Wednesday, April 28, 2010

the poetics of Lil Wayne

As I mentioned in my bibliophilia post, a great deal of my undergraduate research was dedicated to invective poetry. Specifically, I wrote a lot about the connections between Roman satirist Juvenal and popular rap artist Eminem.

Since I spent my undergraduate years in New Orleans, I spent a lot of time fielding questions about the difference between Juvenal and Juvenile.

Juvenal. Juvenile. Ianus?

But I digress. My undergraduate days might be a distant memory, and my years in New Orleans may be long gone, but I still spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about the poetics of hip-hop.

I've actually been working on a blog post about hypallage, but I popped Lil Wayne's incredible 2007 mixtape The Drought is Over Pt. 2 (download it free + legal here) in my CD player today at lunch and I was like damn! That's a lot of puns.

Eight clever uses of double-meaning in a single verse of a Lil Wayne song today. This, I thought, would make a great blog post. I apologize in advance for the formatting--this is tricky to lay out in a way that is easy to read.

Lil Wayne "I Know the Future" [Tha Carter III Sessions]

Straight from the bottom of the cut
I give it to these b*tch n****s like Mama taught me
One man with no weapon at war, but I'm an army
My flow is capital, attention! Lieutenant, you're penny-pinchin'
And they demolished that invention
You better get your dollars up
And guess what, I was up
I get my cheese like Mickey Mouse
or else you better Donald Duck
Like a shooting range target
I get all kinda bucks

Be my shooting-range target
N**** I got good luck
N**** bye bye good luck
Got your momma shook up
Lil bad *ss n**** who thought Popeye wasn't tough
I'm on that lala twist it up
I'm on that syrup slow it down
and I like four freaks too, and I ain't Yung Joc but its going down
I buy that marijuana field, then I just mow it down
Big Bad Wolf yes I just blow it down
(no homo)
and to Holly Grove I will hold it down
Like a circle of knives I got the sharpest flow around

My flow is capital - His flow is capital (adj, excellent, important), but his flow is also capital (n, a source of profit). The addressee of the song has a flow that is weak by comparison ('you're penny-pinchin').

I get my cheese like Mickey Mouse - He accumulates a lot of cheese (slang n, money) much in the way beloved cartoon Mickey Mouse gets cheese (n, dairy-based food product)

you better Donald Duck - You'd better duck (v, crouch) (referring to popular pantsless Disney character Donald Duck (n, waterfowl)

Like a shooting-range target / I get all kinda bucks - In the almost effortless way that hunters shoot at plastic bucks (n, deer) at a shooting range, Lil Wayne accumulates bucks (slang n, money).

I ain't Yung Joc but its going down - It's going down (slang phrase, something is about to happen), despite the fact that Lil Wayne is not Yung Joc (ATL rap artist who performed the incredibly quotable 2006 hit "It's Goin Down"**)

**Hilariously, there is a Wikipedia disambiguation page for the phrase "It's Goin' Down"

I buy that marijuana field, then I just mow it down - Lil Wayne mows (v, cuts down) the marijuana field and mows (v, destroys) it down by smoking it

Big Bad Wolf yes I just blow it down (no homo) - A beguiling three-part pun! Like the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, Lil Wayne blows (v, sends forth a current of air) the field down and blows (v, exhales) the marijuana smoke. Lil Wayne throws in his signature (and controversial) three-syllable caveat "no homo" so that we don't consider a third meaning of blow--one that refers to a sexual act on a man.

Like a circle of knives I got the sharpest flow around - An interesting dual pun. Lil Wayne has the sharpest flow around (n phrase, the most incisive rapping skills), which is similar to a circle of knives (which are sharp and arranged in a round shape)

...This is the kind of thing I think about all day.

Discussion Question:
What is your favorite poetic device? Here's a handy glossary to jog your memory.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Here's a concept we need a word/short phrase for in English:

the experience of not liking something until you learn that someone you care about likes it

Anyone have any suggestions as to how to form this word? I can't think of a way to combine Greek or Latin roots together elegantly enough to convey this. I mean just love+another isn't right and love+because+another isn't right either and anyway it's awkward to stick a preposition in the middle of a word like that.

Unless you're German. Ichmagesweileseuchgefällt? Someone help me out here.

EDIT: Maybe I'm overthinking this. Rude Boy Syndrome?

Discussion Question:
What are other words the English language is lacking?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The publishing industry has its collective skivvies in a twist over this Alice in Wonderland app for the iPad. I'd explain it, but...a YouTube's worth a thousand words.

Just like that, these developers have challenged our idea of what it means to read. They've challenged the value of the static printed word. They've poised the question: What's so special about the way we've been reading for umpteen years?

Perhaps this is the moment when a Good Publishing House Employee would begin to wax poetic about the weight of a book in their hands and the rustle of the newspaper as they fold it and refold it over their coffee every morning and all that stuff that lovers of the printed word love to trot out when the subject of ebooks comes up.

It will come as no surprise to my readers who know that I am the Princess and I like Everything that I am a big fan of ebooks and Kindles and new media and all the possibilities that come with it. Perhaps it is because I am a student of the ancient world--ΠΑΝΤΑ ΡΕΙ and all--that I am not particularly attached to this or that form of expression so much as I am constantly dazzled by the possibility of the Next New Thing.

That being said, I am far from paying my last respects to our notion of the traditional printed book. Although I am willing to divest myself of a significant amount of my physical book collection (which, as you might remember, is organized by color) in favor of their digital equivalents, there are some books that will always be precious to me--that will always be more than just the sum of their pages.

Like my Juvenal books. The better part of my undergraduate career (and a significant portion of my graduate career) was dedicated to my obsession with this Roman invective poet. Since I was a little girl, I've always enjoyed reading the dirty parts of books. When it comes to Juvenal, it's all dirty parts. (If you've never read Juvenal, check out Peter Green's classic translation . I mean, if you're also a person who enjoys the dirty parts.)

Just a Bryn Mawr commentary, a Cambridge companion, a Penguin translation, and a Loeb. Fairly standard slacker Classics grad student fare. But when you take a look inside...

It's a whole world of ablatives absolute and chiasmus and satire. You can hardly read the Latin text for all my scribblings. I like to notate my Latin to facilitate reading--verbs underlined, relative clauses in parens, adverbs in boxes. This is not exactly the most scholarly practice, but neither is carrying around Loebs, so I've already damned myself.

Writing in books is sacrilege to many, but it is a holy act to me. It is living, breathing intertextuality, created by you and happening before your eyes. The scribbles all over my Juvenal books aren't just cheats by a lazy Classicist--they're a physical manifestation of my love affair with Juvenal. They're my little votive offerings for him.

I started this practice of annotating my books long before college. I've always itched to scrawl question marks in margins and underline memorable passages with wobbly, exuberant lines. In high school, when I fancied myself very much to be a serious scholar, I used to sit all day at Waffle House with a book, a cup of coffee, and usually a pack of cigarettes one of the older kids had gotten me from the Shell station next door, losing myself in whatever I had brought to read.

It was at the Waffle House that my love affair with Doug Parker began. In 10th grade, our young history teacher Ms. Doochin (who, in retrospect, was significantly younger than I am now when she taught our class) gave us a photocopied packet of Doug Parker's translation of Lysistrata to read for class. The text was saucy and raw and fascinating, but I was intrigued most of all by the lengthy passages that had been bowdlerized by Ms. Doochin's thick black marker lines. Knowing my affinity for the dirty parts of books, it will not surprise my readers in the least to know that I went straight from school to Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy of the translation in its unedited format and from there to Waffle House to make astute observations such as:

in case you can't read this, the lines are as follows:
STUDENT: Those are graduate students doing research on Hades.
STREPSIADES: Hades? Then why are their asses scanning the skies?
STUDENT: Taking a minor in Astronomy.
and in the margin, my notes: "har har har"
This is actually from
The Clouds, which I also read that night

I fell so head-over-heels crazy for this book that I even wrote the following ridiculous inscription on the Table of Contents:

"watching the masterful translation of complex wordplay makes me want to give these translators the Nobel Prize." yes, I actually wrote that

Why, then, are there two precious copies of this book on my shelf?

I learned some years later that Doug Parker was my academic great-grandfather; that is, he was my Greek teacher's Greek teacher's Greek teacher. When I got the opportunity to meet Dr. Parker at my first ALA meeting in New Orleans, I exclaimed YOU'RE MY ACADEMIC GREAT-GRANDFATHER! before either of us had said our names. He grinned.

Fate brought me to the University of Texas for graduate school, where I had the opportunity to take a few classes with Doug and even, dare I say it, had the opportunity to become his friend.

Doug Parker with Mary Jane and Katie Jane
still haven't given him that Nobel Prize yet

It's hard to put my relationship with Doug Parker into words. There's a spark--a crackle. We have the familiarity of friends or lovers from another lifetime. The afternoons I've spent with him, munching on muffulettas or smoking in the sunshine, always talking poetry, always--translating Juvenal or talking hip-hop--those are moments I will keep forever in these books.

the other copy, with Doug's signature

* * *

So all of this is to say that I have a new love in my life.

A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press Reference Library)

I have had a crush on this book for ages--ever since I heard an epic NPR piece about it a couple of months ago when I was making the 4+ hour drive home from Franklin. Here's a very concise little blurb from Elle that sums it up nicely:

"Ambitious, thought-provoking, and comprehensive, A New Literary History of America, edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, features more than 200 essays on poems, letters, novels, memoirs, speeches, movies, and theater, by writers ranging from Bharati Mukherjee to John Edgar Wideman, reinterpreting the American experience form the 1500s forward."

It's basically 1100+ pages of 200+ incredible modern writers analayzing 200+ of the most interesting textual moments in American history. For example, the first chapter deals with the first time the word "America" appeared on a map. Such an ambitious and intriguing premise, right? And it's gorgeous.

Look at that cover.

Look at that little red America and the rainbow sprinkling of stars on the spine.

Look at the capital Qs in the index.

Maybe it's just because I saved up all my Swagbucks for a month to buy this, but I have not been so excited about a book in ages. I am delighted in the extreme. Another reviewer called it "a DIY college course unto itself" and frankly I'm a little miffed that they stole my idea. As soon as I heard about it, I imagined it as a syllabus--my companion to a self-taught course on America's literary history. I have long, lazy plans to read every text discussed in the book, maybe in order, probably not.

I drew a bath last night and spent a little while reading a couple of the essays that caught my eye. The article on Little Women recast my four beloved girls in a new light for me, and for the first time I considered Domestic Space and Women as Other and all that academic stuff in Little Women. Usually I am too busy weeping over Beth or swooning over Professor Bhaer's dramatic return to notice such things.

The piece on Lolita is even better, if you can believe it. It really places Lolita in context in a way that I've never understood it before. One phrase from the essay stood out as an almost perfect love song for my fatherland:

the vulgarity of American beauty and, equally, the beauty of American vulgarity

I cannot WAIT to write all over this thing.

In case you need one of your own:

Discussion Question:
What are your most precious books?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

non-rhoticity, six-foot snows, and boiled dinner

I am a Southerner, born and bred. Here some examples of things I like about the South:

the promise of a warm summer night

Bourbon Street at night, New Orleans, 1945 by Hugh Morton

drunk gossipy ladies

if you don't have anything nice to say, come sit next to me!

deep-fried food

food prepared the way the good lord intended

Sadly, in a few months I will be bidding adieu to my sweet Southern homeland. Why on Earth would I do such a thing? Because Nick and I are moving to Boston this fall. Nick got into MIT's Media Lab for his graduate studies. Because he is amazing.

Local attractions in Boston include:

non-rhotic accents

you have to check out this linguistic toy, which allows you to hear a Boston accent pronounce various words


I mean because this seems reasonable

boiled dinner

The wikipedia entry on the Cuisine of New England tells me that Yankees eat this stuff when they're not eating Boston Cream Pie and McLobster sandwiches


Discussion Question:
Tell me things about Boston that will get me excited to move there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

the verdict

It didn't feel like the jury room anymore by Thursday morning. It felt like a hospital quiet room where the nurses take you to wait for bad news. Stale coffee and frowning people.

In some ways it made sense to pick up where we left off, but I knew the intervening hours since we'd called it a day the night before had affected the other jurors like it had me. I had new angles I wanted to consider, witnesses I wanted to analyze afresh, and new ideas about the deliberations process, and I knew I couldn't be the only one. So I took a cue from Tennessee Young Writers Workshop--something I find myself doing all the time.

I was a student at TYWW--a week-long writers' retreat in Tennessee--for six years and a counselor/mentor/teacher for another seven. Every day after our afternoon classes, we observed a sacred tradition known as temperature check or just temp check for short. Temp check was a time for the students to sound off to the staff--to tell us what they were enjoying and what wasn't working for them and what questions they had and all that good stuff. Everyone looked forward to temp check as their chance to share and center themselves for the rest of the evening.

It turns out temp check works just as well with a deliberating jury as it does with angsty Southern teenagers. We went around the table and spoke frankly about how we were feeling, what we were thinking, what we wanted to discuss more, and how we felt we should move forward. Despite the fact that we were all of different minds about the case, everyone listened to one another intently and even encouraged one another. When my voice cracked a little with emotion when I was describing the train of thought I'd been following since the night before, one juror reached out and touched my hand to comfort me.

And then I baked all the jurors a cake made of rainbows and smiles

Once we'd heard from everyone, we tried our best to move forward. It was hard not to wander a little. We found ourselves getting caught up in minor details. Maybe it felt safer to dwell on the minutiae so we could take our minds off the enormity of what we were deciding. I did my best to keep the conversation on-topic and productive but I didn't really know what I was doing.

And then it was lunchtime again. We had a new bailiff that day who elected not to stop traffic so we could cross the street to the cafeteria. The disappointment was palpable as we waited patiently for the signal to cross.

It was harder to make conversation without talking about the case. We made halfhearted chitchat about how good the chicken salad was and how awful traffic had been the night before coming home.

No one really seemed to be listening to what they were saying. I think we were all completely preoccupied by the same thought: how on earth were we ever going to reach a verdict?

One particularly well-spoken juror finally articulated this thought when we reconvened after lunch. "We've been at this for two days now," he said, looking around at all of us significantly. "We need to talk about the possibility that we might be a hung jury." Everyone had to admit that he had a point. A few people felt strongly the defendant was guilty, a few felt strongly that they had reasonable doubt, and most of us still felt pretty conflicted. We discussed it as a group and decided that, although we were ready to render a verdict on one of the minor charges, it was starting to look like we were not going to be able to reach a consensus about the other charges. There was a little stirring of relief. Even deciding that we couldn't reach a verdict felt like something like a decision.

The bailiffs had explained that I could ask a question of the judge by memorializing it on paper, signing it, and having a bailiff bring it to the judge. This question, I was told, would be entered in as official evidence in the trial, and then the judge would be able to answer our question.

I turned to a fresh sheet in my steno pad. Your Honor, I wrote, feeling something like I was back in 8th grade, We think we might be deadlocked. Can you give us instructions as to what to do if we are? I resisted the urge to add PS I like you, do you like me? Check yes or no. I pushed the button to page the bailiffs.

A few moments later the door opened. "Did y'all reach a verdict?" the bailiff asked hopefully. I shook my head and handed her the note. She took it without a word and disappeared.

It was only a few minutes later when she came back. "Ms. Foreperson?" asked the bailiff. "The judge wants to see you in the courtroom." Another what made me think this was a good idea? moment. I stepped into the courtroom through our special jurors' door only to discover the entire courtroom assembled--the lawyers, the defendant, the spectators. Somehow it had not occurred to me that they were all in there waiting on us.

It only took a second. The judge, who was very kind and patient through the whole process, asked if we were deadlocked. I told him we weren't sure but we thought we might be. He basically told me to get back in there and keep at it.

And then the strangest thing happened. Little by little, we reached a verdict. First I had a breakthrough--I realized that the only testimony that was creating our reasonable doubt (by placing other armed people at the scene) was the same testimony that stated unequivocally that the defendant was guilty. Therefore, I reasoned, we had to find him guilty. Either we believed the testimony, in which case we had an eyewitness account that the defendant was guilty, or we decided not to believe her and would have to throw her entire testimony out--including our only knowledge of other armed people at the scene. All the other abundant amount of evidence pointed squarely at the defendant, so the idea of other people at the scene with guns was the foundation of the last remaining shred of reasonable doubt I had. With the last bit of reasonable doubt eliminated, I was ready to convict.

The others started to come around one at a time. The people who felt strongly all along that we had to convict him started to speak up more. Finally, our most stalwart skeptic finally decided that her doubt was actually not reasonable, and she admitted that she was prepared to render a guilty verdict on all but one count. As soon as she changed sides, everything fell into place really quickly. The other holdouts started to agree, one by one, that they were ready to convict on all but one count too. It was an interesting compromise.

When the last person finally agreed they were ready to render a guilty verdict, we all looked around at each other with wild, hopeful eyes. Not two hours before we had asked the judge for instructions on how to proceed as a hung jury. Had we actually reached a consensus?

I polled the jury once and then again and then maybe again. I wanted to be absolutely sure that everyone was absolutely sure and confident in their verdict. Once and then again and then again we reached the same conclusion: we were ready to find him guilty of all but one count.

I tried to remember how I was supposed to render the verdict. "Did he say I just flip over the indictment and write the verdict on the back?" I asked my fellow jurors, and they nodded. I looked down at the stapled stack of paper in my hand, shrugged and flipped it over. I started to write out the verdict, count by count.

"Do you want me to write that?" one juror asked me. I looked down and saw that my hand was shaking so hard that I could hardly hold the pencil. I let him take the pencil and paper from me and write the verdict while I took ragged breaths and tried to calm myself down.

We pored over the written verdict over and over again, making sure I'd written everything correctly. We buzzed the bailiffs and I told him we were ready to hand down the verdict. "Who's the foreperson?" asked the grumpy one who had escorted us to lunch. When I pointed at myself, he just laughed and shook his head. The door clicked shut.

And then silence. Just a few moments after the bailiffs left, one of the fluorescent overhead lights started to flicker on and off like a strobe light. "Ugh!" I exclaimed, instantly nauseated. "Can we turn the lights off!" Someone flicked the light switch and the lights dimmed but the strobe effect continued. I had to press my forehead against the big glass window looking out over downtown Atlanta and close my eyes tightly. I chanted Thiswillbeoversoon, thiswillbeoversoon inside my head.

And then they came back for us. We looked around at each other with looks that meant something but we didn't really know what and took lots of deep breaths. My hands were trembling and I wasn't sure I could actually unstick my tongue from the roof of my mouth long enough to speak.

We filed in and sat down. The attorneys, the defendant, the spectators, the court reporter--they all rose for the jury. I took my appointed seat at the end, closest to the judge.

"Has the jury reached a verdict?"

I stood up. "Yes, Your Honor."

"Would you read it for us now?"

I froze. The judge had not even looked at the handwritten verdict. Had I done it right?

"Your Honor?" I managed. "Would you take a look at this and make sure I did this right?" I felt like a child. I could feel the weight of many pairs of eyes on me.

The bailiff handed him the verdict. The judge gave it a quick glance and nodded as the bailiff handed it back to me. "That's fine."

I hesitated again. "So if I read it, like, verbatim it will be right?" I cringed at how timid I sounded. The judge smiled. "Yes."

I took a deep breath and I looked around. I saw the attorneys sitting with their hands folded, sizing us up. I saw the defendant looking back at me with sad eyes, already seeming a little defeated. I saw the families in the back of the courtroom--the defendant's mother behind him in her Sunday best and the victim's family behind the prosecution, stone faced.

And then I read the verdicts. The competitive speaker in me couldn't help but look around at everyone as I read my lines like I was saying Four score and seven years ago instead of We the jury find the defendant guilty of count four. I tried to speak loudly and clearly and not stumble on any words.

The reaction was underwhelming. I was expecting cries of anguish or victorious cheers or at least some silent tears or meaningful skyward looks. Instead the defense attorney requested that the judge poll the jury. I think the defendant was looking at his hands resting in his lap. The judge called on the jurors one by one and asked us three questions:

Is this your verdict?
Was this your verdict in the jury room?
Is this your verdict now?

Thirty-six yeses later, the bailiff silently handcuffed the defendant and led him out of the courtroom, even as the judge was making mollifying remarks about the service and commitment of the jury. He thanked us for our time and dismissed us. The bailiffs opened the door that lead out of the courtroom and into the jury room.

I was closest to the door and thank goodness. I bolted for the jury room and so did the juror behind me, a friendly middle-aged guy who had sat next to me throughout deliberations. He ran into the bathroom and I could hear him wailing, sounding like he was pleading. I sobbed, open-mouthed, into a wad of paper towels in the corner by the coffeemaker until the judge entered the jury room. He handed out excuse notes for our employers and told us it would be best if we just went home and tried to forget all about it. And just like that, my jury duty was over.

* * *

Myself and two other jurors were the last to leave. As we were walking in heavy silence back towards the elevators, we found ourselves face-to-face with someone we couldn't help but recognize: the victim's nephew, the spitting image of his uncle, who had been seated in the front row for the entire trial.

Alone in the hallway, the huge man approached us. Standing so close, I could hardly distinguish him from the photos we'd seen of his uncle 'in life'. Without a word, he offered his large, warm hand to shake one by one. When he got to me he closed one giant hand over our clasped hands and looked me dead in the eye. "You did good," he said. And then he walked away.

That actually happened.

Discussion Question:
Think of a time when you did good but it didn't feel very good.

* * * * * * *

This is part one of four in my series about my experience as the foreperson of a murder trial.

one: jury selection
two: the trial
three: deliberations
four: the verdict

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

deliberations: day one

It was the third day of jury duty when a sick, heavy feeling settled over me. The shuttle and the line and the metal detectors and the memorial to the Nichols shooting--it was all familiar now and I didn't like that. We knew we would assemble Wednesday morning to hear the closing statements and then it would be time to deliberate.

I had a thousand questions swimming in my head from the day before, and having watched a lot of Law and Order and stuff I fully expected a lot of rhetorical bombast, pregnant pauses, and persuasive puffery.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

I sharpened an extra pencil and tucked it into my steno pad and fixed myself a styrofoam cup of coffee.

The prosecution did a pretty good job with their closing arguments. They had a powerpoint that recapped everything we'd heard the day before and explained all of the laws we'd be dealing with in deliberations. They left a number of stones unturned but I had a feeling they were undisturbed for a reason.

When it was time for the defense's statement, I got kind of nervous. The defense had been so pitiful the day before and it was their last chance to get it together. This was their time to coax out our reasonable doubt and nurture it into something we couldn't ignore. It was their time to construct some alternative versions of the story of what happened on the night the victim was shot.

They didn't do anything like that. In fact, I can hardly remember what the attorney said. More of the same unconvincing, poorly structured arguments. I spent a lot of time looking at the defendant, wondering what he must be thinking. Wondering if was contemplating the institutionalized injustice that confronts the undereducated and impoverished, or if he was just scared that he was about to go to jail for the rest of his life. He looked scared but maybe not as scared as I would expect.

The state gave their brief rebuttal and then just like that the ball was in our court. We were going to need a foreperson, the judge explained, to facilitate the discussion and eventually to read the verdict in court. The judge informed us that we were to go into the jury room, pick a foreperson, and then adjourn for lunch as a group. Simple as that.

We got into the jury room and spirits were low. It was starting to sink in by then that we were about to be stuck in this tiny room with these dozen strangers indefinitely until we could all agree on one man's fate. We sat down around the table and stared each other down.

"Okay," I ventured, breaking the silence, "Who doesn't want to be the foreperson?"

Twelve pairs of very serious eyes stared back at me as twelve hands shot into the air in unison. I sighed.

"Okay," I said, putting on my patient teacher voice. "Who really doesn't want to be the foreperson?"

Twenty-four sad eyes, twelve hands in the air. I exhaled.

"Fine," I said, sounding every bit like I knew what I was getting myself into. "I'll do it."

A collective sigh of relief. "That's good," says one of the middle-aged male jurors. "I was going to say you anyway."

We filed back into the courtroom and told the judge that I would be the forewoman. He told us he was going to buy us all lunch.

Our bailiff lead us down the back elevator (maybe the same elevator Brian Nichols came down after he assaulted his bailiff?) and down to the sidewalk. Without a hint of irony, he strode into traffic and stopped all the impatient cars so the jury could walk across the street for lunch. We looked around at each other and smiled, feeling important for a moment.

We all loaded up on cafeteria food and thanked the tax payers for our 'free' lunch. While I nibbled on my chicken salad sandwich, I looked up jury foreperson responsibilities online. I didn't learn much except that I should probably take a straw poll to see where we stand before we start deliberating.

We all managed to make conversation without talking about the case. We talked about daughters and sons and commutes and jobs and husbands and honeymoons and television shows. We found little points of contact and let ourselves feel the small delight of connecting with each other just a little. We laughed and shared cookies and tried to psych ourselves up for what would happen that afternoon.

I don't know what I was expecting, honestly. In retrospect it is a little silly to think that they would explain to you how to deliberate, or even give you a jumping off point. They just brought us back from lunch, gave us the box of evidence, explained how to ask a question of the judge, showed us what button to hit when we were ready to render the verdict, and said good luck.

We settled in around the table. Everyone looked at me. That was the first moment, but not the last, that I wished I had not volunteered to be foreperson.

I didn't really know what I was going, but I jumped in with the help of my fellow jurors. We decided to use the white board to write up all of the charges and discuss them, to make sure everyone understood the charges. They were fairly complex and it turned out to be a very useful exercise. After that, we took a quick straw poll and discovered we were a pretty even mix of he did it, he didn't do it, and I have no idea.

It was just like this except there were some people who weren't white men

We spent all afternoon in there. We diagrammed witness testimony on the board, working methodically through our notes and scrutinizing the testimony. We looked at photos of the scene of the crime and photos of bullet holes. We didn't need to examine the photos of the victim but they just kept surfacing over and over again like a dead fish. I kept having to flip them over so I wouldn't have to look at them.

We had no idea what we were doing, no clue how to reach a consensus, and very little grounding in the laws at hand. But for a group of clueless citizens, we certainly found a lot to talk about. Everyone was incredibly engaged with the process, which was especially impressive considering that we were slogging through the second half of our third day. We'd go for hours at a time and then stop only briefly for bathroom and coffee breaks. It was exhausting and overwhelming and fascinating and awful.

The bailiffs popped their heads in when the sun was starting to hang a little low in the sky and asked us how much more time we were going to need. We looked around at each other with questioning eyes. We were nowhere near a consensus and couldn't even see the light at the end of the tunnel. "Can we have another hour?" I asked. The bailiffs cringed and told us we'd better wrap it up and come back in the morning. So we did.

I went home feeling like I had spent the day in a boxing match. I was stunned at what an exhausting intellectual exercise it was to comb through all the laws and testimony and make sure everyone got a chance to express their opinions and ask their questions. I have been through a few exhausting intellectual exercises in my day (see: 2001-2007) but honestly these deliberations were up there with the most difficult. I felt pushed to the absolute limit of what I knew about interpreting texts, and I am a trained professional at interpreting texts.

Nick was gone in Vegas so Lanier took me out to Señor Frog's, where I had two margaritas for dinner. That was plenty.

I had no idea what was going to happen the next day.

Discussion Question:
What is the most exhausting intellectual exercise you have ever completed?

* * * * * * *

This is part three of four in my series about my experience as the foreperson of a murder trial.

one: jury selection
two: the trial
three: deliberations
four: the verdict