Crystallization of Culture?







I learned a valuable lesson this week.  Sometimes people aren’t going to agree with my opinion.  And I have to learn to be comfortable with that. 

This may seem like an odd statement to write as a sociologist.  There is always the chance someone might not agree with what I have to say when I write a blog entry, submit a paper to a professor, or deliver a conference presentation.  Interestingly, the potential for disagreement within this forum does not make me uneasy.  Rather, it is part of my habitus or academic disposition.  Disagreement is part of the academic game I play.  Difference in theoretical and methodological orientations within the discipline of sociology exists, but fortunately my academic disposition anticipates what a particular line of thought might have to say in response to my argument.  I expect conflict because theoretical positions are diametrically opposed; conflict is part of the game.  And despite disagreement we at least share some common ground; we are all sociologists and working with some form of a “sociological imagination.”

I am the Graduate Rep for the Department of Sociology and attend monthly meetings with the Graduate Student’s Association (GSA) at the University of Calgary.   As much as I may be able to tolerate diversity within the sociological game, situated outside of this setting – and inserted in a small room with graduate students from a wide assortment of academic departments with different points of view – is a different ball of wax.  I’m transformed into an intolerant, raging, narrow-minded machine.  My blood pressure rockets and the muscles in my face tire from attempts to hide disgruntlement.  And, most scarily, I yearn for a water-gun to silence the vocal, narrow-minded, naysayers within the group.

This week I was asked to raise a motion at the Graduate Representative Council (GRC) meeting for the GSA.  The motion concerned increasing the honorarium that current and future Executive members receive monthly for services they deliver.  Their monthly bonus (and I refrain from the word “salary” because technically an Executive position is not a job in the traditional sense) is a great deal less than what a Teaching Assistant makes per month but their workload exceeds that of a TA.  The president receives approximately $800 per month and other executive members receive approximately $500 per month, while a monthly salary for working as a TA is $1600. 

In my opinion, the current compensation structure was incommensurate with the amount of time the GSA Executive devotes to the obligations outlined in their portfolios.  No more need be said.  So, together with the help of others, I presented a proposal in the form of a motion to the GRC, a voting body composed of Graduate Reps.  Not surprisingly (in the sense I knew from previous experience with these meetings that my ethic was not the same as my fellow graduate students), the issue was deemed contentious.  For 40 minutes I responded, along with my co-presenter, patiently and carefully to the questions and concerns raised.  We articulated to the best of our ability the case in attempt to win their vote.  But there is only so much discussion of an issue you can do.  At one point – we both threw up our hands in frustration – and said in response to one particularly vocal rep, “Fair enough.”  I mean – what else could we say, we just weren’t going to agree.  And there was no point in continuing to try. 

Yes, I am closed-minded about being open-minded.  Difference of opinion, BAH!

Thankfully, our motion passed: 22 in favour; 2 against; 1 abstention.  Phew!  Justice has been served.

Anti-Cupid Coup Soundtrack

My friend Kikmo and I decided to develop soundtracks to accompany our “Bite me Cupid” revolution.  The lyrics from our songlists are empowering, comforting (in the sense they confirm you are not alone in your feelings), and bolstering (if you need to get over the stupid boy/stupid girl in your life).

Kikmo’s Soundtrack, with an indie, contemporary pop rock flavour:

1. “I Didn’t Like You Anyway” – The Donnas –

2. “Kerosene” – Miranda Lambert –

3. “Lying is the most fun a girl can have with her clothes on”  – Panic at the Disco –

4. “Walk Away” – Kelly Clarkson –

5. “I Don’t Care (So There)” – The Donnas –

6.  “I Used to Love You” – John Legend –

7. “Shake it Off” – Mariah Carey –

8. “Song for the Dumped” – Ben Folds –

9. “This is How a Heart Breaks” – Rob Thomas –

10. “Better do Better” – Hard-Fi –

11. “You’ll Think of Me” – Keith Urban –

12. “What Goes Around Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake –

13. “I Will Survive” – Cake –

14. “Instant Pleasure” – Rufus Wainwright –

15. “Jump” – Madonna –

16. “Broken Heart, Torn Up Letters” – Lost Prophets

17. “Talk to Me, Dance with Me” – Hot Hot Heat

 Jessmo’s Soundtrack with a country flavour:

1. “Picture to Burn” – Taylor Swift –

2. “Wasted” – Carrie Underwood –

3.  “(Now you see me) Now you don’t” – Lee Anne Womack –

4. “Who I Am” – Jessica Andrews –

5. “The Long Way Around” – Dixie Chicks –

6. “Gone” – Aaron Pritchet –

7. “Waitin’ on the Wonderful” – Aaron Lines –

8. “I’m Just Gone” – Doc Walker –

9. “Settlin’ ” – Sugarland

10. “Fireflies” – Faith Hill –

11. “My Heart’s Not a Hotel” – Brooks & Dunn –

12. “She Ain’t Hooked on Me No More” – Toby Keith and Merle Haggard –

13. “Somethings Gotta Give” – LeAnne Rimes –

14. “You’re Not Gonna Miss Me” – Aaron Pritchet –

15. “Before He Cheats” – Carrie Underwood

16. “She Ain’t Missin’ Missin’ Me” – Jason McCoy –

17. “I’m Outa Here” – Shania Twain –

18. “Stand” – Rascal Flatts –

19. “Forget About You” – Dierks Bentley-

20. “Stupid Boy” – Keith Urban –

21. “Love Your Memory” – Miranda Lambert –

Bite Me Cupid


As much as I’m content with my singleton status, I dread February 14th.  Stories of love and relationship success abound on the radio and in talk shows.  The color red is abundant.  Advertisements declare what you should get your valentine.  Even my blogger community acknowledged the day albeit in a mocking tone. In an odd twist – I feel the atmosphere connected to this day is not about celebrating ‘love’ but about drawing attention to those who are single.  I saw a personal ad this year on late night television claiming that because ‘love is in the air’ it is the best time to trade-in your singleton status; people are looking!  Ads such as these make me want to puke and pull out my Sex and the City DVD collection STAT so I can gorge myself with moments of heroine emotional triumph to remind myself that it is ok, and satisfying, to be single.  Yet, even in my search for emotional bolstering, I must carefully forego the resolution portion of the plotline when my favorite singleton heroines find their man. I recognize here that I might sound bitter.  But Valentine’s Day has the capacity to turn perfectly, rational people – who were previously content with their lives – into bumbling idiots harvesting fantasies about what (read: who) is missing from their life.  I decided this year I was going to take action and celebrate Valentine’s Day differently.  I was not going to sit home alone and crank up “All by myself” by Eric Carmen on the stereo and drown sorrows that I did not have on February 13th with a bottle of wine.  Instead, I celebrated what IS fabulous about my life – and went and got drunk with my gang of gal pals.  We dined at Wendy’s, dressed up sexy, and collectively drank $144 worth of Cosmopolitans, plus a wide assortment of other alcoholic beverages.   

We formed a group on to commemorate the occasion.  Our group is called “Bite it Cupid” and the description is as follows: For Singleton’s only.  An organization against the commercialization of the quest for companionship.  Putting an end to truth games enacted by the discourse of romance.   The evening was an outrageous success.  Admittedly though, the tone of the evening conflated.  It was a double-edged sword: we were both giggly gals totally engrossed in our friendship for one another, but at the same time, yearned to go out on the prowl.  My friend said when we were prepping, “We are going to get noticed tonight!”  So, where goes putting an end to truth games enacted by the discourse of romance?  And, do I seriously want to put an end to this particular truth game?  I aspire to be in a relationship one day despite my V-day hostility and disgruntlement.  Or rather, is my mission to rethink how we do romance, or more specifically, how I do romance in my own life?   

“Bite me Cupid” day was about just that – it was an attempt to revision the discourse of romance – but I wonder if there discursive space for being both content as a singleton while still harvesting the desire to be on the prowl.  The dichotomous and hierarchical separation between being “single” and in a “relationship” is a constant reminder that if there is room, the space is slight.  My friend aptly noted that on your storyline page in Facebook a heart by default represents to your network that you are in a relationship.  Further, if you state you were in a relationship initially but later become single, a broken-heart is indicated.  Is the grass really that much greener on the other side?  From my experience with relationships and listening to friends who are in them, it is widely apparent relationships are “work.”  Sure, there are instances when the singleton status is positioned on a pedestal – but the moments are rare, fleeting, gendered, and reserved as appropriate behaviour for a certain section on the lifecourse.  Where goes the celebration of being a “singleton”?  We need a be single day!

Celebrity JUNK Gone Bad



This post is a response to qmass latest post “CNN vs Britney Spears (BREAKING NEWS)” at  I started writing a reply to his post on his site but quickly realized my thoughts we more than simply a ‘response.’  Also, qmass has been bugging me to post, so maybe this will satiate his yearning for a Jessmo rant.

My response…

This story just makes me feel sad – and is no longer comical to me as it reminds me of the adjoining Anna Nicole Smith story.  Two questions haunt me about the lives of Britney and Anna as they have unfolded before us through the media. 

This first question is why did so many people witness Anna’s fall without doing something about it?  We have some role to play in this even as celebrity gazers/mockers/criticizers because in this role we create demand for information so that we can mock what the celebrities are doing.  Without gathering information at Perez or The about the stupid things celebrities are doing and wearing, we’ve got nothing to mock.  I am a celebrity JUNK-ie without a doubt, but the Britney and Anna story crosses a line for me.  I mean – let’s stop talking about it and do something!! I recognize it is too late for Anna, yet maybe we can learn something from the tragedy that is her life.  We need to stop reading this junk and finding pleasure in the tailspin of someone else’s life.  By watching and reading stories like these – we only encourage the paparazzi to bring information of this kind to us.  Something bothers me about these particular storylines – even though they make me laugh.  Consider the following phrase taken from about Britney shaving her head bald, “I’m guessing she was forced to shave her hair after it got so dirty a family of gophers made it their home.”  No doubt this comment is comical, but like racist and sexist slurs, comments like these just don’t do it for me anymore when people’s lives really are falling apart, especially when there is no longer a grey area of whether or not the media is obscuring the ‘truth.’  I’m nostalgic for the form of celebrity gazing that People magazine offers to me.  I have no doubt People will latch onto the Britney story, they’d be stupid not to, but their pictures and accompanying commentary are less biting, judgmental, mocking, and frankly, easier for me to swallow.  We are witnessing here a turning point in celebrity reporting – it’s all ‘junk’ but some of it is more ‘junkie’ than others.

The second question troubles me more.  Where is our humanity?  Apparently empathy and compassion are in short supply.  I know what it feels like to have my heartbroken; it is devastating and all consuming.  And in the course of trying to get over some stupid boy, I have made mistakes – and certainly made a fool of myself – but good friends remain by my side nonetheless.  My gang understands that sometimes it is tough to be strong, and that sometimes even though you know you shouldn’t do something, you do it anyway.  Britney may be making different sorts of choices and ‘mistakes’ than myself, yet our lives are obviously vastly different.  Britney has different resources at her disposal.  I could shave my head bald if I wanted to, but do not have the financial luxury of entering into a posh rehabilitation centre for 1 day and then leaving.  More mundanely, who hasn’t resorted to the bottle or partied hard to make the pain of a broken-heart go away at least momentarily?  Alcoholism and nervous breakdown, my ass!  Jessmo’s diagnosis: broken-heart.  And in my opinion, a broken-heart is NO laughing matter.

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

Today I received an email from Dr. Barry Lycka.   He is one of the leading experts in cosmetic surgery in the world (his practice is located in Edmonton), or so his email tag line says.  As part of my investigative work into the phenomenon of cosmetic surgery, this past week I’ve emailed some plastic surgeons in Alberta to seek out some information about the various techniques their practices offered.  All I had to do to obtain this information was provide them with my email address and indicate what body part dissatisfied me.  In the introduction of Dr. Lycka’s email about “how liposuction can reshape your body” he writes:

Are you feeling down and out?  Do you feel even worse when you look in the mirror?  Cosmetic surgeon’s tell us you are not alone.  They say the popularity of reality television shows like ABC’s TV’s “Extreme Makeover” has lead to an increasing boom in cosmetic surgery.  You may be one of the many people who are not happy with the way you look.  Look in the mirror right now and tell me what you see.  Do you see flabby thighs, a sagging chin or a tubby tummy?  If so, then liposuction could be just what the doctor ordered.

Newsflash Dr. Lycka: Life Ain’t Always Beautiful.  Sometimes it down right sucks.  Now that you mention it, I am not entirely happy with the way I look, a problem that is as endemic today as syphilis was in the 19th century.  Sure, if I look in the mirror I can see “flaws.”  I’d like tighter abs, smaller thighs, and what have you – but you know what?  If I did as you suggest and sought out the lipo fix like the “doctor ordered” you know what would happen?  I would still feel down and out.  Life just IS that way sometimes.  When I look in the mirror after your so-called lipo fix, discontent with my bodily image might be lessened, but what is more likely to happen is that my lens of bodily dissatisfaction will widen.  I’ll see further opportunity for change.  My body will now be deemed “surgical” – something that should be fixed – rather than something that is just OK the way it is.  

I’m not stupid.  Liposuction is becoming increasingly popular (you are right on that front) and I don’t foresee a reduction in popularity in the near future.  I wouldn’t be studying the phenomenon if this were not the case.  But please have a heart…  don’t falsely advertise.  Liposuction is not going to solve my problems.  Since when did being moody and being cranky once in awhile become a bad thing?  Surely we don’t want to live in a society riddled with perma-grinned Desperate Housewives?   Do we really want to present a model to youth in this country that suggests they should run to the nearest lipo-doctor when they feel the slightest bit gloomy?  Instead, shouldn’t we be teaching youth, and ourselves for that matter, how to cope with emotional strife?  Gary Allan’s got it right.  Sometimes “life ain’t always beautiful” but as he states further even though life stucks sometimes, “it is a beautiful ride.”  Next time you feel down, don’t run to a lipo-doctor nearest you, in its place, find solace in music (such as Gary’s song) and remember to be patient with yourself.  Time can be the most potent healer of what brings you down.

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

Gary Allan

Life ain’t always beautiful
Sometimes it’s just plain hard
Life can knock you down, it can break your heart

Life ain’t always beautiful
You think you’re on your way
And it’s just a dead end road at the end of the day

But the struggles make you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has its own way of takin’ its sweet time

No life ain’t always beautiful
Tears will fall sometimes
Life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride

Life ain’t always beautiful
Some days I miss your smile
I get tired of walkin’ all these lonely miles

And I wish for just one minute
I could see your pretty face
Guess I can dream, but life dont work that way

But the struggles make me stronger
And the changes make me wise
And happiness has its own way of takin’ its sweet time

No life ain’t always beautiful
But I know I’ll be fine
Hey, life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride
What a beautiful ride