Saturday, December 16, 2006

John Barlas "Oblivion"

Oblivion! is it not one name of death?
Nay, is not Lethe death's most dismal name,
Death growing hour by hour within our frame,
Death settling slowly in our brain, the breath
Of the soul ebbing, so that he who saith,
I am to-day as yesterday the same,
Lies, for his thoughts are fled like smoke from flame,
And like the dew his sorrow vanisheth.
Changed is the river, though the waves remain,
Which rocks of slowlier-changing circumstance
Plough up in every day of chafing foam.
Changed is the river, gone, gone to the main,
Yesterday's dream and last year's happy chance,
And the heart's thoughts again return not home.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Am I just really tired or is this sentence as strange as I think it is:

"A state may not, consistent with the Supremacy Clause, lay a tax “directly upon the United States”...What the court cases leave room for, then, is the conclusion that tax immunity is appropriate in only one circumstance: when the levy falls on the United States itself [or an a closely connected agency or instrumentality]."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Casebook and Exams

I might as well go on and continue to complain about how absolutely ridiculous law school can be.

Today's Topic: The Casebook and Exams

Where to start. In law school we do not have "textbooks" (e.g., something that explains the material outright). We have "casebooks." The casebook is supposed to be a way for people to think for themselves and it is supposed to mimic the real life research methods of lawers. It consists of edited down cases placed one after another. From these cases (which come from all over the country) you are supposed to put everything together in your head so you can answer the legal issues presented by the exam.

But casebook writers realized that they could not just put cases in the book. To teach an entire area of law would require too many cases. Instead, they came up with the idea of putting "notes" after the cases. These notes are supposed to fill in the blanks, ask questions etc.

So what we have now is a big disorganized piece of shit. Some casebooks have as many notes as they do cases. What do I call this? A textbook in denial. I hate the textbook in denial. It is a terrible way to present information.

To give an example, we read 640 pages in constitutional law this year. The notes are absolutely backbreaking. Sometimes the notes can be over twenty pages long and list case after case with their respective dissents and concurrences.

But this is what makes it ridiculous: my conlaw exam is only 3 hours (and the only grade for the year)! If one types roughly 60 words a minute, that is about 10,000 words. Of course, you need a lot of time to think and read the exam, so you can assume it is between 6,000 and 8,000. Why is so much information presented that can't be used? Is it for my edification? I am all about learning the history of constitutional law, but If I need to brush up on conlaw (or anything else for that matter) a casebook is the LAST place I or anyone else would go. And is this really the best time to introduce the dissent in U.S. v. **** from 1810 which was overruled in 1811 when a law student has 10-13 other credits and other bloated casebooks to deal with ?

What is the point? Is it there to throw too much information in our faces to see who can sort out what is important?

I want to do well in this class and read every note and case. But as I prepare I have to ask myself with every paragraph "am I realistically going to be able to use this?"

And then these idiots wonder why students rely so much on commercial outlines.

One of my professors said something interesting the other day that helps me make sense of all of this. His exam is extremely long and we only have three hours to do it. He told us that the reason why the time limit is so short is because the longer he makes it, the closer together the scores will be. I though this shed a lot of light on law school and its methods. We are all very close in intelligence, and some of this stuff just isn't that complicated, therefore the school has to make things as artificially complicated as possible so they can sort us out by grades. That is fine, but it means that the real difference between an A and a B+ (or worse) in that class is a person's speed (and general test taking ability). So that person gets the A, but does it really mean he is smarter or in any way better off than the person who gets the B+?

To give an example, I took an exam today and was very careful with time. 7 minutes a question. The girl next to me didn't finish. I will almost definitely get a higher grade then her unless I completely messed up. But should I have a higher grade then her just because I timed myself better? Does it mean that I will be a better lawyer? Does it mean that I know more about the subject than her?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Preperation for Adversity

The concept of preparation for adversity is merely a dishonest tool.

I have been waiting for an example of this logic to come up so I could write about. It did not take long:

"What is the right learning environment for today's law students...lawyers live in an Alpha Wolf world, and the sooner we prepare our students for that reality, the better."

This argument has one role: to justify asshole behavior throughout the ages. There has not been one stage in my life where some authority figure hasn't said "things aren't this bad now, but since they may be bad later, we have to make them bad now, otherwise you will not be prepared." I remember vividly my elementary school teachers justifying some of what they were doing because "in middle school things are going to be much tougher."

This argument assumes that a person will not be prepared for adversity until they experience adversity, which is not true at all (as I explain here in a different context). In fact, experiencing adversity early may make us less able to face adversity in the future because it may make us disillusioned. In addition, one could argue that if we start with the proposition that the "real world" will be "alpha," we can argue that law school should be "alpha." But since law school should be Alpha, then college has to be too. But if college has to be rough, then high school should be too.

The argument that one has to be "prepared" for adversity is nothing more than an easy justification for people to be assholes to each other.

We should have more confidence in our fellow human beings. Many brave soldiers fought in WWII without being prepared their whole lives for death and carnage. Human beings are built to handle adversity. They don't have to be prepared.

Law School

From a guide about breaking into teaching law:

"At least until the turn of the century, the vast majority of lawyers obtained their education on the job, essentially as apprentices, while others studied in proprietary law schools (like Litchfield, in Connecticut) and a few obtained an education at law departments in universities like Harvard and Columbia. From the standpoint of traditional arts and sciences faculties at universities, law looked like a "trade" – again in the pejorative sense – and not an academic discipline. After Langdell at Harvard mounted a massive public relations effort to enhance the prestige of legal education, more universities opened law schools, but they were often considered stepchildren by the rest of the university. It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not entirely incorrect to say that the legal academy has for this reason always had a bit of an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the wider university, and has sought to defend itself against allegations of being a "mere" trade school by mimicking the standards of other university departments. If it helps to personify the legal academy, imagine it holding up a law review article and saying to the university, "Look here, we can produce turgid prose with lots of footnotes, just like you!" The attempt to gain standing in the eyes of the university helps explain the sexiness of interdisciplinary scholarship like law and economics, law and social science, law and philosophy, postmodern legal theory (drawing from literary criticism, cultural studies, and some branches of sociology and anthropology), and so on. "

Some thoughts:
1. The "inferiority" complex' described above is probably the worst thing about legal academia. It is the reason why we don't learn anything in law school that we can use in practice. It is the reason why law school is three years long instead of one or two. Hardly anyone can defend the third year of law school, but its reason for being there is obvious - it is one year longer than a masters degree (and it is another 30,000+ dollars from every student).

Recently some schools have been changing their curriculum, but I think the changes have to be drastic. So far Stanford's looks like the best to me (from here):

"Stanford unveiled its new "3D" JD plan earlier this week. The new program -- which Dean Larry Kramer hopes will be completed in 2009 -- will focus on making changes to the second and third years of law school. Stanford plans to integrate the JD curriculum with other university departments, allow for more than 20 joint degree programs, and create more opportunities for team learning."

2. I also find this interesting:

"A substantial percentage of plausible teaching candidates comes from only 4 schools – Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Chicago...Getting a teaching position with a J.D. from a school significantly farther down the food chain would be akin to walking on water, unless you are #1 in your class, have a graduate degree in law or some other discipline, and have a record of good publications."

If there is one thing I was not prepared for in law school it was how much school prestige would become an important factor in my life.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Best Pre-Law Major?

What is the best pre-law major? A lot of people ask this question, and a lot of people are tragically misled. Most people think: “what will prepare me best” but that is the wrong question to be asking. When you pick your pre-law major you should be asking “what will set me apart and what will help me get a job.”

I think a "pre-law" major is a tragic missed opportunity. You have one shot at an undergraduate degree. In law school you will learn more law than you will need. You will have three years to study the Constitution and hone your legal logic. There is no reason to “prepare” for this three year preparation. No undergraduate major will give you an “edge” over your classmates since all of the material will be new to everyone. Use your undergraduate degree to set yourself apart and gain a skill in something in case you decide not to go to law school.

I learned this lesson when I began to look at job postings. Many of them require and undergraduate degree in the sciences or in business. A unique undergraduate degree is a great way to break in to the job market. For instance a degree in computer science could be valuable to a firm with clients in the computer business.

While I have never sat in on a law school admissions committee, I would imagine that in a pool of 50 candidates, if 49 are liberal arts majors and one is a science major, that science major will stick out much more.

Majoring in something like “pre-law” is wasting an opportunity to set yourself apart from your peers both when it comes to getting into law school and (more importantly) getting a job afterwards. I majored in philosophy, and while I more than happy with that decision (if any major prepares you for law, it is philosophy), I do wish now that I had double majored.

If you are sure that you want to major in one of the liberal arts, then do it because you love the subject, and not because you think it will pay off in law school.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Many Pages Now and Lost Opportunities Then

As I spend my Thanksgiving break frantically preparing for my exams I am once again overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material we have gone over. When I turn to the beginning of the course to start memorizing I feel like someone else has written the notes in the margins of my books, and someone else has typed up the close to 400 pages in case summaries. I tallied up 3 out of my 4 classes, and we have gone over more than 2,000 pages of dense, chaotic legal material (my fourth was more scattered so I didn't count it up, though it probably amounts to about 500 pages). Two of the courses are closed book, meaning all of that has to be memorized cold by the second week of December.

It makes me regret my undergraduate study habits. If I put just half of the energy into my undergraduate studies that I put into law school I would have been in the top %20 of my class if not better. What makes the regret so strong is that in college you were rewarded in proportion to the amount of work you put into the course. I was never once disappointed after working hard. This is not the case in law school.

I think there are two reasons for my not working hard in Undergrad - My unhappiness and my peer group. I was always unhappy, and one of my weaknesses is that I cannot work well when I am unhappy. I don't think there is any excuse for it but that is the way I am. As for my peer group, there were always a few kids in every class you could look at and say "at least I am not in his position," meaning you could always count on a few to do absolutely nothing - so if you just went to class and paid attention you were ahead of a few. That cushion does not exist in law school, and its absence has been one of the best things to ever happen to me.

But the lost opportunities due to my bad grades are manifold!

On another note, while I am overjoyed at my newfound academic discipline, I am worried about what it is doing to me as a person. I feel more and more alienated from those around me. I am spending so little time around people that I feel like I am losing the ability to relate to other human beings. I guess it will have to wait until after the bar exam...

Monday, November 13, 2006

On the Uses of Fear

"The Myasishchev-4 (M-4) went into serial production in 1954 but was a huge disappointment. It lacked the range to hit American targets because Myasishchev could not devise a reliable method to refuel the plane.
The Kremlin watched with Glee as a very helpful discussion of Soviet Bomber technology subsequently broke into the open in the United States. Led by Missouri Senator Stuart Symington, a former secretary of the Air Force under Truman with presidential ambitions, some congressman began decrying a strategic “bomber gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union. “It is now clear,” said Symington, “that the United States, along with the rest of the free world, may have lost control of the air.” Despite assurances from the Eisenhower administration that the U.S. Air Force remained ahead of the Soviets, some journalists and legislators began throwing around extravagant assumptions about the capabilities of the M-4
[...]Bulganin and Zhukov were given the task of preparing a major air show for Soviet aviation day on July 13. The country’s entire fleet of three or four M-4’s was to be flown in wide circles around Tushino Airport to convey the impression that the Soviet Union had at least 28 of them."

Kruschev’s Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary by Aleksander Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, p 41-41

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Plan

Maybe I am just paranoid, but I have been thinking lately that part of Bush’s strategy is to lay blame for the Iraq war on the Democrats. Perhaps he has wanted to change course for some time, but waited for the Democrats to get in control of Congress to do so. That way it looks like he would have “stayed the course,” but those disloyal democrats came in and forced his hand.

If the new strategy (if there is one) does not work out, I have a feeling that all of the blame will fall on the Democrats. I am sure the Republican party has their strategy prepared for a backlash – “look the Democrats could not do any better” and especially the oldy but goody “we would have won but not for the disloyalty of those at home.” Pulling out of Iraq may be the messiest part of this whole affair. This is when we will see the true adverse effects of the war – perhaps total civil war, fundamentalism, Iranian control etc., and it will all occur under a democratically controlled legislative branch.

I find the republican position that we would have won Iraq (and Vietnam) if only people had been more loyal to be problematic. First, no one would deny that if we were to put all of the resources of the U.S. behind the war effort on a World War II scale and fight this war in the most brutal manner humanly possible, then we could probably win. However, to “win” in that manner won’t be much a victory. We would go down as a brutal and ruthless country, and if we were ever in a position of weakness, the world would remember our actions.

Second, this implies that anything is militarily possible, but look at the example of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There was a country that could keep everything secret from the press and devote as much resources to the conflict as it saw fit and it still lost. There was no press to blame, it was just not militarily possible for the Soviet Union to subjugate Afghanistan.

I have always been opposed to the Iraq war both on strategic and moral grounds. Even if you are the paradigm of the flag waving Republican, you had to see that we were not going to be greeted as liberators. The other day I was watching the scene from Band of Brothers where the American soldiers enter an occupied town, and everyone has come out with flowers and the girls are all going crazy for the soldiers. I thought that this would be the perfect tool to use to explain to the American mentality to Europeans and others. This image is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. It drives American foreign policy as well as American behavior abroad. It will be interesting to see just what it will take for Americans to realize that this is not longer the case (and maybe never really was but for one brief moment).

ADDENDUM - I just came across a detailed exploration of this idea here. Aptly titled: "Tin-foil hat time: Were Bush and Rove "The Producers" of an intentional flop?"

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I am going to a lecture about Melville later today. I looked up one of the lecturer's articles and came across this:

"One of the implications was that literature was no more or less worthy of study than any other semiotic system; fashion, gestures, sports could now serve as a "text" for the game of interpretation. But this view soon lost its playfulness, and turned into the dogma that literature, like any constructed system of meaning, must be assessed in relation to this or that "identity" (race, class, gender, etc.) to the exclusion of every other point of view. Here began in earnest the fragmentation of literary studies that is so evident today—and that has left a legacy of acrimony, and of intellectual and professional fatigue.
Deconstruction can also be seen as simply another phase in the continuing effort by literary studies to get respect from "hard" disciplines by deploying a specialized vocabulary of its own.
The field of English has become, to use a term given currency twenty-five years ago by the redoubtable Stanley Fish, a "self-consuming artifact." On the one hand, it has lost the capacity to put forward persuasive judgments; on the other hand, it is stuffed with dogma and dogmatists. It has paid overdue attention to minority writers, but, as Lynn Hunt notes in her essay in What's Happened to the Humanities?, it (along with the humanities in general) has failed to attract many minority students. It regards the idea of progress as a pernicious myth, but never have there been so many critics so sure that they represent so much progress over their predecessors. It distrusts science, but it yearns to be scientific—as attested by the notorious recent "Sokal hoax," in which a physicist submitted a deliberately fraudulent article full of pseudoscientific gibberish to a leading cultural-studies journal, which promptly published it. It denounces the mass media for pandering to the public with pitches and slogans, but it cannot get enough of mass culture. The louder it cries about the high political stakes in its own squabbles, the less connection it maintains to anything resembling real politics. And by failing to promote literature as a means by which students may become aware of their unexamined assumptions and glimpse worlds different from their own, the self-consciously radical English department has become a force for conservatism.
"In what is perhaps the largest irony of all, the teaching of English has been penetrated, even saturated, by the market mentality it decries. The theory factory (yesterday's theory is deficient, today's is new and improved) has become expert in planned obsolescence. And though English departments are losing the competition for students, they have not resisted the consumerism of the contemporary university, where student-satisfaction surveys drive grade inflation (it is the rare student whose satisfaction is immune to a low grade), and the high enrollments on which departments depend for lobbying power with the administration can sometimes be propped up by turning education into entertainment."

Sunday, November 05, 2006


See Also,1518,439766,00.html

Based on just my experience in the workforce right after college, I knew all of these things to be true. While the news channels spout statistics about US employment and economic growth, I have witnessed something different happening.

To begin, know of the experience of my grandparents is vastly different from my own generation. Back then, you graduated from high school, got a job, a house, and started a family. For just about everyone I know, that is something that is seems plain impossible now. They call this the “Boomerang Generation” because so many people are going back to live at home, but I don’t think the reasons for that are social. It is because getting a good job right out of school, and making enough to support your own home is tough. According to statistics though, we are supposed to be a much wealthier country than we were in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but somehow it does not seem that way.

There is a misconception in blue collar society that gives people the false belief that once you have a college degree you are made, but that is not the case. I graduated into a world of service jobs – something I did not foresee. When I began looking for employment I quickly found out that the only jobs available were demeaning and extremely low paying service jobs. Answering phones, waiting tables or working a cash register (did all three). It was truly a life changing experience. I had been told my whole life to stay away from the trades and get a college degree, but it turned out to be nothing more than student loan debt, a ticket to a cubicle and lower pay than if I had learned a trade.

I am extremely critical of the service economy, and I believe it is at the bottom of many of our social ills. When people have meaningful or well paying jobs, they are more content. But every year we lose those jobs and they are replaced with service jobs that consist of performing repetitive tasks for eight hours a day. Why are so many in the inner cities not working? I think that is an easy one. Look at what they are being asked to do – work a service job, slaving for the public to make peanuts. The fact is that many people would rather be homeless than choose that lifestyle. How can the independence and excitement of crime compete with answering a phone and performing the same process every minute for eight hours with no potential for wage growth?

What I have done personally about this situation is that I have gone double or nothing by going to law school (probably the reason why the majority of people go to law school). By the time I graduate I will have $160,000 in debt, and most of it is private. Since I did not place in the top %10-20 of my class, my job prospects are dismal to say the least (not something many people know about law school).

I have been looking to bankruptcy law lately for some of these reasons. Not only would I completely believe in what I am doing, but if I am right about the economic situation, there will come a time when bankruptcy lawyers will be very much in demand.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Preliminary thoughts on Howard Greenfield’s “The Devil and Dr. Barnes: Portrait of an American Art Collector”

I had always heard about “The Barnes” but I never really understood what it was until I started working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was on an employee tour that I really became interested. Whoever was giving the tour mentioned that the massive Barnes art collection was not in the art Museum because Dr. Barnes despised the wealthy Philadelphians of his age, and did not want them to appropriate the art of his museum.

This made me interested, but of course, the story is far more complicated. I usually form my opinion on things quickly, but now even 3/4 of the way through this book I am not sure which side I am on. On the hand, Barnes confronted many of the problems I saw the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While working for the museum, I was constantly calling its role into question. What is this museum here for? It is a place for the wealthy to have their “gala” events and parties after hours? Or is it a democratic utopia like on Sundays when visitors are allowed to pay what they wish?

My biggest concern with the Museum was what I call its “manifest destiny” attitude. Pack in as many visitors as possible. Sell them memberships – more, more and more. There is a feeling at the museum that at any moment the floor will fall, the museum will go bankrupt and it will all be over. I bought into this. But then how to explain all of the expansion plans? The museum plans to increase its size considerably, and has, through a donor, attained a property next to it. Does the museum need to be bigger? My guess is that it does to the people in charge because it affects their reputation. There is already more in the art museum than you could possibly enjoy in several visits. What is this insatiable need for expansion and money?

One criticism is that the Barnes is not “democratic.” With its stringent admission policies, it seems this way. But should it be democratic? One thing that troubled me while working in the museum was how little the visitors seemed to care about the art. Many people seemed to treat it like a walk in a nice park. Instead of enjoying the art, they seemed to be more concerned with seeing everything, and of course their attention is always drawn to the obvious. They come in, burn themselves out in about two galleries and then leave.

Barnes always claimed his museum was for working people. People who claimed a working class background were always admitted, and some wealthy people even lied about their background to get in. At the same time, he said his museum was not for the “rabble.” He intended his museum to be a school, where people would come in and take the art seriously. But then how to explain him kicking people out for criticizing the collection? Should people who go to museums be forced into an educational experience?

Right now I am leaning against Barnes’s philosophy. We always want people to take our passions as seriously as we do. When I talk to people about legal issues now I always expect them to have done legal research before they give me criticisms about the infamous “coffee spill” incident. A lot of people have strange notions about the law, and they repeat them wherever they go. A good example is “if you ask an undercover cop if he is a cop and he says no it is entrapment.” I have to remember that everyone doesn’t have time to do legal research before they open their mouth about the law, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to talk about it.

In the same way, I saw a lot of people just breeze through the museum and spend 3-4 seconds on paintings that one could spend weeks studying – but they leave happy. If we forced people into classes to view art it would probably ruin it for them. Just because art was Dr. Barnes’s passion does not mean everyone should dedicate their lives to it in order to enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I love that blissful period after you change your email address when you don’t get any spam mails. Recently I changed the gmail, and it has been some time since I received spam. Today however, a new period in the history of my gmail account was ushered in with these words:

“Stuppid but girlss going crazyy with horses and giannt ______! Animall_like F_____ orggies!”

"Animal F___ Orgy" may be a good name for my next metal band. Maybe "Satanic Animal F___ Orgy."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Talking Sense

“Back when kids just got a good night’s sleep and took the SAT, it was a leveler that helped you find the diamond in the rough. Now that most of the great scores are affluent kids with lots of preparation, it just increases the gap between the haves and the have-nots.’’


Monday, August 14, 2006


There is a review of Slayer's new album in the New York times. It's a good review, and it says something about metal that I have been trying to convince people of for a long time - that metal bands, in all of their violent lyrics, are just singing (screaming, growling) about things that "respectable" people in suits ACTUALLY DO. That is the big difference. The soccer mom can look at a Lamb of God video and be disgusted, but it is the people in suits who are actually doing the things the band is singing about. However, since these brutal things are done by wealthy people in suits, it does not draw the same disgusted response. Metal is an art form that puts all of humanities worst traits on display in a manner that does not ameliorate anything, even if it means venturing into hyperbole. Like the review says, some take comfort in pessimism.

Another point I always try to make is that metal bands, for some reason, have this aura of conservatism even though in all of my time listening to metal I cannot name one conservative metal band. I remember a review of an Opeth (female led, extremely anti-war band) album in the metro which said "in this usually conservative genre, Opeth is anti war," which is not accurate. Metal bands are overwhelmingly left wing. Master of Puppets, considered by many to be the best metal album of all time, is entirely an anti-war album (as is "Justice for All," Metallica's next CD). Lamb of God's last album was also entirely anti-war, and even features a voice over of a marine describing some of things done in Iraq. These are some lyrics:

"Bombs to set the people free, blood to feed the dollar tree,
Flags for coffins on the screen, oil for the machine.
Army of liberation, gunpoint indoctrination,
The fires of sedation,
Fulfill the prophecy.
Now you've got something to die for,
Send the children to the fire, sons and daughters stack the pyre,
Stoke the flame of the empire, live to lie another day,
Face of hypocrisy, raping democracy,
Apocalyptic, we count the days."

Metal was made and flourished in the Reagan years, and some even attribute the rise of conservatism in America with the rise of metal. To this day, Gwar brings the "Reaganator" robot out on stage, which it slays in effigy (as well as George Bush, and at the concert I saw - Pope Ratzinger).

These bands are not trying to save the world, like any other art form, they are merely portraying something.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fearul Symmetry

“What,” it will be Question'd, “When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?” O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

"The Hallelujah-Chorus perception of the sun makes it a far more real sun than the guinea-sun, because more imagination has gone into perceiving it. Why, then, should intelligent men reject its reality? Because they hope that in the guinea-sun they will find their least common denominator and arrive at a common agreement which will point the way to a reality about the sun independent of their perception of it. The guinea-sun is a sensation assimilated to a general, impersonal, abstract idea. Blake can see it if he wants to, but when he sees the angels, he is not seeing more “in” the sun but more of it. He does not see it “emotionally:” There is greater emotional intensity in his perception, but it is not an emotional perception: such a thing is impossible, and to the extent that it is possible it would produce only a confided and maudlin blur-which is exactly what the guinea-sun of “common sense” is. He sees all that he can see of all that he wants to see; the perceivers of the guinea-sun see all that they want to see of all that they can see.

[...]Blake calls the sum of experiences common to normal minds the 'ratio.”

Northrope Frye, "Fearul Symmetry: A Study of William Blake."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Con

From Today's Email

Good Day,

I hope that this proposal will not be an inconvenience or embarrassment to you. I must not hesitate to confide in you this simple and sincere request business for our mutual benefit. I am James Nimely ,the son of the late Mr. Steve Nimely from Republic of Liberia.My father was a prosperous Gold and Diamond merchant in Monrovia,capital of the Republic of Liberia, my father is a very good friend of our former president Charles Talyor. My family was attacked by unknown assassins .My mother and sister died instantly but my father died after five days in a private hospital. I didn't know that my father was going to leave me after I had lost my mother
and sister. Before my father gave up the ghost,He secretly disclosed to me that he deposited the sum of US$7,000,000.00 (Seven Million US Dollars) in a private finance and security company in DAKAR the capital city of SENEGAL.

I'm presently in Senegal but since I has no experience or interest in this type of business he advised me to seek a reliable and trust worthy business partner who will assist me to secure and transfer this funds abroad strictly for investment purposes and for guidance.Now I am soliciting for your assistance to help me to secure and transfer this fund to your account holding on my behalf and aid me to leave Africa and invest this fund in any meaningful lucrative business in your country. You shall be entitled to a significant portion of the fund..

Waiting anxiously to hear from you so that we can discuss the modalities of this transaction. Thanks for your kind attention and expected positive response.

Yours Sincerely,

James Nimely.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


“Yet by this time [late 1800s] rulers the rulers of the advanced states of Europe, with more or less reluctance, were beginning to recognize not only that 'democracy,' i.e., parliamentary constitution based on a wide suffrage, was inevitable, but also that it would probably be a nuisance but politically harmless. This discovery had long since been made by the rulers of the United States.”

Eric Hobsbawm "The Age of Capital 1848-1875" p. 3

Bush's Tax Policy: A Return to a Former Time

"In his capacity as protector, the noble earned exemption from direct taxation by poll or hearth-tax, although not from the aids or sales taxes. These, however, took proportionately more from the poor than from the rich. The assumption was that taxpaying was ignoble...Taxation like usury rested on principles that were anything but clearly defined and so muddled by ad hoc additions, exemptions, and arrangements that it was impossible to count on a definite amount of returns."

Barbara W. Tuchman “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” p. 15.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Church of the Free Market I

“[T]he question of what part institutional or legal changes play in fostering or hindering economic development is too complex for the simple mid-nineteenth century formula: “liberalization creates economic progress.” The era of expansion had already begun even before the Corn Laws were repealed in britain in 1846. No doubt liberalization brought all sorts of specific positive results. Thus Copenhagen began to develop rather more rapidly as a city after the abolition of the “Sound Tolls” which discouraged shipping from entering the Baltic (1957). But how far the global movement to liberalize was cause, concomitant or consequence of economic expansion must be left an open question. The only certain thing is that, when other bases for capitalist development were lacking, it did not achieve much by itself. Nobody liberalized more radically than the Republic of New Granada (Columbia) between 1848 and 1854, but who will say that the great hopes of prosperity of its statemen were realized immediately or at all?”

Eric Hobsbawm “The Age of Capital 1848-1875” p. 37-38

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The most Annoying Cliche

Sometimes, after it has finished creating a cliche, the press will do everything in its power to maintain that cliché despite that annoying thing called reality. In the early nineties the press created the cliché of the Russian person; he or she does not have access to basic necessities, he or she has never seen a microwave or a televison. Russians live in cramped apartment buildings and basically spend their day dreaming of coming to America so they can stand wide mouthed in front of a supermarket.

I don't know what it is about this cliché, but the press just absolutely adores it. There is no force on the planet that could ever dissaude them from using. Never been to Russia? Need to write about something Russian? No problem, just stick to the cliche. Even if you have been to Russia and you saw something else; stick to the cliche.

It is no wonder that my wife is overcome by moronic questions (do you guys have TV?) when she meets new people. Today in the the local paper (3rd grade reading level) there is a perfect example of this. It was a nice story about children coming here from Belarus to get medical attention. Of course, the writer has to drive home the idea that every Slavic person would murder their own grandmother to come to America

“They stood transfixed by the throng of well-fed Americans in bright, clean clothes. Everything, from the groomed lawns on Summit Avenue to the shiny new cars parked along the street, was new to the children, who live in the radioactive fallout of the Chernobyl disaster.”

What is with all of the malnourishment stuff? My wife's family, a normal working class Ukrainian family, eats better than we do in America. Their diets are hearty, and their meals are not laden with sugar like the food here. My wife spends a great deal of time in supermarkets trying to find food that isn't synthetic or loaded with sugar. White bread, as we eat it here, would be unheard of in Ukraine. If I took a loaf of Wonder Bread to Ukraine they would probably think it was a joke or some mistake made by a novice bread maker. However, you will never read anything like this in an American newspaper. If this writer did an expose on my wife's family, he would write “this family has American flags hanging up all over their house. They haven't eaten in days. On top of their TV is a picture of a Pop Tart that they worship. They have yet to see an automobile, though they have heard of the horseless carriage. When they do get food, it is food that they have grown themselves without pesticides, and horrible bread that is dark and heavy.”

This has broader implications. Americans think they are more free and richer than anyone in the world. On paper we are richer than England for instance, but in England they have universal healthcare and college tuition that they won't be paying back for the rest of their lives. According to this weeks Economist, America is one of the most unequal countries in the world. But the average American does not know that. The average American truly thinks that they don't have cars in Italy, and that anyone would kill to get to this country.

Monday, June 19, 2006


The original Song Laibach was making fun of.

The Laibach version

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ukrainian Stamps

Two Good Posts

on the shortcomings of legal education, and

taxation during wartime

"Politicians have chosen to fight without increasing revenue, imposing rationing, or deferring projects and activities...I happen to think that politicians are reluctant to do what needs to be done because they are more concerned about maintaining their position in office...So our national leaders have chosen to put the cost of the current war on our children and grandchildren. "

I am surprised that this idea never occurred to me. Borrowing to finance the war in Iraq is a brilliant move on Bush's part because it keeps us from feeling the true impact of the war. If, as this professor suggests, the cost of the war were taken out of the economy, it would have a drastic effect on our daily lives. If only Ghandi had known - gas rationing will stop a war faster than childish arguments about “death” and “needless suffering.” Take away people’s ability to spend their weekends buying useless shit at the mall and you may have a revolutionary situation. This might be a good strategy for the democratic party, but I doubt they would ever interfere with the American public's ability to shop.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Preliminary Thoughts

I would not want to judge all works of art by how well they “make strange” because doing so would exclude a portion of the art that I enjoy. To judge art in such a manner would be too harsh. Sometimes we like a piece of art because it reminds us of something. I would call this “nostalgia.” We could enjoy a certain kind of movie because it reminds us of the first time the genre made something strange for us, or because the movie reinforces images that we just like to have reinforced. Noir would be my example of this. It is an extremely limited genre, yet it only takes a small variation to make it interesting. L.A. Confidential is a typical noir film, yet it is a great film as well. Ultimately, I would like to use these theories to show that repetitively viewing formulaic movies and sitcoms is a bad thing because they reinforce automization, but by doing so I will be condemning some of my own tastes.

I am fascinated by these views because I think they have implications that extend well beyond literature and poetry. I think we are constantly fighting the process of “automization,” and it is a losing battle. Anything that can make us stop and begin to enjoy and appreciate our existence is invaluable. I think reading this stuff has made me realize why I watch movies, read books, or listen to music. Repetition is painful to me. The same reason why I found answering phones at the Art Museum excruciating is the reason why I cannot abide formulaic action movies. My mind rebels. I remember as a kid my father getting mad at me because every time he took me to play baseball I wanted to make up new games or variations on the game.

Variation also does not have to be extreme. The formalists like to point to a lot of extreme examples such as Trsistam Shandy or Finnegans Wake. While these examples are helpful to describe what the formalists stand for, they are extreme examples that are not the norm. Perhaps the best variations are the subtle ones; the variations that occur almost without us noticing them.

The question I ultimately want answered is whether these theories really can set a standard for what is good art. Am I being a snob by calling out people who can watch the same action movies with different characters over and over again? Is their taste any better or worse than mine?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Makin' Strange

“Shklovsky’s theory of ‘making strange’ the object depicted switched the emphasis from the poetic use of the image to the function of poetic art. The trope was seen here as one of the devices at the poet’s disposal, exemplifying the general tendancy of poetry, indeed all art. The transfer of the object to the sphere of new perception, that is a sui generic “semantic shift” effected by trope, was proclaimed as the principle aim, the raison d’etre of poetry.

“People living at the seashore,” wrote shlovsky, “grow so accustom to the murmur of the waves that they never hear it. By the same token, we scarcely ever hear words which we utter…We look at each other, but we do not see each other anymore. Our perception of the world has withered away, what has remained is mere recognition."

It is this inexorable pull of routine, of habit, that the artist is called upon to counteract. By tearing the object out of its habitual context, by bringing together disparate notions, the poet gives a coup de grace to the verbal cliché and to the stock responses attendant upon it and forces into heightened of things and their sensory texture. The act of creative deformation restores sharpness to our perception, giving density (faktura) to the world around us. “Density is the principle characteristic of this peculiar world of deliberately constructed objects, the totality of which we call art.”

Making strange did not necessarily entail substituting the elaborate for the simple; it could mean just as well the reverse”

“But on the whole, Shklovsky’s argument was more typical of Formalism as a rationale for poetic experimentation than as systematic methodology of literary scholarship. The formalist attempt to solve the fundamental problems of literary theory in close alliance with modern linguistics and semiotics found its most succinct expression in the studies of Roman Jakobson.

‘The function of poetry,’ wrote Jakobsen in 1933, ‘is to point out that the sign is not identical with its referent. Why do we need this reminder? ‘Because’ Jakobsen continued, ‘along with the awreness of the identity of the sign and the referent (A is to A1), we need the consciousness of the inadequacy of this identity (A is not A1); this antinomy is essential, since without it the connection between the sign and the object becomes automatized and the perception of reality withers away.”

Russian Formalism History – Doctrine by Victor Erlich p. 176-181


Остранение - Остранение - выделение того или иного предмета или явления из привычного контекста, чтобы отнестись к нему как к новому, увидеть в нем новые свойства. При учете этого эффекта строил свою концепцию эстетического восприятия Д. Дьюи - . Б. Брехт определял данный эффект следующим образом: ""вещь... из привычной, известной... превращается в особенную, бросающуюся в глаза, неожиданную. Само собой разумеющееся становится непонятным, но это делается лишь для того, чтобы оно стало более понятным"".
Шкловский В.Б. Теория прозы. М., 1925.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Some Semiotics

Views on Literature

Viktor Shklovsky: The devices of art have the central function of "making strange," causing a renewal of perception against the background of the process of automation in which we become used to everyday actions and perceptions.

Yuri Tynyanov – “Theory of Literary Evolution” – Literature is a system whose devices tend to become automated…as a consequence new innovative devices are introduced within the system to guarantee its literariness.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Estate Tax Bullshit

"The mere fact that the prospect of permanently repealing the Estates tax is on the table is deeply troubling enough, and speaks volumes about the current ills of democracy in America. In particular the extent to which a few wealthy families can wield so much political power."


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Moscow Stories - Loren Graham

I finished “Moscow Stories” by Loren Graham today. I picked it up at random at my local public library, which surprisingly stills carries books and not just trashy DVDs. The book seemed to be unexceptional at first glance; an American scientist writes about his experiences in Russia from 1960 to 2005. However, the book turned out to be something more than a tourist mundanely relating his experiences. Graham lived and studied in the Soviet Union at a time when very few people could, and he writes about not only what he saw, but also his friendships at the time, and how those friendships eventually turned out. A interesting story about an amazing life.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ben Stein

"In many U.S. states, if you rob a convenience store with a gun and get $40, you go to prison for 20 years and you should. If you sell marijuana and are caught three times, you go to prison in some states for life -- even if no one was really injured. If you're a black kid who steals a bicycle, you go to jail in many places.

But what if you use cunning stock-option plays to unethically make hundreds of millions? Then, you get a Gulfstream Jet, ski chalets, and nine-figure bank accounts. "


"Users could download as many of the songs and films as they liked after paying a four lev ($2.50) monthly fee. Authorities estimate the damage to the entertainment industry at around $30 million." The rest is here.

I hate when they do this. They always "estimate" the damage to the music industry. Something tells me that when they do this they calculate it so it is as if everyone who downloaded the song would have purchased it if they were not able to download it. Pure bullshit. I imagine the actual amount of people who would have purchased the CD but decided not to becuase they could download it is ridiculously low.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Treading Air

A lot of my favorite books are the kind that span two generations. By the end of the book, you feel as though the events that occurred in the beginning are as distant as your own earliest memories. The span of time that goes from pre to post-soviet rule in Estonia provides a great setting for this kind of story because of the contrast of those years.

This book describes the German and then subsequent Soviet take over of Estonia well. The main character is in the midst of many of these events and historical personalities. The book is written about, and around Estonian history, but that does not detract from the universal aspects of the story – such as all of the things that can conspire to thwart potential ranging from asshole family members to geopolitical events. At the same time though, the characters do not seem to be in the position to dwell on their fate. That probably would have ruined the story. A lesser writer probably would have driven the point home ad nauseum. The further away from the black and white take on reality the closer you get to literature.


“He was dosing off on Charlotte’s couch, when the thought had suddenly struck him: God could simply be playing a trick on me! He could exist after all – but will refrain from punishing me for my theft and lies until I am no longer able to associate the punishment with my deeds!
I asked: “And how did you get out of that one?”
He said: “On that occasion – simply by forgetting.”
p. 27

Instead of offering them oral and financial support, which he undoubtedly could have afforded, Uncle Joonas announced (and there were always ears to hear, and mouths to discuss such information) that his sister in law and her son were themselves to blame for their misfortune, well, not chiefly to blame, but certainly in part. But he, Dr. Berends, was said to treat them on the same premise as he did his patients. He would not treat alcoholics since they were largely to blame for their own misfortune.

p. 106

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Law School

First year is finished.


Keep gas prices high.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fuck Your Goji Berries Lady!

There is a health food store down the street from me that drives me nuts. First, they charge at least double what is charged in Whole Foods (already an expensive store) and sometimes 3 to 4 times more than Trader Joe’s. However, the thing that really ticks me off is all of the bullshit claims that the store owner and the product packaging make. They sell these “Goji” berries like crack. They are all over the store. From what I have read, they do seem to be a nutritional food, but of course, just because they come from China (if they were in fact grown there), the packaging is filled with additional claims like “helps chi” and all kinds of other shit.
The thing that really irks me about it is that the only reason those claims are made is because the product is allegedly grown in China. Some health food establishments really buy into (and more importantly sell) this notion that just because something is Asian it is “mystical.” Just imagine if the common lemon was only grown in Malaysia, I’m sure all of these stores would be carrying “Malaysian” Lemons and making all kinds of claims about how they “help your chi,” and “help you shit faster.” The woman who owns the store is probably filthy rich but doesn’t consider herself so because she wears faux Indian outfits instead of lipstick and a business suit.
I want to open an electronics store that does the same thing. “This Sony Television is made in the Himalayas by monks, it will increase your chi and allow you to live to 140 years old.”

What ever happened to Grain?


Good Article about kids using agencies to get in to schools (as the plagarist did)

New York Metro

"The schadenfreude also has a righteous tint: Just as the Duke-lacrosse-team case confirms ugly stereotypes about privileged white jocks, Kaavya Viswanathan, the only child of a brain surgeon and gynecologist, confirms the invidious stereotype of privileged meritocrats gone wild. She is a flagrant example of the hard-charging freaks that our culture grooms and prods so many of its best and brightest children to become, a case study in one sociopathology of the adolescent overclass."

Pravda is a really shitty paper, and this is a shitty article, but I liked one paragraph:

"Reflecting upon Modernity, one is compelled to consider the centuries of European monasticism, which produced so much of Europe’s intellectual heritage. Yet one marvels today at the contempt with which contemporary American society holds the monks of centuries past. Asceticism and celibacy are ridiculed by Americans. "

Monday, May 08, 2006

John Selden

Picked up a random book of Seventeeth Century Prose from the library (it was laying outside the front door).

John Seldon:

1. Of all actions of a man's life his marriage does least concern other people, yet of all actions of our life 'tis most meddled with by other people.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


"Announcing the TMN “Sloppy Seconds With Opal Mehta” Contest, where you, as “writer,” plagiarize as much as you want, for a sort-of original story. Start cribbing now—the entry deadline is in two weeks!"


Monday, April 24, 2006


This magazine just continues to amaze me. When the whole country is buying into James Frey’s laughable white middle class fantasy, the Exile was there to point out how utterly absurd Frey's book is.

This is the first article that I have read that points out this aspect of the Columbine Massacre.

The disappointing thing is that the only place I have come across these ideas is an expat magazine in Russia.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Google Print

The other day I realized that Google had finally put up a number of the books it had been scanning from a number of libraries (Harvard, Michigan, NY, Oxford). I know there has been a lot of controversy about this. Publishers contend that if Google has a database of every book it can get its hands on, then somehow people will stop buying books.

After using the service though, I am unequivocally on the side of Google in this. First, I think the chance of true copyright infringement is negligible. If you are only allowed to get excerpts for books that are copyright protected, it is no different than using any other indexing service. It is true that Google stands to make a lot of money from advertising revenue, but to me that seems a small matter when compared to the potential gains.

Those gains seem incredible and revolutionary. Books that are hundreds of years old will suddenly become part of the intellectual world again. For instance, I searched for the Ukrainian poet Taras Schevchenko and I found a magazine article from Macmillan’s written in 1885, twenty four years after Schevchenko’s death. Normally, this article would be lost to time. It would no longer be available to the general public and thus not a part of the overall dialogue. Now it has been revived. I only wish Google would copy faster.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

April 12

From NYT
"Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut who was the first man to travel into space, returned to the front pages of nearly every Russian newspaper today in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of his flight, on April 12, 1961."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Student Government and Ideology

I guess it is Student Bar Association election time again because people are handing out candy with their names on it.  I was really surprised to find out that this stuff goes on at this level of educational system, but at the same time I don’t want to be a stick in the mud about it.  I don’t see any posters, so I guess they are not allowed – but if there were posters, I would run under the “one party, one ideology” platform.  I would have large posters proclaiming:

  • Free Healthcare for all law students

  • Doubling the size of the SBA government, and requiring a course in Hegel for all members.

  • The honor board will be dissolved and replaced with the “SBA Honor Board,” which will be an appointed position.

I spoke to a libertarian last semester, and he told me he has plans to run and reduce the SBA government by half and pass on the savings to all students.  We can’t allow this to happen!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Agamemnon (Aeschylus)

“Zeus has led us on to know
The helmsman lays it down as law
That we must suffer, suffer into truth.
We cannot sleep, and drop by drop at the heart
The pain of pain remembered comes again
And we resist, but ripeness comes as well.
From the gods enthroned on the awesome rowing-bench
There comes a violent love.”
Let there be less suffering…
Give us the sense to live on what we need.

Bastions of wealth
Are no defense for the man
Who treads the grand altar of justice
Down and out of sight.
The reach for power can recoil
The bolt of god can strike you at a glance.
The beast of Argos, foals of the wild mare,
thousands massed in armor rose on the night
the Pleiades went down, and crashing through
their walls our bloody lion lapped its fill,
gorging on the blood of kings.
Oh men your destiny.
When all is well a shadow can overturn it.
When trouble comes a stroke of the wet sponge,
and the pictures blotted out. And that,
I think that breaks the heart.
You’re brave, believe me, full of gallant heart.

Only the wretched go with praise like that.

The Trial

“But under the beards – and this was K.’s real discovery – badges of various sizes and colors gleamed on their coat collars. They all wore these badges, so far as he could see. They were all colleagues, these ostensible parties of the right and left, and as he turned round suddenly he saw the same badges on the coat collar of the Examining Magistrate.” 59.

K. turned toward the stairs to make his way up to the Court of Inquiry, but then came to a standstill again, for in addition to this staircase he could see in the courtyard three other separate flights of stairs and besides these a little passage at the other end which seemed to lead into a second courtyard. He was annoyed that he had not been given more definite information about the room, these people showed a strange negligence or indifference in their treatment of him. Franz Kafka The Trial 44 (1937)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pripyat (Chernobyl)

The beauty of ghost towns.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Harper's Wins Again

“Capatlism, not christiantity or the enlightenment, is what most defines our national character”

“…do Christian Republicans truly not understand the fundamental ways in which an unfettered corporate capitalism betrays Christ’s ethical vision and their own economic well being? (It is an astonishing irony that many of these religious anti-Darwinians are in their politics economics the most uncompromising Social Darwinians, with naïve and self defeating assumption of the virtue of competition. Of course, the people of “lowest development” to be “weeded out,” as Herbert Spencer put it, are demonstratably themselves!) Most fantastically, do Christian Republicans really not recognize their own perverse marriage with secular rationalism? Or that there is an unacknowledged alliance between pragmatic, ultra rational needs of corporate capitalism and the blarney of Christian cleansing through the “social values” movement?”

“The Spirit of Disobediance: An Invitation to Resistance” By Curtis White – Harper’s Magazine April 2006

The article is really about confronting our culture of “duty and legality” – duty in that “Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as necessity, or even a duty.” (Simon Weil quote). It incorporates a lot of the criticisms of Thoreau.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Huysmans ch. 14

“Finding himself unable to harmonize, save at rare intervals, with the environment in which he lives and not discovering sufficient distraction in the pleasures of observation and analysis, in the examination of the environment and its people, he feels in himself the dawning of strange ideas. Confused desires for other lands awake and are clarified by reflection and study. Instincts, sensations and thoughts bequeathed by heredity, awake, grow fixed, assert themselves with an imperious assurance. He recalls memories of beings and things he has never really known and a time comes when he escapes from the penitentiary of his age and roves, in full liberty, into another epoch with which, through a last illusion, he seems more in harmony.

With some, it is a return to vanished ages, to extinct civilizations, to dead epochs; with others, it is an urge towards a fantastic future, to a more or less intense vision of a period about to dawn, whose image, by an effect of atavism of which he is unaware, is a
reproduction of some past age.”

Nietzsche, Gay Science 10

“I prefer to understand the rare human beings of an age as suddenly appearing, late ghosts of past cultures and their powers: as atavisms of a people and its mores – that way one can really understand something about them.  They now seem strange, rare, extraordinary, and whoever feels these powers in himself must burse, defend, honor, and cultivate them against another world that resists them: and so he becomes either a great human being or an eccentric one, unless he perishes too soon.  Formerly, these same qualities were common and therefore considered ordinary: they weren’t distinguishing.  They were perhaps demanded, presupposed; it wasn’t impossible to become great through them, if only because there was also no danger of becoming mad and lonely through them.  It is principally in the generations and castes that conserve a people that we find such recrudescences of old instincts, while such atavism is highly improbable where races, and habits and valuations change too rapidly.  For tempo is as significant a power in the development of peoples as in music: in our case what is absolutely necessary is an andante of development, as the tempo of a passionate and slow spirit – and that is after what the spirit of conservative generations is like.”

Friday, March 10, 2006

Huysmans Galore

“He Felt nothing of that hunger for mortification and prayer without which, if we are to believe the majority of priests, no conversion is possible; nor did he feel any desire to invoke God whose mercy struck him as extremely problematical. At the same time the affection he still had for his old masters led him to take an interest in their works and doctrines; and the recollection of the inimitable accents of conviction, the passionate voices of those highly intelligent men made him doubt the quality and strength of his own intellect.”

“The church was the only body to have preserved the art of past centuries, the lost beauty of the ages.”

Schopenhauer: “His theory of pessimism was the great comforter of superior minds and lofty souls.”

“Nor could he forget the poetic and poignant atmosphere of Catholicism in which he had been steeped as a boy, and whose essence he had absorbed through every pore.”

More Huysmans

Huysmans Chapter 6 p. 69

All I was doing was parabolizing secular instruction, allegorizing universal education, which is well on the way to turning everybody into a Langlois: instead of permanently and mercifully putting out the eyes of the poor, it does its best to force them wide open, so that they may see all around them lives of less merit and greater comfort, pleasures that are keener and more voluptuous, and therefore sweeter and more desirable.
It follows that the more we try to polish the minds and refine the nervous systems of the under privileged, the more we shall be developing in their hearts the atrociously active germs of hatred and moral suffering.

Nietzsche - Beyond Good and evil 258

society is not allowed to exist for its own sake, but only as a foundation and scaffolding, by means of which a select class of beings may be able to elevate themselves to their higher duties, and in general to a higher existence: like those sun-seeking climbing plants in Java—they are called sipo matador—which encircle an oak so long and so often with their arms, until at last, high above it, but supported by it, they can unfold their tops in the open light, and exhibit their happiness. —

Joris-Karl Huysmans

Chapter 2

Artifice, besides, seemed to Des Esseintes the final distinctive mark
of man's genius.

Nature had had her day, as he put it. By the disgusting sameness of
her landscapes and skies, she had once for all wearied the considerate
patience of aesthetes. Really, what dullness! the dullness of the
specialist confined to his narrow work. What manners! the manners of
the tradesman offering one particular ware to the exclusion of all
others. What a monotonous storehouse of fields and trees! What a banal
agency of mountains and seas!

There is not one of her inventions, no matter how subtle or imposing
it may be, which human genius cannot create; no Fontainebleau forest,
no moonlight which a scenic setting flooded with electricity cannot
produce; no waterfall which hydraulics cannot imitate to perfection;
no rock which pasteboard cannot be made to resemble; no flower which
taffetas and delicately painted papers cannot simulate.

There can be no doubt about it: this eternal, driveling, old woman is
no longer admired by true artists, and the moment has come to replace
her by artifice.

Closely observe that work of hers which is considered the most
exquisite, that creation of hers whose beauty is everywhere conceded
the most perfect and original--woman. Has not man made, for his own
use, an animated and artificial being which easily equals woman, from
the point of view of plastic beauty? Is there a woman, whose form is
more dazzling, more splendid than the two locomotives that pass over
the Northern Railroad lines?

Gustave Moreau

Matthew 14

1At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,

2And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

3For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.

4For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.

5And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

6But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

7Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.

8And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.

9And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.

10And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

11And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.

12And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Out of all of the songs I have made so far, I think this one by far has the most promise and sounds the most like I want to sound.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tough New York Cop™

Tough New York Cop ™

The following story is one that no one has ever told. The reasons for that are complex, but put succinctly, it is because the American public is too squeamish for such a tale. No story has conveyed such raw masculinity from paper to mind so purely. It’s about a tough New York Cop ™ who dresses in a an old light brown suit. He drinks and he quarrels with his superiors. The chief assigns him new rookie partners with every cycle of the moon. He has lived in a houseboat at certain times in his life. Most importantly though, he carries out his crime fighting duties in a manner that leads us, the audience, to ask: “does the end of shooting the cold blooded murderer to death justify the Tough New York Cop’s ™ violent and illegal crime fighting means?” Luckily though, the answer to the question is always an easy one.

Tough New York Cop ™ doesn’t put up with any of your shit. Between the drinking and the crime fighting, Tough New York Cop ™ doesn’t have the energy to even notice you in a room. His tie is always at least two inches from being closed at his neck. Those kind of people don’t give a fuck, so stay away from him, unless that is you are Informant Junkie Guy ™ with some new information on The Murderer ™. In that case you will probably be approached by Tough New York Cop ™. When you are approached by Tough New York Cop ™ you will resist his initial attempts to cajole information out of you. You will be dressed in clothes that look greasy and you will not take a shower one week before approached by Tough New York Cop. You will eventually acquiesce to Tough New York Cop’s ™ demands, albeit unenthusiastically.

Tough New York Cop’s ™ virility is frightening to small animals. Tough New York Cop ™ only likes two kind of women: the Confident No Bullshit Woman and the Girl in Distress. The Confident No Bullshit Woman has seen it all, and now she will take advantage of any opportunity to let you know she is cynical. However, despite all of this experience, she knows that she cannot resist Tough New York Cop’s ™ virility, and that by just standing next to him too long she can become pregnant. Girl in Distress on the other hand does not show any resistance to Tough New York Cop, and is thrilled at idea of having Tough New York Cop Babies ™, who can then be killed by Murderer ™ and thus justify his and many of his henchman’s death.

An interesting question is whether Tough New York Cop ™ could defeat Government Guy in Suit ™. Government Guy in Suit ™ speaks like a robot. Government Guy in Suit ™ is always convinced of the moral validity of his secret operation, even though it is apparent to every one else that the operation is dangerous and un-American. Government Guy in Suit ™ always acts on his own volition so as not to inculpate the United States Government in anything illegal. Government Guy in a Suit ™ has control over vast array of secret technology to seek out Guy Who Knows Something ™ across borders. Government Guy in Suit ™ cannot be reconciled with real life government blunders such as Aldrich Ames because Government Guy in Suit ™ can only be beaten or outsmarted by Guy who Knows Something ™, who never resembles Aldrich Ames.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Russian Law

If you absolutely cannot find an MP3, go to Because of a loophole in Russian law, Russian companies can sell Mp3s over the internet for about $1 to $2 per CD and about 10 cents a song.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Just when you thought you were done wasting tremendous amounts of time on the internet, along came:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Eddystone Takes Legal Theory Into The 21st Century

Eddystone in the Courts



The password is: who cooks our meals and bakes us bread?

"_______" Jim

Proud Sophists

I’m sure, with all of the philosophers around the world working on ethical issues, that somebody has stumbled across this before, but I have not seen it yet. The problem basically involves this argument:

  • Things that are difficult are good

  • Doing something that is unethical is sometimes difficult

  • Therefore, doing something unethical is good.

People get a warm and fuzzy feeling from doing things that are difficult and require discipline. A person feels good when they come home from work at five and still find the time and energy to work out for an hour. When you are finished you feel good about yourself. You didn’t want to do it but you forced yourself anyway. Many times this feeling is right, you should feel good about having the discipline to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do – but many times people use this feeling to usurp their conscience. They feel that because their conscience is saying no to the extent that it is difficult to perform the act, that it is somehow noble to then do that thing.

I have heard, though I would have to look it up to confirm it, that some of the concentration camp guards in Nazi Germany were horrified by what they were doing, but they felt it their duty to do that thing for their country. Though I have not confirmed this, I believe it, because those guards were made up of the same flesh and blood that every other human being on earth is.

I tend to see this a lot in law school. As a lawyer, being able to argue any side is an important skill both because you have to anticipate your opponents arguments and because you may have to defend something you don’t believe in. This is a duty, and one that we should be careful about.

I describe law students as incredibly intelligent people with no passion or imagination. I think a lot of these people have truly found themselves here. They weren’t good at math so they were forced into those horrible liberal arts classes where nothing was ever done, and students just meaninglessly opined for fifty minutes. Now they are in law school, and there is finally a reason for everything – to argue well enough to make good money. The professors reward a student’s ability to argue any side and believe me when I say the students notice.

From the ground level, as a first year law student, I can tell you a lot of these people take real pride and glee in the statement “I’ll argue for whoever pays me” and “I can argue any side, I don’t care.” I hear these tough guy statements a lot. In addition, there is no quicker way to make everyone in your law school think you are annoying than to theorize. “I’m just here to learn the law, get out and get a decent job to support my family” is how everyone wants to act. No one wants to be the guy who actually cares. Sure, you can talk about these things in private conversation, but you would look like a complete ass if you were to slow down a class (God Forbid) with a theoretical question or an ethical comment. The extent to which ethics are talked about in class is just enough to be an insult.

I’m still not sure whether the people in this school are a lot smarter than the people in my previous school, or if the most difficult parts of the curriculum has been stripped away to leave only the pure logic of learning.

This is all a big show, and it is a tragic show. Class is a show, your presence is only required to justify the job and wage paid to the professor. No one is learning anything they will be able to use (save for legal writing, but you actually are only being tested there – not taught). I was once asked “do you think this is ethical” and I couldn’t even respond. I didn’t want to participate in the façade. I had less than 3 seconds for my response, and anything too theoretical would make my classmates eyes roll, so I just said “I guess not.”

You have to be able to argue both sides, but to take revel in having the opportunity to do so troubles me. The Sophists would be proud of today’s law schools. Sophistry is cool and it is noble as well. I have never been anywhere in my life that is such an absurdity as law school. Never have the lack of the emperor’s clothes been so apparent. Never has “its always been done this way” been relied on to such an extent – or the age old (and I hate this) “it builds character” argument – which has been used for centuries to justify the most absurd pedagogical traditions throughout history.

Whenever I criticize law school I always have the need to say that there are aspects of law school that I am impressed by – the absence of lazy and unintelligent people foremost. The students are incredibly considerate to each other. I haven’t met any bad people in law school, but I have met plenty who could allow themselves to be through a mix of ambition and the anything goes pedagogy of law school.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


BAD JAM. Download at Once


Cool Site

Stay in School

There are moments when I truly comprehend the fact that I am still in school despite being almost 24 years old. It is at these moments when I realize no matter what experiences I have or how intelligent I am, I am still a child to some extent. I had one of these moments this morning. I think the way one of the rooms in my school is built just invites people to hit your chair with their foot, causing a little vibration that is really annoying. Maybe it annoys me more than most, but it reminded me of the time I was seventh grade and a kid who was sitting behind me, we’ll call him “Mike A.” - was kicking my chair rather violently and I turned around and asked him in as nice a way possible to please stop. He told me to “shut up” and I did because I did not want to get my head beat in, and I sat there and suffered through his now intensified chair kicking.

If you would have told me back then that 11 years later I would be sitting in a classroom still getting my chair kicked it would be a depressing thought. At least now there is (probably) no chance of getting my head beat in after school and I can fuck around on my laptop during class.

Other moments include being told not to bring open containers into the library during a library orientation. I don’t ever want to go on another library orientation in my life, let alone be told sternly not bring open containers in the library. I’m tired of it.

I have to say though, in many ways Law School is devoid of most of the annoying characteristics of schools and students in general, but it also makes those pre-law school things stand out even more. A good example is student government. I don’t want to be embarrassed for the people who run for student office anymore.

I’ll put more up when I think of them.

Regular Guy

I love when people try to be the “regular guy.”  Much of navigating the social scene in American involves tying to be this “regular guy.”  Great lengths are taken to not do anything the regular guy would not do.  I think the reason I get along with Europeans when I do is that they are not burdened by the incessant need to not do anything that would be “weird.”  Eastern Europeans in general seem to have no sense of what is weird by American standards (I doubt, though I don’t know for sure, that they use the term in the same manner, or as frequently as Americans).
What is cool in America usually involves some kind of detachment.  Passion for anything seems to be the least cool thing one could do.  How this concept came about I don’t know – it surely wasn’t James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and I hate when people even imply that.  James Dean’s character in that movie, especially when considered by today’s social standards, is a freak (that’s right…watch it again).
I have known many people who this does not apply to at all (mostly people from Eddystone), but I have also known many people who truly measured their ever action, no matter how minor, against the standard of the “normal person” as defined by television mostly Gettysburg).  What would the Backstreet Boys do?  Or the guy on Punked?  People get most of their ideas of appropriate behavior from TV, and all we get there are the short scenes of planned, written, made up, laboratory clean reality.  Is that anything to base your behavior off of?
Some examples are appropriate.  I wish I had written down every instance of this I have seen but most of them occurred when I was with someone I did not want to be with.  If you know what I am talking about then you have probably experienced an instance where you are with someone and you say or do something and you can just see these calculations going on through the skull of the person with you.  The “weird” response (sometimes a long “okaaaaay”) is usually appropriate for those people when they are not sure what to do.  You can’t go wrong calling something weird or just putting it in a light that makes it seem not normal.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Muslim Cartoons

In case anyone is curious to see what the Muslim cartoons that caused so much controversy look like, they are here.

A Good Word


Electric Chair

Electric Chair Nastiness

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New Apartment

I’ve been in the new apartment for 24 hours.  So far everything is good.  The only discrepancy was one of the landlord’s agents barging in during the middle of the day to show the apartment to someone (I guess because it is similar to the others).  That is something I take very seriously.  The whole point of me moving was to not have people barging in on me.  I wonder what would have happened if I had asked for the provision that allows a landlord to come in at any time to be taken out of the lease.  It probably would have been the first time someone actually tried to negotiate with them, and I imagine they would have promptly told me to get lost.  Anyway, putting a bolt on the door will fix this problem.

Anyway, pictures are here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Death Row

Interesting site about the final days of a death row inmate scheduled to die in early Feb.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sane People

I knew if the Exile reviewed Frey's piece of shit book they would get perfectly right, and they did:


and his original review in 03

Friday, January 27, 2006

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Refreshing Dose of Middle Class Honesty

From Slate

"Based on all the evidence, it seems Frey's weird, macho fear of seeing himself as a "victim" led him to fabricate a life that was painful and extreme enough so as to explain the sadness and despair he felt. Instead of a crack-binging street fighter, ostracized by both his peers and society, the Smoking Gun investigation indicates Frey was more likely a lonely, confused boy who may or may not have needed ear surgery as a child and felt distant from his parents and alienated from his peers. He drank too much, did some drugs, got nailed for a couple of DUIs and ended up, at age 23, in one of the country's most prestigious drug-and-alcohol treatment centers. When Frey writes that, after one of his fictitious arrests, he hated himself, saw no future, and wanted to die, I believe him. I grew up in a well-off suburban household with loving parents and no clear traumas in my past. I was popular enough in high school, I joined the newspaper and acted in plays, and I got into a good college. I was also miserably, sometimes almost suicidally, depressed, and, from the age of 15, I was taking drugs and drinking almost every day. Frey must have felt that his real, very scary, and very lonely feelings would have seemed weak if it was only preceded by standard-issue suburban teenage angst.

This isn't unusual. In rehab—I attended somewhere between a half-dozen and a dozen in-patient facilities—it's fairly standard for new patients to begin their stays by boasting of their fearlessness, their criminal bona fides, their extreme debauchery. I used to brag of my own rap sheet. I'd elide over the fact that my two arrests resulted in no convictions. And I certainly didn't offer up that my first arrest occurred after a remarkably inept attempt to break into a high-school classmate's house was foiled when his mother returned home and found my car parked out front (I referred to that as a "b&e with intent to commit a felony"), or that the second arrest was the result of my pilfering underwear and some light bulbs from my college's bookstore.

For most people, the insecurity and fear that lead to these type of exaggerations needs to fade away before they can really start trying to figure out how to go about fixing what went wrong with their lives. One counselor at an in-patient facility I attended used to publicly humiliate new patients on their first day in the program by first making them tell the group what brought them there and then quizzing them on the specifics—how many CC's does a standard syringe hold?—until they crumbled and started telling the truth. "