Saturday, June 10, 2006

Of Whales, Congo Lines, and Banjos: Wrapping Up Is Hard to Do

Lots went on in the last two days.  The festivities at the Atlanta Aquarium were everyone's favorite; we all ended up parked in front of an exhibit of four Beluga whales who seemed to enjoy watching humans as much as we enjoyed watching the whales.  In the spirit of  Ruth Anne Robbins's "life is a legal writing exercise," we all felt there was a metaphor among the whales somewhere.  The closest we came was the whales and their graceful antics as perfect professionals, exhibiting what Edward Villela once said about dancers: total control and complete abandon.  That same idea can be true of good writers, whose total control co-exists with complete abandon, for they have internalized the rules so well that they no longer are consciously aware of the rules at all.  So, too, a sonnet is one of the tightest and most controlled of poetic forms, and yet one could argue that the sonnet has engendered more creativity and been more popular among both poets and readers than any other form.  A similar idea was expressed by Michelle Streicher and Cara Cunningham (Univ. of Detroit, Mercy School of Law) in their presentation, "Methods of Persuasion: Exploring the Irony that Standardized Methods Foster Creative Thinking and the Creation of Compelling Arguments." 
Other fun activities in these last days included a congo line (yes, a congo line) at the symbolic-handing-off-the-torch-of-the-conference luncheon; the handing off was an example of performativity, a ritual to mark the change from having the conference in Seattle. After all, human beings crave rituals, whether or not they are expressed as congo lines.  In addition, after the visit to the Aquarium, a lucky few were treated to an impromptu after party at the Sparta Dorm in the Olympic Village; Sheila Simon (Southern Illinois) was rehearsing her many talents for the next day's closing reception (singing, song writing, banjo playing); her set with Hollee Temple and Grace Wigal (West Virginia) and others at the closing reception was warmly appreciated; there's nothing like having an in-house band.
A lot has had to be left out, but thanks must go to Yonna Shaw (Mercer) and Jennifer Chiovaro (Georgia State).  The next conference will have two difficult acts to follow: the long tradition of Seattle's hospitality and the short but equally hospitable experience of Atlanta.
--Dr. Natalie Tarenko, Writing Specialist, Texas Tech University School of Law

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