Wednesday, November 29, 2006

let the smiting begin!

um, kirk cameron is on my television right now. proselytizing.

and interspersed between the salvation role plays and the "get your righteousness on" rhetoric, there are these man-on-the-street interviews where people are asking passers-by if they consider themselves to be "good people". the people respond that yes, for the most part, they think of themselves as good people. and then the interviewer says, "let's think about the ten commandments. have you ever told a lie?" and the person responds, "yes." and the interviewer says, "then what does that make you?" and the person responds, "a liar." then the interviewer asks about stealing and having lustful thoughts about other people, and eventually gets the interviewee to conclude that s/he is a "lying, adulterous thief" and that maybe s/he isn't a good person after all. and therefore, on judgment day, s/he will be going to hell.

wow. kirk cameron was so much cooler as mike seaver.

show me that smile again...

Saturday, November 25, 2006


also, mom, if there is a heaven, and if you're able to pull any supernatural strings, could you do what you can to make sure notre dame beats the pants off USC today? millions of irish fans will drink a toast in your honor!

remember remember the twenty-fifth of november...

eleven years ago today, my mother was in a hospital room. she had slipped into a coma and everyone knew it was only a matter of time. i sat alone in my dorm room at notre dame, staring at the phone. i made my father promise me that i would be the first person he called when the time came.

"when the time came".

what a pisspoor and ugly euphemism for that moment of death, that inevitability that had hit me only one day prior. i was a sophomore in college, had gone home for thanksgiving that year unexpectedly, due to the anonymous generosity of a member of my parents' church, who offered to finance my airfare so i could be with my family. i was home that tuesday through friday. mom died on a saturday. saturday, november 25th. just like today -- saturday.

i came back on friday instead of staying through the weekend because i had schoolwork to do, because i had tickets to see urge overkill in chicago that friday night, because i had no idea that she would pass so quickly. it took me years to make peace with what for a long time felt like bailing on my family. for a concert? for schoolwork??? but the reality is that there was nothing i could have done had i been there. and that friday morning before i left i experienced what is probably the most beautifully sad and gorgeous moment of my life, i got to say goodbye to my mother. i've written about it in this blog, in journals, in e-mails. i remember it like it was yesterday -- the way the room smelled (like prescription bottles and medication), the way her voice sounded, the way the air felt as i lied on her bed next to her. the most precious seconds of my life. and i remember how after we said all we could manage to say, i let her rest and i went into the bathroom near my brother's and sister's and my rooms, to wash the tears off my face. i had left the door open a bit, my dad knocked on the door to make sure i was okay, i opened the door and fell into my dad's chest, literally needing him to hold me up under the weight of the reality of what had just happened, what was happening. there was such a sadness, such a horrible, yet oddly graceful sadness. what do you do with that? what do you do when you know -- after years of prayers and hopes and doctors and procedures and treatments and odds -- you finally know what the result will be? she was going to die. the fight was over. for years when she was sick i imagined that if the cancer won that meant that my mother had lost. the truth is that what she learned and saw and gained as she wrestled with that disease made her the victor. made her stronger than she had ever been. forced her to find peace. that was tremendously comforting for me.

eleven years is a long time. the way i situate my feelings of grief and loss now is vastly different than the way i did eleven or ten or six years ago. i had just turned nineteen two months before she died, my brother was fifteen, my sister was seven, and my father was forty-five. my mother was forty-three.

what a goddamn shame is loss. i wish she could see me now. i wish she knew i was about to graduate from law school. i wish she knew the people in my life right now. i wish she knew the things that make me excited. maybe she does, but i'm not sure if i believe in all that...

no matter, though. i suppose what does matter is what i do, what i've done with my grief, my loss, my memories. i think about my mother every day, even if only in passing. she is as much a part of me now as she was when she was alive, perhaps now more intimately so. i want to be like her -- she was a good person, in the truest sense of goodness. she was a mirror though which the people who knew her could see the best parts of themselves. that was her greatest gift -- her ability to allow others to be beautiful. i am overwhelmingly fortunate to have been her daughter.

last weekend, while cleaning my apartment, i listened to an episode of the NPR program "this american life" entitled "last words". one of the segments was about a married couple so deeply in love that they died within hours of each other. they were cremated together, and the final resting place for their ashes was marked by a stone. the inscription on the stone gives me chills -- it is so simple, so elegant, so heartbreaking, so human:

"it is a fearful thing to love what death can touch"

fearful, indeed, and yet it's what allows us to live.

i miss you, mom. thank you for your life, thank you for my life.

Friday, November 24, 2006

on thanksgiving...

i may be willing to say that thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. if not my favorite, it's at a very close second to christmas. a very close second.

i spent this thanksgiving in johnstown, with schoss's family. she and nick were in from L.A. for the holiday and invited me to come along. i see my college friends far too infrequently not to accept the invitation. one of my other college friends, with whom i was talking a few days prior to my johnstown turkey day, asked, "are you and nick going to fight the entire time?" (nick, schoss's husband, is also one of my college friends.) my response was, "probably, but that's just how nick and i get along." the truth is that i enjoyed nick's company more over this holiday than i ever have. and he and schoss and i decided to start the inaugural group of NAAQOT (national association against the quartering of troops), after an overcaffeinated breakfast conversation about the third amendment. or something. this is ridiculous. all of it.

anyway, johnstown was a delight. i have returned home happy, well-fed, and with a brand new t-shirt from the haven, one of j-town's finest watering holes. there was a reunion of schoss's bridesmaids, except for jessie, who really should have been with schoss and alison and me at the haven. none of us had to wear orange this time, though.

and it's got me thinking about thanksgivings past that i've spent with friends. what happens when you live far from family during the holidays is that you get to have the great turkey feast with friends. last year it was a bunch of law students up at michael and steph's. the year before dad and linda came to pittsburgh. in college i spent thanksgiving with the zulichs my freshman year, at tony & carlo's my junior year, with the griffiths (one of my fave thanksgivings) my senior year. after college i thanksgivinged with the cohens one year, with groups of friends the other years. and they've all been lovely, every year -- how can you have a bad time when you're with friends and lots of food?

another thanksgiving comes and goes, another holiday season begins. there is much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

on my way to johnstown...


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

thoughts on "a good war..."...

i finally finished dave's book. in truth, i devoured it in about two sessions, but the two sessions were embarrassingly far apart. after session number one, i sent dave an e-mail that said this:

subject line: you fucking brilliant bastard...
text: dave, your book is perfect. you've made art.

now that i've finished it, and the two typos i found notwithstanding (hello first edition), i still think that my dear friend has managed to create art. he's found the right balance between the personal and the universal, the emotional and the intellectual, the religious and the academic, and shows a real journey, a grappling with things that are much bigger than him, much bigger than us, much bigger than lifetimes. but the themes have been with us all along -- violence, war, how we deal with the images we can't understand but can't tear ourselves from, the way those images invite us to explore the darkness about ourselves.

i've now given this book to two professors. law professors. i'm not sure what their thoughts will be. i wanted to show off my friend, i thought that some of the content of dave's book was relevant to their own interests. i hope they'll find it important, but on a realistic level, i don't care. i know that my experience of this book is largely colored by the reality that i know the author very well, i know the people and places he writes about, i knew when he was working on the book. of course, i'm invested in it in a different way than one who encounters the book as a typical reader. yet, i'm still a reader...

what impresses me most about the book, both as a reader and as the author's friend, is its honesty. i'm generally skeptical of memoirs (not to classify this as a memoir, because it certainly is not, but dave does draw largely from his own headspace in the way he writes) -- my experience is that few people have the courage to write about their lives truthfully, casting into light the things that really make them human -- their fears, their flaws, their fuck-ups. sure, memoirs necessarily include these things as a matter of storytelling, but so often it becomes self-indulgently dramatic and confessional, it doesn't go anywhere. and worse, not only does it not go anywhere, but it fails to take the reader somewhere. but when it works, it's the stuff of greatness. the best memoir i've read is called "boy with loaded gun", written by one of dave's professors and mentors, lewis "buddy" nordan. nordan made me cry, made me laugh, but mostly made me feel that he was like me -- he was a person. he had the balls to reveal the parts of himself that truly humbled him. those parts aren't pretty. those parts of me aren't pretty. call me whatever, but i'm of the opinion that writers who use their own lives as subject matter have a responsibility to their readers to show that shit happens, that life can make us ugly, that we make bad decisions, but those dark moments create the real opportunities for us to figure out how to see the bright moments, opportunities for us to find beauty.

in dave's essay "prime directive", the sixth essay in "a good war is hard to find", he writes about being at a halloween party, dressed as captain kirk (btw, the cell phone that mr. sulu borrowed to use as his trekkie communications device belonged to stean), and running into a friend who is dressed as army specialist charles graner. the kid qua graner has a polaroid, takes pictures with others at the party with a black bag over their heads, just like the images from the abu ghraib scandal. dave is caught in the moment, he poses for a picture with this kid, even makes the thumbs up sign...and later, after the costumed festivities have passed, after the giddyness settles down, realizes the absolute horror of this whole affair.

this picture appears in dave's book, on pages 122-23. right before the essay begins. when i saw it, i didn't yet know the content of the essay, but i was well aware of how important the idea of images is to what dave is writing about. i almost didn't recognize the guy in the photo as my friend, and would have doubted it had it not been for the characteristic gap in the kid's smiling teeth. and once i got to the part in the essay where the significance of the photo was clear, i realized that for dave, being honest and truthful as a writer meant having no choice but to include that image in his book. to me, as his friend and reader, it speaks volumes (pardon the pun) to his devotion to what he's chosen to do with his life. it tells me he's not afraid to turn his own self-awareness inside out, so that it becomes his readers' darkness as well.

and that's the kind of stuff that shows that david a. griffith has set himself on the path to being a writer with a voice, a clear voice, a voice with something to say. i look forward to more listening.


Friday, November 17, 2006

learning curve...

(wow. haven't blogged since election day! i've got some catching up to do...)

i just got back from my legal writing students' post-memo negotiation session. the professor for whom i'm a TA and another professor take opposite sides of the same fact pattern and after the students have written and turned in their memos, they work in teams of 2 and try to reach a settlement between the two parties. goodness. gracious!

my job for this session was to mill about, help out if the students reached some sort of impasse, make sure no punches were thrown. when i got there, my professor informed me that the students all smelled like they had been drinking (no surprise -- their memos were due at noon, the negotiation session began at 2:00 -- they had to kill some time somehow, and they are, after all, law students), so things could get interesting. it was fairly tame, though. i did observe some students who steadfastly believed in things that simply were not the law, some students who tried to bully their way to the conclusion they wanted, some students who wrestled with the conversion between euros and US dollars (the plaintiff in the dispute was belgian, the defendants were american), some students who just wanted to get to some sort of agreement as quickly as possible so that they could continue drinking.

i really like the first year students i've worked with, and all in all, i think they did a good job. there were a few groups who needed a little reminding that their clients did not want to go to trial, and their jobs were to negotiate on behalf of their clients (rather than their own egos). but mostly, the experience reminded me that i really have learned a hell of a lot in the past two years. and that feels good. i'm making some progress after all. this whole education thing hasn't been all for naught.

congrats to my students for completing their first semester of legal writing!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

oh connecticut...

goddamn you, joe lieberman! you stupid lucky bastard.

oh, and senator santorum? peace out, guy! man-on-dog sex for everyone!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

six feet under...

it took me two and a half months, but as of tonight, i've finished watching all five seasons of _six feet under_.

the series finale had me crying like a baby. cry cry cry cry cry! the last four episodes all made me cry. i've told people in the past two and half months that i've felt like i was dating _six feet under_. seriously -- it was how i spent my free time, i got emotionally involved in it, it kept me interested, i looked forward to seeing it. it rarely let me down, too. i'll admit to being a little bored during the beginning of the last season, but the end was fantastic, and, as they say, all's well that end's well.

and, what's not to love about a show that focuses on characters who grew up in a funeral home? it's funny and sad and touching and human and the characters are flawed and vulnerable and earnest.

there you go. add it to your netflix queue.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

the hazard three-part test...

...did not make an appearance today on the MPRE. neither did the good ol' ethical guidepost of not sleeping with your client. and no sarbanes-oxley, either.

so how did it go? ugh. i refuse to talk about it. that's the duty of confidentiality. to myself. and my level of confidence. what's that you say? this makes no sense? no. indeed. but at least i'll know what to expect when i re-take this bitch in march.


BUT, let's just hope that come july, when i have to sit for the bar exam, they'll give us test-takers more than a tiny auditorium-seat-sized writing surface and a room with an actual clock in it. and maybe a reasonable room temperature?

eh, whine whine whine boo hoo. at least it's over! that's something positive.

Friday, November 03, 2006

it's almost election day!

okay. i'm gonna just go ahead and admit that i'll do anything that paul newman tells me to do. and ned lamont? of COURSE you approve this message!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

emily's favorite statute of the week...

consider yourselves on notice, friends!


(f) Illegal use of shopping carts and laundry carts.--It is a violation of this section:
  1. To remove any shopping cart or laundry cart from the premises or parking area of a retail establishment with intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the cart, or the retailer, of possession of the cart.
  2. To remove a shopping cart or laundry cart, without written authorization from the owner of the cart, from the premises or parking area of any retail establishment.
  3. To possess, without the written permission of the owner or retailer in lawful possession thereof, any shopping cart or laundry cart off the premises or parking lot of the retailer whose name or mark appears thereon.
  4. To remove, obliterate or alter any serial number, name or mark affixed to a shopping cart or laundry cart.