Thursday, May 31, 2012

James Bond 007: Dr. No - Dir. Terence Lawrence

James Bond 007: Dr. NO – Dir. Terence Young
The Beginning of a Film Dynasty
By Jay Maronde
                Where to begin when reviewing the longest running film series ever? Well, the first movie, obviously! The whole 007 movie franchise all began way backin 1962 with Dr. NO. Now, it’s very much worth noting that, James Bond, 007 was around for some time before the first movie. Much like Twilight or The Hunger Games, “James Bond” was already an extremely successful series of novels, and the rumors are true, Dr. NO was NOT the first novel (Casino Royale, which we will review in due time gets that honor). Dr. NO was however the first film produced in the series, which of course has had incredible success with the 23rd installment due this autumn (Skyfall), and even though numerous directors have had their way with the world’s most famous secret agent, some things have always remained the same.
                Maybe it’s just that I’m a child of the internet generation, maybe it’s because I just get all hot and bothered about cool gizmos, but one of the first differences that I noticed between this, the “original” Bond, and all the Modern Bonds is the distinct lack of technology. When I speak of technology I of course mean Bond’s technology, not Hollywood’s. Of course when one enjoys a movie from 1962 you had better not expect too much CGI, as computers, let alone computer graphics were still a far flung theory proposed by some guy named Turing. I personally enjoy the old timey effects! It’s far better to watch a real station wagon actually explode while plunging off a cliff (even if it’s obvious from the way the film was cut that it was an empty car) than watch what is essentially some sweet—andgranted—very  realistic computer animations. Call me a classicist, I don’t care. What I’m really trying to get at is Bond’s lack of technology: the customary Q branch consultation includes nothing more than (the somewhat important) introduction of James Bond’s classic[j1]  Whalther PPK. When he sends for more equipment he receives a Geiger counter, a big ole boxy government lab model; not a slick Q branch model with super-secret extra features built in. Bond (played exquisitely and dashingly by a young (but not as young as I had imagined) Sean Connery) still makes it work, when he needs to know if someone is messing with his briefcase, he’s got pencil dust on the latches to check for finger prints, and who could forget the now classic “wet hair across the door jamb?” Even I knew about that one as a kid, I didn’t even know back then that I was through some shocking pop culture translation I was emulating the great man, but I knew how to tell if my Moms had been in my closet. Bond doesn’t have a poisoning reversal kit anywhere so every time he returns to his room he just cracks a fresh bottle of vodka. The lack of all these gizmos, actually serve to advance the film more, because the viewer gets the gist that Bond is just so nice he simply doesn’t need anything other than his wits.
                Speaking of Vodka, one thing that this movie, in particular, basically invented, and has remained in almost every James Bond Film since is Product Placement. It’s not incredibly obvious like in the later movies where the world’s greatest spy uses the world’s worst cell phone because its manufactured by the same company that owns the studio producing the film; but every time Bond picks up a bottle of vodka it’s always Smirnoff and the label is always facing the camera so it can be easily read. Also, if you note, most of the cars in the entire movie are all Chevrolets. The Bond Franchise essentially invented product placement, and Bond has been enjoying the gifts of America’s corporations ever since.
One of the most notable things that has always remained the same within the world of Bond, from Bond’s first scene at the Ambassadors Club in London, up to and including the new movie (I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m quite sure) is the women. It has been said that every “Bond Girl” since  has wished she could have had as amazing an entrance as the Swedish beauty, Ursula Andress. As “Honey Rider” swims out of the Jamaican ocean with her knife and bikini, movie history is made.  So much history that, in fact Halle Berry’s entrance twenty movies later in Die Another Day was intentionally filmed as an homage to the original. (Supposedly some of the scenes from the Bo Derek (who happens to actually be Andress’ step daughter in real life) movie ‘10’ were also a homage) What most people don’t know is that Andress was extremely new to America and her English was broken and accented. In response the producers dubbed every single one of her lines.  And more remarkably (for those in search of the ultimate Jeopardy clue), she was the only Bond Girl to ever appear onscreen inside Bond’s home.
Now, while Honey Rider may have been the most famous girl in the movie, she was certainly not the only swell looking lady to grace the silver screen next to Bond. In fact, in the first scene with Bond at the aforementioned Ambassadors Club we meet the epic Sylvia Trench (played exquisitely by Eunice Gayson) and she sets our hero up for one of his most famous lines ever when she first introduces herself as “Trrench, Sylvia Trench,” leading our hero to drop his now famous “Bond, James Bond.” 
Considering all that has taken place in the years since its first release, Dr. NO  is clearly an inimitable classic of American cinema. Sean Connery began a dynasty that actors still fight to get a chance to be a part of, and Terence Young adapted a popular novel series in a way that modern novelist heirs could only dream about.

 [j1]You are classic.

The Bond Project

For some reason I cannot realign this first paragraph and I am too lazy to figure it out, and also too lazy to send this review back to Jay with my edits built in, to publish which ones he approves.  I have primarily corrected typos and one or two stylistic choices in favor of proper grammar--but I do not think Jay will find this disconcerting.  He writes the way he talks, and I try to do the same thing, and if you can't appreciate that, then you might as well give up on Flying Houses.  I love writing the way I talk.  It's like a continual process of discovery is happening before your eyes, and there's no feeling that everything has been so intricately refined and calculated to speak "the truth."  I say the truth is in the present.

Jay Maronde and I have been friends since August of 2001.  I met him at the same time as another friend, with a friend I made on the second or third day, neither of which I still talk to--and not by my choice.  We simply drifted apart and I miss them.  But Jay and I stuck.  

The night we met, he asked if we could be drinking buddies and I said yes (we were 18).  We would sneak into a package store and I would trust him to buy the whiskey because he looked older than me.  But eventually we wouldn't have much trouble finding places to sell us some kind of alcohol in Greenwich Village, and we found ourselves going to Smalls Jazz Club, sitting in the back by the bar on the floor, drinking from a bottle of 99 Bananas, staying until 5 AM and watching the sun rise over the skyline of the World Trade Center, as a hundred bikers crossed our path, and we waved.

Later on, I became Editor of the Film Section of Washington Square News (formerly, Culture Shock) and asked Jay to be my co-editor.  We had gone to screenings and written reviews during our freshman year, and we loved the feeling of importance we got from it.  I remember forcing him to go to see L.I.E. with me (and the other two friends that formed our Fab Four) on September 10, and I remember noting in my first ever review, praising the film, that Jay had called it, "The worst fucking movie I have ever seen."  And I remember spending the second half of the next day with him, and drinking in his dorm room.

In the first meeting I held as Editor, I introduced Jay as my co-editor and put my feet up on the table to a dozen or so dazed onlookers and said, "I don't consider myself very professional, but this is the way we are going to do things."   I remember him liking that moment very much.

Recently, he called me (we have only seen each other twice in 2012--but that is much more often than in 2011, or 2010, or 2009, or 2008, or 2007---but 2007 is another story...) and proposed that he write reviews of all 23 James Bond films in anticipation of the newest one--Skyfall.

I told him I was always looking for writers at Flying Houses, looking to expand my operation to Huffington Post-type levels and get bought by AOL Time Warner for millions of dollars, and thought the project was a fantastic idea.  Flying Houses only has a few film reviews (The Brave One, The Dark Knight, The Girlfriend Experience, Antichrist, The Visitor, Le Scaphandre et le Pappilon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar..., and perhaps a few more) but I have never viewed it as purely a book review blog--though they do comprise the majority of the posts.  I have viewed it as a blog to review books, movies, music, live experiences (The Pitchfork Festival and Ray Bradbury, for example), my Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Columns, short stories, and whatever else anybody would like to write.  

So, without further ado, I present to you, the first in a series of 23, The Bond Project.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: No. 12: Law Review, Journals, and Blue-Booking

As we come to the close of another productive year at BLS, 1Ls once again huddle into the library at 9 AM on a Saturday morning to pick up their journal writing competition packets.  They are not supposed to have any idea of “the law” on their topic, and they are supposed to learn it based upon a limited set of materials, and get it right, or lose.  You are not allowed to do outside research (or, outside research is not required?), and I seriously question the degree to which “cheating” occurs here, but that is another column for another time. 
                2Ls this year will remember last year’s painful topic on tax apportionment of franchises that have more than one branch in a state.  I came up with a brilliant argument that it was not the mortgage underwriters’ labor that should be taxed by Ford Motor Credit Company, but rather, it should be the labor of the salesmen, who –it is true—do make a sizable part of their wages from commissions of sales (which may have different tax implications), but are responsible for the purchaser’s initial seeking of the loan.  The labor they expend over two or three days was far more “valuable” than the underwriters estimated time of twenty minutes to “put the loan together.”  Perhaps this was an incredibly stupid conclusion to reach for this case comment, but it appeared to be original, concise, assertive, and reasonably well-cited (I will avoid a deep discussion of the “?’s” I put into my endnotes to stay within my word limit).  And then the fateful day came when people began receiving their phone calls.  And I slowly realized that, after dropping beneath the 50% mark in the class, and failing to make moot court, I was not going to be on a journal.  Being a writer (and having improved from a B to an A in Legal Writing between semesters), the one thing I wanted out of law school more than anything else was denied me, and it hurt.
                So I turned away and laughed with derision at the beginning of 2L year, when all I heard for a few weeks were complaints about “pre-emption” and “not knowing what to write about.”  I said, “I wanted it as much as anyone, and you got it, so you better shut up.” 
                Of course I never said that to their face.  But law students that complain about not being able to find a topic to write about are a perfect example of the whiny types that flood law schools across the nation: let’s complain about everything that’s not perfectly suited to our needs—because, we’re not supposed to be creative.  These students need not concern us, for pre-emption is, again, a much bigger topic.  However, law students that complain about the process of becoming a member of a journal and the responsibilities that membership and/or publication entails, may have a good claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress—for few other activities may be as tedious and inconsequential as this.
                Blue-Booking is the first bane of existence.  “The central function of a legal citation is to allow the reader to efficiently locate the cited source.” (THE BLUEBOOK: A UNIFORM SYSTEM OF CITATION, “General Principles of Citation,” at 1 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 19th ed. 2010)).  Great!  How about this?  “Because of the ever-increasing range of authorities cited in legal writing, no system of citation can be complete.  Therefore, when citing material of a type not explicitly discussed in this book, try to locate an analogous type of authority that is discussed and use that citation from as a model.  Always be sure to provide sufficient information to allow the reader to find the cited material quickly and easily. (See id.).  Even the Bluebook recognizes that its system cannot be comprehensive.  One could question why we need a whole other separate citation system apart from those already in existence, but I’d rather ask a more interesting question: what is “authority?”
                Just because I earned a J.D. from Harvard, just because I made their Law Review, just because I clerked for a Federal Judge, just because I worked at a white-shoe law firm, just because I published a few articles, and gained some kind of respect in my field, I might seek a career in academia and publish and then I will have become “an authority.”  Or, (less hoops) if I become a judge (or a law clerk), and I write an opinion, I become an authority.  However, writing about one’s own life has no place in a law review article, even though I may be considered an authority on my own existence.  “You’re not allowed to have any original thoughts,” people often say.  It’s too likely you come off sounding like an idiot who has not deeply canvassed the law if you don’t cite to authority for every proposition you introduce.  And yet, you must do a pre-emption check, and make sure that your topic has never been written about before. 
                My argument is that all journals should be abolished at every law school except for one Law Review.  I mean no disrespect to my friends on the other journals (and indeed, there is no qualitative difference in intelligence, so far as I can tell), but membership is hardly prestigious when 20-25% of the class gets on a journal.  When you’re one of the few that’s put in a good faith effort for every honor they could get, and you lose, and lose, and lose, you think you’re doing something wrong.
                Memo to disaffected law students: you’re not doing anything wrong.  It’s an imperfect system.  Once all journals are abolished, we will only produce the amount of articles that we “need.”  We won’t have a tidal wave of articles on every conceivable legal topic known to mankind, only to be revised to make an alternative conclusion acceptable when a case like Citizens United comes along.* 
                Me, bitter?  Maybe—but I proudly write on my name card, whenever I sneak into a journal event, “NOT A MEMBER OF XXX JOURNAL; FOUNDER OF MEP.”  There are other ways to make a positive contribution to this school than to be one of the hundred Bluebook Slaves in your class.  If you don’t make it onto a journal you should make fun of everyone who is.  Not only will you make yourself feel better, but you will be right that it is all-too-often nothing more than an exercise in extremely-refined masturbation.  Better yet—start, or join, a student organization that is devoted to sitting around and making fun of journal articles.  Call it the Brooklyn Law School Journal of Rejects, put out one volume per year, and write boldly original articles that are sloppily-blue-booked (because no one really cares about that anyway—see Posner's article "Goodbye to the Bluebook" for an hilarious evisceration of the stupidity of elitist citationism) and written for the Us Magazine crowd—people would dig it.    
                Maybe a lot of this is coming out wrong but here is my main point: as long as you are proud of what you produce, that is all that matters.  If you do make a journal, and you slave away for months on your note, and you find out that, unfortunately, you won’t be getting published, the satisfaction you derive from the process should be your reward.  Good luck, 1Ls.   If it doesn’t work out for you, join the BLS Journal of Rejects.  My 14,000 word, 40-page, 120-footnoted UCWR Employment Law paper gets to be in volume #1.  And I also promise to accept ONE failed competition submission from this year.  Open notes now being accepted.** (***).    

*The complaint often leveled at journals is the glut of faculty scholarship—not student scholarship.  This does not change the rationale behind my proposal to abolish all journals but one.  The only question is whether faculty members are compensated for publishing, or if retention of their job is contingent upon a steady stream of publications.  Encouraging a greater amount of original student work rather than faculty might be one possible reform.

**While this is a legitimate call for Open Notes for the BLS Journal of Rejects, 1Ls should be made clearly aware of two things: #1- My friend, who did not make into a journal, revised his competition submission a little bit, entered it into a competition, and won—so don’t trash your submission unless you are absolutely certain it is a complete failure.  #2– Open Notes are accepted by all 4 journals here—the Law Review is the most unforgiving (with the same deadline, around January 20, for Open Notes as for “member notes”) and the Journal of Law and Policy provides the generous extension of June 15th

***Submissions are also being accepted for the BLS Advocate.

               Christopher J. Knorps is a 3L.  He enjoys studying bankruptcy law.  He runs the blog  This summer he is in Chicago.  Next year he will institute the Monthly Expense Project, serve as an upper class delegate on the SBA, and serve on its career services committee.  He will also be filming a Batman remake.  Please e-mail him at if you have complaints or are interested in participating.  You may also start a passive-aggressive comment fight but only if you promise not to be lame or mean about it. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon

Oeuvre rule: I tried to read V. when I was 19.  I got about 150 pages into it, and I put it down.  Vineland was recommended to me when I was 18 by an English teacher at our high school.  I bought Gravity's Rainbow when I was 18 or 19 too, but never read it.  I heard Against the Day and Inherent Vice were great, but haven't read them--ditto for Mason & Dixon.

This was the only one I could handle.  Because I couldn't get into V., and because all of his other books were so thick and intimidating, promising a huge time commitment, with what I considered might be a highly questionable payoff.  So my friend lent me this book back--a while ago.  I think it was in December.  Though it is barely over 180 pages, I didn't finish it until last night.  (Soon, soon, all this crap will be over with, and I can get back to more prolific review-writing.)

The problem with spending over 5 months with this book is that you really retain very little and it is almost impossible to understand what is going on---until  you reach a distinct point--around page 115, 120, or 130.  This happened to me in a notable way:

For some reason, a few days ago, I decided to pick up Descartes's Discourse on Method.  This may have been because something in The Crying of Lot 49 set off an alarm in my brain, or it may be because both are spare, unintimidating volumes that could potentially be read alongside each other.  And I would argue that they should be read alongside each other.  But, getting to the point--while working at the library yesterday, I crossed page 100, and read somewhere up to 140 or so.  I later went home and read two or three parts from Discourse on Method, while getting increasingly intoxicated.  Then, I returned to Lot 49, and my bookmark, in a moment of serendipity, fell from the book, and I could not tell where I had stopped.  I read, and read, for maybe an hour or two, continually thinking, "This seems familiar...." but re-reading happily, since it made no sense to me the first time around.  These scenes--for those who read the novel (it would be easy to spoil this novel and I prefer to present it at face-value and let those enter who may) included her meeting with John Nefastis and their attempt to use "Maxwell's Demon," a scene in a "fag joint" called The Greek Way, a quick description of a society called Inamorati Anonymous and its founder (which should be excerpted below), observation of a strange hopscotch game's design in San Francisco's Chinatown, a meeting with a Mexican anarchist named Jesus Arrabal, more paranoid visions of a certain symbol, previously noted in the hopscotch squares, observations of freaks or outcasts or deviants, more symbols, an alternative to the U.S. Postal System mailboxes, called W.A.S.T.E. instead, an old sailor asking her to mail a letter to his wife, a return to John Nefastis's house 24 hours later, and finally her talk-down of her psychiatrist Dr. Hilarius, who has been prescribing LSD but supposedly not taking it, who has become extremely paranoid, shooting at people, and who eventually gives himself up, at which point she is rescued by her current boyfriend, who is on the news-beat, who then goes out with her to a bar, at which point she learns that his brain has been fried by LSD.  Then you're at Chapter 6--the last in the book.

"She" is Oedipa Maas, who was involved with Pierce Inverarity, who died, and was a real estate tycoon that has a complex will to execute.  She leaves San Francisco and goes to San Narciso, which is apparently around L.A.  She meets Metzger, an attorney that is supposed to help her co-execute the will, and he meets her in her hotel room, and they watch an old movie on TV where he was apparently a child actor, and later they go to see a play called The Courier's Tragedy.  At this point, I remember, I just thought this book was a joke, and that the only point was to get as messed up as possible before reading it and to laugh at how every line appeared to be a game in and of itself.  She also meets a band called The Paranoids that are constantly hanging out at her hotel.  The book was published in 1964 and the band is supposedly a reference to Beatle-mania.  Also, it seems as if Radiohead was referencing this book when they named their mailing list W.A.S.T.E.

The book turns into something of a mystery or "potboiler" - but only around that span from page 100-140.  Before that, you can tell that something is a bit off, or that the book is about to go somewhere deeper, but it is practically impossible to comprehend (at least this was the case for me).  I have not met many other people that profess a similar difficulty with Pynchon but something about his prose can be just, oh, annoying at times.

But when he turns it on he turns it on.  I didn't put the book down again last night--I went through to the end, and the ending is fantastic.  A little bit frustrating, but upon reflection, really the only way the novel could be ended appropriately.  It's a really beautiful ending and I'm kind of surprised that this hasn't been made into a movie, because it would make a great one--but that is probably symptomatic of Pynchon, whose idiosyncrasies go beyond the scope of this review.

The novel is ridiculous, and totally unrealistic, at least in the names of its characters.  But surprisingly, I think the story can strike a chord in everyone--and this is the reason I picked up Descartes, perhaps--like Breakfast of Champions would do later on to a much more attenuated degree, the book is about how deeply one can trust one's own senses.  But onto the excerpts.  The first, about the founder of IA, a former executive of the Yoyodyne Corporation, who finds himself "automated out of a job" at age 39, in the early 60s:

"Having been since age 7 rigidly instructed in an eschatology that pointed nowhere but to a presidency and death, trained to do absolutely nothing but sign his name to specialized memoranda he could not begin to understand and to take blame for the running-amok of specialized programs that failed for specialized reasons he had to have explained to him, the executive's first thoughts were naturally of suicide.  But previous training got the better of him: he could not make a decision without first hearing the ideas of a committee.  He placed an ad in the personal column of the L.A. Times, asking whether anyone who'd been in the same fix had ever found any good reasons for not committing suicide.  His shrewd assumption being that no suicides would reply, leaving him automatically with only valid inputs.  The assumption was false...He opened his door and found an aged bum with a knitted watch cap on his head and a hook for a hand, who presented him with a bundle of letters and loped away without a word.  Most of the letters were from suicides who had failed, either through clumsiness or last-minute cowardice.  None of them, however, could offer any compelling reasons for staying alive....He went to the garage, siphoned all the gasoline from his Buick's tank, put on his green Zachary All suit with the vest, stuffed all his letters from unsuccessful suicides into a coat pocket, went into the kitchen, sat on the flood, proceeded to douse himself good with gasoline.  He was about to make a farewell flick of the wheel on his faithful Zippo, which had seen him through the Normandy hedgerows, the Ardennes, Germany, and postwar America, when he heard a key in the front door, and voices.  It was his wife and some man, whom he soon recognized as the very efficiency expert at Yoyodyne who had caused him to be replaced by an IBM 7094.  Intrigued by the irony of it, he sat in the kitchen and listened, leaving his necktie dipped in the gasoline as a sort of wick.  From what he could gather, the efficiency expert wished to have sexual intercourse with the wife on the Moroccan rug in the living room. The wife was not unwilling.  The executive heard lewd laughter, zippers, the thump of shoes, heavy breathing, moans.  He took his tie out of the gasoline and started to snigger.  He closed the top on his Zippo.  'I hear laughing,' his wife said presently.  'I smell gasoline,' said the efficiency expert.  Hand in hand, naked, the two proceeded to the kitchen.  'I was about to do the Buddhist monk thing,' explained the executive.  'Nearly three weeks it takes him,' marvelled the efficiency expert, 'to decide.  You know how long it would have taken the IBM 7094?  Twelve microseconds.  No wonder you were replaced.'" (113-115)

The executive then declares, "My big mistake was love.  From this day I swear to stay off of love: hetero, homo, bi, dog or cat, car, every kind there is.  I will found a society of isolates, dedicated to this purpose, and this sign, revealed by the same gasoline that almost destroyed me, will be its emblem." (116)

Pynchon has a way of being incredibly good with language but at the same time being obtuse, which I think is the best description I can give of why I have found his work frustrating up to now.  Here is an excerpt from the same page that illustrates that:

"Despair came over her, as it will when nobody around has any sexual relevance to you.  She gauged the spectrum of feeling out there as running from really violent hate (an Indian-looking kid hardly out of his teens with frosted shoulder-length hair tucked behind his ears and pointed cowboy boots) to dry speculation (a hornrimmed SS type who stared at her legs, trying to figure out if she was in drag), none of which could do her any good." (116)

I had to reread this sentence a few times to get what it meant, and still am not 100% certain.

Once you get to the point between 100-140, though, The Crying of Lot 49 becomes a page-turner.  And tied in seamlessly with the "story," is a provocative philosophical inquiry.  Along the way, Jesus Arrabal describes "miracles" as "intrusions into this world from another." (124) And there are departures that I could only describe in the margin as "Burroughs-esque," another example of Pynchon losing me for a moment:

"Cammed each night out of that safe furrow the bulk of this city's waking each sunrise again set virtuously to plowing, what rich soils had he turned, what concentric planets uncovered?  What voices overheard, flinders of luminescent gods glimpsed among the wallpaper's stained foliage, candlestubs lit to rotate in the air over him, prefiguring the cigarette he or a friend must fall asleep someday smoking, thus to end among the flaming, secret salts held all those years by the insatiable stuffing of a mattress that could keep vestiges of every nightmare sweat, helpless overflowing bladder, viciously, tearfully consummated wet dream, like the memory bank to a computer of the lost?" (126)

This has been a long review that is short on substance.  But I have tried not to spoil this novel.  And while I doubt that I have made it seem very "exciting," I think I have provided a fair reflection of its virtues.  It is a very long short story, or a "novella plus," that is intricately constructed, funnier more often than not, and ultimately a bit maddening - and totally worth it.  The point is that my fear of Pynchon has been allayed, at least for now:

"For there either was some Tristero beyond the appearance of the legacy America, or there was just America and if there was just America then it seemed the only way she could continue, and manage to be at all relevant to it, was as an alien, unfurrowed, assumed full circle into paranoia."  (182)

And it also had a weird effect on my reading of Descartes, as my mind became more fragmented, and I could not differentiate between texts, thinking of a line, and wondering whether Pynchon or Descartes had written it.  This sounds incredible and a huge compliment to Pynchon, but this is why I recommend reading this book in tandem with Discourse on Method.  Whether you are getting incredibly intoxicated while reading both or not, I think the similarities will jump out at you and cause the same confusion in your mind, which ultimately, leads to a clarity most pure:

"Write down what you can't deny.  Your hard intelligence.  But then write down what you've only speculated, assumed.  See what you've got."  (168)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Reflection on 2L Year

It is not easy to sum up a 9 month period in a single blog post.  However, this post will not be as long as last year's ( because I will not be listing my favorite cases (or, if I do, I will not go off about them, while watching Wheel of Fortune and having a moment of divine coincidence while writing about White v. Samsung and hearing Pat Sajak say, "It's good you make mistakes.  It shows you're human.  Not that there was any doubt about that.").  Regardless, there is still a lot of angst to sort through, and I question the intelligence of writing about "romance" on my blog, but I feel that it has been the aspect of my 2L year that has made it both tolerable and endlessly intriguing.

But first, the classes.  As some of you may know, I started writing a column for BLS Advocate this year.  I wanted to write a column about Exams, and about how students should "Review" exams they have just taken, for the benefit of future students.  Well, THAT, I am going to do.  That may be very boring so I will keep that to the end.

If you have been following this blog for any amount of time, you should probably know that I was on the verge of dropping out last summer.  I was destroyed by the 1L process.  I was destroyed by grades.  I was destroyed by the lack of comfort, the constant sense of unease I felt in not fully understanding the material, going into the exam, and having an internal mental meltdown where everything I learned, all the hours I spent doing the reading assignments, then outlining, then reviewing, then taking practice exams, then sending questions to professors, then annoyingly accosting classmates about "the right answer" resulted in nothing more than a B, B-, or C+.

This year, in the Fall, I did not do worse than a B+.  People told me, "It gets better."  People told me, "It gets easier."  People told me, "They work you to death."  All three statements were true, at least for me.  However, as previously noted, I do not think that necessarily would have held true had I not begun taking medication.

Medication may be controversial, to a degree (psychotropics and amphetamines, at least), but I seriously believe that law students are on way more medication than most people realize.  But that's not what I want to talk about.

"Romance" and law school do not coalesce for several reasons:
1) Dates cost money, and law students generally don't have any income.
2) Dates cost time, and law students generally don't have much of it.
3) When "FWB" comes into play, someone's feelings tend to get hurt at the end of the day.

Annoying personality qualities are revealed.  "True colors" come out.  And the gossip, the gossip of it all at law school is insane.  One friend told me, incredibly, (and perhaps it was incredible that I agreed with her, but I still do) that undergraduate students at NYU are more mature than law students at BLS.  While at first this appears to be an incredible statement, the size of BLS (vs. the size of NYU) makes it a veritable "devil's playground" for gossip.  Most people know a majority of the 1400 students or so here -- at least those that are "lounge lizards" or "library sleepers" or "smokers" -- whether by reputation, appearance, hearsay, or legend.  Most people at NYU do not know a majority of the 18,000 students or so there.  Smaller groups of friends are formed, gossip is not so vituperative, and "incest" (GENERALLY) occurs less often.

Regardless, many people try to make law school and "romance" work together symbiotically, and indeed I have written about "spouse-searching" at law school previously (here  While I do not deny that I will continue to seek out a "worthy" or "willing" partner, I wish I didn't have to.  I wish I could stay single forever--but it gets boring--and worse, some people see it as "failure" or a reflection of a generally poor character, which I think is just so sad.  It's one of those judgments that makes life intolerable.

But being in a relationship also gets boring.  At least in my experience.

Moving on.

Here are the classes I took:
Debtors and Creditors' Rights (Hon. Glenn) - B+
Administrative Law (Prof. Araiza) - B+
Evidence (Prof. Pitler) - A-
Health Law Practicum Clinic (Prof. Porter/Medicare Rights Center) - HP
Interviewing & Counseling (Prof. Schultze) - A-
Business Reorganizations (Prof. Gerber) - ?
Corporations (Prof. Baer) - ?
Consumer Counseling and Bankruptcy Clinic (Prof. Eyster) - ?
Employment Law (Prof. Minda) - ?
Trial Advocacy (Prof. Hynes) - ?

I did better in the Fall than I ever did in my 1L year.  My GPA was a 3.5.  It ruled.
However, I am nervous that the Spring will not offer as great rewards.  The exams were difficult, and somehow, I just felt less focused in a way, more rushed.

A brief review:
Debtor and Creditor was a great class, even though many felt that Glenn's lack of teaching experience may have hampered our ability to understand the bankruptcy system.  Whatever the case, I did not do very well on the exam.  I know this because I reviewed it with him.  I screwed almost everything up--though there were a few questions where I did get "parts" of it right.  Regardless, that exam was the hardest exam I have ever taken.  It was clear, when I made it to the final question (worth a relatively significant number of points) and I only had 10 minutes left to read the fact pattern and write an answer, that my timing had been seriously miscalculated.  Fortunately, that was the case for almost everyone, and I somehow managed a B+.  Getting to meet Judge Glenn and being there the day after MF Global filed for Chapter 11 and hearing his excitement that he would be assigned "the 8th largest bankruptcy case in American history" was cool.  He also invited us into a hearing on use of cash collateral, but unfortunately, I had other obligations.

Medicare Rights Center was that obligation, and I spent 168 hours working there.  It was a good experience, but I felt it was the one internship I have done since starting law school that was not a potential place to work after graduation.  They just didn't like me.  Or, maybe they did like me, to an extent, but we didn't work as well together as we might have.  I have no hard feelings though, and I have a deep amount of respect for that organization.  Moreover, it was the only time I had the opportunity to become "deeply involved" in a case, and the experience of winning was totally sweet.  (By the way, I am batting 1,000 when it comes to winning cases).

Administrative Law was a great class, though not always easy.  Prof. Araiza is the #2 professor at BLS in my opinion.  He is utterly fantastic.  I will take any class I can with him next year, whatever the subject matter, though I hope he teaches First Amendment (aka Con Law III, which, I think, Admin Law should be Con Law IV)...However, I did not do very well on the exam, again!  My answers were not very well organized (though I must admit, I was significantly more accurate about "the law" on my Admin exam than on my D&C exam) and Araiza chastised me when we reviewed it together.  He kept saying, "I don't want to be mean....but what were you thinking?"  It was so funny!  I could never be mad at him.  His standards are high, but it can be one of the most fulfilling experiences when you have a Professor with very high expectations and you meet them, and he is satisfied with your performance.  I was pleased to get a B+.

Evidence is one of those "core classes" that most 2L/3L students will take, though it is an elective.  It is a fun class, and Prof. Pitler made it fun, though many did not appreciate his style.  He has great style, in my opinion, and because I did the work all throughout the semester, because I did all of the "problems" that we were supposed to prepare for class (in lieu of casebook reading), because I always volunteered to answer, he told me at the end of the last class that he really appreciated how well prepared I was.  I did not do great on that exam, either!  I reviewed it with him, and he told me I scored a B+, but he bumped me up to an A- because of my in-class participation.  There was no sweeter bump, as that was a 4 credit class (though it is conceivable that I got the same kind of "bump" for Civil Procedure last year, though my participation was anything but comparable).

Interviewing & Counseling is a class taught by Prof. Schultze, who is a legend around this campus.  His Negotiation seminar is more well-known, but the Interviewing & Counseling course was good--only, it seemed to focus a lot on Family Law.  Later, I would take a clinic with Prof. Eyster, which focused almost exclusively on Interviewing & Counseling in Bankruptcy Law.  Now, that was a very difficult thing to do, let me tell you, but it's one of the best skills you can get.  You can interview someone all day about their legal problem involving a breach of contract or a tort, or who was the better parent, or you can take a criminal defense case and dance around your client and hope they don't admit their guilt--but with bankruptcy, you have a client that has to explain how their financial life went to hell.  Sometimes they don't want to talk about -- this is private stuff!  Having been there myself, I think it's the area I'm most suited for.

Business Reorganizations was probably the single best class I took at BLS and Prof. Gerber is the #1 professor (Araiza is only #2 because he intimidates me - I like him, but I'm afraid that whatever I say to him ends up sounding like the words of an idiot, because he is an intellectual powerhouse).  It was fun, he was nice, and what was really great about him was his review session: we reviewed the exam from last year, and he stayed 75 minutes later than he expected the review session to last - and he answered every single question.  I told him, "Thank you for staying so late," and he said, "I don't have a life anyways."  He is hilarious and great and it is rumored that he will be taking a sabbatical next year--so I urge all current 1Ls (becoming 2Ls at this very moment, as the Property exam is ending) to take a class with him in two years.  I will be happy with a B+ in this class, but I am praying I may score as high as an A-.

Corporations is another "core class" like Evidence, and also 4 credits.  Corporations was very hard, but not as hard as Debtor/Creditor.  However, it was 4 credits, and I did not like the way we got all of our most important cases as the very end of the year.  Omnicare, Time, QVC, Revlon, ITT--these cases are huge, both page-number wise and in how important they are in the course.  Prof. Baer has a very good reputation and I generally agree that she taught the class well, but I felt that there was a bit of a disconnect there.  In particular--we were expected to do an incredible amount of "review reading" and "supplemental reading" which was simply impossible (even with a relatively long reading period for me personally).  She warned me not to miss the forest for the trees, so to speak, and that this was a basic, "survey" course.  And yet!  And yet on the exam we are expected to be able to make fine distinctions based upon long, complex fact patterns with little or no explanation of the practical meaning of certain phrases.  This wouldn't be so difficult if the exam was open note, but it was not!  The exam, which I took yesterday, was the third hardest one I have taken (Contracts with Prof. Taylor takes the #2 position),.  I rushed like hell.  I screwed up stuff about Shareholder Rights Plans (which, even though I named my study group "the Poisoned Pills," I could still not really get what the practical effect of "redeeming the pill" meant).  There are really interesting stories behind some of these cases, and some of the opinions were great (my personal favorite #1 case of the year was In re Citigroup Shareholders Derivative Litigation (2009) which basically alleges that Citigroup "should have known better" than to invest in asset-backed mortgage securities--it is basically the greatest opinion of the past 5 years because it encapsulates everything that was rotten about the Great Recession--and yet, Citigroup cannot possibly be held responsible for the shit-storm we've all had to wade through (and indeed, is directly responsible for many of us being in law school now), though Schlensky v. Wrigley is fantastic if you are a Cubs fan).
While I enjoyed the class (indeed, if I were ever to become a Professor, I would want to teach it), I am very scared about what grade I might get.  I will be happy with a B+--and I hope the boost works in my favor in this class.  If I get a B, I will probably shoot myself, though it is certainly conceivable that, my exam answers earned no more than a B, or even a B-.  With a B, and a boost, a B+ will be O.K.  I really wanted to CALI this class, and I thought I could do it, until I looked at the fact pattern.  I was super confident going in, and then everything fell apart.  There is basically NO WAY I could get an A.  If I get an A-, I will be very, very happy.  (And keep in mind, while all this talk about grades might seem obnoxious, I only care so much because my scholarship is dependent on these things).

Employment Law with Prof. Minda was a long, strange trip.  I opted to write the paper, and I hope he likes it.  Personally, I think this paper is brilliant, but it is a big mess too.  It's 14,000 words.  120 footnotes.  I'd try to publish it, but I'd need to edit it significantly, and of course, in that process all the good stuff would get taken out.  Regardless, interesting class, I enjoyed it.  And while writing the paper was sometimes quite hard (my topic was on the staffing industry, which is shrouded in secrecy) it was extremely fulfilling.  I hope to get an A in this class.  It is doubtful that I will get an A+.  I will be happy with an A-, however, I will not be happy with a B+.

Trial Advocacy with Prof. Hynes was great, though I felt he was a "Taylorist" in the sense that he may have felt there was "one best way" to make an opening statement and conduct direct examinations and cross-examinations.  He seemed to give us more leeway on summations, but he did not give much feedback on ours.  He told me I had "great style" which was nice to hear from someone so eminent (he is the D.A. of) Kings County) and he agreed, tentatively, at the last minute to play himself in my upcoming film, Batman in Brooklyn.  I don't know what kind of grade I'll get, but I'd be very pleased with an A-.

The Consumer Counseling and Bankruptcy Seminar, finally, was great.  I loved the office I was placed into, and Prof. Eyster generally made the weekly seminars an interesting detour.  What was strange about this is that, it was 4 credits, and my health law practicum was 3 credits, and I had to work 168 hours at Medicare Rights Center, but only 140 at my bankruptcy firm.  There was a bit more classwork for this, but we had to keep journals just the same of every day.  I think the clinical program should be revised to make it more equal, since I'll be getting a grade for this class (hopefully A-, if not A) and only got a High Pass for the health law clinic.

This has been a very long post about nothing in particular, but it is for BLS students that may want to know a little bit more about the classes they can take and the professors that taught them.  I hope to write a final column soon about the Journal writing competition and Bluebooking.  I am now going to resume my bender. Thank you.