1. An inquiry into the mental competancy of a person to stand trial.
2. A proceeding to determine whether a person should be institutionalized.
Because sometimes it seems like the world has gone crazy...
Girl: I'm in chocolate. J.P.: So are you saying that when you get back to your table there is an enormous vat of cocoa waiting or are you saying you make chocolate for a living? Girl: Which would you like it to be? Matt: The first one.
Sometimes I get the impression that much of the progress made in the sixties has largely been lost. Granted, America is more tolerant of racial minorities and people with "alternative lifestyles," but I have this knawing sense that much of the changes made has slid back into an Eisenhower-age acceptance of a universal capitalist goal for the country.
I think part of the trend hinges on the fact that in American society it is not a question of whether you sell out, but when sell out. And of course, I actually find this quite reasonable. Cultural revolutionaries who have rejected the opportunity to eventually go commercial and make money have died pennyless and tragic deaths, often overdosing on nasty varieties of illegal narcotics, which most of us in fact do not find that attractive. If you are Bob Dylan, eventually you need to appear in moisturizing soap commercials, because afterall you are getting on in years and you need to put some cash away to pay for depends and nicorette.
The problem as I see it though, is that there are very few of these cultural innovaters any more-- in the first place. Instead, the music industry pre-fabricates stars who have all the trappings of rebellion and innovation, but in fact offer no societal message except that you should purchase their rebel-esque clothing at the Nordstrom nearest you.
In some ways this is why I believe the recording industry is so opposed to the file sharing networks and free music exchanges going on over the internet. I think the true fear is not a loss of record sales, as in fact there has not been a drop in record sales since the inception of the MP3 format and the proliferation of file sharing networks rather a rise, but instead a faced with a nearly unlimited choice of artists of which to be fans music listeners will no longer be interested in the highly contrived music being pumped out of the traditional music labels. The history of the culture of "cool" or "hip" in America is the story of the little guy, the underground artists, the renegade music labels putting out something new and becoming immensely popular because it is different. All of these stories end with the eventual absorption of these new trends like, jazz, hip hop, rock and roll, into the main stream. Eventually everyone needs to sell out or go hungry. The problem for the existing music industry though is that the internet offers an almost infinitessimal number of possible new artists-- too many for them to buy out.
Right now I am taking a one credit class that culminates with a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court this weekend/monday along with a meeting with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I am actually really excited for the trip. While at the court we are going to be hearing two cases argued, including one that a professor at our school wrote an amicus curae brief for. The basic work load for the class is to read all the relevant prior court decisions as well as the briefs for each side and the various amicus briefs. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was to start sifting through this numerous and dense reading. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of hopeless inadequacey that I could ever produce something of this nature let alone comprehend its subject before class on wednesday. But, to make a long story short I trudged on. Some of the briefs were better than others and by the end of reading them all, I had a fairly good understanding (for me at least) of the issues at play.
What struck me though was the brief written by the professor at my own school. Having been once overwhelmed with the savage beating that first year legal methods put on my social life and emotional well being, I can only imagine the time and effort this single professor put into producing this brief. It was well written, with delicate prose that was intelligent but accessible to a semi-lay person such as myself, but also apparently well researched. I was overcome with both a profound sense of respect for the professor as well as a sense that producing something of a quality worthy of the Supreme Court was in fact humanly possible.
Maybe it is our MTV, TiVO, 24-hour high-speed internet society, but I first willing to indict myself for wanting everything now. I am not a patient person about many things, I am willing to admit. I want it now goddamnit. Perhaps having a father who was chronically unwilling to stand in line at airports and once took his shoe off to bang it on an airline ticket counter to get attention [I suggest this in today's airport security climate] set up a poor example for me. But, I am willing to wager I am not the only person who has this problem in respect to many things. Law school, among other institutions, fosters these feelings in some respects because it rewards people who "get it" quickly. If you are able to excell and understand how to study and research during your first year, then you are rewarded by being placed on law review, moot court, etc. since after all you seem to already have a handle on things. A think there is likely a sense of inferiority and resentment amongst people who are not chosen for these things, much like there is amongst the members of the junior varsity squad who do not get bumped up to varsity their sophmore year, while some of their team mates do.
But one should not take these immediate results as indicative of a complete life or career. Picasso was not picked as a prodigy early in his career. Most CEOs in America were in fact C students though out college. Tom Brady was a sixth round draft pick.
The matter is that things do not happen overnight, in fact a lot of good things take a long time. Whether you are aiming to develop yourself as a professional, academic, artist, businessman chances are you are going to improve with age and experience. I am also a big believer that the best developments are those that involve plenty of mistakes and hardships, embarrassments and disappointments so that you learn what is important in life as well as what not to do in the future. If you are arguing before the Supreme Court at 24 it is either a fluke or you are a freak.
So today the student newspaper/magazine/non-law-review-publication came out. Included were two articles I wrote. One of which which was really a run of the mill staff assignment type of thing that I volunteered for to interview one of the new professors at our school and write up a little super abridged biography mingled with some sentiments of "welcome aboard." The second article was a reworking of the Professor/Quarterback post I made on here a few months ago. I was pleased to be published, even if in such a meager sense.
The publication has caused me to consider I few things though. For one thing I had a conversation with a good friend while skiing yesterday. This friend and I were both discussing life and career genre issues. My friend faces a decision to accept a nine month quasi-management position at his company and he is weighing whether it is worth it to him or not to stick around and take the job. I gave him my advice and also voiced some of my concerns about life and careers- how my outlook has changed in the last few years. I will spare you all the details, but after relistening to a taped benefit where John Grisham, Stephan King, Peter Straub, and Pat Conroy were speaking, I began to think more about how I would prefer a career as a writer to one as a lawyer. I am not confident that I possess any great literary skills nor the ability to universally entertain in the sense of the aforementioned four bestsellers; however, I do not think that should stop me from trying in the mean time. Success, whatever it really means, seems to rely heavily on motivation. The "law" in an abstract sense really interests me, but the nitty gritty of a legal career (actually...careers in general) seems very oppressive to me.
I am not sure what direction I am going to take with these thoughts, but I do think that I need to put some more serious time into writing if I actually think I want to take a stab at doing something more serious.
Hyde recently made a post on his blog about "complaining," although to be honest I believe there may be more to it than that. His post sparked some ideas that have been rattling around in my otherwise empty head.
Growing up my mother always said, "Whining is an unattractive quality in a man," politely (or not so politely as the case may have been) that generally people do not want to hear you complain about your problems. To a certain extent I have to agree with mom- there are many 'a time that I hear people bantering on about every little non-problem they have with out the slightest sense of humor and it drives me insane-- "My boyfriend wants me to go to a movie with him, but I told him I don't like sitting in those seats that other people sit in. I told him if he buys me one of those itty bitty book lights I would go with him." [actual conversation I overheard]. Yeah, I want to wring her neck too.
So- getting to the point, I have one important clarification/response I need to make to Hyde's post. While I agree that complaining is...annoying, among other negative things, I believe that there is a great importance to criticism. Just as a starting point, the legal system of our country is based on the adverserial process- a process of exchange and criticism of ideas, pointing out of contradictions, and so on, in an attempt to flesh out the truth of a situation. Also, were one to look at American society on some sort of Hegelian basis, each cultural revolution as some sort of criticism of the past status quo that is eventually synthesized into the new (and arguably better or more progressive) status quo. To give an example of how I see what I am saying in play-- there was a time in this country where the status quo was racial segregation. Through a period of extended criticism of the inherent injustice of this system a culture of greater racial equality has resulted. Were the African Americans who would not accept seperate but equal "complainers"? Are socialists and labor organizers who want better conditions for working people "complainers"? Are environmentalists who decry the actions of certain companies and the behavior of some individuals complainers? I say- NO. These people do not fall into the catergory of people Hyde was referring to. Criticism is a hallmark of progress, as far as I am concerned. If a system is flawed, the point it out. The line to complaining is crossed when you see the flaws, yet chose to do nothing to change them.
Last night before my first night class I walked into the classroom to find all of the deans of our school, an astonishing amount of pizza and soft drinks, and a rather p.o.-ed director of the bar review course offered at our school. I only heard the tail end of the conversation between him and the deans, but apparently hardly any students had shown up for the talk he was giving about why it was beneficial to take a bar review course with him (duh). The deans were trying to assure him that next time they had one of these promotional-sign-up-fests they would plaster the campus with flyers and every law student would know about it as at the same time they tried to corral him out of the room and offer the left over pizza to the hungry students arriving for class.
Immediately following what I overheard I started to get into a conversation with a student sitting next to me and we agreed we had never even heard that this promotional thing was going on-- after all there had never been an email about it. What we agreed was that despite the many bulletin boards at the school, the actual physical mailboxes that we had, the various electronic blackboard systems offered, if you really, really, actually wanted to get our attention and have us remember something- you had to email us. What is amazing to me is how it seems as though there is a whole class of people who are working totally against this email requirement and I must say it is working to their own detriment. These are the professors that insist on not emailing you information, or the friend who refuses to check his hotmail. What's amazing to me is that they always seem this sort of deepseated hatred of email. When you say to them, "Why didn't you just email them?" they seem to act like you either just said something very vulgar or that you are suggesting that they "cheat" somehow. But the thing is, for those of us who have switched to using email as our primary mode of communication other than the telephone and in person, I doubt we will be going back much to the bulletin board system. First of all, email is automatically organized and with systems like gmail, it is also searchable and able to hold large amounts of files for a very long period of time, which are also accessible anywhere there is an internet connection. If you offer me the alternative of hanging on to a pile of brightly colored flyers that were shoved into my mailbox or taking notes on some scap of paper I am almost certain to lose or forget off of a bulletin board as opposed to simply reading and email, marking it with a "star" and searching for it later...I am choosing the email.
What is also amazing to me is that these people who are so against email seem to be missing the point that this ALSO makes it easier for them. Instead of printing up a thousand brightly colored flyers, stuffing them into mailboxes, tacking them up around campus, and emblazoning them on buttons saying things like, "Amnesty International Meeting! This Wednesday!"-- all they have to do is spend approximately three minutes emailing me. Thus the only conclusion I have is that in fact, these people LOVE making those stupid flyers and what they are really upset about is the demise of the flyer-making way of life. I for one am not mourning its death. If you need to get in touch with me- shoot me an email.
I am the first person to resist getting caught up in the whole hoopla of law school. I admit it seems to be working out fairly well for some people, motivating them to work harder and study longer, I suppose. But the truth is that I take a more holistic approach to life and education in general and I pretty much always have. I would rather get the reading done for the day for school, head to the gym and listen to some fictional book on tape about 17th century jewish coffee traders, listen to some alternative rock in my car on the way home, and read a book about the history of jazz-- as opposed to working until 11 at the library rereading the stuff that needs to be done for tommorrow, then taking copious notes on them, typing them up, printing them out, synthesizing them with some law reviews on the same subjects, ad nauseum...
I realize this is just works for me, not for everyone. However, I frequently get the impression that you have a more healthy view of the world if you know a smaller amount about a great deal of things as opposed to a great deal about a very focused amount of subjects. I realize we need people who DO know a great deal about a very focused subjects, i.e. brain surgeons and engineers, but in general I think this has a limited applicability to law students-- and if I am wrong- well the truth is I am not super concerned.
An interesting change has occurred though. It used to be that I loved court shows- all the Law and Orders, John Grisham movies, even the old Perry Mason. While I still like Law and Order, I find it difficult not to yell at the T.V. during the court scenes saying, "That would never happen!" It reminds me of when I first saw the movie The Firm with my dad. At the end I asked him if he liked it, he replied that he did like it, but that the movie had no basis in reality- not just in the sense it was fictional, but that no comparable situation would ever exist in an American law firm- it was pretty much fantasy. What finally made me realize some sort of change had come over me was last night I was driving home from school listening to a book on tape that is a collection of columns by the author Bill Bryson about life in America. Bryson is and American who lived in Great Britain for twenty years and then returned to the United States and wrote this collection of columns for a british newspaper about the changes he noticed from his life in England to his new life in Hanover, New Hampshire. Eventually Bryson got to a column about the American legal system. At first I was excited because I thought I might find this one particularly applicable to my view point/career, but after a few minutes of, "That's not true at all- the McDonald's case was widely misreported in the media...," and, "That's a total oversimplification- you don't understand at all...," I had to go on to the next track.
So, Sitemeter totally enthralls me. I am able to go on and see where people are logging on to my site from and what sites are referring them, assuming they are being referred. What's really interesting is that although I know the handful of friends and associates who read this page- there is obviously a group of people stumbling upon the page that I do not know. Well- I encourage you to email me and tell you want you think and who you are...otherwise I will continue to spend an unhealthy amount of time playing with the sitemeter.
The thing about selfishness that strikes me first is how convieniant it is.
And that is the thing you have to ask yourself when someone is asserting a position which is inherently selfish- are they only supporting this because it is inherently more convieniant for them?
For example, "Sure I would like to marry someone I am in love with, but think how much greater it would be if he happens to be obscenely rich as well- that would be wonderful!" Really? Or would it just be more convieniant than not being so materialistic?
"A flat tax is better for society than the progressive rate structure that penalizes people who work hard." Really? Or are you just middle class already and hopefully on the road to being a bourgious lawyer making above the top tax bracket and it is more convieniant for you to support a system that gives you more money than thinking about what is really good for society?
"I want to tell the Law Review kids to go F#$% themselves." Really? Or are you pissed that they are better at school than you are and you have spent your whole life telling yourself what a great student you are- in fact have defined yourself that way- and all the sudden that may not seem so true, so it is more convieniant to hurl overused epithets at a group of mildly pathetic law-nerds?
The truth is we can all be selfish, but for the sake of convieniance let's just acknowledge it's generally not a good thing.