Parking Lot Disfunctions

I hate parking lots. All of them. Mall parking lots, strip malls, grocery stores, Wal-Mart. But the worst, by far, is the Barracks Road Shopping Center parking lot here in Charlottesville. It was obviously designed by a sadist, and has so many twists, bottlenecks, speed bumps, stop signs, barriers and bad drivers that I've often walked there from school rather than have to think about parking.

Parking lots are probably the single thing in my life that causes the most discomfort or stress. And that's despite the fact that I take the most effective approach to parking:

Connecticut-based Response Insurance surveyed its drivers and identified what it says are the four main species of mall parkers: "search and destroyers," "lay and wait," "stalkers" and "see it and take it."

But in the asphalt jungle, it turns out, it's the least aggressive who are getting the last laugh.

Search and destroyers roam the aisles, cruising endlessly for the perfect spot. Lay and wait parkers position themselves at the end of an aisle and wait for a space to open up in what they start to believe is their territory. Stalkers, the most predatory, slowly follow shoppers leaving the store back to their parking spot.

The three methods risk situations that can lead to stress or conflict. In Hrynyk's case, he was lucky he didn't run into another search and destroyer waiting for the same spot, said Ray Palermo, a spokesman for Response Insurance.

"It's not like road-rage, but it can cause a lot of stress, nevertheless," he said.

The favored method is to see it and take it, where shoppers don't care how far they have to walk. The company said it's less stressful and helps drivers save the most time.

It NEVER made sense to me, this need to find the closest parking space no matter how long it takes. The only sensible reason I can see for wanting a closer space is that it will be faster to get inside. Thus, in a completely empty parking lot, I would park as close as possible. But to actually spend more time looking for a spot than it would take to just park further away and walk in... well I think that's just a psychological disfunction of some sort.

Causing an 80-Car Pileup

Amazing that all of this happened because one truck was speeding:

A tractor-trailer traveling an estimated 55 mph in whiteout conditions jackknifed across Interstate 80, setting off a chain-reaction pileup that wrecked up to 80 vehicles.

No deaths or critical injuries were reported, but the Sunday morning crash blocked the westbound lanes in western Pennsylvania for more than eight hours, state police said.

State police Trooper Ted Hunt said he was attending to disabled vehicles on the side of the highway in blowing snow when he heard a truck quickly pull into the passing lane and jackknife. He said two other rigs skidded sideways, blocking both lanes, and oncoming vehicles began crashing into them.

Hunt said the truck driver who started the crash was cited for driving at an unsafe speed.

Here's a question for those who've taken torts or insurance law (and understood them): is this truck driver and/or his insurance company liable for all of the damage in this pileup? Assume that everyone else was driving safely and there is no intervening fault between this truck driver's actions and the last car damaged. Can it possibly be that he is responsible for all the costs? If not, who bears the cost?

UPDATE: 1L Will Baude e-mailed his thoughts:

The doctrine of foreseeability limits this, does it not? I've never heard of an 80-car pileup before, especially without intervening fault, so under the same logic of Adams v. Morgan (that the truly novel is rarely the foreseeable) I can't imagine that full liability would fall to the truck driver.

In reality, a court of common law could probably dig up some intervening fault, whatever the facts. In Drivers' Ed we were taught about what to do when a truck had jacknifed across the road (namely, calmly swerve off into the snowbanks) and presumably many of the drivers here didn't.

My tort knowledge is so limited that I don't even know when or where foreseeability applies. Is it only in intentional torts where you're responsible for truly bizarre outcomes (like you shove someone, but then they slip and fall down some stairs, whereupon they are soaked in kerosene and ignited)? Or am I making that up as well? Sure is a good thing I came to law school, I've obviously learned (and retained) so much.

UPDATE II: Another e-mailed response suggests Mr. Baude might need to study a little harder for his upcoming torts exam:

Speaking as someone who's not only taken tort law but has been practicing tort law for a little while, I can say that in the absence of any fault on the part of anyone else involved in the pileup, the truck driver is responsible for all the property damage and personal injury caused by the unfortunate I-90 incident. Foreseeability's not about being able to anticipate the magnitude of the harm that can flow from a certain course of action. It's about being able to anticipate the type of harm that can flow from a certain course of action. It is entirely foreseeable that the unsafe operation of a truck can cause collisions with other vehicles. Leaving aside for the moment issues of potential contributory and/or comparative negligence on the part of the other drivers (and the concomitant causation issues), the number of vehicles involved isn't really an operative factor in a foreseeability analysis. Look at it this way -- what if the only other vehicle involved in the accident had been a bus occupied by 80 people? Would the fact that 80 people were injured in the accident (as opposed to the two to six people you'd expect to find in an ordinary passenger vehicle) affect your foreseeability analysis? If so, on what basis?

Oh, and as for the insurance company, don't feel too bad. The insurance company's liability won't extend beyond the limits of its policy. The policy limits, however, are unlikely to be sufficient to compensate all the people who suffered injuries or other damages. So, if this were a bar exam question, and you were asked what the insurance company should do, this is the part where you'd remember Civil Rule 22 and the notion of interpleader.

This is all making me wish I'd had a torts professor more motivated to actually teach torts.

Why Rumsfeld Still Has His Job

For those who can't understand why Rumsfeld, of all Bush's cabinet, is still around, this story may shed a little light:

Acknowledging mistakes in Iraq by the Bush administration, leading Republicans expressed reluctance Sunday that the White House replace Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who has lost the confidence of some GOP lawmakers over the conduct of the war.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said a change at the top of the Pentagon would be too disruptive, given the elections scheduled in Iraq for Jan. 30. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., also said the administration was dealing with the missteps that have occurred in the aftermath of the U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"We should not at this point in time entertain any idea of changing those responsibilities in the Pentagon," Warner told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added, "We really can't go through that ordeal" now of finding a successor. Rumsfeld "should be held accountable, and he should stay in office," said Lugar, R-Ind.

But Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, said he had no confidence in Rumsfeld. Hagel, R-Neb., did not say Rumsfeld should step down.

"I find it astounding. ... Things are worse than they've ever been" in Iraq, Hagel told CBS' "Face the Nation." Hagel said it was up to Bush whether to replace Rumsfeld.

Not quite ringing endorsements of Rumsfeld's performance, but reasonable arguments for continuity.

UPDATE: My dad passes along a link to a Washington Post story from a couple weeks back, which covered the issue in more humorous fashion.

Getting the Meat Off Your Feet

My vegetarianism has been running strong for over five months now, and I've yet to have any urge to eat meat. On the contrary I've been, if anything, bothered by the difficulty of eliminating animal products from my life completely. One of the recurring difficulties is office/formal footwear. Thankfully there is a growing "vegetarian shoe" movement afoot (ha!). The best site I've found so far is called Mooshoes. Give them a look if you don't like having leather on your feet all day.

Exams, Exams, Exams

It's that time of year. Blogging will be intermittent at best.

Bad News For ThinkPad Lovers

I've long heralded the superiority of IBM's ThinkPad line of notebooks over other PC laptops. It looks like those days are over:

China's largest personal computer maker, Lenovo Group Ltd., said Wednesday it is buying control of IBM's PC-making business for $1.25 billion, capping the U.S. tech giant's gradual withdrawal from the business it helped pioneer in 1981.

The deal closes an era for the world's largest computer company and kicks off a new age in which China's top PC maker Lenovo steps onto the world stage as a major PC brand and IBM partner.

The sale of IBM's PC desktop and notebook computer lines frees the company to focus on higher-margin businesses such as computer services, software, more powerful server computers, and storage as well as computer chips, analysts have said.

For Lenovo, which is battling intense competition in its home market, the deal with the world's largest computer company marks a breakthrough in its efforts to build its business overseas. It would also make the company part of a small but growing group of Chinese manufacturers buying overseas brands.

Is it possible that Lenovo will be able to match IBM's quality control and customer service? Yes. Would I bet my next $2000 on it? Nope. This may be the last straw that pushes me to a Powerbook.

In Brief Defense of Justice Thomas

I don't know how it is that I so often end up defending Justice Clarence Thomas, but I think Senator Harry Reid's latest comments are way out of line:

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday had harsh words for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

When asked to comment on Thomas as a possible replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Reid told NBC's "Meet the Press": "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.

"I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice."

The first thing that ought to be clear to anyone is that Reid's attacks have little to do with the intellectual or literary quality of Thomas' opinions. Even if Reid took the time to read and understand the issues underlying the cases in which Thomas has written opinions, a doubtful prospect, they are of course largely drafted by clerks drawn from the same pool of genius law students as all the other justices. Sure, Thomas' opinions often lack the rhetorical flourish of a Scalia or a Brennan, but there is no way to throw that label at Thomas yet exclude Kennedy or Breyer. Likewise, Thomas brings just as much principled jurisprudence to the bench as any other current justice. Of course, I still think it is not enough, but that is a brush with which to paint the whole Court.

I don't think it much of a stretch to say that Reid is just grasping at reasons to attack Thomas, and lay the groundwork for an opposition to Thomas as chief justice. Yet at the same time he leaves the door open for Scalia:

"I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that this is one smart guy," Reid said of Scalia. "And I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reasons for arriving at those results are very hard to dispute."

So why attack Thomas so much more harshly? I suppose Reid might really distinguish between Thomas and Scalia's performance and jurisprudence, and favor the latter. But I doubt it. Here's what I think is going on. First, there are a whole bunch of Senate Democrats who voted against Thomas in the first place. So a lot of this rhetoric has more to do with his qualifications for being on the Supreme Court at all, rather that how he's done since he got there. Moreover, Clarence Thomas is 56, and Antonin Scalia is 68. To a Democrat like Harry Reid, that's a likelihood that Bush's chief justice would reign for an additional 12 years.

Let's also not forget to mention how convenient it is that Thomas usually gets criticized from the left for being TOO much like Scalia... now he's being criticized for being an insufficient clone of his elder conservative. There are, in fact, plenty of ways to distinguish the two of them, but I don't see any way to both praise Scalia AND call Justice Thomas an "embarrassment to the Supreme Court."

That's awfully harsh rhetoric, beyond the bounds of normal partisan banter, and I don't think anything Justice Thomas has done on the bench merits anything like that sort of condemnation.

All the Real Books

For the morbidly curious, I have created a list of every book I own. For my own use, it makes it easy for me to access the Amazon page for all of the books. I like that for the ultra-dorky reason that when I go about choosing what book to read, I like to feel like I'm actually "shopping" for the book. It's part of how I get continually excited about what to read next, and helps me pick a book that fits the mood I'm in, or want to be in. I don't think it will be of use to anyone else, but I thought I'd let you know it was there anyhow.

The Rise and Fall of Asian Cinema

There is good reason to think that the long-awaited resurgence of Japanese cinema is finally upon us:

There's a new cherry-blossom spring in Japanese cinema, and it's not one that radically breaks from the successful formulas of old, nor pits Japanese film against its competitors, but one that builds on the glories of the past and revels in the achievements of other cinemas, like those of rivals China and Korea.

The story goes on to highlight some of the most exciting new releases, particularly those by Hayao Miyazaki and Takeshi Kitano (whose films have as much in common as Pixar and Kill Bill).

News is not so good across the sea, as suggested in this article discussing growing concern about the Hong Kong film industry:

Twenty film professionals have set up an emergency task force to find solutions to save the ailing Hong Kong film industry, which has seen production numbers fall to an all-time low of about 50 this year. The task force comprises such key executives and creatives as "Infernal Affairs" producer Nansun Shi, "Hero" producer Bill Kong, Media Asia's John Chong, Applause Pictures' Peter Chan, director-producer Gordon Chan, Mandarin Films' Raymond Wong and Golden Harvest managing director Phoon Chiong-kit. One of the suggestions to come out of the group is the setting up of a special cultural region in Guangdong that could take advantage of the more common cultural links shared by Hong Kong and southern China. "Guangdong is ideologically closer to Hong Kong. It is a good starting point," task force convener Shi said Monday in a story in the South China Morning Post.

It is clear to everyone that the golden age of Hong Kong cinema has passed. Whether this means it will disappear completely, absorbed into the growing mainland Chinese film industry, or will someday see a resurgence, is unknown.

No More Excuses: BUY AKIRA!

If for some incomprehensible reason (such as disliking anime) you don't yet own a copy of Akira, now is your chance. DeepDiscountDVD has the DTS version on sale for $12.47 with free shipping. Go. Buy. Now.

UPDATE: Oh, but if for some incomprehensible reason (such as not having a surround sound receiver) you don't have DTS audio capability, DeepDiscountDVD has a version with regular old Dolby sound for $9.97. So no excuses!

Musa: The Warrior DVD Review

Musa: The Warrior is the latest film from across the Pacific to capture my attention. Joint Security Area and Shiri had already demonstrated to me the maturity of Korean cinema, and I was intrigued to see a Korean attempt at my favorite genre, the historical epic. When I saw it on sale at HKFlix, I took a chance and ordered it. And I was richly rewarded.

The Film

The film is set in northern China, circa 1375. The rise of the Han's Ming Dynasty has pushed back the shrinking Yuan Empire of the Mongols. At the same time, relations between the Ming and the Koryu (ancestors of present-day Koreans) have been deteriorating, most recently with the death of a Ming envoy in Korea. In hopes of mending ties with the rising Chinese power, a peace delegation has been sent from Korea to the Ming capital of Nanjing. But because of deteriorated attitude toward the Koryu, the delegation is captured and exiled to the desert.

The Koryu soon find themselves caught in the middle of the Ming/Yuan conflict. They are freed from their Ming captors by cavalry of the Yuan empire, who slaughter all of the Ming. Unfortunately, all of the Koryu diplomatic representatives also perish in the battle or soon thereafter. Without these diplomats, the group cannot accomplish its mission and must return to Korea in failure. The young general (Joo Jin-Mo) charged with protecting the delegation takes command and leads the group in a punishing attempt to cross the desert.

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The Koryu soon find an oasis with food and rest, but before long another group of Yuan soldiers arrive, with a prisoner in tow. They have captured a Ming princess (Zhang Zi-yi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), another token in the ongoing Ming/Yuan conflict. Jin-mo decides to rescue the princess from the Yuan, another controversial assertion of his authority that puts the group in harm's way.

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Jin-mo also refuses to release the slave (Jung Woo-sung) of a dead diplomat, whose master had granted him freedom before his own death. The slave proves to be perhaps the most dangerous member of the group, with spear-wielding skills that astonish throughout the story. His intense loyalty to his deceased master is only subdued when replaced by an attachment to the rescued princess.

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Though the early scenes of the film lay the clear groundwork for a rivalry between Jin-mo and Woo-sung, a third member of the Koryo delegation soon emerges as the true leader and hero of the film. The leader of the lower class members of the group (Ahn Sung-ki) demonstrates a keen sense for battle and a talent with the bow that has no equal outside of Middle-Earth. His quiet wisdom and calm demeanor in battle strike a contrast to both of the more passionate warriors, and it seems at times that the whole film consists of Sung-ki extricating the group from the trouble that Jin-mo and Woo-sung got them in.

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The story also features a tremendous enemy in the figure of the Yuan general (Yu Rong-kwong, Iron Monkey) who pursues the group to recapture the princess. He is an absolutely worthy adversary, and his story arc is as interesting as that of the protagonists (though it is harder to gather from the shorter cut of the film; more on that later). The remainder of the film consists largely of his pursuit of the princess and her Koryo rescuers.

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There are a lot of things to love about this film. It has a grand breadth, yet also achieves admirable depth in a rather large set of ensemble characters. The plot has its epic aspects, seen best in the pursuit of the Koryo by the Yuan cavalry, and its character-driven aspects, seen best in the internal divisions within the Koryo band. And it accomplishes all this in subtleties that most in Hollywood would not dare trust their audiences to notice. The cinematography and photography are astonishing throughout, as are the choreography and editing of the battle scenes. And the brutality and sadness of warfare are never subsumed by sentimentality.

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Yet some are bound to be disappointed because of false expectations. With Zhang Zi-yi and Yu Rong-kwong onboard, many will come seeking the wire-fu martial arts action of recent wuxia films. But the combat in Musa has more in common with Braveheart and Gladiator than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The film also purposely lacks the sheen and color of Hero, instead opting for the gritty reality akin to Lawrence of Arabia. That the film takes so much from the best epics of the West while retaining the storytelling of the East is one of its finest accomplishments. If you approach the film with appropriate expectations, it succeeds on nearly every level.

Style: 5 (out ot 5)
Substance: 4 (out ot 5)
Overall: 4.5 (out ot 5)

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The DVD

shaw.gifI own the PAL-formatted, Region 2 edition of Musa from Premier Asia, and it is a DVD presentation truly worthy of the film. Premier Asia is the latest label from the folks who created Hong Kong Legends, a series which I collect almost religiously because of their skill in remastering Asian film prints, which for many years lacked the protective care and storage of Hollywood films.

Of course, Musa is a 2001 production, so it comes as no surprise that the 2.35:1 anamorphic video is pristine. As mentioned, there is a gritty feel to the film, and this comes across as intended. Some studios (Miramax comes to mind) have gained a nasty habit of making the transfer too soft, losing some of the detail necessary to the visual presentation. Not so here.

I used the Korean DTS track for my viewing, and it too was wonderful, with both the dialogue-intense and the battle scenes well served, something that is not always true when a film has such a dynamic range. In addition, the English subtitles were easy to read, and as expected from Premier Asia, free of any grammatical or spelling errors. (The Korean language track is also available in Dolby Digital 5.1, as is a dubbed English track, which I have no use for whatsoever).

And then there are the special features, always a strong suit for Premeir Asia and HKL. In addition to the always worthy audio commentary of Bey Logan (here joined by Mike Leeder), this edition of Musa features an entire second disc of features with numerous featurettes.

The second disc also includes twenty minutes of deleted scenes. Unlike most American films, where the deleted scenes were never part of the film, the deleted scenes here actually were in the original release. The Korean cut of the film runs about twenty minutes longer. I have a copy of that cut on the way to me, so I'll comment more on it later. But my present impression is that the cuts largely benefit the pacing of the film. So for those find themselves drifting away during the slow parts of a longer film, this shorter international cut is for you. If you're like me, and you usually prefer a bit more exposition at the cost of a slower pace, then I say pick up both: the international version for the longer cut, and the Premier Asia version for the commentary and extras.

Video: 4 (out ot 5)
Audio: 4.5 (out ot 5)
Extras: 4.5 (out ot 5)
Overall: 4.5 (out ot 5)