Archive for November, 2004

Milbarge at Large: Somebody’s Got a Case of the Mondays Edition

Monday, November 29th, 2004

What I am doing at work: Finally, something terrifically interesting — a death penalty habeas case. Well, that’s not precisely true. The facts of the case, and even the legal issues involved in this appeal, aren’t that fascinating or unusual, as things go. But the subject matter gets me more invested than I do with a run-of-the-mill civil case. I would wager, moreover, that even a relatively-mundane capital case would be more interesting for most people than, say, determining whether the Board of Immigration Appeals’ removal decision was supported by substantial evidence. Anyway, this is about all that’s going to be on my plate for a while — the record is pretty thick, and the defense lawyers have been pretty good about making a record in support of the habeas petition. And, the real key is that they were good from the very start. With traps like procedural bar and exhaustion, if the lawyer(s) drop the ball on direct appeal or in state post-conviction proceedings, it’s hard to win in federal court. I won’t opine here about whether the level of deference the federal courts in habeas owe to state courts is a good thing, but it is what it is. So that ties our hands a bit. Well, I don’t want to say that and give the impression that we’re trying to do anything, one way or the other, but are hamstrung by AEDPA or something. It’s more that habeas jurisprudence mandates a particular vision, or way of looking at the case, that doesn’t always comport with “right and wrong.” Of course, now I’m hearing in my head echoes from arguments I had in law school with my federalist friends: “He wouldn’t have to worry about any of this if he just hadn’t killed somebody.” Can’t argue with that, I guess. And it’s not like they’d listen if you tried.

Anyway, that’s my major duty for the near future. In addition, I might dash off a few cases that have come to us via the staff attorney’s office. And I’ll do things like offer feedback to my co-clerks on their bench memos and draft opinions. I enjoy doing that because I’m a good editor and I think I help improve our collective work product, and because it gives me a little taste of what else is going on in chambers without having to do a lot of research. All in all, though, things have been a little slow for a while, relatively speaking, and it looks like it might stay that way until after the new year, which will be nice.

What I am doing at home: Nothing, and loving it. I made a concerted effort over the long Thanksgiving weekend to do as little as possible. I barely left my house. I slept a lot — an awful lot. I read — I caught up on my magazines, even. I watched a lot of television. It was a really nice respite, except for one thing.

My computer is once again giving me fits. I was on the phone with the good folks at Dell for a long time this weekend, and we have reached a tentative solution. I am going to have to re-load Windows from the CD rom, and basically start all over. I’m blaming this on Bill Gates, et al., because things would be peachy if I could just get rid of Internet Explorer, but I can’t, because it’s bundled into Windows. So even though I’m using Mozilla’s Firefox now, the viruses and spyware that infected my IE won’t give up the ghost. So what happens now is that when I start up, about eight or ten windows of IE try to load, with the homepage hijacked and attempting to load various plug-ins. Once I close all of those, my internet connection is slow and spotty. I went two or three days over the holiday without internet access at all. Our supposition is that the memory draw that all those IE windows are taking has something to do with this. I guess starting from scratch can’t hurt, but it will require backing up some stuff from my hard drive. The other hassle is that I have a wireless keyboard, and the DOS menus I have to use to reload Windows won’t read it. So I have to get a corded keyboard (read: borrow mine from work) for this operation. It’s so exasperating. What I really need is for someone to come to my house for an hour and teach me how to use Linux. I swear, I could make everything better if someplace like Microsoft hired me as a consultant. They need people on staff who don’t know anything about computers. I’m not talking about focus groups that dicker over the tone of the startup chimes. I’m talking about a full-time job smacking programmers in the head for allowing error messages that make no sense. Why is the computer a consumer device that gets more complicated the more technologically advanced it gets? It’s as if every successive Nike shoe had to be tied with more elaborate knots. Or if the new Chevrolets had a second clutch and required a hand-crank to start or something. It ought to be the exact opposite. And the fact that it isn’t is, to me, a failure of the marketplace. [/rant]

What I am reading: As noted above, I read a lot of magazines over the weekend. I regularly read Sports Illustrated, Newsweek (although not much anymore, and I’m going to let my subscription lapse), Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, Legal Affairs, Mother Jones, the ABA magazine and a couple of other magazines from various sections of that body, the New Yorker, the alumni magazines from my college and law school, Wired, and the New Republic (online), and, when it is actually in print, the Oxford American. Less often, and not every issue, but a fair amount: Harper’s, the Economist, Texas Monthly, the Washingtonian, National Review, and probably a couple of others I can’t remember right now. Also, I check at least the headlines on the main web pages of about a dozen major newspapers.

And I don’t know if this counts as “reading,” but right now in my car I’ve been listening to the audio version of Krakatoa, which is linked in the right-hand column. It is about the tremendous volcanic explosion at that Indonesian island in 1883. It’s good, but thick with tectonic details and Dutch names and sometimes hard to follow. I’m sure it would be easier to understand if I could see some pictures, too. It’s still interesting, though. But it takes a while to get through a twelve-hour book when you’re usually only in your car for the fifteen-minute commute to and from work. I like books on tape (or CD) when the trip is a bit longer. I had a Grisham book for the move here, and it was just as well I had to concentrate on the drive more than the story because the story wasn’t that great. I listened to Jarhead by Anthony Swofford, which was very good (highly recommended by Milbarge!), and well-read by its author, too. Nothing, however, will likely top the David Sedaris box set. That’s some good listening. Come to think of it, though…I must have let someone borrow those tapes, because I don’t remember seeing them in the move. But I don’t remember who has them, so if you’re reading, I want my box set back!

What I am listening to: In the car, the book. At home, I got Scheherazade’s mix CD, and it is wonderful. I’m really pleased with it, and have been playing it a lot. Thanks, Sherry!

What I am watching: I watched Miracle, the hockey movie, and it was enjoyable. I watched the “Seinfeld” special on Thursday night, and that was fun. I’m actually taping today’s “Oprah” Seinfeld reunion special. It’s funny: I think this will be only the second full episode of “Oprah” I’ve ever watched, and the other was a show a couple of weeks ago about swingers. I don’t want to say that we watched it at work, but let’s just say I didn’t have to tape it.

If anyone ever doubts the genius of my co-blogger Fitz, make note of his brilliant reference in Soupie’s interview of us to the movie Logan’s Run. Anyway, I happeded to catch a late-night airing of that film over the long weekend. A couple of thoughts (major spoiler alert). First, the only other time I had seen it was years ago on TNT or TBS or something, so I was pleasantly surpised by all the casual nudity in the future. Second, that movie is really bad. Not only is sending only one Sandman after Logan once he leaves the city really dumb, but the way Logan wins in the end is quite disappointing. The computer brain of the city asks Logan about “Sanctuary,” and Logan says there is no such place. And apparently the computer has no way to handle this bit of information. The inability to process this news actually destroys the computer, and not just shuts it down, but causes it to explode. Why anyone would design a computer to behave this way is beyond me. It must have been built by Microsoft. But fortunately, the massive explosions, in a domed city, don’t seem to kill anyone or even topple the dome, so that’s good. Overall, not worth watching.

Also, I caught the X-Men sequel. I guess it’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing. But a couple of thoughts (minor spolier alert). First, a shape-shifting mutant like Rebecca Romijn’s character would do very well as an undercover police officer, or make a lot of money allowing people to do stuff with certain people they couldn’t do those things with in real life, if you get my drift. Second, I think a real failing in the script is in the scenes in which Professor Xavier mind-melds with first the mutants and then the humans. Supposedly he is concentrating really hard on contacting all of them, and then concentrating almost hard enough to kill them. But we see almost none of this from the recipient’s perspective. All we get are a few shots of our X-Men writhing about. But if such an event really transpired, imagine the effects — even of a mind-meld short of a fatal one. Instead of writhing about like our heroes, most of the people Xavier brain-bonded with wouldn’t be able to simply lay down and cringe. They would be driving cars or sitting at meetings or riding on an airplane or pushing a stroller or walking the dog or something. Not only would his initial bond with the mutants allow others to see who the mutants were (although they might not make this connection when the person next to them starts writhing; but it could have been something like the scene in Men in Black when we saw who some of the “undercover aliens” were), the effects would have been devastating. Why not show us the car wrecks and confusion and general distress that would result from something like this? And then repeat it on an even wider scale when Xavier connects with the humans? I think the answer is that, even if he didn’t do it entirely with his mind, Xavier undoubtedly killed people when he made his connection — even if it’s only those driving cars, it would have been a massive death toll. But that would distract from the “story,” and detract from Xavier’s moral superiority, even if he was forced to do it. Anyway, it wasn’t a major part of the movie, but it bugged me.

What I am thinking about: In addition to my computer troubles, I’m thinking about my job hunt, and starting to think about making some Christmas plans. And I’m thinking of an easy, legal, way to make a little money. It’s too bad the government doesn’t give year-end bonuses.

Also, I’ve been thinking about something else, but didn’t want to make a whole post out of it. What’s the deal with playoffs and conferences? I’m thinking specifically of the Big XII, which is putting Colorado up against Oklahoma this weekend instead of what it ought to do — a rematch of Oklahoma and Texas, which is clearly the second-best team in the league. And don’t you think baseball would have been happier, and the playoffs more compelling, if they World Series had been between Boston and New York instead of the measly ALCS? And look at the NBA, where the teams in the West beat each other up all season and in the East teams make the playoffs with .500 records. They should seed the playoff regardless of division. I suppose I can understand a system where the divisor is geography, like the NBA or the NHL. But it’s not like intercontinental travel is unheard of these days, and we’re only talking about a few weeks of playoffs. But it truly makes no sense for the NFL and MLB, where the leagues overlay each other geographically. The aim of any playoff should be to crown the best team, and the aim of any championship game should be to make it be a contest between the top two teams. Note that in basketball, even leagues with geographic divisions like the Big XII and the SEC allow for two teams from the same division to meet for the title. I think the Big XII is screwing Texas royally (no pun intended, for those who get that). And in the BCS era, it is doing itself no favors by having any chance of Colorado being its BCS rep. If Colorado pulls off a huge upset Saturday, it might be the champion, but I can’t say it would be the “best” team in the league, or even the second-best. And what would happen to Oklahoma then? There is a team that deserves to be in a BCS bowl game, but both it and Texas would probably be out of that mix if Colorado wins. To me, that’s just wrong. Colorado might pull a Buster Douglas, but that doesn’t mean it deserved the title shot.

What I am not thinking about: The rest of the world, but especially the Middle East. Oh, and Ukraine. I hope it works out, but sorry, you’re off my radar lately.

Nugget o’ info about me: I was thinking about doing one of those collection-of-trvia posts that were such the rage a month or so ago, so I’ll hold off for now. But I do have a post coming later today that will provide an update on my love life prospects. So stay tuned for that.

Mail It to Me at P.O. Box www.com, Blogosphere, USA

Monday, November 22nd, 2004

Partly in response to my post about my last mixtape, Mr. Fun Ball of Taunting Happy Fun Ball has decided to start a mix CD exchange. Scheherazade, naturally, has stepped up and actually started doing something about it.

I’m a big fan of this idea, and am excited to be in on the ground floor. Go to Fun Ball’s blog to sign up and join the fun. I will get started on a new mix and wait for people more knowledgeable than myself to tell me where to send it. Of course, I’ll have to use a re-mailer like those people who want their holiday mail postmarked from Santa Claus, Indiana or North Pole, Alaska.

I’m serious. I’m overly zealous about not revealing identifying details about myself, and sometimes I probably go a little overboard. I know it’s not like anyone cares, but it’s just my thing. At this moment, there’s an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on in which Larry David doesn’t want to sign in at the hospital because he doesn’t like his name on “lists.” It’s kind of like that. So, whomever gets a CD from Milbarge, don’t draw any conclusions from the postmark.

I guess this may be an example of the inherent limits of the blogosphere as a community. Maybe with things like mix CD exchanges and credentials at the political conventions and video entries on blogs, bloggers can get a little more connected. We’ll see. Anyway, the CD thing should be fun, so sign up.

Mixtape

Tuesday, November 16th, 2004

I mentioned in passing the other day that I was trying to re-establish contact with an old friend (I’m still waiting for the phone to ring, by the way). It reminded me of the mixtape I sent to that friend two summers ago. It was the last mixtape I made, meaning both that it was the most recent one I made, and that it was likely the final mix I made on tape, rather than CD. I made a copy for myself, and I listened to it a little over the weekend. Just for fun, and since I don’t have anything else ready to post today (gotta feed the beast!), I thought I would share the songs on the mix. This morphed into a hugely inane exercise in navel-gazing, but by then I had invested too much time in it not to post it.

Here’s what I was going for. I mainly used old favorites of mine, or at least artists I liked. (Sidenote: I’ve seen six of these artists in concert.) I tried to go for songs that probably weren’t the most well-known from these artists. Largely, these were just songs or artists I was listening to two years ago. I tried to avoid jarring combinations, instead trying to get a flow from one song to the next. There are some very soft, mellow songs on here, as well as some harder, more rocking tunes, but I tried to make that transition gradually. I tried to avoid overt “I love you” songs, because my relationship with my friend is far too complicated to inject a mixed signals mixtape. So most of the songs are light in theme, and some are flat-out comic. It’s a good mix for a drive. Anyway…

Side A

1. “Bar Exam” by The Derailers

I’m takin’ the Bar Exam, under a neon sign,

I’m gonna graduate when you’re off my mind.

In this hony-tonk school, they got a hell of a band!

Drink by drink, I’m takin’ the Bar Exam.

This choice dates the mixtape. My friend and I were both studying for the bar exam that summer. This is a great honky-tonk tune, perfect for belting out in the bar when you’re waiting on those bar results. The link is for a page with the video.

2. “Back on the Chain Gang” by The Pretenders

I found a picture of you (oh-oh-oh-oh),

Those were the happiest days of my life.

Like a break in the battle was your part, (oh-oh-oh-oh)

In the wretched life of a lonely heart.

An explicit “I miss you” tune. There was a time when I didn’t like law school very much, and my friend helped me hang in there until I realized I loved it. It’s quite true that my friend is responsible for some of the happiest times of my law school years.

3. “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne

I’m gonna be a happy idiot,

And struggle for the legal tender.

Where the ads take aim, and lay their claim,

To the heart and the soul of the spender.

And believe in whatever may lie

In those things that money can buy,

Though true love could have been a contender.

Are you there? Say a prayer for the Pretender.

Who started out so young and strong,

Only to surrender.

I liked the cute pairing of a Pretenders song followed by a song called “The Pretender.” But this song is also about the compromises we make in life. Settling down, getting a job, becoming concerned with things like houses and cars. I thought it was appropriate as we left the academic wonderland to start working.

4. “Vineyard” by Jackopierce

There’s a girl over there, she’s got mahogany hair,

And eyes of sweet amethyst.

I bow as she curtseys, doesn’t look like she’s gonna hurt me,

So I decide to add her to my list

Jackopierce is a jangly acoustic duo from Texas. When I was in college, it seemed like they were always playing on our campus or one nearby. “Vineyard” is probably their most well-known tune. There’s no special significance in the words for me, but I just like it. It’s a catchy tune, if a bit wordy. So of course the a cappella groups love it.

5. “Reunion” by Indigo Girls

I laughed as I said it, this is my situation,

It’s not pictures of privilege, It’s just self-preservation.

I don’t want you to feel any obligation,

Would it be so funny to be free?

I’m not a lesbian, but I like the Indigo Girls, although I wanted to avoid the most obvious choices from them. This is just another catchy tune of theirs. To me, it’s about saying “F*** it” to what anybody else thinks (which my friend always did), and I hoped the title might be a subliminal suggestion that we try to get together soon.

6. “Slackjawed” by The Connells

But then you’re back and I’m guessing

It’s not so bad at all,

But then you’re back and I’m guessing,

It’s not so bad at all,

And I’ve been standing slackjawed since you were here.

I’ve been standing slackjawed.

This is just a fun tune from the Raleigh-based Connells, who are the type of band you picture when someone says “college radio.” If anything, I was probably feeling like a slackjawed yokel during my BarBri sessions.

7. “Sweet Jane” by The Velvet Underground

Some people they like to go out dancing,

And other peoples they have to work (just watch me now).

And there’s even some evil mothers,

Well they’ll tell you that everything is just dirt.

Nothing to get you slackjawed like a little Lou Reed. I guess this was another one about growing up and getting jobs (“Jack he is a banker, and Jane she is a clerk”) and worrying about money and the real world and Stutz Bearcats.

8. “All Around the World, or The Myth of Fingerprints” by Paul Simon

Over the mountain, down in the valley,

Lives a former talk-show host, everybody knows his name.

He says there’s no doubt about it, it was the myth of fingerprints.

I’ve seen them all and man, they’re all the same.

This is one of those quirkier forgotten Paul Simon tunes; it’s from the Graceland album. I may be reading way too much into this, but to me it’s about how we’re all alike and the things people point to as differences (here, fingerprints, but also other skin attributes like race) are really superficial but divide us anyway. In the song, there’s an army post in the Indian Ocean because of the fingerprints (meaning we fight wars over them), and in the end “we must learn to live alone,” which I think is kind of depressing, so maybe my interpretation is wrong. But I also like this song because of the lines “Well the sun gets weary and the sun goes down, ever since the watermelon.” I would love to know what the hell that means.

9. “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel

To keepin’ silence I resigned,

My friends would think I was a nut.

Turning water into wine,

Open doors would soon be shut.

So I went from day to day,

Though my life was in a rut.

Till I thought of what I’d say,

Which connection I should cut.

Peter Gabriel has said that this song was about his decision to leave Genesis and pursue a solo career. (I’ve heard that the “egale” who “flew ouf of the night” was Bruce Springsteen, whom Gabriel saw in concert at Solsbury Hill and inspired him to go solo.) To me, the song is about the feelings we get when we’re contemplating a dramtic shift in course. On the one hand, the rut is comfortable, and we might not want to cut all connections, but you also feel like it’s time to do something different. With regard to my mixtape, I thought my friend might be the type of person who decided to leave the law (not yet), and this was a way of saying that decision is okay.

10. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band

Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,

Till Stoneman’s cavalry came, and tore up the tracks again.

In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive.

My May the tenth, Richmond had fell, it’s a time I remember oh so

well…

My friend was moving to the South, and to my mind, this is one of those crucial, essential songs about the South. Which is almost humorous, given that it was written by a Canadian (the link is to a great essay on the song). I’m also a huge fan of Levon Helm, the drummer for The Band, who sings the lead part. (You might have seen Levon doing great acting work in small roles in Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Right Stuff.) The song is about the end of the Civil War, and is terribly evocative of the feelings of defeat and frustration Southerners felt. Read the essay for more. And the version of this song during The Band’s farewell concert, “The Last Waltz,” is sublime — here’s the film, directed by Martin Scorsese, and here’s the album.

11.”Hallelujah” by John Cale

Baby, I’ve been here before,

I know this room, I’ve walked the floor,

I used to live alone before I knew you.

I’ve seen your flag on the Marble Arch,

But love is not a victory march,

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

I’ll admit it: this was the trendy pick. About the time I was making the mixtape, this song was in Shrek and was on “Scrubs.” So it was in my head, although I had heard it before. I liked the Leonard Cohen original version better, but I couldn’t find it when I was making the tape, so I went with the John Cale cover, which is good too. I can’t really offer an interpretation of this one. If I had to do it over, I might use a different song here, but I wanted something mellow and bluesy to finish the first side, and this worked for that. Also, it was long enough that it fit well with the remanining time on this side of the tape.

Side B

1. “Feelin’ Good Again” by Robert Earl Keen

I wanted you to see ‘em all, I wished that you were there.

I looked across the room and saw you standing on the stair.

And when I caught your eye I saw you break into a grin,

It feels so good, feelin’ good again.

This song is a perfect example of how important placement is on a mixtape. This is my favorite song out of this whole bunch, and I had a feeling my friend would like it best too (I was right). Keen is a Texas singer, akin to Lyle Lovett but not as famous because he never married Julia Roberts. This song is about how things were blue but are getting better. It never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s a real pleasant pick-me-up tune that is an easy way to start increasing the tempo after the slowdown end of the first side. I didn’t want a jarring change in style, and although this one is very different from “Hallelujah,” it’s not a bad transition. Plus, treating the B side as a separate entity, it’s a good kick-off.

2. “Jimmy Carter” by Blue Mountain

There was joy throughout the nation at that great inauguration,

The GOP stood shaking in their shoes.

Serenaded by Willie, and toasted by Billy,

This President with honest peanut roots.

Well, he said I’ll never lie to you, what’s more he never did,

And though the times grew mighty tough he never flipped his lid.

So shake the hand of the man with a handful of love,

The one and only Jimmy Carter

When I heard this bluegrass tribute to our thirty-ninth President, I had to include it. It’s fun and rollicking. I don’t have any special place in my heart for Jimmy, but it’s a good song.

3. “Whiskey River” by Willie Nelson

I’m drowning in a whiskey river,

Bathing my memoried mind in the wetness of its soul.

Feeling the amber current flowing from my mind,

And warm an empty heart you left so cold.

Another good drinking song, and a nice follow-up to the mention of Willie in “Jimmy Carter.” This is Willie’s traditional concert opener, during which he drops a huge Texas flag behind the band. (When I saw him, though, he opened with “Living in the Promised Land,” and followed that with “Whiskey River.”) I like this one, but its placement here was mainly due to my desire to pick an up-tempo country song that fit the time available.

4. “One More Chorus” by Battlefield Band

Next thing, the doors flew open, ’tis an ill wind that blows,

For there stood two policemen, and everybody froze.

Well, they marched up to our table, all menacin’ and slow,

Saying, Play “The Mason’s Apron,” that’s the only tune we know!

The Battlefield Band, I am reliably informed, is the Scottish Rolling Stones. They’ve been going for years and there’s no end in sight. They play fairly often on A Prairie Home Companion, where I first heard this tune. It’s a really fun song about a band that just won’t leave the bar at closing time, beseeching the bartender to let them play one more song. If you like Scottish music — bagpipes and fiddles and whole magilla — you’ll like the Battlefield Band.

5. “I Need a Miracle” by The Grateful Dead

I need a woman ’bout twice my age,

A lady of nobility, gentility, and rage.

Splendor in the dark, lightning on the draw,

We’ll go right through the book and break each and every law.

I like the Dead, and this is a fun little ditty about the joy in the extremes in life: “It takes dynamite to get me up/Too much of everything is just enough!” Trust me, fellas, this is a good one for karaoke if they have it on the playlist.

6. “I Held Her in My Arms” by The Violent Femmes

I can’t even remember if we were lovers,

Or if I just wanted to.

But I held her in my arms, I held her in my arms,

I held her in my arms, but it wasn’t you.

I like the Femmes, and this one is a more obscure choice than “Kiss Off” or “Add It Up” or “Blister in the Sun.” I wanted something energetic here, too. Gordon Gano is a little unclear who he’s singing about in this one: “Everyone I ever knew, was so kind and coy/I was with a girl, but it felt like I was with a boy.” Uh, does that mean he liked it or didn’t like it? No matter — the one he was with wasn’t the one he wanted.

7. “Why Bother?” by Weezer

I know I should get next to you,

You got a look that makes me think you’re cool.

But it’s just sexual attraction,

Not somethin’ real so I’d rather keep wackin’

An ode to sexual frustration and apathy. I’m probably as guilty as anyone of the sentiment Rivers Cuomo is expressing here — why risk getting one’s heart broken? I should note that the lyrics of this song don’t necessarily apply to my relationship with my friend. After all, who says sexual attraction’s “not somethin’ real”?

8. “Saturday Night Fish Fry” by Louis Jordan

Now, if you’ve ever been down to New Orleans,

Then you can understand just what I mean,

Now all through the week it’s quiet as a mouse,

But on Saturday night, they go from house to house;

You don’t have to pay the usual admission

If you’re a cook or a waiter or a good musician.

So if you happen to be just passin’ by

Stop in at the Saturday night fish fry!

Man, what a fun tune — the very definition of rollicking. Louis Jordan did this one in the 1940s — he’s well-known for “Beans and Cornbread” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” You can hear the seeds of rock and roll being sown here. This one is about a fish fry party that goes haywire. The cops show up and everybody gets busted (“they put us all in that Black Mariah”), and let’s just say there might be some racial undertones to the story. My favorite part is the pre-Miranda processing: “We headed for jail in a dazed condition,/They booked each one of us on suspicion.” I love it: just “suspicion.” That’s all they needed.

9. “Cheerleader” by Dierdre Flint

If I could live my life in rewind,

There’s a couple of changes I’d make this time.

Cause if I knew what was good for me,

I’d have been practicing splits from the age of three.

Oh, I got a masters, I got a car, I volunteer

And I can play the guitar.

But I’d trade it all in the bat of an eye

For a polyester skirt ridin’ up my thigh.

Flint does funny songs and love songs and funny love songs. (My other favorites are “The Bridesmaid Dress Song” (I recommend it for Sherry) and “The Boob Fairy Never Came For Me.” This one is parody, I hope. It’s an homage to the queens of high school, the cheerleaders. I liked this one for the mix because my friend and I always liked to snidely remark on the “cool kids table” of the law school, since that environment was more like high school than actual high school was.

10. “Watching the Wheels” by John Lennon

People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing.

Well, they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin.

When I say that I’m o.k. well they look at me kind of strange,

Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game.

This one, like “Solsbury Hill,” is about dropping out of what you’re doing. The difference is that Lennon doesn’t feel too conflicted about chucking the rut. My guess is that Peter Gabriel got there eventually.

11. “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell

They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot.

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

A big hit in the ’70s for Mitchell, revitalized not too long ago by Amy Grant. In the original, they charged the people “a dollar and a half” to see the trees in the museum, but Grant had to take inflation into account and changed it to “twenty-five bucks.” It’s kind of obvious, but I like this song because it reminds me to appreciate what I have.

12. “If Not For You” by Bob Dylan

If not for you, babe, I’d lay awake all night,

Wait for the mornin’ light to shine in through,

But it would not be new, if not for you.

This was maybe the only overt “you’re really important to me” songs on the mix. I don’t know why I like it as much as I do, but it’s one of my favorite Dylan tunes. Apparently he likes it too — he’s put it on several compilation albums and regularly plays it in concert (although not when I saw him). It’s just a nice, light song about how someone can be your everything. And it’s got a glockenspiel in it!

13. “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake

I saw it written and I saw it say,

Pink moon is on its way.

And none of you stand so tall,

Pink moon gonna get you all.

It’s a pink moon,

It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

Not exactly the wordiest lyrics. You might remember this from (I think) a Volkswagen commercial, which I’m sure was my inspiration. I have no idea what it means. It’s etheral, and I really like having it play when I’m in the car and the moon is out and there’s no traffic…kind of like the commercial. Damn you, Madison Ave.!

14. “Swimming to the Other Side” by Pat Humphries

We are living ‘neath the great Big Dipper,

We are washed by the very same rain.

We are swimming in the stream together

Some in power and some in pain.

We can worship this ground we walk on

Cherishing the beings that we live beside.

Loving spirits will live forever

We’re all Swimming to the Other Side.

I am alone and I am searching

Hungering for answers in my time.

I am balanced at the brink of wisdom

I’m impatient to receive a sign.

I move forward with my senses open

Imperfection it be my crime.

In humility I will listen,

We’re all Swimming to the Other Side

(The link above is for an NPR story on the song; here’s a direct link for lyrics and more.) This is a really powerful song. Pat Humphries is kind of a female Pete Seeger — liberal, activist, songwriter. When you know that, it’s easy to infer some kind of “Grapes of Wrath” socialistic message in there, but I think it’s open to other interpretations. I think it could easily be seen as a Christian allegory. I think it’s also about any search for knowledge and meaning in one’s life. I’ll leave it to you to deduce which I was hearing. But it’s one of those songs that everybody can find themselves in. I’m sure that I felt “humility” and “imperfection” as I was finishing law school. Listen to the NPR story for more, because they explain it much better than I could, especially the way the chord progression draws you in. They also have a link to a cover of it with more instruments, a beautiful version. I thought this was a nice way to end the album, with a message of faith and perserverance and understanding and compassion. And if your tape player has an auto-repeat, it’s time to start drinking with the Derailers again!

OK, wow, I had no idea that this would mutate the way it did. I started a few weeks ago, compiling links for these songs, and then every once in a while I would add a little. And now this. I guess I just wanted to have some kind of documentation for my last mixtape. You can see I put a lot of thought into my mixtapes, and I didn’t even get into things like figuring out the time and the struggles I had over what to do when something wouldn’t fit. Remember, I was doing this all on tape instead of with a CD burner, which made the math harder. And it required me to hit “pause” a lot while I switched out the songs. A delicate process. But it sure beat studying for the Bar that summer.

My next big project: What to put on my first mix CD.

Do I Exist? "My Sources Say No."

Monday, November 8th, 2004

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. I really thought I had told it on the blog before, but I can’t find it now. Even if I have, it’s worth telling for all the new readers we’ve gotten since then.

Back at my old job, there were two other staff attorneys who started at the same time I did. Both were women, and I’ll call them Anne and Helen. Helen was nice enough, and I thought we got along okay, but it turned out that she didn’t want any male friends — she just wasn’t into the whole Harry/Sally platonic thing. Anne was great, though, and we became very good friends. I liked her a lot, but she already had a fiance. One night a few months into our tenure there, we all went out for dinner: Me, Helen, Anne, and Anne’s fiance. We ended up sitting so that I was beside Anne, who was across from her fiance, who was beside Helen. In the course of the conversation, Helen started complaining about how hard it was to find a guy, and how she hadn’t been on a date in a long time, and so on. So Anne and her guy started trying to think of guys they could fix Helen up with. They were mentioning every guy in town either one of them knew. At one point, deep in thought, Anne said, “Hmm…and it’s not like there are any single guys in the office….” Meanwhile, I, a single guy who worked in their office, was sitting not two feet from Anne. (And the funny thing was that, at that time, I was literally the only single guy in the office. Well, except for the guy who wasn’t allowed to get married.)

I was momentarily stunned and didn’t say anything, and the moment passed where I could have said something humorous about it. If I said something later in the dinner, I would have just sound bitter and seemed like I had been brooding over it since then. Which of course I had been. But I let it go. A week or so later, I was talking with Anne, and something about dating came up (I think we were talking about another co-worker’s new boyfriend). Very casually I said, “Yeah, and it’s not like there are any single guys in the office.” Anne gasped when she realized I had heard her comment that night. She said that it hit her a few hours later and she told her fiance that I must think she was a jerk. His advice was to not say anything in the hopes that I had missed it. After all, if I hadn’t caught it, Anne would have looked foolish bringing it up. And really, I wasn’t mad. Anne knew me well enough to know that I didn’t really want to go out with Helen, and vice versa, so I wasn’t really in the running during their conversation. But ever since then, I still love to give Anne a hard time about it, and we have a good laugh at her forgetting I exist.

Well, a similar experience happened the other day. Two of my co-clerks have long-distance boyfriends, and they were lamenting this state of affairs and saying that they wished they could hop on a plane every Friday to see them. Jokingly, I sang the line from the old song, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” One of them immediately crinkled her nose and said, “Love the Judge? I don’t think so!” Yeah, that’s not exactly what I meant, but whatever.

[Note: This post's title derived after I posed my question to the Magic 8-Ball. First I got "Concentrate and Ask Again," and then I got "My Sources Say No." Twice.]

She’s Pretty. Pretty Dumb, That Is.

Monday, November 1st, 2004

Via The Note, I saw this story, which I clicked on because it’s about the possibility of challenges to voters tomorrow. But buried at the bottom of the story is a quote from Ashley Judd, who was appearing at a campaign rally for John Kerry.

Actress Ashley Judd, in Jupiter Thursday to campaign for John Kerry, on why the entertainment industry seems to be dominated by liberals and Democrats:

“Maybe it’s because so much of our work is cyclical and episodic and we have time between jobs to really think about it.”

I have previously mentioned that Judd gets on my nerves sometimes, but this is just ridiculous. It’s statements like this that make people hate liberals. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a few responses. First, what about conservative entertainers, like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom Selleck or Patricia Heaton, to name just a couple who come to mind — are their jobs not “cyclical and episodic” as well? One wonders what they spend their down time “really think[ing] about.” And, I’m really sure that all those liberals in Hollywood spend their free time compulsively reading policy papers or attending economic forums or whatnot, studiously boning up on the issues. I’m so sure that none of them spend time between flicks, say, doing drugs or hookers or nothing at all. In fact, I’d bet that for the vast majority of the Hollywood population, the way they spend their time between gigs is trying to make sure they have a next gig — reading scripts, auditioning, touring to promote whatever their latest project is, getting plastic surgery, etc.

But really, the underlying messages of Judd’s position is that (a) only liberals are smart enough to spend time thinking (excuse me: “really” thinking) about important issues, as opposed (I guess) to making knee-jerk responses; and (b) once one does this high-level thinking, the only possible conclusion one can come to is that the liberals are right; and (c) ergo, conservatives are conservatives not because they have genuine, thought-out beliefs about the way things ought to be, but rather because they’re too dumb to know any better. Grrrr!! I hate, hate, hate that attitude — and way too many liberals have it. These are the same people who pillory President Bush for not considering alternative approaches or closing his mind to other possibilities or generally being intellectually incurious. I would refer these folks to Matthew 7:3-5. (Hint: You can find that in the Bible, available at your local library.) That’s the one about removing the plank from one’s own eye before attempting to remove the speck in another’s. Perhaps we should all remember Proverbs 12:15: “The way of the fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”

This intellectual snobbery — which is so prevalent among so many clueless liberals — is wrong on so many levels. From a purely cyncial politcal standpoint, the more you recognize that reasonable, intelligent people can have differences of opinion, the more likely you are to be able to cobble together a majority of Americans rather than a coalition of the fringe elemets. But more fundamentally, it’s wrong for a party (or a belief system not necessarily affiliated with a party) that professes to care about people to be so elitist and out-of-touch to say “You’re dumb (or evil) if you don’t agree with me.” It’s also a slap at hard-working folks with regular jobs, because Judd’s statement implies that they aren’t able to “really think about” important issues. Instead of dismissing others as unthinking or unfeeling, these kind of liberals would do much better by opening their minds to the possibility that others might have valid opinions, too. I’m not a resident of Hollywood, but I’m pretty sure that a visit from the Welcome Wagon doesn’t include a list of the right answers to all the hard questions. I might consider myself a liberal, but Ashley Judd does not speak for me.