lukegilman.com : High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

A Prairie Home Companion Movie

Garrison Keillor and his radio show the Prairie Home Companion are familiar to anyone who has listened to PBS in the last 30 years. Keillor and director Robert Altman (M*A*S*H and Nashville) teamed up to create a movie based on the show. The premise of Keillor’s script is suitably Altman-esque – we see the radio show performed as it has been every week for 30 years, in front of a live audience at St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater, in what turns out to be its final night, as the show has been unexpectedly cancelled by a Texas radio executive (Tommy Lee Jones as the Axeman).

The cast includes Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones.

Links: Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes

Blawg: Preparing for the first day…

In which I engage in a flurry of activity that will likely prove useless tomorrow…

Website Graphs

A website graph of lukegilman.com. Others on flickr.

Introducing the Blawg

Starting May 30th, 2006 I’ll be a 1L in the evening program at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, TX.

I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now with my own High on the Hog Blog and as a regular contributor to Metroblogging Houston so it only made sense that I would join the blawgosphere as well.

My plan is to post on the law school experience, specifically at the University of Houston, as well as relevant legal and community news. If you’re a blawger, particularly in and around Houston, please let me know and I’ll add a link to your site to my blawgroll. I’m also considering a separate website project that would aggregate the RSS feeds of law-related blogs in across Houston and possibly Texas as a whole.

Questions or feedback, I would love to hear from you. The comments are open or e-mail me.

Visit the Blawg

Getting Started with Podcasts

Podcasts are the big thing right now. Podcast this. Podcast that. Simply because I’m the geekiest person some people know, they automatically assume that I know all about it, that I don’t have a life, that I just sit at home and listen to podcasts all day long as if I had nothing better to do with my time.

Sigh…

So here’s a short guide to podcasting.

Step 1: Download iTunes (Yes, I realize there are other programs and if you’re an alpha geek with your own weird l33t haxor podcast reader, I congratulate you on your differentness. If you’re a normal person, download iTunes. It just makes life easier.)

Step 2: Install said iTunes

Step 3: Open iTunes and select Podcasts from the Source Menu (see left). There probably isn’t anything there yet but this is where all the new audio and video files for your podcasts are going to be showing up, so you might as well know where it is. You can also drag and drop new podcast feeds into the podcast content screen when you want to add them.

Step 4: Find some podcast feeds! There are two ways to find podcast feeds.

(1) Apple has a great directory of podcasts organized by category. To browse feeds, navigate to the iTunes music store (just 4 items below podcasts in step 3) and look for the “Choose Genre” dropdown. Select “Podcasts”. You will see a selection of individual podcasts and podcast categories. You can also search the music store by keyword which is helpful if you’re looking for something specific. When you find a podcast you want to subscribe to, click the subscribe button. You can always unsubscribe later so don’t obsess over your choice. Just click one. The podcast you selected will now be added to your list of subscribed podcasts in the podcast folder. Every so often it will check the server to see if there’s any new content for that podcast and if there is it will automatically download it for you.

(2) Not all podcasts are listed in the Apple directory, so browsing the web is another good place to find podcasts. If there’s a popular speaker or radio personality you like there’s a pretty good chance that they’ve jumped on the bandwagon and are starting to podcast. For instance, David Dye hosts one of my favorite music shows, World Cafe on WXPN in Philadelphia. KPFT stopped syndicating it a few years ago because they’re dumb. Podcasts to the rescue! I googled “david dye podcast” and turned up a bunch of results including the World Cafe page on the XPN.org website. When I went to the page I noticed this little guy


as well as this link. Clicking that icon should load up iTunes and find the feed. If it doesn’t, they’ve also provided a link (http://feeds.feedburner.com/worldcafenext) that you can simply drag and drop to the iTunes Podcasts page.

Step 5: Enjoy! That’s pretty much it. E-mail me or leave a comment if you have any questions or if there’s anything that I can add that would make this guide better.

This is what a Honda sounds like…

I’ll take their word for it. While we’re on the subject, check out this unbelievable Rube Goldberg-inspired Honda commercial.

Drop Shadows Not Bombs

Stylish and hilarious.

Buy the T-shirt


Of Bits and Books

Kevin Kelly’s recent article Scan This Book! in the NY Times recounts the efforts of companies like Google and non-profit groups such as Brewster Kahle’s Archive.org to scan the world’s libraries into digital form.

Scanning technology has been around for decades, but digitized books didn’t make much sense until recently, when search engines like Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN came along. When millions of books have been scanned and their texts are made available in a single database, search technology will enable us to grab and read any book ever written. Ideally, in such a complete library we should also be able to read any article ever written in any newspaper, magazine or journal. And why stop there? The universal library should include a copy of every painting, photograph, film and piece of music produced by all artists, present and past. Still more, it should include all radio and television broadcasts. Commercials too. And how can we forget the Web? The grand library naturally needs a copy of the billions of dead Web pages no longer online and the tens of millions of blog posts now gone — the ephemeral literature of our time. In short, the entire works of humankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages, available to all people, all the time.

The vision Kelly casts is understandably utopic – conceived roughly as the libraries of the world accessible on a device the size of an ipod. Let me be clear what an excellent, very good, exceedingly fantastic idea this is. Quite.

Now, on to the problems! Well, not really problems. The actual problems concern copyright issues, which I believe are temporary and will dissolve under the combined weight of customer demand and publisher remorse (when they (or their shareholders) realize what colossal idiots they are) but I’ll digress on those for the time being.

For me, there is an existential issue raised by redirecting the goal of our utopic vision from the hallowed halls of an Alexandria, the temple of the book, a physical house indwelled by the spirit of knowledge, to the utilitarian emphasis of Kelly’s ipod idolatry – a memex that serves as a non-physical extension of our knowledge. The difference is that shift in emphases – from books to bits, from experiential to transactional, from careful compilation to the surgical precision of the well-phrased query, from serendipity to algorithmic exactitude, from the joy of free-range reading to the efficient extraction of information. I don’t mean to be nihilistic here, but in our pursuit of the all-access ideal, I believe we’ll discover the true nature of book-ness and what it means for us as learning beings.

Let me make it clear that I’m neither objective nor entirely rational. I’m a library troll. I’m also a book slut, but that’s a secondary, though related condition. I find the musty fiber-filled air of libraries restores my soul to mind-like-water calmness. The library for me, is something womb-like, the alpha to which I long to return, the primordial cauldron from which my psyche oozed. I delight in restoring improperly shelved books to their appropriate place and the cottony feel of pre 70′s cloth-bound hardbacks. The quiet is exquisite.

Many of my fondest memories take place in libraries and I can still mentally wander the stacks according to the physical location of the subjects that were important to me in the The Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle, Me, the libraries at UMPI, and at Emerson, the Boston Public Library at Copley Square and MD Anderson at the University of Houston. These memories and ideas are closely associated with the physical nature of the books, with the physical experience of the libraries. My ability to remember physical attributes about the circumstances which accompany satisfying reading experiences and discoveries indicates not only that I enjoy libraries, but also something about the nature memory and of ourselves as aesthetic beings. I cannot think of Marcus Aurelius or his Meditations without immediately conjuring the back rows of the second floor of the Turner Library next to the water fountain and offices. My point is that I doubt an ipod screen would have the same aesthetic memory clues. Libraries in this sense are not just book repositories, but memory palaces in which we construct and later associate the connections we form to the works we encounter there. It took me about 5 seconds to locate a copy of Meditations online, but I doubt I would have the same experience of reading it.

I don’t see any retreat from the vision Kelly describes. The advantages of such a digital repository are too many to mention and will only multiply with time. We would make a grave mistake, however, in assuming the value of a library will be diminished, in the same way that it would be a mistake to have assumed that photography would replace painting, or that computers would spell doom for the paper industry. Photography obviously influenced painting, however, the paper industry responded in a number of ways to the advent of computers. How will the library change? In what ways will musty stacks be superior to the flickering screen? I have a feeling the ways will surprise us.

Disclaimer: I’ve only written about the first page or so of Kelly’s article, so you really should read Scan This Book! in its entirety or better yet, check out his website at KK.org

Orientation at the University of Houston Law School today

First up – take a test. It was an evaluation of our writing proficiency, but still. It was very test-like and made law school feel that much more real and looming, which of course it is. Our first class is next tuesday.

By far the best part of orientation was getting to know the group of people I’ll be spending the next four years with. Great people and a really diverse and interesting group. We had a couple drinks with some 2Ls in the evening program at Little Woodrow’s afterwards and got the low down. Apparently the next month in particular is really gonna suck. Civil Procedure. Three hours a day, four days a week of “how a lawsuit or case may be commenced, what kind of service of process is required, the types of pleadings or statements of case, motions or applications, and orders allowed in civil cases, the timing and manner of depositions and discovery or disclosure, the conduct of trials, the process for judgment, various available remedies, and how the courts and clerks must function.” (wikipedia) And it’s taught by Ragazzo, who’s reputation was almost to a person some variant on the word “ass” – ranging from “hard-ass,” as in ‘I respect and fear his knowledge and abilities’ to the other end of the spectrum with “asshole,” as in I really, really fear his knowledge and abilities and also did not really enjoy the public humiliation I suffered as a result of his socratic method. Otherwise the consensus is that he is extremely proficient, fair, always means what he says and adheres to a no-nonsense grading system that can’t really be argued with.

Ragazzo actually came to one of my undergrad classes, Psychology & Law, to demonstrate the socratic method. Mark Yanis, who co-taught the course, was an appellate lawyer and UHLC alum and wanted to give us a taste of it since so many of us were interested in law school. We read and briefed a case and prepared for “the method.” I happened to be the first one he called on. Hopefully that will give me some sort of karmic immunity this time around. I have a funny feeling about that though. I answered his questions and he let me sit down with my dignity intact. I’m not expecting a repeat performance. He’s known for cutting you off two or three words into your first sentence if he thinks your going down the wrong path and demands that you be able to support your statements with authoritative attribution at all times. Fun fun fun. When I got home I had this in my inbox -

I can’t wait to learn about lawyerpults.

Immigrants Hear God’s Word, in Chinese, via Conference Call

Really interesting article from the NY Times, a lot of issues if you read between the lines

Just before midnight, the calls start coming in to the church on Allen Street in Chinatown. They come from Chinese restaurant workers across the United States.

Chen Yingjie, 25, is one of those on the other end, dialing the Manhattan church, the Church of Grace to Fujianese, on a recent night from his room above the China Garden in Dowagiac, Mich., a town of 6,000. “Every time I call in, I know that the Lord is alive and that there are brothers and sisters by my side,” Mr. Chen said. “I don’t feel as empty.”

The callers — more than a hundred crowd the line on many nights — are for the most part like Mr. Chen, illegal immigrants from the Fuzhou region of Fujian province, coming off bone-wearying 12-hour shifts as stir-fry cooks, dishwashers, deliverymen and waiters at Chinese restaurants, buffets and takeout places.

Read the article:
Michael Luo, Immigrants Hear God’s Word, in Chinese, via Conference Call