Category: Weird


Professor for sale


Teaching salaries these days are so bad, it seems like you have to sell the shirt off your back just to make ends meet. Or perhaps rent the shirt off your back. And where would you do this? On eBay — where else?

French professor Corry Cropper at BYU is doing just that. From Cropper’s eBay ad:

Want to get your message to the coveted 18-25 year old market? Coaches aren’t the only ones with a marketable presence on campus. I am a well-liked professor at a major university in Provo, Utah and have been here for nearly 10 years.

This semester I am teaching two courses of French literature that meet two days a week. I have a total of 46 students but am seen by many more during the day as I walk between classes and around campus. If you win the auction, I will wear your T-shirt with logo to campus on the days I teach (during class, office hours, lunch, etc.).

If you win the auction, it is your responsibility to mail me the T-shirt in time for classes Feb. 21 & 23, 2006. I cannot wear anything that is offensive in any way and cannot advertise for alcohol or cigarette companies. I reserve the right to refuse to wear the shirt if it is inappropriate but will not charge you if I don’t wear it. If you have questions about the appropriateness of the T-shirt, please email me before bidding.

Wow – it’s that easy, and a cool $40 is in the bank. (I smell a new revenue stream for law professors everywhere!) However, I have to wonder how this development will be viewed by feminist scholars, race scholars, or property-and-personhood scholars like Margaret Radin. It’s all fun and games when you’re auctioning off the right to put a logo on a white male, but the dynamic differs drastically when we begin discussing women or members of racial minorities. For majority-group members, deliberately chosing to blur the line between personhood and property may be viewed as a fun and harmless diversion. For historically disadvantaged groups, however, the stakes are very different. The line between personhood and property is a hard-won right for many groups — members of such groups may have been treated as chattel property in the relatively recent past. This history means that any step towards reconceptualizing these people (again) as property could have negative effects in both perception and reality. (Thus, the classic bachelor auction is easy; the newer bachelorette auction is fraught with tricky fault lines.)

For that reason — uncertainty of effects on historically disadvantaged groups — I think that the sale of professors’ sartorial space (on eBay or elsewhere) is probably a bad idea.


Branding Eggs


Eggs. Delicious, but hard to tell apart.

That was the problem confronting “The Country Hen Eggs,” of Hubbardston, MA. What did they do? First, they made some claims about the “kosherness” of eggs that turned out to contain very little information. But even better (as I discovered this morning when I opened a new pack), they “are the first organic egg with a selenium content claim on [sic] the carton.”

What does that mean? Well, inside of the cardboard box was a little insert, which talked to me about the anti-cancer properties of selenium. The insert continued to say that their eggs contain some amounts of the mineral (they don’t make a comparative claim), but disclaimed any attempt to make a “medical claim.” (Which makes almost no sense.)

In any event, why is this worth blogging about? Because I’m pretty interested in their attempt to build brand loyalty – after purchase – through product claims that are not differentiating. It’s as though they are saying: “Buy our eggs. Just like other eggs. But we’ll boast a little.”

A number of questions come to mind. Primarily, should inside-the-box claims be regulated as advertising (by the FTC and through Lanham Act suits) as a food label (by the FDA and product liability suits) as a warranty (under the UCC) or not at all (the market will clear). What if the claim inside the box were to (falsely) say: “Our eggs are 25% bigger than the average competitor’s egg.” Since it is inside-the-box, should we be less worried about the consumption distorting effect of the claim, or more worried on the brand-building side? These seem like tough questions.

I should say that notwithstanding the selenium claim, it was a tasty omelet.


On Admitting Mistakes

This story is bizarre, but the predictable combination of arrogance and an official attitude that correcting errors leads to unacceptable disrespect. Apparently a basketball coach collapsed due to a heart condition during a game. A referee thought he was reacting to a foul called against his team and assessed a technical foul. Even as the coach was removed from the court by medical personnel, however, the referees refused to rescind the call. Thanks to the Sports Law Blog for the tip.

I’ve made some blunders in officiating, and I much prefer it if my partner(s) can help me correct an error than forcing me to defend a mistake to a coach. Nevertheless, I can sympathize with the referees here — not because I think their actions were reasonable. Quite the contrary — the actions were unreasonable and they deserve punishment. But some officiating clinics teach that the general practice is to admit mistakes but not go back on a call that is made. (I have no knowledge about basketball clinics or Conference USA policy on this matter, though.) One instructor at a hockey clinic, for example, told me and the rest of the students of an occasion where he prematurely signaled a delayed tripping penalty . . . and the fouled player never went down, meaning that the penalty did not in fact occur. He called the penalty anyway, and apologized as he was doing it. In his mind there was nothing else he could do. The possibility that he would reverse the call was out of the question.

I do not understand the rationale for that sort of approach. In discussing stare decisis in class, we constantly ask whether it is better for courts to leave decided cases undisturbed or for them to correct past errors. But isn’t the worst approach of all — in judging and in officiating — to admit error and say “too bad”? Most sports, I think, are coming around to the notion that it is better to get the call right than to pretend that the officials always got it right the first time. So we see more conferences in baseball and football, it seems, than there used to be. Perhaps without instant replay sports officials would feel less pressure to confer and get calls right.


Ads You Can’t Escape


I received my monthly subway pass over the weekend, which SEPTA refers to as my “Transpass.” It looks something like the image on this post, except that the January pass is embossed, for the first time, with an advertisement for a local latino newsweekly. The back of the card contains more information about the weekly, along with (now) very fine print about the terms and conditions of subway riding.

I know this is just the sort of thing that rational people ignore. But it drives me a little crazy. I’d prefer to avoid as much persuasive messaging as I can, and I very much dislike new advertising on previously uncluttered surfaces. I don’t want my fruit tattooed with ads; and I think I ought to be able to get onto the subway without paying the mental tax of ignoring an ad.

I just came back from NY, whose metrocards are blessfully free of advertising. So I was wondering: are other transit agencies also trying to turn their tickets into a profit center?


If Oedipus Tried Online Dating…


UPDATE: It appears that this story might indeed be dubious. It comes from a tabloid, Weekly World News. I thought it might be credible because it was coming from Yahoo! News, but now I don’t think the story is credible — or Yahoo! News for that matter.

This Yahoo! News story is so weird that it’s hard to believe, but it is quite amusing:

Skirt-chasing playboy Daniel Anceneaux spent weeks talking with a sensual woman on the Internet before arranging a romantic rendezvous at a remote beach — and discovering that his on-line sweetie of six months was his own mother!

“I walked out on that dark beach thinking I was going to hook up with the girl of my dreams,” the rattled bachelor later admitted. “And there she was, wearing white shorts and a pink tank top, just like she’d said she would.

“But when I got close, she turned around — and we both got the shock of our lives. I mean, I didn’t know what to say. All I could think was, ‘Oh my God! it’s Mama!’ ”

But the worst was yet to come. Just as the mortified mother and son realized the error of their ways, a patrolman passed by and cited them for visiting a restricted beach after dark.

“Danny and I were so flustered, we blurted out the whole story to the cop,” recalled matronly mom Nicole, 52. “The policeman wrote a report, a local TV station got hold of it — and the next thing we knew, our picture and our story was all over the 6 o’clock news. “People started pointing and laughing at us on the street — and they haven’t stopped laughing since.”

But there’s more. Consider this:

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The Jurisprudence of Courthouses

sct1.jpgI have a theory about English and American courthouse architecture, which is interesting but probably wrong. I start out by noting that the most prestigious courthouse in the United States — the U.S. Supreme Court building — is a quintessential example of classical architecture, self-consciously modeled on the buildings of ancient Rome. The classical model, of course, has been hugely influential in American civic architecture. In contrast, the most prestigious courthouse in the United Kingdom — the Royal Courts of Justice in London — is a sterling example of neo-gothic architectures, self-consciously modeled on the buildings of the Middle Ages. The neo-gothic model, of course, has been very important for English civic architecture, most notably perhaps in the Houses of Parliament. Why did Americans go for Rome and Englishmen for the medieval?

royalcourts.jpgThere are lots of possible answers: America is a republic, and hence Republican Rome is a natural source of inspiration, while England is a monarchy whose legitimacy rests of long-established practice. The French Revolution is another possibility. Having spent twenty or so years fighting first Revolutionary France and then Bonaparte, nineteenth-century Englishmen were disposed to think of neo-classicism as a precursor to chaos, war, and tyranny. Revolutionary iconoclasts smashed the sculpture of St. Denise, self-consciously desecrating the medieval symbolism of the French state. The English responded by valorizing their medieval roots. Hence the Royal Courts of Justice. Let me suggest, however, that there is also a jurisprudential angle.

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There’s Gold In Them Pixels

A picture is worth a thousand words. But pixels might be worth a million bucks. From the Wall St. Journal (free content):

It was just a few months ago that 21-year-old Alex Tew of Great Britain was stumped about how to pay for college. He’d filled a notebook with ideas before jotting down this simple, if rather audacious, query to himself: How Can I Become a Millionaire? . . .

Instead of selling banner ads, text links or splashy videolike ads that fill a screen, Mr. Tew opted to hawk the simplest graphical denominator of a computer screen: the pixel. A pixel is a tiny dot of light and color, and each screen has tens of thousands of them.

Mr. Tew created a home page,, where he divided the screen into 10,000 small squares of 100 pixels each. His plan: to sell the pixels for $1 a piece, with a minimum order of 100 pixels. In each space, buyers could put a graphical ad of their choosing that links to their own site when clicked on. The end result is a cluttered collage of ads in various shapes and colors all amassed on a single digital billboard. (Mr. Tew doesn’t charge his advertisers anything when a visitor clicks on the ads.)

Here’s what his website,, looks like:


Tew aimed to keep up his site until he reached a million bucks. You’d think it wouldn’t work. But it has been working:

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No bull

You may want to call your attorney all sorts of names. But whatever you do, don’t call him a pit bull. That kind of characterization would “demean all lawyers and thereby harm both the legal profession and the public’s trust and confidence in our system of justice.” Thus writes the Florida Supreme Court.

Now had Harriet Miers been confirmed as a Justice, surely she would have intervened and set those Floridians straight. She is, after all, a “pit bull in size six shoes” herself. So said her hero and boss, George W. Bush.

Who, come to think of it, owes his job to the Florida Supreme Court.

Which just said that you can’t refer to lawyers as pit bulls.