December 22, 2011

"Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain/That could hold you dear lady from going insane..."

"That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain/Of your useless and pointless knowledge..."

Oh, it's crossed my mind occasionally, over the last 25 years, to resort to a Bob Dylan lyric — notably, that one — when a law student has asked me for the wrong kind of answer. I managed to resist. Now, imagine a law professor — a Harvard Law professor — making an exam out of 2 nothing questions and tossing in a Dylan quote as a taunt — "'There must be some way out of here,' said the joker to the thief/'There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief,'"

Via Instapundit, Elie Mystal gives Professor Charles Nesson a pass.

That exam — which you can read at the last link — reminds me of an anxiety dream I once had. I suddenly realized I had to give an exam. The students were all in the room ready to go, and I had nothing to hand out. All I could think of to do was to walk up and begin to write on the blackboard, making up the exam questions as I formed the letters of the words. Beginning with a Dylan quote would be a useful way to stall while scrambling for something that could plausibly be considered an exam question.... before going insane.


Tyrone Slothrop said...

In my anxiety dreams, I'm the one taking the exam, but I'm naked. And it's calculus, not Con Law.

traditionalguy said...

An old nightmare was waking up in exam week and realizing that I forgot a class that I had enrolled for, never attended class and never read the book.

That is the flip side of the Professor's worst dream.

somefeller said...

Ah, Charles Nesson. Anyone who has ever been in one of his classes knows that the only way to respond to a story like this is to say the first sentence of this comment, smile and move on.

Dave said...

My test anxiety dreams often involve a math or physics class I've been skipping and that's scheduled in some remote hard to find classroom that's hard to find and I'm running late. It's been years since college but I still get them occasionally.

Paddy O said...

Is it weird this makes sense to me?

Saves from having to read a whole lot of the same BS, and gets really quickly who gets the underlying issues rather than specific applications.

Also, he's going to enjoy his Christmas break a lot more this way.

That's evidence. Of Genius!

Fritz said...

I've never heard of an anxiety dream where the dreamer was the professor dreaming of not having the exam prepared, but it makes sense. That's a classic.

I've had various versions of the classic student dream, including one where my degree was being revoked because I missed an English course I was supposed to take.

Once it was a tennis class.

And yes, sometimes I've wandered around the dreamscape naked, looking for the location of the class I haven't attended all quarter.

Chip S. said...

Nesson dormì

EDH said...

I always loved this movie anxiety dream sequence.

chuck b. said...

After the Plato unit in high school English, the teacher wrote the name of a book about Plato/Socrates on the board and said, "What's in this book?" and that was the test.

bagoh20 said...

Dear lady, can you be sure it's not too late?

I may be a freak, but I've never had an anxiety dream.

Mine are only about sex, being chased, wonderful fantasy explorations of strange worlds or combinations of those.

I don't feel deprived about it. I hate anxiety, and avoid it at all costs, even when it's appropriate. I hate to feel it or see others feeling it. It's horrid.

bagoh20 said...

I lied. I just remembered that I have had anxiety dreams, usually involving impending death, which I escape by waking. No wonder I forgot them.

ricpic said...

As usual that great seer Robert Zimmerman got it 180% wrong. The joker and the thief don't have to get out of here, the joker and the thief are in charge. Or haven't you been awake lately?

Dose of Sanity said...

My favorite song, except I like Hendrix better on it.

Pettifogger said...

I never thought of professors having exam-related anxiety dreams. For years after law school, I had a recurring dream: I was walking into a room to take a final exam. Just as I passed through the doors, I realized that I had forgotten to study and that I would flunk. I was panicky. That dream woke me up in the middle of the night many times.

I've been out of law school for 36 years, and I have not had the dream for a long time, but I still remember it vividly.

Lem said...

The Man Who Sold The World

Going to Harvard presupposes you are going to sell the world.

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed

I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

Ann Althouse said...

"My favorite song, except I like Hendrix better on it."

Yeah, but when quoting the lyrics, Hendrix is irrelevant.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

A Nautical Disaster.

I had this dream where I relished the fray
And the screaming filled my head all day
It was as though I'd been spit here
Settled in, into the pocket
Of a lighthouse on some rocky socket
Off the coast of France, dear
One afternoon four thousand men died in the water here
And five hundred more were thrashing madly
As parasites might in your blood
Now I was in a lifeboat designed for ten and ten only
Anything that systematic would get you hated
It's not a deal nor a test nor a love of something fated
The selection was quick, the crew was picked in order
And those left in the water
Got kicked off our pant leg
And we headed for home
Then the dream ends when the phone rings
"You doing all right?"
He said, "It's out there most days and nights
But only a fool would complain"
Anyway, Susan, if you like
Our conversation is as faint a sound in my memory
As those fingernails scratching on my hull

Rick said...

This kind of crap is consistent with law schools that push their "clinics."

purplepenquin said...

My favorite song, except I like Hendrix better on it.

Supposedly, Bob thought Jimi played it better too.

That aside, the last few times I've had those "back in school" dreams I only had to remind myself (in the dream) that I've already been through all this so it must be a dream...and then the really good times start, 'cause there ain't no dreaming like lucid dreaming! ;)

MadisonMan said...

My anxiety dreams involve being late. I'm compulsively early.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

@traditionalguy -- what he said. My forgotten class is completely unbullshittable and without which, I'm ungraduatable. I wake up sweating and swearing, every damn time.

And related-ish, anyone care to speculate what it means to dream your teeth fall out, one by one, while you are giving an important speech? Or help Tyrone out on his nakedness?

andinista said...

Bob Dylan! Its a Boomer thing Everbodd elss sez "Huhh? Whys he so speshill?"

Comparr how Boomers hvv madd a mess of thinggs, n look how theyy all adorr Bob Dylan When d Boomers ar gonn, sso wll b Dylans famm Sinatra n Cole Porter will outlast him

andinista said...

Hekk, its been yrs n yrs sinss college, n I still dreem of ssignin up 4 a class, nevr attndin, sleepin thru the final, and gettin kikked outa both school and liff. N I wakk up feelin dreddful n Damocleyyan, n so get to work. Dos dreems r d suxxor.

Rob said...


What do they have to prove? Once you let them in, of course they deserve whatever they get.

Satta said...

A model answer/response from an Evidence exam given by Ken Graham at UCLA included some or all of the following:

Bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word
Chief Justice Rose Bird
The Birdman of Alcatraz
Charlie "Bird" Parker
Lady Bird Johnson

I do not remember what "question" was being addressed.

bagoh20 said...

I hoped I was having that dream about a college class once, but I never woke up.

--G. said...

Confusion? Feh. Roberts to Crawford to Melendez-Diaz. Confrontation combined with triple-play baseball. Write this final and have waffles for breakfast the next morning.

The Crack Emcee said...

I'm so glad I don't have a single touchstone, like Dylan, anchoring my existence. I mean, Dylan?

Even he wouldn't approve,...

TheThinMan said...

An urban myth I heard in grade school: a philosophy teacher's final exam consisted of the question, "Why?" one student answered, "Why not?" and got an A.

Fritz said...

"An urban myth I heard in grade school: a philosophy teacher's final exam consisted of the question, "Why?" one student answered, "Why not?" and got an A."

A true story. I had a 4 quarter Physics class. At the end of one quarter, the professor was notified that he had been denied tenure.

Our final exam was an essay exam with two questions:

1) If you had to devote your life to a cause now, what would it be and why?


2) Write down everything you know about quantum thermodynamics.

I honestly don't remember how I answered but it didn't matter. On the board with the scores he wrote (to the best I can paraphrase):

"I've decided not to grade this exam on the curve, and I've decided you all deserve an "A".

The professor of the the next quarter went to great pains to prove we didn't all deserve "A"s.

Barry Kearns said...

Your comments about song lyrics and an anxiety dream eerily evoked for me Laurie Anderson's "Talk Normal":

Last night I had that dream again

I had to take a test...

In a Dairy Queen...

On another planet...

And then I looked around and there was this woman

And she was making it all up

She was writing it all down

And she was laughing. She was laughing her head off.

And I said: Hey! Give me that pen!

Barry Kearns said...

Whoops, that line should have been "I dreamed I had to take a test".

vw: ushod - ushod have double-checked your content before posting it!

Manfred said...

You, my dear, are no Nesson.

fern and charlie nesson said...

anne, what grade do you give this response to my first question?