Law and Conversation

August 17, 2011

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet? I’m TechnoLawyer’s Pick of the Week!

Wowie zowie–TechnoLawyer chose my cover story, “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet,” in the current issue (August 2011) of the Illinois Bar Journal, for BlawgWorld’s Pick Of The Week!

BlawgWorld publishes newsletters for lawyers. Its editors cull what they judge to be the best articles from legal publications all over the web for a handy weekly e-mail newsletter. (I don’t know how those editors work, but by even a conservative measure, that’s a LOT of articles to weed through every week. Lawyers deal in words, after all, and there’s a legal publication for practically every state, every local bar association, every national bar association, and every area and size of practice within those locales. There are also legal publications for gadgets and software that lawyers use. Then there are legal blogs, also known as blawgs–hundreds of those, at a minimum, many of which contain superb writing and insights.)

From all of those articles, the editors at BlawgWorld choose around a hundred each week to link to. From those top 100, they select ONE to excerpt and feature at the top of the newsletter. For the week of August 9, it’s mine! My head is still spinning.

The best things in life are free, and that includes BlawgWorld’s newsletters. You can subscribe by hitting the nice badge above that they sent me and following the instructions on the page it takes you to. Thanks so much to BlawgWorld’s great newsletter editors, Adriana Linares and Liz Kurtz, as well as to Neil Squillante, BlawgWorld’s publisher, and Kathryn Hughes, who writes the TechnoLawyer Blog, for choosing my article to feature. Thanks to all the lawyers I interviewed for the article and for the related , who provided terrific insights and commentary; I’ve included all of them, as well as many more, in my Illinois Lawyers Twitter list. Special thanks to Sonya Olds Som,  a lawyer and business development specialist at the legal search firm Major, Lindsay, and Africa, and Carol Ross, a career coach in Boulder, CO and fellow Northwestern alum, who gave me good insights into social media back in 2009 for my article, “Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, Oh My!” that appeared in the June 2009 issue of the IBJ. And thanks to my own wonderful editor at the Illinois State Bar Association, Mark Mathewson, for all of his work and support!

June 17, 2011

#FridayReads!

I like to participate in the #FridayReads meme on Twitter. The idea is that every Friday those who like can tweet what they’re reading with the hashtag #FridayReads in the tweet. Putting # without a space immediately before a term transforms it into a hyperlink. You can then click on the hyperlink to see other tweets with that hashtag. So, clicking on #FridayReads in any tweet will take you to a page with an aggregation of the most recent tweets containing that term. The meme seems to get more popular every week and now has its own Facebook page, complete with prizes for those who participate.

This week, I have several books going at once.  Each is from a different genre–one work of fiction, one fictional graphic novel, and one nonfiction–but the three have a common theme: lawyers and law enforcement. My #FridayReads tweet contains all three: John Mortimer’s “Rumpole Omnibus,” Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s “Watchmen,” and Steve Bogira’s “Courtroom 302.” I expect it will take me a while to finish all of them, but I often like to be reading several books at a time. I’m enjoying thinking about the different angles and ways that the different writers tell their stories, and I’m thinking that I may be able to see some parallels in these three very different books.

I have an extra incentive to read each book, too:  on different occasions lawyers recently recommended each to me. I’d like to be able to tell those lawyers that I’ve read their recommendations and compare our views the next time I happen to see them! Since I’ve read enough of each to have become quite captivated by their stories, this won’t be a difficult commitment for me to keep.

In the meantime, I’ve been continuing to ponder The Book Show’s list of novels everyone should have read by the age of 21. I have lots of thoughts about that list and about what list I’d create if I were to do so. I hope to post some of those thoughts next week, so please check back with me then.

What’s your #FridayReads?

May 18, 2011

Three doctors in fiction

Earlier this week I posted about an awful case of medical malpractice that Gustave Flaubert depicts in his classic, “Madame Bovary.” Flaubert doesn’t have much sympathy for his fictional physician, Charles Bovary; he paints him as boring and not very smart. Certainly, that’s how Bovary’s wife, Emma, sees him, though her more memorable character is far less attractive.

The medical profession has long been a source of fascination for many storytellers and their audiences. I still remember watching episodes of two long-running soaps, “The Doctors” with a young Kathleen Turner and “Days of Our Lives,” where a significant portion of the action took place in the hospital coffee shop (the characters would find one another there and one would inquire whether the other Wanted To Talk About It), in the early 1980s with my mother (who would guiltily leap up to turn the television off when she saw my father, a doctor who disdained soap operas as a waste of time–not that he’d ever watched any–arriving home).

Here are three novels with wonderful doctor characters, all of which deserve to be much more widely read:

1) “Doctor Thorne,” by Anthony Trollope. I love Trollope and have recently noted that I’m now reading what’s generally considered Trollope’s masterpiece, “The Way We Live Now.” Like “Madame Bovary,” “Doctor Thorne” is a 19th century novel about marriage.  Unlike Charles Bovary, Doctor Thorne is intelligent and perceptive as well as kind and generous. In a story that probate law buffs should enjoy, Thorne serves as guardian of his niece and executor of a wealthy man’s will. Though Trollope excels at depicting mankind’s mercenary motives–the family of one of the heroes of the story, Frank Gresham, emphasizes throughout that “Frank must marry money”–you can count on him to get everything to come right at the end.

2) “A Country Doctor,” by Sarah Orne Jewett. Like Trollope, Jewett displays a keen understanding of human nature. Unlike Trollope, she had some trouble with structuring her stories–ending them, in particular–and many are not so much stories but peaceful landscapes of life in Maine, where she lived. Her model for “A Country Doctor” was her father, Dr. Theodore H. Jewett, to whom she was very close and who would take her, as a young girl, on his rounds of visiting patients.

3) “The Citadel,” by A.J. Cronin, who himself was a physician. Full disclosure: I haven’t read Cronin’s book. I saw the UK production on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theatre” years ago and loved the story and the production. Ben Cross, who may be more familiar to some of us as the star of “Chariots of Fire,” was perfect in his role as Dr. Andrew Manson.

A fun result of my posts on Trollope was that The Trollope Society and I chatted across the pond and started following each other on Twitter. Another interesting person I recently came across on Twitter is Caroline Rance, whose website, “The Quack Doctor,” has lots of fascinating info for anyone interested in medical history.

Ramona Koval moderated a delightful conversation with several Australian doctors about their vocational reading on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s “The Book Show” a year ago, on May 28, 2010.

What stories of doctors and/or medical issues in fiction have made an impression on you?

September 30, 2010

Dinner guests from purgatory

Thanks to Zimbabwean lawyer and writer Petina Gappah for posting a link to South African writer and filmmaker Gillian Schutte’s account of a dinner party not quite from hell, but, perhaps, from purgatory.  Schutte’s impromptu guests were 2001 Nobel literature laureate V.S. Naipaul and his wife, Nadira.  I’m disappointed that she doesn’t report whether they brought a hostess gift!  The site that published Schutte’s review, BOOK Southern Africa, looks like a great resource for those interested in South African literature.

South Africa banned Shirley Jackson’s famous and deeply unsettling short story, “The Lottery,” after it was published in 1948.  On learning of the banning, Jackson reportedly said she was pleased, for it indicated that the South African authorities at least understood her story

After The New Yorker published Jackson’s story, it received hundreds of letters expressing shock, confusion, and disgust, which the magazine forwarded on to Jackson.  Some letters were abusive, and, indeed, Jackson’s own mother told her that neither she nor Jackson’s father liked it and wondered why Jackson didn’t write something uplifting instead.  An analysis of the story that appeared in the spring 1985 issue of the New Orleans Review is here.

I’ve previously noted that it’s Banned Books Week here in the US.   The American Library Association has published lists of the most frequently banned and/or challenged books, not just in the US, but in other countries as well, together with summaries of the reasons stated for the challenges or bans.  According to this article, Playboy reported in 1984 that “The Lottery” was among the 30 most often banned works in American schools and libraries.  But it’s required reading in many schools also, including the 6th grade honors English class in my own community.

Anyone who still thinks that “Twitter is for twits” should consider how writers and passionate readers (including me) harnessed its power to publicize an attack on Laurie Halse Anderson‘s terrific YA novel, “Speak,”  as reported by The Guardian, among other publications.   And any reader of my posts can tell that I don’t generally approve of banning books.  So many classics have been the subjects of banning attempts, and, whatever the book’s merit, it seems obvious to me that trying to prohibit people from reading a book has demonstrably the opposite of the desired effect, serving only to whet curiosity.  In fact, I well remember my own reaction the one and only time that my father, who, throughout my childhood, used to take me to the library (my favorite place!), told me I was not to read a book–“Love Story,” by Erich Segal.  That summer at camp, on discovering that one of my 11-year-old cabinmates had a copy, I immediately borrowed it from her and read it–and, on finishing, thought “That’s IT??!?”

First Amendment advocate though I am, I would agree that there are publications that have no redeeming value and should be legally prohibited, with criminal penalties for their creators.  Child pornography comes to mind, as do crush videos.  But, as the litigation over the law prohibiting the latter shows, it can be very difficult to craft legislation that doesn’t violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (though the Senate is again trying).

Do you agree?  What do you think?

June 14, 2010

Twitter is for trials!

Filed under: Law,Social media,Technology,trials — Helen Gunnarsson @ 1:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

If you’re fascinated as I am by the high-profile federal corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich and his brother but actually have work or other obligations that preclude your attending the trial in person, the next best thing is following the Twitter feeds of journalists who are live tweeting it.  I’ve set up a list at http://twitter.com/HelenGunnar/blago-trial of 15 (so far) journalists and others who are tweeting about the trial, either directly from the courtroom or from wherever they happen to be.  I’ve tried to limit it to those who tweet either exclusively or primarily about the trial, though some may tweet about other matters, generally related to Illinois politics and government.  Please tell me whether I’ve missed anyone whose tweets ought to be included, and I’ll be very happy to add that person.  If you’re a Twitter user, you can follow the list; alternatively, you can just check the link whenever you feel the need for a Blago trial fix.

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