Monday, December 22, 2008

Top 5 Christmas Songs

Well, 'tis the time of the season again when students put down their pencils and relax for a few weeks. What better time to re-establish a long-dormant blog with a festive-like post.

Much of the last month of my life was spent sitting in my designated studying room thumbing through notes in a vain attempt to understand Creditors' Remedies or staring blankly at an equally blank computer screen trying to write a 30-page opinion letter. To help pass the time, and in the spirit of the holidays, I listened to what amounted to be more than my share of Christmas music.

There are many opinions on Christmas music - some have an insatiable appetite for it; others are ready to string up their "White Christmas"-loving co-worker by December 2nd. I usually fall somewhere in the middle; however, this year, with a trip to Disneyland planned for the end of exams, listening to repetitive and largely inane music served to desensitize me to "It's a Small World" (which, incidentally, mixes in Christmas carols with its nauseating title song this time of year).

However, I did discover that in the morass of Christmas schlock 'n' roll out there, you might just find a few great songs. And, as such, I present my top 5 Christmas tunes:

#5: Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Carol of the Bells
OK, now, it would probably be fair to substitute any of TSO's Christmas instrumentals in this slot, but Carol of the Bells is probably the peak of their achievement. Alternating between timid and intense, this song is pretty evocative of the season to me - you get the stillness of the season mixed together with the chaos brought forth from a winter storm. Good to crank this out on a night when the snow is falling hard (which has happened often of late).

#4: Stevie Wonder - Someday at Christmas
A lot of people love John Lennon's "Happy Christmas" for its message, but I don't think it holds a candle to this gem from the artist formerly known as Stevland Hardaway Judkins. While Lennon's song brings you down with its subdued children's chorus, Stevie is filled with unbridled optimism and a fun rhythm as he sings:

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

That's good stuff.

#3: Bing Crosby - Do You Hear what I Hear?
To me, Bing Crosby's voice is the sound of Christmas. Whether he be hitting the climactic high note in "O Holy Night" or having a bit more fun in "Walking in a Winter Wonderland", it wouldn't be Christmas for me without hearing the grand old man sing. In "Do You Hear" he is at the height of his power, though. Get to the fourth verse - "the King to the people everywhere" - and just hear that voice boom. If Bing were King, the people would listen to what he said.

#2: Roger Miller - Old Toy Trains
Full disclosure on this song: the first version of it that I ever heard was by none other than Raffi. Yes, the same man responsible for "Banana Phone". However, as the years go by, one matures; tastes grow a little more refined; the Internet allows one to seek out the original version of songs. The man who made "King of the Road" famous wrote this song for his young son, and I think what I always enjoyed about it was that it was written for a male. Even though (as far as I remember) the Raffi version attempted to sanitize it ("little one" instead of "little boy"), the toys were trains and tracks, not dolls, or sugarplums, or anything girlish. A classic, even though it is laden with the now-unfortunate line "little boy toys coming from a sack." I can forgive that.

#1: David Bowie and Bing Crosby - Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
From what I wrote earlier, you can tell that it takes a lot to bump Bing Crosby from the top of the hill of Christmas songs for me. That said, David Bowie owns the spotlight in this song. I realize that Ziggy only did the song because his mother would enjoy it, and he abandoned doing the "Drummer Boy" duet at the last minute in favour of the overlapping tunes, but whatever the backstory, it works, and it's magic. There really isn't much to "Peace on Earth" but Bowie gets every drop out of it. And with Bing in the background playing his best for Him (pa rum pa pum pum), the sum becomes greater than the parts. Top-notch all the way.

Tomorrow (or thereabouts): The bottom 5.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What did I tell you?

World's Oldest Person Dies...again

The curse is unstoppable! Watch out, Yone Minagawa!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Couldn't he try a little harder?

The trouble with being named the world's oldest person is that it carries with it a curse...

World's Oldest person dies at 115

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Devil's Law Dictionary - Entry one

So far in Torts, we have spent the bulk of our time learning about negligence. One key aspect of negligence law, as we are learning, is determining whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. In Canada, there is a test (known variously through time and space as the Anns, Anns/Kamloops, Kamloops, and Cooper tests - for reasons that I will not get into) for determining whether such a duty exists. It is a two-step procedure, the first step (essentially) being to assess if a duty exists, and the second being whether there are any policy reasons why this duty should be negated. One such reason is 'indeterminate liability' - basically, the court says "if we let you sue, even though the defendant owed you a duty, there is nothing stopping just about anybody from suing, so you can't do it."

The lesson for the Devil's Law Dictionary:

Indeterminate Liability (n) - If you are not going to fulfill a duty, make sure you owe it to as many people as possible.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Second-half kickoff

Well, Christmas break is over - gone are the days of the things that truly matter; the three F's - family, friends, forgetting everything learned in fall semester...and it's back to class today.

A fresh breath of air in Constitutional law today; instead of having a lecture, we were eased into the semester with our meager exam marks (which thankfully didn't add a fourth 'F' to the list enumerated above) and suggestions on how to improve upon them come April. It's still better than continually re-organizing a warehouse, which is what I spent the past three weeks doing.

Well, it wasn't that bad - I wasn't feeling all that great when I wrote the Constitutional exam - I was content with it after leaving the exam, but I hadn't hit my exam-writing stride (which lost wind by the time I wrote Property) yet. So, to get a reasonably above-average mark seems OK, even if it only sets me up for disappointment when the rest of them roll in over the next little while.

The next week will be spent trying to learn how to read law books again, as well as trying to recapture a fragment of the greatness that I firmly believed that I possibly possessed going into the second week of exams. Then, it's only 12 more weeks of class until April exams!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

No place like home for the holidays...

Alas, exams are over and the break from school is here. Three whole weeks to spend in the Fraser Valley working at the old employer, opening gifts, drinking eggnog, and spending time in the company of friends and family. Certainly good times shall follow...

As for school, now that I'm a little bit removed from writing exams and have spent two days gaining perspective while hauling dressers and sofas around, I'd have to say that the past three-and-a-half months were the most enjoyable educational experience that I have had. There was a time, albeit brief, where I was actually enjoying studying for and writing law school exams. Don't expect to read about the same kinds of feelings come April.

The biggest challenge for me has been essay writing, which is somewhat odd since I've spent most of my post-secondary life writing essays. However, one tends to become a tad verbose writing history papers for seven years (not that this is evident from reading these posts) and having to cut law school papers down to size has been a particular challenge. UBC has incorporated a strong writing component into its classes this year, which resulted in nine written assignments, three of which were fairly substantial. The final paper for Transnational consisted of two essay questions (each divided into two parts), with a 1500 word limit for each. Oh, and about 10% of the mark came from discussing how you would have researched had this been a research exam. After much editing, I ended up with totals of 1498 and 1491 words, give or take a 'the'. By the end, I probably took out as much as I put in...I can only hope that the mark justifies the work (we'll see come January).

But, for these three weeks I will push aside the books and focus on quality warehousemanship, poor gift-wrapping, and much too much Christmas baking!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blind leading the blind, then shooting them...

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas lawmaker is aiming to allow the blind to hunt. Texas State Representative Edmund Kuempel has introduced a measure that would allow blind people to hunt any game that sighted people can currently pursue.

Lawmaker aims to allow the blind to hunt

Only in Texas, I suppose. Yes, they would only be allowed to hunt if accompanies by a sighted hunter who looks through the sight over their shoulder and tells them where to aim (an important safety measure, albeit one that takes any of the skill out of the hunting for the blind person and reduces it to its essence - killing defenceless animals or people that the sighted hunter thinks are deer).

I suppose this is a manifestation of the spirit of freedom that has permeated throughout all of American history. Still, blind people firing guns in the woods.

"Give me liberty and give me death!"