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Archive for September, 2011

Toad the Wet Sprocket and My Birthday

I mentioned Nirvana the other day, but a discussion of what was going on twenty years ago is not complete without mentioning Toad the Wet Sprocket. In one sense, Toad offers me one of my few claims to mild hipsterdom, in that I knew who they were and was a rabid fan before they were getting much radio play. Of course, they already had three albums out on a major label, so it isn’t as though I found them in some small dark club and followed their career into the stratosphere. I actually just heard “Walk on the Ocean” on a compilation tape I got for free in a 12-pack of Coke during the summer of 1991.

Point being, I thought it was the greatest song ever written, and so, approximately twenty years ago today, I took my birthday money to Sound Warehouse and bought the tape of “Fear,” Toad’s third studio album and their breakthrough one. I then spent months on a wild goose chase around town looking for their two earlier albums (i.e. tapes), “Bread and Circuses” and “Fear.” It took almost a year of periodic looking before my collection was complete. I even bought compilation albums that I thought might contain songs by them that I already had on other tapes. I joined their fan club and got special editions tapes that I’m sure have long since turned to dust. By the time “Dulcinea” came out in 1994, I had switched over to CD’s.

I always thought “Walk on the Ocean” was about some sort of vacation (quite a few people seem to agree about that). When I saw them play in Houston in 1995 (okay, actually I saw them play in Houston in 1995 twice), the lead signer, Glen Phillips, said the song was about “basic human rights violations.” I’m still scratching my head about that one.


On people who claim to have all the answers

The following quote is attributed to “An Old Jew of Galicia

When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever say he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.

It appears at the beginning of The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz.

Whenever I encounter someone who claims to have no doubts, or to have absolute conviction in the rightness of their cause, I think of this quote. Usually, those who cannot even conceive of the possibility that they might be mistaken about something, even something minor, are the truly, truly scary ones.


Nirvana and my birthday

Twenty years ago today, the fate of the universe was forever altered by the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind album.

I am of course exaggerating, but it sure seemed like that to 17 year-old me.

September 24, 1991 was also the day Dr. Seuss died, although I doubt there was a connection.

Today would also be the 115th birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the 75th birthday of Jim Henson.

Also, here’s a fun read: Nirvana’s Secret Feminism by Amanda Marcotte.


Animal Welfare CLE presentation for Bastrop Wildfire Relief

Yesterday I made a brief presentation on animal welfare legal issues for the Austin Bar Association’s CLE program for Bastrop wildfire relief volunteers.


Not blogging so much lately

My reader(s) may have noticed a lower volume of posts lately. Since the beginning of September I have been embarking on a new venture doing freelance blogging and web content writing, so I have been limited in my time to devote to snark.

Fear not, dear reader(s). This is an exciting new chapter, and this blog will still be an integral part of it.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


E-mail scammers are getting creepy

I had a new batch of e-mails come in a moment ago, and among them was this gem:


my name is Juliet Bikai,I am a beautiful young girl searching for real love and protection. I became interested in you after viewing your contact,if it will be kind of you contact me,

Please you contact me With this email ***************** so as to explain myself for you and send you my pictures,
with love
Miss Juliet

Lagos_Island, photo by Benji Robertson, used under a Wikimedia Commons license

I'm not about to look for a stock photo to represent "Juliet," so here's the skyline of Lagos, Nigeria instead.

Now, maybe I am behind the curve, but I do not often get spam solicitation quite as blatant as this. At a glance, it has all the hallmarks of a classic 419 scam, except that it lacks any mention of money. No appeals to the love of Jesus. No remarkably fortuitous request to help move millions of dollars overseas and collect a fee. It isn’t even the lawyer variant of the 419 scam, since it lacks anything about a claim for collecting thousands or millions of dollars owed “in my jurisdiction.”

Nope, none of that.

Just a “beautiful young girl” seeking “real love and protection.”

I hesitate to ponder what is meant by “protection.” Is the Nigerian mob somehow involved? Is there a Nigerian mob?

What is the endgame here? 419 scams tend to be a semi-long con, but here I can’t even see an angle. All I can think of is that this person hopes to work his (do you really think it’s a her?) way into my heart via online communications until I am eager to send money. Then heartbreak and identity theft are sure to follow. There must be better ways to scam money out of people (unless, of course, “Juliet” is a smooth operator who enjoys the thrill of the hunt more than the actual payoff. Which is even more sad when you think about it.) I ought to just let it go, but I would hate to think that “Juliet” is out there waiting in vain for a reply from me.

Therefore, I now address myself specifically to “Juliet:”

Dear Juliet,
You are a young and beautiful girl with your whole future ahead of you. I’m sure that you, think, after viewing my contact, that we have some sort of connection. The truth is, that I am just a guy like any other, with my own life and my own issues. While I’m flattered by your interest, the best thing for you is to live your life and be the best Juliet you can be. There is a man in your jurisdiction, waiting for you, waiting to give you all the real love and protection you could ever want. You have all the strength and resourcefulness you need to find him and make a life with him. If you could find me, you can find the right man for you.
But alas, Juliet, you and I were not meant to be.
I wish you all the best. Stay strong, and never lose faith in yourself. Never lose faith in the person that is best able to love you and protect you, the person who will never, ever leave you. That person’s name is Juliet.
Sincerely, David



This year, ACL comes to me!!!!!!

I wish I could get more excited about the Austin City Limits Festival. I am very excited that it exists, that it draws huge talent, and that it draws my friends in from all over the country for one weekend. But dangit, I like shade and being able to sit down when I want to. So I am grateful for modern technology.

It is odd to think that, when the festival started in 2002, YouTube did not exist, streaming video was quite the luxury item, and most people had still never heard the word “blog.” Now the whole world can suck up bandwidth watching odd hipster bands play to a parched, dusty, remarkably smoke-free (I hope) park crammed full of sweaty people. Enjoy the show everybody!


A child discovers the power of dubstep to fight predators

I have long suspected that I hated dubstep, but I was never quite sure. Now that I have seen the video below, I can say with absolute certainty that I hate dubstep. I hate it to the point that, if I were ever trapped in a room with dubstep music on a loop, I would seriously consider chewing off my own leg (even if it was not strictly required in order to escape).

If dubstep can give a child the power to bring an all-powerful beat-down on a seemingly dangerous predator, as shown in the video for “First Of The Year” by Skrillex, then maybe it does have a use.

Skrillex – First Of the Year (Equinox) from HK Corp on Vimeo.

Of course, you can’t actually conjure demons with dubstep. Listen to this song enough times, though, and you will wish you could. Also, you know, the guy deserved his day in court, blah blah blah.

Honestly, if you want a good example of child-turns-the-tables-on-pedophile torture porn, check out “Hard Candy” with Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. It’s not fun to watch. At all.

Now I have to go wash my brain again.


Plotting the murder of your child could cost you your visitation rights. Who knew?

A judge in Connecticut has denied visitation rights to a man who served two years in prison due to a murder/suicide plot involving his child.

Judge Frank D’Addabbo Jr. ruled against Daniel Swoverland, who served just under two years for the plot to kill his daughter and himself. Swoverland had laid out funeral clothes, wrote a note saying where the bodies could be found, armed himself with a gun and took his daughter to Halls Pond in Ashford. State police found father and daughter, unharmed, in his car after the two had left the pond.

I now present my reasoned, detailed legal analysis of the judge’s ruling in this case:

Well, duh.

I believe in second chances (I think I probably say that a lot on this blog). It is entirely possible that Swoverland has fully paid his debt to society and is truly reformed. But this is not about his rights.

This is about his daughter’s right to not be around people who have tried to kill her. The key consideration in any child custody determination is the “best interest of the child.” It is an ill-defined, subjective concept almost entirely left to the discretion of the trial judge, but it is also the best standard anyone has been able to come up with.

By all accounts, the Judge D’Addabbo looked at every possible perspective and did not just railroad Swoverland. Swoverland and his attorney also only asked for highly-supervised visitations. Still, it seems hard to argue that the child’s best interests are served by some time away from dad. The door is open for future visitation, but only when the child is ready.

The judge adopted the position of the sentencing judge, Superior Court Judge Joan Alexander, who held open the prospect of visitation at some future time, but only when the daughter, 8 at the time of the crime and now 12, was old enough to protect herself and seek help if she felt threatened or uncomfortable. D’Addabbo noted that Alexander envisioned that the child would be at least 18 before any visits occurred.

Even the mom agrees that some visitation should occur someday. But not now. This case is a good, albeit extreme, example of when a parent’s rights to their child are secondary to a child’s “best interest.”


Save Sparks’ snark!

The Honorable Sam Sparks
The chief of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has taken Judge Sam Sparks to task for his entertaining, albeit biting, recent orders (h/t Ronald W. Nelson):

Chief Judge Edith Jones of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is not amused. Texas Lawyer obtained a copy of an email she sent to Sparks advising him to think before he writes. “Frankly, this kind of rhetoric is not funny,” Jones wrote. “In fact, it is so caustic, demeaning and gratuitous that it casts more disrespect on the judiciary than on the now-besmirched reputation of the counsel.”

The rhetoric, Jones said, suggests that Sparks is “simply indulging himself at the expense of counsel” or that he is fighting with the lawyers. “No judge who writes an order should allow such rhetoric to overcome common sense,” she wrote.

It may very well be the case that the “kindergarten party” order was the result of residual frustration over the sonogram lawsuit, and that he was making an example by picking on two lawyers out of the many thousands who use the courtroom to resolve relatively inconsequential disputes. Perhaps that is not, in the grand scheme of things, appropriate for a Presidentially-appointed member of the federal judiciary.

But dangit, it entertains me, and isn’t that what’s really important?

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