Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It doesn't really stay in your stomach 7 years...

You would not believe how often I find gum stuck under the desk (table) in law school. Here are some qualities of someone who sticks their gum under the desk instead of putting it in a proper trash receptacle:
  • lazy
  • messy
  • careless
  • disrespectful
  • short-sighted
  • self-centered
Now, are these the qualities you seek in your lawyer? I think not.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

My last summer without a J.D. is over!

That's right: I have started my third ( = last) year of law school.

I might add that classes started so early this year (August 18th? hello?) that not only did I find it a major inconvenience to have to start school while still watching the Olympics but at least two of my professors have had to cancel a class within the first two weeks because the early start date caught them by surprise too, and they weren't done with their summer plans (variously vacationing in New England and appearing at a book signing. Yeah, my Criminal Procedure teacher also writes mystery novels. I've shelved her at Borders before.)

Hofstra gave the usual blah blah about this calendar bringing us more in line with other law schools, although I happen to know of other law schools that have not in fact started classes and are like, why are you going back to school this early? So there.

Major interruption of my Olympic viewing. Not cool.

But now it's the closing ceremonies, and summer is officially over, and I can safely plunge into the school year. Now that I'm no longer working in a clinic I am happy about school again and excited for my 17 credits. Although that's a lot of credits. My themes this semester are international things, criminal things, and intellectual property things. For some bizarre reason I just adore trademarks. They are so interesting to me. I discovered this last year when I had a chapter on trademarks in my Entertainment Law class, and I like them so much that this semester I registered for the entire Trademarks class. I also have Patent Law. One thing I can tell you already: just like with "impact" (as Julia Sugarbaker would say), do not use "trademark" as a verb.

My oddball class is Ethics. It's required. It's not really philosophical, but more like what is the code of professional responsibility, is such-and-such a conflict of interest, and stuff like that. Maybe I'll throw some of the problems on here for you to discuss. The bummer about that class is that I waited to take it until I could get into Monroe Freedman's class, because he is a brilliant legend, and I was wait-listed for his class the past two semesters. (There are probably
four or so ethics teachers each time around.) But at the last minute he apparently decided he's no longer up for teaching as much, so we have a different teacher. A new woman, barely out of law school herself, who is very young and eager and taught for a year or something at a small law school in North Carolina and who is very - um - enthusiastic about traditional law school success. She has totally bought the package.

Traditional law school success means being on Law Review, being highly ranked in your class (often after memorizing lots of commercial outlines. Law students live and die by their outlines. Well, most of them do. Except for two of us), and getting An Offer from the firm at which you worked your second summer so after you graduate you can make six figures at a big corporate megafirm until you either a)get a job as a law school professor, teaching another generation how to walk your path of misery b)start doing lots of cocaine. LOTS c)throw yourself from the roof of your office building.

There was a time when I thought I wanted those things. (Well, not the last bit.) You know, Law Review and all that. Until I realized how decidedly not fun it is. What can I say, I like fun! When we had the writing competition to get onto Law Review or one of Hofstra's other journals at the end of first year, I took one look at the packet with a hundred pages of material to read, including a fake hypothetical whose facts I was to synthesize with all the relevant law, coming up with a brilliantly written legal memo to earn me a coveted spot cite-checking and editing other legal writing, I thought - ewww. One of my classmates put it best. Re: the writing competition, she said, "This sucks. And the reward is - more of this!" Truer words were never spoken, about that and a lot of law school/lawyerly things.

The interesting thing is, I'm the one who's totally wistful and nostalgic this week as we 3Ls start our final year and realize it's all coming to an end. Blink and you'll miss it, I want to tell the 1Ls. I really like classes, school, and learning. And I really like the learning I've done in law school. Money? It's a worry. It's stressful. But I've been broke forever; not having a megafirm job won't change that. I'm just a little startled to see how many of my cohorts seem to really still think that "success" equals happiness. I thought we all learned that wasn't true in like 1994. Maybe they weren't born yet.

Speaking of not being born yet, here's my emphatic statement about the ages of any and all Chinese gymnasts: Who cares?!

Here's my emphatic statement about B.O.'s text messaging revelation (almost!) of his VP candidate: Can we say "debacle"? Can we also say "more hype from the king of rhetoric and hype"?

Here's my emphatic statement on Beijing: WHY DIDN'T I GO THERE when I had the chance? (While I lived in Korea.) On second thought, let's not dwell. Onward. I adored the Olympics, the spectacle, the shots of the Great Wall and a giant Buddha statue during the fanfare in and out of commercial breaks, the ceremonies, the medals, Shawn Johnson, Lezak, Phelps, diving, volleyball, relays, all of it. I like Olympic games! They are global and fun. That's all I want out of life: global and fun. Once I thought law school could get me on a path that is global and fun; let's see if it happens! Onward, indeed.

"Well, then, save the next little boy!" - In Bruges

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Come Monday...

Today in a fitting end to the summer we totally Brooklyned it up by checking out the scenes in Red Hook and Coney Island. (Turning "Brooklyn" into a verb is troublesome because it looks wrong whether I put one 'n' or two when adding "ed" for the past tense there.)

Red Hook is the location of the new IKEA. (Finally! NYC has IKEA!) We stopped by there but didn't find the futon cover we sought. It was predictably scary, being Saturday; I had soooo wanted to go there weekdays only but it just worked out this way. The real draw in Red Hook were the Latino food vendors gathered around the park, selling tacos, pupusas, enchiladas, juices and horchatas, empanadas, you name it. It's quite the festive atmosphere, with soccer games, picnics, birthday parties, and a mix of ethnicities, ages, families, young singles, etc.

Unfortunately, I am outraged because I guess before this year there were MORE vendors and they sold out of tents but this year they were delayed in starting back up and had to get trucks due to the public health officials getting involved. I'm not sure the details, but I really can't see why they'd have to get those food vendor trucks (ice-cream man style) to sell food. Because now you've got engine noise, pollution, and a waste of gas and lots of their money on gas, and in this fuel economy? There are fewer vendors this year because they can't all afford the trucks. It's utter crap! Get outraged with me! I think it's a conspiracy between NYC officials and oil companies.

We did, however, get to see a soccer game come to an end in dramatic fashion, including one man punching another spectator. We stayed around to watch the next soccer game for a while, then left for Coney Island.

As we arrived on the subway, at the very end of the F line (or as the case may be with today's track work, the G train taking the F's place), I remarked that Coney Island is one of the most famous places in the U.S.A. that I haven't hadn't visited. I was excited to finally see it!

It is all that I thought it would be, and more. It is all that I thought because it had the boardwalk, roller coaster, ferris wheel, cotton candy, pier, boardwalk, sand, water, and loads of sketchy people. It was more because it was fun! And, I daresay, charming.

When I first moved to New York, in fall 2006, and was living my unfortunate incarceration on Long Island, I started hearing about how the famed Coney Island of Americana lore would soon be to nothing, or rather, be replaced by condos and more upscale development. Apparently the amusement park is officially closing at the end of this season. This is an outrage!

Why do we need hotel, resort, water park, restaurants, shopping? Why do we need them inSTEAD of older buildings, the famous roller coaster, Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, random dance party on the pier, and assorted freaks?

Actually people were on the whole decidedly un-freaky. Although there was a little game of "Shoot the Freak," which was basically paintball and for $5 you could buy five shots or something, maybe 30 for $10, I forget the amounts. A dude stood there with the helmet, shield, and knee pads. I've never paintballed a day in my life, but was nonetheless captivated for a moment or two watching Shoot the Freak. There's no particular reason why it was called that, a the guy was just a guy wearing a helmet and probably switched off with the dude taking the money. The great thing about it was that unlike even the shooting the duck or the water into the clowns' mouths for a stuffed animal or whatever this was plunked down in the dirt and weeds between two food stand/drink places. What ingenuity! What entrepreneurship! What low overhead! How can some developer's condos (not Trump, by the way) or whatever possibly replace this?

Other than one multiply pierced guy who was carefully eyeing everyone at pocket level, I really only encountered one sketchball. On the pier (which was brimming with sketchballs whom I didn't precisely encounter) as Brian and I leaned over the side watching a guy a few yards away chucked a can into the water. (Like, a food can, not a pop can.) Then he tossed another. This annoyed me, not the least reason of which was that were trash cans placed regularly along the pier and one was eight feet, maybe, away from him. So I went over and politely told him and the woman with him that I didn't think they needed to throw the cans in the water and I pointed out the trash can a few feet away.

The woman said, in a somewhat apologetic matter, "Oh I didn't know the cans went into the water." The cans were, like, Chef Boyardee or something...they were pouring things on bread for dinner on paper plates. It was pretty sketchtacular. The man, a piece of work, was more spaced out. "What happened?" he asked me. I repeated myself, again pointing to the can, and then he repeated himself, "Wha hap un?"

To give you an idea, this guy was basically Carlos Santana's crack baby. He was around 40 (you'll see next paragraph how I know this) but looked closer to sixty. Wild-eyed, wild-haired, and wild speeched, I can't remember which clothes he was missing, but the ratty ones he had did little for him. The wife was a bit more put together. I went back over to Brian and resumed gazing at the water/beach/amusements.

Soon, dude ambled over and began talking about what I'd said. This was not an easy man to understand. He started out saying he'd been here 33 years, no, make that 37 years...but then he moved on to how he didn't throw the cans -- the wind blew them, and who am I to go talk to his wife, and so on. The last bit was interesting, because I didn't go over to talk to his wife, I just ended up talking to her because he was too drunk to understand me. I think he wanted to start a fight with us but he was too spaced out to do so, so I didn't really fear him much. Within a couple minutes he had started talking to Brian instead of me, which is funny in such a faux-machismo way. I was completely not interested in arguing with him, but it was hard to resist whenever he ended a segment of his rant with "You understand me?!" saying actually, no, I really didn't get all that. Finally, the conversation devolved into this man saying he was going to jump in the water to go get the cans.

The cans, by the way, were long gone at this point. Kind of like this man's mind. However, the four gentlemen next to us were now also involved, because when wild-eyes said (as he did a few times) "What business is it of yours?" and Brian said "It IS our business" the man next to us piped up, "It's our planet!" which is exactly where I was coming from so I knew we were all on the same page.

The crazy man who has spent his life here throwing cans into the sea eventually got his shoes off and was trying to gear up for his jump in, but something finally persuaded him this was a terrible idea. I was pretty amused the whole time. I also told him we were basically ready to leave and might not stay for his little show, but I don't think he heard me. He finally returned to his wife and -- horrors! -- the two small children who materialized from running around to eat dinner off the paper plates with them and then, I might add, threw out trash in the wastebasket. Ahh, hope for the next generation!? Those poor kids...

The four men next to us turned out to be tourists from Atlanta. We chatted for a little while about the pier, craziness, and so on. I like to think I contributed a little something to their New York experience. And it's nice to have some good ol' boys who've got your back in a little pier encounter. Plus, the teenage son's post-encounter imitation of drunk removal of shoes was priceless!

I definitely recommend visiting Coney Island before its "warts and all" feel is made over.

A couple hours later as we strolled back to the subway at the end of our satisfying day, we passed an outdoor bar with tables and chairs in the sand where I heard the strains of Jimmy Buffett's "Come Monday." First of all, who doesn't love a little Jimmy Buffett at the beach? But secondly, I start school on Monday. My third and final year of law school. And that's weird. So who doesn't love a contemplative Jimmy Buffett song for such a moment?

"Yes, it's been quite a summer
Rent-a-cars and westbound trains..."

I just love the wistfulness in that song. And I've been thinking a lot about California lately. But starting my last year of law school this Monday just made the phrase ring in my ears. I even paused on the sidewalk to listen to all of it. Of course, when you pause on the sidewalk between the boardwalk and the subway, you get to not only listen to the end of the Jimmy Buffett song but also see a stray cat roaming around the trash cans (I love the kitty! Hope it got a mouse) and a man relieving himself in the bushes. What was that Jimmy Buffett sang about enjoyin' the scenery...?

Friday, August 15, 2008

...and I feel fine

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy." -- George W. Bush

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What part of "I love the Olympics" do you not understand?

I've decided that doing little other than watching the Olympics for a week is a great thing to do in the lead-up to one's final year of law school.

Note I didn't say "nothing other." Last night we went to a movie, and I am pleased to report that I FINALLY saw a summer film that delighted me! After all the over-hyped, overrated, and typical summer junk, here's a "summer movie" that disappointed a lot of people and kind of faded away, but is great. In fact, I'm sure it disappointed some people beCAUSE there is more to it than blowing things up. (Although, some things are blown up.) The movie, which I recommend, is Hancock.

Anyway, if you aren't watching the games of the XXIX Olympiad, you are missing out. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Entertainment and spectacle

What am I totally looking forward to watching? What inspires me and makes me feel enthusiasm, anticipation, and the like? The Olympics! Yeah! Starting tomorrow.

What makes me say ugh, I am not looking forward to you at all, you are not interesting to me, go away? The Republican and Democrat national conventions. Whatever, both parties. Go away.

Meanwhile, many other parties have already held their conventions, but a lot you care about the Green, Libertarian, and Reform parties.

Did I mention that I have to start school soon? Way too soon this year. Apropos of nothing, I learned tonight that Long Island is up there in the top few most popular U.S. places for breast augmentation.

Finally, I have been disappointed by pretty much every movie I've seen this summer. That list includes Sex and the City, Indiana Jones and whatever he's after now, Wall-E, The Dark Knight, and for the love of god Mamma Mia. Oh, summer movies, wherefore art thou summer movies?

By the way, that's a JOKE. I know that Indy was after a crystal skull. Or was that some ridiculous, multiplying, not-even-trying-to-seem-real swarms of large shiny ants?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Emergency is in the eye of the beholder

OK, so I admit that we made some mistakes. Well, a critical one: we looked away from our personal property in Central Park. Yes, Central Park, possibly THE most famously feared site of being mugged, or something. You grow up hearing tales of the dangers of big bad New York City, and while obviously crime is down here I suppose I should hang my head a little to have not been vigilant in Central Park of all places, to have been lulled into a sense of complacency now that I live in the Greatest City in the World. But that's not the point.

I've played softball in a bunch of parks around NYC. Not just Central Park, but also Brooklyn's Prospect Park, two different fields on Rooselvelt Island, and some other random fields around the city. The thing is, there's always an opposing team on the bench when you're in the field, and so there's always someone generally keeping an eye on everyone's stuff, just like any other softball game anywhere. Yesterday, however, the opposing team didn't show up so after some batting practice we just arranged a 4-on-4 scrimmage against ourselves (which, in itself, should impress you with our skill and ingenuity and stalwart..uh..stalwartness? is that a word? why yes it is), as softball was never really meant to be four on four. Anyway: that's not the point either.

Nor is it the point that a suspicious-looking character lurked behind the backstop around our bags, and immediately after the following out we headed over to move our bags, now suddenly aware that with no one on the bench they were quite unattended but it was too late and one guy's bag had already been stolen. I feel quite bad for Rich, and that could be the point of another lament, but it is not the point of this one.

Here's the point: so, after our initial sort of "Oh my god! What do we do?" it just so happened that I called the police on my cell phone. So we called 911 and after establishing that we were in Central Park and no one was hurt but there had been a theft, that's when the fun began.

First, the 911 operator wanted to know where in Central Park. I gave her what I thought was a helpful and specific piece of information, that we were on Softball Field #1 on the Great Lawn. It was, in fact, this info that had led us all there to play softball, so it should definitely be enough for the police to come to us. But not this lady. "No, no, no," she chided me, "first I need to know Central Park East or Central Park West." Well, I said, we're not on a street on either side of the park. We're in the middle of the park. Exasperated, she said, "Well then are you on the east side or the west side of the park?" I was kind of conferring with my fellow softball peoples on the side, like, 'Aren't we just in the middle? She's demanding whether we're on the east or west side of the park?'

After a bit of this, and a lot more typing sounds, I again said that we were on softball field #1 on the Great Lawn. She said, "I need a street." There was no street! We were in the middle of the park! One of my softball friends pointed out we were near the Belvedere Castle, so I mentioned that. Now, seriously, two or three minutes had to have gone by. I suggested that any cop on the Central Park beat would definitely know where to find the softball fields on the Great Lawn -- and I had even told her which field! To which she replied, with a healthy dose of attitude, "Well, no, I need to put it in the computer first."

I would like to think that this requirement to "put it in the computer first" before dispatching the police was only necessary because it was not an emergency, but I have my doubts even about that, based largely on the rest of the call. Let's continue. So, along about now amid her typing she appeared to have moved onto another field on her screen and she said, "OK, so you're on the south field #1?" And I said, well, that's softball field #1. And she said, "What kind of field is it? Soccer fields?" Softball! Baseball, I corrected myself. Whatever it took, geez. So then she's like, "Oh, OK." More typing. Meanwhile, I am trying to explain why I am still on this phone call, why no cop who is probably fifty yards from us has been sent to us, and so on.

Then she asked, "OK, now what borough are you in?"

Really? Really?! You can get hired as a 911 operator in New York City (or, frankly, anywhere), to be called on in an emergency, without knowing that Central Park is in Manhattan? And if so, then who on earth thought that nonsense of pinning us down to a street first was a good idea? Wtf?!?!?! Since I had been silenced by my shock at this question, she loudly said, "Ma'am, hellooooo? I said, what borough are you in? Are you in Manhattan, are you in Brooklyn?" and I just sort of mumbled that we were in Manhattan. Yes, that Central Park. The world-freaking-famous one in Manhattan.

Finally, she said, "Now, what happened?" So I repeated that someone had stolen our friend's bag. I did not add that this thief was probably in New Jersey by now. This is the part where I just gave up on her entirely. Had she even heard me already tell her (five minutes earlier) what had happened? What if i had been mugged/chased/stabbed/what have you? What if someone was having a heart attack? What if for the love of god she could have sent out the description we'd given her ten minutes earlier so cops might have seen the guy on the way to the subway?

But, just when you think there's nothing else she could say to shock me, she apparently got to her description of the suspect field because she asked me, "OK, was he black or Hispanic?" If it had been anyone else I would have thought I couldn't possibly have heard her correctly and I might have started thinking about racial profiling or social justice or something. But I swear I just wanted off this phone call. This useless, ridiculous phone call.

A few minutes later, the cops -- a much smarter lot -- showed up. And then another car, and another, plus then the detectives. I am pleased to report that they asked intelligent questions, were capable people, and made sense. And, as I figured they would, they sure knew their way around Central Park, their beat, and their precincts. Not much hope of recovering the bag, of course, but off they went to the police station with victim and a witness or two (I didn't really observe the guy at all; I'm so terrible at that) and the rest of us went on our merry ways.

Bummer. But, really, lady? Really? Thanks for your help. All 7 minutes and 32 seconds of it. I thought I was in a Saturday Night Live sketch or something. But it was just another real-life day in the Greatest City in the World. Goooooo, homeland security!

Friday, August 01, 2008

"It's about meat"

When we led our "The Books We Should Have Read in High School" book group in L.A., Jodi and I were "in charge" but Joe always came to the meetings and read the books along with us. Likewise, we faithfully attended and read Joe's book group "Contemporary Fiction" (which in the summer became "Trashy Classics" for three months). Well, Jodi and I both wanted to read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle for our group, it definitely being one of those high-schoolish classics you always hear about. Joe wrinkled his nose at the suggestion and said, "Isn't that about meat?" It sounded really funny when he boiled it down to that. So in the whole time leading up to doing The Jungle in book group, we kept laughingly repeating, "It's about meat."

Only, turns out, it really isn't. After a lifetime of hearing about slaughterhouses and muckraking and The Jungle exposing the world to the horrors of making meat, I read it and realized it was about meat for, like, two pages. It WAS about the horrible conditions of slaughterhouses, but mostly for the workers, not to mention the deplorable conditions in which the poor immigrant workers LIVED in Chicago, and the socio-political nightmare under which they suffered, and so on. I did learn that in response to the book's revelation of some of the terrible conditions Congress stepped up, regulated things, made the Food and Drug Administration start making things better meatwise. But are there still problems? Oh my, there are.

Today, life imitates art: 'The Jungle,' Again

Speaking of famous books, apparently JK Rowling wrote another. Or should I say -- as, for example, the Borders newsletter says -- JK Rowling did the introduction, notes, and illustrations, but the book is a collection of fairy tales translated by Hermione Granger from the ancient runes? Puh-leeeze.

It got me to thinking, as I actively avoid the midnight release tonight of Stephanie Meyer's new young adult vampire fantasy book, I'm interested in this new trend of people salivating en masse about a.)wistful young adult fantasy series b.)superhero movies. Specifically, I'm interested in it in the face of the concurrent trend of people refusing to engage in smart entertainment addressing the reality of the world, i.e. the Iraq war and other lies of the Bush administration. From Lions for Lambs to Stop Loss, people (not us) have been staying away from the theaters in droves where Iraq is concerned. Not to mention the crap they give Michael Moore, no matter how often he is proved to be right.

So I'm wondering if those things are related. You know, fantasy and avoiding reality. See what I mean? Does this explain my lack of interest in the fantasy genre? I mean, when it comes to great literature, I totally recognize. The Lord of the Rings? Good stuff. But the obsession with all things fantasy? So not my style. But I love me some politically-themed film. And I love the stuff that calls out the warmongering Bush administration.

Added to my growing list of people I don't care about (which thus far includes JK Rowling, the author on her coattails Stephanie Meyer, and Barack Obama) is Brett Favre. Seriously, can we just stop talking about him? Who cares? Why do they care? It's beyond me.

As for the athlete in the news I do like? Manny Ramirez! Tell me more! No longer a Red Sock, he is off to L.A. I like me some Dodgers, so I'm kind of happy he ended up there. And he really is a good fit for that city. Which I also love. Oh, the dwindling Red Sox. Jason Varitek is practically the only one of my crew left there now! I'm kind of OK with Manny talking trash about Boston too. I mean, how do we know? Maybe it totally sucked to be there and be good and loved by fans. Besides, being easygoing doesn't always go over well in that city, I can tell you. Anyway, I liked seeing him sporting the Dodger blue while I watched the press conference. Go West, young Manny!