by Eszter Hargittai on September 20, 2005

ABC’s Dancing with the Stars Dance-off is on right now live. I should’ve blogged about this earlier, but I didn’t realize it until an hour ago. It’s exciting to see a fairly marginal activity that you are passionate about attract widespread attention and enthusiasm. The show ran in the summer and already named a winner. But enough people were disgruntled about the results that they are having a rematch.

I have been a huge fan of ballroom and Latin dancing ever since senior year in high school when I joined a club and attended classes regularly. After thirteen years away from the sport, I found my way back to it this past January. I am incredibly passionate about it and was happy to find a great club in Chicago. I get to take classes with super-talented dancers/teachers Tommye Giacchino and Gregory Day (the club owners) who are U.S. and Blackpool Champions. It’s a blast and also very good exercise. I even considered competing, but decided that that level of commitment wouldn’t be conducive to tenure.

I find it problematic that the Dancing with the Stars show has participants competing with each other doing different dances. Some dances are much harder than others so it doesn’t make sense to compare them. For example, Cha-Cha and Quickstep are sufficiently different that a comparison is nearly impossible. Granted, you can do super hard moves in all of them. To someone who takes this seriously – like moi – the dancers are not always great (some are better than others), but it is clear that they put a lot of effort into it and are taking it seriously. To be sure, you do need more than a few weeks of training to do this well.

Tonight’s winner will depend completely on audience feedback. ABC is making a donation to the charity of the winner’s choice so that’s an incentive to participate even if you’re not interested in dancing.

PS. If anyone knows of good clubs in the Stanford area, I am curious to hear as I would like to continue doing this when I’m out there next year.

PPS. If any Chicagoland readers are inspired to take lessons, feel free to contact me for more info about Chicago Dance. And if you decide to join, let’s use the referral discount special.:)


by Henry Farrell on September 20, 2005

“Matt Cheney”: voices a common complaint about the MacArthur foundation awards.

bq. I’m glad Lethem was chosen, and certainly am excited for him, but this choice continues the unfortunate trend of the MacArthur award often going to writers who have already found a lot of success. Imagine, for instance, how much it would have changed Lethem’s life to get this award not right now, when his books sell well, but ten (or even five) years ago, when the $500,000 would have done exactly what it is supposed to do: free the recipient from financial considerations that limit their ability to experiment.

And indeed, a cursory glance at the list of awardees tells us that well over half of them are over 40, and/or well established in their career paths. Of course, the MacArthur foundation has excellent institutional reasons for choosing people who already seem to have established themselves – to do otherwise would be to take much bigger risks that MacArthur awardees are going to flake out later or have mediocre careers. But then, would you do better? If you think so, your nominations (more or less serious please) invited in comments for people who _should_ get awards in the future. Less serious speculations as to the most plausible blogger to receive a MacArthur are also invited (my money would be on “Cory Doctorow”:

CT West Coast dispatch in ’06/07

by Eszter Hargittai on September 20, 2005

Next year we’ll be adding a time zone to CT representation. I will be a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. I am super excited about this opportunity. The Center got a grant from the Annenberg Foundation last year to add Communications to the fields represented among its fellows and I’m going as part of such a cohort.

There’s something amusing related to all this. Or I thought it was amusing until I shared it with a friend who didn’t think it funny at all. You be the judge. While I was lifehacking away a few weeks ago, Chris pointed me to Google Sets for various associations. I decided to see what Google Sets had to say about my academic affiliations. I typed in the names of my BA and PhD granting institutions plus Northwestern (the place of my current employment) and pressed Large Sets. The fourth school on the list was Stanford. When I did this I already knew that I was headed to the Center next year so I found this amusing. But perhaps you need to have a certain geek factor to get anything out of this exercise.:)

Mommy-Tracking the Ivy Leaguers

by Kieran Healy on September 20, 2005

Here’s an “irritating piece”: from the New York Times about how high-achieving women students at elite schools are planning to quit their jobs and have children when they’re a bit older:

Cynthia Liu is precisely the kind of high achiever Yale wants: … So will she join the long tradition of famous Ivy League graduates? Not likely. By the time she is 30, this accomplished 19-year-old expects to be a stay-at-home mom. “My mother’s always told me you can’t be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time,” Ms. Liu said matter-of-factly. “You always have to choose one over the other.” … Many women at the nation’s most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.

Now, let’s be clear about why the article is annoying. I don’t begrudge these women their choices in the slightest. I hope they make happy lives for themselves. In many ways they get the absolute best deal possible. But as usual, the article is steeped with the standard way of framing the issue, viz, only women have work-family choices. It’s up to them to be “realistic”, while of course the male students do not have any work-family choices at all. The subtext of the piece is the indirect vindication of those crusty old bastards in the 1950s who couldn’t see why they should hire, say, Sandra Day O’Connor because she’d only be taking a place away from a man with a family.

[click to continue…]