September 22, 2014
The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued from the woods of Germany; in the rude institutions of those Barbarians we [received] the original principles of our present laws and manners.
--Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter IX (1782)
September 05, 2014
Harvard, Steven Pinker and Cultural Literacy: What should we all know something about?
Once again, Cultural Literacy, anyone? What should we all know about, anyway? What does it mean to be educated?
See in The New Republic "The Trouble with Harvard: The Ivy League Is Broken and Only Standardized Tests Can Fix It". Now forget this article's title, Harvard, standardized tests or the liberal reputation* of the magazine (TNR) publishing it. About halfway through, author Steven Pinker gives us a fine summary in two thoughtful paragraphs of What It Means to be Educated. We could not ask for more:
.... It seems to me that educated people should know something about the 13-billion-year prehistory of our species and the basic laws governing the physical and living world, including our bodies and brains. They should grasp the timeline of human history from the dawn of agriculture to the present. They should be exposed to the diversity of human cultures, and the major systems of belief and value with which they have made sense of their lives. They should know about the formative events in human history, including the blunders we can hope not to repeat. They should understand the principles behind democratic governance and the rule of law. They should know how to appreciate works of fiction and art as sources of aesthetic pleasure and as impetuses to reflect on the human condition.
On top of this knowledge, a liberal education should make certain habits of rationality second nature. Educated people should be able to express complex ideas in clear writing and speech. They should appreciate that objective knowledge is a precious commodity, and know how to distinguish vetted fact from superstition, rumor, and unexamined conventional wisdom. They should know how to reason logically and statistically, avoiding the fallacies and biases to which the untutored human mind is vulnerable. They should think causally rather than magically, and know what it takes to distinguish causation from correlation and coincidence. They should be acutely aware of human fallibility, most notably their own, and appreciate that people who disagree with them are not stupid or evil. Accordingly, they should appreciate the value of trying to change minds by persuasion rather than intimidation or demagoguery.
*Some conservatives wrongly believe there can be nothing worthwhile in The New Republic; likewise, many liberals have the same unintelligent knee-jerk reaction to the right-leaning (Bill Buckley's) The National Review. Both are fine--very fine--publications. It's time to grow up.
September 02, 2014
In Rolling Stone: "Last Tango in Kabul"
A current Rolling Stone feature by Matthieu Aikins covers the Kabul expat community from government contract boon days to the present, giving a vivid if troubling picture of increased danger to expats and contractors still in Afghanistan. It was originally published in mid-August. Excerpts:
It was so easy to make money in Kabul that it felt like we were all citizens of some Gulf oil state. If you could string a few coherent sentences together into a grant application, odds were that there was some contracting officer out there who was willing to give you money, no matter how vapid your idea. Want to put on a music festival in Kabul? Here's a few hundred thousand. Shoot a soap opera about heroic local cops? A million for you. Is your handicraft business empowering Afghan women? Name your bid.
The Kabubble economy was so hot that kids out of college were making six-figure salaries, and former midlevel paper pushers were clearing a thousand a day as consultants for places like the World Bank. "All of your expenses are paid for, you don't buy anything, you're getting this massive salary that you bank," Peter, the journalist, says. "Do that for a few years and you've saved half a million before you're 30. You could basically class-jump, by going to Kabul."
These days, expatriate life in Kabul is a sad reflection of its former self. Diplomats and aid workers operate under drastic security restrictions that keep them from attending restaurants or private parties, a condition that has been prolonged by the drawn-out crisis over the presidential election and who will succeed Karzai. Several of the restaurants and guesthouses that sustained the expat scene here have closed down. "A lot of people reached the point where they were like, 'OK, I'm out, I'm done,'" says Luisa Walmsley, a media consultant living in Kabul. "You start realizing that you're really close to all this stuff and that it's just a matter of time that you're going to lose someone."
August 30, 2014
In America, what does it mean to be educated?
Education is not about getting a job.
If you think the opposite, however, consider that the "just about getting a job"' rationale may be unique to the United States as a leading developed nation. What attributes aside from specific job skills do you personally value in a co-worker? And how are those attributes acquired?
August 27, 2014
America, Good Works & Bad Taste: The What About Clients/Paris Head-Out-Of-Your-Ass-Now Challenge.
Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. That thine alms may be in secret. --Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 1-4
What happened to the secret, anonymous or quiet side of good works and giving? --WAC/P, 2014, Jackson 5
The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was tacky, tasteless, fun and great because it raised tons of money for and awareness about the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease". The Challenge entailed a fun ceremonial drenching by ice water and the promise of check followed by a challenge to your (most famous?) friend to do the same. See Jon Bon Jovi's video below. But to some it was also the pinnacle of our showiness and cluelessness about giving money to deserving causes and, especially, helping the less fortunate. Americans have always supported charities and, thanks to their leadership, Generations X and Y seemed to have amped up the altruistic impulse. Money is not enough. It's personal. You give your time.
Everyone, it seems, devotes their time and energies regularly to a worthy cause or institution. Above all, we talk or write about it at great length. We have become so public and even flamboyant with our services-to-others that information about them now routinely (almost as if it's seen as required) appears on resumes, CVs and job applications. Also being disclosed is information about religious affiliations, often in connection with some community service. We see it on Facebook and other Internet musings and hear it in casual live conversation. Community service these days is not only nice. It's cool, and a social "must", too. Americans of all ages and demographics are compelled to give us an inside peek at their personal goodness.
Many of the resumes I've seen over the past decade have information on community service or religious affiliation. Some are tolerable. Some of them scream "Hi, I'm a twit". Certainly, lots of these disclosures are sincere and done advisedly; people want us to know who they really are. But they are trumpeting, whether it's true/sincere or not, "hey, I am a nice person, and concerned about others" (i.e., service in the community) or that "hey, I am a devout person, and I'm both nice and honest" (i.e., affirmative identification with a religion). I am getting tried of it.
Keep that stuff to yourselves, maybe? Quit embarrassing yourselves. If the information we don't really want from you is true, we are confident that it will shine through you somehow in an interview or in the workplace. We want you to grow and benefit from the gift of community service, and your faith if you have one. But please don't talk about it. Showing us is just fine.
What happened to the secret, anonymous or quiet side of good works and giving? Wasn't that the original idea of the spirit, at least, that gave life to our giving?
One possible solution is the "What About Clients/Paris? Good Works Head-Out-of-Your-Ass-Now Challenge".
Here is how the WAC/P? challenge works:
Starting now, for one full year, any time, energy or money you or your family expend to (a) help the less fortunate, (b) find a cure for a disease, (c) fight or correct an injustice or (d) otherwise engage in any service or act of kindness, whether or not planned, shall be expended anonymously, secretly or, in certain cases, as quietly as possible. By way of example, and without limitation:
1. You may not write or mention that currently you or any member of your family are pitching in twice a week in the "inner city" at Jojo's Soup Kitchen,
2. That you took a leave-of-absence without pay to volunteer for 6 weeks at the Children's Hospital in Chile after the earthquake,
3. That you or your husband gave pro bono financial advice to the Church of the Final Thunder (or that your kid mowed the minister's lawn),
4. That you helped an elderly traveler fix her spare tire or help her get to her doctor's appointment on time.
5. You get the idea.
Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession (1954), based on the book by Lloyd C. Douglas (1929)
This Recession won't die any time soon. Discuss.
August 26, 2014
In The Atlantic: Dumbing down education, killing college and scamming law students.
In case you hadn't heard, on page 62 of the print edition of the September issue is "The Law-School Scam" by Paul Campos. It stars the InfiLaw System's three laws schools Florida Coastal, Arizona Summit (previously Phoenix) and Charlotte, Michigan's Thomas M. Cooley, Chicago's John Marshall and a few other law schools with names like 1920s-era apartment buildings which, before the 2008 Recession, were some of the players in the strange but unrelenting movement to make it easier and easier for people to become lawyers in the United States. If much of the Campos's well-written article seems familiar, it's because (1) several blogs have specialized in the "law school scam" (one blog even includes the phrase in its title) over the past four or five years and (2) David Lat's Above The Law has done a nice job of reporting on the strangest of all educational sagas: declining applications to "for-profit" law schools that are arguably of marginal quality in the first place coupled with people not particularly well-suited to attend law school applying anyway, getting in, running up huge debt to get through and expecting to obtain law jobs after graduating that simply no longer exist. Which reminds us. Don't miss the comments following the article. This subject makes folks angry.
Photo: Matt Dorfmann
August 01, 2014
The Mystical Warlike Magic Welsh.
Welsh Druids were always feisty. They chanted. They were naked. They did not fear death. And they cast spells just before battle.
Pay no mind to all those New Age yahoos and beer hippies from all over the UK and Europe at Stonehenge and Glastonbury this time of year. The Welsh are really it. The real thing. They are the most authentic and toughest of British Druids--and always have been. Tacitus wrote of how Romans soldiers were frightened by, and reluctant to attack, the natives of northwest Wales 2000 years ago. Welsh Druids were not just warriors. They were way-wild, crazy and mystical. They chanted. They were naked. They did not fear death. And they were said to cast spells just before battle. Their priests, especially, were stone nuts, and had "old" knowledge they could and often did use. No conquering Roman grunt wanted to wake up in camp one morning with his mates on the way back to Rome--for a triumph, strong wine and the missed company of sultry sporting women--to learn that he had been turned into a Tawny owl, sand lizard or crested newt at some point during the night. Everyone continued to be amazed with the powerful combination of Welsh grit and Druid magic. We understand that, in the last several centuries, southern England's aristocracy has been giving the modern Welsh, still living large over on the western side of the big island, a run for their money, and making a stab of reclaiming and getting its pagan on, too. We came upon this older, strange unsourced news item. Winston Churchill as a druid priest? Well, why not?
Druid HQ: Island of Anglesey
July 18, 2014
The Economist: India steps up to its age-old public sanitation crisis.
Finally, it's all about the toilets. And, more importantly, it's even okay now to talk about it. See The Economist feature Sanitation in India: The Final Frontier in tomorrow's weekly print edition. Excerpts:
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, says building toilets is a priority over temples. His finance minister, Arun Jaitley, used this month’s budget to set a goal of ending defecating in the open by 2019. That will be 150 years since the birth of Mohandas Gandhi, who said good sanitation was more important than independence
Ending open defecation would bring immense benefits. Some 130m households lack toilets. More than 72% of rural people relieve themselves behind bushes, in fields or by roadsides. The share is barely shrinking. Of the 1 billion people in the world who have no toilet, India accounts for nearly 600m.
India fares worse on sanitation than a host of poorer places including Afghanistan, Burundi and Congo, partly because too many of its leaders are too squeamish to face up to the issue. Thankfully, that appears now to be changing. The government, gung-ho for infrastructure, has just said it will build 5.2m toilets by September, or one every second.
[I]n spite of rising incomes and better diets, rates of child malnourishment in India do not improve faster. Unicef, the UN’s agency for children, estimates that nearly one-half of Indian children remain malnourished.
July 08, 2014
John Kerry threatens Afghan presidential rivals with "Mother of All Time-Outs."
In the case of Afghanistan, the 'time-out' punishment means a crippling withdrawal of money, guns and American contractors that Afghanistan counts on to even minimally function. As Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani compete to replace Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan, and the Independent Election Commission continues to count votes from round two of the voting, the United States sees Afghanistan as a raging fire that very soon could get worse.
So Secretary of State John Kerry today issued the strongest possible warning through the U.S. embassy in Kabul. See, e.g, at Reuters, "Kerry warns Afghanistan as thousands rally in support of Abdullah." In it, Kerry emphasized that he's "noted reports of protests in Afghanistan and of suggestions of a 'parallel government' with the gravest concern"--and that this of course could have serious consequences:
"Any action to take power by extra-legal means will cost Afghanistan the financial and security support of the United States and the international community."
Afghanistan is heavily reliant on foreign donors to fund everything from building roads and paying school teachers to security. The United States pays the lion's share of all international aid.
Observers fear that a standoff between Abdullah and Ghani could plunge Afghanistan into disorder, with no clear leader in a country already beset by deep-rooted ethnic divisions.
Abdullah Abdullah. Least objectionable candidate?
June 09, 2014
Europe's ever-shapeshifting antisemitism just got even lower: "We'll do an oven load next time."
It's very clear what Jean-Pierre Le Pen "was thinking". He's done this kind of thing before. And at 85, the French National Front Party's founder doesn't get a pass on grounds he's a really old French right-wing fascist. When this story broke yesterday, I had to read it twice as I assumed I had misread it the first time. Here's a update at this morning's WSJ: "Jean-Marie Le Pen Comments Stir Outrage in France". It's hard to offend me with speech, but this did. Read both stories. Amazing.
Jean-Marie Le Pen
June 04, 2014
Narcissism: The New Cooties?
We all like to feel special, unique and, at times, superior. It doesn't mean we are insular, evil or bonkers. It doesn't mean you need to meet with your shrink Dr. Quaalude four rather two times a week. It means we are flawed, insecure, competitive and desperate for the Universe to acknowledge, and somehow validate, each one of us.
Narcissist. Narcissism. Narcissistic. These have been hot labels in the past few years. Lots of articles and pop psychology pieces in which writers bandy these terms around. There's been some name-calling, too. Boomers and Millennials are called narcissistic. So are certain bosses, public figures, artists, entertainers.
To name a few famous people who've been so accused: Pablo Picasso, Eva Peron, Warren Beatty, Sharon Stone, Charlie Chaplin, Margaret Thatcher, Christian Barnard, Donald Trump and William Shatner. Even Elvis. Then there are legions of more obscure folks who we see as uber-selfish, unfeeling, too full of confidence, grandiose. And a few who just make us feel uncomfortable or we just don't like.
What going on here? Is Narcissism the new Cooties, the dreaded but fictional disease you got from opposite sex classmates on the playground? If it is, let's find some other way to trash people. Let's trade in the entire narcissism lexicon for something that's fairer and we can all understand.
Because we are in over our heads, folks.
In conversation and writing, lots of non-experts--I am not an expert on this, are you?--employ the narcissism lexicon glibly snd confidently to describe all kinds of bad behavior as if everyone knows exactly what they mean. One problem with this is that nearly everyone who does it (like Tony Blair's talented friend in the article linked to below) seems to have no idea what they're talking about. Even worse, people who use the terminology often lump everyone with narcissistic traits together without making distinctions between "healthy" narcissists, garden variety egotists and deeply malfunctioning humans.
Not making those distinctions is not just silly, sad, ignorant and irresponsible. Given the powerful stigma narcissism carries with some people who are just as clueless, it's a dangerous assessment.
Retired Alpha male pol having fun. Narcissist? (Adrian Wyld/AP)
You may think, as I do, that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and other mental health authorities--which at this point have made almost every activity, eccentricity and wondrous human foible a "disorder" or condition which requires, or will soon require, professional treatment--went slightly batshit itself years ago. My favorite is the relatively recent addition to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of caffeinism. There are five (5) types of caffeinism. One is Caffeine Withdrawal, which for a few years now has been a mental disorder. I expect to see jetlag very soon.
However, the APA and these other bodies continue to have the power to flag and define sickness and disorders. The power to define mental illness in our society is the power to suggest what is moral, immoral, good, bad, acceptable, unacceptable. With respect to medical expertise especially, we are at heart compliant and conformist. We remain happy to let others do the thinking for us.
And narcissists in the public mind are very bad. In addition to the usual suspects noted above, some of the worst villains and head cases in human history make the famous/infamous people list: Stalin, Hitler, Lee Harvey Oswald, Ted Bundy, Joseph Mengele, O.J. Simpson, Jim Jones, Ike Turner and, last but not least, Simon Cowell.
Although I will never be an expert on anything scientific, I did do some homework. Apparently, we should think of narcissists in three groups. The first group includes each human being who has ever lived. We all have a touch of narcissism--and we need it to survive. It's healthy.
The second group is actual narcissists. These are people who score high on tests based on traits (symptoms) listed in the DSM. Think politicians, many execs and entrepreneurs, 1980s-era bond traders, actors, writers, surgeons, go-getters, workaholics, a good chunk of the freshman class at Dartmouth College, all AUSAs and nearly every effective trial lawyer you will ever meet. You get the idea.*
The third group is comprised of those with a clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). These are the few, the miserable, the hardcore. See my listing in the paragraph above. It's the same kind of folks--but now, according to the psychiatric community, they're stuck in the wild blue yonder, and can't get out. Their selfishness and self-absorption prevent them from ever having a meaningful relationship with another human being.
The traits for this group: (1) expectation to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments, (2) expectation of constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others, (3) envy of others and believes others envy him/her, (4) preoccupation with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence, (4) lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others, (5) arrogant in attitudes and behavior and (6) expectation of special treatment that are unrealistic.
The problem? On any given day, the above traits/symptoms for NPD describe most of your "enemies", and certainly every one of the insane, miserable and unreasonable opposing counsel you are putting up with. It's the candidate you are running against. It's the woman who just dumped you.
In my reading, lack of empathy stands out as a key trait shared by at least those in the second and third groups. To be honest, in my life I've met no one with zero or little empathy. However, lots of people I know seem to have trouble, at least initially, of "feeling the pain" of others. Most of them are men. I doubt that anyone who has read this far considers empathy to be a male trait. It's clearly not. So are most men narcissists?
The Narcissus, Karl Bryullov, Russian, 1819
Other traits listed in the literature were success-orientation, a sense of superiority, and seeing oneself as unique and/or special. However, we regularly see these three in people we know and love, and we still think of them as flawed but healthy. To be fair, such traits are shared by a good chunk of the student body at lots of highly selective colleges, laws schools and medical schools.
Above I used Dartmouth as an example--and to tease a couple of good friends who went there--but there are thirty or so colleges and universities in America alone which seem to hatch grads which regard themselves as "special" if not genuinely unique or elite. These people are not narcissists.
For example, have you ever talked to a Boomer-era Oberlin graduate about being an Obie? She's very glad you asked. Her eyes will light up as she thoughtfully lights up a Camel non-filter, and she may speak in hushed tones about taking off a semester to work in California with Cesar Chavez, Delores Huerta and the National Farm Worker Association, or with a SNCC voter registration project in Mississippi. Even if she is grateful or feels lucky to have taken part in these parts of the civil rights movement, often with other Oberlin people, the Obie indeed does see herself as special and unique and even somehow superior for her participation. It's a point of pride. But she is not a narcissist.
I count as friends four Rhodes scholars, two Marshall scholars and a few former SCOTUS clerks. While they are all very different from one another, I am very sure that not one of them thinks of himself or herself as just another face in the crowd. They've stretched, worked their asses off and quietly think of themselves as special indeed. A few of them might be considered overly-opinionated and difficult. But they are not narcissists.
We all like to feel special, unique and at times superior. It doesn't mean we are insular, evil or bonkers. It doesn't mean you to meet with Dr. Quaalude four rather two times a week. It means we are flawed, insecure, competitive and desperate for the Universe to acknowledge, and somehow validate, each one of us
The inability to gracefully accept criticism is another narcissism trait you read about. But how many of us are graceful and happy when we are taken down a notch or two?
Again, with each of these traits, it's a matter of degree. See the DSM-IV-TR (or the newer DSM-V) and traits from other sources to see what they are, and see how you and your friends rate.
True story: About ten years ago, I needed to cross-examine an ousted executive who sued our client and had put his mental health in issue in the case. This was new territory for us--so we bought a couple of DSM-IVs. That summer, three young litigators and a litigation law clerk in our Pittsburgh office got a hold of one of the DSMs. For fun, they went through each of the NPD symptoms. Three of the employees were amused--for lack of a better word--that they seemed to have all or most of the symptoms. One had almost none, even though she seemed to actually want to have them. Despite everyone's joking around about the self-diagnosis exercise, the non-narcissist, an ambitious young woman, was disappointed by her "low" score and reportedly envious of her co-workers who, oddly, "aspired" to some level of narcissism. No, I can't explain this. The hubris of uber-ambitious youth, maybe. Me? Yes, I took their test, too. To the amazement, or disappointment, of several people in and out of the office, I had a "low" score. Also, I got high marks for empathy. But some folks still think I cheated.
This week, certainly, narcissism in making the news again. Today The Independent, the British national morning paper, reports that a famous British novelist and longtime friend of former Prime Minister Tony Blair is now calling Blair a "narcissist" with a "messiah complex" who has abandoned Britain to make money and "hang out with a lot of rich people in America" (other narcissists?). On the quality of life side of things, those of you with serious narcissists in your life (or office) can read "How to Make the Narcissist in Your Life a Little Nicer", appearing yesterday in The Atlantic. It's about "compassion training" for the working narcissist.
One last question. Why are there so few articles over the years addressed to narcissists themselves? Can they not be saved? Or is it that we all just need a few blustery folks to look down on?
*I'm 100% serious about this list--as humorous as the list might be. Moreover, these are the kinds of people I tend to like, admire and hang out with. They challenge me, stretch me and make me feel alive.
May 24, 2014
Amarcord ("I remember")
Below is a poster for the movie Amarcord, a comedy by Federico Fellini released in 1973. Through the eyes of a teenage boy named Titta, director Fellini looks back at his own childhood growing up in a village in 1930s Fascist Italy. In 1975, Amarcord ("I Remember") won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for two others: Best Director and Best Writing, Original Screenplay.
May 23, 2014
Have you ever had this much fun just doing your job?
You don't have to die to go to heaven
Or hang around to be born again.
Tune into what this place has to offer
'Cause we may never be here again.
--Hagar, Anthony, Alex van Halen, Edward van Halen
Even if you're not a Van Halen fan, watch this 1986 concert video starting at 1:30 through at least 4:00. Next, a serious question. Have you ever had this much fun just doing your job? Sure, it helps to know the Van Halen standard "Best of Both Worlds". But even if you are hearing the song for the first time, Eddie Van Halen's obvious joy in playing it, and the giddy, impromptu strut he and band members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony do together, are contagious.
Live Without A Net Tour, New Haven, Connecticut, 1986
May 16, 2014
Pending in Iraq's Parliament: Legislation permitting men to marry 9-year-olds.
We missed this one two days ago. National Public Radio reports at one of its blogs that "Iraq Debates Law That Would Allow Men To Marry 9-Year-Old Girls". To be fair, the proposal, as NPR writer Alice Fordham notes, is not expected to get very far. It was lobbed in there as a way to placate and garner support from conservative Muslims in Iraq's boonies. Still, it's an interesting piece that reflects the frustrations of women in Iraq. As one activist Baghdad lawyer interviewed pointed out, women's rights in Iraq may be on the decline, "despite the intellectual openness that women had benefited from following the American occupation". An excerpt from Fordham's post:
Since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, she [the Baghdad lawyer} says, there's been Internet access, a growing civil society and more opportunities to travel. But conservative religious politics are also on the rise. She says she's seeing women's rights regress.
The proposed legislation is known as the Jaafari law, after a school of Islam by that name. It still needs to be passed by Parliament, which is not expected to take any action until Iraq forms a new government. The country had elections last month, but the results have not been announced; it will likely take weeks or even months of negotiations before a new government is in place.
May 02, 2014
The Judgment of Paris.
The Judgment of Paris, Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)
May 01, 2014
May Day: The eternal spring blowout with badness and sass.
May Day is a bit unique among the many old pagan holidays. For 2,200 years, at least in Europe, it's had a long and colorful run on its own, albeit in different forms. But unlike other pagan celebrations, May Day in Europe was never Christianized or abandoned as Christianity spread throughout Europe. It somehow managed to survive and flourish on its own. The first May Day holiday we know much about began in republican Rome about 250 BC. It was a one-day spring festival in honor of the goddess Flora, a fertility deity. Eventually the holiday grew to six days of special events and serious reveling, on April 28-May 3. Known as the Floralia in Roman religion for nearly 600 years, Rome's May Day was a "peoples" or plebeian holiday that took place at the Temple of Flora. (If you've been to Rome even once, you likely looked over the ground where the temple once stood. It's on the edge of the Aventine, a few hundred yards southwest of the Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill.) The Floralia featured drinking, mock gladiator games, animal sacrifices, "the pelting of the crowd" with vegetables (the first food fights?), dancing, nakedness, prostitutes (sex workers were specifically included and often featured), dancing naked prostitutes, theatre, colorful costumes and drinking. Below, one of the the greatest painters of the 1700s gives us a baroque take on the festival and its raw, fun and feral spirit.
"The Empire of Flora", 1744, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770). The scene is supposedly based on Ovid's description of The Floralia.
April 10, 2014
The Duke experience: Salon excerpt from new book about Duke lacrosse rape case.
In early 2006, three members of Duke University's nationally ranked lacrosse case were falsely accused of rape in a protracted, much publicized, over-hyped criminal case brought in Durham, North Carolina (where Duke, for odd historical reasons, is located). It led, for starters, to the resignation of the Duke lacrosse team's head coach, cancellation of the remainder of school's 2006 lacrosse season, and the disbarment of the case's initial lead prosecutor for Durham County, North Carolina. The lacrosse case even had/has its own legal blog, Durham-In-Wonderland, still continuing, and one of the the better analytical blawgs out there. And now there's a new book (the third, by my count) about the episode: "The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities" (Scribner) by William D. Cohan, a well-regarded business writer. Cohan, like me, is a Duke grad. The party where the alleged rape occurred was in a house a few down from my house at Duke, on Buchanan Avenue, when as an undergraduate I worked on Duke's daily newspaper. I am still active in things Duke. So I will buy and read the book. In the meantime, see this excerpt from the book in Tuesday's Salon. Note: While anyone could gather from the Salon excerpt alone that Cohan is a fine researcher, investigator and storyteller--I already know he is, having read his previous book on Goldman Sachs--I'll read the whole book before spouting off on it. Except it's not premature to comment on the book's sensational full title, i.e., with the subtitle ending in "the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities". It's ambitious; that's fine. But it panders a bit, too, even if the book supports it. In the meantime, let's just ask that Scribner be less trite and spastic when it shills books.
April 06, 2014
Cross-Culture: Canada, the next global player.
"Deferential yet stoic" Canada is poised for a bigger global role, says Cross-Culture in its new post, "The Quiet Colossus". One of the best articles at Cross-Culture yet. Note in particular the points on Canadian-Russian partnerings in the Arctic region. Excerpt:
Canada, multilingual and multicultural, with favourable demographics and substantial economic freedom, is destined to exercise far greater influence amid the great powers than she hitherto has chosen to do: laid back and universally popular (who hates Canadians?), protected on either side by two great oceans and with access to a slowly-warming third, and with a friendly neighbour to the south, Canada can choose her friends and partners with little fear of being rebuffed.
No two countries in the Arctic region share so much in common as Canada and Russia. A map of the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its centre shows that the ocean is virtually closed by the coastal areas of Russia, Canada and Greenland. By far the largest Arctic nations, Canada and Russia – neighbours across the North Pole – bear a shared responsibility for the state of affairs in the region and must see each other as strategic partners.
April 05, 2014
Saturday's Jean-Paul Henri, Existential Cat: "Being, Nothingness and Le Vet."
Jean-Paul, the existential cat, belongs to one Will Braden.
March 30, 2014
Coming soon: The Easter Ferret.
February 14, 2014
Valentine: Beggar at the Door of Love.
"Romeo and Juliet" by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893)
The Samaritans: Kenyan television rolls out its NGO-bashing version of The Office.
I watch very little television of any kind. Even worse, I have a problem with people who do. On a normal day, I just think you don't need to have the thing on any longer than 30 minutes for the news. Exceptions are some sports events, some movies, much of HBO, and anything having to do with Parker Posey or Lee Remick. Generally, however, I think television is Bad.
I do like to check out TV in other countries; it can tell you some things. And so a few years ago in a Manchester hotel room I watched part of an episode of The Office, the original BBC mockumentary comedy series created by Brits Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant in 2001. I thought it was brilliant. I had no idea, of course, that an American version had started airing in the states a few years before.
Since the original BBC show aired, there have been seven (7) versions of The Office: U.S., Germany, France, French-Canadian, Chile, Israel and Sweden. So you can see one version or another in about 85 countries.
And now it seems there is an eighth--out of Kenya. Called The Samaritans, the Kenyan version is about a dysfunctional NGO bent on saving Africa. The show, a satire of the world's international development community, is produced by Xeinium Productions and funded so far by Kickstarter and via its own website. The first African takeoff on The Office, the series is about the Kenya field office of an NGO called Aid for Aid which "does nothing". See yesterday's article and video in the Global Post.
Photo: Xeinium Productions
February 05, 2014
King Edward I captures the Stone of Scone.
Apud Monasterium de Scone positus est lapis pergrandis in ecclesia Dei, juxta manum altare, concavus quidam ad modum rotundae cathedreaie confectus, in quo future reges loco quasi coronatis.
--14th century English cleric Walter Hemingford
An oblong block of red sandstone known as The Stone of Scone (or Scottish coronation stone) was already ancient and storied when Edward I "captured" it" in 1296 as a spoils of war. Edward took it to Westminster Abbey. There it was fitted into a wooden chair, known as King Edward's Chair. Most subsequent English sovereigns have been crowned on it.
The combative and opinionated Edward, who spent much of his reign taming and subjugating the Scots, and hated them, once referred to the Stone as "a turd".
Seven hundred years after Edward lifted the Stone from the Scots, on July 3, 1996, the British House of Commons finally ordered that the Stone would be returned. It was handed over to Scotland in November of that year at the England-Scotland border and taken to Edinburgh Castle. It will remain in Scotland except for future coronations at Westminster Abbey in London.
January 16, 2014
“We are on the hunt for others:” Nigeria's new law criminalizing homosexuality.
Nigeria, where sodomy has been illegal for decades, just raised the stakes. This week Africa's largest nation begins enforcement of a popular law which in effect outlaws most LGBT behavior and culture. Outbreaks of violence are especially feared in northern Nigeria, a majority-Muslim region administered in part under Islamic law. See in TIME Nate Rawlings' piece, "Anti-Gay Law Takes Effect in Africa’s Most Populous Country". Excerpts:
One day after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed legislation criminalizing homosexuality, police reportedly began rounding up gay men in Africa‘s most populous country.
Under the new law, same-sex “amorous relationships” are banned, as is membership in gay rights groups, prohibitions that have sparked both fear and defiance among Nigeria’s gay activists.
Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa outlaw homosexual acts. Efforts by Western nations to cut aid to countries like Uganda and Malawi have helped to bridle anti-gay legislation in those countries.
But Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of oil with an output of 2.5 million barrels per day, is mostly impervious to that kind of economic pressure. As Africa’s most populous country, developments in Nigeria echo across the continent, and there appears little other countries can do except condemn the new legislation.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the law on Monday (AP photo).
January 07, 2014
Pantheon: Checkpoint Charlize Theron.
January 02, 2014
Toward Making Your Life a Work of Art.
About half the people you meet live from one day to the next in a state of such fear and uncertainty that about half the time they doubt their own sanity. Their boats are rocking so badly that all they want to do is get level long enough to think straight and avoid the next nightmare.
--HST, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
For the past two centuries, starting just about the time the world started feeling the effects of morphing from farming to industrial economies, people got more out of whack than ever. Many historians think the industrial revolution started as early as the mid-18th century--when Brits learned how to do machine-based manufacturing--but it took a few decades for the world to lose its way while it enjoyed and celebrated labor-saving devices, increased wealth and higher standards of living for most Westerners.
What ever happened to Well-Roundedness?
"Fragmentation" became one word philosophers and writers often used to describe the real price paid for our "progress". People became cut off from the natural world, their own innate spirituality and the meaning of a true education. We drifted away from physical culture, real health, exercising our bodies and eating correctly. Notions of friendship and bonds with others changed and, in my view, all but disappeared. As a result, we became less useful to others, friends and family, clients and customers, co-workers and ourselves. We are more alone than ever. We lead paltry, under-achieving and often miserable lives. Many of us are, most of the time, "hatin' life".
In short, we have lost our very souls. We feel isolated from life itself and we feel alone. We are ignorant of the history that got us here, watch television mindlessly and by default, wax patriotic or tribal as a substitute for thinking, are unaware of that happens in the rest of the world (Americans are easily the worst offenders), take pills we don't need and are getting fat enough to have our own zip codes. We don't even venture outside and into the natural world that much. We think we'll be and feel better if we "buy more stuff". Perhaps worst of all, even the most talented of us no longer think for ourselves. We follow. We run in mindless packs.
Fragmentation, isolation, unthinking conformity, chronic unhappiness or being "screwed up"--whatever you want to call it--is true of most of us, in varying but substantial ways, regardless of race, class or level of education. The unhappiness covers us all. We are not "putting it all together" to form (to take a musical conceit) one major chord.
Doing that starts with each human--and it takes work. Work we should be anxious to undertake.
Work at a life more complete: one that "adds up".
December 21, 2013
Solstice: For Our Druid Friends.
November 20, 2013
Aldous Huxley: So many gods to chose from.
More people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country. The craving for ethyl alcohol and the opiates has been stronger, in these millions, than the love of God, of home, of children.
--Aldous Huxley, "Drugs That Shape Men's Minds", The Saturday Evening Post, October 18, 1958
November 05, 2013
Qualify your clients. Get a system. Something...
J. Geils Band
October 17, 2013
Dizzy on Bad Books.
Books are fatal: they are the curse of the human race. Nine-tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense.
--Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
September 26, 2013
New Amsterdam's Eternal Mayor: The Pluck and Fineness of Jacob Riis (1849–1914).
Jacob Riis (1849–1914) was a Danish American reformer, journalist and photographer. He is still famous for his photos of New York City's slums and their uneasy mix of new Americans--especially those taken in Hell's Kitchen and around Five Points. Below in the 1890s is Mulberry "Bend" (then sometimes "Lane") in lower Manhattan and within the Five Points. It's now Mulberry Street, which runs through Chinatown and Little Italy.
September 24, 2013
Cultural Literacy for U.S. Execs, Lawyers, Accountants, MDs, Pols & Leaders: If Not Now, When?
Education is about more than getting a job. Cultural literacy and a working knowledge of the world's history and institutions--and even of the West--have not been counted among America's many enviable strengths at any time during our development as a people and a nation. Let's not worry about the reasons--often explained in terms of our relative geographic isolation, drive and opportunism, and our distaste for intellectuals, classical education or anything too "austere".
Powerful and well-known Americans, executives in leadership positions, respected professionals, politicians, and major stakeholders in commerce continue to be satisfied with becoming, and remaining, in effect, "techs" their entire lives. Can we change that?
If we could, we would astonish, disarm and charm the entire world. Art, literature, the humanities and a sense of historical context aren't just for the rich, the elite or the intellectual. They are the best part of all of us--and they can inform, stir and improve every moment. You say you are doing fine without it? Think again. See "Ernest, the French aren't like you and me."
September 22, 2013
Equinox: Honey, it's Mabon already.
Get your Druid learn on. Today marks the Autumnal Equinox. Cultures and religions worldwide do get weird this time of year. It's called Mabon, Foghar, Alban Elfed, Harvest Home, Second Harvest, Fruit Harvest (especially SF), and Wine Harvest (Boston). Look it up later. What's Mabon, anyway?
September 04, 2013
December 15, 2012
The Other Deficit: Credibility of American domestic policy abroad.
America should calm down and examine its own gun-control policy.
--One Chinese commentator yesterday
This morning, Evan Osnos, a staff writer for The New Yorker who lives in Beijing, gave us a good general rule: it takes "a lot" to make China's government look good, even to its own 1.3 billion people, when their government is compared to the federal government of the United States. Osnos of course is referring to the corruption, control by special interests and lack of accountability that are hallmarks of the day-to-day business of running The People's Republic of China.
But, as of yesterday, Osnos, continues, when both China (which bans private gun ownership) and America (which does not) experienced attacks on school children by an armed madmen on the same day, America may finally be doing just that: making the PRC look good.
It's a useful observation. Developed "elite" democracies like the U.S. may have internal and domestic policies that are seen by outsiders as inferior to those of authoritarian states. Gun control, in the case of America, is certainly one of them. Do read Osnos's article, "China Watches Newtown: Guns and American Credibility". Excerpt:
As an American overseas for the last ten years, I’ve watched as other countries struggle with the curious fact that the most prosperous, successful, and emulated civilization the world has ever seen lives with the certainty that every few months one of its troubled citizens will casually acquire the tools to massacre a large group of his neighbors: shoppers in a mall, moviegoers, voters meeting their congresswoman, a kindergarten full of children.
Even to those who desperately want to be American, this special brand of American madness lies not in the banal fact that deranged men attack children, but in the shame that the rest of us, all of us, allow our laws to enable it.
After the Newtown attack, a Chinese commentator with a nationalist bent wrote, “When I see these democratic elites pretending to condemn the murderer, it seems absurd. You are the people who sustain the gun policy. You are also the people who condemn the shooter.”
Duckwalking like Yanks: Chinese Military Honor Guard.
October 31, 2012
One Man's 2012 Halloween Plan: Turn off the lights. Lie on the floor.
So go away, okay? Look, I didn't buy any Candy this year--and when the neighborhood kids ring my doorbell tonight, I'll pretend I am not there. I was supposed to be in the District of Columbia tonight. The thought of stocking up with Candy for Halloween never entered my mind. I was off the hook this year. And then Hurricane Sandy pulled me back into Halloween. Early Monday morning US Airways cancelled my Tuesday flight to Reagan National Airport. This in turn has ensured an even busier week this week reshuffling things so I can do the trip next week. Look, I live alone. My last girlfriend evacuated weeks ago. No one to pick anything up for me.
As of this morning I still haven't bought any Candy. In a pinch, I could be okay: I still have 4 vintage Jolt Colas, 7 Red Bulls and a new carton of Marlboro Red Labels I can hand out at the door. But I decided a few minutes ago to "bypass" Halloween. Don't get me wrong. I love kids. I love Candy. For a bachelor, it is virtually a food group. I love anything with strong Celtic roots--I love Halloween, All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Eve, Samhain or whatever you and your Pagan, Christian, Atheist or Other young ones call it. I just didn't get to the Vons in SoCal. I am not even here. So go away. Please. I am out of town. Spread the word.
October 30, 2012
New York State of Mind: Let It Pass Quickly.
Something you don't see much: an angry East River (CNN photo).
September 18, 2012
"The Obama Movie" made me like and admire President Obama even more. Go figure.
Me? I thought the movie portrayed the President as a savvy internationalist who understands that the current acceleration in the collide of world cultures means that the U.S. and the entire planet need to be something other than waring tribes.
For a partisan movie, "2016: Obama’s America" was 16 times better and classier than, say, anything Michael Moore has done on the left. The problem is that this anti-Obama documentary--co-written and deftly narrated by an accomplished ex-Dartmouth Review writer and former 1980s Reagan Kid we can't help but like and admire--made me like and admire Obama (who I did not vote for in 2008) even more than I do now. I think what Dinesh D’Souza wants us to take away from his Obama part-pyschobiography and part "Roots" Road Trip is that, by virtue of his family roots, education and past associations, the current POTUS has a deeply third-world anti-colonialism bias that makes him dislike America and tend to advance the agendas of other countries, even those of our enemies. So don't vote for him. Me? I still don't know who I am going to vote for--but I thought the movie portrayed the President as a savvy internationalist who understands that the current acceleration in the collide of world cultures means that the U.S. and the entire planet need to be something other than waring tribes. And that U.S. foreign policy should also at least recognize and start to develop that goal, as difficult and challenging as that notion is. My take is unusual, sure. Most of the people in the theater in the conservative 'hood I saw this in clapped at the end of the movie. They likely will not be voting for Obama in November. Still, everyone should see this movie and decide for themselves. See this take last month in the Wall Street Journal.
September 17, 2012
Happy New Year, y'all. In one tradition I love, it's the celebration of the beginning of everyone's world and an opportunity for fresh new starts. And see this gem in the Washington Post by Brad Hirschfield: Understanding Rosh Hashanah 2012/5773.
September 15, 2012
Your 3rd-rate satire is my fighting/killing words, sir.
Multicultural Islam or multicultural anything non-Western: Do not hold your breath. I was in Los Angeles for a day--and by the time I get back the U.S. has deployed armed services people to an astounding number of locations around the world to handle (or deter) the multiplying protests and attacks in the wake of sudden publicity about one of the dumbest films ever made. Outrage over "Innocence of Muslims"--an anti-Islam satire (sort of)--first resulted in the deaths of four Americans in Libya last week. The reaction, however, seems to have legs. According to the French news agency AFP, as of late Saturday GMT, the number of locations where violence has already occurred or is expected to occur by the U.S. State Department is a whopping eighteen (18).
The offending movie--a very bad one from what I can tell from the trailer--was trotted out weeks after it was accessible by one manipulative Egypt-based "tele-Islamist", part-time television host and full-time asshole. So aren't some of these energies born of a pretext by a few firebrands to wage war on the West and gain pawns to carry the ball? Sure they are. But many more Muslims genuinely deeply believe that "insulting" Islam deserves swift punishment. It is the way they think and feel. And most who think and feel that way are not evil humans.
Arab Spring and the new "democracies" now cropping up in Africa and the non-Western world does not mean--and may never mean--that underlying cultures that struggle with building new forms of government and societies are going to "get" or embrace Anglo-American notions of dissent, freedom of the press or the First Amendment. It does not mean that they will buy into these principles, or even appreciate or tolerate them in Westerners, for years or even decades. Those states have not yet been able to reconcile a new form of government with religions that have old, sometimes very old, nuances and rules. It will take a while. We need to get used to that.
In the meantime, what efficient Yankee-styled solution is there, if any? In the short term, there is none. Get used to that, too. But there is an approach. I think it's this: get our heads out of our wazoos and realize, in all our dealings with non-Westerners, that we are wired very differently than them and that they are not "wrong" or evil. They are culturally fundamentally different--and we need to remind each other of that truth. And also take to our hearts and heads what one Western 12-step program likes to say--often unthinkingly but wisely--about time. It is simply that "time takes time".
From "Innocence of Muslims".
September 01, 2012
Work, Workaholics and Dreams: When did hard work become a loathsome disease?
So it's safe for driven folks to come out of the closet? Really? There is one thing some of us really love about The Recession, which slogs seemingly forever into its 5th year. It is simply this: no one seems to be telling us anymore how many hours or how intensely we should "work". See this 2006 classic by our friend Stephanie West Allen, a vindication (and explanation) of Ben Franklin, Tom Edison, Steve Jobs---and other "sick" folks. Her article is "Hot Worms and Workaholics: Let the Workers Be". It's inspired in part by a study which showed that some simple life forms thrived in conditions that would harm, and even destroy, fellow members of the same species. Excerpt:
I have met many hot worm lawyers and I suspect there may be whole firms composed primarily of hot worms. These lawyers thrive on conditions that might prove injurious or even fatal to other lawyers. I am concerned for the hot worm lawyers and the damage that might be done to them if someone decided that these torrid wigglers needed to swim in cooler waters, to achieve life balance as defined by some other worm.
Denver-based Ms. Allen
August 29, 2012
And why not?
We love China and, of course, Chinese culture, one of the oldest in the the world: literature, philosophy, music, visual arts, martial arts and cuisine. We, too, covet Yang Le Le, the versatile model and actress.
August 14, 2012
Amiens: France has its challenges, too.
It sounds almost American. Go to the reporting at BBC and NBC about ongoing rioting in the northern and racially-mixed city of Amiens. It was apparently triggered by a police stop of a local driver. France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls was jostled and jeered yesterday during a visit. And the new national French leadership has vowed to show its stuff and restore order. From NBC:
Tensions remain high in many French suburbs, where poor job prospects, racial discrimination, a widespread sense of alienation from mainstream society and perceived hostile policing have periodically touched off violence.
Weeks of rioting in 2005, the worst urban unrest in France in 40 years, led to the imposition of a state of emergency by the then center-right government. Incidents involving police provoked disturbances in 2007 and 2010.
The repeat bouts of violence have provoked agonized debate over the state of the grim housing estates that ring many French cities and the integration of millions of poor whites, blacks and North African immigrants into mainstream society.
Amiens earlier today. (Photo: Guillaume Clement/EPA)
August 04, 2012
AU Mediation: Sudan will move South Sudan's oil.
Struck under an African Union mediation, and announced today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the deal reportedly covers transportation, processing and transit of landlocked South Sudan's 350,000-thousand-barrel-a-day oil production through Sudan's pipelines at $9.48/barrel for a term of three-and-a-half years. Some hotly-contested border issues, however, will need to be resolved first. Until South Sudan seceded from Sudan last year, the two countries shared for the most part a unified oil industry. NBC: "South Sudan strikes deal with Sudan to export oil through pipelines".
(Jenny Vaughan/AFP - Getty Images)
AU mediator Thabo Mbeki in Addis Ababa today.
NYT: Uganda's disappointing--and expensive--reversal on AIDS progress.
See in Thursday's New York Times "In Uganda, an AIDS Success Story Comes Undone". It begins:
KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s sharp reduction of its AIDS rate has long been hailed as a Cinderella success story, inspiring a wave of aid programs and public health strategies to fight the disease across the developing world.
But as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived here on Thursday, the news on AIDS in Uganda was not so bright: A new American-financed survey says that Uganda is one of only two African countries, along with Chad, where AIDS rates are on the rise.
The reversal is particularly disappointing to health experts given the time and attention that have been focused on AIDS here, and the billions of dollars spent.
July 26, 2012
Happy Birthday, Mr. Huxley.
Many more people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country. The craving for ethyl alcohol and the opiates has been stronger, in these millions, than the love of God, of home, of children; even of life.... Why should such multitudes of men and women be so ready to sacrifice themselves for a cause so utterly hopeless and in ways so painful and so profoundly humiliating?
--Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) in "Drugs That Shape Men's Minds", The Saturday Evening Post, October 18, 1958
Huxley circa 1900.
July 25, 2012
"Every employer ‘discriminates’. If they didn’t, I’d be working as a Chippendales dancer.”
While much of it will be old hat for American business people (and their lawyers) on the subject of employment discrimination, do see in The Economist "Hiring Hotties: When Can An Employer Prefer the Attractive Over the Homely?". The article is worth reading alone for the quote (in our blog title above) from the Boston Herald op-ed writer. Excerpt:
The [U.S.] federal government has no law forbidding “attractiveness discrimination”. Only a few places do: Washington, DC, and Santa Cruz and San Francisco in California. Instead, lawsuits proceed on the fact that it is usually illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, religion, disability or national origin. Customer preference for a certain “look” cannot be the only basis for such discrimination, or else stores in racist areas could refuse to hire black employees.
In 2004 the EEOC sued Abercrombie & Fitch, a clothing retailer. The company said that its staff’s looks were part of its marketing approach. But in the words of Justine Lisser, an EEOC lawyer, “That look was that you had to be white, young and physically fit. If you were young, physically fit and African-American you’d be in the stockroom.” Abercrombie & Fitch paid $50m to settle the case.
Evelyn Nesbit, Gibson Girl, about 1905.
July 23, 2012
The Real "New Normal"? It's Complexity, Ambiguity, Toil & Elegance. Get used to it.
It's not what you thought--but it could be even better. The real "new normal" is Complexity, Ambiguity, Toil & Elegance. Learn a trade; have a speciality or two. But be prepared to step back and suss the big picture at all times. There are no forms anymore. Get used to it, Jack. The new normal? It's for the un-lazy mind.
July 02, 2012
The Economist: The start-up TechChange, mobile phones and "Geeks for Good" in Africa.
Query: Where Africa's vast human and natural resources are concerned, why do many of us generally trust techies and NGOs more than we do mainland China and other governments? See "Geeks for Good" in The Economist:
TechChange has taught more than 600 students in more than 70 countries through their online classroom. Its most popular course to date has been “Mobiles for International Development”. Enterprises such as Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS have developed open source software that lets NGOs collect information via text messages and look at the results in real time. Students gain hands-on experience, for instance by analysing data gathered by mobile-phone surveys in Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Those interested in conflict resolution can dig deeper by enrolling in a special course designed around case studies from Libya and Syria.
July 01, 2012
Dog Days: Humid, High 90s with Increasing Existential Dread by Monday.
And the Humans Grew Mad. Summer. The Economy. It's not only tough times right now. It's hot, and bloody hot in much of the U.S. However, every year's been the same this time of year for centuries. So if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and feel a bit strange and out of sorts--and you're not too much of a whack-job or flake to begin with--that's probably okay. The six week period between July 1 and August 15 was named by the both the ancient Greeks and the early Romans after Sirius the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky. In the Mediterranean region, the notion of linking that star to oppressive summer weather dates back well over 2700 years.
It's also a slightly weird time of year. Could be just the heat. But "Dog Days" were also associated with Chaos: "the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies". Brady's Clavis Calendarium, 1813. Just two thousand years ago, and after he had given up the study of law that his family had foisted on him, Ovid (43 B.C. - 17 A.D.), the playful poet writing during Octavian's long reign, gave us a more famous--and less grim--take on Chaos in Book I of Metamorphoses.
June 29, 2012
Paul Fussell (1924-2012): Wit. World View. Punditry. Courage. And His Enduring "Class".
The Bible of American Social Strata. Do you dress up to ride on planes? Are your clothes always new? How about your car? Is it usually a newer model? Do you routinely use words like interface, lifestyle and bottom line? Do you display "collectibles" in your home? And does it have wall-to-wall carpet or hard wood floors? If the latter, are your oriental rugs threadbare or new? In his 1983 non-fiction book Class, Paul Fussell, the professor, polymath, author, WWII veteran and wit who died last month at the age of 88, wrote a tongue-in-cheek marvel and satire on American manners that is funny, nasty and true. Upper classes, in Fussell's world, drink Scotch on the rocks, and say “Grandfather died”. Middles: “Martoonis” or "Teenies" and “Grandma passed away”. Proles: beer in a can, and “Uncle Tommy was taken to Jesus.”
May 26, 2012
Remembering: What do you remember about childhood? Does it matter?
I am a first-born who can remember growing up. I can remember lots--or at least lots of versions--of it. Lots of people in different places. Family. Friends. Victories. Defeats. Washington D.C., Chicago, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Chicago again, summer retreats in Michigan. Cincinnati. Durham, North Carolina (after all, most of us are still children when we enter college; at 18, I was an ever-morphing mercurial man-child). Those memories DO matter. They instruct. They even entertain. Done right, they are a source of pleasure. But you need to listen to them. Like homing pigeons, they are, if you think about it. You can let memories dump on you. Or you can let them carry messages.
"French Girl", by Richard Vanek, a Slovakian photographer who lives in the Netherlands.
May 20, 2012
Born in Chicago.
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth.
--from Carl Sandburg's "Chicago"
NATO Summit: Saturday night live on Michigan Avenue (AFP photo).
May 14, 2012
The Economist: Downing Street gets down--and down to work.
For The Economist's take on the shape of the United Kingdom and the governing Conservative Party's mid-term slump, see "The Cameron Government: Crisis? What Crisis?". Excerpt:
Two years ago this week David Cameron and Nick Clegg launched their coalition government in a sun-dappled Downing Street garden, at a joint press conference so filled with smiles, jokes and shared glances that it was compared to a gay wedding. On May 8th Britain’s Conservative prime minister and his Liberal Democrat deputy renewed their coalition vows in a tractor factory. There were few jokes. The work of government was “hard”, Mr Cameron told stony-faced workers.
Two-thirds of voters now disapprove of Mr Cameron’s performance and three-quarters disdain Mr Clegg’s. In local elections on May 3rd their parties lost hundreds of council seats, mostly to the opposition Labour Party: when Boris Johnson, the Tory mayor of London, bucked the trend and kept his job, that prompted gossip that he would be a better leader.
Britain’s economy has dipped back into recession. A judicial inquiry into the press has revealed a shamefully cosy relationship between Conservative leaders and newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch. The government, and the prime minister in particular, are described as “out of touch” and told to “get a grip”—and that is just to quote Conservatives in Parliament.
May 06, 2012
Love and hope and sex and dreams.
The winners? They refused to follow other people's bad scripts.
--KLK, All Over Manhattan Tonight
May 04, 2012
Legal London in the Spring: Literary Labors--and Love.
Each Spring, we send you the complete text of a circa-1595 comedy by Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost. You can read it aloud--or, even better, act it out. First performed before Queen Elizabeth at her Court in 1597 (as "Loues Labors Loſt"), it was likely written for performance before culturally-literate law students [Editor's Note: Long ago, well-rounded professionals existed] and barristers-in-training--who would appreciate its sophistication and wit--at the Inns of Court in still over-percolating Legal London. And, most certainly, it was performed at Gray's Inn, where Elizabeth was the "patron". Interestingly, the play begins with a vow by several men to forswear pleasures of the flesh and the company of fast women during a three-year period of study and reflection. And to "train our intellects to vain delight". They fail happily.
April 28, 2012
"Jiro Dreams of Sushi": A Must-See Documentary for Millennials.
A movie about quality, standards, work--and genuine class.
April 15, 2012
What really came out of the mystic German wood?
The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued from the woods of Germany; in the rude institutions of those Barbarians we [received] the original principles of our present laws and manners.
--Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter IX (1782)
The northern European tribes that became the German people--even as they emerged to become different and often scary strong modern nations, and leaders in world commerce--haven't always have "freedom" in the way Brits, the French and Americans think of it. They also loved Order--and still do. They tend to agree amongst themselves most on issues of how things should be "ordered". And Order can cut into real freedom. So instead of "freedom", Germans have had Philosophy, Literature, Poetry, Music and, more infrequently, Humor. German peoples had a serious sense of tribal government since antiquity in scattered villages and towns for hundreds of miles. But most of us like it better when they stick to Commerce--and to the many Arts in which they do shine.
A Deutsche forest
April 10, 2012
BBC: Egypt may not relapse into a predominately Islamic lawdom, after all.
The Mother of All Arab Spring Injunctive Relief Actions. And good news for a way more nuanced world. See "Egypt Court Suspends Constitutional Assembly". Excerpt:
A court in Egypt has suspended the 100-member assembly appointed last month to draft the country's new constitution.
Several lawsuits had demanded Cairo's Administrative Court block the decision to form the panel as it did not reflect the diversity of Egyptian society.
They said women, young people and minorities were under-represented.
Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour party, which dominate parliament, have a near-majority.
Liberals and secularists fear some of them would like to amend the constitution so that it follows the principles of Islamic law more strictly.
April 08, 2012
Spring: We all feel its giddy dance and play.
Spring ushers in important observances by most religions and faiths. Yet nearly everyone has Spring in their deepest wiring without a scripted assist from organized religion or other "crowd control" cults and cultures that want to tell you how to think, feel and act.
All of us feel Spring's play: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Druids, Scots, Picts, reveling Irish folk, 3 or 4 Germans, dour Eastern Europeans, Boring Anglos Like Me, All Of The French, ultra-serious Korean dudes, Czech engineers, non-human animals (your dog, Randy) and just plain fleshy folk in the Midwest. All of us notice the natural world a bit more. A flash of joy for no reason at all.
We all do a move. Hips are often involved. Quick--but visible. It may be a jig, a giddy leap, a prance, a simple dance, the Philly Dog New Breed, a strut, boogie or waddle to nod and celebrate. It's merely primal. It's always physical.
We all refuse to ignore rebirth, renewal, new life cycles, being here now, and possibilities of bold fresh starts.
April 01, 2012
What About Just Mediocre?
If you can't beat 'em, Be Them. It's just a click away, click away, click away.
March 12, 2012
In the Beginning, we were all Excellent. And then we all became Creative.
Get the net, Justin. You must hand it to the watchers of our new flat commercially egalitarian world. Apparently, in the new digital vortex, all humans are Excellent and Creative. How could we have missed this? See in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend How To Be Creative. Hey, anyone can do it.
WSJ/Philip Montgomery/Serge Bloch
March 07, 2012
Esquire Magazine: "What the Hell Is Happening in Russia?"
Every month, both Esquire magazine and the Russian people get feistier and funnier. And although this Esquire piece appeared on March 2, just before Vladimir Putin's reelection on Sunday, March 4, it's the best current report on The Russian Bourgeoisie Gone Wild you could visit. Much of its power, and charm, comes from its timeline summaries of the uprising beginning with the December 4, 2011 protests. The truth--and the truth is especially important here, as we watch eastern Europeans change before our eyes into different kinds of voters and humans--is also hilarious. Note: If you don't think Russian politics affects your customers, clients, business or professional practice, think again. Excerpts from December 10th and 24 summaries:
DECEMBER 10: As more evidence of fraud and abuse from courts, police stations, and prisons hits Facebook, protesters organize another rally. Fifty to sixty thousand people (half of them registered in a Facebook event called "Rally for Fair Elections") come to Moscow's Bolotnaya Square, right across the river from the Kremlin, and meet under banners that vary from serious to silly: "No Taxation Without Representation," "I Didn't Vote for These Bastards, I Voted for the Other Bastards".
Even though the protesters chant, "Putin, Leave!", the mood of the whole movement is decidedly less aggressive. And even though the protesters' demands are clear — cancel the election results, fire Churov, punish those responsible for fraud, and set up fair elections — nobody really listens to the people who speak from the stage, mostly old-school oppositional leaders, from the Right and from the ultra-Left, who have fiercely fought Putin's regime for the last decade without much success and without many followers. Most of the protesters simply stand there, talking to their friends about where to go on YouTube to see fresh evidence of election fraud and where they should meet for drinks after the rally.
DECEMBER 24: Seventy thousand to eighty thousand people meet on Sakharov Avenue, and this time they are pissed. They meet under banners that read "We Are Not Monkey People, and Russia Is No Jungle" and play on Putin's "condom" comment by referring to him as a "scumbag." They reiterate their calls for free and fair elections, and in theory the authorities could easily go through with all these demands. In the twelve years of Putin's reign, the Russian parliament has become totally dependent on the presidency, its members — irrespective of party affiliation — voting according to instructions from the government.
Esquire/(Top) Denis Sinyakov/Reuters; (bottom left) Max Avdeev; (bottom right) GREENFIELD/SIPA
March 06, 2012
Over at A Public Defender: "The United States of China".
They’ve struck viewership gold, with 40 million viewers every Saturday night for 5 years.
Here's a short but powerful new post--and disturbing glimpse into China entertainment and sensibilities, as well as its justice system--by one Gideon at A Public Defender. On its own, this kind of writing and useful spotlighting may redeem much of the lameness, irrelevancy and provincialism that is too often legal blogging. See for yourself. Meet China's family horror death penalty reality TV show in "The United States of China".
March 01, 2012
Lawyering in America: Try being who you really are. Thursdays, for starters.
Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.
Great clients love authentic humans. Get off your knees.
February 27, 2012
Marrakesh, Morocco: If you find yourself there.
Before Marrakesh, I surrounded myself with people who were just like me.
Visit Maryam and read "Marrakesh: and a Tale of Rescue?"
February 12, 2012
Dwfyn darogan dewin drywon. For aging Druids in America's Midwest.
January 16, 2012
The High Sweet Smell of Spirited Mediocrity: SNL's New Ode to the Slackoisie, Happysphere and Self-Esteem Movement.
"You can do anything."
January 02, 2012
Edinburgh's Hogmanay Celebration is Decadent and Depraved.
So we'd like to go to it next year. See this BBC piece on Scotland's New Year's bash this year: "Edinburgh Hogmanay Revellers See In 2012". And then take a look in The Guardian at this one: "Pit Them Away Hen! Guide to a Real Scottish Hogmanay". For more on this shameful ancient annual fire lit Pagan bender, with its Robert Burns overtones of Celtic mysticism, witches and pleasures of the flesh, to which no one has ever invited us, see Biggar Bonfire 2011.
Three days ago, the Up Helly Aa Vikings from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands started Hogmanay's annual torchlight procession in Edinburgh. (David Moir/Reuters)
December 31, 2011
If Groupon and its competitors can help people get health care, what's not to like?
Unbundle. Lower Prices. Offer Choices. Forget for a moment that the Net has helped dumb-down our social and political discourse to Neanderthal and hopelessly dishonest levels. Commercially, and at the very least, the Internet does the aforementioned three things quite well. Have at it, Groupon. See via MSNBC this AP piece: "Uninsured Use Groupon, Other Daily Deal Sites, for Health Care". Warning: Some of the comments to the article are revolting, even to me.
Groupon CEO Andrew Mason.
December 30, 2011
China in Ethiopia: Let the Big Dog Eat.
Century upon century, Africa has inspired. The beauty, mysteries and vibrancy of the African continent has steadily catapulted novelists and poets to their best stories and verse for over 3000 years. And the very old, enduring and populous civilization of Ethiopia, even in all of Africa's drama and cultural diversity, and with its ringside seat at the Horn of Africa to both the rest of the continent and the Middle East, has always stood out. Me? I'm shallow, if romantic. I like the people--they are the handsomest on earth--and to hear Amharic suddenly spoken and flow over you in the middle of breakfast at the upscale Afterwords restaurant in Dupont Circle is like hearing Flaubert stand up and recite his best two sentences in a bowling alley. China, too, is discovering the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia--and state-sponsored China business and industry likely focuses on the landlocked country's non-oil natural resources, its livestock, coffee and other agriculture, and its human capital, which includes 80 million potential consumers. See at The Guardian today "Ethiopia's Partnership with China" and think about how a planned, careful and respectful investment approach--at least ostensibly--to a weaker nation could be a win-win. Some excerpts:
Ethiopia at the end of 2011 reflects the surprising complexity of Chinese engagement in Africa, how it differs from that of the west and – possibly of more significance to the continent – how central is the role of African agency.
China is no newcomer here. In 1972, China financed the Wereta-Weldiya road across Ethiopia's Rift Valley. Between 1998 and 2004, the Chinese contributed 15% of the cost of Addis Ababa's ring road (Ethiopia paid the rest).
Ethiopia is clearly in charge in this engagement. Chinese traders and shopkeepers, who are fixtures across many African cities, are absent on Ethiopia's streets. These positions are reserved for locals, and Ethiopians enforce their rules.
And China listens. A decade ago, Chinese companies building the ring road complained they couldn't find enough local skilled workers. The Ethiopian government asked China to establish a college that would focus on construction and industrial skills. The fully-equipped Ethio-China Polytechnic College opened in late 2009, funded by Chinese aid. Chinese professors offer a two-year degree with Chinese language classes alongside engineering skills.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, August 15, 2011. China had just given $55 million for food to drought-striken areas in Ethiopia's troubled western region. (Photo: China Daily/Xinhua.)
December 28, 2011
Is China and China business really all over Africa? If so, just how much? Discuss.
Finally, there's a site that covers the above inquiry. See by American University's Deborah Brautigam the blog China in Africa: The Real Story. Start out with this one, "China's 'Checkbook Diplomacy' and Overseas Investment Reconsidered".
Workers at Imboulou Dam, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a power plant funded by the China National Mechanical & Equipment Corporation. Photo: Paulo Woods.
December 24, 2011
Even at Christmas, Mother Russia Screams Like a Banshee.
More attitude, more outrage, and it's continuous and fearless. You think OWS protesters have moxie? Well, lots of them do. But consider Mom and Pop Russia over the past two weeks. Don't ignore this history being made--and what it might mean to any nation: a super-power, a comer or a tiny new unknown. Even at Christmas, there is increasing pressure on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Russian government from its traditionally reticent citizenry to re-do the December 4 elections. See MSNBC's 'Russia will be free'.
The protests reflect a growing public frustration with Putin, who ruled Russia as president in 2000-2008 and has remained the No. 1 leader after moving into the prime minister's seat due to a constitutional term limit. Brazen fraud in the parliamentary vote unexpectedly energized the middle class, which for years had been politically apathetic.
A protester today in Vladivostok.
December 15, 2011
Russia: More Moxie in The Motherland.
Is the era of the cowed comrade about to end? With a population of over 140 million people, a land mass of 6.5 million square miles and enviable natural resources (including oil and gas) that are important to Europe, the Russian Federation, as a nation-state alone, will continue to occupy a huge role in global economics and politics over the next few decades. But recently (see our recent posts here and here) we've seen what might be the first stirrings in a new consciousness--a sea change in the way Russians feel, think and act--in the ideologically mercurial, troubled Mother Russia of the last 100 years. See by Charles Clover in the Financial Times "Russia’s Middle Class Finds Its Feet".
Mother Russia calls for More Attitude.
December 12, 2011
Fear and Loathing on Russian Facebook.
More Big Ones from Mom-and-Pop Russia. Here's a headline you don't see every day. See at MSNBC "Angry Facebook Backlash After Medvedev Announces Russia Election Inquiry". Dang. Excerpt:
He [President Medvedev] announced the inquiry on Facebook--the same site used by organizers of mass rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Saturday--that called for the elections to be annulled and rerun. The protests were Russia's biggest opposition rallies since Putin rose to power in 1999.
Within hours, Medvedev received one insult after another on the social media website from people who made clear his response to the demonstrations was insufficient.
NBC correspondent Stephanie Gosk said the majority of the 12,000 comments were negative – a remarkable act of open defiance in a country where political activists are jailed and hostility to the government would have been unusual only a few weeks ago.
December 01, 2011
Scott Greenfield: On Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Real Life.
Life is Tough, Growing Up Hard, Legislation Expensive. At his enduring, highly-regarded, always-excellent and intermittently sensitive Simple Justice, see this one by Scott Greenfield yesterday: "When Bullying is Bull". Excerpts:
It's impossible to have any sort of reasoned discussion about bullying in the absence of a viable definition, and yet the conduct that is being swept into the mix continues to devolve. The overarching criterion seems to be conduct that is "hurtful," which leaves it to the person whose feelings are affected to determine that someone else is a bully. This can't be.
The issue isn't the mechanisms by which bullying occurs, even though the feds have an arguable basis for regulating these platforms or arenas. The issue is defining the conduct that comes within the parameters of regulation. The issue is that the teacups, the overly sensitive who are finally empowered to assert their feelings on the conduct of others, cannot be allowed to define wrongs based on their personal delicate sensibilities.
While most of us focus on this issue for only the few moments a high profile case arises, those who are behind the anti-bullying legislative thrust to vindicate their hurt feelings or further their scholarly niche are still busy at work pushing laws that would make most, if not all, of us and our children criminals. At some point, everyone hurts another person's feelings, whether deliberately or by benign neglect.
New York City's Greenfield in early 2010, just weeks before start of sensitivity training regimen.
November 17, 2011
The Two Sudans: "The risk of a full-blown war."
On July 9 of this year, South Sudan, located in one of the poorest and troubled regions of the world, seceded from Sudan (now North Sudan) and became an independent state. Even though South Sudan's secession followed both a referendum reflecting overwhelming popular support for the split and the consent of North Sudan's embattled president, old and new issues (the article quite understandably barely scratches the surface) combine to make the transition daunting. Two transitional issues are that North Sudan lost 75% of its 500,000 bpd oil production to the split, and that many South Sudanese already vehemently disapprove of and distrust their new government. See "Rumours of War" in the current issue of The Economist. It begins:
Buffeted by financial squalls and fearful of a Libyan-like upheaval, Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, is digging in hard. He is hammering groups opposed to his National Congress Party, while using his army and rebel proxies to bait South Sudan, his diminished country’s newly independent neighbour.
Fighting in the south’s Unity state, close to the border, has left scores dead. A lot more have died in South Kordofan, a state within his rump Sudan, just north of the new border, where ethnic Nuba are pressing for control of a mountain range.
November 10, 2011
At Cross-Culture: "U.S. Optimism Remains—You Just Might Not Recognize It."
See this guest post by American prof Tim Flood at Richard Lewis's Cross-Culture. Not sure I buy that "US optimism is inherently contentious" but do think he's right that we are noisy if happy well-meaning wariors when we talk to each other--and we always have been. Excerpt:
For people who don’t know the US and Americans well, I should clarify what makes American optimism:
US optimism is inherently contentious. Americans routinely embrace the role of “devil’s advocate” in a discussion, representing the opposing viewpoint as a way to stimulate thoughtfulness, test the hypothesis, or show interest in the issue. We argue almost routinely, so much so that the actual act of arguing rarely carries the negative impact that observers might perceive.
And we carry this contentious optimism through most political discussions, election cycles and presidential selections. Energetic argument is the grease that lubricates the machine: often messy, sometimes overly slick or seemingly inconsequential. Regardless of political affiliation, we value our candidates for their abilities to stand up to the scrutiny, to defend themselves and their ideas as they pitch their versions of positive change and a better future.
October 18, 2011
"It's over, Muffy. Back to Suffolk. I'll mix the martinis. You pack the good swizzle sticks."
Go back to Boston! Go back to Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims! Get out! We are the future. You old white people. It is your duty to die.You are old and tired. Go on. We have beaten you. Leave like beaten rats.
--Augustin Cebada, Brown Berets, May 2010
October 10, 2011
Here's to you, Self-Esteem Movement: Please stay in your coffin.
When everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody.
--Sir W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911). Dramatist, Librettist, Illustrator.
October 04, 2011
Breaking: Massachusetts bans naming any more male infants "Justin", "Joshua", "Jeremy" or "Brandon".
Governor: "No more poof names." Law goes into effect January 1, 2012. California and New York may follow.
September 26, 2011
The Economist: "The Palestinians deserve a state--just as the Israelis do."
See in Saturday's The Economist "Yes to Palestinian Statehood". It begins:
The Palestinians are edging closer to getting a recognised state, at least on paper. Their application to the UN’s Security Council, pencilled in for September 23rd, will be rebuffed by an American veto. But if they then go to the UN General Assembly, which seems likely sooner or later, the Palestinians will win an overwhelming majority.
The “observer” status that would be given to them would be similar to that of the Vatican—a position short of full membership, which can be conferred only by the Security Council. It would not make an immediate difference on the ground but would help the Palestinians on their way to the real thing by giving them a diplomatic fillip. It should be encouraged, for reasons of both principle and practice.
The principle is simple: the Palestinians deserve a state, just as the Israelis do.
The United States, the European Union and the Israeli government have all endorsed a two-state solution. There is broad agreement that the boundary should be based on the pre-1967 one, with land swaps allowing Israel to keep its biggest settlements close to the line, in return for the Palestinians gaining land elsewhere; Jerusalem should be shared; and the Palestinians should give up their claimed right of return to Israel proper.
September 19, 2011
The Economist: Anti-Israeli Sentiment Surges in Egypt.
Israel has diplomatic relations with only three nearby countries. In the space of ten days its ambassadors have been humiliatingly forced out of two of them: Turkey and Egypt. The king of the third, Jordan’s Abdullah, commented without apparent displeasure that Israel was “scared”.
A week after the Turkish démarche, and linked to it in the eyes of many Israeli commentators, a Cairo mob attacked the Israeli embassy, housed on three floors of a high-rise building in the suburb of Giza. Policemen did little as demonstrators with hammers battered down a wall of concrete slabs put in place to protect the building.
Yet Egyptian attitudes to Israel are rarely simple. A bit of anti-Israeli theatre goes down well. But when incidents such as the embassy break-in become an international affair and foreign governments question Egypt’s ability to protect diplomats, whoever they may be, people become edgier.
All the same, anti-Israeli feeling is growing. Some political parties want to close the Suez Canal to the Israeli navy and to block the sale of natural gas to Israel. The new Freedom and Justice Party, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, says the 1979 treaty should be “revised”.
September 11, 2011
Egypt. Ireland. America. Iraq. Ancient Greece. Watts. South Boston. Tribal Warfare is What Humans Do.
August 24, 2011
John of Patmos: One King-Hell Flake.
Looking into the Void. Saint John of Patmos writes the Book of Revelation in this Hieronymus Bosch painting (1505). Whoever wrote Revelation--no one really knows--was one out-there King-Hell Flake. Get the net.
House of Barbie: Me love you long time...
Name's Oliver. American. Buy you a counterfeit Heineken? "Iconic" Barbie is now 52 and, in recent years, alive, well and servicing China. Is there really a Shanghai Barbie Store?
"Wanna' date, Joe?"
August 16, 2011
August 09, 2011
They Called It Stormy Monday.
But Tuesday’s just as bad.
August 02, 2011
An Eternal Reason to Live.
"They don't believe in this love of mine..."
July 12, 2011
Born Lucky: 25 Years.
You'd act weird, too, Jack, if you hadn't had a beer in 25 years. And there would be days you'd feel resentful. But you'd at least have this: the gift of knowing, every day, exactly who you really are.
On July 12, 1986, around 1:30 AM EST, on F Street N.W., I had my last drink. Probably a beer--likely a Heineken. But no one really knows. I still miss beer. Like right now.
By "last drink" I mean my last beer, Heineken, Bass Ale, Guinness, Jameson, Scotch, Bourbon, vodka, Bombay gin, red wine, hooch, intoxicant or inebriant of any kind. (Now I don't even like alcohol to be in food, even great food, and "cooked off", as the waiters keep saying.) Where this happened was a wonderfully depraved Irish bar my friends--i.e. cocky litigators, journalists, Hill workers, network news people, and serious degenerates with serious jobs--and I really loved. It was midway between my house on Capitol Hill and my job on Eye Street.
Like all Washington, D.C. bars, it had straight-up trial lawyers, deal lawyers, politicians, writers, students, professors, diplomats, and a novelist or two. But this was no "fern bar". It was whispered that the IRA raised money and ran guns through the place. It was common to see people in suits asleep on the floor. The waiters and waitresses had brogues from places like Tralee and Cork. The day bartenders were belligerent--and often drunk by noon.
My kind of saloon. Perfect venue for the last drink: an amazingly grace-less bar. As a goof, we'd often tell tourists we met on Saturdays that it was a "family" restaurant, and that everyone sang wholesome songs at the place on Saturday nights starting around midnight, when the place became a real problem for even the people who worked there.
Not fights--just odd scenes: like word-slurring diplomats dressed in bathrobes and cowboy hats, and reckless pols with Irish surnames openly fondling au pair girls named Brigit or Maeve. Or an editor for a D.C. newspaper furiously charging in from the summer humidity to "claim" his notoriously independent wife, and seeming to grip a small firearm. No one notices him or it right away; the crowd is well over-served, and hours ago the help had arrived at that special campground beyond the sun.
Last days of Bombay. So the venue I had chosen was "perfect". Despite my mission early that morning, the place was still somehow exciting in its dark, edgy, and irreverent fun. But there is nothing remarkable about why I quit. No huge losses yet (sure, I could see them coming). I had a great job, and was headed toward a partnership. My childhood had been lucky--and fun. I could not have asked for more loving parents, siblings and friends. Nothing to drink about. I just liked it way too much.
Born different, I guess. It isolated me, even with people around.
That isolation, and knowing that drinking had somehow separated me from the rest of the Universe, was enough. It's a lucky, and unusual, break to have that suddenly hit you. Sure, it's hard to quit doing something you love, and nine out of ten times you're pretty good at--even if it's killing you. You may experience for the first time "exclusion", albeit a somewhat self-imposed one. You're still a boring white collar WASP--but finally in a real minority. You never thought that would happen. You feel left out. But you learn a few things, too.
I still miss beer, almost every day. Yet lots of people, including adventuresome trial lawyers or reporters with one dash of the wrong DNA, do finally give up booze, drugs or whatever else controls their life, so they can tap into and use the gifts they have--and grow. I was lucky.
Not to just wake up--but to have the problem in the first place. If you hit it head on, you grow in ways you would never grow if you did not have "it". That is what people can never get. And they shouldn't. So I don't try to explain.
Born different, maybe. Born lucky, too.
Thanks, Bud, Fritz, Larry, Ev, Valerie, Helen--and Jeremiah Bresnahan.
Make Yours Moxie, Justin.
June 26, 2011
The Furries: Woofstock in Pittsburgh for 6th straight year.
Wouldn't date one, though. We applaud the return of The Furries here--and we are pleasantly surprised and curious. Has Pittsburgh finally become less culturally conservative, staid and conventional in the past six years? Or do 'Burghers just love cartoons more than the rest of us? See at Reuters "Pittsburgh Inundated by Furries".
June 19, 2011
TV Dads, The Atlantic and "The End of Men".
Ever wonder why young male employees type with a lisp? See in the July-August 2010 issue: "The End of Men". And let's not forget that, apart from the fact that women are far more complex and more intricate than men--they always have been--"women power" is not just a matter of women rising in Western culture and in the workplace. In the last half-century, men, especially white collar men, did not just lag behind women in personal and professional development. Men also lost the notion of being men--whatever that means these days--in a modern world.
Yet women stayed women--and in all the best ways. Bravo.
Everyone loves neutered indoor cats. Consider countless male characters on television over the past 30 years. Most are wimpified beyond recognition: sexless cartoon characters, and suburban robot-peasants. Adult "male" TeleTubbies. Sure, they are kind, sweet and understanding, if goofy. They just do what they are told--by either women or a new egalitarian society that gives them mixed messages, and only confuses them, about how they should now be and act. To some extent, television's male characters--pick almost any male sitcom lead from 1950 on--reflect how we see ourselves.
Do men now hold onto the barest sliver of "male" identity? Granted, in even earlier decades, John Wayne's characters could be ridiculous, short-sighted and small; however, they were never pathetic, or stripped of their core aggression and wildness.
What a tool.
Originally posted June 10, 2010.
June 13, 2011
The Great American Tocqueville Discovery.
Was young Alexis a stud or what? Three years ago, on the Sunday editorial page of one of the most conservative papers in America, we applauded Alexis de Tocqueville for that young Frenchman's uncanny prediction in his Democracy in America of a U.S. president exactly like George W. Bush. We had argued that "W", warts and all, and whether you like him or not, is indeed the "new man" Tocqueville kept seeing during his nine months here in 1831.
No American should have been too surprised to wake up in November of 2000 and learn that such a creature got the top job. Tocqueville has been getting high marks for prescience from Americans and Europeans in the last 30 years after being ignored for the first 150 years.
The interesting thing about the reactions to the article is that everyone along the politcal spectrum who read it seemed to like it. Americans are comfortable with "non-egghead" leaders. Every few elections cycles, we even give militantly anti-intellectual, the poorly-traveled and the hopelessly "uncurious" a shot.
You want more W's? We've had them before and have them waiting in the wings. Examples:
1. Warren Harding
2. Ronald Reagan
3. Sarah Palin
All 3 are "One of us".
May 28, 2011
Bat Country: Travel, Work, Rum & Writing.
Booze and cigarettes are essential to good journalism. --Jack Shafer, Slate
During the last Pagan tradition-based Christian drinking season (i.e., Christmas), The Economist's Gulliver at the magazine's Business Travel desk asked: Time for a Tipple? Read it. But don't try some of this stuff at home. And unless you're a pro, don't do any of it alone. Note: In photos below, Messrs. Thompson, a writer, and Acosta, a lawyer, are seen traveling and working circa 1970.
May 17, 2011
Get Out Of Your Cars And Dance.
May 13, 2011
Friday the 13th: Did You Have a Bad Week?
In old Rome, witches gathered in groups of 12--and a 13th was believed to be the devil. There's also a Norse gods spin on that one. The ancient world also liked executions to take place on Friday. All three are just a tiny sliver of the lore and legend on why Friday the 13th is unlucky in many cultures.
Well, in fact, I did have a bad week.
My co-writer and boss (who really does have a firm employee ID# of 666) was moodier than usual. I ran out of my good Irish whiskey here in the Tyrol by Thursday. Our 2 small children have the flu. And by mistake I threw away a Berlin waitress's phone number on the napkin she gave me. I had no intention of calling the number; however, my wife somehow found the napkin and cross-examined me on it. Expertly. And with feeling.
Today is Friday the 13th. I will not do anything but work. Promise.
May 07, 2011
Many more people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country. The craving for ethyl alcohol and the opiates has been stronger, in these millions, than the love of God, of home, of children; even of life.... Why should such multitudes of men and women be so ready to sacrifice themselves for a cause so utterly hopeless and in ways so painful and so profoundly humiliating?
--Aldous Huxley, "Drugs That Shape Men's Minds", The Saturday Evening Post, October 18, 1958
May 06, 2011
The Economist: America, bin Laden & killing abroad.
Our take? We are at war; the killing of bin Laden Sunday was a legitimate, straightforward and better-than-usual U.S. military operation. But do see "Assassination: A Messy Business" in yesterday's The Economist. It begins:
Killing quickly in combat, when large numbers of soldiers are fighting according to the laws of war, is sad but legal. Change any of those parameters, and things get tricky. Some lawyers have denounced the killing of Mr bin Laden, unarmed and in his home, as an extra-judicial murder. Others see it as a wholly legitimate military operation.
Every country allows soldiers to use lethal force against a declared enemy in wartime, just as police may, in some circumstances, kill criminals. But America is at war with an organisation, not a country, and though al-Qaeda is not a state it is (by its own account) at war with the United States. Purists argue that the criminal law is the right weapon for defence against terrorists; pragmatists would differ.
May 04, 2011
Cafe de la Mairie, Amour Propre--and Badaude.
If like us you love, and are always missing, Paris, you must too love its waiters--and their "outsize helping of amour propre". Via The Paris Blog do see the short but classic "9 AM, Cafe de la Mairie". It is by Badaude, a writer and artist with a fine window to Paris. And can she draw.
May 01, 2011
Wankfest or Not, It's World History, Jack.
Photo: Clarence House.
April 21, 2011
Easter Rising 1916
460 killed, 2600 wounded, 16 executions. The proclamation was read by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office in Dublin on Sackville Street (since 1924 O'Connell Street)--and the Rising began. It was modeled on a similar if less well-supported proclamation by Robert Emmet in 1803.
However, as one of our readers, Patrick J. Keeley, has pointed out:
The proclamation in 1916 was an actual declaration of a Republic. Emmet is more known for his speech from the dock when he spoke of Ireland one day taking its place (free) among nations of Earth. I don't think he ever actually proclaimed a Republic, he lead what in effect was a mob, sadly inebriated down Thomas Street in 1803. A noble effort and a tragic end to what would surely have been a brilliant legal career.
April 20, 2011
Ancient Easter: The Hill of Slane.
An Easter Week Druid Setback. In 433 A.D., the day before Easter, St. Patrick lit a bonfire here as part of his campaign to convert the Druids to Christianity. Patrick, a feisty Brit by birth, did this to defy the High King Laoghire, who had forbid any other fires while a Beltane festival fire was burning on the nearby Hill of Tara (now in Meath County). Unfortunately, King Laoghire so liked Patrick's moxie that he let Patrick continue his campaign to convert the feral and mysterious Druids in that part of Ireland.
April 19, 2011
At Cross-Culture: Caste, Class and Lower England.
I am his Highness’ dog at Kew; pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
--Alexander Pope (1688-1744) Englishman, poet, satirist.
The richest person I know-–a multi-millionaire by his mid-thirties--told me that his working-class background means that there are still people who ‘cut him dead’ socially.
And I will never forget my first seminar at Oxford University, when a class-mate (in more ways than one) from Lancashire was asked to read out his brilliant essay on the Victorian poets Tennyson and Browning. One of the girls suddenly walked out and never came back. Afterwards she told us she ‘had to go and vomit, as she couldn’t stand listening to that Northern, working-class accent.’
April 18, 2011
Bennet Kelley: The GOP's Borat Budget.
Will the GOP budget make America "the only developed nation in the world that aspires to be Kazakhstan"? See Bennet Kelley's new piece at DemocraticUnderground.com. Pictured below, sort of: Republican budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
April 04, 2011
Overheard in Brentwood.
Every time I listen to other people, everything just gets all f_cked up.
--Guy in a restaurant
March 30, 2011
You were born an original; don't die a copy.
March 24, 2011
At Cross-Culture: Suffolk's Sir Eldon Griffiths on the U.S. in Libya.
At R.D. Lewis's fine Cross-Culture, see "Long Before the No-Fly Zone, the US Hit Gaddafiland Hard" by Eldon Griffiths, a journalist and former editor of Newsweek. He also was a member of the British Parliament, representing Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, England, between 1964 and 1992. He begins:
The Anglo-French led air incursion over Libya is being presented in Europe as unprecedented. It isn’t. 15 April 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the American attack on Tripoli and Benghazi by a force of eighteen F‐111 bombers and twenty-eight KC10 and KC135 tankers from airbases in and around what then was the Suffolk constituency I represented in the British Parliament.
March 16, 2011
Tough, Stoic Japan.
Hiroto Sekiguchi / AP
March 12, 2011
Celebrating Women: Reminder that Hull McGuire Hires the Overly-Comely.
March 11, 2011
15 hours ago: Near Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan (Kyodo News/ Reuters)
March 10, 2011
Do Visit Bat Country: Disturbing. Never Pretty. Instructive.
Or we'll put the leeches on you. Visit Military Underdog first, and Popehat second, each pictured below celebrating Lent. They're your friends, and not like the Others. And welcome to San Diego--known to some as "Death with a View".
March 08, 2011
Fat Tuesday: Ancient, Global, Pagan, Christian, Everyone.
Venice earlier today.
February 04, 2011
Duke Undergraduates: Neuroscience on the Brain.
Economic models leave room for questions—they don’t explain the irrationalities we witness in the markets every day. Neuroeconomics, on the other hand, could get there.
--Andrea Mihic, 20, Duke Economics major.
Straight Dope from Home of The Dope Shop. This semester, there are 119 Duke students in the new Neuroscience major. Eleven graduated with Neuroscience degrees last year. For more, see the vigilant, star-breeding, limousine-liberal and 106-year-old student daily called The Chronicle, still Funky after all these years. And still at Flowers Third Floor. Total Coverages. Final Wisdoms. Tweed in the Closets.
Above: Honest Buck Duke with trademarks Cane and Mega-Doobie.
February 02, 2011
Cairo: Let's Keep This Evolution Short.
January 28, 2011
Your Egypt, our Egypt.
January 25, 2011
January 20, 2011
Two Former Hull McGuire Associates Turn to Crime.
"Hey Beavis, let's check their garage after this." See at MSNBC "Burglars Snort Ashes of Cremated Man and Two Dogs". Excerpts:
Burglars snorted the cremated remains of a man and two dogs in the mistaken belief that they had stolen illegal drugs, Florida sheriff's deputies said.
The ashes were taken from a woman's home in the central Florida town of Silver Springs Shores on Dec. 15. The thieves took an urn containing the ashes of her father and another container with the ashes of her two Great Danes.
"The suspects mistook the ashes for either cocaine or heroin. It was soon discovered that the suspects snorted some of the ashes believing they were snorting cocaine," the sheriff's report said.
January 16, 2011
Sane Post-Church Chat for a Sunday: Silverman v. The Vatican.
Settlement Bonus: Seller snags cash for new Papal Waterslide.
January 10, 2011
Wake Up Loud, American Workers.
Still Hatin' Life. You even have It anymore?
January 07, 2011
What if your life was actually interesting? Expats in the U.S and Europe vs. China.
See in The Economist "A Tale of Two Expats". Is life really easier for Western expatriates in China than it is for Chinese expatriates in the West? Answer: either expat has it all over you. Time to sell the house and kids and wife? Maybe leave Columbus? Think about it. Life's short. One of the best sentences from a Brit pen ever: "A final headache for Chinese expats is that, when you move to an oppressive Western capitalist society, you encounter a working class that can throw its weight around."
December 28, 2010
New American Normal: It's about fewer jobs here.
Other players in the new global markets are catching up fast. Yanks can and should get used to it--and adapt like the resilient commercial animals we are. See "Many U.S. Companies Are Hiring....Overseas" by the AP's Pallavi Gogoi. Excerpt:
Other economists, like Columbia University's Sachs, say multinational corporations have no choice, especially now that the quality of the global work force has improved. Sachs points out that the U.S. is falling in most global rankings for higher education while others are rising.
"We are not fulfilling the educational needs of our young people," says Sachs. "In a globalized world, there are serious consequences to that."
December 15, 2010
Mother Jones on Richard Holbrooke
Me? On even his bad days, I thought he was a lot of fun to watch. Career diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly on Monday, was an older school player and a powerful class act. As David Corn suggests in "Richard Holbrooke's Unfinished Business", Holbrooke's passing is going to get more than the usual few days of ink from both critics and admirers who cover Afghanistan.
November 27, 2010
Above The Law Gets Serious.
A reason for lawyers over 25, and with passable mental health, to read a mega-popular law blog. Former Jones Day partner and current AON in-house litigation chief Mark Herrmann now writes a column for in-house counsel at Above The Law. We can't imagine a better holiday gift. Beats whoopee cushions, tantrums and cries for help. Is it time yet to ban anonymous and pseudo-anonymous commenters--and require real names and accountability from your many readers? Or still cool to weigh in as wusses and straight-up turds? Just asking. Well done, Lat and Mystal.
November 25, 2010
Atlantic Review: Is the War on Hysteria now Transatlantic?
Our friends at the Atlantic Review--the Berlin-based press digest founded in 2003 by German and American Fulbright alumni--write that "Like America, Germany Needs More Sanity, Less Hysteria". Excerpts from a piece written by mainstay and AR co-founder Joerg Wolfe:
Where are the German Jon Stewarts, who could restore some sanity over here? The debate in Germany about multiculturalism and Muslims, immigration and integration is full of hysteria.
Christianity in Germany is not under attack by Islam. The real problem is that more and more Christians lost interest in practicing their own religion. [more]
The Brandenburg Gate, completed in 1791, is the last remaining Berlin gate. It is still a German symbol of peace, stability and wisdom.
November 21, 2010
King Me. Now.
Back in the day, Baby Boomer Prince Charles, now 62, was cool, mod, dashing and could do no wrong. According to some recent polls, however, most Brits (see MSNBC piece) prefer Prince William and his new squeeze, Kate Middleton--both are 28 and, mercifully, have anti-slackoisie DNA and tendencies--as the next monarchs over his old Dad and his second wife Camilla Parker, 63. For all we know, the Queen, now a healthy 84 and on the throne since 1953, may supervise at the funerals of all four. Some upper class Brits seem to live forever. Toughest and feistiest humans on earth.
The current Prince of Wales headed for school circa 1958.
November 01, 2010
Make Mine Catholic.
Great Moments in Papal Moxie. In the Western Christian tradition, today is All Saints' Day. It began in 610, when Pope Boniface IV in effect converted the Pantheon--which five centuries earlier had been dedicated to all the gods of ancient Rome--into a Catholic church. Boniface re-dedicated the Pantheon to the the Virgin Mary and all of the Christian martyrs. Talk about sand.
October 21, 2010
Again, French workers protest cruel Anglo-Saxon work regimes.
We check in on the French work ethic frequently. This week, French citizens in several cities have been marching against proposals--long pushed by President Nicolas Sarkozy--that would raise the retirement (and pension) age from 60 to 62. See Richard Nahem's report at "French Pension Protests" at his I Prefer Paris. However, our friend Richard says not to cancel your trip to Paris. French protesters who want to work less are apparently not dangerous or life-threatening. Just annoying.
October 09, 2010
Hard Times at Duke.
The Duke Experience. In The Chronicle, the award-winning, muckraking, star-hatching, and these days way-tawdry 105-year-old Duke daily newspaper, visit "Sex List Draws Media to Duke". Here are some excerpts--including two of the offending history-making links, which we have added--to get you started (warning: you may do no work for the rest of the day), to do more research, and in case you missed the buzz on Thursday of last week:
The 42-slide PowerPoint that has drawn widespread attention was meant to be shared between friends.
In it, Karen Owen, Trinity ’10, vividly describes the sexual performance of 13 current and former Duke students, all of them varsity athletes and many of them lacrosse players.
After Owen sent the PowerPoint to a few friends, it eventually made its way across listservs at Duke and then onto sites such as Jezebel, The Huffington Post and CNN.
At one point Thursday night, “Karen Owen Powerpoint” was the second most-searched term in the United States on Google. “Duke Powerpoint” was 10th.
And the best quote ever:
“I regret it with all my heart,” Owen told Jezebel. “I would never intentionally hurt the people that are mentioned on that.”
Above: James "Buck" Duke smoking a big one on West Campus.
September 20, 2010
For Gen Ys: Yours in the struggle, dudes.
(skip to 4:30)
September 19, 2010
French still balking at brutal Anglo-Saxon regimes of Work.
Charles de Gaulle in 1947: "Two more months. And that's it, okay?"
There's just no other way to say it. Sure, wouldn't a long holiday of 65 years (since circa 1945) get even the French rested up? Historically, they are not a lazy or wimpy lot. A bit high-strung, maybe. But as this blog has pointed out repeatedly, the French, after all, are still curators of the best that Western culture, government and traditions have to offer us, and that they have way more artistry for life and class than you and I do, Ernest. Yes, they are. Certainly, they do. Just because our French cousins behave in irritating and superior ways doesn't mean that they are not both.
But c'mon, La Belle France, I mean, like, work much?
It's a fair question.
France has one of the healthiest populations on the planet (young, old, workers and non-workers). They are living longer and longer. So can you guys at least beef up the public treasury with more pension and social welfare funds by working a few years longer--until the ripe age of 62? Do see the unusually sympathetic (by Brit anti-French standards) story run by the BBC News: "French Horror at 'Anglo-Saxon' Welfare Reforms". Excerpts:
The French are scandalised by President Nicolas Sarkozy's determined push to raise the state pension age from 60 to--horror of horrors--62. A modest rise in European terms and in the current economic climate, you might think, not unreasonable.
Yet the French have always expected the state to provide--not only for their short working week, their excellent free schools and hospitals--but also their retirement.
The UMP's [the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement party], Jean-Francois Cope says the state pension age could rise to 63. Most people here do not contribute to private pensions. The vast majority rely on the state pension, and compulsory membership of industry schemes.
The French get more sleep, and then there are those famously long summer holidays. In August, French society heads for the hills, the beaches, the mountains. Anywhere but the office.
To be fair, despite the "down-time" the French are still hugely productive, even in a 35-hour week.
September 08, 2010
September 05, 2010
Whoa. Life sure got smallish, wimpy and squeaky fast.
"Nice guy/lady--just don't get in a foxhole with him/her". We hope that no one has ever said or thought this about you--but it's likely that they already have. We live in a world where about 98% of the time wimpiness and lack of courage are rationalized, stylized, and sold to us as "smart" or "prudent" and even as a "right".
Americans, too, of course. For all our bluster, many of us get weaker, more insubstantial, and more irrelevant every day. We don't meet and talk. We rarely look anyone in the eye. Instead, we type and text, day in and day out: skittish mini-critters running on shiny little treadmills in cages set behind screens and tubes.
Indeed, Technology has insulated--rather than "unleashed"--many of us. Is this all there is? Dang! Busy but dazed and confused? Whoa. Life sure got small and squeaky fast.
Squeak-squeak, you losers.
"Are we not Men?" Historically, all humans (not just Yanks in de-evolution stages) have routinely sidestepped truth, our real beliefs, and initial urges of loyalty to others. We mean loyalty as automatic and instinctual. Bordering on tribal, almost a pang, and often directed blindly, this "sticking" is the Mere Base Rent you pay for just being here, forming relationships, and taking up space on the planet. It's not "extra credit" or "gravy". You don't get points.
Loyalty can be to true friends based on history--or to virtual strangers out of a sense of justice and quick detection of bs. It is the support and allegiance owing to anyone who we know in a flash, and in our deepest and best selves, deserve our immediate aid and good offices because of fairness, past ties, a promise or an understanding.
It is always situational. You either get it--or you don't.
"Are we not Men?" Welcome to the House of Pain, Mr. Prendick.
Well, hey, at least everyone's doing it--and been doing it for all of recorded history. No shame at all, right? You made average. You're "living small"--but at least you're a true generic. A big relief.
And if you're really and truly in the other 2%, congratulations! But here are two key questions:
1. Do you really know who (a) at work and (b) in your life will "stick" when you need their support?
2. Do you even have to ask them for help--or do they lie in the weeds when you need them the most?
Our advice. Once a week, use your common sense, your passion, or ideally both together, to support someone who deserves it then and there. But do it whether or not it's convenient, or in your interest, to support him or her. (If you can't think of or identify many day-to-day examples of this--at work, in the community, or in the streets--we feel sorry for you. No need for you to ever to read this blog again. You won't get it--not one word.)
You'll not only get scads back. You'll start to learn who you really are.
September 04, 2010
There is no God: End times outrage pits Earl against Nantucket.
Sailors and watchers are resting now,
Some on this sandy lea,
And some with the sea-grass round them twined,
Are asleep in the wandering sea.
--from "The House-Top Walk", by Charles L. Thompson
Union Street's Quaker Uncle Billy readies for Earl.
Earl's got jail-house tats, bad genes, and your sister's deb pics.
August 11, 2010
Eric O'Neill: More home-grown threats in the American 'hood.
Above: Adnan Shukrijumah, possibly the new head of global operations for Al Qaeda. Hear the ensuing Fox News interview last week with lawyer, ex-FBI agent and real life spycatcher Eric O'Neill of The Georgetown Group. Did you ever wonder about that one guy in your Computer Club back in high school?
August 02, 2010
FT: "The Crisis of Middle-Class America".
What, then, is the future of the American Dream?
Michael Spence, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, whom the World Bank commissioned to lead a four-year study into the future of global growth, admits to a sense of foreboding. Like a growing number of economists, Spence says he sees the Great Stagnation as a profound crisis of identity for America.
For years, the problem was cushioned and partially hidden by the availability of cheap debt. Middle-class Americans were actively encouraged to withdraw equity from their homes, or leach from their retirement funds, in the confidence that property prices and stock markets would permanently defy gravity (a view, among others, promoted by half the world’s Nobel economics prize winners, Spence not included).
That cushion is now gone. Easy money has turned into heavy debt. Baby boomers have postponed retirements. College graduates are moving back in with their parents.
Rhinebeck: No one throws a party like Wild Bill.
No one. Ever. And Everyone likes him. NYT.
July 26, 2010
It's Monday AM: You know for sure where your girlfriend/wife is? We might.
It could happen to you. Probably already has. "I AM the backdoor man. Men don't know. But little girls, they understand." --Willie Dixon
July 21, 2010
Anonymity on the Net. Play it again, Charon: Charon QC-Hull "Anonymity" interview.
One fine Saturday last July, London's velvet-voiced politics pundit and broadcaster Charon QC--in his other life a well-regarded law professor and writer--interviewed Dan Hull. And so they took a bit more time to do their 4th radio podcast together. It's more informal than the first three. Both, however, even the Rioja-loving Charon, were sober.
It's right here.
Charon (pronounced "Karen", and after a figure in both the ancient and Dante's world) and Dan first met in person in March 2007, doing their first interview (Charon's No. 5) in a Marble Arch hotel room when Dan was working in London. The topic on July 27, 2009--at least at first--was anonymity on the net in Charon's 150th milestone interview. All four interviews can be accessed on this site on your lower right.
July 15, 2010
Law School/Slackoisie Comment--and Quote--of the Year [with Badnesses Deleted]
From a WAC/P? mainstay and 100% full-frontal blunt commenter and stand-up Irish guy (note: we are editing, enlarging and/or embellishing only parts that offended us greatly, we didn't agree with, pissed us off, or we did not get):
Law schools can't teach people to be strong, weak, or in between. All "inside jobs". This subject can be discussed with your Mom, your shrink, baby Jesus, and your other abused and damaged [badness deleted] law school buds.
Finally, why the [badness deleted] are we letting Stone Weenies into American law schools in the first place? Why would they even want to go? Is there a new Affirmative Action program for Lames, Looters, Teacups and [several badnesses deleted]?
Professor Quaalude with Skippy, future Law Review president.
July 03, 2010
Birthday No. 234: But is America still in its Terrible Twos?
The Economist: Even Ancient Sumo Needs a Good Cleaning.
Gambling with an old, multi-layered and heavyweight sport. See "Japan's Sumo Scandal: Caught Off-Balance". Exceprt:
The scandal says a lot about modern Japan, a country undergoing a sweeping transition from informal, implicit rules to formal, explicit ones. Institutions long closed to public scrutiny are becoming more accountable.
June 25, 2010
Happy weekend, Teacups.
Bang bang. Any warriors out there? Ambition? Heart? Gospel?
"Who's the hunter, who's the game?" Half the people you meet live from one day to the next in a state of such fear and uncertainty that about half the time they doubt their own sanity. Their boats are rocking so badly that all they want to do is get level long enough to think straight and avoid the next nightmare. --HST, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72
June 23, 2010
Another reason to only interview workers age 40 and over.
The Lawyerist asks "Are Unpaid Interns and Law Clerks Illegal?" Rather than sweating this issue, or doing any related non-billable research, we suggest that your firm spend a few hours researching and writing a comprehensive white paper on a possible movement to restore ordeal by water to the trial courts.
June 20, 2010
Real Brit execs race powerboats.
Man of Kent screws pooch on yacht. “He is having some rare private time with his son”. This morning the New York Times and several thousand other media outlets want to know what Tony Hayward was doing yesterday in a yacht race off England's clear southern blue coast. So do we. More to the point, in a world-wide recession, yachts are out anyway, Tony. Get down with us, bubba.
June 11, 2010
Overheard in San Francisco: The Man With No Enemies.
At the Clift on Geary Street, in the famous Redwood Room, three people are going over candidates for a high salary lateral hire to join their business.
The Boss, in his sixties, listens for a long while to a glowing report about one candidate, and then says about that candidate in a short monologue:
He's a person with no enemies in the industry?! Really? None?
Sorry, but that's not very good news. "No enemies" means we can trust him with small things, and he'll be loyal. But we can never give him anything risky or important to do. He seeks only to please. More I think about it, I don't want to even meet him.
So, who else do you have?
"Beware of the lily white."
May 28, 2010
Troutbeck, Windermere, Cumbria, England
(from June 18, 2006 post)
We live in a world that never sleeps--and now it combines the ancient with the digital. Technology brings us in and out of the remote and brooding parts of Europe of old standing stones. Not sure I like it--even while it certainly helps me to work.
I left Manchester three days ago to attend the wedding of a London lawyer up here in the Lake District. My hotel for the first night, the Queen’s Head, in Troutbeck, near Windermere, is about 400 years old and looks out over a very narrow winding road, green valleys, daffodils, sheep, cattle, the ruins of old stone houses and hundreds of miles of grey stone fences in the shadows of fells (mountains). All of the fences--and some of the older houses--are done by dry stone.
No mortar at all, and they meander up and down the fells and the valleys and around the lakes for hundreds of miles, like multiple Hadrian's walls stitching everything together. These are the same fences the Lake poets like Wordsworth walked along 200 years ago. Prince Charles has declared dry stone a lost art, and he wants people to re-learn it to keep the fences in repair.
There is no telephone in any room at the Queen’s Head, a rustic inn even around here, in the quiet Troutbeck Valley, not far from the old Roman Road. No internet connections. Just one pay phone near the dining room off the pub, and also a fax, they claim. But it doesn't matter--a Sony Ericsson cell phone and the T-Mobile service allow better wireless connections to talk to clients and my office than I get in the U.S. A Treo or a BlackBerry work just fine here. Clients have no idea where I am unless I tell them.
In a way, it's a shame.
This morning I saw a farmer in one of the rolling fields way down below me in a scene of timeless pastoral beauty and, yes, he had to his ear a silvery cell phone as he paced around between the sheep, their still-nursing lambs and the old stone walls designed to keep them from getting lost or hurt on his neighbor's property. Otherwise, the year was 1730, or earlier.
One great thing if you need to keep working while you travel out here is this: in Europe, I am always at least 5 or 6 hours ahead of North America, which means that I can do "immovable" weekly conferences on ongoing projects in the early afternoon rather than 5:30 to 8:30 AM. I am ahead of the game--that's never true when I am in, say, California. In the western U.S., when I call it a day and go to sleep, workers in the UK, Germany and the rest of Europe are checking their e-mail accounts and just starting their day.
May 03, 2010
Renewal, rebirth, tool sharpening.
Spring ushers in important observances by most cultures and religions.
Nearly everyone--Pagans, atheists, druids, Scots, Picts, regular people, animals, your oddest relatives, city people, and the most pale indoor white collars you know--notice the natural world more. Even plain honest fleshy folk we grew up with in the American Midwest: they do a move, a dance, a jig, or an inspired stylish waddle to celebrate.
It's only primal. We all refuse to ignore rebirth, renewal, new life cycles, being here now--and the possibilities of bold fresh starts.
April 29, 2010
Smaller, Nimbler and Excellent Goes Global.
Maybe you need to get out more? We estimate that worldwide there are now at least 400 international law groups and alliances which count law or accounting firms as members. Some cover or focus on regions (e.g. Latin American, Western Europe, Greater Asia); some specialize (IP and IP enforcement); many take on the whole world (remember the goofy term "full service"), with members in as many as 100 different cities worldwide.
Some, of course, are older, better organized and staffed, or more tightly-knit, than than others. Hull McGuire has participated actively in and used two such groups since 1998, including the IBLC, an alliance based in Salzburg, Austria. IBLC has 100 firms (most of them longstanding) and 1500 professionals.
International groups are nothing new. But they grow in number and usefulness as two things occur: (1) technology continues to level the playing field in the competition for the best clients, and (2) higher-end lawyers form boutiques, boutique "clusters", and firms between 5 and 250 (read: smaller) lawyers to service those clients, often at rates comparable to "large-firm" rates.
No matter what billing regime or model is used--hourly, flat or hybrid--the idea is value. The best thing? As firms "unbundle" their best practice areas to the global markets, sophisticated clients are offered the ultimate menu.
April 28, 2010
The three most significant news items (so far) of April 2010.
2. Matt Damon, Wife Expecting Another Baby. People magazine
3. Vermont Man Reunited with Turtle. NBC
April 20, 2010
The Other Easters.
Old Roman and Pagan versions of Easter are rowdy, have just as many fairy tales, and are probably lots more fun. Rebirth and renewal. Does it matter how you get there? We suggest services here.
April 07, 2010
Special Anglo-Nantucket-Bow Tie Alert.
The waning of WASPs: that troublesome Stevens void. NPR's Nina Totenberg notes that Supreme Court May Soon Lack Protestant Justices. Excerpt:
In fact, six of the nine justices on the current court are Roman Catholic. That's half of the 12 Catholics who have ever served on the court. Only seven Jews have ever served, and two of them are there now.
Depending on the Stevens replacement, there may be no Protestants left on the court at all in a majority Protestant nation where, for decades and generations, all of the justices were Protestant.
April 06, 2010
O Rare Duke: Hated Hoops Tribe Triumphs in Hostile Hoosier Heartland.
Duke 61, Butler 59. Win or lose, Butler is one classy school and team. And I will never escape my own family Indy ties and Indiana memories. But blood is blood. Anyone who went to Duke babbles happily about it for several eternities, and for good reason. I'm no exception. It's some place. See AP article: "Duke Ends Butler’s Dream, Claims 4th Title".
Like its other students, Duke's cheerleaders are often mega-smart, civilized, and tough-minded. Another complaint of the non-Duke public is they are too well-bred, thus lacking the all-important "C&W/chubby hooker look" that other U.S. universities prize and carefully cultivate.
Above: Duke's wonderful Lauren Cooper (by Bruce Yeung)
April 02, 2010
The Other Easters.
You started out as a work of great art; please don't die a copy of something mundane. Old Roman and Pagan versions of Easter are a bit rowdy, have just as many fairy tales, and are probably lots more fun. Rebirth and renewal. Does it matter how you get there? We suggest services here.
March 30, 2010
Slackoisie Dream Killer #1
Contrary to what anyone will tell you, clients are not particularly concerned with your personal happiness, free time and relaxation.
Nor is any other kind of customer or buyer of products or services. See Scott Greenfield's "Love the One You're With" inspired by Mark Britton's "Law is a Jealous Mistress" and Britton's longer piece on communication at Law.com.
March 05, 2010
ChatRoulette. Chat hags. Come again?
We have questions. If 87% of players are male, could this be one of those "confused young men" things? Like a post-modern digital Village People community? And the players have names like Chadwick, Raphael, and Little Sammy? Do people somehow sit in circles? Is there a competition? Are Ritz crackers involved? Can you really get nexted if you went to Duke?
Another thing. Kash Hill, a new ChatRoulette player, is a Vision. A babe. A total Betty. What's in it for her? What's she doing with all these, well, losers? Do they have Chat Hags in Manhattan?
Look, if you must play ChatRoulette, please check in first with Kashmir Hill, and read "A weekend of ChatRoulette (Or: I play ChatRoulette so you don’t have to)" at her blog, The Not-So Private Parts. Excerpt:
I lost my ChatRoulette virginity on Friday night. After drinks at Burp Castle in the East Village and a big bowl of ginger-scallion noodles and fatty pork buns at Momofuku’s noodle bar, I came home full and not yet ready for bed. So I decided to give the site — that I had already written about — a try.
I donned red over-sized, goofy sunglasses with stars on them. Both because the site of first impressions rewards gimmicks to start conversations, and because I wanted to browse incognito. Even knowing I would be paired with anonymous strangers, I felt slightly uneasy and the glasses provided protection.
March 04, 2010
And some talented.
All heiresses are beautiful.
--John Dryden (1631-1700)
Dylan Lauren (1974- ) (Rabbani & Solimene)
February 11, 2010
Dupont Circle 2-6-10
The best coverage is Sunday's Washington Post (..."a flash mob with cabin fever...") and Sunday's Huffington Post. The Dupont Circle snow battle was a structured free-for-all. The Washington Post notes that pre-skirmish legal disclaimers were circulated.
(Photo: Huffington Post)
January 13, 2010
More Plural Life
Whether you're a Baptist, Neo-Platonist, property law professor, or average philanderer struggling to get by, forget about HBO's "Big Love" and learn something. Brooke Adams, a Salt Lake Tribune reporter, tells us almost daily about The Plural Life. Start with her piece yesterday on "Young’s Plan":
Sally Denton, in her book “Faith and Betrayal,” observes that Brigham Young “launched the most ambitious communal socialist society” in America’s history.
She could have been describing the community in Short Creek, now known as Hildale and Colorado City, and the United Effort Plan Trust when she writes about Brigham Young’s plan. This is how the UEP Trust, at least in its inception, was designed to function — and also sheds light on why the states’ efforts to reform and reorganize it have alienated FLDS residents. From Denton:
“Young decreed that there would be no private ownership of land, since it belonged to God. The harvest would be placed in communal storage for distribution according to individual needs.” And:
“. . . There would be no private ownership of property in what one of [Brigham] Young’s clerks described as this ‘place where the land is acknolwedged to belong to the Lord.’ and each man would be assigned two plots, one for a home and one for a farm. . . ."
January 05, 2010
Our New Male Writers: Not much to talk about in the locker room?
"Justin, honey, your editor at Knopf called. He wants you to read more Henry Miller. Roth, Mailer, Bukowski, and Cleland, too. So do I." And here is some must reading for those who must employ (or date, or already married) post-Boomer adult males, or New Age guys. See Katie Roiphe's December 31 essay in the New York Times, "The Naked and the Conflicted".
Note that the handful of younger novelists she discusses are between 38 and 50 years old, American, successful and celebrated. One Pulitzer. But what Roiphe is suggesting about the emerging U.S. male, and our new PC culture, is both instructive and eerie. Moreover, Roiphe, a respected non-fiction author, novelist and NYU prof, is writing about male peers here. She was born in 1968. Three excerpts:
Our new batch of young or youngish male novelists are not dreaming up Portnoys or Rabbits. The current sexual style is more childlike; innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex.
The younger writers are so self-conscious, so steeped in a certain kind of liberal education, that their characters can’t condone even their own sexual impulses; they are, in short, too cool for sex. Even the mildest display of male aggression is a sign of being overly hopeful, overly earnest or politically untoward.
Passivity, a paralyzed sweetness, a deep ambivalence about sexual appetite, are somehow taken as signs of a complex and admirable inner life.
Remedial virility lessons? If it comes to that, Roth, now 76, might lend a teaching hand.
December 31, 2009
Scotland's Hogmanay: Staggeringly Cold.
Wear that rabbit fur-lined Somerled helmet Aunt Mordag gave you last year at the Burning of the Clavie. However you go--Druid priest, celebrated Celtic warrior, or just a rank-and-file Viking fighter--do dress and dress warmly if you're in Scotland today and tomorrow for Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year's celebration that sometimes goes on until January 3. Sub-zero temperatures are expected. See the Herald Scotland and The Guardian.
Last year's Hogmanay in Edinburgh got way out of hand.
(Photo: Daily Telegraph UK)
December 30, 2009
The Economist: Working U.S. Women Officially Rule.
Robert Palmer once sang, persuasively and with brio, that "the women are smarter". We'd add braver, and more motivated. It's bracing to hear we may have new heroes and leaders. Just stay focused on merit. Some worry that the frightened U.S. male worker is steadily losing Moxie, Mojo, and the Ability to Think and Act on His Own. So this is good news. See at this week's The Economist the cover piece "We did it!":
At a time the world is short of causes for celebration, here is a candidate: within the next few months women will cross the 50% threshold and become the majority of the American workforce.
Women already make up the majority of university graduates in the OECD countries and the majority of professional workers in several rich countries, including the United States. Women run many of the world’s great companies, from PepsiCo in America to Areva in France.
Rosie the Riveter, now in her eighties, has arrived.
Image: The Economist (from J. Howard Miller's WWII poster "We Can Do It!")
Charon QC's Christmas Art
We don't understand the Art or the Context, but it did put us in a holly jolly mood. But the "F**kART" series? We'll noodle that awhile.
Never law cattle, always original, CQC makes us like the state of being alive, curious and thinking, and to want more of it.
Christmas ‘09 (2009)
Oil on canvas
December 15, 2009
Is French Television still hiring up all the good Anchorettes?
From earlier this year, see La Mom via The Paris Blog. We still admire 43-year-old Laurence Ferrari, the Sorbonne-educated anchor at French channel TF1. She also has world-class looks. We don't know if it's true or not, but for a brief time after her divorce, Ferrari was romantically linked in the European press to Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president.
This is hard for us to believe for a number of reasons. One reason is rational. After all, Sarkozy has never been mistaken for Paul Newman, Warren Beatty or Johnny Depp. But WAC? is famously shallow on non-lawyering issues. We don't know how two such oddly-matched humans could be attracted to one other. We steadfastly believe in looks. Don't trust us.
More importantly, did La Mom need to call Ferrari "the French Katie Couric--minus the aging cheerleader look"? Look, Jacques, you're talking about America's Sweetheart. We'll always defend D.C. native Katie, even if she is at times cranky, and was once mean to one of our writers at The Monocle, and for absolutely no reason at all.
Ferrari: Smart. Tough. But she flirted for France? We doubt it.
(Note: WAC? alumni Oliver is on loan to this blog through the end of the holidays, or until his wife learns of it, which ever happens first.)
November 30, 2009
Southeast Asia: Hari Raya Puasa
At Richard D. Lewis's fine Cross-Culture, see "Malaysia: An 'Open House' Tradition", by Martin Králik, on the Eid al Fitr holiday as practiced in Malay culture. Eid is a three-day celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Excerpts:
Thanks to the staggering growth in Malaysia’s prosperity over the past thirty years, however, the core festival alone has evolved into a lavish, week-long celebration. The follow-up social activities fill up everyone’s calendar for several weeks.
In the morning of the first day of Hari Raya, people ask forgiveness of their parents and siblings for any slights they may have committed or harsh words uttered in the past year.
The Malay psyche is marked by humility and being closely in touch with one’s emotions: the sight of adults kneeling on the floor in front of a parent and weeping openly is not uncommon even among Westernized, UK- and Australia-educated professionals.
November 16, 2009
"Hello, my name is Amy Walker."
Dialect. Here's a bit of talent, some fine digital self-promotion and--best of all--a quick trip through the English-speaking West.
October 19, 2009
What one admired Brit says about Yanks.
The world, unfortunately, is much like a playground at a third-rate junior high school in a mixed neighborhood.
"Unbounded confidence and undeniable resilience of the American psyche." Many non-US nations--and their citizens in all walks of life--"resent" the United States. We saw that sentiment rise again in mid-2003, when America invaded Iraq. Talent, verve and energy, wrong-headed or not, is threatening to those with less of it. These qualities make people way nervous. But Americans, too, "resent" one another. We are hardly immune from the small-mindedness that often colors our world.
Human nature, I guess. No one wants to feel uncomfortable around the force, energy, talent, resources and self-confidence of those that have it, and often flaunt it in subtle ways.
It's worse if you sense, imagine or observe that the World's Alpha Entities--nations or individuals--are constantly in your face. Hey, if you're of the paranoid persuasion, it's like they are even laughing at you. At you, and at all your friends and family, Jack. The Romans were feared and hated in every country they commandeered. The problem (gulp) was that they were very good for several centuries at what they were doing. You had to give them credit for that.
Think about American towns and cities where people routinely deride outsiders who have accomplished much in "bigger ponds". Note the traditional irrational "fear" of New York City, America's hands-down best town, and New Yorkers. The fact that many New Yorkers are aggressive and often overbearing can't defeat the truth that the city is brimming over talent and ideas. Same with LA and DC.
There have been petty jealously-fests everywhere since the beginning of history. Talent, truth and quality--especially when served up with energy--makes people nervous. Better to surround yourself with "like-minded" people than be made to feel nervous about the fact that you will not or cannot grow to a higher plane. Yes, be comfortable at all costs.
The world, unfortunately, is much like a playground at a third-rate junior high school in a mixed neighborhood. And Americans--ranging from (a) the quietly great to (b) the mouthy mediocre--are still part of all that. Re: the latter group, which is legion, America--for all its greatness and promise--indeed has its moments as a world headquarters for sour grapes, insecurity and moral pretension.
These days, we are drowning in all manner of jack-asses who need to be right 100% of the time on everything from the primacy of Jesus to whether an airline employee is a stewardess, stew, flight attendant, flying waitress or in-flight server. (Some lawyers even freak out over "Chinese wall"--a useful term more quickly understood than Asian wall.)
Lawyers--supposedly seekers and guardians of truth, the architects of business and officers of the court--lie to clients, courts and each other out of habit.
Manners, professionalism and "appearances" are Everything.
Directness, facts, honesty and efficiency are Besides The Point.
Consider lawyers who proclaim loudly and self-righteously that profanity is "unprofessional". Yours truly loves to swear, and forcefully, at the right times. I am heavily involved in the "let's restore real people-speak to the workplace" movement because not using your real speech, especially among lawyers, is phony, prissy, a hypocrisy. Sue me, folks. I am ready for you.
But spoliation of evidence, compromising clients with half-assed work, lying to clients about the true status and quality of projects and positions taken, and making "Eddie Haskell" overtures with adversaries and courts--a sad if amusing "lawyers club" standard--is just biz as usual.
Clients, not adversaries, to many of us, are the enemy; clients are scammed more than anyone, and routinely. My take: lawyers spend as much time hiding their mistakes from their clients, and fighting with them, as they do serving them. Most of us should have never entered the profession. We are not up to it. It is too hard.
Lots of lawyers--maybe a majority--never get it. The law is not a club for white guys who are smart enough to do personal injury cases, walk and chew gum at the same time, and wear decent suits at lunch. It's a service industry, Jack. Most lawyers--in America, we are a dime a dozen--aren't that important. Get used to it.
And it's not of course just Western Law Cattle that's the problem. Consider America's often-intolerant and increasingly shrill Extreme Religious Right. Consider our often-mindless Overly-PC Left (i.e., many blue state residents who are supposedly better educated than the religious right and should know better) that has apparently abandoned the First Amendment in an effort to make people think and talk just like them.
A nation of phonies? A culture that ignores complexity and nuance? A people who fear quality--and even fight it?
You want to see insecurity, irony and hypocrisy out the Wazoo? Look to America. Look to lawyers. Look to other white collar execs and pros. Yes, look to all the world. But take a hard look at you and yours. And get some standards. Keep revisiting your integrity. Demand something better of yourselves and others.
Are you seeing and telling the truth?
Brit Richard Lewis at Cross-Culture tells the truth--whether it is popular on his own tribal playground or not. He does not shy way from tackling and sorting out complexity and ambiguity. He does not preach. He is a man who was "global" before global was cool. He is an exception to the "talent + energy makes me nervous" pattern.
Lewis knows who he is, knows the world in all its wonderful variety, and knows--and admires--us Yanks, warts and all. You see it again and again in his writings.
Read "A Country that Can".
October 13, 2009
Why not Global in place of Patriotic?
A wise man's country is the world.
--Aristippus (435-360 BC), as quoted by Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosphers
"There is hope. I see traces of men."
Aristippus was shipwrecked on the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. He and his fellow survivors did not know where they were or if the island was inhabited. But he sees geometric figures drawn on the sand.
October 07, 2009
Your Antler Dance: Real life, Real Courage, Ray Ward.
Got something holistic, holy and global for you right here. WAC? is about happy corporate clients--and how hard it is to get client service right. It's also about happy lawyers, a prerequisite to great service: family, friends, rest, food, exercise, health, and renewal. And a spiritual life, even if it's a druid-like Antler Dance you and Nadine made up on your own after being over-served one spotty evening at Kelly's Irish Times on F Street, NW. Something eternal, infinite. You need it all, all right, and rightly mixed.
But WAC?, the "blog", has serious limitations. Note re: "blogs"...we're still getting used to the overly-effeminate new age low-testosterone (unless anonymous--then it's way manly) digital neighborhood and the goofy glossaries. "Blogs". Arguably no one with a real job has time to read "blogs". Like, dude, "blogs", who cares?
Anyway, Real Life, which happens to us and those we love, is cruelly shortchanged by this "blog". Most "blogs" don't tell you how to live. We fall short there, too. Consider the lawyers, generic dweebs, wuss-breeds, Weenies, the law cattle who should just moo-out and leave the profession (so they can work in quiet bookstores, and be better metro-sexuals), white-collar slaves, other peasants-by-choice, Gen-Y Looters, and even the next lowest-of-the-low--spineless no-name bloggers and commenters sans Club Ned exceptions--WAC? makes fun of and would like to liberate from bondage.
All these unfortunates need the restorative powers of a wise universe. And WAC? needs it, too. A lot.
So if we were going to read just one overall blog to meet all our life-and-lawyer needs, it would be Ray Ward's Minor Wisdom, a blog which first grabbed us by the lapels 4 years ago.
It is what a blog should be: brave, personal, well-written and damn interesting. A gifted and well-rounded human and lawyer, perhaps put here on Earth to make up for some of the rest of us, Ray writes on everything from excellence in lawyering, writing and appellate advocacy to Christian mystics, politics, music (well, real music), Darfur, Chad, human rights, and human rites. Ray knows we are all just here for a cup of coffee--so make the best of it, and help others whether you are rich or not. He has a sense of humour. He never moralizes. He's curious. And fear seems truly to have been replaced by faith. You ready for that? Would it help you? We know it would.
Ray Ward, The main Rain Man
September 15, 2009
The Economist: Is Atlanticism striking out in Eastern Europe?
For nearly twenty years, ex-communist regions of Europe were high on America. The U.S. had been viewed as an unfailing cheerleader, and consistent source of support, throughout the Cold War. These days, however, Eastern Europe is clearly not as hopeful or as enthusiastic about that political and emotional tie. To learn why, see a piece we almost missed in last week's The Economist, "The Atlantic Alliance is Waning in Europe’s East". Excerpt:
The ascent of Barack Obama has boosted America’s image in most countries, but only modestly in places like Poland and Romania. Among policymakers in the east, the dismay is tangible. In July, 22 senior figures from the region, including Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa, wrote a public letter bemoaning the decline in transatlantic ties.
One reason is that the Obama administration is rethinking a planned missile-defence system, which would have placed ten interceptor rockets in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic, in order to guard against Iranian missile attacks on America and much of Europe. That infuriated Russia, which saw the bases as a blatant push into its front yard. Changing the scheme—probably using seaborne interceptors—risks looking like a climb-down to suit Russian interests.
September 10, 2009
Extreme ambitions suddenly seize Russia.
Maybe master shape-shifting first, Comrades? See Newsweek: "Medvedev's Anti-Alcohol Campaign Tries to Make Russia Sober Up". The idea is to cut the country's per capita intake of booze by 25% by 2012. Seriously, sirs, good luck with this one: a hard problem that is likely beyond cultural.
September 03, 2009
The Duke Experience
From yesterday's edition of The Chronicle, the enduring and well-regarded Duke student daily:
JUDGE OKS PRESSLER'S SLANDER SUIT
A North Carolina appeals court ruled Tuesday that former men's lacrosse coach Mike Pressler can continue with a lawsuit against the University.
Pressler--who signed a settlement in 2007 with the University after he was fired following the false rape allegations in 2006--charges that John Burness, former Duke senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, made slanderous remarks about him after and in violation of the settlement, which included a clause precluding defamatory comments.
August 03, 2009
Ah, but it is hard to find this track of the divine in the midst of this life we lead...
Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf (1927)
July 29, 2009
In America, we call that a scoop: Charon QC interviews Lord Falconer.
Has the Blogosphere in the West finally arrived? Yesterday, London's silver tongued Charon QC--in his other life a well-regarded legal educator and journalist--interviewed Lord Falconer (Charles Leslie Falconer), the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain between 2003 and 2007. Jack Straw, in Gordon Brown's administration, now has the position. Among the other powers and duties assigned to him, the Lord Chancellor is a member of the Prime Minister's Cabinet and responsible for the operation and ensuring the independence of the British court system. Charon's podcast interview is here.
July 11, 2009
...and on Bastille Day.
And the moral of the story is never lean on the weird. Or they will chop your head off. Take my word for it, Bubba. I am an expert on these things. I have been there.
How the Marquis de Sade was finally forced into politics. Bastille Day is Tuesday, July 14, the French day of independence, which occurred 220 years ago. During the workweek, of course, we are not likely to write about Revolution. Or The Marquis. WAC? has big ones--but we have a decent respect for those who are straight-laced, clean-living and just trying to avoid the next nightmare. They are our people. We come from that; we lived among them for many years.
Besides, no matter what the mainstream press tells you, there's a "riot goin' on" (i.e., the late-2008 Recession). No use in further aggravating our well-educated readers, many with serious resources to conserve and protect. Yet it is Saturday. This is What About Paris? Bear with us.
According to Dr. Thompson in "Better Than Sex" (a 1994 book about U.S. politics), and some other sources, the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), the Parisian artist and French nobleman, played a role in this opening drama of the French Revolution. It is true that the Marquis, a serious artist, was out-front different, wild, and independent; he didn't care what people thought or said about him.
Thompson writes that on occasion The Marquis would run amok on booze and laudanum in the streets of Paris, just to blow off steam. The mainstream French aristocracy, and clergy, were never happy with the Marquis. They "not only hated his art, they hated him".
By 1788, the Paris police routinely harassed him, and jailed him a few times. The Bastille itself, and later an insane asylum, were his homes in the days leading up to July 14.
In turn, Thompson continues, the Marquis began to hate cops--and the government. Well, by the summer of 1789, Paris, in its oppressive July heat, was about to explode, anyway, and according to Thompson:
The mood of the city was so ugly that even the Marquis de Sade became a hero of the people. On July 14, 1789, he led a mob of crazed rabble in overrunning a battalion of doomed military police defending the infamous Bastille Prison, and they swarmed in to "free all political prisoners"....
It was the beginning of the French Revolution, and de Sade himself was said to have stabbed five or six soldiers to death as his mob stormed the prison and seized the keys to the Arsenal. The mob found only eight "political prisoners" to free, and four of those were killed by nightfall in the savage melee over looting rights for the guns and ammunition.
July 10, 2009
Jordan Furlong at Law21: Everything will change. Get used to it.
A slow-moving but relentless development that in time will have vast economic, social and political consequences.
--The Economist, June 26, 2009
No, you won't need to sell the condo in Marco Island. But yes, in the Americas or Europe, everything--especially if you are a corporate lawyer--is about to change. Inspired by a piece two weeks ago in The Economist on the demographics of aging in the West, Canada's Jordan Furlong at Law 21 just gave us "Time Bomb".
Law21--launched 18 months ago and subtitled "Dispatches From a Legal Profession on the Brink"--has already been right about many things. Furlong's article discusses the end of retirement. Unfunded pension rights. The waning of big incomes, and of many law schools. Sobering. And everyone will work longer in multi-generational places and modes of work? This blog? We would settle for just starting to work again--and without apology to fashionable consultants. We can get finally off our knees.
And finally one very bright spot. It's the passing reminder in Furlong's piece that Gen Y is done hatching--as if all those gooey little pods in the "Alien" movies were blown up and scattered into Deep Space. We will now meet "Gen Z". So pleased to meet y'all. Really mean that. But ah, Gen Y: The Millennials. We will perhaps miss that aggressive and cheerful Reverse-Moxie.
To their credit, since the early 1600s in the Americas, no generation--in the twenty that started out in Virginia and Massachusetts--has been able to do what they have done. Who else has had the gumption and foresight to grab Mediocrity and Work-Life Balance by the lapels, shove it all up against the wall, look it straight in the eye--and then call it "excellent" without laughing?
July 08, 2009
Tea, sympathy, and a grooming tip for "Club Ned" members.
Honey, just wear a black turtleneck. Even Ned Beatty looks good in a black turtleneck.
--Overheard last year in Brentwood
Ned in repose, planning Georgia fishing trip with buddies.
Just like a hog, eh? We are receiving many strong if not terribly classy "anonymous comments"--not to be published until we receive court records, affidavits and confidential photos--in nameless response to our strong but classy anti-anonymity piece earlier this week: "Play Time" on the Internet is Over. Wanted: A Few Good Rules". Apparently, there are way more people, presumably male lawyers, and many fire-breathing Above The Law regulars, than we had thought who unfortunately once received Ned's brutal and unsavory treatment in the woods that is the key prerequisite for Club Ned status. We think only about .05% of the population qualify. But that could still be a lot of victims.
The legacy of a bad weekend in Aintry. Our sympathies. Having to think about that kind of personal violation--or something similar--must make for a very damn tough train or car commute every day from New Canaan or Chevy Chase to work. The partners can't know. Your staff can't know. Your friends can't know. It's lonely, we are sure, even though we don't feel your pain. So we will be offering survival tips for you guys, as anonymity on The Net becomes a narrow and pitied exception to fair participation--and you painfully gather all those unspeakable files and send them to us so we can certify your CN membership.
Here's one. Club Ned of course is based on "Bobby" played by the great character actor Ned Beatty in Deliverance. If you are in Club Ned, you are by definition a victim of something horrible. And frankly you also may be a little hard on the eyes, anyway, at least by this point, if you catch our meaning, and get our drift. Sure, CN members are often physically unattractive. So here's a grooming tip, and two words: black turtleneck. It hides more of the bruises, too.
July 07, 2009
London law students: scholars, critics, lovers.
We send you the complete text of this circa-1595 comedy by Shakespeare, here, and on one page. The play was first performed before Queen Elizabeth, at her Court in 1597.
"Loues Labors Loſt"--note the obsolete spelling of 'love', showing the strong hangover of the French language in England--was also likely written for early performances before culturally-literate law students and barristers-in-training at the Inns of Court in Legal London. The idea was that the students would appreciate its sophistication and wit. Law students apparently were once like that in the West.
Do read Love's Labour's Lost when it's quiet. Maybe next weekend after the weenie roast, or when Uncle Seamus from Albany sleeps it off in the room with the happy bunny rabbits-motif wallpaper and curtains you never took down. Interestingly, and not to embarrass you about Uncle Seamus again, the play itself begins with a vow by several men to forswear pleasures of the flesh and the company of fast women during a three-year period of study and reflection.
And to "train our intellects to vain delight".
(From a 9/1/08 Dan Hull post written at Bayswater, West London)
June 30, 2009
"New" by Ottoman Empire standards, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul was built in the early 1600s. It's one of several mosques in Europe and the Near East known as "Blue Mosque" due to the blue interior tiling.
June 29, 2009
Brains on purpose. Change on purpose.
And mediocrity as a choice. People will sigh and tell you "well, people just don't change." Well, they are wrong--and that entire notion is a design for (1) failure, (2) mediocrity, (3) settling and (4) otherwise failing to grow.
All of my life I have seen people change. And change in extraordinary ways. They choose it.
The catch: you must do it yourself. The wonder: you are always doing it anyway. So make it work for you.
Stephanie West Allen floored me in a conference call two months ago when she reminded the group and me that science has us changing our brains on an ongoing basis, whether we like it, or are aware of it, or not. She has two sites: Brains on Purpose and Idealawg. These are both must reads, even for people with limited time.
Any Tom Edisons or Ben Franklins in the house? Another reason to read West Allen is that she is one of the few lawyer-consultants who had steadfastly refused to align herself with the "work-life balance" movement*, now in its death throes amongst those with a modicum of self-respect and ambition. In that regard, see West Allen's enduring article, "Hot Worms and Workaholics: Let the Workers Be!", and this later piece "Hot, Cool and Cold Worms: A Contrarian Look at Work-life Balance and So-called 'Workaholism'".
Even ill-fated Oedipus knew that there are a lot of things you can change. Above: "Oedipus At Colonus", 1798, Fulchran-Jean Harriet (1776-1805), Cleveland Museum of Art.
*Historical Note: Also known as the "work-wank" balance movement" (circa 2003 - May 2009), and seemingly out of an Ayn Rand novel, WWB was devised and promoted primarily by self-loathing American workers who were so depressed about their perceived lack of talent, achievements and future prospects that it became necessary for them to create "work environments" in which they would no longer feel inadequate, underachieving and threatened by those with more energy and moxie. How to accomplish that? According to members of the heroic pro-work, anti-wank Resistance, which had infiltrated secret work-wank cells (operating weekdays 9 to 5), the Movement had planned to make U.S. Doers, Drivers, Inventors, Creators and Producers feel unwelcome and anachronistic in the workplace. The WWB ruse, fortunately, failed, when at the last minute many Yanks--with a timely boost from a lingering late-2008 Recession--woke up and remembered who they really are.
June 15, 2009
The Economy: Europe moving right-ward--for now.
The recent European elections saw a significant lurch to the far right, which took many by surprise.
From a cultural perspective this was entirely predictable.
In difficult times like ours, when people have lost their jobs, feel political power is out of their control (Brussels), and that the cultural landscape of their own country is changing (immigration), it is easy to cling to what we first learned – our national values and beliefs – and to reject violently anything ‘other’ which threatens that.
May 28, 2009
Ah, but it is hard to find this track of the divine in the midst of this life we lead...
Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf (1927)
May 27, 2009
The Greatest American Lawyer: Out With His Posse.
A glimpse into Traverse City's small but colorful underground. See "I Could Be an Idiot, but You Would Never Know It Because I Look Good In a Suit" at GAL.
South Union Street, Traverse City, Michigan
May 26, 2009
La Vie Parisienne: Spring 2009 in the U.S.
In the middle of a recession, Americans live in a nation where work slowly goes out of style, European statism is at least a short-term reality, and many of our citizens are now ample enough to have their own Zip Codes.
What's the Deal? Where's the Moxie? Whither goest our self-respect?
April 20, 2009
Don't bogart that TIME Magazine, my friend.
Bong Hits for Henry Luce? You and I cannot write this kind of thing, Ernest. TIME columnist and novelist Joe Klein, who is different than us, can. See his "Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense" in the current TIME issue. I was in San Francisco yesterday with old reporter friends; someone wondered if "blunt" and "joint" might be replaced by "Henry" or "Luce" or, better yet, "Hadden", to name it after Henry's way more fun--and likely more talented--Hotchkiss-Yale pal and co-founder, Briton, who died quite young. Well, maybe not. But all of a sudden I'm really really hungry.
April 17, 2009
April 11, 2009
Breaking news: $90 is too much for pay for torn jeans.
News of the Revolution. And $300 and hour is too much to pay for a first year associate to read documents--if not fraud. MSNBC: "How Abercrombie & Fitch is losing its cool".
"Liberty Leading The People" by Eugene Delcroix, 1830, The Louvre
April 09, 2009
Comrade Kim gets re-elected.
New York Times: "Unopposed, Kim Jong-Il Takes Third Term".
Taking measure of running-dog lackeys of imperialist West.
April 02, 2009
The G-20 summit: Venus considers Mars.
It's no surprise that European caution versus U.S. drive toward stimulus strategies is the main theme of President Obama's eight-day trip. The Associated Press notes that "Europeans look to welfare, not stimulus, in crisis". Excerpts:
Across a continent long accustomed to big government and high taxes, many Europeans are counting on generous welfare benefits to shield them from the worst of the meltdown. Others worry that loosening interest rates would lead to devastating inflation.
In the American view, the economic house is on fire, and only quick and decisive action will put out the flames. Europe is not quite as ready to pull the alarm.
For all their talk of coming together at this week's summit of the G-20 economic powers in London, European leaders have been openly skeptical of corporate bailouts and massive U.S.-style stimulus spending.
March 25, 2009
Does this mean we're not invited to Eastern Europe's 67th annual Chronic Bad Mood Festival held in Prague this summer?
Deposed Czech leader kicks out the jams; U.S. on fiscal Highway to Hell. Finally, at least, we meet a European--and an EU leader to boot--who speaks American English. AP via MSNBC. Usually, it's hard to get anyone but the French to tell you what they really think:
STRASBOURG, France--The head of the European Union slammed President Barack Obama’s plan to spend nearly $2 trillion to push the U.S. economy out of recession as “the road to hell” that EU governments must avoid.
The blunt comments by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to the European Parliament on Wednesday highlighted simmering European differences with Washington ahead of a key summit next week on fixing the world economy.
It was the strongest pushback yet from a European leader as the 27-nation bloc bristles from U.S. criticism that it is not spending enough to stimulate demand. [more]
Hey Mirek, how's that Czech Republic economy going for you?
March 21, 2009
A Cambridge degree. An Oxford education.
More Celtic and Brit quirk. For all you godless, dancing and (according to National Geographic yesterday) flesh-eating druids out there in America and western Europe, March 21 is the traditional date of the vernal equinox (this year it fell yesterday, the 20th). Spring and re-birth begins. Time to do the Antler Dance, hit Stonehenge, make oaths, worship Oak trees, fight naked, eat, that kind of thing. But it's also the date on which Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cambridge-educated scholar, clergyman and Reformation leader, was burned at the stake at Oxford in 1556 after Catholic Queen Mary came to power.
Reviews on Cranmer, part-politician and part-preacher, are mixed. On the 21st, and after already being sentenced to death, he "withdrew" previous "recantations" of his anti-papal positions that might have saved his life. He was a devout Anglican, after all. He had wavered, except on that final day. Forget about doctrine, and Europe's holy wars, silly and sad in retrospect. Not the point. In the end, Cranmer had serious sand.
February 26, 2009
Recession survival tip (advanced).
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
February 25, 2009
Above The Law has been covering the Recession.
And lately they've been doing it on purpose. To us, Above The Law always has been more than white shoe gossip, or notes from an underground (i.e., The Comments) of hard-working and often frustrated associates beginning to realize that down markets affect them, too. It also reveals attitudes about practicing law, and how younger lawyers are trained (or not trained). Further, over the last few months, we've all seen something else that is both instructive and poignant. Directly or indirectly, and every day, Lat, Mystal, Hill & Co. cover the recession, and employment markets, very well--and with a feel-your-pain empathy laced with humor.
Here's another, and new, reason to visit ATL on markets: "Notes from the Breadline: You Can't Go Back, and You Can't Stand Still", part 4, by "Roxana St. Thomas", a young New York City lawyer who was "terminated" (a phrase she discusses). The first three installments are here. The series began February 10. Query: You live in NYC. How do you feel about Buffalo?
My mother sent me a listing for a job in Buffalo; when I told her that I did not want to think about relocating just yet, and especially not to Buffalo, she seemed hurt. "You wouldn't have to relocate," she said impatiently.
"Buffalo is seven hours away," I told her. "What would I do? Commute?" She looked at me as though I had just declined a piece of homemade pie. "Hmphf," she sniffed. "You know, it pays a lot more than unemployment."
February 24, 2009
More cross-culture. More writing well.
“The teacher’s son’s classroom” may lack elegance, but is surely better than the roundabout “La salle de classe du fils du professeur.” Similarly “John’s sister’s programme” is more succinct than “El programa de la hermana de Juan”.
Pragmatic German and Nordic languages simply add ‘s’ to denote the genitive: Deutschlands Wetter; Danmarks kong; Sveriges huvudstad; while Romance languages have to resort to a variety of forms...
Heartless marauding northern European cultures may have certain advantages with words: economy, for example. See Richard D. Lewis's article "The Possessive Apostrophe" at his Cross-Culture. Don't get the elegant Mr. Lewis wrong, though. Read the whole thing. It starts with the Birmingham (England) City Council's removal of the possessive apostrophe from street signs. No kidding. Them Brummies.
Birmingham, above, is like Pittsburgh USA--just more pretentious.
February 16, 2009
Several EU nations compete for worst recession.
Sort of. In "The European Countdown to Poverty", Joerg Wolf at the Atlantic Review is collecting "downer" economy stories by economist Edward Hugh at A Fistful of Euros, another site reporting on European business, government and politics. This past week, Spain was clearly in the lead--but at WAC? we have our money on Estonia.
February 14, 2009
The unused perk.
Law is the ultimate backstage pass. There are more students in law schools than there are lawyers walking the Earth.
--John Milton/Satan/Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate (L’Associé du Diable) (1997)
February 12, 2009
British firm spurns Moscow-based Yank lawyer and "sex" writer.
My good man, what were you thinking? We're betting she'll sue Allen & Overy, a large but functional British firm WAC? likes. Deidre Dare obviously has the Moxie to lob one in there. This was all knowable. See Legal Blog Watch: "Muzzled Lawyer Gets the Boot, Threatens Suit". Let's noodle this, shall we? An American lawyer you hire moves to Moscow. She's impetuous. She writes this steamy stuff. Her last name is Dare. You fire her. Your 79-year-old Magic Circle firm attracts unwanted press coverage easily. It makes money. What result?
Is England getting wimpy?
Militarily? We don't think so. But our friend Joerg Wolf at the Berlin-based Atlantic Review asks "Are Americans Concerned that Britain is Becoming Europeanised?". The concern is that the UK--America's ally in the Mideast, and admired for its special fighting units--is going the way of the "peacekeeper nations" on the European continent. Forty-seven comments to this one.
February 07, 2009
Germany's Alien, UFO and Daily Strangeness Problem.
And you thought it was just that they've had all these American soldiers around all the time for the last 64 years (which would put the zap on anyone's brain). Examine Berlin's Hermann the German for space news. He's Sirius, too. "They’re breeding like rats."
February 06, 2009
Dang, 250 leads.
See Scott "Bob Redford" Greenfield's "My 250th Call Through Avvo!" at his Simple Justice. Nothing much gets by Scott, and we've learned much from him. He's introduced us to the rich and powerful people he runs with in NYC. He loves children. He dances with his wife. He returned our phone call, once. But, dude, it beats the yellow pages.
"What About Paris?" We begin early this week.
Via Holden Oliver, the aging law student who thinks all music stopped in 1977, we begin our weekend alter ego What About Paris? a bit early this week.
And why not? We had a tough week--and maybe you did, too. Besides, the world no longer begins and ends with the United States. We at WAC? and Hull McGuire want to be in and stay in that larger world: as humans, lawyers and business people with clients who are "all over" it. If you have any non-U.S. ideas or notions--new news, old news, old verities, commercial tidbits, new art, very auld art, anything at all--send them in. What news of the job markets in Europe? What trade show did you attend in Mainz? What are those arty dudes you know doing this weekend in Aldeburgh? What of Snapes Maltings? You been to Tangier yet?
And what about Paris these days?
February 03, 2009
Like him or not, Bill Clinton is a U.S. asset.
Even our controlled Commander-in-Chief gets excited, starstruck and a little weird around WJC. What's the deal with his wrist?
We vote "R", "D" and "Other" at WAC?--but all of us here like Wild Bill. We can't think of anyone we'd rather have with us abroad. The guy always comes to play. If you're reading this, WJC, you might reconsider. You've had three years to decide, and Hull McGuire still does lots of work in western Europe. We'll pay you to sit in the room. Or to stop in and say hello. Or phone in. Whatever. Ring us.
What roused the global elitists from their glum torpor was the opportunity to lay blame for the economic catastrophe that has befallen the world. There was one obvious target: the United States of America, whose stupid and criminal bankers have inflicted so much harm on the whole of humanity. It is an undeniable fact that the Russian and Chinese leaders explored with great relish at every opportunity.
Into this hostile territory rode Bill Clinton, the lone American to whom anyone at Davos might actually listen as he attempted to uphold the name of his country.
February 02, 2009
Keep your Beginner's Mind.
instead of his chores
a snow Buddha
“Gimme that moon!”
cries the crying
--by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue (and our heartfelt thanks to DG).
The ability "to think like a lawyer" is about 10% of what you need to be an effective lawyer. Lots of people finally acquire it. Some are famously better and faster at it than others. A revered Skadden M&A partner wrote years ago that, at a minimum, it requires thinking about something that is "inextricably attached" to something--but without thinking about that something to which it's attached.
Legal reasoning is critical--but it's never enough by itself to become an outstanding lawyer. The rest is frame of mind: energy, ambition, organization, logistics-sense, re-thinking everything all the time, a take-charge orientation, genuine people skills, and an urgent passion to solve tough problems. If you think you want to be a litigator or trial lawyer, you will also need Very Tough Hide--something which you can learn the hard way.
Finally, no matter what, you need Will, and Big Ones.
Almost all of students we have interviewed in the last five years made law review, and will graduate at the top of their class. Again, not enough. Lawyers need to learn to think and act on their own from the first day. You need the traits listed above. Think of it as an inside job.
If you are new, "steal our clients", please. Be that good. That will take a while. While you are learning, please understand that you are getting more than you are giving. You don't know much. So it's not unreasonable for us to ask you to try to do perfect research, editing and proofreading.
But we love your ideas, your first impressions, and the trick is to be confident enough to ask dumb questions and make comments. Often, your first impressions or "reactions" to a problem or project are very good--but we don't always hear them right away.
So maybe read Alan Watts. Or at least read a lot of David Giacalone at f/k/a..., an HLS grad who really gets it. Think of David as your spiritual leader and technical adviser in one person. Read, for example, his "Phoenixes and Beginner’s Mind". Keep reading him.
You may not know at first very much law, or how to apply it to facts for a fee, and then give the "right advice". But you have instincts evolving all the time--they have little to do with law school--that may surprise you. You had them all along.
Baby, We Were Born To Eat.
Super Bowl Halftime: Can we have the Kinks, Sting, Bono or B.B. King next year? Despite the hopelessness and self-pity in much of his lyrics--even in the unique rock anthem "Born To Run"--Bruce Springsteen is and always been an inspiring man, with a fine and authentic band. He inspired a whole generation of kids from certain New Jersey counties to eat, drink, watch MTV and totally give up on life with his "hey, there's nobility in being a turd and a loser" message.
We're kidding, well, a little. We do love seeing Clarence, and multi-talented Little Stevie. We admire the New Jersey spirit. But could a Super Bowl halftime show be worse? Nothing sounded very inspiring to us. And Bruce, you're pushing sixty but you're still a rock star. So, dude, get on a program. Ask Mick Jagger. Eat some carrots or something. Try 24-Hour-Fitness. And make Stevie sign up, too. We've seen the future and it's a slimmed down E Street Band.
Hey Stevie, easy on the canoles, dude.
January 29, 2009
Bolivia: The new deal or a race war?
Here's one we missed in The Economist earlier this week: "A Question of Rights". Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, is an Amerindian and socialist who is now in his fourth year. Last week voters passed a referendum he pushed for a new Bolivian constitution that give the majority indigenous population special land, mineral and petroleum rights. The new constitution has further polarized Bolivians along class and racial lines.
January 21, 2009
It may be one for the ages: the inauguration address.
To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.
The text as delivered is here. But forget about the reaction of the crowd, and the sound of Obama's voice, if you saw or heard it. Forget about Justice Roberts' muffed lines just before it happened. It should be read, whether you voted for the 44th President or, like me, you did not. Ted Sorensen writes in UK's The Guardian that he was moved by the speech and the event--and that is indeed praise. If you're an American lawyer and don't know who the 80-year-old Sorensen is, stop eating and watching television for five minutes, and find out. Finally, consider at Legal History Blog the notion that The District of Columbia is "the window through which the world looks into our house".
(Photo: Paul Schutzer)
January 16, 2009
Beavis, can you spare a dime?
Breaking: Twenty-somethings, reality collide. MSNBC: "Generation Y job-seekers hit hard". Excerpt:
Younger workers are finding out the hard way that they have to hustle to land their dream job, says Debra Condren, business psychologist and author of “Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word.”
“These young adults don’t know how to jump in and be aggressive,” she says.
Query: If they're not proactive and aggressive, would you want these workers at your shop even in "good times"?
December 14, 2008
The Mother of All Florsheims
"Hey, he might be a right-wing nut--but that's our right-wing nut you're aiming your wingtips at, Jack."
See Reuters: Bush on Farewell Visit to Iraq Dodges Flying Shoes. And "dog"? "Dog?" Bi-partisan WAC? notes that this stubborn Connecticut-born old money scion, ex-Texas governor and current commander-in-chief has issues--but he's still one of us:
BAGHDAD (Reuters, Dec. 14) - An Iraqi reporter called President George W. Bush a "dog" and threw his shoes at him on Sunday, sullying a farewell visit to Baghdad meant to mark greater security in Iraq after years of bloodshed.
Just weeks before he bequeaths the unpopular Iraq war to President-elect Barack Obama, Bush sought to underline improved security by landing in daylight and venturing out beyond the city's heavily fortified international Green Zone. [more]
Take that, running dog oil-swilling imperialist.
So when will we see Ruthie's new blog?
December 13, 2008
Small, Sluggish, Insular.
And self-pitying. Coming soon: "A Passion for Mediocrity". It will be at least one post--but possibly a series, a new blog, or a new think tank on the scale of Brookings, Heritage or AEI.
"SSI" will cover in vivid detail how some "team members" of car rental companies (okay, Alamo is one), airlines, grocery stores, gas stations, IT consultant, health care providers and law firms often regard "work" during the current recession in one "flyover" American city. And these people often have children; they instruct them on work and life.
No wonder Americans can't make and sell anything that anyone wants to buy. Can we bail them out with counseling? With appeals to self-respect? And teach them not to ever say to a customer, client or patient the words: "I'm on my break"?
Stay tune. WAC? takes back everything it ever said about the Gen Y Slackoeisie (well, not everything).
We found a new nadir. And it's a disease: "Post-union daze".
Morocco's Maryam: Heads South.
No one should meet a woman on a laptop. No one sane should bring a laptop to Paris. And no human should watch over an angel with a Dell Inspiron. The first two are easy. I don't like computers; it's no way to be fully in the world. But after I discovered via an odd route fellow Yank traveler Maryam during a trip to Paris in 2005, the Dell was all there was, given her life, mine. We've not met, probably a good fact. At her My Marrakesh, see more of her beguiling photographs, playful prose: "Mauritanian men, also known as a tale of tempting turbans.....". How many American women have this gig?
December 11, 2008
New Trends in UK Collections Practice?
And introducing the new Albion-style Mass Dine-and-Ditch. See "Geeklawyer Revenge Award 2008: Low-life punter won’t pay bill?" and this related story at The Daily Telegraph. Allegedly a London law firm
reacted to a client's failure to pay its fees by taking a large group of junior lawyers to a bar owned by the client? Having drunk the bar dry, they left without paying the bill.
December 09, 2008
Russia, the Caucasus, and language.
See "Georgian on their Mind" by Richard D. Lewis at Cross-Culture. Ten years ago, Lewis wrote, and keeps writing, the book on cross-cultural "collisions" that business people can use in practical and immediate ways. We only wish he'd write more at Cross-Culture when he is between larger projects. The above piece begins:
US, French and other western political leaders who have expressed sympathy or support for Georgia in its recent conflict with Russia may not be aware of certain linguistic factors which complicate the dispute. Language is often a root of strife in the Caucasus – an area home to 40-50 indigenous tongues.
November 22, 2008
U.S. News & World Report: "The best schools in the world"?
'Hyperbole' means what? Should Dartmouth College (no. 54), just behind University of Wisconsin-Madison (no. 55), wish to lodge an appeal, we're available for a song. Call us, James Wright. According to USN&WR, of the 200 "best" colleges and universities "in the world", the "Top 25" are:
1. Harvard (U.S.)
2. Yale (U.S.)
3. Cambridge (U.K.)
4. Oxford (U.K.)
5. Cal Tech (U.S.)
6. Imperial College London (U.K.)
7. University College London (U.K.)
8. Chicago (U.S.)
9. MIT (U.S.)
10. Columbia (U.S.)
11. Penn (U.S.)
12. Princeton (U.S.)
13. Duke (U.S.)
14. Johns Hopkins (U.S.)
15. Cornell (U.S.)
16. Australian National University (Australia)
17. Stanford (U.S.)
18. Michigan (U.S.)
19. Tokyo (Japan)
20. McGill (Canada)
21. Carnegie Mellon (U.S.)
22. King's College London (U.K.)
23. Edinburgh (U.K.)
24. ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
25. Kyoto (Japan)
(Photo: Universal Studios)
November 07, 2008
America to Germany: "We'll show you something green".
Hermann the German reports that Germans are mad at the U.S. again. After Germany's brief honeymoon with the two-day old Obama-Biden new America, foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed serious misgivings about President-elect Obama’s sincerity on environmental issues, "thus gently ushering in the next era of Germany’s unfortunate but necessary disillusionment with America."
According to Hermann, the Obama camp's response was very Yank-like:
An unofficial spokesman for the President-elect said the new administration will most certainly examine Herr Steinmeier’s suggestion very thoroughly and quite intensely but for the moment “We got your new green deal for you right here, pal.”
Germans, tree-loving pagans and wariors of the woods, have a thing about "green". Armnius, hero of Germany, led a coalition of Germanic tribes to victory in 9 AD over a Roman army of Augustus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Centuries later, Martin Luther, legend has it, got tipsy and nicknamed Armnius "Hermann the German".
October 31, 2008
This Week: All Europe Watches Yanks.
October 29, 2008
Blawg Review #183: California gets serious.
If you work back Back East, some partners actually want you to shy away from Ninth Circuit or California cases in your research. California, America's chief social and cultural laboratory, often gets dissed for being cutting edge about, well, everything--and in the law, "good" change is supposed to come slowly. A "hard law" blog called The UCL Practitioner hosts this week's Blawg Review. No. 183 does an exemplary, serious, studious and way-Back East job of covering last week's best law posts, with a special and sensitive spotlight on California bloggers.
However, one Kevin Underhill post featured reports that a Scranton, Pennsylvania woman who swore in her own bathroom (at a fixture there) using the "F-word" last year was cleared by the City of Scranton, with some help from the ACLU. WAC?'s warning: Pennsylvania men and women swear wonderfully, and it's a birthright. Californians cannot, and never could, swear worth a good golly darn--and certainly shouldn't try the "F-word" anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances, including at home, without expecting to pull a hamstring, or at least harshing their mellows.
October 25, 2008
What about inspiration in The Desert?
WAC?'s been working hard in Steel City this week, but now needs either The Desert or The City of Lights for a new idea or two. Paris, a 2000-year-old center of Western civilization many Americans know to be in western Europe, is our favorite city. For many more centuries, however, mankind has also picked its opposite, The Desert, as a place of definitions, and new beginnings. So we chose that for the next few days--for the quiet and the solitude, and due to the fact it's all we can afford. We'll ready ourselves for the new order of things monetary and commercial: The New Scheme. We'll prepare.
October 22, 2008
You're kidding. Our client is a "Waishang Duzi Qiye"?
"One of the other partners suspected it was a "Youxian Zeren Gongsi" form of business. Guess she was wrong. Asian, right? China, maybe? And, Justin, what is that strange German symbol-thing I keep seeing in the due diligence--GmbH, that's it--and what does that mean? Your Professor Bloor at dear old Siwash didn't cover these in Corporations, I guess. How about S.A.? Oy? Hevra Pratit? Cyfyngedig? What about those, smart guy?"
Increasingly, and obviously, U.S. lawyers are helping clients do business with foreign companies and in foreign jurisdictions, guiding them as they set up shops and entities abroad, and representing non-U.S. companies in the U.S. If you are starting to do that, and need to take a first step, visit the International Directory of Corporate Symbols and Terms. It was first published in 2002 by member firms of the Salzburg, Austria-based International Business Law Consortium. A prescient American law prof, writer and businessman, Dennis Campbell, is the IBLC's founder and director. Campbell also founded, in 1976, the well-known Center for International Legal Studies, also headquartered in Salzburg.
The Bush Years: Never too early for revisionist history.
"It is often said that journalists take the first cut at history." See "W. as History" by USC's Mary D. Dudziak at the always-excellent Legal History Blog. If you're in a very good mood today, you might also read Dan Hull's February 3 op-ed piece, "One of us", in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the meaning of George W. Bush. Dan argues that W. is, after all, simply the "American" president the world's been expecting for the last 200 years.
A.C.H.C. de Tocqueville, who may have predicted W.
October 06, 2008
"Women good, men bad."
Ah, the utter tragedy, and injustice, of Nature, of biology--and of the girl and boy thing. Where will it all end? "Where Are All the Female Law Bloggers?" has been getting lots of press--but we can't figure out why. The best, brightest and strongest bloggers--and writers, speakers, corporate lawyers, business owners, actors, humans, etc.--we know are "females" and regularly trounce us "dudes" in most endeavors in work and life. And there's a lot of these creatures. The author of the piece, obviously talented and well-meaning but trying to set the women's movement back about 40 years, is invited to impress us all in the future with a better choice of topics.
Ms. Gish is one of many "females" in the WAC? Pantheon. Gish is said to avoid whiners and weenies.
September 29, 2008
All IP, All Week: Blawg Review #179
See Blawg Review #179 at Securing Innovation. One of the better BRs this year. Query: Did the U.S. Constitution's framers regard patents as “property” or a "monopoly privilege"? WAC? thinks it was both.
September 22, 2008
American Crime: 316 years of getting it right?
Today is the autumnal equinox. And September 22, 1692 was the date the last people were hanged for witchcraft in North America. Whatever happened to Ordeal by Water, an old civil procedure mentioned in the first 20 pages of the casebook, anyway? "The accused, tied hand and foot, was cast into cold water, and if he/she did not sink, the accused was deemed innocent."
September 20, 2008
Muslim Arbitration Tribunal sets up 5 Sharia courts in UK.
New world, new England. See "Sharia Courts in the UK", by Temple Law prof Jaya Ramji-Nogales, at IntLawGrrls. Excerpt: "The Sharia courts have been classified as arbitration tribunals under the same provision of the 1996 Arbitration Act used by Jewish Beth Din courts, which have resolved civil cases in Britain for over 100 years."
August 30, 2008
Bravo, Charon QC
The July 8 podcast interview that many WAC? visitors liked: London's Charon QC interviews Dan Hull of What About Clients?
August 24, 2008
France: Sofia Coppola sightings; mandatory nudity; zip codes.
August has gone from dog days to a still-hot holiday lull. The U.S. remains grumpy and dysfunctional. Europe is happy and non-functional. The China games no longer thrill us. The 2008 Obama-McCain race right now is a big yawn. Even litigation seems to take a break.
But Paris, and French beaches, are still exciting. The group site The Paris Blog reports that (a) re-invented, talented director-producer Sofia Coppola is "walking around" (see La Coquette) the City (that's enough for us), and (b) in the famous French Mediterranean clothing-optional town of Cap d'Agde, there's a beach where you can't wear Speedos--which by itself is always a good thing--or anything else, for that matter. See Why Travel to France. Bored WAC? looks forward to our trip to Europe next week. But we've taken a hard American stand against this kind of immorality, despite our multicultural leanings.
Multicultural note: There are no nude "river beaches" in Western Pennsylvania. And that is a good thing. This summer I worked in Pittsburgh, where huge quantities of any kind of food, and non-stop television-watching, are popular. People aggressively avoided gyms, and were often ample enough to have their own zip codes.
August 19, 2008
Sailing in Qingdao
...Qingdao has worked hard to ensure that the entire coastline within the city is open to the public. The Olympic Sailing Center opens up the last closed stretch of waterfront, which will greatly benefit the public....the intense fear of foreigners and the problems they might bring has resulted in a lack of foreign visitors to Qingdao in connection with the event. Spectators for the events seem to be almost exclusively from within China....the heightened security has made it even more difficult to get around town than usual. For the foreigners who actually made it to Qingdao, who would want to return to a place where your dancing companion in the local night club is a 50 year old policeman?
August 17, 2008
Action, speed, color, violence: Gen Y discussion has legs.
Maynard G. Krebs (circa 1962), Hero of The Slackoeisie.
Re: Hi, I'm Justin, and am very happy going through life as a turd--which, by the way, is your fault. Speaking of inspiration, it's August 18, and our May 20 post Who cares what makes Gen Y tick? keeps delivering strong comments, some remarkably angry, on both sides of the issue. Some of the language is eerily reminiscent of Bob Dylan's soul-sick closing lines of his song "Masters of War".* Our take is still: Gen Y gets points for turning unhappiness into a philosophy, we like your moxie, maybe it's our fault--but we're burning daylight here. Do something. You have formidable energies--if not a wit of discipline. Write a novel, maybe? (Nah, too hard.)
Hey, don't quit before the miracle happens.
*And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.
August 16, 2008
Bush warns Russia re: South Ossetia and Abkhazia
CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — President Bush sent a stern warning to Russia on Saturday that it cannot lay claim to two regions in U.S.-backed Georgia even though their sympathies lie with Moscow. "There is no room for debate on this matter," the president said.
Searching for signs of progress, Bush told reporters at his Texas ranch that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's signing Saturday of a cease-fire plan was an important development — "a hopeful step."
"Now, Russia needs to honor the agreement and withdraw its forces and, of course, end military operations," in Georgia, a small former Soviet state on Russia's southwest border. [more]
August 09, 2008
Olympics 2008: Beijing
August 02, 2008
Korean family values
At Sam Crane's The Useless Tree, Ancient Chinese Thought in Modern American Life, see Modernization and Family Breakdown in Korea. "Why have Confucian family values declined in Korea?"
July 25, 2008
Harvard on Mexico: Weather, relocation, "nutty" ideas.
The Harvard International Review has this one: "Nutty? Mexico’s noisy passion for population relocation". The idea is to "move populations away from coasts and river banks, and toward urban areas".
July 24, 2008
And don't give me any lip about it, because it's someone else's fault.
Hi, I'm Justin. And I am very happy going through life as a turd. For more insights on both sides of The Slackoisie Thing, many of them quite good/funny, see this post and related links at Simple Justice by Scott Greenfield, one of the few non-PC voices in a New Age wilderness of mediocrity-coddling and accommodating-the-lame. So the "issue" gets defined a bit more. We hard-driving boomers, subtly brutalized by our Depression Era Greatest Generation parents, have helped create this new batch of semiliterate lightweights and wimps who give up at the least sign of adversity. So what do we do about it?
July 20, 2008
Equal time: Gen Ys fight back.
Below in full is one of the several comments we received to the May 20 post "Who cares what makes Generation Y tick?".
The boomer's [sic] have systematically destroyed all that once made life bearable: marriage, traditional faith, the hope of financial security. In place of what used to be the societal superstructure, our generation has been force fed the consumer culture. We still feel empty. The money you pay is not worth it. When I pay off my loans (twenty years from now) you can kiss my ass.
And after you are dead, which unfortunately will take a while and cripple our generation financially, we can correct the gervious [sic] injuries that your generation inflicted on humanity. If the present election is any indication, boomer's [sic] are incompetent leaders who's [sic] malignant narcissism is only exceeded, at times, by their myopia. Take your second trophy wives, McMansions, and blinding self love with you when you shuffle off this mortal coil.
Dang. This guy let boomers do that to him? Here's help from a great boomer band that refused to give up.
Dog days: Hot, with increasing Chaos later this week.
And the dogs grew mad. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and usually feel a little weird this time of year, don't worry. The 6 weeks between July 1 and mid-August were named by the Romans after Sirius the dog star, the brightest star in the sky, save the sun. "Dog days" were linked to Chaos: "the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies". Brady's Clavis Calendarium, 1813.
July 15, 2008
Hermann the German: The "new" American Embassy
"Alcatraz reopens in Berlin". The Embassy Germans love to hate.
The New Yorker is different from you and me, Ernest.
Even though I'm a native of Washington, D.C., which I love, I know The Truth: New York City is the coolest place in the world. And The New Yorker magazine, now in its 64th year, is The Program you should pick up for the show, even if you do have to pay for it. An instruction manual for the Hip-eoisie, it's still funny--but only if you're haughty-cool. Or WAC?'s astral twin Scott Greenfield. See at Simple Justice his "New Yorker: Only for Really Cool People".
Caption: Obama giving either his wife or Angela Davis the Revolutionary-Drug-Brothers/Mod Squad/New Yorker Official Handshake to show their Manhattan-ness and Solidarity with The Hip Cosmos.
July 13, 2008
What About Paris? is the weekend edition of WAC? It lets us get away from subjects which occupy us during the week--like Law and Business. If you're going to have a "blog", there's no reason not to have fun with it. Besides, back in the day, many generations ago, lawyers were not just semi-literate technicians and mechanics. We were a little more. Educated, informed and curious, many lawyers could tell you the difference between Coltrane, Colbert and Voltaire. So we appreciate Ray Ward, a client-centric practitioner, lawyer's lawyer, writer, thinker, blues/jazz enthusiast and Renaissance man who lives in mystic New Orleans. Ray writes Minor Wisdom, our favorite blog. That's right, our favorite. We visit him frequently for inspiration.
And, oh yes, we thank Ray for this link--even if it is about the U.S. Supreme Court:
"Reading is sexier in Paris"
I hereby call for a end to clichéd articles about literary Paris, all those which invoke the names of the deities (”Sartre” and “Beauvoir”) in an incantation to raise from the dead the spirit of a Paris that never existed.
July 11, 2008
London's Charon QC interviews What About Clients?
On Tuesday, Charon QC, London's velvet-voiced legal toastmaster, interviewed an early-rising Dan Hull in California for Charon's podcast series. Dan drank coffee, allegedly. Charon drank something, perhaps Rioja. Their first encounter, one of Charon's first shows, was live at Dan's hotel in the Mayfair section of London in 2007. Hear Tuesday's program here. Charon's posted summary:
"We talk about the meaning of client service--the difference in attitude between Babyboomers and Generation X/Generation Y to law--Legalese or 'Lawyer-speak'--review GeekLawyer’s Blawg Review 166--and if Dan is coming to [the second annual] UK LawBlog 2008 in September 2008."
July 10, 2008
The law: pasts and prologues.
Law profs Mary Dudziak and and Richard Ross co-author Legal History Blog, "Scholarship, News and New Ideas in Legal History". WAC? is especially interested in "Ross on The Career of Puritan Jurisprudence". Were Puritan judges appointed on a merit system--or elected? Did they throw fundraisers around New England? We're only half-kidding--but we'll try to find out. Seriously, LHB is an elegant--and seriously interesting--site. If you are interested in the great Judge Jerome Frank, see "Legal Realism and International Law, 1938".
July 04, 2008
Still a young country, America. And July 4th means reflection as well as celebration. When does America square realities with its fine but unmet principles? See at Scott Greenfield's Simple Justice "Our 232nd Year and It Doesn't Look Promising".
No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.
Aristotle (384–322 BC), fragment
July 03, 2008
WAC? considers Utah a republic unto itself. We even considered adding Utah sites to our Directory of Non-U.S. Blogs, on your lower left. Let us be vague here. You'd need to spend time in Utah to begin to understand. Hull McGuire has worked much in the Salt Lake area, both courts and transactions, for out-of-state clients. And we always have hired local counsel in Utah, if only as a cultural resource. Our reasons
for viewing Utah as insular and different are chiefly professional; our clients need to know that Utah is different. But lots of talented lawyers live here, including the best pretrial mediator we ever worked with. We also think ex-trial lawyer (a fact he doesn't advertise) Sen. Orrin Hatch is a trip, charitably put, and we follow his doings. But here is something Utah does right other than Sundance and skiing, at least this weekend: a few good people in Park City.
June 22, 2008
Controversy is brewing in France this week over a proposed amendment to the Constitution declaring regional languages to be part of France’s patrimony. The amendment, which was proposed on May 22nd, was suppressed by the Senate on June 18th, two-thirds of whom agreed that it threatened the unity of French national identity, invoking legislature from 1539 and 1794 (God, I love France) as precedent.
June 21, 2008
For godless druids we know.
The Longest Day. The Canadian Press: "Solstice at Stonehenge". In London, Charon QC, Albion's Hunter Thompson, and one of our three favorite Brit pagans, may later observe it at the Bollo. "I am in the bunker at my Staterooms, but I am up and marvelling at the way the sun rises in the sky…"
June 08, 2008
Germany makes politically-correct bombs.
Yes, environmentally-friendly bombs. America's liberal but respected The New Republic magazine noticed this one, too. But Hermann the German, our well-read man in Berlin, doesn't think it's that big a deal: "Well all the people that get bombed are biodegradable, aren’t they?"
June 07, 2008
Americans as half full of it?
Americans all think they are going to make it big, don't they?
"Half empty or half full? Test your optimism" by Diane Levin at her MediationChannel.com got me thinking. Running a business does require a bit of realism, and a pessimistic streak can help. You can discipline yourself to get that in your make-up, even if your Mom growing up was the Midwestern version of Pollyanna. Still, I'll take optimism as a "default" position for the kind of people I want in my orbit. Some western Europeans seem genuinely alarmed but intrigued when they utter the following, which is said to me frequently and out of the blue: "Americans all think they are going to make it big, don't they?!"* The idea, I gather, is that the great expectations generated by the free-for-all and break-neck culture of American life is a design for failure, disappointment and humiliation. They have a point. According to the Boston Globe, and as Diane points out, as many as 80% of us Yanks, have the sunny-side thing going--and it can work against us. But that is who we are.
*Brits who say this will then throw in, for effect, a loud and somewhat dismissive guffaw.
June 04, 2008
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
June 01, 2008
Today June 1 is the Festival of Carna. She is the Roman goddess of the heart--and also of hinges and locks. Ovid said that she “opens what is closed, and closes what is open.” Another Roman goddess named Carna--from which "carnal" is derived"--is linked romantically with Janus, the better known god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. Of Crossroads. Maybe your girlfriend or wife just left you, you finished a good FY quarter and are looking ahead, or it's time to quit wasting time.
I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Not a luxury.
He who neglects the arts when young has lost the past and is dead to the future.
--Sophocles (496-406 BC)
May 25, 2008
Saturday and Sunday's Charon
London's Charon QC, a man with a velvet voice, was kind enough to interview a Paris-bound WAC? last year in London near the Marble Arch, aided by his stunning 26-year-old sound assistant, and we've been intimate friends ever since. I've grown close to Charon as well. The lawyer-prof-writer does take time away from interviews and lengthy stays at The Bollo and The Swan to write his well-known blog. He generally writes a review of the past week in his Weekend Review and recently introduced Charon after dark... Tonight he nods to London's new eccentric young mayor, Boris Johnson, an Etonian*, and muses on "The Thirteen Horsemen from Eton".
*An Etonian is a person who attended Eton, which is a boarding school for young men in Britain and has produced English statesmen for nearly 600 years. Eton is a bit like the fine American private boarding schools, Phillips Andover, Deerfield or The Hill School, except it's "public"--and with far more extensive and imaginative cross-dressing. (The new London mayor, in that respect at least, is normal.)
May 24, 2008
Is txt msgng the new threat to France?
The Economist asks: "Parlez-vous SMS?" France's American-like President Nicolas Sarkozy is worried about what "text-messaging is doing to the French language". Please aim higher, sir.
May 13, 2008
China's earthquake: How you can help.
May 10, 2008
Hermann the German: Germany as "Americanization Nation".
April 05, 2008
Was Europe ever in love with America?
No, but we Yanks could spruce up our image a bit. See the Berlin-based press digest Atlantic Review, its piece "European Love for the US and American Isolationism", and anything else these young German Fulbright alumni are writing.
April 04, 2008
Changes: Is your medium dying?
Via one Andrew Johnston, a real journalist in Chicago. WAC? values people who can put sentences together and walk at the same time.
April 03, 2008
Law Birds of London
Bird pron. "beud" (London); "burd" (Scotland) n. woman. See The English-to-American Dictionary. They include Law Minx, Legally Blonde in London, Law Girl and the pioneering uplander and biker-solicitor Ruthie of Ruthie's Law, who is now London-bound. Keep your hands away from the cages.
April 01, 2008
Holden H. Oliver (1968-2008)
WAC? co-writer and third year law student Holden Oliver died in Palo Alto Monday while visiting his girlfriend, an undergraduate student at Stanford University. A Boston native and former reporter for the Kansas City Star, Holden worked many years for the London and Aldeburgh bureaus of the New York Times, and later entered Stanford Law School. Last year, he was elected to an editorial position on the Stanford Law Review. He joined WAC? as a law student in the summer of 2006, when he also worked for Hull McGuire's D.C. office. Death was the result of a kiln explosion in which his companion, a Stanford freshman less than half his age, was not injured. If you wish to help us honor Holden, his irreverent uber-WASP prose style, and his philandering, amoral lifestyle, donations can be made in his name to the Nantucket Preservation Trust, the The Cosmos Club or Kelly's Irish Times in Washington, D.C.
March 28, 2008
BBC reporter loses it on air.
March 26, 2008
"Do childless women make the most productive lawyers?"
Dang. Salon and its new Broadsheet--see the first-rate above piece by Catherine Price--are on a workplace roll. But, uh, "Broadsheet"? Is someone (a woman or two?) at Salon bringing back the expression "broad" to refer to dames? We do like 1930s jive. Or will the American Thought-Speech-and-Correct-Lifestyles squad nix that one quick? Stay tune...
"Answer it. You used the word 'broad', didn't you, Miss?"
March 25, 2008
Should we leave workaholics the hell alone?
WAC? believes that workaholism is not a major disease. If it is, we just love being around sick people. Such unfortunates build and invent things--and change the world. So-inflicted employment candidates with the right credentials may contact our firm. While all the silly hype about working hard has you wondering whether you're sick, do see this Salon piece which asks: Are women to blame for workaholism? It was partly inspired by a recent Boston Globe feature, "Working women, where did we go so wrong?", by Monique Doyle Spencer.
March 14, 2008
Beyond borders, guns and money: A new global elite?
Do Rupert Murdoch, the Pope, Bill Clinton and Osama bin Laden form part of a new international class that replaces traditional governments? See Laura Miller's article "The rise of the superclass", and her review of David Rothkopf's book Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, in today's Salon.
"Name's Oliver, Holden Oliver, just got back from Île Saint-Louis..."
Via Ed. of Blawg Review, and by Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com, below is new non-business calling card for rogues (or roués), cads and philanderers on business travel of all ages with a classical education, or pretending to have one. If any of you guys need the Cliff's Notes on Women in Love, we've got it around here somewhere.
March 11, 2008
IBA report: Kenya after the storm.
From the International Bar Association's Legalbrief Africa:
After weeks of deadlocked negotiations and bloodshed on the streets of Kenya, the recent political breakthrough has switched the spotlight to Parliament where MPs are being called on to support the accord signed by President Mwai Kibaki and ODM chairman Raila Odinga. The country has opened a new political era, during which power and responsibilities of the government will be shared through a grand coalition.
Great hubris-laden men's club names down through the ages.
Cosmos Club, University Club, Skull and Bones, Duke Tara, HYP Club, the Boom-Boom Room at the Latrobe Holiday Inn, and now...
March 04, 2008
Do you feel smart?
Well, do you, punk?*
This World is run by self-involved creatures (yours truly included) prone and programmed, for at least optimism's sake, to think that a success means "I am smart". And why not? We all like to think that hard work pays off. Certainly, work done right helps your odds. But for years (since 8th grade at Indian Hill Jr. High School in Cincinnati, to be exact) I've wondered why things, especially certain strategies, do work out--or don't--and if I should take credit for them when they do. Is it really me "making things happen"? Is it generally the talent of the doer(s)? If so, is there a formula?
Or is it something else? Luck, odds, Irish fairies, Fergus the Great, maybe?
I started thinking about it again reading Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life, an earlier book of Black Swann author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This is a humbling and wonderful book. Luck or "not-smart" factors, it seems, may create success. However, if you are not 99% accurate in your view of your true abilities (most of us, of course, are not), do not give this book as a gift to your immediate boss who made you rich. It will shatter you both. It also concludes: Yes, Virginia, smarts are out there--but they are probably not yours. Oh, well. Dang.
And if the company you work for ever figures that out, it might try to get the stock options back. Read the book--but keep it to yourself.
*With a nod to Inspectors Callahan, and Dan Harris of China Law Blog.
February 29, 2008
Leap year: one tradition, hurt clients, remedies.
In the English-speaking world, women may propose marriage on this day. One tale is that a 1288 law by girl-Queen Margaret of Scotland required that a penalty be imposed if a man refused the proposal: a kiss, £1 or a silk gown, to soften the blow of the rejection.
AP: 1 in 100 Americans is locked up.
Prison or jail. So now it's okay to ask that cute but austere candidate from Choate, Williams and Stanford Law: "So, and we gotta ask this, done any time? Well, let me rephrase that...anything over a year?"
Never completely drink your own Kool-Aid.
February 21, 2008
The Wages of Consumerism
The crude commercialism of America, its materializing spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals....
--Oscar Wilde, who liked Americans, in "The Decay of Lying" (1889), featuring George Washington.
WAC? takes back what it said some time ago about Western lawyers having no capacity for original thought. Well, not really, but we do take note of the beloved 1% exception. See at his Simple Justice a thoughtful piece by NYC trial lawyer-pundit Scott Greenfield entitled "The Measure of Prosperity, And Why People Steal", inspired in part by a recent NYT op-ed piece by Michael Cox and Richard Alm called "You Are What You Spend". They ask: does measuring prosperity by spending--rather than by earnings--make more sense? Scott responds.
February 18, 2008
Kosovo declares independence from Serbia.
February 17, 2008
New French "American-esque" president sinking in polls.
From the February 7 edition of The Economist, here's one we missed: "The Unpopular President". Excerpt: "Mr Sarkozy ran for election last May on a promise to restore faith in politics, to rebuild French confidence and to get France back on track. Instead, nearly nine months into his presidency, a majority (55%) of the French have “a negative opinion” of him, according to LH2, a polling agency". Some of the complaints are policy-related; some are the "jet-set" thing.
February 10, 2008
Home to "Counter-Jihad", and one of the most read blogs ever.
February 01, 2008
So...what are you wearing?
See Carolyn Elefant's post "Must Lawyers Dress for Success?" at Legal Blog Watch. Our 2 humble cents. First, nearly all of our clients are out of town, and we can generally predict when we will see them. So we care more about your phone game. And your work and responsiveness to clients. Second, we love associates who love to work long hours so we can make money and they can learn. So wear what you want--but
look very presentable and by that we mean classy. We prefer suits in the East and at least blazers in the West--but you can always bend the rules. Finally, for you guys, who have less fashion sense: no Grateful Dead Ts or bolos during the week. And socks (two) are nice. If you are a straight up clothes horse, try bow-ties, and maybe spats. Such attire has this bonus: it makes senior lawyers who supervise you realize you don't give a damn about what they think. Red pocket squares are way studly, but only if they barely show. Also, avoid the FBI agent/Nazi youth cheap dark suit and crew-cut look, popular among insurance defense lawyers in Midwestern towns stuck in the 1950s. If you wear suits, buy good ones. Clients, juries and our moms all hate creepy-looking "cookie-cutter" males with law degrees and really close-cropped military haircuts in third-rate suits, white shirts and boring ties and shoes. Dudes, please shine your shoes. The ladies look there right away.
January 30, 2008
Breaking: Getting older is sad for some.
January 19, 2008
Sicily's governor sentenced to prison.
ROME (AP, Jan. 18) - A court in Palermo convicted Sicily's governor Friday of helping a Mafia boss and sentenced him to five years in prison.
Gov. Salvatore Cuffaro said he would appeal and continue serving as governor of the island while the case was in progress. [more]
January 18, 2008
US Airways Club, too?
Sex in Restroom Stalls is Private, ACLU Says
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) - In a legal effort to help a U.S. senator, the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that people who have sex in public bathrooms have an expectation of privacy.
Republican Senator Larry Craig is asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to let him withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct related to a bathroom sex sting at the Minneapolis airport last year. [more]
Thanks for clearing that up.
January 11, 2008
The Economist on the 2008 election
"Up in the Air" is how this London-based magazine--these days enjoying a role as the Newsweek or Time for the entire West--decribes the post-Iowa and New Hampshire cosmos:
Everything is up in the air. That is not just because this is the most open election in America since 1928 (the last time that no incumbent president or vice-president was in the race); it is because Americans don't really know what they want.
December 30, 2007
Perfect New England
AP: 34.5 Million Watch Patriots' Historic Win. 16-0 in the regular season. Everyone watched.
December 29, 2007
Renaissance Institute hosts 27th New Year's weekend
Each year it turns Charleston, South Carolina into a productive combination of Hollywood, Harvard and The Hague. For four days, King and Meeting streets are full of famous faces. You see big name tags highlighting first names. There are four weekends a year--but this is the big traditional one which attracts both big name achievers and confident lesser-knowns with big ideas. Motto: "light not heat". See this by a North Carolina tech publisher-editor who didn't get invited--but perhaps should have been.
December 28, 2007
Pakistan opposition leader Bhutto is assassinated.
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP)- Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday by an attacker who shot her after a campaign rally and then blew himself up. Her death stoked new chaos across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. [more]
December 21, 2007
A Texas trial lawyer in Paris
See "I'm Back" at Mark Bennett's Defending People: The Art and Science of Criminal Defense Trial Lawyering. Like us, Mark has noticed that the "French do exceedingly well" the following:
* Food and drink.
* Subterranean transport.
* Historic preservation.
And we could happily add to that list. But we concur that what the French and WAC?'s favorite European cousins "do less well" for business travelers is "Technology".
While the hotel at which we stayed in the 7th Arrondissement provided, in theory, a high-speed internet connection, that mostly-theoretical connection didn't work well enough to stay online for long enough to do more than just check email...[more]
December 19, 2007
A new and different Germany?
See "Arrogant Germans See Their Country as a World Power" and related links at The Atlantic Review, the fine news digest on German-U.S. relations published and edited by German Fulbright alumni. Excerpt: "The just released international Bertelsmann survey [PDF in German] indicates that Germans' views of themselves as a world power increased from the 2005 study by 8 percent to 49 percent in 2007." Also see "Germany To Play Larger Role In The World" at Berlin-based Observing Hermann.
December 02, 2007
Any funny scab TV writers out there?
So Mitt Romney walks into a doctor's office with a frog on his head. The receptionist asks him what's wrong. The frog speaks up, and says "hey, can you guys get this wart off my ass?". Despite the ongoing writers' strike, Carson Daly has crossed the picket line to tape his show. See the Louisville Courier-Journal and Defamer. WAC? may apply.
November 07, 2007
"Uh, there's no pot here, Beavis--just monkeys."
Two Stolen Monkeys Are Returned To Owner
EIGHTY FOUR, Pa. (AP) - Two exotic monkeys were returned yesterday to a private wildlife compound in Western Pennsylvania, where they apparently had been stolen from a greenhouse in which teenagers believed marijuana was being grown. [read more]
See also "Pot-Smokin' Monkeys On The Lam" (Lehigh Valley News).
September 28, 2007
Lawyer resilience: Two tough Brits weigh in.
As a follow up to our recent post on lawyers' lack of stiff-upper-lipped-ness, see a January 2006 GeekLawyer piece called "The Personality Type of a Lawyer" and, from earlier this week at Ruthie's Law, "Are You Tough Enough?". And SRV, of course.
I would walk ten miles on my hands and knees--
Ain't no doubt about it, baby, it's you I aim to please.
I'd wrestle with a lion, and a grizzly bear
It's my life, baby, but I don't care.
Ain't that tough enough?
September 25, 2007
California: "My vibe guy is E.F. Hutton, and he says..."
WAC?, still north of Los Angeles, called last night to report that he may have to move back East sooner and not later. "Guess I'm not a California guy", he concluded. Apparently, his ears had perked up in a restaurant when a stunning and articulate professional woman spoke glowingly of her "energy advisor". He inquired, and it turns out she was not talking about: fossil-fuel consultants, brokers specializing in utility stocks, or promoters of deals to sell shares in peat farms.
September 21, 2007
"But it's still not okay in Toronto to ask your mom to haul your free weights from the basement up to your old room."
In Canada, too, "Employment Booming for Older Workers", particularly for women, Borden Ladner's Michael Fitzgibbon notes in his Thoughts from a Management Lawyer. Based on August figures in The Daily, a report of Statistics Canada, a Canadian national agency.
September 12, 2007
W-L balance as a non-issue: first, choose the life you want.
I should be catching up on lawyering this morning, but a fine thinker-lawyer-blogger just sent me an enlightening article. Work-life balance is an issue we've made fun of a lot at this blog; don't worry, we'll continue to do that. To me, W-L balance is a "concept" (1) stifling verve, passion, creativity and achievement, (2) ignoring that good and great things are hard-won and (3) advanced by people who really don't like what they do all day. Still, our blog, What About Clients? likely failed to pick up on the better threads of the "issue":
For me, the point is and always has been making my/your life a work of art. That's it. If you think there is something selfish or grandiose about that, fine. Art is intended to make sense of our world and our selves. First, though, what life--indeed, what world?--do you want? Have you even made that choice? Choose your life. That's the hard part, especially if you need to change it (it's not supposed to be easy).
And then fill in the blanks. Blood, family and relationships for most of us will be the priority, and a major complexity, in the life canvas. Whoa, you don't even choose all those people. You struggle, you grow,
you compromise where you must, you try to surround yourself with people who stretch you. You work, you give and you increase love. Hopefully, people in your life want you to chase a dream or two. It makes you happy.
This stuff blends together--and needs to blend so we can be happy. For many of us, "life" and "work" are not capable of a bright-line separation--especially if you love your existence, the people in it and what you do. And, hey, communication technologies, and the lemming-like madness often surrounding it all, are no cure-all--but technologies do make work-life "blurring" possible, easier on others and often fun. Someone just said this all a lot better than I can or have here, and thanks to Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg, I just read it. See Marci Alboher's piece in the New York Times small business section, "Blurring by Choice and Passion".
September 05, 2007
USA workers most productive--but Asian numbers are impressive.
As announced earlier this week by UN agency the International Labour Organization, American workers are the most productive, even while not always putting in the longest hours. As Boston-based employment lawyer (management side) Jay Shepherd points out in "US Workers Most Gruntled?", value, not long hours, is the point. Still, note that seven Asian states averaged 2200 hours per worker in 2006 compared with the US average of 1800. Whoa. Sign those dudes up.
June 19, 2007
China: Next Big Cities for IT Outsourcing
"...why is Dalian on the list...?" Only old China hand Dan Harris of China Law Blog is both knowledgeable and sophisticated enough to spot a recent list of the "next" top 10 cities for IT outsourcing in China, post it for us, and then take serious issue with it. See China's "Next" Top Ten Cities for IT Outsourcing.
August 28, 2006
Out There: Does Pluto Have Standing?
March 12, 2006
The Evil Bookstore Conspiracy Against Us All: "Think and Grow Rich", "Fish!", "The Road Less Traveled", "Good To Great", "The 7 Habits of..."
I'm back East for 2 weeks in my real stomping grounds of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and DC, where the earth is starting to show signs of Spring: re-birth, renewal, energy, hope. And in the bookstores as usual there are writings on growing your business, self-improvement, and how to succeed at something--even if it's just Life Itself. The titles alone give you clues--about some key or "secret" that everyone knows but you. So everyone else reads them, gets rich and buys a second home in Nantucket next to Jack Welch's, marries a modern-day Julie Andrews or Alan Alda, has fine, healthy kids headed for Dartmouth, MIT or Tufts, and then they all do a victory lap around you by appearing on CNN with Larry King. You, however, just keep worrying that your retirement funds will somehow vaporize, that your eldest son's resume reads too much like a police blotter, that your best clients will leave you tomorrow morning and that you will peak in life when you get a guest shot on "Small Business Horizons" on the local PBS channel.
Meanwhile, there's all these, well, "titles", programs and signposts: Dale Carnegie's "How to Make Friends and Influence People", Napolean Hill's "Think and Grow Rich", great stuff by Norman Vincent Peale, Deming's 14 points, "Fish!", "What Clients Love", "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", "The Road Less Traveled", John 14:17, The Upanishads, The Prophet, "Who Victimized My Cheese?" and "The 7 Common Sense Habits of Highly Thought-Of People Who Know Things You Don't and You Better Read This or You Will Fail".
But, seriously, I know what they all mean now. Two things:
(1) It is ALL inside you right now, and
(2) If you visualize it, plan it and work for it, you get it.
Period. So if you don't think you are successful right this minute-- in your worst or best moment--you may never be. The way you think and feel is everything and indeed must be made into a habit. Make it a good one.
March 06, 2006
"Do Short-Term Victories Mean We're Smart and Our Business is Strong?"
And, more importantly, do those successes keep you from seeing entrenched fallacies and faulty assumptions in your thinking that will bite you in the wazoo when you aren't looking. See "Never Mistake a Bull Market For Brains..." at Adam Smith, where lately there has been post after post of sober thoughts about thinking and planning for the long term.
February 24, 2006
Tag, You're It..."4 things".
4 jobs I've had:
Keebler Co. Cookie Packer
Manager of a Krogers Meat Department
Tennis Teacher in Michigan and North Carolina
Waiter at Hugh Kelly's The Irish Times Bar
4 movies I can watch over and over:
Once Upon a Time in America
The Last Seduction
The Ladies' Man
4 TV shows I love to watch:
4 places I've been on vacation:
4 tunes that play through my head:
The Telephone Song
Crossroads (Cream's live version)
4 favorite dishes:
Anything with peanuts or peanut butter in it.
Four websites I visit daily:
Four books I'd grab in an earthquake:
Sam Hazo's Stills
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
The Adventure of English
Flaubert's Parrot or The Art of Travel
Four places I'd rather be:
Cluny Abbey, Roman baths level, Left Bank, Paris
Kent or Suffolk, England
Pointe Aux Barques, Michigan
Kelly's Irish Times in Washington, D.C.
Four Bloggers I'm Tagging
February 16, 2006
LAW PROFESSION NEGATIVITY IN ALL ITS FORMS, et al., Plaintiffs v. HALF-FULL CUPS, Defendants.
He's right. In our profession, we've lost our mojo--if we ever had one--and we need to get it back. Or maybe get one for the first time. Jon Stein at The Practice just wrote back-to back posts (here and here) on negativity in the profession, from three sources: bloggers, lawyers and non-lawyers. Jon concludes the first post by challenging bloggers to write 2 positive posts the rest of this week. His two are worth reading. Here's a small excerpt, an eloquent one:
And then I go out and read legal blogs. And the negativity comes flowing out like a New York City fire hydrant opened by kids on a hot summer day. There are blogs, which shall remain nameless, which are 99% negative. Post after post after post is negative. There are other blogs which are 50% negative. Why?
You can't write about addressing negativity without getting a little negative. But here goes. On bloggers, I don't see that many negative blogs--in fact, with some glaring exceptions, I think we are an "up" and optimistic lot. We are first and foremost people who feel strongly about something good we have discovered, and want to share that with others. "Hopeful" comes to mind, too. The goals of gaining stature and more clients through blogging is secondary; many of us will blog whether there's money in it or not.
But I agree with Jon that lawyers and non-lawyers alike are negative about the profession, if for different reasons. We lawyers do whine a lot and forget to count our blessings. It's a privilege to work, and a privilege to practice law. Yet our profession is full of (1) ungrateful boomer weenies my vintage with first-rate educations our parents often paid for and who just a few years out of law school started "phoning it in" and treating even the best clients like troublesome peasants, and (2) younger lawyers with marginal work ethics who were told all their lives by their parents that everything they did and would do in life was "just great" and, sorry, dudes, it just wasn't and isn't that great. Practicing law is hard. You have to pay dues. And then you still have to do it right, every day, for years. You do it when you are tired, are sick, just heard the Second Circuit ruled against your client, were dumped two days ago by your girlfriend, had your BMW stolen, just learned a parent is suddenly gravely ill, or are in the middle of an endless divorce--that's the price of the privilege. But all this is obviously my beef and part of why I launched this blog last year. And I'm getting negative.
Non-lawyers? Sorry, everyone, and see above. Generally, I whole-heartedly agree with non-lawyers that we lawyers are clueless and out-to-lunch. In fact, I'd go further. Shoddy client service, cavalier disregard for clients as a necessary evil and outright contempt for our customers are far worse problems than non-lawyers and clients (even GC's) even know. At BigLaw, solos, and everything in between, we don't get it yet. We can get much, much better--but only with a revolution in the lawyer mind. Clients and lawyers can have true partnerships which can make both well-served and even rich.
Anyway, Jon, nice posts. And my first positive contribution for Jon is this: Clients are everything--so start there. If you can think and plan it, you can do it. And attitude is more important than facts. Sweetness, light, and truth, folks.
February 09, 2006
Law School Applications Trend: Way Down
Interesting, surprising and probably very good news in the WSJ Law Blog from a New York Times piece today on the decline in law school admission applications--and possible reasons. There's a great zen-like quote from David E. Kelley, lawyer-turned-writer and producer of shows like Boston Legal, on why it's actually useful to have more lawyers out there to keep the applications down.
January 21, 2006
Dial 'H' For 'Human': "Thank you for the opportunity to offer you excellent customer service. Please listen carefully to the following options as our menu has changed...."
Here's a sign of the service times. It's a Newsweek blurb from the upcoming January 23 issue on getting "live" customer service. A guy who apparently just wouldn't take it any more did something as productive as anyone could. I'll bet that several young couples name their next born son after a Winchester, Mass. man named Paul English.
December 14, 2005
$1,000 An Hour--Benjamin Civiletti Is Likely Worth It, But Clients Can Decide for Themselves
There were news reports yesterday that former U.S. Attorney General and Baltimore Venable partner Benjamin Civiletti, 70, is now charging $1,000 an hour for litigation and Sarbanes-Oxley investigations. Before lawyers, pundits and late-night comics weigh in on this with jealousy, outrage and humor--and they will--let me say this: the guy has had an exemplary career, and has enjoyed a first-rate reputation. Venable's clients and the market can decide the issue. He may very well be worth it.
In another sense, it's good for there to be wide ranges in hourly rates. Experienced clients, the sophisticated users of legal services, realize that lawyering is not "fungible," i.e., there are lawyers, and then there are lawyers. There are many, many degrees of quality between "just average" and "unquestionably great." I think recognition or acknowledgment of those gradations is a good thing.
Practicing law is rewarding--but demanding and difficult. Few of us, in my opinion, really get it right and keep it that way. More power to Ben Civiletti.
November 14, 2005
Good News For Corporate Law Boutiques
See "Law Firm National Reach Overated" by Tom Collins in morepartnerincome re: Martindale-Hubbell's annual survey of GCs. Query: To take it a step further, for the 29% of the GCs interviewed who do want a national firm, can't a boutique have a national reach, too?
August 16, 0110
Real Winter: He makes a blind man see.
Put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it out on Highway 61.
John Dawson Winter III, b. Beaumont, Texas (1944- ). Note to "no guts no gospel" weenies born after 1965: Johnny Winter is a straight-up Boomer Hero. Listening to him could make you tougher. Make you ready to compete. Make you work harder. Make you stop whining. Make you stop settling for mediocre.