Taxpayers apparently funded a two-day conference devoted to studying and discussing Bigfoot, which was organized by University of New Mexico, Gallup, professor Dr. Christopher Dyer, at which Dr. Jeff Meldrum and Rob Kryder spoke. Both are Bigfoot researchers. The conference cost about $7500 and took place at UNM-Gallup. Dr. Meldrum received a $1000 honorarium.
According to Dr. Dyer, the conference was well-attended. Benjamin Radford, the Managing Editor of The Skeptical Inquirer, notes that no Bigfoot skeptics were invited. Dr. Dyer responds that he didn't know where to find any skeptics. I suspect he could have asked Mr. Radford, who is easy to find, for some assistance.
After the conference, Dr. Dyer and some others went on a Bigfoot search, paid for by UNM-Gallup (although no UNM-Gallup faculty or students accompanied Dr. Dyer on the trip).
There is now some concern about the conference. Said UNM President Robert Frank, "Dr. Dyer needs to be much more thoughtful about how he undertakes these activities."
Ah, a woman after my own heart. Well, not literally.Victoria Sutton is a professor at Texas Tech School of Law, and she writes about law and popular culture. Great! She writes about Halloween! Greater! She writes about Halloween and law. Greatest! Her book, Halloween Law: A Spirited Look at the First Year Curriculum, is available from Vargas Publishing, and on Amazon.
Here's a description of the contents from the publisher's website:
Halloween Law is a spirited guide through law school study starting with that first scary year. Looking at the law through the lens of Halloween proves the old rule that truth is stranger than fiction. Halloween cases that conjure up issues in constitutional law, criminal law, tort law, property law and contract law introduce you to the first year curriculum. If you survive the first year, you can move on to several upper level courses for those who dare --- employment law, oil and gas law and lots of local government law creep into the Halloween Law experience. Halloween Law will leave you ready to deal with any case from the crypt.
Over at FindLaw, Brett Snider points out that Ariel the Little Mermaid really should have hired an attorney to look over that contract Ursula wanted her to sign--you know, the one that enables Ariel to be with her true love, but for a very high price. Talk about terrible terms! Just goes to show you that there aren't nearly enough lawyers practicing in Animation-Land or ComicVille. The only ones I can think of, offhand, are Harvey Birdman (Attorney at Law), and the ones the ABA lists here. (Although the Topless Robot Blog lists thirteen more comic book lawyers of varying capabilities and moral persuasions here).
For more fictional fun, check out Deanne Katz's analysis of Bilbo's Hobbit contract here and Tanya Roth's deconstration of the Grinch's holiday legal entanglements here.
Reached by phone today — and who knew Dracula did interviews? – he told me he did this once 5 or 6 years ago, and it was a big hit, so he has made it a tradition this time of year. He’s argued motions like this, and tells me he once also appeared for a bench trial in the garb. Neither the judge nor defense counsel protested.
Well, who would? He'd bite you in the neck. As it turns out, this Dracula is a hero, helping people fight for their medical benefits. I thought, however, that the Count couldn't come out during the day. I've got it! Some physician has developed a cure! Or some psychiatrist has helped him overcome his tendency to shrink from sunlight.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that India's owl population is at risk, apparently due both to the popularity of "Harry Potter" and tantric practice. Those who want to emulate J. R. Rowling's famous character want their own live pet bird, and those who want owl parts, want, well, dead ones. Animal rights groups are upset. More here from the BBC.
A North Carolina sighting of Bigfoot? Both Tim Peeler and sheriff's deputy Mark Self says they saw it. Deputy Self says it scared him. Now he's not sure about what it was. In any case, "We're working up here so if we see something we'll try to capture it and take it into custody." The department filed a "suspicious person report." Interesting, no matter what these people saw. Read more here.
This afternoon I watched an old Andy Griffith Show episode (this is pre-Matlock), in which Andy finds himself chosen as the second husband of an unhappy mountain bride, Charlene Darling, when she suspects that her husband is seeing an old flame. According to custom, she can divorce her husband by burying the appropriate divorce instruments. She is then free to select a new man.
Andy, of course, is reluctant to become involved in this domestic dispute, and even more reluctant to seem to give any credibility to mountain ways, even though old reliable deputy Barney Fife tells him to take this situation seriously after Charlene's family visits him to tell him the wedding plans are on. Barney reminds him that he always wants to settle things peacefully, but Andy says there is no settling things peacefully or reasoning with these people. As it turns out, both of them turn out to be correct. Barney goes off to the library to do research on mountain folklore, while Andy puts the problem out of his mind.
Things go from bad to worse. Charlene's soon-to-be ex-husband Dudley (played by a young Bob Denver) shows up to challenge Andy to a duel of some sort and Andy cannot reason with either Charlene or her father. Back comes Barney with a book on folklore, which says that the "intended" (Andy) can derail the marriage by digging up the "instruments" by a full moon before 30 days are up. Andy tells him that he isn't going to dignify this situation by participating in it at all because it's ridiculous. Finally, Barney reads Andy a passage that seems to offer a possible solution. A marriage is cursed if, on the way to the church, a bridegroom passes by a rider dressed in black on a white horse going from east to west. And of course, that's how it happens (courtesy of Barney). Charlene and Dudley are reconciled, and return to the mountains and Andy goes back to sheriffing in Mayberry. A comical story, played for laughs and poking fun at hillbillies and their silly beliefs.
Or not. Charlene and her family, and their people have their own set of norms, created to establish under what circumstances marriages and divorces take place. Ridiculous as they might sound, they are principled. Charlene explains herself to her father and other relatives, to Dudley, and to Andy. She accuses him of seeing an old girlfriend, of alcoholism, and of neglecting her.
Charlene: You know what else he did? He went huntin' foxes with old Hasty Burford and he didn't come home until Wednesday week. Andy: Well, maybe he's tryin' to get you some makin's for a fox pie... or a nice fur collar to wear to preachin'. Charlene: No, he wasn't. I know what they do up there in the hills. They sit around drinkin' hard cider, punchin' each other in the arms and hollerin' "flinch". I don't want him anymore.
She follows the rules (bury the "divorce instruments," wait 30 days before marrying again, identify the chosen successor, etc.). The first husband apparently has customs to engage in--some kind of challenge to the second groom involving whittling, for example, in order to show himself to be the better man. Presumably if he wins the challenge, he can assert that the divorce is at least halted, if not off, although that's not clear from the story. The second husband also has rules to follow. That he doesn't seem to be able to object seems to be a problem, but this mountain society seems to be somewhat more matriarchal than was customary for traditional mainstream America to see on tv in the 1960s. At least, Charlene's father seems willing to let her do what she wants. She is fairly strongwilled, and that trait hasn't developed overnight. As her father says, "You're giving up a good man, who don't hit you too much." (Well, that part doesn't sound too feminist). She is choosing her second husband, without much if any objection from the father or relatives, who seem willing to assist her even if the groom is unwilling. Is the story still quite so funny? Or are its themes little more serious?
At the time, most of the audience probably didn't realize that other cultures and religions perform marriages and divorces without the sanction of the secular authority. One example is the get, the Jewish divorce. Today, same sex partners who want to formalize their unions may ask a religious authority to marry them even though they know that the secular authority does not recognize their unions. The magic of religious recognition of their union and their pledge to each other is important, even if, in Sheriff Andy-speak, it has no secular meaning. In the episode, it seems that either party can divorce, for any reason, which is more liberal than the existing U.S. divorce laws of the time. It may have been that community pressure prevented certain parties from pursuing the option, but still, the option was there.
Of course, there is an important, and crucial difference, between a voluntary union, and an involuntary union. What Charlene is trying to force is an involuntary union between herself and Andy. Part of the humor comes from the notion that she can force the sheriff into a "shotgun" wedding, although the fact that she has brought along several male relatives to help her is not so funny. Indeed, when Andy and Barney, following the information in the folkways book, show up in the dead of night to dig up the "divorce instruments," they find Charlene and her family waiting for them.
Andy uses the Darling family's own irrational beliefs against them in order to extricate himself from an awkward situation, as Columbus is supposed to have used knowledge of a lunar eclipse to save himself and his crew during his fourth and last voyage. When Andy cannot reason with the Darlings, he uses the opposite of reason. Also interesting is that someone has bothered to study and document the local folkways, since Barney found the relevant book in the library.
The episode is "Divorce, Mountain Style," first aired March 30, 1964.