January 11, 2006

Why the Pierce Brosnan "James Bond" movies are better than the Sean Connery ones

AMC has been running a super-marathon of James Bond movies recently, as many as five or six in a row.  It's even included "Never Say Never Again," the 1982 remake of "Thunderball" starring an aging Sean Connery and running opposite Roger Moore's "For Your Eyes Only."  (The story behind "Never Say Never Again" is actually an interesting legal one that had repercussions into the early 2000s, and one that I had a very marginal connection to from my time at Munger Tolles; I'll blog about it at some point.)

Anyway, "Goldfinger" was on the other night, and I was sort of excited to rewatch it, as I've always considered it to be the best "pure" Bond movie.  It had the souped up Aston Martin, it had the strong femme fatale who ends up helping Bond, and it had the freakish henchman to the head bad guy -- Oddjob, the guy who threw the razor-brimmed hat with deadly accuracy.

And I was soooo disappointed.  I'll cut the movie some slack for less than impressive production values, since it's over 40 years old at this point.

But the scheme was ludricrous: do you really think you could fly a bunch of planes directly over Fort Knox without being intercepted or shot down?  and do you really think that you could disperse knock-out gas from a small plane at an altitude of about 100 feet and have it taken instant effect on people on the ground?

And the movie was largely misogynistic, from the absurd names for the women (Pussy Galore?!?), a trend only compounded by subsequent movies such as "You Only Live Twice," in which a Japanese male agent gets Bond's approval over the fact that in Japan, men come first, women second -- delivered while both men are getting bathed by three women each.

Going back to "Goldfinger," the height of utter lameness was near the end, when Bond is in the plane with his nemesis, Auric Goldfinger.  Goldfinger shoots a gun in a plane cabin, and the plane depressurizes.  And then Goldfinger gets sucked into the hole and a moment later, pops out the hole to plummet to his death.  Hey, I realize there's a degree of fantasy in the whole series, but is this even remotely plausible?!?  The gunshot blows a person-sized hole?  Actually, it's a little smaller than Goldfinger; somehow there's enough suction to squeeze him through.  Yet, that amount of force isn't enough to dislodge Bond from his feet. . . .

I'm sorry, but the Brosnan movies have more realistic (?) stories, and they aren't nearly so Neanderthal in their views of women.  With one exception ("The World is Not Enough"), they just hold my interest more than the earlier movies.

Posted by Tung Yin on January 11, 2006 at 04:42 PM in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

January 07, 2006

The 3d year law firm exodus

Here's an unsurprising but still interesting article from the WSJ on the serious attrition of associates in the third year at big law firms.  I thought this point, which I'd generally heard before, was the most striking:

[T]he average big law firm doesn't start recouping its cash flow investment in an associate until about midway through an associate's fourth year, around the time most start acquiring the skill and confidence to run their own cases and deals.

The article defines "big law firm" as having 500 or more lawyers, so Munger Tolles wouldn't count, but I think apart from size, it's a comparable kind of firm.  And how long did I work there?  Forty-two months, or exactly midway through my fourth year.  Hey, I guess they broke even on me!

Posted by Tung Yin on January 7, 2006 at 07:48 PM in Law (General) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 06, 2006

It's a good day to watch TV. . . .

Tonight is the beginning of Part 2 of season 2 of SciFi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" -- for non-regular readers, this is not the cheesy (but lovable) 1970s version with Lorne Greene dressed in a Holiday Inn quilt; it's a gritty, realistic, intense "re-imagining" based on the original concept, but executed about 10,000 times better.

When we left off the series [SPOILERS], the Galactica had encountered the Pegasus, a newer battlestar commanded by a superior officer, the unhinged Admiral Cain, whose crew enjoyed torturing and raping a Cylon prisoner for kicks.  She may have summarily executed her previous executive officer for disobeying an order, and she was about to execute two Galactica crew members (Helo and Chief Tyrol) who had stopped her Cylon interrogation officer from raping "Sharon Valerii" (also a Cylon prisoner), accidentally killing him in the process.

Galactica and Pegasus were about to do the Cylon's work for them. . . .  Adama had launched a Raptor loaded with Marines and some Viper escorts to retrieve Helo and Tyrol.  Cain countered by launching dozens of her own Vipers to intercept Adama's planes.

Will the humans start attacking one another?  Will Cain survive?  Will I be able to hold off until next week because this is just part 1 of a two-part episode?

Posted by Tung Yin on January 6, 2006 at 03:49 PM in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

January 05, 2006

Are lawyers "whores"?

Prof. Balkin argues that they (we?) are, with special emphasis on government lawyers who put forth arguments justifying the government's right to "water-board" suspected terrorists.  He concludes:

I don't think it's at all surprising that we can find lawyers today who will defend the legality of torture or the President's plenary power to spy on American citizens-- or, to take Marty's point, who will argue that all things considered it's a close legal case. I don't think it's surprising because there are people in the larger political culture who will happily argue for these practices on the merits. What I am counting on is that, at the end of the day, the American public will recoil from both practices, and that is why, at the end of the day, the legal arguments made by opponents of torture and unauthorized domestic surveillance will prevail. Lest I be misunderstood, I do not mean to say that law and legal doctrine counts for nothing, and that lawyers have no independent role to play other than as political cheerleaders for one side or the other. Rather I mean to say that the law always needs help from other sources in political culture if it is to do its job appropriately. The rule of law, I would insist, is not a purely legal or professional ideal-- it is a political ideal that demands that power be checked, circumscribed and made accountable in fair and publicly knowable ways.

Meanwhile, Mike at Crime & Federalism (from whom I learned of the Balkin post) unloads on Balkin:

And you'll also note that just to the right of the post where Balkin calls lawyers who disagree with him whores, is a link to his book supporting Roe v. Wade.  Apparently, making arguments (1)-(3) makes one a whore, where as writing a book that defends the slaughter of millions of unborn babies makes one a law professor. 

What's that?  You mean that abortion is not murder? You mean that there are strong arguments that a fetus is not a living being, and even if a fetus is "alive," the mother's right to autonomy trumps all?

Like Balkin, I don't care what your counter-arguments are.  I don't have to oppose them.  Instead, I'll just start calling you whores.

Hey, if this rhetorical strategy is good enough for a Yale law professor, it should be good enough for me.  Thanks for giving us all a shining example of "our legal and political culture," Professor Balkin.

On balance, I think Mike has the better of the argument.  Given his interest in criminal defense work, I'm surprised Mike didn't rely on the example of the criminal defense attorney, many of whom would easily fall within Prof. Balkin's "whore" definition.  Furthermore, relying on external forces such as political culture to check legal arguments seems to me most likely to lead to a weakening of such matters as Fourth Amendment rights.

The notion that every person deserves a defense (see, e.g., Gideon v. Wainwright) implies the desirability of the lawyer's making arguments with only an eye toward the client's interest, leaving it to the court and jury to determine which advocate has presented the better case.  The public may well recoil from that practice -- at least, until an individual member of the public finds himself or herself on trial or sued in a civil matter.

To call that prostitution of a sort seems to me to do a disservice to the profession.

Posted by Tung Yin on January 5, 2006 at 03:38 PM in Law (General), Law (National Security), Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Novel preferences

Apart from working on papers, I read a lot of novels during the winter break.  I've blogged before about my favorite book genres (near future sci-fi, Cold War era thrillers, hard-boiled mysteries), and I got to thinking about my preferred mode of storytelling -- i.e., first person narration versus third person narration.

Personally, I like first person narratives.  The way we experience the world is personal, and we have no way of knowing another person's innermost thoughts.  A book written in first person narrative therefore provides a more realistically intimate experience.

I also like how in a first person narrative, the reader is limited to the information the narrator has.  In some ways, this can cut down on suspense, because often suspense is generated when we know something that a main character does not know.  On the other hand, done well, the first person narrative allows the reader to test his or her wits against the narrator's, which may be why first person narrative is especially popular among mystery writers.

I suppose one of the reasons I don't like the third person narrative as much is that authors who use it often get sloppy.  Technically speaking, there are at least two different ways of using the third person, or so I was taught in creative writing long ago.  (Believe it or not, Caltech actually offered a creative writing course. . . .)  The third person narrator can be either omniscent or merely an observer, reporting much like a journalist.  Personally, I find the latter least interesting, as I like to see what characters are thinking about.  The omniscent mode allows that.  But it also allows writers to get sloppy, jumping from one character to another and back in mid-scene.  I find passages like that to be irritating because they don't build a rhythm and continuity with one point of view.

Finally, I think self-deprecating humor works well in the first person narrative but comes across as cheesy or forced in the third person narrative.  For example, in Alistair MacLean's The Golden Rendezvous, about a hijacked cruise ship, the first person narrator is Chief Officer Carter, who is prone to saying things like (paraphrasing):

Sure, I was going to be careful.  It mattered a lot to someone who meant a great deal to me.  Myself.

Stuff like that really gives Carter his own voice.  But it doesn't quite work as well if you make it third person:

He was going to be careful.  It mattered a lot to someone who meant a great deal to him.  Himself.

Interestingly, an author that I've just discovered, Lee Child (another British writer of thrillers!), uses the same main character, a 6'5" ex-Army MP named Jack Reacher, but writes some books in the first person and others in the third person.

Posted by Tung Yin on January 5, 2006 at 12:15 PM in Books | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Another letter from law profs opposed to a SCt nominee

Here's a new letter making the rounds in opposition to Judge Alito.  It seems to me marginally more persuasive than the letter against now-Chief Justice Roberts, which I critiqued last year.  The Roberts letter, I suggested, suffered from the cardinal sin of telling, not showing, by merely proclaiming that certain results in cases he decided or argued were undesirable.

The Alito letter, on the other hand, makes a rudimentary effort to show that Alito's positions were either at odds with other conservative judges (such as Judge Chertoff, a GWB appointee, now Secretary for Homeland Security), Justice O'Connor (who Alito would be replacing), or the Supreme Court itself.

Considering that the letter devotes but one paragraph to each case being discussed, I'm doubtful that it's able to capture all of the nuances involved without resorting to caricature; but in any event, it is quite a step ahead of the Roberts letter.

Posted by Tung Yin on January 5, 2006 at 12:01 PM in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 03, 2006

Hooray for the Kenyons

Hooray for the Kenyon family!  Long-time readers may recall the heartbreaking story of Will Kenyon, who was born three months premature.  Will struggled to survive but ultimately passed away.

But the Kenyons just had another baby, Edward, who was a month early but seems to be fit and healthy.  Congratulations to the family!

Posted by Tung Yin on January 3, 2006 at 11:35 AM in Iowa, Parenthood, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 30, 2005

"The name is Yin. Tung Yin."

Um, okay.  Note that I didn't score particularly close to any of the superheroes.  I guess I'm not really cut out to be a superhero.  (Via my cousin Kyle).  I do like the fact that it's the Pierce Brosnan version of Bond, though.

You scored as James Bond, Agent 007. James Bond is MI6's best agent, a suave, sophisticated super spy with charm, cunning, and a license's to kill. He doesn't care about rules or regulations and somewhat amoral. He does care about saving humanity though, as well as the beautiful women who fill his world. Bond has expensive tastes, a wide knowledge of many subjects, and his usually armed with a clever gadget and an appropriate one-liner.

James Bond, Agent 007

58%

The Amazing Spider-Man

54%

Lara Croft

50%

Maximus

46%

Batman, the Dark Knight

46%

Captain Jack Sparrow

42%

Neo, the "One"

38%

William Wallace

38%

The Terminator

29%

El Zorro

25%

Indiana Jones

25%

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by Tung Yin on December 30, 2005 at 02:41 PM in Stupid Internet Quizzes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 28, 2005

How un-pc is this song?

We just bought my baby son a Winnie-the-Pooh book full of songs, one of which is "Baa Baa Black Sheep."  Here are the lyrics:

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.

One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.

Am I just being hypersensitive, or does this song reek of slavery imagery?

Posted by Tung Yin on December 28, 2005 at 09:30 PM in Random Thoughts | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

December 27, 2005

I'm back, sort of

I've been back for a few days from a nice winter vacation in Florida and aboard a cruise ship, but it's taking some time to get back into the groove of things.  I'll probably start posting regularly soon, but if you have any topics in mind, feel free to leave a comment or to send me an e-mail with suggestions.

Posted by Tung Yin on December 27, 2005 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 17, 2005

NBC's "The Apprentice" (finale spoilers)

So Randal won out in the end, and it appeared that it wasn't all that close.  I noticed that when Randal asked how many of the other contestants thought he should be selected, the camera did not show the other fired contestants, which suggests that it was something like 15-1 in favor of Randal (with only Toral backing Rebecca).

To me, the most interesting part was when Trump, having hired Randal, asked him if Rebecca should be hired as well.  Randal said, no, not if the object was hiring an Apprentice.  I actually think that's the right answer, because even though Rebecca did acquit herself well, the game is less interesting if all you have to do is make it to the final 2 and do reasonably well on the last project in order to be hired.  The 1986 Boston Red Sox made it to the final 2 and played a damn fine World Series, but they lost, and the heartbreak was all the more cruel because they were such a good team.  I think the same should be true for the Apprentice.

Of course, nothing should stop Trump from hiring Rebecca behind the scenes if he thinks she'd be a worthy addition to his organization.  But she didn't win the game, and she shouldn't be an Apprentice.

Posted by Tung Yin on December 17, 2005 at 09:28 PM in Reality TV | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

December 14, 2005

"First question . . . second question"

When I was on jury duty recently, one of the questions I was asked during voir dire was what hobbies I had. I said, among other things, that I probably watched too much TV, which led the defense lawyer to ask me what TV shows I watched. I answered Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, Lost, 24, and Boston Legal. He asked me if I ever watched the Law and Order shows, and I said they weren’t my cup of tea. 

So why Boston Legal? It’s true that David E. Kelley gets too preachy for me at times, like the stretch of dialogue last year where Alan Shore (James Spader) rattled off about ten statistics about how the rich are screwing over the poor in this country. Perhaps it’s all true, but it was delivered with the subtlety of a drunken hippo.

Where Boston Legal really excels is in the absurd, like this week’s trial of Brad Chase (Mark Valley) for impersonation of an FBI agent, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and assault (chopping off three fingers from a priest’s hand, no less!). When Denny Crane got up to do the direct examination of Chase, the questioning went like this:

CRANE: First question.

CHASE: I got involved in the matter at the request of my colleague, whose housekeeper’s son had been kidnapped by a pedophile.

CRANE: Second question. 

CHASE: We kidnapped the pedophile’s brother and threatened him because we knew he knew where his brother was located.

PROSECUTOR: Objection! 

CRANE: Third question. 

CHASE: The brother told us of a secret hideaway, which is where we found the victim.

Naturally, no episode of Boston Legal would be complete without the obligatory scene of managing partner Paul Lewiston (the guy who played Odo on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") in utter shock and disbelief upon hearing of the antics of Denny Crane and/or Alan Shore.

Posted by Tung Yin on December 14, 2005 at 10:53 PM in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Morality on "Survivor" (12/8 spoilers)

I haven't gotten around to watching the "Survivor" finale yet, but I did see that Ambimb has posted thoughts about the penultimate episode, in which zookeeper Cindy won a car in the reward challenge but then had the option to give up her car to give the other remaining survivors each a car.  She opted to keep the car, and when she failed to win immunity, she was voted out.

Ambimb writes:

So let me just get right to it: I'm appalled! How could so many of you think it was perfectly ok for Cindy to give up the chance to give four cars away!? I guess I'm just totally out of it, but my answer was Option 3 -- both 1 & 2. The choice was selfish, greedy, and stupid. And look here, people, Heather Havrilesky agrees with me, so I must be right. ;-)

One way of looking at the decision is from the perspective of game theory: did Cindy make the right choice if her goal was to maximize her winnings from the game?  Assuming that if she'd given up her car, she would've been given a pass in this tribal council (thus advancing her at least one position in the game), she would've won at least $15,000 more in prize money; and improved her shot of winning the $1 million.

But Ambimb seems to be writing from a moral/ethical perspective, not a game theory one.  Ambimb quotes with approval another blogger: "Four people get brand-new cars, four people, one of whom has never owned her own car in her entire life. Who could even consider taking a new car for herself, knowing that she cheated four people out of that experience?"

I guess I can see that point, but I'm not persuaded.  First, I'm not certain but I had the impression that Cindy herself had never had a car, or in any event, was relatively poor herself.  (And I think I've read on bulletin boards that Stephanie owns her own house, which no doubt puts her well ahead of Cindy in wealth.)  So calling for Cindy to make the other four better off is not the same call as if you were asking it of, say, Bill Gates.

Second, it's true that within the context of the game, it's a choice of 4 cars vs. 1, meaning that if Cindy turned hers down, there would be a net gain of 3 cars for the group without any other cost.  Not a pareto efficient decision, but definitely a Kaldor-Hicks efficient one.  But in the real world, those extra three cars aren't free.  In some way, indirect or not, the cost of those cars is paid by someone.  It may be that the incremental cost is minimal when spread over the consumers who purchase from that car manufacturer, but the fact is that cars aren't free.  So someone is subsidizing the four who would've gotten "free" cars.  Maybe it's not unreasonable to ask society to do that, but I don't think everyone would agree.

Posted by Tung Yin on December 14, 2005 at 08:30 PM in Reality TV | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 08, 2005

Brrrrr!!!

Man, it has been a cold and snowy winter so far!  The winter before we moved to Iowa was apparently a harsh one, but the past three winters had been mild (so we were told).  This year looked at first like it would be another mild one: October was unseasonably warm, with some days in the 70s.

But the first snowfall came before Thanksgiving, and I've already shoveled four times and it's not even mid-December yet!  Not only that, I don't remember any previous days where the afternoon temperature was 0 degrees, but we've had a few of those already.

Brrr, is all I have to say.

Posted by Tung Yin on December 8, 2005 at 02:20 PM in Iowa | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Veronica Mars can get on a jury but I can't

An interesting, though flawed, episode of UPN's "Veronica Mars" last night, where Veronica not only ended up on a jury but was picked to be the foreperson.  (How come she gets to be on the jury but I don't?!?  -- yes, I realize she's just a TV character. . . .)   It ended up being a reversal of "12 Angry Men," with the initial vote here being 11-1 to convict acquit.

(By the way, my experience has been that judges instruct the jury NOT to conduct an initial vote.)

The episode had lots of legal violations, from the unknown person who e-mailed Veronica news clippings that ultimately figured into the jury deliberations to the outsider who tried to shame Veronica into voting to convict.  All serious no-nos. . . .

Posted by Tung Yin on December 8, 2005 at 01:01 PM in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 06, 2005

Race and "The Apprentice"

Prof. Jefferies has an interesting post at Blackprof.com about "The Apprentice":

[I]t will be interesting to see what happens on next week’s season finale of The Apprentice, when Donald Trump selects between Randal, an African-American Rhodes Scholar, and Rebecca, a White female investment banker and honors graduate of the University of Chicago.  Randal seems to have been esteemed universally by his colleagues on the show (a singular accomplishment, in and of itself, for a person of color) and is undefeated as a Project Manager, winning all three times his number was called.  Rebecca, on the other hand, barely survived a couple of forays into the boardroom and has only one victory to her name — a victory itself obtained substantially because of the work of her sole teammate on the project, none other than Randal.  On the merits, it appears that Randal should be the clear winner, but I suspect that may not be the case (i.e. he may not win or, even if he does, the decision may be closer than the record would support).

I actually only remember one close call for Rebecca, which happened when she as Project Manager foolishly refused to bring teammate Toral into the Boardroom.  In the past, that kind of poor judgment would have gotten her fired.  But Trump must have seen something he liked, because he kept her on, and since then, she seems to have done well.  For example, during the "Star Wars" marketing project, she stepped in at the last minute to do the presentation, and though her team lost, she was praised for her performance.  (Randall, I might add, despite being the self-admitted "Star Wars" fan, did not focus the team on the centrality of Darth Vader in "Revenge of the Sith," which was a major reason that the team lost.)

This isn't to say that I think Rebecca is a better candidate than Randall.  On balance, I think I'd pick Randall -- assuming no disasters in the last project -- but I'm not sure that the gap between the two is as wide as Prof. Jefferies sees it.


Posted by Tung Yin on December 6, 2005 at 03:32 PM in Reality TV | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 05, 2005

Time to get my order in for season 4 of "24". . . .

It comes with a bonus 10-minute mini-episode to help bridge the gap between seasons 4 and 5. . . .  Can't beat that.

mmm, "24". . . .

Posted by Tung Yin on December 5, 2005 at 09:01 PM in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Jury duty, or someone doesn't love me. . . .

I showed up for my jury duty today at the Johnson County courthouse in Iowa City, and I was even one of the 25 potential jurors to be voir dired, but alas, I was one of the 12 who was premptorily struck by one of the attorneys.  The way they do it here in Johnson County is to finish the questioning of the 25 and then for the prosecutor and defense counsel to pass back and forth a clipboard, taking turns exercising their strikes.

So I don't even know which side bounced me.

Of course, being a lawyer and a law prof, I figured the chances were not high that I would be seated as a juror.  On the other hand, two of my colleagues who've been here just a little bit longer than I have, have actually served on juries!

Oh well, perhaps I'll be called again in two years.

Posted by Tung Yin on December 5, 2005 at 01:06 PM in Iowa, Law (General) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 30, 2005

All ebay sellers should want buyers like this one

Up for auction, a Barnes & Noble gift card worth $20.  Shipping cost, $1.  How much would you bid for such a item?  Personally, I bid up to about 70% of face value, so maybe $13 or so after taking into account the shipping cost.

Can you believe that the bid as of right now with four hours to go is up to $19.50?!?  That means that the "winner" of the auction will pay a total of at least $20.50 in order to get a gift card worth only $20!!!

Posted by Tung Yin on November 30, 2005 at 12:29 PM in Rants | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

"face off" for real???

Remember "Face/Off," the John Woo-directed action flick where John Travolta and Nicholas Cage trade faces, literally?  I thought the concept was totally ridiculous and that Woo should have left it as the original sci/fi body switching story, but it sounds like we're taking baby steps in that direction.

Posted by Tung Yin on November 30, 2005 at 12:23 PM in Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)