Welcome to Blawg Review #205, the Music of the Spheres edition.
The English composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was hugely prolific, but he is unquestionably best known for his orchestral suite, The Planets. Composed between 1914 and 1916, the work was popular from the start, much to the chagrin of Holst, who thought that it unfairly overshadowed other, more worthy compositions. Beginning in the 1960's, and particularly in the wake of the Space Age, the Apollo program to reach the moon, and the ultimate artistic affirmation of Space that is Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey, Holst's Planets reached a new level of prominence among the popular classics, and it has never really gone away since. (Playing soon at a summer amphitheatrical symphonic program near you, I would almost guarantee, if I were a fellow inclined to give guarantees.)
The Planets is structured in seven movements, each themed to a mystical/astrological attribute attached by Holst to that movement's regnant planet. The Earth is omitted as is poor old Pluto, which had yet to be either discovered in or demoted from its place in the Solar System. For reasons of his own, Holst ordered the movements to move first toward the Sun -- beginning with Mars and proceeding to Venus and onward in to Mercury -- and then out and away to the edges of the System -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in their proper astral order.
Blawg Review #205 is structured in seven movements, themed and ordered to parallel Holst's. As above, so below. Each segment is accompanied by a MIDI version of the relevant movement, courtesy of the Planets page at aquarianage.org. Proper orchestral recordings of the suite are numberless as the stars, and any one of them will give a more fully satisfying experience of the work.
Now, set the controls for the heart of the Sun and beyond as we boldly go where no Blawg Review has gone before: in to the strange new worlds of this past week's finest legal weblog posts. Whooosh!
The planet Mars and the Roman god for which it is named have always been associated with war and, as the Great War launched in Europe, Holst opened The Planets with orchestral music's most readily recognized and frequently imitated depiction of heartless, mechanized conflict. If you know one part of The Planets, this is likely the one. And what the makers of Hollywood preview trailers would do without "Mars" is terrible to contemplate.
Law is war by other means, right? Battlefield metaphors have been the stock in trade of litigators for as long as there have been battlefields, metaphors, or litigators. As an example, Walter Olson on PointofLaw.com noted this headline: "High Profile Plaintiffs Attorneys Start to Beat War Drums Over AIG Bonuses".
Even settlement negotiations can partake of the regalia of war, as when Victoria Pynchon of the Settle It Now Negotiation Blog considers the pros and cons of Pursuing a Divide and Conquer Negotiation Strategy.
Venus, the goddess, is more often associated with Love than with Peace, but Holst opts to set her namesake planet as a more direct counterbalance to the warrior rhythms of Mars (or, if you prefer, to the martial rhythms of war). Serene, stately, and peaceful it is.
In the world, good relations between the nations is a mark of Peace, and on those lines What About Clients? this week extended to palm of friendship south to Latin America, hosting a two-part discussion by guest-blogger Fernando Rivadeneyra, a partner in the Puebla, Mexico, firm of Rivadeneyra, Treviño & de Campo: "Reinventing" the Latin American Law Firm -- Part I and "Reinventing" the Latin American Law Firm -- Part II.
In the courtroom, jurors serve as peacemakers of sorts, given that their factual findings actually decide and resolve the issues before them. Why then, wonders Daniel Solove, do we treat jurors as second class citizens? Gideon, of the a public defender blog ponders jury selection and reduces it all to a single question: "Who Is This Guy?"
Speaking of jurors: should we be at all surprised that Anne Reed's Deliberations has been determined to be the best legal blog in Wisconsin? I am at peace with that notion.
Judges deserve credit as peacemakers as well. Last week's Blawg Review #204 host, Above the Law, provides an unusual instance, in which the judge leaves the bench to defend a witness attacked by the defendant. They have the video of this highly Alternative method of dispute resolution.
With the wind at his back and wings on his heels, Mercury is messenger of the gods, picking up a little extra change on the side as a corporate spokesmodel. The smallest and fastest moving of the planets, Mercury is represented musically as a spirit of increasingly speedy communication. While Holst painted this musical portrait of Mercury at the start of the last century, it is just as fitting a theme for the hoppity-poppity-nonstoppity iFaceBerry TwitterKindling world of today.
Communications technology is essential to contemporary lawyering, but also a subject on which contemporary lawyers can easily find cause to overthink. Take, for example, the "gripping issue of notice-provision terminology" noted at AdamsDrafting: should you refer to it as a "fax" or "facsimile" or "telecopier"?
Blogging is itself a mode of communication, even if directed to an audience of one. On his Compliance Building blog, Doug Cornelius observes: "I use my blogs to put my thoughts and ideas into a searchable place. I am happy that anyone takes the time to read any of them, but I think I am the biggest consumer of my blog material."
America is waiting for a message of one kind or another, and that message often takes the form of political speech. SCOTUSBLOG provided a thorough rundown of the issues and argument surrounding Hillary: The Movie. California Defamation Law Blog, meanwhile, offered handy procedural tips when suing because the defendant called you a Communist. And Downtown Lawyer Jodie Hill reports that the 8th Circuit has found that specialty personalized license plates are private speech protected against viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment.
Ireland is having its own wrangles with political speech, after an unidentified sly boots of an artist not only painted satirical, near-naked portraits of the Irish Taoiseach (that's Prime Minister to we backwards English-speakers) Brian Cowen, but managed somehow to smuggle them on to the walls of upstanding cultural bastions the like of the National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Hibernian Academy. The political authorities have been decidedly heavy handed in their efforts to track down the painterly perpetrator, to the extent of exacting an apology from the national television network for having covered the story at all and dispatching the constabulary to a Dublin radio station to demand information on the cartooning culprit's identity and whereabouts. Naturally, the entire situation has been christened "Cowengate." All of which is by way of prelude to a recommendation of the thorough review of the state of play and the legal questions presented offered by Eion O'Dell at cearta.ie: Cowengate and Freedom of Expression.
And what of old fashioned face to face conversation? Kevin O'Keefe strongly recommends it: Visiting one client at a time is a moving experience.
Jovial Jupiter is as much about awe and nobility as about jollity. After Mars, Jupiter's is the best known segment of The Planets, its central theme trotted out for hymns and processionals and other occasions of serious seriousness. For our purposes, though, the stuffy bits can be ignored as we seek out law-related posts with an element of the Pleasures of This World.
Where might pleasure lie? In the sparkling translucency of a fine Pinot Noir, perhaps, or the burly bruised purple of a fruit-bomb Shiraz? Robert Parker, whose judgments on matters wine-related can single-handedly change the course of rivers (of wine) and determine fate of nations (of wine drinkers) was once, wouldn't you know it, a lawyer. Bitter Lawyer has an interview with the man himself, including the answer to the question "What should law students buy if they've got $12 to spend?" See: Robert Parker, Vintage Lawyer.
Of course, to take pleasure in a scintillant glass or frosty beverage one must first be able to purchase it, something not so easily done in many jurisdictions. Here is a most informative (and amusing) video on the byzantine bizarreries of the alcoholic beverage laws of one state, Virginia, via Radley Balko's blog, The Agitator:
Jollity: you laugh until you cry.
Music, the thematic backbone of this week's Blawg Review, may also give pleasure, being as it is reputed to be the food of love and soother of savagery. Whatever pleasures we listeners may be deriving, the prospects for the business of making money by getting people to pay for music is not particularly jolly. These are men of constant sorrow. The recently-launched Lawyer 4 Musicians blog focuses on the legal end of the business of music and this week turned to the major labels' latest attempt to rethink their revenue models: You Spin Me Right Round: Like a 360 Record Deal. [There's appropriate video accompaniment, likely to convince you that the current 80's nostalgia boom will never last, or shouldn't.]
Why Holst linked Saturn with old age is something of a mystery, as it is not a traditional association. The Planets' fifth movement depicts advancing age as a long, resigned but not depressive trudge to the destiny that awaits us all, which leads as well to the question: what sort of legal blog posts will fit nicely into this section?
Well . . . Nothing says "old age" like a birthday, as we were reminded over the weekend by the mysterious Editor of Blawg Review. Ed. apparently got Barenaked for the occasion. That he hints at this rather than sharing it more directly is an exercise of discretion for which we can all be grateful.
The elderly, and particularly the retirement savings of the elderly, were a particular target of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff -- no spring chicken himself. On that note, let's spend a few moments contemplating corruption, which may or may not be connected to the advancing age of the allegedly Corrupt.
Madoff himself seems to have squandered the savings of . . . an equally dubious individual: Walter Olson of Overlawyered discovered that Eric Turkewitz reported that Madoff's victims include one Morris Eisen, a one-time notorious New York personal injury attorney whose work habits included the repeated and elaborate fabrication of evidence. Prior to taking his losses with Madoff, Eisen was disbarred and served a number of years in prison. He can offer Madoff tips on getting along behind bars, perhaps, if he is in the mood to share.
The world of Art is now alleged to have its own Madoff equivalent, in the person of formerly high flying gallery owner Lawrence Salander, now the target of some 100 counts of grand larceny, falsifying business records, scheming to defraud, and on and on. Donn Zaretsky's Art Law Blog is all over this story.
Giving generously to charity is a frequent privilege of the old and well off, and both givers and getters of charity are nervously eying the President's proposals to limit charitable tax deductions. Donn Zaretsky, again, is tracking the issue as it may affect donations of art: President Obama Stands By Proposed Charitable-Deduction Limits.
It is a canard whose age is measured in centuries: old men in power, aging judges for instance, are inherently suspect. As with most canards and over-generalizations, it is a statement that is overall untrue, but for which there are sufficient examples that its broader untruth is lost in the hurly-burly of vivid exceptions. As, for instance, when Austin criminal defense lawyer Jamie Spencer catches out some [aging? we'll assume it arguendo] judges whose decisions, it seems, Can Be Bought: Guilty Judges Say Thanks But No Thanks to Guidelines.
Some lawsuits live to a ripe or overripe old age as well. Dickens' Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Bleak House is the fictional example traditionally cited. Real life produces such antiquities as well, two of which from the Courts of California drew attention this week. Scott Godes' Corporate Insurance Blog (which I needs must add to the sidebar here at Decs&Excs) notes an excellent article by his colleague Steve Goldberg on the Stringfellow Acid Pits litigation, in which the coverage disputes threaten to outlast even the interminable cleanup of the site. And the California Civil Justice Blog updates the continuing saga of the so-called Kwikset litigation under California's infamously broad Unfair Competition Law, concluding there's Nothing Kwik About Kwikset.
Holst's Uranus enters the scene with a flash and a bang, then struts and frets through a series of rapid fire tricks and turns. As with Saturn and old age, the connection between Uranus and Magic meant something to Holst, but is less than clear to the rest of us. In any case, ol' Uranus puts on a whallopin' show before departing in as unsettling a fashion as he came.
The obvious place to turn for posts to include in this segment is the Law and Magic Blog, a blog that is all about . . . ? Anyone? Yes, you there in the back: "Could it be . . . Law and magic"? Yes. Yes, that's exactly right. Give yourself a cookie. And among the legally magical news on the Law and Magic Blog this week, readers could learn that a down economy is a good market for psychics and that the operative standard of care when at the controls of a plummeting jet is: "Don't Pray, Pilot the Plane."
Not magical, perhaps, but also up in a down economy: commercial mediation, according to Geoff Sharp of mediator blah. . . blah . . . .
What if by some miracle you could take a large personal injury liability, say for the death of a hundred innocents in a nightclub fire, and transform it [presto! change-o!] in to something more palatable, such as an expense covered by federal stimulus money. Watch in amazement as Carter Wood of PointofLaw.com reveals the trick, as performed by the State of Rhode Island.
Holst's "Neptune" is an amorphous wash of elegant sound, emulating the distant and unknowable qualities of that far off planet as the suite drifts ethereally to its conclusion. It is often said that Holst here invented the "fade out" as a method of concluding a piece. This movement calls for an offstage female chorus, which continues to sing wordlessly and more and more quietly after the instruments of the orchestra have dropped out, until the sound disappears altogether. Holst's instructions actually call for the chorus to be in another room, and for the door from the concert hall to that room to be closed to cap the long diminuendo to the silence of empty space. (The MIDI version above really does not do the effect justice; you should by all means track down the real thing to hear how well the trick works.)
In the realm of the mysterious, I can point to my own stock in trade: the construction and interpretation of the English language as used, sometimes oddly, in contracts of insurance. Stephen D. Rosenberg of the Boston ERISA and Insurance Law Blog has been thinking long and hard on this topic recently and this week offered his latest thoughts on Deconstructing the Language of Insurance Policies. Additional hope for the perplexed in this field comes from the news that Martin Grace and company at the RiskProf blog will be making their wished for return this week. (There has been a good deal of attrition and suspension in the insurance blogging ranks this past year, Decs&Excs included, so the recent return of David Rossmiller and the promised return of RiskProf are welcome developments.)
Looking for a topic more mysterious than insurance? How about federal preemption doctrine in drug and device product liability litigation? The mind boggles. Fortunately, new insights were provided this week by Jim Beck and Mark Herrmann at the Drug and Device Law blog, reviewing a recent address on the subject by former Yale Law dean, now Judge, Guido Calabresi: Calabresi on Preemption.
Intellectual property is not the sole property of intellectuals, but it can easily sow confusion among those who are not among its adepts. Jeff Pietsch of The IP Law Blog assists the confused in his continuing series of trademark basics, this week explaining the concept of trademark dilution. Like a good scotch, a good trademark should not be excessively diluted.
A final conundrum before we part: Why do large and seemingly successful law firms suddenly go *poof*? John Wallbillich of wiredGC takes on a recent example of the phenomenon when he considers Proximate Cause and Law Firm Dissolution.
Now, as Blawg Review #205 fades into distance and silence and the infinite mystery of space . . ., Decs&Excs thanks you for reading and leaves you with this final observation, which is an eternal verity and no mystery at all:
- Blawg Review has information about next week's host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.
"Mars" by Flickr user andy z;
"The morning star rises" by Flickr user jpstanley;
"Mercury Transit 2006," showing the planet Mercury crossing the face of the Sun, by Flickr user Ethan Allen;
"jupiter_2008-06-18_008" by Flickr user alsand;
"The ringed planet" [Saturn, obviously] by Flickr user jpstanley;
"Uranus," NASA/JPL photo from Voyager 2 probe, Jan 25, 1986, posted by Flickr user topquark22; and
"Neptune" by Flickr user ringsofsaturnrock.
All photos used under Creative Commons license.