Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Syllabus: Law & Literature @ Brandeis School of Law


Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
---Percy Bysshe Shelley
Spring 2010 / Louis D. Brandeis School of Law / University of Louisville
Donald Vish, lecturer

Course Description

This course will present insights into the nature of law and social justice through the prism of literature. Each class will explore timely and timeless topics arising out of the search for justice. How can Orestes extricate himself from the duty to avenge the murder of his father by killing his own mother? How shall Captain Vere punish Billy Budd’s reflexive act that results in the death of a superior officer aboard ship in wartime? How is Antigone to obey the religious law requiring her to bury her brother and the state’s decree that she may not? Justice is a pendulum that swings between the letter of the law and the spirit of equity. We shall plot the course of justice through the eyes of art and the imagination of storytellers. Poets and litterateurs are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. ____________________________________
[January 7, 2010]
Course Syllabus

Basis of grading: Either four papers written as book reviews for each of the four principal literary assignments will be 80% of the grade or one paper using each of the four principal works to define and describe the nature of justice in not less than 2500 words nor more than 4000. Class participation will be 20% of the final grade (discuss this with students.) Each paper should be less than 750 words and relate the story line or a character to the important legal principles you discern in the text. We are interested in the story line ONLY as it impacts law and justice issues. The paper is due at the beginning of the class at which the piece is to be discussed. Good reportage is a “C” and superb insight and analysis is an “A.” Class participation means responding when called on as well as gratuitous participation in class discussions and raising helpful and provocative questions and comments. Knowing the lesson will earn a “C” or “B” whereas participation distinguished by obvious analytical thought will earn an “A.” If you feel the class has concluded without affording an adequate opportunity for you to shine, you may email me your extended remarks within 24 hours of the class at and they will be considered. A class ombudsman committee of three will be appointed to present any complaints, suggestions and requests that an individual student may not want to present personally to the lecturer.

Read the rest of this post . . . .
Class plan: There will be thirteen lectures between January 7 and April 15. Four key literary works will be considered in lectures #4 (January 28), #7 (February 18), #10 (March 25), and #12 (April 8). Other literary works and fragments treating law and justice themes will be discussed in the intervening lectures. It is NOT necessary for you to read or read about any item marked with an asterisk (*). The material marked with an asterisk (*) will be referenced and described by the lecturer during the class.
Facebook: A class Group Page has been created under the title: Law & Literature @ Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. Weekly assignments will be posted along with discussion opportunities.
Textbooks: (1) Law and Literature: Text & Theory (paperback edition) edited by Lenora LEDWON (1996, Garland Publishing, Inc) [$40.00 new from Amazon, some used at $22.00]; and (2) Richard A. POSNER, Law and Literature (Revised and Enlarged Edition) [Harvard University Press, 1998]. (Referred to as POSNER or LEDWON in this Syllabus). (See LEDWON pp. 102 for a critique of the POSNER view of law and literature).

Major Resource on line: LAW & HUMANITIES: a Bibliography of Law and Literature, Professor Daniel L. Solove, The George Washington University Law School (this is a tour de force, consult it before each class to see if there is anything that interests you or helps you with the assignment).
Reading assignments: many can be accessed online.
The following works may be purchased from and delivered for less than $100.00 or may be read through excerpts available in the two textbooks. Only Billy Budd, Sailor must be read in its entirety. Here are the major literary works:

1. William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (Oxford World's Classics: the Oxford Shakespeare) Jay L. Halio (Paperback - 2008) or see LEDWON pp. 63-65, 297-310 and POSNER pp. 65, 87-88, 103,110, 111, 123, 126, 143, 150, 189, 243, 321, 397. Also read the plot outline or story synopsis of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure by POSNER pp. 114-121, 123-124, 126, 143, 150, 244, 398-399. Lecture # 4, January 28, 2010.

2. Aeschylus, The Orestia (Paperback) Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides (525-456 B.C.E). (Penguin Classics) by Aeschylus, W. B. Stanford, and Robert Fagles (Paperback - Feb 7, 1984) and see POSNER 60-66, 83, 121-122 and also Lecture # 7, February 18, 2010.

3. Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative) (1924) (Harrison Hayford & Merton Seals, eds. U. Chicago Press, 1962). Please use this edition and read the work in its entirety along with the essays, commentary and observations about the story. Lecture #10, March 25, 2010. In addition, see POSNER pp. 122,149-50, 162, 163, 165-173, 179, 181, 242.

4. Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942) [Student Guide, Landmarks of World Literature] by Patrick McCarthy, Paperback 2004. (Especially Part Two, the trial) or see POSNER pp. 40-48, 151, 162-164, 176-177, 223, 321. Lecture # 12, April 8, 2010.

5. Franz Kafka, The Trial [introduction by George Steiner] A. A. Knopf, Inc. Schocken Books, Inc. ISBN 0-8052-1040-7 or see POSNER pp. 129-140, 176, 184-185, 188, 192, 238, 240, 241 and LEDWON pp. 63-65, 255-256. Lecture # 15, April 29, 2010. [CANCELLED, classes end April 19, 2010].

Literary fragments, excerpts and the expository prose and poetry are identified in the assignments section of each lecture plan. If you have trouble finding the text online, please let me know by email. If you elect to write one paper you can begin right away and proceed during the semester at your own pace. If you elect to write five papers, one on each of the principal literary works, the paper is due at the beginning of the lecture at which the work will be considered.

The Study of Law and Literature

The law and literature movement focuses on the interdisciplinary connection between law and literature. This field has roots in two major developments in the intellectual history of law -- first, the growing doubt about whether law in isolation is a source of value and meaning, or whether it must be plugged into a large cultural or philosophical or social-science context to give it value and meaning; and, second, the growing focus on the mutability of meaning in all texts, whether literary or legal. Those who work in the field stress one or the other of two complementary perspectives: law in literature (understanding enduring issues as they are explored in great literary texts) and law as literature (understanding legal texts by reference to methods of literary interpretation, analysis, and critique). From Wikipedia

Journals: Law and Literature

The Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, a leading journal on the subject for many years, has changed its name and is now part of the University of California Press (access requires subscription):

Lawyers and Literature

Website created by James Elkins, Professor of Law, West Virginia University, for his course on lawyers and literature.

Assignments for Class #1:
1. Book of Genesis: 4:1-24 The Story of Cain and Abel: 9:6, the law as explained to Noah. Is the judge fair? Is the punishment just? What is the nature of the justice system in the story? Identify all of Cain’s crimes. Which is the most serious? What does it mean to be avenged sevenfold? Is Lamech a murderer? Is he punished or protected?
2. Psalm 19, 7-11. What are the elements of a good legal system according to Psalm 19? Where does the law originate? What is its source, its authority? Does the source of the law in Psalm 19 have anything in common with the United States Constitution or the Declaration of Independence? Does crime pay?
3. Dante, The Divine Comedy Canto V, XX, XXVIII line 142, XXXIV [Google the word ‘contrapasso’ with Dante’s name]. Is Cain’s punishment consistent with Dante’s theory of contrapasso? What exactly is Cain’s punishment(s)? Did God provoke Cain?

Lecture #2 and #3: WORDS
[January 14 & 21, 2010]
Assignments for Classes #2 and #3:
1. Mr. Justice Holmes, dissent Lochner v. New York, 198 U. S. 45, 74 (1905) (Holmes, J., dissenting). See LEDWON pp. 77-82.
2. Richard POSNER, Law and Literature A Relation Reargued, Virginia Law Review 72, 1986, IV A. Rhetoric and Knowledge and especially his critical discussion of Justice Holmes’ dissent in Lochner “…a rhetorical masterpiece.” How can Judge POSNER reconcile his criticism and his praise? Does POSNER approve of the use of rhetoric in the law? LEDWON, pp .77-82.
3. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
 Chapter VI Humpty Dumpty (his digression on words)
4. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 19 (Mr. Gilmer’s cross examination of Tom Robinson. Begin with Tom Robinson’s answer to the last question posed by Atticus Finch. p. 386 of Law & Literature: Text & Theory, edited by Lenora LEDWON (New York, 1996). See, LEDWON pp. 383-401.
5. Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Opinion. LEDWON, pp. 469.
6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter XI, Who Stole the Tarts? and Chapter XII, Alice’s Evidence. See, LEDWON pp 454-462. / ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND/by Lewis Carroll/THE MILLENNIUM FULCRUM EDITION 2.7a/(C) 1991 Duncan Research

It is not necessary to read the following work (s) that will be cited or explained during the lecture:

*7. Ovid, Metamorphoses Book 12 (612-631), and Book 13 The Judgment of Arms (1-393). Upon the death of the great warrior Achilles on the battlefield of Troy, two people claim his sword and shield. An assembly is convened to hear the evidence and decide who is worthy: the wily Odysseus or the warrior Ajax. Each makes their case their case to the jury. The lesson from this debate is in the last 16 lines of the report.
*8. Aristophanes, The Clouds (419 BCE, Greece). A man wants his son to study rhetoric in order to learn to talk his way out of debt.

*9. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Protagoras of Abdera. Author Information: Carol Poster 
English Department State University FL 32306.

*10. Plutarch, Solon. Athenians used to cover up the ugliness of things with auspicious and kindly terms, giving them polite and endearing names.

*11. Apollodorus of Athens (born c. 180 B.C.E.) (The Library 3.180), Pausanias and Suidas both recount the myth of the rape of Ares’ daughter Alkippe by Poseidon's son Aalirrhothios. Ares slew the rapist and was tried by the gods for murder upon the Arepagos. The trial was held on the Hill of Ares overlooking Athens. The trial raises the following questions? Why was the trial held at night? What role did rhetoric play in the trial? What is the “Areopagus”? See also Pausanias, Guide to Greece 1.28.5. Who was Apollodorus and what role did he play in the courts of Athens?
Lecture # 4: JUSTICE, LAW & MERCY
[January 28, 2010]
Assignments for Class #4:
1. William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice (1597) (Oxford World's Classics: the Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare and Jay L. Halio (Paperback - May 15, 2008) or see POSNER pp. 65, 87-88, 103-111, 115-121, 123, 126, 143, 150, 189, 243, 282, 321, 397 and LEDWON pp.297-310. Lecture # 3, January 21, 2010. See especially Portia's argument, The Merchant of Venice, IV, i. What does the play have to say about law and equity? Also read the plot outline, story synopsis and commentary
on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure by POSNER, see Lecture #5. See especially POSNER’s observations about unpopular minorities trust in a rigid legal system.
2. Steiker, Carol S. Lecture on the role of mercy and the administration of criminal justice (one hour, begins 14 minutes into tape, the lecture is less than an hour): Watch a webcast of Professor Steiker's lecture. (RealPlayer Required) @ (using fiction to illustrate truth). The following text is read in the preceding film clip:
3. Austin Sarat, Nasser Hussain, Forgiveness, mercy, and clemency, Mercy and the Administration of Criminal Justice by Carol S. Steiker [22 pages, Google Books,
4. O’Henry. Summarize the two O’Henry stories citedd by Professor Steiker. Can the two stories be reconciled?

It is not necessary to read the following works that will be cited by the lecturer:

*5. Dan Markel, Against Mercy, Florida State University College of Law Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 88, 2004

*6. New Testament: The Gospel of John 8:1-11. The Scribes and Pharisees bring the adulteress to Jesus for execution by stoning. Confer, The Hebrew Bible: Micah 6:8; Zechariah 7:9.

*7 New Testament: The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard Matt: 20:1-16. Equal pay for UN-equal work.

*8 Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Matt: 7:12

[February 4, 2010]

Assignments for Class #5:
1. POSNER Measure for Measure pp. 114-126 (law and equity, rigidity and flexibility), 143, 150, 244, 398-399 (plagiarism). Define the word desuetude and be prepared to say what you think of it.
Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (1604): This play is the best introduction to Shakespeare’s overall view of the law. While The Merchant of Venice has received more legal commentary, Measure for Measure has more legal themes: for example kill all the lawyers… What happens to mercy and the law in this play? What does the play have to say about morality and the law and corrupt judges? How is Angelo like Creon, Captain Vere and Draco? What is the penalty for fornication? Is it better to enforce laws strictly or equitably? Do you think the anti-fornication used to prosecute Claudio would violate his right to privacy in modern American law?
2. Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986) [upholding the Georgia sodomy statute.] Overruled in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). Compare the opinion in Bowers to the legal themes in Measure for Measure: Extreme punishment/minor offense; law to enforce morals; is immoral also illegal? What is the importance of respect for the law in enforcement of the law? How does the law work when the source of law is power?
3. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables. Google or otherwise research Bishop Myriel and Jean Valjean and summarize the story of the candlesticks. Is this a story of justice, mercy or madness?

It is not necessary to read the following works that will be cited by the lecturer:
*4. Kornstein, Daniel J., A Scarecrow of the Law from Kill All the Lawyers: Shakespeare’s Legal Appeal (1994 Princeton University Press). This is a tour de force analysis of the Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure as they enunciate theories of justice.

Lecture #6: REVENGE & MERCY
[February 11, 2010]
Assignments for Class #6:

1. Shakespeare, Hamlet (Paperback) the grave digging scene: Why not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Hamlet, V, i, 99. See POSNER pp. 57, 75-92, 103, 156, 210-211, 222, 241, 243, 247-248, 285
2. The New Testament, Matthew 5:38: An eye for an eye… A law of mercy?

It is not necessary to read the following works that will be cited by the lecturer:

*2. Shakespeare, Henry V, IV, I, 132 (the "following orders" defense): Henry V orders the massacre of prisoners at Agincourt.
*3. Shakespeare, Timon of Athens. Pity is the virtue of the law. III, v, 8. Is pity the same thing as compassion? As mercy?
*4. Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew I. ii, 277: Do as adversaries do in law, / Strive mightily but eat and drink as friends. Note: Does the ‘adversaries’ reference describe a system of law (the ‘adversarial system’) that is peculiar to England or does it pervade Europe. What other types of legal systems are alternatives to the ‘adversarial’?
*5. Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale: as she hath/ Been publicly accused, so shall she have/ A just and open trial. II, iii, 201.
*6. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, III, 2. The funeral oration, a masterpiece of forensic oratory. See POSNER pp. 262-265.
*7. See Kill all the lawyers? Shakespeare's legal appeal By Daniel Kornstein (1994 Princeton University Press) Chapter 5 Skull of a Lawyer, Hamlet.

Lecture #7: REVENGE & MERCY
[February 18, 2010]
Assignments for Class #7:

1. Aeschylus, The Orestia (Paperback) Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides (525-456 B.C.E.) (Penguin Classics) by Aeschylus, W. B. Stanford, and Robert Fagles (Paperback - Feb 7, 1984) and see POSNER pp. 60-66, 83, 121-122. And . Lecture # 7, February 18, 2010.

2. POSNER, Chapter Two Revenge as Legal Prototype pp. 49-92.

[February 25, 2010]
Assignments for Class #8:
1. Charles Dickens, The Trial of Bardell v. Pickwick [from The Pickwick Papers]; Why didn’t Bardell and Pickwick testify? What do you think of the reason? What does Mr. Perker think of hungry jurors? [Begin your reading at “I wonder what the foreman of the jury, whoever he’ll be, has got for breakfast,” said Mr. Snodgrass… “I know’d what ‘ud come o’ this here mode o’ doin’ bis’ness. Oh Sammy, Sammy….” POSNER pp.140-143, 176 (is the jury always a safeguard?).
2. Charles Dickens, In Chancery [from Bleak House]. What does the suit Jarndyce v. Jarndyce mean? LEDWON pp. 251-255 and POSNER 140-144]. (What do you think about justice being rendered according to the conscience of the judge or jury? How does equity fare in this story? Where is the pendulum now?)
3. POSNER pp. 49-92, Revenge as Legal Prototype. See also pp. 120, 121 (and try to add to the list). Compare the concept POSNER calls ‘composition’ (page 56) and the phrase ‘restorative justice’ (Google the phrase).

It is not necessary to read the following works that will be cited by the lecturer:

*4. Cicero, On Duties. On Duties, or On Obligations, has generally been the most popular of Cicero’s writings, and perhaps exercised more influence on thought and standards of the western world than any other secular work ever written. Michael Grant, Penguin Classics (1971): Book I. VII, 20 [role of justice and kindness], 21 [private property], 22 [duties to the state], 23 [foundation of justice], 24 [reason for crime], 26, 27 [injury and injustice], 28 [passive injustice], 29 [self-interest], 31 [the two principles of justice], 33 [chicanery], XI. 33 [limits to retribution and punishment], XIV. 42 [kindness and generosity], XVI. 50 [kindness], 51, 52 [public property], 63 [the soul of justice], 71 [duty to engage in public affairs], 87 [electioneering and scrambling for office], Book 2, 49, 50 [winning admiration through lawyering], 51 [capital charges against the innocent and defending the guilty], 66, 67[eloquence at the bar], 70, 71 [ representing the poor], 74 [property taxes], 78-80 [agrarian laws], 83 [impartiality], 84 [debt and public safety], 85 [courts of equity], Book 3, 54-57, 65-67 [a seller’s duty to disclose], 60-61 [criminal fraud], 69 [civil law versus moral law], 70 [good faith in contracts], 97 [doing evil to do good].
*5. Cicero, The Laws, Book One, 16-35. Where does justice come from? Is law synonymous with wisdom?
*6. Cicero, The Laws, Book Two, 37-40. What does music have to do with law? Why did Athens cut off strings from the instrument played by Timotheus? What would Plato think? See Plato, Laws 3. 700-1; Aristotle, Pol. 8. 5-7, Horace, Ars Poetica 202-19.
*7. Michel de Montaigne, Of Custom (1572-1574) (the last 14 paragraphs of the essay). What is Montaigne’s theory about the source of law? Would Montaigne support the idea ‘health care reform’ and innovation? Why does Montaigne think the legal reformer should wear a rope around the neck? What does Montaigne think about legal tricks and artifice?
*8 The Hebrew Bible, Exodus (21-23ff); Leviticus (24:17-20); Deuteronomy (19:21). Compare with Dante’s concept of contrapasso or counter-punishment.
*9. Rabelais, On Judge Bridlegoose and Lord John the Loony [from Gargantua and Pantagruel]. HOW PANTAGRUEL PERSUADED PANURGE TO SEEK COUNSEL OF A FOOL through PANTAGRUEL’S STRANGE TALE OF THE PERPLEXITIES OF HUMAN JUDGEMENT. Judge Bridlegoose decides cases by rolling dice.
*10. Kafka, The Problem of Our Laws: Our laws are not generally known; they are kept secret by the small group of nobles who rule us … for the laws were made to the advantage of the nobles from the very beginning, they themselves stand above the laws
*11. Piers Plowman (14th c.): Neede hath no law. Publilius Syrus, Necessity gives the law, but does not herself accept it. What do the two maxims mean? Who is Ananke (or Anance) and what role does she play in the law.
March 2, 2010]
Assignments for Class # 9:
1. Sophocles, Antigone (in THE OEDIPUS CYCLE) (441 B.C.E.) (Cambridge Translations from Greek Drama) (Paperback), David Franklin (Translator), John Harrison, Translator, P.E. Easterling (Introduction) or see POSNER pp. 63, 97, 98-100, 172. Lecture #9, March 4, 2010. How is Creon like Captain Vere?
2. Dante: contrapasso [Google the word with Dante’s name).
4. Walker v. Georgia 555 U. S. 1 (2008) (proportionality review).
5. 1 Kings 3:16-28: The Judgment of Solomon.
It is not necessary to read the following works that will be cited by the lecturer:
*6. Kristen M. Nugent. Proportionality and Prosecutorial Discretion: Challenges to the Constitutionality of Georgia’s Death Penalty Laws and Procedures amidst the Deficiencies of the State’s Mandatory Appellate Review Structure University of Miami Law Review (2009).
 At: (look for ‘download the paper’ option in upper right hand corner).
*7. Plutarch, Lives: Solon [legendary Athenian lawgiver, died 539 B.C.E] written 75 C.E. translated by John Dryden [this essay describes the architecture of a complete system of justice in Athens and compares it with the system of justice in Sparta]: First, then, he repealed all Draco's laws, except those concerning homicide, because they were too severe, and the punishment too great; for death was appointed for almost all offences, insomuch that those that were convicted of idleness were to die, and those that stole a cabbage or an apple to suffer even as villains that committed sacrilege or murder. So that Demades, in after time, was thought to have said very happily, that Draco's laws were written not with ink but blood; and he himself, being once asked why be made death the punishment of most offences, replied, ‘Small ones deserve that, and I have no higher for the greater crimes.
*8. Plutarch Lives: Lycurgus [legendary Spartan lawgiver, 800-730 B.C.E.]. Compare Solon with Lycurgus with Draco. What did Lycurgus think of music and the law? What did the Delphic Oracle think of Lycurgus’s laws? [this essay describes the complete system of justice in Sparta].

Friedrich Schiller (1789): Solon and Lycurgus were great and righteous men, but their laws differed greatly since they proceeded from principles diametrically opposed. The character of an entire people is the most faithful impression of its laws, and the surest judge of its value. Limited was the mind of the Spartan, and insensitive his heart. He was proud and haughty toward his fellows, severe toward the vanquished, inhuman toward his slaves, and slavish toward his superiors; in his transactions, he was unscrupulous and faithless, despotic in his decisions, and his greatness, even his virtue, lacked the pleasing grace, which alone wins hearts. The Athenian, quite the contrary, was gentle and tender of behavior, politely intelligent in discussion, kind to inferiors, hospitable and helpful to foreigners.
*9. 1 Kings 3:9-12; and 10: 24: Solomon’s Wish: Give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge…
[March, 25, 2010]
Assignments for Class #10:
1. Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative) (1924 posthumously). Has any work of American literature generated more antithetical and mutually hostile interpretation than Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor? And all the battles about the moral and political vision at the heart of the tale swirl around one question: Are we supposed to admire or condemn Captain Vere for his decision to sentence Billy Budd to death by public hanging? Somehow, astonishingly enough, nobody seems to have noticed that central to the story is the subject of capital punishment and its history. H. Bruce Franklin Reprinted from AMERICAN LITERATURE, Copyright 1997 by H. Bruce Franklin): See POSNER pp. 122,148-50, 162, 163, 165-173, 179, 181, 242. Compare Captain Vere, Creon, Lycurgus, Draco and Solon and Solomon.

[April 1, 2010]

Assignments for Class 11 follow:

1. Lon L. Fuller, Speluncean Explorers: In the Supreme Court of Newgarth, 4300 (Harvard Law Review, 1949). Would Judge Bridlegoose approve of the method used to decide? Consult notes from Lecture #8. Be prepared to discuss the five divergent legal theories.

2. Clarence Darrow, Address to the Prisoners in the Cook County Jail, LEDWON 283

Lecture #12: PUNISHMENT
[April 8, 2010]
Assignments for Class # 12

1. Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942) [A Student Guide, Landmarks of World Literature] by Patrick McCarthy, Paperback 2004. (Especially Part Two, the trial, the arbitrariness of justice). POSNER pp. 40-48. Is the novella a polemic against capital punishment? Is it imaginative literature? What does this story say about capital punishment? What does Billy Budd (the man) have in common with Mersault? What does this work have in common with Dickens’ Bleak House? Jarndyce v. Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, be- come so complicated, that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it under- stand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Charles Dickens, Bleak House 7-8 (George Ford & Sylvère Monod eds., W.W. Norton & Co. 1985) (1853).
Lecture #13: Crime & Punishment
[April 15, 2010]
Assignments for Class # 13:
1. Jack L. Sammons, On Teaching the Legality of Televising Capital Punishment, LEDWON 293
2. Robert Browning, Porphyria’s Lover, LEDWON 294
3. Gilbert & Sullivan, The Mikado (1885). Scan or research the opera text to determine why Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner was appointed to his position; what he or the Pooh-Bah thinks of his position; the Pooh Bah’s explanation as to why the executioner enjoys such high status in the town of Titipu.
4. Homer, The Odyssey, Book XXII . Read only the last eight paragraphs of Book XXII that describe how and why Telemachus executed Penelope’s twelve handmaidens. Could these executions take place today in the United States?
5. Greek Mythology, Theseus. Using classical dictionaries, reference books and your own research ingenuity, determine how Theseus cleared the road from Troize, over Corinth and Isthmus to Eleusis and Athens from bandits and other criminals such as Sinis, Procrustes (Damastes), Periphetes and Sciron. . Would Dante approve of Theseus methods of punishing crime? Also see Minos, the Odyssey Book XI 568. Where does Judge Minos do his judging? What kind of lawmaker was he?
[April 22, 2010]
Assignments for Class # 14

1. The Apocrypha Susanna and the Elders. Is there any trial technique utilized in the story that modern American justice continues to use? What type of offense justifies the death penalty in the story? If the Elders had intended to wreck Susanna’s marriage and her social standing, would they have received the death penalty? Daniel 13 in the New American Bible or here:
2. Carolyn Heilburn and Judith Resnik, Convergences: Law, Literature and Feminism. LEDWON pp. 91-126. Be prepared to discuss Jude the Obscure, A Doll’s House, Hoyt v. Florida, Michael M. v. Superior Court.

3. W. H. Auden, Law Like Love [LEDWON 221].

4. Susan Glaspell, A Jury of Her Peers (1917). What do you think of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters story about the canary and their repair of the quilt? What is the difference in the jury make-up in the story and the jury that heard the actual case the story is based on? Why do Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters help Minnie? POSNER pp.122-126. (Are the women in the story like Portia?).

Lecture #15: PUNISHMENT
[April 29, 2010]
Assignments for Class # 15:

1. Michel Foucault, Panopticism, Discipline and Punishment, LEDWON 323.

2. Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925) (Willa & Edwin Muir trans. Revised E.M. Butler, Schocken n Books, New, Introduction by George Steiner). POSNER 127-140, 183-205, and especially 176, 184-185, 188, 192, 217, 238, 240-241 and LEDWON pp. 255-256. Do you discern any relation to Dickens’ Bleak House?

Donald Vish, Middleton Reutlinger, of counsel; executive director and board member, The Joan & Lee Thomas Foundation; director of advocacy, The Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; board member, Louisville Bar Association (Committee on Judicial Integrity and Independence); elected life member, The American Law Institute. Member of the Kentucky and Florida bars.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A New Saint

Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville
Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz D.D. Archbishop of Louisville celebrates with the Little Sisters of the Poor on the occassion of the canonization of their foundress Jeanne Jugan as a saint, November 22, 2009.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


A Bad Design

Missing Pieces

The legal organization responsible for designing the model penal code has withdrawn its support for a key provision of the code that inadvertently served as the cornerstone for modern death penalty statutes.

The American Law Institute intended to remain neutral on capital punishment when it crafted the model penal code in 1962. The code contained, however, a template for considering conflicting constitutional values in death penalty cases that required due process of law based on objective criteria and individual consideration of the special facts and circumstances of each capital case.

The guided discretion construct was ignored by the states until 1972 when the United States Supreme Court invalidated all state death penalty laws for failing to provide due process of law in a nondiscriminatory manner that weighed the competing interests of even-handed administration of law with individual consideration of each capital case.

States attempted to fix the problem by adopting the guided discretion template of the MPC. In 1976 the Supreme Court approved resumption of capital punishment on the strength of the MPC endorsement.

As a result, the ALI gained first-hand experience with the only law beyond its expertise: the law of unintended consequences.

In October 2009, the ALI withdrew its support for the guided discretion template and a legal report evaluating its application over the years said it had not worked.

It’s now time to look at all other legal and administrative aspects of death penalty administration to determine whether the system is merely broken or intrinsically flawed beyond repair.

253 words
November 17, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Collision Course

Collision Course

The death penalty has put the constitution on a collision course with itself.

The path to collision was cut and cleared in 1976 when the Supreme Court allowed states to reinstate the death penalty based on statutes that used a ‘guided discretion’ template proposed by the Model Penal Code (MPC). The ‘guided discretion’ approach was designed to (1) eliminate the arbitrary and discriminatory administration of the death penalty that caused the court to invalidate all state death penalty statues in 1972 and (2) balance the competing constitutional demands of even-handed administration of the law and individual consideration of each case.

Rhetoricians have a name for rubrics like ‘guided discretion’: enantiosis, the yoking together of opposites to teach a poetic truth by contrast. An example is make haste slowly (which has also risen to a constitutional standard in death penalty cases).

The precise place where justice fits between ‘guided’ and ‘discretion’ is different in each capital case and always difficult to find. Unlike other criminal law cases where the acceptable margin of accuracy or error is reasonably wide, the legal target in death penalty cases is especially narrow. The structural and theoretical obstacles to finding then reaching the perfect balance between uniform administration of the law and individualized consideration of each case is the reason why so many death penalty cases take so long to resolve.

As the Supreme Court has continued to track and groom the path to justice in death penalty cases by using evolving standards of due process that mark the progress of a civilized society’s search for justice, competing constitutional values get in the way of one another and, like Virgil’s army, crowd the field so totally that none has room to do its work.

The sponsor of the MPC, The American Law Institute (ALI), has now withdrawn the guided discretion template and its legal consultants Professors Carol S. Steiker, Harvard Law School and Jordan M. Steiker, University of Texas Law School, have declared the ‘guided discretion experiment’ unsuccessful in eliminating the arbitrariness and discrimination that figured so prominently in the decision to invalidate state death penalty laws in 1972. But the failure does not inhere in the model — the template is merely a mirror for what is required by the constitution in death penalty cases: objective guidance and wise discretion. But the more there is of one, the less there is of the other.

As courts grapple with the balance between the two, justice in death penalty cases is becoming to the constitution what absolute zero is to the laws of thermodynamics: a place one can progress toward but never reach.

Before the political process abolishes the death penalty in Kentucky, it will have been abolished by Kentucky juries that decline to impose it and appellate courts that can’t uphold it because the applicable legal standards collide with each other.

Donald Vish is the director of advocacy and education for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and an elected life member of the American Law Institute.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Aurora borealis
Desire follows no path in the sky. It obeys neither planetary motion nor sidereal time. It flashes like an aurora on a schedule known only to the heart.

Aurora borealis

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Flattery rests on an iron clad rule.
One of the parties must be a fool.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Detail, Original Floor Tile, The Lincoln Institute

Original Floor Tile, The Lincoln Institute

Berea College educated black and white students together until 1904 when Kentucky State Representative Carl Day convinced his colleagues to outlaw integrated education.

The Trustees of Berea resolved to continue educating black students and by 1910 completed construction of a school building in Simpsonville, Kentucky with the help of a challenge grant from Andrew Carnegie. The stone, brick and asbestos Tudor Revival building designed by Foster & Tandy opened its doors to eight-five students on October 1, 1912.

Whitney Moore Young (1921-1971), civil rights spokesman and advisor to three Presidents was the head of the school for over 40 years. The school experienced a steady decline in enrollment after 1954 when segregated education was outlawed and closed in 1970.

The U.S. Department of Labor currently leases 54 acres of the campus from the Lincoln Foundation for the operation of the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Job Corps Center.

Mr. Larry McDonald, president of the Lincoln Foundation, invited photographers from St. George’s Community Center to document original architectural details of the building, which has undergone extensive modifications over the years. Student photographers Aaron Payne, 13, and Cherree Montgomery, 16 went to the campus in July with Ted Gatlin, Jr., St. George’s Community Center Freedom School Site Coordinator and graduate student at Kentucky State University and Donald Vish, originator of the photography and mentorship project at St. George's.

The image selected for use as a note card for the Lincoln Institute is a detail from the original floor of the entrance hall and is unchanged since the doors of the school first opened in 1912.

September 7, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lincoln by Louisville Sculptor Ed Hamilton


Louisville sculptor, Ed Hamilton, crafted this monumental rendering of Abe Lincoln for the Louisville Waterfront Park memorial to the 16th president. The monument was dedicated earlier this year. Mr. Hamilton's work is nationally recognized.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The Iron Law of Civility Governs Bridge Traffic @ Harrods Creek
A History of Civility: From Plato to the KBA
Code of Professional Courtesy [abridged by the author August, 2009]

36 Bench & Bar September 2008
By Donald H. Vish
The tie that holds me by the law of courtesy seems to me much tighter and stronger than the
law of legal compulsion —
Michel de Montaigne.
Be Brief
An invitation to write or speak about civility provides the recipient with an opportunity to demonstrate its first law: be brief.

There is a more elaborate formulation of the rule: pensa molto, parla poco, e scrivi meno which I hasten to translate into English: think much, speak little, and write less. Otherwise, the useful Italian dictum violates George Washington’s 72nd Rule of Civility:
Speak not in an unknown tongue in company, but in your own language....

What is civility

So what does civil conduct have to do with speaking briefly, writing concisely and speaking in a language the audience understands? The common denominator is that each is based on thoughtful concern for the comfort and convenience of others. That is the cornerstone of civility. Civility transcends the realm of the merely useful and belongs to the higher realm of ethics and morality. Civility is more than a way of acting — it is a way of living. George Washington’s lifelong interest in civility began at the age of 14 when he wrote in his journal 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. His First Rule of Civility could serve as the ONLY rule of civility, a complete and brief treatise on the subject:

Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present.

Civility is more than courteous, well-mannered behavior. Being civil means being constantly aware of others and weaving restraint, respect, and consideration into the very fabric of this awareness, according to P. M. Forni, the co-founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project and a noted author and speaker on the subject of civility. Civility is a form of goodness, he concludes in his best-selling book Choosing Civility: the Twenty Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. Those who practice civility, Dr. Forni believes, find both serenity and contentment. Benjamin Franklin was similarly inclined. Franklin believed practicing the art of civil virtue leads first to personal happiness and eventually to greatness.

Emulating Washington and Franklin, the Kentucky Bar Association codified eleven aspirational rules of professional courtesy in 1993 and petitioned the Kentucky Supreme Court to adopt and promulgate the Code of Professional Courtesy [CPC] by formal order. Effective September 1, 1993, Kentucky lawyers had two sets of civil rules: The Rules of Civil Procedure, governing civil actions, and the Rules of Professional Courtesy, governing civil behavior....The CPC is intended as a series of guidelines for lawyers in their dealings with clients, opposing parties, their lawyers, the courts and the general public. While not constituting a disciplinary code or a legal standard of care, Kentucky attorneys are expected to comply with the letter and spirit of the Code adopted by the Supreme Court. The eleven rules in their totality encompass Washington’s First Rule, be considerate of those present, and Plato’s dictum, be kind.
... incivility is contagious. One uncivil act begets another which treads on the heels of another and spreads like ripples on water. So are there antidotes to the Plague of Incivility? Well, if there are not enough Rules already, I would propose four:
  • Think much, speak little, and write less
  • Save your anger for the right occasion but always withhold it in two cases: 1) where you can’t change the outcome and 2) where you can
  • Look and overlook , bear and forbear
  • Always make haste slowly.


Donald Vish is an attorney with Middleton Reutlinger in Louisville.
The author would like to acknowledge and thank Kentucky Supreme Court Justice James E. Keller (retired) for his encouragement of and enthusiasm for the advancement of civility and the expert editorial and stylistic advice provided by lawyer James Dady. Errors and omissions, however, are those of the author alone.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Churchill Weavers

Churchill Weavers, a company with a long history in Berea, Kentucky, closed several years ago, its name and product line going to a company in Indiana. I had heard little about the group for some time, and feared that the revival of the group's weaving collection would not occur.

However, I just received the following from a representative of the group:

Hello, After a brief hiatus, Churchill Weavers will be relaunching a limited production schedule of their famous handmade throws and scarves. After September 1, production will begin again on reissues of some of their older lines as well as some of their new designs for Spring 2010.

There will be a return to the original Churchill Weavers emphasis on upscale but accessible, luxuriously tactile products. Churchill will continue its tradition of weaving on our trademark antique looms, personally designed by David Churchill in the early years of the last Century.

We invite any interested parties to please contact us via email with inquiries and/or orders at

Friday, July 17, 2009

Muliebrity, more honest than modest

The perversions of inequality are absent; what appears instead is the glamour of a protracted cultural moment in which women were free from any expectation of sexual pursuit. The power of Ms. Bassman's photographs is the power of a woman who is never moved to make a call.

The work of Lillian Bassman, strictly speaking, falls beyond the scope of Danzig U.S.A.. As this article and this photo gallery attest, however, there is a renaissance of interest in Bassman's astonishingly honest depictions of feminine beauty.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A moment from the 2009 Kentucky Bar Association convention

Van Stockums and Chen
As the 2009 Kentucky Bar Association convention fades into the past and the Commonwealth's lawyers bid farewell to Covington, I'd like to record one final memory. Danzig U.S.A. contributors Reggie and Cheryl Van Stockum joined the University of Louisville's reception for law alumni and friends. Below, Reggie shares a moment with Matt Williams and Bob Micou.

Van Stockum, Willams, Micou

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jefferson Memorial Forest

Jefferson Memorial ForestHerewith a sighting of a cricket frog, Acris crepitans, along the Slitstone Trail at the Jefferson Memorial Forest.

Jefferson Memorial Forest, all 6,191 acres of it, lies entirely within the city limits of Louisville. It is 15 minutes from downtown. A quick sprint along any of the Forest's hiking trails will convince you that this is some of the best urban recreation in the country.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I de dager var kjempene på jorden

Again from Recess Appointment, chapter 3 of Iridescence:

Milam ParkI de dager var kjempene på jorden. The land of one's childhood, no matter its physical location, marks the same place on every person's emotional map. In those days there were giants in the earth, and the sons of God came unto the daughters of men. And in turn those daughters bore children who became mighty men of old, men of renown. . . . There the warriors stood taller, whether they swung bats or wore plastic armor beneath their jerseys. The preachers spoke with greater authority, sometimes of heaven but mostly of hell. And above all the daughters of men have no greater beauty than those you first meet in that never-forgotten land. So struck will you be by your discovery, your terrible and thrilling discovery that you want one and all of them at once and forever, that you will spend the balance of your days searching for one to compare with the girls you recall from the founding of the kingdom of giants.

Editor's notes:
  1. The phrase I de dager var kjempene på jorden comes from the 1930 Norwegian Bokmål translation of Genesis 6:4.

  2. The image shown is that of Milam Park, Clarkston, Georgia.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Calvin Borel, Jockey & Sage

Jockey Calvin Borel said he owed his success to his father. When asked what his father did, Calvin delivered a terse and wise catechism on child rearing: "He believed in me."

Calvin won the 2007 Kentucky Derby, the 2009 Kentucky Oaks and the 2009 Kentucky Derby riding a 50 to 1 long shot that arrived at Churchill Downs after being drive across country from New Mexico in a trailer pulled by his trainer's pick-up truck--the horse-racing equivalent of hitch-hiking to the Derby.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Manifold destiny

Gatsby's green light
From Recess Appointment, chapter 3 of Iridescence:

No reach back into ancient natural history can resist the temptation of the near emotional future. You will believe in that orgiastic future no matter how badly the recent personal past distorts your view of current global reality. It eluded you then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow you will run faster, stretch out your arms further. And if you are lucky enough to have noticed the trompe-l'œil of your own creation, you will realize this truth: No amount of traversing the ancient and the modern, the personal and the global, will separate fear from desire. At any scale the topology of anxiety and longing dictates an invariable outcome. Such is the manifold destiny of the searching soul. Equal and opposite emotions, one and inseparable, comprise a single surface in the Klein bottle of the human heart in conflict with itself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memory and redshift

Memory and redshiftNo less than their sensory counterparts, the waves of personal remembrance obey Doppler's law. The mind in motion never quite perceives what passes before the mind at rest. Emotional recall obeys the forces that bend the peal of a passing bell and warp the color of distant stars. Race toward the past if you will; yesterday recedes faster than your memory can recall. As you reel backward, redshift stretches memory beyond your field of perception, till truth dissipates in spasms of invisible heat. Race instead toward the future, and impatient anticipation crashes against the the invariant pace at which tomorrow arrives. Against that blackness you will see no more than purple tendrils not quite taking full form, the fleeting projections of things yet to come.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jared Diamond, author of "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse"

The Assault of Guam (1944) (Part IV)

A day or two after we landed on Guam, at about 11:30 p.m. on July 25, 1944, those of us at the Command Post that had been established at the base of the steep cliff near the beaches, heard a cacophony of machine-gun fire and explosive bursts coming from the top of the cliff.

Mixed and confused reports, some frantic, reached our radios. In the midst of this turmoil, a forward observer stumbled down the cliff to report that the enemy had attacked, and “all hell” had broken loose on our front lines.

Upon receiving this alarming information, we requested that fragmentation hand grenades be forwarded from our ammunition dump several hundred yards to the rear. In anticipation of such an attack, we should have already had them on hand.

To our consternation, after a painfully long delay, grenades arrived, but they were smoke grenades, useless in our situation, rather than those that broke into steel fragments after being thrown.

As the noise of battle came closer, I received the following order from the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Marlowe Williams: “Van get up there and see what’s going on.”

So I called for my radio operator, who doubled as a bugler, and we started in darkness to ascend the bluff, scarcely knowing where we were but knowing that the way was “up.”

Enemy mortar shells, aimed at rear installations, passed overhead, but more dangerous to us was our own artillery, which was responding to urgent calls from the front lines.

A number of rounds, failing to clear the crest, burst not far from us. Turning around, I saw no sign of my radioman, so alone, I continued slowly on my mission.

The front lines

At the break of dawn, I reached C Company in the front lines. At this location our position was intact, but the enemy had bypassed our positions and elsewhere had penetrated our lines, using ravines as protection.

It was apparent that their objective was to reach the beach in the rear in order to destroy our artillery and the supply dumps. I arrived in time to see the enraged company gunnery sergeant pick up a discarded Samurai sword and kill the remaining enemy soldier.

I then borrowed a company radio and contacted headquarters in the rear to report that the line at that point had held.

As the sun rose, and the fog of battle lifted, the magnitude of this attack became apparent.

It had not been a so-called “Banzai” attack, led by sword-wielding officers, rushing forward to certain death. It was an organized counter-attack, carefully planned and well-executed against hopeless odds.

The enemy’s main blow was against our center, Company B, commanded by my good friend Capt. Don Beck. From his command position that night, he watched as the Japanese, taking advantage of their knowledge of the terrain, came down the ravines, overpowering his command.

Enemy shells, as well as our supporting mortar and artillery shells, were falling near his position. [While wounded at least once, Capt. Beck commanded Company B in all three invasions: Bougainville, Guam and (later) Iwo Jima. I know of no other Marine to remain in command of an infantry company through three such ordeals.]

Editor's note: First Published in the Sentinel-News, Shelbyville, Kentucky, April 8, 2009
© 2009 Ron Van Stockum

Friday, April 17, 2009

Xortal-Times Turn (Chapter 1, part 1)

It was noon.  The sky was a bony cold gray and the air heavy.  An old outdoor thermometer hung on a fence post, its metallic base rusted and bent.

A good day to be in a cave, thought Tony as he stepped out of his vintage Volkswagen Beetle and slipped into his jacket.  He parked next to the fence and noted the long temperature gauge...52º F.  "Warm weather for January, eh bub?"  he said as his friend Vern stepped out of the car on the other side.

"Wait around awhile, it'll change," quipped Vern, tucking his head into his hunting cap, ear flaps still folded up inside.

Both friends turned toward the side of the clapboard frame house and Tony, reaching the outer basement access door, leaned down and swung the heavy, angled wooden door first up and then over to his right.   Vern snapped hold of the door with the metal clip on the ordinarily free hanging chain attached to the side of the house.  Strong winds were common enough to warrant this protection from premature closure.

The basement was part of an 1870's home and hence only undercut a quarter of the house now sitting above it.  Since it was only 14' by 14' wide, Tony was tempted to believe that it was the basement to the original pioneer home carved out from the forest in 1795 when his eastern ancestors traveled down Clear Creek from the point where Harrods Trace crossed on its way from the Kentucky River to the fort at the Falls.

He and Vern pulled the worn cardboard box of caving gear from atop the bare earthen wall of one side.  Vern pulled out the helmets as Tony supported the wet, weak bottom of the box.  The acrid smell of spent carbide permeated the gear and, mixed with the dank air of the basement, created a seemingly alien atmosphere.  Yet to the boys it was a pleasant smell, the smell of life and safety and hope in the power of men to advance into the hostile world below.  They climbed out of the basement with a sense of muted excitement, a sober eagerness that precedes physical exertion.  It would take great effort to dig into the karst window, without the certitude of finding a passable cavity below.  Even if found, it was likely that such a passage would be a belly crawl, pinching out in an unpassable convergence of stone.

At 26 (Vern, born on June 17, and Tony on August 6), both boys were strong with youth.  Tony was thicker in bone and muscle and wore a down-turning mustache across his face.  Vern was taller, but not by much, and sported a light beard.  His features were otherwise aquiline, if a little pudgy.  Tony's features were angular and his eyes were set far back below bony protruding eyebrows.  Vern had blue eyes, Tony hazel.  Vern was already losing his hair in a broad swath atop his head.  In this, he was like his father.

"Here you go, bub," said Tony, dropping the box on the blue table on the clapboard house porch.  "Start pulling out the about a cola?"

"Diet, man," said Vern.  He was a diabetic, although diet cola seemed to be his only conscious accommodation to the disease.  Cola and the shots, that is.  Vern loved to grin at Tony as he dropped his trouser-leg, brought out a needle and syringe, pierced the rubber seal on a vial of insulin, and literally smacked the needle into his thigh.  The thought raised goose bumps on Tony's arms, the sight just paralyzed him.  "Here man, give it a shot!"  taunted Vern, thrusting out the spent cartridge toward Tony.  It was a sliver thin needle and that made it even more frightening.

Out from the box came the caving gear.  The hats were ordered from a caving store and looked something like old Prussian helmets without a spike.  They were held firmly on the head by a four point strap.  Ground mud in numerous cuts and scrapes in the hard cap plastic testified as to the need for helmets and tight straps.  It also testified to the two years of experience both cavers now claimed.  Mounting brackets on the front of the helmets would accept the carbide lamps.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Xortal, a novel

"Xortal" is a work of Science Fiction. It is my third novel in that genre. I have a background and interest in natural history and explore such things in my writings.

"Knowledge" is the first chapter in "Xortal." I look forward to posting portions of additional chapters in the future.....thanks, Reginald Bareham

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Xortal-Knowledge (Introduction)

I write this story out of fear, punishing anxiety which keeps me bottled up in this dark, dank place lest I even more grossly affect the progress of that without. My friend lies dead, yet I know that he lives. Xortal, I fear, is lost but I am condemned to await its return if I am ever to escape my predicament, much less understand it. I wear the chest pack frequently still, going back on regular forays seeking Xortal. But I do not dare interact for fear of more greatly alienating my being, or worse, threatening my current existence.

So here, in this tomb of my time, I write the tale which will record my true passage through life. It will serve, should any attempt to follow, as a warning and it may yet serve as a guide for those with the courage, or foolishness, to seek this passage again. Although knowledge is a hollow substitute for human companionship, it has proven to be my only friend in exile. A friend that I embrace now more than ever in the awful loneliness that I suffer. It is that companion which, as its reward, will take on a new life in these pages.

So I collect data, increase my knowledge and catalogue it in my growing mind. Regardless, the bronze sled is gone and that can only mean that the isle of Avalon has again risen. The Tor is again a beacon. What terrors will come only Xortal knows, and only Xortal can command.

Listen to the rocks!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The rainbow as refracted truth

By arc or by whole, the rainbow reveals refracted truth. Nearby rain and distant mist have equal power to vaporize visible light into bands of color. A single sheet of water, slicing through sunlight, projects the full spectrum against the sky's inverted bowl. If you are lucky enough to be standing far enough from the point where solar brilliance meets suspended water, you will see sunlight scattered into a full ring of color.

MeteorLike metaphorical truth, visible light rarely reveals its constituent parts so regularly and so predictably. Depart ever so modestly from the axis on which truth or light turns, and your eyes will no longer honor one focus. And if you should look instead at an object propelled through the sky, gravity's rainbow will no longer appear to you in closed form. It will rise — and fall — according to a trajectory that will never connect the beginning of truth with its end.

And this is to say nothing of the most treacherous trick of the light, the double deception that awaits time's pilgrim. Race toward the past if you will; yesterday recedes faster than your memory can recall. As you reel backward, redshift stretches memory beyond your field of perception, till truth dissolves in waves filled with heat rather than light. Race instead toward the future, and impatient anticipation crashes against the invariant pace at which tomorrow arrives. Against that blackness you will see no more than purple tendrils not quite taking full form, the fleeting projections of things yet to materialize.

RainbowPivotal events therefore mark the sections of our lives, slicing at particular points of time through the whole of the truth and leaving us no more enlightened than the objects we trace across our field of vision at speeds well below that of light. Catch them, and you will be rewarded momentarily by the mirage of control. Miss them altogether, and you will rue forever the path that both of you, protagonist and projectile, must follow.

Full-circle rainbow

Friday, March 27, 2009

Parrish Court

Parrish Court

With apologies to Walt Whitman:

When jonquils first in the courtyard bloomed,
And the great star slowly drooped in the western sky late by day,
I yearned — and yet shall yearn with ever-returning spring.

Above: Parrish Court, Belknap Campus, University of Louisville. Cross-posted from The Cardinal Lawyer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Harrods Creek Bridge RIP 2008

The Harrods Creek Bridge
Regulated traffic according to the iron law of civility.


Search inside yourself for bliss
And if you find none there
Quit your search and rest assured
You won't find bliss anywhere.


Saturday, March 7, 2009


A Look at Me and Where I'm Headed
I keep a picture of myself on my bookshelf where I can see it from my desk while working and from my chair when thinking. It is the last image I see before leaving for the day and the first image I see in the morning upon arriving at my desk. The self-portrait is shown above.

The picture shows my shadow cast across my gravesite at Cave Hill Cemetery pointing toward the symbol of earthly success, my Mercedes-Benz (formerly). The luxury car cannot deliver me from the place that awaits my sure and certain arrival.

I see myself in the picture as dust and shadow, like the flower of the field described by the psalmist: For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. Psalm 103:14-16.

There is life in the picture, the good life symbolized by the silver car. There’s death, dust and shadow in the scene as well and even fading flowers of the field set in a vase before a tombstone before the 'wind goeth over it.' And the grave-digger’s work is visible in the lower left foreground, marked by white flags.

And there is resurrection symbolized by the patch of green grass visible near the base of the shadow, the return of life in an eternal cycle.

The picture keeps me centered.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009



I look at what the masters did
I really learn a lot.
For when I see the work they did
I see what I did not.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our club, "Your Water"

The Isaac Shelby chapter of the University of Louisville Alumni Association gathered on February 8, 2009, at Allen Dale, home of Reggie and Cheryl Van Stockum, to watch the Cardinals' basketball game with St. John's. Halftime entertainment included a screening of Reggie's performance of Your Water. The video, drawn from from Reggie's video library on, exhibits one song from the Reginald Bareham Singer Songwriter Showcase at the Rudyard Kipling in Louisville on February 7. Your Water featured Reggie Van Stockum (performing under the name Reginald Bareham) on rhythm guitar and vocals, Kelly Hickerson on guitar, David Clement on trombone, and Brian Ginn on snare drum.

»  Cross-posted at The Cardinal Lawyer  «

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wendell Berry Makes Public Statement on the Death Penalty

Noted Kentucky author, philosopher and man-of-letters, Wendell Berry has authorized me to use the following statement of his position on the death penalty:

[Not to be altered in any way without the approval of Wendell Berry]

“As I am made deeply uncomfortable by the taking of a human life before birth, I am also made deeply uncomfortable by the taking of a human life after birth. Obviously, it can be well argued that the world would be better off if certain people had never been born or if they had been killed in early youth by a fall from a tree. And I certainly can imagine circumstances in which I might kill another person. But I don’t believe that mere humans have the mental or moral capacity to decide rightfully, let alone infallibly, that another human should be killed. As I don’t condone the illegal killing of a human by a human, I cannot condone the legal killing of a human by a human. One killing is not rectified or atoned for by the addition of a second. An illegal killing is in no way made better by a legal killing. A society is not made saner or more morally secure by the deputation in it of legalized killers. Whereas many illegal killings are done in hot blood, legal killings are always done in cold blood and with a procedural deliberation that is horrifying. Hot-blooded killing is of course horrifying also, but to me it is more understandable. Probably we have no choice against illegal killing, which continues to happen against the wishes of nearly everybody. But it is possible, morally and rationally, to choose to withhold one’s approval from legal killing, and I so choose.”
[Not to be altered in any way without the approval of Wendell Berry].
--Wendell Berry
Port Royal, KY
January 23, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

UofL's Speed School to Take Lead on Renewable Energy Research

On January 26, 2008, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced that Kentucky’s Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship will be operated by the University of Louisville. Uof L engineering and business alumnus Henry Conn and his wife, Rebecca, have pledged more than $20 million to the Speed school to support this program.

The center’s mission promotes partnerships among the state’s colleges and universities, private industry and nonprofit organizations to actively pursue federal research and development resources that are dedicated to renewable energy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Quilting Portraits

Fabric is a delightful way to represent the human face. My work is a bit abstract, but the images are (generally) recognizable.

Here is a version I have done of President-elect Obama. (I must remember that teeth are difficult to portray ...)