Sunday, July 24, 2005

The last refuge of a scoundrel

Blog-a-thon tag:

In the early nineties, my friend, Eddie Vanzetti, opined to me that the revolutionary power of the internet lay in its potential for widespread dissemination of subversive ideas. Although I never forgot that conversation, it took me over ten years to take it to heart. Thus: the blog. And although this post may be more masturbatory than subversive, I am on the threshold of change, and so some reflection is in order.

The bar exam is in just two days, and I am on the verge of panic. I have studied hard, and if I do not pass after all this, it is hard to imagine doing this again in February. At times like these, I like take the advice given to us by the minority student recruiter at school just before classes started 1st year. She told us that in all the chaos that is law school, it is sometimes useful to go back and read the essay you wrote on your application, lest you forget why you went to law school in the first place. I am also reminded of my first year Criminal Procedure professor's advice just before finals: never forget that we were all there for one reason—justice.

I can't go back and read the essay I wrote in late 2001 because of the great hard drive meltdown of 2004. But, I do remember what was on my mind at the time.

First, I am a failed scientist. I received a BS in Biochemistry in 1994 and spent 8 years as a molecular biology research associate in both academic and biotechnology settings. My claim to fame is a cocaine addicted yeast strain I engineered to study cocaine addiction. But, I was frustrated by the fact that there was very little room for upward mobility in my field—there are no academic jobs to speak of, and biotech would most likely force me to live in places I cannot abide. Lucky for me I was laid off in 2000 along with the rest of the tech boom orphans, and was forced to think seriously about my future.

About the same time, the Oregon legislature was in the process of gutting our pioneering genetic privacy legislation in order to make it more palatable to corporate interests. I remember hearing a story on public radio about how legislators were confused about what the law actually meant. Meanwhile, none of my colleagues seemed to care what was happening. It was this that started me thinking about the pervasive myopia of many scientists who care only about their own little research projects without regard to the responsibilities that those of us who are scientifically literate have to the rest of our communities.

Second, I am also a failed musician. Music has always been the one thing in life to make me happy (besides skiing, but that doesn't fit into this post). As a child I played the saxophone and piano, and as adult I have had incredible amounts of fun playing the drums. There is little I would rather do than hang out in the basement drinking beer and writing songs with my friends. But, I've never had the talent or the discipline to pursue music on a serious level. Nonetheless, I consider myself lucky to have surrounded myself with amazingly talented people.

The thing is, I believe it is a tragedy that in our culture music has become something to be bought instead of something to be made. There is no reason why "three chords and the truth" has to be a commodity marketed by large corporations rather than a shared experience amongst us all. It's not that I believe the many talented artists of the world do not deserve our admiration and support (both monetary and otherwise). It's just a shame that so much of our culture is dictated by Megacorps that exist for solely economic purposes.

Given this background, it is no wonder I found a natural affinity to Intellectual Property in law school. In fact I was surrounded by many science and music geeks just like me (except they were mostly men—what's up with that?). It was there that I learned about the Copyfighters and other revolutionary ideas for making intellectual property law more balanced between public and private interests. And I realized that a failed scientist and musician just might make a good IP attorney. It is my hope that with my education I can somehow effect change that will help preserve what is beautiful and true by ensuring more artists and scientists can communicate new expression and ideas in a way that is beneficial to us all.

So, here I am. I've been studying this stupid bar crap since May 16th. It is the most boring, soul sucking ordeal through which I have ever been. And it has been very, very difficult to remember why I am doing this in the first place.

And while Samuel Johnson may have said that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," Lisa Simpson said it was prayer (Season 2, "Bart Gets and F"). So…

This Tuesday and Wednesday I will be sitting in a hotel ballroom racking my brain to remember all the crap I have filled it with these past months. It is my hope that all my law school friends and I will have the grace, strength, and patience to see this through to the fullest of our abilities. That way I (and my friends) can get back to the important task with which we've been charged.



Blogger jkf said...

Beautiful. We joked at graduation that we did just go to law school because we had nothing else to do. Yet there was a higher purpose to our efforts, we wanted to change things through learning the tools to do so. And here we are. The end and the very beginning.

So, I wish you well for the bar. And when this is over, I would love to hang out in a basement drinking beer while Sara takes the tambourine away from me, cuz I just ain't got those skills. But I certainly can drink a beer and laugh. We will laugh again. Amen.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IP lawyer is probably the last job I would recommend to someone who doesn't like copyrights. You can do your copyfighter stuff as pro bono -- if your employer is OK with that, but it doesn't earn you a living. Idealism is good, but sometimes there is too much of a good thing. Just 2c from another musician/scientist not particularly successful at either (but not going to law school). Finally, remember to back up your HD.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous JediJade said...

You're awesome.

12:03 PM  
Blogger great sandwich! said...

for the record, i don't dislike copyrights, i actually really like them. it's just that the law is a little messed up right now.

also, the beauty of law is the ability to tailor your own practice. yes, indeed i will be doing something very different to pay the bills for awhile, but the idea is to just not forget why i'm doing it.

anyone who knows me, knows i am a pragmatist.

oh, and the hard drive--the meltdown was relatively painless because i do indeed back up important items. it's just kind of funny in retrospect.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Crapartist said...

I know what you mean about being 'failed' in science and music, but you shouldn't use those nasty definitions against yourself. I have some recordings (though you wouldn't want to hear them again) and a reprint that prove your success as musician and scientist respectively. Anyway, we'll have more time to do talk science and make music now, if we want to use it, and to hell with success.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous erk said...

The only failed musician is one who has become jaded to the joy of music. You don't qualify.

8:43 AM  

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