Friday, August 13, 2010
Its state fair time, for those of us lucky enough to live in a state with a strong state fair tradition. For many of us, attending the state fair may be the closest we ever get to the animals who provide us with meat, eggs, and milk. Industrialization and urbanization have obviously moved many Americans away from their agrarian roots, increasing the disconnect between the food on our plates and the beings that produced it.
I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for over 20 years (meaning I still eat eggs and dairy products), so I'm admittedly biased. But in my mind, there is a significant moral difference between the confinement feeding operations (more commonly known as "factory farms") which have become the norm, and the small farm like that run by my Great-Uncle Jack in northeast Nebraska. On Jack's farm, the hogs will end up as bacon some day, but in the meantime, piglets run around a noisy barnyard and basically get to act like pigs. The chickens also run around, eating bugs, scratching the dirt, basically acting like chickens.
This is, of course, how all farming operations were run a few short decades ago, until industrialization revolutionized the American agricultural sector and diverse small farms were replaced by monocultural fields dedicated to corn, soybeans, or wheat, and barnyards were replaced by outbuildings housing thousands if not millions of animals. The word "million" is not an exaggeration. Hoosier Pride Farms recently applied for a permit to build a six-barn complex in Jay County, Indiana which would house 2,013,094 egg-laying hens.
More after the jump.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Cross-posted from thefacultylounge....
Well, it's time for that annual ritual: the visits to faculty offices by students looking for a note topic. Many congratulations to you all on making whatever review. It's going to be a lot of work and also some fun (I hope) and also it'll be a nice line on the resume.
So, you want a note topic. Well, I've thinking mostly about property and trusts and estates and legal history these days, so I'm going to re-post some ideas from a few years back here at propertyprof and add a couple of new ideas in here ....
Lo' those many years ago Eben Moglen suggested a topic to me, on federalism in the Taney Court. I am eternally grateful to him. And over the years I've suggested a bunch of topics to students. Some of the better ones in recent years include Amy Wilson's on the jazz influence in property law (got to read it--I'm not going to give away the punchline); Kitty Rogers' on integrating the city of the dead (catchy title, eh?); Leah Green's on the Erie Canal in American legal thought; Elizabeth Bates on statutes of limitations for reclamation of artwork produced by slaves; Chris Williams on an empirical study of smart growth; and Fred Wright's on the effect of New Deal residential finance and foreclosure policies on property law. In terms of a really excellent execution of a remedies topic, I'd point you to Grace Long's The Sunset of Equity: Constructive Trusts and the Law-Equity Dichotomy. It's darn good and it's about reconciling equity doctrine in a couple of diverse areas (injunctions and constructive trust), which I think shows a ton of both creativity and facility with doctrine. It's a model of strong scholarship.
The key to a good student note topic is: that it's do-able over the course of the second year. What's that mean? First, it's a topic that hasn't yet been over-written. That means stay away from takings (exception to follow). Some years ago (like nine at this point) one of my favorite students of all time asked me about writing on takings. And I said, well, spend the weekend looking at what's been done and reading (the then most recent case), Palazzolo and if you can find something new to say, let me know. So the next week she said, "seems like everything has been taken. [pause] I guess that was your point."
Second, find something that's at least a little interesting. You're going to be living with it for a while. Third, find something that's narrow enough that you can read everything on the topic and come to a reasonable conclusion in the time you have available. Fourth, find a topic on which you can say something about the law (this usually means finding a place where law is in flux). It's not a great idea to rehash the arguments against a particular Supreme Court decision. That's been argued and answered, even if you don't like the result. (This advice applies to faculty, as well.) The Columbia Law Review used to have a rule: you can't criticize the Supreme Court in your note. Good advice for second year law students, I think. Not that the Supreme Court has always done everything right; it's just that it's good to stay away from a topic on which you know going in you can't have much effect.
That means that narrow doctrinal topics are really good; brief empirical pieces, are also very good. And I think historical pieces are ideal, because there is so much that's left to be said about legal history. Talk to people at work; often times, the best note ideas come from practicing attorneys who see issues as they're just beginning to make their way through litigation. Some ideas below the fold....
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I am, to say the least, rather particular about where I write. It has always seemed self-evident that good writing only happens in spaces that are cramped, quiet, filled with places to stack papers, and rather dark. I am continually surprised that other people feel differently.
Curious about how the masters work, I've cobbled together some pictures of the places that famous authors do their writing:
(1) The Guardian has a wonderful series of portraits of writers' rooms.
(2) Famous "man caves."
(3) Fun interactive feature on Roald Dahl's writing hut.
(4) Finally, here's a delightful article from the N.Y. Times about constructing one's own dream work room.
I hope you all find a mokki of your own.
(picture: Mark Twain's writing room)