Chris Uggen's Blog: October 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

be safe: keep one in your purse or wallet

Now that our enterprising grad board has established a contexts facebook group, I'm meeting new friends and supporters. We don't have much to offer in the way of swag, but I can at least send out a guitar pick to anyone requesting one (via a comment or email with a snail mail address).

For those who haven't heard, I made these to herald the new website before the annual sociology meetings in August. In honor of our web editor/shredder, I made them to Smajdian specifications -- medium heavy (1mm), non-slip, and virtually unbreakable. The picks seemed popular among our core contexts constituency, many of whom strang a little themselves. Given my work and family backlog and upcoming travel schedule, please allow a few weeks for delivery.

super bowl, schmuper bowl

Some competitions start out as a lighthearted goof, but grow intense once the games begin. As the battle-scarred veteran of putatively friendly games that end in bloodshed, I love ESPN's rebroadcast of a classic Vikes-Steelers battle from the superstars and battle of the network stars era: Superteams!

And yes, that's current MN Supreme Court Justice Alan Page anchoring the men in powder blue. As Steve Rushin put it,

As I recall it, Page more or less pulled the entire Steelers team across the line -- they appeared to be barefoot water-skiing in the sand --- and then both teams collapsed in a pile of biceps, mustaches, muttonchops, jogging shorts and tube socks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

of poe and paisley

According to my sources at Lula, you'll be seeing lots of Mad Men costumes this weekend. Hmm. I'd need to rein in the hair, but with a little work I might be able to pull off a passable Roger Sterling.

If you are looking for something more literary, I'd suggest assembling one of these fine costumes from Poe and Emily Dickinson seem do-able, but I've sort of got my eye on that WC Williams -- maybe fill that red wheelbarrow with almond joy bars and dots.

Though I love the velvet blazer look, I've never been much for Poe this time of year. As an alternative, I'll offer this seriously creepy and wicked-good new poem from Paisley Rekdal of the University of Utah.

by Paisley Rekdal

unveil themselves in dark.
They hang, each a jagged,

silken sleeve, from moonlit rafters bright
as polished knives. They swim

the muddled air and keen
like supersonic babies, the sound

we imagine empty wombs might make
in women who can’t fill them up.

A clasp, a scratch, a sigh.
They drink fruit dry.

And wheel, against feverish light flung hard
upon their faces,

in circles that nauseate.
Imagine one at breast or neck,

Patterning a name in driblets of iodine
that spatter your skin stars.

They flutter, shake like mystics.
They materialize. Revelatory

as a stranger’s underthings found tossed
upon the marital bed, you tremble

even at the thought. Asleep,
you tear your fingers

and search the sheets all night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

as if "From the Editors" wasn't enough

We generally try to avoid "inside sociology" stuff at contexts, but you can hear my bloviations and those of Doug E. Fresh on today's podcast. Though we were a tiny bit ambivalent about going toe-to-toe with Smajda and the Woz, this was a fun interview. Painful for the listener, perhaps, but fun for us.

You can also hear Sarah Lageson's fine intro and outro on this episode, plus Jesse Wozniak interviewing Sarah Shannon on David Kirk's great new Katrina/recidivism piece in ASR.* I'm continually amazed at the talented grad students here at Contexts World Headquarters, but especially happy to hear advisees sounding so much more articulate and authoritative than their advisor. If our grad board is any indication, the next generation of contexts-like sociological outreach is gonna leave me and doug in the dust.

*Sarah S. is also guest-posting today at public criminology.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

so that's what landlords mean by a progressive neighborhood

Aaron Renn offers this figure in new geography (via Althouse), noting how the so-called “progressive” cities of Austin, Denver, Minneapolis, and Portland are distinguished as much by their whiteness as by their progressiveness.

Mr. Renn's provocative punch line: "As the college educated flock to these progressive El Dorados, many factors are cited as reasons: transit systems, density, bike lanes, walkable communities, robust art and cultural scenes. But another way to look at it is simply as White Flight writ large."

As a Minnesotan, I could offer a few defensive counterarguments (e.g., aren't many of the whites moving to Minneapolis coming from even whiter places like Cando, ND?). As a sociologist, however, I recognize a creepy and disturbing kernel of truth to Renn's account.

Friday, October 23, 2009

a million here, a million there, pretty soon it starts to add up

When i started blogging four years ago, I stuck a simple hit counter on the bottom of this page and my work site. Now the odometer has flipped past the million hit mark. I harbor no illusions about the importance or meaning of my posts and I'm guessing that I personally account for a good portion of that number. Still...

Starting out, i figured about ten hits per day would be the break-even point for continuing to post, so it is humbling to think so many people would stop on by. I can only say thank you for your kind attention and indulgence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

and they'd make *awesome* placemats

Political binaries are oversimplifications, but this lefty/righty concept map from information is beautiful strikes me as a clever and artful representation. The creators are David McCandless and information artist Stefanie Posavec, taken from McCandless' forthcoming The Visual Miscellaneum.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

melon volley and the infinite sandman

Of all the rainbow-striped melon-smashing metallica cover bands featuring Minnesota sociology alums, Metallagher is definitely my favorite. Or at least top-5. Well, brace yourself: I just received email confirmation that worlds are indeed colliding.

From the band's facebook and myspace sites:

The rumors are 100% true. Metallagher will be playing with the real Gallagher. That's right. The guy with the mustache and giant couch. This will be the most insane night of your life. Do not miss it. Gallagher will show this town how to destroy a venue.

Gallagher (the real Gallagher that you grew up with) is touring across America and making a stop in St. Paul where he will be performing on the same stage as Metallagher. Maybe he can show us a thing or two. This is not to be missed! This is THE REAL GALLAGHER and THIS IS NOT A JOKE! Purchase tickets at Station 4.

City Pages has the story. Wear old clothes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sexuality and Society is excited to welcome a new sexualities blog from Kari Lerum and Shari Dworkin:

Sexuality & Society explores the intersections between culture, sexuality, social inequality, health, and policy, bringing sociological and interdisciplinary analysis to contemporary sexuality trends.

One of the first posts comments on Orrin Hatch's proposal to restore $50 million per year in funding for abstinence-only sex education during National Sex Education week. The authors welcome potential story ideas, research links, and guest posts at

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I survived random assignment

I attended an amazing conference on employment and criminal records yesterday and could blog at length about several of the papers. My favorite moment, however, came in a discussion with Mindy Tarlow, the CEO of CEO -- New York's Center for Employment Opportunities.

Ms. Tarlow has been providing employment services for recent prison releasees at CEO for about 15 years. As the Times reported last year, They do job readiness training, transitional employment, job placement, and retention. The transitional jobs are especially important for new releasees -- they can be on the job site just days after incarceration and they get a paycheck at the end of each day to address their pressing financial needs.

I've long appreciated the program's approach, but hadn't seen what I'd consider really solid evidence on its effectiveness until yesterday. CEO now has 2 years of data from an independent randomized evaluation by MDRC -- and they're showing significant treatment-control differences in new confictions and incarceration.

When I remarked that it takes real guts for an agency to voluntarily subject itself to rigorous assessment, Mindy said, "I know. MDRC gave me this button that says I survived random assignment."

Monday, October 05, 2009

John Laub to head NIJ

via Katie Kaukinen: President Obama announced his intent to nominate the great life course criminologist John Laub to head the National Institute of Justice. I can't imagine a better candidate for NIJ director.

John H. Laub – Director, National Institute of Justice, Department of Justice.
John Laub is the Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also an Affiliate Faculty Member in the Department of Sociology at the University and a Visiting Scholar in the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard. Dr. Laub was previously a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts from 1981 to 1998. He has served as the President and as a fellow of the American Society of Criminology, which awarded him the Edwin H. Sutherland Award. He was also named a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland for the 2006-2007 academic year. Dr. Laub was the Editor of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology for five years and currently serves as an Associate Editor of Criminology. From 2002 to 2008, Dr. Laub was a member of the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Academies of Science. He has published two award winning books and many research articles in the areas of crime and the life course, juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice, criminal victimization, and the history of criminology. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in criminal justice from the State University of New York at Albany.