Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mixtape Mondays - Something for the Graduates

May is a month of pomp & cirmstance, tissues for mom's, and diploma's for sons and daughters.

In honor of that, the staff of aroundthecouch.com brings you this month's mixtape.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wild Geese

By Mike Corey * Other Mike Corey Posts

Wild Geese.

Mary Oliver wrote about them once, or perhaps more than once, depending on whether or not the revisions--assuming there were any--count as separate writings. But in what that writing or those writings ultimately produced, Oliver touched on a notion that has resonated with me, as I imagine it would with most who come across it.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.

These words have meant a great deal to me since I first came across them 5 1/2 years ago in a poetry class at Duke University. Their meaning is clear on the surface: Bad things happen to all of us as individuals, and though our worlds may slow down or come to a halt, the world in which we live does not. What it means beyond that is not a matter of right and wrong, but of how it matters to the reader.

Different authors may intend for different writings to mean certain things--or various things. Or nothing at all. Mark Twain once wondered why his writings and words had to mean anything beyond the superficial read. Ernest Hemingway, however, thought of his writings as an iceberg, with only the top 10% visible to the reader. The rest had to be sought out.

I wonder now, as a law student, if it is a good thing or a bad thing that these two views from two great American authors also happen to represent the two views of interpreting the law: the textualist and the liberal?

There are, I'm surprised to have found, many similarities in interpreting a novel and interpreting a court opinion. There is ambiguous language; there are ambiguous policy goals; there are questions of a book's impact; there are concerns that the masses will only learn of its content through a cursory description in the media; and fears that the purpose will be misconstrued by those desirous and capable of misusing it
Up until recently, I had believed that the glaring distinction between a novel and a judicial opinion was the absence of heart in the latter. But a "final lecture" from our contracts professor has me thinking otherwise.

I should not have been so foolish. As the son of an attorney who loved the law and the way he was able to help others with it--in building companies, non-profits and so forth in what ultimately became a growing city as a result--I should have known that, at least, those who practice law are not without heart. And yet, since his passing, my approach to the law has been one of reluctance, for fear that it would require me to adhere to the bottom line rather than the greater good.

Now 3/4 of the way through my first year of law school, I fear I had become robotic and unfeeling in my approach to studying, if nothing else. It's hard not to, I suppose. There is an unending downpour of reading material, or rules to memorize and applications to master; there are nothing but bottom lines in law school. But there are relationships, and not just between people. But between students and the law. I am hopeful, then, that mine has taken a leap forward.

The best lawyers, I know, are not necessarily the ones that left law school with the highest grades, but the ones that were best able to apply that which they learned--skills more so than rules--to the people they served after law school. The cold world requires a certain level of proven proficiency, of course, but once the foot is in the door, application is what matters. Some lawyers apply those skills to dollars and sense. In a way, I suppose we all do, no matter our profession: dollars and sense are along the continuum, at some point in that future. The butterfly, after all, still beats its wings; and the farthest star still moves, if ever so slightly.

But what of me? I've come to law school with a very specific person of enabling myself to better advance society through access to education, the goal of which is to make everything better for everyone. I look at the world and I am saddened by so much of what I see; and hopeful at so much else. And I know that better education can accomplish so much in righting the wrongs I see in the world. Such anger there is, such despair.

I want to be the the kind of lawyer, and use the law in such a way, so that the despair that comes to others does not render their worlds stopped, but helps them go on.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

... Has Left the Building

By LeKeith * Other LeKeith Posts

Wrestlemania is an annual Pay Per View by World Wrestling Entertainment (the WWE). Considered the Super Bowl of professional wrestling, it contains matches that are often the culmination of a feud (storyline) between wrestlers looking to have a Wrestlemania or breakout moment so as to elevate their status in the wrestling community. Lately, another trend has emerged. Wrestlemania has become a place for the last stand, an established superstar proving that they are capable of one last great match before retiring. This year, the latter theme is what I have been unable to move past, even if the WWE and its “no off-season” schedule already have. Wrestlemania 26 is where the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels had the last match of his career.

I started watching wrestling in 1992 with Wrestlemania 8. Hulk Hogan and the 'Macho Man' Randy Savage - names I knew of before I started following wrestling - were featured in the main event matches; however, the 3 people on that card that caught my attention were The Undertaker, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and Shawn Michaels. They are the reason I kept watching after. By the end of that year - at the Survivor Series 1992 PPV - the Undertaker was featured in a signature match - the debut of casket match - against the Ugandan Giant Kamala. Guess who won?

The Main Event saw Bret, the World Champion, face Shawn, the Intercontinental Champion. 1992 was no doubt their breakout year as they not only carried the WWF/WWE from that point on but also established my understanding of wrestling. Bret's technical ability regularly turned matches into lessons; Shawn's athleticism carried with it a willing yet defiant sacrifice of body for the sake of entertainment; The Undertaker has never failed to leave the audience in awe whether they be attending a show live or watching a recorded show from home. These three, dubbed the leaders of the WWE’s “New Generation,” provided a guarantee: there will always be at least one thing I would be excited to watch.

In light of what I've said above, I have - admittedly - not been a Shawn Michaels fan; that was my brother. I am a dyed in the wool – pink & black wool, preferably – Bret Hart fan. This led to many sibling arguments where our intensity was matched only by Bret and Shawn’s when they faced off. Their 60 Minute Iron Man Match at Wrestlemania 12 was the culmination of a month long debate over who was better. Even after, I refused to acknowledge Shawn's victory in the match. And, after the controversial ending to their Survivor Series 1997 match, the phrase ‘Montreal Screwjob’ could not be uttered in my presence for years.

But I can't deny Shawn Michaels' ability as a wrestler, athlete and performer. And yes, I have looked forward to his matches, even going so far as to cheer him on rare occasions. I specifically went to my friend’s house to watch him face Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 19. And I watched only that match. I rooted for Jericho though; he lost.

Bret retired in 2001; he has only recently resurfaced in the temporary role of assisting the next generation of the Hart family – the Hart Dynasty – in becoming Tag Team Champions. Now, with Shawn retired at the hands of the Undertaker no less, two-thirds of my inaugural class of wrestlers are done. The Undertaker's stellar in-ring career is in its twilight years, much like Randy Savage's was in 1992. And while he has a few Main Event Matches left in him, there is an expiration date and it is drawing nearer.

Will I stop watching once my wrestling foundation is fully retired? Highly Unlikely. There are some wrestlers in the tradition of these elite 3, Jericho chief among them. But it won't be the same: I've lost my guarantee.

I know, I know. “Wrestling’s fake.” And, yeah, it is (if you want to be a dick about it). If Shawn Michaels does come out of retirement, then he won’t be the first; that’s a wrestling tradition in itself. But if this is the end, and based on the ovation he received after his match at Wrestlemania 26 and / or the ovation he received the next night on Monday Night RAW during his retirement speech, I think it is.

So, sincerely, from a non-HBK fan: Thank You Shawn Michaels. Don’t make me regret it.