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July 29, 2003

The Importance of Names, and other disappointments

Well, it looks like my long-running bad luck when it comes to things like lotteries is holding up. I'm in a dormitory. I'd hoped that since a few people were assigned to efficiency apartments today, I might be one of the lucky few, but it looks like you're going to be getting first-year Columbia Law commentary through the window of a graduate dorm.

Oh well. I passed my exams at Oxford while studying in a dorm, and this looks like a bigger room than I had then. Indeed, I have friends in London with smaller apartments--roughly 14" square. Downside is that there's one kitchen for 10 people, and it doesn't look like it's that cheap: somewhere between $630-$800/month, depending on what the email means, which surprisingly isn't clear. So, no gourmet meals for me then.

So, let's put a slightly nicer spin on this. I'm going to be on a floor with somewhere between 10 and 13 people, with one kitchen shared between us. Your resident devil-in-training is obviously going to need a name for his abode. I hereby open the competition for names for either the room, or maybe even the entire section if I can convince my future hallmates. Obviously stick to the theme, but I'm open to suggestions.

Update: In the early runnings, the leader is "Brimstone House," slightly ahead of "Hell's Lounge."

July 28, 2003

Particularly pertinent

And after the mess of Grutter v. Bollinger comes the first article I've seen on the topic of how one spots a minority.

Best line of the article? Definitely:

All of which raises the delightful prospect of an earnest college-admissions officer in the next racial-preferences court case explaining to the jury how he determined that Tiger Woods is not entitled to a plus because Tiger's black ancestry is cancelled out by his Asian genes.

This isn't an academic matter for me: my mother delights in telling how our family is (and can be proven to be) descended from members of two Native American tribes, and my father's from another member of one of them. I didn't claim that ethnicity when I applied to Michigan--I don't identify with that part of my 'heritage'--but what if I had? Anyone here think it would have been a farce if, instead of being wait-listed to U of M, I'd been admitted on basis of 'race?'

My first girlfriend back in high school was a white immigrant from South Africa, and she used to facetiously mark 'African American' on applications: she had, after all, been born in Africa. She used to refer to me as 'plain American' because my ancestors came from so many places it didn't make sense to count anymore. But here it's serious: what if she applies to the University of Michigan Law School next year?

One of these days, conservatives are just going to lose patience and start playing ugly. Next year we should sue on behalf of a German-American born in Peru but immigrated at age 16 claiming he's 'hispanic,' and ask the U of M to bring back old passbook-style systems to prove racial blood heritage. I don't look forward to it--it is, after all, pretty grim--but eventually someone's just going to pop and start playing the system.

Six Feet Under, Sei Shonagon, and the World of Pre-Modern Blogging

A reference at the Curmudgeonly Clerk to an article on HBO's series Six Feet Under makes me sorry I didn't both watching the series. It appears that there's a rather nuanced attitude towards abortion, with at least two scenes in which an aborted fetus meets someone responsible for the abortion in an afterlife. As quoted in this article in National Review:

In the show's second season, Nate Fisher (engaged at the time) confronts an old flame (Lisa) who tells him she's pregnant with his child — and that she's choosing to have the baby. Keeping with the show's habit of employing ghostly visions and apparitions, we later see Nate working late in his office. A little girl enters, about seven years old.

"Hi," she says. "You killed me. It was about seven years ago, remember? You drove Lisa to have me killed.

Nate looks up, horrified.

"Oh, don't get me wrong," she says, "I don't harbor any bad feelings or anything. I'm pro-choice. Well, at least I would be, if I were alive."

Not what you normally see on American television. It brought to my mind another woman dreaming of a string of aborted babies haunting her, a woman in another society in which abortion was religiously discouraged but fairly openly tolerated:

One night, as I lay gazing into the past through the window of my heart, calling to mind my various wanton doings, I seemed to see a procession of some ninety-five different childlike figures, each child wearing a hat in the form of a lotus leaf and each one stained with blood from his waist down... Then I perceived to my grief that these were the children whom I had conceived out of wedlock and disposed of by abortion.

At first I could have sworn that was from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, but it's actually from Ihara Saikaku's The Life of an Amorous Woman. Which doesn't prove much of anything, except for the fact that this particular aspect of the abortion debate pre-dates Roe v. Wade by a couple of centuries.

In the process of prodding my memory for that quote, I started looking through the Pillow Book once again. Anyone who is interested in blogging ought to take a look at it, because in substance and style it's very similar to modern 'vanity blogs.' You find the same musings about life, love, and office politics, but written around 1000 A.D. It's amazing how familiar some of these diary entries seem: I keep expecting to find hyperlinks.

Lawyers, Blogs, and Common Sense

Thanks to Martin for this article on lawyers blogging.

Of course, the issues involved are less complicated for a JD2B, but professional consequences are good reasons not to put anything too personal on a 'professional' site. Actually, the Curmudgeonly Clerk has a very good discussion of the ethics of law clerk blogs that you should read if you're interested and you've not looked already.

Good God Please Let Howard Dean Run...

Well, my little jaunt across the blogosphere has led me past at least half a dozen entries like the one atWhiskey Bar, "Mr. Dean's Army."

His analysis suits the standard theory on the leftish end of the blogosphere. (That would, of course, be most of it.) Dean is the true voice of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, his fundraising is fantastic and will connect with the great unwashed, and the fundraising from that segment of society will restore the great advantage in fundraising that the Democrats lose by being the party of the people.

Except... except...

First, he forgets, or fails to mention, the dirty secret of Fat Cat Fundraising in the US. As stated in a NYT Editorial (sorry, only the abstract is now available for free):

In getting behind the badly needed drive to end soft money as a device for buying candidates and favors, the Democrats knew they would have considerable catching up to do to broaden their base for the new campaign world of limited hard money. The one category the Democrats led in was among fat-cat donors, with the party garnering 92 percent of the contributions of $1 million or more in 2002, the last year soft money was permitted. No wonder Terry McAuliffe, the Democrats' soft-money maestro, is emphasizing an urgent new direct-mail effort to enlist many more smaller donors.

Secondly, Dean does represent the left-wing of his party. He's Buchanan with the gun in his left hand, and he's a guaranteed ticket to defeat at the poles. No candidate has won recently without a run to the center, and those who are looking to Dean as their white knight are behaving as unrealistically as I would be if I were to gaze starry-eyed into the night sky and dream of a Scalia run for office.

July 27, 2003

Blogging, Boundaries, and Guilty Voyeurism

I've spent the day doing two things:

a) Trawling from one blog to another to another, starting from a friend's site and wandering off. The blogosphere is an enormously diverse place, even disturbingly so. Through this seven-clicks-of-separation voyage I've wandered across marriages, divorces, a stripper in Minnesota and a guy pondering what to have for lunch.

It's bizarre. You'll note that there's not very much of a personal nature on this site, and that's likely to remain: this is a 'professional' blog, of sorts, and open to all. If I were keeping this as an online diary, I'd want to use something with better security, like Livejournal, where I could at least restrict my audience somewhat.

As it is, there's something of the creepy voyeur to bouncing about the net like that. As a friend of mine back in the UK used to say, "The Internet: bringing people together by keeping them in little rooms far apart."

b) I was considering blogging a response to Professor Solum's major entries on stare decisis, in which I proposed that a lottery by the President to determine which Supreme Court opinion would become the decision of the Court in any given case would work better to promote judicial formalism. Then I discovered that I'd done my numbers wrong and would have looked dumb if I posted it. Still, it was a fun thought, and I still think Professor Solum's second game setup is incorrect in assuming that both a textualist and a realist will derive the same benefit from a strong and consistent rule of law.

The Three Beanbag Theory of Keeping Your Soul

Well, the floating across Lake Michigan wasn't as pleasant as it could have been. The boat got caught in storms both ways, and I rediscovered why 'sea legs' are something I've never developed. Fortunately I get motion sickness, but my stomach is highly resistant to actually losing its lunch, so I just had four hours of feeling ill each way.

I left my friend at his conference, a fairly hefty conference of virologists. While he was registering, I listened in on three of his fellows having a riotous time:

"Well, I've been immunised, so that shouldn't be a problem..."

"Oh, you must have one of those new root viruses"[1]

(Laughter all around.)

Yes, it was virologist humour. And right then it hit me: within months I would be in my own little academic world, with our own strange in-jokes, the punchlines to which might be things like, "Well, don't do that, you'll be subject to promissary estoppel," jokes that are humourous to lawyers but just silly to ordinary people.

I don't want to let that happen to me. My friend, always helpful, suggested I buy three beanbags, and throw one at anyone who made such a wisecrack in my presence. And obviously, allowing them to throw one at me if I should ever succumb.

Now where can I buy three beanbags on e-bay?

[1] Apologies if the joke has been mistranscribed, I really didn't know what these guys were on about.

July 25, 2003

Calm before the storm

Those few of us yet to be assigned an apartment at Columbia are getting more and more nervous--every conversation I've had with someone yet to be approved has been edgy. People live in dread of being put into dormitories or other unsuitable accomodation, and since it's take-it-or-leave-it they might not have time to arrange alternatives. Me, I'm trying to remain calm about the matter: nothing improves by worrying about it, and there's nothing I can do until it's resolved anyway. According to the school, there's a 'handful' of us remaining, but that's not comforting.

(There is the possibility that this is foolish, and that the assignments are done on a 'squeaky wheel gets the grease' system. But let's hope not.)

On the other hand, today I remembered why I came back to Michigan for the summer, rather than working like a dog somewhere else. The breeze was high, a friend was visiting, and we took our small sailboat out onto the lake. Unusually, the wind was gusting even though there was no threat of storm. Our small vessel, even with two full-grown men aboard, managed an impressive clip, and we came close to capsizing twice. For two hours I could take any concerns, like the above, and lose them in keeping the sail full, the lines taut, and our bodies above water.

I must sign off. Tomorrow is an early start (5:30 AM), and we'll be taking the S. S. Badger across lake Michigan to Manitowoc and then driving on to Madison, Wisconsin. I'll drop my friend there and take the red-eye ferry back to Ludington, and get back home around 6 A.M. Sunday. I'm looking forward to the journey: there's something about floating on water that melts concerns from my shoulders.

I'm tempted to just keep on driving that Sunday, and come back home Monday morning. Who knows? When I get back, maybe I'll have my housing email.

10K Airport Run

I recently told someone I was too out of shape to do a 10K run. I might have overstated the case.

Today a friend of mine arrived from England via a bus from Toronto, and I was supposed to pick him up at the Robert Q stop at Detroit Metro Airport. Little did I know there were three stops, one at each terminal. He didn't have a cell phone, nor did I. Cue nearly three hours of running around between three terminals to find him. My legs are sore, because as I was worried about it I literally ran around the terminals. In the end, despite pages from rather useless information booths and an actually strategy for finding each other, we ran into each other almost totally by chance.

Oh well. Tomorrow I'm up to much of nothing, and then Saturday I'll be taking him to a conference in Madison, Wisconsin. We'll be crossing Lake Michigan on a rather antiquated ferry, which should be pleasant. Ironically, it's cheaper for me to park my car on one side and rent a car back and forth from Manitowoc to Madison than it is for me to ferry the car over.

One more reason to be glad I chose my career rather than someone else's: my friend is a biologist, and is going to Madison to attend a conference on herpes virus.

July 24, 2003

Not really born to be Wilde...

Well, today I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray, and while it wasn't bad, I can't say it thrilled me. It suffered from the horrible over-cleverness that seems to permeate everything that Wilde ever wrote. Besides, Dorian Gray, for all of his supposed 'wickedness' was more of a willful child given a bizarre and potent toy. His friend Lord Henry is infinitely more wicked, if only because he seems to want to corrupt those around him. The best parts of the book were the conversations between Lord Henry and his sister, in which both of their shields of satire occasionally slip and you get a brief glimpse into their character.

Next on the docket, besides finishing up my contracts book, is probably Oliver Wendall Holmes The Common Law, since I started it and didn't get finished.

July 23, 2003

The "No I'm Not A Corporate Mouthpiece" Disclaimer

Someone emailed me asking if the site is now sponsored by Amazon, their tone implying that I have somehow consigned Three Years of Hell to corporate whoredom. So just to make things clear:


  • I've been a corporate whore for years--who are you talking to? and
  • No, I'm not trying to make mucho dinero through my blog, as I've worked in the web long enough to know it won't happen.

Amazon.com has a nifty collection of tools for developers that use XML and web services, and I'm learning a lot by implementing these things, even if most of the code isn't mine. And in the meantime, the pictures I can use from Amazon (with, it seems, their permission) brighten up my website a bit.

Yes, if you click through and actually buy something, I get a fractional bit of money, in theory. No one's done so yet, and I don't suppose anyone ever will. But it's not really the point of the exercise. There's no use in selling your soul for such a low value.

So how tongue in cheek is Columbia, anyway?

My latest object of desire is a sweatshirt from Cafe Press, although I've heard their quality is terrible. It's a Mr. Snaffleburger design from Matazone, and has inscribed the satirical motto "CONFORM. CONSUME. OBEY." My only question is should I get one and hope people get the in-joke, or avoid it on the grounds that I don't need people getting the wrong impression too quickly?

It's considerations like this filling my days right now, since I can't make any travelling preparations until I get my housing assignment from Columbia, and have some idea how much stuff I actually need to take. Hopefully this will arrive in the next few days, but in the meantime I'm at a bit of a loss.

July 20, 2003

Can I have a G.W. Bush, a side of onion rings, and a Sam Adams?

Over on The Curmudgeonly Clerk, a rather amusing discussion of his new campaign finance reform proposal: allow candidates to buy their voters a cider. I'm trying to decide whether he's for a whole new type of corruption or for the democratization of the corruption we already have. Whatever, if the government is going to be in the business of providing the free lunch, it's only reasonable that they should provide a refreshing beverage with it.

July 19, 2003

And introducing... my library!

If you look down the right-hand navigation, you'll see that I've added links to books I've enjoyed, whether or not they are related to law. I've added these mainly because I wondered if I could make it happen. I'm pleased I managed to get the MTAmazon plugin to work: if you've got a Moveabletype blog, it's fairly easy and quite functional.

The only other reason is I spent an afternoon on this is that a long while ago Martin became an Amazon affiliate, and I always felt he'd done a bit of techno-one-upsmanship on me. Now I too can fail to get a cut of any books ordered through Amazon. :)

Attack of the Living Dead Special Prosecutors

Well, over at Findlaw it's attack of the living dead special prosecutors. Apparently: "If President Bush is truly the square shooter he portrays himself to be, he should appoint a special prosecutor to undertake an investigation."

And that'll happen on a cold day in hell. Even as the body count is ratcheting up, the hew and cry against the war and occupation is pretty much isolated to the frothing-at-the-mouth wing of the Democratic Party. Given that we Republicans drove ourselves near to self-destruction following the banner of the shamelessly salivating Clinton-haters, you would think the opposition would learn.

Oh, and don't bother looking to the article if you're hoping for a well-balanced evaluation of the facts. Yes, there's questions which should be asked, but Dean suggests that Congress was given false statements, and in six out of his eight points then rebuts points in the now-infamous State of the Union with concerns over such great matters as the difference between 'concludes' and 'estimates.' (Nevermind the fact that his sources for 'rebuttal' sat at the far-forgiving end of the spectrum, places like the International Atomic Energy Agency, as opposed to the Institute for Strategic Studies.)

The State of the Union was a speech, and meant to rouse the hearts and minds of the American people, not to be a lawyer's amicus. If there were facts that were 'misleading,' it certainly wouldn't be the first time it was done in war, nor only by Dean's cited Polk. I doubt Dean's prosecution would stand on the merits. But more important than the legal minutiae are the unescapable political facts, what should be called the Clinton Conclusion: the public does not like special prosecutions on subjects which, however illegal the actions investigated, do not go against their ethics.

After Lewinsky, it was impossible to doubt that President Clinton lied in court, but his popularity held because however lawful a prosecution might be, it was ugly. Similarly, it will be impossible to take up this cause without, implicitly, saying that one believes that the world would be better off with Hussein still in power.

Such prosecutions take time, and in that time the Corp of Engineers will have begun to restring the electricity and communications systems; an economy with reasonable fundamentals will begin to turn around; and with any luck a new and more impressive justice system will be in its formative stages. Bush's political career is already balanced on this particularly risky point, and if it fails, a special prosecution will be superfluous--Bush is doomed in his next election anyway.

And if it succeeds? Does Dean (or any sensible Democratic congressman, for that matter) seriously wish to begin a process in which the best witnesses may be former Iraqi citizens who, after testifying as to the haze around any 'fact' coming out of pre-war Iraq, will finish with the inevitable coda of Hussein's brutal treatment of his own people? Against this, does Dean truly wish to begin a debate over whether 'concludes' is misleadingly far from 'estimates?'

But perhaps Bush should merely appoint Dean to be special prosecutor? We already know the crux of his case, and while it will waste time and government resources, any such prosecution stands a good chance of ensuring his re-election. And between John W. Dean and Howard Dean, the Democratic Party might manage to beat the British Labour Party's 'longest suicide note in history,' at least if the length of the Starr report is anything to go by.

July 16, 2003

Nelson Rocks!

I'm pretty certain that as a disclaimer of liability this wouldn't be worth the paper it was printed on, even if it were on paper. But for a disclaimer with attitude, it's up there.

(Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Who's at the party?

Thanks to The Curmudgeonly Clerk (now added to the Syndication List) for pointing out Technorati, as good a way as any that I have to find out who links to me. I'm probably the last one on this bandwagon, but if you blog, check it out.

Protect and Serve?

I never really get on with Sherry Colb's articles over at Findlaw.com: I find she's generally willing to sacrifice a good argument for old dogma. Such is the case in her article today, The New York Racist Float Case.

The conduct in the case she mentions is deplorable, but I have to go along with the judge's decision: if the three men were off-duty, then tasteless as what they did was (and I have to wonder why the parade organisers allowed it), I can't see firing them not being a violation of 1st Ammendment rights.

What she advocates, though, is an incredibly broad interpretation of what free speech allows one to conclude:

One way of thinking about speech is as evidence of what a speaker is capable of doing. A public school math teacher who announces his strong belief that girls are stupid and unfit to study math cannot be expected to do a fair job of educating girls in mathematics, as his position requires him to do. A Humane Society employee who says that animals deserve to suffer cannot be trusted to provide nurturance and love to homeless animals. And a firefighter who finds humor in the lynching of a black man cannot be trusted to risk his own life to protect the lives of black men, women and children.

But is that truly the case? Is it not possible that a person can hold certain views, but because they hold those views and know them incompatible with their duties, perform their duties in any event? (Indeed, from what little reading I've done of legal ethics so far, aren't there points where lawyers are ethically obligated to act against their own personal beliefs, particularly in defending people they believe to be guilty?) A math teacher might make certain his techniques were more objective than his fellows, knowing his own prejudices; the fireman in question might risk more, knowing that his views will hold him to a higher level of accountability than otherwise. It would depend not only upon his speech, but upon the relative values he placed on honor, duty, his personal beliefs, and how much he values the opinions of those around him (and the negative consequences of those opinions). Indeed, by penalising employees merely for public speech, doesn't it deny superiors of opportunities to recognize that greater scrutiny is needed for certain individuals? [1]

I doubt that such ethical or honorable concerns are appropriate in this case (simply because someone who behaves in so undecorous a fashion on a public float probably isn't worried about dividing their public and private thoughts), but wouldn't it make more sense to advocate a heightened scrutiny upon the officers by, say, internal affairs (or even by journalists), and then firing them for something they've actually done in relation to their jobs? Wouldn't Ms. Colb be better off proving her assertion than just taking it for granted?

[1] For instance, if I were the superiors of the police officers in question, I'd be watching them like a hawk and suspending them at the first sign that they weren't doing their duty.

July 15, 2003

The Meaning of Fear

Every week I read my Onion horoscope, figuring it's no worse a predictor of the future than anything else I have available. Apparently Virgos get educated this week.

Met my first classmate

Well, I met my first classmate yesterday, a very stylish young lady. Good sangria, reasonable wine, a shot of Laphroaig (for which I am finally acquiring a taste), and company the likes of which is not to be found in Big Rapids, Michigan. All in all, making me look forward to school.

I've also realised that if I really wanted to, I could get my law degree and then sign onto the Judge MBA at Cambridge (sorry, Martin, but I still think the Judge has better facilities) in the same amount of time as it would take to get a joint degree at Columbia. I'll have to make that decision in a few years.

July 14, 2003

Way off topic, but one of the best laughs I've had today.

An Everquest-style review of Real Life.

I've never played one of these online games, but it's probably similar to excessive blogging...

Homosexuals have an agenda... and probably business cards and a good powerpoint presentation to boot.

Out in the blogosphere there's been a lot of talk about Scalia's use of the phrase 'homosexual agenda' in Lawrence v. Texas, and whether it's a code word for all sorts of hatred.

I think people are getting a bit paranoid here. Yes, 'the homosexual agenda' is often used as a perjorative by folks like Helms. But what they're objecting to is not that a political group has an agenda, but the contents of the agenda itself.

If there is a gay rights movement, then it bloody well better have a homosexual (or gay rights, or homosexual rights) agenda. The Republicans have a Republican agenda, and while the Democrats will refer to it scathingly, it's not a dirty word. Conservatives (not always the same thing) have items on a 'conservative agenda,' and refer to it quite happily in the pages of National Review without wondering if we're comparing ourselves to communists. Having an agenda means you have aims and goals and is a good thing if you want to be a coherent entity. If the old management maxim is that 'a meeting without an agenda is a discussion,' then its political corollary should be 'a movement without an agenda is a mob.'

Is Scalia scathing of the 'homosexual agenda?' Well, certainly. Parts of that agenda include what Scalia would consider legislating through the court system, and it annoys him, especially since he's losing the argument. Does that make it (as Balkin contests above) the equivalent of calling Barney Frank 'Barney Fag?' Only if you're being hypersensitive to the point of ridiculousness.

July 11, 2003

You move 16 tons, and...

Well, I'm selling all my old stuff in preparation for my new life. No more games, no more things I'll never use. Ebay is such a handy little tool.

If you happen to like old computer games, and are a collector of their boxes (hey, some are), you can check out what I have for sale. Yes, this is a shameless ad, but then, I'm going to have this in the right-hand nav soon.

July 10, 2003

Copyright norms and litigation costs

Over at the Legal Theory Blog is a particularly cool discussion of how legal costs affect the enforcement of copyright laws. Worth reading just to see the words 'in terrorem effect.'

Though you're gone, la revolution lives on!

Martin mentions over at MBA Experience that Queens College Oxford has raised the student rents again. The students look like they'll be organising and striking.

It might be funny to admit as a Republican, but I participated in the Pembroke rent strikes back during my undergraduate days. The college, much as I love it, was poorly-run, badly-administrated, and had squandered a lot of money, and that was by the college's own admission. But as was fairly typical for an Oxford college, all the belt-tightening was inflicted on the students. I certainly wasn't fond of all the reasoning that went into the rent strike (as the students asserted a lot of 'rights' I don't think they had) but I did think the college should have been held to a higher standard of behavior, if only because a 22% rise in rents was going to force a couple of students out of education altogether.

The strike was a disaster--the JCR council messily relied upon the NUS, which declined to back us, and failed to take the advice of a girl who, while obnoxious as anyone and a devoted communist, had more experience campaigning and protesting than everyone else in college combined. Our press coverage was dire, and in the end, the rent increases went through.

Hat's off to Martin if he does join--I'm sure Queens faces a tougher challenge than Pembroke ever had.

July 09, 2003

Spirited Away

Since too many people have said I'm being too uptight, I'll post a review I wrote elsewhere of Miyazaki's Spirited Away. For those of you not familiar with Studio Ghibli, they've produced a particularly wonderful set of Japanese animated stories, the most popular of which is probably Kiki's Delivery Service. The review's below:

The most recently-released film by Miyazaki Hayao, Spirited Away (or Sen to Chihiro Kamikakushi in Japanese) is distributed in the U.S. by Walt Disney Home Video. What a shame Disney had to go to Japan to get something so stunningly classical in Disney format. If Mulan and Lilo and Stitch drove you up the wall for their sheer political didacticism, you should see this film. It's like a return to the roots of children's animation.

In a nutshell, Chihiro is a young girl who finds herself in a kind of Japanese fairyland, in which her parents are imprisoned and transformed into pigs for an unseemly greed. It has all the classical features of such a fairy world, including strange but binding rules and promises, a hatred of humans (we stink, apparently), and deities that are not always what they seem. In order to survive, she binds herself into servitude to the witch who runs this portion of the world, the propreitoress of a bathhouse whose clientele are eight million gods all needing relaxation. In doing so, she gives up her original name in exchange for another.

Perhaps it seems strange that I mentioned a lack of political didacticism as a reason to see the film, but besides the beauty of the artwork and the skill with which the story progresses, the fairy-tale lessons put forward in the story make it stand out markedly in comparison to most Disney fare. Instead of a Beauty and the Beast raped of its original meaning and made to carry water for a tepid neo-feminism, or a Mulan that dresses Confucianism in equal-rights rags, in other words instead of perfectly good stories made to bear more than their weight in political baggage, Spirited Away concentrates on simpler lessons expressed subtly. The Chihiro who starts the movie is immature, demanding, without grace or politeness--and not listened to by her parents at all. Over the course of the story, her interactions with a strange but formal society turn her into a girl who bows when she meets strangers; who understands the importance of 'please', 'thank you', and 'I'm sorry'; and who eventually serves as an example of grace, strength, and character, respected by others.

That's not to say that the other lessons aren't important, but they can be done well or done badly. Lilo and Stich was particularly vile in this regard, with Lilo being a spoiled and intolerable child coddled by any and all around her throughout--but it fit with all of Disney's normal didacticisms. How nice to see a fairy story done differently for a change.

Spyware and other net hazards

I'm not endorsing the software, but I spent most of today working with Lavasoft's Ad-Aware. My father kept getting these popup ads every fifteen minutes, even when he didn't have a web-browser open, and I spent ages researching the various spyware and adware programs out there to see what he'd done.

The program's pretty good. If you're a standard web browser, you might be surprised to find out what you've got on your machine.

Anyone know how to get things back from the post office?

News just keeps getting worse and worse: my last shipment of books and sundries from the UK arrived yesterday with a big 'DAMAGED IN TRANSIT' sticker from the Port of New Jersey. Missing are my Kenkyusha Japanese English Dictionary and Nelson's Japanese English Character Dictionary. Take a look at the price of the first one and you'll see why I'm so upset. And did I put insurance on the shipment? What do you think?

Oh well. At least I got to feel good reading Alice's entry on filing over at Who Stole the Tarts?. Good to know someone else is such a packrat of paper, and I can feel smug as I've finally integrated my American and English files into one file system.

Momma always told me there'd be days like these

When I'm neck deep in legal studies and bemoaning my 1L-hood, it's weeks like this I should look back on. Even without much of a job (I'm doing occasional translation to pay the bills), everything seems to be conspiring against me. I can't wait for law school. Hopefully for your amusement, a list of the silly stuff that's ruined my last few days.

a) Ticket for making a U-turn at an intersection where the sign was obstructed. I'm hoping to challenge the ticket, but may pay it, since my license is being held 'in lieu of bail' and I can't buy a drink at any bar in town until I get it back. (No, the officer didn't ask if I'd just like to pay the bail.)

b) I'm house-sitting for a family with a very old and cranky dog. I hate dogs, and I'm allergic to them. This one doesn't like me, hasn't been away from its owner for a week in its life, and spent this week depressed and leaving little 'presents' all over the floor. But these are some good friends, so I've taken care of it, and even took it to the vet today when its organs of elimination were highly inflamed. The vet diagnosed it as 'nervous bowel syndrome' and doped the mutt on Phenobarbital. I had to take decongestants when I got home, since having the dog in the car set off my allergies.

I've cleaned up every mark on their floor, though. They're good friends, and better, they're good friends with a very nice Bissel carpet cleaner.

c) I need to figure out how to prove I've been immunized to the State of New York before law school. I need to get the signature of a healthcare provider, but since I have no idea where my medical records are (I've moved too many times) that's no mean feat. And until I get to Columbia, I have no health insurance.

d) While helping my mother clean the downstairs, I saw a small red ball that looked like a tiny berry. I picked it up between my fingers only to find my hands covered in a blood-red substance. It appears one of the neighbor kids dropped a paintball.

I think for the sake of the world I'll retreat into a plastic bubble with a copy of Joseph Glannon's Civil Procedure this week. I'm breaking everything I touch. I really can't wait to get to law school!

July 03, 2003

'The Ghosts of Jamestown'

The aptly-named Adam Goodheart writes good-heartedly of colonial sodomites and the long history of anti-sodomy laws in the United States.

Because he's for the decision, he doesn't say vitriolically what his article makes perfectly clear: that Justice Kennedy writing for the majority in Lawrence v. Texas relied on some of the most meretricious junk history in order to prop up his ruling. Fair play, I've never liked anti-sodomy laws, and I don't care that somewhere, some gay folk are having sex. But the double-think required to go along with this past month's Supreme Court rulings is just too much. I can agree with the results of the decisions whilst still being ashamed of the manner in which they're justified.

July 02, 2003

Strom Thurmond

Since a lot of people have been gnashing their teeth over the death of Senator Thurmond, I thought I'd make a more personal note about the man.

The one and only time I met Senator Thurmond was in 1997, when he wandered into the front office of the Senator for whom I was working at the time. His genuine friendliness struck me most of all: he spoke to just about everyone in the front office while he was waiting, shook hands (with a very firm grip), and started talking to one of the front desk staff about how annoying the deluge of mail about the tobacco bill was.

(Before you get the idea that Senators don't like having their mail answered, the tobacco companies were handing out a free 'mail your congressman' form with every pack of cigarettes, and some folks were filling out every one the got. It was an enormous task just to avoid multiple mailings.)

I've been reading a lot about how the Senator was senile and feeble, but he certainly didn't show it that day. Nor did he show it when my fellow staffer encountered him working quite avidly at a treadmill in the Senate gym. Perhaps the truth is something more than the evidence of my eyes, but I don't buy it.

Sure, Thurmond isn't going to win any civil rights awards posthumously, but I think most of the folks railing about how racist he was miss the point. He was a relic of a bygone age, someone who term limitation should have taken care of before I was born. Some of his views were vile--although there is evidence that some of them changed over time--but he was a man shaped in an older time. Given how much the political landscape has changed since he was my age, I can't help but think it's a marvel he was flexible enough to survive.

Frankly, whatever you think of your political opponent, if they're democratically elected I think it's churlish to pester their memory after they're dead. Whatever his sins, the man is no more, and it is at the very least indecorous to thrash at dead horses. I never understood the people who could be reduced to apoplexy by Bill Clinton; the Thurmond-haters aren't much better.

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