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Time for this weblog to court a little controversy.

A week ago, I crafted a new bit of topical light verse, a double dactyl on the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco. Those eight lines quickly took to demanding revisions and additions until two days ago -- coincidentally on the same day as the President announced his support for a Constitutional amendment on this subject -- I wound up with a six-part double dactyl sequence. (Sonnet sequences are hardly uncommon, but the inherently lightweight double dactyl form doesn't generally invite extended acquaintance.) What is more, the poem evolved from its original posture of "oh look, here's a current event I can rhyme about" to a rather more serious, if somewhat simplistic, statement of a position: a libertarian-leaning, "people are people"/"government shouldn't mess with private lives"/"can't we all get along"-based endorsement of gay marriage rights.

After more than a little debate with myself, I persuaded myself to publish the current version of the poem here, for the consideration of anyone who may be interested:



Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Gay men and lesbians
Flock to the City Hall,
Follow their bliss,

Purchase their licenses,
Swear to their permanence,
Pose for the camera crews
Sharing a kiss.


Damned, sir? They’re damned, you say?
Possibly, possibly:
Love has led millions to
Suffer a Fall.

That’s for the next world, sir;
Here with the living -- well,
What was it Chaucer said?
“Love conquers all.”


Poets, sir. Love poets.
Some of the best have been
Gay, sir. Consider this
List I’ve compiled:

Wystan Hugh Auden and
C.P. Cavafy and
Sappho. James Merrill, Thom
Gunn, Oscar Wilde.


Legally, legally,
Should an impediment
Rise to the marriage of
Minds that are true?

Sure as there’s only one
Race, sir -- the human race --
How would you feel if it
Happened to you?


Citizens, citizens,
Leave to your churches these
Questions of sanctity,
Tough and profound.

Secular governments
Ought to facilitate
Binding of lovers who
Yearn to be bound.


Hymen, Hymenaeus!
Cleave to the one who’s your
Heart’s true companion, the
Thou to your I.

Now, when the times are so
Fearsome we all must, as
Auden says, “love one a-
nother or die.”

NOTE: The opening acclamation of sections I and VI is drawn from that naughty Roman Catullus, who in turn was operating under the influence of Sappho. Other references I have presumed to be too obvious to require annotation.

Everything Looks Good in Black & White

Evan Schaeffer of Notes from the (Legal) Underground is being threatened with frivolous litigation by a gentleman who seems not to have enjoyed having his name -- already in the public record -- mentioned in the context of a court decision quoted on Evan’s weblog. Apparently, if this goes badly, Evan expects me to join him in jail for a bit of a kaffe klatch, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.


The original reason that Evan reproduced the decision was that its author had secreted multiple references to songs by the band Talking Heads about its person. Clever enough, to be sure, but I cannot but be reminded of Judge Alex Kozinski, of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, who back in 1990 injected some 204(!) film titles in the text of this antitrust decision involving, naturally, a dispute between theater owners.

Finding all 204 titles is, as they say, left as an exercise for the reader.

And while we’re on the subject of film, Michael Blowhard and Rick Coencas (among many others) are singing the praises of movies in black and white. Neither seems to have cited the most gorgeous and magical of all black and white films, Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast.

Welcome Overlawyered Readers . . .

and many thanks to Walter Olson for linking here.

Should any of you find yourselves interested in a somewhat more serious approach to current California law than you will find on this page, please let me refer you to this weblog's more specialized and earnest sibling, Declarations and Exclusions. It's the least I can do: Poor little Decs & Excs gets all huffy when the Fool hogs the spotlight.

Updated: Thanks as well to Gideon Strauss, for linking to and expanding upon the posts below on "weblogs and 'little' magazines."

From the Steam-Powered Gramophone Files

Rick at Futurballa today waxes nostalgic for Side A and Side B in "Why I Miss Vinyl." The CD format has its advantages, but the ability to present music in two contrasting sections isn't one of them:

But what artists don't do anymore is structure their work into themes and acts. Sometimes an intermission isn't just an excuse to grab a drink or go to the restroom.

There are any number of good examples of vinyl-era albums that were structured in "acts" or "chapters," with one side of the platter distinctly different in feel or content from the other: David Bowie's Low and "Heroes" both contrast quirky pop songs on one side with mostly-instrumental experiments on the other, Jethro Tull's Aqualung divides thematically in two at the break, and so on.

Rick contrasts the first side (in the original vinyl version) of Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure, which builds from the opening "Do the Strand" to the guitar histrionics of "In Every Dream Home a Heartache," with the more abstract musical stylings of the second side. This is a good choice: after all, "In Every Dream Home . . .' is about Miss Vinyl, isn't it?

Shhhhhh! The Beds May Be Bugged!

Brace yourselves, my fellow Americans, for the latest plague to befall our great nation.  I refer, friends, to the unexpected resurgence of Cimex lectularius, the Common Bedbug.  (Cimex lectularius is not to be confused with Hannibal lectularius, the Uncommon Fictional Sociopath.)

Whether justified by the facts or not, we are experiencing a sudden rash of stories reporting on a sudden rash of bedbug infestations.  Business Insurance magazine, in a story not available online, reports that "hospitality industry risk managers" are particularly concerned by the actual or perceived rise in bed bug bites, as they present a ready opportunity for claims by guests.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so too do certain of my brethren of the Bar.  Consequently, the lawsuits have already begun, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on February 12:

'Don't you think there's a place for me, in between the sheets?'

It was supposed to be five days of beach fun in Ocean City, Md., for James and Mary Ann Dugan of Flourtown and their two children last August.

Instead, they claim in a lawsuit, they got two hotel beds infested with bedbugs. They allege that they suffered from bedbug bites days after they returned home, forcing them to call an exterminator to their house.

They also had to toss bedding, furniture and clothing into the trash, they said.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Montgomery County Court, alleges that their ruined personal belongings totaled $20,000.

The complaint charges the Harrison Group Ltd. and the Holiday Inn at 6600 Costal Highway with breach of contract and negligence. The Dugans seek compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $50,000 on each count.

(The story is worth your time to read in full, containing such fine journalistic touches as the Dugans' "five-hour drive home in bad weather" and the claim apparently made in the suit "that bedbugs can transmit HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne illnesses, and that the family will have to be monitored.")

[Update: There's more -- too much more perhaps -- which has been moved to the extended portion of this post, in the interest of saving space here.  Read on, if you care and if you dare . . . .  Be warned: there's a particularly lame pun awaiting those who make it all the way to the end.]

Continue reading "Shhhhhh! The Beds May Be Bugged!" »

He Sips, He Spits, He Scores!

Professor Bainbridge is renewing his recommendation of the 1999 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Silver Oak Cellars, and he takes the occasion to remark on Wine Ratings. It seems there is a discrepancy between his own high opinion of this wine -- he calls it "probably one of the best young Cabernets I've ever drunk" -- and the more lukewarm reception it has received from the principal 800-pound gorillas of the wine press:

Robert Parker scored it only at 90. Worse yet, the Wine Spectator called it a mere 87. My take? Don't obsess over 100-point scales. You have to trust your own palate. After my January 9th review, I hit Wally's here in LA and bought as much of the Silver Oak as I could find. The second bottle confirmed that I made the right call.

Trust me: If you can find the 99 Silver Oak, buy it. Thankfully there are so many idiots who only buy wines that Parker and the Wine Spectator score at 90+ that you can still find the 99 Silver Oak and, moreover, at decent prices.

The hundred-point scale for rating wines is probably here to stay, but I generally find it unhelpful. Having so many points available lends a 100-point measurement a false sense of precision: with so much room for subjectivity in tasting, there is no reliable way to determine why one wine is rated, say, 92 while the next is rated 93. And is a $95.00 wine rated as a 95 a more worthwhile purchase than a $30.00 wine that earns a 93? The scale's precision is illusory at best.

The 100-point scale is an outgrowth of my own preferred scale (when I have the discipline to be extra-analytical about wines, which is not often), the UC Davis 20-point scale. The details of the Davis scale are described in this article and for those of you who want to play at home, you can download this handy score sheet. With a smaller range of motion and particular numbers of points allocated to particular aspects of the total wine -- its appearance, aroma, trueness to type and so on -- the Davis scale is, to my mind, a more reliable and more readily comparable indicator of quality across a group of wines.

Mind you, I hardly ever rate wines on a numerical scale at all: discover what you like, follow where it leads and keep an eye out for the unusual or unexpected is the course I recommend, and there is much to be said in favor of Professor Bainbridge's highly-practical 4-point scale.

Incidental intelligence:

I have not tasted the 1999 Silver Oak under consideration myself, but I would be inclined to believe the Professor's high opinion of it. Silver Oak makes only Cabernet Sauvignon -- one each from the winery's own estates in Napa Valley and in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley -- and it does so with a high level of quality and consistency. Moreover, Silver Oak always holds the wines for five years prior to release. Very few wineries can or do adopt a policy that locks up inventory like that. The benefit to the wine drinker is that the Silver Oak wines are more mature on release than most others and can be enjoyed for that quality more immediately.

Silver Oak's Alexander Valley facilities occupy the attractive building that was originally the home of the Lyeth winery, the unfortunate circumstances and eventual sale of which were described here.

We Don't Need Another Hero

Do they know about this at Overlawyered?

Mr. Incredible is a superhero; or he used to be, until a surge of lawsuits against superheroes submitted by the people they've saved forced the government to hide them in witness protection programs so they could lead normal, anonymous lives.

That would be the premise for The Incredibles, the next computer animated feature from the merry band at Pixar, the penultimate release under Pixar's recently ended deal with Disney. The film is directed by Brad Bird, previously responsible for "Family Dog" (for Steven Spielberg) and The Iron Giant.

The very amusing teaser for The Incredibles, along with some "sneak peeks" designed for insertion into a recent television broadcast of Toy Story, can be seen here. (Those lawsuits are mentioned in Sneak Peek Clip #2, and intriguing glimpses of the rough animation abound in Clip #1.) Some notes on shot composition from Brad Bird, with examples drawn [ho ho] from King of the Hill, can be accessed here, thanks to the interesting if dubiously named reference site, Animation Meat.

(I went on a bit about animated films in general last August. Interested readers can click through here.)

Through the Political Grapevine

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has been earning plentiful coverage and comment for his actions relating to gay marriage. I will leave the commentary on that issue to political weblogs, of all stripes, and instead call your attention to Mayor Newsom’s connections to one of this site’s favorite topics, California wine.

In a story in its current issue (not available online), The Wine Spectator profiles Newsom’s former role, abandoned on his taking office in San Francisco, as managing partner of The PlumpJack Winery -- named in honor of Shakespeare’s Falstaff -- which he founded in conjunction with Gordon Getty. The mayor’s winery-related profile can be read here. The PlumpJack group's interests have grown over the years to include wine shops, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues. Newsom divested himself of his interest in all of them, on undisclosed terms, prior to his swearing in.

This set me to thinking about other wine-related politicians. I knew, for instance, that Republican Brooks Firestone, tire heir and founder of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering Firestone Vineyard, had served two terms in the California Assembly. A quick bit of Googling leads to the discovery that he is still in politics, currently running for the position of county supervisor, on a platform opposing a proposal to split the current Santa Barbara County in two (north and south, the north to become “Mission County”).

There’s more, of course. Looking for a wine-related angle to the recall of California Governor Gray Davis? Republican Assemblyman Ray Haynes, in an item posted a year ago, suggested vinous hanky-panky with State pension funds:

The concerns of those keeping a watchful eye on CalPERS are not merely speculation. Many actions over the last few years have provided cause for outrage. Early last year, for instance, the CalPERS board invested more than $100 million into Premier Pacific Vineyards. The head winemaker there just happened to be a major fundraiser for Governor Davis who, by the way, appoints three of the CalPERS board members.

There is no indication that this story had any impact on the recall election. Governor Schwarzenegger is known to be partial to cigars, but his positions on California wine are less clear. There is evidence, however, that he approves of the wines of Austria.

And then there’s California Republican Congressman George Radanovich, "the first full-time professional winemaker to serve in the House" and co-founder (with Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson) of the bipartisan Congressional Wine Caucus. The Caucus’ Web page seems not to have been updated recently, but the group claims 215 members representing all 50 states, and seems to favor positions such as setting aside state-level restrictions preventing direct shipments from wineries to consumers.

(And look here: SCOTUSBlog reports that the State of Michigan has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 6th Circuit ruling permitting such shipments. [Thanks for that link, David.])

Coming soon, I think: a look back at how the law relating to wine Got That Way, with special attention to the repeal of Prohibition in the 21st Amendment, and perhaps a look at White House attitudes toward wine. It’s riveting stuff!


Garrick Davis, editor of Contemporary Poetry Review, offers up a thumbnail history of "the little magazine" in his own online journal's freshly scrubbed Mission Statement:

The history of 20th century poetry is inextricably linked with the genre of the little magazine, and much of that genre’s history has been forgotten. We must remember that the little magazine was an outgrowth—and the necessary vehicle—of Modernism. When the Modernists attempted to publish their works in the general-circulation newspapers and magazines of their day and were rebuffed, they were forced to organize their own magazines in order to break into print. Ezra Pound was the very type and role model of this era; he was the midwife of 20th century literature by helping to found, edit, and fund dozens of literary magazines.

Many of them foundered, of course, though there are a few honorable exceptions still among us. . . .

The real problem with the present world of literary publications is, of course, cost and distribution. . . . Possessing a tiny readership, the little magazine cannot attract advertisers. Lacking advertisers, it cannot offset the costs of production. With no profit margin to encourage its sale and distribution, every issue of the little magazine begins its life stillborn as a commercial enterprise. . . . The result of this marketplace Darwinism is that the little magazine is almost a couture object in our society—both difficult to obtain and expensive to purchase.

Since there are literally thousands of little magazines, the cost of “keeping up” with the important literary periodicals of the day to the individual reader is prohibitive, and the cost to libraries is staggering. . . . The genre of little magazines, which was originally conceived to publish the difficult art of the Modernists, has ended up making literature itself inaccessible.

Terry Teachout, in the notes I linked to below, suggests that weblogs "will be to the 21st century what little magazines were to the 20th century," but he may have gotten the mechanism wrong. Because the hurdles that must be negotiated to create -- and, more importantly, to access -- a weblog are so modest, instead of having "influence . . . disproportionate to their circulation," the best weblogs may finally accomplish the feat of finding an audience large enough to match the caliber of their content.

Davis in his Mission Statement reminds us that T.S. Eliot's Criterion magazine had a peak circulation of 700; Pound and the Vorticists' Blast was presumably even smaller. Those journals' influence in the long term was out of all proportion to their circulation. Without the practical and financial impediments that Davis identifies, the potential influence of the right weblog at the right time could -- he said, thinking wishfully -- be even greater.

A random example, picked largely because he has actually voiced his goal in terms of audience size: Neocalvinist cultural observer Gideon Strauss is content to "dream[] of achieving my own little micro-readership of 250", a humble and seemingly achievable objective for many sites. If some significant percentage of even so small a core of readers have weblogs of their own, as is probable, a writer's best material will likely be linked and relinked, those links serving as levers with which the right post might move the world.

Then again, maybe this guy is right. [Link via American Digest.]