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

May 31, 2008

et tu, Solomon? more bull about Shakespeare and lawyers

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:39 pm

Prof. Yabut interrupts a sleepy, rainy weekend for a little kvetch-‘n’-preach:

You don’t have to be a poet to believe that literature and fiction can often be more true than non-fiction, as well as more persuasive. And, you don’t have to be a lawyer — or distrust them — to know they will use words in any genre to mislead. But, the f/k/a Gang wasn’t expecting to have a humorous, insightful, enjoyable suspense tale — the 2006 novel “Kill all the Lawyers“– ruined by the very piece of untruthful Bar Progaganda About Shakespeare and Lawyers that we’ve been trying to debunk for a decade — the argument that Shakespeare was paying lawyers the highest compliment when he had Dick the Butcher advocate killing ’em all in Henry VI, Part II.

Twice this past month, f/k/a has plugged “Kill all the Lawyers,” which is from the Solomon vs. Law series, by author and former lawyer Paul Levine. Last night, we were about to finish reading the book — and planning to tell our readers how much we enjoyed it — when the following dialog (at 225) gave the entire Gang a giant case of agita/tsuris:

“More lawyer tricks?” [bad-guy, talk-show psychologist Dr. William] Kreeger said. “Technicalities and obfuscations. No wonder Shakespeare said, “‘Let’s kill all the lawyers.’ “

Shakespeare had a villain say that,” Steve replied, miraculously remembering a long-ago English Lit class at the U. “Dick the Butcher said it in a play, one of the Henrys. His pals were planning to overthrow the government, so the first thing they planned was to kill the lawyers to make the job easier. You’re misconstruing the line, just like you’re mischaracterizing my sister.”

“More legalese?” Kreeger taunted him. “More fine print and sleight of hand. Yes, indeed. Let’s kill all the lawyers before they kill all of us.”

I hate to side with the evil, pedophile-murderer, but Dr. Kreeger is absolutely correct: lawyer Solomon is obfuscating, and — actually — using some rather clumsy sleight-of-hand. Furthermore, Solomon didn’t get his mis-information from an English Literature course.

He got it straight from the propaganda playbook of bar associations across the United States. The Bar has been telling everyone who will listen (and especially themselves) that the sentence “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” [King Henry VI, Part II, IV, ii] demonstrates Shakespeare’s unshakable recognition of the important role lawyers play in maintaining the rule of law and the fruits of civilization. They argue that unruly rebels want to kill lawyers first, because it is the most effective step toward bringing down the Government and uprooting society.

However, as we explain in detail in our posting “Shakespeare and Lawyers” (March 1, 2004):

There’s one problem, neither the play itself nor English history supports the legal profession’s interpretation of Shakespeare. First, the conversation between Jack Cade and Dick the Butcher is not a discussion on how to plot to win a rebellion against lawful government. Quite the opposite, Cade is proclaiming what he will do “when I am king, — as king I will be.” When Butcher yells out that the first thing he wants done is to kill all the lawyers, Cade responds, “Nay, that I mean to do,” and laments “I was never mine own man” since signing a contract [”scribbled” on parchment by a lawyer and sealed with bee’s wax].

You can get the full, unlawyered explanation, along with the text of the scene from the play to put it in context, at our post. The Bar’s argument so quickly falls apart on even the most cursory examination, that it surely would make folks less secure and serene than the f/k/a Gang want to get those distorting propagandists on the witness stand for some withering cross-examination.

Clearly, author, and former lawyer, Paul Levine should know better. His novels and other writings are well-researched and realistic. Either Levine never bothered to take a look at what Shakespeare actually said, or he so badly wanted to take lawyers off the hook that he was willing to swallow the specious argument of his colleagues at the Bar and to recklessly pass along their claim despite its frivolous nature. [update (June 1, 2008): scroll to the afterwords blurb below for Paul Levine’s response to our accusations.]

It’s one thing for our protagonist Steve Solomon to manipulate facts to persuade judges, opposing counsel or juries. Among “Solomon’s Laws,” you will find, for example:

  • “Lying to judges is preferable to lying to the woman you love.”
  • “Thous shalt not screw your own client . . . unless thou hast a damn good reason.”
  • “A creative lawyer considers a judge’s order a mere suggestion.” and,
  • “I won’t lie to a lawyer’s face or stab him in the back, but if I have the chance, I’ll look him in the eye and kick him in the cojones.

But, it is totally unacceptable to make a statement that is clearly meant to manipulate and mislead his readers. Members of the public do not spend a lot of time visiting bar association websites to read their propaganda, nor do they seek out — or tend to believe — op/ed pieces in newspapers from local bar leaders. But, fans of the lovable fictional rascal are very likely to believe Solomon’s misinformation about Shakespeare and Lawyers. Levine clearly crossed a line of trust, and in so doing may have done more to spread the false defense than all of the Bar’s leaders to date.

So, I’m disappointed in Levine and Solomon, and very pleased that those lawyerly-lying words were not put in the mouth of Victoria Lord, the more dignified, ethical (and far prettier) half of the law firm of Solomon and Lord. Maybe, to make amends, Paul Levine will have the fictional Ms. Lord set the matter straight in a future Solomon vs. Lord novel. I’d definitely plug it, here at f/k/a.

afterwords: (June 1, 2008): Does big-time writer Paul Levine really think he can disarm and dissuade Prof. Yabut with a couple of compliments and a throw-away confession? Maybe he does. Although Paul has given me permission to “mis-quote” the email he sent to me this morning, I’m going to quote it in full, milk his celebrity, and hope he keeps his promise to “I’ll also be watching your blog so I can occasionally throw a dart your way.”

Here’s the full text of the email message from author Paul Levine that arrived before 2 AM this morning:

Love it, David.

I guess I should brush up my Shakespeare.

My defense is that (a) I didn’t know any better; and (b) Steve Solomon is a well-known liar, so he cannot be trusted. (You gave me the second defense by suggesting that Victoria Lord would never have said such a thing. I also think it’s unlikely Solomon would have remembered anything from a college English class, and if he did, he would have gotten it wrong).

Your blog is a blast, and I thank you for alerting me to one of the many errors of my ways.

Paul L.

Prof. Y wants to know if I could at least get an electronic autograph from Paul.

another update (June 3, 2008):  Paul Levine is winning the f/k/a Gang over with his “bona fides,” sense of humor, and fair play.  Today, he posted “Brush Up on Your Shakespeare” at the group weblog Naked Authors.com, which is written by a posse of six crime novelists — and let them jump all over me.

Some of you are surely asking, “Where’s your promised haiku, Giacalone?” Frankly, Solomon’s Shakespeare Sham has left me so dispirited, I can’t work up the energy to find and post any new haiku today. However, all is not lost. By the time most readers find this posting, The Heron’s Nest haiku journal will have posted its June 2008 edition (Volume X:2). So, please head over there for a hundred or so sure-to-please haiku.

Meanwhile, check out our prior post, for poems from The Heron’s Nest‘s first issue of 2008. Here’s a trio from three of our Honored Guest Poets:

icy morning
the twists and turns
of a child-proof cap

…………………. by Alice FramptonThe Heron’s Nest X:1 (March 2008)

Remembrance Day
traffic sounds crisscross
the bagpipes

………. by Laryalee FraserThe Heron’s Nest X:1 (March 2008)

storm clouds —
hearing the pauses
in the katydid’s song

…… by Hilary TannThe Heron’s Nest X:1 (March 2008)

update (June 1, 2008): As we said last night, the new edition of The Heron’s Nest (Vol. X, No. 2) is now online. We’ll post more tomorrow, but here’s a pair of teasers from two lawyers who would never think of bearding the Bard:

the cool kids
walk arm-in-arm
. . . wild narcissus

…… by Roberta Beary – The Heron’s Nest (Vol. X, No. 2)

winter aquarium —
maybe I should have stayed
in my home town

…. by Barry George – The Heron’s Nest (Vol. X, No. 2)

– – Et tu, Barry? A tell-em!! sigh —

May 30, 2008

consumer beware the “standard” deal

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 4:09 pm
  • lawyers with “standard” contingency fees
  • real estate agents charging the “standard commission”
  • used car dealers offering the “standard warranty”

After shopping last week for a “pre-owned vehicle,” I’ve just added Used Car Dealers here in New York State to my list of sellers who use the word “standard” (1) to avoid negotiating with consumers and competing with other sellers, and (2) to imply that the State requires that they offer only the particular option that is being proffered to the consumer on a take-it-or-leave it basis. The word “standard” is employed to convince the consumer that the deal being offered is fair and written in stone.

It’s no secret that lawyers, real estate agents and used car salesmen are consistently rated among the least respected or least trusted professions. See, e.g., here, and here, there and there; and this cartoon. In my opinion, the standard-deal ploy alone goes a long way to justify the poor reputations.

This posting will focus on the “standard used car warranty” issue. We’ve discussed the first two culprits on the list in prior posts:

  • lawyers offering only the “standard contingency fee” in personal injury cases, rather than basing their fee on the level of risk being assumed by the lawyer, as required under ethics standards — see, e.g., our four-part essay on contingency fees
  • realtors requiring that you pay the local “standard commission” when selling a house and taking other steps to stifle innovation and competition — see our post “realtors and legislators are selling you out” (Oct. 21, 2005); and the American Antitrust Institute Symposium on Competition in the Residential Real Estate Brokerage Industry (2005). But, note a very recent, positive antitrust outcome: “Justice Dept. Announces Settlement NAR: Settlement Will Result in More Choices, Better Services and Lower Commission Rates For Consumers” (U.S. Department of Justice, Press Release, May 27, 2008). The settlement is discussed by the AAI, in “DOJ-NAR Real Estate Settlement a Milestone for Consumers, But…” (May 27, 2008); and by Consumer Law & Policy Blog (May 29, 2008); and Antitrust Review (May 27, 2008)

While p/i lawyers apply the word “standard” to what is actually the maximum contingency fee percentage permitted in their jurisdiction, used car dealers (in New York State, and probably other states with similar laws) use the term “standard” to describe what is really the minimum warranty periods and terms required by the State, and often to suggest that the State won’t let them offer longer warranties.

Disclaimer: Before I begin this discussion, I want to make clear that I did not start out last week to do an investigation of used car warranty practices. Quite simply, I needed to purchase an inexpensive, reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle — which meant that I’d be buying an older used car, probably with lots of mileage on the odometer. In addition, having no professional or personal experience with Lemon Laws ,or buying used cars from dealers in New York State, I only had a vague recollection that there was some kind of state-mandated warranty.

On the other hand, the very first time I saw a Buyers Guide in a used car window last week, I flashed back to a prior life of mine: Thirty years ago, I was an Assistant to the Director in the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and one duty was to review the staff’s findings and recommendations in the Commission’s Used Car Rule investigation. In that role, I was (to my knowledge) the very first person to suggest that the FTC require all used car dealers to say in writing, and show it prominently in the window of each car by checking a box, whether the dealer was giving a warranty with the vehicle or selling it “As Is.” That might have gotten my old Consumer and Competition Advocate juices flowing. [At the time, I told my boss Albert Kramer the idea came to me while waiting to play tennis on a Saturday morning, and Al — who typically worked 7-day a week — liked the idea so much he said I should play tennis more often.]

Now that I have had a chance to look at the relevant NYS law and FTC regulation, I realize that many of the dozen dealerships I stopped at last week were in blatant violation of the rules for displaying the warranty information. I am not going to discuss that problem, but hope the NYS Attorney General’s office will start monitoring compliance more closely.

New York State has a Used Car Lemon Law Consumer Bill of Rights (General Business Law, section 198-b. Sale or Lease of Used Motor Vehicles). Under the Bill of Rights, a consumer must be given a written warranty, covering a list of specific systems and items, if he or she purchases or leases a used car sold for (or valued in the lease at) “more than one thousand five hundred dollars . . . from anyone selling or leasing three or more used cars a year.” In addition (emphasis added):

b. Written Warranty required; terms.

1. No dealer shall sell or lease a used motor vehicle to a consumer without giving the consumer a written warranty which shall at minimum apply for the following terms:

(a) If the used motor vehicle has thirty-six thousand miles or less, the warranty shall be at minimum ninety days or four thousand miles, whichever comes first.

(b) If the used motor vehicle has more than thirty-six thousand miles, but less than eighty thousand miles, the warranty shall be at minimum sixty days or three thousand miles, whichever comes first.

(c) If the used motor vehicle has eighty thousand miles or more but no more than one hundred thousand miles, the warranty shall be at a minimum thirty days or one thousand miles, whichever comes first.

See the New York State New Car Lemon Law Consumer Bill of Rights (PDF)

Despite the clear statutory language indicating that the law mandates minimum periods for the required warranty (depending on the vehicle’s mileage), and not a maximum or immutable warranty term, every salesman I asked about the length of the warranty immediately used the non-statutory phrase “standard warranty,” and most added a few garbled words that indicated that the State set the terms, and appeared to blame the state for the lack of a longer period.

At one new-car dealer, a young salesman was (or acted) totally befuddled at the notion that a warranty could be extended beyond the statutory period. The notion was so foreign to him, you would have thought I had asked him to throw in his first-born son, or the dealer’s cute daughter (who appears in their tv ads). He finally said he was certain the dealership — which obviously had its own large service department — would not consider making the warranty longer (which was only 30 days on the vehicle in question). Not even worth walking over to his supervisor to broach the subject.

Raising the “standard warranty” flag is meant to cut off the discussion of warranty periods. But, for many wary, mechanically-challenged consumers, the length of the warranty can be very important. It is an indication of the dealer’s faith in the condition of the vehicle, or willingness to back up words with deeds. As such, it seems to me that at least some dealers should be willing to compete — if not in ads, then to close or sweeten a particular deal — by offering more than the rather short statutory minimum terms. That is especially true if the dealer “self-insures” by performing any needed repairs itself. As with lawyers and real estate agents, however, the Standard Ploy appears to also signal to other sellers that no competition will break out over that aspect of the sale.

My life-long belief as a consumer advocate is that information and options fuel competition and help assure that consumers can achieve fair results in the marketplace. Not knowing that the required State warranty is a minimum requirement greatly hampers the ability of the consumer to bargain for longer coverage and to motive dealers to compete over warranty terms. Unfortunately, the New York State Attorney General — who enforces the law and is the prime source of educational materials on the subject — shoulders a large amount of the blame for the lack of information and the resulting dealer-based misinformation.

For example, the NYS Used Car Lemon Law Fact Sheet does not mention anywhere that the warranty periods are minimums. Indeed, it compounds the problem, fueling the Standard-Statutory-Ploy by showing the following table, which is labelled “Statutory Warranty Length:”

Statutory Warranty Length:

Miles of Operation Duration of Warranty

18,001-36,000 miles 90 days or 4,000 miles
36,001-79,999 miles 60 days or 3,000 miles
80,000-100,000 miles 30 days or 1,000 miles

In addition, the booklet New York’s Used Car Lemon Law: A Guide for Consumers (revised January 2008) does not mention the length of the warranty until page 4, and does not use the statute’s “at minimum” language, or say anything at that point about it being the shortest period permitted:


Miles at time of Duration of
Purchase or Lease Warranty (the earlier of):
_______________ _______________
18,001 to 36,000 90 days or 4,000 miles
36,001 to 79,999 60 days or 3,000 miles
80,000 to 100,000 30 days or 1,000 miles

It is not until page 6 of the Consumers Guide that we see this question and answer:


Yes. A dealer may agree, as part of the sale or lease, to give you more warranty protection than the law requires. The lemon law warranty sets only minimum obligations for dealers.

Those two sentences are the only mention in this 36-page document of the dealer’s ability to “give” or agree to a longer warranty period. Nowhere is the consumer directly told of his or her right to ask or bargain for a longer period.

Indeed, although the actual Used Car Lemon Law Bill of Rights specifically says that the “warranty must be provided for at least” 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on the mileage, it appears that many dealers — in violation of the law’s requirement [subsection e] — do not give a copy of the Warranty, with the Bill of Rights, to the buyer “at or before the time the consumer signs the sales or lease contract for the used motor vehicle.” Instead, dealers — including the one that I bought my car from this week — wait until the car is being delivered to the buyer to provide those documents.

In its literature about its Used Car Buyers Guide — which must be posted in every used car sold by any dealer selling five or more vehicles a year — the Federal Trade Commission does a better job highlighting the ability of consumers to bargain for a longer warranty. For example, in its “Facts for Consumers: Buying a Used Car” [PDF] [en español], the Commission says:

“When you buy a used car from a dealer, get the original Buyers Guide that was posted in the vehicle, or a copy. The Guide must reflect any negotiated changes in warranty coverage.” And,

“Dealers who offer a written warranty must complete the warranty section of the Buyers Guide. Because terms and conditions vary, it may be useful to compare and negotiate coverage.”

Unlike New York, the FTC also provides “A Dealer’s Guide to the Used Car Rule.” The Dealers Guide includes this section, which clearly anticipates bargaining with the consumer over warranty terms:

Where Should Negotiated Warranty Changes Be Included?

If you and the consumer negotiate changes in the warranty, the Buyers Guide must reflect the changes. For example, if you offer to cover 50 percent of the cost of parts and labor for certain repairs, but agree to cover 100 percent of the cost of parts and labor after negotiating with the customer, you must cross out the “50 percent” disclosure and write in “100 percent.”

Having had no luck at all getting personal injury lawyers to drop the use of a standard contingency fee, I have no great hope that used car dealers and their sales personnel will drop the “standard warranty” language, stop acting as if the State prevents them from offering longer periods, and/or let consumers know that they are willing to bargain over the length of a warranty. I do hope, however, that this posting — plus the nudge I will be sending to New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, and to a few media outlets — will help inform the used car buyer of the option to bargain over warranty terms. If a new wave of competition breaks out, please let the f/k/a Gang know.

Meanwhile, I have no option but to offer our readers a few auto-related haiku and senryu:

checking the driver
as I pass a car
just like mine

……………………. by John Stevenson from Some of the Silence

cloud-free dawn . . .
the dent in the fender
holds its darkness

……. by George Swede in “dust of summers: RMA 2007
orig. pub. Acorn 18

pickup g

traffic jam
a plastic dog
keeps on nodding

……………. Yu ChangUpstate Dim Sum ((2002/I)

mud-spattered pickup-
four dogs watch
the tavern door

…………. Billie WilsonThe Heron’s Nest (Feb. 2001)

first date –
her eyes linger
on the rusted fender

…………….. by dagosan

May 29, 2008

our haiga calendars for June 2008

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 1:00 pm

June is almost here, and the procrastinating f/k/a Gang has taken time off from preparing a serious posting to help you get organized (and inspired) for the coming month. Below are sample calendar pages from both of our 2008 haiga calendars — the artsy Giacalone Bros. Haiga Calendar 2008 and the nostalgic fka Haiga Memories Calendar 2008. (See our prior post from last December for descriptions and links. Haiga are pictures combined with a subtly-linked haiku or similar poem).

Just click on the sample calendar pages below to go to a printable full-size version. A link is also provided to a larger version of each of the original haiga used for the calendar.

– from the 2008 Giacalone Haiga Calendar

[full-sized printable version]

drawn butter
and chardonnay —
he sets the trap

. . . Poem: David Giacalone
. . . Photo: Arthur Giacalone

. . see it in . .

– – see the original haiga here; and in grayscale at Magnapoets JF

And, from the 2008 f/k/a Haiga Memories Calendar

[full-sized printable version]

fine print on her t-shirt
she glares at me
for squinting

. . . Poem: David Giacalone
. . . Photo: Mama G. (1950)

– see the original haiga here and at Magnapoets JF

p.s. Yes, that is Your Editor on his first birthday in the above photograph, which was apparently taken before our county had a Child Protective Services unit.

May 28, 2008

baseball haiku recap and update

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 5:52 pm

It’s the second season for last year’s MVPoetry volume Baseball Haiku (Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura, eds., W.W. Norton Press, 2007). The book contains over 200 of the best haiku written about baseball, by 44 poets (both American and Japanese). In a starred review at its release, Library Journal said:

“Not one of those parody collections, this is a gathering of elegantly observed moments capturing the interplay between baseball and the other seasons . . . This collection will inspire some ball fans to be poets and some poets to be ballplayers.”

That reviewer was correct. This past year, I’ve often used the book as a gift for relatives and friends who love baseball, but were not yet haiku fans. They have been consistently pleased. Learn more about the book, and read or hear some of the poems, but checking out the segment of National Public Radio’s All Thing’s Considered titled “Spring Signals the Return of Baseball (Haiku)” (Debbie Elliott, March 31, 2007; Listen).

infielderG If you’d like to see or re-read more samples, f/k/a has frequently shared poems from Baseball Haiku written by our Honored Guest poets — e.g., here, there, and here. And see our post “npr spotlights Baseball Haiku” (March 31, 207)

What I wanted to tell you today is that Baseball Haiku has continued to get favorable attention this season. In addition to a review last Sunday in Poet’s Corner (Washington Post Book Review section, May 25, 2008), Sheila Lennon — “features & interactive producer of projo.com, the Web site of The Providence (R.I.) Journal” — featured the book this morning, in a Subterranean Homepage News weblog posting titled “Try your hand at baseball haiku” (May 28, 2008).

update (June 5, 2008): I discovered another favorable article on Baseball Haiku. It is the Japan Times review by David Burleigh, “Who says there’s no poetry in a game?” (May 11, 2008).

BaseballHaikuCover Meanwhile, haiku poet Curtis Dunlap reminded us over the weekend, at his Tobacco Road weblog, that Baseball Haiku will be featured at the Chautauqua Institution, on June 26, 2008, at 3:30 P.M. At the Chautauqua Roundtable, editor-poet Cor van den Heuvel, will be joined by two of the largest contributors to Baseball Haiku — “our” Ed Markowski, and Al Pizzarelli. After Cor discusses haiku, and baseball, all three will read their baseball haiku and senryu, and then answer questions.

We told you about the Chautauqua Roundtable event last November. But, it’s now only four weeks away, and the f/k/a Gang — which plans to be there, in the lovely Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, on June 26 — would love to see a few of our readers and friends attend. The Chautauqua theme that week is Sport in America. Click that link to see the full schedule for week #1 of the Chautauqua season. Here’s how the week is described at the CI website:

• Week 1 June 21-28 – Sport in America

Roger Goodell, long-time Chautauquan and commissioner of the National Football League, will be among the featured lecturers in Week One. Sport looms large in the American culture, whether from an economic perspective or through the lens of its impact on our lifestyles and customs. Fun, competitive, entertaining? Yes. But big business too. Some estimates tag the sports business industry in the U.S. at over $300 billion annually. From youth and amateur athletics to college sports to the pros, we will examine the economics and the impact of sports on our cities, our youth, education, and culture. We will look at Title 9, the influence of television and escalating salaries, and the future of Olympic sports. And we will explore whether the interest of the general fan has been eclipsed by big money.

update (June 29, 2008): Read about the event in “Chautauqua grand slam” (June 28, 2008) .

BaseballHaikuCover Here are a few of the poems from Baseball Haiku that we posted last March, in a post about multitasking and distractions:

bases loaded
the rookie pitcher
blows a bubble

late innings infielderG
the shortstop backpedals
into fireflies

…………………………by ed markowski from Baseball Haiku (2007) “bases loaded” – orig. pub. Haiku Sun #10 (2004)

geese flying north
the pitcher stops his windup
to watch

hot day baseballDiamond
listening to the ball game
while washing the car

…………………………. by Cor van den Heuvel – Baseball Haiku (2007), orig pub. Play Ball (Red Moon Press 1999)

Speaking of distractions and non sequiturs: Tomorrow, May 29, 2008, marks the 5th Anniversary of our very first substantive posting at this website.

Back then, there was no haiku at f/k/a, which was originally known as ethicalEsq — see our URL for proof. That post dealt with the nation’s inadequate system of lawyer discipline (“D for Discipline“). The next few had to do with excessive lawyer fees. We’ve spread our topical wings since then.

Since wood is the traditional gift for one’s 5th Anniversary, please feel free to leave us haiku or senryu that include that subject (no woody jokes, please, this is usually a family website).

last day of school . . .
the crack of a bat
through an open window

…………by Randy Brooks – Baseball Haiku (2007)

tied in the ninth
pitcher and batter
cross themselves

…………. by dagosan

would an educated public improve judicial elections?

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 10:21 am

Agreeing with Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice weblog is never much fun. On the other hand, I never like disagreeing with Anne Skove of Court-o-rama (especially since she recently featured f/k/a as Blog of the Week). Nonetheless, Scott was absolutely correct in his May 24th posting “Is Voter Education the Answer for Judges?,” in which he shows a healthy skepticism over the following recommendation from Anne, in her post “Judicial Selection Town Hall Meeting: The Wrap-Up” (May 22, 2008), on how to improve judicial elections:

Voter education (indeed, this was the one solution that everyone in the room felt strongly about, though this being a League of Women Voters event, we were preaching to the choir)

Scott says he’s always been disturbed by the voter-education suggestion. In his usual insightful and spritely manner, he tells us why. In sum:

ooh neg “Educating the voters on the background of judges sounds as if it would provide plenty of meaningful information upon which the public could then vote with some legitimate basis. The problem is that it doesn’t. The judicial candidates can’t campaign based on how many defendants they plan to lock up, or how they hate plaintiffs in personal injury cases and plan to keep verdicts low. They can’t opine at all about how they would rule if elected, as that would be a flagrant violation of ethics.

“So we’re left with information that gives the appearance of being meaningful without offering any true insight at all.”

Scott offers more analysis and examples, and then has an informative discussion with Anne in the Comment section of his posting.

tiny check The f/k/a Gang has long supported having a well-structured appointment process (perhaps with term limits) over using elections to choose judges. See, e.g., our prior post, where we quote from Tom Kirkendall at Houston’s Clear Thinkers, who decries the Texas system for selecting judges — elections — as utterly unsupportable. Tom is, however, probably correct, when he notes that “Only a politician who is more interested in maintaining power than in improving the administration of justice would support the current flawed system” — and that reform is unlikely.

Scott noted that Anne’s group came up with the following qualifications for a good judge: “knowledge, experience, morals, impartiality, apolitical-ness, and following the law.” Similarly, in his Law Day remarks in 2005, Ken Standard, the President of the New York State Bar Association, said “We ask those who nominate, appoint or approve judges to select only the competent, the diligent, the even-tempered and fair minded.”

Call me an elitist, but judicial appointment committees — made up of serious, knowledgeable people who are willing to do their homework in vetting the candidates — seem far more likely to make good choices than party chairman and the electorate. A list of acceptable candidates then goes to responsible elected officials for nomination and confirmation.

When it comes to judicial elections, most people either Vote with Their Feet (they don’t show up to vote or don’t bother to pull a lever); or vote knowing virtually nothing about the candidates; or — far too often — vote based on their easily-manipulated viscera and prejudices. Judicial elections simply do not work well, and there seems to be little hope that a “public education” process would significantly improve the outcome.

Adam Liptak’s article over the weekend in the New York Times offers a recent example of the problems that come with having elected judges: “Rendering Justice, With One Eye on Re-election” (May 25, 2008).

For an excellent fictional account of what can go wrong (and really does happen) in judicial elections, you should read John Grisham’s latest novel, The Appeal (Doubleday, 2008). It’s the story of the buying of a seat on a state Supreme Court by interests wanting to put an end to large damage awards for injured plaintiffs. From unwarranted tarring of a supposedly “liberal” justice, to bringing in enormous amounts of out-of-state money (as well as out-of-state litigants who raise the gay marriage issue with a lawsuit), “There’s a lot of truth in this story,” according to Grisham. He says that “As long as private money is allowed in judicial elections we will see competing interests fight for seats on the bench.”

And see “Grisham’s ‘Appeal’ rules harshly on bought elections” (USAToday, Jan. 28, 2008). As the Los Angeles Times opined (Jan. 29, 2008):

“[I]n this presidential election year, [The Appeal is] a far more blunt, accurate and plain-spoken indictment of our contemporary political system’s real failings than you’re likely to find anywhere on the nonfiction lists.”

On the other hand, if you prefer a humorous look at a fictional judge, Prof. Yabut suggests reading Stuart Levine’s “Kill All the Lawyers: a Solomon vs. Lord Novel” (Bantam, 2006.). Levine’s description of the Honorable Alvin Elias Schwartz is close enough to reality to make a few judges and lawyers squirm:

“Judge Schwartz was propped on two pillows, either because his hemorrhoids were flaring up or because, at five foot three, he couldn’t see over the bench. Known as King of the Curmudgeons when he was younger, his disposition had gotten even worse with age. He now had the title of “senior judge,” meaning he was somewhere between Medicare and the mortuary. No longer permitted to preside over trials because of lousy hearing, a weak bladder, and chronic flatulence, he nonetheless handled bail hearings, motions, and arraignments.”

For haiku based on talent rather than cronyism, you can always count on f/k/a. Here are a trio from friend John Stevenson, from the latest edition of Upstate Dim Sum:

favorite cashier
i have brought
exact change

tumbler of water
the rainbow ends
in a handful of pills

slight pressure
of her hand
the stars brighten

…. by John StevensonUpstate Dim Sum (Vol. 2008/1)

May 25, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 8:17 am

window There are times when the f/k/a Gang feels guilty about repeating or cannibalizing an old posting. But, not when it comes to Memorial Day, when we gladly sacrifice novelty to recall again the sacrifices that have been made by our armed forces since the 18th Century. You will find more Memorial Day-related haiku and senryu here and there.

….. by dagosan – dagosan’s haiku diary (May 26, 2008)

Memorial Day-
overwintered in the sandbox
toy soldiers

……….. by Tom Clausen

long after
the fireworks
a shooting star


old tombstone
losing its name
faint first star

mourners and bare trees

cometB ……. by George Swede
“long after” – Almost Unseen (2000)
“old tombstone” – The Heron’s Nest
“burial” – The Heron’s Nest (June 2005)

photo-haiga originally posted at MagnaPoets – Japanese Form (May 28, 2007 )

taps’ last echo –
the vietnam protestor
wipes a tear

photo: Arthur Giacalone
poem: David Giacalone

Memorial Day
he wears
his son’s dog tag

…….. by Hilary Tann – MagnaPoets; and Upstate Dim Sum (2005/II)

the parade ends
at the shopping mall –
memorial day

………. by dagosan – Magnapoets

p.s. A year ago, Blawg Review #110, honored our war dead and spotlighted lawyer weblogs that did the same. This year, expect a similar focus in Blawg Review #161, which will be hosted by Stephen at Patent Baristas.

update (May 27, 2008): Stephen Albainy-Jenei indeed brewed up a patently impressive Blawg Review #161 today — both honoring Memorial Day and memorializing the best blawg posting of the past week.

Don’t forget: Drive 55 this Weekend:

May 24, 2008

synecdoche & schenectady (and serendipity)

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 3:36 pm

A headline in the print edition of this morning’s Schenectady Daily Gazette got me thinking about the words “synecdoche” and “Schenectady” (and, eventually, serendipity). The Gazette headline was “Kaufman’s debut as director plays off name of Schenectady: ‘Synecdoche, N.Y.’ screened at Cannes Film Festival” (May 24, 2008). The Associated Press article by David Germain is running under various headlines across the nation and world, typically “`Malkovich’ writer Kaufman makes directing debut” (May 23 & 24, 2008). The online version of our other local newspaper, the Albany Times Union, today captioned the AP story ‘Synecdoche’ has some local ties.”

Synecdoche, New York” Cast at Cannes [Lionel Cironneau /AP] From left, British actress Samantha Morton, American actors Michelle Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener. For more on the movie, see the May 23rd Cannes Festival Clip of the Day, which features the film; and its Cannes Festival details/synopsis page.

The Cannes Synopsis: says the main character Caden Cotard (who directs plays) is worried about the transience of life, and directs his cast “in a celebration of the mundane.” Thoughts of transience and the importance of everyday occurrences and objects are also celebrated in haiku, of course, but the movie probably has no particular attraction otherwise for haiku lovers such as myself, beyond our natural intellectual curiosity. On the other hand, reviewer Wendy Ide, in The Independent, notes that “At times it feels more like a suicide note than a movie.” So, maybe it will appeal to the haiku crowd that likes “Japanese Death Poems.” (examples at Salon.com)

For now, not having seen the movie, I’m going to stick to the words synecdoche and Schenectady, etc.

The City of Schenectady, NY, plays a part in the movie, because the main character lives in Schenectady as the movie opens (see the Cannes Synopsis; and see reviews at the Cinematical weblog, and Times Online and The Independent). It is possible that the character’s bleak life and struggle to find meaning also mirrors the fortunes of the struggling City of Schenectady, which was the once-thriving home of GE. Of course, Schenectady may also play a part merely because Kaufman was looking for a title that plays off his synecdoche theme.

The word synecdoche means “substituting a more inclusive term for a less inclusive one or vice versa.” As the American Heritage Dictionary explains, giving examples:

synecdoche: n. A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword). [read its etymology here;]

It would be great if lots of people get to know the synecdoche concept, thanks to this movie — particularly, if it gets them to think about why we choose to use a particular word in a particular situation, instead of a more precise word or phrase. So far, that does not seem to be what is happening. The emphasis has been on the much more superficial issue of how to pronounce the word. This being a holiday weekend, I’m going to stick with superficiality.

According to the AP, the director and cast were flooded with questions at Cannes about the film’s themes and its title — especially how to pronounce it. Director-screenwriter Charlie Kaufman said that with Synecdoche, NY, “People will learn to pronounce another word, and that’s always good, right?” Judging from the reaction in the media and in cyberspace, that outcome might not be as easy as Kaufman thinks. For example:

  • At the Canadian media giant Macleans, Brian D Johnson’s piece is titled “Can you pronounce ‘Synecdoche’?” — but he never offers an opinion on how to say the word.
  • Meanwhile, in her film review “Synedoche, New York” at The Independent, Wendy Ide says “Synecdoche, New York is a defiantly uncommercial movie – it’s infuriatingly enigmatic, philosophical and nobody knows how to pronounce the title.”
  • Seeing the problem, at snarckerati, Kirsten Anderson wrote “Say What? Synecdoche” (May 23, 2008), and has a lengthy piece on the meaning and pronunciation of synecdoche.

The Playlist went even further to prove the difficulty in saying the word synecdoche. In “Cannes: You’re Not The Only One Who Has No Clue How To Pronounce The Title Of Charlie Kaufman’s New Movie” (May 21, 2008), the weblog’s Rodrigo Perez laments:

It’s called “Synecdoche New York,” but no one, including everyone at the current Cannes Film Festival knows how to pronounce it (see video below). It sounds silly, but you know if they keep that title it will be a hurdle for audiences . . . “

After looking closely at the title and its connection to Schenectady, The Playlist concludes: “Intellectually playful to be sure, but not exactly all-inclusive cinema. We hate to be the first to heavily imply, ‘hey, Kaufman, change the film title,” but just sayin’… I mean, we are in a recession, right? Buyers are nervous.” To prove the point, Playlist says:

Watch the YouTube clip: No One Knows How To Pronounce The Title Of Charlie Kaufman’s New Movie

Does Charlie Kaufman help us to pronounce his title? Kaufman told the press at the 61st annual Cannes film festival that:

“The key is also that it sounds like Schenectady, which is the city that it’s a play on. So if you know how to pronounce Schenectady, then you just take out the `kuh.”

Now, I’m no expert in the pronunciation of “synecdoche,” but I do know how to pronounce Schenectady, where I have lived for 20 years. One thing I know for sure: Taking the “kuh” out of Schenectady does not get you the pronunciation of synecdoche. We’ve gotten pretty bad in blurring the sound of lots of our vowels, and Schenectadians have the strange habit of splitting a word so that the last syllable no longer starts with a consonant (e.g., saying “splitt-ing,” instead of “split-ting”). But, we’re not yet equating the sound of “doche” with “tady,” and how to say “-doche” is not all that obvious.

YourDictionary.com shows (skə nektə dē) as the pronunciation of the word Schenectady (which comes from a Mohawk Indian word meaning “on the other side of the pines?). The American Heritage Dictionarys entry for Schenectady concurs:

SYLLABICATION: Sche·nec·ta·dy

As I always tell people who wonder how to say or spell Schenectady, “It sounds just like it looks, and spells just like it sounds.” I can’t quite say that for synecdoche.

Nevertheless, the film’s star Hoffman did a better job than Kaufman explaining the pronunciation of synecdoche. According to the AP story:

“`Sin-NEK-doh-kee,'” Hoffman said. “Once you know it, it’s hard to forget it, actually.”

Maybe the AP reporter transcribed Hoffman’s words incorrectly, but I wonder just why the word is pronounced as if it had two n’s in a row in it — ending its first syllable and beginning its second. I therefore decided to look elsewhere for the definitive pronounciation (in American English) of the word synecdoche.

  • Playlist tells us: “BTW, It’s pronounced sin-eck-duh-kee, kind of like Schenectady. A synecdoche (si-nek-duh-kee) is “a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, as in ’50 head of cattle’ for 50 cows.” [Note: two different pronunciations in two successive sentences.]
  • In a Reuters/Yahoo piece, “Kaufman defies convention with ‘Synecdoche’“, Bob Tourtellotte explains: “New York is the easy part. Synecdoche, for the record, is pronounced “sin-ek-duh-kee” with the accent on “ek,” and people familiar with the U.S. town of Schenectady, New York, should have little trouble saying it. The rest might need help.”
  • Dr. Goodword — at alpha Dictionary — says “synecdoche (no, not Schenectady)” is pronounced “si-nek-dê-kee.”

They don’t really clarify the issue for me. What about our major dictionaries?

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition. 2000) tells us:

SYLLABICATION: syn·ec·do·che


Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary says
Main Entry: syn·ec·do·che Listen to the pronunciation of synecdoche
Pronunciation: \sə-ˈnek-də-(ˌ)kē\

That’s confusing to a non-lexicographer like myself, even looking at a pronunciation key. Beyond the arcane symbols, why doesn’t the pronunciation jibe with the syllable break?

Something tells me, we better listen to the word synecdoche being pronounced, if we really want to master the sound of the word. Try

I hope this helps anyone who wanted to lean how to say the words synecdoche or Schenectady. Somehow, I can’t explain why I was willing to spend so many hours of a beautiful holiday Saturday writing this piece. Talk about a bleak life in Schenectady.

Where’s the Serendipity, you ask? My reward, if any, surely includes the serendipitous discovery of a woman who combined the words Schenectady and Synecdoche online several years ago.

It’s Rebecca Moore Howard, an associate professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University. In addition to hosting a Dictionary and Scrabble Word Find, Prof. Howard is proprietor of the weblog Upstate, which has the tagline: The Blog Formerly and Fetchingly Known as Schenectady Synecdoche.

Indeed, the editor of this weblog — which is called f/k/a because our many alter egos kept retiring, revolting, or just changing its name — was amused to discover that Upstate was originally called StepAside. However, from the posting “It’s only temporary! (I think),” on March 11, 2005, until its “fond farewell” on December 8, 2007 — it was dubbed Schenectady Synecdoche, with the tagline: “Concerning authorship, intellectual property, plagiarism, and anything else I feel like talking about.”

It seems that Prof. Howard was having trouble with her webserver in March 2005, when she decided to change its name, and told her readers:

[H]ey, it gives me an excuse to use the blogtitle that I’ve decided is actually a lot cooler than StepAside, anyhow. I do realize that I don’t live in Schenectady, but on the other hand, I’ve spent the night there, so that should count. Nobody was understanding what I meant by “StepAside,” anyhow. In case you’re wondering, it was a play (a rather obscure one, I now realize) on the “senioritis” bloggername: stepping aside is what everybody can’t wait for fossilized senior faculty to do. I like “Schenectady Synecdoche” better (especially since I pirated it from Collin): it means absolutely nothing, but it’s funny as — heck.

By the way, Prof. Howard is co-editor of the recently-published “Pluralizing Plagiarism: Identities, Contexts, Pedagogies” (2008), which has a really cool cover. Since she admits she “pirated” the name Schenectady Synecdoche from someone named Collin, I shall get in touch with Prof. Howard to try to find out where and when Collin used the phrase.

Meanwhile, I have decided to change the category of posts here at f/k/a that deal with Schenectady and Capital Region items from “Schenectady Stuff” to “Schenectady Synecdoche” — since the topics covered are both overinclusive and underinclusive of the concept Schenectady. I’m sure Prof. Howard agrees this is not plagiarism, even if it might fit her definition of piracy.

p.s. If you came for haiku, today, please scroll down our main page, or click on our Guest Poets Index Page. If the spirit moves me, and I find nothing more exciting to do this weekend, I’ll add a few haiku to this postscript tomorrow.

And, please don’t forget to save fuel by driving no more than 55 over the Memorial Day weekend.

May 22, 2008

one lamb’s life: farm to market

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 9:14 am

. . . Lamb No. 2735: birth to burger . . .

There’s a fascinating special story in today’s Albany [NY] Times Union. Written by restaurant critic Steve Barnes, “Farm to market: A lamb’s short life, from country meadow to dinner table” (May 22, 2008) tells the life story of Lamb No. 2735, who was born June 6, 2007. In an interview this morning with radio host Don Weeks, at 810WGY, Steve said he felt that omnivores have a moral obligation to understand where their meat comes from. He stressed that Lamb No. 2735 had as idyllic a life and death as can be expected in this country. There is an online photo gallery, and a separate article about the slaughtering process, which in this instance “strives to be humane.”

Today, at Steve’s Table Hopping weblog, he says:

Times Union photographer Luanne Ferris and I spent 11 months following a lamb from Elihu Farm in Easton, Washington County. We were there the day he was born (when farm owner Mary Pratt was holding him at right), then periodically checked in for almost a year. We watched him grow, followed him to the slaughterhouse, witnessed the butchering, took photos when one of his legs became the centerpiece of a family’s Passover meal, and I ate a spectacular tasting menu featuring the lamb at J.T. Baker’s New Cuisine in Greenwich, which regularly buys Elihu lamb.

On his 9-month birthday, No. 2735 weighed about 120 pounds and was ready to go to market in time for the high demand around Easter and Passover. Barnes notes that he was “still just a pip compared to his father, Max” and explains that Elihu Farm “names its few mature rams, but its hundreds of ewes and lambs must be kept track of by number.”

I learned a lot about the life, death and marketing of lamb from this story. I eat very little red meat, but agree with Steve Barnes that omnivores need to understand how meat gets to their table.

mountain wind
the stillness of a lamb
gathering crows

clearing mist
the white legs
of lambs and goths

winter mountains
the whiteness of water
beside the ewes

…………………………………….. by Matt Morden
“mountain wind” – New Resonance 2
clearing mist” & “winter mountains” – Morden Haiku

late spring walk
flattened grass
where the ewe was sheared

……… by paul m. from called home (Red Moon Press 2006)

cloudless sky
the baaing
of penned sheep

………………. by Carolyn Hall
The Heron’s Nest (Valentine Award 2005, Special Mention)

May 21, 2008

wordless wiseguys

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 8:01 pm

less memory, more wisdom?

Some of my Baby Boomer friends are trying to convince themselves (and me) that yesterday’s New York Times article “Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain” (by Sara Reistad-Long, May 20, 2008) is really good news. It’s the most-emailed NYT article today. But, I’m not convinced that I can stop worrying (as I did here and here and there and there) about all those words that never get off — or anywhere near — the tip of my tongue these days. The article begins:

“When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.

“Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.”

It goes on to say that the increased distractibility older folks often experience “may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.” This “broader attention span” [nice euphemism]:

don't forget “may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. [Lynn] Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.”

To all this optimism and reassurances for the Boomers and Seniors, I want to say:

  • When my mind can’t do things I need it to do, that it used to do very well, approximately when I need it, I believe it’s appropriate to say that my “brainpower is declining.”
  • There is very little that I need to do in my daily life, and very little that most people do in their work lives, that requires “wisdom.”
  • However, there are lots and lots of things that require a good working memory (especially of names and many other nouns), along with the ability to focus without undue distraction.
  • Wisdom — and about 4 bucks — will get you a nice cup of coffee at Starbucks; and
  • [oops, I forgot the really incisive and wise point I meant to make in this last blurb]

he’s utterly given up

your name escapes me
old friend…
blossoming mountain

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

. . . more q.s. quickies . . . qKeyNsKeyN

tip of my tongue?
forgetting the name
of the pretty one, too

………. dagosan

. . . Scott’s Right: Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield asks “Is Same-Sex the New Racism?” (May 18, 2008; via Ruthie in Blawg Review #160) and concludes that the California Supreme Court decided correctly — and with an apt analogy to the former ban on interracial marriages — when it threw out the State’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage. Like myself, Scott fails to see how gays marrying demeans heterosexual marriage. Neither are we persuaded by those who say marriage was meant as a way to protect procreation within families and so must be between a man and a woman. [I wonder: Then why do we let people too old to make babies get married, or those who do not want children?] Scott concludes:

“Opponents of same-sex marriage believe it is immoral. They don’t want their children seeing men kissing men because it offends their heterosexual and religious sensibilities. Frankly, it’s not my thing either. But there’s nothing more rational to it than that.

. . . “So bite the bullet and turn your head away if it bothers you. In time, it will be nothing. We’ve overcome prejudice before, and we will overcome this. It won’t happen quickly, but it will happen eventually. Yes, it is nothing like race, and it is exactly like race. We’re still working on overcoming racial prejudice. We have room to work on homosexual prejudice too.”

See also: The New York Times editorial, “A Victory for Equality and Justice” (May 17, 2008), which begins: “The California Supreme Court brought the United States a step closer to fulfilling its ideals of equality and justice with its momentous 4-to-3 ruling upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

Save Lots of Money & Time: The folks at Mental Floss Magazine have the perfect solution of lost souls who think they want or need to go to law school. It’s Law School in a Box. (via Idealawg) For $12 you get:

  • Law School in 96 Pages: Your Comprehensive Textbook
  • 10 Heroes of the Courtroom Trading Cards
  • 10 “You Be the Judge” Cards
  • A devilishly complicated legal-trivia bar exam
  • A rolled diploma with real Latin words

I wish I had known about Law School in a Box yesterday morning, when I ran into a Probation Officer (no, not my P.O., but someone I often worked with on Family Court cases years ago) at the Schenectady County Office Building. She told me she wanted to retire, but her recent-graduate son says he wants to go to law school. My “tough love” let-him-do-it-himself speech didn’t seem to help much, and the poor woman told me she feared he’d go to law school, delete her retirement nest egg, and then decide law wasn’t for him.

Of course, her son, and you, could simply read Prof. Yabut’s posts “1L of a Decision,” “The Road to L is paved with inattention,” and “Homework for Law School Applicants,” and decide that going to law school is simply not a very good idea (for most sensate homo sapiens).

She Don’t Need No Theme: My aversion to themed editions of Blawg Review is well-known. So, I was thrilled to see that this week’s edition — Blawg Review #160, hosted at Ruthie’s Law by UK Solicitor Mistress Ruthie — is presented without a tedious thematic framework. Instead, you “only” get her unique perspective on lots of the best law-related posts of the past week. (e.g., ) Thanks, Ruthie for proving that when you already have verve and style you don’t need heavy-handed artifices.

mosquitoes and young couples in love in another language

waking in a strange place to a voice not my own

after a night of drinking all the way home downhill

……..[one-liner haiku] by Jim Kacian – Shamrock Haiku Journal Issue # 1

Slate Special on Procrastination:

Okay, I haven’t read it yet, but I really do plan to read all of it really soon; and it certainly is not too late for you to take advantage of the multi-day, multi-article Slate Special Issue on Procrastination, called “Just Don’t Do It” (May 13 – 16, 2008). There must be something you can put off doing, in order to find out why solitaire is so addictive, what advice to give to a Young Procrastinator, whether it’s writer’s block, just where the word procrastination comes from, and lots more (a dozen articles in all).

talking in bed
I forget his name…
second husband

… by Roberta Beary – Shamrock Haiku Journal (Issue 5, 2008)

So, David, did you forget the haiku again? Almost. However, below (and, at the last minute, also sprinkled above) is my first focus on the Irish Haiku Society‘s Shamrock Haiku Journal — after weeks of it slipping my older-but-wiser mind.

From the tip of my tongue and fingers, to you, haiku by f/k/a‘s Honored Guests from Shamrock Haiku Journal:

shallow stream
I wade deeper
into starlight

abandoned mill
the dark water keeps
its secret

… by Roberta Beary – Shamrock Haiku Journal, Issue 5

autumn wind
the patch of blue
scoots southward

… by Laryalee Fraser- Shamrock Haiku Journal, Issue 5 (2008)

autumn illness the white noise of crickets


a wet-black boulder blue december sky

… by Jim Kacian – Shamrock Haiku Journal, Issue 1

pruning the roses –
a red ant attaches itself
to my arm

clear morning
the crack
of an eggshell

opening the door –
the curl of sunset
in a rose

… by Laryalee Fraser – Shamrock Haiku Journal (Issue 3, 2007)

more hammering –
one way and another
April wind

uncertain sky
the edge of a rose petal
curling back

noon sun
above the vineyard –
a cluster of friends

iced in –
the puppet show
slowed by a knot

“Rhapsody in Blue”
fogged windows holding
winter out

… by Peggy Willis Lyles – Shamrock Haiku Journal, Issue 2 (2007)

Say What? Who are you calling Aeolian?? This is a last-minute, but essential, addition to an already lengthy and meandering post. An hour ago, scrolling down the page at the court-o-rama weblog, I discovered, that the mischievously ingenius and generous Anne Skove had featured f/k/a as its Blog of the Week last week(end). You must check out her May 17 post for yourselves, since we’re far too humble to blow our own horn.

Lulled by our “dreamlike atmosphere,” and made dizzy by “a train of thought that would make e.e. proud,” Anne has somehow missed the occasional “screaming headline” that Prof. Yabut sneaks onto our Main Page. She’s also avoided (or is willing to cover up) Your Editor’s cranky side.

.. Frankly, I had no idea what Anne meant by calling us “an aeolian harp among blogs and blawgs.” Thanks to Wikipedia, I just learned that f/k/a has been compared to an ancient, random-sounding instrument left in open windows to catch passing breezes. That’s pretty cool (I think). Many thanks, Anne, for making an old curmudgeon smile.

p.s. The f/k/a Gang has already said (and even more often thought) nice things about court-o-rama, while also enjoying Anne’s recent habit of leaving insightful (inciteful?) comments at our weblog. Although it calls itself, “the least dangerous blog,” it is actually quite dangerous to those who hate learning new things while enjoying themselves. Heck, it’s “about courts,” but really interesting anyway.

the dying dog hears something
i can’t

home forclosure…
a jehova’s witness comes
peddling paradise

St. Patrick’s day…
in our pot
a watery broth

… by Ed Markowski – Shamrock Haiku Journal, Issue 2 (2007)

May 20, 2008

trumping reality with the sexism card

Filed under: viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 4:48 pm

  . . . . . . . .    The recent rash of articles asking whether sexism is the cause of Hillary Clinton’s failure to win the nomination for the presidency has the f/k/a Gang again frustrated by our pledge to avoid political punditry. As the besieged moderator of many weblog alter egos, I’ve decided to present links to a sampling of the materials on sexism and gender in the presidential campaign (with a few excerpts), quote at length below the fold from a particularly good rebuttal to the sexism charge from the Liberal Values Blog, and spend a little time asking what sexism is and isn’t and when playing the sexism card is inappropriate.

Here are links to a few relevant pieces dealing with the sexism/gender issue in the Democratic presidential primary campaign, which were published over the past week:

  • Gender Issue Lives On as Clinton’s Hopes Dim” (New York Times, by Jodi Kantor, May 19, 2008), where Geraldine Ferraro claims Obama is “terribly sexist,” and one Clinton supporter says “Sexism has played a really big role in the race.” In contrast, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, opines that “When people look at the arc of the campaign, it will be seen that being a woman, in the end, was not a detriment and if anything it was a help to her,” and that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is faltering because of “strategic, tactical things that have nothing to do with her being a woman.”
  • [update: May 20th, 10 PM]: “Clinton chastises press for ignoring sexism”  CNN.com, May 20, 2008) Clinton “also said she doesn’t believe racism has played a role in the presidential campaign. But the New York senator said sexist attitudes among voters and members of the media have been a constant detriment to her White House hopes.” [note: She wants the press to take the occasional actions of individual members of the public — e.g., the man with an “Iron My Shirt” sign — as seriously as the purported race-baiting tactics of her own campaign. It is not news that there are some sexists and some racists in America; it is news if a candidate is playing to one of those groups.]
    • update (May 21, 2008): For a serious response to the Sexism Charges, done with a humorous twist, see “My Sexist reasons for not voting for Hillary” (by Ouroboros, at Daily Kos, May 20, 2008). It provides an excellent issue by issue list of reasons why some of us won’t vote for Hillary.
  • WAMC FM, my local public radio station, had a Roundtable segment yesterday, focusing on this week’s (poorly-phrased) question from Time Magazine, “Do women have an obligation to support a serious woman candidate?” You can find an array of answers from listeners in the Comment section of the WAMC Inside weblog.
  • In “Clinton’s supporters decry sexism in campaignHillary1000 weblogger Donna Darko (May 16, 2008), claims “No voting block in my lifetime has been so utterly disrespected, vilified unjustly with accusations of racism, and basically had to endure endless harangues, while the Democratic Party and so called “progressive” coalition has shown more disrespect to women supporting Clinton than the Republican Party, treating Clinton supporters as second class citizens, especially if you happen to be named Hillary Clinton.”
  • The Feminist Divide Over Obama” (Time.com, by Amy Sullivan, May 16, 2008); and “Clinton’s ‘sexism’ dodge” (Boston Globe, by Scot Lehigh, May 16, 2008)
  • Ann Althouse’s post “If Hillary is not to be the first woman President, is there a woman President on the horizon?” (Althouse, May 18, 2008), in which the opinionated law professor exclaims,

“I think people were open to the idea of a woman President, but Hillary Clinton did not suit us. We don’t want someone else like her. We want someone different. For starters, how about a woman who did not build her political career through her husband?”

  • In his column today “The Sisters are Steamed” (May 20, 2008),” Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz says:

“On an emotional level, it’s easy to understand why many female voters feel they’re been robbed. For the first time in their lifetimes, they could see one of their own occupying the Oval Office. And, in the space of a few weeks, that dream began to evaporate.

“Had the contest gone the other way, certainly many African American voters would have felt they had been deprived of a historic chance to elect the first black president.

“But there is a certain degree of identity politics in this narrative, one that the media haven’t been shy about pushing this season. Should all women vote for Hillary because she’s a woman, and assume that men who oppose her are sexist (and women who back Obama are traitors)? Should all African Americans support Obama because of his race and assume that whites who vote against him are racist? Doesn’t that reduce both candidates to one-dimensional symbols and ignore the substance of what they have to say or how they would govern?”

The best succinct rebuttal to charges that sexism will be the cause of Hillary Clinton’s failure to secure the Democratic presidential candidacy can be found in “Sexism and the Clinton Campaign” (Liberal Values Blog, by Ron Chusid, May 17, 2008), where Ron Chusid says:

“I doubt anyone would say that there is no sexism at all, but this is hardly the major factor why Clinton is losing. . . . If Democrats were opposed to a woman president, they wouldn’t have given her this early support. . . . The problem is not that Democrats do not want a woman nominee. They just do not want this woman for reasons having nothing to do with her gender.” At the bottom of this posting [click “more” if you’re reading from our main page], I’ve provided extensive excerpts from Chusid’s piece.

Although his main topic is when racism and other forms of discrimination should be deemed unlawful, Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford offers some relevant thoughts in his recently-published book “The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse” (2008). Prof. Ford notes, for instance that:

[at 32 -33] “The success of the civil rights movement inspired many others to frame their struggles in similar terms. Feminists, gays and lesbians, the disabled, and the elderly are just a few of the groups who have successfully made explicit analogies to the cause of racial justice. . . . At best, these claims seek to extend the priciples underlying civil rights to new situations. At worse, these claims seem to define ‘bigotry’ so broadly that the losing side of almost any social or political conflict can claim to be the victims of racelike bias. Today almost anyone can play the race card by ,making claims of what I’ll call racism by analogy.”

“Chapter Two [of The Race Card] looks at the explosion of racism-by-analogy claims. . . . Because the law often offers little or no redress for garden-variety unfairness, many people are tempted to recast their grievance in terms that the law will recognize: in other words, to play the race card.”

[at 105] “Racism by analogy is both inevitable and problematic. We can’t banish analogy, but we must manage and limit it with attention to the significant distinctions among different forms of discrimination. In the abstract, racism, sexism, religious intolerance, bias against the aged, and contempt for the disabled all involve analogous wrongs — bias, intolerance, bigotry — and call for comparable remedies. But, in practice each involves different policy choices, different trade-offs, and different legal mandates.”

[If you’d like to sample more of this thoughtful, moderate book, see the first chapter here (New York Times, Feb. 6, 2008); and three excerpts from Slate.com.]

Of course, in this modest weblog posting, I’m not trying to figure out when the law should have remedies for sexual discrimination. The much more humble issue here is when, in general, it is appropriate to brand an action or result as sexism, and an individual — or vast sectors of our populace — sexist.

. . What is Sexism? . .

Our first task is asking just what sexism is. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition, 2000) says sexism is “1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women. 2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.”

Wikipedia’s entry on the subject explains further that:

“Sexism is a belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to or more valuable than the other. It is also called male and female chauvinism and can also refer to a hatred or distrust towards the opposite or same sex as a whole (misogyny and misandry), or imposing stereotypes of masculinity on men or femininity on women.

“Sexism refers to any and all systemic differentiations based on the sex of the individuals not based on their individual merits, and is commonly considered to be sex discrimination, which in some forms is illegal in some countries.”

And, a sociology reference site helpfully adds that sexism is:

“Similar to the dynamics of racism. Males are believed to be superior to females and when this belief is put into action it leads to females being treated as objects, the last to be hired, first to be fired, being paid less for equal work, etc.”

With the above definitions in mind, and drawing upon my own understanding of the subject (which has interested me for many decades – and had me “manning” the phones for the Women’s Campaign Fund 30 years ago in D.C.), I believe that sexism does not exist unless the actor/speaker has hatred or contempt for the other gender, or believes that one gender is superior to the other, or is attempting to maintain or impose stereotypes of masculinity on men or femininity on women in order to limit their freedom by restricting the gender to particular roles.

I hope we can all agree on at least a few basics:

  • Every mention of sex or gender, and everything sexual or sexy is not sexism (as Dahlia Lithwick pointed out at Slate.com in 2006, in a disagreement with lawyer feminists over a sexy woman in a clothing ad that appeared in a legal periodical; see our prior post).
  • Every mention of a general gender difference is not sexism. And,
  • Every outcome that is not favorable to a woman is not the product of sexism, nor is every outcome unfavorable to a male.

There are a few more things that seem obvious to me about sexism, the most important of which is that it is far too potent a charge to be made lightly by serious people or those who wish to be considered serious. This suggests to me that:

  • Gender Joshing is not sexism (absent the requisite hatred, superiority complex, or intent to stifle gender freedoms) — not when women kid men about their refusing to ask for directions, flatulence, or preoccupation with certain female body parts; and not when men (who, by the way, bond with their equals and friends through banter and kidding and poking fun) playfully mention stereotypes about parallel parking or periodic crankiness of women, or the like.
  • The gender-related rudeness, crudeness, or insecurities of a small minority of persons — much less their inadvertent lapse into jargon or turns-of-phrase that a minority of the other gender consider insulting, condescending or antiquated — should not be used to besmirch the actions of a much-broader group of people.
  • If similar behavior has been aimed at, or could be expected, when the other gender is in a similar situation, claiming sexism is rarely called for. [Thus, in reference to complaints about the current primary campaign, note that John Edwards has been ridiculed for his pretty face and hair; Al Gore’s clothing got a lot of attention in 2000; males seeking the presidency have had their tears, ears, height and weight, and the timbre of their voices scrutinized and ridiculed; and Dennis Kucinich or Bill Richardson would surely have been urged to leave the race by now, if they were in second-place in the delegate count (with no real chance of catching up sans scandal), or appeared to be hurting the frontrunner’s election chances with their campaign tactics.]

In sum, absent indications of hate, or superiority, or freedom-limiting stereotyping, it makes little sense to play the sexism card. That is especially true when people of good faith have indicated significant non-gender reasons for their actions; and when a reasonable person would have expected similar behavior if someone of the other gender had been involved. As I have stated before at this weblog:

Those who worry about the continuation of old stereotypes need to pay very close attention to the new stereotypes they may be creating by their actions and positions. Being seen as thin-skinned, humorless proponents of iffy legal analysis and bad attitudes is scarcely the way to win over the hearts or the minds of those who might still want to perpetuate the unwarranted stereotypes. Indeed, it might just lose you a few allies or make them wary to come to your assistance every time you “cry wolf.” Even the most open-minded and fair people can find it rather difficult to think of whiners [sore losers or spoilers] as equals.

maleSym femaleSym All this breathless punditry needs a bit of offsetting one-breath poetry, don’t you think? Here are a few senryu by members of our f/k/a family of haiku poets:

another argument unfolds the futon

………………. by W.F. Owen – Frogpond; Bottle Rockets

at the height
of the argument the old couple
pour each other tea

……… by George Swede – Almost Unseen (2000)

through the open door . . .
her smile doesn’t forgive
all my sins

. . . . by Randy Brooks – School’s Out (1999) doorFront

it’s pink! it’s purple!
sunset inspires

more bickering

………… by david giacalone – Frogpond Vol. XXVIII, #2 (2005); also, a haiga incorporating this poem

doorFrontN screen door between angry words

. . . . by Tom Painting – A New Resonance 2 & Frogpond XXI:1

sua sponte
her honor
catches me staring

. . . by dagosan

Finally, as promised above, here are major excerpts from “Sexism and the Clinton Campaign” (Liberal Values Blog, May 17, 2008), by Ron Chusid:

May 18, 2008

opening Dr. Bill’s notebook

Filed under: Book Reviews,haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 1:01 pm

w.f. owen’s haiku notebook . . .
. . . . the book and the weblog . . . .

My chronic fascination with the “search strings” that bring Googlers (and Yahoo!’s) to this website paid off big a couple days ago, when I noticed that someone had visited us after Googling /haiku professor bald/. Our Search Engine Visitor found George Swede’s classic senryu here at f/k/a:

as the professor speaks
only his bald spot
is illuminated

…. by George Swede from Almost Unseen: Selected Haiku of George Swede

What I discovered by following a nearby Google link was this one-line haiku:

spring moon from the balcony a bald head

haiku notebook blog (March 28, 2008)

and, a cure for the frequent lament that “I never have enough new haiku by w.f. — Dr. Bill — owen.” That’s because “spring moon . . .” was located at a weblog called “haiku notebook by w. f. owen,” and the site is described as:

“[A]n extension of the ideas presented in my book (haiku notebookLulu.com, 2007). It is intended to be a forum for discussing haiku and haibun. My hope as an educator is to stimulate interest in writing these forms. So, please feel free to post.”

Like any “family member” who feels forlornly out of the loop, my first thought was the whiny “why I am always the last to know?” But, my very next thought was “yippee! more Dr. Bill for me and you and f/k/a!” There’s at least two points that need to be made about haiku notebook:

  • the the weblog offers a Bill Owen poem virtually every day — and frequently many more than one, with commentary; and
  • the book haiku notebook is 58 pages long, and has a couple hundred haiku and senryu by Dr. Bill, and can be ordered from Lulu.com in hard copy for $15, or downloaded for a mere $3.95. Because the pdf. version is such a bargain — and arrives instantly — I downloaded a book for the first time yesterday and am very glad that I did. Because (unlike many avid and intelligent readers and writers of haiku) I have never really cared to know what a poet had in mind when he or she penned a poem, I have so far merely skimmed the commentary in haiku notebook. For me, it’s the poems that are the prize and this collection is a winner.

Here is a little more information about the book haiku notebook, from the multi-award-winning author:


May 16, 2008

pledge to drive 55: memorial day and more

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 11:40 am

Make the Sierra Club Memorial Day pledge: I can drive 55 [or whatever the speed limit is]

The Sierra Club says:

Memorial Day Weekend is coming and — in spite of gas prices — more Americans than ever are planning to getaway by car. But that doesn’t have to cost as much as you think.

There are lots of ways to save gas (checked your tires lately?) but the easiest and most effective way is to slow down (just a little bit). When you add up the savings, it’s like getting paid to relax.

So before you get behind the wheel for the upcoming holiday, show us what you’re made of. Pledge to Drive 55 (or whatever the speed limit is on the roads you’re traveling) for Memorial Day Weekend. . . .

The Union of Concerned Scientists tells us that dropping from 70 to 60 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 17.2 percent. Dropping from 75 to 55 improves fuel efficiency by 30.6 percent! (3)
Put another way, in a family sedan, every 10 mph you drive over 60 is like paying 54 cents per gallon more for gas you bought at $3.25 a gallon. (4) That extra cost is even higher for big SUVs and other less-efficient vehicles. . . .

When the f/k/a Gang pledged back on April 23rd to drive at the speed limit and to advocate a return to the 55 mph speed limit, we had no idea that the Sierra Club was sponsoring their own 55 Pledge. Of course, we hope you’ll do 55 for Memorial Day weekend and then remember to do it everyday thereafter. (See our full discussion at “post-earth day pledge: speed limits and efficient driving” and get Drive 55 bumper stickers).

broken chords
from the carousel —
a whale off course

amber waves
a tall man demonstrates
the dream

… by Peggy Willis LylesRoadrunner Haiku Journal (May 2008 Issue VIII:2)

empty rooms—
a raven bursts
from the sun
………. by Carolyn Hall – Roadrunner Haiku Journal (May 2008 Issue VIII:2)

first day of spring grey matter clouds

…….. by John Stevenson – – Roadrunner Haiku Journal (May 2008 Issue VIII:2)

your rhythm

… by Lee Gurga – – Roadrunner Haiku Journal (May 2008 Issue VIII:2)

Want more haiku? Even if being a haiku Roadrunner is not always your cup of tea, you can motor over to the brand new edition of Simply Haiku journal using no energy at all — and find haiku, senryu, haiga, haibun, tanka and more.

two selfish old fools vandalize my river

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 9:46 am

Don’t get me wrong: I know well — and firsthand — the joy of seeing the Mohawk River from your own home or backyard. What I do not know is how two men in their 60’s could be so selfish and reckless that they (allegedly) had three hundred trees clear cut — on property owned by the NYS Canal Corporation — in order to improve the view of the Mohawk River from their homes. According to our local news media and police, that is exactly what Brian Gain, 67, and Raymond Tannatta, 63 (of the Schenectady suburb of Niskayuna) did recently in order to improve the view of the River from their Middle Street homes, near the Rexford Bridge. See “Two Arrested for Illegally Cutting Trees” (Fox News 23, May 15, 2008), which includes a before-and-after video clip).

As Fox News 23 reporter Jeff Saperstone told us last night:

“Large, lush trees bordered the Mohawk River coastline last year. Now looking at that same coastline, one man says, “…it’s just empty.”

“. . . . FOX23 News spoke with several concerned neighbors, who did not want to go on camera, but they told us they are very disappointed those trees came down because it ruins this very nice natural landscape. Photos given to FOX23 by those neighbors show a number of trees that no longer stand. In some of the photos you can see bald eagles, red foxes and other creatures that call this place home.

“The fear here is that because there are no trees left on the cliff side, any kind of rainstorm could cause a mudslide of sorts thus filling in the lagoon beneath the cliff.”

[photo of the Mohawk R. at the Schenectady Stockade — about a mile from the Niskayuna despoilation — by D.A. Giacalone, May 2008]

According to Capital News 9, “Gain and Tannatta are charged with third-degree criminal mischief, making a false written statement, along with the violations of illegally cutting trees, causing damage to canal property and occupying canal property without a permit. . . They were issued appearance tickets for the Town of Niskayuna Court on May 28.” Today’s Schenectady Gazette online gives a comprehensive report on the story, in “2 accused of cutting trees on state land” (by Steven Cook, May 16, 2008). The Gazette tells us:

“State police investigated after receiving a complaint about three weeks ago that there were trees in the river. They soon realized the land behind the houses had been clear-cut, with about 300 trees taken down and left where they fell.

. . . . “The people who allegedly did the actual cutting are expected to face environmental conservation law violations for leaving the trees in the river, [State Police Zone Sgt. Mark] Phillips said. They were brought in believing the land belonged to the nearby homeowners.

. . . “If they are found guilty, they could face fines of $250 per tree, Phillips said. That would be in addition to any penalty on a criminal mischief conviction.”

The Gazette article notes that “A judge could also order them to restore the property to its prior state.” The tragedy, of course, is how impossible such a restoration would be (at least in my lifetime). In addition, I believe that damages should be assessed using a multiple many times more than a fine per tree. The overall marring of the landscape and scenery is far greater than the sum of the trees gone.

I wish the Niskayuna Zoning Board could have read Mr. Tannatta’s mind, when it granted his request for a zoning variance (scroll to item #6) to build on the lot at 832 Middle Street in 2005. In the Channel 23 piece, one of Tannatta’s neighbors says, “We are sure our neighbors are good people who just made a selfish choice.” Frankly, I am not quite so sure. Right now, I am too angry at Gain and Tannatta to even attempt to find a haiku or two to end this posting.

If my “neighbors” in the white house across the River from me in Scotia ever get the notion to cut down the trees blocking their view of the Mohawk, they better worry about a citizen’s arrest and a nice lawsuit.

On a cheerier ending note, check out the lovely photos I took earlier this week at the Albany Tulip Fest; they’ve been added at the bottom of our May 9th posting “tulips-R-us.”

May 14, 2008

what brings you to a joint like this?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 4:20 pm

. . . . five years and holding . . .

Time flies (and flees) for the f/k/a Gang, even when we’re not having fun. At the end of this month, this weblog will stumble upon its 5th anniversary. As seems to happen this time every year, all my alter egos — from Prof. Yabut to haikuEsq — are debating the future of this site:

Do we want to continue? And, if so, how often will we be posting and what will the content be (especially now that the Editor says he’s sworn off producing judgmental material in the realms of lawyer ethics and politics)?

Genuine haiku will always be a part of this weblog but, frankly, haiku alone is not enough to keep my interest — I need to be thinking and writing about matters of substance that have value as entertainment or commentary for myself and others.

So, as we “celebrate” producing thousands of substantive posts over five years, I urge our regular readers (and those who might become regulars) to let us know what we’ve been doing — or could be doing — that will keep them coming.

the mime
in our mittens

early Alzheimer’s
she says she’ll have . . .
the usual

……………………………… by John StevensonQuiet Enough (2004)

Meanwhile, the amount of traffic f/k/a gets from Google and Yahoo searches (a couple thousand visits a day) continues to amaze me. It’s good to know that a topic that seems important or interesting (or just enjoyable) to the Editor is liable to be stumbled upon by folks far outside this joint’s circle of denizens, long after the pixels were originally posted. As much as we enjoy the searcher who arrives at f/k/a inadvertently, the purposeful search engine arrival is especially appreciated. They make our frequently laborious attention to detail worth the effort — and, indeed, help explain why we so often include links to our prior (and subsequent) pieces in our posting: to make research and follow-up easier for our valued SEVs (Search Engine Visitors), especially those who might have disagreed with our analysis and conclusions when they first arrived but are willing to dig deeper.

Why am I not surprised? Our April 27th posting “at least they’re upscale nudists” — a tongue-in-cheek response to an NYT article about the new trend in so-called “nakations” — has caused a constant spike of two to three hundred added visitors a day. Our Google placement when “nudists” is searched is amazing and inexplicable. No wonder there is so much sexual innuendo and content during Sweeps Weeks in our media.

Some of our old posts are read virtually every day thanks to pointers from Messrs. Google, Yahoo and Jeeves, and some are read many times a day month after month. The fact that so many people are continually searching a particular topic surely tells us something interesting about what is on/in the mind of the American or global public. But, I’m going to let you draw your own conclusions about the significance of the most frequent search engine queries.

half a glass of wine —
Google keeps asking
“did you mean . . . . .?”

………. dagosan

In no particular order, here are some of the queries that bring SEVs to f/k/a every single day of the year. Those related to “culture” (or Americana) are listed first, and then lawyer-oriented searches. Classic haiku poet Kobayashi Issa, and his translator Prof. David G. Lanoue, assist our presentation.

The meaning of gumbah/goombah. ScaliaGesture

This question has lured SEVs to us again and again since we referred to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a “tasteless gumbah” (after his crude chin-flip gesture in March 2006) and Evan Schaeffer asked just what a goombah is. Our response “goomba-goombah-gumba-gumbah” keeps ’em coming, as does a follow-up relating goombas to gossips. So, whether they’ve just been called one, wonder how to spell it, or are still exploring Soprano lore, goombah seekers end up here, with our post being Google’s first result, and Yahoo!’s, too.

making a face
he turns down the pufferfish soup…
teaching the children

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

And, don’t forget the “agita.” Whether they’re looking for the song by the fictional Nick Apollo Forte (from Broadway Danny Rose), or the definition of the Italiante term, our “what is agita?” has been soothing the tummies and curiosity of Google querists several times a day for the past two years. You can blame Ed at Blawg Review for instigating our lengthy discourse on literal and metaphoric acid indigestion.

in winter wind
a churning, churning
in my belly

lying belly-up
yet still singing…
autumn cicada

walking off
a bellyful of rice cakes…
a cold night

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Gossip is also on the minds of many Googlers. Questions like “Is gossip good or bad” or “why is gossip bad?” bring SEVs here day and night — with search engines pointing to our posting “good gossip, bad gossip” (Nov. 7, 2007). The post delves into the amazing history of the word gossip. [Psst: It’s another topic where f/k/a comes in 1st with both Google and Yahoo! out of millions and millions of results.]

is someone gossiping about me?
spring journey

…………… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Prof. Lanoue tells us: “Shinji Ogawa explains that there is a belief in Japan that when a person sneezes, this indicates that someone is talking about him or her.”

the gossip
her yard fills
with leaves

………. from Tom Painting’s chapbook piano practice

ChurchillMug Brain-Heart-Over-30: A constant favorite at f/k/a is our posting “did Churchill coin that over-30 maxim?” (June 21, 2005). Are conservatives looking to diss liberals, or liberals wondering who started the slur?

a chestnut hit
an old man…
so the legend says

fool cat–
putting his whole body
into his yowl

leisure class– brainG
“Mosquitoes have come!”
they say

………………. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

We don’t know their motives, but we’re happy to set the SEV’s straight, while also offering our up-dated, pictoral 21st Century Version in “political maturation after age 30” (June 22, 2005):

over 50 + heartG + brainG + eyesGL thoughtful liberal

my nights of pleasure
are ancient history…
new summer robe

harvest moon–
when my heart’s had its fill
it’s dawn

I’m the scarecrow’s

…………… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

. . . Parking Tickets and their avoidance are apparently troubling many Americans. Some are wondering (or complaining) about ParkingTicket.com, and find their way to our 2004 posta better fix than parkingticket.com.” In addition, those irked by parking meters can soak up the information in our post “Parking Meters 101.”

steady rain
a pickle
in the parking lot

……. by Tom Clausen

Blue Code: Many Americans are interested in the /blue code of silence/ that often keeps police from reporting the transgressions of fellow officers. Google sends them to our “good cops and the blue code of silence” (Dec. 3, 2007). Are they muck-raking journalists, discouraged civilians, or potential whistleblowers?

the samurai street
perfectly silent
spring’s first dawn

…. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

winter fog
everyone crowds around
the mime

……….. by ed markowski

scarpimp Scarlet Pimpernels: People looking for the words “they seek him here, they seek him there” — which is a verse from the movie The Scarlet Pimpernel — are also stopping by f/k/a every day, as our 2005 posting “they seek him there” is often the #1 Google result for that query. I’m sure at least some of the seekers are surprised at finding the inspiration for their quest.

playing hide-and-seek
in the grass…

seeking sanctuary
with a sigh of relief?
first firefly

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

skaterSignN Treading on thin ice? A lot of folks apparently are, and the #1 result for an MSN, Google or Yahoo! search for /if we’re treading on thin ice/ is our posting “dancin’ on thin ice” (April 22, 2007), where we try to pin down the source of the notion that dancing makes sense, if you’re walking on thin ice. My introduction to the concept was the 1972 song “Do It” by Jesse Winchester, from the LP album “Third Down, 110 to Go.” The line inspired the following haiga (which, in color, adorns the December page of our 2008 Giacalone Haiga Calendar):

round and round with you
on thin ice

…. haiga (full size in full color): poem by David Giacalone
photo by Arthur Giacalone (Central Park, NYC, ice rink, “The Gates”, March, 2005)

55 limit n Speed and Fuel Efficiency: Sometimes, it is very rewarding to see a topic hit the news or prick or national consciousness. We’re especially glad to see how often the issue of fuel efficiency and driving speed is being Googled recently, and that so many SEVs are on clicking on our recent viewpoint positng “speed limits and efficient driving.” Let’s hope opinion leaders and responsible politicians are among those who want to learn more about this topic.

Earth Day –
recycled bottles
in a three-car garage

… by dagosan [April 24, 2005]

toiletpaperG Toilet Paper Checks is another relatively recent but popular topic here at f/k/a, thanks to excellent search engine placement (viz., the 1st result in a Yahoo! search, and second with Google). Granted, this is not our most weighty issue, but our posting on the “toilet paper check story” was a timely and much-needed effort to make up for the blawgisphere’s failure to deal with a topic that is clearly on a lot of minds.

spring equinox –
the toilet paper roll

. . . . . . . . . . . . . by Laryalee FraserSimply Haiku Autumn 2006, vol 4 no 3

BaseballHaikuCover Baseball Haiku are sought every day by fans of baseball and of haiku. Thanks to our f/k/a baseball haiku page, and our frequent discussion and sharing of the book Baseball Haiku (Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura, eds., W.W. Norton Press, April 2007), many of the searchers end up at this website — and, we must confess, find much to enjoy.

the toddler
runs to third base

bases loaded
a full moon clears
the right field fence

. . . by Tom Painting from his chapbook Piano Practice

Sex offender residency issues bring many SEVs to this weblog everyday, making our efforts — we’ve written over 20 posts on the topic — seem worthwhile. That’s especially true because many members of the public and their “leaders” are looking to run SOs out of town on a rail, or ban them from even entering, and we’re happy to give them a little food for thought before they do.

Ill-conceived sex-offender laws make a good transition to the law-and-lawyer-related posts that are most popular with SEVs. Because so much of our analysis of lawyer ethics and professional responsibility issues (especially concerning fees) falls on deaf ears within the legal community, we’re pleased to be here to offer guidance and opinion (or maybe a little hope) for general members of the public interested in related topics — and to an occasional open-minded law student or member of the bar. As we recently noted in another context, Upton Sinclair helps explain much of the deafness of the Bar when it comes to issues of legal ethics:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job [or income] depends on not understanding it.” . . . Upton Sinclair, US novelist, investigative journalist & socialist politician (1878 – 1968)

unaware of the thief’s
eyes, melons
cooling in water

the thief
is just as he is…
hazy moon

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Capoccia1999 [Lawyer-felon] Andrew J. Capoccia: brings a lot of attention to f/k/a, after we gave a lot of attention to him. I don’t know whether our SEVs are seeking debt-reduction relief or were victims of Capoccia’s fraud and avarice, but people querying “Andrew Capoccia” bring a lot of hits to our posting “blame bar counsel for the Capoccia Scandal” (March 8, 2005), and related pieces.

a reed thrush–
chasing the incompetent

those have turned pale blue…
cherry blossoms

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Killing All the Lawyers is on the mind of a lot of people with internet access. Whether they are literary scholars or irked clients, the f/k/a Gang is happy to help them understand Shakespeare’s famous quote from King Henry VI, Part II — with our piece “Shakespeare and Lawyers” — especially since the organized bar has been going out of its way for over a decade now to spread misinformation about what Shakespeare meant (with their delusional propaganda insisting that Shakespeare felt lawyers were the great bulwark against anarchy and revolution).

killing a chicken–
the willow at the gate
so green

it’s a man-killing
mushroom, true…
but pretty!

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Lucky Issa: Apparently he never ran across any lawyers in his lifetime of travel in 18th Century Japan. David Lanoue has translated over 8000 of Issa’s poems at his Issa website, and not one of them — we searched! — mentions a lawyer.

By the way: Looking for an image to use with this blurb, I stumbled upon the novel “Kill All the Lawyers: a Solomon vs. Lord Novel” (Bantam, 2006), from a best-selling mystery series by ex-lawyer Paul Levine. It has great reviews for wit and suspense, and for the gender battles between the two main characters, who are partners in both law and love. Two days later, I saw the book at our public Library’s 3-for-a-dollar used paperback sale and knew I was fated to read it. So far, I’m only a couple dozen pages into the book, but have a feeling that I will become a Solomon & Lord fan. For instance, you gotta like a book that, on page 3, has a 12-year-old telling the lawyer protagonist: “You’re confusing irony and coincidence, Uncle Steve.”

SuaveSN Which reminds me: people Googling /ironic vs. coincidental/ come to f/k/a almost every day, being brought to our irony posse discussion. It’s good to see that this issue isn’t just Prof. Yabut’s pet peeve.

Hourly Billing has been much-maligned in the legal profession during this millennium, and alternatives to it much-praised. Because much of the complaints about hourly billing is undeserved (and self-serving), and takes attention away from the general greed that would cause excessive lawyer fees under any billing system, it is rewarding to see how often SEVs are checking out our posting “broadening the houly-billing debate,” along with our many frank assessments of the value-billing and premium-pricing bandwagons.

cherry blossoms–
residents of this world
a short time

going out to fart
about ten times…
a long night

the bill collector
with shoes on steps inside
to the hearth

……………. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

The ethics of Contingency Fees and Lawyer Fiduciaries are also topics that are too-often ignored by lawyers, but thankfully not search engines. We are thrilled, therefore, that SEVs arrive on our shores daily to read our condemnation of the standard contingency fee — e.g., “contingency fees (part 4 of 4): ethical duties” (April 7, 2006) — and our exhortation to act as fiduciaries when setting fees. E.g, here and there.

for the fat green frog
crouched on the log
time is flies

……………………………….. by George Swede – from Almost Unseen

Bankruptcy and Bar Admission is Googled surprisingly often, and brings visitors to this weblog to read- “Bankruptcy and Bar Admission – a proposal” (Feb. 2, 2004). Let the client (and bar examiner) beware.

at his house
though he’s dirt-poor…
plum blossoms

..…………. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Unhappy Lawyers and lawyer unhappiness ooh

People are constantly looking for Professor/Dean [now federal district] Judge Patrick J. Schiltz’s article,”On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession,” 52 Vand. L. Rev. 871 (81 pp pdf), and Google directs them first to our posting declaring it to be mandatory reading.

night work–
outside the mosquito net
she thinks of her child

…. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

prayingHandsS Examination Prayers — are on the minds and lips of many a Googler. The quest send them morning and night to f/k/a, and our posting “wanted: a law school exam prayer” from December 2005. [Aside: my brief stint as an adjunct professor suggests that it might just be law professors in search of examination prayers.]

even the pigeon
says a prayer

…. by Kobayshi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Finally, in case you’re stuck, along with the f/k/a Gang, inside the “bad-memory century” — see results from Google and Yahoo! searches — we’d like to remind you that the whole Gang is hoping you’ll let us know whether we should retire from “blogging,” or what we might do that would keep you coming back to f/k/a.

Bonus: One thing I plan to do even more of here at f/k/a (if the weblog continues), is bringing you haiku by our Honored Guest poets that are not available online — poetry being published in “hard copy” journals, books and anthologies but not in cyberspace. I want to urge our poet family to continue to send me their off-line work, so we can make it available to a broader audience by posting it at f/k/a.

For example, here are haiku and senryu by Hilary Tann, from the Fall 2007 issue of Upstate Dim Sum, the bi-annual anthology from the Route 9 Haiku Group.

Oakland sojourn –
warm lemons
from the ground

living alone –
the unexpected familiarity of my voice
answering a call

cooking for my parents
I try to remember
what mother taught me

snowy sky –
the arched backs
of milkweed pods

steady rain
street numbers climb
to the 100s

leaving him –
she takes her pebbles
and pressed flowers

Indian summer
algae floats

summer haze
cottonwood dander
on the porch steps

………………………. Hilary Tann from Upstate Dim Sum 2007/II

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