Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Things that infuriate me

- Harvard: How can a school have $34.9 billion and be so bad at everything? I could talk at length about the many ways they have failed us (course selection, grade viewing, general humanity and dignity), but instead, I will focus on what is the most infuriating thing about being reminded of how fabulously, obscenely wealthy my school is. Let me note that, at the time the Harvard endowment was worth $25 billion total, the Law School had about $1 billion in its own endowment account. Assuming things have gone up proportionately, the Law School should be around $1.4 billion now, right? At the time I graduated from USC, the entire university had about $2.5 billion in its endowment. Anyhow, rage...

Harvard Law School has the most miserly financial aid policy I can imagine. First of all, without regard for the fact that so very many students (myself included) receive no financial support from their families toward their graduate education, they calculate a parental contribution unless you, as a student, have been completely financially independent from your parents for 7 years (or they're dead...at least they were sane enough to include that caveat). This means that somebody could graduate from college, spend 5 years as a totally independent adult in the workforce, and still have their financial aid package calculated with an assumption that their parents are footing the bill. Having adopted a totally unreasonable policy on when parental contributions are calculated, the school takes an equally asinine approach to how they are calculated. The school assumes parents will spend 22% to 47% of their available income, plus 3% to 6% of their adjusted net worth, every year. This, of course, doesn't consider things like the massive tax liabilities and early withdrawal penalties associated with drawing on retirement assets. And, of course, they have a blanket "no merit-based aid" policy, which makes people like me, who gave up scholarships at other perfectly good law schools, feel really good about life.

But that's not the part that makes me angriest. The part that gets to me, particularly in light of this article, is the explanation of why they don't have any merit-based aid. And I quote: "The School does not award 'merit' or 'full-ride' scholarships (which typically are not need-based) because these would necessarily reduce the resources available for need-based aid and increase the debt burden of every financially needy student." Those sons-of-a-bitches could let every current student go to HLS completely for free and survive entirely on alumni donations and interest on the existing endowment. To suggest that the reason for their absurd policy is necessity rather than pure avarice is just insulting. I would say "How dare they?" (my voice would convey the italics), but I don't consider myself the kind of person who says things like "How dare they?"

They only way I will ever give a dime to Harvard Law School after I graduate is if I write them a check for ten cents, just to be insulting, and in hopes that they spend more than that dime in processing the donation.

- The Average American: For the love of god, people, read a freaking book. One in four Americans didn't read a book last year. And as my friend Jamason pointed out when he lamented this story, all you coastal elites out there can take pride in knowing that midwesterns and southerners read more than you, thanks to religious reading.

I can be bad about this myself, since during the school year I come to associate the written word with pain. But it doesn't mean I'm not reading anything, I'm just limiting myself to things that people are making me read. And every summer, I discover anew that I actually like books.

I would be curious to see what the statistics are on this kind of thing for Canada or countries in Europe. There's a knee-jerk assumption, whenever a story like this comes out, that it reflects how uniquely culturally vapid the United States is. I've always suspected, based in part of my personal experience, that people from other civilized countries are just as ignorant and un- or mis-informed, even willfully blind, as Americans are, they're just less boisterous and conspicuous about it.

- The Fucking Asshole Who Left a Big Goddamn Dent and Scratch in the Passenger Side of My Beloved and Otherwise Pristine Car on the Northeast Corner of the 4th Floor of 3rd Street Promenade Lot #3 in Santa Monica, CA, on August 22, 2007, between 9 pm and 11 pm, and Then Didn't Leave a Note: I can't wait to call the City of Santa Monica Parking Office tomorrow morning to get access to the security cameras in the lot at the time so that I can nail your fucking ass. As penance, I propose that, if you drive something nice, I be allowed to take my 7 Iron to your car for 1 glorious, cathartic minute. And if you don't drive something nice, I suggest that you stand in for your car.

This is the problem with loving your car too much. I will avenge you, baby.

Update: They only have cameras on the first floor, so they can watch for people who leave without paying or whatever. They're planning to install cameras elsewhere. I bet they have "planning" to install the cameras since the moment they opened the structure. Bah.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Death Cab for Cutie is so post-emo

Driving home from dinner today, listening to Death Cab for Cutie on the CD player, I made a comment to John about how I'm a ridiculous little emo kid, staring plaintively into the rainy middle-distance, with my Death Cab in the CD player. And then, as "Information Travels Faster" played on in the background, it struck me: Death Cab for Cutie is not truly an emo band.

Emo music is supposed to be about heartbreak, unrequited love, that sort of thing, right? It's whiny guys complaining about how they are unloved, misunderstood, and heartbroken. But listen to some Death Cab: Ben Gibbard (the lead singer) is always the aggressor. He sounds all sad, but he's always breaking the girl's heart. And sure, maybe he's sad about it, but that doesn't make him emo. It just sort of makes him an asshole who doesn't know what we wants and hurts others as a result. Consider the evidence.

Exhibit 1: "Information Travels Faster" (The Photo Album): "I intentionally wrote it out to be an illegible mess. / You wanted me to write you letters, but I'd rather lose your address. / And forget that we'd ever met and what did or did not occur. / Sitting in the station, it's all a blur."

A summer fling he doesn't want to continue. Intentionally writing out your address so the girl can't read it? That's like giving someone the wrong phone number, except it's worse, because (1) this is obviously on the heels of some kind of seasonal encounter, as opposed to meeting someone in a bar once, and (2) there's something so intensely personal about letter-writing, that it seems like a worse betrayal. There is actually a running theme in Death Cab lyrics about seasonal flings. At least sometimes the breakdown is mutual, like in "Summer Skin," where Ben and his lady-friend both decide they don't want to be together anymore.

Exhibit 2: "Tiny Vessels" (Transatlanticism): "This is the moment that you know / That you told her that you loved her but you don't. / You touch her skin and then you think / That she is beautiful but she don't mean a thing to me."

I had to just pick a little passage for what I'm doing here, but I could have picked any line in the song. This is the single meanest song I've ever heard. A lot of the other Death Cab tunes are sort of rueful about being the bad guy in a break-up. This one relishes it. It seems intentionally, needlessly cruel. I don't consider myself an excessively emotional person, but if anybody ever sang this song about me and I realized it, I think I would be devastated. And even the non-literal components are so effective...the imagery of a hickey forming, the emotional violence of it. It's surprisingly potent.

Exhibit 3: "Crooked Teeth" (Plans): "Cause I built you a home in my heart / With rotten wood and it decayed from the start."

This one is insidious in its own little way. While it lacks the vitriol of "Tiny Vessels," it's so otherwise happy-sounding and sing-songy that you feel almost blindsided when you realize what it's about. The first few lines are so innocuous too...at best, totally innocent, at worst, just ambiguous. And then you realize that, yet again, Ben Gibbard's gone and sexed up some poor lady and then lost interest. Oh Ben, you dog, you.

Exhibit 4: "Someday You Will Be Loved" (Plans): "You'll be loved, you'll be loved / Like you never have known. / The memories of me / Will seem more like bad dreams, / Just a series of blurs / Like I never occurred. / Someday you will be loved."

A second one on the same album! Looks like success is going to Ben Gibbard's head, eh? This one at least comes off as apologetic. Some of the other songs seem to be about Ben feeling sorry for himself because he's been a jerk again. At least here, he's finally contemplating the effect he has on other people. But he's still a jerk.

To the extent that there's heartbreak for Ben rather than the girl in Death Cab love stories, it's always mutual. Like I mentioned, "Summer Skin" is a mutual end-of-summer-fling situation. "Title and Registration" specifically says that "there's no blame for how our love did slowly fade." "Brothers on a Hotel Bed," while plenty depressing, is about two people falling out of love with each other, not just one. The only song, at least from the last three albums, that I can identify where Ben is the sole loser in the break-up is "A Lack of Color." No wonder it's Seth Cohen's favorite.

So there you have it: Death Cab is not emo. It is faux-mo. It is post-emo.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"The Sticky Tale of Buttercup vs. Little Cupcake"

My general wish to be a magazine journalist instead of a lawyer is only heightened when I read amusing features like this.

If you ask me, out of the ones I've visited, the ranking is Magnolia > Buttercup > Sugar Sweet Sunshine. But you can't really go wrong. And on deck for this weekend: Sprinkles! Swoon.

Ahem. Yes. I mean, Sprinkles and...looking at chicks. Hot chicks. With breasts. Yeah. Very manly.

Hopefully not a golden ratio of divorces

This month, I was a groomsman in a wedding for the first time (not counting my stint as a ring bearer). The weekend itself was great. I got to catch up with really close friends from college that I hadn't seen in too long, dance like a fool at the reception (and into the hearts of some of the guests, I like to think), and have the easiest groomsman job ever: the groom had all of one butterfly the whole weekend, and it passed quickly.

But it represents the opening of a bizarre new chapter in my life. People are getting married. People I know are getting married. People I know well enough to be invited to be in their wedding are getting married. The was the one this month, my sister's in November, at least one that I know about next year. They're multiplying. As Tina shrieked in horror when she realized that she was in one wedding last year, one this year, and will be in two next year, "It's like a Fibonacci Sequence of weddings!"

As for me, I am contractually bound not to marry for at least 5 more years or so. There is, in fact, a signed piece of paper in my mother's safe which purports to require me not to marry before age 27 or 28 at the earliest. Having attended law school, I'm now fairly certain that I could have the contract voided for want of consideration. Or because I was a minor when I signed it. Or because specific performance of such an agreement would be unjust. But I like the symbolic significance of it.

The fact is, I am a nerd. Big surprise, I know. Let me give you a moment to digest it. Okay, you're good.

So yes, I am a nerd. And while I dare say I am not unattractive, I am far too Jewish to be conventionally handsome. I spent my entire awkward adolescence being told that guys like me would be a great catch someday. As I enter my last year of law school, and look ahead to a day when I do not live in Boston and am not surrounded by law students all the time damn time, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I am finally approaching "someday."

But that's just me. Congratulations, Jim. It really was a great wedding.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Question for the law students and lawyers

Okay, honestly, how embarrassing is it to fail the MPRE?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Confessions


Courtesy of the legendary xkcd.

Clerkship applications...

...are DONE!

I can't fathom how much time I spent on something when my interest in it has so thoroughly fallen off.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Life


Courtesy of one Drew Helms. With mine, I'd probably throw in an extra box for eating.

There are some people out there know how to break out of the monotony, though. Take this guy, for example. Where a marmoset goes, boredom shall not follow.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I am a published legal author

And I've already contacted the editor to report the proofing errors in the web edition. Such a prima donna already.

Update! We're also in the bimonthly edition, which means prettier formatting. My stance on such things is well-established.

It may not have been a white Ford Bronco, but I'll take a maroon Chrysler

Law school aside, I have lived in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area since I was two and a half years old. Today, finally, for the first time, I saw a high-speed police chase drive by me. On surface streets too, with at least 10 black-and-whites and 1 unmarked car tailing a Chrysler south on Barrington as I headed north to work.

Update! The chase ended about 2 to 3 minutes later, in Mar Vista. Yes, my neighborhood Mar Vista. And we were driving on Barrington. Yes, my street Barrington. And the little I can discern from the photo on the CBS website looks an awful lot like my stretch of Barrington. Mar Vista is a pretty small area...

Monday, August 06, 2007

But will they then go home and write about their shame in their Hello Kitty diaries?

This is just the kind of innovative approach to internal affairs you don't get in the United States.

Andrew, you want to take first crack at the joke about this?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Facebook founder sued

Two former classmates are suing Mark Zuckerberg, that living legend of the interweb, claiming that he stole the idea for Facebook.

"They probably would have guarded their secret more carefully had they only known that people's basest voyeuristic and exhibitionist predilections could be exploited for money." - Kyle Eastman, Rigger