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Posts Tagged ‘South Park’

I’ve previously discussed the fact that the general public doesn’t typically use the same standards as researchers to arrive at their conclusions. In that post, I explained, “I’ve heard sociologists use the disclaimer that their personal experiences are based on an “N of one,” meaning that they are drawing conclusions from a sample of one.” Now, journalists are disregarding the age-old “Three is a trend” rule of thumb (that I couldn’t find the origin of during a 30-second Google search) and getting in on the action. Let’s take a look at the results:

On one side we have a report originally posted at Business Insider (which may not be the best source) and reposted at Slate highlighting the experiences of John Greenough, a Business Insider research analyst who purchased a “Never Ending Pasta Pass” from Olive Garden (not to be confused with Applebee’s Endless Appetizers) that ends on November 9 (I guess that Olive Garden and I disagree on the meaning of “never”). Hayley Peterson, the article’s author, writes:

We asked him about what it was like having access to free Olive Garden every day for the past seven weeks. At the beginning of the promotion, Greenough said he had planned to take full advantage of the pass and go to Olive Garden every day. But the salty pasta has gotten the best of him.

“I ate there, I think, 20 of the first 25 days, but stopped for a week because I started to get horrible canker sores from all the salt in the pasta,” he said. (According to the Mayo Clinic, the exact cause of canker sores is unclear, although triggers can include highly acidic certain foods like tomato sauce.) “Since then, I’ve gone sparingly because I felt really unhealthy from the pasta*,” Greenough said.

Greenough continues to complain about the slow take-out service and concludes that he will not return to the restaurant after his “Never Ending” pass ends, despite the money that he saved. Greenough’s feelings pervade the article, which is titled “This is What Happens When You Eat Olive Garden for 7 Weeks Straight,” and reports that “Olive Garden sold only 1,000 passes.”

Reading that Olive Garden only sold 1,000 passes in the context of Greenough’s experiences led me to believe that Olive Garden’s food is so bad that they couldn’t find more than 1,000 suckers to pay $100 for two months of eating it. Then, however, I read this article at the Huffington Post about an “American Hero” who has eaten at Olive Garden 95 times in six weeks. In it, Leigh Weingus shares the story of Alan Martin, who “was one of the lucky 1,000 people to score” a Never Ending Pasta Pass, which sold out in two hours. So the rarity of the passes was apparently one of supply, not of demand.

The differences don’t end at the framing of the articles, however. Martin is quoted as saying, “I can’t believe I get to eat like this every day… This is great.” Not only does he appear to love the food, but he also doesn’t complain about the service. Weingus fails to inform readers about any canker sores that have appeared in Martin’s mouth, so he must not have any since no serious journalist writing about somebody eating at Olive Garden would omit a key piece of information like that. The differences between the two stories are so apparent that it is almost as if each journalist talked to a separate individual and used that individual’s experience with the promotion to write their article, leading to dramatically different conclusions!

*That one would feel unhealthy after eating this amount of pasta is not particularly surprising in light of the recent revelation on South Park that the Food Guide Pyramid was upside-down.

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In 2005, Florida passed the “Stand Your Ground” law that George Zimmerman and his defense team used to justify the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, which ended yesterday with an acquittal. The available evidence suggests that these laws may lead to more deaths and that the results are racially biased, since white-on-black homicides are considered to be “justified” over 350% more often than white-on-white homicides in states with Stand Your Ground laws, as seen in this table from PBS:

In 1997, the third episode of South Park was unfortunately prescient  in how the Zimmerman trial ended up. A clip of the relevant portion of the episode can be seen here. In the clip, Stan Marsh’s uncle Jimbo takes the boys hunting, explaining the technicality that allows him to shoot anything he wants:

“You see, boys, the Democrats have passed a lot of laws trying to stop us from hunting… they say we can’t shoot certain animals anymore, unless they’re posing an immediate threat. Therefore, before we shoot something, we have to say, ‘It’s coming right for us!'”

This is, essentially, George Zimmerman’s entire defense. Despite the fact that he was told not to pursue Martin and despite the fact that he did so and then shot and killed the unarmed teenager, because there were no witnesses who could contradict Zimmerman’s argument that he felt that his life was in danger it was impossible for the jury to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman’s version of events did not occur. It appears that the evidence in this case was applied in compliance with the law, but the graph above (and the case of Marissa Alexander, who was not allowed to claim that she was “standing her ground” because she went back into a house where her attacker was in order to get her car keys and ended up being sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing warning shots that did no harm to anybody) shows that these laws are not applied equally across racial lines and need to be changed.

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With the rapture coming up on Saturday, I think it is time to start making some post-rapture plans.  Obviously, those who are called to heaven will be doing some work for God (He is probably pissed that we finally caught bin Laden so he won’t be able to show us how easy it is when you’re omnipotent, but he probably has some weeding for the chosen ones to do in his garden, given that it has been untended for thousands of years).  Given that I haven’t done anything to get in God’s good graces (and my video game skill level is not particularly high), I am likely to be left below.  This leads to the important question of how the rapture will affect my summer.

Thankfully, given that the spring semester is over, I’ll have plenty of time to devote to looting the homes of the chosen ones, though I doubt that they have many exciting possessions.  After the looting, I plan to tune in to cable news for all of the post-rapture coverage (just imagine how worked up Glenn Beck will get when something actually happens!).  I particularly look forward to Monday night’s episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to see how Jon Stewart skewers coverage of the damned and how Stephen Colbert reacts to being passed over (I expect at least the level of outrage he expresses when getting passed over for an Emmy).

After the tumultuous first few days when we all come to grips with our fate, I expect the summer to be spent like any other, though the research I had planned will probably be dropped in favor of a new rapture-related project (possibly interviewing lifelong churchgoers about their exclusion in order to locate social structural causes of damnation).  My visit to Sin City for ASA in August was already going to be hot as hell, so not much will change there.  The real questions concern what to do when the fall semester rolls around.  Should I prepare a syllabus for the entire semester or just the first half?  Will my students (nearly all of whom I expect will still be around) be more apathetic than ever or will they be enthralled by the connections between structure, agency, and the rapture?  Will college football go on as planned?

Perhaps most importantly, if some of the faculty and staff at my school are taken up to heaven on Saturday, will the administration forgo replacing them since the only candidates left are proven sinners and, if so, will their salaries be redistributed in the form of a raise?

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Once upon a time, my Facebook account was a peaceful place where I could converse with my grad school friends about grad school things.  Then my sister showed up.  Her statements, visible to all of my grad school friends, that I was “a dork” did not fit with the grad student identity that I had constructed.  Although I accept the fact that a large percentage of grad students are dorks, we prefer to think of ourselves as idiosyncratic intellectuals.  As George Costanza might say, worlds were colliding. Since that time, of course, the rest of the world has appeared on Facebook, changing the dynamics entirely, as a recent episode of South Park highlights.

A few days ago, the LA Times reported (via Contexts) that, “Just because popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, encourage members to use their actual identities doesn’t mean people are presenting themselves online the way they do in real life.”  Of course, for sociologists the idea that there is one representation of a person’s real personality is somewhat ridiculous.  This was highlighted by recent posts at Crooked Timber in response to Facebook Overlord Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Personally, I find the idea that presenting yourself in different ways to different people can be seen as a lack of integrity by anybody outside of politics hilarious, and Healy links the idea to a potentially disastrous breaching experiment:

“Hey, I want to present the same public face to everyone, and see what happens! My hypothesis is that people will freak out and maybe some bad things will happen!”

Maybe Zuckerberg’s real goal with the increasingly complex Facebook privacy settings is not world domination through advertising but the elimination of a major element of social psychology!  For what it’s worth, Zuckerberg is currently failing because, despite the fact that family members can see my comments to family members and vice versa, I have not started making comments to my family members about the intricacies of life as an assistant professor, nor have I started making comments to my friends about how big of a dork I am.

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Here is another entry in the long line of videos aimed at helping us understand the economy.  Would any other show be able to explain the financial crisis, describe the symbolic interactionist underpinnings of our economy, and base a significant amount of its plot on Jesus Christ’s persecution?

http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/220760/

The episode also gives us some insight into the government’s decision-making process:

Economic Options

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