Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Still waiting for pop-up torts

When I was younger I had a book called Incredible Cross-Sections. (Which I've just now discovered is available in pop-up form...) The book took illustrations of cruise ships, castles, submarines and more and did to them the stuff of Ron Popeil's dreams.

I think the book was meant to appeal to the aspiring engineer in kids, but for those who dislike subliminal attempts to have you learn whilst having fun, the book had other rewards. Notably, in each cross-section there was always a bathroom with someone in it, and it was always rather amusing how the toilets of the era operated.

This is precisely why I find my current reading, Steven Johnson's book, The Ghost Map, so disgustingly fascinating. It's a book about the London Cholera outbreak of 1854, filled with facts and anecdotes about how the bustling city was a perfect breeding ground for disease and how the old British cure-all of running it under a cold tap (see 6th paragraph) was a disastrous failure.

But the more I read it, I realize Johnson's simply replicating the wonderment of my childhood, and taking a cross-section of London in the 19th century, dissecting each strata of society and focusing in on those "amusing bits." In one section, he relates the tragic drowning death of "Richard the Raker," who, rather unfortunately, was not raking leaves, but doing much the same work as the dude I've highlighted in the picture above.

I recommend the book, but note it was delayed in Canada for some reason until December. Meaning you either have to wait, order from the US as I did, or cross your fingers for what's certain to be an interesting pop-up version.

Anyway, I bring all of this up on my law blog because it's the only time where I've been reading a non-law book that might actually become a useful citation for a law paper - in this case my Land Use Planning paper on earthquakes. I'm making an argument that Vancouver's earthquake mitigation efforts are mostly directed for after a disaster. There's a considerable amount of planning that can go great lengths to mitigating, if at least not damage itself, plenty of litigation. Johnson's book advocates, amongst other things, recognizing the emergent crisis around you before it reaches its tipping point.

Maybe I'll cite the cross-sections book too, just for the hell of it. Did anyone else here have it?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

More of a Haunted Run, really

When I lived in Kingston, Ontario, I regretfully did not go on any of its "haunted walk" tours. I'm pretty certain that town has its fair share of gory lore, and I'm told that the ghost of John A. MacDonald still treads its street, pleading that the whole Constitution thing was really a joke.

So I made up for that missed opportunity tonight when I went on Vancouver's Haunted Tour of Gastown. With about twenty other people we got a tour of the section of town reputedly cursed by its ancient First Nations inhabitants when the land was unceremoniously taken away. This, I can confirm, meets the legal test for the imposition of a curse. (See Mummy v. Gravedigger et al.)

I found the tour interesting in part because I had never walked Gastown before, and that now I had a completely new reason to fear it. We learned about ghosts of every variety, from the headless to the feline. I particularly liked the trip down Blood Alley, despite an odour that would suggest it be renamed otherwise.

This is part of the reason I like Vancouver so much. There are countless areas of the city with a feel all their own. At any time you feel like you could be walking through New York, Toronto, Hong Kong, or, as it were, Whitechapel-area London/Silent Hill.

Mansbridge equally frightening to kids

It's a law school Halloween party. You're looking for a costume that's both cumbersome and prohibitive to dance, yet uniquely self-referential and almost impossible to reproduce. May I suggest going as the cover of the September '06 National magazine with you on it?

I guess I felt my previous Halloween costumes were never meta enough. Of course, if you attend a party with a few non-law students, there are bound to be those who don't get it - although I'll never discourage queries as to whether I'm Peter Mansbridge.

Update: Party pictures courtesy of K.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

You shall not pass dammit!

I remember that it took about one month in Evidence class before the subject of My Cousin Vinny was academically discussed. So I'm a little surprised it took nearly two months of Securities Regulation before Martha Stewart's name came up. I wonder if these celebrities really understand that though their indiscretion's gleam may eventually fade in the tabloids, it shines ever brightly for law student reading. Just imagine how Family law will forever be shaped.

Sadly, no such stargazing is to be found in European Union law, the subject for which I still have to come up with a paper topic. Any ideas?

It probably doesn't help that I've been spending my time watching this new promo for 24 and pondering the question: Jack Bauer, Gandalf, same person?

Seriously, I need help with this EU paper.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Down the drain

The Prestige, which I just saw, is a film that will be long talked about within the circles I travel. No, not for it's clever trickery or apt use of British rock legends, but for the fact that it ruined the longest running streak I had going.

17 years without having to use the bathroom in a film - gone. Not since the original Batman in 1989 had I left the theatre mid-movie. Back then, I missed a crucial scene. I was a bit more tactful this time, at least optioning a moment when both Scarlett and Bowie were offscreen.

But why now, after all these years? I'm inclined to blame the dentist. Yes, the dentist I visited months ago who accidentally overcharged my credit card, and then, in trying to correct it, overcharged the card again - the very dentist that in order to atone for any ill-will mailed me the very free movie coupons with free drink that caused this demise. He of all people should have known it was bad for me!

I guess I can't hold a grudge. What really bothers me is that being a superstitious individual, the fate of it wasn't tied up more nicely. No, it couldn't have been Christopher Nolan's superlative resurrection of Batman that burst the dam - which would have brought the streak full circle - but only the film he made after that with many the same actors.

Here's to the end of an era. Yet still, I feel relief. And thirst.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cake, however, conspicuously absent

My resolve to finish this factum by first light on Monday (deadlines are always sexier when they are made to first lights) is seriously being threatened by the beckoning of several movies released this weekend.

There's Marie-Antoinette, because I'm always up for a trip back to Versailles. I spent hours on the grounds back there in 2003, eventually finding myself at Marie's childhood snack bar where I got a pretty awesome ice cream bar. Oh and the architecture is cool too. (Versailles' edifice, of course, forming the title graphic for this blog.)

Then there's The Prestige. I already know how this one ends because, like any good law student, I did my reading a year ago. Nevertheless, I'm hoping some elements are changed and David Bowie as Nikola Tesla shouldn't be missed.

Finally there's the Clint Eastwood film, and I'm contractually obligated to see his films since his Unforgiven still ranks in my desert island top 5. Of course, what nobody's reporting is that Eastwood made two films during this time, the second a Japanese-language and Japanese-perspective film of the Battle of Iwo Jima, so I might just hold out for that one.

Which brings me back to factum work. I'm trying to convince myself that writing a factum maybe is like a movie, or isn't that far removed from screenwriting. (Work with me here.) It's a story based on true events, there's far too much money involved, characters are well-developed, and the bad guy gets it in the end.

You're right, that analogy doesn't work. Point-first writing makes for some anti-climactic storytelling - like listing "Starring Bruce Willis as the Ghost" in the opening credit reel.

And I just want some popcorn. I bet the Versailles snack shack would have some.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

CBC'n is believin'

Anecdote of note: while on a factum lunch break today, at a nearby Cafe Crepe, (unofficially a reason why I live in the neighbourhood I do) who should I run into but CBC news anchor extraordinaire Gloria Macarenko.

Both she and Ian "the Man" Hanomansing were mainstays of my work-from-home summer TV viewing schedule, so I find it particularly cool to run into one of them on a break from work. The unfortunate part is that I didn't recognize her until she spoke to me, at which point my to-go order was ready. Thus, my limited contribution to the conversation went something like:

"You. Are from TV. I watch."

In any case, the short conversation I had with her ups the ante on previous run-ins with celebrities, beating:

And, one step closer to erasing the memory of seeing a desperately infirmed Nick Nolte in NYC.

Moby-Dick summations suffered somewhat

I'm hard at work on the first factum I've written since first year law, those golden days when "Team Awesome" ruled the moot, the "definitive statement of might and fortitude in law school" as I described in it back in February of '05.

A few things have changed. It now appears that the definitive statement of law school might is not courtroom prowess, but a job offer (the thing you see law students clutching so tightly to their chests). I don't really buy that, so I'm trying to make sure this factum guarantees some promise of legalistic longevity.

I've been reading a lot of "how to write the best factum" material, which is sort of the antidote to what I had learned as an English major. Conscission is the new effusion. Judges like things short. And this is what I've decided: ironically, if you think back to your junior high school days, those kids that gave the worst book reports, i.e.

"Treasure Island is a book about an island of treasure"

...they'd probably rock the factum championships.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Arnold Schwarzeblogger

Ever since I saw this comic on BoingBoing a while back, I think about it when I sit down to write a paper. As you know, it's painfully true:

However, you also know that certain websites become an important tool during research - legal or otherwise, and you have no choice but to log on and do your best to avoid YouTube. I consider government websites part of the "serious internet," and I recently had to consult one for my Land Use paper. I was looking for how California lawmakers have incorporated earthquake damage prevention regulations into their building codes.

Naturally, the California Building Commission's website seemed like a good place to begin this "serious" research. But then I notice this little graphic...

Yup, Governor Schwarzenegger. I know it's not news, but it is a major distraction. How can I possibly take this research seriously now? Before you know it you're reading his blog and then you've fired up YouTube for those hilarious Arnold prank calls.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Strangely, Sim Court never caught on

This research for my Land Use Planning earthquake paper has done nothing if not create a desire to replay classic computer games of yore. This isn't entirely unrelated to work, however. I'm working on a list. So far:

Lessons Vancouver City Planners could learn from Sim City:

Turn Disasters "Off": It's right up there in the menu bar, the option to completely negate the chance of fires, tornados and, let's face it, the omnipresent fear of earthquakes. There is no evidence that this cheat will have an adverse impact upon the economy - in fact, it eliminates the cost of developing firehalls and their ancillary calendars.

Sim fans post any more below. Earn a citation in my paper!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Triple Nerd Score!

I spent this past weekend back on the ranch in Calgary, bringing with me my favourite Vancouverite to spend time with the family. A few of the highlights:

  • Walking my dog, who is miraculously still ticking/barking after some 14 years.

  • Seeing The Departed, where Matt Damon puts on his best South Boston accent since he appeared as the irate Springsteen fan on SNL.
  • Catching up with friends at an Irish pub - make that a disgustingly smoky Irish pub thanks to Alberta's cancer-like resistance to curative health regulations. (The Albertan government being the lowlight of the trip here.)
  • Catching Chris Martin's appearance on Extras.
  • Buying an Eastern European travel guide, thereby bringing the summer trip one step closer to reality (and lessening the trip budget by 40 dollars.)
  • Dominating the Scrabble board. I'm aware this is hardly a point of celebration.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

William Hogarth I am not

I consider it inimitably cool that Beck's new album, The Information, gives fans the opportunity to design the album cover with a set of stickers. By the same token, it's therefore inimitably nerdy that I'd go and invest a storyline into the simple act of putting stickers on a page.

Thus this:

Becomes this:

Plate I: A rainbow monolith appears, disrupting the serene, unicornly planet of, I don't know, let's say Becktopia. A troubling liquid pours forth, bleeding onto...

Plate II: Chaos in the heavens above. Planets melt, mountains reinvent themselves as objets d'arts. It's about here this dystopian conceit of mine begins to fall apart.

Plate III: The manmade structures are not immune. Buildings fall, and the gods above weep, and then there's this crazy bizarro-Beck sticker that I initially didn't want to use, but thought I might as well.

Plate IV: Animals are shadows of their former selves. The planet collapses in on itself. Beck can only look on and weep. It's also really busy on the page because I still had a lot of stickers left.

Plate V: A volcano bursts forth, spewing the tracklist into the heavens, killing birds and falling back down to earth. There's also a barcode. I can't explain the barcode away.

Update: Thanks to Stereogum for the picture love.

Monday, October 02, 2006

AKA the king of mad-libs

I've just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the sixth book of his I've read in the last few months, and one of the things I love about this writer (apart from his amusing contempt for anyone that can't translate Spanish) is his boundless vocabulary. Here are a handful of words I've just discovered since reading him:

New words to me, that is - I'm not discounting the likelihood that these appear in any number of court decisions by judges bent on flummoxing the common people. Pues, unas veces la ley puede ser mucha confundienda.