I read about the boxing documentary When We Were Kings in J. Michael Lennon's recent biography of Norman Mailer, Norman Mailer: A Double Life--
Released in February 1997, the film won several awards, including the Academy Award for best documentary. It is generally thought to be the finest documentary ever made on boxing and is linked permanently with Mailer's The Fight, often named as the best nonfiction narrative on a prizefight.
The movie is available on Netflix, but it's also on YouTube. I watched it this afternoon and it lived up to Lennon's description. I don't know how I missed it when it first came out, but I did. Those with an interest in boxing or Muhammad Ali should check it out.
Part of what was so great about those early years of blogging was how chaotic it was — a flurry of posts linking to other bloggers (remember linking?), comment flame-wars, and endless discussion about the value of blog widgets like MyBlogLog or your Technorati ranking, or how to set up your RSS feed. Everyone was tinkering with their WordPress or Typepad to embed some new thing or try out a new theme, and there was a natural (if occasionally tense) camaraderie about it.
I remember it well. "So what changed?" Ingram asks. Read his article to find out . . .
I’m a young male associate who’s wondering if I have a legal claim against my law firm. Even though I’m much smarter than most second-year associates, the firm’s female partners all assume I’m a dimwit because of my good looks. Although I do have quite a nice physique (I’m a weightlifter), it’s just not fair that no one gives me credit for my stellar law school record and my high IQ.
My specific problem deals with what happened the other day. The head of the litigation department, who everyone calls “The Barracuda,” dumped four boxes of documents on my desk at 4 p.m. and told me to “have all the privileged stuff flagged by the morning.”
I haven't posted any of my artwork for nearly a year, but I'm still churning away, trying to figure it all out. Although frustrating at times, I find that painting can be a nice break from writing and law projects. So I've kept at it, even taking some classes. Someday I might create an entirely new website or blog to document my work -- but not yet.
Painted in the studio from a photo I took outside a friend's house in Illinois, 11 x 14--
Painted in the studio from a photo of some trees in Forest Park in St. Louis, 18 x 24--
Smaller, 6 x 8, plein air near Brighton, Illinois, with some revision in the studio--
18 x 24, painted in the studio from a photo (not mine) on Facebook--
11 x 14, painted in the studio from from a photo of a friend's property in Calhoun County, Illinois--
18 x 24, painted in the studio from a photo of a friend's property in St. Genevieve, Missouri--
5x9, painted in plein air near Brighton, Illinois--
Is the modest lawyer a myth? That’s the conventional wisdom. Yet once or twice each year, rumors begin to circulate of yet another sighting of this silent and mysterious man. Three years ago, he was spotted emerging from a portable restroom at a county fair. Another time he was seen helping a small child unhook a bluegill at a lake in Mississippi. Once he was seen high on a mountain in Colorado, searching for a pass during a thunderstorm.
Despite the frequency of the sightings, only three details remain consistent: the modest lawyer vanishes quickly, leaves no trace, and always remains nameless. Yet it’s possible to speculate about some of his other defining characteristics, and many have done so. There was a theory put forward by a professor at Harvard Law School that the modest lawyer probably graduated from that esteemed institution. Another theory held that the modest lawyer most likely hailed from Texas. Both of these theories were obviously flawed, but others have been less controversial: that the modest lawyer has never appeared on a cable TV news program, for example, or that he most certainly doesn’t have a blog.
Why, exactly, is a healthy and well-adjusted life superior to one that is filled with ardor and personal vision but that is also, at times, a little unhealthy and maladjusted? Might some of us not prefer lives that are heaving with an intensity of feeling and action but that do not last quite as long as lives that are organized more sensibly? Why should the good life equal a harmonious life? Might not the good life be one that includes just the right amount of anxiety?
What is striking about Gladwell’s work is not its distance from academic theorizing but the uncritical reverence that he displays toward the academic mind. He describes himself as a storyteller, but for him the story is never enough; it must be supported, and thereby legitimated, by prestigious academic studies and copious references. He is a high priest in the cult of “studies.” He feels on safe ground only when he is able to render his story into the supposed exactitude of quantitative social science. “How often do you think the bigger side wins?” he asks rhetorically. The reader does not have to wait long for an answer: “When the political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft did the calculation a few years ago, what he came up with was 71.5 percent. Just under a third of the time, the weaker country wins.“
I've only read Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, though not due to any objection to his "uncritical reverence" for the "academic mind." I've always enjoyed his magazine pieces in the New Yorker. Gladwell is rarely boring. I'll probably read his other books in time.
I note with sadness the passing of “Ed.,” the anonymous editor of Blawg Review, who died recently of esophageal cancer. Although I never met Ed personally, I worked with him via email on many blog-related projects over the years, most notably the development and founding of Blawg Review.
Here's something I'd forgotten: in 2005, Ed himself launched Blawg Review in a guest post on Legal Underground. His post, titled "Oh Yeah, It's Over for Law Review," is interesting in a history-of-blawgs sort of way, and ends with this call to action:
[T]he time has come to announce Blawg Review, the next big thing in blogging for lawyers, law professors, judges who blog, and law students who'd rather make a name for themselves than make law review. How can everyone get involved?
Submit great posts from your own law blog for publication on Blawg Review, which is hosted on a different blog every Monday.
Host an upcoming issue of Blawg Review on your own incredible law blog. Evan Schaeffer is hosting "Blawg Review #1" on Notes from the (Legal) Underground on April 11th. Kevin Heller is hosting "Blawg Review #3" at Tech Law Advisor, and others have already signed on for subsequent issues. Reserve a date for your blawg review, now!
Write a review of a blawg for publication on Blawg Review. Maybe someone will review yours.
Add a link to Blawg Review on your blog and spread the word throughout the blogosphere, especially when your own fantastic posts are reviewed for all to see.
It's fun to read that post after so many years. Ed's concept for Blawg Review was based on other blog "carnivals" that were popular at the time. He approached me with the idea and asked me to assist with development and promotion. Although I was skeptical, I finally agreed--after a seemingly endless barrage of arm-twisting emails.
It turned out my skepticism was misplaced. Thanks to Ed's enthusiasm and hard work, Blawg Review was a huge success. I admit that nearly ten years later, it's been quite awhile since I've thought about Blawg Review. But the sad news about Ed has made me take notice again, and I've spent some time this morning reading the wonderful posts about Blawg Review and Ed by Mark Bennett and others. (Bennett's post contains a number of links to other posts about Ed, so I don't need to link to them all here. But be sure to read "Ed, We Hardly Knew Ye" at Trial Warrior Blog.)
Those who knew Ed won't be surprised to learn most of this money was paid to him.
Sometimes I'd receive Ed's "typos!" email only moments after I'd posted. It got to the point that each time I saw an email from Ed, my heart would sink--I'd spent so much time proofreading, but failed again.
Finally, I grew tired of Ed's emails, and tired of sending all those $10 and $20 payments to his paypal account. So I pulled the plug on my experiment in crowd-sourced proofreading.
Did my blog suffer? Not from a proliferation of typos: Ed continued to notify me of typos, just as he always had.
And he did so in a gentlemanly way, without reminding me that I had never really had to pay anyone at all for proofreading. He would have done it all for free!
Rest in peace, Ed. The blawgosphere will miss you, as will I.
Proust: “The person you chat with at a party and the person who writes a novel are not the same person.”
What does this mean for literary biography? If you're interested in this sort of question (I admit I am, but I could be an outlier), check out the essay "Examined Lives," by Phyllis Rose at American Scholar.
A more radical solution would be to change the nature of the third year
of law school altogether. Don’t many already consider it wasted? Turn
the third year into an opportunity for a yearlong apprenticeship with
actual lawyers under the umbrella of the law schools; the law schools
would function in the role of ombudsman, facilitating the communication
between the law students and their firms. (A few states offer avenues
to legal practice through apprenticeships, but not always under the
tutelage of law schools.)
If you're interested in the debate, you're welcome to read the whole thing . . .
The mystery surrounding Vincent van Gogh’s death has taken another twist after two experts disputed a recent biography that suggested he did not commit suicide but instead was killed by an acquaintance.
The Dutch painter was widely believed to have shot himself at the age of 37, even confessing it on his deathbed. Yet Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith made the shock claim that he had been shot, possibly accidentally, by a 16-year-old schoolboy.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors made the claim in Van Gogh: The Life, a 960-page biography released in October 2011. At the time of publication, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said the theory was “dramatic” and “intriguing” but added that “plenty of questions remained unanswered.”
Two research experts from the museum were set on the trail of exploring the claims, however, and have no published their findings that the shocking theory of manslaughter, or even murder, simply does not add up.
The less he can write, of course, the more admirable his achievement. As well as the heroism of Robert Langdon, we must think of the heroism of Dan Brown. This is a man who started out with such a shaky grasp of the English language that he still thinks “foreboding” is an adjective meaning “ominous.” I also relished “Sienna changed tacks.” Read aloud, these three words would suggest that the pretty, young woman had altered her arrangement with the Internal Revenue Service. But Dan Brown has never read one of his own sentences aloud in all his life; and why, now, would he need to? He can buy and sell all the pedants in the world.
It's easy to dump on Dan Brown. But it's not so easy to write like Dan Brown, despite what the reviewers might think--if it were, more people would be name-brand authors who sell a gazillion books.
I'll thank my mother for the link. She sent it to me this morning, apparently thinking I suffer from writer's block.
As regular readers of this blog know, I don't believe in writer's block.
Well, not really.
I think it was in my post "Advice to Young Lawyer's #13" that I first began to examine the concept of writer's block. I concluded that "the cause of writer’s block is always the same: a mistaken notion of self-entitlement, a touch of self-pity, and perhaps a lack of sleep."
To cure writer's block, I proposed this solution: "Simply take your head and bang it on your desk until you either lose consciousness or come to grips with the fact that you, and you alone, must write the next sentence. Continue in this fashion, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, until your memorandum is complete."
In later posts, I proposed other cures, having concluded that the bang-your-head solution wouldn't necessarily work for everyone.
It's possible that in the past, I've been too harsh and dogmatic when it comes to writer's block. I might as well think about this for a little while. I'm stuck here in this room, after all, for another three hours, twenty minutes. And I really don't feel like banging my head on my desk.
A final warning. Please don't go looking for writing-block cures 1-56 and 58-177 on this blog--I haven't published them yet.
Maybe I will soon. In the meantime, happy writing!
P.S. Of the three posts I linked to above, only one of them is compiled in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground). To find out which one, you'll have to buy the book--or at least examine the Table of Contents in the "look inside" feature at Amazon. Please note that if you should happen to purchase and read this book, I would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE a review at Amazon. Why? Because I recently had a five-star literary agent tell me that the lack of Amazon reviews for How to Feed a Lawyer might make it impossible for me to ever interest a publisher in anything I write ever again!!! Lacking additional Amazon reviews, in other words, my writing career is pretty much finished. And that's bad news for a guy who rarely suffers from writer's block!
Here's Christopher Buckley in the "By The Book" feature of this week's New York Times Book Review--
Which book has had the greatest impact on you? What book made you want to write?
H. L. Mencken’s “Prejudices.” He wrote these six volumes in the 1920s, but their zest, sinew and cut-and-thrust are undated, fresh and vital nearly a century after their ink dried. No American writer — except perhaps Twain and Bierce — could be so withering and gleeful at the same time.
Well said. I found the Prejudices series more or less by accident as a college senior, looking for something else in the library stacks--and soon had read them all. Now I have a set at home.
The lawyer from the planet Og arrived on Earth last month from a galaxy far, far away. His mission: to conduct research for Chapter 45 of Volume 768 of the popular Ogian reference work, The Very Large Guide to Lawyers of the Universe. The chapter's title: "American Lawyers."
The lawyer from the planet Og is very far from home, and his assignment was an unpopular one. He’s not sure why he drew the short ogstraw, but it was probably as retribution for the way he suffocated the entire lawyer population of Andromeda 765. It was a group of lawyers that would have annoyed any sentient being.
First, the editorial writers touch on the recent drug scandals in the courts of St. Clair County, Illinois:
We profess shock at the death of a young judge from cocaine intoxication, the arrest of his friend and fellow judge for heroin possession, the participation of both in ticket-fixing and charge-dropping schemes for their drug suppliers, and the other crimes and casualties associated with this ring of scofflaws . . .
According to the editorical writers at the Madison County Record, you might think this is bad, but it's actually much worse. The heroin and cocaine, the arrests and ticket-fixing and charge-dropping, the drug suppliers and scofflaws . . . this is nothing but "the tip of the iceberg."
What's the rest of the iceberg composed of?
Class-action lawyers, of course!
Is there anyone in St. Clair or Madison County who can honestly say he didn’t know that unscrupulous attorneys from all over the country have been flocking to our courts for years, representing bogus classes with bogus claims, for the sole purpose of “legally” extorting money from legitimate companies with useful products and helpful services?
That's right. The editorial writers at the Madison County Record have taken the recent drug-related events in St. Clair County as an opportunity to trot out their same old, tired, politically-motivated, false claims about plaintiffs' lawyers.
What's surprising to me is the way that the editorial writers at the Madison County Record--who may have a valid point to make now and then, you never know--allow their message to be lost in the noisy din of their own overstatement.
If the editorical writers had a valid point to make . . . well, they lost me at the headline.
Go ahead and read the full editorial if you must, but only for grins.
BONUS LINKS . . . Here's some background on the drug-related happenings in St. Clair County, Illinois, from the Belleville News-Democrat--
In a review of The Letters of William Gaddis, Paul Griffiths writes that William Gaddis's satire about law and lawyers, A Frolic of His Own, was his "most appealing" work--
Through the late 1980s and early 90s, however, he was clearly having fun, too, writing the legal satire that became A Frolic of His Own. As he read up cases in the eighty-four volumes of American Jurisprudence and corresponded with lawyers, he was putting together an exuberant comedy voiced again largely in dialogue, intercut with court opinions, passages from his Civil War play (whose fictional author is suing a Hollywood studio for breach of copyright) and, as always, long sentences of startling descriptive power. Half the size of The Recognitions or JR, funnier and certainly sunnier than Carpenter’s Gothic, this was his most appealing book.
When I last reported on A Frolic of His Own, I was stuck on page 188. I've now made it to page 310. It's still slow going and I don't pick up the book very often. While parts are incredibly funny, the whole doesn't work for me. Too many details about the law practice seem wrong. Since the parodies of depositions and court opinions don't seem even partially rooted in reality, you end up being distracted rather than entertained. In my opinion, they just don't work. The characters, on the other hand, are very funny, and the whole book is interesting in the way that difficult literature is often interesting--you want to figure out what the writer is up to.
Gaddis's last real novel, "A Frolic of His Own," rambles on for nearly six hundred pages in illustration of how a system designed to create order (American law) can end up sponsoring disorder. The book is ideal for graduate study. It makes a banal but unexceptionable social point (we litigate too much in America), it's riddled with motifs, quotations, stories within stories, and countless allusions to Gaddis's own earlier works and other famous texts (better brush up on your Plato and Longfellow), and its only aesthetic weakness, really, is that much of it is repetitive, incoherent, and insanely boring. This novel, of course, got the warmest reviews of any of Gaddis's books, and was given one of those unofficial lifetime-achievement National Book Awards.
There's much more about Gaddis in this very interesting essay. (Incidentally, Franzen goes on to say that one of the best things about the A Frolic of His Own is the legal opinions, which proves, I guess, that reactions to parody can vary widely.)
A lawsuit alleging fraudulent activity in Avery v. State Farm is moving forward as a federal judge last month denied the defendants’ motion to stay to discovery.
And it appears that the plaintiffs – Mark Hale, Todd Shale and Carly Vickers Morse— are preparing for a battle as court records show more than 20 attorneys are now representing them.
The trio of plaintiffs, all of whom were plaintiffs in the 1997 nationwide class action Avery v. State Farm, filed a federal lawsuit in May 2012 against State Farm, William Shepherd, an attorney at the insurance company, and Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL).
They accuse the defendants of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations (RICO) Act by creating an enterprise “to enable State Farm to evade payment of a $1.05 billion judgment affirmed in favor of approximately 4.7 million State Farm policyholders.”
The article is a little convoluted but worth attempting to parse, especially for those with long memories (like me) of Lloyd Karmeier's election to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2004. According to the plaintiffs in the RICO lawsuit, Karmeier's election was part of a scheme to get a lower court's judgment in Avery v. State Farm overturned, which is what ultimately happened--
The plaintiffs assert that the defendants implemented their scheme in
two phases, the first of which involved recruiting, financing and
electing a candidate to the Illinois Supreme Court who would vote to
overturn the judgment against State Farm once elected.
That phase, the suit contends, was completed when Lloyd Karmeier won
the 2004 race for the Fifth District seat on the state high court and
nine months later, voted in favor of overturning the billion-dollar
judgment against State Farm.
The suit goes on to claim that the second phase took place in 2005
and 2011, when State Farm filed alleged misrepresentations to the
Supreme Court in response to the plaintiffs’ requests for the justices
to vacate their decision overturning judgment.
The plaintiffs are represented, among others, by "Mississippi attorney Don Barrett, Tennessee attorneys W. Gordon Ball and Charles Barrett, Louisiana attorneys Patrick Pendley and Nicholas Rockforte and Alabama attorneys Tom Thrash, Steven Martino, Richard Taylor and Lloyd Copeland"--familiar names on the plaintiffs' side. The defendants are represented by "Edwardsville attorney Patrick Cloud and Chicago attorneys Joseph Cancila Jr., J. Timothy Eaton and James Gaughan," in addition to Richard O’Brien, David Greenfield, Russell Scott and Laura Oberkfell.
Related posts from the days when tort-reform issues occupied more of my blogging time (this blog has a long memory too)--
Many months ago, I was assigned to write an important appellate brief by a partner in our 760-lawyer firm who should have known better than to trust me to write it. I hate to sell myself short, but appellate briefs just aren’t my thing. Even though the deadline kept getting nearer, I couldn’t bring myself to work on it. Still, I had to look at the trial transcript each day, which was taking up space on my desk. I simply didn’t know what to do. Finally, I said good-bye to my secretary, took the elevator to the basement of my building, and revved up the engine of my car. I had decided to head west. I was going to Aspen where I planned to become a ski lift operator.
Google Search trends is arguably the most effective way of learning what the world is thinking about, and Google Trends, with Google’s annual Zeitgeist, has always done a fairly decent job of illustrating this.
Today, Google releases a new and improved version of the product with new charts, updated monthly, of the most-searched people, places and things in more than 40 categories with the ability to filter by 11 countries. PR companies and their customers now have another metric to be highly aware of. Everything from business people through to cars are ranked for the world to see. Each category goes back to 2004.
If you're feeling out of touch with pop culture, Google Trends is a great way to reconnect with the world--if that's something you want to happen.
Or you can use it to find out the "most searched authors and books." It's an eclectic list--Anne Frank, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Stephen King, Dr. Suess; Romeo and Juliet, The Lord of the Rings, The Life of Pi, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Bible.
The book is really a murder mystery that might have been called “Who Killed Vincent van Gogh?” History tells us that van Gogh killed himself, but Mr. Moore writes in the
book’s spirited afterword, “So, Now That You’ve Ruined Art,” “I have stood in that spot [where van Gogh shot himself], and walked from there to the doctor’s house… and I thought, What kind of a painter does that? Who tries to kill himself by shooting himself in the chest, then walks a mile to seek medical attention? It made no sense at all.”
So he decided to tell a story about it and have his say about famous French painters of the late 1800s while he was at it.
Moore's book is entertaining (I read it), but it doesn't claim to be historical fiction. I wouldn't call it a murder mystery either. Van Gogh's death is really more of a frame that's central only at the beginning and end of the book. Moore's account of the way Van Gogh died, which involves supernatural characters, isn't meant to be taken seriously. Nor is Van Gogh even a major character. Most of the book deals with invented characters and other painters from history.Sacré Bleu--a comic novel--certainly doesn't offer any serious new theories about Van Gogh's death.
But such theories do exist. In 2011, authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith proposed in their biography Van Gogh: the Life, that Van Gogh didn't kill himself but was shot accidentally by two teenagers. Van Gogh later claimed otherwise, they wrote, in order to protect the boys. Here's more from The Telegraph: "New book claims Vincent Van Gogh did not commit suicide."
Although scholars haven't made up their minds about the new theory, Van Gogh: the Life is a great new Van Gogh biography that's filled with fascinating details about the painter's life. (For more details, see The Persona and the Palette, from the New York Times.) While Moore's Sacré Bleu is certainly fun reading, anyone who's seriously interested in the questions surrounding Van Gogh's death should take a look at the biography.
NOT SO FAST! . . . In an engaging blog post, Walter Olson rebuts a claim -- in a Daily Caller story by reporter Patrick Howley -- that law firm Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan "has strong Obama connections."
Dear Lord: Here I am, back in Church. It's been awhile, I freely admit, and I apologize for the long string of Sunday absences, but as you know, the demands of my busy practice often require me to work all weekend, Sundays included. That's true even today, Lord, but today is a special Sunday. So special, in fact, that to skip Mass today would be malpractice, more or less, if you know what I mean, which, of course, you do.
Tomorrow is the big trial. Not only is it big, Lord, but as you know already, it's huge, the most important trial of my career to date, the trial at which my client stands to collect millions of dollars, in addition to a sizable punitive damage award.