f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 30, 2006

sunday buffet: no mexicans, insurance, nor curmudgeons

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 5:38 pm

f/k/a‘s cracked investigator, sleuthEsq (try saying that

three times after a few mimosas), was a little late filing

his first Sunday Brunch Potluck report. Here are the

highlights, in time for dinner:


a day without a mexican

tiny check In an attempt to brief Pres. Bush on the planned May 1st

work stoppage and demonstrations by supporters of the

American immigrant community, new White House Press

Secretary Tony Snow is rumored to have played the DVD

version of “a day without a mexican” (2004) for G.W. Also

available in Spanish, as “Un Dia sin Mexicanos,” and directed

by Sergio Arau, the film was broadly panned (with a 30 out of

100 score at metacritic.com). But, the scenario is surely one

that will help enlighten our Decider-in-Chief. As IMBD notes

in describing a day without a mexican:

Tagline: On May 14 there will be no Mexicans in

California.Plot Outline: One day California wakes up and not

a single Latino is left in the state. They have all inex-

plicably dissappeared, chaos, tragedy, and comedy

quickly ensue. (view trailer)

Sure, immigration is a very complex subject (see, e.g. Washinton Post,

“Immigration’s Bottom Line, April 30, 2006; “Hispanic Media Split on

May 1 Boycott,” New America Media, April 24, 2006), and one movie

might not do the topic justice. Nonetheless, the film’s weaknesses

might be just what our White House is looking for:



tiny check “. . As satire, however, the film is toothless. It doesn’t ask the

important questions of why the situation continues. It’s satisfied

to point out an injustice without going any deeper, satisfied to

remain infotainment, distributing some facts amid the laughs that

may make a few people ponder but won’t necessarily ruffle any

feathers.“Perhaps it is the filmmakers’ intent to make that one bold statement

¦#x2014; “Notice us! Appreciate us!” ¦#x2014; and then move on. There is some-

thing to be said about keeping a politically charged message simple,

but it also feels safe and geared to maximize the box office.”


Kevin Crust, L.A. Times, May 14, 2004



tiny check “A Day Without a Mexican plays like a Twilight Zone episode

conceived for Mexican television and padded out to three times

its half-hour storyline. Its narrative conceit will entertain for a

while, but eventually you will long to disappear with the rest

of the Mexicans.”


Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle, Sept. 24, 2004




On a related topic, the ever-practical folk at Not One Damn Dime, sent me (and

thousands of others, of course) an email today declaring their support for tomorrow’s

“Great American Boycott.” With their usual perceptive grasp of economics and

politics they declare:

If the anti-immigrant politicians and hatemongers are right, that ‘immigrants

are a drain on society,’ then during the day on May 1st, the stock market

will surge, and the economy will boom. If not, we prove them wrong once

and for all. We know what will happen!

With their usual fine sense of what is politically doable (and morally correct) they

assert: “We will settle for nothing less than full amnesty and dignity for the millions of

undocumented workers presently in the U.S. ” The f/ka Gang confesses: NODD has

a big mountain to climb, after their first Not One Damn Dime Day silliness — before we

will be able to take them seriously. [see our prior post]





If Washington Post readers had been visiting the RiskProf weblog of Prof.

Martin Grace regularly, they would have been way ahead of the learning

curve this morning, when trying to digest “Insurers Retreat From Coasts:

Katrina Losses May Force More Costs on Taxpayers,” by Spencer S.

Hsu (April 30, 2006).

RiskProf Martin Grace “prof grace”


Although the WaPo article — which reports that many insurers

are refusing to write homeowner’s insurance in high-risk areas —

is quite informative, we suggest “More Consumer Disadvocacy

and RiskProf‘s entire Hurricanes page, for those who want to

understand the economics and politics of the insurance game

(and impress their friends at cocktail parties). update (May 2,

2006): RiskProf has added “More on Consumer Disadvocay”

May 1, 2006).



The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law



Evan Schaeffer had high praise this week for a book by (p/i defense)

lawyer Mark HerrmannThe Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law

(ABA Press, release fairly imminent 2006). We were intrigued by a

book that promised to be curmudgeonly, witty and informative about

the art and science of practicing law, and which Herrmann claims:

became an instant cult classic among law students and law

firm associates. It is among ABA Publishing’s fastest-selling

books of all time.” (emphasis added)

You can only imagine, therefore, the let down, when we discovered

on the ABA webpage for CGPL that “This product is not yet available, but

can be pre-ordered. Also, the “where to buy” button at Herrman’s law firm,

Jones Day, links only to the ABA page. When queried, Evan suggested,

that there must be other “channels of distribution” and lots of pre-orders.

However, PriceGrabber states that the only source is Amazon.com, and

Amazon.com saysThis item has not yet been released,” while noting

a “September 30, 2006” publication date.


Are we being too curmudgeonly to ask how a book that has not yet

reached more than a handful of readers/reviewers could be called “an

instant classic.” Doth pre-orders a classic make? More like “imminent

classic,” don’t you think”? It is a strange bit of puffery — and sounds like

lawyer hyperbole, to me. Of course, that should be a topic covered in some

detail in Herrmann’s book.

afterthought (May 2, 2006): Prof. Yabut left Your Editor a note

last night saying: please check out Meaning #6 in the American

Heritage Dictionary (4th Ed. 2000) for the word “cult.” Okay. Now,

I understand: The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law is already

an “instant classic” among:

6. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric,

usually artistic or intellectual interest.

honest The f/k/a Gang swears that the above blurb is in

no way sour grapes for the fact that Curmudgeon’s Guide has

snuck ahead of this weblog in the Google results for the query

curmudgeon lawyer>.

update (May 2, 2006): Mark Herrmann saw the discussion at Evan’s Illinois

Trial Practice Weblog and this site, and sent Evan an email, which resulted

in the following update by Evan:

An update: I received the following email from Mark Herrmann on 5/2/06–

I saw the exchange on the blogs about the release date of The

Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law.

I’ve contacted ABA Publishing, and the publisher has now fixed

the website to indicate that the book is in fact available and being


The pre-orders alone, however, had been enough to move the book

to the ABA Web Store’s “Best Sellers” list, so, not surprisingly, I

side with you in the bloggers debate.

Almost makes a guy want to come out of retirement and do a little cross-examin-

ation. The numbers intrigue me [e.g., what does it take to get on the ABA

“Best Seller’s List”? How many law students are coming across with the $34.95

to join the Curmudgeon cult?] And the definitions, too. Of course, since we don’t

use emoticons around here, we don’t know whether Mark realizes that — in addition

to giving his book some good publicity, Yabut-style — this blurb is one curmudgeon

pulling another’s leg. Mostly.


Thanks to Language Log‘s astute and amiable Mark Liberman for answering

our lamenting query from Friday: Why do so many news broadcasters…

end their show by saying “we’ll see you here tomorrow”? In “Out-of-time, out-of-

body seeing and hearing” (April 30, 2006,) Mark harkens back to the homey-

interactive, un-canned, feeling created on radio by the late Hank Williams, in

his Health & Happiness Shows, Mark notes that Williams ended with:

If the Good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise, we’ll be sure

to hear from you again”. That’s pretty much the radio version of the

inverted meaning in TV closings like “We’ll see you here tomorrow.”

Mark continues: “It’s clear enough, I think, why Hank said “we’ll be sure to hear

from you again” and not “you’ll be sure to hear from us again”. In the first place,

he’s making a promise for himself and his band — it would be strange and even

rude for him to try to commit the listener to tuning in again. He could have promised

that “we’ll be sure to play for you again”, but that would highlight the very thing he

wants to overcome, the one-way, non-interactive nature of the medium. He’s trying

to make listeners feel that he’s right there with them, taking in their requests and

their reactions as if he were playing a live roadhouse gig rather than a canned radio



I’m always fascinated by the way two (giving myself the benefit of the doubt)

mentally competent speakers of the same langague can come away with very

different interpretations of the same words. For example, for me, “we’ll be sure

to hear from you again,” sounds exactly like Hank is rudely trying — in Mark’s

words — “to commit the listener to tuning in again.”

Mark ends with:

microphoneG  Hank chose an image that emphasized the empathy he wanted to feel,

and if he strayed a bit beyond the strict bounds of logic, surely an

author of “one-breath poetry” can forgive him.

To me, by skewing the meaning of the words, instead of saying something factually

true that invited the listener to come back, Hank — and I’m a fan of his music — is

manipulating the feelings of the listener and making our language a bit less useful

as a tool of communication. Surely, if Hank tried his “But, I’ve been here with you

all night” baloney with a sweetheart, from out of town, she’d call his bluff. And maybe

sing “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

boy writing flip

I really do enjoy the virtual conversations with Prof. Liberman, but I have to make a

dissent from his last clause: “if [Hank] strayed a bit beyond the strict bounds of logic,

surely an author of “one-breath poetry” can forgive him.” Mark needs to read the

page he has pointed to (“is it or ain’t it haiku?”). Haiku is all about saying what your

physical senses are perceiving — what you actually see, hear, taste, touch, smell.

If done right, haiku is not a poetic genre that uses artifices and imagination to achieve

its results.

sleuthSm Speaking of haiku and late-breaking news, the latest edition

of Roadrunner Haiku Journal (Issue VI: 2, May 6, 2006) hit the internet

today. As usual, it has three haiku each from more than a dozen

fine haiku poets, plus a number of other special features. Here are

a pair of poems from our Honored Guest Andrew Riutta

it comes and goes
without a sound
evening mist

not one fossil
among these stones
graveyard parking lot

andrew riutta

tiny check here’s a teaser from John Stevenson

city moon


of renters

– and a sample from Tom Clausen

sharp curve-
a weathered cross
nailed to the tree

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