Monday, August 31, 2009


I'm On a Boat!

On Saturday evening, for the first time, I ventured out onto Lake Waco.

I'm from a place inhabited by sailors. You go out onto the big lake (during the six weeks of temperate weather), hoist the sails, and go as fast as you can. Frankly, it is a lot of work, and there is usually quite a bit of yelling involved. You can actually get in pretty good shape doing it, actually, if you are given the task of handling the crank for the main sail.

In Waco, it is nothing like that. People venture out onto the lake on barges, which are big rectangular vessels with an outboard motor which are designed according to the motto of Viv Savage, keyboardist for Spinal Tap: Have a good time... all the time. Good food and good drink is part of the deal. There is no yelling involved, at least of directions. It was, in fact, a great time, and I very much appreciated the invitation.

Plus, I was not attacked by a swimming bear or a copperhead snake, both of which had been mentioned as possibilities.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Sunday Reflection: The Failure to See Evil

18 years ago, Phillip Garrido kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard in South Lake Tahoe, California. He raped her repeatedly, and forced her to live in a group of tents in his backyard. She gave birth to children at ages 14 and 18, and those children lived in the tents in his backyard, too. With the complicity of his wife, he got away with this for 18 years.

He was a registered sex offender on federal parole, with a high level of supervision. A parole officer visited the house twice a month, and had the ability to make unannounced inspections of any part of the property. Neighbors knew something was wrong. They even called the police, at least once reporting that it seemed there were children living in the backyard. The police did nothing.

How does this happen?

Perhaps, it is a result of the best part of us, the part that forgives others, allows for redemption, and tries to see the best in those around us. A case like this reminds me that a faith that does call us to do all that also challenges us to find a balance between those Christian instincts and the risk of allowing what happened to these children.

As a Christian who teaches criminal law, this is a balance I struggle with all the time. My career has largely been a struggle to live out the conflicting demands of Micah 6:8: To love justice, and show mercy, and walk humbly with God. And when I say struggle, I mean exactly that-- I do not have any kind of comprehensive answer, other than this: That at the least there must be some of both justice and mercy in the legal systems we create, and that the project of doing so is profoundly humbling.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


You know you do this-- text while driving.

This is part of a short film from England.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Haiku Friday: Cooking

Those who know me know that I love to cook for friends. There is something magical about preparing a good meal-- equal parts chemistry and alchemy. There are a few ritual meals that I make every year, and several others scattered around the change in seasons. I grew up in a family that believed in the occasional feast; that is, a meal marked not by gluttony but by careful attention to and appreciation of good food and one another.

Tonight, I will be making some very nice lamb. It is from Homestead Heritage, a place outside of town, where they raise their own and slaughter them on site. It's good meat, so it does not need much spice; the best you can do is to let the wonderful flavor of the meat itself emerge. Yum.

For now, though, let's go ahead and haiku about food and cooking. It can be a memory, a recipe, an idea... just haiku it.

Here's mine:

Even in summer
Texans love an open flame
It can heat them twice.

Now you go...

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Health Care (again) and the worst myth of all

The great myth that seems to underlie much of the health care "debate" right now is that there are really only two options-- either change nothing or institute a European-style single-payer system. In fact, there are four options under consideration right now in health care policy. Here they are:

1) We could do nothing and keep things as they are. Those who can afford it get the best care in the world. Millions, though, have no insurance and get what they can.

2) We could impose some reforms on the system we have. That is, we could require that medical records be centralized and accessible through the internet. This would increase efficiency, but not change the general structure.

3) We could impose the reforms offered in the second option, and offer government health insurance to any citizen. This government insurance would compete with private health plans.

4) We could go to a "single-payer" system such as they have in Canada or most of Europe. There is no "insurance" to pay for-- citizens get care paid for entirely (or almost entirely) by the government's tax money. Citizens would still be free to buy insurance or pay for care that is faster or better than that offered by the government. In other words, for those who do best under option 1, they would still be able to pay for the best care. The cost to taxpayers, of course, would be very significant.

Which is the best option?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


What if?....

While I was away at my remote island lair, a large amount of mail from prisoners built up on my desk. I tend to get a lot of mail from prisoners; most are asking that I help them with their cases. Sometimes I do, too, as a pro bono matter. The letters really run the gamut, too-- some are eloquent, while others are crude.

There were two intriguing ones in this stack. One of those was from a man in prison in Arkansas who had written me previously about being resentenced in his federal crack case. I thought he might be eligible for re-sentencing, so I wrote back to him to request that he send me his judgment and presentence investigation report. Today I got another letter from him. He reported that the officials would not let him mail me the documents because "they say you are not a lawyer. You are a professor."

Sigh. I'm a lawyer and a law professor!

The second letter was interesting in a different way. It was from a woman convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder who wanted to know about the development of an infallible brain-scan lie detector test.

The sad truth is that I don't know anything about the development of such a lie detector. But... what if there was one? Think about how much that would change our world! It would, among other things, greatly aid in the prevention of the conviction of innocents. If there was such a thing, should we use it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Interesting review of Jesus on Death Row...

I noticed a new review of my book in the Decatur Daily, a paper out of Decatur, Alabama.

Though this isn't the highest-profile publication to critique my book, it may be my favorite review of all. The author (Gary Cosby, Jr.) is, apparently, a staff photographer for the paper who also is an acknowledged death penalty supporter. In other words, he is exactly the type of person I wanted to reach-- a thinking Christian who engages with critical social issues and has been for the use of capital punishment. It makes me very happy that he liked the book. Here is part of what he has to say:

Many of us who support the death penalty don’t fully understand its administration, but Osler forces us to confront the reality of modern execution and its disturbing similarity to the ancient methods used to execute Jesus.

Osler also confronts, from many sides, the very idea of execution by the state as a means of justice. He leaves the reader with the following thought: When Jesus was confronted with a situation where the defendant was clearly guilty of a crime punishable by death under Jewish law, he left both critics and supporters amazed.

A woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus, and he was asked to condemn her. Jesus refused to condemn her and used the opportunity to tell the accusers, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus challenged not the law, not the criminal act of the wo­man — but the moral authority of the would-be executioners to take a human life.

While there are certainly criminals who have committed such heinous acts that they are worthy of the death penalty, I now have a question in my mind.

Do I have the moral authority to be the one to cast the first stone?


Good days for David Yassky

The first day of class in the fall always reminds me of that day nearly 20 years ago when I began law school. One pleasure of being down the road a bit from that day is that I can appreciate and celebrate the successes of my friends and classmates. Today I picked up the paper and was very happy to read about one of those people, David Yassky.

David is running for comptroller of New York City and today won a strong endorsement from the New York Times. He deserves it, too. As a member of the New York City Council he implemented a number of great ideas, including the conversion of the city's taxi fleet over to hybrids. I'm confident that David will win, and will do a great job once he takes over.

Monday, August 24, 2009


WHY is the mainstream media IGNORING this story?!?!

White House Reveals Obama Is Bipolar, Has Entered Depressive Phase


The first day

Today is the first day of classes at Baylor Law. I will have two class sessions-- White Collar Crime and Criminal Practice.

On the first and last days of a quarter, I like to set the frame for the rest of what I do, much of which is teaching doctrine and rules. In White Collar Crime, I will be talking about Al Capone, and how he represented a momentous shift in what crime can be, in a way that affects the prosecution of white collar crime today. In Criminal Practice, I will be using Susan Glaspell's play Trifles to frame things. In both instances, it will be a fun day, and a meaningful one.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Sunday Reflection: The water keeps flowing

[Photo: A mill in Minnesota. I waited until dusk, so the light would be right. Click on the photo to enlarge it.]

This morning in Sunday School, we began our study of the Book of Joshua. Dr. Lynn Tatum gave us some context, explaining that the narrative is structured around Moses' last sermon in Deuteronomy, in which he firmly established that God's covenant with the Israelites was that the land was theirs so long as they obeyed God's laws. The first chapter of Joshua, in fact, defines precisely the extent of this land. The idea inherent in this, that land will be possessed by communities over time, as a definition of that community, was intriguing to me.

For one thing, we Americans don't generally share that history or instinct. We move-- a lot. Manifest Destiny was seen as a command from God not to stay in the land where we were, but to spread out and move to other places. Entire towns in the East emptied out as the inhabitants sought better land to the West. To the Israelites, the promised land was where they were already; to we Americans it is often somewhere else, somewhere we want to go. For those of us from a place like Detroit, this sense of hope being associated with a different place (rather than the place we were) is almost second nature.

Even Americans, even Americans from Detroit, though, also have the opposite instinct in the sense of nostalgia that defines us, too. We remember, if only through ancestors, the way things were in those places we came from, and pass on the stories of a different place and time.

In the end, though, it is change that defines us. The water flows on. Tomorrow I will teach a new group of students-- I won't look out and see Kendall Cockrell or Sid Earnheart or Kaye Johnson or Wes Spencer or so many others it will seem should be there, but a new bunch that will bring a different mix of personalities and emotions.

There is beauty in that flow, but sadness and loss as well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


New York, August 21, 2009

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

A great photographer in New York sent me this photo yesterday. It is the most compelling picture I have seen this year.

Any caption ideas? I think if nothing else, it captures the feelings some people have as the start of school looms.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Thank-Hu Friday

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

While I was off on an island with the characters pictured above, my friends IPLawGuy, Mr. Celebrity Luvr and Mrs. Celebrity Luvr covered the blog for me. Now that I have had time to go back and review their work, I am even more thankful for their help.

So, let's offer up haikus of thanks for those who have helped us out, in ways big and small. Even for those of you who had a tough summer (ie, taking the bar),I'm sure that something nice was done for you-- someone made you a nice dinner, heard you out when you complained, or shared a vacation with you.

Here is mine:

Summer vacation
I leave behind this thin reed
In the hands true friends.

Now it is your turn-- make sure you stick with the 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable format, or at least something close...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday with Special Guest TallTenor

Razorites, this week's mayhem is brought to you by Talltenor. We had been writing back and forth on this issue, and I thought he had a fascinating take on the issue:

Something happened within my extended family that I thought might be a good topic for the Razor. It's not pleasant or pretty, but it's something that I think we will begin to see more often in the future, as time goes on.

In July, an elderly cousin of mine (my dad's first cousin) ended his wife's life and then his own, using a firearm to do so. E. (my elderly cousin) and A. had been married just shy of 60 years. They lived alone in their suburban home, where E. served as A.'s caretaker - she had Alzheimer's and was pretty much gone, in every meaningful sense. E. was not in the best of health himself, being both worn out from caring for A. but also apparently fearing that Alzheimer's was beginning to overcome him, too.

I believe I can understand the "why" of E.'s decision. They were, by all accounts I've read and family e-mails I've received, exceptionally devoted to each other. I suppose that he could not bear to see A. suffer any more, and that the the thought of living without her - whether because she died or because his own dementia became too overpowering - was too much. To me, the saddest thing about this is that E. did not seem to feel he could reach out to anyone for help... none of his four children had any idea, nor did his priest, his friends, or his doctors. E. took this very rash decision all by himself, and everyone else is still trying to pick up the pieces.

The reason I wanted to bring this to the attention of the Razor is that I feel we are going to see more and more of these types of decisions, as time goes on. When Dr. Kevorkian frist started doing his thing, 20 or so years ago, I thought it was horrible and awful. That was before I had had any personal experience with losing someone I loved to an illness that killed slowly, surely, and painfully. Again, I believe I can understand why E. felt he needed to do what he did. The "how" still gets me.

We put our pets to sleep so as to end their suffering. Could it ever be "right" to decide to do the same for ourselves? Razor readers, please do not turn this topic into a discussion of health care reform. I am more interested in the idea of how we (should) feel about taking the step to end one's own life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 20


If I sang out loud,
An old, silly song
Would your voice join in,
Though fractured and spare?

I do love your voice
(Though I see your scars)
Join it with mine
I want to feel music.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 19

Late Friday

Do you mind if I drive?
I want to go fast
Hold back your hair
With your right hand.
Where are we going?
Wait, look this way...
We could just stay here
My heart is the same.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 18

The Fall

I watch one red leaf
(light as a pencil)
Take October flight
Down, down, down, down

Light in the air
Each vein calm receding
Even in flight
Each death is our own.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 17


Strange science, this is
The warmth of the board
The sweat on my hands
The sugar THEN salt
It all has effect.

The yeast, these small beings
React to my mother
They're still getting to know me
And flour-mess shirts.

Only two lifetimes
Betweem me and the Framers
Dough rolled out on wood
That... that still feels the same.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 16


There was that one time, remember?
Sitting next to someone
On a plane
An inch between fingertips
Electricity arcs.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 15

Receipt in a Borrowed Book

The best part of that book
Wrinkled, dark, folded
More unsaid than said.
Like any great story
I fill in the gaps.

It was plain in its meaning:
One year ago yesterday
The Southwestern News Store
Gate B5, Dallas/Fort Worth.

That still, small moment
Just before flight
Do you hold your breath,
Or let out a sigh?


Poetry Calvacade 2009: Poem 14

French Press

I lie in bed, wide awake
An echo of my mother
Says I must get up, get busy,
But for now I lay still.

Our coffee was terrible, even
With a press and good beans
Until we forgot it one morning
And left it to steep.

Hulitt, my teacher,
He calls it brooding
You can't write a sermon
All in a rush.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 13


So, you're in the arts?
I could tell by your apartment.

What? Why are you angry?
I just meant... you know.
Is that food or art?

Sorry! Sorry!
I'm not doing well
I'll let myself out
Over here by that smell.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 12


I saw thick smoke rising from Voyageur Island
Not far away, the American side
We ran to our boats
And headed there, fast.

I know all the reefs (on this old lake)
Except that one, it seems.

The ancient four el'ments
(fire, earth, water, and air)
Each can consume us;
We're fragile that way.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 11

While Driving

I stopped when I saw it
Down by the curb
Half-buried in leaves
And mud and thick trash.
A delicate body
Torn and wet and
Matted with grime
I can't walk by.

So, I pick it up
Pull it out of the muck
With a wet sucking sound
(the muck, it fights back).
Turn it round in my hands
To a page at the end
In a high schooler's hand:
"Nov. 19- I know it must end
Now are you happy,

The day after that
I read news and obits
And then see her name

She, she was the driver,
Nov. 19.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 10

Bus Rider

Grim look and dark clothes
Towards work about six
It's still dark here (Detroit)
But I know you know that.

To ride the bus here
Is like you not drinking--
There must be something
Something not quite... right.

I would judge him more
His failings
Were I not here, too.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 9


Using leeches for bait
I don't really mind
When they die.

It's like that one restaurant
Crowded and smug
Now boarded up
The hush of a death.

Or the city I lived in
It refused to be helped
One end sucks blood
While the other pollutes.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 8

How I Get Through the Channel Without Hitting Rocks

To get through the channel
Look up, not down
An arc between landmarks
And slow, steady pace.

If you look down (don't),
Down into the water
You see every boulder and
Monster and trap
That plagued a whole family
In years light and dark.

The silver on boulders--
It came from our boats.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 7


To free a trapped dove
Put a towel down o'er it
It finds calm in that dark
Once it can't see.

This truth I didn't know
I had to be shown
(And truly to learn)
To quiet my voice.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 6

In the Kitchen

Before you cut a thick cord
You must sharpen your knife.
And before that,
Choose a blade wisely:
Thick is for power, thin is finesse.
And before that,
The hardest of all
Is opening the drawer
Full of blades, a thick tangle
Pointed, serrated, remembered;
Perhaps a bit of history
I remember that
Quick and sure,
Quick and sure.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 5

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]

Rain on a Wedding Day

I was in the crowd
Outside of the church
Watching an ambulance
Drive off with the groom.

The women looked angry
Some men, amused
But out by the door
Was one man, alone
Lost in thought or confusion
Or envy, perhaps?

No. Sadness.
A woman approaches
She knows his face
Wraps him up in her arms
And the rain is still falling.


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 4


She gave you that name
And she still loves to say it
A million inflections
Each shade, every tone.

When I hear her say it
A mother's command
(Come here or go there, be quiet or loud)
It's not that she owns it
But gave it away.

[In photo: Miss KO]


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 3

Calm Water Today

Some ducks were there, also
Eight ladies together
As if I weren't there.

If I paddle softly,
And quiet my voice
Would you sit in front
And follow my lead?

The tree that lives longest
In this kind of forest
Has strength unapparent
Until bitten with storm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Poetry Cavalcade 2009: Poem 2

Like last year, I spent much of my time on Osler Island writing poems. I hope that they are getting better, but who knows? I will post them through Wednesday this week, along with some photos from the summer.


Pull your hair back
This place isn't fancy
Like a bit of a song
Sung by kids late at night.

Yes, that is perfect
You don't have to be impress me
Because if that mattered
What would we be?


Sunday Reflection: Imperfection

When I dry the dishes
Poorly, I know
A wet asymmetry
Made with a drop.

I do know better
I can get it right
Still, I leave it at "almost,"
I never trusted perfection.

Up at the island (where there is no electricity and thus no dishwasher), I enjoy being the guy with the towel who dries the dishes. I'm not popular in this role, though, because I never let them get perfectly dry when they leave my hand-- I leave a trace amount of dampness to evaporate. It is 100% intentional, and I have been this way since I was a child. It's almost the opposite of being a perfectionist-- I'm an imperfectionist. The way it drives some people nuts to have something not quite perfect, it drives me nuts when something is seemingly perfect. It does not seem whole or real that way. Why do I have this impulse?

Giving myself too much credit, sometimes I have thought that I am leaving some to God. That is, it is the rest of his creation that will finish drying the dish. Other times, I have thought that it is imperfect things that have the most character.

Most recently, I have thought that maybe that impulse comes from my sense that nothing, seen clearly, is perfect. We live in a world of imperfection of our own making, because we cannot create something perfect. Our lives are not perfect, our work is not perfect, what we create is not perfect. We are not capable of that; only God is. Perhaps that impulse to leave my work imperfect is to make clear that imperfection, to mark it as human and real, and to avoid the allusion that there is such a thing as a perfectly dried dish.

A world of imperfection, self-conscious imperfection, also makes it easier to forgive the imperfections of others. When my friends mess up, I am more able to forgive them, and to remember that if I only settle for friends who are perfect I will find myself quite alone, and unable to meet the standard I set for others.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Summer Reading

I know I promised that I would start posting junky poetry today, but I realize that I forgot to list my reading from my sojourn at Osler Island. Intriguingly, I followed the same pattern as last year, in which I began with decent books, descended into trash, and then ended up someplace even worse. Here, in order, were the books I read:

1) Made in Detroit by Paul Clemens

This memoir reflects upon the author's years spent living in the city of Detroit before moving to Grosse Pointe. Since my family followed the same pattern, there were many places and events described that overlapped with my own experience. At the center of the story is the issue of race-- as a white growing up in a majority-black city, Clemens has a take on the city that both rings true (at least at times), and makes the reader uncomfortable. In the end, the tragedy is not an individual but the city itself, which devolves into a shambles as the story progresses. It's hard to believe a memoir by a 37-year-old could be worthwhile, but this one is.

Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

Former student and current Razorite _B_ sent me this one, which I also enjoyed. The premise seems ridiculous-- a man tries to teach his dog to talk so that the dog can explain what happened to his late wife-- but midway through the book it turns into an elegant and profoundly sad tale of a man who is dealing with his beloved's suicide.

Love the One You're With by Ellen Giffin

Let's be honest here: I brought two books and read them too quickly. Desperate, I came upon a borrowed copy of Love the One You're With (which will be the subject of a poem next week). I enjoyed some parts of this book, but its essential trashiness is revealed with one of the most disappointing endings I have read. In short, a woman has to choose between a man who engages her passions but is poor and another whom she feels lukewarm about, but is rich (he mostly plays golf). She chooses the rich one. Oh, sorry-- "spoiler alert." Ah, who cares, the ending is so vapid (it actually describes his big house as a reason to choose him) that it should be spoiled. However, this was not the worst book I read...

4) Bratfest at Tiffany's by Lisi Harrison

Apparently left behind at the island by Sleepy Walleye (it was marked with his name), this is the worst book ever published. Every character is reprehensible, and the heroes are the worst ones of all. Here is a plot summary: Massie and her friends are the coolest and richest girls at Briarwood Octavian Country Day School,with the most expensive clothes and the most exotic lip gloss! In the end, they triumph over the losers at school by spending vast amounts of their parents money! Yay! Suck eggs, only somewhat-wealthy losers! (You can tell who the losers are because they wear clothes from The Gap, and because the author refers to them as "losers"). Now that I think about it, Sleepy never would have brought this book. It must have been his brother...

Lesson for next year: Bring four books.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Haiku Friday: Out of the woods

The picture above is my dad fishing off of Osler Island [enlarge the photo by clicking on it]. I love that view-- you can stand on the shore and see for miles, and there is no sign of man, just wilderness and still water.

Sadly, it is always hard to come back. There is such a welter of expectations and demands and pressures that always take me by surprise, somehow, and I feel a little dazed. Admittedly, this is a cost of the life I have created for myself, and part of the full life I do enjoy.

The end of vacation is bittersweet, then. Let's blog about those places we have been. [for what it is worth, I wrote a bunch of junky poems again this year, and will post them starting tomorrow]

Here is mine:

For thirty-eight years
I've re-born on these waters
Big lake, my true heart.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Shouting People Down

I'm a little confused about the Tea Party people. I understand that they don't want more government involvement in health care. It is a contentious issue, and there are principled positions on both sides.

What I don't get, and never did, is the tactic of yelling over people when they try to answer your question. What's with that? It was stupid when hippies did it, and stupid when people did it to Reagan, and it's stupid now. Health care policy is a very complex issue. It seems to me that the tactic of shouting down representatives is not a great way to build sympathy for your cause.

Yelling over the speaker at a town meeting: Does it work?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Children's Books

Faithful Razorites know that the IPLawfamily has been blessed with young children over the past couple of years, so books for infants and toddlers have become a big part of my life. I have read "Hop on Pop" at least 500 times. Other books I could probably recite from memory include "The Runaway Bunny," "Goodnight Moon," "Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel" and many more.

What's interesting is that some of them provoke instant childhood memories, while others do not.

And speaking of memories, who does not like a Madeline every now and again? The first Madeline book is pretty tame, but, Ooh La La!, if you have not picked up "Madeline and the Bad Hat" in a while, you're in for some pretty "striking images." The Brothers Grimm do not have a monopoly on shocking small children!

Babar also features some violent images.

On the other hand, the bowdlerized versions of Henny Penny, Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Pigs and others make me roll my eyes.

What books do you recall from your childhood? Are you haunted by visions of crazed woodland creatures? And if you have kids, are there any books you would not read to them ever again?


Paula Abdul Says Farewell to 'Idol'

Paula Abdul Says
Farewell to 'Idol'
Abdul Resigns as American Idol Judge

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Say what you want about Paula Abdul, but give her this: She makes for great television, especially at her own wacky expense.

The water cooler moments she's provided as a judge on "American Idol" are endless. Like the time she told teenage contestant David Archuleta she wanted to squeeze his head off and dangle him from a rearview mirror. Or when she critiqued two songs by Jason Castro after he'd sung only one. And who could forget when she and frequent nemesis Simon Cowell costarred in an awkward sketch sipping champagne and kissing, causing the studio audience to howl.

But Abdul's latest stunt might be her most shocking. She dropped an online bombshell Tuesday night on her Twitter page, posting that she had decided to leave the show after eight seasons. That leaves a three judge-panel of Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi, who signed up for another season after joining as a fourth judge last year.

The abrupt announcement raises questions about the future of the Fox franchise -- not to mention her own career.

She may be the show's craziest judge, but millions of viewers hung on every garbled sentence just to see what she'll do next.

"She is a major ingredient of the show," said Nigel Lythgoe, a former "Idol" producer and current judge on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance." "She's fabulously talented. The chemistry between her, Randy (Jackson) and Simon is incredible. Whenever anybody talks about reality shows and judges, they are the three that everyone would love to emulate."

Lythgoe said he talked to Abdul on Wednesday and plans to meet with her soon to discuss future opportunities, including an appearance on "So You Think You Can Dance."

He said there are no winners following Abdul's "Idol" exit.

"It's not just all about Paula losing out here," he said, "the show loses out, too. And Paula, and I've spoken to her this morning, is a major talent. She's an ex-dancer, an ex-choreographer, and now, an ex-judge. I would welcome her on `So You Think You Can Dance."'

At the same time, he noted, "There is nothing stronger than the `Idol' format. It's worked in many, many countries all over the world without Randy, Paula and Simon. It's the format that counts, and it's the talent that goes on the show."

Still, Abdul's departure comes as "Idol" -- like the vast majority of television shows -- is losing viewers. The Wednesday edition of "American Idol" averaged 25.5 million this past season, still easily the most popular show on TV, compared with 26.8 million in the 2007-08 season; 30 million in both 2006-07 and 2005-06.

News of an Abdul exit left host Ryan Seacrest stunned and saddened. (Seacrest stays on: He recently signed a new deal, reportedly worth $45 million, that keeps him on as "Idol" host through 2012 and provides the opportunity for new entertainment ventures.)

"Everyone that I've passed today here has asked me `Is it true? Is it a publicity stunt?"' Seacrest said Wednesday morning. "As far as I know, it's real. ... At this point, she's decided to leave."

The first signs appeared last month when her new manager, David Sonenberg, publicly announced the feel-good judge may not be returning and was "not a happy camper" as a result of stalled contract negotiations.

She rejected an eight-figure deal that represented a 30 percent raise, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press. The person, lacking authority to speak publicly, asked not to be identified.

Seacrest said he and the three remaining judges are flying to Denver Thursday night for auditions.

That day, Abdul will tape another guest appearance on the Lifetime sitcom "Drop Dead Diva."

"I love Paula and I love what Paula brings to `American Idol,"' said "Drop Dead Diva" producer Josh Berman. "I like that she is the nice one. I like that she finds beauty in everyone. ... It's a loss. For me, Paula was the heart of the show."

Berman, who did not know the details of her "Idol" departure, said the cast and crew of "Drop Dead Diva" -- starring Brooke Elliott as a plus-size lawyer -- "instantly fell in love" with Abdul when she filmed her first cameo in early July.

Her episodes air Sept. 13 and Oct. 11.

Besides TV cameos, where else could Abdul turn to expand her prospects? The 47-year-old former pop singer-dancer and L.A. Laker cheerleader has a jewelry line that she promotes on the Home Shopping Network. She was recently was the subject of a Bravo reality show that lasted one season.

Abdul's former publicist, Howard Bragman, has no doubt she'll land on her feet -- somewhere.

"Don't write Paula out," he said. "When the earth is destroyed, I am convinced that cockroaches and Paula Abdul will survive. ... When Paula Abdul was a Laker Girl, she was the most famous Laker Girl ever. When she was a choreographer, she was the most famous choreographer ever. She became the No. 1 pop star and then she's on the No. 1 TV show -- and it's remarkable, but she seems to have a quality and ability to rise from the ashes."

Bragman called Abdul a survivor who considers herself a star and "lives in sort of Paula-land" where she sees the world through "the Paula lens."

In an interview session Wednesday with the Television Critics Association, NBC programming executive Paul Telegdy expressed interest in working with Abdul.

"We've got no specific plans for her," he told reporters. "But I read the breaking news last night and I wouldn't rule anything out."

Still, it's a wonder how she could walk away from the ratings juggernaut known as "American Idol."

"You know, for years Paula has said she was the worst-paid one and if I was on her business team ... my advice would be stay at the show even if they pay you a dollar because the visibility is so important," Bragman said. "There's nowhere else you're gonna get 30 million people a week."

O.K. Guys, here's the deal. Mr. CL has it on good authority that she was going to be fired if she didn't resign. She wasn't fired and resigned. What are your thoughts and do you even give a rat's buttocks?
If she resigned without being forced to do so, why would she? What are your thoughts? She'd be a fool to resign from the no. 1 TV show without being given an option of resigning. As Gwen Stefani might say, "No doubt." she was fired! If you disagree and have the inside scoop, share! Love ya, Mr. CL

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Addictive Games

I played this game A LOT in 8th and 9th Grades. The French version, of course! The American-based search engines could not find an image of the Box in French.

I digress. The point is, I played it over and over and over.

All through high school I used to keep a pack of playing cards in my desk at home and play solitaire (another word the English stole from the French) over and over and over instead of studying.

In college, it was backgammon and cribbage.

When we all started to get computers on our desks in the early 1990's, I used to play minesweeper until my eyeballs bled.

And now I can't stop playing Scramble on Facebook! It's a huge waste of time. I try to justify it, but I know I'm just making excuses. Anyone else out there want to confess?



Sunday Reflection: Linda Richman and Mr. CL return

After a week's absence, Mr. CL and Linda Richman are back on the razor with something to discuss amongst yourselves today. I'll even give you a topic "The Holy Roman wasn't Roman, it wasn't an empire and why are their priests still celibate. Discuss."

So desipite my extensive research in my Us Weekly and OK magazine subscirptions, I was still puzzled. Varklempt is a better work. So I asked myself, what would Barbara do? After singing the chorus of Memories, I turned on my 95 Packard Bell and went to Google - I mean it's like buttah.

My first results were the >Catholic Encyclopedia (Note to Interns beginning August 24 - your first assignment is to write the Judge Jeffy Encyclopedia) and the always accurate Wikipedia. I was surprised to discover that celibacy is not a black letter rule in Catholicism, just one that requires special permission to break. In fact, in Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches married men are allowed to be ordained - but they only get one wife regardless of death or divorce so choose wisely.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "[f]rom the earliest period the Church was personified and conceived of by her disciples as the Virgin Bride and as the pure Body of Christ, or again as the Virgin Mother (parthenos meter), and it was plainly fitting that this virgin Church should be served by a virgin priesthood." The vow of celibacy is not found anywhere in the New fact two of the most influential leaders in the New Testament - Peter and Paul - were married men.

So what do you think, should this strong suggestion be put to rest? Give a call, we'll talk, no big whoop.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Trains for America?

This is the TGV, the world's fastest and most beautiful train. It can reach speeds of up to 200 mph and those traveling in France would be well advised to take advantage of the convenient and regular train service. (except for the holidays and days when the workers strike for more benefits, more pay, fewer hours and better food.. but I digress).
The U.S. has a fine and usually profitable train service in the Northeast Corridor (Boston to Washington, and especially in and out of New York). The rest of the country... not so much. The high speed Acela trains can run quite fast, but not nearly as fast as the TGV.
Members of Congress LOVE trains, so despite the fact that Amtrak loses money hand over fist every year, it continues to be heavily subsidized and runs a lot of places where there are very few passengers.
Would high speed rail from San Antonio through Austin and Waco to Dallas make sense? It might reduce the congestion on I-35, but how many people would have to ride it in order to justify the expense?
There are plans to put in high speed rail between Duluth (sounds kind of French, no?) and the Twin Cities of Minnesota (part of the Louisiana purchase, by the way). I'm not so sure this is the best use of taxpayer dollars.
Sure, if we took trains instead of flying or driving, there would be many benefits. But convenience is not one of them with the current infrastructure. Does it make sense to spend billions on more tracks and equipment for trains that we are not even sure anyone will ride?

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Recipe for Haiku

Hi Razor Readers! I love getting to do Haiku Friday. This week, I thought I'd try to combine my love of cooking with my lame efforts at Japanese poetry. I was inspired by the photograph pictured. It was taken by my grandmother Mama Dear, at my grandparents' small farm in Ft. Worth. (Yes, that is my family, Mom, Dad, brother Rob Roy and me, I think it's about 1972. And no, my mom is not 3 feet taller than my dad, Mama Dear was REALLY short, hence the weird camera angle.)

My brother and I and all of our cousins were sent to my grandparents farm for a couple of weeks every summer to help out. I secretly think it was so our parents could get a little alone time, but that's another day's post. We picked okra, tomatoes, peaches, you name it, they grew it. My grandfather refused to use a regular tractor, preferring to employ a mule named Kit. So Kit would pull the cart, we would pick stuff and ride the cart when the grownups weren't looking. All very fun. My grandmother either cooked, pickled, canned, or sold the extra produce. It was a great deal all around, fun for us and free labor for them!

Needless to say, Mama Dear was an amazing cook. I offer her cobbler recipe, for your personal enjoyment.

Peach Cobbler

1 quart sliced fresh or frozen peaches
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine above in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside.

6 tablespoons butter
1 cup Bisquick
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons butter
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (lots)

Melt the butter, mix with Bisquick and salt and spices. Reserve ½ cup of this mixture. Spread the remaining mixture in the bottom of a 2 quart baking dish and pour hot fruit mixture on top. Mix wheat germ with the reserved Bisquick mixture and sprinkle on top of the fruit. Dot with remaining butter and more cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Prepare for nirvana.

Peach cobbler daily
Made by Mama Dear and me
I pick'd, and she peel'd

Love, Mrs. CL


Fair Use? (an actual Intellectual Property posting)

This well known poster is the subject of Copyright litigation between the Associated Press and the artist that created the poster. The AP says the photo infringes its rights under U.S. Copyright law because the artist used a photograph taken by an AP photographer and turned it into a piece of art. The AP argues that it owns the underlying work and should be compensated.

The artist has many arguments, including the fact that Obama looks like that in many photographs, not just the one he used.

More importantly, he argues that he has done something transformative and created a new work, using the photograph as one ingredient. He is not competing with the AP and the market for news photographs of the President has not been affected in the slightest by the creation of this poster.

Fair enough. I tend to agree and hope the artist wins. He's relying on a Supreme Court decision in a case between Roy Orbison's publishing company and Luther Campbell, aka Luke Skywalker of 2 Live Crew. As you may remember, 2 Live Crew took the old Roy Orbison tune "Pretty Woman" and re-engineered parts of it into a rap tune. The Supreme Court found that Campbell and his fellow rappers had created something new and original and did not owe Orbison's estate any money.

So how about using this photo of Barack Obama smoking a cigarette taken when he was in college and about 19 years old:

And turning it into a poster in favor of the legalization of marijuana, as NORML has done:

Its certainly a new work. Are those defending the artist that created the iconic and Presidential-looking poster at the top prepared to defend this?
(tomorrow, more French references)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


OK, we're back!

Once again we have access to the Razor! New material soon!

Meanwhile check out the temporary site, musingsfromaneccentric


Sunday, August 02, 2009


Americans And Foreign Languages. Why don't we speak more French?

Did you take a foreign language in High School? Was it French? If not, why not?

And no matter what language you took (and if it wasn't French or Spanish, at least at first, you're in a special subset), how often do you use your foreign language?

French is the only foreign language I've ever studied. I actually get to use it in Montreal and Quebec and every now and then in France. But that does not happen often enough. Fortunately the professsionals with whom I deal as a lawyer and the service people that I run into at restaurants, hotels, etc. all have a much better understanding of English.

Many commentators like to bemoan Americans' ignorance of foreign languages. But really, even if I had studied French for eight years instead of four, I still wouldn't use it any more than I do.

Perhaps an understanding of Spanish would help with the many Spanish speaking people who live in the DC area. And the same goes for those of you who live in Texas. But again, the native Spanish speakers that I need to talk to all speak pretty good, if not excellent English.

Of course, France has a wonderful culture, great food, rich history and philosophy. Isn't that enough of a reason to speak French?



Sunday Reflection: Linda Richman's Coffee Talk part 1

This is Mr. CL and since I am a "celebrity luvr," I channeled Linda Richman and she informed me through the spirit world that she is still vibrant and has much more to say, particularly as to Sunday Reflections. She conveyed to me that what follows are her comments and do not reflect or imply the views of Judge Jeffrey C. Manske. Her comments follow (forgive me any misspellings because it is hard to type by candlelight and while in the presence of a medium):

"First of all, I want to say Welcome to Coffee Talk. I'm Linda Richman. (Applause) Since entering the spirit world . . . Wait, I'm getting emotional, I'm getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. The topic is Christopher Hitchen's 'God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.' On page 48 of his book, he writes: 'In the recent division in the Anglican Church over homosexuality and ordination, several bishops made the fatuous point that homosexuality is unnatural because it does not occur in other species. Leave aside the fundamental absurdity of this assertion: are humans part of "nature" or not? Or, if they chance to be homosexual, are they created in God's image or not? Leave aside the well-attested fact that numberless kinds of birds and mammals and primates do engage in homosexual play. Who are the clerics to interpret nature? . . . Homosexuality is present in all societies, and its incidence would appear to be a part of human "design." On page 52, Mr. Hitchen's states, 'By all means--for all I care--let a priest sworn to celibacy be a promiscuous homosexual. . . . By all means let anyone who believes in creationism instruct his fellows during lunch break. But the conscription of the unprotected child for these purposes is something that even the most dedicated secularist can safely describe as sin.' Discuss, I'm sure you're comments will be like buttah."

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Does Anyone Sing about Cars Anymore?

I must admit, I only occasionally listen to pop music or rap. I've always preferred rock and roll, rockabilly, punk and on some days alt country. So I am clearly not an expert on what's popular amongst the vast majority of the listening public. Even so, I do know who the Jonas Brothers as well as the names of many rappers. Do any of them sing about cars?

Rock and Roll, and Rock, artists from Jan & Dean, The Beachboys, Bruce Springsteen, even Led Zeppelin ("Trampled Underfoot") and countless others brought us so many car songs and references to cars: Little GTO, Maybelline, HotRod Lincoln, "barefoot girl sittin' on the hood of a Dodge," etc.

The last big car songs I can thing of are over 25 years old: "Little Red Corvette" by Prince, and "Pink Cadillac" by Springsteen. Is the disappearance of songs about cars just another sign of America's Industrial Decline? Maybe there are rap tunes about Bentleys and Escalades or something, but I've never heard them.

Am I missing something? Are there songs about Hondas, Nissans, Lexuses, Infinitis, the "new" VW Beetle?



Ask IPLawnGuy!

Summer can be the hardest time of all for proper lawn care. Today, I will be addressing some of the most common issues homeowners face when they consider proper care of their lawn.

IPLawnGuy, what type of grass should I plant?

The right type of grass for your region is essential. Bluegrass varieties, for example, do not flourish where there is extended periods over 100 degrees. One variety that does well in many different environments is marijuana. I have planted my entire back yard with this variety, and it has brought me years of pleasure.

Is there a particular pattern I should use when mowing?

Yes. Too many people mow in a back-and-forth pattern, which develops grooves which can damage the grass. A better method is to just go around at random. If you have trouble doing this, it may help to close your eyes. Also, it is crucial to run as fast as you can, to help avoid creating those grooves or crushing the grass unduly.

Should I be fertilizing my lawn in any special way?

Remember, grass is a natural part of the environment. In the wild, it is nourished by nearby animals. At your own home, encourage animals to fertilize your lawn. In addition, as a mammal, you can do the same yourself, provided you are discrete. That's what the "P" in IPLawnGuy is for, after all!

Thanks for your attention, and feel free to ask any additional questions you may have!

-- IPLawnGuy

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