Sunday, June 1, 2008

Candlepin Anyone?

XI've been reading Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, an extensive look at social capital in the US and why there's a marked decrease from the 1950s and 60s in the strength and breadth of civic engagement and social connectedness in the US. According to Putnam, less social capital correlates with or increases the chances of everything from infant morality to obesity to not stopping at stop lights. For instance, if you smoked cigarettes and lived in Mississippi - which ranks at the bottom of much of everything in Bowling Alone - and continued to smoke but moved to North Dakota - which is at the top of most every heap - the effects would be akin to your having quit smoking.

In the way that you often find synchronicity when you start exploring a topic, I've been thinking a lot about social capital lately. When I moved to DC I was told that it takes at least a year after you move to a place for you to start feeling comfortable. I only stopped feeling like I was living on an alien planet once I made some friends, met some people in the neighborhood, and was able to leave my apartment on weekends without looking at a map. Having a number of friends that are relative newcomers here, we can all attest that even then, it's not easy: where to go, how to meet people, how to be a part of a place when you don't feel of it. All that sure takes the naive romance out of "reinventing yourself" in a new place.

I'm not sure how much I buy all of the book's arguments especially since they're about 8 years old now. For instance, the Internet has certainly added a dimension to how we keep in touch and a case could be made that this year's political theater has increased active participation in politics. I'd definitely be curious to read an update. (For you non-New Englanders, here's the explanation on candlepin bowling.)

Still, I'm glad I waded through the book...which I did in between a couple of shows that renewed my faith in live music: X and Cut Copy. I've seen X a couple of times now and they never disappoint. Their show certainly isn't new since they haven't released new music in years, but everything's played with gobs of punky, head-banging attitude and energy and they obviously have a fabulous time. Cut Copy was a lean, tight, dance machine and I can't wait to see them again. I think I may have actually jumped up and down on command. Wow. (Arf?)

And yes, finding the rock clubs in DC went a long way to making me feel like I belonged more!

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