Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blog Break For Belle

I really, really want to post on this really interesting discussion I have been having off-blog about Bourgie on Bourgie Hatred that is coincidentally also currently being played out on literary studies blogs. But while it is no trouble to copy and paste the email portion of the discussion, it's trouble editing and formatting. I am moving on Friday, and have to do last minute packing and cleaning up tomorrow. There's a lot of my own commentary that I would send via private email but not post on a public blog, so I have to figure out what I would judiciously say in public about such issues.

It is likely to be a long series of posts anyway, touching on issues of education (and its purpose), class (and its distinctions), passing (and its probability), social mobility (and its potential), and who can speak on behalf of which group (my answer: hardly anyone). I am having an thought-provoking but non-contentious discussion off blog, but on the blogs, boy is this an emotional and button-pushing issue. An alternate title is "Man I Am Glad I Don't Teach Literature." I say this to you as an anti-discrimination law scholar, a subject where it is not uncommon to discuss very concretely and even personally issues of racial, gender and class discrimination, and how to correct that in ways that actually work, whether it's by empowering individuals through education and legal tools or changing laws to affect the society at large. Hell,I say this to you as a rejected product of Critical Race Theory, where it was all about personal narrative.

I might pop back on for a spell tomorrow if only to introduce a new guest blogger, but if I am to be good and productive I will stay away. Hopefully I'll be back by the end of the weekend. If not, perhaps my good co-bloggers will actually blog something to take off the pressure. Hint hint.


Critique of the Day: What is Sexual Harassment? by Abigail Saguy

Citation: Saguy, Abigail C. What is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne, University of California Press (2003).


This book is a comparative empirical study of sexual harassment law in the United States and France. Using mixed methods of 1) in-depth interviews with prominent feminist activists and sexual harassment scholars and managers of American and French companies, 2) a content analysis of legal texts and popular mainstream media articles about sexual harassment that was then coded into variables that were empirically assessed, and 3) short interviews of French and American managers and lawyers to assess how they would respond to eleven different sexual harassment scenarios, Saguy paints a relatively full and compelling portrait of the similarities and differences in sexual harassment law between the United States and France.
To her credit, she resists and even decries ascribing such difference to purely stereotypical conceptions of cultural difference, although this is often the difference highlighted by the mainstream media and common narrative: people in the U.S. are too “puritan” and “policing” of all aspects of personal life, particularly sexuality, while people in France are too permissive of sexualized behavior in non-intimate relationships and settings such as the workplace due to the typical French romantic way. It is interesting then, that “culture,” as much as it can be empirically assessed and defined in terms of attitudes to concrete hypotheticals of sexual harassment and real life cases, should figure prominently in her multivalent explanation of the difference in sexual harassment law.

The differences between U.S. and French sexual harassment law are many and stem from the even more complex differences in political structure, legal system, and sociological culture.

United States

Common Law System: legal rules are developed through the adversarial system of litigation and rules-definition by the courts. This includes interpretations of the limits and reaches of statutory law such as Title VII. This permits, albeit in a slow, evolving way, novel changes in the law from the ground up, particularly by feminist lawyers. For example, through litigation, the courts determined that sexual harassment was a subset of discrimination on the basis of sex, a protected category under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, later amended by Congress to include punitive in addition to compensatory damages in the 1991 Amendment.


Civil Law System: Laws are introduced in Parliament and voted upon by that body; thus only what is politically feasible that term is voted upon. In France, the traditional concerns of Parliament focus not on group based discrimination along the axis of gender or race, but rather the axis of class, which is why French sexual harassment law is rooted in labor law and criminal law, originating from French legal traditions of just-cause termination of employment and the quid pro quo model of sexually harassing in order to obtain through force against the person’s will, sexual conduct.

U.S. Discrimination Framework and Remedies: This strategy was not without controversy (as it ignores sex harassment in contexts other than the workplace), but it definitely posits sexual harassment as group-based discrimination for which the employer is vicariously liable if committed by its agents and employees. U.S. sexual harassment law classifies this as something to be regulated by the EEOC under statutory law with legal (compensatory damages) and equitable (injunctions, reinstatement) remedies with some punitive damages after 1991.

French Criminal Framework and Remedies: This model of use of authority to obtain through coercion sexual conduct is a model of interpersonal violence, and thus based in criminal law. This is the most significant difference between the U.S. and France, as criminal law puts this as a conflict between the “victim” and the “perpetrator,” and there is thus no vicarious liability for the employer, as it is not “discrimination” but rather “interpersonal violence.” The remedies are fines and imprisonment for the perpetrator, but no employment/civil remedies for the victim.

U.S.: Taking Sexual Harassment Seriously, How Institutions Interact: HR managers take any instance of sexual harassment very seriously, due in part to the media’s inflammatory hype about sexual harassment verdicts and political scandals (Hill-Thomas, Jones-Clinton) and fear of litigation. This is as much a “bulletproofing the workplace” narrative as it is a “it doesn’t belong in the workplace anyway” professional narrative. Americans appear to view and approach social relationships at work differently than do the French, divorcing private life from public life so completely as to stamp out and police all private interactions in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is regarded as a major social ill, and emblematic of gender discrimination. Indeed, it may be more salient, at least in the press, than other types of gender discrimination such as wage inequality or disparity in promotion. Sexual harassment is gender discrimination because the person is evaluated on the basis of sex rather than objective qualifications. This political and cultural conception of sexual harassment is then more stringently policed in the workplace, where the narrative of “it’s just not professional” or “it has nothing to do with work” takes over and makes this anti-discrimination value an corporate organizational value of efficiency and productivity.

French Comparative Nonchalance about Sexual Harassment: How Culture Is Enacted: While the French take the concept of “moral harassment” or what I gather to be “bullying” seriously, “sexual harassment” is stigmatized and diminished as a social ill. Most appallingly, some of the discourse surrounding sexual harassment is that a person who feels uncomfortable with sexual attention is in need of a good ____. The French distinction between public and private spheres is one of non-regulation, not that private relationships do not belong in the workplace, but that they should not be regulated.

The French legal and political system seems less concerned with gender discrimination in general, and suspicious of American-style Puritanism w/r/t sex as amplified by damages-seeking litigation tactics. In fact, the French think that seeking money damages dilutes a plaintiff’s claim.

Thus, French culture is more permissive of private sexual interactions in public spheres, and this is instantiated in the lax regulation of the workplace, and further reflected in the political and legal refusal to see the problem as one affecting a segment of society that should be remedied with broad legislation. It is definitely not an organizational value, either, and because employers are not vicariously liable, they do not have incentive to police the actions of their employees.


I thought that this book was interesting, if repetitive. What was most interesting was the recursion inherent in her argument: cultural norms, social structure, political structure, legal systems, traditions all combine in complex, multivalent ways to produce the very different models of sexual harassment law in the United States and France. This recursion was demonstrated best when she took a passage out of an interview and highlighted all the ways even a short response signified political, organizational, and cultural values.

However, I thought the book was kind of repetitive. She belabored the same recursive point, which is inherently repetitive, to death using her three methods. Also, while she mentions Catherine MacKinnon a lot, why not name Vicki Schultz’s important work in re-theorizing sexual harassment, or Lauren Edelman’s and Susan Bisom Rapp’s work on grievance procedures as symbolic myths for bulletproofing the workplace? It’s in the footnotes, but these would have watered down her argument somewhat that Americans are very strict about sexual harassment. Also, what about the legal consciousness value of sexual harassment law? Her argument that the French coverage of American sexual harassment cases served to reinforce symbolic differences and boundaries (mostly in the superior sense) to the U.S., but I wonder if there was any positive consciousness raising due to such coverage. Why didn’t she interview French workers in addition to management?

The most interesting parts of the book were the interviews and how she framed the difference between France and the U.S., but I would have liked to see a better explanation of how the different political structures and legal systems led to different laws. Her explanation falls short a bit, mainly because political expediency is not absent as a justificatory function in U.S. law (indeed, she didn’t even explain that “sex discrimination” was added last minute as a way to defeat Title VII, and nor is it the only reason to explain French law. This book is a sociology book, not a political science book. Which is fine, but when Saguy tries to explain how political institutions, laws, and legal systems interact to produce different laws, her best explanations are sociological rather than legal or political.


It Started As A Comment: Why I Am Not a Marxist

But it's too long. I'll put it here, a response to Patrick O'Donnell on why I am not Marxist:

Wow, thanks Patrick! I love your bibliographies.

To be fair and not snide, my critique of the Marxist critique of relative autonomy of law was in the spirit of Critical Race Theory's critique of Critical Legal Studies' trashing of legal rules. I think the law is important for conferring rights, and I think it can and does invert hierarchies and the interests of the elite ruling class, particularly with the concept of the rule of law,and specific laws such as those conferring civil rights and those governing the workplace. I am pro legal rules and enforcement when it can and does work to achieve such ends. In fact, I would argue for the expansion fo such legal rules to cover more classes and confer more rights and benefits, and more rigorous enforcement. This is why I am pro regulating the workplace and why many libertarians, who love me nonetheless, call me a commie in an affectionate and facetious manner.

I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, and nor do I think I am merely blinded by false consciousness for thinking so. Indeed, while such laws may indeed just be legitimating exercises by the power elites to maintain the status quo of oppression (throwing a bone to the masses), where would the masses be without them anyway?

The true test is not whether we are better off without the laws and with a revolution leading to a proletariat-governed system or anarchy, but whether such laws do what good they seek to achieve, if they do so effectively, and what could be done to make them better and what would lead to a more just society.

Do I think more just societies (social and economic justice) can happen without regulation? I am skeptical of human nature and not so laissez faire as some people I love. Do I think legal regulation is always the answer? No, not really, which is why I think I am growing less liberal with age, or maybe I'm just a capitalist pig. Do I think that the mere existence of legal regulations is enough? Definitely not. Law on the books and law in action has a huge gap in between them, and I would be all for changing laws and policies (but entire systems?) when they simply do not work to decrease the great disparities in social and economic status among groups. However, I am obviously working within the mostly free market capitalist, legal rule-bound American system and the existing laws that I have to work with. I cannot conceive of how to work in any other way. It is like asking me to imagine what America would be like if we listened to Jefferson and had a constitution that had to be amended every few years, or if we didn't have a constitutional republic at all. I have no idea. I can't even think in such terms. I am kind of limited in that way.

In the end, I have no idea how to make a more just society, but that's part of my work! Or so I hope.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Random Five

1. Whenever I walk through a steam vent from the underground subways or the tunnels on campus, I can't help but hear the theme song to "Shaft" and strut a little. "Who's the man that would risk his neck for a brother man? Shaft! Can ya dig it?" Admit it. You do too. Just like if you were ever to wear white pants and white shoes you would strut, before you got beat up for being a fashion travesty, unless you're strutting on a golf course or something. Occasionally my assymmetrical bangs will lift and swoop like wings off my face when I absentmindedly brush them aside, but I always feel more like Pam Grier than Farah Fawcett, and I think "you go, Foxy Brown."

2. I will say it again: one exceedingly dramatic, miserable year of thesis hell combined with making all the wrong "friends"(psycho, backstabbing, using) in the heavily international LL.M program last year has made me, if anything, more xenophobic and stereotyping than I was ever in my life. Damn it, Coca Cola doesn't teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I am sure there are cognitive psych/sociological studies on how negative interactions with members of certain national groups create negative impressions of national identity, and in absence of such negative stimuli, the general impulse would tend either to be neutral or positive. In any case, this is all being rehabilitated slowly, if only because if left to my own devices I tend to go back to my intellectual cosmopolitanism of cultural relativism that predates the lived experience that French people are falsely superior. I used to like French language, literature and culture. Well, I still do, in the abstract.

But last year's experience with Le Freaks continued to weigh on my mind as I read the chapter on cultural differance as an explanation for the divergence in the attitudes and laws regarding sexual harassment between the U.S. and France. I kept thinking "man, the French are so fucked up," rather than "man, French laws on sexual harassment deriving from a model of interpersonal violence within the construct of non-consensual touching or rape as enforced by the penal code, which arises from differences in French political structure, civil law system, and cultural norms surrounding sex and gender are so fucked up."

3. Speaking of Coca Cola, whatever damage it it may do to my kidneys, after a lifetime of rarely drinking soda or carbonated beverages of any kind, it is my new best friend and current addiction. It is, in fact, a revelation. I keep asking people if they knew about the genius of htis. The coffee maker and tea kettle and tea and coffee are all packed up. I have been plowing through a 12 pack of Diet Coke as caffeine on tap, and it is delicious and stimulating. My kidneys definitely think so.

4. After my umpteenth time going over Marxist theories of law and economic class struggle, I must admit that I am just not that liberal, and I am so not a Marxist. I actually said "whatever, man, Communism sucks! My parents fled a Communist regime!" when the professor told me my critique of of the Marxist critique of relative autonomy and social constructivist theories of law and economics would be answered by Marxists as "you have false consciousness! In absence of law there would be a revolution!" Not that the professor believes in that either, but for the sake of argument, you know

I'm not a critical deconstructionist anymore either, but I've blogged on this extensively. I would say that I am growing closer to being a social constructionist. Hmmm.

5. It sucks when one of you has to work late and can't come home. It is understandable and not uncommon and in fact all too common, even on my end as a "no really, I mean a real job" graduate student, but there you go. It sucks nevertheless.


Jeremy Freese Defines "Normative" w/r/t Sociology

An answer to the question!

The question:

Why do sociologists use "normative" in a different way other than the common understanding?

The answer (which will no doubt be supplemented in the comments):

“Normative” has two separate senses and what is considered the primary usage differs. Commonly elsewhere but less commonly among sociologists, “normative” is most often seen to precede “theory”, “statement”, or “claim.” A normative statement is a statement about how the world ought to be, to be distinguished from a “descriptive”, “explanatory” or “positive” statement that is an intended characterization of what the world is.

More commonly in sociology, “normative” means “sustained by social norms.” Norms, in turn, are socially held ideas about appropriate conduct. “Socially held” reflects that individuals can recognize that norms have a status apart from their own personal beliefs about appropriate conduct. Speaking casually, norms are what everybody knows everybody knows about what is appropriate behavior. Norms are sometimes codified as laws with violations handed by the justice system, although there is no necessary or obvious relationship between norms and laws. Because they are ideas about appropriate conduct, norms are closely bounded up at least with informal sanctioning, which can encompass any way in which violations of norms are treated negatively and/or behavior consistent with norms is treated positively.

Deviance, as Belle Lettre’s friend notes, is often defined precisely as deviation from norms. The preference for “deviance” over, say, “crime” or “perversion,” is that one can treat behavior deviating from a norm as one matter and how exactly that deviation is interpreted by others as another.

Thank you, Jeremy Freese! You are mighty!


Speaking of "Norms", What Do Sociologists Mean By "Normative"?

In addition to my posts on "is the word 'normative' academic jargon" here and here,

a political theorist friend asks:

Why do sociologists use "normative" in a different way other than the common understanding? I found it so confusing when I encountered this secondary usage: a sociologist of deviance I knew used it to mean "conforming to expected behavior"; as in, "the opposite of deviant." And this wasn't her own idiosyncratic usage; it seems to be common in some areas of sociology and psychology.

I've encountered that formulation of "normative" once or twice. But I have no idea. Perhaps sociologist readers or the good folks at Scatterplot (cough Jeremy Freese cough) could enlighten us.


Googling Reveals Norms, Settles Many a Debate

Apropos of the previous post on whether "normative" is "academic jargon" (an issue which you all should still vote to determine, although it looks like The Dude is winning this argument), a Google search revealed this thread from Ask Metafilter (from four years ago) when searching for "normative jargon":

What does "normative" mean? Is it a useful word? I only ever see it used in obscure, academic writing, which makes me suspect it's worthless. How is it different from "normal"? My dictionary says it means, "Of, relating to, or prescribing a norm or standard: normative grammar." That sounds like "normal" to me, so why not just say "normal"? Can someone give me some clear sentences that use the word -- sentences that are not written in post-modern, complit speak? Can one use "normative" meaningfully in a sentence about real-world things, like butter, eggs or bricks?

It is true that I should probably not drop academic a-bombs in casual speech. The Dude, to his credit, does not sound like one of the adults in Charlie Brown (womp womp womp) when describing his day and his work, although he most certainly could. Incidentally, contrary to his appearance on the blog he is nice and wonderful, and no, we do not argue all the time.

There is plenty of technical jargon that's best left out of casual speech with non-insider people. I am sure I should avoid using "social structure" or "resource dependence theory" or "mimetic isomorphism" in every day speech, although I use it in my work all the time. But I am not quite convinced that "normative" is on the same par with such highly specific terms that reference the theories and methods of my discipline. It's just the only way I can think to describe my project, and I didn't really think it was especial to my field, so droppign this a-bomb was inadvertant.

Normative is different than "non-objective" or "prescriptive" or "advocating _____." The following responses to the Ask Metafilter thread seem to agree:

1. normative implies prescriptive by community standards, as opposed to merely habitual - for instance, you wouldn't speak of normative behavior among animals. And you wouldn't speak of a person or a thing as normative - like, "he's a pretty normative guy". Only social behavior can really be normative - which for some philosophers is all our behavior, but it's important that it's due to social interaction and rule-making, as opposed to mere instinct or happenstance.

2. "Normative" doesn't mean "normal." The key bit of your dictionary's definition is "prescribing" -- a normative statement reflects an opinion or something that can't be proven, as opposed to a "positive" statement, which can be tested. Think of it like "subjective" and "objective": You can say "Butter is more expensive than it was last year" and that's a positive (or objective) statement, because you can look up the prices and compare. It might be false, but either way, it deals only with facts. If you say "Butter is too expensive," that's a normative statement, because it can't be evaluated without reference to some external notion of how much butter "should" cost. It tries to apply a norm or standard (which other folks may or may not share).That's why you'll see it used in academic works so much; people like to distinguish between statements of fact and opinion. I suspect if you go back and look at some of the places you've seen it used, that understanding of the word will cause the phrases to make a lot more sense.

3. When someone with specialized knowledge--whether "academic" or otherwise (imagine an auto mechanic for highly specialized knowledge which may not be considered "academic")--uses a technical term from the field, 99% of the time it's not just to obfuscate things and make them difficult to understand for the layperson. It's because the technical term has a precise meaning which is not adquately captured by more common words. Example: why do biologists refer to "deleterious" mutations, rather than just calling them "bad" mutations? Well, "bad" would raise the question, "bad for whom?" A mutation which reduces the viability of a disease-causing bacterium might be bad from the bacterium's point of view, but good for the human who is potentially infected with it. Calling it a deleterious mutation, rather than a bad one, removes that ambiguity. No doubt grumblebee uses technical terms in his/her own field of specialty which would be equally confusing to the layperson, possibly without even realizing it.Disclaimer: as far as I'm concerned, the above does not apply to business-speak, which in my experience often does serve no other purpose than obfuscation.

4. This sort of thing occurs in all walks of life, however. We could probably all get by with vocabularies one third the size of those we use, but in an attempt to be both precise and interesting we have other words we use. To do otherwise would be injurious to the arts and would, I think, do the world (in this case the english-speaking world) a great disservice: language is a beautiful thing and certainly isn't immutable.

The thread is actually really rich and non-snarky, and gives a lot of good references to literary criticism worth reading. Pretty awesome. Check it out.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Because You'll Judge Me No Matter What

In the end, this will go above the couch, for the bargain price of $7.95 for a 16"x20" giclee poster print from Winkflash, and an on-sale $10 (buy one, get one for $0.01) black wood frame from Aaron Brothers. I dunno. I like it. This and the photograph of the Calder mobile at the National Gallery.

I have the hardest time picking out posters or prints from real artists. What kind of art you choose says a lot about you. In the end, using my own photography seems wayyyy egotistical and pretentious, but it sort of makes sense, because at least they're personal experiences. What connection do I have to some random picture of France, or some painting I've never seen in person? What's the point of getting a poster of a painting, when you can't have the texture? I love Rothko, for example, but have seen maybe only 3 Rothkos in my life, and it's all about the texture (nevermind my love for Pollock, which is really all about texture). The cleverness of Magritte is not mine, but his, and it feels weird to appropriate it, or the cryptic sensitivity of an Ed Ruscha. But I really loved the cherry blossoms in D.C., and these I walked under on the way to the Library of Congress. Some of my happiest memories are from whenever I visit The Best Friend, or that orange-colored day in June (seriously, it was hot, maybe there was an orange alert) when I met Amber.

It was either this or a Sugimoto nature print (not his wax figures, though they are awesome), which I am considering for the other wall. I am a big fan of Henri Cartier Bresson, but his prints are all expensive now that he's dead. Damn. I also like Margaret Bourke White and the fashion photography of Lillian Bassman.

I am wary of putting static strange people on my walls though. They look back at you. It is weird.
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Excerpt of the Day

From What is Sexual Harassment: From the Capital Hill to the Sorbonne by Abigail Saguy:


That sexual harassment is conceptualized differently in the United States and France makes intuitive sense to many people. Americans having lived in France share anecdotes about France's more "laissez-faire" sexual environent, where physical toucing and sexual banter is still a common and even valued feature of French workplaces. Others talk more critically about how in France the climate is more sexist and oppressive for women, and sexual coercion and humiliation remain commonplace, to the detriment of female workers. Few French are surprised to hea that sexual harassment is taken more seriously in the United States. For many, this information coincides with heir impressions of American workpalces as repressive and intolerant of sexual innuendo. For others, the United States is "ahead of" of France in matter of gender eqity. For many, the United States is a country of contradictions, a place where workplaces are both more women-friendly and also dangerously invasive of people's personal lives.

However, when people venture to explain such national differences, they usually appeal to essentialist accounts of national character, which explain national variation as the product of exaggeraed adn ahistorical "cultural" differences. The mass media in both countries affirm that Americans are uptight and puritanical compared to the French, who are more at ease with matters sexual. For instance, a New York Times article on sexual harassment policy in France reports:

When one thinks of France, certain images spring to mind. The accordion. Foie gras. Ah, yes, the French lover, whose seductive skills have long seemed as much a birthright as a good Bordeaux. Eroticism has helped define the country. The disclosure by the former president, Francois Mitterand, of a decades-long relationship with a mistress created barely a ripple--and when it did, it was an approving one.

This article and others like it gloss over the fact that surveys show that most French disapprove of marital infidelity...More importantly, however, reports such as this one treat cultural differences as widely agreed upon and unchanging.

In fact, culture, whether this term is used to denote norms, values, beliefs expressive symbols, or any number of the "totality of man's products," is multivalent and highly contested.

It is a signifier of my level of maturity that I could not help reading the embedded quote from the NYT about the French lover withou picturing mustachioed lothario in a beret and striped shirt laughing, gutterally, "augh ha ha."

I'm as guilty as any other about stereotypizing countries based on tired essentialist tropes. actually, this got worse after last year in the international LL.M program, when such tropes, in which I in my ivory tower cosmopolitanism didn't believe, were verified. Ah, yes indeed, the French lover. Avoid him. Avoid him like the plague. Avoid even being friends with him, unless you like reading cheap knockoffs of already tawdry Anne Marie Villefranche. But also avoid essentialist accounts, especially if you're being serious and scholarly about it.

In all seriousness though, this is a very interesting book that I'm reading. A full precis/critique to come. The difference between French law and U.S. law is pronounced and quite interesting to examine, mainly that ours is based on a the Title VII statutory discrimination model, and the French based on a penal code model of interpersonal violence/rape.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Movie Review: Atonement

Not quite as good as the book. And yes, I did like the book, a lot. I like imaginative historical fiction, and this one was beautifully written. Appropriate, for a book about the power of words to destroy lives or express remorse or attempt atonement. This movie is about lies that destroy lives and lies that we tell ourselves in order to carry on

James McAvoy is, as always, a wonderful actor--capable of switching from easy charm to moody intensity to sudden bursts of emotion. I am quite fond of him. I used to be less fond of Keira Knightley, and other such actors who act with their mouths too much (cough Renee Zellweger cough), but she's become a better actor in recent years, but then again I don't watch the Pirate movies. Yargh. The angular nature of her beauty gives her a restive look.

But the movie is really about Briony Tallis, and this character was brilliantly acted by Saoirse Ronan as the young Briony. Dude, this little girl is scary. With watery blue eyes, white blond hair, a pointed chin and a smattering of freckles, she is straight out of The Turn of the Screw. Children are scary.She grows up into the timid and brittle Romola Garai, and then to the exquisitely fragile Vanessa Redgrave. Why they all had to have the same hairstyle through a half century is beyond me, but it is a mark of the film that shows visually what the book doesn't: Briony is at her most powerful (and most terrifying) when she is very young and full of fanciful but vicious ideas and lies, and she gradually weakens over the course of her life, burdened by her lie and the impossible task of atonement.

In the end, this is just one of those books that is better read than dramatized: it is a novel about words and their power to wound, it is a novel that ends with a suckerpunch that is a literary rug-pulling way to confess the limits of fiction, that it is itself a lie to cover up other lies.

It is worth seeing, but for some reason, the book is just more emotionally resonant.*

*No doubt, The Dude will quibble with this, as he described me as "Ms. Waterworks" as I was sniffling throughout the movie. Whatever, man.


Friday, January 25, 2008

judge me, judge me, say that you judge me

I'd print these as 5"x7" or 8"x10"; I'm going to blow up to 16"x20" giclee prints some wonderful photography of Larry Solum's. But what do you think of these? Frameable?

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Movie Review: Persepolis

Beautifully drawn, visually stunning, and emotionally resonant. As good as the books. Worth seeing on the big screen.

This is no light praise. I am a big graphic novel fan. Praise for Marjane Satrapi's "groundbreaking" memoir is well deserved. They assign the book at West Point for good reason.

When a movie is really good, and there's nothing I have to quibble with it, there's not much else to say. I liked it. Go see it.

My movie date, The Idealist, was also enthusiastic about the movie. We chose it as an end of the week, grrrl power pick me up. I was coming from my Gender Discrimination Law class, and she from volunteering at a legal clinic. I am glad that we chose a movie that was about revolutions small and big, personal and political. It was honest without being emotionally draining, and hopeful without being maudlin.

Best line ever: "I had survived a revolution, but a banal love story nearly killed me."

Tonight, believe it or not, I'm seeing another movie. Oh, to be a grad student. To come: a review of No Country for Old Men. Unless we see Atonement.


Work/Family Articles and Books

I assembled a list of links to mainstream media articles and popular press books to post on the class website for my Empirical Analysis of Gender Discrimination class (okay, that is not the real title of the course, but you get the idea).

Perhaps you would also be interested. This is not an exhaustive list. If you want law review articles, go to any awesome Vicki Schultz article and look up the footnotes.

Here goes!

(Keep in mind I hate Lisa Belkin's Life's Work column (which runs in the Thursday Styles!) and so her articles should be read with a grain of salt the size of a mack truck. I read the column to get the picture of how work/family issues play out in the public discourse, but beyond that, they're not of much scholarly utility.)

Mainstream Media Articles:

Other Articles/Sources



Big Vegetable

For a few weeks during finals last term, I was hardly eating except when food was magically brought to me by the nice pizza guy or even more nicely, by The Dude. But except for those non-pizza meals, I wasn't getting much protein or vitamins. I ate a lot of cereal and pizza. I was worried for my health. I did not want to get scurvy like a pirate, or some adult-case of Rickets.

Then for a few weeks this month, when I was frantically searching for housing and packing and preparing for school, I was hardly eating except for cereal and takeout, or Dude Food. Again, I worried.

Hipster Law Prof and янтарный told me to take multivitamins. This sounded sensible. The only vitamins I had on hand were Geritol (I think I grabbed my mother's by mistake over break), but I figured the extra calcium couldn't hurt. But lately I've been cooking again, partly because I can't afford to eat out anymore, and also because such rituals of hearth and home soothe me during school.

"Look," I told The Dude, pointing at some sauteed on-sale blue lake green beans that I served with the on-sale lamb chops (total cost of the meal for two: $7!). "Vegetables! I am being good! We should try to eat more vegetables. I am going to try to make more dishes with vegetables from now on."

This, for some reason, was met with a bemused look and a slightly derisive snort.

"Why do you think they're so much better for you than the vitamins you're already taking?"

"Because they say so."


"I dunno. Those fitness magazines. Doctors. People on TV. The FDA Food Pyramid. EVERYONE. What on earth are you talking about?!"

"Snort. You are soooo in the grips of the fruit-and-vegetable lobby. Big Vegetable! You can survive on a multivitamin!"

This then devolved into a many-days debate over the relative merits of natural vitamins derived from food vs. chemically synthesized vitaminscompressed in tablet form. Can you "survive" on just amino acids (whatever protein source you want), glucose (starches/carbs), and a Centrum?

Yes, I will concede to The Dude, after he showed me table after table of the chemical breakdown of various vegetables and fruits, and compared them to the chemical composition of a multivitamin, it appears that you can survive on a multivitamin. I have, I admit, survived on an IV drip for seven days, after my appendix burst. So, yes, it seems that you can get your vitamin and mineral needs delivered in an alternate format, as the chemical composition doesn't change. If the question is what is more efficacious and efficient for the body's absorption, then that's a minor detail. We are talking here of necessity. The fact is that whole (and probably uncooked) fruits and vegetables have other properties like antioxidants and phytochemicals that don't come in Centrum, so that's why you eat those. But can you survive on a Centrum? Conceivably, I suppose.

Perhaps, I might concede that there is at work a powerful fruit-and-vegetable lobby that has exercised undue influence on the FDA. After all, I recall the efforts by the Beef Industry during the mad cow scare and E.coli outbreaks to rehabilitate the meat to the public, and their marketing strategy now of "man food" and "It's What's For Dinner." Also, don't forget how pork, bandied about as high fat for years, marketed itself as "The Other White Meat." The corn industry is in full force this year, what with the shortage due to the demands for ethnanol. I am sure the grain industry has something to do with why the FDA inexplicably suggests 6-11 servings of grains a day.

Arguing with a chemistry/economics guy who did brand marketing and consulting makes me wonder why people complain about arguing with lawyers. I think that I am perfectly reasonable and acommodating in debates.

In any case, what say you, educated readers? Surely some of you have degrees in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, food science, nutrition, I dunno. Or maybe your partners do. Do you think man can live on Centrum alone? Do you think Centrum works as well as fruit and vegetables in their natural state? Which is more efficiently absorbed by the body? Do fruits and vegetables deliver nutrients that are essential that you can't otherwise get in a chemically synthesized form? Do you think there's a Big Vegetable Lobby at work here, indoctrinating us with our 3-5 a day?

Settle the debate. I am at some point going grocery shopping this weekend, I am sure, and am going to have to figure out the menu.



Ben Wolfson has a most lovely post about reading books in which his mother has scribbled (helpfully) in the margins, and how re-tracing her thoughts and translations is endearing, charming, and humanizing:

I'm moved to post this because one of the old books with which I came away a few weeks ago was a copy of Frisch's Homo Faber that she read while taking classes at, I assume, a UCLA extension program when teaching in LA. It's very interesting! She has helpfully underlined and defined in the margins the words she didn't know, but only on their first occurrence, which is extremely helpful to me because it means about 90% of the words I don't know have a definition right there. Some phrases, which presumably were found important, are also underlined (eg "Ich fühle mich nicht wohl, wenn unrasiert") and some of the words underlined to be defined are kind of endearing (eg Maxwell'schen Dämon; I can't actually read the definition given for this). In fact the whole thing is rather endearing and charming—imagining her reading through with a dictionary and pencil and whatnot. One's parents: formerly ordinary humans! Who knew?

I am myself moved to interrupt all of this social science and the sleep-deprived busy life I have been living these first few weeks of the term and give you, dear reader, some poetry about margins, although I'm avoiding the obvious choice of Billy Collins' Marginalia, which is a little too fluffy for this blog. These are long poems, but well wrth it. Whoever says that modern poetry has no art is smoking crack for breakfast.

Poem With Wisteria Growing Along its Margin

by Gerry LaFemina

The five cool stars above this town look down
upon the main drag & the bar where a guy once fired
four bullets into a biker who said nothing

to the man, who had just laughed too loud & at an inappropriate moment.
The first shot sounded like the break
of an eight-ball rack, but louder
more resonant. The subsequent squeezes
of the trigger--redundant, more resounding

as they mixed with the shrieks of beer-drinkers.
Hysteria speading among them like wisteria

along a garden fence; its occasional balloons of violet
flowering vividly in the green mesh of its leaves. I remember

lying in such a garden.
remember the lush cologne of pollen & the garnet bees
buzzing their cargo routes between blossoms & a distant apiary.


I had thought there was nobody else
in that place, so I was surprised then, when walking its paths later,
to hear weeping. I was amazed
by how sudden & communicable sadness can be--

and how embarrassed the woman became when she glanced up
to see me standing there, the white heart
of a wisteria blossom barely beating in my extended hand. She shook
her head & smiled.

Her face so fragile I thought she'd shatter.

Consider the ordinance of griefs:
should one begin with the phenomenal or the ordinary?

I count them on the threads of my shirt
and on the gem-like sparkling of dust

in the slide of light that entrusts itself to my vision.
Then I lose track, distracted by a concert of ambulances & police cruisers: their cacophonic call-and-response.

The next morning I heard how the biker's wife insisted--
insisted was the paper's word--it was all her fault:

she had wanted to go out that night.
And her husband, because he loved her
and because it was a lovely October evening & he knew soon he'd have

to stow the Harleys away for winter, because of these thing
she agreed, although it was a weeknight
and there'd be an early morning the next day, driving a propane truck.
The jukebox was shaking AC/DC's "Shook Me All Night Long"

and he had just gotten up for another round . . .
She never mentions the expression on his face, mouth agape,
suddenly soundless. Then the remaining patrons screaming.
After the questioning
and after the gunman took his position in a squad car's back seat &
shrank to two dimensions with its slamming door, the officers
let the bartender back inside

and the owners. The three men sat at a table while one of them
poured whiskey into tall tumblers cored with ice. Nobody spoke.

When they finished their drinks
they simultaneously stood, and, still speechless,
went about cleaning up: one of them counting the till;

the others filling buckets with rags & suds
to start removing blood from the walls & carpet--
a task they knew to be futile

but necessary
like this poem, in the end, whatever its message.

Weeks passed & still his bike, a 67 Roadster, stood
outside the bar, reverent as a statue.

Then it was gone although nobody knew where it went
or who took it. But I last saw it

parked there beneath a thin skin of fresh powder
and the splayed glove of light from the bar's bay window.
Inside: a small splatter of what may have been blood
blemished the pool table felt like a location on a map

you can't return to, & the new barmanp
olished the heavy glass mugs with a rag. Outside
the snow wafted scattershot
like blossoms on a dark wall of ivy.

Intimate Letters
by Rosanna Warren

The last string quartet (Leoš Janáček and Kamila Stösslová)

She reads romances, she spells poorly, she’s full-breasted,
broad in the beam, matron in a cloche hat,
bulky knee-length skirt, apron, thick calves, white stockings, Mary Janes.

Her heels go click click on the pavement.
She has those dark Gypsy eyes and the wide laugh.
He loves it when she tosses her head like that.
And here she is in long skirt and embroidered blouse, posing
by her dwarf ornamental orange tree on the balcony:
high pale forehead, stacked dark hair, heavy jaw, bust cleaving forward like a prow.
And here she is on holiday with her husband the businessman the perpetual traveller
with the commanding walk and striped tie and blunt mustache.

“Two decidedly Jewish types,” writes Zdenka Janáčková, J’s wife:

they send her, in the last year of the war,
bread, butter, eggs, semolina flour, geese
from the husband’s military contacts.

“My dear dark dove,” J calls Kamila, “My little one.”

He has taken dictation from every fountain in Hukvaldy,
where he was born to endless mumbled rosaries of water.
He notes the gush and prattle of the Fox’s Well
as the beech tree flashes its sleight of leaf, and fox kits hide in the rocks;
the public fountain, “a fine of ten crowns
on those who fail to replace the cover”:
and when the cover is replaced
the fountain closes her eyes;
the castle fountain, handsome, broad and brimming, but scuttled into pipes
for manor farm, brewery and slaughterhouse
where the stream blurts out in blood;
and the little well hidden through tall grass at Kazničov,
springing up through the roots of three lime trees, “Helisov’s Well,”
chants the little girl, and he notes that too, the quavering fall
of the name; and watches water bugs skitter
and green moss, darkling, at the bottom, and shards of sky.

Bread, butter, eggs, semolina flour, geese.
Kamila knows nothing of music, she worries about her dress
for the première of Jenůfa in Vienna.
She has two little boys, Rudi and Otto.
Otto the baby swims on her hand
and she leans over him, soft as night, one eyebrow tilted up
as at a dream of which she is hardly aware.

“She was of medium height, dark, curly-haired like a Gypsy woman,”
writes Zdenka, “with great, black bulging eyes.
The voice was unpleasant, shrill.”

—That once again he saw “her raven hair, all loose,”
and she was barefoot in the house
and she climbed a ladder to pick apricots from the tree
and she refused the gift of the knitted silver bag
“And your eye has a strange depth, it’s so deep it doesn’t shine.”

Night leans hugely.
He sleeps alone, in his study, upstairs at the Organ School.
Zdenka sleeps in their villa across the yard.

He who had scrawled
on his cuffs, on envelope scraps, on market paper, in his little pad,
robins’ trills, girls’ chatter at the railway station,
fox bark, thrush whistle, hen cackle,
kitten mew, bee hum, “the chord of stalagmites covered with hoarfrost,”
the airy, bell-like patter of fountain spray,
in a notebook
years before Kamila
in a notebook
2 A.M. 24 February 1903
his daughter’s dying
dying, age 21—
in a notebook—
“Now I remember that I’m supposed to die”
(a little string of quarter notes, B and middle C)—
“What walks we took on the corso”—“We
should say so much—”
He tells her,
“You are the most beautiful among them,” and she smiles,
in his notebook she smiles.
And, down to a G,
“Something gets lost so well, no one can find it.”
In a notebook—
2:45 A.M. 25 February 1903, Olga,
her light hair spread across the pillow,
“A-y-a,” two drawn out B’s, scrupulously noted by her father,
and in the margin,
“God be with you, my soul.”

What can be assimilated into song?

The rivers of Lachia: the River Lubina
falls from a ridge of the Radhošť Mountain
into an abyss, to seethe of silver, crash of dark;
the Ondřejnice dabbles through the village of Mĕrkovice,
past mossy banks, shallow, beery-blonde, tepid, where goslings swim
dunking for weeds and bugs; and the River Ostravice
is the color of steel, and smites the wrist with cold:

and all the Lachian rivers run
through cello depths, horn hurtle, foam-spray of glockenspiel,
clash of cymbals at the smoky inn
where Sofie Harabisová flies from arm to arm
in the glare, smoke, sweat and stamp of feet:

“Where is the poet Šťastný or Professor Batĕk or Mrs. Marie Jungova now?
Gone, all gone, those who took part
that wild summer night, forty-five years ago!”

Kamila reads romances.

“There’s no love just innocent
friendship. My husband’s
away all the time he’s always
got things to do.”

“Your raven hair—
I write these lines so they’ll be read, and yet unread
because unanswered.
So it’s like a stone falling into water—”

“You’re the star I look for in evening—”
“I was your shadow—”
“Even thoughts become flesh—”

in the fountain bubbling up among the lime tree roots,
mumbling its prayers over and over, tonguing the stones.

Now after the war, no need
for bread, butter, eggs, semolina flour, geese delivered
by special connection
and Czechoslovakia is free in the Sinfonietta, in the razzle of brass:

“I’m really
an ordinary woman Your heart would stop
aching if you saw me more.”

There’s Rudi, there’s Otto,
and her husband always dealing in his antiques.

No we cannot attend the première in Prague no we cannot.
Now after the war.

For that cold: boil three onions with marjoram and lemon peel
and drink it like tea with sugar.

Your raven hair.
I was your shadow, when you reached for the apricots.

Gut scrapings: the bow scrapes sunlight from that summer day at the spa at Luhačovice
where she sat on the grass “like an exhausted little bird”:

“Dear Madam, Accept these few roses as a token”

where she sat on the grass, scrape sunlight
from the inner petals, scrape the dark from
her pupil, so deep it doesn’t shine.


“Silence goes to sleep under every tree.”
Under the tilt of her shadowed brow.
His baby son died those years ago

and Olga’s hair

spreads wide across the pillow where she sighs.

He sleeps alone
it’s like a stone

bee swarms,
gut scraping, fracture, a waltz
falters, the schmaltzy tune with raven hair
whispers, breaks off, and the hand she lets him
touch, for the first time, she does not draw away
the first time, “your little hand,”
in eleven years, under the linden boughs.

“That dark Jewess,” writes Zdenka, “I rather
liked her at first, but I held my position.
You know how artists are. They have to be
handled. I would not

let him go.”

“These letters were written in fire.”

Zdenka must
Kamila is

the Gypsy girl, Káťa Kabanová, the Vixen, Aljeja,
the little hidden well by the lime trees at Kazničov,
the military fanfare on the promenade,
trumpet, oboe, piccolo squeal
when the Austrians march out, the Empire crashes, and the country is,
like the high-wire flute notes, finally, free.

Zdenka must acknowledge this:
These letters
were written in fire.

By now Kamila’s boys have been stuffed into trousers, stiff collars, and neckties.
They’ve grown leggy, their faces are plump.
It’s a question of tempi slightly retarded, a vertigo
the viola suffers, following the violins.
Silence goes to sleep under every tree.
The cello drags
gusts of confetti, repetition, emotion is all


pulled by twisted horsehair
out of gut.

My dear dark dove, a form of mourning,
that too is a form
of repetition.

Why don’t you write.

So when, those last days, she has come
at last, with little Otto, respectably
to visit the upstairs room he has built and furnished for her
in his summer cottage in Hukvaldy,

furnished according to his dream—
“I want to have the painting of those two cherubs, a writing desk, a communal table,
a comfortable bed, perhaps of brass, a wardrobe with mirrored doors, a marble wash-stand,
and four chairs, each from a different part of the world—”

(the question is, what can be assimilated
into song)

she peels oranges, makes tea,
they shop in the market and play and walk
and August 8, on the walk up the Babí hůra Hill, Otto gets lost in the woods and ravines—

Something gets lost so well, no one can find it—

and Leoš seeks and seeks the child in drenching rain
as if searching for his own
in the woods and ravines
under the wing of her darkly tilting brow

and returns
In a notebook no one writes, no one scores his cough.
10 August 1928 J consents to go
to the hospital in Ostrava


What walks we took on the corso
Something gets lost so well
So it’s like a stone

Silence goes to sleep under every tree
I was your shadow
I burned your letters but I keep

the ash

No one scored the sleep rattle in Ostrava
12 August 10 A.M. Sunday Kamila at his side,

a heavy woman who spells poorly, broad in the beam,
with thick knees and white stockings,
who reads romances,
who will die of cancer
seven years later
at 43
and be buried in the Jewish cemetery in Písek.

“And I kissed you
And you are sitting beside me and I am happy and at peace
In such a way do the days pass for the angels.”

No one scored the sleep rattle Sunday 12 August.
Only then, by his order,

is told
and arrives by train.

These letters were written in fire.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stupid Monkey Commands

In which I finally sort of start understanding how to do basic commands in STATA:

My task:

1. Figure out the path to the sampledataset.dta file
2. Compute the Mean and Standard Deviation of the sample_variable
3. Figure out how many standard deviation units below the mean the figure 19 is
4. Use command "normal" to compute the answer

How this translates to STATA:


capture log closelog using sampledataset, text replace
use sampledataset

summarize sample_variable
local SDunits=(19-r(mean))/r(sd)

display normal(`SDunits')
display `SDunits'

log close

This is so lame.

To think, I might pimp out my doctrinal analysis skills to code cases into variables for my stats teacher this semester.


A Modest Update

After the freakout of leasing my apartment before finding a new one and going into conniptions over the thought of paying double rent for a month, everything is settled. I got the rent deposit back, miraculously, did not pay as much as I thought I might have to (as in, total was under $2000) for the new place, and oh yes, I have a new place. And my financial aid dispersed. And books only cost $300 this semester. And my other new expenses were under $500, thanks to some savvy Craiglist shopping and selling. It is a bit pathetic to try to pawn off your life on Craigslist, but when you get $75 for a four year old IPod, well, shoot. That just paid for the microwave.

One day, not too may years from now, I hope, I will no longer have to think and live like this, like some '80s song, hungry like a wolf, a survivor, in a big country.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tamanaha and Solove on Legal Education, Take Three

(Be sure to go to the original posts to read the full versions. They are both quite compelling.)

Brian Tamanaha has yet another provocative, interesting post on what is wrong with legal education:

The accreditation process is justified as the means to insure a quality legal education so that the public will be served by competent lawyers. Oddly, in the very period in which law schools were being instructed to boost their professors’ pay (to attract highly qualified professors) and to cut their teaching hours (so they could do more academic research, which would presumably enhance their knowledge and teaching), the American Bar Association also produced the MacCrate Report, arguing that law schools were doing a poor job of training lawyers. The reason for this failure: law professors were occupied with academic matters while neglecting practical legal training for their students.

When you think about it, the situation we have created is bizarre: law students attend law school to become lawyers (paying tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege); however, as the Report indicates, many law professors do not see it as their job to train lawyers—they are, rather, legal scholars...

Most law schools now follow the elite model, striving to hire faculty and produce scholarship like research universities, when it might better serve the interests of many non-elite law schools and their students to concentrate on training good lawyers. Money now allocated to scholarship and research leaves would instead go to clinics and other practice training; professors would teach 15 hours or more a week; faculty would be hired for the desire and ability to train lawyers, not for scholarship; more law schools would look like Massachusetts School of Law (which the ABA has mightily resisted). Schools built around this alternative model would produce capable lawyers at a much lower tuition, which would be good for the students and good for society.

Dan Solove replies to this at Concurring Opinions (addressing certain other questionable claims raised by others):

But I believe that there is a real value teaching students to think about the broader issues in the legal system, about the larger moral questions, about the tension between the rule of law and justice, about the policy implications of laws, about the sociological and economic effects of regulation, and so on. I believe that this makes students into better, more capable practitioners. Many, however, remain skeptical of this claim.

Yet, there's another reason why teaching students these things has value. Maybe our task as legal educators isn't simply about producing technically-competent lawyers. Being a lawyer brings a lot of power; our students will enter the elite realm of society. Unlike many people, they'll have an incredible set of tools to change society and affect people's lives. Should we simply train them how to be more effective hired guns? Or maybe we're right to try to spur them to ponder the broader issues of the legal system, to understand its history, to think about whether certain laws are good or bad. I think that legal education should be more than merely a lawyer factory. We're
not just training people in skills, but we're preparing them to enter a profession, one that plays a profound role in our society. And there is value to having those that work in that profession (at all levels -- from lawyers, to judges, to policymakers) spend some time thinking about the effects of the law on society.

Should this be shrugged off as theoretical fluff that is only of use to academic-types who sit as armchair commentators about the law? Or should it be something that all lawyers confront and think about before they embark on their careers? I believe that there is value in thinking about the meta questions -- the critical awareness of what one is doing, the system one is working in, and its larger social effects-- even if doing so doesn't help one win a case or draft a document or complete a deal.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Significance of Heath Ledger's Death

I found out that Heath Ledger died today through Googlechat:

The Journalist:

heath ledger is dead!
that is your pop culture news brief of the day
i thought for sure we'd hear about britney spears committing suicide or
but not this guy

And then she sent me links to the Washington Post and the New York Times, which grew in length and detail over the course of the day.

I admit, I reacrted with surprise (I think I said "wtf! how?!") and I forwarded this to a few friends, mainly those who are really into film (e.g. former film studies majors, a screenwriter friend, a cineaste friend) who are also occasionally, slightly guiltily, interested in celebrity gossip. Only very little, and we feel really dirty afterwards, I promise.

And then I read this, which made me worry for my generation:

Others in the crowd said their first reaction to word of his death was disbelief. Nicole Vaughan, 24, a law student at New York University, was in a seminar about Jesus when someone sent her a message about Mr. Ledger. She checked the Web, then walked to the apartment “because of the way our generation is; we sort of feel we’re a part of each other’s lives.”

That really does make me despair over the atomization of modern society, rootless and individuated, we cling to shallow symbols to have some common conversational currency. We have no neighbors, but we have celebrities whom we know more intimately.

I can't imagine reacting with such drama. My reaction was a little sad, if only because I thought he was a very fine actor in Brokeback Mountain and Candy, and wanted to see more of his work. There are few young actors and actresses my age whose work I can imagine enjoying more with time.

Scott Eric Kaufman puts it best:

But how hypothetical is our loss? Depends on how powerful the lost actor or actress is. Consider other selective stars who, like Ledger, leveraged their clout such that they only appeared in films they believed in:

Now consider all the movies that would not have been produced had these three not thrown their weight behind the pet projects of talented directors.

Point being, the loss of talent with little clout (River Phoenix) has no real impact on what movies get made, whereas losing talent of Ledger's clout alters the Hollywood landscape. There will be no more gay cowboys. (There would have been none had not Ledger signed on. Studios were not feeling favorable to Ang Lee after the smashing success of Hulk.)

Movies already being as bad as they are, I can't help but wonder whether much of my inexplicable sadness is explicably selfish: I would love to've seen what Ledger could've forced the studios to release.

I am not so bleak as to say "there will be no more gay cowboy movies," rather I might concede "there might not have been any gay cowboy movies for a while." Perhaps some other brave A-list actor would have taken the role and the movie would have been made anyway.

In any case, because pop culture and film are the imperfect, impure crucibles in which we clarify the contentious issues of the day, I'm quite taken with Scott's point. A loss of a young man is always sad, a loss of a talented, bold, inventive actor who had so much promise more widely affecting, and the prospective impact on the artistic medium of film is something to really be sad about.


True Colors

Good question from Dean and Friend Jim Chen:

So here's the question. Imagine yourself a member of the hippest clique in today'slegal academy, doubly credentialed interdisciplinarians. You are attending aconference with equal numbers of professors in law and in your nonlegal discipline.A friendly stranger approaches and asks, "Say, don't I know you? Where did you go toschool?"

For the love of God, think fast. What pops up first? Your J.D. program or your Ph.D.program? Where your mind turns first is where your heart rests best. Withinan academic setting where costs matter and faculty salaries cost more than anythingelse, this cost-conscious dean would like to offer you a little career advice:

Be true to your school.

Honest to God, I don't know what I would say. I'm still in school right now, and as was the tendency from childhood, I say the current school--admittedly, better ranked than my previous law school. But in the next sentence I often say where I got my J.D. Actually it takes forever for me to introduce myself. "I'm at Liberal College Law. I got my J.D. from Bourgie Metro Law. And I went to college at UC Irvine. Go 'Eaters!"

Well, I don't really say "Go 'Eaters!," but I do at least mention the two law schools I've attended. Although I have a feeling that the farther away I get from my J.D. degree, the more I'll be inclined to just say my present institution, which is where I'm spending the most time and doing the most work in preparation for my future career. Don't get me wrong, I loved my law school, and had a fine legal education there. But for whatever reason, this feels definitively, surpassingly "my school" to me, perhaps because I was supposed to go here way back in 1998. UC Irvine gave me a full scholarship, and my parents needed me closer to home. But I've wanted to go here for ten years, and now I finally am, and I'm happy here.

Coincidentally, the school colors are the same, so I keep my true colors even as I change institutional affiliations.

How about you? What's your school?


Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Here are a few good posts in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Adrien Katherine Wing at BlackProf on "Our Kind of People"

Jon Hanson on The Situationism of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mary Dudziak on Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Frank Pasquale on Social Equality, Fellowship, and Love

Michael Dorf on MLK v. LBJ and Hillary Clinton v. Barack Obama


Wow, Thanks!

My temper tantrum late last night, as I was trying to read STATA guides (a weird use of time, I felt, when I could have been reading interesting articles on gender discrimination), was answered kindly and sensibly by Jeff Yates of Voir Dire:

Belle, stupid monkey commands and feeling frustrated and inept for no good reason are all an integral part of the development of a social science scholar. It’s kind of like the Socratic method in law school - there’s not a lot of solid evidence that it actually makes you a good lawyer and it’s usually pedagogically inefficient and even abused by some profs. But, it establishes the hierarchy and makes you “work for it”. If everyone just gave you the STATA code or taught their law classes in a concise, straightforward manner, then you wouldn’t learn to “think like a social scientist (or lawyer).”

For what it’s worth there are some great books for the beginning STATA user - they’re kind of like the Emanuel’s law outlines of statistics. These can be found in the STATA bookstore, although you might find used copies cheaper on Amazon or elsewhere. I have found Lawrence Hamilton’s series of books very helpful. STATA also runs an email listserve where you can post your questions, but that can mean a lot of emails unless you take steps to get it in batches. I also find the UCLA statistics tutorial to be very helpful. Finally, and this is most important Belle, you need to convince your law school to hire more interdisciplinary legal scholars - not only will it help you with these STATA problems, but it will give bloggers endless fodder for debate.

Thank you, Jeff! Thank you so much!

It is funny how long it took me to learn how to "think like a lawyer," and how long it is taking me now to undo it!


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know/Read on Interdisciplinary Legal Scholarship

(Posts in bold are the "must read" posts)

1. Original Post by Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization.

2. Brian Leiter asks for comments . Read Matt Lister's and John Oberdiek's comments and Tamanaha's response.

3. Dan Solove has a thoughtful response at Concurring Opinions about the benefits that do accrue to students from having interdisciplinary teachers.

4. Ethan Leib comments at PrawfsBlawg, giving a good argument that non-elite schools ignore this trend at their peril.

5. I think that the trend just goes to show how much more it takes nowadays to join the legal academy, but also how many different paths you can take, which is a good thing.

6. Josh Wright at Truth on the Market says that Tamanaha's question of whether interdisciplinary legal scholars produce better lawyers is an empirical one, and says that it does at least with respect to the study of economics. So what about sociology or philosophy?

7. Tamanaha clarifies what he means by "bad for non-elite law schools," that is the exhorbitant cost of legal education--shouldn't non-elite law schools be training lawyers who can pass the bar and repay their loans? Are interdisciplinary scholars, most of whom are not practitioner-oriented, the best people for the job?

8. Solove re-replies to Tamanaha's clarification, conceding this point, but still arguing that interdisciplinary scholarship has a place at some, if not all, non-elite law schools.

9. Larry Solum writes the definitive essay on interdisciplinarity, multi-disciplinarity and the future of legal education. It is a long essay, but well worth the read and is a must read. I want to print it out and tack it onto my wall.

10. Larry Ribstein at Ideoblog says that the real question is "whether the current system of lawyer licensing is a good thing, or if we should have narrower licensing requirements that allow for cheaper legal training."

11. Jeff Lipshaw of Legal Profession Blog chimes in at Concurring Opinions. He can't resist.

12. Mark Graber at Balkination highlights the red herrings in the debate, comparing interdisciplinary legal scholars to Aesop's Bat.

13. Jim Chen has a thoughtful essay on MoneyLaw, and his dean's perspective is valuable.

14. Bruce Boyden adds a post on the importance of a practioner's perspective in teaching law.

Craig MacFarlane of Theoria: Blog and York University collects all of links, and connects them to previous debates over interdisciplinary legal scholarship.


I Hate STATA and I Hate You Too

STATA is the worst program in the history of the world, and if I didn't need to know how to read/do statistics better, I'd want to drop the class. If I wasn't concurrently enrolled in an awesome Empirical Analysis of Gender Discrimination course, I would definitely drop it, except that I actually want to get an article out on sexual harassment by the summer, and I sort of argue for the use of empirical analysis of discrimination by courts and the EEOC.

Also, while the professors and the TA are awesome, I do not really understand the pedagogy of belaboring the basic DOS commands (granted, I suck at those, but dude, just give a handout) and rushing through, in the last half hour of class, the section on how to tell Stata to calculate the fraction of observations that are one standard deviation away from the mean for the two variables it took me three hours to figure out how to generate and code as dummy variables. I cannot, for the life of me, recall learning how to do this in class. Nor how to properly do a histogram and specify heights and widths and crap. I think I can calculate this stuff with a calculator and draw boxes on graph paper faster, but I have to send in log files. Which also took me a half hour to figure out how to do.

Thus, I do not get the point of making people muddle through basic DOS-like commands without instructive guides. Isn't the point to teach the statistics, not "learn how to be frustrated at a fucking irritating program"?! Tell people what stupid monkey commands to enter, but ask them to analyze the significance, which is the important part, right?

My personal affection and respect for the TA and the professors aside, it is stuff like this that makes me want to break shit. It makes me actually angry. It probably is more anger at myself and my inability to do stupid monkey tasks, but I'd be lying if I said a lot of this anger isn't outwardly directed at the world that makes STATA, genocide, and hunger possible. So yes, Mr. TA, I am mad at you too.

I am not computer-ignorant, and am generally a good end user. WTF, and why are STATA tutorials on the web so incomplete? I want something that starts with "double click on the icon, enter "cd" to change directory, and "do" to open a file, and ...". I'm going to borrow STATA from a friend, because the idea of paying for this crap makes me even more mad. I miss SPSS.

It took me about 4 hours to do three questions of a problem set, and I am stuck on question 4, the above-mentioned bolded one. The professor predicted that we would take 5-7 hours to finish this problem set. Actually once I figured out the DOS-like commands, the first questions were finished in 10 minutes. Again, the struggle is with the program, not the math. WTF, and in what universe is that the appropriate struggle to foist on young eager-for-empirics legal scholars? Why can't I find the answer in all of the STATA guides I am reading? Why is this problem set taught to frustrate rather than promote learning?!

Help me. Help me before I break stuff.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Tamanaha and Solove on the High Cost of Legal Education

Brian Tamanaha clarifies his post on why interdisciplinary studies may be bad non-elite law schools:

My point was not to be anti-intellectual but to get us to think about a growing crisis in non-elite law schools.Signs of the crisis are evident in many recent reports. The basic elements are this: tuition at private law schools ranges around $35,000-$40,000 per year, doubling in the past decade and still rising; pay for law jobs outside corporate law has stagnated, many in the $40,000-$50,000 range; the overwhelming majority of graduates from non-elite law schools will not get corporate law jobs, and will be saddled with a huge debt.

This is not just a problem for the employed graduates who find themselves moving back home with their parents because they can't make rent payments, car payments, and $1500 monthly student loan payments. It is also a problem for society because the lower middle class and poor cannot obtain lawyers--it just doesn't pay enough. This vacuum is currently being filled by "do it yourself" divorce and immigration mills run by self-taught "paralegals". [For anyone interested, the previous post contains three links to discussions of various implications of the situation].It's time we start thinking more seriously about whether non-elite law schools would be better served, and would better serve their students, if they develop a different model for training people who want to be lawyers.

Dan Solove responds at Concurring Opinions:

I wonder how much costs could be cut at non-elite schools by moving away from interdisciplinary studies. Why would this be a significant way to cut costs? I'm no expert on the economics of running a law school, but I don't think that interdisciplinary studies is the primary problem. Brian's argument could be applied to scholarship more generally, not just interdisciplinary scholarship. Costs at law schools might be cut more if some non-elite schools were to hire fewer professors and make them teach more classes and do less (or no) scholarship. These schools could require professors to teach many more classes than the norm -- maybe 3, 4, or even 5 classes per semester. As with the catch phrase in this season's The Wire, these schools could "do more with less."

If I understand Brian's argument, it is that there should be cheap law schools for students who have no desire to go to big law firms or otherwise pursue highly-lucrative legal jobs. So there should be a group of law schools that are designed to be "economy class" -- offer an inexpensive legal education for students who desire it. I have no objection to schools that decide to recast themselves in this model or to schools that are created based on this model. This would be the legal equivalent of the 'teaching university."

But I see this as a very different claim than the argument that non-elite law schools should move away from interdisciplinary studies. That some schools should have professors teach more and write less is a different issue than what the professors would teach -- they could teach interdisciplinary studies, for example, or they could teach only doctrines and practice skills, or something of both.

I personally believe that having professors who produce scholarship is good for a law school. But this need not be a requirement for all law schools. If students want to a cheaper education without scholarship-producing professors, then I don't see why there shouldn't be some options for them.

Your thoughts? Mine are in agreement with Solove and Tamanaha, even as I am an unabashed promoter of interdisciplinary legal education, even at non-elite law schools.


An Essay on Safety and Exercising Judgment in the Face of Judgment

I went to college in one of the safest cities in America--Irvine, CA. Low crime rates. Good crime stats at the college too, and there were plenty of blue safety lights and night walking programs. But there was a big park in the middle (Aldrich Park) that I would never want to walk through unescorted at night, just because it was so dark. It was better to walk the long perimeter, or "Ring Road," than to cross the park sometimes. All the parking structures were on the periphery of our oval campus, and so I would get campus safety escorts to walk me or drive me to the parking lots if I stayed till after dark.

I went to law school in a big city with a good-sized murder rate, but in the bourgiest side of the city. And yet, in my 1L year, there was a mugging right near the law school, and so they advised us to "be careful." I lived right across the street from the law school, albeit in a zig-zag fashion since the law school's main entrance was inside campus and my building was on the other side of the peripheral street. And yet, I rarely walked home at night. I would always study late with a buddy. I would always get walked at least until the main streetlight, when everything was brightly lit.

Oddly, the neighborhood was safer than the campus. We are talking McMansion rich, with all of these private security services cars parked every block. I would take night walks all the time in the rich neighborhood behind my house, but not on campus. The campus was known for its poorly maintained, if fun to run, 5+ mile perimeter, also known (at least at night, along certain stretches) as "the rape trail." The perimeter was poorly lit, and full of bushes which predators would sometimes hide in wait.

So, I was careful. I didn't run the perimeter at night. If I studied I walked friends to their cars in the nearest parking structure, a walk as long as the walk to my house, and they would drive me back home.

So when did I become so stupid?

My campus now is quite woody and dark, and so there's plenty of places that could hide a predator. The campus crime statistics are no better or worse than my previous school's. And for the life of me, I don't notice or remember where the emergency blue light phones (that alert police) are located, and there is no easily accessible map on the campus website.

I remember, in college, campaigns for more blue lights and for publicized maps. I remember, in college and law school, being more vigilant about calling campus safety escorts or taking night shuttles, or walking with a friend, even just at 7 or 8 pm.

Today I left the library around 11:15 pm, and decided to walk home instead of waiting for the bus. Maybe this was stupid and unsafe. Or maybe I've been trained to be excessively paranoid.

There will always be an alert sent to all the students about some mugging or attempted rape, and for about a month or so everyone will be really careful. And then they will lapse back into normal routines of "Ehhh, waiting for the bus/escort/shuttle takes so long, by the time they get here I could be home, so I may as well walk and be a moving target instead of a still one."

There's also that element of "what are you so afraid of"-- sometimes people, even "womenfolk" are derided for their excessive paranoia. It is said that we have been conditioned to see danger in darkness and every corner, needlessly. After all, most rapes are acquaintence rapes. After all, this campus is relatively safe--just look at the statistics! After all, this is a "nice" neighborhood or "safe city."

I don't know what to think, other than that that's all bunk. Men walking alone are just as likely to be mugged, so it's not as much a gender thing as it is a safety in numbers thing. Unfortunately, I tend to go it alone most of the time, being a loner like that. So I know what I should be doing. I shouldn't be so dumb, I shouldn't think of myself as too impatient, tough, or cavalier to be safe. There's a lot of "well if it's my time, it's my time" in young person justification of dumb fuck behavior, like driving without seatbelts or biking without helmets. Is it ever your time to get raped? Is it ever your time to be the one in the stastistics, however small, of being mugged or assaulted or killed? Probably not.

I always do this. I always act irrationally and irresponsibly, I always hear the voices of my parents and girl friends in my head as soon as I arrive home safely, and I always write yet another essay on how you should probably play it safe, even if it seems cumbersome and inefficient to do so, and even if there are some who will say "pshaw" at your "excessive" safety measures.

I've been selling things on Craigslist that I don't use anymore to raise money for things that I suddenly need, and there's guy who wants to pick up some large thing from my house. My roommate will be moved out by tomorrow, and in the past we've always been at home at the same time for such things, to make sure that anyone who comes to our house or knows our address isn't coming to just one, easier to defeat, girl. Strength in numbers, man. I've asked Jurisprudential Boy of Wonder to come over and keep me company, just for the half hour, to make sure I'm safe. Is this paranoid? Maybe. But maybe it's also just good sense.

In any case, even though I'm moving from one nice neighborhood (where we had someone mess with our door! and where cars have been broken into!) to a secure building in another nice neighborhood (albeit in a city where the murder rate went up last year) and taking the bus to and from home to school (again, always a block or two away from the door though, so another thing to consider), I'll try to play it safer in the future. I used to carry mini flashlights with me. I thought of carrying pepperspray or those mini fog horn things. In general, unless it's attached to your key chain and in your hand, it doesn't do you much good.

Any tips on how I can walk more safely from one point to another, say a bus stop to the door 3 blocks away?


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Responses to Tamanaha on Interdisciplinary Legal Studies

1. Original Post by Brian Tamanaha at Balkinization.

2. Brian Leiter asks for comments . Read Matt Lister's and John Oberdiek's comments and Tamanaha's response.

3. Dan Solove has a thoughtful response at Concurring Opinions about the benefits that do accrue to students from having interdisciplinary teachers.

4. Ethan Leib comments at PrawfsBlawg, giving a good argument that non-elite schools ignore this trend at their peril.

5. I think that the trend just goes to show how much more it takes nowadays to join the legal academy, but also how many different paths you can take, which is a good thing.

I hope that Larry Solum will comment next.