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”

Saturday, September 20, 2003
Sweet Spot

Over at the other weblog, we're serving dessert.
Tasty Sounds to Admit to Your Ears

I know this world is full of fans of Norah Jones -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- but for my money (and meaning no offense to Ms. Jones and her large and appreciative audience) the jazz-country-and-what-have-you singer to listen to is Norah's predecessor as the Grammys' Best New Artist, Shelby Lynne.

Shelby's breakout CD, I Am Shelby Lynne encompassed everything from Dusty Springfield-style orchestral drama to hearttwisting ballads of romantic remorse, sung with purity, directness and quiet punch that stays fresh on every listening. The follow-up Love, Shelby succumbed to producer-itis at the hands of Glenn Ballard and is best disregarded (hence the preceding non-link), but the freshly-released and largely self-produced Identity Crisis is a convincing return to form. Musically, the new record is even more eclectic than I Am, including healthy dollops of gospel, Patsy Cline-like honky-tonk heartbreak, and straight-ahead guitar rock'n'roll, and the songwriting and singing are as strong or stronger than on the earlier recording.

At least temporarily, you can find a link on this page to a full RealAudio stream of the album. (And there's not even any registration required! Who was asleep in the marketing department? They deserve to be thanked.) Listen and judge for yourselves, informed consumers!
You can also find a streaming version of a recent live appearance in the invaluable archives at KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic
Friday, September 19, 2003
Cross-Blogging: In Which a Lawyer is Done To As He Has Done to Others

Another slow-starting blog day here because of necessary court appearances and time spent on the responses to a post on the legal blog (Declarations and Exclusions) about Lawyers Who Insult Judges. That post started out as a response to this one by attorney David Giacalone at his persistently interesting legal ethics blog, ethicalEsq?:.

[No, gentle reader, "legal ethics" is not, if you do it right, an oxymoron. Harrumph.]

The catalyst for the entire discussion is a story, linked to by David first and then by me, about a prominent New York medical malpractice lawyer whose antics in trial have caused the court to pull the plug on a $16 Million judgment he had won for his client.

David has updated his original post to include comment on my response; others have chimed in, and the whole thing is spiraling bloggily out of hand. But I can't stop now: I have further comments on the comments and will be posting them to Decs and Excs, as well as putting my two cents into David's recently started roundtable on the musical question Why are Lawyers Such Snobs? -- which, in turn, was set off by David's exchange of correspondence with young attorney Sherry/Scheherazade Fowler, who blogs under the self-effacing title, Civil Procedure.

[Are you keeping track of all this? There will likely be a quiz at some point.]

[Update: Here is the link to my latest addition on these topics at the other blog.]
[Further Update: This post re-edited 9/22/03 to correct the misspelling of David Giacalone's name. Go, read his blog immediately to make recompense for my error.]

Thursday, September 18, 2003
Storm Watch à la Fool

As Jeff Jarvis has noted, far more fear-inducing that Hurricane Isabel itself is the prospect of [shudder] "team coverage." The phenomenon is universal, of course: Here in Southern California, the prospect of even an inch of rain will put all the local television stations "on storm watch," and it seems that every summer here is now the "Summer of Fire," regardless of any fluctuation in the frequency or severity of brushfires. (My own subjective sense is that it has been less flammable here this summer than in the recent past, but I can't offer any statistical proof at the moment.)

In the spirit of this blustery day, a quick jog among the blogs for a variety of weather-related items:

Gregg Easterbrook is notably cranky about exaggerated coverage, especially when tied to global warming.
The media is so disaster-hype-prone at the moment -- partly because disaster predictions keep the ever-larger demographic of senior citizens glued to the tube -- that Isabel will be spoken of as some kind of weather event without precedent. It's been worse 65 times in the last century.

Second, you'll hear that property damage is unprecedented. This will be cited by hype-meisters to justify the notion of Isabel as a phenomenal mega-event, and cited by enviros to back claims the hurricanes are increasing in intensity. But of course property damage will set new records: property is becoming more valuable. Between inflation, the strong market in housing values and a 30-year trend of building upscale housing in coastal areas, with each passing year, what stands in the paths of hurricane is simply worth more.
Easterbrook also offers valuable safety tips. Andrew Sullivan (with his beagle) is in a similarly skeptical vein:
I also love the way weather people on the telly pretend to be terribly upset that a hurricane may come and give us hell, when quite obviously they're having the time of their lives. The crushing look of disappointment they feel telling viewers it isn't going to be as intense as they first 'feared' has to be seen to be believed.
♣ But enough of pundits! Fool readers will want to know: how are poets affected by harsh weather? Ron Silliman reports, taking time away from praising a Milwaukee bookstore and some exceedingly spartan poetry drawn from Great Lakes shipping.

♣ On the other side of the continent, meanwhile, Doc Searls is dealing with gales in the Gulf of Alaska, where he is otherwise preoccupied with cruising, blogging and posting pictures of glaciers (as well as links to, yes, global warming information).

♣ And some people aren't blogging about the weather because they are under it.
On the Must-Read List

This exceptionally smart piece by Paul Lake in Contemporary Poetry Review on the prospects for the arts' emergence from the spectral shadow of post-modernism has drawn enthusiastic links from the likes of Mike Snider and the Blowhards. I, too, endorse it, having given it a first once-over last night. Lake even invokes one of my own longstanding favorites, the late novelist John Gardner and his characterization of successful fiction as a "vivid and continuous dream." I want to absorb it further and will probably post additional comment anon.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Because You Can't Spell "MapQuest" Without "Quest"

Handy directions for those days when the Road goes ever on.

[Link via American Digest.]
Driving the Road to Recall, Literally

Out and about on professional errands today, I passed through the interchange of the Harbor and Century freeways and discovered that that impressive structure -- it towers mightily, with an elevated light rail line piercing through its center, and is remarkably pleasing as such things go -- actually has a name: The Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange. Judge Pregerson, the longest-serving active jurist on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, was one of the members of the panel that earlier this week ordered the stay of the California gubernatorial recall election. You can see Judge Pregerson and the highway sign that bears his name at page 5 of this rather self-congratulatory California Department of Transportation Newsletter.

In Googling to find the preceding link, I also discovered that the Interchange had already found its way into a June post by tireless lawyer/Blogger Denise Howell at Bag and Baggage. Happy as Judge Pregerson apparently was to follow Bush v. Gore, Denise's post reminds us that he can be surprisingly dismissive toward U.S. Supreme Court decisions when it suits him.
For in That Sphere of Blogs, What Links May Come?

You never can tell who is reading you and what impressions they may be getting. I was checking the referrer logs for my other, law-related weblog, Declarations and Exclusions and discovered that it has been added to the blogroll at Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog, associated with the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research. (I know they're conservative because their blog's subtitle is "What Conservatives Think" -- which may be a bit of an overgeneralization.)

I can't for the life of me figure out how or why this happened -- there's no link to any particular post -- but I am running in some pretty fast conservative company on a relatively short list. More conservative, really, than my own politics warrant (whatever some of my friends may think). I'm certainly pleased to be thought worthwhile, albeit from an unexpected angle.

In any case, if you are among my conservative readers here, and don't have enough reading already on your plate you should perhaps give Ms. Ridenour's site a look, and thank her for the link. Who knows, maybe this site will be added to her list.
Pointless Amusement

It's The Dangling Stretchy Knit-Sweater Man. Found via the new blog of English political columnist and music lover, Stephen Pollard, which in turn was found via Brian Micklethwaite's Culture Blog.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
As We Danced to the Recall Rhumba

Several recall-obsessed blogs have noted a report deep within the Los Angeles Times' story on the 9th Circuit's recall stay to the effect that the new non-punchcard voting equipment in Los Angeles County won't have the capacity to handle the recall election concurrently with the other items -- such as the Democratic Presidential primary and the usual plethora of initiatives and referenda -- that will be on the regular March 2004 ballot. Mickey Kaus has no permalinks, so he'll be snubbed by this blog in favor of, yes, Daniel Weintraub's post on the subject. [Really, if you don't mind scrolling down to find it, you should look at the Kaus version, too.]

Assuming the recall actually is postponed to March -- that is, assuming that the 9th Circuit does not rehear the issue en banc and/or otherwise lets the injunction stand, and assuming (as I think is likely) that the U.S. Supreme Court won't touch the issue with a ten-foot precedent -- perhaps L.A. County's problem cries out for a solution to the larger perception of the recall as a "circus". With six months available, perhaps the Secretary of State should offer some incentive for a large proportion of the 130+ current replacement candidates to formally withdraw, so that their names need not take up space on the March ballot. Surely most of the candidates have had whatever moment in the sun they wished for and, knowing that they stand no chance whatever of becoming Governor of California, they could do themselves and their fellow Californians a favor by graciously leaving the stage.

Hey, a fool can dream, can't he?
Monday, September 15, 2003
Surely, I Can't Be The First to Think of This One?

On the 9th Circuit's decision to delay the recall election:

"Mother of mercy, is this the end of recall?"
[Homage à Edward G. Robinson.]
Lost in Translation

How dismaying is it to discover that you are the number 2 result on Google France for the search: "Escort girl Warsaw Marriott"? [Vraiment! it is the very precision of the search that makes it so troubling, non? And the fact that some upstanding Francophone actually clicked through. Bonjour!]
The Choir Preaches Back

My fairly balanced pal Rick at Futurballa Blog chides me gently over this earlier post, which he sees as lacking nuance. (Nuance? In a blog? Shirley, sir, you can't seriously expect it.) In the interest of nuancitude, I'll add these additional remarks:

What has troubled me about the anti-recall position is that it has chosen to focus its ire on the recall process itself -- to oversimplify, this is the argument that recalling any duly-elected politician serves to unfairly undercut the result of the original election and is therefore per se "undemocratic" -- rather than on the merits of the actual question before the voters. The question before the voters is not: "Are recall elections a bad thing so that you should never vote in favor of one?" Rather, the question is: "Should the object of this recall election, the present sitting Governor of the State of Californie, be removed from office prior to the end of his term?" My point of view is (a) the recall process is fully democratic in itself, and (b) the proper exercise of democracy is to vote yes or no on the merits of the incumbent rather than on the merits of the manner in which those merits have come to be questioned. On that basis, my essential quarrel with the anti-recall campaign is that it resolutely refuses to answer the call of the question by offering reasons why this incumbent, Gray Davis, deserves a voter's support, or at least why he does not deserve a voter's scorn.

(This approach of avoiding the meat of the issue is hardly new and hardly limited to the Davis camp. A few years back, Californians considered a referendum on whether or not to reinstate certain "bad faith" lawsuits against insurers. You could watch the advertisements from both sides (insurers against such lawsuits, trial lawyers and self-styled consumer advocates in favor) and never get the first idea what the referendum was actually about. Both sides were equally offensive in their refusal to level with the voter.)

A final thought: The 9th Circuit's decision today delaying the recall vote for six months so that punchcard balloting can be eliminated (as it was scheduled to be by the time of the next regularly scheduled election in March) severely undercuts the "it's undemocratic" argument. The opinion, linked below, spends a great deal of time building a factual and statistical case for the conclusion that the punchcard machinery must be eliminated because it actually is "undemocratic," in the fundamental sense of causing some votes not to be counted as the voter intended. In a sense the 9th Circuit has now assured us that the election, when it finally occurs, will be certifiably "democratic."

Now then, what say we all retire to the study for a stiff round of poetry?
Time . . . for a Favorite Poem

For 50+ years, Richard Wilbur has been the American poet to go to for demonstrations of How It's Done, if what is being Done is writing worthwhile poetry in standard forms. I think that even those who reject the very idea of formal poetry as irrelevant would allow that Wilbur has few if any peers in that line.

I have read and reread large portions of Wilbur's New and Collected Poems for several years, and I find myself returning to this one:

A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her town-house door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.

What use to claim that as she tugs her gloves
A phantom heraldry of all the loves
Blares from that lintel? That the staggered sun
Forgets, in his confusion, how to run?

Still, nothing changes as her perfect feet
Click down the walk that issues in the street,
Leaving the stations of her body there
As a whip maps the countries of the air.
If poetry, as Auden has it, makes nothing happen, this poem serves as a memento of just how much can be going on while nothing is happening. Multiple time streams intersect in an instant -- the narrator pauses for a moment of heightened observation, the unknown woman pauses at the top of the stair and at her life's moment of most perfect beauty, Time itself and the reader's time pause to absorb the poet's description of the other pauses -- and move on in their respective directions. The poem both captures and gently mocks -- with the self-consciously heightened rhetoric of the middle stanza, listing precisely the archaic embellishments that do not occur as those gloves get tugged -- the illusion that most readers have experienced that a single moment is so freighted with significance that it exists outside of the continuing rush of events. Time, of course, does not stop: it continues inexorably leaving poet and reader with only the memory of the intensity that focused in the instant that has passed, and the implicit knowledge that every participant in the scene is now older and more mortal than when we began.

Best poem ever? Personal all-time favorite? Not the former and probably not the latter. Still, I admire its craft -- a nice technical touch I've found no other place to mention is the imitation of glove-tugging at the top of the second stanza, the only line in the poem made up entirely of tough little monosyllables -- and I feel the urge to return to this poem with some frequency and to talk about it here, as I've now done. It's certainly more life-sustaining than California politics, wouldn't you agree?
This Just In . . . .

MSNBC is reporting that the 9th Circuit has indeed blocked the October 7 recall election. (No link yet to that version of the story.) Election Law expert and blogger Rick Hasen confirms, and provides a link to the Court's 66-page opinion. Further comment will follow, no doubt.
Preaching to the Choir

Yesterday evening's local news broadcasts here in Southern California (and presumably in the rest of the state) all led off with large portions of Bill Clinton's appearance in Los Angeles at the First A.M.E. Church on behalf of potential recallee, Governor Gray Davis. If you missed it, you can get the general drift from Daniel Weintraub's report on Clinton's sermon for Gray. (Weintraub also reports a claim by Mr. Clinton that he came close to running this state in the early 80's. Has anyone fact-checked that one yet? It's really too odd of a claim to make if it isn't quite true, and one can never really tell when Mr. Clinton is being truthful and when he is being odd.)

Whatever else one may say about the man, Bill Clinton working a room full of supporters is a thing to behold. Great Zeus! that man has skills, especially when his audience is pre-sold on him, as this one unquestionably was. It cannot have been comfortable for Governor Davis knowing that the tsunami of affection washing over the stage where he stood was Not For Him, but for that other graying eminence contentedly basking in it to his right.

Now I am not a particular fan of the former president, skilled as he is, but his appearance gave rise to this comforting thought: It seems to me that there are still many countries in this world in which a man like Bill Clinton, who is able to draw such quasi-Beatlemaniacal dionysiac devotion from a crowd, either Would Not Have Left at the end of his appointed term or Would Have Worked to Come Back with the support of that devoted crowd, constitutional limitations notwithstanding. But the likelihood of any such thing happening here is the statistical equivalent of zero, because this is not that sort of country and Bill Clinton, except perhaps in the eyes of his most hyper-zealous detractors, is not that sort of political figure. Nor can I think of any plausible scenario in which anyone else would ever get any traction to attempt such a thing.

All of which is by way of working back to my pet peeve in the recall campaign: those who insist that the process is "undemocratic." (Mr. Clinton, of course, rolled that one out, as do all of Governor Davis' anti-recall adverts.) "Undemocratic" would be Arnold's Army marching in the streets of Sacramento, demanding Davis' resignation or his head. "Undemocratic" would be an effort to oust Davis without using the procedures, involving an election and the casting of ballots, that have been incorporated in the laws of the state for nearly a century. "Undemocratic" efforts by "right wing" groups would presumably have included a single approved Republican candidate to replace the Governor, rather than the large field (rather more of whom are self-designated as Democrats than as Republicans, and notably missing the key source of funding for the original recall petition) that the process has actually yielded. "Undemocratic" would more likely incorporate the idea that when you approach the ballot box on October 7 (or thereafter, depending on the 9th Circuit's next decision) it is your duty as a citizen to vote in only one way - against recall - as Davis' proxies urge in his Advertisements That Dare Not Speak His Name. Messy this process may be and is, but undemocratic it is not.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Quantity and Quality, In One Simple Package

Hearty congratulations to the 2 Blowhards, Michael and Friedrich, on their having reached Post #1001. Do not let them stop. Encourage them! Get thee hence, early and often (after which, get thee back here please).