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July 31, 2004


A little while ago, IrishLaw explained that she's as uncomfortable with masks as I am fond of them:

To me, though, masks do not evoke a thrill of excitement or mystery so much as a rush of profound unease. With few exceptions (I don't mind Zorro's mask, for example, or Spiderman's for some reason), I simply don't like masks. In their hiding of the expressions that we use to connect with people, to read them as human beings, masks seem to cut off an essential element of humanity. And particularly with the kinds of masks associated with masquerades, as they are part of almost garish parties, masks appear so sinister as to be of Hell.

Because I finally get to respond to Irishlaw when she's not in political mode, and because she and the Fool have been having a back and forth on the topic, and because I like to write about the things I love, I figure I'll examine this in a bit more detail.

According to Irishlaw, her aversion to masks stems at least partially from the literary: she mentions the Phantom of the Opera, the horrible orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut, and most prominently Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Masque of the Red Death." But this is certainly unfair to masks as an art form: if New England's favorite manic depressive had turned his pen to writing about ice-cream and fluffy puppies, we'd be reading stories of frozen hellhounds. Poe's genius was the horrible and unsettling, and to blame masks for the nature of his madness seems more than a little harsh. [1]

In any event, perhaps Irishlaw's aversion is merely a lack of familiarity with some of the histories and traditions of mask-wearing. In the hopes of changing her mind just a little, I'm collecting a few of my favorite examples from the Italian here. (We'd be here all night if I started on Japanese noh masks or African ritual forms, and I won't even touch the Commedia del arte.) Far from being used to cut humanity from the man, masks have frequently played important roles in bringing people together.

(Note: some of the links below are to sites that aren't spectacularly authoritative: I don't know that many websites about such topics, so these are just Google hits. Anyone with better information can leave it below.)

The Mask as Tool: One of the most famous of the masks found in Italy wasn't originally used for disguise at all. The Plague Doctor's mask was worn by those who inspected the diseased and dying during the Black Death. The bottom of the extended 'beak' was filled with bags of herbs and perfume to ward of evil spirits. Certainly not as effective as it could be--they didn't know the plague was spread by rats and fleas--the mask remained a sign of what mercy could be given.

The Mask as Social Leveller: One particular use of the Venetian mask--particularly the volto-- was to allow members of different social orders to speak without hurting their standing. Much as certain bloggers find it convenient to hide their identity online in order to avoid conflicts of interest or keep separate their online and offline identities, such anonymity actually permitted communication that might otherwise not have occurred. Of course, they also permitted less laudable things--high-stakes gambling and excessive flirtation, for instance--such that Venetian law regarding mask-wearing became more and more strict.

The Mask for Romance: Of course, one of the reasons such crackdowns were necessary was that masks provided such opportunities for... moral mischief. (Indeed, the Venetians passed laws against wearing masks when visiting convents, to preserve their moral order.) One of the more interesting of these is the moretta. The small oval mask hid only the center of a woman's face, leaving much of its beauty available for view. Women held it in place by grasping a button between their teeth, leading to its nickname of muta. The game for men wishing to woo them was to entreat as best they could, their partner's responses hidden by the mask. Their only way of knowing if, at the end, they'd prevailed upon the lady was if she were willing to remove it.

There's much more, and I could go on for ages on the topic, but that should suffice to show that masks were not always for concealing emotions, hiding humanity, or providing one with an image of hell. As both Irishlaw and the Fool said, "A chacun, son got," but if I ever do hold a masked event, I know one person I'll have to invite.

[1]: Indeed, I'm not certain I agree with Irishlaw that the ghastliness of "The Cask of Amontillado" has anything to do with masks at all, especially their tendency to hide human emotion. While Montressor does indeed don a silk masque and roquelaire to go outside during carnival, he proceeds to his own home. While there is no mention of Fortunato or his murderer ever taking off the masks, there would be no reason to keep wearing them once indoors. On the other hand, the real horror of Montressor comes not from any work of silk, but from what he manages to hide in his face itself:

"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine. He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled. "I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us." "And I to your long life." He again took my arm, and we proceeded. "These vaults," he said, "are extensive." "The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and numerous family." "I forget your arms." "A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel." "And the motto?" "Nemo me impune lacessit." "Good!" he said.

Montressor toasts to the long life of a man he's about to let starve in a crypt, coupling it with a reminder that for his family "No one provokes me with impunity." That portion of the story always struck me most deeply: the ability to hide one's feelings in the face of anger sufficient to inspire murder.

Last Love, First Love

I've not had a lot of luck with airline movies. When I first arrived on the plane today, the line-up didn't look much better: Ben Stiller in the thoroughly pointless Starsky & Hutch; "The Rock" in the thoroughly plotless Walking Tall; and Mike Myers in The Cat and the Hat, the film that set out to prove that The Grinch Who Stole Christmas wasn't such a bad idea--at least by comparison.

Thank goodness the Japanese stuff was better. Indeed, not only better, but positively good, if not great. First Love, Last Love is a simple romance involving a love triangle in which each leg converses in a different language. Min and Lin, two sisters in Shanghai, both fall for the same bit of damaged goods, automotive designer Hayase. However, he can speak to the elder sister only in English, and the younger one only in Japanese.

Mr. Hayase barely wants to speak to either of them at the beginning, however. He's too shellshocked by the fact that his wife and his partner ran off together, leaving him broken and isolated. Indeed, he meets the younger sister at mandatory English lessons, but the elder sister when she saves him from a suicide attempt.

The rest of the story focuses on the interactions between each character's flaws: Hayase's hopelessness, Lin's immaturity, and Min's instictive urge to overprotect those she loves. The plot itself is unexceptional. What carries it forward is the striking rightness of how most of these difficulties are resolved. For instance, at the deepest point of Hayase's funk, he's shamed into action when Min calls him a coward. That spark starts him trying to mend his ways, but it's not like his life turns around because of a speech. Finally he comes across the young truck-driver who loves Lin, his truck stranded in the ditch. And almost immediately, his jacket's off and he's helping to schlep bags of cement, notwithstanding that he's in his suit.

The change is immediate: whatever wreck the rest of his life is, he and the boy have gotten a large truck out of a ditch, a success life can't take away. It's really the first point you see him smile, the point at which his fortunes reverse.

It's these scenes that make the movie: technically it's not much, but what it lacks of the superlative it makes up in the familiar: you know these people. The simlplicity of the dialogue benefits from the multi-lingual love triangle: what might otherwise seem a stilted sequence of love-movie cliches suits a relationship based on limited vocabulary. Some of the non-verbal communication is far better presented, but even where the director shows and doesn't tell there's not a lot that's groundbreaking. Still, it's solidly put-together, the acting isn't half-bad, and if you're looking for a weepy that isn't a waste of ninety minutes of your time, you could do worse.

July 29, 2004

The Internet

I'm on my way home to America today. Hopefully I'll be writing about this from the airport, but if not, my final story of the summer will get typed on the plane and posted on my arrival.

In the meantime, Will Baude and Jeremy Blachman have been having a good ol' time discussing how wonderful it is that blogs bring people together. I'm sceptical about this: the Internet, whatever its wonders, is just a more efficient way of making social networks work. Prior to blogging, there was email, and prior to email I used to write lengthy, hand-written, real-live paper letters. Nonetheless, meeting strange and far-flung people was always a matter of keeping ones ears open for coincidence: the internet just makes this easier.

That's not much of an opinion, really, but I wrote this in order to record what a skeptical friend of mine in England used to say about the matter: "The Internet: bringing people together by keeping them in hundreds of small rooms far apart."

July 27, 2004

New Blogs

I've just emerged from my going-away party, so I'm a bit wobbly, but there's two new blogs that I want to announce before I hit the sack.

First, there's the Blakely Blog, which is doing its damndest to track the fallout from the Blakely decision. The poor fellow's on Blogspot, but we'll see if we can't help him out soon since he's a CLS student.

At the moment he's got a slight problem. If you look at the site, the entries are coming in two columns. I strongly suspect that the problem is an extra DIV tag that's closed somewhere in his page, which closes off the MainClm column and starts putting entries in the right hand column. However, as I said, I'm just back from my going away party. After enough sake to knock out a small sumo wrestler I'm in no shape to hunt duck, wabbits... or. erm, DIV tags.

So, the Three Years of Hell Help the Helper award goes to the first fellow who spots the extra tag, or whatever else the problem may be, and either tells the Blakely Blog, leaves a comment, or tells me. Either that, or the poor blog has to wait until I'm sober. Don't do this to a man who has such a fine site.

The second blog to announce is Civil Dialogue, which has set itself up on Typepad. Two anonymous bloggers have opened up shop to foster civil blogosphere debate. Both have chosen pseudonyms--they haven't listened to my advice about anonymous blogging--and now go by the names J. Dewey and G. Syme.

How could I not give these guys some linkage? After all, one of them has taken the name of the infamous Gabriel Syme, of Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday...

July 25, 2004

EIP Website

Is any other CLS 1L having trouble with the EIP website? It doesn't seem to want to remember my bids. When I get to the stage that I want to rank them, it seems to forget anything I've ever put down and return a blank page.

Since the deadline is tonight at about 3AM my time, this isn't good news.

Update: I've figured out a long and convoluted way to get it to save a bid. (Basically, bid for all your 'A' firms first, then the 'B's, etc.) But the process is monumentally slow, and would be even if the site didn't time out four out of five times. The guys who built this, did they ever hear of load-balancing?

Update II: For those who are interested, I've taken some screenshots of the various problems with this system, and will be posting a site critique in the next few days. Basically the site is poorly designed not designed with efficiency in mind and requires way too much server time to do the simplest things.

Update III: Hmm... curiously, my resume is still listed on the site as 'converting', even though it's been doing so for over two hours. (I went to dinner.) I'd like to believe that the sheer brilliance of the resume dazzled the server into submission, but I'm thinking the process is broken. This does not bode well. If anyone finds a way around this--short of sending the resume in directly, which I've done--please post in the comments.

A bit... Not Homesick, Really, Since New York Is My Home

Sua Sponte writes:

Whatever happened to masked balls? Why'd we stop having them? Talk about a concept that needs reviving. Maybe that'll be the theme for my thirtieth birthday party this January: Masquerade. Extra points to anyone who shows up wearing a veil. (Infinite extra points to anyone who shows up wearing seven.)

Things like this are bringing back pangs of homesickness, or at least reverse-wanderlust. Some of my friends used to love doing masquerades: indeed, one of my going away parties before law school was a masked ball.

Back in middle school, an errant art teacher taught me how to make casts of people's faces and turn them into masks: a sophomoric venture, but one that I still enjoy putting my hand to from time to time. (I am ridiculously bad at painting, drawing, photography, and such arts, and being laughable in that department enjoy anything I can make a passable stab at.) Since then I've made about a dozen or so that I still have here or there, most hanging in my room.

One disadvantage of a dorm: you never really have the ability to throw a party. But a masque sounds a marvelous mystery, and I'd love to hold one. Maybe for my swiftly-approaching thirtieth I'll try to rent some space somewhere and blatantly steal the idea. No idea where I'll get the funding, but needs must...

July 24, 2004

Personal Fault

Maybe the heat is getting to me... I've been in a pretty foul mood lately. It's surprising, because all things considered, things are going relatively well. Life has been a series of ups and downs, but that's normal. EIP is turning out to be a surprising amount of pressure, but it's not a disaster yet. And the series of odd coincidences that is my life are turning a profit at every turn: really, I have little standing to complain. I think it's that I'm ending my last weekend in Tokyo--a place third in my heart only to Kyoto and London--and have to return home to New York, a city I've still not reconciled myself with.

Anyway, I've rubbed some folks up the wrong way recently, and figure it was probably avoidable. (Heidi, if I've annoyed you, consider this an apology.) Whatever awaits back in Manhattan is bearable, even joyful--after all, my friends are there. I should probably, as Mr. Baude would tell me, lighten up.

Today I'm off to see the latest Harry Potter movie with a friend. A little bit of innocent magic wouldn't go amiss, even if I've not seen the first two. If I'm lucky, I remembered to book tickets for the subtitled version, not the dubbed one.

(If you live in Tokyo, by the way, I recommend the Virgin Cinemas at Roppongi Hills. They'll let you book online with a credit card, reserve seats, and it doesn't cost you twice as much as a normal theatre.)

For now, though, must go home to start packing. All good things...

Song Lyric

There a Japanese pop-singer named Melody (near as I can tell the same fairly plastic pretty-face/pretty-voice that makes up most of J-Pop, but someone can correct me if I'm wrong here) who has a habit of interspersing her lyrics quite heavily with English. A little English in a J-Pop song is typical, but her song Believe Me is almost half and half.

For me, this makes listening to it a very interesting experience, like simultaneously interpreting two different conversations. Just when my head's gotten around some Japanese expression, she's back in English throwing out a few words which, alone, mean nothing. Then she's back in Japanese, and I'm trying to figure out how the phrases fit together.

Quite an entertaining way to listen to music. Since a lot of blawgs have taken to mentioning the occasional lyric, here's the refrain of Melody's Believe Me.

I know there's more
教えてよね to feel free
まだ見せてない 見えてない
Believe me
ai wo motto...
この気持ちは in me
Gotta find myself now.

Quite a strange little ditty. I'd translate, but the lyrics aren't impressive in and of themselves. If anyone can suggest other songs of the type, I'd be interested.

The "Passion", Revisited

While I'm on the subject of passion: some of you will remember that I criticized Will Baude for equating a working knowledge of Hayek with skill in the bedroom. Baude has sensibly backed away from his original contention, mainly through a lot of 'you can't say that's what I said' half-measures, but some others have been willing press the particular point that libertarian women are the new Shullamites [1], in particular Amber Taylor:

On topic, can anyone convincingly argue that the ladies of Heritage have as much fun as the Cato crew? I've met people who work at conservative DC think tanks, and the gals who are "waiting for marriage" alone bring down the passion index before we even consider and overall quantity & quality ranking. Even moderate "for thee but not for me" conservatives hurt them in this contest. I can't speak to the passion of left wing ladies in DC, but find Spencer's argument persuasive if not entirely convincing.

Spenser's argument, to save you the trouble of looking:
Give me an ideology that doesn't try to legislate the bedroom AND isn't dampered by political correctness's wet blanket anyday.

And people ask why I don't go to Libertarian events. Will's contention was that any given individual libertarian is more 'passionate' in the bedroom, and yet we get to a question of essentially which of two think tanks have more sex. [2] This is trying to measure a poem with a protractor, and ought to put paid to the libertarian contention right there. Then there's the idea that wanting to 'legislate in the bedroom' makes anyone less interested or skilled therein. This would have puzzling consequences for the concept of sin, but I won't bother with that here.

I thought of giving this line of argument the thorough shellacking it deserves, but realized that I'd been beaten to the punch by C. S. Lewis and his ever-useful Screwtape, speaking to the Tempter's Training College:

Your dreaded Principal has included in a speech full of points something like an apology for the banquet which he has set before us. Well, gentledevils, no one blames him. But it would be in vain to deny that the human souls on whose anguish we have been feasting tonight were of pretty poor quality. Not all the most skillful cookery of our tormentors could make them better than insipid....

Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn't. They all tasted to me like undersexed morons who had blundered or trickled into the wrong beds in automatic response to sexy advertisements, or to make themselves feel modern and emancipated, or to reassure themselves about their virility or their "normalcy," or even because they had nothing else to do. Frankly, to me who have tasted Messalina and Cassanova, they were nauseating.

(from Screwtape Proposes a Toast)

Mere experience with the libertine does not correspond to passion, nor does a knowledge or respect for religion and its strictures remove the passion from one's soul. One would have thought that was obvious, especially for anyone who's read the aforementioned Song of Songs. Of course, that's one of the things that drove me away from libertarianism in the first place: it would be out of place for any gentleman to talk of their libertarian partner's skills in the bedroom, but many of my own have displayed a casual disregard for religious sentiment, a disregard that I've rarely found to be based in much actual knowledge of the subject.

UPDATE: A few links fixed/added, and some typos corrected. And, FWIW, deleted some excess trackbacks.

UPDATE II: Originally the second link above read "a working knowledge of Edmund Burke. As many pointed out (see comments, and I got some emails, and Baude mentions it--see Trackbacks), Burke wasn't a Libertarian. For some reason, the brain said 'Hayek' (who at least I consider Libertarian) and the fingers typed 'Burke.' My mistake.

[1]: As I recall, the Shullamite is the female character in the Song of Songs, and I've seen the name used to refer to the purported authoress. One would think she qualifies for a passionate woman. If I've used it incorrectly here, please excuse me, and corrections are welcome in the comments.

[2]: Of course, I'd not make any statements as to who's actually having more sex, as opposed to speaking of it more, but let's assume for the sake of argument that the Liber(tine/tarian) Lobby has data not at my disposal.

Never Say I Didn't Do Anything for the Democratic Left

This election cycle, the candidates are beginning to get a glimpse of what they could do with the internet, if they'd just get away from the tyranny of the television. And unfortunately, it's the Democrats who are closest to catching the Cluetrain. Dammit, Rove, why aren't you returning my calls?

Exhibit A is the John Kerry for President News Reader, a nifty little app that sits in your in tray and informs you whenever there's something new from the Kerry Blog or his left-wing mouthpieces. As if you're some obsessed teenager and he's your favorite pop star.

The internet's great strength as a technology--as a social technology, not just RSS, XML, and any other acronym you care to spout--is that it generates a sense of involvement, participation, interest. The viewer is an active participant, and with the right tools you can make him part of the team. Dean did so well because out of every ten Dean voters he'd earned a disciple, a 'Deaniac' who even now isn't quite reconciled with the square-jawed cookie-cutter from Massachusetts. (Ambimb, anyone?) That kind of--dare I say it--passion doesn't come from TV ads, even if your teeth gleam like John Edwards.

(Link from Dennis Kennedy)

Heart on Sleeve, But What A Heart...

Y'know how I don't normally say anything that personal around these parts? Well, my opposite in this area is probably Scheherezade, whose blog is pretty much a chunk of her being ripped out and served up raw on a web page. She'll get herself in trouble one of these days, but in the meantime, it's quite a ride. Take this, after a long story of her becoming a boat owner:

For me it was a quiet revelation. I never asked anyone except family or the very closest of friends for help with things like this. I'd always been uncomfortable and extremely apologetic borrowing things from neighbors, finding rides to or from the airport, or asking a friend to help me move a sofa. The casual way Meg solved our problems by recruiting advice or spare hands or tools from our circle of sailing buddies astonished me. And what amazed me even more was how much people enjoyed helping us out. They would drop by, get involved, and stay for a long time. They liked giving us advice and showing us how to handle things. They OFFERED help and I began to realize they meant it. We became closer to the whole sailing community. They were rooting for us. Somehow asking people to go out of their way for us made us more part of the group, not less.

A very worthwhile lesson. Of course, it's worth pointing out that the flipside of this is the requirement to help others when they ask, especially when they lack the knowledge, skills, or equipment that you have--and she's always proven willing to do that. One reason I always try to give a hand whenever someone's got a computer problem: I figure given the help I've received getting this far, I owe the universe a few resurrections from the Blue Screen of Death...

July 23, 2004

Knew I Was Missing Something...

Oh dear. Y'know, it's a pretty bad sign that I've reached this point in my legal academic career and still don't have anything more than my moot court brief that I'd want to use as a writing sample. Whilst I've done a lot of good legal work over the summer, none of it involved the writing of particularly complex memoranda that distills into interview material.

Any suggestions?

July 22, 2004


My fellow CLS classmate Serious Law Student has been blogging up a storm about the Early Interview Program, and I'll leave it to her to describe the ins and outs of the process. (Basically, we have to choose 30 employers to 'bid' for, and Career Services will set up a whole load of interviews.) For those of you who are rising 1Ls, here's the one thing you have to know about the process at this point: it's responsible for the compression of law school into a single job-relevant year.

Most people will end up employed by whichever firm chooses them--or, optimistically, they choose--for employment after their second year. This decision is made during the first term of the second year, after interviews that take place starting in August.

Some people will think it's strange that I'm even bothering to publicize this, but I'm sure there will be rising 1Ls out there who don't know this. I didn't when I started. The conclusion is obvious: many of your final employers will only ever see your first year grades. This is the origin of 90% of 1L stress. (Number not scientifically verified.)

I have no idea who came up with this system, although I've heard many people when describing it express a wish that they could shake his hand. With a doberman.

Over the last few days I've been indulging in a rather elegant firm-choosing strategy. Sure, I've done a fair amount of NALP/Vault/etc. research on each firm. But I'm actually judging them the same way I've learned about almost all my previous employers: reputation. Simply put, I've sent out a lot of emails, talked to a lot of contacts, and listened hard to what they said.

A lot of the time, what they've said has jibed with my own views from firm dinners. At some of these I've found myself speaking mostly to students, whilst the partners' eyes sparkled with the more laddish gentleman. These firms are probably lovely for a certain demographic--played rugby in college, knows who the leader of the American League East is--but sadly aren't for me. On the other hand, once or twice I've met partners who had my kind of focus, or who had travelled erratically, or had some crazy life experience that you couldn't stop them from sharing. These folks impressed me greatly, and I've looked closer into their firms. Mostly, I've liked what I found.

I say this only because like Serious, I find that the statistical information in Vault or NALP (two directories of lawyers, for those not savvying the lingo) is ambiguous at best, and the descriptions... well, let's just say I'd hate to be the staff writer forced to look through the Britannica-sized volume that is NALP and told I must find some new way to say, "Our firm values diversity of race, sex, and orientation, whilst attempting to achieve the proper balance between life, work, and of course our commitment to pro bono..."

July 19, 2004

Conversion of Interests

Right, I've stayed up late enough tonight trying to deal with the Early Interview Process, in which newly-minted 2Ls try to select an employer who will select them as a fledgling attorney. I'll write about the process later, but it's driven me crazy enough that my brain's free-associating.

One of my best friends at CLS is thinks goats are sweet and fluffy.

Heidi Bond, of Letters of Marque, is obsessed with chickens and the horrible things that happen to them.

And I, of course, have a fondness for diabolic metaphor.

Only appropriate, therefore, that I should link to the present Goats storyline, in which Diablo the Satanic Chicken starts making up history again.

A bit of a change

If you're looking at this blog under the "Three Years of Hell Classic" skin, you may notice a slight change to the upper left-hand corner of the site.

I've decided that it's time to declare 1L year over. It's been a blast, and I hope you've had at least half as good a time reading as I have writing. Welcome to year two.

Quality Control

Wow. I just re-read what I wrote about climbing Fuji. Besides some pretty horrible spelling/grammar errors, it contains nothing near a coherent narrative. Any of my readers who've climbed Fuji will probably have a good idea what I'm talking about, but otherwise, where's the description, the imagery, something to give you an idea of the environment?

I'll put it down to tiredness, but I promise to do better next time: at least some useful descriptive context.

July 18, 2004

But do they provide free condiments in schools?

And here I've come across the hot new dinner table item for conservative familys. Worried that with every hamburger on your backyard barbeque, you're supporting the Heinz family, and thus the Kerry campaign? Well, now there's:

W Ketchup: You Don't Support Democrats, Why Should Your Ketchup?

I leave the pithy quote as an exercise for the reader. I mean, really, this is too easy.

Defeated By Fuji

Whatever they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men, the last forty-eight hours had nothing to do with them. I didn't reach the summit of Fuji, though I did make it within eyeshot. I barely saw the dawn. And unfortunately, there's no pictures.

What I did get was one heck of a cold, a respect for the harshness of nature, and six hours of utter misery. Oh, and a need to say thanks to a U.S. Marine.

The trip started well. The bus got me to the base of Fuji about nightfall, and I joined a group of missionaries who were a bit better prepared. (One nice thing about travelling on one's own--you meet people.) I had on three shirts, two pairs of jeans, some gloves, and a hat. The weather seemed mild, and the ascent was easy all the way to the seventh stage. (Fuji has eight stages, with the summit slightly past the eighth.) The fact that my flashlight burnt out wasn't a major killer, because with several thousand Japanese making the same ascent, light wasn't much of a problem.

(An image that will stay with me forever--looking down the slope from the sixth stage, observing the trail of walkers in the darkness. They formed a slowly ascending river of flashlights, like a highly organized firefly migration.)

About the middle of the seventh stage, it started to get cold. This was nothing I wasn't prepared for: I put on my final shirt, and wrapped an old t-shirt around my head to keep my ears and back warm. Yes, this looks pretty stupid, but it works quite well, and it wasn't like I was trying to impress with my fashion sense. Though the wind was picking up, I barely felt it through three layers of shirt.

Then the wind really began.

One of the astounding things about Fuji is that even with three thousand people per day attempting the ascent, there's not a lot of official help up there. Sure, there's guest houses, but unless you have a reservation they'll be of no avail: they won't even let you in the door. And whilst I wasn't kitted up like a lot of the Japanese making the ascent--covered head to foot in really quite significant climbing gear--I was a lot better off than some of the people up there.

Nonetheless, I spent three hours huddled in a windbreak near the Mt. Fuji Hotel (which is nothing like a hotel, to be honest), loving it every time someone opened the door and some of the heat escaped. At times I thought I was going to get close to hypothermia. I surely needed warm food.

At this point, a U.S. Marine--one of a number who were climbing that day as a part of a 'friendship hike' with some Japanese natives--passed by and offered me a windbreaker. I've got his name, his post address, and he's getting that windbreaker back with a very nice gift, because it probably saved me from frostbite.

By the time I got towards the last few huts, before the final ascent, it was 2 AM. The wind had gone from merely dangerous to a full-blown storm: those were thirty mile winds if they were a breeze. I was afraid to keep going upwards: the black rocks shone slick and sharp, and if I injured myself, I had no idea how to get down.

I certainly wasn't getting the worst of it. Outside of the last two huts--which wouldn't let anyone in without a reservation--people were huddling for warmth and shelter wherever they could get it. One woman--a tourist of unbelievable naivety--was up there in jeans and a t-shirt. Her legs seemed almost blue, and I worried that she might not make it through the night.

In any event, when it came time for the final ascent it had begun to rain, and I simply couldn't make it. The wind had yet to die down, my legs were soaked... there was no way I'd go any further. I could barely see the top through the mist. Sun rose for me outside a hut my the eighth station, and it wasn't as if I could even see it: the cloud cover was too thick.

And yet the descent... it takes quite a while, and goes own a long, winding route completely different and much safer than the one you climb. And after the sun rose, the wind began to die and the air began to warm itself. Gradually I shed wet clothing, until finally at the bus I was down to two shirts.

And the view... it's beautiful. A companion I met on the way promised to send me some pictures, and if I get them I'll post them.

All in all, I probably won't try that again, and if I do, I'll spend the vast amounts of money it takes to equip myself correctly. The morning was lovely, but it was a very long, cold night.

[I know this entry is rather disjointed, and would like to blame lack of sleep. I'll re-edit it when I've had sufficient rest to recover from this venture.]

Beasts on Beauty

Will Baude agrees that his experience matches Radley Balko's:

Based on personal experience . . . . I can say without reservation that in D.C. at least, libertarian women are head and shoulders more attractive, sexier, smarter, and more passionate than politically-conscious women of other philosophical stripes.

You have got to be kidding me. Let me take a brief moment to say that one's particular political orientation has nothing, and I do mean nothing, to do with physical attractiveness, sexual attractiveness, or particularly passion. Having a political orientation of one means or another may help in the passion department--being passionate about one thing often leads to passion for others--but what that passion is means very little at all.

UPDATE: Amber decides that "Anthony Rickey should understand that "passion" is obviously code for some other aspect of libertarian women that Mr. Balko saw fit not to spell out." For the subtlety-impaired, perhaps I should just put in big bold letters that yes, when I say passion above, I'm talking about sex. The idea that one's skill in the sack is somehow correlated with one's political orientation ridiculous, and crying out that "Not only are we right--we're better in bed, too" has a none-too-mature ring to it.

July 16, 2004

The Unprepared and Mount Fuji

A brief tale: shortly after my second year at Oxford, I got invited on a camping trip by some of my friends. We'd go punting up the Cherwell, moor the boats on a bankside, make a campfire and... well, mainly sit around drinking and looking at the stars. Not a bad evening, actually.

My stuff was packed in boxes waiting to be shipped home or put into storage, so I asked my friends if they had sufficient supplies. "Oh, yeah," said J., "Sure." They had sleeping backs, blankets, and we'd stop off and get food...

What we actually got was soft drinks and a lot of wine. No one had brought a flashlight. Our bed equipment consisted of two sleeping bags, a long overcoat, and a curtain that had gotten wet in the bottom of the punt. And all this for five people. The most useful thing brought along, actually, was a bayonet, which ended up functioning as stake, axe, cooking implement, and occasionally dinner utensil. Really, bayonets seem much more versatile implements than you might expect. Do not ask why anyone would bring a bayonet camping. Preparation for unexpected attack of the Napoleonic Hordes, I suppose.

Anyway, that was my night spent shivering in a wet curtain, lying on a bed of nettles. I mention this because tomorrow I'm going to attempt a climb of Mt. Fuji. For this kind of trip they normally propose a jacket, a flashlight, and many other pieces of equipment which I lack. Some of these I'll buy, but for many I intend to simply 'make do': instead of a jacket, it's layers of shirts and pants. My quickly-deteriorating shoulder pack in which I normally carry my computer will cover for a real rucksack.

Thankfully, while I may not be the strongest or the quickest thing around, I've inherited my father's persistence. With a walking stick in my hand, a flashlight in the other, and my pack on my back, I'm confident I'll make it to the top if all it takes is the persistent slinging of one foot in front of the other.

Mt. Fuji has the highest post-office in Japan at its summit, so some postcards are getting mailed Sunday morning. What it does not have in profusion, however, is net access, so you may not see me until I've pictures of sunrise from the summit.

Movie Bewonderment

So, I've been complaining about the I, Robot movie for a while now. Some, on the other hand, are taking an opportunity to opine. Today I got an email from a fellow at the Singularity Institute who thought I might like to check out the Three Laws Unsafe website he's started. Supposedly it's to discuss whether robots based on Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics would be ethical. I have no idea who's behind it, if it's a movie hype machine, an honest research group, or a parody, but maybe someone wants to take a look.

In other news, I just saw Spiderman 2 over here. I was impressed. Okay, you could summarize the plot on an index card and still have room for your grandmother's souffle recipe, but the action and effects were great. And of course, all the shots of Columbia made me just a bit homesick.

July 14, 2004

In The Realm of the Senses

The next few days are going to be full of meeting old friends and mentors, running at the gym, and generally getting life in order. I actually started writing a couple of rather argumentative pieces today, and just found my heart wasn't in it. The world's too full, the city calls, and at the end of the day, there's no point in paying web cafe charges at the moment. You may not see much of me until the weekend.

Blogger Survivor

I really like De Novo, and not just because I used to have administrative access to it. But for the next few weeks they've invited a lot of guests and are now running 'Blogger Survivor.'

May I just point out that one good reason for blogging is that it allows you to escape the drivel that is Reality TV? Jeremy, PG, Chris, Nick, why oh why?

Nonetheless, if you're the type who likes such things, click the link above and vote now. Cripes, if this takes off, I'll have to start Blogger Banzai just to mock it.

July 13, 2004


So yesterday, I'm sitting here in an internet cafe trying to get some business for the Early Interview Program finished, and I realize that I've got three instant messenger windows open. I'm chatting to a friend in New York, another in London, and a fellow in California. As the result of one conversation, I'm staring at the prices of tickets from the UK to Japan, information I've been able to get in seconds.

And I'm in an cafe with an old salaryman sleeping next to me. This is why I love the 'net.

July 11, 2004

How Does One Say This?

I feel I ought to note this down, but after four days of trying to write an entry that sounded witty, nonchalant, humble, humourous, and exciting, I decided just to give up and say it straight.

I have been accepted to Law Review.

Hence the new category. In any event, since my friend and fellow Columbia blogger the Serious Law Student wonders if this means 1L is over, I'll have to say I'm inclined to say yes. Stay tuned for some layout changes around here.

Love and Other Subjects for Legal Articles

Know what a love hotel is? Well, over at the Social Science Research Network, Mark West of the University of Michigan Law School wants to tell you:

Throughout Japan, people frequent hotels at which the primary purpose is not sleep, but sex. Although some establishments offer such non-sexual amenities as tanning beds, fitness equipment, and large-screen televisions, there is little question that the raison d'etre of a love hotel is, well, love (or something like it). In this Article, based largely on field observation, interview data, and quantitative analysis, I show that law has played an important but unrecognized role in the development of the love hotel industry (determining love hotel population, location, and form), and by default in the sex lives of many people in Japan.

In all honesty, not a bad piece, but if this guy got paid to do his "field observation" then I immediately nominate him for the Lucky Bastard Law Professor Award. Well worth downloading, anyway.

Moore Is Better

Some people say that I never have a nice thing to say about my adversaries. This is untrue, of course: I say nice things when they deserve them, one of which I will say now about Michael Moore. Until Spiderman took the weight off his shoulders, the slovenly storyteller kept White Chicks from being number one at the box office. (According to IMDB.) Go Mike! Maybe the fat bastard has a purpose after all.

And I think I can say without fear of contradiction that even if every accusation raised against Moore's reporting is true, Farenheit 9/11 can't get further from its source material than Will Smith's incredibly misnamed I, Robot. Well, unless you consider the source material to be Bradbury's original, but Bradbury thought freedom burned almost 500 degrees colder than Mr. Moore does. Maybe Moore is iimplying Bush has made freedom that much more resistant.

Mike, here's hoping you humble Mr. Smith, too!

July 10, 2004


I'm in Kyoto for my one-weekend lightning vacation. There's quite a lot to say, but it's all a well of emotions at the moment: memories striking every time I turn a corner, shocks of recognition that start at the base of the spine. I'd write it up now, but I'm still in the middle of it, and you'd get nothing but a muddle.

For a taste of what I mean, though I almost panicked today when I thought that my favorite tea shop--the one with the magnificent carp pond--had been closed down. Just wandering away from Gion the thoughts spiralled: one of my fondest memories has vanished; this means that--how very Heian of me--all such pleasures are ephemeral; and then finally a horrible feeling that I am just about to turn thirty. As I started wandering towards Kodaiji I was practically fitting myself up for my inevitable coffin or wondering what it would take to get them to put my imminent ashes in the local cemetary when my ears picked up and I realized I'd left Gion park too early: I'd been looking on the wrong street.

Thus, a sweltering morning thick with the morning's rains was spent croched on a bench, staring at the slow meanderings of fish that must have been half my own size. Over a cup of tea I watched a spider slowly spin his morning web, unaware that the more energetic of the carp were waiting for him to get just that bit closer to the water. Believe it or not, this is the sort of thing that brings me the most joy.

Since I walk like a demon, I've covered more of Kyoto than is probably healthy, and there's much more to tell, but it's time to go out into the town. In the meantime, there's only one thing weighing heavy on my mind. It's very difficult to travel alone. When I wandered into Nonomiya and remembered how it features in the Tale of Genji, I wanted to whisper about it to someone next to me. When the sun was setting over the bridge in Arashiyama, I wanted to jabber on about the poetry which features just such moments. And this morning in that coffee shop, I would have given just about anything to be holding my girlfriend's hand.

Sappy, but true. The trouble with joy is that when you get full of it, it's almost painful not to share.

July 08, 2004

Let's Out The Dogs of War?

Chris Geidner writes a piece which, although he later backpedals a bit, does seem rather more positive on the politics of 'outing' gay politicians and their employees than I would have expected. It's personal and emotional, which makes for compelling reading, but in the end it seems fundamentally dissatisfying. To illustrate why I would say this, let me lead with a wholly heterosexual vignette.

When I was working at a large Japanese firm in Osaka, I was seconded into one of their various departments, and was only on my first or second day when a minor scandal erupted. A young man in the department had presented the Department Chief with a letter, was doing much formal bowing, and the Department Chief was making some rather shocked, then angry, then flustered statements.

The letter in question was a wedding invitation. It turns out that the young man had been dating the woman who sat across from him--one of the section secretaries--for more than a year. Company policy would have been for the woman to be moved to another division to avoid any potential conflicts. Because they enjoyed working together, they concocted a rather elaborate scheme of bickering with one another, making rude comments, and keeping a certain distance. Strange as such behavior might seem, I gather that it worked: only one member of their workgroup, a close friend, knew of the engagement before the announcement.

I mention this because it was a beautiful and strangely affecting scene. The Chief was both happy and frustrated--he was supposed to know what was going on, wasn't he? The young man was alternately nervous, repentant, and I think just a little bit smug that they'd managed to pull it off. And the woman was... well, let's just say she had the most beautiful eyes when she looked at him.

Now, suppose I had known about the relationship before I arrived, because I'd happened to see this couple emerging from a Sakuranomiya love hotel. (The ways in which couples can carry on clandestine affairs in Japan is itself a wonderful topic for another day.) Most of the arguments for outing would come into play: obviously, their workgroup may have a right to know because others might suspect the groom-to-be of playing favorites in assigning his lover her work. Outing would have been in line with policy. I'm sure someone could come up with a scenario in which, as a member of the Administrative Division, I would have been ethically obliged to reveal their relationship. Heck, my section was probably the one that made the rule.

It would also have been deeply, deeply ugly.

I'm quite happy to say I oppose outing not because of any particular discrimination between homosexuals and heterosexuals, but because announcing someone's romantic preferences to the world is in general a reprehensible act. That counts for same-sex relationships just as much as heterosexual ones. Indeed, I've been worried ever since I first mentioned the occasional happy discussion of my romantic life. Were my relationships to be 'outed' I would not take it kindly. And were it to be done without my ever mentioning a lady in question? I hope Chris would not find it in his heart to sanction that.

But of course, even Chris admits that kindness is the only factor involved in such things:

Then, there's the anger. Outing helps right a fundamental unfairness placed upon the shoulders of a large segment of the LGBT population that is avoided by some who choose to avoid the sticky areas in which their sexuality might raise "issues." Through their positions of privilege or ability to be "straight-acting" (please, don't get me started), these people will go to the bars (as Pete Williams had) and enjoy many of the benefits of "gay living" -- all the while living a straight-laced life (with all its benefits) amongst anti-gay individuals (or even by advancing anti-gay causes).

But this is the 'with us or against us' attitude common to so many activists of however many stripes which quickly becomes a thinly-veiled excuse for hurting individuals. Suppose that we have the worst-case scenario: a homosexual Legislative Assistant (LA) working for Senator Homophobe on his bill to introduce the FMA. What, precisely, does this LA owe to someone who is also homosexual? While his sexuality may define who it is he loves, it certainly doesn't paint him with some obligation to some arbitrary community with which he may or may not choose to identify.

Indeed, the entire concept of outing seems based on the idea that one's sexuality must define one's opinions: "I am gay, and thus I must oppose the FMA and support ACTUP." Otherwise the implicit charge of hypocrisy wouldn't be worth making in the first place: if you don't think there's 'right' view for one to hold, it would be as useful as 'outing' Phil Gramm as a Republican. But despite Chris' protestations otherwise, there's nothing inherently contradictory about supporting the FMA and being homosexual: such a position would be non-standard, but is hardly logically indefensible. Indeed, what if the person in question were just to answer back, "I didn't consider it an anti-gay issue, whatever that may be"? What the heck was all of this "rights" stuff about if it wasn't about the right to individual opinions? And if one has a right to those, are there certain opinions that mean one gives up one's ability to conduct romantic affairs in private?

"But I am suffering, and he is not, and this is unfair." I suppose it's a point of view, and one suitable to one who is angry, but not one that elicits much sympathy from me. Such unfairness is certainly not 'fundamental,' unless one posits that one's point of view is the fundamental center from which such things must be judged.

The above should be the end of the article, and unless you're worried about a particular detail, quit reading here. But I'm sure that someone will chime in, and quickly, with something about our former president's peccadillos with a charming White House intern, and how this proves that all Republicans are hypocrits or some other such, and I feel the need to nip that in the bud.

There are two points which distinguish Clinton from the discussion of outing above. First of all, nothing I say above should be taken to apply within the realms of a lawsuit. Bill Clinton's sex life came out in the context of a sexual harassment lawsuit, and that makes a world of difference.

Now, I'm on record from years ago as stating that the best thing Republicans could have done with the whole Lewinsky affair would have been to use the political capital it gave us to reform sexual harassment law, instead of poking a wounded but undying bear. Paula Jones should not have had the right to trawl through Clinton's entire sexual history as a part of her discovery process, and I would love to see federal and state law amended to prevent that. But so long as it was part of a lawsuit, and Congress or a state legislature has ordained that such things are part of a public record, then so be it. We can change those laws, after all.

So I suppose if those wishing to 'out' public figures had wished to charge them with sodomy--if they were in jurisdictions where they could be charged--I'd have no major objection, although I'd question their tactics. (After all, accusing a single individual of sodomy after a night at a gay bar exposes a lot of other folks to a potential dragnet.) Nonetheless, post-Lawrence that option seems foreclosed.

Secondly, Clinton's travails came within the context of adultery. (Well, OK, it depends on how your adultery statute is defined and where exactly he was sticking his 'cigar,' but you get my drift.) Chris is fond of a looser, less traditional definition of marriage than I am, even outside of the sexuality issues involved: I, for instance, think love is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for legal marriage, while his website happily proclaims "marriage is love." Nonetheless, we both would agree that marriage is a public institution entered into in the full light of the law. Adultery can be brought to light in divorce proceedings and become, as a certain Illinois senate candidate now knows, public knowledge. But so long as homosexuals are not getting married, that reasoning simply doesn't apply. I suppose outing a married politician may be seen differently.

All in all, I'd be happier if Clinton's sex life hadn't become public. Nonetheless, there are different issues here than are involved with the standard 'outing': a lawsuit, marriage, what have you. In cases where those two factors are implicated, I suppose it's fair game. Otherwise, I simply don't think that anger is a sufficient justification.

Quick note

I don't have much time to write tonight: I've been spending my time catching up on correspondence and studying Japanese. But suffice it to say all is well: my work couldn't be more interesting, the week has been chock-full of social engagements, and I'm getting to the gym at least twice a week, which doesn't seem bad.

This weekend I'm going to Kyoto. Several years ago, when I lived in Osaka, I used to travel to Kyoto every few weeks and wander about. It's a place where my heart feels oddly at rest. But I fear this weekend will be a lightning trip to try to revisit all the places I loved before. Among these are:
Kiyomizudera: Probably the most famous temple in Kyoto, it's also the source of a famous expression. The platform at Kiyomizudera drops several hundred feet, which leads to the old saying, "To tumble from the platform at Kiyomizu." It's sort of the equivalent of 'crossing the Rubicon.'
Arashiyama: On the outskirts of Kyoto, this small collection of temples and tourist areas doesn't get the traffic that the rest of Kyoto does, which makes it particularly beautiful. I'm hoping I can get out there on Sunday morning, quite early, when the sun is barely showing over the mountains.
The Unknown Teashop: But mostly, I want to return to this little teashop that sits between Kiyomizudera and Gion, a real hole in the wall that you might not find if you weren't looking for it. It's got a beautiful back garden with a carp pond so full that it might be better described as a pile of fish with a little water sprinkled over the top. Tokyo commuters who have been very bad in this life are, I think, liable to be reincarnated in that pond.

On Saturday, when the heat is at its highest and I'm sipping a cold drink and looking out over that garden... I hope to be a very happy man.

It appears that congratulations are in order

Unlearned Hand has something to say about his weekend activities. Of course, he says it in pictures, so we may need some interpretation.

Either he's making an editorial comment that even a lawyer is capable of picking out good jewelry, or he's not-so-subtly hinting that the lady said yes. Congrats, mate.

July 06, 2004

Will Baude Would Have So Much Less Fun In Osaka, It's Lucky He Doesn't Speak Japanese

Will Baude questions how to get onto the least-crowded subway car on a metro station, based upon where the stairs are. He's playing around with the DC Metro, which whilst cleaner than New York's, is still a chaotic ant-hill designed by overly-hyper children compared to the sheer reason that is Japanese public transport. The explanation below will make more sense if you read his long and convoluted game-theory argument, but suffice it to say that planners in Osaka thought ahead of Mr. Baude and solved the problem already.

OK, the organization is less apparent in Tokyo than in Osaka, but it was immediately obvious on the old Hankyu line on which I commuted for a year. At the first stop--Takarazuka--the stairs came down right in front of the exits to the first train. At the next stop, the train from the upstairs platform was staggered by the length of a train car--meaning that the stairs came down in front of the second car. And so on, and so on, all the way to Umeda station (if it was a direct, express train) in which the main platform was right in front of the last car. Because of this, the natural momentum of passengers, and their habit of entering a car which was near the stairs, usually because they arrived just before the train was leaving, cars filled up in a gradual, logical, and ordered procession.

You can notice the same kind of system in the construction of the Tokyo metro, although it's a bit more convoluted and there are exceptions. (This is to be expected in places where there are more than two exits, and a number of complex levels above the station.) Nonetheless, station design normally looks like it's been planned with the movement of passengers in mind, which is a big change from what I recall in D.C.

July 05, 2004

Grades have come in

Ah yes, worth noting that grades have come in. I'm not going to set the world on fire, but then, I'm not dropping out in abject despair, either. That's about all that can be said.

I suppose I should take down the Exam Stress Advisory...

Someone Get This Guy Out of Here

Once again, it's Mr. Slaughter at the Filibuster, embarassing my university with ridiculous assertions:

The Patriotism of Sacrifice - Ask any Freeper their opinion of America, and they'll tell you it's the greatest country on earth. Yet, ask if they want to give a little more of their time or money to help the US and they start crying that the mean-old government is taking away their lollipop. Of all the deceptions and machinations of the right, this is the foulest of all: professing undying love of America but only thinking of themselves. At its core, that is treachery. The Dems need to start saying that any attempt to starve the government by way of deficits, any move to allow companies to dodge taxes, any bill that cuts pensions to vets and wounded troops is nothing less than stabbing America in its heart. The highest act of patriotism is giving of oneself to protect and preserve one's country, and its time the Dems starting reminding the GOP that real patriotism isn't as easy as waving a flag and putting united we stand on the bumper of their hummer.

Why thank you, Mr. Sanctimonious. (God, I hate the fact that Republicans always get stereotyped as gas-guzzling fiends. I mean, hell, Kerry's got how many SUVs, and the last car I owned got nearly 40 to the gallon?) If this guy's anything to go by, Kerry's plan to bring the country together involves accusing an entire political philosophy of treachery and hard-heartedness. Of course, this guy isn't anything to go by in judging Kerry, any more than right-wing kooks are good judges of what GW is going to do. Then again, most of the right-wing fanatics don't write under the brand of a major Ivy League university.

Look, if you can't make the distinction between being asked if you'd like to volunteer your time and effort to help the country, and whether you wish to be forced to do so by government fiat, you have no business being 'editor' of anything to do with 'political review.' If as 'editor' you spend your time charicaturing your opponents--whilst being hosted by a 'non-partisan' review--it's even more... what was his word? Oh, yes... foul. Foul in every possible sense of the term, actually.

For a while I found these guys funny in a tacky youth sort of way. Now they're simply embarassing.

UPDATE: For those who really care about such things, I've made a number of stylistic changes to this article in the last five minutes, including a change to the title. Not much of the argument changed, but I wanted to flesh things out a bit, and alter the tone a little.

July 04, 2004

OK, OK, I shouldn't get such joy from this...

It appears that a Catholic lawyer is filing charges of heresy against John Kerry in an ecclesiastical court. This probably won't go anywhere, but for one brief, shining moment, how joyous!

I sure I'm going to get all sorts of guff about Kerry-hating, but look, that's not it. I spent some of my time last term reading Maitland's Forms of Action, a great deal of which dealt with church courts and charges that evolved out of them. Just looking into this story is like a blast from the past. I mean, I don't care if Kerry gets excommunicated or not--unlikely anyway, and since I'm not Catholic, it ain't my problem--but if court-watching is a spectator sport, how often do you get to indulge in this particular arena?

Rites of Passage

Does anyone know when we 1Ls officially become/became 2Ls? I've got some site changes that are ready to go on one or two of the templates here, but I don't want to implement them until it's official...

Evil. Evil. Spam Them to Death

Normally I ignore pop-up ads, but today one sprung up saying, "Win a free Ipod Mini." Supposedly this pop-up was sponsored by Fedex and Amazon.com, two brands with a lot to gain. Curious, I decided to click through.

Oooh boy. First there's a survey asking if you wanted an information on a hundred thousand offers of the kind you normally get spam for: free university degrees, home mortgages, etc. Then, finally, after the whole shebang is done, you're handed this page, on which you must sign up for at least five of the "listed offers below." Do so, and you might get an Ipod Mini, if supplies have lasted. No note I could find of how many are supplied.

OK, OK, I know: it's not shocking that something like this exists on the web, given that it's pretty clearly an attempt to sucker a lot of very gullible people. But it's still pretty obnoxious to see what's on the other side of some popup ads. I wonder if the original ad really had anything to do with Amazon, or if they just stole the logo.

Solum on Justice(s)

Lawrence Solum comments on our current justices, the rule of law, and whether we should have 19 of them. Well worth a read:

The core of my point is simple: a results-oriented, closely-divided court poses grave dangers for the rule of law--dangers that are greater than those posed by a either results orientation or close division alone.

My thoughts on the matter? Future Con Law students will hate anyone who raises the number of justices they have to memorize by that amount.

Evolving Norms of Blogging

Here's a question for the legal blogosphere. Where did these two common 'norms' of blogging come from?
1.: If you post something, you should leave it up unchanged, making additional points only with "UPDATE" comments at the end. Removing a conversation entirely is at least presumptively verboten.
2.: Editing a reader's comments in your blog should be limited to removing spam, offensive comments, and (perhaps) bad language.

I ask this because while they seem to have evolved and become general "rules" (at least within certain sections of the blogosphere), I have no idea from whence they came. Somewhere between blogging's proto-technologies (BBS systems, for instance) and the development of the current communities, the rules changed.

Mostly, I'm writing in response to this entry at Lawdork, where Chris says:

What is a blog but a place to open up your thoughts to the evalution of others?

What are comments but a place to respond to another blogger's thoughts?

In other words: If you post it, live with it. (That's what [UPDATE] is for.) If you have comments, only remove unacceptably offensive comments and spam. (If comments disagreeing with you are that unacceptable, get rid of comments.)

I can certainly see the prudential reasons for either mode of behavior. An author/editor who frequently takes down conversations is not going to have many future participants. (Fewer people will commit the time to write if they know their words are going to be 'lost.') Similarly, someone who frequently edits a reader's comments is going to get a bad rep pretty quickly, especially if the editing is egregious. Cries of "That's not what I said" will ring pretty loudly in the ears of other users.

But BBS systems--at least those I used back in the late 80s--generally handled this in a more trust-based manner than considering them rules of behavior. That you could trust someone to treat your words well was a mark of why you posted on their site, but it was his site. This wasn't a bad thing, either: moderators of some boards I was on did exactly what their name described. They cooled down the conversation on the boards and eliminated whole threads that threatened to get rid of an air of comity between regular users.

Similarly, some board owners would kill threads just because they felt the topics were to old, too boring, or would spiral out of control. The general concept was that the place maintained by the BBS owner was his: you were guests who were there at his invitation, and his grace. Chris, from his comments, seems to think differently:

If you think of blogs as unedited books or rough drafts (private things), then I suppose it doesn't matter if you delete things. I, however, think of blogs as public places, where you are voluntarily opening yourself up to the support or criticism of others.

I think this is particularly so in the case of blogs that have comments, which is an explicit request for commentary on your writing. To delete comments with which you disagree or to change your post in light of those (or e-mailed or real-life) comments -- as opposed to updating it -- seems to me to be something very unfair to the idea of putting your ideas out for others to read and comment upon.

This isn't to pick on Chris: I don't think his views on this are at all unique to him, and they simply differ from my own. I wonder if somewhere along the evolution of pre-Web bulletin-board systems (generally hosted in someone's home, and quite an expense to own and operate) into the much more open and easy Blogspot-style space, the popular consciousness shifted. Personal webspace became somehow 'public,' and comments weren't the words of guests attending a rather large dinner party, but rather something belonging to the reader by right.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Early last term, a fellow blogger posted something that I felt was somewhat unwise: a less-than flattering description of some of our real-life friends. When the subjects of his piece found the blog, they left some less-than-flattering comments. In a bit of advice, I said it would be perfectly proper just to pull the entry: it certainly wasn't doing any good, it was causing anger and resentment among people who had to work together in real life, and it was distracting from what was otherwise a very good blog. I didn't see any reason not to bury it.

Now, it would seem my advice goes entirely against what Chris considers to be "good blogging." And I'm sure there's others who agree with him. So to my fellow blog-readers and writers out there, I'd like to ask two questions:
a) Would you consider these to be rules of behavior, or just something more like a prudent guideline?
b) Where have you gotten the "rules" by which you guide your online postings?

As I said, I'm eager to find out.

How to Confuse the Japanese Service Industry

So this weekend I wandered over to Kaminarimon (Gate of Thunder and Lightning), near Asakusa. I was supposed to get together with a classmate at the station. As neither of us had been there in several years and couldn't think of a meeting place, we came up with a 'foolproof' plan: meet at Exit #1.

This plan failed pretty miserably. There are in fact two Asakusa stations, the normal subway station and one belonging to a private line. Needless to say, she arrived at one, and went to Exit #A1, while I went to the normal Exit #1. Never did catch up with her. If I thought about it again, I'd just suggest meeting up next to Kaminarimon. So much for my skill at planning.

The pictures from the trip should be on the site shortly, as well as those from my excursion to Harajuku. In the meantime, a small vignette. One of the entertaining things about Japan is that in almost all social situations, tipping is not required. Indeed, some will find it positively confusing, including those who take your order at coffee shops. (My custom is to tip the remainder of the dollar in change, unless that amount is so small as to be ridiculous.)

But as I was waiting outside of Asakusa Station yesterday, there was a very old lady hunkered down across the alley, surrounded by boxes, vials, bottles, and jars of shoe-polish. Since I'd not seen anywhere to get my shoes shined in Japan thus far, I figured that 500 yen was a steal.

And it was. For the next ten minutes this obaachan fiddled about with my shoes, muttering things that I'm pretty certain no native Japanese speaker would have understood. (I caught, "Ehh. Your feet are bigger than that last guy's.") Afterwards, my shoes looked newly-purchased, the leather cleaned and brushed. I was well impressed. (The only downside was that even at a tourist trap like Kaminarimon, passerby will stare at a gaijin doing something unusual. I'm not sure I like the image presented by a youngish American guy leaning over an aged Japanese woman as she shines his shoes.)

In the end, I really wanted to tip her: this was the single best shoe-shine I'd received on three continents. And for five-hundred yen, it was an absolute bargain. But my single effort at doing so yielded to a daunting, "That's not necessary." Which is a crying shame.

Anyway, pictures to come, if I can get the back-end to function.

July 01, 2004

Does this man ever learn?

One nice thing about blogs is that if we bloggers post something, you can hold it against us for ages. So I wonder if Justin Slaughter just has a peculiar sense of irony, or absolutely no memory. After his latest reading of the political tea leaves, he writes:

There's little I can say that hasn't been said far more eloquently by Kos, Atrios, Billmon, or Steve Gillard, but I would like to add this point -- for the CPA to change such a highly-publicized and well-known date for the handover without any notice indicates that a major attack WOULD have happened on the 30th against a high-profile target (most likely Bremer or Allawi). And since the troops are still on high-alert, it looks like the chatter has continued unabated.

Finally, Allawi's not gonna make it to Labor Day. Thats a macabre prediction, but with Iraq in chaos and the government in total chaos, its only a matter of time before an aide plots a palace coup or ingratiates himself with the insurgents.

Zaraqawi and Sadr are still out there, and they want blood.

(emphasis mine) Before any of you start picking Allawi in your friendly neighborhood deadpool, please note that Mr. Slaughter posted this one day before the deadline on his last prediction: that Tony Blair would be gone and Gordon Brown would be prime minister by July 1st.

Justin, stop, please. I mean, I'd just gotten the congratulations letter ready to send to Gordy Boy Brown when you come out and tell me I need to get ready to send condolences to Allawi's next of kin. If I've already burnt all that money on getting my inauguration party ready, I'm going to hold you responsible for any mourning costs I needlessly expend.

Ah, I shouldn't pick on Justin. I can't help it. I mean, the boys at my university's 'non-partisan' political review just set themselves up for it...

International Kissing Day?

Will Baude is waxing lyrical about International Kissing Day in a series of posts ringing with relentless optimism. The bastard. Any kissing I'd be doing on said 'holiday' (July 6th, if you care) would do nothing but get me in trouble: the only person I'm supposed to be kissing is miles and miles away. Simple because of the Class Maledictorian's one-woman crusade to encourage the holiday in the U.S. I considered posting some piece of curmudgeonly poetry on the nastiness of love, especially when the one you care for's not there.

Damn my flinty, ill-used, barren frozen popsicle of a heart for showing defects in its infernal manufacture: I just can't find it in me. So instead you get the favorite of my poems about kissing, by that wonderful gentleman e. e. cummings.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

And while kissing may be a better fate than wisdom, sometimes wisdom just has to suffice. Which is why I heavily recommend to you the comments between two of my good friends in this entry. This is one of the reasons I keep this blog: to listen to a skillful biologist and a thoughtful priest discussing their philosophical differences in a polite and informed manner.

Giving The Devil His Due

Masks (1)
matt wrote: i think its cool i read the hole th... [more]

Last Love, First Love (2)
Lamar Cole wrote: A first love always remains in a se... [more]

The Internet (1)
martin wrote: Its like all kinds of other things,... [more]

New Blogs (2)
A. Rickey wrote: MIKE? My God... as I recall, the b... [more]

EIP Website (16)
Frank wrote: good site, good short contents of... [more]

A bit... Not Homesick, Really, Since New York Is My Home (2)
Nicole Keable wrote: I am with Sua Sponte on bringing ba... [more]

Personal Fault (0)
Song Lyric (1)
Kenji Gracia wrote: Some good bunch of japanese artists... [more]

The "Passion", Revisited (12)
A. Rickey wrote: Perhaps it did. Then again, one ... [more]

Never Say I Didn't Do Anything for the Democratic Left (0)
Heart on Sleeve, But What A Heart... (0)
Knew I Was Missing Something... (9)
lostingotham wrote: I interviewed exclusively with New ... [more]

EIP (5)
Kaimi wrote: One word of caution about small, bo... [more]

Conversion of Interests (1)
Tony the Pony wrote: Good luck on interviews. Don't wor... [more]

A bit of a change (4)
Stephanie wrote: Now entering the worst of the three... [more]

Quality Control (1)
Istra wrote: I thought it was pretty good. It m... [more]

But do they provide free condiments in schools? (1)
JCA wrote: Don't forget http://www.starspangle... [more]

Defeated By Fuji (1)
Steve wrote: OK, so as a future law student (hop... [more]

Beasts on Beauty (0)
The Unprepared and Mount Fuji (2)
Denise wrote: Can't wait to see the photos!! Plea... [more]

Movie Bewonderment (0)
In The Realm of the Senses (0)
Blogger Survivor (2)
ava rice wrote: Blogging is a lot like reality TV. ... [more]

Distance (0)
How Does One Say This? (27)
DG wrote: Congrats! ... [more]

Love and Other Subjects for Legal Articles (1)
Adam wrote: West is an all around cool guy. He... [more]

Moore Is Better (2)
PG wrote: I saw "White Chicks" and have not s... [more]

Kyoto (1)
Denise wrote: Well, as someone who really appreci... [more]

Let's Out The Dogs of War? (2)
David Mercer wrote: Since I've lived in Jim Kolbe's dis... [more]

Quick note (1)
Denise wrote: Tony, you don't know me and our pol... [more]

It appears that congratulations are in order (1)
Unlearned Hand wrote: Can't I be saying both? ;-)... [more]

Will Baude Would Have So Much Less Fun In Osaka, It's Lucky He Doesn't Speak Japanese (1)
Lyndsey wrote: Oh, I don't know about less fun! I ... [more]

Grades have come in (4)
stammered wrote: http://www.i5net.net/~i5pages/i5pag... [more]

Someone Get This Guy Out of Here (8)
martin wrote: Well given that your complaint was ... [more]

OK, OK, I shouldn't get such joy from this... (7)
martin wrote: Mandating.. (yeah, that's what I sa... [more]

Rites of Passage (2)
Alison wrote: Now that all grades are in, I think... [more]

Evil. Evil. Spam Them to Death (0)
Solum on Justice(s) (0)
Evolving Norms of Blogging (8)
Anthony wrote: Andy: Some good points, and I th... [more]

How to Confuse the Japanese Service Industry (3)
martin wrote: "I was well impressed" - wow, not s... [more]

Does this man ever learn? (4)
A. Rickey wrote: M.: Sorry, misinterpreted what y... [more]

International Kissing Day? (0)

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

De Novo
Theory and Practice
Liberal Federalism?
Good News, No Foolin'

Nancy Pelosi covers her head and visits the head of John the Baptist.
Vlogging in from Austin.
Omikase/"American Idol"

Jeremy Blachman's Weblog: 2007
Happy Passover
Looking for Advice re: LA
Google Books

Stay of Execution
What I've Learned From This Blog, or My Yellow Underpants
The End
Mid Thirties

Legal Theory Blog
Program Announcement: Summer Programs on the Constitution at George Washington
Book Announement: Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy by Whittington
Entry Level Hiring Report

The Volokh Conspiracy
Making the Daily Show:
Civil unions pass New Hampshire House:
Profile of Yale Law Dean Harold Koh:

Crescat Sententia
Hillary II
Politics and Principal/Agents

Law Dork
Election Approaches
Following Lewis
New Jersey High Court: 'Same Rights and Benefits'

Surveying the revival
Birds of paradise

Half the Sins of Mankind
Cheney Has Spoken Religious conservatives who may ...
Does Ahmadinejad Know Christianity Better Than MSN...
Borders as Genocide In discussions of climate chan...

For lovers of garden gnomes...and any China-freaks out there
We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Does SOX explain the flight from NY?
More Litvak on SOX effect on cross-listed firms
What did the market learn from internal controls reporting?

The Yin Blog
Iowa City = Riyadh
Jeffrey Rosen's "The Supreme Court"
Geek alert -- who would win between Battlestar Galactica and the U.S.S. Enterprise?

Letters of Marque
And there we are

Signing Off

Dark Bilious Vapors
Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
--"Blazing Saddles"

Technical Difficulties... please stand by....
The Onion should have gotten a patent first....

Legal Ethics Forum
Interesting new Expert DQ case
Decency, Due Care, and The Yoo-Delahunty Memorandum
Thinking About the Fired U.S. Attorneys

Ex Post
Student Symposium- Chicago!
More Hmong - Now at Law School
Good Samaritan Laws: Good For America?

Appellate Law & Practice
Those turned over documents
CA1: courts can’t help people acquitted of crimes purge the taint of acquitted conduct
CA1: restrictions on chain liquor stores in Rhode Island are STILL okay

the imbroglio
High schoolers turn in plagiarism screeners for copyright infringement
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year

The Republic of T.
The Secret of the Snack Attack
links for 2007-04-04
Where You Link is What You Get

Distractions for stressed law students

The Other Side: Twisted AnimationsSomething Positive, a truly good webcomic

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