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It's a sad day

Monday, February 27, 2006 by Jeff

My computer yesterday had an unfortuante mishap with a glass of orange juice. While I don't think I lost any irretrievable information, I may have lost my laptop. Any tips or earned wisdom would be appreciated. The ambiance of this university computer lab pales in comparison to the coffeeshops and offices that my laptop once graced.

Interview: Peter Bearman

Sunday, February 26, 2006 by Jeff

In The New Yorker magazine. ...and Kieran's review of Bearman's Doormen (Chicago University Press 2005).

The Prejudice Map

by Jeff

The map,* made by a German techie with an apparently insatiable interest in all things Google, was generated by compiling scores of Google searches (e.g., "Germans are known for*"). It's a little suspect, I think, when you consider that Kenyans are known for "metaphors" and the Black Sea for "using weapons." * You've gotta click on this guy's fourth definition of prejudice to access the map.

Challengers and dominant players in the U.S. political field

Saturday, February 25, 2006 by Jeff

"[T]he choice of the moment and sites of battle is left to the initiative of the challengers, who break the silence...and call into question the unproblemeatic, taken-for-granted world of the dominant groups."

Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL): "Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to the House's attention a transaction that is being contemplated on five of our major ports, five important ports of entry in the United States...[I]t has always been well known and documented that a number of the terrorist activity planning and financing was taking place in these very countries that would now have control of our ports." (Congressional Record, Feb. 16, 2006) Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC): "In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO — but HELL NO." (in a letter to the president; quoted in Associated Press, Feb. 23, 2006) Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY): "Approving this contract in the dark of night and ignoring all of the many questions asked about this takeover is an affront to anybody who cares about our nation's security." (Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 22, 2006)
"Those in dominant positions operate essentially defensive strategies, designed to perpetuate the status quo...since they are on top and clearly deserve to be there; excellence therefore consists in being what one is, with reserve and understatement, urbanely hinting at the immensity of one's means...The dominant are drawn towards silence, discretion and secrecy, and their orthodox discourse, which is only ever wrung from them by the need to rectify the heresies of the newcomers, is never more than the explicit affirmation of self-evident principles which go without saying and would go better unsaid."
The Morning Call Online: "The president's decision to hold an impromptu question-and-answer session...was an unusual departure for a president who likes to appear far above the fray of Capitol Hill politics." (The Morning Call, Feb. 22, 2006) George W. Bush: "[L]ook, I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction. But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully." (Comments to reporters, Feb. 21, 2006). "This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America." (quoted at CNN.com, Feb. 23, 2006) Scott McClelland, White House Press Secretary: "First of all, there is a congressionally mandated review process...that oversees such transactions. And you have some 12 departments and agencies that are involved and thoroughly reviewing such transactions and closely scrutinizing such transactions to make sure that it meets all national security concerns, to make sure that there is no national security threat." (Press briefing, Feb. 22, 2006) Condoleezza Rice: "The UAE is a good partner in the war on terrorism...It has been a stalwart partner. And we believe that this is a deal, a port deal, that serves the interests of the United States, serves our security interests and serves the commercial interest as well." (Salon, Feb. 23, 2006) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "The President's leadership has earned our trust in the war on terror, and surely his administration deserves the presumption that they would not sell our security short." (MSNBC, Feb. 24, 2006)
"[Challengers] have to resort to subversive strategies which will eventually bring them...[economic] profits only if they succeed in overturning the hierarchy of the field without disturbing the principles on which the field is based...The strategy of beating the dominant groups at their own game by demanding that they respect the fundamental law of the field, a denial of the 'economy', can only work if it manifests exemplary sincerity in its own denial."
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN): "There can't be a choice between profits and protecting the American people...We have to do what it takes to protect America. When in doubt, if it costs us a little more money, well, that's the price of freedom." (Fox News Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006) Bruce Bartlett, former exec. dir. of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress: "Mr. Bartlett...sees Mr. Bush as a 'pretend conservative' — 'a partisan Republican, anxious to improve the fortunes of his party' but 'perfectly willing to jettison conservative principles at a moment's notice to achieve that goal.' He writes that the current White House is 'obsessive about secrecy'...." (New York Times, Feb. 21, 2006) CNN report: "President Bush's family and members of the Bush administration have long-standing business connections with the United Arab Emirates...The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is a major investor in The Carlyle Group where President Bush's father once served as senior adviser...Neil Bush, has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from the UAE investors...Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX/. After he left the company for the White House, CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World for more than a billion dollars...President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Sanborn, the former director of Dubai Ports' European and Latin American operations, he was tapped just last month to lead the agency that oversees U.S. port operations." (Lou Dobbs Tonight, Feb. 22, 2006) Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): "We should really test the resolve of the president on this one because what we're really doing is securing the safety of our people." (Associated Press, Feb. 23, 2006)
* All quotes not otherwise attributed come from Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production (1993), pp. 84-85.

Attn: Internet Explorer users

Monday, February 20, 2006 by Jeff

I'm still working out the kinks in this site. At the moment it works best with Mozilla Firefox. Give me a few days and I'll figure this out. Update: I think I've fixed the major problems, but please let me know if things still look wonky in your browser. Unfortunately, IE doesn't allow me to hold the sidebar in place when the rest of the text scrolls. Trust me, it looks much better in Firefox, a free browser that you have no excuse not to be using.

If my vagina could talk...

Sunday, February 19, 2006 by Jeff

Who knew a two hour play about women and their vaginas could be so hilarious and, at the same time, challenging? More than that, it was inspiring.

"...hilarious and challenging...inspiring!"

Jeff Larson, Thyme Magazine

"If your vagina could talk, and it could say two words, what would it say?" Slow down. The first two words that came to my head were,"Oh, no," and I don't know if that answers your question Or if that's what my vagina would say, like, "oh, no." Ice pack. Feed me. Eeh! Use me. "Eat me" comes to mind. Stop thinking so much and have a good time. Where's Tom? What do you want? Want some. Yes! Need some. More. Open for business. How you doing? Slow down.

And so goes one fast-paced monologue. This is a play enacted by women around the world each year in a remarkable attempt to create communities of women by talking publicly about this very private thing that all women have in common. The vagina plays a very central and very real role in this play, but its power comes from the depth of its metaphorical value. It is woman. If we are not supposed to talk about the vagina, it is part and parcel of a reluctance - or refusal - to talk about what is important to women. If we think of vaginas as dirty, smelly, bloody, vile - then we think the same about women.

I remember when I was, after I'd started my period, spending a summer trying to figure out how to put a tampon in. And I remember sort of squatting over a mirror, for days and days and days trying to find the way in. Stop shoving things up me! Stop shoving and stop cleaning it up. My vagina doesn't need to be cleaned up.

The Vagina Monologues was staged on my campus by a student feminist group andhad all the trappings of amateur social activism: low budget sets, hand-made signs, information tables full of leaflets, banners, hordes of screaming young people. It is also a benefit, as it always is, to support organizations working to end violence against women, including domestic violence shelters and rape crisis helplines. Mind-blowing statistics and stories about widescale, systematic rapes abound. One monologue has the audience screaming with laughter, the next holding back tears.

The play, delivered in monologues adapted from more than 200 real interviews with real women, jumps from experience to experience and woman to woman like Annie Sprinkle. There was the 72 year-old woman who had never seen her vagina or experienced an orgasm, who fantasized about Burt Reynolds. The Bosnian girl, veteran of a rape camp, who recounted with breathtaking detail a rape by six soldiers with bottles, sticks, and a broom. The hilariously bitter description of a gynocological visit that clearly resonated with every woman in the audience. The event was unifying. Inspring. Challening.

Go see it.

The great makeover

Friday, February 17, 2006 by Jeff

Well this is a radically different look for this blog, ain't it? I've been messing around with it for a few days, teaching myself how to code style sheets, to work within the blogger.com architecture, and trying to come up with something a little classier and more unique. What do you think? What does it have to do with dried sage? Who knows? Who cares. I liked the photo. It's fun to do and is a "great" distraction from work. Please let me know if you see major problems with the site in your browser. I didn't have a chance to check browsers other than Firefox. Update: I've changed the colors and spacing of the text, fixed the commenting feature, and lightened the background to make everything more readable. As always, your feedback continues to be helpful.

I'd like to get Rumsfeld on the field

Sunday, February 12, 2006 by Jeff

I'm embarrassed to say that I'm at the coffeeshop with my laptop, surrounded by enough other laptops to rival the Central Intelligence Agency. On that note, can you imagine the power we could wield if we just coordinated our own networks of intelligence? Like the CIA, we could keep records of who knows whom, where people spend their time, what they spend their money on, what kinds of music and clothes they like, and on and on. But, the hitch is, we'd be watching them - the politicians, corporate leaders, Donald Rumsfeld. When it came time to kick the bums out, we could surrepticiously leak to the press that Rummy and Cheney meet every Thursday at the Watergate Hotel, dress in women's clothes, and engage in illicit acts of carnal desire, always against the driving beat of Purple Haze. Who says studying social networks is boring? To demonstrate the breadth of my attention and interests, I also think about softball. Because we're a team full of sociologists, we call ourselves the Red Socs ("soc" is short for sociology). It's cute, but it gives the impression that we can't spell. So it's the third game of the season and here I am at shortstop:

(click to enlarge any photo)
That's the position that good players are supposed to play, but I'm there instead. This next shot gives you a sense of what is going on in my head while I'm batting. It is not - repeat, not - what actually happened. As my dear father has often commented, I'm a pinko more than a red, hence the distinctive uniform. Today the Red Socs lost by a comfortable margin - something like 15-1. We were all thrilled that we faired so much better than last week.

Cows, mothers, and US

Thursday, February 09, 2006 by Jeff

A friend of mine studying in Buenos Aires this semester writes that she's going to visit the city's famous central square, the Plaza de Mayo. May is the month of Argentina's independence from Spain - May 1810, when Spain fell to Napolean's European land-grab. It's a giant park surrounded by the national bank, city hall, and the president's office. In Argentina, they passed on a White House and went with pink - la Casa Rosada (and from the balcony..."Don't cry for me Argentina!") - because "the original paint used contained cow blood to prevent damage from humidity" [1]. It seems there's no independence for cows in Argentina. The Plaza de Mayo is also the site of what may be the single longest running protest event in social movement history. Since 1977 - thirty years ago - the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo have walked in the Plaza with signs, white headscarves, and photographs of their children who were abducted by Argentina's seven-year military regime (1976-1983) - we can thank President Jorge Rafael Videla for that. Why were these people abducted? Just the usual: they were leftist intellectuals and artists, union organizers and students, perceived as a threat to the right-wing regime ("Communists!"). If you can't earn the support of your contituents any other way, kill them. In Paraguay, around the same time, 35,000 people were abducted, tortured, and/or killed by that government (that's General Alfredo Stroessner). In Argentina, estimates range from 9,000 to 30,000 killed. Chile's General Pinochet is on trial for similar crimes committed during his seventeen-year rule. So imagine these mothers, obviously died-in-the-wool Communists, marching on the president's office demanding to know what happened to their children. At the beginning, some of them were also "disappeared." Just last year the body of one of the organization's founding mothers was found and reburied (with full honors this time) in the Plaza de Mayo. What did the U.S. do when all of this was going on? That our government knew about the "secret" disappearances is no secret. Our very own elected representatives, under the auspicies of fighting terrorism ("Communists!"), were helping to coordinate intelligence gathering between South American governments - their very own regional Homeland Security, if you will. It made communications technologies available to these military (remember, non-democratic) governments from it's - I mean, our - military bases in Panama. The plaza of independence, la Plaza de Mayo, where mothers and cows come together in the pursuit of justice, and to fend off humidity.

[need random title generator]

Saturday, February 04, 2006 by Jeff

Here it is Saturday (probably is where you are, too) and I'm plugged into the office control panel - that is, my chair, laptop, and headphones. Have you ever listened to Yo La Tengo? Fantastic band that's even fantasticker live when you can better appreciate their improvisational artistry. Hats off to fellow sociology amateur Seth Wright who yesterday met sociology bigwig Randall Collins at the bar while wearing a homemade t-shirt with Professor Collins' face and the letters "W.W.R.D.?" In terms of getting the attention of the big hitters, this is pulling out the stops, with humor. Well done, Seth.


Jeff A. Larson
Sociologist, Arizona.


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