December 04, 2007

See You in December: Planning a Post-Exam Adventure

"Save Yourself: A Semester-Long Exercise in Perspective"
By Liz Polizzi

I seem to remember someone telling me sometime early in my 1L year that law school got a lot easier after year one. If I’m not mistaken, someone told a similar lie during my 2L year – that once you got through that, it would be smooth sailing. But here I am, three weeks away from the end of my law school career, and just like every near-exam period before, I find myself plagued by miniature heart attacks whenever I look at a calendar and realize how few days stand between now and the first day of exams. I have met people who are much more level-headed about these things than I am, and I respect them for it. But we’ve all had that recurring nightmare of walking into an exam completely unprepared – and I for one am not brave enough to face that nightmare come true.

As sad as it is that after all this time – and a semester writing this column – I have not yet learned to chill out, I have learned a coping mechanism that I hope to help you employ: when the worst of it is upon you, take a little time out to think about and plan all the things you’ll do when it’s finally over. For me, the promise of a post-bar exam trip to South America has sustained me from day one of law school, and I highly recommend developing a similar plan of your own. But for those of you who aren’t so lucky as to be moving on to greener pastures anytime soon, I present you with some ideas for fun and interesting things to do in the Ann Arbor / Detroit area immediately after finishing exams.

Music

While it’s true that December offers the music addict a festive cornucopia of options – including such acts as Ozzy Osborne and Rob Zombie (Dec. 18 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit), The Lemonheads (Dec. 15 at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor), and R. Kelly with special guests Keyshia Cole and J. Holiday (Dec. 22 at the Joe Louis Arena) – the most unique musical experience my diligent research uncovered is an event called Too Hot to Handel, to be performed at Detroit’s Fox Theater on Saturday, Dec. 22.

Too Hot to Handel, a gospel-jazz version of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, features three vocal soloists, a gospel choir, an orchestra, and a jazz rhythm section. Developed by Marin Alsop, 2005 MacArthur Fellow and the first woman to head a major American orchestra, in conjunction with composers Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson, Too Hot to Handel was first performed at New York’s Lincoln Center in 1993. Since then, it has become an annual event rivaling the more traditional holiday performances of Handel’s Messiah around the world. The Detroit production will be performed by the Rackham Symphony Choir, the official choir of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 1952. Two shows will be performed on Dec. 22, one at 2pm and the other at 8pm; tickets start at $18.

Theater

I have been meaning to see a play at the Performance Network on E. Huron St. since I arrived in Ann Arbor, but still have yet to do it. For the post-exam period, they will be performing The Baker’s Wife, a musical created by the producers of Godspell and Fiddler on the Roof. The production has gotten good reviews so far, it’s nearby, and the price is only $20 for students. If you’re at all interested in theater, it might be a fun thing to do one of these nights when a compounded hangover prevents you from enjoying yet another night at the bar.

If you’re willing to go a little farther away and make a night of it, there are several theaters in the Detroit metro area that offer larger-scale productions. The Detroit Opera House is hosting the traveling Broadway production of The Lion King for a six-week engagement until January 6, with tickets starting at $15. The historic Gem Theater, also in downtown Detroit, is offering a Christmas-themed play called Forbidden Christmas, which tracks the adventures of “Chito, a loveable madman,” who convinces a doctor to brave a blizzard to treat a sick girl (apparently some hijinks ensue). At $39.50, the cost is a little steeper than the other available fare, but the theater itself provides some additional adventure and allure – the 1903 building that houses the theater was physically transported to its present location in 1997, becoming the heaviest building ever moved on wheels. Meanwhile, the Planet Ant Theater in Hamtramck (a tiny city that is bordered by Detroit on all sides) offers an improvisational Christmas-themed play, which they call Clear and Present Manger; tickets are $10 for students, which includes free coffee and donuts during Sunday matinee performances.
Shock and Awe

For those who are willing to drive an hour north, the reward could be astronomical. Yes ladies and gentlemen, in a planetarium in the oft-maligned city of Flint, Michigan, you too could see a holiday-themed laser light show! Boasting 285 seats beneath a 60-foot dome, the Robert T. Longway Planetarium is Michigan’s largest planetarium, and from now until Dec. 23, it will be holiday music and laser lights throughout the day every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Whether you go with your kids or go for the kitsch, the laser light show is surely worth the short drive. The price of admission is a mere $5 for adults (free for children ages 2 and under).

However, the post-exam event that I’m most looking forward to has nothing to do with holidays, music, or drama. Every Wednesday and Thursday night, the Magic Bag music venue on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale (a Detroit suburb about 45 minutes from here) hosts “Brew & View” nights, where first-run movies are shown for $2 in a venue that serves – you guessed it – beer. During the post-finals season, the two films on tap are Superbad and Darjeeling Limited. Doors open at 8pm, and the movie starts at 9:30pm. See you there!

By the time you read this, Liz Polizzi will no longer be Managing Editor of Res Gestae. Send comments, questions, or a statement expressing your interest in taking over this column, thus serving the public good by reminding law students about life outside the law, to rg@umich.edu.

November 13, 2007

Holding Doors for Strangers and Correcting Absentminded Errors

"No Other Warranties, Expressed or Implied"

By Nate Kurtis

Just last week, I was walking into Hutchins Hall carrying a box of canned goods for one of the recent food drives. This box was so large that I was not sure how I would manage to both hold it up and simultaneously open one of the ancient doors of our hallowed institution of higher learning. Fortunately, I happened to be walking behind another law student who was entering the school at the same time. I asked her to hold open the door as she opened it, and was rewarded for my efforts by slamming, box-first, into the door as it slammed shut behind her.

This is certainly not the sort of behavior one would hope to see in our law school! This community of helpful, friendly people is what drew many of us to the frozen tundra of Ann Arbor in the first place!

Given how very un-Michigan-like this girl’s behavior was, I am refraining from using her name. This is also because I don’t know what it is; but, hopefully she will read these words and know exactly who she is….

…Or maybe not. You see, I think the reason for her behavior, beyond any specific self-centeredness or an inherent streak of rudeness, might have had something to do with the cell phone she was busy blathering on. She was, I imagine, so caught up in the narrative of her friend’s recent bar night debauchery that what little of her attention could be spared was needed, entirely, to open the door for just herself.

Many of you who may have shared my dissatisfaction with this girl’s conduct before are now likely much less concerned knowing that her actions were the result of a cell phone conversation. Indeed, cell phone-induced zombification is so prevalent that it isn’t hard to imagine this sort of thing happening to each of us quite often. Yet, just because it is so common an occurrence these days doesn’t mean it is the way things should be in a perfect world. Nor, sadly, is the cell phone the only example of this sort of behavior. Indeed, I believe that the cell phone is just one more example of a whole suite of situations and activities which we do so often that we no longer even think about them – nor, it seems, do we think about much else around us.

These common activities, ever-increasing in number, are the activities which we do most often, the events and situations which we encounter so frequently that we are able to do them without thinking. And, while we absentmindedly go through the motions of these activities, we inadvertently make errors in judgment which we wouldn’t otherwise make if we were actually paying attention. I imagine that this girl, had she been paying attention, would have been happy to hold the door open for me. Instead, her otherwise good nature was suppressed by her absentminded cell phone use.

This is really the point I want to make: There is, in our daily lives, so very much we take for granted. There are so many things we do without thinking about them simply because we can. There are so many circumstances, and even relationships, in which we go through the motions absentmindedly.

We shouldn’t!

Just because we happen to be on a cell phone, connecting with people far away from us, doesn’t mean we should then ignore the people who are actually in the immediate vicinity. Just because this is our third year of law school doesn’t mean we should phone in the effort in our classes… at least the few we bother to attend. Just because we have been in a relationship with someone for some time doesn’t mean we should take that relationship, or any relationships we have with people around us, for granted.

We should rebel against wandering our way through our days! We should choose to take active, concrete steps to reverse this troublesome trend in daily life!

We 3Ls should hearken back to our 1L days, when we actually read a case book and trembled at the thought of missing classes.

Those of us in relationships should take this opportunity to do something for, with, or to our partners. If you find yourself needing suggestions, turn to ”Between the Briefs” on the next page.

As for the rest of you: hang up your damn cell phones and get the door for me! This box is getting heavy!!

Nate Kurtis is a 3L and the Editor-in-Chief of Res Gestae. He can still be reached with comments or questions at nkurtis@umich.edu.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Drink Coffee

"Save Yourself: A Semester-Long Exercise in Perspective"

By Liz Polizzi

Here in Ann Arbor, as we all know, action and adventure wait around every corner, and there’s never enough time to do all the fun stuff there is out there. Apple-picking seems like a nice thing to do this time of year – remember those lovely autumn weekend days, walking around with a paper sack full of apples, cheeks flushed from the almost-cold weather, and nothing to do later but drink cider and read a book? Oh, and not to get too produce-intense, but the Farmer’s Market down in Kerrytown must be at its peak this time of year. And if you’re really in the mood for adventure, you could drive out to Detroit and spend all day Saturday strolling the Eastern Market and adjacent shops.

But alas, there comes a time in every law student’s semester when there is simply no time for such frivolity, and one just hopes that every waking hour is enough to get done what needs to be done. For many, including me, that time is now. So I offer you, in place of an action-packed non-law-school adventure-in-waiting, my top three spots to go when I need to get work done but still want a break from feeling like a law student.


Crazy Wisdom Tea Shop

The Crazy Wisdom Tea Shop on Main Street (between Washington and Huron) is basically the opposite of law school, and being there makes you feel like the last thing you could possibly imagine doing or thinking is anything that would make you seem or feel like a lawyer-in-waiting. Yes, the first floor is a New Age bookstore, full of incense and little statues of Buddha. The reading selection runs from magical spell books to yoga guides to a self-help department that’s guaranteed to have something for every neurotic type-A personality (hint hint). If you’re looking for a crystal to help polarize your chakras or a crystal ball to help you decide which firm job to take, this is the place for you.

But upstairs is where the magic really happens. As you ascend the twisty staircase to the second floor, past ancient magical charms encased behind glass, New Age music tinkles in your ears, and you begin to notice the warm, homey smell of baked goods. Reaching the top of the stairs, you turn right and are greeted by a kind-faced earthy young woman, ready to prepare for you a pot of tea, or organic fair-trade coffee, or some delicious soup or other warm and peaceful food. As you proceed into the room with your tea or coffee, the atmosphere is quiet and serene, the chairs are comfortable, and best of all, one entire wall is lined with huge picture windows facing Main Street, offering lots of light and quite enchanting views when it snows.

But like I said, the best thing about Crazy Wisdom is that no matter how deep your nose is stuck in that Evidence casebook, part of you will be drifting on a peaceful cloud of meditation, grasping truths beyond the rule against hearsay.

Rendezvous Café

The Rendezvous Café on South University (just east of East University) has the distinct honor of being the only coffee shop in Ann Arbor where smoking is still allowed indoors. Don’t let this daunt you if you’re a nonsmoker, though – the smoking is sequestered on the second floor and is almost unnoticeable downstairs. The best thing about this place is the vast selection of coffee (including several fair-trade choices) and the fact that it never (I repeat never) has a line like you’ll see across the street at Espresso Royale. Its clientele is very eclectic—yes, it has its share of undergrads, but it also has all sorts of other types of people (although curiously not many law students). The thing that everyone seems to have in common is that they’re relatively quiet and respectful.

The food is also quite good, for lunch or just a snack while studying. Clearly Middle Eastern in influence (their lentil soup and hummus are both amazingly delicious), the menu is diverse and includes most sandwich “staples.” And its proximity to the Law School makes it a reasonable place to go for a few hours, just to get away for a brief respite during your hectic day.

The Ugly Mug Café

As I write this, I worry that the Ypsilanti punk world will somehow retaliate if they catch wind that I’ve divulged the location of their central gathering place to a bunch of straight-laced law students. But I’ll take my chances, because if you leave Ann Arbor without ever visiting the Ugly Mug Café, you will truly be missing out.

The floors are concrete, the décor is old-couch, movie-theater-seat, diner-booth kitsch (in the best sense of the word) – in other words, it’s everything a coffee shop should be. The coffee is roasted on-site and is by far the most delicious to be had in greater Washtenaw County. In short, this is not your average study-hall coffee shop. This is the sort of place you would go to write that heady post-modern novel you’ve been thinking about, while smoking clove cigarettes and pondering the futility of human existence; this is the sort of place where people meet to plan revolutions . . . but I’m sure they won’t mind if you drag out your Fed Courts casebook and set your mind to the perplexing plot-twists of the Rehnquist court – in fact, you might just meet a proselytizing nihilist who can help you make sense of it all.

Being that the place is in Ypsilanti, it’s rather essential that you have a car for this one (or be willing to endure a half hour on the bus – the Ann Arbor Transit Authority 3, 4, and 5 all go there) and even then it’s not easy to find. The address is 317 Cross Street; you’re on your own from there.

October 30, 2007

You're Not the Only One Who Used to Watch Speed Racer

Save Yourself: A Semester-Long Exercise in Perspective
By Liz Polizzi

A bad back, poor eyesight, bad posture, and psychological malfunctions of varying orders of magnitude. These are the physical manifestations of the rigors of law school. But if you see a law student with an actual impact-related physical injury, it can mean only one thing: this is a law student who does something besides eat, sleep, and study on the weekend.

Thus, I am proud to announce that last weekend this intrepid reporter sustained her very first actual sprained ankle (as opposed to the kind you fake in grade school to get out of gym class), in order to present you, dear readers, with one of the many (albeit elusive) “joys of not-law school.” Now, when someone asks me why I limp, I enjoy the distinct pleasure of responding, “Motorcycle accident,” and then basking in their astonished stares.


You see, there’s this class you can take. You don’t have to own a motorcycle. You don’t have to know how any of the levers and knobs work (I didn’t). And in just four days, you too can have a genuine certified motorcycle operator’s endorsement added to your Michigan driver’s license, authorizing you to operate any two- or three-wheeled vehicle with a gasoline engine bigger than 50cc. At that point, you can go out and begin to learn to actually ride a motorcycle. In that way, it’s much like law school.

When choosing a motorcycle class, you have two options: pay $325 to take the class offered at your neighborhood Harley Davidson dealership, or pay $25 to take the state-subsidized version of the same class at your local community college. In either case, the instructor is state-certified, there is one instructor per six students, and the class ends with a skills test that you must pass in order to get your motorcycle endorsement. The difference is primarily in the scheduling: the Harley Davidson version is more intensive, with less time waiting around for other groups to use the range. Also, since motorcycling has been steadily gaining in popularity in the past few years, especially in these days of high gas prices and environmental consciousness, there is a considerably longer waitlist for the $25 state-subsidized class.

“But,” you may be thinking, “I am a law student. Aren’t law students, like lawyers, inherently risk-averse?” Perhaps they are, but taking early steps to mitigate the risk-aversion characteristic of your lawyerly personality is no less important than taking early steps to remind yourself to carve out little islands of fun in between oceans of billable hours – if you don’t start now, you’ll never learn.

The class itself is fun and a little scary – just the thing to shake you from your due process doldrums. First, you read a book and learn about what all the parts of the bike are called and what they do, along with some abstract techniques for maneuvering the bike (which make little sense at that point, if you’ve never been on a motorcycle before, but come in handy later). Then, you journey to a fenced-off parking lot and mount a bike already scarred from the travails of the students who came before.

Sometimes, you dump the bike. This sounds much scarier than it is – I dumped mine three times and only sustained one minor injury. My personal theory is that if you’re under five foot ten or so, you’re going to dump the bike when you’re first starting out, just based on the fact that the slightest loss of balance is fatal for those who lack the leverage to regain equilibrium through sheer brute strength. But as the old biker adage goes, there are two types of motorcyclists: those who’ve dumped their bikes and those who will. The good news is that for a beginner, most of these mishaps happen at very slow speeds (because the motorcycle has a natural tendency to stay upright when traveling in a straight line at higher speeds), and therefore the damage is usually limited in scope to your pride and occasionally some added scuffing on the already beat-up bike.

And when, at the end of the second day of riding, you find yourself zooming around the 1/8-mile track in a competent counterclockwise fashion, stopping and starting at will, and traveling at speeds approaching 12 miles per hour, you feel the sense of accomplishment that a mid-June visit to Wolverine Access can never provide. Your passing grade on the skills test means more than your relative position among a hundred of your peers. It means you are free – ready to hit the open road a la Easy Rider, ready to escape bad guys like Trinity in The Matrix ... or at the very least, ready to putt-putt around your own neighborhood a few dozen more times, before finally attaining enough confidence to tackle Packard Road.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should admit that I am really not that good at riding a motorcycle even now, twenty-plus hours and three-hundred-plus dollars later. But at least now I know what all the controls do and have sustained some pretty painful but informative lessons regarding three very important ways to avoid dumping one’s bike.

Cost: $325 if you do it at the Harley Davidson dealership; $25 if you do it at Washtenaw Community College
Time Commitment: ~30 hours at Washtenaw Community College; ~20 hours at the Harley dealership
Efficacy*: 85%
Conclusion: Nothing makes you feel less like a law student than donning a motorcycle helmet and taking a whirl around a paved enclosure. On the other hand, this is not the sort of activity that helps reduce stress – and unlike law school, in this context your life really does depend on you not screwing up. But, then, it’s all about perspective, right?

* Success at transporting the law-sodden mind to a kinder, gentler place.

A Quiet Moment of Reflection on the Changing of Things

No Other Warranties, Expressed or Implied
By Nate Kurtis

Everything is changing!

I realize that progress is a good thing, and that everything can’t stay the same forever, but I never thought that the Law School itself could change faster than the editions of our textbooks. Yet, in a slew of announcements over the last month, that is exactly what is happening!

I was still making my peace with the new student lounge and the revamped 138 Hutchins, and I hadn’t yet recovered from entirely one third of the law school’s student population turning over a few months ago, when an e-mail from Dean Caminker announced that the Reading Room, a campus landmark so ancient that many of us thought it immune to changes of any kind, would be closed, cleaned, and updated in the coming term. This was followed by news that the LSSS, responding to complaints from last year’s Halloween Party, had found a new, larger venue for this year’s festivities (see “A Frighteningly Good Time” on pages 11). Then an e-mail from BLSA informed us that their Date Auction, a fall classic, would no longer be held in the fall at all (see “Save Your Bids” on page 7)!

These tectonic changes in our tiny Law School community were enough to make even the most courageous among us metathesiophobic. But the Law School wasn’t finished!

Last Tuesday, October 23, students returning from Fall Break found that in their absence things had changed yet again. The Law School’s website, an electronic oasis of stability in these mercurial times, was gone! In its place, the Law School’s Information Technology staff and Communications staff had created a new website. These changes are not merely cosmetic. Dean Caminker, in an email to the Law School community, informed us that even the underlying software architecture is shiny and new.

Then, when it seemed that only the classroom experience was unchanged, last Friday, October 26, the Law School rededicated 116 Hutchins as the “Weil Gotshal Room” in recognition of the generous support of Weil Gotshal LLP.

Once the dust settled from all these changes, the implications were obvious: I can no longer go to class, read, study, surf the web, or purchase attractive people the way I used to! That’s it. No more! I don’t think I could take anything else changing, though there isn’t much I could do to prevent it. I’d protect myself from any more changes by quitting school and living in a box… but those would be changes too!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


Nate Kurtis is a 3L and the Editor-in-Chief of Res Gestae. He can still be reached with comments or questions at nkurtis@umich.edu, his old e-mail address.

September 25, 2007

Quit Your Whining and Drink Your Wine: The Wolverine Wine Club's Kickoff Tasting

"Save Yourself: A Semester-Long Exercise in Perspective"
By Liz Polizzi

Got called on in Evidence this week. Thinking that as a 3L I should be immune at least to the routine embarrassment caused by floundering the facts of the case, I was saddened to learn that couching the catastrophe in context did naught to relieve revenge fantasies featuring the first-row gunner who saw fit to raise her hand during the game of charades I found myself playing with the professor. Disheartened at how easily my better side was quashed by the dark forces of law school, I was in desperate need of respite – preferably involving a surreal, dreamlike landscape and lots of alcohol. Lucky for me, Friday night was the Wolverine Wine Club’s season premier tasting, a semi-formal event held at the beautiful Matthei Botanical Gardens on Dixboro Road in Ann Arbor.

Run primarily by oenophiles at the Ross School of Business, the Wolverine Wine Club is “a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the many joys of wine.” According to their website, the wine club’s membership includes mostly MBA, law, and public policy students, but any UM graduate student is invited to join.

Any trepidation I felt upon finding that the event would be a “semi-formal” was assuaged instantly upon entering the elegant venue and beholding the tastefully attired guests – whatever else might be said about business students, they certainly clean up well. The event was held in the auditorium of the botanical gardens, where floor-to-ceiling windows framed the terrace and gardens beyond. Some of the more daring revelers strolled the ambiently lit pathways through the garden, but most remained close to the hors d’oeuvres table and three wine-tasting stations.

The wine for Friday night’s event was provided by Dick Scheer of The Village Corner, a first-rate wine shop masquerading as a bodega. Situated at the corner of South University and South Forest (four short blocks east of the Law Quad), The Village Corner is home to 5,000 wines, 600 kinds of spirits, 150 labels of beer, and 350 types of cigar. It boasts the largest wine selection between New York and Chicago (take that, Cleveland!). Mr. Scheer also hosted a guided tasting at the event, in which he described the history and distinguishing qualities of each of the evening’s wines.

The wines Scheer selected for the season’s first tasting spanned the geographical globe and the world of wines, from a standard chardonnay to the less common but oft-discussed pinot noir, and introduced a few varieties that the average novice would likely overlook. The tasting began with two whites: a Sauvignon Blanc from Babich, one of New Zealand’s largest family-owned wine companies, which offers a light, dry, grapefruity flavor with hints of jalapeno pepper on the finish; and a South Australian chardonnay from Thomas Hyland, which, all told, tasted like chardonnay. Next came a French beaujolais, called Duboeuf Morgon “Flower Label,” which, according to Scheer, should not be dismissed just because beaujolais is so light and fruity that some compare it to Kool-Aid. While beaujolais might never be “serious” per se, it can still be delicious ... and this one was.

The most adventurous wine of the night, in my humble opinion, was the Gard Cuvee Viognier, an incredibly floral and fruity dry white wine made from an ancient, rare white grape that is often found blended with red Syrrah grapes, which, according to Scheer, makes for a deeper red wine. A bit of a let-down after the Viognier, the next wine, a New Zealand pinot noir called Spinyback Nelson, invoked the age-old question, “What did the guy in Sideways like so much about this stuff?” The Spinyback was a perfectly tasty pinot noir – I just can’t exactly understand why everyone who owns a set of wineglasses raves so much about this stuff. Go figure.

Finally, the evening was redeemed by yet another unique wine experience: a Sangiovese blend by Ferrari-Carano called “Siena.” Created by blending Sangiovese grapes with a little bit of Malbec and Zinfandel, and then aged in oak barrels, the result is a deep red wine with relatively light tannins (tannins create the bitter taste common in red wines).

Any of the wines featured at the tasting can be had from The Village Corner for under $15, so even if you don’t have time in your schedule to dress to the nines or frolic in gardens at night, you can recreate the wine part of the experience in the comfort of your own home. The semi-formal aspect is not expected to be repeated any time soon, but the next tasting held by the Wolverine Wine Club is scheduled for October 10 (see http://ross-wwclub.collegemailer.com for more information). In addition, The Village Corner has its own wine tastings and its own wine club – see http://www.villagecorner.com for more details.

Cost: $30 for a non-member ticket; $15 for members (and membership itself costs $45 for the whole year)
Time Commitment: 4 hours
Efficacy*: 90%
Conclusion: The Wolverine Wine Club has events almost every month, offering a great opportunity to branch out beyond the Law School community, meet new people, and learn about wine (all of which have clear professional and career-enhancing value, which we will not discuss in this column for obvious reasons). Enjoy!


* Success at transporting the law-sodden mind to a kinder, gentler place.

September 11, 2007

Lost in Law School: Keeping Your Perspective and Finding Your Way

"Save Yourself: A Semester-Long Exercise in Perspective"
By Liz Polizzi

I have a confession to make. On several occasions over the past year, I’ve found myself looking with deep appreciation at bad landscape paintings.

It all started during OCI last year. I was standing in the kitschy hallways of the Holiday Inn, listening through the door as the interviewee ahead of me guffawed with the interviewer. Sure that my own chances of success must be shot – how could I possibly follow such an act? – I began to scan the halls for something to take my mind off of my misfortune. That’s when I beheld it.

The color scheme of the painting involved teal, purple, and a sort of beige-ish pink, in a swirl of pastels that somehow gave the impression of a landscape involving water. It was the sort of painting you’d expect to see in a Holiday Inn – nothing more, nothing less – but it captivated me, it soothed me. It took me to a faraway place, a distant land where I was free to sit on the blurry riverbank and watch the garish teal water reflect the purplish-beige trees. I imagined a breeze. The air smelled somehow fruity.

Since that moment, I’ve spent a great deal of time rationalizing and making excuses for my obviously horrendous taste in art, evidenced not only on that occasion but on countless others. I love bad landscape paintings, and that’s all there is to it. But why?

This fall marked the fifth occasion on which I have enjoyed the almost-but-not-entirely-unpleasant queasiness of returning to Ann Arbor after a long absence. Every time I reenter the city limits, get stuck in student pedestrian traffic, catch a first glimpse of the Law School, I have the same thought: “This time will be different. I have perspective now. Armed with fresh memories of the world outside of law school, I hereby banish all the ‘scary law student’ thoughts I had before. I will remain a level-headed, good-natured human being throughout the whole semester. Yes, this atmosphere and period of life are unique, but life is still composed of days and minutes, which I hereby promise to enjoy and live well, as a human being.”

Sadly (and this is a heart-wrenching personal admission, so I expect the reader to feel at least a little pang of sympathy), it usually only takes a week or two before I’ve gotten myself twisted back into such a state that a purple-tinged pastoral scene is required to facilitate anything resembling a state of calm.

I am egomorphic enough to assume that I am not alone in this, and thus we come to the point of this column. I have a fabulous friend, whom I was lucky enough to meet at the beginning of law school, who is fond of putting her face inches away from mine and screaming “Snap out of it!” But sometimes that’s not enough – just like it isn’t enough merely to know about the world outside and how little it really cares about or even understands most of the things that plague the average law student. In order to overcome a negative, you need a positive, like kite-flying or jumping rope – only more suitable to our positions as the future leaders of the free world and all that.

The key, in the end, is to maintain connections with the things that make us who we are – or, at least, who we were before law school. The things that make us unique, and not just another notch on the grade curve. I know many people who have done a much better job of this than I have. They remember what they used to like to do, or what they always wanted to learn how to do, and make a little time each week to pursue things totally unrelated to law school. Although I always intended to follow suit, I just never found the time ... until now.

From now until the end of the semester, I promise to explore in each issue of the RG a new way of leaving the Law School campus and embarking on a human adventure entirely unencumbered by the laws of Civil Procedure or the Uniform Commercial Code – and I’m taking you with me. I’ll be delving headlong into perspective-enhancing adventure – from art and music, to yoga and volunteer work, from philosophy, music, and religion, to adventures in food. Along the way I hope to take my cues from other law students who have done this sort of thing all along and thus theoretically kept a heightened degree of perspective (although I suppose that question must be examined as well). To that end, I hope my loyal readership will not hesitate to write in with their own personal methods for maintaining sanity in a not-so-sane place.

For the time being, let’s all just take a moment to find our own peaceful place and meditate upon the notion that it’s never too late to begin the process of reintroducing simple human pleasures into the maelstrom of our to-do lists, to rediscover the versions of ourselves that made Dean Zearfoss invite us to come here in the first place, or to reacquaint ourselves with our own truly sophisticated taste in art.

Liz Polizzi is a 3L and Managing Editor of Res Gestae. Comments, suggestions, and treasure maps should be e-mailed to epolizzi@umich.edu.

April 03, 2007

Clients Unlike Any Other

"Frolic and Detour"
By Patrick Barry

James Boyd White, Hart Wright Professor of Law, will be retiring from teaching at the end of this term. In honor of the pioneering work Professor White has done in the law and humanities—his 1973 book Legal Imagination is considered by many to be the foundational text of the contemporary law and literature movement—the Law School has announced plans to establish the James Boyd White Law and Humanities Clinic, a counseling center designed to help law books learn more about themselves. Administrators have released feedback forms from the clinic’s trial phrase, some of which are reproduced below, and hope all will attend the clinic’s official opening in September.

Patient: Ms. Modern Criminal Procedure: Cases-Comments-Questions
Clinician: Dr. The Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka
“For the most part the doctor was helpful. A bit creepy, even crawly, but helpful. Though I was curious why he kept me waiting so long.”
Prescription: Curative Tattoo


Patient: Mr. Modern Law of Contracts
Clinician: Dr. Merchant of Venice
“Too many scales in that office. I think I gained a pound of flesh just by looking at them.”
Prescription: 500mg of Mercy, 250mg of Equity


Patient: Ms. Environmental Regulation of Land Use
Clinician: Dr. Walden
“Dr. Walden instructions were wonderfully direct and clear and frequently humorous. At times, however, he seemed a bit removed, almost solitary.”
Prescription: Beans


Patient: Mr. Children and the Law
Clinician: Dr. Oliver Twist
“The advice Dr. Twist gave me was fantastic. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of it. Please, sir, I want some more!”
Prescription: 20 hours of observed chimney sweeping


Patient: Ms. Sex Equality
Clinician: Dr. A Room of One’s Own
“One lousy room—that is all she could offer me! We are talking systemic historical oppression. One lousy room is not going to cut it!”
Prescription: More than “one lousy room,” but no more than three.

Finishing Up at a Liberal Arts Finishing School

"Take It From Me"
By Bria LaSalle

As the only graduating member of the RG editorial staff, I have the sole privilege of penning a “So Long, and Thanks For All The Pizza” column. It occurs to me that this situation cuts into a solid good-bad dichotomy. The good: our faithful RG readers only have to suffer through one page of 3L nostalgia. The bad: I bear full responsibility for providing such nostalgia to those who are so inclined to enjoy it. As I am not generally given to shmoopy bouts of glowing nostalgia, there’s a substantial risk that anything I say will be so overly precious that level-headed readers will vomit slightly in their mouths upon first read.

But I’ll do my best.

In the months before I came to Michigan, before I began what others affectionately named “liberal arts finishing school,” I had many conversations with friends and coworkers that seemed to take the inevitable turn to law school’s giant, awe-inspiring price tag. Most of them had not contemplated committing to a $150,000+ purchase at the tender age of 24, so it soon became the conversation gap-filler, mostly supplanting the traditional weather and Astro’s talk that abounds in a Houston July. Many of them knew I chose Michigan over a few far cheaper options; they were frequently overcome by the temptation to ask “will it be worth it?”

Today I look back at the past three years to see what I got for my money; call it my review of the Law School credit card statement. In a few months, I’ll have a fancy piece of paper that will represent the totality of my tuition spending to some. I think the value lies more in the intangibles, and I think some of them have already proven to produce excellent dividends.

The obvious intangibles barely merit mention; naturally, three years of sharing classrooms with brilliant, articulate, shrewd, funny, imaginative, and challenging peers under the talented leadership of our stellar faculty is essentially priceless. But this is the set of goods we all knew we would receive in exchange for our money. It’s the other stuff, the things we can’t quite capture in a brochure, that have made this whole expensive ride “worth it.”

So what did I get?

On May 5 I’ll leave the Law School with the following: several hundred pounds of well-loved (and well-hated) books; a bizarre but undeniable love of tax policy discussions; a not quite fully-healed broken toe, the amusing but painful reminder of an ill-fated run in with Krier’s property book; a soon-to-be husband; a love of Indian food; a job in an office full of people I greatly like; a GPA that was just good enough to get me the aforementioned job but never so good that I had to worry about “ruining” it; a new religion; a flat stomach; a guilty love of America’s Next Top Model; countless friends; a very few enemies; a food processor.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. Perhaps more obviously (nearly to the point of being banal), there are many items on the list that are not, strictly speaking, the direct result of having attended law school. Or are they? When we arrive as 1Ls, it’s easy and natural to compare law school to high school. I certainly did. In the beginning, law school felt like a glorious High School Redux, where everyone had another chance to be cool. Yet here at the end, I can’t help compare, somewhat inelegantly, law school to a giant, beautiful Petri dish.

Deposited in an environment that is highly conducive to growth and change, we run amok with some sort of catalyst for three years and come out anew on the other side. What’s the catalyst, exactly? Each other? Hutchins? The mystique of law school? Perhaps a little of column A and a little of columns B and C? Whatever the combination, it brought me to a series of results I didn’t dare to expect. How many people can say that about their ING account?

My walk through the Petri dish (this simile is really starting to grow on me) exposed me to the people, places, and situations that brought about everything I could think to list as a “benefit,” and countless others. Law school hasn’t been the where so much as the how. It is how I figured out my strengths. It is how I met my spouse. It is how I became a Jew. It is how I came to fully own the confidence and sense of self I always suspected was lurking somewhere in here. Liberal arts finishing school, indeed.

If the question ever arises again – whether it was worth it to spend the money for law school – I will unequivocally answer yes. And then I will smile, knowing the interested party has no idea just how much value I received in exchange for my purchase. That will be fine. Like so many other things, the value of what is said will pale in measure to what remains unsaid. They, like you, will just have to take it from me.

Bria LaSalle is a graduating 3L. Thank you for suffering through her many bathroom-related rants, exhortations of love for Jeremy Piven, and the rest of the dribble that made up "Take It From Me."

March 20, 2007

Green Eggs and Pizza

By Andrea Hunt,
With Apologies to Dr. Seuss

I am a student group leader.
I am a student group feeder.

I order pizza; their eyes fill with dread.
I ask the group what they want instead.

Would you eat BW3s?
Could we agree on this food please?

We’ll be buried in wing sauce up to our
knees,
The vinegary smell makes half of us wheeze,
And wings don’t exactly grow on trees,
There’ll be no money for our trip to Belize.
Pardon us for being rude
But can’t you pick some better food?

Would you eat Jimmy John’s?
Could we reach accord and then move on?

We do not care for Jimmy John’s.
Salami and alfalfa are better off gone;
And, frankly, mayo doesn’t turn us on.
Let’s pick food we won’t want to pawn.
Pardon us for being rude
But can’t you pick some better food?

Would you eat burritos instead?
Could we agree on this before we’re dead?

We’re all vegetarians, we said.
Chicken and beef we won’t be fed.
We’ll gag on green peppers or red
We’d really rather eat a sled.
Or drink from the jar in the shed.
Pardon us for being rude
But can’t you pick some better food?

Would you eat some sushi, then?
Could we agree on this? It’s almost ten!

Tuna, shrimp, and salmon
Will spoil and we’ll be poisoned.
The idea’s OK but you can’t win
Raw fish, in time, is not one’s friend.
Pardon us for being rude
But can’t you pick some better food?

Will you eat Ritz crackers from a box?
Could we agree on this? I’ve a date with a
fox!

We don’t want crackers from a box
Not with cheese, not with lox
Our appetites your suggestion mocks
We’d be better off if we ate rocks.
Pardon us for being rude
But can’t you pick some better food?

If I could pose a compromise
That lacks both interest and surprise.
Our lowly common denominator lies
In the original pile of pizza pies.
[Our hero collapses in a heap of sighs.]

That’s fine.
We’re hungry.
Let’s go, and promise never to rhyme again.

Meeting adjourned.

February 20, 2007

Introducing Miss Sandra D.

Dear Sandra D.,

Will Derek and Meredith get married?
-Grey’s Fan

Dear Grey’s Fan,
Is Meredith even going to be alive this week? If she lives to tell about it and Derek doesn’t propose soon, girlfriend needs to move on! Or at the least, she should read He’s Just Not That Into You. With Derek possibly leaving soon, I don’t see a proposal coming unless Meredith gets up and goes with him. Right now we already have two engagements, and we know that three’s a crowd. Don’t hold your breath on this one.
-Sandra

Dear Sandra D.,

Am I too old to wear leggings and a miniskirt?
-Confused About Fashion

Dear Confused About Fashion,
You are never too old to do anything. However, we all can, and sometimes do, make bad choices. It is up to you to decide if wearing leggings and a miniskirt is one of them. The pros are that you’ll be warmer than in just a skirt, and many people might mistake you for an undergrad which could open up a whole world of exciting new dating possibilities. The cons are that many people might mistake you for an undergrad and that could open you up to a whole new world of frightening dating possibilities.
-Sandra

Dear Sandra D.,

There’s this really cute professor that I’ve seen around the Law School. How do I get him to ask me out on a date?
-1L in Love

Dear 1L in Love,
You are not alone. 1Ls are always falling for professors. If their fully loaded brains aren’t enough, they top it with amazing fashion skills and piercing eyes. But what can we mere mortals offer them to bring them under our love’s spell? First, check to see if said professor is wearing a ring. (Be warned, some super-cute professors/deans are married but don’t wear rings.)
If there is a ring, stay away! There are nothing but dead ends and broken dreams down that road.
If there is no ring, still proceed with caution. Relationships with professors can only lead to drama with a capital D. Establish a working relationship with this professor, go out to coffee with him and maybe drinks every now and then. Use these next couple years to focus on school and developing a friendship. When you are ready to graduate, then go in for the kill.
-Sandra

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Law School Is Not A Beauty Contest ... Or Is It?

No Other Warranties, Expressed or Implied:

By Nate Kurtis

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into when I applied to the University of Michigan Law School. Honestly, two years in, I’m still not 100% sure what I’m doing, but a few recent survey results have certainly helped make me feel quite good about my choice of law schools (the weather of recent weeks notwithstanding). I’m not talking about the US News & World Report rankings –though we do rather well there, too. No, it is two other, highly scientific, polls which have filled me with such pride.
The first is last semester’s Abovethelaw.com poll, which ranked our own Dean Evan Caminker as the ‘Hottest Male Law School Dean’ (See “Caminker ‘Hottest’ Dean in the Nation” in the October 24, 2006 issue of Res Gestae). The second, more recent result was from a survey by Harris Interactive for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – published in the Wall Street Journal – which ranked the University of Michigan Law Library 94th on a list of best loved American architecture. This places our Law Library on a list that includes such treasures as the National Cathedral and the Lincoln Memorial, and ranks us above Radio City Music Hall, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Camden Yards, the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Astrodome, to name a few.

There is some confusion as to just which building the AIA meant to honor, since the architect and photograph are of the Reading Room, but the survey listing is of the Law Library, a name that has been associated with the Smith Addition for over twenty years. Margaret Leary, director of the University of Michigan Law Library, was quick to point out that “it doesn’t matter, because both are worthy of being high on a list of favorite buildings. Legal Research was designed by York & Sawyer, who designed the entire Law Quad, as well as the Martha Cook building. They were considered at the time (1920s and early 1930s) to be a preeminent firm. They were strongly influenced, and pushed to even better design work, by William W. Cook, who paid for it all. The Smith Addition, designed by equally renowned ‘international style’ architect Gunnar Birkerts, has won awards from the AIA and the ALA, and is probably one of the very best underground buildings (buildings, not just libraries) in the world.” Leary added that “the fact that we ranked above buildings that I would have guessed would be better known (how many people come to Ann Arbor, compared to those much larger sites?) is quite amazing, and a tremendous tribute to the architects, and to the wisdom of the Law School over the years in investing in such fine buildings.”
Though unexpected, our ranking among the most beloved building in America should come as no surprise to those who’ve spent time on our Quad. “Everyone who has ever visited the University knows about this absolute gem of a building and space, both stunning for its appearance and inspirational for its statement about the majesty of the law,” beamed Dean Evan “Hotness” Caminker. He added, “[i]t’s wonderful that the WSJ survey will bring greater awareness of this gem to the entire country.”
Sarah Zearfoss, dean of Admissions, echoed Dean Caminker, noting that while “Michigan Law doesn’t generally put much stock in rankings -- except, of course, when Evan Caminker was named “hottest law school dean” via a rigorously scientific and methodologically sound survey -- we’re nonetheless pleased that the world has recognized what all of us and our 19,800 alumni already know: that our Law Library is an extraordinary edifice and its Reading Room is, by any measure, an exquisitely beautiful and inspiring setting for the study of law.”
Yet, while pleased, Dean Zearfoss does quibble with the fact that the Chrysler Building, Washington Monument, and the Golden Gate Bridge managed to squeak out higher positions. She believes the result is because “most of the 2000 survey respondents have never been to the Quad and are correspondingly clueless about the true beauty of this architectural gem in which we live and work. They’ve also completely ignored the element of function. Where, we might ask, would you rather study black letter law -- in the Reading Room, the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, or Grand Central Station? The latter two are ranked higher than us, by the way, which proves the point.”
Even with all this recent fame, Dean Zearfoss urges us not to let it all go to our heads: “It’s good to know that we’ve earned some bragging rights, but we urge you to be magnanimous with your peers at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, as we’re confident the students and faculty of the Golden Gate Bridge and Grand Central Station Schools of Law will be magnanimous to us.”

Nate Kurtis is a 2L and the Editor-in-Chief of Res Gestae. Even though his apartment didn’t make the rankings, he includes this link to the complete survey result for anyone whose house might have. http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-poparch07-sort2.html.

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February 06, 2007

The Wheels of Progress Grind Ever Faster ... And Ever Louder

By Nate Kurtis

I was at Amer’s when it happened. Standing in line at the checkout counter, this ridiculously hot girl looked right at me and said, with a silken voice, “Hi, I’m Karen.” Now, since you weren’t there, a moment should be spent on Karen herself. Blonde and buxom, Karen looked to be no older than a junior. The rest of Karen not withstanding, it was her ensemble –the very latest in nouveau-skank: a tight crop-top, form-fitting low-rider jeans, the straps of a black thong visible– that teased at the sheer carnality to be had by any man to tempt her.

Back in college, I wouldn’t have been able to get the time of day from a girl like Karen; but, lately, I’ve been noticing this sort of thing happening more and more. Girls who wouldn’t look at me before my grad school days are now walking up to me and introducing themselves! Clearly my Law School Cachet has been growing, and the ladies have taken notice. As for Karen, I did what any red-blooded male would do: mustered my deepest, manliest baritone and said, “Hey there.”

I knew the moment her suddenly cold stare locked on me that things weren’t going right in this conversation. That was when I saw the heretofore unnoticed cell phone grafted to her ear. Now that I think about it, this is how all of these conversations have gone.

Looking around, I found that Karen was part of a larger trend. At a table in the corner sat four girls, all talking on cell phones. Indeed, it was the rare caffeine drinker who wasn’t talking, loudly, to someone who wasn’t there. And the inclination to rude phone conversations is spreading. Reading in Borders last week, a woman sat down next to me so she could talk on her cell uninterrupted, and did so for over forty minutes.

The noise pollution doesn’t stop there. One of the few non-phoners in Amer’s that day was a guy, let’s call him “KF,” listening to music on his iPod so loudly that I could hear it, clearly. While it is possible that KF was deaf –and if he wasn’t before he sure is now– and needed the music up that loud to hear it. But, if he really is deaf, I think I ought to have a say in what he is playing since I’m the only one of the two of us who will have to suffer through it.

Fortunately, we at the Law School are spared these annoyances. Anyone playing music that loudly would be slaughtered in the Reading Room and the ancient gothic architecture of our buildings mercifully blocks cell phone signals. At least for the moment. Improved technology has opened up the halls of Hutchins to cell phone folks, and with them the loud, rude behavior that was once so alien to our quad. The school has taken some half-hearted steps to help, like the new “cell phone booths” in the basement of legal research. The fact that most cell phones don’t get reception down there is beside the point (and if you do get reception down there, PLEASE keep it to yourself).

You see, as technology is making it easier to wall ourselves off from the world around us, or communicate with people who are miles away, we have begun to ignore the people standing right beside us! We are, as a community, becoming less considerate as a response, paradoxically, to increased convenience. I encourage everyone to stop for a moment and ask: “Have I been electronically rude lately?” You’ll have to put down the cell phone first.
Now, I make no claims at electronic sainthood. I admit I have my own vices. For my part, I am a slave to GPS. That might not sound so bad, but think about it: Without GPS, I would be lost and confused, which means that I would be traveling at a respectable speed and paying attention to where I am going. With GPS, I don’t have to bother with either! Indeed, it gives me the freedom to travel at 70+ miles per hour down roads I’ve never even heard of. You’d think GPS would at least help me drive more safely, seeing as I would know where I was going. You’d be wrong on that count, too, since my unit doesn’t really give all that much warning about upcoming turns.

Perhaps the greatest irony about using GPS is that it is less help the more you know where you are going. Indeed, when you are lost on the other side of Ann Arbor and haven’t a clue how to get back to campus, GPS is golden. However, when you know exactly where you are and need to find a more specific target, such as wandering the stacks of Legal Research trying to find the 6th floor, GPS couldn’t be less helpful. Now, since the GPS unit I have is built into my car, this second case is moot (unless they make those elevators bigger). Still, how could I find my why around the Law Quad without GPS? I can’t ask for directions! You see, I’m a guy. And, besides, who would I ask? Everyone is talking on their cell phones.

Nate Kurtis is a 2L and the Editor-in-Chief of Res Gestae. He is not sure where he is right now. Have you seen him?

Rhyming Rodent Receives Rage: Even Alliteration Won’t Heal These Wounds

Take It From Me
By Bria LaSalle

There have been few times in my life when I have been particularly cross with a rodent. I had pet mice as a kid, my sisters had a battery of hamsters, and I’ve always been fond of watching the Ann Arbor squirrels gorge themselves into oblivion in the fall. But last Friday, Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog, decided to tease me mercilessly, and I’m not thrilled.

That little bastard didn’t see his shadow.

Now every weather correspondent for every media source in the country is gleefully announcing that we will experience an early spring. I refuse to be sucked into this madness. In fact I predict we will not see spring until July. This way one can average my prediction with Phil’s and come out with reasonable accuracy.

But why does anyone put any stock in the weather-forecasting prowess of a member of the order rodentia? Punxsutawney Phil has, historically, been right 47 times since he began predicting in 1887; 39% is a failing grade in my book. I have better accuracy when I pick socks out of the drawer with my eyes closed, but the world has yet to establish a national celebration of my abilities.

But I don’t begrudge Phil his station in life. According to his handlers, Phil enjoys a comfortable existence at the Punxsutawney Library, where he dines on dog food and ice cream. He is a zaftig 15 pounds and successfully negotiated the installation of a heating system in his simulated tree stump stage in Gobbler’s Knob, where he emerges each February 2 at 7:25 a.m. to read a rhymed prediction. He has appeared on Oprah. He was in a great Bill Murray movie. During Prohibition, he pluckily threatened to impose 60 more weeks of winter if someone didn’t give him a drink. This is a success story for all groundhogs, and I fully support him in his arrival to the good life.
But I’m not willing to believe his tall tale of an early spring. My tenure in Ann Arbor is drawing to a close, and I find it more and more difficult to enjoy the trappings of winter when a long future in sunny Los Angeles beckons more with every passing day. But, so far, I have been able to successfully ignore the existence of non-wintry places. It’s easier that way. My school work will suffer much more than the typical bruising from 3L malaise if I let myself begin to detest painfully cold ears, runny noses that end in frozen snot, and puddles of rock salt on my wood floors. When the wind picks up mid-way through my walk home from school and threatens to steal the last of my body heat with its unjust aggression, I remind myself that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” I need to believe that this mantra is something other than the horseshit it plainly is, even though that requires a hefty dose of denial; my denial is fierce enough to work.

Theoretically, we enjoy our brief and nippy spring much more after staggering through endless months of frozen ankles. If I had a dollar for every sandal-footed undergrad who drapes lazily across the Law Quad grass within 20 minutes of the mercury passing 60 degrees for the first time, I would retire immediately and explore a life of naps and donuts. Perhaps I’ll just surrender a dollar myself and join them –60 degrees sounds pretty luxurious right now.

In the meantime, I must ignore Phil by way of a deafness that comes from mild hostility. He has offered a completely unreliable glimmer of hope that I may be able to go hatless before May, and my winter coping mechanisms simply can’t risk such devastation if this year follows his persnickety tendencies towards inaccuracy. If I’m wrong, I hope he’ll accept my apology in the form of a groundhog-appropriate care package: dog food, a pint of ice cream, and the alcoholic beverage of his choice.

Bria LaSalle is a member of the order Primate, and is the Executive Editor of Res Gestae. She predicts spring will come on March 21, 2007.