Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Quick game of "one of things is not like the other," from Yahoo's description of Sara Silverman's concert film Jesus Is Magic:

Despite the current political climate, she takes on such pitch-black topics as September 11th, unwanted body hair and the Holocaust and spins them into decidedly un-PC comedic gold.
Did you see it?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I set my alarm this morning exclusively for a free bagel breakfast; I went to said breakfast in sweatpants; I'm currently wearing a sweatshirt I've worn at least 4 times since its last laundering; and I'm listening to a carefully selected playlist of First Amendment-related tunes.

If you guessed that my last final is this afternoon, you'd be absolutely correct. It will be followed by a day and a half of drinking, then heading home on Thursday. Other than a likely trip to D.C. for part/most of the week between Xmas and New Year's, I'll be home until about January 7th.

Oh yeah, the 1st Amendment playlist:

  • Let the Idiot Speak, Old 97's
  • Santeria, Sublime
  • Paperback Writer, The Beatles
  • Blasphemous Rumours, Depeche Mode
  • A Little Less Conversation, Elvis
  • A.M. Radio, Everclear
  • Screaming at the Wailing Wall, Flogging Molly
  • Sensitive Artist, King Missile
  • The Laws Have Changed, New P0rnographers
  • Please Play This Song on the Radio, NOFX
  • Sister Christian, Night Ranger
  • The Sound of Silence, Simon and Garfunkel

Sunday, December 18, 2005

With only a week to go until "Holiday," I thought it was time to bring back my favorite carol for the whole Family. (Thanks, 365 Days Project!)

Friday, December 16, 2005

As suspected, Wednesday sucked. The morning test was all multiple-choice yet much harder than I'd expected. The afternoon test was 60% multiple choice, which I did first, and then a two-part essay. Unfortunately, the second part was not quite what I was anticipating, so I may have floundered a bit--the saving grace (if any) being that I had some extra time since I finished the multiple choice quickly.

With about 15 minutes left in the second exam (Enterprise Organizations, i.e. Partnerships and Corporations), my brain decided it was done for what I thought was the rest of the day. The proctor called "10 minutes left" and I realized I'd spent 4 or 5 minutes staring off into space--not thinking, not typing, just semi-catatonic. I snapped out of it just long enough to write two sentences in conclusion and called it a day.

I remember long ago hearing a stereotype that law professors don't so much read essays as they go through exams with a checklist of concepts and buzzwords, and grade accordingly. I doubt this is true, but it's my best chance of success in EO, as I wrote a lot of sentences that had something to do with answering the question, but I didn't feel as though any one sentence had much to do with its adjacent sentences.

I was proud of myself for continuing my practice of getting psyched up for the exam by getting to the room early and listening to exam-appropriate music: in this case, Liz Phair's Shitloads of Money and Reel Big Fish's Sell Out.

I noted that I thought my brain was shut down for the rest of the day; in fact, week would have been more apropos. Wednesday night I watched Heat and drank beer. On Thursday, the most productive thing I did was go to the gym. Second-most productive? Returning Heat and other DVDs to the public library. Add on four hours at the dining hall, an hour of billiards, half-hour in the sauna at the gym, 18 holes of Golden Tee, and two bars and all of a sudden a study day is lost. Today I scheduled study time with a friend--we've now been here for 5 hours and I'm on page 5 (of 167) of my class notes.

Every minute that goes by, I'm a minute closer to pass/failing First Amendment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

They had a "finals study break" event at the student union tonight, clearly an event designed for the undergrads, but it's across the street, so what the hell. Certain events we stayed away from: swing dance lessons (not so cool for a group of 3 guys), make your own music video (ditto, plus you didn't sing), and stress bingo (not sure what the point was). But we did partake of free billiards, and then the "build your own gingerbread house" event.

Actually, it was a build your own house out of graham crackers, candy, and icing. After some false starts, we finally got something somewhat structurally sound together--"we" meaning Tim and James, because no good came of me touching anything. I did add the observation that given all the candy and icing, Dr. Graham would have been spinning in his grave.

At some point I will learn that you can't expect to make jokes about 19th-century health faddists ("Hey, really Fletcherizing that food over there, har har") and alternative medicine practitioners and expect something other than blank stares. That point has not quite come yet. In the meantime, everyone should read (or, I suppose, watch) The Road to Wellville so that you can start catching up.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I have two exams this coming Wednesday and another next Tuesday. I'm trying to navigate between two instincts--the instinct of slack and denial vs. the law student instinct to study a subject to death. I've been putting in several hours a day of solid work, and I'm not going crazy with stress, worrying if I have every little duck in a row; I think I'm onto something.

The last two nights I've been to two movies as part of the program of relaxation. I'd recommend either one--two of the best films I've seen in a long time. Word of warning: I haven't seen very many movies in a long time. Neither one is exactly the feel-good movie of the year, and I knew I wasn't exactly with my normal crowd last night when I made the "it was really sad when A-Rod died" joke, and no one got it. I'd write something long about Syriana if it weren't finals week--suffice it to say that I thought it was a lot like Traffic, in that widely dispersed characters were treated fairly and with respect, while the movie maintained a tone, a voice, and a point. Great stuff.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Two excellent, general-purpose sports blogs have come to my attention recently: the mighty mjd sports blog and Deadspin. The best thing to come across Deadspin since I've been reading is, shall we say, a unique offer of goods and services in exchange for Rose Bowl tickets. The mjd highlight has been the Canadian equivalent of the Super Bowl Shuffle: the 1987 Calgary Flames' Loverboy-influenced "Red Hot"video.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In my 11th grade math class, some students once balked at the teacher's policy of not giving full credit if you didn't show your work or if you made a mistake in your work, but still ended up with the right answer. His response went something like this:

Mr. P: So if you get the ball at the 50-yard line, and you run to the end zone, it's a touchdown, right?
S: Right.
Mr. P: Always?
S: Yeah.
Mr. P: What if you ran out of bounds on your way?
S: Oh, well that's different...
Mr. P: What if your teammate committed a holding penalty?
S: Well, no.

I thought this made a key point very succinctly: we may be a results-oriented society, but process counts. You take math class not to actually solve a particular equation but how to solve equations in general. Or, at another level of abstraction, you take algebra in junior high not because you'll need to know algebra as an adult, but because you need to learn how to work through processes systematically, and how to reason abstractly. We care about process in other areas too: due process is critical in many areas of the law, we feel better about elections even when our candidate loses if we are convinced the process wasn't rigged, we expect our financial transactions to work smoothly, etc. A large society is based on processes--simple and complex--that work the way they are supposed to. Results are great, but without a well-functioning process, getting a good result is random chance, and just because you get a good result in any one instance does not mean that you will continue to get good results if you are following a faulty process. A good result obtained using a faulty process can actually be detrimental, because it hides the underlying problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2006 Rose Bowl.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I don't know what it says about me that I've been:

  • spending much of my weekend summarizing and paraphrasing, provision by provision, Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code, and
  • if not "enjoying it" per se, at least not particularly hating it,
...but now that I think about it, I have some guesses.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I've never published a press release here before (other than fake ones for alleged humor value), but for this glorious cause I will break with that tradition:

Law Students Get Arrested

Michigan Law Students Take on a Different Sort of Cause

Contact: Jay Surdukowski ( 603-219-2795.

Law students across the country are sweating, stressing, and cramming for final exams this month. Students at the University of Michigan Law School are no different….but they have also launched a fight to keep their favorite TV show on the air between study groups and all night library vigils. The Arrested Development Club is taking on a very different sort of cause.

Fox is About to Make a Huge Mistake

The Emmy award-winning comedy that has arrested the hearts of millions of Americans is being threatened with cancellation by the foxy morons at Fox. The episode order has been cut down from 18 to 13.

Taking Action

The Arrested Development Club is determined to do its part in helping to save the show by writing Fox executives and urging them to renew the sitcom for a fourth season. Michigan Law students are putting their lawyerly skills of persuasion to work to stop a comedic miscarriage of justice.

Photo-Op - Monday, December 5, 2005 – Save Our Bluths Day/Campaign Kick-Off

The University of Michigan Law School

Hutchins Hall – Outside Room 100

625 South State Street

Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109

Fast Facts

  • Only law school Arrested Development club in the country.
  • The Club makes frozen bananas and hands them out between classes.
  • The Club holds viewing parties and has a lending library.

For more information on the Club see:

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Two thoughts about this ad, which was running ad infinitum while I was home last week:

  1. Thank my lucky stars I have Tivo at school and don't have to put up with this shit.
  2. I hope to God that some of those foreign workers can act.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Just to clarify, this is me (about halfway down), and this isn't me.

Carry on.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

No Lions and no Steelers this afternoon, but we did finally get a moment we've been waiting for ever since football season started back in July: the Black Eyed Peas' Grey Cup halftime show! It's hard to pick out a favorite element of the performance, but I think we can settle on three. One is that the entire band seemed to be in golf clothing, probably having just come off the links. That is, except the drummers in Edmonton Ricky Ray jerseys--we were reasonably confident that they didn't just wear those from their own personal wardrobe at home. Also, Fergie wasn't in golf clothing, but she was probably in the closest thing to golf clothing she's ever worn. Two was that at the very end it briefly appeared that someone was bringing out the type of oversized check normally only given to charitable organizations, golf champions, and Price is Right contestants. OK, it wasn't actually, but it truly embodied the spirit of the event: namely, the Black Eyed Peas will go anywhere and do anything for a gigantic check. I'm thinking "love for Canadian football" was well down the list of reasons for this gig. Three was the fact that all the camera work gave the feel of an intimate club show or at least an arena show with some intimacy, but after several minutes we got a wide shot revealing that the stage was a tiny island in the middle of a gigantical oversized CFL field. The only people within 50 yards of the band were the sound people and a handful of cheerleaders. We figured none of the fans were bothered by the moderately raunchy show because they could barely see or hear it anyway.

Of course, though we kid, it was about 100 times more musically relevant than any Super Bowl halftime show ever. Although this year we get a young, hip band all the kids seem to love. Or something. Apparently Patti Page, Mitch Miller, and the Andrews Sisters were all unavailable.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

If you can judge a man and his mood by the mix CD he puts together from music he's been listening to quite a bit lately for the drive back to school from a trip home for Thanksgiving, then judge away:

  1. People Who Died, Jim Carroll Band
  2. Letter From An Occupant, New P0rnographers
  3. Fairytale of New York, The Pogues
  4. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, The Postal Service
  5. Science vs. Romance, Rilo Kiley
  6. Failure Is OK, Robespierre and His Reign of Terror
  7. Vanessa From Queens, Stephen Malkmus
  8. Since U Been Gone/Maps, Ted Leo
  9. Undone (The Sweater Song), Weezer
  10. Sugar Cube, Yo La Tengo
  11. Duel Duet, Shock Treatment soundtrack
  12. Walt Whitman Bridge, Marah
  13. Chasing Heather Crazy, Guided By Voices
  14. The Mariner's Revenge Song, The Decembrists
  15. Dead Ringer for Love, Cher & Meat Loaf
  16. Bitches Ain't Shit, Ben Folds
  17. The Stars of Track and Field, Belle & Sebastian
  18. Ballad of The Sneak
If I had to self-analyze, it sounds like a bit of melancholy, combined with a pining for East Coast cities along with regret for having to kill my cousin for sleeping with my ho. Some of that sounds right, and some of it sounds wrong. I have been a tad depressed lately about all the standard things (food, sex, self-esteem), and in fact have started some occasional counseling to try to work through it.

The weekend with the fam didn't help, because Dad seems to be at a real crossroads in his long-time battle with cancer. He's had prostate cancer for about 8 years and has been managing it via a number of alternative therapies and some more traditional stuff, but no drastic treatments. But now there's some bone cancer as well, and he sounds like he's finally looking at some chemo. As you might imagine, cranberry sauce can't take away much of that particular sting. My Dad is one of the most optimistic people I know, and he tells us he's not looking forward to the chemo side effects, but he's not especially worried. My Mom is one of the most pessimistic, and she had that look in her eye a few times that said, "This one's real trouble." I'll keep my predilections to myself, but if you want a hint, you could notice that I'm training for the profession that advises clients to have hair dryer warnings saying that the product shouldn't be used while sleeping or showering.

Monday, November 21, 2005

CNN today is reporting the 10 most dangerous cities in America and the 10 least. I'm giving them some benefit of the doubt for now by not putting the word reporting in scare quotes. Here are the lists:

10 Most Dangerous

  1. Camden, NJ
  2. Detroit, MI
  3. St. Louis, MO
  4. Flint, MI
  5. Richmond, VA
  6. Baltimore, MD
  7. Atlanta, GA
  8. New Orleans, LA
  9. Gary, IN
  10. Birmingham, AL
10 Least Dangerous
  1. Newton, MA
  2. Clarkstown, MY
  3. Amherst, NY
  4. Mission Viejo, CA
  5. Brick Township, NJ
  6. Troy, MI
  7. Thousand Oaks, CA
  8. Round Rock, TX
  9. Lake Forest, CA
  10. Cary, NC
The story goes on to discuss Camden's efforts in particular to fight crime while missing entirely the real story here: America's 10 "most dangerous" cities are cities, while its 10 least dangerous are not. Wow, shocking finding here: traditional center cities that have been abandoned by the middle class, business, and state and local governments breed crime, while exurban edge cities (not even, in many cases, suburban) that externalize their problems while beefing up public and private security forces are safe for those who afford to live there.

Apparently safety doesn't imply any degree of livability. To give you an example of how little "there there" there is in those places, this map shows that I have driven through #9 Lake Forest many times without ever realizing that the place existed. I have to admit some fondness for Clarkstown, where an aunt of mine has lived my whole life--her house cannot be seen from any neighbor's and vice versa, it doesn't seem to be atypical, and even the municipal website refers to it as a "Town" and not a city. Its biggest attraction, wait for it, wait for a gigantic mall.

All in all, I'd rather be in Camden.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, I actually managed to read a book during law school, and during football season no less. Admittedly, it's a very short one. Steven Johnson is a neuroscientist who set out to explore deep structures of TV, the Internet and video games in Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter.

The premise is simple: denunciations of the vapidity and/or immorality of contemporary popular culture focus on the wrong thing, namely content. But if we look instead at the structure of various cultural forms, there is a remarkable upward trend in complexity and interactivity, a trend Johnson calls the "Sleeper Curve." Shows such as Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The West Wing, and Survivor require much more of the viewer than popular shows of 25 years ago--not in terms of vocabulary or any other content-based measure, but in terms of narrative complexity, intertextual reference, and nonlinearity. Whereas 25 years ago the primary goal was not to ask any more thought of the viewer than necessary, many of the most successful shows in recent years withhold information, play with time, weave in multiple threads and storylines, and work on a variety of levels of reference. The good news is that the business of TV makes it likely that this trend will continue, as shows are less profitable now when they are disposable and more profitable if they stand up to repeated viewings, yielding new pleasures on the 2nd, 3rd, or even 10th viewing--such shows are more viable in syndication and more successful in DVD sales.

Johnson also focuses extensively on video games, which increasingly reward not scattered attention, but rather the ability to achieve complex tasks through the gradual completion of hierarchically organized tasks toward intermediate goals. Yes, you can enjoy Grand Theft Auto or The Sims just by messing around with them, but getting anywhere in such games requires you to identify relevant tasks that will lead to completing missions or achieving goals. Johnson calls this process "tunneling" and says learning it is akin to learning algebra--not useful for most people in and of itself, but rather because of the type of process learning that it requires.

It's important not to overestimate the benefits here and not to ignore the shortcomings--in particular, contemporary culture does not promote systematic expository thinking and writing in serious depth, i.e. traditional book literacy. OTOH, people are probably reading more than ever, and are certainly writing more than ever, thanks largely to phenomena such as this very blog and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) like it. Johnson convincingly demonstrates that while the smartest people in our society are probably no smarter than the smartest people 50 years ago, the average person is getting smarter at a rapid pace, as shown by the continual adjustment upward of standard IQ test scales. (Think of it as SAT recentering in reverse: the average score stays constant--100 for IQ, 1000 for the SAT--but how many correct answers that score represents changes as people perform better or worse in absolute terms.)

Johnson's book refocuses cultural debate is a reamarkably useful way, even if you question some of his findings. Middlebrow and lowbrow cultural criticism too frequently focuses on content over structures in numerous situations in our society, and even highbrow academic writing too frequently takes cheap potshots at content as a way of scoring points. Anyone tired of reading gloom and doom accounts of our culture should take a look at this book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I got a strange phone call this afternoon. It was a (212) number, which was odd, and when I picked up the phone the person said they were from Greenberg Traurig, which was really odd. I interviewed with them for Miami and L.A. on-campus, and they were the only firm that never called me back nor dinged me. The person was just calling to say she was sorry that I didn't receive my ding in early September when I was supposed to, but apparently some batch of letters accidentally didn't get mailed out.

I'm not sure how to respond to that: Um...thanks for the personal attention in calling me 2.5 months down the road? Fuck off? That's OK, I only interviewed with Miami firms as pretext for a free fall callback trip anyway? No problem, I got a job somewhere better anyway?

Let's just say I was cordial and then got off the phone in a hurry.

I had the strangest experience on-campus with that firm on campus, where I interviewed with Cesar. Cesar is very Cuban, very colorful, and very charismatic--three useful things to be, I suppose, when you are the President and CEO of a Miami-based law firm. Let's just say it's odd for a law firm to have a CEO, let alone for him to be interviewing people on campus. Cesar was the only interviewer who had some sort of personal assistant on hand at the hotel--her one function in my interview being opening the door and then later closing it behind me. Any other inferences to be drawn from the presence of this young-20s woman are an exercise for the reader alone, as I draw none. In my 20-minute interview, Cesar spent a good 18 minutes 45 seconds talking. He told me about how they move fast, make decisions fast, and hire fast. (I didn't know at the time that I should have understood the lack of "notify fast" as a meaningful absence.) My favorite moment of the interview, though, was during his speech about the unified command structure of the firm, with few committees, mostly individual decision makers. Cesar was particular proud of the fact that there is no compensation committee; to this end comes the only direct quotation I remember from that week: "All compensation decisions are made by the C.E.O." Yes, Cesar referred to Cesar in the third-person!

Suffice it to say, I'm perfectly content that GT never came a-callin', at least not until today.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

With this, I now count the list of former Steeler offensive linemen who have died at or under the age of 50 since 2000 at four:

  • Mike Webster
  • Terry Long
  • Justin Strzelczyk
  • Steve Courson
...and amazingly, none of them are Crazy Carleton Haselrig. Also, I feel like I'm missing at least one. It's starting to get creepy, frankly. Courson's death reminds me of nothing so much as the Anthrax classic NFB (Dallabnikufecin)--fight through years of steroid-related heart disease, finally make a full recovery, only to be felled by a tree. And in the part of Fayette County that only contains two types of people (rich weirdos and poor weirdos) no less. You don't think Tunch Ilkin and Dermontti Dawson look both ways about five times before crossing the street nowadays?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Certain things you never want to hear out of your doctor's mouth. High on the list would be things like "inoperable" or "malignant." But in the context of an injury, I would propose that "uh-oh" goes pretty high on the list.

"Uh-oh" was what came out of my doctor's mouth today when I started describing how I injured myself on Saturday. I asked him why the uh-oh, and he said that the description sounded like a torn Achilles tendon. However, a quick feeling up of my lower leg showed that the Achilles was intact, as is the entire general knee area.

It turns out my self-diagnosis of torn/pulled/strained calf muscle was indeed correct. More correct than I knew, in fact--I had envisioned a hierarchy of muscle injuries where a tear was worse than a pull and pull worse than a strain, but it turns out "pulled calf," "strained calf" and "torn calf" are synonyms for exactly the same injury. Also the weird amalgam of advice and intuition I had been using to treat it were exactly correct. It'll hurt like a bitch periodically for a week, but no serious harm done.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I made it through almost 30 and 3/4ths without suffering the type of injury that involves hearing a "pop". But I was playing football today, practicing for an IM game, and as I tried to turn and cover someone, I felt like someone hit me right in the middle of the left calf with a rock, or a small ball or something, heard a sound indicating the same, and then collapsed. I limped off the field, and a little later limped home, but there's a decent chance I'll be on crutches once student health reopens on Monday. Bad, bad times. Based on 90 seconds of Internet research, it's probably a calf pull. Suffice it to say, I'm out for the IM season. Carry on, Flying Justice!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

UPDATE: I think a couple of commenters (commentors?) missed the point--of course they covered Garbage Pail Kids and The Last "I Love The '80s" and "I Love The '80s Strikes Back." They're well beyond things you'd actually associate with a particular year for the 3rd go-around. I mean, when your gimmick is based on the 3rd Jaws movie...

OK, so I love "I Love the '_0s" as much as the next guy. In fact, way WAY more than the next guy. WAAAAY more. Still, even I have to admit that the '80s have been stripmined by VH-1 at this point. To illustrate, here are the topics covered in "I Love the '80s 3-D" for 1985:

  • Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting (leading with PBS; strong)
  • Monster trucks ("We'll sell you the whole seat--BUT YOU'LL ONLY NEED THE EDGE!!!")
  • Mick Jagger and David Bowie Dancin' in the Streets (timely)
  • Calvin Klein Obsession ads ("I alone could possess her. Her deepest thoughts know only to me.")
  • Legend of Billie Jean (i.e.: some movie I'd never heard of)
  • Phil Collins, particularly Sussudio (highlight: Mark Hoppus of blink-182 calling him a "badass" as a songwriter)
  • Joe Theismann's leg
  • My Buddy
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic (quote from him that made the episode: "I wrote 'Eat It' because I wanted to buy a house. It worked.")
  • Just One of the Guys (i.e.: some movie I've barely heard of)
  • Bernie Goetz (but strangely no AIDS, crack, or hypodermics on the shore)
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Brewster's Millions (my God, the evil accountant is the 7th Heaven dad?!)
  • "You like me--you really like me!"
  • El Debarge, Rhythm of the Night
  • Spies Like Us
  • Rocky IV
If there's another installment, I expect a lot of footage of producers asking Hal Sparks if he remembers a show, and he'll be like, "yeah, kinda, vaguely--are you sure that didn't just air in Canada?"

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I may have mentioned this before, but I've become a big fan of, and subscriber to, emusic. I've been finding a lot of new music --both actual new music and in the "new to me" sense--by perusing and listening to 30-second clips, following "similar bands" and reader lists, and whatnot. If you check it out and like it, please please please put me down as referrer--love the pricing structure, but more free downloads could never hurt.

Among the "new to me" songs I've been listening to, is it kinda weird that this one is the one I've been listening to the most, and that I find really peppy and fun?!

Friday, October 28, 2005

I'm currently three episodes through the 10 "I Love the '80s 3-D" that I either have Tivo-ed or am about to Tivo. No, I'm not proud.

And speaking of reliving my childhood, but snarkier, Something Awful takes on Richard Scarry books this week; be very afraid.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

When a team doesn't have success for a long time, it shows up in all aspects of football including, of course, team songs. Even bringing in a professional can't help, as Bootsie Collins proves here with "Bigg Cats." Let's call it, at best, Bullets Fever-esque.

One major change in law school policy is the fiendish shutting off of Internet access during class. The system is set up so that each student's ID is tied to their class schedule, and you can't log onto the school's wireless network during your class times. Tantalizingly, the system also fails for the day from time to time, so now everyone checks at the beginning of every class to see if this is one of those magic access days.

Access is particularly critical in Enterprise Organizations, which is our "Corporations" or "Business Organizations" class. The material is better than expected, but the class is more lecture than Socratic interplay, with some class participation, but the professor's new and isn't that good at the method yet. So the bottom line is, there's not much to be gained from class over and above the reading itseld.

Last week we had a few magic access days, and I'd forgotten how much I missed keeping a running AIM commentary during class. We were talking about Entire Fairness doctrine, which in short says that when there's a conflict of interest transaction involving a majority or controlling shareholder, the court will apply a variety of standards to figure out whether or not it should be invalidated. Under one set of circumstances, the test is Entire Fairness--were both the process and the outcome fair despite the conflict? Working our way through a flow chart, the professor declared, "So now we're in the land of Entire Fairness." This prompted the following AIM commentary:

[12:16] (joe): i want to live in The Land Of Entire Fairness

[12:17] (Salle): i hear there's great food there

[12:17] (joe): no, it's just fair

I came of age with Talk Soup, MST3K, and a lot trips to Rocky Horror; how is a class entirely bereft of running commentary supposed to compete for my attention?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My team finished 2nd at the quizbowl thingamabobber yesterday, and had one win over the victorious team, although we were 1-3 overall against them. Congrats to all the winning team members. This also meant about 11 hours out of 36 were spent in an enclosed space with Craig's iPod, which is some people's idea of personal hell, but which I rather enjoyed. I reconnected with a lot of alterna-pop songs I really liked in the mid-to-late '90s, most of which I'm not even that ashamed to like. After all, everybody wants to be closer to free. I also particularly enjoyed the Bamford/Hedberg/Sklar comedy bloc.

In other news, I'm currently watching Game 2. Anyone else remember when they used to stop playing baseball when the driving rainstorm hit?

Monday, October 17, 2005

It's official: I'll be summering at Proskauer Rose in Los Angeles (Century City). I'm very excited about the result. I'm a tad disappointed in the process, as I feel I underperformed my grades both in terms of number of callback interviews, and number of job offers. What bugs me most is that I don't know what to attribute that to, and I never will.

That said, there's a solid chance I would have ended up in the same place even if I'd had all the options I wanted, so in the end none of the rest of it matters. Anyway, there's only one important thing about the process.

It's over!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

So, um, WOW! And also, WOW! The two teams I'm following most closely in college football right now* each pulled out games where they needed a touchdown in the last five seconds to win huge games yesterday. For USC, a possible national championship was on the line; for Michigan, it was about not getting the 4th loss that Michigan never has on Halloween. For me, it was seeing my #1, absolute least favorite person in all of sports (JokePa) take it on the chin in the most heart-wrenching way possible. You literally can't get a tougher loss than to be leading by more than 3 with 59:59 of the game gone, only to lose at the buzzer. I didn't think I'd ever be in a crazier Big House than last year's Michigan State game, but to tell you the truth it wasn't even close. The difference was that a lot of people left last year's game early, but this one was so close that no one left. Add to that the eery similarities between the two games--late afternoon games at a stadium that doesn't really have the lights to be playing after sunset, significant and rowdy fan representation from the other side, huge special teams plays, and just knowing in the back of your mind that you'd seen such a comeback before--and I can't even come up with a word for it. Even the notoriously blase law student bloc went nuts, with the hugging and the jumping and the whatnot, and the "It's great. To be. A Michigan Wolverine" song (Which I wanted to modify into "It sucks. To be. A Nittany Lion fan."). Add to that that I was yelling "Fight On!" everytime we got the out-of-town score update and getting some weird looks. What a day.

To put the game in a little more perspective, you know a game was crazy when the play where they botch an extra point snap, the kicker picks up the ball, runs around left end, makes a nice move and dives into the end zone for a two-point conversion doesn't make the highlight recap shows, or even the AP write-up.

*No disrespect to alma mater, but once you've lost to Ohio and State University of New Jersey in the same season, you tend to fall off the radar screen a bit. It just happens.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

In kind of a throwaway part of today's class, our First Amendment professor today made and then let pass the argument that "freedom of association" (a favorite of conservatives who want to, say, keep gay scoutmasters out of the Boy Scouts) is just as much of a made-up, "judicial activist" right as the right to privacy (a non-favorite of many of the same conservatives). This seemed strange at first--the right to assemble is right there in the First Amendment, right? It turns out that the argument is a great primer in statutory construction, and I'm actually persuaded.

Here's the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Yes, there it is, "peaceably to assemble," right there in the text. But as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend...

The key to understanding how many distinct rights are enumerated here is to follow the punctuation and the conjunctions. You may have been taught that there are five rights in the First Amendment, freedom of (1) speech, (2) assembly, (3) religion, (4) press, and (5) petition. It turns out that there are 3, and they're separated by semicolons and "or"s, following the lead-in of "Congress shall make no law:"
  1. respecting...religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
  2. abridging freedom of speech, or of the press;
  3. or the right...peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government
Note that 2 and 3 both fall under "abridging," and also that each distinct right is separated by "or". You can see "speech" and "press" as one right or two here, and I think either makes sense. But after "press" we get a semicolon that leads into the last clause. While all the previous rights are listed disjunctively (Congress can't do this or that), the last bit is written conjunctively (to assemble, AND to petition). In construing statutes and other legal writing, we generally presume that when there are changes in terms or structure, those changes are meaningful; this is often put this way: The drafters knew how to say it differently if they wanted to.

Here, if the right to assemble was a distinct right from the right to petition, the construction of the rest of the amendment suggests it would be separated by an "or" and a semicolon, or at least by an "or" and a comma. The "and" suggests this is one right, not two: the right to assemble insofar as it is related to petitioning the government for redress of grievances. Note that the rights of speech, religion, and press do not have this limitation, as indicated by the semicolons and "or"s--you do not have to be petitioning the government to exercise your free speech rights, but you do in order to exercise your freedom of assembly.

So under this view, there's no right to assembly in and of itself. To find such a right requires you to assume it's a Ninth Amendment reserved right, or that there are penumbras of rights that can be teased out from other rights, or that (gasp!) this right was created via judicial activism. All three are supposedly anathema to the federalist types who love nothing more than to ridicule Griswold v. CT, Roe v. Wade, etc. for exactly these judicial sins.

What can we take from all of this? I suggest three things:
  1. And, but, and or--they'll get you pretty far.
  2. Joe is capable of amazing levels of tedious pedantry about trivial details that would occupy the normal person for only an instant, if at all.
  3. Nope, that's pretty much it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

So where were we?

  • Blue failed to Go. Ugh. College football suckitude apparently follows me around, with the upside that it seems to get better when I leave. At least we have a chance to knock off The Devil Himself this weekend.
  • The note deadline has been postponed, although I think I'm on to a topic. It's not exactly cocktail party fodder, but the class I'm loving this term is Secured Transactions, and it looks like I'm going to write about the affects of a provision of Revised Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code. Trust me, you really don't want to hear more.
  • The concerts were great. The contrast was particularly fascinating to me--seats in the 200-level for Foo/Weezer on Friday vs. no farther than 25 feet from any band member or 6 feet from the gigantic speakers at any point on Saturday. At least today I can only notice the ears still ringing if I'm somewhere especially quiet. Still, the New P*rn*grapers were tremendous, and I also enjoyed the previous two acts, which were, well, various incarnations of New P*rn*graphers and their ilk. Even opening act Gerudo (whose next gig is listed as: "Abe's basement") were entertaining in their own way--their own way including internal disagreement about how to pronounce "Gerudo" (hard or soft G).
  • Sometime last Thursday afternoon, it very abruptly became fall here, going from about 75 degrees to about 50 in a few hours, and it seems to be permanently. At least this means we've been getting hot cider at the dining hall.
  • I know the quiz-bowl types who read this already know about this, but for the rest of you, the Arcata, California, police blotter is an endless source of amusement.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

So I am sitting here at Espresso Royale, for the first time in my law school career skipping a home football game. The sad fact is that I felt the need to come here and write this post get some work done. How did it come to that?

Step one: At the Moorsley wedding a few weeks ago, I found out that some Michigan and Chicago types are descending on Kalamazoo tonight for the New P0rnographers concert. I'm kind of a fan, so I thought it sounded like fun, and so I'm headed out to western part of the state tonight, to K-zoo and on to spend the night in Grand Rapids with the gang at Geoff's.

(This also provided me with my best on-my-feet moment of interview season. Last Thursday Kalamazoo somehow came up in conversation at lunch, and I said, "Oh, I'm going there next weekend to see The New P0rnographers." Awkward silence. I explain they're an indie band of some repute. Continue awkward silence. So I say, "It's OK, I'll know them when I see them," which of course is a very law geeky joke. They laughed way more than I expected [or deserved], but I was very thankful for it and we moved on from there.)

Step two: I am on the Journal of Law Reform, (no, really) and we have to write something disingenuously called a "Note" that amounts to a term-paper length, potentially publishable piece on an open question of law or proposing some legal change. OK, actually we don't have to write a Note, but we have to write part of a Note and a proposed roadmap for completion. Our first deadline, with bibliography and outline, is due next Friday the 14th. I though this weekend would be a good time to, you know, figure out my topic and whatnot.

Step three: Profit.

Step four: I thought I could still go to the game if I worked most or all of Friday evening. Then I'm walking back from the gym around noon yesterday, and a friend stops me in the street and asked if I wanted tickets for last night's Foo Fighters/Weezer concert at Joe Louis Arena. (More on that later.) So Friday night was shot.

Step five: I must exalt Blue to Go from afar.

Monday, October 03, 2005

As alluded to previously, I spent much of the past week in L.A. interviewing and renewing my acquiantance with several of my favorite restaurants, including stopping in at Papa Cristo's sadly not for a meal, but for a Limonata and one of those unbelievable baklava/custard thingys. I only ate at the hotel once, and it was this weird spinach/onion omelette, after which I decided to seek out less pretentious food. That said, I knew I was getting back into the L.A. mindset at two distinct moments: (1) Thursday night on the Santa Monica Promenade, when I walked down the street next to someone dressed as a Devo guy and didn't flinch, and (2) when I had a pomegranate smoothie for breakfast on Friday.

The practical upshot of the trip is that of my five interviews, I can now say there are two serious contenders, two longshots, and one that's just out. Of those I only have one offer in hand, but it's from a contender, so yay! I won't get more specific, because who knows who's reading, but I hope to sort things out in the next two weeks or so.

Like my last trip I came back on a red-eye this time, but with no home game/tailgate to get to, I was able to spend most of Saturday sleeping and/or sitting around recovering, which was outstanding. Now all I have to do is catch up in my classes, figure out a note topic, deal with ongoing emotional issues (don't ask--I'm coping), and try to start writing again. I guess this is a start.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

If your hotel requirements include a Downtown L.A. location, a heavy dose of pretention, a rooftop bar with waterbed chambers, a pool, and Cool Hand Luke projected on the building across the street, a bathtub that seats 4 comfortably, a supply of magazines you're not cool enough to read, and a giant foam foot sculpture in your room, I cannot recommend The Standard highly enough.

I'm on my second (of, probably, 2) callback interview trip, and the travel agent for my host firm clearly has too much cash on hand and a weird sense of humor. I will say this, though: I actually feel like I'm in L.A. this time around, and I think the reason is because I have a car this time. You're just not experiencing L.A. if you aren't driving. It's also allowed me to detour past my old apartment in Koreatown, to drive through Hollywood, and to eat dinner at Koraku in Little Tokyo--all very good things. Also, you could do a lot worse than to wander over to The Pantry at 7 a.m. (because your internal clock still thinks it's 10) for breakfast, including my one Pantry essential: the grilled sourdough. So so good.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Two things I left out of the Tivo post:

My Fair Brady: I'm not a big celebreality fan, but the first episode of this show was fabulous and made me set up a season pass. The concept, if you're not familiar, is that Christopher (Peter Brady) Knight, 47, and America's Next Top Model Adrienne Curry, 22, are now dating, and this show follows their lives. In the first episode we got to see of the the Go-Gos eat birthday cake off of Adrienne's breasts, and yet it was somehow a big deal when the same Go-Go gave Christopher a bit of a kiss. She is a quality nut-job, and he's a great foil for her crazy.

Awful new commercial type: While watching Carolla the other night I was skipping through commercials when I had to rewind because I couldn't quite believe what I'd seen, but it turned out I had in fact seen it: the 1-900 commercials for a new generation are ads where "actual" "live" "girls" will TEXT MESSAGE YOU!! Oh. My. God. As if phone sex numbers weren't creepy and impersonal enough, now you don't have even the slightest idea of the gender, age, or even actual physical existence of the person you are discoursing with. I don't even have a line here; that's just f*$%ed up.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Actual AIM conversation mere moments ago between myself and Bill:

Joe: sadly i haven't had time for anyone's blog lately
Joe: including mine
Bill: law school will do that to you
Joe: no law school's fine; Tivo will do that to you
So the truth is out--my neglect has something to do with classes and interviews, but mostly it's all about the fact thatthe weekend before classes started, my ex-roommate convinced me that going from TV-lessness to TV+Tivo was a good way to transition from 1L to 2L. I regret nothing, but like my freshman advisor told me about Usenet newsgroups, it is a sinkhole for time.

So since I have little else to write about, here are my reviews of things I've Tivo'ed recently:

The Daily Show: A staple. Evolution, Schmevolution week was tremendous, highlighted by Kurt Vonnegut's tongue-in-cheek argument that nothing but intelligent design could have brought about "giraffes, hippopotami, and the clap." If I had any one complaint, it would be that Tivo considers all 5 daily airings a "First run" episode, so I had to manually set up daily taping of the 11 p.m. showing, instead of "Season Pass"ing 20 episodes a week. But now I know how to manually set up daily taping, so good times.

Too Late w/ Adam Carolla: The single most devastating time-sinkhole development out of all of this was Adam Carolla getting his own show at almost exactly the same time I got Tivo. I could watch Carolla read the phone book--I think he's the funniest person in entertainment, period, end of story. I'm worried about the show, though. They've alread moved it back to midnight, and it runs the risk of simultaneously being too Coastal and yet too offensive to much of the lefty Daily Show audience. This week was even more problematic, as Adam brought on Jimmy Kimmel for an episode that was nothing by Man Show reminiscence, then he dropped the live studio audience on Tuesday, and Wednesday he had the guest (The Donnas) out for the whole episode with no monologue and brought out the old Loveline "Germany or Florida?" bit. Format and timeslot changes in month 2 generally do not bode well. The real problem in my mind is that Adam needs a straight-man; the callers perform that function somewhat during phone-in segments, but without a Drew or Jimmy, Adam's strength (off-the-cuff reaction to banter) is missing. Still, I'll watch every episode until it sadly disappears.

Arrested Development: The season premiere was just, I mean, my God, why doesn't everyone watch this show? So many levels! And watching certain details a second time on Tivo reveals more levels, such as Eve Holt's yearbook nickname being "Eve Holt." And I've really been enjoying I'm Oscar. (Dot com.)

The Swinger (1966): I Tivo'ed this movie from AMC on the principle that there's hot, there's really hot, and there's Ann-Margret in the mid-1960s. I pinpointed the extent of this movie's charms very precisely.

NFL Matchup: Jaws and Merril, great stuff. Have they mentioned that they're the only show that shows the coach's tape? Other than that reminder 10 times per episode, this is must-see TV for the NFL fan who wants to see what's really going on in the game.

How I Met Your Mother: This is a gimmicky, somewhat-enjoyable sitcom. It appeals to both stoners who loved Evil Doogie in Harold & Kumar, and geeks who haven't gotten over their Willow crush. I'll keep watching for a few more weeks to see if N.P. Harris keeps saying things like, "Lebanese is the new half-Asian."

Out of Practice
: Another CBS Monday sitcom, this one starring Henry Winkler, Stockard Channing, and 3 people you've seen but don't know the names of. They're a family where the youngest son is a marriage counselor, and both parents and his older sister and brother are doctors. In the pilot, the marriage counselor's wife (ironically!) leaves him. Zany. The fact that there are 4 Dr. Barneses has the potential for numerous comic misunderstandings. It probably has one more episode to get funny before I dump it.

The Office: With Scrubs temporarily on hiatus, this is the only show I've seen that can compete with Arrested Development for funniest out there. Routinely makes me laugh out loud, and the Dundie Awards this week killed me, because I worked in an office once that did that (once, not annually, but still) and it was a total disaster.

I'm open to suggestions of shows I should be watching, but please don't tell me Desperate Housewives, Lost, and House. I know people love these shows, but the chances I'm adding an hourlong show where I have a whole season to catch up on are slim. Also, no HBO, so don't go there either.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Possible early versions of the pay-off line in The Killers' "All These Things That I've Done":

  • I got plums but I'm not a plumber.
  • I got back but I'm not a backhoe.
  • I got soul but I'm not a solo artist.
  • I got rhythm but I'm not a rhythmic gymnast.
  • I got milk but I'm not on one of those billboards.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The question that I have most frequently asked and been asked over the last 2.5 weeks is a simple yet silly one: how did the interview go? Of course, everyone tries to put a different spin on either, "Who the hell knows?" or "Ask the other guy," or occasionally just a slunked head with a slow, resigned shake. Last week I added six 20-minute interview, three 30-minute interviews, and 2 lunches to the whole on-campus slate. In two weeks I'll be doing two more on another flyback. Conversely, the pile of dings has started to suggest that I have most of the interviews that I'm going to have.

But here's the thing:

It turns out there is an objective test for the whole "how did the interview go?" question, and I can now definitively say this:

  • At least one of my flybacks went well.
  • I will not be scrambling for work next summer.

So, you know, good times...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

So I'm hitting here in the lobby of the Westin Century Plaza, which is a very nice place by the standards of all the hotels I've ever stayed in, which is not that high a standard. My first interviews went fine, as far as I can tell. They have a lot to offer, and I will be perfectly content if I end up working here. How they compare to other places? We'll see. I will say that there are at least 3 other U-M law students at the hotel, all of whom interviewing with a firm I really wish I'd gotten an interview with. But that's neither here nor there.

The sky is impossibly blue. I spent an hour lounging in and around the pool and spa, and it was heaven. I'm also remembering, though, that an afternoon is remarkably hard to kill here without a car. But there's free wireless in the lobby, so here I am.

I forget whether or not I mentioned DEK's and my new side project. This blog might suffer in favor of that one for a while, which I say mostly because every time I write that this blog is about to suffer, it seems to pick up again.

I made a last minute change to my class schedule, so I'm back to Secured Transactions, First Amendment, and Enterprise Organizations. The first two are taught by dynamic, interesting teachers I really like, which should help me through the fact that I'm in back-to-back-to-back classes. The jury's still out on the last one, but it's an absolute core class I can't be without.

Santa Monica tomorrow, and then a red-eye back to Michigan in time for the Notre Dame game...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thoughts on the week that was:

  • Overall I had 24 interviews from Monday to Thursday, including two that were unscheduled but where I begged onto the schedule. It's kind of a blur, honestly, but by the end I started feeling like I was getting the hang of it. I was totally ready to throw a suit on Friday morning and try again.
  • Things that came up in exactly one interview: my "best available headcase" fantasy draft (Jamal Lewis, Randy Moss, and Jeremy Shockey in the first five rounds), cod (actually, Cod), the Basel II revised international capital framework, my LSAT score, Bulgarian food (similar to Greek, but with much better feta, at least according to the Canadian interviewer with the Bulgarian wife), whether I failed any of my interviewer's friends at USC, Playa Vista.
  • Things that came up in many, many interviews: vaudeville, how 1L year teaches you nothing about transactional work so I want to try it out next summer, my 8-week internship 11 years ago with Arlen Specter that I keep thinking I should take off my resume because I barely remember it.
  • Only one place asked HR-ish questions: "Describe a work situation in which you had to manage conflict." Well, right now I'm conflicted about trying to avoid laughing out loud or punching you in the face.
  • Thursday at lunch I ate at Zoup!, and all I can say about that is that with a name like that, avoid the temptation to have a half-sandwich/small soup combo and just stick to the soup. Outstanding chicken-collard green soup; mediocre at best Italian chicken panini. Then again, I don't really like panini, so I shouldn't have been surprised.
  • In addition to the interviews, I attended 8 evening receptions over 5 nights. Good rule of thumb: when you start asking honest questions or answering questions more honestly than you mean to, it's about time to leave.
  • The gray suit worked out great; the navy suit was OK. The store guy and Dad picked out some great ties as well.
  • One thing you hate to see from one of your few non-headcase draftees is this in the injury report--questionable (artery).
  • I have nothing against subs, but never in my life have I been excited when someone suggests lunch or dinner at Subway or Quizno's.
  • The coolest piece of swag from the four days would have to be the off-brand Magic 8-Ball: The Mystical Orb! The cleverest: the Latham flash drive preloaded with their brochures. The most handy day-to-day: the hi-liter eraser.
  • The practical upshot of all this so far: two callbacks to date, both on the Westside. I'll be flying round-trip coach from Detroit to Los Angeles for a three-day, two-night stay at the fabulous Westin Century Plaza. While there I'll be participating in fun-filled activities such as: interviewing! more interviewing! remembering that lunch is still part of the interview! and collecting receipts for valuable cash reimbursement!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An open letter to the law firms I've talked to the past two days, and the next two days:

Dear law firm,

I'm very happy that I (have had/will have) the opportunity to talk to you this week. Everything I told you about your firm and myself was absolutely true; any lies were in the emphasis or the omissions. Just remember as Homer Simpson said, it takes two to lie, one to lie and one to listen.

Really, I wouldn't have interviewed with you if I didn't see some scenario where I end up working for you. Please remember that just like you (had/will have) many very similar conversations (yesterday/today/tomorrow/on Thursday), I (have also talked/will also talk) to any number of you as well. Admittedly, the conversations have been more diverse than I was led to believe--probably because there are so many strange things on my resume that each of you (has/will probably) pick(ed) something different to focus on. Please also note that I (will) have had so many interviews that I am forgetting the name of my classmates, let alone you folks, so please try to be understanding.

Also, enjoy anything you find here and remember the context, that this is a personal blog written mostly to be read by a handful of friends and occasionally to try (and fail) to be witty. Career Services has told us twice to "clean up our blogs" which would be a great idea in a world where Google didn't have a "cached" option. I don't think I've ever mentioned a law firm by name here, nor will I in the coming months except to eventually thank one of you for giving me a summer job, so poking around for what I have to say about you will be a big waste of time, but feel free. In the highly unlikely scenario that I think you or your firm is The Devil (really, only true of one of you so far), I will keep that opinion to myself--which includes not mentioning it here, not telling my colleagues who may choose to work there anyway, not telling my parents who wouldn't understand or care, and not posting to the various allegedly anonymous message boards some of my colleagues inhabit.

In short, thanks for your time, and I won't take it personally if you forget everything we (discussed/will discuss) in the interview and hire based on our transcripts. Hell, that may even work out better for me.


Joseph K. Wright ("Joe")

P.S.: If you are the one interviewer with whom I thought the conversation went really well only to find out 5 minutes after the interview that my fly had been open for the previous hour, I sincerely hope that your attention to detail is not as high as I claimed that mine is.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The craziness has been (as predicted) crazy. To sum up:

  • Port Huron: fun
  • moving: not fun, but basically done
  • interviews: for the next 4 days
  • interview prep: um yeah, getting there
  • finally getting a good night's sleep last night: priceless
  • getting that sleep at Mike's house: random, and I'll explain later (particularly to him)
  • coming up for air: probably on Friday

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I've been reading a lot of habeas corpus cases for my library job over the past couple of weeks. In the process I've learned that "habeas corpus" is the Latin term for "deliberately wasting everybody's time." Here's how the appeals process works, in dialogue form:

Criminal: Hey, there was some sort of mistake in my trial that means I shouldn't have been convicted (or got too harsh a sentence, or should get a retrial, etc.)
Appeals court: We don't really think that's true, but even if it is, you didn't preserve the issue for appeal by objecting. Since we only review the transcript for procedural mistakes, there's nothing we can do.
Criminal: So I'm out of options?
Appeals court: Well, not quite. You could file a habeas petition, which is kind of a meta-appeal. You say, the issue wasn't preserved for appeal because the prosecutor was crooked or the judge was crooked or because your lawyer screwed up.
Criminal: And then I can get out of my conviction?
Appeals court: Oh, no. We never actually grant these things, and in the rare occasions we do, you just go back to your previous judge, argue there were mistakes, and he says "no there weren't." But you will deliberately waste everyone's time and money, except yours because you're in jail anyway and have a court-appointed lawyer.
Criminal: Sign me up!

And this is in California and New York. I can't imagine how ugly it is in red states.

Reading habeas petitions is also a great way to see massive amounts of human disgustingness on one side (lots of child molesters, double-murderers, and equally savory types) or the other (life sentence for a guy who stole $22) of the law. There's also some wonderful gallows humor, my favorite being the guy charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and vandalism. Apparently the vandalism really pushed the DA over the line to press charges on that one.

But my summer of doing other people's research will be done soon, and then hopefully I'll be done dealing with the criminal law.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I knew that there was a violent, criminal element in my old neighborhood at USC, but I didn't know there were any of this magnitude.

UPDATE: Sportscenter just reported this story, adding: "Police say they don't yet know the cause of the altercation." I'm wondering if they have investigated the LAWRENCE PHILIPS IS CRAZY Theory.

And hey, if you're reading this, Lawrence (OK, let's be honest, having this read to you), I'm just playin'. Seriously, please don't try to kill me.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I put together my schedule for the next two weeks yesterday, and then I recoiled in horror. In addition to working most of my regular hours at the library this week (and some the following), I have to pack, move, assist with move-out of the apartment building, figure out a journal note topic (basically, my mandatory research project), attend two-day 9-to-5 journal orientation, attend orientation for OCI (on-campus interviews), have my 15-to-25 interviews, find time to hang out with people getting into town from summers spent elsewhere, try to finish volume two of the Baroque Cycle, spend part of next weekend in Port Huron, help out with 1L orientation, pick up Game Show Conventioneer mail, draft for two fantasy football leagues, unpack, and breathe. It's not as bad as it sounds, but it's quite a change from the languid summer pace. On the plus side, I'm actually looking forward to at least half the things on that list.

Monday, August 15, 2005

One of the cooler sites I've seen in a while is Malls of America, a site filled with '60s and '70s mall photography.

Do not click through to the StripGenerator (makes your own comic strips!) unless you have serious time to kill.

I'm not feeling creative today, so I'm stealing a play from the Barker playbook (via the Coen playbook). Given 25 musical artists who appear exactly once on my computer, guess the song in comments. It's just that simple. (UPDATE: Unaccounted for answers in bold.)

  1. 10,000 Maniacs--Because the Night (Chris)
  2. Blood, Sweat and Tears--And When I Die
  3. Bonnie Tyler--It's A Heartache
  4. Built to Spill--Joyride
  5. Burl Ives--Ol' Dan Tucker
  6. Carly Simon--You're So Vain (Tom, who nothing gets past)
  7. Cher--Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves (Greg)
  8. Dead or Alive--Brand New Lover (Greg)
  9. Dion--Donna the Prima-Donna
  10. Dixie Chicks--Goodbye Earl (Richard)
  11. Dropkick Murphys--Good Rats
  12. Faith No More--We Care a Lot (Lauri)
  13. Jackie Wilson--Lonely Teardrops (Bill)
  14. Janis Joplin--Mercedes Benz (Richard)
  15. Lesley Gore--You Don't Own Me (Maribeth)
  16. Live--Selling The Drama (JQ)
  17. Lovin' Spoonful--Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?
  18. No Doubt--Spiderwebs (Richard)
  19. Pavement--No More Kings (off of Schoolhouse Rock Rocks)
  20. The Pretenders--Back on the Chain Gang (Lauri)
  21. Rancid--Time Bomb (Craig)
  22. Roy Orbison--Cryin' (Mark)
  23. Split Enz--Six Months in a Leaky Boat
  24. Squeeze--Pulling Mussels from a Shell (Greg)
  25. A Tribe Called Quest--El Segundo (Chris)

Friday, August 12, 2005

I have certain tastes in pop culture that some might find gay quaint, and tops on the list is a disturbing predilection for classic MGM musicals. Or rather, as I learned today, some classic MGM musicals. I've really enjoyed the work of Pittsburgh's own Gene Kelly in particular. I first saw him several years ago in two of my favorite cheesy '70s films. Then I saw An American in Paris for a class, and I thought it was great. We also watched the Kelly-less The Band Wagon in that class, and again, I was impressed. Then earlier this summer I got Singin' in the Rain from the library, and I started to worry that I just loved musicals in general, raising questions I didn't necessarily want answered.

But I'm feeling better today, because I absolutely hated my latest foray into the musical, and I got bonus points because I also hated a Judy Garland movie. Yes, I experienced the 113 minutes of suckitude known as Meet Me In St. Louis. Only two things saved me from turning the movie off early. One was the 5-year-old morbid youngest daughter Tootie, who basically stole the movie by saying the most bizarre things about once every ten minutes, most of which seemed entirely out of place in the movie. Two was the production design in a very particular sense--I've come to appreciate movies that consistently use color in distinctive ways. To me, it's a sign that there's more going on in the film than just a story, but that the director is also doing something interesting aesthetically. Sometimes this is true of movies I respect more than love, and sometimes it's a key aspect of a movie that I do love, such as my favorite Spielberg film. In St. Louis, the colors in question were generally the period costumes and the Smiths Victorian home. Nice work there, MGM and Technicolor, but that's what we'd expect you to get right.

Bottom line: Men, stay away from this movie, as it may actually make your body convert testosterone into estrogen. I'm watching my second preseason football game between teams I don't care about in 2 nights just to try to counteract the effects.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A link to Yard Work came across Sportsfilter this week. Some people there apparently weren't clear on the whole "it's a parody" thing--even though the first post at the time was by Ron Dibble arguing for Eric Milton (6-12, 6.48 ERA) for the Cy Young based on being a modern-day Nasty Boy.

Anyway, the whole point of posting here was to say that Yard Work is freakin' hysterical writing about baseball, with pitch perfect parodies of all your favorite broadcast and print sports journalists, along with players and other famous people. Clint Barmes' rookie diary stands out among the players, but what absolutely made the site for me were the Monday and Tuesday Morning Quarterback parodies. There's also an Eric Karabell section (whose name I can neither type nor say without thinking: "What this fantasy football draft more Karabell!"), so perhaps our favorite fantasy sports analyst will appear there soon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The best link I was emailed last week.

The second best link I was emailed last week is the poster on the bottom.

Flogging Molly tonight at Royal Oak Music Theatre--woohoo!!

Monday, August 08, 2005

My favorite observation of the summer

I was working out on the third floor of the Intramural Building here on campus on Friday, and after I was done I went to the restroom. Because it was the more involved process, I was able to see that the men's room stall is fully handicapped-accessible. This is, of course, for one little problem.

The third floor of the Intramural Building is not handicapped-accessible.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I just finished my four-week-long grappling match with Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, a monster of a tome. It's 916 pages, but makes up for it by being a slow read. Still, I'm pretty much immediately seeking out the next two books in the trilogy, so don't take the slowness the wrong way. It's just dense, that's all.

It's customary to say what a book is about when you describe reading it. So here goes--Quicksilver is about: Isaac Newton, the Tower of London, the Glorious Revolution, Samuel Pepys, John Locke, silver mining, the court of Louis XIV at Versailles and his hemorrhoids, Robert Hooke, the Siege of Vienna, the Siege of Maestricht, fisting, chakras, Amsterdam stock markets, Christaan Huygens, gallstones, Barbary pirates, Massachusetts pirates, the taking of Batavia, the slave trade, Gottfried Liebniz, royal bastards (i.e. jerks), royal bastards (i.e. illegitimate children of noblemen), the Black Death, the burning of London, Oliver Cromwell, Charleses I and II, Jameses I and II, the Royal Society, the King of the Vagabonds, the ascendancy and fellating of William of Orange, binary numbers, clockmaking, and alchemy.

I'm sure I've left out a few things, but that's a good start anyway. Most specifically, I've left out the two extraordinary main characters--Daniel Waterhouse and Eliza de la Zeur, each of whom has a picaresque role that has crudely been designated in recent years as the abominable movie Forrest Gump. That is, they are the fictional connectors of major historical personages and in many ways the quiet movers of history. If I had to pare down the whole "what this book is about" thing, I'd say it's about the dawn of modernity--in science, in religion, in politics, and in capitalism (and in the interconnections of all of these). It also has numerous sly winks at the present, many of which serve to mock our notion that everything and anything is new or unprecedented. (Leibniz, for instance, in a letter notes that the rapid pace of modern life is being blamed for the rising incidence of "Canal Rage" among the gondoliers.)

If you'd like to immerse yourself for a while in the intrigues of 17th-century European politics, religion, war, commerce, and science, then I heartily recommend Quicksilver. Just don't make any plans for a while...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Since I'm already being accused by his colleagues of wanting Peter King's job (duh!), I thought I might as well ring in with my thoughts on the NFL's supposedly wayward wide receivers, Terrell Owens and Hines Ward. In both cases, I'm with the player.

What no one seems to bring up about T.O. is last year's fiasco where his former agent screwed his chance at free agency. With his contract renewed by the Niners, he was then traded to the Ravens and then again the the Eagles. Now, he was able to engineer a trade to a team he wanted and subsequently signed a solid long-term deal, admittedly. But he missed out on a chance to truly test his value on the open market at the prime of his career. Now he's sitting on a contract that will be terminated by the other party in 1 to 3 years, and everyone is yelling at him to honor that deal. Under those circumstances, I say fight for what you can get.

The Hines Ward situation is even more of a slam dunk for me. Here's what Steeler fans (at least the few who are against Hines--most seem to be on his side) are missing: if this were just about money, Ward would play out this year and go on the open market for 2006. This is about Ward wanting good money to play for the Steelers. Given that, I don't see how any fans can be against him here. He's a four-time Pro Bowler, he's two years younger than Owens, he's the only Steeler who has consistently played well in recent years in the playoffs, and he's the absolute heart and soul of his team. He should be paid like it, and shame on the Steelers for drawing this out and jeopardizing a potential championship season.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Like a good poker hand, I am now suited after spending a long weekend as a human clothes-horse. I actually got the suits I needed in Bridgeville at the first stop--navy blue and grey suits, 5 ties, and belt. My dad gave me a lot of shit for the ties and belt, because he's been doing all his shopping here and here for years, and doesn't understand that you occasionally have to spend over $10 for a single garment. Besides, even if I overpaid a bit for the ties, I made up for it by getting three nice sweaters that were 60% off an already reduced price (under $35 total for all three) because they basically found them in the back and needed to dump them quickly. Total cost for all of the above: $604, including tailoring, plus they're sending them to the Ann Arbor store gratis.

But we weren't done. After lunch, we drove (via Downtown Pittsburgh) to Uniontown and the Bon-Ton where Dad had seen some dress shirts in my freakish size. We picked those up along with some socks. On the way back across the mall, I wandered into a Finish Line. I'd been wanting a Casey Hampton jersey for a while, but they still don't seem to be on-sale. My second choice, Troy Polamalu, was not in stock either, so I went with the #1 draft pick.

On Saturday we went back to Uniontown for a family lunch, which somehow turned into more shopping. The best part was hitting Wal-Mart for an oil change, and while I was browsing during the wait, I came across a #43 Polamalu in my size, and for half the price of Finish Line. Score. Of course this necessitated a third straight day at the mall (almost certainly a personal record), as I returned #83 to Robinson Town Centre on my way back out of town on Sunday.

A few other bits of interestingness from the trip:

  • I hit 100,000 miles in the car in Toledo on Thursday, and my car didn't instantly fall apart. Again: Score.
  • When Eat 'N' Park shuts the lights out on you, even if it's early afternoon, you get the hell out of dodge. Evil Otto could attack at any time.
  • It turns out I drove more in the last four days then I had driven since January 8th inclusive. Weird.
  • The Ohio turnpike has Starbucks in many of the rest areas; I give the new green tea Frappuccino an A-.
  • I took U.S. routes 30 and 250 most of the way through Ohio on the way back, and in Norwalk I saw a church sign that said, "Never give Satan a ride; he'll aways want to drive." I can't really add much to that one, folks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tomorrow after work I drive home to see the folks and go suit shopping for the fall interview season. I'll be back in A2 on Sunday night, and then summer really gets into the home stretch.

Interviewing works like this. By Monday we have to have identified 30 firms we want to interview with, and rank them 1 through 30. Career Services takes those rankings and uses some magic formula to assign everyone 15 to 25 interviews, each of which is 20 minutes long, to take place over the course of the Monday to Thursday before classes start (August 29-September 1). In September and October, some of those firms will be flying me to L.A. and/or Miami for half-day interviews, hopefully leading by November 1 to one or more job offers for next summer.

So, yeah, I'm gonna need suits. Finding big and tall suits is apparently a trickier business than I'd realized, so Friday has serious ordeal potential. Otherwise, though, this is my one trip home between last Christmas and this Thanksgiving, so family time will be at the heart of the trip. You know, presuming I'm not wondering around department stores with a glazed look all weekend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

As I've alluded to before, 45 minutes a day on the treadmill (especially when you still haven't picked up an iPod) will make your mind go a-wanderin' to some strange places. Adding a little sensory input doesn't necessarily help. Yesterday I was about 2/3rds of the way through when an undergrad comes along and sets up on the next treadmill, but first she goes up and opens the window. As I couldn't help but notice, she was wearing "Go Blue" shorts. Go Blue is a pro-Michigan sports thing; I don't quite get it, but whatever, that's not the point. The point is, "Go Blue" written across the ass.

So I get to thinking, just what is the deal with the ass-text shorts? As best as I could theorize, there are three possible states of mind that lead to investing in and wearing the ass-text shorts:

  1. Some kind of quasi-feminist resistance thing, operating along the lines of: "I caught you staring at my ass, and I hope you've learned a valuable lesson from all this."
  2. Some low self-esteem, needy feeling along the lines of: "On the off chance that any of you aren't looking at my ass, I'm going to draw some extra attention to it," or
  3. "I want you to know that I can't say no to anyone or anything, including the most low-brow rungs of the fashion industry."

Any opinions on which is right or on possibilities I've missed?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Just a quick note today, rooting for Kristan, Jefferson, Lisa, Lydia, Sam, and anyone else I'm forgetting to kick the Bar in the jimmies over the next 2 or 3 days depending on their state.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Many places have some sort of art fair that they wisely shovel off to some local county fairgrounds or similar-type place. Ann Arbor takes a different approach, basically shutting down all the streets in the downtown and campus area in favor of the booths. This was basically fine on Wednesday and Thursday when I worked all day and didn't go much of anywhere. I got to walk around some of the closer exhibits on my lunch hour, and got all the culture, edification, and enlightenment I needed.

Today was a different story. I actually had to walk around town, not for art fair-related reasons, but to, you know, live my life. All of a sudden the town's cultural event of the year is now my mortal enemy. I walked around pissed off because people insisted on moving at half a mile an hour at best, not paying attention to where they were going; I got increasingly angry there are parts of the workd where 50-year-old women find it acceptable to walk around in public in red-white-and-blue T-shirts that say "American Cutie" and have gigantic butterflies on them; I remembered why people with certain temperments should stay within 25 miles of one of the coasts at all time. An hour later, having gotten the hell away from downtown and gotten some coffee into myself, I was feeling less misanthropic, but I probably never would have gotten out of that mess with my sanity intact if it weren't for another helping of culture and edification.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Since DVDs have taught us to see TV shows more distinctly in terms of seasons, I've been telling people that my single favorite season of any one TV show was the first season of Scrubs. People tend to see this as a quirky choice, and I'm fine with that. I also enjoyed the second and third seasons quite a bit before drifting away from the show this year in my no-TV exile. Then this summer I borrowed a copy of the first season of Arrested Development, and I thought I might have a new champ. Just about that time the first season of Scrubs finally came out on DVD and instantly became my first DVD-season purchase. (Or, more accurately, the first one for me--having bought Soap and Sledge Hammer for my dad as gifts.) The problem was, as much as I enjoyed the AD season, I wasn't ready to sit down and watch another whole season right away.

Over the last week and a half I've finally gotten around to watching the Scrubs discs, and with all due respect to the Bluths, J.D. and company are the winners and still champions in my book. Very quickly I remembered all the reasons I loved the show from the start*--hilarious dialogue, 5 to 6 well-crafted, complex characters, and at least another half-dozen or more bit players who always bring something to the table. I can't get through an episode without laughing out loud, and usually I can't get through one without feeling deeply saddened, or solemn, or touched by something, and almost as often I come away with something to think about. Every episode has an A story and B story and usually a C story that come together thematically, and that teach us something new about the characters and about their job.

(*OK, this is a little white lie--the commercials before the show debutted made it look horrible, I ranked it high in that year's Laplaca Open, and then when I saw a screener of the pilot I knew I'd made a horrible miscalculation.)

And then, of course, there's Dr. Cox. John C. McGinley says on one of the DVD extras that what appealed to him about the character was that he could be the most damaged human being on prime-time TV, and it's so true. The reluctant mentor is a stock character with a long and cliched history. But Dr. Cox is something different--reluctant to be a mentor not because he considers his mentees(?) to be future competitors or impossible greenhorns, although in some episodes it might seem that way. The revealing moment comes late in the season, though, when J.D. stays late with a patient well past the end of his shift, giving up a date. When Cox realizes what's going on he has his most painfully honest moment of the season: "You want to be like me, newbie? Don't you realize that most of the time I barely want to be like me?" It's a brutal statement from a brutally honest show, that repeatedly comes back to the idea that you can know exactly what your owns faults and shortcomings are and still have no idea what to do about them--and in fact, that in they end, they will literally kill you. It's not the stuff of your typical three-camera, laugh-track sitcom.

I can't wait for season two on DVD and/or syndication.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

After three days of waiting, I finally found out that I did not make Law Review.

In plausibly related news, I also found out last night that you shouldn't try two drinks for the first time in the same night, both of which have "bomb" in their name.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I just finished watching the final episode of The Scholar, which I hadn't seen before. The main action with the admissions committee and whatnot was filmed at USC's Philosophy Library. When I was preparing for my quals I spent a lot of time in there, and it was the great unknown gem of the USC library system. It was empty all the time, even though it was really comfortable and a great place to work. In fact, my main memory of the place was at a meeting of the history grad students, when someone mentioned the place and James Bell (one of our colleagues) tried to shush them down to prevent any more people from finding out about the place.

The day after my last final this spring, I found out that James passed away from a longtime illness. He was 56. He'd been sick for a really long time and had had a rough life anyway (long history of drugs, alcohol, you name it--about which he was very forthcoming), but hearing it was still a shock. I've never known anyone who turned their life around quite as much as he did, and he was an inspiration in that regard. Like most grad students he could be a pain in the ass at times too, and I'd be lying if I said we were best friends or anything. But he was a good guy and he wasn't insane, which put him in the upper half of my grad school compatriots.

Reality TV often makes me upset, but tonight was a whole different thing.

If you've got a little bit of spare time and a little bit of spare cash, here's something you might want to consider.