Chris Uggen's Blog: October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

sneaker envy and nostalgia

via boing:

converse is making some celebratory 100th anniversary footwear, including these gorgeous black sabbath vol. 4 chuck taylors.

i don't usually go in for such cultural crossover products -- the doors variant strikes me as lame and the cobains as plain pathetic. the dead sneaks are better-executed, i suppose, but this volume 4 design is simply inspired. the fat seventies lettering, the clean white and yellow on no-frills black chucks, and the ozzy iconography all summon the sabs at the height of their powers.

or maybe these aren't cool at all and i'm just nostalgic for the thick vinyl slab of thuddery that was vol. 4. for me, the shoes call to mind images of turntables, power chords, old friends, and young bands. esperanza wears converse to school on occasion, so i might check in with her for a nostalgia-free ruling on stylishness.

cool or not, i can probably use this image in my delinquency lectures. until now, i never really understood why kids would fight over air jordans. but man, i would've killed for these in junior high. i'll take mine in size 10, please.

all politics is social

amy conner, the fine managing editor here at contexts world headquarters, offered up our fall issue tagline: all politics is social. short, sweet, and stone true.

doug and i riff a bit on this topic in our from the editors column, but the contributions by andrew perrin, francesca polletta, and our obama roundtable contributors go way deeper.

the issue won't be mailed until after the election and we're planning a li'l fall issue release party here at the world headquarters in mid-november. anyone interested, however, can get a taste of the issue by poking around jonny's newly redesigned website.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

data of sociological interest at strib infocenter

like many local newspapers, the minneapolis star-tribune now makes a wealth of data available at an online infocenter. my undergraduate students often prefer to analyze such local data in their research projects. they can bring some local knowledge and expertise to the analysis and they are often genuinely curious about, say, the differences between their hometowns and neighboring places.

some highlights:

  • an interactive map of solved and unsolved homicide locations, with information on victims, suspects, and links to press accounts for 2007-2008

  • school test scores, including english and math proficiency and the percentage of low-income, special education, and limited-english students in every minnesota district for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

  • an interactive map of bridge ratings, including inspection dates and scores on a 100-point scale.

  • salary information on minnesota public employees (like me and my colleagues)

  • ceo compensation, including pictures and personal information about ceos and their firms.

  • campaign contributions, searchable and sortable by date, amount, name, and employer.

  • information on revenue, profits, assets, market cap., employees, and growth for minnesota companies

  • real estate transactions, sortable by date, price, and address
these data sources could answer some decent research questions in criminology (homicide), stratification (public and private sector compensation), political soc (campaign contributions), soc of education (test scores), and urban planning (real estate and bridge infrastructure). by combining these data, of course, researchers could address even more interesting questions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

and you thought presidents bush and clinton were tough on crime?

via talkleft and the national law journal:

the national law journal invited the major candidates to write about the legal issues facing the next administration. a portion of senator john mccain's op-ed:

...Terrorists are not the only threat to public safety. Lax enforcement policies, judges who legislate from the bench and lack of support for law enforcement personnel all continue to force our innocent citizens behind the barred windows of their homes and allow criminals to roam free.

And now drugs are bringing waves of crime and organized gang activity to rural areas thought to be nearly immune from such problems. The federal government must both support state and local law enforcement and effectively enforce federal laws designed to root out violent crime, organized gangs and other interstate criminal activity.

let's see ... barred windows, criminals roaming free, organized crime waves, drugs and gangs infecting our countryside ... where have you heard that before? right! this language might've been lifted from any of bill clinton's (or ronald reagan's or richard nixon's...) old state of the union addresses. though i'm not at all complacent about public safety, i might point out that this is a time of comparatively low crime rates and record high incarceration rates. roaming free? we're keeping prisoners so long that we're building nursing homes behind the walls.

senator mccain continues:

None of these law enforcement efforts will succeed without a judiciary that understands its proper role and its proper mission. Senator Obama would appoint liberal activist judges and supply them with greater sentencing discretion. I will appoint judges who will strictly interpret our Constitution. Senator Obama's judges would coddle criminals. I will appoint judges who will hold criminals accountable.

this last strict constructionist bit has been a staple in republican platforms since the warren court. given the relatively unhealthy state of the economy, the crime situation looks pretty good by comparison. and, while senator mccain portrays his democratic rival as a coddler, lefties are criticizing senator obama for being too tough on crime. all of this suggests to me that voters won't be basing their decisions on a tougher-than-thou debate on crime issues.

closed circuit football post

whenever i hear another election ad, i get that stuck-on-a-rollercoaster feeling, hoping it will pass like a wave of nausea. to avoid any grand political posts, i'll offer a li'l football update for friends and family:

though the lanky lad gained much from football, he'll likely stick to rugby in college. since we're now deep into the playoffs, that means that every game could be his last.

at friday's section semi-final, a moment of silence was observed for ray brooker, the mounds view groundskeeper mentioned earlier. the strib and pi-press both published fine obituaries, the lads wore Ray helmet stickers (above), and most of us in attendance were sporting Ray buttons. nice.

tor's mounds view mustangs and my minnversity's gophers are crossing paths these days. the strib obit quoted former mounds view (now gopher) quarterback adam weber on mr. brooker's "rub a little dirt on it" approach to injuries. young mr. weber led the minnversity's golden gophers into a surprising top-20 bcs ranking while developing his own reputation for toughness -- coming back a week after knee surgery and taking some big hits the past few weeks. i just hope he doesn't take mr. brooker's medical advice too literally.

tor's mustangs prevailed against stillwater on friday, with the o-line (above) doing a nice job all night. they'll play roseville for the section championship at 7 on halloween night. i'll miss the li'l trick-or-treaters, but i'll try to deliver some candy to the neighbors before i leave for the game. should the 'stangs defeat the raiders, they'll start the state playoffs on saturday the 8th in st. paul's griffin stadium, where tor's grandad played 50 years ago.

as usual, i'll be running between the minnversity and the mustangs, hosting some alums at the gopher football game at 11 before traveling crosstown to see the lad's game at 6. if i'm reading the brackets correctly, the stangs have already made the sweet 16. still, it is tough to think that every lad on 15 of those teams -- and every lad on the myriad teams who've already fallen -- will end their careers with a loss. that makes it sort of like the election, i guess.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

spirituality of institutions

michael bischoff, a minneapolis-based consultant who has worked on crime and justice issues, has started a blog on the spirituality of institutions. he's just posted a nice interview with kay pranis, a real pioneer in the restorative justice movement.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

cut it out

doctors and other medical professionals are now trained to recognize signs of domestic abuse and other violence. of course, many of us never see doctors or other medical professionals. the strib reports on the clever new(ish) cut it out program that trains hair stylists to recognize signs of domestic abuse.

i can't vouch for its efficacy, but i like the idea of training folks who actually interact with the targets of abuse. for example, i see my talented haircutter jackie about five or ten times per year, while (aside from race-side medical tents and my good friend carl), i haven't seen an actual m.d. in ten years. i don't have data on this, but i wouldn't be surprised if the most vulnerable targets of violence are quite unlikely to see physicians.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ohio state talk on friday

i'm visiting columbus on friday, meeting old friends and new at ohio state and the ohio department of corrections. my talk will feature new work with some of the grad student collaborators on the minnesota exits and entries project team. if you happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop on by to say hello.

Entries and Exits: Contrasting Pathways to Community Reentry
Christopher Uggen, University of Minnesota

October 24, 2008
9:00-10:30 a.m.

Frank W. Hale Black Cultural Center, Rm 100A, OSU
Coffee, bagels and refreshments are being served

Dr. Uggen will discuss the design and some very early findings from the new Minnesota Exits and Entries Project and related projects. You will hear excerpts from pre-release interviews with young people age 18 to 25 as they are leaving the following institutional settings: (1) foster care; (2) mental health treatment; (3) chemical health treatment; (4) the armed forces; (5) the juvenile justice system; (6) a county jail system; and, (7) the state prison system. Some of these groups, such as former prisoners, are highly stigmatized. Others, such as Iraq war veterans, typically return home to brighter prospects and more welcoming communities. By taking a more comprehensive and comparative perspective on the reentry phenomenon, project organizers hope to reveal the processes operating in each institutional domain and to explain how vulnerable young adults fare once they leave the care or custody of the state. Graduate student collaborators on this project include Arturo Baiocchi, Jeanette Hussemann, Shelly Schaefer, Sarah Shannon, and Tom Walton.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

reupholstering the chair


+ (still) like colleagues
+ shaping department helps shape the discipline
+ love the staff
+ enjoy the other chairs
+ don't hate the emotion work
+ don't hate the fundraising
+ nice view of mississippi and minneapple
+ no stress about moving/staying
+ some unfinished business from first term
+ still time for contexts and a bit of research and teaching
+ two course releases and two months summer salary
+ strong support from colleagues and administration


- resources too tight to launch most ambitious initiatives
- too little research time
- too little teaching/mentoring time
- too little public criminology and professional service time
- aging rapidly
- collaborators increasingly impatient
- may wear out welcome


pros outweigh cons -- i'll likely sign on for a second three-year term as chair.

a chart for the freshmenandwomen

via the pi press:

the minnversity is reporting results of a basic correlational study that associates college grades with drinkin', smokin', workin', and computin'. grade point average seems to have a (negative) linear relationship with drinking, smoking, tv viewing, and computing, but work intensity is only weakly associated with school performance. all this is bad news for my lad, who will now be expected to abstain from vices like television, alcohol, and tobacco, while working 45 hours per week during his carefree college days.

Monday, October 20, 2008

employment as a sociologist may require a criminal background check

each year, i get about a dozen calls or emails from people with criminal records who are interested in graduate study. many of them ask whether their record would bar them from becoming a professor. i usually say, "that depends" and offer stories in which certain records have or haven't precluded employment at certain places. i then say that the academic track is tough (but not impossible!) and that their records will just make it that much tougher (but not impossible!).

so, i was disheartened to read this advertisement* while preparing a letter for an applicant to my beloved alma mater. i have nothing but love for wisconsin sociology, but i found that last bit about the background check disheartening. i bet it wasn't the department's idea to include it, since such lines usually emanate from university human resources departments. in fact, i'd wager that my friends and mentors in the sociology department would go to the wall (so to speak) for a good social scientist who had moved beyond his or her criminal record.

nevertheless, we know that advertisements send strong signals to potential applicants and -- in light of wisconsin's standing as one of the great departments of the world -- to the discipline of sociology. employers certainly have a right to conduct background checks and to provide fair warning to potential applicants, but my worry is that these applicants view the line "Employment may require a criminal background check" as a much tougher screen that it actually is.
it makes me wonder who would be disqualified (e.g., arrestees, those convicted of felonies, or particular felonies), for how long (e.g., a conviction within the past 5 or 10 years), and at what stage of the hiring process they would be screened out. without such details, i'd guess that this boilerplate language has a chilling effect on applications from anyone ever arrested for anything.
*here's the ad (emphasis added):

The University of Wisconsin Madison. The Department of Sociology invites applications for a position at the assistant professor level with preferred starting date August 2009. Applicants must hold a PhD or equivalent prior to the start of the appointment. Areas of specialization are open. Applicants should demonstrate excellence and productivity in research and a commitment to undergraduate and graduate teaching. Submit a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, and three letters of recommendation by mail to: Ivan Ermakoff, Search Committee Chair, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin‐Madison, 1180 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706‐1393. Finalists will be asked to supply copies of published and unpublished manuscripts for evaluation. To ensure full consideration, send all application materials by November 1, 2008. Unless confidentiality is requested in writing, information regarding applicants must be released upon request. Finalists cannot be guaranteed confidentiality. Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women and minorities are urged to apply. Employment may require a criminal background check.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

innovation conference and the 2008 science debate

the minnversity hosts a science and technology conference this monday and tuesday:

Innovation 2008
The goal of Innovation 2008 is to bring scientists together with policymakers and the public, to help move the United States toward policies that are better informed by scientific realities, and to help scientists, engineers and the scientific community as a whole become more engaged in the political process. The conference will also explore ways to bridge the divide between science and the broader culture as a way to broaden public appreciation of science.

the conference has some affiliation with the call for a 2008 science debate between candidates mccain and obama. though such a debate is now off the table, minnpost offers a helpful summary of the candidates' responses to a 14-point list of pressing science issues. frankly, i'm heartened that both candidates responded at all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

post on outlaws at times/freakonomics blog

the fine folks at the new york times freakonomics desk gave me a few hours to respond to the following question:

Does America still have an outlaw group? If so, why do you consider them outlaws? Does society need outlaws?

hmm. you know i didn't want to take even a minute to reply, but outlaws? first i thought of waylon, then i thought of hughie, then i figured that a sociologist like me really can't resist this sort of invitation. so i condensed a couple weeks of my deviance lectures into about 400 words -- and i dared them to print the words badass and bloody snot.

my reply is below, but check the full freakonomics quorum for responses by economist peter leeson, historian stephen mihm, and folklorist graham seal. our analysis is necessarily quick n' dirty, but the combination of responses might be a decent classroom conversation-starter.

here's my li'l essay:

Oh, hell yes, there are outlaws in America — and everywhere else, for that matter. Anyone who breaks rules is in some sense an outlaw, subject to social or legal sanctions if their outlawry is detected. These penalties operate on a sliding scale, depending on whether the outlaw smokes cigarettes or meth, pirates DVD’s or ships, or violates college hate-speech codes or state hate-crime laws.

But our standards for outlaws are relative, not absolute; they change over time and social space.

Societies are constantly raising or lowering the bar, outlawing formerly accepted behaviors — like smoking — and legalizing former crimes, like lotteries.

In any group, those with greater power tend to control the rule-making process. And they sometimes go to great lengths to make outlaws out of those who might threaten their power, by restricting their ability to vote or work or have children. Regardless of who holds power, societies operate with a basic set of rules that necessarily beget a basic set of rule violators.

Just imagine, as sociologist Emile Durkheim did, a society of saints made up of exemplary citizens. Would there be no outlaws in such a group? No! They’d pick at each other for minor peccadilloes and trivial misdeeds. In that crowd, even a burp or blemish could mark one as a real bada–.

Nobody is arguing that contemporary America is a society of saints. To the contrary, it often seems as though we’re “defining deviancy down,” as senator and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it.

Cultural critics of the hell-in-a-handbasket school worry that our blasé attitudes toward once-shocking behavior –- network telecasts of ultimate fighters beating the bloody snot out of one another, for example — diminish us all. But don’t forget that we’re simultaneously outlawing other nasty conduct that shocks our collective conscience, such as date rape or sexual harassment.

Whether you view our culture’s current constellation of outlaws as ennobling or diminishing is largely a matter of value preferences.

And remember that outlaws put in some important work for a society. When they expose their bodies at the Super Bowl, our reactions — the extent to which we freak out — tell us something about the current boundaries between proper and improper public conduct. When outlaws are arrested at a political convention, we get a heads-up that change is in the wind. When outlaws sell sex or drugs, we get a safety valve to release pent-up frustrations.

Even when outlaws commit consensus crimes like murder, we get a needed opportunity to publicly condemn them and reaffirm our shared values with our fellow citizens.

While society needs outlaws, it doesn’t need a permanent outlaw class. We’d do well to remember that today’s outlaws are tomorrow’s good citizens; and there’s no citizen more zealous than an outlaw redeemed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

claudio enrique barack obama

i hear that if barack obama loses the u.s. presidential election he'd be a strong contender for national office in many other nations. though i understand that the world is monitoring this election closely, i still raised an eyebrow at arturo's contention that six brazilian candidates had changed their names to some variant of barack obama. then he hit me with the video above. curiously, the al jazeera report doesn't even mention all the candidates who are john mccain-izing their names.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

thanks, ray: closed circuit football post

young folks need adults in their lives who aren't teachers, parents, coaches, or bosses. during his high school years, tor was lucky to spend some time with ol' ray brooker -- a member of the greatest generation who schooled several generations of mustangs in twentysomething years as groundskeeper and do-everything football supporter.

mr. brooker passed away this week and the parents and players will sorely miss him. i can't imagine a home game in which he's not patrolling the sidelines in his six-wheel gator. he was out to the house a couple weeks ago for a carbo load, so i feel lucky to have offered mr. brooker a paper plate and a few words of thanks.

when tor's team was featured on fsn-north's high school football night last year, they didn't interview the principal or athletic director at halftime -- they interviewed ray. well, the 'stangs are back on fsn-north tomorrow night, broadcasting the game to a couple million homes in five states. cretin is a favored as the perennial powerhouse, but our lads have played strong and well all season. maybe they'll replay that halftime interview so that a few more of us can pay our respects to ray brooker.

Friday, October 10, 2008

all hail professor greil

the great greil marcus is teaching a short course in cultural studies and comparative lit at the minnversity this semester. i much admired mr. marcus in my rock critic days, though my philosophy was more bangsian and my writing more christgauian. as a snarky grad student, i slammed lipstick traces as overrated and pretentious. after a magnificent stage production brought it to life for me, however, i became a real fan. without question, the man thinks seriously and well about music and culture.

here's the course and a couple upcoming events:

CSCL 4910, class #58436(listed also as EngL 4090-003, class #58639), Wedneseday 10/1-11/19/08, 325 Nicholson, 2 credits: The Old Weird America with Greil Marcus. Cultural critic Greil Marcus will hold the Winton Chair in the College of Liberal Arts and will be offering a half-semester course for fall semester. This course examines commonplace, authorless songs as elemental, founding documents of American identity. These songs can be heard as a form of speech that, with a deep foundation, is always in a flux – especially in the work of Bob Dylan across the last fifty years. Reading includes novels (Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days and Lee Smith's The Devil's Dream), criticism (Constance Rourke's classic American Humor), Bob Dylan's autobiography Chronicles, as well as music and film excerpts. Guest speakers for the course include, film director Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, I’m Not There), musician Rennie Sparks of the Handsome Family, and writer Robert Polito – Director of the Writing Program at the New School in New York.

and here's a related event:

An Evening with Todd Haynes and Greil Marcus

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM Free!
Room 155 Nicholson Hall Minneapolis Campus
Contact: Victoria Keller, 612-625-8371 kell0801

Todd Haynes, of Portland, Oregon, is the director of Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987), Poison (1991), Safe (1995), Velvet Goldmine (1998), Far from Heaven (2002), I'm Not There (2007), and other films. He won Best Director at the 2002 Independent Spirit Awards for Far From Heaven, which also received an Oscar nomination, and in 2008 he was awarded the Robert Altman Award for I'm Not There, his critically acclaimed biopic of Bob Dylan. This fall, Greil Marcus holds the Winton Chair in the College of Liberal Arts and is teaching a short course in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, "The Old Weird America" (CSCL 4910/ENGL 4090) October 1 - November 19.

Greil Marcus is the author of "The Shape of Things to Come" (2006), "Lipstick Traces" (1989), "Mystery Train" (1975; 5th revised edition 2008), and other books. With Werner Sollors, he is the co-editor of "A New Literary History of America," forthcoming from Harvard in 2009. In recent years he has taught at Berkeley, Princeton, and the New School in New York. He lives in Berkeley. He is a monthly columnist for the Believer.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

zombies, freedom, and class projects

the city pages flyer of the week: a record mob will stumble past my campus office for next week's west bank zombie pub crawl IV. given recent troubles, i'd look for lots of briefcase-toting business zombies this year.

i'd love to get a first-zombie/person account from a participant. why join a wandering mob in a decomposed state, drink, and (presumably) pretend to feast on human flesh? why zombies and not, say, werewolves? my theory-in-formation suggests that there's something really freeing about joining the undead -- freedom from mindfulness, freedom from pain, and freedom from choice. plus, the makeup is cool -- some might even call it sexy. and zombies are nothing if not persistent.

i'm sure somebody has already written a definitive foucaultian analysis of zombie culture, but next week's crawl could make for a nice li'l participant-observation paper in any number of sociology classes.

the department chair has reported every gift he's ever received

whenever i get buried in email or meetings and think i'd be better off with someone to represent me or help with communications, i stumble upon something like this. i wouldn't bash senator coleman or his representative (or his opponent, al franken), but i've gotta wonder whether this press conference was really the optimal way to address a simple, non-incriminating question. i can't imagine this is a game-changing issue for minnesota voters, so any response would seem to be better than a shifty non-response.

in the interest of full disclosure, i have received some gifts from students and visitors to the department. let's see, i got an ipod, a bottle of good wine, some candy, a few university tee-shirts, and a fine valentino tie from my advisees. nobody's purchased any suits for me yet, but the chair will report any gift he receives.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

no fudging

the minnversity does good training in research ethics, though the frickin' huge issues sometimes get lost in the mind-numbing minutiae of mandatory responsible conduct of research seminars. well, something ain't working, because one of our big-time stem cell research studies was apparently based on falsified data.

the former grad research assistant is being thrown under the bus on this one, so now she's left parsing the difference between "inappropriate" and "fraudulent" manipulation of data. yeesh. as my students well know, it is far better to have a study or dissertation with null findings than to have a study or dissertation with "inappropriate" or "fraudulent" findings. if, like me, you ever find yourself being deposed by a battalion of crazy-smart lawyers, you'll be especially glad that you erred on the side of caution.

but c'mon, do we really need a grad seminar to teach researchers not to fudge their data? to this day, i am secure in the knowledge that larry cannon, my high school physics teacher, would personally come down to the minnversity and kick my sorry butt if there were ever allegations that i'd falsified data. though we must be learning something from all those ethics tutorials in grad school, we should have learned our core research values in high school.

the king is gone, too bad he's not forgotten

we always knew johnny was a hustler, but c'mon -- this one stings like my ruptured plantar fascia. and don't even try to blame this on malcolm mclaren's half-baked situationism. pretty vacant, if you ask me.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

my left foot/tore down

i've had some ups and downs over twentysomething marathons, but today marks my first DNF. yeesh. i've always empathized with those poor souls sitting on the curb, heads down, awaiting the meat wagon. well, today it was my turn.

the good folks at the med tent say i tore the plantar fascia, which apparently resulted in the expanding black-cherry jelly stain shown above (photo by esperanza). the injury is hard to describe, but it felt a bit like tearing a heavy piece of paper or a manila file folder. there's some pain involved, but my biggest concern is about not running for the next few weeks. i'm sure i'll find some other activity to keep my head from exploding, but i'll miss my nightly run.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

the social organization of the carbo-load

we hosted somewhere between 75 and 90 varsity football players for thursday's carbo-load.* they descended like very polite locusts around 5:15 and had vanished by 6:15. a few semi-sociological observations and a story:

1. organization. though they piled their plates high with lasagna, spaghetti, bread, and cookies, the boys didn't seem to spill a drop anywhere inside or outside the house. when they left, absolutely nothing was out of place. had they shown up for a non-football party at 5:15 on a thursday night last summer, i have no doubt that the very same boys would've trashed the place. because it was a team event, however, it had the dicipline and organization of a football practice. as you might guess, my house does not usually operate like this.

2. flow. about a half-dozen experienced parents brought the food and managed the operation, arriving before the lads for setup. for a smallish house like ours (maybe 2000 sq. ft.), traffic flow is apparently the key -- keep 'em moving through the line, then disperse the seating. nice weather helps too. after just visiting a prison cafeteria where the inmates (strictly) self-segregated by race, i couldn't help noticing that everybody was pretty much interacting with everybody else. if anything, the players' size and position seemed to govern their seating patterns to a much greater extent than demographic factors.

3. ritual. there were no big speeches, but carbo loads surely function as solidarity-building rituals. they also function to help control the pre-game diet and, perhaps, to keep a lid on other social events that may occur the evening before a game. the vibe was one of relaxed confidence and easy interaction among the players and coaches -- i'm not sure whether this is due to the team's recent win streak or whether it is a more general characteristic. it seems important that the head coach, the managers, and a much-beloved groundskeeper stopped by as well.

4. food. the (female) team managers ate very little, but the (male) coaches ate about as much as the players. the spaghetti and lasagna went quickly, though the pizza didn't even make it through the garage and into the house. also, high school footballers drink crazy amounts of milk, probably because carbonated drinks are expressly forbidden.

5. the story. the carbo-load is an unusual social interaction, in which the lads follow a map to a stranger's house, then just walk in and eat. i'd imagine that this process can be a little awkward for the early arrivers and the hosts. when we borrowed a few chairs from a neighbor, she shared a carbo-load story from her son's days on the swim team. i'll have to paraphrase and may be mistaken about a few details, but it went something like this:

the hungry lads arrived at the big house at the carbo-load's appointed hour, where they were soon met by a very tall, affable homeowner.

lads: "are we the first ones here?"

kevin mchale: (looking around) "yeah, i guess so."

lads: "umm... where's the food?"

kevin mchale: "well, the food's in the refrigerator, boys, and you're welcome to help yourself to it -"

then, pointing a looong arm toward a neighboring residence, he added,

"-but i should probably tell you that you've got the wrong house."

the lads checked the address and beat a hasty retreat, but they shared a good laugh with minnesota's basketball legend.

*population estimate based on the 10 forks remaining from the 100 set on the counter. while a few players may taken multiple forks, these were likely offset by the linemen eating with their bare hands. i kid, i kid...

survey on mandatory minimums

families against mandatory minimums recently released a public opinion poll they commisioned on sentencing (n=1,000, telephone survey of adults). given the organization's stated agenda, social scientists may be skeptical about the question wording on several items. although the structure of the following question is clunky, it seems a fair assessment of public opinion about mandatory prison sentences for non-violent crimes:

Over the last twenty years, some states and the federal government have required that certain crimes, including non-violent crimes, carry a mandatory or automatic prison sentence, regardless of the circumstances of the crime. Do you support or oppose the idea of mandatory prison sentences for some non-violent crimes?


16% Strongly support
19% Somewhat support
27% Somewhat oppose
32% Strongly oppose
7% Don't know/Refused

by this measure, about 59 percent of the sample opposed mandatory prison sentences for "some non-violent crimes." african americans (72 percent), young adults aged 18-24 (71 percent), democrats (69 percent), and college graduates (64 percent) are especially likely to oppose or strongly oppose mandatory minimums. that last "some" bothers me a bit (e.g., everybody opposes mandatory prison time for some crimes like shoplifting), so i would have preferred wording that simply specified "non-violent crimes." nevertheless, i think the question basically gets it right: a large share of the american public now opposes a knee-jerk lock 'em up response to crime.

Friday, October 03, 2008

is that pre- or post-Romero?

though i've never studied zombies per se, i have a gnawing feeling that i must submit a chapter to this volume:

The editors of "An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays on the Zombie" seek proposals for an interdisciplinary volume discussing the zombie from a variety of perspectives and within a range of contexts. Submissions from all disciplines are invited. In addition to theoretical essays on zombies, critical discussions of specific zombie films, novels, and graphic novels, including those both pre- and post-Romero, are welcome. Proposals should be between 200 and 300 words. Include brief author biographical details with submissions, including name and academic affiliation. Submit proposals either electronically or by regular mail to: Cory James Rushton, Dept. of English, St. Francis Xavier Univ., P.O. Box 5000, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, B2G 2W5, Canada, or Christopher M. Moreman, Dept. of Philosophy, California State University-East Bay, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward, CA 94542; . The deadline for proposals is Oct. 31.

hmm. i wonder whether they might accept a submission on rob zombie or my favorite breathy 60s pop band.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

monday talks -- put me in a wheelchair and get me to the show

this monday the 6th, i'll be doing a couple pubcrim talks at events with u.s. rep. keith ellison. i'll list 'em here, since it sure would be nice to see a friendly face or two at these events.

am. i'll be speaking on employment and crime for the minnesota justice forum from 8:30 a.m. – noon at the minnesota history center at 345 w. kellogg blvd., st. paul, mn 55102-1906. i think they've given me about a half hour to talk about research on work and criminal records. from the invitation:

Policymakers and community leaders of all stripes have recognized the need to improve the ability of individuals with criminal records to gain employment in order to successfully re-enter society. This is based upon public safety and cost-effectiveness, as well as a belief in redemption for those who have paid their debt to society. The 2008 Minnesota Justice Forum will bring these parties together to continue the work that has been started to create a targeted, coordinated, community-wide approach to passage of effective legislation during the 2009 Minnesota Legislative session.

pm. i'm speaking on disenfranchisement at a voting rights forum in minneapolis from 6:30-8:30 pm. this is a 10-minute, no powerpoint talk on voting and criminal records -- i'm expecting a lively crowd at powderhorn park (3400 15th ave. s. minneapolis, mn 55407). from rep. ellison's website:

This extraordinary election year has driven huge numbers of new people into the political process. But, their participation is anything but guaranteed. There is a growing industry of experts and AstroTurf activists working tirelessly before and on Election Day to deny many Americans the right to vote. Join Keith and a panel of experts for a forum on the challenges to voting rights and what we can do as a community to preserve and expand our most basic democratic right.

by 8:30 pm, i'll be in pretty rough shape, since i'm supposedly plodding my way through the twin cities marathon on sunday. i was going over monday's schedule with my new undergrad research assistant, who told me that she's running the marathon too. i hope that at least one of us remembers to bring handouts...

there's a steaming pile of red sox poetry, but who sings for the brewers?

dang, did you see that the milwaukee brewers made the mlb playoffs? in my madison days, i loved the beautiful sense of community among the milwaukee fans i encountered on li'l road trips to county stadium. back then, bob uecker's fine broadcasts were a comforting companion during my nightly dishwashing ritual. so this playoff run makes me happy for the good and long-suffering people of milwaukee and pretty much ecstatic for ol' uke.

here's an unfinished-and-sure-to-stay-that-way poem from those sunny days. i'd just begun grad school and was already fretting about uprooting my li'l family and leaving the good life in madison. i was imagining what it might be like to fix up my happy home for a new owner as i readied to depart the friendly confines of wisconsin sociology -- and the nightly brewers broadcasts on madison radio -- for a new job in unfamiliar territory.

Paint Radio (On Leaving Madison)

Dusty flecks of has-been paint,
in ice-cream white and foggy blue,
thick drips of new stuff stuck fast,
to an outdoor radio.

I dig it from the shed we raised,
and plug into fat orange cords.
Tonight it hides with little-boy treasures,
old timing lights and fishing tackle,
else Friday sells for a quarter.

Brewers losing five to three,
still Molitor, Yount, and the rest
of this team belongs in slow-
pitch city league.
I heard Robin leg out a triple,
could see him rounding second,
weightless on the bases.
And Uke likes this kid Navarro,
up from Double-A El Paso,
another call-up with potential.

Smithereens on M.A.D.
play House we Used to Live In
so i keep it there and puzzle the move,
the longer drive,
the company of things familiar.
what do they get in Iowa,
Twins games?

The tired Ford whistles and creaks,
gently clatters over the driveway and onto the grass.
Rhonda's got paint with clean labels,
brown legs and tin buckets.

Climbing shaky ladders in the sun,
then Jerry yells from his window:
"Djou guys booked for next weekend?"
I laugh and he apologizes for his dog again.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

back from beck

i enjoyed a night with the lad tonight, taking in the beck concert in st. paul. i'm dismissing the rumors that this is some sort of farewell tour (though the clever waif is pushing 40), but it was a fine greatest hits-type show with a fresh band in a small venue. highly recommended. because i've also associated beck hansen with david foster wallace -- maybe because loser hit my ears just before infinite jest hit my desk -- i was just happy to see this creative pop-art visionary alive.

beck wore a few hats tearing through his whole andre/thurston/gregg/muddy/bootsy/woody repertoire, but i liked the new band too -- especially jessica dobson on guitar. whereas the nfl's mike tice was once described as the "best blocking quarterback" in college football, i'd nominate ms. dobson as the "best dancing guitar player" in alternative rock. she's a fine guitarist to be sure, but an ebullient presence on stage. she plays an old danelectro with the same percussive style as, well, beck hansen, and her vocals lent a little exene-john doe magic to the proceedings.

heck, even tor had good things to say about the concert. there's still time to catch 'em in the next month or so:

Oct 2, 2008 Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL
Oct 3, 2008 Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL
Oct 5, 2008 - Sound Academy - Toronto, ON
Oct 6, 2008 St. Denis - Montreal
Oct 8, 2008 United Palace Theater - New York City, NY
Oct 9, 2008 United Palace Theater - New York City, NY
Oct 10, 2008 United Palace Theater - New York City, NY
Nov 9th, 2008 Club Nokia - Los Angeles, CA
Nov 10th, 2008 Club Nokia - Los Angeles, CA