one scoop of my book, with tina topping, please!

The ASA conference will be an extravaganza of awesome, what with the blog party, the blog baseball game, and the fabulous sociology people everywhere. But wait! There is even more still. For those particularly hard-core conference-goers, who will stretch their visit to San Francisco well beyond the bounds of the conference dates, please consider attending the following event:

religiousrightcoverHow the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism

by Tina Fetner
A Different Light bookstore
489 Castro St., San Francisco (near Market)
Wednesday, August 12 at 7:30pm

I hope to see you there!

ask a scatterbrain: book series vs. general sociology

A reader asks:

Given the choice, is it better to have a book published by a publisher who would place the book in a series (edited by scholars from a related discipline, not sociology), or one who would place it in the general sociology list?    Assuming the presses are quite comparable in terms of reputation and the contract terms are similar, etc.  — which would you choose and why?

recent theory for sociology grad students

The time has come to plan my syllabus for fall, 2009, graduate social theory. Last semester I screwed it up (yes, for those of you in the class, I admit it!) — I assigned a newish book I hadn’t read, by a reputable author, which turned out to be awful. The class was sporting about it, but this time around I would like my foray into contemporary sociological theory to be more interesting.

The backstory is this: after a few years in the wilderness, UNC now has enough of a critical mass to credibly produce a few grad students who are theory-oriented, if not purely theorists (whatever that would mean!). So I’d like a book or collection of articles that comes from within, or at least is centrally concerned with, contemporary American sociology, and is recognizably theoretical in character. What would you choose?

light reading

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the hollow state: economism and the evacuation of the public

A common concern raised lately about the incoming Obama administration is that the past eight years have vastly reduced the capacity of the US federal state to do anything. This is principally a function of the incredibly reckless economic behavior of the Bush administration, but it’s also because the rhetoric of “Homeland Security” and “War on Terror” have, IMHO, been used to erect an artificial barrier between state-as-police (which has been ascendant, both domestically and overseas) and state-as-ally (which has been on the decline). The outcome: a radically constrained notion of publicness; the evacuation of the public. Continue reading “the hollow state: economism and the evacuation of the public”

best book in the universe! now in book form!

Well, maybe not the best book from an objective point of view, but from where I am standing, the arrival of my very own copy of this book is pretty amazing.

I just got my advance copy of How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism. It is an analysis of the complex dynamics of opposing movements, wrapped in a fascinating historical account of the lesbian and gay movement and the religious right. It gave me chills (who knew that writing a book was so similar to influenza?) to see it, all printed up with pretty fonts and a cover and my name right there on the front (and the back! and the spine!).

I guess it’s just one sort of thing to be writing a book, and writing, and writing. Still writing that book, Tina? Yes indeed, still writing. Is that the same book you were writing last year? Yes, yes it is. And it’s a whole different sort of thing to have written a book. I have to say that I prefer the latter. On top of that, I think it turned out to be pretty good, if I do say so myself.

From the back cover:

While gay rights are on the national agenda now, activists have spent decades fighting for their platform, seeing themselves as the David to the religious right’s Goliath. At the same time, the religious right has continuously and effectively opposed the efforts of lesbian and gay activists, working to repeal many of the laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and to progress a constitutional amendment “protecting” marriage. Continue reading “best book in the universe! now in book form!”

the strange case of dr. booty and mr. t-bone

Gang Leader for a Day and Freakonomics have an obvious genealogical relationship. Levitt, self-described “rogue economist” co-author of Freakonomics, and Venkatesh, self-described “rogue sociologist” author of GLFAD, have collaborated on much-discussed papers using very unique data on the finances of a gang. The story of how the data came into Venkatesh’s possession is told both in Freakonomics and GLFAD. The person who gave the ledgers to Venkatesh is called “Booty” in Freakonomics and “T-Bone” in GLFAD.

What’s interesting is that the two accounts each read very compelling in their respective narratives, but if you put them side-by-side, they don’t line up that well at all. Continue reading “the strange case of dr. booty and mr. t-bone”

three lessons to young researchers from gang leader for a day

(Book available here.)

1. If you are going to test a survey in an obviously dangerous public housing project, do not have your first question be arguably the worst survey question I have ever seen. (here)

2. If you hear a person planning a drive-by shooting of another person, you are under a legal–as well as, some of us might add, ethical and moral–obligation to do something about it. (This lesson, according to the author, was not learned until four years had been spent doing fieldwork.) (here)

3. If you are told information by interviewees, you should not divulge that information to criminals you know already are extorting money from some of the interviewees. (here)

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.

hamster, step off that wheel!

While Tina and I are not exactly sure what is going to happen with this blog, one thing we have mutually resolved at the outset is that we will not let any kind of aspiration for it compromise its spirit. And in this spirit, I offer as recommended reading: The Underachiever’s Manifesto, by Ray Bennett. (Bonus: As you might expect, it’s quite short.)

Some selected quotes:

“The pleasures of underachievement are many, but they are all too often lost in the pressure for success. (Or, SUCCESS!) The achievement lobby is powerful, and underachievement is, surprisingly, not as easy as it should be… Never mind that no one agrees on what it means to be ‘the best,’ and that it’s actually impossible for everyone to be it, whatever it is.”

“[T]he addiction of achievement leaves behind failed relationships, unhealthy bodies, corrupted minds, or some terrible combination of all three. It’s a sickness that would be considered an epidemic, but of course too many doctors are afflicted with the disease to recognize the symptoms.”

“If something is worth doing at all, sometimes it’s worth doing half-assed.” [This one is so much more obviously true than the more familiar “…it’s worth doing right.”]

“For every life potentially improved and extended by _modest_ exercise, there’s another that has been significantly impaired or shortened by the insane drive for intense physical activity.”

The book discusses the underachiever approach to work, finances, romance, and even religion. As someone who has a mixed set of attitudes about achiever-orientation, I found the book not just amusing but genuinely interesting, as it prompts one to consider what are the real arguments against doing something other than settling for comfortable mediocrity.