Thursday, December 28, 2017

Revenge Body is a Social Construction

I don't sleep well. On top of the punishment of being a bad sleeper is the punishment of what's on TV in the wee hours of the morning. I turned on the tube at 3:00ish this morning to find Revenge Body, a reality show on E! featuring Khloe Kardashian.

I will not go on a Kardashian rant. No one wants that from me.

Nor will I assail reality TV.

I will report that I could only stomach 15 seconds of the show.

Until a moment ago I still had no grasp of what "revenge body" means. It's one of those newfangled terms that serves as a reminder that some of us are old.

I was looking for a description of the show and came across this fine summary which also works as a primer on the term "revenge body." If you are of a certain age, you already know what it means.

As for me, I can't unlearn this new knowledge. And now my students can look forward to me trying to drop a Revenge Body reference at just the right time during the upcoming semester. I will let you know if I nail it, or, just as likely, if the attempt falls flat.

Stay tuned.

Simple Cooking

I didn't keep track, but my guess is that I cooked more meals in 2017 than in any year prior. For me, cooking is a fun, and I like the challenge of making meals that my family finds tasty. I don't want to be hollering at my kids to FINISH YOUR MEAL. I want them to enjoy their food. Does it always work out nicely? Hell no. There are many "eeewwws" and unimpressed faces but overall the kids do alright in eating what's put in front of them.

Again, I didn't keep track, but I probably spent more time watching Food Network this year than ever before. Funny, the more I watch and become acquainted with new ingredients and new culinary terms, the more I keep things simple in the kitchen. For instance, today's lunch was quesadillas. If you watch Food Network for a few hours on any given day chances are you'll see someone whipping up a fancy version of a quesadilla or taco. But I stay in my simple lane. For the kids I made black bean quesadillas. Using black beans was an easy way to get them some nutritional value. It's common for me to make a slightly different version of a meal for my wife and me. My kids hate zucchini unless it's breaded and fried. So I diced up zucchini and made black bean and zucchini quesadillas for my wife and me. Salsa and sour cream on the side, good to go. All you need are tortillas, a bag of shredded cheese, a can of black beans, zucchini, and whatever you want on the side. I'm big on budget friendly fast and easy meals, always striving for flavor and incorporating some nutritional value. No crumbs on the plate leftover for this lunch.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Presentation of Lunch in Everyday Life (Sweet Potato Edition)

All you need is a sweet potato and microwave.

Eight minutes later, lightly butter and sprinkle with feta (already in your fridge, I presume).

Delicious and ultra budget-friendly, that's how we do it here at Creative Sociology headquarters.

Song of the Day - "Baby, Now That I've Found You" by Alison Krauss and Union Station

Last night my wife and I went out for dinner. We got engaged this time of year 14 years ago. Each year we try to have a nice night out around the time of our engagement. On the way to dinner we listened to Christmas music. On the way home I put on my favorite station, Sirius XMU. It's indie rock but on this night there was country music playing, including a song by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. It was fun to hear a different genre. This was happening on Jason Schwartzman's Coconut Radio program. For those of you who don't know Jason Schwartzman, please watch Rushmore immediately. It's a near perfect film with phenomenal performances from Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and pretty much everybody else in the film. Also, the soundtrack is amazing. Almost every song in the film is great, the best one being "Ooh La La" by The Faces. As usual, I digress.

On Schwartzman's show last night, there was a woman who was talking about the country songs that were playing. Because we caught the show midstream, we didn't know who it was. My wife wondered if it was his wife. I couldn't tell if it was his wife or his friend. We didn't have it on long enough to know.

Today, while running errands and trying to avoid people crashing into me with their automobiles, and also trying to get out of public as fast as possible to avoid angry people rushing around NOT in the Christmas spirit, I happened to catch a rerun of the show we were listening to. I learned that in fact it was Schwartzman's wife joining him on the program. Her name is Brady Cunningham. It turns out they were playing songs from her life. How cool is that? And then they played the most beautiful song I've heard in quite a long time, "Baby, Now That I've Found You." It wasn't the original song -- and certainly, the original version by The Foundations is outstanding. I've always liked the song. Hell, what's not to like? But today was the first time I heard this cover by Alison Krauss and Union Station. It just blew me away. And not to be super corny BUT the song reminds me of how much I love my wife. Which is a lot. Hearing this song was an early Christmas gift to me. I hope you like it too. Without further ado, I give you:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Easy Eggplant Pizza!

It was a busy day here at Creative Sociology. There were several posts today. Plus, it was the staff Christmas party. I'm a staff of one, just me holding the operation down, so I treated myself to a burrito from my favorite food truck. It didn't disappoint.

I happily devoured a giant burrito for lunch knowing that dinner would be on the lighter side. This is a recipe courtesy of Max Lowery from his book The 2 Meal Day. I'm not on the 2 Meal Day diet plan. I bought the book for recipe ideas. It's also oddly fun to read about the idea of a 2 Meal Day approach without actually having to follow it. I digress.

This is a poor quality picture and I admit to staging the bookmark. I'm proud that I got to see a production of A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Theatre of Youth in Buffalo. It was outstanding. Support local theatre.

Anyhow, the premise of eggplant pizza is wonderfully simple. Oven at 375. Slice an eggplant and drizzle with olive oil. Season as you like. Put them in the oven for around 25 minutes. Then add sauce, more seasoning, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and finish them in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Here's my work at various stages. You can see I added kalamata olives because they're delicious.

Honestly I was thrilled at how these came out. I've never made eggplant pizza before. They tasted better than I expected. I think my seasoning was on point (salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some Mrs. Dash stuff I keep on hand). Don't judge me for using Mrs. Dash -- inexpensive and gets the job done. As a time saver I used sauce from a jar.

This was just for wifey and me. The kids (10 and 7) aren't about to eat eggplant. So they had spaghetti with said sauce from a jar. Wifey is a good judge of my food -- if what I cook ain't good she'll say so. She and I both agreed these little pizzas were good and that'd we definitely have them again.

I highly recommend you give this a try, and just make sure to be consistent in your eggplant slices -- don't slice them too thin else they'll wither away. You also of course want them to cook through at the same time. The book recommends 3/4 inch slices and I think that's about what I achieved. Also use decent quality mozzarella instead of the shredded stuff. Since all you have to buy is one eggplant and a jar of sauce, you might as well splurge on the mozzarella. If you don't like kalamata olives try another topping. Or don't, it's your life. As you can see in the picture, I didn't use them on all the pizzas, and the plain ones were very good too.

Learning to Observe Again

As I'm feeling my way to a new project I'm calling Immersed in Suburbia, I'm getting back in the practice of doing observations. This morning I hit up a Target near my suburban home, and decided to sit in the Starbucks "cafe" after finishing up my shopping.

I decided not to use a notebook, figuring I'd just type notes on my phone. Plus it's 2017 and who sits around with a little notebook?

So I sat at the "cafe" for an hour sipping coffee. I have "cafe" in quotes because I'm not sure what to call the Starbucks space that is adjacent to the check out lines where they have 5-6 tables. It's not an inviting space to stay. I didn't see anyone here doing work or conducting business as they might in an actual coffee shop. Most people grab and go.

This was a boring space to observe. But in a way, it was the perfect place to observe and watch the wheels of capitalism go round and round. From my vantage point I watched people come through the line and either make their way to the Starbucks counter or to the exit. I quickly remembered that in doing observations one must get comfortable with the waiting. It's okay when "nothing" happens. This is something I recall Peter Moskos writing about for a chapter in the book New Directions in Sociology. He's got a chapter entitled "In Defense of Doing Nothing: The Methodological Utility of Introversion".

So I sat, observed, typed notes in my phone, texted my wife (because that feels normal), and waited.

I got myself to pay attention to sounds. If there had been music playing, I would have noticed. Without music I listened for small talk and any other kind of sound. The main sound I heard was that of babies crying. In my phone I typed:
SOUNDS : babies r a crying

That's a section I'll have in my field notes. SOUNDS.

In my phone I typed:
I would say the crying is unbearable but I know from first hand experience it's bearable

There were several babies crying and the crying was loud and I know from my experience not so long ago that it's often a feeling of embarrassment when your baby is crying. Whenever my kids were babies and in crying mode I remember feeling self-conscious as a parent like the world is looking at you judging you "Hey parent can't you get your kid to stop crying and why are you out in public anyway?" I still try to give a half smile or an acknowledging nod to a parent with a crying child but I don't think it usually gets interpreted as parental solidarity. I think it's more like "Hey old guy why are you nodding at me you're weird".

The other sound I heard a lot was the phrase "Merry Christmas". The Starbucks workers were exchanging the phrase with customers. It was pleasant.

What I didn't see (because I try to be mindful of what I'm not seeing or hearing) is people freaking out or being angry. It remains my contention that people are generally terrible and I'd fully expect people's terribleness to come out so close to Christmas with the last minute consumption pressure so strong but in this rare case people were behaving in a congenial way. Let me say I spend a lot of time in Target and on many occasions I've seen people scream at workers and be awful. Here's one such case I wrote up. During my brief observation today, however, people were gentle.

My main observation today is in the form of a question for the Starbucks crowd: Is Starbucks a gendered experience? The whole time I sat in the "cafe" today, it was only women buying coffee and gift cards. I was only there for one hour -- obviously I can't make much out of an hour -- this is why I am asking. At one moment there were 6 women waiting in line. The line kept changing and it was one woman after another. One waited with her baby in a baby carrier. She swayed back and forth and I didn't hear the baby make a sound. Chilling with a baby in a carrier is a skill I never mastered when my kids were little. Anyhow, is there such a thing as a "typical" Starbucks? In a regular Starbucks (one not affixed to Target), are there any gender patterns to observe?

Here's one more thing I typed in my phone:
I wonder how long I can sit here b4 someone says something to me. I'm the type of person that strangers approach

And that's so true. People talk to me all the time in public. ALL THE TIME. Except for this time, lol. No one spoke to me during my hour of observation at the suburban Target-Starbucks (Tarbucks? Starget?) near my home.

The end.

I'm Sorry I'm a Burden to You

Now that the semester has ended, there is time to catch up and reflect.

There was a moment in one of my classes when we talked about relationships.

It was my Social Psychology course.

I can't remember the context, but we arrived at the point of saying that in a relationship it feels horrible to be made to feel like a burden.

This was a course with mostly juniors and seniors.

After class I typed one sentence in my iPhone notes: "I'm sorry I'm a burden to you." It remains in my notes and I'm looking at it today.

There is no place for this sentence to go, other than this blog.

I like the idea of it as a poem.


Or as a line in a play: "I'm sorry I'm a burden to you."

Or as the basis of a song.

Being honest, in our relationship history we have both probably made others feel like a burden and been made to feel like a burden.

In any direction, it doesn't feel good.

The end.

Song of the Day - Plimsoll Punks by Alvvays

Do you remember The Sundays? A talented band that helped usher in the best decade in civilization, the 1990s. They made a beautiful song called Here's Where the Story Ends.

You certainly know Blondie and the super cool rock star Debbie Harry.

What happens when you cross The Sundays with Blondie?

You get Plimsoll Punks by Alvvays. I dig this song.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Brief Notes about Jim & Andy

I don't think Jim & Andy is a great film. I wouldn't call it must see. I do want to mention a few things that stood out to me. In talking about the early days of his career, Jim Carrey says he woke up one night with this thought: "People want to be free of concern." And when that came to him, that drove his choices about how he would act and entertain. I think that's an interesting statement and observation about people wanting to be free of concern.

Another thought: at times, Carrey rambles on with philosophical thoughts, and some of them are intriguing. A lot of what he says reminds me of the social construction of reality. He seems fascinated by the ability to blur reality. Much of the film is about how reality became confused when he "became" Andy Kaufman for the film Man on the Moon. He also reminds me of a provocateur who likes to mess with people.

It seems like a lifetime ago when he was part of In Living Color. It's interesting to see the flashback. It also seems like a lifetime ago when he appeared on The Arsenio Hall show. They show a clip when an apparently drunken Carrey takes a feeble swipe in Arsenio Hall's direction, and calls him a "black bastard." It's disturbing. Arsenio handled the moment professionally, apologizing to the audience and quickly deciding to go to break. As said in this Consequence of Sound review, "some of this stuff makes him look mean, or like a failure of performative acting." That's understating the matter. Again, a provocateur comes to mind, an arrogant one, a selfish one, who will say or do anything to get a reaction. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

With Black Friday Over, Get Ready for Merry Christmas

I didn't see the usual local news stories featuring people bowling over each other in a race for flat screens and other sexy items. Nor did I read any thinkpieces proclaiming the end of humanity and sermonizing about how life is not about the accumulation of material goods. I'm sure I've done some version of this in my life, or at least inner dialogued about it. "Hey man you'll never see me elbowing out folks at 5:45 a.m. at Target," making myself feel good for a moment.

Why would we judge each other for being good consumers? We're doing what we've been trained to do. BUY. BUY NOW. And who doesn't want a good deal? No matter where you are on the income spectrum -- who wants to pay The Man more for his goods than you have to? As an upper middle class person, I have a lot of choices as to when and where I want to consume. People with fewer resources than me do not have the same amount of choices. It's misguided and cruel if I look down on folks for trying to save dollars. And people who make good money also want to save when they can. I got student loans, a mortgage, retirement to think about, maybe the kids will go to college. Fuck it, I'll take an iPad on discount.

Black Friday has become normal and now it's just another part of the calendar. It's a Consumption Holiday, followed by another Consumption Holiday. "Cyber Monday," how stupid is that, no one uses "Cyber" anymore. At least change that shit to Digital Monday.

Now that leftovers have been devoured and our Consumption Holidays nearly complete, get ready for President Trump to say MERRY CHRISTMAS and remind us over and over that we can say MERRY CHRISTMAS again. As if Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas was actually real when in fact it's better described as Fake News. There was never a War on Christmas. It was, and remains, good manners to say Happy Holidays knowing that not everybody in the world (or your workplace, or in your peer group) is a Christian or observes Christmas. Obviously it was never either/or -- either you had to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. People said both, they'll continue to say both, it's selective observation to claim that people stopped saying Merry Christmas. It's dishonest. But honest doesn't pay the bills.

Monday, November 20, 2017

What's Left for Bills Fans Except Beer, Snark, and GIFs?

We are Deadspin famous for tailgate shenanigans.

We have a cool nickname (Bills Mafia) that the national media and NFL players will shout out on occasion.

We take pride in our toughness in cold and snow.

We are known for our chicken wings.

How the hell did we manage to lose 4 Super Bowls in a row?

Wide right, immortalized in the movie Buffalo '66. 

Each time a new coach or quarterback takes the stage, we have a glimmer of hope.

We even have billionaire owners who have invested in downtown Buffalo.

But with each glimpse of hope we are treated to a Homer Simpson like football in the groin.

We will continue to break tables and light ourselves on fire at tailgates.

We will continue to snark on social media.

We will continue to be clever with GIFs.

To quit on these Bills--ever--is not going to happen.

Drink, snark, and GIF is what we will continue to do.

Video of the Day - "Los Ageless" by St. Vincent

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Making of a Teenage Service Class (Excerpts)

I'm considering assigning The Making of a Teenage Service Class, an ethnography by Ranita Ray, for my Social Stratification class next semester. Good impression so far.

Update 1/4/18: I decided to assign this book to my Social Stratification class (SOC 312) at Niagara University. I'll assign portions of the book to students to present. And I'll have a paper assignment that will be based on the book. I like the book. "Good solid sociology" is the phrase I hear myself using to describe it.

Update 4/20/18: Very happy I assigned this book. My class did a great job presenting portions of the book. It's a compassionate analysis of young people living in poverty.

Some excerpts:

"The immediate allure of low-wage work":

Two excellent examples of emotional labor below, featuring Cassy at her coffee shop job. In the first instance we see Cassy being patient with a difficult customer. The second example is flat out funny and illustrates how humor is a key element of emotional labor.

On the violence of poverty:

On the violent experience of hunger:

In the follow passage we see Ashley expressing enthusiasm for sushi, a food she associates with a higher class status. Leading up to this was an instance when Domino's wouldn't deliver to a housing project in Port City after dark. In response to this, Ashley asserted "I don't even eat Domino's and pizza....I would rather eat sushi." Ashley prefers sushi and distances herself from Domino's.

Here we see the importance of having a clean home. For Brianna, a clean home means it isn't a "ghetto" home:

Thoughts on the Economy

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What Happens to All the Food on Food Network Shows (Rant)

Why do they have to make so much food on Food Network shows? Is it necessary to have full entrees in Chopped? What happens to all the food that the judges don't eat? Is it thrown away? Do employees on set eat it? There's talk on Food Network shows about respecting ingredients -- wasting food is obviously not respectful. They do support charities -- No Kid Hungry is mentioned a lot -- but how much food is wasted in all of these shows that put food at the center of contests?

Guys Grocery Games -- all the produce, all the meat, all the dairy -- I once read somewhere that some of the food from the grocery store (a set, I think, not a real grocery store, but I don't know for sure) gets donated. But again, huge plates are made in three rounds -- how much food is thrown out and never used?

I am a devoted Food Network viewer -- I like watching people cook food, I like learning a thing or two from watching the shows, I like getting ideas about what to make -- but I'm getting obsessed with food waste especially when we consider tens of millions of people in poverty in the U.S. alone who have trouble putting food on the table.

Can Food Network do Foodtainment in a way that focuses on food conservation? Or at least is honest about where the food comes from and how much of it gets tossed away in the process of making television? Can less of the shows be about games and contests, please? Or ask contestants to make small plates, damn it.

Tweet of the Day

And Durkheim screams ANOMIE from the grave.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lunch Break (Radish Endorsement Dream Edition)

If I could endorse one product, it would be radishes. Some people dream of a lucrative sneaker endorsement. Me, I want to spread love the radish way. If you know anyone in the business of advertising radishes, let them know I'm ready, willing, and able to enthusiastically do an endorsement.

Social Capital and Cultural Capital

This week in Introduction to Sociology I'm covering social class. Yesterday in class, I focused on income distribution and class identity. Tomorrow, I'll spend some time covering social capital (networking and social contacts) and cultural capital (knowledge, resources, practices). On the syllabus I have a reading from my friend Peter Kaufman in which he discusses these concepts in the context of succeeding in college. In a related reading that I'll share with my students, Karen Steinheimer talks about the significance of networking. One of my examples of cultural capital will be borrowed from Shamus Khan's Privilege, here where he talks about NASCAR to make the point that knowing a thing or two about NASCAR is not the same thing as actually fitting in at a NASCAR race. Cultural capital isn't only about knowledge, it's also about practice and "interactive capacity":

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Presentation of Soup in Everyday Life

I'm calling this Chicken Sweet Potato Corn Chowder but it's probably not thick enough to constitute a true chowder. I would have been Chopped in the first round. But even though it's not Instagram perfect it's pretty good and I'll improve it next time. The family liked it for dinner. Let's begin with some players in our lineup.

First thing I did was peel and dice the sweet potatoes, toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin, and then roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile I did what I had to do with store bought rotisserie chicken. I seriously just spelled rotisserie right the first time.

Next, I threw diced onions and garlic in my soup pan and let them dance in a little bit of chicken stock. Then I added more chicken stock and threw in frozen corn. Then it was time for the sweet potatoes and chicken to join the party.

You could add hot sauce to taste and stop there if you like. That's a nice soup for ya. But here's where I slowly added evaporated milk and ended up with this:

I didn't use flour or cornstarch to thicken. I think I lost my mind when the Buffalo Bills were getting a beatdown by the New Orleans Saints.

Despite the flaws, it was tasty. I served with some small dinner rolls. I'm already looking forward to the leftover soup/almost chowder for our dinner tomorrow. When I warm it up I'll thicken it and hot sauce it up.

The American Middle Class and Class Identity

I'm prepping for my SOC 101 course tomorrow, looking at a Pew resource about the middle class in America.

In terms of who is middle income, it's determined by household income and size of household, depicted here:

The Pew report states: "The hollowing of the American middle class has proceeded steadily for more than four decades. Since 1971, each decade has ended with a smaller share of adults living in middle-income households than at the beginning of the decade, and no single decade stands out as having triggered or hastened the decline in the middle."

As Philip Cohen has observed on his Family Inequality Blog, there's been a rise in the percentage of people describing themselves as "lower class." Here he applies data from the General Social Survey, focusing on the question which asks: "If you were asked to use one of four names for your social class, which would you say you belong in: the lower class, the working class, the middle class, or the upper class?"

You can go to his post to see how he shows the decline in percentage of people describing themselves as middle-class.

He makes a good point in saying that the 2016 election heightened awareness of the "working class," a phrase often used as shorthand for "white working class." Here's my related observation: think of all the times you've heard the phrase "white working class" in the past few years. I hear it constantly. How often, if ever, have you heard the phrase "black working class" used by media in the past few years? Or "working class people of color," or something like that?

I've got a lot of prep ahead of me for class, but just wanted a share a few things I'll be using to talk with my students about income distribution and trends in how people identify their social class.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Now Reading: The Making of a Teenage Service Class

Excited about this book by Ranita Ray, a sociologist at UNLV. Just arrived in the mail today from University of California Press. I'm reviewing for possible use in my Social Stratification course next semester. I will report back.

Sociological Film Recommendation: Get Out

Have you seen Get Out, the film written and directed by Jordan Peele? Kinda blew my mind. He seemed to be playing with The Stepford Wives, felt like a Stanley Kubrick movie at times, reminded me of They Live, while all through the movie dealing with race and racism. It also had me thinking of the late Derrick Bell's work. Let me know what you think.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Immersed in Suburbia Fieldnotes (Sylvan Esso edition)

Only have a few minutes before an 8:15 a.m. meeting. Stopped at my favorite coffee shop this morning on way to work. Worker greeted me enthusiastically and with a smile. After completing the transaction, she said something like "There you go sweetie." The word "sweetie" was definitely used. That was fine with me. It was delivered so nicely. She just seemed like a genuinely positive person. I left the parking lot thinking about how some people don't like it when they are called "honey" or "sweetie" by workers. But then Sylvan Esso came on the radio and I got distracted. Sylvan Esso duo is coming to Buffalo for a show in March '18 and I think I should go. I got to hoping my wife will want to go. Here's the song. And now it's time to go to my meeting.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Sociologically about Bathrooms

In my Social Psychology course this week, we spent a class session talking about bathrooms. I decided to devote a full session to it after the topic came up a few times the last time I taught the course. I remember a student making an observation about women going to the bathroom together, and one of his classmates explained that, in some cases, it's a matter of safety. There is a comfort level and enhanced feeling of safety being with friends. 

This semester, I used an article from sociologist Harvey Molotch. I love the writing. Here he is, channeling Erving Goffman:
"Our lives are ordinarily carried out through careful – indeed, exquisite – impression management. We adhere to a delicate etiquette of gesture, sound and scent, all so we can display ourselves as dignified, civilized human beings.
Enter: the toilet, which blunders in with sounds, smells and strangers. Hovering above it all is the deepest of pollutants, human waste – often in places where it’s not supposed to be."
And here he focuses on the design of so-called restrooms:
"The design of American public bathrooms can complicate the struggle for a modicum of privacy. In the US, stall enclosures typically have large bottom (and top) openings, along with peek-a-boo gaps at panel seams. The US is a distinctly open society; in virtually every country which has them, toilets have more solid enclosures, with stalls going closer to the ground and ceiling,
The US features probably arose from authorities’ concern, way back when, over what people might do if they had more privacy – specifically, drugs or sex (especially homosexual male sex). 
Either way, it’s now expected that when we sit on a public toilet, we expose our feet to the occupant next door. Among other effects, this allows those who know us to make positive and precise identifications based on shoes: another blow to anonymity. Who hasn’t experienced the dread of a boss or colleague plopping down in an adjacent stall?"
Later, he says that "gender segregation continues to deliver injustice" and asks: "Why not open it up and let all genders share the same zone?"

He says:
"It would yield a huge increase in space efficiency, while alleviating the long lines at the women’s rooms, which often occur as stalls remain empty in the men’s room. Integration might also enhance safety: more people would be on hand to act in case of emergency. Hanging a “women” sign over a door only keeps out men with good intentions. (After all, those with bad intentions won’t be impeded by a sign.)"
As you can see, the article gave us a lot to talk about. And students were interested. We had a good discussion.

I also showed them an article that imagines some possible bathroom signs of the future. The article mentions North Carolina's bathroom bill. A more recent article provides an update -- the state repealed portions of the HB2 bill, "including the requirement that trans people use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate."

All in all, I believe we had a productive class session, and plan to include this topic again the next time we teach the course.

The day after class, my family and I ate at a newly opened diner in Buffalo that has two bathrooms. Both bathrooms have the same sign. I took this picture and e-mailed it to my class to share with them an image that related to our class session. How would you analyze this sign?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Presentation of Lunch in Everyday Life (Salad Edition)

Anthropologists and sociologists find it interesting that people eat lunches from mason jars. You won't catch me eating lunch from a mason jar. My wife, on the other hand, likes the salad in a mason jar situation.

I made these salads for our lunches to start the week. Two for her, one for me. I'll be carb-loading by Tuesday so I won't need a salad by then. What we have here is a modified Greek salad: romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, turkey, and an olive oil vinaigrette.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Compliment From a Stranger

An hour ago I received a compliment at the grocery store from the person scanning my groceries. He liked my jacket. I thanked him and noted the jacket is old, around 10 years old. He asked if I get a lot of compliments on it. I said no. The person behind me (a woman) jumped in to say "Nice jacket!" As we laughed, the person behind her (a man) joined the fun and also said "Nice jacket!" It felt nice to get an unexpected compliment. A nice, simple, appropriate compliment (although, I would say, appropriate compliments are in the eye of the beholder) from a stranger is an unusual social interaction that I generally welcome.

It's interesting that the first song I heard on the ride to work this morning was "You've Got a Friend," the Carole King version. First of all, her voice is so lovely in the song. I wonder if you prefer her version or the one by James Taylor. Did you know that Carole King wrote it? I didn't recall that until googling it just now. It's from her Tapestry album in 1971. Here's Carole being awesome:

Anyhow, while driving to work the song put me in a reflective mood about friendship and I was thinking about trying to be a better friend to my friends and then the song took the turn that always catches me by surprise. You see, I don't hear the song a lot so when I do I tend to have forgotten that the song takes a cynical turn. As a Hall of Fame cynic, I like her cynical observation:

"...When people can be so cold
They'll hurt you, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them, oh but don't you let them"

Damn it's true that people will take your soul if you let them. All the more reason that it helps to have a friend, as Carole suggests. And sometimes it even helps to get a compliment from a stranger.

Finally, here's the jacket:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cardi B Should Cover This Song

I can't control the thoughts that take over my brain when I'm grading exams.

Robbie Dupree's Steal Away showed up in my brain a moment ago, so I had to listen to it on a grading break. This song beautifully masquerades as a Michael McDonald song. It's perfect pop.

It needs to be dressed up to fit into 2017. Only one popular artist can do it properly; it has to be Cardi B.

Are Chopped Episodes Filmed 8 Months Ago?

Makers of television, get at me. I figured Food Network episodes are filmed a few months in advance. I wouldn't have guessed 8 months. Check out the date on the milk carton: February 23, 2017. It's from a recent episode of Chopped ("Alton's Challenge, Part 4"). I was watching this from my DVD recordings early this morning before the fam got up. My DVD only records new episodes. Check out the green thingy that says NEW. I need the 411 on this. TV insiders, let me know!

Song of the Day - Continental Breakfast by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile

This is a nice song about friendship. "Not much very big on enemies" -- put that on my tombstone.

A good line about personal insecurity too: "I'm feelin' inferior on the interior don't ya see"

I'm a huge Courtney Barnett fan, and I dig Kurt Vile. They tour together and are playing a few places not too far from me in Buffalo. But not close enough that I can go. If you know Courtney and Kurt, can you ask them to extend the tour and play in Buffalo?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Song of the Day - "As" by Stevie Wonder

On days like this, I'm thankful for love songs. No one does it better than Stevie. "Use your heart to love somebody," he advises in the middle of this live version. A life of speaking up for love and speaking out against injustice is a life well lived. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Illiteracy in America

As part of the BBC's America First? series, there is a three minute video about illiteracy in the U.S.

Here's the link to the video (or just click here):

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Racist Gesture. Racial Gesture. Racially Offensive Gesture. Racially Charged Gesture. Inappropriate Gesture. Insensitive Gesture.

In the news is Houston Astros player Yuli Gurriel for mocking Yu Darvish, a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers. You can see what he did here:

I'm interested in the terminology various media outlets have used in reporting it so far.

Deadspin is calling it a racist gesture.

A headline in the Los Angeles Times refers to it as an offensive gesture. The first sentence describes it as a racially charged gesture.

The New York Daily News used racist gesture.

Huffpost refers to Racist ‘Slant-Eye’ Gesture in a headline. A sentence in the article reads: "Cameras caught Gurriel stretching the corners of his eyes with his fingers, a racist gesture against people of Asian descent."

USA Today reports that Gurriel will serve a 5 game suspension next season for "slurring" Darvish. The first sentence calls it an inappropriate gesture.

The Associated Press headline is: "Gurriel banned 5 games in 2018 for racist gesture at Darvish"

The AP story tells it this way: "The Cuban-born Gurriel pulled on the corners of his eyes after homering off Darvish during Houston’s 5-3 win Friday night. He also used a derogatory Spanish term in reference to Darvish, who was born in Japan. “I made an offensive gesture that was indefensible,” Gurriel said in a statement released by the Astros. “I sincerely apologize to everyone that I offended with my actions. I deeply regret it. I would particularly like to apologize to Yu Darvish, a pitcher that I admire and respect. I would also like to apologize to the Dodgers organization, the Astros, Major League Baseball and to all fans across the game,” he said."

The first sentence of a New York Times story calls it a racist gesture.

Complex calls it racist gesture in a headline.

ESPN went with insensitive gesture in this report.

Newsday called it a racist gesture.

A Yahoo headline calls it a racial gesture while the first sentence calls it a racist gesture. (Writers don't always pick their own headlines.)

NESN uses racist gesture in the headline and uses "racially offensive gesture" in the story.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Gallup Poll: 64% of Americans Say Marijuana Should Be Legal

This is the question respondents were asked:
"Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?"

Options for answering were "Yes, legal," "No, illegal," and "No Opinion"
(2% answered no opinion).

They were telephone interviews.
Click here for source.

Click here to see states where marijuana is already legal in some form.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review of The Trump Show, Season 1

I haven't watched every episode of The Trump Show. One of the episodes is already a rerun, the one where Trump takes on NFL athletes and demands they stand for the anthem. Trump issuing Patriot Tests is hard to watch. Him barking at athletes (black athletes engaged in silent protest) is not something I find entertaining.

In another episode called "Chuck and Nancy," Trump is hailed as someone ready to cross party lines and do whatever he can to make a deal. This fits perfectly with the long-running narrative about Trump and the so-called art of the deal. Art of the deal me out of this storyline.

The episode called "My Generals" focuses on Trump's belief that generals belong to him and highlights the role of his chief of staff John Kelly. The episode featured Kelly's views of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

Indeed, many of the episodes are about feuds with the White House. The episode "Liddle' Bob Corker" examines Trump's schoolyard bullying behavior and notes the obvious irony of FLOTUS Melania Trump heading an cyberbullying initiative.

There are also episodes about Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her engagement with the media. They show this clip which is a useful illustration of how the administration lies to the public. Her dad Mike Huckabee makes a cameo and makes really bad jokes, something he is known for.

There's the inevitable "Bromance" episode centering on the relationship between Sean Hannity and Trump. Mike Pence makes a cameo and Pence and Hannity talk awkwardly about Trump's broad shouldered leadership.

A few episodes are merely footage of his rallies where Trump belittles people and yells about The Wall. It's kinda like a lot of the election coverage we suffered through.

In an episode called “Trump Voters,” they talk mostly to white older men who voted for Trump and why they tend to like Trump, no matter what. 17 out of 20 people who were interviewed said Trump should stop tweeting. I wish they had included white older men who didn’t vote for Trump because they exist too.

There's an episode called "Moderating Influences" and thankfully one of my kids deleted it from our DVR recordings before I could watch it. It's probably about Jared and Ivanka and I doubt it was worth watching anyway.

I'll check in on future episodes but it's definitely not appointment TV.

Song of the Day - Don't Wake Daddy by The Tragically Hip

Sled dogs after dinner
Close their eyes on the howlin' wastes
Kurt Cobain, reincarnated, sighs and licks his face...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Not Knowing What Our Students Don't Know

I was sitting in my office yesterday morning during office hours when I found out that Gord Downie died. Gord was lead singer of The Tragically Hip, a band that I love and is important to me, and that's something that is true for a lot of other people who live in Buffalo. I was sad, still am sad, still bummed, and I've been playing a lot of Hip songs in the last 24 hours.

Back to yesterday -- I was listening to the Hip in my office, sad, waiting for a student to arrive for an appointment. I knew she was coming to talk about career paths. She's a student in one of my Sociology classes. She doesn't major in Sociology but wanted my help in exploring careers.

During our meeting, I asked if she had an internship yet, and I talked with her about the process of pursuing an internship, and how she could earn three credits for completing one. This was new information to her, a junior student. It surprised me in the moment that she didn't already know what I told her. I guess I assumed that what I told her was the kind of well-known information that students possess these days. But, still thinking about our conversation, I don't know why I was surprised. I didn't know anything about internships when I was a college student. I never had an internship. I went to class, did my work, went to the library, partied, played rugby, rinse and repeat. It wasn't until my junior year when a professor asked me if I wanted to be a research assistant that I realized there was something more than my normal college routine. It was from there that I began to look beyond my day-to-day college life and began to think seriously about career possibilities. I'm not saying my conversation with my student was anywhere near that significant or important. I'm saying I'm glad I was reminded that the things we might think are common knowledge aren't necessarily so.

I've been in university communities for so long that my conception of common knowledge has changed. I have to remember what it's like to be a busy young person who might not have access to valuable information. I need to be more mindful about sharing this kind of information. As one of the first people in my extended family to go to college, I know what it feels like to navigate the unfamiliar world of higher education.

Song of the Day - Courage (For Hugh MacLennan) by the Tragically Hip

Thank you, Gord Downie, for your creativity, your songwriting, your humanity.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gord Downie, Rest in Peace

The talented and charismatic Gord Downie has passed away after a battle with brain cancer.

Another time I'll write about how Gord ushered me through my angst-ridden twenties.

For now, I'll leave with you with the beautiful Bobcaygeon from The Tragically Hip.

Could have been the Willie Nelson, could have been the wine.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thoughts of the Day from Morrissey

Here, Morrissey dispenses some good advice, especially the part about staying in bed.

But "Spent the Day in Bed" is not only about staying in bed.

There's a Marx sounding line about worker exploitation:

"I spent the day in bed as the workers stay enslaved"

There's media criticism too:

"Stop watching the news
Because the news contrives to frighten you
To make you feel small and alone
To make you feel that your mind isn't your own"

And some good old fashioned existentialism "Life ends in death" that transitions to encouraging self-care:

"So, there's nothing wrong with
Being good to yourself
Be good to yourself for once"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tossing Paper Towels Like a Giveaway at a Minor League Baseball Game

When I'm at Buffalo Bisons baseball games during the summer, it's fun when the workers throw objects into the crowd. You hope to get a t-shirt or some other freebie. This is Donald Trump, president of the United States, shooting paper towels into a crowd during his visit to Puerto Rico. I find this a bizarre way to interact with people during a humanitarian crisis. I am at a loss for more words.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Pain and Suffering

Seriously and sincerely
we need a day to grieve
the pain and suffering

It seems unrelenting
No relief
No let up

Fear and anxiety it will happen again and again
How do we cope?
How do we go on?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Inhumane. Indecent. Indefensible.

During a humanitarian crisis, Donald Trump attacks the mayor of San Juan.

Last week he used the phrase "son of a bitch" to refer to NFL players who engage in silent protest.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Budget Friendly 15 Minute Dinner

This one comes in under ten dollars. I got your back, millennials. Go budget friendly most of the time and you can still enjoy your avocado toast. Don't you love generational stereotypes? Let me type this up fast so I can get back to listening to Nirvana (Generation X, represent).

These are items you might already have in stock. Saute onions in olive oil, throw in a diced pepper and potatoes, let it roll for a bit, then drain a can of blackeye peas and let them join the party. Add diced ham toward the end. You should be spicing things up as you go. Finish off with an egg.
Tip: microwave your diced potatoes drizzled with olive oil for about 4 minutes to save cooking time.

Monday, September 18, 2017


monday is a day you slowly caffeinate

i'm still working through my drive thru coffee

cold and bitter but it will do

there were two drive thru lanes and one was wide open

i'm like it's my lucky day

except i hit a cone that was blocking one of the lanes

how did i not see that damn cone

i hope someone saw me and laughed

three hours later i've pulled myself together

with 50 minutes to spare before class begins

all in all i'm happy with this day so far.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Society Sucks Until It Doesn't

It's interesting when people vent to me in public. When people who didn't go to college (or those who did but can't remember their sociology course) ask me "What's sociology?" I give them a short answer ("If it happens in society, we study it") before I attempt to go into a longer answer. I usually don't get to the longer answer because people tend to stop me when they hear the word society. "Society sucks," a person once said to me during one of these conversations. This week my barber and I were shooting the breeze and when he asked me about sociology and I said the word society he proceeded to offer critical observations about society.

This morning a car pulled in front of me in traffic after they had left a drive thru and I was behind the car at a red light. When the light turned green the car didn't move, so I lightly tapped the horn. The person gave me the finger. Me tapping the horn at volume 1 in no way shape or form warranted the middle finger but people will do what they do, and, like the critics say, society sucks.

Our destination was soccer practice and while 9-year-old played soccer our 6-year-old was bored. So was the sibling of someone else playing soccer, and she was saying to her mom that she wanted to go to the nearby playground. Her mom was chatting with my wife. We all know each other. I offered to take her to the playground with my son and it was win-win all around. When it was time to head back to the practice, my son and his friend ran back from the playground. Something that cracks me up is when a kid is running and suddenly busts into a cartwheel, which is exactly what his friend did. That kind of thing makes me very happy. See, when I run I'm just trying to get from A to B in one piece. When a kid goes from running to cartwheel I'm reminded that kids are great and that they haven't been stained by society yet. I'm also thankful to kids for reminding me that society sucks until it doesn't.

When we got back to practice a big beautiful dog was standing near us with his huge tongue hanging out, dripping saliva. Dogs rule and dogs are way better than people, we all know that already. I motioned to the dog to come see me because I love dogs and love to love them up. He was skeptical but slowly sidled up to me and started licking me and splashing me with saliva. Another win-win and another reminder that dogs are a vital part of society and a major reason that society doesn't suck 100% of the time.

After practice there was a variety of adulting taking place. My wife ran into a store to buy a birthday gift, then she ran into Lowe's to return something, then when we got home I mowed the lawn while she did assorted yard work. The highlight of my day (other than the cartwheeling kid and the slobbering dog) was that I put a half cup of vinegar in a bowl in our dishwasher and ran it through a hot cycle and that seemed to clean up our dishwasher nicely. We still need to vacuum and do all the kids' laundry but that's adulting that can probably wait until tomorrow.

Yesterday I met a deadline by submitting work. It's something that was on my plate for several months. It was a relief to meet the deadline and my priority for the rest of the day is to celebrate.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017


I'd been meaning to take a picture of this sign, having noticed it recently during my commute. It caught my attention as a good sign to show my students when I teach the sociology of emotions in my Social Psychology class later this semester.

I looked at the sign yesterday as I drove home from work yesterday. The sign reminds me of how it's important to me to keep cool and stay composed. I rarely lose my temper, and I almost never get angry in public. Those occasions are so rare that I clearly remember them, even though the episodes are many years apart and one of them may as well have been a lifetime ago.

Just after passing the sign, a driver in a small car drove erratically and cut off the driver in front of me. It was terrible driving, a rude act, no doubt about it. It called for some gesture of "my bad" but instead the offending driver stuck his head out of the car to yell at the man he cut off. The driver in front of me was not having it. They started jawing and suddenly it was two men shouting at each other. This all happened fast--the time it takes to sit at a red light and move slowly through busy city traffic. The man in the small car suddenly turned his car around to park on the other side of the street, and ran toward the car in front of me. He was wearing sweats and slides. He gestured wildly at the man, spreading his arms wide in a threatening manner. He had a crazed look in his eyes. He looked more than ready for a fight. The guy in front of me never got of his car. They yelled at each other but the man in his car prevented physical violence by staying in his car. I thought the angrier man might punch through the open window but it didn't happen. There was a little more yelling, and then it surprised me when the angry man ended up walking back to his car. He found one last second to shoot me a look, as if to say "You want some of this?" but I gave him nothing to react to. Traffic began to flow and so ended the confrontation.

This morning I drove back through the area where this all happened, half expecting to see the angry man going about his business, but it was an uneventful trip to finally take the picture of the sign. The only interaction that stood out to me was a couple that hugged at a bus stop. It was nice to see an affectionate public display in nearly the same spot where I witnessed the uglier side of human behavior.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tenured Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift, just awarded tenure, has scores to settle. You did her wrong so you're on her list. The old Taylor Swift is gone, and tenured Taylor is spoiling for a fight. Look what you made me do, she hollers, before heading to a committee meeting to spark controversy. Don't you dare ask her to participate in another weekend admissions event. She ain't got time for brown bags no more. She doesn't trust the power brokers in admin nor her colleagues who seek to usurp her. Be aware of tenured Taylor, she will haunt you in your dreams, in department meetings, and in contract negotiations.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


if you are in one of my classes this semester, know that i care, know that i try.

my mind is open, i believe.

i search for facts and patterns.

i'm perplexed, amazed, disappointed, and inspired all at once by human behavior.

i seek to understand.

i aim to listen, really listen.

being human i am flawed.

sometimes i am nothing more than 13-year-old me, listening to classic rock, except now i'm 45, and i can watch my favorite songs on YouTube, like the one below.

and i might even be late to class one day because i crawled into a YouTube hole and how you could blame me? i mean, look at this video. look at the late Keith Moon's t-shirt. look at the passion that Keith exuded as he played the drums.

one more thing....

i really wanna know, tell me, who are you?

Songs of the Day - "In Undertow" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"

"In Undertow" by Alvvays is in heavy rotation these days on Sirius XMU, and for good reason. Amazing lyrics and beautiful singing.

It seemed like a lock for song of the day, especially when it was in my head while talking a walk at my local park this morning.

But after a quick grocery store run, one of the best songs of all time came on my car radio. And, so, for the primal scream and the hope that somehow, some way, some day, we won't be fooled again, here are The Who with our other song of the day. Go directly to 4:28 mark if you want to hear Roger Daltrey scream, and then to 7:45 for the mother of all screams.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Eat Sweet Potato Tacos

Humans don't deserve tacos.

But being blessed with tacos, we are in the fortunate position of deciding all the different ways to enjoy them. 

I usually eat tacos with beef, chicken, chorizo, or fish.

But I'm steering away from meat and fish lately and working in more vegetarian options. 

Tonight's dinner was sweet potato tacos--a delicious and budget-friendly meal.

If you already love sweet potatoes you surely don't need a recipe, but in case you need one check out this. I used mozzarella cheese because that's what I had in the fridge. I left out black beans for no particular reason. For the avocado sauce I substituted sour cream for yogurt because, once again, it was in the fridge. 

Life is hard and humans will disappoint but tacos help us press on. 

So make tacos not war and use sweet potatoes in your tacos. 

The end.