The best-selling and award-winning music lyrics and styles of controversial performers from Eminem and Marilyn Manson to Limp Bizkit and Slipknot have been called vile, disgusting, uncivilized and even dangerous, particularly in recent Congressional hearings. But Karen Halnon, associate professor of sociology at Penn State Abington, said that's just nonsense. Halnon said what makes this music so attractive for an increasingly diverse fandom -- from college students to white-collar professionals such as brokers and lawyers -- is its "difference" from the commercialized mainstream. Music that breaks nearly every conceivable rule for morality is embraced by fans because it breaks though the "noise" of commercial culture. In the recent article "Alienation Incorporated," published in the May issue of Current Sociology: Journal of the International Sociology Association, Halnon argued that the "real obscenity" is how the culture industry has found a way to commodify the consumer alienation that it created in the first place.
In a new book, "Black Brothers Inc.," Penn State Abington researcher Sean Patrick Griffin offers a thoroughly detailed account of the rise and fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia -- a group of drug-dealers, numbers-runners, extortionists and thugs who would give the city's Cosa Nostra all it could handle during its heyday from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Griffin, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Abington and a former Philadelphia police officer, said the Black Mafia's early history, which included their graduation from routine street crimes to schemes to defraud the government of money earmarked to make communities safer, was in large part a reflection of the times in inner cities. "At the time, it was commonplace for numbers-runners and other gangsters to be financiers for legitimate black businesses, because many of these businessmen couldn't get loans from banks," he said. "Many people across the country are interested in the book because whether they lived in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Philly, Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, they can recall similar sorts of structures in these urban centers."
While the Union Army was getting the best of the Confederates on many of the ballyhooed battlefields of the Civil War, such as Gettysburg and Antietam, the Trans-Mississippi area was touch and go throughout the conflict. In fact, if not for poor communication and bad blood between two key military figures in the State of Louisiana, historians may still be talking about great Confederate victories there, according to a Penn State researcher. Of course, without the great victories, there is little talk at all about Civil War fighting in the Trans-Mississippi region, according to Jeffery Prushankin, lecturer of history at Penn State Abington and author of a new book, "A Crisis in Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor and the Army of the Trans-Mississippi" (LSU Press)."There has always been the notion that the war was won and lost in the East between Washington (D.C.) and Richmond. You can find 100 books on Gettysburg for every article on something that occurred in Louisiana," said Prushankin. "The battles and leaders in the West across the Mississippi River have mostly been thought of as minor players."
Weddings are a time when a woman and man pledge their unwavering devotion to each other, but the months before the big day can be quite stressful and confusing for women, according to Beth Montemurro, assistant professor of sociology at Penn State Abington. In her new book, "Something Old, Something Bold: Bridal Showers and Bachelorette Parties" (Rutgers University Press), Montemurro takes a fresh look at the wedding process, offering a perspective not likely to be found in the planning books and magazines readily available to the modern bride. She focuses on bachelorette parties and bridal showers to show what these events mean to women and what they say about gender roles.
If overemployed workers were encouraged by employers to cut back to their level of preference, it could have a profound impact on employee's well-being, according to a Penn State Abington researcher. Lonnie Golden, associate professor of economics, said empowering the 7 percent of workers who claimed in a 2001 U.S. Current Population Survey that they would like to cut back on their hours and income to do so might create some work and income for the 23 percent of the work force that is underemployed -- those who would like more work and income -- as well as the unemployed. It also would free up time for the overemployed to pursue endeavors other than work, which could lead to improved work-life balance and quality of life.
Sex refers to biology and reproduction, but the mind offers the most important lesson for humans according to a Penn State scholar in the newest edition of his book "The Philosophy of Sex" (Rowman & Littlefield: 2007). Alan Soble, a contemporary philosopher, founder of the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love, and lecturer of philosophy at Penn State Abington in suburban Philadelphia, said the collection of essays examines views on what role sex plays in the human experience, as well as what constitutes "normal" sex, as opposed to "perverted" sex. "Philosophy over the long haul may not change minds in any way, but I hope the book makes people think in new and different ways," said Soble
Penn State Abington hosted Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller on Thursday, Jan. 22, in coordination with Martin Luther King Day activities. Repeating sentiments expressed by King as well as our nation's newly elected president, Fuller spoke of the importance of civic engagement and responsibility. "Civic engagement is not just something you ought to be involved in; but it is a joyous thing," Fuller said. "It has rewards beyond any words to express how meaningful it is."
In anticipation of our nation's fast approaching birthday celebration, Penn State Abington recently conducted a "nonscientific" survey on people's general knowledge of the Declaration of Independence. The results showed that Americans need to brush up on their civic knowledge.
Penn State Abington's Steven Pyser, lecturer of political science and an expert in public participation and group facilitation, presented "Opportunity Knocks: Riding the Blended (Hybrid) Learning Wave to Pedagogical Excellence" on May 29 during the Faculty of the Future conference held at Bucks County Community College in Newtown. Several former students were on hand to demonstrate Pyser's unique teaching methods to the audience.