Law and Conversation

March 25, 2011

Literature, law, and technology: a connected lawyer

I think I’m pretty good at both using the English language and getting my computer to do the fairly limited number of things I want it to do.  But I can’t count the number of times I’ve read an error message, or a warning, or an instruction regarding our computers or programs, and, though the message was clearly written in English, understood it no better than Sanskrit.

Those frustrating experiences, which I suspect many lawyers and others share, underscore why I always appreciate reading and hearing advice from Illinois lawyer Bryan Sims.  On his blog, The Connected Lawyer, Bryan provides pithy tidbits of information and advice on gadgets and software in plain, easy-to-understand English.  Though he directs his advice to lawyers, anyone can benefit from it.

Bryan has a good article in the current issue of Illinois Lawyer Now, published for members by the Illinois State Bar Association, on how to integrate technology into your law office without spending a bundle.  He addresses different, cost-effective options for printers, faxing, and phones and provides examples from his own practice to explain why his own chosen options work best for him.

Bryan speaks on these matters at conferences and always gives a great, informative presentation.  I’ve interviewed and quoted Bryan in articles I’ve written for the Illinois Bar Journal and learned quickly that he’s a very nice and approachable person (as true superstars tend to be).  Bryan also loves to read and posts occasionally about the books he’s read on another blog, I Would Rather Be Reading (great title, Bryan!). I was interested to note Bryan’s post some time ago about how much he and his family love their Kindle e-readers, which, along with many other recommendations and a loan from another generous friend, is inspiring me to try one out.

In related news, the New York Times has an article on which gadgets we can get along without. What sites with technology tips do you find useful?  How about book blogs?  And for those of you with Kindles or other e-readers, do you love them as much as everyone else I  know does?  Anything you don’t like about them?

March 23, 2011

Three more Japanese anime films

Earlier this week I recommended watching Isao Takahata‘s “Grave of the Fireflies” as part of thinking about the awful destruction from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  As I noted, the film, about two orphaned children struggling to survive in Japan at the end of World War II, is excellent but depicts the worst of human nature and behavior and is unspeakably sad.

As an antidote to sadness, today I’m recommending three equally lovely but upbeat animated Japanese films, each of which depicts the best of human nature:

1) “Whisper of the Heart,” by Yoshifumi Kondo.  This sweet tale of first love has it all for the sentimental among us, including a great version of John Denver’s “Country Roads.”  Unfortunately, Kondo’s career was cut short by his untimely death in 1998.  Though this is the only film Kondo directed, director Hiroyuki Morita paid it homage in his “The Cat Returns,” including making the cat statuette called “The Baron” one of his principal characters.

2) “My Neighbor Totoro,” by the great Hayao Miyazaki (may he disregard his rumblings of retirement and make many more films). If you have small children, this gorgeous, numinous film is a must-see. If you don’t, it’s still a must-see.

3) “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” also directed by Miyazaki. A coming-of-age story about a young witch who leaves home with her cat, Jiji, to find her way in the world. White magic, only–no worries!

I’ve posted many times about my love of comics, whether in graphic novels or animated films. What are your favorite animated films?

March 21, 2011

Watch This: Grave of the Fireflies

Filed under: Film — Helen Gunnarsson @ 2:12 pm
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The coverage of the devastation in Japan from the recent earthquakes and tsunami and fears over radiation from its damaged nuclear reactors reminded me of a wonderful film with a heartbreaking story, Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies.”

The film depicts the worst of human nature and behavior.  Two children are left to fend for themselves at the end of World War II when their mother dies after a bombing raid; their father, an officer in the Japanese military, is away at war and may have died already.

Neither family nor neighbors nor the law help the children. Their aunt takes their rice and their mother’s expensive kimonos, allows them little to eat, and abuses them. The boy’s little sister becomes terribly sick, either from malnutrition, radiation sickness, or both. A doctor tells the boy she must have food, but neither he nor anyone else offers any food or any help. Neighbors refuse to share. Law enforcement authorities not only provide no assistance but threaten to punish the boy for stealing food.

Watch this beautiful, unutterably sad film, and be sure to have a supply of clean handkerchiefs by your side.

For more about the film, you can read the Wikipedia entry if you don’t mind spoilers. Yahoo! has a story with links to various organizations who are accepting donations for helping Japan.

March 9, 2011

Animal Rescue Site: Vote for Friends of Strays

Filed under: Uncategorized — Helen Gunnarsson @ 9:47 am
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I’m departing this week from my theme of storytelling through literature and other media from a lawyer’s perspective to ask a favor of all readers:  Please visit The Animal Rescue Site and vote for Friends Of Strays, a small animal shelter in Princeton, IL, as your favorite shelter.  It only takes a few clicks and typing in the name of an animal from a photo (to verify that you’re a real person and not a voting bot).  Costs nothing, you don’t have to register, and you won’t get a virus.  You can vote once a day, and you certainly don’t have to live in Illinois, or even the US, to vote for Friends of Strays (in Princeton, IL, remember). This tiny and VERY deserving shelter was #7 in the state yesterday on the Animal Rescue Site’s voting stats.  If just a few readers would vote daily, and tell friends to do the same, who knows what might happen–FOS might win a cash grant that would help it help more homeless pets!  Every animal shelter is deserving, of course, but if you don’t already have a “pet” shelter, please vote for Friends of Strays!

March 4, 2011

RIP Hazel Rowley: Biographer and storyteller

Sad news of Australian biographer Hazel Rowley’s untimely death this week at the age of 59.  Rowley wrote “Tete-a-Tete: The Tumultous Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre,” “Franklin and Eleanor:  An Extraordinary Marriage,” and biographies of Australian novelist Christina Stead and American writer Richard Wright.  She knew how to tell a good story, meticulously documented her research, and was a guest on a number of talk show programs, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Book Show.

In one interview on The Book Show, Rowley memorably said she preferred her biographical subjects dead (note that dead people can’t bring actions for libel). Those interested in biography and copyright law should read her article in the winter 2009 issue of The American Scholar on French publishing law and how it affected the publication of her biography of Sartre and Beauvoir in France.

In the meantime, check out communications researcher R.C. Richards‘s Droit Blog, on which he provides thoughts on law, music, politics, business, and other matters. In a lengthy post on August 5, 2010, “Selective Retraction of Inaccurate Statements About Public Figures: A Case Study,” Richards examines a political post on Twitter containing multiple inaccurate statements as a case study in political communication.  Richards’s measured and scholarly tone is a refreshing contrast to the brainless shouting and personal attacks that abound nowadays as purported political discussions and debates.

Blog at