April 2, 2006

The courtroom and the coffeeshop.

I'm scheduled to judge the 12 o'clock argument, the final round of the Evans Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition, and I arrive at the Capitol two hours early.

Moot court at the Wisconsin Supreme Court

No, I didn't find some crazy new way to screw up the jump to Daylight Savings Time, I just wrote 10 a.m. down in my calendar long ago, for some unknown reason. I procure a paper copy of the bench memo and head across the street to Starbucks.

The barista is chatting to someone about Daylight Savings Time and the effect on the clientele: "These are the 8 o'clock people at 9 o'clock. Or maybe it's the pre-church crowd? But what do I know about church? I mean I've heard" -- sweeping gesture -- "of this deity" -- gesture -- but what do I know?"

There's an astrology column taped to that circular section of the counter where they present the coffee drinks. A man waiting for his latte scans the column and expresses pleasure that he's supposed to have a good day. He's a Virgo he tells us. The barista exclaims that, ooh, he's a Virgo, and an older woman, also waiting for a coffee, says that her son is a Virgo. I read the Virgo message and point out the introductory clause: "It says you're going to have a good day assuming you first complete your duties."

Over at the fixings stand, I see this:


"Restore yourself." Not -- as I think it would have read a few years back -- "Indulge yourself." "Restore yourself" is less hedonistic, a bit spiritual. He restoreth my soul. But what would you have to be if what restored you -- what brought you back to yourself -- was a vanilla sunshine cupcake and a macchiato crisscrossed with gooey chocolate? Macchiato means "stained," and this plays havoc with the religious imagery "restore" evokes for me. But then it's restore yourself. No deity -- you may have heard of one -- is going to restore you. It's up to you to restore yourself -- to your truly stained condition -- at Starbucks, where God seems rather alien -- something heard about one time -- but astrology belongs taped to the part of the place that is most like an altar, where the barista bestows the restorative liquid upon us.

The woman whose son is a Virgo comes over to sugar her coffee and asks me if I'm "with that gentleman," meaning the customer who liked his horoscope. She seems to have appreciated my humor, though in expressing her appreciation, she uses the word "assumptuous." I say no I'm not. "I don't know anything about what unperformed duties he might have." I imagine the alternate universe in which I am with that guy and I'm reading the introductory clause of his horoscope to needle him about his duties -- the undone things that stain his soul.

I find a seat. I read the bench memo and do the acrostic.


I scribble some notes on the blog post I plan to write. I make a note to connect the Starbucks material to a conversation I'd just had with a colleague of mine over in the Supreme Courtroom.
"You know there was a big controversy a few years back when Shirley Abrahamson used this room for an aerobics class."

"Oh, yeah, I vaguely remember that. Well, you can't have that. This is a temple of justice. But then, we do worship the body in this culture of ours. So maybe..."
But the noon hour approaches. Time to get back to the Supreme Court.

Moot court at the Wisconsin Supreme Court

The problem -- here's the PDF of the record on appeal -- is about a student group, a conservative religious group, that loses its state university funding because it excludes a gay student from membership. The university had conditioned the funding on the group's acceptance of a nondiscrimination policy. We judges try to ask a lot of hard questions to give the students the opportunity to show what they can do. Both teams do a fine job. The two young men who win -- they're from Washburn University School of Law -- can be seen, unblurred, in this picture I took when I first arrived at 10.

Moot court at the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Rushing about so much she's a complete blur is Julia Ledbetter, the Moot Court boardmember in charge of the competition. Somewhat less blurred is my aforementioned colleague, the wonderful Stewart Macaulay.


chuck b. said...

If I ever go to a Starbucks, I'm having The Chantico.

Ricardo said...

I know you didn't ask, but I'm voting "this" my favorite post of yours in recent memory. Maybe it's just me, but I think you do a brilliant job of stream-of-consciousness narratives, and I hope you do more of these as time goes on.

chuck b. said...

I agree w/ Ricardo. Reading the blog, we see Ann has a fantastic ability to really let go, to let her mind wander, and to live in the moment. This is clear from the doodles and sketchbook work as well. What can we infer? She has keen powers of observation and would make a great scientist. Is she a very sensitive person? She seems always closely in touch with the world around her.

Steve Donohue said...

The thinking man's Lileks.

I mean that as neither an insult of you nor James Lileks

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks! If you like the stream-of-consciousness stuff, let me recommend the podcasts.

Abraham said...

I never get tired of going to the Capitol. Wisconsin has such a beautiful capitol building. Did you know that the pillars behind the Court's bench are made out of what is now considered a semi-precious mineral?

Danny said...

I like the steam-of-consciousness as well!

Jonathan said...

Stained, is entirely appropriate as the Macchiato (there is a carmel version as well) is made upside down. What that means is the espresso shots are poured in last, giving the drink a dirty, coffee color. It taste's a bit stronger for the same reason, even though the amount of espresso is the same as whatever latte you might enjoy. I work for Starbucks and read your blog every day. You certainly have a way of writing. Thanks for the mention. If you need some beans, let me know and I'll get a pound or two shipped off to you, no charge.

CB said...

The pictures look great; what kind of camera do you use?
And, speaking of pictures, I keep meaning to mention that in your new blog portrait, your hair looks zig-zaggy, like it's crimped--something to do with the pixelation. But in the enlarged photo, the problem goes away. Is that just on my monitor, or do other people see that.
Also, "assumptuous" is a perfectly cromulent word.

andrewodom said...

Venti Mocha Grande extra hot here.

seriously though. great post. i found your thoughts on the obvious marketing of spirituality in coffee to be quite....well, let's just say that i have noticed the coffeehouse becoming the outdoor festival of the 90s, the tent revival of the 80s, the commune of the 70s, the poetry cafe of the 60s, etc; in other words? the church of today. many spiritual discussion have been had by myself and others while indulging ourselves on $4 coffee drinks. for us, the renewal doesn't come from the coffee. it comes from the friendship, fellowship, and conversation gained at the local Starbucks. speaking of conversation. i am a blogger. read: i have little to say but know how to make it excessive and indulgent. i am working on a project at www.evoca.com. you may have read about us on techcrunch or some other tech blog. we are an audio recording site that allows you to record audio on your computer, cell phone, skype, etc and then post it to your blog via HTML. it is a great platform and we have gotten some positive feedback. i would love for you to check it out and let us know what you think. heck, make a mention of it and see what your readers think. it is no doubt you have a finger on the "involved" side of society. i would love to hear what you have to say. check out evoca.com. passing the mic.....


andrewodom said...

did i say venti mocha grande? boy, i must be tired. i meant...well, it doesn't matter now.

Ricardo said...

"... do other people see that?"

CB: I see exactly what you see. Enlarged, it looks fine. Personally, I liked the old picture better, because it was one of the best depictions of "the look" that I've ever seen. But this is Ann's show, and she's in charge.

Svolich said...

Ann, it must be very scary inside your brain. The rest of us go about with our stream-of-consciousness as well organized as marbles in a blender. Your random thoughts make sense! And they're insightful, and pointed, and funny... And they just keep making sense! Where's the incoherent blather, the pointless recursive narcissism? How can you live like this!?

Menlo Bob said...

I keep hearing that we're under the threat of becoming a theocracy while post modern barista's seem to be selling it under the guise of caffinated beverages.

Townleybomb said...


Seriously though, this is was a fantastic read-- guess I should block off some time and listen to some of the podcasts.

Speaking of Virgos (which I don't know if I should, since what do I know about horiscopes), I've noticed that those who know about horiscopes tend not to like Virgos, since Virgos tend not to know about horiscopes. (Yes, I am a Virgo.)

Terry James said...

Althouse: The courtroom and the coffeeshop.

I don't care much about the law profession, but Ann Althouse is hot!


I obviously don't know where I'm blogging, but I typed in "Nothing to do" in Google, and, well, here I am!

I know that where I live there's this old doc called "The Bill Of Rights." I've been told it's the Ten Commandments of America, and that it carries the same form of God's Ten Commandments. So, watching lawyers over 230 years now [okay, smartalek law students, since 1789 which would be more like 217 years, but you're objection is overrruled, live with it!], completely destroy the commandments of the People over the Lawyers, I don't care anymore what lawyers generally have to say, especially at Harvard, mostly known for Adams suspending all law anyway.

No, I'd rather look at the fauna and flowers. So, when I saw this platinum babe defending blogs against the evil empire I took a better look at the photo. It's what I think of to do. With a 4.0 in what law classes I took, I got bored quickly, starting looking at the people, you know?

So, I find out Ann is a full fledged Law Professor. O-kayyyy a girl with looks and brains . . .

She likes Starbucks. I liked JoJo too; he was kewl when he started his first coffee joint. I do doppio machiatto [double expresso with only whipped cream on top, for you intellectuals out there, it's Italian, from some platinum Italians in the Alps]. Sometimes a quad. I have been accused of being crazy for leaving it all behind and becoming a Rock N Roll performer. Blame it on expresso.

But you know what's the hardest thing in Rock N Roll? Law. Specifically, Copyright Law. Worse, find the best Intellectual Property Lawyer. So, I'm figuring, she's got three of the multiple choices down on the LSAT; what's next? (D). Beautiful Laweress practices, maybe, Copyright Law?

And if that's true, the answer is (E) I would love to meet super smart platinum babe lawyeress to discuss intellectual property and get the money Fox Films, ASCAP, and a sneaky Hollywood publisher and all of their forked tongue mouthpieces, or at least talk to her.

Am I using her? Well, she could always say "No." And then the answer would be (F) Invite her to Starbucks for coffee and a cupcake. So, no, I don't think so. Which, of course, uncovers my hidden motives, which are not hidden any longer as I write this blog comment, making me somewhat "honest," well, maybe and maybe not [that's the lawyer thinking again!], but I don't have to be logical, nor approved of, nor anything, but happy, really, and when I see a bright star I love to look at her and admire her. My only motive, God help me, and I really did have "Nothing to do," for a few minutes. From now on, regardless of anything that may or may not happen:

Thank you "Platinum Girl."

from a diamond boy

esk said...

Townleybomb wrote: Speaking of Virgos (which I don't know if I should, since what do I know about horiscopes), I've noticed that those who know about horiscopes tend not to like Virgos, since Virgos tend not to know about horiscopes. (Yes, I am a Virgo.)

You are not a typical Virgo then… it’s a rare Virgo that would misspell “horoscope” three times in one paragraph. See, I can appreciate the Virgos :)

Maxine Weiss said...

Oh, lookit the marble columns! I believe that curved/rounded decorative thingy beneath "Supreme Court" and frame is called a volute, (or is it a corbel?). The carved animals atop the marble columns....are those called gargoyles?

Lady is wearing a good skirt, but her nylons are too dark---looks odd. Women still can't wear slacks/trousers in court, eh?

Virgos are money counters. They aren't necessarily cheap, but they will nickel and dime ya.

They've got fabulous architecture. Love the balustrades leading up to the "Supreme Court". The vaulted- paneled ceiling colonnades. Side balconies.

Very ornate. A little bit of Vegas in Wisconson. Why not?

Peace, Maxine

Eli Blake said...


Don't you know the reason women wear nylons is to make men drool? I'm firmly convinced that female lawyers believe that if they show off their legs then male jurors will be more disposed to take their side. And some men might at that (although I'd like to think I'm not one of them, but I'd be a liar if I said I didn't notice).

On the time topic, I live in a really confusing place. Here in Arizona, we are contrarian on the time change thing, and don't have daylight savings time. But the Navajo reservation is contrarian to the rest of Arizona, so they do have daylight savings time. But the Hopis (whose reservation is surrounded by the Navajo reservation) are contrarian towards the Navajos, so they don't observe Daylight Savings time.

Confusing? Yes, it is. Especially since on most of the roads, they don't post any signs saying when you are entering and leaving the reservation, so you never really know what time it is. And then if you are going to a meeting out there on the reservation, 'standard time' means 'whenever enough people show up' which may be anywhere from on time until three hours after it is scheduled.

Frank Borger said...

But what do I know about church? I mean I've heard" -- sweeping gesture -- "of this deity" -- gesture -- but what do I know?"

There's an astrology column taped to that circular section of the counter where they present the coffee drinks.

Everybody to their own religion. Astrology is like Christianity with 12 commandments that change every day.

TJIC said...

Starbucks question: "Venti" means twenty in Italian (as in twenty ounce beverage). Yet the Italians use metric. Should not Starbucks call a large beverage a "cinquecento novanta uno" ?

SippicanCottage said...
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MadisonMan said...

What religion is practiced at St. Arbucks on Sunday?

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

I see Starbucks as a temple, of sorts. Cappuccino is named for the Cappuccine Monks who invented it. The barista is engaged in the sacrament of feeding the masses under the watchful eye of the Master Barista.

It is all ritual as the people from the street get blessed by the predictable routine of the establishment. In the not-to-distant past there was a large Itialian copper/brass machine that virtually hissed and hummed as it maintained the heat and pressure that makes great Cappuccinos, etc. Kind of like a mechanical Jabba The Hut of Star Wars fame.

Percolate, meditate, consummate!
I believe!


angieoh! said...

So happy to see a photo of Prof. Macaulay... as he always said in class..."that and a buck fifty will get you a ride on the Madison Metro".

Love that guy!

R C Dean said...

Thanks for the 180 proof shot of nostalgia, Ann. As a former Madison resident who worked around the Square and was frequently in the Capitol, this pose took me right straight back to two of my favorite Madison scenes.

peter hoh said...

Great post, Ann. Like commenter CB, I notice that something looks wrong on the small version of your photo that graces the main page of your blog.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not seeing whatever people are seeing with that photo. I used the same camera for both pictures. Should I go back to the old one?

Maxine Weiss said...

Ann: You don't see the acanthus leaves? I just know you were a Greco-Roman sculptress in another life.

Sippicancottage: You are brilliant. I've searched and searched for books on Greco-Roman motifs and not been able to find anything.

--Fluted columns are Greek. Just plain columns are more Italian, correct?

Also, the 3 styles of motifs are: Iconic, Doric.......and something else....????

When you say "capital"....that's what "caps" the columns, correct?

The "Pediment" is the triangluar thingy centered up at the very tippy-top, right?

It looks like the whole thing is done in marble. The columns are sort of a glazed/shiny marble. And, the inlaid side bricks are a more matte/tumbled marble. I don't think it's stucco.

The beautiful paneled murals look like ceramic tile mosaics.

The taxpayers of Wisconson really ponied up for this place!

Peace, Maxine

SippicanCottage said...
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Abraham said...

I believe you are correct, that they used limestone on the interior unadorned blocks (in fact, there are several places where large fossils are clearly visible in the cut stone.) But the exterior is not sandstone.
The exterior of the Capitol is constructed entirely of White Bethel Vermont granite.

Ann Althouse said...

Sippican: Thanks for the practical advice on the photo!

The Capitol includes the Supreme Court, two houses of the legislature, and the governor's office, each in one of the four wings.

There are different kinds of stone throughout, used very elaborately to produce colored designs. The building is old enough that the different types of stone used on the floors have worn to different degrees, making the floors interestingly unflat. You should come to Madison and experience our beautiful Capitol!

MadisonMan said...

You should come to Madison and experience our beautiful Capitol!

Yes indeed! The money spent on the refurbishment some years ago was well spent. The building positively gleams. It's always enjoyable to walk around in it.

SippicanCottage said...
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Terry James said...

More case law for the professor.

You should all visit this blog:


There, you will see how vicious Intellectual Property Law can become. You can also check out http://www.musics.com/SMF/index.php?topic=48.0 because I'm blatantly promotional for charity events.

As for Starbucks, I now have one around the corner in South Philly and we all love it.

By the way, professor, I'm an Ohio boy, although I was raised in South Philadelphia. Have some expresso and read what I've written about organized crime and Ascap's association with it.

ciao bella

Terry James said...

Let's try the links again! [why can't a link just show up as a link!]

Copyright Evasion

Stand Down help needed

There, let me see if that works.