Chris Uggen's Blog: October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

chairs on wheels

i'm in los angeles this week, attending the american society of criminology annual meetings. it is always tough to leave my classes, but the able woz and i have planned some good stuff for 'em in my absence.

in my view, a good department chair must be accessible. that's why i've got some pangs of role conflict as i take a few days to indulge in life as a research professor. the time between the ASA meetings in august and the ASC meetings in november always seems to be the busiest on my calendar. during such times, i repeat to myself: never extrapolate. if i worry that i'll fall ever farther behind then i tend to become even less productive, which means that i will fall ever further behind -- a textbook mertonian self-fulfilling prophesy. for now, i'll enjoy the sunshine and my good fortune and try to learn something at the meetings.

Monday, October 30, 2006

punishment conference at new school 11/30-12/1

there's an exciting punishment conference coming up at the new school at the end of november. some heavy hitters will be presenting, including such first-name luminaries as bruce, jeremy, sting, todd, prince, and jonathon. okay, i was kidding about prince and sting, but they did assemble a stellar group of speakers. i'm on a panel discussing alternatives to a carceral state, moderated by brent staples of the times editorial page.

the conference also features a tour at the metropolitan museum of art on artistic representations of punishment, and a reading of prison writings featuring richard gere. the conference isn't free, but it is pretty cheap: $50 or $15 for students.

what would you say on the subject of alternatives to a carceral state? what would you say to richard gere?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

selection, strain, or opportunity in grad student cheating?

aside from a few notorious cases where the accused quickly left a program, i don't hear much about cheating among sociology grad students.

a new self-report study finding high rates of cheating among business students is getting some press this week. business professor donald mccabe of rutgers, kenneth butterfield of washington state, and linda klebe trevino of pennsylvania state collected data from 5,331 graduate students at 32 colleges and universities in the united states and canada from 2002 to 2004. the researchers asked about 13 behaviors, including cheating on tests and exams, plagiarism, faking a bibliography or turning in someone else's work.

here is the prevalence of cheating by area of study:

Percentage of graduate students who acknowledged cheating in the past year:
Business: 56%
Engineering: 54%
Physical sciences: 50%
Med students/health care: 49%
Education: 48%
Law: 45%
Arts: 43%
Humanities/social sciences: 39%

i haven't seen the full study, but my guess is that the high prevalence rates are due to one or two common but less serious offenses. nevertheless, the authors collected data on frequency and variety of cheating as well, which also seem to point the finger at business students.

the raw results raise some interesting questions. it is easy to formulate a selectivity hypothesis (e.g., business and law students are greedier), but there may also be more strain or competition in these fields (e.g., high-stakes exams and class ranks that matter), and, perhaps, more frequent opportunities to cheat (e.g., midterms and finals rather than seminar papers). is it selection, strain, or opportunity that places business students at the top of the list and social scientists at the bottom?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

fantasy inland

i got off the plane late friday and picked up the paper to relax. according to sid hartman, the strib's elder scribe, vikings coach brad childress had a lot to say about planes:

"I thought that the right group got on the plane, and I talked to those guys about that," Childress said. "The right group got on the plane when we went to Washington -- not so much the right group when we went to Buffalo. I thought these guys were right-minded. When our right-minded group gets on the plane, we feel like we can play with anybody ... individually, as a group, offense, defense, special teams, because it's a collective group that gets on the plane."

well, the minnversity's college football team got on the plane to columbus this week, chased out of town by angry maroon and gold fans with torches and pitchforks. they are 27-point underdogs to the nation's top-ranked team, and they barely eked out a victory over a teeny-tiny school with teeny-tiny players last week.

that's why i'm picking my gophers in this one. against all rational judgment, i somehow know they'll keep the buckeyes within 26 points and they just ... might ... even ... win. here's my reasoning:

1. the weather is lousy, which might lead to turnovers and keep the point differential close.
2. minnesota coach glen mason is a former ohio state assistant. he'll have the lads fired up for this one.
3. fan support has hit bottom. they were chanting "fire mason" at the hockey game last night.
4. ohio state will be coasting until the michigan game november 18.
5. the players know that this single game is their last best chance to turn a sad season into a great success. playing the "nobody believed in us" card can be a great motivator when nobody does, in fact, believe in you.

i believe, lads. go get 'em.

pub econ?

my friday talk was co-sponsored by a law school and a soc department. over the years, i've spoken in econ departments and policy schools and crim departments and law schools and african american studies departments. it is always fun to see the different norms regarding length, interruptions, and so forth. in the soc series, the speakers are expected to talk for an hour and then take questions for thirty minutes. in the law series, in contrast, they are expected to speak for seven minutes before engaging in questions. this must have something to do with billable hours.

i spoke about public criminology (and, by extension, public sociology), using clifford shaw as an exemplar. many law professors have been doing pubcrim for years, particularly on the op/ed front, but an econ phd/law prof couldn't see how the idea of public economics would ever gain much momentum. i mumbled something about lester thurow and john r. commons, and, of course, steven levitt's name came up. still, i think my questioner was probably right about the prospects for pub econ.

is there a public aspect to other disciplines (e.g., pub polisci, pub anthro, pub psych, pub history, pub philosophy, pub geography, pub genetics), or is sociology somehow uniquely positioned to want or need a public variant? if so, does this signal the relative weakness or the relative strength of sociology as a discipline?

Friday, October 27, 2006

new! more tasty

i raced from my deviance lecture to catch a chicago flight, but wound up delayed by a bit of rain. i've been cramming too much wholesome sociological goodness into my talks recently, so i'm trying to make some judicious edits before my talk at noon tomorrow.

while working and waiting, i made five random airport observations:

1. i was surprised to see karl lagerfeld driving a courtesy cart through the G-concourse. i'm sure it was him. or maybe it was yves. you just can't get eyewear like that in minnesota.

2. i enjoyed a delicious can of foco mango juice with my mongolian beef airport lunch. although it was only 30 percent mango (the remaining 70 percent appeared to be sugar), i can aver that, as advertised, the product is indeed more tasty than almost any other juice product. if they put it in a sexier bottle, the jugo de mango might give pomegranate a run for its money.

3. some have suggested that the flight restrictions on liquids were orchestrated by an evil consortium of hotel gift-shop operators. after sacrificing my 4-oz hair goo to the war on terror (3 oz. would have been ok), i began to notice the ever more fashionable haircuts of the american male business traveler. most guys my age were combing their hair forward and then applying industrial-strength product to fashion a look that is at once boyish and tousled, yet completely disciplined (or, at least, completely resistant to hurricane-force winds). i got the sense that my feathered seventies look wouldn't fly in very many industries these days.

4. it seemed as though there was more relaxed joking among airport staff than i'd seen at any time since 9/11. i saw several male workers enjoying a lunch break together, flirting with the restaurant workers, and happy to chat with weary travelers like myself. i don't know whether such good feelings are a fluke, a trend, or a mirage, but it was good to see the tension ratcheted down, if only for a moment.

5. my hosts eric and dani have been most gracious. i knew dani was from orange county, california, so i said i'd been resisting calling her dani california since she must hear that all the time. nope, she said, nobody had ever brought that up. either the chili peppers are off the cultural radar these days or chicago is working their grad students too hard.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

green light for meep

today i learned that our minnsoc team got just enough funding to launch the minnesota entries and exits project, a collaborative multi-method reentry study. a bunch of us have been investing heavily since summer, but now it finally feels real. we'll be interviewing and ultimately surveying young adults in their communities, as they return from correctional institutions, drug treatment, mental health facilities, the foster care system, and military combat.

all of the state actors involved -- including my college within the state's great land grant research institution -- have been remarkably cooperative. we've put together teams of faculty, grads, and undergrads for each of the populations, and have been meeting since summer to work out readings, design, human subjects protections, and other important details. to be sure, some daunting coordination problems arise in such a sprawling endeavor. but what could be more fun than vibing with one's colleagues and students on a big ol' honkin' social science project?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

my librarian is better than your librarian

nancy herther, the minnversity's fine sociology librarian, prepared this handy report comparing searches of sociological abstracts with those of criminal justice abstracts.

for crim researchers, the upshot is that we might miss an important article if we only search criminal justice abstracts. ms. herther gives a few examples from the journal criminology to show potential gaps in cja coverage.

here's her accompanying note:

I had mentioned some time ago about the work that I did a year ago - first comparing journals lists, etc. - between Sociological Abstracts and Criminal Justice Abstracts. In general they are both wonderful databases, however I always felt somewhat "twitchy" about CJA, so I pursued it by looking at specific issue by issue coverage and prepared a brief report of what I found - and my recommendations for secondary research - which is attached. CJA is a wonderful database, but at an advanced level, I'd strongly encourage faculty and students to use both SA and CJA to guarantee comprehensiveness. I'd hate to have anyone miss something significant.

sandy west

every day brings a new rock and roll obit -- and i've already got one for october 21 -- but sandy west's passing on saturday surely deserves mention.

ms. west was the strong and straight-ahead drummer for the runaways. they were marketed in the mid-seventies as a gimmicky jailbait fantasy, but joan jett, lita ford, ms. west, and their bandmates somehow reappropriated themselves as rockers real and true. some dismiss the music and cheesy stage clothes, especially the creepier stuff crafted by manager kim fowley. people who wouldn't waste their time dismissing, say, aerosmith or thin lizzy, go way out of their way to dismiss female bands such as the runaways. but anyway...

they have lived on and, in my view, they still hold up pretty well -- at least in relation to andy gibb, kansas, and other luminaries of the period. i like this playin' with fire video from 1977 because it shows them as just another rock and roll band -- restringing guitars, testing mics, and eating junk. i can't prove it, but i think such statements by the runaways went a long way toward establishing once and for all that sixteen-year-old girls could rock just like sixteen year-old boys.

of course, an all-girl band seeking rock cred at the height of the bonham era needed a powerful drummer, and ms. west was more than up to the task. i'm guessing that lori barbero of babes in toyland wore out the grooves in her runaways albums. a site called ranks ms. west #11 in their top 100 list, with this description: The hardest woman on the list. Slick, incredible R&R power. Not just T&A. that sounds about right -- and it just might describe ol' bonzo too.

Monday, October 23, 2006

abandoned luncheonette

my sociology department is experimenting with a free lunch with a professor series. i like the idea of greater interaction between undergrads and faculty, so i was eager to get behind the effort. since i'm playing the role of the professor this wednesday, i asked ann miller, our wonderful undergrad advisor, about the expected turnout.

well... perhaps we should rename it a very intimate free lunch with a professor, since only a couple brave souls have signed up thus far. i'll try not to take it personally. we have approximately 600 undergrad majors in the department, so that really means that only 99.67 percent of our students have absolutely no interest in dining with me.

hmmm, such non-response could be indicative of a broader trend. considering that i'm teaching 80 students this semester, i'm getting precious little traffic in office hours these days. perhaps such signs mark the end of my days as a (medium-) cool professor and the beginning of another stage of the academic life course. i'll keep a close eye on the evaluation data and check rate my professors after the semester just to see some unvarnished comments.

more immediately, do you have any ideas for drumming up lunch interest in the next 2 days? maybe we should advertise the menu. yes, beer would help, but underage drinking is not currently an option on the table. frosty chocolate mikshakes, perhaps? if you would like to attend this wednesday (the 25th from 11:45-1 in room 915) and keep us company, just email ann at: i have it on good authority that good seats are still available.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

war songs

the chicago tribune reports today on the music of the refugee all-stars in west africa, which got me thinking about american war songs. until this summer, i'd heard comparatively few treatments of the iraq war by musicians. i recall a burst of patriotic war songs on country radio in 2003-2004, by artists such as (the reconstituted) lynyrd skynyrd, clint black, toby keith, and darryl worley. these were countered mainly by strong anti-war statements by green day's american idiot and "political" artists such as steve earle.

now the picture is more diffuse and complicated, with every album and performance seeming to address the war in one way or another. i've heard three bands cover war pigs this year, including a spirited version by the flaming lips at the minnesota state fair. natalie maines of the dixie chicks famously criticized the president, then apologized for her disrespect, and today stands by her initial comments. even good ol' bluegrass music is split over the presence of military bands and music at an awards show. similarly, mr. worley's new song is a somber and conflicted story about the problems soldiers face in returning from combat. it is a long way from a protest song, but an equally fair distance from the pro-war stance of his hit, have you forgotten?

neil young says he waited as long as he could -- age 60 -- before unleashing his metal-folk-protest fury (prompting mr. colbert to ask "is it just you or the entire AARP?"). mr. young's living with war site now offers a handy list of the top 100 protest videos and top 700 songs of the times. on the videos page, you can watch bruce, merle, pink, steel pulse, the drive-by truckers, bad religion, devendra barnhart, and even a loose performance of a nofx song favored by the lad. perhaps lee greenwood or toby keith will create a countersite so that we can view the top 100 pro- and anti- songs together.

flipping through such videos tells you something about public sentiment, though we'd learn more from a simple list of the top 100 songs addressing the war from any perspective whatsoever. i bet one could discern temporal shifts in the pro- or anti- ideology that lag public opinion by a year or so. i suppose one could argue that artists are leading public sentiment on the war, but i've seen little evidence to support this hypothesis in the past five years (unless one counts mr. colbert and mr. stewart as artists, i suppose). alternatively, one might find more strident statements on both sides early in a war that give way to more complex and personal visions over time. i'm not sure how cultural sociologists have approached such issues, but there are a lot of data just waiting to be analyzed...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

elliott smith, r.i.p.

Elliott Smith - Waterloo Sunset

8/6/69 - 10/21/03

he was complicated, but you might get a glimpse of mr. smith in this spin collection of interviews (e.g., the image of him reading catharine mackinnon and feeling even more guilty and depressed).

as for the performance, i still rank waterloo sunset as the most beautiful song in the english language. [what other candidates would you nominate for the honor?] it seems to have special resonance for sociologists, writers, and other maybe-too-sensitive observers of the human condition. this is the definitive full-regalia live kinks version, but the great terry reid gives waterloo a powerful superlungs reiding as well.

Friday, October 20, 2006

estimates of glb individuals from the american communities survey

in teaching about sexual norms and practices, i'm struck by how little information we have about some of the basic social facts. a new study by gary gates at ucla's sexual orientation law institute brings some new data to bear on the subject. based on analysis of the census bureau's 2005 american community survey, it appears that the number of self-identifying same-sex couples rose dramatically from 2000 to 2005.

the study reports that the number of same-sex couples in the U.S. grew by more than 30 percent from 2000 to 2005, from about 600,000 couples in 2000 to almost 777,000 in 2005. this likely signals a major shift in willingness to report the nature of the relationship rather than a major shift in actual relationships. given the magnitude of the change, i'll need a bit more assurance that the imperfect indicators are at least consistently measured at the two data points. if measurement artifacts aren't a huge problem, the shift likely indicates that the stigma associated with same-sex partnering is rapidly diminishing.

the report offers some intriguing estimates on the spatial distribution of sexual preference. minnesota is among the top ten states in the estimated percentage of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in the adult population at 4.7 percent. i figured that urban d.c. would be have a high percentage of same sex couples, but i'm not sure why new hampshire and washington are ranked so high. is willingness to report higher in these states? (and, does affluence or racial homogeneity have something to do with willingness to report?). or, are there simply lots of same-sex couples in washington and new hampshire?

Rank and Estimated % of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in the adult population
1 District of Columbia 8.1%
2 New Hampshire 6.6%
3 Washington 5.7%
4 Massachusetts 5.7%
5 Maine 5.2%
6 California 5.2%
7 Colorado 5.1%
8 Vermont 5.1%
9 New Mexico 4.9%
10 Minnesota 4.7%

both new hampshire and minnesota had high rates of growth in same-sex couples, though these numbers are a little misleading because the 2000 base rates were rather low in most midwestern states:

Rank and % Increase in Same-sex couples, 2000 to 2005
1 New Hampshire 106%
2 Wisconsin 81%
3 Minnesota 76%
4 Nebraska 71%
5 Kansas 68%
6 Ohio 62%
7 Colorado 58%
8 Iowa 58%
9 Missouri 56%
10 Indiana 54%

finally, the twin cities ranks high among metro areas (5.7%). at 12.5%, minneapolis ranks behind only san francisco (15.4%) and seattle (12.9%) in the estimated percentage of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.

estimated % of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in metro and largest city
1 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont 8.2% 15.4%
2 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue 6.5% 12.9%
3 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy 6.2% 12.3%
4 Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton 6.1% 8.8%
5 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 5.9% 6.1%
6 Austin-Round Rock 5.9% 4.8%
7 Denver-Aurora 5.8% 8.2%
8 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington 5.7% 12.5%
9 Orlando-Kissimmee 5.7% 7.7%
10 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford 5.6% 6.8%

looking at these descriptive statistics, i can't help but note the high ranking of some of the nation's most attractive places: san francisco, seattle, minneapolis, boston, and portland are the top five cities on the list. it ain't exactly sodom and gomorrah, right?

do the fervent critics of same-sex marriage actually sound the alarm that their burg could "become just like new hampshire?" or warn, "look what happened to portland!" based on these data, i know where i'd be happiest living and raising my kids: in places where there are many same-sex couples and, just as importantly, where there is little or no stigma attached to sexual preference.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

wouldn't the moral entrepreneurs make a nice name for a band?

i generally reserve howard becker's term moral entrepreneurs for full-on self-righteous crusading reformers such as prohibitionists. yet one needn't look far to find mellower unplugged and acoustic versions of the concept.

chris riemenschneider, the strib's fine music writer, offers a front-page story this morning on environmentally friendly concert tours. performers such as gomez, the dave matthews band, pearl jam, jack johnson, bonnie raitt, and even the entire warped tour (!) have gone at least a little bit green.

cloud cult singer craig minowaare and others try to model environmentally friendly lifestyles without "sounding like some preachy folk singer." what behaviors are they modeling?

* Using biodiesel tour bus.
* Buying renewable-energy "credits" to offset fuel emissions.
* Using soy-based ink and recycled paper in merchandise.
* Selling organic cotton T-shirts.
* Serving organic food backstage.
* Minimizing bus idling.
* Staying at hotels identified as eco-friendly.

as gusfield pointed out, status politics are at play when uppers tell lowers how they should live. but bands such as gomez aren't really cultural elites (yet) nor are they too wealthy to feel the extra cost of their green livin'. so all this seems quite socially responsible to me, though i wonder how ol' keith moon would have fared in such a band. maybe he'd personalize the practices:

* Driving biodiesel tour bus into holiday inn swimming pool.
* Smashing corn-plastic drum kits.
* Detonating biodegradable explosives.
* Recycling endless stream of Courvoisier bottles.
* Dressing in organic cotton vicar's, clown, and santa claus costumes.
* Heating room with detritus of smashed televisions, chairs, dressers, beds, and cupboards.

i wouldn't count mr. moon as a moral (or immoral?) entrepreneur, but he certainly qualified as a professional discoverer of wrongs to be righted, of situations requiring new rules.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

maiden chicago -- talk next friday

i'll be stopping by the university of chicago's social theory and evidence and crime and punishment workshops next friday.

former minnversity undergrad eric hedberg and danielle wallace will be my grad student hosts. eric's minnsoc logo, which really would make a fine tattoo, still graces our minnversity site. i'm glad to see his eye for imagery* put to good use at chicago as well. mr. hedberg sent me this alternative version of the flyer, which he describes as the iron maiden treatment. cool, eric, but could you show me something in a sabbath, or perhaps a green?

it should be a fine li'l trip before the crim meetings -- easy flight, an absurdly smart audience, and warm friends. if discovery is the great individual thrill of science as a vocation, perhaps intellectual kinship and fellow-feeling is the great comfort. when i'm weary of prisons and undone by obligations unmet and nuts uncracked, the blog muse reminds me to enjoy the warmth and wonder of connecting with teachers, colleagues, and students:

"...a loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one's work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart." --Albert Camus, The Plague

*at this point, i might also mention revisions, mr. hedberg's feature-length bildungsroman with partner james buffington. when i saw the mean male prof and nice female prof in the trailers, i worried that maybe the mean dude was me. mr. hedberg assured me that only the good prof had uggenesque influences, but, alas, i just wasn't believable as a man. i choose to understand this as a compliment, and the story generally elicits knowing nods and chuckles among my friends.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

waaaaay better than that pink floyd lasershow you saw in high school

today i felt some distant connection to a couple projects in baltimore and new york that mix music and images.

first, the baltimore symphony is performing chris theofanidis' rainbow body november 9-12. the piece will be presented along with recent imagery from the hubble space telescope -- and astrophysicist mario livio will help interpret the imagery. the concert on the 9th is at the strathmore center just outside dc, with the others at baltimore's meyerhoff hall. i traveled with chris a few years ago in japan. he's both brilliant and friendly, but i'll never forget the look on his face when he discussed pop music.

on the latter subject, the museum of modern art in new york is hosting a chuck statler: before mtv retrospective from november 2-4. mr. statler waves off claims that he was the godfather of music video, but he sure had a large rooster talon in its development. he shot lots of minneapolis bands, national mainstream artists, and more subversive experimental stuff. you've seen at least some of his work (prince, graham parker, elvis costello, pere ubu, the cars, tiny tim, the time, j. geils, el vez, ben kweller), perhaps even his wicked pre-mtv devo videos.

my adolescent head pretty much exploded when i encountered mr. statler's first video, shot for the suicide commandos' burn it down. legend has it that the minnetonka fire department torched a condemned house the band had been renting for $30 a month, inspiring both song and film. today, of course, such videos are commonplace, if not allovertheplace. teens and tweens can film their bands, sprinkle in some bizarre imagery, and upload the result to youtube before supper. it all seems so easy and good and fun and creative and normal.

i see mr. statler's playful sensibility in matching image to music in lots of these li'l projects. i can't prove it, but i'd wager that most of these homegrown videos would look just a little bit different without his example. in fact, all those kidvids might still resemble 1970s car commercials in the absence of directors willing to take the form one step beyond.

who benefits from online gambling restrictions?

president bush signed legislation to criminalize internet gambling on friday. under the unlawful internet gambling enforcement act, it is illegal to use credit cards, checks and other bank instruments for online bets. i've never gambled online, unless you count my emotional and ill-fated email dinner bets with friends (points? i don't need yer stinking points -- my vikings will win straight up, and you'll be buyin', my friend). whenever new rules are made, however, i like to suss out the winners and losers.

senate majority leader dr. bill frist evidently took the lead in attaching gambling restrictions to a port security bill that was virtually assured of passage. the national football league lobbied hard for this one, employing two lobbyists who were former senior aides to senator frist.

the nfl gains much by upholding the perceived integrity of their games, while some senators benefit by distancing themselves from jack abramoff (who had successfully lobbied on behalf of internet gambling) and shoring up the christian conservative base before the election. the big losers, of course, are individual american gamblers and offshore internet gambling operators. those who view gambling as evil or addictive would argue that such costs are offset by the reduced social and individual harm associated with the practice. but will internet gamblers really stop betting?

if these folks continue to bet their $6-12 billion per year, i can think of another beneficiary of criminalization. most serious gamblers probably know a small businessperson who loves the new unlawful internet gambling enforcement act: the local bookmaker. bookies don't usually hire lobbyists like the nfl, but you can bet they are just as pleased with the result. with decreased competition online, demand for their services should increase significantly. now, if the local numbers bankers could just get rid of those pesky state lotteries...

Monday, October 16, 2006

ufc and the old ultraviolence

given my pop culture avocations, people can't understand why i've never plugged into the cable. just when i think i really need cnn or comedy central, however, i flip channels in a hotel room and see something too horrible for words. such is the case with [warning: the following link is brutal] ultimate fighting.

i raise the issue because i spoke this weekend with an intelligent young woman who attended a pay-per-view UFC event with her boyfriend. when i asked what she liked about it, she pointed to "passion" and the faces of the participants. dang. they'd get as much passion and intensity watching a good guitar face at the local bar.

but she's not alone, and that's got me worried. ultimate fighting is outdrawing the baseball playoffs among males age 18-34. is this the state of american masculinity in 2006? i'll summarize a spike tv bout i saw while traveling this summer: palooka A knocks palooka B into chain-link fence, straddles B's chest, and pounds face until some savagery threshold is crossed (unconsciousness? a two-quart blood rule?), whereupon A is declared the victor. i've seen more civilized fights in prison yards.

after one has physically dominated an opponent, doesn't man law dictate mercy? or is mercy the crucial distinction between ultimate fighting and plain vanilla penultimate fighting? somewhere along the line i picked up the idea that a man doesn't continue hitting or kicking a fallen opponent into unconsciousness, or immobilize him and then cave in his face with elbow shots.

i admit that i'm the wrong guy to cluck about this, given my own conflicted history with violence. among my edumacated friends, i'm a lonely defender of disciplined and attenuated violent forms such as football, rugby, and wrestling -- and i continue to applaud my significantly larger lad's participation in such activities. if anything, he's learned discipline and control in these sports. to my knowledge, at least, he has yet to throw a punch in anger.

i lost my stomach for boxing after boom-boom mancini v. duk-koo kim, but i'll admit that i've probably participated in more violence than most sociologists or criminologists. on the other hand, with the possible exception of murray straus, i also watch far less of it than any sociologist or criminologist i know. i've simply got no time for the phony played-out bloodfests by scorcese and tarantino. i'll grant you that straw dogs, mean streets, and clockwork may have had something important to say. but thirty years later i'm amazed that critics, most of whom have neither thrown nor taken a punch, still lap up the same old tired movie tropes as authentic.

i work hard as a criminologist because i want a little more justice and a whole lot less violence in the world. for me, real violence is only interesting in the way that hiv/aids and earthquakes are interesting. but that's a rant for another day. ultimate fighting strikes me as straight-up pornography, perhaps a step or two below cockfighting on the debasement scale. as long as i've got kids in the house and comcast is pushing UFC (and, frankly, i could throw goodfellas and reservoir dogs in there as well), they'll just have to make do without me. i see an ugly human transaction whenever two human beings come to blows, made all the uglier by money and spectators.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

plastic steak markers (D-MN)

we've all heard by now that fox news mislabeled troubled congressman mark foley as a Democrat on more than one occasion. beneath mr. foley's picture, the graphic identified him as MARK FOLEY (D-FL).

conan o'brien's staff quickly unearthed some heretofore unnoticed video misidentifications of the disgraced richard nixon (D-WASH. D.C.), li'l kim jong il (D-NORTH KOREA), faded pop superstar michael jackson (D-CALIFORNIA), and chainsaw villain leatherface (D-TEXAS). i wish i could link to the clip. when it popped up on george stephanopoulos' sunday morning show last week, i laughed so hard i dropped a curl bar on my foot.

having spent a little time in newsrooms, i wouldn't dismiss the possibility that it was all an honest mistake. or two. heck, i wouldn't be at all surprised if ted turner and cnn mislabeled gary hart as a republican during the whole monkey business period. intentional or unintentional, however, i'd never dismiss the consequences of such labels. the visual representation of mr. foley as a democrat matters because people attend to these cues.

i know this to be the case based on first-hand experience. back in my pancake house days, i was stunned by the awesome power of little plastic steak markers. once i had learned the ropes, i always preferred to work the wheel rather than the broiler -- eggs were my true medium and i enjoyed the status and responsibility of coordinating orders and interacting with the servers. plus, it was way hot back by the broiler.

ANYWAY, as wheelman (in that gender-segregated kitchen), i would request, say, a medium-rare new york strip steak. when it emerged from the broiler as medium or medium-well, it was absolutely critical that said steak left the kitchen with a pink medium rare marker inserted at a jaunty angle. our patron would cut into the steak, see that it had forever lost its pinkish hue, and consider returning it to the kitchen. to do so, however, he would first have to overcome the dissonance induced by our plastic visual aid, which was itself pink. more importantly, this pink marker announced to the world in prominent raised lettering that this hunk o' meat was, in fact, a medium rare hunk o' meat. as a passive customer myself, i know that i'd never call into question the accuracy of the plastic steak marker.* and i was in the business!

i never did any controlled experiments, though randomly assigning steak markers would make for an interesting perceptual study. instead, i observed the absolute freakin' chaos that resulted one weekend when the kitchen ran out of steak markers. i had the misfortune of pulling consecutive five-to-three shifts with a broiler man who ... let's just say that he did not consistently abide by the rules of a drug-free workplace. deprived of his visual aids, confusion reigned in the kitchen, mutiny overtook the dining room, and a rift disrupted the love covenant between servers and wheelman.

it was a complete and total disaster, but midway through that saturday bar rush i knew what we had to do: throw off our plastic crutches of deception and just cook the steaks as the customers ordered them. yes, the disaster ultimately led to greater accountability, more satisfied diners, and a tighter bond between servers and wheelman.

so here's to you, media watchdogs. we can handle a little spin with our news, but we must never permit journalists to stick the wrong plastic steak marker in our public figures.

*at least not in a pancake house. if i paid $60 for the steak, i might send it back.

i'm sure they're all big-shot professors by now...

a few months ago i went on record to opine that google was a poor long-term investment. but then i awakened this morning to hear the song below on commercial radio, which tells me that googs got a heckuva bargain when they purchased youtube for 1.65 million. maybe i'll change my rating from hold to outperform.

youtube is beautiful and maketh us smile, and i'll cop to doing periodic searches to see whether any clips from my creepy adolescent basement band ever miraculously appear online. thus far, i've yet to find any surviving audio or video for the habbit, but i'll keep checking. in the meantime, i can assure you that -- on our very best day -- we looked and sounded a little something like this...

and yes, friends, that does sound a lot like one of my guitar solos.

Friday, October 13, 2006

saving themselves for marriage?

i present a little attitudinal data on sexual norms while discussing surveys and response biases in my deviance class. it can be instructive to first ask the class each question before clicking to reveal the answer (survey says!) in my lecture slides. their estimates -- and group differences in such estimates by gender, race, and background -- can be revealing.

college students, of course, are much more sexually tolerant than the average american. if i'm reporting data from a representative sample of adults, such as the national health and social life survey, i remind them that grandma and grandpa complete surveys too. my class guesses fairly accurately about national attitudes on items such as premarital sex is always wrong (about 20% agreed or strongly agreed in 1992), they guess lower than the survey estimate of 65% on the same-gender sex is always wrong item, and they get pretty close on the women should be able to obtain an abortion indicators (88% if raped, 52% for any reason).

but my students are waaaaaaay off on one item: I would not have sex with someone unless I was in love with them. most guess that about 10 or 20 percent would agree or strongly agree with this statement. in the 1992 national health and social life survey, however, 66 percent of americans agreed or strongly agreed (the later chicago health and social life estimate was about 60 percent). the students were amazed and astonished. when they asked, "but what about hookups?" i replied that maybe grandma didn't have so many hookups. or maybe, i suppose, she just didn't approve of the many, many hookups that she had.

i panicked after this lecture last year, worrying that my students wouldn't experience romantic love at all. since i usually play music before class, i tried subjecting them to all manner of too-sweet love songs -- from al green to frank sinatra to jill scott. but this year i've changed my view. i was lamenting what i saw as a lost connection between sex and love, but i now appreciate the profound generational differences in the usage and meaning of the latter term.

i confess that i haven't read much of this literature, but my observations suggest that few 20-year-olds would toss off a casual "i love you." part of this might be due to generational cynicism, youthful ironic distance, and stephen colbert. but something else is at work as well. my students just might, in fact, take love more seriously than their parents or grandparents. in a real sense, they might even be saving themselves for marriage.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

feelin' like a hundred bucks

writing a blog is fun, but i never saw any commercial potential in it. i was therefore surprised to discover this message in my inbox a few weeks ago:


I am interested in posting a few text links on your site. I work for xxxxx, located in yyyyy. We are the #1 zzzzz for the Twin Cities area and HUGE bbbbbs. I like your blog and I see that it has a pretty high google ranking. I am interested in putting 5 text links with the URL
http://www.ccccccc. If you want to see another site I advertised on, see ddddd. I would want to do basically the same thing with you and have my links up for a year. You could put my links on the bottom of your sidebar above the Archives if you wanted. Let me know your thoughts. I sincerely appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you soon.

i know what you're thinking and it isn't like that. the inquiry came from a fine and respectable business -- one that i might patronize myself, as a matter of fact. but i figured i must have gotten the message by mistake. since there really isn't much traffic on the blog, particularly from those in a position to use a local business, i couldn't imagine this would be a good deal for anybody. but then, this follow-up message arrived today:

Chris, any thoughts on working out a text link deal for your blog? 5 links for $100 for a year? I can pay you via paypal or check as soon as the links are up. Please email me ASAP –eeeee is under way!!!!

well, the felon fund could certainly use another $100 and i'm obviously not too worried about messing up the aesthetics of the page. but what if my advertiser changed from good and reputable to ... some other kind of business? moreover, would folks distrust my motives? what would the good people of the minnversity think? would i be venturing down a slippery slope toward offshore gaming and pop-up altoids commercials? and wouldn't the nice folks at blogger industries deserve a cut of the money too?

ahh, it all seems too complicated -- like way more than a hundred dollars worth of complicated. so, i've declined the invitation. that said, i wouldn't mind peddling some of the impossibly cool site-specific products available on better blogs (with proceeds to the felon fund, of course). how about a paul frank-style hoodie with the pubcrim url? or maybe a this is what a sociological criminologist looks like ringer t? more audaciously, i could launch an academic-themed line of non-sexual man-crush or woman-crush coffee mugs (professor sampson represents an obvious target, but i'm sure you can think of others).

any other product ideas? some of my favorite blogs have ads or sponsors, but most do not. what if they were offering $1,000 or 10,000? under what conditions would you put commercial links on a blog such as this one? and what sorts of businesses would you welcome or disqualify?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

first minnesota winter? follow the way of dino

the first bare hint of snow blew in this morning, which sometimes occasions a little grumpiness around the minnversity. but don't despair, first-years and other newcomers. it might be getting cooler, but we're months away from january cold.

plus, you will find beauty in winter, even in january. just click on the photo and imagine shooshing through the woods. the air will taste crisper, the light will seem brighter, and the night sky will reflect gorgeously off the snow. but trust me on this one: you've gotta get out of the house. those attempting to ride out the winter indoors can end up going the way of jack torrance.

i actually enjoy my long winter runs, as my water bottle only occasionally freezes solid. i recommend a heavy coat and good boots, sharp skates and skinny skis, and a warm companion. what's more romantic than skating beneath the stars at loring park? or skiing through the woods at como or wirth, then repairing to lurcat or warming fireside at frost's?

if you still remain concerned about winterlife, do a little research to allay your fears. other vets can offer suggestions for books or films, but i'll offer this bit of required listening: just as it took a visitor like tocqueville to write the definitive treatise on american civic life, it took a well-tanned rat packer to cut the definitive treatise on minnesota winter love. if you follow dino, you won't end up like jack. enjoy the winter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

talking to ourselves

garrison keillor read from the new edition of homegrown democrat in coffman union last night, the very campus building in which he began his broadcasting career. mr. keillor, a great friend to the minnversity and public education, spun a warm yarn about being entrusted with an important responsibility during this formative period. shortly after arriving on campus as a freshman, he was given his own 15-minute radio newscast on wmmr.

i never got a newscast as a wizversity freshman, but i was similarly baptized by fire at the daily cardinal. i got to write music reviews -- complete with tickets, albums, and coveted backstage passes -- after only a few days on campus. i only completed a handful of articles, but it was thrilling to find myself writing for a mass audience of my peers. live radio must have been way more exciting for an 18-year-old.

wmmr was then a low-power "carrier current" station, broadcasting only to the dorms and other campus buildings. nevertheless, mr. keillor reported that he offered authoritative newscasts throughout the school year. unfortunately, due to a an engineering problem, he claims that his broadcasts never left the control room. so, in essence, he was talking to himself -- presenting well-written and sonorous newscasts to an audience of one.

the story may be a slight exaggeration, but it reminds me of the dissemination problem in sociology and academic work more generally. are we talking to ourselves?

well, our journal circulation figures remain in the low thousands and rarely hit five digits. for example, the american sociological review appears to have a circulation of about 11,500, sociology of education is much lower at approximately 2,800, contexts gets about 2,500, and sociological theory comes in around 2,300 subscribers. by comparison, blogs such as crooked timber likely exceed these numbers on a daily basis. for my part, i doubt that any of my academic publications have ever reached as many as the 45,000 subjected to my abominable cardinal music reviews or my goofy stream-of-consciousness blog.* i bet that the asa website gets plenty of traffic, but only a small subset of the articles are ever available online.

i know that many folks search out and read library copies of our journals, but can't we do a bit more in the age of google? i'd like to see our discipline think long and hard about how we might increase the readership and ensure distribution of the material we work so hard to write and edit and review. while i'm at it, i might as well ask for a serious analysis of the economics of free and immediate online availability, and whether such costs could be offset by new revenue streams and distribution channels. personally, i'd love to spread the word about the great new papers i read, but feel frustrated that i can't link to them for students and non-academics who stop by to read my coursepages or blog.**

but maybe that's just me. if i heard his introduction correctly, garrison keillor now speaks to 3,300,000 listeners on 586 stations per week, so his audience has increased by 3,299,999 in four decades. doesn't the very best scholarship in our discipline merit the attention of an audience that is, say, 1 percent that of the praire home companion? i'd say that 33,000 readers per week -- scratch that, i'm feeling bold; let's make it 330,000 page loads per week -- would be a reasonable start.

*jeff and i did an la times op-ed that might have reached a million readers, but that's a (too) rare occurrence in (my) academic life.

**i've got a related rant about style and presentation, which gets into thornier issues of intellectualism and anti-intellectualism, but i'll save that for another post.

Monday, October 09, 2006

saul bellow, dr. king, and joe theisman

speaking to high school students last week, i got evangelical about the virtues of the sociology undergraduate major. the combination of broad and useful conceptual tools and basic methodological training can prepare our students for a multitude of great careers in public service, print and broadcast media, and running organizations.

yet we don't really claim our undergrads once they leave the university. sometimes people act as though they fell into a sociology major by accident and emerged unscathed by the experience. i know this isn't true, so i'd like to compile a list of famous or influential persons who majored in sociology as undergraduates. a quick google got me to this asa compilation taken from a 2001 oregon commencement address by peter dreier:

Wellington Webb, mayor of Denver
Brett Schundler, mayor of Jersey City
Annette Strauss, former mayor of Dallas
Rev. Martin Luther King
Roy Wilkins, former head of NAACP
Rev. Jesse Jackson
Rev. Ralph Abernathy
Shirley Chisholm, former Congresswoman from NY
Maxine Waters, Congresswoman from LA
Barbara Mikulski, US Senator from Maryland
Tim Holden, Congressman from Pennsylvania
Cardinal Theordore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, DC
Saul Alinsky, father of community organizing
Ronald Reagan (double major in sociology and economics)
Emily Balch, 1946 Nobel Peace Prize winner (a social worker and social reformer)
Francis Perkins, social reformer and former Secretary of Labor
Richard Barajas, Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court

Saul Bellow, novelist
Regis Philbin, TV host
Dan Aykroyd, actor/Blues Brother
Robin Williams, actor/comedian
Paul Shaffer, bandleader on David Letterman Show (and before that, Saturday Night Live)
Dinah Shore, singer
Ruth Westheimer, the “sex doctor”

Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat
Bryant Stith, Boston Celtics
Brian Jordan, Atlanta Braves
Joe Theisman, NFL quarterback
Eric Bjornson, Dallas Cowboys
Bobby Taylor, Eagles cornerback
Ahmad Rashad, Sportscaster

there are some impressive names on the list (paul shaffer!). but c'mon, we can do better than this, can't we? the minnversity has about 600 sociology majors alone! what famous and infamous undergrad sociologists should be added?

i was not a sociology undergraduate major, opting instead for a broader behavioral science/criminal justice track. i'll do my part, though, adding pete seeger (that makes sense, now doesn't it? how could asa have caught eric bjornson but missed pete seeger?), h. rap brown, and james blunt. for good or for ill, all three put their sociology training to work at some point in their careers.

who else should we be claiming or renouncing?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

allegations and referrals

people contact me after media appearances, sometimes relating heart-wrenching experiences with crime or the justice system. after appearing in a story on false allegations last week, i heard from a woman who felt that her complaint was erroneously classified as a "false report" and that she was treated badly by the police.

since i'm no expert in such situations, i reached out to students with greater expertise (heather hlavka and sarah shannon) to help formulate a response. i'll eliminate the identifying information and post the gist of it here, in case anyone else in the twin cities is in a similar situation.

In the Community:

I got two good recommendations for Chrysalis in Minneapolis, the Rape and Sexual Abuse Center @ the Neighborhood Involvement Program in Uptown, and Sexual Offense Services of Ramsey County (SOS). All three offer counseling and support services, advocacy and referrals AS WELL AS legal services/ advocates for women. RSAC has legal advocates for all adult sexual assault cases in Hennepin County. SOS has advocates for support through all legal processes, and Chrysalis has appointments with attorneys for women needing legal advice and information/ referrals to private attorneys and divorce clinics. For strict legal help, she could also call MN Women Lawyers, Inc. @ 612.338.3200 (I think). And, if she needs a restraining order (OFP) she can call the Domestic Abuse Office at 612.348.5073 from 8am to 4pm.

I would recommend the total package either at RSAC, SOS or Chrysalis because advocates at each place are both trained in support and counseling as well as legal matters and information. They can walk people through the process, OFP's, complaints, etc. Advocates tell you exactly what to do, and will go with you through all the steps. RSAC 2431 Hennepin Av. South 612.348.4003 SOS 1619 Dayton Av Suite 201, St. Paul 651.643.3006 Chryasalis 4432 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls. 612.871.2603

In the State:

The state has a "Crime Victim Justice Unit" to deal with concerns about decisions made with regard to crime victims.

At the University:

Student legal services;
Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education and resource list;
University Counseling Services.

I hope that at least one of these places will help the emailer in some way, though I know that a list of referrals is several steps removed from actual help.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


i'm no free-speech absolutist like justice black, but i've always treasured the first amendment. now hate speech from white supremacists is showing up in this blog's comments section and i've got a dilemma.

my students, my kids, and my friends read this blog. i can't let the bile just sit there without reply, but i'm not going to waste time and energy responding to comments of the "black men in particular are like this" variety.

so what should i do?

1. turn off anonymous commenting, which would chill some useful discussion.
2. zap individual comments i deem "offensive" (e.g., hate speech, personal attacks, spam).
3. work up some sort of comment disclaimer that says that i in no way endorse anything posted by commenters.
4. ignore it and hope it goes away.

none of these are desirable. i'd really appreciate some advice from others who have dealt with such situations. i didn't list "zap individual comments that piss me off for any reason" because i just don't believe in practicing that sort of decision rule. yet.

update: just call him wheels

the trail loppet half-marathon was more adventure than anticipated, with sharp inclines, narrow passages, and bloody kneecaps. when i crossed some tracks and lost the trail around mile 8, i flashed to a familiar film: if we keep going south, we'll get out.

once the runners spread out in the dark minneapolis woods, i heard a sound ... it was like a serious cackling. so i grabbed a flashlight to make a quick cell phone video:

I just want to apologize to Mike's mom. I am so sorry! Because it was my fault. I was the one who brought them here. I was the one that said "keep going south." I was the one who said that we were not lost. It was my fault, because it was my project. I am so scared! I don't know what's out there. We are going to die out here!

just then, the sun burst through the trees, the great statistical mind came churning around the bend, and we pounded through the last four miles with ease. if you see mr. vuolo this week, make sure to congratulate the new 2006 city of lakes trail loppet male 20-29 age-group champ. he might even show you his gold medal.

the trailsman

i'm still wrung out from sunday's marathon, but i don't see how i can resist the trail loppet urban trail half-marathon in the morning. i was hanging with the great statistical mind today in the office, and through some bizarre conversation of gestures we ended up committing to run the half tomorrow.

i got a little nervous about this plan later in the day, particularly when the vision of an easy alternative plan came upon me. it was almost as though someone was whispering in my ear: why not sleep in, run a couple miles together, and then go eat a big breakfast? i just now formulated an answer: because then we wouldn't get this cool t-shirt, that's why...

Friday, October 06, 2006

exquisitely symbolized

i still teach albert cohen's 50-year-old delinquent boys (and, yes, 50-year-old delinquent boys are quite common in academia). i like the theory because it so convincingly explains deviancy that is malicious, negativistic, and non-utilitarian.

early in the book, professor cohen cites my favorite example of such conduct:

The teacher and her rules are not merely something onerous to be evaded. They are to be flouted. There is an element of active spite and malice, contempt and ridicule, challenge and defiance, exquisitely symbolized, in an incident described to the writer by Mr. Henry D. McKay, of defecating on the teacher's desk (1955, p. 28).

feces has always been a powerful medium for transgressive statements, whether on stage (as with g.g. allin), in prisons, or in a duluth courtroom. from abc news:

DULUTH, Minn. Oct 5, 2006 (AP)— A Chicago man apologized for spreading his feces around a courtroom during his trial on drug charges.

Vandale Amos Willis, 28, apologized Wednesday before being sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Willis was convicted earlier of importation of a controlled substance, cocaine, and two other charges.

"Im going to take full responsibility for everything I did in Duluth," Willis told the court. "I want to apologize for everything I did in court. I'm sorry, your honor."

mr. willis is longer in the tooth than the working-class lads of cohen's subcultural story. nevertheless, the courtroom and the classroom are similarly appropriate arenas for flouting the middle-class measuring rod. perhaps we could equip them both with a nice supply of the handy little baggies i see at the dog park.

chairlife: undergrad recruiting

we've worked harder to recruit the very best grad students the past few years, but the minnversity is also pushing to recruit high-achieving undergrads.

tonight i attended a gathering at an alum's fine house with my dean, faculty from six or seven departments, a bunch of honors program reps and students, and a dozen or so high school seniors and their parents. the high-schoolers were poised and impressive, while their parents seemed so proud and happy. heck, i was happy for them.

i talked about how the department involves undergrads in research, pointing to grants and co-authored publication opportunities. i also found two students from my lad's school and pumped them for information about the best teachers and courses at mounds view high. i figure, those kids are the real experts and proven performers.

i did a little tv interview for tonight's local news, which seemed to interest some of the parents. i hope my stammering five seconds do not dissuade the next great sociologist from attending the minnversity...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

biomedical prison research

allen hornblum writes on prisons in the october 6 chronicle of higher education. he isn't concerned with criminological research so much as human medical experimentation ranging from "relatively innocuous studies of deodorants and detergents to dangerous work on dioxin and chemical warfare."

after writing a book on mistreatment in a philadelphia prison from the 1940s to the 1970s, professor hornblum is today concerned that a new national academies report (Ethical Considerations for Research Involving Prisoners) will greenlight a new generation of biomedical research on prisoners.

i applaud any national academies report that will help prevent abuses of prisoners, but professor hornblum does raise some troubling questions.

first, we know about the risks to the subjects of such research, but what are the benefits to prisoners? do we really need to be testing cosmetics on inmates (rather than, say, supermodels who might actually use such products)? given the absence of health care for prison releasees, how many subjects could even afford the costly drugs they tested?

second, aside from biomedical companies and individual researchers, who else wins and loses in such research? the state? what about the non-prisoners paid to offer up their bodies for medical experimentation? will they be undercut by cheaper and more plentiful prison "volunteers?"

third, to what extent do normal human subjects procedures apply behind prison walls? while principles of voluntariness and confidentiality are given great weight by internal review boards, they can be extremely difficult to achieve in a coercive environment such as a prison.*

i complain as loudly as anyone whenever i must go through several sets of arduous human subjects procedures before i can ask prisoners fairly innocuous questions (e.g., whether and how they voted). i don't anticipate another tuskegee, but a new wave of high-profit biomedical research will certainly require continued vigilance to prevent similar abuses.

*for example, one prison administrator discouraged me from paying inmates for the interviews published in locked out. s/he said that if i offered as little as two dollars per interview, almost every inmate would want to participate and this would create problems among those not selected for interviews. this was an exaggeration, but not that far from reality -- where else would two dollars seem like a coercive inducement?

what took you so long?

why didn't we hear more about a milestone passed this week? on tuesday, the dow jones industrial average finally surpassed the levels of january 14, 2000.

i half-expected the Rs to trumpet the whole on the right track/strong economy/definitely more interesting than congressional instant messaging aspects of this story. alternatively, i could imagine the Ds clucking about six years of stagnation/treading water/now bill clinton, there's a guy who knew how to run an economy! angle.

but i haven't heard such stuff from either side. why so little play? i can only guess. first, a public focus on stock markets might be considered unpatriotic during wartime (though the decline started two years prior to 9/11). second, the dow is no longer a great indicator and the other indicators continue to lag -- the broader s&p 500 remains about 12 percent off its high, while the chart for the tech-heavy nasdaq is uglier still. third, the word wary appears in just about every story about the market -- wary optimism, wary investors, wary experts, real wary about oil prices. fourth, i may have simply stopped paying attention to financial news. am i missing anything else?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

we were 17 and stuck up in osseo

i've binged on local music posts lately, but couldn't resist a clever application of showmewhere googlemapping to a substantive problem of real importance. more cowbell offers this interactive map and guide to just some of the twin cities mentions in the hold steady’s lyrics.

in concert, craig finn drops twins references like batgirl. in song, he provides a specific sense of place -- lowertown, france avenue, edina high, lyndale, 169, thunderbird, lowry east, penn ave -- while evoking a universal sense of adolescent wanderlust that could come from anywhere (e.g., what suburban kid couldn't have been involved up at the northtown mall?).

novelists do this all the time (faulkner, updike, et al.), but how many other songwriters take local references to such extremes? aside from bruce from asbury park, that is. one could accuse mr. finn of pandering to the locals, but, truth be told, the hold steady is (mostly) a new york band.

like all good minnesotans, mr. finn vows to return to twins territory upon completion of the outdoor ballpark in 2010, though i'm not holding my breath. in the meantime, the band just released boys and girls in america today. i can't offer a review yet, but can tell you that your little hoodrat friend provides a very nice soundtrack to the hold steady guide to the twin cities.

that cold black cloud is comin' down

via stereogum: something called the bereavement register offers up survey data (n=5,000, presumably in the UK) on the songs people wish to have played at their funerals. evidently, about half of us have given this question some thought. here are the top 10 in the survey:

1. Goodbye My Lover - James Blunt
2. Angels - Robbie Williams
3. I've Had the Time of My Life - Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley
4. Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
5. Pie Jesu - Requiem
6. Candle in the Wind - Elton John
7. With or Without You - U2
8. Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton
9. Every Breath You Take - The Police
10. Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers

uh, no. treacly won't work for me -- and every breath you take is just plain creepy. why candle in the wind but not funeral for a friend? knockin' on heaven's door made the top 20 (dylan rather than guns n' roses, of course), but i see no real rockers. i wouldn't opt for gloomy death metal, but wouldn't you prefer a greasy, sweaty, loud, and triumphant send-off? my kids will understand, i'm sure. so my current pick is humble pie's i don't need no doctor. presumably, at that point, i will not in fact need no doctor.*

Which song would you select? i wanna be sedated? dead skunk? walkin' on sunshine? electric funeral? comfortably numb? vacation? a love supreme?

* recognize the skinny kid with the big red hollow-body off to the right? he sold 16 million records five years later. i bumped into the video researching the thesis that jack white is steve marriott. i'd have suggested 30 days in the hole, which is kind of funny in a funeral context, but the drug references leave me cold, so to speak.

Monday, October 02, 2006

another lecture shot to s***

well, i was all set to lecture tomorrow on labeling theory, moral panics, and congressman mark foley. on first reading, his emails to a young page didn't strike me as all that creepy.if you squint a little, you can almost construe them as a dorky but caring adult reaching out as a big brother-type (are you weathering the hurricane ok? what's school like for you this year?).

i wasn't eager to come to the congressman's defense, but i didn't like the way that the pundits cited his resignation as damning evidence that he must be hiding something worse. turns out, of course, he likely was hiding something worse. after reading a transcript of his instant message correspondence from abc news, i'm less interested in even discussing the case in class. yeesh.

on the other hand, his entry into an alcohol rehab program might be a useful sidebar to tomorrow's lecture. there is currently no moral panic swirling around lawful alcohol use -- at least nothing on a scale approaching child sexual abuse. so, alcohol treatment could function as a strategic stigma management technique. the post quotes congressman foley thusly: "I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems."

by scaling rehab mountain, congressman foley signals that booze is the real problem, relegating his sexual contact with minors to an ancillary grab-bag of other behavioral problems. wonkette has the whole sordid tale.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

it's all too beautiful...

the twin cities marathon was all too beautiful. the lakes shimmered, the leaves dropped gently in the breeze, and the september light glowed and flickered through the trees.

after running hard a few hours, of course, everything looks and feels beautiful. about 300,000 friends and family show up along the route most years, but i counted many more this fine day. i kept watching the light playing off their hair -- from blond wisps on toddlers, to thick black braids on summit avenue, to rich red locks dancing atop a black leather jacket in uptown.

the music improved again this year, with more live bands (what i got, plus the minnversity rouser), drum groups and hipster solo accordianists(!), plus recordings with strong local flavor (i will dare). on flavor, i could smell something sweet and good for many footfalls before finally rounding a bend to find an open-doored bakery. i saw more department pals than ever today and even shouted a "love ya, dad" to uggen senior just before the finish line.

aside from the affective well-being, the performance was ok too. my worthy gubernatorial adversary apparently took a pass this year, but new challenges arise. i bumped shoulders with michal kobialka, chair of the minnversity's department of theatre and dance, just before alan page's tuba concerto at mile 2.5. i had no idea professor kobialka was a runner, but he notched a strong 3:32 this year. i'm glad to find a new runnin' buddy to hang with at the chairs' meetings, but i just sorta assumed i'd be the fastest chair in the college of liberal arts. ah well, a fellow can dream...

i finished at 3:40, which was cool with me. after a record-slow/record-hot madcity this spring, i feared a permanent decline. but 3:40 is about the median time for my 16-or-so marathons, permitting me to retain some cherished delusions. if i just drop a few pounds and train a bit, i can best my p.r., qualify for boston, and take home a silver in beijing. too beautiful.