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November 2003
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January 2004

In With The New

Welcome, friends, to the new and improved iteration of A Fool in the Forest. I have relocated, complete with all previous posts, from the original location on Blogspot, and now have the benefit of a feature-rich TypePad neck of the woods.

Some improvements will be immediately obvious. We have a new banner atop the page. We have comment capability. We have categorization of posts in the archives. And so on.

There's still work to be done -- I'm slowly going back over the past months of posts to put each into its appropriate category, for example -- but for all practical purposes, I Declare This Site Open.

If you are a regular reader, please update your Favorites list. If you've done me the kindness of linking to me in the past, please update those links (although, Blogspot willing, previous links to individual items on the old site should remain good). And, following the example of the estimable Terry Teachout, might I suggest that you Tell Your Friends if anything you see here tickles your fancy? Thanks!

Dactyls, On the Double!

This is what comes from reading through the John Hollander-edited American Wits, the American Poets Project’s new collection of light verse, all in one go: I’ve become suddenly enamored of the double dactyl.

The particular rigors of the form are nicely explained here, and a Googling of the phrase “double dactyl” will lead you to more, and better, examples than the three of my own composition that you’ll find below.

The double dactyl requires two quatrains, each consisting of three lines of dactylic dimeter and a concluding choriamb (or, if you will, another dactyl with an extra syllable tacked on.) The final lines of the quatrains must rhyme. In pure form, the first line should be a nonsense phrase -- “higgledy-piggledy” is the classic example -- the second line should consist of the name of a famous real or imagined person -- “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” fits -- and the sixth line ought to be a single, six-syllable dactyllically diametric word -- such as “phantasmagorical.”

I’ve elected to disregard all but the metrical rules and I’ve tossed in an extra rhyme (lines two and six mostly). So sue me. The double dactyl is a fine form for glib political comment or just for a lark, and no one will ever get the impression that you take yourself too seriously when you use it. So, with that, let's have at it:

Back Channel

Colonel Qadaffi to
One of our diplomats:
“Zounds! What a trouncing you
Handed Saddam!

Allah’s enlightened me.
I took the tip: so that’s
Why I’m renouncing my
Quest for The Bomb.”

Affront Runner

Candidate Dean (he’s a
Doctor from Burlington)
Flaunts his technique: “My rhe-
torical pow’rs

Consist in this method:
I run about hurling
Contempt, then retract it
In 24 hours.”

Simplicity Itself

New York Times, Guardian,
Standard and Telegraph,
Lib’rals, conservatives,
Gog and Magog.

Wond’ring, through each ana-
lytical paragraph,
Where lies the truth? Read it
Here on my blog!

Happy New Year, all!

(Updated 1/7/04 to correct the egregious mis-lineation of the prior version of Dr. Dean's dactyl.)

Moving Day Approaches

In the not-quite-six months I have been generating this weblog, Blogger and Blogspot have been behaving remarkably well on the whole. Still, I have grown fond of the richer feature set available on TypePad, which hosts my more purely Legal posts on Declarations and Exclusions, and I have been planning to migrate the Fool to that platform. The time has come to be on the move: My plan now is to begin the New Year on the new platform. Naturally, glitches are to be expected, but I'll be trying to have things up and running over there (subject to further improvement and revision) by this coming Friday, January 2. Links to the new locale will be posted here when I Make My Move.

Update: Obviously, this post was meant for the Old Version of this site. Moving Day has transpired, and here we are!

Time, Gentlemen!

Lest anyone should think that I am not merely a Fool, but an irresponsible Fool, I feel a moral compulsion to steer you to this colloquy on excessive indulgence in the Demon Alcohol. Think of it as a corrective to my immediately preceding praise of cocktails, if you will, or better yet as a reinforcement of the virtues of moderation in all things. (I recommend the comments to that Crooked Timber post as well, and the link that Chris Bertram has kindly provided to Hogarth's Gin Lane.)

Gyre and Gimlet

I have been thinking -- slowly, slowly and over many weeks -- of posting something on wine and aesthetics: why it is that, to my mind, wine is a supreme beverage precisely because of the occasion it offers for reflection on issues of beauty. That precis is sufficiently hifalutin' and self-important to scare me away from the task at least temporarily, but I expect to succumb in the end. (I have it in the back of my mind that the thing will somehow fall in to place once I make my much-delayed pilgrimage to the big William Morris exhibition at the Huntington Library, which has little to do with wine but a great deal to do with Beauty and its uses.) In any case, that piece is not the piece you are reading now. Instead, it is merely an introduction to my actual topic,


Thousands of miles to our east, Scheherazade has discovered the joys of the Gimlet, and offers as her New Year's Resolution #1 an ambition to Drink More Of Them. Her musings on the subject remind me how enjoyable a good Gimlet is, and how long it has been since I last had one. [Note to self: pick up Rose's lime juice.] She also displays a proper attitude toward the Rituals of the Cocktail, of a kind in danger of being driven from our shores by the well-meaning but nonetheless sinister forces of public safety and neo-prohibitionist puritanism:

For no good reason, I have some strict self-imposed rules about my drinks. I observe the seasons and do not permit myself gin and tonics after September or before the balmiest days of late May, sticking generally to red wine, dark beer or stout, a Maker's Mark on the rocks or maybe some scotch when the flip flops have been retired for the summer. Martinis are permissible all year round.
These are sound rules indeed. Followed in moderation, and in good company, they lend savor and pleasure to life, which is all to the good.

The appreciation of the Gimlet here serves as a reminder that it was favored by the detective Philip Marlowe. In The Long Goodbye, the One True Recipe is specified:

A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose's lime juice, and nothing else. It beats Martinis hollow.
As with the martini, the notion that you can make the thing with vodka is a mere popular delusion and should not be encouraged.

Update:While we're vaguely on the subject of Potables in Song and Story, I am reminded by a timely e-mail that back in September my chum Rick Coencas shared with us the none-too-surreal recipe for the Luis Bunuel martini. You should certainly try it at home.

And Now A Word From Our Goddess

My holiday weekend reading wandered into an early Renaissance vein and I found myself reading Erasmus' The Praise of Folly. (John Wilson's 17th Century translation is conveniently available for your online enlightenment here.) The introduction to the edition before me remarked that many Americans seemed to confuse "Erasmus" with "Nostradamus." I thought that was a silly confusion at first, but I was wrong.

Behold the awesome prophetic powers of the wily wonder of Rotterdam! Speaking through the Goddess of Folly, it is beyond question that Erasmus foresaw the rise of the Blogosphere:

But how much happier is this my writer’s dotage who never studies for anything but puts in writing whatever he pleases or what comes first in his head, though it be but his dreams; and all this with small waste of [bandwidth], as well knowing that the vainer those trifles are, the higher esteem they will have with the greater number, that is to say all the fools and unlearned. And what matter is it to slight those few learned if yet they ever read them? Or of what authority will the censure of so few wise men be against so great a cloud of gainsayers?

Christmas Cavalcade


This Fool wishes to all his readers, whether regular, occasional or simply lost after a wrong click in Albuquerque, a most merry and auspicious Christmas. For the occasion, a random selection of seasonally apropos items posted by others:

♣ From deep in the Southern Hemisphere, Kieran Healy reports on "the uneasy Australian detente between the season and the Season". (A helpful commenter also links to the lyrics of an Australian Christmas song, "Six White Boomers," from the semi-legendary Rolf "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" Harris.)

A C Douglas bemoans "the Great Wising Up" and the harm it has done to the Christmas season, which he declares to be "my most favorite time of year, and the one (and only) time I wished I were a Christian rather than a Jew."

Brian Micklethwaite treats us to Raphael's Sistine Madonna -- complete with those ubiquitous eye-rolling cherubs -- and some quick thoughts on the relationship between quality and popularity in art.

♣ And haiku-crafting legal ethicist about town David Giacalone reminds us that even attorneys may once have been really cute kids. (He earns points for his post title, too.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, I will be off to honor the holiday in the midst of my family. Meanwhile,

Merry Christmas to All!

Ways and Memes

The referrer logs tell me that I am keeping interesting and unexpected company.

In the middle of a "Howard-Dean-Is-Not-What-He-Seems" piece, Lowell Ponte of David Horowitz's Front Page magazine makes this statement:

During his 11-1/2 years as Vermont Governor, Dean turned into the back room wheeler-dealer today known as the 'captive candidate' for President.
The mid-sentence link is to my piece linked below, reporting on reports of Howard Dean's encouragement of the captive insurance industry during his time as Vermont governor. And as a Google Search will show, at the moment the only places in which Dr. Dean is "known as" "the captive candidate" are in the title of my post and in the sentence just quoted.

I'm happy to serve as a coiner of memes, but thus far "captive candidate" is not nearly so successful as lilexia.

Dubious Achievements in Legal Drafting

Stanford law professor and intellectual property zealot Lawrence Lessig has put up a longish post on Wal-Mart's new online music venture. In addition to noting some technical glitches -- downloaded songs wouldn't play on his system -- he emphasizes the highly restrictive terms of the agreement that a consumer must accept before downloading, and the manner in which that agreement contradicts the expectations that consumers have historically had when purchasing music (e.g., the expectation that you can make "fair use" of music you have legally acquired, such as by using it as a soundtrack for home videos, incorporating portions into a personal mix tape, and so on). For connoisseurs of legal draftsmanship, however, the highlight of the piece has to be this splendidly self-contradictory sentence, drawn from deep within the Terms of Service agreement:

All Products are sublicensed to you and not sold, notwithstanding the use of the terms 'sell,' 'purchase,' 'order,' or 'buy' on the Service or in this Agreement.
This is cutting-edge stuff. Consider the possibilities if this approach to contractual language were to catch on. For example:
The Product will consist of a bag of small rocks and not an automobile, notwithstanding the use of the terms "automobile," "motor," "vehicle," "motor vehicle" and "BMW" in this Agreement and on signage at any facility at which this Agreement may be executed.
The Worker shall become the property of the Boss, to be dealt with at the Boss's sole discretion and transferable by sale to any other Boss of the Boss's choosing, and shall receive money, food, rest and shelter only when the Boss is so inclined, notwithstanding the use of the terms "employ," "employee," "wages", "benefits" and "freedom" elsewhere in this agreement.
Parse that, if you will, and despair.

Here, There and Everywhere

Lacking an original thought in my head at the moment, I maintain weblogging momentum with this cavalcade of links catching my attention in the past few days:

♣ Denis Dutton, perhaps best known as the proprietor of Arts & Letters Daily, has launched a personal site, featuring his published articles and material of interest to students in his courses at New Zealand's University of Canterbury. Worth a look if only for the very fine Eadweard Muybridge animated GIF displayed in the banner. [Link via Virginia Postrel, who is herself musing on what Christmas lights tell us about the economy.]

♣ Yet another "upon closer inspection, homeschoolers appear almost normal" piece, this one out of central Virginia. [Link via Kimberly Swygert's Number 2 Pencil and, belatedly, Daryl Cobranchi.]

Terry Teachout, in a rare feint toward matters political, takes up the engrained inability of politicians and other public figures "to say anything without spinning it":

Back in World War II, shortly before the greasy cloud of spin had settled on the land, Gen. Joseph Stilwell, whose nickname was 'Vinegar Joe,' met the press after having been forced to retreat from Burma by the Japanese. He said, 'I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and re-take it.'

The day any politician of either party makes so blunt a remark within earshot of microphones -- and declines to retract, moderate, or invert it before the day is out -- you'll know the barometer of cultural health in America is moving in the right direction. But don't hang by your thumbs waiting for it.

♣ Brian Micklethwaite urges us all to read The Economist's dissertation on the historically mind-expanding qualities of coffee and coffee houses.