You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 13, 2005

sticks and tomes

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:11 pm

It’s taken me two weeks to pick up The Stick tossed to me by weblog friend George M. Wallace, from his Fool in the Forest perch. It’s the 7-question quiz about reading habits that has been orbiting the blogosphere over the past few months. Just as I hate answering True/False questions without being allowed to drop footnotes, I can’t imagine answering questions about my reading habits by naming only one book at a time. Back when I was practicing law (and only reading about one book a year), a snapshot in time might have been illuminating, but I think a time-elapsed photo is needed to do this subject justice.

an open book
on the porch swing
first fireflies

…………….. by Billie Wilson from A New Resonance 3; Hawaii Haiku Contest 2002 

Be forewarned: I am not going to alter my responses to appear higher-brow than I am in real life. Don’t be shocked — open yourself to the possibilities.

zoo peacocks in full array — the shirtless

fat man reads Shakespeare


…………………………………… by dagosan [May 13, 2005]

The Stick

1. You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?

One Hundred Years of Solitude — by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s the first novel that I ever wanted to read twice (and then actually did). It brings a sense of humor, magic and irony to a deeply tragic world. It reminds us of the importance (and slipperiness) of memory.


2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? I hate to sound

ancient, but I really can’t remember whether I had “crushes” on characters in

books as an adolescent or young man — for one thing, there weren’t a lot of heroines featured in my reading list. (Does lust count?) My first crush on a movie actress playing a character from a novel was Julie Christie in Fahrenheit 451 (1966, when I was 16). That might have created the groundwork for a related crush-fantasy when I read the book shortly thereafter.  


If a woman in a novel were a cross between medical examiner Kaye Scarpetta, M.D. (from Patricia Cornwell), bounty hunter Stephanie Plum (from Janet Evanovich) and U.S. Park Ranger Anna Pigeon (from Nevada Barr), I almost certainly would develop a crush. 

click here for photo-poem

reading in bed
my pulse flickering
the lightly held bookmark

Michael Dylan Welch from Open Window

3. The last book you bought was…


– fiction: Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone [after enjoying I Know This Much is True] Snobs out there: Please don’t hate Lamb just because Oprah likes him. Ms. Winfrey makes some excellent book choices.


– non-fiction: Betrayed Profession by Sol Linowitz [food for the lawyer’s soul, and a good source for f/k/a sermons]


– haiku: Some of the Silence (Red Moon,1999) by John Stevenson [a gem with some sharp edges]

4. The last book you read was…?


— just finished: Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith [still great, after 25 years]

— A Fatal Glass of Beer by Stuart M. Kaminsky (audio) – a mystery featuring W.C. Fields; flawless narration by George Guidall (it’s got me “doing” Fields a lot lately)

— reading now: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by [wunderkind] Jonathan Safran Foer. 9-year-old Oscar Schell is unforgettable.

—  Legal Reason: The Use of Analogy in Legal Argument, by LLoyd L. Weinreb (2004). A few pages at bedtime and . . .


fishing pole


first day of spring

all the fly-fishing books

out of the library

MATT MORDEN A New Resonance 2 (Red Moon Press 2001)

6. Five books you would take to a desert island… After figuring out how to stay alive, I may be doing a lot more napping and daydreaming than reading on that desert island — and the five-book limit better not preclude large notebooks for writing haiku.  That said, I hope to findthe following volumes in my island den: 

Wilderness Survival — by Gregory J. Davenport. Forget Robinson Crusoe, I need non-fiction and lots of detailed advice (where the skills and energy will come from is another story).

Prayers from the Ark by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold, translated by Rumer Godden. My first lesson in how much could be said (and unsaid) with just a few words.


The Painted Bird (1965) by Jerzy Kosinski. An important book in my life as a reader. The young protagonist’s struggle for survival in a brutish world is a call to conscience and a reminder of man’s capacity for evil. It is also a testament to the power of lean verbiage. [I’ve even got the Large Print edition, in case I lose my glasses.]

Plainsong (1999)– by Kent Haruf. With a very different kind of plain prose, Haruf shows how open minds and hearts can make “community” a reality among disparate folk, despite a world of problems. The compassion of the characters engulfs the reader.


The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Ed., 2000 — or then-current edition). There’s is so much information in the 2000 pages, presented in such interesting and useful ways (and with great illustrations), that it’s a treat for any lover of the English language.

Yikes, I can’t count! Of course, I must take a volume of English-language haiku.

If I have to choose one, it would be

The Haiku Anthology (2000) by Cor Van Den Heuvel. It has 800 haiku from the best haijin of the past half century. If I could sneak one more book, it would be Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright [author of Native Son], who discovered the wonder of haiku while living in Europe, and whose family published 817 of the poems years after his death.

new paperback

the sun sets

without me

david giacalone from The Heron’s Nest (March 2005)

7. Who are you passing this stick on to and why? I want to pass this Stick to my twin brother, Arthur, whose professional, community and family obligations have robbed him of the joys of pleasure-reading for far too long (as they once did me).

Since the Carrot hasn’t worked to get him to change his habits and find time for himself, I’m hoping the Stick will convince him that he needs to rediscover his inner avid-reader. (This might interfere with my campaign to have Arthur start a weblog.) I’m also passing the Stick on to the RiskProf, Martin F. Grace, because (1) I just love making work for our tenured friends, and (2) I’m curious to know how a law professor uses all that free time (and what his favorite children’s books might be)

update (May 14, 2005): It appears that a proper Stick should end with three Stickees, so I’m hoping the mysterious sarni at Infernality weblog, our shivering (from the cold, certainly not from fear) law student in Australia, will give others a glimpse into her curious and unique brain, which she has shared with me through email the past few seasons.  What does she read when she is procrastinating? 

  • Martin Grace posted his responsive Stick here.
  • Sarni did her Stick here.

Thanks, George, for getting me to contemplate questions that require a bit of self-awareness. I plan to be much more open to having crushes on heroine-protagonists.


p.s. You can find Evan Shaeffer’s Stick here. Speaking of Evan’s shtick, do you suppose he heard the fancy-schmancy beer segment on All Things Considered this afternoon? I’m not a beer fan, and not even the $100 per-bottle selection, with its sherry-like taste, nor the Black Chocolate brew (at $25 a bottle), tempt me. My ears pricked up, however, when “beer expert” Michael Jackson (this ain’t near-beer, so he’s not the Michael Jackson) asserted that many beers are priced too low. Don’t get me started. NPR is starting to annoy me.  

mouse reading gray

a Google blind date

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 2:37 pm

Ernie “the Attorney” Svenson is right: Google really likes weblogs (as do Yahoo!, Ask

Jeeves and other major search engines). For lots of reasons, the affection is mutual. Search

engines help turn our modest troves of information into a giant treasury of knowledge (or, at

least, content), that is easily accessed by anyone with a browser. And, more to the point,

Google et al. help those searchers find us — even if they weren’t looking for us. With the

help of our worldwide Yahoo Yentas, there are millions of blind dates in the blogosphere,

some of which turn into permanent relationships.

using his nose
the dog searches
the violets

Click to Search haiku from Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

ekg If you visit here regularly — or check out my Inadvertent Searchee page — you know

that I’m amazed (and often amused and bemused) by how often this little website appears at

or near the top of search query results. I had never conceived of this very real potential to

reach such a broad audience — far beyond regular visitors — when I began putting together

ethicalEsq in May 2003, nor even a year ago, when f/k/a was born and haiku became a

full partner with punditry. This opportunity for my ideas to reach individuals interested in

topics that are important to me happens in 3 major categories, as demonstrated over the

past month:

(1) Significant issues in client-rights advocacy that are rarely discussed elsewhere

from a similar perspective:

lawyers +”value pricing”> The first two results out of 18,100 in this Google Search

standard contingency fee> #1 & #2 results out of over One Million in this Google Search was our April 1, 2005 tour de force.

“lawyer’s” “Fiduciary responsibility”> #1 and 2 of 608 in a Google

Search that found the lawyer’s fiduciary obligations to disclose.

lawyers day> #1 of 35.5 million results in a Yahoo search, because we

wrote Law Day, Not Lawyers’ Day

(2) “Haiku Advocacy:”

haiku +primer> #1 & #2 out of 45,000 Google results — for jim

kacian’s how-to primer and dagosan’s intro to haiku; and #2 for

haiku +glossary> out of 40,100 Google results..

Also, these recent Google rankings: #3 for haiku +”harvest moon”>;

#3 for buddha”>; #1 for haiku +lawyers>; and #1 for haiku

writings about baseball>

and (3) Silliness, total inadvertence, or pet peeves:

curmudgeons> f/k/a is #1 in this Yahoo! search, out of 91,000 results,

for this post. And, the #1 Yahoo! result for self-aggrandize> (see here)

einstein plaids and stripes> #2 for this post.

acronymically> #1 and 2 out of 668 in Google Search from New Zealand

because we mused over the acronymically challenged

meaning of word blog> #2 of 6 million+ in a Google Search, thanks to our lament on that ugly little word.


connection between cherries and stomache ache> Someone Asked Jeeeves,

and the #1 result was our discussion of the cherry-cordial-liquor defense.



kelly clarkson swimsuit pictures> #5 in this Yahoo! Search, with an assist

from some comment spam.


farting contest> #2 out of 7,050 in a Google search — Master Issa’s haiku

put us in this batch of results.

sleuthSm So, Google likes our bodies (of work), but will it respect us in the morning? Google 

and the others are often said to be working on new algorithms that may push weblogs

(other than the super-sites) out of the top rankings, by giving more weight to links

from websites that have more traffic or are somehow more “creditable”. Although

such experiments may be taking place, I agree with Jerry Lawson that weblogs add

too much value to Google’s service for it to greatly change algorithms to disadvantage


Indeed, if the evolving algorithms make search results more content-community-oriented

(as with Ask Jeeves), weblogs that have truly useful expertise and information may find

themselves more successful in search engine results (and not bunched among irrelevant

materials). Of course, that probably means there will be fewer off-the-wall Inadvertent

Search referrals, but this weblog will do its best to provide your monthly quota of oddities.

in the thicket
the old deer calls
for honor’s sake

by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

That said, will we respect ourselves in the morning? This morning, about 40% of my referrals

(and three of the top five sources) were for queries such as jennifer lopez sex shots>

and preteen models>. I’d like to think the querists in question might be interested,

entertained or edified by what they accidentally found here, but I’m not holding my breath.

ekg f Seriously, though, I continue to wonder why weblog boosters continue to exaggerate

the prominence of weblogs in the life of America and in the marketing of law firms. (e.g., here)

LawSites recently trumpeted the latest Pew Internet Project survey results (May 2, 2005), saying:

“That means that one out of every 20 people in the U.S. — 11 million

Americans, the survey estimates — has a blog, and one out of six —

32 million Americans — reads blogs.”

Unless weblog longevity and follow-through is a lot different than it was when the Perseus

White Paper, the Blogging Iceberg, was released in Oct. 2003, the figure of eleven million

weblogs is fairly underwhelming. We summarized the White Paper at the bottom of this post.

Perseus found 66% of weblogs were permanently or temporarily abandoned, with one-quarter

of them being literally “one-day wonders,” and only 2.5% updated weekly. Similarly,

the Jan. 2005 Study from Pew notes that:

“Previous work of ours . . . suggests that bloggers can be quite casual

about their online postings, regularly updating material on their blog less

frequently than once a week.”

We should be even more skeptical of the significance of the claim “one out of six adult

Americans reads weblogs.” First, you have to be an “internet user” to be part of the Pew

study, but the threshold for “use” is very low — to wit, “any type of internet use” in any


diner dude gray More important, the survey respondents were asked “Do you ever use the internet to… 

Read someone else’s web log or blog?” Thus, the 16% of respondents who comprise the

“one in six” are those who have ever read a weblog. Moreover, the Pew survey cannot tell

us whether the “blog reader” intentionally went to a weblog (or, for example, got there

through a Google search), nor how much reading was or is done. [Emphases added. Survey

information provided with alacrity by Pew research specialist, Mary Madden.] This should

give weblog cheerleaders reason to pause before touting the Pew numbers (and that’s before

we even ask how many of the adult “readers” — the plurality of which are in the decade under

30 years oldare the least bit interested in legal services or law). We shouldn’t abandon our

skills of objective analysis, cross-examination and issue-spotting merely because we have a

psychological or financial stake in the importance of weblogs and have decided to be weblog


Finally, has recently published Bob Ambrogi‘s article from Legal Tech (May 5, 2005)

called “Blogging and the Bottom Line: Why blogging and syndication are the hottest tools in

legal marketing.” Bob writes:

“At a time when talk of online marketing invariably turns to the pseudo-science

of search-engine optimization, many law firms are missing an often more sure-fire

route to the top of the search-engine heap — blogging.” Plus,

“And higher search ranking is just one of the marketing advantages blogging offers

lawyers — all for little or no cost and with virtually no technical knowledge required.”

Although Bob’s example of Fred the Trademark Lawyer may not be a fair representation of the

likely results from starting a weblog, I certainly agree (1) that even a modestly successful weblog

can get you to the top of search engine results, and (2) a weblog can help to make a lawyer better-

known (at least among the weblog community). However, I’ve yet to see actual studies about legal

how weblogs are affecting the “bottom line” of law firms Also, this “no cost” marketing vehicle, as

Bob reminds us, involves a great deal of time and sweat (and needs quality content), if it is to have

a reasonable chance of succeeding.

in fallen leaves

the crow who respects

his parents

by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue 

Dear Reader, I hope this date didn’t lead us down a blind alley. There is no doubt that weblogs

and search engines can be a match made in heaven — we don’t have to inflate the important of

weblogs to make that statement. The results for this website make it easy for me to answer the

question recently posed at Between Lawyers: Yes, I expect — if still able to sit upright — to be

writing a weblog five years from now. We might not call it a weblog (don’t get me started), but it

will be an online source of information and commentary of interest and importance to me. Thanks

to Google and other major search engines, I am pretty sure my easy-to-use website will be easy-to-find,

often by folks who have never heard of me, and who have no idea what real haiku and real

lawyer ethics are. So, you’re stuck with me — even if the date is a short one, and there’s no kiss

at the door.

Powered by WordPress