It is a matter of no great moment, other than to myself and perhaps some of the several thousand others of whom it is also true, but I will report it all the same:
Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my admission to the State Bar of California.
This means that sometime in early June, 2007 -- I think I still have the skills to calculate the particular date, if I put my mind to it, which I will not on this occasion -- I will have spent half my life as a lawyer.
[Photo of a digital temperature gauge somewhere in Vienna by schaufi (Chris Schauflinger), courtesy of stock.xchng.]
It has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition on this weblog -- see prior instances here (2005) and here (2004) -- to post a version of Fairport Convention's "Now Be Thankful." Today, November 22, is also Saint Cecilia's Day, so the inclusion of music in our holiday observance is especially timely.
This year, courtesy of The YouTube -- get it while it lasts, and be thankful -- I offer up a video version of the tune, taken from an outdoor Fairport Convention appearance at Maidstone, Kent, in 1970. Sandy Denny had departed the band at this point, and Richard Thompson was about to do the same. Thompson's little grin at the conclusion of this performance is particularly lovely.*
As for another of my annual Traditions, the space following this paragraph will soon be occupied by here is a photograph of the President of the United States pardoning this year's turkey. No Karl Rove jokes, please:
Following the presidential precedent of last year, the Nation's Turkeys will be packed off to Disneyland following their pardon, there to appear as Grand Marshals of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and to serve out their natural lives under Mouse arrest. It is to be hoped that the Disneyland birds will be spared the fate of "Clyde," last year's official Pardoned Turkey of the State of Alabama, whose fate it was to be eaten by a wily coyote.
The Thanksgiving turkey pardon is a prime example of an act that is only seemingly innocuous but actually serves to shape our modern consciousness. Masquerading as a joke, it is really a symbolic pardoning act which, through public performance, establishes and manifests the sovereign’s position at the helm of the state by highlighting, as an attribute of his position, his power to control matters of life and death. Alas, the etymological coincidence of the words ‘executive’ and ‘execution.’
Alas, indeed. Meanwhile, Jack Kelly of American Heritage magazineladles out heaping platefuls of turkey lore, including the disputed origins of the annual Pardon and this:
Sarah Josepha Hale, among the first American women to write a novel (she also composed 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'), began to campaign for an official Thanksgiving holiday in 1846. There were only two national holidays at the time, Washington’s Birthday and Independence Day. Many states adopted the autumn celebration before Lincoln proclaimed it for the entire country during the Civil War.
Hale, who had not previously connected Thanksgiving to the Plymouth settlement, mentioned in 1865 that 'the Pilgrim Fathers incorporated a yearly Thanksgiving day among the moral influences they sent to the New World.' It was not true, but, Smith notes, 'textbooks were retelling the tale of the first Thanksgiving dinner by 1870.' The myth of that original feasting ritual became established and was embellished by Victorian novelists, who attributed elaborate menus to the struggling Pilgrims.
The President having hurried home from Asia just in time to bestow the Nation's pardon on this fine fowl, it is appropriate to consider the Thanksgiving challenges faced by our fellow citizens in far away places. Samia Mounts, an American in Seoul, explains the holiday for Korean readers and reports:
Many Americans live in Seoul, and Thanksgiving can be a challenging holiday for them. They find it a challenge to find a turkey to roast, because the markets in Seoul do not carry turkey. However, if one is creative, one can overcome any culinary obstacle. A large chicken can substitute for a turkey, and almost all the other Thanksgiving trimmings are available here in Seoul.
Ms. Mount provides an intriguing recipe for Ginger Peanut Stuffing, which is sure to give your large chicken real global flair.
Given that characters nicknamed "Turkey" and "Ginger Nut" both appear in Melville's tale of "Bartleby, the Scrivener," one might rename this dish "Herman Melville Dressing."
Or one might prefer not to.
And on those eclectic and festive notes, here's wishing to each of you a bountiful, healthful, mellifluous and Happy Thanksgiving.
* Apropos of St. Cecilia and the art of which she is patroness, this fool enthusiastically endorses Richard Thompson's 2003 recording, 1000 Years of Popular Music, which covers exactly that: from "Sumer is icumen in" to "Oops, I Did it Again" by way of Henry V, a memento mori ("Remember O Thou Man), mining protest songs ("Blackleg Miner"), Gilbert & Sullivan ("There is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast"), Cole Porter ("Night & Day") and the Easybeats ("Friday on My Mind"). Now available in a deluxe edition with accompanying DVD (which I have not seen myself).
Let's drink a toast as each of us recalls Ivy-covered professors in ivy-covered halls . . . .
-- Tom Lehrer, "Bright College Days"
Scheduled to be out of town for depositions in San Francisco yesterday, I took the excuse to run north early for a Sunday afternoon with my old school chum Rick Coencas. We revisited, for the first time in decades, our haunts in and around our beloved University of California, Berkeley. (Albeit I am no particular follower of college football, I cannot but boast that at this moment Cal towers undefeated in conference play, #1 in the Pac-10 Standings and, glory be, #8 in the BCS. Go Bears!)
Having no time to prepare a report of my own, I refer you to Rick's version, which comes complete with loverley photos and a title drawn from a poor joke that I made while we ambled through a fog of reminiscence toward Sather Gate.
Mirror in the bathroom I just can't stop it,
Every Saturday you see me window shopping.
Find no interest in the racks and shelves,
Just a thousand reflections of my own sweet self self self self self . . .
I have often said that No One Ever Went to Law School to Learn to Be Humble. To prove my own point, here are links to two recent items either by or about yer 'umble Fool.
Lawcrossing is a major online legal job search and recruiting service that also dishes up an online magazine of sorts with articles, columns, interviews, and feature stories on matters legal and/or current. In a moment of weakness, the site this week features a profile (based on an e-mail interview) of . . . me. Learn my guilty secrets! Mock my pretensions! Wonder at the sinister twinkle in my eye! Any number can play.
Of somewhat related interest: On a more serious and useful note, Lawcrossing's "Inside Legal Blogs" column this week features a pointer to shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress. shlep is devoted to practical discussions on self-help and pro se litigation, and is the brainchild of longstanding online FOTF [friend o' the fool] David Giacalone. shlep promises to be of interest to those who hope to avoid, when possible, falling into the clutches of lawyers. (Thanks to David, this post isn't all about me.)
I also recently published a general purpose article on legal weblogs -- "Letting the Blogs Out: What Weblogs Have to Offer to Risk and Insurance Professionals" -- in the August 2006 issue (PDF) of CLEWS, the newsletter of the Consulting, Litigation and Expert Witness [CLEW] section of the CPCU Society.
In case the link to the CLEW newsletter proves to be restricted to CPCU Society members, I have uploaded another copy here (also PDF).
My alma mater, Cal/Berkeley, comes in for a scolding from the Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub here. Yes, it's another story on how college student don't know much about history. The statistics seem to show that students actually grow less knowledgeable over the course of four years.
The post is replete with the usual sorry examples of ignorance -- of the "53% believe Oprah Winfrey discovered radium" variety -- the last being a real headshaker:
Even with their country at war in Iraq, fewer than half of seniors, 45.2 percent, could identify the Baath party as the main source of Saddam Hussein's political support. In fact, 12.2 percent believed that Saddam Hussein found his most reliable supporters in the Communist Party. Almost 5.7 percent chose Israel.
Here we have the makings of a blockbuster historical thriller:
On your right is Flugzeugträger A, also known as the Graf Zeppelin, the Nazis' one and only aircraft carrier.
Begun in 1936, construction was never fully completed and the ship was never actually put to use. It was scuttled by the Germans somewhere near Gdansk to keep it from the approaching Russian army in 1945. Having taken possession of the neighborhood, the Russians later raised the vessel and sailed it into the Baltic, where it disappeared under Mysterious Circumstances, most likely involving loud and dramatic explosions.
Today, nearly sixty years later, DER SPIEGEL reports that what remains of the Graf Zeppelin has been found:
Divers working for the Polish oil firm Petrobaltic on Monday discovered the rusting hulk of Nazi Germany's only aircraft carrier, the Graf Zeppelin, sunk in mysterious circumstances by the Soviets after World War II. Its exact location had been a riddle for almost 60 years.
* * *
Monday, while sounding for oil deposits in the Baltic Sea, Polish workers discovered the wreck about 55 kilometers (34 miles) outside the Polish harbor town of Wladyslawowo, near Gdansk. According to international maritime law the remains belong to the Federal Republic of Germany, but the German Defense Ministry told news agency ddp that jurisdiction is still under discussion. In the meantime, the ship's mysteries are far from fully solved.
'It's difficult to say why the Russians have always been so stubbornly reluctant to talk about the location of the wreck,' Lukasz Orlicki, a Polish maritime historian, told the Times of London. 'Perhaps it was the usual obsession with secrecy, or perhaps there was some kind of suspect cargo.'
Perhaps . . . .
I'm thinking Nicholas Cage in the lead, racing through the backwater shipyards of Old Europe on the track of nautical clues while dodging bullets and pondering the romantic yearnings of an attractive Estonian sextant refurbisher (Lindsay Lohan) with mysteries of her own, climaxing with an elaborate battle of the mini-submersibles beneath the Gulf of Bothnia and the discovery of the Graf Zeppelin's Secret, for which the world will not be ready -- until July 2008!
You read it here first, and I'll be expecting my points from the gross, in cash and up front.
"It all came rushing back, like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist." -- Nick Danger, 3rd Eye
Painful memories of a misspent youth:
Because it's what all the weblogging kids are doing this week, Professor Bainbridge has posted a photo of The View from [his] Window at the UCLA School of Law.
For those who can't figure out what they are looking at in that picture, it depicts a walkway that goes across the roof of the law school. As I note in a comment at the Bainbridgeblog, I used that very walkway one day in my own law school days (ca. 1980) as a shortcut to run between classes.
I was late, and I seem to recall that it was beginning to rain, and in my haste I did not pay close attention to details. As I raced to reenter the building (out of frame to the left of the Professor's shot) I did not notice that the overhead clearance was very low, and I resoundingly clobbered the front of my skull with the top of the low-lying door jamb. Yes, it left a mark. But like the poor fellow who was turned into a newt, I got better.
So let that be a lesson to you all: when in haste, be sure to duck.
Bonus Literary Link: On a lighter note ("In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat . . . .") this is as good an excuse as any to link to the immortal Saki's wicked short short tale, "The Open Window."
Both LA Observed and LAist are reporting that the current owners of the Beverly Hilton hotel are making plans to remodel and expand the property to incorporate three high-priced high-rise condo towers. One victim of the project: the Beverly Hills outpost of that fons et origo of Tiki culture, Trader Vic's. LA Observed's Kevin Roderick writes:
The existing hotel, recently remodeled, would remain. The Beverly Hilton's 1950s modern styling, with lanais on the rooms overlooking the pool, has its fans. The hotel was for a time the L.A. flagship of the Hilton chain and served as the Western White House for President John Kennedy. But Trader Vic's— that place would be missed by lots of people.
The Beverly Hills restaurant is not the original: that would be up north in Oakland, as the official history would have it:
In 1932, with a nest egg of $700 and carpentry help from his wife's brothers - plus his mother's pot-bellied stove and oven - the ebullient Victor [Bergeron] built a cozy pub across the street from the store and called it Hinky Dink's. His pungent vocabulary and ribald air made him a popular host, as did his potent tropical cocktail concoctions and delicious Americanized adaptations of Polynesian food.
Soon one of the most popular watering holes in Northern California's Bay Area, the place attracted sophisticated urbanites like writers Herb Caen and Lucius Beebe. By 1936, when Caen wittily wrote that the 'best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland,' Vic had become 'The Trader' and Hinky Dink's had become 'Trader Vic's,' complete with a showpiece Chinese oven. Its South Pacific theme 'intrigues everyone. You think of beaches and moonlight and pretty girls. It is complete escape,' Vic said at the time. Among Trader Vic's more tantalizing legacies is the original Mai Tai, the bracingly refreshing rum cocktail he created at the restaurant in 1944 and introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the 1950s. Tahitian for 'the very best,' Mai Tai became the slogan for his entire operation.
I have been unable to find any online confirmation of my favorite Trader Vic's detail: in the mid-1970's founder Vic Bergeron was caught up in the "Pyramid Power" craze then sweeping the nation. Convinced of their efficacy in improving the aging of wines, he had pyramids installed in the wine cellars of many of the restaurants. It is uncertain whether a belief in such stuff can be traced to one (or more) too many of those famous Mai-Tais.
And yes, I realize that the werewolves, and their bespoke tailors, are most likely still hanging out at this branch.