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”

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.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
An Online Survey of Sorts

A fine, Blowhard-inspired rhetorical question from the Futurballa Blog:
Perhaps we should do a survey of culture bloggers. How many are simply wannabe artists, poets, filmmakers, actors, novelists, or playwrites, who lacked the ego, drive, insanity, and 'rhinoceros skin' to pursue that career.
Me? I'd love to tread the boards again as I did alongside the Friendly Futurist in those bright college days1 (or to get serious about poetry for that matter), but I already knew back then that the practice of law generally pays much more regularly.

1A run as Touchstone in As You Like It has resulted decades later in the naming of this site.
This Fool Rushed In, and Intends to Stay

Attorney Carolyn Elefant is responsible for My Shingle, a site/weblog devoted to the practice of law as a sole practitioner or in a small firm. That may not be terribly interesting to you, but it is a subject near and dear to me because I am (you guessed it) an attorney practicing in a small, 2-lawyer firm.

Recently, Carolyn mused aloud on the question, "How Long Can A Lawyer Sustain A Blog in an Unrelated Practice Area?." It is one thing to write about a field in which you have daily hands-on experience, but what about subjects further afield? Some of her thoughts:
But all of this has led me to wonder whether it's possible for any lawyer, particularly a solo or small firm lawyer, to sustain a quality blog, on a topic that is neither directly related to, nor offers any synergies, with one's primary practice area.

See, if a lawyer practices, for example, appellate law or intellectual property or high tech or ERISA/benefits law and runs a blog on those topics, then the blog, while perhaps a personal endeavor, bolsters the underlying practice. Sure, a blog won't write a brief or attend a hearing, but it gives exposure and serves as a mini-CLE, keeping the blogger current with new developments.

So should lawyers try to run blogs on topics of interest unrelated to practice and can they succeed? Will someone want to read a blog on a topic that's written by a non-expert anyway - in other words, perhaps the issue of blog-being-related-to-practice-area is self-selecting anyway.
I started this Foolish enterprise not quite six months ago as a sort of test run, intending to launch a law-related site once I had developed a little confidence in the format. The legal site, Declarations and Exclusions, went up about a month later. Decs and Excs was and is intended to address those business, practice development and professional purposes that Carolyn Elefant mentions. I suppose I could have shuttered or slowed this site once it had served its purpose on my learning curve, but the idea never seriously entered my mind. Each man in his time wears an array of headgear, and the cap and bells is as satisfying in its way as the barrister's wig.

At about the time both of my sites were tuning up, there was a bit of soul searching going on in the legal Web community over whether it was wise or advisable for an attorney to disclose, online, personal interests that he or she would otherwise never have reason to take up with a client. Denise Howell took up the subject (responding to an ABA piece for which her link seems no longer to function), and her observations bear on Carolyn Elefant's conundrum:
As far as the overall message of the piece, everyone is entitled to an opinion about what might constitute 'acid-rainmaking,' a great turn of phrase supplied by Perkins Coie Labor and Employment partner Michael Reynvaan. Not so great in my view is Mr. Reynvaan's suggestion that while writing about certain hobbies -- 'bridge, marathon training, sailing' -- might form a common bond with clients, writing about others -- 'professional wrestling or NASCAR' -- could be perceived as 'unlawyerly.' Maybe it's just me, but the adjectives such an approach brings to mind are 'elitist,' 'narrow-minded,' 'backward,' and 'out of touch.' While I'm not personally into NASCAR -- IRL is more my thing -- or professional wrestling, if I were, I assume from time to time they'd come up here. Then, to the extent any of the millions of people who contribute to the huge popularity of these pursuits -- who are bound to include clients, potential clients, and colleagues -- should stumble on a related Bag and Baggage post, it might just bring a smile to their face.

If you want an automaton as a lawyer, someone like me may not be your best bet. If, on the other hand, you would prefer your legal representatives to think, breathe, and have some grasp on the kinds of cultural and policy issues that so frequently affect the development of the law and the outcome of judicial decisions, that might be another story.
By similar logic, I see no reason that attorneys shouldn't write and post about legal topics outside the bounds of their usual practice area(s) -- or write and post, as happens here, on subjects altogether unrelated to legal theory or practice -- so long as they do it out of genuine interest or enthusiasm. Absent that enthusiasm, maintaining a weblog quickly becomes drudgery no matter what the topic. It is that aspect of the project -- just how interested the author is in whatever he or she is writing about -- moreso than the relation to the author's "day job" that will tend to determine how long an "unrelated" weblog can be sustained.
Many Happy Returns of the Day

Happy Birthday, Mother dear. Enjoy this Capitol squirrel.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Welcome Professor Bainbridge Readers

Having successfully hunted Snark here, Professor Bainbridge has gone the extra mile and rashly added this Fool to his blogroll. I'm blushing, of course. All Fool readers are hereby urged to return the favor and to read the good Professor early and often.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Duck! It's This Year's Christmas Wine

One of the pleasures of this time of year chez Fool is the task of selecting a wine to serve with Christmas dinner. Each year, we spend several Saturday cocktail hours blind-tasting candidates. This year's process ended over the weekend, and our winner is Migration 2001 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.

Migration is the second label of the Goldeneye winery, which in turn is the Mendocino County pinot noir arm of Duckhorn Wine Company. Dan Duckhorn has built himself a well deserved reputation over the past 25+ years for his Napa Valley wines, particularly his merlot (of which Professor Bainbridge approves), and his recent expansion into pinot noir has to be declared a success. The winemaker for the Goldeneye project is Zach Rasmuson, whose biography shows he has spent time with two other solid pinot producers, Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Carneros and Husch Vineyards in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley (which is darned fine pinot country, you can be sure), and that experience shows in the wine.

The 2001 Migration is notable for a luxuriant silky quality and a delicious cherry/berry fruitfulness with subtly earthy backnotes. In other words, it tastes and feels really yummy: this is not a deeply serious exercise in imitating Burgundy, but a satisfying and pleasurable expression of many of pinot noir's most enjoyable qualities. Not a "bargain" wine, really, but reasonably priced for what you get at around $25.00.

Christmas cheer, indeed.
Bed Scene/Bad Scene

I am arriving late to coverage of the 2003 edition of the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction award -- granted annually for the most "redundant or embarrassing description of the sexual act in modern novels" -- but I'm not about to let a little tardiness stop me. Those of you who haven't followed this year's competition can, depending upon your capacity for this sort of thing and your good taste, read either this summary report or the dread passages themselves. They are indeed truly awful (and both links are to be blamed on Arts & Letters Daily).

Sex being a common and natural human activity, it's hardly a surprise that novelists feel obliged to incorporate it into their fictions, but it has been the ruin of many a poor scribbler. I did a quick survey of the fiction on my own shelves and was reminded of how difficult a thing it is to pull off a sexual scene that will not either drive the reader away in dismay or, more likely, produce hoots of derisive laughter. From my survey, and from this year's award nominees, I derive three practical rules for the production of bad sex scenes:
1. A sex scene is doomed at the first mention of a brand name consumer product or the application of a "clever" simile or metaphor -- particularly one referring to a brand name consumer product.

2. Risibility of a sex scene increases in direct proportion to the degree of detail in which the relevant mechanics and hydraulics are described.

3. The better the writer is at everything else, or the better the writer's reputation, the more likely his or her sex scenes are to fail.
Finding examples to prove each of these propositions would make for a fun parlor game, if you keep enough books in your parlor.

John Barth in his first novel, The Floating Opera, captured what may be the root cause that renders it so difficult to write a sex scene that maintains any shred of the writer's dignity. Barth's narrator recounts the story of his first sexual experience at age 17 with a girl named Betty June. In the midst of the act, he catches sight of himself in a large mirror and is reduced to helpless laughter. Betty June does not take it well, declaring that she sees nothing funny in the situation:
I couldn't answer. I couldn't comfort the nervous tears that ran from her, though I swear I tried. I couldn't help her at all, or myself. I bellowed and snorted with laughter, long after Betty June had fumed out of my bed, out of my room, out of my house, for the last time. I laughed through lunch, to Dad's amusement (and subsequent irritation). I laughed that night when I undressed.

I have said that my experience in the Argonne, not very long afterwards, was the second of two unforgettable demonstrations of my animality. This was the first. Nothing, to me, is so consistently, profoundly, earth-shakingly funny as we animals in the act of mating. Reader, if you are young and would live on love;if in the flights of intercourse you feel that you and your beloved are models for a Phidias -- then don't include among the trappings of your love-nest a good size mirror. For a mirror can reflect only what it sees, and what it sees is funny.

Ask a Simple Question . . . .

Thanks, I think, are in order to that Large Mammal, discriminating wine drinker and all 'round ornament to the faculty of the UCLA School of Law, Professor Bainbridge, for his having linked Footnote 2 below, declaring it the Political Snark of the Week.