Begging The Question

Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Spies© : Fifth Friday of the Month Edition
1. What five things should you never buy used?

Ice, sheets, lightbulbs, batteries, and calendars.

2. Sony BMG just ended a payola investigation by settling with New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. So let's engage in some reverse payola: What song or artist would you pay to never have to hear again, and how much would it be worth to you?

Easy. Anything by Bon Jovi, and I would give all that I own.

3. In honor of the new Bad News Bears: Did you ever play little league, or other organized youth sports?

I played little league baseball and basketball for a few years in elementary school and into junior high. I wasn't that great, but I was a good, smart role player. I recall playing shortstop in baseball, and I was kind of a small forward in basketball, I think. Our basketball team went undefeated and won the league championship one year. But my favorite memory was from a different year when we were mediocre. Our team only had eight or nine players, but the league rules stated that everyone had to play at least three minutes a half, or something (I think we had five-minute quarters, maybe). Anyway, usually the way they handled that was to have the "B teams" play the last three minutes of the first half and the first three minutes of the second half. Note how it also gave the "A teams" a long rest. Well, when a team, like ours, didn't have a full "B team," the other team's coach would pick starters to fill out that squad. That way, our team's coach couldn't just have the superstar play the whole game. So my friend Brian and I kind of laid off at the beginning of a game where we only had eight show up. We figured that the other coach wouldn't be too impressed with us and pick us for the "B team." Sure enough, he did. Then, we turned the overdrive on and schooled the other side's "B team." My first episode of sandbagging.

4. What was your biggest fashion faux pas?

I'm sure there are so, so many. The first one that comes to mind is this. I think I was literally dressing in the dark. I have a gray shirt with a black stripe. I like it fine, but I don't wear it very often because I can only really wear it with black pants. Well, one day a year or so ago, I pulled a pair of pants from the closet. I thought they were black, but I didn't realize until I got under the flourescent lights at work that they were actually navy. It looked awful, but I had to act all nonchalant about it. No one mentioned it, but it would have been obvious. My defense was to claim color-blindness, but I never had to.

5. In honor of all our readers who took the Bar Exam this week: What was the hardest test you ever took?

The bar was plenty tough, but that was mostly because it was so long. I (clearly) like talking about the law, even when I can't remember the answer to the stupid state/local government question they threw at us. Another reason the bar was okay for me is that I wasn't so stressed about it. Fitz and I moved me out of my apartment the day before the exam. It was the perfect tonic. It wore us out, so we were able to get a good night's sleep the night before, and it took our minds off it for a while. I highly recommend it. Anyway, since I don't think I would say the bar exam, I think I'll go with my Administrative Law exam. Grown men cried in that one.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Talking About Music About Dancing About Architecture*
A veritable hodgepodge of items.

1. Sherry has a question for men who refuse to dance: "How come?" There are some interesting answers. Obviously, "Because I'm not good at it" is common. There's also some table-turning along the lines of asking why women refuse to take "no" for an answer, which I'm curious about myself. My favorite answer is that "[D]ancing is not just a physical event, but a social one, and some of us have collected much data about how inelegantly we can handle social events."

I don't particularly enjoy dancing, but I don't refuse to do it. I have even been known to ask women to dance at times. I had a good dear friend in law school whom I ended up dancing with at the local bar enough that in a Christmas card to her I thanked her for not laughing at me, given the ample opportunities. (Note: That was good-natured self-deprecating humor, not a woe-is-me pity party.) I'm not very good at it -- I never know what to do with my hands during fast songs -- but I'm willing to go along, lest I be thought a stick in the mud. To be honest, though, I have used a drink as a crutch to avoid dancing before, or found a convenient reason to be suddenly on the other side of the room. I usually suck it up and get my groove on, though.

That just reinforces the commenter's line about dancing being a social event. I wish I knew how to dance better than I do, but that's not because of something magical and mystical about dancing for me. It's so I can be more sociable. But I can't learn to dance all by myself, so it's a Catch-22.

2. Well, I guess I could learn to dance the way our hero Napoleon Dynamite did. But that's not exactly the social model I'm looking for. Fun trivia tidbit about the crazy dance scene at the end of that move: it was the final day of shooting, and they ran out of film. The director had to piece together the Napoleon's dance from the few minutes of footage they had. You would know that if you listened to the DVD commentary track. Here's when this transition makes sense: Mr. Fun Ball has a post up about never bothering to listen to those commentaries. I kind of like them, but only after I've seen the movie at least once.

The hard balance to strike is between discussing things that obviously delight the director, such as technical details of how they made the film, versus insights behind the movie, such as why they made a character a certain way. Most commentaries don't add much, at best, and are downright boring, at worst (kind of like a lot of "special features"). I did like the one on Napoleon Dynamite, because it gave me a lot of neat tidbits. My favorite ever is from the Jerry Seinfeld documentary Comedian. Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn sit around telling jokes and making fun of other comedians in the movie. Their commentary track is funnier than the movie itself. Of course, the movie was designed, I think, more to be about being funny than to be funny, so that's understandable. Anyway, if you're a Seinfeld (or Quinn) fan, I highly recommend that commentary track.

3. Note to my friends: Don't use a billboard to try to get me dates. I know I complain that I've never been "set up," but please don't start that way. Besides, this is the digital age: start a blog!

4. I had another brilliant idea tonight, because as you know, there is no "off" position on the genius switch. I was talking with a friend about the hassles of modern theater-going: kids, noise, cell phones, talking, etc. So my idea was skyboxes in the movieplex. Think about it! Your own little oasis, like you can have at home, while still enjoying the movie experience. They could build little rooms at the height of the projection booth in the back of the auditorium. They could have comfy couches and surround-sound speakers, so the sound experience would be great even if you're behind glass. They could have an usher devoted to fetching your concessions. (And you could peer down at the couples making out!) They do this at baseball games, so why not the movie theater? The toughest thing would be figuring out when to reserve your skybox. Some people might want it just on Saturdays, while others might want it every night at 7:00. It wouldn't be too much trouble for the theater to arrange those, and either rotate the film showing on "your" screen, or rotate you into "your" box in varying auditoriums. There are some logistical hurdles, and I'm uncertain what the pricing structure would be, but I think it could work. I know that the people who could afford it are probably the same people who could afford a "home theater." But the big draw of the megaplex is new releases and the big screen, neither of which you can get at home. I know I give away a lot of my gems, but I want the royalties on this one. Or at least my own skybox.

5. Finally, good luck to everyone currently in the midst of taking the bar. (I know there are others besides those I linked, but those three came to mind first, and have been the most entertaining to me. But good luck to all!) Remember -- the answer is never "the Privileges & Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment"!

*A variation on the variously-sourced line "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture."

The Snow Cone Stand
Among the many jobs I've held over the years, one I've not yet talked about was my job as a snow cone jockey. It was a third job I picked up to supplement my income from working cheerleading camps and the ski & scuba shop. The perks were lots of young girls in bikinis eating snowcones, $4.25 an hour, and all the free snow cones you could eat. Best job ever? Perhaps. Better than slinging refried beans at Taco Bueno? You bet.

Our #1 flavor for the kiddies was not really a flavor. Rather it was a color combination - Rainbow. The traditional Rainbow cone featured coconut (blue), banana (yellow), and cherry (red) flavors poured side-by-side to create, you guessed it, a rainbow effect. Traditional was not really my style, though. Instead, my friends Adam, Bronwyn, Leanne and I devised a contest to see who could create the oddest flavor combinations for our Rainbow cones. I favored bubblegum (blue), pineapple (yellow), and cinnamon (red) because it was such a jarring combination of flavors (kind of like Milbarge and me). Nothing delighted me more than to see a kid take a bite of sweet, delicious blue and smile, then watch him take a bite of red and snarl his face up into a cinnamon-induced grimace. Such a simple pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

The most popular flavor among adults was, I kid you not, Pickle Juice. P-I-C-K-L-E juice! This was not some syrup we made from scratch, ladies and gents. This was pure, unadulterated pickle juice poured over shaved ice and served with a smile. Why the smile? Well, because our boss obtained the pickle juice from a truly vile source - the juice was surplus pickle juice from McDonald's! Seriously. The pickles on McDonald's hamburgers come pre-sliced in 5-gallon tubs. The pickles are scooped out (presumably by greasy adolescent hand) and placed on the burgers. When there are no more pickles in the bucket, you're left with a couple of gallons of salty green juice. Well, my enterprising boss cut a deal whereby he relieved McDonald's of the juice and turned it into cash. We poured the juice, bits of pickle and cucumbers seeds and all, into bottles and then onto cones. People loved them. People would even pay an extra 50 cents for "extra juice." Pickle Juice outsold our next most popular flavor by at least 2 to 1. I don't have anything against pickles per se, but leftover pickle juice from McDonald's served over ice is revolting. Just writing about it now makes me queasy.

Something else that makes me queasy is remembering when one of the kids lost a finger tip in the ice machine. Later that summer, his brother lost 4 fingertips to a lawnmower blade, too. Not a family keen on adhering to the cautions on warning labels and certainly not who you want working with sharp objects.

I was lucky to avoid losing any digits (though I never got any digits either), but my luck with the ice machine did not hold entirely. I was the fortunate soul who discovered that neither the ice machine nor the refrigerator were grounded. And how, pray tell, did I make this Ben Franklin-like discovery? Why by having one hand on the ice machine (while it was in operation) and one hand on the refrigerator door at the same time. The result was a rather painful jolt of electricity passing through my body. I could feel the current in my heart, in my feet, and in my fingertips and it hurt like hell. I let loose a stream of profanities that would have made a sailor blush, at the precise moment when my boss - the Church of Christ minister and retired submariner - walked through the door of the stand. He walked into a face full of f-bombs and generalized swearing that didn't really project the image he envisioned for his burgeoning snow cone empire. He let me have it, because there were customers at the window who had front-row seats to my outburst. When he was done berating me, I casually mentioned that the next time his snow cone stand electrocuted me I was going to file for workers' comp and then sue him for every sticky dime he had. He started to respond but realized I had the advantage. An electrician came out the next day and grounded the appliances. The only shock I experienced after that day was my continued amazement that Pickle Juice outsold Cherry.

To commemorate the good times at the snowcone stand, I made a mix tape at the end of the summer. Is that the lamest thing ever? No, but it's close. The lamest thing ever was that someone stole the mix tape.

Monday, July 25, 2005

BTQ Answer Man
It's time for another exciting edition of the BTQ Answer Man! In this episode, a man (me) who knows less about women (or any other subject for that matter) than, well, anyone, takes a stab at answering reader-submitted questions on a wide range of topics.

1. Blog + nude + embarrassing?

It's no surprise that we're the #1 Google result for this question. After all, I blogged about modeling nude and Milbarge was quite embarrassed. I can't promise that there will be more nude blogging (and I don't think there's ever been any blogging in the nude here), but the possibility always exists that I'll be motivated to write about other nude experiences at some point - provided that Milbarge will stop editing my posts for content.*

2. Don't be the guy who scours the internets looking for Mall escalator upskirt technique. You, sir, are a jackass. I hope the mall security has to call the paramedics after some woman beats your ass when she catches you practicing your "technique." Frankly, I'm insulted that you'd think we might offer some guidance in this arena.

3. Traits of drunk dialing?

Ah, the drunk dial. I've been guilty of this myself a time or two, but I hear that these guys are champs at it. The basic traits involve: (1) late night drunkenness, (2) a phone, (3) the need to get something off one's chest, and (4) the number of someone whom you perceive to be interested in listening to you. It's such a bad, bad idea. You either end up sobbing (which is not attractive), rambling (also not attractive), yelling (unappealing in so many ways), or executing a lame attempt to get laid (unattractive, but sometimes successful). Closely related are the drunk text message and the drunk IM. While potentially humorous in the light of day, these types of drunken messages have the unfortunate trait of leaving a paper trail - something you may not want if you're considering a run for office or hoping for an appointment to the United States Supreme Court.

And what if he only drunk dials you? Honey, I hate to break this to you, but it means he just wants sex - if he's not calling you when he's sober, he's just not that into you.

4. What [do] girls like to hear from boys?

Guys, a woman likes to hear - and should hear - lots of things. She wants to be complimented, she likes to know you love her, she likes to know that you need her and cannot stand not having her. However, you have to be careful how you go about it because women will read all kinds of layers into a seemingly straight-forward compliment. For example, don't tell her that her can looks so sexy when she's walking away it's almost a shame she's gonna have to turn around. Sure, all you meant was that she has a great ass, but she's gonna interpret it as you think her face is ugly. Trust me.

Speaking of great asses, if her's isn't so great, you're not going to score any points with her by pointing it out. Telling her that she needs to lose [those] saddlebags is guaranteed to get results - just not the ones you're looking for.

Depending on the girl, it may or may not be a good idea to tell her that you have a spanking machine. If it's something you are into, but you don't know about her affinity for such things, this is definitely a subject which should be brought up outside of the bedroom. Also, for what it's worth, a machine just seems so impersonal to me. Spanking is really a situation that calls for a hands-on approach, if you ask me. So, unless you don't have the arm strength or the stomach for it, eschew the machines and stick with the manual method.

Again, depending on the girl, you might be able to get away with telling her that you'd like to see her wearing nothing but paint. If she's cool with it, I suggest you go for something like a painted-on swimsuit or baseball jersey. I don't recommend the all gold look.

Yeah, if you're really into expressing your artistic side, but she's not into body paint, the fallback position is not to tell her that you want to make a cartoon based on some of your favorite 2005 NBA players. There are so many things wrong with that search that we don't have the server space to being to deconstruct the insanity. Suffice it to say that NBA cartoons are not something she wants to hear about.

Finally, for the love of Pete, whatever you do, however you feel about her, no matter how much of a law nerd you think she is, don't try and woo her with an anecdote about what happened after Earl Warren left office. It's simple: Earl Warren left office, Elvis has left the building, and you're going home alone.

5. How to stop sucking at life?

That's a question deserving of it's own post. Stay tuned.

* Not that he's actually gone into my posts and made editorial changes, only that I've recently gotten a spate of emails and phone calls from him indicating his displeasure with my not-so-veiled references to a certain woman (and blogger) who is very special to me. And yes, that *thump* you heard was the sound of the bus running over Milbarge. Don't worry, 'tis only a flesh wound.

Further Thoughts on the Supreme Court's Docket
This is a follow-up to my recent Supreme Court-related trilogy of posts. The final one is here, with links to the others therein. I won't complain now about the lack of substantive comments or links to those excellent posts, but I will take a moment to thank Will Baude and Steve Minor for the links. Sorry if I missed others; please forward them if they're out there.

Anyway, the third post was about the impact a new Supreme Court Justice might have on the Court's small docket. I suggested that it was important to know what the nominee thought about the size of the docket, and in what circumstances he or she would vote to hear more cases. Well, now we know that the nominee is Judge John Roberts. And via How Appealing, I see this article providing a glimmer of insight into that issue. The piece looks at some memos Roberts wrote while in the White House Counsel's Office in response to proposals to relieve some of the Court's workload. (I discussed some of this in my post.) At the time, the docket was about twice the size it is today.

Roberts wrote that the Supreme Court didn't have it so rough: "While some of the tales of woe emanating from the court are enough to bring tears to the eyes, it is true that only Supreme Court justices and schoolchildren are expected to and do take the entire summer off." Nice. (He was 28 years old at the time, by the way.) That may be even better than Dahlia Lithwick's line (I can't find a link now) that being a Supreme Court Justice may be the perfect job for someone under eight or over eighty. Roberts expressed concern that hearing 150 cases per Term (as opposed to 75 or 80 these days) gave the Court more chances for mischief, and for that reason was not at all eager for it to hear more cases. But he also didn't seem to think that 150 was too much of a workload. And of course, Roberts clerked for then-Justice Rehnquist when the docket was at those levels.

The point I was trying to make in my post was that the absolute number of cases a Justice votes to hear is less important than the reasons behind those votes. I hesitate to draw too many conclusions from a decades-old memo written under outdated circumstances. But my quick-and-dirty assessment is that a potential Justice Roberts might not vote to hear many more cases than the Court is currently taking, but it would be because he wants the Court to respect its limits in our system, rather than because he doesn't think it can handle any more cases. As always, your comments are welcome.

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    The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.

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