Another not-sure-what-day-I-actually-finished-this. I bought this and Slouching Towards Bethlehem as pity-buys -- you know, that thing when you're inAnother not-sure-what-day-I-actually-finished-this. I bought this and Slouching Towards Bethlehem as pity-buys -- you know, that thing when you're in an independent bookstore, and there's nothing you really want, but you feel badly and want to support them, so you just pick something that's used and under $3? Anyway, I do that kind of a lot. I remembered that in college a writing professor had recommended Bethlehem to me, and that I'd read some of the essays in it and liked it. And in recent years, as she's come into the limelight again with her, for lack of a better term, grief memoirs, I've found myself once again kind of fascinated by Joan Didion.
And damn The White Album is good. The titular essay grabs you and just will haunt you, like every part of it -- the now-forgotten news items, the still-talked-about events, the bits and pieces of Didion's own life. I have also been watching a lot of Dragnet lately (hell yeah streaming Netflix) which has really gotten me fixated on Los Angeles in the late 1960s, which is when most of these pieces either are about and/or were written. This is not a time I've ever really been terribly interested in (cue rant about how baby boomers, Woodstock, the Haight, etc. are not that interesting). But '60s LA and '60s San Francisco are two very, very different places. '60s LA sounds less like Woodstock and more like Altamont, and that really comes through here. It's hard to shake....more
It feels awful to rate a book as deeply personal as this just "liked it," but what can you do. Maybe it is because what was most compelling for me herIt feels awful to rate a book as deeply personal as this just "liked it," but what can you do. Maybe it is because what was most compelling for me here -- depressing what this probably says about me -- were the glimpses "behind the scenes" so to speak of her essays and journalism. Didion often talks about herself in her early writing, but her husband is most often viewed only as a switch to the first-person plural ("we" did x, y, or z) and her daughter as "the baby." So it had for me this weird, dualistic quality of oh hey, I remember when they were in Bogota! And I couldn't get over that what became the first part of "In the Islands" was a column for Life magazine.
I don't know. I had anticipated that this book would evoke strong feelings for me, but for some reason I just felt kept at arm's length. I wonder also though if when I'm reading it makes a difference, knowing how the daughter's story turns out -- though I feel like that should've added to the tension, not reduced it. I don't know. I just kept finding myself dwelling on how cool their life together sounded (something I do with her journalism as well). Even when things aren't going well, it's a glamorous not-going-well -- bad news following a funeral on a Beverly Hills tennis court, a wet dress from an ill-advised bit of party-planning at one's Brentwood home, landslides but oh wait they're in Malibu. I want to read Blue Nights though still, to see if that gets to me. ...more
I hate doing this, and rarely do, because I'm such a compulsive completer, but I just couldn't make it through this entire book... I actually gave upI hate doing this, and rarely do, because I'm such a compulsive completer, but I just couldn't make it through this entire book... I actually gave up pretty early on. It was just too boring and obvious, and yes, I know that that is literally the most obnoxious critique that one can give to a sociology text. In my case though, a lot of it is that I've read enough subsequent lit talking about their findings to know where they're going, and I disagree with where they're going, so.
UPDATE: I actually DID finish this book (1/2/12). Nope, reading the rest didn't change my mind.
Their big argument is that American teens have big ambitions, but no idea how to make these into realities. They contend that everyone's desire to be a professional doesn't fit with economic realities or futures, and that high school and college students thus find themselves adrift, which is fair. But their like '18-year-olds should really be able to figure out exactly what they want to do' I think is a bit unfair/unrealistic, and their ideas for how they should do this (mainly via teen employment -- the like one place where I agree with Tim Clydesdale, who talks about this book a lot) not so helpful either.
Their examples they do give, particularly an early amalgamated one about a girl wanting to be a fashion mag editor, show that they have no idea how to get these jobs either, so. They're all "she should be looking into colleges that have relevant majors or journalism schools!" and stuff like that. As someone who has worked in the ladymag business, let me say to that, uh no. Basically it's who you know, and you get to know these people by either a) going to a name school b) doing internships c) simply being fabulous or ideally d) all four (I had a and b only, and thus never made it that far up that particular career ladder).
In any event, I bought this one because I thought it would be a fun and easy read, but it was too dullsville -- very "kids these days". I basically read most of part 1, where they compare their data to old interview and quantitative data from a few large-scale studies done in the 50s. So its sort of an interesting methodology, but I just didn't feel like they leveraged as well as they could have in their findings. Their descriptions of teen life in the 50s versus the 90s fall incredibly flat given the richness of the data they're using.
Also -- and this is on Yale, not on them -- dude, the stock photo they got for the cover is just too much. It's an amazing composition of odd-looking models and 90s white clothing styles. The girls with the giant mens' jeans and their underwear showing are kind of amazing, particularly the really skinny one in the middle in the velour tank. But the guys -- oh the guys. On the far left we've got a sort of raver -slash- Backstreet Boy, with dog collars and what appears to be a fanny pack layered over a visor on his head. In the background we've got a skater (can tell from the Independent logo visible on his backwards-turned hat). Then we have this dude who's head is incredibly giant and who appears to be about to start laughing hysterically. He (I think) has on a giant Nautica logo sweater. The guy on the right is almost my favorite though. He's a big-headed Jonathan Taylor Thomas lookalike in a Nautica visor and (inexplicably) what appears to be a Hawaiian shirt. Wait, how did I forget that the girl on the left has one tiny braid in her hair, and a Bart Simpson button pinned to her belt? As much as this book holds back, this awful stock image just keeps on giving. ...more
I used this as a textbook in a course I taught this spring (Qualitative Methods in Educational Settings). While tedium is basically the nature of theI used this as a textbook in a course I taught this spring (Qualitative Methods in Educational Settings). While tedium is basically the nature of the beast with any "how to" methods book, this one tries its hardest. I actually really like that this book focuses primarily on fieldnotes, and really orients itself to that -- more than any other aspect of ethnography, I feel like gathering data in this way, and then dealing with it, is the hardest thing to get students to really grasp. I also really like that many of the examples that they use are from UCLA undergraduates -- I know that made things feel very "do-able" for my students (though I could've used less of the excerpts from the one co-authors fieldwork in Africa... these were realllly long and way less useful for my students, as clearly traveling to another country/culture is not the kind of thing one is asked to do for a ten-week-long undergraduate course!). In all though, this volume is extremely readable, offers lots of direct and useful advice, and best of all, is priced extremely reasonably for use in undergraduate courses (I had been going to use that old chestnut Lofland and Lofland Analyzing Social Settings, but that one costs a bundle! And in the end I was so much happier with this as a textbook than I ever was with L&L). I am already planning to use it again in the Field Methods course I am going to be teaching this winter. (Oh yeah, did I mention I teach my own classes now? 'Cause I do. Sorry, just have to brag for a moment.)...more
I bought this book mainly because it was on super-sale at Half-Price Books (i.e., less than half price!) in Seattle and because I collect vintage heavI bought this book mainly because it was on super-sale at Half-Price Books (i.e., less than half price!) in Seattle and because I collect vintage heavy metal tees. It seemed like a reasonable addition to my metal library. Interestingly, one of the co-authors (Chalfa) is owner of Red Light Vintage, a Pacific Northwest-specific vintage chainlet. I've been to the ones in Capitol Hill and the U District (Seattle) and to one of the ones in Portland. Most of their vintage-wear is of limited interest to me (lots of overpriced dresses from the 60s), but they always have lots of vintage rock tees.
Considering this dude wrote a book on tees (and claims his own collection is worth $30K), Red Light doesn't do amazing with the pricing, or even with ID'ing them -- I once spotted a Hot Topic repro Ozzy Blizzard of Ozz shirt hanging on their wall for $75. That said, sometimes one can get a deal there (or at least, something of a deal). One of my biggest regrets is not getting a Great White "Mistabone" shirt there that was on clearance for $12. On this particular trip, I bought a Slaughter The Wild Life tee for $12 and, after much agonizing, a Motley Crue 1985 Theatre of Pain Alister Fiend tour tee for $75. That is BY FAR the most I've ever paid for one of these, but this was the rare case where Red Light had actually undervalued something -- I've never seen a Crue shirt from that era for under $150. Considering that the last shirt I'd bought before that was an extremely undervalued Iron Maiden 1982 tour tee (which I bought for $36, and which turns out to have a market value between $500-1,000), I decided it was okay to splurge.
Okay, so this has turned into a review of my shopping haunts and habits. One last comment though -- I have always been SO perplexed where Red Light gets their shirts from. For all my bitching about this dude, he must have some amazing sources that are definitely not eBay -- good luck finding reasonably priced shirts on eBay, those people all think they can get $150-400 no matter how crappy or common their shirts are. But seriously -- I found the Crue shirt I wound up buying in a pile that included a Europe tee (The Final Countdown, very overpriced at $80), a W.A.S.P. Electric Circus tee (overpriced at $60, that album sucks), an earlier W.A.S.P. tee (1984-ish and priced at I think $65 -- my 1984 W.A.S.P. tee is a better one and I paid $15 for it), and at least one other. And that was just like, what they'd gotten in that day. They also had Poison, Stryper, a Crue Dr. Feelgood tee... I mean this place is just crawling with metal tees.
ANYWAY. This book is just okay. I often get the impression that while the authors know a decent amount about t-shirts (they talk about how sizing changed over time, as well as fabric weight), they know very, very little about the bands. They frequently misidentify what's album art vs. what isn't, and what types of iconography can be considered "attributes" of various bands. Also, if you're talking about peering at something, it's "peek", not "peak." That said, for $3, it's a cute book and obviously very up my alley, interests-wise.
Oh, and if you're wondering -- does my extensive collection include any of the shirts in the book? Why yes, it does! On p. 114, I have the RATT Out of the Cellar 1984 tour tee (gift from a friend, purchased in either Vegas or Arizona, I can't remember which). On p. 135, I have that Great White tee (yes, after turning down the one, I hunted down another older one). Mine is in better condition, still has its sleeves, and says "Ofishal tour shirt" at the bottom (with "fish" in a different color) rather than "Finally a tour". On p. 139, I have that Megadeth shirt, purchased by a friend of mine at an LA flea market (the authors aren't too stoked on this shirt, but it's one of my favorites -- very thin fabric, but the printing has held up amazingly). And on p. 148, I have that Queensryche Operation Mindcrime tee -- also a gift from that same friend as the other two. Snap, I should call him and thank him!...more
I feel bad giving this only two stars, but I feel like it would be overreaching to say I "liked it." It's a really admirable effort, and an importantI feel bad giving this only two stars, but I feel like it would be overreaching to say I "liked it." It's a really admirable effort, and an important subject of study, but I felt like it too often came up short. Perry is prone to letting her subjects more or less speak in their own voices for pages and pages at a time, and then summarizing or making attributions that feel questionable -- like you just showed me a bunch of your data, but I sure didn't see that in it, so I'm not inclined to trust you that it's there. It may also be that I think I am experiencing Berkeley High ethnography fatigue (come on, there's no way on earth "Clavey" is anything but), though it may just be Bay Area ethnography fatigue (yes, we all know how I feel about the Bay Area, about Cal, etc. South Park's "smug" episode actually summed it up pretty well).
In any event, throughout this I just kept thinking of other books, also by Cal PhDs, in similar (possibly the same) settings -- Clavey sounds just like C.J. Pascoe's... well, I don't even need to give the pseudonym, she told my husband in a class he took as an undergrad (yes, at Cal, I married into Cal) that she was doing fieldwork at Berkeley High. And Valley Groves sounds awfully like the site where Julie Bettie does her fieldwork. Both of those books were stronger than this one, though I feel like the subject matter here has so much potential. In the end though, the key takeaways -- things like racial/ethnic identity is socially constructed and relational -- just don't feel earth-shattering....more
This book is a lot less scary, and a lot less policy intervention-oriented, than the title leads one to believe. I'm not sure about Pope's strategy ofThis book is a lot less scary, and a lot less policy intervention-oriented, than the title leads one to believe. I'm not sure about Pope's strategy of intensively following just five students. Sure, doing extreme cases is fine, but I don't know that having them identified entirely by the school was the best way to go. I think she might have done better to start out observing larger groups of students, and then choose several to focus in on herself. That might have helped the students she gives portraits of here to feel more like examples of certain types, rather than random examples whom she then needs to make fit in with her story.
This was an easy read though, and did have some interesting parallels both to a lot of what I know of my students' lives. Also gave me a lot of food for thought about the roots of the increasing utilitarianism of a lot of college students (documented in a lot of other stuff I've read recently), declining interest in the liberal arts or knowledge for its own sake, etc. ...more
Whoa, I am way behind on updating Goodreads! I read this one a while ago and have read several similar-ish books in the interim. I will say that thisWhoa, I am way behind on updating Goodreads! I read this one a while ago and have read several similar-ish books in the interim. I will say that this book is much more reasonable than a lot of pundits have made it out to be; at the same time, a lot of what's in it isn't that shocking (well, the extent to which student achievement is racially stratified is galling, but if you've read much of the higher ed literature, it's no surprise -- their data is far from the first to find this). That said, for how much this book had been hyped up to me before I read it, I went in expecting to be really wowed, and kind of wasn't. In some ways, it's like a really long journal article. I also would have liked if they had collected some of their own qualitative data rather than relying on bringing in lots of quotes from other studies (which I had pretty much all read and believe to be of varying quality) to bolster their quantitative data....more
This book has one star only because you aren't allowed to give zero stars -- zero stars here simply means "not rated." But trust, if I could give thisThis book has one star only because you aren't allowed to give zero stars -- zero stars here simply means "not rated." But trust, if I could give this zero stars, I would. By the time I finished this book, I felt genuinely embarrassed for UChicago Press that they had published it. What made it so horrible? Let us count the ways.
1) Excessively normative writing I don't think I have ever read a piece of work by an academic sociologist that contained such strong normative language. Clydesdale rests much of his argument on regular reference to "mainstream American culture" and "mainstream American teens," and while he does attempt to define the former (though intriguingly, never the latter), he never makes clear where it is that he gets his definitions from. That said, his own preoccupations pop up with astonishing regularity. He is clearly chagrined that the teens he interviews seem unaffected by the events of 9/11, and he advocates strongly that religious teens, and particularly Evangelical Christians attending Christian colleges, show the greatest moral development and expand their learning the most in college. Hmm, where did Clydesdale go to college? Oh right, Wheaton. Oh no, not the Wheaton College in Massachusetts that's a clearinghouse for preppies who didn't get into Trinity or Tufts. I mean the Wheaton in Illinois. Yes, that's right, the Christian one.
1b) Excessively normative evaluations It's clear throughout his writing that Clydesdale believes he knows what is best for his subjects, and has insights into their lives that they lack -- treacherous territory for a sociologist (and particularly for one who didn't even do all his interviews himself). But Clydesdale attempts to lead his reader to share his judgments, often in embarrassingly overt ways. Case in point: He lauds the findings of the Independent Women's Forum's report Hanging out, hooking up, and hoping for Mr. Right. Does he mention that they're a conservative group? Does he mention that one of the authors of this report isn't even an academic? Does he pause to consider that the report is very much based on a deeply biological, binary understanding of gender difference, and that its findings imply that women would be better off with the gender norms of the 1950s? Noooo.
But then later, when he discusses the findings of UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, and particularly sociologist Alexander Astin, who has been their most prominent researcher for many years, he spends a few pages attempting to discredit them. He goes through all the reasons why HERI -- a non-partisan research center -- would have a personal or I guess institutional stake in promoting certain kinds of findings but not others, and why we should probably not trust their research. This in spite of the fact that compared to as blatantly agenda-driven a group as the Independent Women's Forum, HERI is, quite frankly, unimpeachable (and also has several decades' worth of longitudinal research that has been utilized by a wide range of scholars, as opposed to this one IWF report that has been mainly used by folks who'd like women to shut up and get back in the kitchen).
Why does he do this? Because he agrees with what IWF are trying to argue, while HERI's findings are disagreeable to the claims he's making (which is a whole other deal, given that he attempts to make claims in this book that are well beyond what he can reasonably infer from the data he has). Okay, fine, so he's blatant in promoting his own agenda. My question is, again, why would UChicago Press let him do this?
2) Excessive ambitions it doesn't even begin to reach You can think, in your deepest, most secret place, that your book will be on par with, and comparable to, Middletown, The Lonely Crowd, or Habits of the Heart. I'd say it's maybe acceptable to say it to someone else if you're really drunk, and they're so drunk that they a) probably won't understand what you're saying and b) even if they do, won't remember you said it later. But to actually come right out and say that in the first chapter of your book? Oh honey. This is no Street Corner Society. You're not even close. This is more of a "I can't believe it wasn't self-published," not a "people will still be talking about this book decades from now."
3) Excessive use of metaphors You know when the New Yorker can't quite fill a column, and so they'll pop in a funny little example of a newspaper's gaffe? Sometimes they're "Constabulary notes from all over," but often they're "Block that metaphor!", examples of sentences that are laden with multiple metaphors often working at cross-purposes with one another.
If I could, I would do a "block that metaphor" on this entire book. I started to make a list of them, but I got too tired by the second chapter. At that point, here's what he'd already busted out: Identity lockboxes, life tent, campground life, dark cloud, floods and mud, eating your vegetables, wobbly table, two pedestals ("new economic realities of global America" and "popular moral culture of mainstream America"), board game (which he spends pages upon pages describing -- sort of like a crap version of Monopoly. He goes through different spaces you can land on, cards you can draw, games pieces, rules of play, the whole deal), buffets, a beach party, surfing... I mean it just goes and goes. If this is what this book looked like after an editor was done with it, I can not even begin to fathom what this book looked like before.
In all, I can't say enough bad things about this book. I almost feel like I should go back through all my other reviews and raise those one-star books up to at least two, because this one has set a new low, and in retrospect I'm sure all those other books are better than this one. Words cannot begin to describe how much I hated this book. Clydesdale takes such an unapologetically polemical stance, yet pretends the entire time that he is a disinterested social scientist. His personal prejudices seep through every page. It was, for me, genuinely an uncomfortable book to read....more
This sounds bad, but I have to say it. I will never understand what leads people in other fields to think having a rambling discussion of Judith ButleThis sounds bad, but I have to say it. I will never understand what leads people in other fields to think having a rambling discussion of Judith Butler and pretending to do grounded theory makes their work sociology. It doesn't. You need to stop. Your degree is in communications, but the bigger issue is that you don't know what you're talking about.
That said, sociological pretensions aside, this book was almost okay. DeSantis has reasonably interesting data from his focus groups and interviews (which reminds me -- a fifteen-minute interview does not count as an interview in my book). The problem here though is his personal investment in the project, and more broadly in the Greek system, and his unwillingness to really challenge anything. In the words of many a Miami Vice episode, he has gone so far under he doesn't know which way is up. It's one thing to say "fag" in a quote from an interviewee; it's well another to use it yourself as if it's an unproblematic term.
This book suffers quite a bit from what I think of as the Donna Gaines Problem, since it was something I first really became aware of in Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids. The Donna Gaines Problem is when qualitative researchers can't get over how cool they seem to be, how "insider" their status is with respect to their respondents, and generally how they perceived themselves as not having age or status differences from their subjects. This is generally a problem with people who study teenagers and college students. Sorry guys -- you're old, the kids know you're old, and particularly if you are a faculty member at their institution, there's a power differential that isn't going to be collapsed even if you are the same gender, race, ethnicity, or social class.
Particularly problematic for me was his constant switching back and forth between taking what his respondents' said at face value and second-guessing them. This was especially jarring in his discussion of female displays of sexuality for men (e.g. "fake lesbians"). He basically decides that since these sorority girls say it's fun, then it is completely harmless and fun. I mean gosh, it doesn't, I don't know, marginalize actual lesbians, or uphold gender inequality, or anything like that if they say it's fun, right?
DeSantis' personal litmus test appears to be "is this activity harming the person directly participating in it?" So he comes down hard on things like steroid use and eating disorders, but he doesn't really consider these (or other issues) in a more global way, either in the context of the university or in the wider world. ...more
Are you ready for the most boring, dry review I'll ever write? I'm sorry, this has been a rough quarter, and I think my brain is about tapped. It's toAre you ready for the most boring, dry review I'll ever write? I'm sorry, this has been a rough quarter, and I think my brain is about tapped. It's too bad, because this book, which draws heavily on archival sources and manages to pass with astonishing ease the bar for decent sociological arguments made by non-sociologists, was really good.
So this was a really interesting history of white social fraternities, focusing primarily on their origins in the antebellum period through the 1920s, though Syrett does discuss the past 90ish years, albeit briefly. His main focus is on how fraternities embody a certain type of gender order, at first defined by ideals of manliness (differentiating themselves as men versus boys), and then of masculinity (differentiating themselves as men versus women, and also fighting intimations of homosexuality via an aggressive heterosexuality). Syrett is particularly interested in the consequences of this fraternal masculinity for other students on campus, particularly racial minorities and women, but also just unaffiliated students more generally. Overall, he shows how definitions and presentations of gender are historically contingent and far from innocent....more