Holiday reviews

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks here at SHQ. I’ve been catching up on things that might have been neglected for a while earlier in the month, such as shaving and reading for fun. So here are a few reviews of holiday pastimes.

  • 13-hour drives to see family for Christmas: Mixed. That’s a long time to spend in the car, especially on the way home when that unsettling noise from the engine keeps getting louder.
  • Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman: Favorable. The audiobook version of this, which until a day or so ago was entirely free at iTMS, carried me through a good 6-hour chunk of drive time. It’s read by Hodgman, and is lots of fun, even though it tends to get a little overly cute now and then. It’s sufficiently nerdy for anyone likely to be reading this review, containing both extended histories of the Hobo Wars as well as a section on Noteworthy Rivalries in Dungeons and Dragons.
  • Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe: Mixed. I’ve read somewhere, perhaps on the back of the book, that this was one of the best fantasy novels Of Our Time. The story strikes me as pretty interesting, and Wolfe has invented a fairly fully-realized world, but every one in a while I find myself rolling my eyes at the language (“He sighed, the kind of wheezing a leather pillow sometimes makes when one sits on it.” Or, “She picked up a leek, and then as if she did not know what else to do with it she dropped it down her throat like a mountebank swallowing a viper.”); I’m also not at all sure that I buy the motivation of the boy-torturer’s imminent treachery (again, it’s on the back cover, and the set-up is made in the first ten pages of the book).
  • Spritz cookies: Favorable. Mmm, cookies.
  • Those damnable meringue cookies: Unfavorable. Who likes these terrible things?
  • Snow: Favorable. Except when it forces me to drive unexpectedly for 13 hours.
  • Deadwood, season 2: Favorable. Good stuff. Season 2 really takes off.
  • Blood Diamond: Favorable. I have a hard time taking Leonardo DiCaprio seriously, but this is a pretty well-made fim, though one that is occasionally needlessly preachy.
  • Jennifer Connelly in Blood Diamond: Favorable, even though the movie doesn’t give her a whole lot to do. If you like John Hodgman’s reference to Noteworthy Rivalries in Dungeons and Dragons, you’ve probably had a crush on her ever since Labyrinth.
  • $50 auto parts machined into $800 auto parts: Unfavorable. Damn you, Subaru.
  • Kale: Favorable. Adds flavor and texture to any winter-time soup.

Doesn't look new to me

I’ve spent the last handful of days going to and from Newark, New Jersey (There’s a story there that involves trying to plan a large gathering in Manhattan on United Nations Opening Day, the conclusion of which was ending up in Newark), for a workshop and meeting regarding a volume I’m contributing to. The volume (on online and digitally-facilitated civic engagement) is part of a series sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and has introduced me to some really interesting scholars, as well as given me lots to think about. The chapter I’m co-authoring uses online entertainment-related petitioning to explore some “movement society” arguments and a few ideas about cultural contestation. The whole MacArthur series is specifically about implications of digital media for youth, so we also try to think about the ways, if any, that online forms of contentious activity might be particularly relevant to or formative of young peoples’ politics. It’s fascinating project to be a part of. (More discussion coming, as our chapter firms up and moves from beta to production.) Now for some travel errata:

“Sterile area”

If the area where I bought it was really “sterile,” they’d let me bring that mocha on the plane with me.


Next time I travel, I’ll down less coffee and more vitamin C. Seems like every time I get on a plane these days, I deplane with a cold.

Heavy rotation

Travel usually means lots of iPod time. Between a few flights and some long days driving to Phoenix and back, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve logged a lot of tracks to In heavy rotation right now are:

  • Marah: If you Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry is a super album. Especially good are “The Hustle”, “Walt Whitman Bridge”, and “Dishwasher’s Dream.” (That last one, in particular, has this furiously dreamy sound that gets me every time.)
  • Teddy Morgan: Morgan was based in Tucson for a while and became a local favorite, mixing (alt-)country, rock, rockabilly. Put on a killer live show. Then he went to Nashville and started playing sessions and producing for everybody back in Tucson. Morgan has a Myspace page with a few tracks, including a striking demo of “Thousand Miles” (from his album Freight). It’s a little lo-fi, but it has a great feel.
  • Richard Buckner: Hard to classify. But good. His new Meadow is reviewed over here by Cheezeball. (No cheeze whatsoever, they say.) His Dents and Shells has some great tracks: “Firsts” and “Straight” are personal standouts. Buckner also has a cool album with John Langford that genuinely rocks out from time to time. It has to, with a title like Sir Dark Invader vs The Fanglord.
  • Bob Dylan: Heather at Fuel for Friends put together a sweet, sweet set of tracks based on a recent Rolling Stone profile of Bob Dylan. One song I hadn’t heard before, “Sign On The Window,” features Dylan murmuring about moving to Utah, building a cabin, finding a woman, and catching lots of rainbow trout. Sounds like a plan.

Made it

I made it to Montréal last night; it turned out to have been a comparatively fortunate day to be traveling. Today was full of some really interesting conversations at the CITASA mini-conference.

At the risk of becoming a The Show repeater tower, I have to say that, on the subject of terrorism, Ze is good today.

On the way

I’m on the way to Montreal, a day earlier than many of my sociologist colleagues; I’m going to try out a couple of pre-conference events this year. Having elected to drive on down to Phoenix the night before, rather than get up at 2am for a two-hour drive, I’m camped out at a hotel for the night. (Note to self: Make some friends in Phoenix.)

A few notes from the road:

  • The Sleep Number Bed. Believe the hype.
  • Hotels are my opportunity to catch up on my cable TV. The National Geographic Channel has an amazing documentary called “In the Womb.” It’s just like watching “The Miracle of Life” in 6th grade, but without the awkward giggling and with absolutely stunning photography.
  • I now recall why it’s so great to live outside of the desert. It’s ridiculously hot here, even though it’s not nearly as hot as it was a couple of weeks ago. My desert defenses have been weakened by Flagstaff’s high-altitude cool.
  • I got caught on on post-primary coverage after the drive down from the mountains. Joe Lieberman is a jerk of almost mythic proportions.

Random notes from the road

A few observations from a weekend trip to Colorado:

  • Wifi in the Phoenix airport has improved dramatically from when I tried it last time. This time around, I could reach all my regular ports: secure SMTP, ssh, the works.
  • What kind of person goes to a blog, finds the email feedback form, and anonymously sends a message filled with the same repeated (and adamantly-stated, if the number of exclamation points are any indication) profanity?
  • The best breakfast burrito in Fort Collins is at Mugs on College Ave. Seriously, this sucker is tasty.
  • When chosing a restaraunt for a semi-formal celebration, it is not necessarily a sign of impending doom that the joint is around the corner from the Hunt Club. But it’s not encouraging, either.

Dear America West Airlines

Thank you for cancelling my flight, not telling me, and not rebooking me. Your refusal to offer me a refund, as a matter of course, is also quite bracing. At least last summer you had the decency to call me first.

PS: The lady at the Alamo rental counter hates your guts.

Evidence of excessive overspecialization

Subtitled: Be prepared.



Alternate subtitle: Getting away from it all.
Alternate alternate subtitle, with much thanks to John: OCD much?

Life in a one-runway town

My itinerary:


The itinerary for paving the single runway at the airport:



About, the short version

I’m a sociologist-errant. This site is powered by Textpattern, Pair Networks and the sociological imagination. For more about me and this site, see the long version.

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