A Fool in the Forest

A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and yet a motley fool.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7

L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Les Fleurs du Mal, “Correspondances”

Wednesday, December 31, 2003
It's Alive!

Somewhat sooner than expected, the renovated TypePad version of this site is on the air. Follow this link to A Fool in the Forest Mark II, which comes complete with a rudimentary banner, categorization of posts, comments (shudder) and an expanded list of links. It's still in development -- such as working my way back to categorize all 200+ prior posts that I imported from here -- but you're welcome to peruse it.

This page -- perhaps to be renamed Fool in the Forest Classic -- will remain for the foreseeable future, if only so that all the old links will still more or less function, but I'll be posting new matter on the TypePad version.

Dare I suggest you should Update Your Favorites if you are a regular visitor?
Dactyls, On The Double!

This is what comes from reading through the John Hollander-edited American Wits, the American Poets Project’s new collection of light verse, all in one go: I’ve become suddenly enamored of the double dactyl.

The particular rigors of the form are nicely explained here, and a Googling of the phrase “double dactyl” will lead you to more, and better, examples than the three of my own composition that you’ll find below.

The double dactyl requires two quatrains, each consisting of three lines of dactylic dimeter and a concluding choriamb (or, if you will, another dactyl with an extra syllable tacked on.) The final lines of the quatrains must rhyme. In pure form, the first line should be a nonsense phrase -- “higgledy-piggledy” is the classic example -- the second line should consist of the name of a famous real or imagined person -- “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” fits -- and the sixth line ought to be a single, six-syllable dactyllically diametric word -- such as “phantasmagorical.”

I’ve elected to disregard all but the metrical rules and I’ve tossed in an extra rhyme (lines two and six mostly). So sue me. The double dactyl is a fine form for glib political comment or just for a lark, and no one will ever get the impression that you take yourself too seriously when you use it. So, with that, let's have at it:
Back Channel

Colonel Qadaffi to
One of our diplomats:
“Zounds! What a trouncing you
Handed Saddam!

Allah’s enlightened me.
I took the tip: so that’s
Why I’m renouncing my
Quest for The Bomb.”

Affront Runner

Candidate Dean (he’s a doc-
tor from Burlington)
Flaunts his technique: “My rhe-
torical pow’rs

Consist in this method: I
Run about hurling con-
tempt, then retract it in
24 hours.”

Simplicity Itself

New York Times, Guardian,
Standard and Telegraph,
Lib’rals, conservatives,
Gog and Magog.

Wond’ring, through each ana-
lytical paragraph,
Where lies the truth? Read it
Here on my blog!

Happy New Year, all!
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Moving Day Approaches

In the not-quite-six months I have been generating this weblog, Blogger and Blogspot have been behaving remarkably well on the whole. Still, I have grown fond of the richer feature set available on TypePad, which hosts my more purely Legal posts on Declarations and Exclusions, and I have been planning to migrate the Fool to that platform. The time has come to be on the move: My plan now is to begin the New Year on the new platform. Naturally, glitches are to be expected, but I'll be trying to have things up and running over there (subject to further improvement and revision) by this coming Friday, January 2. Links to the new locale will be posted here when I Make My Move.
Time, Gentlemen!

Lest anyone should think that I am not merely a Fool, but an irresponsible Fool, I feel a moral compulsion to steer you to this colloquy on excessive indulgence in the Demon Alcohol. Think of it as a corrective to my immediately preceding praise of cocktails, if you will, or better yet as a reinforcement of the virtues of moderation in all things. (I recommend the comments to that Crooked Timber post as well, and the link that Chris Bertram has kindly provided to Hogarth's Gin Lane.)
Monday, December 29, 2003
Gyre and Gimlet

I have been thinking -- slowly, slowly and over many weeks -- of posting something on wine and aesthetics: why it is that, to my mind, wine is a supreme beverage precisely because of the occasion it offers for reflection on issues of beauty. That precis is sufficiently hifalutin' and self-important to scare me away from the task at least temporarily, but I expect to succumb in the end. (I have it in the back of my mind that the thing will somehow fall in to place once I make my much-delayed pilgrimage to the big William Morris exhibition at the Huntington Library, which has little to do with wine but a great deal to do with Beauty and its uses.) In any case, that piece is not the piece you are reading now. Instead, it is merely an introduction to my actual topic,


Thousands of miles to our east, Scheherazade has discovered the joys of the Gimlet, and offers as her New Year's Resolution #1 an ambition to Drink More Of Them. Her musings on the subject remind me how enjoyable a good Gimlet is, and how long it has been since I last had one. [Note to self: pick up Rose's lime juice.] She also displays a proper attitude toward the Rituals of the Cocktail, of a kind in danger of being driven from our shores by the well-meaning but nonetheless sinister forces of public safety and neo-prohibitionist puritanism:
For no good reason, I have some strict self-imposed rules about my drinks. I observe the seasons and do not permit myself gin and tonics after September or before the balmiest days of late May, sticking generally to red wine, dark beer or stout, a Maker's Mark on the rocks or maybe some scotch when the flip flops have been retired for the summer. Martinis are permissible all year round.
These are sound rules indeed. Followed in moderation, and in good company, they lend savor and pleasure to life, which is all to the good.

The appreciation of the Gimlet here serves as a reminder that it was favored by the detective Philip Marlowe. In The Long Goodbye, the One True Recipe is specified:
A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose's lime juice, and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.
As with the martini, the notion that you can make the thing with vodka is a mere popular delusion and should not be encouraged.

Update:While we're vaguely on the subject of Potables in Song and Story, I am reminded by a timely e-mail that back in September my chum Rick Coencas shared with us the none-too-surreal recipe for the Luis Bunuel martini. You should certainly try it at home.
And Now A Word From Our Goddess

My holiday weekend reading wandered into an early Renaissance vein and I found myself reading Erasmus' The Praise of Folly. (John Wilson's 17th Century translation is conveniently available for your online enlightenment here.) The introduction to the edition before me remarked that many Americans seemed to confuse "Erasmus" with "Nostradamus." I thought that was a silly confusion at first, but I was wrong.

Behold the awesome prophetic powers of the wily wonder of Rotterdam! Speaking through the Goddess of Folly, it is beyond question that Erasmus foresaw the rise of the Blogosphere:
But how much happier is this my writer’s dotage who never studies for anything but puts in writing whatever he pleases or what comes first in his head, though it be but his dreams; and all this with small waste of [bandwidth], as well knowing that the vainer those trifles are, the higher esteem they will have with the greater number, that is to say all the fools and unlearned. And what matter is it to slight those few learned if yet they ever read them? Or of what authority will the censure of so few wise men be against so great a cloud of gainsayers?
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Christmas Cavalcade


This Fool wishes to all his readers, whether regular, occasional or simply lost after a wrong click in Albuquerque, a most merry and auspicious Christmas. For the occasion, a random selection of seasonally apropos items posted by others:

♣ From deep in the Southern Hemisphere, Kieran Healy reports on "the uneasy Australian detente between the season and the Season". (A helpful commenter also links to the lyrics of an Australian Christmas song, "Six White Boomers," from the semi-legendary Rolf "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" Harris.)

A C Douglas bemoans "the Great Wising Up" and the harm it has done to the Christmas season, which he declares to be "my most favorite time of year, and the one (and only) time I wished I were a Christian rather than a Jew."

Brian Micklethwaite treats us to Raphael's Sistine Madonna -- complete with those ubiquitous eye-rolling cherubs -- and some quick thoughts on the relationship between quality and popularity in art.

♣ And haiku-crafting legal ethicist about town David Giacalone reminds us that even attorneys may once have been really cute kids. (He earns points for his post title, too.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, I will be off to honor the holiday in the midst of my family. Meanwhile,

Merry Christmas to All!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Ways and Memes

The referrer logs tell me that I am keeping interesting and unexpected company.

In the middle of a "Howard-Dean-Is-Not-What-He-Seems" piece, Lowell Ponte of David Horowitz's Front Page magazine makes this statement:
During his 11-1/2 years as Vermont Governor, Dean turned into the back room wheeler-dealer today known as the 'captive candidate' for President.
The mid-sentence link is to my piece linked below, reporting on reports of Howard Dean's encouragement of the captive insurance industry during his time as Vermont governor. And as a Google Search will show, at the moment the only places in which Dr. Dean is "known as" "the captive candidate" are in the title of my post and in the sentence just quoted.

I'm happy to serve as a coiner of memes, but thus far "captive candidate" is not nearly so successful as lilexia.
Dubious Achievements in Legal Drafting

Stanford law professor and intellectual property zealot Lawrence Lessig has put up a longish post on Wal-Mart's new online music venture. In addition to noting some technical glitches -- downloaded songs wouldn't play on his system -- he emphasizes the highly restrictive terms of the agreement that a consumer must accept before downloading, and the manner in which that agreement contradicts the expectations that consumers have historically had when purchasing music (e.g., the expectation that you can make "fair use" of music you have legally acquired, such as by using it as a soundtrack for home videos, incorporating portions into a personal mix tape, and so on). For connoisseurs of legal draftsmanship, however, the highlight of the piece has to be this splendidly self-contradictory sentence, drawn from deep within the Terms of Service agreement:
All Products are sublicensed to you and not sold, notwithstanding the use of the terms 'sell,' 'purchase,' 'order,' or 'buy' on the Service or in this Agreement.
This is cutting-edge stuff. Consider the possibilities if this approach to contractual language were to catch on. For example:
The Product will consist of a bag of small rocks and not an automobile, notwithstanding the use of the terms "automobile," "motor," "vehicle," "motor vehicle" and "BMW" in this Agreement and on signage at any facility at which this Agreement may be executed.
The Worker shall become the property of the Boss, to be dealt with at the Boss's sole discretion and transferable by sale to any other Boss of the Boss's choosing, and shall receive money, food, rest and shelter only when the Boss is so inclined, notwithstanding the use of the terms "employ," "employee," "wages", "benefits" and "freedom" elsewhere in this agreement.
Parse that, if you will, and despair.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Here, There and Everywhere

Lacking an original thought in my head at the moment, I maintain weblogging momentum with this cavalcade of links catching my attention in the past few days:

♣ Denis Dutton, perhaps best known as the proprietor of Arts & Letters Daily, has launched a personal site, featuring his published articles and material of interest to students in his courses at New Zealand's University of Canterbury. Worth a look if only for the very fine Eadweard Muybridge animated GIF displayed in the banner. [Link via Virginia Postrel, who is herself musing on what Christmas lights tell us about the economy.]

♣ Yet another "upon closer inspection, homeschoolers appear almost normal" piece, this one out of central Virginia. [Link via Kimberly Swygert's Number 2 Pencil and, belatedly, Daryl Cobranchi.]

Terry Teachout, in a rare feint toward matters political, takes up the engrained inability of politicians and other public figures "to say anything without spinning it":
Back in World War II, shortly before the greasy cloud of spin had settled on the land, Gen. Joseph Stilwell, whose nickname was 'Vinegar Joe,' met the press after having been forced to retreat from Burma by the Japanese. He said, 'I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and re-take it.'

The day any politician of either party makes so blunt a remark within earshot of microphones -- and declines to retract, moderate, or invert it before the day is out -- you'll know the barometer of cultural health in America is moving in the right direction. But don't hang by your thumbs waiting for it.
♣ Brian Micklethwaite urges us all to read The Economist's dissertation on the historically mind-expanding qualities of coffee and coffee houses.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
My Covercraft is Full of Eels

Rick comments on the preceding Armour Hot Dogs item, invoking the Oscar Meyer wieners commercials as well. Then, no doubt under the sinister influence of the pork product peddlers, he offers up a proper futurist wiener dog.

He is also getting "on the bandwagon"¹ in the debate over the best cover versions of songs, joining the growing ranks of those endorsing Devo's version of "Satisfaction." (A worthy choice.) I won't pick any favorites as such, but here are a few cover versions of which I approve that seem not to be getting much mention elsewhere:

Jeff Buckley - covering Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. [This version is clearly superior to the also quite good John Cale version, featured on the Shrek soundtrack; the late Mr. Buckley earns extra points for covering Benjamin Britten's Corpus Christi Carol]
Roxy Music - covering John Lennon's Jealous Guy
Johnny Cash - covering Nine Inch Nails' Hurt
Concrete Blonde - covering Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows
The Clash - covering Bobby Fuller's I Fought the Law
Joss Stone - covering The White Stripes' Fell in Love with a (Boy)
Travis and Fountains of Wayne [tie] - covering Britney Spears' Baby One More Time (neither version readily available in legitimate channels). [Alternate Britney cover: Richard Thompson's version of Oops I Did It Again, also amusingly alluded to here.]
Brian Eno - covering The Lion Sleeps Tonight
U2 - covering Cole Porter's Night & Day. [Alternative for those who prefer Coward to Porter: Pet Shop Boys' cover of Coward's If Love Were All]
Romeo Void - covering Wrap It Up . [A good alternative version of the song can also be found on the first Eurhythmics album]

There, that should keep the conversation going.

¹ In a context entirely other, involving Flannery O'Connor, Mika Cooper asks parenthetically: "(isn't that a vehicle of convenience for instrumentalists too lazy to march, like me?). "
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
The Ad-Ternal Return

One of the by-products of American consumer culture, and particularly of the ubiquity of television advertising, has been the Inescapable Jingle, the little ditty that becomes so implanted in one's mind that once reminded of it it is near impossible to stop it looping and looping and looping in the head. The half-life of some jingles is several decades at least, often long after the original has disappeared from the airwaves.

I have been suffering from this condition for the past several days, the culprit being the old jingle for Armour Hot Dogs. The stimulus, I think, was hearing a radio report describing the hot dogs found in the hovel beside which Saddam Hussein had gone to ground. It is bad enough to be haunted by a cheap advertising ditty, but this one has the added feature that it could not possibly be approved for broadcast today. Consider this litany of offensive images:
Hot dogs! Armour Hot Dogs!
What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?
Fat kids, skinny kids,
Kids who climb on rocks.1
Tough kids, sissy kids,
Even kids with chicken pox
Love hot dogs!
Armour Hot Dogs!
The Dogs Kids Love To Bite!
What a parade of horribles: children with body image issues (the obese and the anorexic), children engaged in dangerous ascents of geological formations without appropriate state-sponsored supervision, children with aggressive tendencies or questions of gender identity, even children suffering from now-arcane and little seen diseases, all culminating in an outright endorsement of animal cruelty. Not to mention, of course, that the Center for Science in the Public Interest instructs us never to approach within a hectare of the product being sold. (Do you know how those things are made? Why, it's more frightening than the legislative process!)
Make it stop, please make it stop.2

1 That portion of the lyric was quoted by the Agreeable Snow Man in Pixar's Monsters, Inc.. Fortunately, he only spoke the words; the accursed thing has to be sung to have its most pernicious effects.

2 Perhaps, since it was his capture that made me think of it, this jingle can be of use in the interrogation of the deposed Iraqi despot? Assuming the Geneva Convention permits such things.
Things That Make You Say Ouch

In the past few days, with little opportunity to post anything original here, it seems this page is becoming a mere portal to legal-oriented posts on my other site. Today: a cautionary tale.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Meanwhile, On The Other Weblog

I have been avoiding politics as a topic here lately, but I was unable to resist posting the following item on my law related site:

The Captive Candidate? -- Howard Dean Criticized for Ties to Insurance Industry.

It's rather more interesting than it sounds, if you are a follower of presidential politics.
I Camembert It Any Longer

Just when it seemed we would have to give up on them, the scholarly band at Crooked Timber nearly redeem themselves with a link to a long and unusually interesting review explaining the scandalous secret history of Camembert. Zut alors!

(Strange to say, this is not the first time that I've been intrigued by the place of cheesy comestibles in the arcane practices of international trade.)
How Do We Pronounce Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

At this festive and giving time of year, my thoughts never fail to turn to . . . oddities of pronunciation. Riddle me this, if you will:

Premise: Throughout the year, we frequently hear of or discuss the State of Israel, and when we do we Americans tend generally pronounce its name with a long "a" sound and condensed down to two syllables: "Iz-rale". Regional variants appear to include "Iz-reel" and "Iz-ruhl."

Question: Why then is it that whenever the same word appears in the lyric of a traditional Christmas carol -- "The First Noel," for example, or "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" -- it is stretched out to three solid syllables and vowel-shifted to become something like "Iz-rye-ell"?

Just asking, just asking.

Update: Almost instantly upon posting this item I heard by e-mail from two of my longtime Jewish friends. First, Portland's own Bridget Hoch [who has no site of her own, claiming that she is "too shy"] writes:
[I say] IZ ree ill - although I went to Hebrew school where we pronounced it EESS ra el. I think the "rye" is the way the sounds "ah" and "el" blend, making it an elongated "eye". But when I say Israel, I sometimes think of the biblical character of Israel and possibly that's why I think of it in 3 syllables. I think the masculine name of Israel sounds lovelier with 3 syllables.
Then Rick Coencas weighed in on similar lines in the middle of an e-mail about something else altogether:
BTW, in Hebrew School we said Is-Rah-El and sometimes Is-Roy-El.
Actually, I've always assumed the three-syllable version to be closest to a proper Hebrew pronunciation -- which would make sense in all those Christmas songs, given that those that use the word at all tend to come from the 19th century, long before the founding of the modern State of Israel -- but saying so would have rather undercut the joke, which was pretty feeble to begin with, don'cha know?
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Update with Working Link [Updated]

The circuitous joys of dealing with the Internal Revenue Service -- tracking down a client's paperwork, which seems vanished into the depths of an IRS office at an undisclosed location in Pennsylvania -- have kept me away from other posting, but apropos of the post below about legal vs. non-legal blogging, I received an e-mail from Denise Howell with the news that the ABA article mentioned (to which I thought there was not a good link available) can be found on her firm's site, right here.

Update to the Update: Here's wishing a happy First Birthday to one of the catalysts for that earlier post, Carolyn Elefant's My Shingle.

And speaking of birthdays, as I seem to be doing with some frequency just at the moment, get a load of the merry band of on-line Saggitarians [Saggitaria?] identified by Scheherezade Fowler.