Chris Uggen's Blog: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

lines form on my face and my hands

this weekend, esperanza has her first speech competition and tor turns 18. back when tor was wrestling, i was struck by the cultural differences between the speech parents and the wrestling parents. i remember working the concession stand two years ago. when somebody turned in a long black glove to the lost and found, we wrestling parents immediately recognized it as belonging to a "speech" person and walked it over to the auditorium. i'm looking forward to seeing the other side now -- once esperanza okays my attendance -- but i'll still hit the gym for hot dogs and gatorade.

the lad's 18th birthday reminds me of my own senior year, when alice cooper's "eighteen" was song #3 in the habbit's set list. it was probably my best vocal (limited range, lots of shouting) and there was always a friend in the audience (that is, basement) who had just turned/was about to turn 18. i still appreciate the life course themes in the song -- sort of a proto-arnett emerging adulthood story, set against the backdrop of nam-era forced conscription. i poked around youtube for an iconic cooper version to post on the lad's facebook page, but mostly found iconic drunken versions. instead, i chose one from a kid who plays it like he's feeling it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

the chair's budget paradox

trying to put some budget numbers into perspective for monday's faculty meeting, i came across an inside higher ed piece on the transition from faculty member to dean. here's the depressing bit:

What interests and activities do deans give up when they leave the faculty ranks? The top answers: scholarship and research, hobbies, teaching, and exercise and healthy eating.

In place of those activities, the new administrators report more interest in higher education generally, the curriculum, strategic planning and accreditation.

A life in which scholarship and exercise are replaced by accreditation and strategic planning.... “To an outside observer,” quipped Breese, “this sounds like a fun-loving group of people.”


yeesh. with one foot in faculty life and the other in administration, department chairs experience similar tradeoffs. chatting with a (fun-loving) group of chairs and deans last week, i found that we'd all made the same resolutions over winter break: (1) to stay cool and strong while managing under current economic pressures; (2) to preserve what's left of our personal health (the diet and exercise bit); and, (3) to carve out just a little time for our own research -- but, regrettably, not until summer.

it is good fun to chair a department flush with money, of course, but sane and effective administration is doubly important in a financial crisis. in light of the minnversity's budget problems, i was impressed that no chairs were talking about quitting or stepping down. some of us are actually engaged by the challenge, thinking: i am gonna find a way to get us through this thing without compromising our core values or our intellectual standards.

for chairs, deans, and other managers, this sort of sentiment helps trace a thin silver lining around the budget clouds: our work today has greater meaning, purpose, and importance than it did last year or the year before. while only fools would sacrifice their research time and personal health for the privilege of pushing paper, good scholars are only too eager to defend and nurture their intellectual communities in times of trouble -- even when that necessitates the occasional vending machine supper.

konopka lecture february 11

via marissa:

The 27th Konopka Lectureship - The Panic Over Girls
Lecturer: Mike Males
February 11 - 10:00 AM
Neighborhood House at the Wellstone Center
179 Robie Street East, St. Paul

Free and open to the public.
A reception follows the lecture.
No RSVP required for the lecture or reception.

This year's lecturer, Mike Males, is a senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, a columnist for Youth Today and the principal investigator/content director for the online information service - YouthFacts.org. In addition to several other titles, Mr. Males is the author of The Scapegoat Generation: America's War on Adolescents and Framing Youth: Ten Myths About the Next Generation.

Mike Males shares Gisa's [Gisela Konopka's] passion for promoting the needs of young people as well as her willingness to be controversial and provocative. In this lecture, Mike will challenge the media myths about modern American girls.

You can learn more about Mike Males' work at www.youthfacts.org

Thursday, January 29, 2009

mr. updike and the life course

i'll write no odes to harry angstrom, but john updike's passing prompts a naive question: has his generation outperformed previous and subsequent generations of (white male u.s.) writers? if so, what period or cohort effects drove updike, mailer, vidal, bellow, and their contemporaries to prominence? was it a war thing, a cold-war thing, a children of the great depression thing, a modernity thing, an age-of-the-novel thing, a writer-as-celebrity thing, a hegemonic masculinity thing, or just a when-chris-happened-to-go-to-college thing?*

the question of prominence relative to contemporaries is completely naive, of course, because so many non-white and non-male voices were effectively silenced. but a life course scholar might reasonably ask how the 1915-1935 birth cohort (below) stacks up against previous or subsequent generations of male writers or white male writers:

bernard malamud: 1914-1986
william burroughs: 1914-1997
saul bellow: 1915-2005
j.d. salinger: 1919-
alex haley: 1921-1992
kurt vonnegut: 1922-2007
jack kerouac: 1922-1969
norman mailer: 1923-2007
joseph heller: 1923-1999
james baldwin: 1924-1987
truman capote: 1924-1984
gore vidal: 1925-
chaim potok: 1929-2002
tom wolfe: 1931-
john updike: 1932-2009
philip roth: 1933-
cormac mccarthy: 1933-
thomas pynchon: 1937-
hunter s. thompson: 1937-2005

you can find 19 strong voices on that haphazard list, not to mention 19 distinctive visions of masculinity. i'd certainly be hard pressed to come up with as impressive a list for my own age cohort, but maybe today's mailers and vidals are busy scripting ad copy or survivorman-style reality shows. i can't think of many contemporary literary equivalents, but i'm not reading much fiction these days. my generation can boast fine male writers like chuck palahniuk, sherman alexie, brett easton ellis, and dave eggers -- all very clever -- but not exactly literary lions. mr. wallace had the stuff, i suppose, though i can't help thinking he might've enjoyed a longer career had he been born a few decades earlier.

but maybe that's just me. perhaps i'm identifying a greatest generation simply because their work struck me at a particularly susceptible time in my own life course. or, maybe they just wore me down with sheer persistence. i'm no expert on standards of literary production, but those ol' dudes seemed dang prolific. and, for a while there, i was hanging on their every word.

*this sort of post should always come with a disclaimer, since i lack expertise in both cultural sociology and in american literature. most of my posts, in fact, should come with this sort of disclaimer.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

age norms and criminal responsibility

i told my lad that if he was looking for trouble this weekend, he'd best find it on friday rather than saturday night. that's because saturday marks tor's transition from an unidentified youth to "an 18-year-old Shoreview man" in the eyes of the law.

in truth, there's no longer such a bright age line separating the juvenile and adult justice system. when i first started teaching about age norms and standards in my delinquency class, my students would chuckle at press accounts involving both 18-year-old and 17-year-old suspects. the 18-year-old would typically be identified as a man or woman, while the 17-year-old would be identified as a boy or girl -- even though the two may have been classmates, born a few days or weeks apart.

in several states, however, juvenile court jurisdiction doesn't extend to 17-year-olds, so the age cut-point is 16 or lower (and lower still for specified crimes). media accounts in these jurisdictions are thus much more likely to provide teenagers' names and photographs. here's a representative story from wkbt in la crosse:

Tomah Teens Arrested for Ice Rink Burglary
Posted: Jan 23, 2009 10:12 AM CST

Three Tomah teens are arrested after officers find them stealing items from an ice rink.

Tomah Police say 18-year-old Travisty Swosinski, 18-year-old Nicholas Graewin and 17-year-old Aaron Kleiser were arrested early Friday morning.

Officers were on patrol at around 12:20 a.m. when they noticed lights on at the rink at Recreation Park. They found one of the teens outside the rink by a car, which had in it concession items from the rink and a can of gasoline.

Officers found the other two teens inside the rink stealing items from a freezer.

All three teens face burglary and trespassing charges. Swosinski and Kleiser also face marijuana charges.

note that all three are identified as "teens" rather than boys or men and that 17-year-old aaron kleiser faces the same marijuana charges as 18-year-old travisty swosinski (though a 16-year-old would likely have been treated differently). in any case, i'll be encouraging my lad to steer clear of trouble on friday night as well -- particularly that involving dairlyland ice rinks.

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pubcrim job at the sentencing project

via sp:

The Sentencing Project is pleased to announce a new position opening for State Advocacy Coordinator. In conjunction with the Director of Advocacy, the State Advocacy Coordinator will develop and implement a program to support state and local advocates engaged in criminal justice reform. Issues to be addressed will include sentencing and drug policy reform, alternatives to incarceration, racial disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice system, felony disenfranchisement reform and others consistent with the mission of The Sentencing Project. The position will involve some travel to selected states.

Coordinator will be responsible for:

* developing a strategic plan for reform in selected states, which may include partnering with organizations from civil rights, voting rights and faith-based communities, formerly incarcerated persons, policymakers, and community leaders;
* providing research assistance, developing communications strategies, aiding in coalition-building, and advising on legislative campaigns;
* working at both the federal and state levels, including some federal policy work.

Click here to see the complete job description and qualifications.

To be considered for the position, applicants should submit a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to: Nia Lizanna, Operations Manager, The Sentencing Project, 514 Tenth Street, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004 or nlizanna@sentencingproject.org. No phone calls, please.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

the arrest picture

i made this figure for yesterday's talk on how low-level arrest records affect employment. i wanted to show that only a small proportion of arrests involve violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. so, i plotted data from the fbi's 2007 uniform crime reports to show the distribution of the 14,209,365 u.s. arrests in that year. i usually walk through such numbers in my intro crime and delinquency courses.
  • about 4 percent of arrests are for violent "index" crimes -- murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
  • if arrests for burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson are added to the violent crimes above, a total of about 16 percent of arrests are for part I offenses. so, about one in six arrests involve one of the index crimes that are commonly reported as the nation's crime rate.
  • the big greenish slices of the pie are all drug- and alcohol-related.
  • the large purplish region is for "all other offenses" -- violations of state or local laws not specifically identified as part i or part ii offenses, excluding traffic violations.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

birdchick and the shelters




via birdchick: now that's a proper minnesota approach to brisk weather. contrary to popular belief, hats and gloves are permitted at the uggen house, as long as we're below -20 fahrenheit. still, none of us buy into that whole "frostbite" myth.

like birdchick, my family cheerfully revels in a couple weeks of bracing cold weather each year. runners from warmer climates think i'm joking when i tell them my water bottle freezes solid. of course, while we might run or work in such weather, none of us have to sleep in it. and even at 20 below, they've gotta hold lotteries for beds at minneapolis' st. stephen's shelter. what does it feel like to be shown the door when it is 50 degrees colder outside than the average freezer? i can't imagine, but here's how our local fox9 describes it:

It's a Monday night ritual at Simpson Church, a kind of homeless bingo. The lottery serves two other church shelters, each with about 40 mats. All three are at capacity. Tonight, only 13 beds are available, and more than 40 people are looking for a place to sleep. For those who aren't called, you can see the disappointment on their faces -- Where do I go on a night like tonight?

if you've ever wanted to make a tangible difference in someone's life, this isn't a bad night to slip a twenty to the man or woman on the corner.

Friday, January 16, 2009

friday public sociology talk in indiana, plus tuesday workshop

i'm blogging lightly until i can get some work back to eager coauthors, but wanted to invite folks to a couple talks next week.

on friday the 23rd, i'm really looking forward to visiting indiana university. IU grads seem to be off the charts in terms of creativity and skills, so i'll see what i can learn about their program. i'm doing a talk on "public criminologies and social research" as part of their public sociology workshop:

Title: Public Sociology Workshop
Date: Friday, Jan 23, 2009
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Calendar: Sociology Department IUB
Contact: Send e-mail
Description: Chris Uggen, University of Minnesota. "Public Criminologies and Social Research"
More Contact Info: emibowma@indiana.edu
Location: Dogwood Room, IMU

on tuesday the 20th, i'll be giving a talk in my department's sociology workshop (with mike vuolo, ebony ruhland, hilary whitham, and sarah lageson). we're workshopping a paper just submitted for the american sociological association meetings on how a misdemeanor arrest record affects employability. most of the talk will focus on our (part one) experimental results, but we'll also discuss our new (part two) interviews with employers.

Tuesday, 4:00-5:15 pm, 1114 Social Science
University of Minnesota Department of Sociology
"An Experimental Audit of the Effects of Low-level Criminal Records on Employment."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

hellacopters

in prison, where a single cigarette can cost $10, there's a strong market for contraband. typically, such illicit goods are carried in by visitors, other inmates, or staff. now the daily mail is reporting on a new technology in contraband delivery: the remote-controlled helicopter.

A toy helicopter is believed to have been used in an attempt to smuggle drugs into a prison.

Guards at Elmley Prison in Sheerness, Kent, spotted the remote control miniature aircraft flying over the walls of the jail and heading for the accommodation blocks one night after it was picked up by CCTV cameras.

It had a small load beneath the fuselage, thought to contain drugs.
The toy or its cargo was not found.


hmm. i've heard of actual helicopters being used in escape attempts, but never toys. in such cases, of course, there's a fine line between clever and stupid. the remote-control operator could really only escape detection by executing the drop from a great distance. anyone sidling up to the wall with an RC-helicopter and, say, a baggy of heroin, would be quickly apprehended. still, i'm guessing some screenwriter will work this into a prison movie -- perhaps with someone in the guard tower blasting the li'l helicopter out of the sky.

(via boing)

Monday, January 12, 2009

the texas steroid-testing massacre

back when tor was an enormous nonconformist, people would sometimes joke that he must be on steroids -- especially when seen in the company of his less-than-beefy father.* nevertheless, steroid use has always ranked near the bottom of my parental worry list.

simply put, few kids use steroids. according to 2008 monitoring the future data, about 1.5 percent of u.s. high school seniors reported steroid use in the past year. the number inched up from 1 percent in 1990 to a peak of about 2.5 percent in 2004, but has since fallen. that's why i was a little surprised to hear that the state of texas had begun a program to routinely test every high school athlete for steroid use.

well, we now have results from the first wave of texas steroid tests. of the 10,117 high school athletes tested, steroid use was confirmed for a grand total of 4 (or .04 percent) students and suspected (based on a refusal to test or some other violation of testing rules) in 22 cases (or .22 percent). the remaining 10,091 athletes (or 99.74 percent) evidently tested clean.

proponents of the $6 million testing program point to the low violation rates as evidence of deterrence -- see, the program is working! critics point to the inefficiency of spending so much money to catch so few users.

comparing the rates of self-reported use with the official test results, however, leads me to a different conclusion -- the tests are ineffective as well as inefficient. that is, the kids are beating the tests. if texas mirrors the national rate of 1.5 percent and we assume that all 22 of the refusers were actually users, the UA tests are only catching about one in six of the estimated 150 past-year steroid users (10,117 *0.015=152).

i wouldn't necessarily advise scrapping the program, but a small number of random tests would certainly bring a better bang for the buck. just as the internal revenue service strikes fear into all taxpayers with a handful of audits, a handful of steroid tests -- administered randomly or to star performers such as state tournament participants -- may be sufficient to deter use more generally. given these low base rates and the civil liberties issues involved, however, i'd be inclined to adopt a probable-cause or reasonable-suspicion standard for testing.

(a.p. link via auderey)
* i should note that the once-large lad has since become the looong lad -- now a lean 6'6", 230. much changes from freshman to senior year.

doppelgangers

do you know other people who share your name? i always figured my name was so weird that i could be secure in the knowledge that nobody else would've taken it. like other norwegian laborers, my ancestors adopted the name of the farm that employed them -- in this case, the uggen farm. today, uggen is a norwegian euphemism for hangover (e.g., "i woke up feeling a little uggen this morning"). really -- just ask around on your next trip to oslo.

well, now google news is running stories about another dr. christopher uggen:

Google News Alert for: Uggen
New area surgeon saw athletic pressures up close Kalamazoo Gazette - MLive.com - Kalamazoo,MI,USABY LINDA S. MAH KALAMAZOO -- Dr. Christopher Uggen is bringing an extreme understanding of sports medicine to the Kalamazoo Orthopaedic Clinic. ...See all stories on this topic
Shoulders are his specialty Kalamazoo Gazette - MLive.com - Kalamazoo,MI,USABY LINDA S. MAH KALAMAZOO -- Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Uggen repairs elbows, knees and ankles, but he takes particular interest in doing ...See all stories on this topic

and there are at least two more of us out there as well. chris uggen of new orleans (be)friended me on facebook and christopher uggen of kalamazoo connected with us as well. i think we're all a little disappointed that we're no longer unique but a little happy that we're no longer alone.

Chris is now friends with Christopher Uggen and Chris Uggen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

oh no, they can't take that away from me...

we're enjoying a glorious winter in minnesota, perfect for skating, skiing, and sliding: about a foot of snow, then an inch of icy sleet, followed by a couple more inches of powder. perfect. then this, from the newspaper i've trusted since i was a wee sledder:

A flurry of patients seriously injured in sledding accidents has prompted a safety warning by trauma officials at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

In particular, the Minneapolis trauma center has seen almost twice as many spinal injuries from sledding accidents this winter compared to last winter. Sledders can easily reach 15 to 20 miles per hour, and are particularly at risk on steep or icy hillsides. The prolonged snowy conditions over the past month have likely contributed to the rise in injuries.

"With several more winter months ahead, it's important for families to know that they can still enjoy this outdoor activity while minimizing the risk for injury," said Carla Cerra, a critical care nurse at HCMC. "Avoiding jumps, not piling too many people on one sled, and keeping alcohol out of the equation are just a few of the ways to stay safe when sledding."

HCMC also advises sledding on gentle slopes free of obstacles and supervision of children 12 and under. Warm, layered clothes can have the additional benefit of "cushioning" in the event of a tumble.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes sledding to 11 percent of all recreational injuries in the country.

oh, my. i can imagine such an article being written in, say, the arizona republic, but this is minnesota, where we either embrace the winter or perish. what's not to like?

1. steep and icy hillsides!
2. jumps!
3. piling way too many people onto a sled!
4. obstacles!
5. no adult supervision!

as a sociologist, i'm supposed to be pro-nanny state, but this article demonizes my cultural heritage. as a parent, i swelled with pride the first time my preschooler staggered to the house with a thunderbolt toboggan in one hand and a cute li'l chunk of his ear in the other. the same lad was out past midnight on saturday, sledding with his high school buddies in -- let's be honest about this -- the least dangerous activity that 17-year-old girls and boys could possibly be pursuing.

to add insult to hard-earned winter injury, the pi-press linked to a piece advising sledding helmets, while warning against the evils of barreling down a hill headfirst. what's a kid to do? stay in the basement and play video snowboarding? video games might compare with sledding down the "gentle slopes" advised in the article, but both are pale imitations of a reckless run down killer hill.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

red ink in the rearview

the st. louis post-dispatch reports on a new journal of law and economics study showing that traffic tickets go up when local government revenues go down.

"Red Ink in the Rearview Mirror: Local Fiscal Conditions and the Issuance of Traffic Tickets" by thomas garrett and gary wagner, uses county-level north carolina panel data to establish the relationship. from the abstract:

We find that significantly more tickets are issued in the year following a decline in revenue, but the issuance of traffic tickets does not decline in years following revenue increases. Elasticity estimates reveal that a ten percent decrease in negative revenue growth results in a 6.4 percent increase in the growth rate of traffic tickets. Our results suggest that tickets are used as a revenue generation tool rather than solely a means to increase public safety.

just as we, the ticketed, have long suspected.

(via talkleft)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

squeaky-clean chicago politics

according to studs terkel, "Chicago is not the most corrupt American city, it’s the most theatrically corrupt." nevertheless, there's no shortage of good candidates lining up for rahm emanuel's seat in the northwest side's fifth congressional district. when jeff manza invited me to contribute to his candidate's campaign today, he got a quick bounce-back soliciting a contribution for my candidate, charlie wheelan.

i first met mr. wheelan when he was writing on incarceration for the economist. we then spent a little time together in a u.s.-japan exchange program, where i learned about his naked economics and teaching at the harris school of public policy. professor wheelan is just the sort of scholar-citizen i'd like to see in washington -- one who understands thorny economic and foreign policy issues well enough to explain them intelligibly to the rest of us.

congressional quarterly suggests the recent blagojevich debacle "creates an opportunity for a candidate who’s squeaky clean — who’s an outsider in terms of machine politics in the city and state — to have a shot at the seat.” maybe that's why this race is drawing such interest from political idealists from new york to minnesota. i don't know whether charles wheelan qualifies as squeaky clean, but i know he's not corrupt. here's hoping he can raise enough cash and garner enough publicity to have a real shot in the april 7th special election.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

sociologists rank 8th on WSJ's "best jobs" list

hmmm -- maybe academic life isn't so terrible after all. according to the wall street journal, social scientists have darn fine jobs.

i was surprised to see parole officer wedged in there between physicist and meteorologist at #14, but otherwise the list seems to track sociological indices of occupational prestige, s.e.i., and the old quality of employment surveys.

while the high ranking for sociologists may temper my bellyaching, i'll still harbor fantasies about a second career as a roustabout.

The Best and Worst Jobs

The Best
1. Mathematician
2. Actuary
3. Statistician
4. Biologist
5. Software Engineer
6. Computer Systems Analyst
7. Historian

8. Sociologist
Overall Ranking: 8
Overall Score: 204
Work Environment: 318.290
Physical Demands: 5.09
Stress: 34.100
Income: $63,195
Hours per Week:45


9. Industrial Designer
10. Accountant
11. Economist
12. Philosopher
13. Physicist
14. Parole Officer
15. Meteorologist
16. Medical Laboratory Technician
17. Paralegal Assistant
18. Computer Programmer
19. Motion Picture Editor
20. Astronomer

The Worst
200. Lumberjack
199. Dairy Farmer
198. Taxi Driver
197. Seaman
196. EMT
195. Garbage Collector
194. Welder
193. Roustabout
192. Ironworker
191. Construction Worker
190. Mail Carrier
189. Sheet Metal Worker
188. Auto Mechanic
187. Butcher
186. Nuclear Decontamination Tech
185. Nurse (LN)
184. Painter
183. Child Care Worker
182. Firefighter
181. Brick Layer

More on Methodology
For methodology info and detailed job descriptions, go to
http://careercast.com/jobs/content/JobsRated_Methodology
See the complete list of job rankings

Monday, January 05, 2009

malcolm gladwell and minnesota exceptionalism

malcolm gladwell recently posted a confirmatory update regarding the superior math performance of asian students.

In my new book "Outliers," I spend a chapter trying to explain why Asian schoolchildren perform so much better at mathematics than their Western counterparts. The principal source of data on international math achievement is what's called TIMS--which is a standardized test adminsitered to kids around the world every four years. At the time of writing, the results of the 2007 TIMS were not yet in. But now they are, and they reaffirm what I was trying to address in Outliers. The gap between the Japan, South Korean, Hong Kong, Tawian and Singapore--and the rest of the world--is enormous and growing...

A more modest gap between Asian and the rest of the world could, I think, be safely explained with conventional arguments about differences in pedagogy, or school funding or some such. But 40 percent versus 5 percnet? Differences of this magnitude require more fundamental explanations, which is why I felt it necessary to make such a strong cultural/historical claim in my book.*

at the risk of oversimplification, mr. gladwell argues that the asian math advantage can be traced to centuries of full-year labor-intensive rice-growing (which engenders diligence) and more efficient and easily-learned number-naming systems (which makes it easier to count). before going too far down this cultural and historical road, however, we might examine the state-specific 2007 TIMSS results. here's diane ravitch in forbes:

If we want to see genuine improvement, we should pay attention to Minnesota's dramatic ascent over the past decade. That state adopted a coherent, focused, grade-by-grade math curriculum developed by a team of Michigan State University scholars and led by Professor William Schmidt. Minnesota competed in the TIMSS study and saw its scores jump from mediocre to world-class.

While the U.S. continues to rank well below the top-performing nations, Minnesota now ranks fifth in the world, behind only Hong Kong, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Japan. While U.S. fourth-graders saw a gain of 11 points, Minnesota's students had a gain of 38 points. Schmidt commented, "Minnesota had more than three times the gain indicated for the United States as a whole. They have left the U.S. behind."

Any state could do what Minnesota did. All it requires is implementing a well-designed, coherent curriculum in mathematics and science. Teachers need to know what is expected and should have the appropriate training and resources to enable their students to reach world standards.

as a school reform advocate, mr. gladwell would surely attribute minnesota's recent improvements to changes in curriculum (or, perhaps, instruction) rather than, say, native ojibwe rice-gathering traditions. heck, minnesota might offer the ultimate test-case for societies lacking a tradition of full-year farming and efficient counting. for there are two things everybody knows about minnesota: (1) it is way too cold to farm year-round up here; and, (2) as senator frankencoleman will tell you, we're very slow counters.

* yes, as a matter of fact i did notice the typos in mr. gladwell's post. it just seems too snarky to draw attention to them with a [sic] and too presumptuous to correct them from my li'l glass house.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

top 10 reasons that bloggers make lists

friends in publishing tell me that lists are "talkers" that sell magazines and generate good pub. that's why the next issue of contexts will feature the top-10 sociology hunks of 2008 and 20 ways to a sociological imagination and a flat stomach.

lists are even more popular on talk radio and blogs, featuring prominently in stereogum's 50 most discussed posts of 2008:

01. VH1's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs
02. Third Eye Blind Submit "Non-Dairy Creamer" To Worst Song Of 2008 Contest 03. Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time
04. Meat Loaf And Tiffany Duet (For An Uncomfortably Long Time) For AT&T's GoPhone
05. The 20 Albums We're Most Excited To Hear In 2009
06. NME's 25 Bands Making America Cool Again
07. The A.V. Club's 20 Acts That Peaked With The Debut Album
08. Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums Of 2008
09. Paste's
Top 50 Of 2008
10. Premature Evaluation: Coldplay - Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
11. Bonnaroo: The Sun Exposes Kanye's Glow In The Dark Show
12. Uncut's Top 50 & Mojo's Top 50 of 2008
13. Liveblogging The 2008 Grammys
14. Pitchfork's Top 100 Tracks Of 2008
15. Gummy Awards 2008: Polls Are Open!
...

list stories are especially well-suited to interactive media because they are rarely based on expert knowledge or sophisticated methodology. we're all equally well-positioned to pop off and share our opinions on, say, the curious omission of the sex pistols and guns n' roses from the twenty acts that peaked with the debut album.