Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Importance of Choosing the Right Words

This was going to be a post about Hans Reiser, the Linux geek who was just convicted of murdering his wife. He insisted on taking the stand for eleven days against the advice of his attorney. The court watchers say that's what sunk him. He come across poorly under cross-examination. His rambling, often-contradictory explanations didn't tell a coherent believable story and didn't poke a single hole in the prosecution's evidence.

An chestnut in Law school goes "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."

But that's a really Grim Fairy Tale, so I'll go with a different example. This is an actual true story that really happened. We were there, and there are witnesses.

Some years back my wife and I took Taiji from a famous Chinese coach who had just moved to Oregon. We were hoping for internal body mechanics and all the rest of that good stuff. What we got was what sells: molasses-slow forms, no application or cultivation of internal strength, white uniforms, black belt clubs and promotions every X-weeks. We were interested in Chi, not Chi-whiz so we left.

Part of the problem is that we were looking for martial arts. The students tended to be upscale versions of the crystal-gazing hairy-legged bark eaters. Getting them to do push hands was hard enough, let alone thinking about developing strength or fighting.

After a few months we started doing the Short Yang Straight Sword Form. In retrospect, I really liked the form. There is a lot in there. But it was tough going for the fluffy bunny crowd. So the advanced student who was teaching the class gathered us all together to talk about swords. I can remember what he said darned near word for word.

He said "Don't think of this as a sword. Think of it as your chi wand. We're not going to sword fight. We're going to learn to play with our chi wands. Your chi wand is a very personal thing. If you handle it enough it will start to collect and store your chi, and you can use it to emit chi. You should never handle anyone else's chi wand without permission. And you shouldn't let just anyone handle yours. Be very careful where you put it. You never want to step on your chi wand."

Tiel and I carefully didn't look at each other and silently asked "Did he say that? Did he really say that?" The guy standing to my right looked like he was having some sort of seizure.

"After a while you will get used to handling your wand. When you are feeling down or depressed pick up your chi wand and play with it for a while. You'll start feeling better and more energetic." Somehow the poker faces stayed on.

Then he showed us some basics - grip, stance and how to make horizontal cuts.

"Now hold on tight to your wand, and keep it level. You don't want your chi to drip off the end while you're waving it."

We managed not to say anything or crack a smile. But then he said

"You're doing really well. Now I want you to get a partner and stand like this. Now very carefully, touch your chi wands together," at which point a female voice murmured "What am I supposed to do? All I have is a chi button."

I had to pretend I had a coughing fit and sit down for a while.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hanging's Too Good For Him - British Writer Translates Shakespeare to Chav "Yoofspeak"

Shakespeare has been re-interpreted and re-written from Bowdler's attempts at removing everything unsuitable for women and children to West Side Story. Today's homage to the immortal reputation of the Bard comes from British writer Martin Baums courtesy of the Daily Mail. He has translated fifteen of the plays into the dialect of lower-class London.

Romeo and his Fit Bitch Jools

Verona was de turf of de feuding Montagues and de Capulet families. And coz they was always brawling and stuff, de Prince of Verona told them to cool it or else they was gonna get well mashed if they carried on larging it with each other. Meanwhile, whilst all dis was going on, Romeo, from de Montague posse, had become all jiggy jiggy with de Rosaline bitch who was de niece of de Capulet massive. But never ready to settle with just de one bitch, Romeo and his boyz disguised demselves and crashed de Capulet turf where dere was de masked ball going down, and that was when he saw de well fit Capulet’s daughta, Jools.

Amlet, Prince of Denmark

Dere was somefing minging in de State of Denmark which was making Amlet all uncool. First, his Uncle Claudius had married his muvva, de main bitch Queen Gertrude. Then de Norwegian Fortinbras massive was freatening to invade de Danish turf and finally, and quite unexpectedly, de rank ghost of his nutty farva was spooking de crap out of him. De minging ghost told Amlet he was poisoned by Claudius and wanted him to do somefing about it. Amlet said “Aiii,” and reckoned de best way was to pretend to go all loony toons to make everyone fink he was barking, including Ophelia, de fit bitch he wanted to be all jiggy jiggy with.

That high-pitched whirring sound you hear is coming from the crypts in Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Love My Town! - Police relations edition

There's a new lawyer in Portland, Eric Bryant. I don't know much about the man, but there's no doubt he's got a serious pair, and they're at least 60% brass by volume. Back in March he was in Northwest 21st Avenue in Portland. It's a street full of upscale stores, trendy people and narrow streets that don't quite accommodate the traffic.

A police officer park his squad car illegally in front of a restaurant and went in. He ordered his meal, sat around and watched the game on TV. He wasn't arresting anyone. He wasn't investigating a crime. He just wanted lunch at that particular diner and parked in a forbidden space.

Most people would have looked, curled a lip and thought "He's a cop. Whatcha gonna do, call a cop to give him a ticket?" Mr. Bryant showed more courage than good sense. He talked to the officer and said he was parked illegally. According to the first news story on the incident the cop replied that he wasn't doing anything wrong and asked "If someone broke into your house, would you rather have the police be able to park in front of your house or have to park three blocks away and walk there?"

Nobody's suggesting that the officer was investigating a crime or making an arrest. Nobody is suggesting that Mr. Bryant didn't talk to him and ask him to move the car. He then ticketed the cop for parking illegally and cited the statute under which he did so and the authority he had as a citizen to issue the citation (ORS 153.058 for those who are interested). All that study to pass the Bar Exam has paid off.

After the Mercury reported on the events KATU covered the story. The AP has picked up the story. Now it's making the rounds of that series of tubes we call the Intrawebs. 

I talked to Eric Bryant today. He says that the city has lawyered up. A local attorney has offered to help him defend his interests in whatever falls out. The State is showing an interest. And there's various litigation that he can't really talk about in the near future. He's confident that the ticket will stand. The official PD denials and excuses are pretty lame. "Officers need to stay near their cars so they can respond to emergencies" doesn't hold water in the face of questions like "Weren't there any other restaurants he could have parked near legally?" 

Fighting City Hall by yourself is tough at the best of times. If you knock a cop out of his comfortable immunity to the rules that govern the herd it's even worse. If you make them look foolish and ride the pipe the same as mere "civilians" you're opening yourself up for a world of hurt. I expect every aspect of Mr. Bryant's life will be a matter of intense interest to the Portland Police Bureau for a few years to come. Best of British luck to him. He'll need it.

Me? I'll buy the man a drink.