Friday, March 6, 2015

Wichita Lineman

"I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin' in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
I know I need a small vacation but it don't look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line" -- Wichita Lineman, written by Jimmy Webb
 
I've been on a big Glen Campbell kick lately.  The other day, I was working with several students on essay writing and the big issue for all of them was that they were writing correct legal rules but following them with analyses that didn't actually address the rule the students had just written.  For example, after writing "Proof of adultery can be by clear preponderance of the evidence, or opportunity and disposition to commit adultery," they were writing things like "Since 2009, when the marriage started falling apart because of money issues, Lola went to Bertie and told her …." instead of "Here, Skippy was seen leaving Lola's apartment four times late at night when Lola's husband was away on business and Lola kept telling her book club how handsome she thought Skippy was.  Consequently, Slappy can likely prove adultery."  Since these students were having a lot of time management issues, their lack of focus was really killing them.
 
In discussing the issue with their writing, we started talking about song lyrics we admired versus song lyrics we thought were ridiculous, and I was making the argument that a well-crafted song, just like any piece of well-crafted writing, stuck to its themes and imagery and didn't just bounce willy-nilly from idea to idea (basically the difference between The Cult's "Plastic fantastic lobster telephone!" and Belle and Sebastian's "So I gave myself to God -- There was a pregnant pause before He said okay").
 
I haven't done it in a few years, but I used to have students write short poems or songs to answer an essay question as a fun way to make my point about the necessity of making sure an answer actually stays on point and addresses the rules stated in a student's IRAC.  There was a bit of "why are we doing this goofy thing?" pushback, but all of those students managed to dig themselves out of some pretty deep GPA holes, so I think it was a useful exercise.  I haven't brought back the assignment per se, but I have been talking about the idea a lot in my individual meetings with students regarding 1L or bar exam essays.
 
The other day as I was spiraling down the parking garage on my way home, "Wichita Lineman" came up on my iPod.  I hadn't really thought about the lyrics before, but as I listened to them, I admired how Webb's portrait of loneliness sticks so closely to the imagery of a telephone wire repairman.  As the "first existential song" in country music, it's pretty great, and a nice example of the importance of continuity and reference in any well-crafted writing:
 
 
(Alex Ruskell)

March 6, 2015 in Miscellany, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Using Lyrics to Remember the Law, Part 2

After Amy's post, I received a link to a wonderful website created by my colleague at UConn, Prof. Mark deAngelis. He and his daughter have been re-writing and recording classics songs, replacing the original lyrics with lyrics about the law. I think you will find it creative and entertaining, as well as educational.

http://blawprof.googlepages.com/lawlessongs(lawlessonsinsong)

Have fun! (RCF)

July 14, 2009 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)