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 Those Bonnard nudes. I first became interested in modern art in the early 1960's, when I was a student at the University of Minnesota in Mpls. I'd never been to an art museum but I had developed an appreciation of the artistic image as a result of my growing interest in 35mm photography and my reading of magazines like Popular Photography. One block from my dormitory room at Centennial Hall there was a tiny little basement bookstore at Harvard & Washington that primarily sold medical textbooks for students at the nearby U. med school. I occasionally browsed there of a Saturday afternoon (while other students were sitting in Memorial Stadium watching Golden Gopher football). One day I came across a display of small full-color volumes in the Little Library of Art series published by Tudor Publishing. I bought a few of those when I had some extra change -- Modern Painting I - Manet to the Neo-Impressionists, Modern Painting II - Gaugin to the Fauves, Matisse 1911-1930, etc. One of them, Bonnard - Nudes, introduced me to the amazing nude portraits Pierre Bonnard, the French Impressionist, painted during his career, most of them of the same woman, "his reclusive model and mistress (later his wife), Marthe." Pierre Bonnard, Smithsonian Magazine (July 1998). Bonnard nudes are the opposite of pornographic. (One can be a Norwegian Lutheran boy from a small midwest town and not feel guilty looking at them.) They represent and celebrate color, light, form, the wondrous sensual beauty of everyday domesticity, and lots of other good things. If you're going to be in Washington, D.C. anytime soon, you ought to visit my favorite D.C. museum, The Phillips, because now through 01.19.2003 it is presenting a special exhibition, Pierre Bonnard - Early & Late. In particular, I direct your attention to those amazing, loving Bonnard nudes. :-) Want to view Bonnard images, some of the nudes and some of the others, online? Click here for the 800+ results of a basic Google image search for "Pierre Bonnard." And see, Pierre Bonnard on the Internet. (10.01.2002)

 When James Dean came to Benson, Minnesota. James Dean (the 24-year-old actor from Marion, Indiana, not the nice man of the same name who lived in DeGraff, Minnesota, an Irish "subtown" of my hometown), died in a high-speed auto accident out on the California desert on 09.30.1955, just days after the completion of the filming of his third movie, Giant, with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. I was in on the James Dean-craze, the kind that sometimes follows the death of a young star, relatively early in the game. I bought all the various special memorial collector's editions of the fan magazines, the quickie paperback biography, etc. I wish I'd saved them, not because they've risen in value dramatically, but because I'd like reliving the 12- and 13- and 14-year-old's emotions connected with looking at the pictures of him (especially the ones of him with starlets like Ursella Andress) and reading the stories -- the stories about how he'd sat outside the church on his Harley brooding when his girlfriend, Pier Angeli, married Vic Damone, the stories about Liz Taylor checking herself into a hospital for a few days after he died, the stories speculating that he'd faked his death because he needed time off from the rat-race, etc. In among my old 45-rpm platters is one of those cheap magazine insert pull-out "records" that one could (and still can) play with some difficulty on one's phonograph -- a record with brief recordings of James Dean talking, of Elvis saying a few words about him, and of Anthony "Tony" Perkins saying he wasn't trying to be like James Dean. We had to "get by" on stuff like this for quite awhile because it took quite awhile for "Jamie" to come to Benson. His first two movies, Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden, were released in 1955. His last one, Giant, was released in 1956. I saw Giant in Minneapolis shortly after it was released. But it didn't make its way to Benson until August of 1957, and the first two movies showed in Benson later that fall. The delay was okay, because it probably took 'til then for many of the teenagers in Benson to get word who James Dean was and that he not only had died but had been both canonized and commercialized (aren't they the same thing?). Anyhow, whenever I think of James Dean and Benson at the same time, I think of that Sunday afternoon in August of  '57 at the less-than-gala Benson premiere of Giant. My friend Paul and I were there at the (still extant) DeMarce Theatre early and had good seats in the middle near the front. Some of the cool girls, from his class, a year behind mine, were seated a row or two in front of us. This specifically is what I remember: when the first view of James Dean, as "Jet Rink," appeared there on the broad Texas expanse on the big wide-screen, the music of Dimitri Tiompkin's dramatic score playing in the background, a couple of those idiot girls stood up and cried out dramatically, "Jamie!" -- and Paul and I coolly and impatiently admonished them, "Sit down!" I'm happy to report that they did as ordered. I had a chance to see Giant again on the big screen when my daughter was home from Harvard over Christmas break in 1996. It was appearing on the screen of the Oak Street Cinema over at the U. of M. We saw it early on New Year's Eve, after which we visited my dad in a Mpls. hospital. The crowd was sparce. Amazingly, there was an older guy, like me a leftover from the '50's, who was sitting up near the front, a guy who seemed a bit touched. During the opening scene, when James Dean first appeared, he too was vocal. Sadly, his vocalizing continued sporadically throughout the movie. I didn't have the heart to tell him to shut up. Forty years earlier I would have. (09.30.2002)

 BurtLawQ&A - wherein BurtLaw asks questions of Armond Poussaint, Elvis specialist. Excerpts:

Q - Why did his momma name him "Elvis"? A - "Some mommas don't think ahead. One momma names her boy 'Turdell' -- admittedly, an elegant name -- not thinking of the possible nicknaminous variations and their life-altering, psyche-damaging impact. Elvis' momma did think ahead. She didn't name him 'Enis,' the name that some Elvis scholars have suggested may have first popped into mind, or 'Enoch,' another one. With an almost Swedenborgian precognition, she must have known that he'd become the first and greatest of the gyrating, thrusting male rock'n'roll performers and that screaming fans would want to call him by a nickname made up of his first name + the word 'the' + a word that rhymed with his first name. 'Elvis the Pelvis,' she must have reasoned, has a nicer ring to it than the nicknames that one might form using 'Enis' or 'Enoch.'"

Q - Why did Elvis chose music over, say, the law? A - "Elvis hoped someday to go to Heaven."

Q - Why did Elvis chose rock'n'roll over, say, classical music? A - "Tupelo didn't have a chamber orchestra but it did have a tap-dance teacher, an accordion teacher, Gospel choirs & R&B singers. Elvis felt that tap dancing was for girls, not he-men. Accordion music not only sounded hokey to him but was, as Elvis put it, 'nerdish.' (Elvis coined the word 'nerdish.') Mixing Gospel music and R&B, he created rock'n'roll."

Q - Did Elvis ever record an album of classical music selections? A - "Yes. His [as yet unreleased] solo Hawaiian steel-guitar renditions of Bach's great sonatas for solo cello, as transcribed for him by the late Chet Atkins, attain a depth of feeling that YoYo Ma, the cellist, doesn't come close to attaining in either of his two recordings of the sonatas, despite his Harvard education."

Q - What sort of a guy was Elvis? A - "He was the sort of guy who, when he walked through the door, expected his babe to 'be polite,' and he even told her in so many words that she'd make him 'sore,' as he put it, if she didn't treat him 'right.' He expected her to kiss him not once but 'twice.' In short, he was the sort of guy who expected his babe to -- oh, how should I put it? -- let's just say he expected her to treat him 'nice,' if you know what I'm saying."

Q - It's now been 25 years since Elvis died. What do... A - "I'm going to interrupt you. Elvis did not really die. Like James Dean, one of his heroes, who faked his own death on 09.30.1955, Elvis faked his own death and moved to a remote location in Hawaii, scene of one of his greatest films, Blue Hawaii. Why? Simple -- he didn't particularly like what the commercialization of rock'n'roll had done to the genre or to him. Moreover, he was having financial problems. Faking his own death was an act of sheer genius. It allowed him to withdraw from the proverbial rat race, get away from people like Cybill Sheperd, ensure his place in rock'n'roll history, and at the same time provide for his daughter, Lisa Marie. With everyone thinking he'd gone to Rock'n'Roll Heaven with the Big Bopper, Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke and all the other immortals, his oeuvre acquired a cachet that translated instantly into cash. As a 'dead man,' paradoxically Elvis also became a better father. 'Why,' you ought to be asking yourself, 'did Lisa and Nick Cage get married a) last week, b) in Hawaii and c) in a private ceremony away from the press?' To ask the question that way is to answer it: They did it as a grand 25th anniversary present for The King (who, by the way, not only attended but, as an ordained pastor, presided)."

Q - That's about as absurd as the story that Elvis was Jesus Christ returned to Earth in disguise. A - "That, too, oh, people of little faith, is a fact -- a theological fact. Ask any creditable, respected theologian. It is no secret." (08.16.2002)

 A beautiful wife. I saw the new Ron Howard film, A Beautiful Mind, with my kids the other night. It's a beautiful film based on the life -- the up & down & up again -- of the legendary John Forbes Nash, Jr., the Nobel-prize winning mathematician. The real hero -- heroine -- of the story is the woman who stuck by him through thick & thin, his wife, which is why it could be called A Beautiful Wife. Last year I predicted Traffic would be the big winner of the various film awards for 2000. I predict this film will win the Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. (12.28.2001) Update: This mini-review was quoted in full today in United Marriage Encounter's WED-log, which Keith Clark edits and which is one of my "featured sites" because of its excellent coverage of weblinks relating to marriage. (01.16.2002)

 Biography. "The only reason one really reads biographies and the main reason one writes them is the endlessly interesting spectacle of character meeting circumstance and either changing it or being changed by it." Edmund Morris, biographer of Reagan & T.R. in interview-profile in New York Times. I'm reading one of the books my daughter gave me for Christmas, Personal History, by Katharine Graham, the late publisher of the Washington Post. It's autobiography interwoven with the paper's history, profiles of famous people, etc. The book could be used as a key exhibit supporting the thesis that Washington is too politically incestuous for the good of the country. On whether Minnesota also is "too politically incestuous," click here and read my various 2001 entries relating to Minnesota politics, particularly this one. (01.02.2002)

 K-PAX. Son and I saw it last night, 10.27. It's well done Hollywood schmaltz, a sort of cross of two genres, the mental hospital genre (with the usual theme of new and wise patient doing more for the long-term patients than the doctors have been able to do) and the spiritual-awakening/angel-among-us genre (see, e.g., Michael, starring John Travolta). Kevin Spacey basically dusts off the character he played in American Beauty, using the same seraphic facial expressions and voice tones he used as the disaffected businessman who becomes a free spirit. I don't doubt that the movie will get a number of Oscar nominations, including one for Spacey. All the silly people who say in a profound tone of voice that they're "more spiritual than religious" will love this nonsense. (10.28.2001)
 Maillol: the painter within the sculptor. A review in IHT of "the first museum show ever" to deal with the paintings of the great sculptor, Aristide Maillol. [more] The website of Musée Maillol. [more] Other links to Maillol on the web. [more] A Smithsonian magazine piece on Maillol's last model, the woman who later founded Musée Maillol. [more]

Blonde power.  Have you heard the joke about "the blonde and the lawyer"? If not, click here. (It's not very funny.) However, there's a "blonde film" that is worth seeing; it's Legally Blonde (described here in the Harvard Law School Bulletin), starring the delectable Reese Witherspoon. [Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for reviews] Witherspoon plays a California blonde fashion-major whose Harvard Law-bound blue-blood boy friend, played by Matthew Davis, dumps her in favor of his old prep-school girl friend, who he thinks is more suitable spouse material than a "dumb blonde." Witherspoon develops a plan to win him back: enroll at Harvard Law herself. And that she does (it's apparently easier to get in now than when I attended, as perhaps exemplified by the students' choice of a Commencement Class Day Speaker this year, Greta Van Susteren). Once at HLS, Witherspoon meets with competition (from a dark-haired beaut), disdain (from her stereotyping classmates, who view all blondes as dumb), and other obstacles. As anyone who saw Witherspoon in Election (a favorite recent film of mine) knows, one should not underestimate Witherspoon, who soon organizes a "Blonde Legal Defense Fund" and basically wows the heck out of everyone, becoming, in the words of the Bulletin, "the blonde whose gift for fashion is only surpassed by her gift for jurisprudence." The film's web site contains a "blonde translator" ("All men are created equal" translates to "All men are like created equal"), a section of important dates in "blonde history" (in 1987 that blonde babe, Margaret Thatcher, became the first prime minister in Brit history to serve three consecutive terms), a collection of blonde jokes, a blonde quiz, etc.

Cincy Justice.  Steve Bochco has produced, among other shows, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, and, new this fall, Philly. If he's looking for a setting for yet another show about law, he might try Cincinnati. He could call it Cincy Justice. It could be a cross between WKRP in Cincinnati and Boston Public. The more serious episodes could deal with issues like Cincy pornography, Cincy race relations, etc., and the legal issues arising from them. Other episodes could be based on real-life stories from the judicial archives of Cincy and its cousins, Columbus and Cleveland. This story, out of Columbus, would make a good episode: It seems an Ohio couple, the Thomases, Roy and Eloise, won $20 million in the Ohio lottery in 1992 and received a lump-sum payout of $6.9 million. Hubby Roy died December 27, 2000. Nine days after the funeral at Healing Waters Cathedral in nearby Delaware, Roy's widow, Eloise, age 77, married their minister, the Rev. Leroy Jenkins. The wedding took place in Vegas, so maybe we're also dealing with Honeymoon in Vegas II. After the wedding Eloise, in the words of a court-appointed psychiatrist, "allowed herself to be cut off from the influence of others and became entirely dependent on Rev. Jenkins and...view[ed] others as having desires for only her money." [more] Eloise's relatives, however, believed that it was Leroy who wanted her money. Competing guardianship applications were filed, one by her sister, Mary Drakeford of Cincinnati, one by the Rev, and one by the man who was Roy's guardian. The psychiatrist reported to the court that Eloise has "moderate dementia," which will get worse, and that she "has no concept how much money or other assets she has." The court didn't appoint any of the three guardian. [more] Instead, it appointed State Senator Ben Espy as Eloise's guardian. The court also revoked powers of attorney given by Eloise to the Rev and her sister and directed the county attorney to investigate large withdrawals of money from her bank account. The guardian filed for a legal annulment. (On a "Catholic annulment," which is a different bird altogether, click here.) That a man may have married a rich widow for her money isn't by itself a ground for a legal annulment. (If marrying someone for money were a ground for annulment, think how many marriages theoretically might be subject to annulment.) But other grounds will justify granting an annulment, among them, in Ohio at least, incompetence to enter into the marital contract and lack of consummation of the marriage. [more] The guardian alleged lack of competence and lack of consummation. Yesterday (08.02.2001) a trial judge granted the annulment. The effect of the decision, if it becomes final, is that the Rev can't get any money from Eloise and must return assets she gave him. The Rev said of the decision, "I do not agree that they can take people and tell them who to marry and who not to and decide what to do with somebody's life. I think that's really rotten." If I were to direct an episode based on this incident, I'd cast as the judge the world's greatest blower of smoke rings, the immortal, magical "Lord of the Rings," Harry Garrison of Cincinnati, America's answer to the UK's claim that it has the most delightful eccentrics in the world. Garrison happens to be the bro and bro-in-law of my neighbors, Lo&Tim Young, but I'd be casting Harry on the merits. I think it would be neat to have the judge not only smoke a cigar in open court but deliver his verdict orally, a few words at a time, between smoke rings. (08.03.2001) Another case for Cincy Justice (CincyEnq) (08.28.2001)
 Is that Dido singing "I can't breathe/ until your ass stays here with me"? My favorite babe singer these days is the lovely, luscious, low-maintenance Dido. One of her songs, heard lots on the likes of WLTE-FM, the TC's "lite" rock radio station, is called Thank You, which includes the line, "I want to thank you for giving me the best day of my life/ Oh just to be with you is having the best day of my life." If I were still a deejay, I'd be playing that a lot, and also other songs from her "No Angel" CD, including Here With Me. If you're "into" Dido (one can dream), you might find these misheard Dido lyrics amusing. For example, "Here With Me" contains these Shakespearean lines: "I won't go/  I won't sleep/ I can't breathe/ until you're resting here with me," which one person misheard as "I won't go/ I won't sleep/ I can't breathe/ until your ass stays here with me." But, of course, great poetry often means multiple things. Perhaps Dido was thinking of me when she wrote/recorded the song and wanted to convey, to my ears only, the thought "I won't go/ I won't sleep/ I can't breathe/ until your ass stays here with me." Now that I think of it, I'm sure that's wha' happened.
Barbara Streisand's energy-saving tip:  "[T]ry to line dry [clothes] as much as possible." From Barbara Streisand's list of energy-saving tips for Californians during the energy crisis at BarbaraStreisand.Com - click here. Mark Steyn of the UK's Daily Telegraph has responded with his list of things celebrities like Barbara can do to conserve energy, including "remove the bulbs from the maid's room" and "crank up the Learjet and fly to your place in Montana until this whole thing blows over." [more]

 Sharon Stone's first-aid tip: When making a tourniquet out of hubby's socks, turn them inside out. Tipster: E.R. wanna-be (?), 43-year-old Sharon Stone (depicted here with hubby, Phil Bronstein), describing how she administered first-aid to hubby after he was bitten by a Komodo dragon (depicted here): "I made a tourniquet out of his socks. I turned them inside out. He had such a severe injury and we were alone and I was screaming for help and no one was there to hear us." [more]

 Sharon Stone's fashion tip: Avoid trauma when visiting Washington, D.C., when the Republicans are in power by buying Republican clothes beforehand. Tipster: West Wing wanna-be (?), 43-year-old Sharon Stone (depicted here), about visiting D.C. to receive an award: "It's traumatizing for me to come to Washington during a Republican administration, because I don't have any Republican clothes." [more]

 Sharon Stone's own macho man: Phil Bronstein, a/k/a Mr. Sharon Stone, stood inside the cage barefooted next to the LA Zoo's 7-foot Komodo dragon during a pre-Father's Day VIP tour and, upon being bitten on the foot, reached down and with his bare hands pried the dragon's mouth off his severely-lacerated foot. Basic Instinct 2 wanna-be, 43-year old Sharon Stone (depicted here), said of hubby, "Thank God he's a macho guy. He wouldn't have been able to save himself if he wasn't. I think it's all those years he spent in war zones." [more] For the zoo's version of what happened, click here. Saw with daughter, who recognized one of the "players" as a fellow from her dorm at Harvard her freshman year. Sad & funny documentary about a couple of young entrepreneurs with an idea: a one-stop web service called, which people would visit anytime they wanted to transact business with their local government, wherever in the U.S. it might be -- e.g., if they needed to pay a parking ticket. The movie illustrates the dictum of Harry Truman that the only thing new in the world is the history you never learned. Many of those who invested heavily in companies and were shocked when the speculative bubble burst must not have read their 11th grade American History text carefully.
 Memento. Strange movie. Saw it with son the other day. The narrator is out to find the man who raped and killed his wife, but he's got a big problem: he remembers everything before the incident but an injury he sustained at the time of the incident destroyed his ability to create new memories. He remembers new events for 15 minutes max. However, he has devised a system of taking elaborate contemporaneous notes and religiously relies on these notes to guide him. He needs the notes just to find his way back to the seedy motel room which is the home base of his obsessive investigation. On one level, the movie clearly says something about which is more reliable, real memory, refreshed memory, or contemporaneously recorded memory. There is no right answer. The movie is fresh and it holds one's intellectual attention throughout. At one point there is a lovely soliloquy by the narrator about the things he remembers about his late wife, the tiny details, those details in which God resides. (05.28.01)
Fishisms.  I've watched David E. Kelley's Ally McBeal since its debut in the fall of 1997. It lost some of its punch along the way, but this year, thanks to the additions of Robert Downey, Jr., and Anne Heche in repeating guest roles, the show sparkled. One of the main characters on the show is Richard Fish, one of the founding partners of the firm of Fish & Cage, an eccentric law firm if ever there was one. He is known for his "Fishisms," such as this one: "New firm policy, listen up! Anybody who sues this firm or me, personally, we all drop whatever cases we are working on. We devote all of our intellectual and creative efforts to ruining that person's life. Are we clear? I don't want to stop short with just getting even. Retribution is not strong enough. Ruin, that is the goal. Irreversible, irreparable, irrational ruin! New firm policy!" And this one: "Piles and piles of money. If I help some along the way great, but mainly I'm in the this for the piles, heaps, the really big piles." And this one: "I didn't become a lawyer because I like the law. The law sucks. It's boring. But it can also be used as a weapon. You want to bankrupt somebody, cost him everything he's worked for, make his wife leave him, even cause his kids to cry? We can do that." Among the sites collecting "Fishisms" are this one and this one.
 How to be good. If you liked High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, as I did, it looks like we may like his latest novel, How to Be Good, reviewed here and excerpted here. Here's a link to a Salon interview of Hornby in connection with the release of the film version of High Fidelity, my pick for the best movie of 2000. Also worth a read is Hornby's About a Boy, reviewed here, a story of a fellow who comes up with an ingenious way to "score" -- the "single-mom scam," by which he "markets" himself as a sensitive guy to attractive gullible single mothers. (05.25.01)
 Recommended movie. Saw with son: Traffic, Steven Soderbergh's gritty essay on the realities of our country's "war on drugs." This movie is such a persuasive form of cinematic argument that it may well cause a significant shift in public attitudes toward the wisdom of using "war" as the central motivating metaphor of our drug policy. (01.27.01)
 Felicity, Dawson & Ed. Most of the TV shows I like have to do either with crime and criminal law ("N.Y.P.D. Blue" and "Law & Order") or love (primarily the teenage kind of love, as in "Felicity" and "Dawson's Creek," perhaps because I never experienced reciprocated "luv" as a teenager) or both law and love (as in "Ed," the one about the Wall Street lawyer who, after being dumped by his wife and fired by his firm, returns to his home town to work as a "bowling alley lawyer" and quixotically pursue the beautiful Carol Vesey, a high school teacher who was a popular "unattainable" classmate of his in high school). My favorite "Felicity" episode is a beaut, the one originally (and helpfully) aired on November 3, 1998, the day I impulsively quit my job of 28 years (sort of the way the carryout boy quit his job in the great John Updike story "A&P"). The script, by Ed Redlick, is called "Cheated." Felicity, who has a great heart, tries too hard to help the fellow she loves -- she cheats for him without his knowing it, by "editing" a paper of his before handing it in, in an attempt to help him get a better grade, and the "loving act" backfires. The episode ends with their relationship in doubt, with Heather Nova's lovely "Heart and Shoulder" playing in the background ("When the night just cuts you through...I will give you my shoulder"), and with a friend of Felcity's asking her if she knows a certain line ("If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me") from the late W.H. Auden's wonderful poem, "The More Loving One." This is classy and sensitive television.
 Best new show of 2000-01? My nominees are Boston Public, Ed, and That's Life. I'm not sure which is best. I watch all three. "Boston Public" is another of David E. Kelley's law-related shows set in Boston, about, among other things, the litigiousness surrounding our public schools these days, where literally everything must be settled by judges. "Ed" is produced by the former head-writer of "The Late Show With David Letterman." It's about a "bowling-alley lawyer," Ed Stevens, in "Stuckeyville, Ohio," a show in which, as in "Boston Public," every case gets heard immediately. For example, in the most recent "Ed" a divorce case is heard within days after it is filed, not within, say, four years after it is filed, as is the case involving some (mine, for example) contested real-life divorces in good ol' Hennepin County, MN, USA. But holding its own in the competition for best new show (translate, my favorite new show) is "That's Life," about a real-life Italian-American family. Unlike "The Sopranos," a show which some have complained furthers the stereoptype of Italian-Americans as mobsters, this show gives, I like to think, a real, though somewhat sentimentalized, insight into many real Italian-American families. Wonderfully-written, the show is also loaded with acting talent, including Ellen Burstyn and Paul Sorvino.
Recommended Novel: About Schmidt, by Louis Begley (1996).  I picked up this novel at Half-Price Books and read it after reading a favorable review in the New York Times of the recently-published sequel, Schmidt Delivered. Schmidt, appropos a WASP insurance lawyer with a  big Wall Street law firm, has lived his life in a lawyerly way. Nonetheless, his life has fallen apart, as lives sometimes do. His wife has died of cancer and he is living alone in a big house in the Hamptons. His clients have forsaken him, preferring the more aggressive law practiced by junior partners, and he has retired early. Much to his chagrin, one of these aggressive young partners, Riker, a young Jewish fellow, whom he had sponsored and mentored but not liked, has successfully courted and become affianced to his only child, his spoiled Harvard-educated daughter, Charlotte. In Schmidt's eyes, it is bad enough that Charlotte is wasting her education in public relations work and is marrying Riker. But she also has been increasingly distant from him and appears to have cast her lot completely with Riker's family, even announcing that she is going to convert from Episcopalianism to Reformed Judaism. To top it off, Riker's overbearing mother, a sexually-aggressive psychiatrist, puts Schmidt on the defensive, accusing him of being anti-Semitic. As Carolyn See says in her review of the sequel, "The only thing worse than being bound and gagged by life, tied down by hundreds of business and familial obligations, is to be cut loose from them entirely," as Schmidt finds himself. Enter Carrie, a beautiful 20-year-old Puerto Rican waitress at Schmidt's favorite restaurant near his house. Carrie takes a liking to "Schmidtie" and "shacks up" with him, to the consternation of Riker and Charlotte, whose own prejudices prevent them from seeing that she is, as Begley recently put it, "a very complex young woman, extremely tough, gifted, shrewd, [and] courageous" --and, one might add, a catalyst to Schmidt's growth as a person. This is the third novel by Begley, a New York lawyer and Holocaust survivor, who wrote his first novel at age 56. In a recent interview given as part of the publicity campaign for the sequel, Begley defended Schmidt as a character, saying: "He's not your card-carrying anti-Semite. He is a man who is full of prejudices, some of them comical, some of them less comical. He is quite conscious of the undesirability of his prejudices but he also knows that they are a part of him. We all have dirty little secrets....One of the things a decent man or woman must do is keep these things under control. Schmidt is not someone who would ever harm a Jew, by word or action. It's just part of his variegated soul." The book is filled with asides that will make lawyers chuckle ("It's always a good deal to do a client's will in addition to the work for his business. Few things attach him to you more solidly than when he remembers that you will handle his estate."). Word is that Jack Nicholson may play the role of Schmidt in a movie based on the two books. Albert Finney would be better. Let's hope Rosie Perez doesn't play the role of Carrie. Maybe Jennifer Lopez. Her derriere might make an interesting subplot. (01.04.01)
 Recommended Movie: O Brother, Where Art Thou? The latest movie by the Coen Brothers, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, has a winning sense of place and time, Mississippi in the 1930's, from the perspectives of three escapees, one named Ulysses (George Clooney), from one of the notorious Mississippi prison chain-gangs. (Don't gloat, Minnesotans. Our prisons in Minnesota weren't much better then, and aren't much better now than they were then.) As the Coens explicitly tell us at the outset, the movie is a Homerian "Odyssey" in some sense, but don't waste your time trying to attach much meaning to the movie. Just enjoy it, including the soundtrack, which is both authentic and wonderful. (12.30.00)
 Recommended Movie: Castaway, starring Tom Hanks. Take a cinematic vacation from the damn cold weather. Simple plot: In 1995 "Tom" says goodbye to fiancee played by Helen Hunt; plane crashes; Tom survives alone for nearly 5 years on South Seas island before being rescued; on his trumphant welcome home he learns that Helen (who has been playing the unfaithful woman in movies a lot of late) has married another guy. (And truthfully, that is what any "castaway" should expect, isn't it?) Plane crash sequence is amazing. Director wisely doesn't provide any musical soundtrack to accompany Tom's isolation on island. All one hears is the sound of the powerful, relentless surf. Good title: this movie comes as close as any movie ever has or will to allowing the average moviegoer to experience the profound physical and psychological loneliness experienced by those who are, literally or figuratively, "castaways." (12.26.00)
Announcement. We've finally gotten around to launching our new webzine/blawg: BurtLaw's The Daily Judge:

It is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, it is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert the reader to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things about "judges" that have interested us and that may interest the reader.

We don't promote our blawgs, but readers of this blog and of our affiliated political opinion blog, BurtonHanson.Com, may be interested in it. We don't think there is another blawg quite like it.