Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Isaac Azimov wrote a novel in 1957 called The Naked Sun, part of a trilogy (or, I guess, a tetralgy) about humanity several thousand years in the future. Earth is crowded, and people live in vast underground cities. Other people have moved to other planets, and because their planets are more lightly populated they have robots to do their work for them. Azimov sets out to create a series of locked door mysteries derived from this premise, combined with the Three Laws of Robotics. As literature I suppose they are no better or worse than a typical Agatha Christie, but The Naked Sun has been on my mind. The detective and his robot pal are dispatched to a planet where people only interact by way of 3D video. Personal contact is abhorrent to them. Sex is regarded as a disgusting necessity. I've always found this to be a clunky plot device: someone is killed, but it can't be the obvious suspect because that person can't stand being in the physical presence of another person. It can't be a robot, because robots are hardwired so that they can't harm people. And so on.
I just did my first Zoom deposition. It went fine, but I do not like lawyering this way.
Friday, January 22, 2021
I am listening to a lot of Lisa Hilton all of a sudden. West Coast piano jazz (whatever that means), sweet but far from cloying. Recommended
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Bill Wyman's essay on Phil Spector is the best thing I have read on the topic. Back when Spector was being tried for murdering Lana Clarkson I wrote about the case, because it was an oddly undramatic affair. I suppose the reality was that anyone who knew him reckoned it was bound to happen at some point. This is, of course, what made the crime so terrible: no one who could have done something exercised any agency.
Addendum: When can we separate the art from the artist is a complicated question. Here's a good discussion
Monday, January 18, 2021
Subject for future research: Did the drafters believe that impeachment/removal would be rare? What about the amendment process? The United States has gone for longer periods without a Constitutional amendment, but if the last four years, or the last year, or the last week goes to show anything it's that we should really be taking a hard look at some pretty major structural reforms
Friday, January 08, 2021
Coups work when public institutions are weak. Notably, even though an not insignificant number of Americans feel aggrieved about the outcome of the election- and even though far too many Republican politicians were willing to play along- the institutional structure of our government is pretty strong. Less than a week ago Brad Raffensperger refused to be pushed around by the President of the United States. That shouldn't be a big deal, and maybe it isn't. He was doing his job. But in so doing Mr. Raffensperger showed us that for all the Ted Cruz's and Chris Jacobs' out there American political institutions are still pretty strong. Yesterday we saw what a seditious rabble looks like. Today the Republic still stands. That's no small thing
Thursday, January 07, 2021
An actual seditious riot. I never imagined such a thing could be possible in the United States
The other day on NPR's Morning Edition there was a piece about how some guy has written a prequel to The Great Gatsby because the author felt that Scott Fitzgerald didn't tell his readers enough about Nick Carraway. Since Fitzgerald's novel is, in fact, about Carraway I am at a loss as to how this bit of fan fiction managed to find an actual publisher, much less a credulous interviewer, but there you are. I have long held that the two best candidates for The Great American Novel are Gatsby and Moby Dick so maybe we can look forward to a prequel to Melville's novel. After all, what do we really know about the character who tells us to call him Ishmael? We don't even know his real name!
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
"I decided it would be a real fun idea to get fucked up on drugs and go
see Tangerine Dream with Laserium. So I drank two bottles of cough syrup
and subwayed up to Avery Fisher Hall for a night I’ll never forget." Only one man could have written that lede, and the rest of the piece is just as good.
Tuesday, January 05, 2021
People assume that I’m a tort lawyer because I love slapstick, and it’s true that the stories are part of why I enjoy this work, but there’s more to it than that. It’s said that journalism is the first draft of history, and I think something like that can be said about the way tort jurisprudence develops: in many ways the manner in which social disruptions are first addressed in our system is through the adjudication of harm.
One of the expressions we use nowadays is that something is “the new normal”. I think that’s premature: we don’t know yet what normal is going to look like because we are still very much in a state of disruption. Even so, we are trying to devise ways of going about life in ways that sort of resemble the way things were before this pandemic, and one of the systems that’s being devised is a revisiting of the way risk is allocated in the workplace and beyond.
COVID-19 is disruptive and disorienting because we really don’t have a model for something like this. It is different from a war, or other disaster because it is universal and invisible. There feels like there is an approach/avoidance conflict to everything in our lives. We have to go to the grocery, we need to work to pay for groceries, and we need to address the risks that make the mundane perilous. In doing this we need to determine if new systems are necessary- or if the political and cultural agendas that we’ve been wresting with in the Before Times are sufficient today.
Monday, January 04, 2021
The commercials for Jersey Mike's Subs are interesting. They don't seem to be selling sandwiches, they seem to be selling Jersey Mike's Subs franchises. The ads are ubiquitous during NFL games, which isn't an inexpensive ad buy, and I wonder about franchise operations as an investment generally. On my drive home from NC last month I had a Jersey Mike's sandwich- the ads were enough about sandwiches that my curiosity was piqued. It was pretty good. The bread was fresh, and there was a refreshing jolt of red wine vinegar and oregano. The meats are all Jersey Mike's branded, and according to this Forbes article they are sourced from Sysco Foods, which is a good indication of national consistency with regard to product. Interestingly the franchisor is not particularly transparent with respect to its franchise disclosure document, which does not include Item 19 disclosure. That said, the franchise fee and other requirements are not eye-popping. I'd be curious about how the company carves out geographical exclusivity- in the end the fast food business is as much about location as anything else. Based on it's current advertising the franchisor obviously is planning on expanding, and I'd be inclined to think that the sandwich shop sector would be pretty competitive generally, and especially so with more people working from home.