Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Only Children as a Suspect Class?

The suggestion is in jest, of course, but has anyone else noticed how incredibly OK it seems to be to insult only children, even right to their faces?  I'm an only child, and my son is an only child, and my son will almost certainly remain an only child (or, to put it another way, if he ends up with a brother or sister, that brother or sister will carry the name "Mistakey"), and people will occasionally say to me something like, "Oh, you're going to have another child, right?" or "Only children are so spoiled and weird" or "Why would you put all your eggs in one basket?" or something equally irritating.  I usually do that thing that the sitcom characters do and look around me and then look at the speaker and say, "You know, I'm right here, right?" 

Sometimes I also suggest that, just as I don't dilute my love for my wife by having other wives, so too do I not wish to dilute the love I have for my son by having another child.  I usually say this only when particularly cranky, for some reason or other.

Posted by Jay Wexler on February 3, 2009 at 01:13 PM in Jay Wexler | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monday, January 26, 2009


So, I'm in the process of trying to get some blurbs for my book, Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars, and it's stressing me out.  Blurbs, of course, are those little quotes from famous people on books, telling you that the book is worth reading.  My editor has sent out galleys to maybe 15 people, half academics and half people who are not academics, and now I just sit and wait and see if anyone says anything nice.  I wonder if it would be less stressful if you received rejections from authors who have been requested to give blurbs ("Unfortunately, we receive many requests for blurbs each year and can only respond to a select few") but I have a feeling that either I'll get a nice blurb or I just won't hear anything back at all.  In this way, it's sort of like interviewing with the University of Michigan at the AALS.

Anyone have any tips for getting blurbs, or good stories about getting or giving blurbs, or anything to say about whether you look at blurbs when you're deciding to buy a book.  And is there anyone out there who would like to contribute a blurb for my book?  I don't have any more galleys to send you, but I can vouch that the book is "A wild ride.  Like no other book you've ever read" and "Will make you cry with tears of joy in between convulsions of laughter so raucous they will wake the neighbors" and, as my wife (who is no big fan of anything I write) has offered to contribute, "A little better than I expected.  I only barfed once."

And does anyone know Sarah Vowell's address?

Posted by Jay Wexler on January 26, 2009 at 09:48 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Regulation and the Religious Voice

So here's a half-baked idea for a project that I've been thinking about doing for a long time but have never gotten around to.  Maybe if I put it out there, someone can tell me how bad an idea it is, and I can put it to bed forever.  Or maybe people will have good ideas that will spark me to get going on it. 

The project would be at the inters . . . that's right, I'm going to say it, despite every fiber of my being telling me don't don't don't say it no no-- the intersection (ahh, it's done) of two fields I teach in--law and religion, and administrative law.  I've thought about and written about this debate that I know has been aired here on Prawfs before regarding whether it's appropriate for religious citizens to rely on their religious beliefs when reaching decisions on public issues and to articulate their views in religious terms.  I think the answer to this is generally yes.  It's also clear I think (right?) that as a practical matter, religious groups and citizens do attempt to influence policy through lobbying at the legislative level.  But since so much important policy is made by federal agencies, I wonder whether religious groups and citizens participate in the notice and comment process before agencies to influence agency decisions on policies that matter to them.  Since I teach environmental law, I often think about this in those terms: do religious groups that, for example, support protecting endangered species and worry about global warming submit comments to agencies during notice and comment on rules that implicate these concerns, and if they do, what kind of language do they use?  Is it explicitly religious, or do they translate this religious language into the language of secular policymaking?  And if it's the latter, is this something we should applaud or worry about?  What should an agency do if it receives an explicitly religious comment from a prominent group.  Should ignoring it be considered arbitrary and capricious?  Would considering it violate the Establishment Clause?  So many questions.

Anyone think this is an interesting project to pursue?  Anyone know of work already done on it?  There would certainly be an empirical part--combing through online comments in rulemaking proceedings to see whether I can find comments from religious groups and individuals and what those comments say.  But how would I pick which rulemakings to look at?  How many would I choose?  Etc.

Posted by Jay Wexler on January 22, 2009 at 10:20 AM in Jay Wexler, Religion | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who is the Ideal Law School Graduation Speaker?

Forgive me if this is a topic that has already been discussed at length in the blawgosphere, but I'm interested in what people out there think about your typical law school graduation speaker.  It seems, from my experience, that the typical speaker is a lawyer who has "made it to a prominent position in public life" (though perhaps you cannot tell, I am saying this in a sort of mockingly overly serious and grumpy manner).  Usually these speakers are dull and uninspiring and sometimes have some agenda of their own that they are interested in putting forth instead of really thinking about what the graduating law students would really like to hear or benefit from (I'm thinking here of a prominent judge who a bunch of years ago gave a graduation speech that basically consisted of a somewhat sophisticated lecture about administrative law, followed by a plea for increased judicial salaries).  There are exceptions, of course.  We had David Gergen speak at BU a few years ago, and I thought he was terrific.  He actually seemed to be speaking extemporaneously at some points, and these were the highlights.

A few years ago I had the occasion to come up with a list of possible alternatives to the dominant model of graduation speakers.  I was looking for people who were lawyers, or at least who had studied law, but who had taken alternative career paths that might have made them interesting speakers.  I didn't find all that many.  Paul Simon, the singer, I believe, studied a little law.  (Art Garfunkel didn't, so far as I know, but I would support him for speaker--or Poet Laureate--any day).  Steve Young the football player went to law school.  There are others.  My choice for ideal law school graduation speaker is Peter Garrett, the ex-lead singer of Midnight Oil who is a lawyer (he has an LLB from University of New South Wales), a social and environmental activist, and a government official.  I don't know if any U.S. law school has ever invited him to speak and if one did, whether he would come, but I bet he would be terrific (though perhaps you cannot tell, I am dancing somewhat stiffly and strangely and singing "Beds are Burning" as I say all this).

Anyone out there want to share either horror stories of past graduation speakers or ideas for future ones?  I think it would be particularly interesting to hear from students on this question--who would you like to hear at your graduation?

Posted by Jay Wexler on January 15, 2009 at 09:35 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, January 12, 2009

If You Want to Make an Omelette . . .

As many of us head back to our offices and classrooms this Monday morning, here is another little quiz from the Freshness of Legal Discourse Department.  How many results does a Westlaw "allcases" search for "Humpty Dumpty" turn up?  Answer after the jump.

The answer is 535.  Some of these refer to people who are nicknamed "Humpty Dumpty" for various reasons, and others refer to the names of businesses (the "Humpty Dumpty Laundry") etc., but most of them are quotes from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, usually made to demonstrate some sort of statutory interpretation point or another.

I guess judicial writing isn't as fresh as it's cracked up to be.

Posted by Jay Wexler on January 12, 2009 at 10:10 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday, January 09, 2009

How Much Poetry Should a Law Professor Write?

I wanted to follow up on some of the later comments in Paul's excellent recent post about what prawfs ought to be doing prior to getting tenure.  David Zaring "mildly disagrees" with what he takes to be Paul's suggestion to "write your bliss" and says that a prawf who is inclined to write about his/her favorite poet's views about liberty might have more fun actually writing poetry.  Paul responds that David has misunderstood him and says "I'm not suggesting someone go off and write poetry."  All this makes me wonder: just how much poetry should a law professor be able to write?

I'm assuming nobody would say that a law professor can't throw off a few verses from time to time, but what if prawf wanted to make a serious commitment to becoming a poet, in addition to being a law professor?  The prawf wants to spend a good amount of time perfecting his/her craft, submitting to poetry journals, participating in poetry workshops, etc.  Since being a prawf and writing legal scholarship isn't a typical 9-5 job, and since most of us could always work a little harder to write yet another law review article if we wanted to sacrifice other things, would this commitment to writing poetry be a problem?  Say that for every 5 poems the prawf writes, he/she could have written one 40 page law review article.  Does writing the 5 poems make him/her a worse prawf?  Is he/she letting his/her school/colleagues/students/dean down?  Does it matter whether, if in addition to the 5 poems, the prawf also writes 2 law review articles?  1 law review article?  1 article every 2 years?  Never writes a law review article?  Does it matter whether the prawf is pre- or post-tenure?  And is there a difference between writing poetry and pursuing other non-writing hobbies, like painting or kayaking?  It doesn't seem like it should matter, but somehow the fact that poetry involves writing makes it maybe more problematic than kayaking, if indeed our job demands that if we are writing, we should be writing about law.

Posted by Jay Wexler on January 9, 2009 at 07:40 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Monday, January 05, 2009

Amazon.com: Great, but really really weird

First of all, I'd like to thank Dan and the rest of the Prawfers for inviting me to stay around for another few months.  I've really enjoyed posting here and look forward to posting throughout the rest of the winter and spring.  Perhaps I may even get around to posting something substantive, rather than twisted and deviant.  Not today, though.

I can tell already, with still five months until my book Holy Hullabaloos comes out, that I will be spending way too much time looking at the Amazon.com page for the book.  It's so full of weird stuff.  Not just the sales ranking, which is itself so fascinating that I'm already checking it daily (right now it's at about 738,000, which I think is pretty decent for a book that won't come out until June), but also my current favorite, the "Customers Who Bought Items Like This Also Bought" list.  Note that this is not a list of items that are similar to your book, or even items that people who bought your book also bought, but rather items that people who bought books similar to your book also bought.  How they even decide what books are similar to other books is beyond me.  But, hey, what do I care?  The number one book on the list of items that people who bought books similar to my book that hasn't come out yet also bought is Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, which is the book that inspired me to write my book.  So that's pretty sweet, right?  The next book on the list is Vowell's new book, and then after that are the new books by John Hodgman and David Sedaris.  I'm a little more confused by why Season 2 of 30 Rock is on the list, not to mention Vicki Ryan's Dewey: The Small-Time Library Cat That Touched the World, but again, what do I care?  I'm just so psyched that people who are buying books that are similar in unknown ways to the book that I wrote that won't come out for another five months and that therefore nobody has ever read are also buying books by Vowell, Hodgman, and Sedaris.  It's enough to put a smile on my face for the whole entire day.  Yay, Amazon.

(cross-posted on Holy Hullabaloos: the blog)

Posted by Jay Wexler on January 5, 2009 at 09:51 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Late to the Party, Again

So, regarding my recent post on fantasy law professor leagues, I was googling around yesterday to see if the idea had been taken up over at Gawker or the Times or whatever when I realized that Joseph Liu already came up with this joke/idea over at Concurring Opinions more than 3 years ago!  I guess I need to start doing "preemption checks" for blog posts now.  Next thing you know I'm going to find out they've already come up with my toothbrush of the month club idea!

Happy New Years!

Posted by Jay Wexler on December 31, 2008 at 08:51 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fantasy Prawfs

A few years ago I sat down to write a little Green Bag-esque article where I planned to set out some proposed rules for a fantasy law professor league, based on the popular fantasy sports leagues that lots of people play and can't ever stop talking about--fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy scrabble, etc. etc.  (my own fantasy scrabble team is taking a huge hit this year, and I blame it all on Edley's recent troubles, but that's something for another post.)  Sadly, I wasn't able to come up with anything satisfactory, and so I shelved the project.

Now that I've started hanging out in the blogosphere, I thought maybe I'd try to revive the idea and see if my fellow blogospherians can help fill out the details.  There are at least two major issues that must be considered: (1) what are the key stats; and (2) what constitutes a team?  On #1, citation counts, SSRN downloads, publications, conference appearances, committee assignments (weighted to reflect more onerous assignments), and teaching evaluations would be likely choices, if indeed the data on these things are available (the latter would be made a lot easier if more students would start using the rate my professor website--indeed, perhaps that website could be brought on as a sponsor).  On #2, maybe each team would consist of one public law prof, one law and econ prof, one historian, and one crit, or something like that.  I'm very open to ideas on this, and I hope you'll share them in the comments.

Posted by Jay Wexler on December 29, 2008 at 10:31 AM in Jay Wexler, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack