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MIPTC's Occasional Book Review: Debra Galant's Fear and Yoga In New Jersey

Let me state what is perhaps obvious here.  I am not Jewish and I am not a woman.  I am, however, a writer, and this author is a writer's writer.  Those things said, Fear and Yoga In New Jersey is a must read, even if you are none of these things.  You might even learn a few words. 

You certainly will be entertained.

Debra Galant strikes at fear - fear of losing your job, fear of being labeled a terrorist, fear of social circles and soccer moms and their yoga classes in New Gyr-zee.  She satirizes the New Jersey suburbs with reckless abandon and delivers a solid winner.  Her son struggles with his Jewish heritage questioning whether to have a Bar Mitzvah, all while Mom has enrolled the family in the Unitarian Church.

It's these polar opposites, which have so much in common, that Galant delivers on a skewer in this crazy, twisted tale of suburbanhood.  When you pick up your copy, buy an extra or two as a gift.  Your friends will be glad you did. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, April 18, 2008 at 01:52. Comments Closed (0) |

Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Takes Up The Pending Shield Law In Congress

The proposed federal Shield Law is pending in Congress.  Meanwhile, reporters have come under fire for protecting the privacy of their sources resulting in jail time and high fines. Please join me and my fellow blogger and co-host Bob Ambrogi as we explore the shield law with the experts.

Click on the link below to listen to Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Geoffrey R. Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Attorney Joel Kurtzberg, partner at the firm, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP.  We discuss the federal shield law pending in Congress, high-profile shield law cases involving reporters, states' efforts to enact their own shield laws, punishment given to those who protect their sources and the rights of journalists.


Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 19:00. Comments Closed (0) |

Who's On First? The Polygamous Mess In A Texas Courtroom

The problem may be polyamorous, polygamous and polynumerous, but one court in San Angelo, Texas has got to sort it out, one by one, along with somewhere in the neighborhood of 416 lawyers, each representing a single child and with a guardian ad litem for each child.  As most anyone who reads or watches the news knows by now, the children were removed earlier this week from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ranch near El Dorado, Texas and placed into child protective services.

The problem(s) stem from allegations of physical, mental and sexual abuse of the children.

The court has set a (read that "a" as just one) hearing, and the Texas bar has requested volunteer lawyers from all over the state to appear pro bono to represent the children.  No one lawyer can represent them all or in any combination given the innumerable conflicts of interest. 

In fact, the parents need representation, too.  Perhaps a parent or two or 208 (if you assume two parents for each child), or more, depending on however you may calculate children born of polygamous marriages

Who's the Dad?  Who's the Mom?  Which child belongs to which Mom and which Dad?  Only your DNA tester will know for sure, especially since even the children have provided the authorities multiple names for themselves and identified multiple parents.  As if to compound the problem, the lawyers on their way to Coke County, where 51st District Court Judge Barbara Walther issued the warrant, don't even know who they're going to be representing. 

In the meantime, there may not be enough lawyers to go around, but more important, there may not be enough courtroom to go around.  Where do you put 416 lawyers, children, guardians and any number of parents who may appear? 

How about an auditorium?  Even then, what procedure do you follow?

Who speaks when?  Who goes first?  How long will the hearing take?  I can't imagine even the logistics of where to seat everyone and how to handle objections?  Since most, if not all of the children are underage, they're each entitled to their own privacy, so the court may not even be able to hold one mass hearing.

If that's the case, then where do you find 416 courtrooms?

One thing's for sure - the courts have to act in the best interest of the children, which is what the authorities who removed the children from the ranch thought they were doing.  The consequences of those actions, however, may overwhelm the courts and achieve just the opposite result:  justice delayed is justice denied.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 23:21. Comments Closed (1) |

Involved In A Suit? Here's Some Judicial Advice: Settle

What will come of the Harry Potter Leixcon that RDR Books wants to publish and JK Rowling's suit against the publisher and author Steven Vander Ark?  It's a summary of the characters and events in the seven books Rowling wrote. 

The issue is Rowling's copyright.  Rowling and her publisher argue that her copyright prevents derivative works, such as the Lexicon.  Vander Ark claims that Rowling's failure to issue a DMCA takedown notice is a waiver of her copyright.  I've written about it before, and postulated that eventually the Lexicon will win.

The problem comes from that one word:  eventually.

The judge hearing the case has urged the parties to settle the case because it addresses areas of American law that are not yet settled, which would cause years of appeals and further litigation.

In other words, it would be less expensive for the parties to settle and avoid years of litigation. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 23:52. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC's Travelogue: Prague, Czech Republic - Day 5, Part One

This post is the fifth and last in MIPTC's travel series to Prague, which started on April 5, if you're interested in reading from the beginning.  Otherwise, jump in and travel along in this continuing day, from here to part five, below.  Then it continues further on to separate preceding days back to April 5th.

Before the masquerade ball this evening, we need to run a few errands to pick up ribbon as an accoutrement for our costumes.  Lisa will be dressed as a consort to Queen Elizabeth (that's the one in the 15th century, if you're wondering).  I'm dressing as Lord somebody or other, and we've both got loose crosses that need something to suspend them around our necks.  So, now that we know Prague like natives, we're off to Tesco Supermarket for the ribbon. 

First things first, you know.  Forget sightseeing.  There are more important things in life to attend to.

Like clothes. 

This store has it all:  from groceries to gabardine, and everything in between.  It's got a section on hardware bits and pieces and automotive parts - even racy lingerie.  What more could a man want? 

Tesco's got every type of ribbon -- in several different colors, sizes and even with silver and gold threaded in it.  We choose the purple and red to go with my regal costume.  That's Regal with a capital "R," mind you, so we have to choose Royal (also with a capital "R") colors.  Lisa's five-layer dress is moss green, gold and black, and is already stunning so there's not much more to add to it to make it more Royal (see how I remain consistent with the capitalization?).  Or so I'm told, in yet another lesson toward my fashion consciousness. 

Most color coordination of clothes is lost on me, as it is on most men.  At least guys who are color blind have an excuse, as the lawyer sitting next to me as I write this post on the plane does.  It's my former partner, Dan Callahan, who has his clothes numbered in a book to tell him what that his light blue shirt number 10 goes with what his bright green pants number 24 and his orange rep tie number 3, and so forth. 

See what I mean?  I've read his book and I still can't get it straight.

I, as I've pointed out, am not so lucky.  I'm not color blind and therefore have no ready excuse.  Without something like Dan's book to guide me, if left to my own devices, I'd suffer the scorn of those who frequently critique my questionable ability to match just about anything in my closet with anything else in my closet.  Like most nobles, however, I'm glad to have someone dress me in the morning before I commit a fashion faux pas, and suffer the ignominy of one more citation and arrest by the fashion police as I try to walk out the door with my own concoction of mix-and-match clothes. 

But I'm getting distracted. 

We're finished at Tesco, which I've now learned is Prague's answer to Sears, Woolworth's, Sam's Club, Home Depot, Napa Auto Parts and Frederick's of Hollywood, all wrapped up in one store.  What to do next?  There's the Secret Society building to see, Mucha's Art nouveau Museum, the Powder Gate, innumerable churches and a couple of castles to see.  Plus, I want to ride the underground to see what it's like.  We've figured out for the most part how the highly efficient trolley system works.  Most tourist maps of the city have red lines to depict where the trolleys run, superimposed with red numbers to identify the line.  At each stop (readily identifiable by people milling about, constantly waiting for a trolley to arrive every eight minutes, thank you very much), there is a small paper-behind-glass list that coherently explains the schedule in a x/y format of military time and minutes after/before each hour.

The Swiss timekeepers have nothing on the Czech transportation planners

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 00:56. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC's Travelogue: Prague, Czech Republic - Day 5, Part Two

This post is the fifth (part two) in MIPTC's travel series, which started on April 5, if you're interested in reading from the beginning.  Otherwise, jump in and travel along in this continuing day from part one, above.

Before we stroll through the rest of the city, I would be remiss if I failed to describe the utter beauty of last night's organ, oboe and opera performance at St. Francis of Assisi church, which is next to the Vltava river.  It's a bit cold outside and as full-fledged and thoroughly thin-blooded Californians, we're bundled up to the gills.  There's a ticket-taker outside the towering, semi-circular at the top and long down the side, red-leather covered in thick gold straps that form multiple diamond shapes in the doors, punctuated by a equally shiny gold button in the middle of each diamond.  She charges us each 450 Korunas, or Crowns, about $3.00 at current exchange rates (which given the exchange rate last year would have been about $1.50). 

Inside, I am awestruck with the pompous and ostentatious display of gargantuan paintings in the two side naves and back of the church, the brightly colored murals on every inch of the four-story high vaulted cathedral ceiling, the more than life-sized marble statutes littered throughout the church, a raised pulpit with its own "roof," decorated with a raft of smaller statues, that would have made even Billy Graham envious and the multi-level display of Christ's crucifixion splayed from wall to wall and floor to ceiling above the dark marble and gold-inlaid altar.  Even the floor is a patterned mosaic worthy of an art gallery.  Then there's the organ, certainly not out of place in this church, but much smaller than I would have anticipated given the rest of the architecture. 

I am likewise struck remembering Judas' comment to Jesus about what Judas perceived as wasted money used by Mary Magdalene to pay for oil to anoint Jesus' feet.  Judas argued that the money spent to purchase the oil should have been spent on the poor, to which Christ replied, "there will always be poor people in the world."

We're advised to sit in the church folding chairs situated to the left of the beautifully carved, ornate wooden pews in order to have a better view of the organ, organist and soloist (I was kidding about the opera part, but she's a soprano, and I wanted to take the opportunity to alliterate the words).  Good advice, indeed, although any seat in the church requires you to crane your neck upward at a almost uncomfortable angle.  Nonetheless, the music certainly does not disappoint.  It is fit for a Pope, if he were there.  The music is classical, and from Bach and Mozart, who obviously wrote for the three instruments in use during the concert.  Despite all its production, the Easter Glory service at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California can't even compare.

But again, I'm getting off track.  I'm not making much progress toward this evening's masquerade ball

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, April 12, 2008 at 00:51. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC's Travelogue: Prague, Czech Republic - Day 5, Part Three

This post is the fifth in MIPTC's travel series (part three), which started on April 5, if you're interested in reading from the beginning.  Otherwise, jump in and travel along in this continuing day from part two, above.

Before we get to the masquerade ball, however, we travel to the Secret Society building, which is nothing more than a pale green, non descript building in the middle of the block in the middle of Prague.  It is not open, nor is it labeled or otherwise described.  Without a guidebook, we are dumbstruck, unable to figure out its significance beyond a recommendation from a Czech friend in the US as something we should see.  Thank God for the Internet.

Next, we're off to Powder Gate, which appears to be a large tower with more ornate and now black-with-soot statutes who hold various bright gold swords, crosses, papal crooks and sport radiant halos with stars above their heads, and the gold stands in stark contrast to the black backdrop of the Gate.  Cars and trucks drive two-wide coming and going underneath the Gate, which is more like a freestanding tower, somewhat reminiscent of the short tunnel under the redwood tree in northern California, but certainly not as rural and much more imposing.  Even so, the tree and the Gate are about as tall as one another, to add another perspective.

The underground is a long descent down a dizzyingly steep escalator, steep enough to stop us from walking down it, as we're prone to do in the US.  We notice no one else walks down, either.  Once in the bowels of the system, the signs are all in Czech quite unlike the signs topside.  Immediately it becomes apparent:  Prague is a walking city, and there's no real need for tourists to use the underground.  It's really for the commuters.  Undaunted and wanting to act like a native, we nevertheless plunge ahead.  We're the only one holding a map of the city, betraying us as the non-natives we are. 

The stops are all obviously foreign names and unintelligible to us who do not speak Czech or for that matter know how to get where we want to go.  But after staring at the map and the names of the stops, it slowly dawns on us how to get back to Mala Strana, where we're staying just next to the U.S. Embassy (thankfully, that's the one with the recognizable flag on the map we're holding).  It's the small things that help.

The yellow line boxy red and cream-colored trains speed into the station from the dark of the tube with two shining headlights signaling their arrival.  We hop on the crowded train in the right direction, get out and walk up two flights of stairs to transfer at the Můstek station where the yellow line crosses to a green line silver train toward our destination.  We dutifully listen to the formless woman speak the names of the stops in names we can't pronounce ourselves, but can thankfully understand given our map.  Once we've passed under the ubiquitous Vltava river, it's then off at the correct stop and we're back up a less steep escalator to the sunny world above.

Once out of the netherworld, we realize too late that we've forgotten our errand to exchange some more money to pay our driver this evening.  We walk back across a bridge over the river Vltava to the recommended money changer with the best rates in town, only to walk right past an underground stop next to our destination.  So much for our self-congratulations for "figuring out" the underground.

Oh well.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, April 11, 2008 at 00:49. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC's Travelogue: Prague, Czech Republic - Day 5, Part Four

This post is the fifth in MIPTC's travel series (part four), which started on April 5, if you're interested in reading from the beginning.  Otherwise, jump in and travel along.

Back in the hotel, it's time to get showered and changed for the evening ball at Troja Castle, which we learn later in the evening is actually a hunting lodge for a wealthy Czech back in the Sixteenth century.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  We've brought what we think are suitable for the event renaissance costumes.  Lisa's is a hoop-skirted gown with a bodice and two sets of sleeves, one long and decorative and the other functional, with a solid muted gold and beaded snood and a smart black short, rakishly angled black top hat with a small set of plumage on the left-hand side.  She's got a set of black pantaloons, a black underskirt that laces in the back and a almost wrap-around topskirt of moss green and gold, again beaded with small pearls and beads that exposes fabric matching the rest of her costume.  She's wearing a cream blouse with brown braided stitching under her muted gold bodice, with a long link of golden-brown pearls around her neck and pinned at the top of her bodice to create two falls of pearls.  An ornate feather duster hangs halfway down her skirt, at the ready to demurely hide all but her eyes when necessary.  She's the picture of elegance.

I've got the requisite black leather, knee boots with the top folded over in musketeer style, with small gold jangle chains around the ankles.  I, too, have a cream shirt with frill around the collar and cuffs like you see in the movies, but a bit more understated.  I may be a Lord, but I'm not a Duke or Earl, don't you know.  My doublet is a muted red/bright maroon and gold brocade, with ornately carved gold metal buttons down the front and likewise down the sleeves, from shoulder to wrist.  My pants match and are covered with black leather vertical straps, again in musketeer style.  My black belt holds a fifteenth century replica Scottish sword with a silver sheath and gold basket hilt with red velvet on the inside and a red tassel to boot.  The costume is literally topped off with a flat black fabric cap, which features long colored ostrich and peacock feathers. 

The males in our species are always the more flashy ones, don't you know?

Wanting not to give our costumes away until we reach the castle/chateau/hunting lodge, we duck the hotel wine-tasting on the ground floor where much of our group from the Orange County Bar Association is enjoying an oenological education.  The lift at the back of the hotel takes us down to floor -0 (yes, that's minus zero), which is where the pool and spa is located, and conveniently has a set of stairs at the front of the hotel, keeping our secret intact for the moment.  We jump into an open-air, 80-year old red convertible jitney for the ride to the castle from the hotel.  Our capes keep us warm in the car, and we arrive as planned, just before the four small buses with the rest of our group arrive.

The car gets through the tall, black iron gate of the castle and has the unusual opportunity to drive up through the formal gardens, up to the dual, left/right curved stone stairs and monumental façade.  It's an imposing entrance and it was built by the sixteenth century owner to rival the castles he saw in France at the time.  I believe he succeeded.

Our host and trip organizer Joe Chairez greets us, dressed in his own knight costume and cutting a dashing figure himself.  Since we're early, we get to peek at the ballroom, a castle great room typical only in its size.  The walls and ceiling feature one continuous, larger-than-life mural depicting travelers from around the sixteenth century world as they hunt and go through various stages of life.  It's hard to describe because every surface in the room is painted.  The walls are some four feet thick and feature double windows to keep out the cold.  Fireplaces flank opposite sides of the room with table rounds throughout the room.  It's surely to be a feast, not only for the eyes, but also for the taste buds.  We're to be served an elegant five-course meal, starting with drinks of white and red wine, champagne, sparkling water with lime, apple juice.  Once seated, we had salmon rolled with cream cheese and cucumber beautifully presented on small plates, followed by a clear broth soup with liver pate.  Next came a traditional Czech dish of sirloin beef, dumplings and goulash sauce.  Desert was another typical Czech dish of small pancakes, chocolate and ice cream, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and strawberries.

A fitting end to a wonderfully elegant evening and spectacular trip to Prague.  My only disappointment on the trip was not to have sipped some green Absinthe, which is not available in the US because it contains arsenic and can be deadly.  On the other hand, I'm grateful to still be writing this column and breathing, since someone else on our trip did sample it and apparently had to be revived after passing out.  I guess I'm more grateful than disappointed.

I hope you enjoyed this trip with me.  If you're looking for other travelogues, put either "Scotland, "Wales," or "Australia" in the search box over there on the right (under the ad), and you'll be able to vicariously visit those countries from the comfort of your computer screen. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 00:46. Comments Closed (0) |

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