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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I’m Directing the Thriller “Bad Seed”—Come Audition!









I have just recently learned that I will be directing the suspenseful play “Bad Seed” at Little Theatre Off Broadway in Grove City.  It will be my ninth show with them.  Auditions are this coming Sunday and Monday at the theater.  The leads are the mother and the very young girl (eight to ten, or able to play that age).  The plot is described below, but the basic premise is that the little girl may actually have murdered a classmate and the mother has no idea what to do about that.  Casting the little girl will be the challenge.  She has to be able to act, of course, but more than that she has to be able to handle the emotional baggage of playing a child who has no moral compass and would as easily kill someone as argue with them. 

The play has been a favorite of mine since I read it when I was in my early teens (it was a hit on Broadway in the mid-1950s and then a popular movie).  If we do the show justice audiences exit the theater and have trouble getting to sleep that night as they mull over the startling things they’ve just seen happen onstage.

Come out and audition for us!  Talented newbies are welcome.  We’ll hand you segments of the script to study and then read aloud with other actors as you show us what you can do.  You need not come both audition days.  One will do.





Here is the posted notice:


 Little Theatre off Broadway
3981 Broadway
Grove City OH 43123
(614) 875-3919
  
BAD SEED
By: Maxwell Anderson
Adapted from the novel by William March
Directed by Douglas Whaley

In a small Southern town, Colonel and Christine Penmark live with their daughter, Rhoda. On the surface she is sweet, charming, full of old-fashioned graces, loved by her parents, admired by all her elders. But Rhoda's mother has an uneasy feeling about her when one of Rhoda's schoolmates is mysteriously drowned at a picnic, for the boy had won the penmanship medal that Rhoda felt she deserved.  Could this little girl be a killer, and, if so, what should her mother do about that?

Auditions will take place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 24thand Monday, June 25th   at 7 p.m. at LTOB, 3981 Broadway, Grove City, Ohio.  Cast calls for 4 women, 6 men, 1 small girl.  Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script.  Bring all schedule conflicts and an acting resume and headshot if you have them. 

If you have questions, please contact the director, Douglas  Whaley, at dglswhaley@aol.com.

Show dates:

Fri. August 10 p.m. Sat. August 11, 8 p.m.                   Sun. August 12, 3 p.m.
THRIFTY THURSDAY: August 16, 7:30 p.m.  ALL TICKETS $10
Fri. August 17, 8 p.m.        Sat. August 18, 8 p.m.                   Sun. August 19, 3 p.m.
THRIFTY THURSDAY: August 23, 7:30 p.m.  ALL TICKETS $10
Fri. August 24, 8 p.m.        Sat. August 25, 8 p.m.                   Sun. August 26, 3 p.m.
Regular admission tickets are adults $15; seniors 60+ $12, students $10. 
To make reservations or ask questions, please phone the theater at (614) 875-3919.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Supreme Court Did Not Rule That a Baker May Discriminate Against Gays







This recent decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which I’ve written about before when it first reached the United States Supreme Court (see Related Posts below) pits a Colorado gay couple seeking a wedding cake against a religious baker who refused to make it for them because he believes the bible only allows men and women to marry.  The couple pursued him through the Colorado legal system and ended up with a Colorado Court of Appeals decision in their favor, holding that the baker violated a state statute forbidding discrimination on the basis (among other things) of sexual orientation.  An appeal was taken to the United States Supreme Court, where the Justices would have to draw some sort of line between the First Amendment right to religion freedom and the right of the states to forbid discrimination on various grounds (race, religion, sex, etc.).


[Ginsberg, Kagan, Kennedy,Alito, Roberts, Sotomayer, Thomas, Gorsuch, Breyer]



In my prior post I admitted that this is a hard question because if the Court were to come down in favor of the gay couple it would be ordering the baker to choose between doing something truly against his religious conviction or close his shop.  There are legitimate arguments on both sides, but almost impossible to find one that draws a line fair to everyone.  Further complicating things is that the Court has four liberals (Ginsberg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayer), four conservatives (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch), and Anthony Kennedy, ever in the middle and therefore the most powerful judge on the planet.  Kennedy was also the author of the majority opinion in the Obergefell case establishing a constitutional right for gays to marry, just one of a number of opinions in favor of gay rights he has written throughout his long tenure on the Court.


In the end the Court ducked the issue entirely and held for the baker by saying that the lower Colorado proceedings were unconstitutionally tainted by an announced distaste for religion, thus violating the First Amendment.  That Amendment, Kennedy’s opinion states, forbids discrimination against religion (which of course is true), and the Colorado decisions were wrong in not giving the baker’s religious views serious consideration. 







A couple of things about this:


1.  The baker might still lose if the gay couple renews the Colorado process and this time the Colorado system gives due consideration to the baker’s religious arguments but then finds that they do not outweigh the gays’ right to a wedding cake.


2.  The current Supreme Court opinion does not in any way answer the central question: does a sincere religious belief that gays should not marry justify the baker’s refusal to bake a cake for their wedding?  That won’t be resolved until another case raising that issue reaches the Court.


3.  If Kennedy retires at the end of this month (the Court’s term runs from October through June), Trump will appoint his replacement and then there will be five conservatives to write the next majority opinion, and four liberals dissenting on the losing side.  But if Kennedy hangs on past the November elections and Democrats take over the Senate, then Trump could not get a conservative Justice approved and he would have to nominate a moderate (someone close to Kennedy). 


4.  The decision was 7-2, with two of the liberals (Breyer and Kagan) joining the four conservatives and Kennedy, and two of the liberals (Ginsberg and Sotomayer) dissenting.  This is because (I would guess) that otherwise Kennedy would have joined the four conservatives whole hog, and gays would henceforth be trumped by religious objections to their existence.  After this decision that question is still up in the air, for which I, for one, am grateful.






When the Court next takes up this same issue (and there are cases in the judicial pipeline) what is the likely result?  Well, alas, that depends on who is on the Court.  If it remains the same personnel then, as usual, it would be up to Kennedy.  He waffled in this case, being sympathetic to the argument that it is cruel to make a religious man bake and decorate a cake that conflicts with his deeply held personal beliefs, but then adding:

[A]ny decision in favor of the baker would have to be sufficiently constrained, lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying “no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,” something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons.

Oh that’s right, Anthony!  Remember that and cling to it.  The Court has long held that a religious conviction does not permit, for example, a white supremacist who reads the bible as condemning blacks to act upon that belief when conducting a business.  Why should the rules be different if the bible condemns (as it does, see below) gays?  May a Muslim discriminate against a Jew when serving the latter a sandwich in a restaurant?  No.  Then why is this even an issue with gays?  Hmm.  Well, society has historically discriminated against gays and only very recently has this viewpoint shifted so that a majority does not.  Perhaps in 2018 gays are still not worthy of the same protection as other minorities. 


Or perhaps they are.  It all depends on the makeup of the Court when next it must choose between a sincere religious belief and the right of gays to be treated like everybody else.






Anyone interested in the full opinion handed down in this case can find it at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-111_j4el.pdf.


------------------------
Related Posts:


“Must a Baker Create a Cake for a Gay Wedding?  What Will the Supreme Court Likely Say?” September 28, 2017; https://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2017/09/must-baker-create-cake-for-gay-wedding.html

“Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality and Gay Marriage?” June 29, 2014; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2014/06/does-bible-condemn-homosexuality-and.html

“A Supreme Court Crisis: The Momentous Retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy,” March 26, 2018, https://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2018/03/a-supreme-court-crisis-momentous.html


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My First Play Will Be Produced Next Year!












I’ve written many legal works (books, articles, student guides, etc.) and two novels (“Imaginary Friend” and “Corbin Milk,” both available on Amazon), and when I was much younger I made stabs at writing plays and musicals, none of which I showed to anyone.  But the first real play I’ve written with the idea of actually getting it performed has just been accepted for a production next year here in Columbus, Ohio.  The play is called “The Turkey Men,” and it has its origin in a true story from the Civil War.  In 2011 I read in the Columbus Dispatch a column by John Switzer.  He's the newspaper's retired Weather Columnist, and he occasionally writes folksy pieces about nature or local events in central Ohio.  I've enjoyed his musings for years, and was very interested when on May 22 of that year he wrote a Memorial Day piece about two graves in Pleasant Cemetery in Madison County.  One is that of a Confederate soldier named Frank Chick who fought under the famous cavalry General Nathan Bedford Forrest ("be there first with the most"), both of them from Tennessee.  The other is Nicholas Brill, an Ohio native and Union Army soldier who encountered Chick when the latter was a prisoner Brill was guarding at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, during the war.  They were not yet 20 at first meeting, but when the war ended Brill invited Chick to come to his home near Mount Sterling, Ohio, and live with him in his cabin on Deer Creek, where they developed a business raising and selling chickens and turkeys.  The two lived together until Chick died in 1922 and Brill a year later.  Known locally as "the turkey men," they were buried next to each other in an area "separated a little bit from the other graves" (why would that be, do you think?). 



In his column contemplating this interesting history, Switzer speculates that this is "a nice story about how two men who were once sworn enemies came to rest in peace side by side throughout eternity." I immediately sent an email to the address Mr. Switzer conveniently provided at the end of his column.  Here it is:

Mr. Switzer:
I have long enjoyed your splendid columns.
Today's column about the Confederate prisoner and his guard who became lifelong friends and lived together—the "turkey men"—struck a chord with me. You say they "somehow became fast friends," and I may have an explanation for that. I'm an aging gay activist here in Columbus, now retired, and it struck me that there's a good chance these men fell in love and became partners. Is there any hint of that? Were either married? Gay couples know how to hide and have done so for centuries.
My best to you.

Douglas Whaley






Mr. Switzer never replied.  Obviously it hadn't occurred to him that the "turkey men" could have been lifelong gay partners, but that's as likely—even more probable—an explanation as any other.  Considered as a romance it's even a better story than two straight bachelors who just happened to live together for over 50 years.  Perhaps the reason I received no reply is that this possibility embarrassed or offended Mr. Switzer, but I'll never know. 


Chick and Brill’s story stayed with me, and I began musing how things would have been for them if in fact their pairing was a romance lasting 54 years, long enough to have had a Golden Anniversary in a time when gay romances in theory didn’t exist at all.  It occurred to me that in a fictional version of their lives I could change their names and do what I wanted with their basic story as a premise.  Instead of creating another novel I decided it was time to write a play with them as the central conceit.  But what kind of a plot?  And how could I make it into a story with one set and five characters (the supposed best setup for getting one’s play produced over and over again)?





The play would be a romance, obviously, but it should also be funny and there must be some real tension going on to move the plot along.  I’ve always loved ghost stories in fiction, and some of my favorite plays concern ghosts (consider Noel Coward’s terrific comedy “Blithe Spirit).  I turned them into ghosts.








I decided to set my play in 2016 and make the two ex-soldiers, now called Alexander Small (the Yank) and Webster Carter (the Confederate) ghosts still inhabiting their old home on the abandoned turkey farm, and now worried that if they materialize at all, as they used to do, they’ll vanish forever.  But these men have lived through much of gay history and have had wonderful adventures and a great romance.  Their quasi-existence is interrupted by the sudden arrival of three people: a man and a woman dragging a sixteen year old lesbian, entrusted to their care by her parents with the hope that they can “pray away the gay” and turn the girl into a happy heterosexual.  Should Alex and Web get involved even if it means their permanent disappearance after over 150 years?  Of course the answer is yes, and how they make themselves known to the girl and what they do to rescue her drives the plot.


In the fall of 2015 I wrote three pages of the play, and then I put it aside.  It germinated for almost a year and then in the summer of 2016 in a four day period I wrote all of the rest of it, sitting at my computer and typing in a fury.  I finished close to midnight on the fourth day and then wandered into the living room and announced to my husband David Vargo that it was done, and asked him if I could read it to him.  I did this with some trepidation.  David is a professional actor/director and he knows a tremendous amount about theater.  He is the nicest person on the planet when it comes to most things, but when you ask him his opinion about something theatrical he will give you the brutal truth, even if you are his husband and the subject is how you are playing a certain role or, as in this case, the merits of the play you’ve just written.  I expected no less, but wanted his frank opinion.  When I finished reading it to him he was all smiles.  “It’s terrific!” he said.  Of course I was very, very pleased.  Since then David, a graphic designer, has created a poster for possible future productions of “The Turkey Men,” and it is featured at the top of this blog post.


I then started the process of trying to find a company that would produce it.  I talked to a number of local playwrights who are friends, and they read it and made suggestions.  They advised me to join the Dramatists Guild, which gives advice on many important topics, and they also told me how to put my play in the standard format for submission to companies across the country, and made suggestions for changing various facets of the play in structure, dialogue, setting, etc. 


My play ends Act One with a love song that one of the Civil War soldiers sings to the other, and I had to write both the lyrics and the music to that song and get it down with proper musical notation.  I then had two different musical experts add all the proper chords and record a professional guitar version of the song so that I could send it out with the script I submitted to companies across the country. 


A couple of months ago one of the major companies here in Columbus offered to produce the show in their 2019 season!  The company wants to do it because of the local connection to the real story, plus my involvement in gay rights here in the city (I am one of the founders of Stonewall Columbus).  The email containing this offer to produce the show was one of the greatest thrills of my life.  It led to lunch with the artistic director of the company, a definite commitment was made, and plans begun (all of which will be revealed at a later date).  What was once just me typing at the computer now will be an actual event unfolding right in front of me as I sit in the audience, surrounded by a community of friends in a city that I love.  I still can’t quite believe it.






Last year at this time, Memorial Day, David and I hopped in the car and drove down to Mt. Sterling, about 30 miles south of Columbus and found Pleasant Cemetery, where Chick and Brill are buried.  The cemetery is of goodly size, but not huge.  The column in the paper had said they were buried together slightly apart from the other graves, so David and I, cell phones in hand, split up and searched.  He found them shortly afterwards and summoned me to their graves which were decorated with an American flag on Brill’s grave and a Confederate one on Chick’s.  John Switzer’s column from the Columbus Dispatch (enclosed in a plastic case and attached to a post between the graves) told their story for all the visitors to see and learn something about their lives.







Now we’ll see if my play, in its fictional, fantastic, and romantic form, adds a new way to think about what these two men really experienced after they blended their lives from 1865 until the early 1920’s.








-------------------
Related Posts:


"The History of Gay Rights in Columbus, Ohio," June 4, 2012; 
http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2012/06/history-of-gay-rights-in-columbus.html

"The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010;
http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2010/03/aging-gay-rights-activist.html

"Strange Songs, Inc.," September 29, 2010; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2010/09/strange-songs-inc.html

“Why Even Believers Should Read My Atheist Thriller ‘Imaginary Friend’,” October 29, 2013;http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-even-believers-should-read-my.html

“Just Published: My Novel “Corbin Milk,” a Thriller Detailing the Adventures of a Gay CIA Agent,” April 18, 2014;http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2014/04/just-published-my-novel-corbin-milk.html




Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trump to Rescind Louisiana Purchase: A Contracts Professor Looks at Backing Out of the Iranian Treaty







Okay, it’s a joke.  As far as I know Donald Trump is not currently planning to breach our agreement to buy a huge chunk of what is now the United States from France, as we signed a contract to do in 1803.  Thomas Jefferson negotiated that deal with Napoleon and it was a pretty good one, so I suspect the Donald will keep it.  But all the other contracts our country has signed with nations all over the world are no longer as secure.





Donald Trump has announced that the United States of America will breach the contract it negotiated with the Republic of Iran even though all the experts attest that Iran has obeyed its commitment under that treaty.  Phrased another way: they keep their word and we won’t keep ours.  As I write that statement I have trouble believing it.  The United States?  Renouncing a treaty in 2018 that it just signed its name to in 2015, a mere three years ago?  At the same time Donald Trump plans to meet with North Korea and talk them into signing a new treaty by which North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and in return the United States will drop crippling economic sanctions against them.  If you were North Korea would you happily put pen to paper after the United States had just demonstrated what its signature on a document means?






I’ve been teaching the law of contracts since January of 1970 and have written one of the major textbooks used across the country about this basic subject.  On the first day of every Contracts class I’ve taught through the decades I begin by saying, “Our entire civilization is built on contracts.  You are sitting in this classroom because you’ve signed a contract that said if you paid the university a set amount of  money I will teach you the law of this subject.  When your Uber driver takes you to a destination tonight, that’s a contract, and when the person you love agrees to marry you, that's one too. Contracts control the world.  Consider that no family can exist without many express or implied understandings as to how its members will behave toward one another. These agreements may or may not be enforceable in a court, but if these understandings are broken, major disagreements can occur and loving arrangements ruined. Similarly, starting with cautious meetings between tribes of cave dwellers in prehistoric times, human beings have negotiated their progress through contracts—whether treaties or informal agreements—that have brought us to the complexities of the twenty-first century.  Ladies and gentlemen, it’s all contracts.”


Of course this is an exaggeration, but it gets their attention and now they’re willing to think about the rules we’ll study over the coming months. 


Let’s apply that little lecture to Donald Trump’s views on contracts.


Donald Trump never went to law school, but he did study business at Wharton and surely the topic came up there.  Alas subsequent history shows that he never paid any attention to the basics.  We know this because he violated huge numbers of the contracts he entered into throughout his business years, as his biographers detail in ugly retellings.  When he was building casinos in Atlantic City he’d frequently refuse to pay contractors or sellers for the agreed-upon price stating things like, “Everything is so much more expensive than I thought, so you’ll have to take 25% off and if you don’t like that, sue me.”  Since most recipients of these threats understood that a lawsuit would be more expensive than the dictated deduction, they gritted their teeth and took the lesser amount., (though some of them did sue, witness the meme below).  Trump has always used threats of lawsuits not as a means to resolve a real dispute but instead as forced capitulation, malicious duress. 







I’ve written at length (see Related Posts below) about the cruelty Trump created when he started Trump University (now defunct and paying back $25 million in settlement of fraud claims).  When he began the original scam he went after those who trusted him most: his fans, his admirers, and asked them to invest their life savings and trust in his promise to teach them how to make huge amounts flipping real estate.  Then he took their money and gave them NOTHING in return, frequently leaving them destitute.  Before he was elected president or was even running, I used a court opinion arising out of the resulting chaos in the first chapter of my textbook on Consumer Law.  That chapter is called “Fraud.”  My editor recently asked me if we should take it out of the next edition and I declined to do so.  It was fraud then and the fact that he’s the 45th President of the United States doesn’t change that at all.






When dumping the Iran agreement Trump boasted: “Today’s action sends a critical message: The United States no longer makes empty threats.  When I make promises, I keep them.”  It’s depressing to decode all the ironies in that statement.  I won’t do so.  It’s just sad.  Sad.  


Bombs going off all over the world will be sadder.






[Coda: Shortly after this post was written President Trump announced that the coming summit with North Korea was being cancelled.  Supposedly he did this because he believed that Kim Jong Un was about to cancel it himself, possibly for the reasons mentioned in this post, but more likely because Trump’s heavy-handed National Security Advisor John Bolton stupidly announced that the United States would use the Libya model for dealing with North Korea, and Trump said something similar.  That “Libya Model” led not only to denuclearization of that country but also within eight years finished with the dragging of Libya’s leader through the streets to his death.  See https://www.thedailybeast.com/john-boltons-wrecking-ball-takes-down-north-korea-summit. History is not likely to use the word “intelligent” in describing the Trump administration’s dealings with dangerous situations.]  


----------------------
Related Posts:


“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2016/03/trump-university-fraudster-for-president.html

“Fake News You Might Like to Read,” February 17, 2017; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2017/02/fake-news-you-might-like-to-read.html

“Impeaching Donald Trump:  A Lawyer Looks at the Legal Issues,” August 16, 2017; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2017/08/impeaching-donald-trump-lawyer-looks-at.html

“Chaos in the Country: Eight Months of Trump’s Presidency”  August 28, 2017;
https://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2017/08/chaos-in-country-eight-months-of-trumps.html

“A Criminal Controls the Detective: Why Trump Will Soon Fire Robert Mueller”; https://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2018/03/a-criminal-controls-detective-why-trump.html


Monday, April 30, 2018

My Embarrassing Textbooks






In law school the books students buy for classes are called casebooks not textbooks.  Why?  Because  they’re filled with reprinted decisions from various courts, accompanied by textual explanations, diagrams, and/or quotations from articles or books.  I now have written seven casebooks since 1980, all of them still alive in newer forms since their original publication.  My casebook on Commercial Law is in its eleventh edition; the one with the smallest number of editions is Debtor and Creditor Law (largely bankruptcy), only in its sixth edition.  This blog post explains how I got into writing casebooks and why my books have a certain reputation that causes some experts to turn up their noses when those Whaley books are mentioned.


One of the courses I taught when I first walked into a law school classroom (January of 1970) was Commercial Paper (sometimes called “Negotiable Instruments”), which deals with checks and promissory notes.  It is largely governed by a complicated statute called the Uniform Commercial Code [UCC].  I adopted the leading casebook of the day and was disturbed by how little of the huge statute it covered.  The reason was that the casebook reprinted case after case and these wordy opinions take up a lot of space.  Each case typically focused on one or two issues, but by the end of the book important segments of the UCC were left completely unexplored.  I was certain that my students didn’t exit the course with enough information needed to practice in this area.  What to do?  Simple enough.  I started supplementing the cases with problems exploring the other important issues.  Here is a typical one:


PROBLEM 126
One day it occurred to the corporate treasurer of the Business Corporation that his personal situation would be easier if he started adding fictitious employees to the payroll and took their checks each month for deposit into accounts opened under the phony names. Are such checks properly payable from the account Business Corporation has with its bank? See UCC §3-404(b). Would the result be different if the treasurer padded the payroll with the names of real former employees and then did the same thing with these checks? If the depositary banks that took these checks were negligent in allowing the treasurer to open the accounts, would that change the result? See UCC §3-404(d).


This worked splendidly and soon I decided to stop using the original casebook entirely.  Instead I created my own materials which combined lots of these Problems with informative cases I thought nicely covered important points, clearly explaining the law and the policies behind it.  The students liked getting duplicated materials they didn’t have to pay for, and they enjoyed the Problems, even though it was a lot of work to plough through them and then be quizzed in a Socratic dialogue about them.  Sometimes I used famous names in the Problems or the names of my friends.  One of my Problems, for example, began with this sentence: “When Harry Potter decided to settle down and buy a house he arranged for a financing loan with Rowling National Bank, which loaned him $200,000.”


There was no internet in 1970, but one of the legal publishing houses distributed an annual publication listing “Unpublished Law School Materials.”  When enough of my law professor friends began using my materials, I listed my embryonic works in this publication.   Suddenly they were being being used at many other schools.  That interested Little Brown & Company, then one of the leading casebooks publishers in the country, and the editor in charge of developing new casebooks asked to see my Commercial Paper materials in 1980.  This editor later told me that he sent my materials out to leading experts in the field (mostly law professors at big name schools) for evaluation, and got distinctly mixed responses.  Some were dismissive because the books had all those Problems,  a number even having (gasp!) humor in them and/or amusing names of the parties, while other reviewers said that, well, okay, a Problem book was iconoclastic but might be worth trying.  After reading these thoughts this courageous man gulped, decided to go with his instincts, and sent me a contract for a new book entitled “Problems and Materials on Negotiable Instruments” (1981).  I dedicated the book to my parents, Robert and Lenore Whaley (Dad had just died the year before, but he knew it was about to be published, and was proud to hear it).



Leather edition of one book the publisher sent for Xmas once.
To the amazement of everyone the book sold very well and generated fan letters from law professors all over the country who loved it.  Yes, it was not often used at big name schools, but , hey, there are around 175 law schools in this country, and the royalty checks were very, very nice.  Little Brown promptly ordered two more books from me covering other parts of the UCC [Problems and Materials on Secured Transactions (1982), Problems and Materials on Sales (1983)].  All three books were then shortened and combined into a giant book covering the entire UCC, allowing teachers to demonstrate how the UCC fit together in one big course: Problems and Materials on Commercial Law (1996).  In the years following I wrote with Professor Thomas Crandall of Spokane University a book called “Cases Problems and Materials on Contracts,” with Professor Jeffrey Morris of the University of Dayton “Problems and Materials on Debtor and Creditor Law,” and, finally, a solo book “Problems and Materials on Consumer Law,” thus covering the entire commercial law field with Whaley books.


Not only did my books contain lots of problems (later articles on teaching law called me the “father of the problem method”), but they emphasized the basics of the rules of law and were designed so that the entire book could be covered by a diligent effort in one semester.  They did not contain, as many books do, an emphasis on the professor’s own philosophy of law or particular area of expertise.  My goal was always, first and foremost, to teach the students the basics of each subject.  My thought was that when they were hit with the complex cases that would later come at them in practice they would be well grounded in the law, and could then research the complexities that faced them with confidence.  When I looked at other books I was competing with I was bothered by how much they often skipped basic rules in certain areas,  bordering on educational malpractice in my opinion.  With my books the rules of law were examined thoroughly and the instructor could add whatever else he/she thought appropriate for the students to learn.


Chinese edition of Commercial Law
While my books were popular and remain that way today, they were never quite respectable at major law schools like Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, etc.  And I would be told this, sometimes brutally, at various gatherings.  Every year, for example, the law professors of the country get together for a three day drunk . . . er . . . I mean a “learned convention” where there are meetings, seminars, lectures, and parties.  I was often a speaker at these events and, of course, frequented the parties (and poker games) that occurred.  The University of Texas, my law school alma mater, famously throws a late Saturday party with an open bar, and it was at this event one year when I was slammed the hardest.  Alcohol had been distributed liberally and at one point I was talking and laughing with a group of professors, some of whom I knew and others not, when one of them suddenly said, “Wait a minute!  You’re that Whaley who puts out those silly books with the cutesy Problems, aren’t you?”  Gritting my teeth, I acknowledged I was that very villain.  Thus encouraged he added happily, “I wouldn’t ever use those Problems.  I’d be embarrassed to read them out loud.”  I'm not a violent person, but punching him sharply in the mouth did fleetingly cross my inebriated mind.  My friends jumped to my defense, but I just walked off rather than let loose the sort of comments (which included words remembered from my Navy days) that were straining to get out.






So, blog readers, that’s why this post is called (tongue in cheek) my “embarrassing” textbooks.  I remain very proud of these books, which are still selling happily.  I’ve always gotten fan mail from professors who use them, some of whom have taught from them all of their teaching careers.  One woman at Tulsa called me in a panic some years ago.  Just for variety she had switched from using one of my books but the new one she’d adopted had proved such a nightmare she was asking me if I would please allow her to duplicate and hand out many of my Problems for the remainder of the semester just so she could lessen the steady student complaints about the new book.  She promised she would adopt to my book again next year.  I was delighted to help her out and ease her return to Whaley.


All of my books except Consumer Law now have co-authors.  I'll turn 75 in September of this year, and talented younger law professors like Steven McJohn of Suffolk University and David Horton of the University of California Davis have jumped in to help this old man’s legacy go on after I can no longer participate in rewrites.  


As readers of this blog know, I judge everything in life by the "death bed" test: what will make you slap your head and say, "How could I have been so stupid?" and what will make you smile while remembering a wonderful moment?  My professional books are things that will pass that test.  My publisher has informed me that having seven casebooks in print at the same time has never been equaled by anyone in this country, I’m proud to be the father of the problem method (now much in use in other authors’ casebooks), and my books are, in a professional way, my beloved children. 







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Related Posts:

“How I Became a Law Professor,” January 27, 2010; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-i-became-law-professor.html

“The Deathbed Test,” July 27, 2010;
http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2010/07/deathbed-test.html