Friday, June 24, 2005

Unpopularity is good, ask Weber

In Science as a Vocation, Weber made me chuckle on two different points.

1. His skepticism of popular courses (and popular teachers to be more precise).
2. His claim that mediocrity rises to the top of academia, not the cream. This is due to rules of cooperation. If you’re too good, you’re too different, and we don’t want to play with you.

Yeah, all this coming from the graduate superstar himself. Is he attempting humility? Or is he crediting his privileges for much of his success? Regardless…

On the first point, he is slamming huge popularity as a sign of not quite adequate teaching. In some cases, I agree. There are many easy ways to slack off and make the students favor you the more for it, or simply suck up to them/bribe them to give you higher scores on teaching evaluations…groveling, ick. However, aren’t there a lot of popular teachers who work really hard at teaching well and are popular perhaps because of personality traits to boot? For all the unpopular conscientious teachers out there, Weber will stroke the old ego. It’s because you’re sooo good that you’re not hugely popular.

On the second point, I laughed out loud. Partially because of the irony that he was writing this, and partially because there is some truth to it -- case in point, W.E.B. Du Bois. By mediocrity, I took him to mean a meticulous status quo thinker, not the really creative foundation-questioning thinkers. They are doomed to the margins, with cult-like followings. Hah! I laugh again. I love when I stumble over things like this I missed the first time. Oh, but did you see the ASA president-elect?

Anyway, so if you don’t rise to the top and aren’t a really popular teacher, then maybe you are just too good...or maybe not.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Neko Case

We saw her on Friday. She tuned her own guitars. Had a great band. And her voice live was flawless, definitely up there for me on "best performances live." I tried to get a picture I would've posted on the blog, but I couldn't turn off the flash and so it was just the back of a bunch of heads. There were many guys, and girls, there with obvious crushes. There's just something about her voice. The HighDive is a great rock bar, too. It's a lot of fun to see a band perform in such an intimate setting (this is where we saw My Morning Jacket a couple years ago as well).

Monday, June 06, 2005

WMD's, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Downing Street memo and Iraq: They aren't going away

One month ago on May 6, Joe Conason wrote about the Downing Street memo on He asked
Are Americans so jaded about the deceptions perpetrated by our own government to lead us into war in Iraq that we are no longer interested in fresh and damning evidence of those lies? Or are the editors and producers who oversee the American news industry simply too timid to report that proof on the evening broadcasts and front pages?
I have to admit, when I first saw the memo, the answer to Conason's first question for me was "yes." The only reason I knew about it, however, was because I read alternative media sources. Had I just read the New York Times or the Washington Post I don't think I would've known much about it.

Becoming jaded can be disempowering, like, we might hope it all just goes away. Media stop talking about it (if they started), and accept it. But, ho, the New York Times calls for the permanent shut down of Guantanamo Bay*, as does Senator Biden after Amnesty International's damning assessment of the prison as the "gulag" of our times.

Vigilance is key to preventing death, such as the 77 US service women and men killed in Iraq in May 2005. Remember the 1000 dead? Well, we are approaching 2000 dead, at over 1800 already. Who really knows how many Iraqi's died last month or in total?

But vigilance, there is. Rallying around the damning evidence of the Downing Street memo >Downing Street memo, a congressional investigation is being called for to see if the president and members of his administration conspired to mislead the public. Led by Representative John Conyers, there are over 133,000 signatures petitioning for the president to respond to questions raised by the memo. Have you signed it yet?

UPDATE: Jimmy Carter is now calling for the shutdown of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

UPDATE 2: Republican Mel Martinez also calls for closing of Gtmo.
* Guantanamo Bay's website boasts of being the oldest overseas naval base, but doesn't fully mention how this naval base was acquired. The "brief history" just mentions a treaty, conveniently ommitting the war that forced the treaty. So I'll tell you. It was acquired through the imperialist Spanish-American War (Cuba was previously a colony of Spain), in which the US took Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Samoa, and Guam as it's colonies (the justification for which was the US was a more "benevolent" patron), and officially participated in formal imperialism.

I was just wondering

if anyone has a suggestion about a film that displays some of Durkheim's concepts from The Division of Labor (mechanic/organic solidarity or interdependence/anomie). I'm not really looking for methodological stuff, this is for theory.

I've been looking for months and can't find anything that fits well enough. I had considered I Heart Huckabee's for anomie, but...there's too much pomo going on top of it all, don't you think? I guess if I can't find anything, the poor kiddies will have to listen to me make references to "Fiddler on the Roof."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Jazz Therapy

Last weekend we went to hang out with my brother in Chicago. We took in a Cubs victory. By the way, they are on a kickass winning streak with some of their most talented players injured. And we went to the Greenmill, a former speakeasy of Al Capone's and current jazz club. We waited an hour to get in the doors. It was worth it. The sextet playing was so good, and the bar itself was just so much better the "unce unce unce" dance(?)clubs downtown (I can't stand those places).

Seeing the jazz group play, reminded me of my trumpet playing days. The only thing I liked about band was jazz band (marching band was the pitts, but you had to do it all). Our jazz band won awards in junior high. Then, I didn't like the highschool jazz director (also my 6th grade band teacher), so I didn't try out. I stayed in band and joined the quintet, which I didn't like because of the pressure (if you messed up everyone knew) and the music - classical just wasn't as fun for me. I got into chorus instead. But I still love listening to jazz, and I miss helping make it.

So, I've been on a jazz kick lately. I'm thinking of learning to play jazz piano. I never was that attached to the trumpet, and anyway, my younger sister uses the trumpet I used, which my aunts also used (it's a kind of family heirloom I guess). Jazz provides that great balance and tension musically that could be a therapeutic release. Which, let's face it, you have to find in graduate school unless you want to allow your dissertation to hold dominion over your life. And drinking just isn't enough for me anymore.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Grassroots Activism targeting Wal-Mart

A grassroots movement is afoot targeting Wal-Mart's lack of healthcare benefits for employees. Two groups Democracy for America and Wake-Up Wal-Mart, specifically, are responsible.

I was talking to one of my relatives, employed by Wal-Mart, about trying to start a union at Wal-Mart. She's on the spunky side, so I wondered what her thoughts were on the issue. She wasn't too interested because she knew what Wal-Mart does to successfully and unsuccessfully organized employees. Her assessment was it was a catch-22. She needed the job to take care of her kids, and she didn't have a lot of alternatives. She also needed the healthcare and a better wage, take what you can get to put food on the table.

Do you think with these kinds of groups involved there will be new leverage on the table for employees trying to organize? or do you think it will make a difference? Will Wal-Mart pay attention to a few consumers if they don't to employees?