Friday, August 31, 2012


Haiku Friday: The poets of the Razor

You know, I think it is time to write about our favorite other Haiku Friday writers-- kind of a day of appreciation, in haiku. There really are some remarkable people who contribute, and it makes Friday just about my favorite day on the Razor. Where else can you find Jill Scoggins in Louisville, RRL in Waco, a few denizens of Minnesota, Christine in North Carolina, Megan Willome in Kerrville, Marta in New York, and some random Californians all chiming in?

You can talk about one of our regulars, or someone who only briefly appeared, or even someone you would like to see on here.

Here is mine:

I slow for Renee
Her words merit pondering
And change in the light.

Now it is your turn! The winner gets their bio here on Monday...

Thursday, August 30, 2012


New stuff on the Huffington Post

I've recently corralled two of my friends, Chuck Reid and Jeanne Bishop, into joining me as writers for the Huffington Post. Chuck just put up a great new piece, A Bishop's First Duty.


Political Mayhem Thursday II: What should Romney say?

Tonight, at the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney will give the most important speech of his career. The hurricane is over, he'll be on prime time, and now he can make his case to the broadest audience possible.

How should he do it?


Political Mayhem Thursday: So... which side does this ad support?

Thanks to Randy Roberts Potts for tipping me off to this...

Combine the ad above with the undeniable fact that gay couples in Minnesota do raise children and will continue to raise children, the points made in this ad actually seem like a pretty compelling argument to let gay couples in Minnesota marry one another-- because that would be the best thing for their children.

I'm happy to see the pro-amendment side make this point-- it's one that I made almost a year ago in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "...there are already thousands of children being raised in Minnesota by gay parents. The law is not going to change that -- it is a fait accompli. Gay men and lesbians are allowed to raise children, and do. Given that bare fact, isn't it better to have those parents be married, with all the commitment and expectations that come with marriage?"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Essential Kitchen Items, 2012

1) Hydraulic Food Defenestrator (Sur La Table, $110)

Who doesn’t love lobster? The challenge, of course, is the struggle to remove the meat from the shell. For years, I wrestled with this task, trying every method possible: Digging at it with my kitchen spade, scraping at the shell with a lobster trowel, and even firing explosives at it from a safe distance using my pantry mortar. All have proved ineffective.

Finally, I found the perfect solution: The Hydraulic Food Defenstrator, which gently lobs the ungainly crustacean out of an open window onto the pavement. While proper defenestration takes good aim and certain attributes of the space (adequate room and an open window), the results are fun, efficient, and quite the spectacle! I love to have the whole family run outside to gather up the lobster meat. Best used on the tenth floor or lower.

2) Hardwood Handle Kitchen Spade (Target, $11)

With portion sizes growing and kitchen staples like flour and hummus now coming in gigantic sacks at places like Costco and Sam’s Club, even small families find that they need a sturdy four-foot kitchen spade on a daily basis. Target’s version is well weighted and designed, yet tough enough to fling even tough-to-handle products like chick peas and capers. When it is time to shovel it on, there is nothing like a kitchen spade!

3) Turkey Lanyard (Williams-Sonoma, $45)

Every year, more people come around to the benefits of slaughtering a live turkey at home for the ultimate in freshness. One problem with this, of course, is finding a handy way to hang the turkey upside-down once the head has been removed while continuing to work on the remainder of your meal. The ingenious Turkey Lanyard is a great solution: a strap at the end of the lanyard wraps around Mr. Gobbler’s feet, allowing the turkey blood to drain in the proper position. Best of all, it leaves both hands free to continue your prep work or whip up drinks for your guests.

The Turkey Lanyard comes in white, teal, and red, but we found the last of these to be the most practical.

4) Re-Pita Food Regenerator (Ronco, $12.99)

With pita bread prices going through the roof, everyone is trying to find an economical way to re-use stale or unpalatable pitas. The Food Regenerator is just the right tool for the job. A foot-square stainless steel box operated with a single button, it gently mists your pita back into freshness. Mine also came with a somewhat perplexing attachment that apparently is designed to dry out the wet pita by flinging it in a circle, a somewhat messy proposition akin to being sprayed by a wet dog.

We found that while the Food Regenerator did a great job with pita, the results were less satisfying when we tried it out with crème brule and a forgotten strip of mutton.

5) Sturgeon Lance (J. Peterman Kitchens, $230)

The freshest caviar is kind you remove from the fish yourself shortly before serving your delighted guests. The new Sturgeon Lance is an age-old solution to a very modern problem. Using a few simple tools, the Lance attaches to the sliding side door of any minivan. Once it is secured, you simply drive the van towards your accomplice, who flings the live fish at the right moment to remove the roe. We found that it takes a bit of practice to get things just right, but once the learning period is over the Sturgeon Lance will be a tool you reach for every time you entertain!

6) Embroidered Chicken Thong (Victoria’s Secret, $25)

Is it just me, or is there something vaguely embarrassing about a beautifully cooked chicken fresh out of the oven, sticking its butt up in the air like a hussy? One elegant way to avoid this awkward moment is with the new Chicken Thong, which is produced in three sizes and is even oven-safe. Though they are a bit pricey for a single-use item, this splurge is worth it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The Dream, and a question

For several months, I have had the same dream, with variations. I am presented with a hard question.

In the dream, I go to a part of Minneapolis (Uptown) which is part-way between my home and work. Often, I ride my bike, which is pretty realistic-- it is an easy ride. I go down Hennepin, and then turn onto a side street.

There, I go to an unmarked door that is between two storefronts; on one side is a popular coffee shop, full of people chatting. I open the door and proceed up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs is a beaded curtain, and I push my way through the curtain into a restaurant on the other side. I am greeted there by my grandparents, who are very glad to see me. My grandfather then begins to introduce me to the other people in the restaurant.

And there comes the hard part.

The people he introduces me to are the deceased relatives of people I know-- parents and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives. Many of them are related to people who are reading this now. They are all people who remain (in appearance) the age they were when they died. (There is one exception-- a boy with Down's Syndrome, who is a child of about 8).

I go from table to table with my Grandfather, and he introduces me to each person, and explains how they are related to people I know. A few I have met while they lived, many more I have heard about, and some were unknown to me. In turn, they each plead with me to pass along some message to the people I know in this life.

I've had this dream some 20-25 times.

Here is the question: Should I tell people what the messages are in my dream?

Monday, August 27, 2012


Haiku Winner: Christine!

So many good entries this week, talking about food at the fair... good work Renee and Becky and all... but here was Christine's winning entry:

golden, plump, steaming
butter drips down my forearm
salt awaits my lips

mouth waters, my palette cleansed
juicy kernals burst.

There was just something about "juicy kernels burst" that summed up late summer in a few words, which is what haiku is really about.

Having known Christine for some 40 years now, I can safely say that her early years were remarkable.

At the Grosse Pointe Shores George Osius Park, the lifeguards were quite a serious bunch. They brooked no horseplay, or hanging on the ropes, or running on the pool deck; miscreants were humiliated publicly. The sat, imperious, atop white thrones in red swimsuits clearly marked "Guard" (so you knew who you were dealing with), lathered in baby oil. The boys, all of us, would furtively check up at the chair now and then to see if the guard was looking back. (She never was).

Christine was the Queen of the Guards. She not only enforced the major rules, but the minor ones, all while remaining an object of furtive desire. I can still hear her voice crying out "Pursuant to Michigan Law, you must take a complete soap shower before entering the pool deck!" She could even cite the statutory code section... it makes me tear up a little to think of such legal competence.

Congratulations, Christine, for all that you do.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Sunday Reflection: Who shall wear the starry crown?

Today is the day that we Baptize babies in the creek at St. Stephens, an event that profoundly affected me last year-- I wrote about it here and here. It had been a very hard day for me.

My heart is in a simpler and better place this year. There is something I wrote this week that Dave Sheldon quoted: "That the theology of Christ was defined, after all, by who he loved, not by who he condemned." I've been pondering that, revising it in my mind.

Who Christ condemned, quite directly, was people who were like me, in some very specific ways: The educated elite, the teachers of the law, and the affluent. I do not pretend to be worthy of the grace I have been shown.

As a society, too often we condemn those people Christ loved, and love those whom he condemned.

Today, though, I will sit on the bank of the creek and watch this miracle again...

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Oh no! Not again!

Back in 1990, just as I was finishing law school, I got totally hooked on the bizarre TV show, Twin Peaks. It only lasted two seasons, which was good, because I needed the time back!

So.... last night I was noodling around on Netflix, stumbled onto the show again, and... yeah, I'm hooked. Rats.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Haiku Friday: Food at the Fair

With the Minnesota State Fair starting, can we haiku about the food one gets at such events? Here is mine:

Hotdish on a stick
Uhhhh... that was kind of a stretch
Yet I gobbled it.

Now, you go! 5 syllables/7/5, with the winner's bio here on Monday...

Thursday, August 23, 2012


In tomorrow's Star Tribune...

It's up on the web now, but this piece of mine will be in tomorrow's Minneapolis Star Tribune. It addresses an aspect of the marriage amendment that has been too little discussed-- the odd way in which the amendment would use the constitution to limit, rather than expand or protect, individual freedoms.


Political Mayhem Thursday: Paul Ryan

1) Did Romney pick the right guy for VP?
2) Does Paul Ryan kinda remind you of someone?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Just up at the Huffington Post...

This new piece talks about the experience of becoming a new Episcopalian. It was, as much as anything, a reaction to this article from a Baylor professor.


The one best moment

Yesterday, something really remarkable happened.

As part of first-year orientation, we put on our Trial of Jesus in the atrium of St. Thomas Law School. Joy Tull and I prosecuted, and Sara Sommervold and Jeanne Bishop defended Jesus. We had some stellar witnesses this time, including Phil Steger as Simon Peter, David Best as the Rich Young Ruler, Prof. Jerry Organ as the Centurian, and Susan Stabile as the woman described in John 8. Prof. Hank Shea was our wonderful judge.

Some of the elements of prior trials were there-- for example, Jeanne was a strong, calm advocate, while I projected something more like the style of Dwight Schrute. However, there was something stunningly new, that will change the way I think about an important part of the gospels.

Susan Stabile's portrayal of "Susanna" was simply stunning. You can, and should, read her description of the experience here. However, what she does not describe (and can't) is what it was like to watch her testify.

As she began to speak, there was some kind of transformation-- she became very small in the chair, and her voice changed to one that was both chastened and awed. Her memory of the experience was intensely physical, as she described being thrown to the ground, waiting to die, and then seeing the stones dropping instead. At one point, she looked over at Derek Hansen, a few feet away, who was portraying the defendant, and in that still, small moment he really was Jesus. It was startling and real.

Sometimes, that happens. It did yesterday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The Return of the Bob

Great news!

Last week's haiku champion, reigning Wacoan of the Year, and Razor hero of writing Bob Darden has re-started his blog, Rural Free Delivery.

Bob is a dedicated and wonderful writer-- the kind of writer who makes other people want to write. He certainly has had that effect on me, and is one of my most important role models and mentors.

All hail, Rural Free Delivery!

Monday, August 20, 2012


Haiku Winner: Bob!

There was an especially rich vein of poetry running through here last Friday. I kinda was surprised-- I thought the topic of "school supplies" would be daunting. But undaunted was OsoGrande:

Mark! Finish washing!
We have to go to Target!
I need protractors!

Renee, as always, was hitting on all cylinders:

My father once stole
Pencils from his Grandma's jar
Depression-born crime.

He never overcame his
Lust for pencils' fragrant gold
Each Yule asked same gift.

... and Jill Scoggins had this sterling entry:

Never had sixty-
four crayon box. Midwest Mom
too frugal for that.

Never had Monkees
lunch box/thermos. Midwest Mom
too frugal for that.

Never had poncho
with peace sign. (Cool!) Midwest Mom
too frugal for that.

Always had all I
needed. Midwest Mom always
free with love, love, LOVE.

Christine and many others had excellent entries as well. But, for reasons I can't totally explain, I was captivated by this entry from Bob, that put me in that place:

Hail the Big Chief Pad!
With those pebble-sized wood chunks,
Generous margins.

Hail #2 pencils!
Fat, round, yellow beauties
With luminous lead.

Together, I learned
To draw and write and doodle.

Not many people know this, but Bob was Baylor's "Outstanding Senior Man" in 1976. The prizes for this honor were significant:

1) He received a large garland of ivy, which he was to wear for a full year to class.
2) He also led the homecoming parade, and the "Yuletide Festival of Mobile Trees"
3) He was given $390 in gold bullion
4) He got a year's supply of Eskimo Pies, all delivered at once to his dorm room
5) The live bear mascots lived with him
6) He got to fire 3 school employees of his choosing
7) For the months of February and March he was driven to class by Tuesday Weld in a Cadillac convertible.

Needless to say, it was quite a year! It was these many tributes that led him to a career in journalism, writing articles in 1977 for Tiger Beat, Creem, the Paris Review, Sassy Lass, Harper's, the HUD Newsletter, Cat Fancier, the Waco Tribune-Herald, and Big Don's Movie News-- a great career had begun.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Sunday Reflection: The Retreat

I just returned from a vocational retreat for former, present, and future St. Thomas students in rural Minnesota (I could tell it was rural because there were no boats on the lake there the entire time, and fish kept jumping out of the water). I was supposedly one of the "leaders" of this retreat along with my colleagues Jerry Organ (the author, most recently, of this fascinating study) and Susan Stabile, but as so often happens I ended up doing a lot more learning than teaching.

One of the exercises we did involved listing, as a group, all the things that can get in the way of our vocational goals. It was quite a lengthy list-- 30-some items.

As I pondered them, though, I became filled with gratitude. Except for a few self-inflicted wounds, there were none that applied to me; I am blessed with so much support and understanding in what I do.

I am lucky... And I am grateful for all those who help and support me along the way. It's too rarely that I take time to reflect on how fortunate I am.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Bruce Springstone!

Back in college, a long, long, time ago (not quite the stone age, but close), I hosted a radio quiz show at WCWM-FM called "Quiz Kid." It was a simple format-- I asked questions, people called in with answers, and they got free records.

One of the strongest teams went by the tag "St. Vincent and the Grenadines," and St. Vincent of that team reached out last week to give me this great little audio of a song I used to play:

Friday, August 17, 2012


Haiku Friday: School supplies!

Hey! It's almost time to go back to school! That, of course, means that it is time to buy school supplies!

I think that these things-- pencils, erasers, notebooks, MacBooks, etc.-- are a secret pleasure. Call me weird, but I love love love that part of Target, in the back corner, where they have all the bins of school supplies. So, let's haiku about them this week! (or, if you would rather, you can haiku about the photo above, where I appear to be washing dishes).

Here is mine:

Number two pencil?
Who wants to have second best?
Give me number one!

Now it is your turn... just make it roughly 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and the winner gets their bio (more or less) featured right here on Monday.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday II: America's brightest thinkers, in rank order

According to this article, here are the "brightest thinkers" in America today:

1) Mitt Romney
2) Paul Ryan
3) ?
4) ?
5) ?

Does this look about right to you? What would your list be?


Politcal Mayhem Thursday: On death and Paul Ryan

Today, for your consideration, I offer up two great pieces from friends of mine who have recently begun writing for the religion section of the Huffington Post, where I have been writing for some time.

First up, we have this great piece from my St. Thomas colleague Chuch Reid, titled Paul Ryan's Libertarianism and Catholic Social Thought (I recommend clicking on the link to read the whole thing):

The good king, according to Thomas Aquinas, had to be motivated by charity. Love must animate the way he regarded and treated his subjects, especially the least of his kingdom. Thomas well knew that the great prophets of the Hebrew Bible summoned rulers, over and over again, to show solicitude for the widow and the orphan. Those who had no natural defender, those whose welfare depended upon the kindnesses of others, they were the ones kings were charged most directly to support and assist. For Thomas, this was simply another aspect of the common good that leaders must strive to conserve and promote. For the leader knew that no individual exists in isolation, that civilization is an enterprise lived in common, and that we are in the end all brothers and sisters.

Catholic social thought, as it has evolved ever since Pope Leo XIII issued that great call to action, Rerum novarum, in 1891, both draws from and remains committed to the Thomistic ideal. From Leo's courageous first footsteps to the grand encyclicals of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the popes have elaborated a rich theology of the state.

The state, the popes recognized, is above all social. It exists for the good of all. It is not a vehicle by which a few are enriched while others are beggared. The popes well understood, furthermore, that private property is never wholly private. John Paul II coined the expression "the universal destination of human goods" -- capturing in this term the realization that all that we have is owed to God, that it must not be used exploitatively, and that we must finally give an accounting of its use before God's majestic throne.

The popes have also insisted that the state has an affirmative role to play in protecting and improving peoples' lives. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have spoken eloquently about the dangers of marginalization. Forcing the poor to the edges of society, systematically stripping them of their dignity, depriving them of the means to support themselves, are social sins that carry social consequences -- from petty crimes to devastating acts of mass terror. The state is uniquely positioned to cure the malady of marginalization through the public services it renders. It teaches, it marshals resources, it regulates the economy. It ensures, in short, what Thomas called fair distribution of social goods. Similarly, the state is called upon to see to the needs of the disabled, the elderly, the frail and the enfeebled -- all of those, in short, whom a modern Thomas Aquinas might class among the "widows and the orphans."

For most of his public life, Paul Ryan has embraced a philosophy that is, frankly, at odds with these insights. Indeed, for most of his public life, he has enthusiastically endorsed the gospel of Ayn Rand.

Second, we have a remarkable article from Jeanne Bishop, titled Gun Violence Victims: Parmjit, Subegh, Satwant, Nancy, and Richard in Oak Creek, about taking her two boys to the Sikh Temple that was attacked by a gunman in Wisconsin (again, I recommend following the link to the entire piece):

The men brought us hot milky tea, served in white Styrofoam cups, and two heaping plates of cookies, one for each of my boys. One man spoke of how his wife had been grazed by a bullet. Another told us of cleaning up the blood, the damage, but for one bullet hole left as a memorial. A third talked of the temple's plans for expansion: they are building an outdoor playground, volleyball and tennis courts, free and open to the public. "We want to bring good out of evil," he said calmly.

I was astonished: anyone else would build a high fence with a security gate, put up razor wire. These people were not closing themselves off; they were opening themselves up. Their response to the taking of their loved ones' lives was to give.

The boys and I were given head scarves and allowed to go into the worship space where a vigil was taking place. Men sat on one side, women on another; our gracious hosts showed us a place in the back where my boys and I could sit together. We held hands and bowed our heads while the sounds of the prayers washed over us.

Those prayers were in another language, but we understood them. They were prayers from the Comforter, the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us in groanings too deep for words, the one who had led us there.

Our Sikh host is right: God will bring good from evil, will overcome it with good.

The Sower has already planted some of the seeds of that victory. "We are so alike, our faiths are," Brendan observed on the way home in the car. "I want to learn more about them." Stephen said, wide-eyed: "Those people were amazing. They were so nice. How could that man think he had a right to kill them?" In the wisdom of youth, it was a rhetorical question; we both already knew the sad, true answer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


2012 Poems: Landfall


It's that first footstep
Out of the boat
Crossing the division,
Water and land.

You stretch out your toes
Feeling for rocks
A tentative seeker
Who scouts for the firm.

Because... you might fall
Your hand grasping, open,
That feeling of dropping,
And then swallowed up.


2012 Poems: Silver


Just below the water
There are reefs in wait
The rocks tinted silver
(The wreckage of boats).

I do know this lake
To steer this way or that;
A map deep inside.

It's different on land.
There, I hit reefs.


2012 poems: On Monday

On Monday

Coming out of the station
I set my eyes forward
Pick up my step
And emerge into light.

I have my mission:
Sit down at a table,
Set out an idea,
Lay waste to a wrong.

I walk with... a look.

Not all moments are equal
Not all steps are light
But this day, this moment,
I don't walk alone.


2012 Poems: Where Dallas Used to Be

Where Dallas Used to Be

Someone rich
Tore down the barrel rider's
Little yellow house.

The new owners, flush,
Built out to fill the lot
Mansion on mansion,
It contains people
Who want to be contents
Of just such a house.

The barrel rider
Is out there still.
(But, you knew that, right?)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Poems 2012: Hero


I'd always wanted to meet him.
In my mind a thousand questions
About the sea, and foreign ports,
And war and blood and death.

He's no longer young
And moved on up the ranks
No longer just a "Cap'n"
He's now "Admiral Crunch."

What a disappointment!
Silly, insipid sap!
I met that dope for breakfast-
An hour I won't get back.


2012 poems: Herko (The Crow)

Herko (The Crow)

Oh, you know her,
She was 2010's
Freddy Herko...
What? Remember?

In 1964 he lived for speed
Warhol didn't pay him
But was it "work?"

A friend found him, filthy,
Let him take a bath
A box of Mr. Bubble
(Art was everywhere).

He danced from the tub
Across the apartment
And, I mean it, danced,
Out the window
To the street.



2012 Poems: On the Lake

On The Lake

I don't feel guilty
About the bait, the hook,
When we fish with leeches
(and we do).

If we were
Both in the water
The tables
Would turn.

There is fairness in that, eh?
Fairness in fear.
(I once worked in court).


2012 Poems: Letters


They lay nestled together
In a blue Crane's box
Her notes, a bow.

Her script leaned forward, yearning,
As I'm sure she did, writing,
A thin reed bent
Toward the sun (or the wind?)

The past as the future
She was good at this, yes,
But a small seed of fear.

Men die in war,
Adventures, far off,
And that's what is left,
Such letters, a bow.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Poems 2012: Drought

Bone dry corn stalks
Brittle, unmoving
No easy sway with the wind.

In the town, I stop.
Two girls stand there,
Twin stalks, unmoving;
Too far from the water.


Poems 2012: Saganaga

My father, the artist,
Came back in the boat
We watched from the rocks

His hands beneath the gunwale
To lift something heavy
And then there it was:
As big as my leg.

He laid it on rough wood
Astonishing beauty
Green, and gold, and muted gray meld.

An eagle swung low
Pulled in one wing
Dived closer to see.

The knife, it lay ready
Cleaned in the shallows,
But it was not yet time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Sunday Poem: Funeral

[Click on the photo to enlarge it]


At the service, a woman rose
Then looked down, cleared her throat
And said, voice shaky:
"He made the best ham sandwich."

Some of them laughed
Some were confused
But those who knew best
Breathed out in sadness
(you do know that sound).

They each knew a moment
Some time of hardship
They sat at his table
And he would make lunch.

Bread, ham, a slice of bad cheese.
The hum of the fridge.
He understood, nodding:

With him, just a sandwich,
But it was the same
As fish by the shore
So humbly made.

He was missed.
Too few cook like him.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Poems 2012: Magic


I watch from a distance
But don't know the trick
I keep my awe quiet with
Things I can't limn:

Make coins disappear,
Sing high and on key
Speak French to the French
Or soothe a downed bird.

I've known those with this thing
A handful of dust
To throw in the air.


Poems 2012: Brontosaurus (Summer, Chicago, 1988)

[From now through Wednesday, I'll be sharing some of the so-so poems I wrote up at the island last week. Feel free to comment]

Brontosaurus (Summer, Chicago, 1988)

Thick July sweltered
But I lived near the lake
I would just stand in the water;
We were dinosaurs.

They'd let you in free
Late in the game, Comiskey,
Stern Polish women
Cooked beneath the stands,
The heat was rising.

I found a stone church
And a place to buy hot dogs.
My whole world: Ten blocks
Though I didn't know the whole
Of what was in that square
There was music, drifting.

I would walk and walk and walk
(That, I could afford)
Watch others in the parks
Laugh and fight and sit,
Some as still as the wind.

The Tribune shrieked daily:
"More die in the heat!"
But we stood still in the water,
Gentle dinosaurs of Chicago
Waiting for the fall.


I'm Back!

As you may have guessed from the re-runs over the past several days, I have been relaxing up at Osler Island in Canada. It was an incredible and wonderful time.

I also wrote some poems, which I will be sharing with you over the next five days or so.

It's good to be back!

Friday, August 10, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From August 9, 2006:

Inspired by the Nietszche Family Circus link below, I have paired some quotes from Prof. Jim Underwood (stolen from his Facebook fan site-- you must be good to get your own fan site in your first quarter teaching!) with some Family Circus strips. I don't know how to "randomize" (though sometimes my PC critiques may indicate otherwise), so I had to just match them up.

I’m gonna move to Hawaii and become an
Asian-American female!

“When you get out of law school, watch Rachel

“I’ll vomit on you at the end of the quarter; you sift through my garbage.”

“Hopefully if you hate me, it will be over something more substantive than that.”

Thursday, August 09, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From March 10, 2011:

Today's guest post is from Jeanne Bishop, who was there as Gov. Quinn signed the bill abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.

It started with a phone call from one of the Governor's legal staff on Tuesday. Could my sister Jennifer and I to come to a private meeting with the Governor at his office in the Capitol the next morning? We said yes immediately, not knowing exactly what that meeting would be. Governor Quinn had not yet announced whether he would sign the death penalty abolition bill or not, or whether he would commute the sentences of the 15 men on Illinois' death row.

We drove to Springfield in pouring rain early the next morning with hopeful hearts. The Capitol building was a hubub of visitors, lobbyists, legislators, staffers, pages in uniforms. At the Governor's office, one of the Governor's legal staff ushered us into a conference room where a small number of other invited guests were waiting: a few lawyers, some religious people, a law professor, the Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and Cathy Crino, a member of our murder victims' family group whose sister Stephanie was killed in a horrific domestic violence incident.

Soon John Schomberg, the Governor's Acting General Counsel, entered the room and told us what we had prayed for: the Governor would sign the bill. He would do so in a private ceremony with only the bill's sponsors in the Illinois House and Senate, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon (daugher of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon) and a few other elected officials present. We would be taken to a room with the Governor and the press, where he would hold a press conference. We would then speak to the press afterwards. Another staffer told us the rest of the good news a short while later: the Governor would commute to life without parole all 15 death sentences of those currently on death row.

We were stunned with joy. Andrea Lyon, the law professor from DePaul nicknamed "Angel of Death Row" because no death case she had ever tried had resulted in a death sentence, spoke quietly about never again having to stand next to a client in court begging for his life. Bishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox church recalled being a spiritual advisor to the last person executed in the State of Illinois: Andrew Kokoraleis. The Bishop brought a letter written to him by Andrew expressing the hope that his execution would be Illinois' last. Now, God willing, that will be true. Tom Sullivan of Jenner and Block, a former U.S. Attorney and chair of a death penalty reform committee, talked about what he wanted to work on next: reform of the drug laws that are filling the nation's prisons.

Then came the moment: we were summoned into a room full of reporters and cameras, and Governor Quinn walked to a podium to announce the actions he had just taken. Hearing him say those words was breathtaking: you could actually hear the intake of breath from those unaware of his decision till that moment. He pointed to a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln on the wall above him and talked about what Lincoln would have done. Quinn had a stack of books with him that he referred to as having informed his decision. Among them were the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's "The Gift of Peace" and the Bible. Quinn spoke about thought, reflection, listening to people from all sides of the debate. He spoke about his conscience. His demeanor was serious, sober; his tone was resolved.

I was standing in the hall afterward speaking to a reporter when a woman approached me. While I was still talking, she silently handed me something that filled my eyes with tears: it was one of the pens that Governor Quinn had used to sign the abolition bill and with its strokes, changed history.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From November 20, 2010:

Just to recap our story to date:

First, we met IPLawGuy, a Super-Lawyer with a pod in space and an annoying water leak. We quickly find that IPLawGuy enjoys giving me a hard time about stuff, and has captured his arch-nemesis, Pickles the Cat. Unfortunately, IPLG angers Paul Larson (the Spanish Medievalist) who does not like his uniform, and the Medievalist lets Pickles escape.

Taking the subway home, the Medievalist runs into my arch-nemesis, Hair Cut Guy. Meanwhile, Pickles hires the "very odd" Tydwbleach as her sidekick. To get her back, IPLG hires an intern from Baylor, who calculates Pickles' sentencing range.

Confident that the intern has things in hand, IPLG and I go to a bar to watch football, giving Pickles a chance to kidnap the intern. Meanwhile, my arch-nemesis fails in an attempt to cut my hair.

IPLG encounters Pickles on Amtrak, after which she instructs the intern on a secret evil plan. While she plots evil, IPLG shoots down his flat-screen tv.

Meanwhile, Tydwbleach tries to get the intern to pick up her medical marijuana, and Pickles meets with RRL, who achieved world domination from 2005-2008. He suggests building a nuclear bomb, and Pickles instructs the intern to do so. He borrows some uranium from IPLG, then runs into Hair Cut Guy on the train.

The intern delivers the bomb to Pickles, and Tyd reveals the secret plan: Pickles is going to blow up Lane's hometown of Odessa Texas. Which leads us to this:

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From April 25, 2007:

How can you not love a panda with a flamethrower? Whether foraging for food, looking for a mate, or just protecting oneself from poachers, it's the perfect tool! I'm not sure how this panda got a flamethrower, but I'm glad he has one.

People I would trust with a flamethrower:

Sleepy Walleye
The guys over at Beer Mate
Mr. Thomas
Profs. Ryan & Counseller
Ginger Hunter
Mrs. CL
Prof. Jim Underwood
Swanburg's Mom

People I probably won't lend my flamethrower to:

Alico Guy
Spencer's friend DONUT
(Former) Prof. Bill Underwood
Celebrity Luvr
William Hung
Tydwbleach (at least until the insurance company pays out in full)
Gordon Davenport
The Spanish Medievalist
The Ladybird

If you ask nicely in the comments section, I will tell you whether or not I would trust you with a flamethrower.

Monday, August 06, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From October 2, 2007:

Got me on the court and I'm trouble,
[Messed] around and got me a triple-double...
Today, it was a good day.

Well, no. I'm not capable of a single-single, in basketball anyways. But today was a good day, if you are me and not Ice Cube. We probably have different views of success.

Today was the argument in Kimbrough v. United States, challenging the holding of the Circuit Courts that a district judge is not free to depart from the 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine because she does not agree with that ratio. For seven years now, I have have been working to get judges that discretion-- writing articles, litigating it, and trying to influence Congress. Today was the culmination of that work, by me and many others.

My favorite part of the argument this morning was when Michael Dreeben (arguing for the government) pointed out that nine circuits agreed with him and a Justice of the United States Supreme Court said, basically, “La-di-da.” The Justice accompanied this dismissal with a dramatic wave of his hand that signified the change that may be coming.

More importantly, Chief Judge Roberts seems to think that if Congress mandates a 100:1 crack/powder disparity in the sentencing guidelines, they need to do it through, like, a law, rather than via inference. Having made this precise argument to several Courts of Appeal to only blank stares and rejection, it was wonderful to hear the Chief Justice raise this point so forcefully, especially since he may be the fifth vote in our majority. What he said in response to Dreeben's inference argument, verbatim, was this: "No, Mr. Dreeben, your office used to argue that when Congress wants to do something, there's a way to do it. They pass a law through both houses, then the President signs it. That's the only way they can give legal effect to their intent." He later rooted this concern in the fact that since Booker, Congress has chosen to take no action. This is an argument that was first put forward by Benham and I in our Spears petition (the reply brief, actually), and later incorporated into the Petitioner's briefs in Kimbrough.

So now there is some hope. It may be, it just might be, through failure after failure after failure, that we played a small role, together with many others, in changing something that is wrong in a subtle and cruel way, a grinding engine built of inattention and fear.

Afterwards, I walked out of the Court and down the high marble steps with Acosta and Benham, feeling euphoric. There was an amazing and beautiful tableau before us—the news teams waiting at the bottom of the steps, the Capitol Building in the near distance, and beyond that the Washington memorial and the crystal-clear blue sky of early fall in Washington. I stopped them, as we were alone on those steps, and took it all in.

There may be only one such moment in a lifetime, and I wanted to breath it in deeply.

Sunday, August 05, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From December 23, 2010:

I'm living back in Big Ten territory now. Though I never went to a Big Ten school, I have always been a big fan of two of the schools-- Michigan and Northwestern. Now, though, the Big Ten seems to have gotten pretty stupid. With the addition of Nebraska next year, they will have twelve schools, and the plan is to split into two divisions. Idiotically, instead of dividing into logical East/West divisions, they have come up with this scheme involving the "Legends" and the "Leaders":

Michigan State

Ohio State
Penn State

Really, Big Ten? At what point did this seem like a good idea?

My sister Kathy (Wisconsin BA, 1990) and I have a better solution. It is based on the present reality that the Big Ten is naturally divided 6/6 between schools that have fuzzy woodland animals as mascots, and those that have unusual people with big heads. Here is how it would break down:

Fuzzy Woodland Friends Division:

Northwestern Wildcats
Minnesota Gophers
Michigan Wolverines
Wisconsin Badgers
Penn State Nittany Lions
Iowa Hawkeyes

Big Head Guy Division:

Purdue Boiler Head Guys
Indiana Hoosiers
Michigan State Spartans
Ohio State Buckeyes
Nebraska Cornhuskers
Illinois Illini

So you can see what I am talking about, here is the Fuzzy Woodland Friends Division (click on a photo to enlarge it):

Minnesota (apparently, not a real gopher, though he can do his own laundry):

Penn State (I'm not really sure what he is doing here):

Northwestern (a very wild cat, it seems):




And now, the Big Head Guy Division:


Indiana (I think this is a Hoosier...):

Ohio State (maybe the weirdest of all):

Michigan State (is Sparty involved in some kind of riot here?):

Nebraska (this guy looks a lot like the Big Boy):

Illinois (I'm pretty sure this is Illini-Wek's replacement, Super-Bob Barker):

Saturday, August 04, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From August 26, 2008:

The best part
About being a tree
Is holding this leaf
(light as a pencil)
Though I fear she will fall
Like the others.

Friday, August 03, 2012


August Reruns: My favorite posts

From October 9, 2007:

I was walking today when a song slipped out of my iPod. I don't remember putting it in there, or hearing it before. It was "High and Low" by Greg Laswell. It isn't the kind of song I would normally like, but it captured my mood in that exact moment-- kind of a very gentle melancholy born of sad but not tragic memories.

"Once I can see straight,
I might move somewhere cold;
Seattle or the Bay Area
To see your ghost
What's left of you
What's left of you.

Found a letter from a man
I might have met
Addressed to you
I'll steal the words he ended with:
"I miss you."

My life has been largely free of tragedy and full of good fortune. There was no dead father or alcoholic mother or jailed sibling; no debilitation emotions or crushing illness. My sadnesses don't take me back to a horrible memory but rather to my own failings, those moments when I should have been kind and wasn't or felt lost when others were really there for me. My dad was painting a portrait once, and someone said the subject looked sad (it might have been the one shown here). My dad disagreed; "It's just the good blues" he explained. I like that phrase, and I know that feeling.

The funny thing is that the good blues today came on the heels of what has been a wonderful week. They just kind of wafted in on a memory of a slight I may have once inflicted, many many years ago. Of course, with the kinds of things that happened this week there are always the seeds of both challenge and change, the vague sense that all this may be temporary in one way or another.

And, it is October.

October, when there should be leaves on the ground and the sound of a marching band practicing and events at the school to be a little late for, when certain scents return-- apples and cinnamon and pumpkin and smoke. Each leaf on the ground is a death, but also an accomplishment and promise fulfilled, greater than any of mine. When I have the good blues, each leaf is humbling.

If you were in my courtroom today, I'm sorry that my critiques were not as sharp and knowing as I hope for. Part of me was somewhere else apart from here in place and time, a little boy in a lion costume walking by the curb, pushing the leaves with his feet, sad that Halloween was over.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: A quiet hour of revelation

On Tuesday, I spent an hour meeting at the Heritage Foundation with Paul Larkin and Ed Meese, on a topic of mutual interest. It was one of a number of key meetings I had in DC this week, setting up two big projects for the year.

As loyal Razorites know, I have many heroes and collaborators, both liberal and conservative (sometimes, of course, my heroes are also my collaborators, which is an incredible privilege).

I had previously had some conversations with Paul Larkin, and knew immediately he was someone I would want to work with. He is knowledgeable, has a remarkable background (including 27 Supreme Court arguments), and possesses a certain graciousness that is too rare in political life. I'm glad our work together will continue, if only because we will see each other again.

Ronald Reagan famously said "If Ed Meese is not a good man, there are no good men." My own experience bore that out. Certainly, there are areas on which we would disagree (such as the death penalty), but I found Ed Meese to be wise, kind, and open-minded. Like most wise men and women, he is a good listener, and an attentive one, yet is willing to incisively improve the ideas of others. He raised two discrete (and wholly true) points in our conversation that were right on point, yet had never occurred to me. Those truths will now be part of how I think about and discuss the topic.

Unlikely heroes are my favorite kind.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Grarf Best Panda for President

Argbf Administration be total failure. Argbf won election by promising change, but where are you now-- living in zoo, in pile of your own filth!

Grarf be better president than Argbf! Grarf is a Giant Job Creating Panda! He create jobs for everyone by using job creation with his friends, the job creators. Then, you have job. You can have a job like this:

Bamboo harvester
Cart puller
Owner of Cart
Game software programmer
Entertainer (dancing)
Radar gun operator
MRI technician
Protector of Woodley Park

Good jobs! Live in freedom and own things. Grarf pick running mate: Leonard. He in picture above. Thank you.


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