Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunlight in Vermont

The title of this post is a Captain Beefheart reference - let's see who's the first to identify it.

I spent most of the last 4 days in Woodstock, Vermont (not THAT Woodstock), attending a conference that has been run by Al Warren of the Harvard Law School for many years (approaching twenty), and that is genuinely an important institution in the tax legal academy. This both in the sense that it can have important effects on people's stature and reputation in what I like to call the biz, and in that numerous subsequent publications may be strongly influenced by it. E.g., my forthcoming article in the Stanford Law Review, which I have previously linked here, changed significantly, reflecting the input of Jeff Strnad (my discussant last year) in particular.

The Woodstock proceedings are confidential to the participants (unlike my colloquium, which is open to the public). If I published inside details about it here, I not only would be in hot water, but would deserve to be. But if I may throw in another far-fetched cultural reference, it's a bit like a much less racy version of the movie Brief Encounter. Many of the same people get together every year, and the thing evolves over time. Indeed, to a serial attendee the way it has evolved over the years is genuinely sociologically interesting.

It's in part a generational story, featuring three distinctive age cohorts, my own being the one in the middle. Needless to say, in my version we're the heroes. Other versions may differ. And it's also a story about various pairs who have had fights over the years, but who at some point couldn't quite keep a straight face about it any more. From drama to schtick, which certainly qualifies as a benign evolution.

Throw in two and a half hours of outdoor tennis, an hour on the elliptical machine made tolerable by Squeeze's "Cool for Cats," and numerous desserts steadfastly avoided, and the only downside was that I missed my family.

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