.

I'm happy to flesh out this theory; I can go on at length about the problems with our cultural construction of masculinity, and I probably will do so at a later date on this blog. But what I want to say for now--before I dash off to school for an afternoon of meetings--is that I am increasingly coming to see sweetness as the characteristic I most value in men. Kenneth says, "In musicians and songwriters I much favor gentleness and tunefulness over swagger," and because we are in a culture that by and large doesn't value sweetness or gentleness in men, I think celebrating these characteristics is activist and incredibly important.


well, alison has accused me of not blogging anything in a while. i've wanted to, but my energies are being expended elsewhere. well, five elsewheres, to be exact: the making/object side of my schoolwork, the writing/mental side of my schoolwork, writing a...a personal diary of sorts, my actual employment as a g.a. at school, and practicing guitar and banjo.

...okay. that's really boring. the worst part of blogs...so!

alison has sort of stolen my thunder. what i mean is that she's posted a weak-ass version, on someone else's blog nonetheless, of a biking story i was gonna put on here myself. what i suggest is that you check it out for yourself by taking a look at my friend kenneth's blog--alison's bit is in the comments. the only change i would offer , really, is that the actual quote was something that alison deleted from this site the other day: they actually said "hey! ride 'at bike, m**f**!"

while you're there take a listen to kenneth's band. (some of the best moments of my life have been spent playing music with kenneth--i miss him.)

to go on with the bike stuff:

many people over time have suggested that i might want to wear a helmet when i ride. this is smart, i know, but ill-informed. if one wants to truly protect themselves when riding in the south (generally, a non-bike-friendly locale) i would suggest a bullet-proof vest--or even better, full body armor. i've only hit my head once while riding, but have been hit by other things numerous times, e.g.: the leftovers of a fast food bag, a large ball of ice, something small and very hard that i couldn't identify (a bullet?), an almost entirely full can of beer, thousands of stinging/stupid words...

which brings me to this (it's a little negative, but allow me to moan a bit):

it has to do with the nature of those hurtful comments like i've gotten while merely riding a bike down the street. i ponder the need for people to do things like that, you know? i mean, those guys that said "hey, ride that bike"...what? is that all they could come up with? why did my presence on the road mean so much that they felt compelled to comment even when they didn't have something to say? the REAL question is this: what threat am i posing?

this brings me to my next "unsolicited comment" question. here goes: i've rarely had an acquaintance walk up to me and say something like "is someone paying you to wear that shirt?" or, "hey, why don't you leave that way of walking to people that can do it for real?" however, they have no qualms about saying this when i walk around singing. not even loud or anything. just kind of singing along...

they say it like it's a joke, but it hurts me. (i'm very sensitive about my singing anyway.) is there a parallel here with the biking? do people fear other people's expression that much? is it a "get-back-in-the-herd" thing? i'm just singing because i'm happy, you know?

to add a little more to this rambling post: some of you may know that i have a hard time starting in the middle of a series. like the alphabet. if i want to turn to the letter "G" in the dictionary, i usually have to sorta mumble "abcdef...g" to figure out where it is. this has been real detrimental to me in using the "nashville number system" of musical notation, by the way. i've just had to learn it by shapes, rather than letters. the reason i'm on to this tangent is because i've had to look up a few things in the dictionary to finish this post.

i'm not an atrocious speller, but not a gifted one either. for this post, i've had to look up "parallel," "herd" (!), and "acquaintance." to me, the alphabet has some misfit letters--like the misfit toys on the christmas special. these letters are j, q, v and w. xyz goes without saying, but since they all live together, they appear okay. they have thier own community.

now, i don't really have a hard time with j. it settles into its spot fairly well--mostly because of the relationship to its better cousin, the letter g. w is also okay. it lives down there with the other wierd ones. but Q? why is out there all by itself? shouldn't the alphabet really be:

abcdefg hijklmnop rstuv-v-V! wq xy and z?

have a good day.


More on my biking life

This morning, I pulled up to a red light behind a guy on a motorcycle. He looked in his rearview mirror and then slowly rolled backward so that he was next to me. Then he said, "You look good on that bike."


I wasn't sure how to react. On the one hand, I do look good on my bike, and he was perceptive to have noticed. On the other hand, I'm the director of a Women's and Gender Studies Program and a certified humorless feminist, and I didn't ask to have my looks scrutinized while I was on my way to work. (If he were one of my many fantasy boyfriends, I would have returned the compliment, of course, but this guy didn't look particularly good on his bike.) So I just kind of stared at him, quizzically.

What is it with me and my bike this week?

P.S. Here's a shout out to Christie McKaskle--if you're into tingly, deep spiritual musings, check out her blog.


Biking to School

Awhile back I read an article--I think it was in Oprah's magazine--about happiness. One guy in the article taught at Harvard, and he said that he'd thought that being at Harvard would be the thing that would make him happy, but that it turned out that getting to walk to and from Harvard every day was the thing that brought him the most happiness. And I feel a little bit like that when it comes to biking to school--it's one of the unexpected joys of my life here. I cruise down the street on my big bike, with my enormous basket, hair flying out behind me, and I feel like a ten-year-old kid.

That was what I was going to post to the blog today--and it's true. But on the way home from school this evening, two cars honked repeatedly at me as I pedaled along in the road, a couple of feet from the gutter, just as bikers are supposed to do. I was obeying all the laws--I was a legal vehicle in the road, but they didn't know it. They were really annoying. One person finally passed me, and as she passed, she yelled, "Get on the sidewalk!" Walter has developed a line for situations of this sort, and I was so glad to have it at the ready to yell right back:

"It's not called a sideBIKE!"

She yelled back, "Get your ass--" but then stopped, apparently silenced by the clarity and truth of what I had said.

We can talk later about the fact that I should probably be learning to be a more compassionate and mature person, but having a comeback was just so gratifying.


Now I am the master

I'm at the American Studies Association Conference this weekend in Washington, DC. It didn't occur to me until just today that the last time I attended this conference, it was also in DC--and I was a graduate student. I think it was 1997 or so. I remember how I felt--excited, because many of the big names in American literary and historical studies were there, but also kind of vaguely sick, like I knew that there were things I was supposed to be doing, but I didn't know what they were or how to do them. I felt sort of pervasively wrong.

And now, here I am feeling entirely differently. I'm presenting research that I feel good about, that's interesting and meaningful to me, I'm the director of a Women's and Gender Studies Program, I'm a real, live, published scholar, and I look awesome. I am the shit! It's pretty remarkable to me to see how much my life has changed since the last time I was here.