Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Update

Family Guy - Santa I’ve been at the ‘in-laws’ for Christmas, so-called despite the fact I’m not married. On the whole, Christmas was fine with my girlfriend and I receiving many useful ‘household’ gifts, including a new TV with built-in Freeview. At the opposite end of the spectrum, though, and much to our chagrin, we were given a rather creepy pair of 80’s-style figure ornaments which seem to have been on display in the giftor’s house for a couple of decades. Suffice it to say, we didn’t bring the said ornaments back with us. Although we might seem very ungrateful, don’t judge us too harshly; the giftor is renowned for offloading a good number of her own ornaments onto others in preparation for her emigration. Call me a sceptic, but I think this gift was largely self-serving to that end.

Sadly, though, there seems to be a lot of illness going about at the moment and I awoke on Boxing Day feeling none too good. While I don’t seem to have contracted a full-on cold/flu/virus whatever the hell it is, I’m still far from being on top form. Still, my damn IT law paper won’t write itself so have set myself the rather vague target of making as much progress as possible with it in the next few days.

I realise the frequency of my posts have dropped off a little of late but I trust the blawgosphere had a tolerable-to-good Christmas and that none were rudely interrupted by Santa’s often untimely entrance on Christmas Eve!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Flirtatious and Frivolous Festive Frolics – All Courtesy of Nigella

NigellaChristmasKitchen I’ve been working a great deal in the last week or so – much more so than I’d planned in fact. Sadly, this hasn’t been without compromise and my previous target of having my IT law paper written by Christmas now appears laughably over-optimistic. Still, I’m glad of the overtime and thought I’d better take advantage of the extra hours while they’re available.

Rather guiltily, I’ve not felt like settling down to my paper on returning from work of an evening and with my girlfriend also making the most of overtime, I’ve been amusing myself with some light entertainment on iPlayer. As well as catching up with the excellent Oceans series – which quite possibly stands as the most-watchable oceanic documentary ever screened – I’ve found myself tuning into the undisputed Domestic Godess - Nigella Lawson.

While I’ve been known to turn my hand to a few off-piste adventures in the kitchen – all culinary I might add - I wouldn’t describe myself as a gourmet. Equally, I initially found Nigella’s almost absurdly over-indulgent ‘wallowing’, to use one of her own words, in Christmas and all associated traditions, food and paraphernalia somewhat grating at times. But that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to tune in.

Perhaps it’s her brazen embracing of the season or her informal, easy-going manner in the kitchen – I don’t know. Nevertheless, Nigella’s deliberate OTT-style just hits the (culinary) spot for me. While you might initially grimace at her unabashedly erotic sensualisation of anything and everything in her kitchen, this soon takes on an entertainment value of its own. Once the celebrated domestic goddess gets into her stride, there are enough laugh-out-loud moments for this to be viewed as a comedy as she methodically and shamelessly romanticises ingredients and actions in equal measure. Coupled with the show’s seductive close-up shots and her trademark flirtatious glances at camera, half an hour in Nigella’s kitchen is almost a helter-skelter trip into carefree fetishist fun.

If that were not entertainment enough, Nigella also stands as a credible candidate for the ‘Queen of Alliteration’ title and, unlike the another oft-mentioned candidate Arlene Philips from BBC 1’s Strictly Come Dancing, Nigella’s sentences actually make sense.

Some of my favourites:

“Nirvana for Noel’”

“Firm Freezer Favourites”.

“Seasonal spirit-lifting suppers”.

“Seasonal splurge”.

...”Gloopily and glossily”.

“Gluttonous gratifying glory.”

“Seasonal snipping with scissors”.

And some other corking phrases she’s come out with:

“This is no time for restraint”.

“It’s just sooooo gratifying and this gorgeous feeling is all too easy to achieve”.

“Super-juicy and gorgeously spiced”

And, perhaps most telling of all: “Viewers of a sensitive disposition”, she seductively giggled, “look away now”. The hussy.

After three episodes, I am left with a couple of questions though:

What was with Nigella’s leopard-skin marigolds which she used to manhandle the soaking turkey out of its tub?

And do any of the awkwardly staged ‘friends’ Nigella invites over to dinner, ever extend the courtesy and invite her back for dinner?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Blawging - The Burst Bubble?

I know that there are some ‘blawgers’ out there who object to the term ‘blawg’ for reasons which I still don’t fully understand. Never mind. If you are one of those people, particularly if you’re mentioned in this post, I apologise. I'll continue to use the term as it’s a useful and convenient means of distinguishing blogs per se on the one hand, and law-related blogs or general blogs written by someone with a connection – however tenuous – to the law, on the other.  Any blog I deem to fall into this latter category will hereafter be referred to as a ‘blawg’.

As I see it, there are 3 types of blawg and, though there are sub-categories within the big three, I’m not getting into that.

1. The blog per se. A blog which fails to transcend into the bona fide category of the blawg. It fails to be so classified despite being written by someone who has dabbled or is dabbling in the study or practice of law. Posts might touch upon legal topics, though not necessarily. These tend to fall by the wayside with the greatest frequency and have the shortest life-spans.
Example: Legal Seagull, Los Havros.

2. The typical blawg with a ‘small b’. This is the most common category and covers blawgs which deal with a plethora of topics. They don’t take themselves too seriously and are always worth visiting for interesting, insightful and sometimes unexpected content.

Examples: Android’s Reminiscences, Charon QC , Law Actually, Law Minx, Law Girl, Legal Lass, Lost London Law Student, ASP Bites, Ramblings of a Scottish Student, Bar Maid, A Girl Walks into a Bar and all the rest – I think you know who you are. Members are also known as the ‘UK’s inner sanctum of blawgers’. Just kidding.

3. The Blawg with a ‘big B’ – these handle hardcore legal issues exclusively and resist the temptation to wander between topics and veer off at tangents. They tend to have the longest life-span and are typically written by academics, legal publishers and even law firms. While useful and informative, you’ll rarely head on over to one of these for light-hearted entertaining reading during a spare 5 minutes.

Examples: Pangloss, Head of Legal, Binary Law.

Regardless of why and how it all started, why we all still respectively blawg, surveying the current blawging landscape in terms of this ‘blawg with a small b category’, it hardly fills the interested observer with a great deal of optimism. Could this species of blawg be on its way out, into eventual extinction?

No matter how you slice it, it seems the honeymoon period for blawging has long ended and the harsh realities have dawned, dark and brooding. Blogging of any description has become a bit ‘last year’ and some of us seem to have become a bit disillusioned with the concept of blawging. Others have become just plain bored. Some, even, have disappeared without trace and, apparently, without cause. What happened, for instance, to Accidental Law Student , Law Dent, and Diary of a Law Student? The on-again, off-again nature of Barrister2B remains an unfathomable mystery with his propensity for postings seemingly governed by a combination of personal circumstances and the phase of the moon. Some don’t even make it that far, though: the sadly abortive Legal Seagull and Wigging Out blawgs had a paltry 8 and 9 postings respectively before, inexplicably, a perpetual silence descended – a particular shame given the promise that those few posts showed. While Law Dent at least had the decency to officially wind-up his postings with a ‘This is the End’ entry, the others just seemed to disappear in mid-flow.

A Far Cry

During the latter part of 2007, it seemed as if a new blawg was springing up each day, each offering a unique take on the world and the topics it handled. What a difference a year makes.

Perhaps we’ve all gotten busier, more focussed or just more grown-up (just kidding). I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that there is a real dearth of new blawgs out there and some of the better established ones have withered and died.

One thing that’s long been apparent and was pointed out by the stalwart blawger Charon QC some time ago is that while many BVC student blawgs have sprung up, the same cannot be said for those students on the LPC.

For a while in the previous academic year there were 3 LPC student blogs in existence that were prolific in the UK sanctum of blawging: ASP Bites, Law Actually, Susie Law School (or is that Legally Blonde in London? – make your mind up, Susie....... oh forget it, you’ve disappeared anyway!) and..... well that’s about it. I mean, I suppose you could regard The Diaries of UK Law Students as one but no one counts that for anything, do they?

And of the 3 who were LPC-ers and were actively blawging... well, we’ve all finished on that course and moved on to pastures new. While Susie has gone completely, and ASP and myself are carrying on blawging about our new adventures on a training contract and an LL.M respectively, there are no new blawgs out there which have stepped in to fill the void that we collectively left.

In the last year, that seems to have become a common theme: while many of the established blawgers out there still publish the odd post regardless of how pressing their schedules (tip of the hat to Law Girl et al), we aren’t really getting any fresh blood in the blawgosphere. Granted, there was a period early this year when we had an influx of new blawgs entering the fray such as Swiss Tony, A Girl Walks into a Bar, Bar Maid, and Bar Boy, but, that was about the extent of it. Sadly, I’m beginning to resign myself to the fact that this, perhaps, really is it. The hay-day of the blawg has been and gone. While we might always get the odd one pop up – Uni Looney being a case in point - I think that special era of blawging has ended. For a while it seems there was a little online fraternity of blawgers in existence and, while some might like to think it’s still in existence, I think the death knell will be imminently sounding, if only by virtue of the undeniable lack of postings on those constituent blawgs. Plus, as I mentioned before, even well established blawgs have either started disappearing, have disappeared, or have at least had a sizeable wobble; I know the blawgosphere is still reeling from the shock of Minxy’s thankfully short-lived hiatus from blawging, for instance. Sadly, her return ‘to the ether’ as she would no doubt dub it, has not been entirely convincing either. Inescapably, then, the fact remains: if Minxy could disappear from the blawgosphere, so could any of us!


I’m not even sure it’s because another technology has superseded blogging. I don’t think micro-blogging, for example, has taken away much if any of the incentive to blog in the conventional sense; if anything, you could argue, it merely incentivised posting. As Facebook and other social networking sites make up a quite distinct part of the web 2.0 paradigm so as to allow blawging to quite happily co-exist, I don’t think it’s that either. Maybe, though, I’m looking in the wrong place for an explanation; what if blogging is just seen as passé now?

Perhaps the true explanation, then, is that blawging, as a niche of the wider concept of blogging, was just ‘of its time’. Plus, now it’s no longer novel, there’s no incentive to start. I’ve also heard it said that blogging is frowned upon and a person can unleash no end of trouble on themselves - and particularly their reputation – by starting. Given the seriousness with which potential and existing lawyers (and others just working or looking to work in the legal sector for that matter) regard their professional reputations, maybe they’re discouraged from running the risk of being ‘found out’ and opt to concentrate their efforts on their studies or work. That makes sense, I suppose, in this age of an ever-increasing scarcity of training contracts, pupillages and well, just jobs generally to be honest.

Nevertheless, I don’t find that argument entirely convincing: virtually all of us keep our full names off of our blawgs and regard our anonymity as of prime importance. Equally, it does nothing to explain why the world seems happy to throw all kinds of embarrassing and compromising content on their social networking profiles with little regard for the consequences. That type of conduct is far more revealing, less anonymous and potentially more damaging than the content on a typical blawg.

The future?

I think the immediate future is fairly clear: the majority of the blawgs which have withstood the test of time (or at least a year or so) will remain active to their characteristically varying degrees. Inevitably, though, if the current dearth of new blawgs remains, this rich vein of ‘blawgs with a small b’ will begin to drop off the map as a change in circumstances forces a re-evaluation of the importance of blawging in the blawger’s life. Human nature being what it is, some of us might just get plain bored and give up, too.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Facebook could scupper insurance claims

Facebook Insurance Fraud

Given that so much time passed from when I was at my Facebook-bashing best, I thought I might as well throw another Facebook related story up on Law Actually.  This time it's a snippet from Accidents Direct on 27.11.08:

[L]awyers have warned that insurers are now starting to monitor Facebook when investigating possible fraudulent claims. As before when many warned that potential employers will look at your Facebook page, insurance companies are now checking on what the claimants are up to, and if they judge from your pictures that you may be overstating your claim then it may be put in jeopardy.

It’s not only photos; it has also been warned that any light hearted comment written on your wall may be taken the wrong way by insurers and the courts. Not only is there the chance of your claim being thrown out of court, you can also leave yourself open to being prosecuted with making a fraudulent claim.

People throw all kinds of content up on their Facebook and other social networking pages with little or no regard to the real-world consequences that such action might have.  Some of the people who engage in this conduct are the type of people you would least expect it from.  The Facebook pages created by Metropolitan Police officers who had had so-called 'pol-colls' - collisions involving a police car they were driving - who used the social networking site as a means of boasting about and celebrating their carnage-causing antics are a case in point.  So too, is the situation in the U.S state of Georgia concerning a police officer who published content showing him 'playing' with a taser while off duty who actually 'tasered' his buddy at the latter's request. 

Given all this, it's hardly surprising, then, that people should contradict their insurance claims through content published online.  Illegalities aside, quite why you would even want to run the risk of being found out by putting something on your Facebook account showing your claim to be illegitimate is beyond me.  Perhaps Facebook speaks to a certain, deeply-rooted predilection for narcissism in some people and the opportunity to self-publicise your fraudulent antics is a opportunity too tantalising to pass up.  I don't know.

What I do believe, however, is that this is another case of the virtual veil in operation: the mysterious dichotomy that people make in their minds as to their online conduct and their offline, real-world behaviour.  By virtue of this fictitious veil, as I pointed out in a previous post, it is almost as though people view their ‘online persona’ as being so divorced from reality that any actions carried out online would not be attributed to their real ‘human’ person?  Slowly, over time, I think people will become increasingly aware of the fallacy that this concept represents and that, as far as the law is concerned, they are largely one and the same.  Perhaps that is happening already, though it does beg the question, why this 'virtual veil' arose in the first place?  While I leave you pondering over the answer to that, faithful reader, I promise to leave this 'virtual veil' stuff alone for a while.  Too much of a good thing, and all that!