Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In God I Still Cuss

You just can't make this stuff up. Apparently this group called "Diamond Rio" is going around performing a song called "In God We Still Trust." It's high comedy. I'm sorry if you have strong religious sensibilities (sensitivities?), but it is. The number of things wrong with it...I mean, for a bunch of guys who claim to love our country, they sure don't seem to know much about it.

Example: "Now there are those among us who want to push Him out, and erase His name from everything this country's all about," accompanied by a picture of the Constitution. If they'd bothered to read that founding document of this fine nation - and hey, I'm willing to just skip over that pesky First Amendment, 'cause who's got the time and legal know-how to grasp the gist of such nuanced language as "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" - but if they'd bothered to read all the parts that come before that, the part affectionately known as "The Constitution,"* they might have noticed the word "God" appears exactly zero times. So I'm not real sure how someone can erase his - pardon me, His - name from something He's never mentioned in.

* "There's this thing called the Constitution. It's a nagging little document, I'll grant you..."

Other cool things I learned from this video:

Flagburners hate God (figures).
Christians are a vocal minority in this country who need to "make their voices heard."
We're "one nation under Him," even though there are also "those among us** who want to push Him out." I'm so confused!

** You mean...Communists?

But for all that, it's a catchy little diddy, and that's what matters. "Heeeeerrrrree in America!"

Monday, October 30, 2006

I approved this message

I hate this time of year. Campaign ad season. I hate campaign ads. In fact, I hate campaigns. I think campaigns are a testament to the great failure of American government. I think our politicians would be so much more likeable if they didn't have to run for office. First, voting tends to distract our government leaders for what we originally sent them to Washington to do, which is to govern.* What's the line from West Wing? "We try to get people to vote for us, and in the process we hope the people force us to do good things." They're so busy trying to stay likeable that they forget to actually stand for something.

* TOBY: Hey you want to know something? C.J. doesn't like running.
ANDY: Why not?
TOBY: Believe it or not, because it takes time away from helping.

Not to mention the fact that running for office and being a good representative can often involve two different skill sets, and those who persevere at the former tend to outshine the latter. George Bush v. Hilary Clinton, anyone?

But ironically, it's the job requirement to be popular that seems to make politicians so dislikeable. For example, I was watching the Kloubacher-Kennedy debate on Meet the Press a few weeks back, and I remember thinking, "You know, if Amy Kloubacher didn't have to run for office, she's a candidate I could see myself supporting." She seemed to have good ideas, wanted to tackle serious problems. But something about running for office made me dislike her. Like how she had to drop in "Well, Tim, as a former prosecutor" to every question. You were a prosecutor, you're tough on crime, I get it. You can change the subject now.

Anyway, I don't much care for campaign ads, either. Maybe it's the negativity of it all. The BBC agrees with me. Or maybe it's just the contrarian in me. I almost always find myself wanting for vote AGAINST the person who ran the ad. It's like those Truth.com anti-smoking ads. Those things are so self-righteous, they make me WANT to smoke just to stick it to them.

Let's look at Amy Kloubacher again. I'll be voting for her next week, but I almost always find myself arguing with her ads. Even the ones that aren't negative. Like when she says, "In court a judge can throw out the evidence if it's improper, and that's what I hope you'll do with the chagres Mark Kennedy has placed against me. Rationing Lipitor? That's ridiculous! My mom's on Lipitor." Yeah, except you didn't actually deny your rationing desire. Or the one where she says, "I think they need some good Minnesota common sense in Washington." Really? Is that what you think? I've been to both Minnesota and Washington, and I'll admit there are a lot of things wrong in the District, but I don't think "Minnesota" common sense is the answer, doncha know?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just the facts, ma'am

I wish people would stop saying the Democrats don’t understand the nature of the threat we’re facing today. When exactly did you serve on the National Security Council again? What special information have you been privy to that puts you in a position to state with authority that the Democratic national security strategy* is any worse than the Republican one? I know what you’re thinking. “Well, okay,” you think, “then what puts YOU, Mr. Law Revue, in a position to say with authority that the Democrats DO understand the nature of the threat we’re facing today?” Nothing. Of course, I’m not the one declarating (that’s a new word I just made up) that the opposing side has such a candy-ass policy concerning terrorism. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

* What Democratic national security strategy, right? To which I say, what Republican national security strategy?

I also wish people would stop saying the Bush administration’s policy must be effective because we haven’t had a terrorist attack in the five years since 9/11. It reminds me of the Simpson’s episode where Homer starts a “Bear Patrol” and states it clearly must be working because Springfield hasn’t been attacked by any bears. “But that’s ridiculous,” quips Lisa. “That’s like saying this rock is keeping away tigers.” And that’s like this. To assume that the Patriot Act has really made America safe, simply because we haven’t had another terrorist attack yet, rests on some questionable logic.

The difference here, of course, is that it’s unlikely Springfield would ever be attacked by tigers, while it’s more likely the USA could be victim to another terrorist attack. As Bill O’Reilly said on the Daily Show a couple years back, it’s doubtful the terrorists just gave up. But what do we know? While America hasn’t suffered another attack, it does appear that al Qaeda has been rather busy stirring up trouble on the European continent, and I have to believe that they’re an organization of ultimately limited resources who can only stage so many attacks per year against the Western infidels. Meanwhile, it appears hungry shoeless Mexicans can sneak across our southern border in droves, and the entire coastline of Oregon can’t find a patrolman to save its life. So it seems like if al Qaeda really wanted to sneak in, it wouldn’t be too hard.

And we’ve seen no evidence of the U.S. government preventing a terrorist attack. Oh sure, there was that deal a year or so ago—the eight guys in Florida who were fostering a pipedream** (no pun intended) of blowing up the Sears Tower. I don’t recall anyone taking them particularly seriously. True, we might not be told if the CIA or FBI had been successful in preventing a serious attack, since that would risk compromising our intelligence sources. But here’s the point. Do I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis that al Qaeda has tried to attack us again since 9/11, and the lack of such an attack implicates the Bush administration has been effective in national security? Yes. But it’s just that. A hypothesis. There are no facts to support it; indeed, there are some facts (ie, weak border security) which indicate an opposite conclusion.

** Like a pipebomb, get it? I guess that’s not even a pun.

It’s like the debates I used to have in college about sexual assault (for which I was often accused of being a “rapist” – because people can’t help but rise to the call of rational debate on this issue). Certain segments would assert the high prevalency of sexual assault on campus. “But there are only like 2 assault reported per year,” I would point out. “But,” they would challenge, “victims rarely report sexual assault, so the actual number’s probably much higher.” And that’s all really very wonderful (or not). But until you have FACTS to support your claim, maybe tone your hypotheses, however reasonable, down a touch, m’kay? Being able to refer to, you know, data would make your stance so much more interesting.

Friday, October 27, 2006

What Osama wants Osama can have

I think there's a tendency in this country to get our national interests confused. In this corner we have what's best for our national security, and in this corner we have what the terrorists want. We tend to see these as diametrically opposed, and for the most part they are. For example, airplanes crashing into skyscrapers is not what's best for our national security, while it is what the terrorists want. But these two interests aren't always opposed. Osama bin Laden probably doesn't want the Sun to go nova, but that doesn't mean we should cross our fingers and hope it does.

So I sometimes get perplexed when people harp about how such-and-such a course of action isn't desireable because it's giving in to the terrorists, it's what they want. Like the '04 elections. Maybe Osama did want John Kerry to win. Okay. So what? If I honestly think John Kerry would make a better candidate - if, for example, I think it wouldn't have taken him two more years and a rising bodycount to figure out we shouldn't "stay the course" - I'm not going to reverse that opinion just because some wacko in an Afghan cave wants him to win, too. I'm focusing on my own test, I'm not paying that much attention to what the other kids are doing.

There was an article in the Times yesterday entitled "What Osama Wants" which implicated - stated, in fact - that withdrawing from Iraq is exactly what, well, Osama wants; therefore, we shouldn't do it. I'm afraid I'm going to need more than that to convince me. After all, it's just possible that al Qaeda doesn't know what the hell it's doing in the form of a long-term strategy. Our country wanted to invade Iraq, and that turned out to be a big mistake. It accomplished none of the security goals it was supposed to. It didn't bring peace to the Middle East. It didn't weaken the terrorist threat. It didn't free Iraqis from a reign of terror. It didn't free the world of WMDs. Shit, it didn't even get us oil. So why do we assume, when we stumble to get our shit straight, that what Osama wants is in fact detrimental to America? He's a madman who hates freedom, after all. What the fuck does he know?

For example, the article states, "Another problem with a total American withdrawal is that it would fit all too neatly into Osama bin Laden’s master narrative about American foreign policy. His theme is that America is a paper tiger that cannot tolerate body bags coming home; to back it up, he cites President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 withdrawal of United States troops from Lebanon and President Bill Clinton’s decision nearly a decade later to pull troops from Somalia. A unilateral pullout from Iraq would only confirm this analysis of American weakness among his jihadist allies." An interesting assertion, I've heard it before. But I'm not convinced we should keep using our twenty-year-olds as shrapnel depositories just because to do otherwise would lend support to bin Laden's preconceived notions of American resolve. Withdrawal will, what? Embolden the terrorists? Staying there certainly hasn't appeared to unbolden them any. Do we really think Osama is one last dead American soldier away from waving the white flag?

We need to keep our priorities straight. Is Priority One doing what's best for America, or is it sticking it to the terrorists?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

If someone on TV said it, it must be true

I wish I could make political decisions in a partisan vacuum. I really do. There are times when I strongly believe something, and there are times when honestly I could go either way*, and it's those latter times when douchebag conservatives manage to swoop in and completely turn me against their point of view by taking radicalized stances.

Like this stem-call issue in Missouri. Should stem-cells be funded and protected by the government? I don't know. I'm not unsympathetic to the argument that stem-cell experimentation is better left to the private sector. And I’ll entertain the argument that your tax dollars shouldn’t be spent funding something you think is immoral. That’s a stupid argument, because then the DoD would have half its current operating budget**, but I’ll entertain it.

But then here come the crazies, watch out for the crazies, please mind your head around the crazies. There's a big to-do on YouTube right now about the TV ads concerning the stem-cell amendment in Missouri. Michael J Fox made one, a bunch of other dudes who need descriptives after their names (ie, Patricia Heaton, from Everybody Loves Raymond) followed:

Now, if you look to your left, you'll see a pantheon of wacko conservative comments from YouTube users. Here are some of the highlights. Read them over, and then ask yourself if it isn't worth killing some babies who haven't made it past the petri dish stage just to stick it to these people:

“Wow! I love it! Anyone with a brain realizes that Prop 2 was a licence to clone humans. A true ‘Clonus Horror’ or ‘The Island’ scenario brought to life. Missourians don't let the blood of innocents stain your hands, vote NO to Prop 2.”

“Michael J Fox is an actor, he is faking his illness so he can get on TV more. Lety me ask you this, if somebody hs parkinsons what are the odds an actor would get it ... it is his job to pretend he has the desease and the scientists pay him for his work so the ggrants they are applying for seem more worthy.”

“5 celebrities against 1. Talent Wins. Missouri wins. Goodnight, Democrats.”

That last was one of my favs. I know what you’re thinking: how could it beat "Michael J Fox is faking his illness,” right? But come on. The more celebrities you roll out, the more valid your cause is? I would think that in an age where we harp on how Hollywood is chock-full of liberals, the “My argument has more celebrities who support it than yours” line of reasoning is one conservatives would be wise to avoid.

This, of course, brings us to the real issue. Do any of the people in this video have extensive medical or legal training? They don’t? Then WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY DOING PONTIFICATING ON THE MEDICAL AND LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS OF STEM-CELL LEGISLATION? I particularly enjoyed seeing Jeff Suppan, Kurt Warner, and Mike Sweeney making the rounds…pro athletes being of course well-known for their intellectual prowess and nuanced grasp of complex moral issues. What’s that, Jeff? “Amendment 2 claims it bans human cloning…but in the 2,000 words you won’t read, it makes cloning a constitutional right.” I gotta say, trying to convince people to your side by pointing out they’re too lazy to actually READ the thing they’re voting on probably isn’t the winningest strategy.

And hey! It’s the dude who played Jesus! I don’t really remember his name and certainly can’t pronounce it, but if Jesus Christ thinks Amendment 2 is bad then I probably should, too.

Politics may stop at the water's edge, but Missouri is on dry land.

* BRUNO: He might get asked about Title IX.
C.J.: Why?
BRUNO: Ritchie mentioned yesterday it was worth reexamining, so they'll ask him for a reaction. You may want to talk to Josh for first-thoughts.
C.J.: What are yours?
BRUNO: On Title IX?
C.J.: Yeah.
BRUNO: I have none. I'm indifferent.
C.J.: You can't be indifferent.
BRUNO: I have to be. I have only so much RAM in my head. I have to prioritize. I have to throw some things overboard, so I've chosen, for instance, not to care whether or not Purdue has a fencing team.

** TOBY: I don't know where you get the idea that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for anything of which they disapprove. Lots of 'em don't like tanks. Even more don't like Congress.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I write the law; I am the law

Liz and I were talking yesterday about ways to spice up law school. Like class names. Law school has some of the most boring class names. Tax Law. Who wants to take that? You take something boring and add it to something boring, and you end up with something uber-boring. A new breed of boring. The Uruk-hai of boring. We're talking "impervious to sunlight" boring.

So we thought law schools should offer some more interesting courses. The most obvious contender is "Ninja Law." It would focus on the inverse ninja law and include a survey of ninja-related caselaw. Here are some other examples...

5634 Pirate Law
6042 Star Wars Law
6043 Explosion Law
7809 Car Chase Law
7421 Undercover Spy Law
5113 Buffalo Wing Law
5432 Lion King Law*
6132 Shoe Law
5590 Purse Law
7222 Thunderdome Law**
0001 Property Law According to Dogs***

And so on.

I also think there should be a class called "Jack Bauer Law." It would never meet, because Jack Bauer follows no laws.

* Restatement of Lion King Law
§ 101 - Eat or be eaten.
§ 102 - Live and let live.
§ 103 - Never take more than you give.

** "Two men enter; one man leaves."

*** 1. If I like it, it's mine.
2. If it's in my mouth, it's mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5. If I'm chewing something up, all the pieces are mine.
6. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
7. If it just looks like mine, it's mine.
8. If I saw it first, it's mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it's broken, it's yours.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Play that funky music, whiteboy

This is the track listing for the “Super Happy Fun Times” mix I’m burning:

1. Hakuna Matata, The Lion King
2. Hey Ya, Outkast
3. Shiny Happy People Laughing, REM
4. Meaning, Gavin DeGraw
5. Suppertime, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
6. Spanish Flea, Herb Alpert
7. Octopus’s Garden, The Beatles
8. Everyday, Dave Matthews Band
9. Inspecter Gadget Theme, Shuki Levy
10. Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, Avenue Q
11. Some Dreams, ‘N Sync

And, for good measure…

12. Psycho Killer, Talking Heads

I'm putting Track 12 on repeat.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Elaine, that reminds me of a story...

Before I start, let me tell you a story. Yesterday afternoon a car flipped over outside my apartment, whereby when I say flip over I mean it FLIPPED OVER. I'm using "flipped over" in the "turned upside down" sense. And let me tell you something. When a car flips over, it isn't like it is in the movies. There's no spinning wheels, no scattered debris, no rogue hubcab, and certainly no thin trail of gasoline about to catch fire. In fact, I barely noticed it at all. I was in my apartment reading when I heard the sounds of wheels screeching outside. Not a movie screech. Not a screeeeeeeeeeeech. It was like a screech lite. Accompanied by a slight bumpity-bump sound. I thought to myself,"I say, that sounded like a car accident!" and I rushed to the window to see a car FLIPPED OVER outside my apartment. Whereby when I saw "flipped over" I mean it landed on its roof, smashed against the divider. I don't even know how it GOT flipped over, but there it was. Outside my apartment. Flipped...OVER.

And let me tell you something else. Bystander response isn't like in the movies, either. People don't rush over, no muscled ex-Marine pulls the soccer mom with marital problems out through the car window. Instead they all sort of leisurely parked on the side and trotted over to make sure the driver was all right. I was a little disappointed, actually. If my car ever flips over, I want people to swing into action. Luckily, from where I was standing it looked like the driver was unhurt.

Things haven't changed since last Thursday. Everbody is STILL talking about Barack Obama. Bob Herbert. Frank Rich. Maureen Dowd. And me. Do you think one day could go by this week where the Times DOESN'T have an od-ed piece about Obama? Probably not. They just can't help themselves. Barack's the talk of the town, the belle of the ball. Will he run for President? WILL HE? I just don't know! So exciting!

I also got an Obama-tastic morning yesterday on Meet the Press. I'll admit, despite my better judgment, my opinion on Barack's presidential likelihood changes whenever I see him speak. He's just too sincere a policitian not to want to vote for him. "He'll go into those gymnasiums in Iowa and New Hampshire and blow them all away. Shake every hand in the joint, kiss every baby, hug every widow on Social Security, and sound smarter and more honest than any Republican they've ever seen...because he is." It certainly seems like he's positioning himself to make a bid. All this press coverage. Spreads in Vogue and the like. A book about leadership and public service? Come on. If that's not an announcement of your intentions to run for President, I'm not sure what is.

I don't agree with Maureen Dowd, though, that it's a bad thing he's making the rounds in the Vogue/Vanity Fair circuit and "lounging around in fashion magazines" instead of doing "some honest work, like running for president." Mostly that's because I like to disagree with Maureen Dowd, but also because I don't think it's the worst political strategy in the world. True, there's a part of me that believes, yes, politicians should run substantive campaigns. They shouldn't "run for the President the same way you want a cold beer." This isn't your high school elections, after all, it's not a popularity contest. Except, of course, it is. Presidential campaigns aren't about issues. It's about the adult quest for a father figure (probably one of the reasons women haven't been quite so successful in breaking through the political ceiling). Americans don't have the time, to say nothing of the inclination, to examine and consider issues. They just want to find a guy they like, a guy they can trust in, and assume he's making good choices.

This is why I think a Hilary Clinton presidential campaign would be doomed to failure. I think she'd make a great President but a lousy candidate. People just don't like her. Meanwhile, look at the Captain Caveman of a President we have now. Not a particularly good President at all, but he was a great candidate. People liked him. They responded to him. He's their buddy, not some elitist with a vocabulary.

There's a joke from SNL that goes, "The movie Brokeback Mountain opened this week. The movie is making history as the first western ever where the good guys get it in the end." But the one that's pertinent to this topic is the one that goes, "A new poll shows 66% of Americans think President Bush is doing a poor job of handling the war in Iraq...and the remaining 34% think Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church." The Christian-bashing notwithstanding, people would have to be blinded by something - call it trust, call it wacko obsession with the promotion of a conservative-religious agenda, call it what you want - to approve of the job Bush is doing. At the least, they'd have to have put any commitment to substance on the backburner. And that's not necessarily the worst thing in the world. They've found a guy they like, and they're sticking with him. It's the same reason why I don't mind so much that Bill Clinton lied in his grand jury testimony.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scholarly Saturday

There are too many sports on television these days.* Saturday is usually my day to be productive. Something about not having to actually do work makes my productivity soar. Whenever I'm under even the slightest pressure, I'll admit it, I crack. "I have to read ten pages? By tomorrow?" But when the work absolutely doesn't need to be done, I scale to new heights. This is why I try to get most of my homework done on Saturdays. I probably get about 70% of my work done on Saturday, with another 20% done on Sunday and the remaining 5% the rest of the week. That missing 5%? It just never gets done. Okay, maybe 10% never gets done. Make that 15%. 85%.

* "Dear Mr. President, there are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three.
P.S. I am not a crackpot."

But with all these sports on television, it's just too hard to get my work done, even on Scholarly Saturday. Last Saturday I had to deal not only with the usual college football, but also got served my first helping of the World Series. It's the Series OF THE WORLD. I never thought I'd see the day the Detroit Tigers would be a baseball juggernaut...and I still haven't, but at least they're in th World Series. So my Detroit pride dictates I watch that. And I have to watch the Michigan-Iowa game, of course, so I decided to put the Michigan State-Northwestern game on the backburner. How exciting could it be, anyway, right? BIG MISTAKE. I passed on what turned out to be the biggest upset in Big Ten history. So STUPID. And I missed it for the very model of a modern mediocre football performance from a top-ranked team. As for my precious Detroit Tigers? Don't even get me started on them. That game made me want to cry like a little girl. Not that I usually need a reason.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"I have many points, sir, I choose not to make them right now"

David Brooks - every liberal's favorite conservative, as my father would call him - wrote a rather silly article in yesterday's Times. It was about all the reasons Barack Obama should run for President. No, it wasn't silly for that, but that is pretty silly. I understand everything is so Obama-bastic right now, and I understand that he's probably the closest thing to a West Wing character come to life we're going to see in a politician in my lifetime, but maybe Barack could finish ONE TERM in the US Senate before he sets his eyes on the Big Chair. The only reason anybody really thinks Obama should run is because everyone knows who he is...and, oh yeah, the Democrats really can't field anyone else.

No, Brook's article was silly for its third paragraph, which says: "Second, he should run because of his age. Obama’s inexperience is his most obvious shortcoming. Over the next four years, the world could face a genocidal civil war in Iraq, a wave of nuclear proliferation, more Islamic extremism and a demagogues’ revolt against globalization. Do we really want a forty-something in the White House?"

If you think the rest of that paragraph is a complete non sequitur to its first sentence, you're not wrong. Brooks goes on to explain this seeming conflict in statements by asserting Obama's youth is actually a strength, since it's endowed him with a unique perspective on the global reality. But I really can't believe that paragraph got through the Times Opinion Editor without a rewrite.

This is a huge problem I have with pretty much all the Times Op-Ed writers. There seems to be a certain arrogance there. Their articles tend to be convoluted exposés that share a lot of characteristics with the Iraq War, or one of my own rants: no clear objective, and no end in sight. I rarely know what a Times Op-Ed piece is about, let alone its POINT, until I'm 2/3s of the way through. To my mind, that's just bad journalism. The Times writers seem to think that because they're writing for the New York Times I'm going to read their brilliant thoughts whether they phrase them succinctly or not, so why bother phrasing them succintly?

Nor is it a phemonenon unique to the New York Times. Over the summer I rented Girl with a Pearl Earring. A smart movie, but not a particularly good one. I found it to be pretty full of itself, a movie that made no effort to entertain me. It was a movie that said, "I'm brilliant, and you're going to watch me till the end whether you enjoy me or not, because you want to be able to say, 'I watched Girl with a Pearl Earring.'" And it was right. I did watch. Till the absolute end. Every last, boring second. You win, G witta PE. I curl in my corner.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Burn your bra then show us your boobs

I consider Judith Warner to be the worst kind of feminist. There are some "feminists" (see: Maureen Dowd) who are so polarized in their opinions that most women know better than to take them too seriously. But there are others who write their opinions with such rationale and restraint that even those in the more introspective region of the female demographic tend to find them persuasive. Judith Warner is one such a person. That, by the way, is a compliment to Mrs. Warner...BACKHAND STYLE!

I suppose I should take a moment to explain what I mean by "feminist," since (as in the case of the "Religious Right" and fightin' words) some women tend to get defensive when they're painted with the "feminist" brush.* I define a "feminist" as someone who places improving the situation of women as a top social priority without promoting integrally-related social goals. For example, feminists tend to view the gender disparities in math and science as a uniquely girl problem rather than an education problem--for them the issue isn't that many of our children are expressing a disinterest towards science and math, but that many of our girls are expressing that disinterest. I understand that this problem does show its particular effects on girls, but I'm also not convinced that, without more, increasing the number of women in the sciences solely for the sake of increasing the number of women in the sciences is a worthwhile social goal. Indeed, I find it to be a little bit sexist.

* ie, Rebecca West: "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute."

But today after reading Warner's column I experienced the benefits of an open mind. Those of you who don't get Times Select won't be able to read it**, but in it Warner describes the prevailing trend this past educational year of colleges revoking acceptance offers to high school seniors who slack off in their final semester. To this ridiculous phenomenon Warner expessly declares: Oh, please. "I think that there may be a real adaptive purpose to 'senioritis.' It may (like sleep) be a necessary physical response to the years – Two? Four? Fourteen? – of personal résumé-building that most students perceive as necessary now to win admission to a choice college. It may, in fact, be a stress-reduction valve that we turn off only at great risk, not just to students, but to colleges and universities as well."

** Though apparently the law students among you can read Times Select articles on LexisNexis; although, I gotta say, Lexis Points notwithstanding, I try to make a habit of avoiding the Lexis site unless I absolutely have to go there.

I have to agree with Warner. In an age where we tend to treat a high school education as a goal to be accomplished on the road towards college admission rather than as an end in itself, can we really act surprised when our high schoolers then neglect their high school education once the goal has been achieved? More importantly, can we then punish them for it? No, you can't create a monster and then whine when it stomps on a few buildings. I'm Lisa Simpson.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Midterm Girl's been living in her midterm world

I just took a midterm. I haven't taken a midterm in, what, 3 years, and it was something of a surreal experience. Closed book. No laptops. An hour to finish. What the fuck is this? It didn't help that a girl sits next to me. I made it about five minutes into a winning essay on the constitutional limitations of In re Kobe Bryant before thinking, "Man she smells pretty good." I felt like Danny Kaffee in A Few Good Men: "Don't wear that perfume in court, it breaks my concentration." This isn't a problem I tpyically have with law school girls. Maybe it's because they don't smell good, or maybe it's because they make you all sit five feet away from each other during exams. If law school girls really wanted to be cutthroat, they'd wear some Ralph Lauren Safari to finals. Yes, I know that's a men's fragrance. It'd confuse the shit out of us.

I sort of understand now why some people think coeducation can distract the men-folk from their studies. In co-eds' defense, I'm going to be distracted from my studies whether there are girls in the classroom or not, so you might as well put some fucking girls in the classroom.* Like on this midterm. There were four questions, and I made it through one before my brain sort of lost interest and started singing Everclear songs and surreptiously smelling girls.

* Or better yet, put some girls fucking in the classroom.

On the way back I got accosted on the Mississippi bridge. Why is it I can't walk across the East Bank campus without being accosted? Today it was by HRC, a gay rights' group, so I didn't mind. It's a cause I believe in. But sometimes I think I don't believe in anything. This guy had me at, "We're a gay advocacy group," but then I started finding myself sort of disagreeing with him. "As you probably know, this summer the Religious Right.." Stop right there, mi compadre. The Religious Right? It doesn't seem like you're trying too hard to rationally bring me over to your point of view. Maybe he was just describing them, since they are religious and on the right, but where I come from the term "Religious Right" is fightin' words. Sort of like when you're stuck behind a car in traffic, and you finally get a good look at the driver, and you growl, "Of course, it's just a stupid Asian." Whoa, that's racist. Is it? I'm just saying they're Asian, which they are. In fact, by saying "stupid Asian" I'm actually complimentating the Asian people as a whole, since I'm suggesting that Asians are not inherently stupid and need the appropriate adjective when the situation calls for it.

Anyway, back to the gay rights kid. He started going on about the gay marriage amendment and how it would be the first time our constitution was amended to categorically limit the rights of a group of people... I started wondering, Is that true? Let's see, well, the 18th limited people's ability to get shitfaced**, but it was a law of general applicability, but it does sort of unfairly discriminate against alcoholics...anyway, I see his point, a gay marriage amendment is just an attempt to legislate the last acceptable form of discrimination...except for fat people, we still sort of discriminate against them, but they deserve it, they take up too much space in Coach, and besides being fat isn't genetic like homosexuality, it's something you can change, well not entirely, and besides some people think homosexuality isn't genetic... Law school's made me a fucking nihilist. I believe in nozhing, Lebowski.

** Alcohol, being necessary to the sanity of a free State, the right of the people to get Shitfaced, shall not be infringed...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Party hearty? More like party hardly

Anybody who knows me knows I do not like my neighbors. I do not like them, Sam I am; I do not like them when they're loud, I do not like them in a crowd. The first year I lived here there were these three girls who lived next to me. Quiet as deaf, tongueless churchmice, you never heard a peep out of them. Then these people moved in. For starters, they apparently can't read, since they tend to throw parties in violation of our lease agreement, which says in big bold letters NO PARTIES. Also, one of them always walks around in a fedora hat. I don't mind fedora hats, but I think it gets a little ridiculous when a person consistently goes that much out of his way to be a unique snowflake.

Over the weekend they came back to the apartment late with about fifteen people (see previous observation concerning the acceptability of party-centered social events). By itself, I wouldn't mind it. They're clearly undergrads. When I was an undergrad, I liked having people over and yelling over each other late at night, too. But the thing is, if you want to live the dorm lifestyle, live in a dorm! Don't move into a building where there are people with kids and jobs that require them to wear shirts with collars.*

The big thing, though, is just that I'm so disappointed in them. Why? They came back to the apartment to party at 11 pm. Who the hell comes BACK to party at 11? When I was in college, 11 was when you LEFT to go party, and you didn't return until 2:30 or 3. These must be the kind of people who show up at an 8 o'clock party at 8:03. So lame. I bet these kids go to Hamline.

* Dangling modifier alert! The jobs require them to wear shirts with collars, not the kids.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Myspace, yourspace, onespace, twospace

I joined myspace this week, ostensibly because various parties beseeched me to but in reality because I like to sexually prey on 16-year-old boys and don't have access to the Congressional page program. Hence my screenname, The Ginger Bread Man. Do you want a cookie to eat, little boy?

Myspace has a feature called the "Top 8," in which you essentially rank your friends by how much you like them. If they're one of your better friends, they get put in the Top 8; otherwise they get relegated to the "View All of the Spermanator's Friends" page with all the other superficial friends you don't really want to talk to. This is serious, people. Not being in someone's Top 8 can destroy friendships. You may think you're good friends with someone, until you check out their Top 8 and discover K-Fed is listed there and you're not. What a horrible system. Myspace may create the illusion that you have lots of Internet friends, but apparently it can come at the expense of your real ones.

This is why I don't want to have a Best Man at my wedding. I can think of at least three people who are all equal contenders to be my Best Man. How can I pick just one? How can I say to my other friends, "This guy's friendship has meant more to me than yours has"? How can I rank my friends like that?

The only good thing about myspace is it can make you feel like you're connecting with people you obviously aren't. I discovered Christine Lakin of Step-by-Step fame has a myspace page*, and she'll add you as her myspace friend! Christine Lakin! If Penny was my first crush, Al Lambert was my first celebrity crush, and now I can add her as my myspace friend! I'm not going to, because that would be...what's the word?...creepy, but I can see that there are lots of guys who aren't held back by such reservations. What an age etc etc.

* How did I discover she had a myspace page? Was I stalking her? Well, I wasn't not stalking her.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Speaking of Inspector Gadget...

...I just learned that Don Adams, the voice of Inspector Gadget in, if not all, then at least many of his incarnations, died last year...ON MY BIRTHDAY. This is like having your birthday on 9/11. Yes, exactly like that. More so than Inspector Gadget, Don Adams was near and dear to my heart as the voice and face of Max Smart from Get Smart, which, interestingly enough, I used to watch on Nick at Nite duiring the same Golden Age as Inspector Gadget.

What's up with cartoon character vocabularies? Cartoon characters always use words I never hear used in real life. Like "imbecile." Imbecile this, imbecile that. "You imbeciles!" I don't think I've ever heard that word used in real life. Or "meddling." "Gadget's meddling neice meddling in my affairs." And "cursed" in its two-syllable variant. There are some others. To their credit, probably the only reason I know what "imbecile" means is from watching cartoons.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wowsers is as wowsers does

Last night I watched a DVD of Inspector Gadget episodes from Netflix. Inspector Gadget was my favorite cartoon growing up, so many years ago. To give you an idea how long ago that was, the Soviet Union still existed, but the Internet didn't. Tom Cruise was considered cool. Nintendo gaming systems cost less than $100 (but maybe that wasn't much, since they only had 8-bit graphics). We didn't have Soundblaster with its realistic sound effects on our PCs; we had MIDIs...but then, most of us didn't have PCs. Commodore 64 or bust.

But it was the Golden Age of kids' cartoons. Men were real men, women were real women. These kids today, that don't know what cartoons can be. When I was growing up, we had REAL cartoons. Inspector Gadget. Thundercats. He-Man. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Voltron. What did I miss? Captain Planet. Dinosaucers, if any of you know what I'm talking about. Count Duckula. Tiny Toons. Batman: the Animated Series, and X-men. Even Disney had better cartoons. Duck Tales. Darkwing Duck. Chip 'n Dale's Rescue Rangers. Tale Spin. The muthaf***ing Gummy Bears. Those were when cartoons were great. But everything went downhill after Power Rangers. How did this show get so popular? It was so transparently the producers' idea of what would happen if Voltron, Godzilla, and the Ninja Turtles had an orgy. But I guess that's the benefit of producing kids' shows. They're too young to know what you're plagiarizing from.

I remember the first time I watched Inspector Gadget. I remember sitting in my parents' living room in Hyde Park as the show came on after Looney Toons. It was the one where Gadget goes to a dinner party at a mansion, and Brain is chased by attack dogs. I remember as the show came on after Looney Tunes and thinking, "What the hell is this?" But I also remember loving it, and spending the next week trying to figure out when it would be on again. 6 pm on Sundays sticks in my mind.

And I remember lying on the couch in our tv room when I had the chicken pox, watching Gadget episodes my parents had rented from the video store on this thing called "Beta." Those were the days, my friend. I thought they'd never end.

The Inspector himself was great and all, but looking back, I think I largely watched the show for Penny. I think I might have had a little crush on Penny. Yes, I'm embarrassed to say when I was five years old, Penny Gadget was my first crush. I had a crush on Penny...and you should have, too. She was cute. She was smart. She was brave. I could go on. She liked dogs. She was doing something with her life. She had that sweet-ass Computer Book. She wasn't much of a dresser, but then, neither was I when I was five. She had those great big anime eyes and that terrific voice. Surely all these positive qualities can compensate for the fact that she wasn't real.

She was also a good role model for girls. She was a strong female character without being tomboyed. True, she did get captured a lot, but she tended to overcome the damsel-in-distress syndrome by escaping via her own resourcefulness. Girls like Penny just don't come into a guy's life often enough.

Last night I found myself wondering what Penny would have been like if she’d been a real person. At school, for example. Was she a social outcast? She seems like a normal enough kid, but she also doesn’t seem to have any friends on the show, and she spends all her time with her weird uncle and talking to her dog. Was she that girl at school who ate by herself at the cafeteria and all the other kids made fun of? Or maybe she was a little aloof toward the other kids. Hard not to be, when you’re fouling the attempts of an international criminal syndicate and your classmates are just learning how to spell “fox.”

And I wonder what she was like as she got older. Did she become a Veronica Mars who, I’ve never watched, but I hear is some sort of high school girl detective? Or maybe she nosedived and became a sorority slut, putting out to frat boys for crack. Who knows? Either way, she probably wasn’t stupid enough to go to law school.

Robot Chicken rules. “I’m too young to have a license, Brain. You drive. You’re a dog.”