Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Met Season

The Met's broadcast season began this past weekend. I did not listen. They began with Il Trittico, which I must confess simply to not liking. Or, more precisely, I dislike Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica. I actually rather like Gianni Schicchi, in part because the story of probate fraud amuses me. All three are a bit, well, screechy and jumpy, but Schicchi seems to get the best of the lot.

Mercifully the radio disguises the ill effects of "updated" stagings. The Met season guide notes for Schicchi begin "Florence, 1959." Una momento, por favor. This is nonsense. While ten seconds of Google research indicates that it is still permissible under Italian law to make a will by dictation to a notary, this is simply nonsense. For one thing, under post-Napoleonic continental systems, it is not possible for a testator to disinherit direct descendants as drastically as Schicchi does. Furthermore, I simply refuse to believe that Italian public officials go around making pronouncements in Latin under the Italian Republic. And aren't some of Donati's bequests of things like cows? How many wealthy Florentines bequethed cows in the 1950s? The story is set in a particular time and place for a reason. Why do directors think they can change this part of the story? Why not turn the opera into a tragedy and have Rinuccio and Lauretta leap off the balcony at the end? That would be bold, edgy, attract new audiences to opera! Or, like most officious intermeddling, simply be uncalled for and uncivilized.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Faust at the Lyric

After a good long stretch of nothing worth writing about, we made it up to Chicago on Sunday for the matinee of Gounod's Faust. After an exhausting drive (if you are ever in Chicago on the day of the marathon, do not leave the interstate for any reason) and a delicious lunch, I really should have downed a large quantity of coffee before the show, especially since I had never heard or seen Faust before going in.

The opera itself has a fascinating story: it opened the old Met in 1883 and was the most popular operatic work in the world for decades, serving as the banner performance all across America for the first half of the twentieth century. If a person has seen one anthropomorphism of opera, it is sure to have been a classical Brunnhilda in winged helmet and breastplate. If he has seen a second, it was likely an old-fashioned Mephistopheles in red tights and handlebar mustache.

But like so many works, see, e.g., the complete works of Meyerbeer, it fell on rough times and faded out of fashion. So it was unusual to see Lyric performing not only Faust, but also premiering Bizet's Damnation of Faust in the same season. In some ways, I can see how Faust lost out over time to Verdi and Puccini works; it lacks the same kind of dynamic scale-shattering set pieces that form such memorable parts of Trovatore or Tosca. The music lacks the power to bring home in properly dramatic fashion the story that itself contains enough dramatic energy for several operas. Lyrical, emotional, rich---the music of course is all of these, but not powerful. It needed just a little bit more, a little something extra whose absence I cannot blame on the performers.

I have mixed feelings about the staging too. When houses revive Faust today, the red tights are long gone and Mephistopheles appears as the suave, well-dressed gentleman. Frankly, I find this an appropriate change: even when he openly hawks his diabolical wares, Satan comes in attractive trappings. But his stage presence left something to be desired: the ambiance of Act 4, sc. II, Marguerite's torment in the church, conveyed little of the sense of abject terror afflicting the protagonist on stage. Likewise, Mephistopheles appears silently onstage at the opera's conclusion, after the angelic choir has proclaimed Marguerite's salvation, and confronts Faust with the contract he signed in Act I. The paper then bursts into flames and falls to the ground: a dramatic touch, but an ambiguous one. If I were to sign an unpleasant agreement, I would be happier of nothing else than to find it smoldering in ashes. Furthermore, the devil has not heretofore been accompanied by pyrotechnics; why introduce them now? If props could rig the "contract" so it burned but was not consumed (propane line up the actor's sleeve, etc.), that might be one thing. But in the larger context of the performance, this particular stunt falls flat.

In the end, I think the less than adept portrayal of the power of Hell may go hand in hand with the decline in Faust's fortunes generally. Audience members today simply are not scared of the devil. I certainly cannot expect more from producers, who strike me as on average less intelligent than audience members, and frankly less skilled at their portion of the operatic experience. I had the distinct misfortune of spending the entire performance on Sunday sitting next to some buffoon who found the entire affair actually comical. Judging from the sounds in the house, others suffered a similar fate. This criticism excludes, of course, the few bits of intentional levity (Mephistopheles: "Your husband, ma'am, is dead and sends his greetings!"---dark, but somewhat comical). Faust is a story that only has anything to tell its audience if they believe that Faust's actions have real consequences: i.e. they have to believe in hell. Otherwise, it becomes simply a rather inexplicable story of a bumbling man who goes to great lengths to win a woman and then abandons her for no reason whatsoever. The leaven of contracts, a duel, and infanticide do not save such an otherwise helpless story. You cannot have Faust after reducing Mephistopheles to a baritone Cherubino with superior negotiating skills and a few magic tricks.

So how do we expect contemporary audiences to appreciate, and contemporary directors to stage, Faust? When the I-gave-so-much-money-they-put-a-full-page-biography-of-me-in-the-program fellow is a yoga master, such a request defies accommodation. Perhaps we should simply be thankful for living just outside Chicago, rather than New York.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I was perfectly content with ND stadium's monochrome digital scoreboard: it combined functionality while staying pleasantly low key. But the advent of the current monstrosity, apparently bought at some minor-league-baseball surplus store, is almost enough to make me agitate for a return to manual score keeping and the hand-clock timer (I can't manage to find a picture, but you get the idea: Fenway with a clock).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Periwinkle Moon

There was a time where I would have said that the ACLU and I only agree on a matter once in a blue moon---but now it's really only once in a light-blue, or perhaps a slightly blue moon. It is not the case that I have moved to the left or they to the right, only that the number of legitimately outrageous policy proposals or enactments about which I hear has increased notably.

Exhibit A: a Texas law that places DNA evidence from a crime scene in a person's criminal record, even if he was never convicted of the offense. From thither, it can presumably be introduced as either character evidence along with the rest of the file when permissible or used, along with the rest of the file, to enhance sentencing. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to find a government action that I would view as an actual deprivation of due process, but Texas has managed to do it. Enhancing the sentence of a criminal, or in the extreme convicting a suspect, on the basis of a past act for which no judicial finding of wrongdoing was ever made, strikes me as a fairly flagrant impairment of the criminal process.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Facilis est descensus Averno.

I read the entire Aeneid twice, once in each language, once upon a time. Needless to say, I did not remember this line, although it aptly describes so much of human history: "easy is the descent to Hell"

Although, I question whether the line has been reproduced faithfully; "facilis descensus Averno est" seems the more likely arrangement in the original. Of course, that would be a prose trope, putting the verb last: one imagines that was a good reason to write it this way in verse.

For more Virgil references, see here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

H.R. 3200

Say hello to my Very Large Friend: A Bill to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.

1,000 pages of nobody knows what. If this is self-government, sign me up for autocracy, please.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Crape Myrtle

Like most worthwhile things this side of cathedral and war memorials, the crape myrtle is both beautiful and unassuming. It has such a subtle effect on the landscape when not in bloom that I spent six winters in the midwest without realizing that the tree simply does not grow there at all. I only noted its conspicuous absence among the retarded summertime---a word used generously if there ever were one---progress of the plains' flora.

I won't bother with the scientific names and that sort of thing. Not because such information isn't useful or worthwhile, but because I would simply be cutting and pasting, which is mildly disingenuous. Anyone can look these things up as well as I can. I will note, however, that the shrub is not native to the Americas, but comes from Asia. Unlike other Old World imports prevalent in the South (see "kudzu"), crape myrtle behaves well and as expected. Also unlike other notable Southern flora, it is highly multi-functional. Keep it trimmed and it makes a pleasant bush. Let it grow up and prune lower branches and it becomes a delightful small tree. Spare it all attention from the loppers and it expand in every direction like a large botanical globe.

Despite its foreign heritage, the crape myrtle is a proper Southern shrub, largely because it is never in a hurry. It knows quite well that irises, day lilies, and magnolias will regale the neighborhood through the spring and early summer. So it comes later, to add color to July and August, when it faces less competition. And like any good friend, its arrival is not only timely but called for. Come late July and August the lawn considers dying off, asphalt stays sticky through the night, and a neighboring state just might try to resolve its carpetbagger-induced water shortage by attempting to annex part of your local river. But while the birch trees wilt in the heat, the crape myrtle puts forth an effusion of color. Together with the choices watermelons, now available, the crape myrtle gently reminds us to enjoy every moment of summer in spite of heat, humidity, and mosquito.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ceteris paribus

Ceteris Paribus -- other things being equal
Cf, mutatis mutandis.

The French Connection

I watched The French Connection (1971) last night. The celebrated chase scene in which Gene Hackmen careens through the street pursuing a runaway commuter train lived up to its accolades. But overall, the movie was deeply unsatisfying, much like the 1970s as a whole.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

De non apparentibus

De non apparentibus, et de non existentibus, eadem est ratio.
"What is not made to appear is to be treated as though it does not exist."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Four Words

"Die in an avalanche." Renata Tebaldi doing so, 1969.

And one wonders why some of these operas are only rarely staged today. I wager that an avalanche is just as hard to stage as a combination immolation/Rhine flood, but with far fewer devoted fans to snatch up tickets.

To Save for Later

An interesting situation: A state probate court's final and unappealable ruling modifying a testamentary trust so as to qualify as a valid QTIP trust for marital deduction purposes does not preclude a federal court from making an independent determination of the state property laws, as the probate adjudication was not a decision by the state's highest court. Thus, the federal court can hold that the probate court's modification is not valid and that the trust is not a QTIP. Estate of Rapp v. Commissioner, 140 F.3d 1211 (9th Cir. 1998).

Quere: how does this holding mesh with Erie? Does the RDA require deference only to determinations by a state's highest court? Or perhaps more pointedly, do federal courts think they can run rampant when the IRS is a party?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lord Chancellor

One occasionally hears the assertion that St. Thomas More was the first layman elevated to the woolsack. My hunch has long been that this was surely incorrect, and Blackstone has vindicated me: Chief Justices Thorpe and Knyvet, attorneys and not clerics, served as successive chancellors to Edward III in 1372--1373. Blackstone, 3 Commentaries 645.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hedges and Ditches

"Where two adjacent fields are separated by a hedge and ditch, the hedge prima facie belongs to the owner of the field in which the ditch is not."
Selwyn, 2 Abridgment of the Law of Nisi Prius 482 (1831).

Of Note

The University of Notre Dame Law Library used to reside in Sorin Hall, now home to Fr. Malloy and the fastest kid from Gallatin at Notre Dame.

La Muette de Portici

Minnesota Public Radio is airing a recording of Aubert's La Muette de Portici tonight (as in, right now). The opera appears to be I Vespri Siciliani with the wedding-chapel massacre traded for a mute girl and a player to be named later. The lack of opera-composer qualms about story and music theft is well documented, of course. Cf, Dvorak's unwillingness to produce the Slavonic Dances, which he regarded as blatant theft from his good friend Brahms, and which he only agreed to write with Brahms' approval.

Judgment for Ejectment

"The form of the judgment, after v erdict for the plaintiff in ejectment, on a single demise, is, 'that the plaintiff do recover his term aforesaid, yet to come and unexpired, of and in the said tenements, with the appurtenance above-mentioned, whereof it has been found by the jurors aforesaid, that the defendant is guilty of the trespass and ejectment aforesaid, and his damages aforesaid, by the jurors aforesaid, in form aforesaid assessed: and also [amount of damages] to plaintiff, at his request, for his costs and charges aforesaid, by the court here, for an increase adjudged, which said damages in the whole amount to [amount]. And let the said defendant be taken, etc."
William Selwyin, I An Abridgement of the Law of Nisi Prius 619--620 (1831).

N.B. -- thank goodness for the rise of the definite article---the aforesaid density in this piece is a bit high.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ejectment . . . by a bishop

"If the copyholders of a manor belonging to a bishopric , during the vacancy of the see, commit a forfeiture by cutting timber, the succeeding bishop may bring ejectment. Read v. Allen" (1730) (Oxford circuit Nisi Prius---no reporter that accords with any modern citation style).

William Selwyn, I An Abridgement of the Law of Nisi Prius 570 n. 5 (1831).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Action for Proportion of General Average

"If goods are thrown overboard in order to lighten a ship, the loss incurred for the good of all shall be made good by the contribution of all. The French ordinance [observed in the US and Great Britain] in express terms excludes from the benefit of general average, goods stored upon the deck of the ship . . . [that is,] the owners of the cargo under cover are not required to contribute to the jettison of the goods on deck. . . . [Thus, in the US,] the master is only authorized to load on deck by special contract with the shipper.

" . . . That the case of jettison . . . was . . . understood to be put as a mere illustration of a more general principle, Mr. Justice Story thinks is abundantly clear from the context of the Roman law, where a ransom paid to pirates to redeem teh ship is declared to be governed by the same rule. The same rule, he remarks, was applied to the case of cutting away or throwing overboard of the masts or other tackle of the ship to avert the impending calamity, and the incidental damage occasioned thereby to other things.
. . . . .
"The principle is, that all ordinary loss and damage sustained by the ship must be borne by the ship owners; but if upon a particular emergency articles are used or expenses incurred for the general benefit of all the parties interested in the ship, cargo, and freigh, then all of those for whose benefit teh same are used or incurred, should contribute to pay therefore . . . . And wages to the crew employed in rendering services toward such recovery may be included among those expenses."
. . . .
"[In addition, the doctrine requires] that by that sacrifice [of the jettisoned cargo] the safety of the other property should be presently and successfully attained [for the duration of the voyage].
. . . . .
"In New York it is a settled rule that a party who is obliged to pay and bear charges, as owner of the ship, is entitled, even if a case of contribution exists, to recover the whole of it, in the first instance, of the insurer upon the ship, and to leave it to him to call upon the ownesr or insurerers of the cargo and freigh for their contributory shares."

2 Robinson's Practice 386--394 (1855) (citations omitted).

Recoveries were available at both law (via an implied promise) and equity. Mr. Robinson did not specify the method for apportioning the contribution obligation, but one assumes that it would be pro rata based upon the value of the preserved cargo.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


"It was a question in the Roman law, whether a wild beast belonged to him who had wounded it so that it might easily be taken. The civilians differed on the question; but Justinian adopted the opinion, that the property in the wounded wild beast did not attach until the beast was actually taken. So, if a swarm of bees had flown from the hive of A, they were reputed his so long as the swarm remained in sight, and might easily be pursued; otherwise they became the property of the first occupant. Merely finding a tree on the land of another, containing a swarm of bees, and marking it, does not vest the property of the bees in the finder. Bees which swarm upon a tree do not become private property until actually hived.*

* . . . Bees which take up their abode in a tree, belong to the owner of the soil, if unreclaimed, but if reclaimed and identified, they belong to the former possessor. Goff v. Kilts, 15 Wendell 550."

Kent, 6 Commentaries 349--350 (6th Ed.).

Cf., Ghen v. Rich, 8 F. 159 (D. Mass. 1881) (iron-holds-the-whale).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Problem

There are a fair number of intelligent people in the world. A not insignificant portion of these utilize some routine mechanism (e.g. a blog) for sharing their learning with other people. But at least some of these people are so caught up in hand-wringing, navel-gazing, and nuance-finding that it is truly surprising that they manage to get out of bed in the morning. That, or they have given themselves over to being indulgently obnoxious and simply maintain the guise of nuanced hand wringing out of habit or convenience. Let us point, as a prime example, to the majority of the legal nawobs who post at Mirror of Justice (I won't link them---I would prefer not to shackle myself to trackbacks). "Oh difficulty! Oh the moral uncertainty and decrepitude of everything and everyone except myself! Oh how insightful are my inconclusive forays into ameteur moral theology!" Day in and day out, that's almost all there is, the chattering of a room full of Anthony Kennedy clones (with a touch more moral judgmentalism thrown in). Prof. Garnett is the exception, of course, but it only demonstrates his charity all the more that he stays associated with people who cannot cease talking about how they cannot see beyond their own noses.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Frederick the Great

You think you know a historical figure, and then one day he does something out of left field. Case in point: Frederick the Great composed well over 100 pieces of music for the flute, apparently the instrument of favor at his court. At least some of these are good enough to remain the subject of published recordings. Who knew?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"The Call for a Realist Jurisprudence"

"One of the most common [features of legal realism] is faith in masses of figures as having significance in and of themselves. . . . If, for example, we are studying congestion of the criminal dockets in certain parts of the country, and its effects upon the enforcement of a particular law, and find that in those places the percentage of sentences to imprisonment runs from 4 to 6, whereas in the country at large it is 41, these figures throw much light upon the workings of 'bargain days' and 'cafeteria courts.' Of themselves they mean nothing. They get their significance from the connection in which they were sought for and the conclusion, probably reached in the first instance on another basis, which they confirm. Masses of figures do not make a piece of work scientific. But a scientific inquirer may have an idea which he can fortify or confirm by knowing where and how to find a mass of figures significant for his purpose. Very little experience of using current official statistics is required to convince that statistics gathered for no purpose beyond filling a report with impressive tabulations are seldom valuable for anythign else."
Roscoe Pound, 44 Harv. L. Rev. 697, 703.

Erie for Dummies

"Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins indicated that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to make the law that is applicable to controversies in diversity of citizenship cases." Bernhardt v. Polygraphic Co. of America, 350 U.S. 198, 202 (1956).

J. Stone has presented perhaps the most effectively succinct articulation of that over-wrought doctrine ever made.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hannibal Hamlin

The 15th Vice President of the United States has always intrigued me, not because I regard him as a remarkably admirable man or because he made notable accomplishments, but simply because I enjoy his name. Who names his child after a rampaging Carthaginian?

Hamlin came from Maine, where his ascendancy to the Vice Presidency cemented the state GOP in national prominence for many years. He served in the state legislature, and after failing to be renominated in 1864, as a U.S. Senator and ambassador to Spain in the Garfield administration. He died playing cards in Bangor.

He advocated the position that all American citizens enjoyed the full protection of the Bill of Rights against every government simply as an incident of citizenship. As a private citizen between his stints in the White House and the Capitol, he agitated in favor of Radical Republican political causes in the run-up to the adoption of the 14th Amendment.

And he had an amusingly alliterative name.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Il Seraglio at the Lyric

We were fortunate enough to make it up to Chicago on Friday evening for the Lyric Opera's performance of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail). The production was attractive, although the set had a few odd quirks (a large platform with an exposed substructure formed the main set for Act II---and the chorus came out twice and rotated the entire thing for no particular reason; the only set for Act III was a lone door stood in the middle of the stage).

Chas Rader Shieber did a good job supplementing the humor: a troupe of blindfolded wenches spend most of the opera being led from one part of the pasha's palace to another, to comic effect; Pedrillo conveniently retrieves a lute from the prompter's box, and Osmin and Blonde take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by their feuding. However, at the same time there were oddities. The production appears to portray the story as a reminiscence of the pasha---an aged doppelganger silently stalks the pasha throughout the opera, swooning at Konstanze's beauty. Likewise, three burkha-ed women wander in occasionally, although they appear actually to "be there." Why not just tell the story? I'm looking at you, Achim Freyer.

I saw a nameless commenter on an Amazon.com work the other day who described Die Entfuhrung as one of the three greatest opera (have we gotten to the point where we ought to treat the word as singular? I am unsure) of all time---Don Giovanni and Cosi fan Tutti rounded out his triumvirate. Frankly, I had never heard of it until seeing it on Lyric's schedule. While beautiful, I don't know that I would lavish that sort of praise on it. I simply am not willing to accept that the art form reached its apex with the singspiel.

Be that as it may, high marks go to Aleksandra Kurzak (Blonde) and Andrea Silvestrelli (Osmin). Erin Wall's Konstanze was gorgeous, but amazingly staid. I am inclined to suspect, given the character, that the somber, near-plodding tone is built into her part and thus that she executed perfectly. But if that is the case I simply don't care for the role quite as much; the pain of forlorn love could stand a bit more expression. Matthew Polenzani (Belmonte) did a fine job as well, sticking out all three uncut acts and four arias with beauty and melody. He was, however, notably quiet. The Civic Opera House possesses superb accoustics (and we had stupendous seats, at least compared to the second-balcony eyries my parents always had at the Memphis Orpheum Theater)---but Polenzani remained quiet even over the small Mozart orchestra. Steve Davislim sang Pedrillo with a cough and did an excellent job. David Steiger's Pasha Selim was not objectionable, simply ordinary. I remain impressed with maestro Sr. Andrew Davis, but without a familiarity of the piece I lack standing to pass on whether he gave a "good" reading.

All in all, a superb outing. We brought along a dear friend and a lovely lady of his acquaintance for their first operatic performance, and were pleased to see them enjoy the outing. I wish immensely that I could make it back to Chicago on the 20th or 27th for Cavalleria and Pagliacci, but I don't see it happening, sadly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Quod voluit non dixit

"The Court may conjecture that a fee [as opposed to a life estate and remainder] was intended by the testator, but quod voluit non dixit; and they are bound to consider the series of authorities which reject these private conjectures, and set up permanent rules of construction in their place, as the law of the land." French v. M'Ilhenny, 2 Binn. 13 (S. Ct. Penn. 1809).

The maxim, of course, means "that he did not say [in the instrument] what he intended." The Court rightly observes the argument's invalidity vis a vis a testamentary instrument, but the fact that it has a latin maxim associated with it reflects its persistence. If modern casebooks are to be believed, this is, in fact, the dominant form of probate argument today. What a deplorable state of affairs we have.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Il Trovatore at the Met

I listened with great pleasure to the Met's matinee broadcast of Il Trovatore two weeks ago. The production is a new one on loan from the Lyric. They've pushed the setting up to the 19th century; the feeling apparently was that the internal turmoil of late-medieval Spain is too obscure to make effective drama for an American audience and that the post-Napoleonic conflicts depicted by Goya would permit a more effective staging. While American audiences surely lack a thorough-going knowledge of the interal struggles that splintered Spain during the Reconquista, I doubt they possess a meaningfully greater grasp of the country's nineteenth-century civil wars.

The production set apparently featured large turntable-mounted facades and painted Goya-esque backdrops. The gimmick factor may just be the times (this season's fine Eugene Onegin production featured almost no scenary or props), but it may also have something to do with the Met's recent Trovatore-related mishaps. Several sources described the house's 1987 and 2000 productions as "disasters." This Trovatore did well in Chicago, and Gelb may have felt a solid combination of past results and gimmicks on a popular repertory piece was needed to exorcise the previous bad memories.

The matinee performance went quite well, at least aurally. The hilariously inept chicanery being perpetrated with La Sonnambula vindicate my skepticism of updated stagings, so I won't speak to what I didn't see. But I did have one quibble with the performance: Ferrando. Cound di Luna's chief henchman, his most memorable lines come in the first few minutes, with abbietta zingara, the background story to the opera's plot. I don't know whether Kwangchul Youn just doesn't have the voice for the piece or whether Gianandrea Noseda had the orchestra playing too loudly, but the pit drowned out the bass at several key points. Ferrando's voice should carry over the orchestra on the series of eighth notes at the end of each stanza (e.g. "la rea, la rea, discacciano ch'entrarvioso"), and it just wasn't there. I will continue to prefer my 1991 Met recording with James Morris as Ferrando and Placido Domingo in the titlel role.


"A deed is delivered as an escrow, when the delivery is conditional, that is, when it is delivered to a third person, to keep until something be done by the grantee; and it is of no force until the condition be fulfilled. The condition may consist in the payment of money as well as in the performance of any other act."
- Jackson, ex. dem. Gratz et al. v. Catlin, 2 Johns. 248 (pincite unavailable) (S. Ct. N.Y. 1807).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Property, 1804

"Every right that can be made the subject of an action for the recovery of damages is a right of property, including the right to the comfort and society of a wife or minor child." Boescher v. Boescher, 5 Ohio Dec. 144 (Ohio Com. Pl. 1804) (reporter's syllabus).

I came across this case while doing research for a paper, and the summary of the holding in the syllabus jumped out at me. The court does not actually articulate this rule, it merely finds that the parental right in raising a child and having him in one's home was in the case at bar a property right protected by due process requirements. I wonder whether the reporter's summary of the general rule is accurate. If so, it would seem to represent an earlier shift away from a strict application of numerus clausus than is sometimes supposed (or at least sometimes suggested by professors).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The notable law of agency case that appears in American business casebooks, Watteau v. Fenwick, 1 Q.B. 346 (1892), deals with a barkeeper who made purchases that had not been authorized by his employers. He purchased cigars, when he had in fact only been authorized to purchase Bovril. Completely unbeknownst to American law students, Bovril is the trade name of a condensed beef extract often dissolved in water and taken as a hot restorative on cold English days.
Developed by John Lawson Johnston as a bid for a contract solicited by Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian War, the stuff was originally meant as a field ration (of which the French soldiers apparently had not enough, being akin in that regard to modern artillery; see also, Battle of Sedan). Like many British exports, see also, IPA, Bovril caught on at home well enough to be sold in pubs. The company still exists today, and Bovril is apparently widely popular at soccer matches throughout Britain.
Most interestingly, Bovril once ran an advertising campaign featuring Leo XIII:

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I have determined that there are only so many reactions one can have to modernity. Generally speaking, they appear to be 1) outrage, 2) glee, 3) oblivion---i.e. act as if everything in the world continues to function properly and is amenable to reasonable explanation 4) resignation of varying degrees, and 5) boredom. 1 is bad for one's blood pressure; 2 and 3 are probably unconscionable. By 4 I refer more to the proactive acceptance of the situation that underlies Dr. MacIntyre's theories in After Virtue. 5 is self-explanatory. I don't know how to categorize reactions such as Peter Kreeft (see Back to Virtue, a more hopeful response to MacIntyre)---perhaps the dichotomy between 1 and 4 is inadequately inclusive.

Regardless, this space is devoted to whichever of these reactions I happen to feel like embracing at any particular time. I'm more interested in providing some mechanism for articulating my thoughts on various matters simply for the sake of thinking about them than I am about garnering a devoted readership or changing other people's lives. You've been warned.