Blawg Review #164

0. Prolegomenon, or Why me?
Dust jacket of Gabler (ed) Joyce Ulysses via James Joyce centre websiteToday is Bloomsday, the centrepiece of a weeklong festival in Dublin celebrating the day in 1904 on which the events of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses unfold, which is the day Joyce first formally went out with Nora Barnacle (the story is told in the enthralling movie Nora; other movies with 16 June references include The Producers and Before Sunrise). In the novel, all human life is there; and Eamon Fitzgerald’s Rainy Day is currently by far the best guide to the important things in life: democracy, football, and technology. Expect a Bloomsday post today (this is last year’s; update: this is this year’s). Just like Oh Brother, Where art Thou?, the novel loosely parallels Homer’s Odyssey, and this blogpost will very very loosely parallel Joyce’s Ulysses (or at least his chapter headings).

1. Telemachus, or the State of Modern Universities
In the Odyssey, Telemachus is the son of Odysseus and Penelope; in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom corresponds to Odysseus, his wife Molly to Penelope, and Telemachus to Stephen Dedalus, an egotistic but immature intellectual (is there any other kind?) taken up by Bloom. The book opens with Stephen Dedalus, his friend Buck Mulligan (a medical student), and an English friend from Oxford, Haines, as they prepare for the day. Intellectuals and university students all, they would no doubt be fascinated by the state of the university; today, one of the problems being faced by big American universities is the size of their endowments. As Concurring Opinions and Crooked Timber discuss, mega-endowments are starting to come under fire. I’ll let you know as soon as TCD has that problem! In the meantime, you can consider an Irish University President’s musings on his new blog, or the coverage on summa cum laude of the recent impressive Symposium on the Future of Universities.

2. Nestor, or the Perils of the Internet
In the Odyssey, Telemachus visits the elder-statesman Nestor; in Ulysses, Stephen is teaching at private boy’s school in Dalkey (where Dublin’s glitterati, including U2’s Bono, live). Students in a Dalkey school would now no doubt have accounts on Bebo and Facebook. Andres Guadamuz on Technollama again deplores the tabloid media trend of looking at teenage suicides for any link to social networking sites such as Bebo (coverage here of his earlier post); whilst Slaw has an excellent discussion of the privacy complaint University of Ottawa law students and the CIPPIC have filed against Facebook.

3. Proteus, or the Travails of Censorship
In the Odyssey, Proteus is the sea god of many shapes; in Ulysses, Stephen walks on the sea front along Sandymount Strand, reflecting upon his surroundings, his own writing, and sexual matters. For its frank sexual content, Ulysses became one of the twentieth century’s quintessential banned books, but the ban in the US was overturned on free speech grounds in US v One Book Entitled Ulysses by James Joyce 72 F2d 705 (2nd Cir.1934) (wikipedia). That decision led directly to a radical reformulation of the application of the US First Amendment to obscenity, which was most recently considered by the Supreme Court in US v Williams (19 May 2008) (noted here) which upheld legislation criminalizing the pandering and solicitation of child pornography as neither overbroad nor unconstitutionally vague. The case brings to an end the Court’s recent trend of striking down Congress’s attempts to regulate obscenity, and raises the question of when (rather than if) Congress will return to its mission of regulating obscenity on the internet (return to chapter 2 above!)

4. Calypso, or the Progress of Copyright
In the Odyssey, Calypso imprisons Odysseus as her sex-slave for seven years; in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom is at home at 7 Eccles Street preparing breakfast before departing for a funeral. The breakfast a much re-enacted part of the novel; but I will be chary of quoting the relevant passage in the novel for fear of the infamously litigious Joyce estate, who seem to think that there can never be too much copyright (an attitude quite properly parodied here by William Patry, though as the plight of workbench (who is on the receiving end of a take-down notice) demonstrates, the estate is by no means alone in this belief. On the other hand, with the new Canadian Copyright Bill (a copy is available here), there is scope for things to get better in Canada – as ever, Michael Geist’s blog has excellent coverage.

5. Lotus Eaters, or Future of Data Retention in Ireland
In the Odyssey, in the land of the Lotus Eaters, Odysseus’s men ate flowers which drugged them and made them forget about home, though Odysseus subsequently drives them back to their ship; in in Ulysses, Bloom walks the streets of Dublin, pondering much, including another sexually explicit letter from the mysterious Martha. Nowadays, he would no doubt have a similarly candid and anonymous correspondence online; and even if Molly didn’t find out about it, the Irish government could know, as a consequence of our Data Retention legislation. As Daithí Mac Síthigh points out on the ever-excellent Lex Ferenda, Irish ISPs [unlike, perhaps, their US counterparts] are on the side of the angels advocating against it, whilst Karlin Lillington fills us in on the current state of Digital Rights Ireland‘s campaign and litigation against the legislation – look out for coverage of the stage before the European Court of Justice on the ECJ Blog.

6. Hades, or Advice for Law Firms
In the Odyssey, Circe advises Odysseus to go down to Hades, the land of the dead, for advice; in Ulysses, as the funeral proceeds from Sandymount to Glasnevin, Bloom mediates on birth, death and human frailty. Such things often lead to the need for lawyers (insert joke here about lawyers’ officers equalling Hades, or lawyers being devils). Susan Cartier Liebel argues that more and more lawyers will strike out on their own. In her view, Millennials will be more inclined to pursue their entrepreneurial bend, especially in the law. On the other hand, My Shingle argues that lawyers aren’t comfortable labeling themselves as twenty first century lawyers. Either way, What about Paris? has excellent advice on how to maintain and improve their client service, and not end up on Nearly Legal’s naughty step.

7. Aeolus, or All the News That’s Fit to Print?
In the Odyssey, Aeolus, the warden of the winds, seeks to help Odysseus; in Ulysses, at the offices of the newspaper The Freeman’s Journal, Bloom and Stephen meet for the first time in the novel, after which Bloom wanders off to the National Library. Online news sites are increasingly undermining newspapers, in part by targeting their news to specific audiences. So, Deliberations has a good roundup of the week’s main legal news, and there is more detailed coverage on How Appealing.

8. Lestrygonians, or the Protection of Workplace Rights
In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew are lucky to escape the island of the Lestrygonians, a tribe of giant cannibals; in Ulysses, Bloom continues to wander and ponder (especially about his wife’s lovers) and has lunch in Davy Byrne’s pub, near Trinity, which is still there, and will be busy today! Is it easy to segue from a tribe of giant cannibals to Dick Cheney? If so, John Phillips writes that Dick Cheney recently found out the hard way that all human resources professionals know that inappropriate language shouldn’t be permitted in the workplace. Indeed, in CBOCS v Humphries and Gomez-Perez v Potter on 27 May 2008, the US Supreme Court held in favour of employees who faced retaliation after complaining about race and age discrimination, even though the relevant legislation did not contain express prohibitions against retaliation.

9. Scylla & Charybdis, or Free Speech in Canada, or Not?
In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew are faced with passing between the six-headed monster Scylla and the whirling maelstrom Charybdis; in Ulysses, in the office of the director of the National Library, Stephen and various intellectuals discuss Shakespeare. The great Police song “Wrapped Around Your Finger” (YouTube) references both College (see Chapter 1) and Scylla & Charybdis! It’s the classic(al) rock and a hard place, where the magazine Macleans finds itself in Canada (links here and here), for publishing the kind of anti-islamic hate speech which would be protected in the US (though after Chapter 3, we must wonder for much longer) but not in Canada. European positions are similar to the Canadian, unfortunately.

10. Wandering Rocks, or the Protection of Consumer Rights
In the Odyssey, Circe warns Odysseus not to go by this route; in Ulysses, this chapter comprises 18 mini-episodes with a cast of thousands – in section 10, Bloom peruses a pornographic novel at a book-cart (and therefore see Chapter 3 again). At least Bloom is a satisfied customer in this incident; not every consumer is so lucky’s. Pricewatch column consistently advocates on consumers’ behalf, and What about Paris? this week posed the question: What if “bad customer service” were actionable? (though it seems unlikely that it would be in New Jersey). Consumers meant to be protected by the regulation of inappropriate advertising, so the EU is examining whether to regulate car advertisements more closely; and gruntled employees reports that the regulation of tobacco advertising now reaches to product placement in movies. On the other hand, consumers are aided by accurate advertising, and Out Law reports that the ECJ has held that trade mark holders cannot stop honest comparative advertising.

11. Sirens, or The Good, the Bad and the Jury
In the Odyssey, Circe warns Odysseus that the song of the Sirens could “sing a man’s mind away”; in Ulysses, the setting is the Concert Room saloon at the recently-closed Ormond Hotel (though it may yet be rebuilt and re-opened). The Siren Chronicles blog is always provocatively interesting; the movie Sirens is not a bad relatively modern retelling of the Homeric episode; and the Joycean chapter features much flirting with barmaids, meditation by Bloom on Molly and Martha, and the singing of Irish nationalist ballads. This week, Slugger O’Toole reported that six anti-war protesters, including prominent nationalist Eamonn McCann, who had accused of destroying property belonging to US defence company Raytheon, were acquitted by a jury. Meanwhile, the High Court in Dublin reserved judgment in a challenge to the provisions of legislation which exclude deaf people from jury service. Into the bargain, Deliberations places into context the collapse of a long-running Australian drug conspiracy trial because five jurors (previously praised by the judge as attentive) admitted they were playing Sudoku when they should have been listening to the evidence! No such problems attended on the trial of Conrad Black, whose appeal this week against conviction is covered on Soxfirst.

12. Cyclops, or Short-sighted Irish Insularity
In the Odyssey, the Cyclops is one-eyed loutish giant; in Ulysses, in Barney Kiernan’s pub, the Citizen speaks against the unwanted presence of “strangers” in Ireland, plainly belittling Bloom, who regards himself as Irish as having been born in Ireland, but responds ineffectually. Nationalism, anti-semitism and religion are among the many themes explored in the book. Sarah Carey on GUBU a few weeks ago had excellent piece on Jews in Ireland tied in to the Irish anti-semitism unflatteringly depicted in Ulysses. Moreover, a century later, little has changed – Ireland is still short-sighted and insular (see Chapter 18).

13. Nausicaa, or Immodesty and Indecency
In the Odyssey, Odysseus seeks the help Princess Nausicaa and her maids who have come to the river to do their laundry; in Ulysses, Bloom is now on the same Sandymount Strand where Stephen had walked earlier in the day; sitting a little apart from Cissy Caffrey and Edy Boardman, Gerty MacDowell puts on a show of immodesty which excites Bloom. No wonder Ireland was shocked by the novel. Indeed, the Constitution adopted 33 years later, and which is still in force today, contains on its face the injunction that indecency is an offence punishable by law, a provision which the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution was recently told ought to be repealed.

14. Oxen of the Sun, or Of Health and Brothels
In the Odyssey, Odysseus’s men misguidedly kill and eat the divine oxen on the island of the sun; in Ulysses, Bloom visits Mrs Purefoy in the National Maternity Hospital (which can still be found on Holles Street, Dublin – just what is Google Health all about?), and and Stephen head for the red light district – every city has one, even Beijing: China Law Blog notes that a brothel near in Beijing recently closed, apparently as part of a governmental effort to clean things up before the Olympics, though it is likely to return after the Olympics, if not before.

15. Circe, or Of Film and Football
In the Odyssey, Odysseus confronts the sorceress Circe, protected by a herb given to him by Hermes, and frees his men; in Ulysses, both Stephen and Bloom fetch up at Bella Cohen’s Brothel, in Nighttown, where Bloom’s hallucinations encompass a protracted Kafkaesque trial and ritual sado-masochistic humiliations (again, see Beijing, Chapter 14). The movie Kafka is rather more successfully atmospheric than the movie Bloom. More Irish movies can be found at the wonderful Irish Film Annotated Database. More baroque even than Kafka’s and Joyce’s imaginings is modern football’s (or soccer’s) offside rule, a particularly obscure aspect of which might well have set in motion a chain of events which will determine the outcome of the Euro 2008 football tournament (see Legal reasoning and football disputes).

16. Eumaeus, or Why are there so few Academic Bloggers?
In the Odyssey, Odysseus returns home to find his home besieged, which, reunited with Telemachus, he plots to free; in Ulysses, Bloom and Stephen walk from Nighttown to a Cabman’s shelter west of the Custom House where they drink coffee and chat with a sailor, and Bloom expostulates to a prostitute on the perils of vice. (Yet again, consider Beijing, Chapter 14). It is no exaggeration to say that Ulysses has spawned an entire academic industry that is showing every sign of redoubling, but very little of it is in blogs. Yet, Crooked Timber has been continually surprised over the years about how many academics fail to take advantage of the Web as a medium for disseminating their work, and later gives sound advice to a PhD student wondering whether to embark on a blog; of course, one of the keys is to choose a good domain name, especially when they are increasingly scarce. Damien Mulley has good advice for all such bloggers on beating procrastination and writers block; and Holy Shmoly! (Donncha O Caoimh) has good advice on beating WordPress hackers.

17. Ithaca, or the Protection of Liberty
In the Odyssey, Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, enters his house and slaughters Penelope’s suitors; in Ulysses, Bloom, having forgotten his key, has to climb the railing and get in via the back door, has tea with Stephen, and eventually joins Molly in bed. Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York; and its Law School hosts the wonderful Legal Information Institute, which is a marvellous information resource. For example, it contains all of the US Supreme Court decisions referred into this post. Probably the Court’s most politically significant decision this year is last week’s decision in Boumediene v Bush (12 June 2008) that individuals detained at the U. S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba could have access to ordinary courts to determine the legality of their detention. Fiona de Londras has excellent instant description and analysis, and there is superb coverage on Opinio Juris.

18. Penelope, or on the Merits of Yes and No
In the Odyssey, Odysseus is ultimately reunied with Penelope; in Ulysses, the final chapter comprises Molly Bloom’s famous monologue, structured by eight sprawling and incomplete sentences, woven around repetitions of the word “yes” (evocatively set to music in Kate Bush‘s song “The Sensual World” (YouTube). However, in a referendum conducted on Thursday and counted on Friday 13 June, Ireland said not Yes but No to the Lisbon Treaty. There is great coverage at the Irish Election blog; and Charon QC’s has a typically entertaining podcast; but perhaps the most interesting angle is that taken by Sandy Levinson on Balkinization says that the decision by the Europeans to stick with unanimous ratification is very questionable, so that majoritarianism in constitutional amendment amongst the States is one of the few things worth learning from the US Constitution (and the Europeans blew it).

Bonus Link: Penultimately, for those of you who are still here, and a pro pos of absolutely nothing in the post so far, here is an excellent cartoon that sums up the current state of the net neutrality debate.

?. Epilogue. Future Carnivals
E-Commerce Law will host the Independence Day edition of Blawg Review on the theme of “50 Stars of the Blawgosphere” discussing the blawggers, blawgs, cases, and issues that are most important or influential in modern legal blogging. Finally, Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.