I blame the patriarchy

Jamie Huff turned me on to a blog called I Blame the Patriarchy, which you may have noticed over in the right menu bar. It's one of the few blogs on the list that isn't done by someone I know, and although I don't always agree with what it says, it's always funny and angry and feminist--a great combination that I find consistently satisfying.

So in the spirit of that blog, I'd like to blame the patriarchy for outfits.

I struggle with outfits. I announced the other morning that I was going to make a chart of the clothing I wear on a daily basis so that I don't accidentally wear the same thing to class two days in a row. I'm so uninvolved with what I wear that I often can't remember when I last wore something. And because, as you all know from my rant about clothes last fall, my preferred clothing is pajamas (all day, every day, all summer), I routinely have to go to Biffle in the morning wearing some combination of things and say, "Is this an outfit?"

He pointed out that he doesn't wear outfits. He has pants and shirts, and he puts them together in any number of combinations. And it doesn't matter if he wears the same pants two days in a row because they're nondescript enough that no one would care.

Here's the thing: with one exception, men don't wear outfits, and that is because outfits are a tool of the patriarchy. The one exception is suits. And suits are really the anti-outfit, because if you are a man, you can wear a suit every single day. You don't have to stand in front of your closet thinking, "Okay, the black flowy pants only go with the red shirt and the pink shirt, and I think I wore the pink shirt two days ago, and the red shirt needs to be drycleaned, so I can't wear the black pants today, but if I wear the gray pants I have to wear the grown-up shoes, and I'm going to be walking all over campus, so that's no good..." People, I do not have enough time for this nonsense!

I realize that I could buy a couple of suits and be set, but suits are so constricting. I've begun to recognize that this is how second wave feminists begin wearing muu-muus and caftans. I feel bad now for making fun of all the muu-muu and caftan-wearing I've witnessed over the years. Any day now, I will show up on campus in a muu-muu, and that will be the end of it.

I'll be defying the patriarchy, but I'll be sooooo unattractive!


the pettiness of the academy, art stuff, racism , charleston, etc.

This used to be a long post, but i got tired of listening to myself and so deleted it. I'm gonna leave the title, however, just so you'll know how lucky you are.

The sole thing that remains is an item from today's Post and Courier (charleston's daily newspaper).

The headline is: "Mayor says Waddle's exit had nothing to do with accusations of racism." You're welcome to read the article if you want, but it's pretty boring stuff (and this was the lead item. Poor Post and Courier...). The real funny stuff kicks in, however, on page 6A where Waddle claims that he isn't a racist. You know how he plans to prove this?

Waddle gave the disgruntled black folks in question "the phone number of his close friend who lives in Texas and is black."

Yeah, that should take care of it.


Woodsheddin' 1 and 2

i'm gonna spare you another bluegrass blogothon today except to explain the term "woodsheddin'." the first time i heard the term was back years and years ago playing in nashville. i assume that it's only a term musicians use. I remember i was at a gig and mentioned to somebody something like "i haven't been playing out all that much" to which he replied "what? you been woodsheddin'?" Given my uneasy ego and not wanting to reveal my own ignorance of the term i uneasily laughed "yeah," hoping all the while that i hadn't just told him i attended last night's KKK rally.

Turns out all i was saying was that i had been laying low from giging for a while and working up new licks, honing my chops, i.e. staying at home practicing intensely.

alright. so there's woodsheddin' number 1. here's number 2:

I try to think carefully about aesthetic home additions. I try to avoid stuff that's really consumptive or too homogeneously caucasian--like gas lamps. Few things say "i'm white and have money to burn" as succinctly as a gas lamp in the front yard of a house built in 2006. Problem is, though, i find a lot of that consumptive crap really pleasing.

One thing in particular is good landscaping.., or at least interesting landscaping. I don't mean rows of shrubs and nicely clipped grass. I mean trails and corners and little ponds and different levels and intimacy. That's one of the things i like about most downtown Charleston yards: they're tiny little havens, everyone's little patch of Central Park in their own backyard. Additionally, they can't be that wasteful, and most everyone can have one. Even rental houses have these little enclosed spaces and most of them are small enough to require very little monetary outlay for some decent plants--besides, given the climate around here there's a lot of great stuff just growing on the side of the road. I mean, who the hell's gonna pay for pampas grass?

Anyway, one of my big fat attempts since i got home is to turn me and alison's back yard into a little green wonderland. At best, I'm shootin' for silly: i want cherubs spittin' water and stuff, archways with spanish moss on them. i'm goin' nintey to nothing for thomas kincaid, painter of light.

So a nice practical addition we've made here is our shed. Alison and i seem to gravitate to homes that don't have closets, so sheds are a necessity. plus i gotta a lotta tools. But a shed, while being so, so functional, doesn't have to be an aesthetic eyesore, you know? i like cute sheds. Here's our shed when we first moved in:

here it is now:

sadly, however, (and i think it's mostly the doors and lack of paint) but this new shed is not as cute--or cuttin' edge in shed design--as the one we had in nashville. I'm working on it, though.


News from the road

I realize that I haven't been blogging for a while, which means that Baxter Sez is in danger of becoming a bluegrass blog that only Biffle and Kenneth read (although Biffle did shake things up a bit by talking about our contraceptive methods).

The longer I don't post, though, the higher the stakes become. I think, "Well, it's been so long, I should have something really political and significant to say." And then, of course, I can't think of anything political or significant--or interesting--enough, so I keep waiting. Perfectionism can become a vicious cycle.

So here's my insignificant, apolitical news from the road: Meg, Jamie, and I came to Asheville, NC, this weekend for a SEWSA (Southeastern Women's Studies Assoc) business meeting, and because I made the plans, we are staying at a Hampton Inn, my favorite place to stay. We saw a billboard on the way that was advertising

Free "hot" continental breakfast!
and we know now what that means: Hampton Inn provides you with little space-agey bags of food (this morning's selection: pancakes, french toast, and waffles) that you retrieve from the fridge and put in the microwave. Then you push the button on the microwave that has the picture of the food that's in your bag, and it cooks it for you. You open the puffed up, steamy bag and dump the irradiated contents onto your styrofoam plate, and voila--"hot" breakfast.

High point of the morning: when Meg got herself a cherry danish and then took her plastic spoon and neatly scooped the gelatinous fake cherry goo out of the danish, ate it, and threw the rest away. I said, "I am going to blog about that!" and she said, sort of pathetically, "But that's the part of the danish I like!"


Hold-blooded--check it and see...

First off, i can't believe that someone would write a song with that as a lyric: hot-blooded, check it and see. got a fever of a hundred and three? It's times like this when i realize how grateful i am that fate didn't smile on me as far as being a rock and roll star. i've written a few lyrics that suck, too, but for my part i don't have to worry about being forced into performing them--bald and paunchy and pitched a couple of keys lower than the original--during the band's reunion tour. Hot blooded! 2006! aarp cards accepted!

Anyway! Alison and my preferred method of birth control is FAM, or fertility awareness method (hee-hee. I just felt Trey Stinky Piepmeier squirm in his computer chair--he hates it when i talk about having sex with his sister.) First off, about "FAM," i had to go ask alison what the proper name for this was because i think there's some politics attached to it. Like some people may know of this as "natural family planning," but maybe that's some old, repressive name for it or something. La-di-dah--I'm not really concerned about that: all i wanna talk about is taking my own temperature.

Part of FAM is alison taking her (oral) temperature every morning. It's a low price to pay to not being pumped up on synthetic hormones. As for my own political recommendation of the day, i'd say that if you're still livin' in the dark ages of medicine and use the pill, then i suggest you go get the book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility." There's a good chance you'll be much happier.

Alright, so alison takes her temperature every morning. I'm not gonna go into it, but you write this temp. on a chart, which we do every evening. (we have a thermometer that remembers the last temperature taken) i play my part by handing alison the thermometer in the morning and reading the temp to her at night. i also occasionally enjoy taking my own temperature with it--and that's the point of this post. See here's the deal: My temperature has for several weeks now been running a steady 96.7 degrees. What am i? Dead? That's pretty cold isn't it?

I don't know if this is what my temp. has run my whole life as i've only really checked my temperature when i've been sick--i don't know what it is when i'm well. But that might explain why i've always been such a wimp when i have a fever. Usually a temperature of a mere 101 degrees has me hallucinating--but of course, if these checks of mine are accurate, then 101 for me is everyone else's 103.

Hot-blooded, chicken of the sea
got a fever of a hundred and three
come on baby, do you do modern dance?


yet more bluegrass blogging...

kenneth said:

What is the minimum bluegrass lineup? Suddenly I'm having ideas about a project. Would four people work, or is that too few? I'm thinking bass, banjo, fiddle, rhythm guitar. All would sing. Is that enough, or would we need another soloing instrument (mandolin/Dobro)?

9:02 PM

You know, i love to think about things until there's almost nothing left to think about. Almost...

It's that almost that gets me, too.

What i mean is this: I love knowing just a little too much about everything--only thing is, i don't really want to know everything about anything. Got that? In other words i'm what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about a character in The Great Gatsby: "he was that most limited of creatures: the well-rounded man..."

Anyway, one of the things i love knowing just enough about to be dangerous is bluegrass music. I know more about it than your average bear cares to discuss, and not enough to be an interesting conversationalist for a musicologist. (oh...and one other thing these limitations of mine mean, by the way, is that you can't really take what i say as fact. Like, i may have gotten it wrong, or even totally made it up.

Like, for instance, recently i told alison--and i swear i thought this was the truth--but i told alison that owls don't have buttholes. Well, evidently i said this authoritatively enough that she went and told some friends that owls don't have buttholes. They believed her, too. Well, turns out i was wrong. Owls do indeed have a butthole of sorts: it's called a cloaca according to a new friend of mine that works at a birds of prey place down here in charleston. )

alright. On to what i have to say about the topic at hand, right?--which, of course you, kenneth, and everyone else should take with a grain of salt.

Now first off, (and i know you know some of this music crap, kenneth, but i'm just talkin') first off, i've played enough music for white people to know that almost each and every one of them, when you start playing a song they like, will start clapping on the one and the three beats. It happened just tonight, as a matter of fact.

Here's what that means: You know how songs can begin by someone enthusiastically hollering "one, two, three, four!" and then the song starts? That's because most american songs--especially rock and roll songs are written in what's called 4/4 time. the simplest way to understand this is that, obviously, there are four beats in a measure.

Now, all those beats have a certain job, and have certain instruments to play them. The first beat and the third beat, or the "down beats"--where all the white folks clap along like albino seals--is usually played by the bass player and by the drummer's kick drum (the big drum on the floor). The second beat and the fourth beat, or the "back beat," is where the good stuff is--these two beats are played by the snare and possibly the downward strum of a guitar. The back beat is where all the rythym and soul of music is found--and explains why white people can't unlock their hips when they dance--they're too damn busy beatin' on the one and three. There's no shake in the one and the three (which also explains why the whitest of all musical forms is the march: it only has two beats--both of which are essentially down beats.)

Now, contrary to what is probably popular belief, properly played bluegrass is not especially very white music. Bluegrass loves the two and the four. (one of the reasons for this is that bluegrass is southern music, and just like good southern food, was entirely stolen from african americans.)

Alright. Here is finally the answer to kenneth's question: The question isn't whether you need another "soloing instrument." sure, just a fiddle and banjo as soloists can get tiring, but the more important issue is that you almost have to have a mandolin--just like the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, played. The reason is that in bluegrass, since there are no drums, the bassist plays the one and three. The two and four are held down by the mandolin "chopping." So that just like "kick, snare/kick, snare" defines rock and roll, "boomp,chop/boomp, chop" defines bluegrass. That chop is one of the most single important elements in good bluegrass.

Now, that said, a fiddle can actually chop the two and four--and many fiddle players do--but they don't do it all the time. Fiddles, because of being one of the only instruments with any amount of sustain, are there more to add musical color than a rythmic effect, and therefore are better not utilized as "choppers."

Now, you might ask, what happens to the chop when the mandolin takes a solo? well, that's when the banjo takes over chop duties. When the mandolin player is through with his/her break, then the banjo goes back to its original roll of "driving" the rythym forward (or, to put it another way, it takes back over "subdividing" that 4/4 time into tinier increments like 8th and 16th notes which gives bluegrass that fast, frenetic quality it has.)

So, in a complete attempt to say something that has no foundation in fact at all (well, not really) i'd say this about what constitutes the lineup of a real bluegrass band:

I think a real real bluegrass band is, at minimum, a five piece: guitar, bass, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. If you have to settle with a four piece then i'd personally go with a mandolin over a fiddle since (as far as bluegrass goes) i'd rather hear a killer beat than killer notes.

whew! man, i sure can talk a lot...


"Hey, big boy," continued...

Re: my post on being a worn out, old, boring bluegrass fart, kenneth burns wrote the following comment:

Kenneth said:

Wow, was that a bluegrass show you played? I've never heard of bluegrass groupies, but the joke possibilities seem limitless.

10:34 AM

Well first off, no, it wasn't a bluegrass show. It was a melange of things: jim croce, old bluegrass standards done to a nifty new beat, ignoring requests for "Man of Constant Sorrow," the best of 60s 70s and 80s. However, since most laypeople figure if someone is playing a banjo at least 33 percent of the time, you must be a bluegrass band. So...on second thought, maybe it was a bluegrass show...

And yes, kenneth, i do believe there are "bluegrass groupies." Haven't you seen/heard Old Crowe Medicine Show or King Wilke? Now, although in the most technical sense of the word, i don't think these bands are actually "bluegrass," they're pretty darn close--and again, that's because of the 33 percent banjo rule. Real Bluegrass or not, them boys is young and cute--and not just a little talented. I've seen both bands at a festival now and they had the young girls swooning. (although they are an extreme exception).

With that straightened out: you mean to tell me that "the joke possibilities seem limitless" and then proceed to not lay one on us? How 'bout a good bluegrass groupie joke from our readers out there? Let me get you started:

Q: What's the difference between a rock n roll groupie and a bluegrass groupie?

A: The rock n roll groupie isn't a god-fearin' middle aged white man.

or how bout this:

Q: What did the bluegrass groupie chick say to the hot young banjo player?

A: Sorry buddy, i only sleep with pre-war banjo players.

(for the neophytes: a "pre-war" gibson banjo is the holy grail of banjos--sorta like a vintage strat or les paul. ...That one may be a little too inside).

or finally (for the trifecta):

Q: what's a favorite date activity for a bluegrass groupie?

A: Gettin' knocked up side the head with a stick and drowned.

(another insider: murder ballads are a favorite subject of bluegrassers, the most notable example being a tune called "knoxville girl."


Hey, big boy...

I have become--if nothing else--older and boring and married.

I'm not really all that upset by this, but i do stop and think about it every so often. Mostly this is because i've been playing a lot of music here lately. See, "older" and "boring" and "married" are not necessarily words that make me want to go see someone perform.

Good perfomance depends a lot on...well, obviously on some form of excitement, whether that be quiet intensity or just plain old Liberace-style showmanship, but it also helps, i think, for performance to project some kinda kind of sexual energy, in all its myriad forms, too.

And that's where my concern comes in. See, here lately when i play, all i really care about is making pretty music. As a friend of mine advised me a long time ago: "Play pretty." That's what i wanna do these days. It seems the result of "playing pretty," however, is not only becoming a seamless part of the music, but also of becoming a seamless part of whatever is behind you--like a wall. You don't get noticed.

And that's been okay. I've adjusted accordingly and started enjoing being in the background. Like i said, I really hadn't thought all that much about it...until the other night...

I had finished a gig with a friend of mine (who actually is entertaining and interesting and stuff) and we were loading the gear out. As i was carrying my guitar case toward the door , this rather attractive and charmingly intoxicated chick put her arm out on the wall and cut me off. She looked at me as she swayed every so slightly and cooed:

"sooooo....i was wondering what musicians like to do after they finish playing at night..."

I thought about it for a second and earnestly responded: "Well, sometimes i like to go to the Waffle House."



In a conversation with someone the other day i described my writing style as "ersatz." i then followed up that comment with this phrase: "for lack of a better term." So, all-a-piece, this is what i said:

"...my writing is...uh...ersatz...uh,....for lack of a better term. "

Well, that's an inaccurate phrase. There's always a better term.


Part one: not a movie review blog... Part two: artist in residence

Part One:

Alison and i went to see Little Miss Sunshine last night and really enjoyed it. I suggest you go see it. I don't think that this could be considered a spoiler, but just in case you don't want to know anything at all about the movie , don't read the rest of this paragraph: It is my own personal interpretation that this movie offered a subtle and beautiful update on the Golden Rule (you know, the one where you should do unto others how you want them to do unto you). That update is this:

We're all gonna be losers unless we make sure our brothers and sisters and children are winners.

[to that thought i want to add this: i think that's the one of the central messages i've been privileged to learn from the Piepmeier clan. (and, on a personal note, i hope that can continue to be one of the central messages of ALL the members of the Piepmeier clan...)].

Alright. All that said i want to get on to this:

Part Two:

I have an overall goal down here in Charleston. I want to create the position of, and hold the title of, the City of Charleston's Artist-in-Residence. Mostly, it would be something of a non-position. Like being poet laureate, i guess. But, beyond that, it could have real benefit--and particularly for me. For instance, one of the things those who know me well have heard me say over and over again is this: "Well, When I'm Mayor..."

Of course, we all know that's total crap. I wouldn't elect myself mayor of my own house. But i would make me artist-in-residence. Here's the first thing i'd try to convince the city of doing as its artist-in-residence:

Building the nation's first urban elevated bike path.

This bike path would be a thirty-foot wide, possibly paved trail that ran down the center of the Charleston peninsula from the North Central neighborhood all the way to as close to the Battery as the rich folks would let it get. Gradual ramps on either/or east and west--just like an interstate--would be the means of entrance and exit. These ramps would of course have to fall in the most convenient places but shouldn't be over a half mile apart at any one spot. This elevated trail would be tree-lined, either in the center or on the sides. The sides would be better because that could provide a buffer for pedestrian use also. These trees also help deal with the run-off caused by rain onto a flat paved surface forty feet in the air. The aesthetics would be along the lines of the blacksmithed iron gates and fences we have here in town.

Just think. No car traffic or on-street parking is disrupted by bike lanes. The political clout of being the first southern city to embrace such a foward-thinking/beautiful/ecologically sound/neighbor-friendly civic project would raise Charleston's already high national standing into the stratosphere. Portland, Ore. would wish it could move here! If you really wanted to get carried away, the EL-BEE (for elevated bike path) as it would lovingly be referred to locally could even have small shops on either side (creating even more real estate for people to flip).

Dear Charleston,

Need any more killer-ass ideas like this? I got buckets.


ain't blogged squat

Hi. i feel like a stranger.

i've felt like writing a couple of things on here lately, but they were all doom and gloom: ohhhh, we're outta fossil fuels!, ohhh, we waste our food! ohhh, etc....
i didn't want my return to the blog to be so predictable, so here's something-- neither gloomy nor doomy-- that i've had on my mind here lately:

energy level/charisma as it pertains to onstage/in class performance. (teaching is a kind of performance i figure...)

i like the concept of acting. You know, like an actor. Like on a stage and stuff. If thinking about acting can make a great actor, then i'm there, dude. (but believe me, i can't act my way out of a bag.) Alright. So everyone's heard of Stanislavski's (or Strasburg's) The Method, right? Brando is a famous method actor. The (wildly reductivist) point is to conjure up your own emotional equivalent of your character's and put that feeling into your performance.

Well, i always thought that was a really cool approach until i heard a British actor talking about his acting one time--and british acting is some of my favorite. Evidently the brits don't really cotton to The Method. This actor's point (and i've forgotten who it was) was that you just can't trust to always pulling up that emotion when you're on stage (and as we all know its all about the stage. movies are for acting lightweights). His take was that acting is a rehearsed action. You figure out what it looks like, and then you do it over and over again.

Okay. Here's where i come in. I'm un-intentionally something of a method guy. I adhere to the blues school of performance: i depend on whatever is driving me at the moment to provide a performance's energy. The problem with this, of course, comes when things aren't going well. If i'm sleepy when i get to class--like i was yesterday--then class is sleepy. If i'm at a show and am playing badly, then i crinkle up into a little ball and wish i was somewhere else. The benefit, on the other hand, is that quite often you turn in a truly inspired bit of playing, singing, teaching.

The method vs. british argument in this is that brit acting gives you a predictable and normally postive result. The method says that no matter how good you get at the rehearsed response you end up with something that, at its core, will ring hollow.

In my intuitive criss-crossy world, i can even quantify these differences in terms of marxism, or white and black culture, or east meets west....but, you know, i'm gonna spare you that for now. Here's the question: Would you rather have a steady diet of Wayne Newton or, say...Bob Dylan, with his unpredictable ways, night after night?


Weekend update

Here lately, people have been asking me what Biffle's doing with himself in Charleston. I always say, "He's teaching an art class at the College, and he's the hottest new banjo player in town, so he's playing all the time." I thought tonight would be an exception--we had plans to make kale soup--but he came galloping through the house just now, exclaiming, "I have to play at Taco Boy in 20 minutes!"

Yesterday he played at a bluegrass festival with one of his regular bands, Yeehaw Junction (ahem). We decided to make a road trip of it, so we took back roads and stopped in an adorable place called Georgetown, where we ate some ice cream and looked at sailboats.

Yeehaw Junction is an outstanding bluegrass band. Here's one of my favorite moments from the evening: their encore was this haunting song called "Blue Ridge," which they sing in beautiful four-part harmony. I love that they use one microphone for the whole show--very old school, and it gives you something to look at when they change places to play solos.

This morning, Biffle and I went jogging together. He's a great jogging companion, but here's an important tip for any of you who might be involved in a physical endeavor with him: don't believe him when he says you're in better shape than he is. He recently quit smoking, and he assured me that he can't even walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. "I am in terrible shape right now," he said. "Jogging is going to kill me." So I agreed to go. Well, I was impressed with myself for being able to go a mile, considering that I haven't jogged in about a year. I ground to a stop, panting, and Biffle decided that this was his chance to sprint an additional mile. If he gets emphysema and has to haul around an oxygen tank he'll probably still be in better shape than I am.