Chris Uggen's Blog: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

syllabus for seminar in federal prison survival

i'd like to think the bernard madoff and tom petters debacles will spur greater interest in white-collar and corporate offending among those studying organizations and criminology. of course, i had the same hopes for the enron debacle.

there's a good reason that white-collar and organizational deviance remains criminally understudied: there's precious little theory and even less insider knowledge to guide our research. i thought long and hard about writing a corporate crime dissertation, but i lacked both knowledge and instincts in the area (e.g., should i use sales, profits, or revenue to indicate performance? or is year-to-year growth in these characteristics more important? or maybe quarterly earnings data are needed).

still, one can learn a lot from the business press. for example, forbes is reporting on the tendency of elite federal criminals to feign substance use problems to reduce their sentences via the residential drug abuse program or RDAP. the story led me to larry levine's american prison consultants site, which offers a full array of services to the newly-convicted and terrified white-collar offender:

"By taking advantage of obscure Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)R.D.A.P. Policies, 18 U.S.C. 3621 loopholes, I can help those beingsentenced to Federal Prison, receive EXTRA TIME off their sentence; EVEN WITH NO EVIDENCE OF DRUG OR ALCOHOL ABUSE IN THEIR PROBATION SENTENCING REPORT (PSR)FOR A FREE CONSULTATION CALL ME NOW!"

one course that i'd like to take is the $850 orientation program titled fedtime 101. the site lists numerous testimonials, as well as a syllabus:

"American Prison Consulting's mission is to prevent you from being extorted, raped, assaulted, or killed while in prison."

"When I sentenced to seventy months I was shocked, my overpriced lawyer who told me I'd get probation dumbfounded, and my wife was panic-stricken. We made phone calls, searched the Internet, and found practically no useful information about the BOP. When I self-surrendered, they put me in with killers, bank robbers, and other violent hardcore felons. As a first-time white-collar inmate doing time for sending a fax...I could've been killed. When I got to the BOP and met Levine, the education he gave me about the BOP was priceless. I only wish I could've taken his program before I came in. I can't thank Levine enough for the peace of mind he's given me and my family. I'd recommend his services to anyone."


CLUB FED History & Structure
BOP Program Statements/Regs
Custody/Security Classifications
Types of Federal Prisons
Visiting Regulations
Mail Regulations
Telephone Regulations
Disciplinary Sanctions (SHOTS)
Sanction Hearings
Administrative Remedies
Delaying Collection of Fines
Delaying Collection of Restitution
Inmate Trust Fund Accounts
Inmate Transfer Policies
Flying CON AIR
Furlough Transfers
BOP Staff Job Descriptions
BOP Staff Ranks & Pay Scales
BOP Staff Personality Types
Why Staff Lie & Dislike Inmates
Inmate Civil Rights
Suing A BOP Staff Member
Writing Up A Staff Member
Dealing With BOP Staff
Unit Team-Program Reviews
How To Survive A Prison Riot
Getting Extra Time Off Sentences
RDAP-The Drug Program
Prevent Being RAPED
Prison Living Conditions
The Daily Prison Grind
Your 1st Day What To Bring With
Inmate Personal Property
Inmate Etiquette & Politics
Dealing With Other Inmates
Avoiding and Spotting Informants
Dealing With Gang Members
Defusing A Confrontation
Prison Slang & Lingo
Avoiding Bad Prison Jobs
Getting A Lower Bunk Pass
Getting A Soft Shoe Permit
Work Assignments
Educational Opportunities
Medical Care
Medical Work Restrictions
Religious Services
Recreation Activities
Leisure-Law Library Usage
Food Service-The Dining Hall
Microwave Cooking Techniques
The Commissary Inmate Store
Temporary Release Furloughs
Staying Out of Solitary (The SHU)
Avoiding Goodtime Loss
How Goodtime Works
Calculating Release Dates
Half Way Houses-Reentry Centers
Home Confinement
Compassionate Release

while most inmate socialization occurs informally, first-time white-collar offenders are generally clueless about what to expect. mr. levine appears to have found a market niche serving a suddenly-vulnerable clientele. who knows? if you sign up now, you might be classmates with mr. madoff and mr. petters.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

contexts podcast #3: online politics and francesca polletta

contexts podcast #3 is out, free and downloadable for your holiday travel convenience. jesse and arturo are in especially fine voice:

This week, the podcast turns to our Fall 2008 Discoveries for a set of technology-themed discoveries. Next, we chat with Francesca Polletta about her article in our Fall issue, Storytelling in Politics. In particular, we talk about when and why political storytelling is effective and we get Polletta’s take on storytelling in the 2008 election. The failure of Joe the Plumber, she argues, represents the end of the “little anecdote” and a new appreciation that the best political stories are often sophisticated and nuanced. Download episode #3 now!

Monday, December 29, 2008

law enforcement deaths: good news and a long data series

usa today is reporting on a recent decline in the number of police officers killed in the line of duty. the data come from a new report by the national law enforcement officers memorial fund.

the site offered some intriguing state-by-state and historical data, as well as information about cause of death. i standardized the number of deaths by population and got the pattern below.

if the data on the site are complete, police officer deaths don't seem to track crime or incarceration all that closely -- not at all what i expected. instead, deaths rise steadily from the civil war to about WWI, then increase very sharply to a peak in 1930. officer deaths decline dramatically during the depression years, then bob around before another run-up in the late 1960s/early 1970s.

since then, police work has become much less deadly -- today's rate is about one-fourth as high as the 1930 peak. assuming i've got the right population numbers in the denominator, it looks as though officer fatalities haven't been this low since 1879. given this pattern, i suspect that the story is tied to the automobile in some important way. perhaps more officers were killed in accidents as they left foot patrol for squads, with those squad cars gradually growing safer since the 1930s.

Friday, December 26, 2008

like hoosiers, but with kojak, farrah, and mr. kotter

i'm enjoying family time over the holidays, but also self-indulging just a little. when i came across a bill simmons article touting "572 magical seconds" a couple months back, i vowed to check it out as soon as i could spare the 9:32. well worth it, my friends:

My favorite YouTube clip runs 572 magical seconds. It celebrates an impossible-to-fathom era of political incorrectness, egotistical celebs, misguided testosterone and the purest unintentional comedy possible … only it finishes with a Hall of Fame sports moment. That's right—I'm referring to the match race between Robert Conrad and Gabe Kaplan on the 1976 debut of Battle of the Network Stars.

if you deal with actual tough people in your work, you tend to have less patience for phony macho blowhard academics, administrators, and entertainers -- and there's blowhards aplenty in this clip.

most of it is just good seventies-style fun, but you might develop a rooting interest in the competing visions of masculinity, femininity, and leadership. and you might also lament the passing of networks, smoking in tracksuits, and sportscasters who could reference the "smile etched in the visage as he breasts the tape" with a straight face.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

that st. paul snub is really gonna cheese off garrison keillor

if minneapolis is really america's most literate city (and st. paul ranks #4), how come i only sold three copies of locked out in my own metro area? wait-- don't answer that. we're hoping for better luck marketing contexts locally.

minneapolis is actually tied for the top spot with seattle. the rankings are based on "six key indicators of literacy (newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources)."

here's the top-ten list:

1. Minneapolis and Seattle (tie)
3. Washington, D.C.
4. St. Paul
5. San Francisco
6. Atlanta
7. Denver
8. Boston
9. St. Louis
10. Cincinnati and Portland, Ore. (tie)

Source: America's Most Literate Cities, 2008

my president can beat up your president

both drudge and usa today are running polls comparing shirtless world leaders, with putin faring better among the (more conservative and male?) drudge readership and obama running away with the usa today poll.

i'm curious about the criteria here. are the voters responding to the best-looking leader, the most masculine leader, or the most "presidential" or sophisticated leader?

a couple years ago, i came across a wonderful photography book that showed the bodies of elite athletes of various sports. the diversity was striking, with some looking buff and others emaciated (e.g., the marathon runners).

so, what physical qualities do we look for in a president? it strikes me that president-elect barack obama has the frame of a basketball player or distance runner. russian prime minister vladimir putin is well-trained in martial arts, but he also looks like he knows his way around a weight room. president nicolas sarkozy, on the other hand, is (rather notoriously) a runner.

my sense is that all three leaders are trying to convey a sense of youthfulness, vitality, and everything-is-a-ok-edness in these images.

but they're also sending a message about their muscles and masculinity. whereas prime minister putin is clearly sending a don't even think about messing with me vibe, the images of president-elect obama convey strength and discipline (how many middle-aged americans have a flat belly?) but little menace.

i'm also curious about how sarah palin's beach vacation photos would have been covered, had senator mccain won the election. would we be running polls to rate the hotness of bathing suit shots of the new vice president? maybe the good folks at socimages can help us parse the gender issues here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


create your own police sketch at ultimate flashface.

taste the maggot

funkadelic guitarist eddie hazel died on 12/23/92, or christmas eve eve. it ain't no christmas carol, but his maggot brain is a proper listen on the longest, coldest night of the year. if you enjoy john frusciante's sad and supple pentatonic minor riffs, you might appreciate mr. hazel's opus.

there are many stories about the song, which remains a staple of late-night radio in cleveland. my eddie hazel story is about how a late-night college beef escalated, as maggot brain rose to a crescendo behind us. it went something like this:

1. maggot brain eases in,
2. uggen praises hazel,
3. rival dismisses hazel as "cheap hendrix ripoff,"
4. uggen advises rival to maybe shut up for a second and clean the (stuff) out of his ears,
5. rival calls uggen a (fornicating) dork idiot freak,
6. uggen calls rival a (fornicating) racist who thinks all black guitarists sound the same.
7. rival, to his credit, actually considers this possibility.
8. uggen acknowledges certain strat-based hendrix/hazel similarities.
9. rival and uggen turn it up and listen together.
10. maggot brain eases out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

wanna reduce those late-night assaults downtown?

bbc news and the daily mail are reporting on the use of street performers to reduce violence. while the connection may seem tenuous, it is founded on a demonstrable empirical insight: that drunks are dangerous but very easily distracted. from bbc:

Stilt-walkers and fire-eaters have been employed by police to help reduce public disorder in Staffordshire.

The four-hour, circus-style, street performances took place in Newcastle-under-Lyme at the weekend.

The aim was to distract night-time revellers and reduce the likelihood of fights breaking out in the town centre, Staffordshire Police said.

Similar strategies had previously been employed by Greater Manchester Police with success, the force said.

The street entertainment was accompanied by police foot patrols and evidence gathering officers.

A force spokesman said: "The operation was a great success and had the desired effect of vastly reducing the number of arrests officers had to make during the evening...

even if such programs fail to reduce after-bar assaults, they might bring ancillary job creation benefits. as the recession deepens, the market for fire-eaters and stilt-walkers (not to mention fire-walkers and stilt-eaters) is surely deteriorating.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

blonde privilege

the image at left appeared on the strib's front page in 1998. the weeping blondes are so powerful a symbol of minnesota football frustration that patrick reusse was compelled to revisit them for a 10-year anniversary column. why blondes?

in american popular culture, blonde hair connotes whiteness, light(weighted)ness, innocence, and privilege. and there's clearly a blonde-by-gender interaction. men can be blonde, of course, but we are somehow ascribed only about a half-dose of the cultural traits associated with blondeness.

regarding lightweightedness, films such as legally blonde play with cultural stereotypes of blondes as agreeable, privileged, and unintelligent. regarding innocence, alfred hitchcock reputedly favored blonde heroines -- grace kelly, kim novak, eva marie saint, tippi hedren and janet leigh were all "hitchcock blondes" -- because it pushed audience buttons to see them in distress or behaving immorally. similarly, when young blonde women are crime victims or perpetrators, as appears to be the case in a recent nursing home scandal, their photographs often make the national news.

while i wouldn't be surprised to find real effects of blonde privilege in the operation of the courts or the entertainment industry, i doubt that such privilege extends to higher education. in fact, i might predict the opposite. as a blonde academic, i'm overly sensitive to the dumb blonde stereotype. nevertheless, i've heard blonde students or faculty described as "actually pretty smart" or "surprisingly quick" in much the same way that i've heard african american students described as "articulate."

nobody ever referred to a blonde male academic as "professor barbie," so i'd predict a blonde-by-female interaction in modeling the effects of hair color on academic career outcomes. of course, we needn't weep for the blondes -- discrimination on the basis of other ascribed characteristics remains a far more serious issue. nevertheless, i'd advise ambitious blonde academics to play against blonde stereotypes by playing to academic stereotypes -- a pair of thick glasses, a tattered and overstuffed bookbag, and a rumpled tweed jacket should do the trick.

i really liked your memo on nutrition...

i've posted before about popping up in student dreams as a crazed bus driver. this sort of makes sense, i think, given that my classes might take them into new and dangerous territories.

good friends, however, often see me as some sort of politician in their dreams. in at least three instances, they've told me about dreams in which i appear as a successful but not-exactly-righteous political actor.

here's the latest: a fun christmas note from a fine sociologist and friend (those who know his eating habits will agree he'd make an excellent Secretary of Nutrition):

Hey Chris,

I almost never remember my dreams, but the other night I had a remarkably vivid one that I thought you'd find amusing. You had decided to run for president, and early in the dream I saw you giving an Obama like speech. Someone asked me how come I didn't run also, and I replied something about how I forgot to sign up in time. Then you were elected, and people started asking me if I could get them jobs in your administration. I saw you as you finishing one of your speeches, and you saw me as you were walking off the podium surrounded by all your supporters and you said 'hey Jeff, I really liked your memo on nutrition. would you like to be in charge of the office of nutrition." And I was thinking, well, I don't recall writing a memo on nutrition or really know anything about it. But I remember being sort of frustrated that you wouldn't give me a better post (like car czar?). Then I packed up my suitcase to leave some hotel I was staying at and was loading up a station wagon I appear to have been driving, and woke up in a cold sweat thinking I left something beyond in hotel room.

I have utterly no idea what all this means, but it is in retrospect pretty amusing.

happy holidays man

Saturday, December 20, 2008

here is a summary right in here and more in here

via brauer:

my experience editing contexts gives me a new appreciation of typos and printing errors. fortunately, ms. amy contexts, our fine managing editor, is a stickler for quality control.

the basic article text is usually fine once we get through copy editing, but it is astonishingly easy to goof up headlines, photo captions, tables of contents, and pull quotes -- like this beauty from the strib.

the strib, like contexts, is running extremely lean these days. if you need a last-minute christmas gift and want to support the copy desk of your paper, you might consider a gift subscription to the local daily (or, for that matter, your favorite sociology publication).

Monday, December 15, 2008

whatever happened to justice, equality, human dignity, and tolerance?

it has been a real privilege to receive support from the JEHT foundation for my research on race and criminal records. i've admired JEHT's values -- justice, equality, human dignity, and tolerance -- and its president, bob crane, since the foundation began in 2000.

unfortunately, i might be the last of the foundation's grantees. the official statement:

The JEHT Foundation, a national philanthropic organization, has stopped all grant making effective immediately and will close its doors at the end of January 2009. The funds of the donors to the Foundation, Jeanne Levy-Church and Kenneth Levy-Church, were managed by Bernard L. Madoff, a prominent financial advisor who was arrested last week for defrauding investors out of billions of dollars.

The Foundation was established in 2000. Its name stands for the values it holds dear: Justice, Equality, Human dignity and Tolerance. It supported programs that promoted reform of the criminal and juvenile justice systems; ensured that the United States adhered to the international rule of law; and work to improve the voting process by enhancing fair representation, competitive elections and government transparency...

my project aside, JEHT funded a full range of justice-themed research that matters. the irony of the madoff case is brutal: could a single white-collar offender really bring down such a stunning array of good work on behalf of those less fortunate? all i can do is express my personal appreciation to JEHT -- and to do my best to make good on their investment.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

69 days to whole

cbs war correspondent kimberly dozier talks about running in this month's runner's world.

When I was in Baghdad in 2006, I was hit by a car bomb and nearly killed. My eardrums were blown out, I had shrapnel in my brain, and I lost more than half my blood. But my legs had the most damage; both femurs were fractured.

The first time I ran again, in November 2006, I went maybe 29 seconds. My cardio was shot, and it felt like I was running through sludge. But my legs worked! Now I'm running 11- or 12-minute miles.

... When people see me, they'll ask how I'm doing. Often I'll say, "I'm running," and they say, "I guess you're recovered!" If you can run, then you're considered whole in heart, mind, and body.

dang, that sure puts my li'l torn plantar fascia in perspective, doesn't it? i haven't been running since the twin city marathon october 5. inspired by ms. dozier and the mountain god, however, i laced 'em up this morning for the first time in 69 long days. and it felt ... so ... good -- a gorgeous winter day, good music on the 'phones, and finding my stride with soft snow underfoot.

after 15 years of steady running, i've missed it sorely the past couple months. i've thickened around the midsection, of course, but the worst part has been a slow and sour deterioration in mood. i'd gone from feeling owly to ornery to just plain mean the past couple weeks, but i was feeling fine once i got a few miles under my feet. i'm not saying there's no pain or that i'm ready for another marathon, but i'm closer to whole than i've been in 69 days.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

mr. simpson's sentence

in their final exams, instructors in crime, law, and deviance courses often ask students to apply course materials to concrete cases. this term, o.j. simpson's recent lengthy sentence for armed robbery and other offenses might provide a good case for students to explore issues of justice, sentencing severity, and the justifications of punishment. sara at pubcrim offers a very helpful analysis on these questions, comparing mr. simpson's sentence against some relevant benchmarks.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the iggy non-interview

after a conversation with young esperanza, i facebooked the following:

Chris' daughter says that his uncomfortable and unpublished IHOP interview with iggy pop was actually the peak moment of his existence.
i've been encouraged to tell the tale, but it is a long and twisty story that i've never been able to write about. still, said daughter characterized the moment as the peak of my existence -- and it was quite literally the termination of my career as a music writer.

i'd had some warm and wonderful experiences interviewing folks like nick lowe and some crazy/beautiful backstage experiences with folks like the suburbs and some guitar shop and hotel brush-with-fame experiences with folks like eric clapton and eddie van halen. but i met my match with mr. james newell osterberg, jr.

i may be getting some details wrong, but please cut me a li'l slack -- it was my freshman year of college and it was a very, very late night. i still can't piece together the evening's events in any kind of narrative, so i'll try a little 5-7-5 hokku:

i wrote about bands,
for the daily cardinal
and other papers.

i was no critic --
more of a fan with a big

i went to the club,
headliners in madison.
i wore a cool hat.

when i got backstage
-- cool hats can get you backstage --
they told me to wait...

but to wait outside.
so i waited a long time,
for my "interview."

then he just popped out,
leading hungry drunk people.
i could eat with them!

i know where to go:
the international house
of pancakes, next block.

much food was ordered,
maybe three plates per person,
iggy holding court.

not speaking to me,
so much as speaking near me,
saying funny things.

before the food came,
iggy's cigarettes were lost!
i was a suspect.

though i did not smoke,
i was a thief and liar.
my hat was not cool.

tons of food arrived,
but nobody was hungry,
so nobody paid.

we blew that IHOP,
iggy back to his tour bus,
me back to my room.

no review to write,
i found another major,

at the cardinal, i'd often file a story very late at night and it would magically appear in the hands of my classmates before their 8:50 lecture. though i sat at my typewriter and tried to channel lester bangs, i had nothing. nothing. i was creeped out, disillusioned, and resolute in my belief that the evening's real story had nothing to do with music. so, i decided that chasing around musicians was not in my long-term plans. of course, i'm still a fan.

Monday, December 08, 2008

mr. simon, meet mr. blount

jim souhan suggests that david simon might find his next series in the contradictions and connections at the sports/crime nexus. mr. simon's sociological focus on institutions, social networks, and inequality would seem to lend itself well to the world of big-time sports and small-time crime. stars like michael vick and roger clemens get the headlines, but intriguing stories arise each day in the agate type and notes columns of the sports pages. here's one, via

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Former NBA player Corie Blount was charged with felony drug possession ... Deputies confiscated a total of 29 pounds of marijuana, a 1996 Mercedes Benz, a 2004 Cadillac Escalade, a 2000 Chevrolet Sububan, three guns and $29,500 in cash, Jones said.

this is a pretty standard crime story, except for the fact that the suspect had earned over 14 million dollars in his hoops career. mr. souhan is no david simon, but he suggests there might be a compelling backstory behind an nba journeyman with a ten-year-old benz, three guns, $30k in cash, 29 pounds of geef, and a brand new criminal justice degree.

was mr. blount actually holding 29 pounds or was he a victim of circumstance? if the former, why wasn't he "set for life" after such a long nba career? where did the money go? his friends and associates? where will he go from here? we've heard this story before and i suspect we're likely to hear it again.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

and you thought the nfl had parity: u.s. presidential elections, 1932-2008

americans are accustomed to recounts and tight margins in national elections, but i'd never considered the cumulative degree of parity until today. here are some data on the votes cast for democratic and republican presidential candidates over the past 76 years, via volokh, crossing wall street, and

to recap, that's a difference of 109,959 votes out of a total of over 1.55 billion cast. here's how it looks when you add third-party votes:

the independent/third party image is from steve sack, the strib's fine political cartoonist.

Friday, December 05, 2008

sort of like being offered a breath mint

i just got an invitation to attend a How to Communicate with Tact and Professionalism seminar. even though i know it is probably random spam, it still got me thinking...

it is sort of like being offered a breath mint or a piece of gum. the gesture makes one wonder whether one may have the tact and professionalism equivalent of a knee-buckling case of chronic halitosis. plus, i know that i have been a little testy in my communications lately. anyway, here's the pitch:

Ever wish you could ...
  • Tailor your message to achieve complete buy-in on your ideas and proposals?
  • Disarm others' "hot buttons" and put people at ease — even in the heat of an argument?
  • Win arguments without losing friends?
  • Maintain your composure and control — even when someone is right in your face?
  • Decode body language to understand what people are really saying?
  • Improve your nonverbal skills for added emphasis?
  • Deliver razor-sharp instructions that get things done — without coming off like an annoying perfectionist? [folks who know me are snickering at this one]
  • Become so persuasive that your requests are rarely denied?
why yes! i'd like to become so persuasive that my requests are rarely denied. wouldn't we all? but, tell me -- how do i know that this training is really for me?

Is this training for you?
  • Do you dread most meetings with your boss or supervisor?
  • Do you habitually complete other people's sentences for them?
  • Have you ever "lost it" at work?
  • Do you "well-thought-out" messages seem to lost their "oomph" when you put them in writing?
  • Are you thinking about what you're going to say next — when you should be listening instead?
  • When you talk, are you often interrupted, cut off, or ignored?
  • Have you ever said the wrong thing at the wrong time — and had no idea how to recover?
  • Do you coach ... explain ... instruct ... and people still don't get it?

why yes, as a matter of fact, my emails have lost their oomph, and i guess i've said the wrong thing at the wrong time. though i could take a day off work, pony up the $239, and attend the training session, it might be more effective to simply reflect on my own communication style for 30 minutes and think about how i might improve it. on the other hand, the tact and professionalism seminar may be my only chance to see the la quinta inn and suites in beautiful bloomington, minnesota. tough call.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

recessions and the ones that got away

in my quest for a reverb tank this weekend, i came upon a blogspot memorializing the loves we've lost: the ones that got away. it seems that all guitar players have experienced the phenomenon:

Every guitarist has that one special guitar that they wished they had back. It might be because it was a sentimental gift, maybe it was sold to pay the bills, or maybe you just didn't realize how much you loved that guitar until it was gone. These are the stories of the ones that got away.

as the recession deepens, i hate to think that more folks will be parting with such treasures. paging through the posts, i realized that the most-missed guitars are those lost because of vanity or ignorance, and those reluctantly given up under extreme financial duress. the vanity/stupidity stories often involve less attractive models that played exceptionally well (or ugly amps that sounded exceptionally warm) but were swapped out when the owner became infatuated with something flashier. the financial duress stories typically involve an appeal to higher loyalties -- parting with the guitar to make rent, or studio time, or to care for the family. a few excerpts:

the love:

The top was red cedar and the sides were Indian Rosewood. Now that it’s gone, I realize how comfortable it was to leave in the corner and have available to pick up each night and play while sitting on the couch or take outside and play at the picnic table...

the shame:

I had been using a sweet early 70’s Martin D-41 with amazing inlay on the neck (man, I wish I had that one back). I’m sure it’s worth a FORTUNE today. But, I was going to be in my first band and needed an amp powerful enough to gig with. My silverface Princeton Reverb (man, I wish I had that one back) just wasn’t cutting it. So I walked into Dusty’s Guitar Kingdom on Coast Highway in Oceanside, CA and said I needed to make a trade. I’m sure Dusty started salivating over my Martin. He had a used cherry sunburst Gibson Dove hanging on the wall that he suggested, and I immediately took a liking to it. It actually sounded better than my Martin to be honest. So that part was done. Now for the amp. Dusty said I could have my choice of two amps in the price range we agreed on. I could pick from the Roland Jazz Chorus 120 or the early 60’s blonde Fender Tremolux sitting in the corner. The Tremolux looked cool but kind of beat up and the separate head and cab seemed like a pain to carry around to gigs. So, I picked the Roland. Oh my god, yes, I picked the Roland.

the pain:

So, one day, just after payday, I go to get my rent money out of the bank and find out I have a balance of zero. What the F? Turns out the nice folks at the IRS had taken all the money out of my bank account. With a 3-year old daughter to house and feed, and being a single dad, I had no choice...sell the guitar. AAAAHHH. Luckily I had a back-up guitar to get me through, but this was the most painful loss of a guitar I ever had. And there was nothing I could do about it. I went down to the local guitar store to see if he was interested in a sweet, vintage custom color Thinline Tele and, of course, he was. We struck a deal for less than I had paid for it, but what was mostly fair under the circumstances. Of course, since it had turned out to be a '71 rather than a '69 there was some loss of value there. But I practically cried when I walked out the door. That guitar was just me. I loved everything about it. Man, I wish I had that one back.

the moral:

So listen up, if you get a good guitar and you get in a bind, don't sell your guitar! Good times and money come and go but you're guitar is a part of you and you should always keep them!

though i tend to hang on to old guitars until i can find a good home for them, there are some collective benefits to putting unplayed instruments back into circulation. as times get tougher, perhaps the nigel tufnels of the world will start a musician's relief fund to keep the best-loved instruments in the hands of their rightful owners.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

contexts podcast #2

the contexts crew has released podcast number two. via jesse:

In this episode, Jesse and Arturo learn about women from our Fall 2008 batch of Discoveries and also sit down for an interview with Jen’nan Read, author of Muslism in America in our Fall 2008 issue. Download episode #2 now! If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe! If you have iTunes installed, just go to the iTunes Store and search for “Contexts” (or just follow this link). If you’re using another podcatcher, our RSS feed is If you’re not sure what podcasting is, watch Podcasting in Plain English…and then subscribe to our podcast!

Next Week: we interview Francesca Polleta about Storytelling in Politics

Monday, December 01, 2008

i'm in!

via penny and the new yorker's "cartoon of the day:"