Monday, November 2, 2009


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Monday, August 3, 2009

Gates Takes Advantage of the Controversy

It turns out Henry Louis Gates Jr. will be making a study about racial profiling - a great way to turn the controversy into something positive. One had to guess that this was coming. If he does make a documentary instead of a book, then more power to him. If he can secure distribution of the film widely, like Michael Moore did with his last couple of films, then maybe we can hope that some good comes of the incident.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I Study American Culture: Two days in the News

The day before yesterday I was flabbergasted to see that Skip Gates, the preeminent senior Professor at Harvard had been handcuffed and arrested, seemingly a victim of a police officer who didn’t appreciate an “uppity attitude” from a black man, even one who was profiled in his own home, after producing a university I.D..

Who knows how angry Prof. Gates might have been, or what he did or did not say, but you can bet your ass that a senior white professor wouldn’t have been cuffed and arrested for showing his displeasure. Hence, in the circus-show that is our American mass media, we now have an opportunity to discuss several important, salient social issues: the current status of race relations in the Obama era, how social psychology explains more subtle, almost unconscious forms of racism (in other words, why the officer might have unwittingly have expected Prof. Gates to be more deferential), and the presence and practice of race-based profiling by law enforcement.

Obama even weighed in saying that the cops acted “stupidly” in arresting Prof. Gates. So now, if you look on the internet or the TV, there are a lot of talking heads weighing in on the issue. Personally, I’m afraid to watch Fox News (or anybody else for that matter), but at the very least, I welcome the discussion. I’m curious to see how it goes.

Decent coverage of the incident exists here.

On a different, but related, note - yesterday, I read about how the most popular, famous, sideline reporter in sports journalism, Erin Andrews of ESPN fame, was secretly videotaped while changing clothes in her hotel room. Videotaping anybody in their hotel room is an invasion of privacy, but Andrews was filmed when she was completely naked. The low-life who committed this act then had the audacity to put it on the web – where it was quickly duplicated and spread.

If you hadn’t guessed, Erin Andrews is very beautiful (which is, perhaps, a prerequisite for becoming one of the top female reporters at ESPN). I feel sad for her personally, but I feel even more sad for the message this sends to every other woman who is working in a male-dominated industry (like professional and college sports reporting). They are likely feeling something similar to what Andrews is feeling: Objectified. Devalued.

For a teacher like myself, this incident provides yet another opportunity to discuss how the category of “gender” is useful in describing the power relations that structure our everyday lives. In this incident we gain insight on how maleness and masculinity are operating in sports culture. We get a reminder of how pervasive patriarchy is. And for the sports fans out there, we get a chance to discuss (albeit briefly and not using too many big words) why it may not be appropriate for ESPN to constantly focus on her looks, her body, her brand – ostensibly done with her consent (but clearly not her pleasure) in order to appeal to their male viewers.

This second controversy offers another “teachable” moment. Like the Skip Gates incident, the Erin Andrews incident is certainly regrettable. But, because they attract so much attention, they provide interesting and accessible cases for us all to pontificate about how gender and race touch our everyday lives. Just be careful where you look for a serious discussion of these issues. The clowns on the television rarely offer much in the way of thoughtful analysis. That is where us teachers can step in to fill the gap.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why I Like Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter puts his money where his mouth is. RESPECT.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May Menu

From my email to Lynne, earlier today:

Dear Superfox,

Since you like "sciency" documents, here is my morning menu, redacted into a timeline format for accuracy:

9:02 Sit down at desk and begin work

9:04 Decide I am hungry, begin to plan appropriately.

9:05 Eat entire sandwich. Decide it was "mush smaller than expected."

9:08 Eat entire bag of cheese curls. Yummy. Decide cheese curls are "like crack cocaine."

9:15 Eat Nectarine. Decide that nectarines are good, "but they are not cheese curls."

9:18 Consider what I am now going to do for lunch, resume focus on work, ignore pathetic wimpering coming from my mid-stomach. Noise sounds like, "more, please."

11:45 Drink some soup.

12:15 Drink some stanky drip coffee filled with coffee mate.

12:55 - 1:02 Eat Salad, yummy!

1:03 Lick excess dressing out of tupperware container.

1:05 Curse the WW (weight watcher) gods, covet donuts and cookies sitting only two doors away.

1:06 Email extremely cute girlfriend, fully apraise her of situation, resume prayer to the WW gods.

1:12 Finish email timeline, discover almond has fallen to the ground. Consider my place in the universe. Eat Almond. Pray for more scraps on the floor.

1:14 Send email.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

March Madness Finale

Hello college basketball fans,

Its time to lay to rest this year's Gratz Family Spectacular. First, to begin, may we have a moment of silence for the vanquished green and white. They were a great team, who didn't have their best night, unfortunately. Despite the rough end to the tournament, it was a great run for MSU this year. But, as the facilitator of the Gratz Family Challenge, I must "play through the pain" and move on to our business of the day. The results:

North Carolina's victory shook up the family brackets to the point where our previous leader, Turney, who had the lead through most of the tournament, had to settle for fourth place - being beaten by not one, but all THREE of his daughter's significant others. Ohhh, the pain of defeat. The final standings:

1. Will - FIRST PRIZE, the gold medal. You win immense glory, pride, and a mystery gift. (Your mystery gift will arrive in the mail soon)
2. Danny - SECOND PRIZE, the silver medal. All you get is pride, bummer for you.
3. Tyler - THIRD PRIZE, the bronze medal. I won a slice of key lime pie, eaten last night, sprinkled with Turney's tears.
4. Turney - So close, so close. You don't win squat - but you do get some respect for a daring bracket that almost paid off big.
5. Jeannie - You won a snow day yesterday, that's pretty sweet!
6. Lauren - Lost in the head to head dual with Danny, for Chicago pride. Very sad.
7. Rebecca - After leading early, her bracket just fell apart. Also very sad.
8. Bacon Log - Picked all the favorites - no glory there. Remains a tasty (if gluttonous) tournament entry.
9. Lynne - Sadly got whooped by a pork product, need I say more?

For Will, the taste of victory is bittersweet. Sure, Will now gets to brag about being the "college basketball expert" of the family, but his wisdom comes at the expense of his beloved basketball team. Given the choice, we're all pretty sure Will would have exchanged his Gratz Family Spectacular victory for a Spartan win. Perhaps he would have preferred to exchange those final game tickets as well?

So, that's it folks. Thanks for participating! Will's prize is coming to his house via mail. Its a glorious prize. We will expect him to wear it on our next visit out West.

As for the rest of the bracket, one can't help but notice a pattern. It seems like all of the men beat all of the women in the contest... hmmmmm? What happened, ladies?



The 2009 Gratz Family Spectacular Facilitator

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness

Hello college basketball fans!

Welcome to the 2009 Gratz Family Spectacular! For the next three weeks you will be experiencing the glory, the tears, the sweat, and the heartbreak that accompanies the 2009 NCAA College Basketball Tournament. To begin your journey, you must prepare yourself for the roller-coaster ride that occurs each March. This month all of you will experience the typical (and inevitable signs) that you are participating in the Gratz Family Spectacular (hearby referred to as GFS). These include (but are not limited to):

1. A series of coordinated screams and shouts, emanating simultaneously from Lansing, MI and San Ramon, CA.
2. A normally polite kindergarten teacher screaming "Turney!" when a certain spouse drops the "F bomb" in front of both guests and kids.
3. The jumping up and down around a living room, resulting in A) one spilled beverage B) a pulled muscle or tweaked knee, or C) the scaring of a small child or pet.
4. A discernible increase in the amount (and desperate nature) of basketball-related daily prayer.
5. Some hysterical crying by an "unnamed" Washington fan in Ann Arbor, MI.
6. Several end-of-weekend updates, written by the administrator of the Gratz Family Spectacular (with our own group results).

Without further adieu, the players in this years GFS and their brackets:

Lynne "Superfox" Gratz, playing the "BL's Bracket." --- Hoping to follow up a strong debut in the 2008 Tournament, baby Lynne is relying on a combination of savy expertise, roll-the-dice logic, and brazen but proven luck. Will she be able to follow up her savvy rookie performance of last year, or will 2009 be the year of the sophomore curse for this brown-haired beauty?

Turney "TG" Gratz, playing the "TG" Bracket. --- The dean of the GFS, this year the papa bear has some stiff competition from dudes and daughters alike. The million dollar question hinges on if Turney will be blinded by the "green curtain" - that indefatigable and persistent urge to pick Michigan State to advance, advance, and advance. Tune in on Thursday at noon to see if Turney beat the green curtain, or if St. Patrick's day will again cast a green hue on Lansing that will last the rest of March.

Jeanne "Jeanne G" Gratz, playing the "Jeanne" bracket. --- Queen of all Michigan State fans, this year Jeanne hopes to draw on a secret source of predictive power that only the genius possess and the insane lament. Jeanne likes to play it cool, but experts know that a basketball god visited Jeanne last year (taking the form of Drew Neitzel) who told her the winner of the next ten tournaments. Only time will tell if Jeanne will choose to use her secrets this year, or if she will save it for another run.

Rebecca "pringle_rebecca" Pringle, playing the "go green!" bracket --- Known is some parts as the 'master of multitasking' this MSU grad pretends to be only limitedly interested in watching 19 year old kids throw a ball around for 40 minutes. But the smartest observers know that while it may seem like she is simultaneously tending to 1-3 excited offspring, teleconferencing a work meeting, and baking chicken nuggets, she actually is keenly following the college basketball emanating from the other room. Don't forget your march maxim: Best Brackets bet on Beck!

Lauren "leitaolauren" Leitao, playing the "L-Train" bracket. --- Listen up, all you chicagoans riding public transportation! Don't underestimate just how far the L train will go! L train is gonna run her bracket fast and hard, and she's gonna go so far you better not miss the stop! She's bringing some wicked moves, straight from Morseland all the way up and down your sh*t, so you kids better bring your A game or just step off before the L train puts the smack down on your brackets. Yeaauuuhhhh.

Danny "dannyleitao" Leitao, playing the "D Money" bracket. --- The second of our Chicago based participants, D money plans to take the L train to school!!! While it may be tempting to focus on the "chicago v. chicago" match between D money and the L train, don't sleep on his chances to win it all. Opponents know that to beat D money you need to distract him with meat. Ribs, Chicken, Lamb, Pork, Braziliian "all you can eat barbeque" served on better bring out all the stops to get D money to the point where he is no longer paying attention to his brackets, and is only "eating for pain."

Conrad William "cdub" Pringle, playing the "Get your Suton for the Dance" bracket. --- This year cdub has to be considered the odds-on favorite and savvy veteran. While upstarts might be tempted to pick a newcomer, smart money has cdub dancing all the way. But, as was true for the papa bear, Cdub has to overcome the blinding brightness of the green curtain. This year we ask, will Cdub benefit from being one of the truest fans, the most dedicated disciples of the Church of Izzo, and get rewarded for his faith? Nobody in Ann Arbor is sure which way Cdub will play it...will he pick MSU to go all the way, or will his basketball IQ overcome his MSU heart? Its a true toss up.

Bacon "my_bacon_log" Explosion, playing "Bacon's Picks" bracket. --- This year the Bacon Explosion gained fame at the Superbowl, where this giant meat torpedo delighted audiences with his 7000+ calories and 500+ grams of fat. This March the Bacon Explosion has returned - not in actual form - but as a way for the rest of the field to see how the "favorites" are doing. Bacon Explosion picked the favored seed in every match-up, representing the picks of the tournament committee who placed the field. Bacon is a good benchmark for everyone. Did you beat the Bacon? Or did Bacon beat you? Did you eat the Bacon? Will the Bacon get eaten by the D money meat master? Only time will tell.

And finally, your administrator, Tyler "tacornelius" Cornelius, playing the "Pac 10 Represents (Tyler's picks)" bracket. --- A tried and true Washington fan, Tyler suffers from an acute case of home team optimism. While others suffer from green curtains, Tyler's curtains are purple (and so is the rest of his furniture). Incapable of looking at a Pac 10 game objectively, Tyler has picked all of the Pac 10 teams to advance in the first round, and three to make the sweet 16. Would anyone in their right mind pick this outcome, especially this year? Probably not, but nonetheless, he can't help it. So it goes.

So there you have it....

Will MSU run long and deep into March?
Will the L train take all of D Money's mojo?
Will the superfox wipe the floor with the competition (like last year)?
Will Washington fans around the world rejoice?

We'll see...very soon!


Your Administrator