Saturday, April 30, 2005

Catholics, Bathrooms

I note that John Sauer, the Harvard Federalist who once informed me that unisex bathrooms offended women's "sense of natural modesty," will clerk for Justice Scalia. I'm sure they'll get along very well.

The last banquet

Last night was the Federalist Society/Journal of Law & Public Policy end of the year banquet. Will and I had the pleasure of meeting Howard Bashman of How Appealing, having to give a speech again was not as trauma-inducing as I had feared, and the food was excellent. A good time was had by all, or at least everyone I talked with.

After the speech thanking this year's staff, incoming EIC Jenn Carter presented me with a gift. Unaccountably, I failed to open it until later in the evening. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my fellow Federalist blogwench had chosen to commemorate our brief appearance in Fenno. Thanks, Jenn!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Friday Spies: Karnak the Magnificent Edition

BTQ has altered the structure of Friday Spies this week:
This week we're going to change it up a bit. Instead of five lame
questions, Friday Spies is going Karnak-style with five lame answers.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, it to provide the
questions that generated the following five answers.

1. Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz, Lucille LeSueur.

Name the three biggest movie stars with the least Hollywood-friendly birth names. (Almost tricked me into thinking it was related to A Fish Called Wanda!)

2. To get to the other side.

Why did the chicken stop his own heart and then arrange to have himself revived?

3. Drugs. Massive quantities of drugs.

What is the worst thing to find in your suitcase when going through customs in Bali?

4. Milbarge.

Who is actually writing these questions?

5. Without question, the single most idiotic thing ever thought up by the human mind. (Note: The question "What is this week's set of answer-questions?" will NOT be accepted.)

What are otakukin?

On the subject of book organization

Most of the fiction I read in high school stayed at my mother's house when I left. In college, I went through a long period of extreme miserliness that resulted in my selling back any books purchased for courses. This stopped after I had to reacquire some classics texts for the second time. My book collection is only now recovering, and it does so slowly due to my eclectic methods of book acquisition. Right now I have limited storage space, so the shelving scheme is rather confused.

On top: law texts, leaning like dead soldiers in a trench. Already obsolete and full of highlighting, these are kept to decorate an office.

Next shelf: the pretentious zone in which classical texts and small volumes of poetry hang out, along with the Lord of the Rings boxed set (because it stacks well and has an unobtrusive jacket design that doesn't detract from the theme).

Lower still: half of this is shelved by size; all full sized hardcovers hang out here, but it's also where the lit-fic and Brit-fic gathers, with trade paperbacks pressed tightly against oddly shaped poetry books.

Devolving, we reach the chaotic zone of books I keep for the sake of having books. Mass market paperbacks, used and new, genre fiction and trade paperbacks that lack sufficient literary merit to be shelved one story up, and hidden behind it all are a second, secret row consisting of books acquired while working at various libertarian organizations and the complete works of Ayn Rand. You could probably extrapolate something about me psychologically from this arrangement.

At last, books of reference. Dictionaries, writing and style manuals, old textbooks, notebooks, workbooks. The detritus of past courses and the raw materials for future labors. Also pocket constitutions.

I had a separate shelf of library books, but my housemate and bar review study guides are slowly taking it over. Library books now are scattered willy-nilly around my bedroom. While making the bed today I found three under the pillows.

I really should get organized.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Amusement Break II

Since it's exam time and we could all use a laugh, I'll pass along these two music videos.

"Gay Boyfriend" by the Ukes of Hazzard (female ukelele duo; some language)

"Treat Your Mother Right" by Mr. T (safe for work. I think)

Free Airport Security!

I did my college senior thesis on the past and future of private policing in America. I picked this topic in the spring of 2001 and was writing it in the fall, which in retrospect was probably the worst time to be advocating for private police forces, oh, ever. I think Bush nationalized airport security the week before I turned in my final draft. Jerk.

But vindication of my thesis has arrived!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Elementary, my dear Watson.

Is there any doubt that legal professionals are one of the most socially inept sub-cultures on the planet? Well, we can probably still look down on accountants and actuaries. But it's pretty bad.

Angus, who despite his florid self descriptions is really quite personable, asks
do they think law school creates LSSR in people, or that it attracts people already suffering from social retardation and merely incubates it into full-blown LSSR?
I think it's the latter, almost by definition; how could you have LSSR before law school? Anyway, all the whip-smart types with mad schmoozing skills go to business school. Some of them find out that their business acumen isn't so hot, so they come to law school and smarm it up here. But what career path is there for wonkish, ambitious bookworms that seek traditional status and approval other than law? (For this socially awkward law student, the choice was clear.) Then you stick us all together in a homogeneous group for three years and have us interact by jointly analyzing esoterica. Any ability to be a normal social animal is utterly destroyed by this process.

Progress Report

Church and State outline: coming along nicely, with over half the cases summarized.

Rain: just keeps coming down.

Classes: officially over. I may have just gone to my last class in school, ever. Scary.

Economic Literacy Now!

I wish this book would become mandatory summer reading for all 0L students. We spent far too much time in Torts (read: I spent way too much time in Torts) arguing about basic economics principles with people who had never taken an Econ class.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Not too savvy

I need to move into an apartment in a far-off state sometime in August (my clerkship's start date may be around Labor Day, but there's a chance it could be 2-3 weeks earlier). I just got off the phone with an apartment complex I visited at the time of my interview, and they said there were anticipated vacancies in 30-60 days and that they'll call me back on July 1. Is this normal management company behavior?

It's terribly pathetic, but I've never rented an apartment like this before. All my previous tenancies were sublets (which made negotiations very simple) or university-owned apartments. Augh. Someone recently proposed that I move by hitching my car to the back of a U-Haul and driving that to my new state. I can't even imagine how quickly I would totally destroy my car on the freeway with that setup.

At least being scared of all this lets me forget how afraid I should be of my Fed Courts exam.

Should these people really be in college?

The NY Times: making me happier every day that I chose to attend a small liberal arts college.

Caesar's Bath

Frabjous day! I have been passed the Caesar's Bath meme.
Behold, the Caesar's Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can't really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), "Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice."
1. Reality shows: the networks found a way to avoid paying for actors, sets, or writers, and people just eat it up. Sometimes the recaps my friends give sound vaguely interesting, but I waste too much of my life with other forms of voyeurism (like reading blogs) to feel the need to watch this stuff. Even if it does make me smarter.

2. Ada: Sorry, Will. I have still only read part of it.

3. Capri pants: they're okay, I guess. But you still have to shave your legs, so why not wear a skirt or shorts?

4. Lamb: it never tastes like anything to me. If I wanted bland protein, I'd eat tofu.

5. Manhattan: sure, you can get anything you could ever want, but you've got to walk to get there. The good pizza is in Brooklyn. And every time I go there I feel like Westley in the Machine: like a year of my life has been sucked away.

I'd like to pass this off to Will, Christiana, and Raffi.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Speaking in tongues

I wish they had something like this for Latin.

Unrelated addendum: if I have the opportunity to take a one week post-bar exam trip, should it be to Switzerland, Russia, Ireland, Scotland, or someplace else?

Ain't I a woman?: the inquiry continues

Your Brain is 53.33% Female, 46.67% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female

You are both sensitive and savvy

Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed

But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

(via E. McPan)

Lost in the game

I am a sucker for cover songs, true. But how can anyone resist the 1920s-style vocals linked here?

Oops I Did It Again (1920s cabaret style)

Oops I Did It Again (Louis Armstrong style, by another vocalist)

50 Book Challenge #24: Selected Stories by Alice Munro

After the NY Times gave her most recent collection a gushing review, I decided a short story fan should probably check out the prose stylings of Alice Munro.

After reading this selection from her several collections, I'm shocked that she hasn't received more notice and fame south of the (Canadian) border. Maybe I am uniquely ignorant, but until this year I'd never even heard of this woman and now I wonder why her work isn't lauded over so much of what passes as literary fiction these days. Her prose is incisive and insightful, focusing on the exploration of character. However, she never falls into the trap of only describing character and every story is a page-turner. My only complaint is that her subject matter is rather narrow. Too many protagonists are poor Ontarian women who cheat on their husbands or are the victims of family violence. After reading the first five or six stories like this, the rest of them fill you with a sense of deja vu (exacerbated by the use of some of the same characters in several of the stories).

Perhaps it's because the short story is a undervalued medium, but Munro probably has fewer readers than she deserves. I'd advise you to do your part to rectify the situation.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ain't I a woman?

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act defines "woman." A quick search of the U.S. Code turned up no prior definitions of the term, and although I thought it would have come up before in immigration rights cases, a brief Westlaw search similarly turns up nothing. Is this the first federal definition of "woman?"

FURTHER MUSING: after perusing the Act, I cannot see why was it not sufficient to say "pregnant person" instead of "woman." The limited utility of saving a word when referring to the individual to whom the mandatory disclosures must be made is surely outweighed by the massive insult of ensconcing in federal law a definition that tells vast numbers of women that they aren't women.

Dirty Words

There really ought to be basic constitutional law literacy programs for school district employees, if only for liability reasons. Otherwise you end up with stuff like this:

School Suspends 2 Over 'Vagina' Buttons
Principal Nancy Wondrasch said some in school find the buttons offensive.

"We support free speech," she said. "But when it does infringe on other people's rights and our school policies, then we need to take a look at that."
To my knowledge, the clear constitutional standard articulated in Tinker still reigns.
In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Certainly where there is no finding and no showing that engaging in the forbidden conduct would 'materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school,' the prohibition cannot be sustained.

National Poetry Month: Emily Dickinson

My worthiness is all my doubt,
His merit all my fear,
Contrasting which, my qualities
Do lowlier appear;

Lest I should insufficient prove
For his beloved need,
The chiefest apprehension
Within my loving creed.

So I, the undivine abode
Of his elect content,
Conform my soul as ’t were a church
Unto her sacrament.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Princeton Student Thinks Abstinence Will Protect Her From Rape

I couldn't help but do a double take at this little bit of ignorance in an otherwise inoffensive article about a group at Princeton that promotes abstinence among college students (emphasis added):
Jennifer Mickel, a 19-year-old sophomore from Monroe, La., brought up abstinence at a women's forum at Ivy Council, an inter-campus student group in the Ivy League.

"The discussion was very sex-focused, like about having rape kits in medical centers and condoms and the morning-after pill," Ms. Mickel said. "And I asked, 'What do your schools have for women who are not having sex?' And the room fell silent
Abstinent women can still be raped, you ignorant fool. Even someone who believes "true love waits" might still want to be able to preserve evidence so her assailant could be prosecuted, or might feel reassured that measures to prevent her from having to bear her rapist's child were easily available. It's not just women who are already sexually active who are at risk for sexual assault. The underlying assumptions in Mickel's statement are just breathtaking.

UPDATE: Jennifer Mickel shows up in the comments section at Althouse to defend her comment:
I don't think we should get rid of rape kits or the morning after pill, and that's an unfair extrapolation from my comment. The conversation was on women's issues--not sex--but the entire conversation revolved around it. My point was that perhaps some women's funding and women's issues should be targeted at other topics--not all women are having sex. Furthermore, the current state of things doesn't do much to combat the image of women as a sex object when we only deal with that aspect of womanhood in all of our programming.
What non-biological aspects of womanhood should be dealt with in programming by a women's center? Since most Princeton students are not abstinent, the women's center is serving the community by supporting women's sexual health and safety. That is what people want. Welcome to democracy. And for the last time, all women can be raped, so those funds for rape kits? Also for you, woman not having sex.

Say you want a revolution

The New Yorker has an excellent article on the new biography of John Brown. I've been meaning to read All on Fire, the biography of William Lloyd Garrison, for some time, but it sounds like this newer volume might be more interesting, especially if it has as much to say on the concepts of the code of honor and violence as the New Yorker piece suggests.

I can't seem to find the provisional constitution Brown drafted online. Alas for the limitations of the internet.


Is there some kind of software for blind people that will read books aloud? Because I think I need to have Chemerinsky read to me while I'm sleeping.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Feed me, Seymour.

I am having Atom feed issues. If it is still broken, maybe this will work?

Unrelatedly, Eric Muller at Is That Legal? has a number of really interesting posts about proselytizing literature in public school curricula and the importance of accurate memory among Germans.

Friday Spies: Movie Madness Edition

1. Which Simpsons character are you most like?

Definitely Lisa. Nerdy, bookish, always fretting about doing the right thing. I'm not much of a do-gooder, though.

2. Name a song you hate that is performed by a band you like. Name a song you like by a band you hate.

The Bloodhound Gang is a profoundly stupid glorified novelty band, but I can listen to "I Hope You Die" over and over again, especially the part about doing "the Silence of the Lambs dance to Christian rock." And I love Belle & Sebastian, but the song "Seymour Stein" totally deserves the contemptuous treatment it received at the hands of Jack Black in High Fidelity.

3. What skills do you possess? Nunchuck skills? Computer hacking skills?

I have decent baking skills, okay editing skills, and some damn fine Trivial Pursuit skills.

4. Coen Brothers or Farrelly Brothers?

Coen! The Farrelly Brothers are a pustulent boil on the face of the movie industry. Of course, they would probably record themselves being lanced into oblivion, crop it into a movie with Ben Stiller, and make a few million dollars.

5. What do you predict will be the worst part(s) of the new Star Wars movie?

Natalie Portman pretending to be heartbroken when her evil cardboard husband turns to the Dark Side. And any reappearance of Jar Jar.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why Houston is the Fattest City Ever

I thought I'd see how my old hometown stacks up under Raffi's criteria for a good eating city.

1. Staple Breakfast food: Vietnamese-run doughnut parlors for sweet lovers, breakfast tacos for fans of a savory breakfast. Less common, but more delicious: diners that serve biscuits and gravy.

2. Good fruit, vegetable, and other produce markets: these probably exist, but you're more likely to go to a supermarket. Fiesta has an immense variety of international fruits and vegetables, which for me makes it at least the equal of some hippie farmers' market with only a few different things. Sometimes you need tomatillos. Tons of specialty markets in the city's many ethnic enclaves.

3. Non-chain fast food under 10 dollars: There are drive-through steak restaurants, but those don't meet the price requirement. There are plenty of places where you can get cheap Chinese or Mexican to go, but I don't know if that counts as fast food. I think I've seen some taquerias with drive-through as well.

4. Exceptional high end restaurants : Not so much, especially by Paris/New York standards.

5. Reliable mid-range food: This is probably the strongest category for Houston. You can get just about any kind of delicious food, in unhealthily large portions, for less than $20.

6. Good general supermarket : Houston has Whole Foods and Rice Epicurean markets, but Albertsons and H.E.B. are more the standard. Fiesta is good for international foods.

7. Good specialized bakeries for dessert: I don't think this is a particular strength of the city. You can get a decorated cake at just about any large supermarket, since most of them have bakeries inside. Stand-alone bakeries are more rare; most people just go to House of Pies.

8. Wide range of cuisine: You can get great Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tex-Mex, and Southern food. I've been dissatisfied with the availability of non-chain Cajun food, and those seeking European cuisine may be disappointed.

Dylan, any additions?

Who Pays $600 for Jeans?

Total freaking morons. This article could have been so much shorter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ape TV

This sounds like a great reality show. Or at the least a great source of filler programming for cable access channels.

It also reminds me of this book.

Bleeding, Foolishness

Like Jeremy Blachman, I was incensed at the thought of having to pay $75 to rent a cap and gown for graduation. Today is the last day for reserving them and I finally went down to the Coop to fork over my money.

But insult is added to injury! The flyer attached to my receipt says:
Please note: In the event of rain or excessive humidity, the dye in the gown can discolor your clothing. Please DO NOT wear the gown over valuable garments.
I cannot believe this. $75 for a non-colorfast rental gown. I am not supposed to wear nice clothes to my own graduation because their cheaply dyed academic attire may ruin my outfit.

Thanks, Harvard. I'm wearing cutoffs and a tank top just for you.

El Presidente

Not down with wearing those omnipresent Che t-shirts? Want to show your support for Harvard University President Larry Summers? There is a solution. (Via Marginal Revolution)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Puppy Porn

I should be reading Fed Courts. So why am I instead surfing for pictures of adoptable puppies?

My just reward

How was it not obvious that the inevitable consequence of calling to my professor's attention the recent opinion in Simpson v. Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors would be that he would be reminded of my presence and thus call on me the following day not once but twice? Have I not learned to keep my mouth shut? The circumstance was exacerbated by my not having read the case recently and my refusal to actually express myself in class; it's hard enough to sit through some of my classmates' comments without injuring myself by rolling my eyes too hard--to verbally express myself would radically decrease the level of civility in the classroom.

I've come a long way from my admissions essay, which emphasized my passion for advocating the separation of church and state. Or perhaps I haven't; I didn't find self-serving justifications for religious establishment under the guise of neutrality persuasive when they were used as excuses to foist religion into Texas schools, and I find them similarly nonsensical now.

Meet the new pope, same as the old pope.

If the new pope had been Lando II the Calrissian, I might have considered conversion (okay, not really). But alas, Ratzinger goes with the (fifteen previous times) tried and true staple of papal nomenclature, Benedict. This makes "Benedict" the second most common papal name; it is tied with "Gregory" but lags behind "John," of which there have been twenty-three.

Update: a description of previous Benedicts.

Random roundup VI

Curtis has an anecdote about enforcement of laws against abuse of a corpse.

Anecdote, however, does not trump data. Over at Phoebe's, a letter to the editor confuses the two.

Jeremy's looking for an apartment. Help him out.

Via Christiana Dominguez, the last days of Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking.

Monday, April 18, 2005


This NY Times profile of Dustin Hoffman harps on the insecurity Hoffman feels about his looks. Apparently even after forty years of acting success, Hoffman still compares himself to blond 1950s stars. But the profile goes on to note that
he helped pave the way for similarly untraditional types like Al Pacino and Mr. Hackman, who in the 1970's would strip the gloss from the role of the leading man and usher in a new era of authenticity.
Too bad this still hasn't happened for actresses. Any woman as homely as Hoffman would be lucky to have an off-Broadway career. Stop your whining, Dustin.

Unrelatedly, I have a piece on the agony and the ecstasy of the specialty journal experience in De Novo's Law Review & Journal Symposium.

50 Book Challenge #23: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

I stayed up half the night reading Me Talk Pretty One Day when I checked it out a few years ago, muffling my snorts and shrieks of laughter with a pillow as I sought to avoid waking my grandparents (I do a lot of reading when I go back to Texas). I'm glad that I read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim here in Cambridge, since it would have been much less of an escape had I read it while visiting family.

DYF is less riotously funny than Me Talk Pretty One Day or Naked. It's got more of a serious, introspective vibe and deals mostly with Sedaris's relationships with his parents and siblings. I hadn't realized or had forgotten that he grew up in the South, and when elements of that culture seep in (references to schools being desegregated, or his shock at seeing a white housemaid), it can be jarring. His siblings are mostly abnormal, and the thought of his sister living a few blocks away from me and going through my trash (a distinct possibility--she lives in Somerville) is even weirder.

If you've liked Sedaris's previous books, go ahead and pick this up, but be aware that it's less fun than his other collections.

What is seen and what is not seen

Jeremy muses on the romanticization of depression, inspired by this NY Times Magazine article. I read the piece earlier to get the taste of the Constitution in Exile article out of my mouth, but it's nearly as appalling as its companion, in its own way.

People kept badgering the author with questions about whether Edgar Allen Poe or Vincent Van Gogh would have made great art if they weren't depressed. My personal opinion is that the creative urge is something separate from one's emotional state, and that if they were driven by some internal mechanism to express themselves, they probably would have made great art with different content.

But what about all the depressed people who weren't as resilient as even Van Gogh? One of the terrible things about depression is its ability to totally sap the will, to make it impossible to even get out of bed, to undermine motivation and replace it with self-loathing. How many potential artists' work have we never seen, because their lives were debilitated by depression? How many promising young artists' careers were cut short by suicide, perhaps so short that we don't remember them? Exploring the depths of human emotion is valuable, but depression hinders, not helps. That anyone could think that not eliminating a disease would be a good thing is just bizarre.

But then again, I shouldn't be surprised. Some people think cervical cancer should be kept around so we can all be frightened into not having sex. (Via Pandagon)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Where is my sooper seekrit constitutional decoder ring?

You should probably all read this article on the fictitious "Constitution in Exile" movement. As someone who pretty much agrees with Richard Epstein on everything, I would be a card-carrying member of this movement if it existed. But it doesn't. Of course, maybe membership is secret, just like the human sacrifice people attribute to the Federalist Society. If so, please send me the coordinates to meet for the midnight initiation, guys!

David Bernstein is already taking on some of the article's premises at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Unrelated aside: is this book any good? I saw it at my local library but felt too silly to check out a book merely because it was written by a blogger's dad.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Transgendered Students at Women's Colleges?

Ann Althouse is having a little discussion on single-sex education over at her weblog, inspired by the conundrum of what to do about transgendered people in single-sex colleges like Smith. It would seem that the single-sex model does have certain advantages in that it enables women to pursue their education and form their identities without pressure from a competing masculine mode, although escaping the "distraction" of male students is less relevant today, given the image of Smith as a popular school for lesbians (it was rated the 5th gay-friendliest college in the nation).

It's clearly not an escape from sexual distractions that makes the women's college atmosphere unique. It's something about everyone being a woman, and allowing them to explore the plasticity of that identity, of being able to push the boundaries of what it is to be a woman in our society. That sounds like a plausible goal for a college to promote.

So when the only unifying theme is womanhood, what to do when some students renounce that identity? One alumna said, "If they want to be boys, they should go to a co-ed school." I have to say that I agree. There's exploration and role-play, and there's fundamentally changing your gender identification. I'm not sure if Althouse sees a difference, though. (Of course this comes back yet again to the bathrooms debate, and again Althouse expresses her utter intolerance of being in the same bathroom as someone with male genitalia, although her statement that "if no one can tell, I don't think it matters," is even more baffling--apparently her concerns about safety and messiness disappear if the genitals in question are attached to someone who's really good at passing.)

Having a space in which the infinite mutations of woman's identity can play themselves out is a valuable thing. Holding to a biologically essentialist line may keep out all the Y chromosomes, but it lets male identities and masculinity into a space that sought to exclude those influences because of their effect on woman's development. If you identify as a woman, you should be able to attend Smith, and if not, you should not.

I'd be interested in hearing anything Denise had to say with respect to this issue.

There's also a separate discussion of whether there should be single-sex law schools at Althouse here.

Board Game Follies

Via Dan Drezner, I find this remarkably silly article by Bryan Curtis on the alleged decline of Trivial Pursuit. Even though the game sells briskly, the author claims that it's receded as a cultural icon. (I can't help but think that this sort of armchair social analysis is what brings us tripe like the "man date.") While it may be true that board games as a whole have become less popular than they were twenty years ago, the death of Trivial Pursuit has been greatly exaggerated.

While specialist editions are sold, there's always been a generalist edition as well; we're now up to Volume 6. And who lets anyone play with access to Google? To win at Trivial Pursuit, the old method of memorizing facts still serves a player well. Though the game is no longer a new pop culture phenomenon as it was in the 1980, it's still going strong on college campuses and family kitchen tables across America. At least it is at my house, where the gauntlet is always laid down and my board always ready for another victim.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bits, Pieces

Owen Courreges and Timothy Sandefur continue to go back and forth about the NYU student who asked Scalia about sodomizing his wife. A commenter on Southern Appeal adds context to the question.

The debate about what I should do with my hair rages here. What about something like this or this?

And Will Baude thinks the West Wing's escapist brand of political fantasy should escape my heavy hand. Just for him, I'll cancel Everybody Loves Raymond instead.

National Poetry Month: Victor Hugo

Via a globetrotting multilingual reader, this poem:

Puisque j'ai mis ma lèvre à ta coupe encore pleine,
Puisque j'ai dans tes mains posé mon front pâli,
Puisque j'ai respiré parfois la douce haleine
De ton âme, parfum dans l'ombre enseveli,

Puisqu'il me fut donné de t'entendre me dire
Les mots où se répand le cœur mystérieux,
Puisque j'ai vu pleurer, puisque j'ai vu sourire
Ta bouche sur ma bouche et tes yeux sur mes yeux;

Puisque j'ai vu briller sur ma tête ravie
Un rayon de ton astre, hélas ! voilé toujours,
Puisque j'ai vu tomber dans l'onde de ma vie
Une feuille de rose arrachée à tes jours,

Je puis maintenant dire aux rapides années:
Passez ! passez toujours ! je n'ai plus à vieillir!
Allez-vous-en avec vos fleurs toutes fanées;
J'ai dans l'âme une fleur que nul ne peut cueillir

Votre aile en le heurtant ne fera rien répandre
Du vase où je m'abreuve et que j'ai bien rempli.
Mon âme a plus de feu que vous n'avez de cendre
Mon cœur a plus d'amour que vous n'avez d'oubli.


Since I have set my lips to your full cup, my sweet,
Since I my pallid face between your hands have laid,
Since I have known your soul, and all the bloom of it,
And all the perfume rare, now buried in the shade;

Since it was given to me to hear one happy while,
The words wherein your heart spoke all its mysteries,
Since I have seen you weep, since I have seen you smile,
Your lips upon my lips, and your eyes upon my eyes;

Since I have known above my forehead glance and gleam,
A ray, a single ray, of your star, veiled always,
Since I have felt the fall, upon my lifetime's stream,
Of one pink petal plucked from the roses of your days;

I now am bold to say to the swift changing hours,
Pass, pass upon your way, for I grow never old,
Fleet to the dark abysm with all your fading flowers,
One rose that none may pluck, within my heart I hold.

Your flying wings may smite, but they can never spill
The cup filled of love, from which my lips are wet;
My heart has far more fire than you have frost to chill,
My soul more love than you can make my soul forget.

UPDATE: Via Sasha Volokh, a non-rhyming translation.

Friday Spies: Tax Day Edition

1. What names did you consider for your blog?

"Class Maledictorian" was always the front-runner, but I also considered "Legally Brunette" and some nerdy Latin titles. In the end I went with this, which gets misspelled enough that it might as well be in Latin and will be meaningless in a month when I am no longer part of a class. "Bamberblog" was the most popular choice when I polled the readership about a renaming several weeks ago.

2. What is your favorite adult beverage and why?

After a bad experience in college with the Midori sour (7 or more in a row = bad), I have finally come back around to loving it. Sweet, toxic green alcohol: what could be better? Maybe prosecco.

3. If you could cancel 3 television shows, what would they be?

The Apprentice: Trump face should never be on TV.
The Real World: I used to like this show in its first season or two, when the people had real jobs and well formed personalities. Now it's like a hyped up, overdramatized freshman dorm, except most of the people should be old enough to know better.
The West Wing: a sacreligious choice, but I am so sick of hearing people in law school drool over the West Wing. It's one of the few shows it's okay to like even if you're a serious nerd here, but I think they're mostly just watching to dull the pain of electoral defeat.

4. You've been asked to host SNL.
Which cast would you choose to work with, and who would you choose as the musical guest?

I would pick the 1990 cast, when they still had Phil Hartman, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, and David Spade. My musical guest would be Bjork, not because I love her music that much (it's okay, with a few great songs), but because she is an absolute loon and woudl do all kinds of bizarre stuff without batting an eye.

5. What will Britney Spears name her baby and which three names will she consider and reject before settling on the "winner"?

Old fashioned names are what's hot now (witness Julia Roberts's Phinnaeus and Hazel), but Britney's too dense to appreciate something like Phoebe or Olivia. I bet she leans toward something like Taryn, Layla (rejected as too much like her dog's name after Kevin points that out), or Haley. Eventually, though, she'll settle on "Hope" because despite her Gump-like IQ, the girl is full of desperate hope for the future. Too bad it's all misplaced. See you on VH1's "Where are they now?" in 2009, Britster!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Help Me Pick a Haircut!

It's been months since I got a haircut and my board-straight locks are currently hanging about 3 inches below my shoulders. In a couple of weeks, I have to speak at the JLPP banquet and thus need to not look like a scraggly hippie. How should I get my hair cut (links to pictures desired)? You all did such a great job helping me pick my winter coat that I trust your judgment in this arena. I'd like to preserve some length if possible because the boyfriend likes it, but other than that the field is open. I'm leaning toward bringing back the bangs.

Internet Stupidity Roundup

Sometimes I let myself get riled up too easily. Like today: I'm on pins and needles because my 3L paper is due tomorrow, so stuff that I would normally just roll my eyes at becomes fodder for ranting and raving. Stuff like the last letter in this Dear Prudence column.

The writer, who presumably knew his wife well enough to marry her and have her carry his child, is utterly baffled by her desire to give the child her last name. Maybe he thinks that joking around until she's sedated at the hospital and in no position to fill out a birth certificate will solve the dispute, since he refuses to recognize that her opinion is a strong and valid one. (And has he inquired about her reasons? Apparently not.) Prudie's response is to essentially say that any woman who doesn't automatically conform to traditional naming practices is some sort of feminist militant and counsels the writer that his marriage may be in danger. Sure it is: because this fool apparently thinks patting his wife's hand and chuckling, "yes, dear" is an appropriate way of resolving a disagreement. And why the absolute befuddlement at someone not giving children of a marriage the father's name? It's hardly new to most of us.

More stupidity can be found in the appalling answers to this Ask Metafilter question about whether a female bridesmaid should go to a bachelor party. A number of men asserted (without regard to the issues of whether the groom invited women, had woman friends, or just plain didn't plan on using the bachelor party as an opportunity to engage in immoral conduct) that bachelor parties are men only, always and forever, and that the presence of a girl would "stink up the place" with estrogen and make the other men uncomfortable. Let me just say that any man who does something at a bachelor party that he would not wish his fiancee or any woman to know about is a bad, deceitful person, and has no business getting married. Hell, he has no business being in a relationship. Ugh.

And, as I am an equal opportunity ranter, some feminist overreaching in this comments thread about the late Andrea Dworkin made my head just about spin. While I will defend Ampersand's right to censor his own website of any criticisms of Dworkin in the immediate aftermath of her demise, I think it's a bad idea. Then again, I value the policy outcomes that flow from free discourse about the ideas advanced by public intellectuals. One commenter would disagree:
The fact that our culture takes an “anything goes” approach to “public figures”, doesn’t make that approach ethical, moral, right, or something that, as feminists, we ought to endorse. That the U.S. does it, hardly makes it the right thing to do. “Public figures” are not created equal. Some are men under male supremacy, and some are women and subjugated. That has to be factored in. As do many other considerations.
Just so you know the score: female public intellectuals are oppressed enough by patriarchy--they don't need you to criticize their ideas, too! Haven't they suffered enough? Talking critically about the Pope's involvement in the molestation scandal = A-okay. Suggesting that Dworkin's ideas directly caused the censorship of erotic material in Canada = something feminists should shut our mouths about, because Dworkin was subjugated and thus gets a free pass.

How do you say "ouch" in Swedish?

This really has to be a joke. Nobody would actually expect women to use it, would they? It only "protects" against one form of sexual assault, and as an added benefit will ensure that you get any STD that your attacker might have because he would be bleeding all over the place. And couldn't anyone with bad intent just remove it? I'd prefer firearms, carried externally, for personal protection, but maybe that's just because I am scared of needles. (Via feministing)

UPDATE: Reader Dennis Josefsson informs me that the ads are not a joke but are intended to start a debate about rape in Sweden. (And also that ouch = "aj.")

50 Book Challenge #22: Norwegian Wood

When I was prospecting for book recommendations a few months ago, Murakami's name came up several times. All his books were always checked out of the local library, though, so only with the closing of my local branch was I able to finally obtain a copy of one of the books I'd heard mentioned (I requested a dozen or so unavailable volumes and had them delivered to my local library before it closed so I'd have escapist reading to see me through the long march to exams.) They never got me The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but Norwegian Wood came in.

I have to say I'm disappointed. Call me a Boomer hater, but the continuous stream of coming-of-age stories from the 1960s in American literature have burned me out on tales of earnest teen guys listening to the same dozen American rock songs, living a dissolute Sixties lifestyle, and meandering unhappily through a politically charged landscape. The novel was too much like an American story: the cultural differences mostly manifested themselves in some pathetic allegiances to traditional gender roles, brief references to "right-wing" Japanese politics, and the tendency for characters to commit suicide at rates rather higher than are typical of even the angstiest American teen.

Toru, the main character, is fairly blank and malleable. He doesn't seem to exercise a lot of control over his own fate and thus ends up sticking his hand in the crazy by hooking up with his dead (by teen suicide, natch) best friend's former girlfriend, who hears voices and alternates between staring mournfully, babbling incoherently, and crying inconsolably. Great idea. The foreshadowing of her fate is so obvious that I spent most of the book hoping she'd just off herself and get things over with so Toru could finally work out whether he wants to be with the pathologically selfish and uninhibited Midori.

If you have a higher tolerance than I do for conventional narratives about young adult men sleeping with lots of deeply flawed women and working in record stores, go ahead and read Norwegian Wood. For my part, I was very excited to read in the translator's note that this book is entirely unlike Murakami's other famous works and thus I can try his fiction again without having to slog through Japanese Boomer navel-gazing.

Nosy parkers of the world, unite!

We've been having a mini-debate about the appropriateness of asking political figures about their sex lives in this comments thread. Timothy Sandefur weighs in on the controversy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

If you open PDFs, read this.

Adobe Acrobat Reader has been the bane of my computing existence ever since I upgraded to 7.0. It crashes regularly, taking down all browser windows with it, sucks up massive amounts of processing capability as it runs when it's not needed, and just generally pisses me off.

If you are hindered by similar problems, you might try this small, free application that opens PDFs.

Sodomy and the backlash

I agree with Waddling Thunder that the behavior of the questioner at this NYU event was inappropriate. But say you really do think that a prominent government official is a sexual hypocrite--is there any way to address or expose that in a public forum?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Chipotle Chicken Burritos

For the Tex-Mex lover in New England, DIY chow is a necessity imposed by the appalling quality of "Mexican" restaurants up here in Yankee Land (I still have not forgiven the Border Cafe for serving fajitas with Cajun spiced rice: presumably because Louisiana is next to Texas and Texas is next to Mexico). This week I managed to churn out some delicious burritos. If you're interested, here's the recipe (such as it is):

1. Roast one chicken. I chose a Perdue roaster because they were buy-one-get-one-free, but feel free to depart upward in quality. My preferred seasoning is a rub with a split garlic clove or two (toss these in the cavity afterward), kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper massaged all over the outside, and two tablespoons of sweet butter squeezed under the skin of the breasts (I have no knowledge that this actually does anything, but I like to think of it as the lazy woman's basting). After 1.75 hours at 400 degrees, the skin was deliciously crispy on top. We had three meals from the chicken, and then I picked another 2 cups or so of meat off the carcass and chopped/shredded it fine.

2. Make your own chipotle salsa. A trip to Christina's Spice Shop in Inman Square (try their ice cream!) yielded a bag of fragrant chipotle peppers. I used the recipe from the NY Times article with mixed results; I did not soak the peppers long enough or chop the garlic fine enough, especially since my blender is not a good substitute for a food processor. Some old-school chopping rectified the situation, though. Wash hands carefully! I nearly ruined my contacts.

3. Buy some monterey jack cheese, tortillas, and refried beans. I hear through the grapevine that the latter two items are not all the hard to make yourself. If you're more adventurous than I am, go for it. Otherwise, tortillas are in the refrigerated section of the grocery in these parts (presumably because they don't get consumed rapidly enough to be left in the bread aisle as they should be) and canned beans will do just fine.

4. Roll up some shredded chicken, chipotle salsa, beans, and thinly sliced cheese in a tortilla. Warm. Eat. Sniffle as heat from peppers does wonderful things to your sinuses. Pervade your classroom with the delicious aroma of burritos. Taunt classmates (optional).

*The only thing that could have made this better was rice in the burrito, but I have yet to find a good recipe for Tex-Mex rice like you get at a greasy enchilada place. It cannot have corn in it, for the love of all that's holy!

What the MPRE Should Have Said

Energy Spatula has put together a more earthy version of the MPRE in preparation for her professional responsibility exam. I'm glad to see someone actually confronting the real ethical issues lawyers are faced with!

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

What happened to the Ms. Magazine Message Boards? I used to love reading that trainwreck (it's probably what made me realize that I am 1. very interested in gender studies as a discipline, and 2. would never hack it in a gender studies program because my politics are wrong). But they've disappeared! Didn't Clancy Ratliff formerly post over there? Whatever happened to the roller coaster poster "risotto"? Inquiring minds want to know, because the Ms. Musings blog is just not an adequate replacement.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sin City's Feminist Currents (SPOILERS)

Sin City is not "an endless stream of misogyny and sadism" or "an orgy of violence against women." Violence against women is far outweighed by the number of acts of violence against men. And despite the movie's focus on the underworld (which would explain the limited number of career paths depicted), they are not all prostitutes: they are waitresses, law students, parole officers, and bomb throwing mercenaries. We never learn Wendy's occupation--she clearly knows that her sister is a hooker and is adept with a gun, but whether she is also a lady of the night isn't clear.

The women of Old Town are as liberated as a autonomous city-within-a-city of prostitutes can be. They pack heat and do a decent job of protecting themselves (although their self help is of limited use when they face those who enter Old Town with a species of diplomatic immunity, like Roark & Co. or cops out for women's blood). They are depicted as independent and relatively self sufficient, pragmatic and willing to make tough choices to preserve their realm, and not particularly bothered by violence. They are emphatically not just victims. At some point in the recent past, they elected to renounce that role and assert their independence from the mob, pimps, and even the city government. They accept help from male allies like Dwight and Marv, but they are not dependent on such assistance generally. (Marv may be a sexist with his "I don't hit girls" schtick, but he's on the side of the angels.)

But this male/female divide is really not what the power struggle in the movie is about, and focusing on the acts of violence against women blinds one to the larger context. The real fight is against those who wish to treat the inhabitants of Old Town as slaves or objects (as opposed to those who transact business with them or befriend them). The mob wants to enslave the prostitutes, Roark & Co. want to prey upon them, Jackie-Boy wants to use them to violently assert his masculinity and superiority (in the worst cop tradition, he claims that hookers can't say no). And we should note that not all inhabitants of Old Town are female prostitutes; there are male prostitutes there as well.

Sin City is the story of a successful war for independence. Most of the body count in the movie (and nearly all of the victims of that specific struggle) are male; the pile of bodies generated by Marv, Dwight, and Hartigan consists of men who seek to subjugate Old Town and their corrupt allies. A few women are killed, but in the end they remain in control of their own destinies, at least imperfectly. While it's no blueprint for a feminist separatist utopia, neither is it a misogynist fantasy. Any true misogynist would feel far too threatened by the women of Old Town to get off on Sin City.

UPDATE: Speaking of feminism, Andrea Dworkin is dead.

Smithers, my iPod!

Jesse Taylor at Pandagon calls my attention to the continued exploits of one-time CMC student Blake Gottesman. After a brief high school fling with Jenna Bush and a semester or two at my alma mater, Gottesman left the well-trodden path of college to work for Bush in 2000. He was, I believe, the person who fatefully interrupted the reading of "My Pet Goat" to inform Bush of 9/11. And now his duties include filling President Bush's iPod. Is this horribly sad? I can't decide.

50 Book Challenge #21: The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh

I'd never read any Waugh before, but this volume is probably a good introduction. The stories span a period of decades and you can see Waugh become more jaded and suspicious of modernity as you move through the book. This trend peaks in "Love Among the Ruins," a story about post-war England that is strongly reminescent of A Clockwork Orange. But not all his stories are so dark; many of the early ones are wry treatments of society or character sketches. Try some Evelyn--you'll like him!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Have you seen this bug?

Nick at What Would Phoebe Do? had a close encounter with a gigantic insect last week. I was excited (between shudders) to see that the evil bugs that infested the loft of the D.C. apartment I rented last summer were not just figments of my imagination. I never did figure out what exactly they were (although half a can of Raid Max will kill them, and a shoe will do if that fails). So: can you identify this bug?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

More Sinned Against Than Sinning

This afternoon I saw Sin City. It was not as violent as Kill Bill, but I suppose that's cold comfort for the people decrying the propensity of the American people to pay $10.25 for 2 hours of mayhem and gore. But despite its weaknesses, I feel compelled to defend Sin City from some of its more deeply mistaken detractors (and even defenders).

Josh Chafetz gets the film wrong when he claims that "Sin City depicts violence for its own sake. There's no purpose behind the violence -- it is simply presented as entertaining in and of itself." The violence in Sin City is deeply necessary, given the comprehensive betrayal and corruption of the powers that be in the film. Absent any significant protection from other sources, the women of Sin City (and the men who defend them, three of whom are the protagonists of the interwoven stories we watch) respond with increasingly brutal force to the physical threats outsiders pose. We are meant to shudder at the violence they mete out, and then meant to recoil even more at the awfulness of the situation in which they have been placed. What is the appropriate response when a group of people with no recourse to the police is being systematically hunted by a homicidal maniac protected by dozens of goons? A federal civil rights action? The world of Sin City is clearly not our world; the prostitutes there are written off by society in a way that they haven't been since Whitechapel in 1888, if ever. Perhaps Old Town is an anarchocapitalist dystopia, scattered with the corpses that private exaction of justice might demand.

There have been plenty of movies with more evil, murderous villains than the prostitute slayers and mob enslavers of Sin City. Is what's disturbing the vivid depiction of vigilante, Old Testament-style justice being imposed on such folk? We seen that before in plenty of Hollywood pictures. The discomfort of being put in the position of cheering for someone who has just single-handedly taken out a squadron of police officers? In the best moralistic tradition, just about everyone who dies at the hands of the three protagonists gets his just deserts (some of the cops may only be corrupt, not actively evil, but given the nature of the open secret they conceal, perhaps they could be considered evil as well). So is the real problem the presence of too much (white and yellow) blood? Forgive me if I don't find that particularly disturbing. We've seen much worse, and in living color.

Then again, Matthew Yglesias is slightly off when he puts forth Sin City as an antidote to "movies that portray violent acts -- people hitting each other, people shooting each other -- but that don't show the element of carnage and gore. The sort of bubble gum action flicks where people just seem to kind of collapse after being whacked on the head or shot." There are several scenes in the film in which Our Hero (Marv and Hartigan, and to a lesser extent Dwight) takes a bullet, a hit from a car, or what should be a concussion-inducing blow to the head and keeps on trucking. Violence in Sin City usually seems to have real consequences when directed at persons other than the protagonists. But other than that partial qualification, I'd say Sin City does an excellent job of depicting the escalating brutality that might follow from anarchy in an urban zone inhabited largely by people that the larger populace was not concerned with protecting. Sin City drives home the necessity of process and equality before the law, not the necessity of creative dismemberment.

Tomorrow Soon: Sin City as feminist film.

National Poetry Month: Hilda Doolittle


I saw the first pear
as it fell--
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
the yellow swarm
was not more fleet than I,
(spare us from loveliness)
and I fell prostrate
you have flayed us
with your blossoms,
spare us the beauty
of fruit-trees.

The honey-seeking
paused not,
the air thundered their song,
and I alone was prostrate.

O rough hewn
god of the orchard,
I bring you an offering--
do you, alone unbeautiful,
son of the god,
spare us from loveliness:

The fallen hazel-nuts,
Stripped late of their green sheaths,
The grapes, red-purple,
Their berries
Dripping with wine,
Pomegranates already broken,
And shrunken fig,
And quinces untouched,
I bring thee as offering.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Ever have one of those "d'oh!" moments where you suddenly realize something you did in the past was utterly wrong? I think all this Professional Responsibility reading is shorting out my brain cells.

Anyway, I am taking the next couple of days easy, eating Portuguese food, and watching Sin City. Law school, later for you.

(I can only say this because my advisor is currently reading my paper draft. As soon as she gives it back the entire frantic race will begin again.)

Bonus: Watership Down = The Aeneid. For all you rabbit lovers in the audience.

Friday Spies

1. James Bond or Austin Powers?

Austin Powers, but only in the first movie where he was in sweet puppy love with Liz Hurley.

2. What is the most romantic thing you've ever done for someone?

I don't make grand romantic gestures; I usually end up buying my boyfriend something I know he'll like or making him dinner.

3. Rachel claims this is her favorite movie. Her actual favorite movie is?

Office Space, her finest role, of course!

4. What is the perfect rock-and-roll song?

Brown Sugar.

5. So what really happened to Milbarge?

He's being slowly digested by an anaconda.

Offer and Acceptance

Interesting discussion on the new PrawfsBlawg about waitlisting or rejecting overqualified law school applicants. Commenter Anthony is correct that many admits do not inform their safety schools of their intention not to attend; I applied to 10 schools and was admitted to 9, but I only informed rejected schools that took affirmative steps to ask about my intentions (follow-up letters, stamped postcards, email or telephone inquiries). Law schools have a responsibility to maximize the quality of their actual entering class, not their admit pool. Minimizing admission of superstars who won't attend without some serious pot-sweetening enables them to snap up a greater percentage of their actual target students and minimizes the chances that they will have to move down the waitlist to underqualified people.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Legal Ethics Should Be Abolished or Reformed (the class, I mean)

The ABA's professional responsibility requirement is really irking me.

All ABA accredited law schools make students take a class in professional responsibility before graduation. And most states require that you take the MPRE. But for a class that they think is so important, law schools don't do a great job of marketing legal ethics to students. They import visiting professors to teach it, since regular faculty usually don't want to. Sometimes you can fulfill it by taking a class that's more integrated with other substantive material, but otherwise you are stuck in the gut section reading either dry cases about lawyers acting like scumbags or infuriating ones about good lawyers doing the right thing and getting smacked down because the Rules are counterintuitive and demand bizarre and disproportionate responses from counsel to situations of conflict.

You'd think this class would be an ideal first year course: right when everyone is still eager and excited about the law, plop this weird blend of formalistic rules and half-assed philosophizing on their plates and let them tear into it. It would be a great escape from the conventional parts of the 1L curriculum that aim to make you think like a lawyer in the analytic sense, but it would force you to learn early on to think like a lawyer in an ethical sense. And it would be useful for students to get a handle on this material before their first stint of legal employment as well. Maybe it could be integrated into the "First Year Lawyering" (what they call legal writing here); after all, lawyering is making decisions and relating to clients, not just pounding out memos.

But of course it's not like that, and we all put it off until our 3L year, after most of us have worked a couple of legal jobs and maybe even passed the MPRE (which makes it the most pointless class of what can be conceived of as a pointless year--if the state bar thinks I am ethical enough, what's the point of this class? and if merely passing the test isn't good enough, is the test really hard enough? should you be able to pass the MPRE with only an afternoon review session from BarBri and a few evenings with a prep book?). We sit in class, or not; many 3Ls don't show. The material is relevant, and important, and could be engaging, if anyone, student or faculty, cared enough to make it so. My visiting prof tries hard, but she's got to fight 3L apathy and an institutional bias against the course. She had us watch the premiere of L.A. Law to talk about. I can't decide if I think spending my last few weeks of law school talking about 1980s TV shows is maddening or strangely appropriate. After all, I started law school by watching The Verdict with my section. My section advisor lauded the conduct of the lawyer in pressing a test case despite the wishes of his clients and I vociferously disagreed. Now we're going to discuss whether casting aspersions on a rape victim's character is ethical and I will probably sit in the back and not say anything. Is this really how it should be?

How appropriate

I am Littlefinger. What A Song of Ice and Fire character are you? (Via Crooked Timber)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It's the most nervewracking time of the year

Okay, so I just had a minor freakout.

Tonight there is a dinner for my 1L section with the Dean. We all get back together and chat and eat catered food in the swanky room in the library and have fun: that's the idea. I didn't RSVP until badgered by the Dean's assistant because I didn't see why I should go, but eventually I thought, "hey, free dinner, and how bad could it be?" and said I'd go.

Big mistake. I walked in and immediately saw some people I don't like, surrounded by a bunch of people I don't know. And I am radically underdressed. There was nobody I felt comfortable talking to so I circled around behind the shelves and the potted plants (so I wouldn't have to push my way through the group) and stood at the table, but apparently I was invisible to the caterers at the drink station, too. I gave up and decided to leave, but on the way out I ran into our section advisor (a professor we didn't take classes with, but who held social events with us). He held the door open for me but I balked.

"I can't decide if I want to go to this or not."

He tells me I should go. I admit that I don't really have any friends in my section. He asks me if I made any friends and I say yes while following him back into the lounge. We walk to the bar and get drinks and he is asking me about the gaming club that I tried to start with the section my 1L year (when I still gave a damn about being a member of things) and if I still play. We chat about Settlers (he thinks it's too complicated) but eventually the discussion turns to law school and everything he says just highlights several things:

I never found my niche in the school and didn't take many classes I enjoyed.
Upon graduation I still have no clear career path or knowledge about how to find a job doing what I want.
I have no friends in this room. Somehow putting me and 79 other people in the same classes for a year resulted in all of them thinking I'm lame.

Eventually I realize that we are running out of non-depressing things to talk about (and making our way through too many depressing ones) and try to listen for a voice that I actually would be glad to hear, but no dice.

Then the professor spills his wine (an accident, I hope) and it gets all over my leg. Of course they don't have any club soda and someone helpfully suggests salt, which they have upstairs. I refuse to traipse upstairs with a leg covered in red wine and sparkling water to cadge salt from the caterers and sit through dinner covered with a paste of home stain remover. Clearly I am not meant to be here. On my way out, the organizer says, "leaving again?"

I notice halfway home that I am still carrying my unwanted beer.

National Poetry Month: Amy Lowell

Some Amy Lowell, because she's wonderful.

To a Friend
I ask but one thing of you, only one,
That always you will be my dream of you;
That never shall I wake to find untrue
All this I have believed and rested on,
Forever vanished, like a vision gone
Out into the night. Alas, how few
There are who strike in us a chord we knew
Existed, but so seldom heard its tone
We tremble at the half-forgotten sound.
The world is full of rude awakenings
And heaven-born castles shattered to the ground,
Yet still our human longing vainly clings
To a belief in beauty through all wrongs.
O stay your hand, and leave my heart its songs!

A call for madder music and for stronger wine

My Fed Courts professor just advised us that our homework for today is to decide what we will do to commemorate and celebrate our last day of law school. It's too bad that the end of law school (which for many of us will be the end of our protracted educations) is so anticlimatic. Graduation is weeks after exams and in the middle of the week, so far fewer students and families attend than otherwise might; most students end not with a bang but a whimper, thanks to the general perception of the third year of law school as pointless and the draining effect of the 3L paper requirement.

My undergraduate college handed out free bottles of champagne to graduating seniors on the day they turned in their required theses. People brought them to class, laid on the grass and toasted themselves, and generally pervaded the school with a joyous atmosphere. The last two years have not indicated that law students are similarly willing to celebrate the end of their long march. Are we too jaded? So turned off by the law school experience that we refuse to reflect on it long enough to recognize the magnitude of our achievement?

I would feel a lot better about Harvard if there were more spontaneous public drunkenness at this time of year. It would at least indicate that HLS hasn't sucked out all our essential humanity.

(The general sense of law school discontent in this post was partially inspired by Energy Spatula.)

Save a 3L!

One of the other women from my family law seminar is also writing her 3L paper on a gay marriage issue. Please take 5 seconds to answer this one question survey on attitudes to gay marriage and adoption. Every time you help a 3L complete her paper, an angel gets its wings. Or something.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Apparently my celebrity soulmate is Edgar Allen Poe. I thought my goth phase was just a high school thing, but evidently it's a personality trait that runs deep.


There appears to be some kind of law blog carnival starting up. I find the massive carnivals somewhat overwhelming, but as this is just beginning it may be manageable.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Who curates your consumption?

My friend Dana's husband has his own blog now. Today's lesson is on curated consumption, or the phenomenon of third parties telling you what's cool enough to buy. I find that most of my purchase decisions are driven by blogs: book recommendations, food recommendations, even clothes recommendations (okay, so maybe not that last one. although Phoebe is very fashionable, I never hopped on the moon boot trend).

Profiles in Courage

The New York Times Magazine has its weaknesses (such as the nearly-always wrong Ethicist column), but one of its greatest strengths is its ability to comprehensively and engagingly profile important people you haven't heard of. Two recent examples:

Roland Fryer, a 27 year old economics professor at Harvard, wants "to figure out where blacks went wrong."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament, fights for the rights of Muslim women in the Netherlands and faces constant death threats.

If you haven't already read these, check them out.

This better be a joke . . .

While the uproar over FEC regulation of blogs turned out to be much ado about nothing, what about this? Look out, San Francisco bloggers!
the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it up a notch and announced yesterday that it will soon vote on a city ordinance that would require local bloggers to register with the city Ethics Commission and report all blog-related costs that exceed $1,000 in the aggregate.

Blogs that mention candidates for local office that receive more than 500 hits will be forced to pay a registration fee and will be subject to website traffic audits, according to Chad Jacobs, a San Francisco City Attorney.

The entire Board is set to vote on the measure on April 5th, 2005.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh's analysis of the law can be found here.

Class Again?!?

I am back in class and not happy about it. If I hadn't missed a week of class recently I would have stayed home today due to the continued presence of my Spanish cold, but alas, federal sovereign immunity beckoned.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

TV Connections

On tonight's new episode of the Simpsons, Homer is in prison and they ask him to become a snitch. He agrees and they give him a charming little hat as a reward.

It was an Adebisi hat.

Oz lives on!

UPDATE: Link fixed, I think.

Poems On Parade

April is National Poetry Month, so I'll randomly post poems throughout the next four weeks. Here's a short one from Dorothy Parker:


My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet's the air with curly smoke
From all my burning bridges.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Good Deeds Requested

Ever wanted to see MIT kids get spanked in competition with underprivileged immigrant high schoolers in a robot competition? Look no further. The team from an Arizona high school beat college students from across the country, but none of them are currently college-bound, thanks to an unavailability of in-state tuition or federal loans for illegal immigrants.

You can donate to a scholarship fund for the team here. My cousin had to forego a scholarship to Texas A&M due to my uncle's botching of his immigration paperwork and so for me this situation had special significance, but if you have a few bucks sitting in your Paypal account, you might kick them to Cristian and Co.

Movie Review: Saw

After an intense afternoon of running errands, I thought I would watch a movie before starting on my paper revisions. Saw is a pretty mediocre picture, and I'm shocked that they were able to get Danny Glover to play a third banana cop role in a ripoff of Se7en. The premise has promise; two men wake up in an abandoned bathroom, chained to pipes: Larry, a doctor, and Adam, a slacker type. Clues left by their captor indicate that Larry must kill Adam by a preset time or Larry's wife and daughter will be killed.

There is the potential for a lot of psychological drama here, and the movie taps little of it. The two men spend most of their time doing nothing and letting time slip away. I couldn't help but think that the most braindead character on Oz would have been able to improvise some solution from the raw materials in the room, or that it would be easier to escape the chain by breaking the bones in your foot than by amputating the whole thing as we know at least one character will eventually do (the pair are generously provided with saws). One of the men keeps a secret for most of the film, and I'm not sure why he does so . . . it doesn't help him, and only breeds distrust later when the truth comes out. And the cops are almost comically terrible, doing everything from potentially blowing a serial killer case by entering without a warrant to failing to secure a suspect repeatedly. If you are a horror fan, it might be worth watching, but do so in an environment where MST3K-type shouting at the screen is accepted, as there is plenty to shout about.

More Tribe Stuff

The mysterious stranger behind appears to have reemerged. Is the same person responsible for the "HarvardParody" blog by Frumpy the Clown as well?

What Merits Merit Pay?

Several of the replies to my previous posting discussed the power of the Teacher's Union over education, so I wanted to bring up one issue that is currently causing a contentious debate in California, the issue of Merit Pay for Teachers. I assume that this is one of the issues for which the anti-union folks criticize the Teachers Unions, who tend to be steadfast in their opposition to merit pay.

I believe that merit pay as a general concept sounds good, but I am not sure how it could actually work. I do not believe that it should be based on standardized test scores. As the unions love to point out (and I think that it is true), basing merit pay on test scores will punish teachers for teaching in the toughest schools. Even if it is based on improvement and not overall scores, certain groups are (by my guess) less likely to produce large amounts of progress. I'm not going to break it down by race or income because that is less conclusive, but I think we can all agree that the following groups will probably get lower show and less improvement: students who are frequently absent/truant, students with uneducated parents, learning disabled students, and recent immigrants who are still learning English. If we want to attract good teachers to work with these groups of students, I do not believe we should base merit pay on test scores. Another argument against this is that a teacher might make great progress with students who are far behind grade level and it still will not show up on the test. A student, for example, who comes into eighth grade at a third grade reading level and moves up to a sixth grade level by the end of the year has made great progress, but he will probably still bomb the eighth grade test.

The pro of standardized test scores is that they are quantifiable, objective, and easily ranked. If merit pay is not based on test scores, what else can they base it on? I think that it is pretty obvious which teachers are good and which teachers are not after spending only a short time in a teacher's classroom, but how to quantify and categorize that is a more difficult question.

Here are some ideas about what merit pay could be based on, each with its own problems:
1) Student, parent, principal evaluation- Highly subjective, a personal issue with a staff member could bias the process (in the principal's case). Students sometimes like teachers who let them slide by without learning a lot.
2) External or internal observation using Praxis III criteria- It probably takes a lot of resources to observe every teacher, and it should be done several times to really get a good idea of the teaching.
3) Teacher portfolios (teachers collect evidence and "artifacts" to prove that they are good teachers)- Once again, time consuming and somebody needs to review it, but a possiblity
4) Actual hours spent doing extra stuff (attending professional seminars and conferences, tutoring students before and after school, mentoring new teachers, serving on committees, etc.)- Probably a good idea, but then is it really merit pay or just extra pay for extra hours?
5) Extra pay for teaching high-needs subjects and/or in high-needs areas- A possibility, but how are schools supposed to prove their "high expectations" if they start offering teachers lots of extra money to attend? Doesn't that just prove that they don't believe in their school? And how do they prove which schools need these extra-high salaries? It might not actually be that hard to figure out these things if they just let the market demonstrate the areas of need. (The Middle School where I did my internship, for ex., has a bad reputation- largely unearned- in some circles, so several days they did not have enough substitute teachers.) On the other hand, would that make a poorly managed school eligible for higher salaries because nobody wants to work there?
6) Creating who new categories of teachers with higher salaries- Because a large factor in academic success is school attendance, I've heard the idea that they should create a category of "social worker teacher" who would be assigned to several low-attending students and would visit their homes, meet with parents, etc. to ensure that they attend school and take it seriously. This would be more work and might merit a higher salary.
6) Some combination- Perhaps there is some magical formula, but how much time would it take to calculate it out for each teacher?

For the record, this blog is not an endorsement or criticism of merit pay, I'm just trying to figure out how it would work best if it were implemented. Any ideas?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Friday Spies

But before the paper comes the procrastination! Hence Friday Spies.

1. Have you ever been in a car wreck?

I was a passenger in a freeway accident in high school. The driver had already missed the exit for the beach twice and crossed the double yellow stripey wedge bit so he wouldn't do so a third time and smacked a minivan, causing us to spin completely around, hit a traffic sign, and send said sign flying through the air to hit the minivan behind us. We sustained no injuries and needed only to pry the wheel well away from the tire to carry on. The minivan had a bashed side and some damage to the roof from being hit by the flying sign, and an elderly passenger broke her arm. I had to convince the ambulance drivers that they could release me without my mother's consent (she was at work), but after an hour or two of sorting things out we proceeded to the beach, where my ex-boyfriend and his younger buddy frolicked about in some sexually ambiguous way and I lolled on the sand.

After getting my own license, I put my car in a ditch trying to keep from running over a cat crossing the road. I did a 360, got a good look at the terrified driver behind me, and slid neatly off the road to straddle the grassy culvert. Tons of people stopped to help, one of whom was a former tow truck driver who pronounced my axel sound but noted that I had hit and killed a rat in the tall grass, thus making me an animal killer despite my evasive maneuvers. The only damage was a broken license plate holder.

2. Sunrise or sunset?

Sunset. More fun happens then, on average.

3. If you could change, amend, delete, or pass one law, what would it be?

I would repeal the Sherman Act.

4. What is your favorite single article of clothing?

I have a black dress I bought in Paris that is slinky without being embarassingly clingy, sparkly around the neck without being gaudy, and which strikes a good balance between concealing and revealing. Every woman should have a dress that makes her feel this sexy.

5. If you could/had to spend the day hanging out with another blogger
(one you don't already know), who would it be and what would you do?

If it wouldn't be so intimidating, I'd say an afternoon of cooking with Belle Waring would be a lot of fun, but since that would only end up with me covered in flour and embarassed, I'll say a leisurely chat/pop psychoanalysis session with the Slithery D. There's a lot of fodder for discussion there.

Weekend Update

I'm back in Boston again and just about ready to start the Great Revision of my 3L paper. Wish me luck and health (I still cannot speak or breathe normally--thanks, Spain).