Chris Uggen's Blog: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

recipe for prison pruno

i'm in nyc for a punishment conference at the new school. after today's academic sessions, richard gere and carey lowell offered a dramatic reading of prison writings.

the actors were working with some great material, of course, since there are some amazing writers behind bars. prison writing is challenging because simple, matter-of-fact reporting can come off as melodramatic to those of us on the outside. the best writers, of course, juxtapose telling descriptions of the mundane and taken-for-granted -- the ceaseless noise, the odors, the lack of natural light -- with the high drama and harsh reality that punctuates prison life.

for example, patricia prewitt's contraband brilliantly conveys the small absurdities of prison life from an inmate's perspective. other writers addressed heavier issues involving fear, pain, violence, and hopelessness. i found the pieces by jarvis jay masters to be especially moving. pieces such as "mourning exercise" make clear that mr. masters is not just a good prison writer. this one knocked me out:

recipe for prison pruno

Take ten peeled oranges,
Jarvis Masters, it is the judgment and sentence of this court,
one 8 oz. bowl of fruit cocktail,
that the charged information was true,
squeeze the fruit into a small plastic bag,
and the jury having previously, on said date,
and put the juice along with the mash inside,
found that the penalty shall be death,
add 16 oz. of water and seal the bag tightly.
and this Court having, on August 20, 1991,
Place the bag into your sink,
denied your motion for a new trial,
and heat it with hot running water for 15 minutes.
it is the order of this Court that you suffer death,
wrap towels around the bag to keep it warm for fermentation.
said penalty to be inflicted within the walls of San Quentin,
Stash the bag in your cell undisturbed for 48 hours.
at which place you shall be put to death,
When the time has elapsed,
in the manner prescribed by law,
add 40 to 60 cubes of white sugar,
the date later to be fixed by the Court in warrant of execution.
six teaspoons of ketchup,
You are remanded to the custody of the warden of San Quentin,
then heat again for 30 minutes,
to be held by him pending final
secure the bag as done before,
determination of your appeal.
then stash the bag undisturbed again for 72 hours.
It is so ordered.
Reheat daily for 15 minutes.
In witness whereof,
After 72 hours,
I have hereon set my hand as Judge of this Superior Court,
with a spoon, skim off the mash,
and I have caused the seal of this Court to be affixed thereto.
pour the remaining portion into two 18 oz. cups.
May God have mercy on your soul.
Guzzle down quickly
Mr. Jarvis Masters.
Gulp Gulp Gulp!

California State Prison-San Quentin

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

pubcrim and (in)expert knowledge

i presented some research today before the minnesota supreme court's statewide racial fairness committee, a distinguished group of supreme court justices and other justice professionals. they weren't wearing robes, of course, but it was still a bit intimidating, perhaps because my adolescent appearances before judges were not always so pleasant.

my schedule has been a bit hectic this week (or, more precisely, completely freakin' nuts), so i was racing from campus to capitol with little time to spare. i think the talk went well, although i had the horrifying realization at about the 25-minute mark that i was beginning to lecture the justices about the law (i tend to have all my horrifying realizations at the midway point of presentations -- being onstage sharpens the senses, i suppose). this would have been profoundly stupid and arrogant, in light of my very limited knowledge and experience with the law. i therefore beat a hasty retreat back to some solid social facts (e.g., race differences in punishment and disenfranchisement) and the conceptual tools of sociological theories (e.g., group threat) that help us make sense of them.

this seemed a good strategy, at least as measured by a dramatic increase in note-taking, questions, and eye contact during the talk. although i don't always make the best use of them, i'm once again convinced of the extraordinary utility of my discipline's methods and theories.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ummm...i just didn't want to destroy your confidence, dude.

the lads are training for wrestling season now, with the opening match friday against hated forest lake.* tor cut his hair for the first time since the beginning of last year's wrestling season. i can't prove it, but i suspect that the coaches threatened some sort of pain-based mane-removal procedure if he didn't take care of it himself before the opener.

i signed up for a few volunteer slots taking tickets and selling hot dogs, but life as chair means that i'll arrive late most nights. i shouldn't miss too many of tor's matches, though, since they usually save the heavyweights for last. other wrestlers are sometimes jealous of heavyweights, since the latter are typically the only ones on the team that needn't worry about making weight. since minnesota raised the upper limit from 275 to 285 pounds this year, the lad gets a little extra breathing room (which cuts down on that annoying roadwork).

i was officially one-and-one in wrestling against my son last year, and i've postponed the rubber match for as long as possible. i could fool him when he first started, but i'm pretty much hopeless now that he's learned a few moves and continued to grow (he's 6'6" now, i think, and i haven't grown a lick). he wanted to wrestle me on saturday at the high school, but i cleverly replied that i just couldn't destroy his confidence before the season started. that would be selfish of me, and potentially devastating to the top-ranked team's psyche. heck, i wouldn't want to spoil the mustangs' season. but he's a smart lad, so he even more cleverly suggested that i wrestle one of his burly coaches instead. i'm still formulating a response to that one. frankly, i'm a-scared of his heavyweight coaches and would only fight them if protected by a phalanx of highly-paid personal injury attorneys.

i probably won't blog much about the season, since i don't want to (further) embarrass my son and i really have no ability to predict what fifteen year-olds find embarrassing. but wrestling, along with esperanza's basketball, will be my primary leisure activity for the next few months. any article i review, for example, will likely be read on the wooden bleachers of a high school gym. i can't wait...

*i've got nothing against forest lake in particular, but all opponents are hated. the appropriate modifier for out-of-state opponents, of course, is godless (i.e., hated forest lake versus godless oklahoma city).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

the o.j. - arbuckle discrepancy?

erin aubry kaplan of the los angeles times penned a head-scratcher of an op-ed this week. in the la times, it was titled, "The O.J.-Kramer discrepancy -- Recent PR disasters reveal greater tolerance for a white man's unsavory behavior than a black man's," while the strib named the piece, Kramer-O.J. discrepancy says a lot about inequality -- Richards' racist rant is brushed off as an isolated incident, while Simpson is condemned for his character.

huh? i understand the idea of a racist double standard when it comes to crime and justice, and to public opinion about crime and justice. as a criminologist, i've seen racial disparity in the operations of the justice system and i'm personally committed to uncovering and redressing these inequities. while michael richards' racist comedy club meltdown was awful, however, mr. simpson was accused of murdering two people.

ms. kaplan reassures us, after 11 paragraphs, that she isn't "equating racist invective with charges of double homicide." fair enough, i suppose, but isn't this comparison precisely the point of her editorial?

Richards' "racist rant" has been described as a terrible but isolated incident. O.J., meanwhile, is condemned for his character.

if ms. kaplan believes that o.j. simpson has been unfairly condemned because of his race, couldn't she have found a more fitting comparison? i dunno, perhaps the situations involving senator ted kennedy and roscoe "fatty" arbuckle were somewhat more comparable to the accusations against mr. simpson -- at least when stacked up against mr. richards' cringe-inducing speech.

though the now-senior senator was never tried for murder, his behaviors were alleged to have contributed to the death of another person. senator kennedy's public image has never quite recovered from chappaquiddick, but he remains a powerful and generally respected public figure to this day. mr. arbuckle's career was pretty much cooked after he was tried for manslaughter in the death of a young actress, but it may have been even worse for him if he hadn't been white. mr. arbuckle never wrote an if i did it book like mr. simpson; given the public outcry over his alleged crimes, however, would it stretch credulity to suggest that a black fatty arbuckle might have faced a lynch mob?

so, i am sympathetic to ms. kaplan's larger point about race and justice, and i think some data could be martialed in favor of her assertions about mr. simpson's public image. but c'mon, comparing OJ and michael richards? unlike brentwood in 1994, only one person died at the laugh factory that november night: the formerly-likeable actor who played cosmo kramer.

the sullivan award

i just read about a new award for john sullivan, a friend and colleague who chairs the minnversity's political science department:

Regents Professor John Sullivan (CLA) has been honored by the American Political Science Association, along with Blackwell Publishers, with the creation of the John Sullivan Award. The award will be given to the best paper published annually in Political Behavior.

a cursory glance at john's cv establishes that this honor is richly deserved. he has made inordinate contributions to political psychology, but many sociologists most appreciate his many years of service co-editing those enormously useful li'l green sage books, quantitative applications in the social sciences.

i've taken home a few awards, but cannot imagine one that bears my name. the chris uggen award would probably involve most unusual fashion choices by a professor or most frequent nodding and smiling during a lecture on a particularly grim topic. no, i've got a better shot having a sandwich named after me. i'll therefore begin campaigning to rechristen bullwinkle's garlic, fried onions, and hot pepper burger, heretofore known as the lonely guy (for its anti-social halitosis-inducing effects).

what scholarly award or food item deserves your moniker?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

spare me my life!

throughout japan's protracted economic recession, crime rates remained low by international standards. as a visiting american criminologist, my japanese friends would often ask questions that seemed to presume scarface-level crime rates all over america. for example, a middle school student in osaka asked me whether my (middle-school-aged) children brought guns to school, to little league games, and other venues (they also asked about illicit drugs, but that's another post). i guess one can blame american cultural products, which tend to feature lots of violence. plus, by any measure, we really do have a lot of guns in this country.

perhaps all this explains the disturbing content and peculiar selection of commonly used english phrases in the video above. never in my forays into spanish, french, japanese, and norwegian language instruction, do i recall learning the phrase, spare me my life.* maybe i did learn it, but just can't remember because there wasn't a video featuring george castanza with half a brassiere on his head and a catchy dance number to accompany the lesson. as for the other bizarre features in the clip (is this thing for real? what's with the zoom into the shoulder? the marching and smiling?), you're on your own.

*sadly, i failed miserably at all but norwegian, in which i failed semi-respectably. i have tremendous respect for folks with real language skills. let's see, i think they started me off with food ("pass me the butter") in intro norsk, and we spent a lot of time on monsieur thibaut's hat in french. i came across some interesting phrases involving etiquette in japanese public baths, but nothing life-threatening.

justin gets a little love -- 3 hardball stories

with my gophs locked into something called the insight bowl and wrestling season just starting, i'll pause to offer three quick baseball notes.

#1. the minnesota historical society is hosting baseball as america, a roadshow featuring some great hall o' fame exhibits, from november 24 to march 4. my kids won't be interested, but i've just gotta make the trip to st. paul. i'm sort of a stickler for logic, so the sight of shoeless joe jackson's actual game-worn shoes might cause my head to explode.

#2. my ability to predict sporting events is legendary -- but not in a good way. nevertheless, i'm gloating today about getting one right. last year, twins fans were grumbling because justin ernest george morneau was flailing away at .239, finishing the season with 22 homers and 79 rbi. based primarily on the dome-rattling sound of the ball leaving his bat and his statistical similarityto another mystery slugger (former twin david ortiz) from age 22-24 , i predicted that prosperity was just around the corner:

I'm going on record as predicting a long string of at least 30 home runs and 100 rbi years for young mr. morneau. So, sit tight twins fans and show justin some love. Within the next 3-4 years, there's a non-zero probability he'll be putting up monster numbers.

a year later, mr. morneau is american league mvp, beating out an obscure small-market shortstop from a team woefully neglected by the national media. i read today that mr. morneau and his roomie, batting and sideburn champ joe mauer, ate jimmy johns' subs throughout the season just to keep the magic going. that's why i love baseball.

#3. mr. morneau's rapid development by age 25 and the baseball in america exhibit got me thinking (uh-oh), so here's another quiz. can anyone identify these two hall of famers? hint: they played together on two different teams.

player #1
19 2-1 3.91
20 18-8 2.44
21 23-12 1.75
22 24-13 2.01
23 13-7 2.22
24 9-5 2.97
25 1-0 4.50

player #2
19 2-1 5.13
20 11-4 2.79
21 3-6 6.36
22 0-2 3.04
23 5-5 3.31
25 16-8 2.71

the first person to name both players without googling will receive some sort of hardball-related treasure from my youth. i still owe mr. radio free newport a few tigers/reds cards from a previous contest. if you're listening, RFN, just pass along a mailing address in the comments and i'll send 'em your way.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

stats n' beer

if you ever interview at minnesota, you can expect to spend a lunch hour discussing teaching with faculty and grad students. i was initially skeptical about this practice, but now i really look forward to the discussions. it is typically a loose, free-form hour, but it helps us communicate that we actually like teaching here and that we especially like rock star researchers who are thoughtful about teaching.

this week, we got to discussing social statistics. i always like to sprinkle my crim lectures with tales of sutherland or hirschi or the convention bar tabs of certain criminologists. i know fewer stories about statisticians, but when i taught intro stats i loved the one about the inordinately useful student's t-distribution.

a real statistician can correct me on this, but i believe that the t-distribution was introduced in biometrika in 1908 by william gosset, who worked as a brewer for guinness in dublin.* he adopted the pseudonym "student" because the brewery was concerned about revealing trade secrets in print. mr. gosset's work was popularized in part by the great r.a. fisher, who referred to the t-distribution as student's distribution. the story is better told elsewhere and there are a few nice wiki versions floating around as well.

i have it on good authority that some soc and crim students enjoy a frosty beverage from time to time, so they might appreciate such nuggets. i'd like to know precisely how the brewery plied these statistical tools, however, to flesh out the story. comparing the purity levels of beer from two separate vats? i'm also intrigued that claude guinness would recruit the best and brightest from cambridge and oxford to do brewery work, but perhaps this practice helps account for guinness' great success over the past century.

*Student. 1908. "The Probable Error of a Mean." Biometrika 6: 1-25.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

neshek: juicing the right way

rookie twins sidearmer pat neshek has a fun blog, full of inside baseball stuff and geeked-out sports memorabilia posts. he's a good-natured minnesotan and a stellar reliever (4-2, 2.19 e.r.a., 53 strikeouts in 37 innings), so young mr. neshek is much appreciated locally. plus, he's got that cool delivery. who doesn't love a sidearmer? he even auctioned off his smashing game-used hazing outfit for charity.

while the hazing post was enlightening, it is even more fun for weekend athletes to read about the professionals' off-season training regimens. i'm not gonna start juicing kale, but mr. neshek makes a good case for vitamins in this november 4 post:

Once November hits I turn the weights and running up to full strength ... The gym is pretty much the place where I recharge so my body can withstand everything that comes in my way during the year. As always a big part of being in the best shape you can be is what you eat. This year is no exception. I'm still juicing vegetables such as carrots, kale, celery, broccoli and cucumbers twice a day and can honestly say it's probably the biggest reason for my success. As a side note I wanted to quickly mention that in the Minnesota Twins clubhouse we have a juicer and nearly everyone on the team drinks a cup of carrot juice before every game. This past year I also bought a Vita-Mix (Smoothie Maker/Turns anything into liquid) and am using it each morning to make a huge fruit smoothie. If you want to get rid of that feeling of tiredness and have as much energy as you possibly can I honestly can say that juicing veggies will change your life if you give it a chance.

dang, babe ruth never used a vita-mix or a juicer, though they'd be great for liquefying hot dogs. maybe i should get one for the department. a daily cup of carrot juice might be just the thing to enhance teaching and research.

Monday, November 20, 2006

one day it will please us to remember even this

when i heard the new york dolls were touring, i couldn't bring myself to buy a ticket. after all, most of the band is, quite literally, dead. drummer billy murcia overdosed in '72, guitarist johnny thunders overdosed in '91, drummer jerry nolan died of a stroke in '92, and bassist arthur kane died of leukemia in '04. that leaves only guitarist sylvain sylvain and singer david johansen to pack up the fishnets and platform boots and hit the road.

but they've recruited an able company of newbies and the reviews have been terrific. mr. johansen, perhaps seeking atonement for his unforgivable buster poindexter persona, could always carry a show. i won't yammer on about their influence over the years, but one should remember that the dolls preceded the pistols and the ramones and hair metal and cbgb and so on. plus, they may have been the first all-american homegrown band to offer a glitter-drenched genderbending stage show. though i favor the stooges' proto-punk over that of the dolls, songs like chatterbox taught me that glammed-up guys could rock. without mr. thunders to carry such songs, you're more likely to be shouting several choruses of personality crisis on this tour. but trust me, that can make for a pretty good time as well. the dolls are in boston tonight with the supersuckers and chesterfield kings. here are some other upcoming dates:

11/20 Boston
11/21 Providence
11/22 New York
11/25 Philadelphia
11/26 Washington

11/28 Charleston
11/29 Atlanta
11/30 Nashville
12/01 St Louis

Sunday, November 19, 2006

when i give a lecture, i accept that people look at their watches...

... but what I do not tolerate is when they look at it and raise it to their ear to find out if it stopped. - marcel archard

characteristically, the sunday times dug up a book attributing the rise of the $8,000 handbag to modern female psychology: "overworked, emotionally starved and unlucky in love, they seek the “security blanket” of the perfect leather sidekick." uh, no. the phenomenon looks like classic veblenian economic sociology to me. as for gender, dudes have done the same thing for years.

flipping through a men's magazine (no, not that kind of men's magazine), i couldn't believe all the advertisements for high-end watches. it would appear that wealthy men are just as overworked, emotionally starved, and unlucky in love as wealthy women. tiger woods, uma thurman, and all manner of celebrities and sports figures were trying to sell me $5,000 timepieces. my current watch, purchased for $15 at target a few years ago, is shown above.*

even if i could afford it, it seems really silly to spend more than a few dollars on a watch today. a generation ago, an expensive watch would have delivered vastly superior functionality and accuracy relative to a cheap watch. today, the cheap ones function quite well and the kids tell time via cell phone rather than wristwatch anyway. rolexes are flashier, i suppose, but some very flashy cheap watches are available at any dollar store if one is so inclined. some of the shady ones even say rolex right on the dial.

they look sort of like those cartoonishly masculine super bowl rings to me, shouting "behold my power! my thick and muscular bejeweled accessories are not girly at all!" i've learned that i'm not personally cut out for a rolex, since i once drew laughs by pronouncing their submariner model as submareener rather than sub-mariner. this one is more my style. but i shouldn't be too picky. if you just have to get me something for the holidays, i'm more partial to patek philippe for dress and bell & ross for knockin' around. who knows? someday i might need to blog from 11,000 meters.

*in truth, mine doesn't have the date thing at the bottom, but otherwise it is identical to the picture.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

the living room scale

i'm fascinated by the concept of f. stuart chapin's living room scale, published in ajs in the 1920s and in his 1935 book, contemporary american institutions. professor chapin's idea was to assess social status based on objects such as the hardwood floors and magazines in the family room.

former senator and vice presidential candidate john edwards has edited a new coffee-table book on childhood homes. you can see steven spielberg's li'l house in scottsdale, danny glover's cool haight-ashbury family home (above), as well as the childhood residences of sugar ray leonard, vera wang, john mellencamp and many others. it sounds hoky, i know, but i found the houses and bios to be engaging and revealing.

what does your childhood home reveal about you? after perusing a few of the pictures and profiles, i'm convinced that we could probably learn something useful about people by seeing where and how they grew up -- and not just the living room. maybe the overgrown trees and the old jeeps and basketball hoop in the driveway are having some sort of formative effect on my kids. my dad still lives in my childhood home, so i revisit fairly often. friends who visit my current or childhood home often say something like, "ahh, that explains a lot." i wonder what they're getting at...

reusse on osu-michigan

ol' patrick reusse is a great baseball writer and storyteller, but he's pretty fair on football as well (e.g., you have to be old enough to remember when the Gophers were good to remember when Michigan was bad). a few lines from his notes column today:

The announcement of Bo Schembechler's death came before noon Friday and this was my first reaction: That old Michigan coach will do anything to beat Ohio State... There's probably not a fan on either side of this magnificent rivalry that considers it to be a coincidence that Bo would time his death for the eve of Michigan's greatest-ever showdown with Ohio State.

Can't you imagine the scene? The 77-year-old coach speaks to the Wolverines on Thursday night, tapes a TV show the next morning, starts feeling those familiar chest pains, says to himself, "This should fire up our boys to beat those son of a guns with the nuts on their helmets," and then decides to go to the big stadium in the sky to watch and rant with Woody Hayes, his mentor and then biggest rival.

i mostly watch high school games these days, but you learn a little about big 10 football over four decades in minnesota and wisconsin. for most of these years, i've rooted against the conference's "big 2" and for its "little 8." i may have to watch a bit of today's game, though, since the lad is starting to have conversations like this with his buds.

Friday, November 17, 2006

call to justice tv - saturday night at 8

twin cities public television will show highlights of the council on crime & justice's call to justice forum on racial disparities tomorrow night. i can't vouch for the production values and, being one of the less exciting speakers on the bill, i don't know whether any of my remarks will survive the editing process. nevertheless, it was a lively event that could make for good tv. you can check it out on channel 17, saturday november 18th, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm.

here's a blurb on the conference and panelists:

In early 2006, the Council completed a five year research project known as the Racial Disparity Initiative (RDI). RDI consisted of 17 studies that examined both the causes and consequences of the racial disparities throughout Minnesota’s criminal justice system. In June of 2006 the studies’ key findings and recommendations were revealed at the Call to Justice Forum, attended by over 700 community members and leaders representing a diverse range of perspectives and expertise in the area of criminal justice or related areas.

The goal of the event was to bring community members, organizations, and leaders together to collaboratively and actively address the disparities. Panelists included: Senator Julianne Ortman; University of Minnesota Professor Chris Uggen; University of St. Thomas Professor Kenneth Goodpaster; Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman; Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak; Dr. Bravada Garrett-Akinsanya, African American Child Wellness Institute; Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson; Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page; University of Minnesota Professor Michael Tonry; Jim Rowader, Target Corporation; Donna Zimmerman, Health Partners.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


brad wright, a u-connecticut sociologist, started a new blog on life as a christian professor. though we came from very different places, much of what i learned in gradschool, i learned from brad.

deep friendships can form in the crucible of graduate study, maybe because there are so many intense and bizarre and intensely bizarre experiences to share. as i've mentioned before, brad and my other buddies would gently bust me on my self-absorption (you know, chris, there's a possibility that the faculty might be discussing something other than you today) and complaining (wow, buddy, given all these difficulties, we're really lucky that we can just walk away and sell insurance or something. i'm sure that would be much less alienating). i can't claim that i matured from such exchanges, but i think they got me headed in the right direction for a few years.

such friends offer both the support we need and the needle that helps us laugh at ourselves. if you think that sounds like a pretty good vibe for a blog, you might want to check it out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the pistol

busy days lately, with lots of non-bloggable heavy-duty soc-science chairstuff. here's a diversion, based on a late-night interview with one of the authors of a new pete maravich biography. in my view, the pistol was one of the more intriguing sports figures of the 1970s.
why not mark the start of hoops season with a clip from espnu's greatest college basketball player of all time?

mr. maravich...

- put up absurd, ridiculous, silly numbers, averaging over 44 points per game over four years at lsu and over 24 in a long nba career.

- the bulk of these points came on long-range picture-perfect jumpers.

- wore floppy socks and a floppy mop o' hair, later augmented by a classic 70s pornstache.

- tried yoga, hinduism, ufos, macrobioticism, and, ultimately, serious christianity.

- had an insane assortment of pre-magic johnson don't try this at home, kids passes (check out the video exchange with red auerbach in the clip below).

- never played on a great team.

- but almost played with julius erving. they hooked up for 10 glorious exhibition games before the good doctor moved on to another league. dang.

- told a pennsylvania reporter that he "didn't want to be 40 and die of a heart attack."

- died at 40 of a heart attack, while playing pick-up basketball.

- struck many as melancholy, even in his greatest moments. he may not have been tortured by his talent, but he couldn't (or wouldn't) enjoy his successes.

Monday, November 13, 2006

it doesn't matter what i say / as long as i sing with inflection

oh no, can this possibly be real?

One Bank,
One Card,
One Name,
that’s known all over the world…

how long could you bear to watch it? i wanted to hear all the lyrics, but just ... couldn't ... take it. sometimes i wonder whether i'd survive as, say, a consumer market executive for a major credit card company. guess not.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

hockey dads

hey, did you ever consider bringing mom or dad along to a professional conference? just think of all the time and money they put into your academic career. why, i bet they'd love to see you do your thing.

following a similar logic, the minnesota wild hockey team brought 23 of the players' fathers along for last week's road trip. like many good ideas, this one apparently came to wild general manager doug risebrough on a fishing trip. i can't wait to hear what he cooks up for the players' moms.

as a devoted fan of the pops stargell-era we are family pirates, i've gotta think this move will pull the team together. if nothing else, the players can commiserate about their goofy old men. as the picture shows, the fathers showed up for games wearing wild jerseys. i doubt my dad would wear a minnesota sociology hoodie to my ASA talk, but it seems to work for hockey.

there are no first-class charters involved, but i sort of travel with the kids' teams on a regular basis. on saturday, we turned the page to winter sports. tor had a wrestling event and esperanza experienced her first basketball game in the tough 7th/8th-grade league. whether through selectivity or maturation, the girls looked way stronger and faster than the 5th/6th-graders. daughter, who appears considerably taller away from son, even jumped for the opening tip. fans of my 0.5" vertical game will no doubt be amused at the thought of a uggen jumping center.

up at the high school, wrestling parents were definitely excited to get underway. one dad said he'd savor the season, since it was the last year for his last son. i can relate. the lads razzed each other about pre-season conditioning. wrestling messes with body image, so the guys have basically the same conception of "fat" as victoria's secret models. in a few weeks, they'll look like greyhounds, but yesterday they didn't appear quite so lean and hungry. of course, life is different for heavyweights, who set the scale at 285 and prefer to come about a biscuit shy of that mark. tor is bigger and stronger as a sophomore -- though somewhere south of 285, i think -- and his buddies were quick to notice.

i got an invitation for a december roadtrip to a rochester tournament, though i can't imagine i'll room with the big man. the few occasions when we've threatened one another almost always involve the horrible road grater-like noises (the term snoring does not begin to do the sound justice) that one of us is making while the other is trying to sleep. as roomies, i suspect that one of us would probably be banished to the bathtub or the balcony, and i'd prefer to put that particular argument off for a few years if possible.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

twenty large is too much to charge

many big-name and medium-name academics are charging large speaking fees. when local grad students invited a prominent (non-sociology) professor to campus for a talk, they were told it would cost $20,000 plus expenses. since s/he ain't flying coach, the expenses might cost an additional $5,000. around here, that's about a year's worth of support for a grad student and three years of undergrad tuition. in my view, demanding such fees is an absurd abuse of the academic star system and only suckers would pay such fees.

here is how critics of academics (including myself, of course) might see big speaking fees:

1. individuals grabbing credit for group accomplishments. unlike novelists who might conceive and execute projects on their own, most of us rely on others to do much of the real work on our projects. dozens of students and thousands of research subjects often assist in our research. so, where's their cut of the $20,000? they don't get a sniff of it.

2. feeding at the public trough. few of us could gain much private recognition without huge public investments. for example, the states of minnesota and wisconsin subsidized my education; the national science foundation, the department of justice, and the national institutes of health have supported my work; and, the university of minnesota has paid me a steady and generous salary throughout my career. so the taxpayers and students are triple-gouged by (1) the fee they must pay to speakers; (2) the lack of return on their previous investments; and, (3) the lost time i take for personal profit when i could be teaching or doing other work for the minnversity.

3. profiting from misery. shouldn't we feel conflicted and rotten whenever we take a limousine to a poverty conference or step over a homeless kid on the way to a sumptuous hotel? those of us who do social-problemsy research should really know better, unless we have such an outsized sense of personal entitlement that we don't even notice the contradiction.

4. nothing intellectual about it. such fees are for celebrities rather than scientists, so these folks aren't brought in for anything resembling a "serious" research talk. i'm all for popularizing high-end research, but big public talks should help fulfill the mission of teaching and disseminating findings rather than the mission of generating a supplementary income stream.

5. tenured professors already get paid. non-academics who must make a living giving talks and writing books likely need hefty speakers fees. i know some brilliant free-lance journalists who live article-to-article and supplement when and where they can. but big-shot tenured professors can already rely upon their six-figure academic-year salaries. forever.

6. lousy investment. our potential visitor was not a major political or cultural figure, either, who might arguably return $25k in attention and resources or even prestige to the minnversity. the minnversity may have gotten their money's worth in bringing in colin powell, salmon rushdie, and other non-academics to campus this year, but that's a tough argument to make for just another professor from a peer institution.

7. they'd be ashamed. if i blogged the names and fees of people who have turned down invitations for monetary reasons, they'd surely want to sue me. imagine if your peers read something like this: well, we invited uggen but there's just no way. his agent said he normally charges $10k, but would give us his special discount fee of $8,500. he's already got offers for $9,000 at the mall of america business college and $9,500 at the boat show. when we told him we only had $5,000, he said it just wasn't worth his time.

8. rubes, suckers, and marks. relative to small unranked institutions, fees are often much lower for well-endowed private universities such as stanford, harvard, and chicago. some bigshots only address the "rubes in flyoverland" when paid very handsomely, since there is no compensating gain in prestige. i can get a little cranky when a visitor sees the minnversity as anything other than a great public research university. paying fees that harvard wouldn't have to pay puts me into the position of a rube, a sucker, a mark, and (okay, i'll say it) a john.

9. even a high-end $20,000-per-night escort is still a ... i wouldn't push the analogy too far, but there's a word for people who seek monetary compensation for their kind attentions.

10. no accountability. when deans and department chairs put $20,000 into a new initiative, we like to know what happens to it. did it serve as seed money to launch a new initiative? did a publication result? was it used to further a teaching or service mission? sometimes expenditures turn out to be "blind alleys" that don't pan out, of course, but at least the recipient is accountable and there's a reasonable chance of an intellectual payoff. for a speaker series, there are plenty of non-$20k visitors doing the kind of exciting work that generates great ideas and intellectual exchange.

i'm not suggesting that everyone should put their honoraria into a felon fund or that professors shouldn't be compensated for their time. i can certainly understand why busy academics cannot accept every invitation to travel and speak. but wouldn't, say, $500 or $1000 be ample compensation? choosing academic invitations based solely on ability to pay any more than that doesn't pass the smell test. i guarantee that if you devote half your honoraria to an organization or a cause related to your research, you'll feel a whole lot better about taking the balance of the money.

Friday, November 10, 2006

school-to-prison pipeline

the american society of criminology meetings had some provocative film sessions last week, making good use of the l.a. convention center theater. i sat in on a series of short films and trailers, thinking they might be good for classroom use. unfortunately, i had to leave early -- it was pretty intense to see back-to-back-to-back docs on prison rape, kids in cages, and other atrocities.

one film that looks terrific, though, is book 'em: undereducated, overincarcerated by the three-minute clip addresses a phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline. i just heard the term this summer, at a racial disparities conference in minneapolis. i learned that youth of color now make up about 80% of the juveniles appearing in hennepin county court, with 25% of those cases referred from schools. this doesn't include truancy violations, either. in just the 2003-2004 school year, minneapolis schools referred 2,656 cases to the juvenile justice system. 2,311 of these involved misdemeanors, about half for disorderly conduct.

in minneapolis, as elsewhere, the juvenile justice system is meting out a lot of school discipline these days. the naacp legal defense fund has compiled a useful report on the subject, but i haven't seen much strong empirical work on the subject in the mainstream journals. it might make for a terrific dissertation ...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the metaphysical equivalent of a mouse's corpse

i enjoyed a fine talk by mitchell stevens yesterday, in which he reported that educational institutions are judged by their rejection rates. at the very best schools, it seems, everybody applies and nobody is admitted. so too with sociology journals, i suppose.

fortunately, most institutions aren't so choosy. each year the wergle
flomp poetry contest
doles out filthy lucre to honor the best poem sent to a vanity poetry press in jest. since the acceptance rate is asymptotically close to 100 percent at such presses, authors must write brain-splatteringly bad stuff to even get a whiff of rejection.

great poets, of course, rise to any challenge. since gross-out imagery facilitates rejection, few of the winning entries can be reprinted in full on a family-friendly blog. so, i'll just share a few lines of nicholas moore's how to write a poem, the 2006 wergle flomp grand prize winner:

Here is a poem that I wrote
Over the course of the past five years.
It was recently submitted to the Indiana Review.

It goes like this:

"I love you more than I love life
(Or cheese).
Only God can make a tree.

I want to make it with you.

Roses are rose,
And violets are violet.

If you think this is a good poem,
Then feel free to highlight it."

While I was typing that poem for you,
My rejection letter came.

I guess the Indiana Review
Are not the visionaries that I was hoping for.

The rejection letter goes like this:

"Dear Mister Moore,

Your poetry is
A travesty
Of buffoonery.

As if a five-year-old child
Were pointing a handgun
At a masturbating clown.

We can not publish your poem,
You see,
Because it is currently resting
In our trash baskets:
The metaphysical equivalent
Of a mouse's corpse."

i'd hate to spoil the transcendant beauty of this poem by adding inane commentary, but i love the whole poem-within-a-poem-within-a-poem pretentiousness. plus the old bread lyric string. you like? just link to the unabridged version (the early bits have sort of a bukowski vibe) and other past winners, then enter the 2007 contest your own self. there could be $1169 in it for you, or at least the sweet sting of rejection.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

has nbc hired a sociologist?

from my inbox:

Greetings from Los Angeles!

Universal Pictures is hosting an upcoming screening of an important new film at the University of Minnesota and we're looking for your valuable input. We will be holding a complimentary screening of ALPHA DOG, a powerful drama inspired by true events, on Monday, November 27th, 7:30PM at the Oak Street Cinema. Director Nick Cassavetes (John Q, The Notebook) will also be conducting a post-screening Q&A to discuss the relevant issues raised in the film and we would like for you and your students to be a part of what promises to be an interesting, lively discussion. A detailed description of the film is included at the end of this email.

ALPHA DOG touches upon several major issues that are of vital importance to society today, such as the powerful aspirational effects that gang/thug culture has upon today's youth, the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse (especially amongst middle and upper-middle class youth) and how differing approaches to parenting can have major long-term effects on children. With these thematic elements and an all-star ensemble cast, ALPHA DOG should serve as a catalyst for major discussions that we think you and your students will find relevant to their course of study.

We would like to officially invite you and your students to see the film and participate in the Q&A session, as we are targeting our invites primarily to social science classes and organizations as we believe the themes of the film will resonate strongly with students and faculty in these particular areas of study. ALPHA DOG opens in theaters nationwide January 12, 2007 but we want to get the film out to the college community, as the studio and the filmmakers firmly believe that the powerful messages of the film need to be heard sooner rather than later.

We are happy to send you as many free screening passes as you wish to distribute to your students between now and the screening. If you are interested in taking part, please let us know where to send the passes and how many you wish to receive (each pass is good for one admission).

In addition, we will be conducting early screenings of the film in several cities starting the week of November 1. If you would like to see the film prior to committing to the campus screening, please let us know and we will forward you the necessary screening information.

We look forward to hearing from you as we begin this process and want to thank you in advance for your participation and feedback.

is this a new viral marketing gimmick or some variant of public criminology? are they reaching out to educators for credibility or money? can you imagine if professors actually blurbed films (the feel-good hit of the semester!)? i'd need to preview the movie before recommending it to my students, of course. i mean, hollywood thinks that crash was the definitive statement on american race relations. plus, the imdb description flags it for strong violence. that's just what my students need -- more university-sanctioned strong violence. there are always exceptions, but i've found that there's rarely a big intellectual or pedagogical payoff to showing such films as part of my classes. still, i'm intrigued that the studios are approaching educators directly.

voting rights trump punishment in rhode island

rhode island voters today considered a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to probationers and parolees in that state. the referendum presented a clash between two deeply-felt imperatives -- the desire to punish criminals and the desire to secure civil rights for all citizens.

if i'm reading the ballot wording* and the results** correctly, voting rights trumped punitiveness tonight and about 15,000 rhode island citizens regained the right to vote.

after reviewing the social scientific evidence to the best of our abilities, jeff manza and i advocated reenfranchising probationers and parolees in locked out. so, yes, i'm pleased with this result. more broadly, however, i'm encouraged to see that at least half the voters plainly see convicted felons as fellow citizens rather than as a permanently stained and stigmatized criminal class, unfit for citizenship. these results might offer a ray of hope to those struggling to make it on the outside and perhaps encourage those working on their behalf.

*here is the wording for question 2:

Approval of the amendment to the Rhode Island Constitution set forth below will provide that no person who is incarcerated in a correctional facility upon a felony conviction shall be permitted to vote until such person is discharged from the facility, at which point that person's right to vote shall be restored:
Question 2 APPROVE
Question 2 REJECT

** here are the unofficial results compiled by the rhode island board of elections, as of 1:00 am:

With 565 of 565(100%) precincts reporting statewide STATE QUESTION 2 - VOTER INITIATIVE

Question 2 APPROVE (N) 191,454 51.5%
Question 2 REJECT (N) 180,161 48.5%

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

victim services positions

the council on crime and justice sends word of two victim services positions in beautiful downtown minneapolis. one is for a victim advocate/outreach coordinator. here's a blurb from michael bischoff on the job:

"The person(s) we’d like to hire will work full-time, receive great benefits, and be based at our office in downtown Minneapolis. We’re looking for someone that is passionate about working in partnership with crime victims to advocate for their rights. I’m attaching the job announcement. There isn’t a set deadline for the position. It will be open until filled."

the council is also seeking a victim services coordinator to coordinate the council's volunteers and crime victim hotline. the council is a fine local non-profit with an excellent national reputation. i've been working with the organization a lot lately and can vouch for its leadership and core mission: "to build community capacity to address the causes and consequences of crime and violence through research, demonstration and advocacy."

to apply, submit a resume and cover letter to: council on crime and justice, attn: human resources, 822 south third street, suite 100, minneapolis, mn 55415 or

Monday, November 06, 2006

don't let 'em say that you slacked

between travel and sicktime this week, i've been a bear of little blog. i returned from los angeles saturday night with the flu or some sort of food poisoning.* but i'm already feeling much better and i'm excited to exercise my civic duty tomorrow.

i've taken a personal interest in voting ever since one of my prison interviewees busted me and called me out a few years ago. i had just taken an hour of his time to talk about voting and politics, when i asked whether he had any further questions about the study. here's the shameful transcript:

CU: Well, what about, you know, I’ve been asking you all these questions, do you have any questions for me about this study, about what, what we’re trying to do here, about, uh, anything we’ve been talking about.

X4: Who did you vote for?

CU: [laughs] Who did I vote for?

X4: [laughs].

CU: You know, I tell you, I, I’m ashamed to admit it, I didn’t vote.

X4: You didn’t?

CU: I didn’t vote. I was, ah, I was working.

X4: Why didn’t you vote?

CU: I was, ah, ah, I didn’t take the time.

X4: [laughs].

CU: Too lazy.

X4: You must not like the things they were talking about. Didn’t it interest you?

CU: Yeah, it interested me…

X4: The news?

CU: …it interested me, but ah, but I, you know, I, I’m like everybody else, you know…

X4: You slacked.

CU: I slacked, I thought, well, you know, how much is one vote going to matter?

X4: Who would you have voted for, Bush or something?

yeah, i was pretty ashamed, especially when my ace transcriptionist started taking me to task. only you can prevent this sort of thing from happening in your research endeavors. as you can plainly see, the excuses for non-voting seem pretty lame -- particularly to those who can't vote but would very much like to cast a ballot.

*the primary symptom involved what my antipodean friends call chunder or the ol' technicolor yawn.

is alice a democrat or a republican?

Friday, November 03, 2006

no mo' anonymous comments

after getting some feedback from frequent blog readers this morning, i decided to turn off the anonymous comments today. it was just getting too nasty and that's too bad. i hope i can bring them back online soon enough...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

article rankings

i don't put too much stock in department rankings, but i was happy to see a bootleg copy of a forthcoming footnotes piece on article production by christopher hausmann, rebecca bryant-fritz, elizabeth covay, brian miller, jeffrey seymour, and yuting wang.

the authors ranked departments by publications-per-person in sociology's three leading general interest journals, the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, and Social Forces over the past three years. minnesota jumped from 30th in the last round of rankings to 8th in this one, which seems like darn good progress.

articles aren't everything of course, and lots of great articles appear outside the big three journals. since so many of my colleagues (and myself, i guess) are focusing on books lately, i'm glad to know that we're getting good news on the article front as well. here are the rankings, taken from table 1 of the article (shared ranks indicate ties):

1. Ohio State
2. North Carolina
3. Duke
4. Stanford
5. Notre Dame
6. Pennsylvania State
7. Wisconsin- Madison
8. Minnesota
9. Columbia
9. Princeton
11. Washington
12. Northwestern
13. Indiana
14. Arizona
15. Cornell
16. Harvard
17. Pennsylvania
18. California- Irvine
19. Washington State
20. SUNY - Albany
21. Purdue
21. Cal-Los Angeles
23. Chicago
24. Michigan
25. Tulane
26. Mass- Amherst
27. Texas- Austin
28. South Carolina
29. Western Washington
30. Cal- Santa Barbara
30. Oregon
32. California- Berkeley
32. Utah
34. California- Davis
35. Johns Hopkins
36. SUNY- Stony brook
36. Georgia
38. North Carolina State
39. Dartmouth College
39. Cal - San Diego