Friday, November 30, 2012


Building new law schools....

Law schools are facing real challenges right now-- but still, new schools are opening, just as applications are dropping nationally. I suppose that I should be outraged by this, but I find it hard to get into much of a lather. It might be that the new schools provide a new model of legal education-- lower cost, more directed towards a practical focus, and relatively modest in their aspirations. In other words, it might be that one advantage of being new is the freedom to be something different.

I have a little info on two new schools-- at Belmont (in Nashville) and the University of North Texas (which will be in Dallas).

Last year, I spoke at Belmont, which at the moment is accredited by the state of Tennessee, but does not have national accreditation. That's its new home under construction in the photo above. I found it to be a fascinating place: The student were focused and practical, the professors were an intriguing mix (it was there that I got the privilege of some time talking to one of those profs, former AG Alberto Gonzales), and there was a certain groundedness to the place that was hard not to like. The students want to be Tennessee lawyers-- prosecutors and public defenders and family law litigators. It seemed to me that they were getting a good education for that (just as I think my own students, and those at Baylor, are getting great training for that kind of work).

UNT is not so far down the line; it will accept its first class of students in 2014. It does have strong local support in Dallas, and the weight of the state of Texas behind it. I know some people involved in the effort, and respect them greatly.

Here's the rub: If some of these new schools succeed, it may hasten the demise of some older schools that have failed to thrive of late. Is that a bad thing?


Haiku Friday: December!

I heart December. Next to October and May, it is my favorite month. You can haiku about anything you want, so long as it has a nexus to December.

Here is mine:

First snow, miracle
Go and stand in it, and twirl
It dances with you.

Now, you go! C'mon, you can do it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: For-Profit Prisons

Tall Tenor sent this article my way yesterday-- about private prison employees doing police searches in Arizona.

I worry about the trend towards for-profit prisons in the US; among other things, they create a lobbying constituency for continuing high rates of incarceration, divorced from any policy reason for such an expensive course of action.

So... anyone here willing to defend private prisons?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Well, that went poorly...

So, last week, in a series of newspaper columns, I urged President Obama to free a prisoner rather than pardon a turkey. Sadly, I didn't foresee who badly this could turn out:

Turkey Pardon Mishap Results In Accidental Release Of Serial Rapist

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The Castle Doctrine and Murder in Little Falls

"Little Falls, Minnesota" sounds like a town made up for a Hallmark Christmas Special, but apparently the town by that name has a dark side.

On Thanksgiving Day, according to the Star-Tribune, two teenage cousins (pictured above) broke into the home of a neighbor. The cousins, Nicholas Brady and Haile Kifer, walked into the basement of the house where the homeowner, 64-year-old Byron Smith, shot them dead-- first the boy, and then the girl.

Minnesota, like Texas, has a version of the Castle Doctrine-- you can shoot people who invade your house. However, this case has lead to charges against Smith for killing them unnecessarily. Here is how the Star-Tribune described the acts to which Smith confessed:

He heard glass breaking around noon Thursday while he was in the basement. It was the latest of several break-ins that he's experienced. Brady started coming down the stairs, and Smith shot him with a rifle by the time he saw the intruder's hips.

Brady fell down the stairs and was looking up at Smith when the homeowner shot him in the face.

"I want him dead," Smith explained to the investigator for the additional shot.

Smith put Brady's body on a tarp and dragged him to an office workshop.

A few minutes later, Smith heard footsteps above him. As in Brady's case, Kifer too started down the stairs and was shot by Smith by the time he saw her hips, sending her tumbling down the stairs.

Smith attempted to shoot her again, but his rifle jammed, prompting Kifer to laugh.

Upset, Smith, pulled out a revolver he had on him and shot her "more times than I needed to" in the chest, he said.

Smith dragged Kifer next to Brady as she gasped for her life. He pressed the revolver's barrel under her chin and pulled the trigger in what he described as a "good, clean finishing shot" that was meant to end her suffering.

What do you think? Was the killing justified?

Monday, November 26, 2012


Haiku Winners: CTL and Bob!

I liked the way these two went together. First, this from Bob Darden (a professor):

A young reporter
New job in Waco, Texas
All nights, holidays

A young reporter
Police beat: Crooks stay at home
On Thanksgiving Day

A young reporter
His first Thanksgiving alone
A good lesson

I vowed that no one
Would be alone Thanksgiving
If I could help it

Mary and I have kept
That big promise when we could
Since that gray evening

And the meals? All great
Regardless of the details
Because of that vow!

And now this from CTL (a student):

First time without the
Family. Instead, broke bread
With stranded comrades.

CTL, then, is exactly the kind of stranger that Bob has welcomed in. What a great set of bookends!

Bob and CTL, as is so often true on the Razor, have intersecting paths.

The year was 2009. The place was Waco. CTL was a student; Bob was teaching journalism. CTL, late for his trip back home for Thanksgiving, found his car disable with a "boot," courtesy of the Waco police. Panicked, he stole a nearby car (the keys had been dropped in the parking lot of Cricket's), and made haste. However, his alacrity exceeded his aim, and he failed to make a turn at 30th street. As so many had before him, he slammed the stolen car straight into Bob's house, embedding the front end of the Camara into the front room. Hiding from the police, he dashed into Bob's house, where he was offered a complete Thanksgiving dinner and some very good beer.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Sunday Reflection: First snow

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

On Thanksgiving night, my house was full of people and the smell of food. Outside, the first real snow of the year was coming down, covering everything.

The first snow always makes me happy, content, and reflective. It changes everything-- the season, the mood, even the sounds you hear outdoors. The world goes from color to grayscale, to this beautiful gradation from pure white to deep shadow. The picture above is, in fact, a color photo; it is the world that has gone to black-and-white.

Advent is coming; that season of quiet awaiting that I truly love.

So, after most of the people at my house were off to bed, I went and stood outside, wrapped in a warm coat, soaking up the quiet. There was such beauty in that spare moment. It was still, and small, and the closest I get to touching the living God who is all around us.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Senior Photo

It's been a big week: Everything I sent out got accepted, so I had near-simultaneous appearances in the Dallas Morning News, the Waco Tribune Herald, the Washington Times, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and over at CNN. Plus, I successfully rescheduled a class, for perhaps the first time ever.

Then my parents showed up, and brought this photo. Crikeys!

So, apparently, this was my look in 1981. So many questions!

-- Why was I wearing sunglasses for my senior photo?

-- Is that a mustache? And if so, why?

-- Why am I wearing a suit?

-- What look was I shooting for here? Trainee pilot at Pan-Am?

Friday, November 23, 2012


Haiku Friday: What didya eat?

The day after Thanksgiving; let's reflect on the food. What did you eat? I'll go first:

Brined, perfect bird
I cut it and fell back; oh!
That heavenly scent.

Now it is your turn! 5/7/5 is the syllable count, and the winner gets a bio here on Monday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Turkey Mayhem Thursday!

My Thanksgiving-week series of articles on commutation wraps up today, with a piece in the Dallas Morning News (which you have to pay to see, sadly) and another in the Waco Tribune Herald (which you can see for free!). These follow up on earlier related (but different) op-eds in the past 10 days in the Washington Times, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and over at CNN.

I'm thankful for the freedom to do that-- to sit in the kitchen and write my opinion about how those in authority are wrong, and put it out there with no fear of arrest or retribution. It's a remarkable thing, really.

I'm thankful for the 14 people, all related to me, who are packed into my house at the moment.

I'm thankful for the community here.

And, on top of all that, I'm thankful for the best job in the world.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Today in the Washington Times

So, to follow up yesterday's piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, I have another (and different) piece on commutation in today's Washington Times. You can see it here.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Turkey talk

Check out my piece in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune... I love the photo!


Caption contest!

So what, exactly, is IPLawGuy doing???

Monday, November 19, 2012


Haiku winner: IPLawGuy!

Why did I love this one so much?

Madame Bovary
Bought it at "shady" bookstore
in Ft. Lauderdale

I think one reason is because Fort Lauderdale is kind of shady, and so is "Madame Bovary," so buying that book in that place AT a shady bookstore just paints a great picture. Plus, I'm sure it is true.

So, here is a little IPLawGuy info:

In college, IPLG was well known at the radio station for his mellow tones and cool talk on the airways. Then, as now, he was a devotee of Rockabilly and its close relatives, which was a good thing to like in Virginia at that time-- lots of material!

When he was a Senior, I was a freshman, a rookie at the station. He was the one who showed me around the station in fact, which was a real honor since he was the ultimate big shot: the Station Manager.

My favorite part of the tour was when he showed me the studio where we made our shows. There was a big boom mic (thrilling) huge shelves of records (overwhelming) and a small blue couch (relatively normal). Surprisingly, he spent most of the time explaining the couch. "Don't sit on the couch if you don't have to, and absolutely don't let some girl you know sit there."

This was a little perplexing, so I asked "why not?"

He looked over at the couch with abject genuine disgust and concern, then lowered his eyes at this pathetic newcomer, with his stupid question.

"Disease..." he explained, "bad, bad, diseases."

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Sunday Reflection: Snatching the pain of another

This past Tuesday, I went over to St. Paul to hear my colleague and hero-of-thinking Susan Stabile speak about her wonderful new book, Growing in Love and Wisdom. Susan is a captivating speaker, and she is from New York, so the whole thing is a physical exercise as she paces, gestures, leans on the podium, then ranges into the audience. At the end though, that all stopped. She had us close our eyes and do a meditation exercise that linked together many of the strands of her life's theologies-- one that required empathy for a person in pain.

It was a deep and challenging experience.

As I drove home, I remembered a long-ago moment that I have never fully understood.

When I was in college, I took a class from Prof. Joanne Braxton, who at that time was finishing up her Ph.D. at Yale. (She made Yale seem very cool-- her example was one reason I ended up there myself). Part of her work had taken her to Haiti, and she occassionally (though not often) talked about her experience there.

One day in class, one of my fellow students had a headache and was in obvious pain. Prof. Braxton paused and told us about something she had seen in Haiti: The "snatching" of a pain like that. She explained that the snatcher would cover the forehead of the subject with their hand, rest and feel the warmth of that person, and then make a snatching motion. If done successfully, the subject was free of the headache-- but the snatcher would now have it. It struck me, if nothing else, as a wonderful model of empathy in that it involved not "fixing" someone's pain or erasing it, but literally taking it on, as an act of self-sacrifice. Christ, of course, did this very literally.

Many years later, I found myself with a group of people on the roof deck of a bar near Wrigleyville. (Not this one, but in the same area). It was very late, and there was a small group of us around a table in the Chicago summer.

We were talking about headaches, and I told the story of what I had heard in Prof. Braxton's class. One woman I did not know, who was about 31 or 32, turned to me and claimed she had a headache and dared me to snatch it. So, I did. I put my hand flat on her forehead for a moment, feeling the warmth of her, resting her hair in my other hand, and then... snatch!

It floored me.

I didn't get a headache. Instead, what I got was a deep and profound sadness that was totally alien to me, like a dark cloud that filled me up. It was specific sadness, too-- the regret that I didn't have a child, and might not ever have one. Certainly, this was not my cloud of dread (I was 23 or 24 at the time). It wasn't a guy thing... it was entirely hers. It was with me for weeks; I couldn't shake it.

Genuine empathy, I think, is that difficult. It more than just listening; at its best, it is carrying the dark cloud of another within ourselves and working to dispel it through love.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


The On-Line Transformation of Scholarly Advocates

Way back in the 1980's, my own law professors were a brilliant bunch, and many of them were advocates for important causes.

When a political development would arise, they would begin to research a scholarly paper. Several months later, that paper would be completed and submitted to journals, which would then print it another several months hence. It would be read in hard copy form by a few hundred people, maybe a thousand, and then would ripple across the academy for years-- through academic conferences, say, or in the class discussions of law students, or even in legislative bodies.

That process still exists, of course, and I participate in it. Just a week ago, I gave a scholarly (more or less) talk at an academic conference at Valparaiso, for example, and currently have no less than six scholarly articles and book chapters forthcoming. It is still an important and engaging form of discourse.

A parallel track has also developed, though-- we academics have a variety of outlets in new media, and many of us use it. For example, the talk I gave at Valparaiso was the root of the article I wrote for CNN that appeared on Tuesday. That piece got 10,000 facebook recommendations and 3500 comments in just 24 hours-- meaning hundreds of thousands of people read it. It's a big audience, but a different audience than the one I addressed at Valpo, where I was speaking largely to experts and could explain things in a way that assumed that expertise.

How do we get to them? The same way everyone else does-- by writing in an available format, then networking it through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Should we, though? I think so, for the simple reason that if we are saying something should change, we should put that message before the public. It's important, too, that sometimes we speak to people other than our fellow academics-- find a way to make a compelling presentation that will hold the attention of people who are not specialists, at least if we hope to create change.

One is not replacing the other; rather, they work well together. It's a brave new world, and I like it.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Another good analysis (by someone else)....

I've always wanted to be quoted in the Christian Science Monitor (I read it for years), and today I was. This piece offers an excellent analysis of some of the problems presented by the new pot laws in Colorado and Washington.


Haiku Friday: So, watcha reading?

I love reading. From what I can tell, many of you are able to read, as well, and probably enjoy it. So let's haiku about books and reading and stuff like that!

Here is mine:

My buddy wrote this
Now I will read it, slowly,
It's a precious thing.

Now it is your turn! Make your haiku about 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and the winner gets a bio here on Monday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: Eric Garland's letter to Republican Strategists

Yesterday, Tall Tenor sent me a link to a remarkable rant by one Eric Garland, who explained why he failed to vote Republican despite being an affluent, suburban, white, straight businessman. On almost every point, I generaly agree with him (though he does not speak for me-- he's kinda violating some of my rules for civil discourse here). You can (and should) read the whole thing here, but here is the heart of it:

Science - One of the reasons my family is affluent is that my wife and I have a collective fifteen years of university education between us. I have a Masters degree in Science and Technology Policy, and my wife is a physician who holds degrees in medicine as well as cell and molecular biology. We are really quite unimpressed with Congressional representatives such as Todd Akin and Paul Broun who actually serve on the House science committee and who believe, respectively, that rape does not cause pregnancy and that evolution and astrophysics are lies straight from Satan’s butt cheeks. These are, sadly, only two of innumerable assaults that the Republican Party has made against hard science – with nothing to say of logic in general. Please understand the unbearable tension this might create between us and your candidates.

Climate - Within just the past 18 months the following events have come to our attention: a record-breaking drought that sent temperatures over 100 degrees for weeks, killing half the corn in the Midwest and half the TREES on our suburban property – AND – a hurricane that drowned not New Orleans or Tampa or North Carolina but my native state of VERMONT. As an encore, a second hurricane drowned lower Manhattan, New Jersey and Long Island. The shouted views of decrepit mental fossil Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma that this is a fraud perpetrated on the American people by evil, conspiring climate scientists is belied by such events and is looking irresponsible to even the most skeptical.

Healthcare - My wife and I are quite familiar with America’s healthcare system due to our professions, and having lived abroad extensively, also very aware of comparable systems. Your party’s insistence on declaring the private U.S. healthcare system “the best in the world” fails nearly every factual measure available to any curious mind. We watch our country piss away 60% more expenditures than the next most expensive system (Switzerland) for health outcomes that rival former Soviet bloc nations. On a personal scale, my wife watches poor WORKING people show up in emergency rooms with fourth-stage cancer because they were unable to afford primary care visits. I have watched countless small businesses unable to attract talented workers because of the outrageous and climbing cost of private insurance. And I watch European and Asian businesses outpace American companies because they can attract that talent without asking people to risk bankruptcy and death. That you think this state of affairs is somehow preferable to “Obamacare,” which you compared ludicrously to Trotskyite Russian communism, is a sign of deficient minds unfit to guide health policy in America.

War - Nations do have to go to war sometimes, but that Iraq thing was pretty bad, to put it mildly. Somebody should have been, I dunno – FIRED for bad performance. Aren’t you the party of good corporate managers or something? This topic could get 10,000 words on its own. Let’s just leave it at: You guys suck at running wars.

Deficits and debt - Whenever the GOP is out of power, it immediately appeals to the imagination of voters who remember the Lyndon Baines Johnson (!) administration and claim that the Republican alternative is the party of “cutting spending” and “reducing the deficit.” The only problem with your claim is that Republican governments throughout my entire 38 year life (Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43) have failed to cut spending and deficit and debt EVEN ONCE. I hope you understand that your credibility suffers every time you promise one thing for three decades and do the EXACT OPPOSITE. Egads – if you actually were the party of fiscal responsibility – you might win our votes despite your 13th century view of science!

Gay marriage - As the child of Baby Boomers who got divorced (as was the fashion!) in the 80s and 90s, and for whom 50% of my friends had their homes broken by divorce in the critical years before age 18, I sure am unsympathetic to your caterwauling bullshit that “gays will destroy the sanctity of marriage.” Perhaps if everyone in your generation didn’t take the period of 1978 – 1995 to start surreptitiously banging their neighbors and coworkers, only to abandon their kids because “they just weren’t happy,” I would take your defense of marriage more seriously. The institution of Middle Class suburban marriage was broken by the generation of aging white Baby Boomers who populate what is left of the Republican Party, so your defense is wrongheaded and disingenuous. And moreover, as someone who got called “faggot” about 127 times a day from the years 1985 through 1991 – guess what – I grew up to be pretty good friends with actual homosexuals, whose sexual orientation is usually the least significant thing about them. The Republican perseveration on homosexuals as any sort of threat consigns them to history’s trough of intellectual pig dung.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The Beautiful Book

Last night, I went to go see Susan Stabile talk about her new book, "Growing in Love and Wisdom," which is about incorporating Buddhist meditations into Christian reflection. (You can read her HuffPo piece on that here). Susan was a Buddhist for 20 years before returning to Catholicism, and a Buddhist nun for part of that time. Oxford University Press has published the book, which I'm about to dig into.

It was a wonderful talk, followed by a sample meditation, which I found really worthwhile. I would encourage anyone to check out her book (found here on Amazon), and if you can go to one of her readings coming up in Boston, Chicago, New York, and a couple other equally exciting places!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012



My take on the new pot laws is now up at CNN-- and featured on the web site's front page! Check it out here.


If I've said it once...

... I've said it a thousand times: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band brought the Glockenspiel back to rock and roll, where it belongs!

Monday, November 12, 2012


Just up at Sojourners!

My reflection on the Marriage Amendment vote is now up at Sojourners-- you can read it here.


The Winner!

Enough of politics for a little while, I suppose. One last bit, though-- the winner for last week's haiku Friday is TexPat, with this:

Election over
Seems like the end, but it is
Just the beginning

So who is this "Tex Pat?" I suppose it could be Pat Green, Waco's best-known musician:

More likely, though, is that Tex Pat is a Texas expatriate-- one of those unfortunate souls who somehow get diverted from the Lone Star and end up in far-off locales. TexPat, for example, was on his way to the nearest shoe repair shop, missed his exit on I-20, and ended up somehow in Washington, DC, where he found a job in a policy shop. Eventually, he will earn enough money to get back, but right now it isn't looking good...

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Sunday Reflection: On losing

It's the end of election week, but there is still a lot to ponder. One thing is this: What do I make of the vote in California to preserve the death penalty there by rejecting a referendum which would eliminate it?

It is hard to lose on something I care about, enough to have spent my fall break out there working on the issue. However, I do have to admit that the mistakes we made there were not so different than the mistakes made by the marriage amendment proponents here in Minnesota. In short, we relied too much on media and not enough on empathy and talking. Further, we probably made the same kind of strategic mistake in putting the issue on the ballot at all, because the voters collective expression makes our task in the legislature very difficult. In other words, I can't judge too harshly my opponents on the marriage issue here, since in California we made pretty much the same mistakes in relation to the death penalty.

As always, I have to acknowledge that social justice doesn't come from me; it comes from the community as a whole and may end up looking different than what I think initially. Being humbled is often a good thing. It directs us, very often, to what is important and true. Faith directs us to humility, so perhaps when it comes in the form of a defeat, that is a blessing, too?

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Was Money Important?

Before this election, many people (including me) worried about the effect of unregulated political money being spent for and against candidates by Super-PAC's like Karl Rove's Crossroads groups, which spent over $175 million on the presidential race, twelve Senate races, and nine races in the U.S. House, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

That's a lot of money, but it didn't work. Romney lost, as did ten of the twelve Senate candidates and four of the nine House candidates.

Could it be that the effects of the Citizen's United case (which ruled unconstitutional the existing legal limits on groups like those run by Rove) are not as significant as we feared?

Friday, November 09, 2012


Haiku Friday: After the election

Let's celebrate having that whole mess behind us!

Here is mine:

"Barack Obama"
Exactly five syllables--
Why I voted Dem!

Now it is your turn! Just make it about 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, and the winner will get their bio right here on Monday.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday II: A New Direction

So, it's been, like, almost 30 hours now since the work of many, many people in Minnesota paid off, and the same-sex marriage amendment was defeated. Sure, my advocacy got into some controversial areas, and I got hundreds of vitriolic emails, but I think in the end it did some good.

Still, I kinda miss that swirl of controversy and hubbub, so I present to you now my new article on abortion, Roe's Ragged Remnant, which will appear in the Stanford Law and Policy Review this spring. To download it, just follow the link and then hit the "download this paper" button. I welcome your reactions!


Political Mayhem Thursday: What if?

It's hard not to admire the passion Mitt Romney shows in this clip as he defends his faith.

Would Gov. Romney have done better in the election if he had shown this part of his personality?

Any other comments regarding the election are, of course, welcome.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Watching the crowds...

Last night, watching the election returns, it was sad to watch the "election parties" for the people who lost (even though I was usually for their opponents). It's painful to work hard for something you believe in and lose. Even seeing the thinly-populated ballroom containing disappointed supporters of the marriage amendment (which I so vigorously opposed) made me feel a bit of their sadness.

More to come on all this tomorrow, but for now two quick observations:

1) A few years ago, it seemed that tea party furor would profoundly affect American politics. It did, kind of, but not in a way that benefited the Republican party. By driving that entire party to the right, it not only cost Republicans the presidency, but cemented Democratic majorities among blacks and hispanics. Moreover, tea party Senate candidates failed miserably in Indiana and Missouri, depriving the Republicans of any chance of re-capturing the Senate.

I suspect we won't hear much about the tea party in the future.

2) On the Minnesota marriage amendment, the proponents of this measure over-extended by pushing for a gay marriage ban in Minnesota's constitution, when there already was one in our statutes. They hoped it would drive out the conservative vote, but instead (or in addition, perhaps), it drove out big groups of progressives who cared passionately about this issue. The irony is that this turn-out probably played in role in Democrats re-capturing both houses of the state legislature, where they might now move to legalize... gay marriage. The proponents of this needless amendment not only lost-- they created a movement that will continue towards the legalization of gay marriage in Minnesota, and may already have the legislative votes to do so.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


The end of days

Crikeys, I'm ready for this election to be over!

CNN has a show running right now that features 32 people all yelling at the same time, like some kind of dada lecture nightmare.

Down in Florida, there is the truly dispiriting prospect of another botched election, with people struggling to register their vote.

Tomorrow, it promises to be a long night before we really know the results.

It's times like this that I turn to the worst song of all time: "Lady L," from the long-lost and tragically short-lived TV show "Freaks and Geeks."

Monday, November 05, 2012


The winner, and a bio sidestep

Wow! You guys know some musical theater, as shown by the many haikus last Friday. My favorite, though, was this entry from DiadelKendall:

Baylor Theater
Mourns hero for musicals.
We will miss Bill Cook.

Resting in Peace was
never his thing. He'd rather
direct the chaos.

His was "Fantastick" show -
Drama, Laughter, Love and Pain.
The message lingers...

As Kendall would probably want, it seems appropriate to put his bio on hold, and instead let people know who Bill Cook was. Here is the Baylor Lariat's review of that staging of The Fantasticks:

Baylor Theatre opened its first musical in two years, Tom Jones' The Fantasticks, Thursday night. Directed by Bill Cook, the play focuses on the love story of two
young adults, Matt and Luisa.

The role of Matt is played by Jonathan Collins, a Dallas senior, and the role of Luisa is double cast with Whitney Cone, an Amarillo senior, and Megan Conner, a Granbury senior.

Cook said the production is based around allusions of love and family relationships.
"The play is basically an allusion of what we think is love and what really is love,"
Cook said. "The boy meets the girl and they fall in love with the help of their parents. Both, in a sense, experience real life."

The Fantasticks, Broadway's longest running musical, begins as two fathers decide that
they want their children to fall in love and choose to create a mock feud between themselves. The fathers, Bellomy and Hucklebee hire El Gallo, played by Rhett Henckel, a San Antonio junior, to kidnap Luisa so that Matt can save her. After the abduction,
the two realize their parents staged the feud and their love fades. They reunite at the close of the play.

"It's a typical love story," Cone said. "It's very easy to get involved in." Cook said talent usually dictates what type of production Baylor Theatre chooses. He said he originally planned to put on South Pacific, but after the technical director
resigned, Cook selected The Fantasticks, a smaller show. "It doesn't require an orchestra, just a piano, bass and drums," Cook said. "It is also a simple set, most of the actors never leave the stage when they get on. It's a good training production for students."

The cast consists of 15 actors and chorus members. Cone said that because of the lack of set pieces, the audience must use their imagination to get involved in the story.

Leta Horan, director of Baylor's Showtime, is the musical director and Karen Flygare is the show's choreographer.

The Fantasticks continues tonight and runs through November 11. All shows, excluding the 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee, begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Jones Theatre at Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center.

I didn't know Bill Cook, but it's hard not to like a guy who describes a story with lots of singing, a fake family feud, and an abduction as a "typical love story."

[If you are interested in learning more about Bill Cook, who died last week, there is a fascinating set of interviews here]

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Sunday Reflection: The coming stillness

Minnesota is one of those places with four stark and distinct seasons. They are all God's of course, defined by things we don't yet control: The heat, the snow, the palette of leaves, and the green shoots of spring.

Yesterday, I was on the campus of St. Olaf, down in Northfield. The west side of the campus is a nature area, a pristine prairie with a single path. The trees are bare now, and it is cool on the verge of cold. The wind is slight and murmuring. All the world, this world, waits for that first snow to bring the stillness of advent, the holiness of of quiet.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


News from all over....

Yesterday, this great new ProPublica piece by Dafna Linzer came out; it's the latest in her series on the pardon power.

Also, the video is now up of the talk on Thursday. You can see the full version here (including, at 23:40, Rep. Keith Ellison calling me his "esteemed homeboy.") In the alternative, here is the short version:

Friday, November 02, 2012


Haiku Friday: Musical Theater!

Ok, that whole "Cats" thing totally creeps me out. Seriously. I can't even watch beyond the first three seconds.

Still, can we haiku about musical theater. Sure, I've never gone there (for obvious reasons-- I don't know anything about it) but... there are those who love it.

I'll go first:

Disaster has struck!
Town imperiled, All is lost...
So, Let's sing and dance!

Now, it is your turn (and I'm really counting on y'all here to fill in the many many gaps in my knowledge). There recipe, syllable-wise, is 5/7/5, and the winner gets a bio here on Monday! Now, go!

Thursday, November 01, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: Money we don't have...

I'll admit being fascinated by this great article by Harvey Sapolski and Benjamin Freidman: Romney's Other 47% Problem.

Here is the meat of it:

Our annual $700 billion-plus military budget exceeds the next 10 biggest military budgets combined. Much of that money buys forces needed to defend allies against threats they could afford to meet themselves. Alliances that once served the U.S. national interest have become a subsidy to rich allies.

They have a great point: Our military is providing protection to chief economic rivals like Germany, Japan, and South Korea, effectively subsidizing their economies. Can we really afford that anymore?

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