Supplemental Reading

Madison Bush ’18
Guest Contributor

We all dread the search for the perfect supplement—whether fighting for the library reserve copy of a suggested text or hunting through the piles of hornbooks at the PILA Book Sale. Similarly, finding the perfect novel, while certainly more enjoyable, can be equally frustrating. Most law students love reading (or don’t and maybe should have thought the law school thing through a little better), but are too overcommitted and under-caffeinated to choose a book, much less read it. In this column, I’ll do the work for you, giving you that perfect title which will float around at the bottom of your to-read pile, waiting for the magical day when you find yourself with the elusive creature called free time. Reading this review is a short investment, which you can walk away from at the end (unlike your journal—good luck 1L’s).   

In a world of self-help books, hobby blogs and fake news, I am happy to see the growth of the online literary magazine.  The publishing world offers few paths for writers, and traditional publishing has killed as many careers as it creates. Meanwhile, the online self-publishing industry opened the floodgates for authors who could not get their work past the to-read pile of an editor’s desk. Of course, that is not always a good thing.  Editors are important and without them many works appear in an immature, unpolished form. Literary journals strike the happy medium between the stringent world of traditional publishing and the free-for-all of self-publishing—offering new writers and new editors room to grow. 

he Kava plant. Photo courtesy buykavadirect.com

he Kava plant.
Photo courtesy buykavadirect.com

Rumble Fish is a brand-new online literary magazine edited by Katie Sions, a University of Virginia graduate who puts her English degree to good use in this clever, curated collection of short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and art.  The clean WordPress site—evergreen and cranberry, with a swampy cover photo—beckons visitors to enter a literary realm, one replete with (perhaps unintentionally) strong ties to Virginia.  The debut Winter 2017 Issue contains two poems, two short fictions and one non-fiction reflection, in addition to four black-and-white original drawings. The drawings complement the works, ranging from a cartoonish rat to an exercise in shading, followed by a pair of lovely cardinals and ending with a satellite tower, of all things. The Editor’s Note sets off the issue, an exuberant introduction disguised as a thoroughbred race (Editor’s Note, an actual horse, won the Belmont Stakes in 1996). 

The two short fictions are both contemporary pieces with the dark, pastoral flair of the Southern Gothic style of Faulkner and O’Connor. In “Routine Maintenance,” life, death, and rats intermingle.  Two men, Teddy and Isaiah, try to solve a rat problem they created in the first place. The delicate imagery of pet rats, rat poison, and a pregnant sister contribute to the reader’s unease, which carries the story through to a suitably uncertain end. “Appomattox, VA,” falls deeper into heavy themes, introducing us to a first-person narrator, “Winnie,” who spits and smokes and is “the meanest 19 year old” one will know. Readers familiar with old farmhouses and muddy creek beds will easily tromp along with Winnie and Andrew, all the way to a pair of hidden plastic chairs. Grief, growth, and poverty complete the portrait of life in one of the world’s small corners. 

Both poems complement the themes introduced by the short fictions. “Kava Kava” somehow manages to be insufferably hipster and wonderfully honest in fifteen short lines. Kava is a plant grown throughout the Pacific Islands, used traditionally by Pacific Ocean cultures for its medicinal properties. The poem captures the constant American hunt for new fads—a trend which creates cultural appropriation in its wake—while still celebrating the search for new experience. The Winter 2017 Issue ends with David Kunkel’s poem, “Dr. Frock Lectures a Company,” a thought experiment that overlays imagery with scientific formula, in a whimsical theory of grad student existence. 

Of all the pieces, however, I was most struck by B. Wilder’s “This is Me,” a non-fiction reflection on the struggles of living with bipolar disorder. “This is Me” takes the reader along with the author’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, traveling through Hawaii, South America, and Australia, on a series of backpacking adventures, misadventures, and workplace friendships. Some people in the author’s shoes may have been satisfied with learning to cope with bipolar disorder, but B. Wilder shows us how to thrive. 

Rumble Fish hits its mark with this debut issue. Like any first effort, there is room for improvement, from the overly metaphoric editor’s note to the scattered rhombuses filling the empty space. Despite a slight immaturity, however, the twenty-seven pages of the Winter Issue are amazingly balanced and coherent, carving out a place for young authors (with strong ties to Virginia) to celebrate and lament modern America through poetry, fiction, and artistic expression.  

You can find Rumble Fish here: https://rumblefishblog.wordpress.com/

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mcb4za@virginia.edu

Finding the Best of the Worst Part 2: Rock the Kasbah

Nick Rutigliano ’18
Guest Columnist

I was having a very enjoyable Sunday. I spent most of the unseasonably idyllic seventy-degree afternoon with some good friends in Gordonsville, VA eating approximately ten pounds of barbecue at The Barbecue Exchange’s Seventh Annual Porkapolooza. I went bowling afterwards, and I even managed to roll better than my decidedly mediocre and inconsistent standard. I knew that I would have to sit through some pretty awful films during this little experiment of mine (reminder, I am only watching/reviewing movies on Netflix with a 20% or lower rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Regardless, I wanted to end this otherwise pleasant Sunday on a good note. This week, I really wanted to find a diamond in the rough. Rock the Kasbah (2015) seemed like it could have some potential, despite its 9% critic score. I also vaguely remembered seeing a preview for it at some point with Bill Murray singing “Smoke on the Water,” and that made me chuckle. With Murray as the lead actor and Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, and Danny McBride having prominent roles, I thought there was a decent chance that maybe – just maybe – the critics got this one wrong.

Bill Murray ‘s smug mug can’t salvage this rotten tomato. Photo courtesywww.splendid-film.de

Bill Murray ‘s smug mug can’t salvage this rotten tomato.
Photo courtesywww.splendid-film.de

Nope. The critics were right. This movie is terrible. 

Bill Murray plays Richie Lanz, an aging and failing music talent representative that lands an opportunity to take one of his singers, Ronnie (Deschanel), on a USO tour in Afghanistan. Ronnie is less than pleased with the plan. Shortly after arriving, Ronnie takes Richie’s money and passport and flees the country, and thus Deschanel is also to escape this movie early on. Richie then gets tangled up with international arms dealers (Scott Caan and Danny McBride) and agrees to help them out so he can get money and a passport. This leads him to discover that a young Pashtun girl in a village has a beautiful singing voice, and Richie then devotes his efforts and helping her win Afghan Star – Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. Oh, and along the way he meets a prostitute (Hudson) and mercenary (Willis) that both help and hurt his quest in various ways. 

If that summary made it seem like the movie was disjointed, well, it was. There were way too many moving parts, way too few laughs, and a futile attempt at sentimentality in the last half hour of the film. That being said, there were a few highlights. The soundtrack is great, despite not actually including the song “Rock the Casbah” or anything else by The Clash. Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and others provide a nice classic rock sampling, and renditions of their songs by Murray, Deschanel, and Leem Lubany were fun to hear. Speaking of Lubany, she turned in, by far, the strongest performance of the film. Lubany plays Salima Khan – the young girl attempting to break cultural and gender norms by appearing on Afghan Star. She was phenomenal, but was introduced far too late and not featured nearly enough. Her appearance on Afghan Star was ostensibly meant to be the focus of the plot, but the film meanders through strange subplots and side stories for the first half of film. As a result, Lubany’s character’s story feels like a rushed afterthought, despite it being the only captivating element. 

Ultimately, the lack of focus throughout the first half of the film is what does the film in. I just didn’t care about what was going on. Murray provides a characteristic deadpan performance that is sporadically effective for comedic effect, but also renders him a completely unsympathetic character. The guy is literally stranded in Afghanistan with no money or passport. He’s inexplicably apathetic through most of the weird developments prior to meeting Salima. It just wasn’t entertaining, and I found it incredibly difficult to pay attention. It might have been because I was still busy digesting all of that sweet, sweet barbecue from Porkopolooza, but I digress.

This film isn’t exciting enough to be an action movie and it isn’t funny enough to be a comedy. But worst of all, the actual portion of the plot dedicated to Salima and her attempt to win Afghan Star is too rushed and undeveloped to save the rest of the convoluted but uninteresting story. This isn’t like Yoga Hosers (my first reviewed film) where you could go in with low expectations and get some cheap laughs. All in all, not a great end to an otherwise great Sunday. That being said, nothing could have fully ruined the experience of Porkopolooza. Maybe I should have just written about that instead. 

Tomatometer: 9%
Audience Score: 28%
Nick Score: I guess I’ll just go with 9% as well. 

Nick can be reached at

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mnr3a@virginia.edu

Finding the Best of the Worst Part 1: Yoga Hosers

Nick Rutigliano '18
Guest Columnist

Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Smith, stars of Yoga HosersPhoto courtesy ofimdb.com

Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Smith, stars of Yoga HosersPhoto courtesy ofimdb.com

Each week I’ll be diving deep into the depths of Netflix and reviewing a movie that has a 20% or less rating on Rotten Tomatoes. To kick things off, I watched Yoga Hosers, a 2016 film that has already slipped into obscurity. This movie seemed like a natural place to start. The title itself is pretty ridiculous (“hoser” is a Canadian slang term that roughly means “loser” or “idiot”) and the premise is so nonsensical that it had to be that way by design. In a nutshell, two Canadian teenagers find themselves relying on their yoga training to defend themselves after the convenience store in which they both work is overtaken by genetically-engineered Nazi monsters made out of bratwurst. But, hey, I figured that this could be a Sharknado-type deal where the movie was so bad and ridiculous that it was kind of....good. 

But here’s the kicker – this is a Kevin Smith movie. Clerks is an all-time favorite, and if anyone can make a funny movie out of something absurd, Kevin Smith would be that guy. I mean, the guy basically made a name for himself by following exactly that model. And then I took a look at the cast. Johnny Depp, Justin Long, and Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development) have minor but visible roles in this movie. They essentially save the first half of the movie from being utterly unwatchable. Stan Lee also makes a cameo for some reason. So I fired up Netflix with a little bit of hope that Smith and a decent supporting cast could maybe salvage what should have been, by all other accounts, just an unadulterated disaster. 

There was really nothing redeeming in the first half of the movie. We meet Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith), the aforementioned “yoga hosers.” They’re best friends and work together in the Eh-2-Zed convenience store in between their yoga sessions with Yogi Bayer (Justin Long). The first act really crawls along as we see how the Colleens navigate their high-school lives in Manitoba. The biggest problem was that I really couldn’t understand what this movie was “going for” for the first forty minutes or so. Obviously it was never meant to be a serious movie, but I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to get our laughs through jokes and situational humor (a la Clerks) or through Yoga Hosers functioning as a type of meta-satire. For instance, each actor’s Canadian “accent” is pretty much just their typical accents while throwing in “ah-boot” and “sore-ee.” I guess it could have been funny if they were meant to be that bad. But it wasn’t obvious that was the intention…or if the movie was just poorly acted. It all kind of missed the mark. 

Eventually Guy Lapointe (Johnny Deep) tells the girls about a mysterious death in town (I’ll spare the details), and from this point on the movie actually starts to border on being okay. Spoiler alert, I guess? The girls get called in to work at the convenience store, one thing leads to another, and soon they’re wielding hockey sticks and fighting off miniature cloned Nazi bratwurst monsters. At this point it was obvious enough that Smith was going for a “so bad it’s good” vibe. The combat scenes are ridiculous, the dialogue is contrived, the on-screen graphics and music get louder, but I found myself chuckling and even starting to enjoy myself. 

The movie is not laugh-out-loud funny at any point, and it still pales in comparison to Smith’s other work, but given my non-existent expectations literally as soon as I read the title, I’ll admit that it ended up being slightly better than expected. Harley Quinn Smith turns in a strong performance and has some decent comedic timing. Given that she’s only seventeen years old, she certainly seems to have a lot of potential for a promising career. Once the film stops trying to make jokes, and simply allows the audience to laugh at the film itself, it becomes much more effective. But the question then becomes, what was Kevin Smith’s purpose here? Clocking in at just over eighty minutes, and with the absolutely nonsensical plot, it never feels like a serious attempt to make a good movie. Two of the characters mention their disdain for “critics” of their work. Smith has had a contentious relationship with his critics at times throughout his career, and it seems likely that at least a portion of this film was directed to them. If he was intending to send them a message, it still seems unclear exactly what that message is. I just find it hard to believe that Smith would make what feels like a bad parody of his breakthrough hit Clerks without doing so deliberately.  

Final verdict: It’s a short movie and it isn’t good. That being said, if you’re looking for a Sharknado type experience and a few laughs, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half of your life. But if you enjoyed Clerks, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, this film will definitely have you wondering what’s up with Kevin Smith. 

Tomatometer: 20%
Audience Score: 39%
Nick Score: 30%

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mnr3a@virginia.edu
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1
     See Hoser, Urban Dictionary (May 5, 2007), http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hoser. 
2     So, yeah, Johnny Deppís daughter and Kevin Smithís daughter are the two lead actresses. I donít think the film industry has nepotism laws. See, e.g., The Godfather Part III, (1990). 
3      We even get an "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" so that was a nice touch. 
4     In my COMPLETELY unqualified opinion. 

Performing Statistics Exhibit

Tex Pasley '17
Co-President, Va. Law in Prison Project

By now, I suspect that everyone at this Law School (who is either a user of the library or who likes their coffee free) has passed the art exhibit currently on display in Withers-Brown. If you have not already, I encourage you to read the text accompanying the exhibit and take a copy of the materials provided on the table to the left of the library entrance.

All the artwork in the exhibit is created by a group of incarcerated youth at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center. Every year, the children visit Art 180—a Richmond non-profit—and work with artists to produce exhibitions that visualize their ideas for transforming the juvenile justice system. Under the name “Performing Statistics,” Art 180 works with the Legal Aid Justice Center to advocate for changes in juvenile justice policy here in Virginia. The current exhibit will run until Spring Break, and we hope to hold a reception with Performing Statistics in the last week of February, during the National Student Week Against Mass Incarceration (co-sponsored by the Virginia Law in Prison Project, and the UVa chapters of the National Lawyers’ Guild and Black Law Students Association).

I recognize some may object to the content and prominent location of the exhibit within the law school, and I encourage people to e-mail me at crp5vw@virginia.edu if they have questions or concerns. My hope is that the exhibit forces us to discuss the moral, political, and legal appropriateness of the choice to deprive a person—juvenile or adult—of her liberty. The process of legal education prepares us well for the objective, rigorous analysis lawyers need to advocate, but we sometimes need a reminder that the law is fundamentally an effort to protect human dignity. 

This show would not happen without the efforts of many people, and I would like to especially thank Kate Duvall in the student affairs office, Taylor Fitchett and Micheal Klepper in the Law Library, the staff at Performing Statistics, and the members of VLPP and CARE for their help in putting up the show.

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crp5vw@virginia.edu

K-Cup Compendium: The Definitive K-Cup Rankings

Nick Rutigliano '18
Guest Columnist

PILA is over and exam season will soon be upon us. This next month will leave the best of us weary and exhausted. For those of us that will be spending a significant portion of our waking hours in the library, the Keurig machines in MyLab offer sweet, sweet temporary reprieve. Free coffee in the library is one of the most appreciated perks of being a student here, and we have access to a nice variety of coffee at the press of a button. As part of this investigative piece, I took the time to sample them all and offer my thoughts on each blend. 

Disclaimer – any negative opinions expressed are purely out of jest. This author appreciates all of the fine coffees available to us here and would never mean to genuinely disparage them. Please don’t ever take the coffee away. 

Columbian Fair Trade Select

Described as “classically balanced with a ripe fruit finish,” this is actually a pretty good cup of coffee. It’s a nice medium roast, and true to its description, very balanced and smooth with a pleasant after taste. I’m really not sure what this “ripe fruit” is all about, but this cup finishes with a nice acidity that plays off the caramel notes up front. 

Dark Magic

As far as K-Cups go, this blend will actually deliver a somewhat complex flavor profile. Rich aromas of a heavy dark roast linger after the initial dark, cocoa flavors develop. Minimal acidity with some pleasing bitterness as the coffee finished. 

Newman’s Special Blend

This is good, it’s just not much to write home about. Or in this case, write in the Law Weekly about. If someone just wanted “a cup of coffee,” this is probably their best bet. The initial flavor is subtle and balanced and will not linger long on the palate. In my opinion, this K-Cup also probably has the highest quality grind and coffee beans, but I’m basing that on nothing but haphazard sampling and speculation. 

Sumatran Reserve Magic

Most pleasant and intriguing aroma, but somewhat disappointing flavor profile. As the coffee brews, sweet caramel and butterscotch notes emanate from the Keurig. Your mind starts to wander and your anticipation grows. I honestly can’t write a review for what the actual coffee tasted like because I forgot. It just tasted like coffee. I think. I don’t know. It wasn’t nearly as memorable as it smelled. I’m sure it was just fine.   

Breakfast Blend

The description on the box for this coffee is apt (“light roast”). Keurigs have a tendency to brew coffee lightly as is, and this roast is very light. Unfortunately, not “light” in the “bright and cheery start to your day!” kind of light–more like, “this kind of tastes like flavored water” light. Which is okay! Some people prefer that, I guess. It doesn’t taste bad by any stretch–it just doesn’t taste like much at all. But it still has caffeine so that is a good thing.

Italian Roast

Another apt description (“dark roast”) and the polar opposite of the Breakfast Blend. I’m a believer in dark roasts, but this is just a tad much. The flavor is very deep with a heavy roast that borders on being too harsh. The coffee finishes somewhat unpleasantly with a burnt taste. I’m also sure this isn’t a technically term (nor if it makes sense), but this coffee tastes gritty. Every sip is like the last sip of a French pressed coffee when you accidentally drink a bit of that sediment that sunk to the bottom. I felt like I needed to check my teeth after drinking.   

French Vanilla

Look, take my opinions on flavored coffees with a grain of salt because I’ve come across very few flavored coffees in my life that I’ve actually enjoyed. Most of them – like this particular flavor – simply overpower the coffee flavor. I take my coffee black for a reason – I want the coffee flavor to come through. The box’s reminder that this coffee is “artificially flavored” is unnecessary because you’ll know as soon as you take a sip. I wouldn’t drink this again because I really disliked the aftertaste. The coffee actually had a kind of nice, interesting taste at first – very sweet with some hints of vanilla. But, the “artificial-ness” asserts itself at the end and, literally, leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  

Pike Place

This coffee kind of smelled like something burning in the oven as it brewed. Maybe a burnt ham? Regardless, not the type of scent you want to prime your taste buds for a cup of coffee. With admittedly low expectations going in to the tasting, I was not pleasantly surprised by the flavor. The flavor was very assertive with an initial heavy, charred flavor that finished bitterly. 

Hazelnut

I’ve never tasted a real hazelnut before, and I don’t really want to after drinking this coffee. I don’t understand why nut-flavored coffee is a thing. In my opinion, it is a very bad thing. 

Dishonorable mentions:

French Roast Decaf and Newman’s Special Decaf

…decaf?!

Best of luck on exams everyone. May you stay alert, refreshed, and well-caffeinated. Stay tuned for K-Cups Ranking Part Deux, The Tea Edition, in 2017. 

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mnr3a@virgina.edu  

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1     I know I sound like a coffee snob. I tried my best to avoid doing so. It couldn't be done. 
2     Maybe. I'm much more of a coffee person.