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Blawg Review #305

Trial by jury 1

APRIL FOOL!

Yes, friends, it's Blawg Review #305, appearing several days ahead of its typical Monday schedule so that I may continue the Tradition (Tradition!), observed in four of the previous five years, of hosting an April Fools' Blawg Review installment here in the forest.  Note, if you have not already, that since this past Monday I have been hosting Blawg Review #304 at my oft-neglected legal blog, Declarations & Exclusions.

For this year's April Fools' theme I turn to a true connoisseur of human folly, William Schwenk Gilbert, the "Gilbert" of Gilbert & Sullivan fame.  W. S. Gilbert knew something of the Law at first hand: as a young man, before finding success first as an author of light verse and then as the authoring and directing half of one of the more successful theatrical duos of all time, Gilbert attempted a career as a barrister in London's Inner Temple.  He was not a success.  Indeed, it is reported that in the course of a year a mere five clients came his way.  We pause at this juncture to shed a tear of solidarity.

Gilbert's fortunes improved when, under the pen name "Bab," he began writing and illustrating humorous verse for magazines. Those poems came to be known as the "Bab Ballads."  The illustration atop this post accompanied "Trial by Jury," the tale of a suit for breach of promise to marry in which the judge does equity by wedding the jilted bride himself.  That ballad was ultimately expanded to a full one-act operetta, marking the first successful collaboration between Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, with whom his name is now forever linked.

Of the fourteen major collaborations between Gilbert and Sullivan, the longest-lasting is The Mikado, which continues to receive performances the world over on a near daily basis.  The creation of The Mikado was the subject of Mike Leigh's Academy-nominated 1999 film, Topsy-Turvy, which is perhaps the best ever made on the subject of how the creative process in the theater really works.

Ko-Ko by Bab
Although it is ostensibly set in distant and exotic Japan, in the town of [ha ha!] Titipu, the only things actually Japanese about The Mikado are the costumes and, particularly in Sullivan's Overture, some of the music.  Otherwise, it is a resolutely English piece, poking fun at resolutely English targets.

To summarize, insofar as the plot is relevant to our business here today: The Mikado (Emperor) of Japan is of a particularly bloodthirsty disposition, criminalizing all manner of innocent activity and declaring most crimes to be punishable by death.  Not so bloodthirsty themselves, the citizens of Titipu hit upon the idea that the next person set for execution should himself be appointed Lord High Executioner.  Since his first order of business will be to behead himself, it is unlikely sentence will be carried out.  The title and responsibility thus fall to Ko-Ko, a poor tailor languishing in the county gaol awaiting execution for the now-illegal act of flirting. Released and elevated, Ko-Ko promises the populace that should he ever be called upon actually to execute an execution, he has in mind many potential recipients of that service other than himself. So well prepared is he for this eventuality that He's Got a Little List!  And he will share it with us, in song.

Gilbert's original lyric begins:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be
  found,

I've got a little list — I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would
  be missed!

There's the pestilential nuisances who write for
  autographs —
All people who have flabby hands and irritating
  laughs —

And so on from there.  

The Little List is a catalog of prejudices and dislikes—including some unpleasantly hostile attitudes, probably Gilbert's own, toward non-white persons ("the banjo-serenader and others of his race" [the original-original line is actually worse]) and the female sex ("the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,/ And who 'doesn't think she dances, but would rather like to try';/ And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist...")—none of whom, we are assured, will be missed.   

In Gilbert's last verse, he targets politicians "of a compromising kind."  Perhaps in consideration of the notoriously onerous English libel laws, he names no names (referring instead to "What d'ye call him — Thing'em-bob, and likewise — Never-mind") but it became traditional from virtually the first performance of The Mikado that, by appropriate gesture and mime, the actor portraying Ko-Ko could convey precisely which well-known statesmen were intended to be tweaked.  

That little trick, and the passage of years, led to the other grand tradition of the Little List: it is now almost always performed with extensive revision so as to target the irritants particular to the time and place of the performance.  It is not unknown for new verses to be crafted immediately before curtain time: since Ko-Ko is reading from his List, memorization is not a problem.  When the English National Opera revived The Mikado in a Jonathan Miller production (shifted to the 1920s), Eric Idle of Monty Python's Flying Circus took the role of Ko-Ko, and his cheeky nightly updatings of the Little List became somewhat notorious.  Richard Suart, who has since played the role many times in revivals of that same production, produced a book in 2008 (They'd None of 'em Be Missed) compiling a remarkable number of updated, topical Lists.

As you will have guessed from this prolix introduction, this year's April Fools' Blawg Review is centered around my own attempt at a blawgophile version of The Little List.  I present it below, followed by a selection of links directing you to properly foolish or eyebrow-raising legal items from 'round the sphere o' blawgs.

(If you find my version of Gilbert's lyric at all amusing, you might also enjoy my prior attempt at a topical rewriting of Victorian light verse, inspired by the 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico: "The Walrus and the Petrol-Man.")

~~~

For those not familiar with Sullivan's tune for Ko-Ko's song, there is a cheesy MIDI version here.  Note that the lyrical revision below runs one verse longer than Gilbert's original, so the MIDI will run out before the verses do.  (The MIDI version also slows, as the singer typically does, during the political "What d'ye call him" section of Verse 3.)

Or perhaps you would prefer first to hear it sung by a professional?  There is a surprising dearth of satisfactory in-context versions of the Little List on the YouTubes, so instead I offer this performance by the fine English baritone Sir Thomas Allen (seen very recently in these parts), recorded at the closing BBC Proms concert at the Royal Albert Holes Hall in 2004.  Sir Thomas milks it more than somewhat, as the occasion requires, but his version strikes a reasonable balance between Gilbert's original verses and new, topical ones—to the extent Walkman jokes were still "topical" three years post-iPod—by Kit Hesketh-Harvey:

~~~ 

George Grossmith as Ko-KoGeorge Grossmith, the original Ko-Ko

And so, to our own special Blawg Reviewing Little List.  I might manage a passable rendition of this myself, but the lack of proper recording equipment spares us all the experiment.  Instead, in concluding this introduction, I shall simply join with Ko-Ko himself in declaring:

"I can only trust that by strict attention to duty I shall ensure a continuance of those favours which it will ever be my study to deserve."

~~~

(This Blawg Review Has) Got a Little List

On April Fools' it happens that some targets must be
  found
,
I've got a little list! I've got a little list
Of law-related nuisances we wish were not around
And who never would be missed — they never would be 
  missed!

There's law school grads whose sole concern is paying 
  student loans,

And members of the slackoisie who will not grow
  some stones,

And haughty law professors who don't practice, only
  preach,

And excise practicality from everything they teach,
And let employers do the job for which their schools
   exist.
They'd none of 'em be missed — no, they'd none of
  'em be missed!

CHORUS:
    He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list,
    And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none
      of 'em be missed.

Those copyright "defenders" who write rudely to
  demand

You cease and you desist — I've got them on my list!
All the Constitution-shredding prosecutors 'cross
  the land,

I'm sure that you'll insist I put them on my list.

There's the Legal Biz consultant and his jargon-
  spewing kind

Like You Know Who, and Wotsername, and –
  hang it! Never mind --

Who claim fat fees to tell you how to stand out in the
  crowd

But haven't got a clue because their heads are up
  their Cloud.
And let us not forget the "legal thriller" novelist.
He'll surely not be missed — they'd none of 'em be
  missed!

CHORUS:
    He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list,
    And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none
      of 'em be missed.

Those advocates who haven't got the sense God gave
  a rock

Are roundly to be hissed — I'll add them to my list.
And lawyers who are "Outraged!" or "Offended!" or
  "In shock!"

They'd none of 'em be missed — no, they'd none of
  'em be missed!

There's legislators, regulators, monitors and such
Who claim that they know secrets and that you're just
  out of touch,

And those who cite your "safety" as they strip you of
  your rights

Or ban your toys and food and drink and
  incandescent lights.

I won't forget the talking heads and "legal analysts."
They all go on the list, as they'll none of 'em be
  missed.

CHORUS:    
    They all go on the list — they all go on the list,
    And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none
      of 'em be missed.

Don't claim to be "aggressive" when you're really just
  a jerk —

I'll slap you on the wrist, and add you to my list — 
And don't suggest that Twitter is a substitute for
  work —

At you I shake my fist, and now you're on my list

With the fellow who surrounds himself with all the
  latest "Tech"

And bloviates about it 'til you want to wring his neck —
And everyone who's "passionate" while really doing
  squat —

And anyone proclaiming he's an expert when he's not.
And I, a fool who plays the part of rhyming satirist?
We'll none of us be missed — no, we'll none of us
  be missed!

~~~

George Grossmith as the Lord Chancellor in 'Iolanthe'George Grossmith as the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe

"The Law is the true embodiment of everything that's excellent."

"When everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody." — W.S. Gilbert, from The Gondoliers, oft-cited (as in the linked case) at What About Clients?

 ~~~

Links, then— You'll be wanting links, this being a Blawg Review and all.  Let me see what can be done, shall I?  Yes, yes, we have some fine links here.  An assemblage of legal blogging from hither and thither, showing grace, oddity, quiddity, variety, and epiphany.  See which of the themes from our Little List re-echo through the slightly Longer List below:

Blawg Review hosts do not often get the chance to cite Access Hollywood, but where else will you learn that Judge Judy was hospitalized, but got better?

They banned the toys in Happy Meals, what more do you want? San Francisco's rather unsavory Tenderloin district seems somehow aptly named, but the upright citizens with PETA are not satisfied.  They are proposing that the City—which has only a Temporary Mayor at the moment—should rechristen the Tenderloin to honor textured soy products.

At his California Appellate Report blog, Prof. Shaun Martin proposes a useful predictive tool in litigation: "Whoever attempts to file a proposed pleading in excess of a full ream of paper will lose the lawsuit."  Make a note: valuable safety tip.

If Washington University Law's Brian Tamanaha suddenly vanishes mysteriously, it may be because he has been spilling the beans about the supposed "selfessness" of law professors.

  • Caution— The preceding post contains this disturbing admission by the former president of the Association of American Law Schools:

   "Lawyers are not 'produced' or even 'trained' by law schools."  

The AALS—which sounds rather like one of those wicked "special interests" we are always hearing about—appears to believe that this is a good thing.  

Did you see where the American Bar Association—yet another special interest group—after close examination of the evidence, concluded that personal referrals and recommendations from people who actually know something about a lawyer are far more likely to drive business to that lawyer than, say, a blog (even a good one) or social media?  And did you see where a lot of people professed surprise at what strikes this blogger as pretty obvious? Let it be duly writ down that Scott Greenfield was not to be counted among the surprised.

Even the jaded souls at Above the Law were amazed by the ghoulish bad taste and the abuse of firefighters and of Photoshop evidenced in one law firm's recent advert.

Brian Tannebaum, with the tactful and gentle demeanor for which he is beloved, calmly and carefully gnaws down to the root of things, spits it out, and explains yet again that The Real Problem With Lawyers is Pure Stupidity.

In a development that should please art fanciers everywhere, it seems our very own Los Angeles County Museum of Art is beating the devil and slaying zombie copyrights.

James Joyce is dead, his troubles are over.  Not so the troubles of certain clever researchers who encoded 14 nearly-coherent words from Finnegans Wake on to a strand of DNA and are now, per Overlawyeredhearing about it from the Joyce estate's lawyers.  (More at The Art Law Blog.  I ventured into the metaphysics of it all via Twitter here.)  The Joyce estate is notoriously touchy about these things, to the extent that Ohio State University publishes a set of Frequently Asked Questions on dealing with them.  [h/t the Twitter feed of @AntoninPribetic.]

  • Gilbert and Sullivan, by the way—and particularly Gilbert—were extremely protective of their copyrights, particularly when their first big hit, H.M.S. Pinafore was the subject of multiple unauthorized U.S. productions before their own could be brought from London.  Through the efforts of their producer, impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, those copyrights were kept alive until 1961.  Parliament even considered, but rejected, a further extension specific to Gilbert and Sullivan, given the operas' "national treasure" status.  More on the legal aspects of the Savoyard legacy, here.

You know how they say an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client?  Apparently, that rule makes no exception for Harvard grads.  [also via Above the Law.]  Remember, kids: if the case isn't about your 75-pound Labrador, there is little to be gained by submitting his vet bills as exhibits.

Even if your Lab is not involved, howz you doin' at getting your exhibits admitted effectively at trial?  It's not Rocket Science, you know.  It's Magic.  [via, unnaturally, the Law and Magic Blog.]

And speaking of cute li'l doggies: Michigan liquor authorities express fear and loathing over a Ralph Steadman-designed label for "Raging B*tch" Belgian-style India Pale Ale.  [Legal Blog Watch]

New Horizons in Business: Florida legislator suggests women should incorporate their lady parts to avoid intrusive regulation, is reproved for use of real names of things.

Perhaps you have no higher goal in life than maximizing your following on Twitter?  Then you might be just the sort of gullible sap who would listen to a self- styled "social media scientist" advising you how to do it.  "Social media science,"  we should note, bears about the same relationship to actual Science as "science fiction" does.

You want fiction?  Try this on for size: "Three Law-Related Dramas Win Peabody Awards."  [Law and Humanities Blog]

This being April Fools' Day, you will perhaps be thinking of some sly prank or other to inflict upon with which to contribute to the innocent merriment those around you.  You know, stuff like this.  If your roguish japery includes, say, the use of the public airwaves, the Broadcast Law Blog reminds you to please be sure to clear it first with the FCC.

You might also take steps to contain the mirth a bit in the workplace.  [Manpower Blog]

More workplace fun via Lowering the Bar: "The employee was horrified at the possibility of wearing the chicken head. . . ."

Of course you realize this means war!  [An Associate's Mind]

Or it may just be the end of the world as we know it.  [Legal Antics]

In any event, we don't need another hero.  [Southern Lawyer NC]

Memories, via @gapingvoid.

Lord Chancellor and two of his wards by WS Gilbert

~~~

This April Fools' edition marks the tenth occasion on which it has been my pleasure to host an installment of Blawg Review. Thanks once again to the Anonymous Editor, and other supporters of this and previous editions.  

As Futures will do, the Future of Blawg Review has shrouded itself in mystery.  Should it turn out that the post you are reading is the Last Blawg Review Ever, it is my hope that you will agree with me that, unlike the denizens of our Little List, the institution of Blawg Review assuredly will be missed.

Keep your heads, and good blawgs to you.

~~~