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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Saturday, December 31, 2005

A New Year's Resolution For You And Me

With each December that passes, I may or may not make a New Year's resolution. I couldn't even tell you if I made one a year ago; if I did, I didn't write it down, and I probably haven't stayed faithful to it. The truth about New Year's resolutions is that they are rarely adhered to. You may be feeling ten pounds overweight in the middle of winter after a holiday season of eating and not exercising; I may be disappointed in my own inability to meet a girl whom I actually like. And we may both decide to do something about it, but we both know that simply by declaring a future change on December 31, nothing is accomplished in reality.

This is no great failing on either of our parts. Self-motivation is almost always poor motivation. We only have ourselves to answer to when we fall short of our own expectations, and we easily forgive ourselves. We do it so regularly we don't even notice. Think about the last time you rationalized doing something you told yourself you wouldn't do. There's a girl who lives in my building who I think is beautiful, but I've never talked to her, because every time I've seen her, one of us is in a rush. So the first time I introduce myself waits until the next time I see her, and then until the time after that. Maybe you wanted a slice of pie for dessert and you justified it because you'd run an extra mile the next time you were on the treadmill - but you never even made it to the treadmill because you had to get your holiday shopping done or you were studying for finals. And you know what? It's all good. We all do it, and the world is no worse off because you had a slice of pie or I didn't smile and say "Hi" to a girl.

So as 2006 nears, why make another resolution like that - one we know we won't keep, and one we're likely to forget by 2007? There has to be something out of which we can't merely justify our way. Over the last week, I've tried to give some thought about a resolution that might have some meaning, and I came up with only simple thoughts. They won't change the world. They might not even change my life - but I hope they will.

Be nice to other people. I think I'm a pretty nice guy already - to my knowledge, nobody hates me, at least - and I don't mean this resolution in the sense that I'll be dropping twenties in the cups of the homeless people in Westwood or even that I'll stop ranting in my car when someone's in front of me with their blinker on doing ten miles an hour below the speed limit. I mean it in the sense that I'm going to look up at the cashier when I'm at the supermarket and smile and say, with absolute sincerity, "Thanks. Have a good evening."

How many times am I really so hurried that I can't be troubled to say something nice? Four, five times a year? And even then, how rushed could I possibly be that I can't even smile at people as I move past them? I'm not.

I think I first realized how much I neglect to even say "Thank you" or "Hello" when I was in France this summer. When you go to a French establishment, the cashiers (or waiters, etc.) expect you to greet them politely and thank them. I even heard that one person in my class was refused service because he hadn't said "Bonjour" when he went to pay for something at a convenience store. Now, perhaps the French's insistence on such formalities borders on arrogance, and it seemed to me that the formalities between Frenchmen had become a mindless conversation in most cases anyway. But to me - the American who hadn't given it much thought before - it seemed like something that has been missing from my life.

People - myself included - have become absolutely conditioned to go through the motions of politeness. When my dad picked me up from the airport five days ago, we drove out of the short-term parking lot, and as we pulled up to the booth to pay, the cashier was in a heated argument with someone about some kind of labor issue. The cashier didn't even look at us as she collected the money; as she gave us change, my dad said, "Happy holidays." Without even looking at us, she snapped, "Happy holidays" in return. Purely reflexive - so much so that my dad and I started laughing hysterically at how ridiculous it was.

But let's think about this - what if, as she heard my dad say "Happy holidays," she had been somehow jolted from her rant? What if she had paused for a split second, turned and looked at us, smiled, and had genuinely wished us the same? I think she would have felt her anger soothed, at least somewhat.

That's the power of sincere kindness. It isn't just for the person at whom you're smiling - it makes you feel good for having shared a positive moment. Which brings me to my other resolution:

Take care of yourself first. I'm going to be honest with myself. Altruism is almost always a fallacy. Maybe I'm cynical, but I think that when most people do something good for someone else, they are deriving some benefit - even if it's only a good feeling about themselves or the ability to say they did something good for someone else. That's not a bad thing - even a small motivation like that can spawn a lot of good deeds in this world.

So when I say that I'm going to take care of myself first, it doesn't mean that I'll turn myself into someone to despise. It means that I'm going to make myself happy - and I deserve that much. I'm not going to call that girl with whom I don't enjoy spending time just because I feel like I'm supposed to, because I'm going to be happier if I don't have to deal with her. And I think it's important to realize that it's a lot better for her, because if she's not making me happy, then it's a waste of time for her, too.

I'm going to work as hard as I can in hockey practice because I'm happy when I can be proud of how I play, I'm happy when I can help the team, and I'll be elated if we win the Crosstown Cup and the Pac-8. If I find that summer job where I think I'll be happy, then I'm going for that. And I will smile when I go through the checkout line at Ralph's, because I feel good when I do.

Don't cut at your own enjoyment of life because you feel some sort of pressure to make someone else happy. That's how people end up miserable - in dead-end jobs, in loveless relationships. Everyone deserves happiness, and in the end, nobody can rely on someone else to make it happen. It has to come from yourself.

So I hope that's what 2006 holds for me. Be nice, be happy. It sounds simple enough to handle.

And maybe I'll introduce myself to that girl in my building. But I'm not resolving to.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I Am The Rocky Balboa Of Bubble Hockey

(Note: This post is almost 100 percent serious.)

Having been home for a few days now, it was time to get down to brass tacks (whatever that means) and start getting ready for The Trouble In The Bubble, which is now just 10 days away.

You often hear about the problem NFL teams have when they prepare to play the Falcons: They don't have anyone who can duplicate what Michael Vick can do, and so they're not ready for his unique abilities. I have a similar problem as I prepare for the big showdown. My dad can't emulate my brother's playing style (or his skills, for that matter).

Nevertheless, it was time to see what kind of shape my bubble hockey game is in, and so earlier tonight, my dad and I squared off for a best-of-seven series. A sparring session, if you will. I won the series pretty easily, 4-1, but the games were a lot closer than I would have liked (4-3, 2-1, 2-5, 4-1, 4-2). I didn't top four goals in any of the games, and that's not good. Also, I let my dad score five on me in the loss, and that was a reality check: I have some work to do before I'm fully prepared for January 7.

A few things I need to work on, based on the five games I just played:

-I have to get quicker to the goalie knob. Particularly in the loss, I allowed too many fluke goals from the other end of the ice, and those are the kinds of goals that you can stop if you're on your game with your tender.

-I need to be more careful with my clears from my left defenseman. On our table, the way the boards are, clears around the USA left defensive corner (which will be my corner) hit the dasher and often bounce all the way around to the Canadian left winger, which is my brother's most dangerous weapon. Too often I turned over the puck to that winger, or worse, trying to avoid doing so, I coughed it right out to the center. I can't be doing either - I have to take my time with those clears and get it out of there more reliably.

-I have to be able to finish with my center consistently. I let Dad stop me too many times when I had the puck alone in front. Those are the opportunities that I absolutely must cash in on.

-A lot of my goals either are scored by or originate from my right defenseman, but I don't think I scored any with him in this series. That's not going to fly.

There were a few good points that I need to keep up - good goalie play, and good play using my wingers. But there's a lot of practicing still to be done before the World Series of Bubble Hockey. I'll be playing a few more with my dad, and I'll see if I can talk him into practicing some situational stuff with me - one-on-ones between the center and goalie, playing defense on his left winger, and so on. I'm also going to have to generally improve my reaction time, so maybe I can look up some drills online for that kind of thing. I wonder if there's any kind of diet that aids that sort of thing?

One thing's for sure: I am going to be ready when next Saturday rolls around. Screw the Rose Bowl - this is the championship game I care about.
It's coming...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Fun With The Sunday Night Football Crew

I spent Christmas day bumming around my apartment and watching football, which meant I got to "enjoy" the commentary of ESPN's Sunday Night Football crew. While I watched the Vikings fight to stay alive in the playoff hunt and tried not to get confused by the Ravens' purple uniforms - usually the Vikes' color, I figured I'd keep track of the irritating things Paul, Joe, and Mike said.

The situation: Brad Johnson throws a touchdown pass to Travis Taylor.
The quote (Paul Maguire): "You know what? That's as much Travis Taylor and Brad Johnson, but the guys that deserve 90 percent of the credit? That offensive line."
The analysis: I'm not understanding the math here. Is he saying Taylor, Johnson, and the offensive line all deserve 90 percent of the credit for that score?

The situation: Kyle Boller picks up a first down on a keeper on 4th and 1.
The quote (Joe Theismann): "People don't really realize sometimes how critical a quarterback is on a quarterback sneak."
The analysis: There might have been a good point trying to come out there, but I'd venture a guess and say that people understand that a quarterback is absolutely necessary for a quarterback sneak. That's kind of like saying that nobody understands that a punter is necessary for a punt.

The situation: A graphic comparing Todd Heap to the two AFC Pro Bowl tight ends.


The quote (Mike Patrick): "Here are his numbers as compared to the two guys going to the Pro Bowl in the AFC in front of him, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez. The numbers [are] just about equal."
The analysis: I'm nitpicking a little here, but that's a very generous definition of "equal." Gates has over 200 more yards and 3 more TDs. And if anything, Heap, with 5 more TDs than Gonzalez, has better stats - not similar ones.

The situation: Nate Burleson has his helmet ripped off during a play.
The quote:
Theismann: "Watch this. Boom, here's the catch, and Adalius Thomas just rips his helmet off. That's a clean hit."
[Commercial break]
Patrick: "If you're still in the play, we'll just take your hat with us. That was not called; it was an obvious face mask that they missed!"
Theismann: "I don't know how you miss that baby! He's lucky his face wasn't with it!"
The analysis: Bad enough that Theismann missed the fact that the hit was clearly a face mask, as Patrick pointed out after the break. But don't go acting like you're so stunned that the refs missed the call when you missed it too!

The situation: Ciatrick Fason is stuffed trying to get through the pile on the goal line.
The quote (Theismann): "This is what happens when you have a back that's not real big. This is not a big back. He is not a power back. Michael Bennett would be much better served."
The analysis: Michael Bennett would be much better served...what? With a subpoena? Cold? With a cream sauce and a side of garlic mashed potatoes? I think what Theismann meant to say is that the Vikings would be better served by having Michael Bennett as their goal line back. God forbid an analyst should use the English language properly.

The situation: Jim Kleinsasser catches a pass and fights for extra yardage.
The quote (Patrick): "Boy, they've got two really good tight ends on this club: Kleinsasser and [Jermaine] Wiggins."
The analysis: Let's not get carried away. Kleinsasser hasn't scored a touchdown since 2003. Wiggins hasn't scored one this season. Neither has ever made the Pro Bowl. They have fewer receiving yards combined than at least five other tight ends in the NFL have by themselves. Are they decent? Yes. Are they really good? Uh, no. No, they're not.

The situation: Jamal Lewis runs for three yards.
The quote (Theismann): "Pat Williams just made the tackle on Jamal Lewis, and what happens is, what this defense is doing, what they're trying to do anyway, they're rushing the passer, but on the way through they're gonna make the tackle and make sure that they're always aware of where Jamal Smith is."
The analysis: Did Theismann really just call him Jamal Smith? After getting his name right earlier in the same sentence?

The situation: A montage of Ravens quarterbacks of the past and a scrolling list of their names begins with two images of Brad Johnson and Randall Cunningham playing for the Vikings.
The analysis: In all fairness, this one can be blamed on the producers. How did they slip Johnson and Cunningham into that clip?

Okay, I know there are plenty of things I must have missed during this game - for example, the time when they praised Kyle Boller's focus as he looked at his receiver after earlier criticizing him for locking onto one receiver. Boller was doing the same exact thing both times. I also didn't keep track of things like superlatives used, "You wanna talk abouts," and "Let me tell yous," because if I had, I wouldn't have been able to pay any attention to the game.

And if I hadn't been paying any attention to the game, I would have been right there with Maguire, who, as the Vikings were attempting a season-saving onside kick, was fondly recalling how much fun it was to play special teams back in the day.

At least the game was entertaining.

Christmas Eve In The Desert

Some may dream of a white Christmas, but it's hard to argue with temperatures in the high 70s with a cloudless sky on Christmas Eve. That's what the weather was like in Tempe yesterday at kickoff of the Eagles-Cardinals game. Before I head back to the East Coast for a couple of weeks starting tomorrow, I went on a two-day trip to Phoenix with my mom to see a couple of miserable football teams play a game that didn't matter.

A while ago, when we got the tickets and made plans to see the game, we thought the Eagles would still be in the mix. Unfortunately, Mike McMahon (and Andy Reid's refusal to let Koy Detmer play QB) pretty much ensured that the Eagles wouldn't be able to overcome their injury plague. Regardless of the fact that the game had no playoff implications at all, it was still nice to watch the Eagles play a December game in short sleeves, as opposed to the below-freezing temperatures that will surely be present at the New Year's Day game against the Redskins. Also, since the game didn't have any more meaning than an exhibition game, it wasn't as stressful to see the Eagles play terribly. Instead, I enjoyed the weather and the crowd, which was about half Eagles fans.

The Philly fans were their typical selves - breaking out "E-A-G-L-E-S-Eagles!" chants after Eagles scores, and then starting a "Let's go Flyers!" chant after the Eagles, down two scores late, punted on 4th and 1. One fan that I could see from across the stadium even got himself ejected (and conveniently, the Tempe courthouse is next door to the stadium - although it's not quite the courtroom/holding cell that the Vet used to have).

The game was the final NFL contest at Sun Devil Stadium, which is Arizona State's home field and has served as the Cardinals' "temporary" home since they moved to Arizona in 1988. In 18 seasons there, the Cards have had one winning season - 9-7, in 1998 (and they even won a playoff game that year). So there were no tears shed over the end of the Sun Devil Stadium Era in Arizona Cardinals history, as the team will move into what looks like a terrific facility next season. Only 44,723 fans turned out, and the place holds over 70,000, I'd guess. Even still, I think that's a relatively big crowd for a Cardinals game. There were also no snazzy giveaways like the Phillies had for their last Fan Appreciation Day at the Vet (a miniature replica of the stadium) - all we were offered was a Cardinals team photo. Nobody there seemed to care.

At least one fan brought a sign to bid the stadium farewell:
(If you can't read it well, it says "Thanks for the memories - both of 'em.")

The 12-hour round-trip drive was accompanied by the 8-disc set of four concerts the Dave Matthews Band played at Red Rocks this fall, and I highly recommend picking it up. However, my mom decided she wanted to listen to Christmas music on the radio at one point, so we flipped over to a station that played a relatively good run of Christmas songs, including one of the few I would listen to any time of the year - the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24." Then "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" came on, which prompted a discussion only a law student could have:

Radio: Grandma got run over by a reindeer/Walkin' home from our house Christmas Eve.
Me: Sounds like Grandma's estate might have a wrongful death claim.
Radio: She'd been drinking too much eggnog/And we begged her not to go/But she forgot her medication/And she stumbled out the door into the snow.
Me: Oh, Grandma might have been contributorily negligent.
Radio: When they found her Christmas morning/At the scene of the attack/She had hoof prints on her forehead/And incriminating Claus marks on her back.
Me: Looks like causation would be pretty easy to prove here.
Radio: I've warned all my friends and neighbors/Better watch out for yourselves/They should never give a license/To a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.
Us: Too bad you can't sue the state for negligently licensing Santa. Well, Santa's probably got deep pockets anyway. I wonder if he's insured.

Speaking of drivers who shouldn't have a license, there are far too many of them on America's roadways. Seriously. More than a few times, I'd find myself behind two cars driving side-by-side on the two-lane highway, and they would stay that way for ten minutes at a time, so no cars could pass. Don't these people pay attention to the road at all?

I would have flipped them off when I finally passed them, but it was Christmas Eve and all, and they probably couldn't have seen into my car anyway, since it was dark. Oh, and my mom was also in the car and wouldn't have liked that.

Anyway, tonight's the first night of Chanukah, so I'm going to go light up the candles in a few, and then get my stuff together for my trip east.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mario Lemieux's Two-Handed Reverse Jam

Last week, as a reward to myself for finishing finals, I bought myself NHL 06 (priced at $30 instead of the usual $40 or $50 for a video game, probably because of the complete lack of public interest in hockey). I take it home, and after fighting with the shrink wrap for a minute, I get the case open. I put the disc in the PS2, and as it's loading up, I take a look at the instruction manual to see what the controls look like this year.

I turn to page 1: Basic Controls. I start reading. Move player, left analog stick. EA SPORTS™ Freestyle Control, right analog stick. Quick Plays, D-button. Playcalling, D-button (double tap), R3 button (to view playcalling zones). Turbo, R1 button. Call timeout, select button. Pause game, start button.

Now I'm thinking a few things are a little odd - freestyle control and playcalling zones seem like they don't really belong in hockey, and why would you need a dedicated button for a timeout if you can only call it during a stoppage in play, and you only get one a game? But I shrug it off, thinking that EA Sports probably doesn't know too much about hockey. I keep reading.

Offensive controls: Shoot, circle button. Pass, X button. Dunk/Lay-up, square button. What the hell?

After a little quick investigation, I discovered that the geniuses at EA Sports somehow managed to print the NHL 06 cover on the instruction manual for NBA Live 06. So I had to figure out all the controls on my own, which might explain why I suck. It probably has more to do with the fact that I'm just not very good at video games, though.

At least NBA Live 06 has all the controls, though. I heard Kobe's video game didn't have a pass button. Zing!

(I'm just playin', Kobe. LMHS represent!)


Guess what I have in common with the Sixers' Kyle Korver.

If you guessed a wicked jump shot, well, I don't blame you, but that's not what I was thinking of here. Korver, like me, considers Zack Morris a hero, "because he got to date Kelly Kapowski." An admirable trait, no question. However, I doubt Korver has gone the distance and sported the "WWZMD" shirt.

(Thanks to Philadelphia Will Do for pointing out this nugget.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Lightning Strikes Todd Bertuzzi Twice

You know how Mike Tice was recently quoted as saying he was upset with Minnesota Vikings fans for scalping their tickets - after he was busted for scalping his own Super Bowl tickets? Well, I thought that was pretty ironic, if not straight up hypocritical.

Then, while I was working at the ol' internship today, someone pointed out this quote from the Sports Lawyers Journal, in an article about on-ice NHL violence following Marty McSorley's stick-swinging attack on Donald Brashear:

"Vancouver Canucks right wing Todd Bertuzzi felt that the incident was, '[d]isgusting, terrible, absolutely disgusting. That does not need to be in the game of hockey. I've never seen anything like that in my life.'" Jennifer Marder, Should the Criminal Courts Adjudicate On-Ice NHL Incidents?, 11 Sports Law. J. 17, 22 (2004) (quoting Ira Podell, McSorley Suspended for Rest of Season for Attack on Brashear, Detroit News, Feb. 23, 2000).

I don't think any comment is necessary here.

Coincidentally, the journal article was in the Spring 2004 issue. Bertuzzi sucker-punched Steve Moore on March 8, 2004 - right about the time the issue was going to press, probably. I'd guess with an extra month, the author might have tried to pull that quote from the article - or at least presented it with a little extra information.

By the way, Bertuzzi will be representing Canada in the Olympics in February. Whether or not that's a good move morally is debatable, but Bertuzzi is one of the best Canadian forwards, so from a hockey standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer. On the other hand, Sidney Crosby was left off the team, which I was sorry to see. Crosby, at 18 years old, has a chance to play in the 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 Olympics. He'd be 42 then - but you never know, Chris Chelios is playing for the U.S. at age 44 this year. I think Crosby has the ability to step into the Canadian lineup even now, and a player with his skating ability and vision would definitely be an asset on the bigger Olympic ice surface. But Sid's quest for seven Olympics will be cut short before it begins.

Oh, and speaking of Marty McSorley and clubbing things with sporting equipment, here's a conversation I had with someone in the office today:

Coworker: Where were you?
Me: Lunch.
Coworker: Where did you go?
Me: The food court in the mall across the street.
Coworker: How was that?
Me: Good. Slice of pizza and a Caesar salad. Pretty standard.
Coworker: Can't beat that with a baseball bat.
Me: Well, you could, but there wouldn't be much point.
Coworker: [pauses, shakes head in disbelief] You lawyers, you're all the same.

Thing is, I've been taking things literally since well before I went to law school. I'm in trouble now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious

I'm not really a huge movie guy. There aren't that many movies that I really want to make a point of seeing. So a little while back, I see that there's going to be a remake of King Kong, and I'm like, "Eh."

Then I start hearing that there's all this talk about the new Kong potentially setting all-time box office records. Really? Are you serious? For a remake? Plus, everyone's all about Peter Jackson. When did he become the balls? I know he did Lord of the Rings and won some Oscars, but I looked it up - those are the only Oscars he's ever won. His resume isn't that impressive to me. Why does everyone love him so much? Are people that much into hobbits?

Whatever. I'm probably not going to see King Kong.

Anyway, that kind of brings me to what I really want to talk about, since I don't really understand the Kong/Peter Jackson hype.

So King Kong bumped The Chronicles of Narnia from the top box office slot this weekend (even though Kong came in under expected amounts). Speaking of Narnia, you should check out this clip from this weekend's Saturday Night Live.

This is freakin' great. "But first my hunger pangs are stickin' like duct tape/Let's hit up Magnolia and mack on some cupcakes/No doubt that bakery's got all the bomb frostings/I love those cupcakes like McAdams loves Gosling."

The whole thing works so well because even if you ignore how outlandish the lyrics are, the beat and flow are pretty solid. If SNL's coming up with stuff like this these days, I might have to start TiVoing it.

"Pass the Chronic-(what!)-cles of Narnia!"

(Obligatory thanks to BuffaloWings&Vodka, where I found this clip in the first place.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Man With The Golden Machete

Machete Man was back at it today, but I outsmarted him this time around. I never went to sleep last night. Yup, I stayed up all night finishing up my Comment. Those footnotes and cite checks are a tremendous bitch, but they're done now, and I even got to mention the Whizzinator in a footnote.

Anyway, this time, when Machete Man began hacking away, I was ready with the camera. I pointed the lens through the blinds, and POW!
Yeah, that's right, sucka...I got you!

You should have seen the look on his face when the flash went off and he realized someone took a picture of him. It was the same look Dubya gets when he gets a question at a press conference for which his advisors didn't prep him. It's like he thinks he knows what's going on - at least he's pretty sure - but really, he's not quite sure if there's anything he can do about it.

And now I'm going to celebrate the end of the semester by going to bed for at least 12 hours. And tomorrow I'll probably take myself out to dinner.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I'm Ron Burgundy?

Just for fun, a picture from my trip to Europe this summer:

I'm in a glass case of emotion!

(Ignore the bottle of wine in my right hand.)

The Weekend In Quotes

From the Awesome Awards Department:

When investigators raided the Galloway home, they found two trophies naming [Matthew "Knowledge"] Thompkins "pimp of the year." One stood about 4 feet tall, topped with a figure in a crown and a cape, holding a scepter.

"I think he actually won it twice," said Lt. William Carey, with the Casino Gaming Bureau of the New Jersey State Police. "I don't know who votes on it, though." Troy Graham, Officials: Man ran big ring of prostitutes, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 17, 2005.

Wow. And I thought getting a little mounted plastic hockey player back in high school was a sweet trophy.


From the You Missed The Point, Too Department

"About 50 protesters took part in Saturday's demonstration, organized by religious leaders. Dick Otterstad of the Church of the Divide donned a Santa Claus costume and greeted shoppers with the message: Don't forget about the meaning of Christmas." Tom Chorneau, Group Fights Wal-Mart on 'Happy Holidays', Dec. 18, 2005.

Yeah, because Santa Claus is the true meaning of Christmas. I hope a reindeer kicks Dick Otterstad in the balls.


From the Some Disclosure Might Not Be A Bad Idea Department

As recently as Friday, when he was interviewed by Jim Lehrer of PBS, [President] Bush refused to confirm the report the previous evening in The New York Times that in 2002 he authorized the spying operation by the security agency, which is usually barred from intercepting domestic communications. While not denying the report, he called it "speculation" and said he did not "talk about ongoing intelligence operations." David E. Sanger, In Address, Bush Says He Ordered Domestic Spying, New York Times, Dec. 18, 2005.

"It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," Bush said. "As president, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq." Jennifer Loven, Bush: Iraq Invasion My Responsibility, Dec. 15, 2005.

For god's sake, man, if you're going to stretch the Constitution to its limits, at least get some good intel out of it!

Remember, he sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, because he authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on you.

Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Good Morning Westwood

Today is the day after finals ended for undergrads here at UCLA. For many students here, this morning was the first day in a week they had to sleep in, not to mention that there were celebratory parties all over Westwood last night, so there were plenty of hungover heads trying to get some rest. I myself stayed up until 6 a.m. to work on my Comment, so I planned to sleep at least until 2 p.m.

And what did I hear at 10:30 a.m. on this fine Saturday morning?

Yep, a guy outside my window chopping branches off a tree and then hacking them into smaller pieces with a machete. A f------ machete. Seriously.

I tried for over two hours to fall asleep to the loud "thunk, thunk, thunk, cling!" as this dude swung his machete into the wood repeatedly before he would slice all the way through and hit the concrete on the sidewalk beneath it. Over and over and over. For god's sake, it's the weekend - does this guy really need to be doing this today?

Finally I figured this would never end, so I decided to go get my camera to take a picture of this, because really, who's going to believe that there was a machete-wielding gardener directly outside my window, carving into my sleep time?

Of course, by the time I found my camera 15 minutes later, he was gone.


Looks like I'll be taking a nap later on.

Used Up

ESPN.com's poll question yesterday was "What was the biggest off-field sports story of 2005?" MLB and steroids was the winner (49%), with the T.O. saga coming in second (38%). Far behind were the other three choices - NHL solves labor impasse (8%), Sheryl Swoopes comes out (3%), and NBA implements dress code (2%).

The steroid issue was indeed the biggest sports story of the year, with 12 players testing positive for the juice and Congress introducing legislation to beef up the amount of testing and penalties for positive tests. But Terrell Owens getting 30 percent more of the vote than the NHL lockout? For the love of Drew Rosenhaus, T.O. is a one-man media circus. The NHL is an entire league!

Of course, T.O. himself is the reason T.O. was such a big story. He won't be quiet and he won't go away. And even though he hasn't played in a month and a half now, he's still flapping his gums. He's now apparently given an interview to GQ in which he says he felt "used" by the Eagles.

Owens feels used? Boo-frickin'-hoo. This is the nature of the employer-employee relationship. The employer pays the employee and then uses him, all the way from Taco Bell making money off the guy working the drive-thru to, yes, the Eagles signing you to take them to a Super Bowl.

Did the Eagles use you? Of course they did! In fact, they used you so much that you led the team in receptions despite missing the last two games of the season. That is what you wanted, right? Weren't you the guy who complained that you weren't getting enough balls thrown your way in San Fran? Well, welcome to Philly - we put you in the lineup and we used you and your talent to get us to the Super Bowl.

Thanks for a great year. Now shut up and go away. Isn't it ironic how, despite your feelings, the Eagles haven't used you since October?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Baseball Goes Dutch

I ordered my tickets the other day, and now I'm pretty psyched about the World Baseball Classic in March. It has the potential to be a really cool tournament if MLB runs it right. For starters, they should see what they can do about getting a Cuban team involved after the U.S. Treasury Department said Cuba won't be allowed to send a team. Six years ago, the Baltimore Orioles played a couple of exhibitions against the Cuban national team (one in Cuba, one in the States), so I don't see why this is all that different. Another solution that has been mentioned is to make a team out of Cuban defectors to represent the country, but that seems a little ironic, doesn't it?

Anyway, the 16-country field (assuming Cuba gets back in the draw) has a lot of the usual suspects: the U.S.A., the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. But there are a handful of countries that don't come to mind when you think baseball. There's China, which has had a grand total of one player born there make it to the major leagues - a guy named Harry Kingman, who went hitless in three career at bats, all for the 1914 Yankees. I don't think he was Chinese; I'm guessing he was born there out of coincidence. Also in the WBC field is South Africa, which can't even boast one player who made the majors. I don't see them making it out of Pool B, which will pit it against the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

And then you have the Netherlands. The Dutch have a good soccer team; I know that. Looking at the medal counts from the 2004 Athens Olympics, I see they won four gold medals (two in swimming, one in road cycling, and one in equestrian). But as for baseball, there's not much history there. The Dutch did field a team in the '04 games, and they went 2-5, although their wins were over Greece and Italy, while they lost to Japan, Canada, Cuba, Australia, and Chinese Taipei. The loss to Australia was by a score of 22-2!

The Dutch have a trick up their sleeve, though (and maybe a finger in a dike, but that's neither here nor there). Through the magic of imperialism, the Dutch can claim players from Aruba and Curacao as their own! Although this raises the question of why the U.S. can't take Puerto Rican players, it does help the Netherlands out, because it gives them Andruw Jones, who is a native of Curacao. I looked it up, and there are a total of 11 players who have major league experience, are under age 40, and are from either Holland, Aruba, or Curacao. So I pieced together a lineup. Enjoy!

CF - Andruw Jones, 28, Willemstad, Curacao - He's the only position player on this roster who was in the majors last season. I'm going to bat Jones leadoff because I don't see much offense being generated by this team, so he's going to need all the plate appearances he can get. Besides, by virtue of the fact that he's the only serious offensive threat, he should be getting walked all the time anyway, so he'll be on base often.

1B - Randall Simon, 30, Willemstad, Curacao - You may remember Simon as the guy who, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates a couple of years ago, beat a girl in a sausage costume with a baseball bat as she ran by the dugout. He wasn't in the majors last year, but he tore up the Mexican League before being picked up by Orix of the Japanese League, where he couldn't keep up his caliente pace. Fun fact: He has been knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands!

RF - Gene Kingsale, 29, Solito, Aruba - Kingsale actually played for the Netherlands in the '04 Olympics, putting together a pretty solid batting line (.346, 5 RBI, HR in 7 games). His seven-year major league career wasn't as impressive, though - it ended in '03 with the Tigers, where he batted .208 in 120 AB. His three career HR make him the all-time major league leader among Arubans.

LF - Hensley Meulens, 38, Willemstad, Curacao - We're going to have to drag Meulens out of retirement for this one, since he last played in the majors in '98, wrapping up a seven-year career with a .220 average. He played for the Netherlands in the 2000 Sydney games - but was an assistant coach at the '04 games.

SS - Robert Eenhoorn, 38, Rotterdam, Holland - If you'd like to buy a vowel (well, an E or an O, at least), this guy might be able to spare one. He played 37 career games over four seasons, the last of which was '97. He should have called it quits after 36 - then he could say he hit his only career homer in his last game. Alas, like so many great talents, he hung on too long.

2B - Ralph Milliard, 32, Willemstad, Curacao - He also played for the Netherlands in '04, but didn't peform as well as Kingsale, batting .192 with seven strikeouts. In 93 career at-bats from '96-98, he batted .172 with no homers and three RBI.

3B - Ivanon Coffie, 28, Klein, Curacao - I actually saw this guy play in the Carolina League (A) All-Star game when I was in high school. Alas, he never quite blossomed as a major leaguer, only getting a cup of coffee (get it? get it?) in 2000, playing 23 games for the Orioles. He was the three-hole hitter for the Dutch in the '04 games, but he was awful, batting .105 and getting himself benched for the final game. (I assume he was benched, since he didn't play, but I suppose it could have been an injury. He deserved to be benched, regardless.)

OF C - Rikkert Faneyte, 36, Amsterdam, Holland - Sorry, Rik. Although you never played a major league game behind the plate, we don't have a catcher in this lineup, so you're it. Faneyte's career went from '93-96, mostly with the Giants. His claim to fame is that he played in the same outfield as Barry Bonds. He also can talk smack to Ralph Milliard, since Faneyte's career batting average is better - .174, baby!

P - Sidney Ponson, 29, Noord, Aruba - Somewhere along the line, Ponson became regarded as a big-ticket player, since the Orioles paid him $8.5 million last season. I have no idea how this happened, since he has only posted a winning record in one of his eight big-league seasons. But since he's the only pitcher out of this trio to have seen big-league action recently, he's going to get the start. Sir Sidney was also knighted along with Randall Simon. He has besmirched the title by getting himself convicted on a DUI charge earlier this year and sentenced to a five-day stay in the slammer.

P - Calvin Maduro, 31, Santa Cruz, Aruba - I remember when this guy came up with the Phillies in '96. He showed a lot of promise (1.04 WHIP, 11 K in 15.1 IP). Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. He was out of the Phils' system in two years and ended up finishing his career with a 10-19 record and a 5.78 ERA. He was the ace of the Dutch staff in '04, pitching seven shutout innings against Greece, although he couldn't get out of the first inning against Australia. He missed being the first Aruban in the majors by five days (damn you, Gene Kingsale!), although I recall he did have the nickname "The Aruban Flash" when he first came up.

P - Radhames Dykhoff, 31, Paradera, Aruba - Aside from having a name that makes for an easy target for ignorant American hecklers, Dykhoff's major league "career" was all of one unfortunate inning on June 7, 1998, when, trailing 7-0, the Orioles brought him in to pitch the ninth against the Braves. He allowed two runs on a walk and two hits, including a double to Andruw Jones, of all people. After he got out of the inning and the game was over, he never returned to a major league mound.

Team Netherlands! Fear it!

(Now back to working on my Comment.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's Getting Drafty

This is perhaps the best idea for a blog I have ever seen. I don't say it much, but this is an idea I really wish had been mine. It's a fantasy draft blog - basically, the concept is to have a fantasy draft of anything and everything. Their crew of a few people get together and then go a few rounds choosing out of whatever chosen category is on the table (beers, cities, even constitutional amendments).

You know the drinking game Kings? (Maybe you call it Circle of Death or something else.) Where when you pull a certain card (again, varies depending on the house rules), you have to pick a category and then everyone goes around the circle naming something from that category until someone can't come up with one, and then they drink? It's kind of like that, except there's a point beyond drinking (believe it or not, I've heard such a thing exists) - you're trying to come up with a better group of elements from that category than your opponents. You have to strategize - do you want a balanced "team?" Do you want to load up with the obvious choices, or do you want to take a chance on a sleeper?

I was a little disappointed the beer draft didn't include any puns (draft? beer? get it?), but I can let that slide, especially because Yuengling was drafted in the second round with the ninth overall pick (excellent choice). I'd guess the guy who took Yuengling was from the Keystone State, but it turns out he's from Boston. Go figure.

The whole idea of taking a fantasy draft and applying it to everything not sports-related is pretty creative. It reminds me a bit of when my friends and I, back in high school, used to refer to our classmates as stocks. (Example: "Wow, I wish I'd sold him back when he was going out with that hot chick and wasn't a burnout yet." Or: "Now's the time to finally start investing in AP students - college acceptance letters are starting to come in.") Trust me, it wasn't as nerdy as it sounds.


This morning, I was turning on my TV. I did it by actually walking up to the thing, not with the remote. Right as I hit the power button on my TV, my toaster popped. It was like I was able to make my bagel ready by pushing a button. Weird.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I Fought The Law And The Law Wouldn't Even Fight Back

While putting off working on my Comment, this article came to my attention. Apparently, a kid in New York was wrestling for the high school state championship and won the match, 7-6. In celebration, he threw his headgear in the air and then went to shake his opponent's hand, which officially ends the match. Only problem was that throwing equipment is a mandatory two-point deduction, and since the kid did it before the match was technically over, he lost the championship. So he did what any American would do - he sued.

The court did exactly what it should have and refused to hear the case. You can't have amateur athletes turning to the judicial system when they get screwed by a proper application of the rules. Think about what that could mean - referees would always be worried about being overturned by a court, and so every minor rules infraction would have to be called. Then you start getting into gray areas of judgment - for example, could you sue a ref for not calling a holding penalty late in a critical game? What if the tape shows that he should have?

It's a dangerous path to go down, people, and hopefully we don't go down it.

Coincidentally, I happened to stumble across some court opinions similar to this one in cases where schools or athletes sued their leagues after they caused the school to forfeit games due to an ineligible player. (Correctly, the courts almost always said that as long as the eligibility rules were applied in a nondiscriminatory way, the league is within its right to impose the necessary penalty.)

But what if, say, a team sued a player who deliberately misled the team as to his ineligibility, causing the team to forfeit all games he played in? Would the team have a cause of action against the player? What kind of damages would the team seek?

Any brilliant ideas?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

(Not) The End Of The Semester

OH, HELL YES! I'M DONE WITH FINALS! I'M HALFWAY DONE LAW SCH- Hey, what's this e-mail I got, sent 15 minutes after my last final ended?

"Good work on the paper Alex. I have some comments. When are you going to be on campus again?"

Oh, right. My Comment. Due on Monday. Dammit, I still have work to do.

Like Michael Corleone once said, "Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in."

Hey, maybe I can become a consigliere like Tom Hagen. He was a lawyer by training. And the word has the same etymology as "counsel." Although I don't recall seeing any Mafia families at OCIP.


You know that Miller commercial where the clerks refuse to sell the beer to customers who are under 30 because they can't fully appreciate the taste of MGD? Well, two things about that commercial: First, bulls---. MGD tastes like any other generic beer.

Second, there's two guys in the commercial who are indignant that they've been refused their precious MGD. Shocked at the rejection, they tell the clerk:

"We are partners in a law firm!"

If I ever become those guys, you have my permission to bludgeon me with the legal tome of your choosing.

(And by those guys, I mean those guys who think they're entitled to everything because they're partners. You're not allowed to beat me with a reporter just because/if I ever make partner somewhere.)


I got one of those chain e-mails today that tells you to forward it to people, and then Microsoft will send you some fat check, blah blah blah. Here's the text of the e-mail (contact info of the forwarding people omitted to protect the ignorant):

>>> Xxxxx Xxxxxx 12/9/2005 11:39 AM >>>
i hope it works i could you extra cash!!!!!

Xxx Xxxxxx
Anchor/Managing Editor

Xxxxx Xxxxx Xxxxx - XXX Maintenance Coordinator, Phone: 765/771 -XXXX
Pager : 765/420 - XXXX
To all of my friends, I do not usually forward messages, But this is from my friend Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx and she really is an attorney. If she says that this will work - It will work. After all, What have you got to lose?SORRY EVERYBODY.. JUST HAD TO TAKE THE CHANCE!!! I'm an attorney, And I know the law. This thing is for real. Rest assured AOL and Intel will follow through with their promises for fear of facing a multimillion-dollar class action suit similar to the one filed by PepsiCo against General Electric not too long ago.

Wow, this person is an attorney? Then she should know that corporations don't file class action lawsuits against each other.

Dear Friends; Please do not take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates sharing his fortune. If you ignore this, You will repent later. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure that Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test.When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will track it (If you are a Microsoft Windows user) For a two weeks time period.For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00 For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, You will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a check.
Regards. Xxxxxxx X Xxxxxx General Manager Field Operations
1-800-842-XXXX Ext. XXXX or 904-XXXX or XXX
292-XXXX Xxxxxxx_Xxxxxx@xxx.com

"You will repent later?" What is this, the Bible?

Wait...Microsoft and AOL? I thought it was AOL and Intel. Whoever wrote this can't even get his own story straight. And I highly doubt even Microsoft can track my e-mail. And if they can, then they shouldn't need to contact me for my address to send me that check; they might as well use PayPal.

thought this was a scam myself, But two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on. Microsoft contacted me for my address and withindays, receive a check for $24,800.00. You need to respond before the beta testing is over. If anyone can affoard this, Bill gates is the man.It's all marketing expense to him. Please forward this to as many people as possible. You are bound to get at least $10,000.00 We're not going to help them out with their e-mail beta test without getting a little something for our time. My brother's girlfriend got in on this a few months ago. When i went to visit him for the Baylor/UT game. She showed me her check. It was for the sum of $4,324.44 and was stamped "Paid in full"Like i said before, I know the law, and this is for real.

If you are bound to get at least $10k, then how come this guy's brother's girlfriend's check was only for $4,324.44, huh, slick? Also, if Microsoft is paying you in increments of $245.00, $243.00, and $241.00, how did the total come to a figure ending in ".44?" And maybe it's just my bank, but when I deposit a check, I don't get it handed back to me with a "paid in full" stamp.

Oh, and never mind all the spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammatical, and factual errors made by these so-called "attorneys." Yeah, I'm sure if Microsoft ran a promotion like this, you'd hear about it from a chain e-mail and not on the news. (Oops! It was on "Good Morning America Today Show" and was on two pages of USA Today!)

I don't care how much money Bill Gates has; he's not giving away $10,000 to random Internet users. That's a million dollars for every 100 people who forward this e-mail. Come on, stop and think for a second - don't you think Microsoft has better ways to invest $1 million in the growth of the company? It blows my mind that people still forward this crap. It kind of makes me want to write my own chain e-mail, just to see if it'll start circulating. Hopefully, it won't - I think (at least, I hope) I associate myself with people who are smart enough not to forward stuff like this. (The guy who sent it to me gets a free pass - just once - because he's a freshman in the middle of his first final exams ever.)


This semester, I made the big move to switch my in-class computer solitaire games from unscored to Vegas-style scoring. Basically, the way Vegas-style scoring works is that each hand costs you a $52 bet, and then for every card you move up to the suit stacks, you win $5. (Suit stacks is the technical term for the piles of cards that go on the aces. You can look it up, as I did, thereby becoming the first person ever to click on the "Help" menu in computer solitaire.) So if you can get 11 cards up to the suit stacks, you're in the black for that particular game; if you get them all up there, you win $208. It's made more difficult by the fact that you can only go through the deck three times, so you have to use a little strategy - you might not be seeing a card again when - or if - the deck goes around the next time.

Anyway, I think the whole idea of Vegas-style solitaire is hilarious. Have you ever seen anyone playing solitaire in Vegas? That's about as lame as it gets, and this is coming from a guy who once took a trip to Vegas that involved bowling, reading law books by the pool, going to a couple of minor league baseball games, and no gambling (I was visiting my brother; give me a break).

Lame or not, though, Vegas solitaire is tough. It's easy to hit a run of a few games in a row where you can only get one or two cards up to the suit stacks, and suddenly you're in the hole $150. Then you need a complete win to dig yourself out. More often than not, I find myself running from the creditors at the end of a class period than bathing in money, Scrooge McDuck style. I haven't yet figured out how to run a profitable solitaire scheme, a la Bringing Down The House (the book, not the movie), but I'm going to keep practicing next semester. When the first World Series of Solitaire rolls around, I want to be ready.


Hey, guess where this picture is from:

If you said March of the Penguins, you're wrong.

That photo was actually taken at a law school's on-campus interview program. Note the herd mentality and the identical outfits they're all wearing. All those people in the background? They're law students telling each other about all the callbacks they've already been on. And those two in the front are actually in the process of conducting an interview. That's a 3L on the left and a hiring partner on the right. See, if you look a little closer, you can tell by the name tags.

Sorry, those puns sucked.


One of my old hockey teammates IMed me today in anticipation of his first law school final, asking me for some last-minute support. I didn't want to tell him he came to the wrong guy, so here's what I told him:

FormerTeammate: any final words of encouragement before i take my first exam
JustOffCamera: serious words, or joking?
FormerTeammate: either or
FormerTeammate: or both
JustOffCamera: ok, well, the outcome of one exam is not going to kill you. the dean of stanford law school recently failed the CA bar exam. and she's doing fine for herself anyway.
FormerTeammate: gotta go
JustOffCamera: and you just have to look at it this way - the curve is not about only the top 20% or whatever getting As, the curve is about 4 out of 5 people getting Bs or better
JustOffCamera: good luck
FormerTeammate: thanks

This is why it was a good idea not to sign up to be a law school mentor.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Somewhere Other Than California Dreamin'

Physically, I'm sitting at my computer in Los Angeles. Mentally, I am not even close to focused on studying for my last final. I'm on Spring Break. As usual, I have a ton of good ideas of what to do, none of which will probably come to fruition for all kinds of reasons. Those reasons notwithstanding, here are just a few of my brilliant ideas.

The "Loyal Groupie" - U2 just released some new tour dates that happen to be during my break. Hey, what do you know - they're in Australia! I hear Australia is awesome! Plus, I can do that whole "travel back in time" thing on the return flight.

The "Andy Dufresne" - Back when Andy hopped the border on his way out of Shawshank, Zihuatanejo was a barely developed town on the Pacific coast on Mexico. Now it's a resort town along with its neighboring city, Ixtapa. Mmm...Dos Equis, fresh seafood, beaches, and golfing.

The "Pacific Coast Party" - I want to live a car commercial - go from Los Angeles to Seattle (hell, why not Vancouver?) - by going straight up the Pacific Coast. Stop at some vineyards along the way, run into the ocean (only quickly, though; the Pacific is cold), take pictures, stay in cheap hotels and bed and breakfasts.

The "Pirate's Plunder" - Cruises leave all the time from L.A. I've never been on one; always wanted to. And then I can make pirate joke after pirate joke while I'm on the high seas. What was the pirate arrested for? Arrrson.

Now I have about three months to figure out what I'm actually going to do.


The weekend in sports, from my perspective:

The Eagles make it official and get themselves mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Mike McMahon is not a good quarterback; I don't care how much everyone loves his mobility and arm strength. He's completed 44.3 percent of his passes. Not to get into some Rush Limbaugh territory here, but I have a sneaking suspicion people like to talk up McMahon because he's a white QB who can scramble. Just a hunch. Anyway, meaningless or not, I still plan to go to their final two games of the season.

The Colts clinched home-field advantage with three games left to go in the regular season. Will they play it safe and throw the backups out there? Well, that's probably the smart play, but I'd like to see them go for the undefeated season. I have no particular affinity for the Colts, although I do kind of appreciate Peyton Manning ever since he started to do those commercials where he switches roles with the fans. Rather, I want the Colts to go 19-0 because I think it's obnoxious as hell that the '72 Dolphins break out the Champagne and party every year when the last undefeated team loses. Really, I think it would be poetic justice if the Colts ran the string and then the 'Fins sent Manning & Co. their unused ice chest full of bubbly for Indy to party with.

The Texans have got to be trying to lose their games to ensure a No. 1 overall draft pick and Heisman winner Reggie Bush. They were gifted an opportunity to tie their game yesterday - with no time left on the clock, the Titans allowed a return into their own territory, then committed a face-mask penalty to give the Texans a free last play - a 31-yard FG attempt. The resulting shank was the worst kick I have ever seen in professional football.

Speaking of the Heisman - who was the moron who gave Drew Olson a first-place vote? Hey, I like UCLA, and Olson had a great season, but is this guy hitting Michael Irvin's crack pipe? There's no way Drew Olson is the best player in college football. He's not even the best player in Los Angeles.

UCLA kicker Justin Medlock could be in a whole lot of trouble after he was charged with DUI on Saturday. Allegedly, with a passenger in the car, he rolled his pickup truck on the 405 in Inglewood, and then left her in the car. He was found walking around a mile and a half away. The arresting officer said there was no need for a breathalyzer, since anyone who walks a mile and a half into Inglewood from the 405 at 3 a.m. is obviously drunk. No, seriously, he's got far bigger problems than being suspended for the Sun Bowl. He's facing charges for felony hit-and-run, and his passenger, a member of the UCLA women's golf team, suffered major spinal cord injuries.

What is up with the Flyers and their injuries? As soon as they get Forsberg back, Gagne's on the shelf. Esche is hurt, Pitkanen's hurt, Desjardins is hurt, and so on. This makes me feel a little better about the fact that they have no home games in the two weeks that I'll be in Philly over winter break. At least they're still 17-7-4 and looking to be on track for a playoff spot. In the NHL, it's all about hitting April healthy. Rest up, Simon.


As I'm studying for my last final, Alien Ant Farm's cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" came up on my computer's playlist. Thanks to law school, all I can think is, anyone who leaves bloodstains on the carpet is definitely not a smooth criminal.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Folsom Prison Transfer Blues

I was watching UCLA play Nevada in basketball yesterday, and at one point the announcers mentioned the city in which the University of Nevada is located - Reno. Having recently seen the excellent Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line, that got me thinking about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die. Thinking about it, I didn't understand why, if you shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, you'd be stuck in Folsom Prison. Reno is in Nevada. Folsom is a California state correctional facility.

Pretty much everything I know about prison life comes from Prison Break and The Shawshank Redemption. In other words, I don't know much about prison (and hopefully, it'll stay that way), but I was under the impression that when you commit a crime in a particular state, you are tried in that state, and then if you're convicted and sentenced to prison, you serve your prison sentence in that state.

Apparently I was wrong. This issue was dealt with by the Supreme Court over 20 years ago.

[I]t is neither unreasonable nor unusual for an inmate to serve practically his entire sentence in a State other than the one in which he was convicted and sentenced, or to be transferred to an out-of-state prison after serving a portion of his sentence in his home State. Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 247 (1983).

In a 6-3 majority, the Court said that inmates have no justifiable expectation that they will be incarcerated in any particular state, and that an interstate prison transfer doesn't deprive a convict of any liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.

Not that the Man in Black would have cared about any of that.

By the way, UCLA looked damn good in the game. Up by only one point with 8:30 left in the game, Jordan Farmar took over, scored 11 points down the stretch, and built UCLA's lead up to 16 with a minute left. Big win over an undefeated, ranked team for the Bruins. It's early, but Pac-10 championship hopes are very realistic.


Man, this is depressing. Hurricane Katrina wrecked what was apparently the best wine cellar in the South. By knocking out the power to the cellar, the hurricane caused temperatures to soar to over 100 degrees. You're not even supposed to store Bud Light in heat. What do you think happens to bottles of wine valued at over a grand?

So, good reader, please pour out a little of your Franzia in memory of 35,000 bottles of fine wine that deserved a better fate.

Anyone remember that picture of the Katrina looter who was wading away with a huge bucket of Heineken? (The picture was turned into a fake ad here.) Well, all those looters missed out. Heineken will be around long after the levees are fixed (if they ever are...FEMA.) But a 1870 Lafite Rothschild? When is a looter gonna get a chance to lift that again? Hell, it's worth more than a plasma TV.

(Brief aside: The best idea I heard this year for a Halloween costume was to pick up an empty box for a plasma TV (Best Buy probably has them laying around), soak yourself up to the chest in water, then carry around the box. The costume: Katrina looter! Tasteless, yet hilarious. Unfortunately, I didn't see that one in action.)

Anyway, the wine collection was insured for a million bucks, so the owners at least have that to fall back on. And the insurance company has already agreed to sell the bottles that remain to some guy in California, who plans to auction off the damaged wine. So if you can find out when this auction is, you can buy some stank-ass wine in a bottle with a valuable label on the cheap. Then you can always say, "I own a '97 Opus One, but I'm waiting for the right time to open it." (The right time, of course, is never. The value of the bottle is in the statement it makes.)

Damn, I miss drinking. Stupid liver.


Just got back from a study break where I hopped in the ol' time machine. Destination: 2011!

Here's what the future holds:

The Flyers, Phillies, and Eagles are all still looking for their first championship of my lifetime.

Law students still love to complain about finals.

Ten years after 9/11, American soldiers are still stationed in Iraq.

And outside every thrift store in Los Angeles, there are boxes upon boxes of Ugg boots to be had on the cheap. The population has finally divorced itself from the external influences of Madison Avenue and come to the inevitable, sensible, and correct conclusion that you look like a moron wearing Eskimo-style footwear when you live in a city where the temperature doesn't go below 50 degrees. And Ugg boots with a miniskirt? You look like you just got back from an unsuccessful seal hunt in West Hollywood.

Yeah, that's right. Those cruel baby seal-killers wear Uggs, too. How trendy are you now, ho?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

At Least They Got His Name Right

I watched Cinderella Man last night, and although it started kinda slow, it ended up being a well-done, moving story. I wouldn't go as far as Larry King, who called it "one of the best movies ever!" (according to the back cover of the DVD), but it's worth watching, particularly if your other option is studying for finals.

Now that I've got that positive review out of the way, I want to rip the movie for a minutia that irked me. Boxing movies always need a villain. But the story of James J. Braddock didn't have a good one - Braddock's struggle was against the tough times of the Great Depression. So instead, the screenwriters/director/whoever decided to take Braddock's opponent in the film's climactic fight, Max Baer, and turn him into an unapologetic, murderous prick.

Even while watching the movie, Baer's character seemed so ridiculously villainous that I began assuming it had to be an exaggeration. So I looked up a little bit about Max Baer, and no surprise, Baer seemed like a good guy outside the ring.

Baer was known for being a carousing, Hollywood type, and the film did get that right - he shows up at a restaurant with a big fur coat and an entourage at one point. Baer actually acted in many movies (which were apparently reviewed well), he was married twice, and he also had an affair with a Hollywood starlet.

I find it hard to believe that Baer was the sneering bully that the movie portrayed him as, though. Baer did showboat in the ring, but that seemed to be more an extension of his Hollywood flair. As for the movie character who spits quotes like, "People die in fairy tales all the time," and implies that after he kills Braddock in the ring, he'll sleep with Braddock's widow, it seems unlikely from a guy who was once quoted as saying, "I never had a fight out of the ring. I never harmed anyone outside the ring. I loved people."

Baer did kill someone in the ring - that part of the movie is true, all the way down to the diagnosis of a loosened brain - but it wasn't a matter of pride for Baer. He was charged (and acquitted) of manslaughter, banned from boxing in California for a year, and, depressed, proceeded to lose four of his next six fights. Remorseful, he ultimately put that fighter's children through college.

(Incidentally, the boxer who Baer killed, Frankie Campbell, was the brother of 1941 NL MVP Dolph Camilli, who played three-plus seasons with the Phillies. Camilli still ranks sixth on the Phils' all-time slugging percentage list at .510.)

Baer also became a prominent figure in the Jewish community. His father was Jewish, but he was raised Catholic, his mother's faith. Nevertheless, after he beat German fighter Max Schmeling (telling him, "That one's for Hitler" during the bout), he began wearing a Star of David on his shorts when he fought. Not surprisingly, Baer wasn't popular in Germany after the fight, and Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, banned his films. Apparently, you can see the Star of David on Baer's trunks in Cinderella Man, although I missed it.

Baer, far from a burning desire to kill Jim Braddock in the ring, instead didn't even give him much thought. According to Baer's son (who later played Jethro in The Beverly Hillbillies), "He didn't take Braddock seriously, he didn't train, and he got a BJ before the fight."

Anyway, I don't think Baer was given a fair shake in the movie, and apparently, I'm not the only one. If you're interested, here's some more Max Baer reading for you:
Fight Snub - Slate
Max Baer - Wikipedia
Some Baer Facts on Cinderella Man's Max - FreeRepublic

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Relative Importance Of A Three-Game Losing Streak

News item: Gary Barnett is finished as the head football coach at the University of Colorado. Barnett, for all his successes on the football field (49-38 record in seven seasons at CU, including a Big 12 title), will be remembered more for the troubles his program had off the field. Yet ultimately, it was a three-game losing streak during which his team lost by a combined 130-22 score that did him in.

In 2004, the football team was beset by allegations that it used sex and alcohol as recruiting tools. Worse, shortly after that, former placekicker Katie Hnida claimed that she had been raped by a teammate while a member of the Buffaloes. Barnett didn't help matters when he responded to that claim by criticizing Hnida's playing ability and stating that she didn't have the respect of her teammates because she was "a girl. Not only was she a girl, she was terrible. There was no other way to say it. She could not kick the ball through the uprights." Hnida's allegation was at least the sixth allegation of rape against a Colorado football player over an eight-year period.

Following that storm of controversy, Barnett was suspended from his duties while he was investigated. But Barnett bounced back, finding himself reinstated three months later. He never missed a game on the sidelines, and his punishment was restrictions on his recruiting. The school's investigation found only that Barnett was guilty of lax oversight of his program, but that he did not condone the practices. At the time of the suspension, before the investigation had concluded, I argued that such oversight would still be grounds for dismissal, but the school's administration felt differently.

Although Barnett kept his job, ironically, the school's president, chancellor, and athletic director soon found themselves gone. Under pressure created by the recruiting and sexual assault scandals, AD Dick Tharp, who was also criticized for his oversight, resigned in November 2004. A month later, Chancellor Richard Byyny, who was also investigated, resigned as well, although he insisted it was unrelated to the football turmoil. And in June, school president Elizabeth Hoffman resigned, citing in part a civil trial related to the football scandal. But Barnett made it all the way to yesterday.

Tight end Quinn Sypniewski called Barnett's dismissal a "tragedy," an unfortunately coincidental remark. A month after Hnida's rape allegations, Colorado basketball player David Harrison used the same word to describe his team's not being selected for the NCAA tournament. As I wrote then:
Let's get one thing clear. If your team doesn't make the tournament, it's a disappointment. It's depressing. It sucks. But it is not, in any way, shape, or form, a tragedy.

The athletic community seemingly still places greater emphasis on wins and losses and postseason success than it does on the quality of life for students and the Boulder community in general. Rape, murder, those are tragedies. Settling for the NIT is not.
Even though new allegations had recently begun circling around Barnett - among them that Barnett tried to influence testimony in depositions and before a grand jury, that players were forewarned of random drug tests, and that money from football camps was questionably handled - there was talk about Barnett having his contract extended, pending the results of an audit of those camps.

But three big losses at the end of the season did what allegations of rape, prostitution, perjury, and embezzlement could not do - they cost Gary Barnett his job. It's a shame that in amateur athletics, which is what college football still holds itself up to be, that a three-game losing streak can weigh heavier than a near-permanent dark cloud of criminal allegation.

Don't shed too many tears for Gary Barnett, though. His contract was bought out for three million dollars. And he'll be hired by another school soon enough. After all, he's won in the past.


A side note to the whole Barnett issue that I thought was worth mentioning:

Through the whole scandal, Colorado governor Bill Owens stayed mostly in the background, calling for action when the sex-as-recruiting-tool scandal broke, then agreeing with the school's decision to suspend Barnett. His sternest rebuke, from what I can tell, was calling the recruiting scandal an embarrassment to the state of Colorado. He did appoint a special prosecutor to look into the allegations, but no criminal charges were ever filed.

Meanwhile, another lightning rod for controversy emerged at the University of Colorado - professor Ward Churchill. Churchill's writing and speeches have been very critical of the U.S. government, suggesting that the September 11 attacks were inevitable given American foreign policy. He made an unfortunate comparison between financial wheeler-dealers who were killed in the World Trade Center towers and Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, suggesting that they were not altogether innocent victims. The essay in which this argument appeared was published shortly after the attacks, but it sat in relative obscurity until January 28, when Bill O'Reilly discovered it and launched a letter-writing campaign to prevent Churchill from speaking at Hamilton College. Not only was the campaign ultimately successful, but the governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, publicly called for Churchill's dismissal from the Colorado faculty.

Let's get this straight: When the coach of a prominent football program is unaware of the potential severe criminal misconduct of several of his players - in connection with the team, no less - Owens pays the situation lip service. But when a professor makes a politically unpopular statement, he should be fired? What happened to First Amendment rights?

Owens's argument for Churchill's termination: "[T]here are grounds spelled out by CU for termination that include professional incompetence, neglect of duty and insubordination." Dave Curtin & Howard Pankratz, Governor Renews Call for CU Regents to Dismiss Churchill, DENVER POST, Feb. 10, 2005.

I don't really see how Churchill's comments fall into any of those three categories. But I would think that a head football coach who doesn't realize that his team is using sex and alcohol to lure recruits, as the investigation concluded about Barnett, could be considered to be either professionally incompetent or neglecting his duty.

Barnett brought bowl games, though. All Churchill brings are angry letters.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Excuses, Excuses

I'm trying to get in as much studying for this Copyright Law final tomorrow as I can, but there is something of a significant obstacle in the way - my chemo treatment this morning. It's only low-dose, and no, I don't have cancer, but I still have to do it. Unfortunately, the treatment itself takes about three hours, and then I'll feel fatigued later in the day, so I'll have to nap for another four hours, which is seven hours that I won't be spending getting ready for tomorrow's exam.

On the one hand, I've been doing this for just about the entire semester, so I should be used to it. On the other hand, the fact that I have been doing this for the whole semester is a big reason why I'm probably not as ready for this exam as I could be - since the class is (relatively) early in the morning, I frequently let myself sleep in, which is possibly due to the fatigue brought on by chemo (it could also have something to do with late-night hockey practices, but I feel completely justified in blaming at least some of my missed classes on chemo).

I think getting toxic chemicals pumped into my veins on a weekly basis should count for something, right? I've been persevering through this all semester. Is that the kind of thing for which I can get a notation on my transcript? I wonder if that would help me with interviews...

Hiring partner: So, Alex, you seem like a bright guy, Law Review and all, but it says here you got a C in Copyright Law...do you really think you're Big, Law, & Firm material?
Me: Well, if you notice, there's an asterisk by that grade. I actually spent that entire semester on chemotherapy.
Hiring partner: Really? Why didn't you just take a medical leave of absence?
Me: I'm glad you asked that. Honestly, I am so fascinated and stimulated by the law that I couldn't bear the thought of four months without it. Also, I was confident in my ability to block out everything in my life, including my medical troubles, while I devoted myself to law school.
Hiring partner: Terrific. We'd like to make you an offer.
Me: Sounds great. Are you going to finish your steak? I'm supposed to eat lots of protein.

Snap back to reality...

Interviewing associate: So, here we have Alex ... uh ... Finnegan ...UCLA ... 2L ...
Hiring partner: Is this guy kidding? That GPA's not going to cut it. Why do these clowns even interview? Who else we got?


On a lighter note, I've been called out by my brother for a seven-game series in bubble hockey after I put a picture of my biggest triumph against him in a post yesterday. I have beaten him in four out of seven before, although more often than not it's the other way around. But I'm feeling optimistic about it. He won't be fresh - the last time he played was over Thanksgiving, and all the games were close. Plus, I'll be in Philly for at least a week leading up to the showdown, so I can get some practice in (against my Dad, though, which is kind of like going up against a scout team - actually, it's not even that good, because he can't mimic the way my brother plays).

Anyway, this needs some promoting. This is gonna be huge. As far as I'm concerned, it's the World Series of Bubble Hockey. It is...

Call your cable or satellite operator today! I plan to stage a fight at the weigh-in, so don't miss that, either.

(Hey, studying for Copyright Law was getting tedious. I needed a break. And I could have made that look a lot better if I had Photoshop.)

On second thought, this is not a lighter note. This is serious business. And on January 8, you can probably expect to see results - maybe even pictures of the main event - right here (or on my brother's blog).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tag Team, Back Again

You may have noticed a frequency to my posts that wasn't there a month or two ago. This is unquestionably related to the fact that I'm in the middle of finals and therefore need to put off studying for them as much as possible.

So anyway, there are a few legal blogs that I read somewhat regularly (the number increases as they continue to link one another). One that I came across today, Law & Alcoholism, is pretty good, and as I was reading some older posts, I found one with a somewhat pointless exercise in blogging:

1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.

A pointless exercise just happens to be exactly what I need, since the word puzzles on Yahoo! Games start getting boring after a while, and people don't really post on the eLynah Forum during the midnight hours on the East Coast. So anyway, here's the results of the archive check.

"If I wasn't trying hard, the occasion fell under one of two categories."

That's from a February 2004 post on my competitiveness. Since I wrote it, I've had the good fortune to get back into competitive hockey with the UCLA team. The bubble hockey skillz have also not abandoned me. I haven't lost yet to any of my Bruins teammates (even though I've played as the team with the sideways goalie on the crappy table they have at the rink in Berkeley), and I've begun to beat my brother more often than I used to, including this ass-whooping from January:
That's me as Team USA. Booya!

Anyway, since I wasn't tagged to go through that little exercise, I'm not going to bother tagging five other people to do it. If you read this and you feel inspired, knock yourself out and go through your archives.

So anyway, back to getting ready for my Copyright Law final. While I study with the accompaniment of MP3s (noninfringing copies, of course), go ahead and entertain yourself with a few nuggets from the 'Net.

This video, made by the Calgary Flames in 1987, is awesome. It's like they saw the '85 Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" and thought they needed to make the hockey version. Then they realized they couldn't sing, so instead, they just lip synced the whole thing - down to the fake playing of instruments, including guitars, keyboards, and a brass section. There's some terrific hockey mullets and facial hair here. And surely, Brett Hull is thrilled that the Internet has preserved his landmark performance.

For all of you who continue to remind me that the Eagles have been, shall we say, less than competitive this season, here's a cartoon you might enjoy. I think Andy Reid actually did have that reaction when a running game was suggested to him a few weeks ago.

Here's one that never gets old: Peanut Butter Jelly Time. FYI, the people who perform the song, the Buckwheat Boyz, have another song called "Ice Cream and Cake." To my knowledge, it hasn't been turned into an Internet animation. I'm beginning to sense a theme to their songs. Perhaps I can edge into that niche with "Macaroni Cheese! Cheese and Macaroni!" or "Let's Eat Chili Dogs!" And while we're at it, here's the clip from Family Guy that spoofed the original animation.

Finally, here's a clip of Barney keepin' it gangsta. And on a more serious note, a good investigative piece from the latest Rolling Stone about Biggie's unsolved murder. It's long, but worth the read.

And, um, you are responsible for clicking on all these links. I'm not inducing you to do anything.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Final Countdown

Law students handle the stress of finals in various ways. Some break down weeping in review sessions. Some spaz out and spend 15 hours a day in the library (incidentally, this will prepare these people well for the years after graduation). Some, like me, take the opportunity to catch up on sleep missed during the semester. And some blow off steam by writing messages on the blackboard in the main hallway.

Over the last week or so, the following messages have appeared on the board (or something like them; I'm paraphrasing here):

"Lost: My soul to law school! stressed@lawnet.edu"

"Lost: $100 (5 20's)"
In response: "Um, yeah"

"Lost: Virginity. Last seen in law library stacks"

"Lost: Hair. Black, somewhat curly"

"Good luck, 1Ls! From the 2Ls & 3Ls"
(I hate whoever wrote this. But my favorite one is...)



Now I'm going to go get some Chinese food instead of catching up on my Copyright Law reading. I can do that later tonight, since I took a 4 1/2-hour nap earlier this afternoon.


I have never seen a beatdown on a football field like the one I saw last night in the Seahawks-Eagles game. Wait a minute...yes I have...it was on Saturday in the UCLA-USC game!

Good work, guys. How can two teams I root for lose by a combined 89 points in one weekend?

At least UCLA hockey continued its winning ways against USC with a 4-3 comeback win on Thursday and an 8-3 stomping on Friday. That's four straight wins by the Bruins and six out of the last eight meetings. The only way the latest two games could have been better would have been if I actually saw more than four shifts in the two games combined. I must be doing something right if we scored on two of those four shifts...