the green, green grass of your world

I’ve been holding back on commenting on the powerful post by “olderwoman.” I’ve been less tempted to comment on it directly, and more on some of the commentary on the post, on the extension of the conversation over on Crooked Timber, and the extensions of the conversation on scatterplot. Finally, I just got to the point where I decided to just write my own post about one of the things that bugs me about that whole conversation. That thing is this tendency we seem to have toward a perceptual bias in which, when things are tough for us, that we always seem to think we have it worse than other people–the grass is always greener in someone else’s life than ours.

I’m not one who thinks much of trying to put different people’s suffering on a scale and trying to determine who has it worse, mainly because the vast majority of the time we really have little idea what is going on in other people’s lives and how something that might seem insignificant to us could be a major hassle, or even debilitating, in theirs. Have you ever been embarrassed after doing something like mocking or criticizing someone for poor performance only to learn that one of their Continue reading “the green, green grass of your world”

get a theory, would ya?

I’m currently in midst of writing reviews for 21 NSF proposals (which need to all be filed by 5:00 tomorrow before I head to the airport to fly out to Washington for the Sociology Panel…argh). Having read most all of them at this point, I can make a couple of recommendations to future writers of NSF grants, but I’ll limit myself to just one in this post. This same recommendation flows just as much from my experience editing the journal Mobilization and from watching innumerable job talks over the last decade. That advice is: get a theory.

The biggest problem with the vast majority of these grant proposals is that it is not apparent that many of the authors have a theoretical project at all, or if they even know Continue reading “get a theory, would ya?”

why liberals suck (at being liberals)

I like listening to books-on-tape in the car. This is probably because I’m getting older and can’t stand most of the music played for “kids these days” on the radio. I wouldn’t mind listening to more talk radio if I could find someone who shared my biases. Even that darn NPR is too far to the right for me with its nutty journalistic commitment to “balance.” Please! You can’t “balance” the truth with a bunch of lies.

The last couple of weeks I have been making my way through a recorded version of James Carville and Paul Begala’s book, Take it Back. The idea of the book is to call Democrats on the carpet for (1) being wimps that need a backbone transplant, (2) being too darn complicated in their approach to their message, and (3) just generally being intellectually elitist in their attitudes.

That’s a message that the Dems need to be hear, but I’m having trouble getting through the book because its tone is so insufferable. It’s ironic in a way, because despite their attempts to seem all down-homey (the CD starts with some nice banjo playing), they end up being just as condescending as the wimps they’re attacking. It’s also pretty easy to call other people wimps when you don’t have much to lose. And, despite the fact that the most-used phrase in the book is, “It’s simple,” they end up dealing with an extremely wide array of issues that I can’t even keep track of (we’re talking five full-length CD’s).

In the end, these guys end up proving their own point and demonstrate exactly why liberals can’t make it on the talk radio circuit: They’re boring. There are a lot of ways to be boring including getting into complications and details no one can follow, not giving people a take-home sound bite, and just generally yammering on about things people don’t really care about that much. But these guys’ biggest problem is they can’t write or tell a joke that’s worth a damn.

The “best” one I’ve heard so far: “They [the dems] are, in our view, like the proverbial blind people examining the donkey…Hey! We’re Democrats and we can’t very well use an elephant analogy!”

I think if I ever run for president, a good fraction of my campaign budget is going to be used to hire Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld to write jokes for me.