Monthly Archives: April 2012

Evolution of Crime Films

Crime films are arguably the most complex classification of movies that reflect our ideology of moral order and justice, lawful and illicit, desirable and unworthy. Crime films mirror society due to its interplay with the complexity of real live events that satisfy the audience’s desire for mayhem, underdog characters, and a fallible justice system. The critical alternative tradition, for the most part, focuses on this aspect of the film; while traditional movies tend to emphasize heroism and the restoration of moral order.

The earliest crime film may be traced to the silent epoch of 1897-1927, during the Progressive era in the United States. Social conditions that existed during this time, such as immigration and urbanization led to a proliferation of organized crimes, social anarchy, and distrust of the government. The alarming rate of crime and social disorder created a leeway for the emergence of crime movies, such as the Great Train Robbery, which Rafter (2006) believed may have been the first crime film. The prohibition code that was expected to restrict alcohol and other illicit acts had the reverse effect on the public. It created further rebellion for the law and produced an increased fascination for gangster films, such as Scar Face and Little Caesar, which portrayed outlaws as heroic figures that sought to gain economic status through illegal means. The fact that gangster films portrayed urban neighborhoods and criminality in a realistic fashion allowed the audience to better identify with the motivation and criminal lifestyle of the gangster. This in itself contributed to the endurance of the gangster genre even into the 21st century.


Childcare and Work: The Privilege of Choice

“If you don’t believe that childcare is work, then try telling your parents or whoever took care of you that raising you was not work.  I don’t imagine that would go over well.”  I say this in my social problems class as a counterpoint to the assertion that welfare-recipients are lazy and immoral.  Most recently the sentiment was employed to defend wealthy “stay-at-home mom,” and wife of presidential candidate, Ann Romney.  The sentiment that childcare is work is fairly uncontested when referring to the non-poor.  In class, I urge students to consider whether the sentiment is equally valid for their (likely) non-poor parents and for poor parents.  I make this statement in the context of welfare to point out that both the ability to stay at home and the status of “stay-at-home mom” are class privileges and not merely reflections of moral or ideological choices.  Indeed, even for women who have privilege the vernacular meaning of “choice” rarely applies. (more…)

Facing More with Less: Thinking about School Budgets

There can be little doubt that because of the current economic conditions, a large part of society has undergone considerable strain. Whether discussing unemployment rates, downsizing, closed up businesses, or market trends, it seems that little has been left unaffected by these financial times. Of concern for this post is how schools, specifically secondary schools, have had to adapt to and deal with the economic state. Often making top news reports on major broadcasting stations or making the front-page of newspaper outlets, it is not uncommon to hear of another school having to face financial cutbacks and crisis. It is the budgetary tightening within schools that this post considers; more specifically, when facing budget cuts, what policies and programs are left in place and which are discarded.

A mentor and I are currently writing about the financial context of certain school practices and policies. When discussing school budgets, the primary concern is with which programs – on a continuum of being financed – receive budgeted funding given both the economic situation of the school and, more broadly, the larger economy? Stated another way, are there programs and policies that remain funded while others are cut, and if so, what is the reasoning or rational behind how budgeted funds are distributed? (more…)

Black Complaints / White Denials: The Trayvon Martin Case

In my last post, I mentioned the larger discussion about blame for racism that cases like Trayvon Martin produce.  One consistent meme that arises every time black people protest the killing of a black person by a white person is: Why don’t black people protest when blacks kill other blacks?  After all, statistically black homicide victims are more likely to be killed by blacks than any other race.  Black on black homicide certainly happens at a far greater rate than vigilante or even police killing of blacks.  So, why doesn’t the black community protest that?  Why is it only when the perpetrator is white?    The questions (rhetorical as they may be) need answers. (more…)

Exploring Public Transits and Quality of Service

As an avid user of the metropolitan bus system for the past five years, I have met a lot of interesting characters. These include folks of different background, age, size, and color. I have witnessed events on the bus that are either too crude to describe in detail or too ridiculous to seriously warrant my attention. Over the years, I can say that my experience in using public transit services has been two-fold. On one hand, public transits have been integral in transporting me to and from work. However, on the other hand, it has created a space where I am bombarded with nuisances (people talking to me when I am clearly not interested, or the unpleasant odor emanating from the seats) that make my journey an unpleasant experience. Other minor frustrations include the wait time and lack of adequate shelter in harsh weather conditions. I am sure that other users in my metropolitan area would provide the same outlook, and given the increase in users and the need for this service, I predict that these conditions will only be exacerbated.

Increased population growth in metropolitan cities necessitated the creation of transit stations where persons could transfer from one transportation to the next (Iseki & Taylor, 2010). During the early 19th century, as cities expanded and horse-drawn transportation became accessible, the U.S. witnessed the exodus of the rich from areas close to the city to more suburban areas, leaving the poorer classes who were impotent to afford similar amenities— residing adjacent to the city (Glaser, Kahn, & Rappaport, 2008). According to Glaser, Kahn, and Rappaport (2008), slightly over 19% of the population of residents living in metropolitan areas are poor, in comparison to less than 8% of persons living in suburban areas.  Lower population density in the suburbs— and availability of finances to purchase cars— explains the lower levels of public transportation in those regions. While, on the contrary, high population density and financial mediocrity in metropolitan cities fostered the need for public transportation. Individual level characteristics, such as age, gender, and disability in combination with socio-economic characteristics, such as income and location determine travel preferences. For example, persons from lower-income households prefer to take the bus and are more concerned about cost than individuals from higher income brackets. Also, individuals with disability were more concerned about accessibility and comfort of the bus than younger able-bodied individuals (Stradling, Carreno, Rye,  & Noble, 2007).

It is crucial to note that transportation by bus is not a confined phenomenon to metropolitan areas in the United Sates. In fact, according to Stradling, Carreno, Rye, and Noble (2007), Britain alone experienced more than 4.1 billion bus passengers between 2005 to 2006, with Scotland showing a rapid increase in bus users over the past five years. However, given that cities are rapidly growing and the poverty gap has been exacerbated by unemployment and a constellation of social ills, bus services becomes a necessity for a large populous of residents in the city (Stradling, Carreno, Rye, & Noble, 2007). The advent of bus services comes with cost, wait time, transfer time, and other nuances that impact the quality of services passengers received. And, with more individuals using the bus in contemporary society compared to previous years, it will continue to be a common occurrence for transit users to spend considerable time outside of transit vehicles than inside the vehicles. In fact, much time is expended waiting, transferring, and walking to the bus stop than the amount of time spent during the actual ride to one’s destination. Therefore, the ease and accessibility in using transit services will be a crucial determinant of bus patronage (Iseki & Taylor, 2010). Despite the importance of reduced wait times for users, a more crucial concern of bus passengers pertains to the issue of safety while waiting on or riding the bus. According to Iseki and Taylor (2010) safety is a key concern of transit users, more so than transfer and reliability. The authors note that satisfaction with safety varies based on the time of day and gender of the user. For example, users are more likely to feel safer during the day than at nights, and issues concerning safety were primarily, but not exclusively, voiced by females (Stradling, Carreno, Rye, Noble, 2007).

The physical condition and amenities of the bus and bus station is a marginal concern of  users, while information about  bus schedules and routes and accessibility of the bus station (navigating to one’s stop) are key issues consistently related to users’ satisfaction ( Iseki & Taylor, 2010).  Despite that wait and transfer times are known to play a crucial role in the level of bus patronage, previous research has neglected to investigate the impact of wait, walk, and transfer time on people’s travel behavior, but have devoted much investigation to in-vehicle travel experiences and the physical conditions of transit stops and stations (Iseki & Taylor, 2010). While public transportation by bus provides passengers with an element of social interaction that cannot be replaced by cars— as well as reducing environmental pollutants, many individuals are still reluctant to reduce car travel and employ public mode of transportation, possibly because of the inconvenience it may have on travel patterns, or because individuals do not assess gas emissions as crucial environmental concerns to warrant radical change (Gatersleben & Uzzel, 2003).

Given the many concerns of public transportation, it is understandable that some users would not desire to employ public transits. Besides, the accessibility and privacy of one’s car create more comfort and eliminate a lot of frustrations that accompany the use of public transits. Nonetheless, as a society, we all have a role  to play in protecting our environment and reducing gas emissions, and if one mode of reducing environmental pollutants is by reducing car travel,  I advocate for a reduction (but not elimination) of private vehicles.  I believe that this would help to foster an equal balance between the use of private and public vehicles that would create a ‘greener’ environment.