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BurtLaw's Law and Christmas
-  LawAndEverythingElse.Com  - Copyright (c) 2006 Burton Randall Hanson

 Should you beware of a guy who dresses up as a clown or Santa Claus? I think it's wise to be cautious when dealing with any guy who gets a charge out of putting on a funny costume or gown or mask or wig or robe before approaching other people. Most guys disguised as clowns and most guys parading around as Santa Claus and most barristers wearing wigs are probably good guys. But I've seen enough movies with evil clowns and read enough news stories from the police blotter to know that it doesn't hurt to merely ask yourself why anyone has the need to wear a mask. After all, John Wayne Gacy loved being a clown and the kids loved him. Too bad they did. There's a site called Clownz.Com that will keep you apprised of Clowns in the News. And Buck Wolf of ABC News has an interesting entry titled When Clowns Go Bad, in which he asks, "What evil lurks behind a greasepaint smile? Who are these orange-haired strangers folding balloons for our kids? What could be worse than when clowns go bad?" As for the guy in your family who likes prancing around as Santa and having kids sit in his lap, chances are he's okay, I guess, but one should bear in mind there has to be a reason most malls do criminal background checks on each and every would-be Santa. To summarize with some general advice: keep an eye on the guy in the Santa Claus suit -- anyone can wear one. He may be -- probably is -- a nice guy, or maybe just a benign fool. Then again, he may be the next John Wayne Gacy. Have a Merry Christmas. (12.20.2002)

 "The Best Christmas Ever," a very short, heartwarming Christmas story by BurtLaw for all Americans.

     "How wonderful it is to be married to Bob," thought Jane. "But how awful that two people who love each other so much do not have any children! We've tried now for two years," she said to herself. "It must be Bob's fault. But what a shock it would be to him if he knew. Oh, I'll go to an artificial insemination clinic and get impregnated, and Bob will think he's the father and that will make him feel potent and proud."

     The people at the Noodles Artificial Insemination Clinic told Jane she shouldn't worry, that they had a donor whose physical characteristics matched Bob's characteristics perfectly. Everyone would say the baby looked just like daddy.

     The day of the delivery arrived. December 24th! Jane gave birth to a boy. Jane and Bob had agreed that if the baby was a boy, they'd call it "Little Bob," after Bob.

     Bob came into the room. Jane said, "Bob, there's something I've had on my mind for nine months. I feel awful. I've got to be honest with you. I was artificially inseminated because I knew you were impotent."

     Bob looked shocked. "But I'm not. In fact, I've been selling my sperm to the clinic to earn extra money to pay for your Dad's operation, for Christmas presents, for our vacation trips, etc., etc."

     Jane said, "They said they impregnated me with sperm from a man who had exactly the same combination of physical characteristics as I told them you had. You don't suppose...."

     Ten minutes later Bob heard Dr. Schnitzel, who was with the Noodles Clinic, say, "I checked and I'm happy to report that, yes, Bob is the man whose sperms we used to impregnate you, Jane."

     Bob and Jane smiled. Little Bob smiled. This was the best Christmas ever. (BRH 12.18.2002)

 It's a Wonderful Life may be the best Christmas movie, but is it a wonderful life?

a) Robert Frost didn't think so. He called it a Trial by Existence. But, he added, in some profound way we prefer it to "paradise." Other poets have made the same basic point. Wallace Stevens, who was a great lawyer besides being a great poet, wrote in Poems of Our Climate that "The imperfect is our paradise."

b) William James felt the question isn't whether life is "wonderful" but is it "worth living" and is it "significant," questions he answered in essays such as On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings and What Makes a Life Significant, in which he said, "The solid meaning of life is always the same eternal thing, -- the marriage, namely, of some unhabitual ideal, however special, with some fidelity, courage, and endurance; with some man's or woman's pains."

c) Frank Capra, the director of It's a Wonderful Life, didn't really say that it is a wonderful life in general. I think he meant it can be a wonderful life for some people if certain things happen. It's a pretty dark screenplay. George Bailey (James Stewart) comes close to killing himself during the long, dark night of his soul. His daimon, Clarence, "saves" George by convincing him he's not a failure, that his life has been significant. But Clarence basically does this by espousing a psychological and economic determinism that suggests whether the people of a town like Bedford Falls turn out good or bad depends on events outside their control. The folks of Bedford Falls are good because of a series of primarily economic events set in motion by one very good person, George. It's a wonderful life for the people of Bedford Falls because of George. It's probably a miserable life for people in some town 10 miles down the line who didn't have a savior among them like George. Are ordinary people that pliable, that pathetic, that dependent? Maybe they (we) are. Maybe one individual can make it a wonderful life for a number of other people. Then again, maybe the weakness, the faithlessness of an individual can make it a miserable life for another person or for a number of other people. I can't help feeling that the movie overlooks the significance of Mary Hatch, played by Donna Reed. Has there ever been a lovelier, stronger, more faithful movie heroine? Nowadays, the typical spouse would tell George he was suffering from a chemical imbalance and should get some Prozac from the town doctor. If he didn't "snap out of it quick," she'd dump him. Not Mary. :-)

 Christmas - some links.

b) "Christmas must be a very bad time to watch television in the USA because it seems that every primetime drama and sitcom is required by law to work in a moral and someone in a Santa suit." A British view of American TV series' treatment of Christmas. (BBC).

i) The public school as Grinch at Christmas. (Don Feder at TownHall.Com).

j) Art: "The Sheepherder's Christmas" by Peter Hurd. (Modrall Sperling Law Firm Art Collection).

l) Having a barrel of fun with The Clapper. (SwankiVY's Pranks).

n) "In Philip Roth's Operation Shylock, [this song] is an emblem of Jewish genius.' In Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night, it's a tedious reminder of World War II. During the Vietnam War, it was also used by the US military as the code for the immediate evacuation of Saigon." What's the name of the song? (The Guardian).

o) "Christmas in the Forest," a popular Norwegian Christmas song about the return of a couple's long-absent son, "a furry, fattish chap" with a trunk full of "Christmas grub and Christmas booze and lots of Christmas junk." Background (Frilanders.Net).

r) "In the mid-sixties, Elvis switched to a life-size Nativity scene, along with lighted aluminum trees along the front of the house, and the winding driveway outlined in hundreds of blue lights, a set-up he used each year for the rest of his life." From Christmas at Graceland (Elvis.Com) I'm not surprised he picked blue lights. The color blue, a favorite of mine, was a favorite of Elvis, too. Thus, his great recordings of Blue Christmas, Blue Suede Shoes, When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again, Moody Blue, Indescribably Blue, Blue Moon, and Blue Hawaii. Cf., Blue Hawaii-theme weddings in Las Vegas.

 Some Christmas movies and TV shows I seem to watch every year.

a) Shop Around the Corner (1940) Without a doubt, this is one of the best romance films ever made. It's based on the play Parfumerie by Nikolaus Lazlo, and is only the best of a number of pretty good plays-movies based on the play's plot. Others include: the movie musical, In the Good Old Summertime, with Judy Garland; the Broadway musical, She Loves Me; and the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie, You've Got Mail.  The movie is set in a shop in Budapest in which the ultimate lovers, Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart, are employed alongside Frank Morgan, a devious guy who is romancing the boss' wife on the sly. Sullavan and Stewart carry on an anonymous epistolary romance without realizing that each is the other's pen pal. Eventually the boss discovers Morgan's perfidy and Sullavan and Stewart realize it's each other they love. Directed by the legendary Ernst Lubitsch.

b)  Holiday Inn (1942) This movie is one of the most delightful movie musicals, set in an "inn" which is "saved" by Bing Crosby & Company's plan to lure customers by putting on a different musical for every holiday. Bing battles with Fred Astaire over "the woman," who has to choose between Fred and fame "out there," on the one hand, and good ol' Bing back at Holiday Inn.  Guess who wins? Bingo, of course, who debuts "White Christmas" in this movie, not in the movie of that name, which came later.

d) Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978) I have a videotape of this that I copied off TV and an LP recording of the show. Used to watch this every year. I see it's now available in both DVD and VHS.

 Keeping your "Pat" happy -- for under $10.  I read somewhere, a couple decades or more ago, that Dick Nixon, author of Six Fantasies (with help from Gerald Sussman) often bought Pat boxes of Russell Stover candy -- just because, well, he was a thoughtful hubby who knew how to keep his woman happy. I'm not married or otherwise attached so I don't have to worry about what to get the little lady. But if you are and are inclined to model your life after that of the Dickster, you might want to start by getting her a pound of Russell Stover, on sale for $3.99 this week. That should do, that should do.... If she's Scandinavian, you might buy her some lutefisk and some butter. Entertain yourself watching her guzzle it down, butter drooling out the side of her mouth and down her dainty chin. There is a certain type Scandinavian woman whose nostrils are prominent and who looks good now but you can tell as she gets older she's going to look like a troll, with hair growing out of her nostrils and ears. For this little lady in your life, I recommend you buy one of those battery-operated nose- and ear-trimmers and maybe a new jar of Mentholatum brand ointment to replace the one passed down to her from her grandmother. Another gift idea: a Clapper (especially if your little lady is like the white-haired woman at the end of the Clapper ad who claps her TV off, then turns over in bed with that self-satisfied "I'm in charge" look on her face).
 Another very short Christmas story by BurtLaw.
     It was Christmas Eve. Judge Myron B. Fleshbacher was home alone eating some fried eggs and toasted Lunds English muffin bread lathered with butter and watching Ernest Saves Christmas.
     The telephone rang, jolting him from his reverie. It was Jimbo, from bar headquarters, who never hesitated to call a judge ex parte when he needed a favor: "J-j-judge Myron, Christmas is in b-b-big trouble. Only you can save it."
     Myron didn't need to think long and hard (or, as most judges do, to feign thinking long and hard). Applying that most precise of judicial tests, the "totality-of-the-circumstances test," with genius speed, he replied, "Christmas ain't worth saving, Jimbo. Besides, it's cold out and I've settled in for a long winter's night in a warm house watching a Christmas classic." "O.K.," stuttered the ever obsequious Jimbo, "I just wanted to check."
     Myron sat down, feeling the warm glow that a sanctimonious judge always feels after making a decision he's sure is right, and Myron was always right. "I could have played to the crowd and saved Christmas," he said to himself. "It would have gotten me a lot of votes in the next election. But what good is judicial independence if it's wasted on simpletons who aren't willing to be independent and do the right thing."
     Just then, as he scooped another forkfull of egg into his mouth, he sensed a presence. It was ye olde Holy Ghost. Judge Myron wasn't terrified. The Holy Ghost and he were old pals.
     "Hi, Ho," said Myron, getting up to pour him some glog. "You did the right thing," said Ho. "All these years 'the Son' has had His big days, but I've had none, even though we're three co-equal branches o' the same thing. You did the right thing." "I know," said Myron, belching from the glog and feeling blessed by the presence of the Spirit.
     From thence forward, Judge Myron was known ironically and revered as "The Christmas Judge" -- for not saving that which wasn't worth saving. (12.24.2001)
 Katherine Harris' Christmas fashion tips. It's probably just an unfounded  rumor that Katherine Harris, formerly Florida Secretary of State, now Congresswoman-elect, has been spotted at the Capitol in St. Paul, MN, recently. Perhaps there's a look-a-like on the loose. I can't say that Katherine Harris gives out fashion tips but if she did she might give out tips like this one for the women-folk: Christmas tree ornaments may be used as dress "accessories" in a pinch.

 An Easter-sort of Christian. I suppose it says something about me that I don't care that much for Christmas as a holiday (as either a church or secular holiday - can one separate the two anymore?). But I love the Lenten season -- all of it, Ash Wednesday, the Wednesday evening church services, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. I recall the wonderful Wednesday evening services of my youth, presided over by Rev. Harold S. Nasheim, and the Lenten songs ("Beneath the Cross of Jesus" and "In the Cross of Christ I Glory"). I recall one year sitting with my friend Paul through the entire 2&1/2-(or was it 3-)hour "Seven Last Words" service at Our Redeemer's. And I recall somehow feeling wonderfully "purified" as I left church on Easter Sunday ("Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Halleleujah!"). I recall, with warmth, attending with my kids all of the Holy Week services at Colonial Church of Edina in 1994, the last year that Dr. Arhur Rouner was that church's pastor. He was, he said, "an Easter-sort of Christian." Aware as I am of all my faults, I hesitate to proclaim myself much of anything. But if I were bold enough to say it, I'd say I, too, am "an Easter-sort of Christian." Also vivid in my heart's memory is an Easter service at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard in April of 1995, presided over by Rev. Peter Gomes, and the brass band outside the church playing the traditional Easter hymns as I left. BTW, during the academic year, Sunday services from Memorial Church are broadcast from the Harvard student-run station, WHRB-FM (at which my daughter was an announcer in 1995) starting at 10 a.m. Central time.

 I am so glad each Christmas eve. That's the English title of a Christmas song not widely known in America outside the Norwegian-American community, of which I am a part. Here's a link to a site that contains a looped "Midi" (of the tune) and the English translation. Norsk? The title is "Jeg er så glad hver julekveld." Click here for Norsk lyrics.

 It's Christmas at the Courthouse.

e) "I always say you can pick a fight quicker about Christmas than you can about almost anything else," from story about Who gets the kids for Christmas?! (Wichita Eagle 12.16)

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.