Thursday, March 31, 2011

Preakness goes FREAKness with KEGasus

KEGasus, 2011 Preakness Ad.

Horses are not all that are being abused at the Pimlico Race Course.  With the introduction on KEGasus, the "Lord of the Infield Fest," Greek mythology takes a harsh whipping, Pop-Culture style.  The Maryland Jockey Club has abandoned its "Get Your Preak On" campaign for a "highbrow" advertisement targeting the youth-crowd who have not patronized the royal sport of horse racing.  According to the MJC, the proper rituals have been performed to bring the "manimal" to life.  We can expect visits from KEGasus at the Orioles opening home game.  If you are wondering why KEGasus is not KEGtar or centLAGER, the answer is not clear... You can ask KEGasus on twitter.
2010 Preakness Ads

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"I Yam What I Yam, That I Yam"

After playing around with Hamlet yesterday, I thought about how we often use quotations from writers and famous people to describe who we are, how we think, or what we are doing.  Maybe it is a fallacious appeal to authority or the idea that if someone got the words exactly right, why not reuse them.  Or, if our French Existentialist friends are right, the use of familiar quotes is a way (although mistaken) to be a participant in the universal condition of humanity.  After all, "being is what it is" as Sartre says.
A favorite quote from a cartoon.
from funny time

List-Day Wednesday Topic:  What are you favorite quotes or catch-phrases?

Here is my list:

  1. "When the going gets weird, the weird get going."  Raoul Duke (HS Thompson)
  2. "Seems, madame, nay it is.  I know not seems."  Shakespeare, Hamlet.
  3. "Art happens"  James Whistler
  4. "Good history, is history that we can use."  Nietzsche.  (This does not have a particular source.  After some research, I have discovered that this is a Nietzsche quote I have made up... but it is still my favorite saying from Nietzsche.)
  5. "'To do is to be' Socrates, 'to be is to do' Sartre, 'Do Be Do Be Do' Sinatra"  Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Posner and Hamlet Revisited

Judge Posner has toyed with Hamlet in the past.  In Palmer v. Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., 117 F. 3d 351, the Good Judge used Hamlet to explain away the Catch-22 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a person's mental illness causes that person behave as a mentally ill person, such as threatening to kill someone, his employer can fire him for acting like a mentally ill person, but the employer cannot fire the person for being mentally ill. In other words, you can be mentally ill, but you cannot act as if you are mentally ill.

Judge Posner explains:
The cause of the threat was, we may assume, her mental illness — as when Hamlet said, apologizing to Laertes, "Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never Hamlet./ If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,/ And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes,/ Then Hamlet does it not; Hamlet denies it./ Who does it then? His madness." Hamlet, Act V, sc. ii, ll. 229-233. But if an employer fires an employee because of the employee's unacceptable behavior, the fact that that behavior was precipitated by a mental illness does not present an issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you still don't understand, then it is time to take up the book and read.
     "They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.
     "No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
     "Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
     "They're shooting at everyone," Clevinger answered. "They're trying to kill everyone."
     "And what difference does that make?"
                Catch - 22

To Be or Not To Be Insane?

SCOTUS Mock Trial Mocks Mocking Posner

Chief Justice Kennedy sat as judge over a recent mock trial of Hamlet at the University of Southern California.  Hamlet, on trial for murder, sought to hide behind the curtains of an insanity defense.  Apparently two of the twelve jurors bought the "I am but mad north-north-west" line.  But I ask you, could an insane person truly "know a hawk from a handsaw" whether it came by a southerly wind or not?
Alas, poor Rehnquist, I knew him.
A fellow of infinite fairness in
assigning opinions.

Judge Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals did not take kindly to the literary charades of the Chief Justice.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Judge Posner could be heard muttering to himself, "Seems, Chief Justice!, nay it is.  I know not seems. That's the problem with presidents and Supreme Court justices and billionaires.  They think that because they are successful in one sphere they're experts in everything."

Confronted with the condemnation of Judge Posner, Justice Ruth Gertrude Ginsburg queried, "What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue in noise so rude against me? He is an odd person to say that."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Salado Wine Festival

I made two unexpected discoveries this weekend.  First discovery was the The Salado Texas Wine & Rouge Art Festival.  Salado has grown in popularity among those who like rustic Texas kitsch and bead making.  In addition, there are some fine antique shops.  Salado has also developed a reputation for wine tasting... fermented grapes help make cast-plastic garden rabbits irresistible.  Joking aside, the Wine Festival was simple and successful.  Twenty vineyards participated.  For $10 you get a wine glass and tickets to taste six wines.  The second discovery was that Texas vineyards are putting out some excellent wines.  My favorite was the McPherson Viognier.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bad Day in Court

Here is another insight into the motives behind drinking (heavily) before going to court.  Justin Grassmyer, who blew a .349 on the breathalyzer, explained to the judge that since he was going to prison he might as well tie-one-on.  The judge responded to Mr. Grassmyer saying, "You are too drunk to talk to me."

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Lawyers, and Clients, can learn from Mr. Gruber

Judge's Bench Pub in Baltimore
"Where you are always guilty
of having a good time."
Here are some tips garnered from Mr. Gruber's recent visit to the Sullivan County Court in  New York.

  1. When asked to appear before court for a DWI charge, do not show up late.
  2. Ask the court for a recess if you need to finish drinking your beer.
  3. Store your extra beers in your car, not under your chair in a black bag.  That makes the bailiff nervous and jealous.
  4. When asked by the judge, "Did you enjoy your liquid lunch?" do not say "Yes"... say "Yes your honor."
  5. Do not offer the judge a beer, especially if it is a warm can of Busch.

See the Times-Herald for a more accurate account of Mr. Gruber's visit to court.

Waco Timeline Revision

A recent article in Science Magazine casts the anthropological history of Waco and the Americas, for that matter, in a new light.  The Waco History Project timeline beings at 500 CE when Indians moved into this area.  Although this conservative estimate avoids any clash with Young Earthers, archaeologists at the Buttermilk Creek Complex date human habitation in Central Texas back to 13,500 BCE.  The cool thing about this is that for the past 80 years scientists said that the Clovis people were the first inhabitants of the Americas.  Periodically, an archaeologist would pop up and say, "There were people here before 11,000 BCE."  Like an academic "Whack a Mole," they would be pummeled back into submission.  I suspect that there will be some whacking after this article.  As Cornell West said when he visited Baylor, "You can still get a PhD writing a dissertation which says one group is smarter, superior, or more accomplished than another."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Real March Madness is in Oman

Basketball may be exciting and interesting if you take the time to watch it, but it is an outdated, 20th century sport. The 21st century is the age of Extreme Sports. Today, my eyes are on Oman for the final day of the first round of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series.  For the uninterested uninitiated, Extreme Sailing kicks it up a notch.  USA 17, the boat that won the 33rd America's Cup in 2010, reached a top speed of 17 mph in the competition.  An Extreme Sailboat can reach speeds of 28mph on a good race day with 17mph winds.  The courses are short, the winds are tricky, the sailing is grueling.  Extreme sailing is Formula 1 on the high seas... without a motor and about 10 times slower and, today, in Muscat, Oman.  For those ready to jump onboard, the tack-by-tack coverage is streamed live online.

UPDATE: French team Groupe Edmond de Rothschild won Act 1 of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

List-Day Wednesday = Best Burger Joints

Since we are on the topic of hamburgers, I thought that a List-Day Wednesday dedicated to listing the best Burger Joints in your home town would be appropriate.  (The secret, and selfish, reason for this topic is that I love a good hamburger and have gone great lengths to feed this craving.)  My favorite, all-time hamburger was the green chili burger at Roberto's Tacos y Mas in Taos.  To the best of my knowledge (please prove otherwise) the mobile taco/burger shack is no more.  

Ang and the Medievalist continue to be the star Listers.  

Topic for this List-Day Wednesday: Best hamburger joints in your hometown. 

As with any group project, a few rules are needed.  There will be a topic.  As far as the length of the list, I have given this some thought.  A list of One, is not a list.  Two to a list is too harsh: only first and last place.  The minimum entries shall be Three, and Three it shall be.  For the sake of brevity, Five will be the max.

Here is my list:
    Waco Hamburger Joints
  1. Cupp's Drive-In (I ate there almost everyday while working construction in the summer of 1954?)
  2. Fuddrucker's (I generally abhor chain restaurants, but when you make a good hamburger, you make a good hamburger)
  3. World Cup Cafe (I like the toasted cheese bread)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Texas Gets Its Grove On

By a Concurrent Resolution of the House and Senate, Texas has adopted Western Texas Swing as the official dance moves of the Lone Star State.  
In other news, House Bill 716 seeks to protect the right of ranchers to hunt hogs and coyotes by helicopter. Unbeknownst to me, feral hog hunting by helicopter is an active sport/business in South Texas.  

What do you call your burger?

A controversy is brewing on 11th street over the name of a soon-to-be-new burger joint in Waco.  "Fat Ho Burgers" put it out for the world to see.  Now that the world (Waco) has seen their name, some are very unhappy.  I drove by this morning... no protesters in the streets, yet.  As many have said, whether the name stays will depend on the quality of their product.  In Waco, there is a tradition of underselling a product by using a less than appetizing appellation.  For example:

  • Lip Locker (Double meat hamburger at Kitoks)
  • Gut Pack (a super Frito pie at Viteks)
  • Big "O" (a big beer at George's
What are some other Waco products with a strange name?

UPDATE:  My visit to Fat Ho Burgers and review of the Hot Ho Jalapeno Hamburger

Monday, March 21, 2011

Before the Edge - Catch, Jimmy

Since we are on the topic of Comedy, I thought I would troll the Texas Legislature for recently proposed Bills. I doubt there will ever be anything as humorous as the Bill proposing a ban on lewd cheerleading, but I can hope.  (Note:  I of course think lewd cheerleading should be discouraged... my amusement was picturing the legislative committee renting a bus to travel Texas and research lewd cheerleading.) Today has come close with the Report on HB 824, a Bill seeking "to promote fathers' involvement with their children before birth." I suspect that they mean before the birth of the child... not the father. Prenatal-patriarchy should also be encouraged.  Here are some suggested activities in which a father and his unborn child could engage (traditional father/child activities don't conjure a pleasant image):

  • Reading
  • Singing
  • Going to the zoo
  • Bugging mom
  • Charades
  • Watching football
  • Not doing the dishes
  • Pantomime 
  • Sleeping on the couch
  • Modern Dance - Martha Gramm
Now that I think about it, there is probably a dearth of prenatal-parenting-legislation. What other legislation do we need?

Comedy in a time of sorrow

When I was first introduced to the Decameron, my mother warned me that the stories are bawdy and inappropriate for a teenager to read.  Of course, I immediately reshelved the book and waited for another decade when I could handle "the truth."   Some zillion years later, The Spanish Medievalist and I are now teaching Boccaccio to teenagers.  The Medievalist tells the Freshman BICers the same thing.  "These stories involve adult situations, inappropriate for a young audience.  Read the few stories we have screened, but DO NOT read anything else in the book."  

Sex overshadows the story... the META-story.  And, I guess that is the point.  The interlocutors tell stories to each other to forget about the fact that friends and family have died from an unprecedented out-break of the Plague.  There was not only the sorrow of death, but a tremendous fear... no one knew why or how people were dying.  This is how Boccaccio begins the Decameron:

I say, then, that in the year 1348 after the Son of God's fruitful incarnation, into the distinguished city of Florence, that most beautiful of Italian cities, there entered a deadly pestilence. Whether one believes that it came through the influence of the heavenly bodies or that God, justly angered by our iniquities, sent it for our correction, in any case it had begun several years earlier in the east and killed an innumerable mass of people, spreading steadily from place to place and growing as it moved west.  No human wisdom or provision was of any help.
So, in light of this (and the suffering in Japan and Libya today), I ask you why do we seek out humor and comedy in times of great suffering?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Passing of Knut

Baby Knut attacking a (stuffed)
Baylor bear.
Yesterday, the famous polar bear of the Berlin Zoo unexpectedly died.  After Knut's birth in 2006, his mother, Tosca, cruelly rejected him.  The bear handlers at Berlin took Knut home, defying German animal rights activists who said the bear should be killed.  The endless videos and photos of baby Knut romping around and shredding the apartment of his human parents propelled the cub to international fame.  As with any rags to riches story, there is a nefarious sub-plot.  The commercial success of the Knut brought unbudgeted wealth to the Berlin Zoo...  Neum√ľnster Zoo, the home of Knut's father, Lars, wanted a cut of the action and filed suit against the Berlin Zoo.  As part of the original breeding agreement, Berlin Zoo agreed that the first born of Tosca and Lars would belong to Neumunster Zoo.  Berlin reneged on the deal.  Ultimately, Berlin shared some of the cash (430,000 euros), but not the bear.  Despite getting "less cute" in his maturity, Knut continued to draw large crowds at the zoo.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Moon Expanding rapidly... perhaps will explode

Well, I am getting carried away by the sensationalism that is ubiquitous in the media.  The article in the Waco Tribune-Hearld starts "Super full moon to rise tonight... It'll be bigger and brighter."  Returning to reality, the next paragraph explains that the super-giant-exploding moon is merely an optical illusion.

A One Vote Does Not A Democracy Make

Egypt is on the Edge of constitutional reform.  Mubarak resigned office February 11, 2011.  Today, a little over a month later, Egypt is holding a nationwide vote to revise their constitution.  Fast-tracked by the military into a nationwide referendum, Egyptians have begun voting on a slate of alterations to their Constitution as a first step towards democracy.  I am having a hard time figuring out what is at stake in the referendum. The process has been fast and little effort was made to educate the public as to the purpose and nature of the referendum.  Here is the best I can figure out:  1) Adopt terms limits for president; 2) Broaden the pool of candidates beyond those in the ruling party; 3) some other things that are probably very important

Despite this prompt and overt attempt at democratic rule, voices rumbling from Egypt are calling for a complete rewriting of the constitution.  This makes sense.  Democracy is not merely electing leaders and voting on constitutional amendments.  At best you might empower a benevolent short-term dictator, at worst, you have Representative Despotism (if there is such a thing).

Besides elections and referendums, what else do you need to create a Democracy?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Waco History Project

Jules Bledsoe (1898 - 1943)
Either in an effort to construct, or reconstruct, a history of Waco, a group of fearless writers have created a very interesting website on the history of Waco.  The Waco History Project, a collaborative of many local institutions, provides a timeline of the development of Waco and brief articles on significant places and events.  The timeline begins at 500 AD with Indians moving Central Texas after receiving a generous donation of land from a political ally. The timeline ends in 2000 with George W. Bush moving to Central Texas after receiving a generous donation of land or money from a political ally.  "Samasara is a circle."

More importantly, the site provides some great, and terrible, stories from Waco's past.  Of particular interest is the article on Jules Bledsoe (see also the Wiki entry), the most famous and forgotten artist from Waco.  Bledsoe, born in Waco, became famous as a baritone singer on Broadway.  Many remember his strong and haunting voice singing Ol' Man River, few remember Jules Bledsoe.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Texas Legal Research

One aspect of practicing law that I love is research.  With the internet (thank you Al Gore), I can find an amazing amount of information in a short period of time.  As an aid to my research, and hopefully to yours as well, I have created a separate page at the Edge dedicated to Legal Research.  I will continue to update the list, so please offer suggestions about online websites and databases you have discovered.  You can use this link ( or click the link on the right side of this page.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"White Bronze" Eagles of McLennan County

KWTX article from 9/2/2010
Today, the eagles perched atop the McLennan County Courthouse were unceremoniously removed.  The plan is to replace the eagles with replicas cast in aluminum.  Some time ago, a good friend of mine told me that the eagles were made of cast zinc and had red lights for eyes.  Distracted by the image of an eagle-of-justice watching my every move with its glowing red eyes, I ignored the curious fact that they were made of zinc.  Zinc... how strange.  In the 1850's, zinc became the commodity of choice for the cast sculpture... cheap cast sculpture.  Zinc ore was plentiful worldwide and thus cheap to obtain.  The melting point for zinc is low, 787.15 F, thus the facility and equipment needed to cast large sculptures was much less expensive than for bronze or cast-iron casting.  Cast-iron was relatively cheap as a material, but zinc does not rust: an important quality for public sculptures.  Wanting to improve the perception of zinc as an artistic medium, foundries and cemetery monument makers renamed zinc "white bronze."  After a short period exposed to the elements, zinc-oxide forms on the surface of the monument, protecting the zinc underneath and creating a white patina.  see Zinc Sculpture in America, 1850-1950, By Carol A. Grissom, and White Bronze Grave Marker
Photo by M. Johnson

List-Day Wednesday = Superpowers

List-Day Wednesday went on holiday last week.  I was on a death march through Northern Italy and had only sporadic access to the Internet.  The grueling nature of travel (and my recent research on Mr. Magnet) inspired some fantasies about possessing the power to travel instantly from location to another.  If the Power of Transport is more than a mere mortal could handle, the simple power of "Instant First-Class Upgrades" would be much appreciated.  

The topic of superpowers is timeless (the ability to move through time would be cool).  Where there is a great power, there is both a good and bad use of that power.  The Ring of Gyges, granting the ability to turn invisible, provoked  such a discussion between Socrates and Glaucon.  Could you resist the temptation to satisfy your desires if you had the ability to be evil without consequence or punishment?

Ultivac, the forgotten supervillain, had the
power of telepathy... I would not want to
know what other people are thinking.
So, for this List-Day Wednesday, the topic is: What superpowers would you want to have?

As with any group project, a few rules are needed.  There will be a topic.  As far as the length of the list, I have given this some thought.  A list of One, is not a list.  Two to a list is too harsh: only first and last place.  The minimum entries shall be Three, and Three it shall be.  For the sake of brevity, Five will be the max.

Here is my list:
1) The power of instant transport (see above reference to the Italy death march)
2) The power of perfect espresso (this is probably a power that I will tire of quickly, but right now, in Waco, it seems very important)
3) The power to speak all languages (this would have prevented our being lost in Italy and the hostility that arose with our bus driver)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From Magnet Man to Mr. Gecko

There are superpowers that can save the world, and there are superpowers that we don't really need.  A curious story has surfaced in Serbia regarding a man with the power of magnetism.  This superhuman trait gives Miroslav Mandic the power to attach spoons and coins to his body and to change the television station remotely.  Despite concerns that non-ferrous materials are "magnetically" attracted to his body, there is great local enthusiasm for his abilities.  

Miroslav is not the first "magnet man."  In 2008, a story was published about Liew Thow Lin, better known as "Mr. Magnet" of Malaysia.  Liew Thow's "magnetic" skin is so powerful that he can pull a car with a chain stuck to his body. 

Scientists have determined that Liew Thow is not actually a human magnet, but that his skin has great sucking ability.  Apparently Mr. Magnet's skin acts like suction cups, similar to feet of lizards.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Venice at the Edge

I expected to like Venice more.  It is a beautiful city, but Venice is so crowded.  Then add the fact that the streets are typically 8-10 feet wide.  I said to a colleague, "It makes you miss San Antonio."  On the other hand, Venice has the "beauty" thing in spades.  For dinner, we found some tasty squid in squid ink and octopus.  I have to admit that after watching the NOVA episode on how smart octopi are, I had slight reservation dipping their tender tentacles into the tasty sauce.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ravenna and Bone Transport

We visited the churches and mausoleums in Ravenna, including the burial place of Dante.  One colleague asked how bodies were transported from one city to another to be buried.  Another colleague who specializes in the history of anatomical illustrations and feminism explained that the bodies were boiled to remove skin and flesh and then the bones were transported.  The practice of bone-boiling was outlawed in the Renaissance.
Basilica di Sant'Appolinare in Classe
Interior of San Vitale, Ravenna

Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
San Vitale, Ravenna

Ravenna - who is in control?

Ravenna has had a tumultuous past, yet some of the oldest mosaics are here. Ravenna moves at a slower pace than Florence or Milan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

St. Francis and St. Clair

Assisi is beautiful, but very hilly town.  My legs are beginning to protest.  The Upper Basilica of San Francesco his one of the most beautiful churches I have visited.  The interior walls are frescos painted by Giotto depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  A group of 60 high school kids entered the church.  The guard about had a stroke.  He kept announcing over the speaker system "SILENCIO."  He scolded the group leader and then scolded the students saying, "There is only one voice in this church; It is the voice of God."
Arno and Ponte Vecchio

Santa Croce
San Francesco at Assisi

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lucca & Florence in 1 Day....

The legs are about to give out.  We did Pisa last night: Lucca and Florence today.  Thank goodness, there is not much to see in Florence.  Here are some photos.

Arno in Florence
Duomo in Florence

Monday, March 7, 2011

Milan... check

Fast trip through Milan.  Saw Duomo, Galleria, Basilica S. Ambrosio.

The surprise was the baptistry where S. Ambrose baptized S. Augustine.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Edge of Consciousness

Somewhere over the Atlantic
The instant coffee is fending off the persistent daze of jet lag.  After a very long day of travel, including delayed planes and lost bags, we have awakened in Milan.  Despite it being a nice day in Madrid, my luggage was found and delivered (promptly) to our hotel in Milan.  The hotel is modern, comfortable and nowhere near the center of town.
Madrid airport
This will be a whirlwind tour of Italy.  Half day in Milan, then a 4 hour drive to Pisa.  We will be staying overnight in Pisa, then drive on to Florence.
Castello Sforzesco