Thursday, December 17, 2009


Last weekend my sister and I watched an unsubtitled Telugu film. We ended up enjoying the movie, for the most part, and we understood most of what was going on. We did misunderstand a few things, though, as became evident when we read the detailed synopsis on the back of the DVD cover.

For instance, after watching the movie we discussed how un-PC the portrayal of Africa was, and not just because of the actors in blackface.

Take, for example, the powerful traditional drugs the villagers share with our protagonists, which cause them to lose all their inhibitions and do things they wouldn't otherwise have done, being decent, civilized Indian people.

But then, my sister and I discovered that we'd gotten it all wrong. In the inimitable words of the DVD cover:
Srilata was [Sreenivas's] tour guide when he visited Europe. . . . As the day of the wedding is approaching fast, the thick plots unveils by Sreenivas suspecting that there is something fishy about Srilata. When he forces her to admit the story . . . then Srilata confesses that when Sreenivas visited Europe, they happened to get blown with the magic liquid that was given by tribals out there.
So this film didn't have anything to do with Africa at all. These were just your standard European tribals who live in the jungle and give visitors magic liquids. And that's why movies should have subtitles, so we don't have any confusion about things like this.

European tribals

See, it's totally obvious now, isn't it?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

perils of honest speech

As discussed previously, I have learned through sad experience to be strictly honest. This, coupled with the extensive time I spend doing nit-picky editing, has made me very particular about being accurate and precise in my speech. And this, in turn, has made me a boring conversationalist.

I know people don't generally care whether verbal speech is completely accurate and cited correctly. Indeed, I know that this is generally quite annoying. And yet, I feel a compulsion to make sure that I'm reporting things accurately and citing my sources, adding a disclaimer if I can't do so. "This reminds me of a humorous anecdote my boss was telling me the other day. Now, I don't remember all of this story completely, so I may not be getting all of the details right in places. I'll alert you to these areas as we go along. I should also point out that I cannot vouch for the complete accuracy of this story, as my boss does like to embellish things a bit. At any rate, proceeding with my story, . . . ."

This is all quite unfortunate, because there are many stories that are a lot better when you take certain liberties with the truth and fill in the blanks in memory or understanding. For instance, I could report that the Muslim taxi driver who picked me up at the Denver airport was disappointed when he learned that I was originally from California and not Utah because he would have asked me out if I was interested in bigamy.

But, I don't know if this is true. He definitely said something that he found very amusing about "Cali ladies" and "Utah ladies" and bigamy, but I couldn't actually hear everything he was saying. Unfortunately, this makes for a much less interesting story. And that's the problem with being honest. It makes you boring.*

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog post are not necessarily an accurate reflection of my thoughts and beliefs.

Friday, November 20, 2009

honestly speaking

Honesty is the best policy. I believe this in a moral sense, but I've also discovered it to be true in practice -- even when I think I have a good reason for some slight dishonesty, it seems like something happens to nudge me back onto the straight and narrow.

For example, on one occasion, I decide to ride the Metro without a valid ticket, rationalizing that this is better than being stranded in East St. Louis at night without a phone, money, credit cards, or pepper spray. And that happens to be the one time in a thousand when they actually come through the train to check for tickets.

Frequently (although much less frequently nowadays), I decide that it will be less effort to let people continue in some misconception (i.e., that my name is Christy, that I'm the person they meant to call and not a wrong number, that I don't mind eating peppers, etc.) rather than correcting them. I inevitably turn out to be wrong.

On a trip to Denver, I see that the only open window seat is in the exit row, so I change my reservation to that seat. When the flight attendant asks if I can handle opening a 40-pound exit door and assisting other passengers, I say "yes." I mean, I probably could. Maybe. But it's not like it matters anyway. How likely is it that something bad will actually happen on a short flight to Denver?

Ten minutes later, when the alarm starts blaring, smoke starts pouring out of the back of the cabin, and the flight attendant runs down the aisle, I begin seriously reconsidering that decision.

I've heard of people getting caught in their lies before, but I'm the only one I know of who almost got caught in a lie about being capable of opening an exit door. And that's why, for me, honesty is the best policy. Someone seems to be sending me a message, and I think I'd better listen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

"You can't have your spine and brain back."

I rather doubt that phrase has been spoken in a federal appellate court before. (It made sense in context, but still.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

tidbits of court history

Today I started reading the history of the Tenth Circuit (which is available here, although I'm reading it in book format). It's turned out to be quite interesting. At least, I find it so. Here are a few interesting tidbits from the first three chapters:
  • Early pioneers in Western states set up mining courts to make up for the lack of statutory territorial courts. These mining courts, especially the ones in Colorado, were quite important and influenced both mining law and water rights law in Western states. (Water rights came into play because of placer mining, which requires substantial quantities of water.)
  • One of the first three territorial judges appointed in Kansas, Rush Elmore of Alabama, brought his slaves with them. It was so cold that the slaves couldn't work, and the judge's wife, who had never cooked before, spent the winter feeding the slaves while the judge was kept busy cutting wood to keep them warm. (This judge was removed from office by the president for an Indian lands deal, but he was later reappointed. He was removable by the president because, as a territorial judge, he was a legislative judge rather than an Article III judge and thus didn't need to be impeached to be removed from office.)
  • The first chief justice of the Kansas territory was often too busy with his potato farm to hold court. He also worked as a soldier at a nearby army camp and was an officer of a pro-slavery organization.
  • Some territorial judges never actually did any judicial work, like Thomas Cuningham, who traveled out to Kansas after his appointment, didn't like it, and promptly resigned.
  • Governor Reed of Kansas, upon the appointment of Judge Richard Hopkins to the bench in 1929, described the federal judiciary as a "growing stench in the nostrils of decent people."
  • Judge Symes of the District of Colorado has been described as someone who "was not a scholar of the law, but his decisions were generally regarded as fair. In the words of one who practiced extensively before Judge Symes, 'the cases usually came out right but it was tough to figure out how.'" T. Fetter, A History of the Federal Courts of the Tenth Circuit 34 (1978) (unpublished manuscript on file in the Library of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit) (quoting interview with Judge Jean Breitenstein (May 17, 1977))). Also, this judge went bear-hunting.
  • Judge William Knous of the District of Colorado shot off the first joint of his left forefinger while in grade school and earned his tuition money for law school by boxing. In 1928, he ran for state representative and won by a wide margin. He was a Democrat, but he carried one precinct by every vote cast, even those of the Republican committeeman and woman. "Each figured the other would vote for the Republican candidate and they could claim the vote."
  • Judge Jean Breitenstein of the District of Colorado was an expert on water rights law. When he joined the bench, he was temporarily assigned to the federal district court in Philadelphia to try an admiralty case. Apparently the folks in Washington didn't know the difference between water law and admiralty.
  • In a speech to the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1956, Judge Breitenstein defended the use of atomic power and said, "So long as we have to anticipate difficulty with powerful nations guided by amoral concepts . . we must be ready to oppose them with the force their philosophy will permit them to use." Denver Post, June 13, 1956 (quoting Judge Breitenstein).
Also, I find this quote on page 71 of the book really thought-provoking: "As society requires some regulation of conduct, the first condition of freedom is its limitation."

As another bit of trivia for you, only one Tenth Circuit judge has died since 1992. That's including active, senior, and retired judges. Impressive, no?

"I'm, uh, faster than a bear."

This news story from Cleveland made me laugh a lot. Well, not the story so much as the visuals. Someone seems to have had too much time on his hands.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

story time

Yesterday I was sitting at the bus stop near my house when a guy came and sat on the bench by me. He launched into a story about how much he loves wearing lilac tights, but he said it in such a way that I couldn't tell whether he was crazy or just pretending to be so. Either way, he was pretty amusing.

To understand this next part of the story, you have to keep in mind that I can't lie, and I'm very bad at evading direct questions. Thus, when he asked where I worked, I went ahead and told him the building. It's pretty big and has lots of different kinds of offices in it, so I thought it wouldn't be too identifying. But then he said, "Oh yeah, you work on the sixth floor, right?" That's right, but I don't know how he knew it. I've never seen him there, and he later told me that he has a restraining order preventing him from entering this building. So I don't know if he just guessed correctly or if there's something creepier afoot. At any rate, I was a bit freaked out by this.

Fortunately, the bus came soon after that, and he didn't get on it. Before that, though, he commented on my whiteness, pointed out how much darker his skin was than mine, and asked if I found "dark-complected men" attractive. (Incidentally, this is the not the first time someone has tried to pick me up at the bus stop by asking me this question. Who knew it would be such a popular approach?) I got on the bus without answering because I didn't want to tell him the truth, which is that---well, just take a look at my recent blog entry over here.

Crazy guys, on the other hand, are not attractive to me. Sorry, crazies of the world, but I'm going to shoot you down every time, regardless of whether you've got awesome lilac tights or not.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I am . . . confused

Dumm Dumm Dumm is a very cute romantic comedy. It's about a boy and a girl who try to get out of an arranged marriage through a series of increasingly desperate schemes, and it's got a lot of really funny moments. But, the funniest part of the movie might just be the subtitles for the songs. They're apparently very literal translations of very poetic lyrics, and the result is just bizarre. Like this, for instance:

Or this:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

a vampire song

In case you were wondering what a singing and dancing vampire might look like, here's a fun song from a 1989 Telugu film to give you an idea. Okay, so the guy isn't a real vampire, but he's pretending to be one. (The heroine enjoys scaring men by saying she'll elope with them if they meet her behind the church at night and then staging frightening effects like coffins opening and ghosts appearing behind headstones. But, the hero knows about this, so he brings along his vampire costume and troupe of back-up skeletons to turn the tables on her. ) The vampire part starts about halfway through.

Friday, May 01, 2009

a random link

Usually the legal blogs I read are informative, but they're not always very entertaining. But this post about Playmobil's airline screening playset made me laugh.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

United States v. Vampire Nation: The Movie

So, here are my casting ideas for the two lead roles.

As the renegade cop/fighter pilot/vampire slayer who heads the U.S. resistance to the vampire invasion: Will Smith, of course.

As the king of the Vampire Nation: Hrithik Roshan.

The film will be like Dhoom 2 in that Hrithik will nominally be the bad guy but will really be totally awesome. (And he'll make an infinitely better-looking vampire than that other dude in that one film). Then in the end it'll turn to all have been a big misunderstanding between the United States and the Vampire Nation, and he and Will Smith will ride off on a motorcycle singing "Yeh Dosti" together.

Yep, this movie will be fabulous.

a funny link, and thoughts that follow

This webpage makes me laugh.

I think part of why it's so funny to me is that I sometimes have a similar experience reading pro se briefs. I'm not saying that cavemen appear in the office or anything like that, but the combination of bad handwriting, interesting spelling, and creative grammar can make pro se briefing very funny at first glance. I'll read a sentence to myself based on what I see, and then if it doesn't make sense I have to figure out if I misread some of the letters or if the guy might have meant a different word than the one he apparently wrote. "Surely he didn't say the policeman found out he had thrown a baby," I'll think to myself. "Even this guy isn't that crazy. Oh, I get it -- he said the policeman found out 'through a lady.' That makes much more sense." But my initial reading sometimes makes me laugh.

Speaking of crazy pro se parties, many people are familiar with the famous case of United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan and his Staff, but I recently came across another case with an equally provocative name: United States v. Vampire Nation. Doesn't that sound like a great B-movie horror flick title?

This is why I get so easily distracted during lectures or talks -- it's a short jump for me from comments about poorly written internet remarks to a mental image of a colony of bats descending on New York City and turning into vampires on the ground, while Will Smith looks on disbelievingly and says, "Aw, hell no!"

Of course, thinking of Will Smith makes me think about that time he sang "Aati Kya Khandala" on Indian Idol, so then I start thinking about what the Bollywood version of United States v. Vampire Nation would be like. And that makes me laugh as much as that original webpage did.

a message for someone special

Happy birthday to anyone who might happen to be turning 28 today!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

if you give a Cindy a bar of chocolate

Last night while watching a movie I decided to eat a piece of chocolate. Hours later, as I pondered how I was going to get out from behind the dryer, I wondered once again how some people seem to manage to do things like eat chocolate without ending up in sitcom-like situations.

For starters, I guess they probably don't drop some of their chocolate onto the collar of their shirt. If they do, they probably notice this before the movie's over and not after they've gotten melted chocolate all over their clothes and pillowcase. And when they do notice that they've gotten chocolate all over everywhere, maybe they decide not to bother trying to get the stains out.

If they do decide to get the stains out, they probably are able to hunt for stain remover without knocking a bottle of Static Guard behind the dryer. And if they do knock the Static Guard down and decide they need to retrieve it, they probably use something more effective than a hanger. If they do use a hanger, they probably accomplish something other than dropping the hanger back there too. Maybe they go straight to the smarter option of removing one of the French doors from the laundry area so that they can pull the dryer further away from the wall. And when they do pull the dryer out far enough that they can climb over the washing machine and get behind the dryer, they're probably not laughing so hard that they're unable to pull themselves out after retrieving the bottle.

Other than that, though, I can't see what I'm doing wrong.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

joys of public transit

Things I expect to hear from sketchy people at the bus stop:

"Hey, how you doing? So, would a white girl like you ever date a brown brother like me? Most white girls won't date brown brothers because they racist. Are you racist, or would you date a brown brother like me?"

"And I said, 'No, I ain't loaning you another 20 bucks. You'll just buy crack, and it's not like you share with me neither.'"

"Hey, lady, wanna buy this boombox? I'll let you have it for real cheap."

"Yeah, he died five days before we were supposed to get married." "I'm so sorry!" "Oh, don't worry about it. That was like two years ago. We'd probably be divorced by now if he hadn't died."

Things I don't expect to hear:

"I don't think so, man. I mean, look at King Tut."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

life and economics

I've always been one to take the cost-benefit analysis into account when I'm making a decision. I weigh opportunity costs into this analysis, which is why, for instance, I'll measure prices by the number of Bollywood DVDs I could buy with that amount of money. "This is far too expensive. It costs 10 DVDs!"

A cost-benefit analysis also underlies certain relational decisions. After my sophomore year in college, where I spent the entire year griping about certain roommates without ever telling them why I was irritated, I decided that I needed to either tell people when something was bothering me or else stop being bothered by it. Being the extremely nonconfrontational person that I am, however, I will almost always decide that I just need to get over whatever it is -- that usually requires much less effort and stress than actually discussing issues with someone. I've really been much happier since I adopted this approach.

The cost-benefit analysis also explains why I often put up with the status quo even when it's not ideal. Since I hate making decisions, I frequently am of the opinion that having a problem fixed isn't worth the effort of making a decision as to how to fix it. This is why, for instance, I haven't taken any action since the hinge on my laptop broke several months ago. Sure, it's a pain to always have to hold the lid up or prop the laptop up against the wall, but if I don't do anything about it, I don't have to make the decision to either buy a new laptop (which itself involves several decisions) or attempt to fix this one (which would require the effort of figuring out if it's a fixable problem, ordering a new hinge or whatever is needed, and finding someone to help me repair it).

I know this laissez-faire attitude is sometimes puzzling to others, but life really is easier for me this way. Of course, I do feel rather bad when my sister comes to visit and I have to hand her a screwdriver to activate the shower, but I guess that's one of the costs of apathy.

In conclusion, I was going to come up with something witty to tie this all together, but then I weighed the costs and decided that it just wasn't worth it. So, the end.