Thursday, June 30, 2005

Writing Workshops

An emailer asks me to weigh in on the writing workshop experience. I never went for an MFA, but I did shell out fifteen hundred dollars or so of savings during high school for a writing workshop in Massachusetts (this was the first summer I didn't go to the crazy Baptist camp). It lasted for three weeks and destroyed my inclination to write creatively.

I mean that quite literally; before attending, I churned out bad teen poetry at such a prodigious pace that I received complaints from a reader of our high school's literary magazine because so many of the poems in it were mine. The selection process was anonymized, but when so many of the submissions were mine (and with so many of the other entries being sub-literate), my adolescent caterwaulings were bound to appear repeatedly. I wrote constantly, posted my rambling strings of verbiage to online poetry fora, and generally lived the mopey teenage poet stereotype.

The process at my writing workshop was nothing like what happens at MFA workshops. Instead, we were at the opposite end of the spectrum: so tied to being "informal" and "playful" that I felt like I wasn't getting any substantive feedback on how to improve. No one was willing to criticize anyone else's work (even though we all agreed privately that one girl's stuff was wrenchingly awful), and the instructor didn't instruct so much as guide us into certain kinds of exercises and experimentation. We were given prompts but little prompting; my efforts to adhere to certain kinds of poetic structure were looked at with skepticism but I received little advice on how to better handle the forms and still less on how to impose some structure on the stream of consciousness "free verse" that seemed to be the alternative.

One thing I did learn was that certain young writers in our group had far more natural talent than I did, and the program gave me no evidence that it could provide concrete suggestions for closing this gap with hard work. This bred a vague despair and discouragement which was amplified by my instructor's odd behavior. When I turned in a portfolio after the first week, he spent the nearly the entire feedback period questioning me about the doodles and literary detritus scrawled on the folder I'd used to turn it in rather than devoting the time to what was inside. (Why a collection of real and fake phrases from product labels was so fascinating I never discovered.)

I finally led a rebellion when the instructor told us that one of the few day we had remaining have a student-taught class. After shelling out so much of my own money, I felt cheated to be instructed by a bunch of kids who knew little more about writing than I did while our alleged teacher sat by and drank coffee. Our petition against this nonsense failed by a single signature, but in retrospect I would have gotten so little out of one additional day of college professor instruction that I can't see why we made a fuss.

Upon return from Massachusetts (which, by the way, was the first time I'd socialized for a significant period with people from out of state and was the impetus for trying to eliminate my accent), I knew two things: I'd paid a lot of money for people to try to teach me to be a better writer and learned next to nothing, and that there were some people with a natural gift for such things and I was not one of them. So I continued to run the literary magazine, submitted any poems and prose I had backlogged, and essentially never wrote again unless an assignment required it.

International Kissing Day Questioned

PG is pro-kiss, even if she's slightly more pro-hug. But she has a good point that there is already, by some accounts, an International Kissing Day on a date other than July 6. I chose July 6 because the putative February date was sufficiently close to Valentine's Day as to breed confusion and redundancy. April is fine, but there's a long tradition of summer romance and I hoped to support it by declaring July 6th International Kissing Day. Besides, I found evidence last year that the British holiday was started by a dental hygiene company, and how funny is that?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jesus was the quarterback and Moses was the guard*

Via Joanne Jacobs, I'm happy to see that there's now a summer camp for freethinking youngsters. When I was six, I expressed a desire to go to one of the sleepaway summer camps like the ones I read about in children's books. My parents didn't have a lot of choices in Texas at the time and ended up sending me to one we could afford, a Baptist affiliated camp where weeping college student counselors distributed giant steel nails to the campers after a couple of hours of skits, passion plays, and guitar music. We also wrote prayers on slips of paper and nailed them to a giant cross in the middle of the woods. This was the place where (that fateful first summer) I tried to convince another second grader of the existence of evolution. You can guess how well that went over.

I went there for ten summers. The last summer I was there they were grooming us to be junior counselors the following year. When I relectantly revealed that I didn't believe they spent the whole week washing my feet and praying for me. The brief time after that was the closest I've ever come to believing in anything. But a short, intense period of brainwashing with no maintenance isn't always enough to take, and I remained a heathen.

* Actual line from song we sang at Baptist summer camp.

Rape and Male Hegemony

Majikthise has a thoughtful piece on Mukthar Mai and the psychology of reactions to rape. An excerpt:
Rape stigma is a direct result of male privilege. As long as women are assumed to be the property of men, a woman's rape is a defeat to whoever "owns" her. According to this warped worldview, a rape victim who speaks out about her ordeal shames not only herself, but everyone who was supposed to have been controlling her (her husband, her male relatives, her community, and even her nation).
Male privilege isn't unconditional--you don't get to be a "real man" unless you can control "your" women. So, every acknowledged rape unmans the victim's rightful owners. . . . If you presuppose male hegemony, it makes sense to address rape by silencing victims and to protecting future victims by restricting their freedom, especially their access to other men.

Countdown to International Kissing Day II

International Kissing Day, a holiday some of you may remember from its internet rollout last year, is only one week away. In anticipation of this joyous event, a few brief kissing quotes:
A kiss, when all is said, what is it?
A rosy dot placed on the "i" in loving;
'Tis a secret told to the mouth instead of to the ear.
~Edmond Rostand
A kiss can be a comma, a question mark or an exclamation point. That's basic spelling that every woman ought to know. ~Mistinguett (Jeanne Bourgeois), Theatre Arts, December 1955
The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Professor at the Breakfast-Table

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


An emailer writes:
Reading your blog and noticed a problem. At least in my IE browser, the
body text won't scale to the horizontal width of my window. Instead I have
to maximize the window to get a complete line of text on the screen.
I don't know how to fix this myself, but if someone can explain how to I'm happy to change the template in response to reader demand.

Good for the Gander

My only reaction to this is a Nelson-esque "ha-Ha!"

Private Developer Seeks Permit to Build Hotel on Souter's New Hampshire Home

Supreme Court Cover Songs

Tom Bell has a mournful remix of "House of the Rising Sun" with a Supreme Court theme. Can we get an MP3? I like the Sinead O'Connor and Tori Amos covers of the original song, but I'm sure this would have its own special charm.

What Female Suicide Bombers Believe

Via Andrew Sullivan, an article on female suicide bombers in Israel. I found this passage particularly interesting:
One of the inmates, Ayat Allah Kamil, 20, from Kabatya, told me why she had wanted to become a martyr: "Because of my religion. I'm very religious. For the holy war [jihad] there's no difference between men and women shaid [martyrs]."
According to the Koran, male martyrs are welcomed to Paradise by 72 beautiful virgins. Ayat, as with many of the women she is incarcerated with, believes that a woman martyr "will be the chief of the 72 virgins, the fairest of the fair".
So there's no difference between men and women martyrs, but men get 72 hot ladies in Paradise, whereas women get to be the prettiest member of the heavenly harem for some male martyr to be named later? This is like some bastardized theological version of Mean Girls.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Majoritarian View of God

From Scalia's dissent in McCreary County v. ACLU (the Ten Commandments case that struck down a courthouse display):
the Establishment Clause permits . . . disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.
Readers may recall my previous post on the recent appellate decision permitting exclusion of polytheists from eligibility to give invocations at government meetings.

Aside from the dissent being a gauntlet slap in challenge to the entire notion of church-state separation, it's an insult to many Americans of faith.

UPDATE: Jack Balkin is also troubled by Scalia's dissent.

UPDATE II: PG has an excellent post on public support of religion.

UPDATE III: David Schraub also found the Simpson County case deeply problematic.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Names, they are a-changin'

Since I'm not longer a member of a class, I thought that this would be a good time to change the name of this blog from the aggressively misanthropic "Class Maledictorian" to something a little lighter and not tied to my former identity as a student. The discussion in the wake of this post reflected a general consensus that "Prettier Than Napoleon" or "BamberBlog" should be the lead contenders. I picked the former. I predict that the content of this blog will shift toward books, movies, and culture and away from law after I pass the bar, so this new name can signify that change as well.

You need not change your links, as this blog will remain at, but it is also now accessible via

UPDATE: I have also radically changed the template, so those of you reading through Bloglines might click through and check out the new style (100% less orange!).

UPDATE II: It looks like permalinks are not working with the new template. Does anyone have any suggestions for fixing this?

UPDATE III: Better now, I think. Please let me know if there are problems.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

MBE: The Reckoning

I basically took this week off of bar study because they were covering material I'd already done for two days and I was too lazy to do the first practice performance test at the end of the week. Today was the simulated MBE, which apparently I am supposed to be afraid of but didn't take very seriously. I finished each half in two hours and then left early. (I read very quickly and don't find it particularly helpful to stare at the page when I don't know the answer--best to take a guess, since no new information is going to spontaneously appear in my brain).

They told us our score analysis would be available in five days, but the test booklet has a key in the back so I was able to calculate my raw score (133) on the train on the way back. As I understand it, that's sometimes but not always a passing score. Not bad for someone who sat around watching Deadwood episodes all week, I guess. My studying now at least has some focus (the key lists the issue tested by each question, so I can intensely review weak spots like the Rule Against Perpetuities).

PSA: Have You Had Your Pap?

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the developing world and the second highest cause of cancer death among American women. The New York State Assembly recently passed legislation creating a cervical cancer prevention and awareness plan for women in that state.

On a more global level, a new self-test for cervical cancer has been developed and will begin to be distributed in South Africa this fall. The test does not require a pelvic exam and is inserted by the woman like a tampon and then sent out for lab interpretation. It costs 25 cents.

Between these improvements in screening and the new HPV vaccine in development, could cervical cancer be essentially eliminated in our lifetime? If so, thanks should go to George Soros (underwriter of the new test) and Bill Gates (who has generously supported vaccination efforts).

(h/t Feministe and Will Baude)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Federal District Court says it doesn't matter how hot Jessica Simpson is.

Is this for real? According to The Superficial, the Federal District Court for the Central District of California has enjoined the release of the new Dukes of Hazzard movie. Can someone with PACER access confirm? I think this is great, if only because Jessica Simpson's nose frightens me and the whole thing looks like such a concentrated dose of stupidity that the American public might never recover.

UPDATE: The litigation has settled. Simpson, her daisy dukes, and her malformed schnozz will be in theaters across America as scheduled. (Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link and for resolving this pressing legal issue.)

Stupid Bar Tricks

Plane ticket to So Cal (flying into Long Beach, not Ontario International Airport, which is right next to the test administration center): $300
Three nights at some weird hotel near the convention center I've never heard of: $192
Rental car to get from Long Beach to Ontario and back: $90
USB Floppy drive (because the Bar doesn't accept CD-ROMs): $23
Extra battery for laptop: $112

Will the money-sucking madness ever end?

FYI: I will be in the Ontario/Claremont area July 25-28. If any CMC folks are still in the area we should have dinner.

P.S. What's the best way to get to Dulles for a 6AM flight?

Friday Spies, Kung Fu Edition

Via the BTQ boys:

In case you're wondering, yes, we do consider it our fate to wander the Earth like Caine from "Kung Fu," doling out insipid questions so we'll have something to blog about. This week's wisdom, channelled via meditation from Master Po:

1. What's your favorite season?

Fall. I hate being hot, especially in regions of the United States in which air conditioning is sporadic, and three years in Boston taught me to hate winter. Spring is allergy season. Fall promises ever-cooler days and pretty leaves. Two thumbs up.

2. Do you have a green thumb?

I have a black thumb. I've killed cactus, aloe plants, flowering potted plants of all sorts and even those stripey-leafed toughies that normally thrive in office buildings. I want to start an herb garden but am certain I'll just kill everything. Sigh.

3. What is your favorite sport to watch? What is your favorite sport to play? Do you have a sports hero?

I like to watch basketball, although I don't really do so anymore (I don't really watch TV at all). My height makes it impossible for me to play that sport, and my general lack of athleticism takes care of the rest. Sweating is overrated. And people who idolize sports figures have their priorities in the wrong place.

4. Which would you rather be: Mayor, Governor, Senator, or President?

President, of course. I'd issue crazy executive orders, nominate Richard Posner, Janice Rogers Brown, and Akhil Amar to the Supreme Court, and veto bills left and right. I'd go on a whistlestop tour of the Southwest. I'd abolish agencies. It would be so much fun.

5. What are ten must-own items for single men and single women?

God, those lists are stupid. Everyone should have:

1. A recipe for an easy to make but romantic dinner.
2. Bathroom reading for yourself.
3. A comfy bathrobe for those days when you have the place to yourself because you're single.
4. Nice underwear.
5. Something that makes you smell good.
6. Diet Coke (not Coke Zero, which is foul swill the likes of which have not been seen since New Coke).
7. Clothes that make you feel sexy and confident, even if they are not expensive.
8. CDs of music you actually like (so the other person can get to know the real you, and even so you can introduce them to something they might not have heard before).
9. Friends who can give you tough love.
10. Books to lend.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Insert Stream of Wingdings Here

I swear a lot. That's part of the reason for the title of this blog. But there's no particular reason I should swear a lot on this blog, so I too will not comment on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Kelo.

Blog Census

Via Purr Se and Feministe, a new blog survey from MIT. Please consider participating!

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Smiles, Redux

After my link to Cancer, Baby's post on being told by a stranger to smile and its blistering aftermath, some discussion ensued. Said discussion was apparently read by the original poster and she has a response.

I was only partly kidding in my call for psychological research on this issue, but Will Baude informs me that such research has already been done on the issue of catcalling and the like and thus it's a ripe field for exploration.

Batman Begins

Last night we went to see Batman Begins. I have a dilettante's naive enthusiasm for comic books and comic book based movies, and Chris Nolan's version of Gotham and the Caped Crusader does not disappoint. A few musings:

Casting: Batman Begins features a stupendous lineup of UK acting talent, including Liam Neeson (Am I the only one who thinks Rob Roy was better than Braveheart?), Tom Wilkinson, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman. Bale, playing Batman, is also British (and Gloria Steinem's stepson!) and is spot on as both the anguished Bruce Wayne and the increasingly confident Batman. Like some other bloggers, I was puzzled as to why [SPOILERS: Ra's Al Ghul was ultimately cast as a Caucasian; the dramatic misdirection could have been maintained if Al Ghul had simply been played by a different Asian actor than Ken Watanabe.] But most of the cast, especially Wilkinson and Oldman, disappeared into their roles in a truly delightful fashion. Special bonus for Blind Fury fans: Rutger Hauer plays the Chairman of Wayne Enterprises!)

Two actors proved unplaceable during the film; afterwards, I was shocked to discover that the guy playing Dr. Crane (who came off as sort of a Doogie Howser, Psych.D) was not some low rent Elijah Wood impersonator but Cillian Murphy of 28 Days Later, now unrecognizably disguised with a shock of dark hair. Similarly, the actor playing Thomas Wayne plucked at my memory; he turned out to be the duplicitous lover from Wings of the Dove.

One quibble: I had a long debate, post-film, on the appropriateness of Katie Holmes. I am not terribly fond of Miss Holmes: her perpetual girlishness limits her range, she's not a powerful or persuasive actress even within that range, and she's sold herself to Tom Cruise. Her phenotype is utterly dissimilar from the previous Batman love interests (pale, slender blondes), although since this film is technically not connected to its predecessors this may be irrelevant. But there were only one or two scenes in which I could buy Miss Holmes as a hard-nosed A.D.A. and many more where she seemed more like a perpetual college intern in the office. I'm happy to hear that she will not be returning for future installments of the new franchise.

Onward to other concerns:
Chris Nolan's previous movies, Memento and Insomnia, were deeply pleasurable, if unsettling, movie experiences. This is an exception to that rule, although it was definitely more affecting than your average comic book picture. The beginning sequence in the Himalayas dragged on and was a bit cheesy. I have trouble keeping a straight face when ninjas are unironically portrayed on screen.

The cinematography was claustophobic and, as another critic has pointed out, lacked many well composed shots for us to appreciate. The fight scenes in particular were shot in the peculiarly chaotic manner typical of many recent action movies: a manner such that the viewer is unsatisfied since she cannot tell who is striking whom and which maximizes the blurring of limbs and bodies. Perhaps this cuts down on the utter absurdity that would be reflected by a more long-range shot (how difficult can it really be for a group to fight one man? As Fezzik tells us, the techniques are different, but even Batman Begins itself later gives an example of Batman overwhelmed by a crowd), but it's still aggravating.

One additional question: in what time period is Batman Begins set? Computer screens and cell phones abound, women are respected as D.A.s, and cars are contemporary. However, other signs, such as the set design, seem to harken back to an earlier period. The Tim Burton films embraced the aesthetic (and in some respects the culture) of an earlier era. Will future Batman films continue to be set in a contemporary universe? Will they be themselves set in the future?

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Milking it

I love milk. I grew up drinking it at least once per day: big, chilly glasses of whole milk, full of delicious fat. In college I caved to the pressure of impending weight gain and gradually weaned myself onto 2% through a process of mixing decreasing proportions of my beloved whole milk with the less tasty lowfat versions. Now I even buy 1% on occasion, but only if it's to be used mostly for cooking or cereal. I still treasure my treats of frosty whole milk from time to time.

So these obnoxious lawsuit-hawking fearmongers can bugger off sideways as far as I'm concerned. Don't like milk? Makes your tummy hurt? Don't drink it. But keep your mitts off my Chunky Monkey ice cream, my cheddar cheese, and especially my glass of milk. I don't go on a litigious rampage every time I find out something heavily promoted doesn't agree with me. (Aleve makes me spew like Regan in The Exorcist, but I'm not petitioning the FDA about it.) What next, vegans and Hindus suing to enjoin those "Beef: It's What's For Dinner" commercials?

Musings on thievery

Via Tyler Cowen, the list of most frequently shoplifted items. My intuitive response to the first few items is that people shoplift if they are teenage girls with some sort of uterus issue. Or if they are teenage girls who had some kind of uterus issue (Similac).

William Wallace was a chump.

One of the nice things about switching classes is that it gives me a little freeeeeedom (like essay deadlines: I got very distressed at this, until I realized that the graders have no idea where I am, and thus they cannot expect me to turn in the essays in compliance with any particular deadline). Today and tomorrow the DC class is covering Crimes, but the Cambridge class already did those classes so I have two days for independent study, grocery shopping, and Batman Begins.

There's an excellent blog covering the California bar exam here.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Bar Despair

I've been feeling relatively despondent about the bar exam lately. Memorizing vast quantities of material has never been my strong suit, and following the paced program seems to give a false sense of security; we do the practice questions directly after reviewing the material, but it's foolish to expect a retention rate of 100%. And don't get me started on these IRAC saturated, mechanical essays wheich require untold amounts of regurgitated material, even if the issue is a ringer.

Taking the California bar may, in hindsight, have been a poor choice.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


The blogosphere previously discussed the phenomenon of men telling women they don't know to smile. This more recent post sums up much of the discussion and delivers a stinging rebuke to the mood ogling smile evangelist set.

Don't mess with cancer patients.


In our house, that is. Ugh.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Godzilla versus Mothra

I've not yet seen Batman Begins and thus cannot comment on the substance involved, but I really cannot decide whom to root for in this little dustup.

Book Shopping

Per my brunch companion's suggestion, I stopped by Second Story Books for a quick browse. Yesterday's trip to Kultura Books yielded only a list of popular library picks, but Second Story had some that the D.C. public library was unlikely to have and which fit my standards for book acquisition (but no shelfworthy hardcovers, alas).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday Spies: US Magazine Edition

1. Which relationship will last longer, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ("Brangelina"), or Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ("TomKat")?

TomKat, because Angelina's a wild one, untameable. She's drawn in Brad with her cute adopted kid and promises of family bliss, but if Brad thinks he's going to get to plant a baby in Angelina he's got a surprise coming. And since he seems like the kind of dumb, biology obsessed wannabe dad who ultimately just wants his genes passed on, the affair will die.

TomKat, on the other hand, looks to be successful. He's converted her to Scientology (a stumbling block for his previous Catholic partners) and has a wedding lined up already.

2. Less importantly, which will have nuclear bombs first, North Korea or Iran?

Iran, if only because they have more trading opportunities.

3. What is your dream car?

I currently have a super deluxe old lady mobile of a Cadillac (it waits for me in Houston, alas), but I have this sick fascination with those Lexus SUVs. You know, the ones that look more like fancypants station wagons than trucks. But I really just want a Toyota sedan, because dream cars get good gas mileage.

4. What book have you read the most times?

Good question. I read the Oz books obsessively as a kid, but nothing has had the staying power of Edith Hamilton's Mythology, which I read first around age 7 or 8 and have read at least annually ever since. Stephen King's It is probably also a close contender, as is Watership Down.

5. Are you a matchmaker?

If I am, I'm a stunningly bad one. After three years of trying, I was never able to find a match for my housemate.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Obscure Comics

I still have a Library of Congress researcher card from an internship five years ago. If it's still good, should I go over one morning and read the obscure and copyright-entangled Miracleman comics?

BarBri Confession/Query

I've asked people in my BarBri classes in Cambridge and D.C. and nobody seems to know, so I'll turn to the internet: what percentage of questions are we supposed to be getting correct on these assignments? I assume we should get more introductory problems correct than intermediate problems, but the effect of increasing difficult should be slightly mitigated by our increasing familiarity with the material.

Aside from the finger wagging the first day about getting a scaled score of 140 (raw score of 125-130) on the MBE, I've heard nothing since. Should I be happy to get 80% of a set correct? Deeply concerned to get 60%? HELP.

USSC Speculations

While some people are talking up Wilkinson for the Supreme Court, I'd be interested in hearing what they have to say about his opinion in Simpson v. Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, which held that it was permissible to bar leaders of non-monotheistic religions from the list of those eligible to lead legislative invocations. In my opinion, Marsh was wrongly decided, but this application of Marsh is deeply troubling to me, and it should be equally troubling to anyone who genuinely cares about religious liberty.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Feets, Don't Fail Me Now

I am apparently losing necessary cohesion, or perhaps my body has decided to wreak vengeance for my years of prior abuse. Every shoe I has purchased recently has given me blisters: sneakers, butter-soft leather sandals, flip flops, loafers . . . My feet are continually bandaged. Calluses appear, but to no avail or in the wrong place. My feet are definitely not anything anyone would pay to look at. And even if the shoes aren't wearing a hole in my feet, my feet are wearing holes in the shoes (witness my New Balance sneakers, which after a brief period of blister doling goodness have mostly settled down, but which now have been mysteriously worn through all the interior padding at the lower heel).

I am beginning to despair. What is wrong with me? Am I too delicate for this world? Should I hire something to carry me everywhere: a sedan chair, a pair of strong-backed houseboys, a pony? When you can't even manage a walk to the grocery store without limping, there's something seriously wrong.


On the reading list:

-Bunch of BarBri stuff
-Cloud Atlas (the right one, this time)
-The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Book Reading in DC

Professor Kermit Roosevelt will be reading from his new book, In the Shadow of the Law, at 7 pm, Wednesday, June 22, at Olsson’s on 7th Street between D and E. (via George Hicks)

Monday, June 13, 2005

More delicious animals

After some discussion with Mister Baude as to the proper spelling of barbeque (the OED, alas, says "barbecue," yet this makes no sense; how can the abbreviation BBQ flow from anything but a Q spelling? Shouldn't it then be BBC?), we found, via Tyler Cowen's ethnic dining guide, what looks to be the most accessible and promising BBQ restaurant in D.C.: Capital Q BBQ.

In what I can only describe as an endearing effort to participate in this "internet" thing, they have a webcam where you can watch total strangers eat. A review will be posted soon, as my craving for brisket grows ever stronger.

N.B. Please do not post and tell me to go to Red Hot and Blue. As Chipotle is to taquerias, so is RHB to true BBQ.

UPDATE: A brief Google search reflects the dominance of "barbecue" over "barbeque," but the addition of "Texas" or "brisket" brings the search results for each spelling into a dead heat. Perhaps the Q variant is more common in the region of my youth?

Yes, I'm that Amber Taylor.

While sitting in the GWU Law School lounge waiting for my first BarBri class in D.C. to start, I was surprised to hear someone politely ask whether or not I was Amber Taylor. He then explained that he had recognized me from my picture and wanted to tell me he enjoyed the blog. This was the first time that I've ever been recognized by a reader. Hopefully fame won't go to my head.


I need to insert a blank page into an existing PDF. If you have Adobe Acrobat and feel like being helpful, shoot me an email.

Missed Opportunities

Jeremy Blachman is disappointed that he did not get to see Lithgow's speech at Commencement, but consoles himself with the thought that reading a transcript is "almost as good."

I fail to see how any transcript could convey the surreal beauty of John Lithgow (who I will always remember as the bad guy in Cliffhanger) singing "I'm a Manatee" in Harvard Yard.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The duck says "quack"; he is delicious and brown.

Mark Bittman's recipe for roast duck produced a flavorful but not overly greasy bird. We really should have taken a photo of the rich brown exterior before carving it up, but this only occurred to be after dinner and Will vetoed photography of the dismembered carcass as "too gruesome." For other lovers of tasty linear birds, the recipe follows:

Roast Duck in One Hour

Preheat oven to 455.
Place duck breast side down on an elevated rack in a deep-sided roasting pan. There should be water in the bottom of the pan to prevent grease splatters.
Stab the duck many times with a sharp knife. Pour soy sauce over it and then sprinkle with black pepper.
Roast for ten minutes. Cover again with soy sauce and pepper.
Roast for twenty minutes. Remove duck from oven, flip it breast side up and do the soy sauce/pepper bit one last time. Keep an eye on the water level unless you like setting off smoke alarms.
Roast for thirty minutes. Carve and devour.

ADDENDUM: Will Baude's birthday cake was a red velvet cake made according to Cake Man Raven's recipe, with modifications following the recipe available here.

I'm entirely baffled as to how the former recipe could make three 9 inch layers, since I made only two and they were a scant inch or so tall, save in the center. The amount of food coloring should really be doubled for a true "red velvet" effect. My attempt was more of a deep rose.

The cake was structured with a layer of frosting and berries in between the cakes and more berries in the frosting on top. Cake Man Raven's frosting hardens nicely in the fridge, to my great relief; the last time I iced a cake, the decorative nut arrangement started to slide around as the icing settled.

The Quest for Duck

I have been to two supermarkets already in search of duck. Calling a third produced a jovial man in the meat department who declared that they had one for sale. As soon as the cakes are out of the oven, I must dash out again to snatch up what appears to be the last duck in the D.C. metro area.

A linear bird will meet its doom in my kitchen tonight!

Don't Steal This Book.

Jeremy Blachman and Alan Dershowitz both like Kermit Roosevelt's new book. I haven't read it yet, but after Professor Roosevelt's kind assistance with my clerkship application process last summer I am eager to do something to repay him. So: buy this book! It sounds like the substance of it reaffirms my decision to pursue non-firm employment, but I'll provide a full review of my own in a future 50 Book Challenge post.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Champagne Taste + Beer Money + Credit Cards = STUPID

My generation is a bunch of idiots.

Idiots like Jason Leong, who dreams of buying a house someday:
Jason Leong, 24, a makeup artist at Stila Cosmetics at Westfield Shoppingtown Valley Fair in San Jose, said he's more charged by the thrill of a new trinket than the attention it generates. He holds up his right wrist to show off a prized find, a canvas Christian Dior bracelet.

``This one was $180,'' he said, ``but it makes me happy, so it's worth it.''

Leong has tried to cut back on his high-end purchases from a year ago, reducing his $1,000 a month spending budget, which was 60 percent of his take-home salary, to about $400 a month. He now sets aside $25 a week toward the purchase of a house so that he can move out of his father's place in Hayward.

When he walked into the Hugo Boss store at Valley Fair on a recent shopping jaunt, three salespeople gave him a nod and acknowledged him by name.

``This,'' he said, ``is where I go when I want to spend money.''
Median home price in San Jose: $565,000.

Even more than the egregiously stupid and shallow creatures that populate the rest of the article, Jason makes me sad. By the time he saves enough for a 20% down payment, he'll be over 100 years old.

How to tell your school is too big

I was standing in line at Dulles, waiting for the SuperShuttle that would take me to my new digs at the libertarian party house, when I noticed that the guy standing beind me looked really familiar.

"Do I know you from somewhere?"

He looked at me with a total lack of recognition. Then he noticed my HLS t-shirt.

"Oh, you're from Harvard. Are you a 1L?"

"No I just graduated."


"Me too."

So I spent the entire ride to D.C. getting to know one of my classmates: someone I spent the last three years in school with and never spoke to. He's a nice guy. Like me, he's in D.C. for the summer studying for the bar while the 1L significant other works.

550 students per class is just freaking ridiculous.


I had to call a cab to take me to the post office this morning so my BarBri books could get shipped to D.C. I should have just mailed them when I mailed the rest of my stuff to Texas, but I had some crazy idea that I could put them in my suitcases. Fat chance. Between the two PMBR books and the nine BarBri books, I had better than fifty pounds of delicious Bar prep goodness, and of course they wouldn't fit in the suitcases after all (I blame the parasites in my brain that make me buy more clothes than I really need). So I crammed in a couple of intensely Bostonian experiences while running my post office errand: chatting with a garrulous cabbie about his daughter, who went to BC Law School and now practices family law, and stopping at Dunkin Donuts on the way back for a few empty calories. I have the really crucial BarBri books in my carry-on bag so I can go to class on Monday with no problems. I have fallen dramatically behind in the Paced Program, though. Hopefully my D.C. study habits will be more rigorous than my distracted attempts here.

Congratulations to Jonathan Baude of Crescat, who is graduating today.

Unrelatedly, I rode in the trunk of a car once. I can see how this is reckless, but what exactly is the recklessness at issue? It's not the heat, since it's not reckless endangerment to tool around in a car with no air conditioning. Is it that the children were not restrained by safety belts and thus could be flung about in a crash? Does Maryland prosecute parents who don't buckle their kids up for reckless endangerment, too? Apparently minors in Maryland can ride on motorcycles if they have appropriate headgear, and the danger in an accident to a motorcycle rider and a trunk-passenger might be about the same. Would it have been reckless for the kids to ride in the trunk if they'd been wearing helmets?

I'm not trying to defend the mother here (she's clearly an idiot), but I'm always interested in the enforcement of laws against reckless driving and the like. As a society we clearly don't think broad prohibitions on reckless driving really do the work we want them to: thus the vast number of targeted laws, like those against drunk driving or driving while talking on a cell phone. But a simple recklessness prosecution can seem like a catch-all. Hmm.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Private Cabs for Women

Private enterprise steps up to provide more safety than the British police can supply: Women in Britain can now take a "Pink Ladies" cab and be guaranteed a woman driver. The only problem I can see with this is the requirement that all fares be on a subscriber basis (this is apparently necessary to avoid infringing British antidiscrimination laws). Perhaps the cab drivers will be able to process new subscriptions in the cabs to encourage new members; this would require only a credit card swipe and a modem connection to the dispatch/records office. (Via Feministing)

All this reminds me of the segregated subway cars in Japan.

My reading for the day: The Screwfly Solution. Creepy stuff. I do love Tiptree.

The "Sex Kitten" Effect

Owning cats can make women promiscuous and men into "alley cats." Yet another reason to get a dog.

Friday Spies: Without Fanfare Edition

1. What is the earliest movie you remember watching in the theater?

I can remember seeing the Care Bears Movie in the theater. This is probably because my mother has taunted me for years for going along with the audience participation sequence (something like the bit in Peter Pan when you are supposed to clap for Tinkerbell). Because apparently I was not cynical enough at five. I've certainly caught up now!

2. If you could strike one word from the English language, which word would you choose and why?

"Like." Because I say it, like, too much.

3. If you were a superhero, what would be your kryptonite?

See, this is a more difficult question than one might think. Your kryptonite needs to be something that's somehow tied to you and your powers and which your enemies have some risk of possessing, but it should be sufficiently rare that you can still be called a superhero. The aliens in Signs, for example, had such a ridiculous "kryptonite" that it ruined the whole movie retroactively.

So: to what relatively uncommon substance is my aversion so deep seated that it goes to the very root of my powers? As a superpowered capitalist defender and small government advocate, I can think of nothing more deadly than volumes of controller's reports documenting government spending. They are hopelessly boring, nigh on indecipherable, and document not only the scourge of taxation but the salt in the wound, government waste.

*Also, they are backbreakingly heavy, so even if you're not a superhero they can be flung as projectiles by an enemy and pose a a substantial risk of injury.

4. Would you rather win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Golden Globe, Oscar, Pulitzer, or Nobel Prize? What work would you win it for?

Well, of those choices, only the Nobel provides you with a cool $1.3 million in cash, so I'm going to pick that. I would win it for my groundbreaking work in preventing rape in Africa by arming and training women at risk. Then I would buy a yacht and put gun turrets on it.

5. What is your catch phrase? Don't have one? Then make one up!

I've always wanted a catch phrase. but how does one just coin a catch phrase? Shouldn't it be something you say a lot, or at least can see yourself saying a lot? There are many movie catchphrases that I mimic, but I don't generally go around saying the same phrase over and over hoping it catches on or becomes associated with me.

Oh, hell. How about "Cheese for Amber." At least that can get used any time I am presented with cheese, which is more often than you might think. And may I say, relatedly, that the fried Spanish cheese with honey and sweet onions at Dali is so delicious as to be criminal?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

In defense of allusion

Not that I have any particular fondness for the French Prime Minister, but what is so terrible about having a political figure allude to classical Greek mythology? Is it too pompous? Should we really prefer leaders who conceal their knowledge of the great works of Western civilization and instead aim their rhetoric at the lowest common denominator? What's so awful about showing cultural literacy?


After a long, rainy night (one of the first thunderstorms in Cambridge that I can recall, complete with dramatic flashes of lightning), I am required to rise early and don my non-colorfast regalia with its mysterious sigils and (finally) appropriately colored hood.

Raffi was correct to point out the deficiencies of yesterday's lunch. The tart he mentioned I avoided entirely due to the thin layer of chocolate surreptitiously placed between the custard and the fruit. Unfortunately, I have a migraine anyway. Perhaps I shall faint dramatically while crossing the stage to collect my diploma. I would probably be remembered more for that than for anything else I've done around here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


The recent SCOTUSBlog colloquim on Raich raised the question in my mind of whether any Harvard professors have blogs (as opposed to guest-blogging or blogging by professors visiting at Harvard, such as Eugene Volokh). So, are there any? Chicago has Posner, Stanford has Lessig, Yale has Balkin and Ayres. Who represents Harvard in the blogosphere?

Class Day

Today is the day for dressing up and listening to speeches. Let's hope it doesn't rain.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.

Only a man, and a very ignorant man at that, could write something like this (from Virginia Postrel's article on the work of one Barry Schwartz):
In his opening chapter, Schwartz recounts his troubles buying jeans at The Gap. What used to be a five-minute task requiring no more information than a waist size and length now demands multiple decisions and an unnerving amount of self-awareness. What leg shape and denim wash say “Barry Schwartz”? What shape is his body really? “Finally, I chose the easy fit, because a ‘relaxed fit’ implied that I was getting soft in the middle and needed to cover it up,” he writes.

Schwartz acknowledges that offering more styles and fits is good “for customers with varied tastes and body types,” but he discounts their interests. Ill-fitting jeans are a small price to pay for simplicity, he suggests. The Gap’s many choices, he says, have made buying jeans “a complex decision in which I was forced to invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, anxiety, and dread.” In the words of a Glamour editorial that cites Schwartz, “It’s enough to give even the most pro-choice girl one big headache.”
Barry, allow me to introduce you to the world of women's fashion, in which clothes are not only available in a wide variety of cuts, but in which sizes do not run consistently from store to store, or even in the same store from Time 1 to Time 2. Clothes are sized in Misses, Juniors, Womens, Petites . . . and that's just in one department store! For women, every single item of clothing is an independent choice. Yet somehow we have survived.

What a maroon.

When I was a Boy

This Bitch PhD post reminded me of one of my favorite songs. Well, favorite in the sense that it brings tears to my eyes every. single. time. I hear it.
When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry. Now even when I'm alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you.

Monday, June 06, 2005


My family is showing up tomorrow. Half of them don't speak to the other half. I still don't understand the schedules for Class Day and Commencement. There is still an unsettling amount of stuff unpacked. And I am running out of food.

But at least grades finally came out. One guy I know mentioned that it will be nice to never have to worry about grades again, but I told him we would soon find new proxies for self-worth to torture ourselves with, like annual reviews or hours billed. At least he will; I'm not doing the firm thing. Ha!

Federalism Apostates

What a terrible end for the Rehnquist Court and the federalism revolution. O'Connor's dissent is not terribly persuasive, though. As is usual of these decisions, Thomas has the better of it.

I'd read the majority and concurring opinions, but I should probably get ready for BarBri class.

God, I'm depressed.

P.S. Is it just me, or does anyone else clench their teeth and prepare for the worst when a judicial opinion cites to the dictionary? It reminds me of seventh grade essay assignments and rarely, if ever, is accompanied by sound argumentation and solid legal analysis.

Worst Case Scenarios

Ask Metafilter is full of useful information: what to do with a dead body, how to incapacitate an attacking dog (or not), how to cope with knowledge of your mortality, how to prepare for a bird flu pandemic . . .

Bar Exam Nightmares

I really hope this doesn't happen to me.

And I'm really glad this guy is not a lawyer.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Not my kind

More foolishness from Randy Cohen's The Ethicist column:
Nobody ever looks back on his conduct in a love affair and berates himself for being too kind.
This is so very, very false.

Economics Needs More Monkey Prostitutes

Tyler Cowen draws our attention to the new Fryer paper on acting white; I especially enjoyed their construction of a "Spectral Popularity Index" for use in determining how grades affect social status.

Additionally, there are some funny tidbits in this week's NY Times magazine column by Levitt and Dubner, including the tale of the first monkey hooker. Instead of wasting my time with David Foster Wallace's reminiscing about tennis, I should really read Freakonomics.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Friday Spies: Late in the Week Edition

1. From Janie Q: "How about your favorite tv show when you were a kid, and why hasn't it been remade into a movie, or if it has, how was that movie, or maybeit shouldn't be remade at all?"

My favorite show as a kid was probably Quantum Leap, which has not been made into a movie. I don't see how the episodic quality of the leaping could really be conveyed within the limited context of a single motion picture. The number of leaps would have to be fairly small and thus the true strength of the series could not displayed.

2. Stag asks: "Tell us about your favorite vacation or your fav place to go on vacation."

My favorite vacation is still the three weeks I spent in Europe after graduating from college. I traveled on my own, as I like best, saw most of the capitals of western Europe, and spent a few days in my favorite city ever, Vienna. It's so leafy and green and lovely and stuffed with art, like the best parts of Paris but without the slight cultural dissonance I feel as an American in France. The whole city is like a symphony.

3. Soup inquires: "Are you a fan of Get Fuzzy?"

I don't read newspapers and thus I don't read comic strips on any kind of regular basis.

4. Sebastian Haff has a burning desire to know: "[Which] celebrities [do] you
think are most likely to pose in Playboy and why[?]"

I give the Olsen twins fifteen years before they squander all their dough and are forced to pose.

5. Energy Spatula gets to the heart of the matter with the final question for the week: "Why don't you write about which one [Fitz-Hume or Milbarge] is a huge

Wow, no comment.

Loving Across the Color Line

Very interesting discussion on cross-racial sexual attraction at Ask Metafilter.


@*#$%* Harvard

Thanks to all those who emailed and commented on my academic regalia question. I came home from class today and called the Coop to confirm with them that the hood color was incorrect. However, I could never actually get anyone in the appropriate department to pick up the phone, so I had to schlep over to Harvard Square with the whole ensemble stuffed in a bag.

Apparently the source of the problem was their out of date record book on college and university colors. This tome, printed on wide green and white striped sheets of paper on a dot matrix printer, listed Claremont Men's College and Claremont College (this one, maybe?) but no Claremont McKenna College. You'd think that they would have updated this book in the 20-30 years since my college became coeducational and changed its name, but I suppose this is a bit much to ask. Since my college wasn't listed and they could tell from my name I wasn't a man, they just ignored the middle word and gave me a Claremont College purple B.A. hood.

First they tried to fob a plain maroon hood off on me. However, I realized that I would be very sad to not wear my school colors when everyone else was (especially since I'm the only CMCer in this year's law school class) and would be seriously embarrassed when someone came up and exclaimed, "Wow, Amber, I didn't realize you went to the University of Chicago!" So I went back and very politely asked if they could order the appropriate hood, which they then admitted they could do.

This may tie with the time Harvard Student Loan Services sent me another person's promissory notes for sheer staggering incompetence.

50 Book Challenge #32: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

This 1940 book is much better written than the last piece of Southern fiction I read, although the characterizations are more varied but drawn in less detail. It centers around John Singer, a mute man living in a middle-sized Georgia town with his partner, an obese Greek who is also mute. After the Greek goes crazy and his family puts him in an asylum in another part of the state, Singer moves to the Kelly's boarding house, where he is forced to interact with more people in the town. He eventually becomes the confidant of four different individuals: Mick Kelly, a music-loving thirteen year old who is growing up more quickly than she realizes; Jake Blount, an unstable Socialist agitator who is frustrated by the town's disdain for his revolutionary fervor; Biff Brannon, a recent widower; and Dr. Benedict Copeland, a lonely yet lofty doctor whose high standing in the African-American community in town isn't appreciated by whites and who has driven all his children away with his cold passion for the cause.

All of them pour out their hearts to Singer, whose lipreading ability is usually up to understanding them. He is the thread that ties these disparate parties together, but none of them seems to derive any true benefit from their confessional sessions and in the end all but Biff are the same or worse off than they started.

My only quibble with the book was the depiction of Singer's relationship with the Greek. Despite the carefully couched language, it's clearly a homosexual romance. But what is there to love about the corpulent and uncommunicative Greek? He's repulsive, communicates only to request food or drink, and is the same blank sounding board for John as John is to the other four. With such a baffling attraction as the basis, it's difficult to understand why John acts as he does at the book's end. Why doesn't he return to Chicago and the company of more agreeable deaf-mutes? Surely he could do better than this.


9-5 BarBri class = hell. Doughnuts are required to make up for this travesty.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Adam Sith?

Why is General Grievous's ship called "The Invisible Hand"? Are economists all on the Dark Side?

Regalia Schmegalia

Today I went and picked up my cap and gown. I've already bitched about the non-colorfast nature of the gowns, but picking it up just ticked me off afresh (and not just because neon pink advisories not to wear valuable clothes on graduation day were plastered all over the Coop).

The mere rental of the regalia costs $75. To purchase the full set is quite a bit more. You'd think for six hundred and twenty-five dollars the thing wouldn't bleed dye when damp; you might even think that it should be made of something other than cheap polyester. The "keepsake" tassel is a plain black tassel with no indication of any affiliation.

There is some kind of purple cloverleaf-type patch on both sides in the front but no explanation of what that signifies.

I have a long, draping hood with white edging and lavender satin lining. I had some idea that something about this get-up would signify my undergraduate degree, since they asked me about it when I ordered. So what is the significance of the lavender lining? My old school colors were maroon and gold and the color here is crimson. Where does the pastel come from? I'm a lawyer, not a dentist.


All these are funny, but this is my favorite.

Nothing can beat the old reliable, though.

(Above links require sound to be funny)

Brave new literary worlds

Tired of conventional SF? Does your reading material need less emotional exploitation and more monster truck destruction? The Infernokrusher movement may be for you.

Its origins

Its first poem:
I blew up the plums
that were in the icebox
and which you were probably saving for breakfast
forgive me
I like fire

— Dora Goss

Chop Chop

I am going to get my (long, lank, boring) hair cut. Pictures to follow.

UPDATE: A photo of the haircut, courtesy of my housemate, who thinks I look drunk in the picture. It will not usually be this blow-dried.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

50 Book Challenge #31: Bastard Out of Carolina

Getting to know a character for 300 pages with the certainty that sooner or later her stepfather will brutally rape her is no way to spend a book. If I wanted to wallow in misery I'd have checked something out from Oprah's Book Club. Damn, I did. Chalk this up as another bad trip to the library.

Disney says your breasts are rated PG.

Oh my god. The costume people on Herbie: Fully Loaded should be fired:
Disney technicians were forced to go through numerous scenes - especially those showing the actress jumping up and down at a motor racing track, reducing her breasts by two cup sizes and raising revealing necklines on her T-shirts.
Hello, I would like to introduce you to a couple of inexpensive strategies for accomplishing the same goals at a fraction of the cost: regular t-shirts and minimizer bras. Was no one looking at the dailies? Can we blame prudes at Disney for Lindsey's recent disappearing act? I was not a fan of the fake and bake, but she looked so vivacious when she was a curvy redhead!

(Inspired by Spiffy Tiffy)

Snooping, Citing, and Control+C: Internet Norms

This post on Scalzi's Whatever reminds me of something I've always wondered about with respect to the internet: why people try to limit outside access to things posted on publicly accessible pages. The forum Scalzi linked to doesn't permit "outside posting." Since he doesn't link to the forum, I can't read their rules, but I assume this means they want to ban traditional fair use like quoting for the purposes of critique. This sounds ridiculous to me, just as companies that huff and puff about people linking to their sites without permission seem ridiculous. Don't these people get the internet? It's all about linking and reading and quoting and critiquing and mashups and fisking and who knows what.

This reminds me of one of the feminist message boards I used to read. Some threads (even some entire sections) were supposed to be women-only. That's fine, and if you've got a good sense of community and devoted moderators to delete comments by men trolling where they're not wanted, perfectly doable. But certain areas and threads were not just supposed to be restricted for posting, but also for browsing. Men (and, for one section, women not "of color") were not supposed to even read those discussions. I broke this rule all the time because I was a lurker and felt no allegiance to what I viewed as stupid and unenforceable restrictions.

I learned a lot about race and about the experiences of people on the board by reading these secret posts. Certainly some of the women would not have said the things they did without the security of thinking that they were "protected" from prying eyes. And yet they were not. They could have been; they could have password protected those areas of the site and made them like friends-only Livejournals. But they trusted in the norms of their particular community, even though those norms are contrary to what I (and probably many other people) view as the very spirit of the internet.

So can any open internet community reasonably expect visitors to abide by their rules? Should we defer to those rules even when it means wrong, stupid, inaccurate, or even defamatory language is at the risk of going unrebutted? We don't let mainstream media folks and traditional literary figures get away with this sort of selective censorship of their own publicly available writings and statements. Why allow it online?