Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Can you tell me how to get...?

Why is everyone hating on Sesame Street? Twice this week I have found myself defending this greatest of shows. First my mom e-mailed that Time magazine said Sesame Street might "not meet the needs of today's preschool child" because Cookie Monster eats too many cookies. Are you kidding? I'll tell you who is clearly not meeting the needs of today's preschool children -- 1)their parents 2)any media company who would print that statement (or similarly absurd statements such as "W. Bush has legitimate reasons for going to war in Iraq")

Then today in class (the Gender Colloquium) we discussed categorization and the intersectionality of categories in legal advocacy. Example: there is often a blur between race and sex discrimination. Like, if Don Imus goes around calling someone "nappy-headed hos" it is interesting how quickly it became a racial discussion more than a women's groups discussion. That kind of thing. Anyway, the speaker talked about how we learn categorization from Sesame Street, a la "One of these things is not like the other."

Now, I like me some Ani DiFranco as much as the next person (if not more so), but her lyric "They tried to test my IQ, they showed me a picture of three oranges and a pear, they asked me which one is different and doesn't belong, they taught me different is wrong" is great poetry, but it is not the literal truth. Sesame Street is awesome and helps connect synapses and teach kids how to hang out in the world. As I pointed out in class today, there is no value judgment about circles and triangles. They're just different. One is not better than the other.

Also in that class, and I realize I am breaking my no-blogging-about-classmates-rule for the second time in a week, but come on: we were talking about optimism and pessimism in law students and lawyers, and some girl brought up The Secret. UGH. And quite frankly, a phrase more vulgar than "ugh" slipped out of me -- aloud, I fear -- before I could even catch myself. So I had to cover it up by saying some more about Oprah and pretending I wasn't offering this classmate my biggest eye roll of the semester. The Secret. Puh-leeze. I actually don't dislike Oprah at all, but she so missed the boat on that one. She should go back to He's Just Not That Into You.

*note: Not only is this the second time I have quoted Ani DiFranco's song "My IQ" but also the second time I have mentioned Ani D. and George W. in the same post (here's the first). This time instead of Tolstoy and Cleary, they are joined by Oprah, Don Imus, and Cookie Monster, another fabulous assortment of guests for a dinner party if I do say so myself.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pssssst...did you hear???

Normally I don't blog about my fellow Hofstra Law students, but the time has come to make an exception.

I am currently sitting in the law school lounge with my headphones in my ears, listening to sound from my computer while I prepare for Con Law, eating my lunch, etc. I am basically not paying attention to anyone around me, but just overheard the following exchange between two 3rd-years on a nearby couch:

Red Vest (I'll call her 'RV'): … [something about registering for Real Estate Transactions class]
Turtleneck (I'll call her 'TN'): “I’m not taking Real Estate. I refuse to take Silverman.”
RV: “Why, what’s wrong with him?” [note: RV is probably the only person in the school who doesn’t already know the answer to this question]
TN: “Oh my god, he’s the WORST professor in the whole school.”
RV: “Why? He’s mean, he can’t teach, what?”
TN: “He’s an asshole.” [which is a fair assessment, but…]
RV: “Really?”
TN: “Remember that girl who died last year?”
RV: “The first-year?”
TN: “Yeah. Well, she obviously hadn’t been there for a couple days, right? SO he calls on her, right, and he’s like, ‘Where is she? Why hasn’t she been here?’ and stuff, and finally someone goes, ‘Um, professor, she just passed’ and he’s like ‘What do you mean she passed?’ and they’re like, ‘She died’ and then he’s all, 'Oh, I did get a memo…’ and then on the break everyone was complaining but he refused to apologize, and so many people complained that now he’s on that forced, um, what’s it called – forced – you know, what Schepard’s doing?”
RV: “Sabbatical?”
TN: “Yeah, forced sabbatical. Everyone was so mad.”
RV: “Wow.”
TN: “Yeah, plus he talks like a robot...”

Great story, right? Except, guess what, that’s not what happened. I was actually IN that class. (Property. Spring 2007. Ugh.) So what REALLY happened is that he never called on anyone out of the blue; rather, he always had the attendance sheet from the previous class and called on the people who’d been absent (unless they had an excused absence with him because they had wisdom teeth surgery or something) which is actually probably a great tactic and it worked for me because I never missed class, so I never got called on, so it didn't matter that I never did the reading or paid attention to him. Anyway, it’s a big class of 120+ and it was early in the semester and probably no teachers knew anyone's name, not just him. So,then he did call on Heather Scott. And everyone got eerily, uncomfortably silent. Even the clackity-clacking grasshoppers were silenced. But that’s all that he said. He didn’t ask anything about her, or where she’d been, or chastise her. Within a few (painful) seconds someone said, “She passed away.” And he instantly said, “Oh my. Oh how clumsy of me. I do apologize. Yes, I did get an e-mail about that.” And he was subdued for a second and then he carried on with class.

Of course it's a great "can you believe it!" story; I recall telling it to Brian that night at McCann's while we played trivia. It was pretty messed up – and I still talk about it with my friends from that class, sometimes. But I always point out that frankly, that was the ONE day I saw him break character, and stop his ridiculous monologue that he’s been delivering on auto-pilot for 30 years. We did glimpse his humanity for a brief moment, even if it was the dark side of humanity. I love how the rumor mill tells it differently. I’m so curious where this girl got her story. And what's even better than the number of altered facts and added bits is how she just nonchalantly launched into it as if she had actually witnessed it.

For me, Silverman was kind of like going to BYU, or looking for a food you're craving in Cuba, or teaching in a Korean hagwon, or any number of other grueling but bizarrely inspiring experiences we undergo in life: there’s really no need to exaggerate and embellish the stories, because living through the reality is unsettling enough. You’d know that if you were there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wow, Part II

After the prayers, the rain comes

This article is awesome! I love how it's like "Perdue -- and the National Weather Service -- said it would rain." Like, hello masses! It's not 600 B.C.E. anymore. We do have rational explanations for phenomena our world leaders like to pass off as their own/divine doing. Good for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

November it up!

If I were in Korea today, my adolescent minions would be gifting me with lots of chocolate sticks. Remember Pepero Day? Ahhh, good times. Instead, I did get some free treats today, but it was not candy, rather, continental breakfast, coffee, soda, water, and sub sandwiches for lunch. Where was I that I was the privileged recipient of such bounty? Well, this weekend I took an intensive class all about depositions. It was held Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday, and so in three days I earned one credit! You can't beat that. It definitely makes you feel like you did something productive with your weekend. Also, there is no exam and it's graded pass/fail. I hope I passed. I definitely practiced lots of deposing. I know many, many things about depositions now. Go on, ask me.

Oh, you'd rather talk about something else? Like movies?? OK, let's!

Specifically, Oscar movies!

I am getting excited about awards season. I don't care if everyone else is like blah blah low box office blah blah nothing exciting blah blah lukewarm critical response blah. I have seen some awesome movies this year, and a lot more are on the way. Some of the movies I have loved this year: Grindhouse, Once, Sunshine, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, American Gangster. Some of the upcoming movies I am really excited about: Margot at the Wedding, Juno, Sweeney Todd, Charlie Wilson's War, The Kite Runner...and there are more, so many more.

If I were a betting girl (what is this "if" talk?), I might put money on some of the following:
*American Gangster will get nominations, plural
*This might be Jennifer Jason Leigh's year, and if so, I already have my this-is-such-b.s.-she-is-not-a-supporting-role-in-this-film award
*For documentaries, I'm thinking...Sicko...Sharkwater...and maybe even the Donkey Kong one.
*And by the way, I must add: The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford not only should get multiple nominations for acting, cinematography, and I'd even like to see Best Picture, but hands down it is one of the best scripts in quite some time. So it absolutely positively must get a nomination for adapted screenplay (in which category it will probably compete with American Gangster, among others), but I don't feel bad saying already that it should win. I realize I've seen hardly any other contenders, but it will be really hard for any film to displace this as my top choice. It was just one of the best written films ever. Ever! Furthermore, it was visually amazing, and you really need to see it. That scene, early on, where the train comes out of the darkness...it is in my top three movie scenes of all time.

That's all for now, but I'll have more to say on this topic (of course I will!)

Meanwhile, though, I have to keep plugging away. I am super busy with school, writing major research papers, reading a ton, etc. Finals are approaching, and I've got a lot to do between now and then. I'm not far behind or anything, just have to keep on keeping on.

But there's an exciting thing on the horizon: we're going to Grand Rapids for Thanksgiving! (Brian's hometown) I've never been to Grand Rapids. Wheee!

OK, everybody go hug a veteran.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A strange thing happened on the way to Bioethics class...

Well, you don't see this every day.

We're on the death and dying unit in my Bioethics and the Law class. Recently on the Long Island Rail Road on my way to school, I did the reading for that class, including the case of In re T.A.C.P. For those of you to whom this means something, 609 So. 2d 588 (Fla. 1992). It was riveting, and moving, and I wept.

That's right. My law school reading -- a casebook! -- moved me to tears. I just sat there on the train, reading and reading and weeping and weeping.

It was amazing. Granted, I can often be found tearing up at movies, a fair amount of books, and even some "silly little things" in random daily life. But a law school casebook? Honestly, my texts may have induced tears before, but they wouldn't have been this kind.

So what was the case all about, you ask? Well, "T.A.C.P." was a baby born with anencephaly, which is basically a condition in which the child is born with only a brain stem and no brain. This particular child was missing the back of its skull and the brain stem was exposed to the air. Babies born anencephalic tend to die within a few days; apparently what happens is the body can briefly function on a kind of "auto pilot" of breathing and heartbeat, which soon stop because there is no brain and therefore no brain regulation of bodily functions.

That's not even the part that made me cry though. In learning of this condition of their soon-to-be-born child, the parents of "T.A.C.P." agreed to have a Caesarean section for the express purpose of having the child's organs be less damaged so that they might be donated to other children. They knew their child was going to be born with no brain and die extremely soon, and they tried to give life to others.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way, because of the inability to define the child as dead and the resulting inability to harvest the organs. The most success with transplants from anencephalic infants has occurred when the child is placed on life support and the organs are taken as soon as possible. Even so, there have not been many transplants from anencephalics. Most states have a clinical cardio-pulmonary definition of death, which this child did not meet while the body continued breathing. Most states also have a definition of "brain death." It is odd in this case, because there literally was no brain, but because the brain stem had not entirely ceased to function, T.A.C.P. did not meet the criteria for brain death. Several states have introduced bills in their legislatures to try to get newborns with anencephaly declared legally dead, but so far none have passed.

I think one contributing factor to how emotional it was to read this case was how poignant and well written it was . If there's one thing I've learned in law school it's that some judges' writing is spectacular (including, believe it or not, Scalia -- his opinions are among the best as far as engaging the reader) and some are more like craptacular. This one was heartfelt. "We have been deeply touched by the altruism and unquestioned motives of the parents of T.A.C.P...we express no opinion today about who is right and who is wrong on these issues --if any 'right' or wrong' can be found here. The salient point is that no consensus exists...we find no basis to expand the common law to equate anencephaly with death..." and so on.

Have I mentioned that Bioethics is one of my favorite classes? In fact, it's not just one of my favorites this semester. It may be the best class I have had in quite some time, period. Maybe since Norman Corwin's Colum Writing, or even Cecilia Konchar Farr's Women's Literature... And my Bioethics professor, Janet Dolgin, is quite personable, analytical, funny, and insightful, and also just happens to be a major health law expert. It's almost time to register for next semester and I might take another class from her just to take another class from her. I am planning to do that with a couple professors, actually.

Because nothing is simple. Right? Even (especially) defining death.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why I am going to miss a session of my best class

Have I really not blogged about this yet? This is seriously the dumbest thing ever. I have attended a lot of universities and experienced the ramifications of many a wacky decision, but this takes the cake. SO, are you ready for Hofstra's contribution, surely to be awarded the title of Most Retarded University Decision Ever? Then, with no further ado:

First we had Rosh Hashanah. If you've been around these parts a while, you know that Hofstra gives us a couple days off in September for Jewish holidays. The next month when it's time to celebrate the slayers of indigenous peoples we are out of luck, but September is great because we have maybe one full week of school and holidays pop up all over the place.

You may recall Rosh Hashanah this year, which began at sundown Wednesday, September 12. Therefore on Wednesday we had no classes after 4 p.m., and we had no classes Thursday and Friday. Many of my classmates scurried off to do high holy things, whereas I had a very long (and epiphany-laden) weekend.

Now, pay attention, because here's where it gets complicated.

As you may know, many universities play with the calendar in order to make up for class time lost to holidays. For example, in a spring semester filled with Monday holidays, they might turn a Monday into a Tuesday schedule during February to balance things out. Well, a careful reader may have noticed that cancelling classes only after 4 p.m. on that Wednesday means we're off kilter with our Wednesday. When can we make up the other half of that Wednesday? this careful reader might ask him/herself.

Meanwhile, we lost that Thursday and Friday to Rosh H. And we'd lost a Monday to Labor Day. So what we need is a week consisting only of Monday, Thursday, and Friday, right? The powers that be of Hofstra School of Law decided on Thanksgiving week: perfect! Monday is Monday, Tuesday is Thursday, and Wednesday is Friday. So for the two days before Thanksgiving, a Thurs-Fri schedule is in effect. (Yay for me; I have no classes on Fridays.)

Now about that lingering half a Wednesday. Well. In some lovely committee meeting, surely a banner day for group decision-making, they decided the following: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be a Friday until 4 p.m., and after that will be a Wednesday.

Yes, you read that right. ONLY AFTER 4 P.M., the day before Thanksgiving, does one have to attend one's Wednesday classes. No one has classes after 4 on Fridays, so it's perfect, right?

Wrong, Hofstra. Wrong, wrong, wrong! How can anyone possibly think that's a good idea? It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. They could have just had a Wednesday -- an entire Wednesday extra -- in December. They could have done a lot of things. But no, that seemed like a good idea, to all these people who probably live five minutes away as do their families who have never left Long Island.

I hereby protest. I would be done early Tuesday ("Thursday") afternoon, and then I'm supposed to hang around until Wednesday ("Friday"--> Wednesday) at 6 pm? Uh - no.

A lot of people, obviously, are considering missing their classses. Some profs might cancel, but they're not all going to. It's SO DUMB. Furthermore, I resent it. I resent that Rosh Hashana gets preferential treatment. I should say I'm being slighted for my important holiday because I'm NOT Jewish. ('Cause I'm sure that would go over real well.)

Oh, the folly of the world.

Speaking of which, I have to get back to listening to my Con Law prof talk about the executive branch now.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This is twisted logic even for fundamentalist Christians

OK, seriously. Seriously.

Church: Gays to blame for Iraq war

I really just have to quote one part from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article here:

"The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that soldiers are dying because the nation is too tolerant of homosexuality."

I can't possibly make this stuff up. Go on. Click that link above and check it out. Wow.

Nah, soldiers aren't dying because Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and more have sent them to war. They're not dying because of lack of equipment, or too much equipment. They're not dying because of oil, or Bush's greed, or Halliburton, or even terrorists. They're apparently not dying for freedom anymore, or to "defend our way of life." (I love that phrase. And by "love" I of course mean "laugh at it incessantly.") Nope, all of those are gone and we've now discovered the REAL reason that soldiers are dying in Iraq. Because we tolerate the gays.

Wow. I'm so glad we have this Baptist church around to enlighten us.