Monday, August 31, 2015

Three Words of Wisdom for New Professors

I was asked to attend the new faculty orientation and offer words of wisdom about teaching our students. I gave them three great words to use in the classroom and I'll share them here: “I don’t know.” It’s liberating to say "I don't know" in the classroom.

There are lots of times I'm caught off guard and there are many times I just don't have the answer. So I say things like "I have to think about that" and "I’d have to read up on that before I give you a clear and confident answer." None of us knows it all, so I take the pressure off myself by not pretending to be a know it all.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kleenex Commercial Accurately Points Out That Boys Care About Feelings

This commercial caught my eye this morning. A boy gives a brief sociological speech about how boys aren't all about being loud and immature. In fact, he explains, boys care about feelings. He proves it by handing a tissue to a girl who is crying about the first day of school. Not bad. I might have written the commercial a different way. Imagine the boy handing a tissue to another boy--that would have been a welcome image. As the actual commercial plays out, it could be read as a young fella helping out a young damsel in distress. It's not a perfect commercial by any stretch, but what commercial is without its flaws and critics? This one isn't bad because it acknowledges the simple truth that boys care about feelings.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Song of the Day - "Mystery" by Boxed In

I like this song. Especially the drums and piano.

"Inspiration comes from the most unfamiliar places" - very good line.

"What will be, will just be" - also a good line, and probably true.

Click here for background about the song or here for analysis of the lyrics.

I like how this song captures the early phase of a relationship ("Back to the place where we went slow").

"Mystery" in this song can mean lots of things -- a person's vulnerabilities, their naked truth, their naked body. When you fall for someone, you want to see everything about the person. You want to be with the person, totally. If you stay together long enough, you grow together and hopefully look back to your early days as a couple with happy memories. In times of trouble, it might even help to look back to when you first met and believed you were at your best.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Couple Tries to Jazz Up Their Relationship with Frozen Pizza

This commercial for Bon Appetit pizza came across my television screen this morning. Much goes wrong here. Pizza out of a box does not scream "date night" to me. Somehow, boxed pizza becomes a solution to a relationship that has been dulled by hashtags and selfies. They try to ignite a spark by using a phone as a coaster and eating pizza with basil and cherry tomatoes. Problem is, the relevant peer-reviewed research clearly tells us that frozen pizza is not an aphrodisiac. I'm afraid this couple is at a crossroads and a sharp turn to Tinder seems inevitable. Don't worry, Bon Appetit marketing folks, I have many fixes in mind for this commercial. You know where to find me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Apple Watch. To Buy or Not to Buy? That's Always the Question.

Do I need this computer on my wrist? Hell if I know. I still don't know if I need an iPhone in my pocket but you convinced me anyway. This watch will probably sell big because it will make people feel like superheroes. Now if you can combine a computer with a Trapper Keeper, call me, I'd be all in for that baby!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates - Between the World and Me

I read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates over the course of three days. He is a tremendously talented writer. His book reads like poetry and history. At other times it reads like a memoir. Above all it is a letter to his son. I definitely recommend it and can assure you it will stay in my brain, like Derrick Bell's Faces at the Bottom of the Well (a book that Coates references in Between the World and Me). I think it's an important book that people will be talking about for a long time. 

No part of me would react by telling Coates he distorts history and I certainly wouldn't lecture him about the American Dream, as David Brooks did. The book puts me in a deeply reflective mode. It's a serious book and I hope to be able to talk about it in serious ways with friends and colleagues who've read it. I also want my sons to read it when they get older. 

I have written about my sons (ages 7 and 4) on this blog in whimsical ways. Look through the blog if you care and see them having fun and see me celebrating them. I have imagined myself writing letters of my own to them some day. In fact, one of the reasons I keep this blog is so they can see what their father was up to for a stretch of his life if they are moved to do so. If I were to write a book with them in mind some day, it would sound almost totally different from what Coates wrote, and that's one of the points of his book. Different positions in American society lead to different vantage points about America. I can't tell Ta-Nehisi Coates what to think about the American Dream. It would be wrong and arrogant for me to do. I think he knows more about the American Dream than David Brooks. I think he knows more about America than I ever will. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sociology on the 4th of July

As we know, there are no days off in sociology. Every day is a good day to use our sociological imaginations. The 4th of July presents a nice opportunity. Keep an eye on how people perform patriotism. Maybe it's flags in their yard. Maybe they're wearing red, white, and blue. Maybe they're roaming through the streets chanting U.S.A. U.S.A. Okay, probably not the last one.

Will you be attending a cookout-barbecue? If so, pay attention to who does the grilling. Will it be a fella who "mans" the grill? How is the work shared at the party? Who's watching the kids and engaging them in fun activities? Is drinking taking place? If so, do you notice a difference between what men and women are drinking, or is it Bud Light for everyone? Any party is a good party to observe what people are talking about--aside from actually participating in conversation, I like to observe if people are talking about work, sports, family, politics, celebrities, etc.

So while you have some beverages and devour hot dogs (or is your party more upscale?), put on your sociological thinking cap and analyze the fine and awkward art of social interaction! I'd be honored if you share your observations with me sometime.