Category: Humor


Hockney, Phones, and Is It Art?

Payphones DeYoungI was lucky enough to visit friends in the Bay Area and go to the de Young David Hockney exhibit. It is a large exhibit that starts on the bottom floor and moves up to another. In between you pass through a store for the exhibit. Beyond that I saw some other unintentional art. Three pay phones. 50 cents a call. I assume they worked. Didn’t touch. Might have been an installation of quaint technology.


A silly game for those at AALS and the blogger event

Someone thinks they can tell what your politics are based on what you drink:

Consumer data suggests Democrats prefer clear spirits, while Republicans like their brown liquor. Democratic drinkers are more likely to sip Absolut and Grey Goose vodkas, while Republican tipplers are more likely to savor Jim Beam, Canadian Club and Crown Royal. That research comes from consumer data supplied by GFK MRI, and analyzed by Jennifer Dube of National Media Research Planning and Placement, an Alexandria-based Republican consulting firm.

I assume a political consulting firm wants to know this data so that it can target potential voters, especially those likely to vote and vote a certain way.

Then again, I wonder at the biases here. It does not look like the brand scatter relates only to price. So bourbons may be more favored in Republican areas. But San Francisco, that conservative stronghold, has a an excellent run of rum and whiskey focused bars.

Maybe the best idea is to be equal opportunity as a drinker. Start with gin, move to rum, have some wine, close with whiskey or port. Or drink cocktails. In the words of Radar O’Reilly “Uh, sir, if you’re thirsty. Compliments of Colonel Blake. Scotch. Gin. Vodka. And for your convenience all in the same bottle.”

For now, enjoy guessing what your colleague’s drink says about their politics.


Are you ready for the Zombies?

Zombie HammerIt’s New Year’s Eve and I am used to at least some telling me the end of the world is nigh. Be it the Rapture or some other event to end times. My friend Kevin Stampfl is prepared. That is his zombie hammer. I might have to learn how that might fit into mixed martial arts. Ah and there’s another New Year’s resolution. Well, assuming the zombies don’t come right away.


Cruel and Unusual Puns

Alright, fellow professors, do you have any favorite awful jokes that you inflict on your longsuffering students use to liven up lectures?

I definitely have a set of puns and bad jokes that I draw on. For instance, I tend to start my Perpetuities lecture by noting that “perpetuities are so annoying, there ought to be a rule against them.” (Rimshot.)

But my all-time favorite pun is one that I use at the end of the class on insider trading. After setting out the rule, talking about misappropriation, discussing tipper/tippee liability, running through cases and exercises, I finally note to the class,

“This can create some further complicated issues. For instance, if former VP Al Gore gave material non-public information to his former wife — then she would be both Tipper and tippee.”

Pause. Wait for them to catch it. (This takes slightly longer each year, as ten-year-old politicians fade from memory.) And then smile.

Yep. Definitely the best of the cruel and unusual puns.


Santa’s Brand

Quietbook has a mock re-branding Santa guide up. It is a “refresh.” Refresh. The word triggered a flashback to corpspeak where irony goes to die. I scanned the rest of the page. “*Santa* is a Concept, not an idea. It’s an Emotion, not a feeling. It’s both Yesterday and Today. And it’s Tomorrow as well.” Ah yes. They get it. The Santa Brand book is a great example of the way branders operate. I dove into those ideas in my paper From Trademarks to Brands. These folks take you on a similar but funnier journey. Good times and a belated but truly meant Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.


The NSA’s Santa Surveillance Program

I was able to obtain the latest National Security Agency (NSA) memo leaked by Edward Snowden.  I reprint it in full below.





Intelligence reports have indicated an alarming amount of chatter between citizens of the United States and a foreign organization with unknown whereabouts somewhere near the North Pole.  The organization is led by an elderly bearded cleric with the alias, “Santa.”

We have probable cause to believe that this “Santa” organization is providing material support to terrorist cells in the United States.  On numerous occasions, “Santa” has reportedly entered the country illegally by flying across the border in a stealth aircraft.  He delivers contraband to various enemy combatants who request weapons and other military vehicles and aircraft.

For example, the intercepted letter below is from an enemy combatant by the name of “Johnny Smith”:

NSA Santa 01

Another letter, written by enemy combatant “Mikey Brown” – an alias for Michael Brown – indicates a desire for a weapon of mass destruction called “the Death Star.”   Mikey is now being questioned at an unidentified secure location.

Santa has an army of followers who call themselves “elves” and who train in Santa’s camp.  We fear that these elves are highly radicalized.

Based upon a recent dramatic increase in chatter between the Santa organization and enemy combatants in the U.S., we will initiate a new surveillance program caked the “Santa Surveillance Program” (SSP).

We will monitor all communications by all people everywhere.  For minimization standards, we will limit our surveillance to human beings only and not include other life forms.

The SSP will be ongoing until “Santa” is terminated by a drone attack.

Cross-posted at LinkedIn


Perhaps I am not a Public Intellectual (TM) just yet

Apparently, Tuesday was “constitution day,” a day that I don’t remember being taught in elementary school to celebrate, unlike all the other patriotic holidays, but which mostly seems to involve being handed pocket copies of the constitution. And, evidently, yours truly attempting to hamfistedly summarize his personal views on constitutional interpretation for student journalists. The lighter side of Constitution Day:

Student Journalist, 3:24pm:

Dear Professor Gowder,

My name is [XXX] and I am a metro reporter for the Daily Iowan. I am writing an article on Constitution day and was directed to you to get answers to some questions I have. It would be a privilege to hear your perspective on the matter. My deadline is at 5:30 so I would need your answers at no later than 5:00. If it is possible for you to respond to these questions before then, I would deeply appreciate it. I look forward to potentially hearing from you and thank you for your time.
1.) In light of this holiday, how do you think we should be viewing the Constitution now days?

2.) Is it a living document meant to be changed with the times or a historical document that should be left alone?

3.) How does that apply to current debates over issues such as the second amendment and the 14th amendment?

4.) What other current debates do you think involve the constitution that need to be addressed in a certain way?

5.) Why is it important to read/recognize/celebrate our constitution today



Daily Iowan Metro Reporter

Yr. Correspondent, 3:59pm, thinking he’s saying something useful:

Dear [XXX],

Those are some very complicated and involved questions! All of them are subjects of hot debate among legal scholars, judges, politicians, philosophers, and many others.

So I’ll just tell you what I think.

The root of the word “constitution” is “constitute”: to make a constitution is to constitute a bunch of people as a political community. We have to understand our constitution in that light: it’s an expression of what it means to be us, our shared commitment as a people. Accordingly, the constitution we have expresses that commitment in many of its most important provisions in the form of moral ideals: “equal protection of the laws,” “cruel and unusual punishments,” “due process of law,” “freedom of speech,” “unreasonable searches.” In order for the constitution to continue to express our collective moral identity, today, we have to interpret those terms as we understand them, in accordance with the evolving ideals to which we’re committed. That might not be the same as how James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson understood it. And that’s ok.

If you want to say that means the constitution is a “living document,” sure, fine, I can live with that, but to say that it’s a living constitution doesn’t mean we have to “change it with the times.” It’s still the same constitution; we’re still “leaving it alone”; but the meaning of the words in the constitution draws on social realities that are potentially different at every moment of interpretation. It’s still the same constitution, the ideals—no cruel punishments, for example—that it expresses are still the same ideals, but the meaning of what a cruel punishment is changes when we, the people, do. That’s just how collective practices of social value-making work. And that’s a good thing, too, because it means that our fundamental law continues to be ours, that we can continue to be actively committed to it, to demand that our government follow it, and hence to collectively protect the basic rights that we all cherish.


[shockingly, silence, and not quoting the undersigned’s rambling academic-ese.]

Perhaps one day I’ll get to be a Public Intellectual.


Scene from the AALS New Law Teacher’s Conference

Thanks to everyone at AALS for an enlightening and inspiring conference. This year’s version was held at the Mayflower Hotel. Yes, that Mayflower Hotel. Which makes the following sign rather curious:


Given the Spitzer tie, this might be a delicious coincidence. Or else someone has a subversive sense of humor. (I miss living in D.C., the best place I have ever lived for nerd humor like this!)

Responses from conference attendees were divided, so I’ll throw it open to the CoOp readership. Is this sign (intentionally) a joke?



LSA Retro-Recap Day 0: Introducing VOSFOTWOAS

Greetings from (a plane on the way home from) Boston! In the past I really enjoyed Dave’s recap of CELS. I thought I’d carry things on with this retro diary (h/t Bill Simmons) of the Law and Society Association meeting.

Before getting to the presentations, here’s a post with some general thoughts on LSA. Like many of the most enjoyable things in life, this conference is a beautiful mess. Fully developed research programs are mashed together with provocative conjectures. Paradigm-shifting ideas comingle with stuff that would get a “good effort” if presented as an undergraduate term paper. How can you determine the formers from the latters? Read More


Daily Routine: Then and Now

Intellectuals used to refine ideas in relative solitude before releasing them to the world.  Modern technology has led the incubation of ideas to occur publicly, dynamically and in real-time. Is that entirely good or are some ideas better developed in private?  Brief reflection on the daily routine offers a window onto the transformation.

A typical Wednesday during the academic year in 2003 for a professor might have begun by reading the printed newspaper delivered to the front door, evaluating stories of interest to one’s class, followed by a trip to the office, a review of a binder of teaching notes, and the live interactive dialogue with students assembled in person.  After lunch, reading of printed journal articles and bound books would stimulate  production of such output, as well as op-eds, essays, chapters and treatises.

Today, the typical day begins by checking (1) email, including Google alerts, (2) Twitter, (3) Facebook, (4) Linked In,  (5) this blog (Concurring Opinions), (6) several bookmarked blogs, (7) blawg search, (8) SSRN and Scholarly Commons, (9) reddit, and (10) the web sites of one or more news organizations.  Then professors email students, create and update PowerPoint slides on course web pages or MOOC sites, type Tweets, update Facebook, draft responsive blog posts and download papers to lap tops and books to e-readers.

Eventually, the scholar will still turn ideas generated during a semester’s worth of such daily routines into the old fashioned products, such as books and articles.   But the route differs considerably.  In the old days, study would be relatively private, with ideas developed reflectively in one’s school, tested against a careful review of a vetted literature, surfaced in substantially mature form via classroom lecture, faculty workshop and conference presentations, refined, submitted, reviewed, edited and published.  More speculative ideas might appear, if at all, in footnotes classified as such.

Today, much of the incubating process occurs in real time and in public, with inchoate ideas floated on Twitter and Facebook and then perhaps in blog posts and comments before being turned into op-eds, essays, chapters, articles, books and the rest. It is exciting and interactive and creates a sense of communities engaged in broad pursuit of knowledge.  Yet reading some of the unrefined stuff out there raises the question, to paraphrase what Moses Hadas said of a certain book, whether modern technology fills a much-needed gap.  Just an idea.