Archive for the ‘Social life’ Category

Three morning names

February 3, 2015

I occasionally post about my “morning names” — names that I wake up with stuck in my head, for no reason I can fathom. Today’s morning name was Jensen Ackles, an actor I’ve already written about on this blog (on 8/21/13). But: on Saturday, the social psychologist Bibb Latané; on Sunday, the actor Pat Buttram (noted for cowboy and hayseed roles); and yesterday, the hayseed performer Judy Canova.

The last two will lead me to reflect on farm folk as comic characters, and the last to the 1937 movie Artists and Models, with its mixture of “high” and “low” characters.


Hipster chronicles

October 31, 2014

An illustration: the cover of the 11/3/14 New Yorker, Peter de Sève’s “Hip Hops”, with a hipster doing a beer tasting in a hipster bar:

More on the artist and the story behind this illustration later. But first, on hipster.



October 26, 2014

A slang term (also spelled doxing) from the Gamergate controversy (see below), for “researching and publishing personally identifiable information about an individual” (Wikipedia), in a form of cyber-bullying. The Wikipedia article derives the term from dox, which it treats as a clipped version of document, but it seems more likely that dox is just a re-spelling of docs, which is a clipped version of documents, used here with a specialized meaning.


Cultural commentary

October 23, 2014

A recent op-ed column in the NYT from David Brooks, who fancies himself a critic of the sociocultural scene, on hysterical responses to Ebola: “The Quality of Fear: What the Ebola Crisis Reveals About Culture” on October 21st, beginning:

There’s been a lot of tut-tutting about the people who are overreacting to the Ebola virus. There was the lady who showed up at the airport in a homemade hazmat suit. There were the hundreds of parents in Mississippi who pulled their kids from school because the principal had traveled to Zambia, a country in southern Africa untouched by the Ebola outbreak in the western region of the continent. There was the school district in Ohio that closed a middle school and an elementary school because an employee might have flown on the same plane (not even the same flight) as an Ebola-infected health care worker.

The critics point out that these people are behaving hysterically, all out of proportion to the scientific risks, which, of course, is true. But the critics misunderstand what’s going on here. Fear isn’t only a function of risk; it’s a function of isolation. We live in a society almost perfectly suited for contagions of hysteria and overreaction.

Here we get the trope of Decline — things are getting worse, as hysteria and paranoia spread — combined with the claim of Recency — the decline has been steep recently — all of this, according to Brooks, explained by a social change: the fragmentation of American society as social, cultural, and political groups isolate themselves from one another.

Now, Decline and Recency are, in principle, testable matters. And since Brooks presents himself as a fan of work in social science (he occasionally publishes summaries of social-science research he finds significant, or at least thought-provoking), you’d expect him to provide evidence for Decline and Recency in social hysteria, but no: like so many cultural commenters he merely retails his subjective impressions as truths, and then conjures up an explanation for them.


Two from Out

September 20, 2014

Yesterday, it was The Advocate; today, it’s another LPI publication, Out (or OUT) magazine, again with two pieces of interest for this blog in the latest (October 2014) issue: one on straightsplaining, one on gay bookstores.



September 9, 2014

In the NYT Sunday Review on the 7th, a “Room for Debate” feature on “Why Don’t Americans Take Vacation?”, with commentators weighing in on the topic. It’s a pretty dire discussion, emphasizing how (with the destruction of the clout of labor unions in the US) a great many workers have very few, if any, benefits; family-friendly company practices and benefits are especially meager. In particular, there are vacations. From John de Graaf, answering the question in the main title: “Many Feel Trapped by Work”:

Vacations in the U.S. are among the shortest in the world, and a quarter of American workers get no paid vacation leave at all. Then, to add insult to injury, surveys find that 40 percent of us leave vacation days unused – three to seven days on average. Why do we do it?

de Graaf gives three contributing reasons, two of which have to do with company failures to cover for employees on vacation.

My early work experience included some time on a newspaper that published weekdays and Sundays — a context in which employees couldn’t just take off on vacation, since the paper had to get out, every day of the week, with current news. Things were managed in several ways, like staggered vacations, but one part of the system was the use of a “floater” (that would be me) who would fill in wherever hands were needed.


Everything changes after Labor Day

September 1, 2014

A Leo Cullum cartoon from the 9/9/02 New Yorker:


The idea that men shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day has been much disputed, but here’s another Labor Day stricture, recognizing that (US) Labor Day is conventionally the end of summer.

(Hat tip to Michael Palmer.)

Cullum (who died in 2010) drew a great many gag cartoons that have been posted on this blog.

The ice-bucket challenge

September 1, 2014

A Shannon Wheeler cartoon in the latest (9/1/14) New Yorker:


An exquisitely topical cartoon, of the sort that the magazine has published since its early days. It’s hard to believe the cartoon will make much sense to people in a few years, when the news story has faded from public memory. But at the moment…




Annals of community and conversation

August 22, 2014

On Slate on the 20th, a piece by David Auerbach, on “The First Gay Space on the Internet: It was called soc.motss, and it anticipated how we use social networks today”. Framing the piece:

Since the early 1980s, there have been many LGBTQ spaces on the Net: newsgroups, bulletin board systems, or BBSs, mailing lists, social networks, chat rooms, and websites. But the very first LGBTQ Internet space, as far as I’ve been able to find, was the soc.motss newsgroup. And it hosted conversations that had never been seen before online — and that arguably remain in too short supply even today.



May 19, 2014

From several sources on Facebook (but ultimately from the Oatmeal webcomic), this item:


This is accent taking in all aspects of a variety of a language, not just the phonological aspects. In this case, phonology is barely involved (though you can imagine some of it, using stereotypes of upper-class British pronunciation)): it’s all about lexical choices, register/style, and conversational topic (leaning heavily towards the sexual) — obscure, perhaps archaic, and pompously rakish.

(This is another case in which I don’t really know whether the item is to be classified as a cartoon, or what.)


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