Sociology is a Science

Month: December, 2011

Gifts From the Heart

I’m told I am not a good gift giver, but I find this assessment baseless.

Holidays are an important time of the year; gifts are an opportunity to share love, affection and wisdom. Nothing fills me with more pleasure than seeing the faces of friends and family light up like the Baghdad night sky during an airstrike.

If you are having a hard time buying for the ones YOU love, not to fear. The following is a list of gifts I’ve given this year.

To Ruthie, my 90 year old Great Aunt: A 12 pack of deodorant from Costco. Getting older means you smell more.

For my 8 year old cousin Gregory: “Malaria in Northern Sudan”. A wonderfully researched and educational coloring book I found at a garage sale (keep your eyes open for holiday deals!).

For my 65 year old mother:  a free subscription to the prestigious quarterly “Human Digestion”. Egg nog gives her enough gas to stun a mule.

For Brenda, the single mother of four who lives next door: birth control and a hobby.

For my ex-girlfriend Sally: lewd picture messages of my genitals wearing reindeer ears.

And for my peppy, sports-loving younger brother: A life-size poster of legendary college football coach Jerry Sandusky (you would NOT believe the sale)!

If any of these gift ideas inspired you, please, use them for yourself.

Christmas is the most magical time of year, a time of warmth, song, and the worship of a mildly psychotic, but rather kind and humble, Palestinian Jew that was tortured to death 2000 years ago for having magical powers.

Merry Christmas everyone and don’t drink so much that you accidentally fall asleep in the bathtub nude, save for a light blue hat that says “Life is About Choices,” and a welt on your ass.

A Proper Sociology of Music

There are numerous institutional domains in every society. The functionalists like to think that society is an organism and depends on institutions the way our body depends on kidneys, a liver, lungs and a heart. I’m a functionalist, and I’ll defend it.

Institutional domains are aggregates of human activity that we call ‘family’, ‘entertainment industry’, ‘government/polity’, ‘religion’, ‘economy’, ‘education’.

Different institutional domains have different sorts of music and different ways of playing that music. Consider families that have pianos and other instruments and encourage in their children certain forms of music.

Or what about governments and their trumpets and horns for leadership and presidents and prime ministers?

Or what about entertainment and the ‘pop’, ‘hip hop’ and ‘country’ (ew) music industries? How about churches and the constant choral singing, christian jazz/rock, and various worship tunes from all faiths?

See, ‘music’ is a subjective human term for what is a common natural trait found in just about every animal on earth – the ‘call’.

Animals have calls for all kinds of things. Certain calls signal sexual prowess or genetic fitness, others signal danger approaching, still others signal contentment and happiness.

What function does music serve in a society? Regardless of whether or not you like the music from the US, a nevertheless interesting question is just what these ‘calls’ are for. And don’t dare give the non-answer, “the ‘calls’ are just music and we like music. We like it. That’s why we listen to it.”

That’s not an answer. WHY do we like it? And WHY is music in one domain so VERY different than music in the others (in lyrical content, rhythm, marketing strategy).

What does it mean to be ‘addicted’ to a song, ‘inspired’ by a new tune, or ‘turned on’ by still another song?

What the hell are we listening to when we listen to the ‘calls’ of other humans?

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Check this out to see a study that sort of gets at what I’m talking about – http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP09390416.pdf