Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"The Internet Thrives on Humiliation"

I don't want to lose track of my favorite sentence in a recent New York Times article about the Crying Jordan meme: "The internet thrives on humiliation." The follow-up sentence is good too: "Twitter is always raring for a public shaming."  It's a good analysis of a popular meme that I might share with my Intro to Sociology classes in the fall. Students liked a class session last year when we talked about Drake's Hotline Bling meme.

Friday, June 3, 2016

(Dis)Trust of Fellow Man

Walking through the supermarket parking lot today, a young man seemed to be walking toward me. I tensed up a bit, wondering why he was coming close to me. He said "Gotta love it when you can't find your car," or something like that. He pivoted away from me and walked on. I watched him until he in fact stepped into his car. Hmmm. Nothing more than a guy walking to his car.

I have documented a beating I received, long ago, at the hands of a stranger. Since then, I've been on edge in public space. Also, recall I recently witnessed an angry man shouting obscenities in a crowded store. You just wonder when someone is going to snap.

And yet, my brief parking lot interaction was only about twenty minutes after a pleasant interaction with a stranger who sold me chairs. I responded to a Craigslist ad for these chairs.

$35 for the pair. A pretty good find, I'd say.

I was only a little nervous going to meet the seller, who turned out to be friendly and easy to deal with. I wonder how one's position in society (race, gender, class, etc.) influences their anxiety level prior to a Craigslist transaction. The man I dealt with actually made a remark about Craigslist. I already forgot how he put it, but the point he was making was that there are dangerous people in the world and you never know who you might encounter. Maybe we were both relieved at the ease of our transaction.

On a lighter note, the reason I went to the grocery store was to buy a sweet potato, so I could make sweet potato pancakes for lunch. Can you have sweet potato pancakes for lunch? It's an important food question, much like the question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich (of course it is not). I don't know what the rule book says about sweet potato pancakes for lunch, I just know I need to eat something other than deli meat and salads for lunch on occasion.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Time and Music

Time is such a precious resource. Pressed for time. Stretched for time. No time. Time out. Time on my hands. It's something just to have time. What are you doing with your time? Who does your time belong to? I'm happy to have time with the academic year being over. People ask me what I'm doing this summer. I hear myself saying, often, "I usually teach summer classes. Not this summer." It gave me more time. I hear myself saying "The summer courses were good for home improvement projects." That means I didn't have to teach summer courses to pay the normal bills. I'm fortunate to be in a position to not have to rely on summer courses in order to pay the regular expenses.

Time means different things on different days. Time to write. Time to think. Remember the life of the mind? Time to actually think through something. Time to wait for inspiration. Time for an idea to come together. Time to read. Time to let your mind wander. Time to observe. Time to talk with people.

Today was time to have a pleasant morning. A calm morning. Fold the laundry. Go for a jog. Get an oil change. Go to the grocery store. Make lunch. Write this blog post. Listen to music. Listen to a song enough times that it grows on me, like Radiohead's Burn the Witch. Time to listen to music that makes me feel--this is the summer of listening to the Tragically Hip, a band that I listened to a lot in the 1990s. I'm getting reacquainted with their music. I always feel something listening to their songs. Their music takes on new meaning in light of news that lead singer Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer.

Time to think about life and death.

Time: a luxury, a necessity.

Fortunate to have more time.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I Much Prefer the Mundane

Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett is the soundtrack to this blog. Like she says in the song, I much prefer the mundane. The song is a story about a personal health scare. She sings "The paramedic thinks I'm clever cause I play guitar, I think she's clever cause she stops people dying." I think Barnett is brilliant. Some of her songs I especially like are Pedestrian at Best, Depreston, and Nobody Really Cares if You Don't Go to the Party. Which is so true, nobody really cares if you don't go to the party. Getting back to the mundane: I go for the ordinary and try to capture the simple moments of life. And so there are posts about broccoli, meal planning, lunch, insomnia, grading, etc. I have avoided writing about some serious personal moments in my life. I don't document terrible things that have happened to my family and friends. The mundane is understandably attractive in contrast to, say, personal health problems, serious accidents and injuries, chronic illness, and other afflictions. The mundane is beautiful. I cannot say the same for frightening and tragic occurrences.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thinking about Garbage

I'm reading a good book by anthropologist Joshua Reno. The title is Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill. I learned of this book from a write up in The Atlantic. Here's a video of me talking about what's on my mind as I make my way through the book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Cereal Aisle is the Worst (Plus a Great Quote from Elbert Hubbard)

I love grocery stores. They might be the place in society where I feel most comfortable. It's a toss up between grocery stores and classrooms. But the cereal aisle is a pain in the Trump. See if you can find Krave, my 8-year-old's cereal of choice.

That wasn't playing fair. It's in the blurry part of the first picture, bottom shelf.

Before my trip to the grocery store today, I took a stroll through the lovely village of East Aurora, NY. They have nice garbage bins on their main street. The bins have quotes. This one by Elbert Hubbard caught my eye:

Words to live by.

Checking in with Matt Loveland

Matt Loveland is a sociologist working at Le Moyne College. He blogs at milieuXmorass. He generously agreed to answer interview questions that I e-mailed to him. You can find him on Twitter at @mtloveland.

TS: I only have two Wilco songs on my iTunes, Handshake Drugs and Heavy Metal Drummer. Can you suggest a few more?

ML: ​Handshake Drugs is one of my favorite Wilco songs, and that whole album (A Ghost is Born) is great. A bunch of my favorites on that one. Hummingbird is​ probably my favorite, and Theologians, and The Late Greats. I like Summer Teeth (the song) a lot, and that album is good. Another favorite is Misunderstood from Being There, another fantastic album. I don't think you can separate Wilco songs from the albums. Buy the albums, Todd. Not the tracks. Come on.

TS: ​In a maximum of 10 words, describe Trump.

​ML: Ignorant, racist, crass, xenophobe born on third base.​

TS: What are you working on?

ML: ​Right at this moment, student learning assessment. Yuck. Rest of the summer, a paper about how atheists are more trusting of others than religious people are. Longer term, a paper about Catholics who have born-again religious experiences.

TS: Tell us why you think baseball is great. Tell us why you think the Beatles aren't great.

ML: ​First, it's not that I think the Beatles aren't great. I mean, maybe I don't think they are great. I don't think they suck. They just don't move me. Uninteresting songs and drugged out studio goofing. It's fine if you don't like rock and roll, I guess. It's pop. Fine. Pop is fine. Ok, baseball. Baseball is great for all of the boring reasons you'd expect. Beer. Sunshine. Friends. The 7th Inning Stretch. It's great because it's terribly hard and it's fun to watch people excel at things. It's great because you have to think about each situation and what's probably about to happen and then you see if it does. Last week I saw Syracuse Chief Brian Goodwin hit an 2-0 grand slam. That was amazing. I'm sitting there thinking 'watch close because this is an action pitch.' And then, bam. Smoked it. It's also great because if you don't want to pay attention that closely you've got beer, sunshine, and friends.

TS: A few of your favorite Twitter follows?

ML: Hmm. This one is tricky. There's a lot, Todd. What if I said I don't even think of Twitter as a bunch of separate follows but rather just one never ending conversation with a bunch of people, and bots, and whatever?

TS: Picture a student who only takes one sociology course, and it’s your Intro to Sociology course. What are a few essential things you want them to learn in your course?

ML: I don't care about teaching sociology's 'facts.' I teach that sociology is a way of being in the world. We are all the subject of social forces, and we need to understand that everybody else is too. The perspective I try to really hit home is History / Biography and the Sociological Imagination. Maybe that's trite.

TS: If there was one thing you could change about academic conferences, what would it be?

ML: Schedule them when the nearest baseball team is on a home stand.​ ​

TS: Anything sociological you look forward to reading this summer?

ML: I don't know if it's sociological necessarily, but​ I'm looking forward to reading Nick Bostrom's 'Superintelligence.' It's about the development of AI and how it might affect being human in the future. Do we even need humans in the future? It seems unlikely to me. I'm also finishing up 'The Only Rule is it Has to Work,' a baseball analytics book that has some pretty good sociology in it if you know what you are looking for.