My Favorite Case of All Time

54 F.R.D. 282

United States District Court, W. D. Pennsylvania.

Misc. No. 5357.

Dec. 3, 1971.Civil rights action against Satan and his servants who allegedly placed deliberate obstacles in plaintiff's path and caused his downfall, wherein plaintiff prayed for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The District Court, Weber, J., held that plaintiff would not be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis who in view of questions of personal jurisdiction over defendant, propriety of class action, and plaintiff's failure to include instructions for directions as to service of process.Prayer denied.


Plaintiff, alleging jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 241, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prays for leave to file a complaint for violation of his civil rights *283 in forma pauperis. He alleges that Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall.Plaintiff alleges that by reason of these acts Satan has deprived him of his constitutional rights.We feel that the application to file and proceed in forma pauperis must be denied. Even if plaintiff's complaint reveals a prima facie recital of the infringement of the civil rights of a citizen of the United States, the Court has serious doubts that the complaint reveals a cause of action upon which relief can be granted by the court. We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district. The complaint contains no allegation of residence in this district. While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff. The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court. This defense was overcome by overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case we are unable to determine at this time.If such action were to be allowed we would also face the question of whether it may be maintained as a class action. It appears to meet the requirements of Fed.R. of Civ.P. 23 that the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, there are questions of law and fact common to the class, and the claims of the representative party is typical of the claims of the class. We cannot now determine if the representative party will fairly protect the interests of the class.We note that the plaintiff has failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process.For the foregoing reasons we must exercise our discretion to refuse the prayer of plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis.It is ordered that the complaint be given a miscellaneous docket number and leave to proceed in forma pauperis be denied.


Another good idea for a Web application, this site commissions abstracts for articles in recent American magazines and publishes them online. You never have to worry about actually reading that pile of Atlantic Monthlies. But if you like the abstract, there is often a link to the article online. You can even work for them (click on the Writer's Area).


The Amorous Adventures of Alcoa Ruskin, Headmaster of Tampax/MillerHighLife/WeightWatchers/Redbull/ Stridex University

Alcoa Ruskin sat in his Work Bubble, injecting his dinner into his thigh. It was steak and mashed potatos, and the potato-extract was lumpy, as usual.
"Oh, to have lived in a simpler time!" sighed Alcoa, cringing uncomfortably as a lump moved through his artery toward his knee. "I am not made for this 25th Century! I wish I lived a long, long, long, long time ago!" Suddently, he felt the shudder and heard the loud ringing "danger! danger! danger!" that meant Princess BigLots Krispy Kreme, Tampax/MillerHighLife/WeightWatchers/Redbull/Stridex University's only student, had dialed up his Work Bubble. Alcoa rose slowly past Mattress King Viagra, the old, brittle head of the history department. He waved at Mattress King. Mattress King looked up from the pile of books and maps he was sitting on. He looked as if he had been crying hot salty tears that seemed to be the hot salty tears of someone who was very old now and did not feel quite so hot and salty at all and was probably just as lost as Alcoa was but who had never really shared much considering the fact they were always kept locked in their plastic Work Bubbles lest BigLots needed something at an odd hour of the day. BigLots was their only student, the cost of college education now being so high that schools only had one student, divvied among the 12 colleges on Barsoom. Earth had been abandoned since the 23rd Century, when the Prophet Al Gore came back from the dead and threw everyone off the stagnant garbage pile the Earth had become. Even with millions of miles of airlessness between Earth and Barsoom, the universe still smelled like a used diaper.
BigLots sat at her plastic desk, tapping her foot impatiently as Alcoa rose through the floor and came to a shuddering stop in front of her. He piled some of his books into a chair and smiled "Hello, BigLots. What can I do for you?"
"I want to know about sex!" declared BigLots.
"What? What are you talking about?" asked Alcoa. He was genuinely as clueless as a detective who had no clues.
BigLots jabbed her ComputerPen at the air in front of her. An image floated above her head. Two people. A man and a woman. "Are they fighting?" asked Alcoa.
"No! They're having sex! I want to learn what they are doing!" declared BigLots.
"Well, what's it for?" asked Alcoa.
"That's why I'm asking you. You're the headmaster. Old Mattress King couldn't tell me anything." BigLots looked at the writhing image longingly, her cobalt blue eyes like puddles of water poured from a fishbowl that had been knocked over by a tabby cat. "It looks wonderful!" she sighed, wringing her hands in front of her sighingly.
Alcoa watched the flickering image. "Where did you find this?"
"In the library. I was, I was," the fish in her eyes jumped and sparkled as if falling out of the bowl hadn't killed them but made them even stronger and more scaly, if either Alcoa or BigLots knew what a fish was, since they'd all gone extinct a long time ago. "I saw your name on an old box in the Miniaturized Library, and I looked inside with the DeSmallifier."
"Alcoa?" asked Alcoa.
"No. Ruskin. He was the headmaster here too, but a long time ago. And the box, the box," the fish let go of their hooks and swum up to her forehead and then splashed down into her cheeks. "There are so many things in the box. The box is so full of things. Things. Wonderful things in the box!"
"So, you discovered a thing in a box?" asked Alcoa increduously. "You're like this because my long dead relation put his thing in a box?" The ghost people fighting above BigLots head were making him uncomfortable.
"Many things in many boxes. Boxes of all shapes, sizes, and colors! It seems to be all he did, if I understand what he's left behind." her face flushed pink like a new sunset on the third ice moon of Jupiter, all pinkly gauze and flutter. "But I didn't read very far. I was too frightened and embarassed." BigLots turned away from Alcoa in fright and embarassment.
"Well, let me see your box, and I'll see if I can get this all straightened out," declared Alcoa.
"You think you can straighten out your ancestor?"
"I don't see why not. I am a headmaster."
"Oh, Mr. Ruskin! I don't know what to say!"
"Bring me your box, and I will take a poke at it," said Alcoa.
"I should very much enjoy your poking of my box!"
"You and I will poke your box together!" declared Alcoa, his eyes looking into BigLots but not thinking of fish because he didn't know what a fish was. "We will poke it until there is nothing in your box left to poke!"
What awaits these two interstellar innocents as they reach back into the deep dead past of a world long dead? Tune in next week!

Who ya gonna call?

The new symbol for the CIA's Anti-Terrorism efforts.

Apparently not a joke.


Bob Dylan

What the f&*$?

Amsterdam Marathon 2007

Yesterday we were up early and on the train -- I mean the bus, since the train tracks were closed for maintenance -- and then the tram to the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam (site of the 1928 Olympics) for traca da broon's second running of a marathon. She was nervous, suspicious that she hadn't trained enough over the preceding four months.

The place was wild with health, 20,000 string beans still a little groggy from their pasta freakouts the night before, all milling about, strapping on water-bottle belts, munching Power Bars and sucking Power Gels, stretching, and -- for God's sake -- jogging all over the place. Everyone packed into the stadium, the runners spread all around the track, with the Ethiopians and other first-class strictly running machines all in front, tiny heads seemingly balanced on top of leg muscles.

Somehow I spotted my darling amidst all this humanity.

The gun went off. And it took ten minutes for them all to squeeze out of the stadium, to great fanfare and loud cheering. She passed under the brick entrance and was gone.

Leaving me to kill five hours in Amsterdam. Inspired by all this running, I decided to walk to the Leidseplein, about a four and a half kilometer trek, mostly through Vondel Park. Well, by the halfway point I was limping on my bad knee and whimpering for a tram, but there was none to be had out in "nature."

I was following the course in the opposite direction, and before long who came trotting by but my baby. She looked great! And, seeing me hunched beneath my backpack laden with her clothes, my books, old dirty sticks of gum and the like, asked me how I was. "Oh, fine, fine!" I nearly added, with a whine: "You go on without me!" We waved. She was gone again.

Staggering, hobbling, I finally arrived at an Irish pub on the Leidseplein and found a table. I had really worked up an appetite and ordered the Full Irish Breakfast. As a hefty chunk of Black Pudding dripping in yolk speared to a piece of toast was all headed toward my watering mouth, an old Irish guy at the table directly across from me got up and stumbled over.

"I'm going to be a bit nosy and have a look at your breakfast." I hesitated, then moved my trembling arms away from my plate. "Yeah, yeah, looks okay. What'd they charge you for that?" he inquired. "Nine euros." "Not bad. I make that for myself every day." When I didn't say anything , but only stared at him with what I hoped was impatient indifference, he went back to his table, and I tucked in vigorously.

Then his wife came back from the toilet (yes, you say that enough times and it becomes okay -- no one was bathing in there, believe me). And the man said to her, "Have a look at the boy's breakfast." And she came over to scrutinize. "Now, could you eat all that?" he called. "No, I couldn't," she said -- with almost a sniff of disdain.

They got distracted by rugby on the telly, and I resumed my feed. Then I began reading a manuscript I'm going to be editing, about avatars and Second Life and whatnot. But the lighting was bad, and eventually my back started hurting, and my eyes were swimming and stinging from smoke, and I needed to walk. Right around this time, traca must have been reaching the halfway point -- 13.1 miles into her run.

I headed down the street and strolled into a Smartshop, which still had seven kinds of magic mushrooms lining the display window. The man, working alone in there, gave me a friendly hello, and we had the following exchange in half Dutch, half English.

"So, what's going to happen with the ban?"
"Well, we're eight votes away in the parliament from blocking it, a huge petition is going around, and there's going to be a huge demonstration next Saturday."
"What about these Growboxes?"

"They have psilocybin in them because they are live myceliums, so those will be banned too."
"So, if they do actually ban this stuff, what's next?"
He plunked down a little glass vial in front of me, and a syringe. "This is next. Spores have no drug in them, they will always be legal. Inject the spores into the growing medium, and voila, 30 days or so."
"So the ban will just accomplish moving production into people's houses?"
"Correct. That and LSD will make a big comeback."
He told me about a Web site devoted to reversing the ban (which traca had already found for me), showed me a bunch of other, interesting things -- but I'd had my walk and soon returned to the Irish bar.

Where I noticed something new.

On the back of the little flyer it said, "You think Red Bull gives you wings? This is like a jet-pack." I was sorely tempted, but had work to do and instead ordered my fourth Diet Coke -- which still has coca leaf extract in it, by the way.

Eventually, I simply couldn't read anymore in the dingy light amid so many restless rugby fans, and it was time anyway to return to the stadium and see if she would make it. She hadn't called me on the cell phone, which was a good sign. But I was worried she'd be broken somehow, and how would we get her home?

I took a tram and found a place near the stadium and waited. Many of the people coming by wore faces twisted in horrific grimaces, many were shambling along on God knows what secret energy stores, what final scraps of determination and sheer will, many were crying. But then, right when she said she'd be finishing, here she came, all smiles and waves.

I could hardly believe it. What gets into a person to do such a thing? I was surprised at the lump that had formed in my throat. My mouth was hanging open. I yelled encouragement at her and started snapping photos. After she ran by, I headed for the stadium and basked in the wonder of thousands of exhausted but grinning runners, cheered on to the blasting sounds of Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine." I had always thought of that song in terms of LSD slang, but these people appeared not to use that to walk on sunshine. Again, it takes all kinds.

We met at our prearranged spot. She looked wonderful! Was not even out of breath. Said her leg cramped a bit when she bent down once, but that was it.

Ate bananas on the way. Listened to the new Radiohead at the 30K point. She showed me her medal. I was so proud of her I couldn't think of what to say. It was like meeting an alien. "What is it like on your planet?"

Enjoying our first day's benefits of having a dogsitter, we took a tram back to the Leidseplein for a well-earned pint.

And then came back to Haarlem and had what passes here for Mexican food. You're likely to find almost anything in your burrito. Sketchy-looking "salad" items, baby corn, cucumber. With fascination I dug a chunk of steamed celery from mine.

At long last, homeways was rightways -- and we were off to bed, after a long, hard day.


Laurel's book is out

Laurel Snyder, of Jewishy Irishy fame, has published her first book of poems, called The Myth of the Simple Machines.

Haven't read it yet but that's the coolest cover I've seen in a while. Yay for Laurel!


Of course I found this in Holland

And of course I found it growing right outside our doctor's office, here in Haarlem.

This is the famous fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) of fairy tale lore, one of the earliest psychedelics ever used by humans.

First one I ever found, and I have been hunting mushrooms for years now. Really extraordinary to find one of these inside a city's limits.

This species has a long, curious history of intruding itself into human imagery.

And even, I wonder, about this from the news today...


Place your bets

Update: Doris Lessing -- whose formal education ended at age 13 and once wrote a book called The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 -- has won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature. Somebody could have made a lot of money!

You can bet on the Nobel Prize in Literature (TBA Oct. 15) and the Booker Prize (TBA Oct. 16) online at Ladbroke's. Never heard of many if not most of the nominees. How sad that is.

Nobel current leader is Philip Roth at 5:1. Murakami is fairly strong at 8:1, Joyce Carol Oates a bit further behind at 10:1, and Margaret Atwood and Thomas Pynchon just now rounding the final turn with 20:1 odds each. I think they should pick Pynchon just to see if he shows up.

Booker: Lloyd Jones is sitting pretty at 2:1, with Ian McEwan nipping at his heels with 5:2.

Last year Ladbroke's was correct in predicting Orhan Pamuk's prize.


"I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free ..."

Heated battle over severed leg left in smoker
Heated battle over severed leg left in smoker

I am now severely questioning my career choice.

Radiohead's giveaway

Update: I was able to pay 5 pounds by using a different email adress. And let me tell you, after 4 listens, it's their best album. Heard it here first!

As you've probably heard, Radiohead's new album In Rainbows is going to be available for download from the band's Web site Oct 10 -- and apparently from nowhere else. Pre-orders being taken now. A box set is coming in December, also seemingly only available from the Web site. The download costs whatever you feel like paying. I finally managed to get in and enter what economists might call my "rational" or "optimum" price: 0 pounds and 0 pence.

But the more I think about it, the less I like it. Just because Radiohead can afford to do this doesn't mean they should. If the recorded music of the Biggest Most Bestest Band In The World 's value suddenly plummets to zilch, what does that do to the rest of the market? Up and coming bands, mid-career bands ... they have to eat and pay bills. Radiohead seems to think they'll make the money up on touring, but not everyone can do that either.

I worry for working artists when I hear stuff like this. Suppose the richest, most successful writers started printing and selling their books for free? Where would that leave the rest of us?

I wish I could go back and change my price to something reasonable, but it won't let me. Says I can only have one download. Now I am part of the problem.


Congratulations Arda

I know this place is a little heavy on the fiction at times, but for now please congratulate Arda Collins on her New Yorker poem, Not for Chopin.

Questions for Craig Finn, of the Hold Steady

So, I'm interviewing Craig Finn about literary influences in his music. Knowing that I have a treasure trove of literary knowledge (excluding Dunkeys, who I'm still looking at) right here on this little blog, I thought I'd ask if anyone has some good questions. Especially the poets, considering the importance of John Berryman on the latest record.
In related musical news, anyone remember that kid Ezra Furman from Iowa Young Writers Studio (the kid I had to find a rabbi for in Iowa City so he could celebrate the sabbath -- sample exchange between me and rabbi: Rabbi: "Who is this person? I can't have a crazy person in my house." Me: "He's fifteen -- how crazy could he be." Rabbi: "Plenty crazy.")? I was cruising the hype machine for songs and came across two of his. They're actually pretty good.