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

December 30, 2008

a sparklingly Savage year

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 11:46 am

.. It’s not even close: Wendy Savage was by far the most popular subject in 2008 at our modest little weblog — attracting thousands of extra visitors a day for many weeks.  See posts such as “Boston’s ‘Beautiful Lawyers Calendar’ is launched” (October 2, 2008) “Wendy Savage Wendy Savage” (Oct. 23, 2008), “lots more Wendy Savage, Esq.” (November 18, 2008).  Wendy graced the f/k/a Gang with a pair of blawg Comments, a few additional photographs, and a series of personal email communications, which allowed this Editor get to know her beyond the fashion-model aura.

The death last week of Eartha Kitt — a woman known originally for her sexiness but respected and treasured worldwide for her talent, allure and spunk — reminded me that I wanted to come back to an issue that our coverage of Wendy raised with some of my most valued friends.  One intelligent and sensitive Baby Boomer female friend chastised me, saying:

“The world does not need more posting of women with low cut dresses calling attention to themselves. Sorry, but that’s just the way I see it.  We get to be human beings , too—women these days are way too sexually objectified constantly.”

.. the calendar photo that started it all . .

My reply at the time was something like: “To me, one of the glories of the human race is that we produce people who can be good, intelligent, talented human beings AND beautiful, and even sexy.”

One of the best things about our current age is that it is possible for a woman to be fully respected — among people with even average levels of EQ — as a human being, and a professional, while being beautiful and sexy.   For over a quarter century, I’ve seen smart, sexy women in important positions, as bosses, managers, colleagues, and partners within the legal professsion (beginning in the late 1970’s at the Federal Trade Commission).  When such a talented professional woman chooses to have a tasteful-but-sexy photo of herself used for a good cause in a fund-raising calendar, I believe it helps the cause of cross-gender appreciation — even if some juvenile males (who shall always be among us) act like jerks when viewing and discussing the photo, or some thin-skinned females choose to be offended or to act catty.  [Note: On a related topic, we opined about neo-puritanism within the legal profession back in 2006, during the flap over a Jiwani ad in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. And see our post on the Fetman Firm Billboard.]

When I raised this topic with Wendy Savage back in November, she replied: “I do think that modern, educated men are able to appreciate that a woman can be smart and beautiful, and they want both in a partner. “

Furthering this discussion (a little), Boston Magazine has opened its new publication year with an article that focuses on Wendy Savage, titled “Counsel Requests the Right to Appeal: Smokin’-hot lawyer Wendy Savage defends her buzzy turn as a pinup” (Boston Magazine, by Alyssa Giacobbe, January 2009).  After noting that Wendy was “by far the most come-hither among the calendar’s 12 male and female models, and thus the only one who’d attract significant attention,” the BM article states:

.. Photograph at Boston Magazine by Jackson Stakeman ..  ..

“Since Beautiful Lawyers was released in October, Savage—2006 graduate of BU School of Law, corporate lawyer, and sometime model—has inspired both a following of oglers and a torrent of criticism on legal blogs for what some consider a risky move for any attorney aiming to be taken seriously, especially a female one. Beneath a post on Above the Law, which shows a picture of Savage in a plunging neckline and calls her “Boston’s version of Joe the Plumber,” the responses go something like this: Wendy Savage can work on my pipe anytime she wants. Or: Her? She’s not that hot. And then, a multipost, Porky’s-esque debate over whether her breasts are real. (Savage declined to comment on such speculation, calling it ‘gutless objectification.’)”

In actuality, Wendy did submit a longer written response to Boston Magazine writer Gioccobe about the authenticity speculation, but they chose not to print it.  According to an email Wendy sent us this morning, she wrote:

2) I am conflicted about responding to the gossip on the blogs. The fact that my “peers” are taking time out of their days to offer such asinine commentary (all anonymously I will note) speaks volumes about their character (or lack thereof, to put it more accurately). I have done my best to avoid those who are driven to such pathetic, gutless objectification – I don’t intend to start engaging them now.

It seems to me to reflect the “dumbing down” effect of the Tucker Max culture.

I have learned firsthand what ad agencies and countless women before me have known for ages — all it takes is a little cleavage to turn some men into driveling babies.

The BM article does get a bit more substantive, stating:

“Coming off an election season that saw an intellectual woman flogged for her appearance and an attractive woman attacked for her lack of depth, Savage is acutely aware of the double standard that female professionals face—and how to maneuver around it. ‘I wouldn’t say my looks have been a big positive in my career, but people tend to underestimate you if you look a certain way,’ she says. ‘I think I’m smarter than I appear. That’s worked to my advantage’.”

Wendy also told Boston Magazine: ‘When I was younger, I cared a lot about what people thought about me, people that I didn’t even know,’ she says. ‘But I’m 28 and feeling like I’m starting to grow up. Doing the calendar was my choice, and I’m proud of it.’

We clearly are not going to resolve the issue of the effects on professional and personal reputation from the publication of sexy (but not trashy nor pornographic) photographs of lawyers and other women (or men).  When I’ve thought about this and similar topics over the years, I’ve tried to figure out how or why sexiness is any different from all the other attributes that we use to judge/treat/value other human beings, many of which are simply genetic accidents (e.g., intelligence, height, wealth, power, fame, charisma).  I’ve also wondered how and whether to distinguish situations where the individual freely chooses to be judged by or to utilize a particular attribute.   It is tricky stuff.  I know that many disagree with my current sentiments, and I am open to further discussion, while hoping that dissenters or skeptics are also willing to reconsider any blanket condemnation of publishing lovely women in skimpy black dresses.

Enjoying beauty is very natural for human beings of all genders, ages and cultures. If you come here often, you know that the f/k/a Gang also appreciates and greatly enjoys beautiful scenes in nature.  Here’s a (non-retouched) photo that I took from the end of my block yesterday afternoon.   That’s my favorite bench in Riverside Park, and Wendy Savage is welcome to join me there any time to enhance the scene and the sublimity of the experience:

– Riverside Park, Schenectady, NY, along the Mohawk River; Dec. 29, 2008; photo by David Giacalone –

sua sponte
madame justice
catches me staring

. . . by dagosan

Of course, we have long agreed with this sentiment by Jesse Winchester in his song “Isnt’ That So?” [YouTube video here]

Isn’t That So

Didn’t He know what He was doin
Putting eyes into my head?
If He didn’t want me watching women
He’d a-left my eyeballs dead

©1972 Jesse Winchester – From the LP “Third Down, 110 To Go

Now, please let us know what you think, with thoughtful and polite comments (both IQ and EQ will be graded by Prof. Yabut).

Leap Day –
an old friend
takes off her glasses

.. by Yu Chang – photo haiga orig. posted at Magnapoets JF (March 2, 2008)

p.s. Speaking of brains, beauty, and talent, here’s a haibun (short prose plus a haiku or senyru) by Roberta Beary, Esq.:


pity the daughters of beautiful mothers the years spent waiting to
grow into a beauty that never comes the sympathetic looks finally
understood at the moment when childhood ends

mother’s visit
side by side we outline
our lips

– by roberta beary, Modern Haiku Vol. 37:1 (Spring 2006) –

December 29, 2008

2008 melts away

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:35 pm

As the old year comes to a close, the only bakers I want to be contemplating are Mama G., (Aunt) Grace Papagni, Sylvia Briber, and other selfless souls who have been stuffing the entire f/k/a Gang with all sorts of Christmas cookies and similar treats over the past week.

empty cookie tin —
letting out last year’s
santa suit

to curb –
pine needles and tinsel

…. by dagosan – from “Holiday Haiku from Schenectady

Nonetheless, I’ve been spending far too much time the last two days responding to Ron Baker and Ed Kless, who are defending Value Pricing (their version of vale billing) in comments to a prior post here at f/k/a.

. . . .  Despite his adopting a new-agey, feel-good image, and condemning hourly billing as unethical, it seems quite clear to me that Value Pricing guru Ron Baker wants lawyers to charge (and clients to pay) higher fees than can be generated using hourly billing. Value Pricing is the mechanism he touts — in books, seminars, private consultations, articles, and more — as the way to achieve those premium fees.

If that topic interests you, click the above link (and see our prior post and the links therein).  For another perspective on a topic that kept us busy at this weblog again in 2008, see the Washington Post article “Laws to Track Sex Offenders Encouraging Homelessness” (via The Moderate Voice, Dec. 27, 2008).

holiday thaw
a trooper emerges
from the snowmelt mist

… by dagosan

The f/k/a Gang would much prefer to be focusing on more pleasant topics.  Like seasonal haiku and senryu, and the wonderful sunset last night along the Mohawk River (at the end of my block of Washington Avenue, in the Schenectady Stockade), which I tried to capture with my Canon Powershot.

rising river…
sandbaggers pass
a brown paper bag

.. by Ed Markowski

— looking eastward into Riverside Park; Dec. 28, 2008 —

year’s end
the bartender
blocks my reflection

…… by Tom Painting – The Heron’s Nest

New Year’s Eve –
the lentil soup

…… by Tom Clausen – from Homework (Snapshot Press 2000)

blue sky
behind bare branches
year-end bonus

…. by David A. Giacalone – Legal Studies Forum XXIX:1 (2005)

……………….. ..

.. the view west toward the Western Gateway Bridge; Dec. 28, 2008 —

last week of the year
ice floes rush
to the waterfall

… by David Giacalone – Roadrunner Haiku Journal (Feb. 2006)

December 26, 2008

inflatable spirits at a time of deflation

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 2:08 pm

Boxing Day drizzle –
the inflatable snowman
keeps smiling

…………… by dagosan

A year ago, I reported that the inflatable snowman across the street from Mama G’s place in Gates, NY, was still smiling on a rainy December 26th. I’m not sure if it’s a sign of our rocky times, or just a result of 55-mph winds on Christmas Eve, but that same vinyl Snowman was rather tipsy — or maybe playing Peeping Tom — around sunset on Christmas Day:

Of course the big non-bio-degradable Snowman might have been trying to catch a glimpse Christmas morning of ABC’s Good Morning America and its segment featuring Bob Eckstein, author of ”The History of the Snowman [see our prior post], If you missed Bob on GMA, click here Science of a Snowman (Dec. 25, 2008) However, like the f/k/a Gang, Bob might not be too popular with inflatable snowpersons or their supporters. As we pointed out back in February, our friendly Snowman Expert told USA Weekend that:

Every 8-foot-high blow-up snowman is a lost opportunity of a God-given gift we all have: artistic expression.”

The inflatable Frosty across the street is apparently sleeping in this afternoon, so I can’t describe his current state of uprightness. At a time when global warming might be reducing our opportunities to make art and fun from newly-fallen snow, I agree with Bob Eckstein’s assertion in today’s New York Daily News, that “As everything melts down, there’s no man like a snowman” (op/ed, December 26, 2008):

“We have all waited a long time for change. Change of leadership, change of seasons. And what we need to lift our spirits now is snow: cold, beautiful, malleable snow. We need joviality, an inexpensive treat that reminds us we don’t have to plug something in or stare at a screen to have fun. We only need the sky to open up and cloak our city with the fluffy stuff.

So, let us return to our roots. And begin the new year with a return to the basics. As never before, we need to make snowmen.”

winter fog
i stub my toe
on the snowman

………… by ed markowski

If you need a little post-Christmas inspiration today, the f/k/a Gang suggests reading the op/ed reminder in today’s New York Times, that “Boxing Day Is for Giving” — charitable giving (Judith Flanders, Dec. 26, 2008). Ms. Flanders gives us a history lesson:

“Boxing Day, usually thought of as Dec. 26, but technically the first weekday after Christmas, has a distinguished pedigree in Britain, and during this time of economic crisis, it is good to be reminded of it. It is on Boxing Day, after all, on the “feast of Stephen,” that “Good King Wenceslas” looked out and saw the snow, “deep and crisp and even.” The cold was notable not for its beauty, but for the hunger that it brought with it. The king calls for food, wine and “pine logs” not for his own feast, but that he and his page may “bear them thither” to give to the poor.”

She concludes with a suggestion that we make Boxing Day a national holiday in the USA — but, not just “another day in the round of shop-eat-family-family-family.

“Instead Boxing Day could return as a day of giving. Not necessarily cash — and not material to make uniforms — but rather one day a year to donate skills or effort, a day for sharing something of value in the larger community. . .

“What we really need to do is put down the punch bowl and pick up on what Punch magazine wrote more than 150 years ago: Don’t just keep the Christmas of the belly: keep you the Christmas of the heart. Give — give’.”

.. Boxing Day technically lasts the entire last week of the year. So, Prof. Yabut, dagosan and the rest of the Gang will first be catching a sugar-filled-tummy holiday season nap this afternoon, and then be putting Ms. Flanders’ Boxing Day advice into action. We hope that — unlike the family of Inflatables across the street — our charitable-sharitable feeling won’t be just a lot of hot air that is packed away the rest of the year. Happy Boxing Day to our readers!

December 24, 2008

easing into Christmas Eve

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 9:39 am

There’s not the slightest chance the f/k/a Gang will be writing about greedy lawyers or politicians, or otherwise engaging in punditry today. We’ve got a wintry mix changing into a rainy and blustery day here in my hometown of Rochester, New York. And, Mama G. is stuffing calamari and cleaning shrimp out in the kitchen, while I use her computer here in the den.

While we wonder whose flight will be canceled and where we left the Scotch tape, let’s let a few of our Honored Guest Poet friends help ease us into the peace and joy of Christmas Eve:

Christmas Eve–
the hum of power lines
just pass the mall
… by Alice FramptonNew Resonance 3; beyond spring rain
Christmas eve
the carousel animals
all motionless

Christmas eve
in the courtyard below
a flutter of wings

Christmas eve-
the row of cut trees
no one took home

…. by Pamela Miller Ness – “Christmas eve/trees”: “Modern Haiku” XXIX:2 (Summer 1998)
“Christmas eve/carousel” Modern Haiku XXIX: 2 (Summer 1998)
“Christmas eve/courtyard” – “Can Collector’s Red Socks” (2003)

Christmas eve
in her pajamas all day
the youngest one

…. by Tom Clausen Upstate Dim Sum (2003/1)

silent night, holy night
at the bar
… by David G. Lanoue from the novel Haiku Guy
Christmas Eve
my niece old enough to ask
for calamari
.. by dagosan

christmas eve
the starlings begin
to flock together

…. by Matt Morden – Morden Haiku (Dec. 24, 2008)

christmas evening
the goose she raised
all summer

christmas eve…
we yank two ton
from the # 4 mine

there ain’t enough coal
to put in the stockings

………………. by ed markowski

December 22, 2008

another East Aurora snow day

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 3:52 pm

School children woke this morning to another Snow Day in the Buffalo suburb of East Aurora, New York.  I’m not sure whether my eight-year old nephew James would have preferred to join his friends and teachers in a day of pre-Christmas classroom adventures.  And, I really don’t know whether his solo-practicing lawyer daddy Arthur needed to concentrate on clients rather than shoveling this morning.

[click to enlarge]

I’m glad, indeed, that they sent me the above photo from their driveway.  It’s surely worth more than a thousand words from the Buffalo Weather Man about blowing snow, “lake effects” and wind-chills.  Naturally, we’re all hoping Baby Boomer Santa has the energy and night-vision needed to make all of his appointed rounds on Christmas Eve.

p.s. Just in case we actually do get too busy with Holiday To-Do to post again before Christmas, the f/k/a Gang sends best wishes for a joyous holiday — and safe travel — to all of our readers and weblogging friends, who have helped keep us on our toes and up to mischief in 2008.

Congratulations to all the winners of Dennis Kennedy’s 2008 Blawggies, including Jordan Furlong, whose often challenging and always interesting Law 21 weblog won Dennis’ award for Best New Law-Related Weblog.

nudging maternalism beats Nudge‘s paternalism

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Procrastination Punditry — David Giacalone @ 12:23 pm

.. … from making Christmas happen for her kids . . .

.. to sharing Holidays with Great-grandchildren . .

Mama G. has followed in her mother’s loving footsteps for over half a century, continuing and creating holiday traditions — scraping pennies and dishes; stuffing envelopes and turkeys; embracing changes and children.

Christmas again:
she shops and shops
and chops cardoons

.. by dagosan

The folks at the Sunstein and Thaler Nudge Weblog tried to cure me of my Scroogy holiday procrastination, after I turned in desperation last week to the decision-making principles and “choice architecture” presented in their book “Nudge” (Yale Univ. Press 2008).  Readers at their website suggested a new To Do List and strategically-positioned post-it reminders.  But it’s really only the image of Mama G. that finally got me off my balking backside to get Christmas 2008 into gear.  Her modeling of constant holiday preparation, between work and daily family duties, and her nurturing of the spirit of the season despite fatigue and the greedy neediness of her young offspring, have left me suitably motivated — by admiration and obligation.

Clearly, maternal nudging — that sweet mixture of nature and nurture, example and guilt — represents the Holiday Decision Tree I needed to stop stalling and start spreading holiday cheer.

too tired
to untangle
christmas lights

………… by Roberta Beary 

That’s all I wanted to say, as I dive into a final, long day of holiday preparation before heading tomorrow for Rochester, NY.  I’ll be en-joying Christmas with Mama G. and all the other women in my family who always work so hard to make Christmas and every other major holiday warm and loving (and filling) for generations of their children.  Of course, I’ll also bask in the company of many other relatives (young and old), including all the males who are so well-fed and pampered like the little kids we are at Christmastime.

I’m coming, Mama G., thanks for the gentle nudge into Holiday Spirit.

Christmas Eve calamari
Nana serves
Grandma’s recipes

…. by dagosan

holiday recipes…
I set a haiku
on the backburner

how did Santa know?
a roll of duct tape
in my stocking

…………………. by laryalee fraser

.. postscript: It’s easy to forget that our mothers and grandmothers were once little children with Christmas dreams and disappointments of their own.  A few years ago, my family discovered a family portrait photo of my maternal grandmother, Elisabetta Catino Papagni, with her siblings, circa 1902, when she was still a toddler.  That’s her image, at the start of this postscript.  For the first decades of my life, every Christmas was orchestrated and revolved around Grandma Papagni, and both her absence and love are especially felt this time of year.  Although she might want to do a thing or two a little differently, I know she would be proud of the way her daughters have carried on and passed on both her recipes and her tradition of holiday love and joy.  She always wanted her grandson Davie to “mangia” some more.  I hope I can earn her holiday blessings each year by honoring her wish to refill my plate often, and then to help wash those plates after every lovingly-made meal.

red envelopes
the sound
of children’s laughter

……….. by Yu ChangUpstate Dim Sum 2003/I

p.s. If you’re smuggly finished with all your Holiday Prep, and have spare time for celebrating the Winter Solstice, the f/k/a Gang suggests you treat yourself to viewing the new edition of Haiga Online (Vol. 9-2), where you will find fine examples of the haiga genre (images combined with linked haiku or similar poems), along with this one by dagosan.

Then, if you have additional time to kill, please ponder this seasonal mystery: Where do all the snow shovels go between winters? Why is there always such a big rush for shovels at hardware and home-supply stores after the first major storm each year?

December 21, 2008

let’s move Christmas to May

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 11:41 am


Christmas Eve
in an airport lounge
grandpa paces

poem: by dagosan; photo by Arthur Giacalone

This kind of headline is never really news at Christmas Time in America:

Fierce Northwest storm adds to nation’s numerous weather worries as holiday approaches” (Associated Press, December 21, 2008)

As is all too much a part of our nation’s holiday tradition, tens of millions of Americans are facing harsh and dangerous weather conditions this week, while rushing to create joyous Christmas celebrations and reunions for their families and loved ones.  We never know when or how the weather will turn our plans upside down, nor who will spend Christmas Eve in an airport lounge or roadside ditch.

We noted this time last year, in our post “Christmas and Winter Don’t Mix“, that:

It looks like a Winter Wonderland, but it has me wondering yet again why we jeopardize our physical and psychic health every year trying to perform an already-stressfully-long list of holiday chores — and accomplish the related travel — in the time of year that is most likely to have the most inhospitable weather.

It’s quite clear that the historical figure Jesus of Nazareth was not born at this time of year (see our prior post).  Christmas was placed around the Winter Solstice (click for related haiku and discussion) to make Christianity more popular by piggy-backing on the traditional pagan solstice celebration.  That’s simply not a good enough reason for subjecting the nation (and all its grandmas) to the vagaries and worries of winter in North America.

where I sat as a child
I wait out the storm

……….. by Hilary Tann, in Holiday Haiku from Schenectady; orig. pub. in Upstate Dim Sum (2004/I)

Prof. Yabut opined last year:

We need to get over [the childish desire to have snow on the ground for Christmas] — if only to help assure that as many of our loved ones as possible can travel in safety and with some assurance that they will arrive and depart when planned. As a bonus, we wouldn’t have to dig our cars out, before heading (in bulky, hot clothing unsuitable for indoor shopping), on treacherous roads with ineffective defrosters, to mall parking lots cluttered with space-stealing snow banks, in order to buy and return Christmas presents.

In this season of hope, as we usher in a political era of hope and practicality, the f/k/a Gang implores President-elect Barack Obama to get behind a campaign to move Christmas to a more reasonable time of year.

The Saturday before Mother’s Day might be a good substitute, since we already focus on motherhood and familial love and sacrifice (rather than gifts and greed) that weekend.

The new date might just allow us to put the loving spirit-of-Christ back into Christmas, and to shake off the commercial excess symbolized by Santa Claus.

Given our current economic woes, this might be a particularly good year to celebrate Christmas in the Spring.  It will bring a well-needed economic stimulus early in 2009, while leaving the option open for another buying spree in December around the optional old-timey feast of Giftmas.

snow emergency
santa’s running
a little late

poem: by dagosan; photo by Arthur Giacalone

Meanwhile, we wish all of our readers, kith and kin, safe travels and smooth itineraries, as they work to re-unite with their families in the face of Mother Nature’s whims.

If you’re sitting home waiting for delayed and waylaid guests to arrive, a photo display in today’s Schenectady Sunday Gazette might help to bolster your holiday mood.  It’s “Grand Entrances” (Dec. 21, 2008), which features thirty Stockade doors decorated with wreaths and garland for the holidays.  They are all located in my neighborhood, the Stockade Historic Distric.  The Gazette display inspired me to bundle up and walk up the block with my Canon PowerShot 5, to 32 Washington Avenue, the home of the Schenectady County Historical Society, which somehow did not make it into the Gazette display.  Here it is for your enjoyment:


.. Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Dec. 21, 2008..

Christmas snow
my father’s footsteps
bigger than mine

………………….. by yu chang

December 19, 2008

a punch and punditry-free zone today

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 4:33 pm

Want cogent commentary this snowy Friday?  Forget the sleepy f/k/a Gang, which is struggling to stay awake and work on our Holiday To Do List, while watching Schenectady’s first big snowstorm arrive out my window. Better head to Simple Justice, where Scott Greenfield is cranking ’em out as he does so consistently and well.  The past couple of days, Scott has discussed the appropriate bail and sentence for Bernie Madoff, the wonder of $605 per hour lawyer fees for associates (and $285 for summer student hires), some likely Rooms in the George W. Bush Library, and much more — while dealing with yokels who can’t remember his surname.

Here are a few poems reprised from last year’s post, “Holiday Hell Week at Family Court” (Dec. 18, 2007), which aimed to help families with parents and minor children living apart:

Christmas Day
the exchange
of custody

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

from Mom’s to Dad’s
the clickity-clack
of suitcase wheels

. . . . by alice framptonNew Resonance 3: Emerging Voices (2003)

ides of december –
santa asks the judge
where to find the kids

… by dagosan

.. Don’t forget our Christmas Season Haiku page.

December 18, 2008

the allure of HSA’s “dandelion clocks

Filed under: Book Reviews,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 11:16 am

dandelion clocks – Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2008 (Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton, Editors, 2008; cover)

Like kids of all ages, I’ve always been attracted to the downy white globe of seeds that forms at the top of a dandelion.   We called them dandelion puffs in my Upstate New York hometown, but they’re also known as “dandelion clocks” to people around the world.  They’re used for making wishes, and telling time.  They bring a smile to the lips of young lovers, and a curse to the tongue of many an elderly homeowner, for whom they symbolize a neglected lawn and an enemy guerrilla army fighting an endless war over precious turf.

It was a treat, therefore, to hear that a poem I wrote featuring dandelion clocks was selected by editors Ellen Compton and Roberta Beary for inclusion in this year’s Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology.  It was also a surprising honor to recently learn that the title of this years Anthology would be dandelion clocks.

As we’ve written in prior years, the HSA Members’ Anthology includes one haiku or senryu from every member who submits poems for selection by the volume’s editors (see the guidelines).  This year, 177 members participated in the call for entries in the 2008 Anthology; they come from the USA and ten other countries.  The result is an impressive collection, chosen with care by Beary and Compton, who came to the task as last-minute pinch-hitters, but brought with them the experience gained editing fish in love, the HSA 2006 Members’ Anthology, which won a special 2007 HSA Merit Book Honorable Mention for Anthology.

The Introduction to dandelion clocks is written by HSA President Lenard D. Moore, who says:

. “This collection of haiku indicates the diversity that is prevalent in the twenty-first century. During the fortieth year of the Haiku Society of America, editors Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton perhaps had gender and culture in mind while selecting the best available haiku from members of the Haiku Society of America.  What about identity and its meaning in this rich anthology? How do the poets engage political, social, and cultural dimensions in a technological world?  What subjects are important to the poets in this book in the first decade of the century?  How do these poets transform haiku?  The answers are in the poems, though with stylistic differences. . . “


December 16, 2008

we need our traditional pre-holiday nudge

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 10:16 pm

Maybe Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler can help . . .

married a decade
she hides
the mistletoe

setting up the creche –
the Baby’s name
uttered over and over

“easy to assemble”
I put it back and
grab a teddybear

nine days ’til Christmas –
the tree and the cat
both shedding

…. from the “not quite the holiday” sequence at dagosan’s haiku diary (Dec. 6, 2007)

.. In a week, I’ve got to head home for Christmas with the Family of Origin.  Like every other year of my adult life, pre-Christmas Scrooge Syndrome has paralyzed me (e.g., 2007 and 2005). Neither the flesh nor the spirit seems willing to work through that ever-growing Holiday To Do List.

I was about to despair, until I saw an article in the new Harvard Law Bulletin: “Intelligent Design: Cass Sunstein shows how ‘choice architecture’ can help people make better decisions” (Fall 2008).  It reminded me that I’ve been meaning since last April to read Sunstein and Thaler’s much-praised book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” (Yale Univ. Press 2008).  A lifetime of Mama G’s “catholic maternalism” hasn’t helped me get my Holiday Act together, but surely the “libertarian paternalism” extolled in Nudge can lead me out of my annual Yuletime wheel-spinning and teeth-grinding.

wrapping and
packing –
she pastes on a smile

…. by grinchosan

Thaler and Sunstein seem to have me in mind when trying to understand how human beings make choices — and how to “nudge” them into making the best choices (for themselves and society) by better structuring the context in which our choices are made.  According to HLB:, S&T’s “choice architecture . . . acknowledge[s] that many people will take whatever option requires the least effort.”

. . . “Human beings will often consider required choice to be a nuisance or worse, and would much prefer to have a good default,” they write. “And, these tendencies toward doing nothing will be reinforced if the default option comes with some implicit or explicit suggestion that it represents the normal or even the recommended course of action.”

Naturally, I was hoping they’d already have a relevant Holiday Nudge to get me working on that To Do List right now.  But, a quick search at their Nudge weblog turned up nothing specific for turning on (much less sustaining or modeling) holiday spirit — no “holiday decision tree” for working past my punchbowl procrastination and finding seasonal renewal and inspiration.

I did find a link at their weblog to a dozen sample nudges from the book, and I’m planning to read them before heading to bed tonight.  If I sleep on it, I’ll surely wake up as converted as the post-visitation Scrooge.

Just in case that doesn’t work, I picked up a copy of Nudge from the Library today.  It’s almost 300 pages.  If it takes me a couple days to read and absorb Nudge — and construct my own Holiday Choice Architecture — I’ll surely have time to get that To Do List done. Buy those cards and write them on Thursday.  Start shopping Friday afternoon, and wrapping on Saturday.  Get together with my best Schenectady-area Friends on Sunday and Monday.  A bit of panic-packing on Tuesday. And, . . .

By the way, how late is the Post Office open on December 23rd?  And, does Santa have a Default Position?

update (Dec. 17, 2008; 11:30 PM): Thanks to the Nudge Blog for soliciting suggestions and solutions in response to our plea for help.  It remains to be seen whether the Nudge experts and their disciples can solve our chronic Christmas crisis.  As of this update, they’ve only attracted an additional To Do List for me.  Hmmm.

afterwords (Dec. 31, 2008):  As we wrote on December 22, a maternal nudge got us on the road to a happy holiday.   And, see this post for a Boxing Day de-briefing.

first doubts
santa sounds
like Uncle Al

…… by dagosan; photo by Mama G. (1952; larger haiga here)

December 15, 2008

it’s Bill of Rights Day

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:57 pm

.. As Blawg Review‘s righteous editor reminded us a few days ago, President Bush has declared today to be Bill of Rights Day.  You’ll find the text of the Bill of Rights — the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution — at the foot of this posting (click more).  The Bill of Rights was ratified by Congress on December 15, 1791.

No matter how ironic it might seem that GW is celebrating the Bill of Rights, I’m happy to say that you can find tributes and reminders of our rights (and our responsibility to work to uphold those rights) across the web, and especially on lawyer weblogs.

  • For example, see Eric Turkewitz’s tribute to John Peter Zenger, who helped establish the right of freedom of the press in Britain’s American colonies. Eric’s post includes an inspiring reference to a shopping mall, Bill of Rights Plaza in Eastchester, NY.

It is no coincidence that our blawging paisan, the oft-irreverent libertarian Prof. Marc Randazza, is hosting Blawg Review #190 today at The Legal Satyricon.  Normally not fans of theme-based Blawg Reviews, the f/k/a Gang (like Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice) is grateful that Marc has focused on each of the ten Amendments, reminding us that (beyond the Biggies that get all the attention) there are several important Rights that rarely get mentioned in the media or in our everyday conversation.  Head over to Blawg Review #190 to find links to recent posting at lawyer weblogs about every one of the Amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.

Fresh from a liberating weekend, during which an ice storm prevented us access to the internet and freed up a bit of time for just lazying around our 4th-Amendment-protected home, the f/k/a Gang doesn’t feel much like heavy pundit-lifting this morning.  So, we’re merely going to praise the Founding Fathers for adding the Bill of Rights:

“in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of [the powers of the federal Government . . . and] best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

And, as we have every right to do, we’ll also try again to clear up a misconception that is far-too-prevalent about the First Amendment.  To wit, as we’ve said before:

. The mistaken invocation of the First Amendment against private action is something that every American has heard since birth. [Try living with a teenager and see how often you face such arguments.]  Those who erroneously believe that all Americans have the right to say whatever they want whenever they want come from all walks of life and all ideologies and parties.  . . .  The Bill of Rights limits Government action, not private action. It is basic ignorance of the meaning of the Bill of Rights . . and not some “lex-centric” liberal worldview that causes most Americans to decry private forms of “censorship” as unAmerican.

In the context of weblogs, Walter Olson put this right rather well last week at the new website Secular Right (via SHG):

“Let’s make it clear right now, though, that this is a moderated comments section. It may resemble a very broadminded letters-to-the-editor column; it is not going to resemble a public-access cable channel, graffiti wall, or Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner if I or DH can help it.

“What’s more, it’s moderated for the benefit of this site’s intended audience, bearing in mind that some lines of discussion more quickly become tedious and irrelevant to that audience than others. . . .

“One group we’d be better off without are those who feel that commenting on this site is somehow a matter of right, no matter what the tedium factor, and radiate wounded entitlement when they learn that’s not how it’s going to work. They really would be happier elsewhere.”

Finally, here are some favorite haiku from two Bills who never bring tedium or irrelevance to this website:

early spring
before she can tie it
the balloon escapes


in the park
my dog fetches
a better stick

werewolf movie
at the commercial
letting the dog out

prostate exam
the doctor and I
trade jabs

long day
his finger slows
the spinning globe

… by W.F. “Dr. Bill” Owen
“prostate exam” – HSA Brady Contest 2001; The Loose Thread: RMA 2001
“werewolf movie” – HSA Brady Award — Second Place 2001
“early spring”  – Selected poems by w.f. owen
“long day” – Two Autumns Reading (San Francisco, 2003)
“in the park” – Modern Haiku XXXI:3 (2000); A New Resonance 2

November chill–
a barefoot man waits
for the northbound ferry

avalanche warning–
how very still
this winter night

storm clouds roil
across the prairie—
she marks her place

trail’s end—
the taste of wild onion
still sharp on my tongue

… by Billie Wilson . . click for publication credits


December 13, 2008

ice storm interruptus

Filed under: q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 11:34 am

We got lucky on my block yesterday.  Lots of my neighbors in the Schenectady Stockade have no power due to the ice storm we had on Thursday and Friday, and 160,000 homes still have no power across the Capital Region of New York State. Giant, healthy century-old trees, plus a lot of limbs, were brought down by the ice, disrupting power lines and causing lots of mischief.  See “Storm leaves region in the dark” (Schenectady Gazette, Dec. 13, 2008)

Besides keeping me off the road yesterday, it has kept me offline.  Roadrunner is out of commission (including the modem that lets you use their dial-up services). So, I am here at the Schenectady County Public Library’s central branch, using their WiFi.  This is going to be a quick, punditry-less post, as weblogging from the Library has far too many drawbacks (for cranky, spoiled curmudgeons) — like no coffee or food, no futon for naps, and a really smelly Men’s Room.

My stroll yesterday morning taking ice-storm photos was not very successful — possibly due to a lack of sunlight to make the branches and fences, etc., glisten.  I did have to step lightly around a couple of sparking, downed power lines. When I got back home, a little bit of blue sky was opening, and I caught this sight from my backyard along the Mohawk:

– backyard on the Mohawk (across from Scotia), Dec. 12, 2008, by David Giacalone –

No telling when I will post again.  I hope all my friends out there in the blogiverse are safe and warm and having a lovely mid-December weekend.  If I weren’t so lazy, and it wasn’t so cold today, I’d be looking for a strong, artistic woman to help make a snowman or a snow buddha, or two.

afterwords: Here’s another photo from the December 12th snowstorm:

.. .. Riverside Park esplanade . .

a sparrow chirping
in his lap…
snow Buddha

he’s holding one
the Buddha

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

– click here for two dozen snow/buddha haiku by Issa

wintry mix
the minister’s kids make
a snow buddha

surprisingly warm out
a puppy laps up
our snow buddha

snow turns to rain –
our Buddha’s visit
cut short

………………….. by dagosan

December 11, 2008

lawyers per capita: NY numbers

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,Procrastination Punditry,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 12:28 pm

It has often been suggested there are too many lawyers here in New York State.  There is, in fact, 1 lawyer for every 390 people in NYS, as compared to 1 lawyer for every 2272 residents of North Dakota.  It’s hard to say whether it should make us feel any better to know, on the other hand, that Washington, D.C. has 13.5 times as many lawyers per capita as New York State — with one lawyer for every 36 residents of D.C.. (See the Avery Index of Lawyers per Capita by State.)

We learned this morning, via Simple Justice, that

The New York Lawyer has provided a chart to show the distribution of lawyers throughout the various counties of the State of New York.  The chart shows the ratio of lawyers to human beings.

Scott Greenfield says “It explains a lot” and — comparing it to Manhattan — extolls the virtues of living in Queens (where you’ll find an empty diner seat whenever you want one).

The f/k/a Gang has to head out to see our primary medical provider, so you can decide for yourself (and let us know) what these numbers mean:

Lawyers per capita in Capital Region Counties of NYS:


Albany County        4317               69/1
Columbia                 220               283/1
Montgomery              85               573/1
Saratoga                   594              363/1
Schenectady             456              331/1
Schoharie                  59               543/1
Warren                     252              262/1
Washington                71              884/1

Most lawyers per capita in New York State by County:

New York            77,952               21/1
Albany County       4317               69/1
Westchester          9,890               96/1
Nassau                13,259               99/1

Fewest lawyers per capita in NYS by County

Allegheny                   46            1,079/1
Lewis                          22            1,203/1
Orleans                       29            1,461/1

Counties with the most lawyers:

New York                    77,952
Nassau                        13,259
Westchester                    9890
Suffolk                            6684
Kings [Brooklyn]              6050
Queens                           5534
Erie  [Buffalo]                 4809
Albany County                4317
Monroe [Rochester]         3320
Bronx                              2461
Onondaga [Syracuse]       2374

Counties with the fewest lawyers:

Hamilton                     14
Schuyler                      21
Lewis                           22
Orleans                        29

p.s. Rural Japan has a shortage of lawyers, with many towns with 100,000 residents still totally lawyer-less.  Depending on who you count as being the equivalent of a lawyer, Japan has either one-third or one-twentieth the number of lawyers that we have in the USA.

December 10, 2008

the hourly-billing procrastinator . . . and other contrary thoughts

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 1:02 pm

. . a quartet of contrarian quickies from Prof. Yabut . .

naughty child–
instead of his chores
a snow Buddha

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

.. In Praise of the Hourly-Billing Procrastinator: A quick stop at Idealawg yesterday somehow led me to yet another piece that wants to cure procrastinators of their supposedly dangerous and faulty ways.  In the Scientific American article “Procrastinating Again? How to Kick the Habit” (November 26, 2008), Trisha Gura describes a 2007 study by University of Calgary economist Piers Steel, and tells us that:

  • “a worrisome 15 to 20 percent of adults, the ‘mañana procrastinators,’ routinely put off activities that would be better accomplished ASAP.”
  • Procrastinators do not merely prioritize by putting off less-urgent matters ’til later; according to Piers, they voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.
  • Procrastination carries a financial penalty, endangers health, harms relationships and ends careers.

Gura insists that “Succumbing to [procrastination] can be costly. Experts estimate that 40 percent of people have experienced a financial loss because of procrastination, in some cases severe.”  She also starts her article with this sentence:

“Raymond, a high-powered attorney, habitually put off returning important business calls and penning legal briefs, behaviors that seriously threatened his career.”

I want to disagree on behalf of clients of hourly-billing lawyers.  If a firm bills by the hour, the lawyer’s waiting until the last moment can often result in significantly smaller fees. As I said in a comment last August:

Don’t forget, however, that procrastination is the greatest labor-saving device ever. Lawyers who do things right away, for example, later find out that something has made the task unnecessary (the case settles, the opponent stops the annoying behavior, the judge cancels a hearing).

Waiting until the last moment also focuses the mind and increases the likelihood that tasks will be prioritized and efficiently performed. Some of the very best lawyers I know are chronic, ardent procrastinators and their work-product is excellent.

Of course, older lawyers are not as capable of doing all-nighters as we were in our early days in the profession.  That means that “the last minute” comes a little sooner.

Naturally, if paying a fixed fee (especially upfront), a client might want to do some pointed and persistent nudging to keep a procrastinating lawyer on task.

..Twitter/Fritter the Day Away:   While we had our own personal birthday yesterday (Dec. 9, 2008), our weblogging friend Carolyn Elefant was celebrating the 6th birthday of her much-honored weblog, My Shingle, which focuses (with cheerleader-like energy and loyalty) on the needs and achievements of solos practitioners and lawyers in small firms. Congratulations, Carolyn, and thanks for all your blawgy inspiration and inter-action all these years.

To celebrate, Carolyn is sponsoring two contests.  The first has a computer for first prize, and asks SmallLaw-yers to write a weblog post or essay on “Why I Matter” or “How Technology Helps Me Serve Clients or Make A Difference.”  That seems like an excellent idea. However, the second “light-hearted” contest has my tummy all-atwitter with agita.

You see, Carolyn wants participating solo and small firm lawyers — in order to capture “data on the minutia of our experience” — to:

“pick a day between now and December 20 to Twitter the day away.  Try to pick a day that’s typical for you as a solo or small firm lawyer, that shows how you balance your life, your cases and your clients.”

I’m sorry, and it should come as no surprise, but this seems like a terrible idea from the perspective of the client, employer or partner of such lawyers.  Constant interruption of your work-flow and flow of thought in order to tweak about every detail of your day for prosperity can only mean less efficient lawyering (not to mention parenting, and even puttering).

Virtually every solo practitioner I know (and I spent my last decade in practice in a tiny firm, or being a solo, or advising them), fits into either of two categories: 1) the ones who are woefully under-employed (and often somnolent); and 2) the ones who are chronically over-employed (and often frantic).  I can’t see how constant Twittering can possibly help either group of lawyers serve their clients (or families) well.  If I got a bill that includes work done on my lawyer’s My Shingle Twitter Day, I’d ask a lot of questions about the hours that were supposedly worked.

.. Hey, did I promise four topics at the start of this post?  Well, this old procrastinator hasn’t had lunch (nor breakfast) yet, so I’m gonna finish later; maybe much later.

breakfast rice
stuck in his whiskers…
lover cat in a rush

… by by Kobayashi Issa
translated by David G. Lanoue

If you really need another diversion right now, I suggest viewing this great little video (lesss than two minutes long), recorded on December 6, 2008, by Curtis Dunlap, of Roberta Beary reciting a haibun (a short prose piece with a linked haiku). We dare writers who are penning prose-less pieces purporting to be haibun to try to recite them (and keep an audience).

Evening Session:  We’re back, but can we talk?  I can’t for the (long) life of me remember what the 3rd and 4th blurbs were going to be about.  But, a promise is a promise, so here are two substitutes, the first a minor quibble, the second more weighty. (And, please no teasing about my oft-evident Boomer Memory Syndrome.)

Short-Attention-Span Journalism:  Your editor has been away from antitrust prosecution for a couple decades.  But, things could not have changed this much. In The American Lawyer this morning (see “In Once-Every-Fifty-Years Case, Whole Foods Sues FTC“, Dec. 10, 2008), reporter Zach Lowe tells us (emphasis added):

“The $565 million merger struck between Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Marketplace in mid-2007 is becoming one of those legal battles that’s so protracted it’s hard to keep up with.”

A year and a half is a “protracted” lawsuit at the FTC?  Our memories and memory banks are over-taxed by a case that made it to an appellate court and back to the Commission for further activity?  Maybe Zach needs a break from the antitrust beat.  Spelling Bees and pie-baking contests might better fit his attention span.

on the face
that last night called me names
morning sunbeam

I forget my side
of the argument

George Swede from Almost Unseen

.. In Praise of Productive and Playful Teasing: On Sunday, Dacher Keltner had a long piece in the New York Times that struck a resonant chord with me — “In Defense of Teasing” (Dec. 7, 2008). The UC-Berkeley psychology professor worries about a phenomenon that has long concerned the f/k/a Gang: A generational Teasing Gap in our society, due in large part to a “zero tolerance” toward teasing now found in American schools these days, and the creation of “tease-free zones” in many American offices.  Dr. Keltner notes:

“The reason teasing is viewed as inherently damaging is that it is too often confused with bullying. But bullying is something different; it’s aggression, pure and simple. Bullies steal, punch, kick, harass and humiliate. Sexual harassers grope, leer and make crude, often threatening passes. They’re pretty ineffectual flirts. By contrast, teasing is a mode of play, no doubt with a sharp edge, in which we provoke to negotiate life’s ambiguities and conflicts. And it is essential to making us fully human.”

He rightly asserts that: “In seeking to protect our children from bullying and aggression, we risk depriving them of a most remarkable form of social exchange.”  That’s because:

“In teasing, we learn to use our voices, bodies and faces, and to read those of others — the raw materials of emotional intelligence and the moral imagination. We learn the wisdom of laughing at ourselves, and not taking the self too seriously. We learn boundaries between danger and safety, right and wrong, friend and foe, male and female, what is serious and what is not. We transform the many conflicts of social living into entertaining dramas. No kidding.”

The lengthy article is worth reading in full.  You’ll re-discover the benefits of Romantic Teasing — “a battle plan for what Shakespeare called ‘the merry war’.”  And find guidance to help distinguish productive teasing from the scarring, humiliating variety, and hostile teasing from the playful kind.  Don’t forget:

“[S]ocial context means a lot. Where teasing provides an arena to safely explore conflict, it can join people in a common cause. Especially when they’re allowed to tease back.”

April rain
my grandson practices
his infield chatter

.. by Ed Markowski – The Old BallGame (April 2006); “American Sports . . . American Haiku” (June 2008)

their laughter
is not about me
but would sound
just like that
if it was

…… by John StevensonQuiet Enough (2004)

mocking the farmer
plowing, the strutting

even the scarecrow
turns his back to it…
my home

… by Kobayashi Issa – translated by David G. Lanoue

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