Chris Uggen's Blog: September 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

aaup policy on outside speakers

last week, i got a timely email about free speech on campus from the american association of university professors.

the policy's five key points would appear to be a useful starting point for department chairs and administrators hosting controversial speakers. an excerpt:

In 2005—after several colleges and universities withdrew valid invitations to speakers during the 2004 election cycle—the American Association of University Professors published the statement Academic Freedom and Outside Speakers. Now that another election cycle is upon us, it is important to reiterate our policy’s key points:

1. Many colleges and universities permit student and faculty groups to issue their own invitations to outside speakers. That practice is an important part of academic freedom and institutions should respect it.

2. When an authorized faculty or student group invites an outside speaker, this does not mean the institution approves or disapproves of the speaker or what the speaker says, has said, or will say.

3. Colleges are free to announce that they do not officially endorse a speaker or the views a speaker expresses, but they should not cancel a speech because people on campus or in the community either disagree with its content or disapprove of the speaker.

4. Institutions should ensure that all legitimately invited speakers can express their views and that open discussion can take place.

5. Only in extreme and extraordinary cases may invitations be canceled out of concern for safety.

marathon convergence

after a surprising third-place showing in the world track and field championships, kara goucher continues to outpace some of the greatest runners in the world. today, the duluth native bested paula radcliffe in london, posting a 1:06:57 half-marathon -- the quickest half ever for an american woman. dang. this is sort of like taking a late-bulls-period michael jordan off the dribble, or knocking ali to the canvas in the mid-1970s.

ms. radcliffe is legendary among distance runners, though she's been snarkily savaged in the british press and burdened by impossible expectations. she's run a few poor races and has yet to medal in the olympics, but she's been so much better than the competition for so long that she might be the greatest distance runner of all-time. most notably, she has held the women's marathon record for five years. moreover, the radcliffe effect is a major factor in the recent convergence of male and female marathon times graphed below.

this handy figure charts male and female marathon record times since 1900. the brand new men's recordholder is haile gebrselassie, who covered 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 4 minutes, and 26 seconds today in berlin (a wicked pace of 4:45 per mile). the women's record had plateaued around 2:21 from the early 1980s the late 1990s, but has since dropped precipitously. ms. radcliffe holds the current women's record at 2:15:25, run in london in 2003, as well as the second, third, and fifth fastest women's marathon times. nobody has ever gotten within three minutes of her london time. to put these numbers in perspective, the quickest of my 20 marathons took about 3:27 and i've often been out there for 4 or more hours.

though there are many races to be run in the meantime, i can't wait to see ms. goucher and ms. radcliffe and mr. gebrselassie (and mr. webb and mr. konrad and ...) in beijing.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

cool supreme court database from epstein, walker, and staudt

via volokh: northwestern law professor lee epstein offers a user-friendly public data source on u.s. supreme court justices. much can be learned from these data. for example, it was easy to investigate class background and party affiliation of the nominees. i learned that 18 of 56 nominees by democratic presidents were coded as lower or lower-middle class (32 percent), relative to 13 of 73 republican nominees (18 percent).

i thought that upper-class nominees might be more successful in the nomination process, but upper class nominees actually had the lowest success rate -- only 66 percent, relative to 80 percent for nominees from all other classes. hmmm. i also learned that four nominees were minnesota natives and that one had been born in "asia minor (turkey)." there's much, much more here for researchers studying the nine.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

census group quarters estimates

the census bureau has released new group quarters estimates for 2006, reporting on americans who live in institutions such as prisons, nursing homes, and college dormitories. the racial disparities have been widely reported, but the sex distributions also tell a story. i created the charts below based on this census table.

roughly two million americans are housed in each of three types of institutions -- about 2.3 million in college and university dormitories, 2.1 million in adult correctional institutions, and 1.8 million in nursing homes. the picture seems clear: prisons and jails remain overwhelmingly male institutions, while nursing homes are predominantly female institutions. there are about 9.4 times more men than women in prisons and jails, but about 2.2 times more women than men in nursing homes. college dorms are more evenly split -- about 53.3 percent female and 46.7 percent male. the nursing home disparity, i'd imagine, is due in large part to women's greater longevity.

one can rearrange these data to get a better look at the contribution of each type of residency to the total number of women and men housed in group quarters. over 53 percent of the 3.5 million men housed in these three institutional settings were incarcerated, relative to about 7 percent of the 2.7 million women in these institutions.

of course, one shouldn't read too much into this sort of bivariate presentation. breaking these data out by age, race, and gender would likely show a triple-whammy of outsized incarceration rates among young, african american, males relative to all other groups.

sunday morning coming down -- update

the times updates developments discussed in last week's post:

Prisons to Restore Purged Religious Books

Published: September 27, 2007

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — Facing pressure from religious groups, civil libertarians and members of Congress, the federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to return religious materials that had been purged from prison chapel libraries because they were not on the bureau’s lists of approved resources...

[full article]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

hope, faith, and background checks

i sometimes find powerful messages left on old posts. paging through these comments can be disheartening, or inspiring, or both. i forwarded the first one to my research team yesterday, since it reminded me what our grant was all about. i was happy to send out the follow-up this evening.

yesterday's message was powerful bad:

Hi im Pam and am also like most of you a convicted FELON > this one thing has literally destroyed my life>...I have been struugling with my addiction for 7 Yrs now - During this time (1999) I was arrested for possesion of narcotics-this was nollied I was arrested again (2000) I was convicted. So now at 42 yrs old I am a convicted felon -I lost 1 job and not hired for countless others due to this/ Today I was offered a job at a national insurance co. thru a temp agency _ Iwas soooo excited until she said the dreaded words "I'll need you to sign for a background check" I felt like i would faint-sick to my stomach-So i managed to get thru the rest of the coversation and here I sit and now I found so many others just like me-It is somehow comforting to know that others know and understand my pain and suffering-thanks to all who took the time towrite in. I think somehow we need to stand up to this practice of background checks and limit it to crimes that may directly affect the safety of other workers and the company-not just someone who has one arrest one conviction in their entire life-How does my relapse prevent me from being a good person, qualified to do a job now that I am clean from drugs-they obviously liked what they saw on my resume and how I presened myself in the interview it kills me to think i may not be able to keep this job when the background check comes back.It no wonder why so many felons re offend we dont stand a chance to put our past behind us -we are forever branded as not suitable before we can prove ourself to others - thats the real injustice from our wonderful "Justice System" I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. ---Pam

and today's was powerful good:

Hi This is Pebbles1 again - I wrote in yesterday about a job offer with the stipulation of a background check -- Well I got the phone call this morning and my background check came in and of course my felony posession of narcotics was clearly there. The temp agency sent it to Aetna (Employer)and they said I can start my new Job on Monday at 8:00 am !!!! I am still in shock, my hands are still trembling and i just dried the tears (happy ones) off my face. I just had to share this because my heart was and still is with all of those who didnt get that phone call this morning. I want you to know there is hope. I have been trying to get a job for the past 2 1/2 years and if I gave up this would have never happened for me. Please keep up the fight you are all worth it we just need to find that one person who can see our worth through a cloudy past. Dont stop trying if it can happen for me it can happen for any of us. Just 3 months ago I was living at my moms house to avoid being homeless I am now able to start over to rebuild a broken life. I hope my story can pass along some hope to all of us who really know how it feels to feel HOPELESS. ... Hope to hear from you if you need some support , hope or inspiration. I am so glad i found this web site it came as a comfort to me when i almost gave up for good. Pam.

thanks for keeping the faith, pam. you're an inspiration.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

we're not lookin' for exactly grade-a type product

here's a revealing video from slate on a prison food convention in california. mmm. textured vegetable proteins...

understandably, food is an A#1 top-priority issue for inmates. michelle writes about teaching an inside-out class at oregon state penitentiary during a federal investigation of a major prison food scandal. when allegations of bribes, kickbacks, and tainted food arose, one of her inside students expressed himself in verse.

2006 fbi crime reports now available

according to the fbi's new crime in the united states for 2006...

property crime in the united states has dropped to the lowest level in two decades, while violent crime is creeping up from relatively low levels.

fyi, the fbi now echoes the same strong warning issued by intro crim profs: be very careful when using these data to make comparisons across jurisdictions.

a matter of brute force or subtle intellect

say what you will about #71, but the kid has a keen sense of timing. i'd grown up believing that offensive linemen (and linewomen) were destined to toil in obscurity, until the recent publication of michael "moneyball" lewis' the blind side: evolution of a game. mr. lewis avers that the offensive tackle has become the pivot point for u.s. football:

"As he did so memorably for baseball in Moneyball, Lewis takes a statistical X-ray of the hidden substructure of football, outlining the invisible doings of unsung players that determine the outcome more than the showy exploits of point scorers. In his sketch of the gridiron arms race, first came the modern, meticulously choreographed passing offense, then the ferocious defensive pass rusher whose bone-crunching quarterback sacks demolished the best-laid passing game, and finally the rise of the left tackle — the offensive lineman tasked with protecting the quarterback from the pass rusher — whose presence is felt only through the game-deciding absence of said sacks. A rare creature combining 300 pounds of bulk with 'the body control of a ballerina,' the anonymous left tackle, Lewis notes, is now often a team's highest-paid player. Lewis fleshes this out with the colorful saga of left tackle prodigy Michael Oher. An intermittently homeless Memphis ghetto kid taken in by a rich white family and a Christian high school, Oher's preternatural size and agility soon has every college coach in the country courting him obsequiously. Combining a tour de force of sports analysis with a piquant ethnography of the South's pigskin mania, Lewis probes the fascinating question of whether football is a matter of brute force or subtle intellect. Photos." Publishers Weekly

dang. lewis got this much right: tackles need body control and footwork much more than they need bulk. this sounds like a book that my lad might actually crack! as a right tackle, he only covers the blind side when the lefty quarterback is playing. true to lewis' argument, his o-line is getting lots of good pub. last friday, an analyst on the all-sports radio station even mentioned something called ooo-gun. i was jazzed about it, but (of course) the lad would not speak of such things. i'm all about non-school reading, so i plunked down my $16.95 tonight and added 8 bucks for a tree grows in brooklyn -- tor might ignore blindside, but i know that esperanza can't resist a good read.

Monday, September 24, 2007

jena 6 (non-)post

several have urged me to write about the jena 6 case. i've got little new to offer, so i'm referring folks to more knowledgeable observers.

as several crim/law bloggers have pointed out, this is a case about a twisty sequence of events. competing versions of each event are being reported, such that the ever-elusive "basic facts of the case" are particularly elusive in jena, louisiana. criminal defense attorney jeralyn merritt offers her characteristically thoughtful libertarian-leaning-lefty perspective on ms merritt:

While I still can't make judgments as to much of the story, I have no problem declaring the case one of prosecutorial over-charging and abuse of a system that allows prosecutors discretion in charging juveniles as adults... The key legal question being asked is whether the Jena Six have been or are being prosecuted unfairly based on racial considerations. Unfortunately, many of the facts necessary to make the determination are in dispute, confusing or unverified by impartial sources.

the jena case(s) bring to light issues that should be familiar to sociological criminologists: racial disparities in both the administration of justice and in the perceived legitimacy of this system; the further erosion of the adult and juvenile justice systems; the racialized history of american vigilantism; and, the common place of violence in the lives of young men. nevertheless, these issues and conditions are present in many cases in many courtrooms in many jurisdictions. in my opinion, some stories that never registered on the national radar have simpler heroes and villains, with miscarriages of justice that are arguably more egregious than those in jena. why do you think the particular series of events in jena have given rise to such a large mobilization?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

strike ends

the afscme strike appears to be over, but nobody is celebrating.

as department chair, i'm both management and faculty. this means that i've spent the past three weeks walking a tightrope through a hailstorm. most of my sociology colleagues and students believe that the striking workers were treated poorly by the administration. many taught their classes off campus to avoid crossing picket lines, though our provost had expressly discouraged this practice.

i decided that i would not (and probably could not) monitor any actions taken in response to the strike, but that i would respond quickly to address specific student complaints. in each case, i was able to speak with the student and/or their parents within a few hours, find some sort of real accommodation to their needs, and write up a response to my dean. as i knew would be the case, our sociology instructors all had principled pedagogical reasons for their actions.

i just wish that folks were happier with the settlement. in my twelve years at the minnversity, we've always maintained a reasonably happy and productive we're-all-in-this-together working environment. it will likely take some work to get it back.

26 miles to go now...

you can hardly have a war these days without invoking edwin starr. while his waris a powerful statement, mr. starr made plenty of other fine music.* the past few sundays, i've motivated my long runs with this revealing remix of mr. starr's 25 miles. two weeks to the marathon and 26.2 miles to go...

* not to geek out on you, but whitfield/strong evidently penned war for the ball of confusion-era temptations. deemed as too intense for their my girl-era fans, the temps' version was never released as a single.

Friday, September 21, 2007

gopher wrestlers visited the white house today

remarks by president bush, 9/21/07:
Coach Robinson and others coach the mighty Golden Gophers of Minnesota in the University of Minnesota Men's Wrestling team. (Applause.) Grapplers. This spring you earned the third national title in team history. And I appreciate the fact that you train hard, work hard, and as we say in Texas, "out-wrastle 'em." (Laughter.) Congratulations and welcome to the White House. (Applause.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

80% in '08

i enjoyed an inspiring constitution day celebration at metro state yesterday, on a panel with mark ritchie, mee moua, and mariano espinoza. frankly, i was blown off the lectern by three true believers in american democracy.

mr. espinoza described the political life of undocumented immigrants, senator moua gave an impassioned address on building civic community and the ritual of voting (which turns out to be a big deal with ex-felons, by the way), and secretary of state ritchie offered an authoritative state-by-state discussion of ballot access in america.

in 2004, minnesota led the nation with a turnout rate of 73 percent of the voting age population (or 77 percent of the voting-eligible population). secretary ritchie is chasing after full democratization, but his near-term goal is 80 percent in '08. this is laudable by u.s. standards, of course, but only fair to middling by international standards.

mr. ritchie made four commitments during his campaign, which seem like sensible prerequisites to holding the office of secretary of state in any state these days:

1. You will be able to register and vote with ease, privacy and dignity regardless of where you live, political affiliation, or physical ability.

2. Your votes will be recorded as you intend on a paper ballot. All ballots will be counted accurately and in a timely manner and your personal election information will be protected.

3. All candidates will receive equal treatment and the same information from the Office regardless of political affiliation.

4. The Secretary of State’s Office will be accountable to all Minnesotans for carrying out and protecting our laws.

i can't often get 100 percent behind any individual candidate for elective office, but i can certainly offer a full endorsement of these principles. here's to 80 percent in '08 and 85 percent in '12 and ...

Monday, September 17, 2007

new nij research in brief: neighborhood effects on violence

the national institute of justice has released a new research in brief on the chicago neighborhoods project of rob sampson and colleagues. at one time, nij did much more of this sort of thing, releasing extraordinarily useful "ribs" that summarized grantees' research.

in this report, i find the immigration results most intriguing:

Less violence was committed by youth living in neighborhoods with more first-generation immigrants and where more residents were employed in professional and managerial occupations. Youth living in neighborhoods where adult residents were more cynical about the law also reported more violence. Once these factors were accounted for, the neighborhoods’ racial composition did not matter. - p. 7.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

sunday morning coming down

the christian science monitor and the times are reporting on a federal bureau of prisons policy to remove religious books from prison libraries.

BOP chaplains no longer screen books on a case-by-case basis. instead, a panel has created an approved list of books for each of 20 religions. inmates in otisville, new york have filed suit in protest.

institutions understand that redefining the default practice can bring about a remarkable shift in policy. here, by changing the default from inclusion to exclusion, only a relative handful of books will even be considered for libraries. aside from the obvious problems with an approved list (e.g., who approves? how often? under what criteria?) an almost infinite number of fine spiritual books will never be reviewed. for example, robert schuller, reinhold niebuhr, moses maimonides, and rick warren's the purpose-driven life are omitted. i doubt that these were censored on the basis of objectionable content.

imagine, for a moment, what an approved sociology list might include -- habits of the heart might make the cut, but who would read and review lesser-known works? i've sent free copies of locked out to a few prison libraries in response to requests by inmates or instructors. as far as i know, these remain on the shelves. today, as in earlier periods, political content seems far less threatening than religious content.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

watch the parkin' meters

ever want to grab a fat black sharpie and create yer very own personalized subterranean homesick signs?

well, now you can! thanks to a marketing pitch for a new bob dylan collection.

if you're feeling generous, just post yer link in the comments.

closed-circuit football post

closed circuit to mounds view fans: a headline for the o-line as the 'stangs beat the bears in the battle of unbeatens. waiting in line at halftime, i caught up with white bear's former heavyweight wrestler, who had some epic battles with the lad last winter. fun night.

this thursday at 7, fox sports net north is broadcasting the mounds view - roseville game statewide. while i'd love to hear anthony lapanta butcher the family name, i'll be yelling my freaking head off at mustang stadium. my home lacks the cable anyway, but i might've broken down and called comcast had bert been working the broadcast.

metro state talk on monday night

september 17th is constitution day. at 7 on monday night, i'll be speaking on a panel with minnesota secretary of state mark ritchie, state senator mee moua, and mariano espinoza of the minnesota immigration freedom network.

all are welcome for what appears to be a lively day of events. when i read her the roster of speakers, esperanza was intrigued at their titles. her enthusiasm waned, however, when she learned that condoleezza rice might not be available for this particular event. something tells me that their paths will cross at some point down the road.

6:45 pm - Welcome and Introduction - Metropolitan State University
President Wilson Bradshaw

7:00 - 8:30 pm - "Expanding the Vote: New Faces - New Votes" with
discussions by Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State; Mee Moua,
Minnesota State Senator; Mariano Espinoza, Executive Director of the
Minnesota Immigration Freedom Network; and Chris Uggen, Professor of
Sociology, University of Minnesota, and expert on felon voting rights

Monday, September 17, 2007, from 11:30 am to 8:30 pm

Ecolab Room, Library and Learning Center

Metropolitan State University
700 East 7th Street
Saint Paul, MN
(Highway 94 and Mounds Boulevard)

human rights watch report on sex offender laws

it takes guts to defend the rights of those convicted of sex crimes, but human rights watch has never been short on guts. their new report, no easy answers: sex offender laws in the u.s., offers a timely appraisal of these laws and their consequences for individuals and communities.

Friday, September 14, 2007

suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp...

ever speculate about the contents of that '64 malibu's trunk in repo man? now, i understand. the strib reports that a big yellow radioactive box was stolen from a pickup truck today in forest lake, minnesota.

To the thief who stole the yellow box out of a pickup truck in Forest Lake late Wednesday or early Thursday: What's inside of that box is hot, indeed, but not just because it's stolen.

It's radioactive.

On Thursday, Minnesota health officials issued a warning regarding the stolen device, which is used to measure the moisture content in soil and construction materials... The radioactive elements are Cesium 137 and Americium 241,

dang. just don't open the trunk. the life of a repo man is always intense.

aside: the trailer reminds me how often folks will trot out a li'l iggy whenever they seek an edgy vibe. i heard the passenger in a kohl's commercial tonight, a recent cadillac ad uses punk rocker, and, of course, lust for life pops up in both a cruise commercial and trainspotting. i'm eagerly awaiting the now i wanna be your dog humane society commercial, the m&m's candy ad and haggar slacks' commodification of funtime. the juxtaposition is so bizarre in each case that it never seems like a sellout. it just seems like mutant art, as well as a remunerative and hard-earned retirement plan.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

why do pro wrestlers die young?

were i teaching soc of deviance this semester, i might build an assignment around paul farhi's fine washington post piece on the early deaths of professional wrestlers.

if you read closely, you'll find a subcultural/network story, a biological story, a psychological story, a masculinities story, an institutional story, a macro-structural story, and a very sad story.

but this is good journalism as well as good data for a sociology assignment. as my local dailies have been cutting bone and muscle for about a year now, i'm all the more appreciative of a well-written and carefully researched feature article.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

obesity, hunger, and table for two

ok, so here's a li'l social policy challenge: how would you devise a program to simultaneously address hunger in developing countries and obesity in developed countries?

table for two represents the creative response of a young global leaders group working with the world economic forum. they set up a program to donate a school meal in a developing country for every "healthy" meal purchased at participating company cafeterias, restaurants, or retailers. the global initiative, led by masaakira "james" kondo and moto furukawa, is rapidly gaining momentum in japan, with expansion to europe and north america planned within the next year.

here's the official description:

Step 1
Company cafeterias and restaurants (our “participants”) that participate in TABLE FOR TWO agree to serve healthy meal options that meet our healthy diet criteria.

Step 2
When the healthy meal is served, our supporters agree to donate 20 cents per meal to TABLE FOR TWO. The 20 cents may be incurred by the employer, food service provider, suppliers, or the employee. Employers may choose to match the donation made by their employees.

Step 3
Using the donation, school meals are provided at participating schools in developing countries at a cost of 20 cents per meal. Participating schools are accountable for monitoring and periodically reporting the delivery of school meals and the health of school children to whom the meals are provided.

cool idea, though the organizational challenges are daunting. i'm sure one could come up with dozens of reasons why this won't work in the states, though one could counter that the japan pilot has already served tens of thousands of meals. i caught wind of the program through a u.s.-japan leadership exchange listserv. if you like the idea and know of companies or restaurants that might like to participate, i know that mr. kondo, interviewed here by thomas crampton, would love to hear from you. his goal is to sign up 1,000 organizations around the world. and i wouldn't bet against him.

so, which college or university will be the first to pilot the program?

Monday, September 10, 2007

l'shanah tovah--a sweet new year

cole krawitz reached out today to pass along some poems and good wishes as we enter the new Jewish year.

May this newness, this time of shedding old skins to embrace our truest selves, to returning to our deepest selves, find all of you in the warmest of spirits, today and tomorrow. May this return not only strengthen our truest selves, but our collective strength in building and transforming the world we do seek.

nice. in the new year's spirit of hesbon nefesh, or taking stock of one's soul, cole offers this fine marge piercy poem:

Old moon cradling the new moon (listen to her read)

What we have known is fully formed
but fading, a chord no longer quite
audible but resonating in the bones.

What we will be together is just a sliver
of light, a whisper, a tone too high
to hear yet but alerting the nerves.

What we have been contains
what we will be, although it is new
as first milk from a swollen breast.

What we desire rides the night
like a storm of tiny feathers, blossoms
of ice and pinpricks of fire.

Where we will go is rooted in where
we have been, in each other’s arms
as if twinned in the womb, and now

the womb opens on a new beast
an elegant hybrid of cat and eagle,
a flower fully armed and fragrant

with the essences of could be, might
be, want to be, with the promise of birth
under the sign of the skinniest moon.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

arts in criminal justice conference

i think i'd find some great inspiration if i could get away for the arts in criminal justice conference in philadelphia this october. here's a blurb/pitch from the organizers:

The speakers and panelists at the ARTS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE NATIONAL CONFERENCE in Philadelphia on October 3 through 6 represent the leading experts in arts in corrections. They’re artists, activists, correction officials, and policy makers, coming together to further the goals of criminal and restorative justice, and you won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear them!

Some session highlights include:

· Pandora's Cell: Free Expression in Confined Spaces

Moderated by Judith Tannenbaum, San Francisco Writers Corps
Conference keynote Luis Rodriguez will participate in this panel that explores the inherent paradoxes of making (and sharing) art in prison. What are the gifts and difficulties of opening one's senses and spirit in a world of "keys, bars, guns being racked" (as prison poet Spoon Jackson put it)? How do teaching artists approach their work in such an environment? What is required to be true to Nazim Hikmet's observation that one can serve time "as long as the jewel/in the left side of your chest doesn't lose its luster"?

· A Discussion with Wardens and Superintendents

Moderated by David Kairys, Activist and Professor of Constitutional Law, Temple University School of Law
Join Laura Bedard, PhD, Deputy Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections; David DiGuglielmo, Superintendent of SCI-Graterford (PA); Robert Green, Warden, Montgomery County (MD) Prison; Edward Ignarri, Director of Rehabilitation, Monroe County (NY) Jail; and Leon King, III, Esq., Commissioner of the Philadelphia County Prison System, for a discussion about their commitment to the arts and the successful and comprehensive arts programming in their facilities.

· Special Challenges to the Juvenile System
Moderated by Grady Hillman, Founder, Southwest Correctional Arts Network
In this session, panelists will describe a challenge that they and their organization have faced with the delivery of arts programming in juvenile justice or with working in the juvenile justice system in general, and how they successfully addressed it. They will also share the most daunting challenge they're now contending with.

· Michigan: The University-based Approach
Moderated by Buzz Alexander, Founder, Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan
The speakers from this university-based project will talk about the essential values, practices, and impact on students and the incarcerated behind 12 annual prisoner art exhibitions, 456 plays in 22 prisons, five juvenile facilities, four Detroit high schools, and much more over the past 18 years.

weber and football as a vocation

i've been thinking of weber all weekend -- the student-athlete, not the social theorist. i've scarcely met gopher quarterback adam weber, but recall him as a gracious and charismatic senior captain when tor joined his mounds view team in 2005. mr. weber was recruited to lead the power running game of former coach glen mason. with mr. mason's departure, however, new coach tim brewster implemented a new spread offense that requires a different -- and, perhaps, non-weberian -- skill set of its leaders.

in addition to the new game plan's threat to his legal-rational authority, mr. weber must have been concerned about the possibility of patrimonial rule in gopher nation. coach brewster came to minnesota with his son clint, a highly touted young quarterback. this is sort of like a dean recruiting you to chair a sociology department, but finding that the dean's successor would prefer you to run the financial aid office instead -- with her cpa daughter set up next door, just in case anything should go wrong. such changes occur in every organization, of course, and there's absolutely no reason to suspect the new coach of nepotism. still, i'd imagine that it must be tricky to sort through such issues as a teenage student-athlete.

after saturday's game, however, i won't worry so much about adam weber. he passed for four touchdowns and ran for 98 yards and another touchdown. not bad for a redshirt freshman, even if the opponent was miami-ohio rather than miami-5-national-championships-since-'83. i have a tough time imagining my gophs moving the ball (forward, that is) against penn state, ohio state, and wisconsin, but if mr. weber remains healthy i'm sure he'll do just fine. i just hope he stays gracious, as well as charismatic.

mounds view alums -- a few stop by, on occasion -- will be pleased to hear that their mustangs upset eighth-ranked stillwater on friday. plus, their big right tackle held up nicely against a fine stillwater defensive end, a national recruit on his way to northwestern next year. i'm probably not a value-neutral observer, so i should just report the results: the lads were down 20-7 at the half, but stormed back to win 21-20 in a raucous fourth quarter.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

drek's unhelpful hints for graduate students

drek's 22 unhelpful hints for graduate students are about the least unhelpful hints i've seen on the subject. since it seems to be that time of year, here's my personal advice for new grads and a cautionary note about taking any advice too seriously. i've got little else to add, but ...

1. beware those who speak with great confidence about the one true path. in my experience, true no-brainers are rare in this business. flipping a coin when faced with a career decision often gives you a 50 percent chance of a good outcome and a 50 percent chance of a teensy-bit-better or teensy-bit worse outcome. but it is really much more complicated than that, since you might get a good outcome on 1,964 dimensions and a teensy-bit-better-or-worse outcome on 1,964 other dimensions. or, sometimes, a 50 percent chance of the best possible outcome on one dimension, and a 50 percent chance of a completely awful outcome on 3,928 other dimensions. try not to make really stupid decisions, but don't worry about optimizing at every possible decision point.

2. we rank one another incessantly in academia. appreciate the amazing people around you, but don't beat yourself up worrying about how you compare to them. call yourself on your own petty jealousies (e.g., if you catch yourself minimizing someone else's accomplishments with a bit too much gusto) and use them as inspiration to do your thing just a little bit better.

3. i found that when i was dragged down by a few problem students (e.g., those who don't show up for class but demand a high grade, or those who threaten litigation because they didn't like their midterm grade of A-), that my job satisfaction improved dramatically when i gave a little more attention to great students. ditto for colleagues and staff members.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

the social organization of 'we suck'

the lad's home opener is friday night -- and this football dad ain't holding up any signs, thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

homeless world cup

scotland took home the 2007 homeless world cup this summer. have you heard about this?

the league was founded in 2001 as a way to use sport to unite homeless people around the world. though i cannot vouch for their study's methodology, the organization reports to have made a path-changing difference in the lives of most participants.

cool idea. and, at a time when the united states seems to be stumbling on the world stage, i'm especially proud that these americans took home the fair play award in 2005. good on ya, yanks!

contexts door sign

we are in our first day of a big AFSCME strike at the minnversity. as a department chair, i find myself in one of those awkward "responsibility without authority" positions. to break the tension, i offer jon's disturbingly accurate simpsonization of the contexts editorial team. i bet he'd sign a limited-edition print for new subscribers, perhaps with a full simpsonization of the grad student board as well.

here's to a short strike with a fair and equitable outcome.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

football players, rockers, and the SES gradient

a journal of epidemiology and community health study shows high rates of early death among musicians. the sample was drawn from the ranks of especially successful musicians -- those playing on the top 1000 best-selling albums. i'd hypothesize that a comparison of musicians and non-musicians in a sample taken from the general population would reveal much smaller differences. that is, casual or frustrated rockers likely live longer than successful rockers.

one might make sense of this in terms of exposure to risk factors such as substance use, stds, and roadfood. where else might one expect a positive relationship between professional success and mortality? certainly one sees high rates of early death and health problems among professional football players and wrestlers, due in part to weight-related ailments.

kids still grow up dreaming about becoming rock stars and pro football players, of course, but i would imagine that their fallback/safety jobs are almost always better for their long-term health. if one buys the argument that the most serious and persistent criminal offenders are most likely to be incarcerated, mike massoglia's work has shown a similar gradient for deviant work: those incarcerated as young adults are subject to serious health deficits by midlife.

for a morbid take on the musician/health study, you might try the which dead rock star are you? quiz. according to said quiz, i share certain characteristics with the deceased king of rock and roll pictured above.

Monday, September 03, 2007

teenagers and the enchanted darkness of the old mill

i had a great father-daughter sunday at the state fair. we ate, we watched, we shopped, we ate, we won fabulous prizes, we rode, we admired, we ate, and we walked. but my teenagers are getting older. standing in line at ye old mill, for example, esperanza had no difficulty distinguishing the smooching from the non-smooching boats before the riders were even seated.

when she talked about visiting the old mill with her boyfriend (still a hypothetical boyfriend, i hope), i thought, "hmmm. that would be okay, i guess, so long as my large non-hypothetical son is seated between them." then i hustled her off to the miracle of birth center for a farmland scared-straight lesson. not really, of course. i'm actually glad that both my teenagers have good memories of the fair and happy that the old mill is still around for them.

the minnesota state fair and ye old mill are immortalized in f. scott fitzgerald's a night at the fair (1928). it is the story of an angsty fifteen year-old in short pants named basil, his so-called pals riply and elwood, and the "mysterious girls" they meet at the fair. for those who have taken the mill's red boats and for those who know teenagers, the passages below might convince you that little has changed in the past eighty years:

I. The couple ahead reached the entrance to the Old Mill and waited for them. It was an off hour, and half a dozen scows bumped in the wooden offing, swayed by the mild tide of the artificial river. Elwood and his girl got into the front seat and he promptly put his arm around her. Basil helped the other girl into the rear seat, but, dispirited, he offered no resistance when Riply wedged in and sat down between.

They floated off, immediately entering upon a long echoing darkness. Somewhere far ahead a group in another boat were singing, their voices now remote and romantic, now nearer and yet more mysterious, as the canal doubled back and the boats passed close to each other with an invisible veil between.

The three boys yelled and called, Basil attempting by his vociferousness and variety to outdo Riply in the girl's eyes, but after a few moments there was no sound except his own voice and the continual bump-bump of the boat against the wooden sides, and he knew without looking that Riply had put his arm about the girl's shoulder.

They slid into a red glow--a stage set of hell, with grinning demons and lurid paper fires--he made out that Elwood and his girl sat cheek to cheek--then again into the darkness, with the gently lapping water and the passing of the singing boat now near, now far away. For a while Basil pretended that he was interested in this other boat, calling to them, commenting on their proximity. Then he discovered that the scow could be rocked and took to this poor amusement until Elwood Leaming turned around indignantly and cried:

"Hey! What are you trying to do?"

They came out finally to the entrance and the two couples broke apart. Basil jumped miserably ashore.

"Give us some more tickets," Riply cried. "We want to go around again."

"Not me," said Basil with elaborate indifference. "I have to go home."

Riply began to laugh in derision and triumph. The girl laughed too.

"Well, so long, little boy," Riply cried hilariously.

"Oh, shut up! So long, Elwood."

"So long, Basil."

The boat was already starting off; arms settled again about the girls' shoulders.

"So long, little boy!"

"So long, you big cow!" Basil cried. "Where'd you get the pants? Where'd you get the pants?"

But the boat had already disappeared into the dark mouth of the tunnel, leaving the echo of Riply's taunting laughter behind.

II. Mysterious girls, young and reckless, would glide with them through the enchanted darkness of the Old Mill, but because of the stupidity, selfishness and dishonesty of a clerk in a clothing store he would not be there. In a day or so the fair would be over--forever--those girls, of all living girls the most intangible, the most desirable, that sister, said to be nicest of all--would be lost out of his life. They would ride off in Blatz Wildcats into the moonlight without Basil having kissed them. No, all his life--though he would lose the clerk his position: "You see now what your act did to me"--he would look back with infinite regret upon that irretrievable hour. Like most of us, he was unable to perceive that he would have any desires in the future equivalent to those that possessed him now.

well, i guess that gender expectations have changed a bit, and the cars have changed as well -- i'd kill for a "blatz wildcat." plus, the story's opening line about a "well-bridged river" might also seem a bit outdated:

III. The two cities were separated only by a thin well-bridged river; their tails curling over the banks met and mingled, and at the juncture, under the jealous eye of each, lay, every fall, the State Fair. Because of this advantageous position, and because of the agricultural eminence of the state, the fair was one of the most magnificent in America. There were immense exhibits of grain, livestock and farming machinery; there were horse races and automobile races and, lately, aeroplanes that really left the ground; there was a tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers to whirl you through space, and a whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie show.


after a long run in a bright sun, i'm chided these days for not wearing sunscreen. my typical response is to say, "vikings don't need sunscreen!" i realize, of course, that vikings were not immune from skin cancer and that they might have slathered on the SPF-50 if they had the opportunity, but that's not the point. i've always made such references to norse ancestors.* whenever i want to avoid doing something safe and sensible -- helmets, paperwork, skim milk, moderation -- i blame the weight of the generations.

this weekend i came across amy reiswig's story on týr (pictured above), "a mail-clad foursome who crank out ancient faroese ballads, heavy-metal style." of course, there's good cause to get nervous whenever white guys start celebrating their violent cultural heritage. from what i can gather from the translations, however, týr isn't selling hate -- they're revivifying local history and norse mythology to create some powerful epic folk music.

maybe that's why they sound so fresh to me. most metal bands just make stuff up about great battles and dudes on silver mountains and such. in contrast, týr is crafting inspired cover versions of centuries-old ballads and sagas. watch their takes on faroese anthems, such as ramund hin unge, ormurin langi (a ballad from the 1830s), or regin smiður, or their english-language crossover songs such as hail to the hammer.

though he's named after a norse deity, i doubt that tor would like týr. while he might relate to the battle stories, there's too little bassline funk in those ancient ballads.

*or at least since i heard joaquín "one tough dominican" andujar say, "babe ruth never stretched" in response to a reporter's question about his warm-up regimen. brilliant.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

citizen vince

ms. sarah is posting on citizen vince, a novel in which an ex-felon "comes face to face with his ambivalence about turning legit when his voter registration card comes in the mail." dang, i'd better read this one.

i haven't spent much time with fiction this summer, but sarah's review drew me in quite effectively. check out the artful passage she reproduces at the end of her post. i would have purchased it online, but i'm sort of hoping to gravy-train off sarah's copy...