Wednesday, February 28, 2007

my friend leo is the best friend a girl could have

Listen to these heroics: I emailed Leo (b/c, no cell phone = you can't call people, also = you don't have anybody's numbers anymore) and asked if she'd mind driving me out to the Airport Holiday Inn to get my car sometime. I left her SK's number, in hopes I'd actually make it there eventually, and imagined Leo might be able to do it in the next day or so.

Well. That Leo called me at SK's almost as soon as I got there and she was ready to go whenever I wanted, EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING A PAPER! She drove over pretty shortly thereafter, was supremely kind and sweet to me in the car (even though I was a wilting, crying mess) and did she stop there? No. She insisted on running into New Seasons to get some cash to loan me until I get my debit card.

And did she stop THERE? NO! She came back to the car with sixty bucks for me (even though I insisted twenty was plenty), PLUS: a bottle of carrot juice (my favorite), a brownie and A SIX PACK OF FAT TIRE BEER! Leo, I have known you a long, long time now (14 goddamn years!). And sometimes you drive me nuts and only want to talk about your own problems and whatever. But let me just tell you, I love you like the sister I never had and I am SOOOOOOOOOO glad we're in this crazy town together, so far away from our cunt'ry roots, but we still have each other.

If it wasn't for Leo, this day would have sucked irredeemably. As it is, I now have tears of joy because Leo was so nice. And so, the day that started out getting flushed down a million toilets, ends up draining into a beautiful ocean. Or something nice like that. Yay!

PS -- Waspy, don't be jealous. Thanks for your email and I know you would've come if I'd called. Not to make you too uncomfortable, but you are a good, true friend and you should expect to read nice things about yourself in my forthcoming Bar Exam Acceptance Speech blog-post, wherein I will list off all the people (and things) to whom (and which) I am thankful and without whom (and which) I would never have been able to complete law school and the bar itself. Stay tuned.

a day that gets flushed down a series of different toilets

Hi people. I'm alive, but I do not want to talk about the bar. That is over and I am moving on.

Instead of talking about the bar, let me tell you all about the little post-bar adventure I am now on. It's like this: I locked my keys in my car at the Airport Holiday Inn. I did it during the lunch break, but didn't realize until I was walking out at the end. I was stunned and smiling and waiting for the flood of relief to wash over me because the exam was finally over, and I put my hand in my pocket... and...

Well, it wasn't relief that flooded over me when my hand didn't make contact with the keys that should've been in my pocket. No car. No cell phone. No phone numbers. No energy, no brain, etc.

I went to the lobby and borrowed a phone and called SK at work to let her know about my predicament, but she doesn't have a car and there wasn't much she could do. The Airport Holiday Inn is surprisingly hard to reach by public transportation and I wouldn't have wanted her to have to hop a bus to come all the way out there (walking that last mile on the uber-industrial part of Columbia Blvd with no sidewalks -- yikes).

So I flagged down a woman I just met today and pleaded with her for a ride home. She was nice and very happilly said yes. She was not quite effusive enough with her generosity and did not offer to drive me back to the Airport Holiday Inn after I got my spare keys. And I didn't have the heart to ask. I mean, the poor woman just got done taking a bar exam. What do I expect?

Happy to be in front of my house, I crossed my fingers and hoped my upstairs-people were home with a spare key. They were. The mom didn't hear me knock until I was about to walk off in desperation, then she appeared. She let me and then disappeared back to the kitchen where some huge food project was in the works. Meanwhile, the two kids (one is probably four now and the other will be a year in March) sort of lingered around looking at me. The house was a wreck and I suddenly saw my landlady more like a zoo-keeper... and I completely understood all the racket that comes lilting down to me in my little hovel from above.

She finally gave me a key and I went in to my house and yet I was not content. I was supposed to hang out with SK tonight. We were going to get food and have a nice, relaxing night in. With no cell phone I couldn't call her. After a few minutes staring blankly at my computer screen I decided to hop a bus to my workplace where I could use a phone and from which I could easily bus to SK's house.

And here I am. At work. SK's not home. And I just overheard a huge, knock-down, drag-out fight in the Drop In Center adjacent to the room I'm hiding out in... woops. I'd go help out but... I'm not technically here, so... you know... sorry guys. Sounds like they got it under control anyway.

Wanna hear further complications? I have no money. Strike that, I have one dollar. I had to cancel my debit card two weeks ago for reasons that are not interesting enough to explain, and my replacement hasn't come yet. Not having a debit card is a real pain in the ass if you're used to having one. I have to actually go to my bank for cash and I never get enough because I keep thinking my card will arrive any minute, so I'm constantly running out... like right now...

So... just sitting here, at work, broke, no phone, no car, spent the past two days having my brain irrigated, and I can't even go out and get drunk. I can't afford to buy a beer. That's pretty sad. And yes, I know it's not as sad as it could be. I'm not homeless on the street. I DO have a car and a cell phone and money in the bank. My life isn't ending or even particularly bad. This is just turning out to be a pretty bad day. That's all.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

exchange of the day

I'm sure I'll write more, over time, about this bar exam experience, because it is really bizarre, but for now I'll share this one exchange that says a lot about it all.

I sat down in my seat this morning next to this woman who looked about fifty, with long hippie hair and a long hippie blanket wrapped around herself. She was chatting to the man next to her and at some point she asked him what the schedule for the day would be. She guessed and he guessed and they were both waaaaay off in their guesses.

So I said, "The first part is the 90 minute performance test. Then they'll give us the first set of three essays, 35 minutes each. Then we'll have lunch and come back for the last two sets of three essays, for a total of nine essays all day."

Why did I tell her that? Because that was the exact schedule of the day. What did she do? She stared at me for a very long time and then she said "Whatever." And turned away! WHAT DO YOU MEAN "WHATEVER?"

It was so flippant and unanticipated, I started wondering if I'd really said what I thought I'd said or if maybe my delusional mind had slipped in something really fucked up. I wondered if maybe I'd said, "And then, after lunch, there will be topless mud-wrestling." Or, "And then, after the essays, I'm going to kick you in the face."

Anyway, the rest of my interactions with her were relatively normal and she never seemed to notice that saying "whatever" like that was weird. So there you go. Maybe I'm the weird one. Who knows.

one down, one to go

All I can say is: Oh. My. God. And somebody give me a stiff drink please. More to come...

Monday, February 26, 2007

t-minus 17 hours and counting...

If I was a dog I'd be chewing out all my fur and emitting a high-pitched, ceaseless whine. Instead, I'm a person, rocking back and forth, clenching and unclenching my hands, jaw and all sphincters, and yet still studying. I'm also bouncing my leg. You know. The nervous leg-bounce. It's so comforting.

oscar 2007: the year of the lesbian

All I can say is wow. Ellen was hot and so funny as usual. We didn't get to see enough of her ultra-super-hot gf Portia de Rossi, but I noticed a couple of shots of her sitting there next to Ellen's mom. So sweet.

Then there was Melissa (who's looking a little too much like Hillary Clinton these days as far as I'm concerned) -- singing her little song and then kissing and thanking her wife right there on prime-time TV. It's a miracle! I wonder if Pat Robertson had an anuerysm?

And finally, there was the perennial closet-case Jodi Foster. Jodi. Really. We all know. It's ok. :-) You'll feel so much better after you come out. We promise.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

i wanna be sedated

No more studies for tonight. I'm going to an Oscar party at Leo's house! Yay for beer and lesbians and Ellen Degeneres on TV! See you suckers tomorrow.

good omens

1.) My "dry run" to the airport Holiday Inn, where the bar exam is being administered, revealed to me that the airport Holiday Inn is not, in fact, at the airport. Thank god. It is in the general direction of the airport up on Columbia Blvd and it is a mere ELEVEN MINUTES from my house. Phew. That makes the 7:30am check-in seem much less daunting.

2.) I succeeded in defeating the nasty cold! Everybody I knew was dropping like flies from this terrible cold, even SK had it so bad she nearly missed a week of work, and that's saying a lot because SK is really healthy and hardly ever sick. I was fine until last week when I started to get some symptoms (mostly just gross yellowness coming out of my sinuses, then, eventually, coughing and exhaustion) -- but thanks to the magical healing powers of: the neti-pot used two or three times a day; long, hot, sweat-inducing baths; sound sleep; lots of vitamins; eucalyptus steams; hot tea; and nearly a whole honey-bear full of honey, I AM CURED! I will not have a hacking cough through the exam! I will not have a chronically runny nose or the need to expectorate every five minutes! I am healthy!

3.) I had a visit from my Aunt Flo today. Yep, Aunt Flo is here to stay for five to seven days and let me tell you, I have never been happier to see her come. This means the debilitating cramps will happen tonight or tomorrow and not Tuesday during the exam and that, my friends, is priceless. For the last couple of months I have worried about the timing of my February visit from Flo and it would really be very typical of my body to put my worst day right on my worst day, if you know what I mean. My body, a big fan of sabatoge, would usually say, "So you're saying Tuesday is no good for heavy bleeding and dizzying cramps? Ok, then! Tuesday it is!" But not this time. This time my body doesn't hate me! Yay!


Saturday, February 24, 2007

the statute of frogs and the fruit of the poisonous tree

In my delirium I will attempt to write a blog about some law. Two of my favorites. Ok, not really, but two with good names.

The Statute of Frauds, which someone during my first year, probably Rose, always misheard as "Statute of Frogs," is a real beast of a law concept. I don't know why it always seemed like such a beast, though. After two-months of concentrated study, it finally makes sense in all the contexts in which it turns up.

Basically, the Statute of Frauds says that certain contracts have to be in writing. I know, as I mentioned in a previous law-post, many of us who aren't legally educated (including me before this fateful journey began) tend to imagine that a defining feature of a "contract" is that it is written down and signed by the parties. In reality, however, oral contracts are just as binding. Unless the Statute of Frauds applies.

My study-book offers a great mnemonic device for remembering when the S. of F. applies: MY LEGS. M is for Marriage: any promises made in consideration of marriage. Y is for Year: contracts that, by their terms, can't be performed in one year. L is for Land: promises creating an interest in land. E is for Executor: a promise by an executor to pay an estate's debts out of her own pockets. G is for Goods: contracts for the sale of goods for $500 or more with limited exceptions. S is for Sureties: a surety is when you promise to pay a debt owed by somebody else (like co-signing on someone else's loan). Contracts for any of those things must be in writing.

Well that was exciting.

Much better is the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. This is a Criminal Procedure concept and I can remember Eagle Eye Goldberg at the front of the class talking about it in her particular, inflected voice. Oh how I love Eagle Eye Goldberg. Anyway, to understand the fruit of the poisonous tree, you have to understand exclusion.

In this country, the constitution protects people from the government in certain very important ways. The fourth amendment, for example, protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures. The fifth amendment protects us from being compelled to offer self-incriminating testimony. Exclusion is the way we have evolved to protect these protections.

Evidence that has been obtained in violation of these principles is excluded from criminal proceedings in most circumstances. For example, if I am unreasonably stopped and searched on the street in violation of the fourth amendment, any evidence found in that search will be excluded (in theory and hopefully in practice) from a criminal proceeding against me.

To take the example a step further, imagine that the "evidence" that results from this illegal search is a drawing I have made of the methlab I have built in my basement, with a list of ingredients for making meth and some contact info for suppliers I plan to buy materials from to make meth. Based on this evidence, the cop gets a warrant and searches my house. He finds my methlab and all the meth I've made so far and I go to jail, and then court.

According to the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, any evidence collected as a result of the illegal search is excluded, just like the original illegal evidence. That means, because the first search was illegal, the evidence obtained from the search of my house is also illegal, even though the cops had a warrant by then. This evidence is considered to be the fruit of the poisonous tree of the first illegal search, and is excluded.

To many people, this might seem absurd. I have obviously committed a crime. The cops have evidence of my methlab, they have my meth, they have my suppliers, they have me! Why exclude this evidence? Why let a hardened criminal like me off the hook on a "technicality"?? Good question.

In this country, we have decided that the best way to guarantee that the police behave and follow the rules spelled out in the Constitution is to prevent them from benefiting from their wrongdoing. That plan presumes that the cops actually benefit from their wrongdoing if the illegal evidence is used against a suspect. It raises the question whether it makes any difference at all to cops what happens far down the line, in court, after they've done all their cop-work which may or may not have included unconstitutional behavior.

I, personally, think there are better ways to police the police, but until we institute them, I'm all for leaving the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine in place. And anyway, it has such a cool, poetic name, how could we get rid of it?

phase five: rapid cycling, labile, generally freaking out

Um. Yeah. I have two full days (not counting what's left of tonight) until I sit down in a big, crowded room at the airport Holiday Inn and start day one of the two day bar exam. I anticipated an eery calm. I didn't, for some reason, anticipate a full-scale mental health crisis.

Ok, I'm being dramatic. But I realized today that these last days are definitely different from all the other days. The stakes are so high. There's no time to make up for any errors in studying anymore. This is it. I barely have time to run through my outlines one last time and finish up the outlines for the sample essays. No time for any major re-dos. No time to realize I've left something out completely. No time to relearn everything if it happens to unlearn itself while I'm not looking.

Low level panic has been with me all day, like someone in my ear just sort of whispering "oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god" like that all day. All day. And when I was working on sample essays, usually a *great* way for me to study b/c it puts the info in context, all I could think was how much I still don't know, don't remember, and the whisper turned into an hysterical shriek more like "OH MY GOD YOUR LIFE IS ENDING YOU FUCKING HOPELESS IDIOT!!!"

Ok, yes, I'm being dramatic again, but this is a pretty dramatic event. One suggestion, dear readers: if you ever have someone in your life who has to take a bar exam, please send that person a card, and maybe some flowers. No matter how nice that person looks on the outside, she is having a rough time. I promise.

Today I started thinking unhelpful things like "why the hell did I go to law school? I don't even want to be a lawyer, I have NEVER wanted to be a lawyer, I will never be able to pay off my student loans, Oh my god I am six figures in debt now, is there a tall enough bridge in Portland to jump off of and not survive?"

I started wondering what it would be like to just close up my new diploma (which is open and leaning against the wall so I can see my strangely spelled middle name [that's a whole nother story] and the words Juris Doctor, which used to be a source of pride but has become today an ominous and mocking source of Poe-like oppression)... where was I? Oh, yeah, wondering what it would be like to just close it up and slip it into the red box in my closet with my undergraduate degree and my high school diploma and then just carry on with my life like nothing ever happened. Would that be possible?

I mean, SK's brother went to medical school but never practiced medicine. Think about it. Medical school, I'm guessing that's much harder than law school, and longer. And he never practiced. Now he's a stock broker, and in 2005 he won second place in a speed-eating contest. That sounds pretty good. If it worked for him, why not me?

Maybe my tune will change once this is all over. Who knows.

P.S. SK wanted me to write a blog about her speed-eating brother, but not like this. She wanted me to write about how she herself eats really fast and says it's because she grew up believing the next holocaust could easily be right around the corner and she never knew if she'd have time to finish her meal. She was surprised and pleased to see her brother shares this penchant for fast eating and guesses that he does it for the same reason. They do, after all, share a holocaust-survivor father. It only makes sense. Anyway, there you go sweetie, I hope that's good enough though I know it isn't exactly what you had in mind.

Friday, February 23, 2007

new low in the evolution "debate"

I find it hard to believe anybody on the planet is still seriously debating the "theory" of evolution. I find it nearly incomprehensible that school boards are still fighting about it and trying to change cirricula around it. But I find it utterly mind-boggling that ignorant, bigoted state representatives are blaming the Jews for it.

A state representative from Texas recently spread a memo around the state legislature, endorsed by him but written by another elected state representative (from my embarrasingly backward birthstate of Georgia) explaining that evolution is just a conspiracy dreamed up by the Jews in their wacky Kabbalah texts and, as such, is just as unconstitutional as intelligent desigh. (Huh?)

As nonsensical as their argument is, WHAT IS UP WITH THIS ANTI-SEMITIC BULLSHIT? From ELECTED FUCKING REPRESENTATIVES! What country are we living in? What TIME PERIOD are we living in? All cursing and internet-screaming aside, we have to take this very seriously. To ignore it is to agree with it. I mean, seriously, why isn't this front page news? Why did I have to hear about it on NPR's Science Friday, randomly out of the mouth of one of the day's guests? Why did I have to run to an anonymous inside source (who is awesome and yet unnameable) for info and links?

If this disturbs you, learn more. Here's the link for the Texas representative's endorsement of the craziness and plea to his colleagues, and here's the link to the actual letter written by the Georgia representative. Feel free to check out the insane and bigoted websites the letter links to, you'll learn fun-facts like: the earth doesn't rotate! Nor does it revolve around the sun! Fascinating! This is definitely the "science" we ought to be teaching our kids!

And if you voted for either of these assholes, I have one word for you: Rethink. (Or, if you prefer: Repent.)

P.S. Please note the address for the Texas representative, Warren Chisum, on his letterhead. Feel free to contact him and tell him how you feel about his bigotry. Also note the really helpful invitation for "all *supportive* calls and emails" at the bottom of the Georgia representative, Ben Bridges', letter. I wish I could personally flood their phone and email with less than supportive messages. Won't you please help me?

rats invade new york kfc-taco bell

It was only a matter of time...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

really whole now

Whole Foods is going to buy Wild Oats. I'm glad. I have worked for both companies and I found Whole Foods to be better in lots of ways. It was a better place to work with better benefits and a better attitude towards its employees. And it has higher quality standards, not selling *any* foods with artificial ingredients or even hydrogenated oil.

Around here we call it Whole Paycheck, for obvious reasons, and that's the biggest drawback. It's not just pricey, but pretentious too. I was lucky to work in a store that had, for twenty years, been a locally owned natural foods market called Wellspring in Durham North Carolina. It had only just recently been acquired by Whole Foods and the attitude and culture hadn't changed a whole lot yet. The new store here in Portland, however, is too downtown-chic for me and I can hardly stand to shop there.

Despite it all, I'm still glad Whole Foods finally devoured Wild Oats. Now the Wild Oats at the end of my street, the only place I shop anymore because I can walk there, will magically turn into a Whole Foods and I'll have access to all those Whole-Foody foods I haven't been getting since I left Durham in 2001. Hello 365 Brand! You are cheap and tasty!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

again with the jump

I listened to an interesting interview last night on the BBC with Eric Steel, the guy who made "The Bridge," a movie I wrote about a couple of days ago. Steel trained cameras on the Golden Gate bridge for a whole year and captured on film almost all the 24 suicides that took place that year.

I promptly forgot all the interesting things I learned in that interview until I talked to SK a few minutes ago on the phone and remembered one big one: the interviewer noted the conspicuous lack of camera-time for bridge security personnel, or anyone from the city of San Francisco who might comment on the frequency of jumpers (the bridge is the number one suicide destination on the planet).

Turns out, all the people in charge of the bridge declined to appear in the film. According to Steel, the bridge people seemed to want to pretend the suicides didn't occur, as though not acknowledging the suicides would make them go away. I remember wondering, as I left the theatre, why they didn't do any number of relatively simple things to try and stop so many people from jumping off, ranging from erecting barricades to staffing the bridge with mental health workers who could roam around and try to engage with suicidal people.

Hearing Steel's assessment of the city's attitude, I was disturbed. The only reason I can imagine why the city would ignore this problem would be because it feared drawing attention to the suicides might hurt tourism at the bridge. That's a pretty cynical reason not to try and save lives, isn't it? Just a cold, cost-benefit analysis.

My feelings about suicide are complicated and I do believe, ultimately, that it's one of those sacred choices we have regarding our bodies and lives. I don't advocate preventing all suicides on some theory that suicide itself is wrong. I do, however, advocate providing mental health care where it's needed. When 24 people in one year choose to jump off a bridge teeming with pedestrians in broad daylight, isn't it safe to say that at least *some* of those people were hoping that the audacity and sheer visibility of their action would make someone walking past stop and say, "oh my god, are you ok?" I'm not exactly saying they were just looking for attention. I'm saying maybe some of them were looking for an actual human connection, some indication from the people around them that they mattered, that their human life mattered, and that their pain would not go unnoticed.

One of the men featured in the film, a man who jumped and survived, experienced his own version of this. Before he jumped, he stood on the bridge for nearly an hour sobbing, with tears streaming down his face. In all that time, he said, only one person spoke to him. A tourist. Did she say "Hey, are you ok?" Did she say "What's wrong, why are you crying?" No. She handed him a camera and asked him to take her picture. At that point, I guess I would've jumped too.

not your grandpa's pirates

Apparently, the recording industry is cracking down on college kids who pirate music. It's oh-so-so-very easy to steal music when your school has a wireless cloud and what appears to be unlimited bandwith, and the industry is starting to send complaints (like, thousands of them) to schools to try and have the schools curb the illegal downloading. Of course, the most eggregious offenders are being sued.

You know, when I started law school in 2003, we were given a spiel during orientation by the Computer Services Department. Amongst all their other info, someone spoke briefly about using the school's internet for file-sharing, commonly understood to mean: "stealing music off the internet and each other's computers." I braced myself for the heavy hand of the law to come down on us, to explain to us that stealing music breaches copyright law and that, as future lawyers, we would be held to a higher standard, etc, etc. I expected him to tell us not break the law.

Instead, he simply said: "Look. Don't do it. It uses WAY too much bandwith and it slows all the computers down. So please, for the love of bandwith, don't do it."

He also mentioned that they would quickly and easilly identify anyone who was using more than her fair share of bandwith and she could expect a promt visit (ie: wherever you are on campus, you will be found within minutes) from a very unhappy Computer Services person who will see to it that you stop immediately. Because, we can't have the system hemmoraging bandwith like that people. Come on. THINK OF THE BANDWITH!

Nobody mentioned that it was illegal. I wondered if they even noticed that part...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Come on over to Liberals in Exile and check out an interesting free-speech debate between me and Melinda, all about the freedom of hate groups to post hateful content on their websites and where, if at all, we draw the line between protected and unprotected speech. Is it ever ok to shut-up a hate group? Come check out our debate and weigh in if you want. I'd be curious to know what other people think.


I love rain.

Monday, February 19, 2007

i left my house today


I met my friend Leo for drinks at this new bar up the street from my house called Tiga. (By "new" I mean "not quite a year old," but whatever.) Unfortunately, because I *finally* caught a mild version of the nasty cold that's cycling through my community, "drinks" meant one hot toddy. And because I forgot to tell the guy a *rum* hot toddy, I had to drink whiskey which I don't like so much.

And while I'm complaining, my hot toddy was inexplicably served in one of those squatty cognac type glasses, like a low-hanging wine goblet, a brandy snifter, I don't know the names of bar glasses, but it wasn't the kind with a handle and it was almost impossible to pick up hot. I had to wait till the thing cooled down considerably before I could even touch it and then... know what I realized? It was all sticky from honey! If the atmosphere hadn't been so sweet otherwise, I would've been really annoyed.

I could have *also* been really annoyed when this guy fell on me while I waited to be waited on. Falling people crashing into bystanders is something I would expect late Friday night at Billy Rays when it's slam-packed and loud and everybody's trashed. But people crashing into bystanders in a quiet, nearly empty bar early on a Monday night is not something I expected. It was so weirdly smooth, I thought it might be Leo sort of jumping on me from behind. I turned around to check it out and the guy had the nerve to give me attitude! He said "I'm sorry, I tripped," but he said it with a *tone* -- a tone that said "don't look at me like that, lady, I tripped, give me a break."

And then, you know, I could've been *really* annoyed by Leo who called me on my cell (which I almost didn't even bring) when I was one block away from the bar (walking, up hill, from my house, panting b/c I'd been walking fast, thinking I was late) to tell me she'd be about fifteen minutes late b/c she wanted to eat a bowl of soup. Goddamn that Leo, she's late almost every time we hang out and it always starts our time with me feeling pissy and her feeling like "why are you pissy? what's your problem?" Augh.

But it wasn't that bad this time. For some reason, I just didn't get very annoyed about any of that stuff. I noticed it, but it just passed on by. You know why? Because all I care about is law. The Stockholm Syndrome is fully solidified. Nothing really matters out in the world besides the rule against perpetuties and equitable servitudes and defeasible fees and contingent remainders -- in other words, the property law I spent all day studying. I'm just not that interested in anything else at the moment. I can't even get properly annoyed at things. It's really something.

Now I'm going to go to bed and try and sleep off the rest of this cold. Maybe I'll dream (again) that I'm still going over my outlines. Something exciting to look forward to. Seven days left, people! Seven short days and I'm free! But will I miss it when it's over...?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

seems like your average exit poll to me...

A very interesting story in the New York Times Online today about an Iraqi man who was recently released from some American-run prison in Iraq after being held there for 2 years without being charged. He tells of some of the abuses he suffered while there, but this bit here is possibly even more interesting than his story about having a taser applied to his tongue:

(this passage follows an explanation of the long process leading up to his physical release that day)

"Then, shortly before 9 a.m., Mr. Ani said, he was brought to a table for one last step. He was handed a form and asked to
place a check mark next to the sentence that best described how he had been treated:

“I didn’t go through any abuse during detention,” read the first option, in Arabic.

“I have gone through abuse during detention,” read the second.

In the room, he said, stood three American guards carrying the type of electric stun devices that Mr. Ani and other
detainees said had been used on them for infractions as minor as speaking out of turn.

“Even the translator told me to sign the first answer,” said Mr. Ani, who gave a copy of his form to The New York Times. “I
asked him what happens if I sign the second one, and he raised his hands,” as if to say, Who knows?"

How thoughtful! A satisfaction survey!

Hmmmm. Tell the truth about the abuse right in front of the abusers and risk being thrown back in prison indefinitely and subjecting myself to a potential lifetime of all-expense-paid tasing.... or just check the first box and run like hell to freedom? I'm gonna have to think about this one...

another way the gays get shafted

Spousal Privileges -- brought to you by the letter "E" for Evidence.

Hapless people often wonder why the gays aren't just content with civil unions or flimsy domestic partnership recognitions. (Some hapless people wonder why the gays aren't just content to be allowed to live, but we won't worry about those people right now.) One reason the gays are all het up about marriage are the 500 million little rights and privileges that marriage automatically guarantees a couple under the law. Those same automatic goodies are not so bestowed on happy "civilly united" couples or those who are domestically partnerned. No.

But this post isn't intended to pick apart the inequality inherent in those less-than-marriage statutes. It's to tell you all about one of the many glorious privileges real, actual marriage can get you: the right not to have to testify against your spouse. There are actually two principles at work to help keep husbands and wives off the witness stand. The first is spousal immunity, the one that probably sounds most familiar.

Spousal immunity can only be invoked in criminal cases and only lasts during the marriage. The privilege conferred here belongs to the witness-spouse and only she can invoke it. If she invokes her privilege, she cannot be compelled to offer testimony against her husband. She can, however, waive it and her husband can't do a thing about it (if he's the one on trial) because it's not his privilege to invoke.

If she waives, however, she may still be prevented from testifying to certain things by the *other* privilege regarding confidential marital communications. This privilege applies both in civil and criminal cases and can be invoked by both spouses, regardless of which one is the witness. It applies to communications made during the marriage that were made in reliance on the confidentiality of the marriage. Thus, this one even applies after the spouses divorce. If they talked about it during the marriage, and they talked about it in reliance on the confidentiality of their marriage, it is a protected communication.

Back to the first example, if the wife choses to waive her spousal immunity and testify, she may testify to the fact that her husband came in late one night, drenched in blood and dragging a dead body behind him. But if he invokes his privilege concerning confidential marital communications, she may NOT testify about the conversation she had with him that night in bed when he wept and begged her to help him dispose of the body. He can protect that bit.

Unfortunately, if you're a homo, you CAN be compelled to testify against your partner and, as far as I know, there isn't any law out there that will help you. Perhaps some of these places that are creating civil unions have written language into their civil union legislation conferring similar benefits on same-sex couples, who knows. I do know that you will not find any protection in the Federal Rules of Evidence. Not one tiny bit. So be careful about sharing your dirty laundry with your partner, those conversations aren't as sacred as those of your straight, married counterparts.


Last night, SK and I went to the Clinton Street Theater and watched an incredible documentary about people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Wow. The movie, called The Bridge, is the result of a year-long video stake-out of the bridge and is filled with gorgeous images of the bridge in all sorts of weather: bright and sunny, standing starkly against the steady flow of moving fog, and sometimes completely obscured by the impenetrable gray haze. Night shots, day shots, morning, sunset, shots from several different angles: the bridge is beautiful and you can understand why more people chose to end their lives there than anywhere else in the world.

Twenty-four people jumped to their deaths in 2004, the year The Bridge was made. The filmmakers captured almost all of them. Of course, they weren't exactly truthful with the city about why they were filming the bridge, and the city wasn't too happy about it. And, before you get too upset about the questionable ethics involved in filming suicides without trying to stop them, the filmmakers called bridge security every time they noticed anyone doing anything suspicious on the bridge.

Nonetheless, 24 people still jumped off and died and we viewers get to see several of those jumps. I was most surprised by the un-deliberateness of many of those jumps. Certainly they were deliberate. Certainly those jumpers had spent a lot of time thinking and planning and talking themselves into such an incredible, breathtaking act. But when go-time came, they just seemed to hop off, as though worried that someone might come along any minute and snatch them back to safety. They tended to look furtively around before throwing their legs over the edge like people trying not to be caught jumping a subway turnstile, not like people about to plunge to certain death.

It wasn't what I imagined suicide would look like. And that by itself is interesting. What had I imagined? Why did I think I would know? I work with a population full of suicidal people and I talk to at least one person a day who claims to be suicidal. In my six years in this particular job, however, I have known NO ONE who actually succeeded, and I have come to view almost all the attempts I've seen as cries for help, not true acts of failed suicide. I have heard of other clients in other programs who have succeeded, most recently a person jumped from a fourth or fifth floor window in our sister program and eventually died, and I have to admit, that was a shakeup for me. I hadn't known him, but it woke me from my jaded stupor and reminded me that they're not *all* just looking for attention.

This movie is full of images of people not looking for attention, but somehow getting it in the end anyway. That alone is pretty ironic. But there's more to the movie than scene after scene of plummeting bodies. Gorgeous shots of the bridge, and the occasional jumper, are interspersed with interviews with friends and family of several of the jumpers, including an interview with a young guy with bipolar disorder who jumped and, at the last minute, decided he didn't want to die. So he managed to work himself into a position that he hoped would be least likely to kill him. And he lived. Although, the interview with his cold, unfeeling father makes me think he might try again someday. I hope not though, he seemed like such a sweet guy.

Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with this. Everyone should watch it. It's much less disturbing than I would've thought. It's just really, really interesting and I left feeling a lot of compassion for the people driven to jump and the people they left behind.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

nice surprise

I walked out my front door for a breath of fresh air after spending two days fighting off a cold in my warm little hovel, and what did I see? A cluster of gorgeous little purple croci have sprung up out of nowhere in the yard right near my door! So lovely. And because I live below ground, the flowers are more or less at eye-level when I open my door, which makes them, somehow, even more dramatic. So lovely! Winter is going away! Spring is coming! Yay!

Friday, February 16, 2007

blog of epic proportions

Can you tell how sick I am of studying? I'm pretty sick of it.

So, to pacify my mind, I feel inspired by the news of stranded motorists in the snow in Pennsylvania to share my own story of being stuck in the snow in my car. I think this experience meets the definition of a minor fiasco.

Picture it: Columbus, Ohio, 1998. I had a two-week break from work and I was supposed to go home for the holidaze (home being Georgia to visit my less-than-fun family), but I just really didn't want to and, when the weather between me and home got pretty bad, I told my family it was just too dangerous for me to make the 8 hour drive. Sorry. Not coming.

But, after a few days, I got really bored and really lonely. My housemate was out of town, as were most of my other friends, and my workplace was closed down for two weeks. By the end of the first week, I was totally stir-crazy. So I had this really ridiculous idea to drive to Niagara Falls. Yes. At the end of December.

Next brilliant idea: I asked a woman named Boo (I swear to god) to come with me. Me and Boo had been hooking up a little bit, but it hadn't really been working out and I was distancing myself from her. All the red flags went up, but she was adventurous and she was the only person interested in my impromptu drive to Canada in the dead of winter. I had no choice!

So me and Boo set off for Niagara and... you know... it was mediocre. The falls were nice, then we went up to Toronto and it was cold as a motherfucker (what did I expect?) and then, when our little fun-fest was over, we started back. We spent our last night on the Canada side of Niagara in a sweet little motel. We hadn't had any trouble until the morning we were supposed to head home. We woke to a light dust of snow. How quaint.

Within an hour and a half of starting out, just as we passed Buffalo, NY, things started getting really rough. The snow was falling fast and furious and it was obvious, as we drove south, that it had been snowing fast and furious for awhile down there. Traffic slowed and the 18-wheelers we saw jack-knifed on the sides of the highway up ahead did not bode well for us.

Pretty soon traffic was moving at less than a crawl. Turned out, the highway was closed up ahead and the delay we were experiencing was caused by the slow drag of all the cars being redirected to the other side of the highway to drive back in the direction from which we'd all just come. Eventually it was our turn. We crawled along behind a million-mile long string of cars all trying to find the next best way wherever they were going.

We could've headed back north to relative safety. Gotten a motel room again. Watched some teevee and had some food. Wouldn't have been so bad. But it didn't even occur to us. Nope, we were die-hard. We were getting home, NOW. Consulting the map, we realized there was a secondary road that could take us parallel to the highway.

We (and 7,000 other motorists) attemped that detour, which took us through the tiny town of Lackawana, NY, later made famous by some so-called Al Queda wanna-be's. Thanks to the snow and ice on the roads and the (did I mention the) 7,000 other motorists, it literally took us 4 hours to drive from one end of Lackawana to the other. Oh. My. God.

Not to mention, by that point, I had reached maximum capacity for managing my irritation with Boo. Gum popping is something I can't tolerate, just to name one of one-million things she was doing that drove me nuts. To this day, if someone starts to "tidy up" the contents of my car (yes, it's sometimes a tad untidy) I start to shake with suppressed rage.

Anyway, at some point we realized we'd been in the car for over 8 hours and hadn't gotten out once to pee. Or eat. Or stretch our legs. We eventually pulled off the secondary road to try and use a bathroom somewhere. We learned, once we walked into the Burger King we managed to find, that in the time it took us to navigate the exit from that road (probably 45 minutes, behind a mack-truck trying not to jack-knife), they had *closed* that road. All the roads around us were closed. We were stuck.

We spent a few hours sitting in the Burger King, which had decided to stay open extra-late for all the other folks who were stuck there. Eventually, we retired to the car where we slept all night in the front seats with the engine running and the heat on. I woke up at daybreak and started driving. I didn't even care if the roads were better, but fortunately they were. All in all, we spent 30+ hours in the car together. And we were lucky, compared to the Pennsylvania people! At least we had Burger King! And we could leave in the morning.

I don't think I spoke another word to Boo in my life after that because I had used up every grain of patience I had ever possessed in regards to her. For a very long time, I counted that experience as the thing I'd lived through that showed me that I could do anything and be ok. I knew I had patience. I knew I could persevere. I knew I could resist the urge to be mean and nasty (or violent) in the face of frustration and a really annoying companion. Since then, other, worse things have cropped up in life and, you know, I'd like to think my ill-fated trip to Niagara layed a foundation which helped me get through those other things. Either way, it makes a story. So there you go.

makes me laugh

Maybe it will make *you* laugh too. :-) A belated Valentine cartoon. Enjoy.

PS -- Don't forget to look for the "easter eggs" at the end. Move your mouse over the "I" the "O" and the exclamation point for links to extras. Fun times!

the pressing issues of the day

Of course I'm talking about Anna Nicole Smith's will, which was just released today. How exciting when current events bear so particularly on the nuances of my studies.

This is a particularly interesting situation involving one of those twists of fate that no one would have imagined: Anna Nicole Smith willed her entire estate to her son. But he died before her! What to do, what to do!

This raises at least two problems that come directly out the Wills outline I'm looking over right now. One: lapse. Lapse is what happens when a devisee (someone who is supposed to get a gift under a will) dies before the testator (the dead person with the will). At common law, the gift simply lapsed and passed on to the testator's residuary devisee's or heirs. But now most states have anti-lapse statutes which save the gift and pass it on to the dead-devisee's descendents.

According to the story, the will gives the estate to Smith's long-time companion, Howard K. Stern, to hold in trust for her son Daniel. But now that Daniel is dead, what will happen? I guess it all depends on whether or not Florida has an anti-lapse statute.

The other issue raised here is that of the pretermitted child, ie: the child left out of the will. As we all know, Smith had a daughter just last year. However, not only does her will, which was drafted in 2001, fail to mention her daughter, it goes one step further with this language: "I have intentionally omitted to provide for my spouse and other heirs, including future spouses and children and other descendants now living and those hereafter born or adopted." Ouch.

So here's the pretermitted child info, and then you'll see how harsh that language is. The general rule is that a parent is allowed to disinherit a child if she wants to, but many states have ennacted pretermitted child statutes to protect children from unintentional disinheritance. Depending on the laws in Florida, where the will, presumeably, will be probated, Smith's daughter may or may not be protected. Unfortunately, that language in the will seems pretty damning. It almost seems to be a clause specifically included to prevent a court from determining that any later-born child had been unintentionally disinherited. However, I don't know how these things actually work in practice.

We're left with lots of questions: will an anti-lapse statute preserve the gift to Smith's dead son? Will a pretermitted child statute reserve a share for Smith's living daughter? If the first question is answered yes, and the second no, will the dead son's living half-sister be able to inherit anything from *him*? Complicated. I don't know the answers.

reeling... and a little bit nauseated

This morning on NPR I heard a story about that war-porn show "24." The story explained that a group of top military guys, the dean of Westpoint for example, and people who are or have been top interrogators, went to Hollywood to have a little sit-down with the "24" people to ask them to tone down the turture. Seriously. Because, in their opinion and experience, it doesn't work to ellicit good information and the illegal and immoral tactics of the show's hero, Jack Bauer, are being adored by students and emulated in the field.


So I went to the trusty internet and I found the New Yorker article this story was based on. Wow. Leaving aside the complicated issues of art versus politics, and censorship, which I would love to tackle later, this article made me woozy with disgust. I guess I'm just a faint-hearted liberal, but gawd. The show's creator, Joel Surnow, is a self-described "right wing nut job," and counts as fans and friends: Dick Cheney, Carl Rove, Rush Limbaugh and... blech... Ann Coulter!

I was disgusted when I learned that "24"'s production building in LA is equipped with a fancy, plush smoking room with burled-wood humidors and a full bar and that Surnow, who often entertains his scary, conservative friends there, gave Rush Limbaugh a special "24" smoking-jacket recently. Bad enough. But I was literally gagging when I read that he's pals with Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter would be the devil if she weren't so patently stupid. Instead, she's just a very, very wicked, nasty, shrill, mean-spirited ogre in high-heels with lots of make-up.

Anyway, you should definitely read this article. It will make your blood boil. Or at least, it will make your blood warm with righteous indignation. And for the love of god, stop watching 24. If they started showing snuff films on prime-time teevee would you watch those too? Only if the victims were "islamofacists"...? You're fucked up.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

phase four: cocky

For the past week, ever since I finished outlining my last of sixteen separate subjects (ok, a couple of those are actually combined, so it's only really fourteen separate subjects, but still... that's a lot of subjects...), I've been spending my study-time working through the sample essay book.

The sample essay book is really helpful and contains seven to ten sample essays for each subject, with an answer outline and a complete answer for each question. I have found doing these sample essays (with my outlines, mind you, not just off the top of my head) has been a great way to help me think through the problems and then cement the info from my outlines into my mind in a way that just reading can't do.

I don't know about you, but I'm not a memorizer. I tend to understand concepts in a more broad, general way. I'm much more likely to remember how issues fit together rather than the specifics of the issues themselves. Which is why studying with the sample essays is great. It puts the issues into a context and helps nail down the details.

However, now I'm starting to feel a little cocky about the sample answers. I mean, come on! Sometimes they're WRONG! I know it is dangerous and probably incorrect for me to assume that I'm right about this, but what else can it be? I look in my notes, I look in the prepbooks, I look into my own memory and sometimes I find answers that contradict those offered as the sample essay answers. And that's just frustrating.

Part of it is the malleability of the law. Everything is nuanced and qualified and there are a thousand exceptions to everything, so you can quite legitimately come down on completely opposing sides to any given conflict and be right either way. But that's frustrating! I want the info in the prepbooks to match up to the info in the sample answers, is that so wrong??

This thing is less than two weeks away. Is it too early to be this restless? Waspy? Shelley? Any thoughts?

clever, oh so clever

I found this on Recovering Straight Girl's site. So. Clever. It's the Twelve Steps of Straight Recovery and it cleverly mimics AA's Twelve Steps. Teensy bit stereotypical, but (since many stereotypes start from grains of truth) I found myself smiling and nodding at basically each step. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

more frozen car doors???

As I've mentioned before, this site has been getting a steady stream of hits from searches for "frozen car door." I've been thinking to myself for awhile that if I had a dollar for every hit, I could buy myself lunch every day. Somedays it would just be lunch at Taco Bell, but somedays it would be lunch at, like, Burgerville, which is decidedly better.

Well, today I could take myself out for a freakin steak b/c, by 10am, I've already had over 20 hits for frozen car doors! What is up, people?? Everybody's doors are freezing and for some reason they're all coming to me! I did the search myself, and while I *do* come up on the first page, there are other sites that look more informative...

I just feel bad for these people because I hate to think they come to this site and don't actually get any useful information and they find themselves clicking out of my site as quickly as possible and thinking "stupid blog, how did I end up on a stupid blog, stupid blogs don't FIX MY CAR!"

So I decided to try and really figure out how to fix this problem so that people who end up here might actually leave with useful information. Here's what I discovered: If your car door is frozen OPEN, which is what happened to me last month (where it was sort of frozen shut, but once I managed to open it the latch wouldn't work to close it back) -- you can spray de-icer in the latch mechanism to get it to work in the moment. Then, later, when it's warmed up, you can spray the mechanism with WD-40 to keep it moving smoothly in the future.

Personally, when this happened to me, I didn't happen to have any de-icer laying around. Although, I live in Portland Oregon where it rarely freezes, so I shouldn't be expected to keep a supply of car-freezing supplies on hand. However, all y'all who live in the Northeast where it's sure to be snowing and frozen for months out of the year, y'all should definitely invest in some de-icer. It can only come in handy.

That said, I don't know if it actually works, that was just the answer that kept coming up repeatedly on the Yahoo Answers website. Good luck.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

the paper to prove it

It's official. I have a diploma.

Can I share with all of you that the most incredible and unrealistic paranoia overtook me at the end of my exams last semester and I had all but convinced myself that I had probably failed at least one if not all three of my last three classes? Why so psycho? Just because. It was the end of school, I was scheduled to take the bar, there was no room for error. Failing a class, not graduating... that would have *really* fucked things up in a not-so-easy-to-fix sort of way and, b/c I'm totally neurotic sometimes, I decided I must have failed.

I was so worried, I refused to check my grades. I just couldn't bring myself to look. Then, when I finally looked (just a week or so ago), I was utterly shocked and amazed to realize that my grades had actually been great! The best grades of any one semester. So what the fuck was I so worried about?

Anyway, today I drove up to campus to pick up my diploma and, because I didn't bother to check it out before I went, I got there half an hour before the Registrar's Office opened. To pass the time, I went down to the coffee cart and bought myself a decaf Americano and picked up a Tribune to entertain me. That's when I saw Eagle Eye Goldberg, my favorite professor and my biggest law school crush. Yay(!!!!!!!)

I was so happy to see her I almost fell over and, of course, I was dorkilly awkard about it. At first I didn't even see her, I was just waiting for my coffee when I heard my name. I looked up and it was her, looking so sweet and happy to see me. She told me she was reading a book I recommended (No God But God by Reza Aslan, a very good book about Islam) and that she was really enjoying it. I was beside myself with delight and would've followed her off like a little puppy, but she was on her way to teach a first year crim pro class and I was on my way to go wait for the Registrar's Office to open... *sigh*

So then I went over to see if I could still access the internet on the computers in the LRC and that is how I discovered the one and only drawback to finishing school. My password didn't work anymore. Oh well. I read the paper and passed the time and before I knew it, I was standing at the Registrar's desk holding my very own diploma with the very impressive words "Juris Doctor" on it. If the degree says "doctor," how come I am not Dr. Poet now? I don't know, but I'm fighting the urge to start calling myself Reasonably Prudent Poet, Esquire.

I have to admit a mild feeling of melancholy at what is essentially an anticlimax. It is, after all, just a piece of paper. It doesn't even have magic powers. I don't even get to be called "Dr. Poet." But, it's fifty-percent bigger than my college diploma and 100 percent more valueable... maybe 700 percent more valueable. Or, at least, potentially. Now I need a big, gaudy frame to put it in so I can hang it over my desk and stare at it. Maybe that will make me feel better.

Monday, February 12, 2007



"Objection, your honor! Hearsay!"

How many times have you heard *that* on Law and Order. Or Matlock. Or Aly McBeal. Or whatever courtroom drama you watch. You've heard it so many times, you think you know what it means. Well, I'm here to tell you, you don't. At least not completely.

Hearsay is any out of court statement offered in court to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.

There are at least two important elements here: 1.) that the statement has been uttered out of court, and 2.) that it is being offered to prove the truth of what is asserted in the statement. For example, Billie's out of court statment that "the car was red" is being admitted to prove that the car was actually red. That is hearsay. Hearsay is not allowed.

But don't worry, there are lots of exceptions, starting with things that *seem* like hearsay, but that don't qualify. One type of out of court statement that is *not* hearsay is a verbal act, or a statement that, itself, has legal signifigance. For example, if your Aunt Frieda walks up to you, hands you her diamond brooch and says "here, darling, I'm giving you this brooch as a gift because I'm so proud of you for getting sober" -- the words establishing that the brooch is a gift are legally operative words and are not hearsay.

Another great example of non-hearsay are admissions of a party opponent. Por ejemplo: If I run over a cat and then drive down to the bar and tell the bartender "hey, dude, I totally creamed this cat on my way over here," my statement is an admission and the other side can call the bartender to testify to what I said. It is NOT hearsay.

Then, of course, the true hearsay exceptions: things that technically *are* hearsay, but which are admissible anyway. One is the dying declaration. I love this one. If somebody tries to kill you and you think you are done for (whether or not you actually die) and you say, in your last gasps " was Rico! He wore a diamond! He shot me in the stomach with a pearl-handled revolver!" Those statements can be used in a murder prosecution against Rico, but only if you're not there to testify *yourself* about Rico and the diamond and the revolver, which would be the case if you actually died or if you were still in intensive care at the hospital or in a coma.

Another hearsay exception is the excited utterance -- this is a statement made directly after the incident that inspired it and is admissible based on the theory that things you say in the heat of the moment are probably not lies. Back to my earlier example, if I ran over a cat and immediately jumped out of my car and said "Holy shit! I just killed somebody's cat!" That would be an excited utterance and probably admissible.

Finally, and this one is important, statements offered to show the state of mind of the declarant are admissible exceptions to the hearsay rule. Why is this important? I'll tell you. In the first OJ Simpson trial, the criminal one, the prosecution wanted to introduce evidence that Nicole Simpson had recently told someone that OJ was trying to kill her. "Objection your honor! Hearsay!" Yells the prosecutor. "Objection sustained!" Yells the judge. That evidence was not admitted because it was being offered to prove that OJ *was* trying to kill her.

However, in the subsequent civil trial, the plaintiff's attorney attempted to admit the same evidence, but *this* time, when the defense objected, the prosecution said "Your honor, it goes to the state of mind of the victim." And guess what? Overruled. The statement "OJ is trying to kill me" was admissible to show that Nicole was afraid of OJ, and was just a tiny bit of circumstantial evidence against OJ. But the big thing about this is, once it comes in, regardless of *why* it came in, it finds itself in the minds of the jury members. And will *they* remember when the time comes not to use that statement as evidence that OJ actually did it? Maybe not. Maybe that's why he was found liable for her death in the civil case and not-guilty in the criminal case... who knows.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

phase three... the low-level anxiety and graphic novel phase. I haven't been able to concentrate on real books for the past week or so, so I've been reading graphic novels. The first was Blankets, by Craig Thompson, a really sweet and lovely book about his first romance. Usually I don't get so excited about straight-love stories (yawn) but this one was sweet and beautifully drawn and I liked it a lot.

Then I read another of his called Carnet de Voyage, a quickly drawn travelog documenting a trip he took through parts of Europe and into Morrocco. I know I mentioned all this in a previous post, sorry. But these books were both so sweet and pretty I wanted to mention them again. Craig Thompson lives here in Portland and, you know, Craig... if you're ever ego-surfing and you run accross my site, email me. Let's get a beer.

Anyhoo... the next graphic novel I read was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I read a story in the New York Times a couple weeks ago about how they're making a movie out of it, so I checked it out from the library. Such an interesting little book: simple, black and white drawings (no shades of gray) that almost look like woodcuts, telling the story of her childhood in Iran during and after the revolution in 1979 and then through the subsequent wars with Iraq. *Really* great book, which I highly recommend.

Then there was Persepolis Two, which I just finished last night while SK snoozed peacefully before me. This one details her life in Austria where her parents sent her to escape the war in Iran, and her subsequent return to Iran at 19. Very interesting to get a perspective on what it's like for all those otherwise modern, intellectual women in Iran, hidden under the veils they mostly detest.

After Persepolis, I'm moving on to Joe Sacco's Palestine, which he created after spending a few months in occupied Palestine in the early '90s. I read about Sacco in an interview online with Alison Bechdel and Craig Thompson, which can be found on the Powell's Bookstore website. Alison Bechdel, who does the Dykes to Watch Out For strip, wrote an incredible graphic memoir called Fun Home that came out last year about her family, specifically her dad, a closet queer who died a mysterious death when she was in college.

Anyway, I could write volumes about how awesome that book was and how awesome it was to see her talk about her work at Powell's last summer, but instead I'll just say that, when she was here, Powell's got her and Craig Thompson together and interviewed them and in the conversation they ended up having, they talked about different cartoonists whose work they both admire: Joe Sacco was one of their faves, so I've got a couple of his books right now and we'll see. I'm sure I'll keep you posted.

As far as the persistent, low-level anxiety... I'm still working on that...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

now with live links!

The Guardian Online (a London paper) reports today that the US is planning airstrikes in Iran as early as the spring. But what about all those vehement disavowals by our fearless leaders?

"Colonel Sam Gardiner, a former air force officer who has carried out war games with Iran as the target, supported the view that planning for an air strike was under way: "Gates said there is no planning for war. We know this is not true. He possibly meant there is no plan for an immediate strike. It was sloppy wording."

Sloppy wording? "Sloppy" is too kind.

So I surfed over to the New York Times site to see if we're reporting anything similar. Front page news there (you know, to the left of the big Obama announcment) was a story claiming that Iran is suspected of providing a particular type of roadside bomb to Iraq. Only a small fraction of the bombs are used in Iraq, but the headline of the article says "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, US Says."

"The officials said they were willing to discuss the issue to respond to what they described as an increasingly worrisome threat to American forces in Iraq, and were not trying to lay the basis for an American attack on Iran."

Yeah. Right. I'm sure that will be described later as "sloppy wording" too.

PS -- Yay, live links!! Thanks to Joolie who sent me the instructions way back in AUGUST! Sorry I didn't manage to actually read those instructions until now. I saw a bunch of code and my eyes glazed over. I will never be afraid of HTML again. HTML is my new friend.

Friday, February 09, 2007

simply fucked up

Holocaust survivor, author and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Elie Wiesel was dragged off an elevator and "roughed up" at a hotel in San Francisco while attending some kind of conference on world peace today.

Apparently, someone on the elevator had approached him about doing an interview, and when he agreed to do the interview in the lobby, the person on the elevator insisted he do it in a hotel room. That's when Wiesel was dragged off the elevator. The article I read didn't indicate what "roughed up" meant exactly, but fuck.

The attacker fled when Wiesel started screaming and so far no arrests have been made, however, a neonazi named Eric Hunt took credit for it on a website, claiming that he wanted to make Wiesel admit on videotape that most of his book Night, which depicted his harrowing experience in Auschwitz, was fictionalized. Night was recently an Oprah Winfrey bookclub pick.

Another report out today notes an increase in KKK membership in the US, spurred by the so-called immigration problem. What the fuck is going on here? What is the impulse to hate and lash out at an entire group of people? How does a group that is ostensibly a part of the majority in this country (white folk) find itself feeling so threatened that violent opposition to a minority group (or groups) seems the appropriate option?

And how do you become so blinded by your hate that you think it's ok to drag some man who could be your grandfather out of an elevator so you can force him to renounce his well-documented Holocaust experience? Where have we gone wrong, that this is what happens? How are we, as a culture, responsible for creating these nasty shadows?

the value of pride

Yesterday I went downtown to witness SK's naturalization ceremony. In a huge building across the street from the Post Office on Hoyt, right across the Broadway Bridge, in a shabby, stuffy room on the second floor, 30 people from 17 different countries swore their oath of allegience and became naturalized US citizens.

I won't write anything here about SK's personal journey to this event, or her feelings about it, that's for her to write. But I have a few things to say about my own experience as a witness. At first it was moving. Standing outside the room where everyone assembled to check-in and have their names marked off a list, SK looked in and turned around with a gleeful face. "The *world* is in that room!" she said.

I looked in and sure enough, the world *was* in there. Varying skin-tones and languages, ages and attitudes. I wanted to know each person's story. How did the two, short, squatty old Hungarian women with scarves tied over their heads end up in Portland Oregon on the 8th day of February, 2007? What about the tall, Indian guy who kept sighing? What about the woman with the hopeful face whose blue eyes each stared off in different directions?

Each person in that room had a story, they stood at a particular spot on a long path. For many, becoming an American was probably a joyous triumph over a life of oppression in places poor in spirit and in economy. For others, becoming an American was probably an unpleasant necessity to keep doing business or to stay with a partner or whatever brought them here. Some people probably swore their oath of allegiance with lumps in their throats, proud and moved to tears to finally come to rest in a place where they could think and speak and pray how they wish. Others no doubt swore it with eyes rolling and fingers crossed. "Yeah, sure America. I promise to take up arms to defend you. Whatever." As for me, I couldn't even bring myself to say the pledge of allegiance at the end, though I did put my hand over my heart.

I was moved by the people and the stories I imagined for them. I was disappointed by what passed for the ceremony. A woman with spikey orange hair, lifelessly repeated a spiel she had memorized about the glory of becoming a citizen, and no less than three video presentations were projected on a screen: one was a welcome from Dubya. Dubya is nothing but an embarrassment and every word out of his mouth was cringeworthy. What could George W. Bush possibly say to a room full of new immigrants: "Sorry for ransacking the world"? That would've been a start.

The other two videos were watery propaganda films with predictably lame soundtracks and images. The first was a photo-montage of immigrants through this country's history with a slow, cheesey rendition of America the Beautiful playing behind it. At first it was moving: very old pictures of people getting off boats in New York, little old Eastern European women in headscarves like the two right in the room with us, expectant children, emaciated refugees. Then, as it became contemporary, each photo contained a new immigrant grinning madly and holding a cheap, tiny American flag. Then the montage started feeling like a tacky branding campaign.

The last video was a photo-montage of the gorgeosity of America with, I swear to god, Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" blaring out over it. How miserable. The camera swept along those waving fields of grain or flashed on famous skylines, while Lee Greenwood sang "and I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free, and I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me and I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today 'cause there ain't no doubt I love this land... God Bless the U-S-AAAAAA"

Ok, fine. Besides this song being the kind of ridiculous thing that might bring grown men to tears at a rodeo, ignoring the jingoism, forgetting that it's only "men" who died for his freedom or the implication that America is the only free country on earth (note to Lee Greenwood: a lot of other free countries would disagree), ignoring all that -- the song's not so bad. The pretty pictures of America aren't so bad. So what's my problem?

Come on. Tacky slide shows with bad music in a hot, stuffy, unadorned room -- this is what we have to offer, this is the big welcome. The American face we're putting forward is shmaltzy and tacky and vaguely, pathetically commercial. Platitudes and ad-copy and a cheap nylon flag on a stick. Considering the struggles many people surmounted to get to that room yesterday, those cheesey videos weren't just lame, they were patronizing and, in my opinion, insulting.

Call me crazy, but there are things about this country to be proud of and those things aren't it. A bad country song and some pictures of how pretty it is here...? Poorly produced videos on par with the type you're shown at job orientations, one step down on the video food chain from infomercials...? I'd like to think we can do better than that. I hope the people who became citizens yesterday manage to find and live the things about this country that are actually worth being proud of, despite that lacklustre beginning.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

intestate succession


What happens if you die without a will? What happens to your stuff? The laws of intestate succession (which vary from state to state, though following roughly the same patterns) will determine how your stuff should be divvied up.

Generally, it goes like this:

1.) Surviving Spouse: that's *spouse* not "domestic partner" or girlfriend or life companion or whatever. Unless you're living in Massachusetts (and I'm still not sure how they're working it all out, so don't quote me) and you're queer, you are *NOT* inheriting anything under intestate succession. Don't even think about it. You and your partner need WILLS, people. WILLS.

If, however, you're lucky enough to be in a relationship recognized by your government, pat yourself on the back and consider this: your surviving spouse will get some of your stuff. How much depends on whether or not you have kids who survive you, whether or not some or all of those kids are also your spouse's kids, and what state you live in.

In most states, the surviving spouse will take one-third to one-half of the estate if you also have surviving kids. Under the Uniform Probate Code (sort of a how-to suggestion manual, the provisions of which states may or may not adopt), if all your surviving kids are also your spouse's kids, then your spouse inherits *all* your estate, on the theory that as a co-parent, she'll consider the best interest of the kids when disposing of the property herself.

2.) Descendants: aka, the kids who outlive you, and their kids if they have any. Anything that your spouse didn't get (or all of it, if there isn't a spouse) goes to your kids. If any of your kids are dead, their share can go to their kids. It gets complicated when you start figuring up how to divide among the kids and the kids of the dead kids, there are several different methods of dispersing shares of your estate to these succeeding generations, and I'm gonna skip it b/c it's boring.

3.) Look down-Look up: This is what Bernie Vail (the old goat who taught my Wills n Trusts class in school) called the approach you take to intestate succession. The "look down" part is covered by looking for the spouse and kids of the decedent. If there are no kids and no spouse (like if I died tomorrow), then you'd look *up* to the generation preceding the decedent, ie: parents. If there are no surviving parents, you look down again, this time at the descendants of the parents, ie: the brothers and sisters of the decedent and any of their descendants. None of those? Look up again to the *grandparents* of the decedent: half of the estate will go to the maternal side, half to the paternal side. Grandparents dead? Look for any of their descendants, as far as you have to go. Half will go to the nearest kin on the mom's side, half to the nearest kin on the dad's side.

If you still can't find anybody after all that, finally, the estate "escheats" to the state. It seems like a lot of people believe the state is ready to swoop down and take your stuff at the drop of a hat, but it's not really true. They try pretty hard to find *somebody* who is related to you to give your estate too. Some states have enacted "laughing heir" statutes which cut off inheritances to relatives who are so remote they get only gain and no loss from your death. But otherwise, your estate could pass to someone *really* remote if you don't have anyone close by.

And now you know. Because I know you were wondering.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

the dangers of solitude

Things in the hovel are weird. This last week of study has me hitting new... I can't really call them "lows" exactly... but definitely new levels. It's like I'm burrowing deeper and deeper into something and yet, somehow, the deeper I go, the closer I get to bursting through into the sunshine on the other side.

I just don't have the time right now to say all the things I would otherwise say about this, but I'll give it a thumbnail treatment. I've been alone a lot. This weekend, I made the unprecedented decision not to spend any nights at all with SK or anybody else for that matter. I spent every night alone and it started to wear on me. I reverted to old, childhood behavior: I started talking to made-up people.

First, Sunday night, I pretended I was talking to my therapist. I didn't imagine myself in a therapy session or anything like that. I imagined myself having coffee with her and explaining to her why I couldn't have sessions with her anymore. It was interesting.

Then, Monday night, I pretended I was talking to Craig Thompson who lives in Portland and writes graphic novels. I read his novel Blankets a couple weeks ago, and Monday I finished his travelog Carnet De Voyage. His books are so beautifully drawn and his stories are so sweet and simple, I just felt like I wanted to talk to him. First I tried writing him some kind of fan letter, but that just felt ridiculous. I didn't really want to write a bunch of gushy praise anyway, I just wanted the person I imagine him to be listening on the other end of a conversation. So, I just pretended he was there and I started talking. *Much* less ridiculous than a fan letter, no?

I realized, as I chattered away to imaginary people, two things. 1.) I am lonely in my hovel, but 2.) I don't really want the input of real people. I've gotten myself too locked into something, a rut, a pattern, etc, etc. And hiding out in my solitary hovel with my imaginary friends and my barbri books is exactly what I need for the time being. I'm learning a lot about the ways I've behaved in relationships, the ways I communicate, the things I expect, the things I'm hurt by. It's hard to relate with people when you don't understand any of those things and yet at the same time you're experiencing them all. Without awareness, they all feel like ghosts in the room, you can't see them, but they're punching you in the stomach all the same. It sucks. I'd rather hide out in my hovel awhile and learn to see some of those ghosts before I go back out in the world and try to live. It's better this way.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

news is sometimes funny

God I wish I knew how to post live links! Because I just keep running across the weirdest, funniest news items and I just want to spread the joy. Of course, it may all seem so amusing b/c of my cabin fever and utter study-induced delirium, but who cares. Laughing is laughing.

So, apparently this astronaut who recently flew a mission to the space station was arrested in Florida (where all the trashy idiots end up) (and while we're in parenthases I want to say that I know you're thinking the astronaut is a man, but she's not, she's a woman, so quit stereoptying) anyway, she was arrested in Florida for trying to kidnap this woman who she thought was having a romantic relationship with this other astronaut who the first astronaut really liked.

The malicious astro-woman drove a really long way to find this other woman and claimed, after she was arrested, that she wasn't going to do anything bad, she just wanted to get the woman to tell her about her relationship with the boy-astronaut, etc, etc. Typical love-triangle, right? The cops didn't buy her explanation and are now adding a charge of attempted murder. Here's what the cop said:

"If you were just going to talk to someone, I don't know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray," said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department.

Hee-larious. I guess being in outer space makes you crazy. Or just really, really desperate.

Here's a dead link to the story:

Monday, February 05, 2007

corpse flower II: return of the stench

I saw on Yahoo that the bizarre corpse-flower is blooming again. Well, you know, a *particular* corpse-flower plant is blooming out of season in London somewhere. They look really amazing. Do a google image search, I'm too technophobic to know how to post a link. They're cool. Meanwhile, enjoy this description of the smell by the curator of the place that's housing the plant that's blooming now, it made me laugh out loud, but that's probably just my delirium: "It is a cross between rotten cheese, dog poo and something dead." Sounds AWESOME!

de minimis fringe

Income Tax

I always thought this sounded like a good name for a band. Maybe a jazz trio. Anyway, what it actually *is* is much less interesting than what I imagine it to be, as many things are.

But first I must start by explaining why the de minimis fringe could possibly matter. It matters because the internal revenue service considers nearly EVERYTHING you get your hands on to be income. Technically, gross income (what gets taxed) is any accession to wealth, clearly realized, over which the taxpayer has complete dominion.

That basically means that anything you get, free and clear, that you didn't already have, is income. And because, taken literally, that would produce absurd results, the IRS has been kind enough to include a million exclusions in the code. One exclusion from gross income is the de minimis fringe: the little junk you get at work that doesn't add up to much. Like free coffee and morning doughnuts, for example.

Other exclusions, just in case you were wondering, are fun things like health insurance premiums paid by your employer, most pension plan contributions, employee discounts offered by employers, and on-premises meals and lodging if furnished on the employer's actual premises and for the convenience of the employer (like the slop I eat three nights a week at the homeless shelter), but not *reimbursements* for food, those don't count.

Now imagine how bizarre it would be if you had to try and add up at the end of the year the value of all the cups of stale coffee you drank for "free" at work so you could include them as income on your tax return. And imagine how bitter that would make you. More bitter, even, than the dregs of that stale coffee I bet. Bitter indeed.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

oh molly

I was just reading an article in the Nation online about the dearly departed Molly Ivins and ran across this rad thing she said at an ACLU fundraiser and I wanted to share it b/c it made me smile:

"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."

here's another inconvenient truth for you...

I ran across a very interesting article about Gore's popular film "An Inconvenient Truth" in the Palestine Chronicle. Check it out here:

This opener is what snagged my attention:

"You'd think watching the film that Gore is just some concerned professor who never had access to power or held hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock in Occidental Petroleum, let alone was the Number Two man actually running the U.S. government!"

Indeed. The article goes on to detail how the Clinton/Gore years were an environmental nightmare and how Gore's film now simply lays out the same, limp ideas the democrats are already supporting. It's like we've been so mesmerized by the idea that Gore's film is really sticking it to the man, we all sort of forgot that Gore *is* the man. Or at least *was* the man. Or at least, he had *access* to the man. You know what I mean.

It's an interesting read. You should check it out if you can stand to copy and paste that dead link into your browser. I promise to learn how to make live links, just not any time soon.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

i think he probably meant "ick"

'Bush Puts the "ic" Back in Democrat Party' -- that's the yahoo headline. Yahoo headlines amuse me like quirky, newsy haikus. Similar to I Saw U ads. Anyway, here's the story:

I guess G-Dub decided to show up and make nice at a democratic "retreat" somewhere. Isn't that like the principal of the school showing up at your slumber party to tell bad jokes and let you know he's really on your side, and meanwhile you're all just rolling your eyes and wondering who the hell told him how to get your house?

If Bush crashed my retreat I'd be pretty upset, but I guess, in the name of bipartisanship, the democrats had to be congenial about it. Whatever. He actually had the nerve to say (in his bungled way) that he doesn't believe that you're less patriotic than he is if you disagree with his Iraq war policies. Oh really? Who was it again who said "If you're not with us, you're against us?" And what was that about how not supporting the war is like helping the terrorists?

Hmm, and what's that burning smell? Oil refineries? Explosions in Baghdad? Oh no, it's just G-Dub's pants, which are on FIRE... because he's LYING. Again. Some more. *Sigh* When will it end?

Friday, February 02, 2007


It's February and thus begins my second month of barstudy, or what I'm now calling Phase 2. It's time for me to kick it up a notch, as they say. Tonight, kicking it up a notch meant studying fifty percent more than usual. It meant that, when I left my desk to take my relaxing bath break, instead of bringing an interesting library book into the suds with me, I brough my Sales outline and my stopwatch. Kicking it up a notch is INTENSE.

I notice something kind of weird happening now, though. When all this started back at the beginning of January (feels like 100 years ago) I was in a real fight with it. I didn't want to study, I resisted it at every turn, I was really, acutely miserable. Week two was, I think, the worst. And then, somewhere in the middle of week three, I just started to lose my spirit. I didn't have the strength to fight it anymore, I just gave in. I still stopped after a reasonable time and kept interesting books by the bed and in the bathroom for those down-time breaks, but otherwise, I was resigned to my daily studies.

Well... now it's like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome has set in. I am identifying with my captor! Now I find it hard to concentrate on my interesting library books. I just took a whole slew of them back without hardly opening them! And I'm thinking about my studies when I'm not doing them. Just yesterday in the middle of a meeting at work I interjected my opinion that we could sue an apartment manager for lying to us about something, and to support this opinion I spouted off an entire paragraph of my contracts outline as though my mouth had been taken over by the spirit of some long dead contracts attorney. Pigtails just looked at me and said "wow" when I was done. Then I felt ridiculous.

Weirdest of all, when I've studied all day and have decided to stop... after a few minutes sort of puttering around and listening to music, I start thinking... "you know, I could do a little more outlining tonight. I'm still fresh, I could knock out another few pages." WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???

I anticipate a major crash after this thing is over. I won't know what to do with myself and I'll probably be inexplicably depressed for a week or so. Until the massive anxiety sets in regarding my exam results. I guess that will occupy me until April 27th, just in time for spring to get really cooking. Providing I don't fail, I'll be due to bounce back right around the beginning of summer. Perfect.


So they've finally got a study out that places the blame for climate change (almost) squarely on the heads of humans. ( Many of us roll our eyes and say "duh" -- but then there's my dad who, several years ago, put me in my place on such nonsense as climate change and dwindling natural resources.

I made the mistake of saying the world was overpopulated (the least important of my reasons not to crank out babies) and my dad, in all sincerity, got up and went into the bathroom to retrieve proof that there was nothing for me to worry about. He came back with his toilet-side copy of Reader's Digest and pointed me to an article. It was called something like "Debunking the Top Ten Myths of Our Time" -- climate change, overpopulation, ozone hole, you name it, it was in there. Each potential disaster had it's own, brief paragraph in which the author, citing no scientific sources or sources of any kind, basically said "hogwash" and "phooey" to each one.

Uh, thanks dad. That was enlightening. After I'd read over it, he looked at me with calm eyes and a hint of a frown. "Well?" I mentioned the lack of citation of sources and said I wasn't convinced, but I said it in an "I'm-not-trying-to-argue-I'm-just-sayin..." kind of way and he dropped it but with a kind of icy look. A look that said "infidel."

There's something really frightening to me about a person who doesn't believe in science. I write all this because I think it's amusing and obviously disturbing that my dad actually thought a terse, poorly written Reader's Digest article could set me straight on all the pressing issues of the day.

I also write this because I find it so hard to confront him on his fundamentalism. His fundamentalism puts us on separate continents and gives us different languages. I have no idea how to talk to him because it's clear that rationality isn't common currency among us. How do you talk to someone who doesn't believe in science, but who does believe in the literal truth of every word in the Bible? And how did I come from that person? And how do I keep going back to him?

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I was really sad to see yesterday that spitfire, progressive journalist and general hell-raiser Molly Ivins has died of breast cancer. As a Southern woman, I am always thrilled to hear another Southerner use her Southern wit and colloquialisms for good and not for evil. In this case, hearing Molly drawl out her indictments against Dubya on NPR gave me goosebumps. She's a Texan and had her own very personal feelings against Dubya, whom she dubbed "Shrub." I became familiar with her when I was reading the Progressive, a magazine that gets on my nerves nowadays, but her clever column was always one of my favorites. I am surprised by how sad her passing has made me. The world needs more strong, powerful, funny, articulate women. Not less. She will definitely be missed.

Her obit is here, if you're interested: