Mar 292008

Behold, yet another of my multi-annual posts (although only the first on this blog) praising Paul Thorn to the skies, but who after hearing him could blame me?

Still, I think it’s important to tell his story not only because he deserves whatever positive exposure I can give him, but because his stands as an important example of how an up-and-coming artist can forge a successful career without the aid or interference of a major record label.

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 Posted by at 5:11 pm
Mar 282008

In the new US News and World Report rankings Boston University School of law is apparently at #21, a mere one point away from being tied with #20. It’s a reasonable position, significantly higher than it was back when I’d originally applied. Still, I can’t help but wonder if there were more BUSL bloggers how far we could shoot up in the rankings…

To its credit though the school is making a much bigger effort to justly toot its own horn on its own website, including by touting the accomplishments of its alums. Including that of Zaheer Samee, a fellow 2006 grad, who recently won an important housing discrimination case in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

I’m very happy to see someone from among my law school acquaintances go out and accomplish something significant, and all the more so when doing so has also served the public interest.

 Posted by at 9:01 pm
Mar 262008

I’m starting to become a culture snob, I think. Or maybe just cultured altogether, as it’s become a new tradition that whenever I’m in London I go to the theater. While such outings seem rare occurrences at home, in London it seems to happen more often than not.

On this latest trip I thought I might like to see the London performance of Spamalot. I already saw it in Boston once, but I really liked it and it’s one of the few soundtracks I ever listen to. But then, as I was standing on line to buy tickets at Leicester Square, I happened to turn over the flier on current London theater productions I picked up at Heathrow (a terrific idea to place them there, local tourist board). Felicity Kendall, whom I recognize from Good Neighbors and Rosemary & Thyme, was on the cover, as she is appearing in The Vortex. And Penelope Keith, whom I also recognize from Good Neighbors, as well as To the Manor Born, was playing in The Importance of Being Earnest, a play I sadly seem to like less and less every time I encounter it, which is a pity, as I thought it hysterical the first time I read it.

But then I read on and saw a listing for a comedy called Legal Fiction, starring Edward Fox. Well now! I’ve always liked Edward Fox, at least ever since I figured out who he was. He was one of those actors whom once I noticed I then went on a mini-filmfest to see what else he’d done. In fact, even though I own few movie DVDs, my collection happens to includes Day of the Jackal and Force 10 from Navarrone, two films he starred in. I even saw him in a film production of The Importance of Being Earnest and All the Queen’s Men, with Eddie Izzard and Matt LeBlanc, which turned out to be one of the best films I’ve paid money to see in recent years. (If, like the San Jose Mercury News, you expect a camp farce, you will be disappointed. If, however, you just sit back and let it be a sweet, slightly comedic drama, you won’t be.)

So it seems clear, on review, that apparently I do like Edward Fox quite a bit (despite never having seen him in Edward and Mrs. Simpson, a role for which he is perhaps most remembered, and hardly having watched any of his movies within the past several years), and so when I saw him listed as being in a production of something whose title included the word, “legal,” and whose description included the word, “comedy,” well, I thought to myself, what could go wrong?

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 Posted by at 11:01 am
Mar 252008

I’ve been a pretty poor blogger this month, first being preoccupied with dealing with my earlier writing project and then with planning last week’s trip to London. The reasons for my trip I’ll divulge as soon as I have a moment to catch my breath, but long-time readers may be impressed (or is it shocked?) to discover it had absolutely nothing to do with Huey Lewis… (Or even Stephen Fry, for that matter.)

As per my usual cheapskate custom, I stayed in a hostel, the only nominally affordable lodging solution in London. The enormous downside to this arrangement is that for the second consecutive time, I found myself sharing a room containing someone who snores. All hopes of overcoming jetlag were dashed on the first night, as I didn’t just find myself lodged with someone who snores but someone who seemed to snore through every. single. sleep stage.

On the upside, in shared rooms you do get occasion to meet people. Including, on this occasion, a non-snoring French paralegal who’s studying to become an attorney.

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 Posted by at 12:28 pm
Mar 212008

John McCain may be overstating things a bit when he says that Purim is a Jewish Halloween. True, in terms of its modern celebration it is similarly festive. I remember reading in the All of a Kind Family books about the kids dressing up and knocking on people’s doors, chanting, “Today is Purim, tomorrow no more! Now give me a penny and show me the door!” Certainly parallels can be drawn between that and trick-or-treating, but Purim’s actual origins, as a chance to fete an (unfortunately all too rare) occasion of triumph over anti-Semitism, should not be overlooked.

Nonetheless, it does provide an excuse to have a good time, which leads me to that writing project I’d earlier alluded to being tied up working on. As a fan of Monty Python and Fry and Laurie I realized recently that it was a bit unfortunate that I’d never really ever pursued trying to write sketch comedy. I can’t say I never did, as I did dabble a bit with it in high school, even going so far as filming a production of my “Press the Flesh” Sunday talk show parody for the television production class I was taking. But after high school I never really thought about pursuing it again until my third year of law school, when, given the apparent (and surprising) success of my songwriting I thought maybe I should give it another go.

Unfortunately my semester abroad prevented me from being involved with the annual Legal Follies production, an evening of sketch-driven satire of all things legal that many law schools do annually. But then this spring my local synagogue announced that they would be doing a production of Purim Follies to celebrate the holiday and invited people to write Jewish-themed sketches for it. So I gave it a shot.

Fortunately, as I read it out at a writer’s meeting it got some laughs. Unfortunately, none were by the guy producing the show, hence its lack of inclusion at last night’s Purim Follies production. I can’t imagine ever having another excuse to use it, but instead of wasting a perfectly good — or at least not a completely terrible — piece of writing, why not, as per usual, post it on my blog?

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 Posted by at 2:16 pm
Mar 122008

I’m feeling a little embarrassed about my last post, seeing how the very thrust of my gist was undermined by a failure to notice a tiny piece of the supporting text, a piece that apparently directly contradicts my position. But more than embarrassed I’m feeling irritated, as I’d actually gone to some lengths to carefully pore over the text before going out on a limb and publishing my thesis. And yet, despite that effort, I was still wrong, tripped up by a few little words whose impact had failed to register in my mind.

It’s so easy for a mind with momentum to overlook little words. It’s why it’s so hard to proofread your own work, to notice what you’re actually seeing when you have such strong expectation of what will be there. But when these little words can so significantly affect meaning, failing to catch them can cause problems.

I remember back when I was working in France and needed to find an apartment. Vacancy rates in Paris are very low, and no sooner would the local rags with the classified ads hit the streets when it seemed like all the rentals would be snatched up. I got so discouraged always hearing, “L’appartement est déjà loué (the apartment is already rented),” in response to my inquiries that I called up the next place anticipating a negative answer.

“Is the apartment already rented?” I pessimistically posed my inquiry. “Est-ce que l’appartement est déjà loué?”

“Non,” was the response. “The apartment is not already rented. Il n’est pas déjà loué.”

But all my brain registered at first was the “est” “déjà” “loué ” — and reflexively hung up.

Sometimes the little words really do matter a lot…

 Posted by at 10:35 pm
Mar 122008

UPDATE: No I apparently can’t. Stupid pesky 12th Amendment and its fine print…

UPDATE 3/21: Or can I? See Update 4 below.

Much fuss is being made over whether the unique circumstances of John McCain’s birth — in the Panama Canal Zone to two American citizen parents — preclude him from fulfilling the “natural born” requirement of the US Constitution’s articulated qualifications for the office of the President:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States. Article II, Section 1.

In elementary school I had always been taught that “natural born” meant that you had to be born on American soil — the idea being that someone born elsewhere might have split loyalties, with some being devoted to the place of birth instead of the US. That reasoning may still be the logic behind the requirement, but knowledgeable legal scholars are saying that “natural born” really only differentiates between naturalized citizens and those who were citizens by virtue of their birth — which the citizenship of their parents could establish regardless of where they were born.

In looking over Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, however, much more interesting realizations come to mind.

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 Posted by at 7:35 am
Mar 012008

Ralph Nader has once again thrown his hat into the presidential campaign ring and is once again being roundly ridiculed for it.

During the last election I questioned the validity of this excoriation, and I think those comments remain largely pertinent today:

This past spring I watched my friend graduate from San Francisco State. The whole university graduated together, with one large convocation in a stadium. They invited various famous speakers to address the assembled crowd, including the guy who founded eLoan. Somewhere in the middle of his talk he veered off on a tangent. He had been talking about how, even working in business, you could still have a social conscience, and his remarks made reference to the influence of Ralph Nader. But as soon as he mentioned his name, he immediately digressed from his prepared notes. That Nader used to be cool, he said, “but now he’s a dick.”

It’s very sad that Nader’s ethos as a crusading cowboy for the common man has become so tarnished to those who would otherwise have welcomed him as an ally. Liberals have been rushing to excoriate him, while Republicans have suddenly signed up to be his best friends, just because of the perceived impact he may have on the ballot this election day.

I tend to think that this criticism is undeserved. Nader has a point: there should be more than two choices for president. Perhaps if there ordinarily were, we wouldn’t keep having elections where the choice feels like one between the lesser of two evils. Consolidating political power in two parties is not healthy for governance. Whoever wants to be on the ballot should be able to run, and it’s noble for him to want to change the political landscape so that 3rd party and independent candidates will be able to have more viable candidacies.

On the other hand, Nader may only have himself to blame for his loss of reputation, even though that loss may be undeserved. He is a man who is both right and wrong at the same time. His insistence on running in this election may have been a bridge too far, one too many battles, which, though worthy on its own, may have undermined the others he also wished to fight. Nader has many people working hard in his non-profits, trying to affect positive policy changes … These dedicated people keep pressing for important changes that this administration refuses to adopt. They need an alternative one in order to get their job done. Nader knows he isn’t going to win this election, but if he even slightly (and however inadvertently) contributes to the re-election of the current administration, it will be extremely counter-productive to his other causes.

Read the rest.

 Posted by at 9:02 am