Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Voices of Warfare

I sought out the maesters of war. I sought out the living and the dead. The dead live through their written word.

The first maester I needed to seek, was the one my ancestors had called upon so many years ago.

General Sun Tze wrote his text circa 100BC. He was dead. But even the dead remain alive in their writings. He wrote his war philosophy in the Great Work, Art of War. In Chinese, it's called The Soldier.

"General, I am a young solider from the House of Yi. My mother's lineage of Yi sought your advice centuries ago. Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, with your advice, in the late 16th Century never lost a battle at sea. He fared 23 naval battles. I seek the same wisdom he sought years ago. My cause is good." I show him my insignia from the House of Yi. It's the National Korean flower.

File:Imperial Seal of Korea.svg

The General just listens. The silence becomes awkward.

I plead my case. "General, I fight for good. The Kingdom of Los Angeles is corrupt. Their -"

The General interrupts me, "Soldier, tell me not about good or evil. All war is based on deception. Warfare is not about good or evil. I cannot help you if you seek moral advice."

I restate my case, "General, I seek you for what you know about the strategy of war."

"That, I can help you with. The Art of War is the lifeblood of the State."

He continues, "Where are you in your war, Young Soldier?"

I explain to him where I am at. He listens and nods. He speaks, "At this moment, you only need to know two principles: 1) Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move. 2) The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand."

"General, what does that really mean?"

"Young Soldier, if I gave you every answer, would I be a good teacher? Go now. That is all you need to know for now and nothing more. Come back. I am alive, when you seek my advice."

"General, what offering must I pay?"

"Nothing. The Art of War is truly priceless and has no cost when sought out. The wisdom is there for those who will work to find it. I give it to you now."

It is time to approach another Maester.

File:Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

I open up his book, "Maester Machiavelli, I summon your wisdom. Help me."

I imagine to plead my case of good and corruption before Maester Medici.

"You awaken me for this talk of good and evil. You're just an inexperienced, young scholar." He laughs at me. He mocks me!

"You wish to start a war. Have you not learned, Young Scholar, that all unarmed prophets die. Only armed, prophets survive. Where is your army? You have no one. Before all else, be armed."

"Maester Medici, that is not true. I am armed with the knowledge of law. Behind me is the resources of the scholars of law."

He says nothing. He thinks. He listens. He asks, "What do you need from me?"

"Maester Medici, I fight the King of a place called Los Angeles. The King and all his men will crush me if I do not have your counsel. " I proceed to tell him about my resources and strategy. He listens. He knows how to listen.

He answers, "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to institute the new order of things."

Now, I listen. He continues, "Because your resources are limited, remember Lady Fortune can equalize the battle. You must capture Lady Fortune. You must tie her, beat her, abuse her. You must let her know that she cannot get away from you. If she escapes your grasp, she will turn against you and destroy you. Fortune is a fickle lady, who goes here and there as she pleases. She lusts for different men with a change of tides and with a change of desire. Signor, capture her, use her, and never let her go. By dominating her, you can wield her power of misfortune against the King and all of his men."

I listen a bit horrified as the Maester seems -so - so, evil. Machiavelli, however, was considered the amoral political philosopher. Why is he telling me this?!

I also find it ironic that Maester Medici recognizes that the lady fortune may be lacking physical prowess over men; however, she has a mysterious power to destroy all those who stand aginst her. "Master Medici, how do I capture Lady Fortune?"

"Signor, Lady Fortune is like a river. When you build levies, dams, and flood controls, you can control the river, even when it floods in wildness. It then will not destroy your Kingdom. However, if you take action after the river floods, Lady Fortune destroys your Kingdom. She is impossible to control. She will make you pay for your stupidity, for there was a time that the cost was so small to control her. So many enemies have fallen slain because they have neglected to control Fortune at the right time. For you, control everything that can go wrong before the battle starts."

"Graci, Maester Medici."

"See me again, Signor. You keep me alive, when you read my works and practice the principles."

I see my primary Maester. She is in the War Room. She is the only person I see today that is alive, and not dead. Her words are spoken, not written.

She criticizes me for some communication mistakes I had made with stakeholders.

"Paul, to do such, does not show confidence. You always want to appear confident and poised. To appear to aggressive shows insecurity." the Torts Master says.

I listen. I understand.

She stands in a tai chi position. "See my position. It is not threatening. It is not weak. This is where you need to be." It reminded me of my own stance in judo fighting. In judo, I fight with my right rib facing the opponent. Therefore, there is less surface space for them to strike. Contrast this, to a fighter who fights chest to chest.

I sigh. I had messed it up again with being too aggressive in my communication. I know I can be like this. I need to learn better. I learned this in New Zealand. Why do I go back to my old ways? I said, "Yeah, this is what you don't learn in law school."

She replied, "That's right. You almost never learn this kind of strategy in law school."

I then said, "I'll get another chance. I'll do it better next time."

She says, "What you need to do now is send me a summary of all the weaknesses of your legal arguments. Also, tell me what you think the City of Los Angeles' greatest counter will be. That way, we'll see how well you are sizing up the opponent. We will see how smart the opponent is as well."

I bow. I leave.

I need my messenger.

That day, I approach my envoy. He's a Frenchman. Only in Los Angeles, would a Korean American have a French envoy deliver a message to a Mexican American King. I need this message delivered to the King and all his men. I seal each message with my insignia. "Go, now. God be with you."

I then walk up to the library tower. It's my war room. A Professor, waging a War against Arizona asked me to write a brief for the Court. Surrounded around me is my arsenal of facts, cases, books, and law. However, as I write, I keep getting distracted.

Will my French envoy be alright? I walk to the East Face of the tower window. I can see the King's Seat of Los Angeles in the distance. He is somewhere in the labyrinth of the King's seat. Is he lost? Will they trap him? Will they trick him?

I pace around the library tower. I'm pacing, pacing, pacing. He hasn't called me. I try to work on my brief. I look out of the East Window again. He's there somewhere. I can only control what I can do. I work on my brief again.

My French envoy comes back alive. Mission accomplished. He wasn't harmed. Good. He informs me that he was tricked and ensnared by the King and his evil men at one point. However, with his own wit, he managed to escape. I smile. I'm relieved. I'm excited. It's all so much for the human spirit to experience.

I go and look out the east window again of my library tower. I see the Los Angeles skyline against the backdrop of a pink, smoggy, artificial sunset. I think: Who am I to take on the King and all his men?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rest and Play

I get criticized by a lot of people, that I play a lot. It is true, that I do. But do they also know that I work in the library six days a week, like today until 11pm? I didn't think so.

This week in law school, I had two exciting moments.

-The first moment was when I was walking my Mentor back to her cab. We walked through the sculpture garden. There we discussed the issues that the case had from filing until now. One by one, we went through the solutions. It was just a beautiful day - where the sun had lit the sculptures. They had that white, hot light against them. Spring was coming back in California. It would have been better if she wearing a Chinese robe. Then it really would be like I was the grasshopper and she was the sensei.

-The second moment came when I saw my statistics professor. I haven't seen him since 2002! I took this guy in 2002! Wow. I shot him an email that said, Guess what, I'm back! I'm in Law School - not medical school. The class was for pre-meds. I said, but you'll remember me because of the project I did. I used bio-statistics to look at whether the death penalty actually deterred murder in states that implemented it. The answer to the question was no. But, I remember, for some reason he loved the project and gave me full points on it - writing something along the lines as: "Fascinating."

He did remember my project - but not me. In any event, we discussed my new project on using statistics again to review how male teens are sexually abused in jail. He was excited to see the statistics. He gave me the four formulas to apply. He then encouraged me and said, "I'm glad you're doing this work. It's important. We need good people like you in the field." I smiled, shook his hand, and thanked him.

I had the sense of utter excitement from it all. I finally felt like a lot of skills I was learning was coming into a torrential intersection: law, statistics, science, programming, etc. etc. It was great to execute all these skills in the field of law.

However, I cut off school on Friday night after I went drinking with my mentee Sasha. The hard work is coming. So, sometimes you just need a break. The battle is coming. Then the war is coming. Rest, right now would be good.

So, after waking up from too much partying on Friday, I started doing my errands in front of my garden home. The garden has a lot of hanging plants. I'll post a picture sometime. My favorite part of it is the koi pond. We have five koi fish in there, a few goldfish, and a frog that changed from a tadpole. My roommate nicknamed the frog - turd because he says it looks like one.

Pierre, a classmate of mine came around noon. We were going to take a tour on the East side of Los Angeles. What do you imagine when you think about East LA? Guns? Gangs? Graffiti? The poor?

We took the roadster. Top down on a hot cali day. After the traffic cleared, I weaved in between the cars to get to my mother's home. There we switched cars. I took off the car cover and revealed underneath the 1967 mustang convertible with a 289 engine in it. Pierre, Julia. Julia, Pierre.

I took Pierre to a little mountain town by my little ghetto hometown. Yeah, my hometown's a barillo. Pierre could tell.

He asked me "Why did my family move here?"

I said, "Well, they didn't have much money."

I explained to him how I had to learn Spanish because in the earlier days of my elementary we had so many non-English speaking kids. I said the teachers even spoke to me in Spanish. I explained more tragic failings of the Baldwin Park School System. I went back to the principal once to raise standards. Her line back was, "As long as I keep kids out of gangs, I'm doing my job."

But in any event, I took Pierre to my favorite Mexican restaurant in the world. It's a small hole in the wall. In it, they have pictures of Mexican revolutionaries. The mexican mariachi music plays in the background. We order Dos Modelos, deep fried shrimp and fish tacos, refried beans (in lard I'm sure), and fried rice. The lady asked for my ID and I retorted, "Do you have to?"

She said, "Yes."

I handed it over and she said it as an excited utterance, "1982!!!!"

Just shame me, I thought. Tell the whole world my age. She said, "It's unbelievable." I smiled and said, "See, I told you you didn't need to look."

She couldn't make sense of Pierre's french ID either. I told Pierre, "Doesn't feel like America anymore, does it? It really feels like we're in a Mexican eatery in Mexico. We just need a sand beach right outside."

He chuckled. But it was true.

After eating the delicious food, it really was good, we took a drove to a small mountain town in East LA. No guns. no gangs.

I explained to Pierre that I had Julia for 10 years. However, my father restored her for me, when I got into law school. We both loved the sound of the roaring engine, as you turned her on. She sounded and acted alive. But she's a pretty old girl from 1967.

We walked through the mountain trail.

I took a shower...

Then we drove down to Old Town Pasadena

We drank coffee and had chats like we were intelligentsia.

And then we drove back to my mom's home. My mom loves the French - so she made us a really good Korean dinner. MMMMM. We drank German bier. I drove Pierre back to the bus stop.

I felt rested. I knew the hard work was coming. The next day, I really didn't feel like working. Ugh!! At least, I woke up at my mom's home. I petted Kitty Luke and at the breakfast table was a beautiful meal for me.

The war is coming.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In The War Room

After my human rights class today, I went to my law professor, supervising my case. She had a nice smile as we saw each other. We walked into her office together.

And in my imagination - the office transformed into the War Room. Incidentally, I was wearing the Nintendo Sweatshirt. It's been cold in LA today. And everyone appears to comment on it. She did too - "Nintendo-boy" my professor said.

As I sat close to her, we started discussing the legal and political strategy in suing the City. I really felt like she was an old hand, maester, / general. I was the young soldier, learning, inexperienced, and full of energy. We went through the details of the media strategy first. Then we discussed the litigation strategy.

I said, "You know - they'll probably make a motion to dismiss."

She said, "Well, if you know that, write the case against yourself."

I thought, well Sun Tze did once say, "If you understand neither the enemy or yourself you will always lose. If you understand only yourself, for every battle you win you will lose one. If you understand the enemy and yourself, you will always win." So, this is what she was saying to me. See the world through the enemies eyes.

Incidentally, my mother always told me that her line came from the General Yi line of Korean Generals. General Yi defeated the Japanese during the Japanese-Korean naval battles. His secret was to understand Sun Tze's Art of War and follow it precisely at sea. He actually built turtle ships, which stood the assaults of the Japanese. It was my turn to learn Sun Tze.

However, I was so focused on my strongest argument, I couldn't think of the other side. I said, "Professor help me think of the counter."

And what unfolded next felt like my days in the judo training with my old Sensei. My old Sensei was vicious. She would slam me against the floor. She would pound my head against the mat, straddle my back, and strangle me until I almost passed out. In time, I got better at fighting. One thing in particular I always remembered, was how she would drop all her weight against the sternum of my chest. It felt like someone punched you. So painful! I would say, "It hurts." She would say, "That's right! Always make the enemy be in an uncomfortable position."

It was the same, somewhat here. My Professor played the party of the city and the war games began. The Brilliant master threw out very compelling arguments. Yet, I retorted back with the counter arguments I could think of equally as quick. She smiled and said, "Good! Good!" And so the training battle continued - setup - attack - counter - rebuttal. My attack, the counter - her rebuttal. I knew I was growing from that 1L, who would be deadly afraid of playing this game with a mastered professor. Now, it was a game to play in jest and in seriousness.

Then, my Master says - what case was that. I said I sent it to you. She looked in her email. I swore I sent it to her. But we couldn't find it. I said, "I'll send it again." She smirked, "You're the perfect litigator. To add the word 'again' when you never sent it in the first place." We both laughed. Maybe, I brought it to you in person? Which, I think I actually did.

She ended by saying - you know where the weaknesses are. Go prepare for them. Send me your Press Release next week. And, don't forget to send me that case.

I left her office. That was a refreshing way to be trained I thought. It was the old blood training the new blood.

I then saw my Human Rights Professor. We discussed my research project. I imagined, if this was ancient Korea - I would be riding a horse across the snow and blizzard travelling from one of the three ancient kingdoms to the next. This journey would all be in the pursuit of military knowledge and secrets. However, here, I just walked across to the next building.

We discussed my research topic. It will be looking at why female corrections staff rape juvenile male inmates. New data is out. Time to look at it. Interesting, aye?

Afterwards, I walked to the law library. I went to the second floor, where I met my Taiwanese mentee. He's like my younger brother. My lawyer assigned us a secret assignment. I asked him if he could help. He agreed - even though I knew he was also uber busy. I explained the facts of the case to him. I explained our theories. We both thumbed through the California Law amongst the pile of books. You could tell, the more he researched the more he got excited about the whole thing. He said, "It's much more fun when it's real."

I smiled, "Yeah, of course, especially when our clients are innocent." I thought about my lawyer, who gave us the assignment. She's going up against a whole team of lawyers. And there was a whole team - a sad rag-tag bunch of two little law students and her. I thought, God better be on our side.

They kicked us out of the library. It was closing time. We were in the Foyer together discussing the legal theories, defenses, affirmative defenses and strategies. A fellow law student of his overheard it all and asked, "Is this for class?!"

I retorted, "No, this is the real deal. We're part of a team for our clients. We need to win."

I walked Alex to the bus stop. I could see his mind was still working on the defenses. I thought, this guy is going to be thinking about all this for awhile. We too, played the game of argument, counter argument, and rebuttal before he had to leave. Ultimately, it would help him think through the issues better for his research.

My mind was working on everything that happened today from male sexual victims to suing the City to this. I felt like my head was going to explode. So, I took a run for four miles. Somehow, it calmed me down only a little.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nintendo Boy v. the City of Los Angeles

I sued the Mayor Villagorosa, Chief of Police Beck, the Council, and the City of Los Angeles today. The journey began around 10am today. It was after showering, sleeping in, chit chatting with my roommate, and drinking beautiful coffee, a kona blend. I threw on this bright red Nintendo sweatshirt and left.

I took the metro red line subway into the City. While waiting, I read a part of the paper that was thrown in the trash yesterday. It was the New York Times on cuisine and food.

I read two fascinating articles. One was on the use of mango in savory and sweet cuisines. I had learned to make an authentic mango lassi and some Jamaican mango dish. The second, and more provoking article, was on baking ribs. Although its heretical to most traditionalist, there are certain recipes that only baking can cook right. One article was an Italian recipe on using milk and honey with ribs. When the milk evaporates, the lactic acid concentration increases. The acid starts to eat way at the protein bonds and makes for the softest meat apparently. Smoking ribs with this recipe would actually overpower the delicate flavors of milk and honey. Amazing, I thought. All the science was laid out too.

People were coming in and out of the subway. People from all cross sections of life. I saw a blind man. Mostly hispanics and blacks. The "rrrrr" noise of the engine could be heard. I felt the bumps and turns until my exit appeared: "Civic Square."

I went upstairs and saw the filtered daylight. Clouds were rolling in today on April 4th. I asked a Jewish guy, "Where's the Court?"

"Which Court" he replied gruffly with his New York accent.

"Civil, unlimited." He pointed to it. We both walked in that direction. I think he was a lawyer.

I walked past the security. Guards didn't even noticed I escaped their metal detectors and frisking. And why not, I hate that damn personal invasion against my liberty. Why should they know, I take anti-histamines for my allergies?

I entered into the filing window. Here it was: Civil Unlimited. (Unlimited meant unlimited damages.) The black woman at the counter was like a giant compared to me. She was 6' and overweight at perhaps 300-350 lbs. I smiled and said, "Hi, Ms. How are you today?"

"Good. Let me see your papers." You know she was thinking, Oh Great, a psycho pro-per, Nintendo-boy plaintiff suing the city. He's not even a lawyer.

"You have problems with your papers. Your complaint needs to be reformatted. " She went on to explain more details.

I felt a bit stressed. Where was I going to get this thing reprinted? I walked over to the public law library. I use a computer. I stick in my flash drive. Hey - my files arethere! I go over - reformat it.

I go back to the same African American clerk - only this time the guards do detect me and scan me. =( She says there's still some formatting issues. THE THINGS LAW SCHOOL doesn't teach you. I just handwrite it in. She said, "Good enough for me." She said do you have a second copy of your complaint? The complaint - which tells the City how naughty they are - is about 20 pages.

I said, "No."

She asked, "How are you going to serve the stamped complaint then to the defendants?"

I said, "Well, can you photocopy the first page with the stamp? Then I can print the rest out later."

She gave me a look that said, clever but makes me do more work. She did it anyways.

I then tried to connect with her. "Do you like ribs Miss?"

She smiled. "Not really. Too messy."

"You gotta like ribs. You're black."

She smiled again. "Nah, not ribs though."

I showed her my NY Times article and the recipes. She laughed.

I said, "You know, I'm suing this damn city for their red light cameras. They're $500 a ticket." I smile now, flashing my white teeth. I know, being small and smiling and being Asian some how really disarms and neutralizes people. It was working again.

She said, "No kidding?"

After copying my papers and charging me, she hands me my papers. I said, "Where do I get some food around here?"

She said, "Go to the farmer's market two blocks down."

"Hey thanks Miss I really appreciate all your help today."

I walk to the downtown farmer's market. I sampled so many ugly but delicious fruits. In the supermarkets, we have all these diva-fruits. One day, they should name an apple after Sarah Pailin. The Pailin variety. They look beautiful on the outside but no substance in the inside. I go around and look at all the exotic foodshops. Where's Korean, me thinks? No Korean! At the end, I settle for some salad. Eat it. It then hits me: YOU ARE SUING LOS ANGELES. YOU ARE CRAZY.

I find the flower man. I pick up two sets of flowers. One is for the secretary at my law school. She's always so nice and goes the extra mile for me. The other is for my professor sponsor.

I call my father. I said, "Dad, I'm suing Los Angeles." And he says, "For what? You already won that red light ticket?" "Well, Dad, I'm suing them to shut off their red light camera system." There's a few seconds of silence. Then he says, "YOU'RE DOING WHAT?!" This is the reason I kept him in the dark for so long. "You know you will lose. They have a team of lawyers. You're just one person."

In my Nintendo red sweatshirt, I acted not to hear him, "It'll be fine. Gotta go now."

Five minutes later he calls again. The thought materialized in how insane all this was. "Paul! Are you crazy? You know they have a whole legal department."

I said, "Dadz! Don't worry about it. I have a team too."

"Well, good luck. I wish you the best. You'll definitely be famous if you win."

I thought about the headlines - Nintendo-Boy against the City Attorney and Mayor.

I walk back into the subway. People were looking before at my Nintendo sweatshirt. Now, they're looking more because I'm carrying these huge flowers, especially the women. They think, who will Nintendo boy give these too. I take the subway back home. As I ride back, I realize, I'm just a student again.