Monday, September 18, 2006

Optional Contracts Reading

The Promised Hand
(with apologies to Bruce Springsteen)

Well, I had a little accident when I was just a lad
I burned my hand, and listen, man, it hurt real bad
A couple years later, I met Doctor McGee
He saw my thumb and he said son, I guarantee
If you just give me a chance, I'll make it good as new
I'll make your hand perfect, yes I swear it's true
I've done it many times before, I know just what to do -

McGee, he's gonna howl
He don't understand
But the judge found it simple, so he put it on remand
He said, "Son, you'll get the damages that you demand
'cause you believed in the promised hand."

He told me that my hand would be one hundred percent
I thought because he said it, that was just what he meant
Now I will never recover, my whole life is a wreck
When I think of that day it makes me mad as heck
He said your hand's okay, but you deserve the best
He took a knife and then he cut this skin from my chest
Now my fingers are itching and I can't get no rest...

McGee, he's gonna howl
He don't understand
But the judge found it simple, so he put it on remand
He said, "Son, you'll get the damages that you demand
'cause you believed in the promised hand."

The jury monetized the difference, it was quite a lot
Between the hand that I expected and the one I got;
And I've come to find out that I'm a famous case
Prominently featured in The Paper Chase -
But what is all of it worth, when I can't sleep at night?
My hand is matted and unsightly and it looks a fright
If I could take it all back, I really think that I might...

But every graduate of law school
All across this land
They may forget my name but they recall my hand
I'm as famous as that guy who killed the fox and ran...
'cause I believed in the promised hand
'cause I believed in the promised hand
Yeah I believed in the promised hand.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Tempest in a Timrod

From the New York Times, an article about Bob Dylan's latest borrowings. Some controversy or other keeps coming up around poor Bob. You remember, last time it was a fairly obscure novel he was accused of pilfering from? Well, there he goes again. Here's a bit of lyrical effusion from Dylan's song "When the Deal Goes Down" from his album, "Modern Times."

Well, the moon gives light and it shines by night
When I scarcely feel the glow
We learn to live and then we forgive
O'r the road we're bound to go
More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours
That keep us so tightly bound
You come to my eyes like a vision from the skies
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down
("The moon gives light and it shines by night." Wow. Talk about speaking truth to power.)

Anyway, here's Timrod's more antique effusion:

And here again, but led by other powers,
A morning and a golden afternoon,
These happy stars, and yonder setting moon,
Have seen me speed, unreckoned and untasked,
A round of precious hours.
Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked,
And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers,
To justify a life of sensuous rest,
A question dear as home or heaven was asked,
And without language answered. I was blest!
See the almost uncanny similarities? No, neither do I. Well, there's a moon, and some frail flowers... and something even frailer than that, though as to what it is... and there are some precious hours, too.

But, in fact, were Timrod alive today... and he's not... I would venture to say he wouldn't complain about the couple of phrases Dylan has lifted from his work. I venture to say, in fact, that only someone whose common sense has been destroyed by too much legal reading, could find a borrowing like Dylan's even worth noting, let alone consider that it rises to the level of requiring any sort of acknowledgment. Have we really come to the point where a felicitious turn of phrase can be considered "intellectual property"? God help us.

Add to the absurdity, the fact that Timrod - known as the poet laureate of the Confederacy - has been dead since 1867, so his poems have been in the public domain basically forever. So who's complaining about this, exactly?

The Times article provides some helpful background:
But some fans are bothered by the ethics of Mr. Dylan’s borrowing ways. “Bob really is a thieving little swine,” wrote one poster on Dylan Pool (,642969), a chat room where Mr. Warmuth posted his findings. “If it was anyone else we’d be stringing them up by their neck, but no, it’s Bobby Dee, and ‘the folk process.’ ”
Um... if you follow the link, it's not quite as bad as you might think. In fact, it's really just some guy very briefly venting his spleen about ... well, nothing much. Nobody else joins in. Hardly the groundswell of outrage the Times writer implies.

Now, I'm quite ready to believe that the New York Times has basically manufactured this "controversy" to fill space on a slow news day. So here's a message for the NYT:


But in case anyone is misled by the article - it's in the New York Times, my God! - and actually thinks there's some sort of moral or ethical question - or, God forbid, a legal question - here's the deal, once and for all:

The public domain... is public. You don't owe anybody anything for using it. Not acknowledgment, not credit, not a thank you in your album liner notes. If you use something substantial, and you know who wrote it, I personally think it'd be nice if you acknowledged him, even if he's a hundred and fifty years dead, but I'm prepared to leave even that to your discretion. (But Dylan clearly didn't use anything substantial, did he? I think not. I haven't seen any so-called "borrowings" that run to more than a handful of of words.)

And hey, if there really are any Dylan fans who feel betrayed? Get a grip. "More frailer than the flowers" isn't worth it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Small Mercies

Thankfully, I've only heard one person so far use the phrase "hiding the ball." Well, two people, but one of them was a professor. Here's what I think about it - and I apologize for referencing The Matrix, really I do, but like you I'm a prisoner of my culture, such as it is:
"Don't try to find the ball. That's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is no ball."
Welcome to the law.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Oh, to Be Young Again!

At orientation - which was, if I recall correctly, roughly 47 years ago - the Admitter-in-Chief gave us a brief, anecdotal rundown of who was in our class: there are so many doctors, so many PhDs, so many so-and-sos. (He also told us that his job was a bit like being a type of frog that carries its young in its mouth until they're ready to venture out into the world, but I'm not sure I got his point. I am sure I don't remember his point, even if I got it at the time. On the other hand, by now I don't remember what I had for breakfast, so ... Um, I forgot where I was going with this. I do remember that law has a lot to do with whaling, though, which is the important thing.)

At any rate, when we were informed us that our class ranged in age from 12 to... a number in the low 40s... I realized that I was the oldest student in my class - that I was, in fact, a year older than the oldest student in my class, according to the Admitter-in-Chief, but I presumed that was because he hadn't thought to check if I'd had a birthday since he'd admitted me.

The second day of orientation, a group of us were trying to find our way through the labyrinth that is Boalt Hall, and one said, "I feel like a freshman again." And then, turning to me, "I can't imagine what you feel like." The other day someone said something about how "we were all born in the 80s," and then corrected himself, "...or the 70s." He also mentioned that he remembered way back when gas was $1.78 a gallon.

On Friday, though, I was informed that there was someone even older than me in our class. I don't want to investigate; I'm just going to assume it's true.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Things I Don't Miss About L.A.

Oh, so many. But mainly... the traffic.

I guess it's not really true that traffic is something I don't miss about Los Angeles per se - if I wanted to be more accurate (which I don't), I'd have to say it's something I don't miss about working in Los Angeles; although, to be perfectly honest, if I were working here in the Bay Area, the traffic would be at least as bad, possibly worse. And at least in Los Angeles, once you get where you're going, you can find a place to park - unlike here.

In short, what I really don't miss... is driving. I've driven the car exactly once in the last three weeks. It makes me happy not to drive. It makes me happy to take the bus. Yes, even when it's packed so full the driver can't let anyone else on. Because, you see, I live at the end of the line, and I go to school at the other end of the line, so whichever way I'm going I'm always one of the first ones on, and I always get a seat. And I like to sit at the back of the bus, and when you sit at the back of the bus, you never have to give up your seat, because the old, infirm, handicapped, and pregnant have already been taken care of, way up at the front of the bus. At least, I hope they have. Anyway they never seem to make it back to where I'm sitting. Although of course I would give up my seat to anyone who really needed it. Actually, I would give up my seat to anyone who needed it even a little bit more than me. But I do have a really heavy backpack, so in all honesty, I feel I have a good claim on a seat. Incidentally, another advantage to riding in back is that, for some reason, it seems that the really, really smelly people who occasionally ride the bus like to sit toward the front. Don't ask me why.


I've never lived in a place that had good public transportation. LA's public transit system is a well-worn joke, and the town where I grew up was way too small to support a bus system. And maybe someone from New York, or, I don't know, Paris, or London, might sneer at BART and AC Transit. All I know is, even though I've never had mass transit... I've missed it.

The very first day I had to be at school, I had no idea how I was going to get there, short of either driving the car - thereby depriving SW and the kids of any means of getting around all day, which is to say, making it impossible for them to get me a desk at IKEA - or waking up SW and the kids so that they could drive me to school, which believe me was a very poor option. You have no idea, unless you have kids, and maybe not even then.

I couldn't go on the Internet because it wasn't hooked up yet, I didn't have a phone book or the time to figure out how to get the information I needed on the phone... I walked out the front door, headed for the nearest street, looked around - saw a bus stop - walked over and read the schedule. Sure enough, five minutes later, the bus came; twenty minutes after that, it dropped me off in front of the law school.

This sort of thing probably seems commonplace to both of the people who will (probably accidentally) read this post. It still, after three weeks, seems slightly bizarre to me. I had to take the bus to school once in Los Angeles; it took me - no joke - two and a half hours. Admittedly, places in LA are roughly six times as far apart as they would be in a normal city, but still.

Berkeley rocks.

Law School in a Nutshell

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at twice as fast as that !"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

I put it off and put it off... turns out my Property book was only glued, not folded or stitched - so it was by far the easiest to dismember. Now most of it lives on my shelf, the rest in a nice, tidy, and above all light binder in my backpack.

So of course, today would be the day the professor referred us to a definition in a footnote on page 748.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Instead of Reading...

The Rule of Capture

Post had chased it through the waste.
Pierson slayed it; left in haste.

Post laid suit before the Court;
Claimed it by the rules of sport.

With Puffendorf their legal guide
The Court came down on Pierson’s side.

The rule is what you might have thought it:
Who owns the fox? The one who got it.

(Says Livingston: The Court’s a fool
To thus replace the Golden Rule.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

New Words in Old Bottles

Boy and Girl have a new favorite song. It goes like this if Boy is singing it:
This old man,
Girl is an idiot!
and like this if Girl is singing it:
This old man,
Boy is an idiot!
Both will mix it up occasionally by singing "... Daddy is an idiot" or "... Mommy is an idiot."

The little darlings.