Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Six People Killed and Thirteen Injured at University of California, Santa Barbara

I'm reading and thinking about the shootings at University of California, Santa Barbara and the victims who were killed. Click here to read a New York Times article with powerful quotes from students on campus. Also, the article talks about the #yesallwomen hashtag.

And here is a link to an article and video at Democracy Now. Rebecca Solnit offers a lot of analysis in the interview to put the murders into a larger context. She also talks about the #yesallwomen hashtag. A full transcript is available.

Jessica Valenti wrote an article "Elliot Rodger's California Shooting Spree: Further Proof that Misogyny Kills" here at The Guardian. She writes: "If we need to talk about this tragic shooting in terms of illness, though, let's start with talking about our cultural sickness – a sickness that refuses to see misogyny as anything other than inevitable.......The truth is that there is no such thing as a lone misogynist – they are created by our culture, and by communities that tells them that their hatred is both commonplace and justified."

Amanda Hess wrote an excellent article at Slate entitled "'If I Can’t Have Them, No One Will': How Misogyny Kills Men." She writes: "Rodger viewed women as objects, and he resented other men for hoarding what he viewed as his property. “If I can’t have them,” he wrote, “no one will.”" She concludes her piece by writing: "Elliot Rodger targeted women out of entitlement, their male partners out of jealousy, and unrelated male bystanders out of expedience. This is not ammunition for an argument that he was a misandrist at heart—it’s evidence of the horrific extent of misogyny’s cultural reach."

At The Nation, Dave Zirin writes about the culture of violence against women.

Here in the New York Daily News, Michael Kimmel and Cliff Leek point out that race and racism played a role in the murders.

This is an article at Time that focuses on the killer and discusses sex, masculinity and violence.

More info about what happened at CNN website.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Roger Ebert on Gun Violence

Roger Ebert wrote an article "We've Seen This Movie Before" in July 2012 after people were killed in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Click here to read it on the New York Times website.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lowest of the Low Pleases the Crowd at a Buffalo Concert

I like this Lowest of the Low concert footage in Buffalo because it's a good song and the crowd was pleased with a reference to a well-known bar in Buffalo (The Pink).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Inspired by Amazing Catch, a Sociologist Offers Brief Reflection on Craft

This might be the best catch I've seen in my life.

L.A. Dodger Yasiel Puig made that catch in a game yesterday. To be that good at something, I wish. I plan to revisit this catch often. It's a person in action at work, an exceptional moment. How much practice is required in order to make a play like this? Commentators might be quick to attribute a catch like this to "physical talent," but I read it as someone who enjoyed an outstanding moment in the course of working at one's craft.

If I have a moment like this in my life, it won't involve making a spectacular play on a baseball field. In my profession, it would be a superb act of teaching in the classroom, or an awesome burst of writing. I constantly work at the craft of teaching and writing. I strive for excellence in the classroom, and I'm forever in pursuit of the perfect sentence. I can only hope to make a catch like this in my field someday.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sociological Nostalgia Trip

I used to frequent this book store on Main Street in Niagara Falls, NY. I hadn't been there in a long time. Spent some time there today.

I scored some used books. The bottom one is hard to see. It's Masters of Sociological Thought by Lewis Coser. I got it because of the Stony Brook connection. Coser was affiliated with State University of New York at Stony Brook (I don't know for how long) and that's where I went to grad school and completed my Ph.D. in Sociology.

It was a nice day, so I decided to visit the mighty Niagara Falls. I've been there hundreds of times, having grown up in Niagara Falls and worked a job scooping ice cream near the Falls in my teen years. I try not to take it for granted, and go there at least once a year. I made a one-minute recording:

Afterward, driving through the city, I noticed the stairs of my old high school are badly damaged. The old Niagara Falls High School, on Pine Avenue. I stopped to take a picture. I graduated from this school in 1990. It's not a school anymore.

I was on the track team in high school. But we didn't have a track. There were no outdoor athletic facilities at the school. The football, baseball, and soccer teams practiced at a park a mile away. We practiced at a beat up track about a mile away. Our "home" track for meets belonged to a different school.

Looking at the steps reminded me of our graduation class picture all those years ago. So of course I found my yearbook.

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe I'm a sociology professor at a university located a few miles from where I grew up and went to school.

The end.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good Teaching: A Pleasant Reminder

I went to Wegmans about an hour ago to get a few meals from the prepared foods section. It's an easy way to have a variety of meats and vegetables in the fridge ready for the family. I like to cook but I'm unlikely to devote a portion of a typical day to cooking ribs, green beans, yams, roasted cauliflower, and potato salad (the foods I obtained today). Anyway, in going through the line an experienced worker fielded my order and then walked her co-worker through the process of filling the order. It's not a simple matter of heaping foods into a container as fast as possible (which I might be tempted to do as a worker). The experienced worker was specific in explaining the approximate portion size of each food and how it should be placed in the container. She showed her co-worker how to print a price sticker for the container. She worked in a few other tidbits related to the process, all while making eye contact with me and her co-worker. She did all of this with enthusiasm. I didn't sense any phoniness or forced corporate energy. It seemed to me the worker cares about her job and takes it seriously. She gave me a great illustration of what it looks like to treat a co-worker with respect.

All through the interaction I bit my tongue and refrained from saying to the less experienced worker "You have a good teacher there." I have a habit of blurting out things and making basic observations in public. I wanted to offer the compliment out loud, but decided to shut up. And here I am an hour later blogging about it. Point being, it would have been easy for the experienced worker to go through the motions of the task in a miserable fashion. The experienced worker could have talked too fast, or talked down to her co-worker, or have been rude to me and/or her co-worker. Instead, the veteran worker did the job and did it well with patience and a good attitude. It was a pleasant reminder of how to behave in the college classroom as a teacher. As a professor, I need to explain things well, do it with patience, and do it without going through the motions. Enjoy each small teaching moment as if it's the first time I've done it. Convey knowledge without talking down to students. And hugely important, treat my students with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Visual Sociology (a Video)

Akello Stone is interesting here in talking about visual sociology. Toward the end of the video, Stone says: "I remain really optimistic that there's like a new regime of sociologists who are going to naturally gravitate towards the construction and interpretation and analysis of visual imagery, that will be their conduit, that will be something that they were immersed in as they have gone through their education, that's something they're gonna be immersed in in their personal life on a daily basis. And so if they're able to capitalize on that which they've already been doing, and use it to advance the field, use it to maintain the integrity, it's really not interfering with the original ideas and concepts and theories and things that are developed, it's a conduit for illuminating those in a new way so you can reach more people."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Dream about Giant Contact Lenses

A few nights ago I had a dream in which I was trying to stuff giant contact lenses into my eyes. I tried and tried again, but no way was a lens ten times the shape of a normal lens going to fit. Why was I dreaming about contacts in the first place? I gave up on contact lenses long ago. I only wear glasses. Yet this is the second time I can recall having this dream.

What, I wondered aloud, is up with that? I googled my way to an acceptable answer. I found some analysis that suggested the dream has to do with decision-making. Then I came across a tidbit that totally rang true: the huge contact dream is possibly about dealing with competing projects. Nothing dramatic here. It's not as if I have a deep desire to have an extramarital affair or some secret wish to do a TED talk. So no high-flying excitement in this little post. I latched onto the word "project" when I saw it, satisfied that the dream captured how I usually feel at the end of the semester. Inevitably, I'm a little "out of sorts" when the semester concludes and the routine I've had for the academic year comes to a crashing halt. It's hard to close the book on an academic year. It takes a little time to get my mind right and move on to summer.

So the dream helped me remember that I need to develop a summer routine in order to be productive for the next few months. I have a four-week Social Stratification course that begins in mid-June, so that gives me the next month to prepare it and to do some writing (I'm working on the second edition of my book Sociology in Stories). After the course ends, I'll continue writing and teach a short Introduction to Sociology course that begins in late July. It's a course that only lasts nine days. This will be my third time teaching the course. It's four hours a day and is taught to local high school students. I find it to be a very rewarding teaching experience, especially because some of the students are from Niagara Falls High School, my alma mater.

The summer courses and writing I need to do are the projects that will occupy my summer. I don't have full days of work ahead of me. Because kids. Summer for me is a mix of family time and work time; more family time than work time, an overall good balance of being with family and doing work. I just need to get organized and settle into a new routine so I won't have weird dreams of trying to insert enormous lenses into my eyes.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sociology of Friendship: A Writing Assignment

I've been thinking about friendship since I opened a fortune cookie a few days ago.

So I wrote these questions to encourage a reflection about friendship.

1. How do you define "friend"? When you hear "friend," what words come to mind?

2. Describe the characteristics of your closest friends.

3. What are 2-3 qualities you most value in a friend?

4. What do you think you offer to others as a friend?

5. Is there a time in your life when you've been let down by a friend? How about a time you've disappointed a friend? Explain the situation(s) and whether you learned something from what happened.

6. Do you think it's important to form friendships with people of another gender? Explain your answer.

7. Click here to read a blog post by Lisa Wade about male friendship. She writes: "Men are more likely to get together and do stuff: they watch football together, go out and play pool, have poker nights, etc. Women are more likely to spend time just talking, confessing, disclosing, and being supportive of each other’s feelings." Based on your experiences, has this been true? Discuss. Also, watch the Guinness commercial that is included in the blog post. After reading Wade's analysis of the commercial, respond with your own thoughts about the commercial.

8. Click here to read the article "The Politics of Being Friends with White People" by Brittany Cooper. Mention some points that stand out from the article. Cooper writes: "Maintaining integrated friendships past a certain age is more struggle than triumph." She says "interracial friendships, especially in adulthood, require a level of risk and vulnerability that many of us would rather simply not deal with." Write a response to her point of view.

9. How do you think your friends see you? To help answer this question, think of how they might fill in the blank to a sentence about you with three difference answers (pretend for a moment your name is Tanya).
Tanya is _____________________________________.

10. To conclude this assignment, think about the friends that have been important to you throughout your life. What are some insights about yourself that you can write about based on the important friendships you have made? In other words, what do the important friends in your life tell you about you?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Two Days of Grading

I've been working at home for two days in a row. I spent both days grading. I just realized it never occurred to me to turn on the television. In these two days I graded with a fair amount of discipline. Procrastination came into play, no doubt. In years past, I probably would've watched at least a little bit of TV in between grading. But daytime television holds almost no appeal these days. I've cut almost all cable news out of my diet, and I'm not one to channel surf during the day. Unless the Yankees are playing a day game, it usually doesn't occur to me to turn on the TV in daytime hours. So my breaks from grading mostly consisted of responding to e-mails and watching Twitter (in a way, as I've written before, I think of Twitter and Facebook as television).

Well that's a quick and simple thought for the day. Back to grading.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

An Uninspiring Greeting Card

While browsing greeting cards today, I came across this depressing product:

Sure, we all have flaws, but to lead off with "shortcomings"???

Possible translation: "I know I don't have much to offer, so thanks for sticking with me."

So this is love?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Little Bit of Niagara Falls, NY

A bumpy ride this afternoon on the way to my parents house, in the Hyde Park area of Niagara Falls where I grew up. Sorry about the side view mirror in the video!