Going to the fair with five-year-olds

Claire, Nina, Adam, and I went to the Coastal Carolina Fair this weekend. We were there for a solid six hours, an amount of time that was comparable to the Piepmeier family Opryland outings when I was a kid. And just like the Piepmeiers did back in the day, we ate everything that we felt like eating: corn dogs, funnel cakes, elephant ears, popcorn, sweet potato fries, smoked sausage sandwiches, and cotton candy (but amazingly, no one threw a tantrum and no one threw up).

Here are the kids getting to feed the animals at the petting zoo.

We did bumper cars and posed for a quick photo while everyone else was exiting.

My dad has a rule about rides: he'll ride anything that doesn't go in a circle or leave the ground. Perhaps as a way of rebelling against this rule, I've developed a love for scary rides--roller coasters in particular, but really most thrill rides at the fair or an amusement park. It took me by surprise, then, when I hopped on the skyride with Adam and was suddenly struck with terror--or, perhaps my first glimmer of maternal feeling. He's so small, and there was absolutely nothing keeping him in that seat! He could have slid right out and plummeted to the ground below! So you'll notice in this picture that my arm is wrapped snugly around him. I tried to keep my cool--"Oh, Adam, look how neat it is to see all the rides from up here!"--but inside I was a bit panicky.

And this is my favorite picture from the day. The second time we rode the skyride, I had calmed down enough to take a self-portrait of us.


Biffle music, online at last!

Biffle probably won't toot his own horn--because of his Southern upbringing, he's very scornful of horn tooters--but I'd like to point out that some of his music is now available on his Myspace page, linked on our right toolbar (a page which he has inexplicably decided to title "Snuffy" rather than the far cooler, and already brand-identified, "Biffle.")

Only four songs are there, but the list includes "Stuff," which is probably the best song ever. Or as the coolios would say, Best. Song. Ever. Listen for the trombone orchestra. And "Letter O" is a close second. Whatever you do, don't stop listening until the very end of the song.

It's been incredibly cool to have access to these songs again. He recorded them all years ago--some, years and years ago, early in our lives in Nashville. I was a bit surprised to find that I remembered all the words of almost every song. And almost every song has a complex mixture of emotional resonances for me. These days "Floating" consistently brings me to tears--it's some kind of record of where he was, and we were, five years ago.

Anyway, have a listen, and leave a comment about what you think. That Biffle is one talented bastard.

Kevin O'Mara, I have an envelope with your address on it, and at some point I plan to put Biffle's complete CD in it and mail it to you so that you can post the rest of the songs on your site.


orange report 4

slow going!



I'm a day late and a dollar short here, but i wanted to get in on the "CPT" story happening in Charleston right now. For those that don't know/don't live in Charleston, school board member Sandi Engelman, during a radio broadcast, happened to mention she was tired of African-American Schools Superintendent Marie Goodloe-Johnson being on CPT, or "colored-people's time."

Now, of course, this was a serious faux pas, but to add injury to insult, Engelman later tried to explain that what she meant by CP time was "CERTAIN-people's time." Lord-a-mercy!

Here are some other, possibly better things i think Engelman should have tried:

When i said CP time" i meant....

central/pacific time--you know, like when you come back from a trip to california, but forget to reset your watch? and then you're late and stuff? because your watch is wrong?

Sweepy time--like what you ask a sweepy baby. "Are you sweepy?" Sweepy people need lots of naps and it tends to make them late.

carp people time--you ever noticed how carp people are always late? No? well, i have.

crappy pants time--Nothing like taking a crap in your pants to make yourself late. You got to run home and change your britches and everything...yeah, cpt--crappy pants time. Makes you late everytime...


Poor, Poor Honky

As much as Alison and i try our best to make the most valid decisions concerning our lives, sometimes we are weak. First let me explain something---something that maybe most folks don't do. I don't know. Alison and me, being born when and where we were, as children of Watergate and at the birth of postmodernism, view EVERYTHING through the lens of politics and morality...A mishmash of politics and morality. So: Eating, then, is a political act--and that's what this post is sorta about. That and the fact that when it comes to food, Alison and i are morally/politically weak.

As a prelude to the real meat of this post i have this quick, somewhat related, anecdote:

Last night we went to a sushi restaurant. As i have come to see sushi as politically/morally suspect, I have started to wean myself from eating it. Still, i eat it all the time. (I'm probably going to a place in hell reserved for people that confuse their politics and morality and were born aroung the time of Watergate and postmodernism.) Anyway, I've developed a relationship with my sushi guy and his family. They know me and like me. They know i like mackerel. They know i eat alone. And mostly always at lunch time. They know the reason for this: That my wife doesn't like sushi as much as i do, so i just come get it for myself, by myself.

Well, last night Alison and i went in there together. When we walked in, the woman (i haven't been there long enough to ask names yet) says excitedly, Oh! This is your wife! You have brought this beautiful woman to have sushi! She is here to eat sushi, and she is so...SO BEAUTIFUL!!!

She was obviously smitten. So, i stepped back and took a look at what she was seeing: Alison looked particularly lithesome last night. Her hair was shiny and the curls were falling particularly well, framing her good-lookin' face and clear, blue eyes. Smart and sexy all at the same time.

of course that woman was smitten with her.

Okay. On with the title of this post: Poor, Poor Honky. While I was eating my sushi we saw some news on the television concerning Chris Rock's mother in a lawsuit with Cracker Barrel (or, as is it called by the Piepmeier kids: the Honky Cracker, or just "the Honky" for short--hence the title of this post). The case concerns racial discrimination--and isn't really newsworthy, but that's not the point.

Poor, Poor Honky! The Honk started out in Lebanon, Tn back when i was kid. Lebanon is just 40 minutes from Nashville, but it's a shitkicker town mostly. I've known folks that've known some of the Cracker-owning people and said that they also are of the shitkicker variety. For years now The Crack has been plagued by bad press for not hiring gay people, for not promoting black folks above the postion of dishwasher, etc. (And yet Alison and i continue to eat there. I feel the flames of that special hell licking at my toes even now. But where is one to go for good beans and greens or country fried steak when you're in Massachusetts?)

Anyway, here's my thought: I'm almost sure that the Honk inadvertantly practices all these forms of discrimination. Like the Republican Party, The Honky Barrel doesn't do it on purpose. It isn't really a vast right wing conspiracy: it's just plain old ig-no-ra-moose. But gee whiz, man, with a name like The freakin' CRACKER Barrel you might as well just hang a target on yourself. (I've heard that in South Carolina they wanted to call it the Strom Thurmond Barrel.)


a short play (probably about the problems facing race relations in Charleston)

as i walk home in my sweaty t-shirt and running shorts from this morning's jog, i pass a middle-class-ish, 50-ish black woman on the sidewalk. She is staring intently at a vacant, dilapidated house on the corner. Her arms are casually folded on the chainlink fence that surround the house. Beside her on the ground sits a large Target shopping bag. I look at this house every day coming back from my run. It's a cool house, in a nice location. I would like to fix it up.

ME (cheerily): Gonna fix it up?

WOMAN (she is startled): Excuse me?

ME: You gonna fix this house up?

WOMAN (laughing): Yeah, I've got my million dollars right now.

ME: Ohhhh...come on! It wouldn't be that much!

WOMAN: Well, I'm just here waiting on the bus and where i look is my perogative.

ME (taken aback): Excuse me? I...

WOMAN: I can look anywhere i want to. You just move on.

ME: I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. I was just being conversant.

WOMAN (agressively and afraid): Well, i don't feel very conversant this morning and i don't feel like being harrassed. So you just move on!

ME: (thinking i can redeem this conversation and saying with humble sincerity): Maam, i think maybe you're mistaking me for someone from Charleston.

WOMAN: I don't give a damn where you're from. You're harrassing me and i've had enough. Move on now!

ME (walking away. hurt and trying to hide some anger): I'm sorry. I was just trying to be friendly. I didn't mean anything by it. Have a good day.

I find that i really have a lot that i want to talk about here, but there's too much. I want to give you the details of how i was kind of afraid to say something casual to a strange black woman at a bus stop, but tried to do it anyway. (I want to address the possibility that my mere knowledge of this fact made it impossible for me to speak to her without giving myself away as a racist, therefore accounting for her fear.) I want to tell you about the teenage boy--also black--that was passing by just as i spoke to her and looked like he'd been shot. His look was similar to what I've seen in stricken animals. I want to know if this confrontation even had anything to do with race? Am i screwed up for immediately interpreting it that way? Hey, maybe she's just a really irritable person.I want to explain that i was in a friendly, talky mood. That i'd already spoken to two other black women on my way home from my jog: #1) So how is your son doing? I may teaching him at Burke next semester. #2) Wow, so like is this what retirement looks like?. I want to explain the complexities i feel about these tiny conversations. How i know that i'm a white man. How i know that they are black women. How i can only guess they're totally aware of the exact same thing--with race and gender flip-flopped. How i wonder if i come across as some kind of sad, racist emissary for civil whiteness. Wondering whether i actually am some sad, racist emissary for civil whiteness and should just keep my stupid mouth shut before i do even more damage. How i want so badly to mean well, but am left to wonder if i'm just evil inside.

Damn it.


Interruptus and the Very Best of Singing Sgt. Washington

well, a friend of mine has generously lent me an expensive piece of gear. It dumps the content of a digital audio tape (dat) down to a harddrive and then allows the user to EQ, compress, limit, edit, sequence, blow the nose of, etc. the contents of these dats. Then it burns a really nice quality cd for ya.

What i have done with this is this: I've tried to find any dat i've recorded my own music on and dumped it down. Just doing this is a struggle because i tend to be fairly poor at archiving. Couple that flaw with an exceptionally well-developed sense of self-doubt, and what you get is one very scattered stack of poorly labeled, incomplete recordings. (I have thrown many, many recordings which i now recognize weren't all that bad right into the garbage can. I now tell my drawing students "Never! Ever! Throw anything Away! Never! Ever!")

So, I dumped what i still have to the harddrive and more or less sequenced and mastered myself a greatest hits record.* I would like to upload some of it here for your listening pleasure, but i don't know how to do that. Any suggestions?

Doing all this has also reminded me that...well, i don't do all that well with year numbers... but i was reminded that for like a four year period somewhere there when i was changing from someone being 20 into someone being 30 were the most intense, far-reaching, educational years of my life. The learning curve went almost straight up that whole time and i'm only now starting to figure out what it meant to me. I haven't bothered to blog anything long and oppressive for a while now, so remind me of mentioning this and i'll tell ya about it sometime.

*well, not a greatest hits album, really. It's actually a two-for-one deal. As the post title says : Interruptus and the Very Best of Singing Sgt. Washington. Interruptus is just me and a whole lot of instruments (mostly trombones) . Singing Sgt. Washington is what me and Andy and Dave/John did together.


Well, we already knew this...

...but Charlie's blog inspired me to confirm that this is, indeed, my personality type.

You Are An INFP

The Idealist

You are creative with a great imagination, living in your own inner world.
Open minded and accepting, you strive for harmony in your important relationships.
It takes a long time for people to get to know you. You are hesitant to let people get close.
But once you care for someone, you do everything you can to help them grow and develop.

You would make an excellent writer, psychologist, or artist.


Amy Poehler rocks my world

Twisty of I Blame the Patriarchy disparages Bust magazine, and I can't say that I disagree with her critiques. But check out this quote from Amy Poehler, of Saturday Night Live, in the latest issue of Bust, which I've just gotten around to reading:

"We were just talking about those American Apparel ads. They're fucking gross, man. Look, I love beautiful girls too. I think everyone should be free to have their knee socks and sweaty shorts, but I'm over this weird, exhausted girl. I'm over the girl that's tired and freezing and hungry. I like bossy girls, I always have. I like people filled with life. I'm over this weird media thing with all this, like, hollow-eyed, empty, party crap."
She also disparages the "pencil-thin vagina mustache" that characterizes today's pornified pubic hair and calls for "female comedies to be like full, giant '70s bushes right now, not tiny little pubic mustaches."

I love her!


how do you know a banjo player with a sense of humor?

over the past thirty years (thirty years!! gee whiz!) i've told a lot of people that i'm a musician. After i tell them that the conversation has a very familiar arc. One of the most common--and annoying is this one:

Me: Yeah, i've been playing since i was a little kid...

Other person: Really! Wow. That's neat! What all do you play?

Me: Well, i play guitar and banjo mostly...and sing a little bit.

Other person: Wow! You play a banjo? [and here's the annoying part:] BARRRNNNTT BARRRNNTT BARRNNT BARRRRNNTT!!!!

The "BARRRNNTT BARRRNNT!!!" part is when "other person" for some reason gets right up in my face and wags their hands around like they are playing a large fish and hollers BARRNNNNTT BARRRRNTT at me. I think what they are doing is imitating the sound they think a banjo makes. I know that they mean no harm by this, but it still is odd how many folks have this reaction. BARRRNNNTTT BARRRNTT!!!

Banjo players take a lot of damage. We tend to be a nerdy lot, fairly focused on the instrument, with the better ones of us having a habit of doing advanced math. (really. for instance one of my favorite banjo players is Bill Emerson of the Seldom Scene who is an actual math professor.)
That not withstanding--and even with the awareness that banjos can be quite annoying at times--we actually can get our feelings hurt. Still, it's refreshing to see that some of us are totally aware of that high nerd quotient in banjo playing and can make fun of it like this facetious auction of ebay.

hurry and look before they take it off of there. i can explain if anyone cares to know what the heck it means.


how fame changes things?

in cliche land--right up there with "can't we all just get along?"--is this one: "i like their old stuff better." i bring this up because alison and i took a friend to "little miss sunshine" the other night. yeah, we'd already seen it and have even blogged about it here, but catherine hadn't and it's a good movie, so we went again. i was glad: the first time i really enjoyed the soundtrack but then forgot the name of the band that did it. i remembered to write it down this time: DeVotchka.

Here's the deal, though: this morning i was thinking about itunes-ing them and seeing if i might want to buy some of their music. i found myself deciding against it even before i gave them a listen. The reason is that i have what i figure is a prety accurate fear that whatever DeVotchka was--whatever qualities they had that i liked in that soundtrack--are now destined to change (and most likely in a bad way) and i don't want to see them go downhill. It's the syndrome of "i like their old stuff better" without ever even hearing their old stuff.

I found this kind of an odd response in myself, so i sat back and thought about it: fame/success changes things. Or, to put it another way: (possibly) like a small variation on Schrodinger's cat, observation not only changes a thing, but changes what it can become and even what it once was.

The music DeVotchka chooses to make in the future--since it will come after the increased observation afforded them by being in a fairly successful movie, and will therefore be driven by increased pressure from higher powers to increase profits--will almost assuredly be different music, i.e. it will not be Devotchka, but some sort of DeVotchkaldanger. I will therefore probably not like it. In addition, since this new Devotchka will be a sad imitation of the old and better DeVotchka, my non-memory of what i think they probably sounded like will be forever sullied. In other words--because their new stuff isn't the same, or as good as the old stuff, i don't like the old stuff i never heard, either.



Even the patriarchy hates Larry Shirley

In Saturday's Post and Courier, a Charleston City Councilperson named Larry Shirley was responding to a recent robbery committed by a group of children ranging in ages from 9 to 14. Shirley said:

"We pick up stray animals and spay them. These mothers need to be spayed if they can't take care of [their kids]."
This is so appalling that I don't even think I can begin to articulate the ways in which it's appalling. The mind boggles. Here is the letter I'll be sending to the paper tomorrow morning:
Dear Editor:

As someone committed to feminist, anti-racist politics—not to mention general human decency—I might have felt compelled to respond to Larry Shirley’s statement, quoted in Saturday’s Post and Courier, about “mothers [who] need to be spayed.” But since he’s already made it abundantly clear to everyone in Charleston what a fool he is, I won’t bother.

This guy should go be friends with the guy Biffle mentioned the other day, the fire chief who's so racist that he thought giving black firefighters the phone number of his "black friend in Texas" would convince them that all the racism they'd experienced on their job was just their own delusional black brains dreaming stuff up.

If these two got together, I'll bet they could come up with a solution to finally deal with all the social problems we've been having, and shut up all those whining feminists at the same time: lock up every black male under 40 and spay all the women--or, wait, let's lock up all the kids, and the women--or even better, just euthanize them all. Then this country would be a place worth living in.