Blawg Review #188

(This post is called Blawg Review, and it’s about blawging, and reviewing, but Blawg Review is not the name of this blog, that’s just the name of the post, and that’s why the post is called Blawg Review)

Arlo Guthrie was at my door. Which was kind of funny since I hadn’t exactly invited him to Thanksgiving dinner with the law bloggers we were having, but this being Thanksgiving he thought it would be a friendly gesture to show up and help me write Blawg Review. And so he did.

But then he pointed to the graphic down below that I was about to put here that has his album cover with my face on it, and said “Kid, that’s my album cover with your face on it.” And so it was. He didn’t look pleased, and mentioned his red VW microbus out front with shovels, rakes and implements of destruction and he looked back at my computer with a hairy eyeball. I mentioned something about fair use and the law, but he stopped me right there and said, “Kid, I don’t like your kind. But I’m going to help you anyway, and besides, I smell turkey,” and he came in for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat.

When the graphic went up, Anthony Verna from the Trademark Copyright and Entertainment Law Forum sauntered over with one of my wife’s hors d’ourves in his hand. Re-using someone else’s art was one of his fair use interests, as he saw me do with Arlo’s cover that I pirated, and he regaled me with the story of the guy who took Garfield out of the Garfield comics to reveal the angst of his hapless owner, Jon. We spoke a bit about the infringing nature of Garfield minus. Garfield with Dave Fagundes from Prawfsblog. Arlo was not amused.

But while piracy can sometimes be fun that isn’t always the case. Jonathon Adler from Volokh came over with Bret Stephens to discuss the more serious business of piracy off the coast of Somalia, and the days when pirates could simply be strung up on a yardarm. Arlo was listening, and eyeballing the rafters of my home as he pondered the law of piracy.

I left that discussion — being thankful that I live in a place where high seas piracy is not a worry — when Alice’s Restaurant came on the radio (part 1 at right). Blawgers were arriving at my home while Arlo — the one on the radio, not the one who took off for the play room with a cold beer in his hand — recounted his 1965 arrest for littering in Stockbridge, Massachusettes while visiting Alice, who didn’t live at the restaurant but lived in the church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and Fasha the dog. Jeralyn Merritt from TalkLeft went wild when she heard the song come on, as she told us how she still has the Alice’s Restaurant cookbook. Her fellow criminal defense lawyer Gideon from A Public Defender, was chatting her up, saying that Arlo’s act of littering was a fine example of the Broken Windows Theory, whereby one broken window (or act of littering) encourages more.

With talk of the iconic song in the air (part 2 at left) and the overblown use of police resources to convict him — notably the twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence — stories started to spill out: Did you hear about the woman tagged as a sex offender because she had oral sex at age 17 with her boyfriend, asked Doug Matacocis? Scott Greenfield appeared — he loves playing can-you-top-this — and chatted about the guy who was taken off to the police officers’ station for drinking a beer on his Brooklyn stoop. I chipped in my own bit about the Santa Monica cops busting people for exercising on a roadway median. Arlo was back and was listening in and having a ball with these stories, saying “Kid, I’m havin‘ a ball, and thanks for inviting me,” though I didn’t recall doing any actual inviting.

Vickie Pynchon from the Settle it Now Negotiation Blog also loved the song, and made a point of stressing how important stories are to negotiations, disputes and the common law. We were joined by others wanting to discuss the bluesy Alice’s Restaurant, which some feel lives on in rap. Ray Ward from The (New) Legal Writer and Freddie from Southern Appeal were talking about it, and they thoughtfully provided a legal translation of one duel between rappers.

Settled into a quiet corner, I found law profs Miriam Cherry talking about the law of Thanksgiving with Meredith Miller as well as the law of turkeys. A law of turkeys? Who knew?

With turkey talk in the air, I went outside to call my family in for dinner; they were throwing the football around in the Turkey Bowl — what else do you think the Turkewitz family would call our private Thanksgiving Day game? Gathering around the table, we got some Thanksgiving toasts, including Susan Cartier Liebel holding up a magnificent photograph, now 90 years old. Bob Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule, was thankful that greed seems to have gone out of fashion. David Giacalone from f/k/a rose to thank us for hosting, but mostly my wife for cooking, and reminded me in particular that there is a back end to this meal which could use a little help. His toast takes haiku form, of course:

men washing dishes -
an early alarm ends
her Thanksgiving dream

Arlo sidled up to me after that toast, reminding me that when I went to throw the garbage out after this meal, I really ought to be careful about that littering thing.

As I carved the turkey in the kitchen, Gene Quinn from the IP Watchdog was telling me of a patent to debone a turkey. Our resident vegan, Sherry Colb from Dorf on Law, was not amused and wanted to talk about the hypocrisy of gathering to celebrate while an animal gets slaughtered. (There’s one in every crowd, Arlo whispered to me.) Meanwhile, Amir Efrati from the WSJ Law Blog shifted the talk to the ritualistic pardons a few lucky turkeys receive from politicians. We chatted about the Sarah Palin and George Bush turkey pardons and then the more serious people pardons that Bush just signed and those he might sign soon. His colleague at the WSJ, Ashby Jones, joined in with more on those begging for a Bush pardon, as did Andrew Golden from the Marquette faculty.

The pardon discussion made Arlo jump up and wave me to the other side of the room, away from everybody else in the room. He remembers the Group W Bench at the induction center on Whitehall Street where he went after getting his draft notice, so that he could be injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected. That Group W Bench, he told me was “where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime.” He wondered if George W’s own Group W Bench could pass its own moral fitness tests to join in the escapades they orchestrated.

Orin Kerr from Volokh grabbed my attention to pull me back into the center of the room, after seeing me talking to an empty bench in the corner. A very hot topic this week was Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders standing up at a Federalist Society dinner with Attorney General Michael Mukasey bellowing out, “Tyrant! You are a tyrant!” before walking out. Mukasey had been talking about Gitmo and torture.

Arlo thought that was great, whispering to me, “But singin‘ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walkin‘ out would have really brought the house down.”

With politics in the air, Tatiana von Tauber dropped her fork mid-bite, and let loose about the last election and a certain moose-hunting vice presidential candidate she wrote about at the Legal Satyricon. “I’ve never been so embarrassed to have a vagina,” she said.

John Palfrey jumped into the election discussion, still smoking hot three weeks afterward with no sign of let-up, and spoke of his thankfulness at the Obama election, not just because it was such a great leap forward in racial relations, but for what it meant in voter turnout and election lawyers making sure voters were not disenfranchised as in the past. That was a subject I could relate to.

Walter Olson noted that, in the wake of the Republican fiasco at the ballot box, he is helping to start up a new blog, Secular Right. Perhaps, I tell him while discussing the two main branches of the Republican party, the fundamental contradiction of a less government control libertarian-right will finally confront head-on the religious right that wants more government control.

Between bites of turkey stuffing, Daniel Schwartz from the Connecticut Employment Law Blog felt the need to jump in with some practical discussion. “All this yammering about politics is all well and good,” he said, but “what does an actual employer do when an actual employee is heading off to war, like it or not?” Someone from the Sheppard Mullin firm, who I could not recognize, joined him in debate about the Employee Free Choice Act and the ramifications for employers.

Greenfield was back. He looked at that last link from Sheppard Mullin and saw a lot of useful employment law information posted by a law firm without an actual author’s name, but then saw a sales pitch for the firm’s services at the bottom of it. Greenfield easily the most prolific legal blogger in the country — had a tough week arguing about lawyer blogs and marketing and professionalism. He’s not pleased that some of the commenters tried to hijack his site with their self-promotional claptrap and he set off a firestorm in the comments of a follow-up post on marketing. He’s even re-printed a long critical email of his attitude and his site has become, for the moment, ground zero in the discussion of law blog advertising/marketing.

Carolyn Elefant was listening intently to Greenfield’s marketing rants, and noted on a related topic that, at a time of giving thanks, there is a wrong way to express thanks (because its marketing and it might mean more business) a right way (because you want to). In fact, she wrote about it four years ago for Law.com. She then whipped out her guitar, to sing. But it wasn’t an Arlo song and he wasn’t keen on seeing his thunder taken away, on Thanksgiving of all days, and shot Elefant a dirty look as she warbled about the the myriad ways that the practice of law is a changin.

All this heavy duty talk of marketing and blogging was started to drive the light-hearted folks at the tablawg Above the Law a little nuts, so they were glad to hear Elefant sing. (Arlo, not so much, seeing as how she sang a Dylan song on his day.) Calling for more booze, ATL saw the chance to liven up the party. With the wine flowing nicely, Elie Mystal announced the ATL holiday party, all invited. That worked well with the brand-new legal matchmaking service ATL now has; not matching lawyers with law firms but with each other for dates. Who will be the first to sue ATL for something or other?

Hearing Dylan was too much for Arlo. He grabbed a little pumpkin pie and headed for the door. But I asked him to take the day back with his music, and begged for a special version of Alice’s Restaurant. I wanted to sing a special one, if only he would strum the tune for me. He wasn’t particularly moved to do a special one, which is why he said, “Kid, you ain’t special.” But he did like the dinner and pie, saying it was a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat, and so he agreed. But first we had to wait for it to come around on the guitar…. OK, here it comes:

You can get anything you want at this week’s Blawg Review.
You can get anything you want at this week’s Blawg Review.
Just read it through and click on a link,
See what they got and be back in a blink,
You can get anything you want at this week’s Blawg Review.

He looked up at me and said “That was horrible. Now ordinarily, kid, I would tell you to sing louder to save the world and all that, with four part harmony and feeling. But the truth of the matter is, that this is a case of you being tone-deaf and singing it louder won’t make it any better.”


And with that, he headed on off in his red VW microbus with its shovels, rakes and implements of destruction. He had his annual Thanksgiving gig at Carnegie Hall with Pete Seeger to do. Then he was headed to California to visit Colin Samuels, who won Blawg Review of the Year three years running using Dante’s Divine Comedy. Samuels is reportedly working on part four of the trilogy, and will host next week’s Blawg Review at Infamy or Praise.

(All graphics by Dan Turkewitz, modifying existing images, except blog promotion graphic by ProBlogger.)

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