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So I spoke to myself and I began to write. But no, this was not writing: it was a real war, a merciless hunt, a siege, a spell to bring the monster out of its hiding place. Art is, in fact, a magic incantation. Obscure homicidal forces lurk in our entrails, deadly impulses to kill, destroy, hate, dishonor. Then art appears with its sweet piping and delivers us.”

Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis-

A massive sheet of canvas, perhaps twice your body length, is sprung out beneath your feet, white and pure as the very best of pearls. Your bare feet lightly tap the cool surface, as you eye the multitude of brushes and buckets of paint on your side.

You reach for your biggest, thickest brush. It’s a brute, with its ends brittle and nearing its life’s end, and bits of dried paint, in rays of shades and colors, permanently etched within the roots. You run your fingers through the brush, then dunk it into the gleaming bucket of rosy red paint. Passion, you say, goes well with brittle ends.

Paint is flung with all directions with the common trajectory being the canvas. You are merciless with some colors, snapping your wrist as streaks of red and black cling to each other. You are much gentler with others, with warm yellows and fresh greens, lightly dabbing the canvas and caressing with due care.

Writing is art, and there are many gears to writing.

At times, you sit down with coffee, pen and pad in hand, and sketch lightly, pondering and re-pondering with ease. You outline, erase, scribble, erase, re-outline. Your goal is to carefully structure your phrases, re-think your words. I dare compare this mode to the likes of Monet. Not because impressionist works are well-organized and structured, but because they are generally calm and soothing. You struggle with your thoughts, but even the struggles are tame and controlled, methodically transcribing themselves onto paper.

On other occasions, writing is war. A thought hits you like a brick, and you must not waste time by pondering sketches. You want to throw what’s in your head onto paper, in its most raw and untamed form. Expressionism, perhaps, best embodies this mode. Anger need not exist. In this mode, provocation is a likely goal in your writing. Emotional angst is often a trigger, often ending in a tirade of lashings with short yet blunt phrases, uncut words. Something is tugging your nerves, and through your pen or keyboard, you hope to tug the nerves of others.

But as stated by Kazantzakis, art is a magic incantation, and writing, and words, are the greatest incantations of them all.

Let the words flow freely from all our senses, all our modes, all our gears. Conquer the canvas, devour the vast emptiness. Paint our way through the jungles of our minds and mountains of our thoughts.

Write.

Highlighting is a form of art.

You have about an hour before your 9 am Civil Procedure lecture. You plunk down in the library chair, your mind clogged just thinking about the thirty pages of the case book you haven’t read yet. At least you have a hot cup of extra bold coffee in your hands. That first sip is always heavenly – the second and third, pure bliss.

Case book is open, laptop is up and running (only for Facebooking purposes), and you pull out your arsenal of five highlighters and pens. Mindlessly, your eyes dart from one corner of the page to the other, your hand, gripping your favorite green highlighter, pressing down on the page with the weight of the world. That distinct highlighter smell. You figure, hey, the smell actually goes well with coffee.

Twenty minutes before class, and you still have nine eleven pages to go. Now you’re just looking for rules and conclusions. Out comes the pink highlighter, spot a rule there, a conclusion there. You think to yourself, that would probably save my soul if I’m cold-called today, right?

Carefully and skillfully done, highlighting can get you through the most horrifying first year lectures, reminiscent of that scene in The Paper Chase. You know where the issue is, you can spot the rule statement in bright pink, and the key facts are painted in light green as well.

Unfortunately, most of you will highlight 97% of your casebook in five different colors. When Paper Chase time comes – and oh it will come at one point or another, my friends – all you have in front of you are pages and pages in yellow, green, blue, orange, and pink. And frankly, when Professor Paper Chase is breathing down your neck for an answer, you don’t know where to look, you just keep flipping the pages, muttering “umm”, sweating like a pig, your face as red as a pomegranate.

When highlighting, think of yourself as an attorney in front of a judge. The judge is probably not a very happy person, and will probably be pissed at you for no reason. He wants specific answers, not endless jabbering of the facts. So highlight the things a judge would want to hear. Not all facts are created equal. Every case will have key facts that determine the outcome. Highlight those. How your word the issue is important. And of course, you should find the rule statement and highlight that.

What every judge and Paper Chase law professor wants to hear is how the rule applies to the facts in this specific case. This is also true for the bar exam. You think this is common sense, but you’d be surprised how challenging this is to law students and practicing lawyers alike (that’s why I got the crabby 1L grades I got).

This is where you should use the margins of your casebook. Make use of that white space. Practice writing the application of the rule in your own words. The judge who wrote the opinion in your case book probably wrote his application in sixteen-and-a-half pages, in very poor English. Don’t memorize that for future regurgitation. Trash it. Trust your brain and re-write the opinion in your own language, preferably in higher-quality English than the judge.

What you highlight and what you scribble in the margins of the case book will determine the quality of your outlines and your exam answers. The successful first year law students are those that figure out what the professor wants to see in exam answers, and implements that in all aspects of case book reading and exam preparation. Just think, apply the facts. That’s what the professor wants to see, and that’s where all the points are. Keep that in mind when you find yourself endlessly highlighting the hell out of your books.

Five minutes before class starts. The coffee is starting to kick in, you kind of read through most of the material, and you have way too much information in your head to digest.

I guess you’re ready to stumble into class.

To be continued…

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Record-setting heat waves throughout the month of July. Unbearable humidity. Orange line metro transits. Who’s ready for autumn? Can’t wait.

This short clip of mine is from almost a year ago…filmed and edited like a true amateur. Video is another great medium for communication and portrayal, different taste and texture compared to words.

Maybe more to come..? ^^

Untitled from jacob on Vimeo.

Rain makes everything taste better. In undeniable fashion, it meddles with our senses, cajoles our innermost likes and desires.

Rain makes coffee divine.

Steam slowly rising from a 16 oz paper cup is glorious against the backdrop of droplets of cold rain painting themselves onto window panes.

photo by time

No cream, no sugar, no half-and-half, no Splenda. Just black. To perfectly match the incongruous clouds drift away in their dark splendor. The first sip is heavenly. Slight burn on the lips, that’s okay. The first note jolts your tongue, slightly acidic, not burnt. It’s like a warm campfire spreading in your mouth. The fire roars down your throat, beckoning for a second, third gulp.

Rain makes pho…well, rain completes pho.

Hot bowl of broth with soft noodles and various meats, innards and tendon – you cannot go wrong. The broth is steaming, close to boiling hot. Quickly, you marry the broth with fresh bean sprouts, green onions, white onions, Thai basil, and hot peppers. You nervously run your chopsticks through the bowl, eying the fresh herbs as they merrily wilt into the beefy abyss. Bless them, there is plenty of cilantro.

A splash of lime. Maybe a dash of Sriracha.

The tendon, tripe, rare steak, fatty flank, tripe. Just melts away as you devour this creation one spoonful at a time.

Rain hits you in different spots.

Memories found, thoughts provoked, journeys interrupted.

But most of all, rain calls for something hot.

Why not a cup of joe and some pho.

Is that a 6? Can’t be. Feels like I crashed into my squeaky mattress just a couple of hours ago. More like passed out. I thought I had coffee after dinner, what happened? Right, forgot that I’ve grown immune to caffeine.

That is a 6, for 6:00 am. I already feel a kink in my neck, the kind that lasts two to three days, and I mutter something as I reach across to silence the alarm with vengeance.

With one eye squinted open, I drag my carcass out of bed and into the kitchen. I’m on autopilot, one hand grabbing the cereal box, the other searching for coffee. I curse the world as I realize that I am fresh out of milk and coffee. No way I was going to get through the thirty pages of Civil Procedure reading I had left without my black liquid gold.

A quick, hot shower, grab a protein bar, and out the door. The cool autumn breeze of the District has now turned into chilling walls of wind, as dry leaves start to pile and swirl in the still empty streets. Not a soul in sight. Wait, maybe I see someone from my section, jaywalking, with what seems to be a fresh cup of coffee in his hand. Lucky bastard.

If jaywalking is a crime (yes, it is), then I’ve committed countless crimes all semester, my eyes darting across the street before strutting towards Starbucks. Hey, it’s not my fault that both crosswalks are fifty yards away. We’re law students, after all.

Sixth-floor cafeteria coffee? It’s cheap, it’s decent I guess. Wait, was it really decent? I thought it tasted like detergent the last time around. Maybe it was just me. No really, it really was detergent. It’s cheap though, maybe a few cents? With this debate engulfing my brain, my legs are jaywalking on their own towards a grande bold coffee.

Civ Pro, man, thirty pages of that is like an eternity. An eternity that feels like stale bread, bland, interesting only with butter and strawberry preserves. Class is at 9:00 am, still got some time. What a way to start the morning. Was this the class with the on-call list? Wait, no, that was Contracts. Right, this one is the one with the deck of playing cards. It’s just that kind of day, a day where your name will inevitably be drawn out of a possible ninety. What are the odds, you say. I’m hungry, cold, and I still have that kink in my neck. The gamble could be worth it. But yet again, I haven’t been called on yet, so this could be the day. Risk it? The humiliation, oh, it would be too great. But hell, even if I read the thing, I probably couldn’t answer any questions anyway. Fail.

Yes, finally, hot, bold coffee dancing on my tongue and sliding down my throat. Hot, but soothing. Soon I’ll feel the caffeine trickle through my veins. My guts will warm, and my brain will jump-start itself. Coffee with a peanut butter protein bar. An ever so slight glimpse of heaven before the day comes roaring in.

With these thoughts, I enter the library. It’s only Tuesday?

To be continued…

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I am a proud burger addict. Even at this hour as I am writing this post, a strong craving creeps up – I’m thinking, double cheeseburger with Swiss, thick bacon, grilled onions and red onions, spicy mustard, and a fried egg. Perfect. I’ve had the pleasure of trying all three of the pictured burgers. Some East-Coasters might not have tried In-N-Out, and some West-Coasters might not know of Five Guys or Shake Shack.
Even if you haven’t tried one of these burgers, vote for the one you have, and tell us what makes that burger great!

The time has come to settle this once and for all: who makes the best burgers?
Of course, there are many, many, many burger joints far and near.

But today we focus on three name brands: Five Guys, In-N-Out, and Shake Shack.

Five Guys, with its endless list of toppings and beautiful, thick-cut fries cooked in peanut oil. In-N-Out, using only fresh, unfrozen ingredients, and immortalized by their Animal Style creations. Shake Shack, topped with a soft, eggy bun, completed by cheesy crinkly fries.

Cast your vote! And please leave comments on why you chose your burger joint.

Let the battle begin..!!

We as lawyers are expected to wear suits. Maybe not everyday, and for some of us, maybe not even every other day. But when the partner or client comes beckoning, we are expected to show up in full armor.

Suits are not work uniforms. They shouldn’t be. Suits portray who you are and can cloak you in more awesomeness than you could ever imagine. Compared to New York, Washington, DC isn’t really a fashion mecca. In the bustling Metro or crowded sidewalks, spotting really ugly suits is a commonality. Colors are boring and mismatched, and the fit is terrible. I have seen some younger professionals sport fine suits, but those are a rarity.

Recently, folks have been asking me some basic suiting questions, from brands to colors and patterns to fit. The following is a short summary of the basics of what every man should know before buying a suit.

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1. Colors and Patterns: The basic color is black. This is where it all begins. Every man should have a crisp black suit. Nothing is more classic (in a good way) than a perfectly fitted black suit with a white oxford shirt. Black is great for all occasions – meetings, interviews, weddings, parties and in-laws. Once you have a black suit, then comes navy. There are different shades of navy. I would start with a more conservative darker shade, which would be easier to match with different shirts and ties. Then I would move on to lighter shades. After black and navy, move on to gray. You should only think about pinstripes and other colors after you conquer black, navy and gray.

2. Slim Fit: Cut is everything! The jacket should slightly tug at your sides without feeling like the seams will pop every time you twist your torso. The pant legs should not be flapping in the wind like flags. While you don’t want to look like a gothic punk high school kid, your pant width should be reasonably slim. Show a little cuff; your jacket sleeves should allow you to show anywhere between 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of your shirt cuff. Your pants shouldn’t be too long; they should fall nicely on the top of your shoes without folding. You don’t want your pants too short, so that you can see your socks while you’re standing up. But being on the shorter side is always better than the bottom of your pants fold up like grandma’s pancakes. Invest in a tailor. I cannot emphasize this enough. Most of us aren’t loaded enough to by custom-made suits, so we buy them off the rack. Visiting a tailor to customize your off-the-rack suit to your body will make $300 suit look like a thousand-dollar Armani.

3. “Two-button” is the jacket of choice: Three-buttons are of the past, and they’ll make you look like you’re wearing your dad’s jacket. One-buttons are stylish in certain settings, but if the primary purpose of your suit purchase is work-related, one-buttons may not be professional enough (but for tuxedos, one-buttons are the classic model and the way to go).

4. Think of the Shoes: Your suit and shoes should go together like PB&J. Black suits need brown shoes. Navy suits go with black shoes. Gray suits match well with brown shoes. Obviously, these rules are not engraved in stone. But remember, your shoes can make or break your suit.

5. Brands: This can be several posts in itself. In short, this totally depends on your budget. For me, I like Club Monaco for quality suits for reasonable prices. J-Crew has great suits with great fit, but I think they are overpriced. I don’t like the fit for Banana Republic suits (but that could just be me). Don’t underestimate outlet stores like the Barney’s New York outlet in Leesburg, VA. I was able to find a great Hugo Boss suit at a fraction of its original price. Never know what treasure you’ll find if you look hard enough.

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This is a simple summary of my thoughts on suits. I will break the criteria down in greater detail in future posts.

Stay tuned!

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