Sunday, December 31, 2006

End-of-the-Year recap

Was there ever another year in which I came so far as I have since the dawn of 2006...holy, holy, holiest of cows! I rang in 2006 with movies and meditative wanderings, and I am ringing in 2007 with much the same, but oh how I filled the space between. Let's indulge in some highlights, shall we?

And so this is Christmas...
"If I were Tsar, I would never wage war."
Cat! Cat! Cat!

The Good: There I was, living and teaching English in Korea, making friends, making enough money to pay my bills and many a debt, and making progress with my students. How delightful!

The Bad: Some of the people around me were a bit crazy, not the least of whom were the directors of the English academy where I taught. They thought nothing of making four of us teach extra classes (without extra compensation) all through January while they worked "very hard" on hiring a replacement fifth teacher, except that s/he couldn't be black, or of too rough an English or Australian or South African accent, or be any number of things that might upset the fragile concept of "Westerner" in the minds of The Parents of our precious DingDingDang children.

The Ugly: What possesses a girl to bail out her boyfriend back home financially when what started as a little creeping doubt about him deep inside has been expanding and bubbling to her surface?

Epiphany: It's all right.

Let them eat steak

The Good: I realized I had completely and totally established a life in Korea. Who knew?

The Bad: I really wanted to break up with G___, the aforementioned ASS. Why didn't I?

The Ugly: Pre-school graduation, including the harvesting of The Enormous Turnip.

Epiphany: I saw the future and it was an all-night karaoke room.

Be wary indeed!
Sparkling & Quivering

The Good:A new schedule, which included an earlier preschool and a much longer midday break that allowed me enough time to go to movies, watch the Oscars, or hold rehearsal/otherwise work on my PLAY! That's right, Speak Truth to Power was a go; I held auditions and cobbled together a fabulous English teacher cast! And I didn't even find them all on barstools, just one or two of them...

The Bad: There wasn't much bad, other than random Korean frustrations and the major frustration back in the U.S., who was constantly dropping off the face of the earth, yet erratically reappearing and somehow convincing me he was still into our relationship. (Method of convincing? I believe we refer to that as "lying.")

The Ugly: Hey, maybe I won't just drink at the Commune on foreigners' open-mic night Wednesdays! Why not get a head start on Tuesdays? Thursdays are nice for drinking, too. Oh, the gang's all there this Friday? Not much else going on Saturday night...or Sunday...repeat ad infinitum.

Epiphany: I had stuff in common with Jesus and a guy from Afghanistan.

April fools and living daylights
The Man Who Will Not Give His Name

The Good: Not only was I chugging along directing a play, and not only had we hooked up with the Korea Democracy Foundation, who were preparing for a Speak Truth to Power exhibit to coincide with the release of the book in Korean, and not only had they invited me to bring my cast to Seoul to perform at the banquet launching said exhibit in May, but my decision to apply to a lower-ranked law school in the hopes of getting a bigger scholarship had paid off handsomely!

The Bad: One friend left for Canada, unhappy at the end of her time in Korea. An actress in my play returned to England for medical reasons and dropped out. I gave two months' notice to my job, now that I knew I was for sure going to law school. I began to realize once again in life that things end. Things like this crazy-but-amazing Korea expat teacher life end. Relationships do too, so why for the love of god was I not ending the long-distance one in which I was entangled? I'd once believed it was magic--but magic, too, apparently ends.

The Ugly: The yellow dust blew in from the Gobi desert and deposited infections throughout my head, including my little eyeball creature.

Epiphany: "The powerful play went on..." And I could contribute a verse!

Out with the old, in with the new
Twelve Drummers Drumming

The Good: The play. Seoul. The exhibit. The cast. The cast party. The activists. The world. My birthday weekend. Yeoungcheon. The whole glorious adventure of it all.

The Bad: I was overwhelmed.

The Ugly: Wait! I don't want to go back to the U.S.!

Epiphany: "I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains, I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains, there's more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line..." --indigo girls

But it's some free times!

The Good: I left Korea.

The Bad: I left Korea.

The Ugly: At long last, I could see the demise of my so-called relationship up close.

Epiphany: Every choice was worth my while.

Wait for no man
Go on, use "finical" in a sentence

The Good: Summer days on the balcony. The Artist's Way. Why hello, old friends! Hello to some new friends, too. And goodbye earthly possessions!

The Bad: Fidel Castro was sickly, and unlike the conservative factions in Miami, I was not ready for him to die.

The Ugly: It was high time to end my joke of a relationship, because it had clearly already ended, and now he was just depleting my money, patience, and self-respect. We basically stopped talking. Not a moment too soon.

Epiphany: I saw the future and it was the great creative force of the universe.

Peyton Place
Imagine no possessions!

The Good: I moved to New York to go to law school...

The Bad: ...but I had a lot to do to get ready first...

The Ugly: ...and I just wanted to get my Cuba journals back from that entirely useless ex and have another beer.

Epiphany: I'm not sure I had one. I was too busy. But it was good to be done with the evil ex and start seeing other people again; that was better than an epiphany.

I need to post more often, eh?

The Good: I really liked this law school thing. And it was totally doable. And I got to hang out with D.C. friends on the weekends!

The Bad: So why was everyone so palpably stressed all the time? It was like they had read somewhere that law school would stress them out, so they got stressed out. It was annoying. Where were the interesting people?

The Ugly: Just when I had rid myself forever of that awful relationship, his parting gift was a slideshow popping up in my e-mail of him and his "new" girlfriend and their adventures and relationship, all of which began months before he and I ended. And about which he had lied and lied and lied to me. The dastardly swine. Good riddance.

Epiphany: Manhattan is oh-so-accessible from Long Island. The Long Island Railroad(LIRR) became my new best friend. Because Manhattan--that's where all the interesting people were hiding!

Thou shalt have justice more than thou desir'st
Lust for Life

The Good: To everything there is a season...and with the onset of fall came quiet moments, healing, and even a way to make money!

The Bad: All of which distracted me from law school work sometimes. I had unfortunately discovered that law school assignments, like any assignments in life, can be procrastinated.

The Ugly: And the intervening hours can be filled by pouring alcohol into them.

The Epiphany: I read Irving Stone's Lust for Life, and I discovered that Vincent Van Gogh was alternatively amazing and a lot like me. The book and the experience of reading it blew my mind. "Just one canvas..."

To litigate, to mediate, to procrastinate...we all rotate...
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late!

The Good: Learning. Thanksgiving. Good friends. Insight. More healing. Productivity.

The Bad: So, so busy. And the pounding of the distant drums of finals could begin to be heard.

The Ugly: Had I really replaced one interpersonal demon of melodrama with another? Really? Then he, too, must go.

Epiphany: It was time for a revolution. A personal coup. A coup de moi. And so I staged it.

Ten finals lords a-leapin'
Seven Golden Globe nominations a-swimming (Or, Finals? What finals?)
Just One Mockingbird Canvas

The Good: I love Christmas! And vacation! And rejuvenation! And movies and hiking and enchiladas...

The Bad: Finals.

The Ugly: Insomnia. The night before each and every final. So uncool.

Epiphany: Turns out I learned something this semester! Many somethings, in fact.

Yes, indeed. If ever there were a year in which I learned and saw and experienced so very much as I did in This year may even have trumped 1997. And I definitely need these three weeks in Arizona to rest and recuperate after the exhausting journey. I am filling my days with delightful things and gearing up for a rip-roaring 2007 that is all kinds of happy, peaceful, and creative. And whatever happens, remember, you'll hear it here first. Or, if not first, at least once I get around to posting.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

just keeps on tickin' tickin'

It has now been a week+ since I completed finals. I feel like I'm on another planet. Like that was all a dream.

In the days since finals ended I have, among other things:
  • Had crazy nights of celebrating in Manhattan
  • Had festive nights basking in Santas, carolers, lights, and the like
  • Come to Arizona, where I now sit chez Mom
  • Spent much quality time with my nephew, who totally rules
  • Finally spent some semblance of time with my niece, only my fourth visit in her life, and she is just a little rockstar
  • Given and received Christmas presents
  • Eaten cheese enchiladas
  • Seen old high school friends
  • Argued with some old friends about Brad & Angelina
  • Actually, it was more of an argument about liars and cheaters and betrayers, really
  • Seen the flick Blood Diamond -- quite good in many ways

Right. So about the cheaters. Something weird is going on, or is it? The two days after Christmas, I spent time with different old friends-since-high-school. Both days, in quite separate conversations, we ended up in these intense discussions about cheating, and the evildoers among us who lie and betray their mates. It's actually starting to weird me out how prevalent this theme seems to be in my life this year and in the lives of those around me. It's like, what, have we hit our 30s and now we've entered the cheating decade? You know, first there were the waves of marrying friends, and the waves of friends' babies, and those are still ongoing (I have a couple longtime friends pregnant right now, in fact), but there also just seem to be more and more affairs rearing their ugly heads.

So one friend and I were discussing this, the sort of Desperate Housewives-ization of our circles of friends. And we do not like it, not one bit. Furthermore, we reject this notion that it's the next inevitable phase as we continue pushing our ways through adulthood. It is NOT okay, and it does not become OK just because you've been married a few years/you are dissatisfied/it's hard to face your fears/it's hard to face yourself/you're a damn coward. Of course, it's not just the marrieds; I mean, in my own personal life for example there have been two significant cheaters this year, the one being the most egregious liar I've ever met (I won't say the most egregious liar I know of, but until I receive a White House invitation...).

I don't know--it's really frustrating. It always has infuriated me when people cheat (JUST. BREAK.UP.) but it's infuriating me even more that every time I turn around someone else I know is cheating.

As my friend put it, so much is revealed about your character in that instant in which you betray another. It's the dishonesty that is the most galling part, you know, not the being-overwhelmed-by-temptation part. The fact that someone can have a conversation with their mate wherein they lie/seduce/claim to love/promise to do this or that/claim to be sharing their feelings/agree to work on this relationship and then think they can keep that betrayal to themselves so they don't "ruin" everything?! It's so horrifying. The revelation is not what ruins. It may shock, but it was your dishonesty that ruined.

It gives me a headache.

As for Blood Diamond, Leo and Djimon both gave incredible performances and Jennifer, who ordinarily gets on my last nerve, was actually kind of cool as the crusading journalist.

I just can't believe anyone still buys diamonds at all. Ever. I haven't understood this for years. But, I guess many people persist in living in and/or keeping others in the dark.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


All's well that ends well. Life's a beach. You win some you lose some. It's the journey, not the destination. But, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, of course. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. He who laughs...lasts! Ahhhhhh!!!! Am I a bag of cliches? Is my brain on auto-pilot? Would you rather read a slew of random cliches or a slew of Indigo Girls quotes? I know, I know. You'd rather read the fresh original writings and rantings of Linda! You breathlessly await each new blog post. You approach this fountain of wisdom every day eager to lap up the latest offerings bubbling to my surface.

But today, my friends, I'm short and sweet. I have just completed and I mean completed my first semester of law school. What will I do next? I'd like to say, "I'm going to Disneyland!" but that might have to wait a couple weeks. I am sort of cooking up that plan with a friend; a brief L.A. sojourn might be in the works during my winter break. (They do have Mexican food there, too, after all.) For now, though, I'll take Manhattan.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Two turtle doves and, really, two Indigo Girls

On this glorious, sunny Tuesday, with a Civil Procedure final approaching and a slight chill in the air, great and wise minds of the universe ponder two questions that have long plagued humankind:

1. Just what is it about Indigo Girls that Linda likes so very much?
2. What is a turtle dove?

I'll tackle them here.

Last night the selected DVD to which I fell asleep was Indigo Girls: Live at the Uptown Lounge. This video actually came out on VHS, before there were DVDs. Or at least before I knew about them. In 1990. Weren't we still on laserdiscs then? Anyway, Sony wisely re-released it on DVD a few years ago and I snatched it up. I'm not entirely sure where my VHS copy is. Arizona somewhere, perhaps? Why is everything I like so much in Arizona? (enchiladas, etc.)

I do believe any of you who scratch your heads and puzzle over what is so all-fire great about IG should watch this DVD. "If you hear the song [they] sing, you will understand..." (That's really clever of me, see, because "Get Together" is one of the songs they do in this performance at the Uptown Lounge.)

Those of you on Netflix can just add it to your queue. Those of you who aren't on Netflix--come now, what are you waiting for? No, really. I love Netflix almost as much as I love Indigo Girls! And enchiladas.

They had been on the road for several months touring. They were signed to Epic after years of playing together mostly around the South, and releasing a couple independent records. The video weaves interview wherein they talk about their "newfound" success with the performance at the Uptown Lounge in Athens, Georgia, their "old stompin' grounds" where they used to play a lot when things really started to happen for them. (They're from Atlanta, of course, but Athens, GA is close by and also had quite the burgeoning music scene in the mid-80s, you will recall--their buddies R.E.M., and the B-52s, among others...)

I was particularly struck upon this viewing by "Love's Recovery." It's an Emily song (for the uninitiated, that means it's written by Emily and she sings lead vocal on it; they write their songs separately and there's generally a half-and-half balance of Amy songs and Emily songs on each album and played in each concert) and it's a beautiful song and I really like it! But in the video I was watching Amy really like it. She sings harmony and plays rhythm guitar but during the first verse it's just Emily, and Amy takes a step back and is sort of crouched down, watching, and kind of knowingly shaking her head at lines like, "All the friends we thought were so together, they've all gone and left each other in search of fairer weather..."

At the end of the video, the interviewer asks, "What's next?" Emily says, "Tomorrow." Everyone laughs. The interviewer pursues, OK, so you're one of those quote-overnight successes that worked for years and years and years, but things like playing 15,000-seat auditoriums opening for R.E.M. have happened rather quickly, and, basically, what's up with that? Amy ponders that maybe they haven't really noticed yet. (Previously in the video Amy has mentioned that in their whirlwind tour and being in so many cities she was homesick for things "like grass. And trees.")

Emily goes on to say that they don't really think about that, that they just want to be better and better songwriters, and to "use our music as a tool for doing good whenever possible, and keep our commitments in mind. I don't think things are going to change."

And my god -- they have totally achieved that goal! Think about all they've done since 1990! The benefits, the political action work, creating Honor the Earth for god's sake, plus Chiapas, and Cuba, and Jesus Christ Superstar benefitting that anti-violence organization and and and -- just so much! And meanwhile they've also released ten more albums, finished their contract with Sony, traveled, lobbied Congress, started an independent record label (Amy), opened a restaurant (Emily), written a book about music and faith (Emily, with her dad the professor of theology), been featured in Boys on the Side (Netflix, people! Netflix! Netflix!), moved on this year to release Despite our Differences on Hollywood Records(an album on which Pink sings--where was Pink in 1990?!), and you watch this video and they look younger, and yet they're them! And you just think, wow. Time passes, and you just create, and work, and -- well, as Voltaire/Candide put it, you "cultivate your garden."

And besides, we get to look at SUCH great late eighties hair in the shots of the audience! That alone makes the video worth it!

As for turtle doves, I learned from Wikipedia that they are a migratory species in population decline, smaller than other doves, and with a tail that catches the eye due to its dark center and white tips. Wikipedia also notes that the turtle dove is often featured in songs about love and loss, perhaps due to its "mournful voice and the fact that it forms strong pair bonds." How appropriate!

And turtle doves are mentioned in the Bible, for example in the Song of Solomon/Songs 2:11-12: "For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Three French hens and three Indigo Girls

Yesterday I did one of those silly little web things on LiveJournal which took a bunch of my declared "interests" in my LiveJournal profile and made a "12 Days of Christmas" about them. If you go there now by clicking the link above you won't see it, because I friend-locked the entry, so I shall reproduce it for you here:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, slightedeyes sent to me...
Twelve woxlans skiing
Eleven trobaritzes writing
Ten movies a-jogging
Nine gymnastics bicycling
Eight troubadours a-reading
Seven frogs a-swimming
Six penguins a-moving
Five co-o-o-oncerts
Four road trips
Three indigo girls
Two religious studies
...and a literature in a coffee.
Get your own Twelve Days:

Sure, it's silly, and grammatically questionable at parts, but it's amusing overall. I'm particularly intrigued by the notion of a third Indigo Girl. Is that like the fifth Beatle? Is there someone who ran around the playground at their Decatur elementary school with them, or who was also an alto in the high-school choir, claiming she woulda/coulda/shoulda been part of the folk-rock duo's success? I mean, folk-rock "trio"? This amuses me greatly. Heh.

Yes, that's what I spent yesterday doing...blogging, live journaling, listening to Indigo Girls and other guitar-toting trobaritzes (eleven of whom are apparently coming to my house for a writing party, as noted above, though only eight troubadours will be there to read what we write--not sure what that's about).

Note that nowhere in there did it say I was studying for Torts yesterday. It's not that you didn't read the paragraph closely enough. I absolutely spent yesterday willfully and wantonly blowing off preparing for my Torts final. But I certainly spent a lot of time listening to Indigo Girls and Swamp Ophelia!

Then, this morning as we the few, the proud, the handwriters gathered in our small classroom, segregated from the laptopping computer exam takers, we took our seats and said our hellos and so forth. It was bloody hot in there and one of the windows at the other end of the row was open. I stood up to open the one near us. At first it wouldn't budge, but I quickly realized I needed to turn the little secure-latch things on top of the bottom sliding pane and to do so I needed to move the blinds. I was attending to that when the nice middle-aged Long Island lady proctor said, "Would you like the window open? Oh, maybe one of these gentlemen can help you. Would you help her open it?"

Are you kidding me? I said, "Right, I might need help, I'm very frail." Then I opened it. "Oh, look!" I cried. "I opened it without a big strong man!"

Then I sat down. OK, maybe I was a little tired and cranky, but I had my fruit smoothie and my coffee going. I was settling in. This was an open book exam, and I placed my text, notebook full of class notes, and law dictionary on the table in front of me. It was then that I realized all my fellow test-takers had one additional item--the Restatement. Which I conveniently forgot to bring. Oops.

What is the Restatement? Oh, just the definitive source for tort law information. The relevant guidelines compiled by the American Law Institute. Adopted into law by many jurisdictions. Looked to in deciding many a case.

I actually thought for one split second, 'Is it only 8:20? Should I run like a bat out of marathon hell back home to get it?' And then I thought, quite simply, screw it. (Maybe not exactly "screw" it, but this is a family blog, after all.)

How does one forget to bring the Restatement to an open-book Torts law exam? Seriously. SERIOUSLY. One would have to be utterly out of her head. If I had for one instant so much as peered into my Torts text yesterday, it might have occurred to me to put the Restatement in or near my bag. But I didn't. And I think it's probably sitting on the floor of my room, underneath Friday's New York Times article about the Golden Globe nominations and whatever else I've tossed on top of it since I last touched it. My classmates have become used to my cavalier approach to law school, but this takes the cake.

But there is some good news, guess what. I really didn't need it. Why? Frankly, because I know my stuff. (family blog! family blog!) And I take good notes in class. And it's quoted in our text in parts and when I flipped through the text I was able to cite all the relevant authority I needed. And I would just like to state here and now that I do believe I knew the answers to the questions on my Torts exam. And so, despite life (which is, as you know, only life after all) I don't think I failed. I mean, who's to say, really? Failure is so hard to precisely define when it's a mandatory curve. But I loved the exam the way I have loved my Torts experience all semester long.

Now I must go to work, and then tomorrow I will try really, really hard to actually study for Civil Procedure, which comes Wednesday, because I should probably study for SOMETHING at least, shouldn't I?

Oh, third Indigo Girl....where are you hiding?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Four calling birds (of prey?), or
These Are the Days of Our Torts

Remember when I joked I was going to shut off my phone, stop reading email, and just generally refuse to have contact with the outside world during December, sealing myself in my room and giving life over wholly to final exams?

That would have been a good idea.

Unfortunately I did not do that. Who was I kidding? And the result is that on Friday I was once again treated to the pleasure of innocently plunking myself down at a computer in the law library 'round about noon and opening my e-mail only to have a fierce shock of heartbreak blast from the screen into my head. I've just about had it with this method of learning things. Well, such is the modern world, I suppose. I didn't really blog about it here Friday or yesterday, although a very discerning reader may have gleaned from Friday's blog that I was feeling cynical. I'm not one for pouring out my heart here for all the world wide web to see (I come a bit closer on MySpace) but I would like it duly noted that I have my beloved Torts exam tomorrow, and I'm not doing much more than listening to Indigo Girls (and Patty and Sinead and the other Sinead and Mary-Chapin and Cowboy Junkies and and and...)

So what is love then?
Is it dictated, or chosen?
Does it sing like the hymns of a thousand years, or is it just pop emotion?
And if it ever was there and it left does that mean it was never true,
and to exist it must elude?
is that why I think these things of you?
--indigo girls, 'mystery'

Because I like the lesson I've learned this weekend! And it is very Torts-like! In Torts we are all about understanding the rule and the policy. You see, you have to think about how very many cases never go to trial at all (dismissed...settled...). And of those that make it, not all are appealed. And of those that are appealed, whether affirmed or reversed by the higher cours, not all merit a written opinion to be read and analyzed by law students for generations hence. So our casebooks consist of a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage of cases. And from them, rules are extracted that will be applied to a larger number of cases, going forward. So it important to make a clear rule, not too broad or too narrow, that promotes good public policy.

And when you are researching legal issues in your classes/career, you hope to find old case law on point, preferably from a high court in your state or circuit and the more recent the better. It's just more persuasive that way. Still, you can glean valuable information from older holdings, especially if it was a signifcant case or a Supreme Court case and has not been overruled or negatively treated.

So I think one can look back at the interpersonal jackass demons of melodrama in her life and remember the lessons learned and make good policy decisions going forward. And sometimes she will find that the person throwing her for a loop today is nearly identical to the jerk she met last year, but sometimes the judge will distinguish the case in certain aspects. Sometimes the older cases will sit on the shelf unnoticed for long periods, the big volumes gathering dust. Occasionally, the person hauled before the court will be eerily familiar and she might peer at him and say haven't we seen you here before, mister?

What are torts, then?
Are they negligent harms, or chosen?
Do they signify historical common law justice and equity, or are they just punitive?
And if it ever was ruled and reversed, does that mean it was never true?
And for policy to exist, it must elude--
is that why we make these judgments about you?

Maybe I have learned something beneficial after all, even if I'm not studying in the traditional sense. I haven't really been a traditional law student all semester; why start now? And Torts is sort of the Indigo Girls of my law school experience (my absolute favorite, mystifyingly so to many around me, etc.) After all, a mere six tracks earlier on Indigo Girls' Swamp Ophelia, we reflect:

Some long ago when we were taught
that for whatever kind of puzzle you got
you just stick the right formula in,
a solution for every fool
I remember the time I came so close with you,
sent me skipping my class and running from school,
and I bought you that ring 'cause I never was cool.
What makes me think I could start clean-slated?
The hardest to learn was the least complicated...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Fi-i-i-i-i-i-ve mo-ore days...

Here's why I love the Hofstra law library more than just about anything else here--or anywhere, for that matter.

In the middle of the library, in a well-traveled open area that just about every law student passes through multiple times every week, let alone this exam period, they have put out a huge jigsaw puzzle on a table with a sign that says, "Need a study break?" And people have slowly bit by bit been making their contribution and putting the puzzle together over a several-day period. I just passed by on my way into the computer lab and noticed a great deal of progress has been made. The puzzle is a Mary Engelbreit picture, and you can now read the quote on it: "Leisure, some degree of it, is necessary to the health of every man's spirit."


I really, really like the law library folk. A lot. On the library's blog they recently posted a "virtual study break," the most recent pictures of the earth taken from the space shuttle by the astronauts who are working at the international space station. The blog writer noted about the astronauts, "They--like many of us--are scheduled to return to Earth on December 21."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Six Days of Final Geese a-laying

I love Criminal Law class. Have I mentioned that? I do believe I have. If not here, then on MySpace. I blog there occasionally, too. Don't worry, Blogspot, I'm not cheating on you with MySpace. We're just friends. MySpace serves a totally different purpose in my life. Oh, ha ha ha, I crack myself up. Either that or I've cracked. What could it be? The lack of sleep? The plentiful finals? The stressful vibes ricocheting off of my classmates as we take them? I actually had to get up and move seats today because of the stressful vibes and prominent gum chewing of a fellow traveler who came to sit behind me. Oh, dear, it appears I'm breaking my own self-imposed rule of not blogging about my Hofstra Law peeps. Well, that's all right, I didn't want to sit by the window anyway. Originallly, I did, when I arrived (early! ha!) for the exam. I took a seat by the slightly open window. It reminded me of that 80s movie Summer School. I thought I might gaze out at the quad between questions, dreaming of movies and Mexican food...but the unpredictable drafts were bugging me, so I switched to a seat in an inner aisle in search of more constant temperature. Anyway--yeah. Loved Crim, loved the professor, and loved the final. Consider it mentioned.

What I forgot to mention yesterday is that Renee Zellweger irritates me. A lot. And, of course, she was nominated AGAIN this year. She's such a freaking darling of the Hollywood Foreign Press and other nominating entities. UGH. I suppose I'll go see Miss Potter. Whatever, Zellweger.

The next two finals are Torts and Civ Pro. Torts on Monday, Civ Pro on Wednesday. They are the middle children. My first final, Contracts, was my most loathed class and most dreaded final. Criminal Law, which I just took, was a beloved class and my most eagerly anticipated final. Upcoming Torts was also a beloved class, but the final will be hard. Good hard, but likely hard nonetheless. Civ Pro was a class I could take or leave, but the professor had his charm, so I mostly took. However, I would say that is the one final I actually need to review for. Which is why I'm glad it's last. But I don't really dread it, so much as I am not in the mood to study. I have done some reviewing for it, though. I haven't been sticking perfectly to my review schedule, but I haven't entirely blown it off either. I'm telling you, middle children.

I do believe that's all I really have to say as the days dwindle to six. From swans to geese.

You know, as I learned from a fabulous book of my childhood, Tarantulas on the Brain, swans are not nice creatures. They are nasty and can break your bones with a swat of their wings. That whole ugly-duckling-turning-into-a-swan myth should be disregarded. You think they're beautiful, but they can be vicious, and maybe you don't really want to be like them at all.

Did anyone go watch The Paper Chase yet???

"You could be this man, he's got it all worked out
to the Nth degree, no fears no doubts
He'll retire at 30 to his big-ass house next to the putting green...
Now, you could be this woman, she's the CEO
She's got her power suit and her IPOs
She punched a hole in the ceiling years ago
and she hasn't pulled back since...

Funny now how it all went by so fast
One day she's looking over her shoulder at the past
when everybody had to go had to be had to get somewhere
Somehow she forgot about what got her there...
Accidents and inspiration lead you to your destination!
Or you could be the one who takes the long way home
Roll down your window, turn off your phone
See your life as a gift from the great unknown,
and your task is to receive it
Tell your kid a story, hold your lover tight,
make a joyful noise, swim naked at night,
read a poem a day, call in well sometimes,
and laugh when they believe it!
Funny now how it all goes by so fast..."

--mary-chapin carpenter, 'the long way home'

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Seven Golden Globe nominations a-swimming...
(Or, Finals? What finals?)

Today I must study, I must, I must. Tomorrow is the Criminal Law exam, and Torts loom on Monday's horizon. But - 'tis the season! AWARDS SEASON! And today was a big one. This morning the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced the Golden Globe nominations!

This is when it all gets serious. This is when I start making checklists, a spreadsheet, figuring out which movies I've seen, calculating how many of the nominees I'll be able to see between now and the January ceremony, and determining if I'll see at least all the multiple nominees by then. Ooooooh, and it's all just leading up to the Oscars! I love the Oscars!

Right, I must study. But I had to pop on the TV this a.m. and I am proud to report that out of all the deserving nominees heralded before Hollywood and the world, I have seen exactly ONE film.

Gasp! What! Can it be true? I swear, I haven't been this out of the movie-watching loop since I lived in a bubble. I have lived in a bubble twice. Once in the summer of 1997 I was stranded on an embargoed island and during 1993 I lived in Utah. It's hard to say which place kept me more sheltered from reality. Anyway, the careful reader will recall that I spent the first half of this year in Korea, where I had to wait a while for English-language films to appear. I saw a bunch, but everyone knows most of the awards nominees don't come out in the first half of the year anyway. Then, I was in Boston for the summer, and believe you me I did some catching up at my old haunts the Kendall Cinema and the Somerville Theatre, the latter being where I saw the ONE GG-NOMINATED FILM I've actually seen: Thank You For Smoking. Which was brilliant. Pure genius. About this I have already ranted to many of you; if you haven't seen it you're missing out on many laughs and much satire, plus it packs a personal punch as well as a political. (how many personal punches can a political flick pack...?)

But just as I was getting in my cinematic groove, off to law school I went. And I have stepped foot in a movie theatre exactly once since then, on a somewhat unfortunate date.

Let's talk about going to the movies in Hempstead. Or rather, doing anything in Hempstead. Or on Long Island in general. Here's how it works. Got a car? You're in. Public transit? Sure, your typical Long Islander has ridden the train--into the City--once in his life--or to go to a Mets game or something...

In short, it's a pain. It is literally easier to go to the movies, go shopping, go to Borders, go to a restaurant, etc. in Manhattan than to go to one that is a ten-minute drive away on Long Island, land of parkways surrounded by expressways.

Now, this doesn't stop me, extremist for public transit that I am, from taking the Long Island Bus. I do it. I've had interesting experiences on it. But nor does it stop me from as often as not, hopping the Hofstra shuttle to the Hempstead station of the Long Island Railroad where I can train it into The City. Or bus it to Queens--that bus is 24 hours with frequent service! It's just the within-Nassau-County buses that don't do much for me. Then again, Long Island doesn't really do much for me in general. I am seriously debating whether to live one more year here or to move into The City next fall. That's assuming I don't fail out of law school of course, perhaps due to being too obsessed with Golden Globe nominees to study for my finals...

Ack, the nominees! There's so much going on. First of all, several of the nominees were already on my I-very-much-want-to-see radar: Sherrybaby, Babel, Bobby, The Departed, The Last King of Scotland, Blood Diamond, Little Miss Sunshine, Stranger Than Fiction... And I actually want to see Happy Feet, too, what with my love for penguins. The other animated nominees I will see grudgingly, what with my general hate for animated things, because I suspect Cars will win. Whatever, animation.

Anyway, then there are all the doubles! My goodness! Leo, competing against himself. Clint, competing against himself. What must that be like? And speaking of the directors, what's up with Robert Altman not getting nominated for A Prairie Home Companion, which was brilliant, and which I saw during my Boston catch-up phase, and which I still think the Oscar voters might honor since he died and all? And also speaking of directors, can we talk about how the foreign language films include a Mel Gibson movie and a Clint Eastwood movie? I mean, really. The whole foreign/foreign language thing is one of those weird things anyway, but man...Mel and Clint, getting in on the foreign category...and you think lawyers are sneaky?!

And here's the thing about Mel, and Apocalypto. Ancient Mayan? ANCIENT MAYAN? Are you serious? I just think that man needs a big ol' dose of get-over-yourself. It will be far down on my list, but I might have to see the flick for nomination reasons. Same reason I watched The P of the C. Aramaic. Ancient Mayan. What's next? Is he going to a make a movie in some "carefully researched" alien dialect? I wish he would hie himself to Kolob.

Of course I was already planning to see Borat, but I'm kind of excited about being the last person on my block to see it. I'm not a big fan of comedies unless they are REALLY funny. I hear this one is REALLY funny. Plus, it's satire, and packs a political punch. My favorite. One of the highlights of the nominations announcements was Jessica Biel reading the whole title in that careful-don't-stumble-don't-mess-up nomination-announcing style, Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Then, she smiled. Good on her!

As for Dreamgirls, wow, could it get a few more nominations? I've been touching the book but blowing it off, only now I'm intrigued. Also because Jennifer Hudson, one-time American Idol reject, was on NBC's Today show, and that's the network I watched this morning, so she was right there in their dressing room when she got the news she'd been nominated for best supporting actress for that film, and I kind of got caught up in the excitement. (Note: I've never seen American Idol, I just find it amusing that she got the boot and now she's all that anyway.)

And The Da Vinci Code... got nominated for score. Oh, Da Vinci. I totally blew off that one this summer. Purposely. Not just knowingly, recklessly, or negligently. (See, I'm going to pass my Crim Law final. I think.) Because I've been over The Da Vinci Code for some time. Since about a week after it came out. I totally got in on the ground floor through Borders and met Mr. Dan Brown about three days after the book released (that's a good story...later, later, though...) so I was the first one on my block to read it and yeah it was a page-turner and then I read his prior book Angels and Demons and I said, Oh. I see. He clearly has some software plot template, and just does find-and-replace all "Rome" with "Paris," and replace all "Vatican" with "Louvre" or whatever. Replace all Veronica--Victoria--whatever her name was--with "Sophie." I didn't bother devouring the rest of his oeuvre. And then, you know, I was in Korea when the movie was coming out and even over there everyone was all hopped up about "Da Binci Code." But then I came back to the U.S. and just couldn't be bothered, when I had such great alternatives like Wordplay, and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont...

In the cinematic-yet-law-school spirit, last night I watched The Paper Chase. In a burst of fortunate timing, it was my latest Netflix arrival and I found it waiting in my mailbox when I came home yesterday after taking my Contracts final that morning. Well, you know, in the movie that is Kingsfield's class--Contracts! And those are real cases! The one with which he tortures Hart in the first scene on the first day of school is Hawkins v. McGee, the hairy hand case I despised so much back in September that upon reviewing over Thanksgiving break I determined still infuriates me!

Oh, you simply must go watch The Paper Chase. It's so -- true! Seriously. Harvard in the 70s, Hofstra today, whatever. The more things change... Oh, my, the scenes with the study group were just brilliant. Everyone is so obsessed with their outlines, instead of their knowledge. And I really felt for -- um -- what's-his-name. (I know, I know, "good ol' what's-his-name.") The suicidal one. Not because I am suicidal over law school; I'm far more likely to be the one who casts my grades into the ocean and climbs exuberantly atop a rock. But just because everyone was so mean to him because he wasn't quite measuring up. Measuring up to what? Their crap expectations? Then Ms. Girlfriend Thang sets our hero straight and he tells off Kingsfield...and the marathon study session in the hotel...oh, do watch it, do!

And then watch some Golden Globe nominees!

I'm off go to go learn something. Seven days until the finals are over and the serious moviegoing begins!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Eight Days of milking those exams for all they're worth...

Well, well, well...and so it is.

("...just like you said it would be
life goes easy on me, most of the time
and so it is, the shorter story
no love, no glory...") -- damien rice, 'the blower's daughter'

That's not a bad song to get in one's head. So, I have taken my Contracts final. I'm actually a little scared to blog about it for fear the powers that be will catch me revealing some information I'm not supposed to reveal. There are many, many systems in place to prevent cheating. And we're -- obviously -- not supposed to talk about the exam with anyone who hasn't taken the exam. And while all of us first-year day students took our Contracts exam at the same time, this morning, in various rooms throughout the law school, the evening students take theirs tonight. I'm pretty sure my prof doesn't teach the evening section, and that he'd write different exams even if he did, but maybe not. Who knows?

At any rate, I will tell you about the experience.

First, the aforementioned policies to combat cheating include us not knowing where our final will be held until the morning of. There are monitors throughout the law school that display informative messages for us all the time (such-and-such organization is sponsoring a dance/coat drive/lecture this Wednesday...etc.) and this morning we looked to them for room assignments. One classmate friend joked, what is this, Grand Central Station? Indeed.

Most of the first-years (I've heard 85% and I've heard 90%) elected to take their exams on their computers, but I was among the few, the proud, the handwriters. The computer-takers and the handwriters are segregated. That's because the computer takers are complicated--specially installed software, I think disabled hard drives, disabled spell check...etc. There were eight of us hand writing from my Contracts class, a class of a hundred and something. I've tried to count, but you never really knew how many people were ditching that class. Anyhoo, I brought lots of pens and pencils and I was content. Our professors don't administer the exam. Proctors do, like at the SAT or LSAT or whatever. Typical Long Island middle-aged Jewish ladies ran mine.

Another way to combat cheating is you have to sign out when you leave the room. And only one boy/girl allowed to the restroom at a time. And, take the "restroom pass"--how awesome is that! A hall pass! There was even one blue, and one pink. And, the bathrooms near classrooms are for exam takers only and off limits to others during tests; anyone else must use the ones in the law school library downstairs.

Also, let me just state that last night I COULD NOT SLEEP. Major major UGH. I went to bed so early. Obnoxiously early. I am a firm believer in the theory that getting sleep the night before is of infinitely more value than staying up late to cram the night before. But the little insomnia demons came a-callin' and I in fact did not sleep between 7 p.m. and midnight. I have dealt with insomnia before, so I know all the little tricks, but I frankly just found it irritating. Because I am not the kind of insomniac who can't sleep all night; I'm the kind who can't fall asleep until 5 a.m. or something and then does, and then wants to stay asleep a normal amount of time. (I only had one night ever where I couldn't fall asleep all night. I'll tell that story some other time.) When I did sleep, I didn't even dream about the Contracts final. I had a dream about the Criminal Law final this Friday.

Kudos to Jenn for helping me out by texting me as she studied for her Finance final, like "Here is a sleep inducing thought to ponder: Explain why modified duration is a better measure than maturity when calculating the bond's sensitivity to changes in interest..." And big thanks to all my wake-up callers! I love you! (And I would not be opposed to a repeat peformance this Friday...and next Monday...and know, if you're bored around 7 a.m. EST...)

Is it pathetic to ask for wake-up calls? I don't think so. Hotels do them. Hell, in Massachusetts my home phone's voice mail (courtesy of Verizon) had a wake-up call option. My Hofstra voice mail does not, alas. But I have good friends. : ) And I'm not actually bothered by asking for help when I might need it. How very Artist's Way of me!

Too funny, just as I typed that, Damien Rice, to whom I am now listening since thinking about his lyrics above, sang in my headphones, "And we always seem to need the help of someone else..."

However, I did wake up and all was well and I ate an orange (hi mom!) and strolled over to Dunkin' Donuts to get some coffee, and then calmly walked into the law school building around 8:08 a.m. for the 8:30 a.m. final, all nightmares about sleeping through it null and void. I was singing a little song to myself (another Artist's Way habit-come-lately of mine) as I walked across campus and the frantic girl behind me who just emanated stress vibes as she passed me and entered the law school didn't seem too impressed. I only sing very softly to myself when I act all inner-artist-good-mood-like. I don't bother anybody. Today I was singing Jess Klein's "Little White Dove" because this morning I made my usual stroll to the end of the hallway upon leaving my residence, and I stood at the big picture window looking out from my 4th floor before going down the stairs, which is my morning ritual, and I saw a white bird flying smoothly over the treetops, and it put the song in my head.

"My love, my love, all that noise is a little white dove,
in my pocket, in my pocket, take it from me
Otherwise I'm gonna set that little dove free...."

I suppose some of you might be wondering how the actual test went. Like, did I know all the answers? Was it awful? Was it as excruciating as the Contracts class I've loathed all semester? Was it instead a snap?

No, no, no, and no!

Next is Criminal Law this Friday.

I think a lunch of Mexican food is in order for celebration purposes!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Nine dancing ladies crazy finals dancing queens

Nine days.
Mexican food.
Twenty-five hours from now the Contracts final will be over.
This is my solace.
Happy birthday to my sister!
I must run.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Ten Finals Lords-a-Leapin'

I like leaping.

I like L words.

I do not like Contracts. My blood pressure continues to rise, and then I calm it by reading in Torts or Criminal Law for a little while. I wonder if I will hate Contracts II as much next semester. We will have a different professor and probably a different text. But we will still have the courts of law and equity getting people out of being true to their contracts.

I will say that my reviewing over the past few days has helped to solidify more and more exactly what I hate about Contracts. It's not that people want to get out of Contracts--that happens, things change, things can be amended. Here's the problem. The courts then go a step further and get people out of paying up. That is what infuriates me. Case after case, chapter after chapter, people continually get out of paying liquidated damages.

What are liquidated damages? I'm glad you asked. When two parties enter into a contract, they can specify at the time "if you breach this contract and don't deliver my promised barge for transporting sugar then you'll pay me $17,000 per day to make up for my lost sugar sales" or something to that effect. (By the way, that may sound like a lot, but consider that it was a $25 million barge -- we're talking big business here!)

But the problem is then when the person breaches they're like, wait, I don't REALLY want to pay that $17,000. Maybe I can get the courts to say it was unfair! And the courts do. That's what infuriates me and makes my blood pressure rise. Liquidated damages are for when the amount of actual damages is hard to anticipate/calculate at the time of signing, so they just fix an amount. But then the courts go back and say, well, now, you didn't actually suffer $17,000 a day did you? Wasn't it really only a loss of X amount? And then they strike the whole bargain. It's like any time people have to actually PAY UP for breaching a contract, they cry Unconscionability! Unconscionability!

What is unconscionability? Glad you asked! One helpful definition found in Contract law is that unconscionability is when a contract is "so one-sided as to be unconscionable." Yes. Helpful, isn't it? Welcome to my world.

I will be so glad when this final is over. I want my blood pressure to subside. However, last night I officially cracked. I had a dream about the Contracts final. And it just went on and on. We were there, in some huge room that combined elements of Sunrise Elementary, BYU, ASU, Borders, Ding Ding was horrifying. None of the officials in the dream was a real Hofstra Law School person but at the beginning the guy next to me who is a real-life classmate was sick and "went to the school nurse" (how awesome is that!) as we were about to take the final. So the professor sent me to the nurse, because I sit next to him so I must be sick, too. I was begging not to go because I didn't want to have to make up the final. When I finally escaped the nurse's office and came back I still had time to take the final but I had no pencils...and I had brought no books for the open-book part...and then the test administrator couldn't find the multiple-choice section to give us...and they made us take a break...and there were so many problems and it just kept going on and I couldn't just take the final and finish and be DONE. Ugh!

Meanwhile in the sweet land of Torts, the great Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1881 about negligence, fault, and accident liability. He posited that an accident--something that happens unforeseen by anyone, unintentionally, and so on--should not actually make anyone liable if no one was at fault. Yes, someone might be injured and should be compensated for their injuries, but usually someone is at fault or at least negligently/recklessy harm-causing. I'm paraphrasing, and not very well, but the point is in the way he wrote about the rarity of accidents. It would be impossible to think about or chracterize accidents that way in this day and age, with the frequency of automobile let alone aircraft accidents. I'll find the exact quote and post it on here so I can make some semblance of sense.

Back to Contracts--my professor goes on and on about "efficient breach." That is to say, people shouldn't be held to contracts if circumstances have changed and it would now be economically efficient/more productive/ better for all involved to breach, pay, and move on. Well, exactly. But somehow everyone overlooks the "pay" part. All I know is, Ding Ding Dang. I again and again return to this example in my head. I breached the contract (leaving Korea before my year of teaching was up) because it became worth it for me to do so (a full tuition scholarship to Hofstra was worth more than a one-month salary bonus for holding out to the end of the contract) so I did, and I WAS HELD TO THE TERMS and paid the price (I owed them 50% of my recruiting fee = approx $600, deducted from my last paycheck). Simple. SIMPLE. DO YOU HEAR ME, YOU EVIL CONTRACTS PEOPLE? LIFE CAN BE SIMPLE! Make it so. I didn't go back saying "whine whine whine that $600 is a penalty and therefore unenforceable as a matter of law." Why shouldn't there be penalties? Ugh! I hate them all!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Eleven Finals Pipers Piping

Contracts Contracts Contracts. More and more contracts until they spill out of my ears. A sea of contracts. Man, am I glad it's the first final. Come Wednesday midday, it will be done.

So, have I learned what I need to know about it? Well, this amazing thing happens now as I go back and actually read the text I've blown off all semester. I realize I know things. Also, I argue with the text. A lot.

It should be called (How to Get Out of) Contracts class. And it infuriates me.

So after my blood pressure is all high from Contracts I turn to Criminal Law which is philosophical as all get out -- and I love it.

I have mastered the mental states. Did s/he do it purposefully? Knowingly? Recklessly? Or merely negligently? I have been applying them to others in my life all semester. There are many, many guilty people I know...

Pipe on, pipers...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Twelve Drummers Drumming

This day, twelve before it is all finished, has been largely about Contracts and Torts. It's been interesting to compare those two. I don't just compare them for fun; the subject has come up in the cases we've studied in both classes: should one sue in contract or in tort? Normally, one brings a breach of contract to court suing under contract, but they might try to bring a tort suit if they can based on a longer statute of limitations, a grievous harm, negligence or some such tort above and beyond the breach, or even just to try to get more in damages.

But I also compare the classes. I don't even mean to. I just loathe studying Contracts so much, and I adore Torts. I spend an hour in my Contracts text and it's so excruciating it feels like my brain is going to pour out of my eyes, and then I close the book, toss aside the Uniform Commercial Code, and pick up my Torts text, and it's like coming back to an old friend. It feels like comfort. Home. Softness. Luxury. Contracts is standing on a crowded, sweaty bus when you can't get a seat, grasping the bar, jostling up against other tired, bitter people; Torts is coming home and collapsing into a soft, plush bedspread and a million pillows.

We had a study session for Torts. Me and three others from the class. I got excited. I got fired up. I was bouncing up and down, feeling eager, and I even said, "I wish we could take the exam right now!!!" Pause. "Man, I never feel like this when I'm studying for Contracts."

Here's a disturbing thing: last night I was reviewing the old C&H Sugar case in my Contracts text (see Day of Atonement) . A line in there jumped out at me; I hadn't noticed it before. In talking about the importance of having shipping available at the height of the sugar harvesting season, it mentions in passing that C & H needed to ensure it could deliver lots of refined sugar to the soft drink and cereal industries, its main commercial customers.

Think about it. Soda -- which we all know is just a collection of ingredients that are bad for you -- and CEREAL. Equal status as C&H's customers, in a totally casual, throwaway line. We don't even think twice about how very much sugar is in our cereal.

On with the drumming...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Last Day of School

Well, well, well. Today was the last day of the first semester of law school classes. I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry, yawn, drink, dance a jig, or collapse in a heap! Perhaps a little of each.

Now, I just have to conquer finals. In fact, starting tomorrow, I will plunge into my "Twelve Days of Finals" (which I will do my able best to chronicle here on this blog). From tomorrow's Torts study session, through 11:30 a.m. on December 19th, watch the madness unfold!

This morning I actually got a lump in my throat due to the ending of Torts. That has been more than a favorite class; it's been a magnificent, enriching, stirring, challenging, enlightening experience led by a brilliant man. Later, as the bell tolled 2 p.m. --well, we don't actually have bells, but I'm sure some clock on some bell somewhere was tolling at that moment -- Contracts came to a close and that was all she wrote for my small section's first semester classes.

I spent the next few hours studying with classmates, the time evenly split between Contracts and Criminal Law, my first two finals. At one point, my friend and I were in a big student lounge that has tables, vending machines, a television, etc. We were discussing mental states, the act requirement, proportionality in punishment, lenity, legislativity. He'd flip through cases and type in his laptop; I'd page through my notes, recalling Constitutional amendments and statutes. On the TV in the background one chattering program blended into another. I was in between questions as he searched for some rule or other, and I looked up to see the opening credits of Full House. Good ol' Full House: the Olsen twins when they were still one person, and more cheesy, stilted, courtesy-laugh dialogue than you can shake a stick at. I said idly, " Where did they live on this show?" Without missing a beat my friend answered, "San Francisco." A moment later he looked up at me across the table and said, "Isn't it sad that I remember that and here we are trying to remember our criminal law stuff...?"

Tonight the law school fed us a "night owl breakfast." At 8 p.m. in our law school building's study-lounge-event type area our professors, complete with poofy white chef's hats, served us pancakes, eggs, home-fried potatoes, and the like. I think that's a fabulous idea. Plus, what student can turn down free food? There were a lot of people there and it was a good chance to reflect on the semester, and where we're at.

After dishing up lots of scrambled eggs, our Torts professor came to sit at the table with me and a few others from my small section. He shared with us his "Space Mountain" theory of the first year of law school--all that waiting, anticipation, climbing time, then suddenly there you are racing through a course you can't see in the dark with no idea what's coming being flung about with occasional flashes of light and it's terribly thrilling. We all agreed we are just delighted - in spite of it all - to be enjoying the ride

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vamos a Cuba!

Today I learned that in June the Miami school board banned a book for 4-to-6-year-olds entitled Vamos a Cuba. You know, it doesn't even matter why. Book banning is wrong and stupid and evil. But I'll tell you why anyway: because someone complained it "portrays a life in Cuba that does not exist." Not one but two panels upheld the book's presence in libraries after reviewing it, but then the Miami school board voted to ban it anyway. Furthermore, the board ordered removal of a series of travel books by the same publisher, even though there were no complaints about any of the others. Is this who you want in charge of making educational decisions for your children?

"Portrays a life in Cuba that does not exist." Really? I read The Wizard of Oz as a child. It portrays a life that does not exist, too. Anyway, how would they know? I've just about had it up to here with people talking about Cuba who won't even bother to go there and FIND OUT before they start running off at the mouth.

Cuba. North Korea. Formerly, Libya and Iraq. We're told these places are "bad" and an oft-cited "reason" is that they "don't let" their citizens travel and they "restrict free speech."So the U.S.'s oh-so-logical response? Apparently, to not let its citizens travel there, and to censor. How does that make sense?

(Here I will point out that I had plenty of Cuban acquaintances/ friends who had exit visas FROM Cuba but couldn't come to the U.S. because of the strict limits on the number "we" let IN!)

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, among others, challenged the ban. A district court judge in Miami said the ban was unconstitutional. It's now headed to the Court of Appeals.

"We're still building churches, burning books,
killing the babies to feed the crooks
Who said the world would turn out fair?
So I guess I'll dig myself a hole
ask the devil if he wants my soul
and do something real like cut my hair..."

-- The Wonder Stuff

Friday, December 01, 2006

Conspiracy to commit balance

A funny thing happened on my way to the law library just now...

Leaving the Hofstra Deli/Grill, I ran into my Civil Procedure professor and we chatted briefly. Earlier this week I saw him at the Sharon Olds poetery reading/talk, an on-campus event I attended that was part of Hofstra's "Great Writers, Great Readings" series. We'd briefly chatted there, too. Just now, the poet's talk came up in our conversation. He said something to the effect of attending such events being good for feeding the soul. I gave my usual two cents about loving writers and poetry, and keeping balance while in law school by not neglecting my artist side. In his typical Civ Pro teacher "now-let's-ask-what-if-it-were-this-way" fashion he posited that it could be a question of when the balance comes. Does it come during one's first semester in law school? Do you say, I have to play music/ride horses/run a marathon/head the church committee/finish a novel, or whatever other random thing, while you are a 1L, to keep the "balance"? Or do you put the blinders on and give yourself wholly over to law school for three years, with the "balance" coming in the three, five, ten years after that?

Everyone who knows me knows my choice but I thought it was a fascinating new perspective I hadn't considered. Of course, some would also argue that you will never get that balance in those years after law school because you'll be working like a dog to pay off loans (which is why I chose a school that gave me a scholarship), and then again you might always get hit by a bus, and then if you waited you'd never get to do that thing you were delaying. I'm sticking with the if-not-now-when? approach.

Here's another thing. I just read in the conspiracy chapter of my Criminal Law book that when the Allied Forces were preparing for the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal after World War II, the notion of punishing for conspiracy was a foreign concept to the French and the Russians, let alone the Germans, stemming as it does from the Anglo-American tradition of "common law" that is distinctly opposed in many respects to those aforementioned civil law countries. We apparently take it for granted that the theory of conspiracy makes it possible to punish a large number of people, even those who may not have committed the proscribed act. The French apparently found it barbaric and said it had no place in modern law. The Soviets were equally astounded. As Herbert Wechsler (then Assistant Attorney General) put it, "the common-law conception of the criminality of an unexecuted plan is not universally accepted in the civilized world."

We've been learning that conspiracy (in the U.S. legal system) involves agreement to commit a crime, agreement to help commit the crime, and at least one of the agreeing parties doing some overt act -- even if not an illegal act -- that is a step toward the agreed upon crime. For example, let's say three people agree to burn down the law school. As long as they sit around their apartment, wasted, having only agreed to do it, there's no conspiracy, but as soon as one of them goes to the store and buys matches, they can all now be charged with conspiracy. Buying matches was an overt act, but not necessarily an illegal one, by an agreeing party.

Of course, the Anglo-American view prevailed at Nuremberg, and leaders, organizers, and accomplices became responsible for the acts of anyone executing the plan.

In some ways, conspiracy charges are problematic. Are two people who commit one illegal act together as dangerous as an organized crime syndicate? Some people think the sentences should not be cumulative. Unlike attempt, a conspirator can be charged with and punished for the crime and the conspiracy to commit the crime. But if you commit a robbery, you can't also be charged with attempted robbery, although at one point you were obviously attempting the robbery, and then you completed it. Once you've completed the act, we forget about the "attempt" charge. Not so conspiracy. That's because we think of groups as inherently more dangerous, harder to renounce, and so forth. Think about it: the terrorists thwarted in London recently could be arrested etc. because of conspiracy -- they had not begun their attempt yet. (And, all the members of the conspiracy can be charged...)

I love my criminal law class. It is so philosophical and so interesting. The textbook and the professor are both wonderful. The class discussions are stimulating, and I find myself more engaged in there than anywhere else. I couldn't have imagined it turning out that way at all when I initially considered my first semester.

Now I have only one more week of classes! Then, two weeks of slogging through final exams, and after that -- Mexican food every day for three weeks in the Valley of the Sun! I am also going to watch movies. I think my goal will be to watch 20 movies during my winter break. I haven't been to a theater in ages. I have watched a few DVDs here and there. I'm hoping to find time this weekend to squeeze in my buddy Vincent -- my Lust for Life DVD has just arrived from Netflix.

All hail December!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Half the World Away

Hello. How busy am I?! Very. Very very. Somewhere along the way of this semester I got the crazy idea to work part-time to supplement the rapidly depleting student loan fund. Wow. Who thought that was a good idea? Oh, that's right. No one. In fact, the American Bar Association strongly discourages/forbids first-year law students to work more than 20 hours per week. Now I can see why.

Any semblance of a scrap of free time I had is now gone.

And just in time for finals!

I'm working Sat-Sun-Mon and then processing the onslaught of information and the piling-on stress of finals Tuesday through Saturday morning. I've previously reported that at law school orientation the stress was already palpable. Everyone was busily making their plans to study 24-7. Not I, I vowed. I would retain a weekend day off, at least one. I would keep my balance. One of the other 1Ls in a group I lunched with that August day agreed about taking a day of rest after six of labor. "If it's good enough for God, it's good enough for me," he said.

I had a pretty good Sunday thing going on for a while: I would get up, play the piano in the Student Center, stroll to Starbucks for hours of relaxation reading and sipping coffee, take a walk back to campus through the cute adjoining neighborhood, attend some cultural event or other, then write and catch up on correspondence throughout the evening. For financial reasons my "day of rest" has disappeared. I hadn't realized I was building a little artist's/thinking day into my week but then suddenly it was there. Now, just as suddenly, it's gone, and I miss it. I'm thinking God's student loan funds never ran out.

So here's the thing about that. Final exams. Yes, they are approaching rapidly, not so much like a train as like a big ol' rolling boulder and I'm Indiana Jones...or, alternatively, I'm on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland hoping the big boulder is just imagineered and my "jeep" will dip me out of the way in the nick of time and we'll all have a big laugh.

Somehow I'm not convinced that's how it's going to go down.

The grade in most of my classes depends entirely on the final exam. Coupled with that, there is a mandatory curve and the professors have to make the average not above a 3.1 GPA. So my grade depends partially on what I do, and partially on what the others do.

My Contracts professor gave an optional one-hour practice exam yesterday (our real exams in December will be three hours apiece). I didn't go, but I heard about 40 -50 of the 175+ students in that class did go. I also heard that it was hideous and difficult and maddening and that some people walked out halfway through, just giving up. Interesting.

When I put away the books for the night, I often unwind by watching a DVD, and of late I've resumed working my way through M*A*S*H, episode by episode. I started with Season One this summer. Right when I got back from Korea, one of my first acts was re-joining Netflix and filling my queue with all of the seasons in M*A*S*H in order. But life got so crazy from about August through now that I haven't really made it very far. That's all right. My Netflix queue waits quite patiently. Have I mentioned I love Netflix?

This past week I've been watching Season Two, Disc Two. It has some fantastic episodes, and they all resonate with me in really weird ways. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Right now, in fact: M*A*S*H may be about VietNam masquerading as Korea, but it's also quite Korea-like in the end.

I was struck by a few things watching this disc. For one thing, the way Alan Alda says "Korea." It's not like that useless, not-really-a-vowel-sound "er" we all say. He really makes it an "o" like in York. Core-ee-a. Watch some episodes from Seasons 1 or 2. You'll see what I mean.

I also gave a bunch of thought to his character, Hawkeye. The household where I grew up worshipped at the throne of M*A*S*H, daily if possible. We were taught certain things about it, too. One was that Hawkeye was great and all, but it was really a fantastic ensemble and we must remember that it shouldn't be all Alan Alda all the time, and that when the plot focused on Hawkeye's so-called womanizing, that that was kind of annoying and we should just tolerate such sub-plots while we waited patiently for the really clever stuff which took the form of group wit.

It's not that I now entirely disagree with my mom's main point--that it's not all about Hawkeye --but I find myself more OK with his story lines because he's the good one. He dates every beautiful nurse that comes through the 4077th, but he's also the one who should be! He's the one who's not married! Trapper, Frank Burns, and Henry Blake are all cheating on their wives, and that's evil. In fact, the last episode on this disc 2 was "Henry in Love" and I just have to say, kudos to Radar and to HAWKEYE for telling Henry he was being a damn fool to even consider throwing away his marriage for this beautiful 20-year-old thing that he had stumbled across in Tokyo. And yet, if I were Lorraine, I would want to know the truth and I wouldn't want my cheating husband back. That's the whole point, and, I might add, a point much discussed among us expats around the tables in our favorite foreigners' watering hole in Daegu, the Commune. So many people took the position of "single for a year" while on their tour of duty. That's so wrong. So so wrong. Of course, based on my observation I would say more of those people were U.S. Army than expat teachers. Not that the expat teachers occupied some higher moral ground, but I just think a far larger percentage of us were single -- we were there by choice and often as escapists. It was a minority of us that had a significant other back home ("significant" - ha ha ha) to whom we remained faithful.

Another episode on this disc was "Hot Lips and Empty Arms" where she is reminded by a letter from a friend that she has "married the Army" and perhaps forever given up the dream of the rich husband, nice house, picket fence, etc. This episode is great because she tells Frank she's sick of their relationship which will inevitably end with him going home and her being "just a smile on your face your wife won't understand." It's also notably funny when Frank tells her, "Well, Margaret, there'll always be another war." Best of all, Margaret gets just obliterated drunk and it's hilarious. I love that episode. I love Trapper and Hawkeye sobering her up. Good drunk times in Korea. Good friends.

And back to Hawkeye being a good person. You know, he is. I'm seriously starting to divide this world more and more every day into the cheaters and the non-cheaters. Trapper means well, too, of course. Many of you cheaters do. But I just want to scream at you, my cheater friends, "Try harder!" Anyway, I digress. This disc also had the episode where a wounded guy asks them to make sure and give him "the right color blood" (i.e. he's white and doesn't want a transfusion from a black person) and Hawkeye and Trapper and Klinger and Ginger teach him a lesson by dabbing some coloring on his skin while he sleeps in post-op so he wakes up and learns a lesson about life. But he totally learns it! I got tears in my eyes when he comes to thank them in the Swamp at the end and salutes Ginger! It totally reminded me of being in Korea and getting just outraged at racism I witnessed but realizing the best response was to creatively teach a better way.

And, let's not forget, this disc also did have its magnificent group wit moments, like the monthly staff meeting taken up entirely by Radar calling the roll and Hawkeye moving to end the war, and the poker game with Sidney et. al. in an all-star episode (John Ritter! Pat Morita! -- and hey, he died while I was in Korea, a year ago this week, in fact). Plus "Oh, now the dirty movie!" when they watch the film Henry's wife sent.

Brilliant. Pure brilliance. And so much of it resonates differently for me now that I've done time in Korea. I swear, they perfectly nail the sort of group-camraderie/randomness and simlutaneous boredom/mania of being an expat in a bizarre scene. With some kamsa hamnidas in there to boot.

And I've really got the whole American-expat-in-Korea thing on the brain this week -- as opposed to my usual any-sort-of-expat-in-Korea thing -- because it's Thanksgiving and last year over there I had such an epiphany about Thanksgiving and I randomly met my American friends amid all the Canadians and Brits just in the nick of see, things can happen just in time. There's hope for me despite the boulder that is finals coming to flatten me.

I might not get to Season Two, Disc 3 until finals are over.

I have ten more days of classes. Ten! Five more Criminal Law classes, five more Contracts, three more Torts, three more Civil Procedure, and two more Legal Writing. That's it. (The numbers are weird because our last Tuesday is turned into a Friday. That's one of my favorite things about universities, how they turn days into other days. I'm rather fond of that. I wish I could just arbitrarily decide I'd had enough Tuesdays or whatever and declare them Fridays instead.)

"And when I leave this island I'll book myself into a soul asylum
'Cause I can feel the warning signs running around my mind...
So what do you say?
You can give me the dreams that are mine anyway
You're half the world away
Half the world away
Half the world away
I've been lost, I've been found, but I don't feel down..."
-- Oasis

Thursday, November 16, 2006

To litigate, to mediate, to procrastinate...we all rotate...

The time has come to begin reviewing for finals.

Actually, some would argue that that time came long ago. And since we are all arguers-in-training here at law school, they'd probably make a pretty good case. But I come down squarely on the side of procrastination in all things, so while I've had a studying-for-exams plan in my head all along, I'm only just now beginning to enact it.

Anyway. The point is, today I was looking back at some of the early chapters of my Torts book. Now, a tort is basically a wrong the law recognizes as grounds for a lawsuit, sometimes but not necessarily a crime, and not a breach of contract. These wrongs range from a punch in the face to medical malpractice. Lots and lots of negligence. There is a common perception that the U.S. in particular is out of control, that we are an overly litigious society and that people sue each other "too much" for "anything." The word "frivolous" is bandied about.

One thing I have learned this semester is that's not entirely true. Most people who say that are reacting to things they've heard in the popular media, rather than judging from their own experience. I would say it's a bit like reciting the "qualifications" of a political candidate based on what you learned from his/her opponent's attack ad. It's not exactly the big picture.

My Torts book notes that a lot of people say there are too many people bringing lawsuits these days trying to get "something for nothing." I can assure you that if there's "nothing" a case is never going to make it past the initial complaint document, much less get to a jury. It's more a matter of getting "something from which someone?" Who's to blame for this injury that occurred, if anyone -- that is the question. (Sorry, Hamlet.) Also interesting to note, available studies show individual litigation is not on the increase--there have always been lawsuits; we read cases from the 19th century all the time and much of our law is founded on English common law from centuries past. Corporate and business litigation has increased, though. So perhaps the "greed" lies there?

Of course one of the most famous cases of all is the McDonald's coffee spill, and it's a perfect example of people going off half-cocked. Do you know the facts of the case? But do you really--the actual facts? The scalding coffee spilled when the woman went to take the lid of. She got third degree burns; she had to have skin grafts and was "permanently disfigured." It turned out that McDonald's intentionally kept its coffee hot enough to cause third degree burns. Why? I speculate it's part of their cheaper-faster approach to doing mass business: of course they're not freshly brewing coffee more often than they need to, so some people are going to get served coffee at its hottest and that might be unreasonably hot.

Furthermore, everyone says "oh, that woman got millions of dollars." Well, actually she didn't. First, she asked McDonald's to pay her $11,000 in hopsital bills. Only after they refused that was there a lawsuit for damages. The jury awarded compensatory damages (yes, don't forget that average citizens on juries decide damages, not lawyers) of $200,000, but her award was reduced to $160,000 because she was considered partly at fault. In addition to compensatory damages, a jury can award punitive damages if it finds a defendant acted willfully, wantonly, or maliciously. In this case, they decided McDonald's recklessness fit the bill so they decided on punitive damages of $2.7 million. You know what that amout is? Two days' revenue for coffee sales. Just the coffee! In the popular media, it all gets lumped together, but punitive damages are distinct from the compensatory. Punitive damages are for deterrence. They're going to be based on McDonald's, not on the "price" of the injury of being scalded by coffee. And, the judge reduced that award, too, to $480,000!

You may or may not agree with the jury's decision, but we should at least have all the facts before we start talking about all "those people" who bring "frivolous" lawsuits.

The sort of underlying notion of tort law is that freedom from pain and suffering is an intangible asset in society. We all expect to go through our days without being assaulted, battered, injured, negligently put in harm's way, etc. When that doesn't happen, the torts system is in place to compensate for injuries.

I, for one, love Torts class! Much to my surprise, it became my favorite class this semester. Criminal Law is up there, too. Torts is just -- I don't know. There's something almost poetic about it. I feel that every lecture in there illuminates something for me, both regarding the cases in my text and about the world at large.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Weird Habits Meme!

So, I'm to list ten odd habits I have. All righty, then. This might prove difficult. Some days I think all my habits are a bit odd. But then when you actually try to think of them...

(And I'm going to post this on MySpace, too, but I had to do it here for those slackers who aren't cool enough to be on MySpace yet. Yeah. As if.)

1. One quirky habit for sure is that I cannot stand to write with pens without the cap on them. I can't do it. I will go to great lengths to go find another pen so I can put the cap on the end. Even if I just have to sign my name or something, I will take the time to put the cap on the end of the pen first.

2. I sometimes fold down pages in books (only in paperbacks) when I like a quote or passage; I fold down the top corner if the quote is in the first half of the page and I fold up the bottom corner if it's in the latter half of the page.

3. I sometimes put cream or milk in my coffee but I don't use stirrers. Waste of plastic. I just let the cream or milk mix with the coffee at its own pace. It does fine.

4. If I'm holding a handful of change for an extended period of time -- waiting for a bus, say -- I put the coins in order chronologically by year.

5. Of course I used to alphabetize my CDs. Now more often than not I have them in big CD wallet carriers that I travel with and they just stay in there at home, too. But I got the first, smaller CD wallet first, years ago, that doesn't hold even close to all my CDs. In that one go the "elite" CDs: Indigo Girls, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Erin McKeown, Mary-Chapin, the Melissas, the Sineads, and some other girls with guitars.

6. I don't wear shoes inside my bedroom. I take them off at the doorway. This actually started in Boston before I went to Korea. In Korea it expanded to the entire house; in Boston it was just the bedroom. Here, my house=my bedroom, pretty much.

7. At the end of the shower, I turn the water to cool and let cool water run onto my hair and then face, really quickly, in a burst of freshness. Frescacita. But I don't like being cold after a shower, it's just a quick dash of coolness for the hair and head. Is that even weird? I don't know.

8. I keep receipts. I have no idea why. I haven't balanced a checkbook or done any accounting with them in years. I keep them for months knowing full well I will never do a thing with them and then I throw them away and make room for more receipts. Actually I occasionally look back at them and try to remember that particular trip to Taco Bell or whatever. With Starbucks it's hard. So many Starbucks journeys. Then after the little trip down memory lane I throw the accumulated pile away. What's the point? No idea.

9. I don't sleep the conventional way, like in the "right" direction. Most people have their bed against a wall and that's the headboard or head end, against the wall. But I sleep the other direction with my feet toward the wall and my head out toward the room.

10. I so totally can't set my alarm for a time on the hour or half hour. I set it for 7:06 or 8:32 or something. Of course, I also never have my digital clocks on the right time (except the mobile phone -- thwarted by satellite!) so since the clock radio is always fast, I may actually be waking up at a so-called normal time. Who knows? Also I don't really need the face clocks with hands to be fast, just the digital ones.

OK, were they weird enough?!

This was just for fun. My real thoughts/epiphanies for the day can be found here on the literary supplement.