Digital Photography Review asks: who owns a viral monkey selfie? Some interesting observations in the comments, including the suggestion that the moneky in question was the camera owner's agent.
Digital Photography Review asks: who owns a viral monkey selfie? Some interesting observations in the comments, including the suggestion that the moneky in question was the camera owner's agent.
On NPR today, “Morning Edition” ran a fascinating story on the role of chance in success and failure. Is the Mona Lisa much beloved because it truly is exceptional or because of factors other than artistic quality? According to nicely-designed research by Matthew Sagalnick and colleagues, chance plays a much bigger role than most people would suspect. Their results indicate that “after you meet a basic standard of quality, what becomes a huge hit and what doesn't is essentially a matter of chance.”
This should not be surprising. Movie producers, television executives, and book publishers are notoriously ineffective at sorting the likely to succeed from the unlikely to succeed. Thus, multiple publishers rejected the first Harry Potter book, and the Beatles “struggled to get a record deal.” People often favor a particular piece of art, music, or literature simply because other people favor it.
There is no reason to think that studies would come to a different conclusion for academic research. One wonders whether law review editors, book publishers, tenure committees, and other evaluators will give these findings the weight they deserve, especially since current practices tend to reinforce rather than counterbalance elements of chance.
Here's one of my favorite Gary Soto poems, "Job Interview." Originally published in A Natural Man (Chronicle Books1999), the poem is also available online at http://enespanol.tripod.com/sottopoem1.htm. Enjoy!
Why do you feel qualified? Mr. Blue Blazer asked.
And I looked out the skyscraper window.
Far below, a man struggled with a shopping cart,
One wheel stuck, his cargo of tin and glass jingling.
Sir, answer us, Mr. Suede-patches-at-the-elbow asked.
I stood up and peeked further down,
Pigeons flattened in the gutter,
Their feathers fossils for my own flight.
It says here you’re an artist, Ms. Perfume inquired.
I gazed at my belt, lynch for the last day of the month.
I considered my fingernails,
Claws that hugged a tree for the love of its roots,
And swallowed my spit, a poor-man’s breakfast.
The chairs squeaked,
The fish in the lighted salt tank circled,
A fish that I had been eyeing
Since I stepped into office.
I’m qualified because…I started.
Mr. Patches leaned forward, head like a chunk of cheese.
Ms. Perfume jangled her bracelets.
Mr. Blazer swabbed his front teeth with a sour tongue.
…because I could eat that fist in that tank there
With a butter sauce, I finished.
Out on the street with my portfolio of wrong answers,
I turned in a circle and thought, What next?
Hurrying away, nearly running from the gravity
Of a San Francisco hill,
I was every dark penny that rolled away,
But still hopeful of running into the glittery crowd
Of nickels and dimes.
In the Frankfurtian sense of bullshit, that is. Or so it appears. Malcolm Gladwell is often hailed as bringing the insights of social science to the masses. But most social scientists (and many others) have long known that Gladwell plays fast and loose with that science. He cherry picks data (often discussing studies with splashy findings while failing to acknowledge other—often larger, more recent—studies that failed to replicate the beguiling counter-intuitive finding). He fails to acknowledge the limitations of the studies with which he captivates his audience (such as their embarrassingly small sample sizes). And so on.
But failing to do the science justice does not, all by itself, make Gladwell a bullshitter. He might earnestly believe in the truth of what he says—say, in Outliers, about becoming an “expert” in any competition by spending 10,000 hours practicing the relevant skill—but simply lack the competence to carefully assess and communicate the literature. Or he might just as earnestly believe that the 10,000-hour rule he popularized is false, and aim to mislead his readers (for whatever reason).
For Frankfurt, neither scenario implicates bullshit. Instead, for him, the “essence of bullshit” is a “lack of connection to a concern with truth,” an “indifference to how things really are.” Whether someone is a bullshitter or not, then, depends not on any correspondence of their statements to objective truths but, rather, on the speaker’s state of mind. In several remarkable recent interviews—analyzed in this Slate article*—Gladwell talks about his writing (and live “performances”) in ways that suggest that he is primarily concerned with telling a good (read: captivating) story, and not especially concerned with the scientific truth of those stories. In other words, Gladwell is a bullshitter.
The only question, now, is whether his audience knows they’re being bullshitted.
* Disclosure: the Slate article is written by my husband. I wouldn’t link to his work, however, if I didn’t share his deep loathing for bullshit, whether in popular writing or (ahem) academia. Nor would I do so if I didn’t think that the Gladwell problem is related to (if distinct from) similar questions closer to home, such as when an academic may pursue advocacy that selects data and arguments in the service of a preselected conclusion and when, instead, an academic’s writing should come with an “implied warranty of scholarly integrity.”
[This post falls squarely in the “[pop] culture” portion of TFL’s “law, culture, and academia” mandate. Regular programming will resume in due course.]
Hi Gloria. Can I call you Gloria? I understand that you were displeased by the duet performed by your son and Miley Cyrus (as you know, your boy shows up at the 3:00 mark) at the MTV VMA awards Sunday evening.
Specifically, you said:
I was not expecting her to be putting her butt that close to my son. The problem is now I can never unsee it. . . . Him? Loved it! I love that suit, the black and white suit. I don’t understand what Miley Cyrus is trying to do. I just don’t understand. I think she’s misbegotten in this attempt of hers. And I think it was not beneficial.
Gloria, I’m confused about your confusion. I mean, look, the whole obscenity concern trolling thing isn’t my bag. VMA has been doing this for years, and if you wanted to see something else, well, that’s what they have C-SPAN for. But hey, you’re certainly free to know it when you see it. Obscenity, that is.
What I don’t get is why you see it in Cyrus but not in your own son.
To be fair, it’s not just you. All the commenters I’ve seen, from Sean Hannity (“outrageous,” “downright raunchy,” and “inappropriate” for a role model) and Bill O’Reilly (“she’s a troubled young lady” and “out of control”) to Camille Paglia (whose focus is on the philistine rather than the obscene nature of the routine) have reserved their criticism for Cyrus.
A mommy blogger’s open letter to her daughter, warning her not to follow in Cyrus’s footsteps, has gone semi-viral. But not a single Mommy blogger has warned her son against following in your son’s footsteps.
To no one's surprise, Bill O’Reilly blames Cyrus’s twerking on “bad parenting,” and after Miley’s father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, defended his daughter, O’Reilly asked whether he should be “shunned.” Even Brooke Shields, who played mom to Cyrus’s Hannah Montana, felt the need to weigh in and demand answers: “I was Hannah Montana’s mother. I do not approve. Where did I go wrong? I just want to know who’s advising her, and why it’s necessary?” (By contrast, Shields remains “shocked” by the controversy over her own performance in the infamous “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” ad campaign, which she shot when she was just fifteen years old (Cyrus is twenty), and which was banned by CBS.)
And yet no one blames you, Gloria, for raising a son whose music and videos are—in addition to being just as "obscene" as Cyrus’s (and just as arguably misappropriating of black culture and glorifying of drugs)—kinda rapey. Following the VMA hoopla, Cyrus's father canceled a scheduled interview with Piers Morgan at the last minute. But free from the burden of having to defend your parenting and your child, you can grant media interviews in which you accept the condolences of a shamed nation and join the #MileyGate pile on. It’s all a little reminiscent of Justin Timberlake, whose image was only barely and very temporarily tarnished by the “wardrobe malfunction” of Janet Jackson (remember her?), which he, too, apparently helped orchestrate. I don’t personally care about either Cyrus’s butt or Janet’s nipple, Gloria. But I am annoyed by the double standard involved in criticizing the female but not the male co-venturers in these manufactured controversies—the twerkers but not the twerkees, if you will—which is why I'm writing. (More after the jump.)
An exciting special issue on law and literature is forthcoming from University of Toronto Quarterly. The issue, due out in August, is being edited by Greig Henderson (Dept. of English, University of Toronto), Cheryl Suzack (Departments of English and Aboriginal Studies, University of Toronto), and Simon Stern (Dept. of English and Faculty of Law, University of Toronto). As far as I know, all of the pieces were invited submissions. A fuller description of the issue is available here.
The articles are as follows:
Elizabeth S. Anker (English Dept. at Cornell): “In the Shadowlands of Sovereignty: The Politics of Enclosure in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel”
Mark Antaki (Faculty of Law at McGill): “Genre, Critique and Human Rights”
Dale Barleben (Dept. of English at John Jay College, CUNY): “Law’s Empire Writes Back: Legal Positivism and Literary Rejoinder in Wilde’s De Profundis”
Todd Butler (Dept. of English at Washington State University): "Victim Impact Statements, New Media Technologies, and the Classical Rhetoric of Sincerity”
Gregg Crane (English Dept. at Michigan): “The Hard Case: Billy Budd and the Judgment Intuitive”
Ann E. Tweedy (Hamline Law): “How Allotment-Era Literature Can Inform Current Controversies About Tribal Jurisdiction and Reservation Diminishment”
Nicole M. Wright (Postdoctoral Scholar at Chicago): “‘A More Exact Purity’: Legal Authority and Conspicuous Amalgamation in Eighteenth-Century English Law Guides and the Oxford Law Lectures of Sir Robert Chambers and Samuel Johnson.”
My piece responds to the Supreme Court's practice of justifying denials of tribal jurisdiction over non-members in current cases based on the presumed expectations of non-Indian settlers during the allotment-era that reservations would disappear (thus eliminating any possibility of tribal jurisdiction). In a recent piece in the Seattle University Law Review, I examined historical newspaper articles from the allotment era that addressed the opening of Sioux reservations in South Dakota. I argued that, because many of these articles revealed injustices to tribes in the takings of their lands, settlers who read the articles--or who were privy to the information in them-- could not have formed justifiable expectations that the reservations would disappear. In this new piece, I examine some works of allotment-era literature set in South Dakota and nearby areas to see if these works similarly provide notice of such injustices. The results in the case of the literature are more mixed, but some works--particularly those of Zitkala-Sa and Doane Robinson--provide notice of the injustices inherent in land takings.
Once in a while you discover a nugget of culture that makes you double-take. So it is with the publication, The Chicagoan - a spittin' image knock-off of the New Yorker that published in the 1920's and 1930's. The University of Chicago library has digitized the entire collection - God bless 'em - and you can view issues here.
Thanks are apparently due to Emeritus Professor Neil Harris who discovered old issues in the U of C library stacks back in the 1980's and subsequently published the book The Chicagoa: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age.
The New Yorker carttons and columns, and the slightly altered Topics of the Town - you just don't see the appropriation of another magazine's entire guts every day. It makes Us and People look like different genres!
For people who like looking through old stuff, and especially people with ties to Chicago or a passion for that era, I present to you hours and hours of entertainment.
North Carolina’s Research Triangle is a glorious place to live. Besides the benefits of three major research institutions within a half-hour of each other (UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and NC State), it’s warm, green, diverse, friendly and overflowing with great food and culture.
But living in a college town can have its dangers. This week’s police blotter in Chapel Hill reports that a developer building a small residential enclave near my neighborhood has had the development’s new street sign stolen off the pole three times since January. The new street: Road Less Traveled. For those who took the Road Less Traveled, I want to know: Did it make all the difference?
This is what happens when people read. Poetry corrupts; good poetry corrupts creatively.
Via Adam Kotsko, translater of Giorgio Agamben's more recent work, and author of a new piece in the LA Review of Books on reading that work-
The law firm Harris and Greenwell has a library of law and humanities texts on their web site that is definitely worth checking out, including this gem from Kafka:
It is a virtual commonplace of legal theory and the history of legal and political thought today that Jefferson is not to be counted among its great subjects. With the notable exception of Sanford Levinson, constitutional theorists and historians of legal thought today generally pass by Jefferson’s comment to Madison that “the earth belongs in usufruct to the living” as at best an overly idealistic road wisely not taken. David Strauss and Jed Rubenfeld treat Jefferson as a fundamentally unrealistic and anti-historical thinker (by Rubenfeld’s lights, akin to Nietzsche, which is telling), while Stephen Holmes dismisses Jefferson as simply an “anti-constitutionalist.” David Konig, the leading historian of Jefferson’s legal career and the editor (along with Michael Zuckert) of his legal commonplace book, argues that Jefferson’s stance is that of a speculative philosopher which had to be subsequently reigned in by his more judicious friend and collaborator. Hannah Arendt noted Jefferson’s ward republic idea as a precious gem forgotten by both American politics and the revolutionary tradition, and Jennifer Nedelsky and Richard Matthews (among others) have noted Jefferson’s radical theory of property rights in his extended dialogue with Madison, but those are the apparent limits of Jefferson’s identity as a legal thinker. Paul Finkelman writes about he impact of Jefferson on American constitutional law, but that impact is felt through his subsequent political career.
What many of Jefferson’s critics on this front have in common is a feeling that Jefferson’s idea was simply ahistorical- an example of what Michael Oakeshott calls political rationalism at its worst. Robert Tsai has an appraisal of Jefferson’s idea and the project of legal revolution, but he suggests Jefferson is ultimately inadequate here because it requires us to imagine ourselves stepping out of our context and the assemblage of law and history that brought us to it. Similarly, Kunal Parker views Jefferson and Paine as exhibiting a revolutionary theory of the timelessness of consent. I just don’t see it that way at all. What is Jefferson doing hunting down manuscript copies of the colonial laws of Virginia and the records of the Virginia Company if he thinks he is conveniently stepping out of the thickness (or the need for) historical representation? What about his concern for the writing and rewriting of legal text so apparent in his plans for councils to go over proposed amendments to the state constitution, or his wish, again, expressed to Madison, for a plebiscite to make suggestions before approving the US Constitution? And what flippant anti-historical idealist composes the Manual for Parliamentary Practice?
I see Jefferson as first and foremost a practically engaged theorist of the politics of historical representation, and he distilled that theorizing into an understanding of the ideal citizen as essentially a user of inherited materials- land, yes, property, yes, but also of law and of language. In that sense, Jeb Rubenfeld’s linking of Jefferson and Nietzsche is apt, but precisely because Jefferson, at his best, thought basically historically, or genealogically and counter-genealogically, or even archaeologically, about law and politics.
Somewhat (and I emphasize the somewhat) in the spirit of Corey Robin’s recent separate posts on Jefferson as a racial thinker and Nietzsche as the closeted inspiration for neoliberal economic theory, we could, anachronistically, say that Jefferson’s thinking about the use and disadvantages of history for life and his vision of a transformative human subject was capable of both radically democratic and reactionary, violent implications. Unlike Nietzsche the philologist and philosopher, Jefferson the man of action, slaveowner, and proponent of continental empire had a direct hand in realizing some of those implications himself. In the final analysis (if there is such a thing), Jefferson’s career is incomprehensible without understanding it as a project of constituting and protecting the racial, gendered, and geographic boundaries of a potent ideological vision of the true and ideal citizen.
But problematizing and forgetting are two very different things. In our current moment, it might just be that the memory of Jefferson’s conjoined concepts of law as use and of the citizen as a particular kind of reader can appear in a new light. The historical practice appropriate here is one not just of recovery but of active recollection. If Jefferson if of any use, it is to teach us that that is where our political thinking can begin again.
I want to thank Al Brophy and Dan Filler for letting me chime in here at the Lounge for the past month or so- I have been and always shall be a regular reader of this great blog.
Recently, several media outlets, including NPR, the New York Times, and Big Think, have covered the story of Ph.D. student in Electronic Arts Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who makes 3-D "masks," or "portraits," of the faces of unknown individuals using the DNA they unwittingly discard on such things as cigarette butts and chewing gum. The media coverage has conjured an Orwellian dystopia for readers (check out the first few comments on the NPR piece for a sample). The artist herself apparently shares these concerns. In addition to her upcoming exihibit, Stranger Visions, she will be leading policy discussions on the implications of her art. She's also working with the Delaware medical examiner's office to try to identify the remains of a 20-year-old body.
The problem? As I commented over at Bill of Health, based on what she's said about her methods, they do not allow her to predict someone's face with anything but the crudest of guesses.
Matthew Herper of Forbes took my criticisms and those of others directly to the artist. I confess that her response does not make me feel any better. Even if you're "only" engaging in art, it seems to me that when that art has an obvious science policy message — indeed, one that you invite — you have some obligation to be clear about how "speculative," as she puts it, your art is. But when you decide to move from the world of art into the world of science, and to start leading policy discussions based on your speculative art and working with forensic examiners? Then you really have a strong duty to be very clear about what your work does and does not mean. Among other things, you should take care when talking to the media, and correct the media if they get it wrong. (This is, of course, a lesson that applies to all scholars, including legal scholars, not only to scientists.)
Yesterday, the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium, an international consortium that pools and conducts social science research on existing genome-wide association study (GWAS) data, and on whose Advisory Board I sit, published (online ahead of print) the results of its first study in Science. That paper — "GWAS of 126,559 Individuals Identifies Genetic Variants Associated with Educational Attainment" (plus supplemental data) — like much human genetics research, has the potential to be misinterpreted in the lay, policy, and even science worlds. That's why, in addition to taking care to accurately describe the results in the paper itself, including announcing the small effect sizes of the replicated SNPs in the abstract, being willing to talk to the media (many scientists are not), and engaging in increasingly important "post-publication peer review" conversations on Twitter (yes, really) and elsewhere — we put together this FAQ of what the study does — and, just as important, does not — show. So far, our efforts have been rewarded with responsible journalism that helps keep the study's limits in the foreground. Perhaps Dewey-Hagborg should consider issuing a similar FAQ with her speculative art.
[Adapted from a post and comments at Bill of Health]
The O'Reilly Theater at Keble College, Oxford recently played host to a new show: John Rawls's A Theory of Justice: The Musical! It was billed as "an all-singing, all-dancing romp through 2,500 years of political philosophy."
Here's a trailer from the show:
Here's the official description from Vimeo:
In order to draw inspiration for his magnum opus, John Rawls travels back through time to converse (in song) with a colourful cast of political philosophers, including Plato, Locke, Rousseau and Mill. But the journey is not as smooth as he hoped: for as he pursues his love interest, the beautiful student Fairness, through history, he must escape the evil designs of his libertarian arch-nemesis, Robert Nozick, and the objectivist seductress, Ayn Rand. Will Rawls achieve his goal of defining Justice as Fairness?
The world’s first feature-length musical about political philosophy showcases a script steeped in drama, humour and romance - with a musical score that covers everything from rap battles to power ballads.
Based on the ground-breaking philosophical book "A Theory of Justice" (1971), this exciting new musical was met with critical acclaim when it opened in Oxford in 2013. Philosopher Nigel Warburton called it "brilliant: hilarious witty and profound... I cried with laughter for most of two hours!"
A crisp student review of the show is here in Philosophy Now. There are apparently plans to bring the show to the U.S., but those who don't want to wait can download the full production for $9.99 here.
Anyone working on Habermas: The Musical? Sunstein: The Musical?
So last night, the Twitterverse discovered, seemingly by accident, that today at noon, Jonah Lehrer will make his first public appearance since his spectacular fall from grace after admitting not only to self-plagiarism but also to borrowing from other writers (including his friend Malcolm Gladwell) without attribution and fabricating interviews and sources. His appearance will come in the form of a keynote address at the Media Learning Seminar 2013, sponsored by the Knight Foundation. The organizers of the event report that Lehrer will give a typically Lehreresque talk on the neuroscience of decisionmaking, including the decisions that led him to defraud his readers. In case you aren't in Miami, it's your lucky day: the event, including Lehrer's talk, is being livestreamed here.
As some have pointed out (see the comments, too), this was a pretty soft launch for what organizers are only now saying, after Twitter and its many angry fellow science writers discovered Lehrer's scheduled appearance, will include a mea culpa from Lehrer. The fact that the conference bio of Lehrer makes no mention of his misdeeds, including the fact that the publisher of his most recent book, Imagine, took the unusual step of recalling all copies of the book, does not inspire confidence that either the Knight Foundation or Lehrer initially intended this to be a thoughtful, appropriately contrite reflection on what happened. Lehrer's former colleague, collaborator and friend, the science writer David Dobbs, for one, is pretty angry. He says that he and others he knows are owed, but have not received, apologies from Lehrer, and he has pressed the conference organizers to put a few questions to Lehrer today.
As for Lehrer's anticipated discussion of the neuroscience of plagiarism and fabrication, I confess that my expectations are low. I've always thought that by far Lehrer's biggest sin was not his self-plagiarism, his more traditional plagiarism of others' work, or even his fabrication of Dylan quotes. Reusing text from his blog in a New Yorker post is between Lehrer, his God, and the various people who paid him for unique content, but I can't get very worked up about it on behalf of his readers. And as for his "old fashioned" plagiarism, that is, of course, a serious misdeed, but Gladwell readily forgave his friend, and Dylan, not surprisingly, doesn't seem to care.
As a serious consumer of social science and one interested in how it is produced and communicated, for me, Lehrer's biggest sin will always be the poetic license he took with science in the name of crafting a sexy and sellable just-so story. (Lehrer's fellow science writers who were denied the opportunities Lehrer has been given, in part because they insisted on engaging in careful and responsible — but less sexy — science communication are also victims of this sin.) You can read more about that here. (Disclosure: Lehrer's interlocutor in this exchange, and in an earlier New York Times book review of Imagine, is my husband. I also watched with some irritation as Lehrer came close, as the scandal unfolded, to blocking publication of their interview. Discount accordingly.)
Update: The archived video of Lehrer's talk is here (the conference organizer begins moving in the direction of an introduction to Lehrer at around the 1:00:30 mark, and Lehrer himself starts at around the 1:03:30 mark). As others have remarked, the paralells to Lance Armstrong's mea-culpa-cum-comeback are hard to miss. Also of note: the giant screen behind Lehrer scrolling live tweets, most of them critical of him. No doubt the $20,000 Lehrer was paid for the talk helped ease the pain.
Update 2: Image above is an ironic screen shot from Poynter.org, which first reported Lehrer's fee, which Knight is referring to (also ironically) as an "honorarium."
Update 3: Aaannd...updated title to reflect that the speaker in question is in fact Jonah, not Johan, Lehrer.
Well, I've finally been able to set aside time to see Django. Though I rarely see first run movies, I make an exception when they relate to Jim Crow or slavery. Wow. So much to talk about, like the depiction of slavery -- and especially the law of slavery and slave sales. I was pleasantly surprised -- shocked might even be the right word -- with how much law is in that movie; jurisprudence even more so.
As we were walking into the theater, my colleague Rob Smith asked if I thought there'd be a character like Fed in it? I paused for a moment and said, probably. That requires a little explanation.... Turn back to the late summer of 1831 during the Nat Turner rebellion. As panic swept Southampton where the rebellion was taking place, in neighboring Sussex County slave-owners worried what would happen when the rebels reached their county. The rebellion never got there, but that didn't stop people from preparing to meet rebellion with violence -- and with violently responding to perceived threats to slavery.
One slave-owning family was convinced that their slave Fed would join the rebels and they repeatedly spoke about it in the presence of their slaves. I wonder about who Fed was and why his owners were so convinced he would join the rebels. Upon hearing the speculation that Fed would join the rebels, one slave said in essence -- yes, and I'd join them too. At trial a few weeks later, as the white community sought to regain control and retribution, that slave who said he would join the rebels was sentenced to death. Fed, however, was not convicted -- for he had never said anything. Fed's fellow slave was convicted of plotting rebellion; Fed, who may very well have harbored designs of freedom through rebellion, was returned to his owner to suffer what fate we will never know.
I suppose Django's character has a lot in common with Fed -- and maybe with Nat Turner, too. What surprised me about the movie was not the violence -- in fact, if anything it was less than I expected. I guess it's because these days I'm so used to the extraordinary violence that lay at the heart of slavery that the scene of the slaves fighting to the death for the amusement of Candie -- or the dogs tearing the run-away slave apart wasn't all that suprising. (I had initially written disturbing, but that's obviously the wrong word -- it was incredibly disturbing, just not out of keeping with what one might expect in this kind of movie.) I'm used to reading descriptions of extra-ordinary brutality -- not so much for amusement of the owners, though it wouldn't surprise me if that was part of slavery -- as for money and control. I mean, "Blackhead Signpost Road" got its name from the head of a supposed rebel that was placed on the road into Jerusalem, Virginia, as a warning to other rebels.
Two things particularly interested me about this, which I want to talk about now. First -- and some of this is sort of transparent -- is the role of law. There are three scenes of slave sales, where contracts (and particular warranties) loom large. Maybe Ariela Gross should be writing about this instead of me, because she is the leading scholar on slave warranties, but wow I find it interesting that the movie is so framed by law. There's the opening scene with the "sale," the talk of drawing up a contract for the sale of "Eskimo Joe," and the bill of sale and manumission document of Broomhilda. But law is present in a lot of other places, too. It frames what bounty hunters can do and on several occasions the community that's rising up against the bounty hunters accepts that there was a legal justification for killing. They even go to a local records office to see who purchase Broomhilda. I mean, how unexpected to find a title search in a Tarantino movie?! And then there's the pervasive talk of property -- of how Candy can do whatever he wants with his property. Tis is straight out of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. And pretty closely related to Thomas Ruffin's State v. Mann.
Second is the jurisprudence of all of this, such as how the bounty hunters justified their killings of both the people they're seeking and the slave-owners at Candyland. Maybe the most poignant scene of several in this regard is when Django kills a man who's plowing a field. Obviously Django is doing his job (and also extracting punishment for past crimes), but he's bothered that he's killing a person with a family. This may inspire people to go back and think again about the duties of people caught up in a system that is violent -- or in the case brutally oppressive. I guess Django is in some ways like the anti-slavery judges that Robert Cover (and Harriet Beecher Stowe) wrote about, who recognize inhumanity, but still engage in the system. Or maybe like lawyers for slaves, who try to work within a system that is unfair but still seek some balance for their clients. Shades of Melville's statement in Moby Dick, "who ain't a slave?"
And what do we make of Dr. Schultz' final words after shooting Candie, "I had to do it." (Or maybe it was "I couldn't resist.") In the moments leading up to the shooting, he was turning over in his mind Candie's order to have D'Artagnan fed to the dogs. Schultz, though quite dependent on law for his living -- and someone who recognized the constraints of law (he convinced Django that they couldn't just go and rescue Broomhilda) -- he stepped outside of the southern law and he did so because he believed he had to.
I'm going to think on this some more. Books and writing are all over this movie -- the contracts and receipts for sale; the record books; the wanted handbills; ... even the library at Candyland, where Dr. Schultz went to look for a copy of Alexandre Dumas' Three Muskateers. God I love the history of the book. One final thought -- don't you love how Broomhilda's emancipation papers were a pre-printed form?! Further evidence of how far the technology of printing was put to use by law. And one of these days I'll talk about the cemetery scene, too!
Want to know more about Fed? My paper on "The Nat Turner Trials" is up on ssrn. I talk a lot about Fed in there -- check it out.
I think you may enjoy Roberta Smith's article in today's New York Times, "Curator Tear Down These Walls," which argues for the integration of pre-twentieth century folk landscape paintings into the display of more stylized, high-brow landscapes. But, hey, legal historians have been studying the two genres side-by-side (as if there were not difference between them) for a while. Or, perhaps I should say, pre-Civil War landscape art of all types reflected the ideas and aspirations of the ownership of -- and dominion over -- property.
I was thinking about how landscape art reflected the pre-war concern with dominion over the land as I was reading Steven Brown's charming new volume on Supreme Court Justice John McKinley. While in the Senate, McKinley stood up for the rights of squatters who'd improved public land and then sought title to them. As Brown points out, "the very improvements wrought by squatters that gave 'purpose to the soil' also made the land much more valuable. Consequently, squatters on public lands often faced the worst possible combination of circumstances: they had cleared the land, built their homes and barns, established their crops, and then found out that the land they had improved was now too valuable for them to purchase at public sale." The image of property conveys well the work that squatters -- and other settlers -- did to clear the land and links the law to those practices.
The image of "Lake George and the Village of Caldwell" is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. It's one of the illustrations of the Times article, though I think I might have used something from, oh, American Scenery.
The Journal News, a local publication based in Westchester County, New York has published an interactive map of the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland Counties. Officials in nearby Putnam County (NY) have declined to release the information in response to FOIA requests.
The publication of the map has resulted in threats to the publishers, prompting the Journal News to hire armed guards to protect the organization's offices (see news coverage here, e.g.). Public opinion on the appropriateness of the publication of the information is divided (see, e.g., here).
In some parts of the country, in some towns and cities, at some universities, gun ownership may be part of the culture. Not so in my slice of New York or at my institution, though. Given that 40% of my faculty colleagues live in Westchester or Rockland County, I admit that the map piqued my interest. After some hesitation, I did look at the map (as did lots of other folks; apparently the map is the most popular feature on the website of the Journal News). I admit to feeling somewhat uneasy about the act of looking, though, for reasons I can't quite articulate. On the one hand, I believe that all state licenses should be a matter of public record. On the other hand, I can imagine that if I were a gun owner in Westchester or Rockland County, I might not want that information available to my neighbors.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In case a primer is in order, the National Archives has posted images and a transcript of the original document. Over the next year, libraries, museums, and universities will be commemorating the Proclamation with public lectures, conferences, workshops, and exhibitions: As an example, the Schomburg Center at the New York Public Library has on display “Visualizing Emancipation,” an exhibit of eighty antebellum and postbellum photographs of enslaved and free persons. It would be great to know if any of you are teaching the Proclamation to your law students; if so, how and in what classes? I am not teaching Property this semester, but plan to include a mini-module on the Proclamation when I teach it again this Fall.
Today also marks the end of my stint in the Lounge. I have fully enjoyed the community and appreciate the opportunity to engage here; and even though my trivia skills remain lackluster, I look forward to rejoining the ranks of the blog’s avid readership. Keep those hard-hitting posts coming, fellow Loungers . . . and Happy New Year one and all!
Earlier today, sports blog Deadspin posted a list ranking the amendments to the Constitution. According to editor-in-chief Tommy Craggs’ algorithm – which is not explained in the blog post – the Fourteenth ranks first, followed by the Fifth and Fourth, respectively. The Second ranked dead last.
I’m sure we all have our favorite amendments (“favorite,” in terms of our scholarship and “favorite,” in terms of our personal constitutional politics); where would you rank the Second? Or any of the others? Given the choice, I’d probably rank the Fourteenth and the Second close together; both are ambiguous enough to remain subject to highly-contentious judicial construction. I’d probably rank the Third somewhere near the top, since the prospect of quartering a slew of soldiers in our NYC apartment seems particularly unsavory to me.
Are there others?