One last trip for the summer

My research assistant Taylor and I are in North Carolina right now, researching grrrl zines in the archives of the Sallie Bingham Center at Duke. Researching in archives, as I shared with several people the last time I did this, is like summer camp for nerds. We're exhausted at the end of the day, but it's a lot of fun.

Here's one of the cool zines I'm going to talk about in my book. It's called Free Lost Girl, and Cindy, the zine creator, has made little stickers for each copy of the zine.
This is one way in which zines are different from blogs. Let me just say that I love y'all, but I'm not making you little stickers.

On our way to Durham, Taylor and I passed one of the weirder phenomena in South Carolina--an attraction called South of the Border (because it's just south of the North Carolina border on I-95). It's part theme park, part fake museum, and the largest part unbelievably tacky tourist trap. So of course we stopped. In one of the many gift shops, we found a very, very large coffee mug. I told Taylor about my habit of taking Biffle's picture with very large beverage containers, so she let me do the same with her.

We also had some ice cream. One of the overriding themes of South of the Border seems to be large plastic replicas of--well, of just about anything that occurred to them. African animals, Pedro (the mascot of South of the Border), dinosaurs, rabbits, and ice cream cones.



Because Biffle resolutely refuses to blog these days*, I'll have to tell you about our recent adventure. On Monday night, one of my former students, Andrea, took us out kayaking. She's a kayaking guide this summer and has access to all the boats and equipment. We went out on a tidal creek near Folly Beach for a sunset tour, and we had the best time! We saw dolphins, all kinds of birds, shrimp jumping up out of the water (was I the only one who didn't know that shrimp jump up out of the water?), and oyster beds.

Speaking of oyster beds, Andrea made a discovery in her time with us. Before we got into our boats, she gave us the safety speech. This speech mostly consists of, "Oyster shells are razor sharp. They're deceptively sharp. Whatever you do, don't touch any oyster shells!" To which Biffle responded, almost regretfully, "Oh, now that means I'm going to have to touch an oyster shell."

Andrea didn't know Biffle well and was sort of shocked by this, but I said that yes, because of his oppositional defiance, he probably would be compelled to touch an oyster shell. When the server brings the plate and says, "Don't touch this plate--it's really hot," Biffle always has to touch it.

Fortunately, he was really careful when he touched the oyster shells, and he didn't get hurt.

Here are some pictures Andrea took of us on the water. I have pluff mud on my cheeks because that's Andrea's kayaking ritual, and it sounded pretty cool to me, so I joined in.

*I've been hounding Biffle to return to blogging, but he's gotten out of the habit. I wonder if peer pressure would work? You people should encourage him.

Debate coverage

My vote for best debate coverage is the report at Under My Skirt and In My Head. Check it out.



Well, I'm finished. I finished The Deathly Hallows last night, and I've spent much of today feeling sort of sad and hungover. I obviously won't say anything about the book here, except that I enjoyed it, but after a full day completely immersed in that universe, it's been a bit jarring to return to my normal life (and with no other book to look forward to except my own--which is a lot of work, with a payoff that's far, far away).

But anyway, I have now resumed contact with the outside world. Phone at will.


Harry Potter-induced seclusion

In just a few hours, I am turning off my phone. I won't be checking email or blogging. In particular I will be avoiding all contact with my father. The new Harry Potter book comes out tonight at midnight, and because I finished writing the book chapter I've been working on for the last few weeks, I'm allowed to do what I've been hoping to do: seclude myself in the house and read nonstop.

Just wanted to let you all know. If you need me, contact me before midnight or wait until Sunday!


Walmart makes people mean

This afternoon, because I was in search of a venus flytrap for a certain seven-year-old's birthday and didn't know where else to get one, I went to Walmart. This is something Biffle and I haven't done for a while, for reasons that he explains here and we both explain here. Although we could have sought out another venue for carnivorous plants, it was a rainy Saturday afternoon, and I was feeling lazy. So I went to Walmart. While I was there, I was reminded of many of the reasons that Biffle and I chose to stop shopping there in the first place.

First of all, you might as well park on the street and hike across the acre of asphalt, because getting into the parking lot was hysteria-inducing. Cars waited for minutes, holding up lines of traffic, because somebody might be pulling out, so they might be able to get a spot a few feet closer to the door. Once I finally got in, I had to navigate the crush of humanity, people veering in and out of crowded aisles, shopping cart rage cropping up all around me. I found the venus flytrap and made my way to the check out lines, which, of course, were snaking out into the aisles. I got in one of the self check-out lanes and then began to think nasty thoughts about the people in front of me, who were apparently incompetent and had never been at a self check-out machine before. It took them forever. When it was finally my turn, I found out why (and also was reminded of why you should never be snarky about something unless you, yourself, would like to experience it): the self check-out machine was horrible. It wouldn't scan, wouldn't scan, wouldn't scan, and then when it finally did, it scanned the item twice. I'm sure the people behind me were rolling their eyes.

When I got out to the truck, I opened the passenger door and put my plant in the passenger's seat. Hurray, finished. Then a woman walked around the front of the SUV next to me, pushed my car door away from her vehicle, and said, very angrily, "Nice!" She rubbed a white spot where apparently the truck door had bumped her car. The spot, of course, disappeared, but she glared at me.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't do that intentionally."

"Hmmph!" she snorted, stepped up into her SUV, and slammed the door.

I got into my truck calmly, but inside I was seething. "Stupid little woman and her stupid enormous SUV." And that's when I realized one other reason that Biffle and I don't like shopping at Walmart: Walmart makes people mean. It's exhausting, unpleasant, and drains the humanity out of you. I'm sure that in her real life, the SUV woman is a pleasant person with a sense of perspective, just as I hope I am in real life, but after half an hour at Walmart, it's hard to consider that the people in front of you in line aren't incompetent, or that other folks are just as tired as you are and are doing the best they can. People get reduced to their least common denominator.

This has been a valuable insight, and I probably won't be going back to Walmart for some time.



When I haven't been on the road, I've been at home this summer, in my office, working on my book about zines by girls and women. Because I'm a messy person, not at all inclined to put things back where I found them, all kinds of stuff is accumulating around me (Biffle says there's nothing a Piepmeier likes more than a flat surface to put things on). I've been reading and consulting all sorts of books, and each time I get a new one, it gets added to the pile beside me on my desk. The pile is pretty impressive now, and since I'm afraid it may topple onto one of the cats, I've decided to shelve all the books. But before I do, I want to document this tower.

It's an interesting artifact because it shows all the different sorts of things I've been thinking about, from feminist memoirs to participatory media to sex to the the cultural history of the chair. Let's hope that all of this will come together in a brilliant interdisciplinary analysis of the cultural work of grrrl zines.


Shout outs

Inspired by Girl with Pen, I'm trying to do more mainstream writing. Although I dearly love the academy and academic scholarship, I'm also committed to getting feminist ideas out there into the broader world of folks who aren't signing up for my classes. Here are two little pieces of mine that have come out recently:

"Can You Be a Feminist and Sexy?" in Skirt! magazine

"When Our Bodies, Ourselves Became 'Now What Exactly Is Going on Down There?'" on the TellThem! blog

And in the world of other people's writing, one of my favorite young feminists has decided to start her own blog, which can now be found on our blog roll: Under My Skirt and In My Head.


Flight of the Conchords

I am not what you'd call a trendsetter. I read the Lord of the Rings books after the movies came out. I'm waiting for Lost season 3 to come out on DVD before I watch it. Indeed, I am never even up on the latest news in my own social circles. I never know the gossip. I often say (and I realize this isn't all that funny) that I am so far out of the loop I can't even see the loop.

And yet I might be slightly ahead of the curve right now, because a couple of weeks ago Biffle and I were flipping through the channels and found this:

It was the second episode of Flight of the Conchords! We may have caught this trend early!

I love this song so much that I watch it 2-3 times a day. "Enough small boom, let's boom the boom!"

I also love this video:

If this is, in fact, a very, very old trend, I don't want to know.


The perfect wedding present

Karlyn, my roommate at the NWSA this weekend, recently tied the knot, and in honor of her wedding, Astrid (another conference friend) gave her this adorable little figurine:It's about two inches tall, and it looks a bit like a music box ballerina. Very kitschy. But if you lift the little bride up, under her skirt you'll find the following tiny, tiny scene enacted:
The photo quality isn't so great because I was taking an extreme close up, but I hope you can tell what happy little heterosexual love is happening here.


From the front lines of feminism

For the record, Karlyn Crowley, Astrid Henry, Heather Hewett, Courtney Martin, and Debbie Siegel are really excellent dancers. There's nothing better than a room full of sweaty feminists shaking it to "Free Your Mind" or "Fergilicious."