Amoeblog

Texas in My Rear-View Mirror: A Few Observations on Texas, Urban Cowboys, Hair Metal and Manly Footwear

Posted by Charles Reece, April 19, 2008 05:16pm | Post a Comment

"Don't rock the jukebox; I wanna hear some Jones.  'Cause my heart ain't ready for the Rolling Stones."

I just returned from my annual trek to Dallas, which is always a bit depressing, but it's "home."  Dallas is sort of the nexus where God meets commerce, with the former and its cognates of tradition and morality always losing out to the latter.  All a moneyed interest has to do is play to the ideal Dallas existing in the minds of its citizens, and the local governing body will allow just about any historical site to be torn down.  Hell, this largely conservative population will even vote for increased taxes if sports are involved.  (As parochial wisdom has it, sports -- despite being universally popular -- are part of our Southern essence; God bless the Cowboys.)  Consequently, the town itself (which, due to white flight, is more Dallas County than just Dallas these days) has little charm or uniqueness -- i.e., no sense of place -- left to it.  It exists as pure concept, which is why it's a great place to be from, just not to live.  To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, thar ain't no thar thar.  Anyway, I have friends in Austin, so I use them as a good excuse to go to the one true Texan town, Austin (although many of its long-term residents wouldn't agree -- but they ought to try living in Dallas).  After listening to the Townes compilation that I brought with me, I discovered that my aunt had removed the cds I leave in her car for this particular occasion.  That meant once more through Townes and then on to the accursed Texas radio.
Now, listen to this, and I'll tell you 'bout the Texas
I'll tell you 'bout the Texas Radio
I'll tell you 'bout the hopeless night
Wandering the Western dream
Tell you 'bout the maiden with wrought iron soul
-- The Doors, The Wasp
I'm no Morrison scholar and can't say I pay much attention to his lyrics, but naming a song about Texas radio "The Wasp" captures what often passes for culture there: bourgeois consumerism in place of illusory country values.  I've yet to hear King Bob Wills on the radio (including the 25 years when I was a resident), but I always get my yearly dose of Van Hagar and 50 Cent every time I visit, just by using the scan function on the car radio.  And if you ever wonder why bands that used to be called nü-metal are still putting out albums, out yonder is the answer.  It all is the continuing (de-)evolution that I remember from high school, where all the wannabe cowpolks in FFA used to wear dusters and cowboy boots.  They would pull into the school parking lot alternately blasting RUN-DMC or Reba from their shortbeds.  They exaggerated their drawl and said stuff like "bulldoggyshit."  Urban Cowboy was lost on them, if they saw it at all, taking it as another fashion code rather than a lament for dying cowboy authenticity within modernity's sprawl.  Unfortunately, even as a fashion statement, it was already out of date for these future suburban cowboys. 

Pacifying the Inner Man-Child: New Study on Violent Film Effects

Posted by Charles Reece, January 14, 2008 11:40am | Post a Comment
In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you’re going to increase violent crime.   -- Gordon Dahl

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Entering into the contentious world of media effects, economists Gordon Dahl and Stefano DellaVigna have found, contrary to the typical social psychological paradigm, that violent crime rates actually dropped during the periods when popular violent movies were released.  Like the majority of economists, they apply the assumption of rational choice theory to movie viewing where the violent-movie audience chooses it over other possibilities, such as going to a bar and getting drunk, slamming their long-necks into someone else's face and/or mauling his girlfriend.  The researchers note that it's not only during the opening weekend that the crime rate drops, but there's no compensatory rise in the following weeks.  In other words, a true reduction of crime occurs (within the short-term sense).

Having had to wade through a bunch of articles on violent media effects in my social psychology classes back in school and as a fairly non-aggressive guy raised on Bronson and Eastwood flicks (thanks, Dad, God rest your soul), I'm pretty skeptical of what's passed for the established consensus of social psychology.  The majority of it tends to rest on fairly artificial procedures where children (as the subjects typically are) watch stuff like Road Runner cartoons or the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and then act out what they saw in playtime situations.  Just as kids who pretend to cook Play-Doh aren't by that act alone likely to have a propensity for being great chefs, these subjects don't seem any more likely to be really violent adults.  And, in fact, the longitudinal studies of long-term effects of violent media are the least consistent  (statistically reliable) aspect of the media-effects paradigm.  I shot a lot of Indians and massacred even more aliens as a child, but I'm about as far from being sympathetic to our imperialist past as one can get, nor would my first inclination upon being visited by beings from another planet be "get the nukes."