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.