Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Olde School

I miss my old law school library at Bourgie Metro Law. I miss the big tables, of which there were many--on each of the four floors! There was the main reading room, yes--but I have a particular fondness for the second floor (where camped my friends). I am a bit indifferent to the third floor, and wholly disdainful of the mezzanine (too many bad memories there). I also miss the reading room on the fourth floor in the tower, where there were plushy leather armchairs and gasp! fiction to read. Not that the law students ever really took advantage of that delightful distraction, but it was nice to know that such lovely distraction was encouraged. (And even paid for; you could request the librarians to order books, meaning that you could use your law library privileges to borrow current fiction for a whole semester).

So what's up with Liberal College Law, man? Our law library only has one main reading room. ONE. And it's always too hot, crowded, and noisy there. There is another set of tables in the ___ addition, but everything else is a cubicle. Cubicles! Ugh. The entire seating arrangement comprises one floor, and the rest of the library is hidden in a maze of scary stacks off to the side (separate "wing" is too generous). When I think of other schools.... nevermind.

So I really hate using that library. Still, the roomate pushes me to do more work outside the house for variety. So I've taken to exploring the libraries on the campus--and now, not only do I insecurely compare my current law school (oddly, better ranked and with more money) to my previous law school--I now compare our library to every other library here. And most of them are better! It's just like how the law school is the ugliest building on campus, except for (ironically) the school of architecture.

While the law school is ugly, brutalist depressing crap, the rest of the campus is beautiful. It's old enough to look olde school cool, but by no means too old to be uncomfortable or too musty looking. And the grounds are beautiful, full of native trees and plants--it's like a state park, with buildings. And you can really see the range of architectural styles as the school expanded in size and breadth over the course of a century. What I like about our main library is it's Hogwarts-like majesty. I know I'm speaking from a position of a publicly-educated-at-underfunded-state-schools, but seriously--I like the neoclassic architecture and high-vaulted, coffered ceilings. I totally dig the marble floors and columns.

Best of all, I like the ____ Reading Room. It reminds me a bit of the reading room at my old law school, but even better. Tons of distracting reading to choose from. I read a bit from Claire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy to wake me up from org theory haze. I liked the grandfather's study look to it all--lots of arm chairs and ottomans, banker's lamps, and stacks of highbrow literary reviews arranged carelessly on tables. I liked that some professors came in and tried to read, falling asleep almost immediately and snoring loudly. They reminded me of my grandfather.


What's Not To Like?

A blog about "music, film, literature, philosophy." Bring it on!

Belated welcome to the blogosphere to Blind Impress, a blog by Larry Hardesty. I was asked to herald it a month ago--and promptly forgot. Bad Belle. But any friend of Hipster Law Prof Dude is a friend of Belle. I'm happy to promote the blog.

I was sad to read that the Hopeful Monsters broke up. I'm glad to read that Larry is blogging about Richard Rorty and Philip Larkin (a featured Saturday poet). I'm also happy that he's explaining musical scales and other musical nonesuch--very useful! I wanted to learn how to play an instrument as a kid, but my parents couldn't afford the instrument, lessons, etc. Years later, I only have a listener's appreciation for music (bolstered by a nerdy inclination to read music theory and classical music history). So it's interesting to read.

I still don't know if I get it, but then again that's the sad plight of a girl who never strummed a guitar, mumbling underneath her breath imperceptibly "this goes out to the one I love." Okay, yeah I'd make a lame musician. Still, I'd like to think I'd rock more than Jewel. Actually, anyone would rock more than that yodel-y sexpot who writes trite lyrics and truly terrible poetry--Tom Jones most certainly, and even Pat Boone. Oh yes, I am a hater, and I hate more player than game.

I look forward to reading more of Blind Impress. I hope that Larry will continue to blog about literature, philosophy, music and film--and all in one post!

It's not too hard to imagine. There's the 1971 film Death In Venice--lots of stuff to work with there, including Mahler's 5th Adagietto, and the Nietzche-influenced author Thomas Mann. I do believe this might be a blog tag, Larry.

So, go read Larry's blog. And I'll leave you with two of my favorite poems that describe the evocative nature of music:

From "The Dry Salvages" by T.S. Eliot:

Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.

Music I Heard by Conrad Aiken:

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, beloved, --
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always, --
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.


Internal Wince

Would be the alternate title to this mix-tape I made for myself. The original is "just say no to emo." Actually, both are catchy--I can't help but be tickled when I come up with these things.

As you know, I'm currently down on France, so I ix-nayed "Le Sigh."

I'm not as dramatic as the French, but I do have a penchant for purple prose. Yes, I jingoistically pronounce that "pen-chent," not "pen-shahnt."

Anyway, the playlist, which you may read thematically, chronologically, and (ugh) emo-tively:

1. California Stars -- Wilco
2. Buddy Holly -- Weezer
3. Maybe Baby -- Buddy Holly
4. Outtasite (Outta Mind) -- Wilco
5. It Doesn't Matter Any More -- Buddy Holly
6. Lonely Day -- Phantom Planet
7. Come Around -- Rhett Miller
8. Say It Ain't So -- Weezer
9. Gone for Good -- The Shins
10. Whistle For the Choir -- The Fratellis
11. My Friend and The Ink -- Shout Out Louds
12. This Modern Love -- Bloc Party
13. Shadowboxer -- Fiona Apple
14. Be Be Your Love -- Rachael Yamagata
15. Sleep To Dream -- Fiona Apple
16. Guess I'm Doing Fine -- Beck
17. (Was I) In Your Dreams -- Wilco
18. Lost Cause -- Beck
19. (Way Obvious Song Title) -- Wilco

There are tons of songs I could have put on here--but I go through phases. Right now I'm into angsty girl piano pop and really, really into Wilco. Best band ever! I'm also limited to what I have on my computer, and what's on my external hard drive. I'd put in a bit more Old 97's if I wasn't so lazy, although the Rhett Miller is my nod to that great love. I've recently rediscovered my love for Weezer, which brings back good college memories. I refuse to listen to Dave Matthews any more, since that's just too frat-boyish jam bandy. But there could be tons of songs on this CD. I try to stick with one genre though--the addition of angsty girl pop is a major departure for me. I don't like mixing my jazz, hip hop, R&B, and rock on one CD. Too odd. I know they're called "mix-tapes," but do I look like Sir Mix-a-Lot? I am Miss Mix-a-Bit.

The most melancholy songs are from Beck--but he's out there enough that anything from the Sea Changes album is cool. His voice is just built for langorous statements of woe. Notice, the lack of Bright Eyes or Decemberists, which are good to listen to in that particular mood. But because I am saying no to emo in order to perk up my ears with some good riffs, I'm trying to abstain from anything too quiet on the ears. Or just too sad, really. No Bonnie Prince Billy or Elliot Smith or Tori Amos on this CD. I want to ruminate rockingly, not kill myself. However, this CD could have used some Belle and Sebastien or Jesus and Mary Chain. If I had them.

What I really want is XTC's "Obvious But Obscure Song That Sounds Accusatory."

If you're a friend of the Real Life Alter Ego and want a copy, email me.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Liberal Arts Majors are Cheap

Neither of my undergraduate degrees are "useful" or instrumentalist--indeed, that's the running joke of the "so what are you going to do with that?" question one gets at family reunions, and why those "What To Do With Your English Degree" presentations at the career center are so depressing. I never wanted to be a technical writer or copy editor.

But at least I was cheap! I only cost the school chalk or dry-erase markers, and my professors were probably the least paid at the university--or worse, they were rotating adjuncts and lecturers.

From the NYT, "Certain Degrees Now Cost More at Public Universities":

Should an undergraduate studying business pay more than one studying psychology? Should a journalism degree cost more than one in literature? More and more public universities, confronting rising costs and lagging state support, have decided that the answers may be yes and yes.

Such moves are being driven by the high salaries commanded by professors in certain fields, the expense of specialized equipment and the difficulties of getting state legislatures to approve general tuition increases, university officials say.

Even as they embrace such pricing, many officials acknowledge they are queasy about a practice that appears to value one discipline over another or that could result in lower-income students clustering in less expensive fields.

Private universities do not face the same tuition constraints and for the most part are avoiding the practice, educators say, holding to the traditional idea that college students should be encouraged to get a well-rounded education.

“There was a time, not that long ago, 10 to 15 years ago, that the vast majority of the cost of education at public universities was borne by the state, and that was why tuition was so low,” he said. “That was based on the premise that the education of an individual is a public good, that individuals go out and become schoolteachers and businessmen and doctors and lawyers, that makes society better. That’s no longer the perception.”

While several university officials said students in majors that carried higher costs could bear the burden because they would be better paid after graduation, Mr. Lariviere said he was skeptical of that rationale. He pointed out that many people change jobs several times over a career and that a major is a poor predictor of lifetime income.

“Where we have gone astray culturally,” he said, “is that we have focused almost exclusively on starting salary as an indicator of life earnings and also of the value of the particular major.”

I'm one of those fluffernutters who believes in well-rounded, holistic, classic liberal arts education. I'm also one of those realists that grew up poor on free lunches, so I think it's perfectly reasonable to think of a college education instrumentally. I'm very much in favor of public education (it's a pretty good deal in my state), I just wish it wasn't tanking due to recent budget crises. I always wanted to go to a small liberal arts college, but alas, the combination of cheap tuition + scholarships meant that I could never rationalize going to one. So I have a half-romantic, half-utilitarian conception of education.

I went to college planning to go to law school right after--and because there's no such thing as a "pre-law" degree, I decided to just learn a set of tools and skills--and do that in subjects that interested me. For me, that was English literature--to hone my reading and writing skills. And political science--which I kind of regret--you don't need to learn law-related subjects in college, and political science is interesting in and of itself. But not as a stepping stone to law school. I would have gone onto political science grad school though, if I was more interested in the quantitative or area studies work rather than political theory (which is going down in popularity and is thus that much harder a niche to crack). In retrospect, I should have taken more economics courses and some higher level math. But in general, I just took whatever interested me--philosophy and art history courses, medieval literature and history, critical theory--college is definitely a great time to learn things that enrich your life, but do not necessarily add to your utility belt.

But I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a two-pronged approach to education. I always had my practical, utilitarian goal of learning X and Y or pursuing some kind of career track--and tried to make time for the love of learning stuff too. Of course, I was lucky enough to go to school on schoalrship. So I was able to turn Antiseptic State School into a quasi liberal arts experience by double majoring, taking summer school to get through the requirements and have fun courses on top. And while I worked to help pay for expenses and books, I didn't have to work to pay for everything. I lived at home with my parents, and so I only had to work enough to defray the costs--not to the point where it would have impacted my required studies, much less my fun classes.

It doesn't feel right that we should make students that young and at that stage in their intellectual development and career path pay more for their choices. They should be allowed some freedom to experiment and change--not be so coddled as to be allowed a grand 7 year plan, but I do think it's perfectly fine to take an extra year or change a major. Nor should students be penalized for taking an instrumentalist, utilitarian view of education--doing so only reifies that idea of a degree being only serviceable towards some future goal, and that learning is not valueable in and of itself. Plus, I wonder what kinds of students this really impacts. I don't think most of my journalist friends ever thought that their degree was inherently more utilitarian than an English literature degree (the classic path)--they get to pay more now to earn just as less later?! Business majors have to pay more to learn things that they will find of limited use in the actual working world?! This is ridiculous.

At the graduate level, it seems more defensible (but it still sucks) to exact a pay differential for "professional students" (my woeful status) as compared to "graduate students." Because of the higher initial salary, perhaps doctors, dentists, and lawyers should pay more for their education (unless of course, they work for the public good--and then I'm all for debt forgiveness programs). If your education requires more expensive equipment than a whiteboard and dry-erase markers, then perhaps that should be factored into your tuition. Most graduate students are 21 years old when they enter, and have decided on a career path they will be committed to for at least more than a few years. At that stage, your choices have been made, you can be expected to make your decisiosn based on the full information available to you. You know that you will pay this much for this type of education for this type of future financial and professional return. If you make that decision against another (for example, as I did when I went to law school rather than political science or English graduate school)--well, you pay for your choices.

But at the undergraduate level, to drill in this instrumentalist, utilitarian view of education---ehhh, I'm iffier. I don't think it sends the right signals, and I don't think it produces any good outcomes. Kids will always change and mess up, and they'll just be paying for it more. Worse, they'll feel locked into their choices, and won't take those years to truly explore and have fun--learning new things on the way, or new subjects that might point them to alternate and heretofore unexplored career paths. Once you go to grad school and get your first real job, it's real enough--let the kids explore and take some art classes. Have fun in college, as it may be your last chance to have such intellectual breadth.

Plus, dilettantes are great at dinner parties.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Poet: Richard Siken

Blogger won't let me format the complex and deliberate whitespace Siken uses in his poetry. Well, they're worth posting (I love these poems) and so imagine whitespace and lacunae best as you can:


Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
Until they forget that they are horses.
It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple to slice
into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that
we’re inconsolable.
Tell me how all this, and love too, will
ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out

Every morning the maple leaves.
Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts
from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big
and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out
You will be alone always and then you will die.
So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog
of non-definitive acts,
something other than the desperation.
Dear So-and-So, I'm sorry I couldn't come to your party.
Dear So-and-So, I'm sorry I came to your party
and seduced you
and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.
Your want a better story. Who wouldn't?
A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.
Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on.
What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.
Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly
flames everywhere.
I can tell already you think I'm the dragon,
that would be so like me, but I'm not. I'm not the dragon.
I'm not the princess either.
Who am I? I'm just a writer. I write things down.
I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,
I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow
glass, but that comes later.
And the part where I push you
flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,
shut up
I'm getting to it.
For a while I thought I was the dragon.
I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
the princess,
cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with
but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,
while I'm out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
and getting stabbed to death.
Okay, so I'm the dragon. Big deal.
You still get to be the hero.
You get the magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!
What more do you want?
I make you pancakes, I take you hunting, I talk to you as if you're
really there.
Are you there, sweetheart? Do you know me? Is this microphone live?
Let me do it right for once,
for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,
you know the story, simply heaven.
Inside your head you hear a phone ringing
and when you open your eyes
only a clearing with deer in it. Hello deer.
Inside your head the sound of glass,
a car crash sound as the trucks roll over and explode in slow motion.
Hello darling, sorry about that.
Sorry about the bony elbows, sorry we
lived here, sorry about the scene at the bottom of the stairwell
and how I ruined everything by saying it out loud.
Especially that, but I should have known.
You see, I take the parts that I remember and stitch them back together
to make a creature that will do what I say
or love me back.
I'm not really sure why I do it, but in this version you are not
feeding yourself to a bad man
against a black sky prickled with small lights.
I take it back.
The wooden halls likes caskets. These terms from the lower depths.
I take them back.
Here is the repeated image of the lover destroyed.
Crossed out.
Clumsy hands in a dark room. Crossed out. There is something
underneath the floorboards.
Crossed out. And here is the tabernacle
Here is the part where everyone was happy all the time and we were all
even though we didn't deserve it.
Inside your head you hear
a phone ringing, and when you open your eyes you're washing up
in a stranger's bathroom,
standing by the window in a yellow towel, only twenty minutes away
from the dirtiest thing you know.
All the rooms of the castle except this one, says someone, and suddenly
suddenly only darkness.
In the living room, in the broken yard,
in the back of the car as the lights go by. In the airport
bathroom's gurgle and flush, bathed in a pharmacy of
unnatural light,
my hands looking weird, my face weird, my feet too far away.
And the the airplane, the window seat over the wing with a view
of the wing and a little foil bag of peanuts.
I arrived in the city and you met me at the station,
smiling in a way
that made me frightened. Down the alley, around the arcade,
up the stairs of the building
to the little room with the broken faucets, your drawings, all your things,
I looked out the window and said
This doesn't look that much different from home,
because it didn't,
but then I noticed the black sky and all those lights.
We walked through the house to the elevated train.
All these buildings, all that glass and the shiny beautiful
mechanical wind.
We were inside the train car when I started to cry. You were crying too,
smiling and crying in a way that made me
even more hysterical. You said I could have anything I wanted, but I
just couldn't say it out loud.
Actually, you said Love, for you,
is larger than the usual romantic love. It's like a religion. It's
terrifying. No one
will ever want to sleep with you.
Okay, if you're so great, you do it—
here's the pencil, make it work . . .
If the window is on your right, you are in your own bed. If the window
is over your heart, and it is painted shut, then we are breathing
river water.
Build me a city and call it Jerusalem. Build me another and call it
We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not
what we sought, so do it over, give me another version,
a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over
and over,
another bowl of soup.
The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.
Unfortunately, we don't have that kind of time.
Forget the dragon,
leave the gun on the table, this has nothing to do with happiness.
Let's jump ahead to the moment of epiphany,
in gold light, as the camera pans to where
the action is,
lakeside and backlit, and it all falls into frame, close enough to see
the blue rings of my eyes as I say
something ugly.
I never liked that ending either. More love streaming out the wrong way,
and I don't want to be the kind that says the wrong way.
But it doesn't work, these erasures, this constant refolding of the pleats.
There were some nice parts, sure,
all lemondrop and mellonball, laughing in silk pajamas
and the grains of sugar
on the toast, love love or whatever, take a number. I'm sorry
it's such a lousy story.
Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
we have had our difficulties and there are many things
I want to ask you.
I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
years later, in the chlorinated pool.
I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
these luxuries.
I have told you where I'm coming from, so put it together.
We clutch our bellies and roll on the floor . . .
When I say this, it should mean laughter,
not poison.
I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.
Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you.
Quit milling around the yard and come inside.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Study Abroad, Pay for Coffee

The Roomie is astounded at how she can leave for the lab in the morning, and come back and find me in roughly the same position on either the couch in our living room or at my desk. Everything will look the same even if I have left the spot for successive cups of tea or lunch: the glass of water, the labeled mug, the stack of articles and books, the "no really, I'm cool" music playing softly but rockingly in the background.

I really like freaking her out by doing this at odd hours, so that she'll go to bed and wake up and I'll still be on the couch, saying "good morning!" with as much gusto as I said "goodnight!" six hours previously.

Clearly she has met few law professors in her life. "So...you just read and write all day?" her sad expression seems to inquire of me. I don't have an office at our underfunded school (in fact, I just had to ask a conference organizer for cheaper hotel suggestions at the next conference since I have to pay for them out of my own pocket). I work from home a lot because all of my files, books, and cache of caffeine and cookies are here, and it's much comfier than going to the library (and our law library is woefully uncomfortable). So, yes, Roomie, I just read and write all day. Perhaps if I had my own office, as most of my readers do, I could conduct this pathetic life with a little more professional dignity, or at least privacy. Who knows what you profs do behind closed doors? I've seen the state of disarray and the espresso machines. You live like I do, but because you have an employer-provided office, that makes you look a little more dignified and

Maybe I should stop wearing pajamas all day.

So at any rate, she's trying to get me out of the house more. Be a more social animal, rejoin the human race. Don't be so Aspergery, monkish and self-isolating, if that's a quality I dislike* in others. So for just a few hours, I'm supposed to try to do work at a library on campus. If I hate the law library, maybe the music library will be better! And the music is for free! I'm also to try cafes, something I never really got into. The espresso machines are always too loud, and in this college city the music is too emo. But since it's summer, I'm giving it a go. It is as I predicted: yesterday I sipped tea I had to pay for (WTF?!) and listened to Iron and Wine and Rufus Wainwright while reading through some org theory. And then I got hungry, and so instead of buying overpriced baked goods I trekked back home for some of my own homemade cake.

I'll still give this "study abroad" thing it a go. She's being awful nice to me, taking me out to a baseball game tomorrow night. Again, "get out of the house" medicine. It's not the team I support, but I appreciate the gesture, and I love baseball.

I still think I'm being a good sport and giving it great effort though. Just as I increased from 1 mile to 6 mile runs, I've now started doing at least two social things per weekend. This weekend is an all-time high at three: dessert party tonight, brunch tomorrow, and then a baseball game.

Is it bad to admit that I am thinking of how much work I could be doing instead?

Nevermind. Off to the city.

*which disappoints, to be more precise. as in, disappointed hopes.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bricks-and-Mortar Academia v. Virtual Blogosphere: A Two-Tiered Approach to Academic Networking

Great post by Christine Hurt at The Glom on Academic Conferences and Gender:

I have often defended blogging as the great academic equalizer by noting that women law professors (or I should say parenting law professors) may find it easier to balance blogging with home life than traveling for conferences. I have responded to critics of time-intensive blogging that networking through blogging may be a
substitute for networking through conferences, which can be costly in terms of time and money.

Perhaps because of the demographics of my field (corporate law), I often go to conferences where women law professors are in the minority. Last year in fact I was the sole female panelist at a day-long conference with 10 or so speakers. I've really gotten to where I don't notice much any more. I was talking about this with some other female corporate law professors, who have decided that when asked to speak at a conference, they also make suggestions of other possible female speakers to be invited (to counteract any network effects similar to the ones that Eugene discussed). However, I know at my almost all-male conference, many speakers suggested two other female professors who wrote in the field, and they declined. So, my question to readers is whether women law professors feel that they must pick and choose their conferences more so than their counterparts due to child care responsibilities or other work/life issues.

Obviously, pregnancy takes a female law professor out of conference rotation for at least a month or so before the birth and several afterwards, depending on nursing decisions, etc....However, blogging is much easier, and more invisible than attending conferences. Why I could be eight months pregnant right now, and you would never know.

Really interesting post. I agree with Christine that blogging is an important but underrated networking tool. The year between the J.D. and the LL.M I spent helping take care of my aged parents and being the Glorified Unpaid Nanny for my nine nephews and nieces definitely drove home the physical (and in my case, intellectual as I wasn't in an academic environment) isolation that comes with family care.

Blogging has certainly brought me in contact with scholars in my field and more widely. I've become aware of real-life networking conferences through blogs (Legal Theory Blog is the best clearinghouse for this). This doesn't mitigate the costliness of conference travel--something that is all the worse when you're a student classified as a professional student and your school doesn't help pay for conferences at all. Even if I were classified in the graduate division, I wouldn't get much funding. So blogging is a good networking tool for family care providers and grad students alike.

Regarding the gender gap, I often think about how blogging has helped circulate my name and work in ways that are very difficult through bricks-and-mortar ways such as conferences. My main field, employment discrimination law--where there is a better balancing of genders--isn't my reason for the gender gap. The gap I see is endemic to the academic environment. It takes a lot of legwork to get your name out! I remember my Las Posadas like approach to introducing myself to various faculty at my school. Setting up appointments, actually going up to the doors and knocking, and a lot of handshaking. And even then, I wouldn't say that brought particularly deep and sustained interaction (now that I'm basically in the writing phase, it's far better that I write and circulate than keep taking classes or go to office hours). Meeting someone does not a draft-reader make. My school suggets being a research assistant. Great! But that takes too much time away from writing, and that would bring me into deeper contact with just one faculty member. Because my recommendation letters should speak to my strengths as an academic, I think I'd rather build that relationship with my dissertation advisor--whom I should be showing my own work, rather than doing theirs. I'm not discounting RA-ships. I'm just saying that I think it's better to go for depth rather than breadth in terms of the people you get to go to bat for you from your actual home institution. In social network theory terms, this is called "the strength of ties"--you want deep mentoring relationships, and you should have one with the person supervising your written work.

For breadth, blogs are awesome. Blogs will circulate your name and work far more widely across the nation. Never underestimate the strength of weak ties for alerting you to conference opportunities or job openings, or just advice. Most of my readers aren't even from my geographic location, but they are in my field. I would have to say that blogging has been more effective than just posting abstracts and drafts on SSRN in terms of getting feedback and "meeting" people. There's something about the inherently conversational space of the blog and comments section. I think regular blog readers invest more time and solicitude in the blogs they frequent. I honestly believe that to some of my readers, I am their mentee, and thus I have had several professors offer me (or rather, Belle) advice and support via private email. That then led to much fuller and deeper mentoring relationships. When I post a question, the commenters come in with useful advice--the quick, low-investment way to help. When I have more private concerns or don't wish to appear that I am conducting my life by poll (what classes should I take? is a question I love to ask), my email mentors come in. Email is a very low-cost, on-your-own-time way to be a mentor or mentee.

I'm telling you, don't discount this digital age. But chug away at the bricks-and-mortar way of networking too. Just have a two-tiered approach to how much interaction, responsiveness, and strength of tie you can pursuse in each medium.


The Wayback Machine

Nothing is as comforting as an '80s movie. No matter how bad things are or how much like high school (or junior high) law school is, it can't be as bad as an '80s high school movie. Tonight, my summer associate friends (old enough, like me, to remember watching '80s movies the first time 'round), the few American JD friends I have in the area, invited me for an 80's movie night. Heathers was the feature, and my darling hostess really went as far as to supply pate and sparkling blueberry juice for the appropriately blue drink (awesome when mixed with wine for a spritzer). The only thing missing was the red scrunchie.

Can any "man, high school SUCKED" movie compare to Heathers?

Jawbreaker tried to, but miserably failed. Mainly because it sucked more than high school did.

Several seasons of Buffy come close, but the whole high school being built on top of hell is a little obvious.

I vote Heathers. My birthday is on Halloween, so I am seriously thinking of playing that card to rope in some other girl friends into dressing up in electric blue tights and matching shoes, with pleated skirts and boxy blazers. I get to wear the red scrunchie.


Academic post to follow when the blueberry spritzer haze lifts.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

There's a Story Here Somewhere


Cryptic Thoughts Followed by Odd Details

I have a pseudonymous personal blog. I posted something useful and academic related on Monday. Deal with Wednesday Weirdness!

I'm going to shoot for a round 10:

1. Even though I love my vegetarian roomie (and am now a de facto vegetarian because it's cheaper to share groceries), it is always nice to spend the day with someone who thinks (as I do) that pigs are delicious. And she agrees that cows are delicious. Mmmm. Cows and pigs. Also nice is the realization that blog friends do like spending real life time with you. I used to be paranoid about that. "Just how many hours do you want to spend with me?" I want to inquire. So far, I'm happy to say that I've survived 8, 10, and 30 hour stretches with different blog friends with great ease and enjoyment. Who says this space is only virtual?

2. While I like some performance art, I just think a lot of it is ridiculous and clumsy. WTF?! is a perfectly reasonable response to most of it. I've never had beef with the international law of the sea, have you? Also, my reaction causes me to conclude that damn, I really do think like a lawyer.

3. It is very nice to have friends old enough to know you by an alternate name that is not a pet name or nickname, but your actual birth name--and not just the Anglicized version of it. Still, it is jarring to hear them say your American, "professional" name out loud for the sake of your new friends. Still, it's nice to have old friends meet new friends, even if it sounds weird when they have to pause to remember your name.

4. French people are very dramatic. I say this with love. Well, just for one of them, a sort of exasperated love that will forever be slightly complicated in a non-romantic way. Isn't there an alerntative to love-hate? Can't you be love-exasperated? Also, is it wrong that any time I'm mad at one French person I'm down on the entire country and start making Francophobe jokes a la The Simpsons? Is it bad that a turbulent, dramatic LL.M year has made me if anything less cosmopolitan and more xenophobic/jingoistic?

5. After a rough and weird strict Asian upbringing and some Oprah-esque traumatic experiences, it is jarring to realize that I'm losing the drama competition. Some people you just can't beat! I thought I was inherently dramatic, but I have never used the words "passionately destructive love." And because I'm just so vanilla in my tastes now, I don't think I have really good cringe love or torrid love tales to compare to others, especially if they're told in a melange of accents and slightly archaic vocabulary.

6. Still, I'm more lively than some. The opposite end of the drama spectrum is no more appealing. Monktastic, Aspergery, Nietzchean ubermensch, everyman-is-an-island stuff: hmm, not my cup of tea! There has to be a happy medium of a healthy attitude towards social relations and love, and realistic and healthy expectations of what comes out of them. Again, odd to realize that after years of being a swoony lit major who actually recited Marvel's "come live with me and be my love and we shall all the pleasures prove" dating poets (who composed creepy poetry for me) and artists (who offered to paint me) followed by a few years of a self-imposed man-moratorium for work-related purposes, I am now the "normal" one. I'm neither monktastic nor hysterically dramatic.

7. I don't believe in the happiness equilibrium argument, much less the happiness disruption cost-benefit analysis. I get it, but I don't believe in it. But that's just me. If you want to stay at some equilibrium of "satisfied" or "moderately happy," then get on with your bland self.

8. I dislike banana bread. This is another epiphany after many years of liking other banana flavored things. At first I thought it was the pervasive smell that got me off: if you bake, you never want to eat what you've baked for a few days. But I never get around to eating the banana bread I bake, ever. I still like bananas a lot and have since I was a child--I fit my Chinese zodiac sign so well that my mother used to call me "Little Monkey" in Vietnamese as a nickname. But I've become aware that while I like fresh yellow-green bananas, banana ice cream/smoothies, or Asian dried banana candy, I really dislike bananas baked into things. And yet I hate overripe bananas so much that I end up baking banana bread way too often. Well, there is The Roomie, and there is the possibilty of giving this yucky stuff away.

9. I will always lose at Scrabble because I go for the big words that are fun to make with all of your letters. I almost got "rubicon," but I thought "rogue" and "imbue" were pretty good. So I will always lose to those gamers who do two-letter words and make plurals or past-tenses of my awesome words. Bastards. "Kill your children!", they say. "Fuck that!", I say. This goes back to my philosophical revulsion to #6 and #7: just as I can't imagine being completely happy alone or at some middling level of happiness, I will never be content with winning Scrabble by the cheap means of two-letter words or stealing someone else's word mojo. To me, cheap victories are as emptily victorious as the ubermensch overcoming nihilism and himself: what's the point? And the pleasure at such a victory is so paltry as to be just do do de do da bland.

10. If you don't read my blog (and I can check because I have so few readers) and you annoy me, then I use this space kind of passive aggressively (if cryptically and obliquely) to write about you. But it's at a high level of generality. Don't take it personally. Well, you wouldn't, since you're not reading this.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Precis of the Day: Schultz on Telling Stories About Women and Work

I like Vicki Schultz's work.


Vicki Schultz, Telling Stories About Women and Work: Judicial Interpretations of Sex Segregation in the Workplace in Title VII Cases Raising the Lack of Interest Argument, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 1749 (1990).


Schultz raises the case of EEOC v. Sears Roebuck & Co. as a point of departure for judicial interpretations of sex segregation in the workplace. In Sears, the district court interpreted statistical patterns of sex segregation in the Sears commissioned sale workforce as being the expression of female employees’ own personal employment choices, rather than being due to Sears’ sex discrimination. The Court stated that the EEOC’s statistical analyses of Sears’ workforce as evidence of sex discrimination, because they “were based on the faulty assumption that female sales applicants were as ‘interested’ as male applicants in commissions sales jobs.”

The “lack of interest” argument “rests on conventional images of women as ‘feminine’ and nurturing, unsuited for the vicious competition in the male dominated world of commission selling.” Thus, employers are not at fault for sex discrimination if their sex-segregated workforce is due to the natural employment preferences of their female employees.

Schultz argues that by relying in the lack of interest argument, courts legitimate women’s economic disadvantage. “Courts have missed the ways in which employers contribute to creating women workers in their images of who “women” are supposed to be,” ignoring the “structural features of the workplace that gender jobs and people and disempower women from aspiring to higher-paying nontraditional employment.”
Women often face what could be called the direct effects of discrimination in traditionally male fields: men stereotype women and try to exclude them from the workplace, and female workers, less likely to be treated well, are more likely to quit. Schultz argues that to the extent that women prioritize family or leisure over work, they do so because they perceive little opportunity for career advancement. In traditionally male fields, male hostility (e.g., harassment, sabotage, denial of training) makes women less likely to succeed. Whatever the reasons for why discrimination occcurs, “empirical evidence,” such as studies of the gender wage gap, testing of employer treatment of identical male and female applicants, and widespread cases of discrimination demonstrate “that an important part of the explanation for women’s present labor market position is the continued existence of . . . discrimination against women.”
Indirect effects of discrimination also heavily influence female labor force participation. Sex discourages women from entering (or remaining in) the workforce, and particularly from seeking traditionally male jobs.


Schultz examines the decisions of the lower federal courts concerning the “lack of interest” argument. Schultz includes in her data set all published employment discrimination decisions since 1965 to 1990 concerning cases raising the argument that women failed to apply for the work at issue due to lack of interest in the work.

The data set include 54 “lack of interest” sex discrimination claims. Schultz employed three methods for analyzing how courts have treated the lack of interest argument: 1) a content analysis examining the relationship between evidence of discrimination and the outcomes of the cases, 2) a study of the rhetoric courts have used to justify their decisions, and 3) drawing on sociological research to challenge the assumption that women form stable job preferences through pre-work socialization.

Findings, Conclusions:

Schultz’s content analysis of lower federal court decisions shows that courts have relied on two mutually exclusive explanations for sex segregation in the workplace:

a. Conservative explanation: accepts the lack of interest argument and attributes sex segregation to women workers’ own “choice”

b. Liberal explanation: rejects the lack of interest argument and attributes sex segregation to employer “coercion.”

c. Courts rely heavily on anecdotal evidence of discrimination, and focus on individual suits of discrimination, but often ignore statistical proof of segregation without supplemental evidence that the employer discriminated against individual women. This makes it hard to make a statistical argument of systemic, structural employer-driven sex-segregation.

Schultz’s analysis of the rhetoric courts have used to justify the lack of interest argument:

a. Conservative Story: Women are “feminine,” nontraditional work is “masculine,” and therefore women don’t want to do it. “Common sense,” dictates that once a job is classified as “masculine,” women lack the personal interest and capabilities to apply to or perform the job. This implies that “working women choose their own economic disempowerment.

b. Liberal Story of Coercion: the liberal story invokes the image of the victim, again focusing on the individual while obscuring more structural and systemic views of discrimination. Liberal courts assume that women form their job preferences before they begin working, and this assumption drives liberal courts to a rhetoric hat suppresses gender difference, portraying women as ungendered subjects who have the same experiences, values, and work aspirations, as men. Schultz argues that the liberal suppression of gender difference actually reinforces the conservative story, because it accepts the notion that only women who are socialized the same as men desire such work, validating the conservative notion that women who are ‘different’ (‘feminine’) in non-work aspects automatically have ‘different’ (‘feminine’) work preferences as well.


Amazing article—hard to summarize succinctly, but her empirical analysis of court decisions, as well as her analysis of judicial rhetoric is illuminating. Her conceptual approach to the lack of interest argument—positing a narrative approach—is a strong argument for a more structural, systemic approach to analyzing sex-segregation in the workplace

Rating: *****


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Poet: Amy Lowell

Read what you will into these. Happy Saturday.

A Lover

If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly
I could see to write you a letter.

The Artist

Why do you subdue yourself in golds and purples?
Why do you dim yourself with folded silks?
Do you not see that I can buy brocades in any draper’s shop,
And that I am choked in the twilight of all these colours.
How pale you would be, and startling,
How quiet;
But your curves would spring upward
Like a clear jet of flung water,
You would quiver like a shot-up spray of water,
You would waver, and relapse, and tremble.
And I too should tremble,

Murex-dyes and tinsel—
And yet I think I could bear your beauty unshaded.

To a Husband

Brighter than fireflies upon the Uji River
Are your words in the dark, Beloved.

The Blue Scarf

Pale, with the blue of high zeniths, shimmered over with silver, brocaded
In smooth, running patterns, a soft stuff, with dark knotted fringes, it lies there,
Warm from a woman’s soft shoulders, and my fingers close on it, caressing.
Where is she, the woman who wore it? The scent of her lingers and drugs me.
A languor, fire-shotted, runs through me, and I crush the scarf down on my face,
And gulp in the warmth and the blueness, and my eyes swim in cool-tinted heavens.
Around me are columns of marble, and a diapered, sun-flickered pavement.
Rose-leaves blow and patter against it. Below the stone steps a lute tinkles.
A jar of green jade throws its shadow half over the floor. A big-bellied
Frog hops through the sunlight, and plops in the gold-bubbled water of a basin,
Sunk in the black and white marble. The west wind has lifted a scarf
On the seat close beside me; the blue of it is a violent outrage of colour.
She draws it more closely about her, and it ripples beneath her slight stirring.
Her kisses are sharp buds of fire; and I burn back against her, a jewel
Hard and white, a stalked, flaming flower; till I break to a handful of cinders,
And open my eyes to the scarf, shining blue in the afternoon sunshine.
How loud clocks can tick when a room is empty, and one is alone!

A Fixed Idea

What torture lurks within a single thought
When grown too constant; and however kind,
However welcome still, the weary mind
Aches with its presence. Dull remembrance taught
Remembers on unceasingly; unsought
The old delight is with us but to find
That all recurring joy is pain refined,
Become a habit, and we struggle, caught.
You lie upon my heart as on a nest,
Folded in peace, for you can never know
How crushed I am with having you at rest
Heavy upon my life. I love you so
You bind my freedom from its rightful quest.
In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Exhaustion, Ennui, Neurasthenia, or "Yuppie Flu"

Recent research has indicated that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, despite its multiplicity of causes and rather indeterminate diagnosis, is more than yuppie flu! Maybe that explains why Dave Chappelle (but maybe not Lindsay Lohan) and other famous people get hospitalized for exhaustion so often. I still believe in Mariah though.

One of my favorite this-side-of-25 cracks to make is something I overheard from a fellow grad student friend. It's a funny thing to graduate from college and then have to teach people barely younger than you. Were you really this lazy and impertinent at their age....three years ago?! You betcha. Anyway, this grad student friend remarked that her undergrads were not allowed to have ennui. "No one under the age of 25 is allowed to have ennui. Until you are at least 25, all you are is bored."

Ennui is one thing. But exhaustion? You know, I believe it possible though. Not Charlotte Perkins Gilman neurasthenia or Charles Brockdon Brown fainting spells, but it's easy enough to get tired, even if you're only a sit-and-read-and-write academic. There's lots of reasons. Read the articles for possible causes: psychological, microbial, genetic, biological, etc. I'm anemic (in order to donate blood I have to prepare for weeks, and doing it would drain the life force out of me faster than Rogue). I'm also apparently sensitive to seasonal allergens. Both drain the life out of me and give me powerful headaches.

Things I've found that have helped:

1. Eating regularly, keeping the blood sugar up. Mixing proteins with carbs. Eating the not much liked, but useful green stuff.

2. Taking antihistamines

3. Exercising. Three years in Bourgie Metropolis, and I never picked up cardio. Now I'm running 10-15 miles a week.

4. Sleeping.



Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Touring Your Hometown

A friend from high school is visiting me this week for a few days. Tomorrow, she's off to visit another high school friend who happened to land in the same area. It's a great part of the country (in fact, it's an Awesome Part of the Country), so it's a nice vacation for her.

It is for me as well! Today we toured my campus. It's a beautiful campus. Lots of beautiful trees and some really interesting buildings. But this is maybe the second time I've taken the trouble to walk around the grounds, peek into some of the beautiful buildings, and go on those tour things into some of the historical landmarks. The last time I did this was when I was on vacation, spring break of my 3L year. During that day, I did more touristy stuff around campus and town than I did in my entire LL.M year. What's up with that?

It takes a visitor to make you visit your hometown. You go out to eat at the really nice restaurants, you go to museums, and you just generally look at your town in a new way. It's kind of cool. I wonder how many law professors actually take the time to tour and experience the entire campus (if their school is affiliated with a larger university). Many seem to stick with just the law school building. This is a sad, limiting experience.

Not that I'm one to talk. I barely explored my campus last year, though I did make it to two performances at the art center. And after living here for a year, I'm finally heading into the City to go to a museum (much as I love art, I really need to make more time for it) and one of the big botanical garden parks.

Go explore! Tomorrow, while she's gone, I'm going to run up the fire trail and around the hills bordering campus.


Precis of the Day: Edelman and Suchman, "When The Haves Hold Court"


Edelman, Lauren B. and Mark C. Suchman (1999) ‘‘When the ‘Haves’ Hold Court: The Internalization of Disputing in Organizational Fields,’’ 33 Law & Society Rev. 941–91


Edelman’s and Suchman’s article builds off of Galanter’s 1974 article “Why the ‘Haves’ Come Out Ahead,” in which Galanter argues that repeat players in the legal system enjoy a competitive advantage over one-shotter small plaintiffs or defendants.

Edelman and Suchman help to illuminate Galanter’s thesis by positing large bureaucratic organizations as the archetypal “repeat player.” Large bureaucratic organizations are in the best position to affect public law (statutes, precedents) and to benefit from repeat use of the legal system to secure verdicts in their favor. The authors further build on Galanter’s initial premise by portraying large bureaucratic organizations as having developed their own internal legal systems.

The internalization of the legal system by large organizations have taken the following forms:
1. Legal rule-making: The ‘legalization’ of individual firms and of larger organizational fields.
2. Legal dispute processing: The increasing use of alternative dispute resolution in both intra- and interorganizational conflicts
3. Legal expertise: growing prominence and changing role of organizational in-house counsel
4. Legal enforcement: the re-emergence of private organizational security staffs.


A non-empirical, “theoretical” piece! I like the departure.

Conclusion, Findings:

Thus, the “Haves” “hold court in the sense that they incorporate and thus subsume many essential functions of the public legal system, becoming semi-autonomous legal regimes in their own right. The Internalization of Law occurs within organizations and throughout organizational fields. New business and legal models and practices become institutionalized among organizations (Powell and Dimaggio), and thus the four forms of internalized legal practices have diffused across organizational fields. Moreover, organizations internalize the law by creating and formalizing internal policies that mimic external principles of legality, such as due process and substantive justice, thus preempting and displacing the interventions of public legal authorities.

The organization thus acts as a “Court,” also functioning as lawmaker, judge, counsel, and cop. Organizations create their own rules and internal legal and grievance structures, thus creating the rules, enforcing the rules, and interpreting the rules (or violation thereof) and mediating and adjudicating the disputes. This “plenary power” position can both hurt and help the “have nots” in disputes with and within their organizations by promoting efficiency and providing therapeutic “ventilating” functions (and citizenship norms), but possibly restricting the “have nots” access to rights they might get under the public law system.

“Internalized adjudication may put “have nots” at a disadvantage by depoliticizing and delegalizing conflict, divorcing grievances from principles of law.”: compare this to the Edelman/McCann/Bisom-Rapp thesis that rights-rhetoric is significant even in symbolic legal process. Moreover, the internalization of legal process by organizations, even if in the form of in-house counsel, reduces the role, or at least the centrality, of legal actors and the public legal system. The internalization of law benefits the “haves” by undercutting legal neutrality, formality, and most importantly, democratic governance.


A very valuable addition to Galanter’s article. Galanter’s article was revolutionary in how it reframed the conceptualization of the adversary system, challenging assumptions of the equality of power between the players. Edelman’s and Suchman’s article takes this a step further by introducing a new conceptual framework for dispute resolution by organizations. Instead of analyzing how organizations operate within the public law system, Edelman and Suchman examine the internal legal system of organizations, challenging the very notion of the formal and public legal adjudication system.

Rating: *****


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy Birthday to TC!

I totally dig the band-collared shirts, the scarves, the gloves and sunglasses. I am sure TC will too.

It has been said more than once that I may be too romantic for this world; that I fall in love too easily; and I admit myself that I have an infatuated personality with respect to--well, everything. I tend to make friends quickly, to varying degrees of success. Intense beginnings can mean terrible ends. But you know what? I don't really care to change. That's how I am, and I don't know how to be different.

TC and I are quite new friends. But I am a huge fan already. I love the initial stages of friendship (and love) when you're still learning about each other--everything is so exciting! Novelty is intoxicating. Platonic love is not as prone to the pitfalls of pedestals, so I didn't worry when TC asked me what would happen when she inevitably would disappoint. There won't be a fall, I do not think. But sooner or later, we will settle into some comfy rut, but I look forward to that. It means an invitation for more creativity, and there's something to be said for steady friendship and love. I'm done with drama.

For now, I will delight in exchanging recipes, advice, stories, and too many emails to count. Actually, there is much to look forward to--inevitably there will be the mix tapes and books and crafts. It only gets better from here, TC.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Fare Thee Well

I am more than a little sad to learn that Dan Filler, one of the first Friends of Belle and an early endorser of this blog will no longer be blogging regularly at (my favorite blog) Concurring Opinions.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dan on one of my Blog Across America tours. He's a great guy and likes my mix CDs and weird emails. He's a friend and mentor, and I will miss reading him.


Interview Meme

Big thanks to Blogmeridian for the questions!!

1) Law prof, eh? Describe the moment when you knew with metaphysical certainty that that was what you wanted to do with your life.

I knew somewhere in the middle of my first year, when I was going through the On Campus Interview Program (OCIP)--and actually got some interviews and call-backs. Sometimes the interviews are stacked and scheduled so that you have to miss class. I remember having to miss contracts class, which was taught by a very unpleasant prof--but I really thought it was an interesting subject and kind of fun. At some point, when I was lying through my teeth and heard myself say "your firm's construction law practice is a specialization that interests me"--well, I thought I should go back to class. It's an odd realization to have, that you'd rather be in a class with 75 other people (70 of whom you dislike or are indifferent to) listening to an unpleasant prof who uses a tortuous, mocking form of the Socratic method than at some bourgie restaurant eating cashew-encrusted tilapia. Why feign interest when you could actually be really interested? I realized I liked the intellectual rewards of the study of law, a confession that will endear me to some and antagonize me to others.

I like reading, writing and teaching, and they're what I know how to do--and I hope I'm learning to do them well, or at least better. It seems to fit and work out, and I'm happy with my choice.

2) On tonight's Ultimate Fighting cage-fight card: T.S. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound. Who wins, and why?

Ooof. Tough one. They're all kind of pansies in their own way. Stevens was a corporate tool for much of his life, so maybe he has some alpha male tendencies his other literary compatriots don't. I like Stevens' work and his instrumentalist, human functionalist view of poetry--kind of action-packed.

Eliot and Pound might alack and alas themselves out of the fight--Pound would never finish; Eliot might waffle a bit (Prufrock), wonder what the point is in this apocalyptic modern age (Wasteland) before trying to offer some final vision of redemption (Four Quartets).

But Yeats kind of beats them all in terms of embodying an entire age, from the 19th the 20th--and The Second Coming is such a badass poem. Even though Eliot is my favorite poet, I have to give it to Yeats just for writing till the every end, and for writing the ultimate poem about the end--and the beginning that comes after the end.

3) Describe a piece of art or a photograph you have displayed in your abode. What appeals to you about it?

I have The Last Waltz on Bastille Day, 1945 by Doisneau on my bedroom wall. I like the movement in the photo--the couple seem oblivious to their surroundings, which are very stark. It's as if time stopped and there is nothing in the world to interrupt their dancing. It is night, nothing is open, and there are no other people around--this street is empty and the picture could be one of apocalyptic void--except there are people dancing! It is as if this is the last waltz in history, and Adam and Eve have returned at the second coming (see above) to dance. I like the fact that it's on Bastille Day. It seems an appropriate, final way to celebrate the storming of the Bastille; a violent incident that precedes a new era.

4) Assuming you've heard one worth (re)telling, tell your favorite lawyer or law school joke. Extra credit if you comment on why you think it appeals to you.

I just got this via email from Hipster Law Prof, who came up with this himself! I don't have any favorite jokes. I don't think they're very funny. But this one is in a very lawyerish way:

A rich man is worried that someone will break into his house and steal his possessions. He asks an economist, a physicist and a lawyer for advice. The economist says, economic thinking can help. Put your most valuable things in the bank. Someone can still break in and rob you, but economically it wouldn't make much sense. The physicist says, put locks on the doors and bars on the windows. Someone could still break in and rob you, but it would be physically very difficult. The lawyer laughs. Amateurs, he says. The law is more powerful. Just leave your door open with a sign saying 'take what you want.' now no one can break in and rob you-it's legally impossible.

Ha. Ha. Ha! For extra credit, I will say that what appeals to me about this joke is that it frames the disciplines as being against each other--and that's a very lawyerly thing to do, to claim our own superiority above other disciplines. I think it goes back to our disciplinary inferiority complex, which very few of us will admit to having. There is no such thing as a "law major," so everyone comes into law school having studied something else and feels probably a twinge of guilt about not doing that anymore. What better way than to make fun of the doctor you failed to be! I remember that on the first day of law school, my civil procedure professor said that across the campus, what medical students are hearing themselves is "right across the campus there are a thousand students learning how to sue you"--and that's where he came in.
I also like this joke because it's so...legalistic--so technical, and the punchline about "legally impossible"--such a lawyer way of thinking! Funny if you get it. Physical impossibility (or in this case, possibility), the confines of time and space--who cares! if it's legally possible, it can't happen! Love that.

5) Helen Vendler, the famous academic critic of poetry from Harvard, once said that though her favorite poet was Keats, if she were a poet Stevens was the poet whose work she would most want to be able to write. How about you? What would your choices be?

Another hard one. My favorite poet is T.S. Eliot, because of his power to move me with his words in every direction--he is one of the few writers that I can say "changed my life." I didn't think of poetry or the English language the same way after reading Eliot. He frustrates me sometimes, and I've worked harder to read him than any other poet (reading the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita as background, self-translating, reading with notes)--but I've also gotten more from him than any other poet. I read The Wasteland every year, and get something new each time--mainly because each time I've picked up some new reference or language translation. But I read The Four Quartets every year too, and mark my life's progress by how I respond to the poem.

If I could write long epic poetry for the modern age, I'd write like Eliot in The Four Quartets. But I wish I could just write like Robert Creeley, who moves me and fills me with feeling and beauty. If love poetry, then--well, no one poet owns love poetry for me--I wish I could mix Shakespeare with Donne and some e.e. cummings for irreverence, since love should be playful. I have an even longer list for poets I wish I could write who fill me with a beautiful sadness. That's for another day.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nerd Love Redux

Icky, highly generalized and exaggerated definition here.

Commercialized here.

Post inspired by this bit of truth: Great Moments In Theory I:

Ben Chaplin wooing Janeane Garofalo over the phone with a passage from Camera Lucida in The Truth about Cats and Dogs. "The punctum," recites Chaplain, "is a kind of subtle beyond—as if the image launched desire beyond what it permits us to see: not only toward ‘the rest’ of the nakedness, not only toward the fantasy of a praxis, but toward the absolute excellence of being, body and soul together."

Then they have phone sex and masturbate.

Theory always sounds prettier/sexier than science:

Angular Momentum Love.

But science and math are more honest:


Anthem: This Modern Love by Bloc Party

TV Show: Freaks and Geeks



Saturday Poet: Arthur Rimbaud

Happy Birthday to my friend Hipster Law Prof. May he have many more happy years, and may we always exchange odd questions, moderately useful advice (well, his more useful than mine), ruminating thoughts, and good friendship. And some awesome care packages. And hi-fives.

HLP supposedly looked like Rimbaud as a young man. I can sort of see it. Or at least, say "sure, if you say so" in good humor. So in honor of his birthday, in light of the fact that I just saw Paris, je t'aime (and liked it much), and because it's Saturday, I give you poetry by Rimbaud and dedicate today's post to Hipster Law Prof. Rimbaud, brilliant Symbolist poet prodigy that he was, stopped writing entirely at the age of 19, and died at the age of 37. Only one year older than HLP is today! So by all accounts, HLP is doing good, and way better than his literary doppelganger.

Again, joyeux anniversaire Hipster Law Prof!

I am an ephemeral
and a not too discontented citizen
of a metropolis considered modern
because all known taste
has been evaded in the furnishings a
nd the exterior of the houses
as well as in the layout of the city.
Here you will fail to detect the least trace
of any monument of superstition.
Morals and language are reduced to their simplest expression,
at last! The way these millions of people,
who do not even need to know each other,
manage their education, business,
and old age is so identical
that the course of their lives
must be several times less long
than that which a mad statistics
calculates for the people of the continent.
And from my window I see new specters rolling through
the thick eternal smoke--
our woodland shade, our summer night!--
new Eumenides in front of my cottage
which is my country and all my heart
since everything here resembles it,--
Death without tears, our diligent daughter and servant,
a desperate Love, and a pretty
Crime howling in the mud in the street.


Nobody's serious when they're seventeen.
On a nice night, the hell with beer and lemonade
And the café and the noisy atmosphere!
You walk beneath the linden trees on the promenade.
The lindens smell so lovely on a night in June!
The air is so sweet that your eyelids close.
The breeze is full of sounds-- they come from the town--
And the scent of beer, and the vine, and the rose...


You look up and see a little scrap of sky,
Dark blue and far off in the night,
Struck with a lopsideded star that
drifts by With little shivers, very small and white...
A night in June! Seventeen! Getting drunk is fun.
Sap like champagne knocks your head awry...
Your mind drifts; a kiss rises to your lips
And flutters like a little butterfly...


Your heart Crusoes madly through novels, anywhere,
When through the pale pool beneath a street light,
A girl goes by with the most charming air,
In the grim shadows of her father's dark coat.
And since she finds you marvelously naïve,
While her little heels keep tapping along
She turns, with a quick bright look...
And on your lips, despairing, dies your song.


You are in love. Rented out till fall.
You are in love. Poetic fires ignite you.
Your friends laugh; they won't talk to you at all.
Then one night, the goddess deigns to write you!
That night... you go back to the café, to the noisy atmosphere;
You sit and order beer, or lemonade...
Nobody's serious when they're seventeen,
And there are linden trees on the promenade.


When the world is reduced to a single dark wood
for our four eyes' astonishment,-- a beach for two
faithful children,-- a musical house
for one pure sympathy,-- I shall find you.
Should there be here below
but a single old man, handsome
and calm in the midst of incredible luxury, I shall be at your feet.
Should I have realized all your memories,--
should I be the one who can bind you
hand and foot,-- I shall strangle you.
When we are very strong,-- who draws back?
very gay,-- who cares for ridicule?
When we are very bad,-- what would they do with us?
Deck yourself, dance, laugh.
I could never throw Love out of the window.
My comrade, beggar girl, monster child!
O it's all one to you these unhappy women,
these wiles and my discomfiture.
Bind yourself to us with your impossible voice, your voice!
sole soother of this vile despair.
An overcast morning in July. A taste of ashes flies through the air;--
an odor of sweating wood on the hearth,--
dew-ret flowers-- devastation along the promenades--
the mist of the canals over the fields-- why not incense and toys already?
I have stretched ropes from steeple to steeple;
garlands from window to window;
golden chains from star to star, and I dance.
The upland pond smokes continuously.
What witch will rise against the white west sky?
What violet frondescence fall?
While public funds evaporate in feasts of fraternity,
a bell of rosy fire rings in the clouds.
Reviving a pleasant taste of Indian ink,
a black powder rains on my vigil.
I lower the jets of the chandelier,
I throw myself on my bed,
and turning my face towards the darkness,
I see you, my daughters! my queens!


Friday, July 13, 2007

A Balancing Act

I'm not good at having a balanced life. I tend to work obsessively for months, and then get burnt out and exhausted, which gets me either physically sick or just worn out mentally. So for every three months of productivity, I would have a month of complete exhaustion: migraines, severe colds, and just plain ol' physical malaise rising to the level of Proustian indolence. This is not good, not good for me, and not a good way to be a practicing academic. And I'm way too young to be so exhausted and to have the heart rate of a coma patient. So I've been trying to change. This means doing more and not less, oddly enough.

I thank The Roomie in part for this--living with someone makes me more accountable in many good ways. It's not a matter of being more social, but being a bit healthier, which makes me more social by accident. It's nice having someone to talk to. And she has some good habits. I'm trying to get into bed before 1 am, even though I'm generally an insomniac night owl. I'm also trying to rise by 7:30 am. And even though it's a time suck, I find cooking to improve my health and mental balance, and cooking means friends over for dinner--an added social benefit. And I've added exercise to the routine--not long meandering walks like I used to, but something the health freaks that abound here in Liberal College Town call "cardio," which can be done in groups along one of our town's many trails--again, the psychosocial support + tangible health benefit. I'm trying to read something light before bed each night, like my New Yorker or a short story.

It almost seems too much--but the alternative, too little--except work--wasn't working out for me. There was a great Prawfsblawg thread on this, here and here. It's not so much that I need a superhuman schedule or "supportive spouse" to do everything for me so that all I do is work. Well, I suppose that would be nice.

But I think what I really need to do is add more non-work things to my schedule so that I can sustain the productivity year round and not suffer from exhaustion (or worse, ennui). It was getting to the point where I thought a visit to the doctor would take too much time, so I didn't go. So, after months of suffering (I thought I had mono or a thyroid condition, it was so bad) later, I finally went to the doctor early this summer--and it turns out severe allergies contributed to the migraines and blackout afternoon sleeping patterns. Now I'm on Allegra! I'm not as exhausted anymore. Anti-histamines + exercise + healthy diet (mostly vegetarian) + sleep = more hours of productivity when it counts, from about 8:30-6 pm.

Maybe it isn't so much that I need to work day and night and freak out so much about it all--indeed, there were times when I just stared blankly at the screen, unable to come up with anything good or interesting. I wasted a lot of time "working day and night." I think I need a good solid block of hours that are academically productive--and spend the rest of the day tending to my physical, psychosocial, and mental/emotional needs.

I wonder that this lesson comes to me at the age of 26 (soon 27). If only I had started doing this earlier.

It's midnight! Time to read a short story and prepare for a new day.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hope This Helps

After all these years, I still like my Agresti and Finlay "Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences" college text book for brushing up on stats. At the very least, you will remember what kind of test you are looking at when you look at a table; and when the p-values or T-tests are significant.

I plan on getting Endnote for organizing footnotes for articles that use the same sources.

Nothing beats Strunk and White's Elements of Style.

Except maybe Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference.

And the always helpful (to us law geeks) Academic Legal Writing by Eugene Volokh.

Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches by John Creswell will probably be useful for my dissertation, so I'm going to buy this.

And people seem to like this: Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis by Joan Bolker, a woman who both failed and succeeded at dissertating.

For stress relief I plan to go running and keep track of my routes up the hills of Liberal College. I also plan to bake a lot, and keep up my reading habits.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Larry Solum on Wandering/Homebody Foxes/Hedgehogs

I never thought my silly question would spark such a "blogospheric eruption," but it has!

I apologize for mis-conceptualizing the hedgehog/fox distinction, and thank Larry Solum and William McGeveran for setting me straight (in a nice way, to boot).

But Larry's absolutely brilliant post (a chorus of voices agree, with thumps on table and huzzahs for emphasis) is worth quoting at length:

[D]octrinal specialization is not the idea that should be associated with the "foxes and hedgehogs" metaphor.

Hedgehogs know one thing: they have a "universal organizing principle." Foxes reject such systems; they approach topics from many angles--they adopt multiple and even contradictory perspectives.

How does this apply to the legal academy? It suggests a divide that is orthogonal to (& perhaps even the inverse of) the distinction between doctrinal specialists and generalists. The hedgehogs of the legal academy are those who approach the study of law with one theory (or one unified toolkit, or one comprehensive moral or political perspective) that is supposed or claimed to provide the right answer or the correct point of view. The foxes are those who resist theoretical monism, who insist on a plurality of perspectives, who insist on the priority of the particular.

(Go to Larry's post for the taxonomy of hedgehogs and foxes into
wandering/homebody categories.)

So what should you be? A hedgehog or a fox? Homebody or wanderer? Once we pose the question this way, some things become clear. If you are risk averse, uncomfortable with uncertainty, then becoming a homebody hedgehog would seem like the way to go. Master a single doctrinal field or subfield from a single theoretical perspective! Become an expert on the law and economics of negligence or the deontic morality of murder or the relationship between cognitive biases and consumer credit law. On the other hand, if you are easily bored and enjoy walking on tightropes, you might want to be a wandering fox--moving from field to field, struggling to master a diverse and perhaps ever-changing toolkit.

But I am not sure that this is a matter of choice. Or not mentirely. It is possible, I think, to choose to be a homebody hedgehog--deliberately specializing in a particular doctrinal field and mastering a particular theoretical orientation. Or to be more accurate, I think it is possible for some of us to make this choice. Perhaps you are a true believer in law and economics or critical race theory or Kantian morality! And perhaps you have a deep interest in torts or the first amendment or securities regulation. Having the temperment of a homebody hedgehog is a great gift, it simplifies life enormously. And it quite naturally leads to stable, longterm relationships with like-minded homebodies and hedgehogs, those who share your theoretical or doctrinal interests. That's good for networking, and it sure comes in handy when its time to get letters for tenure or an endowed chair.

But for other scholars, I think, the hedgehog life is simply not an option. There are those who are disposed (perhaps even deeply) to feel ill at ease with "a single central vision, one system," to use Berlin's words. If you are a fox, then maybe you cannot choose to be a hedgehog. And if you are a hedgehog, then becoming a fox may not look like a live possibility either. It may be that by the time we would like make this choice--early in an academic career--we are already hedgehog or fox, wandering or homebody.

I wonder, does it make sense to agree with Orin Kerr that it's too early to tell, while also having a sneaking suspicion that I'm already whatever it is I am and cannot choose. In other words, I have a sneaking suspicion that I am indeed a fox. My toolkit is a melange of things, and I am highly skeptical about "universal organizating principles."

Incredibly interesting discussions sparked by a bit of fluff and misconception. Thank you, all!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fox vs. Hedgehog, The Ultimate Smackdown

Follow-ups to my previous post. Good comments by Eric Muller and Orin Kerr. Thank you both!

Eric has a lengthier follow-up at his blog, detailing his own path from hedgehogginess to foxiness and back again. It's well worth reading, even if daunting to emulate.

Dan Filler posts his own thoughts on the debate at the Co-Op. Here's a significant bite:

But there are downsides to foxhood. First, foxes find it tougher to join a community of scholars. At meetings, and all year long, academic hedgehogs connect over shared issues and interests. They invite each other to give talks and join panels. They share each others' names when law schools seek potential lateral hires. Foxes often exist on the edges of hedgehog communities but the hedgehogs rarely think of foxes as true experts. And this is the second problem: foxes may in fact be less expert than hedgehogs. The immediate cost of this is that the scholar's institution (and the world, gosh darnit!) never get the benefit of this additional quantum of knowledge. A secondary effect of this reduced expertise also relates to lateral movement potential: in many cases, better scholars have more opportunities to move. But this is a complicated claim. The truth is that social connections and article placement are absolutely critical predictors of success in the lateral market. Sociable foxes with strong (if not brilliant) scholarship and/or nice placements can move. Yet because many excellent articles never find a marque placement, many hedgehogs are unable to move...despite their expertise.

There is no right answer to this debate. If your school demands that you become a leader in some particular sub-field, you're probably best playing the hedgehog. But if you're at one of the 150 law schools that are primarily concerned about productivity (teamed with reasonable quality), the choice is up to you. And simply having that choice is one of the great pleasures of academia.

Very interesting! I didn't think I'd stir up the pot so much by blogging on music. I'll follow up tomorrow with some additional thoughts at this early stage in my career.

Next up: Why on earth am I doing what I'm doing rather than a Ph.D., as Jonathan Simon suggests.


Monday, July 09, 2007

From One Home to Another

I don't know how many of you readers still visit your parents on a regular basis. This is not a remark about the epidemic of dysfunction; I just wonder how many of you have new nuclear families of your own and a new definition for "going home to your family."

Not having my own household, or gia dinh (that's the literal translation for the inevitable question I get at weddings by slightly shrewish family friends when they inquire about my status for the sake of their unmarried sons--little do they know how I'd disappoint), I still occasionally refer to my parents' house as "home." I'm getting better at calling The House of Awesomeness "home" now that I'm set on hanging my hat there for 2-3 more years. It is nice having my own place. It is a good way to get used to the idea that when I visit my parents and can't remember where the salt shaker is, it's because their home is no longer my home. It is an idea that grows to reality.

It seems that in America every generation moves farther away from the one that preceded it. It's not so much rootlessness as the fact of modern life that one sets up separate households in separate cities (or states, even countries, even continents) from one's parents. It's not so much atomization as the contraction of larger familial/social networks into smaller nucleuses. Maybe there was a time when grandparents, aunts and uncles lived nearby. It certain is so in Vietnam, and that's the way my family still operates (all my siblings live within 20 miles of the central homestead, and most within 10 miles). But I'm getting used to the idea of having my home farther away from the central hub. It's the reality of modern American life, and certainly of the academic one. The two-bodies-two-cities problem is an even more of a concern than trying to find my way back to the homestate.

At any rate, I am going from one home to another today. See you on the other side.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Electicism, Dilettantism, and Being a Fox Rather Than a Hedgehog

Eric Muller is going to make fun of me for this one too, I bet. But I love his blog, so I don't mind. But this post--like so many others--starts off one way, and finishes another. I like to go from mundane to meta.

I like all kinds of music. I'm just fantastically lazy about updating my music tastes. Sometimes, they're stuck somewhere in the 1940s. Which isn't exactly rocking. I'm often the young gal in the early-bird-special audience at my Peter Cincotti and Jane Monheit concerts, debating the "no one does it better than Billie, but what the hey" finer points of "I'll Be Seeing You."

Other times I'm in the wrong part of the country, listening to my George Jones and Loretta Lynn. And, I really do wish I were from Texas (like TC) so that I could sing "All My Exes Live In Texas" by George Strait and really, really mean it.

And I have a not-so-secret love affair with pop. I'm a closet pop tart who casually-on-purpose displays the cases for indie rock and classic rock while hiding my Corrs and Justin Timberlake CDs. I do listen to Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, The Shins, The Decemberists...(I could go on) and I have an all-consuming love for Wilco. But once in a while, I just have to have some pop. And while we're at it, some hip hop with a more than generous dose of old school R&B.

Mostly, I hover on the edges of cool. One of my friends is a former college radio DJ-turned lawyer. Actually, I think there are a fair amount of those, trying to hold onto the vestiges of coolness on the weekends and living in hipster neighborhoods despite the commute to the financial district. But I get some good music pointers from her, and sometimes I like them, and sometimes I think "dude, that is a little too emo for me." But in general, I'm not totally uncool--I have been known to rock out, and Hipster Law Prof seems to dig my taste in music.

I sometimes envy people who are less eclectic, less dilettantish. They just seem more committed and certain. Those indier-than-thou guys with emo hair and total lack of muscletone. Those who can get away with saying out loud that Tupac is their dog. They seem so sure of themselves. They are specialists in their areas. They are hedgehogs. And isn't the legal academy supposed to be populated with hedgehogs rather than foxes? This dichotomy seems pretty apt in its description--there are far more specialists than Renaissance people. But I'm afraid I might be a fox. Sometimes, my eclecticism knows no bounds. My music tastes are emblematic of my all-over-the-map ways.

I'm worried that this breeds into my approach to everything. Not only do I read law review articles--I read fiction, poetry, non-fiction, blogs, newspapers, long-form journalism....you know, I wonder if I wouldn't be a better legal scholar if I just really focused on just one thing. But maybe I would be a more depressed, soulless person though. Not that I keep this up all year round, but I do try to knock at least one or two books per month, and I always read my New Yorker (this is why I don't oversubscribe to too many magazines). I skim maybe 10 blogs a day, cherry-picking the posts. I read broadly and widely--sociology, lit theory, even science. I'm everyone's favorite Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy! partner. I can talk on almost any subject for at least an hour, doesn't matter what. Most of the time, I'm happy to be a dilettante. If you like all kinds of music, you're pretty easy-going on roadtrips. If you're widely read, you can talk to anyone and their siblings/parents/significant others at awkward social events. So in general, I consider this a "good."

But with respect to my academic career, is it a bad thing to be a dilettantish fox? I was formerly a CRT'er, keep my finger in the con law pie (mostly anti-discrimination law), and am writing mostly interdisciplinary scholarship on employment discrimination law. Even whittled down, I'm writing in two areas (even if I read more widely): constitutional law and employment discrimination. Should I just choose one? Am I just too all over the place?

At what point do eclecticism, dilettantism, all-over-the-mapism, and fox-rather-than-hedgehogism become bad rather than good? hurt one's scholarly focus? In a law-law-land of hedgehogs, should a fox try to change her ways?