Cultural Capital and Cultural Literacy

"Wonder Woman had some go-go boots!"

I feel that all the conversations we have today revolve around cultural literacy. I was at a party and all we talked about was TV, especially Mad Men. What is the point of displaying our cultural literacy? We have stopped living our own lives and now depend on the lives of fictitious characters to give our lives meaning. This is our secularized Protestant Revolution; Jesus is all around us, and always on TV, and often takes the humanly form of Don Draper.

In college, I had a friend, who any time the keywords "Halloween", "Wonder Woman", or "go-go boots" arose solely or in combination would immediately launch into a long description of a youthful Halloween costume she was very proud of. I had heard the story many times, and always found it frivolous and self-promoting. And now I find myself in many similar conversations. ____'s story of the go-go boots is like a haunting. This blog often delights in its cultural literacy, even if it aspires for something transcendent. I suppose this stops when one incarnates one's own piece of original culture, rather than bouncing around in the simulacrum.


“To do great work, you have to have a pure mind. You can think only about the mathematics. Everything else is human weakness...He wants to live this ideal. Now, I don’t think he really lives on this ideal plane. But he wants to.”



  • Cohesiveness: Degree to which the sample deforms before rupturing when biting with molars.
  • Density: Compactness of cross section of the sample after biting completely through with the molars.
  • Viscosity: Force required to draw a liquid from a spoon over the tongue.
  • Hardness: Force required to deform the product to given distance, i.e., force to compress between molars, bite through with incisors, compress between tongue and palate.
  • Fracturability: Force with which the sample crumbles, cracks or shatters. Fracturability encompasses crumbliness, crispiness, crunchiness and brittleness.
  • Gumminess: Energy required to disintegrate a semi-solid food to a state ready for swallowing.
  • Heaviness: Weight of product perceived when first placed on tongue.
  • Moisture absorption: Amount of saliva absorbed by product.
  • Moisture release: Amount of wetness/juiciness released from sample.
  • Dryness: Degree to which the sample feels dry in the mouth.
  • Wetness: Amount of moisture perceived on product's surface.
  • Mouthcoating: Type and degree of coating in the mouth after mastication (for example, fat/oil).
  • Roughness: Degree of abrasiveness of product's surface perceived by the tongue.
  • Slipperiness: Degree to which the product slides over the tongue.
  • Graininess: Degree to which a sample contains small grainy particles.
  • Smoothness: Absence of any particles, lumps, bumps, etc., in the product.
  • Uniformity: Degree to which the sample is even throughout.
  • Uniformity of Chew: Degree to which the chewing characteristics of the product are even throughout mastication.
  • Uniformity of bite: Evenness of force through bite.
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouthfeel


I recently went to a hip hop show paying tribute to producers DJ Premier & Pete Rock, who sat in opposing wicker chairs like hip hop royalty while artists played and sang their work. The closing song, and the one that got the most applause, was "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)", a eulogy for a friend, Troy Dixon (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Reminisce_Over_You_(T.R.O.Y.)). The crowd was singing along, and this song, more than any other, encapsulated the night.

Pete Rock in a 2007 interview with Village Voice:
I had a friend of mine that passed away, and it was a shock to the community. I was kind of depressed when I made it. And to this day, I can't believe I made it through, the way I was feeling. I guess it was for my boy. When I found the record by Tom Scott, basically I just heard something incredible that touched me and made me cry. It had such a beautiful bassline, and I started with that first. I found some other sounds and then heard some sax in there and used that. Next thing you know, I have a beautiful beat made. When I mixed the song down, I had Charlie Brown from Leaders of the New School in the session with me, and we all just started crying."
The saxophone hook is infectious, and while not the "hardest" hip hop song ever created, T.R.O.Y. is a synonym for hip hop nostalgia. Fifteen years later, fans reminisce their own youth, their own upbringing (see lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/pete+rock+and+cl+smooth/they+reminisce+over+you_10204298.html). That was the thought I had, standing in the crowd, hands raised: "True school", or "old school" hip hop would always be a form of nostalgia because to feel it, you would have had to been touched in some odd way, the way Pete Rock was when he produced that beat. Not many experience the sensation, but those that do hold it with them through the transition to adulthood. The genesis of the transcendent hip hop moment inculcates repetitive listening behavior, like a two-bar saxophone hook or a classic verse. In that way, the generative hip hop moment is actually already and always a looking backwards, a repetition, a reminiscence.


google: "roy williams" and timeout


Fail Log: Bread

I started working at a bakery in August, and the production was hectic and quality frequently shoddy from the start. My co-baker happily left the bakery for semi-unemployment in October.

A month prior to his leaving, the bakery had received some comments saying that the bread was too dry. To alleviate this, we began baking the bread at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time, hoping to trap more moisture in the loaf. This seemed to help the dried-out taste, but our loaves were still often messed up -- loaves that didn't rise enough, or that had a significantly amount of air holes or bubbles in them. When my co-baker left, the owner of the bakery decided to become my co-baker. He had typically found our doughs to be too dry, so during the mixing process, he was adding between 3-10% of water by weight. Also, because we were not selling enough bread, he decided to add day-old bread to the mix; this is a practice (commonly?) used in industrial baking -- the addition of a coarse meal to the dough. We were adding about 2.5% of meal by weight. This would ideally save the bakery some $ in ingredient costs. Well, for a month stretching from October into November, we were making some very funky bread, and when I say funky, I mean funky smelling. After 3-4 days, the added water in the bread combined with the shorter cook time at the higher heat meant that not all the breads were being baked sufficiently. This would cause the moisture in the center of the baked loaf to cause the loaf to ferment and mold quickly. Our loaves typically sit on a supermarket shelf for up to a week. Within days, these loaves were going bad, and some were bad and doughy in the center from the start. At first, the coarse meal, or day-old bread was suspected as the culprit. But given the lack of quality control at the bakery, it was weeks before this practice was ended. But then, the bread continued to be fucked up, which was both embarrassing, and bad for business. The bakery received complaints. At that point, the general manager told us to go back to the way we were baking previously -- a longer bake time at a lower temperature. Now the loaves are more or less normal. It was only yesterday that I realized what the problem was from the start: prior to my arriving at the bakery, the recipes, which had been used for years, and possibly decades, were monkeyed with by the owner. Then, these largely untested recipes were assumed to hold well for every batch size. The recipe book was updated. As far as I knew when I started working, the old orange recipe binder contained the same recipes as the new, but it was old, worn out, and created with a poorly formatting version of Excel (like from '98?). I only found out in the last week that the recipes had been changed in the recent past. And so yesterday, I sat down with the two recipe books only to find that for every dough, the water content was higher in the old recipe book. This meant that the problem from the start with the dry loaves was not the cook time or temperature; it was that the recipe didn't call for enough water relative to the other ingredients. We have been adding an additional 5-7% of water by volume, and due to the guesstamation process, some of that adding comes during the middle/end of the mixing process, when the addition of water can leading to overmixing and too-strong or too-wet doughs which in turn lead to small, undesirable loaves, sometimes with air holes or bubbles in them.

So the short version is that, in the end, it was the recipes' fault. We are in the process of retranscribing the old recipe book, which is yellowed, scrawled upon with notes, and covered with crud. Once this happens, the doughs should be mixed properly from the start, with little seasonal variation relative to the humidity of the air.


I Study Virutal Worlds

As you may know, the Social Science Research Council has just announced six areas for the Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF) Program. The areas are:

After Secularization: New Approaches to Religion and Modernity
Discrimination Studies
Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Contentious Politics
Spaces of Inquiry
Virtual Worlds, and
Multiculturalism, Immigration, and Identity in Western Europe and the United States


Fail Log: 6 Degrees of Facebook

I had the idea that one could use the mutual friends network to find how you were connected to anyone on Facebook (celebrities, people worth stalking, etc.). Also, if you wanted to find a contact in the Justice Dept to get the lowdown on a job you're applying for, maybe that person is only a couple of degrees of separation away from you, etc. It turns out that a Facebook app like this has been written, and you can only see the mutual friends of the people using the app. So you would need millions of users before it becomes useful (this app only had 300).

yea son

I Thought I Had Seen It All

I thought I had seen it all. A misanthropic sociologist. A nurse who couldn't take care of herself. Public health students who drank and smoked cigarettes. A baker who couldn't bake. And now finally, a restauranteur who eats none of the in-house food (is it a health thing? I wonder). She literally has no idea how the soups, sandwiches, and bread tastes; she hasn't tried the food in more than a decade, if ever.