Monday, May 31, 2010


Cory Andrews and the dilemma of in-house counsel

One of the people I have had the pleasure of collaborating with over the past year has been Cory Andrews of the Washington Legal Foundation. We have some common interests (for example, last week he testified before the US Sentencing Commission in opposition to many mandatory minimum sentences), and in other areas he has expertise and I do not.

One of those areas is corporate law. Most recently, he wrote an excellent post on the WLF site which was cross-posted at The piece assails, properly, the Supreme Court's refusal to hear Textron v. United States. In that case, the First Circuit held that the IRS could gain access to important attorney work product produced by in-house counsel, an opinion which has troubling implications for the role of in-house counsel and the ability of those lawyers to properly advise a client (and warn them away from wrongful behavior, for example). If you have any interest at all in corporate law, litigation, or ethics, I hope you will follow the link above to Cory's work.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Love and graduation

Below is the text of the graduation speech I gave at Vanguard College Preparatory School on Friday. The word "love" appears 32 times.

I will let you in on a secret—I worried over this speech. I talked to a lot of people. One of them is a guy who is one of my personal heroes, a philosopher named Bob Baird. [I love saying that—that I know a philosopher. But when you work at a University, things like that happen].

Bob Baird gave the commencement address here many years ago, and he still remembers every bit of it. He gave me some very good, pithy advice. He said to have something for the students, for the teachers, and for the parents. And I’m smart enough to take the advice of someone whose profession is “philosopher.”

Then, to the students:

All of you, every one of you, is going off to college. That’s an incredible and amazing thing, and very rare. That alone marks this as a special school.

Here’s what I want you to do when you go to college next year: I want you to fall in love. By that, I mean totally, crazy, silly in love. Love does funny things to you when you are 19—it will make you stay up all night, it will make you blurt out stupid things, it will make your friends jealous, because you aren’t really the same person when you are in love.

I can see some of the parents getting a little worried.

It’s ok—I want them to fall in love with an idea. An intellectual idea, a transformative idea. It can be about art or politics or almost anything that exists at that point where the mind meets the world, but just let yourself fall in love. I am in love with an idea. For me, it is the idea that there has to be some role for mercy in our system of justice, or it was not really justice. And that has become the life and love of my mind.

Some of you have already started dating an idea. I have seen that in my interactions with you. That’s wonderful; just don’t be afraid to go all in for love.

Another thing, too—you might have to break up with your idea and start over. I did. For years, I believed that there was no such thing as genius—that what we think of as genius is really just our opinion, rooted in our own experience and culture. That all got blown up in a few minutes. I was in Florence, Italy, and turned a corner and saw Michaelangelo’s David. It stopped me cold. It was undeniably a work of genius, as proven by the fact that I stood there, stunned, surrounded by people from all over the world. It was a quick break-up.

Think of your hero, someone who really did change the world. It is easy to know what idea they loved—Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, Keith Haring, whoever—they are beloved because of the idea that they loved. You will be, too.

You are not average kids, and this is not an average school. To you, to this group of not-average students, I say go love an idea, and that we can’t wait to see where that ends up.

To the teachers:

I am one of you, and I have had a little window into what you do here. I hope people realize that what these teachers do is an act of love, and at this school that love is very obvious.

I come from Detroit, a place where people build cars. There is something you see there sometimes that still amazes me. You will be walking through a parking lot and there will be some guy standing there looking at a car. Not too long ago, I saw a guy standing there, stock still, looking at a Dodge Viper, for example. I stared at him staring at the car, wondering if he was wanting to buy it or drive it or what. But then I noticed his jacket, which said “UAW, Mack Avenue Chrysler Plant.” That’s where they build the Viper.

This man was staring at that car because he built it.

That car was his life’s work.

Students, you are the life’s work of these teachers. For us teachers, you are what we have devoted our lives to. Someday you will run into one of these teachers, and he or she will ask what you are doing, and you will brag on yourself some (it happens), and that teacher will get a little choked up. Please understand what is going on there. What is happening is that you are fulfilling everything that teacher works for. You carry that with you, that amazing and wonderful love that good teachers, THESE teachers, have for what they do, and for you.

To the parents:

You have known these students a very long time. This morning, I gave the commencement address for St. Paul’s sixth-grade graduation, to an audience that included big bunches of three and four-year olds sitting there politely in party dresses and tiny bow ties. It wasn’t that long ago, was it? And you remember back further than that, you remember these kids, these giants, when they were so small you could hold them in one arm, touch each tiny finger as it reached out for you. You remember the newborn baby, so fragile, so vulnerable, so needy, that newborn baby who now is about to go off to live in a dorm and fall in love with an idea.

You love these graduates. You always have, though that changes with time.

For several years, I worshipped as a Quaker, in silent meeting where nothing happened until someone was moved to speak. One Sunday morning, we were sitting there quietly when the voice of crying infant drifted in from the nursery. A moment later, a woman rose and began to speak. I remember exactly what she said: “When those babies are born, the love you feel is so pure. There is nothing to cut into it, to dilute it, nothing but pure love. But then they grow up, and there are arguments and problems and uncomfortable moments, and sadnesses, and the love you felt for that tiny baby is buried under everything else. But it is still there. You just have to see it, to feel it.

So today, when you see these graduates, take a moment to indulge yourself in that pure, unadulterated love, the love you felt for this child when they were so tiny you held them in one arm. Look at them with the eyes of the parent of a newborn. It is, after all, the same person, and always will be, and now that pure love can mix with pride.

And this is a time for love. To love these students, to love this remarkable school, to love one another. I am an outsider to this school, just a guy who is about to move away, but I see what you have here, and it is something to celebrate.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die,
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what has been planted,
A time to break down and a time to build up,
A time to weep, and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn, and a time to dance,
A time to love, and a time to hate.

This is the time to laugh.
This is the time to dance.
This is the time to love.

Mothers and fathers, Grandma’s and Paw-Paws, Aunts and Uncles, Brothers and Sisters, love on!

Because for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Yesterday's Graduations...

Yesterday (in addition to classes at 8 and 11:45), I was blessed with the opportunity to give two commencement addresses here in Waco: At St. Paul's Episcopal Day School in the morning, then at Vanguard Prep in the afternoon. [You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them]

St. Paul's had just last week completed a renovation of their sanctuary, so we were able to have the graduation ceremony there:

At St. Paul, the graduates did a lot of singing:

At Vanguard, my speech was at the start of the ceremony. Near the end, they had the "passing of the ivy" from the seniors to the juniors:

For the recessional at Vanguard, the seniors changed clothes (Jim Wren's twins dressed as a cow) danced around, then ran out the back. It was excellent:


For the moment...

Here is a little cell phone video I took in DC by accident (but kind of like). Later today I will post photos of the graduations yesterday, and on Monday I plan to post some commentary from Cory Andrews on Supreme Court developments and why cert. denials can matter.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Haiku Friday: Graduation day

It's a big day. I teach Appeals and Habeas at 8, give the commencement address at St. Paul's at 10:30, teach sentencing at 11:45, rush over to the Vanguard practice, then give their commencement speech at 7. Whew!

So, what advice should I give 18-year-olds? That can be our haiku topic. Here is mine:

Care for good, not bad
Don't become that drunk old flop
We turn away from.

Sheesh, you all have to be able to do better than that... just make it 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, then 5 in the third.


Hearne Reunion: More great work by Julie Hays and KWTX

(If the video isn't showing for you, check out the link here)


Political Mayhem Thursday II: He had me at "thugs and criminals keeping you in the dark..."


Political Mayhem Thursday: Your Favorite President

On Sunday, I had the great pleasure of visiting New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington DC, and to talk about my book after the service. The talk was well received, though not so much because of me but because of my audience. They had great questions, and the last comment was from Annie Owens, a lawyer in Washington who talked about her representation of a Virginia defendant who had been executed that Thursday, an execution she had witnessed. Her comment was a more profound and important statement than anything that I said.

During the service of worship, I was asked to sit in the pew Abraham Lincoln used during his presidency. There was something profoundly moving about doing so, too-- it felt like sacred ground. Lincoln is a fascinating character, and a hero to many.

I don't think it is a fair question to ask who was the "best" president of the United States, since they faced such different challenges. But, who is your favorite, and why?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Monster Funny Car Wednesday!

Ok. I have no monster funny cars. However, I do have the report below from Julie Hays, who did a fabulous job and who gave me an incredible opportunity in Hearne (which will be reported in Part II, at 10 pm tonight on KWTX).

Also in lieu of funny cars, I have this piece in today's Huffington Post. The piece got a nice bump from uber-blogger Doug Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy, also made it onto the Wall Street Journal's web site.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Caption Contest

Monday, May 24, 2010


Washington and Hearne

Yesterday's talk at New York Ave. Presbyterian Church in DC was a wonderful adventure. I loved the church and the audience. During worship service, they graciously asked me to sit in Lincoln's pew, which was a strangely moving experience. I think that, and the sincerity of the service itself, helped me to amp up the lecture a notch.

In more local news, Julie Hays at KWTX-TV has put together a great two-part series about the Hearne case which served as the basis for the movie American Violet. The series will run on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week at 10 pm on Channel 10 in Waco. Here is one of the promo spots for the series:

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Art, God, and Creation

I am the child of an artist. I don't mean someone who paints, and uses art supplies-- I mean that I am the child of a man who has an extraordinary gift for creation. I often watch in awe as a person or scene emerges from his canvas as he works on it. He paints, scrubs, steps back, ponders, and attacks it again. He knows there is a figure emerging, and it is as if he is getting to know it, understand it, and the relationship is intense.

Sadly, this is not a talent I have. Sure, I have my creative moments, but it is not art like what my dad creates, and I respect it all the more because his is a process I cannot replicate-- I am many things, but not an artist.

What of the larger creation? Is God an artist in what he has created and creates every day? Does he ponder what he is crafting, step back and admire it? I know that because God is God, the ways of his work are unimaginable to us; still I do wonder if there is some faint echo of God's creativity in what I see my own father doing-- perhaps as the creator's creation we replicate and love our own small versions of what the creator did, and thus good art can move us towards what is true and good and beautiful.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Tomorrow in DC

Tomorrow morning, I will be speaking about Jesus on Death Row at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington DC, two blocks East of the White House. This is a fascinating church-- it was, among other distinctives, the church Abraham Lincoln attended during his presidency.

More recently, the church played a role in shaping even the pledge of allegiance. Reverend George Docherty preached a Lincoln Day sermon on February 7, 1954 to a congregation that included President Dwight David Eisenhower. The sermon, titled "One Nation Under God," prompted the U.S. Congress to amend the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, inserting the phrase "under God."

If you are in the area, please come by-- the talk will be at 11 am in the Lincoln Parlor, just after the morning service for worship.

[Also, if you are a glutton for punishment, you can now listen to the interview I did last week with WNUR in Chicago, which is also available as a podcast at iTunes.]


Best Games (General)

1) Scrabble
2) Baseball
3) Hockey
4) Euchre
5) Paintball

I think this is pretty much beyond dispute.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Haiku Friday: The smell of summer

It is hot and sticky here in Texas. Summer is here. It comes early in and around Waco.

Summer has distinctive sounds and tastes, sure, but there are scents that go with it, too. Let's haiku on that today. The last line of your haiku should be "That smells like summer." Just slap a five-syllable line up top, then a seven, then my line, and you have a good haiku.

Here is mine:

Grill-smoke is wafting
Up past our balcony now;
That smells like summer.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Oil Spill

No sooner did the Obama administration announce its support for additional deep-water drilling than a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico started spewing oil.

What is the lesson from this? Should we stop building deep-water rigs? Is it a mistake to encourage drilling at all at this point?

We don't know what environmental damage this is causing, and we may not know for decades. This oil may well have sunk to the bottom of the Gulf, in fact, where it will affect the very bottom of the food chain there. We do not know what the ultimate result will be.

Many people I know think that we simply need more oil, and this is the cost of that need. Others believe that if we force a reduction of consumption we will finally move towards a fundamental change that needs to happen.

So, what should the lesson be, if there is one? If we ever develop an energy policy, what should it be?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Osler Upgrade Options

As many of you know (I hope), I am constantly trying to improve my craft of teaching. While most often that involves honing my technique and trying new innovations, sometimes it also means making an equipment upgrade. I am currently pondering some new equipment. Specifically, I will probably invest in one of the two items listed below, and seek your opinion as to which would be a better choice.

1) Panda Costume
Cost: $199

The panda suit would benefit my teaching in many ways. First, I could get Brennan to wear it for his appearances in Appeals and Habeas as Successive Petition Panda, the bad-news bear who explains the many hurdles created by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). Second, I could wear it to graduation and just kind of stand in the back to make everyone nervous. Finally, it could be useful in those videos I have been working on.

2) Electro-Harmonix Voice Box Harmony Machine and Vocoder
Cost: $214.50
8 A.M. lectures will never be the same once I start sounding like T-Pain! And just imagine with me for a moment what I could do with the ability to begin my high-school commencement address later in the month with "Shawty!" with full glissando and reverb.

So, which should I pick?


The perfect kitchen...

My key elements:

1) Gas stovetop
2) Two ovens
3) An island or peninsula
4) A decent sized work area
5) Good natural light
6) Music

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Hello, Sentencing Issues!

This morning's cover story in USA Today accurately quoted my view on the Graham opinion. They do some good work there. Intriguingly, the piece also ran in Beijing Today. Hello, China!

Meanwhile, I am apparently commenting on the "is she gay" (non-)issue in England, DC, LA, Miami, Utah, and Boston. (complete with the incorrect mention that I have "argued cases" in front of the Supreme Court... grrr... we won Spears on the briefs, as most of you know, despite the opposition of the SG, my other work was for amici, and I have never claimed anything more. Needless to say, I would love to argue cases in the Supreme Court!).

After a minefield like that (and the other recent questions about religion and the Court), it was kind of nice to be asked questions about sentencing again! Whew-- back to normal.

Though next week will be exciting. Stay tuned...


The Graham Decision

Yesterday, the Supreme Court released its opinion in Graham v. Florida, holding that states (and the federal government) could not impose the punishment of life without the possibility of parole on juveniles who did not commit murder. It is the first time the Court has barred a punishment as to a specific group other than in capital cases. As many of you know, this is an issue I care about, and was the topic of my testimony in Congress a year ago and some public statements (including this CNN chat) more recently.

The Court split into three groups. The first, the majority, held that the penalty of life without parole categorically violates the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual, and that that this proscription applies to the states as a violation of due process. The opinion for the majority was written by Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Stevens. The second group, in opposition to the first, rejected the idea that there should be a categorical rejection of this penalty, or that Mr. Graham should be otherwise exempted from that punishment. This group included Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. Chief Justice Roberts, alone, comprises the third group. He rejected the majority's creation of a categorical rule, but felt that cases should be reviewed individually and that Mr. Graham's case was a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The 84-page set of opinions is fascinating in that there are at least three fault lines running through the Court that are exposed:

1) First, it is significant that the Chief Justice held firm for a case-by-case analysis rather than creation of a categorical rule. While this might seem more inefficient than a categorical rule (and it is), it does allow for less intrusion into the province of state legislatures-- that is, it allows the states more freedom to determine their own laws. Make what you will of the fact that he pulled none of the other Justices to this position.

2) Of course, there is also the basic disagreement over whether juvenile life without parole is unconstitutional when applied to juveniles who did not kill, and the fact that they did not consider a broader rule that might cover the 2,500+ juvenile offenders serving LWOP sentences who did commit murder.

3) Finally, there was a fierce debate between members of the majority and one of the dissenters, Justice Thomas, over what the proper method of evaluating the question should be. The majority relied primarily on two things: Whether the majority of states were actually using this penalty (regardless of whether it was in the statutes), and their own subjective sense of whether the penalty of LWOP is disproportionate when sentencing juveniles for a crime less than murder. It is the second of these which was attacked by Justice Thomas, who said that the majority had moved "far beyond any cognizable constitutional principle the Court has reached to ensure that its own sense of morality and retributive justice pre-empts that of the people and their representatives."

Harsh words, indeed. And a wonderful debate over an important question we should be discussing for a long time, including in the confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan.


Thank you, Phillip

Of the many intriguing emails I received yesterday regarding my piece in the Dallas Morning News, this is perhaps the most intriguing. Any ideas on how I should respond?

Mr. Osler:

Read your viewpoint (referenced above) in todays, May 17, 2010, Dallas Morning News. Your statement "Elena Kagan is an outstanding lawyer and educator and a wonderful nominee for the Supreme Court. If I were in the Senate, I would vote for her confirmation," is absolutely appalling! I would like to know why you think she is such an outstanding candidate for the U.S Supreme Court when she doesn't even know what the United States of America is as dictated by the Founding Fathers. Specifically, what I'm talking about is her statement the other day during an interview. She ignorantly proclaimed that the U.S.A. is a constitutional democracy. Now, I want to know something. How could you endorse any candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court that made such an horrendous mistake as this. Obviously, you must be a lib (in case you don't know, that's an acronym for liberal) and certainly no constitutional scholar.


Monday, May 17, 2010


Sand Study #2


Graham (juvie life without parole case) decided!

Full opinion here. Three initial thoughts, with more tomorrow:

1) It's too bad the opinion was limited to juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses.

2) It appears to be the first time that the Court has created a categorical rule barring a punishment to a class of offenders outside of the death penalty area.

3) The most fascinating thing about the outcome is the raging debate between the majority and Justice Thomas about the use of individual subjective morality as the basis for the majority opinion.


Sand Study #1

Some people liked my last abstract photos (Steel Studies); other people hated it. I'll see if this works better:

I suppose it is time to stop obsessing over the Supreme Court, but it just fascinates me right now. I wrote an editorial about it for the Dallas Morning News, which now has attracted the usual raft of angry commenters. (what is it about newspaper sites which seems to invite that?)

Then, last night I had a lot of fun talking about the Supreme Court on WNUR in Chicago. The hosts of the program, Eric and Jenna, seemed genuinely interested in the issue and gave it lots of time. Plus, my sister got to hear it! There is something very fun about that.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Choosing a Church

With the move to Minneapolis, I will need to find a new church. It is very hard to leave my current church-- it has been a wonderful place for me.

What should I look for when I visit a church? How did you find one that fit you? I am looking for advice here. Thanks in advance--

Razor Proprietor

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Hello Kitty and RRL

Sadly, these are two separate topics. I'm about to head off for the Metroplex again until tomorrow, but before I do, two important reports:

1) RRL's band (the name of which does not meet the Razor's decorum standards) was great. Well, they weren't great in the sense of "knowing how to play all the songs they began," but that's now what I want in a bar band. Instead, I am looking for fun, energy, and some surprises, and they had all three. I had never heard RRL sing, and I was shocked. He's good. Who knew? (well, I suppose everyone else there did, but not me). It was good to be at Scruffy's again, too, and Woody bought me a beer. Thanks, Woody-- it was great to see you in your native environment.

2) In a possibly unrelated story, it looks like we are facing the possible demise of Hello Kitty. What I never figured out is why Hello Kitty was popular in the first place. Can anyone help me with this?

Friday, May 14, 2010


Haiku Friday: Bar Bands

Tonight, I will be heading over to Scruffy Murphy's to hear RRL's band play. Other than his promise yesterday that they won't play Toto, the only thing I really expect is that they will not play horrible over-produced pap. Yay!

Back in Detroit, my favorite bar for music was the Tap Room. It was an old and warm hole, which back in the day was heated in the winter with only a wood stove. I have often wondered how many East-siders suffered burns from that thing after a few beers...

So, let's haiku about bars and bar bands. Tell us about your favorite.

Here is mine (which probably means more if you were on the border between Detroit and Grosse Pointe):

It's one now, dancing
With a girl dress'd for tennis
No one cares. We sing.

Now it is your turn...

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Spam Reaches a Whole New Level of Creepy!

I received this email today:


How are you? i hope all is well with you, i hope you may not know me, and i don't know who you are, My Name is Miss Aminata, i am just broswing now and i see your email address and it seems like some thing touches me all over my body, i started having some feelings in me which i have never experience in me before, so i became interested in you, l will also like to know you the more,and l want you to send me a email so that l can give you my picture for you to know whom l am.I believe we can move from here and see where nature will take us! I am waiting for your mail (Remeber the distance or colour does not matter but love and good caring matters alot in life).

Your New Friend ,
Miss Aminata.

Really, Miss Aminata? Reading my email address made you "feel like something touches you all over your body?" Is it the "" part that does it for you? If so, I worry.


Political Mayhem Thursday: One after Kagan...

Obviously, I have already said my piece about the Kagan nomination to the Supreme Court. Now I open it up to the rest of you, to address two questions:

1) Is Kagan a good choice?
2) Assuming Kagan is confirmed, and Justice Ginsburg steps down in the next year or so, what should President Obama look for in the NEXT Justice after this one?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Friday's Plan: Suggestions?

On Friday, I will be speaking to about 100 local lawyers at the County Bar Meeting. I'm still nailing down my topic-- I vaguely remember promising something about sentencing or pandas, or perhaps modern dance. I have listed some possibilities below, and invite suggestions:

1) Sentencing Apocalypse!
2) Cereal Choices for Practicing Attorneys
3) Pandas: Cherubic friends, or China's Secret Satans?
4) The Book of Leviticus (interpretive dance)
5) What Every Lawyer Should Know About Larry Bates
6) The Franking Privilege
7) Disturbing Crime Photos
8) Theme from "A Summer Place" (performed on trumpet)
9) A Visit From Successive Petition Panda (see illustration)


But... was she responsible for the Murder Hotel?

Somehow, I suspect that somewhere along the way somebody is going to imply that 14-year-old Elena Kagan was somehow responsible for the Murder Hotel on her block in New York.

It's unclear whether the actual name of the place was "Murder Hotel," but if it was, it's not surprising bad things happened there.

My parents once stayed in Krakow at the "Krak Hotel." Is that the worst name for a business of all time?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The Kagan Nomination

What I have been saying (with disclaimers):

Interview on KWBU with Derek Smith

The Washington Post


New York Daily News

USA Today [Note: In "The 80's," I was in high school and college, not leading a rebellion against the SBC]

Dallas Morning News

Austin American-Statesman

Paul Edwards Program (Go to May 11 podcast)

Yahoo News

Los Angeles Times

Boston Globe [Note: I have never wrestled professionally]

Philadelphia Inquirer [Note: I am not actually known in Philadelphia as either "Bruce" or "Mr. Snuffles"]

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Houston Chronicle

San Francisco Examiner

Forbes [Note: I was never Vice-President of "Rent-a-Tire Inc."]



If you are in Waco, check out my interview with Derek Smith this morning on KWBU-FM, 103.3, on the Kagan nomination. Last night's discussion on CNN between me, Jeffrey Toobin, and Linda Greenhouse was (besides being intimidating) way too short to adequately cover the issues I really care about on this one.

Besides, I have a face for radio.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Oh! Back to Dallas...

No sooner do I write about Dallas than I need to go back. It looks like I'll be on CNN tonight to talk about the Kagan nomination in the 7 pm (central time) hour, and the closest studio is up there.


Uh-oh! I kinda like Dallas...

For the past ten years, Dallas has been somewhat of a mystery to me. Austin, I get-- you hang around outside, let your hair go, enjoy life, have a hippie burger-- and I like it. But Dallas was a mystery. It struck me as big and corporate and impersonal. The green lights attached to the tall buildings seemed intended to attract aliens, and I didn't know where I was most of the time. As it turns out, I just wasn't going with the right people.

On Saturday, I drove up to Dallas with my dad to visit some galleries, and I finally saw a wonderfully human side of Dallas, and a new side of my dad.

First of all, the art scene in Dallas seemed much more vibrant and alive than the one in Austin (I went there on Friday with my dad for the same reason). Many of the Dallas galleries are on Dragon Street in the Design District, and somehow the aesthetics of that area suit Dallas in a wonderful way. It isn't a city street, really, like you would find in Chelsea or the West Village, or a new clean-scrubbed area. It has a certain grit to it. Dragon Street is a semi-industrial alley with hidden coves of beauty along the way. It reminded me of Detroit, in a way-- albeit, a more successful Detroit, but with a similar feel to the best and most creative parts of that city.

In the late afternoon we went to some galleries, had dinner at the Meddlesome Moth on Oak Lawn (pictured here), and then went back down Dragon later in the evening for some opening parties. We drank wine, laughed, and walked from party to party. In the course of this, I saw a part of my own father I had not truly seen in my forty-something years around him. I loved seeing him talk to other artists he did not know, exchanging stories with them. There was this wonderful bond he shared with other people who have a true passion for their subjects (and that is a sub-set of all artists); their conversations were electric with creative energy. We all admire our parents, but it is perhaps too rare that at this point in life we find new things to admire-- still, that is what happened on Saturday.

It was a wonderful evening.

And now I kinda like Dallas.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Sunday Reflection: Mother's Day

Secret: I'm kind of an eavesdropper. I love listening to conversations, particularly between parents and children. Last fall, in early October, I heard the following in a restaurant:

Mom: Are you sure you don't want to be a Princess for Halloween?
Girl (about 7): I want to be Spiderman!
Mom: They have the cutest princess costumes at...
Girl: Spiderman shoots webs!
Mom: But he doesn't have a wand.
Girl: Do you have a wand?

There is a lot in that conversation. One thing (which I love) is that the Mom quite clearly is about 19% 7-year-old girl; she really wants to be a princess. The second thing is deeper.

The mother's love that we appreciate and idealize is a selfless love. It is without a wand; rather it is wrought with hard work and sacrifice. It is, for many, one form of Christian love, of course, in part because of those qualities. And, like other forms of selfless love, it too often goes unrecognized.

Which is why we have today.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Razor Quiz!

What is pictured below?

Hint: It is not the Manatee of Jobs. Also, nepotism is strictly disallowed.



I'm not sure whether to be flattered or appalled by this.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Haiku Friday: Texas

I really do love Texas, even though I am not from here. There is something about the space and the openness that really speaks to me. Gravel beneath me-- I'm ok with that. Sure, there are some "issues" here and there with Texas, but that is true of everything I love.

A few days ago, someone I was speaking with assumed I had grown up here (a mistake not many people make). I took that as a real compliment, and it reminded me of a story about my Dad. Several years ago, my parents were traveling in rural Ireland, and had dinner at a small pub, then stayed until closing talking to the locals and having a grand old time-- it appeared they were used to American visitors. After one last round, one of the Irishmen leaned over to my father and asked, "so, are you Irish on both sides of your family, or just one?" My dad responded, "Actually, I'm the first Irishman in my family." Maybe it was the beer, but they all accepted that as perfectly true, and so it was.

So, let's haiku about Texas. Make it what you will. And in the individualistic spirit of the place, we will relax the usual rules-- just make it three lines, with however many syllables you want.

Here is mine:

I'm used to dirt lots
But this one.. there! A turkey!
And the driveway goes on for miles.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


I need advice or a guide...

I am taking my Dad up to Dallas to go to some galleries on Saturday afternoon. Does anyone have advice as to where to go, or the ability to render aid?

Photo above: One of my Dad's early pieces. Below: One of the more recent works (in [progress, in my back yard).


Political Mayhem Thursday: Legalizing Assisted Suicide

This week's topic is a hard one for me. I lived in Michigan through the entire Kevorkian debacle; for those of you who don't remember, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a pathologist who helped terminally ill people commit suicide. He claimed that his goal was to make the deaths they had chosen painless and meaningful. Eventually, he was convicted of murder (consent of the victim is not a defense).

I understand the argument for assisted suicide, but I am still uncomfortable with it. Somehow, it seems wrong to accelerate anyone's death. Still... medical professionals tell me that this happens already-- that doctors often prescribe or administer drugs they know will kill a patient who is in great pain.

Is this defensible? What should the law say?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Ernie Harwell is gone

Summer days in Michigan were spent outdoors. Where I lived, first on the east side of Detroit and then in Grosse Pointe, it seemed like you could always hear a radio-- there was a soundtrack to summer. Music, sure; Motown and jazz and blues and rock ranging from the Canadian powerhouse CKLW to the eccentric WABX. In that soundtrack though, somewhere in the background, was always Ernie Harwell calling the Tigers game. It was his voice that took us through the good years and the bad, and told us every day a new story about baseball, often involving characters too strange for fiction.

For me, his voice most often flowed out of a radio my dad had propped up in the back yard as he worked on some recalcitrant machine or created a painting. I might sit out there and read, or pull weeds at my mother's direction, but Ernie Harwell was always there.

I think I learned some things from him, too. As a public speaker, he was distinct and real and engaging, and all (well, most) of the following were worth learning:

1) He was comfortable with silence. There were parts of the game when not much was happening-- baseball is like that. Perhaps the pitcher and catcher were conferring on the mound, or a batter stepped out of the box. Harwell did not feel compelled to fill that silence. Rather, for a few moments we just heard the sound of the vendors and the crowd, maybe a plane flying over... or nothing at all. It was comforting, really, and we all knew that the conference at the mound would end or the batter would step back into the box, and we would hear that voice again, telling us about what happened the last time this batter had been to the plate.

2) He cared, with dignity. Ernie Harwell was never one of those announcers who worked himself into a love-frenzy for his team's success, repeating some catch-phrase until he was out of breath. We knew he loved the Tigers; we all did. He would compliment the team, express hope or sadness, and it all seemed genuine because it was.

3) He just made stuff up. When he announced a game, Ernie Harwell made stuff up. It wasn't a lie, really, because we were all in on it-- we knew he was making it up. Most regularly, for example, when a ball would go into the stands he would tell us the hometown of the person who caught the ball: "And a young man visiting from Grand Blanc snagged that one!" There was no way he knew that, but we loved to hear him say it. Even though it wasn't true, his saying it made it true-- that kid drove down from Grand Blanc with his dad, probably, all the way to downtown Detroit, parked on someone's lawn, bought peanuts from the fat guy by Nemo's bar, and walked into Tiger Stadium on a hot July day, the broad green field stretching out like a magic carpet beyond the rusting pillars and gray concrete, and there was that kid's hero, Willie Horton, warming up.

Yeah, that kid wasn't actually from Grand Blanc, but Ernie Harwell made baseball something more than just baseball, which is what it is to those who love it-- baseball is a city and a time and a kid from Grand Blanc stretching out his glove to catch a ball from the bat of Willie Horton, his hero, the best day of his life, and still we were all there, listening, hearing, knowing what was truer than true.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


A new and confusing message from Ted Nugent

I have a complex relationship with Ted Nugent. We appear to be the only two people in Waco who came here from Detroit (and we arrived at about the same time). I have no problem with his obsession with hunting-- I have enjoyed it myself. His political views are different than mine, but so are those of many of my closest friends. I even bought his ski hat, squirt gun, and end table at his garage sale.

On Saturday, though, I saw this bumper sticker on the back of some earthmoving equipment in Cameron Park, containing a missive from Terrible Ted:

First of all, I have my own issues with the French, as long-time Razorites know-- they once tried to take over the blog (and post drivel about Spongebob, Formula 1, and Texas A & M).

Still... what is it that you can't do in France? Carry a spear? Have a bad haircut? Please advise.

Monday, May 03, 2010


The Proposal

One of my favorite former students, Trevor Theilen, put his proposal on Youtube... it made me tear up a little. Do I detect a bit of his oral advocacy training at work?


Graduation photos!

Spring commencement-- it's so hard to see them go. Click on either photo to enlarge it. I am holding in reserve the photo of Larry Bates in a suit...

Sunday, May 02, 2010


The most troubling sign in all of Waco...


I have never been to the "Health Center" for a "Colon Massage," but perhaps that is something I should take care of before I move...

Much less troubling is this photo from the reception for Raymond Bailey this afternoon...

[click on either photo to enlarge it]


Sunday Reflection: The Pastor Departs

Since arriving in Waco, I have had only one pastor: Dr. Raymond Bailey, at Seventh and James Baptist Church. He is a remarkable preacher, and has played a significant role in my life here.

Consistently, Raymond has challenged his congregation. In the best way, he re-examines scripture and ties it to our contemporary challenges, both individually and as a society. That is exactly the kind of challenge I need-- I'm the kind of person who needs to be unsettled in his faith from time to time to be sure it is real. Raymond has been exactly what I have needed.

In his last sermon today, Rev. Bailey issued a challenge once again, to use our own prophetic voices for change. It is a call I intend to heed, and I'm not surprised that Raymond kept pushing us, right up to the end.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


Mary Poppins

On Tuesday of this week, I had a short post about confusing movies that inexplicably got 57 comments. Crikeys! My favorite of them, though, was Micah's description of Mary Poppins as a drugged-out psychedelic movie:

[Poppins] flies in, gives kids a "spoonful of sugar", pulls things out of a bag that is clearly too small to hold them, then takes them into a psychadelic dreamland with 1960's era pastel animation, where they dance with penguin waiters before the whole place melts and they find themselves disoriented on a random London street corner. It also features a man who "got so high that he couldn't get back down", and Mary's apparent meanness following the end of the "sugar" incident, during which she is so unpredictable that she sends the kids running out onto the dark streets of London alone away from her. The film ends with a little number about flying up to the highest heights.

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