Chris Uggen's Blog: September 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006

will governor pawlenty run in 2006?

i am preoccupied today by a single burning question: will minnesota governor tim pawlenty run in 2006?

yes, i'm talking twin cities marathon. i've trained too lightly this year, skipping long runs and letting myself off the hook with lame work-, weather-, training-, age-, and injury-related excuses. i've been telling myself to just enjoy the day and shrugging off questions by asking, who cares about the time?

but then it hit me: the governor's getting faster! my worthy adversary in the male 40-44 age group ran 3:57 in 2004 and 3:43 last year.* one more 14-minute jump and all is lost. if he runs 3:30, i've gotta tear off a 3:29. if he runs 4:00, anything worse than 3:59 is unacceptable. think about it: governor pawlenty has way better excuses than me. how can i say that my work or travel schedule keeps me busier than the governor?

not having trained, however, i'll need some serious motivation to step it up tomorrow. a grad student suggested some sort of painful punishment for failing to break four hours, but i'm unresponsive to coercion. i thought about a positive economic incentive, but this never motivates me either. no, i need pure inspiration, real and true. give it to me straight, knute:

We're going inside of ‘em, we're going outside of ‘em -- inside of ‘em! outside of ‘em! -- and when we get them on the run once, we're going to keep ‘em on the run. And we're not going to pass unless their secondary comes up too close. But don't forget, men -- we're gonna get ‘em on the run, we're gonna GO, GO, GO, GO! -- and we aren't going to stop until we go over that goal line! And don't forget, men -- today is the day we're gonna win. They can't lick us -- and that's how it goes... The first platoon men -- go in there and fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! What do you say, men!

the next post will be either concession speech or victory celebration. for now, i have but one prediction.

* we share the age category with last year's male winner, mbarak hussein, but we ain't even thinkin' about him.

personal liberty and the common good

amitai etzioni gave a nice workshop talk today on the new golden rule in the minnversity's fine political science department. the communitarian sociologist spoke about a familiar but fundamental problem: the tension between autonomy and personal liberty on the one hand and social order and public obligations on the other.

only it isn't really a problem for professor etzioni. he truly embraces such tensions or contradictions, diving into thorny areas such as HIV testing, privacy rights, and substance use regulation with real gusto. some parts of his work (i confess that i've only read a sliver of it, for the man writes much faster than i can read) remind me of landmark u.s. civil liberties opinions; in both cases, fine minds seek to balance the rights of individuals vis-a-vis the community with reference to a few core principles, all within the context of a concrete empirical case.

this is the sort of endeavor that initially attracted me to political science and legal study as an undergrad (well, at least insofar as appellate judgin' was romanticized in woodward and armstrong's the brethren). of course, i also encountered plato around that time and, like many poli sci 101 students, figgered that philosopher-king sounded like a pretty cool job too.

as a sociologist and as a private citizen today, i still haven't reconciled my own communitarian and libertarian impulses. professor etzioni makes a strong case for finding meaning in such contradictions, so for now i'll follow the asa president's precedent and simply embrace the tension.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

tapes n' cake: clell tickle ripped my beard off

tapes n' tapes is good, but i couldn't suss out how the local lads became darlings of the indie media. once i saw clell tickle, indie marketing guru (offensive speech warning: clell is a pottymouth), it all became clear.

i'm hoping mr. tickle drops by summit's big brew this saturday. the st. paul brewer's twentieth anniversary celebration should draw both nostalgists and kids, since the band lineup features tapes, cake, the alarmists, the 'burbs, big george jackson, and richard thompson, as well as a particularly devastating oktoberfest.

i've dawdled on tickets, since saturdays are my last best chance to get a little research done. plus, the combination of saturday night beer and music will do me no good at the twin cities marathon sunday morning. but i can't resist: i'll hit the office in the morning and early afternoon, see my favorite bands in the early evening and, with a little luck, retire early.

tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. here's the lineup and approximate times:

12:00pm - Minnesota Pipes & Drums
12:30pm -
The Alarmists
1:30pm - Big George Jackson
2:30pm - Tapes ’n Tapes
4:00pm - The Suburbs
5:30pm - Richard Thompson
6:45pm - Soul Asylum

8:30pm - Cake

what if 53 percent of u.s. senators were social scientists rather than attorneys?

i lunched today with betsy hodges, a fellow mad grad, now a minneapolis city council member. i came away wishing she was my representative and, more generally, that more elected officials had the theory and methods chops that one learns in a good social science grad program.

i know, i know -- weber hashed out some supposedly irreconcilable differences in politics as a vocation and science as a vocation.* nevertheless, anyone who has dealt with elected officials can aver that some might benefit from a bit more substantive coursework (e.g., stratification, demography, race and ethnicity, orgs, gender, criminology) and a decent stats/methods sequence.

of course, the very best and/or wonkish elected officials could teach fantastic seminars in each of these areas. i've had the privilege of interacting with some brilliant politicians who actually read social science (names will remain undropped), and i've been amused and astounded at their devastating and wholly convincing critiques of ideas and evidence that social scientists take seriously.

but ANYWAY, as local natives and boosters, ms. hodges and i share a similar vision of traditional minnesota values and priorities for public investment. i could tell she was a native minnesotan because neither of us even considered sending the food back, even though the server messed up our orders pretty badly. this isn't because we need assertiveness training. this is because traditional minnesota values dictate that we may only raise hell if the server screws up somebody else's order. then we would have been fightin' mad, picketing outside the restaurant, and leading a rousing chorus of we shall overcome until the poor patron received a sammich that was not slathered in noxious jalapeno tartar sauce.

aside from lunch, we also shared some ideas about public education, crime and civil liberties, and the leaching of social capital from american institutions. as a sociologist now in public service, ms. hodges clearly gets it. she sees political issues involving crime, education, and neighborhood efficacy through a sociological lens -- and i bet she makes better decisions because of it.

i've always aspired to do the sort of research that would advance both science and policy, but i've recently found myself serving more often as a moderater or discussant on political debates. actually, i said yes to moderating a debate this month, but haven't heard back. perhaps the organizers were spooked by this gubernatorial clash with governor tim pawlenty and jonathon "the impaler" sharkey. moderators aside, do we need more social scientists in office? or, do you actually prefer the status quo and think that the lawyers are doing just fine as it is?

*i'd argue that a few things have changed since his insightful explication of these conflicts (including the class of baseline non-sociologist officeholders). i wonder what moynihan thought of weber?

**with regard to university service, this is the best of all possible results -- you've agreed to do the thing, but somebody else decided to go in a different direction. you remain the good citizen but don't have to do any actual work.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

replace your gaskets and paint over your rust

i'm working longer days lately, as i slowly adapt to the letter-writin', email-answerin', agenda-settin', activities of the modern department chair. upon leaving the office at 10:30 tonight, i walked through the rain to find a dead old jeep. i got a little whine from the starter, but the dome light soon dimmed and i had to seek alternative transportation.

i've always loved aging vehicles -- something about the patina on the beat-up sheet metal, especially on a rainy night -- but i'm getting tired of playing shade-tree mechanic. of course, i'm fortunate enough to drive old cars recreationally. many hard-working folks must depend on such sleds to make a living or get the kids to school.

tonight, i just stood there getting soaked for a few minutes. soon enough, i found myself mumbling and air-guitaring an old song from my all-time favorite festus, missouri band. maybe it will cheer you up during a similar moment. here's the bottle rockets on the sorry state of the 1000 dollar car:

Thousand dollar car it ain't worth nothin'
Thousand dollar car it ain't worth shit,
Might as well take your $1000,
and set fire to it.

Thousand dollar car ain't worth a dime,
You lose your thousand dollars every time,
Oh why did I ever buy,
a thousand dollar car.

A thousand dollar car is gonna let you down,
More than it's ever gonna get you around,
Replace your gaskets and paint over your rust,
You'll still end up with something that you'll never trust.

A thousand dollar car's life was through,
'bout 50,000 miles 'fore it got to you,
Oh why did I ever buy,
a thousand dollar car.

A thousand dollar car ain't even gonna roll,
til you throw at least another thousand in the hole,
Sink your money in it and there you are,
the owner of a $2000 thousand dollar car.
(neil/mascis-like guitar solo)

If you've only got a thousand dollars,
You ought to just buy a good guitar.
Learn how to play it, it'll take you farther,
than any old thousand dollar car.

If a thousand dollar car was truly worth a damn,
then why would anybody ever spend ten grand.
Oh why did I ever buy,
a thousand dollar car.

if you ask me, rocket-in-chief brian henneman goes way deeper on social class and midwestern values than, say, thomas frank. depending on the traffic, you can stream a live full-length version of this song at myspace. even better, the rockets are passing through first avenue on october 14. i'm sure somebody will come along to give me a jump by then...

dog will hunt: the cheese comes home to roost

most parents quickly dismiss their kids' music as obnoxious. it is too loud, too vulgar, too dissonant, too fast, too unfamiliar, too grating, too cacophonous, too jarring, too offensive, too repetitive, too nasty, and too dissimilar from their own tastes. but how do you respond when they're playing your songs?

my tastes have always been eclectic, so i enjoy most of what's cranked by son (everything from dead to hardcore) and daughter (mostly superlunged vocal power pop). there are, of course, exceptions.

lately the lad's blown the dust off my disks in search of new old sounds -- and he's turned my own music against me! when i wasn't in the office this weekend, i was subject to a virtually continuous loop of primus' sailing the seas of cheese. an impulse purchase about 15 years ago, i played it a couple times and left it alone when it failed to move me.

perhaps through some bizarre imprinting process that occurred during those few spins in his infancy, my bass-poppin' lad begs to differ. he's taken a major liking to primus bassist les claypool's virtuosity and sensibility. while i was tempted to dismiss this development, one does not lightly discard any point of connection with a fifteen year-old. ever since the kids were born in madison, i've had the foreboding sense that they'd be leaving "soon." at this point, it breaks my heart to know i'll only have the big man around for three more years. so, i plunged back into the cheesepool.

after exhaustive youtube research on seas of cheese and mr. claypool, i've (re)cultivated a taste for at least some parts of his work. yesterday, i was moved to pick up one of the many basses littering the house to attempt the line from jerry was a race car driver while watching the live video. impossible. mr. claypool can play. or, as he might put it, dog will hunt.

as for the kids' tastes, my advice is the same that andy gave barney with regard to aunt bea's nasty pickles: learn to love 'em. judging from his facial expressions and vocal delivery, mr. claypool has likely eaten a few kerosene cucumbers his own self.

Monday, September 25, 2006

why put that amendment first?

san francisco chronicle writers mark fainaru-wada and lance williams face up to 18 months of federal prison time, pending appeal, for refusing to identify the source of leaked grand jury testimony in a steroid investigation involving barry bonds.

18 months is a pretty long sentence (even in comparison to the clunky lead sentence written above). under the current minnesota guidelines, someone with minimal criminal history would get 18 months or less for crimes such as simple robbery, residential burglary, theft greater than $2500, forgery, and sale of controlled substances.

as a former journalist wannabe, i'm officially spooked. et tu, sports page? this is supposed to be the "toy department," not the trenches of modern journalism. it seems that any writers could find themselves neck-deep in such cases, with the possible exception of bridge columnists and sudoku contributors. as for this investigation, here are some of the major players:
  1. barry bonds, the expanding man.
  2. victor conte, who admitted distributing steroids to athletes and laundering the proceeds (sentenced to 4 months in prison and 2 years of court supervision for illegal drug distribution).
  3. greg anderson, mr. bonds' trainer, who has already done 3 months after pleading guilty to dealing steroids and laundering money, plus 15 days for refusing to answer a previous grand jury's questions.
  4. mark fainaru-wada and lance williams, the reporters who are refusing to name names.
  5. judith miller, former new york times reporter who did 3 months last year, after refusing to identify sources in a cia leak investigation.
who do you think will ultimately do the most time as a result of the balco investigation? who, if anyone, do you think should do the most time?

republican arlen specter has sponsored senate bill s. 2831 - “the free flow of information act of 2006”, a "shield" law that might offer some protection for journalists in such situations -- except for those seditious bridge columnists, that is.

nourishment and exacerbation

has the iraq war reduced or exacerbated the threat of terrorism? the times reports on a classified national intelligence estimate report, which apparently concludes that the war has made things worse by fomenting anti-american sentiment in the islamic world.*

i cannot comment intelligently on the empirical claim or the hypothesized mechanism. i can, however, point out that the exacerbation phenomenon is a familiar and general problem in sociological criminology. such questions pop up all the time: has mass incarceration been a net gain to public safety? what about the war on drugs? well, a starting point for such questions involves naming, cataloguing, and estimating the positive (e.g., putatively less substance use) and negative (e.g., putatively greater violence around more-lucrative drug markets) paths between the policy and the outcome. the evidence can then be weighed in cost-benefit analyses of varying complexity. or, of course, siezed upon for partisan gain.

while democrats would like to squeeze u.s. policy in iraq through such an analytical wringer, i should point out that right fielders can play too. for example, george will asks whether affirmative action has been a net gain for people of color, just as charles murray argues that, on balance, public assistance has been a bane rather than a boon to those in poverty. their hypotheses, just as those of left-field critics, should be evaluated on the basis of theory and evidence regarding the hypothesized mechanisms connecting the policy intervention to the negative outcomes.

i still teach kai erikson's (1962) notes on the sociology of deviance on the general problem of social control interventions exacerbating deviance. in my opinion, professor erikson offers an exceptionally clear and cogent presentation on this subject:

[D]eviant forms of conduct seem to derive nourishment from the very agencies devised to inhibit them. Indeed the agencies built by society for preventing deviance are often so poorly equipped for the task that we might well ask why this is regarded as their "real" function in the first place. It is by now a thoroughly familiar argument that many of the institutions designed to discourage deviant behavior actually operate in such a way as to perpetuate it.

dr. erikson was writing about prisons and other institutions of social control. does the logic extend to international relations? if so, it leaves us with two questions: (1) have "islamic radicalism and terroristic threats" derived nourishment from u.s. efforts to curb "islamic radicalism and terroristic threats?" and, (2) are u.s. policies so poorly equipped for this task that we might ask whether curbing terrorism should be regarded as their "real" function in the first place?

of course, many left-fielders will quickly point out that the iraq war was not actually intended to reduce terrorism, so the analogy with social control efforts such as imprisonment is, at best, strained. prisoners and those who study prisons, in contrast, are likely to have little difficulty making this leap. the "real" functions of mass incarceration are a mysterious topic, one that should perhaps be left for another day.

*i say apparently because i haven't seen the report or even a declassified report of the report. i suspect that the dems and the reps discussing it are as much concerned about its partisan implications as its content in this election season.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

best bar in america?

according to this month's esquire, the best bar in america is less than five minutes from the minnversity's social science building. here's chris jones' introduction to minneapolis' nye's polonaise room:

The best bar in America isn't Irish. It isn't in a strip mall. It isn't the sort of place that charges an outrageous cover for people to stand around in black light pushing back shooters out of test tubes. It isn't a fight club or a meat market. There is no snobbery, and there is no tonic-water drinking. There are gimlets and manhattans, bottles of Zywiec, and a first-rate pissoir.

The best bar in America occupies a corner where the path to righteousness and the road to perdition run parallel, east to west, perpendicular to the muddy river that cuts this country in two, north to south. The best bar in America has occupied this physical and spiritual intersection since 1950. The best bar in America lies across the Mississippi from downtown Minneapolis over a bridge named for Father Louis Hennepin, and it has a sign on its yellow-brick exterior that points the way to Our Lady of Lourdes, cast in the red-neon glow of another that reads LIQUORS...

local media and civic boosters lap up such honors, though others will no doubt levy charges of overratedness at the friendly nordeast bar. i'm sure there are a million best bars for different purposes, but this honor seems appropriate and well-earned to me.

i have little basis for comparison, but here's why i like nye's: the place really does seem to bring a smile to all who enter. i don't visit often, but i've shared a few wonderful wintry evenings there, piling into the ample glitter-gold vinyl booths with new friends and old.

some of these friends will worry that national attention will somehow ruin the old-time vibe at nye's, but the place seems far too durable for that. i'm not sure whether it is the dim lights, the music, the smiles, or the swankitude but, for some reason, even jerks don't act like jerks at nye's. the hipsters and the old-guard regulars mix warmly there, easily sharing the piano bar, the polka lounge, and the hunter's stew and pierogis.

what do you think of the choice? do you have alternative candidates to offer?

Friday, September 22, 2006

the black abyss of righteous hatred -- a darkly gothic poem generator

on this cool and rainy september evening, a certain sacrilicious and darkly sinister colleague passed along a link to the gothic poem generator.

my own poetry is dark as marshmallows, but i'm always willing to try. i selected #5 on the menu, the "black abyss of righteous hatred" option, which yielded this offering:

what you have done

what have you wrought?
a smothering indistinctness of misery as sentiments twist.
once we drank of innocence,
open and untainted,
but your desire drifted away.
a clouded pool of bitterness -
drops of blood follow darkness, follow rain,
love bled dry.
in a haze of sorrow,
i still love you.

hmmm. this feels more metal than goth. that is, clouded pool of bitterness and haze of sorrow strike me as more volume 4 than head on the door (don't believe me? try the lyrics with this versus this). to cleanse the palate, i tried a simple love poem generator. here's mine:

My Love

Your skin glows like the pomegranate, blossoms warm as the sunflower in the purest hope of spring.
My heart follows your guitar voice and leaps like a lizard at the whisper of your name.
The evening floats in on a great hawk wing.
I am comforted by your snap-front shirt that I carry into the twilight of shackbeams and hold next to my arm.
I am filled with hope that I may dry your tears of oil.
As my shoulder falls from my boots, it reminds me of your tin.
In the quiet, I listen for the last thrum of the day.
My heated neck leaps to my belt. I wait in the moonlight for your secret blacktop so that we may step as one, neck to neck, in search of the magnificient orange and mystical hood of love.

wow, this is much more difficult than making poetry from scratch. i ran into some confusion with the body parts on this one (my shoulder falls from your boots? my heated neck leaps to my belt?). that said, i think the orange and mystical hood of love works well with the secret blacktop and twilight of shackbeams imagery. i'm not sure which poem is scarier, but it is nice to have options.

if you dare to geek out and try this your own self, post the darkly sinister and/or fluffy marshmallow output as a comment. don't forget to choose an appropriate nom de plume -- i'd probably post as unlicked cub for the first poem but buck tenderness for the second.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

$350 each or two for $666

i'm shocked by madonna's staged crucifixion. more precisely, i'm shocked that ms. ciccone can still assemble a vast audience -- and that said audience finds her relentless and hackneyed appropriation of iconic religious imagery to be shocking in any way whatsoever. hasn't she gone to this particular well about three hundred times before?

why, alice cooper, marilyn manson, cradle of filth, and gwar can't even get arrested these days. you'd think that for her $350 ticket prices, madonna could at least enliven her act with cool stigmata and buckets of blood. i know, i know, this tour is all about peace and love and that ms. ciccone has no intention what-so-ever to use the cross as a "bad-taste publicity stunt." how could we even think such a thing?

This is not a mocking of the church," she said. "It is no different than a person wearing a cross or `taking up the cross' as it says in the Bible. My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing."

i trust that when ms. ciccone says that Jesus would do "the same thing" she is referring to the whole "help one another/unified whole" christian worldview rather than the actual crucifixion thing.

meanwhile, the punk sends word that another superstar long past his prime is literally selling his confessions.

for the same princely sum of $350 you (yes, you!) can own a piece of baseball history. just click on the baseball and you're off and running. i'm tempted to plunk down my cash, especially if ol' pete would make mine out to shoeless joe. i bet he'd even nick me for another $350, since that counts as two names rather than one.

like madonna, mr. rose has only the noblest intentions:

As many of you know, I regularly appear at the Field of Dreams® store located in the world famous Caesars Forum Shops in Las Vegas. I urge all visitors to this great city to come by and say hello. While I am so fortunate to have numerous opportunities to communicate with many of my wonderful fans, I begrudgingly do not have any positive new updates as it relates to my quest for official re-instatement back into Major League Baseball. Nevertheless, I remain upbeat and continue to find ways in which we can stay in touch, whether it is through corporate appearances, my Las Vegas project or my website.

oh yeah, i'm sure the vegas gig and the signed spheroid confessions will squelch all those ugly rumors about gambling on baseball. everybody's gotta make a living, but i wish these talented grifters could have found an honest trade. say it ain't so, indeed.

deviance v. criminology

i just gave a sociology of deviance lecture about how deviance casts a wider conceptual net than crime (parenthetically arguing that sociologists should really make better use of their intellectual jurisdiction over the former area). whereas criminology is generally concerned with explaining violations of the criminal code, deviance engages a much broader landscape of norm violation. for example, my studies of sexual harassment, civil rights violations, and alcohol use probably fit better under a deviance umbrella than the crim umbrella i use in other work.

sometimes acts shock the collective conscience and arrests are made, but there's simply no prohibition on the behavior in the criminal code. such was the case in cassville, wisconsin this month, when three sad young men attempted to exhume a woman's corpse for sexual purposes. there are all sorts of what were they thinking? details to this act, such as the strange image of the trio stopping at a dodgeville wal-mart to buy condoms before they began digging. fortunately, they were apprehended before they broke into the burial vault.

we all know that such behavior is wrong on many levels, but most states do not explicitly prohibit necrophilia in the criminal code. the wisconsin youth were instead charged with attempted third-degree misdemeanor theft and attempted third-degree sexual assault. the sexual assault charges didn't stick, since the law was not written to cover such behaviors. they remain subject to charges of criminal damage to property and attempt to break into a burial vault, but neither of these carry sanctions commensurate with the shock and outrage expressed by the community.

as you might guess -- particularly in an election year -- a moral entrepreneur has stepped in to rectify this situation. state senate majority leader dale schultz of richland center has pledged to criminalize necrophilia in wisconsin. i imagine that the senator, who helped bring brett favre day to the state last year, will probably face even less resistance on this one. i sure wouldn't oppose such a law -- i just hope they never need to use it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

trust in organizations

i'm learning a lot from most of the new-chair stuff that fills my days lately. though i managed a tiny (m.i.s.) shop years ago, i've had little training in administration or exposure to research on management techniques. i was a little surprised to learn that i'm actually enjoying such sessions.

since my gut and my experiences tell me that departments need mutual trust to function effectively and efficiently, i was glad to get some practical advice on establishing trust relationships in one of the sessions last week. on this point, my college dean, steven rosenstone, passed along the following ideas adapted from ciancutti and steding's built on trust:

principles for establishing trust based relationships in organizations*

1. closure. coming to a specific agreement about what will be done, by whom, with a specific date for completion.

2. commitment. an intention of no conditions. this mean that there are no hidden “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts.” it doesn’t mean that you absolutely guarantee the result that you promise, but it does mean that you enter into the commitment with every intention of fulfilling it. and if you discover that you can’t keep the commitment for any reason, you speak up immediately.

3. when people communicate directly and openly with one another, the organization avoids or minimizes some of the most common communication problems; talking behind people’s backs, withholding information, hallway buzzing, and avoiding certain subjects. it is also understood that people do not lie to one another, or even suggest that things are true when they are not.

4. speedy resolution. a leadership organization addresses critical unresolved issues quickly and completely, so that people can gain closure and make commitments. unaddressed problems do not solve themselves.

5. respect. this principle simply means that people threat one another as they would like to be treated themselves—with dignity and respect. don’t confuse tact and respect with “being nice.”

6. responsibility. in leadership organizations, people give and receive help—but in the end, everyone must be responsible for his or her own problems.

7. responsiveness. (twenty-four hour rule). follow the guideline that asks people to respond to telephone calls, e-mail, or other requests promptly, even within twenty-four hours. (at least acknowledge receipt).

8. handle issues at the lowest possible level. place the solution to most problems in the hands of those closest to it. avoid “high political moments.”

9. tell the truth.

10. management as role model.

the list of principles pointed me to areas in which i'll need to step up my game as department chair. as a regular faculty member, for example, i haven't always been great at reaching closure and responding to email in a timely manner. in my capacity as chair, of course, these characteristics could lead to all sorts of problems. so, i'm making a concerted effort to improve my response time on decisions.

though some of the principles seem obvious (who wouldn't want respect and commitment?), others appear to be sensible advice (e.g., handling issues at the lowest possible level). and, in providing such advice to new chairs, my dean** is also communicating his expectations regarding our relationship. that is, he expects such principles to be applied in chair-dean relationships as well as chair-faculty relationships. i guess it wouldn't hurt to apply the same principles in my dealings with students and collaborators as well. but that 24-hour response time thing is gonna kill me...

* adapted from something that was adapted from arky ciancutti and thomas l. steding, built on trust, mcgraw-hill, 2001.

** it is a bit awkward to blog about the department and the dean without sucking up. locals know my high opinion of college leadership, but it would be unseemly to fawn all over my boss(es) in this space. that said, i'd rather not define all such relations as non-blogable, since i'm thinking a lot about administrative stuff these days -- and i might eventually learn to write about it in an interesting and/or useful way.

the mercury grand marquis of running shoes

with the twin cities marathon smacking me upside the head in 12 days, i picked up some cushy new shoes. actually, i picked up the cushy old shoes i've worn for a decade. i've run on air pegasus for as long as i've driven old jeeps and both have carried me over the same rough terrain.* sadly, though, my pegasus has been tweaked just a bit too much for my tastes this year.

why such loyalty to a particular product? mostly because my feet bore a suspicious resemblance to raw hamburger after running a marathon in other shoes. with the old pegasus, i could buy a pair on saturday, run a marathon on sunday, and my feet stayed pretty in pink.

but putative innovation is a constant in the athletic shoe biz. both novice and elite runners eagerly pay through the nose for the latest and greatest, so shoemakers constantly introduce new models, colors, styles, and the latest must-have techical innovations (silver laces!). by contrast, the venerable air pegasus has changed as little as the horseshoe, making it a staple for ordinary runners since its introduction in 1983.

at 180 pounds, i'm considered a heavy runner (a source of much amusement to my way-larger son -- oh yeah, dad, you're frighteningly huge), so full-length cushioning is good. because the tread wears evenly, i know i'm also a neutral runner -- that is, i don't under- or over-pronate. so, the pegasus works out just fine for me. this, the softest and cushiest shoe, is wonderful for my li'l knee and ankle issues, and its swiss-like neutrality also carries a certain appeal. the cushy ride, long history, admirable safety record, and cheap price are shared with but one other conveyence. that's why i dub the air pegasus the mercury grand marquis of running shoes.

as soon as i opened the box, however, i knew i was in trouble. the color scheme is "White/French Blue/Metallic Silver/Neutral Grey." what ordinary shoe could handle that much color! it also advertised "additional flex grooves and a new, wider fit," which proved too wide for my feet.

so now i'm slippin' around in a too-darn-wide french-blue shoe. for the first time in years i had actual blisters after my training run on saturday! so i'm dealing with some shoe issues as well as the normal bemused marathon anxiety. aside from the start of the academic year, the lad has a nasty cold, which he is absolutely certain to pass along to me in the next few days. oh well, i wasn't likely to win the darn thing anyway. not in these metallic silver gunboats, that's for sure.

ahh, the twin cities is always a beautiful run, hamburger feet or no. lemme know if you're planning to run twin cities and maybe we can hook up for some barbecue and beer afterwards. maybe i just need new socks...

*unfortunately, although the shoes and the jeep are both high value-added products, only the toledo jeepworkers get paid a living wage for their efforts.

baseball writing

hardball fans of the AL central might take batgirl's advice and check out this sublime pennant-fever missive by mr. eric neel. he's dead-on about the detroit willie horton mojo but even more right about bradke's truckload of want-to."

'course, batgirl herself merits some kind of baseball pulitzer for inventing (discovering?) legovision, fish glue, ass-bats, and nicknames such as twitchy mcxanax, the jackal, and el presidente.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

remaining bastions of male privilege

studying 94-percent-male prisons, parenting a man-child who chafes at authority but thrives on contact sports, and opening my asr to see the boys' share of bachelor's degrees drop from parity to 40% in a generation, i sometimes worry about the state of young manhood.*

boo-freaking-hoo, say many of my female friends, deal with it. whereas girls have struggled to overcome institutionalized discrimination for generations, boys are struggling with ... what? turning in their homework and showing up for class? so i agree that girls have it bad and maybe worse, but many parents of teenagers smell a problem brewing with boys. it seems as though the dudes are trying to navigate a social space that is at once hypermasculine but also profoundly and relentlessly emasculating.

over dinner last week, a prominent visiting sociologist (also parenting a teen) observed that boys seem to be checking out of competition with girls (e.g., in school), retreating instead to the remaining bastions of all-male exclusivity and privilege. i don't have any data to support this assertion, but i think s/he's right. i suppose such bastions would today include sports such as football, some types of video games, and most pornography. oh yeah, and beer -- at least the beer advertised during football games.

miller's man law ad campaign is a clever tongue-halfway-in-cheek distillation of such impulses. i love the idea of assembling burt reynolds, a rodeo star, a pro wrestler, the hiker dude who sawed off his arm with a pocketknife, a motocross racer, a shade-tree astronaut, a railroad worker hit by a train, a punishing running back, a boxing icon, and a couple comedians to riff explicitly on the rites of manliness. this is way better than the insipid tastes great/less filling debate of my youth (ok, bob uecker was never insipid, but you get my point). instead of modeling manliness with football players such as bubba smith, they simply decree actual man laws. it almost seems as though a smart sociologist (likely a smart beer-drinking female sociologist) had a hand in the new scripts.**

miller's website is well-developed, with video clips, bios, a manlawpedia of visitor submissions, and a sort-of ticker with regional data on trends in handle-bar moustaches and black socks. such sophistication aside, i'm guessing that the men of the square table might prefer actual beer to miller lite. if burt ever gets to minneapolis, i'll hook him up with a pint of black water oatmeal stout. my treat, as long as ol' burt calls me snowman ("we come this far, ain't we?").

finishing this post tonight, i was distracted by another gender dust-up showing how young women still deal with issues that aren't (yet) on boys' collective radar: how should one dress or pose for a photo with a former president? this issue generated an acrimonious exchange between two smart, creative, and widely-read female bloggers and about 1,287,480,216 reader comments.

yeesh. i've personally hammed it up for a lot of cameras over the years. i'll even admit that, in some pictures, i was deliberately trying to look attractive. yet nobody has ever accused me of doing a three-quarter pose or posturing or positioning myself to draw attention to my best anatomical features (which are, of course, the arches of my feet). such powerfully gendered double standards provide a clear reality check for white males who sometimes overreact to any hint of female advantage under conditions of equal opportunity.

as a boy, i can pretty much wear whatever i want when i meet with politicians (as long as "whatever i want" involves a blue suit, a red tie, and a white shirt). when an intoxicated john riggins accosted a supreme court justice at the washington press club ("Come on, Sandy Baby, loosen up. You're too tight), nobody even thought to complain about his cowboy boots. and, because mr. riggins passed out shortly thereafter, the assembled crowd must have gotten a good look at them boots. if i (or riggo, for that matter) tried to look sexy in a picture with, say, condoleeza rice, the worst anyone would say is that i'm "creepy," or a pathetic narcissist, or maybe just a sad old dude.

nevertheless, i can't imagine that anyone would question my intelligence or scholarship or commitment to (whatever) the cause based on my wardrobe. in fact, if mr. clinton or some other donor wants to endow a graduate fellowship in my department, i'll happily pose in the alleged "tight knit top" worn by the blogger, or a pink bunny costume, or even a miller lite t-shirt. for $25k, i might even show my arches...

*the table is reproduced as a figure by buchman & diprete in asr 71:515-41, p. 516. i sure wish the major journals of my discipline would permit immediate online access to reseach articles. who knows? somebody might be interested.

**hmmm... is it you, kim? you and shelley seem to know a lot about beer.

87 and counting: prognostication yes, gambling no

i foresaw 87 wins from my plucky twins this year, and i'm happy to report i got 'em. of course, that means i'll be dead wrong if they happen to win any of their remaining fourteen games.

i feel better about my prediction for justin morneau. a year ago, i saw a big papi-like future for the young slugger. feeling the ball jump from his bat the past few years, it was easy to see: mr. morneau's got some monster numbers in him and they just gotta get out.

i have many vices, but gambling is not among them. i just get zero kick from the possibility of gaining or losing money on a sporting event. nevertheless, i sometimes check the latest lines and think about betting. for example, when i learned this week that johan santana (18-5, 2.75 ERA) was squaring off against tribe rookie fausto carmona (1-9, 6.24), i figgered it was a sure-thing lock. the line was -252. if i understand this correctly, that means i could have bet $252 on the twins to win $100. so, i imagined ponying up a hypothetical $2,520 to take that easy thousand.

well, johizzle pitched valiantly but my twins lost 5-4 in 10 innings. dang. this gambling thing is tougher than it looks. and i bet the clever folks setting the line have stats ph.d.s and know exactly what they're doing. but then i noticed that my gophers were 41 1/2 point favorites in today's game against temple. after last week's mauling by the cal bears (who were themselves mauled the previous week), i couldn't imagine my favorite college team beating the mounds view high school sophomores by 41 points. were i a gambler, i might have tried to make good on my $2,520 (hypothetical) loss by betting against the ferocious rodents in this game. good thing i'm not a gambler -- the gophers won 62-0.

so, it looks as though a gambling chris would have taken a five thousand dollar bath last week. that settles it. i'll keep rooting for the high schoolers and leave the recreational gaming to the professionals (and the criminals, i suppose). as for my twins, 87 wins and a september pennant race ain't bad at all.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

mediocre sleep-inducing homogenized pablum v. background music for the slavery of daily drudgery

alex long has written a fun working paper on uses and misuses of popular music lyrics in legal writing. as is my custom, i skipped immediately to the data. i worked up a li'l spreadsheet with the most cited artists in both law journals and legal opinions.

the list is a familiar but disappointing catalog of self-consciously respectable boomer-friendly aging or dead white males: dylan, beatles, springsteen, simon, et alia. professor long himself cites the stooges' raw power, but this stuff hasn't made it into legal scholarship. he even drops a li'l lester on us in the footnotes:

[I]t’s harder than hangnails to … even have a little moronic fun these days without
some codifying crypto-academic … swooping down to rape your stance and leave you shivering fish-naked in the cultural welfare line. So I wouldn’t blame you for hating me for this article at all.

i don't hate you, dude. in fact, i've gotta love a lawprof who can go deep on lester bangs. still, this leaves me with two questions:

first, would the sociology list look any edgier? i doubt it. nirvana, rage, james brown, or marvin gaye might pop up -- and i know i've seen gang of four in more than one context -- but i'd wager the soc list would pretty much replicate the lawlist. personally, i tried to cite social distortion in contexts once ("a broken nose, a broken heart, an empty bottle of gin" in a review of laub and sampson), but it was excised before it hit the newstands. so it goes.

second, i've always wanted to drop the pistols' pretty vacant into a title but never quite found the proper setting. which great song titles are just sitting there, crying out for a hunk-a hunk-a burnin' sociological research?

Friday, September 15, 2006

50,000 rupees but no guarantees

ahh, romance. the times online reports that the indian government is offering 50,000 rupees (or about $1,084) to higher-caste people who marry spouses from lower castes in an effort to help dismantle the hierarchical hindu caste system.

i know that marriage means something quite different in india and the united states, yet both states promote marriage with economic incentives. what sort of financial incentive would it take for you to wed someone you would not otherwise have married? i've argued that, in some ways, ex-felons occupy a caste-like status. could we reduce crime with a state-sponsored $10,000 dowry for ex-cons?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

criminal victimization, 2005

new national crime victimization survey data show relative stability in violent crime rates, after significant declines over the previous decade. according to criminal victimization 2005, both personal (violent) and property crime rates have been halved between 1993 and 2005.

i quickly scanned the new bjs report for some bad news. well, i found an uptick in firearm violence from 1.4 to 1.9 per 1,000 between 2004 and 2005, but this is still way down from the rate of 5.9 per 1,000 in 1993. the picture for robbery is similar -- a significant increase over the previous year, but at levels far below those of the mid-1990s. similarly, i could discern few scary negative trends when looking at subgroup patterns (e.g., breaking the data down by race, gender, class, urban residence, and region).

robbery and firearm violence could be ugly harbingers, of course, but the overall picture is one of short-term stability and long-term decline in criminal victimization. while such national trends obscure lots of local variation -- i'd wager that victimization is up in many parts of my fair cities -- the high-quality ncvs data are giving us no indication that aggregate crime rates are spiraling out of control.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

dude! shutup about the coffee, already

after a recent java-related post, i gotta mention that the new york times name-dropped oslo coffee today, quoting brother j.d. on the finer points of roasting and beanology.

this might be better for business than a john mayer video. here's the spot, if yer in the neighborhood.

minnversity political science student sarah walker and artist/advocate mark hayden have started the employ ex-offenders project. their goals are the following:

to make visible the often invisible discriminatory practices of denying employment to individuals with criminal records, to reduce the class and race based stigma of criminality and to challenge the popular media discourse that demonizes individuals with criminal records and individuals making the transition from prison to civil society.

if you would like to support their work, you can order a handsome $12 t-shirt. former offenders are also invited to submit their own photos for use in the campaign. you can contact sarah or mark at for other ways to get involved in this grassroots effort.

built to spill -- transcendence revisited

here's a happy ending to an older post. built to spill made good at first avenue tonight on the gig they cancelled in march. it is too late to write a review, but the guitar work was transcendent on this first show of their new tour.

doug martsch was joined by two other guitarists, bass, and drums.
closed circuit to gary: bts fans should love this setup. mr. martsch had an energetic rhythm player (mostly rhthym, anyway) to his right, and a more fluid and furry slide and skronk artist to his left. each played a well-worn and/or partially disassembled strat or telecaster. at one point all three were noodling away somewhere north of fret #14, leaving the capable rhythm section to push the song along. it all fit together surprisingly well, especially for several "new" and "first live performance" efforts.

there was no cortez the killer, but great waves of guitar washed over us on several other extended workouts. i even heard a little beck's bolero mixed in with the neil young, plus an eco-friendly guest shot by calvin johnson and a topical gladiators cover. but mostly it was three guitarists playing beautifully together.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

high school fantasy leagues?

i much prefer watching high school football on fridays to pro football on sundays. the night air is crisp, the hot dogs are cheap, you sit closer to the action, and the kids just seem to try a lot harder.

this season, however, st. paul's daily paper came up with the second creepiest thing i've encountered as a football dad: The Pioneer Press High School Fantasy Football League.* a quick google search revealed a broad national trend, with high school fantasy leagues popping up in ohio, new jersey, louisiana, texas, and elsewhere. yeesh.

as a guy who spends a lot of time with a high school sophomore, let me just ask ... have these fantasy football writers ever spent any time with a high school sophomore? if so, they would know that no good can come of this. the kids get too much attention for playing football already, often swamping the attention they get for academic work. plus, the great life lesson in high school football is about teamwork (and overcoming fear and pain with one's buds) rather than the individual stats compiled so carefully in fantasy leagues. finally, i cringe at the thought of some fantasy rube accosting the neighbor kid for failing to accumulate sufficient points under the friday night lights.

i tend to draw a bright line between amateur and professional athletes, with only the latter subject to critical analysis and ridicule. i'd keep college students out of such leagues as well -- let the coaches rip the players and the fans just be fans. i once taught intro statistics to an earnest sociology major who happened to be the walk-on kicker for the football team. i winced whenever he missed a field goal, worried that he'd be savaged by the local scribes. he was a fine student and didn't even have a scholarship at the time, so it wasn't as though he owed the university or the writers or the fans anything. fortunately, he didn't miss very often.

it is bad enough that we put teenage college athletes through the media wringer, but high school kids? i noticed that one of tor's teammates was a first-round draft pick on this team. i hope he takes it as a compliment and then puts it out of his mind. clearly, the middle schoolers are next, with the pee-wees following shortly thereafter. i just didn't expect the daily paper to join in on the fun.

*the modern-day injury waiver form remains the absolute creepiest thing i've encountered as a football dad. and, heaven help me, i signed one that was way scarier than this. i felt as though i were signing enlistment papers for my fifteen-year-old.

Monday, September 11, 2006

the generalizability of success

i can do a small number of things really well, a slightly larger number of things pretty well, and a whole universe of things poorly. that's why i'm astounded when folks can do a whole universe of things really, really well.

trent tucker, the former gopher, bull, and knick, could rain three-pointers of astonishing distance and accuracy. mr. tucker held his eighth annual celebrity golf tournament this weekend, adding a poker tournament to the festivities for the first time this year.

according to the press release, some A-list athletes and card players turned out for the $2,500 buy-in event:

"From the household names like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, and other NBA greats to Poker's elite including Phil Hellmuth, Greg Raymer, Hoyt Corkins, Marcel Luske, Patrik Antonius, Liz Lieu, John Phan and Robert Williamson (and more) -- the list is an impressive 40+ celebs long which will put a celebrity at every table in the tournament. "

so, guess who beat all the high-powered poker champs? that's right, the tall gentleman with six rings on his fingers. if he set his mind to it, i bet mr. jordan could lead a sociology department to the top of the NRC rankings in under a decade. or maybe win the heavyweight boxing championship. it makes me wonder whether he was really even trying with the white sox and wizards.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

john mayer and futura at oslo coffee?

sis sends word that oslo coffee is featured in the new john mayer waiting on the world to change video: "the graffiti artist in the video is a friend/customer and he came by OSLO when they were filming- so we got about 2 seconds of fame. If you look closely, you'll see JD for about 1 second." along with mr. mayer, futura, tats cru, and daze, my bro-in-law j.d. pops up at about 1:26.

their williamsburg, brooklyn neighborhood is visually engaging, as is the shop -- the interior was featured in another short film a few years ago. young esperanza washed dishes at the oslo counter this summer, so maybe this counts as a brush with fame (i'll have to ask whether john mayer remains cool among middle-schoolers).

mr. mayer's cd drops september 12, but the single has received much airplay already. as for the song, i love the groove but the lyrics seem ... ambiguous. is he preaching passivity here? or critiquing his generation for being too passive?

it's not that we don't care
we just know that the fight ain't fair
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

a second question concerns whether the song is an homage to curtis mayfield's oft-covered people get ready (see, e.g., alicia keys, stewart/beck, ziggy marley, the wailers, bono/boss, and eva cassidy) or an appropriation of said anthem. i'm giving mr. mayer the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he's urging his generation to change the world (rather than to wait for it to change) with an homage to mr. mayfield's unifying civil rights anthem.

either way, i hope the pub is good for the coffee business. sis and jd just opened oslo II a few blocks from their roebling street shop, so now they've got some real competition in the neighborhood. i'm baffled by the economics of coffee shops -- and airline ticket pricing, department stores, and higher education -- but 87,377 have at least seen oslo on youtube.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

what, like i'm supposed to go to macy's now?

i keep it simple when it comes to shopping. growing up in minnesota, that once meant target for regular stuff and dayton's for the "nice" stuff. i guess you could add garage sales and junk stores for cheap stuff, but other than that i've been a loyal target/dayton's shopper.

this had many advantages. i rarely had to set foot in a mall, i didn't waste time driving around, and i could choose from among a nicely delimited set of options. this was especially true for men's clothing and accessories -- guys knew they'd never go too far astray buying their shirts, shoes, suits, belts, coats, luggage, and other stuff at dayton's. the clerks were good, so one always had reliable help matching a tie and quickly finding all manner of fine gifts for friends and family. plus, they had a sweet candy counter in the basement that made a trip with dad a bit more memorable for the kids.

like other grand old department stores, dayton's began hemorrhaging money a few years ago. they were purchased by marshall field's of chicago, and eventually dropped the dayton's name altogether. as of today, field's has been subsumed under the macy's name. my loyalty waned with the first switch and i certainly won't be patronizing macy's with any regularity.

don't proud local names like dayton's have any market value? does it really cost that much to create signage and shopping bags with a little local flavor? i can't imagine that the good people of chicago will get excited (at least not in a positive way) about shopping at macy's rather than field's.

old-school minnesotans sure didn't like the first switch and i can't imagine they'll favor this one, either. if the department store concept is dead altogether, maybe a smart entrepreneur could reprise the moniker under a new business model. let me selfishly suggest a men's store featuring good stuff that a fella can pick up on the way home from work. this would offer easy one-stop shopping for minnesota curmudgeons like me and my dad (and, soon enough, my son). perhaps retiring minnesota senator mark dayton can be lured back into the family business. i'll even toss my fedora at the opening if you think it would help.

Friday, September 08, 2006

i'd better make every lecture count...

i asked the eighty students in my sociology of deviance class how much they were paying to see me and TA woz and what sort of service they expected. after years of tuition increases, they were primed for such questions, with one student estimating his costs at $1,000 for the course or about $35 per lecture. in truth, the resident tuition is $291.85 per credit, so that's $875.55 for my 3-credit course -- but $2,217.45 for out-of-staters.

i believe the minnversity remains a bargain, but the days of public education that is both excellent and inexpensive may be numbered. according to a strib story by norman draper,
  • In 1992, the average Minnesota family paid about 19 percent of its income to attend a public four-year college or university. Now, the average family pays about 26 percent of its income, says the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
  • Nationwide, costs at four-year public colleges and universities rose from 19 percent in 1992 to 31 percent this year.
  • For community colleges, the percentage of a Minnesota family's income to pay for college rose from 19 percent to 22 percent over that same period.
  • Costs for private colleges remained the same, accounting for 54 percent of family income.
  • The average loan amount that undergraduate students borrow per year rose from $2,727 in 1992 to $3,234 in 2006.

ouch. i tried to dig up some of my eighties tuition stubs from the wizversity for comparison. i came up empty, but do recall that it was much, much, cheaper in real dollars. my folks paid much of it, i got a few scholarships, and i slung a lot of grilled veggie sandwiches and cco burgers at stillwaters on state street to make up the balance. in the end, i gained a fine education and graduated with little debt.

that combination of revenue streams just ain't cutting it these days, so i've got a lot of empathy for my hard-working students. had i been saddled with large debt, i don't know whether it would have been so easy for me to start a family on a social worker's salary, buy a li'l house on the isthmus, and then start investing in grad education.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

voting requirements

the great legal mind wrote with an update on minnesota voting requirements. like many jurisdictions, my home state publishes a voting FAQ.

sometimes folks are skeptical when i argue that the rules are unclear or needlessly complicated. when i do so, i'm referring to passages such as this one:

Q: Who is eligible to vote?
A: You may vote if you are:

  1. at least 18 years of age [no problem here]
  2. a US citizen [check]
  3. a Minnesota resident for at least 20 days before the election [shouldn't be hard to figure out]
  4. not a convicted felon without your civil rights [hmmm. what if had been convicted but did my time?]
  5. not under guardianship of the person where you have not retained the right to vote [huh? HUH?]
  6. not legally incompetent [well, technically i'm not legally incompetent]

my research draws my attention to criterion #4, since i think such statements give former felons the erroneous impression that they cannot vote even after they are released from (probation, parole, or prison) supervision. but #5 is just bizarre. i get the sense that this rule was first translated into japanese, then into norwegian, then rewritten as english. before you vote in november, be sure to ask yourself whether you are "not under guardianship of the person where you have not retained the right to vote." and remember -- if you misinterpret the rules and vote illegally, you've just committed a felony.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


with the twin cities marathon gaining on me rapidly (is it september already?), i was in the market for some weekend inspiration. so i rented prefontaine on sunday, which isn't bad for a sports movie where you know the ending. and the middle. and the start. still, it's a ripping yarn. a legendary icon, the hypercompetitive steve prefontaine (at left with coach bill bowerman) is the james dean of american runners.

i had a strong and inexplicable impulse to book an immediate flight to eugene, so that i could run a few laps hard at the u. of oregon's hayward field. either that, or i could go for a PR in the prefontaine memorial 10k next sunday in the icon's hometown of coos bay.

mr. prefontaine made some bold statements about running, some of which i still cite on my quotes page. wanting to see the real non-fictionalized deal, i located a few youtube clips of mr. prefontaine at hayward as a freshman and, later, in los angeles to tackle some tough milers ("rubbing the specialists' noses in it") on their own turf. these were cool, but didn't move me. so i checked out a couple modern-day milers, hicham el guerrouj and high-school prodigy alan webb. those dudes are scary fast, but (again) too smooth for me.

i was about to give up, when i came across this old clip of billy mills in the 1964 olympic 10,000 meters.* next time you run a 10k, just try to kick like ol' mr. mills when you see the finish line. i'll be thinking of mr. mills when i run on october 1. he's bumped hard off the track, boxed in on the last lap, and yet somehow found strength enough to finish the 10k like a sprinter. an oglala lakota (sioux), orphaned at 12 and raised on the pine ridge reservation, mr. mills is the national spokesperson for running strong, an organization that's all about inspiration.
* if the youtube clip is too grainy, try this one.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

real innovations and passing fads

somebody alert willard scott: according to msnbc, the forward pass turns 100 today.

Fans saw a legal forward pass for the first time on Sept. 5, 1906, in a game between Saint Louis and Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis ... With his patience wearing thin in a scoreless game, [saint louis coach] Cochems called for the play the team had secretly practiced — the “air attack.”

this was a real innovation, but it required a significant rule change. until now, i never knew that passing was undertaken as a safety measure in a game that was considerably more violent back in the day:

With serious injuries, deaths, biting, kicking and punching in football drawing criticism across the country, a rules committee urged by President Theodore Roosevelt officially made passing permissible.

bully for ted, i suppose. passing makes the game much more interesting, even for us slow kids who played the "smashmouth" variant of the game. as a little fullback, i just remember two plays: dive right and dive left. i'm really astounded by the sophistication of the modern high school passing game. i see much more passing than biting, kicking, and punching in the lad's games.

last week, the mounds view sophomores opened the season by defeating hated lakeville 34-28. both teams could throw it and catch it waaay better than the high schoolers i recall from the 80s and 90s. back then, the prep passing game was equivalent to that of electric football -- in which the QB flings a dust mote with wholly unpredictable direction and velocity, and the probability of a reception varied between zero and .002. a former minnversity coach summed up the attitude: three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad.

in contrast, last year's mounds view quarterback threw 250 passes for 1,913 yards and 14 touchdowns, with a single receiver catching 59 for 896 yards. of course, i spend most of the game watching the pass-blocking schemes of the line, who pull and trap as much as they stand and protect. i'm hoping my long-armed lad will someday try his hand at tight end in this offense. what better position for a rugby player on a pass-first team?

sorta like springsteen getting both covers in '75

minnesota sociology's american mosaic project landed in both time and newsweek today. the mosaic is a cool multi-method study of racial and religious intolerance. three faculty members -- penny edgell, joe gerteis, and doug hartmann -- put together a dream team of grad students to do a national telephone survey, in-depth interviews, and extensive fieldwork in several cities.

a spate of fresh articles and books are in the works that should bring to light some new social facts on core issues in race and ethnic relations and the sociology of religion. the time article concerns an asa paper on white racial identity by (grad student) paul croll, doug hartmann, and joe gerteis. newsweek cites penny edgell's asr article with joe and doug on atheism.

to be sure, such large-scale primary data collection is a huge freakin' pain in the butt. on the other hand, it can be incredibly liberating to break out of the standard secondary sources. moreover, even simple descriptive statistics from such projects can tell fascinating stories. in this case, the mosaic uncovered far more intolerance of atheists and far more white racial consciousness in the united states than existing data would have led us to believe.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

ignoble influences

michael stipe once took some heat for opining "the Beatles were elevator music in my lifetime. Yummy Yummy Yummy (I've Got Love in My Tummy) had more impact on me."

it sounds like heresy, but i know what he means. we are often influenced by work that didn't appear to be very influential to anyone but us. i've got two examples, related to music and writing.

i can trace my passion for garage rock directly to a single called liar liar by the castaways, an improbable local hit by some less-than-glamorous (i'd say dorkish but that seems a bit mean) university of minnesota undergrads in the sixties. [if bikinis don't offend you, there's also a groovy full-color version too.] about 45 seconds into the song, there's a little bass riff, a hearty OWWWWW! and a rippin' good five-second guitar solo. though i was still a preschooler, i was forever hooked by that OWWWWW! i remember worrying at the time that all the good songs would be taken before i could get my band together, figuring that such magical sounds could only be discovered rather than invented.

soon thereafter i was inspired by my first power chord. did it come from sabbath? zeppelin? nope: mother freedom by bread, those so-soft-you-can-hardly-call-'em-soft rockers staples of the am dial. and i still play the opening riff whenever i'm plugged into a fuzz box. no wonder i never got anywhere as a guitar player.

as for writing, i sometimes claim to have learned the craft in adolescence by aping lester bangs' articles in creem and circus. before that, however, i picked up an odd book that wasn't really about baseball cards by brendan boyd and fred harris. at age 10 or so, i was struck by the authors' wit, nostalgic reverie, and inspired personifications of the two-dimensional images and information contained on the cards. of course, i wouldn't have used those words at the time. more importantly, their snarky profiles of long-retired players doubled me up in choking, eye-watering, laughter. this is waaaay better than Mad magazine. if i could write like that, i might quit the band. especially since all the good songs are taken already...

i still love the book, but doubt anyone else would see it as an undiscovered classic. here are a few of my favorite pages, though, describing the cleveland indians' relief tandem of ray narleski and don mossi -- reimagined as creepy small-town undertakers. the page shown above is a little bio on wayne terwilliger, the former twins and saints coach. if you like this sort of thing, copies of a '91 edition remain available at your favorite online bookseller. as for the castaways, well, they're holding up quite well at #284,948 on the amazon charts.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

say a prayer

i'm reprinting a comment that arrived today in response to an older post. i can't begin to feel the writer's frustration, but i've heard his story again and again and again and again. by my count, there are about 11.7 million former felons -- people no longer under any correctional supervision -- in circulation in the united states today. they often have a very tough time finding work:

To Other Convicted Felons,
I am at the end of my rope. I have a non-violent, class D Felony for Burglary that was committed 2 yrs ago. I have a College Degree in Marketing Mgmt. & great work experience. I have endorsements from Probation for successfully meeting the terms & conditions of probation.
I applied to Owens-Corning for a job in Construction Sales & I lied about my Felony. I passed all of their requirements (phone & interview screenings, drug test, online psychological test) and beat out 2 other candidates for consideration. They sent me to Toledo, OH for 1 week of training. I truly believed that they would do the background check first. When they didn't, I thought maybe God heard my prayers. Upon my first day of work, the Boss says a background check revealed my record. I pleaded with him to give me a shot as that was an isolated incident. I told him that the guy he nterviewed & liked was the guy that I am.
All to no avail. I left humiliated & ashamed. I see no worthwhile job opportunities & am contemplating suicide. Please don't say this is crazy, I already know that. I just can't face the future with this amount of Hopelessness. Please say a prayer for me, I just can't deal with this.

does it help or hurt to know that others have walked the same hard road? with nowhere to hide from their records, i know that many beat their heads against the wall for years (and years and years and years), often working their way up from the very bottom and sometimes getting stuck along the way.

i happened to meet yesterday with some folks on the council on crime and justice about a new research project on employment and criminal records. in time, it might provide some policy guidance on employment and criminal records, but this research doesn't offer any help or solace today. at best, it will nail down some social facts on the issue that legislators can consider or ignore.

i've never done hard time, but i know i've done worse than a class-D burglary. i'm not usually a praying man, but i just gave it a try. i'm also inspired to keep working on reentry and reintegration issues, as both a researcher and a private citizen. godspeed on your journey, man.

Friday, September 01, 2006

the times calls it gorgeous melancholia

ms. chan marshall touches down in minneapolis' varsity theater on saturday for a couple cat power solo acoustic sets. i'm hitting the 9 pm show with young wes.

i've heard wildly mixed reviews of her live performances, but i've loved her songs from the taut and scary nude as the news to the warm memphis soul of the greatest. i don't want to over-expect, but ... it should be a very good show in an intimate setting.