Posted May 15, 2020. To settle a pandemic-related financial crisis at UMass Dartmouth, law faculty are not receiving research compensation in summer 2020. I will be away from my desk, May 16 to August 15. Blog posts will be sparse, and I will not receive email. On the upside, summer 🌞! If you need to reach me, please send a message through the faculty assistants’ office (Ms. Cain and Ms. Rittenhouse). Stay thirsty.
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Quarantine. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Quarantine. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, April 3, 2020

Quarantine works. Stay home!

Art by Grace Harrington
At last check, Australia has only 28 deaths from coronavirus. A friend down under told me that on WhatsApp today, and I had to check it before I believed it. The United States topped 7,000 deaths today. There are geographic, cultural, and quantitative-relative explanations for this differential, but they cannot account for it fully without considering differences in social and legal policy responses.

And then I read this, about the 1918 flu, from my friend Dan Harrington in the March 28 Providence Journal: "Australia enacted strict quarantine measures early on in the crises. It ... was spared."

Dan's op-ed is well worth reading.  It draws on the 1918 experience to conclude, "The lessons are all too simple. If governments had adopted quarantine measures and communicated them effectively, the reduction in death would have been significant."

Observe quarantine and, to the extent possible, stay home!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Report from Quarantine: Week 1

Since (and because) I returned from Africa via Jo'burg and Heathrow, my wife and I have been in self-quarantine.  Here is my self-absorbed, self-quarantine report, week 1.

What I'm Reading


Moshin Hamid, Exit West (2017) (Amazon).  Hamid is best known for his 2007 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Amazon), basis of the 2012 film.  This book offers an intimate character study of a couple who flees civil war in an anonymous homeland, as they experience displacement amid western cultures. I care for neither romances nor narrative demagoguery, but this book, colored with a shade of magic realism, is more complex than the former and more crafty than the latter. Thoroughly compelling recommendation from Dean Peltz-Steele.
Charles Serio, The Legend of the Blue Cloud (2019) (Amazon).  Shout out to my uncle, who authored this book.  London based, Charles Serio is an accomplished playwright and communication consultant.  His debut novel was the quasi-autobiographical The Lies I've Told (Amazon).  In this book, he fully embraces fiction, spinning the yarn of young adults in the American West who must combat an evil force that seeks to unleash itself on our earthly realm. The book might best be billed as a YA thriller, though its portrayal of the antagonist has a mature edge. Better than I could write, it's sometimes rough around the edges, but I was engaged to the end to find out what would happen to my heroes.
James D. Zirin, Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits (2019) (Amazon).  I started planning my Trump Litigation Seminar for fall 2020 before I knew this book was coming out.  My goal was to use Trump case stories as a vehicle to teach tort law and litigation skills.  Now I plan to assign this book, too, which adds a rich policy dimension to the subject.  What Zirin illustrates is frightening:  You be the judge of the President; what I find frightening is the sorry state of our justice system, for its vulnerability to exploitation by the ruthless.
Book of Judges (Bible Study Tools).  In my on-again-off-again flight from Africa, I admit, I lost the thread of my church's yearlong Bible-reading study.  But let's be honest, who hasn't lost the thread in Numbers?  I was back in the saddle for Joshua, and now, in Judges, Deborah has summoned Barak to the Palm.  No spoilers!

What I'm Watching


Toy Story 4 (2019) (IMDb).  It would have been hard to top Toy Story 3, and 4 does not.  That said, 4 is a well worthwhile frolic and welcome opportunity to see what became of our beloved characters after Andy.  Key and Peele are delightful additions to the cast as Ducky and Bunny, and Keanu Reeves is downright brilliant as Duke Caboom.  Yes, we Can-ada!
Star Trek: Picard s1 (2020) (CBS trailer, IMDb).  This worthy new entry in the history of the franchise shows Star Trek to be in good hands at CBS.  Patrick Stewart said he would not appear again as Jean-Luc Picard after Nemesis.  But even he could not resist the siren call of the pen of Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon, whose writing is inspired.  Make it so.

Avenue 5 s1 (2020) (HBO trailer, IMDb).  Not every joke lands, but those that do more than make up the difference.  Hugh Laurie is characteristically fabulous.  And I adore Nikki Amuka-Bird, who, as Rav Mulcair, steals every short scene she's in.  Fly safe, fly true.

Letterkenny s6 (2018) (IMDb).  I had tickets to the live show in Portland, Maine, in March: postponed indefinitely for coronavirus.  So I slowed my viewing to savor seasons 6 and 7.  Pitter-patter.

What I'm Eating


Crepelicious, Barrington, RI, USA.  A scrumptious ham, egg, and cheese crepe like this one could be yours for curbside pickup from locally owned Crepelicious.  Please, if you are in a position to do so, support your local restaurants and retail!
Whole Foods Market.  Guilty as charged.  In my defense, we're not breaking quarantine to go to the grocery store, which seems to me the weak link in the whole flatten-the-curve effort.

What I'm Drinking


Jamestown Coffee (Facebook).  Made in Ghana, fruit of my recent travels.  Smooth and tasty.
Highclere Castle Gin.  You watched the TV show and the movie; now try the gin.  A smooth London dry with a hint of lavender, it's made with botanicals from Highclere Garden and the imprimatur of real-life Lord and Lady Carnarvon.

What I'm Hoarding


We just received an aid package from my sister- and brother-in-law in Atlanta, where, apparently, this stuff grows on trees.  Before you get any ideas: My house is protected by Smith & Wesson.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Report from Quarantine Week 2: Me and the Violet Fog

Another week in quarantine.  Technically, my latter and last.  But until there's an antibody test, who can go anywhere?  Here's my self-serving report from week 2.


What I'm Reading
(besides Dr. Grillo's blog)

John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us (2008) (Amazon).  This beautiful little book with blessings for all occasions was a gift of our dear friend Sister Catherine, who missions to children on the Navajo and Zuni Reservations in New Mexico. I perused it when she gave it to us. But picking it up again now amid the present crisis, its texts (and no less its title) have a new layer of meaning. Consider these verses from the poem, "For the Interim Time":
You are in the time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.
. . .
What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.
There are poems about travel that are especially poignant to me in present circumstances.

First Book of Samuel (BibleGateway).  My church's yearlong Bible-reading study continues telling the ancient story of Israel.  This book, which chronicles King Saul's fall and David's rise, includes David and Goliath (ch. 17) (and Samuel on the whole reminds me of the Kings TV show, not so scriptural, but a beautifully portrayed drama, with Ian McShane as the Saul character).  I should have mentioned last week that we're accompanying the reading with videos from the nonprofit animation studio, BibleProject (1 Samuel). The studio's outstanding quick-draws are a joy to watch and learn from (también disponible en español y otros idiomas).


What I'm Watching

Doctor Who s12 (2020) (season 38 overall) (BBC trailer).  Whenever there's a new doctor, you're not sure whether it's you or the actor who isn't hitting stride.  Excited as we were about the debut of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor, in 2018 (eat dust, James Bond), series 11 was further complicated by the departure of storyline mastermind Stephen Moffat (still waiting on Sherlock s5, Stephen!). Whatever the reason, series 11 felt like a string of unconnected afterthoughts, despite heroic efforts by the cast to make us care.  Finally series 12 reintroduces the concept of arc, and I feel like we're back on track, story-wise.  The scripts still need work, as they condescendingly tell us rather than show us the writers' social agenda.  But looking past that, we quite enjoyed e7's devilish villains, and we're looking forward to the concluding Cyberman saga.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina s3 (2020) (Netflix trailer).  Guilty pleasure, I admit, but this Archie Comics reimagining is too clever to resist.  Where Doctor Who lately clubs you over the head with social allegory, Sabrina catches you unawares like a Maine lobster.  If Riverdale is an artificially flavored orange pop for the brain, Sabrina is a delicate hazelnut gelato.  Amid exquisite sets, the narratives are intricate, the characters are surprisingly multilayered for a live-action comic book, and the actors perform whimsically.  Lucy Davis as Aunt Hilda Spellman walks away with best supporting actress.  We're only getting started in s3, but we're already absorbed and delighted.

Young Sheldon s3 (2019-20) (CBS promo).  Comedy break.  This show remains as strong as it premiered.  I am one of that odd contingent that doesn't like Big Bang Theory but adores Iain Armitage's young Sheldon.  That said, even I was moved by the closing scene of e16 in the Caltech cafeteria—after my wife explained it.

Late night.  All our favorites are back, reinventing themselves in this time of crisis, and, as John Oliver put it to Stephen Colbert, "committing union infractions out the wazoo" to keep us laughing.  For HBO's Last Week Tonight, Oliver just posted his third viral installment.  Production of the CBS Late Show has been a family affair in Colbert's Connecticut home; when did his kids all grow up?  His tech snafu with Daniel Radcliffe was an instant classic, and I enjoyed his gin-infused dialog with Ryan Reynolds.  We're looking forward to Tooning Out the News, premiering officially on CBS All Access on April 7.  Producing Comedy Central's "Daily Social Distancing Show" from his New York City sofa, Trevor Noah has been killing it.  His correspondents haven't missed a beat—see "What Day Is It?," Video Chat with Roy Wood Jr. and Jaboukie Young-White, and Ronnie Chieng with Andrew Yang on universal-basic-income-come-lately—and the Daily Show graphics team rallied in force this week.  Finally, a mellow highlight of the week was Monday night's musical "Homefest" on James Corden's Late Late Show (CBS).  Who needs a studio?


What I'm Eating

Garlic.  A lot of garlic.  Now's the time.  In quarantine, you don't have to worry about any close-talking strangers.  Vampires beware.  Thanks, by the way, to whoever gave us this great gift pack of Terra Delyssa organic infused olive oils, which we rediscovered in the cupboard when we feared our olive oil stock had run dry.

King cake.  And everything else in the freezer.  My culinarily gifted Louisianan wife made this for Mardi Gras, when I was in Bissau, and froze some for me.  I've been told that if we're ever allowed to return to the grocery store, I might get gumbo.  Damn you, quarantine!


Billy’s Bistro.  We’re ordering for curbside pickup this weekend.  Remember, if you can, support your local businesses!



What I'm Drinking

Peet's Major Dickason's Blend.  Peet's bestseller.  We're grinding the beans.  It gets the job done.  It's dark, which I like; my wife likes that less.  We also tried this week Community's Private Reserve Holiday Jazz, which I gave to my wife for Christmas as part of a haul of Community coffees to tide her over while I was (or would be, but am not now) in Africa.  We both love Community coffees.  But there was something off about this one's florals that I couldn't get over.  I'd give you the rest of it, but I breathed all over it, so now it's a biohazard.

McQueen and the Violet Fog (Vimeo).  This is a truly special gin, bearing the unique flavor of a 100% neutral cane spirit from Jundiaí, Brazil, which is just north and inland from São Paulo.  Among 21 botanicals, its six "signature" ingredients are basil, rosemary, fennel seed, calamansi, star anise and açai.  It's small-batch distilled from maceration and vapor infusion in a single copper pot still.  Wine Enthusiast's Kara Newman gave it a 93: "This gin is clear, with a distinctly sweet candied lemon peel fragrance. The soft palate finishes with mild violet jazzed up by white pepper and a hint of coriander. Tailor-made for an Aviation."  The name of the gin comes from a darkly quirky poem by Atticus; the last two stanzas are printed on the back of the bottle.


What I'm Wearing

This was a gift from my mom-in-law.  She gets me.


What I'm Doing to Stay Sane

That's my weight bench from high school in the 1980s, today in my garage.  It's lived with me in five states.  "Do we really need to move that?," my wife asked in Arkansas in 2011. "They have gyms in Rhode Island."  "Why, yes," I said presciently, "in case the gym closes because of a pandemic."



Happy weekend!  

Yeah, it's actually the weekend.  Like I can tell the difference....

Friday, May 15, 2020

Legal attacks on lockdown mount; R.I. Governor's time will run out, report warns

Persons entering Rhode Island remain subject to 14-day
quarantine in the present phase 1 of reopening. Photo by
Taber Andrew Bain CC BY 2.0.
A former Rhode Island Supreme Court justice and a libertarian think tank asserted this week that R.I. Governor Gina Raimondo is running out of rope in sustaining her emergency lockdown orders.

Earlier in the pandemic, we law types found ourselves with time on our hands to read up on, and sometimes write about, the legal landscape of emergency powers.  Report 98-505 from the Congressional Research Service (here from the Federation of American Scientists and updated March 23, 2020) and CDC public health emergency guidance (2009, updated 2017) suddenly became popular downloads.  The 50-state compilation of quarantine and isolation laws at the National Conference of State Legislatures was well visited.  Various guides to emergency powers have blossomed since.  Heritage published a "constitutional guide" as early as March.  The Brennan Center updated a 2018 report about three weeks ago.  At Lawfare, Benjamin Della Rocca, Samantha Fry, Masha Simonova, and Jacques Singer-Emery overviewed state authorities the week before last.

Wisconsin Supreme Court chamber (Daderot CC0 1.0)
This week brought news of the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision two days ago, striking down the Wisconsin governor's stay-home order.  Clarity around the scope of the ruling and guidance as to how it should be implemented was woefully lacking from the 4-3 fractured court, and public confidence in the decision was undermined by the participation of a lame duck conservative justice in forming the majority.  Against the backdrop of a state supreme court already badly tarnished by partisan politics, the decision has only aggravated America's White House-fueled ideological in-fighting over coronavirus public policy.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo
Personally, I've been happy with the leadership of Governor Gina Raimondo in responding to the crisis in my home state, Rhode Island.  But to be fair, I work in Massachusetts, and my job has been relatively secure.  There have been peaceful protests against lockdown in Rhode Island, and there is no doubt that the economic closure is devastating the small-business-heavy economy in the nation's smallest state.

On Wednesday, Robert Flanders, Matthew Fabisch, and Richard MacAdams published a legal analysis of Governor Raimondo's emergency orders.  The report came from the free-market think tank, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.  The authors are all lawyers; Flanders is a former associate justice of the state supreme court and was once a Republican challenger to U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  Flanders wrote a companion editorial for The Providence Journal.  (HT@ Gene Valicenti.)

The takeaway from the report in the news is that the Governor has overstepped her emergency authority and is ripe for a lawsuit.  That's an understandable but unfair oversimplification.  The report is a solid legal analysis that examines the scope of state executive authority from a range of angles, including the statutory framework and constitutional limitations such as takings.  The popular takeaway derives from just one thread of the analysis, if an important one: The Governor's emergency powers must be limited, and a key dimension of those limits is time.

Rhode Island State House (cmh pictures CC BY-NC 2.0)
The report does not purport to adjudicate the Governor's emergency response as wrong or right.  Rather, the authors opine, when the Governor's authority runs up against the reality that exigencies are, by definition, not perpetual, the General Assembly has a responsibility to step up and lead.  That might mean simply extending the Governor's authority to make the kind of spot decisions that will be required for subsequent phases of reopening.  Or the legislature may override executive-ordered closures and force the reopening of the economy.

Saliently, the legislature should take charge of public policy.  The most cumbersome branch of government in its populous operation, the legislature is to be excused in the throes of emergency.  But after enough time has passed, the most democratically responsive branch of government should be able to gather its wits, get on its feet, and make law.  Decisions such as whether K12 schools will reopen in the fall, for example, not just financial shortfalls, should be the subject of fact-gathering legislative hearings right now.

The inevitable logic of this ideal is subject to reproach on grounds that many of our state legislatures in the United States, Congress besides, have become dysfunctionally non-responsive to increasingly severe social and economic problems. This paralysis has many and complicated causes, including corporate capture and unbridled gerrymandering.

In the functionalist reality of our government of separated powers, if one branch abdicates its mantle, the others will fill the vacuum.  Thus, in the absence of legislative leadership, a governor may be expected to carry on with policy-making, and a state supreme court, especially a politicized one, may be expected to push back.  It's in this sense that the pandemic crisis is exposing yet another grave institutional weakness in the infrastructure of American government.

If a legislature remains paralyzed long enough, the people will become antsy.  Among the ultimate remedies for legislators who would shirk their duties, some are more palatable than others (video: Liberate Minnesota protest, April 17, by Unicorn Riot CC BY-NC 3.0).  Once upon a time in Rhode Island, residents took up arms to compel the legislature to expand enfranchisement through a constitutional convention.

Alas, one problem at a time.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Report from a Social Distance: Week 3

Tort Anomalies, Other Worlds, and Fox Tales

Ready for shopping
My quarantine since returning to the United States ended last weekend, and we made a bold trip to the grocery store to refuel.  Whole Foods effectively stopped delivery here since the strike, and our nearest locally owned delivering grocer is on the opposite side of Narragansett Bay.  So we suited up with gloves and, as Rhode Island Governor Raimondo instructed, bandana masks to leave the house.  Otherwise, life isn't much different in or out of official self-quarantine.

What I'm Reading

My sabbatical plans prematurely aborted, this week involved catching up on some professional reading.  For those into legal arcana, here are the most interesting reads that crossed my virtual desk.  Other readers, feel welcome to scroll down to TV.  I'm also continuing with my church's Bible reading, which has us into the David saga of 2 Samuel, with excellent accompanying video as usual by the BibleProject.  For those who celebrate, respectively, happy Passover, and happy Easter!

Steve Hedley, Tort: The Long Good-Bye (Apr. 8, 2020).  Posted to SSRN, this paper is a fascinating survey of tort law through history, culminating in and replete with contemporary observations ripe for the unpacking.  Prof. Steve Hedley, University College Cork School of Law and Private Law Theory, sees tort law as on its way out, but not without leaving tort lawyers and scholars with plenty of work to do in the process.  As his abstract explains, "Discouraging harmful behaviour is a fundamentally different project from supporting the sick and penniless.... [W]e cannot finally say farewell to tort until all of its vital functions are replaced with better provision, which requires both political will and a fair degree of optimism – both currently rare commodities."  Consider this observation: "From the 1980s onwards in the US, ‘tort reform’ began to be code for restricting tort without replacing it with any other system – in other words, putting tort’s hitherto steady expansion into reverse."  As someone committed to tort's social value and also someone who suffers anxiety over corporatocracy, I found compelling Hedley's broader thesis that the tort system has been honed over centuries to work its aims on people, and the system is dysfunctional vis-à-vis corporations, which today account for the vast majority of tort defendants.

James Macleod, Ordinary Causation: A Study in Experimental Statutory Interpretation, 94 Ind. L.J. 957 (2019).  Causation has been a central obsession of philosophers for millennia, and it's something lawyers worry a lot about too.  I am liable for battery if I punch a compatriot at the bar.  But that conclusion assumes that the plaintiff-victim is complaining of injury that sits along a causal flow downstream from my ill intention.  What if the plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing injury, and I complicated it?  What if, subsequent to our encounter, the plaintiff's injuries were worsened by medical malpractice?  Things get more complicated when physical injury is removed from the problem.  When is an employer's discriminatory intent a legal cause of wrongful termination if the employee would have been fired anyway for misfeasance?  In tort law, contemporary American courts struggle to approximate the "ordinary" meaning and understanding of causation.  See, e.g., Comcast Corp. v. Nat'l Ass'n of Afr. Am.-Owned Media, No. 18-1171 (U.S. Mar. 23, 2020) (SCOTUSblog).  In an ambitious project of empirical survey research, Prof. James Macleod, Brooklyn Law School, has demonstrated that despite this effort, our understanding in tort law may have diverged from ordinary understanding in important respects.

Daniel J. Solove, The Myth of the Privacy Paradox (last rev. Mar. 13, 2020).  Years ago, when privacy law was barely a thing, those of us working in freedom-of-information-advocacy circles counter-argued to personal-privacy proponents that the public's desire for privacy was belied by how readily a person would surrender name, address, and telephone number for an extremely unlikely "chance to win" ripped from a cereal-box top.  The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press named an influential publication after this "privacy paradox" in 1998, and my friend and colleague Charles N. Davis, now dean of journalism at Georgia, ushered the concept into the digital age.  More recently, see WNYC Note to Self's "Privacy Paradox" project (logo pictured).  Now privacy law guru Prof. Daniel Solove, George Washington Law, has turned his attention to the problem.  In a new paper, posted to SSRN in February and forthcoming in the GW Law Review, 2021, Solove explains that the paradox emerges from an error in level of abstraction.  A person's disregard for privacy in the narrow and specific context of filling out a raffle entry cannot be equated to a person's rational and more holistic notion of personal integrity.

Alien tort: Nevsun Resources Ltd. v. Araya, 2020 S.C.C. 5, [Feb. 28, 2020] (Canada).  Amid recent decades of globalization, comparatists and internationalists in U.S. tort law have been rapt with waxing and waning trends in the extraterritorial application of American law, especially under the enigmatic Alien Tort Statute (e.g., Radiolab).  The same trends are evident around the world, as national courts struggle to demarcate limits to their own power, balancing classical principles of comity and judicial restraint against burgeoning challenges to human rights coming from both public and private sectors.  In a 5-4 decision in February, the Canada Supreme Court dismissed a claim under customary international law upon compelling allegations: "Three Eritrean workers claim that they were indefinitely conscripted through Eritrea’s military service into a forced labour regime where they were required to work at a mine in Eritrea. They claim they were subjected to violent, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The mine is owned by a Canadian company, Nevsun Resources Ltd."  The court dismissed under "act of state doctrine," an extra-constitutional principle of judicial restraint comparable in function (see, e.g., Achebe, Cooper, Hill), to foreign sovereign immunity.  HT @ Prof. Simon Baughen, Swansea University, Wales.

Climate change: Smith v. Fronterra Co-op. Grp. Ltd., [Mar. 6, 2020] N.Z.H.C. 419 (New Zealand).  In a legal era of legislative abdication, interest groups have resorted to courts around the world to combat climate change.  A victory upon an unusual statutory basis in a Dutch appellate court in 2018 (The Savory Tort, Oct. 12, 2018), upheld by the Dutch Supreme Court in 2019, lent perhaps undue optimism to the global movement, which is ongoing.  Courts in many nations have fairly determined that the judiciary is ill suited to tackle the profound policy crisis of climate change.  Accordingly, in January, the U.S. Ninth Circuit dismissed a youth class action in Oregon that had gained some traction after an indulgent district court ruling (The Savory Tort, Oct. 12, 2018).  Juliana v. United States, No. 18-36082 (9th Cir. Jan. 17, 2020).  Unremarkably, then, the New Zealand High Court decided likewise, in part, in a climate case in Auckland in March.  A plaintiff coastal land owner sued greenhouse-gas-emitting energy and dairy interests on three tort theories, "public nuisance, negligence, and breach of an inchoate duty."  The court dismissed the first two counts for reasons of, respectively, failure of injury different in kind and degree as between plaintiff and public, and failure of foreseeability.  What's interesting is what the court wrote briefly about the plaintiff's surviving "inchoate" theory:
I am reluctant to conclude that the recognition of a new tortious duty which makes corporates responsible to the public for their emissions, is untenable. As noted by [three justices on the N.Z. Supreme Court in a paper at a 2019 climate change conference in Singapore] it may be that a novel claim such as that filed by Mr Smith could result in the further evolution of the law of tort. It may, for example, be that the special damage rule in public nuisance could be modified; it may be that climate change science will lead to an increased ability to model the possible effects of emissions. These are issues which can only properly be explored at trial. I am not prepared to strike out the third cause of action and foreclose on the possibility of the law of tort recognising a new duty which might assist [plaintiff] Mr Smith.
HT @ Prof. Barry Allan, University of Otago, Dunedin, N.Z., who predicts, via the Obligations Discussion Group, "that the defendants will appeal the decision that the inchoate tort is tenable, although they may act strategically and demand that this first be properly pleaded."

What I'm Watching

Goliath s3 (Amazon trailer) was so much better than s2.  Season 2 kind of sold out on the concept of Billy McBride as a civil lawyer and got drawn nearly into the realm of trite criminal procedural.  Plenty of crimes definitely happen in s3, but the legal drama centers on a class action lawsuit to save a small California town that's had its water supply stolen by a ruthless family of almond farmers.  Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) and partner Patty Solis-Papagianis (Nina Arianda) are in top form, and legal TV trivium: Patty's biological mother is played by Monica Potter, who was Crane, Pool & Schmidt associate Lori Colson in Boston Legal s1 (2004-05).


Ragnarok s1 (Netflix trailer).  This six-episode Norwegian supernatural mystery is thoroughly entertaining, with top-flight dubbing into English.  It's proved a smashing success as a Netflix original—Netflix has 750,000 subscribers in Norway and 4m in Scandinavia, according to What's On Netflix—produced by Copenhagen-based SAM, and already has been green-lighted for a second season.  The show takes place in the fictional Norwegian town of Edda, which is the real southwestern, fjord-side town of Odda, where a ruthless family of manufacturing magnates have poisoned the local water supply and accelerated the melting of the glaciers (recurrent theme). Our hero, Magne (David Stakston), is a Billy Batson-like teen who gradually realizes that he's a kind of incarnation of the Norse god Thor, destined to battle evil to save his town and the environment. The story plays loosely with Norse myth, giving Magne a trickster brother, Laurits, played with Loki-worthy aplomb by Jonas Strand Gravli.

The New Pope (HBO).  Academy Award-winner John Malkovich proves his iconic status yet again in this brilliant portrayal of a weirdly enigmatic and intellectual Pope John Paul III, who ascends to the papacy upon the unusual circumstance of a comatose predecessor.  This is really a second season, a worthy sequel series to The Young Pope, in which Jude Law starred as a megalomaniacal yet magnetic and possibly truly divine Pope Pius XIII.  Negligible spoiler, mostly tease: Pius does come out of his coma, and the two great actors take the screen together before the season ends.

Altered Carbon s2 (Netflix trailer).  Dystopian science fiction at its small-screen best, this Emmy-nominated winner is back to tell more of the story of "the last Envoy" soldier Takeshi Kovacs, based on the cyberpunk novels of Richard K. Morgan.  Thanks to the plot device of human immortality through changing bodies ("resleeving"), New Orleans-born Anthony Mackie, the Avengers' Falcon, is able to take over, from s1's Joel Kinnaman, House of Cards' Will Conway, the lead role of Kovacs in s2, and muscular Mackie shines, or broods, as the case may be.  Ironically, the delightful yet ephemerally holographic character of Poe is carried over from s1 in the capable craft of Chris Conner.  Netflix also has premiered a 74-minute animated feature film in the Altered Carbon universe, Resleeved; Conner has a voice role.
Curb Your Enthusiasm s10 (HBO).  Comedy break.  Every episode is instant-classic LD. The familiar cast returns, including Jeff Garlin, who never misses an improvised punchline.


A new category this week, "I Watched, But Can't Recommend":

First, a lot of folks are talking about Kingdom, a two-season-and-counting Korean Netflix horror to sate your unhealthy bloodthirst for zombies when you've run out of Walking Dead and Z Nation.  I got through half of s1, and it couldn't hold my interest.  The zombies are secondary to a drama about entitlement to the royal throne; I had trouble following the story or caring.  If you need a zombie fix, I suggest Daybreak s1 on Netflix, though it will not get a second season.

Second, I caught up on Riverdale s4 over at CW TV, coming soon to Netflix.  It was a decent backdrop for multi-tasking, but couldn't hold my attention full-time.  It was fun for the first couple of seasons, but the characters and story have played out.  If you're missing K.J. Apa, watch The Hate U Give again while hoping his agent gets him another worthy TV vehicle.

Third, Westworld s3To be fair, I'm probably going to watch the whole thing, because I love the visuals and the addition of Aaron Paul.  But what the heck is going on?  Who are all these people?  Maybe the pieces will come together, but as of now, I'm not even sure what the show is about.

What I'm Eating

As we made it to the grocery store this week, my wife acquired the necessaries for her famous Louisiana gumbo with chicken and andouille.  The filé powder we had already, not easy to come by in New England.

Remember, as your resources permit, to #SaveOurRestaurants.  We had goat cheese burgers from Billy's last week, and this week we have our eye on Brickyard Pizza Co.

What I'm Drinking

We're very fond of Gevalia's single-origin line, and Costa Rica Special Reserve is our favorite.  Tico ag, Swedish craftsmanship.

The Foxtale Dry Gin, from Portugal, is inspired by the fox of The Little Prince (Amazon; in The New Yorker): "the ideal digestive for a night with friends"—at a proper social distance, of course.  A solid choice, though I'm hard pressed to detect any particular botanical beyond the citrus and a hint of malt.

What I'm Doing to Stay Sane


Photo by JJBers CC BY-SA 4.0
East Bay Bike Path.  I haven't been able to run with the sprained ankle I dragged home from Africa, but biking has been OK.  And luckily, as yet, Rhode Island has not closed the bike paths with the state parks.  There was a rumor of bike path closure on Nextdoor.com, and I hope that doesn't come to be.  I admit that there have been some troubling concentrations of people at bike path choke points, as in the center of East Providence.  But if the paths close, there will only be more people squeezed along busy, sidewalk-less streets, such as mine, where cars compound the corona risk.  Hear me, o Honorable Governor.

Our long national nightmare lumbers on.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Report from a Social Distance Week 8: Speaking of Football, Magic, and Beer ...

Del's is a Rhode Island tradition.  (Photo by Lady Ducayne CC BY-NC 2.0.)
This will be my last weekly report for a while.  I've tried to make it extra savory.  My law school cut summer compensation, so my lemonade from lemons will be much less screen time in the next three months.  These eight "Reports from Quarantine" / "Reports from a Social Distance" have been a lot of fun to write, and I'm grateful for the positive feedback you've sent, dear reader.  Nevertheless, it feels like work anytime a laptop is staring back at you.

Though still experiencing a record-cold spring, the temperature here is at last topping 60°F (15.5°C) as many days as not.  My sprained ankle seems healed, thanks to my Instagram medical team, so I'm looking forward to more time out of the house.  We're reopening in Rhode Island, but there's not yet any timeline for phase 2, much less phase 3.  As I wrote yesterday, people's patience is wearing thin even here in staid New England.  Here's hoping that falling infection numbers bear out our anxious economic plan.

This has been my week 8 since coming home from Africa, and week 8 at home.  Literally, at home.

What I'm Reading

Mary Sidhwani, How to Find the True Self Within: Secrets of Relieving Stress and Anxiety (2019).  I'm not the self-help sort.  But my aunt wrote this book.  I can't imagine a more fitting title to kick off my time away from work.  I'm only as far as the introduction, and I'm keeping an open mind.  Audio chapters are available also.  Dr. Sidhwani is the compassionate soul behind the Women's Therapeutic Health Center, based in Ellicott City, Maryland.

John Maynard, The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe (2019).  This unusual nonfiction selection was a gift—name drop ahead 🤭—from Bonita Mersiades, whom I met last year at Play the Game, and of whom I became an instant admirer.  Mersiades is known in world sport circles as "the Australian whistleblower" for exposing FIFA corruption in soliciting nations' World Cup bids years before the 2015 indictments made whistleblowing fashionable.  She suffered enormously for the perceived betrayal, persecuted both professionally and personally.  Watch her talk about it at Play the Game, or read my account of the session.  A powerful personality already schooled in fighting the establishment as an executive in women's sport, Mersiades was not so easily deterred.  She wrote her own book, aptly titled Whatever It Takes: The Inside Story of the FIFA Way (2018); started her own boutique publishing house, Fair Play; and became a renowned commentator on the global business of football.

Knowing my interest in comparatism and sport and society, including research on Australian indigenous media, Mersiades gifted me the 2019 Maynard release.  John Maynard hails from a Worimi Aboriginal community on coastal New South Wales. He is a professor of indigenous history at the University of Newcastle in Callaghan.  Maynard's cultural-comparative work has set Aboriginal politics alongside African American and Native American policy problems.  He's also an avid football fan, and this book is a definitive biography of soccer and Aboriginal society.  The 2019 book from Fair Play is actually a revised update of an out-of-print 2012 original.  If you're a football fan, or you want to buy a gift for one, check out Fair Play's many other titles, too.  They include histories of Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Everton, as well as other socio-cultural studies of Asia and Brazil.

The 12 Minor Prophets.  With our church, we continue our year-long reading program, moving on to the intriguing teachings of the 12 minor prophets.  As usual, the BibleProject has fabulous drawing videos, starting with Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Obadiah.  Worship services are continuing online for now, and, as always, all are welcome, 0930 EDT on Sundays.

What I'm Watching

The English Game (2020).  This limited series was developed for Netflix by none other than Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey).  Its six episodes are sometimes in a clumsy rush to deliver its upstairs-downstairs social message.  Overall, though, this story about the origins of association football (soccer) in late-1870s England makes for a thoroughly rewarding work of television.  The series uses football, today the world's game, as a lens through which to view evolving society.  The show brings within its scope not only thinning social strata, but emerging women's and labor rights.  Football itself was at a pivotal point of development at this time, transitioning from elite pastime to professional play, and introducing a more sophisticated form of passing play, recognized as the norm today, relative to a simple strategy of dribbling attack.

The story of a working-class mill team making an unprecedented run to steal the FA cup from elite-establishment collegiate players is very loosely based on real events.  Read more at the publication of your choice: Daily Mail, Digital Spy, Esquire, Express, i news, Mirror, Radio Times, The Spectator, or The TelegraphKevin Guthrie is stately as earnest Scottish footballer Fergus Suter; Guthrie was Abernathy in Fantastic Beasts.

The Great (2020).  I watched the first few episodes of HBO's Catherine the Great with the resplendent Helen Mirren, who received a Golden Globe nomination for the lead role.  I've been embarrassed to admit that I found the show too slow and didn't finish it.  Now comes Hulu's The Great to tell me, it's OK, and to make Catherine's remarkable story so much more delightfully digestible.  This dark comedy features Elle Fanning (Maleficent's Princess Aurora and Dakota Fanning's sister) as Catherine and Nicholas Hoult (X-Men's Beast, the big screen's J.R.R. Tolkien, and the most recent Watership Down's Fiver) as Peter III.

At times laugh-out-loud funny and taking great liberties with history—TV Catherine only arrives in Russia for her wedding to the already-emperor, whereas the real Princess Sophia had been brought to court decades earlier—the story is, as the show's title card disclaims, "occasionally true"—as in portraying Count Orlov, played ably furtively by Sacha Dhawan (Doctor Who's latest Master), as an enlightened co-conspirator in Catherine's inevitable coup. The magnificent sets meant to emulate 18th-century Russian imperial opulence include one real Italian palace and several English castles and houses.  Be warned, there are brief and highly fictionalized portrayals of violence against animals.

The Politician s1 (2019).  This creation from Glee trio Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan was much hyped, but ... weird.  I was interested enough to watch it all the way through.  But Glee it is not.  The Politician lives somewhere amid a wicked ménage à trois of Napolean Dynamite, My So-Called Life, and Alex P. KeatonDear Evan Hansen's defining stage star Ben Platt snagged a Golden Globe nomination for the lead role, and he's terrific.  But the story of a socially awkward teen hell-bent on winning his high school presidency as a ticket-punch on his life-road to the White House is more aimless in the execution than the funny trailers suggest. Season two is expected in June; I'll probably skip it.

Good Eats Reloaded s1-s2 (2018-2020).  Devoted fans of the 14-season Food Network phenomenon that was Good Eats (1999-2012), we went twice to see cinematographer-turned-food-guru Alton Brown share his scientific approach to the culinary art on stage, in 2014 and 2016.  At the latter show, Brown caused an eruption of audience elation upon a cryptic clue that Good Eats might be coming back.  It has, and season 15, retitled Good Eats: The Return, is now free to view in 13 episodes at the Food Network online.  In the interim, Brown made two seasons of Good Eats Reloaded, the second coming out weekly now from the Cooking Channel, available there and on other platforms.  At first I did not want to watch Reloaded, because they looked like just rebroadcasts of the old show.  I was wrong; they're much more.

Hosted by Brown, Good Eats Reloaded is an often hilarious, sometimes MST3K-like look back at Good Eats highlights with plenty of new content.  Contemporary Brown mercilessly mocks his younger self, often breaking away to tell us, for example, how he cooks a burger now, with decades' more experience, or that he no longer uses rolling pin rings because, what seemed like a good idea at the time, they broke soon after the show was filmed.  Sometimes there are all new recipes; he cuts out early from s1e01 Steak Your Claim: The Reload to show us how to make my favorite Korean comfort food, bibimbap.  But, I say, leave out the fish sauce 😝 for the authentic urban-Seoul variant.  Speaking of eats ....

What I'm Eating

Lasagna.  My wife made her incomparable vegetable lasagna (pictured before the oven) for Mother's Day.  Get off my case.  I made breakfast.  She likes to cook.  It's her escape.  Heaven knows she deserves to escape.

Antoni's baked turkey mac'n'cheese.  Furthermore for Mother's Day, we had a family Zoom on my wife's side, wherein everyone made mac'n'cheese comfort food, feat. ground turkey, from Antoni's cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen.  (That was just one of three Mother's Day Zoom calls.)  The product was tasty, but heavy.

Crepe cake.  Another self-sacrifice 😉 in the #SaveOurRestaurants campaign, we went back to neighbor-owned Crepelicious for its signature, 14-layer, green-tea crepe cake.  Speaking of heavy...

I'll lose weight after lockdown.  Promise.

What I'm Drinking

Mardi Gras King Cake.  My last order from Community Coffee brought Mardi Gras King Cake to my door.  It tastes almost sweet on its own, flavored as it is with cinnamon and vanilla.  It recalls my wife's king cake from March and reminds us of our beloved New Orleans, an especially welcome nostalgia since the cancellation of this summer's AALL conference there.

Koloa Estate.  We took an interlude from Community to visit the far side of the continent with medium-roast Koloa Estate from Kauai Coffee.  Kauai brands often get a bad rap because they're not 100% Hawaiian grown.  You're forgiven if the package led you to think otherwise.  Still, if you don't overpay, it's a solid coffee, for a blend, with some of that nutty flavor that characterizes beans grown in Pacific Rim soil.

Sharish Blue Magic Gin.  I brought this gin back from Lisbon.  Its name is the Arabic name of its home town, Monsaraz, in the southeastern Alentejo region of Portugal, and the unusual whale-fin bottle shape pays homage to the region's easterly hills.  Sharish is made by António Cuco, who, according to various accounts, was an unemployed teacher when he started experimenting with distillation in his home pressure cooker in 2013, set to head a multimillion-euro operation in a few short years.

Sharish's defining feature is its brilliant blue color, more indigo in brighter light and undiluted density, and its "magic" is that this color turns to pink in the presence of tonic.  I experimented, and it was fun. The blue color comes from the flower of the blue pea blossom, clitoria ternatea, in fact named for its, uh, feminine shape.  Tonic really does change the color, not just dilute it, shifting the acidity balance to alkaline, like when we played with pH paper in grade-school science class.  When the novelty wears off, a gin with a rewarding and summery flavor remains.  Sharish leads with its fruits, raspberry and strawberry, and they're backed up by a palette of Alentejo-grown botanicals: angelica, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and licorice, besides the blue pea and juniper.  Sharish goes down so pleasantly, even straight, that its 40% ABV sneaks up on you.

Clitoria ternatea is not a European native, and this is not the only gin that uses it.  The flower goes by many names around the world, including butterfly pea and Asian pigeonwings.  It's an Asian native and has long been known in Asian cuisine, notably Thai blue rice.  The flowers give Empress 1908 gin an indigo hue and a savour overlapping with Sharish.  Made in British Columbia and shipped worldwide, Empress is easier to find in North America, though I think a rung below Sharish in finish.

French 75.  I wanted to make a special cocktail for my wife for Mother's Day.  The French 75, a champagne-and-gin mix, was the signature favorite of Count Arnaud Cazenave in 20th-century New Orleans, according to the John DeMers book, Arnaud's, that I wrote about two weeks ago.  I used a Bon Appetit recipe, a French champagne, and New Amsterdam gin.  My French 75 made me feel like a high-class continental cultural import.  I was so carried away that I briefly joined the neighbor's bichon frisé in looking down (figuratively) on our lab mix.

Death by King CakeI ventured to the "essential" liquor warehouse to bring my wife two new beers to try for Mother's Day.  We love whites and sours.  Both of these were indulgent treats.  Death by King Cake let us end the day the way we started it.  From Colorado-based Oskar Brewing, King Cake is a 6.5% ABV white porter brewed with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cacao nibs, orange peel, and pecans.  Oskar promises Death by Coconut coming soon, an Irish-style porter in the same "series."

Key Lime Pie Sour.  Of all the food and bev I've tried around the world, I remember vividly my first frozen-key-lime-pie-slice-dipped-in-chocolate-on-a-stick in Key West, Florida.  That was the moment I realized that humanity had achieved Roman Empire-level gluttony on a global scale, and that our fall is inevitable, probably coming sooner than later, but that it would be a helluva ride down.  This is that in a beer.  From New Hampshire-based Smuttynose Brewing Co., there's an adorable seal visage on the back of the can. 6.3% ABV.

It was a Zoom Mother's Day


Stay thirsty, my friends!

Eating and Drinking images by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-SA 4.0 with no claim to underlying works
Zoom captures by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 with no claim of data protection waiver