Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Kid and the Tigers

Once upon a time there was a little boy whose parents bought him a new coat, new pants, new shoes and an umbrella. He goes off into the woods. Unfortunately for the kid, his neck of the woods is a really bad neighborhood. There is a gang of tigers and one of the tigers stops the kid and shakes him down for his coat.

Moments later, a second tiger shakes the kid down for his pants. A third tiger shakes him down for his shoes and a fourth tiger makes off with his umbrella. The kid sits down and is crying about his loss when he overhears a fearsome roar. The four tigers are fighting over which of them the best-looking tiger in the jungle.

This is where the story gets really, really strange. The four tigers gather around a big tree, grab each others’ tails in their mouths and run around the tree until they all melt into a big pile of butter. The little kid’s father comes along, gathers up all the butter and takes it home. The kid’s mom uses it to cook up an enormous batch of pancakes. The kid gets to eat 369 pancakes.

Some of you may recognize this as the story of Little Black Sambo. Everybody knows that Sambo is on a list of words regarded as extremely derogatory terms toward people of African ancestry. However, while this story considers tigers and the only tigers in Africa are in zoos, the story is not even set in Africa; it must be in India, southeast Asia, Indonesia or Siberia, some of the places tigers do inhabit.

Taking a look at that story, I see that Little Black Sambo has a mother and a father who make sure he is well-clothed and well-fed. So why on Earth is that term considered derogatory toward blacks? I have no idea.



Once upon a time, one country invaded another and the President of the United States sent American troops to intervene without so much as notifying Congress. (and oh, yes, we did get some help from the Brits, Aussies, and other UN contingents). Three years and 38,000 American deaths later, we signed an armistice with the Chinese and North Koreans and the Korean Peninsula has enjoyed an uneasy ceasefire- not peace- for the past fifty-five years.

I once saw a satellite photograph of the Korean peninsula taken at night. The south was lit up like a Christmas tree, with a huge white dot marking Seoul, the capital city. There were perhaps a hundred white dots marking smaller cities. Above the line of the demilitarized zone, North Korea was almost pitch black. This is dramatic proof that the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, has led his people back into the days of the 19th century.

My read on the outcome of the Korean War is: VERY good result, with a VERY bad precedent.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Time Sheets

There’s an old lawyer’s joke that up at the pearly gates, an aide approaches St. Peter and excitedly informs him that a real celebrity has arrived. A man who has broken Methuselah’s record for longevity by living more than 969 years. When St. Peter reached the newcomer, he is surprised to find that the alleged record-breaker doesn’t look very old at all. Suspicious, St. Peter enquires, “Did you really live 969 years?” To which the newcomer replies, “Sort of. I’m a lawyer and I went by my billing sheets.”

I thought of this story when a lawyer friend of mine in Chicago informed me that a lawyer out her way is in very serious trouble with the Illinois Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Council because he got caught billing 40 hours on one day. If he had consulted with me, I could have told him there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for that.

He must have started work on a project just as he left Tokyo on an eastbound flight and, allowing for the International Date Line, he could do 40 billable hours in one day.

Wood County, Ohio

A friend of mine from law school, Jean Box, married a very fine gentleman named Jerry Wuetcher. (Rhymes with red-hot-hoochie-coocher.) Although he has served both the state of Kentucky as a civilian and America as full colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps, it has occurred to me that if he should ever need to make a career change, he would do well representing the interests of Wood County’s poultry farmers.

You see, the county seat of Wood County is Wooster. So he would be known as Jerry Wuetcher, the Wooster Rooster Booster.

TV Idols

My Russian ex-wife told me that she and her aunt back in Moscow both wished that they could hook up with a man just like Tony Soprano. (Yes, "The Sopranos" was shown in Russia) I was completely flabbergasted. True, Tony’s family lives in a really big house and perhaps it’s nice to know that if the checkout clerk at the supermarket disses you, your hubby can have the kids' legs broken. But what kind of woman wants a husband who does drugs, has a serious gambling problem, has stolen or extorted everything he has from other people, cheats on her on a regular basis and orders contract killings as part of his business, even doing a few hits himself? Furthermore, a woman like Carmela Soprano knows perfectly well that the feds might put Tony away for fifty years on a RICO case and that one of his associates just might have Tony whacked at any time. (I really wouldn’t like the idea of sitting next to Tony at a restaurant. I do not want to be an innocent bystander!)

Then I got to thinking. Who are my favorite all-time female television characters? For example, back in the early 80s, I had a major cinematic crush on Veronica Hamel as she played Public Defender Joyce Davenport on Hill Street Blues- frequently doing really steamy scenes with Daniel J. Travanti. (I learned many years later that in real life, Mr. Travanti is gay. Life is not fair!) In the 90s, I had a real thing for Mariel Hemingway. She played domestic relations attorney Sidney Guilford on Civil Wars. At the turn of the millennium, I tried never to miss an episode of Relic Hunter, starring Tia Carrere as Professor Sidney Fox. (No snide comments, please. They’re much too obvious in her case.) More recently, I was quite smitten with Rosemarie DeWitt as she played FBI hostage negotiator Special Agent Emily Lehman on Standoff. (The character of Special Agent Lehman is supposed to have a doctorate in Psychology from Princeton.)

I wonder if maybe my listing of my TV feminine ideals gives a bit of an insight into my psyche. Two women with law degrees, one tenured professor and the holder of an Ivy League doctorate. I guess I have a real thing for extremely intelligent women. (Just like all the brainy ladies I trade e-mails with.) :)


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

R. Lee Ermey

An English gentleman in the legal profession recently sent me a YouTube video of the speech R. Lee Ermey gives as Senior Drill Instructor Hartman greeting his recruits in Full Metal Jacket. (Since that gentleman, Glynn, is good enough to correspond with me, I take it as a point of pride that I will keep him well supplied with plenty of *true* stories good enough to share with his buddies at the pub.) You can view the video for yourself:

Full Metal Jacket is certainly a famous movie. As for its accuracy, I will defer to two very fine gentlemen I know who have served as Senior Drill Instructors in the United States Marine Corps. (OK, OK, I'll admit--I'm bragging here: who else knows two USMC senior drill instructors? Besides these two men, of course.) Now, I'll share something some people might find hard to believe: R. Lee Ermey is a friend of a friend of mine. When I first moved to Bethel, Alaska, all kinds of people asked me if life up there bore any resemblance to the TV show Northern Exposure. My response was that while the fictional Cicely, Alaska was in set in forested Alaska, and Bethel is in Tundra Country, there were a few similarities. For example, the protagonist of Northern Exposure was a Jewish doctor from New York, doing time up north to pay off his student loans. Bethel, Alaska, has the largest hospital for over 350 miles in any direction (Alaska is a VERY big place) and one of the doctors I met was a Jewish gentleman from New York paying off his student loans.

Another key character in Northern Exposure is Barry Corbin's character of Maurice Minnifield, a retired Marine fighter pilot, astronaut, and business tycoon. Though he's greying at the temples, he's still a very formidable figure. In Bethel, we had Sergeant Major Joel Bowles, a retired 30-year Marine, former small-town police chief, business tycoon, and proud owner of a fishing boat called the 'Semper Fi.' He didn't look anything like Barry Corbin, but he had an amazing supply of great stories. (It should be noted that while his stories are fantastic, as far as I know, he has never told a fib-not even once-in the seven years I've known him.)

One of the stories he told me (and I have no reason to disbelieve it) was that he and R. Lee Ermey served in the same unit and were drinking buddies. When I talked with Sergeant Major Bowles, I learned a great deal. For example, anyone who has seen Full Metal Jacket, or watched Louis Gossett Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman might conclude that DIs are nothing but screaming ogres. That is not the case. Sgt. Maj. Bowles told me that once he had a recruit who, after a few days in boot camp, started wetting the bed. This, of course, is unacceptable. So he sent that recruit to medical to see if there was a medical problem. Word came back: no problem at all. The docs figured the guy was probably faking it to get a medical discharge. Does anybody want to guess how the DI solved that problem? (Play the Jeopardy theme song through a couple of times. OK time's up, pencils down) Sgt. Maj. Bowles, said, "OK, recruit. Maybe you need some elevation. Maybe you're having a reaction to that mattress and blanket."

So he told that recruit to turn in his mattress and blanket and had him sleep on the top bunk- and then ordered the biggest, nastiest guy in the recruit company to sleep in the bunk beneath him. Well, glory be, that very night that recruit's bladder problem was CURED and never returned!

Moral of story: just everybody knows that United States Marines have a very well-deserved reputation for being extremely tough guys, but relatively few people know that Marines (in my experience, especially the senior enlisteds) are frequently very intelligent and insightful as well. Which is as it should be. I now get to use one of my favorite quotations, from the British General Major General Sir William Butler: 'Any city that draws a line between its scholars and its warriors, will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.'

So here's a big shoutout to all our scholar warriors and warrior scholars!


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ohio State: Lords of all Creation!

While browsing through a book on Ohio State's history, I learned that OSU's faculty once included Professor of Astronomy Henry Lord as well as Professor of Mining Engineering Nathaniel Lord. The former was nicknamed 'Lord of the Heavens' and the latter was known as 'Lord of the Earth'. It makes me so proud to be a Buckeye!


This is McPherson Laboratory at Ohio State, where many of the universe's mysteries are unraveled.