Saturday, March 31, 2007

Poet Lawreate

Scandal of scandals, the law school rag, The Legal Eye, is not running the annual Joel Bakan Constitutional Poetry contest this year. For the uninitiated, the contest was created out a UBC law prof's observation that there is no good constitutional poetry anymore (go figure).

Myself being a fan of salacious double entendres and questionable uses of my time, I entered the last two years. I'll post those two entries, along with the third and concluding sonnet here. Feel free to count it out too, that's iambic pentameter for all you Petrarchan sonnet buffs out there:

Bawdy Politic:
A Constitutional Romance in Three Sonnets
From John A. to Connie

Whereas, this humble man enacts desire,
To corporeally unite and sire,
One dominion with thee. This preamble
Is but a missive, a lonely gamble
From one whose heart has oft been rescinded.
Yet with thine love it may be amended,
For a division of powers cannot
Befall an obsession so justly wrought.
Repeal thy dress, and lay with me, entrenched
In passion substantive and lust unquenched.
Against thy body politic, enshrine
We might, this challenged section sixty-nine.
Interpret without ambiguity
Love codified, in perpetuity.

The Constitutional Cuckold

What you call concern, ‘tis emergency,
For matters of love are ancillary
To naught. Whither once was paramountcy
Now you deign not, gaze yonder, to mount me!
Whose pith and substance hath int’rested thee,
Made me incidental, torn symmetry
Asunder? Why forsake my dominion,
Central for so long, for province of sin?
But hark! Ye o’erlook a double aspect,
Mine own trade and commerce with fairer sex.
Long hath I played Zellerbach to pristine
Waters of yours. Now I turn to doctrine.
I’m held immune by Ninety-One’s success,
While thee made whore of multiple access.

A Trial Separation of Powers

Is love spent? Doth my East alienate
Your West? A decision to separate
Cannot have majority from two, lest
Dissent descend to where I lay - madness.
Recall, I was your body’s First Nation,
Kind, sui generis confed’ration,
Ere our pairing ‘twas discriminated,
Struck down, failed Oakes, unenumerated.
So, this “loving tree” shall be felled. Marry
Again I shan’t. Instead, unitary
Governance I’ll seek, unless you’ll regard,
One last entreaty from this heart’s Hansard.
Would ye consider menagerie as
Tri-partite system? Too ultra vires?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

4 weeks later...

We're just under one month till I hand in my final final exam, and you know what that means for this site.* I'd be lying if I didn't say it's actually a bittersweet time, but there'll be plenty of time to reminisce over the next month. After all, I have to procrastinate from studying somehow. In the meantime, there are some positive developments happening outside of law school worth mentioning:

Oprah has finally selected a book I can get - and have gotten - behind. Cormac McCarthy, one of my favourite writers, is also famously reclusive, so it'll be nice to see him appear on television and, let's pray, jump on the couch.

A new show, "The Tudors," is premiering on television this week. I don't know much about it save that it features Henry VIII and it's modelled after the very R-rated "Deadwood," a fave of mine. Only time will tell if "codpiece-sucker" will be revived as the go-to swear word, much like the word Al Swearengen of "Deadwood" made popular again.

Zombies! Up until the trailer for this panic-inducing, carpet-bombing zombie spectacular appeared, 28 Weeks Later simply referred to the point at which I have to get back in school mode and attend PLTC courses in the fall. Now I just don't know which is scarier.

*That should have read, "you know what that means for this site."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


International Trade Law is one of my favourite courses this term, I suppose because I appreciate the economics angle of it, and I've always thought importer/exporter to be the best-sounding non-descript job title. It's also a great class for exchanges like these:

Professor: So, imagine that the International Trade Commission has just upheld an anti-dumping duty levied on your client's exports from Canada. He comes to your office to find out what he can do. Now what do you tell your client?

Class: (silence)

Professor: C'mon, you're getting paid $400 an hour. You can't just sit there.

Class: (just sits there)

Professor: It's now down to $300 an hour.

There was a lot more silence before our prof gave us the simple answer (appeal!), so I can only assume the class was waiting out the hour to make $600.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Victory via Victorians

I've said it before and I'll say it again: when faced with a choice in law school between exam and a paper, always take the paper. That said, I hate writing papers. No matter how many times I latch on to inspiration and wrestle a conclusion out of a paper, the same creative struggle resumes with each new assignment. (The obvious upside, of course, is that this struggle doesn't have to play out in only three hours.)

If there's one trick I might suggest, it's a change of perspective. This can be taken literally - I often find leaving my apartment and relocating to the local Starbucks makes for a healthier more conducive environment. (Note, under no circumstances would I recommend the Curtis Building's library.) But more importantly, it's necessary to understand the overall perspective: you're writing a 25 page paper which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that much. For instance, this site has 322 posts, averaging 250 words per, and double-spaced essay page has roughly 350 words... so essentially I've written a 230-page essay with no discernible thesis and scattershot citation.

Of course, like any writer, I ignore my own advice quite frequently. This Entertainment Law paper (about my struggles as a screenwriter) has proved no easier after a Grande dark, a Long Americano, and, to shake things up and because I like it - an Orangina.

No easier, that is, until I got a new book: Ben Wilson's The Making of Victorian Values. (It's the book with the boring-sounding title but hilarious cover that currently occupies the equal opportunity music/book java-powered showcase in this blog's sidebar.) The fact that I love the subject matter isn't the point here (though, as an aside, I find Victorians, as an historical segment of society, endlessly amusing and my favourite Shins lyric has always been "Just a glimpse of an ankle and I / react like it's 1805.")

The point is that Ben Wilson, with his immense vocabulary and amazing essay skills - is only 25. He's my age, and he's written an essay twice the length of this entire thing with a far more reliable system of citation. So, I read the prologue of this book last night and I instantly went back to my essay. Not surprisingly, I found it much easier to write: my advice, read what you like, then write what you want.

Man, I really should have been charging for this advice over the last three years.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I lack the Dharma Initiative

I'm trying to finish this Entertainment Law essay (yes, the one I swore would be done one month ago) so I'll post these pictures in lieu of writing more. I hadn't taken a drive through the decimated Stanley Park since the storm in December, and with a break in the endless rain last night, it seemed like a good time. My favourite trees on the east side of the island are thankfully intact, but I can't say the same for the west - this view didn't use to exist.

Then there's this Lost-inspired purple sky.

Somewhere, a hatch just imploded.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Conceptual Laws

I read an article about how the new Modest Mouse album (which I really like) began as a concept album about sailors dying in every song. I know the new Joel Plaskett Emergency album, Ashtray Rock, is also a concept album about the tribulations of two teenagers in Halifax, but more importantly, Joel previously made a great concept album about doctors on In Need of Medical Attention.

It made me wonder if anyone's attempted "the great lawyer concept album." I assume that San Fran band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, attempted an expansive Property Law concept album with the song "Lien on Your Dreams" from Baby 81 - but gave up shortly thereafter.

Awesome song aside, I suppose you can only make so many tortured songs about mortgages. (And so many rhymes).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Playstation in the Second Degree

It's one of the more surprising aspects of law school that I've been able to keep up with reading whilst devoting a fair amount of time to video games. And one of the things I like best about this site is that it gives me the excuse to view everything through rose-coloured legal-shaded glasses.

On that note, here's a list of the games I've been playing throughout law school, and an appraisal into the legality of what I get up to in each:

God of War II:
Goal? As Kratos, violently dethrone the various Gods of Olympus and install yourself as the first mortal God of War.
Legal? Although the ancient Greek civilization might be credited with founding the system of jurisprudence we hold so dear today, I can't imagine those wise jurists would condone my use of spinning decapitations with the Blades of Chaos. (Part of a "Vindictive Combo!")

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater:
Goal? Covertly land in the jungles of Southern Russia and deactivate a newly designed, long range nuclear weapon.
Legal? This one's a gray area: you play as an operative for the U.S. government and therefore all action - such as exploding enemy kneecaps - should be implicitly legal. But then what to make of the Russian government's sanctioned use of loads and loads of eye-gouging torture?

Red Dead Revolver:
Goal? Remove corrupt town officials and win the local deadly showdown contest.
Legal? Surprisingly, yes. The lawlessness of the Old West took little umbrage with the vigilante brand of justice necessary to persevere in the game. Shotgun to the face? A fair and reasonable reaction to provocation.

NHL 2K6:
Goal? Lead your team to the playoffs and hopefully the Stanley Cup, but most of all, have fun.
Legal? You'd think so, but the kind of hits I lay down in this game fall into the Holt v. Verbruggen definition of "assault and battery not reasonably contemplated by voluntary participation in professional sports."

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas:
Purpose? Avenge your dear mother's death and become kingpin of the imaginary state of San Andreas.
Legal? Awww, hell no.

Know Your A B PLTCs

It's a remarkably sunny day here in Vancouver, which is not to say it's warm - there's this Mistral-like wind blowing about that's put the chill, maybe fittingly, on this last day of winter. And coming spring means summer is soon after and, for graduating law students - the real world.

A lot of people ask me if the lawyer transformation is complete upon graduation, or if we really lost our soul those three years ago. (We only draft Faust's contract, not sign it.) The answer is no, that before the bar call, there is a year of articling, the key portion of which is (at least in this province) a ten-week stint of tender loving PLTC.

This is the Professional Legal Training Course, for which I attended an info session last week. It appears that after a summer of glorious frictional unemployment and an Italian trip during which I'll celebrate finally being done school - there's more school.

PLTC involves taking comprehensive courses at a building downtown in eight areas of the law, four of which I had (either successfully or not) avoided up until now: Creditor's Remedies, Family, Real Estate and Estates (also just as real). We're also responsible for four assignments: Advocacy (my client has a bloody knife, how do I tell him I won't hide it for him) Writing (Dear client, stop waving that thing about, it's not making you look any more innocent) Interviewing and Drafting. The last week culminates in two three-hour exams and them blam, we are professionally, legally, trained.

So to sum: in five weeks, I'll be 16 weeks away from being 10 weeks away from only being 9 months away from being a lawyer.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Battle of Thermopylaw

I consider it a funny coincidence that last night I saw 300 and today witnessed the annual law school trike race. I think I might be forgiven for confusing the two.

As history tells it, the Spartans wedged themselves into a tight rocky passage called the "Hot Gates" in order to use their small numbers as an advantage.

We used a 50 metre stretch of the East Mall outside the law building, but the opportunity for slaughter by waterballoon was still there.

Of course, only one of the events had political undertones and male nudity, two things which, absent, make for better law school events all around.

The natural question is, which warrior do you want as your counsel in court? I might have to give the edge to the Spartans here. Objection! Your! Honour!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Revue Reviewed

Last night I finally got to sit in the audience for a Law Revue. The show had one real disadvantage over last year's in that the theatre wasn't licensed for drinking - but thankfully, the resourcefulness of an audience that can order and down pitchers at a nearby bar during a 15 minute intermission and a terrific cast managed to overcome that issue.

Speaking as one who knows just how much goes into such a production, I think it was fantastic. My personal favourite skit of the night was "Charlie v. The Chocolate Factory," a hilarious trial of occupier's liability. Particularly the testimony of Augustus Gloop:

I looked for a sign, caution, achtung! But zere vas nozzing!

(Yes the photo is horrible quality, but I was laughing pretty hard when I took it.)

The video I shot for the show with friends Thom and Jeremy - my one contribution - was also extremely well received - a bonus. It's amazing what this Mac's editing software can do, even if my Alfonso Cuaron/Children of Men-inspired tracking shot didn't quite have the emotional impact of that masterpiece. I'll see if I can get it uploaded here.

Fraidy Cat

What's this? Admin ends early? Normally this class rushes headlong to 9pm like some Law & Order episode bound for continuation, but somehow tonight I find with more time to prepare for Lost at 10.

Today's class was all about one case, Pushpanathan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration). Because the case is the Rosetta Stone of judicial review in administrative law, the word Pushpanathan was mentioned a lot. Of course, every time I heard it, it just sounded like two words pushed together, Panther Anathema.

I mention this because I keep a mental list of cool band names I'd use were I ever in one. Therefore, I'll be adding Panther Anathema to: Conquistador, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (or simply "The Murders" to die-hard fans), and Jean Valjean to name a few. (I'm sure friend and reader W will remind me of more I've mentioned in the past.) And hey, let's add Rosetta Stone to the list too.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Ghoulish Gelato

As anyone who reads this site a lot knows, (anyone?) I like to read, and not just those stacks and stacks of engrossing statutes. This last semester, however, hasn't seen me read much. It's been so lacklustre that I've actually returned to try and finish the book I was reading when I started law school - Dickens' Bleak House. Damn you 900 page tomes!

Luckily, there are new and excellent (and non-law-related) books on the horizon:

Michael Chabon - The Yiddish Policemen's Union
I've been waiting for this ever since I first put down The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (and every time I've put it down since). Chabon is one of the very few authors I'd read word unread, (is this the literate equivalent of sight unseen?) but in this case what I know about the novel has my interest piqued. It comes out May, too late to make exam studying more bearable, but whaddya know, advance leaks aren't just restricted to the musical world...

Elmore Leonard - The Complete Western Stories
I once went through a phase where I read every Elmore Leonard novel I could get my hands on. City Primeval is still my favourite of the idiosyncratic criminal fare, but I also loved his Western stuff. In particular, "Forty Lashes Less One" - a story about two prisoners taught the art of distance running to raise their spirits, which of course inadvertently makes chasing them after a prison break that much harder. Anyway, this collection has stories like that, times thirty, plus one.

Alex Kapranos - Sound Bites
This one isn't new, nor is it really a novel. But I've come to several conclusions: (1) I'm renting an Italian villa this summer, so I'd like to be able to prepare some great meals there. (2) Typical cookbooks are normally a wasted effort on me. (3) I like Franz Ferdinand and their lead singer wrote a book about experiencing meals around the world, meals that could perhaps provide the necessary inspiration. You could have it so much better, indeed.

JK Rowling - Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows
You knew this would be on the list. Will it make it less childish if I try and read the Italian version? No? Ha valso uno sforzo.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Graduation Adulation

Graduation is now one less booze-fuelled event away. On Friday night, nearly 200 third years attended the grad dinner and dance, a figure that suggests the attrition rate was not as high as murmured by some back in first year law.

I'm certain our law school's resident papparazza will have all the best pictures, so once they're up I'll link to them. What the pictures won't convey are some of the other non-alcohol related highlights: hilarious and ill-timed slideshow photos during some of the more serious speeches, a particularly incendiary valedictory address, and almost no one using the dance floor - maybe the dangers of tortious action are perceived to be just too high now?

The event was at the Four Seasons hotel downtown and was really nicely set up - although I did get a huge Shining vibe from the excess of chandeliers, wood-panelled walls and emerald mirrors. (The latter would also explain the strong Return to Oz vibe.) The grad committee did a great job, overpriced drinks and scratching-challenged DJ notwithstanding.

Update: head over to Kasia's cache to see all the best grad photos.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lawyers always go for the green

A prof of mine referred to this stage of the law term as the "back nine." I'm a golfer myself, so I can appreciate the comparison. But at the time, all I could think of was my time as a junior golfer - unwittingly placed into competition with other obnoxious juniors who all fancied themselves Tiger Woods, and me doing everything short of using my club as a lightning rod so that we would have to abandon the course in a thunderstorm. Competition made as much sense to me then as it does now in law school.

Of course, what the prof failed to mention is that if that the comparison were truly apt, the "back nine" of third year law is really just a series of par 3s culminating in one long par 12. And me prone to sand traps.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Bleak Indeed

Darn. Seems that lawyers do, in fact, have a long history of working late hours, going back to the mid-nineteenth century, (if not even further back). I was holding out hope that these long work days were a passing fad.

From Charles Dickens' Bleak House:

It is night in Lincoln's Inn - perplexed and troublous valley of the shadow of the law, where suitors generally find but little day ... In dirty upper casements, here and there, hazy little patches of candle-light reveal where some wise draughtsman and conveyancer yet toils for the entanglement of real estate in meshes of sheepskin, in the average ratio of about a dozen of sheep to an acre of land. Over which bee-like industry, these benefactors of the species linger yet, though office-hours be past: that they may give, for every day, some good account at last.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Two bloody thumbprints up

The other day I was chatting with a friend about favourite law school courses. I always go back to Evidence, because it represents the things I liked about law school in the first place (the procedure but also the gritty details), and it's also the place where law and order meet - another confluence unofficially explaining why I'm in law.

I think it also explains why I liked this Zodiac movie so much. While watching it last night, I thought it might have just as easily been called, Evidence: The Movie. Full of talk about circumstantial evidence, the inherent problems in photo lineups, the general unreliability of witness statements over time and more of the stuff that made up my 8:30 a.m. on Monday class (a time that almost relegated this course to least favourite).

It's also a pretty amazing-looking film, with some nifty shots of the Bay Area - directorial flourishes guaranteed not to disappoint Fight Club fans. And while I like Evidence a lot, don't get me confused with the guy in this headline:

Jurisprudence fetishist gets off on technicality.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Pow! Krak! Thud! Appeal Denied!

I've had a resurgence of nostalgia for my England days as of late. Four years ago, I was living at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, living a rather carefree existence with a minimum of classes a week. Sort of like last semester of third year law.

That's why I found it such a strange and cool coincidence when I saw the following panel in a Hellboy comic:

This made me that much more a fan of Mike Mignola's woodcut-styled story. Part of the fun of Herstmonceux was walking about the grounds at night looking for evidence of these ghosts. Now while the ghost that HB describes is indeed one of the legends, people I went to the castle with would likely agree that the 9-foot tall headless drummer is the best ghost of all, specifically because he was the only one to leave a legacy of a pub named in his honour.

I almost never read comics unless it's an Alan Moore work or somehow related to one of the best books ever. But I've often thought that some case law might have been better represented in comic form. Certainly some of this snooze-inducing Admin Law could stand to use some action shots.