I don't know how many other readers grew up on Mad, but I can still recall hitting the magazine stand at the Hyde Park Co-op each month, looking for the new issue. Al Feldstein was the editor in those days and some of the key features - light Dave Berg's Lighter Side - were created on his watch.
He died Tuesday at 88 - but for some of us, Feldstein's Mad creations live on pemanently in our funny bones.
Just in time for the "holiday," Twitter brings us #AcademicValentines. Not surprisingly, many of these tidings of love and joy center on tenure:
But for you academic commitophobes out there, you can always hedge your bets:
Ouch. Of course, many entries address scholarship strategy...
...and methodology (again, offered in the more and less committed varieties)...
...and the beloved peer review process:
There are even nods to scholarly citation styles:
Sure, but is she committed enough to convert to Bluebook? That's dedication. And speaking of Bluebook, and the legal academy's penchant for insisting that every factual claim, no matter how obviously true or otherwise universally accepted, be cited:
I'll end with another one of my favorites:
Anyway, check out the live updates under the hashtag, or this great storify of some of the best ones from the past few days.
I don't mean to be trivial, but it is the holiday season so I thought I'd ask this question.
We often talk about the big issues affecting law schools at The Lounge, but a friend and colleague reminded me that sometimes small things make a big difference. Like benches to put your books on in the restrooms or longer opening hours at the coffee shop. These things are often easy to accomplish and often overlooked because they're not major issues.
I thought it might be worth putting up a "holiday wish list" for law schools to draw some of the smaller things to the attention of administrators, and see if the wishes might come true in 2014.
Like many of you, I imagine, I'm always looking for brief clips that I can show my students to illustrate a point with a bit of humor. When I teach advance directives (and the difficulties in and drawbacks of drafting them), for instance, I show this clip from "The Comeback" episode of Seinfeld season 8. (The only downside is that each time I show it, fewer students have ever heard of Kramer and the gang.)
Well, those of you who teach the Lilly Ledbetter Act or related matters may wish to check out this short snippet from a 2012 TED talk (but going semi-viral now, thanks to Upworthy) by primatologist and Emory professor Frans de Waal. I myself plan to use it the next time I teach or talk about bounded self-interest (and in particular, preferences for fairness/inequality aversion). Even if your work has nothing to do with employment discimination or behavioral economics, these two minutes are worth watching. Because cute Capuchin monkeys.
The latter book features some of law profs' favorite predictable irrationalities, including the endowment effect, framing, and hyperbolic discounting. Pictured here is anchoring bias (or, in the book's preferred nomenclature, reference dependence). As someone who thinks the law doesn't always leave sufficient space for altruism, and that in general legal academia has tended to overemphasize bounded rationality (and, to a lesser extent, bounded will-power) while overlooking the interesting implications for law and policy of bounded self-interest, I was particularly pleased to see that the book includes a discussion of preferences for fairness and competitor orientation. H/T Cass Sunstein on the Twitters.
done before, I thought I’d offer up some recent highlights from my Twitter feed that may be of
interest to TFL readers but escaped notice. Alors, in no particular order:
— First up is an
interesting draft by USC economists Isabelle Brocas and Juan D. Carrillo, The neurobiology
of opinions: can judges and juries be impartial? The authors draw on
neuroscience to model belief formation and decision-making by judges and
juries, concluding that “early cases in a judge's career may affect his
decisions later on, and that early evidence produced in a trial may matter more
than late evidence,” and that “the distribution of preferences in a jury
affects the way information is interpreted by individual jurors.”
— Anyone who has
been paying attention knows that adjuncts get a raw deal. But this
adjunctreally got a raw deal. (To
be fair, her former institution may have been distracted by more
— In (much)
lighter news (which you will need after you read about the adjunct), I give you The
Hotness-IQ Tradeoff in Academia. The philosophers, apparently, are to be congratulated. Alas,
legal academia is not represented, although perhaps that’s for the best; I fear
that the law types may have ended up below the line with their med school
counterparts (a placement that suggests that such faculty are even dumber
than their physical appearance would have predicted).
— I’ve always
thought that the 1L curriculum could do with some informal logic. And with An Illustrated Book of Bad
Arguments, it really couldn’t be easier. Come to think of it, I’ve found
myself on the business end of the Guilt By Association fallacy (illustrated right) more than once while workshopping a paper. So maybe we could
all use a refresher course.
— UNC and Harvard
have apparently both seen the light and (consistent with a pending proposal by
federal regulators) largely taken away from IRBs responsibility for assessing
information privacy risks and given
that responsibility to actual IT experts. What’s that adage about a
thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?
— Maybe this is
only an issue for those of us who work in or near the sciences, but you know
those emails you get inviting you, on behalf of your Extraordinary Contribution
to a field (often, one in which you have contributed precisely nothing) to be the Most
Honored Speaker at some random conference? You guys know that those conferences are fake, right? Well, this
guy didn’t get the memo, and boy is he (rightly) pissed.
Reading Alex London's new YA dystopian novel, Proxy, this weekend, I couldn't stop thinking about this description of what the future of classroom teaching might look like. The book has lot to say about the impact of commerce and technology on society in general, but I thought I'd share this passage (from page 3) on one imagined classroom of the future:
"Mr. Kumar never had any idea his image had been hacked. He just talked away from his wood-paneled office at EduCorp. He couldn't figure out why the kids always laughed so hard at his lectures. Not that he could do anything about it. They were all paying customers and could laugh all they wanted. That was a perk of going to a top-tier patron school. The customer was always right."
As today's Google doodle memoralizes, today is the 66th anniversary of the Roswell incident, which got me thinking of all things sci-fi. I've been catching up on some sci-fi reading lately - particularly in light of the fact that the Ender's Game movie will finally be coming out later this year - and I started thinking about some of my favorite sci-fi terminology invented by authors in the genre. A current favorite is "glasstique" - a combination glass/plastic building material that I think was coined by Ann Aguirre in "Grimspace". Does anyone have others they'd like to share?
For all who have attempted to read Judith Butler and found her writing a bit, ahem, obscure, writer Chelsea Clammer has a funny essay called "Li'l Butler" over at the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. She reads Butler side by side with lyrics from Lil' Wayne: "[H]ere I
am, reading the grammatically challenging quality of Butler’s work while
listening to Lil’ Wayne get all creative about power, sexism, and
oppression, and by god—it happens. I read Butler, I hear Lil’ Wayne, and
now the two of them are call-and-responsing to each other in my mind...."
Clammer imagines the results in a faux "syllabus" for a class on "Feminist Theory and Misogynistic Rap Mash-up 101":
On the subject of grief and broken relationships:
Butler says, “Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re
not, we’re missing something….One does not always stay intact.”
sounds depressing. But Lil’ Wayne sure does know how to incorporate the
notion and idea of grief into his life in a positive way, “Got the girl
On the subject of longing:
Butler says, “Love is not a state, a feeling, a disposition, but an
exchange, uneven, fraught with history, with ghosts, with longings that
are more or less legible to those who try to see one another with their
own faulty vision.”
Now, Lil’ Wayne, I ask of thee, how do we acutually see each other, but
more importantly how do we deal with our longings?
Lil’ Wayne jumps in with, “Had my heart broken by this woman named Tammy...."
On the subject of power and opressive hierarchies:
Butler tells us that, “To operate within the matrix of power is not the
same as to replicate uncritically relations of domination.”
back, Lil’ Wayne. How do you think we can navigate power relations—such
as the domination of the wealthy over the poor and how the “esteemed”
white race is always acting like they own the place?
He says, “No matter who’s buyin’, I’m a celebration. Black and white diamonds, f*ck segregation.”
And to those impeccably brilliant explanations, I say, word.
The asterisks are mine, not Clammer's. Lil' Wayne lyrics more robust (!) without the elipses. Read Clammer's full piece here.
I don't even really have anything to say about this, but found it sufficiently amusing that I took a photo to share with Lounge readers. Perhaps Jim Hawkins can use it as a launching pad to discuss some more of his work on consumer financing. Or Al can use it as a place trivia quiz . . .
It does remind me, though, that we're covering usury and pay day lending in my Taboo Trades class again this term, and I've been meaning to blog about a few anecdotes from this year's seminar that I haven't gotten around to. So I'll be back with more on that shortly.
Nice little bit from artist Vi Hart over at Brain Pickings. Taming the Trolls. A little uncomfortable psychoanalysis in the piece if negative comments get you down (which they do me from time to time). Brain Pickings is a great site and offers lots of wonderful tidbits of interest to academics and non-academics alike -- most of which have nothing to do with trolls and such.
To those faculty hiring
committees who asked me to explain my PhD dissertation, Finitude, Transcendence, and Ethics:
Sartrean-Niebuhrian Resources for Understanding Difference and Dominance, in
layman’s terms: I regret that this
explanation is coming so late, but here
it is, using only the most commonly used 1,000 words in the English
Riener (follow him @criener), an
enterprising psychology professor, has begun a Tumblr, Up Goer Your PhD, collecting
doctoral dissertation abstracts written in layman’s terms, as described above.
His project is a riff on this brilliant
layman’s diagram of Saturn 5, otherwise known — when one is limited to the most
common 1,000 words — as “Up Goer 5.” People using Up Goer to explain a variety
of other complicated concepts can be found on Twitter at #UpGoerFive.
Many Up Goer projects turn out to be hilarious, and they’re fun to create, too.
But there’s a serious point
here as well. Jargon (including technobabble, neurobabble, and other babbles) can
be efficient shorthand when conversing among other experts. But let’s be frank:
it can also conceal some serious B.S., not only from our readers, but also from
ourselves. Why? We often believe that we understand concepts better than we
actually do — sometimes called the Illusion
of Knowledge (disclosure: the interviewee is my husband), or the Illusion
of Explanatory Depth. Many studies have found that people often overestimate
how well they understand complex phenomena (even distinct from general
overconfidence bias). In one set of experiments,
subjects were often unable to draw a functioning bicycle, despite having
previously reported that they understood bicycle mechanics. In another,
subjects displayed similar overconfidence in their understanding of devices,
procedures, natural phenomena, and movie plots.
In addition to being fun, being forced to “up goer”
your writing on a complicated subject is an extraordinarily useful exercise. It’ll
keep you honest. Try it with this handy
text editor that lets you type your layman’s explanation into a box, and
tells you when you’ve used a verboten word. When you’re done, there’s a button
to click that lets you permalink your Up Goer creation and tweet, Facebook, or
blog it — but the button only appears when you have avoided all verboten words.
In some contexts, this could also be an excellent teaching tool. Give it a try:
it’s harder (and more illuminating) than you think.
Postscript 1: The original dissertation abstract from which I was working is here. It's been a while since I wrote it, and I confess that as I began to up goer it, even I wasn't sure, at points, exactly what I'd been talking about. (When you live and write long enough, I suppose you have this out-of-body experience more and more often.) With some effort and recollection and the help of the Up Goer text editor, however, I satisfied myself that my dissertation was not, in fact, B.S. There was a there, there after all. On the other hand, I now sort of feel like my 5-year-old could have written it. Tradeoffs.
Postscript 2: A bit of nerd humor about empirical versus non-empirical methods.
Okay - it's January 7th. We're a week into the new year so it's time to 'fess up about how long those New Year's Resolutions really lasted. Anyone still sticking to any promises they made to themselves last week?
Some 100 of the Swiss lender’s [UBS] fixed income traders in
London discovered at the turnstiles that their passes were no longer working
when they tried to get to work on Tuesday morning. Other bankers had been
contacted by phone or discovered that they might lose their jobs when their
email repeatedly bounced back.
For law professors who have recently submitted articles to journals and are now wondering about their next scholarly project, what about an empirical study of the modern tooth fairy? Visa has conducted a survey about trends in tooth fairy largesse and is launching an iPhone/iPad app for calculating tooth fairy rates based on parents' gender, education, location, income etc. Story here. So what about it? There might also be scope for law and economics scholarship in this area as well.
And in case anyone was wondering, apparently the average is $3 a tooth in the current market.
I don't know why I've become so nitpicky about grammar and semantics lately - probably because I've been a law professor too long, or at least been editing papers for too long - but today I came across a phrase I've seen before and I can't figure out whether it's semantically correct.
In a news story about Hurricane Isaac, a reporter referred to a warning issued to residents of certain areas in Louisiana that failure to evacuate their homes "could lead to certain death". This is a phrase I've seen before in other contexts. Initially, it sounds odd because "certain death" implies, well, certainty of death, but the certainty is qualified by the conditional "could". On a second look, it's arguable that a person doing or not doing a particular thing "could" lead to a "definitely fatal" consequence, so that does seem logical. At least I think so.