Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hallowed or Gallowed

I've recently been looking into my family's genealogy. We've traced our family back to Scotland and England so far, but past that it's a matter of speculation. However, I've come across two individuals that, by virtue of their name - John Austin (also my Grandfather's name) - must be considered possible relatives.

The significance of these two individuals is that, while I am the only one in my immediate family who chose to go into the legal profession, there may be some historical precedence for my decision. And, of course, in the Common Law, precedence is everything.

The first man is John Austin, a famous jurist. He developed theories on legal positivism and had an extensive impact on jurisprudence throughout Great Britain. If he proves a relative: mega bonus. This little fact added on to any law school essay might just make my ramblings a little more impressive, or impossible to ignore.

The second man is John Austin, a common thief, famous for being the last man hanged at the gallows at Tyburn, London. If he proves a relative: awkward. Suddenly my reputation at law school for handing down the heaviest punishments on Criminal Law exams becomes even more cruel.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The final five

It's a good time of year to appraise the classes for the upcoming and - say it with me - final term of law school. I've got five classes and four written exams, which, after the relative breeze that two written finals was this last month - might come back to haunt me. (As the Bogeylawyer, maybe?)

Here's the list:

Real Estate Transactions: this is a course I wouldn't lose sleep over not taking, (there's plenty of sleep to lose in law school anyhow). But, I enjoyed Land Use Planning immensely, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy a lot of the byzantine mess that is Property Law. Also, I now live in Vancouver: I've come to learn that I will likely be engaged in no less than a dozen condo transactions and hoard apartment units as if they were rare Hot Chip b-sides. Knowing a bit of the fine print on all those lease agreements might not be a bad idea.

Civil Procedure: I've had mixed results with "Procedure" courses in the past. Advanced Criminal Procedure is, without a doubt, the easiest course you can take in law school, and yet it's probably going to go down as the worst exam I wrote in the three years. I even had a professor that faintly resembled - in looks only - Arrested Development's Barry Zuckerkorn, which makes my poor performance even that more annoying. Here's hoping Civil Procedure will be a bit more civil friendly.

Administrative Law: without a doubt, this class gets the worst buzz amongst students at law school. The reviews range from boring, demanding, difficult to study for and the best reason to become a doctor. However, most will admit that the course is sorta necessary. Court cases often begin in the less glitzy realm of tribunals, after all. I'm not holding my breath for any magic to happen, but since I'm intent on getting a comprehensive legal education, I'm willing to bite the bullet. And they say lawyers will weasel out of any unpleasant situation.

Entertainment Law: devotees of this site may recall that I possess various screenplays and teleplays in various stages of completion. I haven't written about them on this site for a long time, because a) it was probably foolish to expect I could accomplish so much writing when there is so much reading to be done in law school and b) I think any scripts about the "legal experience" might benefit from actual experience. (That's just a hunch). If nothing else, I look forward to this class for any help with how to land a script deal.

Trusts: I can stand being angered by Admin law, but this class runs a high risk of just plain boring me. When people ask what classes I'm taking this term, this is the class I can never remember. In fact, when I mention it, first they are appalled I'd take over four classes in the final term and second, it provokes zero response. As far as I know, trusts are responsible for creating trust-fund babies, a notoriously unpleasant strata of society. But, like any jury, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and pronounce it my Wild Card Class. I've been pleasantly surprised with courses like Secured Transactions in the past, so it's all I can hope for. Then again, it's the only class I have on a Friday morning - never a good sign for longevity.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I'm typing like Roberto Benigni

This is like finding extra stuff in a Christmas stocking: my blog was voted "Best Lawblog by a Law Student" according to Blawg Review and their annual awards. That's, like, the Oscars for law blogs.

Thanks to all my readers, including the one, according to my tracker stats, that Googled "crushing law school debt" and zeroed in upon this site.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Three hour holiday more likely

Another great Christmas in the books. I've had such a good time, but I can't help but think that next year, when I've begun work at "the firm," a three-week holiday won't be as likely.

I didn't actually get one of these, and perhaps my final term at law school will thank Santa for that. This PS3 system was actually on loan from a friend of my brother. The kicker was that it came with no games, and renting them is a bit of an impossibility, so for a while it felt like having the goose that lays golden eggs, only to find it is infertile, or worse - a gander.

As for actual Christmas haul, amongst a lot of great stuff I got Jeff Tweedy's solo album/DVD, one of my favorite/the funniest performers. I particularly like his tour footage of the Pacific Northwest. I skipped ahead to the San Fran portion of the disc, as I'm tenatively planning a trip to that city in April. Any super sleuths know where this donut shop is in town?

The rest of the holidays have been nice and relaxing so far. (Still two weeks to go!) Of course, this being Calgary, I've also spent a lot of time on the roads. We made the traditional stop at Peter's Drive In, (best milkshakes in town) and I also got a peek at the city's brand new courthouse. 24 storeys and 73 courtrooms of cowboy justice.

On the rare occasions the TV is on, I think it's one of the great inventions of our modern age that fire has its own channel. At least during the holidays. Of course, like any programming, it needs to be entertaining to capture one's attention for any length of time. This mysterious hand stoking the fire provides for such a highlight.

Of course, I still have a birthday coming up in a matter of days, the big 25, or the age I find that a lot of my law school friends celebrated in undergrad.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Xmas o menos

Ahh the holidays. I don't wear a watch, and since I haven't fired up the out-of-province cell phone since I arrived in Calgary, I have no quick way to tell the time: this is wonderful. Things I've been up to:

Pops and I caught Apocalypto. It's a great movie for history buffs (particularly the Guns, Germs & Steel-loving crowd) as well as connoisseurs of unrepentant gore. Thankfully, raised on a steady diet of zombie movies, I am unmoved by such things. Seriously though, the whole last hour of this film deserves a spot on my year-end list.

Carcassonne is quickly getting out of hand. Brother A bought the elaborate deluxe set, meaning a game can easily last several hours. Of course, the fun of it all causes Brother B to buy his own set - the combination of which might just put off a second term of law school. If I didn't know better, I'd think they were trying to set some sort of Carcassonne World Record...

I'm rereading Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. This is really one of the best books ever and should be read by everyone - twice. Just sayin'.

Holiday shopping: the malls in Calgary are, I suspect like everywhere else, a mess. However, I would venture to guess our parking lots are worse than normal, as every second driver in the city owns an oversized truck. The frontier days ended long ago people, there is nothing that needs that much hauling.

Because Brothers A and B are at work during the days, I brought out another excellent Christmas solitary pastime, the puzzle.

A 1000 piecer of the La Scala Theatre is all fine and challenging, but the end result will never be as awesome as the best puzzle we ever had (and somehow lost): The Bombardment of Algiers.

To make my return to town all the more Christmas-y, my parents put some eggnog in the fridge. Although, after I saw last week's Office, I'm mildly curious about a new drink, three parts eggnog, one part sake - the Nogasake.

Friday, December 15, 2006

IMHO 2006

I was going to compile my annual list of favourite moments in TV/Books/Film/Music when I got back to Calgary, but I've been warned I'm booked for many a game of Carcassonne, so here it is now. (Previously, Parts I and II.)


I haven't written about The O.C. for a long time because season 3 was (sorry H) the worst load of continuing garbage since I can't recall when. Then suddenly, season 4 got all awesome again, thanks in no small part to every moment Taylor Townsend was on screen.

Another show that got better in its latest season was Ricky Gervais' Extras. It had better guest stars, notably Sir Ian McKellen with his acting acumen and Daniel Radcliffe calling for his mom, but special mention goes to Stephen Merchant as Talent Agent Darren Lamb and all of his romantic exploits. If there's a better wingman than Barry from Eastenders I haven't seen him.

Prison Mike.

I really got into Lost and Deadwood this year, but more special than any particular moment was immersing myself in them with the DVD's - these are two series that really benefit from back-to-back-to-back-ad-infinitum viewing. Also, from Lost, I now want this set of Dharma Initiative Notebooks, and from Deadwood, I want Al Swearengen's tolerance for whisky.


The sublime nerdiness of Superman Returns and Scoop's character's alter egos - Clark Kent and Sondra Pransky (both ace reporters) - was pitch perfect.

I laughed out loud when Jason Scwhartzman giggled during the most awkward marriage consummation ever in the underrated/overhated Marie Antoinette.

The Proposition was one of my favorite films of the year, but what impressed me the most was when I showed up to a screening expecting a handful of people interested in some indie cinema - and instead met a crowded theatre. This is yet another reason why I like Vancouver. You'd never see that turnout in Calgary (notwithstanding the fact it was an ultraviolent Western).


Speaking of ultraviolent Western's of the "neo-" variety, No Country For Old Men was my fave read of the year. I particularly liked the Cormac McCarthy reading bender that it inspired, finishing 6 of his books.

A close second was Scott Smith's The Ruins. It's hard to separate a best moment, namely because Smith purposefully avoids any chapter breaks - part of the reason why it's one of the freakiest books out there and the best reason to not go camping in Mexico.

Douglas Coupland published JPod this year, a hilarious book on videogames and Vancouver specifically. A lot of people find him uncool (especially here in town, which upsets me, because I'd expect that kind of local backlash from Torontonians), but damned if his grasp on how the internet really affects us isn't the most accurate yet.


Ryan Adams didn't release anything this year, so the music list is notably shorter. That said, I really got into Hot Chip this year. In particular, I liked the song "The Girl in Me," for how it typifies the band's 80's sound. The first thirty seconds sound like the score to Blade Runner, and then the rest sounds like a 1980's-era Rolling Stones slow jam.

Beck gave us the best reason to still buy physical albums - stickers! Oh and the CD is pretty damn awesome as well.

I almost forgot Neko Case. This singer and her latest album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, absolutely dominated my iTunes play count this year. In these days of the internet and impulse downloads, any musical discovery has a good chance of hitting the trash after a few spins. I'm positive Neko will be around well into the days when 20 gigabyte iPods are pennies a glass.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Live free or blog hard

The new Die Hard trailer is out. Frankly I was fine with the first three, as the third seemed to buck the trend of the last being worst. Perhaps this movie has only become possible in light of the critical reception of 24, which seems to suggest that audiences aren't bothered by the minute probability that one man can be hounded by terrorists so many damn times.

If the movie seems to do stuff wrong, like casting Mac as John McClane's sidekick, it most certainly does things right. Just as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade gave us a Tank vs. Horse, Live Free or Die Hard gives us Car vs. Helicopter.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hint: he doesn't drive a deductimobile

Some reflections on this penultimate law school semester: (see Parts I, II, III, IV.)

1. How I ever managed to study for more than two written finals I do not know.
2. Being on the cover of a magazine displayed prominently at your school will garner you little recognition; playing the spoons - much more so.
3. When you are studying/writing an essay at your local Starbucks, be considerate: a grande Americano buys you an hour and a half of precious seating time, a pain du chocolat gets you another half hour, but those free samples of Pumpkin Spice latte count for nada.
4. Though her name now escapes me, whoever it was I met at a party this last summer that recommended I take Appellate Advocacy, I owe you a drink.
5. It took me five semesters to bring my own notes into an exam with the intention of actually using them - and it paid off handsomely. (If item #5 goes missing off this list after I get my Conflicts mark, you'll know why.)
6. I was hoping I'd get to write something about hosting a radio show this semester, unfortunately, that'll have to wait until one more list.
7. It may sound like a downside to have a law school of nearly 600 students, but the upside is with each new class you're continually meeting new people who've occupied the same space with you over two years.
8. Having a job lined up for 13 months in the future is not a bad way of dealing with stress. Might've been nice to have this in undergrad.
9. I look forward to next term's Tax class, not because I'm in it - in fact, I've taken it - but because the fact patterns I wrote this summer as practice examples for the class will finally be put to use. Everyone, do Bruce Wayne's taxes.
10. With only one term to go, I still have yet to meet someone at school who wrote the LSAT twice like I did. You must be out there. Please.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"You save: $5,3624.34 (40%)"

I think I've been modest with the few Christmas gift wishes I have this year. I've given up any idea of nabbing a Playstation 3 any time soon (my legal career can thank me for this). I do like books, however, because I rarely, if ever, regret amassing them like CD's.

Then I saw a certain holiday offer from in my inbox. (I get email offers like these after the American Amazon store came in handy for me when I needed help tracking down my uber-expensive-in-Canada Criterion Rushmore and The Third Man DVD's.)

For the megalomanical, completist booklover: The Penguin Classics Complete Library Collection. It's hard to believe that anyone would pay $8,000 for over 1,000 books, most of which are probably very dull.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish reading for my final year of law school.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

24 down, 6 to go

This time of year I always like to chart my progress through exams with an apt filmic comparison. Typically I have four or five to write, and about midway it's common to feel bleak about the prospects. But I find if you make tenuous connections between your life and Hollywood screenplays, you can at least hope that yours will turn out as happily as theirs.

Two years ago I used Lord of the Rings, in April '05 the Die Hard Trilogy, then plotted last December's finals using the many moods of Jack Bauer, and last April I resorted to the Man with No Name Trilogy.

I had a mind to use the best miniseries ever, Band of Brothers, as a guide this time around, because I recalled the funny scene where Ron Livingston (best actor ever?) is awoken with what his corporal thinks is lemonade, but turns out to be something else. I thought the moment might dovetail nicely with the unpleasant experience that was the Securities exam. However, I'm reminded that perhaps these exams really aren't as bad as war, so maybe a better comparison is in order.

So really I'm left with that old chestnut, Harry Potter. They're four films into the series, I'm four exams into it. If the underwhelming source material is any indication, the upcoming Order of the Phoenix stands to be the worst film of the series, and my Conflicts exam might just be the same.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

No cramming with cadavers

Exam season starts tomorrow, so it's time to wish good luck to all those law students suffering through the holiday season. Just remember, if we had chosen to become doctors, this whole process would be a lot messier.

I'm pretty lucky this year in that three of my classes are paper or factum-based, and (insert chagrin here) I've completed those. I just printed off my Land Use/Earthquake paper yesterday with the title "Drawing the Fault Line," continuing my grand tradition of 10 years of pun-based essay titles.

You may say it betrays the sincere tone of William Blake's famous poem on child-labour misery, "The Chimney Sweeper," to call an essay "A Bitter Sweep Story." I think denizens of the industrial revolution could have stood to lighten up.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sadly I did not spy goldfish

Going home for the holidays is great, but I find passing time in the pre-Santa days are harder. After the 25th you have gifts to divert your attention. It's the reason I posed the great Playstation NHL challenge to my brothers last year - that kind of thing takes time and effort.

I had an idea about a diversion for this year when I read about a board game Carcassone. I played Risk for the first time this summer and enjoyed it, I knew how heated things get on the rare occasions my family sits down for some Monopoly, and I like all things French, so this new game seemed full of promise.

In fact, the first time I heard about Carcassonne was when my roommate from England and I were planning a European trip for April 2003. While in the end we managed to cover 18 Spanish cities in 22 days, the original itinerary included a stop in a French village called Carcassonne, renowned for its incredible castle.

The roommate liked castles because he was a history buff; I liked them because I had always been partial to the medieval-themed Far Side cartoons (Western-themed Larson panels being my favourite). (It's also worth noting in parentheses that I had a kickass blog for the four months I spent in England, only to have it ingloriously deleted by my brother.)

So it's nice to know that while I may not soon get the chance to visit the actual Carcassonne castle, (the above picture is in Segovia, Spain) there'll be plenty of chances to play it over the holidays. No doubt my brother will leave a comment describing just how excited he is at the opportunity.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Vaya con dios, valuation of securities

Classes are over and I celebrated by throwing out notes - not the most recent ones, but stacks of previous year's cases taking up precious storage space. Take a hike, Torts. Show's over, Secured Transactions.

While going through those notes, I came across the very first assignment I had in law school. It was a group assignment for a Law & Literature class, possibly two very good reasons why I despise group work and arbitrary groupings of diverse disciplines.

Anyway, we got 68%, an inauspicious start to any brilliant legal career, but what's more annoying is a specific written comment accounting for the low mark. After we wrote that asking people to disclose any 'cognitive enhancements' (don't ask) before entering into a contract was unreasonable, we got this comment - one that, if corrected, would have resulted in a higher mark, but also the solution to 99% of common law judicial headaches:

"You need to define 'reasonable.'"

It's a shame we ran out of space, because we were just about to outline our infallible theory of prison reform.